Saturday 26th. July, 2014 – The weather was meant to change but it continues to be wonderful 


Dorothy and Tom arrived late in the afternoon to visit. Tom had collected Dorothy from the station at Berwick on her return from visiting her parents down south. We sat and drank Pims, Tom delighted to be sitting on what he described as a Titanic seat. We have arranged to meet in Barnoldswick on Monday at 2 p.m. to start our cruise


Up and walked Mix. Soon afterwards David arrived to continue work on our Loom room installation and I set off for Berwick to get some oil for the car and a mobile wifi for my ipad. Back home I shared a coffee with David (well, we had one each) before David set off for home.

I had some lunch – prawns and chips – and then set about gathering together all of the bits and pieces for our canal boat cruise. This took most of the afternoon, at any rate until Tom and Dorothy arrived and we paused for a drink.

Afterwards I tidied up the summer house (hearing the while of how well we continue to do at the Glasgow Games – well, we shall see for ourselves tomorrow). I filled the car up with oil and fed Mix and by this time our supper was ready in the farmhouse where we all ate together. It was a lovely all day breakfast with oodles of sausages, bacon, tomatoes, fried potatoes, scrambled egg – really grand!

Later we watched an old episode of Foyle’s War, one which for some reason I hadn’t seen before. They always seem so authentic, they always seem so believable and they always seem to leave one conscious of the futility of war.

Walked Mix in pouring rain – my how the weather has suddenly changed, just as the forecasters predicted.

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Friday 25th. July, 2014 – More of the same 


For much of the day (and what a glorious day it was) we were working in the garden around the summer house and all day long this little fellow sat in the gutter of the Hen House and watched what we were doing – often singing, sometimes flying around and coming back again, always extremely interested


Up and walked Mix before breakfast. Tom arrived and then David and soon we were at work getting power into the Loom Room in preparation for an event which we are to hold in August. David is an expert and Tom and I were his assistants – Tom was David’s assistant and I was Tom’s assistant (I know my place in the chain of importance). To carry power to the other side of the driveway a scaffolding pole was utilised and into it armoured cable was fitted. Soon we will have the capacity to have electrical services in all of the barns – of course, we will need to restore them first, but at least we shall be ready!



David and Tom spent a fair bit of today up ladders as they fitted armour-plated cables from the Hen House along the walls of the barns. It was a good job well done


Meanwhile Rachel cut the grass in the Granary garden, Digger and Olive worked in their main garden – grass was being cut in every direction possible. Digger also took his motor bike to be MOT tested – it passed. Mum was in the garden for a while but retreated into the house in the face of excessive heat – it was a superlative day.



The main lawn beside the farmhouse. It looks superb after being cut this afternoon. It would look good with a croquet set on it, or perhaps a marquee

Tom, David and I dined at Pearsons and worked through until the end of the afternoon. I managed to reset Rachel’s ipad, she was distraught when it seemed to go down but once we reset it, it quickly gathered all of her information from the ‘cloud’ and is now as good as new.

Just before dinner Tom arrived bearing eggs -- a gift from his hens -- we sat and enjoyed a coffee and a blether before he went home.

We dined in the farmhouse and then Digger and I collected a bed from the barn and moved it into the farmhouse where it will be required for visitors quite soon. Then Rachel and I watched an old Inspector Gently. It was excellent. It is good to report, too, that Scotland had another good day at the Games and that Durham had a very good win in their final T20 match of the season. They won't advance in this competition, but at least they went out on a high.

Finally I walked Mix and retired to bed. It has been a thoroughly good day.



Digger returns from having his bike tested, with Rachel riding behind as out-rider in her Berlingo


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Thursday 24th. July, 2014 – What a Scorcher! 


Rachel spent part of this afternoon painting the new covers which she has made for the lockers on her canal boat. Here she has found a bit of shade – look at the brightness where the shade ends – and is putting on the green marine paint so that the covers will match the boat


Up and walked Mix before breakfast. Then I completed the Summer House! This involved fitting the final barge-boards along the front eaves. The summer house is now as it should be, although the sun has been so ferocious this summer that I plan to give it another coat of preserver before too long has gone by. At this point Rachel went off in the car with Rowan to walk around Gavinton, Olive and Digger went off to Berwick to shop (and came back with two new rugs) and Mum went into the garden (but soon retreated because it was so hot). It has been unbelievably hot today which is wonderful for the folk descending on Glasgow for the Commonwealth Games.

I went to the summer house and prepared the music for Arrochar for Sunday and then had lunch during which Tom and Dorothy arrived with their new car. It looks fabulous.

In the afternoon (actually I started it in the morning) I cut the grass around the summer house and then raked up all of the grass cuttings before setting out my deck chair and sitting out, enjoying the sun and listening to the Commonwealth Games. In fact I started off watching the Games on my ipad until the ipad turned itself off, telling me that it was too hot and would have to cool down before I could continue watching it. It was unbelievably hot but I enjoy the heat and I reflected (several times) that I have never had the opportunity of relaxing in this way because I have always been working. This is absolutely wonderful.

And so today I enjoyed listening to the triathlon before moving to the swimming for all of the adventures of the evening during which Scotland won two gold and one silver medal. I understand that our target for medals is 34, one more than last time in India. Last time of those 33, only three were gold. Tonight we sit with ten medals, of which four are gold. Well done Team Scotland!

Once the swimming was over, Mum, Olive, Rachel and I watched the very final episode of The Final Cut, the last part of the House of Cards trilogy. It has provided me with memorable moments and was very well done. The weather forecast for tomorrow is for more of the same. Wonderful.

Walked Mix and went to bed.



You may notice no difference, but the summer house is now complete, my lawn is cut and the deck chairs are out to welcome the sun


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Wednesday 23rd. July, 2014 – The start of the Commonwealth Games 


This will be the final picture you will see of the summer house before it is, at long last, completed. This afternoon Rachel and I stained and treated those areas which hadn’t been treated, and prepared the three barge-boards (you can see them lying in front of the building) which tomorrow be fitted and the building completed. Finally!


Rose, walked Mix, breakfasted and went off to collect Tom and Dorothy and drive to Loch Whiteadder. There we fitted up the system to pull the boat out of the water using a block and tackle. Tested the system and it works well. We had coffee and then returned home because Tom and Dorothy had an appointment in the afternoon.

I had some lunch and then, with Rachel, painted the summer house and got it all ready for the final barge-boards to be fitted tomorrow. Rachel continued work on the covers for the lockers on her canal boat. Olive and Digger were in Kirkcaldy and then in Edinburgh where Olive was having a high old time spending vouchers which she had been given. Later everyone was out in the garden.

After supper we all assembled in the Granary to watch the opening of the Commonwealth Games. I know (from reading twitter) that not everyone loved it – but I did. I loved seeing the athletes walking into the arena. I loved the introduction and thought that exactly the right note was struck in the presentation of Scotland. It seemed to me to be ordinary people sharing their city and our country with the world. I loved the life and the story and the music (although I would have loved the Proclaimers to be there with their version of their song). I enjoyed Rod Stewart and I even appreciated Billy Connolly and I was really taken with the opportunity of supporting UNICEF along with everyone else sharing in the event (even if I had to go out to the garden to get reception on my mobile). (Good too that they came back and asked me to Gift Aid my donation.) In fact, on balance, I thought that it was just right. Well done, Scotland.

Of course, it did all run on a bit. So there was just time to walk Mix before bed.

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Tuesday 22nd. July, 2014 – We start on the other side of the Bothy Roof 


Having completed one side of the roof, today we started on the other side. We worked through the morning (before stopp0ing for a lengthy coffee break) and then came back in the afternoon to do a bit more. Today was certainly the hottest day I can ever remember in Scotland and you can see from the late evening picture just how strong the sun still is


Up and walked Mix and even so early in the morning the sun was shining down. Today was an absolute scorcher! Tom arrived as I completed breakfast and we set about the other side of the Bothy roof, stopping because it was so hot and we were tired (and retired) and so we relaxed over coffee and chocolate biscuits before I ran Tom home for lunch and went into Duns to pay a cheque into the bank and collect Rachel’s prescription from the chemist. (It wasn’t ready but would be later in the afternoon.)

Meanwhile both Olive and Mum had been to Duns to have their hair done (both patronise different establishments) and Rachel had phoned to say she was having a good time at the boat and would be back in time for dinner this evening.

I lunched, collected Tom, and we did a bit more work on the roof before collapsing into deckchairs in front of the summer house – going into the summer house was out of the question, it was just too hot – no, not just too hot, it was way, way too hot. But outside on a deckchair was just the place for two retired chaps to take their ease and put the world to rights (and the clock on the summer house which for some reason had been losing time every morning – we changed the battery and will see what happens).

I ran Tom home, collected some lemonade from the Coo-op, successfully collected Rachel’s prescription and returned to Mount Pleasant where I fed Mix before settling down with a book on a deckchair (Angelica’s Smile by Andrea Camilleri – beautifully translated by Stephen Sartarelli).

Rachel arrived home and we all ate in the farm house – Olive had spent the afternoon in the garden, Digger had been charging up the battery in his motorbike, Mum was inside (probably because it was too hot outside).

In the evening Olive, Mum, Rachel and I watched some more of the House of Cards trilogy. We are on the third part now – The Final Cut – and it is most absorbing. We have just one more episode to watch and, while it is quite clear how it will all end (history and MacBeth make that clear) it is fascinating to see just how it unfolds.

Mix and I went for our evening stroll before bed.

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Monday 21st. July, 2014 – Back to Work! 


A picture of the Bothy with one side of the roof completed – at least the wood has been completed, there is a lot more to do


Up, walked Mix and breakfasted before Rachel set off with Rowan for the canal boat to have the boat safety inspection completed. She popped into Apple at Newcastle who fixed a blip with her telephone and then journeyed on to Barnoldswick where she met with Richard the boat inspector. Everything is satisfactory, although there were a couple of small things to be put right – all of which were being done today: a new regulator for the gas bottles, a rubber pipe to be tied away from the engine, a ventilator to be screwed locked in the open position and that was about it. Having the safety certificate allows us to buy the new disc for canal travel -- and if we buy it early then we get a substantial discount.

Tom and I worked on the roof of the bothy this morning (and early afternoon). By the time we were finished one side was completely covered with wood. We will start on the other side tomorrow. Later in the afternoon, David arrived and worked out how we will sort out services to the Loom Room. He will start work with us on Friday --- and I am very grateful for his help.

Disappointed at England's defeat by India in the Test -- not so much by the defeat as by the way that England capitulated.

I ate with Mum, Olive and Digger in the farm house and then, in the evening I relaxed – going to bed early with a book. It has been incredibly warm today – humid and sticky: but a lot better than cold and wet.

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Sunday 20th. July, 2014 Church and Guildhall 


This picture was taken by Rachel on her telephone and is of the Guildhall at Berwick which we attended this evening for a production of The Pirates of Penzance, part of the Berwick Festival of Opera


Woke, showered and walked Mix. Breakfasted and set off with Rachel and Mum for Gavinton Church where we joined in the morning service which this week was on the theme of Jacob’s marriages to the daughters of Laban: Leah and Rachel. After Church we joined the congregation for coffee and then returned to Mount Pleasant for Sunday lunch.

I spent the afternoon with Mix, partly in the summer house and partly sitting in a deck chair enjoying the sunshine – relaxing while following England’s progress against India (not very much progress), Rory McIlroy’s progress to victory in the Open Golf (well done) and Durham’s progress against Sri Lanka (a dismal defeat).

Rachel and I went off to Berwick to attend a presentation of The Pirates of Penzance by Gilbert and Sullivan as part of the Berwick Festival of Opera. It was a small cast performing in front of a fairly small audience of around sixty, I suppose. The performers were all professional singers and, as one would expect, the singing was superb. If one wanted to be picky, much of the acting left something to be desired. I suspect that the performance had not really been directed and the cast members were fairly ill-disciplined. I will long remember Ruth begging Frederick to marry her while wearing a huge wedding ring (and purple finger nails); some of the ladies failed to realise that if they were going to sing about taking off their shoes and stockings, it would be better not to come onto the stage in bare feet; and at least two of the (male) cast members had their words written on their hands. Costumes and props left a bit to be desired but, as always, the music of G & S won through and everyone had a really grand evening in splendid surroundings. The small orchestra was really good.

On the way back to the car we passed a Chinese take-away so I enjoyed a shrimp curry with chips as Rachel drove me home – next time I will not choose a curry, not because it was not excellent but because I ended up with much of it down my shirt. Ah, well.

Back home, Mix took me for a walk before bed.

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Saturday 19th. July, 2014 – The weather breaks 


Mix spent the majority of today asleep on his big cushion, Rowan spent a great deal of it lying looking out of the door. Together we spent most of today in the summer house. I researched shingles and slates and all the different alternatives for the Bothy roof (having been pointed in the right direction by Tom when he was here this morning), and I spent a great deal of the day following the Test match from Lords. It is building up to an exciting climax (I hope)


Up and walked Mix and then, as indicated above, I retired to the summer house with the dogs. Rachel spent much of today taking down pictures and putting up different pictures and generally getting the Granary a little bit more as she wants it to be. I don’t really know what everyone else did. I think I saw Olive and Digger going off in the car to Duns to do some shopping, and Mum spent today in doors (probably getting her breath back after a busy week).

We all dined together in the evening, after which Rachel, Mum, Olive and I watched the concluding parts of To Play the King, the sequel to House of Cards. All very exciting.

So there is little to write about today. It has rained for most of the day and, truth to tell, I have quite enjoyed doing very little. I enjoyed being in the summer house with the dogs. I enjoyed lunch in the summer house and I enjoyed the early evening when, the rain over, the sun finally came out for the day. Maybe it will be good weather again tomorrow.

As always the day ended with Mix and I going for a stroll before bed.

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Friday 18th. July, 2014 – Marching On 


Olive spent most of today working with her fruit. Here she is topping and tailing blackcurrants from the garden – I gather there is some dispute about whether blackcurrants should be topped and tailed but Olive thinks they should


Up and walked Mix before breakfasting in the farmhouse after which Tom and I drove into Berwick where we met David who assisted us to buy some of the equipment we need for the barns and outhouses. Afterwards we went for coffee in Morrisons before returning home for lunch.

In the afternoon Tom and I did some more work on the Bothy roof. It is looking extremely good:



One side of the sarking has now almost been completed and I think that it is looking excellent


Anne dropped off Jack to visit Mum and after Tom had set off for home I joined them in the garden room for coffee and a blether – we were later joined by Digger and by Anne.

With everyone away to their respective homes I caught up with the cricket in the summer house before supper after which we watched some more of a House of Cards. It is quite exciting and an antidote to so much of the terrible news from the world around us – the Malaysian plane thought to have been shot down over Ukraine and the continued violence in Israel. If only all villainy happened only in films (like a House of Cards).

Walked Mix and went to bed, and, as tomorrow is Saturday, I have nothing planned and don’t even need to get up early. Isn’t life good?

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Thursday 17th. July, 2014 – A Day of Two Halves 


This afternoon was the afternoon of the Gavinton Teas. The weather was glorious, maybe even too hot (no, not really ... it was lovely) and people from the village supported the Church very well indeed with every table filed with people and lots of money raised for Church funds

Rose and walked Mix before breakfast – I say that every day but that is because it is an important part of our day (especial of Mix’s day). Breakfasted in the farmhouse (that’s an important part of my day) and then I showered and got ready to go across to Gavinton to help set up the hall for the summer teas and, in particular, to organise, with Tom, the book stall.

Once that was set up I returned home and prepared the music for Arrochar for this Sunday. By this time it was time to set off back to Gavinton taking Mum with me. We spent the afternoon at the teas (joined by Rachel and by Olive and Digger) and then Tom and I helped dismantle the hall.



Tom is relaxed behind our bookstall, sitting with his tea and cakes while Ian rummages for a bargain


Quickly back to Mount Pleasant and then off to Berwick to attend the Maltings Theatre. In fact we went into HomeBase on the way as Rachel wanted to collect some treatment for the wood covers she is making for her canal boat. We arrived at the Malting in time to pop into the little restaurant there for some supper (Cullen Skink and Cheese soufflé) before the show. The show was a streamed broadcast from London’s West End – from Wyndham’s Theatre. It was the re-presentation of Skylight by David Hare first produced in 1995 and starring Bill Nighy, Carey Mulligan and Matthew Beard.

I loved everything about the production, the set, the play itself and, of course, the performances. Bill Nighy has long been one of my favourites and I enjoyed Carey Mulligan in The Great Gatsby – but the upfront closeness and intimacy of this production, superbly streamed, provided something which was stunning and moving and sad and romantic and extremely funny, as well as having a very clear message to a society in which the divisions between rich and poor are widening, challenging some of the basic tenets on which our society has been formed. Absolutely full marks – a great evening and much to think about.

We met Scott and Sue at the theatre and shared an ice-cream at the interval. Back home I was welcomed by Mix and after a walk we went to bed.

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Wednesday 16th. July, 2014 – Well, yes, it was a bit disappointing! 


I promised you balloon pictures – and here is Rachel on landing after her balloon adventure. Unfortunately it wasn’t today! When we ‘phoned Virgin just before going to sleep last night (as one has to do) we were astounded to be told that the flight was cancelled because of bad weather. We counted up and in fact this is at least the eighth flight which we have arranged (going all the way back since we bought the tickets in June 2008) that has been cancelled. We tried several times to fly from Falkland Palace in Fife, once from Glamis, a couple of times from England from near where the canal boat is moored, and twice from the Borders. It was a bit of a letdown after packing our jackets with camera, video camera, binoculars and so on ... but the upside was that this morning we got a long lie


Eventually I got up and walked Mix and then thought to myself how I was to spend this extra day. I thought I would try to find out a bit more about Twitter. It was quite a good thing to do because the weather was, in reality, not as good as yesterday. It had been raining overnight, there was a shower this morning and the clouds were quite low. All in all an ideal day to be inside in the summer house, something with which Mix thoroughly concurred.

I looked at Twitter and realised that so many of my preconceptions were actually misconceptions. I thought that it was just an endless list of very short messages but then I realised that many of these messages were really just links to elsewhere. I found a little message to a link to a bit of video film of a pilot landing a seaplane on a stretch of water just as a whale was surfacing (and so I re-tweeted it – my very first re-tweet).

I discovered that the cricket commentator at Durham published a sound report of the cricket using a link from Twitter, so I spent some time finding out how to do that, and in the process made a short spoken diary entry which I then tweeted. I’m not at all bothered that there aren’t people to hear or listen to my tweets at present, I want to find out how to do it and, as anyone who has ever tried to play a musical instrument knows, it is better to do your practising away from company. However, if you do find yourself on Twitter and decide to follow @PleasantDane you will be able to hear my first efforts at an audio blog.

Today Mum and her two friends went out to explore Paxton House, something they enjoyed. They came home towards the end of the afternoon and we all shared in afternoon tea (Olive had made scones – and rather well too) before Irene and Rosemary drove off for home.

I returned to the summer house – there is still a bit of finding out to do about Twitter, perhaps another day will see me having worked through all of the facilities I am learning about, and then I can turn my attention to FaceBook. Look out world!

We dined in the farmhouse, back to being just the family and afterwards we settled down to watch House of Cards, quite topical given the current government reshuffle, I suppose. We watched the first two episodes and we will enjoy watching the rest of the series over the next few days.

But back to where I started. Here are the balloon pictures I promised. Unfortunately not of Kelso but of our earlier trip in Egypt. And first my diary entry for 25th. January, 2009:

“Sunday January 25th. 2009 Again I was up a little after 4 a.m. and before six was being motored across the Nile, loaded into a mini bus and transported the few miles to the balloon landing field. What a sight was awaiting us – nineteen balloons all inflated and ready to go. We were briefed and loaded: twenty people to each balloon, and quickly we were in the air for an absolutely magical hour during which we saw Temples and burial sites, town and countryside, people and animals and, of course, the sunrise. It was a stupendous experience. Landing in a field, we climbed out and were rushed off in our minibus to the boat and from there to the ship arriving more or less exactly at 8 – just in time to set off on the day’s programme which took us to Karnack Temple and then to the Temple of Luxor.”



The sight when we arrived. It was before dawn and nineteen balloons were waiting for us, all ready to take to the skies




Each balloon has a massive burner to provide the lift to get it and its passengers off the ground




Our balloon has just lifted from the ground, our neighbour is firing its burner and will soon follow us




There are wonderful Temples to be seen on the ground




and the balloons look wonderful, even in this half-light before sunrise




Sunrise is spectacular




as is this view of so many balloons




From a distance the little basket looks so precarious -- there are twenty passengers hanging there




and sometimes we are quite close to the ground to enable us to see the contrasts -- the desert and the fertile strip, the ancient houses and the modern highway




We pass close to dwelling houses




and see our shadow on the ground as the newly-risen sun quickly exerts control




So much is so picturesque




and much is breath-taking




and all too soon we have come down to land -- the balloon is quickly rolled up and made ready for tomorrow morning's passengers


Memories – the value of a diary is to rekindle memories and today I have found myself once more in Egypt. It was a wonderful holiday and I have so many pictures. Perhaps once I have got to grips with the appropriate social medium I will broadcast that holiday to the world. So much has changed in Egypt since we were there but it is a really lovely country with a glorious story to tell.

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Tuesday 15th. July, 2014 – St. Swithin’s Day (and it was a glorious one) 


I took this picture last night while we were at supper. It shows Mum, Irene, Rosemary, Digger, Olive and Rachel. We enjoy meeting and eating around the round table in the farmhouse dining room


Up early and walked Mix before breakfast. Took Rosemary and Irene on a tour of our part of the ‘estate’ visiting the Stables, the Hen House and the summer house as well as popping into the Granary. Soon Tom and I were hard at work making a start on the roof of the Bothy. It is fun but quite slow-going as we have to ensure that everything is right. There is also a great deal of climbing up and down ladders!



Tom is in among the roof beams fixing the larch sarking onto the beams. We need to get this just right as the larch roof will be a feature of the room from below once everything has been completed


We stopped for lunch and I grabbed a pizza. Olive did some work on train tickets for Rachel and me to go to London to visit the Globe in October. I was most impressed that we are to get a sleeper home to Edinburgh for £39 each (and then a ticket back to Berwick for just £3)!

In the afternoon we did more of the same and by the time we stopped the roof was just beginning to take shape:



Look at all those ladders!




Rachel also recruited Tom’s assistance in cutting the marine ply which was delivered from Pearsons today. She is making new covers for the hatches on her canal boat in preparation for our cruise later in the month


I’m having mixed feelings about Twitter. It has been great to be kept up to date about the agreement to consecrate women bishops, it has been grand to hear about the changes to David Cameron’s front bench but it has been oh, so sad that Durham had to choose the days of my new involvement with this form of communication to produce the worst cricket display imaginable. The only consolation is that they have been thoroughly beaten inside three days and I will not have to get tweets about their (lack of) progress throughout tomorrow.

It was a lovely evening to follow a lovely day. We ate in the farmhouse – tonight a take-away from the local Thai restaurant. I am not very familiar with Thai food but I enjoyed it enormously. After which we sat around the table and talked until finally it was time to get ready for our ballooning trip tomorrow morning. I’ve charged the battery in my camera and I hope to have some good pictures from over the Scottish Borders on my diary by this time tomorrow. All that remained was to walk Mix and retire to bed.

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Monday 14th. July, 2014 – We get back onto the roof 


Most folk know, I expect, that Rachel makes kilts – she served a lengthy apprenticeship with Redshank in Inveraray and now that we are down in the Borders she is starting to make kilts again. These flowers arrived from a satisfied customer and Rachel was really delighted


Up early and walked Mix before breakfasting at 8.30 a.m. with Mum and her two friends who then set off for Lindisfarne where they explored the Priory and had lunch at the Barn at Beal on the way home. They had a good day.

Tom arrived for me and we started preparing the roof for the sarking which will go on later in the week. We have made excellent progress and also found time for two trips to Pearsons (one to buy screws for the roof and one to buy wood for Rachel who is renewing the covers of the forward lockers on her canal boat), for lunch and for two extended coffee breaks, at the end of the second of which David arrived with some thoughts about how we install services in the barns around the courtyard.

At the end of the working day I had time to explore Twitter further. I have identified some people to follow – two news sites (BBC and CNN), Durham cricket and the Maltings Theatre and some friends and family. With a few wet afternoons behind me, I will soon be active in the Twitter world. So look out @PleasantDane (a reference not to my disposition but to where I live) for more information.

Dined with the family and Mum’s friends and then had planned to watch House of Cards on television – well, the World Cup has ended and there is no sport on television until the Open starts on Thursday and the second Test Match on Friday. Aren’t we hard done by? I can’t believe that now I have time to enjoy sport on the television. It doesn’t get much better than this. However, we spent so much time talking over supper that we didn’t get round to watching the television – and now I am on Twitter I don’t even need to watch the news anymore. Today, after getting Twitter set up, almost the first thing I learned was that the General Synod had agreed to the appointing in principle of women bishops – that was good news, what was somewhat less good was the constant stream of messages from Durham telling me of a further disaster in their match with Warwickshire. Perhaps fortune will change tomorrow and, if it does, I will learn of it from Twitter.

Spent some time in the summer house with the dogs, walked Mix and went to bed, It has been a very good day.

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Sunday 13th. July, 2014 – A Sporting Sunday 


This morning Mum was responsible for the Church flowers at Gavinton. She was pleased with how well they looked


Up and walked Mix, showered and breakfasted before driving to Gavinton Church with Rachel, Mum and our organ with which Rachel provided the music for the service. Ann spoke today about Jacob and Esau and how Esau was prepared to sell his birthright for a ‘mess of pottage’, enabling his younger brother to inherit and take forward God’s promise to Abraham.

Back home two of Mum’s friends from Kirkcaldy arrived to spend a few days at Mount Pleasant, Irene and Rosemary. We all dined and then Mum and her friends went off to explore Duns and walk around the castle grounds before driving down to explore Coldstream.

I retired to the summer house to watch the dying stages of the Test Match, to keep an eye on the start of Durham’s match against Warwickshire and to tidy up.

Later Rachel went off to Duns to attend Evensong and, on her return, I settled down to watch the World Cup final between Argentina and Germany. It was an exciting game and I was delighted when, just before the end of extra time, Germany scored a goal which won the competition – it was, however, heart-wrenching to see the despair on the faces of the Argentinean team as they waited to receive their runners-up medals. What a contrast to the Olympics when a silver medal was recognised for what it was, a wonderful achievement.

I have enjoyed this World Cup enormously – in large part because, being retired, I have been able to take time to watch the matches. Life is good! Today I also started to explore Twitter where I now seem to be Dane Sherrard @ PleasantDane or maybe I am just @PleasantDane. I’ll record my adventures as they happen – watch this space.

Mix and I walked each other before bed. It is a lovely evening and still extremely warm.

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Saturday 12th. July, 2014 – A day for cutting the grass 


I took this picture this evening in the square at Duns. Today is the final day of the week of Duns celebrations, Reivers Week or Duns Summer Festival 2014. Tonight it was the turn of the children who paraded through the town centre on their floats (and on foot). Crowds of people came to support and there was a fairly substantial fun fair as an added attraction


Slept in a bit and then walked Mix before getting started on cutting the grass around the summer house (again). It was another really glorious day but the forecast was for rain and I just knew that as soon as I started on the grass it would rain. Well, it didn’t and I made good progress until an emergency shout from Rachel to say that Mix had escaped and was running on the road. I dropped everything and rushed out to the front of the farmhouse. A passing car offered me a lift but no sooner had I got into the car than I saw Mix running back towards Olive who had set off even quicker than I had. He saw me and ran to me and we bundled him into Rachel’s car.

It all happened just as quickly as that but it gave me quite a fright. Normally Mix would never run away if I am there but he had taken offence at the lawnmower and when Mum was speaking to Rachel at the Granary door he was out, in through Mum’s door to the farmhouse, out the farmhouse front door and away. It really was a chapter of accidents and we have taken steps to ensure that it can’t happen again.

I was so out of breath that instead of returning to the grass-cutting I went into the summer house and turned on the cricket which meant I saw Jimmy Anderson get his fifty and with Joe Root gain the record for the highest ever last wicket partnership in a Test Match (198 of which Jimmy Anderson scored 81). It was magnificent and it is no response to lament the slow nature of the wicket, most of the batmen had failed.

When the game allowed, I completed the cutting of the grass, the collecting of all of the cuttings and then I took Mix for a walk. On our return Rachel and I went into Duns to see the children’s (and some adult’s) floats in a procession through the town led by the Wynsome Mayde and her many attendants. The Wynsome Mayde is eleven years old and most of her school classmates become her court. She holds office for a year.

In fact the procession was led by a police car, followed by the pipe band, followed by the horses and flags of the Reiver and his Lass and then the Wynsome Mayde. Following this huge float came a succession of other floats all filled with children and adults in fancy costumes.

I took a picture or two over the heads of the crowd:



I love this picture of the Pipe Major leading the Pipe Band. There he is in his full uniform surrounded by crowds in their summer clothes with the fun fair behind




The Pipe Band was excellent and filled with young folk, both boys and girls




Behind the band came the flags. Again I was struck by the contrasts -- the horses who are really the stars of this week of celebrations, and behind the massive lorry -- the modern work horses of our roads. Then there are the traditional costumes of the riders and behind the massive and modern fun fair. I also remember that in pictures I have seen of events in times past the riders were wearing border bonnets, here they are in riding helmets -- a sign, I'm sure, that health and safety has infiltrated even this traditional event




On this float the Wynsome Mayde sits enthroned, with all of her court in front of her




Of course, there was a Pearson's lorry with children in all kinds of wonderfully home-made costumes. Fantastic


We returned home for supper in the farmhouse – a lovely smoked haddock flan – and then retired to the summer house. I intended to brush the grass but by now it was, eventually, raining. Instead I settled down and watched the third place play-off from Brazil between Brazil and the Netherlands. I suppose that I was supporting the Netherlands because I had supported them against Argentina but I was heartfelt sorry for Brazil for whom nothing seems to be going right in recent days. The Netherlands won by three goals to nil. Ah well. It was time to walk Mix and retire to bed.

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Friday 11th. July, 2014 – And today we came home 


There is nothing more pleasant on a beautiful day than to sit on one's boat (or in this case one's wife's boat) and watch other boats sailing by


Up early – well, little wonder, as I went to bed so early – and walked Mix before returning for breakfast. Rachel and I both read our books. It is another spectacular day (my book is thirteen short stories about the Railway Detective by Edward Marston) and then we went off to see Wayne at the Marina Office. He told us how to apply for the Boat safety Certificate (the equivalent of an MOT) which Rachel’s boat will require on its 4th. birthday in October.

We returned to the Young Rachel where Rachel set about making patterns for the covers of the two lockers in the bows. We took the original covers home to Luss because they were rotten but we aren’t sure where they have ended up after our removal (Aren’t sure? We haven’t a clue.) I looked after the dogs, listened to the cricket as it wanders along, and then to the News. It is another lovely, gentle day in wonderful sunshine.



By the time we left the boat everything was perfect. Here is a picture of the saloon just waiting our arrival for a cruise in a couple of week's time


We set off for home just before five and arrived back around eight-thirty. It was an uneventful drive. With the English schools breaking up today we were concerned that there might be lots of caravans on the roads but maybe that will be tomorrow. What we did see was lots of ‘left-overs’ from the Tour de France. Yellow-painted bicycles on the walls of pubs, sitting outside schools, in village greens and so on; and lines of tiny knitted jerseys (many of them yellow, but also green and white with pink spots) strung up between lamp-posts and decorating buildings. It has obviously been a great event.



'The Young Rachel' is the boat with the black cover over her bows -- keeping everything perfect until we get back down for our cruise


Back home – and it was good to be home (and the weather is still great) – we had something to eat and I checked out my computer before walking Mix, in the surroundings with which he has become most accustomed, before bed. I caught the weather forecast and it seems that things are changing and that perhaps if I want to cut my grass it will have to be done in the morning – or could it be that just thinking about grass-cutting has led to the change in forecast?

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Thursday 10th. July, 2014 – In heaven 


A picture which could have been taken any morning or any afternoon or any evening when we pop down to Barnoldswick and stay on the boat. Here was are (or at least in the picture, here is Rachel with Rowan and Mix) walking along the tow path with the narrow boats lining the canal -- who am I kidding? The sun doesn't always shine as it did today


Intended to sleep in but got up instead to walk Mix. We went off to the Rolls Royce factory, past ‘Silent Night’ (where they make mattresses for beds) along the tow path and back again (in the opposite direction from last night). The weather is Mediterranean – there were many colder mid-summer days in Genoa when we lived there!

We breakfasted in style and Rachel started getting the boat to her satisfaction while Mix and I sat at the stern and I read a book I had come across called ‘Facebook and Twitter for Seniors for Dummies’. I discovered that I have a Facebook account (something to do with Luss Church, I think) but I have never really looked at it, so I thought it would be a good idea to see what it was about. No sooner had I thought this than my brother started extolling the virtues of Twitter ... and now I have this book. “Are you not just a little bit ashamed to have a book for ‘Seniors’”? I was asked. Not at all. I’ve been using computers since my Sinclair ZX80 and I’ve blogged and I’ve streamed and I’ve made films and so on and on – but I didn’t know about Facebook and Twitter, and the advantage, I thought, about a book for Seniors is that it would not take any knowledge for granted.

Well, it didn’t! Mind you, it did make me do a few double takes. Having taken the reader through all the setting-up procedures of Twitter, it then said ‘... maybe you can’t think of anything to tweet about. It’s a frustrating feeling – know that I feel your pain. Even now, I often face the blank What’s Happening text box with nothing in my head.’ If you haven’t got anything to say, why would you want such a programme? My fear is that so much social media is generating talk for the sake of talk. I do, however, recognise that it has great value as well. Back in 2010 we had a series of talks at the church – really good speakers to celebrate the 1,500th. anniversary of Christianity arriving at Loch Lomond-side – but very bad snowy conditions which led to several of the talks having to be postponed. Twitter enabled us to let folk know if a meeting was going ahead or not. Anyway, I have read the theory and next time I am home and the weather is bad I’ll maybe have a shot.

Later we loaded the dogs into the car and went into Skipton. Everywhere there was evidence of the recent Tour de France. It had obviously been a really great event and brought visitors and money into the community. I supported the local economy to the extent of a sausage supper which was excellent. I also bought three two-litre bottles of Ginger Beer for £1.50 which was also a real bargain.



Quite an unusual view of the main street in Skipton. Just a few days ago hundreds of cyclists on the Tour de France raced up this street towards the Church at the top of the picture. The town was thronged with people who had come to watch the race. But what is unusual is that today there was no market in the street. Of course, it doesn't happen every day but it seems that whenever we have been there the market has been on. Not today, so there are many cars parked where normally there would have been market stalls and people buying




I love this little inside mall just off the main street in Skipton. It is filled with character and with some lovely shops including one of the best places to buy amber jewellery


Back home (well at our narrow-boat home) we walked the dogs again before all retiring to the stern of the boat. It was so hot we had to be outside. We dined (salad, naturally) and then I ‘phoned home to discover that Mount Pleasant is also bathed in sunshine. Mum has been to Duns to an event which involved strawberry tarts; and Mum, Olive and Digger attended a book sale at Duns Library (part of the special programme of activities for the Border Reivers celebrations). I gather that Mum met the Reiver and his lass earlier in the week and it made her day.

Having gone for another walk with the dogs, we went to bed. I had intended to read my book but instead I drifted off to sleep – relaxed, warm, and at one with the world.

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Wednesday 9th. July, 2014 – Off we go! 


After eating on the boat this evening I wandered with Mix back to the little bridge over the canal. From here I 'phoned home and heard that everyone was well and having a good time. I also took this picture of some of the canal boats moored on this glorious summer evening




Then I turned and took this picture in the opposite direction. On the left is the Marina office and the tunnel in which boats are painted. But just look at that sky -- and it is after eight in the evening


Up and walked Mix. It is a glorious day! Got everything organised and packed into my car and at five past eleven we set off from Mount Pleasant for Barnoldswick, arriving at the narrow boat at 2.45 (having stopped for petrol at the turn-off for Lindisfarne, and having got caught in some pretty heavy traffic on the A1.

I was just a little sleepy as, just before going to bed last night, I had discovered the Order of Service for Arrochar, so I completed the music and sent it off to Jamie before going to bed. Still that means that I don’t have to rush home on Saturday to get it done.

On arriving at the boat we did our initial inspection which showed everything to be in order and then we took the dogs on a walk to ‘The Anchor Inn’ at Salterforth (along the tow path). The weather is even more glorious than ever and everyone is in shorts and taking things easy. We got the battery charged up (by running the engine) and then Rachel went off into Barnoldswick to do some shopping. I stayed on board and listened to the Test Match (England against India – India batting and doing rather well on an apparently very placid pitch). On Rachel’s return we ate and it was good to eat around the boat table again.

I walked Mix and ‘phoned home. Spoke to Olive who told me that they, too, were enjoying the heat wave. Mum had gone off with her friend Annie to an event at Gavinton, part of the Common Riding celebrations with seventy horses and lots of food.

I retired to bed early and listened to the Argentina versus the Netherlands World Cup semi-final (won by Argentina on penalties) and then quickly fell asleep.

Everything is so very restful here on the boat. I used to think that it was letting go after the hard work of parish ministry but it seems it is just the natural change of pace of boat life. Everything is slow and measured, calm and so very relaxed.

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Tuesday 8th. July, 2014 – And the Heavens Opened 


Today there was nothing for it but to settle down in the summer house and read my book. It was remarkably chilly so I turned on the gas heater, something which was greatly appreciated by Mix who really enjoys being warm


Up and walked Mix in the rain before breakfast. Today it really rained – heavy, soaking rain which bounced off the roof of the summer house and which could be heard in every room of the Granary. It was the kind of rain which soaked you when you were out in it for twenty seconds, so heavy in fact that Rowan didn’t really want to go for a walk with Rachel at all.

I was glad of the opportunity to complete my book – An Officer and a Spy – which I have had on the go for a while but which I haven’t completed because I have only read a little each night before falling asleep. It is a good book and I would recommend it to anyone who has enjoyed Robert Harris’s other books, you will not be disappointed.

Later in the afternoon I showed three of Mum’s friends around the Loom Room, walked Mix and got ready to out to see ‘A Small Family Business’ by Alan Ayckbourn streamed from the National Theatre to the Maltings. I enjoyed it enormously. No, it was even better than that. It was a real nineteen eighties production that was alive and well and fabulously funny and with a real message for 2014. I loved the transformation of Nigel Lindsay from idealistic new boss of the family firm (moving from selling fish fingers to furniture) to mafia don. It was good to see Stephen Beckett whom I remember so well from his days in the Bill. Niky Wardley was superb as was Matthew Cottle as the corrupt private investigator – but then all the cast were great (and all, to a greater or lesser extent, were corrupt). It was a typical Ayckbourn set and full-scale house on a revolve with the action moving from room to room and as slick as you could ever wish.

The rains stopped and the day ended bright and sunny – the only disaster was for Brazil who were defeated 7:1 by Germany in the semi-final of the World Cup.

Back home, we walked the dogs and went to bed. Tomorrow be go off to Rachel’s narrow boat to ensure that it is ready for our summer holidays.

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Monday 7th. July, 2014 – Making Plans 


David, a friend of Tom’s, came to visit us today and, while we had coffee in the summer house, the guitars came out and I was treated to some of the great music from my youth – the Shadows, the Beatles, Led Zeppelin and so much more. Fabulous!


Up and walked Mix before breakfast in the farmhouse. Met up with Tom and soon afterwards David arrived. Not only a great guitarist, David was able to help us plan the provision of services for the other barns. It is a Godsend and I am extremely grateful.

Tom went off for lunch and David and I blethered over another coffee before I spent some time on the telephone to Lynne, a student who is preparing a dissertation on pilgrimage to and around the islands of Scotland. It sounds extremely exciting. I gathered together some material to send to her.

Now it was time to cut the grass so, you guessed it, the beautiful sunny day suddenly turned into a wet one. Still the shower was short-lived and soon it was back to really warm, bright sunlight. I got the grass cut and then spent some time reading before walking Mix and feeding him before we went across to the farmhouse for supper. Everyone has been out and working in the garden today (Olive was also freezing fruit and Mum was also washing and ironing) except for Rachel who has been working on the music for Gavinton next Sunday.

In the evening I worked at my desk in the summer house and then watched the news before bed time.

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Sunday 6th. July, 2014 – We worship in Cranshaws Kirk and I cut the grass 


A picture of folk coming out of Cranshaws Kirk this morning. It is an idyllic spot on a very beautiful summer’s day and our congregation comes here to worship on the first Sunday of every month


Up and walked Mix, breakfasted and then showered and changed before going with Mum and Rachel to Cranshaws Kirk for our morning service. It was a lovely day and during the service Ann, the minister, spoke about Isaac and his wife Rebecca, chosen for him by Abraham’s servant.

Back home I got everything ready to start cutting the grass immediately after Sunday lunch – I got out the lawnmower and the strimmer and refuelled them, I cleared the grass cuttings from last time, I cleared Rowan’s toys and sundry pieces of wood and then we enjoyed an excellent Sunday repast.

No sooner did I get outside than it started to rain. Mix and I took refuge in the summer house and started to watch the men’s singles final from Wimbledon, Novak Djokovic against Roger Federer. It was a hugely entertaining and exciting match which Djokovic eventually won, but in between times I got the grass cut and, after the game finished and the sun came out again, I got the strimming done as well. I would have liked to have gone over the grass for a second time but just as Rachel returned from Evensong in Berwick it started to pour down and there was even some thunder.

However I have achieved something and, with a bit of luck, I’ll get some more done tomorrow (although the forecast doesn’t look great). In the evening we had a snack and watched a ‘Johnny English’ film (Rowan Atkinson). I had never seen one of these before but it was gentle and quite good fun.

After catching up with the news, I walked Mix and retired to bed. It has been a good day – I am beginning to get the hang of this retirement thing.

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Saturday 5th. July, 2014 – Visitors 


Olive, Devon, Digger and Jeff (with Mix) pictured as Digger shows his visitors around his market garden


Up and walked Mix before setting out to join Tom at Clare’s where we moved all of the chairs and tables which we had collected on Thursday back to the Church and Church hall. The Church was looking good because it was all set out for a wedding which was to take place at noon.

Back at Clare’s we enjoyed an excellent breakfast of egg, bacon and mushrooms – would recommend this establishment!

Back home, it was still rather dull so I started researching some of the work that I am to do to help Rachel and Ann in marketing their weaving and kilt-making business. In the afternoon Jeff (Olive’s son) and Devon arrived and were, of course, given the royal tour (Devon had never been here before) after which we all had coffee and tea and caught up on all of their news. Jeff is in charge of organising “DigIt! 2015”, a year of archaeology in Scotland while Devon is masterminding the development of Abbot House Heritage Centre in Dunfermline. They are clearly enjoying life and their respective jobs. It was good to see them both.

In the evening Mum ate with Rachel and me while Olive and Digger went out for a meal to celebrate Olive’s retirement. I cooked and after our meal I came across to the summer house to watch Costa Rica against the Netherlands. My goodness but it was exciting even if it did end zero zero after ninety minutes and then still zero zero after one hundred and twenty minutes. So it was all down to penalty kicks and on the night the Netherlands won. I was sorry for Costa Rica who have done extraordinarily well to get so far in the competition.

Walked Mix and went to bed.

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Friday 4th. July, 2014 – A Nothing Kind of a Day, Really 


A picture of Olive and Digger doing nothing, sitting in front of their television with Wimbledon on in the background. It was too wet to dig and too wet to be out in the garden – but we don’t get many days like that, so we can just enjoy them when they come


Got up and walked Mix before breakfast. I had two plans for the first part of today. The first was to cut the grass around the summer house (that has been hanging over my head for several days), the second was to complete the painting of some of the bargeboards on the summer house and to fit the remaining barge boards at the front and rear of the summer house (that has been hanging over my head for even longer). Unfortunately just as I was about to start, so did the rain so neither job even got started.

My second plan for the day was to go down to Chester-le-Street with Scott to see Durham play in the T20 competition against Nottinghamshire. I looked at the weather forecast and it seemed unlikely that the game would take place. However, as the day wore on, the forecast got better. So I lunched and showered and was ready for Scott when he arrived at 3 p.m. to take me to see the cricket. We got as far as Newcastle before the club phoned to say the game was going to be cancelled. So we turned around and made our way home.

So today really was a nothing kind of a day. But there were some good things too – there always are: I had a fine Chinese take-away for supper (I didn’t want to disturb Olive, Rachel and Digger who were having a special meal – Mum was also away) and I got a splendid letter from the Maltings Theatre. Those of you who follow my diary will remember that on Wednesday evening Rachel and I attended a streamed performance of Henry IV part two which was cut short about five minutes from the end. Today we all got a letter apologising for what had happened, saying that there would be an attempt to reshow for us the performance, offering us all two tickets for any future show of our choice, and telling us that if we showed our letter to the barman in the Stage Door Bar he would give us a free drink of our choice. I thought that was all extremely well handled, the more so because it was done so expeditiously and it has left a good taste in my mouth. Well done.

We also got a letter reminding us that Rachel’s narrow boat is now due to have its first MOT (they don’t call it that, it is a safety check, I think) so we will have to get that arranged next week.

Rachel and Sandy did some weaving today and, in the evening, Mum went off to the Desert Island Discs evening about which I wrote last night. Olive and Digger did little and, for all that I have achieved, I would have been as well doing nothing as well. And, to cap it all, Digger tells me that it is going to rain for several days: I really do want to get that grass cut.

I caught the end of an extremely entertaining Senior Gentlemen’s Invitation Doubles match at Wimbledon between Bahrami and Leconte and McNamara and McNamee. It was fantastic. There was lots of fooling about but this only worked because they were also extremely skilled tennis players. It was splendid.

I also watched the Brazil verses Columbia football match (in the summer house so that Rachel could watch something which wasn’t sport). It was an exciting game although I thought that the referee lost control and as a result the skilful players were sacrificed to the more vigorous ones. Brazil won 2 to 1 which was certainly the result the home crowd wanted.

Mix and I went for a walk before bed.

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Thursday 3rd. July, 2014 – a gentle day in the sunshine 


So here is the summerhouse again, can you spot the difference from the last time? Don’t worry if you can’t – Rachel couldn’t and she was standing right in front of the building. The next picture supplies the answer:




Now we have a weather vane atop the summer house. I was given it by Rachel a number of Christmases ago but I never had anywhere to put it up – until now


Got up and walked Mix before breakfast during which Tom arrived. We decided to erect the weather vane – a nice gentle job for today and then we made plans to start on the Bothy roof on Monday. Mum had friends to visit and we showed them around our part of the farm steading and then Tom and I (with Mix and Rowan in tow) went off to Pearsons for lunch after which we picked up Tom’s trailer and loaded it up with chairs and tables from the church hall which we then took to Clare’s home for the event which she is hosting tomorrow evening. We left the fully laden trailer at Clare’s, I took Tom home and then retired to Mount Pleasant – I didn’t have the dogs to walk because Tom and I had taken them for a wander through Gavinton.



Tom’s trailer is always in use – today it was seats and tables for the Desert Island Disks at which Clare will interview Peter Bailey, the Chief Executive Officer of Crossreach (the Church of Scotland’s Social Work arm). This will be held tomorrow. I am unable to attend but Mum will be there


Back home I tried to book trains for a journey Rachel and I have to make later in the year. It seems I was too precipitate and will have to wait until a bit of time has gone by before I can book anything so far in advance. I also completed a number of internet searches for some of the projects I am working on and soon it was time to return to Clare’s, picking up Tom on the way, so that we could unload and set out the chairs and tables. It is going to look really attractive.

I came home and had supper with Olive, Mum and Digger – Rachel has been missing all day (as you will have guessed from the fact that I had Rowan with me). She has gone to Dunkeld for the day to spend it with Ann, her kilt-making friend. She returned in mid evening. Olive, Mum and Digger have also all been outside for much of the day enjoying the sunshine and working in the garden. My goodness, but we are fortunate with the weather – and still not a midge to be seen.

I spoke to some special friends on the telephone in the evening and then, after catching up with the news, I walked Mix and went to bed.

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Wednesday 2nd. July, 2014 – And still the grass hasn’t been cut 


Although it might not look like it from Mix’s face, this is a picture of two very happy dogs. They play at having battles together. Rowan is always the instigator and then Mix chases and they end up rolling around together on the grass. These fun-battles can go on for half an hour or more. For Rowan it is just what a puppy does with her big brother; for Mix it is a whole new life – he never learned to play until Rowan arrived


Up and walked Mix, breakfasted in the farmhouse, showered and drove up to Cranshaws to spend the morning with Jack. Jack showed me his new system: his television and his sound system are all linked together and the sound is superb. He also let me hear some Offenbach played from a vinyl disk – it sounds really good with great separation of the different instruments. We blethered and listened to music for about three hours before I left him in peace and returned to Mount Pleasant.

Discovered that everyone had been very busy: Rachel and Sandy had been weaving in the stables. That is now fully functional and ready for our opening party. Mum had been at her book group where several of the members talked about their favourite childhood books. Mum spoke about 'Now we are Six' and 'Wind in the Willows'. Olive read recipe books (yippee!) and Digger worked in his garden.

The wind had got up and Rachel and I had to secure our wood supply and ensure that it didn’t get wet before we build it into the roof of the barn.



Rachel is tying down the tarpaulin and we have covered it with ladders to ensure that it doesn’t get lifted by the wind


Here I lunched and watched Andy Murray losing his quarter final match at Wimbledon. It is easy for folk to say he lost badly – in reality, didn’t he do well to have got so far and to have flown the flag for Scotland for so long? Then I settled to and prepared the music for Arrochar for Sunday and by the time this was completed there was just a short window of opportunity left to take Mix for a walk before abandoning him to the farmhouse and setting off with Rachel to see Henry IV part two at the Maltings streamed from the Royal Shakespeare Company.

It was a superb production – I enjoyed it even more than part one which I thought was excellent. I particularly, of course, enjoyed Anthony Sher as Falstaff, Oliver Ford Davies as Justice Shallow and Paola Dionisotti as Mistress Quickly but in reality it would be hard to fault anyone in this superb cast. The one flaw was that the stream collapsed about five minutes from the end and we had to leave with the play unresolved. Fortunately it was right at the end – Falstaff and his supporters were standing waiting for the new King to arrive. The King would have arrived rejected Falstaff and told him that he would have nothing to do with him until he amended his ways, and then moved on. But it was disappointing to miss this finale. I suspect that the theatre wasn’t geared up to this eventuality as it must have been a first. No doubt they will be prepared in the future.

Drove home and came to the summer house to read the final page of dialogue (of Henry IV) and then walked Mix before bed. It has been another excellent day, even if the grass hasn’t been cut yet.

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Tuesday 1st. July, 2014 – A Fabulous Summer’s Day 


I was standing out in the road waiting for Peter to arrive when this huge tractor spraying the crops in the field opposite Mount Pleasant came into view. I didn’t have my camera with me but I pulled out my ‘phone and caught this picture of modern day farming


Up and walked Mix before breakfasting in the farm house and then showering and doing a bit of reorganising before my friend Peter arrived to spend the day down in the Borders.

Peter phoned to say that his tom-tom had taken him to Edrom so I gave him directions and went out to the roadside to let him know when he had arrived.

Rachel, Peter and I had coffee in the summer house before I took Peter on a tour of our new home. Later on he and I went off to Duns where we lunched in Hugo’s – very pleasant. Then it was back to Mount Pleasant where we were able to sit in deckchairs and drink beer and later coffee. Having done the relaxing and the catching up on news we set off with Rachel to the paths around Duns Castle where we walked past the monument to John Duns Scotus, past the artificial lake and into the forest walk – we, and the dogs, enjoyed the walk.

Back home, Peter was able to say hello to Mum who had returned from St. Abbs where she had spent the afternoon with Jim who had picked her up after her weekly visit to the hairdresser and lunched with her at the White Swan – haven’t we been patronising Duns’ eating places today? It was good to catch up with Jim who had some good advice for Rachel and me on our forthcoming visit to the Globe at London.

Peter and Jim both set off for home – they had long journeys to make – and a bit later we dined with the family in the farm house. What a lot of eating today! For the first time we ate from Digger’s new crop of potatoes; they were very good.

Digger and Olive had both spent the day in the garden, Rachel was working on a kilt which she is altering. In the evening I watched the USA against Belgium football match which was exciting right from the first kick of the ball to the very end of extra time. Belgium eventually triumphed by two goals to one. I should also record that I was very surprised to discover that Nadal had been knocked out of Wimbledon by a fairly unknown Australian, a teenager called Nick Kyrgios. I look forward to seeing his next match.

Walked Mix before bed. It was fabulous seeing Peter today. Of course, I didn’t get any grass cut. Just as well I am retired!

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Monday 30th. June, 2014 – What a lovely surprise 


My very good friends Theresa and Mick with their grandson, Logan, whom I baptised shortly before retiring


Up and walked Mix before breakfast. My task for today was to cut the grass around the summer house and my pleasure was to watch Andy Murray in his match at Wimbledon. I started by clearing all the bits and pieces off the grass – ladders, bits of shingles, wood and so on. Before I could start Tom arrived and so rather than cut the grass, we sat in the summer house and blethered.

Tom had come to collect his tools to take up to Helensburgh to make some repairs to his house. However, he turned my brush cutter back into a strimmer for me and then set off for home.

I started to cut the grass – strimming the long grass at the west end of the garden. However I didn’t get that completed because suddenly a well-kent face appeared at the gate. It was Mick, one of my great friends from Luss who had driven down with his wife and grandson to give us the once-over. We chatted in the summer house and then I showed them around. I’d love them to have stayed longer but they had to be on their way. It was really good to see them and naturally it brought back memories of all of the youth projects we had at Luss and Mick coming in to meet with all of the youngsters. He was a star turn, particularly with the Italians – Mick was our local policeman and a real addition to the Luss community.

By the time they left, Andy Murray was about to start his match so I got out a deck chair and watched the first set on my i-pad in the hot, bright sunshine. At this point the rain came down – not at Mount Pleasant but at Wimbledon – and I retired into the summer house while they closed the roof over centre court. I wondered whether I should start cutting grass again but reckoned there wouldn’t be time before the match restarted. I was right and soon I was back at my centre court-side seat enjoying the tennis.

Just in time for dinner, Murray won in three sets. So that was fine. After dinner in the farmhouse, I cut the grass in front of the summer house and then watched the conclusion of the Djokovic against Tsonga match. I like Djokovic but I am especially fond of Jo-Wildried Tsonga who always seems such a plucky player. Unfortunately pluck wasn’t enough tonight and he was defeated in three sets by Djokovic who looks in ominously good form.

Went back into the Granary to watch the News before walking Mix and retiring to bed. It has been a very good day.

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Sunday 29th. June, 2014 – The Feast of St. Peter and St. Paul 


Our service this morning was at Abbey St. Bathans – our congregation always goes exploring on the fifth Sunday of the month – and, as the former Church had been booked for a reception, we met in the Village Hall. This is a view from the outside of the hall. I found it rather fun


Up, showered and walked Mix before an early breakfast as we had to be on the road just after nine for a service at Abbey St. Bathans at ten (and we had to be early to set up the organ to provide the music). We found the village hall without too much difficulty and soon had the organ set up. Today is the Feast of St. Peter and St. Paul, something I will never forget because it is the day on which we arrived in Genoa for the first time all of those years ago. This is the feast day of Genoa because St. Peter and St. Paul are the patron saints and tonight there will have been a glorious firework display over the whole city.

In St. Bathans we had a good congregation – my picture, below, was taken as soon as we arrived before the congregation had assembled – and Ann, the minister, chose to preach on the story of Abraham’s sacrifice (or willingness to sacrifice) Isaac. She contrasted Abraham’s willingness but spared action with God’s action in sacrificing Jesus, his son, to death upon the Cross. Three of the ladies of the congregation led the prayers and Bible readings -- and led them well. After the service we shared in coffee and then made our way home.



I admired this small village hall but I was told that it is suffering from rot and deteriorating quite quickly. What a pity


Back home, we loaded the dogs into the car and went off to Tweedmouth where there were sales on in the retail park. I bought a couple of deck chairs – my purchase brought on jointly by retirement and the lovely summer we are enjoying – a smoothie maker, and Rachel bought three lanterns for outside the Granary.




We just had time for Rachel to try out the deck chair before lunch in the kitchen. I’ll write a more measured review later


We drove home and joined the family for a lovely Sunday lunch – a glorious salad which I really enjoyed. Afterwards Rachel decided that she would cut the grass. I decided to retire to the summer house with Mix (who hates lawnmowers) and listen to the cricket (Durham are playing Derbyshire at Chester-le-Street) but as soon as I got settled the rain arrived – not here but at Durham.



Rachel is cutting the grass on her side of the fence. I am to cut the grass on this side of the fence tomorrow


I needn’t have worried. The sun returned and Durham scored an impressive victory with 40 balls and eight wickets to spare. Rachel went off to Evensong in Berwick and I fed the dogs and relaxed in the warm afternoon sun on one of our new deck chairs.

On Rachel’s return I made us each a smoothie (coffee ice-cream with peaches, yummy!) and we watched an episode of New Tricks and enjoyed some spaghetti al pesto. After the News I walked Mix and soon it was time for bed. Tomorrow Tom is away and I hope to spend the day working in the garden around the summer house. We’ll see – but let’s hope for even more of this sunshine.

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Saturday 28th. June, 2014 – A long lie and a lovely walk 


Mix and I walked along the country roads this morning. Because rain was threatened I didn’t take my camera, preferring my telephone so that I could phone for a lift if the weather really deteriorated. I took this picture on my phone and it has everything – a bit of stone wall, with a fence post beyond and then those lovely poppies in amongst the crop filling the space before the trees (what colours) and the sky suggesting that it may soon be rain (as indeed it was)


Slept in – well it was Saturday – and then Mix and I set out on our country walk. We took our usual route along by Fogo, up by Caldra and along to Nisbet Hill. It was a stunning walk, almost no traffic, warm when we set off and just a smidgen of rain along the way. So many of the roads are long and straight and so you are aware of what lies ahead, have no concerns about Mix and can get lost in your own thoughts.



This picture doesn’t do the road justice because in reality I could see the road stretching out for what seemed like miles. Now that all my walking is for pleasure, there is nothing I enjoy more than a long straight road with no one else in sight


I found myself thinking about the Holy Roman Emperor Charles V today. In the first half of the sixteenth century he ruled over more of the world than anyone before or since. I studied him in some depth when I read history at university and then again, of course, when I read divinity because he was in power during some of the most important years of the reformation. He was born in 1500, became King of Spain in 1516 and Holy Roman Emperor in 1519. From then until 1556 he ruled the world, tried to hold his huge and diverse countries and dominions together and then suddenly he retired and spent the final two years of his life in a monastery. I often wondered what sort of a man was able to do that, to have so much power in his hands and then to hand it on to others and settle for the quiet life.

Now I’ve never had any power at all (nor wanted it) but I have lived a life which has been busy and usually at the beck and call of other people. I suspect that I never thought that I would get the opportunity to retire but events fell the way they did and Rachel and I got the chance to come to the Borders and do our own thing. Because we are getting everything in order, life is still very busy but there is nothing more pleasant than walking my dog on a Saturday morning – looking out at the fields and listening to the birds, seeing horses, and sheep and cows and almost no human beings at all. I don’t think that there is very much that I enjoy more than my Saturday mornings with Mix, time to think and time to wonder at the beauty of God's handiwork all around me. Today Mix came home so exhausted that he just wanted to get to the summer house and fall asleep.

I made myself a pizza and ate it while watching a bit of Wimbledon. Today the rain has struck there but the roof over Centre Court ensured that there was something to watch.

While I was out a gentleman in a car stopped and spoke to me – he had read my blog and, like me, is a fan of the rescue dog services. There are some really nice folk living around here.



Last time I walked this way, everything was growing, now here the farmer has been at work – a sign, surely, that harvest is on the way


I spent the afternoon completing the backing up of my computer and watching the end of the tennis match that had started when I was having lunch – tennis matches take such a long time (It was Nadal against Kukushkin, not a long match as matches go but Kukushkin fought so well to win the first set before being overpowered by Nadal.)

I had intended to spend the afternoon cutting the grass but the grass is still rather wet – or wet enough for that to be acceptable as an excuse – so instead I did some jobs around the summer house and took some pictures of the loom before falling asleep in my chair.



The loom now looks ready for action. The stable conversion has been a great success and, after its journey from Argyll and being stored under a tarpaulin, the loom looks in a remarkably fine state




From behind you can see the threads all in place and making their ways through the different parts of the loom. It has taken Sandy quite a few days to get everything to this stage but now it has been done




And here you can see the first cloth woven on the loom at Mount Pleasant. It will become our Mount Pleasant tweed, although I understand that the final design will not be agreed until a few test pieces have been completed


We all dined together in the farm house. Olive contracted to mark six hundred examination papers for ACCA and today she has completed that task. Retirement has finally arrived and she will be able to enjoy her new home and all of her plans now – especially since Mum’s house in Fife is all but sold.

Digger spent the day going back and forwards in the garden – and making at least one trip into Duns this morning. Mum was ironing when I bumped into her during the day and Rachel was pottering between her loom room in the stables and the back garden. Pottering – it was that kind of a day. Rowan enjoyed the garden and all that everyone else was doing. Mix – he slept!

After dinner I came across to the summer house so that I could watch the football without inflicting it on Rachel. Brazil had already beaten Chile on penalties – thanks to Julius Caesar in goal. He was superb with two outright saves (and I was glad that it didn’t come down to only one player failing to score). Tonight I watched Columbia against Uruguay and, in the process I saw what must be one of the best goals ever – that by James Rodriguez for Columbia. (He caught the ball on his chest with his back to the goal, turned and hit it on the volley into the roof of the net with the ball going over the head of the goal keeper and then dipping under the bar.) I almost began to understand why some footballers get paid so much money – it was magnificent. Columbia won by two goals to nil (both goals in fact scored by James Rodriguez).

All that was left was to walk Mix and retire to bed with my book (An Officer and a Spy by Robert Harris– which won the Melrose Book Festival Sir Walter Scott award for historical fiction).

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Friday 27th. June, 2014 – Spot the difference 


I’m very conscious that all of these photos of the summer house are becoming little more than a succession of ‘spot the difference’ pictures. Things haven’t quite worked out as I had hoped and if you look at this picture you will see why. Today the weather changed and after so many warm, dry, glorious days, today it became cold and wet. Not before, however, Tom and I were able to achieve a little something on the summer house. If you look very carefully you will see that the bargeboards have now been fitted on both ends and around the dormer – yes, and the clock is now screwed to the dormer as well: we are expecting winds


Rose and walked Mix before breakfast. I had set about painting a weather vane with Hammerite when Tom arrived and, before the bad weather arrived, we were able to fix the bargeboards and mastic the roof. Tom then set off for home – they have friends arriving later in the day and naturally they want to get everything just right for their arrival. I lunched in the summer house with the two dogs. They are both so happy now that, because we have the new fence, there can be totally free movement from the back door of the house to the summer house and, as a result, both dogs have spent most of the day with me.

I had intended to spend the afternoon painting; however the weather put paid to that. So I started to back up my computer. Why? Because at the presbytery meeting earlier this week Helen, our presbytery clerk, told us that so many computers were being affected by malicious activity. Her concern was for church computers but I suddenly thought what would it be like if I lost all of my photos and all of my writings from the last ten years? Actually, I’m not really sure that it would matter very much because I am retired, but it would be a shame. So I have got a portable hard disk and I have started to save what I would really want to keep. It has taken all afternoon, all evening and there will be plenty to copy tomorrow as well and I am hoping that the exercise is a little bit like carrying an umbrella, the fact you have done it means it doesn’t rain.

Rachel came and checked her music for Sunday on my keyboard and Rowan, showing off now she was so at home in the summer house, bounced around about her neck on the top of a chair while Rachel tried to work:



Next minute Rowan had climbed onto the organ and was doing her best to play it as well


I walked Mix in the rain and then we all dined in the farmhouse. In the evening we watched an old Inspector Gently, after which I retired to the summer house to see how the backing-up was going and then, after giving Mix his final walk of the day, we retired to bed.

Should report that Rachel and Sandy continued to work on the loom. I understand that production of the new Mount Pleasant tweed will start on Monday (and there will be photos). Digger was in the garden, as was Mum between the showers, and Olive continued to mark examination papers. She is on the very last lap and soon it will be done.

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Thursday 26th. June, 2014 – Another fabulous day: weather and in every way. 


Today Digger completed the task of digging over the soil within his dome. He tells me that he is a bit late in his work on the small holding to get a perfect crop this year but everything will be in place for next year. However, I am sure that this soil in the dome will yield a good crop


Up and walked Mix and breakfasted early so that I could get started on cutting shingles to size for the roof ridge on the summer house. Tom arrived and by midmorning the ridge was completed. Instead of continuing with the finishing touches to the summer house, we then set about fencing in the summerhouse garden – not for the security of the summerhouse but so that the dogs can roam around this area without being constantly supervised. In the morning we got the fence posts into the ground and then in the afternoon we fitted on the fencing wire – Tom is an expert and so it was not problem. In between we went off to Pearsons for lunch – cauliflower cheese soup followed by Chicken Caesar’s Salad. Excellent.

Rachel came home from the stained glass class she had been at with Dorothy this morning and she helped with the completion of the fencing exercise. Job done and Tom went off home – looking forward to an evening with his feet up. I showered, walked Mix and then Rachel and I went off to Berwick to attend the Maltings Theatre. It wasn’t something we had intended to do but I had got a note from the director in effect saying that this was a premier and that that not many tickets had been sold and if I came I would get two tickets for the price of one!

Having said that, it turned out to be an excellent evening. We dined in the restaurant: Cullen Skink followed by Scotch egg, fried potatoes and salad, followed by rhubarb Eton mess. Another superb meal.

The show was in the studio theatre and was entitled ‘What Happens? – Musings and Meditations on Life' by Tayo Aluko. I would describe the evening as being the story of the American negro in poetry by a famous American poet, Langston Hughes (1902 – 1967) interspersed with music and song. This was appropriate because Langston Hughes was an innovator of Jazz Poetry.

The programme had been put together and was performed by Tayo Aluko, a classical baritone with a lovely voice for poetry who is best known, I’m told, for his monodrama ‘Call Mr. Robeson’ which was a hit in London in 2011.

Tayo Aluko presented his poems and sang, supported by three musicians: Mike Hardy on Trumpet and piano, Ross Milligan on guitar and Matthew Rooke (the Artistic Director of the Maltings) on double-bass and piano. The musicians also were excellent. It was a real rounded performance with challenging poems which took us through the history of slavery and the civil rights movement, included humour and lots of musical numbers which ranged through ‘I got it bad and that ain’t good’ to ‘Death of an old seaman’, from ‘I got plenty of nothin’ to ‘Miss Otis regrets’, and from ‘’They can’t take that away from me’ to ‘I dream a world’. All of the songs and musical numbers were greeting by prolonged applause and some of the poems too, but others of the poems were just so challenging, so shocking as we were reminded of how people were treated on the basis of their colour, that we almost felt applause to be inappropriate, or irreverent or inadequate.

The set was attractive but I thought the lighting a little hard for Tayo Aluko always to see his script (and as I left I glimpsed his book and was astounded at how small was the print). I left thinking again of how fortunate we are to have such a fine theatre on our doorstep and how pleased I was that I had been chased up to attend.

Well, that’s been quite a day! Good for others, too: Olive has got on well with her examination marking and the end is in sight. Mum went off with the Guild for lunch at the manse and enjoyed it very much. Digger got on well in the garden. I walked Mix, it is half past eleven and has only just got dark and is still extremely warm. How fortunate we are.

Oh, and I almost forgot. Here are some pictures of today (none of the theatre, obviously, we don't do that sort of thing!):



Tom is on the ridge of the summerhouse fitting the last of the shingles into place




The summerhouse with all of the shingling completed. The bargeboards and other little jobs will be finished tomorrow (I know I said that yesterday but I didn’t know then that we were going to branch out into fencing today instead)




Mix can happily be left along in this part of the garden now that it is fenced off from the driveway which leads to the main road


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Wednesday 25th. June, 2014 – We are getting there! 


I took this picture just before dinner this evening as a record of all that has been achieved. Actually you can’t see all that much because for most of the day we have been working on the other side of the roof and, by the end of the day, the shingles have been completed there. That isn’t the end, however, we still have to fit the ridge and then add bargeboards all around the roof. There are a few other touches which we hope to make and if the weather is good tomorrow we will continue to work our way through them


Up early and walked Mix before breakfast. Then Tom arrived with his trailer. We went off to Pearsons and bought some wood for bargeboards, some more nails for fitting shingles and some Hammerite. From Pearsons we went to JTS and bought fence posts and fifty metres of fence wire netting. This is to extend the garden around the corner from the back of the Granary to the entrance driveway.

From JTS we went to Gavinton and picked up Dorothy who took Tom’s car from Mount Pleasant after we had dropped off the trailer. Then it was hard at it to put shingles on the north side of the summer house roof, breaking for lunch and starting again after a fairly short break.



Tom working on the shingles – he is right up at the top of the north side: the job is nearly done


With little time before it was time to stop for the day, instead of fitting the ridge, we set up the clock and fitted it to the new dormer. It looks really good!

Tom set off for home. Rachel came across to the summer house and we worked on the music for Abbey St. Bathans on Sunday. I took Mix for a walk and then went and sorted out clothes – washing, drying and putting away. We dined in the farmhouse hearing as we ate how Olive was getting on with her marking of examination papers, how Digger had been digging in his dome and how Mum had been chasing up the staff who are overseeing the sale of her flat. Everyone has been making progress. Rachel’s news was that she and Sandy had been working hard in the Stables for much of the day and that the weaving loom is now up and ready to weave. Rachel and Sandy will be back in the Stables on Friday and there will be more to report then.

In the evening I watched an old episode of Rebus (one of the John Hannah adventures) and then, after half an hour at my desk, I watched Newsnight before bed.

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Tuesday 24th. June, 2014 -- And today we got a little rain (not much) 

This morning I spent quite a while in the summer house preparing the music for Arrochar; this afternoon Rachel spent time in the Granary preparing the music for the service at Abbey St. Bathans this Sunday. It is something which Rachel really enjoys doing, partly because she enjoys preparing her own descants and ornamenting the music and partly because it is something she did every week at Luss before I retired


Up and walked Mix. This morning there was a little rain in the air, not much but just enough to make it less pleasant to work on a roof so Tom and I agreed to do our own things today. In my case that meant having breakfast in the farm house and then going to the summer house with Mix for the morning. My programme was to prepare the music for Arrochar Church for Sunday and then to email it to Jamie. Then I settled down and completed the book I was reading. It is called ‘Rogue Nation’ and I enjoyed it very much. It was written back in 2009 and is based on the premise that Scotland voted for independence and what happened next. It is great fun and involves all kinds of subterfuge and skulduggery.

This morning we also had another power failure -- the only person it affected here was Olive who was marking examinations on-line. However, Digger fitted up a generator and soon she was back at work. Mum went off to her hairdresser (where there was power as usual).

I lunched in the summer house and found time to listen to the cricket – not the Test Match but Durham who are doing superbly against Sussex. Tomorrow we have one wicket to take and over 300 runs of a lead so it should be a straightforward exercise. England lost on the second last ball against Sri Lanka (just as Sri Lanka would have done last Test had there not been the review system in operation). And, unfortunately (because after England they were the team I was supporting) Italy has been eliminated from the World Cup.

In the afternoon I took Mix for a walk and then had a shower before an early meal in the farmhouse so that I could go off to the Presbytery meeting in Duns. I enjoyed the Presbytery, the main part of which was a report on the General Assembly given by six of the commissioners, each of them presenting one day of the programme. It took an hour in all but was well done.

Back home I watched the News on my computer and Newsnight on television. I suppose the big news of the day is that Rebecca Brooks has been found not guilty in the phone hacking trial and Andy Coulson has been found guilty. It raises questions for me. Rebecca Brooks has lost fully half a year of her life on trial and it must have cost a huge amount of money for her to defend herself. Increasingly it seems that celebrity defendants are being found not guilty. That being the case, it places an enormous pressure on the Crown Prosecution Service to get things right. It is quite something to subject an innocent person to such an ordeal and to turn their lives upside down to the extent that hers has been upended.

The other side of the coin, I suspect, is that many whose lives have been disrupted by the press will not be sorry to see a former editor of the News of the World (Andy Coulson) found guilty of serious wrong-doing. There has been disquiet for years about the way that journalists of some newspapers go about their business and this will be seen as a bit of come-uppance, I am sure. Be that as it may, it is still not pleasant to see anyone’s life come crashing down around them and I’m sorry for them and for their families. I’ve always been glad that Ministers of religion are excused jury duty – I wonder if that still holds good once one is retired?

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Monday 23rd. June, 2014 -- A bit overcast but still thoroughly warm 


Up and walked Mix before breakfast. Tom arrived and by the end of the morning the dormer was all but completed – it took quite a bit longer than we had expected but it looks quite good now that it is done.

We broke for lunch – Tom went off with Dorothy and I dealt with some post and heard the good news that an offer has been lodged for Mum’s house. We’ll not count our chickens but the omens are good! On Tom’s return we completed the Dormer (well, the barge boards still have to be fitted but that will not be a long job) and some more of the north side of the roof was shingled – with a bit of luck we may get that done tomorrow (there is a bit of doubt about the weather).

I had a really nasty moment this morning – we had put Mix in the summer house while we worked on its roof, thinking that he would prefer to be close to us rather than locked in the house. When we went to let him out, he ran away down the main road with me pursuing him as fast as I could, calling his name. It was only after a car nearly hit him that he eventually pulled up some half a mile from our house and I managed to get hold of him. I don’t know what was worse, the fright I got or the breathlessness which remained with me for the rest of the morning. Still I suppose I have been fortunate. Mix is now firmly under control and he and I spent the rest of the afternoon in the summer house where I took in some of the day's sporting activities: Andy Murray winning his first game at Wimbledon, England throwing away their hard work of the first three days of the Test match against Sri Lanka, Durham continuing to do superbly well against Sussex.

Rachel cut back some of the bushes around the summer house, Digger did some work in the allotment and Olive continued to work on ACCA examination papers. We all dined together at 7 p.m. in the farmhouse.

In the evening I watched a bit of football (Croatia against Mexico and Brazil against Cameroon) and an old New Tricks. Took Mix for a walk (he is still a bit cowed after his experiences earlier in the day). Went to bed with my book.

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Sunday 22nd. June, 2014 – The First Sunday after Trinity 


I took this picture of Rachel, Irene, Simon, Mum, Dorothy and Tom outside the front door of Gavinton Church when we visited it for the morning service today. As usual the sun is shining and it was good to be out and about


Up, walked Mix and breakfasted in the farmhouse with Simon and Irene before setting off together with Mum and Rachel for the service at Gavinton. This was conducted by Bill as Ann is on holiday. The theme was the people of God – that’s us – and the message that we can all do more than we imagine.

After the service we had coffee in the hall and then drove Simon and Irene through the town square before making pour way up to the entrance to the castle, where we parked and went for a walk. It was a good walk and along the way I took some pictures.



This is the memorial which marks the place where John Duns Scotus was born in 1266. At that time the village was here before being moved in later times (as a result of a Border raid) to its present position




This is the top of the memorial which proudly announces:
John Duns Scotus
The Subtle Doctor
and member of the Franciscan Order
was born on this site in 1266.
Wherever his distinguished name is uttered
he sheds lustre on Duns and Scotland
the town and land which bore him.
Erected by the Franciscan Order
on the seventh centenary of his birth
September, 1966




It is just across from this entrance to the castle that the Duns Scotus Monument is to be found




This is a lovely walk along the pathway from the castle. Simon and Irene, Rachel and I wandered along it ...



... while Mum had a seat in front of the lake with the castle in the background


We returned to the farmhouse for an excellent Sunday lunch after which our visitors left to drive back home. Mix and I came to the summer house but almost immediately Scott and Sue arrived and we went to the farmhouse to see some of the pictures they had taken during their most recent holiday in Italy. Rachel and I were particularly interested to see the pictures of the couple of days which they spent in Genoa. They had obviously had a really good time.

In the evening Rachel and I had a snack and watched a bit of television (a bit of the Antiques Road Show and a bit of Algeria against South Korea in the World Cup) before I walked Mix and went to bed early with my book. This is going to be a big week and I do hope that the weather holds up for us!

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Saturday 21st. June, 2014 – Welcoming friends and Rowan visits her family 


This is a picture of Rowan with her parents and her brothers and sisters. In case you can’t make her out, Rowan is wearing a red collar and Rachel was most impressed (and smugly self-satisfied) at how well Rowan behaved


Up, walked Mix, tidied the summer house, went into Duns to buy some cream cakes and came home in time for a shower. Unexpectedly our friend Jenny arrived – unfortunately, Rachel was not at home as she had gone off to a bar-b-cue at Sang’s home in Alloa, this being, among other things, a reunion of Rowan’s family. Rachel enjoyed showing off Rowan to her family and Rowan enjoyed playing with them all.

I showed Jenny around and had a rare old chat over coffee in the summer house. We will get in touch at the start of the week and I hope that she will come down to stay quite soon. Today she was travelling from Cheltenham to her home in Scotland and happened to pass by our house. It was good to see her.

Soon afterwards Simon and Irene arrived. They are staying the weekend with us and I showed them around and then went off to visit Dorothy and Tom’s ‘farm’ at Gavinton. Dorothy and Tom returned with us to Mount Pleasant and the five of us drank Champaign and orange juice until Rachel arrived home. Then we all dined in the dining room around the round table in the farmhouse with Olive, Mum and Digger. It was a lovely evening.

We adjourned to the Granary afterwards to continue our chats until it was time to go to bed. For me it was a really lovely day.

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Friday 20th. June, 2014 – Another fine day 


A picture of strawberries growing happily in the Digger Dome. Digger had been working away in his allotment most of every day in recent times and seems as happy as a sandboy


Up, walked Mix and breakfasted before Tom and I started on the shingling of the second side of the summerhouse roof. In fact we only did a small amount of that because Tom had duties in the afternoon and it was clear that we wouldn’t get the roof completed. So instead we set about making the dormer for the front part of the roof. This was great fun and involved the participation of Digger and Rachel as well. But now it has been erected and a start made on putting shingles on it. With a bit of luck, and if we don’t get any better offers, we will complete this on Monday.



We started the day working on the north side of the summerhouse roof, the south side having been completed yesterday




Tom in front of the new dormer on which we have only just started to put shingles


We stopped for lunch, Tom departed and Rachel and I set about staining and preserving the wood of the summerhouse. We got on well and everything now has at least one coat of a really good quality preservative.

At this stage I walked Mix and then joined Olive, Digger and Rachel for an evening meal – Mum was absent as she had gone to Duns for the referendum debate. Earlier she had been in Edinburgh for the summer outing of her University of the Third Age book group – a meal in an African restaurant as a fitting end to a year in which they have studied books by African authors.

Digger continues today in his allotment and completed the digging of his potato patch



Digger surveys his now completed potato patch – there will be no potato famine this autumn


Digger and his potato patch which he tells me he started digging on the 30th. April – he has done other things in between


Olive has continued to mark examination papers. She would have preferred to have been in the garden where it has once again been a lovely day. It started off a bit cloudy but was always warm and by the end of the afternoon the sun was fully out and it was scalding – more of the same, please!

On the sport front, England have now been eliminated from the World Cup (Italy lost against Costa Rica), England are however making a good start to the second Test match having dismissed Sri Lanka for 257 with Liam Plunkett taking five wickets and Stewart Broad taking a hat-trick, Durham lost to Leicestershire in a T20 match at Chester-le-Street.



The summer house at the end of today, looking good in the late afternoon sunshine


In the evening we watched an old episode of ‘Auf Wiedersehen, Pet’ set in Cuba, followed by the News and Newsnight. Walked Mix and went to bed.

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Thursday 19th. June, 2014 – And still the sun shone! 


Tom spent most of today on the roof of the summer house. Our task for today was to fit the shingles on the roof – I had read in the blurb that someone completely fitted shingles to one of these log cabins in half a day. Well, it is taking us longer – but perhaps we are doing it better! At the end of day one we have completed one side. Perhaps we will get everything completed tomorrow – perhaps not, we are retired and it really doesn’t matter


Up, walked Mix and breakfasted before Tom arrived and we immediately started work on the shingles. It is a finicky job and so important that everything is measured properly. Still, by the end of the afternoon one side was completed and looking wonderful – the strong sun is baking the shingles into place and it is a job well done.



A view of the summer house with the shingles almost completely fitted on the south side. We knocked off for lunch and went to Pearsons for soup followed by a baked potato with prawns. Rachel wasn’t with us because she was in Berwick this morning at her stained-glass class. (This picture was taken in the afternoon once she had returned)




Rachel came to join us this afternoon and started work on staining and varnishing the summer house. The general feeling is that the natural varnish wasn’t strong enough so we are coating it with antique pine. I think that it is going to look very classy once it is completed -- and don't those shingles look good?


At the end of the afternoon, I took Mix for a walk before supper after which we settled in to watch England’s football match against Uruguay. We were as full of hope as many of the commentators but it didn’t work out and England lost 2:1 and, unless every other group result works out for them (with Italy winning both of their remaining matches) then England will be coming home.

I walked Mix and went to bed early.

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Wednesday 18th. June, 2014 – Off to Stirling again 


I took this picture just a few minutes ago – yes, quite late on in the evening and still it is broad day light and glorious sunshine. It is a ‘before’ picture because tomorrow Tom and I hope to fit the shingles and complete the building which has been ‘on the go’ since before Christmas. I’m looking forward to getting it completed – it won’t make any difference at all to the inside where it is already the best place in the world (that’s not just my view, but Mix’s as well)!


Up early and walked Mix before breakfast. Then I got myself together and drove to Stirling to the regular meeting of the Scottish Pilgrim Routes Forum trustees. It was a useful meeting which I enjoyed. There was a post mortem on the forum meeting held recently in Glasgow at the Cathedral and a looking forward to the event to be held in Dunfermline at the start of October. Of course there was a great deal of housekeeping as well – working through the new constitution and getting feedback on all that is being done ‘on the ground’.

I am always given an opportunity to say a little about the Green Pilgrimage Movement and I was glad to be able to tell them about the agreement which has been made between Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Climate Action initiative and the Green Pilgrim Network to create a ‘Green Faith in Action campaign’.

The Alliance of Religions and Conservation reports that:

"Through its Geneva office, Arnold Schwarzenegger’s R20 Regions of Climate Action will now partner with pilgrim cities in the Green Pilgrimage Network to bring in technical expertise and investment partners to deliver renewable energy and sustainable infrastructure projects. They will work together to promote pilgrim cities to become innovative models of faith-consistent values, environmental care and green economy that are socially, economically and environmentally sustainable.

The R20 Regions of Climate Action office in Geneva will be the focal point for working with the Green Pilgrimage Network to identify up to eight pilgrim cities as initial places where green pilgrimage principles can be put into practice most effectively.

The list of sites under consideration include Etchmiadzin in Armenia and Amritsar in India and the partnership will also aim to promote model green pilgrim cities as examples of environmental action at a meeting to be held in Paris in December 2015."


This is all so exciting and I am delighted to be part of it all, but I would have loved for Luss and wider Argyll to be part of it all as well. In the vision we drew up, Luss could have become Scotland’s first carbon neutral sustainable ‘city’. When we talked about it there was always a natural cynicism about where the funds would have come from – it is now becoming ever clearer that where the vision is embraced, funds follow. I still hope that there may be a place in all of this for our Argyll communities which are so rich in natural resources whether these be of water, of wind or of land itself. I have been tasked with seeing if we can have some presentation of this huge initiative as part of our gathering in October.

I drove home past the Kelpies shining gloriously in the evening light. Back home I met with Tom to check our arrangements to complete the summer house tomorrow and then I dined with the family in the farm house. During the evening I picked up on some of the loose ends which were waiting for me and then walked Mix a bit earlier than usual so that we could watch a bit of football before bed. (I enjoyed last night’s game between Russia and South Korea but felt ever so sorry for the goal-keeper who let the ball bounce over his shoulder and into the net, watched by the whole world. Good to remember that it is just a game.) Talking of games, Durham had a good win against Lancashire today in the County Championship -- it was a very good win, but I suspect nerves were beginning to fray as the match reached its conclusion and Durham won by just 27 runs.

While I was away today, Digger and Olive worked in the garden, Mum read her book and Rachel found the day just too hot to do anything at all! I am just loving this weather.

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Tuesday 17th. June, 2014 – Today has been fun 


This afternoon Tom, Rachel, Dorothy and I were up in Longformacus (one of the small communities which is joined with Gavinton and Cranshaws for worship). I took this picture from the bridge in the village. Something about running water is always fascinating and, on this the warmest day of the year so far, I could happily have stood and looked into the water for hours


Up and walked Mix before breakfast. Afterwards Tom and I started making detailed plans about how to move our projects forward, given that we now have most of the wood for completing the Bothy conversion. First we identified what we still required and went up to Pearsons to order the missing wood. It will be delivered tomorrow. Then, as is so often the way, we decided that rather than complete the roof of the former Bothy we would first complete the summer house by installing the shingles. That will be our task for Thursday and we will try to get an early start and get the job done in the day. So we had to prepare a list of all outstanding bits and pieces we required and then go off and buy them from Pearsons – it was becoming a bit of a procession. (The reason that we have to wait for Thursday is that tomorrow I am away at a Scottish Pilgrim Routes Forum meeting in Stirling).

That done, I dropped Tom at his home and came back to the Granary for lunch. After lunch Tom and Dorothy arrived to take Rachel and me to Longformacus with them to meet up with Gay and see around the Church which is no longer in use. It was lovely to see Longformacus Kirk. It has a long history and is a beautiful building and was used until about a year ago. Now derelict, and with the furniture stripped out of it, the plan is that the building – saved by Gay – is to be converted into a museum. I see huge potential in the building and if we can help, then we certainly will. It is fortunate too that it is on the route of the Southern Upland Way, so there will be opportunities of reaching out to those who walk that route.

I took a few pictures:



I love this view of the exterior of the Kirk. I suspect that this is one of the oldest parts of the building and once I know more I will write it up for my diary




Inside, the Kirk is long and narrow – it will lend itself ideally to a new life as a museum and the major exhibit will be the Church itself. It is really attractive




A picture of Dorothy and Rachel admiring one of the stained-glass windows. This is of St. Francis, an appropriate saint to picture here in the countryside in a Kirk surrounded by animals and with walkers passing by


Back home, I took Mix for a walk before dinner (smoked haddock, fabulous) and then in the evening I prepared the music for Arrochar for Sunday and read through some of the correspondence which had come my way. Then it was time to walk Mix before, I hope, settling down to watch tonight’s football match. I am getting quite into the world cup. I enjoyed the game last night (USA versus Ghana – a 2:1 result, as has been every match I have watched.) Perhaps it will be different tonight.

Should report on what other folk got up to today. Olive continues to mark examination papers, Digger continues to dig, Mum went to the hairdresser and Rachel did some gardening, trimming the lawn which I cut yesterday. There is still a lot to do – but we are enjoying it.

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Monday 16th. June, 2014 – Quite an incredible day 


It may look as though Mum is talking to herself – in fact she is talking to Sandy who is behind the wool, warping up the loom. Progress is being made! Sandy joined Rachel to continue working on the loom today


Woke and walked Mix before breakfast. Tom arrived and we set off for Cranshaws to do a bit of furniture moving for Ann and to have a coffee with Jack.

Then we returned to Mount Pleasant, Tom went off home to visit his grand-daughter’s school where there was an exhibition, I set about cutting the grass! I had bought a lawn mower several months ago but I have always seemed to be too busy to use it – yes, I know that I am retired but I am incredibly busy with building projects and with all my hobbies. It was hard going but by lunchtime I got the grass in the back garden cut and by an hour later I had re-cut the grass around the summer house. There is still a great deal of cutting to be done but I will get on with it this week not least because I need to stay around because I am on call for any pastoral emergency at Gavinton Church while Ann is on holiday.

I lunched in front of the television watching England playing against Sri Lanka in the first Test Match. At lunchtime there was no hint of the drama which was to follow. In fact England very nearly won with Sri Lanka desperately clinging on with their last pair at the wicket when time was called.

Amazon arrived with my I-pad. I have never had an I-pad before and would never have had one had it not been that I got once courtesy of the Royal Bank as a reward for using my credit card. So, much of the rest of the day was spent setting it up and finding out how it worked. I should have known because Rachel has had one for several years but it was all new to me.

Just before dinner, our wood for the next part of our building plan was delivered from the Abbey Sawmill. Tom arrived to help with the delivery and we enjoyed showing the owner around our projects and showing him how we are using his wood.

After our meal I continued setting up my I-pad and then came across to the summer house to sort out my money. Today was the first day of booking for tickets at the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse – a rebuilding of the old Blackfriars – and, earlier in the day, I managed to get two super seats for Tis Pity She’s a Whore for next November so that Rachel can visit a theatre she has long wanted to see. So all in all – I-pad, wood, theatre tickets – it has been an incredible day.

Everyone else had a day spent largely at home – Mum pottered, Digger cut his grass this afternoon, Rachel worked with Sandy and later went off to walk Rowan and to visit the library, Olive is working hard in her study from morning until night marking examination papers for ACCA.

I walked Mix after Newsnight and at the moment I post this, I intend to watch a bit of the football before I go to bed. Last night I enjoyed Argentina against Bosnia: I was supporting Bosnia and, although they were defeated, they played rather well – a bit like England the night before.

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Sunday 15th. June, 2014 – Trinity Sunday 


Dorothy, Tom, Rachel and Mum at the Whiteadder Reservoir. The boat sitting on Dorothy’s shoulder is Escapade


Up and walked Mix before breakfast, after which Mum, Rachel and I set off for Cranshaws where the service was conducted by Stephen Blakey, the minister of Duns Parish Church. There was an excellent congregation for this communion service which was part of a presbytery-wide pulpit exchange. Stephen read from Deuteronomy about Sabbath observance and from John’s Gospel about the man at the pool at Bethesda who was healed by Jesus. ‘Do you want to be healed?’ were Jesus words to the man, and Stephen’s question to his congregation today, followed in both cases by ‘Take up your bed and walk’.

After the service we enjoyed coffee before, as we were so near, driving Mum and Dorothy up to the reservoir to see Escapade and where we are to sail. Drove back home in time for a lunch at the slightly later time than usual of 2 p.m.



Escapade sitting by the water-side, looking forward to getting her bottom wet


After eating and enjoying Sunday lunch I retired to the summer house to keep an eye on the cricket – both the Test match which is destined for a draw, and Durham’s match against Lancashire, from which we desperately need some points. We ended the day on 310/8 which was largely due to Paul Coughlin, playing his first game in the County Championship, who scored 71 not out batting at number ten and to Phil Mustard still there at the close on 64. So we have earned three batting points and will have the possibility of another in the morning.

Rachel went off to Evensong and I started to gut the upstairs study so that I could be with both dogs in the Granary. On her return we got a snack ready to eat while watching The Suspicions of Mr. Whicher on television. It was excellent and very well done. Tonight I will watch Argentina against Bosnia. Should report that last night Olive and I watched England against Italy. I thought England played very well and were unfortunate to have been defeated by Italy. Stirling was superb, so much courage, commitment and grit and he was just one among many – so maybe there is still hope. Italy were just Italy and I will look out for them during the rest of the competition.

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Saturday 14th. June, 2014 A Long lie followed by a long walk – a perfect Saturday 


A picture of Mix looking up at me after we had been walking for the best part of two hours – ‘I really don’t understand today. First you don’t get up and then you walk the hind legs off me, can I not sit down and have a rest, please?’


Today I slept in – I really slept in. In fact it was after half-past ten when I finally got out of bed. But once I was up I collected Mix and we set off for a really long walk. We walked along to Bogend Farm at which point we left the main road and set off for Fogo. Having explored the River Blackadder at Fogo we walked on past Caldra Farm and made our way back to Mount Pleasant by way of Nisbet Hill. It was a splendid walk, cleared away all of the cobwebs and I came home feeling really good.

On the walk I took some pictures:



The first part of our walk was dominated by sheep. The fields around Bogend are full of sheep and the noise of their conversation with each other is almost deafening – but they all look happy and well. I loved this little gathering of sheep who were clearly anxious to give us the once-over





The road to Fogo is a little country lane. It is about a three-mile walk to Fogo and we didn’t see any vehicle or anyone during our wander. It could not have been more peaceful. I contemplated on the fact that Saturday mornings are now so different. In the past I was probably preparing for a wedding or two and thinking about the services I was to conduct the next day. Now I am thinking about my little dog and about all of our plans for the rest of the summer




As we walked through Fogo my eye caught the church yard and I thought how well cared-for it looked. Notice all of the flowers at the graves. Village churches are important not just because of the services which are conducted there but because they really are the centre of village memory, aspiration and hope




Once past the church at Fogo we turned down along a little path which led to the River Blackadder. Mix enjoyed the canopy of trees which shut out the sun – there wasn’t really much sun until later in the day, but it was warm and humid – the kind of day in which in other parts of the country we would have been eaten alive by midges, but not here




Here was are at the bridge over the River Blackadder. There is a little plaque on the bridge which announces that the bridge was opened on the 31st. July, 2004 in memory of the Reverend John Hunter who had been minister of Fogo Kirk from 1926 to 1965




This is the view which greeted Mix and me from the bridge over the River Blackadder. I knew what to look for because by the side of the bridge there was an interpretative chart which told me:

“The name Blackadder Water is more about colour than snakes. The Blackadder is also known as Black water due to the dark tinge to the water from the peaty soil. It joins the Whiteadder Water to the east at Allanton before flowing into the famous Tweed not far from Berwick. The ‘adder’ part of the name probably dates back to the time of the first people to settle in the Borders after the Ice Age -- about 12,000 years ago. In those days adder was the word for a fast flowing river.

The Blackadder Water in front of you is important for conservation as part of the River Tweed catchment area. Salmon have joined Sea Trout in returning to this river after a 200 year absence.
People in Fogo have always needed to cross the river on this old right of way. Have a look under the bridge where stepping-stones are still visible, and they may be the first signs of access across the river.

Many woodland plants can be seen on the banks here such as Flowering rush, Flag iris, and Mollyglobs (Kingcups). If you are lucky you might also catch a glimpse of Otters, Red Squirrels, or Daubenton’s bats skimming the water catching insects. Herons, Dippers ... and sometimes Kingfishers are often seen dipping into the water, perhaps trying to catch eels and brown trout.

Please enjoy this peaceful place, but always take away what you have brought with you.”

Mix and I enjoyed this peaceful place where we paused before continuing our walk




As we walked on I was struck by how now all the fields around us, stretching as far as the eye can see, are green and growing. I expect that soon they will turn to gold and I will try to catch that on my camera as well. What a wonderfully fertile and quiet place this is




This last picture looks up towards the farm at Nisbet Hill – rolling fields and wonderful crops; glorious scenery for a summer walk


Back home it was time for lunch – rolls with cheese and egg mayonnaise, washed down with ginger beer. Afterwards we started on cutting the grass – the noise drove Mix wild and he did his best to run away. We are going to have to put him in the car when we cut the grass in future, certainly round in the summer house the noise is too loud when we are cutting the lawns behind the Granary and around the summer house. I watched a bit of the Test Match and read some of my book and I was lost to the world when Rachel came and chased me up for being late for dinner.

Rachel, Olive, Digger and I had a pleasant meal – Mum was absent as she was away with her friend Annie attending the film show in Gavinton Village Hall. The film was Sunshine on Leith (which we had all watched on our big television a few weeks ago) but Mum fancied seeing it again on an even bigger screen.

Watched a bit of television (a thriller about an ex-policeman in Ireland) in preparation for the England Italy football match. Going into the World Cup, these are the two teams that I would have supported, (We lived in Italy for six years back in the 1970s), so I suppose that whoever wins I can be happy. I would have preferred them to meet in the final however!

I’ll post my diary before then, walk Mix and catch up with the football in my diary entry for tomorrow.

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Friday 13th. June, 2014 – We are at leisure 


Rachel took this picture (and the one below) on her new telephone so I just had to include them!


Woke and walked Mix before breakfast, leaving soon afterwards in my car with Cathy, Rachel, Mix and Rowan for Berwick where Cathy caught the ten to ten bus to take her on the first leg of her journey to Luss. Having ensured that Cathy caught her bus, the rest of us went off to Cocklaw Burn beach where we wandered and enjoyed the wild open sands and the black rocks where the burn crossed the beach on its way to the sea – Rowan ran for all that she was worth, Mix and I walked more sedately, Rachel called regularly to Rowan to ensure that she didn’t get too far away.



Eventually we made our way back to the car. We didn’t come back the way we had gone because Rachel was sure that she knew a shortcut. Well, as you may have guessed, it didn’t turn out that way and soon we were lost – not totally, we did find our way home but a short-cut it wasn’t.

Back home we remembered that we were short of dog food so we drove into Duns to collect a sack of something both dogs rather enjoy and because we were already in the metropolis we went off to the Co-op and did a bit of shopping as well.

Everything one does has consequences. We had been shopping for food so when we returned home I popped one of the pizzas we had just bought into the oven and enjoyed a bigger lunch than I had planned.

By now the weather was turning for the worse. There was nothing for it but that Mix and I should move out to the summer house and keep an eye on the cricket and read my book. After the storm moved away we went for a walk and then joined Olive and Digger in the farmhouse for a Chinese take-away. We had initially decided that we would all fend for ourselves this evening because Digger had got a message from a friend of his brother that he and his family were in the area, and inviting Olive and Digger to go for a meal with them. However that fell through because the friend was too tired to drive over to this part of the Borders and as a result we shared a Chinese meal – consequences you see!

Mum was out of it this evening because she had gone off with some friends from her reading group to the Borders Book Festival at Melrose. She saw the presentation of the Walter Scott Award which went to Robert Harris for his historical novel entitled 'An Officer and a Spy'. He was presented with a cheque for £25,000.

In the evening Mix and I returned to the summer house where I completed the Peter James novel I was reading, while Rachel watched a film on television. I have come to the conclusion that I have been spending too many evenings watching television and am going to do other things over the summer – Rachel says it is because I can only do one thing at a time and that when she watches television she is doing other things at the same time. Ah, well.

But the very idea, just a few months ago of being able to spend an evening with one’s dog reading a novel. Isn’t life wonderful?

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Thursday 12th. June, 2014 – Sailing! 


I don’t have a picture of us sailing because we were on the boat and I didn’t wish to take my camera on this first venture into the Whiteadder in a boat we hadn’t sailed before in case we turned her over. But the boat in the centre of the picture is Escapade, a forty year-old Wayfarer and, once we had got the sails up, she sailed wonderfully well. It was exhilarating and made today a very special one


Up, showered and walked Mix before breakfast. Tom and Dorothy arrived as I was finishing my porridge, Dorothy to go with Rachel to Dun for their stained-glass workshop, Tom to take me to the Whiteadder Reservoir where we were to sail Escapade for the first time. We took our time about setting everything on the boat up as it should be – and we were very careful. The wind was about ten knots or maybe a little bit more so we were into a force four, normally something about which we would have been quite happy except that we didn’t know this boat at all and in my case it is such a long time since I was in a dinghy although, as I told myself, Olivebank sailed like a dinghy (except that she wouldn’t capsize – that’s quite big exception).

We pulled Escapade down into the water and soon we were off. The mainsail was well reefed and the jib was down and, as we reefed by rolling the main sail around the boom, we had no boom vang with which to control the shape of the mainsail. However, it didn’t matter, Escapade sailed like a dream and, after my larger boats, I was amazed at how close we could sail to the wind. This is going to be a dream summer – retirement is wonderful. I will have to get used to getting my feet wet as we launch and recover our boat, I have been spoiled on larger boats.

Having sailed and recovered our boat, Tom and I went to Pearsons for lunch where I had a really good Caesar’s Salad with chicken. Then it was back to Mount Pleasant where Tom dropped me and went off to his home. Here activity was in full swing. Cathy was working on the chairs and making a splendid job of them. Mum was away at an SWRI outing to Kelso, Olive was marking examination scripts on her computer and Rachel, now back from Berwick, was joined by Sandy and they started work on warping up the loom.



I had never really realised what these frames were for, but here Sandy is measuring out and collecting the threads which will make up the warp (the fixed lengths of thread) on the loom


Digger spent the day in his smallholding and I took this picture to show all the digging which has been going on over recent days:



It really looks good


Mix and I spent some time sorting out our sailing bits and pieces and in going for a walk. I also managed to take in a bit of the first Test Match (Joe Root and Matt Prior are doing exceedingly well) before it was time for supper in the farmhouse. After our meal Rachel and I watched the opening ceremony of the World Cup, followed by the first match which saw Brazil defeat Croatia by three goals to one. I’m not a football person but I did think that Croatia got quite a raw deal from the referee whose decisions seemed to favour Brazil – but then, what would I know about it. I did enjoy the opening ceremony however. The three themes of nature, diversity and football came across well. The costumes were stunning and I loved all the colours and the music.

Walked Mix and went to bed, perhaps to dream about sailing – we were to have gone to a farm sale tomorrow at Wooler but Tom ‘phoned to say that it had been cancelled because there wasn’t enough to sell. I’m sorry about that – I wanted to go, not because I hoped to buy anything, but because I love the rolls filled with sausages which are served in the canteen there. Ah well, even when one is retired, one can’t have everything!

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Wednesday 11th. June, 2014 – Adventures 


Olive spent most of today in the garden. Here she has discovered some strawberries growing at the edge of one of the lawns (near the bar-b-cue area) and she is clearing out the grass and weeds so that we may be able to enjoy the strawberries when they have had a bit more sun


Up and walked Mix, breakfasted and then got things ready to take to the boat. Tom arrived and we set off. It was a pleasant drive as the sun was shining down and when we got to the reservoir we discovered that our boat had been placed in the boat park (which is only accessible from the water) so we realised that the RYA had used the boat over the weekend, as we had said they could.

However, anxious to take care of our equipment, everything had been placed under lock and key in one of their stores and, with no one there, sailing was out of the question. To be honest neither Tom nor really minded because the wind was rather strong for an exploratory sail. We spoke to the person in charge by telephone and we will collect our sails etc. tomorrow. We were told that our boat had sailed well -- and that is pleasing to know!

We drove home and on the way we stopped off at Fantoosh in the market square at Duns for lunch – apple juice and a ploughman’s – which was really nice. Back home I settled down to do some reading and took Mix for a good walk. Everyone else was busy – Digger was digging his potato patch and Cathy was working on the chairs in the lounge, Mum and Olive were both in the garden and Rachel was spring-cleaning the Granary.



Cathy here is re-upholstering Olive’s dining room chairs. It is a real work of art, a labour of love, a continuation of a dying skill – and, yes, it is all of these. Also in the picture however is the chair which Digger made out of greenwood when he went off and spent a week or so in a forest and learned to work with wood without the benefit of modern tools. I’ve sat on the seat and it is a good one too


We all ate in the farmhouse (fish pie is one of my favourites and Rachel had produced some rum and raisin ice-cream to go with the rice and black current jam cooked by Olive). Afterwards we watched Law and Order UK followed by the News. And when I walked Mix before bed it was still light – but then it has been a really lovely day.

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Tuesday 10th. June, 2014 – A Visit to Gateshead 


A view of the interior of the Metro Centre at Gateshead. This is the largest shopping mall in Europe we were told


Up early and walked Mix before breakfasting in the farmhouse. Then, with Mix deposited in the farmhouse with Olive and arrangements made for Rowan to be regularly let out, Rachel and I set off for Newcastle, well, for Gateshead actually.

The purpose of our journey was to replace Rachel’s telephone and I had been told that there was a simply superb Apple Store within the Metro Centre. I was also keen to see the largest shopping mall in Europe, having visited its opposite number in America in Minnesota a number of years ago.



A view of the Apple Store which is in the red sector of the centre – there are four main coloured sectors: red, green, yellow and blue with a Platinum sector in the middle


We made our way into the Apple Store where we were greeted by a charming young assistant called Georgia. It turned out that this was her first day and that we were her first customers. She treated us well and soon Rachel was ensconced with an advisor who was setting up her telephone and ensuring that it worked in tandem with her i-pad. In fact the advisor worked with Rachel for more than half an hour ensuring that she knew exactly how everything worked. It was really very impressive.

We had time for a look around the centre before setting off for home. As one would expect I took a few photographs:



This gives a view from the first floor – I was taken by the cleanliness and the decor. Everything felt spacious and the shops were well presented




I wondered whether to offer this picture. We had a snack in KFC which I enjoyed – Rachel certainly isn’t sure that she wishes to be photographed outside such a place!




This is a picture of the ‘Village Street’ – I liked the way that the Centre contained such a variety of experiences




Rachel is being overlooked by two shoppers who are always present in the Centre


We drove home, stopping in Berwick to collect Cathy who had arrived by bus from Luss. Back home we had tea and coffee after which I took Mix for a walk before dinner in the farmhouse. Learned that Digger had had a busy day taxiing Mum to the hairdresser and back, and working on his dome in the allotment, while Olive was preparing for the examination marking which she will start tomorrow.

In the evening while Cathy got stuck in to the upholstery tasks she has set herself, Rachel and I watched an old episode of Endeavour, after which I watched the News before walking Mix and retiring to bed.

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Monday 9th. June, 2014 – Unexpectedly, another glorious day 


The Stables are really taking shape and are now becoming a real weaving place


Woke and walked Mix before breakfast. Tom was not coming today as the weather forecast was not great but it turned out to be a splendid day. I sat in the garden in my shorts reading a book and then later, when the sun did go in for a bit I moved to the summer house (which was roasting) and continued reading by now with both Mix and Rowan for company.

I moved back into the Granary for lunch and Tom arrived bearing gifts of honey for the Granary and the Farmhouse. He helped me assemble my new strimmer (or put right my errors!) and we nipped into Duns for two-stroke oil to get it operational. Then we helped Rachel by fitting two units to the walls of the stables and by moving a wardrobe from the Hen House into the Stables. We then sat down in the summer house and enjoyed a lengthy coffee and chat – largely about our plans to go sailing on Wednesday.

Rachel went off to buy ear-protectors for me so that I can strim in safety! I walked Mix and then came back to the summer house to do some more reading – this is quite addictive.

We all ate together in the farm house – Digger having gone and collected Olive from the station. Olive had been in Dundee for the final time tying up the loose ends at the completion of her working career.

In the evening we retired to the Granary and watched a bit of TV (the second part of a programme about the Battle of Bannockburn). Life is one long holiday. I feel that any moment I am going to wake up and be summoned to work for my living. But until then we have buildings to construct, golf to be played, sailing to be undertaken, and cricket to be watched, books to be read. It is a hard life – but someone has to do it.

Walked Mix – who is really enjoying his new and relaxed life – and went to bed.

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Sunday 8th. June, 2014 – Pentecost 


Today started almost before yesterday ended. Rachel walked Rowan and came to tell me that against the wall of one of the barns by the side of the A6112 was a blue carrying box for a bird and nestled down beside it was a rooster. Well, there was little point in telling me that so I went off and wakened Digger who came and joined us. Rachel had coaxed the rooster into the garden by the summer house and from there he was trapped in the hedge and carried by Rachel into the courtyard where he was put back in his box with some sawdust, some food and some water before being installed for the night in the loom room. Someone has obviously abandoned him outside our farmhouse – a pretty miserable thing to do but then I despair of humanity sometimes. He was lucky not to have been run over and, had it not been for the sharp eyes of Rowan he might not have been noticed




Because I was up, I looked at my emails and discovered one from Dorothy with two pictures of the honey-making process which I wrote about in yesterday’s entry. This is a picture of Tom’s new honey extractor in operation




And here is a close up of the spun honey being deposited into a container. In all Dorothy and Tom harvested eighteen pounds of honey


Went to bed and was up again at eight. Showered and walked Mix before setting off for Gavinton Church a little earlier than usual because both Rachel and I had to read during the service and we wanted to find out what the ground rules were.

Ann conducted a meditative service on the theme of Pentecost and the power of the wind both in reality and as a symbol of God’s power in the world. After the service we all met up over coffee in the church hall. Explained our cockerel adventures to Tom and Dorothy who said that they would pop along and take the new Rooster to join their band of cockerels – and later, in the afternoon, Tom duly arrived and put Oliver – for that is his new name – back into his box and took him back to Gavinton where he will have company and lots of room.



Tom and Digger persuading Oliver into his box so that he can be transported chez Stewart


In between times, we all had a late lunch at the farmhouse – later than usual because this morning Olive had a student who is getting ready for a big accounting examination on Tuesday.

In the afternoon I settled down in the summerhouse with Mix – it has been another gorgeous day – to watch the men’s final from the French Open, Nadal defeating Djokovic in a hard fought match over four sets (of which Djokovic won the first).

In the evening Rachel went to Berwick for Evensong, while Mum was driven into Berwick to attend Duns Church for a musical event featuring Stuart Townend, a modern hymn writer and musician. On Rachel’s return we moved back into the Granary (from the summer house – we being Mix, Rowan and I) where we had a very pleasant snack and watched Quirke before walking the dogs, this time with no adventures at all!

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Saturday 7th. June, 2014 – Sunshine again 


While I was at Gavinton Church this morning I took this picture of a bumble bee hard at work on the flowers in the church yard. Bees were in my mind because earlier Tom had telephoned to say that he and Dorothy had extracted eighteen pounds of honey from one of their hives – and I gather that there is more to come. Haven’t they – or their bees – done well?


Up early for a Saturday and walked Mix before an early breakfast. Then Rachel and I drove Cathy to Berwick and set her off on her journey to Luss by bus (and, using her pass, at no cost at all). The bus was empty, well Berwick is the terminus, and it looked extremely comfortable.

Before coming home we went to the retail park where I bought a strimmer to tackle some of our long grass. We have great plans for the different areas of green but with all of the building programme the grass has so far been neglected.

Back home I got a phone call from Ann to say that her printer was on the blink and so she was going down to the church where there was a photocopier which might or might not be functioning. I said that I would drive over and join her and while I waited for her I took the picture at the head of this entry.

The photocopier wasn’t functioning – with help from Helen it looked as though it might but that hope proved to be a vain one. As I drove back from Gavinton I had a picture in my mind of people all over Scotland in churches trying to get broken equipment to work. I have certainly spent a great deal of time trying to nudge printers and photocopiers and almost every piece of equipment you could imagine back into life in the hope that I might get just a little bit longer from them.

Rachel set off for the hills to walk Rowan, Mix and I set about assembling the strimmer. However, no sooner had we completed the task than it started to rain, ruling out grass cutting for the afternoon. So I made myself some lunch and retired to the summer house where I watched the final of the ladies singles from the French Open. It was a magnificent match with Maria Sharapova edging out a very plucky Simone Halep over three sets.

During the afternoon I got a visit from Helen who was taken, I think, by the opulence of my ‘garden shed’. Rachel returned as Helen arrived so we were able to show her the new Loom Room before she set off for home. I listened to the end of Durham’s T20 match against Worcester (at Worcester). From a position where I thought that they couldn’t lose, Durham managed to get comprehensively defeated.

Digger has been out and about today. He and Olive watch a web-site which seems to be a channel for people to give to other people things for which they no longer have a need. Today Digger was away at Eyemouth to liberate an unwanted greenhouse. But it turned out to be a bigger exercise than he had imagined. Aluminium nuts and bolts were continually sheering as he was trying to un-fix them, and the whole structure was extremely hard to get at. So for Digger it will be back to Eyemouth tomorrow but if he gets a greenhouse out of it, he will have done well -- and the cause of recycling will have been boosted as well.

I fed Mix and we went for supper at the farmhouse after which we watched two concluding episodes to series we had been watching and had recorded during the week – From Then to Now and Happy Valley. I enjoyed them both. Happy Valley ended as I had expected but I was captivated by the performance of Sarah Lancaster; From Then to Now was so different and quite unexpected and I loved it.

Walked Mix and went to bed. It has been yet another great day.

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Friday 6th. June, 2014 – Summer such as we have never experienced before! 


The sun is shining down and the temperatures are Mediterranean. Of course there have been days like this before but always I have been working. Today I can just enjoy it. I took this picture of Mount Pleasant as Mix and I went for an early morning walk


Up and walked Mix before breakfast. Afterwards we hitched up Escapade and drove it (Tom, Rachel and I) to Whiteadder Reservoir where it will remain at least for the summer. Next week we shall sail! Today we met Andy who works for the RYA and who was about to run a course for some young people on the reservoir.



Escapade setting off from Mount Pleasant




Escapade at Whiteadder – all is now ready for summer sailing


Back home, Tom hurried off to Gavinton to answer a call that bees were swarming. I don’t know if they were his but Dorothy and Manda persuaded them into Tom’s spare hive. Meanwhile Rachel and I unloaded boxes from the Cart Shed so that Rachel could find some wool to set up the weaving loom.



Olive and Digger enjoying the sunshine as they prepare to set off to buy in some trees




Olive working in the garden on her return from her shopping trip, lamenting the fact that slugs have been eating the leaves of her herbs


I had some lunch and then came out to the summer house where Mix and I listened to Andy Murray losing his semi final in the French Open. Better luck at Wimbledon. I had offered to take Cathy somewhere because it was such a fine day but she preferred to work away on the chairs which she is re-upholstering. Digger worked in his allotment after returning from a trip to a garden centre where Olive used some vouchers she had been given to buy some trees and plants which she spent the rest of the day planting and arranging. Mum spent most of the day watching the D Day commemorations on the television.

In the late afternoon Sandy arrived (in his new car) and he and Rachel did some more work on the loom. They have some yarn and are going to order more for a second run but it will be good to have everything back in working order.

We dined at seven and afterwards we retired to the Granary. My goodness but it is really very warm! (Dinner was excellent. Olive had made a chickpea and mint pate which she served on home-baked bread, followed by banana wrapped in ham in a cheese sauce and covered in crumble, served with a potato cake. I ate well.)

We watched Inspector Gently which I always enjoy and then, after walking Mix, I retired to bed. It has been a lovely day in every way.

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Thursday 5th. June, 2014 – Weather improves and we put up the roof beams 


There was a great deal of air activity over Mount Pleasant today – several war planes and one helicopter. By the time I got my camera the helicopter was far away but, using the zoom, I got this rather indistinct souvenir of its visit


Up, walked Mix and settled down in the summer house to try to sort out my electricity bill which arrived today. I’m glad to report that I seem to have got our usage under control and our bill is much smaller than it ever was in Luss which is quite exceptional because the only service we have here is electricity.

Tom and Dorothy arrived, and Dorothy went off for the day with Rachel to Berwick where they attended their glass class. Even although the weather wasn’t great Tom and I decided to complete the roof beams on the Bothy. So we breakfasted and then set about fitting the beams into place. It took us all morning but once it was done we felt that it was quite an achievement.



The beams cover the whole area of the roof inside the walls. Now we shall have to provide extenders to take the beams over the walls (the roof span was the largest we could get) and then we shall use sarking to cover the whole roof – we will actually use flooring as sarking so that the roof looks really good from inside


At lunchtime we went off to Pearsons to buy some brackets to bolt the roof structure to the walls – something we fitted after lunch which we enjoyed at the little restaurant at Pearsons. Our work done for the day we had a leisurely coffee in the summer house before I ran Tom home, returning to cut the wheels off Olivetub with an angle-grinder before looking through the internet to get some quotes for insurance for our new Wayfarer.

We joined everyone for supper in the farmhouse after which Cathy, Mum, Rachel and I watched ‘New Tricks’ before I walked Mix and went to bed.

It has been a busy day but other people have had a busy day as well. Rachel was in Berwick, Olive had her two students to prepare for their accountancy examinations next week, Cathy continued work on the dining room chairs – and I should have mentioned that I watched a bit of the women’s semi-finals of the French Tennis Open (just to keep my watching eye in for Andy Murray’s semi-final tomorrow). Congratulations too to Liam Plunkett, Durham’s ex-fast bowler who now plays for Yorkshire, who was today selected in the England squad for the upcoming Test Match against Sri Lanka. I always admired his commitment and I am delighted that he has been given this call up.

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Wednesday 4th. June, 2014 – A foul day, at least as far as the weather was concerned 


Today it rained – it really rained – I haven’t seen rain like it since I lived in the west and for most of the day the dogs and I spent the time in the summer house where we were cosy and warm. I had plenty to do and the dogs slept on Mix’s huge cushion


Walked Mix in the bucketing rain before breakfast and then spent almost the entire day in the summer house. It was just so wet there was nothing else to do. I completed my book, read another book, lamented the fact that rain had washed out the Durham cricket match (which they were in a fine position to win), watched Andy Murray’s tennis match in the French Open (which he won – but not until after we had enjoyed our evening meal). To be honest, my summer house is a wonderful place and I really enjoyed a day of enforced relaxation in it today. It reminded me of holidays when it was wet and we just had to stay in and make our own entertainment, really quite special.

The reason I had both dogs was because Rachel was in Edinburgh lunching with her friend Ann and then visiting the glass man in Dunbar. Mum attended her book group this morning and a Guild Rally this evening. Olive and Digger went off to Berwick to do some shopping. Cathy continued work on the dining room chairs. This evening after we had eaten, and after Andy Murray had won his match, Cathy, Rachel and I watched an episode of New Tricks followed by the News.

I walked Mix before bed – it is still bucketing down, but the forecast for tomorrow is a little better.

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Tuesday 3rd. June, 2014 – It’s summer and, in spite of the weather forecast, it really is summer! 


Cathy spent this morning working in the garden weeding and this afternoon she sat in the garden and started work on reupholstering some of Olive’s dining room chairs. What a talent! And how much we enjoy having Cathy down here with us


I got up and walked Mix before breakfast after which Tom and I went up to the Abbey sawmill at Abbey St. Bathans to talk about wood for our Bothy project. The gentleman who owns the sawmill is a real gentleman and is giving us enormous help which we really appreciate. We continued on to the Whiteadder reservoir to look to sail there perhaps later in the week. It was again deserted but we met a fisherman who said that he often saw folk coming and sailing there so there shouldn’t be a problem. We wrote down every phone number from the different notice boards and we will continue to phone them but so far they all just ring out unanswered.

Back home it was lunch time. Rachel had run Mum into Duns for her hairdressing appointment and later she collected her. Cathy's exploits have been recorded under her picture. Olive was also in the garden working (although later she was marking dissertations in her study), Digger was in his allotment and Rachel was in the Loom Room. Everywhere was a hive of activity.

This afternoon I prepared the music for Arrochar for Sunday, did a bit of reading, followed the cricket in England (Durham are doing well against Middlesex but will be thwarted by the weather tomorrow; England lost to Sri Lanka), and walked Mix.

Rachel and I set off for Berwick about five-thirty to attend the National Theatre production of ‘The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time’. This records life as seen through the eyes of Christopher who is suffering from Asperger syndrome. It was quite simply a mind-blowing production. What made it so were some extremely powerful, intelligent and skilful performances added to a wonderfully conceived and directed piece which used all of the resources of quite an intimate theatre space, using sound and light and special effects to add to the performances. As Christopher, Luke Treadaway was better than words can describe, he was sympathetic, determined and with the ability to draw us all into his world. It was also a real pleasure to see Niamh Cusack (whom I remember from Heart Beat), Nicola Walker (from Spooks) and Una Stubbs (from so many television shows). I also thought that Paul Ritter as Christopher’s father was very good. It was little surprise to see the audience at the National Theatre rising as one to give the cast (and there were other excellent performances as well) a rousing standing-ovation. It really was that good and we are so fortunate to be able to visit the National Theatre by popping along to the Maltings at Berwick (which was all but full, I was glad to see).

Back home, I walked Mix and went to bed. What a grand day!

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Monday 2nd. June, 2014 – Waiting for rain that never came! 


We may not have achieved a great deal today but we did set up our new Wayfarer this morning, ensuring that we had all of the ‘bits’ and that everything worked. At the end of the process we were all absolutely delighted and went off and spent the rest of the morning drinking coffee and planning our sailing summer


Up as usual, walked Mix and enjoyed breakfast in the farmhouse. Tom arrived and both of us were bowed under the promise of ‘weather’ so we did a number of smaller jobs – fixing the gate (the catch was getting caught and not always closing as it should), looking at Olivetub (a little boat in need of a great deal of tender loving care) and spending a great deal of time setting up ‘Escapade’ our new Wayfarer (new to us that is). I wouldn’t have chosen the name Escapade but, thinking about it, it is really quite appropriate for getting this little boat is a bit of an escapade for us – totally against all reason, and quite inappropriate for us at our ages: but enormous fun.

Here are another couple of pictures of Escapade:



Wayfarer dinghies were designed by Ian Proctor in 1957 and are still going strong. Our Wayfarer is number 3034 and was probably built in 1972. It is still a Mark I Wayfarer but is one of the Wayfarers which is made of GRP rather than the traditional wood. As far as I can gather, purists prefer the wooden model for racing but the GRP is ideal for cruising. Our ambitions are entirely in the cruising sector -- lazy afternoon picnics in the sunshine with just a little wind to move us along -- so I think that we have been extremely fortunate to find this lovely boat




All packed up and ready to go sailing (well, once the mast has been lowered). Tom is delighted that we have this Wayfarer because it grew out of a model called a Bosun which Tom remembers well from his Navy days. The Wayfarer is a really forgiving boat capable of handling any weather which we are likely to encounter and able to cope with a complement of six people on board (although normally we will sail her with two)


After coffee and planning, Tom went home for lunch and to plant potatoes in the afternoon. I did some sorting out in the courtyard and fiddled a bit more with Olivetub before doing some research in the summer house. In the early afternoon Olive and Rachel set off for Berwick to choose some fabric for chairs in the farmhouse lounge and to collect Cathy who is coming down from Luss. As a result I was confined in the summer house with two dogs to care for. What a bonus – I was able to listen first to Durham against Middlesex at cricket from Chester-le-Street (how well Durham are doing so far – but rain is in the air) and then to chart Andy Murray’s victory in the French Open.

Cathy arrived and we all enjoyed tea together before dinner in the farmhouse after which Mum and Cathy joined us in the Granary to watch a television programme about Bannockburn followed by the News.



Cathy was pleased to see the progress which had been made both in completing the Loom Room in the Stables and in rebuilding the Loom. By the end of the week we hope to have wool on the loom and be ready to start weaving once more


Mix and I went for a walk before bed.

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Sunday 1st. June, 2014 – The First Day of Summer. It’s Official! 


I took this picture before the morning service today. It was Tom’s first Sunday in charge – the elder on duty. He looked the part and did it well


I got up really early and, after showering and dressing in my Sunday best, I walked Mix along the Swinton Road. It was before 7.30 a.m. and I saw almost no vehicles at all – how sadly different from yesterday morning.

I breakfasted early too but, as the rally had been cancelled, there was no need to set off as early as we had planned. Instead we made a leisurely journey to Gavinton Church arriving at half-past nine. We had a little get-together Rachel, Dorothy, Tom and I, to go through the service which had been entrusted to me as Ann was away conducting a selection school for the Church of Scotland. After prayers for the events of yesterday, our theme was the conclusion of the season of Easter and the Festival of Ascension.

We joined everyone for coffee after the service and then returned home. I cleaned more of Olivetub and then we all dined in the farmhouse – for me Olive had made a cheese and bean pie, a real favourite of mine. It was yummy!

In the afternoon I helped Rachel unpack boxes from the Cart Shed and move them into the Stables (wool etc for the loom) and then helped Olive free up a book case which also went to the Stables.

Finally I escaped to the summer house to listen to Durham’s magnificent opening day against Middlesex where, having been put into bat, Durham ended the day on 411 for four with two monumental innings played by Mark Stoneman and Scott Borthwick. Unfortunately the weather forecast doesn’t look too good for the next few days. But I did watch the weather forecast on the BBC and the presenter told us that today, according to the met office, is the first day of summer. I am looking forward to a really good summer with lots of out-door activities and the opportunity to do many of the things I haven't had time to do in recent years when I have been working.

Rachel went off to Berwick to Evensong and I looked after the dogs. On her return I did a bit more boat-cleaning before we had a snack and then watched this evening’s episode of Quirke which Rachel rather enjoyed and I found a little tedious. Then it was time to walk Mix and retire to bed. I really am quite tired tonight.

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Saturday 31st. May, 2014 – Olivetub, Escapade and a real day of tragedy for the Borders 


Rachel and I bought this little boat in 1972 when we lived in Genoa, Italy. It cost around 300,000 lira (about £200 – a lot of money in those days) but that included the sailing rig (pictured here) a four-horse power out board engine and a set of oars. We had enormous fun with our tiny boat and now that I have a bit of time on my hands I am intending to restore it, as much as possible, to its original condition


I slept in until 9 as I usually do on a Saturday morning. We had been told that our involvement with the Jim Clark Rally would have ended last night, or early this morning at 1 a.m. However, from eight the rally cars were hurrying past our door. I found it really quite exciting but Rowan absolutely hated it and refused point-blank to go out into the garden because of the noise. So Rachel packed her into the Berlingo and drove her to Berwick where they went for a lengthy walk.

I set about putting our old Sportyak II together and then started on the task of cleaning it up. It is going to be a long job but this kept Mix and me busy while the rally cars roared around us – although at one stage Mix went off, opened the Granary door and took himself inside and away from the sound of traffic. Dogs are funny!

Soon afterwards Digger drove off to Duns and when he returned he reported that Duns was quiet and that he had been able to park and do what he wanted to do without any problem at all. Not so, Olive’s two students, Simon and Peter, who had attacked Mount Pleasant by coming down the A68 to avoid Duns but got caught up in road closures and arrived after forty minutes of delay in roadblocks which they ran into suddenly with no advance warning. However once they were here, they had a good time and did some preparation for their accountancy exams in a little over a week’s time.

Rachel returned and I went off for a shower and then, in mid-afternoon Tom collected me and we went off to Spittal by Berwick where we inspected a Wayfarer sailing dinghy and, finding it to our liking, bought it to provide us with some summer sailing. We had to go off to Halfords to get a trailer board and then Tom trailed it back to Mount Pleasant. We bought it from a couple, Jeremy and Stella, from Edinburgh. They were disposing of it because Jeremy is taking up single-handed sailing and the Wayfarer really requires two people (and can happily carry six). I’ll say more about this Wayfarer later on but events that followed kind of put a damper on our enthusiasm at a new boat.



Escapade by name and escapade describes our adventure too, I suspect


It was while we were driving home that the news began to come in that the Jim Clark Rally had been cancelled because of an accident involving spectators. It was impossible to find out what had happened in those early hours but it seems certain that there were two accidents and three spectators have been killed by a car which went out of control. Others have been seriously hurt. The Rally was closed down at once.

How sad that all of the excitement of yesterday and this morning should turn into the despair of this evening. I can’t begin to imagine how the families and those present must be feeling, nor how the drivers and their navigators must be coping. It must have been really hard for the Police, emergency services and rally officials as well. Yesterday Duns was heaving with visitors and excitement, this evening it will be very different.

Rachel and I watched a bit of television before going to bed. I walked Mix along the road which I hadn’t expected to be able to do – of course, I wish I hadn’t been able to.

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Friday 30th. May, 2014 – A trip to St. Boswell’s and the Jim Clark Rally gets underway 


Up early and walked Mix – don’t know when we’ll be able to walk again as for the next three days the Jim Clark Rally is to be all around us. I went out to wait for Tom and Dorothy who were taking me with them to the St. Boswell’s Market. I was a bit early so I took this picture of inside Digger’s dome while I was waiting – so now you know what he has been doing




At St. Boswell’s, where everything is laid out on the ground and folk wander around looking for bargains for which they will later place a bid




Here the crowd are following the auctioneer so that they can catch his eye when he auctions something in which they have an interest


We arrived at the market or the auction I suppose would be a better title. There was a lot to buy and there were many people there but nothing really caught our eye so we went off and had a roll with sausages in it, a cup of coffee and a chocolate biscuit and then we set off for home. It had been a good morning ... but all was to change.

On arriving home I discovered that Mix was lost and that Rachel and Digger had been searching for him for an hour or so. With all of the rally cars in the area I was really scared but I set off walking down towards the bridge and over it, all the time calling for Mix. Suddenly, after calling, I turned around and there he was, racing along the road to me, leaping up and as pleased as punch to have found me.

Up ahead, Rachel was in her car and when she saw Mix alive and well she burst into tears. She said we didn't deserve to be so fortunate -- no, but perhaps he does. We brought him home, loaded him into my car and went off to look for Digger. He found his own way home and telephoned to say he was home so we returned via Duns so we could see the preparations for the rally which started in earnest later in the afternoon.



Duns is looking very good for the rally and for the large influx of visitors. Everywhere there are big bags of sand. I thought that these would be in case petrol or oil spilled on the road but Tom tells me that they are to provide protection in case a car spins and would otherwise damage the town centre




And here are more sandbags in what will soon become a no-go area for any cars other than those involved in the rally


Back home, I came slowly down to earth. Mix was OK. Of course, his perspective was so different from mine. He left home because I was away and, I suspect, in his mind he was looking for me. When he found me, he brought me home and so he was happy. Our post mortem discovered that the gate had been left open in error and that, in fact, both dogs had escaped but Rowan had gone off to see Digger in his dome and it was only when Digger brought her back to Rachel that Mix’s escape was discovered. We have been extremely fortunate.

I spent the afternoon in the summer house preparing for Sunday, counting my blessings, and listening to Durham win a T20 cricket match (against Nottinghamshire). We ate late because Olive was away in Dundee all day and Digger had to collect her – but we ate well and afterwards Olive joined us to watch the second part of From Then to Now. One part to go.

Should have mentioned that Sandy was back today helping Rachel with the Loom. Now we have to get all of the wool and other supplies together so that work can start on getting it ready to weave. Exciting times.

Tonight cars have been rattling around Mount Pleasant. Naturally we have kept the dogs locked in the Granary – but Olive and I went out and had a little look. I’m told that the cars are not really rallying as they pass us by – well, you could have fooled me – but it is rather fun to watch the cars roaring around the corners and making so much noise as they rev through their gear-boxes and empty their exhausts; and the cars are all brightly painted and dressed for the occasion. The cars seem to be ending up at Bogend Farm end from where they will rally through to Polmont and then, at around 1 a.m. our bit of involvement in the rally will come to an end. I'm told that this is an important weekend for the local economy -- it will give people a huge amount of enjoyment as well.

Here are three pictures I took as the cars drove past our home:







Mix didn’t get a walk this evening – we made do with a stroll around the garden. Safer that way!

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Thursday 29th. May, 2014 – The Good Weather Returns 


Tom is on the roof as the first of the beams is fitted in place. Tom tells me that the difficult work has now been done!


Woke and walked Mix before breakfast. Tom arrived and we set about preparing the second of the triangular structures which will hold the roof beams in place. Before lunch we had it completed and base boards placed on the walls of the Bothy.

I took a bit of time out to show Mum’s friend’s Betty and Moira around our complex and to explain what we were doing. At lunchtime Sue arrived to return some cutlery and I started work on the service which I am to conduct on Sunday.

Then in the afternoon we managed to erect the two triangular structures onto the walls of the bothy and to ensure that they remained in place by fitting four of the roof beams. Next time we are working we have an additional twelve roof beams to fit and then we shall complete the roof by fitting sarking, covering the roof with felt and then with shingles.

The work on the roof completed for today, I retired to the summerhouse to work on the service for Sunday, to deal with some emails and to sort out my finances.

Meanwhile everyone else had been extremely busy: Rachel had gone for lunch to Berwick with her friends in the stained-glass class, Mum had gone out for the day with her friends Betty and Moira, Olive was working in her study in preparation for a meeting with her students in Dundee tomorrow and Digger was digging in his dome (the ground outside was too wet from yesterday’s rain).

In the evening Mum went off with her friends for a meal in the Black Bull. The rest of us dined as usual and in the middle of the meal there was a power failure as a result of which, after dinner, Mix and I went for a walk, returning to find power returned enabling Rachel and I to watch From Then To Now (which I really enjoyed).

We now have a new Scottish News programme on BBC2 at 10.30 with Newsnight delayed until later. As a result I watched Question Time which I found to be quite an unedifying experience – rude and fairly ill-informed and certainly quite unpleasant. Not good.

I walked Mix and went to bed.

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Wednesday 28th. May, 2014 – Weatherwise: Rotten; otherwise: Not so bad at all 


Sandy was back today working on the loom. I understand that he is coming back on Friday and that by the end of Friday the loom will be back in order and ready to be set up for weaving


Up and walked Mix before breakfast. Tom arrived and we all chatted around the table. It is a thoroughly rotten day and there is no prospect of working on the roof of the bothy today. So instead it was a day for an adventure!

Yesterday Tom and I had explored Whiteadder Reservoir. Initially we had wondered whether it would be suitable in which to sail Olivebank. It clearly isn’t so we have been toying with the idea of getting hold of a small sailing dinghy with which to have some fun. This morning we explored the internet to see what was available at a cheap price. We found a Wayfarer and an Enterprise, both of which we shall have a look at when we can. We ‘phoned the number of the waterboard to ensure that we can have access to the water. The number given for information at the lochside claimed to have no knowledge and passed us on to another number from which we got no reply all day but we did speak to a local person who lives right beside the reservoir and who assured us that there would be no problem sailing there.



Tom fixing the loom to the floor according to Sandy’s instructions


In the afternoon, the rain continued and after ensuring that the loom was firmly screwed to the floor in the position determined by Sandy, Tom and I set off for Berwick and Eyemouth to look at boats. We didn’t find any suitable boats but we did run into my friends David and Dianna with their son Jamie and we did see some rather fine larger yachts.

Back home the dogs and I retired to the summer house until Rachel returned from her trip to Edinburgh and Dunbar – in Edinburgh she was visiting the Apple Shop, in Dunbar (except that it was closed) she had hoped to buy some coloured glass. Ann set off for home just before lunch, Digger was pottering in his garden, Olive was working in her study (with Mix as her guest while Tom and I were at Eyemouth) while Mum had two friends to visit from Play Group days (Betty and Moira who are visiting the Borders and staying at the Black Bull) – they stayed with us for our evening meal and tomorrow, when they return to pick up Mum for a day out in the Borders, we will show them around the policies.

In the evening we watched a bit of television including catching up with Happy Valley before walking the dogs and bed.

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Tuesday 27th. May, 2014 – A Visit to Whiteadder Reservoir 


When I arrived for Tom this morning, I found that he was rotivating his extensive garden – this picture is particularly for Digger who believes that there is something intrinsically decadent about using mechanical means to turn over the soil


Up early today, showered and walked Mix before driving to the doctor’s surgery for my appointment at 8.20. The doctor has been conducting an investigation into my back and told me that all of the tests based on my blood sample had proved that I was in fine health – kidney, liver, blood sugar, infection, prostate and so on. My x-ray had also found nothing sinister just wear and tear and the aftermath of an old sports injury at the base of my spine. So I will continue to get pain if I sit for too long or if I bend over but it is nothing about which to be concerned. I am indeed fortunate – and how lucky we are that doctors can find out so much from blood and an x-ray. I remember an old episode of Star Trek when the doctor expressed horror that someone had been opened up for an operation to be performed – maybe one day that too will reflect reality.

Went off to collect Tom and to drive with him to Jack and Ann’s home up at Cranshaws where we helped clear out a barn (we are acknowledged experts in this art, although to be fair by our standards this barn was hardly in need of much work at all) and move some furniture around.

After a coffee (and excellent coconut cake – unfortunately not cut into triangular pieces) Tom and I drove up to Whiteadder Reservoir to spy out the land for sailing. It is only suitable for small dinghy sailing but, as we are missing sailing enormously, this may be what we have to do. It certainly looked lovely.



Whiteadder reservoir




These geese greeted us on our arrival at Whiteadder reservoir




And this little fellow kelp a watching eye on us as we explored


I dropped Tom off for lunch and returned to the Granary where everyone was busy doing their own things. Rachel and Ann had been planning their craft activities for the coming months, Mum had gone to the hairdresser (driver by Digger) after which she met her friend Jim for lunch in the Black Bull before a drive around Gavinton and Fogo. Their planning completed, Rachel and Anne set off for lunch at The Hirsel and a general explore of the Borders. Digger kept busy in his allotment and Olive had a visit from Stewart from Luss (to collect his books) and to be shown around all that is going on. Tom came down to join me in completing the first frame for the Bothy roof and to start work on the second. The plan, weather permitting, is to complete the second frame tomorrow and then to erect the frames and the connecting roof beams on Thursday. We shall see.



With such large timbers we have definitely developed onto big boys’ joinery


Later in the afternoon Jim and Mum came to join me in the summer house where we talked about theatre and a bit about London as well. We all met up for dinner in the farmhouse after which Mix and I returned to the summer house for a little while. Again Durham’s cricket has been disrupted by the weather.

Later I watched a bit of the News before bed.

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Monday 26th. May, 2014 – The Good Weather Returns 


Digger took this picture of Tom and I working on the first of the frames for the roof of the Bothy. The triangular shape has been made and bolted together and we have cut notches into one side of the triangle into which the roof beams will slot. Tom has been doing a great deal of cutting and I have been allowed to brandish a hammer and chisel to make the slots – here I am checking that a beam will fit into the slot which has just been completed while Tom is working on the joint


Up, walked Mix and breakfasted. Soon afterwards Tom arrived and we started work on the Bothy. This involved a great deal of measuring before we could set out the first frame for the roof on the ground and bolt it together (by which time it was lunch-time).



Sandy had arrived and continued to set up the loom:



It is starting to look really good


In the afternoon Tom and I continued working on the fame. Rachel’s friend Ann arrived – she is to be with us for a few days and Rachel has been looking forward enormously to having Ann with us. We showed her around and Rachel and Ann disappeared off to make plans for all that they hope to do.

Mix and I went for a wander – it is a truly lovely day (and yet I look on the computer and see that Durham’s cricket match at Nottingham has been delayed by rain).

We all dined in the farmhouse and afterwards ate chocolates and drank a liqueur brought by Ann in the lounge of the farmhouse before retiring to bed quite early.

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Sunday 25th. May, 2014 – A Celebration of Scott’s Birthday 


Some of the family in the lounge at Scott and Sue’s home as we gather to celebrate his birthday. It was a grand occasion and a very happy one at which I took a few pictures to enable me to remember a special day


Up, showered and walked Mix before breakfast after which I drove Rachel and Mum to Church at Gavinton. Instead of a sermon today, Anne spoke about the General Assembly which she had attended during this last week. She had clearly enjoyed all of the social elements of the week and had met up with many old friends, several of whom played leading parts in the Assembly and had played them well.

She was less happy with some of the business of the Assembly. Evidently it was agreed that thirty new ministers each year are to be recruited into training for the ministry – where are they to come from? The Mission and Discipleship report did not enthral her and she was concerned (as I expect that much of the Assembly was) that our care services are in several cases not paying staff the living wage. She was impressed by the way that the discussions, both theological and practical, relating to ministers in civil partnerships was dealt with and looks forward to the resulting legislation coming down to Presbyteries for discussion under the ‘Barrier Act’. There was a lot of colour in her report and it is good that congregations should learn what happens at the Assembly, particularly now that it receives much less news coverage than in the past.

We had coffee in the Church hall and then returned home, only to set off soon afterwards for my brother Scott’s special birthday party. Almost all of the family were there and, as usual at family gatherings there was a quiz, an excellent meal and a lot of fun and chat.

Also as usual I took some pictures with which to embarrass everyone in the future:



My niece Katie, from her seat on the floor, spoke beautifully about her Dad and how special he was




Scott, covered in no little embarrassment, replied to Katie’s words, and the toast proposed by her brother Nick




Mum and Katie enjoying the party




Sue had arranged this extraordinary birthday cake




and Scott blew out the candles




‘Print never used to be so small when we were young.’ Scott with his long-time friend Jim




‘Now that’s a real camera.’ My nephew Nick and his wife Amy – it was super to see them again




Scott’s in-laws brought him this magnificent present of a chair – well, he is older now and will need to spend more time sitting down


As the day went on people gradually left, Mum and I being the last to leave and make our way back to the Granary and a warm welcome from the dogs.

Later we watched a bit of television (Olive and Mum joined us to watch the first part of Quirke – it was excellent) and went to bed to watch the election results from around Europe (having walked the dogs first).

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Saturday 24th. May, 2014 – A Happy Time on Inchtavannach 


On the way to Loch Lomond we drove past the Kelpies and I snapped them as we passed. They look most impressive and we hope to have time to stop when passing next time and have a better look


Up, walked Mix, showered and breakfasted before setting off about half past ten to drive to Loch Lomond to conduct a wedding on Inchtavannach, the island made famous by its association with Saint Kessog and his followers.

Rachel, who was driving on the way there, decided that we would take the Stirling Road so that we could see the Kelpies as we passed. It was a mistake! As we approached Stirling the motorway traffic stopped. We queued without moving for ages and so we turned back, left the motorway and decided to drive through Stirling itself. This too was a mistake! There was a civic event and the traffic in the town was absolutely jammed. After another period of waiting we turned around and drove to Glasgow, making our way to Loch Lomond along the M8 enduring additional traffic jams at the approach to the Erskine Bridge and on the way to Balloch. However we arrived in time and caught the boat across to Inchtavannach with the rest of the guests.

Roy had set up a little marquee on the island and it was there that the wedding took place – everyone being a little taken-aback by the good weather which arrived with the guests. The sun shone and it was a really lovely occasion. I had been invited to conduct the wedding of Roy’s sister, Sharon, and her husband-to-be, Richard, before leaving Luss and because it wasn’t at the Church and didn’t interfere with anyone else (no new minister has yet been appointed to Luss) I thought that it was fine for me to honour that commitment. I’m glad that I did because Inchtavannach and Roy’s family have always been important to me and I always feel that the island is one of those places where the distance between heaven and earth is very short – truly a ‘thin’ place.

It was a lovely wedding, I suppose it may be the last wedding I conduct and, if so, I will be happy that this was my final one. After the service we had a buffet and the wedding speeches before crossing back to the mainland at which point most people were going on to the Duck Bay Marina but, because of the distance, we set off for home.

The return journey was uneventful and we were home by half-past eight. I loved being back on Loch Lomond but I came back counting my blessings that we are now living here – no midges (the backs of my knees were eaten alive as I conducted the wedding), no traffic jams (we rarely see much traffic around here and certainly never have to plan to avoid heavy traffic), and such a good climate: it is warm and we have very little rain. But it is not just places, much more it is people, and it was so good to see Roy and Susan and to share with their family in such a special day.

As one would expect I took some pictures:



Having parked our cars we climbed onto Roy’s landing craft and were taken across to the island of Inchtavannach




As we sailed across, we were accompanied by the pipes




From a distance we caught sight of the marquee which had been erected in case of bad weather. We used the marquee but the sun came out and it was a lovely afternoon




Richard and Sharon my latest wedding couple and, quite likely, my last – well, it was a good wedding!




The piper played as we enjoyed ourselves




Every man was issued with a ‘Jimmy hat’ for the photographs




Every woman was keen to demonstrate the ‘welly boots’ they wore under their posh frocks




I caught the confetti in mid-air




The bride and groom on the boat as we made our way back to the mainland. It had been a really grand afternoon


Back home we had a snack – it was more than that, quite a feast really – while we watched an old episode of Foyle’s War before walking the dogs and retiring to bed, unusually tired.

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Friday 23rd. May, 2014 – Not a Warm Day 


After the almost Mediterranean temperatures of recent days, today was extremely cold and not a little damp. I was kept going all day by the thought of gathering around the stove in the Granary in the evening


Up, walked Mix and breakfasted in the farmhouse. Tom arrived and we did not work at all. Nothing was being done in the Loom Room so there was nothing for us to do to help and it was cold and damp outside – not the best time to start working with roof timbers for the Bothy. So we sat with the heater on in the summer house and put the world to rights.

When Tom left I made sure that I had a wedding service in order for tomorrow and did some reading – it was that kind of a day. I didn’t walk Mix this afternoon: his ankle is getting better but I think he will be the better of a day without too much activity.

Olive and Digger were in Dundee today – Olive to do some work at the University – and both to go on to visit Kirkcaldy. Here we collected Rachel’s Berlingo, now not only well-shod with new tires and fully serviced but clean as well. This in turn spilled over into her determination to gut the bedroom which occupied her time this afternoon.

We all dined together in the evening after which Rachel and I returned to our lovely warm lounge and watched ‘Have I got News for You’ and the News programmes which concentrated on the English local election results of yesterday and the consternation caused to the political classes by Nigel Farage and UKIP.

I took Mix for a short walk before bed. His leg seems to be much, much better.

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Thursday 22nd. May, 2014 – Polling Day 


Our convoy of cars – Mum and Rachel are in my car, Digger is behind with Olive holding the gate and holding up her voting card to show that we are all off to Duns to register our votes in the European Election. I suppose I shouldn’t reveal for whom we voted, other than to say we all voted for a party committed to a future in Europe


Slept in and enjoyed coffee in bed brought to me by Rachel before she set off for Berwick to attend her glass-making course. She had a problem with the car’s gear box on the way but Tom materialised out of nowhere as her guardian angel and sorted the problem instantly.

It is a filthy wet, horrid day today – just the kind of day you really don’t want for an election, nor for any other reason that I can think of. I went across to the summer house (which was freezing cold) and prepared the music for Arrochar and the wedding for Saturday and then went back in and lit a fire in the Granary.



As soon as Rachel returned we all set off to Duns to register our votes, Olive and Digger staying on to do some shopping as well. Tom had popped in briefly to see me earlier – it wasn’t a day to be working but we hope to be back at it tomorrow.

I had something to eat (because I’ll miss dinner tonight); enjoyed a shower and changed my clothes before setting off to pick up Scott and take hime to the Maltings where we saw ‘Blofeld and Baxter: Memories of a Test Match Special’ which I enjoyed enormously. For two parts each of an hour two elderly men entertained us with stories of their experiences in the radio commentary box of Test Match Special. It was amusing, comic, interesting and occasionally rude and it was a really professional and polished show. Great fun.

Came home and watched some of the English election results – the European results don’t come in until Sunday at the earliest. Walked Mix before bed – Mix has a bad leg, he has sprained his ankle so we are doing as little walking as possible – Mix’s choice, not mine. But he will be fine and he remains in good spirits.

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Wednesday 21st. May, 2014 – A really good day 


This is a picture I took a day or two ago of the bothy filled with bits of boats and Digger's dome. It is here that we started work today


Up early and walked Mix. During breakfast at the farmhouse Tom arrived for we are to start work on the bothy today. In fact we started by clearing everything out of the bothy – plants, boats and anchors, oars etc. Then, while I took a phone call about a wedding, Tom made wedges for the loom.

We completed the clear out of the bothy and when Rachel returned from Duns we all had coffee in the farmhouse and then lunch in the garden – a bit of a celebration because I got the good news that the blood tests I had taken last week had shown me to be in fairly good health.



It was lovely to sit and relax over lunch in the sunshine


In the afternoon, we drove to Duns – Rachel to drop her Berlingo off at the garage for its service tomorrow; Tom and I to pick up Rachel and to buy sand and cement, bolts and some creosote, all for the Bothy.



Soon we had the cement mixer in operation and the wall at the west end of the Bothy stabilised. With that we called it a day, Tom returning home where he was on tea duty, me to the summer house with Mix to catch up on the cricket (Durham are not doing too well against Somerset). Mix and I went for a walk. I was in shorts, such is the quality of the summer weather we are experiencing.

Rachel spent much of the day in her new Loom Room based in the stables while Olive and Digger started to clear some of their possessions out of the large barn. Mum had a relaxing day having got a bit tired as a result of the parties and visits of recent days.

We dined in the farmhouse at 7 p.m. and afterwards we relaxed in front of the television watching the final two parts of ‘Fleming’ which I thoroughly enjoyed before walking Mix and retiring to bed. I’ll sleep well tonight – life is good!



We erected scaffolding to enable us to access the wall to be stabilised




A picture from further away setting the Bothy in the context of the farmyard. This work is important because until we have somewhere to unload all of the boxes currently stored in the Hen House we cannot progress that part of our project. In the Hen House there is a large part of the building to which we have not yet gained access since soon after we arrived because it is so full of boxes. This Bothy will enable us to empty the Hen House and complete the Hen House conversion. It really is like one of those little puzzles with the one blank square through which everything has to be moved as order is created




Tom is using cement to ensure that the top of the end wall is solid before we start to build a roof




Here we have moved the scaffolding and Tom has moved on to the other side of the wall


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Tuesday 20th. May, 2014 – Sandy starts to re-erect the Loom 


Along with people from all around the world I joined the audience at the Royal Opera House in London for their performance this evening of La Traviata. For the first time ever an opera from the Royal Opera House was streamed to large screens around the country and to the internet – and all totally free! The performance and the streaming went superbly well and I really enjoyed it, sitting in the comfort of my summer house


Up and walked Mix and then drove my car to the Cheeklaw Garage for its MOT. Walked half-way back to Mount Pleasant before Rachel collected me! Breakfasted in the farmhouse and then came out to the summer house and did some reading, but almost at once the delivery of wood for the roof of the Bothy arrived. We got the gates open and the timber unloaded. Rachel drove Mum into Duns for her hair appointment and no sooner did she return than I got a call to say that my car was ready.

Rachel ran me in to collect the car and once I was home it was nearly time to collect Mum. Back at the Granary I had a couple of rolls for lunch before Sandy and Rita arrived to start to erect the Loom. The difficult part is all now done and it required Sandy, Rita, Rachel, Digger, Olive and me to be on hand to hold bits in place. The work will be completed on Friday once Sandy has made some little wooden pegs to hold everything together.

We all had coffee and happy chatter in the farmhouse before Sandy and Rita set off for home. They had brought with them Jean, a friend of Mum's from Galashiels days who had a happy afternoon chatting with Mum in her garden room. After their departure, I came back to the summer house with Mix – we are not walking too much today because Mix has hurt one of his paws, nothing serious, but he seems happy to rest on his huge cushion.

I was fascinated by the live streaming from the Royal Opera House of La Traviata, which conflicted with the T20 England versus Sri Lanka cricket match. Communication is spectacular nowadays.

We dined in the farmhouse and then I retired to the summer house to watch La Traviata. Absolutely great and, I hope, a taste of things to come. Later, by contrast, I watched Happy Valley on the television before walking Mix and retiring to bed.

Here are some pictures of the main task of the day – erecting the loom:



Rita, Sandy and Rachel separate out all of the bits of the loom which had been piled in the middle of the floor




The basis of the frame begins to emerge




The big, swinging part of the loom is taken to the frame and it is clear that additional help will be required to lift it into place and secure it on the frame



Digger, Sandy, Rita, Rachel and Olive complete the delicate manoeuvre and the back of the construction has been broken




Flushed with the success of their efforts, the team pose for the obligatory group photograph


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Monday 19th. May, 2014 – A Gloriously Summer Day and Scott’s Birthday 


Today the sun shone. It has been absolutely glorious all day. I got up, walked Mix and had breakfast. I then spent most of the day in the summer house, listening to cricket (a woeful day for Durham), reading and writing.

I had some lunch in the summer house and later in the afternoon Mix and I went for a walk.

In the evening we had a meal in the farmhouse to celebrate Scott’s sixtieth birthday. It was a good evening and afterwards, I walked Mix and went to bed.



The family gathered around the table




Mum and Sue look on as Scott contemplates blowing out his candles


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Sunday 18th. May, 2014 -- A Summer Sunday 


We really are enjoying a glorious period of sunny weather -- and there are absolutely no midges. Surely we are in heaven


Up and walked Mix. Breakfasted and set off for Gavinton Church where the service was conducted by Bill because Ann is at the General Assembly. Bill read from Isaiah, from the Revelation of St. John and from John’s Gospel.

The passage from Revelation was the message to the Church at Laodicea – “Because thou art neither hot nor cold, therefore will I spew thee out of my mouth” – I always remember it better in the Authorised King James version!

It sticks in my mind because Rachel and I visited Laodicea a long time ago. It was part of a pilgrimage around all of the Churches of the Book of Revelation and we learned that the author knew all about each of the places and used that local knowledge to play on words to give important advice for a church under persecution.

We arrived at Laodicea and got out of our bus. All that remained was a small part of an aqueduct filled with many small pipes from which water would flow into the town. Laodicea had no natural water of its own and so all water was ‘delivered’ from the coast where there were hot springs. The water which set off along the aqueduct was hot but by the time it had arrived in Laodicea it had cooled down but was still not cold. It was literally lukewarm, and hence the quotation much used by preachers down the centuries. In fact Bill, spoke on the verse, “Behold, I stand at the door and knock” coupling it with Jesus’ three-fold question to Simon Peter, ‘Do you love me’ with the command, ‘Feed my sheep’ and with the promise to Isaiah that better times lay ahead: but it all depends upon our response.

We enjoyed coffee after church and then drove home, lunching with everyone after which I spent some time in the summer house, sometime watching Somerset against Surrey in the T20 competition (victory for Surrey) and walked Mix before settling down in the Granary with both dogs while Rachel went off to Berwick to attend Evensong.

On her return we joined the family in the farmhouse and had drinks with our neighbours Mark and Fiona. It was a happy evening.

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Saturday 17th. May, 2014 – A Walk and a Trip 


I had my camera with me as Mix and I walked this morning. We live in a very beautiful place – as this picture of Fogo Kirk with a huge field of rape in front of it demonstrates


Slept in until after nine and then, once I was up, Mix and I set out on a long walk. We walked to Bogend Farm and from there down the little country road to Fogo at which point we turned right across the so-called weak bridge over the River Blackadder to Caldra Farm from where we journeyed to Clunklaw Farm, to Nisbet Hill and home over our own bridge over the Blackadder. The weather was glorious and I took some pictures as we journeyed.



Everywhere in the fields there were sheep who were all clearly enjoying the sunshine




The lambs are getting bigger and are playing in the fields




Even in this snap you can see how bright the sun was




There is a great deal of yellow in the fields just now – but doesn’t the little bridge look beautiful too?




This is the River Blackadder which meanders all around the area in which we live




I met some cows who also had their young with them




I hadn’t realised that I could see Gavinton from the road between Caldra Farm and Clunklaw – it’s a bit hazy in the distance because I had to use the telephoto lens and hold onto Mix rather than steady the camera (but it’s not bad for a snap)




One of the horses at Nisbet Hill – most interested to inspect Mix and I as we wandered past


Back home I got my breath back, had a croissant for lunch and did a small bit of grass cutting before getting ready to go to Jarrow with Rachel, Scott and Sue. This was a special event at Bede’s World to celebrate the bringing to the museum for a few months a facsimile edition of the Codex Amiatinus, a huge copy of the Latin Bible possibly of Saint Jerome and possibly of another Old Latin translation, completed in the monastery of Wearmouth-Jarrow late in the seventh century.

I’m fascinated by the book, not least because of my experiences with the Rossdhu Book of Hours in Luss a few years ago. This Codex Amiatinus owes its origins to two Northumbrian Saints, Saint Benedict Biscop and Saint Ceolfrith. It also would never have been produced without the life and work of a little known Italian nobleman called Flavius Magnus Aurelius Cassiodorus Senator, known as Cassiodorus, who lived between 485 and 585 AD.

Cassiodorus was a Roman statesman and writer who spent more than twenty years of his adult life in Constantinople and, who when he retired, set up a monastery within his family estates right on the sole of the foot of Italy.

Cassiodorus did a great deal to raise the importance of copying texts. He was committed to the education not only of monks and ecclesiastics but also of the general community. One of Cassiodorus’ great projects was the production of a huge Bible (that’s why it is called Codex Grandior) for his monastery. It was written in Old Latin.

Some normally reliable sources say that the Latin used was the Vulgate, the name given to the Latin translation of Jerome who translated the Bible into Latin in Bethlehem between 382 and 405. The first part of his efforts were devoted to ‘correcting’ an existing Latin translation and then he translated the Old Testament from Hebrew into Latin. This created something of a stushie in academic circles at the time partly because most people thought that the Greek translation (the Septuagint) was inspired and partly because Jerome’s Hebrew was not very good – he may actually have used an earlier work by Origen of Alexandria to assist him.

Other reliable sources (possibly more reliable) suggest that it was the earlier Old Latin translation which was used by Cassiodorus and that this (rather than any changes made by the northern English monks), accounts for divergences between Jerome and the Jarrow Bible.

By any stretch of the imagination Cassiodorus’ project was a huge one which clearly inspired Benedict and Ceolfrith who wished not just to make one copy of this tome but three.

Benedict was a member of the royal household of King Oswiu, leaving his privileged position at the age of twenty-five to join the Church, almost immediately setting off for Rome on a pilgrimage with Saint Wilfrid. The journey obviously was one which greatly influenced Benedict because it was one which he repeated a further five times and which led to his setting up the twin monasteries at Wearmouth, in 674, and in Jarrow in 682.

Benedict was committed to making his monasteries not just places of worship but places of great learning and from the earliest days he committed considerable resources to the creation of two libraries – very considerable resources, as in those days books had to be copied by hand onto expensive vellum (calf-skin). Benedict also searched far and wide for books and other treasures to bring to his monastic base.

It was in Rome in 678 that Benedict, this time accompanied by Ceolfrith whom he had recruited to help establish the new monastery, acquired the sixth century Italian Bible known as the Codex Grandior. As described above it was a copy of an Old Latin translation from the original languages. This was the source of the Bible which was being celebrated today in Jarrow.

It was fourteen years later that Ceolfrith takes centre stage. Two years earlier, on the death of Benedict, Ceolfrith became Abbot of both Wearmouth and Jarrow. Now, in 692 he negotiated a grant of land to enable his monks to raise two thousand head of cattle to provide the calf-skins for his ambitious project which was to have his libraries produce three complete copies of the entire Bible. Today we are used to complete Bibles but it was quite unusual in those days. Think of the Lindisfarne Gospels and consider what proportion of the Bible is given over to Gospels to realise the scale of his ambition.

Ceolfrith’s plan was to have one of these huge Bibles in each of his monasteries and to have one which he would take as a gift for the Pope. (Gifts to the Pope, just as visits to Rome, were particularly important at this time, given that the Synod of Whitby which led to the Northumbrian Churches giving their full alliance to Rome had only taken place in 664, less than thirty years before.)

Presumably the three copies of the Latin translation originally produced for Cassiodorus, for his monastic foundation at Vivarium in Italy were completed and two installed in the twin monasteries at Wearmouth and Jarrow, and presumably they were destroyed by Viking raids. But the third, set off for Rome as planned – but not until the year 716 when Ceolfrith, now seventy-four or seventy-five years old, retired as abbot and set off for Rome. He should have gone sooner because he died without reaching Italy, at Langres Monastery in Burgundy.

What happened next, no one really knows. Some say that the codex did reach Rome, carried by Ceolfrith’s friends, and was given to the Pope. However, it did end up in the monastery at Amiata near Siena, where it remained from the ninth century until the monastery closed in 1792. But all those who saw it during this time were unaware from where it had come as the title page was altered to suggest that it had been commissioned not by Ceolfrith but a follower of Saint Benedict (of the ‘Rule of St. Benedict’ not St. Benedict Biscop!) and had been produced back in around 540 at Monte Cassino. It was only in the late nineteenth century that its true provenance was rediscovered. The 540 dating is quite interesting because it ties in with the timing of the production of the Codex Grandior and suggests that the copy made for Ceolfrith was a very good one!

For those who are interested in studying the Old Latin translations of scripture, it remains a fascinating and priceless book, one of the oldest extant copies to date and, apart from one small book, is complete. Its illuminations also give an insight into the life of the times and also establish a link with the Codex Grandior as at least one illumination (that of Ezra) is thought to have been copied from that work.

More recently the book was presented once more to the Pope and is now housed in the Laurentian Library in Florence and a facsimile edition has been created. It is this facsimile edition which has come to Bede’s World brought by folk from Amiata San Salvatore who celebrate a medieval weekend in July every year and who have established a friendship-linkage with Bede’s World. It is a particularly apposite linkage because both also have mining roots – the community of San Salvatore with Mercury and South Tyneside with coal.

So much for the story, now to our evening.

We arrived via the Tyne Tunnel at Bede’s World and, as we were a moment or two early, we wandered around the medieval farm. There are lots of pictures on my entry for April 1st, 2014 but here are another couple on the theme of animals as that is the theme I started with today:



Bathed in sunshine, these sheep are enjoying being part of Bede’s World




And this hairy pig is quite unlike any other pig I have seen before


We walked around and then made sure that we were back inside for the drinks reception:



The reception brought together the party of sixteen or so who had come across from Italy for the start of the Festival of the Book with many of the people who had supported Bede’s World, sponsors, the Mayor and Lady Mayor, Dame Rosemary the archaeologist who had been responsible for making so much of what is going on happen in the first place, and some of the users of the museum and its facilities




The Italian young folk were all in medieval costume




Some represented the clerics responsible for the Abbey San Salvatore




Some were champions brawling in a civilised medieval manner




We returned indoors for the ceremony of the bringing in of the Bible; preceded by drummers the Bible was carried into the museum




The Bible was placed in the position it will occupy for the next few weeks and a word was spoken by Professor Manuela Vestri who had travelled from Amiata for the official unveiling of the replica Codex




It looked very good




We all made our way to the dining area where, while we were fed, we were entertained by Italian minstrels




By the time the band from Jarrow started to play we had eaten our way through several courses – antipasto of Pork, ham, salami, cheese and pate, two plates of pasta, one a tomato-based flour and water pasta, the other a tagliatelle with a wild boar sauce. Then we had two main courses: wild boar with stewed pear followed by a wild boar stew. We ended with a superb torta, very sweet and full of chocolate, all washed down with two delicious wines from around Florence and some strong black coffee. The screen had been used to show wonderful pictures of the medieval weekend in Italy and the home of the book




Our chef for the night had been flown in from Italy and was ably assisted by his team: the youngsters from Italy and the staff of Bede’s World


It was an excellent evening, the start of something special for Bede’s World. We sat with Sheila from the Anglican Church and two of the leading volunteer users of the centre, Joan and Irene. We were in excellent company for what was a grand evening.

Scott drove us home – and it was well into Sunday by the time we got to bed after a fabulous day.

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Friday 16th. May, 2014 – Summer has arrived! 


Rachel has done magnificently and has taken the barn (for which Tom and I created a floor) and has created something really special. The loom is ready to erect and this will be a fabulous craft centre and loom room


Up and walked Mix before breakfast, during which Tom arrived and took me off to collect my car which has been being serviced. We came back to Mount Pleasant and collected the Bongo and took it off to have a slow puncture repaired, leaving it in Duns to have this done. We went on to Tweedmouth where we ordered the timber for the roof of the Bothy. It will be delivered on Tuesday and then we can crack on. Time was marching on so we had an early lunch at Marks and Spencer before returning home, collecting the Bongo on the way.

Discovered Rachel hard at work in the Stables. What a difference she has made. Mum went off to her reading group and Olive was in Dundee seeing students and getting them ready to hand in their dissertations next week.

Tom gave Rachel another crash course in how to use the special camping features in the Bongo, Digger dug in the allotment and I sorted out some bits and pieces in the summer house before walking Mix and reporting to the farmhouse for scrambled egg on toast before driving Rachel and Mum to the Maltings where we met up with Olive for a drink in the bar before watching ‘Get Up and Tie Your Fingers’, a play which is touring down the east coast from Musselburgh to Hastings telling the story of the fisher lassies and the tragic loss of the Eyemouth fishing fleet in 1881.

The cast is made up of three professional actresses (Barbara Marten, Sian Mannifield and Samantha Foley), two students and local singers (in costume as part of the play) from each of the areas where the play is performed. There were just over thirty folk on stage – all female – and so quite a small scale production appeared much larger, and the involvement of local singers ensured a capacity audience. It was a moving story, well told, and I and everyone else clearly enjoyed the production which is being supported by an exhibition ‘Follow the Herring’ which Rachel intends to visit tomorrow.

Back home, I had something to eat and walked Mix before bed. It has been a good day – glorious weather ... real summer weather ... and down at Chester le-Street Durham recorded a victory in the T20 competition against Worcester.

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Thursday 15th. May, 2014 – Christian Aid and a good walk 


This afternoon we took the dogs up behind Duns Castle – Rowan doesn’t walk to the lead very well and I have caught Rachel hanging on for dear life


Rose early and walked Mix. We all breakfasted earlier than usual at 8.30 because at nine, Dorothy and Rachel were driving into Berwick for their stained-glass class, taking with them Cathy who was catching a bus back to Luss via Edinburgh and Glasgow.

Tom and I spent a wee while in the summer house (Tom was working out all of the wood which we shall require to restore the Bothy) and then we set off for Gavinton, for the Village Hall, where we assisted the ladies in their preparations for Christian Aid lunches. We put out the tables and chairs and then set about creating our bookstall:



The work of setting up the bookstall completed, Tom peruses some of the items on sale – giving a good impression of being a reading sailor




There were lots of books on display. Everything on the first table cost just £2, the next table was £1, and the two tables beyond that was 50 p. (We had another table of cook books next to the cake and candy table offering a cook book for just 50 p. with every sale from that table.) There were some excellent books and I ended up buying several myself


We lunched on soup while we were there and then helped dismantle everything in the early afternoon, taking our stock of books to the Church hall where we are now ready for the next sale.

We dropped off some of the excess of books at the Charity Shop in Duns and then continued on to the Garage where my car is not quite ready – it is having a service – but I will collect it tomorrow morning.

Back at Mount Pleasant, Digger had got a message to say that someone wanted to look around Mum’s flat in Kirkcaldy, so he dropped everything and drove up to Kirkcaldy to show the gentleman around. (Mum was at the Christian Aid lunch and then visiting with her friend Annie.)

Rachel and I loaded the dogs into her Berlingo and drove up to Duns Castle where we walked the dogs through the trees. We came across this stone:



This stone marks the site of the earlier town of Dunse




The inscription reads:
This stone marks the
site of the old town
of Dunse destroyed
in the border raids
1588


To get my bearings I took a picture from the stone of Duns Castle:



Duns Castle in the trees from the Dunse Stone (also in the trees)


We stopped in at the Co-op on the way home to allow Rachel to buy some more items to make ice cream – her efforts are being appreciated.

We all dined together at seven after which we all went our separate ways, Rachel and I to the Granary were we relaxed in front of the television before it was time for bed. In fact we watched the first two parts of a film entitled 'Fleming' based, loosely I expect, upon the life of the creator of James Bond. It was fun.

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Wednesday 14th. May, 2014 – A Curate’s Egg kind of a day 


This afternoon Rachel and Tom went into housing development, erecting half a dozen new homes for swallows under the eaves of our buildings, four on the Granary and two on the farmhouse, to compensate for the fact that the barns are no longer available for nesting swallows. We have another four units in reserve. It is planned that two of these will go under the eaves on the summer house – but we will have to wait until the shingles have been fitted to the roof. There is a great deal of swallow activity at the present time and it will be interesting to see if these new homes are considered a good alternative to the swallow-made homes presently under construction


Got up an hour earlier than usual and walked Mix before going into Duns for an early morning appointment with my doctor for a consultation about my back which has been causing me problems (perhaps as a result of all of my new activity as an apprentice joiner, perhaps because of all the boxes I have been moving). My doctor took blood samples and sent me off for an x-ray.

Returned home and Rachel drove me to the Borders General Hospital at Melrose where I was x-rayed – all very efficient. Now I just have to wait for the results.

We popped in to see Tom and Dorothy on the way home. They are car-less because their vehicle is being serviced so I arranged to pick Tom up in the afternoon and take him to collect his car. Back home we all had coffee and then I came across to the summer house to prepare the music files for Arrochar for Sunday.

Then it was off to pick up Tom and take him to collect his car. I decided to leave my car at the garage so that it too could be serviced – I’ll get it back tomorrow evening. Tom drove me home and then he and Rachel erected homes for destitute swallows while I dealt with a couple of phone calls. When Tom set off for home, I cleared the tools out of the Stables which is now really taking shape. Then it was time to take Mix for a walk before Rachel and I set off for Berwick to attend the Maltings Theatre where the Royal Shakespeare Company’s production of Henry IV part one was being streamed.

Rachel and I had a meal in a little bistro very close to the theatre and then we joined the rest of the audience for an enthralling production of one of the plays which some folk claim is Shakespeare’s best. Well, it was superb. A wonderful company with several superb performances. Antony Cher was stupendous as Falstaff. All I can say is that if you ever get the opportunity to see him in the role, you should grab it with both hands. Truly wonderful.

But the two Hals were good as well, both very different, Alex Hassell as Prince Hal and Trevor White as Hotspur. Some might have raised an eyebrow at the direction which emphasised the excitability of Hotspur, but given that interpretation, the performance was great. And, of course, the sword fighting was immense. I also enjoyed Jasper Britton as Henry IV, a part which is often seen as a bit of a dead-end part but which I thought was made quite significant. And there were other great performances too many to mention, it was quite simply a terrific evening.

Back home we spoke with the family before walking the dogs and retiring to bed. How fortunate we are to have such opportunities on our doorstep.

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Tuesday 13th. May, 2014 – The Dome is erected 


A behind the scenes (or rather, below the stairs) shot of Mix ensuring that the dishwasher is operating satisfactorily and that nothing which shouldn’t has been put in the machine


I woke, walked Mix and breakfasted in the farmhouse. It was a glorious morning and, as Tom wasn’t coming to join us this morning, I suggested to Digger that we set to and erected his dome. We recruited Olive, Cathy and Rachel and the sequence of pictures below documents our morning activity.



In this first picture you can see quite clearly that there is nothing here -- no dome hidden behind a wall or hiding behind a hedge -- everything looks quite ordinary




Leaning against the Hen House are some panels which Digger had created earlier, some fifteen of them in all




The first panels are manhandled into place and fixed to bolts which Digger had earlier mounted in concrete to provide a firm foundation




Now Rachel can be seen using plastic ties to pull the panels together and hold them in place




The ground floor level has now been completed -- that panel to the right is clear because it will soon house a window (yes, I know you can see through every panel but windows are required for ventilation as well)




Work has now started on fitting the second floor level, or the roof section, in place. This is made up of five triangular sections





Everything is nearly done. Rachel looks out of the one roof section which still has to be fitted




It is completed! All of the panels have now been put in position and held with ties. Digger will have to tighten them all up but the donkey work has now been done -- and doesn't it look good?


With the job complete I went off to collect Mum from her hairdressing appointment (Rachel had run her there earlier in the morning). We all dined on left-overs in the farmhouse and then we set about our different activities: Tom, Rachel and I were working in the Stables, our bits are now all done, a little bit of painting remains and Rachel has that in hand. Digger was tightening up the straps in his dome, ensuring that everything was in the right place. Cathy went back to re-upholstering the chair she has been working on while Mum read a book which is to be discussed at her reading group on Friday. Olive was pottering, I think.

Later I went across to the summer house and witnessed a real thunder and lightning shower, (I had Mix with me but went and collected Rowan as she was worried about being on her own). I had hoped to listen to a bit of the cricket (Sussex against Durham) but it was raining at Hove as well.

However, I did take this picture (as the rain subsided) of the Dome which Digger has now got in use – it must have been quite spectacular in this during the thunder, the lightning and the hail.



We all ate together at seven and watched some television in the Granary afterwards (Happy Valley followed by the News). It has been another really good day.

And to round it off a picture taken this evening of a rainbow over Mount Pleasant.



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Monday 12th. May, 2014 Work and Progress 


The weather forecast was a bit ‘iffy’ but it turned out to be a lovely day and here, just before supper, are Digger, Mum, Cathy, Olive and Rachel all enjoying an aperitivo. It’s a wonderful life


Got up and walked Mix. Breakfasted in the farmhouse and soon afterwards Tom and Dorothy arrived with Spike. Spike and Rowan played in the garden while the rest of us set about getting as much done as possible in the Stables. In fact by the end of the day we had achieved great things – the Stables are almost all painted. The ramp wall has been constructed and fitted, the two holes in the walls have been covered, the big frame for winding thread has been mounted on the wall. It has been a good day.

Meanwhile Mum went off to see her friends in Galashiels (by bus), Cathy has stripped one of the old dining room chairs and is well through upholstering it. Digger has been busy with his allotment and Olive has been reorganising the farmhouse.

At lunchtime Cathy, Rachel, Dorothy, Tom and I dined at Pearsons, did some shopping and I went off to the Police Station to see how I would get to Gavinton Church on 1st. June (because it is the Jim Clark Rally and many roads will be closed). The lady on duty gave me the number of the Police Officer in charge in Edinburgh. I telephoned him and he told me that there would be no difficulty about driving straight from Mount Pleasant to Gavinton on the Sunday morning.

Before supper we gathered for a drink in the courtyard and after supper we went across to the Granary where we were joined by Cathy and Mum to watch a bit of the Ukulele Orchestra from Sydney Opera House, the News and Have I Got a Bit More News for You on television before bed.

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Sunday 11th. May, 2014 – More Culture! 


Taken at coffee after church this morning, the purpose of this picture is to show off Tom’s new jacket. He has become every inch the country gent and was being generally admired by all and sundry (even by Cathy who noticed the jacket as soon as she came into Gavinton Church this morning)


Up, showered, walked Mix and breakfasted before setting off with Mum, Cathy and Rachel for Church at Gavinton where Ann presented a service on the theme of the ‘I am’ sayings of John’s Gospel, rounding the service off with a Christian Aid prayer (there was a united Christian Aid Service at Duns this afternoon which we missed because of a prior arrangement to go to the Maltings).

Back home, after coffee, we all dined in the farmhouse – Olive, Digger, Veronica, Peter, Cathy, Mum, Rachel and I. Scott and Sue had popped in a little while before lunch to bring Mum her birthday present – a seat for outside her garden room. On the basis that one picture tells more than many words, here is Mum in her seat with Digger, Scott, Sue and Cathy.



After lunch Rachel and I drove to Berwick where we attended the third concert given by the Royal Northern Sinfonia. This time it was a programme of Wind Quintets. The programme started with six Bagatelles by Ligeta and then Francaix’s Wind Quintet number one. After a short interval (time for a drink in the bar) the programme continued with Klughardt’s Wind Quintet (opus 79) and ended with Nielson’s Wind Quintet (opus 43). It was an exciting programme presented by five talented musicians: Eilidh Gillespie (flute and piccolo), Steven Hudson (Oboe and cor anglais), Jessica Lee (clarinet), Stephen Reay (Bassoon) and Peter Francomb (French horn). I was sorry the studio theatre wasn’t full – it deserved to be. I love these music performances, they are of the very best.

Back home we all (Peter and Veronica had set off for home by this time) dined on the left-overs from last night. Then Rachel and I came back to the Granary, leaving Cathy happily dismantling a chair with Digger. We watched a fairly recently broadcast edition of Midsomer Murders. Mum and Cathy joined us just before it ended and we had coffee and snowballs before watching the News. We walked the dogs and went to bed.

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Saturday 10th. March, 2014 – A fairly decadent day 


This is the Anglican Parish Church in Berwick to which Mum, Cathy and I came this evening to listen to Rachel singing with the Berwick Arts Choir. The Choir presented the Chichester Psalms and the Dorchester Canticles in a programme which also included Mozart, Bruckner, Grieg and Faure before concentrating in the second half on the music of Leonard Bernstein. We enjoyed our evening very much indeed


A real lazy day began with coffee in bed (brought by Rachel) and a gentle getting up around eleven.

I showered, walked Mix and read my book before setting off in the middle of the afternoon to collect Cathy who arrived in Berwick having caught a bus from Balloch. Back home we chatted and then dined with Rachel (who had been at a choir dress rehearsal), Mum, Olive and Digger as well as their friends Peter and Veronica.



Mum and Cathy outside the Parish Church at Berwick


Having dined we went our separate ways – Rachel, Mum, Cathy and I to the Parish Church at Berwick to listen to Rachel’s concert; Olive, Digger, Peter and Veronica to Berwick to the Maltings to a one man show called ‘Tea with the Old Queen’ which wasn’t particularly well attended but which they enjoyed (they were also quite taken with the bar)!



Rachel arriving at the Church to sing




A picture of the Choir just after the conductor left for the interval


Back home we discovered that our front door had broken and we had to employ no little force to gain entry to the house (so it really is quite secure). We had coffee with Mum and Cathy, walked the dogs and retired for the night leaving the rest playing a board game in the farm house.

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Friday 9th. May, 2014 -- Lovely here but rain in Aberdeen 


I’ve been waiting for these for a while but today they arrived. They are swallow nests and I will fit them up under the eaves of some of our buildings so that our swallows can find new homes to compensate them for the barns now being off-limits. They certainly look very comfortable


I woke, got up and walked Mix and then breakfasted in the farmhouse before wandering across to the summer house with Mix. Shortly afterwards Tom and Dorothy with their Border Collie, Spike, arrived. Spike played happily with Rowan in the garden while Tom and I discussed plans for the conversion of the bothy. Then we went across to the farmhouse where we all had coffee with Mum before having a look around the Stables (which we plan to have completed by next Wednesday).

I had a pizza for lunch (Rachel had been to Duns to have her hair cut and was then in Berwick collecting her glass tools which she had left at her class yesterday). I had intended to watch Scotland against England at cricket from Aberdeen but it rained. It rained so much that I anticipated that the game would be called off, but no, we got a start at 4 p.m. with the game eventually reduced to just twenty overs a side. England scored 167 (increased by Duckworth Lewis to 172) and Scotland were never really in the hunt reaching 133 for 9 wickets off their twenty overs. Before the game started Mix and I had a very pleasant walk in glorious sunshine. It was a bit of an odd kind of day, sunshine one moment and then rather dull for a while before the sun returned, but it was extremely warm in the summer house.



One our return from our afternoon walk I snapped this Lilac bush – I don’t think we knew there was Lilac in the garden until a few days ago and Mix certainly seems to appreciate it


On returning from Berwick, Rachel did a bit more painting in the stables:



We will all be joining in on Monday to get everything completed




Digger got Olive out to help him survey the final settings for his dome. Heidi, although with them, seemed rather less interested in the survey than in the rest of the allotment area


At seven we all met up in the farmhouse for our evening meal after which we relaxed in the Granary (watching a recent Lewis) before walking the dogs and retiring to bed. The evenings are stretching out and now that it is getting warmer we will be able to do more outdoor activities in the evenings.

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Thursday 8th. May, 2014 We all go our separate ways 


Yesterday as I returned with Mix in the afternoon I took some pictures of flowers in the garden, today as I approached Mount Pleasant I snapped this bush which overhangs the fence. It is in full bloom and absolutely beautiful


Today was a day in which we all went our different ways. I had appointments this morning which prevented me from going to Arrochar as I would have like to have done. Mum set off for Edinburgh, taken by Rachel as far as Berwick and seen on to the train. Rachel went on to her stained glass day at Berwick, returning home about four-thirty in the afternoon. By this time Mum had completed her lunch at Edinburgh College and her tour of the former Royal Yacht Britannia and was waiting in vain for her sister and niece-in-law to pick her up and drive her to the station (they were both waiting for each other in different places .. now if they had each had the other’s mobile phone number there would have been no problem). In fact no harm was done as Mum got a taxi to the station and I met her at Berwick and brought her home. (She has had a busy time – yesterday morning her book group, yesterday evening a trip to Berwick for a meal with the Guild, today a trip to Edinburgh for lunch and a trip around the Royal Yacht with friends from Kirkcaldy.)

Digger spent some of the day in his allotment where he was delighted to see that the concrete he had poured yesterday was setting nicely. The picture below reveals the bolts onto which the dome will be attached sometime next week.



Olive too had an appointment with the garden. Digger has assembled a cold frame for her into which today she planted out some basil plants. She has instructed Digger to get a move on with his tomatoes and then we can look forward to some excellent soups.



Olive points out the cold frame (by now the sun has disappeared and the rain has come on)


Rachel when she returned brought with her two of her newly completed works of art which I have snapped and present below:



I think that they are rather beautiful


In between times I looked after the dogs, sorted out the spare room in the Granary, and worked through my finances thinking the while of everyone at Stella’s funeral and feeling for the first time that I really did miss not being the minister there today.

Later this afternoon Tom arrived and we discussed the next part of the project which is to re-roof the former bothy. Tomorrow we may purchase the wood and that will be another project underway.

I walked Mix, drove into Berwick to collect Mum, dined in the farmhouse and then spent the evening with both dogs in the summer house as Rachel had gone back to Berwick to take part in her final Thursday singing evening before the concert on Saturday evening.

Later on I walked Mix and went to bed. It seemed somehow appropriate that it was raining.

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Wednesday 7th. May, 2014 – A beautiful day .. until the rains came 


Late this afternoon I went into Duns to post some letters which I hope will be delivered tomorrow. I paused by the post box and took this picture – the little square is really quite attractive


I rose and walked Mix and then breakfasted in the farmhouse. Tom texted me to say that he was going to complete the work on the shed at Clair’s house so I got in the car and drove across to help. We spent the whole of the morning manoeuvring the old shed into its new position and completing the construction of the new one but once it was done it looked really good.

Back home I set about working in the summer house with Mix and Rowan as my companions because Rachel was continuing with her painting in the Stables. I completed a number of important letters and prepared all of the music files for Arrochar for Sunday. Then I drove into Duns to post my letters and returned in time to take Mix for another walk (while Rachel did the same – in a different direction – with Rowan: it’s not that they, or we, were not speaking but rather that Rowan is not good at walking on the road, while Mix is quite good).

The sun was shining and the day was beautiful. On my return to Mount Pleasant I took some pictures of the flowers which have sprung into life:



Where just a week or two ago there were so many daffodils, now these lovely two-coloured tulips have appeared




This is the blossom on the apple tree given to us by the youngsters of Luss Sunday School




Nestling against the walls of the farmhouse are these bluebells




... and against the wall of one of the barns are these glorious all-red tulips




Rachel had spent the day painting. The walls are coming on and it is going to be a splendid weaving room in just a few days


Meanwhile, Mum had been at her Duns Reading Group, Digger had concreted in the bases for his soon-to-be-appearing dome, and Olive had had a leisurely day. In the evening Mum set off for a Duns Guild Outing to Berwick, so there were just the four of us for supper.

After supper Rachel and I tried to sort out our diaries so that we could take advantage of an opportunity to go to visit the Globe Theatre in London (it is a hard life being retired) and then we watched a fairly new episode of Midsomer Murders before I walked Mix and retired to bed. By now it was raining and the forecast is not great for the next few days ... but today has been good (and while I have been in the summer house I have been able to watch Durham against Yorkshire on my computer. It was a hard-fought game with Durham hanging on for a draw in the face of some really hostile fast bowling from Liam Plunkett who, until a couple of seasons ago, was himself a Durham player).

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Tuesday 6th. May, 2014 -- I am admitted to the Presbytery of Duns 


Mount Pleasant in the late afternoon sunshine, surrounded by trees and looking fabulous


I got up and walked Mix before breakfast. Tom arrived and we set out for Abbey St. Bathan’s to visit the saw mill there. Our purpose was to ascertain if we could buy seven metre lengths of six inch by 2 inch timber. We couldn’t, but it was a pleasant trip and I enjoyed listening to the owner reminiscing about the past.

Back home I contacted a firm in Berwick who can supply timber but only to six metres in length. I typed seven metre lengths into Google who came up with a firm which proudly announced that it kept longer lengths of timber and had both a national and regional branches, so I contacted them for a quotation. The reply came back saying that they didn’t deliver to Scotland – no wonder so many people want to be independent!



The reason for searching for large timber is because we wish to re-roof this barn so that we can store all of the boxes and furniture which is at present in the Hen House and is preventing us from getting on with the work on that building


I totally tidied up the summer house this afternoon after lunch – partly because it desperately needed it but also because Durham were playing Yorkshire at cricket. I should have been down at Chester-le-Street but watching it on Sky, first through my computer and then on the television, was a very good second best. Durham are fighting to save the game but are so far making a very good fist of it. Tomorrow will see the denouement.

In the evening I went to the Presbytery of Duns to be admitted as a member, having presented my presbytery certificate to the presbytery clerk. There was a very nice little ceremony which I found quite moving as I signed the formula and the Moderator led the Presbytery in prayer. I enjoyed the presbytery meeting – it was small (a few less than thirty-five people, I would guess) and extremely friendly. Some of its business was quite challenging – a report on how the Church was matching up to the requirement of serving people with learning disabilities, another on the work of the presbytery in organising a Berwickshire-wide food bank and the use which is being made of it, a challenge also to consider if there was a role for the Church in working with children on Friday afternoons now that schools in the area are to operate a four-and-a-half-day week. I suppose the opportunity is there for the Church because many parents will be working on Friday afternoons and this provides an opportunity for the Churches to ‘fill the gap’ and provide something good for children which also helps their parents. With closing libraries and other public buildings, presbytery was invited to consider setting up internet cafes (with Government funding support) because of the difficulties faced of accessing the internet by some folk in rural areas. I remembered that this is what we had done in Luss back in 2004 and that the Government had funded satellite broad-band for us because there was no other way of bringing the internet to the village.

I enjoyed the meeting.

After the Presbytery meeting I drove home with a sausage supper and watched the second episode of Happy Valley before walking Mix and retiring to bed.

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Monday 5th. May, 2014 --- Tom doesn’t do Bank Holidays 


Standing and putting the world to rights while the concrete mixer does its thing. Digger and Tom are discussing our next project which involves putting a roof on a barn that lost it some years ago


Got up and walked Mix before breakfast and then went across to the Barn and started sawing floorboards into size for the ramp which we completed today (yes, I have progressed to being allowed to operate a saw)!

Tom arrived and we quickly completed the ramp after a quick visit to Pearsons to buy some more plumbing materials as well as the sand, cement and gravel for concreting the base of the ramp and some beading to complete the floor (instead of a skirting board).

With the ramp complete, Tom went off for lunch and I enjoyed a pizza. Rachel had spent the morning starting to paint the Barn, Digger was working in his allotment, Olive had two students to prepare for an accountancy examination and Mum was doing a washing.



The walls are going to look really good once all of them have been painted – Rachel has started the painting. I think that it will take quite a while


In the afternoon Tom and I concreted the base of the ramp. I was surprised at just how much concrete we required for a relatively small task. Once this was completed, Tom went off home – it was a bank holiday after all. I retired to the summer house to do some other work and then I walked Mix before having a shower before supper.



Tom tells me that it will be the weekend before the concrete has set but it moves the Barn project forward – we will need to close off the under-floor area once everything else has been done


After we had eaten we watched another episode of Inspector De Luca set in Italy in the final days of the second world war. I enjoyed it but Rachel found it hard to stay awake. Walked Mix and went to bed. Yet another really good day.

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Sunday 4th. May, 2014 – Back in Harness (on a day when harnesses were everywhere in evidence)! 


The exterior of Ladykirk which we visited with Tom and Dorothy this afternoon


Woke early and walked Mix before breakfast in the farmhouse. Then Rachel, Mum and I drove to Cranshaws where, in Ann’s absence, I conducted the service with help from Dorothy and Rachel on the theme of John’s Easter Message.

Back home I changed and then Tom and Dorothy collected us to go off to the Heavy Horse Show at Wooler. I was more than a little apprehensive about this because it had been raining hard all night and I have so many memories of wet show days in the west which were miserable in the mud.

We stopped off in Tweedmouth to visit HomeBase to buy the paint required to complete the loom room this week. We got a really good bargain: thirty litres of paint for the price of twenty litres and then a further 15% off. Not bad at all (and the reason we went to shop today). We also grabbed something to eat at Marks and Spencer.

We continued on to Wooler. I was convinced that I hadn’t been here before but Tom reminded me that I had accompanied him to a market here not all that long ago. Well, I had forgotten (it seems to happen more often now that I am retired).

There was a huge car park and we had no difficulty parking – the show had started at 9 o’clock this morning and was probably drawing to a close when we arrived, and many of the patrons had already gone home either having had a surfeit of heavy horses or having been defeated by the cold and wet (this morning it was extremely wet underfoot, we were told). However, we were fortunate, no sooner did we arrive than the sun came out and although many of the horses had left by this time, there was still plenty to see as we walked around the large ring in which the competitors performed. I took a number of photos which I have included below as a reminder of what we actually saw:



On the way in, Rachel met these dogs and just had to say 'hello'




We had wondered if we would see horses pulling a plough; we didn't, but we did see this horse gathering hay




There was quite a collection of old farm equipment -- all of it, I think, in full working order




When we arrived police horses were in the ring. They demonstrated crowd control and how the horses were able to isolate an individual and totally restrict his movemnt




This horse and carriage won the prize for best in its class. Both carriage and horses looked superb




This is the Co-operative funeral carriage with its horses. It too looked magnificent and the horses were glorious




I can't imagine that there is much demand for gun-carriages except, perhaps, for the film industry -- unless, of course, they are preparing for Scottish independence




A lovely pony which, I understand originates from Scandinavia




In the ring we were given a demonstration of the skills of this gun dog. He was beautifully trained and knew exactly what his master wanted him to do almost before he was told




We visited the craft tent which had several high quality exhibitors




There was a Birds of Prey section -- I admired this owl




We watched a parade of tractors -- some old, some extremely old, all in perfect working order and the pride and joy of those who owned and drove them




This stall advertised dog treats, so Rachel bought some to bring home for our dogs




As far as I could gather, this horse won the award for best decorated horse. Rather spectacular




This foal was not in the display ring, but doesn't it look good?




And finally, this horse and rider were waiting patiently for the final parade


I suppose that we spent an hour and a half at the Show and then we set off for home, but on the way Tom took us on a detour (no extra charge) to visit Ladykirk which is actually part of the same charge as Swinton just down the road from where we live. The complete charge is Fogo and Swinton, Ladykirk and Whitsome, and Leitholm and I understand that it is going to be part of a larger charge once the present minister retires! Tom explained that Ladykirk is a very historic building, important because it is almost on the border between Scotland and England and was the site of a number of important discussions between forces from the two countries over the years. I certainly hope to learn more about Ladykirk and its story.



It is a beautiful Church inside


We made our way home and Mix and I immediately went out for a walk. I got some of my pictures sorted out before supper in the farmhouse at seven after which we relaxed in front of the stove and watched some television – Happy Valley: it turned out to be a good story and really quite fun.

Watched a bit of the snooker and then walked Mix before bed. It has been another really good day.

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Saturday 3rd. May, 2014 – Quite an uneventful day 


This afternoon Rachel cut the grass in the garden behind the Granary. It may not look much in the picture but it had got totally overgrown and after another cut it will be back to being really smart


I slept in – quite deliberately – and Rachel brought me coffee in bed after she had walked Rowan down through the woods.

I got up and then Mix and I walked to Fogo and from there down to the River Blackadder behind the Church. Only then did we turn and walk back to Mount Pleasant. I had some lunch and then spent the afternoon in the summer house catching up on some reading and enjoying not having too much to do. Rachel was the energetic one, cutting the grass in the garden behind the Granary. However, as she is unable to start a power lawnmower, she was constantly calling me to come and start it up for her – much to the disgust of Mix who on one occasion, sensing that we were all otherwise occupied, set off on a walk to Duns along the main road. I caught up with him quite quickly but not before he had stopped all of the traffic – people here are very good about animals.

Digger continued on his dome, Mum went for a drive with her friend Annie and Olive dismantled the contents of the big sideboard in the farmhouse lounge. Nothing of great moment, which is really rather nice.

We all dined together in the farmhouse kitchen and afterwards I dozed in front of a Midsomer Murder before walking Mix and going to bed. It has been a good day (and Dundee won the Scottish Football Championship, gaining promotion to the Premier League next season. I’m told that the cup with which they were presented was last presented to Dundee in 1962 after a 3 – 0 victory over St. Johnstone in Perth. I was at that game and I can remember it like yesterday.)

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Friday 2nd. May, 2014 -- Stella 


I heard today that one of the finest ladies I have ever met has died. Stella was an elder at Arrochar Church where I served for almost fifteen years. She became an elder soon after I arrived and she was still serving as a member of the Kirk Session when I left. During the whole of the time I knew her she served her Church diligently, compassionately and selflessly.

When times were hard and the Church was struggling to get going after losing the use of its building for a number of years, Stella was there. When things started to grow and develop once more, Stella was there. She was there at the Guild, a loyal and committed member; she was present at Church almost every single Sunday usually with her husband Alastair by her side. If there was a Church sale then she was there behind the cake and candy stall; if there was work to be done for the Church, Stella was there usually in the company of her great friend Anna.

As I got to know Stella, I learned that she was the rock on which her large family was built. She loved her children through illnesses and difficult times; she celebrated their successes and was always there for all of them. I learned of the strength of her faith, deep and straightforward, and of her confidence in God’s love for his people.

At Christmastime, Stella and Anna would arrive at the Manse with a pot plant and with biscuits to remember the manse family and encourage us at what was always a busy and a special time. We had hoped that she would come down and see us in our new home before too long passed by – Stella would have noticed the collection of tea towels we have, so many of them sent as gifts from her and Alastair when they went for days out. She was like that – always remembering others and thinking of ways to share her happiness with them.

Her family and particularly Alistair will miss her dreadfully, the Church in Arrochar will seem strange without her, but today I give thanks that I knew Stella and, like so many other people, that my life was touched and enriched by her life: she was a very fine lady.

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Friday 2nd. May, 2014 – Still working on that floor 


Taken on Mix and my walk late this afternoon – the sun was shining brightly and the fields are taking on their different colours. It is very beautiful


I got up, walked Mix, breakfasted in the farmhouse and then came and looked through some emails until Tom arrived. Our task was to complete the work on the floor in the barn. In fact we didn’t get the work completed but it wasn’t for the lack of trying. The floor is now complete but a bit of the ramp remains to be finished on Monday (and there is still a bit of beading to be done around the perimeter).

By the time that Tom went home, after five this afternoon, the back of the job had been broken and it will be a gentle task on Monday to put the finishing touches to what has been a major exercise for us.



A picture of Rachel admiring the floor in what is going to be her loom room. Once we complete our tasks the loom will be erected and then the walls will be painted. At that stage we’ll have a party and move on to the next project – we have several: there is plaster-boarding to be completed in the Hen House, a new roof to be installed on the bothy, shingles to be fitted to the summer house and ... well that’s enough to be going on with for just now




The dogs think that the new ramp is great for playing on


I walked Mix in the late afternoon sun – what a lovely day it has turned out to be. When I got back to the Granary I took this picture of the blossom on the tree given to us by the Sunday School children from Luss. It is blooming and extremely healthy:



Afterwards we had an early supper because Mum was going with friends to the hall in Duns to see a film – Philomena I think that it was. Rachel and I spent the evening in the Granary watching an episode of an Inspector De Luca mystery set in Bologna in 1945. It was good and, as I expect that I have said before, the Italian is so straightforward after the Sicilian of Montalbano (which I also love).

It was still light at 10 p.m. when Mix and I set out for our final walk of the day.

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Thursday 1st. May, 2014 --- Happy Birthday Mix 


Mix arrived with us when he was about eight and a half years old, having spent eight and a half months in the Dog’s Trust home near Glasgow and almost eight years in unhappy surroundings. Absolutely wild, no longer housetrained and distinctly neurotic when he arrived, he has turned into the ‘best friend kind-of-a-dog’ you could only dream about. Today, according to the papers we got from the Dog’s Trust, he is ten years old and his favourite place in the whole world is the summer house


Walked Mix – it was a very wet morning (in reality it was a very wet day) – and then breakfasted in the farmhouse before adjourning to the summer house with Mix and Rowan. Tom was not with us today as he and Dorothy were away south performing their Morris Dancing to celebrate May Day. I took the opportunity of catching up on some reading (and took delivery of our awaited wood from Pearsons). Rachel was away in Berwick at her stained glass class (which is why I had Rowan as well). So, safe from the rain, cosy in the summer house, I read and Mix dozed on his huge cushion. I had lots of treats for the dogs today and when Rachel returned she brought more.

When Rachel returned, we walked the dogs and then got ready to set off for Berwick where we went to see King Lear at the Maltings. Mix spent the evening with Olive and Digger – he likes that.

King Lear was superb – well, it was the National Theatre after all: one of these wonderful live streaming performances which made you feel as if you were there in London for the performance. The cast was magnificent. Simon Russell Beale as King Lear with Stanley Townsend (of the magnificent voice), Tom Brooke, Adrian Scarborough, Anna Maxwell Martin, Sam Troughton, Stephen Boxer and so many others. It was powerful and believable and the sets, lighting and sound effects were wondrous to behold. I loved it.

I walked Mix before bed. Here are the remainder of his birthday photographs:



Excuse me yawning, but it is very comfortable in front of this stove




Well, I'm getting on a bit and I do like this cushion




It's very comfortable -- even upside down




Now what are you up to? -- I'm watching you, you know




I think that this is probably my better side




I'll maybe just go to sleep ....




like my little sister who gets to share my cushion too


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Wednesday 30th. April, 2014 – A change in the weather 


Every evening everyone who is here eats together in the farmhouse. It keeps us all together and means that we all meet together at least once a day. We all do our own thing at lunch time. I normally eat in the summer house watching the news or a programme from i-player on my computer. This was my lunch today, a real Italian antipasto. Before I retired I rarely ate lunch, no wonder I am putting on weight


Rose, walked Mix, breakfasted in the farmhouse and, when Tom arrived, we went off to Pearsons to see about some more wood and some plumbing supplies. The wood will be delivered as soon as it arrives in the shop but until it does we are at a bit of a loose end. We went off to complete the work on the little hut we started on yesterday. Clare has decided that what she had is actually more suited for its use (for the dog as an attachment to the dog pound) than the new hut which will be perfect for logs, so we set about repairing it and then broke for coffee and a chat.

I dropped off Tom at his house and came home for lunch – Rachel was hard at work in the loom room, Digger and Olive were off to a craft show, Mum was in Duns with a friend – I had a splendid plate of antipasto in the summer house with Mix and watched the most recent episode of ‘Have I got News for You’.

Tom arrived and we returned to Clare’s home where we completed the repair of the old hut and treated it with wood preserver. The rain finally defeated us and we will complete things soon. The weather has been a bit odd. Yesterday we had fog which gave way to bright sunshine. Today we had fog which gave way to torrential rain. Ah, well. Rachel and I walked Mix and Rowan in rain which started off fairly gentle and turned into a downpour. I needed a shower before supper after which we watched some more of ‘The Killing’. We had intended to watch three episodes and leave the final one for Friday evening but it was just too exciting and we watched right to the end, completing our vigil at twenty past midnight. It has been an excellent series and kept me enthralled right to the end.

Walked Mix (on what is now his tenth birthday) in truly atrocious weather. Maybe it will be better in the morning.

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Tuesday 29th. April, 2014 -- On Holiday! 


Rachel worked today in the barn teak-oiling her spinning and weaving equipment prior to it being re-erected


Woke and walked Mix up the Swinton Road – my goodness, it was nostalgic as it was something I have rarely done since the road was closed but which I used to do every day before then. Several cars gave me great big waves as if to say, ‘Where have you been?’ The weather today was fascinating. We started in fog and we ended the day that way as well, but in between the sun shone and it was glorious.

No work today because we don’t get the wood from Pearsons until tomorrow and I can’t move things out of the Hen House because there is nowhere to put them until the loom room is completed and a space created in the carriage room by moving boxes to the loom room (if that all makes sense). So I enjoyed some time in the summer house reading, listening to music, preparing the music for Arrochar and so on. I read some of Williston Walker’s History of the Christian Church (about John Duns Scotus, about the rule of Benedict and about the church of Bede) and I read some of the Benedictine Book of Daily Prayer. I stopped for lunch and during lunch I watched the final episode of Rev (which must have been on television last night).

In the afternoon Tom called me up and I went off to help him erect a small garden hut for a lady who lives nearby. We did the first part of the work – we need to know a bit more information about where it is to go before we complete the task -- and perhaps we will get that done tomorrow.

Today Olive was up in Dundee (something to do with marking students’ examinations), Mum went to have her hair done in Duns, Rachel spent the day in the loom room (except when driving Mum to and from Duns), Digger was cutting the grass and working on his dome. The farmer was working in the field next to Mount Pleasant with a large tractor and a device which I think was spraying the crop. Mix and I relaxed – later in the afternoon we joined Rachel and Rowan for a walk through the jungle path and then into the woods opposite.



The farmer was busy here today as well. This huge device appeared to be spraying the crop so presumably we can look forward to a bumper harvest. The picture was taken late in the day and the fog is returning


We dined at seven and then relaxed in front of the television watching the final part of Endeavour and then the Easter Monday programme about the life of Tommy Cooper before walking the dogs and bed.

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Monday 28th. April, 2014 – The Bridge re-opens 


In the middle of this afternoon the bridge over the River Blackadder re-opened after being closed for reconstruction work for eight weeks and one day. For the next little while there will be traffic lights controlling the bridge while other necessary tasks are completed


Woke, walked Mix down to the bridge for the last time before the road re-opened. Breakfasted in the farmhouse and when Tom arrived we moved the loom into the new loom room so that it can be re-erected and be in operation again. It was a heavy job and once it was completed we were extremely glad to sit and have a coffee together in the Granary.



Digger continues to work on his dome




All the bits of the loom set out on the new floor (which we will complete on Wednesday when more wood arrives)


Tom went off with Dorothy, I had some lunch in the summer house and spent part of the afternoon reading and listening to music before walking Mix again. By now the road had reopened and so we walked down by the roadside but came back up through the woods. Rachel joined us and Mix and Rowan clearly enjoyed being back in the jungle!



Rowan leads Rachel through the woods


As Rachel was working in the sitting room and was watching a television programme I hadn’t seen but wanted to see from the start, I came out to the summer house for a while before supper.

In the evening we watched three more episodes of The Killing (that’s sixteen in all and only four more to go). It continues to hold all of our attention. It is quite extraordinary.

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Sunday 27th. April, 2014 -- Sunday and back to normality 


It wasn't the nicest of days as far as weather goes, so Mum spent the afternoon in her garden room, reading, in front of the stove


After all of the excitements of the past few weeks (just last Sunday it was Easter) today everything is back to normal. Our service was in Gavinton Church so I walked Mix, had breakfast, and went with Mum and Rachel to Gavinton (driving the long way around by Fogo for the last time because the bridge is certain to open within the next couple of days).

The service was on the theme of the Emaus Road and ended with Ann inviting everyone to select one or more of three pieces of wool to mark commitments which we intended to made – to welcome a stranger, to comfort a sufferer, to share the Good News. After the service Dorothy and Rachel served tea and coffee (because Andrea was having a sleep-in after her exertions in preparing all of the food for the Greek Night last night) and I helped to wash the dishes.



Now that she has retired, Olive is swapping her accountant's study for the kitchen


Back home we dined in the farmhouse – vegetable soup and macaroni cheese and then retired to the Granary. I watched an episode of the Murdoch Mysteries in front of the fire and I guess I dozed off for most of the rest of the afternoon (well, why not)? I fed the dogs and gave them some exercise while Rachel went off to Berwick to Evensong. On her return Rachel, Olive, Mum and I watched another three episodes of The Killing – we have now watched thirteen episodes in all and feel that we have grown up with the characters, that some are our close friends and others, people to be avoided. Still, I suspect that the end is in sight! (And maybe we will discover that one of our friends is the guilty one.)



The bridge over the River Blackadder is almost complete. The road needs some repair work but I expect the bridge to be open by Tuesday at the latest


Walked Mix and went to bed. If this is retirement, I like it!

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Saturday 26th. April, 2014 -- A Saturday relaxing 


The little former church dedicated to St. Aiden at Morebattle, now being restored as a holy space and a coffee shop


Up, walked Mix and breakfasted in the farmhouse before setting off with Rachel (and Rowan) to pick up Tom and Dorothy to drive to Morebattle, near Kelso. Two of the folk I met on Thursday, Margaret and Richard, have bought an old disused Church there (St. Aiden’s) because it is on the St. Cuthbert’s Way and they could see the potential of using it both to further their ministries (Richard is a Danish minister and his wife is presently completing her training) and as a service to pilgrims through creating a coffee shop and providing an outlet for local craft businesses.

We saw around the Church – they have done a huge amount, including putting on a new roof, and they have their hands full with all that still remains but they are getting the support of their local community. We popped in at a coffee morning in the village hall being run to support their work. It was absolutely full and there were many different craft stalls on show.



The coffee shop in Kelso


We set off for home and called in at Kelso where I had not just the coffee I intended but scrambled egg on toast. It was excellent. From there we went on to Hume Castle – or at least the ruins of the castle, set on a little hill. Others were there at the same time and it is obviously a bit of a tourist attraction.



The view of Hume Castle from the car park




From the viewing platform inside the castle I looked down on all around (including Rachel getting Rowan organised)


We dropped Tom and Dorothy off and came home. I set about preparing an Order of Service for next Sunday so that I could pass it on to Ann before tomorrow. Rachel varnished the new floor in the barn. Digger was working on the panels for his dome, Mum went off to the WRI with her friend Annie, and Olive worked on her final set of accounts.



Rachel varnished the new floor in the barn




Digger was hard at work on the panels for his dome


Later I had time to so some reading before walking Mix, changing and setting off for a meal with Tom and Dorothy. We ended up at an event in Gavinton – a Greek meal in the village hall. Tom had been contacted by Andrea who was looking for some additional folk to make up the numbers and we went along. It was really good and we had an excellent time and met Catherine and Jenny with whom we shared a table.



Enjoying Greek food, under a Greek flag, with good company (and a quiz about Greece to answer)


Back home we walked the dogs before bed. Every day just seems to be better than the day before it ... and tomorrow is Sunday.

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Friday 25th. April, 2014 -- To market, to work and to Berwick 


A picture of the crowd beginning to gather at the Kelso racecourse for the auction sale today. We visited briefly, but seeing nothing which took our fancy, we were soon on our way


Up and walked Mix before breakfast at the farmhouse during which Tom arrived to take me to the auction sale at Kelso Racecourse. There we met up with Dorothy, Catriona and Martin.

We looked around, enjoyed an excellent roll filled with sausages and then came home – there really wasn’t very much to buy and certainly nothing of which we were in need. Tom and I came back to Mount Pleasant where we continued work on flooring the barn, stopping for a brief lunch with Rachel at 1.30. By the middle of the afternoon we had done as much as we could. Not only we but also Pearson (our supplier) had run out of flooring. Our initial order still hasn’t been completed but Pearson’s say that we will have all of our order by next Wednesday. We will just have to be patient (a bit easier now we are retired).



Tom uses up the final bits of flooring we have. There is a bit to do – not much – but we are waiting for more wood




Rachel before the show began in the studio theatre


I came to the summer house and prepared the music for Arrochar’s service on Sunday and got it despatched to Jamie. Then there was time for a brief walk with Mix, a quick shower and a change of clothes before Rachel and I set out for the Maltings in Berwick where we dined in the restaurant (Cullen Skink followed by Scotch egg, salad and fried potatoes, followed by meringue, blue berries and ice-cream). It was lovely. Then we made our way into the studio theatre for the performance of La Mouche described as “1950s B-Movie madness”, as being in the “French farce tradition” and as a “charmingly dark, laugh a minute riot”.

Well, it was all of that, and more. The play’s name means ‘The Fly’ and it was filled with so many allusions (even to Taggart) many of them through the skilled mimickery skills of the three actors – Euan McIver, Holly Thomas and Mark Vevers. The music was great, the acting we excellent and it was an evening of enormous fun. The work was written, composed and directed by the director of the Maltings Theatre, Matthew Rooke. Over the months we have been here and have been going to the Maltings we have been impressed by the Theatre and the vigour with which it is run, tonight we saw different, but every bit as impressive, skills from the person at the helm. The proof of the pudding was that the audience (I think the theatre was full) thoroughly enjoyed their evening – you could tell that by the laughter and by the applause with which the work was received.

We drove home, watched Newsnight, walked the dogs and went to bed. What a good day it has been.

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Thursday 24th. April, 2014 --- Rowan’s birthday 


Today Rowan is one year old – she has had treats all day (which Mix has enjoyed as well) and in the evening she came across with Mix and me to the summer house where I took this picture of her being coy


I was up very early this morning – as was Rachel as she ran me to the station to catch the train just after seven from Berwick to Glasgow (changing in Edinburgh).



As we left, and I was opening the gate, this sparrow sang us on our way. It was lovely


I arrived in Glasgow about quarter past nine and walked from the station to Glasgow Cathedral to attend the meeting of the Scottish Pilgrim Routes Forum which was being held at the St. Mungo’s Museum within the Cathedral complex.

I took this picture when I came out of the station:



It was good to be back in Glasgow but the wording on the banner really appealed to me, ‘People Make Glasgow’


The forum meeting started at ten and there was a very full programme in front of a large and appreciative audience.

After a welcome and an introduction, Catherine McMaster spoke of St. Mungo and Glasgow’s Pilgrimage Heritage. It was an interesting talk and I particularly noted two things. When she talked about Glasgow’s claim to be a pilgrimage city she based it on the twin pillars of faith community and secular authority working together which is of course exactly the same basis on which the Green Pilgrimage City network operates. Also she spoke about making something of St. Mungo in all of the places with which he was associated. That resonated with me – it might be a grand idea for Luss to do something similar with all of the Kessog places in Scotland: create a distinctive small interpretation for each place, have an event and in so doing create identity. It would be straightforward to raise the necessary funds for such a small project but it would be extremely effective.

Sylvia Jenks (with help from Susi Cormack Brown) then told the story of what had been known as the Ayrshire Pilgrims Trail – not a very good name as it started in Glasgow (or Paisley) and ended at Whithorn. To celebrate 850 years of Paisley Abbey, pilgrims had walked from Whithorn – and completed the walk this afternoon, arriving at Glasgow Cathedral while we were having our tour! Plans are afoot to involve Whithorn with the European programme, something which sounds exceptionally interesting as well.



The party of Paisley Pilgrims joined with some of the forum members for this picture to mark the completion of the walk from Whithorn to Glasgow Cathedral


John Henderson spoke about the route they are working on between St. Andrews and Iona. Progress is being made, not least now that a bridge has been built to replace a former railway bridge that had been removed. It’s not that they want to go on pilgrimage by train but that the disused track makes an excellent pathway.

Simon Hill with Neil Ramsay and Clive Willcocks spoke of the Fife Pilgrim Way – a walk from Dunfermline to St. Andrews, Simon concentrating on how things had been done, the comparative ease of raising funds to create something new compared with the difficulty of getting funding for the maintenance of what had been created. Neil spoke about an imaginative project to convert the Manse at Culross into a base for pilgrims to stay as they journeyed the pilgrim way, while Clive spoke of a plan to create something out of the remains of St. Catherine’s Chapel in Dunfermline. It is clear that when something happens, everyone gains: the churches and their congregations, the local communities, employment, pilgrims, tourists and so on.

At this point we had the formal business of the forum as we all agreed to move from our present unincorporated status to become a Scottish Charity. The decision has been taken and now the Management Committee has to work with OSCR to make this a reality.

It was time for lunch which I enjoyed with Robbie who was here representing Luss. I was delighted to see him and to spend some time with him – he was looking well and clearly noticed that much of what was being discussed reflected the things which we were doing in Luss over the last three or four years. I hope that at a meeting of the forum soon we will hear a report of exciting developments in his part of the world.

After lunch, and a brief report of an inter-faith music tour of Scotland to be held in September, we all went across to the Cathedral where we were given an excellent tour of the building, hearing again the story of St. Mungo and the building of his cathedral.



Our guide was excellent and made the stones live for us


As the tour ended, pilgrims from Paisley arrived, having completed the Whithorn to Glasgow Cathedral walk (not all at one go, but over several weeks, I understand). We had a group photo taken and they all joined us for the final discussions before the forum meeting ended. It had been an excellent get-together.

I walked back to the station with Robbie and met Laurence (the minister of the Cathedral) on the way. It was good to catch up with him, albeit briefly, before I caught my train and returned to Berwick, and from there to Mount Pleasant where Olive had a cheese and bean pie waiting for me (which I ate while watching the most recent episode of Rev).

Later, Rachel returned home and after a cup of coffee, we walked the dogs and went to bed.

I have two final pictures for today:



The Blackadder Aisle at the cathedral, named after the first Archbishop – I wonder if he had a connection with our river?


And Rowan:



Now so obedient and well-behaved, having achieved her first birthday


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Wednesday 23rd. April, 2014 --- William Shakespeare’s 450th. birthday 


At lunchtime Rachel and I planted the tree which we gave Mum for her birthday yesterday. It is a Flowering Cherry and it is positioned so that Mum can watch it from the window of her garden room


Up and walked Mix before breakfast in the farmhouse. Tom arrived and we set about the big barn, completing the setting out of the beams and spending most of the morning creating the ramp which will enable folk to get from the door up to the floor which is quite raised by the time it reaches the entrance end of the barn. We were extremely pleased with our morning’s work.

At lunchtime, while Tom was off home with Dorothy and Catriona, Rachel and I planted Mum’s tree. It looks good and Mum is pleased with it. I also listened to a bit of the Durham Somerset cricket match which unfortunately fizzled out into a draw – losing the whole of yesterday was just too much.

In the afternoon Tom and I laid floorboards in the big barn. It was quite fiddly and took a long time but the result is going to be worth it. Another afternoon should see the floor complete. With half of the floor completed, I drove Tom home and then returned to quickly change and set off with Rachel for Berwick.



This picture shows how high the floor is from the ground by the time it gets to the entrance end. In the far corner it is actually sitting on the floor – but it is going to make an excellent weaving, spinning and craft facility


In Berwick Rachel and I went for a walk before having a drink in the Maltings Theatre and attending a streaming of Romeo and Juliette from Broadway to celebrate Shakespeare’s birthday.



I took this picture of the Maltings from down below as we walked towards the bridge. It shows the old building from which the theatre was created


The play had been presented at the Richard Rogers Theatre in New York with an excellent cast. The ‘star’ – there to bring in the audiences I suspect – was Orlando Bloom but in many ways it was the rest of the cast who shone: Condola Rashad was magical as Juliette, Brent Carver (Friar Lawrence), Jayne Houdyshell (Nurse), Chuck Cooper (Capulet) and Geoffrey Owens (Escalus) were all outstanding – dominating the stage, drawing all eyes to their performances and making Shakespeare live. The audience in New York clearly enjoyed the production, I was so glad that we were able to share in it as well.

On the way home we stopped for (in my case) fishcakes and chips and once home it was time to get ready for my trip to Glasgow tomorrow, to walk Mix and to go to bed.

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Tuesday 22nd. April, 2014 – Mum’s birthday 


Birthday coffee with gingerbread – this afternoon I joined Olive and Digger for coffee with Mum on her birthday. We ate gingerbread sent to Mum through the post by a friend in Kirkaldy and made especially for Mum’s birthday


Up and set off with Rachel (and the dogs) for Pearson’s to collect a Flowering Cherry tree for Mum’s birthday. Discovered that although the trade area opened at 8 a.m. the garden centre didn’t open until nine. So we waited and returned with the tree for Mum.

While we were having breakfast, Tom and Dorothy with Catriona and her friend Martin arrived. Catriona had helped us when we were building the summer house so she was pleased to see how well it had all turned out.

Everyone set about their daily business. Mum went to the hairdresser in Duns (taken by Digger) and then she and Olive and Digger went for lunch at the Black Bull, something they all enjoyed. Rachel set about gutting the Granary kitchen and fitting new boards from which to suspend the curtains (the dogs destroyed her previous efforts). Dorothy, Martin and Catriona set off to explore Berwick and to walk the ramparts. Tom and I went off to the Barn to fix the new beams for the second half of the floor there. We worked through the day and had the job just about done by the time that Dorothy returned to collect Tom and take him home so that he could be ready for the Morris dancing in the evening. (Tom and I had gone to Pearson’s for lunch in the middle of the day and had also taken delivery of another load of flooring – which I expect we shall use tomorrow.)



The new floor beams we installed today – took a picture because by tomorrow evening they may be forever under the floor and out of sight


I went across to the farmhouse for coffee with Mum and Olive and Digger. We enjoyed some of the Gingerbread which had been sent to Mum for her birthday. Olive had also received flowers from Burntisland Church to say thank you for all of the assistance which she had given them with their accounts. (Just for completeness Amazon also delivered a new potato peeler and for me a CD of Nashville).

I took Mix for a walk and then changed before our evening meal – a birthday meal in the farmhouse for Mum at which we were joined by Scott and Sue. It’s been a day full of activity for most of us – I didn’t get to the cricket but not going was a good decision as there wasn’t a ball bowled which is all rather unfortunate as I suspect that Durham would have won. Still there is always tomorrow and if the weather is good there is potential for a good game of cricket.



A picture of Mum with her birthday cake, with Olive, Sue and Digger looking on from behind. It was a lovely meal with lots of family chat and fun, all ending up with this super cake with 91 in candles which Mum blew out in one – according to family tradition, her wish will come true


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Monday 21st. April, 2014 – Easter Monday 


I spent today at Chester-le-Street watching cricket. It was a glorious day and my camera has a superb zoom. How is this for an action shot?


I woke and walked both dogs before setting off for Durham to watch the second day of the game between Durham and Somerset. I arrived just after the game had started – the roads were busy because of the Bank Holiday I expect, but parking was straight forward and it was good to be at the cricket ground.

I started with a hot dog and then settled down in the members’ stand to watch the morning session. It was a good session to watch as a Durham supporter as five Somerset wickets fell. As the sun was shining brightly I stayed in the stand during lunch time, having another hot dog (this time with chips) and washing it down with a large orange fruity ice-lolly – it really was that kind of a day.



This Durham huddle followed a Somerset wicket – folk are a clearly excited and things are going well


Mid-way through the afternoon Somerset were dismissed and Durham went back into bat with a first innings lead of 123 runs. As it turned out they are going to need those runs as Durham wickets fell cheaply with only Jennings and Richardson batting with any real backbone. By the end of the day Durham have a lead of 275 but have only three wickets in hand. Even with all the time that is left in the game I can’t see Somerset (even with Compton batting at number eight) making 300 so there is still work to do. Fortunately Paul Collingwood is still at the crease, so there is hope!



Activity on the pitch after the Somerset innings closed as the wicket is prepared for Durham’s turn to bat


I drove home – again the traffic was quite bad but mostly going the opposite way from me. We dined in the farmhouse and then resumed watching The Killing, the DVD given by Jeff to Olive. It is good but because it is in Danish with subtitles you really have to concentrate – you can’t watch with your eyes closed. We actually watched another three episodes which means that we have so far watched ten in total – I think that we are now exactly half-way through the film!

Walked the dogs and went to bed – it has been so good today, and to think that I will be able to watch so much more cricket this year ... (retirement really does have so much to recommend it).

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Sunday 20th. April, 2014 – Easter Sunday 


I took this picture of the advance guard as they arrived at the summit


Woke at 4.20 a.m. (Rachel had stayed up all night) and we were at Tom and Dorothy’s home just after five. We all went together in Rachel’s car to a large lay-by below Cockburn Hill on the road to Abbey St. Bathan’s. With a large crowd we climbed the hill and were all on the summit for sunrise at 5.55 a.m.

We enjoyed the short service – basically the singing of three Easter hymns accompanied by a small brass band made up of the children of one family, I understand. They were very good. Youngsters had carried a cross to the summit and there were also balloons and ribbons on sticks to add to the sense of celebration.

After the service we were taken to a farmhouse with everyone else for breakfast – there was everything: sausages and roils and bacon and shortbread, coffee, tea and soft drinks.

Back home, having dropped off Tom and Dorothy, we walked the dogs and I had a shower before another breakfast in our farmhouse. Soon afterwards we set off with Mum for Gavinton Church where we heard the Easter story from Luke’s Gospel and sang Easter hymns. Again there was coffee after the service during which we helped Tom collect up the mile of pennies around the church.



There is a picture of the Good Friday garden on Friday’s entry. Today the stone has been rolled away and you can see the grave clothes lying inside the tomb


Back at the farmhouse we exchanged Easter eggs. Olive gave us all a bowl in which she has planted something (but won’t tell us what). I’ve put my bowl outside the summer house and, if I am asked to guess, I will suggest that my bowl probably contains nasturtiums – when I was a child I was given a packet of them every year on my birthday by an elderly ‘aunt’ and since then I have always been associated with these flowers (and I like them very much).



Singing gaily on this Easter morning, a welcome visitor who has built his nest on the gable wall of the Hen House


Just before lunch Alison arrived – the daughter of my very good friend from University days, Brian who lives with his wife Elizabeth in Germany. It was a pleasure to have Alison with us. I showed her around and enjoyed a lengthy chat before taking her with us to Scott and Sue’s for an evening Easter meal – the added bonus being the presence of my niece, Katy. It was a lovely meal and a superb evening and afterwards we returned home and walked the dogs before bed. It has been a long day, but a really good one.

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Sunday 20th. April, 2014 --- Happy Easter 


Dawn as seen from the top of Cockburn Hill at 5.55 a.m. this morning
Happy Easter




Rachel, Tom, Dorothy and I brought in Easter with folk from our Church and from Abbey St. Bathan's, the small village near to this hill


After a short service on the hilltop we all went to a farmhouse at Abbey St. Bathan's for breakfast. What a wonderful start to Easter, 2014.

Happy Easter!


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Saturday 19th. April, 2014 -- Holy Saturday 


Walking with Mix this morning I took this picture on my camera. It is an idyllic scene and reflects life in this beautiful place. As we walked alone in the perfect sunshine I spared a thought for Luss which must be heaving with people today if the weather is anything like it is here. Someone said that the Borders is still waiting to be discovered – I hope it waits awhile yet


Got up and breakfasted and then went and joined Rachel, Rowan and Mix who were already walking down by the little river. Mix joined me and we set off for home.

I spent the morning enjoying the weather, sitting in the summer house with the windows open, reading (and completing) my book. I have another one waiting to start: ‘By Its Cover’, the latest book by Donna Leon. It is set in Venice and I kind of regard these books as extra special. Sitting in the summer house enjoying reading it in the sunshine, I can think of no greater treat.

I lunched on pizza and then, after tidying the upstairs study, I took Mix for a lengthy walk to Gavinton – a real pleasure on such a glorious afternoon. As we walked down towards the bridge I saw this ewe and her lamb who had waded the river and were quite close to the fence. They looked at us and we lo0oked at them:



I also took this picture with a very obvious caption



Sheep may safely graze


Back home I fed Mix and soon it was time for us to set off for Berwick where we ate before attending the Maltings Theatre to see a production of David Copperfield. (We ate at the little fish and chip cafe next to the theatre – the theatre restaurant was closed for Easter this evening. I had sausage, egg and chips and enjoyed it very much. After eating we walked along Bank Street and discover a whole range of restaurants which we will try in the future.)

David Copperfield was presented by the Hotbuckle Theatre company and it was a real tour de force. Five actors, three male and two female presented all of the characters of Dickens work. One, Andrew Chevalier, played David Copperfield and was on stage for the whole of the two and a half hours of the production. The others (Fiona Leaning, Emily Lockwood, Adrian Preater and Peter Randall) presented a huge variety of characters ranging through Betsey Trotwood, Peggotty, Jane, Clara, Dora, Agnes, Emily, Mr. Murdstone, Dan Peggotty, Mr. Micawber, Ham, Barkis, Steerforth and Uriah Heep. It was all thoroughly well done. It was slick and it moved with pace. I found it to be totally captivating. It deserved a larger audience than the sixty to seventy who were present – but we all made our presence felt!



The set for tonight’s play was an excellent touring set as nearly everything would pack into the two trunks on stage. It was most effective and the various trunks and barrels were moved around by the characters to create different rooms and modes of transport as the show developed


Back home, we walked the dogs and I went to bed. Tomorrow is Easter and we have a very early start. Rachel's intention is to stay up all night, but we shall see ...

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Friday 18th. April, 2014 – Good Friday 


Digger standing in his allotment midway through the morning. It is such a glorious day – look at that sky: we could be in the Mediterranean


Arose – it is a marvellous day: the kind of day you dream about. I went for breakfast and afterwards walked Mix before going for a shower and dealing with some emails.

Then we loaded the dogs into my car and, along with Olive and Rachel, I set off for the coast, driving down to the Barn at Beal where we had lunch (for me a huge bowl of tomato soup followed by scampi and chips). I had been anxious to get there quickly because I had thought that with the weather as it was and with it being a Bank Holiday (and a school holiday) everywhere would have been crowded, but that was not the case. We got a table without any problem and outside we could see the ewes with their lambs:



What a lovely day to be a lamb and to be discovering and exploring in such a beautiful place


After lunch we drove across the causeway onto Holy Island where we parked the car among the sand-dunes and went for a walk with the dogs. The beach was glorious, quite quiet and expansive as the tide was out. The dogs loved their walk.



If we had weather like this all the time then no one would ever go abroad




A picture of Olive and Rachel setting off into the sand-dunes to find the car


Having walked the dogs, we drove back into Berwick and made for HomeBase and Marks and Spencer where we bought, respectively, Teak Oil to refurbish garden furniture and Easter eggs for Sunday morning. We drove home and I then spent the last of the afternoon in the summer house (with the windows open) reading my book.

Rachel spent the rest of the afternoon in the garden and Digger continued hard at work in his allotment. He is clearly over his operation and enjoying being back at work in his garden (although he tells me that digging is still quite hard).

Mum has been absent today because she attended her book group this afternoon, continuing her study of novels written in or about Africa. Today she was in Sierra Leone having read a book (The Memory of Love by Aminatta Forna) which I think she found quite harrowing. Amazon describes the book as ‘a heartbreaking story of ordinary people in extraordinary circumstances’.

We dined at six (as usual this week) so that we could go to the Good Friday Service at Gavinton.



At the front of the church there was this little Good Friday Garden with the sealed tomb – appropriate as we read the story of the Passion and sang some of the great Passiontide hymns


Later we watched some television (the most recent episode of Endeavour and an episode of Rev which I had missed) before walking the dogs and bed. We are told to expect more of the same glorious weather tomorrow. It will be wonderful if it happens.

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Thursday 17th. April, 2014 -- Maundy Thursday 


The cement mixer was back in action today as we set about building the second part of the floor in the big barn


I awoke, walked Mix and breakfasted (on porridge) in the farm house. Tom arrived and we set about the task for the day which was to build the dwarf walls in the barn to hold the beams, to hold the floorboards on the other half of the barn from the half we have already floored.

We spent the morning moving cement blocks into place. When they didn’t fit, Tom broke them into size. By the end of the morning everything was in place but not fixed. That was the task for the afternoon. Tom went off home for lunch, joining Rachel and Dorothy who were spending the morning working on their glass projects in Dorothy’s kitchen.

I had some rolls – salami and cheese with pickle – and by the time I was finished Tom had arrived and we set to work again. We loaded up the cement mixer and prepared cement and then went around cementing the dwarf walls into place. First time around we ran out of cement so we made another load and this time we had a huge amount left over so Rachel and I set about using the excess to point the walls of the Granary, taking in hand the one item which the surveyor’s report had indicated as something which should be done.

Then we walked the dogs and ended up speaking with Chris who is in charge of the work at the bridge which is being repaired between our house and Duns. He is clearly an expert on everything to do with stones and he recommended that we use a mixture of four parts sand to one part cement, that we use white sand and that we have a sponge in our hands at all times. We’ll take that advice next time.

We dined in the farmhouse at six before setting off for Cranshaws for the Maundy Thursday service at which Rachel was reading the Bible passages.



A picture of Cranshaws Kirk bathed in evening sunlight. I stopped to take the picture while Mum walked on towards the church


It was a lovely communion service and afterwards we drove back home through Duns, stopping at the Co-op to buy some Easter eggs. Back home Rachel and I watched the final part of 'Shetland', set partly in Fair Isle and partly in Luss Village Hall (masquerading as the Fair Isle Village Hall taken over as a police incident room).

On Newsnight I saw that there had been an official unveiling of the Kelpies – the two massive horses' heads on the Stirling to Edinburgh Road by the canal. It reminded me that I had seen them last week on my drive home from a meeting in Stirling. They looked stupendous.

Mix and I went for a late night walk and then retired to bed.

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Wednesday 16th. April, 2014 – A day of bits and pieces 


Spring has been heralded not only by the arrival of many birds but also by the appearance of more tractors than I have ever seen before. At one stage there were three working on this field just across the road from Mount Pleasant. I am looking forward to charting work on the fields around us during this year


Woke, walked Mix and had breakfast in the farmhouse. Started work in the summer house preparing the music for Arrochar this Sunday and then completed collecting together all of our tools and putting them in the tool chest in the Hen House. Digger borrowed the lawnmower and it wasn’t long before he was back to tell me that bolts had come loose and the lawnmower was disabled. In fact the bolt had got damaged by the cutter when it came out but I rescued it and Rachel took it with her when she went into Duns at lunch time and managed to get a duplicate which I fitted and Digger was able to continue with the grass cutting.

I lunched on rolls with cheese and pickled onions and then did a bit of sorting in the Hen House before spending some more time in the summer house (always having the radio on through the computer so that I could follow Durham’s cricket match against Northamptonshire, which turned into a real thriller, ending in a draw, with Durham requiring just one wicket to clinch victory.)

We dined at six and then Mum, Rachel and I went off to Berwick to attend the Holy Week Service which today was following the order used by the Anglican Church in Botswana. The service was led by an Anglican Vicar from Wearmouth who had superintended the diocesan link with Botswana over the last twelve years. The service was lively and the vicar was an able communicator. I loved being part of it and I loved the communion liturgy he presented to us.

We drove home and after watching a bit of television (another two episodes of the Killing – at this rate we will complete the film by Pentecost), we walked the dogs and retired to bed. (Should report that my parcel from Amazon eventually arrived today – I had complained to Amazon that it was two days late and Amazon have given me an extra month’s membership of Prime without charge: so it does pay to complain if service is not up to scratch.)

Should also report that after such beautiful weather yesterday, today was blustery and really quite cold and I was glad of my fleece when Rachel and I walked the dogs late in the afternoon. We saw that the work on the bridge is well up to schedule and, in fact, work has started on dismantling the scaffolding on the southern side of the bridge.



A picture of the bridge. It was after five but work is continuing and part of the scaffolding on this side of the bridge has already been taken down.




I handed Mix over to Rachel while I took the picture of the bridge. For some reason Mix took a dislike to being handed over to Rachel and she had a job holding on to him


It’s fun and every day is different here at Mount Pleasant.

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Tuesday 15th. April, 2014 It feels like mid-summer 


Not much of a picture, I know, but it reflects today. We have all been doing lots of odds and ends; the sun has been shining (look at that shadow), and the dogs have been looking on. In this picture Rachel is demolishing the bit of fence that still remains from the one which signally failed to survive the winds of autumn and winter – so that I can get into this area of the garden and cut the grass


Woke and got up in time for breakfast at nine. Rachel had already taken both dogs out for a walk. Tom arrived and in no time at all the edge of the new floor had been treated with silicone. We got out the lawn-mower and set it up (Tom making sure that there was exactly the right amount of oil in the machine). While Tom went off to pick up his grand-son, I drove Mum to Duns for her hairdressing appointment, picking up petrol for the mower on the way back.

I put the new tool-chest together and, with help from Rachel, moved it into the Hen House. Next we started the mower and used it until it jammed (just a simple mistake of thinking the highest setting was the lowest setting – Tom just shook his head and smiled).

I lunched while I watched the news while Rachel collected Mum from Duns; (Digger was away visiting the bank in Berwick and Olive worked on some Church accounts). Unfortunately a swallow had got into one of the barns while Digger was getting stuff out of it and so Tom had to read the riot act to the offending swallow (after which it meekly left the building). Rachel has now put up little notices on each barn advising swallows that there has been a change of policy and that while they are extremely welcome to nest in the exterior eaves of the barns, they should not venture inside. (The notices also serve to remind us to keep the doors closed.)

I spent a bit of time cutting grass around the summer house and then collecting tools for the tool chest, while Rachel varnished the floor in what will be her new loom room. And all the while the sun shone – it is a spectacular day; the kind of day which makes you glad to be alive (to be honest the kind of day which used to always happen when I had so much work to so and so I could never really enjoy. Well, now I can.)



Of course, we found time to walk the dogs and on the walk I took this picture of the white blossom which is all around us on the trees. Rachel tells me that it is crab apple. It may well be, but to me it is a sign that Spring is here and that Summer is on the way


We dined early and then Rachel, Mum and I went off to Berwick for the Holy Week service which today was based on the Scottish Episcopal Church’s Order. The lady priest stressed how different they were from their Presbyterian (and Anglican) colleagues and then started her service with a Metrical psalm – arguably one of Presbyterianism’s greatest gifts to the world church family – and ended her service with one of John Bell’s songs, perhaps a modern equivalent. Again, as with last night, I enjoyed the service based on John’s Gospel rather than the more traditional synoptic approach to Holy Week, and then we came back to Mount Pleasant where we watched some television (another two episodes of The Killing which is turning out to be another magnus opus) before it was time to walk the dogs and go to bed.

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Monday 14th. April, 2014 – Monday in Holy Week and we make great progress 


The afternoon has come to an end and the first half of the new floor in the barn has been installed. It may not look level but I promise you that it is and that everything else is off line! It is also exceedingly strong and will hold the loom with no problem at all. I think that it is a work of art


Up and walked Mix. The day dawned glorious – I have turned over in my mind whether that should be gloriously but have come to the conclusion that glorious is correct. If the day had dawned gloriously that would be a comment on how the day dawned but what I want to express is that when day dawned, the day that dawned was glorious. So now you know – and what is more important is that you catch an idea of how beautiful everything is today. The sun is shining the colours are bright, and Mum spent all morning outside either pottering in the garden or sitting in her seat.

Tom and I started work on fitting the flooring onto the beams in the big barn. We had done much of the basic work by lunch time when we went off to Pearson’s to collect some more supplies and to have lunch (leek and potato soup followed by Macaroni cheese, washed down with Ginger Beer). Working through the afternoon we got the floor totally completed by stopping time. Rachel, who had been out at Duns for much of the day, was going to varnish the floor but that has been put off until tomorrow because instead we had an early supper and then drove into Duns with Mum to attend a Monday in Holy Week Service (there isn’t one here).

I enjoyed the service (it was in the Anglican Parish Church but was based on a Norwegian Lutheran Communion Service), after which we came home and watched a bit of television (episodes two and three of The Killing with Mum and Olive) before walking Mix and retiring for the night. It has been a great day and the sunshine made it even greater.

(By the by, my Saturday order from Amazon arrived today – but the order I was expecting today didn’t arrive at all. I had Mum waiting for my Amazon order and a black gentleman arrived at the door. Mum went to speak to him and he said that he was making a delivery to Duns – he was clearly disconcerted because the road to Duns was closed and was looking for directions – ‘Are you from Amazon?’ asked Mum. ‘No,’ the gentleman replied, ‘I’m from Africa.’)

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Sunday 13th. April, 2014 – Palm Sunday 


At Church the fund-raising committee is plotting a circle of coins right around the building (a total of 255 feet). We have just begun


Today is Palm Sunday and, after showering, having breakfast and walking Mix, we set off for Gavinton Church (Rachel, Mum and I). At the door we received our Palm Cross, our Order of Service and our hymn book. The service consisted of two reflections and a litany (with, of course, prayers and appropriate Bible readings). The first reflection was on the theme of today, Palm Sunday, and contrasted the arrival of Jesus to Jerusalem with the almost simultaneous arrival of Pontius Pilate – the one to challenge and overthrow, the other to maintain and defend. Remembering that those who cried Hosanna later shouted Crucify, it was a challenge to remember where we stood. The litany, from a book by David Ogston, was a litany about people’s needs and the prayer to God to supply those needs – the idea of opening a window figured in the litany and this was picked up in the second reflection which invited us to meditate on three imaginary icons as windows into the events of Holy Week – Palm Sunday, the Crucifixion and the Harrowing of Hell – deliberately challenging us to think about these events because it is all too easy to go directly from Palm Sunday to Easter Day, missing out all that is in between.

After the service we joined the congregation for coffee and then, having dropped Mum off at home, we went off to Tweedmouth, to Halfords, to buy a tool chest in which to store all of the tools and equipment which we are accumulating. I had seen one at a bargain price on the internet and wanted to see what it looked like in reality. My surprise was that it was a half-again more expensive in the shop. I told the assistant that I thought I had seen it advertised so much cheaper on the internet web-site and he immediately said, ‘Let’s look and see’. It came up as I had thought and the assistant immediately said, ‘That's OK, you can have it for the internet price.’ Now that’s great, but what if I hadn’t looked at the internet last night? It’s like the railway ticket bought for me yesterday. If you don’t know what you are doing, you pay more. Surely that can’t be right. Anyway, now I have a tool chest which will fit under the stairs in the Hen House and will free the kitchen and the spare room from being tool depositories.



Sue’s birthday lunch


Back home, Sue and Scott came to join us all in the farmhouse for a lunch to celebrate Sue’s birthday. It was a lovely lunch, soup, ham with all the trimmings and birthday cake, washed down with wine and coffee. Afterwards we talked the afternoon away until it was time for Rachel to drive to Berwick for Evensong and Scott and Sue to return home. I took both dogs for a walk and at 7.30 p.m. we assembled in the Granary to watch Sunshine on Leith, a DVD which Scott had brought for Mum earlier in the afternoon. It was good and I thoroughly enjoyed it. I loved the final dance sequence on Princes Street but I did find myself wishing that some of the songs had a few more lyrics.

Later I walked Mix and retired to bed with my book. It is very light. I am fluctuating between the writings of the Venerable Bede and Edward Marston’s latest railway detective novel ‘A Ticket to Oblivion’. Tonight it is the latter (and I am enjoying it very much). Of course, I also kept my eye on the final round of the Augusta Masters (won in some style by Bubba Watson).

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Saturday 12th. April, 2014 – Housework! 


A view over the ploughed fields of Mount Pleasant in the distance, taken as I walked Mix this afternoon


Slept in until nine and then had a leisurely breakfast before starting work on the spare room in the Granary. I worked at it all day, stopping briefly for lunch, and then walked Mix along Bramble Avenue which is all green with Spring bursting out everywhere. I loved the yellow gorse and birds are singing from every tree.



I love the colour of the Gorse bushes – and they bring back so many memories. Perhaps the most vivid, and the least happy, is of the days when I was learning to play golf on the Alyth Golf Course. Every hole seemed to be lined with gorse, and every hole my ball seemed to end up in it – but it did look good


Back home, I fed Mix and then we welcomed Mum, Olive and Digger for a meal at the Granary to celebrate Olive’s retirement. We dined well – antipasto Italiano, spaghetti Bolognese, and some cheese and fruit to round everything off (well, we did follow that with coffee and grappa) – and then we watched the start of a DVD series which had been given to Olive by Jeff. It’s called The Killing and is in Danish with English subtitles. Already after just one episode, we are gripped.



We have reached the cheese stage in our meal in the Granary


After watching the conclusion of the third day of the Augusta Masters Golf, I walked Mix and went to bed. A good day.

I am to go to Glasgow to a meeting of the Scottish Pilgrim Routes Forum a week on Thursday. I asked Olive (who is an expert at these matters) to get me a cheap train ticket because a standard return from Berwick to Glasgow would cost me £70. She has got me a ticket to Glasgow for £5 and a return (during the rush hour) for £9 – but the £9 journey is first class! Not bad.

Less good was the service I received from DPD who deliver items for Amazon. They sent me a text to say that they would deliver a book between one and two pm. We waited but the delivery didn’t happen. Knowing the delivery was due I had Mum on stand-by looking out for the delivery but the time passed and eventually I got an email to say that they had tried to deliver the parcel and as no one was here they had left a card to say it couldn’t be delivered. No such card had been left, and no one had come to the farm house. I can be sure of that because there were five of us here all afternoon, and with three lively dogs on the premises it is just not possible for someone to come and us not to know about it. A couple of weeks ago, I came out to see a driver from DPD leaving the parcel by the gate and when I asked if I should sign for it he said it’s not necessary. Why did it become necessary on this occasion? No, the driver just didn’t come and has pretended we weren’t at home.

Now, I don’t really mind if a parcel can’t be delivered – it may be that the driver couldn’t find the way because one of the local roads is closed; or it may be that something else occurred. The company did contact us to say the parcel wasn’t being delivered. What I object to is getting an email saying the parcel couldn’t be delivered because there was no one here, and saying that a card had been left with us when that wasn’t true. Normally we get good service from delivery firms here in the Borders, I’m hoping that this is just a one off..... And that's Victor Meldrew signing off for tonight! (and I have emailed DPD to say how displeased I am.)

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Friday 11th. April, 2014 Progress under attack! 


Rachel unveils a new kilt in the Red Fraser tartan. For the past three days it has been under weights being pressed. Today it was revealed, packed and dispatched to its owner for whom it will provide three generations of wear


Up and walked Mix along with Rachel and Rowan. Enjoyed breakfast in the farmhouse with Mum. Digger was driving Olive to Berwick to catch a train to Burntisland where she was to help a congregation with their annual accounts. Rachel was getting ready to go to Duns to send off a kilt which she has just completed. It looks really smart.

Tom arrived and the first thing we saw was a swallow – we just got our defences completed in time and, in fact, all morning we were bombarded by swallows who were trying to fight their way into the barn on which we were working. It really was like being under attack.

Progress was good. We have half of the floor fitted with beams – this is a lengthy process as every beam has to be levelled both with itself and with all of the other beams. But by the end of the afternoon we had the first half completed and on Monday we shall start to put the floor down on this part of the barn.



The picture shows Digger giving us a line to enable us to position the first floor board so that it will run into the corner of the barn which we have not yet built up. Everything about the barn is off the square, so nothing is quite as easy as we had imagined. But, once it is finished, everything will look superb. The height of the beams from the floor at the middle of the barn shows the variations of floor level (the beams are sitting on the floor in the right hand corner of the barn)


I stopped at lunch time and made myself a pizza and, at the end of the afternoon, Mix and I went for a walk before supper. Rachel and Mum were off to Galashiels in the afternoon – they explored where we used to live and Rachel collected some travelling rugs which were being washed after coming off the loom.



When Mix and I walked down past the bridge this afternoon it was clear that the workers have made great progress with rebuilding the bridge. The other parapet was worked on first and now this northern parapet is all but complete and is looking really good. They have done well


In the evening we watched some television (the final episode of Silk – rather sad) before walking the dogs and retiring to bed.

We are making progress – and it is fun.

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Thursday 10th. April, 2014 – A leisurely trip to Stirling 


I took this picture of Stirling Castle from King’s Park in Stirling – the park is close to where my meeting was held this afternoon and as I arrived early I had time for a wander before the meeting began


There was a leisurely feel to everything today. I got up in a leisurely manner, I enjoyed a leisurely shower, I had a leisurely breakfast and I walked Rowan and Mix together – the two of them combining to ensure that the walk was extremely leisurely as they played and discovered and explored together.

Mid morning I set off for Stirling and, as I was in no hurry, I experimented by driving to Greenlaw and then up the A68 to Edinburgh, something I hadn’t done before. I was early when I arrived at the Laurelhill Business Park and so I went for a walk in the King’s Park – well equipped with tennis courts, a skateboarding arena, play-park and much more.

The meeting I was attending was the management committee of the Scottish Pilgrim Routes Forum and after a sandwich lunch we got down to business. Much of our discussion centred around the plans for the full forum meeting in Glasgow in a fortnight’s time and around the plans for the Scottish Pilgrimage Gathering in Fife later in the year but there are a great number of other things going on as well: the adoption of a new constitution, an examination of funding opportunities, pilgrim route development and so on. These are exciting times for pilgrimage in Scotland.

I drove home down the A1 and arrived just before seven thinking I had to drive Mum to a meeting of the WRI, but she had made other arrangements. I dined with Olive and Digger (Rachel was away singing in Berwick) and then I watched a bit of television (an old episode of Silk) before walking Mix and retiring to bed. Tomorrow it is back to work with Tom (I suspect that the cement will now have hardened and we can get on with flooring the barn). I also learned that the first swallow had been seen in Mount Pleasant today – the very day after we had completed our defences. We’ll see how they measure up.

It has been a happy day.

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Wednesday 9th. April, 2014 – Olive’s last day at work 


This morning over breakfast we were discussing Edrom. None of us knew where is was but its name had come up twice in recent weeks. Once we were told that we lived in the parish of Edrom and on a second occasion we were told that we came under the catchment area of the Edrom Community Council. So on our way for wood this morning Tom and I drove to Edrom which turns out to be a tiny village almost three miles from Duns along the Chirnside road and then off to the left. We saw the old Manse and visited the Church where we learned that the parish of Edrom was established in the early twelfth century and granted to St. Cuthbert’s monks based in Lindisfarne or Durham. This was confirmed by King David I in 1139 and the original church was built shortly afterwards.

By the end of the fourteenth century the church was controlled by Coldinham Priory. A new chapel (which still remains) was added in 1499 by Archbishop Blackadder.

Most of the present church was rebuilt in 1732 and in 1886. It was good to see it from the outside – sometime soon we hope to visit its interior.


Up early and drove Olive to Berwick to catch her train to Dundee for the last time (for her present employment at any rate). Back home, Mix and I went straight to the summer house where I completed the music for Arrochar and sent it off by email to Jamie. Then I finally completed captioning the photographs which I put on this blog on 2nd. April. They are the pictures which document my visit to Bede’s World last week – a visit which made a big impression me and have led to me spending quite a bit of time since then reading about the life and times of Bede.

These tasks completed there was still time for Mix and I to go for a long walk before breakfast in the farmhouse at nine.

Tom arrived and we completed our assessment of what required to be done to make the barns swallow-proof. (I like swallows but the damage they will do to our possessions if they are allowed to nest alongside them is unbelievable. I said to Tom that I was feeling guilty about it and he remarked that why didn’t I make a nice little nest in the house for the farmyard rats to set up home? I have ordered ten swallow-nesting-boxes which we will fit up under the eaves to make the swallows feel welcome after their long journey from southern climes.)

We went off to Pearsons to buy wood and screws (visiting Edrom on the way) and then we boxed in all of the barn ventilators to ensure their security. Finally we went around filling in any holes with plastic bubble-wrap which we will then cover over with cement when we have the cement mixer in operation in the next few days.

Everything was completed by around four at which point Tom went home to get ready for his bee keeper’s meeting this evening. I got washed and settled down in the summer house to get ready for the meeting I am attending tomorrow in Stirling -- it is a meeting of the executive of the Scottish Pilgrim Routes Forum.

Soon it was time to drive to Berwick and collect Olive who is now officially retired. We had a lovely meal in the farmhouse (preceded by Champaign in honour of the retirement) and then retired to the Granary. We will celebrate Olive’s retirement more fully at the weekend but this evening she is tired and anxious to catch up on her lost sleep!

Back in the Granary we watched an episode of Inspector Gently followed by the News. There is becoming more and more discussion about the Referendum – that’s good – but so much of it seems to be predicated on the assumption that were there to be a yes vote then somehow Scotland and the rest of the UK would become almost enemies. The thing which has struck me when I have visited Scandinavia, for example, is how countries work in partnership together. Whatever the result of the referendum I would hope that Scotland and the rest of the United Kingdom continue to work in partnership and regard each other as the friends we undoubtedly are. Wishing to work in partnership and wishing to have control of one’s own country to adopt one’s own policies on, for example, social provision and equality, do not seem to me to be mutually exclusive. We need to continue to have the debate but without the threats from either side – not least because such threats always seem to backfire against the party, whichever it is, that makes them.

I walked Mix and went to bed. I have really enjoyed today.

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Tuesday 8th. April, 2014 – a change of plan 


A picture of Tom on my new ladder fixing the ventilation shaft on the roof of one of the barns


I awoke this morning in the middle of a very confusing dream. I haven’t a clue what it was about (I couldn't even remember any of the details) but it felt as if it had been going on all night and didn’t seem to make much sense.

I got up and walked Mix before breakfast and then met with Tom. Our plan had been to start to fix the floor beams in the large barn but unfortunately the cement had not cured, so that will have to wait until later. This challenged us to think about our timetable. We were rushing on, in part, so that once the floor had been laid we could move everything from the other large barn into this one and so secure everything from the damage done by the swallows who are due to arrive before very long. We decided that instead of doing this we would try to make the other barn ‘swallow proof’. The first thing we did was to unpack my new ladder, discovering in the interim that the ladder was damaged (with a hole in the aluminium not far from the base). We telephoned the company who immediately agreed to collect it on Thursday and deliver another one in its place.

With the ladder we examined first the ventilation sections of the roof. At present these are protected (inadequately) with wire netting. We accessed the one ventilation area which could only be got at from the main road and, taking advantage of the fact that the road is closed at present, we boxed it in with wood. Tomorrow we will buy additional wood so that we can do the same things for the other side of that barn and for the other large barn.

Next we uncovered all of the pipe ventilators in the exterior walls of the barn and stuffed them with plastic bubble wrap. Next time we have the cement mixer in operation we will complete that task. We checked the windows and made a temporary closing for the door. Another task which will be completed tomorrow. Finally I went on line and ordered ten swallow nesting boxes so that we can fit these under the eaves of the different barns and provide accommodation for the birds we will have made homeless on their return from Africa. That seems fair to me.

Tom went off to collect a bit for his trailer and I welcomed Robin and Helen, my friends from Bishopbriggs days. We had a picnic lunch in the summer house, I showed them around our projects, and then we went for a walk across the bridge and down one of the local country lanes. The sun was shining brightly and it was a lovely walk. Back home we discovered that Jim, a friend of Mum’s (and of mine) from Dundee days, was visiting. We all had afternoon tea together in the Granary before first Jim and then Robin and Helen set off for home.

I came across to the summer house to start work on the music for Arrochar next Sunday and soon it was time for our evening meal after which Rachel and I retired to the Granary and relaxed in front of the stove (and the television. We watched Shetland, which included a scene filmed in the village hall at Luss -- although the village hall was masquerading as the village hall in Fair Isle). It has been another very good day.

Walked Mix and went to bed.

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Monday 7th. April, 2014 – The work begins (and the cricket season begins at Durham) 


My ‘new’ cement mixer (bought at a recent agricultural market) was in action for the first time today


I was up early today, leaving Mount Pleasant by six-thirty to get Olive to Berwick in time for her train. Still, this is her second last day at work.

Back home I walked Mix and then we went for breakfast in the farmhouse. Soon afterwards Tom arrived and we started work. The task for today was to build dwarf walls on which to set the beams on which will be laid the floor for the big barn. So I learned several new skills including how to operate a cement mixer, the quantities of sand and cement to use and how to tip it all into a wheel-barrow. I learned how to cement the cement blocks onto the floor against the wall and how to point the walls in the barn; and I learned how to clean the cement mixer when we were finished! All of this took most of the day – we did stop for coffee with Mum at the end of the morning shift and Rachel, Tom and I spent a wee while in the summer house at the end of the day, but otherwise we were hard at it. Now we have the beams all cut to size and, provided that the cement has set by tomorrow, we shall start the day by setting out the beams. It has been a satisfying day.

I had wondered about going down to Durham today to be present at the first day of the cricket season (Durham are playing the university) however I was glad I didn’t as the day’s play was washed out without a ball being bowled. Our season is one day old and we have already lost a whole day’s play! I hope that this isn’t an omen of all that is to come this summer.

I walked Mix and had a shower before supper and then I watched the final of University Challenge before setting off to Berwick to collect Olive and bring her home. (The train was late so I had a chance to watch the Panorama programme about bailiffs mistreating people with parking fine arrears. It was a horrifying programme.) Before bed I watched Rev on the television and I walked Mix. Another good day.

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Sunday 6th. April, 2014 – The Fifth Sunday of Lent and we visit another church 


Here we are, Mum, Tom and Rachel, outside Cranshaws Kirk in the tiny and fairly remote village of that name


Up and showered before walking Mix and breakfasting in the farmhouse. We then set off for Cranshaws not really knowing how long it would take to get there. In fact we were in good time and we had a moment or two to have a look around before the service started.

The Church is an ancient building beside a tiny village which appeared to us to consist of a church, a village hall, the manse and just two or three houses. Everything seemed to be very old. I took some photographs:



This is a picture of the door through which we entered Church. If only it could speak it would have many a tale to tell




A view of the Church from the back. I was struck by how well cared-for the building is. I’m told that one of the local farmers makes sure that it is kept in really good condition




This royal crest is on the wall on the opposite side from the pulpit. I was told this morning that it is in the care of the Lord Lyon King of Arms and that it goes back to the visit of King James IV before Flodden. King James was taken aback that the minister neglected to pray for his royal personage and had this crest installed as a perpetual reminder of his (the preacher’s) responsibilities. (I noted that we did not pray for royalty in the service this morning)




An offering bag lying on the communion table – what’s special about this is that I was told that the offering bags in use here were donated by the Reverend George Matheson, the blind Church of Scotland minister who lived between 1842 and 1906 and who wrote ‘Make me a captive, Lord’ and ‘O Love that wilt not let me go’. I wonder what was his connection with Cranshaws?


There was a good attendance at the service. Up until now we have had a service at Gavinton and then, twice a month, there has been a service later on at Cranshaws. However, slipping attendances at Cranshaws had put the future of worship there at doubt. The solution agreed was to have only one service every Sunday: on the first Sunday at Cranshaws and on the second, third and fourth Sundays at Gavinton. If it keeps this little church alive I will be happy to make the journey here once a month.

In the old days this would have been Passion Sunday and Ann presented us with the traditional lectionary readings for today, including Ezekiel’s vision of the valley of dry bones and John’s account of the raising of Lazarus (on which she spoke, challenging us to respond to Jesus' question to Martha, ‘I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?’)

After the service we shared in coffee at the back of the Church – it was just like being back at Arrochar!



There is always a happy hubbub after a service when things have gone well and everyone is content


We drove home, visiting the Co-op on the way, and soon it was time to lunch in the farmhouse. Sundays are excellent!

In the afternoon, while Rachel worked on her kilt, I watched cricket in the summer house. The English women had already lost out to Australia in the women’s final of the T20 cup and in the men’s final between Sri Lanka and India, Sri Lanka deservedly came out on top – it was good because some of their best players were playing their final matches before retiring from this form of the game.

It was an afternoon of sport, Great Britain lost their quarter-final match in the Davis Cup (Andy Murray just wasn’t good enough on this occasion), Lewis Hamilton won the Malayan Grand Prix, Oxford won the boat race after a clash of oars which broke part of the rigging in the Cambridge boat, and (keeping the best until last) Raith Rovers won the Ramsden Cup defeating Rangers 1 – 0 in the final after extra time. It was all very exciting! (In the middle of it all, Peter and Veronica arrived on their motor bike to visit Digger and Olive.) Rachel and I enjoyed afternoon tea with cream cakes in the Granary.

Rachel went off to the evening service at the Anglican Church in Berwick and on her return we had supper together and watched a bit of television. (The latest episode of Endeavour which was genuinely intriguing and quite fun. I also watched the News both on ITV and on BBC. On neither did it mention either that the England women’s team had been runner up in the T20 world cup, nor that Sri Lanka had won the T20 world cup – strange.)

It has been a lovely day – a relaxing day, and a happy day. But this week is going to be a busy one and a hard-working one.

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Saturday 5th. April, 2014 – A retirement kind of a day 


This afternoon we went for a walk along the disused railway line not far from where we live. We’d been here before but the dogs seem to enjoy it and I like to look over the surrounding fields, some with animals in them, some with crops


Slept in this morning – not at all by accident, I told the farmhouse folk not to expect me for breakfast before going to bed last night. I got up about ten-thirty and made my way to the summer house where I read a book and listened to some music, notably Mozart’s oboe quartet which I had so enjoyed last night.

I joined Rachel for a spot of lunch in the Granary (oatcakes and cheese) while Rachel was working on a couple of kilts which are nearing completion. Then it was back to the summer house to read and listen to music – it is my absolute idea of being retired and it is almost the first day I have had the opportunity to do it (and with the swallows forecast to arrive in a fortnight or so I really should have been working).

I met Olive’s friends, Simon and Peter, who had come to see her about their accountancy exams and I had coffee with Mum and the others in the farmhouse and then, later in the afternoon, Rachel and I packed the dogs into the car and drove up to the old railway line where we went for a wander before popping in to the Co-op on the way home and buying some bits and pieces for supper tomorrow.

We all dined together in the summer house and afterwards we watched last week’s episode of Endeavour so that we are all set for tomorrow’s instalment.

Afterwards I walked Mix and retired to bed. It has been a lovely day and I have enjoyed every moment of it. Unfortunately I haven’t yet been retired long enough not to feel just a tiny bit guilty at having a day of such self-centred relaxation and indulgence, but then, why else did I build my summer house? And this week is going to be a busy one.



I got this envelope enclose a guitar capo I ordered from Amazon a few days ago. It came all the way from China (I had no idea I was ordering from China) but it was the custom declaration that caught my eye. It declares to the customs officers that it is a gift – well, I certainly paid for it – and it declares that what is in the envelope is a Card Charger. It certainly isn’t. It was the guitar capo I ordered and paid for in the usual way. I might have expected this from ebay but I was surprised to discover this from Amazon.


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Friday 4th. April, 2014 – A day of bits and pieces 


The new (and first of many) floor-beam may not look horizontal – but it is absolutely so, as the spirit-level proves (it is just that everything else is off-line)!


Up and went to breakfast with Marie and Robbie in the farmhouse. Tom arrived to join us, as did Rachel. It was another rotten day with continuous rain during the morning. After breakfast Robbie and Marie set off for home, we had enjoyed having them with us enormously.

Soon afterwards the lorry arrived with our supplies from Pearsons. We got it unloaded and then spent some time getting things into the barn. By the time we got the first floor beam positioned (above) it was time to stop for lunch. Tom went off home as he had to change and go to an appointment in the afternoon. I joined Digger and Olive in the farmhouse and met their friends Alice and Susan who were visiting.

After some lunch in the Granary, ( the left-overs of a cheese and bean pie), I went out to the summer house and prepared the music files for the service at Arrochar this Sunday. I also got a file from Rachel to send to Luss.

As Tom was not coming back today, I walked Mix (with Rachel and Rowan) and went for a hot shower before changing and setting off for Berwick with Rachel to visit the Maltings where we had a drink in the bar. We were the first customers in the bar so I took a picture which catches something of the atmosphere of the place. It is very theatrical and quite cosy as well:



We made our way into the studio theatre where we listened to the Royal Northern Sinfonia present an excellent programme. It started with Purcell’s Fantasias for String Quartet and Mozart’s Oboe Quartet in F major, K370 and the second half consisted of Schubert’s String Quartet in D minor, ‘Death and Maiden’. It was an excellent programme, superbly performed and I loved it.



I took this picture before the performance began. The little theatre was full and the tabs had been drawn back so that there was quite a lot of natural light. We could see out of the windows to the right of the auditorium and it made everything a bit more airy


We drove home and Rachel made us some spaghetti which we ate while watching the most recent episode of Shetland. After the glories of the music I think that I dozed during the television programme but I woke up to walk Mix before making my way to bed. It has been a good day.

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Thursday 3rd. April, 2014 – Poor weather, good company 


I had never (to my knowledge) been to St. Abb’s Head before. Here I was looking down on the harbour. It was an enchanting little village


Rose and walked Mix before breakfast. Tom arrived and he and I set off for Pearson’s while Rachel and Dorothy set off for Berwick and a day in the glass studio. Tom and I bought more Calor gas, some sand and cement and ordered more wood beams, flooring and cement blocks which we will start to use tomorrow.

Tom set off for home and I loaded Mum, Robbie and Marie into my car and we set off for a day’s adventure. The weather was wet and, frankly, horrible, but we were determined not to let that discourage us. We drove first of all to Reston, a small village close to Berwick. It was here that Mum used to have a holiday home. We found the house which is now up for sale so we were able to peer into the windows and have a look around. It brought back happy memories to Mum which she shared with Marie and Robbie as I drove on.



As there was no-one about we crept into the garden of Mum’s old house and I took this picture of her


We came to Eyemouth, parked at the harbour and went for a walk along the front and then through the town, ending up back at the harbour where we enjoyed an excellent lunch in The Contented Sole. I had scampi (in batter) and chips, followed by black forest gateaux with ice cream and chocolate sauce. Wonderful. We left contented and drove on.



I suspect that this stall might have been open had the weather been a little better – but then I might not have had the opportunity of photographing Mum, Marie and Robbie with an Eyemouth prawn


We drove through Coldingham (site of an ancient Priory) and came to St. Abb’s. We visited the relatively new Visitor Centre (opened in 2011) and looked down at the little harbour and the seas all around.



Mum, Robbie and Marie above the little harbour at St. Abb’s


Getting back into the car we drove to Berwick where we made for a little cafe called Thistle Do Nicely. The reason for our visit is that it is run by the son of a friend of Marie’s. I dropped my three passengers at the door and went off to park the car. On my return I found them ensconced in the cafe. What I wasn’t aware of was that they had found the cafe closed but knocked on the window to gain admittance – the cafe had closed early because of the atrocious weather but was happy to open up again for Marie!




Robbie, Marie and Mum in the Thistle Do Nicely – clean plates and empty cups: we had done extremely nicely, thank you (you can tell that my photographic activity was beginning to wear everyone down)!


From here, with coffee and chocolate cake inside me, I drove on to Duns where we looked at our town and bought some wine before returning home via Gavinton so that we could visit Tom and Dorothy and meet their goats and hens. Robbie and Marie were delighted to see Tom and Dorothy’s home and were fascinated by all that they are doing. Finally we showed them our church at Gavinton before coming back home.



Dorothy feeding her goats




Dorothy showing off her first piece of glass art


I walked Mix, lit the fire, drove Mum into Duns to attend a performance of Me and My Gal in which her hairdresser was appearing, and then had supper with Marie, Robbie, Digger and Olive. (Rachel had returned from her glass-making day but was now back in Berwick singing in the choir). Afterwards I had a long chat with Robbie (putting the world to rights as we had always done in the past) and then we all watched Question Time together in the Granary before Rachel and I walked the dogs. It had been a superlative day.

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Wednesday 2nd. April, 2014 – Another really lovely day 


After my day at Bede’s World yesterday, perhaps it was overkill to spend part of today at the Lindisfarne Priory museum. Maybe so, but I thoroughly enjoyed it


Rose very early and Mix and I drove Olive into Berwick at 6.30 a.m. After today Olive will have only two further such journeys to make – next Monday and next Wednesday – and then she will be retired, like the rest of us.

Back home, I walked Mix with Rachel and Rowan; and then I started putting on to this blog some of the photos which I took yesterday. They are aid memoires for me rather than works of art and over the next few days, whenever I get the opportunity, I will add captions to the pictures.

We breakfasted at nine and soon afterwards Robbie, Marie, Rachel and I (with Rowan in the back and Mix staying at the farmhouse) set off by car for Lindisfarne. Mum stayed behind because she was going to her book club with Ann, our minister.



Rachel (and Rowan), Marie and Robbie enjoying a blustery day in the Priory on Lindisfarne


We enjoyed Lindisfarne, driving across the causeway, visiting the Church of St. Mary, the Priory and the Priory museum run by Historic Scotland. The museum and Priory had only opened for the season yesterday but already things were in full swing with lots of visitors on the island. I enjoyed the Priory – it must have been such an impressive building before it was destroyed – and I enjoyed the interpretation in the museum. There was a good little shop as well with some excellent books.



Marie and Robbie are caught up in the exhibition within the museum


We set off to look at one of the more touristy shops – a strange mixture of quality (pottery) and tat (plaques with messages on them and the usual things inscribed with your name); but it was clearly doing well and knew its market.

Back across the causeway we made our way to the Barn at Beal where we enjoyed a lovely lunch. The soup (sweet potato and pepper) was just what was required: warming, full of taste and with a real tang to it. The Haddock and chips was enormous.

From here we drove first to Bamburgh to look at the castle and from there through Seahouses to the farm of a very good friend of Marie and Robbie’s. Driving into the farm yard we saw Frazer’s son, Craig who recognised Marie and directed us to where his father was fixing a fence. We drove on up and left Marie and Robbie with their friend for an hour or so while we went off and walked Rowan and explored Seahouses (Rachel walked Rowan, I explored Seahouses). On our return Frazer insisted on welcoming us into his home and then to showing us his ancient Massie-Ferguson tractor, now totally restored and gleaming and, I would imagine, in better shape than when it was new. It was obviously his pride and joy.



While Rachel and I were entertaining Rowan we found this house by the sea in a little village just south of Seahouses. It seemed quite unusual, certainly worthy of a photograph


We drove home to Mount Pleasant in time for a late cup of tea before I had to set off for Berwick to collect Olive and bring her home in time for dinner – another super meal. Marie showed us a photo-book which their granddaughter had made showing pictures of their twenty-years of marriage. This was followed up by some pictures on her photo-frame of the party they had had to celebrate that event in the Lodge on Loch Lomond at the start of February. It was good to see so many faces we knew so well.

Eventually we made our way back to the Granary – Mum, Marie, Robbie, Rachel and I – and we continued to talk until it was time for bed. It has been such a good day. Just time to walk the dogs before bed.

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Wednesday 2nd. April, 2014 --- Some of the photos I took yesterday in Jarrow 

This fine sign welcomes the pilgrim to Bede's World and announces that this area, in the heart of one of England's poorest areas, was a candidate for World Heritage site status -- something it has not, as yet, achieved.


Bede's World museum was a millennium project and no expense was spared when, fourteen years ago, the centre was built and opened by the Queen.


This is the little shop for visitors. There is information about Bede and his world and some interesting craft kits encouraging the visitor to make a stained-glass window or engage in ecclesiastical tapestry.


The imposing reception area, made human by the friendliness of the staff.


This display case in inside Jarrow House, next door to the museum and used by the staff as office accommodation (and much more). Jarrow house was originally the home of the Temple family but at some stage in its later development the family who owned the house encouraged the manufacture of wooden toys to provide employment for those who otherwise wouldn't have had work. This case displays some of those toys.


Across the park from Bede's World is St. Paul's Church, the faith community part of the partnership celebrating the life and insights of the Venerable Bede. In this picture children spending a day at Bede's World are being shown around the remains of the monastery which was built on this site.



This is the Church of St. Paul founded by Benedict Biscop in AD 681 and home, for most of his life, to Bede.



A view of the little shop within St. Paul's Church. I bought two booklets about the life of Bede -- and the lady who served me was extremely helpful and welcoming.



This is looking across the modern chancel and altar into the oldest part of the Church where you can just see some of the young folk who are learning about life in a medieval monastery.



A carving of Bede which sits in St. Paul's Church.



The oldest part of St. Paul's Church going right the way back to the seventh century.



This is the entrance to Bede's World. The museum was created as a millennium project at the start of this century. It is a splendid building, purpose-built as a museum to tell both the story of Bede and to interpret his life for a modern audience.



The exterior of Jarrow House which sits right next to Bede's World and which is used as offices and to house some of the projects associated with Bede's World, including its café and radio station.

The house was built around 1785 and was the family home of the Temple family. Today it is owned by the local authority and is leased to Bede's World.



Bede's World is beautifully presented. An example of that presentation is this model setting out how everything might have looked in Bede's time.



The link with the local faith community is clearly important as this display telling the story of St. Paul's Church illustrates.



Blessed with a number of outbuildings, the staff of Bede's World have been able to provide much-needed facilities for the community. This building has been turned into an artists' studio which provides space for up to six artists and allows them to develop their talent and work through the stage from training to standing fully on their own feet. The artists using the space are obviously talented and in seeking to develop skills in this way the staff of Bede's World are both following in the tradition of Bede and the monastic world, and providing opportunities for people in an area of very high unemployment.



Another view of the same studio. I was struck by the diversity of the art which is being produced.



This is the shell of a hugely exciting project which is about to swing into action. This time next year it will house an Anglo-Saxon boat similar to those with which Bede was familiar. Jarrow is, of course, a port and boats have always played a part in its story. A year has been spent finding the right timber, a tradesman has been identified, commercial sponsorship has been found and work is about to start in earnest.



Part of Bede's World is this Anglo-Saxon village designed to give visitors a real idea and feel for what life was like in the time of Bede. So walking out the back of the museum I found myself transported back into the 8th. century. Staff wear the costume of the period and the animals in the farm which is part of the village are those which would have been here in those far off times.

What adds to the specialness of this site is that it is built on reclaimed land donated to the project by Shell. It is an excellent example of a conservation project.



From the fence to the animals themselves -- Bede would feel at home were he to walk around today. More importantly, school children on one of the many trips to Bede's World are immediately helped to understand what life was like in 8th. century England.



This is the equivalent, I suppose, of the village hall! There is a picture in yesterday's entry of the interior of this building which is used as a storytelling room. The walls are wattle and the roof is thatched and, I'm told, that it is right in period for Bede. Evidently it was built to the specifications provided by archaeologists who were quite keen that, once built, it was allowed just to fall down so that they could monitor its decay. I am so glad that the present management are continuing to restore all of these 'Anglo-Saxon' buildings so that we continue to have this window on how life used to be in Bede's time.



It was also archaeological investigations that discovered that there used to be an amphitheatre near to the monastery. As a result this amphitheatre was created with this little covered stage as part of it. All kinds of different performances are presented here some of which are totally different from anything Bede would have understood (electronic music not having been invented then)!



This cross was designed and carved by Keith Ashford in 1996-7 and was inspired by eighth century Northumbrian stone crosses such as those at Bewcastle and Ruthwell.

Behind the cross, which stands above the Anglo-Saxon village, you can see the modern-day docks of Newcastle and Jarrow.



I took this picture of Kathy and Mike while they were showing me around their Anglo-Saxon village. Mike is the director of Bede's World and together Mike and Cathy are responsible (with their large team of staff and volunteers) for making Bede's World the exciting and challenging place it is.



This picture catches two of the exciting things about Bede's World. The first is the scale of the exhibits that's self-evident from the picture) and the second is how hands-on everything is. The central display challenges children to make choices and to learn from their experience.



The two adult figures disappearing around the corner give a good idea of the scale of this figure from Anglo-Saxons times.



And again, this Northumbrian Cross is on a grand scale.



This is one of four alcoves devoted to Bede the Historian, Bede the Teacher, Bede the Poet and Bede the Scientist. Each allows the visitor to sit and listen to the writing of Bede and shows the huge breadth of his study over the years he was a monk in the monastery here.



Now we have moved into the conference room which today is being used by a school party to enjoy their packed lunches. Parties of children are a huge market for Bede's World and I was able to see at first hand the enjoyment that children gained from their time at the centre.



On the wall of the conference room I spotted this tapestry, one of many produced by a local group who come and meet in Bede's World. There is so much going on and so many skills are being taught, learned and shared.



Now we are in the radio studio -- Hive Radio -- and yes, I did see real bee-hives on site as well. The radio station is an internet radio station which broadcasts live for about twenty hours each week and has been running for fifteen months. Some of their programmes are music based, others talk about the work of Bede's World, perhaps about the charging points for electric cars in their car park, perhaps about their weaving, spinning and calligraphy groups, perhaps about the story of Bede, perhaps about their plans for the future. They have a wonderful story to tell.

The staff member responsible for the radio is completing a degree in broadcasting -- an example of the commitment of Bede's World to staff development. It is very much a people-centred place.



And finally, their café where people meet and talk over a cup of tea or coffee -- and again this provides employment and training in an area where both are certainly required.

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Tuesday 1st. April, 2014 – An exciting visit 


A picture of the exterior of Bede’s World in Jarrow where I spent the majority of today


Up early and walked the dog before Scott arrived to collect me at eight and drive me down to Jarrow (we arrived at about quarter to ten) where we visited Bede’s world. Bede is one of the most important scholars of his time, being born in 673 and living in Jarrow at the monastery of St. Peter and St. Paul until his death in 735. Most people remember him as a historian but he was much more than that as he was responsible for the encouragement of music, stained-glass and design during his time in the monastery, and his studies earned him recognition as a scientist as well.

The purpose of my visit was to speak with Mike and Kathy of Bede’s world and to meet with Sheila from the Church of St. Paul, and to talk to them about the Green Pilgrimage network.

I was shown around the facilities and all the while in my mind I was ticking boxes – in fact that’s not true at all because I was far too enthused and excited by all that I was shown to think about boxes but, reflecting on the day, there were so many to be ticked.

Bede’s World in its present form started as a millennium project with a massive injection of funding to create an appropriate centre to remember the world of Bede and to encourage people today to think about the values which he held dear so many centuries ago. In a sense, of course, the project is much, much older because the Church of St. Paul, built on the site of one of the former monasteries has been telling and celebrating the story for generations.

Today, both partners, secular and faith communities, work together and so it was appropriate that, after coffee and chat with Sheila, Mike and Kathy, we walked across the park to St. Paul’s Church where I was shown the ruins of the old monastery before being taken into the church where I met a whole class of youngsters dressed as medieval monks who were learning about life in a monastery. This was a group who were spending the day at Bede’s World and who were now in the ancient church as part of their experience. So partnership is clearly important.



In the oldest part of the ancient church (going right back to the time of Bede) a group of school children were enjoying learning something of the life of a medieval monk


Having visited the church we walked back to the museum where I was shown so many different things – the large ‘city’ farm built on land reclaimed from industrial use and donated by Shell (we are right next to the huge port of Newcastle) – this is all about conservation. But it wasn’t just a city farm, it was a farm designed to reflect farming in Anglo-Saxon times and there were other buildings as well, including the story telling hut and an amphitheatre, recently constructed to reflect what archaeologists had discovered of what was there in Bede’s time.



Inside the hut which is used by staff in costume to tell the ancient stories to the many people who come to visit


I went from there to the museum, a staggering collection of interpretation about an important time in the story of the United Kingdom and beautifully told. I am going to write in some depth about my visit and include many pictures but for today’s entry I want merely to highlight some of my initial observations.

Bede’s World doesn’t just talk the talk but it walks the way of Bede as well. You can’t visit the centre without coming away feeling that the values of Bede are being lived out by the community of twenty-five staff and their volunteers who make the centre buzz with activity and with concern for each other and for those who come to visit.



A central exhibit in the museum which gives some idea of the scale of what is on show. This is a life-size representation of monks working to build their monastery in the time of Bede – I love the wooden scaffolding


And this community does so much: there is a local radio station streamed through the internet and accessed through their web-site, they welcome groups of children from schools from all over the north east of England; they have groups for spinners and weavers, for calligraphers and artists and make space available for adult learning groups, they run a cafe and a shop. But there is much more, not least in the story they have to tell: In Bede’s time three massive copies of the Bible were hand-written by monks. One of these was taken to Italy, the intention being that it was given to the Pope. In fact it has ended up in a monastery near Florence and it is being returned to Jarrow this summer to be on show from May to September, the centre-piece for pilgrims who will make the journey to Bede’s world. By coincidence (if you are boring enough to believe in coincidence) the community in Italy is also a community which used to be a mining community (in their case mercury mining) and is sharing with Jarrow in celebrating their past as well as their working to build something new on the remains of what went before – it is all about conservation. A plan is in place to link several of these former mining areas throughout Europe and to create a St. Barbara’s pilgrimage route – St. Barbara being the patron saint of mining. There is already a Bede’s Way – a pilgrimage route which walks through the lands known to Bede and visits the places of importance to him.

Significantly, Bede’s World is working to become the first museum in the UK to be carbon neutral – they have their own market gardens which will soon assist their catering and plans are afoot to install solar panels to reduce power costs. In time they hope to become the first Green Museum under a programme launched by the Arts Council. There is so much more to record – about staff development (tomorrow eight of the staff are off to the British Museum in London to learn about the Pilgrim Badges which will be coming to the museum in Jarrow on loan); about the stories of the individuals who make up the project and the staff there. But the final thing I want to write tonight is that Museum is not the right word to use when talking of Bede’s World, or if it is, then my experience of museums is considerably out-dated (that is also probably true). This is a living vibrant community, working in partnership with the local faith community, with a story to tell and pilgrims and visitors to welcome, showing the story as it lives the values of Bede in a modern world – and in a very difficult community where poverty still remains part of most people’s lives. I was thoroughly impressed by all that I saw – and even more by those I met.

Scott and I drove home and I was in time to catch two friends of Digger’s (Liz and Ron -- Ron had been best man at Digger's brother's wedding, many years ago) who had been visiting. No sooner had they left than Marie and Robbie, our great friends, arrived from Luss. We shared coffee and a chat and then we showed them around our ‘estate’. We met for sherry in the lounge, dined in the farmhouse kitchen and then chatted in front of the stove in the Granary until after ten at which point our visitors retired to bed and we walked the dogs before making our own way to bed as well. What a wonderful day!

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Monday 31st. March, 2014 – Back to the grind-stone 


Most of the day was spent cleaning the inside of the roof of the barn – here Tom is on the scaffolding tower and Rachel is watching as he brushes the grime off the roof beams


I was up early today and set off for Berwick with Olive about twenty-five past six (concerned lest the fog of last night was still on the road). In fact there still was some fog but it wasn’t too bad as it began to get light. Having dropped Olive at the station (and checked that her train was running to time) I returned to Mount Pleasant where Mix and I set about the summer house before going for an early morning walk. Breakfast followed and then it was back to the summer house. (I suppose I need to explain why I seem to be always putting the summer house to rights. I get it sorted and then I bring another three or four boxes in and the process of absorbing what is in the boxes usually entails a total reorganisation. Maybe I am just not doing it right, but it seems to me to be worth the effort.)

Tom arrived mid-morning with his trailer filled with a scaffolding tower and with Dorothy. First of all Digger came and helped us by setting levels with his theodolite so that we can have a level floor in a very uneven building.



While Digger operates his theodolite Tom marks the levels on the walls. So long as we measure the same distance down from these marks around the barn, the new floor will be level


Once the levels had been marked we erected the scaffolding tower and tried to vacuum the roof space. Soon we gave up and attacked it instead with a brush on an extending pole. The roof beams are in very good condition and brushed off without too much problem. Several old bird’s nest had to be removed and bits of woodworm (very little) had to be treated but by the end of the afternoon it was all looking extremely good.



Tom is on the roof, all masked up, and Rachel is wielding her broom on the walls and on the floor. Now that everything is clean we shall start on building the new wooden floor


Tom and Dorothy went home for lunch and I dined on sausage and beans while I watched the conclusion of the debacle which was England’s defeat by the Netherlands in the T20 competition. England really did reach a new low today – and I know that it is only a game but six months ago we were the favourites to win the ashes in Australia and everything has fallen totally apart.

Tom, Rachel and I did more of the same this afternoon and, after Tom went home for tea, I completed the tidying of the summer house and went for dinner with Rachel, Digger and Mum in the farmhouse. Later in the evening I set off for Berwick and brought Olive home from her day of lecturing in Dundee. Once home I was glad to get to bed because I have another early start tomorrow, this time with Scott as we set off for Bede’s World, but that is tomorrow’s story.

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Sunday 30th. March, 2014 – A Super day in every way 


A picture of the watering can filled with flowers which we gave to Mum for her garden room on mother’s day (Mix gave Mum some chocolate to make up for what he had earlier stolen)


Up at seven on my alarm clock (which was really six because of the hour change). I showered and then walked Mix down to the bridge and back before changing into something smart for Church which this morning (because it is the fifth Sunday of the month) was in the village hall at Longformacus. I was at Tom’s house by 8.40 and we were at the hall by nine – in plenty time to set up our music system and check that it was working well. Mum and Rachel arrived just before ten.



Before the service, after setting up the music, Tom and I wandered off to see the now disused Longformacus Church. Unfortunately the present owners of the estate in which it sits do not allow vehicular access to the Church, thus effectively strangling its use with the result that it has now been sold and services are held in the Village Hall




The congregation are assembling for the service in Longformacus Village Hall. It is an attractive hall and it is used by the Church occasionally on one of the months when there are five Sundays


There was a good congregation and the service was a meditation – using readings, words and music – based on five of the incidents in the Gospels in which Jesus met women. (The woman who touched Jesus’ cloak and was healed, the foreign woman who’s daughter was healed after she claimed Jesus’ attention on the basis that ‘even the dogs under the table eat the children’s leftovers’, the woman caught in adultery – ‘ let him who is without sin cast the first stone’, the widow who put her two coins into the Temple treasury, all that she had, and the woman who anointed Jesus’ head with precious ointment at Bethany during Holy Week.) The service then reached its climax with the admission of Tom to the Kirk Session of our Church. It was good.



After the service at which Tom was admitted to the Kirk Session. Tom is pictured with Dorothy, Rachel and Mum


After the service we were given coffee and cakes and then we stayed for the Stated Annual Meeting. There were several reports – finance, property, Session Clerk and Minister. The nub of the meeting is that we had a deficit last year and are projecting a similar one this year. In all we are expected to have a shortfall from income of £16,000 of which £12,000 will be able to be recouped from funds held in Edinburgh (after which the well will be dry but by which time we shall be linked with Duns).

Back home Olive had prepared an excellent meal – roast pork followed by rhubarb tart and custard. It was excellent (and the pork was covered with a superb rich pepper sauce). In the afternoon I worked away in the summer house dealing with the boxes which were transported here as a result of my clear-out of the lounge in the Granary yesterday. It is a constant battle but we make progress and there is still quite a lot to do in the summer house which I will complete early tomorrow. (Watched Australia being humbled by India in the T20 cricket – I was quite surprised.)



Dorothy, Rachel and Tom at the Lindisfarne Inn. Unfortunately by the time I remembered to take a photo we had eaten all of the food – but it was extremely good


We walked the dogs and then set off to collect Tom and Dorothy and drive them to the Lindisfarne Inn for a meal both to thank them for all of their help (particularly in emptying the large barn) and to celebrate Tom’s admission to the Kirk Session at Gavinton. We had an excellent meal, working our way through the menu, and then drove home in thick fog. It was good to be home where, after walking the dogs, we retired to bed. What a really good day!

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Saturday 29th. March, 2014 – working – and on a Saturday too! 


It was misty when Mix and I had our late afternoon walk. During the day there had been sheep on the banks of the River Blackadder below out house but when we returned in the late afternoon all were heading off in the distance making their way home – and there didn’t appear to be anyone giving instructions, or even a sheep dog to be seen


Slept in until 8.30 at which time I got up and walked Rowan and Mix before breakfasting in the farmhouse. Immediately after breakfast Tom arrived and we had a gentle rehearsal of all of the music for the service tomorrow morning, after which we went off to the big barn to plan (again) what we were going to do with it and how we would go about it.

Then I ran Mum into Duns so that she could buy her paper (and some Easter cards – Duns is clearly not into Easter cards as there was little choice and what they had was difficult to find). I went to the Co-op to stock up on supplies and bumped into Digger who was making his first foray out of the house since his operation.

Back home I set about the task for today. The lounge had been filled with cardboard boxes. My task was quite simply to empty them and deal with their contents.



You can see many cardboard boxes – but many more are hiding under the piano


I worked at it all afternoon – it wasn’t all that unpleasant as I had a roaring fire in the stove and on the television I watched England against South Africa in the T20 competition. England came close – but they lost finally by just three runs.



There are still some items to deal with, but all of the ones for which I was responsible are now away from the lounge and sorted. That is quite a result.

Mix and I went for a walk. I was surprised to see that all of the sheep which were grazing along the banks of the Blackadder had turned and were together trooping off into the distance; presumably they were going home (perhaps they had heard the dinner gong) but it was a bit eerie to see so many animals all of one mind, making their way across the fields.



Up at the bridge Mix was extremely interested in the stones which have all been carefully set out before being built back into the bridge. The bridge was closed for eight weeks and we are now half-way through that period of time so I guess that they must be half-way through the work.

Back home we all dined together in the farmhouse. Afterwards Rachel and I returned to the Granary and watched a bit of television (Il Commissario De Luca on BBC 4 set in the late thirties in Rimini) before walking the dogs and retiring to bed – early tonight because we shall lose an hour as the clocks go forward an hour.

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Friday 28th. march, 2014 – A really relaxed day 


It is late in the afternoon and everyone is walking dogs. I am taking this picture with Mix by my side out of the picture; Mum has just returned with Heidi and Rachel is setting off with Rowan. Well, that’s country living


Up early and breakfasted in the farmhouse before Olive, Rachel and I (with Rowan for company) set out for Berwick to do some shopping. We went to Tesco where Olive completed a large shopping and I bought some bits and pieces for lunches and for the summer house. Meanwhile Rachel walked Rowan. We were assisted by a very chatty checkout assistant called Marty who made the whole exercise a happy one.

Next stop was HomeBase where we bought a rail for the wardrobe which Tom and I moved yesterday, followed by a visit to Halford’s where we failed to find the base for the SatNav for which Rachel was looking. We made our way home where we discovered that Mix was in disgrace because he had opened Olive's zipped bag, extracted a box of chocolates, and eaten them. I was angry with Mix but also rather concerned because chocolates are extremely bad for dogs – but as yet he has shown no ill-effects.

Having brought food home, I lunched on some of it in front of the television watching a bit of the cricket. Australia are all but out of the competition having lost to the West Indies, and India are now through to the semi-finals having beaten Bangladesh.

I sorted out my post, dealt again with the electricity company and was delighted to receive my cricket membership card and fixture list from Durham. What I enjoy best is attending the first day of a four-day match. This season there is only one of these all season which is not scheduled for a Sunday. That’s a shame but without a doubt I shall see more cricket this year than ever before and I can’t wait for it. Mum and then Olive arrived at the summer house and I served coffee and snowballs before we set out to walk the dogs (see picture at the head of this entry). Rachel had already cleaned out the chicken house so that now that Digger has taken over the caring for his hens after his recuperation the hens at least have a clean house to enjoy.



Even hens appreciate clean bedding and a fresh and bright home


Rachel was in great cleaning mood today and has totally ransacked (I am quite sure that is not the right word but it describes the fervour with which she approached her task) the kitchen, including confiscating the expanding foam I bought for the barn yesterday and using it to fill in any holes she could find in the kitchen to prevent mice from gaining access.

At seven we all ate in the farmhouse – fish-pie, one of my favourites -- after which we retired to the Granary (walking through the clean and tidy kitchen) to the lounge where the stove was firing on all cylinders to provide a really warm inside environment on an extremely cold evening. Mum and Olive joined us to watch Gravity in 3D. I understand that the film won seven Oscars. The effects were stupendous but there wasn’t a great deal of storyline. Still it was a good way to spend an evening and afterwards we walked the dogs before bed.

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Thursday 27th. March, 2014 – Making progress 


The barn is empty – well actually not, as a load of wood has arrived to form the supports for the new floor which we hope to install very soon


Up and walked the dog before breakfast and then Tom and I had a run-through of the music for Sunday in Church. As this is the fifth Sunday of the month the service this week will be in the village hall at Longformacus. Ann, the minister, is planning a meditative service with a number of items of classical music interspersed with readings. Tom and I have prepared the music to be played (and at the end of the service Tom will be admitted as a new elder – he is already an elder, but a new elder here).

After sorting the music to our satisfaction we completed the clearing of the barn and then started measuring up for the wooden floor we will install. The floor will provide the base for the loom which we hope to have installed quite soon. But there is a lot to do – we shall build a scaffolding tower and clean the inside of the roof and all of the beams; we shall fill in all of the holes in the walls, we shall replace missing slates on the roof and rewire the roof-vents. Once completed it will be an excellent craft centre and will include spinning as well as weaving, and perhaps a small kilt-making unit which Rachel will run in conjunction with her friend Anne.

At this point Tom and I went off for lunch at Pearson’s – I had leek and potato soup, sausage and mash and coffee. Then we went off to discuss wood. We were promised that the wood would be delivered by next Wednesday (in fact it arrived about half-past two)! Back at Mount Pleasant, we ran Mum to the guild at Gavinton and then, once we had loaded the wood into the barn, we set about moving furniture around in the farmhouse so that it was all done for Olive by the time she got home. Tom went off home (a hard day’s work having been completed) and I set off to take Rowan and Mix for a walk. However, Rowan slipped her collar and ran on to the main road. My heart was in my mouth – but just at that moment Mum returned from the guild, brought by her friend Annie. Rowan ran up to Mum and she had the presence of mind to grab her. I have never been so relieved in my life and my heart was still pumping away half-an-hour later.

Earlier I had a good chat with Digger about the work in the barn and he has suggested that he will provide levels for us for the floor. Rachel was away in Berwick all day at her stained-glass workshop. She collected Olive from her train just after four and brought her home (I was ever so relieved that Rowan was here to welcome Rachel). Just as Olive and Rachel arrived, so did Sue who had brought flowers for Mum for Mother’s Day on Sunday as she and Scott will be away on London over the weekend enjoying a show (the Christmas present to them from Nicholas, Katie and Amy). I showed Sue what we had been doing in the barn and in the Hen House before she set off for home.

Caught the final four overs of the T20 international between England and Sri Lanka. For once, after a fairly disastrous start (dropped catches, early wickets), England played magnificently and, against all the odds, pulled off a superb victory which keeps them in the competition (just). Wonderful innings from Alex Hales and Eoin Morgan.

Joined everyone (except Rachel) in the farmhouse for supper, after which I spent the evening watching a bit of television (Rachel was away back to Berwick, this time to attend her choir practice.) The film I watched was the final part of a spy trilogy starring Bill Nighy – I hadn’t seen the first two segments but that didn’t spoil my enjoyment of the programme. On Rachel’s return we walked the dogs before bed. It has been a pretty spectacular day.

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Wednesday 26th. March, 2014 – My goodness but it got cold today 


This afternoon, while I was working in the summer house, Mix just wanted to keep as close as possible to the heater


I was up extremely early and, after defrosting the car, was away to Berwick with Olive before six-thirty, returning to the summer house an hour later. First I walked both dogs and then settled in to prepare the music for Arrochar Church. Got that completed in time for breakfast at nine.

After breakfast I returned to the summer house where I worked on several emails which I had received and then did some more of the re-organisation which will be part of our plans for a few months yet. Rachel went off to get her hair cut and I set about gutting the spare room in the Granary, stopping to have some lunch – rolls and stilton – while I watched an old episode of Dad’s Army. I might claim that I hadn’t seen this episode before; more likely I saw it years ago and have forgotten all about it, but it was extremely good. (It was the episode where they have to guard a prisoner of war camp filled with sixty Italian prisoners.)

In the afternoon I tackled the boxes which had been brought into the kitchen when we had the big ‘un-load’ from the barn last week. I got them completed earlier than I thought – but there is also a pile of boxes in the lounge waiting my attention. Rachel had me put them in the lounge so that I could unpack them at my leisure, in the warm, while watching television. That will be a task for the next day or two.

That completed Mix and I went for a walk. One side of the bridge is now enveloped in a huge tent (last time it only had walls on one side, now it is complete – what fun they are having)!



Back at Mount Pleasant, after a short time doing more sorting out in the summer house (finding homes for bits and pieces I had uncovered in my gutting of the spare room in the Granary) it was time to take Mum to Dun’s Guild and afterwards, Rachel and I bought fish and chips for Digger and ourselves. Enjoyed them before returning to the Granary and watching an episode of Inspector Gently. It was good. Hasn’t the whole television experience changed? We are now always spoiled for choice. The sky box records programmes, the i-players offer you almost every programme that has been on any channel in the past month, Amazon provides even more. It is quite, quite incredible and gives us total freedom about watching what we want when we want to watch it and, as a result, I suspect that we watch less television but watch what we really want to see.



Rowan is extremely interested in the jigsaw which Rachel is about to start (Rachel can’t just watch television, she has to be doing something else as well: it is a woman thing.) In the background you can see tartan -- Rachel is in increasing demand to make kilts and has two to be completed this week


Tonight Rachel walked the dogs and I retired to bed to watch Newsnight and hear how the debate between Nick Clegg and Nigel Farage had gone – still don’t know because I fell asleep instantly. (I’ll pick it up on i-player later.)

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Tuesday 25th. March, 2014 – The best-laid plans ... 


Today’s picture comes from last night when I accompanied Rachel as she put the hens to bed. She has just provided them with their tea and so they are happy to be outside the their home eating the grain. Rachel will give them a few minutes and then come and shut them up safely in their home for the night


Up early (again before my alarm went off) and was out in the summer house before walking both dogs down the Duns road. Spent some time in the summer house before breakfast at nine. Tom arrived soon afterwards but we didn’t start work immediately on the final clearing of the barn because Ann, our minister, was coming to see us about the service this Sunday.

She and Jack (her husband) arrived and we put the world to rights before getting down to arranging how we would provide the music for Sunday. (It is to be a meditative service with seven items of classical music which we will fit in to the service.) It is also a special service because Tom is being admitted as an Elder, something about which I am absolutely delighted – both for the congregation and for Tom himself.

While Tom went through the service with Ann, I took Jack and showed him all that we were doing at Mount Pleasant – Olive showed him around the farm house and I did the rest (Mum was away at her weekly hair appointment). By the time that Ann and Jack left it was lunchtime so Tom also went off home. I started work on the music while I had my lunch. When Tom returned we got to blethering and sorting out music with the result that we didn’t complete the work on the barn – in fact we have postponed it until Thursday! (You are allowed to do things like that when you are retired.) I worked on in the summer house and by the end of the afternoon had all of the music arranged and also had explored some of the bits and pieces which I uncovered while searching for my tape recorder. By this time it was raining so Mix and I didn’t go out for a walk until the last moment – partly because of the rain and partly because I was waiting for a delivery of a ladder which I ordered to enable us to sort the roofs on the barns. I was told that it would arrive before six. (In fact it didn't arrive at all in spite of a text message telling me to wit in because it would definitely be here today.)

In the evening we dined in the farm house and then retired to the Granary where we relaxed in front of the stove and watched Shetland (partly because it is a good watch and partly because one of Rachel’s former students has a major part in it). Following the drama we watched the News and Newsnight before walking the dogs and retiring to bed – I have an early start tomorrow.




And after their evening meal the hens retired to bed!


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Monday 24th. March, 2014 – Big steps forward! 


This is what a barn looks like when it is almost empty – it would have been completely empty but I had to spend the rest of the day in the summer house (and Tom had to re-fence his goats)


Up extremely early and was in the summer house with Mix by six o’clock, moving boxes and sorting books. I took Olive to the railway station at 6.30 and was back in the summer house less than an hour later, working through until I stopped for my breakfast at nine (having walked Mix down to the bridge in between times).

Ate a quick breakfast and retired to the summer house, bringing in new books and removing old ones (which will find a place in the library in the Hen House in due course). Tom arrived and we went across to the barn and all but emptied it by lunch time – it will be a gentle task to complete tomorrow. While Tom was home for lunch I enjoyed a cheese and bean pie in the summer house while I watched the climax of a superb T20 match between South Africa and New Zealand (South Africa won but right up until the very last ball it could have gone either way).

In the afternoon I worked through the summer house and by the end of the afternoon. while not complete, it was at least tidy and fit for use.



A degree of order had been restored to the summer house – there is more to do but it can now wait and take its place in the queue behind dealing with the barns, the plaster-boarding in the Hen House and so on


Mix and I went for a walk to the bridge in the late afternoon. There is now a canopy over one of the gantries – there was bright sunshine today but I suspect that it is more about the rain which is forecast for later in the week.



We saw this roof over the bridge on our walk today – it looks very smart


Work is obviously progressing on the bridge as well:



Back at Mount Pleasant, I put the gas oven on for the casserole and then went back to complete the tidy-up of the summer house. We dined at seven and then I watched University Challenge, recording Silk as I had to go off to Berwick to collect Olive from her train. On my return Rachel and I watched Rev which had also been recorded, after which we walked the dogs and retired to bed. We have made progress.

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Sunday 23rd. March, 2014 -- The Third Sunday in Lent 


The sun was shining as we walked to the bridge this morning. Mix is always fascinated to see what has been going on


Rose early (before the alarm went off) and showered and dressed and then took Mix for a walk down to the bridge. The sun was shining and it was remarkably warm in the sunshine. I opened the blinds on the summer house so that it would warm up by the time I returned from Church. Breakfasted in the farmhouse and then set off for Church, leaving a bit early so that we could collect Digger’s Sunday papers from Duns on the way through.



The picture I forgot to take yesterday (it was the camera I forgot) showing that the parapet has been totally removed and will now be replaced


In the service we were introduced to Nicodemus, and Ann spoke about his visit to Jesus by night to discuss Jesus’ mission and ministry, leading to the great verse ‘For God loved the world so much that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not die but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to be its judge, but to be its saviour.’

After the service we joined everyone for coffee, Tom had to hurry off to collect his daughter’s in-laws from the Roman Catholic service and we returned home for lunch (actually I did some work in the summer house before lunch as well). Lunch was grand – roast beef with all of the trimmings, followed by rhubarb pie and custard. Then it was back to the summer house and more sorting out, something I did until quarter to nine in the evening (apart from a brief walk in the afternoon with Rachel and the dogs. We visited an ex-railway line and wandered along it for a way before returning to the car.)



This former railway line is very close to our home but we only discovered it by driving along one of the detours made necessary by the closure of the road between Duns and Mount Pleasant to enable the bridge to be repaired




From the track we saw this highland cow enjoying the better weather (although presumably she doesn’t ever feel the cold with all of that hair)


In the summer house there is still much to do, but after I stopped we had some supper and watched Mr. Selfridge on the television (Rachel had been into Berwick to attend evensong). This is going to be a hard-working week!

Walked the dog before bed – it is getting very cold and I have to be on the road to drive Olive to Berwick by 6.30 tomorrow morning. (Olive is happy because she has completed all of her Church audits and now has just three weeks to go until her retirement from University.)

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Saturday 22nd. March, 2014 – Working in the Summer House 


Today was a day of emptying boxes


Slept in and by the time I awoke Rachel had taken both dogs out for a walk (last night's snow had disappeared). I got up and was across for breakfast at the farmhouse before Mum was collected for her day out at Paxton House at a women’s church do. I worked all day opening and sorting out boxes, mostly of books. Finding places for the books in the summer house and transporting into storage the books which were displaced by this exercise. Mix remained loyally with me throughout the day even although his bed was often overrun with boxes:



Even Mix’s bed became a depository for empty boxes


I stopped at lunch time to heat up a cheese and bean pie which Olive had made for me and I ate it in the summer house while I watched England’s first game in the T20 cricket competition (it was against New Zealand). When things are not going for you, they really do go against you: England posted a reasonably defendable total but were defeated early by the rain and the Duckworth Lewis calculation. It was bad luck and will be, I would imagine, very demoralising.

I worked through in the summer house until five when Rachel and I walked Rowan and Mix. Progress is really being made at the bridge – the whole of one side of the bridge has now been removed (I was vexed that I didn’t have my camera with me, but I’ll get a picture tomorrow).

Back in the summer house I got everything more or less back in order before dinner but, of course, it will all be disorganised tomorrow when I start opening still more boxes. But progress is definitely being made.



It may not look very different from before but progress is being made


We all dined together. Mum had a good day based on the story of Rahab (you'll find her story in the early part of the book of Joshua in the Old Testament), Olive has completed all of the Church accounts given to her so that everything is in order for all of her many churches (who have to have their accounts approved by the Church Trustees by the end of March), Rachel has made good progress on a kilt she is making, Digger is feeling much better, and the chickens produced two eggs today.

After dinner Rachel and I watched an old episode of Endeavour which was clearly screened because a new series is to start on ITV next Sunday. I'm looking forward to that. We walked the dogs and went to bed.

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Friday 21st. March, 2014 – Our friends move on 


I took this picture of the summer house from atop Ianthe in the courtyard of Mount Pleasant. There is still work to be done – not least the shingles, but these can’t be fitted until we get warmer weather and until the winds stop blowing


Up early and after sorting out some emails I took Mix and Rowan for a walk, meeting Bill, Cathy and Morag as they returned from their walk. It was still blowy and quite cold but as the sun came out it got gradually warmer.

We breakfasted in the farmhouse – Morag making the porridge while I kindled the fire – and soon afterwards our friends set off for home. I was sorry to see them go but they will be back soon. Before they left Tom arrived and we raised the mast on Ianthe so that we could close the hatch and remove the cover which has done well over the winter but which is no longer required. No sooner had our visitors left than Mum’s cousins, Linty and Meg arrived (with Linty’s husband, Keith). It was good to meet them and to show them around.



Tom on Ianthe, just about to raise the mast to allow me to slip in the hatch and close up the boat before the swallows arrive


After they left I retired to the summer house to prepare the music for Arrochar for Sunday and then to start on some more boxes. I’ve brought another table into the summer house. It would be very useful but I can’t work out whether it overpowers the place or whether it is a good addition; only time will tell.

Rachel and I walked the dogs and then I returned to the summer house. There is much to do and I hope to get everything sorted this weekend. I have nothing planned for the weekend so I should get quite a lot done: famous last words! Mum is away at her book club this afternoon, Olive is working on church accounts and Rachel is making kilts. Mix is sleeping on his cushion and Rowan is jumping up and down in the Granary. Heidi is sleeping in the farmhouse sitting room and Digger is resting in bed. Such is life this afternoon in Mount Pleasant.

We dined at seven, Rachel, Olive, Mum and I, and then Rachel and I repaired to the Granary where we caught up with two programmes we had missed during the week: Shetland and Mr. Selfridge. After the News, we walked the dogs ... and it was snowing! We’ll see what tomorrow brings.

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Thursday 20th. March, 2014 – A windy day 


In the afternoon we gathered around the stove in the farmhouse – Digger (recuperating from his operation), Sue (my sister-in-law, come to see how he was getting on), Olive, Morag, Cathy, Mum and Bill)


Up early – had I slept much? I’m not sure, it was so windy that I was concerned for the property, not least for the summerhouse, but all was well as Mix and I discovered when we checked.

Lots of chores this morning, fires to build in the lounge and in the farmhouse, porridge to make for everyone’s breakfast, litter to be collected from the wind blowing over our refuse bins.

Tom ‘phoned. He had taken his daughter to the airport really early this morning to catch a plane to New York where she is meeting her husband to celebrate her birthday (perhaps with some serious shopping)! It was a surprise that she had only been told of yesterday but she is very pleased.

Bill and I retired to the summer house where I showed him my books and told him of all of our plans for Mount Pleasant and learned something of his adventures. It wasn’t a day to be out and about as, in addition to the wind, the rain had now started. However, we all – Cathy, Morag, Bill, Mum and I – went up to Gavinton Church hall for the soup and sweet lunch. It was excellent and the conversation was good as well. It is a happy congregation and I hope that that survives the changes which ministerial shortages will bring on the retirement of Ann, our minister, next year. I know that imaginative plans are being worked out about how to cope with the situation which will occur then. Our congregation will become part of a linkage under one minister of five churches: Bonkyl, Cranshaws, Duns, Edrom, and Gavinton. I’m told that this will entail 176 morning services each year of which the parish minister intends to conduct 100 (leaving 76 to be conducted by a combination of parish teams and retired ministers). Meetings are being held this month to explore all of the options – it sounds exciting, not least because the folk are prepared to be imaginative, innovative and adventurous in their planning. Mind you, as part of a Church with two hundred and fifty vacancies nationally, this is what is clearly required.

After lunch we all returned to Mount Pleasant via Duns (where we returned Olive’s library books). Once home we joined Olive, Sue and Digger around the farmhouse stove – it was that kind of a day. Bill and Morag came and enjoyed the quiet of the summer house with me and then we retired to the Granary to watch the News before dinner.

We all (except Rachel who had gone to Berwick to sing in her choir – having been in Berwick earlier in the day to take part in her stained-glass class) dined in the farmhouse. It is good to have so many people around the table. We all enjoy having guests with us – and Cathy, Bill and Morag are special guests.

After our meal, Bill and I retired to the Granary where we watched golf from Orlando in Florida. The others joined us for tea and coffee. We watched the News – still taken up by the missing airliner, sanctions against Russia and the Government’s pension plans – before I walked Mix and went to bed. This has been a very enjoyable day (and the wind has finally dropped).

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Wednesday 19th. March, 2014 – Jaunting around (as retired people do) 


We visited Henderson Park in Coldstream this afternoon. It had recently been set out with new plants – and they looked great!


I was up early this morning and away from Mount Pleasant by 6.30 a.m. taking Olive to Berwick to catch a train (Mix came with me as always). We were back home by about seven-fifteen. I was across in the farmhouse to make the fire half-an-hour later and found that Cathy and Morag were already up and in the lounge, so they came with me as we walked the dogs on the road down to the bridge.

We breakfasted before nine – almost everyone had porridge – and then we were about to set off for Berwick when Tom and Dorothy arrived. I had tried to phone them earlier but evidently I had also phoned them by mistake and Tom had been whistling down my phone trying to catch my attention. I had mentioned to Morag that I thought I had heard someone whistling and calling to me but she told me that it was probably the birds which were in full morning chorus!



There was a great deal of traffic at the gate into Berwick





Morag, Bill, Cathy and Rachel on the walls around Berwick


After lots of catching up, we set off for Berwick where we walked around the town walls before journeying back along the ramparts. It was windy and at least one poor gentleman had his hat blown clean off his head. We explored Berwick and bought rolls to have with bacon for lunch when we returned to Mount Pleasant. Bill and I returned via Duns so that we could buy a steak pie for dinner.



Morag, Rachel, Bill Cathy and Mum at the lunch table (after all of the bacon rolls have disappeared)


Back home we dined on bacon rolls (and caramel doughnuts and yum-yums which we had also bought). In the afternoon Mum joined Morag, Cathy Bill and me as we drove to Coldstream. I learned that the figure on the pillar in the town is Charles Marjoriebanks who was a landowner, an MP and a generally good egg who treated his tenants benevolently (all of this told to us by the proprietor of the chemist in the town).



In Henderson Park I photographed Bill, Mum, Morag and Cathy against the backdrop of the River Tweed


We walked through the Henderson Park which is beautifully kept and which contains memorials of the activities of the Coldstream Guards (which, of course, were raised from here by general Monk). We then visited the little shop which contains a world war two museum and has many items of memorabilia for sale.

Back home we settled down to afternoon tea in the farmhouse lounge and then turned our thoughts to dinner. The steak-pie was delicious and we followed it up with pears and peaches and ice-cream. Bill and I retired to the Granary to watch Manchester United play the Greek champions. (They won 3 – 0 which meant that as the two-leg score was 3 – 2, Manchester United progressed to the next round.)

I went off to collect Olive from Berwick (my third foray into England today) and when we returned we joined everyone else for a late coffee before bed.

Today was budget day and it appears that I am in the group of people who have been smiled on by the chancellor. Flexibility with my pensions, increased personal allowance, special savings bonds for older people. I don’t yet know all of the details, nor what has been done to help other more deserving groups and business. I shall look forward to discovering all of that tomorrow.

It is ferociously windy and the final walk with the dogs was treacherous. Rachel and Rowan spent ages collecting all of the rubbish from the farmhouse bin as it had been blown over and distributed down the road towards Sinclairshill. It was good to get to bed at the end of a happy day.

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Tuesday 18th. March, 2014 – Welcome Visitors from the West 


The garden at Mount Pleasant is just beginning to come to life. Some of it is wild like this bit in front of the farmhouse, but now the daffodils are coming through


I got up this morning to a telephone call from Tom saying that his plans had changed and that he would be along early to help me do more unloading from the big barn. I grabbed some breakfast while Rachel walked both dogs. Almost at once Tom and I were at work moving furniture from the barn. Some of it – a bookcase/desk and a china cabinet came into the Granary – others (including my desk and bookcase, our leather sofa and a bed) were transferred to the stables.

Midmorning Tom had to go off on business of his own. I took Mum into Duns to her hairdressing appointment, refuelled my car and went into the garage to pay for the repairs to Rachel’s Bongo. Back home I loaded another couple of boxes into the summer house and sorted them out – Great fun as I found a large part of my classical music collection and found a home for it. Then it was time to go back to Duns to collect Mum and bring her home, taking Rachel along to collect and drive home her Bongo. (Rachel hadn’t been around in the morning because she and Olive had gone into Berwick to do the weekly shop).



Other bits of the garden are going to be more organised. This little area in front of Mum’s garden room is her project and she has great plans for it


After lunch Tom arrived and we did a bit more moving (including a very heavy oak side-board) and then made some plans about what we were going to do with the barn when it was empty. The plan is to level off the floor and then to fit a wooden floor over the concrete. We’d like to fit a ceiling to the beams and, after repairing the walls, to coat them with something akin to Artex, the idea being to create a weaving, spinning and craft centre facility (as if we didn’t have enough on our plate at the moment with the Hen House project and getting everything unpacked).

Tom returned home and it wasn’t long before Bill, Morag and Cathy arrived from Luss to spent some days with us. It was really lovely to see them. We had coffee and tea in the farmhouse before going on a bit of a tour of what we had been doing. Of course we climbed the new staircase in the Hen House and I showed off the plaster-boarding work that was in progress. Of, course we looked at the stables and at the big barn. And, of course, we ended up in the summer house where we chatted for a while before getting them moved into their rooms in the farm house before assembling for our evening meal with Mum, Olive and Digger.



This is a picture of one of the pots in Mum’s bit of the garden. I took the picture because I liked the bright colours (and also because I had a new mini point-and-shoot camera given to me by Mum, Olive, Digger and Rachel for my birthday last week and this is the first time I have used it – it only arrived yesterday)


In the evening we watched the Referendum Debate from Kirkcaldy which both Mum and Morag were anxious to see. It sparked off our own debate which continued through Newsnight until bed called. Rachel had already walked both dogs so I was able just to go upstairs and fall into bed.

I do think that my new camera is going to produce better pictures for my blog!

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Monday 17th. March, 2014 – Saint Patrick’s Day 


We were back at work today with a vengeance – here Tom is cutting sarking to make the Hen House swallow-proof


It was two in the morning before I was in bed and asleep last night and I was up at six to drive Olive to Berwick to catch a train to Dundee. Back home I walked the dogs and then had breakfast in the farmhouse with Mum.

Tom arrived and we moved the last of the boxes from the big barn into the stables – that’s right, there are no more boxes in the big barn. (However, there are boxes in the other large barn, in the Hen House, in the Granary and in the Summer House: but let’s celebrate with what we have achieved.)

At lunch-time, flushed with our success, Rachel, Tom and I went off to Pearson’s for lunch. It was extremely busy, but then we realised that almost everywhere else is closed on a Monday (that’s not a comment about Pearson’s: we love it there; just that we were surprised to find it so full.)

After lunch we started trying to swallow-proof the areas into which we have made big improvements – the stables and the Hen House. We built up the area around the temporary door in the Hen House and filled in some gaps in the walls of the stables – and by this time Dorothy arrived to take Tom home. Rachel collected Mum and set off for Kirkcaldy where she is to show someone around her flat. I went into the summer house and unpacked the boxes which we had deposited there this morning. Then it was time to feed the hens and put them to bed for the night, feed the dogs and light the stove for Rachel coming home. Things are gradually getting there and there is absolutely no doubt at all that we are making progress.

Rachel and Mum returned to Mount Pleasant and, almost immediately, I set off to Berwick to collect Olive. Her train was on time and we were back home a little after ten. Just time to have some fish pie before walking the dogs and bed. It was good to get to bed.

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Sunday 16th. March, 2014 -- A Stupendous Day 


I took this picture this afternoon while we were trying to discover where we were going to for the wedding reception


Up extremely early this morning, with both dogs walked by half-past seven and me in my kilt and wedding gear by eight. Spent an hour going over my wedding service (it’s amazing, only six months away from it and I had to ease myself into it all over again – but I really wanted it to be right for this afternoon). Breakfasted and set off for Church at Gavinton by quarter-past nine. The early start was partly because of the detour caused by the road closure, partly because we had to buy Digger’s papers in Duns, and mostly because Rachel was looking after the music at Gavinton Church.

The music sounded good to me and the service advanced us through Lent as Ann spoke about the need to spend time in the wilderness confronting the temptations which take us away from God and from the life to which we are called, and reminding us of the tradition of hermits in the early years of the Christian era.

Immediately after the service, Rachel and I set off for Perthshire. Mum hadn’t come to Church so there was no need to take her home (a little tummy bug, that’s all) but Tom brought the organ and the papers back to Mount Pleasant for us.

We arrived at Clunie Church in good time and the wedding was ;lovely – one of those weddings which you are really glad to have been part of. Bill and Peggy are both good friends of mine – Bill my colleague and friend during and since my years at Bishopbriggs, Peggy being the minister at one of the Clydebank Churches in the Presbytery of Dumbarton while I was also a member of that Presbytery. Both had been widowed and had now found happiness again. In an over-used but appropriate word: it was ‘special’.



After the wedding document was signed the wedding photographer normally takes a picture but the wedding photographer was nowhere to be seen so I took this snap which proves why I could never become a wedding photographer. The picture shows Bill’s daughter Alison, Bill, Peggy and Peggy’s daughter Jenny


After the service we all made our way to the Village Hall at Clunie where members of the congregation gave Bill and Peggy a real celebration tea. Bill had been minister of this church until he retired; Peggy is the current minister – hadn’t it worked out well?



Inside the village hall at Clunie with celebrations in full flow


The tea party over, we made our way to Dunkeld for the wedding reception at the Dunkeld Hilton – a glorious hotel, set in its own grounds. We were plied with drinks (Ginger beer, in my case) and then we shared in a magnificent wedding breakfast – haggis as a starter, followed by beef with potato and green beans, followed by cranachan, followed by coffee and wedding cake.



Cutting the wedding cake which Peggy had made herself




Another snap, this time of Bill making his speech. You can see what a lovely place we were in


There were a lot of speeches – and it was important that there were because members of Bill and Peggy’s families were anxious to share their welcome to their new family members – and my friend Robin, the Episcopal priest from those far off Bishopbriggs days spoke of Bill and of the times the three of us spent together (the Last of the Communion Wine – I don’t know which one I was meant to be). After the speeches, Bill’s son and Peggy’s son played some music; both are accomplished musicians and this rounded off the evening.

I had met many friends from times past, rekindled a number of friendships and had a thoroughly good day. It was left to Rachel to drive us home. We got back just after one in the morning to relieve Mum of the dogs and quickly get to bed. I have an early start in the morning.

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Saturday 15th. March, 2014 – The Ides of March 


This morning we were at Gavinton Church and Rachel – the figure in the distance – had a good look at the Church from a different angle


Up (not too early) and walked both dogs before returning to the Granary, lighting the stove (it is really cold today) and making Rachel a cup of tea to drink in bed. Went to the farmhouse for breakfast and then Rachel and I drove to Gavinton to set up our organ to provide the music for tomorrow when the organist is on holiday. Rachel had a complete play-through; so we know that everything is working satisfactorily.

While Rachel went through the music I explored the Church, taking this picture of the rear of the church with the extremely fine organ loft and organ pipes.



Looking towards the rear from the front of Gavinton Church


I also took this picture of Rachel hunched over the organ reading what it said on the organ screen – she didn’t know I was taking the picture:



There is a screen on the organ which has a great deal of information. Rachel is reading what it has to say before starting her practice of the music for tomorrow


On the way home we called in at Duns to buy a paper for Mum and then, once home, we spent the rest of the day working through boxes: Rachel in the Granary, me in the summer house. I think that we are making quite good progress but it was very good to stop at five and walk the dogs. Rachel and I walked across the bridge and back again. Not only was it extremely cold but now the wind had blown up and it is very, very gusty.

We all dined together in the farmhouse (well, Digger ate in bed. He got up earlier for a little while but retired to bed after an hour or so feeling his operation wound to be quite sore.)

In the evening, I got a hair cut (I didn’t really need one but tomorrow we are off to a wedding) and we watched some television (Endeavor – to be honest I haven’t a clue who did the murder, but I had a very pleasant doze) before walking the dogs and retiring to bed. Tomorrow is going to be a busy day.

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Friday 14th. March, 2014 – My Birthday Outing! 


Today Rachel took me out for lunch (because both she and I were away yesterday). We ended up at Eyemouth and saw the boats in the harbour and in the Eye Water


Up early (because the ‘phone rang and I had to answer it). Breakfasted in the farm house using my new (birthday) porridge bowl which didn’t overflow when I heated the oats in the microwave. While I was eating, Tom and Dorothy arrived with a birthday present for me: a shiny, new wheel-barrow. “Well”, said Tom, “a cement-mixer is no use at all without a wheel-barrow.” It was very kind of them but I have visions of getting aches on top of my aches and bruises on top of my bruises before too many more days have gone by.

Rachel took me out for lunch today. We set off, not really knowing where we were going and saw a sign for Eyemouth, so we went there. Eyemouth has a place in my story because when I was based in Genoa our congregation was linked with Eyemouth, or at least, we were their missionary partner. So it was good to be back there.

We walked the dogs on the beach:



The lovely sandy beach which is quiet at this time of year but which must be very busy in the summer


Having walked the dogs and explored the town, we put the dogs back in the car and went for lunch at The Contented Sole:



The Contented Sole overlooks the harbour and served delicious bar meals. Being in a fishing port I started with a prawn cocktail and moved on to Haddock, chips and mushy peas – Rachel had pate and chicken with onion rings, mushrooms and chips. It was a real feast:




A thoroughly good meal I would recommend to anyone


On the way home we drove through Reston, of interest to us because Mum had a cottage there many years ago. It is up for sale and doesn’t appear to be selling not least, I suspect, because one hundred and ten new houses are about to be built almost next door to it.

Back home I prepared the music for Sunday at Gavinton (Gay, the organist, is on holiday) and prepared a wedding service for Sunday while Rachel struggled with some of the boxes which we brought into the Granary last week. She found my Russian hat – I was particularly delighted about this because I was worried that it might have deteriorated (or even been attacked by mice) in the barn. But it is absolutely perfect.

I dined with Olive and Mum at seven (Digger is still in bed feeling a bit sore and Rachel had too much to eat at lunch time). Then we settled down in front of the stove and watched some television (Jonathan Creek which, in truth, I thought had become more than a little unbelievable; but I like the characters, so who cares?) Isn’t life absolutely great?

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Thursday 13th. March, 2014 – My Birthday 


My birthday trifle (and yes, there were candles) – I love trifles and this one was made for me by my sister-in-law Sue


Up early, showered and walked Mix before breakfast at the farm house. Rachel joined us today because it was my birthday. Immediately afterwards, Dorothy arrived and she and Rachel set off for Berwick for their weekly stained-glass class.

I got my things together and then set off to drive to Perthshire where I met with my friends Peggy and Bill, and Ian whom I had met before a few years ago. We shared an excellent lunch in a farm centre called Gloagburn and then drove off to Clunie Kirk in the Presbytery of Dunkeld and Meigle for a rehearsal for a wedding in which I am participating on Sunday. Peggy and Bill’s service will be shared by Ian and me and the purpose of my trip was to have a run through of what will happen on the day. It is one of those weddings in which it is an absolute pleasure and privilege to share: Bill was my colleague in Bishopbriggs while Peggy was a minister in Clydebank while I was in the Presbytery of Dumbarton. Both lost their partners and have now met and fallen in love. I couldn’t be more pleased for them; they are lovely, lovely people.



A view of the interior of Clunie Church showing the baptismal bowl attached to the pulpit. Infants were passed to the minister in the pulpit to enable him to conduct the baptism without leaving the pulpit – the old Scottish way of doing things. Clunie Kirk was part of the linkage which made up my friend Bill’s last charge before retirement; Peggy has taken over from him and now they are to be married in front of their friends, family and members of their congregations here on Sunday.


I drove home in time to have a birthday meal prepared by Olive. Scott and Sue had come across to join in the celebrations and to gorge on the birthday trifle! We had a very happy evening. Digger shared some of the food – but from his bed. After his operation yesterday, today he is extremely sore (hardly surprising when you think that he has been cut open, reorganised and put back together again). While Digger is indisposed Rachel is on hen duty and Olive and Mum both took turns of walking Heidi. My body was delighted to have a day without heavy boxes to be moved – but we will be back to it all with a vengeance next week.

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Wednesday 12th. March, 2014 – Looking back, it was a very good day 


Berwick Station where I dropped off Olive at seven and picked her up again almost twelve hours later


We assembled in the courtyard at twenty-past six. I was to drive Olive to Berwick to catch an early train to Dundee, Sue (Scott’s wife) was to drive Digger to the hospital in Melrose where he was to be operated on for a hernia. We all set off on our allotted journeys, naturally everyone was a bit apprehensive for Digger.

I came back and heard from Sue that she had deposited Digger and that he was in good hands. I breakfasted with Mum in the farm house and then walked Mix with Rowan and Rachel. Because of the early start we were able to begin work on the barns early as well. So it was a back-breaking day as we slogged through boxes from morn until night (or at least late afternoon). In all we have now repacked and installed in the stables around two-hundred and fifty boxes (and everywhere else is filled with boxes awaiting a new home). There remain in the large barn twenty-one boxes and it wasn’t lack of time which led to their remaining there. Although I watched single removal men carrying each of these boxes, I find that these are too heavy for me to lift so I will need some help. Forty years ago I might have managed to move them, not now!



Almost all of our boxes now have a new home – next we shall start on furniture!




Only twenty-one boxes remain and I will need some help to get them next door


During the day, we had our coffee break in the farm house with Mum (who continued to potter in the garden clearing out flower beds), and we had a forty-five minute lunch break (during which I watched George and Mildred on television while eating beans and sausages). At five o’clock we walked Mix and Rowan and on our return, while Rachel fed the dogs, I walked Heidi (Digger’s dog). We had heard by this time that Digger was safely through his operation and that he would be back with us in time for dinner.



How’s that for scaffolding? This really is a major piece of work


I went off to collect Olive from the station in Berwick – her train was delayed. We picked up fish suppers (or fish and chips as it was in England) and arrived back just a little after Digger. It was good to see that he had suffered no ill-effects, quite the contrary, and will soon be on his feet and raring to go in this task of making Mount Pleasant into our vision of what it could be for our family.

Digger and Olive retired early. Rachel and I watched Law and Order UK, followed by the News, before walking the dogs – it was a lovely bright night with no need for torches at all – and getting to bed to rest weary bones. On every front – and from every angle – this has been a really good day. (And tomorrow there will be no more boxes.)

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Tuesday 11th. March, 2014 -- More of the same 


Walking the dogs in the sunshine this afternoon, a lovely blue sky and up there, smiling down on us, the moon


Woke early and was out in the summer house by seven trying to make some sense of all of the boxes with which it is filled. Didn’t have a great deal of success. I walked the dog (with Rachel and Rowan) and then breakfasted at nine before returning for another couple of hours in the summer house. Around eleven, Rachel returned from her physiotherapist and we started on more boxes. By the end of the day we had well in excess of one hundred and fifty boxes repacked and stacked in the stables and probably another fifty or sixty disposed of in some other way (the summer house for example). As with everything else this is proving to be a bigger job than I imagined but with a huge chunk of luck we may deal with all of the boxes by the end of tomorrow.

Apart from a lunch break from 1.45 p.m. to 2.30 p.m. we worked solidly until almost five in the afternoon. Then we walked the dogs (and saw the moon) after which I just wanted to sit with my feet up – boxes start off just heavy and end up enormously heavy by the end of the day.

These pictures are included as a record of how we have got on: (the before pictures, obviously, are the final pictures on yesterday’s entry).



There are now more than one hundred and fifty boxes packed in here but there is still loads of room for all the rest that is to come




There is still a lot to move but the boxes are certainly going down. The central area was stacked with boxes which all contained the heaviest books imaginable


Before we walked the dogs I went around to the front of the house where Mum had been doing her bit by tending the flower beds. She is delighted that daffodils are starting to grow. One of the excitements of being in a new home is that we have no idea what is going to pop up through the ground next!



Mum is looking her best as this morning she was at her hairdresser for her weekly session


Finally, while walking the dogs, we saw how well the workers had been getting on at the bridge – and why they required such strong scaffolding:



At seven we all dined together in the farm house. Tomorrow Digger goes into hospital for a hernia operation – my sister-in-law Sue will be driving him to hospital, I will be driving Olive to Berwick for her train to Dundee to lecture and Mum and Rachel will be looking after the farmstead. When I get back the menu will consist entirely of boxes – but we look forward to having Digger home tomorrow evening with the operation successfully behind him.

This evening we relaxed in front of the television, resting aching bones. (Watched Shetland, a new crime drama, of which, I think, a small part was filmed in Luss.) Walked Mix before bed. It is already very cold, the price we pay for the lovely sunshine this afternoon.

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Monday 10th. March, 2014 – Saint Kessog's Day -- The big battle commences 


This is a picture of the empty barn – we call it the stables for no other reason than it used to have half-doors when we arrived here. Those who have been following this blog will remember that Tom and I made new doors to secure this barn. This barn has been prepared to store all of the boxes and furniture which we can’t use at the present time, but for which we will have a use in the future




This is a picture of the barn into which we decanted all of our goods and chattels when we arrived in the Borders (or at least our removal men did). The aim of this week is to sort out what is here and leave this barn as empty as the one in the picture above it


I awoke early – this is going to be a very big day. The weather forecasters have promised us three days when it will be fair and Rachel and my aim is to sort out as much as possible of the things in the corner barn and move everything to a new location. Some things will come into the Granary – we have been without lots of things we need (including some clothes) ever since we arrived; other things will be moved to the summer house (most of my books are as still unaccounted for); and many things will be repacked and moved in boxes into the empty barn we call the stables.

I breakfasted and then walked Mix, catching up with Rachel who was walking Rowan. We came home and started work. Moving boxes out of the big barn – I provided the muscle and Rachel opened each box, put a number on it and recorded its contents in a book, as well as marking where the box had been put.

By the end of the day we had dealt with around one hundred and thirty boxes. A little over eighty of them had been repacked, numbered and placed in the stables, the rest had gone to the Granary, the Hen House, the Summer House or had been labelled to be thrown out. The good news is that, even with eighty boxes in it, the stables look almost as empty as when we started; the bad news is that the big barn looks almost as full as when we started:



Even with eighty boxes in it the stables has plenty of room for all the rest which will follow




If you look closely you will see that we have made quite a difference


We worked from around ten until half-past one (having one coffee break with Mum in her Garden Room), started again at half-past two and worked until half-past four. We then had to load all of the boxes destined for the Granary into the Granary, all of those for the Sumer House into the Summer House ... and so on. I worked in the Summer House until seven when I went for dinner in the Farm House. Afterwards I watched University Challenge and then Silk on the television, returning to the Summer House at ten and working for another couple of hours. There is still a great deal to do but I am not working on tonight because in the morning Rachel has to go to her physiotherapist and I will get caught up then.

At half past four, before we continued with other things, we walked the dogs to the bridge, in fact we walked the dogs over the bridge and I took a picture looking back. Like us, the bridge repairers are involved in what must seem to them to be a Herculean task – I hope that they are enjoying themselves as much as we are.



I think that there will soon we as massive scaffolding on the other side of the bridge – but progress is clearly being made


Mix and I had a final walk before bed. The moon is shining brightly and the only reason I carried a torch was in case a vehicle came so that I could ensure that it saw us. Went to bed, tired: my back will ache tomorrow!

Back in Luss I expect that folk will have been celebrating St. Kessog's Day. I'll tell his story on this blog one day soon. Suffice it to say for today that Kessog brought Christianity to Luss and Loch Lomond-side in the year 510 when he was already an elderly (for the time) man of sixty years. He worked in and from Luss for ten years before dying at the hands of Druids in 520, becoming Scotland's first Christian martyr and leading to Luss becoming an ancient place of pilgrimage.

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Sunday 9th. March, 2014 – The First Sunday in Lent 


I took this picture of the River Blackadder on our morning walk


Woke early and got up. Mix and I walked down to the bridge and back again before breakfast and then Mum, Rachel and I set off for Church. This is the first Sunday since the road was closed so we left in plenty of time to drive round to Gavinton via Fogo.

There were more people in Church than usual today and Ann spoke to us about the Temptations of Jesus, drawing a contrast between the ‘high experience’ of the disciples with Jesus on the Mount of Transfiguration last week and Jesus alone in the desert this week. We went for coffee after the service and returned home in time to continue with the tidying-up programme before lunch in the farm house. Chicken with a peanut and lime and curry sauce (satay, I believe), followed by pork and apple en croute with fried potatoes and mushy peas. Another lovely meal!



A whole beach stretches ahead – we have just got out of the car and Rowan can’t wait to get to the beach




Rachel and Rowan have reached the beach and are waiting patiently for Mix and I to catch up


After lunch Rachel and I drove to Berwick to do some urgent shopping and then we walked the dogs on the beach at Spittal. It was almost half-past five by the time that we returned and while we had been out a lamp-bulb had blown and dislodged the fuse. So I had to restart the computer and other electrical equipment.



Berwick is just across the River Tweed from where we like to walk the dogs


Rachel and I had a snack (in truth it was a bit more than a snack: we started with mixed anti pasto, followed by penne with pesto sauce and rounded off with pancakes) while I watched England’s most recent humiliation on the cricket field (in the T20 at the hands of the West Indies). Later we watched Mr. Selfridge on the television before walking the dogs and retiring to bed. Not much to write about but a really splendid day. The good news is that the weather forecast for the next three days is fine and, as a result, Rachel and I are planning to start to empty the big barn. (However, it is actually raining at the moment, so we shall see.)

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Saturday 8th. March, 2014 – A Total Tidy-up 


A view of the bridge from the bridge as we walked the dogs this afternoon


Slept in (quite deliberately) and by the time I woke, Rachel was up and about and had walked both dogs. Rachel brought me coffee in bed, I completed my book and it was after ten before I got up.

Spent the morning and first part of the afternoon tidying the summer house and taking more stuff from the Granary to store there. This work was relieved by a visit from two gentlemen of the constabulary who wanted to know if we had seen or heard a council vehicle being stolen from the bridge last night and driven past our home. As it happened, shortly before eleven last night, Rachel and I were walking the dogs and we saw a vehicle driving along the Mount Pleasant to Greenside Road and it had an orange light flashing on the top. It may well have been the vehicle which had been stolen. I gather the council have got the vehicle back but I hadn’t expected such crime in the Borders!

Olive and I watched Raith Rovers on television. Unfortunately they lost against St. Johnstone but they had done well to get to the quarter final of the Scottish Cup. Digger was up at Kirkcaldy to spur them on but to no avail. I completed my tidying of the summer house and then Rachel and I walked the dogs down to the bridge to see how work was progressing. There certainly seems to be something a little different every time we visit. On the way back a car came driving through obviously not believing that there was no way through but moments later they had had to turn and come back.

I spent the latter part of the afternoon tidying my upstairs room. It is a big job but I had got most of it done by supper time in the farm house. In the evening we (Rachel, Mum, Olive and I) watched 37 Days – a drama based on the lead up to the first world war. It was worth seeing and so much better, I think, for watching the whole thing in one go. The programme reminded me that it is individuals who shape events and sometimes just one person can change the shape of what happens – there were so many such ‘performances’ in the story we watched unfolding this evening.

All around there is a ferocious wind blowing which makes us glad to have such a strong house in which to live (and such a warm one as well). Rachel and I walked the dogs and went to bed. It has been another good day.

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Friday 7th. March, 2014 St. Boswell’s Market and the World Day of Prayer 


The view as we parked our car at St. Boswell’s this morning – a lovely sunny day and hundreds of people raking around through the items to be auctioned


I got up and walked Mix, grabbed some breakfast and was ready for Tom and Dorothy when they arrived at nine. Today was the day of the market at St. Boswell’s and we were off to search for bargains (with Tom’s trailer hitched behind the car to bring them home).

I was surprised when we arrived at St. Boswell’s to discover so many people – and so many different things for sale by auction. There were three separate auctions: the one at which we spent our time which was small items with everything from tools and animal feeding equipment, through children’s motor bikes, dog kennels, wooden posts (for fencing), wire, logs and so on; another with extremely large items of equipment, trailers, combine harvesters (or things on that scale) and a third area with tractors and vehicles.



Everyone browses until the auction starts – these strange looking objects are used to feed hens (Tom and Dorothy keep their own brood of hens).


Although the crowds were large, the prices seemed to be extremely reasonable although Tom was beaten in bids for fence posts and a storage container for animal feed. He did buy a jelly pan filled with tools for £15 and then promptly sold one of the tools (which he didn’t want) to a rival bidder for a fiver – it was that kind of occasion. I made my first purchase of the market auctions – a cement mixer – mine for just £30 (plus £1.50p buyer’s premium and 30p VAT).



Crowds of people follow the auctioneer as he walks through the hundreds of items – you have to battle through to get near the auctioneer as he approaches the item in which you are interested


We had a fabulous breakfast of coffee and roll filled with sausages (Tom had a roll with sausage and black-pudding) and, once all of our purchasing was complete, we returned home in the middle of the afternoon.



My new cement mixer in the courtyard at Mount Pleasant. I will use it to point the stonework in the Granary and for several other projects which we have in mind


Mix and I went for a walk (down to the bridge, of course) and there I took this photograph of the ever-growing scaffolding work at the bridge. There is obviously a lot to be done but you can see that the pillar nearest to the camera has already been re-pointed. (That is how the Granary will look after I have got my cement mixer into use!)



The bridge as it is today


Back home, I fed Mix and then had a shower before an early tea. Then Mum and I set out for Gavinton Church and the World Day of Prayer service prepared by women in Egypt. There was a good attendance of folk from Gavinton, Duns Church of Scotland, Duns Episcopal and Duns Roman Catholic congregations. Our minister, Ann, gave the address and members of different congregations presented the readings – as there was one person who was unable to be present, I was asked to stand-in and read the part of Jesus in the dramatised reading from John’s Gospel about Jesus and the woman at the well of Sychar.

After the service we all adjourned to the church hall for coffee and biscuits made to an Egyptian recipe for the occasion. We drove home and I joined Rachel in watching a new episode of Jonathan Creek but I am afraid that all of the fresh air of earlier in the day caught up with me and I think I slept through most of it, as I did with the News and Newsnight. Still tomorrow is Saturday and I can relax.

Mix and I went for a late night walk and then it was time to do my sleeping in bed.

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Thursday 6th. March, 2014 – The staircase is completed 


It is quite difficult to photograph a staircase – but here it is: complete. Now we have access from the ground floor to the first floor and refurbishment can continue more easily than before


Woke and walked Mix with Rachel and Rowan. We made our way down to the bridge and back again. Breakfasted in the farm house and, around nine, Tom and Dorothy arrived; Dorothy to go with Rachel to Berwick for their stained glass class, me to accompany Tom to Duns where he was to leave his car and I was to drive him back to Mount Pleasant. While we were at the garage we learned that the Bongo needed a new radiator but that as Bongos are grey imports the garage didn’t know where to purchase a radiator. We asked them to remove the old radiator and to fit a new one once we had sourced it for them.

Back at Mount Pleasant nothing was going to stand in the way of our completing the staircase. There were risers to be screwed to the steps, and tidying up to be done at the top of the stairs. It took us a couple of hours but now we have a very fine staircase. We went for coffee with Mum to celebrate and then we came out to the summer house where we accessed a number of Bongo sites through which we succeeded in buying a new radiator for Rachel’s camper van.

Flushed with the success of our staircase, Tom and I went off to Pearson’s for lunch (vegetable soup followed by macaroni cheese). By the time we had completed lunch Tom’s car was ready so we returned to Mount Pleasant and spent a while in the hen house putting up plaster-board in the library. Then we gave everything up and had coffee in the Granary and put the world to rights, Tom sitting on a seat by the window and playing my accordion – a kind of tribute to our new staircase!



Tom sits by the window in the Granary and plays the curly-headed shepherd – perhaps it was relief that the staircase had been completed so successfully


Dorothy and Rachel returned and Tom and Dorothy set off for home. Rachel and I walked Mix and Rowan down to the bridge – we are going to make the most of this eight weeks during which the road has become our private dog-walking path – and we saw that progress is being made, not least because now a huge scaffold has been erected in front of the bridge.



A view of the scaffolding in front of the bridge – taken as we walked the dogs this afternoon


Back home I changed and Rachel, Mum, Digger and I set off for Berwick to attend War Horse at the Maltings. Mum, Rachel and I went for a meal in the theatre while Digger went to the station to collect Olive. (I ate Cullen Skink and Scotch egg salad with fried potatoes). The theatre production was a National Theatre production streamed throughout many theatre in the world. The puppetry was superb as were the production and the performances. The story contains an inevitable amount of sentimentality (we find ourselves lamenting the death of a horse while all around men are being mown down in their hundreds) but there are real morals in the story – it is the things which the hero did for Joey which saved his life (even the forcing him to pull the plough to win a bet) and the haunting song reminding us that we will be remembered for what we do. Life is full of coincidences (if you believe in them) and if you try to achieve the impossible, just sometimes you will achieve it. It was a good evening.

We drove home and were glad of the warm welcome waiting for us from Mix and Rowan (who have become such very good friends). We walked the dogs and retired to bed.

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Wednesday 5th. March, 2014 – Ash Wednesday 


This picture belongs with yesterday’s entry. Rachel took it on her telephone and it shows me tossing a pancake while Mum looks on.
Rachel emailed the picture to me but it didn’t arrive until today


Woke early (I was actually awoken by a text message from Amazon telling me at what time my delivery would arrive). I got up and Mix and I went for a walk down to the bridge. On our return we went into the summer house where I completed the music for the World Day of Prayer service for Arrochar and got this sent off to Jamie. I also started on the music for next Sunday at Arrochar.



Even although we were early at the bridge, work had already started and others were getting ready to start their day’s activity


Just as I was completing the music, Tom arrived so I missed out on breakfast and we started straight off on the staircase – taking it all apart and then putting it together carefully, gluing all of the joints and screwing the whole assembly into the walls. We got the basics done by lunchtime when Tom had to go off with Dorothy and his daughter to Berwick to do some shopping. I took the opportunity to have some lunch and then to complete the music for Arrochar and get it sent off. It was lovely to have a bit of time and I spent quite a while on music practice (well, it is practice in the sense that I am learning; it isn’t practice in the sense that it is a preparation for something special or for some event or other. This is purely for my own enjoyment.)

Tom returned and we all but completed the staircase. There is a bit to do tomorrow but it will be done by lunchtime (unless we decide to do something else instead). I drove Tom home and then came back and had a quick shower.

We dined early at 5.45 so that we could drop Mum in Duns for the Duns Guild and so that Rachel and I could go to Gavinton Church to the Ash Wednesday service to mark the start of Lent. It was a good service with members of the congregation reading – the theme being our need for forgiveness as we set out on the journey to Jerusalem with Jesus. Anne spoke about the alternative of ‘taking on’ rather than ‘giving up’ something during Lent (quoting from Matthew’s Gospel in her support).

Back home I subsided in front of the stove and dozed – Lewis was on the television (and the News and Newsnight) but to be honest I saw little television this evening.

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Tuesday 4th. March, 2014 Pancake Tuesday 


We used to catch sight of this doo cot as we drove into Duns – now the road is closed we can walk there with the dogs and have a proper look. It is rather smart


Woke and walked Mix down to the bridge – on the way we saw three deer. They weren’t in the least fazed by the bird-scarers which were sounding off but on seeing Mix they wandered off across the field and over the horizon.



Our staircase arrives, swathed in plastic, and almost the last delivery on this van which set out earlier in the day from Newcastle


Worked in the summer house for a while until it was breakfast time and then went to the farmhouse for my porridge. Tom and Dorothy arrived and we moved some plaster-board up to the first floor of the Hen House and then worked on the plaster-boarding of the library. While Tom and Dorothy were away for lunch the delivery van with our staircase arrived. Rachel and I helped the driver (from Newcastle) unpack the staircase bits and then, when Tom arrived, we had a dry run of erecting the staircase. We now know that it fits and tomorrow we will fit it together properly and fit it to the wall. We really are moving forward.



Tom and Rachel pose in the hole into which the staircase will fit (we hope)




Tom in action assembling the staircase




The staircase has been dry-assembled -- tomorrow we will disassemble it and fit it together properly with all of the fixings


Mix, Rowan, Rachel and I walked across the Blackadder Bridge to the doo cot and then returned to the Granary where we gave the dogs their evening meal. I came back to the summer house to look at the music for the World Day of Prayer service before dinner.

We ate in the farm house (a splendid meal which, appropriately, included pancakes) and then Rachel and I retired to the Granary for a leisurely evening watching Death in Paradise and sleeping through the News and Newsnight. I needed a leisurely evening because my body was aching after hauling the stairway into place and holding it up while the next bit was fitted. However, it seems to be a perfect fit – something we will know for certain tomorrow.

I walked Mix and retired to bed, to sleep, to dream of completed staircases and the next phase of our building projects and of my joinery apprenticeship!

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Monday 3rd. March, 2014 – Our road is closed 


Our road will remain closed for the next two months


Woke and got up, with walking Mix first on my agenda. Discovered that the road outside our house running from Duns to here was in the process of being closed. It will be closed for eight weeks or so and, far from this being a bad thing, it will give us a splendid road to walk down as our own private dog-walking area.

Mix and I walked down it this morning and then returned for breakfast in the farmhouse. As I made my way back to the Granary, Rachel was coming out with Rowan – so we went for another walk with them, again along our newly closed road. It is great!

Tom arrived and he and Rachel put up the curtain in Mum’s Garden Room while I made some phone calls (Including chasing up the hammer I had ordered two months ago from HomeBase and which had never arrived.) I discovered too that our staircase had been loaded on to a lorry in Leeds and would arrive here tomorrow morning. So we set about clearing a space in the Hen House for the staircase and discovered a power supply while we were doing that. I ‘phoned the electrician to see if he will be able to use this supply or whether we will require another one.



The sun was shining today – that’s why we set about the barn – and Mix enjoyed the sun pouring into the summer house through the blinds


We stopped for coffee and then had a look at Rachel’s Bongo which is again not starting. Tom and Rachel went off to Duns to speak to the garage while I started to look at the music which Arrochar require for the World Day of Prayer service on Friday. Tom ‘phoned and I went to collect him (coming via Fogo).

Back at Mount Pleasant, we started Rachel’s Bongo and then Rachel drove it to the Garage with Tom and I driving behind to collect her. We drove to Duns via Sinclair’s Hill and then, after visiting Pearson’s, we returned by the same route (meeting Dorothy returning from her spinning class on the way).

When we got home I discovered that there had been a parcel delivery – my hammer had arrived!



At the start of today this barn was full – now it is absolutely empty


Now we set about the task of the day. We gutted the barn behind the new wooden doors which we made in January. This is a totally secure barn, inaccessible to birds, and now that we have gutted it, we will wash it out tomorrow and then start to load in all of the things which we want to keep but don’t yet have a place for. It will be a long job because we’ll do it slowly, opening every box and keeping a record of where everything is so that we will know for the future. Well, that is the plan – of course, tomorrow our staircase arrives and we also have to plasterboard the upstairs of the Hen House, so there are many competing demands on our time, but it is exciting.



The Blackadder Bridge which will be completely rebuilt over the next two months


Gutting the barn exhausted me – things are so heavy – so after Rachel and I had taken the dogs on a walk all the way to Nisbet Hill along the closed road, I enjoyed a hot shower before dinner. Rachel is so bushed that she declined dinner and preferred to remain in front of the stove.

After dinner we settled down in front of the stove. It was a hard job to remain awake but I watched Silk followed by the News and Newsnight before walking both of the dogs – Rachel had retired to bed.

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Sunday 2nd. March, 2014 – Transfiguration Sunday 


These yellow roses with pussy-willows were in Church this morning making the Church very attractive (or even more attractive than it normally is)


Woke and walked Mix. The Swinton Road was very quiet but then it is Sunday. From tomorrow the road from our home to Duns is due to be closed for eight weeks to allow for repairs to the bridge over the River Blackadder. That will make that road, which at present is quite busy, a really enjoyable walk for Mix and me. I wonder if it will be closed by tomorrow first thing or whether we will have to wait until later in the day? Of course, we will have to find a new route to drive into Duns but there will be several to chose between.

Breakfasted and set off with Mum and Rachel for Church where the readings, meditations and prayers were on the theme of Transfiguration – of Moses at Mount Sinai, and of Peter, James and John with Jesus as he was transfigured with Moses and Elijah on (?) Mount Horeb. After the service we went to the church hall for coffee and chatted with Tom and Dorothy who were setting off for Kelso to the annual potato market. We told them to look out for Digger who had set off earlier for the same destination.

Back home we went for lunch at the farmhouse (carrot soup followed by chicken and potatoes and kale) at which we were joined by Scott and Sue. They left after lunch with Olive and Digger who went along to grab the best of some of the books which Scott was throwing out. I sorted out my finances in the summer house and then, when Rachel went off to evensong in Berwick, I moved back into the Granary so that Rowan was not on her own. There I did some music practice while I watched the cricket from the West Indies. What looked like a walk in the park for England after they dismissed West Indies very cheaply, turned into a real struggle and it required a good partnership from Ravi Bopara and Stewart Broad to see England home.

As soon as the game ended, Rachel and I had an evening meal around our table in the Granary and then we settled down to watch Mr. Selfridge and the News before walking the dogs and retiring to bed. Tomorrow is going to be a big day. We have to clear the space for the staircase to go in the Hen House. Then, once the bits arrive, we have to get them into position and build them into a staircase. And then we will have easy access to the top floor! Can’t wait.

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Saturday 1st. March, 2014 – St. David’s Day 


This morning the sun was shining -- it was if Spring had arrived and I felt good


This morning I slept in. Well, it wasn’t really sleeping in because I didn’t set my alarm and I didn’t plan to wake at any particular time. (One can do that when one is retired.)

It was after ten when I awoke. I rose slowly and then Mix and I went for a walk. It was beautiful, the sun was shining and all was right with the world.

On returning to Mount Pleasant, Mix and I made our way to the summer house and there I prepared the music for Arrochar’s Service tomorrow and got it all sent off to Jamie. That done I stopped for a snack and then Mix and I returned to the summer house to try to catch up with my diary. I’d taken notes while I was away so that was no problem. What was a problem was that my camera had given out and I had had to use my telephone. The pictures were caught on a micro flash card within the telephone but to get them on to my computer required an adaptor. I didn’t have one. Amazon could (and will) deliver one to me on Monday but I didn’t want to leave my diary un-updated until them. There was nothing for it but that I would choose the pictures I wanted from the thumbnails on the camera and email them to myself. However, here I get almost no reception .... it would have made a good episode for a family comedy and it took me all afternoon (and a little of the evening) to get things up to date. But up to date I am, and that’s great.

When I get all of the pictures off my telephone I will find that I have some which I would have wished to have shown the world (or at least kept to remind myself of where I have been) so in all probability they will appear on the pages of my diary in the days to come.

Mix and I went for a walk this afternoon: the weather was still very good and because it was very dry underfoot we were able to walk along Bramble Avenue. Mix enjoyed it. Later we dined with Olive, Digger and Mum in the farmhouse – a sausage casserole with loads of carrots and potatoes, followed by trifle and ice-cream.

In the evening Rachel and I watched Endeavour on the television and then we walked the dogs before bed. I’m looking forward to tomorrow. Church for one thing and then I hope to get some sorting out done, and a little music practice as well, before the week starts and we continue with our building project. (This time next week I hope to have a staircase in the hen house and at least one room fully plaster-boarded: now there is a hostage to fortune.)

The good weather has disappeared – our final walk took place in heavy rain – and as I put these words into the computer the rain is getting heavier. And there was me thinking that Spring was just around the corner.

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Friday 28th. February, 2014 – The long journey home 


Vadstena sits on the bank of a beautiful lake


I was woken by my alarm at 6.30 a.m. I showered and dressed and then packed my bag, stripped my bed and went for breakfast at 7.30 a.m. so that I could join the others in Church for the service of Holy Communion at 8 a.m. As it was Friday a painted crucifix with icons of Bridget ( called Birgitta in Swedish) and Katarina on the arms, was in front of the altar and we gathered around this icon for the service which was conducted by the vicar in whose home we had dined last evening.



The crucifix around which we gathered


We all walked back to our base together and the morning’s programme began – a discussion about membership criteria and about funding and the different and considerable additional sources open to us. We broke for coffee (across the lawn in the students’ refectory) and then resumed our discussions, centering on future meetings and on their format.

We moved into groups – the British ‘chapter’: Caroline from Canterbury, Kevin from St. Albans, Peter from Norwich and me from Scotland – discussed our ‘to do’ list – the launch at Canterbury, the secular partnership at Norwich, the work in Wales (with Chris), in Scotland and in Ireland. New areas were targeted with me talking through the possibility of engaging with Jarrow, the World of Bede, Euromine and so on. At least we all know what we are meant to be doing over the coming months!

The minutes raced by and soon it was time to return to church for the noon service of prayer, followed by lunch in the refectory. I loved my stuffed tomato with a glorious salad and sautéed potatoes.

In the hour after lunch a number of smaller meetings took place – to arrange a European pilgrimage to Canterbury; to complete a funding application. As I wasn’t required I nipped out and walked around the town taking some photos; the sun came out and I was truly blessed.

I walked by the lake, visited the castle, popped into the old station (now closed) but with some rolling stock on the line. I looked at the old medieval streets and admired the buildings – and I was so glad to have had the opportunity of taking all of this in.



The Castle entrance




The courtyard




A view from the drawbridge over the moat as the water goes out to the lake




An old railway carriage




The white building is the original Town Hall




The first town chemist’s shop is still in business




These two buildings were built centuries apart. On the left a nineteenth century building, on the right a seventeenth century one




One of the little streets along which I wandered




and I walked across this square (which is under some degree of restoration)




This mark, made by Pilgrims over the centuries, is by the front door of the Abbey Church


I was back after an hour (having met up with Kevin who had also escaped for a moment or two. Back at base we had a round-up session where we were each reminded of our tasks. I have responsibilities in Scotland, northern England and Ireland as well as some research to complete and write up. Now I have my summer house it will be fun to get started on that.

At 2.45 p.m. – what a lot we had packed into today – we loaded ourselves into a minibus and set off for the airport. Kevin was staying on for an extra night in Linkoping, the rest of us got on the 5.10 flight for Amsterdam – and there we all separated and went our different ways: Alison and Berit (along with the vicar of Vadstena) to Bethlehem; Martin to Bristol; Peter to Norwich, Caroline to Heathrow and me to Edinburgh.

The flight was uneventful enough and Rachel was waiting for me at Edinburgh. I was glad to see her – I was delighted to be home. It has been a wonderful three days and I have learned a lot: but it is good to be home.

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Thursday 27th. February, 2014 In Conference at Vadstena 


Some of the folk gathered around the table as our talks began


Up at 6.30 a.m. to shower and have a short walk before breakfast at 7.30 a.m. (egg, cold meats, cheese, coffee) and then it was off to Church (Bridget’s Church and, after a fire at the original one, the parish church) for Holy Communion. It was, of course, all in Swedish but I followed it fine (because of my knowledge of the liturgy rather than of the language).



Inside the church it is really quite dark – so excuse the quality – but this little corner of the Church is where we gathered for morning prayers


Back in our centre we moved into the conference room and started our discussions. The morning was spent in catching up; in hearing how things were developing in India, in China and in Japan.

In India they are gearing up for the Hindu Environment Week during which plans to green Temples will be shared, with a big meeting planned for the end of this year.

Bethlehem is now linked with Trondheim and there will be a conference to discuss the greening of Bethlehem next week.

Santiago de Compostela’s plans to join the network are advancing and there will be a conference there, possibly in September in conjunction with the World Tourist Organisation, or possibly early next year.

Work is progressing on the Canterbury to Rome to Jerusalem pilgrimage way. Work in Jerusalem is refocusing on representation of the different faiths resident there.

In China work is moving forward quickly. Six new organic nurseries, a new Green Temple and three new places to come on line this year.

Confuscianism has adopted Green Pilgrimage and in Japan the Shinto are also developing their programmes.



Some of the folk at the other side of the table


We discussed Etchmiadzin, the Haj (to Mecca and to the Suffi Shrines to which pilgrims travel in huge numbers from Indonesia, Malaysia and Nigeria). And then we heard a little about Sweden’s tourist routes: Bridget’s and the longer (300 km) Cloister route. Routes are now built around Youth Hostels and sleeping places because so many of the smaller churches have been sold. Local people stressed the importance of a good experience for the hosts of the pilgrims to enable routes to develop and grow. What a lot is going on!

We looked at developments in Green Pilgrimage in Europe where there is a great deal of excitement and interest in Green Pilgrimage with denominations making staff available to take advantage of the new opportunities which are being presented. I was enormously encouraged by the investment by the churches in Norway and Sweden and in England too, in pilgrimage. The Pilgrimage Centre in Vadstena now has six ministerial staff provided by the Church and has seen its work develop exponentially over almost twenty years – there is a Pilgrim chaplain at the Abbey Church and services are held several times every day; Pilgrim ministers are available to lead people on pilgrimage because this is seen as both as part of the service of the church and as a great means of mission and outreach.



A picture of part of the interior of the Church


At lunchtime we went first to the Church for the mid-day prayer service (fifteen minutes including a song from Taize) – this was one of the services provided by the pilgrimage staff, in this case a volunteer – and then we went to the former monastery, now owned by the state and run as a hotel, for a magnificent lunch as guests of the Town Council.



I took this picture of the restaurant after our tour – it had been put back together again – but look at the vaulted ceilings under which the monks slept in time gone-by


Again we ate cod with salad and vegetables – we started with an onion soup. (Cod is a favourite we discovered. It is extremely tasty and I think that Swedish people live on fish.) We were taken on a tour of the former monastery and then into the former convent/palace by an enthusiastic guide who spoke as if the events of long ago had happened in his recent memory.



Some of us are listening intently as our guide describes the changes which have taken place to this former monastery


Back at base we started to make plans for the future: the visits which will have to be made to assist new groups to join the network; major conferences which are to happen over the next year; a task force to take forward new opportunities and so on. It was all good stuff. I was just a little sorry that I was no longer going to be able to help Argyll grasp the opportunities which other people were reaching out for with such enthusiasm – but other people will pick up that baton.

We broke in the middle of the afternoon to go to the official Pilgrimage Centre to see their coffee bar (and drink their coffee), to visit their bookshop (and buy some of the books) and to take some of the pictures I had missed last night because it had been dark.



The large Pilgrim Rosary on the wall of the Church


I was given a pilgrimage rosary with beads to wear around my wrist – each bead stands for a part of one’s prayer cycle and, if I remember, it goes something like this: the gold bead stands for God (where all our prayers begin), a little bead for silence is followed by a small white bead for me and a larger white bead for my Baptism which makes me what I am; a silence is followed by a brown bead to give me the opportunity of bringing my worries to God (and sometimes the desert place in which I find myself). A further silence is followed by a blue bead to challenge me to count my blessings and to recall my happy times; a silence is followed by two red beads: the first for all of the love given to me and the second for the love which I give to other people (we love because we are first loved). Three white beads follow: they are for my secrets – the special things about me which I wish to share with God. A black bead enables me to bring my losses to God, for those who have died whom I miss, and then a silence followed by a white bead for revelation: what God has said to me as I take part in the prayer exercise, because the aim of the cycle is to enable us to place ourselves before God and then to listen to him in the silence and in the prayer. A final silence brings one back to the gold bead, brings one back to God.



One of the ladies of Vadstena with a Pilgrim Rosary Bracelet


Well, my beads weren’t quite like that. The first of my secret beads had been replaced with a green bead – signifying life, service and pilgrimage. It was a lovely gift and it originated here in this diocese twenty years ago. (The green bead is a much more recent alteration.)

Back to work to round off plans for the major conference this time next year and by the time that was done it was time to have a quick break before going back to the Abbey Church, this time to be shown round by a guide.



Look closely at this model and you can see the platform where the nuns used to come into Church and worship


The Abbey Church is an enormous building – and by Bridget’s decree a very plain and austere building. Between the six front pillars had originally been a platform at first floor height with a surrounding fence. This was for the nuns who entered at first-floor level and were thus unseen by anyone in the church – pilgrims and monks – the townsfolk were not allowed to come in. This platform is now long gone. There are many treasures in the Church – ancient altar screens, fabulous altars and sculptures.



How is this for a vicarage? – quite the biggest manse I have ever seen


Our hour just flew by and we were a few minutes late when we arrived at the two-hundred-year-old vicarage for our evening meal. It is a huge vicarage and wonderfully furnished. Again we ate royally. The salmon was in huge chunks as if it were fresh – but it was smoked and served with salad, vegetables, potatoes and a sauce of crème fraiche, mayonnaise, and caviar! This was followed by a cheese cake with cream and strawberries. Wonderful.

The conversation flowed until it was time to come back to base, to unwind, and to reflect a little on an exceptional day, before bed.

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Wednesday 26th. February, 2014 – Off on my travels 


Taken in the gathering gloom, this is a picture of the Pilgrimage Centre in which we stayed. My room is the one in the middle of the first floor above the room with the light on it. It was lovely and everywhere was surrounded by trees


I was up at five so that I could shower, get ready and still be on the road by 6 a.m. Rachel drove me to Edinburgh airport (Rowan came with us while Mix moved into the farmhouse). Our journey took around ninety minutes.

I didn’t have to check in – I had done that on line – and because I only had hand baggage I only had to walk through security and wait until my gate number was announced. This turned out to be quite some wait. My plane had developed a fault in Amsterdam and had to be replaced. As a result we were an hour late in leaving, but fortunately I had time to spare in Amsterdam and could wander to my gate for Linkoping without any problem at all.

In the departure lounge there I met up with everyone who was coming to the get-together: Peter, Caroline, Kevin, Alison, Martin from England and Berit from Norway. We were met in Linkoping by Per who drove us in his minibus to Vadstena – an important pilgrimage centre in Sweden. (The airport at Linkoping was interesting. It was tiny, just the two gates, and when we arrived we were the only plane in the airport. It seems that the airport was built by Saab for their near-by factory but that they allow the community to use it and it has become a city-airport. It was certainly very friendly and welcoming and reminded me of Genoa airport back in the early seventies when I worked there.)

Our base in Vadstena was in a Pilgrim building which is part of the local church facilities which enable the church to provide education, accommodation, meals and conferences for students. It is extremely comfortable.

No sooner had we settled in than it was time to leave the building to be taken on a walking tour of the town. We learned of a very interesting history starting with the creation of a royal palace in the middle of the thirteenth century. One of the ladies in waiting to the queen was Briget, a wealthy woman born in 1303, married at the age of twelve and becoming the mother of eight children before she was widowed on the death of her husband (who was quite a lot older than she was).



It was getting quite dark but here you can see the church rising above the building which was the palace and became the convent




This model shows how the Church and convent relate to each other


Bridget decided to form a new religious order – named after herself. She persuaded the king and queen to give her the palace for her order and then set off for Rome to confront the Pope to ask for permission to set up her order.

Life was not without difficulties for her. First, she wished to create an order which included both men and women (60 nuns and 25 monks) and second, the Pope had moved from Rome to Avignon.

Bridget never returned to Sweden, spending the final twenty years of her long life (she died just before her 70th. birthday) in Rome, first communicating by letter with Avignon and finally face to face once the Pope returned and gave her permission for her order.



Initially this was the Palace of Vadstena. Then it was higher with larger windows and was hugely decorated and elaborate on the exterior. Bridget required it to be made into a building more appropriate for nuns and so the building was lowered and all of the decoration removed


Messages were sent to Sweden through her daughter – the palace was converted into a convent, a huge Church was built, a monastery was constructed and everything was enclosed by a wall (a further wall divided the monks from the nuns). We saw the joining wall through which monks and nuns (or at least the senior monk and the Abbess) could converse but not see each other – and a turning half-barrel which could enable letters to be transferred.



This is a fascinating picture – among the excavations behind the Church you can see the wall through which monks and nuns communicated: the section with holes so that one could hear but not see; the half-barrel into which something could be place and turned round so that it went through the wall; and the box which could be shuttled through the wall for bigger items


The next phase was the growth, not connected with the religious community, of care for mentally ill people – large facilities for both male and female were created by a sixteenth century benefactor, and continued until comparatively recently.

Vadstena remains predominantly a medieval town – not large: today there are about 5,500 people living here (and, according to the local newspaper, 500 dogs).

However, to return to what we were told by our guide, a later king built a fortress which later became a castle. It is a fine looking building which now houses municipal records and a museum and is still surrounded by a magnificent moat.



This is the fortress which then came a castle once the King was convinced that security was no longer his foremost concern


Originally, we were told, the whole town was protected by such a moat. In fact Vadstena sits on the shore of an enormous lake 140 km long by 40 km wide and over 100 metres deep. It is clean, pure water, used as drinking water for most people in this part of Sweden.



The light is going but this is the refectory just across from our accommodation (and opposite the convent building). Here meals and coffee were always available – not just for us but for the hundred or so students who attend the courses facilitated by the Church


Our guide for our tour was an ex Army Officer, now retired. He led us through the streets pointing out medieval buildings and brimming over with enthusiasm for his subject. He returned us to our base and immediately we went across to the refectory for dinner. We were served with with cod, potatoes and mixed vegetables, followed by a lovely desert. It was a splendid meal.



Not satisfactory as a photograph (my camera has no flash) but excellent as a reminder of a superb meal in great company in a place I never expected to be


After a walk we came back to the centre for cheese and fruit and then retired to bed. It had been a long day. My only disappointment had been that my small camera (which I have used for years) chose today to finally give up the ghost. As a result all of my photos for this trip have been taken on my mobile phone, (which unlike many people’s phones is primarily just that, a telephone).

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Tuesday 25th. February, 2014 – Welcome visitors 


Enjoying a chat with Lorraine and Cathy in the summer house


Up early to walk the dog and have breakfast before getting my things ready for my trip away tomorrow. I drove Mum to Duns for her hairdressing appointment and when I returned Cathy and Lorraine had arrived to visit us, all the way from Luss.

It was really good to see them both. We had coffee (actually most had tea) in the Granary before showing them around the barns and outhouses which make up Mount Pleasant, ending up in the summer house where we shared all of our news about our Borders Excitements.

Rachel went off to collect Mum and when she returned we all went across to the farmhouse where Mum showed them around her domain before Olive gave us all lunch. It was a lovely day – and a lovely meal – and afterwards we explored the gardens, ending up again in the summer house because Cathy had upholstered a chair for me and brought it down as a present for the summer house. It was the chair which we had brought to Luss for my father when he was ill and it is lovely to have it all refurbished and looking as if it were brand-new.

Digger returned from the dentist and, after tea in the Granary, he took Cathy to see the dome he is building to house vegetables in the garden. Before we knew it, it was getting dark and time for Lorraine and Cathy to set off for home. Their visit was a real treat for us and we hope to see them again before too long has passed.



Didn’t manage to get Olive in the picture – not that she’ll mind – but here we are all gathered around the farmhouse table at lunchtime


I packed my bags for tomorrow and we all gathered around the table in the farmhouse for our evening meal. In the evening we watched a bit of television (Death in Paradise); I got to bed early as tomorrow I go to Sweden where I will be until Friday, leaving Rachel, Mum, Digger and Olive (along with Mix, Rowan and Heidi) to hold the fort in my absence.

Because I am away my diary will not be brought up to date until Friday evening at which point normal service will be resumed. I have never been to Sweden before and hope to have lots to report. I am going to a meeting of the Green Pilgrimage Movement to continue our discussions about the creation of a European Chapter. It will be exciting.

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Monday 24th. February, 2014 A relaxing day 


It’s a dog’s life – and it is rather good!


Up and walked Mix on a fresh morning with just a smidgen of rain in the air. Breakfasted – I’m still on porridge -- and went back to the Granary to sort out some bits and pieces. Tom arrived and soon had our gas fire operational, making me feel a little foolish in the process.

I sorted out some of the paperwork which had built up over the last weeks and tried to pay some bills on-line.

Just before lunch time my friends Bill and Peggy arrived – I have known them both for many years and count them among my most special of friends – they are to be married soon and I am so share in their ceremony, something which I feel extremely honoured about. We went for lunch at Hugo’s – we were fed extremely well (and quite cheaply too). Back at Mount Pleasant I showed Peggy and Bill around and then we settled down in the summer house to talk about their wedding. I was sorry when it was time for them to set off for home.

I dined with Mum and Digger (Olive was en route from Dundee and Rachel was still full of lunch) and then I settled down in front of the television while a wave of contentment washed over me – friends, food, retirement: take your pick, but it has been a very happy day.

(I watched the tv debate about independence between Fiona Hislop and Annabel Goldie on an expanded Newsnight Scotland. I thought that this was much more informative than the usual television offerings because it was just two people having questions put to them by three questioners. As we have more of these debates the issues will become sharper because what people say will be analysed and examined and the starting point will move a bit forward with each successive debate.)

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Sunday 23rd. February, 2014 – A Happy Sunday 


The flowers in Church this morning were given by my mother (today would have been my father’s ninety-third birthday)


Today must have been one of the most blustery days of the winter so far. Extremely windy, not a little rain and really quite cold. Mix and I walked and then I had breakfast before Mum, Rachel and I set off for Gavinton Church.

It was a special service today because, as visitors, we had Joan and Dawn from the Berwickshire Christian Youth Trust where both are members of the management committee. We learned that the Trust has two of a staff who work with young people (Mark and Stewart). They spend time in both primary and secondary schools in the area and arrange camps and other events to support young people who are trying to live out a life of faith in a secular world.

Joan and dawn used the initials of the trust to provide us with some insights into their thinking. B is for bread – a staple food throughout the world (life changing if you don’t have it) and faith is our staple food in a life of Christian pilgrimage – the trust exists to share faith. C is for candle. Even one candle in a dark room makes a difference. It gives hope of more light but a candle flame has to be protected else it will go out – the trust exists to protect the faith of young people who are learning to live a life of faith. Y is for yeast. Yeast makes flour and water grow into loaves of bread. Young people, properly supported, change their own communities. T is for torch – bring all the candles together and a great flame is produced. The trust exists to arrange events such as camps at which Christian youngsters can learn from each other and grow in faith.

Dawn spoke of the difference that the trust had made in the lives of young people over fifteen years – a boy had grown in faith and now works in forestry in India, helping the community there in a practical way and also sharing his faith; a girl had become a teacher and now runs a Sunday evening activity for young people at her church; another girl had trained and was now in Africa learning to be a missionary. Little things lead to greater things.

And how can we help? The trust needs people who are prepared to give their time, perhaps to go along to a Scripture Union event at a local school. It needs people who will bake cakes or donate tins of biscuits to be enjoyed at local events. It needs people to support its work in prayer; and it needs people to donate money as each year it costs something like £40,000 just to keep it going. Here in Gavinton Church there is a collection for the work of the BCYT on the final Sunday of each month.



After the service we joined everyone for tea of coffee in the Church hall


Our Bible readings were the Call of Samuel, the reading from the first letter of Peter about living stones, and the passage from the sermon on the mount about being salt and light to our generation. After the service we went for tea and coffee in the church hall and then we came back to Mount Pleasant where I did some accordion practice and watched the final of the Olympic ice-hockey (Canada 3 – Sweden 0) before lunch in the farm house. We ate well: tuna pate followed by chicken casserole and roast potatoes.

After lunch I settled down in front of the stove to watch some of the ice spectacular and then the closing ceremony of the Winter Olympics. It seems to me that it has been a superb Games. I was gobsmacked by the closing ceremony. I hadn’t known what to expect – I suppose something music-based like the London one – but, good as that was, this was superb. I loved the way that the Russians had handed the direction over to an Italian to look at their culture from the outside; I loved the themes which emerged – the sea, Russian music, Russian literature, Russian dance and, of course, the Russian circus. I loved the life and vigour and humour. I loved the use of the whole space (from massive floor to roof). I loved the huge cast and the involvement of children. I loved the giant puppets and the reference back to the last time that the Olympics had been celebrated in Russia. I loved the crowds and the enthusiasm of the chair of the organising committee and I really loved the appropriate words spoken by Mr. Bach of the Olympic Committee with his emphasis on peace and respect and tolerance – words which need to be heard world-wide because the picture of the athletes from all over sharing in an Olympic village is a powerful one for all of humanity.

Of course, it all cost a huge amount of money – but its legacy may be huge as well and I gather that the world cup will use some of the same facilities – but our Olympics cost a great deal of money as well and many people consider that that was money well spent. Still, all I started off to say was that I thought that the closing ceremony was immense and that all of the children who took part, and all of those who watched it in the arena and all of the competitors who were there, will have had an experience which they will never forget. Now bring on the Commonwealth Games!

In the evening Rachel and I had a snack together and watched Mr. Selfridge before walking the dogs and retiring to bed.

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Saturday 22nd. February, 2014 – A day of some indolence 


“Are you coming?”


I meant to include this picture yesterday. I took it when Mix and I were exploring our woodland walk. I forgot, so here it is today.

I have been lazy today. I didn’t get up for breakfast (I told everyone I wouldn’t yesterday). In fact I slept in until half-past eight and then read for an hour before getting up. I would have read longer but I finished my book. I did then go across to the farmhouse for a leisurely late breakfast.

Soon afterwards Olive, Rachel and Mum went off to Berwick to buy curtains. I stayed at home to look after the dogs. I spent the time practising my ukulele and repairing the key-pegs on my ukulele-banjo (oh and in having some excellent cheese rolls while I watched the Olympics on the television).

The travellers returned and I went out for a walk with Mix. We passed the entrance to Bramble Avenue. We didn’t go along it because it was very wet underfoot and I was in loafing-around-in-the-house clothes. I remembered that we had been told recently that the locals don’t call it Bramble Avenue but Coal Lane – because evidently in times past the cottars with their coal used this path as a short cut when they were delivering coal to Bogend Farm. To us it will always be Bramble Avenue because it was filled with Brambles when we first arrived.



Coal Lane or Bramble Avenue – take your pick


On returning with Mix I spent a couple of hours re-learning to play my accordion. I say ‘relearning’ but in case you imagine that now I can play it what I mean is re-learning what I am meant to do, I still have to learn how to do it!

By now it was time to station Mix with Olive and Digger so that Rachel and I could go off to Berwick to attend an illustrated talk by Jamie Bruce, the son of my next-room-to-me fellow student in Sallies (St. Salvator’s Hall) all those years ago. Jamie had been on a splendid adventure walking in the footsteps of David Livingstone from Blantyre to Malawi (and including the Camino (Compostela de Santiago for good measure). He showed excellent slides and provided us with a wealth of information not only about his adventures but also about the charity Mary’s Meals as well. The talk was in the St. Cuthbert’s Church Centre. I hadn’t realised that and so we went first to the Church which was an absolute blessing because we met a splendid lady who was coming out of the church and who walked with us to the centre. She had met her husband at St. Andrews University in the fifties and was now clearly enjoying her life in Berwick.

After the talk we had a fish supper in the car (well, we had missed tea) and then made our way home, just in time to catch a bit of tv, walk the dogs and retire to bed. Didn’t achieve a thing but it has been a very enjoyable day!

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Friday 21st. February, 2014 – Delivery day 


Bright and early the Pearson’s lorry arrived with all of our plasterboard


I was up early with Mix walked at the crack of dawn so that I was ready in case the plasterboard delivery arrived really early. In fact I had time for breakfast, after which Tom and I went into the Hen House to carry on with the plaster-boarding of the library. (Mix came too. He was so distressed at being left at the foot of the ladder that I put him in his harness and carried him up the ladder.) Tom started to cut some of the trickier pieces of plasterboard while I continued where Rachel had left off in filling in the insulation.

We hadn’t been at it very long when Digger arrived to say that the delivery lorry was in the driveway. Tom went off to see them while I carried Mix down the ladder and parked him with Olive in the farm house.

It took no time at all for the lorry to deliver the fifty sheets of plasterboard. It took a great while for us to carry the sheets into the Hen House and stack them ready for use. Once we had finished we were finished and retired to the farm house for coffee and chocolate biscuits (to replace our energy). A strange fact we discovered was that the further down the pile of plasterboard we went, the heavier the sheets became.



Finally, with a lot of help, we got the plasterboard into the Hen House – now all we have to do is to get it upstairs


At lunch time, when Tom had returned home to get something to eat and to see Dorothy, I dealt with our electricity tariff and spoke to the firm who have supplied us with plans for our staircase. There is a ten working days delivery but when I explained that we were two old codgers who were having to carry sheets of plasterboard up a ladder Paul, from the stair company, said that he would get the staircase to us even quicker. People are invariably helpful – I was glad in this instance as the firm comes from Yorkshire (where Rachel comes from) and we discovered in conversation that the firm is based just six miles from where Rachel went to school.

Tom and Rachel were by this time back at work in the Hen House. A parcel was delivered for Digger and I took it across to the farmhouse where I met Ray (one of our near neighbours) who was visiting Olive. I enjoyed meeting her very much indeed -- so much so that I had to make my apologies to Tom for being late on parade.

We worked through until it was time for Tom to go home. I did a bit of work in the summer house, walked Mix along the path to the River Blackadder, showered and then went for supper with everyone in the farm house. Afterwards we all, Mum, Olive, Digger, Rachel and I, adjourned to the Granary where we watched a recording of The Town which had been on tv comparatively recently. It was really good and I enjoyed it.

Finally I walked Mix around the policies – it is colder this evening, presumably because it is so clear – and then I went to bed.

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Thursday 20th. February, 2014 – A day with a bit of everything in it 


A picture of the stage for Twelfth Night taken before the show began – it was superb


Set my alarm for seven and was on the go shortly afterwards, walking Mix and then meeting with Tom in time to be up at Pearson’s just as it opened at 8 o’clock. Pearson were having a 15% off day today – I suppose because they are stocktaking next week and want to get their stock down as low as possible. Anyway, there were things we were needing for our Hen House project and we were anxious to take advantage of their special offers. So we bought fifty sheets of plasterboard, a whole load of insulation material, a gas cylinder and some more tools and were back home before nine – we brought everything with us in Tom’s trailer except for the plasterboard which will be delivered tomorrow.

We breakfasted in the farmhouse, Olive and Mum were still not up and about, and then we set about making space in the Hen House for the plasterboard and for the creation of the staircase which is high on our list of priorities. We liberated three pine chests of drawers which we installed in Olive’s guest room and which will provide much needed storage space in the farmhouse.



Elevenses in the Granary


We stopped for elevenses in the Granary and then completed the work of getting ready for our delivery. While we drank coffee we watched some of the Olympics – the downhill skiing over jumps was incredibly exciting and led to a French one, two and three. Wonderful too to see the British women winning their curling bronze medal – the coolness of their final stone: amazing under such pressure. I hope that it bodes well for tomorrow when the men play in the final.

At lunchtime Tom, Mum and I went off and picked up Dorothy and then went to the Church hall at Gavinton for lunch – soup, and banana and apple cake. Delicious.



The tables are just beginning to fill up -- it was an excellent lunch


Back at Mount Pleasant we started trying to design our staircase, eventually discussing our plans with a professional company who have promised us more information. Tom and Rachel did some work on the Bongo which has a faulty fan, and I prepared the music for Arrochar for Sunday. I also walked Mix before showering, changing and setting off with Rachel for the Maltings in Berwick where first we dined – cullen skink followed by cheese soufflé with twice-fried chips and salad, washed down with ginger beer – and then we went to see Twelfth Night presented by the Filter Theatre Company in association with the Royal Shakespeare Company. This was a rock musical version of the famous play and it was absolutely superb, utterly brilliant and huge fun. In fact it lived up to all of the superlatives which theatre companies often use about their own productions for the purpose of drumming up ticket sales. The production was full of vitality, incredibly funny and intensely dramatic. It probably helped to have known the story of Twelfth Night but there were moments when I was helpless. The night of drunken revelry was done better than anything I have seen before. (And we were served with pizza during the party!) I loved the conversation with the radio (during the shipping forecast no less). I loved the music; I loved the use of the telephone and the security door phone; I loved the slapstick but there were powerful performances as well – and the rapport between Sir Andrew and Maria and the audience was fabulous. The production moved quickly, the dialogue was snappy and the doubling up was crisp and entertaining. The best show I’ve seen in years and when Feste/Maria ended the show by leading the company in song (The rain it raineth every day) I was so sorry that the performance had come to an end.

How good it was to see something of such quality (and of such a scale) on the stage of the Maltings. I hope that there is more to come.

We drove home and had coffee before walking the dogs and retiring to bed. What a wonderful day – and how many different things we have done in it.

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Wednesday 19th. February, 2014 – All hands to the pumps 


By the time I had the summer house in order it was already dark outside


Tom was already here when I returned from walking Mix so he joined me as I had breakfast in the farm house and then Digger and Rachel joined us in the Hen House to see if we could complete the ceiling in the library. Well, there was a lot of cutting to be done because the ceiling is quite irregular but, thanks to Tom’s skill, we got it done:



The ceiling is looking good


But the ceiling isn’t just looking good, it is going to keep us warm as well. I took this snap of the insulation which we had packed in between the beams:



While we were putting this insulation in place, Rachel was continuing to fit insulation in behind where the walls are to be. You can see her continuing to work away (even although the light is fading) in this picture:



If you look carefully you can see that the wall behind her has largely been plaster-boarded as well – Digger and I did that (to Tom’s instructions, of course).

We stopped at lunchtime – we are almost out of plasterboard and we all went about our different activities. Tom went off for lunch and then shopping with Dorothy to buy, among other things, feed for his hens; Digger had work to do on his dome; Rachel took Rowan into Berwick to do some shopping before walking on one of the beaches there; Mum went for an afternoon walk, Mix and I tidied the summer house, breaking off half way through the afternoon to go for a walk. All in all it has been a very satisfactory day. (I might have got the summer house tidied a little quicker had not the British men’s curling team kept me on tenterhooks as they eventually won through to the Olympic final – the women have also done well to be competing for third place tomorrow.)

Digger went off to collect Olive from the railway station, I drove Mum to the Duns Guild and then Olive, Digger, Rachel and I had a meal in the farmhouse before Rachel and I spent a happy evening in the Granary, relaxing in the warmth, doing nothing in front of the television – well, I did nothing: Rachel did some work on her stained glass project. There is no class tomorrow because it is half-term but Rachel has brought her work home to keep her hand in. (I watched an old film entitled Above the Law which was a kind of Dirty Harry film, quite unbelievable but quite fun with the Good Guys coming out on top against impossible odds.)

We walked the dogs and went to bed with our books.


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Tuesday 18th. February, 2014 – In the Hen House 


Today both Digger’s hens were walking around the allotment


Today it was fair when I awoke – the rains came later. Mix and I walked, I breakfasted, Tom arrived and we recruited Rachel, all going off to the Hen House to start work on the library there. In particular our task was to start to plasterboard the room – not as easy as we had imagined because none of the beams are level and the angles are all a little odd (well, it is an old building).

Mix went off to the farm house because it was too frustrating for him to be at the bottom of a ladder while we were on the first floor of a building to which he had no access. We collected the brooms we could find so that we could hold the plaster board in place while it was screwed on to the beams to make a ceiling – but brooms were not terribly satisfactory so we made our own plasterboard holding devices – bits of wood with a cross piece: the length was just a bit longer than the height of the room so that they could be used to wedge the ceiling in place until we screwed it on. (Now these are the kinds of thing I should be photographing but when we were fitting the ceiling it was all hands to the pumps and no time for photos.)



Rachel looks on while Tom works out where the first cuts in our plasterboard will be made


We had three sheets of plasterboard up by lunchtime and while the rest ate I went off to Pearsons to buy rolls of insulation to put above the ceilings. Then we got back to work and fitted another sheet – it was hard because nothing fitted quite as we had hoped but we spent a great deal of time on it and then gave up for the afternoon. We’ll start again tomorrow. Instead we settled down and watched some of the Olympics on the television while we drank coffee and ate snowballs and Tunnock’s Caramel Wafers – how good is it to be retired. (We watched some of the bobsleigh competition and some speed skating – as well as celebrating the British men’s victory in the curling.) We’ll complete our ceiling tomorrow and maybe get on to the walls as well (Rachel has been fitting insulation into the wall voids to enable us to get on quite quickly as our plaster-boarding skills develop.)



Tom has time to take a telephone call – the ceiling is taking shape


I spent a while in the summer house. I had intended to tidy but got waylaid into searching for staircase manufacturers. I may have found what we are looking for – but I will take advice from my journeyman tomorrow!



Rachel fits the wall insulation into place – all her jigsaw skills have finally found a practical use


We all ate together in the farmhouse in the evening – Mum had been out to have her hair done in the morning and had then been to lunch at our nearest neighbour’s home (Fiona, who lives in the Hermitage) where she also met Kay from Sinclair’s Hill (a tiny hamlet, a short walk away). Mum had had a great time and talked of nothing else for the rest of the day. Olive was off getting her hair done this afternoon while Rachel spent the late afternoon submerged in her bath. To complete the picture, Digger worked on building his dome and Rowan guarded the Granary.

In the evening we settled down in front of the stove and the television to watch the Referendum Debate from Kelso. Somehow the debate never really came alive for me. It was people sharing their entrenched positions even if the BBC had ensured that the entrenched positions were from both sides of the debate. What I mean is that people were making points instead of exploring the possible future inside or outside of the United Kingdom. I liked the lady who said that voting for independence was a leap of faith which if it came off would lead to a new kind of society, the inference being that it would be better and fairer. Of course the corollary of this is that the opposite could also be true. I would have liked to have heard more discussion around this premise: how could Scotland create a fairer society? And is there a will to do that? How could Scotland create more jobs by being independent? And why is that not happening under devolution? What is the alternative to independence ? because the status quo does not look to be very appealing? Maybe a debate is bound to be as this one was – what might be more enlightening might be a series of conversations – not arguments as normal interviews are, but conversations which enabled a number of people who had something to say to explain their own positions – we, the public, are capable of assessing what we are told for ourselves without the endless interruptions of a Newsnight-type presenter but helped along by an astute facilitator.

Still, it has been another good day.

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Monday 17th. February, 2014 – The week takes off 


In the midst of all the chaos, one of Digger’s hens (a Scottish Grey, I understand) walked serenely around the compost heap


Today began early with the arrival of the men to re-point the chimney on the farmhouse. That meant the erection of scaffolding, the starting up of the concrete mixer and then the pointing work on the roof itself. It was a full day’s work but I was pleased that they managed to get everything done in a day (including the dismantling of the scaffolding. By tea time one would never even know that they had been.



The scaffolding was erected




The concrete mixer was turned on




and the chimney was re-pointed


No sooner had the chimney pointing got underway than our electrician arrived to start work on wiring the Hen House. By lunch time the cables were all in place and it is now down to Tom, Rachel and me to ensure that the plaster board is put up so that the electricians can return and complete their work.



An electrician at work


I dropped Tom off at home for his lunch and then spent a bit of time researching stairs – Digger has devised a splendid plan but Tom also wanted me to look at spiral staircases. Unfortunately we don’t have room to install one which would comply with building regulations as our only staircase but our electrician suggested that there is a local tradesman who could build to our plans (and who might be quite reasonable – we’ll see!)

With Mum, I collected Tom and we drove off to pick up the slate which she had ordered to go underneath her stove. We collected it, brought it back to the farmhouse and installed it. It is just the finishing touch – the bee's knees:



Tom and I spent quite a while in Pearsons measuring up and pricing the plasterboard and insulation we will require for the next stage of our project. Our work starts tomorrow – look out for the photographs. I drove Tom home and then Rachel and I walked the dogs before I got ready and set off with Scott for a meal at the Lindisfarne Inn with Kathy and Mike. They run Bede’s World in Jarrow which sounds to be like a cross between a growingly successful museum celebrating the life, work and importance of a hugely important ninth century hero of our faith and a themed community centre carrying the insights and priorities of Bede forward into our modern world and acting them out for all to see. What we learn from the past matters and some of its insights, such as the fact that each of us is important and has something important to contribute, can all too easily be lost in contemporary society. I enjoyed meeting them enormously and was challenged by their commitment – they were also fun to meet. (Oh, and I had a very satisfactory gammon steak with two fried eggs and chips.)

Back home, Rachel and I watched an episode of Inspector Gently before walking the dogs and retiring to bed – there is much to do tomorrow.

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Sunday 16th. February, 2014 – A Happy Sunday with Holy Communion 


It was Communion Sunday at Gavinton Parish Church and the Ewer was sitting on the Communion Table when we arrived for the service


Got up, showered and walked Mix before breakfast. Then Mum, Rachel and I set off for church. It was communion Sunday and a happy service. Ann read from Deuteronomy and from the Sermon on the Mount. We were reminded that law is like a route map – Moses was anxious that his people understood what was required of them before they entered the promised land; but Jesus demanded so much more of his followers – the change of heart required by his sermon was beyond anything that anyone had ever suggested before; but then Jesus was leading his people into something quite different through his death and resurrection, nothing short of a new relationship with God and a totally new way of living.

After the service we joined the congregation for coffee and then came back home where I fixed up Rachel’s new computer printer while Rachel played patience on her i-pad and Rowan kept her company on the bed:



We all ate Sunday lunch together – fish pie followed by syrup sponge with custard and ice-cream – and afterwards Rachel and I took the dogs for a Sunday afternoon walk.



We looked down on this gateway to Duns Castle which is right by the site where Duns Scotus (a famous medieval theologian) is said to have been born


We drove up through Duns and then turned in towards the castle where we parked the car. Walking through an outer archway we set off up the hill and looked down on the Castle Gate where there is a monument to Duns Scotus who was born nearby. We climbed up through the woodlands until we came to a kissing gate which let us out on to some open moorland. Turning back towards the town we came to a vantage point from which we got a superb view of Duns (and we thought we could see our house in the distance).



The view of the town of Duns from the vantage point


Turning back on ourselves we walked north and came to the monument erected to mark the spot where the Covenanting army raised its standard in 1639. There is a lot of history which I have yet to learn (and which I will post on this blog as I learn it).



The Covenanters’ Monument


Retracing our steps, we came back down through the woods and noticed this signpost:



I was fascinated by the indication that the town was originally somewhere different from where it is today. I was reminded of Inveraray, moved by the Duke of Argyll in times past. I wonder what the story is here. As I have already written, there is much to discover. (You can see from the picture that we live in very beautiful surroundings.)

Back home, Rachel went off to Berwick to attend Evensong and Digger took Olive off to catch the train to Edinburgh for the start of her working week. I looked after the dogs and, on Rachel’s return, we had a snack meal before watching Mr. Selfridge. It was very much milder tonight and it is fair as well and it has been a thoroughly splendid day.

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Saturday 15th. February, 2014 – A Saturday in Retirement 


Mum and Rachel and finishing off their Parma ham and melon – Rachel's defence against my intrusive camera is to wave the wine bottle (a very pleasant sparkling white). The television is on in the background because we have become avid followers of the Winter Olympics


Slept in, quite deliberately and hugely pleasurably. Got up and walked Mix before immersing myself in the summer house where I spent most of the day – you wouldn’t know because it is much as it was when I started, just that I have moved everything around a bit.

Olive and Digger set off for Edinburgh at noon. They were joining friends to see the Buddy Holly Story at the Kings Theatre and then going for an after matinee meal at a nearby Thai restaurant.

Before they left, Digger took delivery of a large consignment of logs and Rachel went shopping in Duns. During the afternoon Mum went off with Scott to his home nearby, being returned at the end of the afternoon by Sue. My only time outside the summer house was spent walking dogs, Mix and Heidi. Soon it was time to light the stove and get ready for our evening.

In the evening Mum joined us for a meal in the Granary – Parma ham and melon, followed by penne in a cheese sauce and rounded off with tiramisu. Replete, we sat down in front of the television (armed with chocolates) and watched the film Hitchcock. It was absolutely excellent.

I feel relaxed. We walked the dogs and made our way early to bed, already looking forward to Sunday.

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Friday 14th. February, 2014 – Saint Valentine’s Day 


I am often asked where exactly we are. This sign is outside our home and contains all the information you need to find us


Up, showered and breakfasted and then met with Mike, our financial adviser who had come to sort out some remaining matters to do with my pension. As a result of his latest efforts I am now getting more money retired than when I was employed and evidently for the last couple of years it was actually costing me money to stay in employment. I say that as if I am aggrieved, nothing could be further from the truth because I enjoyed working enormously ... but retirement has its compensations.

After Mike left I started on a three-day programme to organise the summer house – over recent weeks it has become a dumping ground for anything for which there doesn’t appear to be anywhere else. Mind you, while I am doing this in the summer house, Rachel is doing something similar in the bedroom. We do seem to create chaos wherever we go.



This is the beautiful little road along which Mix and I walked this afternoon


Digger told me that it was going to start raining this afternoon at ten past two. By twenty to three it was still fair so Mix and I set off for a long walk along the Fogo road – it is lovely and quiet, rural and tranquil and very beautiful: or at least it was until ten past three when the heavens opened and we got soaked.



Bogend Farm is our nearest neighbour to the west of Mount Pleasant. We passed the sheep pens on our walk today


We got dried off in front of Mum’s fire and then returned to the Summer House to do some more reorganising – working through until supper time at 7 p.m. Everyone was present this evening, so that was rather fine. Olive and Digger’s adventure had been that the scaffolding was delivered this afternoon for the re-pointing of their chimney stacks; work which will be done next week.



As well as sheep, Bogend Farm clearly does a roaring trade in turnips


In the evening Rachel and I had a quiet time in front of the television (we watched an episode of New Tricks followed by more of the awful – in every sense – news about the flooding in the south) while all around us the gales of earlier had subsided and everything was very quiet. It has been extremely wet here today although the up-side is that it has become a great deal warmer.

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Thursday 13th. February, 2010 – A Day of Comings and Goings 


Mum in her new Garden Room – the plates are up and ornaments in place


Lots happened today: Rachel spent the day in Berwick at her stained glass class and then spent the evening in Berwick (again) this time singing with the Berwick choir. Mum was collected this evening by a new friend and taken to the meeting of the Women’s Rural Institute in the Village Hall at Gavinton. Digger went off in the late afternoon to collect Olive from the station at Berwick.

Alone, I spent the entire day here at Mount Pleasant. Started the day by walking Mix and, at the risk of being both boring and of repeating myself, it was extremely cold. I know that compared with many we are extremely fortunate to have avoided the flooding and the horrendous winds, but it is very cold.

I breakfasted on porridge and then Tom and I were at it once more. First we nipped into Pearson’s to buy some six inch nails and then we were up into the top floor of the Hen house to complete the task of stabilising the roof beams (we used a lot more than six-inch nails which were used as a temporary measure while we disconnected some previous remedial work).



Tom is checking that we have done everything properly


Once that task had been completed we abandoned the Hen house until next week when we will be joined on Monday by our electrical contractor. Things will start to move quickly then.

We moved across to the farmhouse where there were two tasks remaining. The first was to fit up a curtain rail to enable the washing machine and fridge to be screened off from the Garden Room. We had collected the rail from IKEA yesterday and this morning we fitted it. Secondly, Tom fitted a wooden angle -bar down each angle of the corridor leading from the Garden Room – just to hold it all together (aesthetically rather than physically).



Tom fits the curtain-rail into place on the ceiling


All that remains to be done is for curtains to be fitted and the door re-hung in its new position. What a transformation has been made and it hasn’t taken very long at all.

For the rest of the day I was largely left to my own devices and so the dogs and I camped out in the summer house where I did some ukulele practice, read my book and answered some emails. I dined with Olive and Digger (Mum and Rachel were both out) and I sorted out plans for tomorrow and the weekend.

I made a point of watching Newsnight and to try to understand what was happening with the debate about the future currency of an independent Scotland. I can see both sides of the argument. How can we be totally independent if we share a currency with England? Why should the rest of the UK guarantee our banks? But equally why wouldn’t the rest of the UK wish to have a system which prevented additional transaction costs between businesses both sides of the border? I also began to understand where Alec Salmond was coming from: of course, we must have our share of the assets and pay our share of the debts, but both do go together. It surely shouldn’t be beyond the wit of men and women to solve this particular conundrum but I suspect that it will only be after the referendum vote that minds will start to look for solutions to the problems which are being identified now.

I think that it is for this reason that Alec Salmond is wise not to allow himself to be forced into expressing alternative plans at this stage. His task is to articulate the plan which he and his campaign believe to be for the best; the task of the No campaign is to articulate the reasons why we are better off in the union as it stands and as it may develop in the future. Both sides need to be positive because the danger is that if they aren’t we will be pushed into voting against the negativity of one side rather than for the positive vision of the other.

Mix and I walked the policies and retired to bed

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Wednesday 12th. February, 2014 – We move on to big boys’ joinery 


First thing this morning Mum was in her new Garden Room


Up extremely early and set off with Olive by 6.30 a.m. to take her to the railway station at Berwick. Again it is extremely cold and when I came back home I climbed back into bed just because it was so very warm and welcoming!

Breakfasted at nine in the farmhouse and then ran Digger to the garage to collect his car, now back on the road with an MOT certificate. By the time we returned Tom had arrived. He and I were soon upstairs in the Hen house looking at the beams – one of which was in need of repair. We cut the new beam to size and held it on with clamps while we drilled through and bolted the top of the beam in place. At this point we stopped for the morning – Tom had duties at home and I came across to the summerhouse to prepare the music for Arrochar Church. Back in the Granary I helped Rachel unblock the drain in her bathroom sink and then, once Tom arrived, Tom and Rachel got the Bongo going – it hasn’t been used for too long.

Rachel, Tom and I were soon back in the Hen house where Tom used a jack to lift the new beam into place and sort out a slight sag in the roof. More bolts were used to hold it in place.



Rachel looks on while Tom checks that the new beam is in the right place – the light streaming in the window makes it almost impossible to photograph


There is more to do but that will wait until tomorrow. Tom returned home; Rachel took the Bongo for a drive and I got ready to go with Rachel to Edinburgh to visit IKEA to buy a curtain track for the ceiling in the Garden Room. It was a long way to go but IKEA had exactly what we required and we arrived back at Mount Pleasant just before seven. There was only time to wash our hands and hurry across to the farmhouse for our haggis, neaps and tatties.



IKEA Edinburgh is easy to find and extremely well-stocked – and they sell hot dogs and chips!


With what was left of the evening Rachel and I watched the one-hundredth edition of Midsomer Murders – a rather special edition with co-operation with Denmark, including an appearance by Birgitte Hjort Sorensen ( a star of Borgen) whom I had watched in Coriolanus just a couple of weeks ago.

I watched the News and Newsnight both of which were overshadowed by the flooding disasters in the south of England (and Wales) and by the forecast that the three major Westminster parties would announce tomorrow that the pound cannot be shared with Scotland in the event of a yes vote later this year in the independence referendum. It will be interesting to see how this unfolds.

We walked the dogs and went to bed. It is again an extremely cold night.

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Tuesday 11th. February, 2014 – Carpet laying 


By the end of the afternoon the carpet had been laid and the former scullery had become a pleasant Garden Room


Up and walked the dog before breakfast. I had expected Rachel and Tom to join me at this point but both were waiting for me to call them (unbeknown to me). So I cleared the Garden Room, removed all of the masking tape and nailed down the gripper boards. By this time Rachel arrived and we put down the underfelt (Rachel breaking off to take Mum to her weekly appointment with the hairdresser).



A picture of Rachel cutting the underfelt to shape.




Tom arrived and we battled with the carpet


It was easy to get it into the room but because of its shape it took quite a time to get it sorted out. But soon (after Rachel had gone off to collect Mum) we got it all in order.



Rachel reprised her role as a carpet fitter – she had her first performance in the Summer House earlier in the year


Tom took Mum off to the quarry to choose a stone slab to go under her heater and so turn it into a feature. We hope to have it in the next few days. Rachel and I continued fitting the brass accessories, cleaning the carpet of fluff and debris and setting the room out as it ought to be.

The job done, Tom and I put the new beam delivered by Pearsons into the Hen house so that we can start work there tomorrow.

Rachel took Rowan off for a walk and Mix and I walked as well. Digger met with a roofer who is going to carry out a repair to the chimney stack – nothing serious, just some re-pointing. Olive got a lovely gift of flowers and chocolates from some of her students: for the second year running everyone of her students passed their accounting examinations (this against a national pass rate of 30%). Well done.

After a short while in the summer house, Mix and I joined the family for supper. Have seen a bit of the Olympics today, particularly enjoying a tense men’s curling match between Great Britain and Germany – we won on the final end; and a women’s match between Great Britain and the United States in which Great Britain scored seven points on a single end, an Olympic record.

After supper we watched a little television before walking the dogs in the Baltic conditions. It was good to get to the warmth of our beds.

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Monday 10th. February, 2014 – A busy day 


Duns Station – well, it was until the mid 1960s. This was the station building, now it is part of Thorburn and Sons where we shopped this afternoon


Up early and walked Mix before breakfast; even although it was Monday morning the road was extremely quiet. It is so cold that I can almost smell snow in the air.

The first task of the day was to fit Mum’s television to the aerial on the roof. Tom was up the ladder like a sprightly gazelle -- although he came down more like a frozen man of the north. But the television was working and that was the object of the exercise.



Tom on the roof crouched at the foot of the aerial (there are no limits to his talents)


While we were getting ready to climb on the roof, Digger suddenly remembered that he should have taken his car in for a service, so Tom and I followed him to the garage and then went with him to the Co-op for some shopping.

Meanwhile Rachel was completing the gloss painting in the Garden Room. There was a lot to do and Rachel worked steadily at it all morning:



Rachel has got the Garden room almost completed now


Next Tom and I went into the first floor of the Hen house to see what had to be done to get the project underway. First was a beam that will have to be replaced. We measured it up and then went into Duns to order a new beam from Pearsons (who will deliver it for us tomorrow). Then we crossed to Thorburn and Sons to buy huge bolts to bolt-through the beam. Finally we went looking, without success, for a curved curtain rail. We’ll get one at IKEA if all else fails.



Tom casts his expert eye over the beams in the Hen house


Back at Mount Pleasant we tacked up all of the television cable and then enjoyed coffee. Next Rachel, Mum and I went off to Tweedmouth where we chose and bought a carpet for the Garden Room. We brought it home with us and we’ll fit it tomorrow morning. Again we searched for a curved curtain rail without success – also looked for some reading spectacles, again without success.

When we arrived back at Mount Pleasant it was time for supper: mince and tatties followed by tart, custard and ice cream. Yummy! I worked for a short time in the summer house and then Mix and I set off for Berwick to collect Olive. Digger’s car has not as yet been released. Digger hopes to get it back tomorrow but until then I am the main form of family transport – which suits me fine.

So it has been a bitty day but we have achieved a lot – the hen house is underway, the Garden room is almost done and it is still only Monday. Did catch a bit of the Olympics -- it was mostly curling today and although the men beat Russia, both men and women lost to Sweden. Still at least in curling one gets a second chance.

It was even colder when I walked Mix this evening -- we were both glad to get to bed.

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Sunday 9th. February, 2014 – I am annoying with my camera 


On the way into Church I snap Rachel while she is in mid flow of ‘Oh, not again’


Up early and walked Mix in the freezing cold. Showered, breakfasted and Rachel and I went off to Church at Gavinton. Mum didn’t come today, being a bit out of sorts (put down to the fish suppers I bought last night).

The service was conducted by Ken and Veronica Walker because Ann is on holiday. Veronica lived in the St. David’s manse at Buckhaven where her father was the last minister before the union. She conducted the service while her husband preached on the visit of Jesus to Nazareth (during which I learned that Ken had had a summer job with the Edinburgh cleansing department while he was a student and that Ken admired Robert Burns having grown up just twenty miles south of Burns’ home). We also read the call of Isaiah and the beautiful chapter thirteen of Paul’s first letter to the Church at Corinth. I used to hear it several times a week when I was in Luss as it is quoted often during wedding ceremonies. I realised that I hadn’t heard it for at least three months.




My annoying camera tried to snap Tom and Rachel as they sat next to me in the pew. It didn’t really work very well other than to prove that we actually were there!


Back home, Rachel and I put a second coat of parchment on the walls of the Garden room and then joined the family for lunch – vegetable soup, chicken, roast potatoes and turnip: Mum remembering that her mother-in-law had come to their home in Scotland, been given turnips and remarked, ‘Oh, in England we give that to our animals.’ I enjoyed it.

After lunch Margaret and John, friends of all of ours, arrived – John to see Rachel, Margaret to see us all. It was good to catch up on Fife news. When they left I cleaned the paint brushes and rollers and then watched some of the winter Olympics – Britain’s first snow medal on the snowboarding, won by Jenny Jones; and the 'normal hill' ski jumping (it didn’t look very normal to me). I also watched the women’s 7.5 kilometre sprint in the biathlon – again it was very exciting.

Rachel went off to Berwick to attend Choral Evensong while I remained with the dogs. On her return we had a snack and then settled down to watch Mr. Selfridge. It has been a lovely Sunday – a harbinger, I hope, of all that lies ahead this week.

Watched the News and then walked the dogs before bed.

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Saturday 8th. February, 2014 – Painting and decorating 


Mix is in his office in the car as we get ready to take Digger to Berwick this morning


Up early and walked Mix before driving Digger to Berwick so that he could catch a train to Edinburgh to join friends and watch Raith Rovers against Hibs in the Scottish Cup. Back home soon after nine for breakfast and then Rachel and I spent the bulk of the day painting the first coat of ‘parchment’ on the walls and ceiling of Mum’s Garden room. Stopped for coffee mid-morning and then for soup and cheese in the middle of the day. After the first coat had been put on, I washed all of the rollers and brushes and then Rachel and I walked the dogs. It was really very cold but fair.



Rachel starts work on Mum’s Garden room




Rachel is making progress as the day goes by


Back home from our walk, we fed the dogs, found some more boxes in the barn and took them to the summer house. I sorted them out and turned the summer house into chaos. I’ll get it sorted out in the next couple of days.

Watched some of the winter Olympics – skiing (men’s biathlon sprint, skating (team short dance) and luge – it was very exciting. Learned that Raith Rovers had defeated Hibs by three goals to two: a superb result. (Dundee also went to the top of the Championship which is also good news).

Abandoned the summer house and drove to Berwick to collect Digger and to bring in fish suppers for everyone. Digger was meant to get off the 7.11 train from Edinburgh but he didn’t appear. I discovered that the next train from Edinburgh arrived at 7.45 so I went and collected five fish suppers and returned to the station to meet that train. He wasn’t on that either. As the next train from Edinburgh wasn’t due in until about ten to nine, I drove home with everyone’s supper and learned that Digger had phoned Rachel from Newcastle. He had fallen asleep and woken in Newcastle. I enjoyed my fish supper and returned to Berwick to pick Digger up ... just as well Raith Rovers don’t win very often.

Rachel and I settled down to watch the third and final instalment of Sherlock, after which we walked the dogs and retired to bed. Tomorrow after church we’ll hope to do a bit more to the Garden room and then on Monday we shall start on the Hen house. It is going to be a busy week.



A view of the Hen house – the two windows on the left (to the right of our back door which is just in picture) are part of the Hen house which also includes the area with the red roof; once completed it will be quite a large home




A view of the Hen house from the courtyard -- the makeshift door will eventually be a large window over the kitchen sink


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Friday 7th. February, 2014 – A visit to Wooler and the Winter Olympics begin 


In the canteen at the Wooler auction mart – they serve excellent bacon rolls


I was up earlier than usual this morning so that I could shower, walk Mix and have my porridge before Tom and Dorothy arrived at nine. We set off for Wooler for the annual sale at the auction mart – there are regular sales but most are of livestock; this was a kind of a jumble sale day. Everyone brought what they had to sell and depending on its size they were either laid out in lines inside or else set out in the open ground beside the main mart. People appeared a little bit dispirited from which I gathered that there was not nearly so much to buy this year, and equally, there were apparently fewer people to do the buying. It was for this reason, I suppose, that the auctioneer started the sale by announcing that, in future, sales would revert to being held on Saturdays.



A view of people gathered around the auctioneer as he conducted the sale


The sale began inside. There were some items which were obviously of value and these were bought up for appropriate sums, but smaller less valuable items sold for almost nothing, several lots of things like two spades and a fork, or a set of quite smart flower pots, realised as little as a pound.



A one year old Border collie was one of the items on sale


I felt sorry for the little Border collie who was up to be auctioned. You can see her in the picture, the next lot after the concrete mixer (which sold for around one hundred and fifty pounds). The auctioneer told us that Floss was a year old and was half-trained, was happy to jump on the back of a four-by-four or ride in a land-rover. He told us that both the dog and the cage were to be auctioned and he proposed to start with the cage. The cage sold for £80 and he turned his attention to the dog. The highest bid was just £50 which was obviously below the reserve price. The auctioneer turned to the owner and asked if he wanted to accept £50, to be told, ‘You can’t even get a wife for £50.’ So poor dog, its cage was sold but she wasn’t. Still it was obvious that the owner, who I gather is a breeder, would take her home and look after her.



A view of the auction once it had reached the outside area


Tom made a couple of purchases – a gate and gate-posts for his estate in Gavinton and a couple of hay dispensers for Dorothy’s goats. I just enjoyed being with them. We loaded up Tom’s purchases and drove home to discover that while I had been away Mix had managed to unlatch the gate in the garden (Tom had moved the latch to the other side of the gate to make it impossible to do this) and had been picked up by a kindly motorist who met Mix while Mix was walking towards Duns. Rachel spent the afternoon going into Duns, buying wire mesh and reinforcing our defences. I was in the summer house where I got a ‘phone call from my friend Peter with whom I spent a happy hour blethering. Then, as the weather was beautiful, I went into the barn and found another three boxes to open. I had just started on that when Carol telephoned from Luss to tell me that she had a problem with the Allen Organ midi assistant. Fortunately I remembered that they had one at Bonhill Church (just down the road) and they were happy to lend their one to Carol. Panic over – but a worrying time for her.

At four, I gave up everything and went in and sat in front of our big tv to watch the opening of the winter Olympics from Russia. I thought the opening ceremony was splendid and the facilities look out of this world. I loved the fact that the athletes came in first and got a seat for the rest of the show. I loved the history of Russia presented in music, dance, drama, humour and spectacular effects. It was wonderfully done and it spoke to me of Russia and her culture.

Next we all got together in the farmhouse for dinner after which Rachel and I watched an episode of Sherlock on tv – the last episode we saw was in Barnoldswick on the boat, this episode was in the Granary; technology is wonderful. I’ve left the summerhouse in a bit of a mess but I’ve got the weekend coming up when I can put all that right.

Caught Newsnight and was quite taken aback by the attitude expressed by Kirsty Wark suggesting that Russia should in some sense be criticised for presenting a distorted, in her view, story of its history and also commenting on the one electrical effect which didn’t go quite right – it’s a wee bit like taking pleasure when something goes wrong for someone else (something which may actually be part of some parts of the Scottish psyche even if we usually see it in its corollary of not being too pleased when something goes exceptionally well for someone else) and, of course, we choose to present the view of ourselves which we want to present on such occasions. I don’t think that ordinary people watched the opening ceremony with political thoughts in their heads. I certainly marvelled at the spectacle, rejoiced in the dance (which I associate with Russia), recognised the allusions to War and Peace and hoped that this will be a really good games. It didn’t in any way remove the concerns which I have about some of Putin’s policies any more than enjoying the spectacle at our Olympics removed my concerns about the growing gap between those in our country who have and those who don’t, and the responsibility which our government has for allowing that gap to get ever wider. For now I am looking forward to the ski jumping and the skating and the bobsleigh events: and to seeing the heroes and the heroines who will emerge over the next few days. And wasn’t it good to see Valentina Tereshkova who, in 1967, became the first woman in space, escorting the Olympic flag into the stadium this afternoon? Now there is a real heroine.

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Thursday 6th. February, 2014 – A day with the dogs 


Rowan isn’t used to spending time in the summer house but she made herself at home on this chair


Up and walked Mix. It is still very cold but at least it is fair. I breakfasted in the farmhouse and Rachel set off for Berwick to attend her stained-glass class. Digger set off for Edinburgh to visit the dentist (Tom and Dorothy were at the same dentist at the same time) but Digger had been to Kirkcaldy first to visit friends and to collect the post. Olive spent the day working on courses for next week and Mum read her book.



Mix prefers to spend the time on his cushion


I spent some of the time in the house and most of the time in the summer house, along with the dogs. Both quickly made themselves at home. I had paperwork to catch up on – bills to organise – and I had the music to do for the Arrochar Service on Sunday. I got that safely sent off to Jamie.



Rowan likes this chair too


Rachel returned just after four and we took the two dogs for a walk and then I came to look through the internet to try to discover more information about 3D films. Discovered that there really aren’t all that many. The reason for my search was that I watched ‘The Great Gatsby’ in 3D and it was amazing. I gather that the 3D experiment has not been a success; that’s a pity.



Took another picture of Mix but he was trying to pretend that he didn’t want to know


Rachel went off with Bridget to sing in Berwick while Mum, Olive, Digger and I dined in the farmhouse. Afterwards I settled down in front of the stove and spent a relaxing evening. I watched the new Inspector Gently (which I greatly enjoyed) and the News. Rachel returned home having had a good time and having spent a very profitable and busy day. I really haven’t done very much today at all – but I’m told that’s all right, occasionally, when one is retired.

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Wednesday 5th. February, 2014 – The long trek home 


Canal view


Again – it almost goes without saying on the boat in wintertime – we slept late. It is so cold outside and so cosy inside. Even the dogs don’t want to move. It was nearer ten than nine when I got up and walked Mix along the tow path, admiring the boats, greeting fellow dog-walkers, watching school children running along the tow-path as part of their PE programme. I walked past the Silentnight factory on the banks of the canal (the largest manufacturer of beds and mattresses in the United Kingdom).



The Silentnight factory backs onto the canal


Back on board we got everything ready to leave. I dealt with the toilet cassette, Rachel turned off the water, the batteries, the gas, the mains power and she closed down the engine which had been charging the batteries so that everything would start on our return. At eleven o’clock the heavens opened and it poured down, soaking us as we did all of our last minute checks and loaded ourselves, the dogs and our baggage into the car.



Walking along the tow-path – Mix and I love this walk


We got away a little after mid-day and had an uneventful journey to Mount Pleasant, breaking our journey at Washington and arriving home around four in the afternoon. Delighted to find that my tools had arrived; and there is some post which I will deal with tomorrow. I’ll get the opportunity of doing that because Tom and Dorothy are away to the dentist and Rachel will be spending the day at her stained-glass class.

We dined early so that I could then drive Mum to Duns to attend the Guild. On my return I went into the Granary to check that the tv had recorded a programme called The Town which Olive wished to see. However, on entering the lounge I discovered that water was coming through the ceiling. Rachel was getting into a bath. So I stopped that, phoned Tom to give me another opinion and soon the problem was resolved. It was nothing serious at all: no pipes to be exposed, no bath to be opened up. Rachel had left the hair washing attachment running water onto the bath surround, and this water had found its way through the unit, through, the floor and through the ceiling. Fortunately, we caught it in time and no damage has been done but we have been very lucky!

Tom and I chewed the fat for a while over coffee and then I came out to the summer house to see how it had survived without Mix and me. After checking emails, I walked Mix and decided to go to bed early. Driving is quite tiring and I have a very good book to read on my Kindle – and going to bed early is a luxury I am learning to enjoy in these post-retirement days.

Should report that today Digger’s wood supplies arrived, all cut to size for his Dome. I gather that work on the dome has already started and perhaps results will be seen on the ground fairly soon. You will see the results here first! While we have been away Mum has been to her book reading group in Duns – the group seems to be expanding and now has fifteen members, almost too large for such a group and it may be that it will have to split into two. Olive is back home, her week’s work complete and with just nine weeks to go until her retirement. So our plans continue to move forward and each of us gets busier as the weeks go by. . I wonder what tomorrow will bring?

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Tuesday 4th. February, 2014 – At Barnoldswick 


The idyllic bit of the countryside The Young Rachel calls home – ours is the boat which still has its front cover on


Slept late – it is so comfortable in bed on the boat. Got up about half-past nine and took Mix for a walk along the tow path, looking at all of the boats as we walked. Have discovered that about fifty percent of the boats at our end of the marina are live-aboards and that all of the boats at the other end are live-aboards: that’s a much higher percentage than I had imagined. I also learned that our bit – the marina as it were- has been open since 2008 and is actually quite difficult to get a berth in, so we were very fortunate.



A view of the boats from the tow path


While Rachel did her boat chores – not a lot really because the purpose of our quick visit was just to check that everything was all right (and it is perfect) – I read my book and enjoyed being here. I then had a lovely hot shower: the facilities on the boat are second to none. Breakfast was boiled eggs and French bread and we ate it late before setting out for the afternoon programme of walking the dogs along the tow path to Salterforth, a small village to the west of Barnoldswick with a fabulous old pub which we got to know on our very first boating holiday in the 1990s with Jean and Anne and Sandy. On the way we popped in and saw Wayne at the marina office and shop (Wayne owns and runs the marina and looks after our boat for us) and after the walk we drove into Barnoldswick and spent some time walking round the town and buying some bits and pieces. On the way home we discovered parts of the town which we hadn’t seen before. It was, however, absolutely freezing.



A view of the marina office and store – on the left is the poly tunnel in which narrow boats are serviced and painted




Barnoldswick is a very beautiful town


Back in the boat we luxuriated in the warmth of the stove, in reading and listening to the radio, and in enjoying a glorious break from – well, from relaxing at Mount Pleasant! This retirement thing has to be experienced to be believed. Both dogs clearly love the boat. Rachel thinks that Rowan is better behaved than at home, perhaps because of the confined space.

We walked the dogs briefly before supper – prawn cocktail, chicken pie, potatoes, peas and carrots followed by trifle -- and then we settled down to watch a Sherlock film. Spoke to Mum and Olive on the ‘phone. No news except that my tools, ordered from HomeBase on 1st. January, finally arrived today. In contrast, a book I ordered from Amazon late on Sunday evening also arrived today – no wonder Amazon win so many awards for customer satisfaction.

Once we get everything organised at Mount Pleasant it will be grand to come down here for an extended period both to explore this area and to do a bit of cruising. We have always said that’s what we will do when I retire – and now that time has arrived. A really good summer with no water shortages is what we require – and after the rain and the flooding we have had it must be inconceivable that there will be water shortages this summer.

After a final walk of the dogs, it was time for bed.

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Monday 3rd. February, 2014 – Off on our adventures 


Rachel and The Young Rachel – just we left her and looking really welcoming with smoke coming from her chimney


Slept in – that’s a good start – and just made it to breakfast: my but it is cold! Walked Mix and by half-past ten we were ready to set off for Rachel’s narrow boat.

We were half-way to Berwick when I casually remarked, ‘You have got your boat keys?’ We turned around, returned to Mount Pleasant and set off again just after eleven.

Last time we took the scenic route through the Borders, this time we went via Berwick and the A1. I timed both journeys to the Washington Service Station (turn off for Chester le-Street and the cricket). Both took exactly 90m minutes.

We journeyed on, arriving at the boat three hours and twenty-five minutes after setting off (for the second time). We had enjoyed two Father Baldi detective mysteries on the way down. Here in Barnoldswick it was, if anything, even colder than in Scotland. We got the stove going and the boat engine started on the first turn.



Rachel enjoys a cup of tea and a game of patience – we haven’t even got things sorted out yet!


We settled in, walked the dogs and I for one promptly fell asleep. I was woken just about seven by a knock on the door. It was Karen and Charlie from the two boats next to us (Hazel and The Falcon). Both live on their boats (Karen works locally as a paralegal secretary, Charlie is a retired naval engineering petty officer.) We spent a happy couple of hours with them and then walked the dogs before a late supper of pasta with pesto, French bread and chocolate pudding.



Just look at that stove


There was just time to walk the dogs again before climbing into our Emperor-sized bed and very quickly falling asleep in our cosy boat. We filled the stove up full and then damped it down in the hope that it would still be warm in the morning. What a life.

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Monday 3rd. February, 2014 -- Early! 


This is partly by way of apology and partly by way of explanation. Rachel and I are setting off this morning to check up on Rachel's narrow boat leaving Mount Pleasant in the capable hands of Digger, Olive and Mum. We'll only be away for three days but during that time I will not have access to the internet and so it is unlikely that this blog will be updated until Wednesday evening.

Of course, I will be writing my diary, but I will be using a pencil and paper (just like old times). I hope that you will join me again later in the week when I can share with you our adventures down south and the family's adventures here at Mount Pleasant while we are away.

Have a very good week!

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Sunday 2nd. February, 2014 – Candlemas 


I pass this field every day walking with Mix – it looks so fertile and I’m looking forward to seeing how it changes over the year


Woke – and it was a lovely fresh morning with the sun shining. Went out with Mix – and realised that it was an extremely cold day. Breakfasted and then Mum, Rachel and I went off to Gavinton Church where the minister told us that we were to have two addresses – a meditation on Cana and then a meditation on Candlemas. For the first Ann read to us the story of the widow at Zarepath (one of my favourites) who learned through Elijah of God’s care for the widow and the orphan. This was followed by the story of the wedding at Cana with its wonderful message that wherever Jesus is, there wonderful things happen; the first great sign of John’s Gospel.

Today (2nd. February) actually is Candlemas and to mark it the story of Jesus’ Dedication in the Temple as described by Saint Luke was read before Ann shared a meditation about Saint Brigit of Kildare (whose Saint’s day was actually yesterday). I like hearing about the lives of the Celtic Saints.



There were snowdrops outside the Church this morning


After Church we shared in coffee in the hall before dropping Mum off at Mount Pleasant and driving to Berwick to buy paint for the Garden Room. Back home we dined – Sunday lunch with all the family around the table – and then Rachel and I set about giving the Garden Room its second undercoat. It is looking quite smart. We put the room back together so that Mum can use it while we are away this week.

Next we loaded the dogs into the car and drove up to the school where we parked the car and went for a walk around Duns Castle. It was a lovely walk and the views were splendid as the sun began to set behind the trees.



On our late afternoon walk


On the way back to the car I came upon a field of snowdrops under the trees. Even although it was too dark I took this picture:



Snowdrops at dusk


Unfortunately, snowdrops don’t last long enough but it is a real sign that Spring will come when we see them on the ground. We fed the dogs and then Rachel set off for Berwick to attend Evensong, closely followed by Digger taking Olive to the railway station. The dogs and I came to the summerhouse. No sooner was Digger back from Berwick than he learned that Olive had left one of her bags on the platform. After several fruitless phone calls, Digger returned to Berwick and found the bag – so all is well that ends well and Olive will be reunited with her bag when she returns home tomorrow evening.

On Rachel’s return we dined in the Granary and watched Mr. Selfridge before bed. It has been a thoroughly good day – but then, when hasn’t it been? (My adventure this evening was that Rachel and I were demolishing a tin of Cadbury’s Roses which we had been given for Christmas (so we can’t be as greedy as you were imagining since we have kept it intact for all of this time). I placed my reading glasses on the tin lid because I was wearing my distance glasses for watching Mr. Selfridge. However we also put all of the used sweet papers on the same lid and at the end of the programme I opened the stove to empty the papers in and keep the place tidy. Of course, I emptied in my spectacles as well. I quickly fished them out with a poker and they don’t seem to be too much the worse for their adventure – but I’m sure there is a moral there somewhere, perhaps about the perils of trying to be too tidy (or perhaps not).

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Saturday 1st. February, 2014 – Getting on with getting on 


The beautiful view from the front drive of Mount Pleasant this morning


Slept in this morning – not hugely but by the time I emerged it was nine o’clock so Mix and I went across for my breakfast and it was only after I had enjoyed my porridge that I took him for a walk along the Swinton Road.

Back home I sanded down the Garden Room and then started to paint the walls with some paint which had been left over from a previous decorating project. Worked all morning until Scott and Sue arrived for late morning coffee and then, after a very welcome break, I returned to the fray.

Before too long I had run out of paint – well, that’s OK because I was only using up what was left over. Tomorrow, after church, I’ll pop into Berwick and replenish our supplies from HomeBase. Rachel – who had been out walking Mix – returned and took over the task of priming all of the woodwork in the Garden Room so between us we got a great deal done.



Just for the record I took this picture to record our progress


Back in the Granary (after taking Mix for another walk while the wind picked up and it looked as though the weather was going to take a definite turn for the worse) I had a welcome shower and read for a while.

We had an early tea this evening to enable Mum, Olive and I to attend the Gavinton Village Pantomime – Wind in the Willows. The hall is lovely and the show was a typical village show – with a thank you for the prompter from the stage at the end of the performance. I liked the imaginative animal costumes, some of which worked superbly; I liked the energy which a number of the characters brought to their performances, I liked the way that young and old were sharing on the stage and I liked the pleasure that the village audience got from watching their own in action. It was a happy evening (and Wind in the Willows is a lovely story).



A snap of the curtain call just before the final curtain came down


Back at home I watched a little television before retiring to bed with my book. It has got very stormy – wind and rain are rattling around the roofs, definitely not a night to be out and about. Even the dogs were happy to have the quickest of walks before bed. In fact Mix would probably have preferred to remain in the summer house relaxing on his big cushion.

Reflected on the different entertainments over the last three evenings: on Thursday we were at the Maltings for the streaming of the National Theatre production of Coriolanus; yesterday we were back at the Maltings this time for the film of The Railway Man; and tonight we were in the village hall at Gavinton for the annual village pantomime. We really are living the life of Reilly!

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Friday 31st. January, 2014 – It has got extremely cold today 


Not a very attractive picture – but it is where we are today


My goodness but it has got cold today, positively freezing in fact and during the day there have been flurries of snow. It seems inconceivable that there is not more to come.

Mix and I went for our morning walk before my regular porridge. Tom arrived and we started on our tasks for the day. First we fitted up the bracket for the television in the Garden Room and then we installed the new skirting board and sanded down all of the areas which we had plastered the day before yesterday. Next we went into Duns to buy cable for a television aerial link and some bits and pieces to treat wood and start the painting – we had intended to start on the painting in the afternoon but, after lunch at Pearson’s we gave some thought to how the aerial cable would reach the television and the upshot of that was that we decided to cut into the plaster-board, install the cable and then plaster over it. We will have to wait until tomorrow before we can do anything else.

I drove Tom home and then Mix and I adjourned to the summer house where I enjoyed a coffee and Mix ate some biscuits. I read of England’s continuing cricket disaster in Australia and telephoned HomeBase to discover what had happened to the tools I ordered. Everything has been delayed because a claw hammer hasn’t arrived in stock. However they have now promised me that everything that is in stock will be delivered on Tuesday or Wednesday. I have to say that the lady who took my call was extremely helpful and I am sure that my order will arrive.

Went out with Mix for an afternoon walk and then returned home to get warm! Rachel had been away for the day with Dorothy. They were buying glass for their new hobby of stained-glass window making. Rachel has come back with some superb pieces of glass. I am looking forward to seeing the finished articles.

Went for a shower – my hair was filled with dust from sanding down the plaster this morning – and then we dined early because we were going off to Berwick to see ‘The Railway Man’, a film which was being given extra screenings in Berwick because it was written by a Berwick man (Eric Lomax) and reflects his experiences during the war and his response to those experiences after the war. It is a lovely film, not always the easiest to watch but one which rejoices in the human spirit and which ultimately makes one glad to be part of the human race – that ‘ultimately’ is important because the horrors of war drive one in exactly the opposite direction. Colin Firth and Nicole Kidman were superb. It was a good family outing, all five of us off together, and that is always fun.



The Maltings makes a superb cinema – and you can book your seats online as well


Back home, we walked the dogs, who were delighted to see us, (the sky was superb – clear as anything and so many stars on view) but soon we were back inside where we climbed into our warm beds. We are very lucky!

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Thursday 30th. January, 2014 – Rowan’s sister Daisy comes to visit 


Daisy in the farmhouse kitchen


Today was a red-letter day for Rowan because today her sister Daisy came to visit. Fiona, a friend of Mum, brought her down with Linda when they both came to see where Mum had settled. Mum was delighted to see Fiona and Linda – Rowan was more than pleased to spend time with her sister.

My day began as usual with a walk with Mix as my companion. We breakfasted early so that Mum and I could go into Duns to collect supplies of food for Mum’s visitors who were due to arrive about eleven. We patronised the Co-op and Trotter’s Bakery (in both we were extremely well looked after by very friendly staff) and then we made our way back to Mount Pleasant and set out everything so that it was ready for later in the day.

On cue, Mum’s friends arrived. Daisy seemed as pleased to see Rowan as Rowan clearly was to see Daisy.

They ran in the garden together:



And after a bit of running around, Rowan introduced Daisy to the dog which appeared to be digging his way out of the garden – strange to tell it has been in the same position ever since she arrived at the Granary – perhaps it is modern art:



Of course, Mix joined in and at times the welcome Daisy received must have been quite overwhelming:



It wasn’t long before Rowan and Mix had become the best of friends and spent several hours together in the garden, sometimes resting and spending time looking out on the rest of the world together.

By the time it was time to leave, Daisy was climbing in through the window to tell us how much she was enjoying it here:


Before Fiona left, we made her promise to bring Daisy back again. Rowan is looking forward to it already.

Soon after Daisy and her entourage drove into Mount Pleasant, Mike, my new financial advisor arrived. Olive and I had an extended discussion with him. I was delighted to hear all that he had to say, not least because it turns out that much of the information which I have been given so far turns out to be misinformation or, at the very least, partial information. I explained what I hoped to achieve with my pension funds and Mike has gone away to try to ensure that he can make it happen. I felt really buoyed up by his visit – and I enjoyed meeting him as well.

We all picnicked in the farmhouse – soup, sandwiches, sausage rolls and cake – and then we took Mum’s visitors on a tour of the estate before settling down for a while in the Granary (from where we could watch Rowan and Daisy having a ball in the garden). Shortly before they left, Rachel returned home from her stained-glass making course. She had had a grand time but was very pleased to be able to share doggy experiences with Fiona – I liked hearing about Buckhaven and Wemyss from Linda.

Soon after they all left, Rachel and I had to get ready to go to Berwick to the Maltings Theatre for a production of Coriolanus which was being streamed from the National Theatre in Covent Garden: the Donmar Warehouse which used to be a warehouse where bananas were ripened prior to sale but which is now used as an acting space by the National Theatre. It seats 251 people so it is quite an intimate space. We grabbed a snack in the little cafe beside the theatre – egg, sausage and chips – and then went into the theatre for the show. I was very keen to see Coriolanus again because many years ago I was involved in a production of it in the open air at St. Andrews Castle. Tonight’s production was powerful with some excellent performances but I missed the spectacle – it was done with a small cast and considerable doubling-up, and it was done in fairly nondescript costumes with almost no set. But the play won through – the story of the general who was a genius in military matters but who just didn’t have it when it came to political matters seemed quite modern; the Tribunes of the people might just as well have been labelled as trade-union leaders, and the crowd was as fickle as crowds ever are. It was a dark tragedy because Coriolanus was the best example of humanity on show (except perhaps for his mother? – a towering performance this by Deborah Findlay; but then perhaps not as she revelled in death or glory in the first part) but even he, Coriolanus (played well by Tom Hiddleston), was flawed and it was his flaws which brought him down (one of the recurring themes of Shakespeare). I thought the second part was better than the first, basically because I didn’t really like the use of all of the seats and the way that they constrained the actors in the first part. I am so glad that we went (not least for the performance of Mark Gatiss as Menenius) – we are fortunate to have such a resource on our doorstep and this relatively new system of streaming performances around the country -- and around the world -- makes so many of the best productions so very accessible.

Back home, we were welcomed by the dogs whom we then walked before bed. It has been an exciting day for Rowan!

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Wednesday 29th. January, 2014 – Another great day 


Rachel is installing her new printer – a wireless one which for now is sitting on top of Rowan’s home


My alarm went off at 5.45 a.m. and by half past six I had showered and, along with Mix, was sitting in my car ready to drive Olive to Berwick to catch an early morning train to Dundee. On our return Mix and I went for a walk. It was dry but everything underfoot was extremely wet. In fact I had lain awake during the night listening to the rain lashing our home and pondering on how fortunate we were to have a roof over our heads and to live somewhere warm and comfortable.

After breakfast Tom arrived. Dorothy had dropped him off on her way to see a spinning demonstration (she came back later in the day with sandwiches for lunch and a spinning wheel which she had borrowed to start to develop spinning skills of her own). Tom and I went off to Duns with a shopping list, dropping off Digger at the garage to collect his car which now is equipped with a new alternator.

Our purchases were all for Mum’s Garden Room: a skirting board (or rather wood to make into a skirting board, a light rose to drop through the ceiling into the middle of the room once we had removed the existing spotlight system, electrical bits and pieces so that we could move one of the power sockets down to ground level to serve the heater, plaster to fill in the holes and prepare the walls for what comes next and several tubes of ‘no more nails’.

Back home we enjoyed a coffee and a wagon wheel – you don’t take things too quickly when you are retired – and then we started to fit the lighting: removing the existing spotlights and creating a central light which will be grand once a lampshade has been found for it. Next we blanked off one of the power sockets and refitted it at ground level. We had to cut a channel through the plasterboard so it took a bit of time. Finally we filled in all the holes in the walls, the first stage of their preparation for painting and decorating (a task which is in the hands of Rachel and Digger). The boxing-in was given some more tender care and sanded down and everything was tidied up – tomorrow we only have to fit the skirting board and our part of the work is largely done. I’ve ordered a tv mounting bracket which we will fit on the wall and we shall try to get hold of a curved curtain rail to screen off the washing machine at the end of the room.

It was about this time that Dorothy arrived and we shared sandwiches and drank coffee for a while. Rachel was away to Berwick with Rowan who is learning to do as she is told (perhaps). Later in the afternoon Mix and I went for another walk and when I returned I helped Rachel (who had also returned) to access her new email address and to install her new printer. It is a wireless one and can sit on top of Rowan’s cage which is in the bedroom. Well, it started on Rowan’s cage but I gather it will move to one of the window seats (we have several in the bedroom. In fact you can see one of these seats at the far right of the picture. Having equipment which was controlled by wifi always seemed a bit hit and miss to me but now that we have these cables which allow us to access our hub through the house electric power points everything seems very reliable. I will even be able to access Rachel’s new printer from the summer house. It will be wonderful to have a working printer again.

Digger went off to collect Olive from Berwick in his newly repaired car and Mum was collected to be taken to the local history group. We dined with Olive and Digger when they returned from Berwick. It was a relaxing meal and, just as we were finishing, Mum returned from the history group. She had enjoyed the meeting which was all about Duns Castle.

Rachel and I went across to the Granary and there we watched an episode of Midsomer Murders in the warmth created by our stove – I mention this because the temperature outside has plummeted. It is extremely cold. Still we all walked around the policies, Mix, Rowan, Rachel and I, and then I suspect that we were all glad to get to bed.

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Tuesday 28th. January, 2014 – A thoroughly good day 


The boxing-in is now beginning to look very good indeed


I’m sitting writing this in my summerhouse. It is dark outside and I can hear the rain pelting down on the roof. It is all very cosy and beside me Mix is sound asleep on his huge new cushion.

The day started with Mix’s walk – it was blustery but not too wet and I love all the waves from the folk who have got to know me as they drive in and out to work each day. By half past eight I had breakfasted and was driving Olive into Berwick to the station. She has only one lecture today – to law students and later I drove back to Berwick just before supper time to pick her up again.

In between we were busy. After dropping Olive off I went to Halfords to buy a new lamp bulb for one of the front headlights; I also bought a little kit so that now I am equipped whenever a bulb blows (maybe a case of shutting the stable door or perhaps, better, learning from experience). Should say that in Halfords I met a man who was doing exactly what I was, buying a bulb because he had discovered last night that his had broken. The girl at the cash desk told me that every morning there are people in the store for exactly the same purpose and that bulbs were among their best selling items. From Halfords I went to HomeBase to purchase parana pine facings for the boxing-in of the water and waste pipes in Mum’s morning room – or Garden Room as she has now decreed that it is to be called. I also got some ‘no more nails’ and some blanking boxes for the electrics in the Garden Room.

Back home, Tom arrived. The light bulb was changed and the facings fitted to the boxed-in pipes. It all looks very good but we shall have to return to it once the glue has all set. We’ll need to have a bit of a sanding down and one or two other bits and pieces to make it all perfect. Tomorrow we start on the skirting boards and maybe look at the beams in the Hen House. It was a lovely gentle morning, we stopped for coffee and wagon wheels – still glorious but much smaller than I remember. Tom went home at lunch time, he has duties to perform at home and also Dorothy to collect from Berwick.

I had some lunch – rolls and cheese – and then I came across to the summer house and prepared the music for Arrochar and sent that and the music for Luss by email. By now the rain had started but Mix and I went out for our afternoon walk, each of us humouring the other (several folk wanted to know if the black and white dog was all right. I was able to tell them that she was. In fact she was away to Berwick (don’t we go to Berwick a lot?) to walk on the beach around the golf coursel. Rachel was a bit evasive when I asked if Rowan had behaved any better today. But she thought a little progress was being made.

I had intended to look for some more book boxes and to unpack them but the afternoon had run away with itself and in any case carrying cardboard boxes around in the rain is not best practice. So I puddled around in the summer house until it was time to drive to Berwick (again) to collect Olive (this time with a beautiful view of the road as it was illuminated by my new headlight).

Once we had returned to Mount Pleasant we all ate together and then, in front of our stove which I had lit for the evening as soon as I got home, we watched Death in Paradise and enjoyed the thought that there was nothing to do tomorrow but what we wanted to do. For me that’s continuing with the project to get Mount Pleasant into the place we want it to be, rehearsing my ukulele, revising my Italian and opening some more boxes. For Rachel it is continuing Rowan’s education process. I think I have the easier task.

When I retired I had planned to spend quite a bit of time in Italy and I still hope to do so but what has made it different is my dog, Mix. He has become such a super dog since I retired and have had time to spend with him (in fact he is with me every moment of the day) and I don’t think that it would be fair to leave him and go off abroad. However, nowadays dogs can have passports too and perhaps when Rowan has grown up a little we will see if we can drive to Italy and take them with us. The other part of my retirement plan was to spend time on Rachel’s canal boat. Other things being equal, we’ll travel down to see how it is on Monday – just a short visit this time in preparation for a longer cruise when the weather improves (and, of course, that this something in which the dogs can join as well).

It was already well past bed-time when Mix and I walked around the policies and made our way to bed. It has been a very good day.

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Monday 27th. January, 2014 – Like the Curate’s Egg: good in parts 


Dressed for the task in hand


With a lot to do this week I was up early, Mix was walked and I was breakfasted in time to drive behind Digger to the garage in Duns where his car is to repaired – broken alternator by all accounts. (Tom suggested that he could treble the value of his car by leaving a bottle of Lucozade on the back seat but them he is rude about my car too until he remembers that I got it from him.) I drove Digger to the Co-op to shop and then returned by Pearson’s to buy face masks for the cleaning-out of the top floor of the Hen House – our first task of the week. Digger, Rachel, Tom and I set about clearing it out (the masks were because there were some dead birds around and Tom thought that we ought to be careful). With so many willing hands the task didn’t take long -- much to Mix’s delight because he really disliked his inability to climb up a ladder.

It was at this point that the day took a turn for the worse – somehow the gate got left open and the dogs escaped. Mix returned when called but Rowan was off like a shot. In fact it took us half an hour to recapture her and without a doubt she owes her life to the kindness and consideration of the cars and lorries who use the road. Traffic ground to a halt and when we eventually caught her (halfway to Duns) a very kind lady called Ashley insisted on driving us back to the farm house. I shook for an hour afterwards at how it might have ended! She is a very lucky puppy.



Tom measures up in preparation for boxing in the pipes in the Morning Room


And so we started work on Mum’s Morning Room. The task for today was to start to box-in the pipes which became exposed when we removed the sink and moved the water supply to the other end of the room. For framing we cannibalised the wood which had supported the order of wood for the summer house. Then we used a sheet of marine-ply which was originally destined for Ianthe (our boat) – we shall buy more later.

Meanwhile, Rachel had gone off to Berwick where she took Rowan for a lengthy run on the beach and started again to try to teach her obedience. She thinks that it will be a long job; Rowan understands perfectly but prefers to do her own thing. I am so fortunate that Mix just wants to be where I am.
By the end of the afternoon we had got as far as we could with the boxing-in. Tomorrow we shall get facings and fit the whole thing together permanently. But things are already taking shape:



The boxing-in is now half-done


Just as were complimenting ourselves on a good day’s work, Digger arrived with an egg. For those who don’t know, with the farm house came two hens and when we first arrived there was a regular supply of eggs. However, recently the supply of eggs has dried up. For this reason today’s production of an egg marks the return, hopes Digger, to normal service.



Digger with the egg which provides hope for the future!


While I fed the dogs (having walked Mix again) Rachel tried to lodge her tax return. By mistake she had gone on to one of the sites which helps you in return for a fee. (Tax Return Gateway it is called.) As far as I can see, Tax Return Gateway is deliberately quite misleading. It has a Home Page which clearly states that it isn’t the Government but when you type in Tax Return on Google it is the Tax Return Gateway which comes up first on the list (and with a name deliberately similar to the Government Gateway) and, which is worse, you aren’t taken to the Home Page (with the declaimers) but to a page which invites you to submit your tax return and includes forms very similar to those on the Government web-site. Of course, Rachel should have read the small print – it is all there to be seen – but we have heard of many other people who have been taken-in by the way that it is set out. Rachel won’t be taken in a second time. It is good to hear that the MP David Davis is raising concerns about similar matters in the House of Commons.

Rachel was, of course, dismayed to find that she had been deceived into using the site, but was slightly mollified when she got a text from the company to say that her form had been lodged successfully with the Inland Revenue. Just to be sure, on Olive’s advice, today she telephoned the Inland Revenue to check that her form had indeed been submitted and they immediately told her that no, it hadn’t.

This afternoon Rachel started to prepare her tax return again but she couldn’t get in to the proper web-page. So she telephoned the help-line. Eventually she got through. Rachel was told that no, there was another number she had to telephone. After much delay she got through and started trying to explain her problems. It was at this point (or possibly a bit later after more confusion) that the person she was speaking to said, ‘Oh, but your form was lodged on Saturday’. So the Tax Return Gateway had, after all, submitted Rachel’s return and the Inland Revenue were wrong this morning when they said it hadn’t been lodged.

It has left me with bad feelings both for the Tax Return Gateway as a result of whose web-site Rachel paid a fee she didn’t need to pay because she believed that she was dealing with the Government, and for the Inland Revenue who, by giving wrong information to Rachel this morning, made today an even more worrying one than it would otherwise have been. But we’ll look on the upside: the tax return has been completed and Rowan is well and in the Granary causing her usual mischief. Some things are more important than others.

We dined in the Farm House and later in the evening I drove to Berwick to collect Olive (Digger’s car is off the road at least until tomorrow). Discovered that one of my front side lamps isn’t functioning – no matter, tomorrow morning when I drive Olive back to Duns to catch a train I will continue on to Halfords and buy a set of bulbs for the car.)

On my return I watched Bletchley Circle which I had recorded from earlier in the evening. With time marching on and a busy week ahead, I walked mix and retired to bed. All’s well that ends well but it has been a bit of a Curate’s egg of a day from which we have all learned lessons.

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Sunday 26th. January, 2014 – Rachel looks after the music 


Rachel has installed our organ and is providing the music for our service today


It is Sunday and we have to be at Church earlier than usual because Rachel is providing the music for the service (to allow Gay to welcome her brother home from Australia). Mix and I walk in the pouring rain before it is quite light – there didn’t seem to be a dawn this morning, it just went from dark to a little bit lighter. There was no sun appearing over the horizon; there was no dramatic lightening of the sky; no colour, no heavenly excitement. And as we walked, Mix kept turning and looking up to me as much as to say, ‘I’m only doing this to humour you. Back home I showered and changed and breakfasted and by 9.20 a.m. we were on the road to Gavinton where Rachel provided the music (and it sounded very good indeed).

Today was homelessness Sunday and Ann spoke quite passionately about the plight of those who were homeless and of those who were trapped in poverty, particularly highlighting the fact that so many of the most prosperous areas of our cities lie cheek-by-jowl with areas of severe poverty. From reading in Isaiah about ’the people who lived in darkness have seen a great light’ she moved to Matthew’s Gospel where the verse is picked up and referred to Jesus shortly before he started to gather his disciples. Together they set out to change the world. That task is as necessary today and the challenge remains for us – and, Ann reminded us, using Paul’s first letter to the Church at Corinth as her authority, that we are called to devote our lives to the important things (too often, she confided in an aside, it is the less important things which capture our attention). Appropriately, the money gathered at the morning coffee after Church went to help those working with homeless people in our country.

We returned home and shared in a communal lunch in the farmhouse (great, as usual – a fishcake starter followed by sausages with Yorkshire puddings, roast potatoes, parsnips, carrots and turnip: full of goodness and filling as well).

Afterwards I unloaded the organ and set it up in the summer house again before we set off to Duns to do a little shopping in the Co-op. Next stop was the Duns Scotus Way. We walked from the Gavinton end of Duns through to the park in the centre of Duns and back again. I just loved the boardwalk areas of the path:



A view of the board walk on the Duns Scotus Way


Conditions were not ideal but it was certainly a lot better than this morning. Mix enjoyed his trip this time, although it was cold and damp and very wet underfoot (hence my appreciation of the extended areas of boardwalk).



Rowan also enjoyed her walk although she wasn’t at her most obedient and Rachel had her hands full!


Back in the Granary we loaded all of our Christmas decorations into the small attic above the master bedroom and I continued with the task of washing all my clothes. Unfortunately the power of the spin-dryer dislodged a bottle which smashed. Rachel and I cleared up and wiped up and were happy that it was only a relatively cheap bottle of white wine and not the ten-year-old whisky bottle which had been sitting next to it.

Mix and I spent a little while in the summer house (Mix loves his giant cushion and would happily spend all day here). Then it was back to the Granary to light the stove and spend a relaxing evening – sparing a thought for Olive who had to travel up to Edinburgh to stay with her son Jeffrey so that she can get to Dundee early in the morning to deliver a lecture. Never mind, she finishes in April and we are all looking forward to that.

Our relaxing evening was just that – fabulous. No thought of work to come; no work to come. Just our own adventures and while these involve toil they are the greatest fun imaginable. We dined on antipasto followed by blue cheese and then we enjoyed the froth of Mr. Selfridge and the exciting denouement of The Tunnel. The final episode lived up to the standard set by the previous nine episodes and I was left feeling that it had been properly rounded off and that the cinematic journey had been thoroughly worthwhile. It was also very exciting.

By the time we had got to the end of our watching, the wind had blown up quite alarmingly and we were blown around the policies with the dogs. It was good to get to bed with a thoroughly good week ahead of us. On Thursday evening we are to go to see Coriolanus (the last time I was involved I was a member of his army in a production in Saint Andrews Castle some forty-six years ago). The rest of the week we shall be working on our projects – the top floor of the hen house to clean out, Mum’s morning room to take forward, more boxes of books to find and then unpack and, eventually, the stables to empty and then repack. Of course, we still have the shingles to put on the roof of the summer house and some treatment to carry out. Lots of toil but no work at all. How fortunate we are and what a good day today has been.

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Saturday 25th. January, 2014 -- Burns Night 


Domestic bliss – Rachel, Rowan and Olive around the stove before dinner


Woke and walked Mix – the first of two walks for later in the afternoon Mix and I set out for a long walk along the road to Fogo. Saturday is a pleasant day to walk because there is very little traffic on the roads around Mount Pleasant. It was an extremely enjoyable walk – partly because Mix now walks so well and partly because although it was cold, it was clear and bright and the rain of the morning had passed right over us.

But back to this morning: I breakfasted and then Rachel and I loaded up my organ and we went off to Gavinton Church where we set it up so that we can provide the music tomorrow. The organist’s brother is arriving from Australia tomorrow morning and our providing the music will allow her to go off and meet her brother. Tom joined us at the Church and we spent quite a while trying to ensure that we got everything right. Then we made our way to Tom’s house where we introduced our dogs to Spike – an older border collie (and perfectly beautiful). Rowan and Spike got on extremely well: I kept a close watch on Mix who was a little bit jealous of Spike’s attentions to his ‘sister’.

Back home today was a day of cleaning and tidying. I gutted and cleaned my bathroom and then tidied up my study. I also put at least three loads of dirty clothes through the washing machine. This done Mix and I had our walk. Afterwards we went out to the summer house so that I could set up a new email address for Rachel. She has been without one for quite a while and is discovering that for some things (completing her tax assessment for one) you really need an email address.

We went across to the farmhouse for dinner. First there was sherry as we sat around the stove. As the picture shows, Rowan is now quite at home and settled down to sleep on the sofa between Rachel (who was engrossed in a magazine) and Olive who was keeping an eye on Rowan. It was another lovely meal and again I ate too much. A diet is moving further and further up the agenda but I’m still at that retirement phase where I feel as if I am on holiday and that soon it will end and I will have to go back to work.

After eating we went back to the Granary where we watched more of The Tunnel. There is only one more part to watch and I am looking forward to the denouement enormously. I have enjoyed the joint French/English language nature of the film and I have enjoyed some of the performances greatly but everything hinges always on how things work out. If there isn’t a satisfactory ending then somehow I feel as if I have wasted my time watching the film. I’ve no reason to suppose that there won’t be a satisfactory ending but whatever happens I will remember some of the beautiful touches brought to their performances by the leading actors.

With Rachel watching a comedy programme (Mrs. Brown’s Boys)., Mix and I came out to the summer house to tidy things up before tomorrow. Then we all walked the policies together before retiring to bed. My days seem so long now but, when I think about it, that’s something I remember from holidays. Long may it continue!

I recorded in my title that today is Burns' Night. I had my celebration of Robert Burns yesterday with the folk of Our Lady and St. Patrick's High School, but I expect that tonight in Luss they will be celebrating, the village hall will be full to capacity and they will all be enjoying a riotous evening. It's the first time for many years that I will not have chaired the event -- not that I'll be missed -- but I hope they are all having a grand old time.

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Friday 24th. January, 2014 – We celebrate Burns with the young folk of Our Lady and St. Patrick’s High School 


Some of the young folk and invited guests at this year’s celebration of Rabbie Burns at Our Lady and St. Patrick’s High School


Rose immediately the alarm went off and walked Mix, showered and changed into good clothes, breakfasted in the farmhouse and then set off with Rachel to drive to Dumbarton.

The purpose of our drive was to attend the annual Burns celebration at Our Lady and St. Patrick’s High School but on the way we stopped off at the home of Grace and Maisie and Nina to hand in an accordion from Tom and to collect another from them to bring back to Tom. It was good to see them and they had kindly made us a small picnic to eat in the car on the way home – how very thoughtful.

We arrived at the school and were welcomed by Hugh who was the mainstay of the visits which young folk (under his guidance) made to Luss over recent years. The purpose of their visits twice a year was to take part in their own leadership training course. We loved their visits, we loved having them staying in the Palace and eating in the Manse and, over the years, we got to know them very well. I will never forget the music evening which they arranged in Luss Church during our year of celebrations in 2010 (we celebrated 1500 years of continuous Christianity in Luss). The church has seats for 222 but that night there were 364 folk in the Church and the music which they provided was out of this world – a happy evening enjoyed by everyone.

Well, today was like that too. It was a Burns celebration for the first year students at the school. There was a lovely meal. The haggis was piped in and addressed and then the entertainment began – well, almost. Charlie Rooney started by explaining what today was all about. He also introduced students to an understanding of what it means to be born in the image of God. It is a very special school and its ‘specialness’ starts at the top and works its way through all of the staff.

The programme involved all of the disciplines in the school. The art and the technology departments presented two animations, one on Burns’ poem ‘John Barleycorn’ the other an imaginary ‘To the Devil’ (in which, as you would imagine, good triumphs over evil).



I snapped this shot during the animation presentation


Next came some recitations (including ‘To a Mouse’), some rap versions of Burns’ work, highland dancing and a voyage through some famous Scots who had made an important contribution to our country and to our world.

Finally, Charlie said some words of thanks, especially to his staff – he must have the best staff of any school in Scotland – and introduced one of the special guests: an older lady of one hundred and one years. She had enjoyed the afternoon and the pupils had enjoyed entertaining their guests.



It was a special afternoon for one lady of one hundred and one – here being introduced to the pupils by the head-teacher


It was time for us to set off for home. It was absolutely bucketing down; Rachel fell asleep and I had time to reflect on the visit. I always end up raving about this school and to those who don’t know it, or who don’t know me, it must sound very over the top. But it isn’t. It is quite simply an exceptional school doing exceptional things. Its ethos – it is a Christian, a Roman Catholic, School – and it is unashamedly open about the faith base on which everything else is constructed. There are so many extra opportunities on offer all the time. One teacher I talked with today was setting off at dawn tomorrow to take thirty youngsters skiing in Austria. The school has a partnership with a school in Africa and several staff have been out there to help – this year they are paying for the provision of toilets in their partner school but there is so much more to the partnership which clearly benefits both parties. And of course, it was great to see Hugh again and the team who work with him – good to learn too that the leadership course which they run (and in which we shared at Luss) is gaining recognition and will be presented to representatives from several education authorities next week. I made so many friends at Our Lady and St. Patrick’s and I was touched to be invited back from retirement to attend this special event today.



A picture from my archives of some of the youngsters from Our Lady and St. Patrick's High School around our meal table in the Manse at Luss


It was after six before we got home. Mix was glad to see me! We dined in the farmhouse (tomato soup and fish pie) and then, back in the Granary, Rachel and I watched a bit more of ‘The Tunnel’ before walking the dogs and retiring to bed. What a lovely day!

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Thursday 23rd. January, 2014 – Working on Mum’s Morning Room 


The Morning Room at the end of today’s work programme -- what an improvement, but you'll see there is still much to be done


After I woke I took Mix for a walk up the Swinton Road. It was fresh and a little warmer than yesterday, I think – although by the end of the day it was quite cold again. Breakfasted in the farmhouse (I am still on porridge) and while I was finishing Tom and Dorothy arrived: Dorothy to go off with Rachel to Berwick to their stained-glass class; Tom to work with me on the project of the day.

Our project for today was to start work on Mum’s Morning Room. For the folk who had the house before us, this was a utility room and one which housed the washing machine and the fridge. There was also a large sink and draining board along one of the walls. And yet, it was easy to see that this could be one of the nicest rooms in the whole house. It has windows on both the south and the east walls so that the room catches the early morning sun and the mid-day sun as well. In addition, the windows to the east look out over a huge expanse of garden: lawn first and then in the distance the little orchard and, off to the left, the place for bar-b-cues with the raised decking and the slabbed area around an outside table. The window to the south overlooks an area of rockery and plants growing among the stones with several bird facilities – so there is always something to watch.

Today Tom and I removed the sink, the draining board and the cupboards underneath. Then we set about moving the washing machine and the fridge to the wall just when one enters the farmhouse so that the morning room has much more room. It was quite a task as neither Tom nor I had done much plumbing before. But we got the bits from Pearson’s (who will be declaring record profits this year) and cut pipes and joined pipes and soon had the washing machine plumbed in to its new situation and the excess pipes removed. In fact the most difficult task was to find out where the water turned off. (It is outside the front gate at the side of the road. We’ll know next time.)

We’ll start on the next stage next week. We need to install a skirting board, build a shelf under the windows on the west wall and box in the pipes, we will move the light fitting to a more appropriate place, we’ll remove the wall tiles (appropriate for behind domestic equipment but now a bit unsightly), and then we shall decorate and put down a carpet. It will take a bit of time but it will be worth it.

This morning Scott (an electrician) came to visit and we went through our plans for the hen house and the barns with him. He has gone off to cost what we hope to have done and with a bit of luck we shall make a start there soon. Meanwhile we have to empty the stables and clean them out before using this secure building as a place to store everything, free from worry about whether things will be damaged by the birds when they return from their safari later in the year. It would be good to have the upstairs area of the hen house completed as part of our spring projects.

Tom and I visited Pearson’s twice during the day; on the second visit we stopped for lunch (soup followed by haggis, neaps and tatties – well, it is that time of the year). Mum had been driven to her Guild meeting at Gavinton by Digger.

Rachel and Dorothy came back from Berwick and I settled down to prepare music for Gavinton Church on Sunday. This took me until dinner (and a bit beyond). Rachel had missed dinner because she had gone off with a friend to sing with a choir in Berwick – she now has a very busy Thursday programme. With Rachel away this evening both dogs and I settled down in the summer house where I completed the music and sorted out some papers – got a letter from the Church of Scotland saying that my pension was to increase! Can’t be bad.

Rachel returned and we watched one episode of The Tunnel (which we started to watch last night). I guess we shall watch at least one episode each night until it is done. So one way and another, it has been a busy old day. I’ve started my antibiotics and already they are making a difference but most of all, I think this energetic life-style is suiting me: normally if it is daylight we are outside (or at least – as today – working manually). When it gets dark I am inside with lots of little projects to keep me busy: preparing music, revising my Italian, learning to play the ukulele and thinking about starting my book – all this and a pension increase as well.

We walked the dogs and retired to bed.

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Wednesday 22nd. January, 2013 – A Visit to the Dentist (and the Doctor too) 


Rachel at the dentists – she has just had a tooth out, hence the lopsided look


Woke and walked Mix. By breakfast time Digger had already taken Olive to the train at Berwick so that she could set off to lecture in Dundee. I showered and set off with Rachel for Edinburgh to visit Andrew, our dentist (Rachel had a tooth out, I escaped on this occasion). Rowan came with us in the car, Mix stayed with Mum (and was very well behaved).

Next door to the dentist’s surgery is a mini-market with a pet section. I bought the biggest cushion I have ever seen for Mix and when I got home I installed it in the summer house. It was an instant success.



Mix explores his new cushion for the first time


I’ve been bothered by pains in my chest for a day or two. I haven’t thought much about it putting it down to either the remains of a cold or else my unaccustomed energetic lifestyle. But as the pain hasn’t gone away I telephoned the doctor’s surgery to see if I could make an appointment for later in the week. The receptionist asked why I wanted an appointment and I told her. ‘In that case you must come here instantly’, she said. I drove to the surgery where I was examined by the hospital nurse – our practice is a shared one: two practices and a local hospital. The nurse (who was fabulous) told me I had a temperature, confirmed that my blood pressure was normal and completed an ECG examination, the results of which she passed to the doctor who then came and examined and interviewed me. The upshot of it all is that I seem to have (I’m sure a mild dose of) pleurisy. I must say the name pleurisy made me break out in a cold sweat and I asked what I would have to do to get rid of it. The doctor grinned and said, ‘Get a friendly doctor to give you some antibiotics and you will be fine.’ By now it was a quarter to five so, armed with my prescription, I drove into Duns and got my medicine and the cure has begun. Reflected that we are obviously fortunate in our local medical staff.

I drove Mum into Duns to attend a Burns evening at the Duns Guild and then Rachel and I dined together in the Granary – Digger had gone to Berwick to collect Olive and we thought that we would all do our own thing. So while we were eating we started to watch a thriller which we had recorded from the television. Called ‘The Tunnel’, it was recommended by my brother and is a French/British collaboration. The dialogue is in both languages with the French being subtitled – I expect there will be a mirror image for French audiences. We enjoyed it so much that we watched the first three (of ten) episodes and we will be continuing to watch over the next few evenings. I also prepared the music files for Arrochar and sent them off by email.

And finally – Mix and I walked the policies before retiring to bed (we don’t have any water. It was turned off at 8 p.m. and is due to come on again at 6 a.m. tomorrow morning. Evidently all of the pipes in the local area were replaced a year ago and this is some form of maintenance check. I say we don’t have any water but in fact we have a bath-full, several sinks-full, a bucket full, a kettle full and five dog-basins full. We probably have more water available to use than we have ever had before.) Rural living is such an adventure.

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Tuesday 21st. January, 2014 – Another job done 


Tom checks that the new doors do actually open


Up and walked Mix before breakfast. Only when I went across for breakfast the farm house door was locked – everyone was still asleep. Out in the courtyard Tom was already at work so I went and joined him. We fitted door facings at the barn and then hung the first door – the one we made yesterday.

At this point, feeling rather pleased with ourselves, we went off to the farmhouse for breakfast. After breakfast and before lunch we made the frame of the other door and started fitting the tongue and groove flooring to it – getting about half of it done before it was time to stop for lunch. We had, however, completed all of the housing joints which involved chiselling sixteen half-joints.

At lunch time I made myself a pizza and then it was time to start again. By the end of the afternoon the doors were completed and hung to Tom’s satisfaction; the ironmongery was fitted and the doors looked well.



Mum, Olive and Rachel came out to expect the completed job and weren’t pleased to be lined up for a photograph


We went into the farmhouse and had a look at what needs to be done in the Morning Room. We’ll make a start on that this week, not least because, according to the weather forecast, we will be looking for inside jobs.

During the rest of the afternoon I practiced my ukulele, read some Italian and enjoyed the summer house, relaxing in the knowledge that progress has been made. The plan is to strip everything out of the stables and then to load everything which won’t be required for a while back into the stables which is now wind and water tight as well as being bird-proof. This will enable us to start work on the rest of the barns, particularly the henhouse and the loom room. There is a huge amount to do but it is enormous fun.

By dinner time the promised rain had arrived – still that doesn’t affect us in the farm house. We dined excellently and then I returned to the summer house to post this diary entry. It is, I know, very early tonight but as soon as it is done I am going to retire to bed to watch Death in Paradise and fall gently asleep.

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Monday 20th. January, 2014 – I learn new skills 


Tom with the new door we made today


Woke early because Rachel had to get off to Glasgow where she was meeting Ann at the exhibition of crafts at the SECC. I walked Mix and then breakfasted in the farmhouse. Tom and Dorothy arrived and we set about our task for today which is to start on building two new doors for the former stables. We already had the materials, all we needed was some fine weather – and that is what we got.

The first task was to build the frame of the first door – the doorposts were measured out and the cross-members. It was then a case of cutting the wood to size and putting in half-housing joints at the end of each bit of wood. Tom showed me how to measure down half-way through the wood, put in a cut and then chisel of the top section. I watched Tom performing this feat, but by the end of the day I was doing it myself – I really don’t think that I had ever used a chisel before.



Tom demonstrating how to make a house joint


Once the joints were all made we joined the wood together to make up a frame. It was about this time that we stopped for lunch and during the lunch break I loaded several of the cases which I had found containing Rachel’s clothes into the Granary so that they would be there for her when she returned home.



Tom with the frame of the first stable door


After lunch we filled in the frame using some of the left over flooring from the summer house. There wasn’t sufficient so we picked up Tom’s trailer and bought some more wood from Pearson’s (whose profits have increased enormously since I came to the Borders). While Tom hitched up the trailer I took a snap of Dorothy’s hens:



Dorothy’s hens seem in fine fettle


Soon we got the door completed and, if the weather holds up we will make a second door tomorrow. It shouldn’t take as long as the first as I now know what to do and will be able to be useful from the start. But what an education I am getting!

After Tom went home I did my ukulele practice and then joined Mum and Digger for dinner – Rachel was late home from Glasgow (she had really enjoyed her day) and Olive doesn’t get into Berwick from teaching in Dundee until nearly ten.

I watched University Challenge and later on I caught up with Bletchley Circle which I thoroughly enjoyed. It is quite an unusual premise – girls who worked at Bletchley Park during the war, meeting after the war and solving problems by using the skills they developed while working at the code-breaking centre. Also caught up on the news and Newsnight – I realise that I don’t follow the news nearly as much as I did when I was working. Life has centred in around our adventures here and I am kept totally occupied with trying to develop all of the new skills required for my new way of life – learning to become practical and to work with my hands. In the tiniest possible way, I’m beginning to understand what it must have been like for those who forged out into the New World and built their own homes and established new places to live – I know that is clearly ridiculous, all I have done is helped to build a summer house and half a door for a stable, but it is a different mind-set and who knows where it is going to lead.

Mix and I wandered around the policies and hoped that it would remain fair until we had made the other door for the stable tomorrow.

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Sunday 19th. January, 2014 A real Sunday – and with Sunday lunch as well! 


Mum is clearly enjoying herself after Church in the hall over coffee at Gavinton


Woke to discover that it was raining hard, but that didn’t stop Mix and me from setting out on our early morning walk. Sunday’s walk is always special because there is nothing at all on the roads and we can daunder along as we wish without a care in the world. Got home in time to shower and change before breakfast and then we went off to Gavinton Church where Ann lead a service for the start of the week of prayer for Christian unity, reminding us that unity doesn’t mean that we all have to be the same (although our allegiances do). She spoke on Jesus’ prayer for his disciples and on the start of Paul’s correspondence with the Church at Corinth (as well as mentioning the letter to the Church at Colossae – one of my favourites as I can imagine Paul writing this letter with Onesimus by his side, encouraging him to stress the breakdown (in God’s eyes at least) of the division between slave and free. It was a good service and I was sorry that the inclement weather had kept some folk away (either that or the after effects of the local Burns’ Supper last night).

Back home, Digger had been off in his car to collect some manure! There is lots more on offer and we are going to try to get the little trailler into action to collect it, as well as finding an appropriate place to store it until it is ‘ready for use’ next Autumn.

We had a lovely Sunday lunch: chicken and all of the trimmings, followed by trifle. During lunch we had a chat about communications. It is no problem taking Mum places but we never know when to go and collect her. So she found her mobile phone and I put some credit on it (as well as our numbers) and I also put credit into Rachel’s phone so that now we should all be able to speak with each other, always supposing we can get a signal, of course.

Rachel and I loaded the dogs into the car and drove to near Gavinton where we went for a lovely walk in the gloaming.



The skyline near Gavinton where we walked this afternoon


It was a splendid walk – the rain had stopped and there was little on the road, a couple of dogs (with their owners), a couple of walkers (without dogs), a lady on horseback and a couple of cars. I loved this tree – Rachel and Rowan are also in the picture:



Back home, Rachel went off to Berwick to attend Evensong at the Parish Church. I would have liked to have gone as well, but as Digger was also out taking Olive to get a train – she starts work again tomorrow – I stayed to look after the dogs, both of whom came with me to the summer house where I read my book. What a wonderful life!

Rachel returned and we had some supper in the lounge. We had found the table during last week and tonight was our first meal on it. Rachel had gone to town with some smoked salmon to start, followed by antipasto Italiano, followed by penne with a Bolognaise sauce, followed by chocolate pudding. When Rachel said she had made some supper I had expected a sandwich, but it excellent and was our first proper meal in our own home after such a long time.



Rachel at our table


By the time we had eaten it was time to watch the first of a new series of Mr. Selfridge – fairly light and frothy and just right for a Sunday evening. We walked the dogs – it was very cold, everywhere was slippy but very bright and the moon was giving so much reflected light that we could see as if it was daylight. We continue to carry torches, even on nights as light these, so that an unexpected car can see us. Back to the Granary and off to bed. I have a new book on my Kindle and I’ll read for a bit in bed. Such decadence!

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Saturday 18th. January, 2014 – A real Saturday at last! 


Mum in the room that will soon be her morning room


I’ve never had Saturdays before. For all of the years of my working life they have been the day before Sunday and a really busy day. At Luss, for the last fifteen years, they have usually been wedding days. So while other people have been having a day which is different from the working week, I have been gearing up for my special day or else engaged in weddings. In a sense my weekend started once the services were completed on Sunday and Monday was my more relaxed day – except that it wasn’t because everyone else had started work and so I had to be available as well.

Since I have retired all days have become much the same as any other (except of course for Sunday which has remained special). But this week has been different. I have had a working week. Working with Tom on Monday, Thursday and Friday. Off to Luss on Tuesday and away to Stirling on Wednesday. Today I had nothing to do and I really enjoyed it.

The day started wet and I slept in. Then I started reorganising the house, gently and enjoying it. I had promised myself that we weren’t going to empty any more boxes today. I drove Digger up to Duns to collect his motor bike which was having a tyre repaired. Rachel and I drove to Berwick where we walked the dogs along the headlands outside the town walls, past the golf course, and the tennis courts and the cricket club nets. By now it was blowing a gale but there were several people walking dogs and, we could hardly believe it, there were people on the golf course and people knocking up on the tennis courts. The wind had stirred up the sea and huge waves were breaking over the harbour wall. I was kicking myself that I didn’t have my camera with me – it was still sitting on my desktop in the summer house.

This weekend was the last weekend of the sales. We wandered around Currys (as you do at the weekend) and went into HomeBase. It was there that we saw the little stove in the picture at the head of this entry. As I described yesterday, we have started work on turning the little utility room in the farm house into a morning room. We had wondered about a log-burning stove but there just isn’t room – if we installed such a stove there would be no room for anything or anyone else. We saw this little electric stove which looks warm and friendly and which gives off quite a heat. As it was sale-time we bought the stove and installed it – and Mum approved. It was a good Saturday afternoon.

We all dined together in the farm house kitchen – it was a left-overs day. Olive had made a huge potato-cake with the ham and peas and everything ‘left over’ in it and we had baked potatoes with lots of toppings, and a stew as well. It was excellent. Then we made our way back to the Granary where we settled down to watch an old Taggart, an old Taggart with Taggart in it, not realising before we started to watch that, being an old Taggart, it lasted for three hours. Still it was warm and we were relaxed. How better to spend a Saturday evening in the middle of winter?

Finally we walked the dogs before bed. It has been a really excellent Saturday – and there is a fine Sunday to come.

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Friday 17th. January, 2014 – What a lot we got done 


I took this picture of Tom and Dorothy’s goats when we stopped at their house to pick up the trailer


The alarm went off and I lept out of bed ready to walk Mix and start the day. I breakfasted on porridge and retired to the Granary, to the summer house, to complete the tidy-up which had started yesterday. All the rubbish was removed, the books which are not to find a place on the shelves were packed up and removed to the hen house and everything was tidied -- I even cleaned the carpet.

No sooner had I completed this than Tom arrived with the plan that the first task we ought to tackle was to fit a full-sized door on to the stable so that we could make it secure, wind and water-tight and even swallow-resistant as well. The measuring-up was done and then we set off for Pearson's where we bought the timber, the hinges and the padlock-hasp. We stopped off, on the way, to collect Tom’s trailer and while he was rooting about in his shed, I went and spoke to the goats (and, on my telephone, took the picture at the head of this entry.) We also bought a large masonry drill bit for use in the farmhouse.

Back at the farmhouse our first task was to drill through from Mum’s morning room to the boot room so that we could fit a lead for the freezer in the boot room. This needs a bit of explanation. The little utility room is being made into a morning room for Mum. It has windows which point south and east and so gets all of the morning sun but at present it houses the freezer and other domestic appliances. As part of making the conversion from utility room to morning room, we are moving the appliances to other situations. Today we moved the freezer to the boot room and the tumble drier to one of the barns. This is a work in progress and I will report on that progress.

While Tom went off for lunch, Rachel and I rescued our table from the hen house (it had surfaced once the book boxes had been emptied from the hen house) and I carried five boxes of crystal and crockery from the hen house – emptying these boxes became Rachel’s task for the rest of the day. Tom returned and soon afterwards Ann, our minister, arrived to visit. We all had tea and coffee in the Granary – Ann, Mum, Tom, Rachel, Olive and I – and afterwards Mum showed Ann the farmhouse before she and I had a chat with Ann in the summerhouse (what a good job I had tidied it up). Ann was generous with her time and after she left I did some paperwork at my desk before dinner.

Should record that Rachel had got the glass for the stove from Pearson’s this morning and so the stove was working well this afternoon. I really do feel that we are making progress – and I love my summer house.

We all dined together in the farmhouse – another excellent meal – after which Rachel and I retired to the Granary where we watched a film called The Ghost starring Ewan McGregor. It was quite unusual and really rather good. When we walked the dogs the moon was out and it was quite light. Of course, there are no street lights for miles around so it is quite different from anywhere I have ever lived before but already I feel so at home. This has been another very good day.

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Thursday 16th. January, 2014 – Chaos 


Chaos


I woke early and was out on the road walking Mix earlier than usual. In part this was because I had to ensure that Rachel was up in time to breakfast and walk Rowan before meeting Dorothy at nine o’clock when they both set off together for Berwick to attend a stained-glass-making class. They were away all day and had a splendid time.

Dorothy dropped Tom off with me and he and I had a hard working day. First we completed the skirting on the summer house – Tom did most of that, and while he did I carried box after box of books into the summer house. Next we climbed into the first floor of the hen house to see what kind of a state it was in. Our next project is to start work on this. We went into one of the barns and found the box with all of the plans and discovered the building warrant plans which have been used to do all that has so far been done. In fact a great deal of the work is already complete, the walls have all been partitioned off and the first floor, obviously, has been formed. The drains appear to have been put in and some of the electrics as well. I telephoned the electrician to get advice from him about all that has been done before we start to clear out the hen house.

Then we did an inspection of all of the other barns. One has no roof and we will have to replace that. Another seems in good repair and for now all that we will have to do is to make a new door. Then we will be able to seal this barn off and use it to store everything in – keeping it all safe from the swallows who will soon return and take up residence with us.

At lunchtime, Tom, Mum and I went up to Gavinton Church were we shared in the soup and sweet lunch. There was a good number of folk there; the soup and the crumble were excellent and I enjoyed the company.

Rachel and Dorothy returned and Dorothy and Tom went off to prepare tea for their family. I retired to the summer house to start on all of those boxes of books. It was absolute chaos and, in fact, I laboured right through the evening trying to create a little order out of the situation. (Rachel was away in Berwick singing with the choir there – what a gallivanting life she is leading!) I dined with Mum and Olive and Digger – a plate was kept for Rachel when she returned. She got back just before ten and had had a great evening.

With most of the books sorted out (most of the books which I have so far unpacked, that is – there are many hundred still to unearth) I gave up and prepared the music for Arrochar, sent the files to Jamie and then Mix and I went out for another walk (our third of the day) and both of us were pleased to get to bed.

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Wednesday 15th. January, 2014 – A Good Day 


Springfield House in Stirling where I attended a meeting of the Scottish Pilgrim Routes Forum today


Today has been a good day – that’s not just a platitude, it’s what my father used to say at the end of almost every day, and I remember him when I say it. It is amazing that one can say this almost every day, and it reminds me of how fortunate we are.

I got up early and Mix and I walked along the Swinton Road, happily waving to all the motorists and lorry drivers who share our morning ritual. Back in the farmhouse I breakfasted for the second day running on porridge and then went back to the Granary to print out the papers for the meeting I was to attend today. Washed and changed and discovered that, even in spite of two days of porridge, I have continued to put on weight . I will soon be on a no-food-at-all diet.

I set off for Stirling and had a very pleasant drive guided by my trusty Tom-tom, arriving in plenty of time at Springfield House for the management meeting of the Scottish Pilgrim Routes Forum. In fact, Luss was a founder member of the forum but now I attend as an associate (individual) member and in particular I am there to act as a link between the forum and the Green Pilgrimage Network.

I enjoyed the meeting enormously, from the sandwich lunch to meeting the members (all of whom I already knew) and working through the business. (I was very abstemious at lunch time, I promise.)

The forum is tackling some interesting projects – thinking through some form of accreditation for Pilgrim Paths, planning a road show to advertise its work, working with other bodies to establish new Pilgrim Paths and to support existing paths. Thought was also given to the second Pilgrim Gathering which will be held later in the year. It was good stuff and I enjoyed it enormously.

The meeting ended before four so I was able to drive back home in a leisurely fashion – just as well because the traffic on the Edinburgh ring road was really quite severe (in total contrast to my journey north this morning). What wonderful roads we have – I started thinking about the roads when I first learned to drive. I remember setting off from Dundee and driving to Southport to visit my Godmother (I was in an old Morris 8 which my father and I had constructed from three old cars. The roads were small and narrow but also there weren’t very many cars around, quite unlike today. I remember being stopped by a policeman who told me that my off-side brake light wasn’t functioning. ‘It was when I left home’, I told him – and it was too, because this was such an adventure that I had checked everything before setting off. The policeman’s response was to offer to have a look at it for me. Out came a screwdriver, the lamp cover was removed. The policeman smiled, removed an old-style three-penny-bit from his pocket and forced it between the bulb and the lamp spring. Immediately the lamp started to function again. ‘There you are,’ he said. ‘Take care’ and off he went and didn’t even ask for thruppence from me. Those were the days.

Back home, I got myself organised and chatted to the dog before dinner. My sister and Digger seemed to have spent the day doing a jigsaw and Rachel had been up to collect the glass for the front of the stove only to discover that the wrong size had been ordered. Never mind we will have it operational by the weekend.

Dined – it was good to be home after two days away, and then spent the evening in the Granary watching television and, as an old assistant of mine used to say, ‘chilling out’. We watched the final film of the Montalbano series (set in Sicily). It was very, very good. Once it was over there was just time to walk the dogs before bed. It has been a good day.

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Tuesday 14th. January, 2014 – And it’s back to where I started! 


Some of the folk in the Pilgrimage Centre at Luss this evening


Woke and started on the new regime to lose weight by having porridge for breakfast instead of egg and bacon. Then tried to walk that little bit faster with Mix (who seemed to quite enjoy it).

Back at the Granary, Mix and I loaded several more boxes of books into the summerhouse and then started to unpack and sort them. This is a fabulous task as I get to meet so many old and much loved friends and every so often come up against a book I bought ages ago and never quite got round to reading. Unfortunately the shelves are beginning to fill up and I have hardly scratched the surface of the book-box mountain.

Showered and changed and then took Mix for another walk before handing him over into the care of Olive and Digger while Rachel and I (with Rowan – nobody wants to look after Rowan!) set off for Bill and Morag’s home in Kirkintilloch where we were given a great welcome and a wonderful tea. We set off together for Luss for the Guild meeting there and, although we set off in very good time, we only just made it because of delays on the Erskine Bridge.

It had been arranged months ago that Rachel would show our holiday pictures ‘Prague to Prague in Five Years’. I had assumed that when we left, the invitation would have lapsed, but last week we got a lovely letter reminding us that we were expected. Well, we had a very pleasant evening with old friends and I was so glad that we were there, even if it did remind me of how much I miss them all. And the Guild supper was bigger and better than ever.

It was about twenty to ten before we set off for home and almost half past midnight when we got home. Mix was delighted to see us. We walked around the policies and were glad to get to bed.

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Monday 13th. January, 2014 – Cold, and frosty as well 


Mix has found a way to keep warm


It was another cold and frosty morning. I got up and walked Mix before returning to the Granary – no breakfast at the farmhouse today because Olive and Digger were away in Dundee for the day. My task was to go into the farmhouse every hour or so and ensure that the stove was stocked up with wood to keep Mum warm.

My task for the day was to start unearthing books from the barns and bring them into the summerhouse. I searched for the missing table without success but then unearthed a whole lot of boxes of books in the Hen House. I spent the rest of the day bringing boxes into the summer house and unpacking them, trying to dispose of some where possible. (There is something really unnatural about getting rid of a book – I have started a store of those I know I will not require and they will go back into the barn until I can find someone who might want them. I hope that it is not because I am a hoarder, rather that I appreciate the value and importance of books and want to treat them with respect.)

There was a major distraction in the middle of the afternoon when Rowan escaped through the gate when Rachel was letting Mix out to come and join me. Rachel and I went running down the road, waving down cars and, of course, with our hearts in our mouths but, fortunately, all ended well and we will be even more vigilant about the gate from now on.

I had ordered two new sets of 3-D glasses so that Mum and Olive could come and see our 3-D film. Amazon emailed me at 8 a.m. to say they would be delivered between ten past three and ten past four this afternoon. They arrived at 3.15 precisely – no wonder that Amazon are putting so many people out of business. They are just so efficient. (I'm not supporting them, merely stating the obvious.)



A Wintery View -- the Farmhouse from Bramble Avenue this afternoon


Stopped work in the afternoon to walk Mix along Bramble Avenue and took this picture of the farmhouse from the ‘avenue’. It really is becoming quite wintery. I also took this picture of the sky – although it was not yet four in the afternoon, the moon is clearly visible:



I also took a picture looking south-west from Bramble Avenue. I am so taken with how different it is here from anywhere I have lived before. I love the rolling fields, the hedgerows and the trees separating the fields. I love the colours and the silhouettes. I love the smell and the huge openness which is the Borders – no hills towering over us just quite distant horizons and a sense that everything is so fertile and that the fields are just waiting for the chance to help some crop grow as soon as it is planted.



Looking south west from Bramble Avenue


Back at the Granary I sorted another couple of boxes of books and then went across to the farmhouse for another excellent meal. Then it was quickly back to the summer house to unpack a final box before returning to the Granary to relax for a little while before bed. We watched the second part of the thriller based in the aftermath of Bletchley Park and caught up with the News and Newsnight. Then I walked Mix around the policies (Rachel had already walked Rowan and retired to bed) before getting to bed myself. It is still an extremely cold night – the sky is clear and there is no need for a torch, such is the brightness of the reflected light from the moon.

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Sunday 12th. January, 2014 – It’s cold! 


Just before the sun came up on the Swinton Road


I awoke and was out on the road with Mix before the sun rose. The sky was spectacular and I took a number of pictures as we walked. I rather liked this one – we are deep in the countryside but power cables are passing overhead carrying electricity to nearby towns. The trees are bare but are none the less beautiful and the colours in the sky even on a foggy, misty morning like today are wonderful.

Mix was cold and was glad to get home! I showered and breakfasted and before long we were setting off for Gavinton Church for an Epiphany Service on the theme of Jesus’ baptism as recorded by Saint Matthew. The very significant moment which Ann concentrated on was the moment after Jesus’ baptism when ‘the heavens opened’, the Holy Spirit descended on Jesus and he heard God’s voice ‘This is my son whom I love, and with whom I am pleased’. It was this affirmation of Jesus which led to the start of his ministry and began the journey which was to lead to his death and his resurrection. It’s an affirmation which others felt too – we looked at Peter’s discovery that God has no favourites and loves all people; we were reminded that the Suffering Servant Songs in Isaiah were taken by some to refer directly to Jesus and by others to the whole servant people. We are certainly called to be a servant people, following the one affirmed by God as his son and sharing in the affirmation that each of us is loved by him. As always, I enjoyed being part of the congregation at Gavinton.

Back home, I grabbed something to eat and then worked in the summerhouse getting my new printer set up before Rachel and I took the dogs into Duns and went on one of the beautiful walks which have been created there. Rowan thought that a stream was actually firm grass (there was grass in the stream) and jumped on to it, only to discover that she had jumped into it. She got quite a surprise and it must have been very cold. She didn’t learn, as a couple of minutes later she wanted to come back to where we were and did the same thing all over again. Fortunately we were almost back at the car by this time so we towelled her down and brought her home where she soon got heated up in front of the stove.

I continued working in the summerhouse – Sundays are so wonderfully long – until it was time to join everyone else for dinner in the farmhouse. We enjoyed a lovely meal (my favourite cheese and bean pie dispelled all of my resolutions to eat less and try to lose the weight I have gained since retiring) and then retired to the Granary where we spent the evening relaxing in front of the stove and watching a bit of television. It may be cold outside but inside our little house it is very comfortable indeed.

We had intended to watch a film but when I tried to access it my application was denied. I think it is because we don’t have a telephone line attached to the Sky box, but we do have an internet connection. I will telephone tomorrow and find out what went wrong. Instead we watched an episode of New Tricks which we hadn’t seen before and I continued on to watch an episode of Miss Fisher Investigates (from Australia). The only event during the evening was when Rachel attempted to alter the settings on the stove with the poker and ended up dropping the poker which fell and smashed the glass front. No harm was done and we had plenty of heat for the whole evening but tomorrow we will need to find a replacement glass (and discover how to fit it). Country life is really rather exciting.

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Saturday 11th. January, 2014 -- Spring Cleaning has begun 


Mix loves his new home


Slept in today and only just managed to get across to the farmhouse for breakfast at nine. Then I lingered long over breakfast and it was half-past ten before I had walked Mix and returned to the Granary – and this was to be such a hard working day. Well, in fact, it was.

Mix and I carried much stuff across to the summer house. Unfortunately for me, Mix saw his role as being a supervisory one. Having delivered a deal of bits and pieces, I then set about making order out of the chaos of the former study. By dinner time I had succeeded. Clothes had been given a home, tools had been tidied away, papers had been sorted and letters put in order to start to reply to at the start of the week.

So, all in all, a lot was achieved today but there is little to record which is why, perhaps, Rachel asks me if I really should continue to record my life on a blog. I told her I did it really for my own benefit; her response was to wonder why I put it on my web-site. It has certainly started me thinking. Initially I did it when I was working so that the people for whom I worked could know what I was doing and equally, why I was doing it. There is not the same need for that now, of course, but I know that lots of people do follow our adventures. But, says, Rachel, you don’t know who these people are, do you really want them knowing all your business? I’d never really thought about it, I suppose. Perhaps I shall.

I do know that some people were very upset to discover my blog. They had enjoyed a lovely holiday in the Granary when it was a holiday let and had decided that they would like to return here for another break. They put Mount Pleasant Granary into Google and came up with my blog through which they realised that the holiday let was no more and that it was now a private home. After good experiences for them when it was a holiday cottage, no wonder they were disappointed.

Hearing this led me to go on line and look at the web-site through which the Granary was marketed. I read through the reviews by those who had come to stay. They are incredibly good – this must have been a really wonderful holiday venue. I just hope that those who come to visit us (as guests, I hasten to add) have as good an experience. Reading the web-site also made us realise how fortunate we are to have the Granary as our home.

We dined in the farmhouse – another lovely meal and then, back in the Granary, we watched a Blue-Ray 3-D movie, the first I have ever seen. It was the Great Gatsby; the performances were superb and the effects absolutely spectacular. I don’t suppose that the overall impression is more real than traditional filming but it is certainly more spectacular. The 3-D effects add an enormous depth but it is a depth a little bit like the addition of more and more wings in a theatre set. In real life we see depth, in 3-D we see several layers, is what I think I am saying. To start with I found myself revelling in the 3-D; by the end of the film I was just revelling in the film. It was superb and I can’t wait to find both another 3-D film and also a film which is as good as this one was.

Time had flown by and it was now late. We walked the dogs – the moon is getting bigger and reflecting a lot of light on us so it really wasn’t very dark at all. It is, however, quite cold and crisp: just as it should be at the start of January.

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Friday 10th. January, 2014 – An evening of wonderful music 


A view of the early morning sun as Mix and I walked the Swinton Road this morning


Got up and walked Mix. It was crisp and clear and the sun was just beginning to shine through the trees in that wintery, watery way which is so unique to this time of year – turning so many trees into silhouettes because the sun is so low in the sky.

Invigorated, I breakfasted in the farmhouse. Tom arrived. I hadn’t expected that, but in fact he had come to collect his tools because he was going to make a new gate, the previous one having been vandalised by his goats who have come into season and as a result are particularly frisky.

I worked on organising (or rather continuing to organise – it will be a long job) the summer house and, in parallel, to tidy my former study. I got on well and now, indeed, have a coffee machine installed. Got involved in a number of phone calls, mostly sorting out orders and things of that nature. In the middle of the afternoon Mix and I went for our afternoon perambulation and when I returned I got ready to go to Berwick with Rachel. I got photos taken in a machine in ASDA so that I could send one to have my driving licence renewed. It seems that after a number of years one’s picture has to be replaced. I must say that I think the picture on my licence looks more like me than the one I had taken today. Still, they say the camera cannot lie.

After a visit to Curry’s to buy a computer printer and some ink, Rachel and I had something to eat at Marks and Spencer before making our way to the Maltings in Berwick. This is our local theatre and it is really doing rather well. We arrived at six for a seven o’clock performance to discover the place awash with young people who had come to see a Disney film called Frozen. I gathered that the performance was a sell-out. We went to the bar for a drink before making our way to the studio theatre. This, too, was a sell-out and was, we were told by the Director, the first time there had been classical music played at the Maltings for seven years. It was absolutely excellent, The Royal Northern Sinfonia have the only salaried Chamber Orchestra in Britain and they did not disappoint. The group who entertained us played three of Dvorak’s Cypresses (love songs) and followed this with Mozart’s quartet in Bb major – The Hunt.



During the interval the ‘cellist came out and chatted with the audience (he actually came to take a picture of the venue – so I thought I could do the same)


The second half was taken up with Dvorak’s string quintet in G major. The acoustics of the studio are marvellous and the playing of the quintet superb. I was taken with the clarity of each of the instruments and the ease with which the different parts came soaring through. There is a beauty in the form and order of a quintet as well as the opportunity for virtuosity which is different from full orchestral pieces and this was a superlative performance. I loved it.

As we drove home from Berwick there just happened to be a ‘Points of View’ essay in words by John Gray. His thesis was that it’s not the things that we don’t know we don’t know that harm us so much as the things we do know but choose not to know. He built his argument from the invasion of Iraq and the ‘decision’ not to know about what would happen after the invasion, through the collapse of Wall Street to our present failure to face up to the changing financial situation in which we live today. It was well reasoned and argued and really quite compelling. As we drove through the gate at Mount Pleasant a Professor from Princeton (which made my ears prick up) starting a series on the similarities and differences between the peoples of the United Kingdom. I heard only the opening moments of the programme but I heard enough to think that tomorrow when I am having lunch I might try to catch it on the BBC I-player – isn’t technology wonderful?

I watched Newsnight which was a real reflection of the world's woes as it concentrated first on the police admission that some of the evidence against Andrew Mitchell in the Plebgate row had been fabricated. That's a shorthand summary and some would argue with it but it is a bad day for the Police and regardless of what people say it must undermine confidence in the Police. That is nothing short of tragic. Then we were taken to Paris and an alleged affair involving the President, and a magazine editor's decision to publicise it in spite of the rigid privacy laws in that country. I walked Mix before retiring to bed – the music of Dvorak (rather than the frailties of human nature) ringing in my head. What a wonderful day.


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Thursday 9th. January, 2014 – Success! 


Lunch time at Pearson’s


I’m writing this entry, as planned, from the summerhouse. That doesn’t mean to say that the summer house has been completed, far from it, there are still a number of tasks to complete: but I have moved in. My desk is here, my armchairs are in place and just a few books grace the bookshelves. Tom spent much of the morning fitting the window furniture while I acted as his assistant.

Having completed the task by lunchtime, Rachel, Tom and I went off to Pearson’s to buy some bits and pieces we required and while we were there we stopped for lunch. It was good: cauliflower and cheese soup, followed by macaroni and cheese with salad.

Back at the summerhouse we sorted out the door (which needed re-hung) and then installed beading to cover the electric cables which have been put in. We also now have both telephone and an internet connection. So we are ready to go. As the afternoon wore on and our tasks had been completed, Tom returned home to feed the goats and check on the chickens. I went into the barns and found a little table which is just right for the corner of the summerhouse. By tomorrow it will have the coffee machine Rachel bought me sitting on it and we will have advanced another step towards civilization. I spent the rest of the afternoon (and into the evening) installing the computer and now you are seeing the results. I can communicate again.

I dined with Olive, Digger and Mum in the farmhouse (this too was excellent -- sausage and potato wedges followed by winter fruit crumble with custard and ice cream); Rachel missed out as she had gone off to Berwick with Bridget (a lady from Gavinton) to join a choir who are, if I have got this right, going to sing the Chichester Psalms. Rachel enjoyed her evening and is already missing the Festival Chorus of which she was a member for very many years. She made up for missing supper with two baked potatoes and a panettone for desert. I had spent the evening starting on reorganising the study in the granary (which will soon not be the study). It will be a long job. Then I came back over to the summerhouse to prepare this entry before walking Mix around the estate and retiring to bed. There is much to do and, even in retirement, the days are too short! Now who would have thought that. I haven’t a clue what is on the agenda for tomorrow but it will be fun.

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Wednesday 8th. January, 2014 – Rolling along 


We gathered around the farm table for an early tea this evening


Woke early and went out with the dog. After two weeks when there has been no traffic at all on the roads, things are now quite busy between 8.30 and a quarter to nine: I suppose that it is people driving into Duns for work or for school. Discovered today that quite soon all traffic down the Duns road will stop for eight weeks because repair work is to be carried out on the bridge over the river Blackadder. We will have to find alternative ways of getting to Duns and to Gavinton. We’ll do some experimenting this week so that we are prepared.

I was just finishing breakfast when Tom arrived and we spent a chunk of the day fitting the catches and so on (it’s called window furniture, I’m told) to the summer house windows. There are so many windows that there will be more to do later in the week but we stopped at lunchtime because Tom was taking Dorothy into Berwick to catch a train to visit her folks.

I started work in one of the barns, identifying boxes with books in them and taking them to the summer house and putting the books on the shelves. This is going to be a really long job as I am trying to sort them all out as I go, but once it is done it will be superb. Carried on by torchlight once it got dark and then found a table to bring up to my study so that I can clear the desk before taking it out to the summerhouse tomorrow. It was tiring stuff and I was ready for our early tea at the farmhouse. Tomato and coriander soup, followed by fishcakes (with Thai chilli sauce) and then apple strudel with custard (and ice cream for those who wanted it – Digger and me).

After tea I ran Mum into Duns to attend the Duns Church Guild – it was her second trip of the day as earlier she had been to the local reading group at the Duns Library. Mum’s good news is that she has sold her flat in Kirkcaldy so that everything that we set out to do in terms of moving here has now been achieved.

Back in the Granary I started work on dismantling the study. Heavens, I’ve only been here for a couple of months, how can it be such a big job? And why is it that everything today has wires attached? After I post this entry I shall be disconnecting my computer. I hope that it will be working again by tomorrow – I have taken the precaution of doing the music for Arrochar this evening and sending it off already. But with a bit of luck I will be operational by tomorrow night.

Once all that was done, and feeling as if it has been a very long day, I walked Mix before bed. He has become such a very good dog, happily sitting for hours while I sorted out books; equally happily making the most of it as I dismantled the study around him and as I write, lying sound asleep on his cushion under the table I have brought in to store everything that was on my desk. If only the Dog’s Trust could see him now.

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Tuesday 7th, January, 2014 – Life resumes after a wonderful Christmas holiday 


Relaxing in a fully carpeted summerhouse


The title of this entry is, I suppose, accurate, except for the fact that now I seem to be on holiday for always. Certainly it feels like holiday and, not only that, but a really good holiday as well.

Today the task was to turn the summer house from a project into a building which could be used. We met at nine – by that time I had walked Mix and declined breakfast on the basis that I seem to have put on a stone and a half since retiring. By the middle of the afternoon we had laid a carpet with underfelt and a lovely chocolate top covering and we had installed the bookcases and fitted them to the walls and to each other. We had found two armchairs in the barns, excavated for a small octagonal table and also located the small library steps which were part of my study at Wemyss. Rachel did a great job of restoring the furniture and just as darkness was falling I was able to get a picture of Tom and Rachel sitting in the summer house with a carpet on the floor (and a glimpse of bookcases behind). Rachel is clutching triumphantly the carpet fitting tool which I bought off the internet last week and which proved to be a wonderful addition to our collection of tools. It really made stretching the carpet so much easier than would otherwise have been possible. So if you know of someone who needs a carpet fitted, I know of a team who could do it for you!

As darkness fell I came back into the Granary and showered before spending some time on my Italian revision and some in learning to play my Christmas ukulele. We all dined together in the farmhouse: fish-pie with broccoli, followed by apple pie with custard and ice cream. Very Yummy.

Back in the Granary I spent a bit more time with my ukulele before joining Rachel to watch Murder at 1600, an American thriller, filmed in 1997, which was really rather good. We walked the dogs – it is fair, not too much wind and just a small moon meaning that the night sky was really quite dark. It has been a fabulous day.

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Monday 6th. January, 2014 – The Twelfth Day of Christmas and the decorations have to come down 


Mum and Rachel


Mum and Rachel have gathered before dinner for a preprandial sherry. Of course, as it is Twelfth Night all of the Christmas decorations have had to come down and Mum is sitting re-reading her collection of Christmas Cards. Every year she seems to send more than ever before but it is something she really enjoys doing. Today was also the anniversary of her wedding to my father sixty-nine years ago. They were married in Glasgow and travelled by train to Skipton for an onward journey, the following day, to Ilkley Moor.

Today was the day of the deliveries here in Mount Pleasant in 2014. The carpet for the summer house was delivered in the afternoon and the furniture for the summerhouse windows arrived in the same van. A small start to my collection of tools also arrived as did another book from Amazon, so we are keeping the van delivery system busy. Everything is now ready in the summer house for an early start to carpet-laying tomorrow morning. Rachel and Tom are on stand-by and I am really quite excited.

Today we worked on the electrics and also on some of the finishes. I learned how to use a saw. That’s true. I’ve had a saw in my hands many times in the past fifty years but I have never really known what I was doing with it. Today Tom taught me and I’ve got quite a sense of achievement in my little steps forward. I got quite cross that my own saw hasn’t yet arrived!

After dark I spent some time practising my ukulele and then in revising some of my Italian grammar (my two frivolous resolutions for this year). In the overall world view they are frivolous, but for me, newly retired, they are anything but and I am enjoying having time to devote to such things more than I can express. I have also decided to relearn the different parts I have sung in Gilbert and Sullivan – now I am really going back to far off days -- but singing is good for you, and I used to get so much pleasure from taking part in shows in our local theatre. It is easy to see why for so many people once they retire there is no time to do all that they want to do. It is quite easy for me just now because I get outside ‘to work’ in the daylight and then come in when it get dark and have a couple of hours before dinner to enjoy these new hobbies. What it will be like in the summer when the nights are light and the pull of cricket draws me down to Chester le Street I really don’t know; and there will be boats and barges to be sailed and dogs to be walked. Retirement has so much to recommend it!

After supper at the farmhouse Rachel and I watched Bletchley Circle – a mini-series set in London in the 1950s and based on a group of former code-breakers who have got together to try to save a colleague before she is executed – yes, we used to do things like that in our country too. The programme was very good.

Afterwards I walked the dog and was glad to get to bed.


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Sunday 5th. January, 2013 – Epiphany, the eleventh day of Christmas and a day of working in the summer house 


Mum visits the workers at the summerhouse – it was cold as evidenced by Mum’s woolly hat (look carefully and you will see my reflection in the window)


Rose and walked Mix before showering and enjoying breakfast in the farmhouse. Mum, Rachel and I drove to Gavinton to attend morning service. Today was Epiphany Sunday (Epiphany itself is tomorrow) and Ann presented her final service in three parts (during Advent and the Christmas season every Sunday service has been in three sections). Her themes this morning were entitled ‘The dawning of a new day (or year)”, ‘the light of God’s justice’ and ‘the light of the new baby’. During her first meditation Ann read from the prophet Isaiah reminding us that he was the first prophet to look forward to God intervening personally in the story of the world – a prophecy which was eventually fulfilled in the person of Jesus, the light of the world. We too are called to be light to the world and are challenged today to reach out to others using our gifts to share in the ‘showing forth of who God is’ which is the meaning of this season of Epiphany. In her second thought Ann reminded us that there is a difference between power and justice. When we pray for our political leaders, our prayer is that they will use their power justly and for the benefit of those who stand in need of that justice. The Magi were non-Jews from a far country -- God's love is for everyone, our faith is a universal one. Finally Ann read a meditation on the Magi and their gifts – quite inappropriate gifts for a young child were it not that they pointed forward to all that he was: a king whose sacrificial death would destroy death itself. We sang Christmas carols for what I suspect will be the final time this season and the young student playing the organ, Valerie, played a lovely Irish folksong as the offering was being gathered.

Following the service we went for coffee in the Church hall and then returned to Mount Pleasant. My first task was to collect some of the bits and pieces from the summerhouse in preparation for all that was planned for this week. Tom arrived and we fitted the skirting board and then, having visited Pearson’s to buy some more bits and bobs, we started to fit the main light. Meanwhile Rachel was fixing the final positions of the blinds and filling any small holes which remained.

We were finally defeated by the dark with the wiring not completed. We’ll pick that up tomorrow when we also hope to take delivery of the carpet and the fixings for some of the windows. I’m excited already!

In Church this morning, Ann spoke briefly about resolutions for the New Year. I have never made many resolutions, probably because I have always been too busy and I’ve known that I would be too busy all year. But this year is different. I have decided that during this year I would like to rediscover my Italian language. Once upon a time I was proficient, but that was many years ago. I thought I would like to attend a course in one of the Borders Colleges but I can’t find a course in Italian anywhere – Polish, French, Chinese, German and many others, but not Italian. I explored the idea of an internet course but I can’t really find anything I like. Rachel thinks that I should order a regular Italian magazine and read it from cover to cover. I’ll work on it and see what I can come up with.

I have also resolved to learn to play my new ukulele with some degree of proficiency – that will take practice, so I’ll need to devote a bit of time each day to that. And I am going to learn my building skills. The summer house will soon be completed and then we shall move on to the Hen House which will involve real building skills. I’m collecting the tools, I’ve got Tom as my instructor and I’ll record my progress on these pages: retirement really is great fun!

Rachel went off to the evening service at the Anglican Church in Berwick while I looked after the dogs and got things in order for tomorrow. On her return we dined in the farmhouse and then Olive and Mum joined us in the Granary for the second part of Death Comes to Pemberley. We all enjoyed it so much that we sat tight and watched the final part as well. It was a pleasant way to spend the first Sunday evening of a New Year.

Unfortunately, I must also record that England lost the final Test match in Australia today and that even although Ben Stokes did well and Scott Borthwick didn’t do too badly for his first Test, the series has been a disaster for England. And all this just when I finally have time to watch the matches on television and spend time at the cricket down at Chester le Street. Ah well.

We walked the dogs; by now there was snow blowing through the wind. I don’t expect that it will come to anything but we are certainly aware of the elements down here. I’m getting to bed early again tonight – tomorrow will be a big day.


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Saturday 4th. January, 2013 – The Tenth Day of Christmas 


Four generations of the Whiteman family who worked Mount Pleasant Farm and lived in the farmhouse a long time ago (pictured at the then front-door of the farmhouse)


It is in the Pirate of Penzance by WS Gilbert that the Major General comes to humble himself before the tombs of his ancestors for the crime of having told lies to escape the clutches of the Pirates. It is pointed out to him that as he has only bought the property a year before, these ancestors can hardly be his. His response is that as he had bought the property he had inherited the ancestors with it. He was, in a lovely turn of phrase, their ‘descendent by purchase’.

In as much as there is any truth in that nonsense, the family at the head of this entry are our ‘ancestors by purchase’. All I know is that they are described as being four generations of the Whiteman family and that they farmed and lived here in times gone by. I would love to know more about them.

Back to the present day. I rose and breakfasted and then Mix and I walked before moving to the summer house where my task for today was to fit blinds in all the windows. The first one took me ages, largely because I hadn’t a clue what I was doing. But I worked it out and eventually became quite proficient at it. Practice and experience, it seems, are everything.

Digger arrived to say that his motor bike wouldn’t start. As if summoned like the genie from a magic lamp Tom and Dorothy arrived and it wasn’t long before Tom had the bike started and Rachel had pumped up the tyre which was flat and off Digger went, only to return quite quickly because it seems that the tyre has a puncture.

I returned to blind-fitting and soon had the task completed. Rachel joined me and did some filling in of tiny imperfections with wood filler. Everything is starting to look very good.

Mix and I went for another walk and soon afterwards we set off, Rachel and I, to join Olive, Digger and Mum at Scott and Sue’s home where we ate extremely well. The others stayed on for a game but Rachel and I returned home to see that the dogs were all right. Rowan had attempted to do a jigsaw and had emptied an old cushion, but otherwise things were fine (which is more than can be said for the English cricket team – today was another day of disasters, the only ray of sunshine was the 47 runs scored by Durham’s Ben Stokes who also took another wicket to raise his match tally to seven so far).

I haven’t mentioned the weather which is because the wind has, temporarily at least, dropped. We had some rain (but no snow). More gales are forecast but we shall enjoy the respite while we have it.

Read my book (on my new Kindle – a retirement gift from my Godmother), walked the dogs and retired to bed early. My goodness, it has been another lovely day.

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Friday 3rd. January, 2014 – The Ninth Day of Christmas and a very windy one 


When I awoke our fence had all but disappeared


I was awake from early this morning – not because I wanted to follow the cricket but because of the wind which was whistling around the Granary. (The cricket was a bit of a parson’s egg: Durham players took seven of the Australian wickets with Ben Stokes claiming six of them, but Australia have a healthy first innings score.) The wind was the loudest I have ever heard. I had no concerns for the house and I wasn’t concerned about the fence because I knew it would go, but how would the summer house fare? In the event it was perfect and, as I expected, the fence was blown away.



Tom and Rachel supply the finishing touches to the library shelves


After breakfast Tom and I started work on the completion of the bookcases in the summerhouse. Rachel came and joined in and the task was completed in time for a late lunch. In the afternoon we set about sorting the fence. Well, that’s not really true. We decided to abandon the existing fence we have repaired several times in the last three or four weeks. Instead we built a new fence using posts and wire designed to keep in sheep. We built it in a new direction so that it was no longer face-on to the prevailing westerly wind. How it will survive we shall have to see.

After a bit of time learning to play my ukulele, Rachel and I went across to the farmhouse for dinner and following dinner, Mum and Olive came back with us to the Granary to watch the first part of Death Comes to Pemberley. We’ll watch the second part tomorrow evening but by that time I hope to have fixed and hung all of the blinds in the summer house.

We walked the dogs. It is still extremely windy but evidently the winds will ease before returning in force next week. It is also extremely dark with no moon and few stars on view but it has been another satisfying and fun-filled day.

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Thursday 2nd. January, 2014 – The Eighth Day of Christmas and the fun just goes on 


How things used to be


When we came to Mount Pleasant, the Websters had left us a number of old photographs. This is one of them. It shows the farmhouse before the extension at the side (to the right in the photograph) had been built. The doorway is right in the centre, quite different from how it is today. No one is quite sure when this picture was taken – is it Victorian or Edwardian? And I wonder who are the people in the picture. From what we can gather Mount Pleasant has had an exciting past. It has been a changing post where carriages refreshed their horses on the journey from Kelso to Berwick (and vice versa). That’s why there are stables, I suppose, and it is also why the building became a place where travellers stayed and were given hospitality (Robert Burns twice, by all accounts). Later it became a farm with the Granary equipped with a ‘modern’ steam engine to drive the milling equipment. More recently the lands were sold off and Mount Pleasant became what it is today: a farmhouse with a steading including the Granary now converted into a home and with endless scope for other development.

This morning we rose and walked the dogs and were ready for Tom and Dorothy when they arrived at nine. In Tom’s car, with the trailer behind, we made our way to Edinburgh to visit IKEA. Rachel and I bought some more bookcases, Tom and Dorothy were into storage equipment. Once we had completed our purchases and loaded up the trailer we went back into the store for a late brunch. It was good. Then we drove to the nearby retail park so that Rachel could buy some dog supplies and Dorothy could discuss clipping her goats – both of these at a thoroughly excellent pet supply shop.



Dorothy and Tom checking that our purchases are safely in the trailer on the way back home to the Borders


We made our way home and loaded one of our spare washing machines onto Tom’s trailer. His family washing machine has packed up and by taking one of ours he has helped us to create a bit of space in the barn. I took Mix for a walk and then relaxed in front of the stove until it was time for dinner in the farmhouse, after which everyone came back to the Granary to watch the DVD of Lincoln and his fight to pass the thirteenth amendment putting an end to slavery.

It was an engrossing film, beautifully filmed, which brought out the political machinations and intrigue of the time, all against the background of the horrendous civil war. I realised that there was much in the film that I hadn’t known and I am really glad to have seen it. If only someone would now fight as hard to pass a further amendment banning the taking of life by judicial means or a still further amendment to restrict the owning of firearms by all and sundry, the United States could really claim to have come of age. That’s not a clever comment, but grows out of the film because if there is one thing that came across to me more strongly than anything else it was that one man fought to introduce the thirteenth amendment and it was because he was so absolutely resolute, determined and politically savvy that slavery was brought to an end. All of us went away from the film thinking about what we had seen – you can’t ask for much more than that.

Rachel and I walked the dogs and came to bed. England have won the toss in Australia (there’s a first) and have chosen two Durham players in their eleven: Ben Stokes and Scott Borthwick. Already an Australian wicket has fallen but what will be the picture when I tune in tomorrow morning?

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Wednesday 1st. January, 2014 – New Year’s day and the seventh day of Christmas 


For the first time we are gathered around the table in the lounge at the farmhouse


Happy New Year! If every day this year is as good as today then we are going to have a really wonderful year. I went back across to the farmhouse last night – everyone was playing a card game which I enjoyed as a spectator for quite a while before retiring to my bed.

Rachel got up early and set off for Bamburgh where she walked Rowan – a tradition for Rachel (setting off early with the dog on New Year’s day) which has been going for many years. I got up and joined the clan in the farmhouse for a hearty breakfast and no sooner had I finished eating than Tom and Dorothy arrived to wish us a Happy New Year. I showed Jeffrey around, even climbing into the first floor of the Hen House, and shared our plans for this year. Later his friends all came on a tour as well. Tom and Dorothy and I made our own plans as well. We’ll meet tomorrow morning at nine and the work will start again! I went out with Mix for a lengthy walk.

After an early lunch Jeffrey and his friends set off back to Edinburgh; it had been good to meet them all. By now Peter and Veronica, old established friends of Olive and Digger, had arrived. They went for a walk in the afternoon and then settled down in the lounge. It was good to see them both again. Scott and Sue also arrived to wish us a Happy New Year – the place was a-buzz with folks coming and going. I came back to the Granary and watched The Plank – I did see it all, it was a very short film, but no sooner had it ended than I fell asleep in front of the stove; well, it was New Year’s Day.

By the back of six we were all together again for a drink in the farmhouse and then we sat down for the first time around the table in the dining room – Olive, Digger, Rachel, Mum and Veronica and Peter. It was good to be around the table which had been in Luss for a while when we first went there and was afterwards in Wemyss. It’s been part of our household for many a long year.

Later in the evening, leaving everyone else to have some peace in the farmhouse, and to play a game of Trivial Pursuit, Rachel and I came back to the Granary to watch another Montalbano film (Italian detective film set in Sicily – fabulous, atmospheric and totally catching the spirit of the country). I should have gone to bed when it ended but instead I got caught up in a Law and Order UK programme before walking the dogs and coming to bed. New Year’s Day has long passed – but it was a good one and, even if the alarm clock is already warning of stormy weather, my own internal clock tells me that this is going to be a wonderful year! I hope it is for you as well.

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Tuesday 31st. December, 2013 – Hogmanay and the Sixth Day of Christmas 


Tom and Rachel at work


Woke for the last time in 2013 – a year which has been supremely eventful for me. I started the year in work with two parishes to look after and ended it retired and with only myself and my family to look to. I’ve always had projects – doing things with the boat or whatever – but the wonder of being retired is that I can now devote myself to the things I want to do. I don’t have to grab time from something else to do what I want to do. I don’t have to do what I want to do with one ear for a telephone which may call me to something more important. And so today I always knew that I would be working on the summer house – and that’s how it turned out.

I got up and walked the dog, breakfasted in the farmhouse (a leisurely breakfast is something I was never able to experience pre-retirement, now I almost take it for granted) and then Tom and Dorothy arrived and together with Rachel we set about building bookcases in the summer house. We were at it all day, or at ;least all the day-light hours (Rachel broke off to drive Mum to the hairdresser and also to collect her; Tom and Dorothy went off for lunch) but by the end of the day we had achieved a great deal with two large bookcases, one in each of the two back corners of the building.



Dorothy, Tom and Rachel (with Mix wandering into shot) in front of one of the new bookcases


Back in the house I prepared the music for Arrochar for next Sunday and spoke to Cathy on the phone before wandering over to the farmhouse where Olive’s son Jeffrey had arrived with several of his friends to celebrate Hogmanay. We enjoyed a drink with them, and then an excellent buffet meal, before I returned to the Granary to have a shower (must go into the New Year clean) and tidy up my study (must go into the New Year tidy) and make sure all of the bills are paid (must go into the New Year owing nothing). As if the change from one year to another makes any real difference – yet still doing these things is engrained in me. I must say, that with more time, it is much less of a frenetic rush than it usually is and I am looking forward to next year enormously.



Some of Jeff’s friends counting down the minutes to 2014


Back in the farmhouse we joined everyone for a drink before the Bells, another drink afterwards (and some shortbread) and then Rachel and I set off to walk the dogs. We’re back in the Granary now. It is 2014. Rachel is off to bed and I think that I will go back and join the party.

If you are reading this, I wish you a very peaceful New Year. May all your desires be fulfilled and all your wishes come true. Most of all may this be a year of peace and one in which we learn to share with those who are less fortunate than we are; a year in which the hungry are fed, the homeless are housed, refugees are welcomed and all are made to feel that they matter. It's in our hands.

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Monday 30th. December, 2013 – The Fifth Day of Christmas 


A picture of our family


This picture was taken just over a year ago at the wedding of Nick (my nephew) and Amy. But I only saw the picture for the first time when we all got together for Christmas on the 27th. of December. I thought it would be good to put it up here because it allows me to introduce everyone in the family: from the left Devon (Jeffrey’s partner), Mum, Rachel (my wife), Jeffrey (my nephew and Olive’s son), Digger (Olive’s husband), Nick (the bridegroom, my nephew and Scott’s son), Amy (Nick’s Australian bride), me, Olive (my sister), Sue (Scott’s wife), Scott (my brother) and Katie (my niece and Scott’s daughter). Now I hope that is all very clear! I’m in my clerical collar in the picture because I conducted the wedding ceremony. It was a happy occasion.

Today I got up and breakfasted before walking Mix. Then I spent all day – or at least all of the daylight hours of the day – varnishing the inside of the summerhouse (particularly the roof – which I suppose becomes a ceiling when it is inside). It was fairly unpleasant as tasks go, the varnish running back down my hand and dripping onto my hair and into my eyes. But now that it is done, it is done and the rest of the tasks will be far more fun.

I walked Mix in the twilight and then had a pleasant shower to try to become human again before relaxing in front of a screen and watching the Titfield Thunderbolt, an old 1953 comedy from the Ealing Studios: extremely gentle and a product of its time.

We all dined together in the farmhouse and then, in front of a warm stove in our lovely front room, Rachel and I watched an episode of Montalbano. I really enjoyed it and would love to be out in Italy again. In total contrast, we walked the dogs in the icy cold, admiring a clear, clear sky and all of the stars, before coming back home and going to bed. I feel that I have achieved a great deal today.

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Sunday 29th. December, 2013 – The Fourth Day of Christmas, the First Sunday of Christmas and our Forty-fourth Wedding Anniversary 


Dorothy, Tom and Mum outside Abbey St. Bathan’s Church


Today was another great day – but it didn’t turn out exactly as planned. I got up and walked the dog. After all of the winds and bad weather it was as if spring was just around the corner, not at all cold, no wind and the sun was out – a thoroughly beautiful day. I breakfasted in the farmhouse and then we set off early (9.20 a.m.) for Abbey St. Bathans, a small village to the north-east of Duns perhaps eleven or twelve miles from our house. There used to be a Church of Scotland Church here but it was sold off and a member of the community bought it and did it up. The congregation of Gavinton, in whose parish it now is, holds services here occasionally and as this was a fifth Sunday of the month the service was held here. Almost the whole worshipping congregation had come along from Gavinton for the service and a large number of folk from Abbey St. Bathans, local folk and visitors, attended. In all there were fifty-eight of us which made this comfortably the largest congregation I have been part of since I came south.

Ann, our minister, continued her programme of three-themed services, our themes for today being St. Stephen, the flight into Egypt and the massacre of the innocents. Ann sketched out Stephen’s life, reminding us that he was a Greek-speaking Jewish Christian, one of the seven deacons chosen to organise the care of the widows, orphans and the poor of the early Church community. But he was much more than that – a powerful preacher and debater who fell foul of the religious authorities, was tried and stoned to death – the first Christian martyr whose saint’s day falling immediately after Christmas day points forward to all that is to happen to God’s son. He was not only born into our world to live our life, but to die our death as well.

The second theme picked up Joseph’s dream which led to the holy family’s flight to Egypt. Jesus’ family was poor – they were also refugees. Ann read a meditation of Mary’s thoughts as she struggled to come to terms with the turn her life was taking. She had expected to give birth to God’s son, something which would be celebrated and would lead to great things. Instead she is now fleeing the country under the blanket of darkness.

Her third theme really ran in parallel with this as we were presented with the story of the massacre of the innocents, both through Bible reading and a meditation in which the wife of an innkeeper (not the one who welcomed in the weary couple) told the story of the massacre from her perspective. The arrival of the couple from Nazareth and the birth of their baby was not good news for the innkeeper's family nor their community. Instead of celebration and happiness, it led to the death of their children and the destruction of their community.

It all gave me food for thought because I have come to understand the flight to Egypt and the slaughter of the innocents as being a device of Matthew to tell his Gospel as a parallel of the Old Testament Moses story of redemption. But it is a reminder of how horrific humanity can be and a reminder that that cruelty is not something which is only a part of ancient history. Perhaps even a reminder that challenging evil can have difficult consequences for the good and the bystanders as well as for those, like Stephen, who put their heads above the parapet.



Forty-four years ago today: Rachel and I climb into a car to be driven to our reception


We didn’t stay for coffee this morning because we had to get back to Mount Pleasant. At noon Aunt Agnes (my God-mother), Martin, Jill and Eric (Jill’s Dad) arrived at Mount Pleasant. It was really good to see my cousin and his wife again. We drank coffee in the farmhouse and then toured the ‘estate’ before coming to the Granary for lunch. It was a happy time and the afternoon just flew by.



Forty-four years ago today: a family group outside St. Mary’s Church in Beverly


The plan had been that we would have a family meal this evening to celebrate Rachel and my wedding anniversary, but a phone call from the estate agent put paid to that. Someone wanted to see around Mum’s Kirkcaldy flat; Digger and Mum set off for Kirkcaldy and Rachel and I went into Berwick where we attended Evensong at Berwick Parish Church. The Church here is without a vicar (Dennis Handley will be inducted on 19th. March) but there seems to be no shortage of substitutes. The service this evening was led by Canon John Ward who spoke from the second chapter of Paul’s letter to the Church at Philippi, reminding us that in arguments and debates about important things we can never be sure that we are right (the Church condoned slavery for many years). Debates must be conducted in love and with respect. I guess this was an apt message for the Church which has a number of important internal debates going on at present. It could equally be applied to the referendum debate on this side of the border. It is an important message because all too often disagreement leads to walls being built, so the emphasis has to be on the learning to love each other, because each of us is one of God’s children. The Christmas message just goes on and on.



The crib in Berwick Parish Church


On the way home we stopped and enjoyed fish suppers (well, actually I had a two-sausage supper) and on our return we watched a 1992 film ‘A Few Just Men’ – a court case film involving marines from Guantanamo Bay. I enjoyed it very much indeed. Mum and Digger returned from Kirkcaldy. They had liked the gentleman who came to view the flat – now all we can do is hope that he liked the flat! Rachel and I walked the dogs (the wind is beginning to get up again) and came to bed. What a fabulous day!

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Saturday 28th. December, 2013 – The Third Day of Christmas: we go to the Pantomime 


Enjoying a pre-panto drink in the theatre bar


Up and breakfasted in the farmhouse before walking Mix on largely deserted roads – the local area is clearly still on holiday. Back home I started to learn how to play my ukulele. Tom arrived and I switched role to that of apprentice joiner as we set about rebuilding the fences which had fallen down during the most recent storm. Tom was in fine form for this as he had done the same at his own home before coming to see me.

After lunch we set about hanging the door in its final position in the summer house and also experimented with a blind on one of the windows there as an alternative to curtains. It looks super. We can’t deal with the other windows as we are still awaiting the ironmongery for six of the windows which didn’t arrive with the windows.

We had an early tea at the farmhouse, eating up the leftovers from yesterday and then we all (Mum, Olive, Digger, Rachel and I) went off to Berwick to attend the pantomime Cinderella at the Maltings. I really enjoyed it. It was a real family pantomime, fresh and clever, with imaginative performances obscuring any deficiencies in the script. I missed the professional dancing chorus (such a part of the pantomimes at the Pavilion which we used to attend with the young folk form Arrochar) but the individual performances of Buttons and the Fairy Godmother, to say nothing of the other characters who were all good, more than made up for that. It goes without saying that the theatre was filled to capacity and we enjoyed a drink before the performance in the friendly theatre bar.



Olive and Mum had clearly enjoyed the show


Came back home and caught up with some bits and pieces before walking Mix and going to bed. Yet another lovely Christmassy day.

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Friday 27th. December, 2013 -- Christmas just goes on and on 


Exchanging presents in the farmhouse


What winds we had overnight! I awoke to discover that one of our fences had been blown totally over and another had a section missing from it. The wind was so strong that there was nothing we could do about it – so there was no garden for the dogs today.

In fact they didn’t miss it. We took them for a walk down towards the River Blackadder through the trees and when we returned they accompanied us to the summer house where Rachel and I spent the morning and early part of the afternoon varnishing the inside of the summer house. We completed the interior walls and the plan is to tackle the inside of the roof tomorrow. It is all great fun, especially with the wind rattling around outside.

Came inside and showered and then went across to the farmhouse where Scott and Sue, Nick, Amy and Katie had arrived laden down with Christmas gifts. It was so good to see them. Christmas toasts were drunk in champagne, gifts were exchanged, a lovely buffet meal was enjoyed by all, and there was much exchanging of news and the occasional debate (about whether Scotland should seek independence – every possible view is represented within our family) and family fun. I did rather well out of the generosity of my brother and his family returning to the Granary quite late on (the wind was still howling) with tickets for the athletics at the Commonwealth Games and a big black hat!

Back home I dealt with the music for Arrochar on Sunday and forwarded it to Neil and Jamie and then caught just a little of the cricket before bed. I could scarcely believe it when I got up this morning to discover that England had had such a good day in the field. I look forward to seeing how they get on today.

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Thursday 26th. December, 2013 – Boxing Day and a wonderful one at that! 


Christmas sunrise – taken yesterday but I forgot to put it up


This morning I slept in. Rachel got up a little after eight and even invited Mix to go out to the garden with Rowan but Mix is his master’s dog and preferred to sleep on at the foot of the bed until about ten. By that time Rachel was in Berwick for the communion service in the Anglican Church.

I got up in a leisurely fashion – it was my first really long-lie since retiring and, truth to tell, I did very little except make the fire up, fill the coal bunker and bring in logs and just potter about in a happy dwam. (I don’t care if the spell-check doesn’t recognise it: it is a perfectly good word.) In the afternoon Rachel and I set off for our Boxing Day walk. It was back to Berwick for Rachel and we wandered along the beach at Spittal. We had expected the beach to be busy but it was really quite quiet.



Rachel and Rowan on the beach at Spittal – the tide is right out


We went from Spittal to the retail park at Tweedmouth where we visited first HomeBase and then Curry’s. At HomeBase we got some bits and pieces to enable us to start on varnishing the summer house (perhaps tomorrow); at Curry’s we bought a new printer for the computer – we seem to go through printers at a tremendous rate; but once they go wrong no repair seems to last any time at all.

Back home I decided to check on the carpet that I intended to buy for the summer house with a view to popping into Duns to see if it was available at the local shop (it’s good to buy locally) but when I went on line I saw that if I bought the carpet on-line today there would be an additional twenty percent discount (off already extremely reasonable prices). I ordered the carpet and it will be delivered in a couple of days time.



Candles in the Granary lounge


Rachel lit the candles and Mum, Olive and Digger arrived to spend the late afternoon and evening with us. We exchanged presents and I was thrilled to be given a set of cricket stumps with a difference. Made by Digger, they are designed as a bathroom fitment to ensure that we never run out of toilet tissue. I also received a miniature camping gas stove (we are all electric in the Granary) to enable us to cook when the power cuts come. (Almost on cue the barometer began to drop and our clocks started ringing out storm warnings.)



The Granary is looking extremely Christmassy


Rachel had prepared all kinds of party food and we spent a long time eating and drinking. I was able to enjoy some champagne, some Madeira, some wine and some grappa without any fear of the telephone ringing to say I was required. It was such a relaxing evening. To round it all off we watched the Christmas Downton Abbey (recorded yesterday) and then, after Olive and Digger had gone off to bed, Rachel, Mum and I rounded the day off by watching the reprise of ‘Open All Hours’ which really was a tribute to Ronny Barker, and quite nostalgic.

We walked the dogs – it has got very cold – and went to bed. What a fabulous day.

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Wednesday 25th. December, 2013 – A Happy Christmas Day 


Guess what I got for Christmas


Woke and it was still very windy – we had been promised that the wind would drop overnight but here it was still exceedingly blowy and I was relieved that we still had all of our slates, the boat was still covered by its tarpaulin, the roof was on the summerhouse and the fence was still more or less in place. I showered and then walked Mix with Rachel and Rowan – everywhere was deserted and it was very quiet. Came home and changed and we set off for church.

It was a good service and the folk who were there seemed to be in families, as if parents had brought those staying with them for Christmas along to church for the service. Ann retold the manger story from the standpoint of the baby – the purpose being to underline the wonder of God choosing to be born into our world as one of us. Of course we sang all the old favourites and came out of church feeling that Christmas had arrived and that the world was a better place as a result.



A view of Holyrood Palace from Carlton Hill


Back home, Rachel and I had a snack and opened our Christmas presents. Rachel gave me a ukulele (a retired person should take up a new interest and what better than learning to play a new instrument); Tom and Dorothy gave me a tool bag (clearly they foresee a more useful outlet for my new energies)! I gave Rachel a jacket which she really fancied from the awfully posh Tweedside Tackle (which we had visited in Kelso last week). Presents opened – the dogs had their own gifts, as well – we set off in the car for Edinburgh to join the family at Jeffrey and Devon’s home.

Jeffery is my nephew. He met us when we arrived and to settle the dogs we walked up Carlton Hill which is just minutes away from his home. It was busy, lots of folk were out for a Christmas walk. We overlooked Holyrood Palace and at the other side of the hill got a grand view of Edinburgh and the Forth behind.



Custer and Jeff -- a dog and his man


In Jeff’s home we were treated to a feast – turkey, goose, roast potatoes, brussel sprouts, sausages wrapped in bacon, cranberry sauce, bread sauce, two kinds of stuffing, gravy and all in such huge quantities. Afterwards there was an extended break – we needed it – while presents were exchanged and then we started again with a huge Christmas pudding which flamed for fully three or four minutes before the brandy was consumed, and a glorious trifle (my favourite and made with me in mind). It was wonderful. It was also wonderful to meet Steve (Devon’s Dad) and Nicole and Nicole’s daughter Torri, as well as Jeff’s special friends Keith and Lee – along with Mum, Olive and Digger that provides a complete rundown of everyone present.



Looking north from Carlton Hill


We set off home just after eight. Rachel had undertaken to put the chickens to bed to allow Digger and Olive to stay overnight in Edinburgh. It was a good journey home, eighty minutes door to door. I lit the stove and we watched Mrs. Brown’s Christmas on tv and a bit of Michael MacIntyre whose discussion of a visit to the dentist made me laugh out loud so much that I still have a sore chest more than two hours afterwards – I laughed, I wept, I rolled on the floor. It was so funny – the humour turning on his inability to speak properly with his mouth numbed by a dentist’s injection.

We had intended to watch the news and come to bed but before we knew it we got caught up in the Vicar of Dibley. The writers have a wonderful knack of presenting ridiculous humour but bringing it all around to something quite profound and I went to bed, having walked the dogs (the wind has now dropped), feeling that I had got a lot out of today. It has been quite, quite special and everything has contributed to that: the service in Church, the family celebration in Edinburgh, the television we watched when we came home (there was a lovely five minute slot on the BBC where the Gospel was read and ‘On Christmas night’ was sung), and the texts I received during the day from important friends. And to add to it all, Mix was on his best behaviour everywhere we went. He has become a real star.

I hope that all those who read this diary have had a really special day. Don’t let Christmas stop when the clock strikes midnight. Let’s keep it going as long as we can! I also hope that the message of the need to make our society a fairer one -- both in terms of our own country and the world as a whole -- a message proclaimed by the new Archbishop of Canterbury and also by the Archbishop of York is not lost amongst all of the celebrations. Mary's song, which we read in the lead up to Christmas, presents a vision of the world as it is meant to be and we can't welcome the baby without working for the dream.

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Tuesday 24th. December, 2013 – Christmas Eve 


Now the Christmas Tree in the farmhouse has baubles as well as lights


It is Christmas Eve and, for the first time since I retired, I feel a little strange, a little bit like a spare part. Last year I was up early with shopping to do and then so many services to get just right. I would conduct the Christmas Eve Service at half past eleven in Arrochar and a huge number of the village would come. The Church would be lit entirely by candle-light and there was a lovely feeling in the Church enhanced by the mulled wine served at the door! I would ensure that everything was ready for the Luss service as well, although it would be conducted by Bill and Rachel and I would get back from Arrochar just in time to greet some of the folk from Luss (their service lasts longer than Arrochar’s because of the Guild Choir items just after midnight). There would be no time to relax for on Christmas morning there were services at Arrochar and Luss – in Arrochar this was the best attended service of the year with few from Arrochar but loads of predominantly English folk staying in the local hotels. At the Luss the service would also be made up predominantly of visitors as the tradition there as well was to attend on Christmas Eve – but how can Christians not want to mark Jesus’ birth in their congregational family home? It has always been important to me to be in Church on Christmas morning.



The crib is out in the farmhouse lounge as well


Well, this morning I got up and walked Mix – there was snow in the air and it was quite chilly. The wind was also starting to blow. I breakfasted on bacon and egg and then went out to Duns to do some last minute shopping. To be honest I really didn’t need to, but it is what I have always done, and I’m a creature of habit particularly at this time of the year. I also had to go to Duns to pick Mum up from her hairdresser – before I set off, Tom and Dorothy popped in to see how we were. We’ll join them later in the evening for the Watch Night Service.

Back at Mount Pleasant, Scott arrived with Nick and Amy. It was a flying visit and by a little after three we had the whole complex to ourselves: Mum, Olive, Digger and Heidi the dog having left for Edinburgh to Christmas with Jeff and Devon. We will drive there tomorrow after Church.



A lovely Christmas tree – but not too many people


I visited Duns again just after three. The place looked beautiful but it was practically deserted. Normally on Christmas Eve I am jostling with last minute Christmas shoppers, or with those who are looking for last-minute bargains. I feel so sorry for shopkeepers this Christmas, the weather, the internet, the shopping malls and the recent recession have all conspired to hit them really hard.



Normally there isn’t a parking space to be had


Back home I wrapped up all of my presents – the Lessons and Carols from King’s College was on the radio. Rachel preferred to watch on television later in the afternoon. I spent the time tidying my study and wondering when I had ever had time to do something like that on Christmas Eve before. Don’t get me wrong, I am enjoying this year enormously: it just doesn’t feel real. At any moment I expect the telephone to ring and tell me to get back to work. Mind you, with gales roaring all around us – the wind picked up dramatically over the course of the afternoon – it is very pleasant to be able to stay indoors.



Gavinton Church by candle-light before the service began


We dined in the Granary and watched a bit of Morecombe and Wise, followed by a new Midsomer Murder and then we cleared the kitchen as best we could so that we could leave the dogs while we went to Church. Walked them, left them comfortable and set off for the Church. The wind was howling but still there were twenty-one of us in Church for a lovely carol service during which Ann spoke of the reality and humanity of Jesus’ birth. It was really God born into our world -- a fact which was ‘as much about midwifery as it was about theology’. It was good to be with members of the congregation as we moved into Christmas 2013 – although I have to confess that my mind did drift off to Arrochar and Luss as I wondered how they were getting on and hoping that they were having as good a celebration as we were down here.

Wished Tom and Dorothy good night and wished them well on their drive south to Dorothy’s folks tomorrow (well, later on today). Drove home and discovered that the dogs had been very good indeed – things are looking up! Well, it is Christmas.

If you are reading this, I hope that you have a very happy Christmas and may God bless us all.


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Monday 23rd. December, 2013 – A Wet and Windy Day 


It is mid-day on the day before Christmas Eve and Berwick in the rain is almost deserted


Got up and pushed the dogs into the garden. I wasn’t going to the farmhouse for breakfast this morning because Olive and Digger were setting off early to do their shopping. And I wasn’t walking the dog because the plan was to take both dogs off in the car for a walk before we did our shopping. In the event the dogs and I were ready but Rachel slept in. However, we got on the road and drove first to Duns for Rachel to complete some medical and financial transactions and then we drove to Spittal where we walked the dogs on the beach. Today the beach was huge (because the tide was out); it was also very cold and with a driving wind and pouring rain (so we had the beach to ourselves). Mix was very glad to get back into the car.

We drove to Berwick to complete our Christmas shopping. Berwick was deserted so we had the pick of the shops. I spoke to several shopkeepers who felt that the weather had affected them badly. Last week it had rained and so people took to the internet to do their shopping; this week in the final run up to Christmas the rain had struck again and people were going to shopping malls or retail parks where they could shop without walking down the street and getting wet and where they could park right next to the shops. To be fair the council in Berwick had lifted all parking charges in an attempt to lure the shoppers, but it was largely in vain. One shopkeeper said to me – "I wouldn’t mind if it was because people had decided to celebrate the real meaning of Christmas but I suspect that it is just the weather". I’m sure that she was right.

We went to the Town House for brunch (remember I missed breakfast). Normally it is hard to get a table but there was plenty of room today. I enjoyed 'pigs in a blanket' and a glorious hot chocolate. Afterwards we continued with our shopping and then it was back to the car and a drive to the retail park because Rachel wanted to buy food at Marks and Spencer. Here, right enough, at the retail park the shop was crowded and we had to queue.

We drove home and Rachel set off at once to Duns to buy our ‘ordinary food’ while I talked to Mum, Olive and Digger. I discovered that my Godmother had sent me a present and, as I prepared to put it to one side to open on Christmas Day, I was told that it wasn’t a Christmas present but was a retirement gift. So I could open it! It was a Kindle – what a delightful present. I got it up and running and linked it to our broadband with the result that I can now read any book I want. Some I can buy from Amazon and with a single click they appear on the Kindle; others I can ‘borrow’ for nothing because I am a member of Amazon Prime. What a kind present and what a super present.

Rachel returned and I set off to buy some last minute things – we hadn’t gone together because someone had to look after the dogs. Again there was this Marie Celeste feeling – the Co-op was deserted, the town square was empty, it was really hard to believe that this was the day before Christmas Eve.



The farmhouse tree is up and has lights on it – the other decorations will follow tomorrow


Back home I sorted out my finances and reconciled all that I had spent and then we went across to the farmhouse for supper.

Afterwards, back in our lounge we watched an old Inspector Gently which neither of us had seen before. It was good. Then it was time to walk the dogs – the wind had blown up again and there was snow in the air. Part of our fence is down again – we’ll fix it tomorrow. It was good to get back inside. England appears to be suffering terribly from wind and storms with many trains cancelled and those that are running, are compelled to keep below fifty miles an hour. We are to share some of the bad weather tomorrow, if the forecasters are to be believed. I was glad to go to bed and read a chapter on my Kindle.

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Sunday 22nd. December, 2013 – The Fourth Sunday of Advent 


During the service this morning the fourth candle of Advent was lit


It was really cold when I got up this morning and, walking the dog, I saw lots of snow by the roadside and flooding in the fields. After breakfast, Rachel, Mum and I set off for Gavinton Church – there was more snow in Gavinton and the minister spoke of real snow and icy conditions on her way to Church.

The service was well attended (thirty-four folk, I think, which is one or two more than normal) and it was a good service. The theme, continuing on the triple theme of previous advent Sundays, was Magnificat, Joseph and Immanuel. We looked at Mary’s Song of Praise having been confronted with the angel and his message about her impending pregnancy and her willingness to respond to God’s will (a model for our own response) which in turn leads to a changed world – for it is as we respond to God’s will that the world becomes a different place. Ann read the scripture about Joseph’s dream and a meditation about his experience – the Christmas story is also a story about Joseph’s response to God’s challenge. Finally we looked at the passage from Isaiah where the birth of a child will foreshadow the salvation of his people, Ann set this passage in its historical context and explained how the mystery of the virgin birth had been created in part as the story made its way from Hebrew through Greek to the people of New Testament times. We sang some good carols and afterwards joined everyone else for coffee in the Church Hall.



There were beautiful flowers in Church this morning


Back home we set about moving furniture in the farmhouse, most notably taking a sofa from the lounge into one of the barns to make room for the dining table to be used in comfort and to make way for the Christmas Tree which Digger was to buy later in the day. I went off with Mum to a ‘cheerful Carol Singalong’ in Gavinton Village Hall. There must have been about forty-five of us, congregation and village folk (including quite a few children) in the hall and we sang carols (the words projected on the wall), watched a short nativity film from New Zealand, and enjoyed mulled wine and mince-meat pies. Later in the afternoon, after some games, Santa visited the hall with a present for each child.

Back in the Granary, I responded to an email from Neil from Arrochar and prepared additional midi files for some extra carols which they will sing on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. Rachel went off to Berwick to Choral Evensong and on her return we all ate in the farmhouse. Back in the Granary we dozed in front of the stove (our home is so very warm) and then, after walking the dogs in the freezing cold, it was time for bed. It has been a lovely weekend.

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Saturday 21st. December, 2013 – Christmas Shopping 


Rachel and Rowan on St. Cuthbert’s Way at Newtown St. Boswell’s


Woke this morning and felt sorry for all shopkeepers. The wind had dropped but it was raining hard and it was a thoroughly nasty day on this one of the most important shopping days for those with shops on the high streets up and down the country. Mix and I went for a short walk – it was much too wet for a longer trek. I breakfasted and then Rachel and I set out to do some Christmas shopping. We had heard that there was a fine bookshop in St. Boswell’s but of course we went to Newtown St. Boswell’s, not the same place at all. However, our loss was the dogs gain. (Should report that I unloaded Mix from the back of the car and went to get his lead. Rachel volunteered to hold on to Mix while I sorted out the lead. The next thing I saw was Rachel flat out on the ground as something nearby had attracted Mix’s attention – but Rachel hadn’t let go!) Even so we took the dogs for a decent walk down to the river and across the bridge until we found ourselves on St. Cuthbert’s Way. We will certainly return on a better day to do more of the walk.

We made our way to St. Boswell’s and found the bookshop. There it was on the little Main Street complete with parking behind. It was an excellent shop, a little independent bookseller, with loads of choice, and an excellent display to suit all tastes. We spent ages in the shop and enjoyed it immensely.

Refuelled in the village Garage (and bought a couple of sandwiches) before continuing to Kelso where we did a bit more shopping and also found time to have a look at the Abbey – another place to return to when shopping is not so high on the agenda and more time can be spent on more important matters.



We were able to have the quickest of looks at the Abbey in Kelso.


Having visited some very interesting shops including Tweedside Tackle (a fishing shop, I understand, of some considerable renown) and a lovely little jeweller called Bridget of Edinburgh where the lady made everything herself on the premises, mostly out of silver, we set off for home allowing the TomTom to devise an extremely interesting scenic route which took us down several unmarked minor roads on our way to Mount Pleasant.

Back home we unloaded Rachel’s car of yesterday's purchases (all of the book-shelves and so on) and Scott and Sue arrived to steal some ivy for their Christmas decorations. We sat over coffee with them and Mum in the Granary, and longer with Mum after Scott and Sue set off for home. The rain continued to pour down but we are snug as bugs in our little house and couldn’t be happier or more content if we tried.

Joined the family for a lovely evening meal of ham and roast potatoes with carrots, followed by apple pie, custard and ice-cream. Back in the Granary, Rachel wrapped presents while we watched the second part of the Train Robbers film: A Copper’s Tale. It was very good: no, it was excellent, made so by good writing, a wonderful cast and an exciting tale to tell. While we were watching the drama our first snows arrived; nothing too serious but, as Google reported on its front page, winter has now arrived!

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Friday 20th. December, 2013 -- Off to Edinburgh 


There was a warm glow from the summer house as we walked the dogs last thing at night


Coincidences. I tend not to believe in them as they effect daily life, affirming the belief of the late George MacLeod that if you believe in coincidence you will have a very boring life. But some things are strange. A couple of nights ago we were talking around the table about music and old songs and someone mentioned ‘Right said Fred’ as an example of an old song which they had enjoyed. I had forgotten all about it but back in my study the next day (yesterday) I typed ‘Right said Fred’ into Spotify on the computer and up came the song, along with the information that it had been sung by Bernard Cribbins. As soon as I was reminded of the fact, I realised that I knew it (if you know what I mean). But it was such a long time ago and I hadn’t heard of Bernard Cribbins for years and years and years. Later in the afternoon while I was having something to eat, and having no book to read, I turned on the BBC i-player and accessed the most recent episode of ‘Have I got news for you’ and who should be a guest on the programme? Bernard Cribbins. Strange: what a coincidence!

Walked the dog and breakfasted in the farmhouse and then Rachel and I set off for IKEA in Edinburgh leaving Mix in the farmhouse with Olive and Digger. I was amazed at how busy the roads were, although IKEA itself wasn’t overly busy. I bought some bookshelves – the heartbreak of having to leave my wonderful library shelves behind at Wemyss – and we also bought some blinds for the windows of the summer house and then we set off for home. Rachel driving and Rowan and I cramped into half a seat: the rest taken over by shelving. We had gaily bought quite a lot because we had determined that it would fit into the Berlingo, forgetting totally about the accumulated weight of so many shelves. We drove home slowly, stopping at Asda at Dunbar so that Rowan could be walked and I could buy a sandwich for Rachel and myself.

By the time we got home it was already dark and the day was almost over. I had an email with the hymns for Arrochar for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day so I spent the time before dinner preparing the music for those services and sending them off to Jamie by email. Then we ate in the farmhouse – another lovely meal – and by the time the meal was over and we returned to the Granary it was blowing a gale, again!

We watched the first part of the dramatisation of the Train Robbers tonight – it was good, well written and tightly acted. Tomorrow we plan to watch the Policeman’s Tale and see how it all unfolds. Memory plays tricks over the years and it is good to be reminded of what actually happened. Tomorrow I gather that we are going Christmas shopping – I hope that the weather has died down.

It is getting close to Christmas -- I have never looked forward to a Christmas as much as I am looking forward to this one. In the past I have been 'in charge'. It has been my responsibility to ensure that all the services and activities happen and happen as they should. I have taken that responsibility very seriously and I have felt the weight of it on my shoulders. (I do understand that God is in charge but I am sure you know what I mean: God entrusts these responsibilities to us.) This year that is gone. I am a member of a congregation and am enjoying taking part in what others have prepared. That's not to say that I don't have responsibilities, but my responsibilities now are different from before. I have made my Christmas plans so that I can be in the little Church here for the Watchnight Service and for Christmas Day -- because being a member of a congregation brings responsibilities as well. In a small congregation just a few people missing makes such a difference and I want to be part of the celebrations here. There has been a lovely lead up to Christmas -- the actual celebrations will be wonderful.

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Thursday 19th. December, 2013 – It is bright, cold and calm 


Carol singing at Longformacus – lousy photo of a grand occasion


I think it was in ‘As Time Goes By’ that we were for ever being given the weather forecast (or rather the shipping forecast) in the English Chanel by Geoffrey Palmer’s housekeeper. I seem to have become her spiritual successor. The storm of last night has all passed by. It is bright and cold and calm and everything in our estate has survived – but the wind was really noisy during the night and I see from the BBC website that many people are without power this morning.

As I lay in bed listening to the wind I found myself thinking about what I had (or hadn’t) written in my diary. As I waited last evening for Lucan to start there was a rather sentimental programme called Surprise on the channel I was waiting for. The reason for commenting on it was that two of the guests were Jane Torvill and Christopher Dean. I remember so vividly when they won their Olympic medal in 1984, twenty-nine years ago, and they really didn’t look old enough on the programme yesterday to have been champions so long ago. Skating must be good for you! It was good to watch them again.

The other thought was about the difference between crime and white-collar crime. Train robbers, rightly, get bundled into jail for lengthy periods, but those who run institutions which arguably cause far more misery through corporately doing bad things seem to survive. Can’t be right.

Walked Mix but didn’t go across for breakfast because Olive and Digger had set off early for Dundee where Olive is to pick up some examination scripts to be marked. Tom arrived and announced that the task for today was to lay the floor and that I would be doing my fair share of the work. Trembled as I have never laid a floor before but Tom is a good teacher and showed me how to hammer the boards together, nail through the tongue of the plank and then hit the nail with a nail punch to push it into the wood. It was a long, but an enormously satisfying job.



The task for today was to lay a floor


By lunch time it was almost completed so we adjourned for lunch and returned after lunch to do the final stretch – I learned a great deal more. There was still a bit of time in hand so we installed the electrics and when Rachel came home from having had her hair done, there was a lovely glow coming from the summer house. There was also a real glow of achievement coming from me!



Haven’t we done well?


Yesterday Rachel went to Dun s five times, today she only made the return journey four times. First following me as I took my car to the garage to have a new seat belt fitted, second to take Mum to the Gavinton Guild Christmas party, third to get her hair done, ands fourth to take me to collect my car. She is becoming quite a taxi service! As you’ll have gathered I got my car back with its new seat belt (£156 caused by Mix). Once I got the car back I was able to pack away all of the excess wood from the summer house into the hen house by the light from the summer house. We will not get anything major done to the summer house now until after the Christmas festivities. But what progress has been made.

After an early tea I drove up to Longformacus for the street carol singing (Tom provided the music on his squeeze-box). Longformacus is one of the congregations within our parish linking. Until very recently there were services in the church here but those have now come to an end so it was good to have carol singing around the doors here. After the carols we all went off to the Village Hall where we enjoyed mincemeat pies and cake.



The Village Hall at Longformacus


As well as congregational and village members there were several folk from a Christian Centre which works with young men who have been disadvantaged or suffer from an addiction. I enjoyed speaking both to them and to some of the staff from the centre.

Longformacus struck me as being a very odd name. It is a tiny little village six miles or so north of Duns, along a windy and lonely road. The name comes from the gaelic Longphort Mhacais and the village’s main claim to fame is that Donizetti’s opera Lucia di Lammermoor is set here. Two walks – the Southern Upland Way and the Sir Walter Scott Way – both pass through Longformacus.

Back home, Rachel and I watched Where Eagles Dare. It is an old film but special to us because on the evening of our wedding, after we had set off on honeymoon, many of our guests went off to see this new film at the local cinema. (I was married in England where the celebrations were at lunch time and we left by the early evening – I dare say it is different now.) Enjoyed the film (although I was a bit taken aback at the indiscriminate killing -- were we more violent back in the 60s?, and walked the dogs before bed. Am I stiff after all that kneeling and hammering? I expect to be sore in the morning.

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Wednesday 18th. December, 2013 It was meant to be horrendous 


And now the door is hung: Digger and Tom at work


Awoke and thought how good the weather looked – the forecaster last night had said that it was all downhill for the rest of the week, with today as the worst of all. Well, it was really rather pleasant (a little bit cold, perhaps) as I walked Mix. Came home and breakfasted at the farmhouse and as I was drinking my coffee (having scoffed the bacon, egg and fried bread) Tom arrived and demanded that I went back to work on the summer house. ‘There’s lots to do, and the weather is OK.’ So we set about fitting all of the windows (albeit in a temporary fashion because the ironmongery for six of them was missing. I’ve reported it and am waiting for it to arrive.) We also hung the door and did all that was necessary to ensure that everything was plumb. Actually that short sentence took a long time to achieve. It was mid afternoon, with darkness already beginning to fall before we had everything done. All that remains (apart from the window fittings) it to fit the shingles on the roof (no hurry now that we have it all covered with roofing felt), the laying of the floor, the electrics and the varnishing. It will be done by the end of the year.

Looking back over my diary entries for the last few days I realise how fixated I have become on this summerhouse. I suppose that is a real novelty for me. I've never had the time to become totally engrossed in something like putting up a small building; of working away at something which in itself is quite trivial, which isn't part of work but which is just absolutely great fun -- and as Tom said today, we're getting quite a sense of achievement as we see the little building taking shape.

Came back in and found an email with the list of music for Arrochar’s Sunday service. Got it all prepared and emailed to Jamie so that he has time to test it all before Sunday. Then I drove Mum into Duns where she is attending the Dun’s Guild Christmas party which she will enjoy. Back at the farmhouse, I enjoyed sausages, broccoli and roast potatoes followed by rhubarb tart and custard with ice-cream. I think that I probably over ate. Came back home in time to watch the second part of ‘Lucan’ – the events surrounding the disappearance of Lord Lucan in 1974 – events which I missed because I was working in Italy at the time.

The weather is starting to turn nasty after all – a wind has blown up and there is rain in the air but not nearly as bad, so far, as I had been expecting. Found the second part of the play about Lord Lucan quite disappointing except for the fact that one of the minor characters in it was played by one of Rachel’s former students from Fife College. All the play said was he could have committed suicide, he could still be free or perhaps he was murdered – well, even I could have worked that out; but perhaps there was nothing else that could have been said.

I recorded the first part of the Great Train Robbery play in two parts – The Robber’s Tale tonight and tomorrow the Policeman’s Tale. What a strange coincidence that Ronnie Briggs should die today. Of course, as Tom reminded me today, Ronnie Biggs had a very minor role in the Train Robbery. I know that some people admired the audacity of the train robbers, I find it hard to have any sympathy for them because of the what they did to the guard on the train, hitting him so hard that his life was destroyed – still the jokes have already started: In those days people stole from the banks, now the banks steal from us! Which leads me to my final musing, why do authorities fine banks for doing wrong? And who benefits from the fines which are collected? Surely it would be better if the money confiscated was distributed to those who have been harmed by the wrong-doing, but in fact if our bank treats us badly and is fined, then we are affected for a second time by banking with a bank which now has less resources and so can provide us with less services. The world has become a strange place.

We walked the dogs and by now the weather had turned really stormy. It was still dry but the winds are very strong. The promised horrendous weather looks as if it is arriving – hope the summerhouse is still there in the morning!

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Tuesday 17th. December, 2013 – Things never go quite to plan 


Men at work on the Summerhouse roof


Woke early because I had to get Rachel off to the doctor (although the new pills she got last night mean that she is in good spirits this morning). I walked both dogs and breakfasted in the farmhouse and was ready for Tom when he arrived about 9 a.m. The task identified by him for today was to put the roof shingles on the summerhouse. However we weren’t quite sure how to do this so I was despatched to look up the maker’s instructions (rather than the summerhouse manufacturer’s instructions). The first thing I discovered was that the shingle-maker felt that it was essential that shingles were fitted on a bed of mineral felt, something the summerhouse manufacturer did not think was necessary. So I went off to Pearson’s (who are now making record profits since my arrival in Duns) to buy thirty square metres of best mineral felt and some roofing nails. Soon we were hard at work installing the roofing felt and although we worked exceedingly hard it took most of the daylight hours – we did stop for coffee and a roll – and Tom and Digger did manage to fit two of the windows while I was left hammering in nails on the roof. We discovered that although the summerhouse has eight windows, we had only been sent ironmongery for two of them; so six will have to wait until the missing bits arrive.



Digger and Tom on the roof – Digger sits and contemplates the universe while Tom deals with the affairs of the day on his telephone


In fact Rachel ended up making no fewer than five separate journeys to Duns today – to visit the doctor, to take Mum to her hairdresser, to Pearson’s to buy another ten metres of roofing felt (yes, we miscalculated), to return a damaged roll of felt to Pearson’s and get a replacement, and to collect Mum from her hairdressing appointment. As darkness fell I came back into the Granary to get warm and was caught by a number of phone calls.



The first windows have been fitted


Soon it was time for fish-pie and rice pudding (with pineapple) and afterwards a family discussion before returning to the Granary just in time to walk the dogs under a full moon before bed.

And I have to report that today we lost the ashes. It has been a series in which almost everything went wrong which possibly could. Does this mean the end of England being one of the best teams in the world? Of course not. It is a setback but England have the players to bounce back and already Ben Stokes (of Durham, of course) has started to emerge as a player to watch for the future.

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Monday 16th. December, 2013 – We start thinking about Christmas Gifts 


Berwick High Street: not as busy as I expected in the run up to Christmas


Got up and walked both dogs as Rachel is not feeling very well. Enjoyed a hearty breakfast and then spent some time in the Granary expecting a phone call which never came (when one is retired that really doesn’t matter). Went across to the farmhouse to meet some friends of Mum who had come to take her away for a day out (they went to Eyemouth and lunched at the Golf Club there). We also had to deal with our balloon booking with Virgin Balloons. Rachel was really keen to go for a balloon flight and so, way back in 2008, I ordered and paid for a balloon trip. We duly arranged the day and the site from which we would fly but then, when the day came, the weather was unsuitable and our voucher was extended for a further six months. Well, we have been making bookings which the weather has cancelled and having our voucher extended now for more than five years. Having had more than five cancellations we could have our money refunded and walk away from it but that seems like giving up. So today we discussed with Virgin a trip from either Kelso or Selkirk sometime early in 2014. We hope to have a definite date by tomorrow evening. Incidentally, Rachel has now flown in a balloon – we flew over the Valley of the Kings in Egypt almost five years ago. It was such a good experience that Rachel can’t wait to do it all again.



Balloons below us -- from our balloon in Egypt


Rachel and I loaded the dogs into the car and went off to Spittal again to run the dogs by the sea. We now have a cage for Mix in the boot and he is very happy in it because he is with us in the car. We have gone through two dog guards (or rather, he has gone through two dog guards – straight through); and he has destroyed one seat belt (which is being replaced on Thursday by the local garage). So we had little choice. But it is a big cage and Mix is only in it when he is in the car.



Mix travels in style


At Spittal Rowan loves to race alongside the sea, charging the waves as they break on the sea shore and loving it when she gets taken by surprise and ends up extremely wet. Mix prefers to walk more sedately, attached to me, but exploring everything. It is a lovely place to walk the dogs and not many people will nip across to another country just to walk their dogs!



Rowan charges the waves


From Spittal we drove into Berwick and visited the shops there on the look-out for Christmas presents. I was surprised how quiet the town was, and how empty the shops were in this the week before Christmas. Yes, it had been extremely wet overnight but today was beautiful, with the sun shining, although it was getting much colder as the day went on. We didn’t stay too long because Rachel wasn’t feeling at her best and instead we drove on to Duns where Rachel had medicine to pick up. It wasn’t ready so we drove back to Mount Pleasant and had something to eat (I used my new microwave) before Rachel popped back into Duns to get her medicine. It still wasn’t there but the chemist phoned the doctor, the doctor spoke to Rachel over the telephone and five minutes later Rachel left the shop with her medicine. Pretty good service!

Dined in the farmhouse – celery soup, chicken and roast potatoes, rhubarb pie, custard and ice-cream: no wonder I have put on six kilos since retiring. Then came across to the Granary to watch the first-quarter final of University Challenge before starting work on finding addresses so that we can send some Christmas cards. Watched the News, walked Mix and came to bed. Tomorrow we are promised a little window of good weather and I hope that we shall roof the summer house and maybe even install some windows and a door – we’ll need all the daylight we can get. But that would be progress.

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Sunday 15th. December, 2013 – The Third Sunday in Advent 


The Christmas Tree looks good in Gavinton Church


Got up as soon as the alarm went off. I had two dogs to walk as Rachel wasn’t feeling well and had wisely decided to spend the morning in bed. Back from the dog walking I showered, breakfasted and went off to church at Gavinton with Mum. Our minister, Ann, had intended to be on holiday today but family illnesses had prevented that and she was in control of the service. Over the Sundays of Advent she has been presenting us with three-stranded Sunday addresses or rather, three small addresses throughout the service. Today continued that pattern.

We started with John the Baptist and his question, sent by his disciples to Jesus, ‘Are you the one we have been waiting for?’ Jesus response was to point at what he had been doing and to put the onus back on John to make up his own mind. As followers of the one for whom the world had been waiting, the onus is on us to ensure that what people see when they look at us, reflects the Lord we follow.

From Isaiah chapter thirty five, Ann spoke of the wilderness turned into a place of plenty and the road to holiness running through it. Sometimes we are frightened of having too expansive dreams for fear that we will be let down. This passage is an antidote to those feelings – dream big, Jesus is coming, God’s Son is about to be born into our world and now all things are possible.

Finally we thought about waiting – and about how we wait – the passage used was from the letter of James, and the two classes of people used as role models were farmers and prophets. Farmers plant the seeds and they then have to wait for the harvest. But they don’t sit idly by; they tend the ground, water it and weed it and in good time the crop appears. Prophets have a message to share but they too have to work on their ‘crop’. We are waiting for the promised return of our Lord – how we wait matters. Wait with expectation and wait sharing that expectation with others. That’s one of the important themes of Christmas and one not to be missed this year. I came away with a lot to think about.

Back home I was delighted to find that Rachel was feeling much better. So much better in fact that we went out and filled in some of the little holes in the summer house with wood filler before loading the dogs into the car and setting of for Spittal near Berwick where we walked the dogs on the beach. The sea was quite wild and Rowan loved attacking the waves and cavorting in the shallow water at the edge. From Spittal we drove to Tweedmouth where we visited first HomeBase (Rachel bought a scorpion power saw with a thirty percent discount) and then Curry’s (where I bought a small microwave for just £39. We do already own more than one microwave but although we have been searching for them for close on two months we still have not identified where they are (that is the scale of the problem our removal has set us). But this little ultra basic machine will do the job until we successfully locate our own ones.

Rachel made us afternoon tea and then she set off for Berwick to attend choral evensong while I rearranged everything to find a place for the microwave and I looked after the dogs, both now wonderfully docile after their long run on the beach. On Rachel’s return we joined the rest of the family for our evening meal – and chatted a long time around the table. Coming back to the Granary, we watched an old episode of New Tricks and the news before bed – taking in Andy Murray’s appropriate accolade (after winning Wimbledon) of Sports Personality of the Year. As we walked the dogs it was almost light, such was the illumination coming from the moon. The wind is breezy (there is more to come) and there is rain in the air, but just now it is a lovely light, fresh night. It may seem a strange observation but the hours of daylight seem very short now that I am retired. I suppose that I was always so busy at this time of year that it didn’t really matter whether it was light or dark but, now that I have time to go for walks and to work on building projects and want to be out and about, darkness falling at 4 p.m. is a bit of a nuisance.

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Saturday 14th. December, 2013 – Progress before the storm 


It’s only 9 a.m. but fear of the weather to come has got us started


Woke early and for the first time found the overnight cricket score heartening rather than disappointing, just one wicket down with 85 runs on the board. Walked Mix and got ready for a nine o’clock start on the summer house with Neil, Tom, Digger, Catriona and Dorothy. There was a window before the storm of about four hours and much to do. As the wind began to blow, we completed the bodywork of the summer house, got the roof joists installed and even managed to completed the cladding of the roof. Everything is now packed inside and we shall resume operations on Tuesday.



It is all beginning to take shape




Interested observers – Rowan and Mix look on from behind their gate




We did get a coffee break – to warm our hands really


So it was real progress and I was pleased we achieved so much because, as forecast, the storm arrived and it was ferocious. Neil and Catriona left at lunch time to drive back to Yorkshire. But after work was completed around 2 p.m. those of us who were left gathered in the farmhouse for a hot drink, a filled roll and a cake. There was a real sense of achievement in the air.



The roof joists are fitted




By the time the storm arrived, progress had been made


Back in the Granary as the storm began to reach its height: would the summerhouse be OK? Yes, of course it was, but the fence behind wasn’t and we will have to rebuild part of it after Church tomorrow. Dined with Olive, Mum, Digger and Rachel in the farmhouse and chatted for ages so that by the time we returned to the Granary there was only time to catch an old ‘New Tricks’ before walking the dogs and bed. By now the storm had totally blown itself out, but the weather forecasters tell us to expect more very strong winds over the next few days and it will get very cold. Well, what do you expect? We’re building a summer house!

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Friday 13th. December, 2013 – After a slow start .... 


The lorry carrying our summer house


Arose early to walk Mix and to be ready for the delivery of our summer house. Went across for breakfast and enjoyed a hearty one with an ear cocked for a phone call to say that the summer house was approaching Duns. In fact Tom had phoned to say that he was having lunch before the lorry finally arrived; the driver’s mate arriving at the front door of the farmhouse and asking my sister if she was expecting a shed. A shed indeed! This is our summer house, bought with the gift given to us on our retirement by the folk of Arrochar and Luss – the place in which I am going to write my book, the place to where Rachel and I will escape to raise a champagne glass when the sun is shining down on the Borders.



Tom, the Clerk of Works, discusses part of the delivery with Neil




Dorothy and Catriona assume I must be photographing them rather than the materials


The driver’s mate was a real Glasgow gentleman who knew Bowling well and shared my interest in boats, so we got on like a house on fire. It wasn’t long before everything was unloaded, the lorry had left and work started on building the summer house. I had a great team: Tom, Digger, Neil, Rachel, Catriona and Dorothy. First the floorboard joists went down and then the building began to rise around them. I do believe that if we had had a full day at it then we could have completed the building but days here are very short at this time of the year and we didn’t get started until the afternoon. So I was delighted with the progress we have made. However, the forecast for tomorrow is not great: we have been promised a window without rain between about nine and one in the afternoon and then, not only will the rains come down but the winds will rise. I am hoping that we might have the walls completed and the roof on before that happens. We shall see. But what fun it all was and how clever the kit is – each of the pieces fits together like a jig-saw puzzle and, while I am helped by having some real tradesmen here, it would be possible for people without their skill levels to build the summer house: at least that’s how it looks so far, but then we haven’t reached head-height yet.



Work starts




Catriona has a thing for picture frame windows – much to Digger’s amusement


In the evening we all dined in the farmhouse before retiring to the Granary. Mum produced an article written by a former minister of Glamis recounting the story of the Kirk there. I am going to try to type it out, it's a rather faded carbon copy, because these things are too important to be allowed to disappear. Congregations are the sum total of their story, their story shapes their future and folk need to have access to that story. I suspect that is true of families as well.



Darkness falls – we will return tomorrow


Watched an episode of Rebus before bed and walked both dogs because Rachel was already in bed. I should have recorded that this morning she went off and bought chicken-wire to secure the garden (I had to stay in case the lorry arrived) and then completed the wiring up of our fences. We are secure once more.

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Thursday 12th. December, 2013 – Not quite as planned and a little disappointing 


My team (Tom and Neil) are hard at work installing services for the summer house


Today did not work out as planned. Not in any way at all! I had expected to be in Sweden taking part in a Green Pilgrimage Planning meeting – and the added joy of being in Sweden today was that I was to stay over for tomorrow and take part in the celebrations for Saint Lucia (Saint Lucy) – a festival of light and a preparation for Christmas. However, the diary commitments of other people led to the urgent business being dealt with by a conference call and the meeting itself has been put back until the New Year – which will be fine (but just a pity to have missed Saint Lucia and all the girls with garlands with lighted candles in their hair. I’ve seen so many pictures but have never seen it for myself.

All over Sweden, Norway and in some parts of Finland and Italy St. Lucia’s Day will be celebrated tomorrow. There will be processions led by one girl with a wreath of candles on her head and followed by other girls each carrying a single candle. In part it all goes back to the days when we used the Julian Calendar which had 13th. December as the day of the winter solstice – the shortest day of the year. There are several stories about St, Lucia. In one she is a Sicilian Saint who was executed around 310. In another she was a kind woman who helped Christians hiding in the catacombs during the persecution under the Roman Emperor Diocletian – in order to carry as much food as possible to the Christians she wore candles on her head so that both of her hands would be free. I suppose she was the patron saint of all those who wear torches fitted to their heads so that they can work in the dark with their hands free -- when we are down at the narrow boat we see lots of runners pounding the tow path at night all with their head torches looking like disciples of Saint Lucia. Clearly the festival predates Christianity in Scandinavia and centred around the winter solstice, but the story of St. Lucia has been a way of Christianising the tradition and using it to bolster the new faith in those far off days.

However, not having to make the trip enabled me to be on site for the delivery of the summer house for which we have been waiting for several weeks. Early this morning, after Mix had been walked, Tom and Neil arrived to start getting things ready for the delivery, particularly to prepare for the installation of the services. All went well and we were congratulating ourselves on the excellent day – dry and warm. However, while we were sitting having coffee the phone rang – the delivery van had broken down (its diesel tank had split) and the delivery would be delayed until tomorrow.



Workers’ Playtime


So that was a second disappointment; but I was able to do other things working around telephone calls. I went into Duns and ordered a new seat-belt to replace the one vandalised by Mix before we got him his secure cage to transport him at the back of the car and I took Tom to collect his chain-saw which had been professionally sharpened.

Mum had three friends from Galashiels to visit. They all went off to a lunch at Gavinton Church and when they returned they saw round the farm steading before setting off for home as it got dark. With unexpected time on my hands I went into the barn and found some of the furniture which Rachel had been looking for – two small desks (and the inserts for the table which Olive was wanting).

We dined together as a family in the early evening, enjoying a sherry as we gathered in the farmhouse family room and then back in the Granary I watched Question Time from Johannesburg in the wake of Nelson Mandela’s death. It was interesting and reflected both the enormous distance which South Africa has travelled since Mandela became President and the enormous distance which South Africa still has to travel in the years to come.

We got a fright during the evening as Rowan escaped from the garden. Fortunately her joy was in completing the escape and having succeeded she just sat on the other side of the gate wanting to be back with us. I was surprised most of all that it was Rowan and not Mix who had identified the weakness in our defences – it was a little bit of fence which had been covered by foliage which has now died off, exposing a tiny way out of the garden. Tomorrow it will be secured!

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Wednesday 11th. December, 2013 – Christmas is getting closer 


There were crowds of people at the farm sale I attended today


Got up and walked Mix and then came back to the Granary for a shower to ensure that I was read for Tom when he called to collect me at 9.45 a.m. In the event he arrived with Dorothy and a couple of friends from Yorkshire who are staying with them for a few days. Together we all set off for the farm sale which was being held not far from here. We drove up to the farm and the first thing we saw was a field set out with items to be auctioned. There were piles of fence posts, feeding troughs, equipment for use on the farm and several tractors and other vehicles, including a very smart Landrover and a combine harvester. The auction, however, started in a huge barn in which were piles of smaller items including chain saws and lawnmowers and many items which I haven’t a clue what they were. The auctioneer moved quickly through the items getting them sold and moving on.



I liked the picture – it seemed to me to evoke Thomas Hardy


In the barn next to the auction barn there was a coffee stall where we enjoyed excellent coffee and glorious sausages in rolls. And, of course, we sat on bales of hay. I caught Dorothy and her pals enjoying the seat:



We came home, dropped Dorothy at home while Tom, Neil and I went into Duns to buy electrical cable for the summerhouse which will arrive tomorrow. I returned to the Granary where Rachel was preparing to go to Duns. So we loaded the dogs into the car, drove to Duns and visited the post office and the chemist before driving down to the town park and walking the dogs. It is an excellent park, lots of walks – some of them leaving from the park for quite long distance ambles – three tennis courts, a bowling green and as well as the war memorial, a memorial to twenty seven Polish servicemen who trained in Duns and lost their lives during the second world war. I suspect that this is why Duns is linked with a city in Poland. I will have to find out more about this. There is also a statue of Duns Scotus erected by the Francescan Order in 1966 on the seven hundredth anniversary of his birth here. John Duns Scotus was one of the great thinkers of his time. I will return to the park with my camera and at that time will write more about his life and thought. So quite a bit of homework to be done!

We went from the park to Pearsons where Rachel selected a Christmas tree. Then it was back home and on with the putting up of the Christmas decorations. Rachel always likes to ensure that our home is filled with decorations and the fact that we are not yet fully moved in has not stopped her this year. It is little short of miraculous that, unable as we are to find clothes and other important items to make ourselves at home, Rachel has succeeded in laying her hands on our Christmas decorations.



Rachel has been busy with decorations


We dined with Olive, Digger and Mum in the farmhouse and then came back to complete the decorations and tidy up the mess which putting them up creates (more so this year with Rowan anxious to lend a hand by chewing up any left over Christmas tree branch which was going a-begging). We watched the first part of a film about Lord Lucan. It presented pretty unsavoury times: I was only vaguely aware of the Lord Lucan story because in 1974 Rachel and I were living in Italy, working at the Sailor’s Rest.

Finally we walked the dogs – the lights in the windows reminded me that it will soon be Christmas and that this is going to be a very special Christmas for us all down at Mount Pleasant.



A Welcoming Window


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Tuesday 10th. December, 2013 -- A Good News Day 


Our old family favourite Christmas decorations are starting to reappear


Got up and walked Mix before breakfast and then came across to the Granary intending to finish my book (which I did this afternoon). However, on checking my emails I found the request for music for the service at Arrochar so I spent a bit of time preparing that. I enjoy doing that and now that I am retired there is no pressure of time and I have rediscovered the pleasure I got from doing it in the early years when it was all new to me.

I can’t quite remember when we started controlling the hymns at Arrochar by midi file but I’m guessing that it would be around 2002. Davina had taken ill; there was no one to play the organ and it was Christmas time. On Boxing Day I drove down to Newcastle to my brother’s home. He took me into a Boxing Day sale in the biggest organ shop I had ever seen and there we got a real bargain – a Yamaha organ that could be controlled by midi file with a floppy disk player on it. I had only the vaguest idea of what to do with it. I thought at first I would have to play each tune onto the machine (but that I could do this at home over and over again until I got it right). Then I thought I might be able to download midi files from the internet and use them. But the great breakthrough was to get a computer programme which allowed me to write hymns onto disks and play these through the computer. Nothing was too much of a problem now, no hymn was too difficult to reproduce and I thanked my good fortune in having been made to wade through so many musical theory examinations when I was young. It was being put to good use some fifty years later on. Here in my study I still have that same organ sitting behind me – the Church has progressed to an even more sophisticated one – and when I am not producing hymns then I produce Gilbert and Sullivan and sing along with the organ. (If only these machines had existed in the days of our Gilbert and Sullivan theatre group.)



In amongst my clothes, the organ I wouldn’t be without


No sooner had I prepared the music and sent it off to Jamie than the phone rang. My summer house is arriving on Thursday. Contacted Tom who said that he would be here to help unload and who told me that we would be drinking tea in the summer house by Sunday. I can’t help thinking that this might be a tad optimistic but who knows?

Went into Duns to sort out my money at the bank and when I came home I walked Mix (he had been with me in the new cage in the back of the car and behaved perfectly). After the walk I finished my book before dinner.

We ate together in the farmhouse – our little community coming together to eat, as it does every evening – and then Rachel and I came back to our home in the Granary. I spent some time in the study tracking down some information about the cutlery my mother got from America more than sixty years ago. Her Aunt, in the days following the second world war when my parents were recently married sent one place-setting every so often until they had accumulated a full set. It was really appreciated because in those days in Britain such luxuries were neither available nor affordable. The cutlery is called Queen Bess and is Tudor Silver Plate. You can still get it on ebay although it is almost always to be found in the United States.

Stopped to watch a Midsomer Murder which I hadn’t seen before and carried on to watch Law and Order UK which I really enjoy. Should really have been watching the reports of the celebration of Nelson Mandela’s life from South Africa – I caught bits of it on the news. I thought that President Obama spoke well but I was sorry that there was no European to speak about the anti-apartheid campaigns which were hugely supported here and which in part contributed to the regime change in South Africa.

Walked the dog and was surprised to discover that the wind has blown up again. This certainly seems to be rather a windy spot to live.

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Monday 9th. December, 2013 – A Long Sleep-In 


Duns looks splendid with its new Christmas Lights


Digger was taking Olive off to the station at Berwick later than usual this morning – and afterwards was continuing on to the Duns medical practice for a consultation – so Rachel and I decided last night that we wouldn’t go across to the farmhouse this morning but would instead sleep in. In the event Rachel did that better than I did. I awoke at about half past nine, got up and walked both dogs – they walk really well together now -- and when I came back Rachel was still sound asleep. She eventually woke up around half-past ten.

At the weekend Rachel had identified her large sideboard and our task for today was to liberate it from the barn, bring it into the Granary and then take the other sideboard (which we have been using) back to the barn in its place. With help from Digger we successfully achieved all of this and Rachel spent quite a bit of time transferring all of the kitchen ware from one sideboard to the other. I brought in the box containing all of our cutlery and (to get ahead of myself) spent the evening sorting it out while watching University Challenge and Panorama. The News and Newsnight were also on but honesty prevents me for saying that I saw them – the warmth of the lounge is very conducive to a little nap.

In the afternoon Rachel went to Berwick. I walked Mix here because I had to be in to receive a package from Amazon – the delivery firm here is terrific. I put in my order yesterday, I got a text yesterday to say it would be delivered today and I got another text this morning saying that it would be delivered by ‘John’ between 1.50 and 2 .50 this afternoon. It was delivered at 1.55 p.m.

The article in question was a dog cage to put in the back of my car. We have experimented with dog guards but Mix always manages to break through them and so, as a result, I have been tending not to take Mix with me when I go out in the car. He is perfectly happy getting into the cage (which is the same size as the boot in any event). In fact I had ordered a cage a little bigger than the one Rowan has but it wouldn’t fit into the car – so Rowan’s cage is now in the car and she has the new even larger one as her sleeping accommodation in the house.

I used to believe that these cages were not very kind but Rowan loves hers. It provided security for her when she was a very young puppy and now she wants to go into it at night. The rest of the day the door is left wide open and she often goes and sits in it – especially if we go out. But then she has so much freedom that I don’t suppose she bothers. Different for Mix, I don’t think that he will ever sleep anywhere other than at my feet. The dogs are getting on so well now. When Rachel is out it is quite common for both of them to crush in under my desk and roll up together – those who have known Mix over the last year will know what a change that is. He really does now treat her as his little sister (she is now quite a bit larger than him as well).

Paid for the road tax on Rachel’s Bongo today and also booked tickets for us all for the Christmas Pantomime in Berwick. Just ordering the tickets made me realise how near Christmas is – and how different it is this year with me being able to plan to go to the theatre! Rachel sent me one of these Jacquie Lawson Advent Calendars on my computer and every day I open the next page and enjoy the scene and the music and the little message which comes from the book you can find and read in the library of the Stately Home (Downton?) in which the advent scene is set.

When we walked the dogs tonight it was extremely dark and then, after we had been out for about five minutes, the moon reappeared from behind a cloud and the whole of the night sky lit up. I don’t suppose we have a street light for several miles around us and so we are more conscious of the sky than ever before. Somehow it is all very friendly.

(Should have recorded that I sat up last night and watched the end of the cricket match against Australia. England got well and truly trounced but it was good to see Matt Prior finding some form with the bat. Ever an optimist, I will be hoping for better things when the third test starts on Friday.)

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Sunday 8th. December, 2013 – The Second Sunday of Advent 


It may be damp but Rowan and Rachel are having fun as the Duns Christmas lights are turned on


Arose, walked the dog and breakfasted before travelling with Rachel and Mum to Gavinton Church for the service for the Second Sunday of Advent. Met Tom and Dorothy on the way and walked with them to the Church. The theme was John the Baptist, The Bible and Vocation Sunday. Ann, the minister, spoke about John the Baptist – somewhat of a scary man dressed in strange clothes who called people ‘snakes’ and other less endearing names – who pointed the crowds away from himself to one who was to come after him; about the Bible – translated into 2,551 languages (I think I remember that correctly, but I could be half a dozen out), and translated into 400 modern versions in the English language: perhaps we could spare a few of our many versions for the 4 – 5,000 languages into which the Bible has still not been translated? And while we are on questions, perhaps if we have several Bibles ourselves we might pass one on to someone who has none? Ann also spoke a little about the different ways in which people treated the Bible, nailing her colours to the mast (in my view, and in my words) to the more liberal wing of the Church of Scotland. Under the theme of Vocation Sunday, Ann spoke of her work with the Church of Scotland Selection Committee explaining how difficult she found it to make a judgement on other people’s calls; hardly surprising as some people were so sure of their Call while others were resisting it fiercely. But Call, she reminded us, isn’t only to the full-time ministry of the Church of Scotland but to membership and parish activity.

I found myself remembering that when I presented myself to St. Mary’s College (in the days before selection schools) Matthew Black, the Principal of St. Mary’s, spoke to me but briefly on the first occasion I met him. ‘So you want to be a minister. Well come here and stick in and we will make you into a good minister.’ I don’t know how much they succeeded. I do know that they took the task seriously but the point of my recollection is that the basic premise has changed. Now we select, then we accepted those who offered themselves and did all we could to make them into appropriate vessels for the conveying of God love through the ministry of Word and Sacrament. Over the years I recall many, many discussions with Matthew Black as he took seriously his initial commitment. If I didn’t succeed it certainly wasn’t for lack of effort on his part.

Back home to minor disaster. The dogs had removed the curtains from the kitchen. I don’t know why – were they trying to get out? Were they angry at being left? I don’t know which dog it was – Mix or Rowan or both? I do know we can’t allow this to continue so I stayed at home while Olive, Digger, Mum, Rachel, Tom and Dorothy all went to Paxton House to their up-market craft fayre. They all enjoyed it very much and found lots of suitable presents for girls but few for men (it was always thus). I read my book and also caught up with the musings of the press about England’s Australian debacle, how sad is that?

I should say a little about my book. It’s called Saint’s Rest by Keith Miles who has written many, many books. Some he has written under the name Edward Marston, some Martin Inigo and some Conrad Allen. In all he has written getting on for seventy and once I have completed the one I am reading now I will have read them all. He writes a series about a golfer who stumbles into crimes to be solved; about a sports writer who does the same, about an architect from Wales in 1930s America; about an Elizabethan Theatre Company; about Commissioners of William the Conqueror investigating irregularities in the Doomsday Book; a Restoration series set in London in the 1660s and 70s; a Railway detective series set in the 1850s; a military series set during the War of the Spanish Succession; a series set during the first world war based on a police inspector in London; and a series of detective books written around the great liners which sailed around the world in the early years of the twentieth century. I found the first one I read knocked down to almost nothing in the remainder shop at the outlets in Alexandria and ever since them I have read through his canon and have enjoyed them all. They are light, well written, knowledgeable and firmly set in their different periods. The stories are also well constructed with all the twists and turns one expects from a detective story (some are more of ‘who-dunnit’ novels than others). I’m well on the way to completing the final one today and I will miss not having more to read.



The Christmas Tree lights look great


Set off with Rachel and Mum to see the Christmas lights being turned on at Duns. We were able to park in the main square, I thought that we were early but just as we walked into the centre of the square there was the sound of pipes and the pipe band came up the street, everyone dressed as Santa Claus, everyone with a full beard and moustache, and playing ‘We three Kings of Orient are’. It was magnificent. Suddenly crowds began to appear and for almost half an hour the band played – Deck the Halls, We wish you a Merry Christmas, Jingle Bells and more traditional carols as well.



The Band of Piping Santas sounded superb


Just before the time for things to start, the bank marched off, returning to lead in the ‘real’ Father Christmas in his sled pulled by a farmer’s four by four and with Lucy, the winsome lass, sitting beside Father Christmas. The President of the Rotary (I guess that’s who he was) thanked everyone who had made everything possible and Lucy pressed the plunger which turned on the lights on the huge Christmas tree in the centre of the square – the other magnificent lights around the square were already illuminated and looked superb. All the while, members of the Rotary and friends were handing out cups of mulled wine to the large crowd of local folk who were enjoying the event. In the corner of the square there was a children’s round-about doing a good trade. Everyone was having fun. I was so glad that we had gone. It was a magnificent occasion.



Lucy, the winsome lass, arrives in style with Father Christmas


Regarding my entry yesterday when I recalled the efforts of Frank Tyson in Australia (it was actually in 1955), my brother identified the calypso which was written to celebrate Tyson’s success. It can be heard here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ieaxt-ukFzs

We all dined in the farmhouse and then, later in the evening, Rachel and I watched an episode of New Tricks which we hadn’t seen before. It was very good. We walked the dogs – the wind is getting up again, that will test our remedial works. But for now, bed calls.

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Saturday 7th. December, 2013 -- Make and Mend 


An awful photo (I must learn to use flash and to aim properly) of Digger (almost), Tom, Bill, Mum, Olive and Morag


I am going to start presenting some pictures of the different parts of Mount Pleasant. The farmhouse kitchen is undoubtedly the heart of the complex. When we came to meet with the previous owners we met them in the kitchen around the kitchen table -- and they left the table and its chairs when they moved on. There are two ways into the farmhouse. Both require you to go through the kitchen before accessing the lounge or the upstairs area of the house. It is cosy, welcoming and friendly -- and all of us meet to share our meals here. Breakfast around 9 a.m. and dinner, normally served sometime between 6.30 and 7.30 p.m. This room embodies all that we sought to achieve in our experiment in communal living and it is a very happy one.

Rose and walked Mix. It is really cold this morning. Tom arrived during breakfast: our task today is to try to put right some of the damage done by the storm a couple of days ago. First we enjoyed our breakfast and then we said good-bye to Bill and Morag; it has been wonderful having them both with us and we all hope that it will not be too long before they return.

Tom started work by fixing a baton onto the exterior wooden gate. That should hold it in place no matter the weather. Next we re-erected the fence between the Granary and the Hen House gardens. The wind had not just blown down the fence but had uprooted the posts which were embedded in concrete! We got it all re-assembled and then we screwed it back together before adding a whole battery of reinforcing posts to ensure that it won’t get blown down again. It would be good to think that this was overkill but, given the way the weather has been changing throughout the country as a whole, perhaps it is just common sense.

There was still more to do but before we could do it we went up to Pearsons to buy more fence posts and some extremely strong masonry rawlplugs. Having loaded everything into his trailer and dropped me off at the farmhouse, Tom went off for lunch and I helped Rachel who was unearthing and then unpacking and then displaying her Christmas decorations.

Soon Tom was back and we re-fixed the little gate to the farmhouse wall and then provided reinforcing for the main Granary fence. It was still standing but it had taken an awful battering.

After coffee, shortbread and lots of chat, Tom set off for home. I came up to the study having first prepared my own lunch (reheating a cheese and bean pie made for me by Olive). I am having terrible trouble with my email. I can’t even access it at present because I am getting sent so many spam messages – sixteen thousand today (that’s the figure: 16,000) and because my other (new) email address is linked to my existing address, I can’t use it either. I have contacted Andy asking him to break that link but for the present I am not able to be contacted by email. I am actually not sure that this is a problem now that I have retired. The Royal Mail works, and my telephone when I am in, and nothing is dreadfully urgent now anyway – important, yes, but that’s not the same as being urgent.

Got my study tidied and wondered why I was so very warm: I still have two large sweaters on! Read the cricket reports. We are not doing well in Australia and it all seems down to a superb session of fast bowling by Mitchell Johnson. Well, that happens. I remember (at second hand) how in the years just after the second world war, Frank Tyson did something similar to the Australians in Australia. He took seven for twenty-seven, I think it was from memory, and really shook the Australian team up. Now, it seems, the boot is on the other foot. However, Ian Bell, whom I had tipped at breakfast yesterday to make a hundred, ended up unbeaten on seventy-two.

Dined all together in the farmhouse and afterwards Rachel and I retired to the Granary where we watched an episode of New Tricks which we had missed, followed it with a short one-hour Taggart, quite reminiscent of old times. Walked the dogs and came to bed. Tomorrow is Sunday and I am looking forward to the Advent journey continuing. We are also planning to visit a Christmas Fayre at Paxton House and going in to Duns for the turning on of the Christmas lights – maybe I’ll get a chance to read my book as well!

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Friday 6th. December, 2013 – We have a very good day 


Dr. Dorothy provides reassurance to Digger and his hens


I was up early to walk Mix and when I returned Dorothy and Tom were here at the chicken run with Digger. Dorothy is something of an expert in hens and she was giving Digger’s hens a once over because he was concerned that their moulting might not have been natural. Dorothy was able to give him (and them?) reassurance.

Bill, Morag, Mum, Rachel and I (along with Mix and Rowan) set off for a day out in Rachel’s Berlingo. (Mix was in Rowan’s cage in the back – at least we had him under control).

Our first port of call was Holy Island where we visited the Priory and the Church and then we took Bill, Morag and Mum to the Heritage Centre to see the exhibition about Vikings, Lindisfarne and the Lindisfarne Gospels. They enjoyed the exhibition and the film which they saw. The dogs also enjoyed a long walk.

We drove to the Barn at Beal for lunch – another good meal (they had fed us well when we were here with Cathy a few weeks ago) but a real surprise was awaiting us when we returned to the car. Mix had escaped from the cage and was happily sitting in the front seat. He had pulled inwards one of the ends of the cage and then climbed over it and made good his escape. We put the cage together again and installed Mix once more.



At several places on our travels, flags were at half-mast to honour the memory of Nelson Mandela


We drove first to Bamburgh and then on to Sea Houses which is a mixture of real tourist shops and some very attractive shops as well. I liked the National Trust Shop and another which had some really quite interesting paintings and prints. We also saw the Christmas lights as darkness was starting to fall. We made our way home and had a drink before dinner in the farmhouse after which we retired to the Granary where Bill, Morag, Mum and Olive joined us for coffee and happy chatter until bed-time. As we walked the dogs before bed it was snowing gently. It is not forecast to last but it is really rather attractive. What a truly lovely day!

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Thursday 5th. December, 2013 – A Mighty Storm and some Sad News 


There was a fence here yesterday


I slept fitfully – not least because there was a huge storm raging around the farm steading; but also because our alarm clock has a storm warning on it and this seemed to bleep every few minutes during the night. I got up and was taken aback at the damage which had been done. Our back garden fence had been blown out of the ground and the little gate through which one moved from the courtyard to the front of the farm house had been blown off its hinges. Walking Mix I found part of the exterior fence lying in the middle of the road. I wondered how it had survived the traffic until I realised that there was no traffic. Trees had fallen and we were almost totally cut off!

One of the casualties was the chicken house -- total destroyed by the storm: but not before the hens had got out. Digger spent much of the morning rebuilding their home and trying to ensure that it was warmer than it had been before, now that the really cold weather is arriving. He filled it with fresh wood-shavings and tells us that the hens were extremely grateful.

Back in the farmhouse we had visitors: a lady with three children from Bogend Farm had parked her car in our drive and was in the farmhouse with Olive and our guests. Keri had been driving the children along to catch the school bus when a tree fell, narrowly missing her car, and also cutting off the school bus. So although Bogend is only a few hundred yards away it was totally inaccessible. We enjoyed meeting Keri and the children but while we were chatting the power went off and we were without electricity for a couple of hours or so. I realised how fortunate we are to have gas in the farmhouse and that both buildings have wood-burning stoves.

Eventually the road was cleared and we said good-bye to our neighbours. Bill, Morag and I set off for Duns so that I could show them around and also buy some bits and pieces that we were requiring. We also bought some cream cakes for the snack lunch we were to share. We all gathered around the farmhouse kitchen table for ham sandwiches, cream cakes and coffee. After sitting and enjoying the warmth of the lounge – it is very cold outside (if not snow then certainly sleet) – we set off for Gavinton for afternoon tea with Tom and Dorothy. Morag saw the goats – of interest to her because she and Bill had kept a goat earlier in their lives. We saw around Tom and Dorothy and Tom’s daughter’s home. It is a conversion of a former Free Kirk and a splendid building especially after all of the work which they have had done.

Back home, it was soon time to join everyone in the farmhouse for drinks before and then the evening meal with lots of chat and good humour. I came back to the Granary around ten to learn of the death of Nelson Mandela. The news would have saddened me because I have always admired the way he responded to the opportunities of bringing his country together after he was released from prison. But it hit me harder because of my visit to South Africa a bit more than a year ago. So many people then spoke of Nelson Mandela, we visited museums which told his story, we visited his home in Soweto, we saw how there were still huge divisions in the country but that these were now largely between the haves and have-nots, rather than between black and white. He was a true reconciler and Nelson Mandela and reconciliation will often occur in the same sentence as history records his achievements. Yes, there is still a huge way to go but the achievements so far and the manner in which these achievements have been made will only be fully understood as time passes. He was a man with great qualities.

As I walked the dogs tonight (Rachel had retired to bed) I reflected that Nelson Mandela was someone who really had changed the world. If he had urged recrimination instead of reconciliation then the whole world would be a different place today. He was a man of peace -- but that is not to say that he was not a man of strong views, stubborn and forthright. He understood that lasting peace required something for everyone, black and white and his success can be measured for me by the fact that when we were in South Africa all of the white people we met accepted that the changes which had been made were for the best -- and that further change had to come. It is a journey which has only begun: but what a journey.

I found myself remembering that when I was at St. Andrews University, in my very first year, Winston Churchill died. Our Professor of English, Professor Falconer, walked into the lecture theatre at 9 a.m. to lecture to the General English class. On this morning he came in, set down his papers, looked at us (there must have been a hundred in the lecture room) and then spoke without notes and with passion about why Winston Churchill was the greatest man of our time and of how the world would have been so very much the poorer without his life. Tomorrow morning, somewhere, I hope that someone does the same for Nelson Mandela and that those who hear will recall what was said as vividly as I recall Professor Falconer after almost fifty years. (Of course, in today's world, the television does that for all of us and there will be many tributes over the coming days.)

I should record that I was meant to meet with a lady from the BBC this morning to record an interview for Christmas. This didn’t happen as there was no transport in this part of Scotland this morning: trains were cancelled, roads were blocked and the storm raged. I don’t know whether it will be possible to be recorded at a later date. We shall see. We have planned to go to Holy Island and Bamburgh tomorrow but the weather forecast tonight suggests that the east coast should be avoided and that much of it is being evacuated. So we still plan to do something special with Bill and Morag but we are not yet sure what that will be.

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Wednesday 4th. December, 2013 – Special Visitors and a lovely meal 


Digger has been making progress with his small holding


Woke, walked Mix and breakfasted in the farmhouse. Then while Rachel drove Mum to her reading group and walked Rowan, I loaded a whole lot of boxes back into the barns – these were boxes which have been unpacked to discover what was in them and have now been packed again because we don’t have room for them in the Granary. Getting things sorted is going to be quite a performance.

Rachel returned, Mum had enjoyed her reading group and now Rachel and I set about cleaning the Granary. I thought wooden floors got dirtier than carpets but Rachel tells me that it is just that the dirt is more noticeable. Got the whole place clean and everywhere is now tidy except for the landing at the top of the stairs. Walked Mix in the fading light – the silhouettes of the trees against the sky line are absolutely magnificent. It’s not something I noticed in Argyll because of the hills all around. Here we seem to have so much more sky and you can see for miles.



The skyline from Mount Pleasant


Bill and Morag arrived to spend a few days with us. Life was made so much easier for me at Luss because of Bill and Morag – Bill, a retired minister, always was there to stand in for me when I needed him and took the initiative on many occasions; Morag ran so many of our special events, working in the kitchen or the Church or the Pilgrimage Centre as required. They are also, and more importantly, very special friends. I am so pleased to have them with us here. Tom and Dorothy, our other special friends, came along for the evening as well.

We had a splendid meal prepared for us by Olive in the farmhouse and afterwards we all sat together in the Granary in front of the stove and talked about submarines and football teams, about our adventures here in Duns, about keeping goats (Dorothy does and Morag has), about chickens and, once Mum joined us, about the History Group – Mum had been away at their meeting this evening.

Once everyone had gone to bed I stayed up to watch the start of the Adelaide Test match on television. The pitch looks flat and slow and it will be a hard slog for either team to get a result from it – at least that’s how it looks after one hour’s play!

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Tuesday 3rd. December, 2013 -- An Expedition (without going very far) 


Having climbed over many boxes, Dorothy and Rachel have found the table


Woke, walked Mix and went for breakfast – I was locked out of the farmhouse. Went back to the Granary assuming everyone had slept in. Had a banana and got ready for the day’s work: finding the dining room table and extricating it from its home in one of the barns. Just as I was about to start, Mum came looking for me to enquire why I hadn’t come for breakfast. It turns out the door had been locked inadvertently and my breakfast was waiting for me. So I went and enjoyed a late breakfast.

Then it was time to start work on finding the table. It is a special table which belonged originally to Professor Forester of New College. He wanted it to live in a manse and so he gave it to my father. (I think the truth of it was that he came to Dad’s induction at Newtyle (my father’s first charge) and was taken aback to discover that my parents had so little appropriate furniture so he gave them this table and a matching sideboard.) They graced the manse in Luss for many years until we got the huge table which had seen service in the Royal Navy. Then our table was transferred to Wemyss – it travelled in our Subaru and on the way there the rear axle broke and that was the end of the Subaru (and almost of the table as well). It travelled down to Mount Pleasant in the first removal and all that we knew was that it was somewhere in one of two barns. Tom and Dorothy arrived and all of us set out to find the missing table -- not only were there many boxes to circumnavigate but everything was covered with blue tarpaulins, and it was very dark.

Dorothy and Rachel managed to uncover it and then Tom and I joined in and succeeded in lifting it over many other items of furniture – desks, a harmonium, bookcases – and out into the light of day.

Tom and I went up to Pearsons to buy screws to reassemble the legs – the screws had been put carefully into another item of furniture with a drawer but we have no item which item of furniture or where that item of furniture might be.



Tom gets ready to lift the table top as Rachel looks on – Dorothy is horrified that I am taking a picture


Finally the table is assembled and now sits looking really good in the front room of the farmhouse – reunited once again with its sideboard.



The table where it belongs


Tom and I spent much of the rest of the day ensuring that Ianthe is wrapped up against the winter storms. It was good to be back on board. She is looking good but with so much to do it will be next summer before we are able to start work on her again. By that time we will have built the summer house, completed the hen house and created a loom room in which Sandy and Rachel can ply their weaving craft skills.



Ianthe is ready for winter


I got a telephone call from the BBC who wondered if I would agree to be interviewed about being retired. I think that their angle is speaking to folk for whom this Christmas will be different from last Christmas. I said I would be happy to take part and the presenter is coming to see me later in the week. I also got a call from the lady who plays the organ at the local church, wondering if the system we used in Luss and Arrochar might function here. She had spoken to us earlier and that was why we went to the church to experiment on Monday afternoon. I was able to report that in an emergency we would certainly be able to ensure that they were not without music although there were still things which we needed to work out to get the best from the organ.

Soon after this the Amazon delivery van brought me my purchase of a beard trimmer. It had only cost £7 .02p and I had ordered it yesterday because I still haven’t found my own one. It is somewhere in the barns but as it took a day to find a dining room table, you can imagine how long it would have taken to find a beard trimmer.

Dined in the farmhouse with Mum and Digger and then returned to the Granary to tidy – while we had been releasing the table we found all kind of other things. These got brought into the house and now we had to find places to keep them. The walls are already beginning to bulge. I found a box which said ‘Dane’s clothes’ on it. Opening it excitedly I discovered that it contained my Princeton doctor’s hood, my sea boots and my dressing gown – I could have wished for items which were a little more useful.

With enough done for this evening we stopped and watched ‘Lewis’ in front of the stove. It has got much colder today and it is lovely to relax in this way. How fortunate we are.


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Monday 2nd. December, 2013 – Technology 


The main lawn at Mount Pleasant -- Digger has cut it and today has collected all the leaves


Arose and walked Mix before breakfast and then spent this morning in a conference Skype Call with Martin and Alison from the Alliance of Religions and Conservation and Chris, a notable conservationist. The purpose of the ‘meeting’ (and what a green way of meeting this was) was to take forward our Green Pilgrimage plans for the European Chapter of this now world-wide network. I have agreed to represent the network in Scotland and I will be attending the meetings of the Scottish Pilgrim Routes Forum and making myself available to meet with pilgrimage places who would like to become involved as well as helping places already involved to develop their pilgrimage plans. I have also agreed to help to bring in a representative of pilgrimage in Wales, working closely with Chris – a meeting will be called early in the New Year and a team of interested people have already been identified. And so that I am seen to be entirely Celtic, I have undertaken to attempt to open up links with Ireland as well. There is the possibility of considerable European Funding for this project and Chris and I will try to work something up before we meet our colleagues in Sweden at the end of February. It was underlined to me again today just how much these projects tick all of the boxes for large-scale funding from Europe – they bring together so many different strands of community involvement, they involve faith communities and secular authorities, they are conservationist, they enable other activities to grow out of them, they create employment and so on. It is a wonderful opportunity and I am happy to be given the chance to be part of it. I also believe that it is a colossal opportunity for the Church – something which the church in Wales has already grasped and has appointed staff who will work to develop these opportunities.

After the conference I wrote up my notes before setting out for Gavinton Church with Rachel to have a look at the organ. It seems that the congregation sometimes struggles to find an organist and it was one of the organists who asked Rachel if we would see if it could be controlled by midi. It can – but we haven’t yet worked out the best way of doing this. In an emergency we could do it tomorrow but if it isn’t as much of an emergency as all that then we will have time to work out the best way of doing it!

Back home I started to plan some of the Green Pilgrimage activities I hope to generate in coming weeks and before I knew it, it was time to walk the dog and go for our evening meal: steak and mushroom pie with potatoes and carrots followed by ice-cream and brambles. I love brambles.

Back in the Granary we walked the dogs and went to bed very early – we have a great deal to do tomorrow. (While I was busy in the ways described, Digger was working on the garden. The lawn has been cut and today all the leaves – and there were many of them – have been collected up and added to his collection of compost.)

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Sunday 1st. December, 2013 – The First Sunday in Advent 


Gavinton Church in the winter sunshine where we celebrated the start of a new church year today


Rose, walked the dog – it had been raining but it was beautiful now – and I didn’t see a single car on the roads the whole duration of my walk. Came back and showered before breakfast and then with Mum and Rachel I set off for Gavinton Church to celebrate the first Sunday in Advent, the start of the journey towards Christmas and the beginning of a new church year. Ann, the minister, was back in post and she conducted a service on the theme of Advent, Aids and Andrew with three smaller meditations in place of the normal address. The first Advent candle was lit and the meditation centred on the promise of Jesus return but the impossibility of knowing when that was to be. Jesus didn’t know but trusted his Father, and that in turn taught the disciples about how to trust. In any event the message of advent is not about waiting but about living the faith now trusting that God will return to claim his world for his own. So the candle becomes a symbol of hope for the future and trust in the here and now. We were reminded that today is world AIDs Day – a marking day which goes right back to the 1980s. Too many people continue to suffer from AIDs, but progress is being made if only the medicines which are now available could be made accessible to all. The Church of Scotland is playing its part but there remains much to do. And, of course, yesterday was St. Andrew’s Day. Andrew, the apostle who brought his brother to faith – perhaps we all think too big and want to evangelise the world: if we all just brought our brothers to faith how the world would change. Andrew it was who brought the little boy with the loaves and fishes to Jesus and enabled the crowd to be fed. Faith and food – not a bad patron saint; not a bad role model for those of us who seek to walk in his footsteps as we seek to be disciples of Jesus. The journey to Christmas has begun.

Back home Rachel learned that her ‘cello had been repaired and went off to Tom’s house (where the repairer had delivered it) to collect it and bring it home. She was delighted. I spent part of the afternoon finding out about some of the special facilities which televisions seem to have nowadays, I can access my computer and even make a Skype call through the television. After six weeks I finally got round to reading the instructions!

Saw that my friend Laurence Whitley, the minister of Glasgow Cathedral, had conducted a special service for those who had died in the helicopter tragedy on Friday night, and, of course, for their families and friends. I have a huge admiration for Laurence who is an example of all that is best in the Church of Scotland and who, from the bits I saw on television, spoke the words which needed to be heard on this difficult occasion.

In the late afternoon Rachel went off to Berwick to attend Choral Evensong. I stayed to look after the dogs and to visit with Olive, Digger and my mother. We all dined on chicken with roast potatoes and cauliflower, followed up with ice cream and brambles. In the evening we luxuriated in front of our wood-burning stove. I read my book and dozed in front of an old episode of Lewis. Soon it was time for a final walk with the dogs before bed. What a lovely day!

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Saturday 30th. November, 2013 -- St. Andrews Day 


A picture of the skyline, taken by Rachel, as daylight disappears


I awoke, walked Mix along Bramble Avenue and returned in time for breakfast. I set out this morning to discover the whereabouts of our big round table, our gate-leg table, our microwave and Rachel’s desk. I was almost totally unsuccessful. I have ascertained, I think, that none of them are in the Hen House and that therefore they are all probably in the corner barn. I have located the big round table but it will take several hours of burrowing to reach it and release it and I am supposing that the other items of furniture must be in roughly the same area. So that will be the task for the start of next week. We shall burrow deep into the corner barn and find the tables.

Rachel and I went into Duns to buy some food and ironmongery for the house. Got some light bulbs as well and came home and fitted them. Had some lunch and walked Mix again in the, by this time, gloaming. Everything is changing. The trees have all but lost their leaves, the hedges are (mostly) bare and much more of the landscape is suddenly visible as it is possible to see so many things which until now have been hidden by foliage. It is also definitely colder – not a nip in the air but just chilly. Everything remains extremely beautiful and the skies are usually spectacular. It is a time of year for trips out and then for enjoying the warmth of the fire-side.



Unfortunately we all prefer the same sofa (from the left) Dane, Rowan, Mix


You’ll see from the picture how friendly the two dogs are now – just like brother and sister and even into sharing Mix’s bed under my desk: how unthinkable was that just a month or so ago? We had intended to return to Duns tonight for the turning on of the Christmas lights; however, this has been delayed until a week tomorrow. So we shall plan to go along then.

We all dined together – our St. Andrew’s Day meal: leek soup followed by Haggis, neaps and tatties, and then by trifle. It was lovely. Digger was celebrating Raith Rovers victory over Dundee, but everyone was saddened by the helicopter crash in Glasgow. Following the meal we returned to the Granary. Rachel went to bed – her painkilling pills are tiring her – while Mix and I watched Foyle’s War. It is just as good second time around and, truth to tell, now that I am retired I have much more time and attention for television. It is like a new world.

I watched the news, naturally dominated by the crash in Glasgow, and then I walked both dogs before bed. I’m looking forward to tomorrow and to the services we will attend – that is the real joy of retiring: looking forward to attending worship which will be led by other people, being part of a congregation, concentrating on worshipping rather than on leading other people in worship. And tomorrow is the first Sunday in Advent, the start of a new Church Year. For us I can feel that if it continues as the old one has ended it is going to be a very good one in our new home with so many opportunities stretching out ahead.

Can't help remarking on how Italian our lives have become. We go about all day long engaged in our activities and ploys and then we all gather together for a lengthy evening meal during which we put the world to rights and catch up on all that everyone else has been doing before going off and doing our own thing with the remaining part of the evening. I could just have arrived in heaven!

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Friday 29th. November, 2013 – A Wonderful Day! 


Crowds begin to arrive at the Kelso Race Track


Where to start! I had set my alarm for seven – an hour earlier than retirement-rising time. Got up and washed before walking Mix and then got into appropriate clothes for standing around on a cold race track for the twice-a-year auction of farm equipment. Tom and Dorothy collected me at 8.30 and we were at Kelso soon after nine. All the items for the sale were just beginning to arrive. There was everything from tractors and four by fours, to feeding troughs and sheep pens, farm gates, lawn-mowers, chain saws, generators, wood, doors, strimmers, motor cars, sacks of logs, office furniture, cable, ploughs, harvesting equipment, wood-burning stoves and much more. Having arrived, we learned that the actual auction didn’t start until 11 a.m. so we went off to Kelso and enjoyed a coffee and a scone.



Sunshine on the Cross Keys Hotel in Kelso


I took this picture of the square in Kelso with the early morning sunshine on the Cross Keys Hotel and I include it here because later in the day Olive, Digger and Mum came to Kelso and enjoyed morning coffee in the hotel. By that time we had returned to the race course and the auction had begun. I was fascinated. The auctioneer was smartly dressed with a white coat over his collar and tie and with a deerstalker on his head. He carried something which was like the top of a walking stick in lieu, I suppose, of a hammer. He was accompanied by a number of staff – one with a list of all of the items for sale and details about these items, another whose task it was to get the details of people who bought the different items. Once it started, everything happened very quickly. The auctioneer, who was in good spirits and remained cheerful throughout, explained to us that unless he said differently at the start of an item, everything was subject to VAT and also to a 5% Buyer’s Premium. And with that we were off. We started with a ton of logs which Tom bought for a little over thirty pounds. Normally with each item the auctioneer started high and then the request for a bidder came lower and lower and lower but once someone had bid then it went straight back up again in two pound and five pound jumps – the auctioneer never stopped talking and he generated an enthusiasm which encouraged people to join in. On occasions bids were made by people with telephones strapped to their ears and always when something was sold the auctioneer rapped it with his stick and immediately moved on to the next item. Sometimes, having talked the bid up, the bidding came to a stop and the auctioneer just moved on to the next item without using his stick. These were the instances where the item had not reached its reserve price and no sale was made. Some of the items made thousands of pounds, others sold quickly for just a few pounds. Tom had hoped to buy the stove and had set himself a maximum bid of £200 but it went for £260 so he lost out on this one. The logs were loaded onto Tom’s trailer and we set off for home.



I couldn’t get a picture of the auctioneer for fear that he would think that I was offering a bid, but there were large numbers of people taking part


Back home I dealt with my post and then Rachel and I took the dogs off to Tweedmouth. This was a dual purpose outing. I needed to visit Currys to buy a small webcam for my computer because I am to share in a conference discussion relating to green pilgrimage on Monday morning and I have not as yet unpacked my old webcam (I have absolutely no idea where it might be). The second purpose was to walk the dogs at Spittal on the extensive beaches there.



Rachel walks the beach deep in thought


There were few other walkers – the light was already beginning to fade but we had a happy walk and Rowan must have run for miles happily splashing in and out of the sea. Back in the car, we drove to Mount Pleasant where soon it was time to get ready for this evening’s outing. For Rachel’s birthday Olive and Digger had bought a meal for two at the Siamese Kitchen. Tonight Rachel and I were having that meal. Neither of us had ever eaten Thai food before. We were in for a treat. Digger drove us to the restaurant just off the main square in Duns and he introduced us to the restaurant and to the extremely welcoming proprietrix. We started our meal with a mixed starter – a Thai fishcake, sati chicken, spring roll and prawn toast. We then went for a curry. I had a red curry (I had chosen well, it was delicious), Rachel had a green curry (she was equally happy). I continued with a sweet rice and mango desert while Rachel settled for jasmine tea. And all was washed down with white wine. It was a lovely evening and once we were replete, Digger arrived to drive us home. I could get used to this!



A Belated Birthday Cake


The restaurant even brought Rachel a birthday cake – and to her chagrin everyone in the restaurant sang Happy Birthday! Back home at Mount Pleasant we thanked Olive and Digger for such a splendid evening and shared a drink together. On our return to the Granary we discovered that a small bird had got into the house and – because it was so small – it took us more than an hour to find it and help it back into the wilds. I don’t know whether it or we were more relived once it had found its way into the outside world. It was very small and there it was making its way in the world all on its own. We are very fortunate to grow up and live in families with friends – though sometimes I guess we all feel like small birds trapped in big houses with no idea of how to get out.

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Thursday 28th. November, 2013 – The Journey Continues 


In Duns preparations are gathering momentum for Christmas – soon the lights will be switched on


Rose and walked Mix before breakfast and then went out to the barns to search for today’s booty. The box I chose turned out to contain my set of Punch and Judy puppets – something I hadn’t seen since we left Buckhaven almost twenty years ago. I also unearthed a bookcase which we managed to carry up the stairs and install in our bedroom. I also unearthed a large, heavy box which said ‘crystal’ on the exterior. I brought it in carefully for Rachel to unpack. It contained our collection of decanters – and with each of them a memory: one a gift from Rachel’s father to her mother before they were married; one a gift from HMS Glamorgan to Rachel and me after a successful visit to Genoa; one a ship’s decanter given to me for Ianthe, and so on. They are now sitting proudly on a tray on the grand piano – the only problem is that we haven’t as yet unearthed any glasses. At this rate I will be thoroughly moved in by 2015 – but I will enjoy everything I find.

If all of this sounds like a pretty light day, it was – partly because I went with my mother to Gavinton Church at lunch time for the congregational lunch of soup and bread and butter (and cake). I enjoyed the opportunity of getting know some of the folk from the congregation. I left Mum there for the Guild which followed the lunch and I came back to walk Mix before darkness fell and then to continue with the sorting out.

Not for long, however, because this evening we were all invited to Scott and Sue’s for our evening meal. My brother lives at Polworth, ten minutes drive from here. It was a grand meal and a happy evening. We got home just in time for my mother to catch Question Time from Falkirk. I walked the dog and went to bed. Tomorrow is going to be a first for me as Tom is taking me to my first agricultural auction at Kelso and in the evening Rachel and I are going to the Siamese Kitchen for a meal.

Thursdays are still the one day during which I feel a little bit restless. The reason without any doubt is that for many years I have spent Thursdays preparing for my services on Sundays. I looked forward to Thursdays for that very reason. I don’t mean that I started from scratch on Thursday morning and got everything done by the end of the day. I read the texts on Sunday night and then let them percolate though my mind as I walked the dog and drove the car. But Thursday was the day I put it all together. That is something I do miss – not enough to make me volunteer for pulpit supply, I am enjoying sitting in the pew too much for that. But I do miss my working Thursdays. I got an email today inviting me to a fiftieth anniversary celebration of leaving school. It’s not until next year – but that really is quite a thought: fifty years since I left school. That’s not just quite a thought – it is quite an achievement as well.

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Wednesday 27th. November, 2013 – A New Chapter Begins 


Rachel starts work on cleaning up the brass log box I unearthed in the Hen House


Rose and walked Mix before breakfast of bacon, egg and fried potato – my first breakfast of the working week as for the last two days I have been off early to the Borders Hospital. Today was different. As I wrote a couple of days ago, I have now achieved my target for November and my responsibilities for getting the Granary ready have been achieved. So today I could embark on pastures new. I emailed the summer house company to see how my order is getting on – got a reply to say it would be a few days yet before I could expect news of a delivery. I went out into the barns to see what I could find. Under piles of boxes I identified the little fridge which we had brought with us from Luss. I also saw the old brass log box which has travelled with us for years (I think it came from Rachel’s home originally) and I saw several leather boxes which Rachel is keen to bring into the Granary and to use for storage in the bedroom. So my task for today was to liberate these items. Easier said than done for all were deep down under piles of boxes and for much of the morning I felt like a miner delving for treasure. But by lunchtime I had brought them out of the Hen House and got them into the Granary. Rachel set about cleaning the log box which will take up its position beside the stove once it (the log box) is gleaming as only polished brass can do. I got the fridge upstairs to the study – there is no room for it in the kitchen – and it will be used primarily for drinks and snacks. I had to scrub out the fridge and get it all set up but it was a satisfying task and it is now loaded up with Ginger Beer (and one bottle of Champaign).

Spent most of the afternoon chatting with Mum and then set the stove so that the lounge would be warm for the evening. We all dined together in the farmhouse – Olive is home so there were five of us around the table. We ate sausages and potatoes and followed them up with rice and jam (and Digger and I added ice-cream as well). Back in the Granary Rachel and I watched an episode of Endeavour. It was one that I hadn’t seen before and it was excellent.

I walked both dogs before bed (Rachel is still very stiff after her fall). Not much moon but the stars were shining really brightly and there was no one to be seen for miles around. It was absolutely beautiful. I have enjoyed today – particularly having reached the stage of starting to liberate things from the barns. The plan is to build the summer house as soon as it is delivered and to use it to store books. This will free space in the Hen House to enable us to convert this into another useable building – the work has already been started by the previous owners who actually got planning permission for all of our barns to be converted into holiday accommodation. I have no desire to have holiday accommodation but it would seem sensible to restore the barns and enable them to be used. I have no doubt that as the days go by we will come up with some ideas of what to do with the buildings but for now they are all being used to store boxes – and all of them have to emptied!

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Tuesday 26th. November, 2013 -- Continuing my week as a Chauffer 


The local Co-op in Duns where we buy our food


Up early in time to give each of the dogs a walk and Rachel a cup of tea in bed before setting off with Mum for the Borders General Hospital in Melrose so that she could attend the eye clinic there. To think that at the weekend I had never been to the Borders Hospital and now I have been there twice! Read my book in the waiting room while (appropriately) waiting for my mother. The wait was not a long one but it was nearer to mid day when we returned to Mount Pleasant.

Spent a while on the telephone with Mike who has been having a problem with the print machine at Luss. It really seems (as I have noted before) that so many of the machines at Luss have been waiting for my departure to give up the ghost – or it could be that I had learned over the years how to nurse them along and keep them going. Of course, it could also be that even the machines are just crying out for their retirement -- they have been well-used over many more years than their normal working lives. I also got an email with a list of the hymns for next Sunday at Arrochar and I transcribed them, prepared the music files and sent them off to Jamie.

At 2 p.m. I drove Mum into Duns for her regular hair appointment (moved to the afternoon this week because of the trip to hospital in the morning). Having dropped her off, I went to the Co-op to buy some fruit and cheese and to replenish my supplies of Ginger Beer. It is a small Co-op but the staff are helpful and friendly. Olive and Digger do the main shopping for our meals and they go to Berwick for this but the Co-op here is more than adequate for my needs. Came home and walked Mix (there is so little daylight at this time of year) and then drove back to Duns to collect Mum at 3.45 p.m. by which time today it was almost dark.



The main square in Duns looks very welcoming


Back home again, I went into one of the barns and brought out another box by torch-light. Discovered that it contained the games for an old Atari games machine which I must have bought more than thirty years ago – Space Invaders, Asteroids and many more. Set the machine up and ensured that all of the games were working – you’ll remember, perhaps, that I had found the console last Saturday and just a couple of the games; now I have around twenty with my particular favourites ‘Super Breakout’ which involves bouncing a ball back against a wall and dislodging bricks – the deeper you penetrate the wall, the faster the ball rebounds, and ‘Circus Atari’ which involves a see-saw which bounces a man into the sky to burst balloons – of course, you have to have the see-saw positioned below his fall to prevent him ‘splatting’ onto the ground. It was a journey back in time to an age when this was cutting-edge technology – and it was fun.



Rachel at her workstation


Rachel has taken today easy; most of the day she has been reading her book although I did snap her at her workstation. Those with keen eyesight will see that what she actually has on her computer screen is a game of patience. We dined with Mum and Digger and then came back to the Granary where we watched an episode of Montalbano – the Italian detective series set in Sicily. The programme is in Italian and it is good to hear the Italian language, even if much of it is in dialect.

Watched Newsnight, much of which was given over to the White Paper on the subject of Scottish Independence. As usual I thought that Gary Brewer wasted his opportunity of interviewing the First Minister by having too rigid a view of what he wanted to get out of the conversation. Frankly I am not much interested in what Mr. Brewer thinks, I want him to draw out what Alec Salmond believes. The interview was, it seemed to me, a missed opportunity. I found it interesting that so much of the White Paper sounded as if it were an election manifesto – a menu of offers for an independent Scotland. My first thought was that this was not what I had expected because that will be the business of those vying for power should Scotland become independent. But as I think about it, I am coming around to the view that this was quite an appropriate thing to do. The response, of course, is that many of these ‘offers’ could be delivered under devolution but that is only partly true. I was taken with the childcare plans which would enable huge numbers of women to get back into work, and who by being in work would generate the tax revenues to pay for the provision; tax revenues which in an independent Scotland would come to the Scottish Treasury. Such a move would be important for women but also tackles the real problem which Scotland has which is that we need a higher percentage of our population to be generating wealth to support an aging population. So there is much to think about and I would love to get a copy of the six-hundred-and-some-more page document and read it – something which, now that I am retired, I will have time to do! Somehow the debate has got a new edge to it for me now that we live so close to England and cross to Berwick sometimes several times a week.

Walked the dogs and went to bed.

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Monday 25th. November, 2013 – Really Good News 


A helicopter takes off from the Borders General Hospital after delivering a patient at the Accident and Emergency section


Rachel woke extremely sore and very stiff. I say ‘woke’ but in reality she hadn’t slept at all. I telephoned the doctor at 8 a.m. and an appointment was arranged for 8.50 a.m. Rachel was seen at once and after Rachel was given strong pain killers, we set off by car for the Borders General Hospital (who had been told that we were coming and so knew to expect us). There Rachel was x-rayed and examined. The fear had been that she had got a stress fracture (which would have meant immobilisation for six weeks) but the hospital was able to confirm that nothing was broken. They gave her more pills and instructed her to take things easy, not to bend down and not to lift anything – and not to go horse-riding again until she was totally recovered!

While waiting for Rachel, I saw what a busy place this hospital (based in Melrose) is. Ambulances and also the air ambulance (pictured above -- caught on my mobile 'phone) brought patients to the hospital while I watched. Happy that no serious harm had been done to Rachel's back, we drove back to Mount Pleasant, made some lunch and I finally managed to complete the sorting out of my clothes and removed some (which will have to wait until later) to one of the barns. Progress is being made. Rachel sat in front of the stove and read her book.

We dined with Mum and Digger in the farmhouse and afterwards returned to the Granary to enjoy the heat of the stove in our lounge (it was minus two outside earlier today). Caught University Challenge and part of a Two Ronnies repeat before walking both dogs – Rachel is still taking it easy – and getting to bed in time to watch the News in comfort.

Today has been a good one: Rachel has done nothing serious to her back and I have got both my study and my part of the bedroom into some kind of order, the deck has been laid for the summer house and the outside of the premises are fully dog-safe. My targets for November have largely been achieved. As in all the best computer games, I can now move on to level two. Exciting!


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Sunday 24th. November, 2013 – Could have been better! 


This is what is waiting for me at the farmhouse every morning


Rose early and walked Mix. I love walking on the roads around Mount Pleasant on a Sunday morning early, there is nothing on the roads and everything is wonderfully quiet. Went across to the farmhouse for breakfast (decided to let you see how well I am treated: bacon, egg and fried potatoes with two slices of toast and plenty of hot coffee. No wonder I have put on five kilos since retiring here).

Set off with Mum and Rachel to Gavinton Church. It was a lovely service conducted by members of the Guild and was, appropriately, on the theme of ‘Whose we are and whom we serve’ -- the address picked out two servants: Mary, the hand-maiden of the Lord, and Paul who had penned the words of the theme, a servant of the Lord. But the challenge, of course, is for us all. Enjoyed the hymns, prayers and a little sketch which added to the theme as well. Following the service we all adjourned to the hall where the Guild served brunch, the proceeds being devoted to two of the Guild projects – the Cross Reach project and Comfort Rwanda. The Guild here provides support for all of the six projects but as the project duration is for three years it concentrates on two of them each year. Seems like a good way of doing things. The service, too, was a good way of marking Guild Week.



A snap of the inside of the Church as folk began to disperse


It was good to see Ann, the minister, back after her recent cold – and I did enjoy the brunch. Back at Mount Pleasant, Rachel got ready to go horse riding for the first time in many a long year. Dorothy arrived to take her along to the riding school and I set about sorting the clothes in the bedroom. It is a task which has been hanging over my head for several days and I had promised to do it all today. In fact I got started but that was about all because Rachel returned having been thrown by her horse – she said that it was down to over-confidence on her part as she kicked the hose to try to move it from a trot to a canter and then lost a stirrup as she rounded a bend: gravity did the rest. But falling to the ground when you are sixty-eight is very different from the regular knocks which we took as children and she is very shaken and has a very sore back. I’m hoping that is all it is; we gave her frozen chips (in the packet) to try to take down any swelling and she has been lying down ever since.



Dorothy arrives to collect Rachel


Well, that’s not quite true because she staggered across to the farmhouse for an evening meal (toad in the hole followed vegetable soup and preceded ice cream and stewed apples – fabulous). I got Rachel off to bed with an electric blanket under her back and we will review the situation in the morning. I never did get the clothes sorted and even the disastrous defeat suffered by England in Australia has paled into insignificance with thinking of what might have happened when Rachel, with her history of back problems, fell off her horse. Thankfully her legs seem fine but, at the very least, she is going to be very stiff tomorrow.

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Saturday 23rd. November, 2013 -- A Day in Reverse and a Roaring Stove 


A Roaring Stove


I woke early this morning and was out walking Mix soon after eight. I got back to Mount Pleasant and wandered across to the farmhouse for breakfast to discover that the door was locked and everyone was still asleep. So Mix and I came back to the Granary and planned our day before returning for breakfast a little later on.

Up until now life has been about emptying boxes but, even although only a tiny fraction of them have been opened, we are now in the business of repacking boxes and stacking them in another barn until later on. I suppose it is inevitable two large homes into one much smaller one will only go with the greatest difficulty and there will be lots of getting organised. So today I must have packed and carried around twenty boxes and packed them into a barn, all clearly labelled and waiting for the next stage of our operations. It is actually quite exciting.

Mum and Digger went into Duns to shop and, in the late afternoon, after walking Mix, I joined the others for sherry before dinner in the farmhouse. Much later on Rachel and I returned to the Granary where our stove had created a beautifully warm living room for us to relax in. Rachel had chosen an old episode of Foyle’s War for us to watch and afterwards we got caught up in a reconstruction of the killing of President Kennedy. Then we walked the dogs and retired to bed.



A relaxed dog – Rowan takes it easy on the mat in front of the stove


I tend to make all of this dealing with boxes sound rather tedious. In fact nothing could be further from the truth. Today I found the old, old (ancient really) Atari games console which plugged into the TV so many years ago. The console on which we played Space Invaders, Asteroids and Frogger and so many more. So I lost an hour ensuring that it still functioned. It did but I’m afraid I have lost all my old skills and dexterity. Will have to spend more time with it in the coming days! I also found a box with midi files of all of the Gilbert and Sullivan Operas. Plugged them in and sang through the Contrabandista (that was another hour lost – no, not lost. Greatly enjoyed in a way that I would never have dreamed of doing when I was still working.) Retirement is great – there is always tomorrow and today is about grasping the moment and doing things as they occur. I also found my old Stellarscope and, you guessed it, spent time examining the sky and identifying the stars – really nostalgic because when I was small my Dad used to take me out to the garden and identify them for me.



Top Dog – the Dogs’ Trust would be hard-pressed to recognise Mix as the terror he used to be


Got a letter this morning from the Session Clerk of Gavinton Church to say that we were now members of their congregation. It is good to belong and it will be good to worship there again tomorrow morning (by which time, I expect, England will have surrendered the first Test – well, it would be greedy to expect that absolutely everything would go my way).

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Friday 22nd. November, 2013 -- Into a Routine 


My window on the Gabba at Brisbane -- this morning was not a happy one for England


Got up and breakfasted with Olive and Digger before walking Mix and then coming back to the Granary to start work on boxes. The way it works is that I find a couple of boxes and open them. I then bring the contents to my study and in the process totally disrupt the study. I then spend ages getting the study back in order and the items from the newly opened boxes become absorbed into the house. Then I go and get another few boxes from the barn and start all over again. It is a long slow process!

Tom and Dorothy arrived to collect some of Tom’s tools and then Rachel set off for Berwick. I spent quite a while searching for some of the boxes which had my clothes in them. I found four and got them emptied and sorted. Then walked Mix in the last of the daylight.



Rachel and Rowan


Back at Mount Pleasant I continued with the sorting and then went across to the farmhouse for a sherry before dinner – we ate cheese and bean pie (one of my all-time favourites) followed by ice-cream with bramble sauce and coffee. Back in the Granary I watched an episode of Midsummer Murders while Rachel started her Christmas letter on her laptop and Rowan sat on the sofa and took an interest in all that was going on. Mix, older and more sensible, went to sleep. We walked the dogs and I went to bed. It wasn’t that I didn’t want to watch the cricket, and it wasn’t that I had lost interest after England’s dramatic collapse during last night – it was just that I couldn’t keep my eyes open. So bed calls – however, I will listen to Test Match Special and hope for something better. I likened the experience of last night as going out of the room when your football team was two nil ahead and coming back a little later to discover that your team is now losing ten two. The collapse was as dramatic as that. I wrote yesterday that you can never tell what is the state of a match until both teams have batted – those were prophetic words. Australia’s failure to reach three hundred looked bad when England marched into bat. Once they had bowled England out for a hundred and thirty odd, it looked very different indeed! It is hard to see how England can recover from here.


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Thursday 21st. November, 2013 – Wind and More Wind 


If it is too windy or wet to go for a walk, Mix and Rowan are happy chasing each other around our courtyard


It was a really blustery night – I went to bed about 2. Australia had just lost their second wicket for something in the seventies. I slept until 6 when I checked the score again and found that they had now lost six wickets. When I woke at 8 the cricket was over for the day and Australia had lost eight wickets for 273 runs. One would have guessed that this had been a good day for England but you can never tell until both sides have batted.

The rain was streaming down and the wind was still blustering, so I breakfasted before walking Mix and then I settled down to do the music for Arrochar Church. This done, I started on the clothes in the bedroom but no sooner had I started than we discovered that a few boxes which Rachel had covered with a couple of tarpaulins had lost their tarpaulins in the storm, so we brought the boxes into the house and emptied them. No harm has been done except that we now have items to deal with which we had intended to leave until later.

The rest of the ‘working’ day was spent dealing with these boxes (and quite a lot remains for tomorrow as well). We dined in the farmhouse – Olive has now returned from Dundee so we were all together which is great. I sorted out some of the finds from the boxes in the evening. This included an mp3 player with a recording of an half hour radio programme about Luss made by the BBC in either 2004 or 2005. I listened to it and would love to share it with my folk back in the Church. I had forgotten all about it but it was incredibly prophetic with great contributions from John Sinclair, Lorrain, Robbie and John and Margaret MacEachern. At the time the recording was made the Pilgrimage Centre had been recently opened but the bridge across to the glebe was still just a dream.

I had intended to watch the news and Newsnight but instead I fell asleep, waking in time to walk Mix and settle down to watch the cricket in front of a roaring stove. England polished off Australia’s tail quickly and Australia did not reach 300 which I had considered to be the least they required. However, England had only advanced to 55 for two wickets by lunch and we will need a good afternoon session if we are to gain from all of the bowlers' good work.

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Wednesday 20th. November, 2013 -- Retirement as I always imagined it 


Rachel has just added the final screw and the decking is complete


It rained all night and I wondered, as I lay in my warm bed and listened to the rain, whether we would be able to complete the decking as planned. But when I got up at eight, the sun was shining and there was a blustery wind. I walked Mix and breakfasted with Mum and Digger and while I was eating my toast (having enjoyed egg and bacon) Tom arrived to continue my apprenticeship as a deck builder. By lunchtime we had all of the decking cut and had installed the fencepost anchors at the four corners and we had ensured that everything was absolutely level. After lunch we screwed down the final lengths of decking and then were glad to get inside as the rain began to fall – in any event we were beginning to get extremely cold. But what a sense of achievement!

While Rachel went off for a hot bath, I walked Mix along the Kelso Road, back along Bramble Avenue, and back to the house by the Swinton Road. I cleaned my drill (and recharged the battery) and then packed everything away. Spent the next hour on the telephone as a number of friends caught up with me and then It was time for an early tea (mince and potatoes) before Mum was collected by a friend and set off for the Duns Guild. I came home and promptly fell asleep – partly because I have been out in the fresh air all day and partly because I was keen to have some sleep so that I could stay awake later in the evening to watch the start of the Ashes Test Series from Brisbane. I enjoyed the build up and watched the first hour in front of the stove by which time we had captured one wicket but Warner was scoring quite freely.

But this is how I imagined retirement to be – a day in the fresh air doing something I wouldn’t normally get to do and then being able to sit up and enjoy the cricket from Australia without worrying about whether I am fresh to do my job tomorrow. I’m looking forward to the whole of the Test Series and I’m looking forward to the next stage of my apprenticeship when the kit arrives and Tom, Rachel and I start work on constructing our summer house.

We have so many plans. Next to the Granary is our hen house. Eventually it will house a library and some more accommodation for those who come to visit. And then we will start on the barns .... Meanwhile Digger is developing the small holding and will soon start work on building the first of several domes which will be used to grow crops which require the assistance which such a dome will give. Life is incredibly exciting.

Should say that I am getting less aware of all that is going on in the world – watching the news and Newsnight is becoming less important – but I have been fascinated by the story of the Rev. Paul Flower, a Methodist minister, who became Chairman of the Co-operative Bank, and has got into trouble partly (according to what we are told on TV) through personal failings and partly through the failings of the bank. What has amazed me (and this will seem extremely trivial to many who read this) is that everyone is calling Mr. Flower ‘Reverend Flower’. I mean everyone: BBC presenters and reporters, people interviewed, the Prime Minister and so on. It is absolutely incorrect. ‘Reverend Paul Flower’ is OK but otherwise it really should be ‘Mr. Flower’. I know that the response will be – how inconsequential compared with what he is accused of having done – well, perhaps, but I have a thing about it and retired people have to have hobbyhorses.

All in all, today was a mixed day for the Church. The Scottish Parliament took the decision to allow same gender marriage (I believe that same gender relationships should have the same rights, privileges and responsibilities as mixed gender ones; but I cannot believe that this is marriage nor that parliament has the ability to redefine something which is so integral to human life around the world). However, today the journey towards women bishops in the Church of England took a big step forward at the meeting of the General Synod. It seems that this matter may finally be resolved in the next couple of years – I know it is still a long time, but at least things are moving forward. Talking about a couple of years, as I move from someone who has been working at the coal-face for such a long time to an observer with a growing element of detachment, I do seriously wonder if there is much of a future for the Church of Scotland. I am sure that there is a real future for Christianity in Scotland and I am sure that God has great plans for our country but now that I have time to look around I am surprised at how many ministers are on the point of retiring and at how tiny are so many congregations. There are, however, some really good things happening and these need to be celebrated by all of us. I’m looking forward to getting my summer house which will also be my office and where I hope to write. Another bonus of retirement for me is that things start to buzz around my head: fresh ideas and an enthusiasm to start work on the book I hope to write and, who knows, maybe that will make a contribution to the debate about where we are going?

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Tuesday 19th. November, 2013 – My Apprenticeship begins 


Rachel and Tom have done a grand job of creating the frame for the decking on which our new summer house will sit.


Up early, walked Mix along Bramble Avenue, breakfasted with Mum and Digger and then Tom arrived, brought here by Dorothy – and my apprenticeship began. I started the day the proud owner of a drill (bought yesterday from Pearsons), I ended up with a drill, a metre rule and a level (one of those things with a bubble in it). Our task was to build the decking platform on which the new summer house will sit. We set off for Pearson to buy more screws and knee-pads (I forgot to mention I now owned a set of knee-pads) and some back plastic to place under the decking platform. Tom set up his bench saw and along with Rachel we created the framework on which the decking would be built. It was perfectly right-angled and also totally level. We were ready to begin – but first Tom went off home with Dorothy for lunch while I completed the task of sorting out the study. It is now really quite organised.

Tom soon returned and we set to work cutting the decking to size and fitting and screwing it to the frame. After an hour or so I had almost got the hang of screwing the decking down, holding the lengths of decking as Tom fed them through the saw, and ensuring that there was an appropriate gap between the different lengths of decking. By the time the light failed we had completed half of the decking and – providing the weather holds tomorrow -- the task will be completed. Of course, if the weather doesn’t hold, then there will be other days – that’s the beauty of retirement. Now that I can see that the job will be done, and buoyed up by the realisation that we will probably be able to complete the whole project ourselves (well, Tom and Rachel are really quite skilled) I went ahead and ordered the kit for the summer house – even although I remain quite miffed that the fact that we are five miles over the English border means that I have to pay a transport surcharge. No wonder that some people are so violently nationalist. However, not to buy the summer house I want because of this would seem like cutting off my nose to spite my face; so I have paid up and put it behind me.



Dorothy, Tom and Rachel on the decking so far created


As the last of the light was fading, Rachel and I walked Rowan and Mix. Back at the Granary we fed the dogs and I cleaned the study to complete its make-over. Then we joined Mum and Digger for a delicious fish-pie followed by stewed (home-grown) apples, custard and ice cream. Later we made our way back to the Granary where we watched an episode of Midsomer Murders which we had missed when it was first shown, walked the dogs (the wind had got up and it was really cold) and were very glad to get to bed. I am already extremely stiff and I hate to think what my body is going to have to say to me tomorrow morning.

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Monday 18th. November, 2013 – Family Visitors 


Mum with her sisters, Agnes and Jean


Slept incredibly well. I’ve always slept well, the moment my head hits the pillow I am asleep; but since we moved down here I have slept even better. I suppose that it is because I am no longer on call and no longer have the responsibilities I had before. Some say that it is the change of air and perhaps it is but our bedroom is also incredibly warm – even with the heating turned off and the windows wide open: our house is marvellously insulated. Whatever the reason I am sleeping so well.

Woke, walked Mix and breakfasted in the farmhouse before driving Mum into Duns to get provisions for a picnic around the farmhouse table when Mum’s visitors arrived. We bought from the Co-op and then from the Bakers and hurried home to welcome Mum’s sisters Agnes and Jean who had been driven down by Jean’s son-in-law, Peter. After coffee (with snowballs and wagon wheels) they went on a tour of the entire premises – a tour of the house with Mum, of the Granary with Rachel, of the allotment and gardens with Digger and around the barns with me. It was time for a soup and sandwich lunch and prolonged chat before Mum’s guests had to leave (Peter had an appointment in Edinburgh at 4 p.m.). Mum had enjoyed having her sisters to inspect her new home and we had all enjoyed their visit – good to get a blether with Peter as well. (Agnes, as well as being my aunt, is also my God-mother -- a role she has always exercised extremely diligently and lovingly -- and so is doubly important to me.)

I set off for Pearsons in Duns to get the bits and pieces required for the start of our project to create a summer house tomorrow. As usual, Mix travelled in the back of the car behind the deluxe and extra-strong grill supplied by Halfords. When I came out of Pearsons, Mix was sitting happily in the driving seat as much as to say, ‘Well, I don’t think much of those prison bars.’ Back home Rachel set about a temporary repair – I think that we are going to have to have the whole of the back of the car welded.

We walked the dogs and then came back to boxes before dining with Digger and Mum in the farmhouse. Back to the Granary in time to watch University Challenge (it was a dead-heat -- what a shame that one side had to lose) after which I did some more tidying before the News and Newsnight. We walked the dogs again. The moonlight is so bright that we didn’t need a torch except to have in case a car appeared on the road. This really is a fabulous place to live and we are so very, very fortunate.

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Sunday 17th. November, 2013 – Sundays are Good! 


Bamburgh Castle from the beach


Woke again after the most amazing dreams. I was in London when I got a call to say that I was needed to come and conduct a service at Luss because there was no one else. (Well, that’s easy – I spoke on the phone to Bill last night and he was telling me that he was conducting two weddings at Luss.) It was too late to catch a train from London so I went into a garage to hire a car. Simon (from SAS in Helensburgh) was working at the garage in London. He didn’t have a car but he offered me a bicycle – only it was one you stood on, like the machines you see in some of the tourist spots around Europe. I had to find a map and then to be sure, I went into a small hardware shop where a delightful old lady sold me a compass. I set off for Luss (which for some extraordinary reason was now in Fife). I arrived just in time for the service to discover that the church had been united, not with another church, but with a lifeboat station. The congregation was upstairs in a kind of horseshoe gallery which I addressed from the pulpit (there were only six people present, two ladies and four children). No sooner had I announced the first hymn than people rushed in and launched the lifeboat and everything was drowned out in the sound of the boat descending from the church into the sea. Alarms were going off everywhere and I awoke.

Got up, walked Mix and breakfasted in the farmhouse before driving Mum and Rachel to Gavinton Church where we joined Tom and Dorothy for the morning service. It was conducted this morning by Bill Paterson, a retired minister, as Ann is still suffering from her cold. I enjoyed Bill’s service which was based on the Call of Moses: called to something he didn’t want to do (he saw it was necessary but could someone else not, please, be chosen for the task?); speaking to our generation is as important and we are often chosen for a special task. So watch out for burning bushes!

After the service we had coffee in the hall and met more of the congregation and once we had returned home we quickly set off for Bamburgh where Rachel and I walked the dogs on the beach. Rowan is so taken with the sea and loves nothing better than to frolic among the waves. Back home I lit the stove and went back to working in the study on the next stage of the sorting out process.



Rowan is fascinated by the sea


In the early evening we all (Olive, Digger, Rachel, Mum and I) piled into my car and went to Duns where we ate at the China Palace. It was absolutely excellent and we received a great welcome. Good food, huge portions and well looked-after. We came back replete and I started again on the study. Remembered it was the weekend (!) so stopped and watched some TV before going to bed.

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Saturday 16th. November, 2013 – I learn that progress means upheaval 


Nick, Amy and David


Up and breakfasted before walking the dog – this is getting to be a habit! I was so sleepy this morning and woke in the middle of a very vivid dream: I was back in the Sailor’s Rest in Genoa (my first job). I’d been sent to look after it until someone could come and run the place full-time. A whole crowd of Dutch sailors arrived looking for a film (the big 16mm films in their tin containers). They had handed one in last time they were in the port and now they needed a new one to watch on their voyage. I was in the middle of contacting British ships in the port to see if anyone had a film to give them when I woke with a start because I remembered that a friend of Mum’s was coming to collect her just after nine o’clock.

Had breakfast and saw Mum off before walking Mix. Rachel set off for Berwick to buy some hardware for the house and I started opening more boxes with clothes in them. There are far too many clothes to fit into the limited space we have so I had to start sorting them all out, which meant trying things on and making difficult decisions. And, of course, turning my room into an absolute tip once again – and only yesterday I had finally got it looking good. Ah, well!

Drove across to Scott’s home to have afternoon tea with my brother and sister-in-law, and with my niece, Katie and my nephew Nick and his wife Amy and her Dad, David, who had flown in from Australia to attend the 100th. birthday celebrations for his aunt. It was really good to see them all and to hear how well they are getting on and how much they are all enjoying life. It was especially good to renew contact with David whom I had so very much enjoyed meeting at Nick and Amy's wedding just a year ago -- the trip which brought me to the Borders and which started this amazing adventure which has resulted in us living in the Granary at Mount Pleasant. Mum had also been dropped off at Scott's home by her friend and after afternoon tea and lots of chat I drove Mum back to Mount Pleasant.

The picture at the head of today’s entry is of my nephew and his wife and her father. I had intended to include a picture of my delightful niece, Katie, but when I checked the photo I discovered that she had put her tongue out as I took the picture, presumably to prevent me being able to use it for my blog. So I have included it below in any event.



Katie


Back home, I cooked the supper which Rachel, Mum and I ate around the table in the Granary kitchen. Olive had been speaking at a conference in Aberdeen today and she and Digger had met up in Edinburgh for a meal with Jeffrey, my other nephew, and Devon. After the meal we watched the final Poirot which we had all missed on Wednesday evening. In the best traditions of the ‘who done it’ there was a real twist in the tale and I enjoyed it. There was just time to walk Mix before retiring for the night.

On the sporting front, I watched the rugby -- England against New Zealand -- as I worked on my clothes. England did well, I thought, but new Zealand won. And Sachin Tendulkar brought his Test career to an end with a resounding victory for India against the West Indies. He scored 74. I was sorry that he didn't get a century but he did well and his retirement marks the end of an era of Indian cricket (not least because he has been ever present for such a long time).

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Friday 15th. November, 2013 – And another great day. 


Our decking is delivered


Rose, breakfasted and walked Mix (yes, the order indicates that I slept in, but Oh, am I sleeping well). Then it was hard work all day to sort out clothes, emptying boxes and delighting in being reunited with old friends. Unfortunately we