Thursday 30th. October, 2014 – A new load of wood: a new wall to build 

Tom and David are pleased with the start we have made on building the internal walls in the Bothy. I am quite excited about how it will look this time tomorrow -- I know I shouldn't because things often happen to waylay us and, in any case, one of our new rules of life is that we are retired and things proceed at their own pace (or just a little bit slower)

Woke, walked Mix, breakfasted and soon afterwards David arrived. No Tom until lunchtime today because he has other commitments. We had expected a delivery of wood this morning but it didn’t arrive until after eleven and by that time Tom was with us. So we unloaded the wood and then went for lunch at Pearsons.

In the afternoon we set up the backing posts for the first wall and then set about starting to fit the wall timbers. We did enough (see the photograph at the head of this entry to see that it is going to look very good). Tom and David went off to their homes (David having a coffee first) and then Rachel and I joined Digger for supper in the farmhouse. Mum and Olive were missing: Olive was lecturing in Dundee and Mum was meeting a Kirkcaldy group and her friend Rosemary in Edinburgh to attend a performance of Barnum at the Playhouse. Both returned in the evening (Mum having enjoyed her day and Rachel’s lecturing having gone well), by which time Rachel was in Berwick attending her choir with Bridget – during the day today, when she wasn’t driving, Rachel continued to get things ready for her kilt-making course next week and did some more painting in the Bothy while David got her heating sorted out.

In the evening I worked in the summer house trying to figure out how my video camera downloaded pictures on to the computer with a view to putting some on my web-page soon.

Rachel returned and we watched the news before bed. It has been a good day.

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Wednesday 29th. October, 2014 -- More progress 

It is just beginning to get dark – it does that so early now – and Rachel is putting the undercoat on the Bothy door so that it is protected from the elements

Today was a beautiful day. I got up, walked Mix and breakfasted in the farmhouse. Neither David nor Tom were here this morning so I worked on in the bothy on my own and enjoyed it immensely. Olive and Digger had driven up to Kirkcaldy for the funeral of the father of one of their friends, while Rachel was working in the Stables.

Around lunchtime both Tom and David arrived and we continued on the bothy – Tom fitting the ironmongery to the bothy door. We cleared out the bothy in preparation for the wood for the wall-cladding which will arrive tomorrow and we stacked the timbers for the wall-framing. Then, while Tom was continuing with the ironmongery, David, Rachel and I rummaged in the Hen House to discover the sails for Olivebank. We found them and checked them over, repacked them and set them aside ready for the sailing season next year!

Rachel started giving the new door a coat of undercoat paint, David drank coffee in the summer house, Tom went off to prepare tea for the family and I prepared all of the music for Arrochar Church’s service this Sunday.

Rachel and I dined in the farmhouse and in the evening we watched the final part of Scott and Bailey – it has been an excellent series (and ended in a satisfactory manner) – before walking the dogs and retiring to bed.

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Tuesday 28th. October, 2014 – We start on the door 

Just before tea tonight Rachel called to me to come outside – there was a most stupendous sky: as red as I have ever seen. We have had stormy weather today and quite a bit of rain. It had recently stopped raining and maybe this is a sign that tomorrow the weather will be more settled

Up, walked Mix and breakfasted. Tom arrived early and we were soon at work on the bothy, our task for today to make a door and fit it – something which relied heavily on Tom’s considerable joinery talents.

By the end of the working day, the job was all but done. My picture shows the door screwed back, out of the doorway because it was important to try to keep it dry until it can be painted tomorrow.

You can’t really see the door but it is all there and once it has been painted it will be splendid. Tomorrow we have ironmongery to fit and there is still a gap at the right of the door to be filled and then some tidying up to be done. After that, it is on with the walls. We have ordered an excellent pine cladding which will look really good

Today Olive and Mum both went to have their hair done, Rachel and Digger were the drivers, and later in the day Mum went to her Tai Chi class while Rachel worked in the stables preparing for the kilt-making classes which will start next week.

Once Tom went off home for the day I set about gutting my bathroom, always a major task. Then it was time for supper (after standing and watching that spectacular sky). Finally, Rachel and I watched a Midsomer Murder before seeking the warmth and comfort of our bed, first having walked the dogs and put them to bed. It has been a really good day.

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Monday 27th. October, 2014 – Getting on 

By the end of our working day (we have to have several long coffee breaks in which to put the world to rights) we had completed the window section of the ‘Bothy opening’ at which point, feeling extremely pleased with ourselves, we retired to the summer house, drank coffee and discussed pensions

Rose and walked Mix before breakfast. Olive and Digger had already left Mount Pleasant, driving to Fife to help Devon at Dunfermline and then to visit a charity whose accounts Olive checks over. Tom and David arrived and we set about our task for today – working out what we are to do with the big hole in the front of the bothy, presumably made at some time in the past to enable a tractor to be garaged there.

Having drawn up a plan on the back of an envelope, we went off to Pearsons to purchase the wood we required, some screws and hinges for the door. Then we started to try to fit the wood together.

Stopped for lunch and afterwards fitted a frame and inserted the windows which Tom had rescued from a house renovation. Delighted with progress we called it a day (until tomorrow when our task will be to make a door and fit it all together). What enormous fun we are having.

David is having more fun than most, having just got himself a rescue dog – a small spaniel called Nel. In the picture below he is pictured on the phone at lunch time with Nel on his lap and Sasha, the dog he shares with Rebecca, by his side.

David with Nel and Sasha

Olive and Digger returned home and later Rachel, Mum, Olive Digger and I ate in the farmhouse and later still (without Digger) met up in the Granary to watch Grantchester. I retired (having walked Mix) to continue reading. There is something especially pleasant about curling up in bed with a book on these nights in which the winds are howling and winter is getting closer. Should say that we seem to be extremely fortunate as regards weather. Everyone else seems to be having real downpours while we have escaped almost all of the heavy rain. This is a very good place in which to live.

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Sunday 26th. October, 2014 – Rachel’s birthday 

The flowers which yesterday were hanging in a bag in the kitchen are now gracing the chancel in Gavinton Church – and very nice they looked

Woke and wished Rachel a happy birthday. I had got her a new soldering iron – doesn’t sound very interesting, but it was a very special one and she will use it for her stained-glass designing: in fact she couldn’t wait and started to use it this afternoon.

I showered, walked Mix and breakfasted in the farmhouse before Mum, Rachel and I went off to Gavinton Church where we joined Tom and Dorothy and David for a service on the theme of Bible Sunday conducted by Veronica and Ken (Veronica was a daughter of the Manse at Buckhaven in the days before I went there as minister. Her father was Mr. Fraser, the last minister at St. David’s Church.)

After the service we joined everyone for coffee in the hall and then returned to Mount Pleasant where Tom and Dorothy presented Rachel with a set of overalls for her birthday. Mix gave her a bottle of very fine malt whisky and Rowan added a very large box of Dairy Milk Chocolates.

We dined with the family in the farmhouse and more presents followed, some interesting wooden items made by the bodger at Bolton Abbey. Rachel blew out the candle on her cake – although the candle was of intense interest to Rowan who clearly enjoys birthdays.

Rowan wonders if she ought to blow out the candle to save Rachel the trouble – Rachel managed without Rowan’s help. It might be that Rowan was engaged in diversionary tactics, for while she was thus entertaining us Mix ate the remains of the pre-lunch nibbles

I had offered to take Rachel out for the afternoon but she preferred to play with her new soldering iron (making some beautiful stained-glass items) until it was time for she and I to drive to Berwick to attend Evensong (with a small jazz band providing a musical interlude). The Church is engaged in a period of assessment and is coming up with some good ideas, not least a prayer area in the Church for daily use. I got a copy of their plans which I will enjoy reading tomorrow.

Rachel and I enjoyed a quick snack before we all sat down to watch Downton Abbey, after which we walked the dogs and retired – it has been fair all day (unlike the rest of the country) but it is exceedingly windy.

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Saturday 25th. October, 2014 – I couldn’t be more relaxed if I tried 

I saw this bag of flowers hanging from the desk in the kitchen and was taken not by the flowers (most of them cannot be seen as they are inside the bag) but by the sunlight which was coming in through the window. They are flowers which Rachel has gathered for Church in Gavinton tomorrow

Rose extremely late (it was after ten) and went for a walk with Mix. Returned and went to the summer house where I read until Scott and Sue arrived and then I joined them for an hour or so in the farmhouse over a sherry with Mum. Olive and Digger, and Rachel (independently) had gone off to a wool event in St. Abbs.

Afterwards Olive and Digger returned home to collect Mum and then set off for Edinburgh to wish Devon, Jeff’s partner, a happy birthday.

Rachel returned and then went off to Gavinton to do the flowers for tomorrow’s service. I continued reading my book about navigation in front of a fire in the lounge in the Granary. I had a spot of lunch and I checked my emails in a cursory fashion but most of all I enjoyed the heat and a good book.

Later we all dined in the farmhouse, all the wanders were back under one roof again, and in the evening I read some more, absorbed some more heat and walked Mix before setting off for another early night and in bed, you’ve guessed it, I’ll do a bit more reading of my book!

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Friday 24th. October, 2014 – A short entry for a long day! 

Rachel with the dogs – Rachel is hanging on to them both to prevent them wandering out of shot. Doesn't the boat look spacious?

Up before five and on the road soon afterwards, travelling south to Barnoldswick. I was driving, Rachel was sleeping (as was Rowan). Mix was noisily trying to reorganise his cage at the back of the car for almost the entire journey.

We made good time, well we were very early – but then we hit all of the road works around Newcastle and I hate to think what it would have been like had there been much more traffic.

Down at the boat we met up with Olive and Digger who had had a good time exploring Barnoldswick, Skipton, Harrogate and Bolton Abbey (where they met the bodger). They had also enjoyed eating out at The Bull and at The Anchor Inn.

After they set off for home, Rachel closed down the boat while I sorted the toilets (the things that have to be done on boats)! I saw Wayne and paid our next year’s subscription. This will be year five and it is still the same price as the year we arrived – but then everything about Lower Park Marina is good value, and the people are all lovely.

We set off for home just after twelve and, because of our experience this morning, we drove back on the west coast returning via Langholm, Hawick and Kelso. We were still home by four (and before Olive and Digger who had stopped to explore Morpeth).

Got a phone call from David to say he has today been given a rescue spaniel -- Nel -- who is five years old. We are to meet her on Monday. (David sounded really excited.)

We all dined in the farmhouse on a Chinese take-away to save anyone having to cook and soon afterwards I retired to bed – I’m going to watch Lewis on television (but I may well fall asleep before it is half-way through). Now I just have to walk Mix first.

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Thursday 23rd. October, 2014 – Job done! 

It’s the end of the day and David is tidying up, Rowan and Mix are wondering why I have arrived with my camera. Not to record them, of course, but to get a picture of the Bothy now with a wooden floor. It started the week with no floor and with no wood on site. First the joists were delivered and then the floor boards and now we have a floor. There is still plenty to do before the Bothy is complete, but we have made excellent progress and now have a roof and a floor. Next week we start on the windows and a door – watch this space

Rose, showered, walked Mix and breakfasted with Mum and Tom in the farmhouse. David arrived and we started work on completing the floor. It took us until the middle of the afternoon, but we got it done. Rachel and Dorothy went off to their glass class and, at lunchtime, Tom, David and I went off to Pearsons where I bought a new butane cylinder for the heater in the summer house and David bought us lunch.

By the time we returned to Mount Pleasant, Mum had gone off to the Gavinton Guild. We completed the floor before Dorothy and Rachel returned at which point we all went our separate ways – I went into Duns to get some food for tea which we cooked and shared with Mum in the Granary before Rachel went off to her choir in Berwick.

Then it was off to bed for an early night because we have a very early start to go down to Barnoldswick tomorrow. Walked Mix and retired to bed.

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Wednesday 22nd. October, 2014 – Getting along like a house on fire! 

By the end of today we had half of the floor laid in the Bothy. That was our target and that was what we achieved – we may even have done a bit more than half of the floor but with a bit of luck we shall complete the task tomorrow

Up and walked Mix before breakfast. Tom and David arrived and we set about flooring the Bothy. David cutting the timber and Tom and I blind nailing it down. Rachel provided coffee in front of the stove in the Granary in mid morning and again in the afternoon (in the afternoon we got cake). At lunchtime Tom and David both went home, Tom to lunch with Dorothy, David to check on his mail.

It was more of the same in the afternoon, but there was plenty of time for banter and laughter and we achieved a lot. The Bothy is going to be lovely. Once Tom and David had left I retired to the summer house to prepare the music for Arrochar’s service this Sunday.

Dined in the Granary on steak pie I bought from the visiting butcher this morning and then I drove Mum into Duns to the Guild which she was addressing tonight on her Enigma experiences. Rachel and I watched television in front of the stove -- Scott and Bailey – and soon it was time to walk the dogs and retire to bed.

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Tuesday 21st. October, 2014 – A very pleasant and quiet day 

After our activity yesterday in setting out the joists for the Bothy, today the wood was delivered for the floorboards. It is beautiful larch and will, I am sure, look spectacular by the time that the floorboards have been laid

Up and walked Mix – it is very blowy and much colder than it was yesterday. I breakfasted with Mum in the farmhouse. (Olive and Digger are still down in Barnoldswick on Rachel’s narrow boat.) Tom is otherwise engaged today and David is not around this morning so I had a really quiet morning gathering together all the information I could find about Macgregor 19s. It is going to be quite a project to get her all shipshape again and I am looking forward to it enormously.

I went across to the farmhouse to wait for the fish man (who normally delivers to us on a Tuesday lunchtime) but although I waited an hour somehow our paths didn’t cross. While waiting I watched Mum’s tv which because it was on Channel 5 I just left on Channel 5. I have never seen a programme like it, it was all about neighbours who had fallen out. Now I can imagine that neighbours do fall out, but why would you want to go on television and tell everyone else about it. No one at all came out of the programme with any dignity.

Back in the summer house, I enjoyed some lunch (left over from our feast last night) and then I started looking for a book with which to brush up my navigational skills – I have several but unfortunately I haven’t a clue in which of the hundreds of boxes we have they are to be found. I discovered that there are some stupendous computer courses on offer – I have done the theory before but it was never like this! I am seriously considering taking one of these courses to refresh my knowledge.

Charlotte arrived with our floorboards – she seemed quite surprised to discover that all of the joists which she had delivered yesterday had already been laid – and Rachel and I started to unload the wood. Just as we got started David arrived and was able to help me to complete the task, and then to get them all neatly stacked in the Bothy all ready for tomorrow when we shall start to lay the floor.

David and I enjoyed a coffee and then I got things ready for dinner – Mum joined us in the Granary, after which we watched last night’s New Tricks. (Mum has had a busy day, first at the hairdresser for a perm and then at her Tai Chi, having stayed in Duns for a bite to eat at Hugo’s between the two parts of her programme.) I walked Mix and went to bed extremely early – I have to be ready for tomorrow’s floor-laying!

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Monday 20th. October, 2014 – We make progress 

Tom cuts while David holds the timber – the result: floor joists cut to size for the new Bothy floor

The proof of the pudding – by the end of the afternoon the floor joists of the Bothy have been cut to size and fitted in position. As soon as we get the floor boards we can get them laid and move on to the next stage of our project

Up and walked Mix before breakfast. Olive and Digger set off south to spend the week on Rachel’s narrow boat. Tom and David arrived and we put the world to rights arguing about boats and marinas, about brakes for trailers, about navigation, about dogs and much more until Charlotte arrived with all of our wood for creating floor joists, on her truck. We quickly got the wood off her truck and were on the point of starting work when we decided that it would be better to have lunch.

Tom went off to Gavinton while David and I went up to Pearsons to buy nails for the floor and to see if we could get hold of the special while stones which Mum wanted for her garden. Pearsons are superb, they had the stones and they agreed to deliver them this very afternoon.

Back home, Stewart (Mum’s gardener) was working on the garden. The stones arrived and were craned over the hedge right into position from where Stewart spread the stones to Mum’s satisfaction.

Mum’s little garden outside her window at lunch time today

The same garden at tea time today -- just wait until the pots are ablaze with colour!

Meanwhile Tom, David and I had started work on fitting the floor joists into place. Each joist was cut to size and fitted and then all of the joists were made exactly level both independently and with all of the other joists. It was quite complicated but Tom knew exactly what he was doing.

Job done and everyone went about their other business, Tom to Gavinton, David to return Sasha to Rebecca, and me to Duns to do some shopping (as I was on dinner duty).

Dinner was ready so that Rachel, Mum and I could eat as soon as Rachel returned from her narrow boat (she had been down getting it ready for Olive and Digger) about quarter past seven. Rowan and Mix's dinner was also sitting on plates awaiting the return of our travellers.

After dinner, we all watched Grantchester on the television, and then the News, before walking the dogs (Mix is so glad that Rowan has returned with Rachel) in what are becoming very blustery conditions.

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Sunday 19th. October, 2014 – Back to (real) work again 

I conducted the morning services in two Churches this morning. First here at Gavinton at 10 a.m.

Second, here at Cranshaws at 11.45 a.m. -- the two congregations are part of the Parish of Langton and Lammermuir

Up, showered and walked Mix before breakfast and then Rachel and I set off for Gavinton Church early leaving Mum to be brought along later by David (who in the event got delayed and Mum was brought by Digger). The reason for our early start was that I was conducting the two services at Gavinton and Cranshaws Churches. It was just like old times with a service at 10 a.m. and another at 11.45 a.m.

I prepared the services on the theme of the Lectionary which introduced us to Paul’s letters to the Church at Thessalonica and in Matthew’s Gospel presented us with the incident in the Temple when Jesus is challenged about paying taxes to Caesar. I also introduced the commemoration of the Reformation which comes at the end of this month with the anniversary of Martin Luther’s nailing of his 95 thesis to the door in Wittenberg.

After the service I joined everyone for coffee and then Rachel and I set off for Cranshaws (David took Mum home). I enjoyed sharing with the small congregation in Cranshaws, a historic Church in which King James IV worshipped before the battle of Flodden.

Back home, Rachel immediately set off with Rowan for Barnoldswick to spend the night on her canal boat and get it ready for the arrival of Olive and Digger who are to holiday on it this week.

Mix and I retired to the summer house where, after the clean out of yesterday, I set about tidying my desk but ended up watching Andy Murray playing David Ferrer in the final of the Austrian tennis tournament. It was extremely exciting with Andy Murray eventually coming out on top.

Olive, Digger, Mum and I ate in the farmhouse and then later in the evening Olive and Mum joined me in the Granary to watch Downton Abbey. Should say that although it has been fair today, it is extremely blustery and the forecast is suggesting that there will be some wild weather during this week. We shall see – but the winds are removing the autumn leaves from the trees. That’s inevitable, but their colours are so wonderful that it is a bit of a pity.

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Saturday 18th. October, 2014 – A Very Quiet Saturday 

Rachel spent the afternoon in the stables, neither weaving nor kilt making, but working on her stained glass designs. Here she is grinding the edge of a piece of glass using her Dremel, ensuring that it is perfectly flat and ready to be encased with copper tape and joined to its neighbouring piece in her work of art

Today is Saturday and I slept in, not rising until after ten! Shocking, but then I am retired and outside the wind was howling. Once up I walked Mix and then retired to the summer house to prepare a service for tomorrow when I am standing in for our minister while she is on holiday.

I had a bite to eat at lunch time and then spent the rest of the afternoon spring-cleaning the summer house which has taken a battering over recent weeks. Olive had a student down to do some accounting.

We all dined together in the farm house after which we retired to the Granary to spend a Saturday evening relaxing in front of the fire. Ah, I was born for this. (We watched an old episode of Mr. Whicher – it was very good.)

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Friday 17th. October, 2014 -- Just a bit of this and that 

This is Duns Kirk from the road where I parked my car on the way to a Presbytery Committee this afternoon – my first in this presbytery

Up, walked Mix and breakfasted. Tom phoned to say that he wouldn’t be with us today. David arrived to say that he had a meeting in Berwick at lunchtime and proposed to go off now in search of bits for the trailer. So I was able to sort out my finances this morning! I also lodged some pictures of our trip to Amble yesterday on my website at

In the early afternoon I went to Duns to attend a meeting of the Presbytery Church and Society Committee with Veronica in the chair and Irene and Janice also in attendance. We talked about Credit Unions and about the World Council of Churches and the World Communion of Reformed Churches ‘Created in God’s Image’ material which has been commended to congregations for discussion. This latter tackles difficult questions relating to inter gender relationships, the former has I suppose been thrust even more into prominence by the Archbishop of Canterbury’s response to Wonga.

Personally I believe that Credit Unions are to be thoroughly recommended. They are a prime example of what those of us who have can do to help those who haven’t, a real rejoinder to those who say wouldn’t it be good if we could actually do something to make a difference? By investing some of our money in a credit union we enable others to borrow without having to pay exorbitant interest rates. We don’t lose out, and others gain significantly. It is also something which those of us who are a little bit older can also do (because we tend to have a little bit of money at our disposal, certainly more than when we were younger). Again a real answer to the cry, we’d love to help but we are now too old! It is a way of taking seriously the real charge that Scotland is a divided country, and helping those most in need of financial assistance. I almost feel a campaign coming on.

I hadn’t been home for long before David arrived, flushed with success as he had managed to obtain new brake pad assemblies for the wheel hubs of the trailer. I watched as he disassembled the front hydraulic pump from the trailer; it looks to be in some state but David assures me that it will soon be as good as new.

We dined in the farmhouse and afterwards I retired to the summer house with Mix where I did some boat research on the internet, stopping briefly to watch Have I got News for You before returning briefly to the summer house before walking Mix and going to bed.

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Thursday 16th. October, 2014 – A Day out for the boys! 

David and Tom in front of Amble Marina

More pictures of today can be found at

Up and walked Mix before breakfast. Tom and David arrived and we climbed into David’s Jaguar and set off for our day out, all dressed in good clothes and looking as if we had never even seen a boiler suit or dungarees in our lives. The purpose of our journey was to visit Amble, a small port on the coast of Northumberland where we thought that we might be allowed to berth Olivebank next year.

The drive took seventy-nine minutes – Tom was operating a stop-watch – and when we arrived we were immediately taken both by the marina and by the welcome we received. We explained that our plan was to bring Olivebank next year and then the following year, if everything went well and we had completed her refit, we would bring Ianthe. We were given a pass to enable us to explore and we were shown exactly where we could have a pontoon for Olivebank. It was everything we could have wished.

The marina also has everything we could want – excellent pontoons, a serviced radio on channel 80, first rate toilets and a chandlery. There isn’t any food but just outside the marina within very easy walking distance there are lots of facilities. We tried one out and each had a late breakfast, served in a frying pan -- it was a breakfast-wish come true!

We went back to the marina to say our good-byes, leaving our name pencilled in for a berth next year. Now we drove to Eyemouth just to check out the one facility which is nearer to home.

Eyemouth is a large industrial fishing port but there are some yachts. So we made our way to the harbour master’s office to discover that he was on holiday. However, we were welcomed by a lovely lady in the secretarial office. She assured us that we would be made welcome but that the unserviced pontoons were already very full (but she was sure the harbour master would fit us in). The serviced pontoons have more spaces but are much more expensive and provide facilities which Olivebank couldn’t use (different for Ianthe).

The real advantage of Eyemouth is that it is just twenty minutes away, the drawback that it might take us that saved hour to disentangle our boat and start sailing. Having experienced marina life before (at Port Edgar and at Inverkip) I really fancy a season at Amble – and, of course, now that we are retired we could stay there and not bother coming home in the evening. It would also be a convenient break in the journey to Chester-le-Street to watch the cricket. So my heart says Amble, my mind realises that Eyemouth is nearer at hand. We shall see.

Back home, Tom was collected by Dorothy and Rachel had returned from her glass class. Mum had done some organising and I dealt with some emails. We all dined in the farmhouse and then Rachel went off to her choir while I wrote a letter and thought about boats. On Rachel’s return we watched the News, walked the dogs and went to bed to dream about boats. It has been a wonderful day.

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Wednesday 15th. October, 2015 – Cleaning Olivebank 

There really isn’t a great deal to see except to notice that the fore deck of the boat is a bit cleaner than the rest of it. It is going to be a long job but today I started to remove grime which has accumulated over many years. By the time that Olivebank goes back into the water next year she will be a beauty!

Rose, showered and took Mix for a walk – today is very dreich. Breakfasted and then chatted with Tom and David. David set off to discuss with his friends how best to sort out the trailer for Olivebank (and to meet another friend for lunch). Tom and I had a look around the Hen House to make plans for our winter programme and then I drove Tom home. We had chatted away the morning and it was already lunchtime.

I visited the doctor who pronounced me fit and well and gave me my flu jab. David returned with all his bits and pieces and great plans for how to deal with Olivebank’s trailer. Meanwhile I had started cleaning her fore deck and making progress using a small nailbrush and some Co-op cleaner. I was quite taken aback: I had a bottle of Co-op cleaner at two bottles for £2 and a bottle of dedicated yacht cleaner at £14.50p. The Co-op cleaner was significantly better at cleaning Olivebank.

During the day Rachel took Mum to her hairdresser for her regular appointment. Rachel also went into Duns for her flu jab. Olive and Digger cleared away all of the debris which came off their roof during yesterday’s roof repair and David took a wheel from Rachel’s Bongo to be repaired. And BT fixed Olive and Digger’s phone line. So everyone was busy today.

Rachel also had a visit from a lady who is interested in joining the course on kilt-making at the start of next month. The newspaper article in the local paper has certainly stirred up quite a bit of interest.

We all dined together in the farmhouse and in the evening Rachel and I relaxed in the Granary. I enjoyed watching Scott and Bailey before the News and in the earlier part of the evening I gave Olivebank’s tiller its first taste of sandpaper for many a long year.

Mix and Rowan continue to be in good form and they too enjoyed relaxing in front of the stove before their final walk of the day and bed.

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Tuesday 14th. October, 2014 --- Mix in control 

This afternoon David set about changing the spark plugs in Digger’s new car. Digger came along to watch. Mix wasn’t sure that David actually knew what he was doing so he went along to supervise as well. My picture catches Mix looking carefully at what David is doing to ensure that no mistake has been made

Not quite convinced that David had done it correctly Mix climbed into the engine to inspect things from a closer range. Having decided that David’s work is up to scratch Mix jumps from the car to assure Digger that he can safely drive his car again. You can see that Digger is anxiously awaiting Mix's verdict. We are fortunate to have such a knowledgeable dog

Up and walked Mix before breakfast. Tom and David arrived soon afterwards but Tom was clearly still hurting from his exertions with the concrete and so we sent him home to recuperate. David set about dismantling Olivebank’s trailer so that it can be made roadworthy once more. I retired to the summer house and prepared the music for Arrochar. Mum went off to Berwick for her Tai Chi class. Digger started work on constructing the door for his dome.

David spent most of today underneath Olivebank getting to know this wheel assembly extremely well

David had to go to Berwick at lunchtime. He returned in time to complete his dismantling of one of Olivebank’s wheel assemblies and make plans on how to rebuild the trailer. I searched the internet in order to find some of the items which will be required for the restoration of the boat itself. David also replaced the sparkplugs in Digger’s car.

While all of this was going on, Ian, Paul, Tommy and Andrew completed their job of repairing the flat roof on the farmhouse – In fact, they worked on late and had the whole task completed just before seven.

By this time David had gone off to the Morris dancing (he is part of the band) and we had all dined in the farmhouse – Olive had been experimenting and we ate extremely well. (Squash soup with curry flavouring, Irish fish pie, meringue, raspberry puree, cream and ice cream.)

Rachel and I watched last night’s episode of New Tricks – it was good. After the News I walked Mix and got off to bed.

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Monday 13th. October, 2014 – An interesting day 

There was always only going to be one headline story today at Mount Pleasant and that was the start of work on the farmhouse roof. This morning Paul, Tommy and Andrew arrived to start work on the roof, being joined in the afternoon by Ian, their boss. Great progress has been made as all of the old and rotten roof has been stripped out and remedial work has begun. The team had good weather for most of the day but there were moments of quite heavy rain. We are hoping for good weather tomorrow

Rose and walked Mix and after breakfast Tom and David arrived. By this time, however, they had missed the drama of the day. I was woken some time after half past seven by a phone call from Olive to say that Digger had taken her to Berwick only to discover that her train to Dundee had been cancelled. Not only that but their car was showing a warning light. I told them to return home and take my car, and that is what they did.

David examined their car with his computer plug-in system and discovered that all that was needed was a change of spark plugs, and this was arranged later in the day. Tom, David and I went up to Abbey St. Bathans to see about our wood delivery and arrange for some additional timber to be included. We are expecting our delivery either tomorrow or Wednesday. Neither Tom nor I will worry if it doesn’t come until Wednesday as we are still suffering from our exertions laying concrete.

Tom went off for lunch, David and I had a coffee break and then we started on Olivebank, joined by Tom on his return. The task for the afternoon was to strip down the engine and get it working – and in this we were successful. Mind you, it took a while which is hardly surprising considering how long it has been since the engine was fired up.

I stripped off the rudders and the tiller and made an inventory of all that will have to be done to get Olivebank shipshape again, but it is going to be fun getting it done. Tom set off for home and David and I had another coffee break before he set off.

Rachel and I dined in the farmhouse – by now Olive had returned, brought home from the station by Digger using my car and bearing new spark plugs for his. Following dinner we relaxed in front of the fire watching University Challenge and the second episode of Grantchester (for which we were joined by Olive and Mum). I would like to say that I watched the News but, in truth, I fell asleep during the News and soon afterwards I walked Mix and retired to bed.

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Sunday 12th. October, 2014 – A Sunday at Mount Pleasant 

This is a very ordinary picture which contains a great deal of information! First of all it shows that the concrete has set and that we now have access to the Bothy and can start work constructing the floor. Then you can see all that stuff piled against the wall. That’s the materials which the roofing contractor brought this afternoon because he will have men on site tomorrow morning at 8.30 a.m. to start work on the farm house roof repair. You can also see that there is still greenery on the top of the wall – in other words we still have quite a lot of work to do to make the Bothy into the place we intend it to be

Rose, showered and walked Mix before breakfast after which David arrived to drive us all (Mum, Rachel and me) to church in his Jaguar! We arrived in style for the service conducted by members of the congregation with John preaching the sermon on the story of the golden calf from the Book of Exodus. It was very well done and a reminder of how talented are the congregations of our Church, itself a tribute to the leadership of those congregations over the years.

There was no coffee after the service today – some hiccup or other – so we came back to Mount Pleasant where David, Rachel and I had a coffee in the summer house; Mum went off to sort her things out.

We had lunch in the farm house soon after one and then I came across to the summer house to try to make another post on my web-site. I completed that satisfactorily and if you are looking for more pictures of our trip to the Heavy Horse Show yesterday you will find them on that site.

Scott and Sue popped in for a few minutes to regale us with tales of their holiday down south. They had a good time and particularly enjoyed their bed and breakfast stop last night at Richmond in Yorkshire.

Olive had a student to tutor this afternoon while Rachel went off to Berwick for Evensong. The roofer arrived to deposit materials for his workers tomorrow, and later, in the evening, Mum, Olive, Rachel and I watched the latest episode of Downton Abbey before I walked Mix and went to bed.

Today has been a good day and one in which I haven’t strained my body at all. I’m hoping that just as the concrete in the Bothy has cured, so has my body from all of its exertions.

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Saturday 11th. October, 2014 – The Heavy Horse Show at Etal 

We gathered around the breakfast table before setting off for Etal – Digger, Jane and Ewen

Walked Mix – my body is still aching – and then enjoyed a cooked breakfast in the farmhouse. Tom and Dorothy arrived and we set off for Etal for the Heavy Horse Show at Hay Farm – I travelled with Ewen and Jane, Rachel with Tom and Dorothy, and Olive and Digger coming along under their own steam a little later on.

Ewen tries his hand at harrowing assisted by Lion who is doing all of the hard work

This little area of Etal and Ford seems to be remarkably awake and full of activity. The show consisted of watching heavy horses ploughing and harrowing, of visiting the stables and seeing more Clydesdales, of seeing a blacksmith at work making horse-shoes, of watching numerous old working engines, as well as visiting an exhibition of old equipment which included a penny-farthing bicycle and a nineteen-forties single-decker bus. There was also a super craft show with ladies spinning and all kinds of items on sale and, of course, there was food and drink.

Ewen and Jane setting off from Etal on the next stage of their holiday journey -- we were very sorry to see them go

From the show Jane and Ewen set off on the next stage of their journey while Tom, Rachel and I went off to visit Ford where we saw a fascinating Estate Village created by Louisa Waterford in the middle of the nineteenth century. We visited Lady Waterford Hall, built as the local school, where Louisa had painted the hall with pictures telling the Old Testament Bible story and illustrating the heroes of the New Testament. It was most impressive and included a ten minute video presentation on Lady Waterford’s life.

The interior of Lady Waterford Hall

I want to learn more about Louisa Waterford. She was tragically widowed when her husband was killed in a riding accident but that accident led to her spending her time at Ford and throwing herself into improving the lot of the people on her large estate. It must have been a huge tragedy for her but led to so much good for her people. Things often work out in strange ways, and good often grows out of misfortune.

I also want to explore this area (just half an hour away from Mount Pleasant). There is a small steam railway, a working corn mill and lots of horse activities. I’ll report back once I have done some more research.

Back home I prepared the outline of a service for Sunday week when I am to look after Sunday worship here – I am actually on call for our minister already while she is away on holiday for three weeks but tomorrow the service will be conducted by the worship group of the congregation. I am looking forward to it very much indeed.

David arrived to help Olive and Digger sort out their telephone problems (their phone has been virtually unusable for several weeks due to a buzzing on the line and a very strange ringing). Mix and I retired to the summer house to continue sorting out some of the backlog which I have built up (and to rest my weary bones – I was reassured to discover that Tom is suffering as badly as I am)!

We dined in the farmhouse and then spent a very relaxing evening in front of the stove in the Granary. We watched a fairly new 'New Tricks' followed by the News, after which we walked the dogs before bed.

It is a great life.

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Friday 10th. October, 2014 – Rachel hits the headlines and Olivebank comes home 

The loom is empty after this morning when Sandy arrived and completed the final bit of weaving before taking the cloth away to be 'finished' in Galashiels. I can't wait to see what the completed cloth looks like. On the table in the foreground, on top of the kilts, you can see the two page spread which Rachel received from the Berwickshire News today

Woke, rose, walked Mix and breakfasted. I feel as though I am inhabiting someone else’s body today, someone at least twice as old as I am – nothing seems to work but everything seems to ache. Couldn’t find Rachel anywhere – she had gone off to Berwick to buy two apple-trees after my intelligence yesterday (as a result of our visit to the Garden Centre) that there was a sale of trees and that they had two Cox’s Pippens.

The local paper also came out today with quite a spread about Rachel’s loom activities. You can access the story at (and there is some video as well).

Here is a taste:

and there was even a banner headline on the front page:

Didn't she do well!

I asked Ewen and Jane what they would like to do. Jane was happy to work on her photographs, Ewen fancied a long walk. So we set off with Mix and wandered around by Fogo and back round by Nisbet’s Hill which took us around a couple of hours. I thought that this would ease my aches – I have to say I was mistaken. However when we returned, Olivebank was waiting for me, sitting in the middle of the courtyard.

Olivebank had been brought down here by Andrew’s Garage in Helensburgh. Her arrival was spectacular. The boat was on a trailer which was on a breakdown truck which (having broken down) was on another break-down wagon. What a way to arrive! But it was good to see her.

Now that Olivebank has arrived I feel that I have moved into Mount Pleasant. I am really looking forward to getting her sorted out -- and she is needing it

We all celebrated with soup and cheese in the farmhouse after which Ewen went off for another walk, this time with Digger and Heidi. David and Tom and I erected Olivebank’s mast and started drawing up lists of all that required to be done to get her back into a ship-shape condition – and we drank coffee.

I drove David to Swinton to collect his car (which had passed its MOT test) – I had collected him from Swinton this morning – and then Ewen and I went off to Berwick to collect Mum from her train, following her return from holiday which she had spent in a timeshare at Cameron House with her sisters. She had had a good time but the train journey home had been a busy one.

We all dined in the farmhouse and then Ewen, Jane and my mother joined Rachel and me in the Granary where we saw all of the holiday photos which Jane and Ewen have taken during the first five weeks of their stay in Scotland. They have had a busy time and seem to have been everywhere in Scotland – Fife, Aberdeen, Luss, and a two week island hop of the Western Isles courtesy of Caledonian MacBrayne – and it is not over yet as they have another week and a half to go before they return to Australia.

We walked the dogs and quickly fell asleep.

Here is the text of the Berwickshire News article:

WATCH: The art of kiltmaking near Duns
by Jim Milnes

Published on 10/10/2014 09:51

As recently as a few years ago, it was feared that kilt-making was in crisis. A Sunday Herald story even estimated that “there are perhaps as few as ten authentic kilt-makers in Scotland”.

But two of those specialists are now based in the Borders, and are planning to make kiltmaking a popular pastime again.

Border Kilt Craft, the brainchild of Rachel Hammerton, opened recently at Mount Pleasant, near Duns.

In her workshop, Rachel plans to offer kiltmaking courses to those interested - and she stresses that no previous experience is required.

“There is no need to be good at knitting or sewing or anything like that,” Rachel said.

“In fact, working on the loom that we have, it’s a lot more like engineering, but with soft materials. Anybody can do it, it’s not feminine at all.”

Director Rachel has made more than 100 kilts as a professionally trained and qualified kilt-maker.

She has given presentations on the history of Scottish kilts in Italy, the USA and the Czech Republic. As a spinner and weaver she continues to research her passion, the history and techniques of textile production. Rachel said: “Our interest in the study and research of the kilt, our wish to preserve a dying traditional craft, and our qualifications and experience in training have inspired us to design a course in traditional kilt-making, the only one of its kind in southern Scotland.”

The unique nature of the workshop is evident when you see the loom that Rachel uses, which was thought to have been built nearly 200 years ago.

“Our Armstrong loom is our most prized possession,” says Rachel.

“We believe that it first saw the light of day back in the 1820s when it was installed as the very latest technology at the Alva Mill near Stirling. There have been a couple of additions, but very few. It’s basically just tree trunks, still, although some of the frames are metal, which were added in I think the 1970s, and there are a couple of heavy iron parts which must have been bolted on in the late nineteenth century.”

The Armstrong loom made the journey south to the Borders with Rachel after her husband retired last year.

“It was taken down and put up together again in my workshop, which is amazing,” she says, “given that it has only been moved three times in its life. We were very lucky as well because it was inherited by the great-grandson of the man who originally owned it, and he gave it to us because he wanted it to be used.

“Another thing we’ve been lucky to get are all these shuttles,” she went on, “because with the way they bang about pulling the yarn across the machine, they get really battered. We were given a load of shuttles as well, which was very handy, because otherwise, with them not being made anymore, we’d have had to go to the third world to find them.

“After more than 100 years on Loch Lomondside,” she said, “the loom has found its way to the Borders and is now installed in our workshop.

“Over the years it has woven many of the Scottish tartans, and we are now in the process of designing the Mount Pleasance Tweed.
“She is known as the Old Lady,” says Rachel of the loom, “and she lets you know just how old she is from time to time. She was obviously cutting edge technology when she was built back then. Using her with the pedals and the frames, it is a bit like a cross between a bicycle and a church organ!”

That hasn’t stopped Rachel from becoming quite dextrous on the loom. “I can get a whole kilt done in about 24 straight hours,” she says. “So that’s about three days’ work, if I’m not interrupted. Of course, back when she was built, people used small children to fetch and carry things, making the process even quicker.”

Potential attendees on the eight lesson course won’t be expected to work as quickly as Rachel, with the idea being that each person takes as long as is necessary to complete each step.

Rachel has been joined in her new venture by her mentor, master kilt-maker Ann Campbell, who has more than 1,000 kilts to her credit. Ann is the Scottish Keeper of the Bergen Scottish tartan, has a Hollywood star among her clientele, and now specialises in her own Campbell tartan.

Ann comes from a piping family, and has trained many of Scotland’s current kilt-makers. She is also the owner of a quite infamous book of tartan.

Back in the 1820s, when a royal visit to the Highlands sparked a mania for tartan, the enterprising Sobieski Stuart brothers produced what they claimed was an ancient catalogue of Scottish clan tartans, ‘Vestiarium Scoticum’ looking to cash in on the fashion.

The only thing was that neither the book’s tartan patterns - which were faked - nor the brothers, who had claimed to be descendants of Bonnie Prince Charlie, were what they claimed.

Ann is now the proud owner of the beautiful fakery, but for Border Kilt Craft the question of authenticity is not important.

“We like working to people’s own designs,” says Rachel. “I made my husband a kilt for his Christmas present, and, really, you look at him in it and you think ‘What’s better than a man in a kilt?’”
For more information phone 01361 882254 or visit

To see Rachel at work on the Armstrong loom, go to our website at

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Thursday 9th. October, 2014 – Concrete and Visitors 

Tom's look says it all! It is almost as if he is already aware of all of the pain which this monster of a concrete lorry is going to inflict upon us as we shovel and level and struggle with its contents

Woke and walked Mix before breakfast. Tom and David arrived early because this morning concrete was being delivered. Soon we were swimming in the stuff and I discovered a fascinating fact – the first shovel-full of concrete weighs nothing at all, the hundredth shovel-full weighs about half a ton. And then when you come to sawing the concrete level, you really are into back-breaking territory.

In the midst of concreting the Bothy floor, Ewen and Jane from Australia returned. It was grand to see them and after we had completed the concrete work we all (Tom, David, Jane, Ewen and I) went off to Pearsons for lunch. Never did haggis taste so good.

In the afternoon Tom retired to his home to rest his back while David drove Ewen, Jane and me on a mystery tour which started at the garden centre in Berwick and went on to Eyemouth, St. Abb’s and Coldingham Priory thus ensuring that our visitors saw a little bit more of this are of the Scottish Borders. In Eyemouth we walked around the harbour, through the town and along the front. The tide was well in and so there was very little beach. We did find a chandlers (where I bought a few shackles) and an ice-cream parlour (from which we all got an ice-cream cone). At St. Abb’s we looked over the rocks outside the little harbour and explored the Visitor’s Centre; and at Coldingham we wandered around the Priory (now the parish church). The little church notice board at the gate has some beautiful carving on it – I was reminded of the care with which so many people do the tasks entrusted to them, in this case turning a functional church notice board into something of a work of art.

Back home, it was soon time for dinner. Rachel had returned from her stained-glass class and was out again as soon as she had eaten, this time to go to her choir in Berwick. After our meal (at which David joined us) we all sat and chatted and then Ewen, Jane and I retired to the Granary to continue our blethering until Rachel returned home and soon afterwards it was time for bed (after, of course, walking the dogs).

It has been a really good day – but my old body is extremely sore after all that concreting.

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Wednesday 8th. October, 2014 – The site meeting (and lunch) 

I snapped Dorothy, Rachel and David outside the Church Hall in brilliant autumn sunshine. We were early for the soup and cake lunch – Tom had gone in to discover when we could all arrive! We were told that if we had a bottle of sherry we could come in at once. We didn’t have but we did anyway

Tom and David arrived about nine thirty and we immediately started to try to work out what to do about the Bothy floor which continued to flood after we had laid some concrete. Digger and Rachel arrived and joined in the discussion. Tom was adamant that we had to raise the level of the concrete above the highest level of the water table; Digger had concerns that whatever we did water would always find a way in. Rachel thought we should tank the whole place with higher levels of concrete around the edges of the building. To try to discover what was happening, Digger flooded the area behind the Bothy and to the best of our knowledge no water came into the floor area. Next he flooded the front area (where there is an open door area) and water began to appear, probably getting in between the front step and the walls and between the membranes. Digger also took some levels which convinced him that if the level of the floor was raised by just a couple of inches we would avoid any further problem. This ties in with Tom’s view that what was needed was more concrete (although Digger still thinks that we will need to be careful about the wood which is embedded within the concrete). To this end we have ordered a delivery of concrete for tomorrow morning and hope to have resolved the problem.

Tom, David, Rachel, Dorothy and I all went up to Gavinton Church for the soup and cake lunch. We were joined at our table by Bridget and all enjoyed a lively lunch – it was well attended with around eighteen folk in all.

In the afternoon David and I erected the mast on Escapade (now safely back at Mount Pleasant) and once David had set off for his next appointment (he has five today, he tells me), I went into Duns where I bought some shackles for the boat from JTS. I then got round to dealing with my Sky account – I really ‘need’ Sky because I like to watch the cricket but the cost of my subscription jumped this month because I discover that I got a discount for the first year at my new address. I discovered that I was paying quite a bit for Sky Movies which we don’t watch and now, in any case, there are so many ways of getting movies (through Amazon and through ‘on demand’) so I have cancelled that part of my subscription. Making small savings makes one feel good!

We dined at 6 in the farm house with Olive and Digger and then later in the evening, after I had prepared the music for Arrochar Church, we watched Scott and Bailey which I really enjoy. That was really it for today, however, I hope that the decisions we have made will lead to some rapid progress with the Bothy next week.

Walked Mix and went to bed.

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Tuesday 7th. October, 2014 – A visit to Whiteadder Reservoir and to the Presbytery 

This is the way in to Duns Church Hall – I was in the hall this evening for the regular monthly meeting of Duns Presbytery. It is a gentle presbytery and a warm one with everyone very considerate of the feelings of other people. I suppose that it is very much a rural presbytery. It's certainly very small, once the presbytery plan has been implemented I understand that there will be seven charges looking after twenty places of worship

I had arranged to meet the boys at 11 this morning (as Tom had to deal with an MOT). As a result I stayed longer in bed and then sat upstairs listening to the Kevin Peterson interview on radio 5. (Do you know that if you access radio 5 on your ipad you can see what is going on in the studio). I wandered downstairs at half past ten (when the news was on between interview segments) only to be told that David and Tom had been and gone, having set off for Whiteadder Reservoir having been told by Rachel that I was still asleep in bed!

I set off after them, listening to the rest of the interview on the car radio. At Whiteadder we prepared Escapade (our Wayfarer) to bring back to Mount Pleasant. We also went off to Abbey St. Bathans to speak with Willie at the wood mill about our next delivery of wood which he is holding on to until we have sorted out our problems with the Bothy under-floor.

We returned to Mount Pleasant and parked Escapade before Tom rushed off to Berwick to collect Dorothy from a train. David and I had coffee and then started clearing water from the Bothy with help from Digger. Collectively we scratched our heads about how to proceed with the Bothy – and agreed that we would have a site meeting tomorrow when Tom was back. We also had a pleasant coffee break with Olive in the farmhouse.

There was just time for me to have a shower and change before dinner at the farmhouse and then a drive to Duns to attend Presbytery. It was a quiet meeting with an address on including those with hearing disabilities with the family of the Church (and a debate about selling our minister’s manse – after she has retired).

Back home I watched the News, walked Mix and went to bed. Rachel has been extremely busy cleaning and clearing the kitchen. It looks superb.

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Monday 6th. October, 2014 – The rain returns 

Sasha was a little jealous of the attention which David was receiving primarily from Rowan, so she decided that she would exert her claims of ownership

The rain returned overnight with a vengeance and it is no consolation that the whole country seems to be suffering, nor that we seem to be getting off much lighter than many other places. I am taking it badly not to be able to be out and about getting on with our projects after such an excellent summer and such a dry and warm September.

Tom arrived and we retired to the summer house. Willie had already telephoned to say that he did not propose to bring our wood (for the floor of the Bothy) today due to the weather and I was delighted at that decision. I also got a call from the garage in Helensburgh to say that it was too windy to bring Olivebank to Mount Pleasant, and it was certainly too wet for Tom and I to do very much outside. We thought that we might go up to the Whiteadder reservoir and see about bringing Escapade back home, but first we would wait for David.

David arrived and by this time it was raining so heavily that we abandoned any thought of going to the boat. Rachel returned having taken Mum to get a train at Berwick. Mum is off for the week to spend time with her sisters at Aunt Agnes’s time-share at Cameron House by Loch Lomond. (I phoned later to check that Mum had arrived. There was a delay in her answering her mobile – she told me that it was the first call she had ever received – but she was fine and all of the arrangements had worked out perfectly.)

Sandy arrived to do a bit of weaving and then a reporter from the local paper came to speak to Rachel about her kilt-making plans – a photographer as well! By this time David, Tom and I were at Pearsons having lunch and then driving in to Berwick to visit HomeBase (where David did some shopping) and Curries (where Tom did some shopping). From there we went off to Tom’s home to move his caravan before returning to Mount Pleasant.

Tom went off back to Gavinton and, after a coffee and a chocolate biscuit (well he had brought sixty with him this morning), David also set off for home. Soon afterwards Olive returned to Mount Pleasant having been at Dundee lecturing at the university. What a lot of coming and going there has been today.

We all dined at 6 (well all except Mum who is at Loch Lomond) after which Rachel and I settled down in front of the stove in the Granary. I’m quite tired for someone who hasn’t actually done anything today – but then that is often the way. We watched University Challenge, Panorama (about working poverty in the United Kingdom) and the first episode of Grantchester and when I walked Mix it was so light (with moonlight) that I didn’t require a torch.

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Sunday 5th. October, 2014 – A fascinating afternoon on the computer 

As Mix and I walked this morning, I took this picture of one of the fields which has featured regularly in my recording of this last year. How different it is today. The harvest has gone, the field has been ploughed and now it is awaiting its next crop. Must be a bit like someone who runs a bed-and-breakfast establishment, never quite knowing what is going to come next

Walked Mix and breakfasted before driving with Olive and Mum to Gavinton Church. Ann presented us with all of the lectionary readings today: the story of the ten commandments from Exodus, Paul’s boast about his pedigree which he tells his readers means nothing without Christ, the parable of the vineyard from Matthew’s Gospel and that great Psalm 19. Ann then spoke about the first commandment – to have no other God but God. It was good.

We shared in coffee after the service and then returned home to discover that we couldn’t get into the drive because of work being done to lay fibre-optic cables along the roadside. It didn’t matter, we parked the Berlingo in the front driveway.

We all ate together at lunchtime after which I retired to the summer house to try to get to grips with my new web-site, The task I had set myself was to discover how to set up a slideshow within the site. I used our trip to London to visit the Globe Theatre as a guinea pig and by the time Rachel came home from Evensong I had managed to make a functioning slideshow on a web-post. In the end it was simpler than I had imagined. I started by trying to download plug-ins to do the task for me. In fact it was simpler just to work through it myself, and that’s what I did.

On Rachel’s return, we had some supper and then we were joined in the Granary by Olive and Mum to watch Downton Abbey and the News. Following this I came back out to the summer house to proof read (and correct) my work of the afternoon. I had run out of time earlier so any early evening viewers will have caught an un-edited version of my post.

Walked the dog amid thoughts that more heavy rain is on the way. The remains of the last rain can still be seen in some places, not least around this pylon which has now become an island:

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Saturday 4th. October, 2014 – A stormy night 

It was quite a storm – but by this afternoon everything was back to normal, except that the colours have become quite autumnal

Last night was stormy! Every time I awoke it was because of the rain bouncing off the windows in our bedroom, and when I got up it seemed that everything was under water. I’m told that we had the driest September ever but that this one night in October has more than made up for it. Tom took Dorothy to the Station and because of flooding there were no trains travelling north from Berwick and everyone was having to transfer to a bus service. Tom told me that the roads were flooded as well and that many cars just couldn’t cope.

We had a bit of a panic here because the folk in Arrochar and Luss had forgotten to send me the music to prepare for Arrochar Church. However, they were quickly sent down and I prepared the files and sent them back to Jamie so they have them for tomorrow. Meanwhile Mum was also in a bit of a panic because the roof of the farmhouse has been leaking (it is due to be repaired this week) but with the torrential downpours of last night the damp had seeped down to the ground floor. Mum has moved up to Cathy’s room to sleep until the repairs are completed.

Tom and I enjoyed a coffee in the summer house and chewed the fat, before going up to Pearsons and enjoying some lunch. No point in taking on the weather when one is retired; we just went with the flow.

By mid afternoon the sun was shining and it was very beautiful. Mix and I went for a walk and when we got back I did a bit of sorting out of photos in the summer house before our evening meal with the family in the farmhouse.

Rachel and I (and the dogs) enjoyed a cosy Saturday evening in front of the fire and the television (we watched the first-ever edition of Jonathan Creek) and were in bed with books quite early.

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Friday 3rd. October, 2014 – Scottish Pilgrimage Gathering 

The opening address at this year’s Scottish Pilgrimage Gathering was given by Paul Wheelhouse, MSP, Scottish Government Minister for Environment and Climate Change

Today was another early start. I was away from Mount Pleasant, having showered and got ready, by half past six, on a train for Edinburgh by seven fifteen and in Dunfermline (having changed at Edinburgh) by twenty-five past nine. As I came out of the station (not quite sure where I had to go) I met Joanne whom I had married to her husband Colm and baptised their children while minister at Luss. It is one of the great joys of having been minister at Luss that no matter where one goes one meets people who are special who became friends because of where I ministered. Joanne pointed me in the right direction and took me along the road to where I had to go!

I arrived at the Vine Conference Centre a little after nine-thirty, it was a very short walk, and at once I started to meet people I knew. It was a great day. I’ll record just a little about the programme.

The event was opened by Margaret Dean, the Lord Lieutenant of Fife, who told us of seeing an old map of Britain with no mention of Edinburgh or even of London but there in big writing were both Dunfermline and St. Andrews, reminding us of how important a place Fife has always been. Well, having lived there for almost a third of my life, I didn’t need to be told that – although it was good to be reminded of it!

The first speaker was a Scottish Government Minister, Paul Wheelhouse who spoke of the Scottish Government’s commitment to walking routes and telling us of new funding which is being made available to fund part of the Pilgrimage route between St. Andrews and Iona (the area around Crieff, some forty miles in all, I think). He spoke of the importance of walking both to the economy and to health (and explained how sometimes these overlapped). I learned that the best way to extend one’s life is to walk for thirty minutes a day (well, Mix ensures that I do that anyway).

The morning session was then given over to three important speeches – by Sam Berry on ‘In the Beginning God – So What?’; by Chris Baines on ‘Pilgrimage and Environmental Sustainability – A Natural Partnership’ and by Richard Oran on ‘”Scottish Pilgrimage in the Land of Lost Content” Revisited’.

Last year’s gathering had concentrated on heritage so it was good that this year the theme majored on the environment. Sam Berry took us through a journey starting from the ancient views of the world and how they changed, and the mistaken understanding of creation taken from the passage in Genesis where man is given dominion over all of creation, leading us on to the more recent realisation by both society and theology that in fact the call of Scripture is to stewardship and care, as we share with God in loving his world.

Chris Baines, an old friend of mine from Green Pilgrimage, described the ethos and the history of the Green Pilgrimage movement and also described how many of the problems created by pilgrimage had been creatively overcome, often turning a problem into a positive opportunity. He too described partnership and stewardship and used illustrations drawn from birdlife, particularly Swifts, to bring home to us the changing world in which we live and the need for caring for our world.

Richard Oram took us on a journey through the works of T. Radcliffe Barnett who wrote six books about Scotland. He was a Free Kirk minister born in 1867 who served as a chaplain during the first world war. First in a field hospital in France and then in a hospital for returning seriously injured soldiers in Edinburgh. He found it hard to cope with all that he saw and his solace was to walk throughout the lonely places of Scotland. Wanting to share the peace he discovered through his pilgrimages, he took to writing of them so that others could share through reading of his journeys and of his thoughts. It was fascinating.

Lunch followed and flew by because there were so many people to chat to, and stalls to visit (set up by people with something to say or to sell to those involved in pilgrimage). The afternoon was taken up with four workshop sessions, each of us (and there must have been about eighty of us in total) could attend two. The workshops were on the theme of Pilgrimage and 1. Local Churches, 2. Local Landowners, 3. Local Businesses, and 4. Local Communities. I attended the first and third of these workshops and enjoyed them both.

After a brief feedback session the gathering came to a close and those of us who were members of the Scottish Pilgrim Routes Forum went off for the Annual General Meeting to approve the accounts and to appoint seven Trustees to take the work of the forum forward. That done, I wandered up to the station where I coincided with David, a friend from England who had visited Luss with a party of pilgrims, and who was also at the gathering. We shared the journey to Edinburgh where I changed trains and returned to Berwick. By this time it was raining extremely hard and I drove slowly home among the puddles.

Olive had kept some tea for me and afterwards Rachel and I watched an episode of Scott and Bailey on television before walking the dogs and going to bed. Another great day.

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Thursday 2nd. October, 2014 --- Back to work 

Not much of a picture to look at but an important picture for my records because it shows that we now have a concrete base in the bothy. Once the concrete has dried out we shall be able to start on the floor – and we have ordered the wood for the start of next week

Woke with coffee being delivered to our sleeper at 6.30 a.m. We were at Carstairs Junction and we were able to continue to doze until the train arrived in Edinburgh at 7.20. Leaving the train, we had a few minutes to wait until our train back to Berwick just after eight.

Collecting the car, I drove Rachel to her stained-glass class and hurried back to Mount Pleasant to see how Mix and Rowan had got on, or rather, how Olive, Digger and Mum had survived. All was well! Yesterday Mum had been to her reading group, taken by Ann, and last night she was at the Presbyterial Rally at Eyemouth. The dogs had behaved and everyone was happy.

Tom and David were waiting for me with the news that the concrete lorry wouldn’t be coming until the early afternoon. So we had coffee (when in doubt have coffee) and opened up Ianthe, taking off the electrical equipment I had bought for her so that David could cast his eye over it.

We dined at Pearsons and then the concrete lorry arrived and we spent a hectic hour and a half, with help from Digger, spreading concrete over the plastic sheeting to create a firm base to the Bothy. Now we have to wait until it dries so we had some coffee and then all went about our business.

Rachel returned from her glass class with a bandaged finger – she had grabbed her soldering iron at the wrong end. Mum returned from a day in Galashiels with a friend and soon it was time for us all to eat – Tom and David arrived (Tom to check on the concrete, David having forgotten something) and Rachel set off for her choir with Bridget. I was glad to take things easy as I will have another early start tomorrow. But what a good day it has been.

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Wednesday 1st. October, 2014 – Our day at the Globe 

A picture of the Globe Theatre on Bankside in London just as it began to get dark. The Globe is a reconstruction of Shakespeare’s theatre of 1599 reconstructed and opened in 1997, and today Rachel and I attended two performances at this wonderful place

Rose at quarter-past four, showered and walked the dogs before driving to Berwick where we parked the car in front of Parade as we had to be away over night. We walked to the railway station and caught the 6 a.m. train to London, changing at Newcastle and arriving in London a little before ten to ten. It was a grand journey and London was bright and sunny.

We went to look at St. Pancras Station (my Dad worked here before the second world war) and then we wandered to Euston where we caught a tube to London Bridge. We walked across the bridge and along the river bank walk to the Millennium Bridge across which we walked on our way to the Globe Theatre. At the theatre we checked when we had to be back for the first performance and then explored Southwark, looking at the cathedral and also at the Golden Hind, Sir Francis Drake’s Elizabethan ship.

We had a snack lunch at Eat in the open air by Southwark Bridge and then walked back across the Millennium Bridge to have a look at St. Paul’s Cathedral, one of my father’s favourite places.

We were sitting in our seats in the Globe for the performance at 2 p.m. It was one of Shakespeare’s earliest works, The Comedy of Errors, and it was played as a total farce – fast moving, rumbustious, absolutely hilarious and totally wonderful. The theatre was, of course, packed – every seat in the three levels and around seven hundred ‘groundlings’ (mostly youngsters who had got standing positions in the pit for a fiver). We were in the top level equipped with our hired cushion to make the hard bench comfortable. It was a wonderful afternoon.

When the play ended there was time for a brief walk along the riverbank before returning to the theatre to attend the Swan restaurant where we dined in style – well it was a once in a lifetime day out – and afterward we returned to the theatre itself for a production of a very different kind. We moved from comedy to tragedy, to the story of Julius Caesar. The actors were superb, whipping up the audience goers into the mob which in turn supported Caesar and then bayed for his blood, which supported the conspirators and then urged their downfall. It was a stupendous production and different from the afternoon also because now we were seeing the theatre under lights. The day was just superb, live theatre at its best in an unbelievable setting and I was sorry when it came to an end and we had to leave our seats (this time in the middle tier) and set off for London Bridge tube station from where we caught a train to Euston.

At Euston we boarded our sleeper – a tiny compartment with two bunks which brought us safely back to Scotland. What a happy, happy day we have had.

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Tuesday 3oth. September, 2014 – A quiet day 

Last year this was my final day at work. I left Luss Manse for the final time in the late afternoon and drove down to my new home, accompanied by Rachel and Cathy. I remember being entranced by the beauty of this area, something which I now try extremely hard not to take for granted. This morning as I walked Mix I remembered all those thoughts and took this picture of the field by which I was walking. The harvest has all been gathered in, but still it looks extremely beautiful

Up a bit later than usual and went off with Mix for a walk. Today neither Tom nor David is coming here and I can take today a bit easier in preparation for all my travelling tomorrow when Rachel and I will be in London at the Globe Theatre.

I spent the morning in the summer house putting my new web-site into some kind of order. I was surprised at all that had to be done before I could put just a brief welcoming message on the front page. However by lunchtime I had that done. I gather that it will be a little while before Google will pick up my new site and even then I suspect that it will not register prominently because there are so many Mount Pleasants (including a television series) but my new address is -- an address I was pleased to get because of the scot suffix.

After lunch I set up email addresses to connect with the new web-site – I will continue to use my existing address and my blog will continue to reside on this existing site because I am very happy with it.

I got packed and organised for our trip away tomorrow and then Mix and I went for a walk along Bramble Avenue before it was time to return to the summer house to get a telephone call about Green Pilgrimage matters. We ate in the farm house after which I walked Mix and had an extremely early night which will be followed by an equally early start tomorrow morning.

Mum has had a good day, first at her hairdresser and then at Tai Chi; Digger has disposed of his old car and did quite well out of it; Rachel has been producing advertising materials for a course she is soon to run and Olive said she has been pottering. I think that we have all had a good day.

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Tuesday 30th. September, 2014 -- Digger's new car 

This morning I remembered to take a picture of Digger's new car and post it on the web-site primarily for the benefit of his brother in Australia. So here you are, David, a picture which not only shows the vehicle but which let's you see the bright sunshine in the Scottish Borders this morning.

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Monday 29th. September, 2014 – David’s birthday 

This morning we relaxed in the summer house. Here David and Tom have been ‘jamming’ with some of the guitars which normally adorn the walls of the summer house while I was making coffee in the background

Up and walked Mix before breakfast. Tom and David arrived. We made final preparations to the Bothy before the concrete is delivered on Thursday morning and, once everything was done, we retired to the summer house for coffee and chocolate biscuits to celebrate David’s sixty-fifth birthday.

Jobs done and Tom returned home. I had planned for us to go up to the Whiteadder reservoir to sail (it was an absolutely glorious day) but things didn’t work out that way. Instead David and I got a jockey-wheel prepared for the sailing trailer and David completed the lighting installation in the Bothy. Now we really are ready for Thursday’s concrete delivery.

Mum had three visitors today -- Christine, Margaret and May -- special friends who worked with her in the long distant days when they were all officials in the Church of Scotland Guild. Today they enjoyed coffee and scones (made by Olive), visited Pearsons for a snack lunch, and had a look at all that was going on here at Mount Pleasant.

Later, I showered and got ready and then at five thirty we all met up in the Granary for a drink to celebrate David’s birthday – Rachel and me, Tom and Dorothy, Mum, Olive, Digger and David. Then it was across to the farmhouse for an excellent birthday meal prepared by Olive, followed by coffee and (naturally seeing it was David’s birthday) chocolate biscuits.

When everyone had left for home I watched a new episode of New Tricks and, later, Newsnight. What a breath of fresh air Evan Davis is. His good humour gets so much more out of his interviews, even when the subject matter is intensely serious. It was the best edition of the programme I have seen for ages (although I thought the lighting and some of the camera shots were not up to standard – perhaps because it was an outside broadcast from the Conservative party conference). Evan Davis asks unusual questions and gets to where he wants to go without hectoring and abuse. I had been wondering about continuing to watch Newsnight but if he is going to be the anchor I will give it another chance.

Apologies that there is no picture of Digger’s new car (as promised yesterday). I got up this morning and went out with my camera but Digger had driven off to Duns for milk. By the time he returned I had forgotten. I will put this right tomorrow.

A snap of us around the table in the farmhouse for David’s birthday meal – from the left: David, Tom, Dorothy, Mum, Olive, Digger and Rachel

You can see the delight on David’s face as he unwraps a present from Tom and Dorothy

The room is in darkness, the cake has been brought in, and David prepares to blow out his birthday candles

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Sunday 28th. September, 2014 – Harvest Festival 

One of the several Harvest displays in Gavinton Church this morning – the Church was decorated and looked really good and during the service we were reminded of all of the different harvests for which we had to be grateful, as well as being challenged about poverty throughout the world and in our own country

Rose and walked Mix, breakfasted and went off to Gavinton Church with Mum and Rachel for the Harvest service during which Ann read from the story of Ruth, the Psalms (Psalm 15), a Gospel reading about God’s care for his people from Matthew chapter six, and a passage from the prophet Amos. We were also told about a Harvest project under the banner of Practical Action supporting poor smallholder families in Nepal and encouraged to give to the project by putting money in a watering-can at the front of the Church. We also shared in a quiz about levels of poverty in Great Britain which illustrated the depth of need here as well as in other parts of the world.

After Church we joined the congregation for coffee before returning home at which point I settled down in front of the television and watched the Ryder Cup. In the end Europe won quite convincingly by sixteen and a half points to eleven and a half but this was only after some of our better golfers had overturned significant leads against them to win individual victories. It was excellent viewing.

Rachel went off to Evensong and on her return we all ate together in the farmhouse before watching Downton Abbey in the Granary and then walking the dogs and bed. It has been a good day.

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Saturday 27th. September, 2014 – Not quite as planned 

A picture taken by Dorothy of the Ellemford Show. What a wonderful marquee

I rose and walked Mix and soon afterwards Tom and Dorothy arrived on their way to the Ellemford Show. I had been looking forward to going with them but there were things which required my attention at Mount Pleasant and so I stayed and Rachel went with Tom and Dorothy.

Olive and Digger went off to Berwick to shop (in the new car). Mum's gardener, Stewart, arrived and worked hard on the grass around the Granary, the Summer House and the entrance to Mount Pleasant, as well as cutting back the hedge behind the summer house. Tom, Dorothy and Rachel returned to tell me that they had had a good time at what was a real community show with animals and exhibitions, sheep dog trials, terrier racing and food and drink. Tom brought me a cap advertising the show.

This is a picture of the Gavinton Church stall based in Clare’s mobile home. I’m told that it was well supported

Later I showered and got ready to go to the Maltings to attend Simon Callow’s one man presentation of The Man Jesus. The theatre was full and the performance (and production) was excellent – a retelling of the story of Jesus’ life through the eyes of twelve people whom he met, their lives crisscrossing and inter-relating in the telling. I hadn’t quite known what to expect but it was superbly done and challenging as well with, I suspect, most for people who were already well-versed in the story. Full marks to the Maltings and to Simon Callow.

Back home, we received a grand welcome from the dogs whom we walked before bed. It has been a good day – made better by how well the European team is doing in the Ryder Cup. We lead ten to six at the end of day two with just the singles to come tomorrow.

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Friday 26th. September, 2014 – A delivery and a trip to Wooler 

Today was the day of the Wooler Auction and Tom and I duly set off to see what was on offer. It was a disappointing auction with not very much on sale and not very many people there to buy either (as the picture above shows). However the rolls with sausages in them (covered in brown sauce) were as usual delicious and Tom and I, later joined by David, had an excellent time

Rose, showered and walked Mix before Tom and David arrived.

A Pearsons lorry arrived with two tons of pebbles and, as the picture shows, delivered them neatly exactly beside the entrance to the Bothy. These are part of Plan B and have probably been overtaken already by Plan C. Let me explain. The plans relate to the floor of the Bothy and the issue is that at present the floor is purely an earthen one. Perhaps that wouldn’t matter, except for the fact that this earth is lower than any other part of the courtyard or surrounding area and as a result when it rains the ground gets wet, even now that the roof is on the Bothy. So plan A was hatched. This involved covering the floor with a plastic membrane and then shuttering the floor with a view to filling up to the top of the shuttering with concrete, creating a concrete floor. Once we had prepared the floor by fitting the membrane and installing the shuttering we realised that it would require a huge amount of concrete to create the floor to the depth we had planned. So Plan B emerged. This plan’s basis was that we should fill the Bothy, on top of the membrane, with two tons of gravel and then put three cubic metres of concrete on top of that to create our concrete floor. Discussing this with experts we realised that we didn’t need to create a concrete floor at all. What we required was a concrete seal above which we would create our wooden floor. So this afternoon we bought some more timbers to ensure that the shuttering timbers are also the formers on which the wooden floor will sit. We have the plastic membrane and on this we will place three cubic metres of concrete above which we will place insulation material above which will come the floor. It will evidently create the best of both worlds and will enable us to have the gravel to do up the courtyard once we are ready to tackle it in our restoration programme

The delivery having been completed, Tom and I set off to visit the Wooler market, while David went with Digger to take possession of his new car – a ten-year-old metallic blue three door Peugeot 206. It looks extremely smart and Digger is pleased with it. (For my Australian readers who have requested it, there will be a photo in tomorrow’s entry.)

Having been joined by David, we all set off for Berwick, initially to buy wood for Plan C. However, the firm in question was closed for stocktaking so we went to MacDonald’s for lunch, returning by Pearsons where we collected the wood we required and brought it home in Tom’s trailer.

At this point Tom returned home, but David and I went up to the Whiteadder reservoir to fit two small posts to which we tied down our Wayfarer. This was a precaution against high winds although Tom is quite sure that it is an unnecessary precaution. We returned to Mount Pleasant for coffee and I got caught up with the events of the Ryder Cup in which the Europe team have ended the first day with a slight advantage.

We dined as a family and then Rachel and I watched some television – an old ‘New Tricks’ followed by an older ‘Jonathan Creek’ and then the latest most up-to-date and very depressing News summary centering on air strikes in Iraq.

I walked Mix and retired to bed with a book.

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Thursday 25th. September, 2014 – Progress 

This morning Tom, David and I completed the clearing of the Bothy and then set out the plastic membrane onto which the concrete will be poured. Next we created the shuttering which will hold the concrete in place. My picture shows David and Tom fitting some of the shuttering in place. It will be a little while until the concrete is poured because we will have to wait for the availability of a concrete delivery vehicle. But progress is being made

I rose early and walked Mix, returning to the summer house to pass on electricity readings to our new supply company and to n-power whom we are leaving. I was very disturbed to discover earlier in the year that when our contract with n-power expired we would move from a unit cost of 11.02p and a standing charge of 25.6p to a unit cost of around 14p – a huge increase. In fact by using Compare the Market and moving to i-supply our costs are going to be lower than before. It is quite extraordinary!

David and Tom arrived and we set about getting everything finally ready in the Bothy for the concrete which will be delivered within the next ten days. There is no hurry and we have lots of other jobs to do.

Of course, we broke mid morning for coffee but at lunch time we repaired to Pearsons for lunch. I enjoyed an excellent corned-beef hash. After lunch we helped Tom move his caravan and then David and I went up to the Whiteadder reservoir to fit a new jockey wheel to the front of the trailer to make it easier to move – Tom was away with his grand-daughter to the dentist.

David fitting the new jockey-wheel to Escapade. It is so beautiful up here

Back home we had coffee before David returned home. There were lots of other things going on today. Rachel and Dorothy were in Berwick at their stained-glass class, (that lasted all day). Mum spent the afternoon at Coldingham Priory – a visit to start off the Gavinton Guild season. In the evening, after stovies in the farmhouse, Rachel went back to Berwick to her choir with Bridget while I drove Mum into Duns to attend a musical event in the Volunteer Hall in which her hairdresser was playing a significant part.

I worked in the summer house at my desk, enjoying the peace and quiet after a busy day, surrounded by two contented dogs – heaven. I prepared the music files for Arrochar for Sunday and sent them off to Jamie.

I walked Mix and got to bed in time to watch Newsnight.

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Wednesday 24th. September, 2014 – Working Away! 

This evening the Bothy is illuminated in preparation for our laying of the floor over the next few days

Walked Mix before breakfast and then breakfasted in the farmhouse (eventually – no-one was awake when I went across the first time).

Tom and David arrived sharp on nine thirty and we spent a while over coffee chewing the fat and making plans. Then we moved into the Bothy and started preparing the earth for the floor. By the time we had completed that task it was lunchtime. Tom went off home while David and I tried to get Digger’s car sorted out. To cut a long story short, by the end of the day the car had gone through an MOT inspection and the work required will be completed tomorrow. The car will be ready for collection on Friday at 10 a.m. That is good news.

After coffee, Tom, David and I set off for Berwick where we bought the plastic sheeting which will cover the floor of the Bothy. We also bought some additional shuttering. Tomorrow we will fix the shuttering in place in readiness for a concrete delivery on Monday. Tom went off home to make the tea for his family while David and I had coffee with Mum while Olive and Digger were out visiting a Garden Centre. David now has lighting in the Bothy so we are ready to go.

After David left, Rachel returned from Barnoldswick where she has been painting the canal boat. Mix was very happy to see Rowan again. We all dined in the farmhouse before I took Mum into Duns to attend the first meeting of the Duns Guild for this new session. On the way I spied a lady in Nigerian costume and, as the subject of the meeting was Nigeria, I am assuming that she was the guest speaker.

Back home I watched television with Rachel with the stove adding heat to our lounge. We feel so at home and I still haven’t yet been retired for a year. How fortunate we have been. (We watched the first of a new series of Scott and Bailey before walking the dogs and retiring for the night to watch Newsnight in bed.)

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Tuesday 23rd. September, 2014 – We go car-hunting 

This afternoon Mix and I went for a walk along Bramble Avenue. One tree is covered in apples – hundreds of them. We discovered on our return that Olive had already collected up some of the fallen fruit and we enjoyed stewed apples for dinner. Everything here is so fertile – and wonderful

Rose and walked Mix. Breakfasted and then joined David who thought we should look for a car for Digger since the one we had gone to see yesterday had been sold before we got there. We went into Duns and found a fine little car which we tried out. It was cheap but the MOT was just running out. We returned home thinking to return in the afternoon with Olive once Digger had had a chance to think about it.

Back home David and I ran Mum into Duns for her hairdressing session and on our return David had to go off to return Sasha (his dog) to Jessica (his wife). I set about emptying the Bothy and made really good progress. In the afternoon Olive, Digger, David and I set off to look at the little car. In the meantime I had spoken to Simon (my very knowledgeable-about-cars friend who incidentally was sixty years old today). Simon said that we shouldn’t buy the car without a MOT certificate and that due to the age of the car we should ensure that the timing belt had been changed. At the garage we suggested that we would buy the car if it had a full year of MOT and David said that he would change the timing belt (we are surrounded by mechanical experts). So we left the garage to see if the car would pass a MOT test and if it does I expect that we shall buy it tomorrow.

David and I retired to the summer house for coffee before he went home to get ready for the Morris Dancing this evening (at which he, along with Tom, plays the music). Tom meanwhile was driving up from England where he had been at a birthday party yesterday evening.

Mix and I walked along Bramble Avenue – I admired the apple tree at the head of this entry. Mum had returned from her Tai Chi class and soon we were all enjoying dinner. Afterwards Mix and I retired to the summer house where I caught up with the cricket and the news before going back in doors and, after a while, walking Mix before bed. It has been a good day – not how I had expected to spend it – but good none-the-less. Every day there seems to be an adventure waiting for us. What more could one ask?

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Monday 22nd. September, 2014 – Rachel sets off for Barnoldswick 

This is a picture of The Chandlery in Berwick, of the cafe called Lowry after the celebrated painter of the same name who had connections with Berwick. David brought me here this afternoon when we were out and about. I had a splendid hot chocolate

Up and walked Mix before breakfast. Soon afterwards David (with his dog Sasha -- that's how it is pronounced but I don't know if it is how it is spelt -- arrived (Tom is in England at a birthday party). At the same time Rachel and Rowan set off for Barnoldswick where they are to spend a day or two painting the canal boat in readiness for winter. David and I went up to the Whiteadder Reservoir to take some measurements from Escapade’s trailer so that we can fit a jockey-wheel at the front which will make it easier to pull the boat back up to the boat park once it has been taken out of the water.

Then we drove back to Mount Pleasant to join Olive, Digger and Mum with two of Mum’s friends, Margaret and Barbara, for a snack lunch after which we showed them around the barns. Next David and I started the task of emptying the Bothy (we will complete the task tomorrow).

Now it was time to drive to Berwick to get brackets for the jockey-wheel for Escapade. We also tried to find a new car for Digger and Olive. (David had identified as Astra at a very reasonable price but when we went to see it, it had already been sold.) I spoke to Simon on the telephone and he is also looking out for a car for Digger.

Before returning home to Mount Pleasant, David took me for a hot chocolate at Lowry’s. It was very good. Back home, David went off to a meeting and I joined Olive, Digger and Mum for our evening meal after which Mix and I retired to the summer house where I did my accounts and sorted out some of my papers which were requiring attention.

We went back in to the Granary in time to watch the News before a last walk before bed.

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Sunday 21st. September, 2014 – Tea at the Ritz 

Sitting down around the table in the Manse dining room for 'tea at the Ritz'. From the left: Bridget, Rachel, Mum, Ann and Tom -- all slightly thrown into silhouette by the strong sunshine coming in through the window

I was up just after eight, showered and packed before wandering down to the breakfast room where I shared breakfast with my great friend Brian. I always enjoy hotel breakfasts and this hotel had the lot – fruit, orange juice, coffee, bacon, scrambled egg, black pudding, sausage, tattie scone, tomato, mushroom and more. I ate it all and thoroughly enjoyed it.

Having said my farewells I set off for home. It was a lovely day and a lovely drive and I arrived home just after one in the afternoon. Mix was pleased to welcome me back. I changed into a suit and Tom came to collect Mum, Rachel and me and take us, along with Bridget, to the Manse at Cranshaws for the Church afternoon teas. These were modelled on afternoon tea at the Ritz. We were each given a menu with a wide variety of teas, sandwiches and cakes and there was champagne as well should we wish (Rachel and Mum did wish). We were at a table in the dining room, but there were other tables elsewhere and everyone was clearly having an excellent time – and in the process raising around £600 for Church funds. Well done to everyone who was involved.

Once we had gorged ourselves on sandwiches and scones, Andrea arrived with the cakes

Tom drove us home and soon (you’ve guessed it) it was time for dinner. What a day it has been: an hotel breakfast, afternoon tea ‘at the Ritz’ and dinner in the farmhouse. No wonder I am putting on weight.

In the evening Olive and Mum came across to the Granary, where Rachel had lit the stove, to watch Downton Abbey. It was a fun first episode reminding us of what had gone before and laying the foundations for what will happen during this series. Light and frothy and great for a Sunday evening after having had too much to eat.

I walked Mix (who was delighted to have me home) and went to bed.

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Saturday 20th. September, 2014 – 50th. Anniversary Reunion 

This is Woodlands Hotel in Barnhill which is less than a mile from where I lived for the duration of my primary education. I took the photo because it is the venue for the fiftieth anniversary of my school year leaving Dundee High School

I got up and walked Mix and then got my bits and pieces together before setting off shortly before lunchtime for Dundee where I was to attend the fiftieth anniversary of leaving school. I had agreed to attend this event many months ago and it was a bit of a disappointment that the date clashed with the final of the one-day competition at Lord’s in which Durham found themselves up against Warwickshire. Any other date and I would have been on a train heading south. Instead I was in my car driving north.

It was a pleasant journey and I booked into my hotel room on a glorious summer afternoon around about half-past two. As there was no one else about (that’s not true because the hotel was buzzing with a wedding in full swing – thank goodness they are not now my concern) but no one else from my party is what I meant to imply, I went swimming in the hotel pool. I was surprised by how warm the water was but it was extremely pleasant.

I took this snap from the top of Reres Hill, a wonderful wild spot in the middle of an otherwise totally built-up area, surrounded by houses

And this is a picture of one of the paths leading up the hill -- a lovely walk for a Sunday afternoon, or a haven for small children to play 'cops and robbers' or 'Cowboys and Indians' or whatever is the modern equivalent

Next (with my ipad in hand so that I could keep in touch with the cricket) I set off to explore, walking along to Reres Park, a small hill in the middle of Barnhill and one which became a public park in 1867. As a child I remember that it was here that we played wide games (a more violent form of tig) and enacted battles. Today I climbed to the top and then walked down to the main Monifieth Road into Broughty Ferry, walking through Orchar Park (named after a nineteenth century Provost) where I spent hours each week playing cricket or football or just having fun. Orchar park abutted Panmure Street where we lived.

This is the main entrance to Orchar Park just across the road from our home ....

... and this is a view of the park with shadows falling over the large expanse of grass on which we played cricket almost around the year

I wandered down under the little bridge over the railway and made my way to the beach complete with genuine sand-dunes and beautiful real sand. I took in the tennis courts where I remember my father and Jim Meff playing and then returned to the hotel by way of Panmure Street, first having sat on a park bench and watched Durham gradually gaining the upper hand in the cricket match on Sky television on my ipad (isn’t technology amazing?).

Back in my room the game reached its climax and a Durham victory by three wickets, the winning runs being struck by Gareth Breese, who had also taken three wickets in the Warwickshire innings. I was delighted because this was Gareth Breese’s last game before retirement and he has always been one of my heroes. Today he did exceedingly well and it was appropriate that his colleagues prepared a guard of honour for him as he left the field.

A picture of Broughty Ferry Beach. It is not much more than the throw of a cricket ball from our house and just behind here were tennis courts and a putting green. We were fortunate children

A picture of the house in which we grew up -- and, except for the new rubbish bins, it is just as I remember it

I got ready for the dinner and made my way down to the restaurant. It was a good event; strange to be in the company of people many of whom I had not seen for fifty years, some in truth whom I didn’t recognise, but with all of whom – after just a few moments chat – I felt an affinity because we had had known each other so well so many years ago. As I listened to the stories I was sorry that some of those whom I had known best were not able to be present, sorry too to learn that quite a few have died, but everyone seems to have used their lives well and to have enjoyed them.

The event was well organised – a buffet with several tables so that folk could get something to eat and move around meeting different people. It was at least one in the morning when I called it a day (others were still going strong when I went up to my room). I am glad that I went and, having renewed friendships, I hope that I will see some of the folk again, perhaps even down here in the Borders.

I was glad to get to bed and I was soon asleep in my hotel bedroom.

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Friday 19th. September, 2014 – We buy another tree 

Woke early and walked Mix before Joining Tom and Dorothy to drive into Berwick to collect the table and chairs I bought a couple of days ago. We loaded them onto the trailer and brought them back to Mount Pleasant via Duns where we dropped Dorothy off. Tom then brought the trailer to Mount Pleasant before going off to join Dorothy.

Back home I set about preparing music for Arrochar – it hadn’t arrived until Thursday this week and so I had little time to complete it because I will be away tomorrow. Once I had prepared the music and sent it off to Jamie I got my on-line diary in order – it too had suffered from too much living and not enough time to transcribe.

I grabbed a bit of lunch and then Rachel and I drove into Berwick – I seem to be across that border so many times each day at the moment – where Rachel chose a Maple tree to put in a large pot outside the door of the Granary – she feels that the entrance to the Granary is a bit boring and is trying to put that to rights. We also did a bit of shopping at Tesco.

Back at the Granary I helped Rachel get her tree organised and then did a bit of reading before supper. It was an early supper because Olive and Digger are off to Berwick to the Film Festival. Rachel and I sat down in front of the television with Mum and watched the film ‘Master and Commander’, a dramatisation of Patrick O’Brien’s first novel. I had seen it as soon as it came out but it was just as good a second-time around.

The big political events are that Alec Salmond has announced his retirement as First Minister and leader of the Scottish National Party (about which I am sorry) and David Cameron seems to be distancing himself from the Vow he made to bring more powers under an agreed timetable to the Scottish Parliament (about which I am not surprised).

Walked Mix and went to bed.

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Thursday 18th. September, 2014 – While Scotland votes, I go off to Stirling 

It is a grey day and I am parked next to a grey car just ready to go into the building in the picture for the regular meeting of the Scottish Pilgrim Routes Forum. It is a long drive but at least there is always a parking spot

I was up early as Rachel had to go off to the first session of her stained-glass class for the new season. We drove into Duns to register our votes and then came back in time for Rachel to get off to Berwick and me to get ready and then set off for Stirling for a meeting of the Scottish Pilgrim Routes Forum.

It was a good meeting which lasted throughout the afternoon with most of the time being taken up with the preparations for the Pilgrim Gathering in Dunfermline in a couple of weeks. That is going to be a great event but I will record it when I have been at it rather than describe what I think is going to happen.

It was a long drive home because, of course, I hit the rush hour on the Edinburgh ring road and as a result it was after seven when I reached Duns. Rachel was already away to her choir rehearsals which have also started again after the summer, and so I want out for a Chinese take-away which I enjoyed in front of the television before driving over to Tom and Dorothy’s to hand-in some gifts from our family for Tom’s birthday. I stayed for coffee and a blether.

Back home I turned on the television but by now everything was taken over by the referendum although it was clear a) that the no vote had got most votes and b) that there were going to be no declarations for a considerable number of hours. So I went to bed and, although Rachel was watching television in bed, I very quickly fell asleep.

I say that the ‘no vote had got most votes’ rather than ‘won’ quite deliberately because it seems to me that the leaders of that campaign got most votes by offering to hand over a great deal of the powers which the ‘yes’ campaigners really wanted. So maybe over the two years of battering at each other, the campaigners have arrived at what many wanted on the ballot paper to start with. But at that time the leaders wouldn’t agree to have a third option on the ballot paper. Strange. It will be interesting to see what happens next.

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Wednesday 17th. September, 2014 – We plant a tree and attend a film festival 

This is the tree we planted. It is a Rowan and we planted it today because it was Rachel’s Mum’s birthday and she would have liked it. Mind you, it wasn’t easy. We discovered that our back lawn is sown on top of a huge amount of building rubble and when digging the hole for the tree we had to remove a great number of stones and old bricks. You can see in the picture one of the immense boulders which came out of the hole, but now that it is done it looks grand and it has half a bag of compost to help it settle in

Up today and walked Mix before breakfast. Tom and David were busy with other things so I was able to enjoy the most amazing day of cricket (unfortunately just on the radio). Durham put Northamptonshire to the sword, bowling them out for 83 and then for 90 in a little over forty overs. It was a magnificent victory and a timely reminder of how good Durham are. I am hoping that it is a good omen for Saturday when we play Warwickshire in the final of the one day competition.

Rachel and I, with Mum, went off to Berwick to buy a tree from the Garden Centre there and while we were there I found a table and chairs for the garden which was dramatically reduced for the end of the season. I purchased it but obviously couldn’t get it into the Berlingo. Tom has kindly said that he would take me along with the trailer on Friday to get it collected.

Back home, we planted the tree (not without difficulty) and Mum put up her hanging basket, the flowers for which she had also bought at the Garden Centre. I made myself something to eat and it wasn’t long before we were setting off for Berwick to attend the opening of the Berwick Upon Tweed Film Festival in the Maltings. We sat in the auditorium and Scott and Sue arrived to sit beside us -- a nice bonus. After a short opening ceremony we watched the opening film which was the UK premier of a Serbian film (with English subtitles) called Mamarosh (which I think – only think – means Mummy’s boy). I enjoyed the film very much and it was a film which I certainly wouldn’t have seen had it not been part of a festival.

After the film we were all invited to walk down to outside of the town walls where a marquee with drinks had been erected giving us the chance of a drink – a welcome drink because the theatre had been so warm – and then to visit the Custom House and Ice House to see a short film entitled The Twilight State which was a series of dream sequences shot between South Africa and Swaziland. The sequences started with shots filmed in the Kruger National Park (where Rachel and I had spent a few days a couple of years ago) and the colours (and the animals) reminded me of those happy days – although the subject matter of the film was more challenging than that, it floated over me because I had spent the earlier part of the evening immersed in the Serbian film. It was a happy evening and I was glad to have been there.

Back home in time to walk Mix and get off to bed.

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Tuesday 16th. September, 2014 -- We go sailing 

David and Tom on board Escapade as she journeys across the Whiteadder reservoir. It turned out to be a lovely day and I took my cheap camera with an underwater housing (which I had got to go to the Red Sea several years ago) so it didn’t matter if we turned over

Up and walked Mix before breakfast. It started as a disappointing day, overcast and with not very much wind, but it soon began to clear and by the time that Tom and David had arrived it was a reasonable proposition for us to drop everything else and set off for the Whiteadder reservoir to sail our Wayfarer dinghy.

We got the boat organised and into the water and then set off. How time flies when you are enjoying yourself. David hadn’t sailed since he was a small boy and he really loved it. I hadn’t sailed for a month or so and I really loved it. There is something magical about travelling across an expanse of water powered by sail. Everything is so quiet but at the same time so absolutely exhilarating.

We made sure that David had a shot of sailing Escapade and all too soon it was time to bring her ashore, pull her up to the boat-park and remove her sails. I can’t wait to return. On the way home we popped into the Manse so that David could check the fuse box – Jack gave us coffee while we distracted Ann from her work of preparing for a meeting this evening.

We dropped Tom off at Gavinton and then David, after a coffee, set off for home from Mount Pleasant. I found a couple of pictures for this blog – they were a bit hit and miss as I couldn’t really see what I was taking due to a) the sun b) the waterproof housing and c) my lack of spectacles. Found two I liked:

This is David in control of Escapade

I had leapt off at the little jetty to grab this picture of Tom and David in the boat. Escapade sails extremely well and I would love to have pictures taken from the shore of her under full sail. After this picture we raced from one side of the reservoir to the other and back again before disembarking and coming home

We all dined in the farmhouse and later in the evening I watched David Dimbleby’s referendum interviews of Gordon Brown and Alex Salmond, followed by the News and bed (of course, I walked Mix first). What fun today has been – and I have left all of the sailing gear in the car, just in case.

Incidentally, I thought that David Dimbleby’s interviews were very much better than others I have seen in recent weeks. He allowed Gordon Brown and Alex Salmond to speak and set out what they believed and as a result I learned far more about those being interviewed than normal. His skill is an old one which we used to take for granted from television interviewers but which has now disappeared and has been replaced by rudeness and unnecessary aggression in all too many of the new breed of interviewers.

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Monday 15th. September, 2014 – The Works Outing 

Today we found ourselves in B & Q in Galashiels. Tom was keen to buy a particular kind of lantern (appropriately called a Polaris) but it was kept high on one of the shelves and, try as we might, no assistant was available to assist our purchase. So David commandeered a step ladder on wheels and drove it to the right spot from where he was able to retrieve a Polaris lamp for Tom. As soon as David started to climb the steps a crowd began to gather, no doubt anticipating that he was about to address us with his views on the forthcoming referendum but he gave up that opportunity, descended the ladder and we all made our way to the checkout in an orderly manner

Today was not a good day, certainly as far as the weather was concerned. However, that didn’t affect our spirits at all. I got up and walked Mix before breakfast and afterwards David arrived and started work on the latest electrical installation, designed to give us light to work in the Bothy. Later in the morning Tom arrived fresh from house-hunting, or at least house-inspecting, and after coffee and a chat we all set off on a Works Outing to Galashiels.

First stop was B & Q which we thoroughly inspected before setting off for McDonald’s where we enjoyed burgers, chips and juice. Next we toured Gala so that we could take in the Manse in Mossilee Road, our home when Dad was miniskter here many years ago. While Galashiels has changed markedly, the Manse looks no different (except that the drive has been tarmacadamed).

We drove leisurely back to Duns conducting, as we drove, our own referendum poll. We discovered that ‘No, thanks’ signs dominated the fields along our route, while ‘Yes’ signs almost had a monopoly of the windows in people’s houses. Only one bridge had a sign and that was ‘Yes’, while only one telegraph pole had a sign and that was ‘No’. We have yet to work out the conclusions of our research but Tom was keen to point out that the telegraph pole could certainly claim to be the ‘Pole of Polls’.

Once back at Mount Pleasant we examined the ground in the Bothy. It has been raining hard and even although we have a roof, the ground was wet – our conclusion: we will have to put in a concrete base to avoid problems in the future. Tom went off to see what Dorothy had made of their house-hunting this morning; David stayed for coffee.

Later we dined in the farmhouse – fish-pie made by Digger – and then I retired to the summer house to do some sorting out before joining Rachel in the Granary to watch New Tricks on television. I followed this by catching up on the News before walking Mix and retiring for the night. Tomorrow, if the weather is satisfactory, we will go sailing! Life is good.

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Sunday 14th. September, 2014 – It’s Sunday again 

Over the garden fence, Digger has been digging in his allotment. This year there were potatoes in the strip which has been dug, I wonder what will appear next year?

Rose, showered, walked Mix and breakfasted in the farmhouse before Rachel drove Mum and me to Gavinton Church. Ann read to us the story of the crossing of the Red Sea, the parable of the unforgiving servant and a passage from Romans which emphasised the need for people of different opinions and practices to have respect for each other – singularly appropriate for the Sunday before the referendum. She spoke on the importance of story. What happened to the Israelites didn’t really matter, what did matter was that God had intervened in their lives and led them to safety. That would be their story from this point forward (even if they would forget it from time to time).

Back Home Olive had a student to teach so we didn’t eat until the evening. It suited everyone because Mum was away to a book event in, I believe, Galashiels, taken by the librarian from Duns. I stood in for her and met with her gardener, Stewart, explaining what she would like him to do in the next few weeks. Basically our plan is to sort out the entrance to Mount Pleasant. Rachel and I have allowed our lawns there to get overgrown (well, our lawns everywhere to get overgrown) but Stewart is going to help us to get them back in order and also to sort out the bushes and display areas on these lawns. Our idea is to have a lovely bit we can furnish with outdoor tables and chairs for the benefit of those who come to learn to weave and make kilts with Anne and Rachel.

After Stewart left, I had a snack with Rachel and then repaired to the summer house to make a couple of phone calls and then to relax. Rachel went off to Evensong and on her return we all ate in the farmhouse.

Afterwards we had a quiet evening watching television. First, a referendum debate from Stirling (more of the same!) and then an episode of Mr. Whicher (very good). It is really good to be retired. Mix and I ended the day walking around the estate but I did find time to read a bit of my book before falling asleep. It is Jack of Spies by David Downing. I’m not really very far into it as yet but I am enjoying what I have read.

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Saturday 13th. September, 2014 – A Gorgeous Day 

After a slow start, today turned out to be gorgeous: the sun shone down and it was certainly a day to be outdoors. I took this picture through the window of the summer house. Rowan is lying in wait for Rachel who has gone down into the woods to collect brambles. Yesterday she took Rowan but Rowan got quickly bored, today Rowan has been left at home and she is spending this part of the afternoon just waiting for Rachel to return. Such is life

Slept in until after nine, got up and walked Mix and then sorted out my finances! I had intended to start sorting out the box room in the Granary but instead Rachel started on the garden and I was recruited to help. First we gathered in all of the grass which had been lying since last time the grass was cut. Then I moved all of the blocks which we have ready for building the floor in the bothy. They were heavy but I got them all into the courtyard where they will soon be required. Rachel and I collected up all of the loose grass from the entrance area and then did the same in the back garden and around the summer house.

Finally it was time for some lunch. In the afternoon I sorted a few things from the Hen House and from the cart shed. I say, I sorted a few things, what I mean is that I searched for a few things, largely without success. What we should have done, thinking about it and seeing what a lovely day it has turned out to be, was to unload the Hen House into the courtyard and sort everything out. Perhaps that will be our plan for one day next week. However it is lovely to have such a wonderful day in which to relax.

Courtesy of Mum we all enjoyed a Chinese carry-out this evening and then we gathered in the Granary to watch a film on DVD which Jeffrey had given Olive for her birthday – The Grand Budapest Hotel. It was a lot of fun and I enjoyed it. I also enjoyed watching the Last Night of the Proms with all of its rousing tunes and excited crowds.

Walked Mix before bed. I’m hoping for another fine day tomorrow.

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Friday 12th. September, 2014 – Back at the coal face 

Rachel is painting the barge-boards on the Bothy. At one stage Tom said to me, “We better hurry up with these barge-boards, Rachel is catching us up.” Well, we ended the day with all the boards in place and now we can turn our attention elsewhere

Up and walked Mix before breakfast (which I ate in the farmhouse). Tom arrived and we started to complete the barge-boards on the Bothy. It took us all day but now they are completed. It was quite finicky ensuring that all of the holes in this old building were covered and that everything looked good but I am delighted with the final result – Tom has done well.

Meanwhile David was completing work on the project to illuminate the courtyard, and that, too, was completed today. While David was away in Berwick, Tom and I went up to buy more wood preservative from Pearsons, stopping for lunch at the same time. Then it was back to work.

This afternoon Rachel, Olive and Digger were all out in Bramble Avenue (you guessed it) gathering brambles and for supper this evening I enjoyed bramble ice-cream covered in bramble and apple compote. It was superb. (I should stress that that is not all I had. I started with a splendid ham salad with lots of potatoes – and this was to build on the haggis, neeps and tatties Tom and I enjoyed at Pearsons: we do well in the eating stakes).

In the evening I retired to the summer house to prepare the music for Arrochar Church. I’m later in getting it done this week but it has been a very busy one. I completed the music, watched the News, walked Mix and went to bed. I am really quite tired.

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Thursday 11th. September, 2014 – A long day 

A view of Westside Plaza in Wester Hailes, a suburb of Edinburgh. It is here that Rachel and I come to visit our dentist, Andrew. Andrew used to be our dentist in Buckhaven but when he moved to Edinburgh we followed him

Up exceedingly early and had showered and walked Mix before seven. It was at seven that we set off for Edinburgh. Still we managed to get caught up in the rush hour traffic around Edinburgh and we arrived at our dentist just in time for our 8.40 a.m. appointment. I had a tooth x-rayed and Rachel just had a check-up. Neither of us required anything to be done so we are free for another six months. Andrew gave me a very back-handed compliment, he said, “You seem to be caring better for your teeth now that you are retired.” Ah well, what else is there to do?

We journeyed on from Edinburgh to Kirkcaldy where we attended the funeral of our friend Alan who died last week. The service was held at Kirkcaldy Crematorium and the crematorium was packed, a real tribute to Alan and one which I hope his family appreciated. The service was conducted by Wilma from Buckhaven and she did it very well (as I would have expected her to do).

After the service, we chatted with many old friends (Peter, my great friend who worked with me at Buckhaven drove over from Kilmacolm to be present and it was good to see him). We drove home and got back to Mount Pleasant around four, just in time to have coffee with David who had been working on the lights. We dined in the farmhouse (early because Rachel was going to a musical event with Bridget, and Mum was off to the Rural at Gavinton to hear about the work of the Marie Currie organisation). I watched the latest referendum debate, walked Mix, and was in bed before the start of Newsnight which I had intended to watch but quickly fell asleep.

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Wednesday 10th. September, 2014 – An early start to Lindisfarne 

This is the view of Lindisfarne which many people think of when they hear the name Lindisfarne -- I think more immediately of the holy places, but there is no denying that this is a special view, and one which we enjoyed as we walked towards the castle this morning in the brightest sunshine you could wish for

Up and walked Mix before breakfasting and getting on the road (this time with Rachel as well) before eight o’clock. We arrived at Lindisfarne soon after eight-thirty and crossed safely across the causeway before making our way to the car park where we left the car.

I had anticipated that everything on the island would have been open to tie-in with the access times via the causeway, but no, nothing opened until ten. That’s not quite true, the Church was open – good for the Church – so we explored it first before making our way to the Castle, stopping off twice on the way, once to visit the National Trust shop (I’ll be open when you come back so you can buy your books then) and once at a little display centre which identified the nature we were seeing as we walked to the Castle.

Arriving at the Castle we set off on a tour, this time under our own direction (which was fine because there are good interpretative signs everywhere and because we were each given a good leaflet with information when we arrived). We had an excellent visit to this old castle which had been massively restored at the start of the twentieth century. It was really good. On the way back into the village we visited the Castle’s walled garden, again set out at the start of the twentieth century. It looked super. Eating ice-creams we made our way back to the Priory, now open, and which we explored in glorious sunshine. Again a ruin, but again, with the help of the literature and of the visitor centre which we fully explored, it was easy to understand.

Time was now running out but we made our way to a private exhibition centre to see the exhibition on the Lindisfarne Gospel. This was very, very good and we could have stayed longer watching the displays teaching us about how to make a medieval book, but time had run out and we returned to the car park by way of the National Trust shop to pick up some books: it was closed!

We drove off the island and made our way to the Barn at Beal where we dined on fish and chips and watched as cars continued to come off the island long after the final announced time for leaving.

Now we drove to Bamburgh where we considered afternoon tea but settled for ice cream before returning home to collect the dogs and set off for Duns where we walked along in front of the castle, returning home via Gavinton (where we saw Tom and our Church) and Fogo where we visited the ancient Church there.

We arrived home just in time for supper, followed by conversation and a (fairly) early night because we were all pretty tired after a day of gallivanting – but it was an excellent day and I have really enjoyed Ewen and Jane’s company. They are like the best kind of old friends – you don’t see them for ages and then you just pick up with them as if they had never been away.

Inside the Church on the site of the ancient Priory. There is a lovely feel to this working Church which clearly recognises the importance of its ministry to pilgrims and visitors

As we walked towards the castle we came across a small viewing booth which centred around a window onto the wetlands beyond with a great deal of explanations of what was to be seen in terms of local wildlife

I took this picture into the bright sun and so it looks very dark. It struck me that most people would always see Holy Island with the tide out because they came across when the tide went out and left before they got trapped on the island. Rachel told me, however, that she and her Mum used to come across just before the island got cut off and then waited until it was possible to leave again. Now why didn't I think of that?

The picture of our approach to the castle is at the head of today's entry. Now we are in the Castle kitchen when Jane and Ewen look quite at home

This picture was taken on the battlements -- it really was a glorious day

I loved the wild flower look of the castle garden. It had been carefully planned more than a hundred years ago and replanted to the original plans a few years back. I could have sat here for the whole of the day

My tour party relaxing on the side of the well in the Priory

We popped into the United Reformed Church and took in an exhibition of banner-making. The banners were quite striking -- they were also thought-provoking

And now we have arrived at the exhibition about the Lindisfarne Gospel. If you find yourself on Holy Island this exhibition is well worth a visit. I would have liked to have stayed longer

I took this picture from outside the Lord Crewe Arms, the hotel in which Rachel and I spent part of our honeymoon way back in 1969. The view of Bamburgh castle is quite wonderful

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Tuesday 9th. September, 2014 – I hone my tour-guiding skills 

It has been a long day and Ewen is in the childrens’ playpark at Paxton House. He has tried the shute but finds the zip slide more to his liking. Jane looks on

Up and walked Mix quite early (Ewen came with me as we explored Bramble Avenue) so that we could be on our way and show Ewen and Jane something of where we live. We all breakfasted in the farmhouse but as Rachel is not feeling too good (too much fruit yesterday, I think) just the three of us set out on our tour with me as tour guide in chief.

We drove first to Ladykirk where we parked and went off and explored the fascinating Church there – all of stone, even the roof – which has seen all kinds of negotiations between the English and the Scots over the centuries, not least because it sits almost astride the border between the two countries.

From Ladykirk we drove across the Tweed to Norham where we saw the village green and then spent some time exploring the Castle, a twelfth century castle which has changed hands between the English and the Scots on several occasions and which is situated to oversee an important river crossing point. Although the castle is now ruined, there is sufficient of it left to get an excellent idea of how it must have looked in times past.

From here we drove to the Union Bridge, the oldest suspension bridge still in use in the United Kingdom. We walked across it and then, after taking a few photographs, we drove across it and into Berwick from the Scottish side. We parked by the town walls and then set off on a journey right around the town along the walls.

It was an excellent walk with lots of historical interest and lots of good things to see. We looked at the bridges over the Tweed, we looked at the main street from above the gates (Marygate) we saw the Churches, the barracks, a wonderful allotment complex, the north sea and much more, finally ending up down in the harbour area where we had an excellent lunch at Lowry’s coffee shop, part of the Chandlery down by the Tweed. Reasonably priced and good food pleasantly served, what more could you want?

After lunch we walked along Bridge Street enjoying the unusual shops there before returning via the main street to the car park from where we set off for Paxton House visiting a couple of exhibitions (photographic and fishing) before being taken on an excellent tour of the House by our guide, Bill. The tour lasted ninety minutes, give or take a moment or two, and was so informative – really well done. I felt we got into the lives of the family who had lived there, shared their good times, sorrowed at their disasters and marvelled at their home.

After the tour we had a walk around the garden before driving home and eating in the farm house with Digger and Olive. Mum was missing because she had gone off to speak at a Women’s Rural at Coldingham (on the subject of her war-time experiences at Bletchley Park).

We sat and blethered with Olive and Digger and then Jane and Ewen came across to the Granary where we talked some more, before deciding that it was time to go to bed because we are to have an early start tomorrow.

Walked Mix and went to bed.

Here are some snaps from today:

Inside Ladykirk

Ladykirk from the outside

The entrance to Norham Castle

Jane and Ewen are reading one of the information panels at Norham Castle -- at least Ewen is, Jane just looks taken-aback that I am taking her photo

Whichever way the referendum goes, Ewen and Jane have a foot in the right camp. We are in the middle of the Union Bridge with the Tweed in the background

And a picture of the River Tweed because it is so beautiful

Walking around the town walls we spied these allotments. They are the Lion Allotments (so named after a neighbouring house which has two stone lions at the gate)

Ewen and Jane on one of the bridges over the River Tweed, doing the tourist thing

Ewen told me that they were thinking of getting a place over here for holidays. I wondered if Paxton House might fit the bill

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Monday 8th. September, 2014 – Mix is returned to health 

Mix relaxes on his cushion in the summer house, his favourite place – I think that he is a bit of a chameleon, blending perfectly with his surroundings (but only when he is on this cushion)

Woke and walked Mix. He seems to be back in good health with a cough that has disappeared. He also seems much more cheerful and relaxed – you don’t get much more relaxed than the picture of him here on his cushion in the summer house.

Tom, Dorothy, David and Clare arrived this morning – Clare, Dorothy and Olive to have a chat about the need for a treasurer for the church because the existing treasurer is moving from the area. I gave them coffee in the summer house and then left them to it, joining Tom and David who were working on the Bothy.

By the end of the morning David had installed power into the Bothy and got the courtyard light on the Bothy wall functioning. Tom completed the barge board on the west end of the Bothy and installed the finial. Both then went off with other things to do.

Rachel painted the courtyard doors with a lovely Oxford Blue (I would call it navy blue myself) and then went off to get copies of the summer house key after the existing key broke in my hand last night when I locked the place up.

In the late afternoon, our friends Ewen and Jane arrived to stay a few days with us. They are from Australia and we got to know them through the services which we broadcast from Luss. It was really good to see them. We all ate together in the farmhouse and afterwards we spent the evening gossiping in the Granary. Tomorrow we will show them something of where we live. I am looking forward to that enormously.

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Sunday 7th. September, 2014 – We go to Church – twice – and have dinner with a friend 

This is the picture I promised to post on the 4th. of September: the view of the rear of the Granary with the grass cut! It looks just as it did a year ago except for the apple tree in the foreground and the Summer House in the background. I think that is a duvet which Rachel has placed on the chair in front of the back door

Up and walked Mix – he continues to improve, just a small cough this morning and he is also much happier. I have some breakfast in the farmhouse and then drive with Mum and Rachel to Gavinton Church for morning worship. We read the story of the Passover but during the address, Ann concentrated on her reflections of her first visit to the Guild Rally yesterday. She enjoyed the Moderator’s offering about the difference between doing and being and also felt that this tied in well with the following speaker’s thoughts (she came from the West Indies, I gather, but had run over her time somewhat). After lunch there was a contribution on art and faith – in which I also gathered that the concept was perhaps more inspiring than the content.

After the service we joined the congregation for coffee and chat before returning home for lunch with the family and with Veronica and Peter (who left for home shortly afterwards). I spent the afternoon sorting out the summer house – as it is used as our howff during the week it gets very untidy quite quickly. I also watched the T20 international as I worked. (A Rare T20 victory for England over India.)

Rachel and I then drove into Berwick to attend Evensong with Holy Communion. There was no sermon but it was a pleasant service although I was surprised how few people were present. Afterwards we went home with Jamie, the son of one of my university friends, and enjoyed supper at his flat. Jamie is about to set off for Russia and spent a bit of time telling us about his plans and about his love of that country.

We came back home in time to catch the news before walking the dogs and getting off to bed after a busy and a thoroughly enjoyable day.

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Saturday 6th. September, 2014 -- Away for the day at Chester-le-Street 

Today I was part of a goodly crowd at Chester-le-Street, the home of Durham County Cricket Club, where I watched Durham book their place in the final of the fifty-over competition by roundly defeating Nottingham in the semi-final

Up early in time to see Mum off on her annual trip to the meeting of the Guild in Dundee. She was picked up by Marga at ten past seven and then was driven to Dundee and brought home again by Ann. (Mum had a thoroughly good time.)

I walked Mix who had had a better night than yesterday – he coughed occasionally but the ‘bite’ has gone out of the cough and if it continues to improve at this rate, he will be right as rain by the end of the weekend.

Scott picked me up at 8.15 and we set off for Chester-le-Street arriving at the ground in time to visit the pavilion for a bacon roll. Durham had lost the toss and been put into bat, but the game went superbly for us thanks to some great batting from Mark Stoneman, Phil Mustard and (particularly) from Ben Stokes who made 164, a club record in this competition. We amassed 353 in our fifty overs and then went back to the members’ pavilion for lunch.

After lunch we watched as Nottingham tried to respond to our mammoth total. In spite of a superb 114 from their captain, James Taylor, and because of some fine bowling and superb catching from our boys, we dismissed Notts for just 279, a victory for us by 83 runs – a massive victory in a one day competition.

Scott and I drove home. I joined the family for supper and it was good to meet up with Peter and Veronica who have come to stay for the weekend. I left them all to play a game and came back to the Granary with Rachel. We dealt with Mix’s medicaments and watched a political thriller ‘The Ides of March’. It was quite good and served the purpose of making me extremely sleepy and ready for bed – after, of course, walking Mix. What a good day it has been!

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Friday 5th. September, 2014 – One year and one day 

Just one year and one day after we arrived Tom sets up the sign with the name of the property over the entrance gate. It doesn’t look great in the photo but driving towards it, the black of the sign stands out against the sky and proudly proclaims Mount Pleasant Farm

Didn’t sleep much – Mix’s cough got worse and worse as the night went on. First thing in the morning we ‘phoned the vet and had Mix along at the Ramparts Animal Hospital by just after ten. A very kind vet came out to see Mix in the car so that he wasn’t stressed (he has a very bad record with vets) and so that if he was infectious he wouldn’t infect other dogs.

The conclusion of the consultation is that Mix may have developed some kind of kennel cough. He has been issued with a course of antibiotics and is also on children’s Benelin to sooth his throat. If he goes off his food or deteriorates he is to return at once but the vet expects that within five days he will be cured and should return in two weeks time for a further check up. Already by the end of today he seems to have improved but we are keeping a very careful eye on him – as is Rowan who also seems to have been concerned about his health.

Back home, I assisted Tom and David who were making up the barge-boards for the west end of the Bothy and then, after an extended lunch break during which I bought train tickets for a trip to London which Rachel and I have planned for November -- by purchasing now I got a really good deal -- we erected the barge-boards, discovering that this was quite a complicated manoeuvre (and much more difficult than the other end of the building) but now that it is done everything else is cosmetic. (Or that’s what Tom tells me.)

After an extended (everything here is extended now that we are retired) coffee break, I showered and then went off with Tom to a ‘Sing-for-your supper’ evening at Bill and Alison’s bed-and-breakfast home down by the river near Cranshaws. They are kind hosts and extremely welcoming as well as having a beautiful home. They arranged a varied musical programme for us supplemented by some excellent food, and those who were present clearly enjoyed themselves.

After driving home with Tom, I made my way to the Granary in time to watch the News and retire to bed after walking Mix who is so much better than he was this morning. Halleluiah!

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Thursday 4th. September, 2014 – One Year On! 

I took this picture this morning. I took a similar picture exactly a year ago (well it was in the afternoon) and things look remarkably similar – but what a lot has happened during our first year here

Up and walked Mix (I didn’t breakfast because I was still full of food from a too late meal last night) and then Tom and David arrived. We rescued Rachel’s table from the Bothy where it had been put for safe-keeping during the ‘event’ last weekend and we talked through our plans, resolving to meet up tomorrow morning to continue the work.

At lunch time we had a snack lunch at The Granary in Berwick. The Granary is part of the Youth Hostel and it is quite a fine building with a very friendly little snack bar on the ground floor. I should have taken the picture when there was more food on the table, but the food was so good that I ate it down quite forgetting that I would like a picture

Today was Olive’s birthday and Digger, Olive and I went into Berwick where we lunched at the Granary – I had a very pleasant omelette – before Olive went shopping with her holiday money buying all kinds of good things, including this hat:

Olive's hat from the Green Shop

We shopped all along Bridge Street, and while Olive was in the Cook Shop, Digger and I explored the High Street, or Marygate as I have learned that it is called. Digger bought two pairs of reading glasses, I returned empty-handed.

We drove home via the Garden Centre where Olive did some more purchasing and I noted again what everyone knows, that everything is much cheaper at the end of the season than at the start.

Soon after six we all drove off in Rachel’s Berlingo to the Lindisfarne Inn where we had a celebratory evening meal. I started with antipasto, moved on to sweet and sour chicken and ended up with a summer pudding filled with fruits of the forest and topped with whipped cream. We drank many a toast, to Olive’s birthday, to one year at Mount Pleasant, to the fiftieth anniversary of the Forth Road Bridge, to the seventy-fifth anniversary of the founding of the Citizens’ Advice Bureaux and we reminisced over our year in the Borders. It has been a happy time and we have achieved a lot – in fact Rachel and I haven’t really been here a year. I didn’t retire until the end of September and then I spent much of October at Luss conducting weddings but I will try to prepare an annual review over the next few days.

Here we are -- all except me (but you can see my food at the empty place) -- in the Lindisfarne Inn: definitely to be recommended and only half an hour from home. As it is in England, it is quite fun to say "We dined abroad this evening"

Outside, this view of the Lindisfarne Inn was quite evocative, I thought

We came back to Mount Pleasant for coffee before walking the dogs and retiring for the night. Mix has developed a cough and it seems quite nasty. Tomorrow morning, if it isn’t any better, we shall be in touch with the Vet.

I also took a picture from this position a year ago today. The grass was cut last time around (it will be cut tomorrow) but this little tree wasn't here. The apple tree was a gift from the children of Luss Sunday School. Just look at how much fruit it is bearing

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Wednesday 3rd. September, 2014 – We travel to Longforgan for Elizabeth’s funeral 

We deliberately arrived early at Longforgan in order to have adequate time to walk the dogs after their lengthy car journey. Walking along the side of a field, I took this picture of the Church from quite far away. One of my friends, Jim Jack, with whom I studied at Princeton, was minister here for many years

Up and walked Mix before chatting to David and helping him move an armoured cable into the Bothy so that soon there will be power there. Soon after ten, Rachel and I, with the dogs, set out for Longforgan to attend the funeral of Elizabeth, Sue’s Mum. It was a long drive but we arrived in good time and walked the dogs before the service. The Church was well filled and the stand-in minister (Elizabeth’s own minister was on holiday) did a good job. During the service Nicholas read a poem he had chosen for the occasion:

To laugh often and much;
To win the respect of intelligent people
and the affection of children;
To earn the appreciation of honest critics
and endure the betrayal of false friends;
To appreciate beauty, to find the best in others;
To leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child,
a garden patch or a redeemed social condition;
To know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived.
This is to have succeeded.

Patrick paid tribute to his mother’s life, painting a picture which those present clearly recognised and concentrating on the qualities which made her a loving wife, a caring mother and a friend to so many people.

After the service we got a moment or two to speak with some of the folk we knew before setting off for home, and another long drive. Once home (and it was an uneventful journey) we had time to feed the dogs and give them a bit of exercise before leaving them in the house (they would be let out once Olive, Mum and Digger returned from the funeral) and setting off for Berwick to attend the streamed performance from the Royal Shakespeare Company’s theatre in Stratford of Two Gentlemen of Verona.

Rachel was particularly anxious to see this play because she hadn’t seen it before and, in fact, it is forty-five years since it was last performed on the main stage of the Stratford theatre. Some experts believe that this may well have been the very first play written by William Shakespeare – everyone is agreed that it is an extremely early work.

I enjoyed it immensely. Rachel pointed out to me that the major difference between this performance and previous ones is in the ages of the performers. The lovers were all so young – they hadn’t had to build up their reputation but were entrusted with such major parts while they were still at the start of their careers. It certainly paid off. The play moved well, was full of fun and, if it wasn’t as rounded as Shakespeare’s later works, one could recognise where many of his later ideas were to come from. It was superb (and, as one might imagine, almost the largest cheer of the evening was reserved for Crab, the dog, played by Mossup and who, as far as I could tell, did everything he was meant to do, exactly on cue).

After the performance ended we picked up a Chinese take-away and returned home to enjoy our first food of the day before walking the dogs and going to bed.

I should record that when we were walking the dogs at Longforgan earlier in the day, we looked towards the church and saw these animals looking back at us. It wasn’t quite what we had expected!

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Tuesday 2nd. September, 2014 – Certainly not what I expected 

This evening I was in Coldstream Church for the annual Presbytery Service of Holy Communion conducted by the retiring Presbytery Moderator, the Reverend David Taverner. I enjoyed the service very much indeed but I was surprised and more than a little disappointed by how few members of the Presbytery of Duns were present

Up and walked Mix before breakfasting in the farmhouse. Joined David and helped him run power cables from the Stables to the Bothy before he went off for another appointment. I started to make some sense of all of the computer mayhem I have been through last week before driving Rachel to Duns to get her Bongo which had successfully completed its MOT test. I visited the bank to sort out my finances and then returned to Mount Pleasant where Rachel and I started to sort out the Hen House because David thought that he had seen a squirrel there. It may be so but we haven’t found it yet. It will provide the impetus to have the hen house cleared more quickly.

Late in the afternoon I showered, grabbed something to eat and then drove to Coldstream to attend the first meeting of the session of Duns Presbytery. There was little business apart from the service and I was taken aback by how few people were present.

I drove home in time to listen to the latest referendum debate on television. It reminded me that when I was in Duns earlier today I was greeted by people who were campaigning for a Yes vote – they are the first actual campaigners I have seen during the run in to the referendum.

I watched the News and then walked Mix before bed. I had thought that today would be a gentle day in which I sat on a deck chair and listened to the cricket. In fact the cricket match between India and England passed me by totally (India won easily) but I did get involved in the Durham versus Nottingham match which will reach its conclusion tomorrow, both sides go into tomorrow with much to play for.

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Monday 1st. September, 2014 – This diary is now a year old! 

Mix loves to be in the summer house and he loves to accost Digger as he walks back and forth to his allotment. Sometimes Mix can be very noisy, but when I went to take this picture he was as quiet as could be. I suppose that he knows about the blog and realises that he will be better thought of if he concentrates on looking cute. Digger, who doesn’t do cute, watched on, wondering what has become of Mix’s bark

Up and walked Mix before breakfast, after which Tom and I took all of the seats borrowed for our Saturday event back to Gavinton Church Hall. We called in at the garage to arrange for an MOT for Rachel’s Berlingo and later we delivered it to the garage.

Requiring some more rawlplugs, we went to Pearsons and stayed for lunch where, by coincidence Stovies were on the menu – so that’s what we had. Back at Mount Pleasant, Tom repaired the small gate from the courtyard to the front garden (vital to keep the dogs in). Then, because the sun was shining, we put out two deck chairs, made some coffee, and sat in the sun for the rest of the afternoon like the two old men we have become. It was glorious.

Later, my web-site restored (thank you, Andy), I brought it up to date and listened to Durham’s progress in their match against Nottinghamshire. One moment they appear to be doing so well, the next they throw it all away. As it stands at the end of today they have a lead of 261 runs with three wickets in hand. The outcome of the game will be determined in the first hour of tomorrow morning, I suspect.

Watched a new New Tricks with Rachel after supper in the farmhouse and then I caught up with the News before walking Mix and retiring for the night. It has been a really good day.

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Monday 1st. September, 2014 -- My friend Alan McNaught 

I learned yesterday of the death of my friend Alan with whom I spent very many happy hours during my almost nineteen-year stay in Buckhaven in Fife.

I don’t remember the first time I met Alan but I do know that it was very soon after Rachel and I arrived in Fife. Very quickly we had started going down to the old St. Andrews Church Hall of an evening and there, sometimes until quite late, we would play badminton – always, as I remember it, going back to his home in Methilhaven Road where his wife Janette would have supper prepared. I remember their hospitality and I remember the easy way they offered and returned friendship.

Our late-night badminton evenings moved on and soon we were playing golf together sometimes with Chris and Donald on Wednesday afternoons. We progressed from the municipal Leven course to become members of the Leven Golfing Society and that, to one who doesn’t know us, makes us sound very much grander golfers than Alan or I ever were.

Alan and I shared in leading the Buckhaven Boy’s Brigade Company – that, too, sounds grander than it was. Eric Greenaway came along from Kirkcaldy to start a company again based in the St. Andrews Hall, but it was Alan who did most of the actual work with young people and every year we would go away for a week for an annual camp, a journey which took us to the Borders, to Pitlochry and, on one occasion, all the way to the Orkney Islands, Alan driving a large minibus. I remember the weeks of preparation which we made together so that the camps would go well.

I remember a splendid holiday which Alan and Janette shared with us. We drove Rachel’s mother’s vw beetle all the way to Venice and later spent quite a bit of time in Genoa as we showed them both some of the places in which we had lived during my ministry in Italy.

I remember Janette being diagnosed with cancer and the care which Alan lavished upon her during her last days. At that time it seemed like the end of the world for Alan as he was left with his son and two daughters around the void which was Janette’s absence – Janette had always been the home-maker and the very centre of the family.

In time Alan got a new job, as manager of the local sports shop, and from there he moved to become a very important member of the team which ran the Buckhaven Parish Church Agency, working both with the adult programme and with youngsters on the youth programmes. Alan was one of those people who always got the job done, he worked hard and was a hugely loyal colleague and friend to all of us who were on that team. Alan was often the one who had to deal with matters of discipline and he gave the impression (which he enjoyed) of being hard -- but those of us who knew him best knew that inside he was really quite a softie, who put himself into the shoes of those with whom he was dealing and, underneath the bluster, was kind and thoughtful.

It was while working at the Agency that Alan met Wilma, someone I suspect that he had known for ages, through the Church, through the Boys’ Brigade, through the Agency and through being part of the Buckhaven community. They were married soon after I left Buckhaven – I came back to share in their day of celebration – and it was so good to see Alan happy again. And he was so happy until, unbelievably, history repeated itself and Wilma was diagnosed with cancer. She put up a brave fight, supported every inch of the way by Alan and during that difficult time they continued really to enjoy each other’s company – but, things don’t always have a happy ending, and Wilma died. I do not know how Alan survived this second disaster, but he did, carrying I think, his personal sadnesses with him as he returned to one of his earliest loves – East Fife Football Team whom he supported in person at almost every game. His other sporting love, ice hockey, remained and on the night of his death he went to Kirkcaldy to watch a game with his son Ian, of whom he was enormously proud – all of his children have done so well and time spent with Ian, Margaret and Jennifer was the best time of all. Back home after the ice-hockey game in the privacy of his home, he died of a heart attack – he had suffered from breathing problems for many months.

Alan had an enormous sense of fun – we even persuaded him to appear in a production of the Pirates of Penzance as a policeman, and he was a gentleman of Japan in the production of the Mikado with which the Buckhaven St. Andrews Theatre was opened. He was a committed member of the Kirk Session of the Church (it was my privilege to ordain him as an Elder) and he was always up for any adventure. The old photograph which I have dug out and which graces the top of this entry shows Alan (on the right) with Bob Watt and me on the day we played one hundred holes of golf, sponsored to raise money to move a stained glass window from a church that was to be demolished into Buckhaven Parish Church. The golf wasn’t great but the fun was enormous. Then there were parties at New Year, in fact there were parties all year and Alan was at the heart of it all.

I suspect, however, that all of life’s knocks had tired Alan out. He was a good friend to so many people and he will be missed.

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Sunday 31st. August, 2014 – A Late Summer Sunday 

In the early afternoon Cathy had to set off for home (given a lift by Anne who was driving home to Gourock). The sun was shining down and, before they left, I took this picture of those who were to hand: Digger, Catriona (Martin’s partner and someone who is special here not least because she helped to build the summer house), Dorothy, Olive and Cathy

I was up at quarter to seven, ready to drive Cathy to Berwick to get a very early bus to Berwick. However, unbeknown to me, late last night Anne had suggested that she would drive Cathy home so, up early to no avail, Mix and I went for a very pleasant early morning stroll.

Five of us – Mum, Rachel, Anne, Cathy and I – went off to Longformacus for the service this morning. We continued with the story of Moses, today being introduced to his Call and the bush which burned and was not consumed. Ann, our minister, spoke about her work with the selection school process of the Church and the importance given by directors of this process in being able to affirm the Call of those who presented themselves for selection.

I came home with Tom (leaving a bit more room in Rachel’s car for the others). Dorothy, Evelyn – Dorothy’s friend from Switzerland – and Catriona walked from Gavinton to Mount Pleasant where we all met up around the dining table and devoured the rest of the stovies and the trifle from last night. It seemed a fitting end to what has been several weeks of activity.

Rachel and Anne outside the Granary, all geared up to start to offer training courses in kilt-making, in weaving and in all associated skills. Traditional craft skills are dying out and just perhaps we will help to halt that decline

Anne and Cathy set off for the west. Tom drove home and the girls walked back to Gavinton (I think that Dorothy would like to have got a lift in the car).

I retired to the summer house where, having eaten far too many stovies and equally too much trifle, I reclined in my arm chair and listened to the cricket from Durham. We only just scraped two hundred and fifty runs which looked very poor. By the end of the afternoon, however, with Nottingham on 66 for four, it was looking a little bit better.

Rachel went off to Evensong which she enjoyed. She stayed for a short recital afterwards and thought that it was wonderful. On her return the dogs and I moved inside and watched some television, in my case fairly somnolently, before it was time for bed.

It seems that our little birds have finally left us -- we wish them well wherever they go.

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Saturday 30th. August, 2014 Our ‘event’ goes well 

As I stood on our driveway this evening, waiting to direct cars into the courtyard, I was taken by the beauty all around as the evening shadows lengthened over this recently harvested field. What a glorious place in which to live

Woke and walked Mix. David arrived and continued with some of his last minute electrical operations. I had other things on my mind.

When I had gone to upload my diary entry last night I discovered that my web-page was down and in its place was a notice to say that it had expired. I discovered too that not only had my web-page expired but my email address as well, because it was tied-in with my web-site, had also ceased to function. I tried to make contact with the hosts of the web-page but it seems that they only work Monday to Friday during office hours and, in any case, their literature led me to realise that they would only deal with the person who took out the initial contract for the site and that was Andy my friend from Luss. So I emailed to Andy using another email address. In the morning (this morning) I was reassured to have a message back from Andy saying that he would be in contact with the hosts on Monday to have things reinstated. For now I will just have to wait – but I was grateful to have Andy on the case.

I went off to Duns to buy light bulbs for David, sweets for tonight, dog food and Mum’s Saturday morning paper. Then, once the courtyard was completely clear, I drove into Berwick to replenish my coffee and biscuit supplies.

Back home, David set off for his home to get ready for the evening and, I should have mentioned earlier, I got a call from my friend Peter to say that he now had a Dalmatian puppy which he was out walking. I’ll look forward to meeting Mungo soon.

By now everywhere was a hive of activity. Olive and Digger were at work on the food for the evening, Rachel and Anne were deep in planning their kilt-making and teaching project, Cathy was still reupholstering dining chairs and I was making sure that everything was ready for the evening. We all met together (‘we’ including David and Tom and our all-star cast) at six and folk started to arrive about twenty to seven. In all we packed around eighteen cars into the property and there was still room in the courtyard for quite few more.

The Stables were absolutely full for our Folk for Gavinton Church event

The ‘event’ as I have been calling it, had as its official title ‘Folk for Gavinton Church’ and it fulfilled a number of purposes. Back earlier in the year our congregation was each asked to invite a couple of folk for a meal and make a donation to the Church. Tom and I decided that we would wait until we had a useable space and would fulfil that obligation by having an event. The second purpose was to declare the loom up and running in its new base in The Stables – and finally we wanted a deadline to make us get everything done so that we could then move on. In the event our evening fulfilled all of these criteria.

Back in the days of their youth -- Tom and David recreating some Beetles’ favourites

Our two hour programme started with the Jute Mill song (how appropriate) and led into a medley of Beetles’ songs (words supplied so that folk could sing along) performed by Tom and David. Next, introduced by ‘If it wasnae for the weavers’. Dorothy gave a spinning demonstration (complete with wheel and everything) and this led into a three song sequence by a real live Yorkshire folk-singer, Martin Heaton. It was really good.

Martin Heaton sings -- and we are delighted to listen

Forty-five minutes into the evening our ‘resident band’ (Tom, David and Mark on violin) gave us half an hour of music for Morris dancing – Tom had moved from guitar to accordion – while we got everyone fed on stovies followed by trifle with custard and cream. Given that the Stables was heaving to capacity with close on forty people present, this was no mean feat.

The second half got underway with Mhari’s wedding and led into a sequence of songs in which everyone joined – and sang with great gusto: Wild Rover, Jock o’ Hazledean and Will ye go, lassie, go. Rachel and Anne were on next, introducing the loom and describing their plans both for it and for kilt-making in the borders. Of course, now that the loom has moved from a tartan area to here, it will start to weave Border Tweed as well. The final fifteen minutes, up to Auld Lang Syne, were in the hands of Martin and everyone enjoyed not just his singing but his playing as well.

But the evening didn’t end there. Informal chat (around the loom and between friends) continued for more than an hour, the musicians continued to play and soon some folk were dancing as well – a real testament to the floor we built just a short time ago. Then we had the cars to ‘unpack’ from the courtyard (we were glad of David’s lighting) and finally, after eleven, we turned off the lights, walked the dogs and went to bed. It had been a grand evening which, as we later discovered, had raised £352 for church funds. Fabulous even if I didn’t have my diary through which I could broadcast it to the world!

Just before I went to bed I popped my head into the Bothy and discovered that our four little birds were all back in their nest -- they obviously are not ready to leave quite yet.

Dorothy demonstrating the wool (from her goats) which she will turn into yarn

Our resident band in full swing during the meal-break

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Friday 29th. August, 2014 – Final Preparations 

Today was a day of final preparations. Here the Stables have been set out ready for our ‘event’ tomorrow and Tom and David (one singing and one posing for the picture) are trying things out. It is going to be fun

Up and walked Mix before breakfast. Tom arrived early and we drove to Gavinton, picked up Tom’s trailer and then brought seats from the church hall to Mount Pleasant. We got everything set out as we think it should be and then made a car-parking plan for tomorrow as well. After an extended coffee break Tom and David went home while I fixed Rachel’s computer and then prepared the music for Arrochar and emailed it off to Jamie.

I had some lunch and then checked up that everything was ready for tomorrow. David returned and did some more of his electrical work before we all dined in the farmhouse, and then David, Tom, Martin and I had a rehearsal in the Stables. Martin sings all his own songs and will add a real touch of class to our event while I am sure that our audience will enjoy Tom and David’s selection of old favourites.

After our rehearsal we retired to the summer house for coffee after which I was glad to watch the news and retire to bed – tomorrow is going to be a big day.

I have been enthralled by our chicks today. Now they are out of the nest but yet not away from the bothy – they sit on one of the beams and watch the world go by. Soon they will be out in the world; I hope that they do well.

This lovely little fellow sits and watches all that we are doing and doesn't seem to be afraid at all

I thought this one was ready to fly away, but no, he knows when he is well off

The family of four all stretched out along the roof beam

This looks to me like big brother looking after little sister

And doesn't she look happy!

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Thursday 28th. August, 2014 – Really Good News 

Discovered that our baby chicks are really getting quite large. One of them is sitting on the edge of the nest, for all the world as if he is getting ready to try out his wings. I don’t think that he is ready for that yet but they do grow up so very quickly

The good news today is that my computer is back in the land of the living. Having run the lengthy scan over night, all viruses and Trojans are declared to have been removed. So, for good measure, I downloaded a programme called Microsoft Security Essentials and scanned the computer again and received a clean bill of health. The computer seems to be working much better than it has for quite some time so that is all good news.

This morning (after walking Mix and having breakfast), Tom and I cleared the courtyard and loaded everything into the bothy. It took most of the morning (apart from our extended coffee break with David who had been working on with his lights). We also helped Rachel get the loom room ready and tomorrow we will bring in seating for its grand opening on Saturday.

After lunch, Tom, David and I went up to the Whiteadder reservoir to check up on Escapade (and to pump up the tyres of the trailer). She was looking very good. Back home David continued with the lights (before having coffee with Mum and seeing her holiday book) while I sorted out my by now fully functioning computer and kept an ear on the Durham versus Yorkshire quarter-final of the fifty overs competition played at Headingly which Durham won – a tremendous result.

David joined us for tea after which I chatted with Stewart (Mum’s new gardener who was trimming some of our hedges this evening). Later Rachel and I watched the second and final part of Bonny and Clyde and then the news, before I came out to the summer house to get my diary up and running again. Finally, I walked Mix and went to bed. Today has been a good day!

David is wiring in the outside lighting to the new fuse-box in the Stables. While he was working to get everything ready for Saturday, Olive and Digger were doing a big shop in Berwick in preparation for the Saturday event. (Having just watched Bonny and Clyde I should perhaps clarify that ‘doing a big shop’ means buying groceries and is not a reference to any activity with which Bonny and Clyde would be accustomed)

David and Tom beside Escapade after we wrapped her up until our next visit

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Wednesday 27th. August, 2014 – Progress and ... disaster 

The real hot summer days are past for this year at least – but the evening skies continue to be spectacular, as this picture shows

Up and walked Mix before Tom arrived and we got started on the bargeboard for the summer house end of the bothy. We got the job done, but it proved to be a bigger job than we had imagined and it required Tom, David and me all to be up ladders and working together. Getting it completed was real progress. We stopped this at lunch time when Tom returned home as he was not to be with us in the afternoon, having another appointment.

David continued to work on the exterior lights and Rachel started painting the doors into the courtyard. I had initially intended them to be a deep maroon but Rachel went for the paint and she came back with a dark blue (which has turned out not to be quite so dark as she expected).

I set about dealing with my disaster – my computer has developed a computer virus and is virtually unusable. Finally I identified the viruses (I have fourteen of them in all) and according to the internet they are ones which are often picked up from Facebook and I have been dabbling in that medium. I am surprised because I am very good at not opening emails if I suspect that there is any problem. Faced with this virus I felt extremely helpless. I even considered going along to Berwick and buying a new computer but further research on the internet through my ipad suggested another way forward. On Rachel’s computer I downloaded a programme called Windows Defender Offline onto a flash drive. I then learned how to boot my computer from this flash drive and this programme cleaned out my computer. This sounds like a very short exercise but discovering how to do it all, completing the short scan and then starting a huge scan took the entire day and I will leave it running for a final time tonight – so this entry will be at least a day late in reaching my on-line diary But if you are reading this entry you will know that I have nursed my computer back to health.

I walked Mix in the late afternoon, dined in the farm house with the family and, in the evening Rachel and I watched the first part of a two-part dramatisation of the lives of Bonny and Clyde. It was surprisingly fresh after the well-known film of a generation ago. After catching up with the news and walking Mix, I retired to bed leaving my computer chuntering on my desk. I am hoping for great things in the morning.

Now don’t these barge boards look good. Of course, they will need to be painted and we haven’t done the other end yet, but what an improvement

David has got into the photo of Rachel undercoating the large door of the carriage barn

And there is always good news. In the Bothy, where we are working, two swifts have built a late nest and in it there are at least three chicks who look on with some wonderment at all that we are doing around them. They are, of course, quite safe – we are delighted that they are the first residents of this building project of ours

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Tuesday 26th. August, 2014 – Just working away 

This is actually a picture which I took yesterday in the late afternoon when Mix and I went for a walk along Bramble Avenue. The combine is cutting down the grain in the field diagonally opposite Mount Pleasant and is followed by another tractor (just out of shot) which is collecting up the straw. When I went out this morning (without my camera) I saw that all over the field there are round rolls of straw – looking in the other direction to the south of Bramble Avenue the field has big cubes of straw, I don’t know if there is any difference or if it just depends on what your machine does

Looking south from Bramble Avenue, the field is covered with cubes of straw. The next stage, I gather, is for the residue to be ploughed into the earth and then the farmer is ready to start the growing cycle all over again

Woke, walked Mix, breakfasted and then spent much of the morning with David who has been preparing cables for outside courtyard-lighting. I stripped out everything from the Bothy and sorted out the wood we have. At lunchtime, David and I drove to Berwick where we collected another four lamps which HomeBase had ordered in for us. Then we travelled to the electrical suppliers to buy some more cable and bits and pieces for David’s courtyard project. (HomeBase did us proud. Last week we tried to buy eight lamps but HomeBase only had four -- they said that they would have one other coming in the next day and that there were three at another store which we could reserve. Later that day I was telephoned to say that the store didn't have the three lamps but that if I would leave it with them they would get someone to bring lamps up from Newcastle for me. I discovered when I went to the store that one of the assistants collected the lamps while on a few days holiday -- at a Viking re-enactment -- and brought them to Scotland for me. Now that's service.)

Back at Mount Pleasant we met Tom and he and I went off to Pearsons to buy some more wood (shiplap) for the bargeboards of the Bothy roof. Everything is in place and we shall start tomorrow morning at 9.30 – the weather forecast is good.

We ate with the family in the farmhouse and then in the evening Rachel and I watched a Midsomer Murder before catching up on the news before walking the dogs and retiring to bed. I’m tired today and yet I didn’t do too much today – driving to collect materials is hardly tiring. Once we have completed the roof of the Bothy we are going to have a bit of a break (to go sailing). I think that we are all ready for it.

We had a very sad bit of news today as we learned that Elizabeth, my brother's wife's mum had died. She has struggled bravely and with great dignity with illness over recent times and her death will be a release from her suffering, but she will be very greatly missed. I know that there will be an opportunity to celebrate her life with the family but today my thoughts are with them and their sadness.

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Monday 25th. August, 2014 – A busy day at Mount Pleasant 

Well, there was certainly room for improvement but what a lot we have done today and how tidy the courtyard looks after just one day’s work on it. This is only Monday – wait until the end of the week and see the improvements by then

Got up at seven so that I could have everything ready for a skip to be delivered just after eight. In fact I was r6eady for the skip, with wood moved and the gates to the cross roads opened by quarter to eight and it was as well that I was because the skip was delivered at ten to eight.

I closed up the gates (it is quite an exercise) and then took Mix for a walk before having breakfast this morning at the Granary. Soon afterwards David arrived and then Rachel returned from walking Rowan, bringing with her gloves to start moving the rubble and packing it into the skip. David, Tom and I set about it with a vengeance and by mid morning the skip was full and the yard was clear (although there is still work to be done). We broke for a well-earned coffee and when we returned from the summer house (which serves by far the best coffee in the Mount Pleasant complex) Rachel had done a further tidy-up and things were looking really good.

While David continued his work with electrical cables, I assisted Tom complete the final section of the roofing felt on the Bothy roof. Soon it was lunch time: Tom set off for home and David went off to Berwick to attend a special reception. I had a pizza and by the time I had eaten it, Tom was back. We completed the roofing of the Bothy and had time for another well-earned coffee before Tom went home – by this time the skip had been uplifted and everything was looking great. I retired to the summer house with Mix and was disappointed to see that the first One Day International had been rained off at Bristol.

In the evening we went into Berwick with Mum and Cathy to have a meal at Foxton’s Wine Bar and Restaurant, part of the ongoing celebrations of the sale of Mum’s house in Kirkcaldy. We met up with Olive and Digger who had been in Edinburgh today to attend Katie’s show at the Fringe. Of course, they had enjoyed it. The meal was absolutely superb and we all enjoyed it enormously. I started with a smoked salmon on a bed of beetroot starter, followed it with haddock and chips and rounded it all off with a berry, cream and meringue desert. It was one of the truly great meals and beautifully served and presented.

Back home I caught up with the referendum debate before walking Mix and going to bed. It has been a great day in every way – even the sun has been shining.

Waving good-bye to all our rubbish – Cathy, Rachel and Tom watch as the skip leaves Mount Pleasant through our gates onto the crossroads

Tom applies the last of the roofing nails to the roofing felt – tomorrow we will start on the barge boards. We are making progress

This little nest is just under the entrance to the Bothy. It seems quite late for a nest such as this but the birds are delighted with it and it won’t be in our way until long after they will have left for sunnier shores

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Sunday 24th. August, 2014 – A Happy Sunday (the gathering in of the harvest continues all around us) 

Rowan was waiting at the fence to welcome Rachel when she returned from evensong this evening – Rowan is so full of life and everything sends her into outbursts of unrestrained joy. It must be wonderful to be a puppy

Got up, showered and walked Mix. It was another lovely morning and the forecast suggests that it will be dry until Thursday. With much to do in the courtyard this week, I hope so.

Took Mum, Cathy and Rachel to Church (well, Rachel drove in her Berlingo). The Church at Gavinton was well attended and Ann took us back to the Old Testament for an introduction to the story of Moses – so we are at the Nile among the bulrushes. Ann was in her element because it is a story dominated by women who show courage and break with convention with hardly a man in sight apart from Pharaoh who is epitome of evil in this story; (no wonder she neglected Joseph when the lectionary offered it to us)! I enjoyed the service and the coffee afterwards in the church hall.

We ate Sunday lunch at the farmhouse with Olive and Digger and then in the early afternoon we watched a family DVD made up of bits of 8 mm film shot by one of Cathy’s family and saw the development of her family from their earliest years until they reached maturity. It was fascinating to see Cathy’s mum and dad and, of course, to see the young Cathy.

Later I went back to the summer house to continue to catalogue music, Cathy worked on her chairs and, in time, Rachel went off to Evensong in Berwick. On her return we enjoyed a snack and watched a Montalbano film – The Scent of the Night: it was excellent and once it was over, it was time to walk the dogs and retire to bed. This is going to be a very busy week.

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Saturday 23rd. August, 2014 – The Harvest is all around us 

A picture of Mount Pleasant taken during Mix and my walk this morning. I’m taking pictures through the year to see how things change. Everything is still very green around our farm steading. Now that the harvest has all but been gathered in I expect that it will not be long before we start to get the autumn colours

Slept in, well it is Saturday and I enjoy a lie-in on a Saturday and, with no weddings to perform and no building work to do at the weekend, I can sleep as long as I like. In fact I was out with Mix soon after ten and walking up the Swinton Road. The combine harvester was in full swing and I took some pictures which are included with this entry. In the morning the combine was in the field opposite Mount Pleasant, in the afternoon it moved into the field around us. It makes a colossal noise and travels in a huge cloud of dust and gets through an enormous amount of grain – how different things must have been in the old days, I expect that we would be looking out on fields filled with people doing everything by hand. Fields of hay carts and men with sickles and women tying the stalks together, and singing and picnic lunches and children running everywhere. Everywhere around here there are farm cottages which in the old days would have been filled with farm workers, now-a-days they have been sold off and many quite near here are now used as holiday homes. Changed days.

I worked in the summer house sorting out some of the licences for Rachel’s boat and dealing with some more emails. It was an easy day, lots of chats in the farm house with Cathy who was reupholstering chairs and Olive who was doing some financial work for one of her Churches or other charities. Mix and I went for an afternoon walk and then, once Rachel had returned from Barnoldswick, we all had an evening meal in the farmhouse before going our separate ways.

Mum and Cathy went into Gavinton to attend a charity concert in the Village Hall. Olive and Digger stayed at home and Rachel and I went off to Berwick to attend the final concert of the Berwick Opera Festival. Held in the Guildhall it was a concert version of part of Die Walkure and the Siegfreid Idyll both by Richard Wagner.

The evening began with some excellent words from Matthew Rooke, the artistic director of the Maltings Theatre. He explained how important he believed it was that opera and music should be available not just in London and other big cities. Everyone needed to have the opportunity of experiencing music live. It gave him huge pleasure to have brought so much real talent to this festival. There is no denying that this evening we listened to some very special people. The music was provided by the Hebrides Ensemble and the National Youth Orchestra of Scotland – a group of students who are at the stage of being ready to turn professional. They were all excellent and I loved the Siegfeid Idyll and thought how good a venue the Guildhall makes for such a musical event.

Die Walkure was also exceptional. Three wonderful voices: Gweneth-Ann Jeffers, Stuart Pendred and Ronald Samm. But they were more than voices because, in the best traditions of a concert performance, they brought their parts to life – helped by the fact that we were each given a full copy of the libretto in English when we came in. The evening was conducted by Peter Selwyn who, in addition to having a very illustrious curriculum vitae as a conductor, is also a Professor at the Royal College of Music.

It was a splendid evening – and hats off to Matthew Rooke for having the vision and the drive to make it all happen.

Back home, Rachel was tired after her long drive. We got things organised, walked the dogs and went to bed. Another fine day.

Before the evening began I took this picture of the inside of the Guildhall. It was just right for tonight

I took this picture this morning of the huge monster of a combine harvester coming towards me across the field

Now the harvester has turned and is moving away from me. Still it looks enormous and you can see the cloud of grain dust billowing out behind it

Now it is this afternoon and I am taking this picture over the garden fence looking across Digger's allotment to the field beyond

A final picture of the harvester hard at work. The fields around here are extremely large and there is a great amount of grain still to be cut but the harvester will have it done in no time at all

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Friday 22nd. August, 2014 – David and I make progress 

David pictured with one of the eight lamps with which we are to illuminate the courtyard. We hope to have this done early next week because next weekend we will have our event in the Stables and by the time it ends it will, of course, be dark

Woke and walked Mix before breakfasting in the farmhouse and chatting with Cathy – getting all the news about her family. Then David and I got on with some of the bits and pieces that need to be done. David worked on completing the Stables while I continued sorting out the music files prepared over the last fifteen years. Once David had completed his job and we had enjoyed some coffee together, we set about positioning the eight lamps with which we shall light the courtyard. David drilled them and we can start the wiring on Monday.

I arranged for a large skip to be delivered on Monday morning so that the tidy-up can get underway. While David was away in Berwick for lunch I made a serious dent in the music files. On his return and after the work was completed for the day we sat and blethered over a coffee. Then, when David went off to his home, I took Mix for a walk before supper. In the field opposite there are now three tractors in operation: one is a combine harvester gathering in the grain – I didn’t have my camera but I took a picture on my telephone, not so good but I hope it gives the idea; a tractor was following the combine harvester. It appeared to be cutting down the stalks (presumably for straw or cattle feed) and finally there was a tractor cutting the hedges in the field from the inside. Clearly all the farm workers and contractors are working extremely hard.

I hope this picture gives an idea of the power of the combine harvester

I sat and looked through my diary for the last year and was amazed by all that we have done and achieved. A picture brings back so many memories and I have at least one for every day of the year. Although Rachel and I didn’t move in here properly until the end of October of last year, Mum, Olive and Digger moved in on 4th. September so our first year of ownership of Mount Pleasant has almost been completed. It has been a wonderful year.

Scott joined us for supper tonight: Sue is up with her parents in Dundee. It was good to see him and to get all of his news. Sue’s Mum is seriously ill and all of our thoughts are with her and the family. It’s strange how things happen – happy and sad all bound up together, concern for Sue’s Mum while Katie enjoys such a triumph at the Fringe or, on a world stage, the joy that so many people are getting from the Edinburgh Festival’s three thousand plus shows while fighting and disaster, famine and helplessness are beamed into our televisions from the Middle East. We live in a world of such stark contrasts and it is not easy.

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Thursday 21st. August, 2014 – Mum goes to Edinburgh 

When I walked Mix this morning we saw this combine harvester. It was away at the far side of the field but my camera has a zoom lense so I had a shot at capturing it. This morning it was bucketing with rain and the farmers had obviously tried to get as much in as they could before the rains came. I suspect that they will now need to wait a little before they can get underway once more

I breakfasted, David arrived and together we took Mum in to catch her train to Edinburgh. News came through that the train had been cancelled because of a signalling failure at Newcastle but in fact it arrived about ten minutes late and then sat for forty minutes until a new driver could be found. There were more people standing than sitting but fortunately Mum had booked her seat and managed to get it. So she arrived in Edinburgh a little bit late but all in one piece. I picked her up just before six in the evening. She had had a grand time with Aunt Agnes and Jeffrey – lunch, off to see Katie’s play, a chat with her and then home – very successful.

David and I went around Berwick buying electrical bits and pieces and with them (and through David’s hard work) by the end of the day we had power and lights in the Stables. (With the bits and pieces which have been bought we will soon have lighting in the courtyard as well.) I provided coffees and prepared the music for Arrochar and continued my computer sort-out.

Cathy arrived this afternoon and was collected from Berwick by Digger. It will be good to have her with us for a few days. We all dined together in the evening and then I did some catching up and sorting out before watching the News, walking Mix and retiring to bed – Rachel is still down in Barnoldswick where she is painting the boat!

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Wednesday 20th. August, 2014 – Rachel journeys south 

The fields all around us are a beautiful golden brown – we haven’t been harvested yet, although further afield most have been. Our fish-man (who delivers to us once a week) says that these fields are really requiring to be harvested. Rain is forecast so I expect that we shall see some action fairly soon

Up, walked Mix, and then helped Rachel get ready to set off for Barnoldswick where she and Rowan will spend a few days painting the boat – I think that she intends to paint it in the artistic sense rather than in the painter-and-decorator sense. She is armed with pictures of roses and castles and all of the traditional designs.

Once she had set off, I breakfasted in the farmhouse and then came across to the summer house intending to continue sorting out old floppy disks, however I got a text and then a call from Lucy and Ian from Kent whom I have known all the way back to Abronhill days, forty-five years ago. They were driving up to Glasgow for a wedding but diverted to come to visit Duns. It was good to see them and to catch up on all of their adventures.

It was the middle of the afternoon before they continued on their way – I wish they could have stayed longer – so I caught up with David and then he and I spent ages on the telephone getting a power supply arranged for the Stables. By the time that was done it was time for David to go home and for me to have an early meal with Olive, Digger and Mum.

In the evening I returned to the summer house and worked on the floppy disk pile. Spoke to Rachel who is enjoying being at her boat so much that she hasn’t done any work – just walked Rowan and relaxed (and she says that she isn’t retired)! As I walked Mix I could hear that the combine harvesters are out and working, even although it is pitch dark (well they have lights). Bad weather must really be on the way. (I hope that Tom and Dorothy are having a good time at the folk festival at Whitby.)

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Tuesday 19th. August, 2014 – Our trip to the Festival Fringe 

This picture was taken from outside the door of the ‘Jack’ Dome within the Edinburgh Students’ Union and it looks down on the Union lounge where Rachel and I enjoyed a splendid lunch before going into the Dome to watch “Lorraine and Alan” which, as the text will explain, we really enjoyed

Up, showered and walked Mix before a quick breakfast. Rachel and I then drove to Berwick leaving the dogs in Olive’s tender care. We caught the 10.21 to Edinburgh and then spent the morning exploring the various items of street theatre which were on display. I snapped a few and append them to my diary entry for today.

I was most impressed with the Fringe Office. I had booked my tickets on line. All I had to do was to swipe my credit card through a machine (there were several in a row) and immediately my tickets were disgorged.

We made our way slowly to the Students’ Union where the Pleasance Domes (Jack, Queen, King and Ace) were situated. After lunch – a splendid hot wrap containing bacon and hash brown, with a fruit drink made up of apple and black current juice (guaranteed to be two of my five for the day) – we made our way to the Jack Dome to see the play ‘Lorraine and Alan’. It was a modern day retelling of the story of the silkie (half woman and half seal). It was slick, it was humorous, it was touching, it was clever and it was very well done. I was delighted because my niece was one of the two stars of the show – although the two supporting players (who made sound effects, sang and interjected into the dialogue) were also excellent -- as was Lorraine’s partner Alan. It is no wonder that the show is a sell-out and has received very encouraging reviews in the national press.

After the performance we met up with Katie and with her co-star. They are obviously having a ball. We were sorry that we had to make our way back to the station for our booked train back to Berwick. Katie had other friends who had come to see her – so I suspect that she was pleased to have seen us but quite relieved that the oldies had to move on. We will catch up with her next week.

Our train journey home was quite uneventful. We drove round by the Maltings to pick up a couple of tickets for the opera on Saturday night (having got an email from the director to say that there was no audience for Saturday and would we like to attend and boost the numbers? (Well, he didn’t quite say it like that.) After all my years with our own theatre in Buckhaven, it is a problem with which I can identify so we have changed our plans to enable us to attend.

Back home I found that David has done wonders in the Loom room and was sitting having coffee with Mum. We chatted before he went off, and I joined the others for supper at the earlier time of six o’clock, our new eating time. In the evening I got Rachel’s ipad set up to work with my mobile wi-fi device because she is off to Barnoldswick tomorrow with Rowan, to paint her boat, or at least to start on the process. I’m missing out on this trip because there is much to do here – but there will be a next time very soon.

I watched the news before walking Mix and going off to bed after a very happy day. Here are some of the sights of the day:

All over the Royal Mile (or at least in the pedestrianised part given over to the Fringe) there are little stages like this one. It seems that performers queue up to have the use of one of these for half an hour or so. They are always in use and there are always crowds around them. It is really great fun

I have no idea what this is about, but we saw this dragon walking past -- I guess it must be a publicity stunt to sell tickets for one of the shows

I love these little market stalls in front of the High Kirk of Edinburgh. At first sight they look incongruous, but market stalls and churches have gone together for generations

This incredible gentleman bet the crowd that he could stand on his hands with a flaming torch between his feet for longer than the crowd could cheer and applaud. It was a close run thing but certainly the crowd (and although it doesn't show from the snap, there are at least a couple of hundred folk watching) loved him

Here you can see the crowd -- and they are like putty in the hands of this fellow on a mono-cycle. Edinburgh's street performers are all top-rate. I guess that if they weren't, they wouldn't survive

I have no idea ...

Nor do I have a clue about these three folk whom we met as we walked up the Royal Mile

What a lot of trouble folk have gone to. This is a beautiful chalet built here for the purpose of selling food during the Festival month. The food smelled wonderful as well

And finally, one of the many 'green' areas. In some there were deckchairs, in others tables and chairs. There were many bars and food outlets and I suspect that these places will really hum in the evenings. Everything seemed to be so well done, so inviting and so much fun

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Monday 18th. August, 2014 – And there was light! 

The wonderful moment this afternoon when the lights were turned on and we moved from a dull barn to a first-rate weaving facility, thanks to David and his work over recent weeks. I keep saying that once one is retired there are no longer any deadlines. In this case that wasn’t quite true as we are having a folk concert here on the 30th. August. Without David’s expertise that wouldn’t have happened – so we are very grateful to him

Woke, walked Mix and breakfasted on a strawberry left for me by Olive when she and Digger went off to Kirkcaldy this morning to attend the funeral of a friend and colleague from their days working in Fife College.

Rachel and I had wondered about working on the roof this morning but it was still very windy so we have left that for a day or two. I did go up to Pearsons and buy some more roofing felt so that we are all set for when the wind drops.

David arrived and did a power of work in the stables which, as my picture shows, are now illuminated. A job well done. I carried out a major reorganisation of the summer house and then started to copy all the information off hundreds of floppy discs which fill all the drawers in one of my desks. These are the discs which I used to save the music files for thirteen years of services at Arrochar Church. Somehow I never got around to having one folder with all of these files in it and it seems a shame not to collect together all of this music in one place.

It was a good piece of work to undertake today because it meant that I could listen to the Durham versus Lancashire cricket match on the computer as I worked. In fact Durham lost in the last over by one wicket but that was almost incidental as it was possibly the most exciting day’s cricket I have ever followed. It was quite, quite extraordinary and while Durham will have been devastated to lose, the game underlined the value of Paul Collingwood as captain yet again.

We all dined together in the farmhouse, eating up all of the left-overs accumulated during the recent stay of Olive’s guests. It was an excellent meal. Afterwards I did a bit more work on those music files – and there is still much more to be done – before watching New Tricks and the News before walking Mix and retiring to bed. It has been a good day.

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Sunday 17th. August, 2014 – A relaxing Sunday with a Test Match to enjoy 

When we arrived at Church there were already quite a number of cars parked along the lane, so by the time we had parked it was quicker for us to walk in through the back gate. As a result I noticed this view of the Church which had previously passed me by. I only had my telephone with which to take a picture and the sun was shining brightly so it was difficult to get a good picture but still I like it – and it is a lovely church in a well-cared for church yard

Up, showered, walked Mix and breakfasted in the farmhouse before setting off for Gavinton Church with Mum and Rachel. Anne presented a couple of meditations this morning – one wrapped up inside the other. The first (and enveloping one) was on the theme of day with one part on morning and the other on evening. Inside was the second theme on the days of the week – each introduced with a Bible reading and a short meditation. I suppose the overarching theme was of thanks to God for his goodness and appropriate response to his providence and to the gift of his son.

We joined everyone for coffee in the hall and then hurried home for an early lunch with Olive, Digger and their friends from Germany who set off immediately afterwards to catch a ferry from Newcastle to Amsterdam from where they will drive to Germany. Olive and Digger have enjoyed having their friends and their two children to stay. We have enjoyed meeting them too – even although we are quite useless when it comes to knowledge of the German language: in fact five year old Amilie had a better grasp of English than I did of German – and the gap only widened over the two weeks of her holiday.

After they left I set about tidying the summer house which has taken a beating over the construction times of recent weeks. However I did have the cricket on and wondered at the way that India surrendered to England in the Test match. It is almost as if ever since the Anderson debacle (India accused him of being aggressive off the pitch. He was found not guilty by a cricket investigation) the Indian team has been demoralised. I hope that they will do better in the one day series which will start shortly. I also hope that Durham will do a little better in the days ahead. In their match with Lancashire they have surrendered the upper-hand to Lancashire for the second time in the match.

Rachel went off to Evensong while I continued to work away in the summer house, getting quite side-tracked as I discovered that I could convert my ipad into a recording studio using the microphone and adaptor I had bought last week from Amazon. It sounds very good and perhaps I will start to produce a podcast. (I have these great ideas but then get beaten by all that I have to do – even although I am retired!)

When Rachel returned from Berwick we had a snack together and then watched a bit of television (Murder in Paradise and a hilarious but rather rude spoof detective programme starring John Hannah) before it was time to walk the dogs and go to bed.

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Saturday 16th. August, 2014 -- Saturday, I really enjoy Saturdays 

This evening I ran Mum up to Gavinton and dropped her outside the village hall where they were having a cinema evening. The film this evening was “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” and Mum was joining some of her friends for this entertainment. I was taken back to the days when we used to run a similar cinema in the Pilgrimage Centre every Thursday evening. They really were happy days

Got up a little later than usual, walked Mix and breakfasted in the farmhouse with Olive and her guests. Then Rachel and I had a bit of a project. We had each bought a new printer a few months ago to add to the old one we each had. Somehow, partly I suppose because we haven’t had any need to print anything for weeks and weeks, when we needed to have a working printer none of them were functioning. So we tried to get one of the printers working: eventually discovering that we must have used the printers until the initial ink had run out and had then abandoned them.

So, armed with the names of the printers, we set off for Berwick with the dogs. First stop was the station where we got the tickets for our trip to Edinburgh on Tuesday. (We are going to see my niece in a production called ‘Lorrane and Alan’ which is playing to great reviews in the Festival Fringe.) Next stop was Curry’s where a very helpful assistant called Chad helped us find the ink we required and sold it to us in such a way as to ensure we could use the various discounts which were available to us. From here (having popped briefly into Halfords and Home Base) we went to the beach at Spittal where we walked the dogs. Mix loved running on the beach and was extremely well behaved.

From here we went to Tesco both for petrol and for some shopping, then I took Rachel to visit the Berwick Garden Centre which David had introduced me to earlier in the week. Finally we called in at Aldi where I picked up some biscuits at a truly remarkable price (as suggested to me by both Tom and David).

Back home I was able to get a printer operational and print out the flyers and the tickets for the event which we are holding in aid of Church funds here on the 30th. of the month. I’ll have them for Church tomorrow.

By now it was time to run Mum to Gavinton before coming back to the farmhouse to eat with Olive and her friends. After all that gallivanting around, Rachel and I were delighted to discover that there was an Inspector Montalbano on the television which we watched before walking the dogs and retiring to bed.

It’s a long time since I’ve had a day like today, running around getting bits and pieces, and then with some printing to get done – but it really was all great fun and I thoroughly enjoyed it.

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Friday 15th. August, 2014 – We did a lot and had a good night out 

I took this picture this evening when we went out with Mum to celebrate the total completion of the sale of her house – the money had arrived in her bank account and everything was sorted

Up, walked Mix and breakfasted in the farm house. Tom arrived and we set about completing the roofing felting of the Bothy. We worked at it all day, helped by Rachel and David and now have the second side completed. All that remains to be done is the ridge and we will get that completed soon.

While we were doing this, Olive and Digger took their friends off to Holy Island where they explored the castle and the island before returning via Berwick where they ate at Limoncello.

Rachel, Mum and I went out for a meal in the evening at the Black Bull. I hadn’t been there before but I would certainly recommend it. I started with a hot smoked salmon and prawn gateau, progressed to chicken stuffed with haggis in a peppercorn sauce and from there to a raspberry cranachan washed down first with Ginger Beer and then with coffee. It was a splendid evening.

Back home I joined everyone at the farmhouse for a ginger wine from Lindisfarne – it was excellent.

Retired to the Granary where I watched the news before walking Mix and retiring to bed. It has been a superb day.

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Thursday 14th. August, 2014 – Working at my desk almost all day 

Mix and I pass up this road several times each day. I never take a picture of the road in this direction – always pointing my camera off to one side or the other, or sometimes in the opposite direction back at the farmhouse itself. But tonight as we walked – it had been wet and it was still a bit duller than usual – I thought how beautiful it is .. and so I took this picture of the beautiful place I have been taking for granted

Up, walked Mix, breakfasted (there were fried potatoes this morning) and then retired to the summer house to try to make sense of this new web-site which Rachel is requiring. Tom arrived. He is still not totally recovered and, with bad weather on the way and his recovery to think of, we contented ourselves with drawing up a programme for the event we are having here on 30th. August in aid of the Church and to open the Loom Room.

Rachel has undertaken to prepare a flier and tickets and once I have that I will record the details in my diary but it sounds like a fun evening. When Tom went home I continued working on Rachel’s web-site, the kind of thing I would love to have tackled when I was working, except that I never had time. I stopped for a pizza at lunch time and then continued throughout the afternoon. While I worked I listened to Durham against Surrey in the one day competition. Durham had a great victory due in no small measure to Paul Collingwood who is enjoying an excellent season.

Olive and Digger took their friends to visit Cranshaws, Abbey St. Bathans and the reservoir at Whiteadder, while Rachel posted off a completed kilt and walked Rowan at Gavinton, and Mum enjoyed the peace and quiet when everyone was out.

We all dined together as usual except that the meal was prepared by Maike from Germany. A pasta dish with egg through it and bits of bacon as well. It was very good.

In the evening I prepared the music for Arrochar and sent it off to Jamie. I caught up with the News (the referendum was knocked off the top by the allegations against Cliff Richard – I feel that anything I thought sacred is now under attack. But allegations are just that until there has been a legal examination and at present Cliff Richard hasn’t even been spoken to by the police – to read the internet one would think that he had already been tried and convicted.)

Mix and I went for our final walk – and so to bed.

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Wednesday 13th. August, 2014 – Certainly not as expected 

I woke up this morning, the forecast wasn’t great, but seeing that it wasn’t actually raining I quickly showered and set off with Mix for his walk. It was actually very beautiful, I didn’t have my camera with me but I did have my telephone and so I took this picture of ‘where I live’. Isn’t it beautiful?

I breakfasted in the farmhouse and then went off to the summer house. On Twitter the other day I saw a letter which a lady had written to the papers. While driving she had been listening to an audio book. It was the adventures of Sherlock Homes. Try as she might she couldn’t follow the story – she put it down to her advancing years until later she discovered that her CD player had been set to shuffle and was playing the tracks in a totally random order. I laughed when I read the letter but today that's how I felt that my life had become. I had a very definite idea of what I wanted to achieve today and it mostly centred on completing a roof with just a bit of learning more about Twitter. It just didn’t work out like that.

Rachel came to me and said that she needed to have a web-site for her new venture. Now that’s not something that I know anything about. In the past when I have needed a web-site then Andy has been on hand with huge expertise. But I thought I would have a go and by lunch time I had a website domain for Rachel and I had it up and ready to be populated. Mind you, in the interim I had spoken to a firm in Texas who had to change a password to enable me to move forwards but I was on the move.

I had coffee as lunch time with David who had been working away on the electrics in the Stables. Tom wasn’t around today and so David decided that he was going to take me in hand and show me Berwick through the eyes of a local. We set off and drove to Berwick via Norham, a lovely village just across the Tweed with a splendid castle to which I will return.

In Berwick we stopped first at the Berwick Garden Centre – I didn’t know that such a place existed -- and again I took a picture with my camera (made worse because the sun was in exactly the wrong place). It was a splendid centre, remarkably large and with a large variety of things to look at.

The entrance to the Garden Centre at Berwick

We drove into the town itself and David pointed out so many places of interest, good places to eat and others better avoided. As we walked he met so many people he knew and I was fortunate that it was a market day. I hadn’t seen the market in Berwick before but it is evidently on every Wednesday and Saturday.

Berwick market

On the way home we called in at Home Base and then drove through the grounds of Paxton House before visiting the Union Suspension Bridge. As the plaque which I photographed tells, in 1820 when it was built this bridge over the Tweed between Scotland and England was the longest suspension bridge in the world, now it is the oldest such bridge still in use. So hats off to you, Captain Samuel Brown, for your initiative and endeavour!

I took this picture on the bridge

This is a fabulous description of an important event:

A revolutionary crossing

When the Union Bridge was built in 1820, it was the longest iron suspension bridge in the world.

The bridge’s designer, Captain Samuel Brown, developed a revolutionary technique to suspend the deck using iron bars instead of cables.

A Grand Opening

We take easy transport for granted, but in 1820 a round trip to the other side could take days. So the opening of the bridge was a cause for great celebration.

On the big day, an excited audience gathered, cramming the banks on both sides. Captain Brown raced across the bridge first in an open-top carriage, cheering and waving. He was followed by a dozen heavily laden carts to prove the strength of the bridge.

With the bridge tested to their satisfaction, hundreds of spectators flooded through the toll gates, marvelling at their new crossing.

Back home we had some coffee before David returned to his home and Mix and I went for a walk. I did some work on Rachel’s web-site and then joined everyone for supper in the farmhouse. We had bumped into Olive’s friends in Berwick earlier in the afternoon – the rest of the family had a quiet day at Mount Pleasant except for Mum whose friend Elizabeth from Galashiels arrived and they went off together to Pearsons for lunch – you get a good lunch at Pearsons.

I don’t know where the evening went. I pottered with the computer and then watched the News before walking Mix and retiring to bed. It has been a grand day, nothing like I expected, but perhaps all the better for that. It is fun to be retired.

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Tuesday 12th. August, 2014 – Great Fun 

Today was wet – not nearly as wet as was forecast but wet enough to make jaunting around outside unwise; especially if, as a retired gentleman, it wasn’t really required. So I gave myself over to an intensive course in the operation of Twitter. Those who read this diary regularly will remember that I started on this endeavour a few weeks ago but now that I am older I have to have more than one attempt at most things. Going back to it today with the benefit of a tiny experience meant that I understood what the text book was talking about – if I’m honest I didn’t understand much the first time around. So I learned about broadcasting video, pictures, sound files and all kinds of other goodies. Give me just a few days more and I will be in business

Got up at eight and walked Mix before breakfast. Tom wasn’t around today as he is still recuperating and, in any event, today was not a day for going up ladders. David arrived and continued his mammoth task of providing services for the barns and, as indicated above, I continued my self-imposed education project about Twitter.

I lunched with David and then we went our separate ways, coming together for an afternoon coffee before David went home and I walked Mix. Rachel had earlier taken Mum into Duns for her hairdressing appointment and later had taken Mix into the vet for her annual injections. Olive’s friends went off to England to visit Northumberland castles while Olive and Digger relaxed at home.

Mum’s good news was that the money from the sale of her flat has now come through. It has been a long time but we haven’t yet been here a year and everything is now settled and I don’t think that any of us are going anywhere else.

We dined in the farmhouse – I had to leave early to meet Hannah and her Mum to show them the summer house. I should be on commission from the manufacturers for all of the orders which have stemmed from the one we have built! Later Rachel and I watched the latest referendum debate, this time from Inverness. This was followed by a programme introduced by Andrew Neill on the effects of a yes vote for the rest of the United Kingdom. I found both programmes interesting and, in comparison Scotland 2014 and Newsnight were fairly tedious – strange because I usually enjoy Newsnight.

Mix and I went for a walk and then it was time for bed – how quickly the days go when one is enjoying one’s self.

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Monday 11th. August, 2014 – The aftermath of Hurricane Bertha 

Sometimes there really isn’t very much to photograph but my diary entry requires a picture. So today I went into the Stables where the Loom is now housed and took a picture of the trunking – the while plastic trunking visible above the Loom itself. In fact David has created a skeleton of trunking throughout the stables (and eventually throughout all of the barns) so that we really will be able to use them all

Rose and walked Mix; it was still very windy as the end of hurricane Bertha passed us by. I was glad to see that no damage had been done but there had been extremely heavy rain, the evidence of which was all around. I breakfasted and then joined David who had come to continue getting the Stables ready for our event at the end of the month.

It was so windy that there was absolutely no way that we could have gone onto the roof and so I wasn’t surprised not to see Tom, but I was taken aback when he telephoned to tell me that he wasn’t feeling too well. I hope that he recovers soon – and I urged him to stay in bed and relax (not that I think my urging would make any difference).

I spent the morning preparing some financial papers for other people and then had a long coffee break with David which led to us investigating the tool room with a view to powering it up within the next few days. The idea is to have a tool bench running down one wall with power points above it, and shelving on the opposite wall for everything that has to be stored. Then we can set Rachel and Digger off on doing whatever you do in a tool room and workshop. It will take a little while because I think that we will need to remove the ceiling which looks quite damaged – but, hey ho, what’s a ceiling after roofs and floors?

In the afternoon I continued my computer education, learning about an application for ipad called Vine which enables one to prepare a six second video and add it to one’s tweets. The very idea sounds preposterous but what drew my attention to it was seeing the toss between Middlesex and Durham tweeted in such a way and it was quite good. I’ve also seen one or two examples of people using Vine which are entertaining. I’m not sure that it is an application which I could use, but at least I am learning about it.

Olive’s friends went off to Melrose for the day while Olive and Digger caught up with some of the things they needed to do. Mum was in and out between the wind gusts and Rachel was completing the kilt on which she was working, and searching for a tin of paint which she has mislaid.

We all dined together in the farmhouse – cheese and bean pie, my favourite – and then Rachel and I returned to the Granary where we watched Avatar in 3D on the television. It was quite remarkable, totally impossible and stupendously filmed. It avoided sentimentality and was littered with morals – and the time just flew by. I suppose its greatest triumph is that while I was watching it I was thoroughly caught up in it and believing it, even although it was so totally unbelievable. Fabulous.

We all walked together – Rachel, Rowan, Mix and I – before bed. The wind has dropped and it looks set fair (which I know is not what the forecasters say will happen). It has been another really good day.

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Sunday 10th. August, 2014 – We await the tail of Hurricane Bertha 

Today started fine but, as forecast, became extremely wet. Often rain doesn’t notice in photographs but you can catch the atmosphere from the picture and the rather forlorn sun shade over the table at the back door of the Granary – Rachel won’t be breakfasting here tomorrow

Up, showered and walked Mix before breakfast, after which we set off for Church at Gavinton. Anne preached on the story of the gentile woman who begged for the crumbs from under the table and, as a result of her faith, her sick daughter was restored to health. Just possibly, Anne felt, Jesus' whole conception of his ministry was changed by the persistence and faith of this foreign woman.

We joined the congregation for coffee and met Melanie who was with us for the first time today and who travels up many weekends to be here from Durham. Back at Mount Pleasant I caught up with the cricket from Durham but after a bright start, the rain came. That was the story of here as well. By the time we had finished our lunch it was raining and while it didn’t seem too much like a hurricane it was certainly wet.

Mix and I retired to the summer house to read. Rachel set about painting bits for her boat and completing the kilt she is making. Olive, Digger and her friends stayed in – well, what else was there on such a wet and dreary day? Mum, having been out at Church, settled-in for the day as well.

In the evening Rachel went off to Evensong in Berwick and later we watched the remake of Poseidon before walking the dogs and retiring to bed. If it is as wet as this tomorrow we won’t be on the roof, that’s for sure. (Poseidon was really quite harrowing. I had watched the original version and this followed the same story-line but modern film techniques really did add to the tension.)

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Saturday 9th. August, 2014 – A very relaxed Saturday 

Outside the summer house, this is a line up of my Aunt Margaret and her family with Mum. From the left: Tim, Mum, Aunt Margaret, Robert, Evan, Katie

Really enjoyed my regular Saturday morning sleep in followed by a walk with Mix. I had no plans for today and was determined to exercise these plans rigorously so I retired to the summer house and watched the Test Match on television. It was a grand day with England posting a good total and then bowling India out in the final session of the day. England played magnificently and the only downside of their victory was the injury to Stuart Broad who got the ball between his visor and his helmet while batting. I hope that he recovers quickly – it looked very nasty.

In the middle of the afternoon my Aunt Margaret arrived with her daughter Katie and Katie's husband Tim and two children Evan and Robert. It was good to see them and to show them around. Olive and Digger were not here as they had gone to Edinburgh with their friends to explore the Festival (fringe) city.

In the evening Mum, Rachel and I dined in the Granary and then watched ‘The Big Picnic’ on television. We were particularly interested in seeing it because we were at the production in 1996 in Goven. One of the shipyards had closed and the play was presented in a huge hanger – the audience promenading beside the acting area (unless you were in one of the posh seats and got moved along in front of the action because the seating was on rails). An added point of interest was that one of Rachel’s former students (Gary Bakewell) was starring in the production. It was good, even if television didn’t quite capture the atmosphere of actually being there.

It has been a good day – Rachel and I stood at the gates while our visitors drove out and I said to Rachel, “We really are lucky to live here.” We really are.

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Friday 8th. August, 2014 – We get started and do rather well until the weather comes in 

Well, it is the middle of the afternoon and one side of the roofing felt has almost been completed. We have to stop now because a storm is only a few minutes away but we have done well – Tom is on the ladder beside the Bothy and David is on the roof while Rachel ensures that the ladder is firmly anchored

I got up and walked Mix before breakfast in the farmhouse where I was joined by Tom for a cup of tea. Soon we were at work putting on the roofing felt. David arrived and joined in and Rachel was recruited to help us anchor the ladders which were inclined to move on the gravel in the courtyard.

We made good progress and by the middle of the afternoon we had all of one side completed apart from the ridge piece which will be the last to go on. We had to stop because of the forecast storm which was clearly imminent and, indeed, it arrived to an accompaniment of thunder. Tom went off home with Spike who had been spending the day with Rowan and Mix (they all got on like a house on fire) while David did some work on the electrics in the Stables before stopping for a coffee before going home.

I would like to have followed some of the cricket but the Test Match was badly disrupted by rain, and Durham (who were playing Glamorgan) only managed 185 in a fifty overs game (and were out after 45 overs). Durham are not having a good season at all. In spite of that, they did manage to win this game, bowling Glamorgan our for just 133 and reminding me that a first innings score cannot be properly evaluated until the second team has batted.

We all dined together at seven in the farmhouse, after which we had a quiet evening in the Granary – what a lovely home and how pleasant to have it to retire to each evening. We watched the second part of a DCI Banks (we watched the first part a couple of days ago) and also an old Pie in the Sky which was quite fun. But I was glad to walk Mix and get to bed earlier than usual.

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Thursday 7th. August, 2014 – Quite a frustrating day 

Finally, just after lunch we succeeded in starting on the roofing felt. The picture shows Tom just after the first strip has been successfully installed

Rose, walked Mix and breakfasted in the farmhouse. Tom and I intended to start on the roofing felt but then we remembered that the nails for the felt were still in the back of the car which Tom had been driving yesterday so we went along to Tom’s home, changed cars and returned to Mount Pleasant. Now we discovered that David needed to go to Berwick to exchange the excess roll of cable for the electrical components which were required for completing the Stables. I asked if I would require my credit card, but it seemed not. So we set off.

Once we arrived at Berwick the electrical factors were delighted to exchange the excess cable roll for all of the components we required. However, as the boss was not there, we required my credit card. So back we came to Mount Pleasant and then back we went to Berwick. By lunch time we had all of the electrical bits and pieces on site but we still had put no roofing felt on the Bothy roof.

Tom went off for lunch. I had a coffee with David and soon it was time to start work again. More frustration. We cut the first length of roofing felt the size of one length of the roof. We actually (although it was extremely heavy) got a full length onto the roof but as we put in nails it just pulled away under its own weight. Eventually we had to put the felt up in sections – but discovering this had taken so long that we only got the one length up today. Still now we know what we are doing.

I spent the last couple of hours of the afternoon sitting in a deck chair and listening to the final session of the Test Match between England and India from Manchester. England are doing well and India were removed for just 152 (having won the toss and elected to bat). England had reached over a hundred for the loss of three wickets by the close.

We all dined in the farmhouse (Olive’s friends are still with us and had spent the afternoon in the grounds of Duns Castle). After the meal – it was a happy occasion – Rachel and I watched an old Foyle’s War which we had missed the first-time around; it was based on VE Day and was quite interesting as well as being a good story.

Having caught up with the News I came out to the summer house to do my diary, only to discover that my computer had crashed and wouldn’t restart. In fact it took the length of a Carry On film (watched on my i-pad) to get the computer up and running and by that time I was so dead-beat that I quickly walked the dog and went to bed.

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Wednesday 6th. August, 2014 – A day with nothing to report 

This afternoon I ventured into the Hen House with a view to start sorting things out. I suppose I knew this was going to be a pointless exercise because I had nowhere to start putting things and also because it was raining so I couldn’t take things outside. So after a bit of a look around at all of the boxes waiting to be emptied and the empty boxes which had piled up on top of them since we arrived, I gave up

Woke and, as forecast, it was raining. Showered and then walked Mix before breakfast with Olive and her friends from Germany. David arrived – Tom didn’t come today because with the rain there was little we could do – and he started work again on the Stables, making great progress throughout the day, joining me for several cups of coffee and playing every guitar within reach in the summer house.

In the morning I prepared the music for Arrochar and dispatched it to Jamie and, in the afternoon – at a little bit of a loose end because of the bad weather – I thought about clearing the Hen House.

Mum went into Duns with Anne to the Book Reading Group, Olive and Digger took their friends off to Hume Castle to explore and Rachel continued work on the kilt she is making and later went into Duns to do some shopping.

I am really in a mood to do some sorting out and tidying up but, until I have somewhere to tidy to, there is very little I can do. I suppose I will have to wait until we have the Bothy completed although, if we get some more dry weather, I could empty things out into the courtyard and then pack them back where they came from.

I had a wonderful surprise this afternoon with a phone call from Ewen and Jane from Australia who are coming to visit us in September. It will be really good to see them.

We all dined together in the farmhouse and afterwards we returned to the Granary – today has been a nothing sort of a day for me – the first day since I came here that I feel in some way that I have wasted but not really knowing what else I could have done with it. I suppose that it is just a bit of frustration that I can’t get on with what I would like to do.

We watched the first episode of DC Banks (recorded weeks ago) and then, after the News, it was time for bed.

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Tuesday 5th. August, 2014 – Making progress 

Today’s picture is of Tom’s trailer – but a trailer filled with roofing felt marks a significant step forward for us here. The roof has been completed, now we have to cover it and that work will start as soon as the weather permits

Up, walked Mix and breakfasted in the farmhouse. When Tom arrived we completed the roof of the Bothy while David continued to work on providing services for the Stables.

In the afternoon Tom and I went to Pearsons and bought the roofing felt for the Bothy and then helped David install equipment by building a wooden frame in the Stables. Tom also rounded off the eaves of the Bothy – we really are ready now to start putting on the felt – but the weather forecast is dreadful so it may be a day or two until we are able to start.

Olive, Digger and their friends went off to Eyemouth, to Berwick, to Spittal and to Coldstream. Mum and Rachel went into Duns where Mum had her hair done. In the evening we all dined at the farmhouse and later I watched a bit of the referendum debate between Alastair Darling and Alec Salmond. I thought that it was a pretty unsatisfactory debate for both sides, really because neither listened to the other. I also thought that it was pretty shoddy that the debate was only available to us in the Scottish Borders on the internet.

In the wider world I was impressed by Baroness Warsi deciding that enough was enough and resigning from the Government over events in Gaza and the failure of the British Government to speak out about it in the way that she thought appropriate. I was also taken aback by the German court’s decision to halt proceedings against Bernie Ecclestone for alleged bribery when he agreed to pay the court sixty million pounds to drop the case. There is something in all of this which seems rather odd.

Finally it is good that a cease-fire seems to be holding between Israel and Hamas.

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Monday 4th. August, 2014 -- Back to Work 

By the end of the day the sarking on the Bothy was almost completed. We have achieved a great deal today – almost completing the sarking (tongue and groove larch so that it looks good from inside) and we have completed the extensions at the far side of the roof. Tomorrow we will have about four planks to fit and the roof will be ready for roofing felt

It was like old times, I walked Mix, breakfasted on porridge and had a drink with Tom. Then it was back to work on the Bothy roof in the sunshine. David arrived and did some work on preparing the Loom room for the party on the 30th. and then we all had coffee in the summer house.

David and Tom with Sasha, Spike, Mix and Rowan – Sasha is David’s spaniel, Spike is Tom’s daughter’s Border collie. Our dogs had a great time playing with them all this morning and everyone behaved perfectly

While David went off to Berwick for a meeting, Tom and I went to Pearsons for lunch (Shepherd’s pie) and then back to do a bit more on the roof. We arrived back just as Olive and Digger’s friends arrived and so we were able to get them through the gate and into Mount Pleasant. Fabian and Maike with their children Niklas and Amile will be with us for a couple of weeks, having crossed the channel in a ferry from their home in Germany. The two children are already having a ball with the dogs, with the boats in the yard and moving building materials around on a trolley – I wish I had got a picture of Amilie with her little brother on a dog lead (or was it the other way round?) as they played happily together. And the sun shone.

Around the dining table in the farmhouse at Mount Pleasant

We dined sharp at seven in the lounge and then we retired to the Granary. I was really quite tired after all the exertions of the last few days and I ended up in the summer house doing a quick sort out before walking Mix and having an early night.

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Sunday 3rd. August, 2014 – Back to normality 

Suddenly all of the crops are turning gold – many have already been harvested but this is field across the road from where we live

Up this morning and walked Mix before breakfasting in the farmhouse (for the first time for more than a week). Rachel and I set off for Cranshaws for the Morning Service, leaving Mum at home as she was expecting a visit from Amy and Nick.

The service was very different from normal incorporating a section on listening for the children, including a short drama on marriage (from Fiddler on the Roof), and a renewal of wedding vows by Alison and Bill, two of the members of the congregation. Anne spoke about First Corinthians chapter thirteen – the glorious chapter about love -- reminding us of the provenance of the words, written to a Church community embroiled in dispute and challenging us to read the chapter over substituting our own name each time the word ‘love’ was mentioned.

After the service – very well-attended not least by many of Bill and Alison’s friends and family – we were served with coffee and cake before we made our way home in good time for Sunday lunch at the farmhouse.

We ate quite late because Olive had been involved in other things and then, after lunch Mix and I retired to the summer house to catch up on all that had been neglected in the week we have been away.

Rachel went off to Evensong. I fed the dogs and in the evening we settled down to watch the closing ceremony of the Commonwealth Games. Glasgow has done well – Scotland has done well. I gather those who have visited have had a good time, that business has reaped a reward and that our athletes have exceeded all expectations. The organisation has gone well too and that must have been no easy matter. Well done to all involved – and now we can turn our attention to the Edinburgh Festival. What a life we have!

Those who were present at the Closing ceremony say that the atmosphere was absolutely superb. I don’t think these kind of things come across so well on television but then it was an event designed for the athletes and they were there. It was good to see Lulu and Deacon Blue and I enjoyed hearing Caledonia and the massed Pipes and Drums (as well as the solo piper at the end). Gold Coast City will obviously throw themselves into providing a good Games – and it is important to remember that before the Glasgow Games the whole future of the Commonwealth Games was in doubt – that they are not now is a huge tribute to Glasgow. I was a bit surprised that Kylie became the headline act (even if it was all set within the framework of a Glasgow night out). I’m sure she was good (and her dancers were superb) but I would have expected someone more Scottish (where were the Proclaimers)? But perhaps it was a mark of the new-found Scottish confidence that we could feel that the final act did not have to be one of our own. The Games have been a huge success and that’s something to celebrate.

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Saturday 2nd. August, 2014 – My Godmother comes to visit 

A picture of Mum and her sister Agnes, my God-mother, sitting in the summer house this afternoon

Slept in until just after nine, got up, showered and walked Mix. At this point I had planned to go off to the Duns Show but Mum had arranged that my Godmother, Aunt Agnes, would come and visit today so I stayed to see her. She arrived with two of her sons, my cousins Simon and Martin. Simon who lives in Hong Kong brought his wife Ita and sons James and Michael. It was really good to see them all. Olive had been baking, so we had something to eat and then we showed them around our activities. They have all been spending quite a lot of time at the Commonwealth Games, particularly at the hockey – all of them being great hockey buffs. I was sorry when they had to go on home to Edinburgh.

In the farmhouse lounge -- Simon, my cousin, with his wife Ita and his sons James and Michael

Meanwhile Rachel had gone off to the Duns show which she greatly enjoyed. By all accounts it was a great event even if the weather was not very kind. Rachel told me of the animals and tractors, the produce exhibitions and the craft activities, the horse jumping, the gun dogs, the terriers’ race and all of the different stalls. Next year I will definitely be there.

In the evening Mum took us all out for a meal to celebrate the sale of her house. We went to the Thai Restaurant where we ate well – I started with strips of chicken in a peanut sauce and went on to curried king prawns with an egg fried rice accompaniment. It was excellent – as, of course, was our celebration.

Digger, Olive, Mum and Rachel at the fabulous Thai restaurant in Duns -- wonderful food, super service and a great place to celebrate the selling of a house

I drove us all home – the rest of the family had been ‘on the wine’— and I arrived home just in time to see Usain Bolt bring the Jamaican four times one hundred relay team home in gold medal position. It was good to see. I watched the news, walked Mix and went to bed.

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Friday 1st. August, 2014 – The long trip home 

Back in the Marina, life goes on as normal as the crane prepares to lift three boats out to have their bottoms blacked

We slept in a bit, well almost until nine and then I got up and walked Mix along the tow path, back towards the Rolls Royce works and then back to the boat for breakfast – a roll and cheese.

I packed up all my bits and pieces and sorted out my drawer, my cupboard over my side of the bunk and the hanging cupboard and then I took the toilet cassette along to the marina hygiene station to empty it and clean. While there I saw that there were a number of boats being lifted out today – I imagine so that they can have their bottoms blacked and the hulls repainted. That’s something which we will have to do quite soon.

I wandered back to the boat and reinstalled the toilet cassette before taking the other cassette back to the hygiene station to clean it out as well. I always like us to arrive at the boat with everything in order for the next cruise. Meanwhile Rachel had done some cleaning – not as much as she had intended because it was wet today and it was not a good day for doing things outside. So we contented ourselves with taking the dogs for a short walk ending up at the Marina where we loaded them into the car, drove to the boat, loaded up the car and set off for home.

Normally the Tom-Tom tells us that the journey will take four hours and six minutes and we get home in about three and a half hours. Today it took nearer to five hours as we ran into road works on the A1 and then into the rush hour at Newcastle. As a result it was almost seven when we arrived back at Mount Pleasant. Just in time for supper. We ate with Mum, Olive and Digger enjoying their news that Mum’s house sale had been completed at ten minutes to five that afternoon.

Back home in the Granary we unpacked, watched an old Inspector Gently on television, walked the dogs and went to bed. It was good to be home in our beds after an exciting week.

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Thursday 31st. July, 2014 --- Back to Barnoldswick 

We are on our way home and this picture was taken just after we came through the double bridge at East Marton

I was up at eight and walked Mix and Rowan until nine, going all the way back to the lock beside which we moored the night before last. Back at the boat everyone was up, washed and breakfasted. I had some French toast and then we set off for home – first of all in solitude climbing the three locks out of Gargrave. The weather hadn’t settled after some overnight rain and some folk had perhaps waited to see what the day held. In fact, contrary to the weather forecast, it turned out well – hot and sunny and for the six Bank Newton locks we travelled in company (well for five of them) with Meandher and her crew of John and Janet Brown (Janet had just retired a fortnight ago and was enjoying this new way of life.)

Tom steered for the long stretch from Bank Newton to Greenberfield – amongst the most beautiful stretches of canal anywhere in England. I sat with the dogs on the fore deck (although Rowan preferred to bounce around inside). After all of my exercise walking dogs and working locks I was glad to sit and relax and enjoy the view, the tranquillity and the passing canal boats (most of which were hire boats – many from Snaygill, from whom we hired our first boat).

Canal life is so quiet

Even Mix enjoyed the views

although Rowan preferred the comfort of the cabin

What a wonderful way to spend a few days

We met a cow who really quite fancied coming into the canal

and there were so many ducks

I had a pleasant chat with a Water Ways official who was checking up to see that all was well. He lives on his boat and told me that he has to pinch himself to remind himself how lucky he is to work on the canals. He also told me that the locks were not in a great state at present – we discovered that for ourselves with several broken paddles and one broken ratchet. And the final lock of the day leaked so badly that we struggled to fill it.

Almost home -- on the outskirts of Barnoldswick

But all of this was as nothing. We had a wonderful cruise and berthed effortlessly with Mark, our neighbour, looking on, just after four. Tom and Dorothy were able to get away by five as they had hoped and I settled down to prepare the music for Arrochar and send it off to Jamie.

We walked the dogs, visited the Co-op in Barnoldswick to buy some supper – a prawn cocktail, some Indian Bhajis and Samoza, and a raspberry trifle to round things off. It is good to be back in our mooring.

Walked Mix and went to bed. Tomorrow in the morning we’ll sort out the boat and then drive home in the afternoon. Should also record that Durham beat Warwickshire at Gosforth in the 50 overs competition today, with a bright knock from Paul Collingwood. England also defeated India to level the Test series after three games (with two still to play) and the Commonwealth Games continues to go well – and the sun continues to shine. Wonderful!

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Wednesday 30th. July, 2014 – Gargrave to Gargrave 

Rachel and Rowan beside 'The Young Rachel' right in the heart of Skipton

We ended up today back where we started – at Gargrave. Strictly that’s not true because we started the day outside Gargrave and ended it back inside (up the three locks which start one on the journey to Skipton).

Today I was up just after seven and was soon on the tow path walking both dogs. By the time I returned everyone was alive and had enjoyed breakfast. I had a couple of rolls and soon afterwards the boat set off – destination Skipton. I spent most of the journey inside with the dogs – everyone was happier if they were quiet. So I enjoyed a shower and did some writing while Rachel steered, Tom opened swing bridges and Dorothy held lines while the boat stopped to let Tom off and on. The journey from Gargrave to Skipton has no locks and is a very enjoyable one.

We had wondered where we would turn the boat around but fortune was with us, we arrived in the centre of Skipton where the canal forks off to the Castle, at a time when there was little traffic and so we were able to turn the boat there – even better, just as we completed the manoeuvre, a boat in a prime location on the tow path moved off. So we moved in.

'The Young Rachel' from one of Skipton's bridges

'The Young Rachel' peeping out from behind the statue of Freddie Trueman

Again I stayed with the dogs as Rachel, Tom and Dorothy went off to explore historic Skipton with its market in full swing in the main street. Tom and Dorothy went off to look at the Castle; Rachel returned to the boat and we walked the dogs, on the way assisting a single-handed sailor to get through a swing bridge which carried quite a lot of traffic.

Tom and Dorothy in fits of laughter in front of Skipton's historic Church

I went for fish suppers for everyone at lunch-time. We ate these on the boat while looking at Skipton through the windows. After lunch I went with Tom and Dorothy into the town: Tom bought a hat, a waistcoat and a body-warmer with lots of pockets; I bought a kettle (the one we have is too small when we have guests). We visited the Church and I asked if anyone knew where the Midland Hotel had been. The lady to whom I spoke didn’t, but she directed me to another lady who had been born and brought up in Skipton. She knew exactly. It was the hotel for the railway – that’s why it was called the Midland Hotel – and it backed on to the canal. In fact, Rachel and I had walked the dogs past it this morning (It has a quaintly named restaurant: the Rhubarb Restaurant). The significance of all of this is that Mum spent the first night of her honeymoon in the Midland Hotel back in 1945 (Supper, bed, breakfast and lunch cost £2).

Herriot's Hotel was until ten or fifteen years ago 'The Midland Hotel'

The front of the former Midland Hotel

The reception of the former Midland Hotel is in the little courtyard behind the main frontage of the hotel

Tom and Dorothy returned to the boat bringing a beautifully painted tray for Rachel. I returned with a lifejacket with a strong handle for Mix and soon afterwards we set off back for Gargrave – everyone with the same duties as before except that I walked a good part of the way with the dogs in order to tire them out. I was glad that I did as the countryside was magnificent even if it was a bit overcast and a bit colder than yesterday. But the longer the day went on, the brighter it became.

Back at Gargrave there were three locks to be navigated, so again there were jobs for us all as we worked our way up to the village.

Inside the Masons Arms

We moored and then went off to the Masons’ Arms (we ate there in 1994 with Jean, Sandy and Anne) and enjoyed a convivial evening talking with those around us – a couple from Bradford (who were into bird-watching) and a boat engineer from Gargrave. I enjoyed French Onion soup followed by scampi and chips. We walked home past St. Andrew’s Church (with a Saltire flying from its flagpole). Gargrave is a picturesque little town and it was very good to revisit it.

Dorothy, Tom and the accordion

We fed the dogs and walked them and then settled down with tea, strawberries and chocolate while Tom played his accordion and we recharged several of our electrical devices with the generator.

A final walk with the dogs and it was time for bed. It has been a thoroughly good day – but my old bones ache!

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Tuesday 29th. July, 2014 --- From East Marton to Gargrave 

It wasn't so nice when we got underway today -- the crew were all in foul weather gear

I woke about eight, got up and set off for an hour’s walk with Mix to give everyone some space to get themselves sorted out. Rachel went for a shorter walk with Rowan and when I returned I discovered that not only was everyone up and sorted, but they had all breakfasted on boiled eggs and toast and were raring to go. I had my breakfast and then we were off – me inside with the dogs (I went off and had a shower) and the rest on the stern where Tom had soon tried his hand at steering the boat.

There are six locks at Bank Newton, so it was all-hands-on-deck as we made our way down, doing everything on our own until we crossed with a boat coming up on the fifth lock.

Tom and I dealt with the gates, Dorothy held the boat on a rope and Rachel steered. We made remarkably good time, stopping at the bottom to walk the dogs and have some lunch: pasta and orange juice.

Both Rachels waiting

Going down

and away

Coming out

and again

Looking back

From here we journeyed on into Gargrave descending the three locks into the village and crossing with a large fly boat which had been bought by a couple and converted into a floating hotel with three guest cabins, four bathrooms and other facilities. The owner, as we shared working the gate, told me how much fun he and his wife were having – they had spent the off-season painting the boat and now they were in business!

At Gargrave everyone except me went shopping. I stayed at the boat with the dogs so that the others could wander undisturbed. On their return, Rachel and I walked the dogs and then we went for a meal at the Anchor Inn – part of the Brewers Fayre chain. It was an excellent meal – for me: prawn cocktail, sausages, eggs and chips, followed by a banana split. We made our way back to the boat and immediately set off down the three Gargrave locks en route for Skipton. There was a long way between each lock and I felt that I had more than walked off my desert by the time we had moored up.

Our mooring spot was exactly in the same place we spent our first night on a canal boat back in 1994 with Anne, Jean and Sandy. On that occasion we had set off from Snaygill’s (from the other side of Skipton) and come through Skipton to the bottom of these locks and moored – the following morning Mr. Snaygill arrived and gave us instructions on how to go through a lock, and then we were on our own.

Tonight we sat on board and Tom regaled us with tunes on his accordion before it was time to walk the dogs and bed. We knew that the next phase was lock-free but with several swing bridges so we walked the dogs to the nearest bridge and reminded ourselves of how they were operated. It was all very straight forward.

Playing the accordion is a serious business

I slept like a log (dreaming, no doubt, of the spectacular rural scenery we have been part of today – calm, rural, idyllic, green, quiet – the things that paintings are made of – and, if we had an occasional shower, it remained extremely warm and lovely to be out and about in).

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Monday 28th. July, 2014 --- We journey south. 

This evening we moored just outside East Marton in a lovely spot on this most beautiful of canals

The alarm went off at 5.30 a.m. and we were up, abluted, dogs exercised, packed – Rachel, Mix, Rowan and me – and on the road by 6.20 a.m., arriving uneventfully at Barnoldswick by ten.

We installed the dogs on ‘The Young Rachel’, unpacked the car and organised the boat, disconnecting mains electricity, removing the covers and so on.

James arrived to help us move ‘The Young Rachel’ from her berth, turning her around so we didn’t need to go a mile or so to use the turning circle.

We refuelled and were all organised, sitting opposite the marina shop when Tom and Dorothy arrived. They parked their car, unloaded their stuff and embarked. Time for a quick coffee and then we were off – the adventure had begun. It was an adventure for us – Rachel hadn’t driven her boat for a while; an adventure for Tom and Dorothy in a canal boat for the first time, and for Mix and Rowan for whom the experience of a home moving on water was a new one.

Our destination for today was East Marton. There is a double bridge there (one on top of the other); there is also an excellent little restaurant called The Cross Keys.

To get to East Marton we had to negotiate the three locks at Greenberfield. This too is an interesting place. You can still see where the original locks were, off to one side. We moored at the head of the locks and went for a cold drink and an ice cream (ginger beer and chocolate mint chip) at the little log cabin which serves snacks there. It was a really warm day.

Going down the three locks was no problem at all, not least because we travelled in tandem with another boat – father, mother and daughter from England with the daughter’s cousin from Glasgow, down for the school holidays.

Soon we had moored up in a lovely spot just two or three hundred yards from the East Marton bridge. We walked the dogs and left the boat to Tom and Dorothy and then, on our return, we all went off to the Cross Keys for a really good meal, Rachel’s ‘thank-you’ for all of the work on the Loom Room. I had mushroom soup followed by eggs, ham and chips all washed down with lots of ice-cold coca-cola. It was grand.

Rachel, Tom and Dorothy in front of the double bridge at East Marton

Tom is perplexed by all the salad that he has been given, Dorothy is perplexed that I keep on taking photographs

A view of the outside of the Cross Keys

On the way back from the Cross Keys we wandered across to St. Peter’s Church – old, not very large and in the middle of a field but with a splendid collection of hatchments on the walls. It was just getting dark but the Church was still open and welcoming.

St. Peter's Church -- in the midldle of nowhere but very active

Back at the boat, we found the dogs well – the only untoward moment of the day had been earlier when Mix had tried to escape. He had eluded me, he had dodged Rachel and as he tried to get off the stern Dorothy had grabbed his hair. He snapped at her and caught her hand – she will have a big bruise tomorrow, I’m afraid.

Rachel and I walked the dogs and then we all went to bed: Tom and Dorothy in the master cabin; Rachel and I, with the dogs, in the double-bed which opens out of the sofa in the saloon. We were extremely warm and comfortable and I slept extremely well.

A view of 'The Young Rachel' from the bridge we crossed on the way back from St. Peter's Church

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Sunday 27th. July, 2014 – Our Day at the Commonwealth Games 

Olive and Digger settle in for the journey from Berwick to Edinburgh -- the first stage of our journey to the Commonwealth Games

I don’t suppose that we would ever have thought of going to the Commonwealth Games had we not been given tickets by my nephew and his wife as a Christmas present – and an extremely generous present at that. Why wouldn’t we have applied for tickets? I really don’t know. Perhaps because the Borders seems such a long way from Glasgow. Perhaps because of a bit of an aversion to crowds and to being regulated. Whatever the reason, it was wrong. It was a great day out and I am delighted to have been part of it all.

We started by walking the dogs and entrusting them to Mum’s care. She was devoting the whole of today to looking after our dogs and Heidi as well because Olive and Digger were also going to the Games. Mum was even missing Church (as were we) in order to ensure that the dogs were OK.

The four of us set off for Berwick a little after nine in plenty of time to get our tickets from the machine and board our train at ten. We had reserved seats as far as Edinburgh then caught the regular train to Glasgow. It was extremely busy but we all got a seat.

Arriving in Glasgow, we walked the short distance to the Buchanan Street Bus Depot where buses were lined up and waiting to drive us to Hampden Park, all at no charge (well, it would have been included in the cost of the ticket – so thanks again, Nick and Amy)!

I was a bit surprised at how far we were deposited from Hampden – it was quite a walk from the bus ‘stop’ to the stadium – but that surprise was nothing compared to that of discovering the length of the queue (everyone, all 44,000 in one queue) which went from the gates of the stadium, away up a road and down the other side and then doubled back on itself more than once. Remember we were two hours early and still we walked miles!

The queue which greeted us on our arrival -- and we were early! We joined on the right and went away up and over the hill before returning on the other side: by that time the queue had doubled back on itself several times over

I think that the fear in the crowd was that we wouldn’t get in in time and that could all have been assuaged if there had been signs or announcements to the effect that ‘you will be in a long queue but don’t worry, we know what we are doing, and you will be inside the arena in plenty of time.’

At 1 p.m. I thought we would never be inside for the start time of 2.30 p.m. At. 1.15 p.m. (one hundred yards further up the road) I was wondering if we would be inside for the final event of the afternoon. By 1.30 p.m. everything had moved on dramatically and we were inside the ground. (I did feel that elderly and disabled people had to suffer unnecessarily – certainly some in our vicinity struggled up the hill and were in considerable discomfort.)

Our first view of the arena

Once inside, there was a massive – and good humoured – security system (just like the airport) and by 1.45, with forty-five minutes to spare, we were seated in excellent seats just above the start of the 100 metres position and ready for everything to start.

A final word about that queue. It was actually very well marshalled by police on horseback, who, by ensuring that no one ‘jumped the queue’ at least prevented folk finding an extra cause for discontent.

But now for the Games. This was the opening of the athletics and during the course of the afternoon we saw the opening heats of the shot put (men), throwing the hammer (women), the men’s and women’s 100 metres, the 400 metres, a para-sport long jump and – the high spot of the afternoon – the final of the 5,000 metres. It was all extremely exciting. The arena was absolutely full (well, it was after everyone arrived – it seems that buses hadn’t turned up in sufficient numbers at the Park and Ride centres and only about two thirds of the audience were present for the opening event. But very soon it was full.)

To prove we were there

And now it is really filling up

I sat through the afternoon fairly mesmerised just by the experience of being part of such a huge gathering. Announcers kept us informed as to what was going on and provided little entertainments to fill in the gaps between events. These ranged from an interview with Allan Wells, to a sing-along, Karaoke-style, of 500 miles, to a Hampden Mexican Wave. I was fed potato wedges, read my second programme – the first fell into the seat in front and the girl there said it was hers. And I marvelled at the athletes.

And they're off! The start of the 100 metres heats. Lane seven is vacant because the athlete had been disqualified for a false start

The Shot Put

We got a superb view of the shot put which was just in front of us. For the long jump I was glad of my binoculars until I realised that everything was also being shown on two very large screens!

Small things fascinated me: beside the shot put area there was a rail – just as at the ten pin bowling – for the ball to be returned to the competitor.

We saw several medal ceremonies. I enjoyed these. Everyone stood for the National Anthem and, just in front of us, the flags were raised

Little radio-controlled cars

At the hammer there were little battery-operated and radio-controlled cars – just a bit bigger than the ones folk play with in their gardens – into which a hammer was placed and then returned to the start point.

I was awfully vexed for the athletes in the 100 metres who were disqualified for a false start. Imagine coming half-way around the world to run in this once-in-a-lifetime event and getting stopped on the starting-line?

The Hammer Throwing was at the far side of the arena but we could see quite well

Photographers were everywhere

And this is Clyde, the mascot of the Commonwealth Games

With few Scottish athletes on show today, it seemed to me that the crowd was keen to shout on the under-dogs, never more so than for the Solomon Islander, Rosefelo Siosi, a seventeen year-old who struggled around the 5,000 metres being lapped at least twice by some of the more elite competitors.

There was a bit of a difference between the attitudes of the organisers who, for example, only announced the names and introduced the very ‘best’ of the runners, and the crowd who cheered on those who were less ‘elite’. I thought that it was a shame that everyone wasn’t introduced, but what would I know?

The arena is now absolutely full

This is the start of the 5,000 metres

What I do know is that the atmosphere was superb – it was wonderful to be part of such a happy, excited crowd – Glasgow was on show and she was preening like a peacock and really strutting her stuff.

We left with a train to catch and in the middle of a huge crowd as we made our way back to the shuttle bus-stop. This time there were no police officers to keep order and the crowds were chaotic. And this time there were no buses – just a frantic official trying to conjure up buses on his walkie-talkie. Normally this would be great fun – but there are limited trains to the Borders on a Sunday evening!

We reached Glasgow Bus Depot, walked to the railway station to be greeted by a half-mile queue right out of the station and around the block for a train to Edinburgh. The queue moved quite quickly and we boarded a train and arrived in Edinburgh at 8.10 – just ten minutes after our train to Berwick had departed. However, all was not lost, there was another at nine and the lady in the ticket office endorsed our tickets for that train and allowed us to travel on it at no extra charge. We travelled in comfort and were home at a little after ten having had an excellent day.

Mum had coped well with the dogs who were all alive and happy. Tom and Dorothy had popped in to see that she was OK – she was fine. We were grateful.

Soon it was off to bed. We have an early start tomorrow.

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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

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.