Friday 26th to Monday 29th March, 2021 

This entry covers this last weekend. I have been hard at work from first thing in the morning until last thing at night trying to get ready for Holy Week and Easter. Tonight we had our first Holy Week Service and the picture above shows Tom getting the South Aisle ready for the service. (Don't worry, unless they were in a bubble, folk had to leave two seats between them to comply with the rules!) And we did have the whole of the rest of the Church to use as well.

Tonight we looked at the cleansing of the Temple from the Biblical account of this day in Holy Week. We decided not to use hymns (we are not allowed to sing) so instead we used the music of Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov. I enjoyed the service very much.

Yesterday our church re-opened for Palm Sunday. We had a good attendance which was hugely encouraging and it felt like a lovely service. Back home I had to spend the rest of the day recording services for Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday of Holy Week and by the end of the day the service for Monday was edited and uploaded. Today I edited the service for Tuesday and wrote the service for Easter Sunday in Church. We can't really have communion so I have written a meditation on Communion to share with my folk.

Moving backwards, I spent all day Friday writing services for Church and for our online presence. By the end of the day I had all of the live services for the week prepared and I have written an online service for Monday. And so I moved into Saturday and in the morning I prepared online service for Tuesday and Wednesday -- the ones which I recorded on Sunday. I spent the afternoon at Church with Tom, Dorothy and Rachel as we prepared for a mock live-stream tomorrow. Everything takes a long time to design and create but we will be ready for our first live-stream on Easter morning.

To move forward to Sunday, Dorothy's live-stream was very good. The pictures were super and the general sound was great. What didn't work was the sound from me. I was wearing a lapel microphone and it clashed with the general microphone. But we will have it right by next Sunday!

The other excitement was today when I was summoned to the Stables to provide the muscle for the loading of the warp onto the weaving loom for Rachel and Sandy's next project which is weaving some Bruce tartan for a private order.(The picture above was after Sandy had set everything up -- all we had to do was wind the bottom roller round and round and wind the warp onto it. It was really heavy! Happy days.

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Thursday 25th. March, 2021 

This was a busy day which didn't quite work out as expected. We walked the dogs and at this point I expected to get down to preparing online Holy Week services but the phone rang and rang. John brought back the Church accounts, all suitably inspected and in order, and then I shared in a Zoom minister's meeting where we talked about a possible Elders' Sunday on 25th. April when elders will be invited to lead all our services throughout the presbytery. It will make a great story in the local papers and perhaps even in Life and Work where it will help to provide some advertising for the new post our presbytery will be advertising about the same time -- a minister to support congregations without ministers of their own to provide their own weekly worship.

At this point our new Sky+HD box arrived. (Our previous one died.) Unfortunately the new one didn't work as it should so I had several telephone calls with the company before having to parcel it up and drive it to Duns to send it back to the distributor,

Finally I got down to service preparation and I worked through until dinner thinking about Monday in Holy Week and the cleansing of the Temple by Jesus. Dinner was a Chinese take-away which I enjoyed. Rachel and I relaxed in front of the television this evening -- we can still operate it through the wonders of I-player; and soon it was time for bed.

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Wednesday 24th. March, 2021 

This morning Sandy and Rachel began work on setting up the weaving loom in the Stables so that they can weave a number of Bruce tartan travelling rugs. I popped in from time to time to see how they were getting on and to take the occasional picture! Up above you can see the wool as it arrived set up on the spigots from which it will be wound onto the frame on the wall behind. I gather the skill is in knowing how much is required to be wound out for each strand of the number of rugs to be woven.

In the picture above you can see the frame taking shape with the first coloured thread having been wound onto it.

And here above are some of the completed hanks of thread. On Friday it will be the same again with a view to having sufficient by next Tuesday to start putting the threads onto the loom. I'll try to get some more pictures to show you how it is all done. I promise you that it is fascinating! (I'll maybe also try to learn some of the technical terms.)

And my day? Well I spent all day preparing a series of five Holy Week Services to be used from Monday to Friday next week in Church. That's just one short sentence but it was one long day of work. This afternoon Rachel started preparing musical files for these services. Seeing we can't sing in Church I'm going to use classical music to support the words that are used. I'm enjoying putting it all together and I hope folk find the services helpful.

As I write I'm half-listening to Newsnight. Then I'll walk the dogs and it will be time for bed.

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Tuesday 23rd. March, 2021 

Today I filmed the online service for Palm Sunday, recording in the morning and editing in the afternoon. Rachel collected together several art pictures of the events of Palm Sunday and I used these in the completed edit. I am aware, of course, that there will be fewer people sharing online this weekend because we can now return to church, but there will be some who are still at home.

This evening, after dinner at the farmhouse, I attended a meeting of the Presbytery Business Committee. It seems that Edinburgh is in the course of agreeing the position of the new minister for Greenlaw and the Presbytery which I mentioned yesterday.

There was also an impromptu discussion on how we could persuade congregations with large resources to assist congregations with very few resources but with plans to take forward their mission to their parishes. It's an important subject which will be easier to tackle when we can all start to meet face to face once more.

Tomorrow my task is to attempt to prepare several of the services for Holy Week which will be celebrated live in church. I'll enjoy this task enormously!

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22nd. March, 2021 

I expect that you will hear quite a bit from time to time about the four churches which occupy most of my time. Molly has prepared this picture so that you, dear reader, can see them all. Fogo is my Church. I am the congregation's non stipendiary minister and I have worked with them since 2016. Later this year I will complete five years as their minister. Gordon, Greenlaw and Legerwood are three churches whose minister retired last Easter and, really as there was no-one else, I became their Interim Moderator.

My task is to help all four of these congregations prepare for life beyond paid parish ministry. I suppose that folk have different ideas about this. Some accept it with regret feeling that the ideal is to have a parish minister but realise that the number of ministers both now and in the future will so small that this is not a possible or realistic ideal. Others refuse to accept it and believe that if there is no stipendiary ministry then all of the churches will die out. Still others, of which I am one, believe that a future without parish ministry is the direction in which the Holy Spirit is leading us and will result in a much stronger, vibrant church life.

Our presbytery has embraced this concept and is about to advertise for a minister who will work one day a week with Greenlaw Parish Church and four days a week with congregations without a stipendiary minister with the particular responsibility of helping congregations develop the ability to conduct their own worship. This is, of course, just a start but it is a big and important first step.

I hope that by the time this appointment is made there will have been several steps forward and that these congregations will have become adept at leading services themselves. There is a lot more to say about this and I will add more in the coming days. But today's task was to introduce you to the different church buildings -- four small rural congregations with thousands of years of worship between them. (Yes, that is literally correct!)

Now what about today? Rachel and I walked the dogs and then I set about preparing two services for next Sunday, Palm Sunday. Two services because one is for our online worship and one is for use in Fogo Church next Sunday now that we are permitted to reopen our churches.

The phone rang and rang but after lunch I really got down to it and by the end of the day I have two scripts and tomorrow the video service will be recorded and I can start to look at Holy Week services.

The big national news today is that an independent review cleared our First Minister of breaking the ministerial code with regard to an investigation into the behaviour of her predecessor who was accused of harassing female civil servants. He was cleared in a criminal court but things have rumbled on. It has all been very nasty but given that the review was independent and conducted by a very senior Queen's Counsel one would hope that there will now be closure.

And to cap it all we are to have a national election in about six week's time -- so politics will dominate our Scottish news for quite a while yet.

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Sunday 21st. March, 2021 

Yesterday I told you that my Master had introduced me to that famous photographer, Molly. Today Molly sent some new pictures of the church to my Master. I could see that he was very pleased with them and I have got him to put one at the head of my blog for today. This is Snowball, 'the dog with two names', reporting. (aka Daisy.) I don't know what you think, but I don't think a dog called Daisy would be able to write a blog, do you? But a dog called Snowball, that's quite another matter.

Today we all went for our walk. Bramble and I were very good and Ditto had to behave because he was on a lead. Rowan was with my Mistress so I don't know how she behaved. I am always a very good dog and especially today because it is Sunday.

After we had our breakfast it was time for church which we have to watch on tv just now. My Master and Mistress and I all sat on the sofa and watched the service while Bramble and Ditto each sat on one of the comfy chairs -- I think Ditto dozed off during the service. Rowan slept behand the stove -- she isn't very religious and didn't seem to mind missing the service even although it was our master who was doing the speaking.

After the service there was a Coffee and Zoom meeting and lots of people from the church all met on Zoom and chatted to each other. Many of them had coffee but we just had to watch. There were lots of dogs. Julia had a very wooly little dog and Gill was lucky enough to have one of us, a Collie. She must be very happy. I saw that Alison was a very polite lady because she had to get up and go and open the door to let her Labrador come in. I like humans who have been well-trained.

After the Zoom we went for lunch at the Farm House. My Master was very happy because there were stovies. I was very happy because my master was very happy and I was right to be happy for after lunch my Master took me to church where we did some more preparation for 'live-streaming'. We now have the pictures (the cameras) working well and we will be able to edit the pictures well. We also have the sound working well and today we also started making pictures and printing the words of hymns on them and loading them into our special editing and streaming machine. I let my Master do this because it was making him happy. But I sat at his feet and when he got stressed I let him stroke my ears until he was relaxed again.

We came back home and my Master wrote a bit for the local paper telling everyone that we will be back in church next Sunday. Everyone is very excited but I will miss sitting with my Master and watching Church. (Rowan won't. She will still be able to go to sleep behind the stove.) Maybe I will soon be allowed to go to church for the service. I could sit in the gallery when Dorothy does the 'live-streaming' and I could keep her company. I would like that. And I could listen to my master doing the speaking: I would like that.

We had tea (after my Master had fed Fred). The humans had mushrooms on toast; we dogs had what they call 'dog food' to make sure they don't eat it themselves -- they know it is too good for mere humans, although I wouldn't grudge my humans a little of our special food. They are very good to us.

We all got warm in front of the stove and we watched the new Midsummer Murders before the news, our trip outside and then bed. What a lucky dog I am!

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Saturday 20th. March, 2021 

Come on then! Let me in, it's good to be home. I don't know why it takes him so long to get out of a car. It's not as though he locks it up. Yet here I am ready to get into the house and he is no where to be seen.

It's been a long day. We got up and my sisters and Ditto (the black Lab -- just a boy still) took my master and Mistress for a walk. My Master takes us (Bramble and me running free and the boy on a lead) up the hill opposite while my Mistress and Rowan walk gently to the end of the field and then turn back for home. As soon as we get to the tree on the summit my Master puts his hand on it and says, 'OK' and Bramble and I turn round and race down the hill to where my Mistress and Rowan have reached. My Master and the boy arrive soon afterwards -- my master gets delayed because Ditto always has to find something to carry home. Sometimes he steals shoes and leaves them in the garden. Then there is some shouting!

After breakfast My Master and I set off by car for Fogo Parish Church where we worked all day, being visited by Tom and Dorothy (who brought lunch for my master but not for me), by my Mistress and by John. We also saw a lady called Molly whom I understand is a professional photographer and, according to my master, takes marvelous pictures!

Together we got all the camera business for streaming done, and also most of the sound issues. Tomorrow we are going to complete the sound set up and then work out how to present the musical items -- pictures and words -- while my Mistress controls the music from the organ. I am becoming a very technologically competent dog!

I came home and explained all that we had been doing to Rowan and Bramble and Ditto. Ditto wasn't really interested and Rowan thought that she should really have gone. Bramble thought my face had got dirty and washed it for me before I took my Master across to the Farmhouse for dinner. I reminded him he had to feed Fred the fish and then we came back home and we dogs settled down to our dinner with, as an extra treat, a sausage each provided by Olive who is a very good cook!

We had a relaxing evening and I slept on my Master's lap while he and my Mistress watched an episode of Harrow which is set in Australia, where I would like to go and run along their beaches.

Then my master watched some youtube videos about soundboards so that he is prepared for our foray to Church tomorrow. Now it was time to go outside before coming back in and settling down to sleep. We have achieved a great deal today and I know my Master has appreciated all that I have done to help!

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Friday 19th. March, 2021 

I told you so! Snowball reporting, again. I told you I would get to go with my Master when he had to set up the church for what he calls 'live-stream' worship.

We set off soon after ten and didn't get home until after five. I didn't mind. The gallery where we were working has a lovely carpet as you can see from the picture. If you look closely, you can also see my different eyes -- I am a very special dog.

Tom came and joined my Master and they put up cameras and shouted into microphones and had a lot of trouble with something called a video-switcher. Eventually my master sent an email to the people who had made it in somewhere called California and, within ten minutes, they were back in touch and immediately sorted out the problem. Seems like my master is not as smart as he thought he was!

But everything has now been done and tomorrow we are going back to church, my Master and I, and we are going to experiment with using it so that we can start streaming on Easter Sunday. It is all very exciting and I will be able to watch my Master in church without leaving our home here at Mount Pleasant.

This is the result of all our work today. The big TV shows what is being broadcast. The laptop shows the different views which are available for the video operator. The desk on the left is what all of the microphones are plugged into. The box on the right is the video switcher and streamer and that's one of the little cameras sitting on the tripod. There are several of these to give different views of the church.

My master says that what he is doing today is very important but that it isn't nearly so important as what is said and the message which comes down the video stream. I think that he believes that what happens on a Sunday will have to change if people are to share with us online. After all, I heard him say to my Mistress, what we are putting on line at the moment is very different from what we do in church Sunday by Sunday. I'll share with you tomorrow anything further which I learn from our trip to church tomorrow -- a good run around the church yard and then a sleep in the gallery is the basis of a very happy day!

I went with my Master and Mistress to the Farmhouse for dinner. My Master was very excited because there was Cheese and Bean pie. I was excited because I saw Olive give my Mistress some sausages which she said were for the dogs -- that's what they call us: but I don't mind, especially if there are sausages!

Digger is going to watch football on the television tonight. I think my Mistress will want to watch Riviera which she started a couple of days ago. Then it will be the News, my late-night trip outside and bed. What a life! I think they call it a dog's life because it's just the kind of life they would most enjoy. Aren't I lucky? (And I think my Mistress has a big bag of carrots which she bought to give us each one tonight -- I'll definitely get one because today I have been a Very Good Dog indeed.)

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Thursday 18th. March, 2021 

Busy day today! Up and walked the dogs before getting out the jump leads and starting Rachel's car. Tom arrived and we sorted out a small church problem relating to central church bureaucracy. Then we took Rachel's car to have a new battery fitted by Keith at Crunklaw Garage and popped in to see Jenny at Pearson's where we bought some wood stain and sandpaper for the Stations of the Cross which Rachel is making for one of our Holy Week Services.

I took part in a Church of Scotland ministers' Zoom webinar all about live-streaming which I found quite interesting. Made lunch of sausage and egg (well, sausages and eggs) and then spent the afternoon preparing Holy Week services for real live services in Church. There was a brief break while I drove Rachel into Duns to collect her car.

We all dined at the farmhouse (where I took this picture). Mum would have told me off for leaving the HP sauce on the table but we had steak pie and roast potatoes and turnip -- and Rachel loves HP sauce.

In the evening I joined in a Zoom with the Board of Legerwood Parish Church. All of our thoughts are turning to Easter. It is going to be special this year!

Caught up with the News and exercised the dogs before bed.

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Wednesday 17th. March, 2021 

My name is Snowball and I was happily dozing on the sofa in front of the stove and happily minding my own business when my Master came and took my picture (I tried to pretend I was still asleep) and then he pushed me off the sofa and said that he was too tired to write his blog tonight, so would I do it. I ask you. I'm just a dog, and most people tell me that I'm not a very bright dog at that.

Tom calls me the 'daft' dog because my eyes are different colours. If he commented on people like that he'd really be in trouble but because I'm just a dog it doesn't matter.

I told you my name is Snowball but I have quite a few names. My Mistress calls me Daisy and I think that was my first name, given to me by my first owners. They died when I was very young and so I was brought to Mount Pleasant Farm, driven down from Edinburgh without a clue where I was going. But I have got a good billet and I live here with my sister Rowan who has only one name, is twenty minutes older than me and never stops reminding me of that fact. My little sister Bramble also lives here. (She also has only one name.) Bramble has to have lots of baths because she has long hair and is a 'Very Dirty Dog' (which is, I think, worse than being daft). Bramble is only five. I am seven! And then there is Ditto. Ditto is a big black Lab who has been here about a year and a half. He is very kind and very happy but my Mistress sometimes gets cross with him because his tail breaks things. She gets angry with me when I bark but I only do that in the morning to remind everyone that it is time to go for a walk -- and sometimes when a visitor arrives.

I am a very happy dog and I spend most of my time with my Master. When he does his film editing I get to go with him to the Hen House and we always have a biscuit before he gets down to work. In the evening I usually lie on the sofa with my head in his lap. My Master says to my Mistress, "Look at this dog!" I think they think I am really quite smart.

I better tell you about what my Master has been up to today. Most of the day was spent preparing for something called 'Church streaming'. The whole of the lounge was filled with wires and cables and cameras and other bit of electrical things called 'gubbins'. There was some swearing but by mid-afternoon everything had evidently been sorted out and my Master says that the next stage is to have a practice in Church. I hope that I will get to go with my Master. I think that I will. I enjoy being in the car and I have my own special bed in the back.

The people had a Chinese take-away for tea. I get to go to the Farm House with my Master at tea-time. He likes me to go with him because I remind his that he has to feed Fred the cat-fish who is twenty-six years old and who gets very excited every night when it is time for tea. Fred belongs to my Master's brother, Scott, who left him here when he moved house. I think that he has forgotten to collect him for he has been here for a very long time.

In the evening my master was on a Zoom call with his friends from Greenlaw who are starting to make plans for when a new minister comes to look after their church. After that meeting I went to sleep until I was rudely awoken and told to write this blog. Maybe, if you like it, I'll get to write it again.

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Tuesday 16th. March, 2021 

It's Tuesday, so today I take the script I prepared yesterday, film it and then edit it before putting it online ready for next Sunday. The picture above was taken this afternoon when I had got to the stage of editing. The two pictures below show the set-up for filming.

This is a picture taken from behind -- I've found the lights to be very important for creating a clear picture. The next picture is my view of the camera, or rather of the autocue, into which I speak each week. You'll notice how untidy the room gets when I set all this equipment out. It doesn't matter because, as you'll see from the picture at the top of this entry, it's only a tiny part of the room that ever gets seen in the completed film.

So that's Tuesday! Well not really. We walked the dogs. I made myself two rolls filled with sausages for lunch and then I attended two Zoom meetings. The first at 6 p.m. was with Epiphan from the United States and was a teach-in on how to use a Pearl-2 which is the unit we shall be using to stream our services from Easter Sunday onwards.

The second, at 7, was an expanded Presbytery Planning Committee which looked briefly at the questionnaires we had all been asked to complete as well as reporting on progress with the appointment to Presbytery and Greenlaw Parish Church.

Ate on my own -- with supper supplied from the farmhouse -- after the Zoom meeting had ended, and then it was time for the News and then to bed!

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Monday 15th. March, 2021 

Unless I have a funeral or other special event -- and, at present, funerals are almost the only thing which disrupts my routine -- I spend Monday preparing the online service for the following Sunday. It takes me all day. I start with a blank piece of paper and end up first with a typed out script and then with an autocue script like the one for next Sunday which can be seen on the screen above. (It is, of course, deliberately, the wrong way round because it is bounced off a mirror behind which the camera will sit when I film it tomorrow.) Tomorrow I will turn this into a film and it will be uploaded to our website and will become generally available from next Saturday night.

But there were other activities today. We walked the dogs -- of course! They wouldn't allow us to omit what to them is why we exist. Tom collected the church Easter cards which will be delivered to every home in the parish tomorrow. It contains details of our opening services on Palm Sunday. Normally I would deliver these but with the sudden re-opening of churches I am racing to prepare all of the extra services which will be involved (as we will continue to provide online worship as well).

It is our plan to start to live stream our Sunday worship from Easter Sunday. At present we haven't been able to do this because we don't have appropriate cameras and there is a dearth of cameras in this country at the moment. However, I resourced two this morning and I hope to have them here tomorrow.

Olive and Digger dined with us in the Granary tonight. They went off to watch the quiz programmes which are a part of their Monday night (University Challenge, Mastermind and Only Connect). It's not our scene so we watched an old movie, 'Looking Glass War' based on a John Le Carre novel, before the News and then bed.

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Sunday 14th. March, 2021 

When I was very young I used to lie in bed with my little transistor radio under the covers and listen to cricket -- Test Matches from Australia -- or later in the day, from South Africa or the West Indies. I used to wonder at the technology. How was it that my heroes, Peter May and Colin Cowdrey could be batting half a world away and I could listen to their efforts? Or how was it that I could listen as Fred Trueman and Brian Statham knocked over wickets continents away and I could hear it described by John Arlott and Rex Alston? It was wonderful enough that I could see the black and white and sometimes shadowy images on television when matches were played in this country, from Lord's or from the Oval.

Today it is just so different. I was really spoiled for choice: the T20 cricket international between India and England all the way from Ahmedabad and in glorious colour; or the six nations rugby with Scotland against Ireland from Murrayfield; or the final round of the Players' Golf Championship all the way from the dramatic Sawgrass Course in Florida.

If today really worked out as I wished then England would win the cricket, Scotland would win the rugby and Lee Westwood would win the golf.

England lost convincingly, Scotland lost narrowly, and Lee Westwood came in second (much like England and Scotland but he played really well and only lost by one stroke). But I still marvel at the technology!

This morning I walked the dogs, giving Rachel a long-lie. Then we shared in the online Church service and after it the Coffee and Zoom which was a really good occasion. Everyone is really looking forward to getting back to church.

We had a lovely lunch. Devon, Olive's daughter-in-law, had sent Olive a meal from some very special Italian Delicatessen. So we started with corn-on-the-cob provided by Digger and then went on to a wonderful prawn ravioli, followed by tiramisu. And then, after an afternoon of sport, we dined again, this time on mushrooms on toast, followed by trifle. Don't we live well?

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Saturday 13th. March, 2021 

Today was my birthday -- seventy-five today -- and Rachel had arranged a wonderful day for me. We had a picnic lunch in her summer house with the dogs all around us. It was lovely.

Lunch was just what I most enjoy: prawn cocktail followed by Parma Ham, salami, and all kinds of antipasti, leading up to a cake and all washed down with a Martini Asti Spumante: the best.

I tucked in! I spent the afternoon watching some of the golf from Sawgrass in the USA and then, of course, the exciting rugby match between England and France. Neither side deserved to lose but England finally won with a score just before the end. Earlier in the afternoon, Scott and Sue popped in and brought me a present of a top for when we go to support Durham Cricket Club when the summer arrives and the lockdown is over. Jim also left a card and a jar of Marmalade from Liz and from him on the doorstep. Such kindness.

Olive and Digger gave us another splendid birthday meal. It started with a present:

I could see what it said on the box but I still couldn't quite believe my eyes when I opened it:

I could hardly lift it -- and I love Toblerone! Again we started with a prawn cocktail (they all know what I really enjoy). This was followed by beef olives and vegetables and then trifle; washed down first with a Prosecco and then with a Saint Emilion. And, of course, a birthday cake:

I blew out the candle but Rachel muffed the photo! We came back home (a journey of fifteen paces) and watched the final three episodes of West Wing. We have finally finished a journey of one hundred and fifty-four episodes and I feel as if a chapter of my life has come to an end. It was so good and was particularly poignant after all that has been happening in the United States in recent times.

We caught the news and went to bed. A fabulous day (so much kindness from so many people).

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Friday 12th. March, 2021 

Tom came around today with this cheque which you can see him presenting to Olive (both are being careful to observe social distancing(. It is a cheque for £50,000 which was left to our Church to take forward our mission plan. It was left by Clare, one of our elders, who was so involved in the creation of our mission plan and was such an inspiration to me as I took on responsibility for our tiny rural congregation at Fogo. We also have Clare's dog Ditto as part of our family. We miss Clare and we will ensure that her money is used to move the mission plans of our congregation forward, just as she would have wished.

The cheque came to Tom because he is our Session Clerk and he is giving it to Olive because she is our Treasurer.

This morning I started preparing for Easter. First of all I made a church Easter card to put around the parish. I decided to make my own card because I really didn't like any of the cards I saw which are commercially available. Making my own also enabled me to put all our Easter information on the card. I'm really very pleased with the completed result. The picture I used was one of sunrise over the Sea of Galilee and was taken by Rachel when we were in the Holy Land last year.

It is rather special, isn't it?

Printing, folding and putting cards in envelopes took most of the afternoon -- but I was able to watch the first T20 match between India and England, which England won quite easily. Tonight we had a Chinese take-away with Olive and Digger before watching a bit of TV before bed.

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Thursday 11th. March, 2021 

This is Rachel sitting in the Bongo. It failed its MOT a couple of years ago and we hung on to it with the thought that one day we might get around to doing something with it, However, there has been some interest expressed in it and we are going to let it go -- so Rachel had a last sit in the van and she can buy something nice with the money we get for it.

We walked the dogs quite early this morning and then spent the rest of the morning with Tom working on the floor of the main bedroom in the henhouse. Progress is being made!

This afternoon, as well as having a shower, I worked on Presbytery matters. I'm really concerned about the Church of Scotland's plans for the future -- we seem to be reconciled to continued decline and we seem to believe that we can only have as many congregations as we have ministers. I'm very afraid that those in charge are seeking a one-size-fits-all ministry. I wouldn't have coped with that at all!

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Wednesday 10th. March, 2021 

Today is St. Kessog's Day. Saint Kessog brought Christianity to Luss and Loch Lomondside in the year 510 when he was fifty years old and I had the pleasure of celebrating the fifteen hundredth anniversary of that event when I was minister at Luss in 2010. It was a great celebration which went on all year.

Today's big event was that Rachel took Rowan, Bramble and Ditto to the vet for their annual injection and check-up. Bramble had to undergo a bath before being seen. It's not her favourite pastime, but she received a very good report having lost five kilos during the last year. The vet was extremely pleased and Rachel didn't tell her that she had probably just washed the weight away in mud and the other contents of her long-hair. She is a mucky little dog -- but we love her!

I wasn't able to join in the trip to the vet as I had a Zoom presbytery committee meeting which looked at planning and associated issues. It was a good meeting which lasted about ninety minutes. There are big issues facing us, not least the proposal to reduce the number of presbyteries in Scotland to nine and moving us into one which also includes Edinburgh, West Lothian, East Lothian, Melrose and Peebles and Jedburgh. And there are big financial reorganisations which accompany this proposal. I have severe reservations about this.

We are also seeking to make an appointment to support congregations without ministers and I was distressed to discover that we have been dragging our feet a little with this but I hope that this will be put right now. Anyway enough of this!

I spent this morning completing the editing of my online service for next Sunday -- that involves inserting musical items, adding titles and pictures and generally making it look as good as possible so that the shortcomings in our production don't get in the way of folk hearing the message on which the service is based.

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Tuesday 9th. March, 2021 

Our First Minister announced this afternoon that we can return to Church for worship on Palm Sunday -- a week earlier than I had anticipated. She also announced that our Church may have as many as fifty in the congregation (always supposing that there is enough room in church to enable safe distancing).

I'm delighted of course, but it will mean that we will have to plan to have Holy Week Services both in Church and online. Thank goodness we have been given two week's notice!

I'm looking forward to standing behind this table again and leading our folk in worship. I hope that others are as excited as I am -- I'm sure that they are.

Up and walked the dogs this morning -- just me as Rachel was a bit tired and had a long lie. Then I spent the morning writing the service for next Sunday. Normally I do this on a Monday but yesterday I had a funeral. However I have been writing and rewriting the service in my head over the last few days and I actually had it prepared by lunchtime and so I recorded it this afternoon and even had it blocked out on computer by dinner this evening. I'll work on it tomorrow morning before my Zoom meeting in the afternoon.

This evening we watched a bit of West Wing before the news and Newsnight. I've been hard at work today but I have enjoyed it.

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Monday 8th. March, 2021 

We dined in the Granary tonight. We had been sent some Molasses covered in chocolate all the way from our cousins in California. The picture above was taken to email to them to show that we had received them and that we were enjoying them!

Earlier in the day I conducted the funeral of Ronnie Punton, a former Edinburgh policeman who retired with his wife to the Borders and latterly lived in Gordon. This was at the Crematorium at Melrose and, one way and another, took up most of the day so my weekly schedule is different this week. Normally I prepare my Sunday service on Monday and then film and edit it on Tuesday. Tomorrow I will spend writing my service and hope to film it on Wednesday morning before a Zoom Presbytery meeting on Wednesday afternoon.

The big news today appears to be an interview which Prince Harry and his wife Megan have given in America and which has been extremely critical of the Royal Family. I'm always sorry to see dirty washing washed in public and I am quite uncomfortable at the prurient interest which so much of the world seems to be taking in business which is best left to those involved. Even Newsnight is jumping up and down with interest and excitement. Quite sad really. Best comment was from John Kerry of the USA who was asked for his take on things and said that there were many more things in the world which were much more important and deserving of our consideration. Well said.

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Sunday 7th. March, 2021 

It's Sunday so I should be in church. But we are still under Covid restrictions so that's not possible. Our church continues to look beautiful both inside and out and, although you can't really see from the photograph, the whole area is covered with snowdrops. It is a very special place.

Today Rachel and I walked the dogs, had breakfast and shared in the service online at the normal church time of 10.30 after which we were joined by a good crowd for the coffee and zoom get-together at 11.15 for an hour or so. It was good to see everyone and to have a really good chat.

We dined in the farmhouse and this afternoon I experimented with the computer programme which I use to record our services to see if I could rescue some of the music which I lost when an external hard-drive crashed. Success!

I also made the final preparations for a funeral service at the crematorium tomorrow.

This evening Rachel and I dined on antipasti of salami, dried tomatoes, roast peppers, artichokes under oil, and potato salad followed by mushrooms on toast. Loved it!

Later we watched Macdonald and Dodd which we enjoyed, followed by the news and the final holes of the final round of the Arnold Palmer Golf Championship from Orlando. Made me long for sunshine and the chance to be on a golf course. I know we can play here but this next week every minute is already accounted for.

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Saturday 6th. March, 2021 

Early this afternoon I drove down to Fogo Church. I had some equipment which had to be taken there, including a wheelchair and a zimmer and several other items. While I was there I found my camera. I have been searching for it for several weeks -- and all the time it was in the church! So I took a picture of the ikon which sits on the old communion table which is in the quiet room in the church. I love the ikon, which I think I bought in Russia, because it is so peaceful, and just perfect for settling me down if I want to sit and be quiet.

We walked the dogs first thing this morning and then I started typing out the entries to a diary which I had kept when I went on a visit to South Africa back in 2012. I had been invited to go to Johannesburg to deliver the annual St. Columba's lecture which is delivered one year by someone from the United States and the next by someone from Scotland. I was invited to talk about my work in Luss and about my involvement with pilgrimage so Rachel and I spent two happy, happy weeks as the guests of the Presbyterian Church of South Africa.

This year the Presbyterian church in Johannesburg celebrates its centenary and I have been asked to send a video greeting. Of course, I'll be delighted to do this but this started me thinking about all that we had done while we were there. I remembered that I had kept a diary; so I found it and today I transcribed it while Rachel looked out our photographs and over the next few days I will try to put them together into some kind of a presentation. If it works out I may even put it on this website.

This evening, after dining in the farmhouse we watched the final film in the Zen series. They are so good and I'm so sorry that they only made three in the series (incidentally I think they were made, or maybe first shown, in 2012 the year we were in South Africa).

After lunch, as I indicated above, I drove to the church. This was because another of my tasks is to try to sort out the summer house which has become the depository for all items for which we have no other home. By this time next week I hope to be able to show you a picture of it returned to how it should be. We'll see.

The television has been on a bit during the day today. First thing because England have been playing India at cricket in India. They were totally outplayed today and have finally lost the series by three games to one. Later, at lunchtime, I turned on the tv to see if the news was on and discovered a football match about to start. It was Watford against Nottingham Forest and Watford is the team I always say I support if I'm asked. (I'm not really a great football fan.) But it was always Watford because that's where I was born. It's a long story and I'll tell it someday!

Anyway, I stopped and watched the game because when we first moved down here I used to go to Berwick with my brother and sister to watch Berwick Rangers, something which we did regularly (we even had season tickets) right up until they were demoted from the league. I was able to wear my Watford scarf because both teams play in the same colours -- yellow and black. After England's defeat, Watford's one goal to nil victory raised my spirits considerably and I set off for the church in really bright sunshine and didn't really notice that it is still extremely cold.

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Friday 5th. March, 2021 

Today is the World Day of Prayer which this year comes from the South Pacific Island of Vanuatu. Normally we come together in one church in our area and move around, year by year, but, of course, this year that wasn't possible so instead there was a Zoom Service with readers from sixteen different congregations within Berwickshire. Three of the congregations with which I am involved were among those sixteen and we had three readers -- Dorothy from Fogo, Janice from Gordon and Carol from Greenlaw. All were excellent and it was a good experience although it made me realise why I prefer to offer an online service rather than a Zoom Service Sunday by Sunday. But well done to everyone involved and it was great that some ninety people shared in the service online. (The picture above shows some of those present before the service began. Obviously we couldn't see all ninety folk but I suppose that we all saw a different section of the online audience.)

Earlier in the day Tom came to help us with the repair of the ground floor of the Hen House after the burst pipe which did such a lot of damage. We are going to be able to put everything right (with Tom's help) it's just a bit of a nuisance!

This afternoon I searched out the diary that I kept when Rachel and I were in South Africa back in 2012. Rachel has also looked out our photographs and I'm going to prepare a short presentation for my own benefit (but which I might even put on this web-site). I was invited to go to St. Columba's Church in Johannesburg to deliver the annual St. Andrew's lecture. What a good time they gave us, and how much we learned from the experience. So that is going to be my task in off duty moments over the next few days.

I also spent quite a while preparing a funeral service which will be held on Monday at the crematorium at Melrose.

I'll leave you with a picture of the women of Vanuatu, part of the Zoom presentation tonight.

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Thursday 4th. March 

Now that working with people is impossible because of the virus restrictions Rachel has returned to producing kilts and tartan herself. There have been two kilts on the go in the last few days and today Rachel has arranged to produce ten tartan rugs in the Bruce tartan for a special customer. At the moment she is at her computer in her study upstairs ordering the yarns for the rugs. Sandy, who owned the weaving loom for many years when it was based in his cottage restaurant at Tarbet on Loch Lomond is helping Rachel with the ordering and, I expect, with the weaving as well. I think that both of them are really looking forward to this project.

This morning, after walking the dogs, Rachel and I set about gutting the bedroom in the Henhouse. It was flooded out with a burst pipe earlier in the year and we have been drying it out. Today we dismantled wardrobes and lifted most things out of the room and tomorrow we will start to sort out any damage to the floor itself.

In the afternoon I prepared for a funeral. It is so strange arranging a funeral remotely by telephone but it is the law just now. The funeral will be on Monday at the Crematorium and I expect that there will just be half-a-dozen of us. That, too, has become the way of things just now.

We dined with Olive and Digger -- a Chinese take-away -- and later Rachel and I watched the Fourth Protocol, an old film and a good one!

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Wednesday 3rd. March 

Above are three of the dogs we walked this morning. You'll see that they are quite at home! I wanted to bring you up-to-date with our dog family as the last time I blogged I was nursing my old Dog's Trust faithful mongrel, Mix. I really loved him and he was devoted to me and it almost broke my heart when he died.

But we were left with our three sisters, from the left, Rowan, Snowball and Bramble. Rowan and Snowball are twins (Rowan being twenty minutes older than Snowball) and the two of them being two years older than Bramble who is five.

Snowball is my constant companion. She enjoys being with me while I am preparing a service or editing one in the Hen House; and she loves travelling with me in the car (although we don't do so much of that just now).

The baby of our family is Ditto who is three and is a big black Labrador who we inherited when our friend, Clare, died.

You'll see that he, too, is very much at home!

But what of today? Well, we were up early and walked the dogs and then we settled down for the day to watch the harassment investigation from the Scottish parliament as Nicola Sturgeon was interviewed by the investigating committee. I thought that she was very impressive and it will be interesting to see what the press and other politicians make of it.

(For those who see this long after the events are forgotten, the investigation is as a result of a court case during which Alec Salmond, the former First Minister, was charged with a whole string of offences against women with whom he worked. He was found not guilty on all charges and then accused the government of conspiring to have him driven from public life.

An earlier attempted investigation within the Scottish parliament failed because of failings in the way the investigation was conducted and parliament had to pay more than half a million pounds to cover the former First Minister's legal costs after he challenged the government in the Scottish Courts.

The current investigating committee is looking into the failings of the Scottish Government and feelings are heightened as opposition parties see this as a way of bringing down the independence party shortly before elections which might have restarted the journey towards independence.)

While we watched, Rachel completed a jigsaw - every piece, I'm told, was shaped like some animal and the completed jigsaw was of a fox. Here is the completed jigsaw:

We dined in the Farm House and then I shared in a Zoom meeting of the Congregational Board of Greenlaw Parish Church during which we approved the annual accounts for last year and discussed the alterations which are to be made to the manse.

We watched a couple of episodes of the West Wing (we are on the final series) and then caught up with the News (today has been budget day at Westminster) before bed.

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Tuesday 2nd. March, 2021 

Up early and walked the dogs so that I could get back home and record the service for next Sunday. I have to set up the camera and the other equipment in the Granary because moving equipment from one level of temperature to another causes the lenses to fog. Soon I'll be able to set everything up in the bothy which you will see from the picture at the head of this entry is now back to how it should be.

The recording went fine but I then had trouble with the editing. I have superb software but the computer I use is rather old and it was playing up today. However, eventually I got everything done and this evening I loaded it on to Youtube from where it will become available through our website at the weekend.

I always feel a bit relaxed on Tuesday evening if I have the service completed. I can now do other things from tomorrow. There is a great deal to do and what I do will largely depend upon the weather. It would be nice to think that it will be a warm, sunny day and then all options will be open!

I got a lovely video phone call from my friend Sameh in Egypt today. It was good to hear from him. It would be even better to be able to plan to go and visit him, or to plan to welcome him here. It's something we would love to do.

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Monday 1st. March, 2021 

We were up at 8 and walked the dogs by 9. It was a lovely sunny day. At nine Tom and Tom arrived to take the TVs from the Bothy to Greenlaw and Gordon Parish Churches. The picture above shows one of the TVs after it has been erected. The picture is off a flash drive and one of the ideas is that Sunday Services will be conducted by members of the congregation (perhaps with assistance from a script) and then the sermon will be delivered on a flash drive and can be shared with the congregation. In this way one minister can realistically look after four or five congregations on a Sunday morning. The TV is large so that the minister's head and shoulders can be seen life-size and this will, I think, work very well. The stand can raise the TV screen very much higher!

Of course, this is just a first step as I hope that soon we will have all of the churches linked so that a sermon from one can be live-streamed to other congregations. This will require all services to start at the same time!

I've been asked why just four or five congregations? The answer, of course, is that if something is to last and to engage local folk I think that it needs to be a local production. There will be a place for a special sermon from the Moderator or perhaps from our Mission Partner and there will be all kinds of special uses to which the equipment can be put but it will be based on local people whom everyone in the congregation knows.

During the morning and afternoon I prepared the service for next Sunday. That's my Monday task for every week. Tomorrow I will record and edit the production and have it uploaded to Youtube by tomorrow evening. (Although it sits on Youtube it can only be accessed through our website or through a link which we share with local folk. I'm still amazed by how folk from far away still manage to access our service -- and we are glad to have them with us.)

Olive and Digger joined us for dinner at the Granary this evening and afterwards while they went off to watch all of the quiz programmes on TV which make up their Monday evenings, Rachel and I watched another couple of episodes of the West Wing.

I was given an Alexa for Christmas and I love the way I can say, "Alexa, play songs by Tommy Steele" -- and she provides Tommy Steele songs until I ask her to stop. So far today I've listened to the songs of Gerry and the Pacemakers, Freddy and the Dreamers and Jim Reeves. It's wonderful!

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Sunday 28th. February, 2021 

Today was lovely; it almost felt as through Spring had arrived! The picture above is of Mount Pleasant farm from the field around which we walked the dogs before sharing in the Sunday online service this morning. After the service we shared in a forty-five minute Zoom with members of the congregation. It was great to see everyone and to catch up on what they have all been doing.

We had Sunday lunch in the farm house with Olive and Digger and then, as I said yesterday, I spent the afternoon in the Bothy getting everything (almost) finally in order. Tomorrow Tom and Tom will remove the two televisions from the Bothy and I will get it finally in order!

Rachel spent the afternoon in her summer house working on her website. Spring really must be in the air!

Our evening meal we shared, Rachel and I, in the Granary after which we watched Mcdonald and Dodds on television before catching up on the News and bed.

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Saturday 27th. February, 2021 

So I've arrived at Saturday! Every day (except Sunday) seems the same nowadays -- although I am much less likely to have a Zoom meeting on a Saturday and there is often some good sporting events to accompany me as I do whatever it is I have to do. However, England's cricket match against India lasted only two days, so no cricket (it would have been on during the day as it was a day/night game). And Scotland were due to play rugby but that's been cancelled because their French opponents are suffering from Covid.

So this morning after walking the dogs, I sorted out my accounts for the end of the month, had lunch (lunch! One roll with cheese and smoked salmon -- Rachel has me on a diet). This afternoon I started to tackle the Bothy (which is why its picture is at the head of this entry). After Mum's death lots of things got moved into the Bothy and it had gradually become a store room with, among other things, two huge televisions bound for other congregations nearby.

I've done well, but the picture is quite selective. I stopped at 5 to have a shower (it was wonderful) and I'll complete the task tomorrow. So maybe a wider angle picture then!

I'm conscious that I'm still trying to catch up after such a long time away from this blog. The big thing which has changed since 2019 is that I am now involved with several different congregations. Of course, Fogo remains my congregation. I am their non-stipendiary minister and hope to be their minister for some time to come. But back last Easter the minister of Gordon, Greenlaw, Legerwood and Westruther retired and, as there was no-one else, I became Interim Moderator of these congregations. For the sake of completeness I should also tell you that I became Moderator of the Presbytery a position which is normally held for a year but just recently I have been re-appointed for a second year.

The congregations of Gordon, Greenlaw, Legerwood and Westruther were told that they would not get a minister again and the upshot was that Westruther (which had declined to a single figure congregation) decided to close. The other three have accepted the challenge and I have the task of helping to equip them to manage at least their worship on their own (with, of course, ongoing support). Initially it was important to win their confidence and I recruited two retired ministers from nearby (Ken and Veronica) and John from East Lothian to help me (as we sometimes have four services all going at the same time). John's father was minister at Fogo in the middle of the last century and John was born in the manse there.

The plan was that we would conduct the services and gradually introduce worship which the congregations could lead themselves. We might use scripts, or have preparatory meetings to help folk prepare -- in fact we drew up a list of around half-a-dozen ways of introducing folk to leading worship and we had drawn up a programme which would start with the local congregations leading one service in four and ending (a year later)with them leading three out of four. However then we went back into lockdown! And it was back to me producing online worship! However, in the meantime, presbytery has agreed to a minister being appointed one day a week to Greenlaw and four days a week supporting congregations in leading their own worship. A new pattern is emerging and it is incredibly exciting! I should say that I enjoy being involved with Gordon, Greenlaw and Legerwood very much indeed. I also enjoy sharing with Ken, Veronica and John. As you will have gathered I have spent quite a bit of this week engaged with all of our congregations responding to the presbytery questionnaire which has been sent to us. The deadline for completion is Monday and I think that our four congregations have returned the questionnaires in time.

I must just share another piece of excitement for me today. Back in 2012 Rachel and I went to South Africa as the guests of St. Columba's Church in Johannesburg to deliver their annual St. Columba's lecture. We spent a wonderful three weeks in South Africa exploring Johannesburg, visiting Capetown and the apple-growing area around Elgin and spending a few days in the Kruger National Park. Their centenary is coming up and they have invited me to prepare a short video presentation sharing a word of encouragement. They were so kind to us and I loved being part of their congregation even for just such a short time. It will be a real privilege and a joy to attempt to do this justice!

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Friday 26th. February, 2021 

I told you a couple of days ago that I spent a large part of the day setting up Rachel's website and installing pages which Rachel could then adapt. Well, here she is sitting at her laptop doing just that. There are long periods of silence during which she is obviously making good progress; then there are loud explosions as things don't go as well as she was expecting! But progress is being made.

I started the day walking Ditto. Rachel walked the three collies a bit later as she had to be in for the weekly phone call from Morrisons who take our order and then deliver our weekly food. We are looked after exceptionally well. (Ditto and I took the opportunity of being on our own to go over the hill and back home by a different route.)

The reason I had to go and couldn't wait for Rachel was because later in the morning I had to take part in a Team meeting with Edinburgh about the future of our presbytery. I think there are about forty-four presbyteries in Scotland just now and Edinburgh now wants to cut these down to nine. George Whyte, the Principal Clerk, was explaining to us why this new system would be in everyone's best interests. I wasn't convinced but it's too big a subject to explain why in just a few words. I will write up my thoughts and I'll share them here later on.

This afternoon I didn't get as much done as I should have done. Why? Because Alec Salmond was giving evidence to a committee in the Scottish parliament which was charged with exploring the way that parliament dealt with harassment charges against him. It was a ferocious attack on Nicola Sturgeon, the First Minister. With the Scottish elections just a few weeks away, it is unpleasant to see the two big beasts of Scottish Nationalism squabbling in this way.

We enjoyed a Chinese take-away with Olive and Digger this evening and watched a bit of television before Newsnight.

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Thursday 25th. February, 2021 

For those who have just rejoined me, I'm filling in the gaps left during the time I forgot that I had a blog which I had abandoned! I'd been working through my normal week in lockdown and I got to Thursday which, of course, started as always with dog-walking.

My task for today was to get the Presbytery Questionnaire into order and submitted to Presbytery. I also spent some time on the telephone with one of the other congregations with which I am involved, helping them to get their submission in order. I realise I haven't yet got you caught up on all my church adventures but, don't worry, I shall!

Tonight, after dinner, my Zoom is with two of the young folk of our church. They requested the meeting so that makes it doubly special. But in my catching-up mode I want to share with you one of the great adventures of last year. "Your had an adventure last year?, I hear you ask, "We thought you were in lockdown" Well, yes, we were, but not before we shared in a wonderful adventure.

We had been preparing for it for a year with a meeting once a month in which we examined all that we would be seeing and made our elaborate preparations for an eleven day pilgrimage to the Holy Land! I dreamed of how it might be and of how it might enrich our Fogo congregation, but reality surpassed my wildest hopes. For all of us -- that's us (everyone except me)in the picture at the head of this entry (I took the photograph) -- it was the trip of a lifetime and we were so extremely fortunate for we left in the last week of January and returned in February, just ahead of the virus.

One week later and our trip would have been cancelled. And there were so many other ways in which we were fortunate as well. We had the best guide imaginable, Nael is his name -- and a superb coach-driver, Hasan, for whom nothing was too much trouble. The weather was great, the accommodation superb and, because of the time of year, so many of the places we wanted to see were quite quiet. And our company couldn't have been bettered!

I'm not going to retell every adventure we had. Instead here is a link to my account of our trip: We came home and almost immediately all everyone spoke about was the virus -- but not us, we had too much to talk about and think about in the experience we had shared together in the Holy Land.

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Wednesday 24th.February, 2021 Catching Up. 

This is a continuation of the entry immediately before this one. You'll remember that I was describing to you our weekly routine and I reached Tuesday. So I have arrived at today. Again we walked the dogs around the field across the road -- Rachel got into conversation with someone about the banner on the front of Olive and Digger's fence, so I did most of the walk with the dogs and met up with Rachel on the way home.

I then spent most of the morning and most of the afternoon getting Rachel's website back on line with a number of pages which she can now adapt to get the site looking as she would wish. The picture at the head of this blog is one of the pictures for her website so I thought I would use it for my blog as well. It's such a long time since I took pictures with my camera that I have forgotten where I put it. I occasionally take a picture with my telephone but I must find my camera, especially if I am going to keep this blog going.

We dined with Olive and Digger at 6 and at 7 I was on a Zoom meeting this time with Greenlaw Parish Church, again to work through the Questionnaire for Presbytery. Once it finished, we watched an episode of West Wing before Newsnight. Rachel was a fan of West Wing when it first came out and we started watching it again because of all the carry on in the USA surrounding the election and former President Trump's unwillingness to accept that he had lost. One can easily see why at the time the programme first came out so many folk thought that President Bartlett actually was the president. There is so much to like!

I think I'll pause my journey through my week there and tell you about Thursday tomorrow. Yes, I'll have another Zoom meeting, but it is going to be very different for it is with two of our young folk from the parish and I'm really looking forward to it.

What I will do is tell you about some of the things which have happened since I last wrote. The worst, of course, as everyone will readily understand, is that my Mum died on Christmas Eve. She'd had a fall on the 20th. (a Sunday). I was at church and when I came home she had been taken to hospital. Now Mum had been to hospital once or twice in the months before this and I thought she would soon be home again. We weren't allowed to visit because of the virus restrictions but I was totally taken aback to be phoned by the hospital and told that Mum had been diagnosed with the virus. Scott was allowed to visit but we were all immediately quarantined. It was awful, but on the evening of the 19th. Olive, Rachel and I were allowed to visit Mum in the evening. She was peaceful and calm but didn't know that we were with her but we spoke and we said a prayer ... and then we came home and learned the next morning that she had died.

None of the family had the disease and I suppose that Mum must have caught it from her carers. We don't blame them at all. We couldn't have coped without them and Mum's life would have been very difficult without them as well. It was just so sad.

We had a funeral in the new year. It was a very small affair in the Melrose Crematorium, just Olive and Digger, Rachel and me, Nicholas and Amy. Scott, my brother couldn't come because quite independently he had gone down with the virus at his home in Berwick-upon-Tweed. We were inundated with letters from Mum's friends and there was a large tribute paid to her in the Scottish edition of the Times and on Borders TV. Mum had touched so many lives and we will have a celebration of her life when that becomes possible once more. Mum was ninety-seven and I really thought that she might go on until she was one hundred, not something some of the other members of the family agree with because Mum had declined quite quickly. To think that just three years ago she was regularly going out to groups and speaking without notes for up to an hour at a time on her experiences at Bletchly Park where she had worked during the war as a Wren and where she met my Dad. They had a wonderful life together and did so much for other people.

More tomorrow -- I promise!

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Like everyone else in Scotland, I am in lockdown. I have developed a routine and I'll share it with you but first let me tell you how I come to be updating this blog today. Rachel has decided that she wished to bring her Borders Kilt Craft website up to date but, of course, she hadn't a clue how to do it. So I have spent much of today in getting her website set up again so that she can use it. Having done that I suddenly remembered that I had this blog-site which I had totally forgotten about. I suppose that the reason I had forgotten about it was that although we are in lockdown, life has never been busier (and I'll tell you about that as well) but now that I've found it and been not a little surprised that it is still operational I thought that I would write a bit to it and see if anyone notices!

So here is the routine I have developed. It starts on Sunday, because that is the first day of the week, regardless of what so many diaries try to tell me. We get up and walk the dogs around one of the fields around our home. At certain times of the year the fields are totally empty and the dogs can run around to their hearts' content, but just now we have to walk around the ploughed field. Three of our dogs: Rowan, Snowball (aka Daisy), and Bramble, know exactly what walking around a field entails and are really very good at staying on the verge around the field and don't need to be on a lead. The fourth, Ditto, is a big black labrador, just three years old and still very much a very large puppy, and he hasn't a clue -- so he on the lead and where he goes I follow!

The dogs having been walked, Rachel and I sit down to breakfast of coffee and toast before turning on our television, connecting it to our website and sharing in our morning service which I have prepared for the congregations which I am looking after just now (more of that later as well). I prepare the service and then record it, put it on line and then, along with many of our folk, share it on Sunday morning at the same time as if we were in church.

We have Sunday lunch with my sister and her husband at 1 p.m. and then the rest of the day is really quite calm. If there is cricket, golf or rugby on the television I quite often watch that but I am usually at my computer replying to emails or preparing some report or other. This week it was our Presbytery Questionnaire. Our Presbytery has written to all its congregations asking for information about our Mission, our buildings, our membership statistics, our finance, our relationship with presbytery and how we see the future developing. In part this has been designed to see what help congregations require from presbytery after a year which has been very difficult because so many of us have been unable to meet up and some congregations have suffered financially. The other reason, I suppose, for the questionnaire is that the Church of Scotland is reducing dramatically the number of presbyteries there will be in the future and the information provided will enable the new presbytery to decide which buildings they will seek to close. I know that sounds very cynical and I would never say that on our church web-site but, well, this is only here for my friends! I have to say that we have been exceptionally fortunate because our congregation is fabulous and we are doing remarkably well. You can see our response on our church website at under the heading "Presbytery Questionnaire -- Congregational Consultation". Actually you can also see our Sunday Services on this website as well as quite a bit of other information about our small, rural congregation.

In the evening Rachel and I normally relax in front of the television over mushrooms on toast -- Rachel uses mushrooms, Campbell's condensed mushroom soup, and toast and it is delicious! We have pretty much stopped watching tv for anything other than sport and news; at the moment we are watching the West Wing, all seven series each of twenty-two programmes, and enjoying it enormously. And that's Monday.

Tuesday I spend preparing the service which I will offer our congregations next Sunday. It is a strange experience keeping worship going without actually seeing the members of my congregation. But I picture them as I prepare the service, usually following the Lectionary, always following the Christian Seasons of the Year, and constantly rethinking how best to do something with which I am still not yet quite familiar. It takes all day, until dinner time which we share with Olive and Digger. On Monday they come across to us and Rachel cooks. I'm pretty tired in the evening -- brain work seems to take more out of me than physical work, not that I do much of the latter.

We go to bed quite late, certainly later than we should, not least because I like to watch Newsnight and then I've taken up playing a game of chess against my computer before I go to bed. I get a bit frustrated with the constant reporting of the Corona Virus but I understand why it has to be done, but there is other news as well just now which frustrates me even more, not least the Alec Salmond debacle. I don't know the rights and wrongs of it all but with every opinion poll showing a majority of folk in favour of independence, why are the two heavy-weights of the movement locked in public dispute? It really doesn't bode well.

On Tuesday I record and edit my service. I set up my camera, fix up my microphone and my lights and deliver my service. That takes the morning (because I will have walked the dogs, something we obviously do every day, dealt with emails and telephone calls before I get started). After lunch (soup and a roll) I spend the afternoon editing the service on tape. It takes all afternoon. The material I've prepared has to be transferred to the computer in real time, the music for the hymns (which Rachel has prepared) has to be slotted in at the appropriate places. I type out the words so that folk can sing -- we can sing at home even although we weren't allowed to sing when we were last in church and slot in the pictures which Rachel has prepared to sit under the words. Then there are photos to be fitted on the film time-line and the whole thing to be processed before being uploaded to youtube and then linked to the appropriate pages on our website.

Tuesday evening we eat at the Farmhouse and it is always fish and chip night (Digger has a splendid fish man who brings him haddock every Tuesday morning. In the evening I usually have a Zoom meeting. Last night it was with the congregation at Gordon. Our task was to prepare their response to the Presbytery Questionnaire and then it was time to catch an episode of West Wing before Newsnight, a quick game of chess and bed.

Now that's only Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday but I'm going to have to pause there because there are things to be done. I will complete this and, who knows, maybe even start to keep my blog up to date again!

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So we had to turn the house upside down. 

Until very recently this would have been a picture of our lounge. We loved the room and enjoyed living in it. But then, Mix, our ancient Dog's Trust Dog, developed some of the symptoms of old age. He is no longer able to climb stairs, he's very stiff and he has become incontinent -- but he is still our dog. He's sixteen years old and then a bit more. We've had him since he was eight when he came to us from the Dog's Trust near Glasgow and we got him because he had been terribly mistreated in his earlier life. But he has become a wonderful dog and it is sad to see the years catch up with him. Our local vet suggested that we wouldn't have him beyond a year past Easter but we found a fabulous vet who has helped us care for him and one of the things we have had to do is adapt our house. From the picture you'll see that Mix now has a fenced-in area at the side of the room. But that's not all ...

You'll see that we have removed the bottom part of the window and put in a sliding door so that Mix has constant access to the garden. It's something he really appreciates and it enables him to have a normal life. However, this wasn't quite enough because after all the years of coming upstairs to sleep in our bedroom Mix couldn't bear to be left on his own during the night. So Rachel and I took it in turns to sleep downstairs on a camp-bed to keep him company. (I know that many of you will think we are crazy but dogs become part of the family.) I suppose that we didn't think that Mix would last long but the weeks turned into months and so we decided to turn our house upside down.

The solution was to move our bed downstairs and turn what was the lounge into our ground-floor bedroom.

Our decision was certainly approved of by our other dogs!

And, just to make sure I haven't given the wrong impression, here is Mix on his mattress out from his fenced-off area. He certainly only escapes there to get some peace or to sleep at night -- and isn't he looking good!

The problem now, of course, is that we don't have a room suitable to entertain groups of people, or even to have a meeting of any size. It's crazy because we now have so many small social rooms.

Here are three views of what was our upstairs bedroom.

It's a fine room but not large enough for more than two or three folk to sit in comfort.

And it is a lovely light and airy room.

Across the yard from the Granary is the Bothy which Tom and I created out of the place where the previous owners held their bonfires.

It's another lovely room for a group of not more than five or six. It's a lovely setting too and it's where I keep all of my non-theological books but still not large enough for a meeting.

Moving through the gate and into the Hen House garden I've arrived at the summer house. Here are my theological books and this is a great place for a meeting so long as there are no more than four or five folk present.

In the summer months this is a wonderful place. It was the first place we built when we arrived nearly seven years ago and it has remained my working base. I love it.

Our final social room is upstairs in the Hen House. It's a building we are working to complete and I hope to have it all done by the end of the year but the lounge has now been fitted out. It's another splendid room ...

and one on the walls of which you can see souvenirs of many of the important moments in our lives so far. With so much 'stuff' in boxes we are trying to get buildings in order so that we can rescue things from storage before they get damaged.

It's a lovely light and airy room, something which we appreciate because our new downstairs bedroom in the Granary does not get a great deal of natural light.

However, as you can see, it is not large enough to have a meeting! I guess that the solution is that if I want to have meetings (and we only have a tiny hall at the Church) we'll have to start on our project to build a small theatre in one of our remaining barns. Watch this space. But for now Mix and all of us are very happy with out upside down house.

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It has been a fantastic few days! 

It was a lovely day on Saturday so I spent part of the day repainting the front of the summer house with protective stain. The summer house has stood up well over the years since we built it and it has been so well used. In fact I think I spend something of every day here and it is probably my favourite place.

Later in the afternoon Rachel and I set off for Bamburgh Castle, equipped with a picnic hamper filled by my sister, Olive, and with portable seats hanging from our shoulders. The sun was shining and we were to watch Handlebards presenting The Tempest in the grounds of the Castle.

We joined an enthusiastic audience who, like us, lost no time in getting into their picnic hampers and started to feast. But soon the show began, based loosely on Shakespeare's Tempest but performed by four girls, one of whom was my niece Katy, whose additional claim to fame is that they cycle from venue to venue to perform their play. What a setting! And what glorious weather! Who could fail to have as much fun and enjoyment as we all did that evening.

The next morning was Sunday and, naturally, I was at Fogo Parish Church where the service was conducted by Chris, our reader, with members of the congregation. It was special for me because this Sunday marked the completion of the initial three years which I undertook to look after the congregation after the retirement of their minister back in 2016. It has been an exciting three years and one which is chronicled elsewhere (not least on

Then it was back home for lunch and to spend the rest of the afternoon watching Ben Stokes winning a vital Test Match for England. It was quite simply a spectacular innings and a superb occasion. I wouldn't have missed it for anything.

In the evening Rachel and I went to have a meal with friends from our time in Luss. They have a lovely home in Ladykirk and together we sat in their garden and ate and drank as we looked over the ground running down to the river Tweed. We ate and talked for hours. It was a lovely relaxing evening.

The next morning I was up to Putton Mill to hit golf balls. I'm getting a bit better but there is still colossal room for improvement! In the evening we watched a film. We are still getting used to the fact that now that we have superfast broadband we can choose a film from Amazon and watch it there and then instead for waiting two days for it to download.

On Tuesday Rachel and I drove down to Amble to see if Olivebank was OK at her marina berth there. I took Rachel to see the tourist area of the town and while we were there we enjoyed a superb haddock and chips!

The sun was really shining and it was extremely warm.

Rachel went below to get ready for our voyage

Soon we were out of the harbour and into the deep blue sea. We made our way to Coquet Island, passing many yachts on the way, several folk fishing and at least one other with youngsters diving as if they were on the shore of a Caribbean Island.

After sailing around the island we made our way back to Amble Marina, following a Puffin Cruise boat to make sure we made landfall where we should.

Soon we were safely inside. It was good to be home but it had been a wonderful afternoon on the water.

Life at Mount Pleasant really is pretty good!

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After a great deal of time, I'm back! 

I hadn’t realised quite how long it had been since I last put something onto my webpage. There are no excuses: well, I have a few and I’ll start by trying to share some of them with you.

I suppose that the hard slog of trying to put something on my blog each day just got too much for me and then I took on some additional responsibilities. First, at the start of 2015, I agreed that I would become Clerk to the Presbytery of Duns for a one year period to allow the presbytery to have time to find a new, permanent clerk. That didn’t quite work out as planned and I am still Presbytery Clerk.

Second, the presbytery planning process ran into a small problem which resulted in one tiny congregation requiring to be taken into the Guardianship of Presbytery. It required a minister (technically an interim moderator), there was no money available to pay one, I live close to the little village church and, as Clerk, I felt responsible. So in September 2016 I took on responsibility for looking after this tiny church. It has been fun and there will be more about this to come. The picture at the head of this entry is a picture of the church in question. It is called Fogo Parish Church and is extremely old. A notice at the church gate says that there has been worship here since the twelfth century and inside, the box-pews of ‘soon-after-the-reformation’ times are still used today.

Third, I gradually settled down into a retired ‘elderly gentleman mode of living’. I took up playing golf (still not very well — but there will be more of this to come). I continued to watch cricket at Durham. With Rachel I attend the theatre at Berwick-upon-Tweed and quite regularly have set out for trips to the Globe in London or the Royal Shakespeare Company in Stratford-upon-Avon. We go for trips on Rachel’s narrow-boat and Tom and I are engaged in getting Olivebank ready (with a new outboard motor) to be launched at Amble Marina in Northumberland.

Fourth, Tom and I are still working through our programme of building works at Mount Pleasant. Everything is going very much more slowly now that I have so many other Church responsibilities but we still hope to get everything completed before our bodies give out! At present we are working on the final phases of the Hen House — and there will be more of this to come as well.

Finally, we have our four dogs and they take up a great deal of time. Mix, my rescue dog, is now thirteen and he has three sisters: Rowan and Daisy (both of whom are four and were born twenty minutes apart) and their sister Bramble who is two. You will hear much more of them if you continue to follow this web site.

Rachel and I live in our converted granary, next to the farm house in which my mother, sister Olive and brother-in-law Digger live. We are a happy community — all of us content to be officially retired except for Rachel who is now running a kilt school with her friend Ann. The aim is to pass on the skills of traditional craft kilt-making and they all have a great deal of fun.

So that’s where we are and I hope you will enjoy learning something of our adventures as the weeks go by.

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Monday 18th. May, 2015 – A Presbytery Day 

Isn't she getting big? (Bramble I mean, not Rachel)

There is little to record in my diary today. I did get up and walk Mix (and I did run my car into Duns for its MOT test) and then this morning, two of my colleagues from presbytery came to see me and spend the morning talking. I grabbed a bite of lunch (some bread and cheese – now what brought that to mind: you’re right, Christian Aid of course) and Tom popped in with some of the Christian Aid money we have collected (more of this anon).

In the afternoon another colleague from presbytery came and we talked through some of the issues which are coming over the horizon and which I will have some part in sorting out. Then Rachel drove me into Duns to collect my car and to deposit her Berlingo which seems to have broken a spring.

We met up with Tom in Pearsons as I was buying rollers for the painting job I hope to start tomorrow. We talked a bit about Christian Aid week. In some respects it has been extremely disappointing. I thought that the material produced by Christian Aid was absolutely first rate and I thought that the proximity of the tragedy in Nepal would have put helping others at the head of people’s agenda. But it didn’t really work out like that. Tom and I personally put envelopes through the door of every single house in the parish and yet when folk went to collect these envelopes in Longformacus almost everyone told our collector ‘Oh I didn’t get an envelope’ and we raised £12 from the entire village – I think that was better than Abbey St. Bathan’s where Tom who had distributed the envelopes was told that no one had received them and came back with £5 and it was little better anywhere else (and Tom got a door shut in his face when he told a lady that he had delivered an envelope but that if she hadn’t received it, he had another one to hand). So, yes, it is disappointing and, to be honest, our events haven’t been as well supported as I had hoped.

However, we have raised some money and every £150 we raise will enable a small African family to be lifted permanently out of extreme poverty and given a future. Last year some twelve million pounds was raised from communities all over the United Kingdom and Ireland and that money will have been raised again this year, made up of tiny amounts from so many places. So we can’t get down about it and we can’t stop collecting.

A lady who collects in another area close to here told me that this is the third year she has done it, starting it there after a long time without a collection. The first year her experience was just like ours this year; the second year was a little better and this year people have been waiting for her, anxious to give – so we just need to persevere!

We dined in the farmhouse and afterwards I came across to the Bothy to play my banjo returning to watch the programme on BBC1 about people living in poverty in Scotland today. It was a very powerful programme, made more so by being balanced and measured.

After the news (and a snack) I walked Mix and went to bed.

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Sunday 17th. May, 2015 – The Sunday after Ascension 

Best of Pals

Up, walked Mix, showered and went off to Gavinton Church with Mum and Rachel. Our service was conducted by Jeff on the theme of Ascension and remembering that even when we are celebrating, God remembers those who are finding it hard to celebrate, who when we are all being very loud, just want to be quiet.

I came home and started trying to recover my blog which had fallen a bit by the wayside. I also recovered Rachel’s web-site. Soon it was lunchtime and after lunch I divided the afternoon between sorting my blog and experimenting with my new banjo – it is wonderful and what a life I enjoy!

Rachel and I walked the dogs, Rachel taking Rowan and Bramble (it was OK because no other dogs had been there) around the field next to our home while I walked down through the woods beside our home. Then Rachel went off to Berwick to the evening service while I remained in charge of the canine part of the family.

We had a snack when Rachel returned and all gathered to watch ‘Home Fires’. I watched the news and fiddled about a bit before bed. Home Fires was good and gentle and quite fun, perfect Sunday evening viewing! Tomorrow I will be at Mount Pleasant all day – the first day for quite a while. Mix will certainly enjoy that.

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Saturday 16th. May, 2015 – A Friend and a Meal 

I took this picture yesterday of Nikki and Ann in the kilt-making studio. They were hard at work and I was running around so I forgot that I had taken it but, having found it again, I wanted to share it

I hadn’t intended to get up too early but with Rachel up and running around after Bramble, I did get up and, after walking Mix, went off up to Duns to attend a Christian Aid Coffee Morning in the Church Hall. I was joined at a coffee table by a lady from Polworth with whom I chatted and happily exchanged life-stories for an hour or so before it was time to come home. (Duns was quite busy, with at least one road closed, due to a veteran car rally – some of the cars have been roaring past our home all day.)

In the afternoon a friend from university, David, arrived on his bike from Berwick where he had been visiting his son. We went off to Pearson’s (joined by Rachel) for lunch and then came back and we showed David what we had been doing since we got here. It had taken David two hours to cycle here because the wind was against him the whole way. We waved him off later in the afternoon trusting that the wind had not changed direction and that he would have an easier journey home.

I walked Mix and got ready to go out with Mum, Rachel, Olive and Digger to the Siamese Kitchen in Duns where we enjoyed a family evening meal, taken there by Mum. I enjoyed the satay followed by a curry with fried egg rice and then a pancake cooked in a pandan leaf and filled with coconut and sesame seeds, all washed down with coca cola and finished with a coffee.

Back home, Rachel and I watched a very old, black and white Dad’s Army which we hadn’t seen before and followed that with a totally modern Alan Partridge film while we interrupted to watch the News and then, thanks to the wonders of technology, returned to afterwards.

Then it was time for bed, so I quickly walked Mix around the block and off we went upstairs. Yet another fabulous day.

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Friday 15th. May, 2015 – Our final Christian Aid lunch 

We are ready for our customers!

I woke today to be reminded by Rachel that it was fifteen years ago today that I was awarded my doctorate in glorious sunshine in Princetown, New Jersey. It was a very happy day and Rachel and Mum were with me.

Tom collected me at half past eight, I had already walked Mix, and we drove into Berwick to buy bread for the Christian Aid lunch today. Then it was off to Clare’s to collect the tables and chairs and set them up in the church hall. We had to collect things for the meal from the farmhouse and then it was back, as it was last Tuesday, to preparing the meal and setting the tables.

There weren’t many people with us today, I suppose it has been a long week but I have been kept going by the fact that every little helps and that if we manage to raise enough money for a few cows we will have made a difference. Last year Christian Aid raised twelve million pounds and that huge sum is made up of everyone’s small efforts.

In the afternoon there was clearing up to be done and once that was done I returned to Mount Pleasant to discover that Ann and Rachel were in the midst of a kilt-making course, Mum was out at a reading group and Olive was preparing for students. So I leapt back in my car and drove to Chester-le-Street where I watched my first ever live T20 cricket match between Durham and Northamptonshire, enjoying a hot dog and chips while I watched.

The game ended early due to rain but not before I had seen the Durham innings and enough of the Northamptonshire innings to ensure that Durham won the match under the Duckworth Lewis rules. I drove north and was home in time to have a snack, watch the News, walk Mix and retire to bed with a book. The days just get better and better.

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Thursday 14th. May, 2015 Christian Aid High Tea 

This bouquet is a copy of the flowers which Mum carried at her wedding in 1945. They were given to her last Sunday at the celebrations in Berwick to mark the seventieth anniversary of VE Day and had been copied from her wedding photographs. I should have photographed them before as they are now a little past their best but they still look very good

Today’s event wasn’t until later in the day so I had time to get on with some Presbytery work first thing. Mum had a visit from Betty who was brought down from Kirkcaldy by two friends from Mum’s former Church. I saw them to say hello before they went off for lunch together at the Black Bull.

In the afternoon David arrived and we chatted over coffee before I had to go to Clare’s where the Christian Aid event for today was High Tea at her home. Tom wasn’t able to come because Dorothy wasn’t feeling too well. I enjoyed the macaroni and there was plenty of it because there were not as many people present as we had expected. However the food and company were excellent and we had a very good time.

I got home to discover that everyone seemed to be busy – Mum was out at the WRI, Rachel and Ann were conducting a kilt-making course – and so I went off to an SNP meeting in Leitholm. I’m glad that I did because I heard the detailed results of the election in our constituency and realised how vital had been the work done locally in terms of the overall local result. I was quite surprised to learn that the SNP had an overall majority in Gavinton and that that majority was one which led to the success of the local constituency campaign.

I drove home and had a snack before walking Mix and retiring to bed. Another really good day made the more so because just before I went to bed Rachel said that she had a present for me – a banjo! You can guess how I will be spending my weekend: trying to relearn how to play a banjo. What a lovely and unexpected present.

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Wednesday 13th. May, 2015 – An expedition into the Hills 

Poor little Bramble has just had her first bath – that will teach her to do unspeakable things! However, much as she resented the bath, she loved being towelled dry so even the nastiest cloud has a silver lining

Mix and I were up early and, after going for a walk along Bramble Avenue, we settled down in the Bothy to get on with some presbytery activities. I had a spot of lunch and then in the afternoon Tom collected Mum and me and, together with Dorothy and Brigit, we drove into the hills to the home of Heather who had arranged to have Christian Aid afternoon teas in her farmhouse. It was quite a journey and there were times as we journeyed along roads (which were little more than cart-tracks) that we wondered if were on the right road. Fortunately we met a lorry whose driver assured us that if we just kept going we would arrive at our destination in time – and we did.

We got a huge welcome and an absolutely wonderful afternoon tea – salmon sandwiches, scones with jam and cream, cakes galore.

Tom and I had to hurry back (a different, quicker and much easier road) so that we could load two tables and ten chairs onto Tom’s trailer and deliver them to Clare for the event tomorrow afternoon. Meanwhile we left Mum with Dorothy, collecting her and bringing her home so I could walk Mix and be ready for Tom to collect me and take me off to a presbytery local church review which took us to Westruther and then to Greenlaw where I enjoyed meeting members of the boards and sessions of both congregations and hearing of all that they do.

It was a long evening but I was home in time for the News and to walk Mix before bed. It had been a very good day.

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Tuesday 12th. May, 2015 – Our first Christian Aid lunch 

The hall is looking very appropriate for Christian Aid

Tom arrived at ten by which time I had walked Mix and sorted some presbytery emails. We loaded our Christian Aid materials and all we needed for the lunch into Tom’s car and went off to Gavinton Church Hall.

The soup was on the cooker by ten-thirty, the tables and everything was set out by eleven and balloons and posters decorating the hall and the Church gates soon afterwards. We had time for a coffee and then our first customers arrived about twelve-fifteen.

We had a good crowd, served vegetable and butter-nut squash soups, lovely bread and several varieties of cheese. Dorothy and Rachel arrived to help us serve and we had a very happy time, using the Christian Aid meditation books for a short act of worship.

It didn’t take us too long to tidy up and then it was time to come home. Mix was waiting for me, anxious, I suspect, to be away from the puppy and anxious to know that he was still number one dog – which, of course, he is. Together we went for a walk and then came back to the Bothy (Mix and my special place) where I dealt with emails and presbytery matters while Mix looked out of the window.

We dined in the farmhouse and again settled down in the Granary in the evening – Rachel, me and our three dogs. I have developed the skill of relaxing in front of the television and doing nothing else at all; Rachel always has to be busy so she was working away at her kilts while I lay on the sofa with Mix.

We walked the dogs – Bramble doesn’t go out other than to the garden: this will remain the case until she has had her injections next week – and then, after watching the News, we went to bed.

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Monday 11th. May, 2015 – Starting the Collection 

Tom delivering envelopes in Longformacus

After getting up and walking Mix, Tom and I set about distributing Christian Aid envelopes, visiting Gavinton, Cranshaws, Longformacus and Abbey St. Bathan’s before returning; driving into Berwick to buy food for the Christian Aid soup and bread and cheese lunch in the church hall tomorrow. We did a lot of the shopping at Aldi where I was amazed at the price of everything – amazed at how inexpensive everything is! Then we went on to Morrisons to buy some really nice bread.

By this time it was almost time for tea – it had been a long day but a happy one working away with Tom and catching up with each other’s news as we wandered all around the parish. Back home I walked Mix and after supper in the Farmhouse, we settled down in the Granary to watch television and the puppy (who is already quite at home and absolutely fearless).

I walked Mix and watched the News before bed. (I must say that the News programmes still seem to have a down on the SNP even after they were elected after such a landslide. I don’t know how often I heard today that it was unfair that each SNP politician required so few votes to get elected compared to UKIP which only got one MP after several million votes. I wished someone would set out the real situation. The SNP got more votes per person than Labour had ever got to return its huge number of Scottish MPs in the past. More people voted SNP than had ever voted for any political party in Scotland before.

In fact the SNP’s election record is quite amazing. The Scottish Parliament was designed on the basis that it would always require a coalition to run the country but so many people voted for the SNP that it broke the system and returned a majority government.

In the General Election, the SNP took all but three Scottish seats gaining more than fifty per cent of all of the votes cast. Compare that with the winners, the Conservatives, who only gained thirty-six percent of the vote and it is easy to see the scale of the SNP’s triumph. Remember, too, that the SNP is in favour of proportional representation, Labour and the Conservatives voted it down last time, so it is all the more strange to hear them complaining now about the success of the SNP.

I don’t remember anyone complaining in Scotland when huge numbers of Labour MPs were regularly returned to Westminster. I do remember Labour delighting in the fact that the Conservatives had only one MP in Scotland. Well now the Conservatives, Labour and the Liberal Democrats each have only one MP in Scotland – and I think we have a panda for each of them!)

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Sunday 10th. May, 2015 – Christian Aid Sunday 

Bramble and Rowan, two sisters, two years apart

Rose and walked Mix while Rachel entertained Rowan and Bramble in the garden – lots of exercise so that Bramble could be tired out and returned to her cage while Rachel, Mum and I went off to Church at Gavinton where Stephen was conducting the service on the theme of stewardship, leaving immediately after the service to gallop to Duns where he was sharing the service with Jeff.

Due to an oversight there was no coffee after church this morning; we sat in the car until the folk who were collecting Mum arrived to take her to Berwick where Mum was participating in an event celebrating the seventieth anniversary of Victory in Europe Day, Mum being invited as a representative of wartime brides.

We then returned to Mount Pleasant to have lunch and then spend the afternoon with the dogs before I set off for the Christian Aid Service in Duns held at the Roman Catholic Church. It was a good service and I particularly like the theme this year. It concentrates on Ethiopia and highlights the lives of two women, living just twenty-five miles apart. Both existed in terrible poverty, struggle to raise and feed their children.

One, had received a cow through a partner of Christian Aid and it had changed her life, enabling her to feed her family, to have milk to trade for other food and essentials and had given her a status within her community.

The other, continued to find it almost impossible to care for her children. She had to spend days searching out firewood which she then attempted to sell. It is difficult, backbreaking and dangerous work because of the presence of wild animals in the bush where she has to seek for wood. Her family eats little and life is an impossible struggle. So the aim of Christian Aid week this year is in part to give such women a cow of their own and every hundred and fifty pounds we raise will lift one small family permanently out of poverty – it is such a little that we are asked to do and yet it makes such a difference.

Back home we all met up together in the Granary to watch Home Fires, set during the second world war. It was good nostalgia -- typical Sunday evening fare -- and we enjoyed it!

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Saturday 9th. May, 2015 – Bramble arrives! 

Bramble isn’t sure about leaving Sang and Sang seems quite sorry to see her go

I got up quite leisurely and walked Mix before doing a bit of Presbytery work in the Bothy. Soon it was time for me to drive Rachel to Alloa, to Sang’s home, so that we could collect Bramble and bring her down to Mount Pleasant.

Rowan, Rachel’s dog, came from Sang, the offspring of Wittgenstein and Ella (two Border collies). Now the same two dogs have produced a second (and according to Sang, final) litter. Seven lovely puppies and one of them, Bramble – the only bitch in the litter – is destined for Rachel.

By the time that we arrived, three of the puppies had already left – Vadar, Samuel and Reilly (formerly Leviathan). Bramble was with her three remaining brothers, Monty, Rommel and Kiwi. Sang was clearly exhausted, having looked after all these dogs single-handedly for more than six weeks.

We had intended to take Sang out for lunch, but it was clear that all he really wanted to do was to sleep, so we left him (with a service to prepare for tomorrow) and set off for Mount Pleasant (stopping on the way home at Asda to buy the puppy food on which Bramble had been being fed).

Bramble received a grand welcome from Mix and Rowan – Rowan in particular seemed to sense the family bond and by the end of the evening they were firm friends. Rachel is happy that at present she can still out-run Bramble (only just) so that makes it easier to keep her under control.

Rachel has fitted up a cage in the lounge and in the bedroom so that Bramble has a bit of security, she is so tiny, but Rowan clearly remembers the cage in the bedroom as belonging to her and really was quite keen to reclaim it. We dissuaded her and everyone went off to bed. (I suppose that we had watched television this evening but in reality life centred constantly around this new puppy and everything else was secondary.)

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Friday 8th. May, 2015 – Launching Day 

Tom took this picture on his telephone – I had forgotten my camera (fortunately or it would have got very wet)!

I was up and about by quarter to five and Tom, Rachel and I set off in Tom’s car, towing Olivebank at 5 a.m., arriving at Amble by seven and having Olivebank ready to launch by eight.

We got our key and our pass from the marina office and launched about eight fifteen, an hour and three quarters after high water. The launching was not altogether without incident – the launching area is just that: a slip into an area of water, with nowhere to tie up once the boat is in the water. Thus we found ourselves with Tom on land having lowered the boat into the water off the back of his car, Rachel in the boat and me in the water holding on to the boat while Rachel lowered the engine and started it up – it has to run for at least five minutes before it can be set in gear, otherwise there is a great risk of a stall (and we had to pick our way between all of the yachts moored close by). Unfortunately in my enthusiasm to hold the boat for Rachel, my waders filled with water and I couldn’t get on to the boat until we had brought it back into the real shallows, and I had to steer the boat into the marina while extremely wet (not only that but the centre-board wouldn’t drop and steering was extremely difficult as there was nothing against which the engine could bite).

However we made it safely to our lovely new berth and while I tidied the boat up, Rachel and Tom walked into Amble to buy me a pair of dry trousers! Back on the boat we keel-hauled the hull to free the centre-board and everything should now be perfect for our maiden voyage (which will have to wait until after Christian Aid Week).

With everything shipshape we went off to Amble for breakfast – a wonderful meal served by the staff at SeaSalt, breakfast in a frying pan and everything you could wish and even more.

We drove home and I had a wonderful feeling of having achieved something – even if it was only having got a boat into the water. But now it is done and the summer sailing programme can get underway.

Rachel dived straight into her kilt-making classes, I had a late lunch in the farmhouse and then sorted out some of the detritus left after the getting of the boat ready for its trip south. In the evening, after our evening meal, Rachel and I watched some television before bed (after, of course, taking Mix for a walk. We have to make sure that both Rowan and Mix know how important they are because tomorrow our numbers will be swelled by a new puppy, Bramble. But more of that tomorrow!

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Thursday 7th. May, 2015 – Election Day 

This is a picture I took yesterday when we were at Greenlaw Parish Church. Tom, the minister, showed me this really old copy of the Bible which is part of the treasures of the congregation

I was up early with Mix walked before eight and soon afterwards Rachel and I set out to Duns to cast our votes. Everyone at the polling booth was in a fine frame of mind. Outside there were lots of posters but there were only representatives of the SNP (Alex) and the conservatives and there was much good natured banter. Alex told me that it would come down to two or three hundred votes and that he was really very hopeful, not just that the SNP in Scotland would do well but that Calum Kerr would do well in our constituency.

The rest of the day was shared between the election and getting Olivebank ready for her trip south tomorrow. Tom ensured that the trailer was as it should be, the mast was lowered, the engine checked and the completed convoy of boat and Tom’s car was moved outside Mount Pleasant ready for an early get-away at first light tomorrow. Tom went home in my car so that when he brought it back in the morning we could leap into his car and set off at once.

The evening passed quite slowly as we all waited to see how the General Election had gone. Ten o’clock arrived and the polling booths closed. Immediately the television announced the result of its exit poll and the prediction was quite different from the polls of recent times. In the UK as a whole the conservatives would be the largest party, just short of an overall majority, in Scotland they projected that the SNP would capture fifty-eight of the fifty-nine seats on offer. (Nicola Sturgeon was quick to down-play this forecast). And so the long night began.

It was so exciting that Rachel stayed up all night. I went to bed because I had the boat to launch in the morning, but I had the television on and couldn’t help hearing the results as I dozed. As everyone now knows, Nicola Sturgeon’s Scottish Nationalists won fifty six of the fifty-nine Scottish seats – Labour held on to one Edinburgh seat, the Tories held on to their one Border seat and the Liberal Democrats held on to their Orkney and Shetland seat and yes, our Calum Kerr got through in Berwickshire (after a recount but with a majority of over 300). It was quite a night. In the rest of the UK the Conservatives did even better than projected, winning 331 seats to Labour’s 232, with the Liberal Democrats being reduced from 56 to just 8 and with UKIP receiving a huge public vote but gaining just one seat. There will be lots to talk about in the coming days.

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Wednesday 6th. May, 2015 -- A Trip to Greenlaw 

I had no idea there were so many tartans, nor that we had so many of them in the Stables where Rachel conducts her kilt-making and weaving courses. I snapped Rachel in front of some of her tartans

Today is the day for getting everything ready for the boat to travel south to Amble Marina on Friday. I worked away during the morning, first of all compiling a list of the tasks which needed to be completed and then a list of all of the bits and pieces which need to be found and then I set about the tasks identified. By lunchtime I was making progress but then I had to stop because I had to participate in a visitation this afternoon.

Tom picked me up a bit after 1 p.m. and we set off for Greenlaw where we met in Greenlaw Church – we hadn’t been quite sure where we were to meet and we had time to do a tour of the different halls in Greenlaw (and a lovely bowling green) before ending up in the Church just before the heavens opened and the rains came down.

It was a pleasant afternoon as we met with the session clerks, congregational board clerks and congregational treasurers first of Westruther and then of Greenlaw congregations, with the afternoon rounded off with a happy meeting with the minister.

Back home to dine in the Farmhouse followed by an evening watching television in preparation for the election tomorrow. I walked Mix and soon it was time for bed.

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Tuesday 5th. May, 2015 -- Presbytery 

Kim and Rachel hard at work building a kilt

Today Rachel was running one of her kilt-making courses (on her own without Ann!) for Kim who is catching up so that she can be slotted in with the other course which is running on Fridays. I popped in and took the picture at the head of this entry. What a good time they were having.

I spent the morning dealing with emails and letters and then, after lunch (we get lunch when a course is running) I stripped down and cleaned the boat toilet. David arrived to change the battery in the boat and Rachel ran me up to Duns to collect my car which is now running again. We have a full fleet of working vehicles once more!

After a shower, I got ready for presbytery – it is a miserable day, rain and cold, totally different from yesterday and similar to the weather on Sunday. Depressing – and that’s without remembering the cricket scores, Durham trounced by Middlesex and England a couple of days ago defeated by the West Indies. Ah well.

I was up at the presbytery in good time and the meeting was uneventful and conducted in a happy, positive way. I say ‘uneventful’ but actually it wasn’t quite that because I noticed that quite a few more people are participating than I remember before and that can’t be anything other than good news.

I came home after the meeting and prepared the minutes which I sent out to everyone before going in to the Granary to catch the news and all of the election propaganda. It seems that the polls are quite sure that this is going to be a hung parliament and that the SNP will do well in Scotland, perhaps even winning fifty of the fifty-nine seats on offer. While that would please me, I can’t quite imagine that the winning majority will be on that scale.

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Monday 4th. May, 2015 -- Bank Holiday Monday 

There was little wind this evening so I raised Olivebank's main sail, always a good idea to know that everything is working up aloft

This morning I got everything ready for tomorrow evening’s presbytery meeting. David arrived and the trailer for Olivebank is now functioning properly. We went off for more brake fluid, bought a bolt for the tiller and some doweling for the rudders and had lunch at Pearsons. I ordered coal and no sooner was I home than the coal was delivered – the service from Pearson’s is quite remarkable.

Tom arrived in the afternoon and he checked the bilge pump and glued in the deck lights. Once he was away I sorted out the sails and raised the mainsail just before dinner. We ate well (we always do but it was stovies today, a real favourite of mine). In the evening I stayed in the Bothy, not doing a great deal but primarily here so that Mix and Rowan could be kept apart now that Rowan is in season.

I moved back into the Granary in time to see the news and then ‘Have I got a little more news for you.’ Mix and I went for a walk and then it was time for bed.

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Sunday 3rd. May, 2015 – A Visit to Paxton 

Rachel took this picture on her telephone because I have mislaid my camera. We are enjoying coffee after the service in Paxton. It is a splendid building and the welcome was really warm!

Up early and walked Mix. It really is a nasty day, cold and wet and not at all pleasant. We set off early because we were going to Hutton and Paxton today. I had consulted the Presbytery website and worked out that the service would be at Hutton so that was where we went. It was all closed up and there was a sign on the door with a full calendar of services. We learned that we should be at Paxton, so we drove along the road to Paxton and were still in excellent time for the service. Paxton is a beautiful little church and this morning it was well-filled with several visitors apart from ourselves. We felt extremely welcome and enjoyed the coffee and chat after the service. I also enjoyed the service, conducted by the Interim Moderator, Tom Nicholson, very much indeed. It was a happy, thoughtful service and as I drove home, having worshipped at services led by Norman and Tom in the last couple of weeks (apart from my own congregation) I thought how fortunate we are in this presbytery.

Back home, we had lunch and then Rachel and I went into Berwick to visit HomeBase where there was a 15% discount on everything in the store. So I bought the parasol I need for the garden furniture I bought in the end of season sale last year, and some paint for upstairs in the Hen House.

We got home just in time for Rachel to have a cup of tea before it was time for her to set off for Berwick once more to attend Evensong. On her return we watched the final Scottish leaders’ debate while we had a snack supper. The debate was a bad-tempered affair. We have heard them all too often and there is nothing new to say. I find myself getting so frustrated that so many of them believe that their job is not to answer questions. I also find it extremely frustrating that leaders refuse to accept the answers given by other leaders. Nicola Sturgeon couldn’t have been clearer about the fact that there is no question of another referendum on independence unless the situation changes significantly. Obviously she cannot rule out another referendum because something might change (the rest of the UK might vote to leave the European Union, for example) so the nonsense continues. It will be good once the election is over, it seems to have been going on forever.

Mum and Olive came across to the Granary to watch Home Fires – a new Sunday evening drama series set during the second world war. A first episode is always a little bit introductory but it looks promising.

We walked the dogs and went to bed.

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Saturday 2nd. May, 2015 – I always enjoy Saturdays 

This is one of the fields around our home -- it looks good and the health experts tell me that the oil we get from it is extremely good for me -- but it does make me sneeze!

Slept in a bit and then walked Mix before settling down in the Bothy, not really to work but because this is the warmest place there is! I did some bits and pieces on the computer, followed the Test Match and Durham’s game at Lords against Middlesex (it started today and we haven’t had the best of starts) and read my book ‘Death comes to the Ballets Russes’ by David Dickinson (no, not that David Dickinson) which I am thoroughly enjoying – and I have the latest Donna Leon set by for later!

Olive was busy with students, Mum had visitors and Rachel was working in the stables with her glass – she has heating there as well.

I did quite a bit of sorting out and rearranging and before I knew what, it was time for supper in the farmhouse (I did walk Mix again – along Bramble Avenue which Mix loves because there are plenty of smells).

In the evening Rachel and I settled down to watch a Montalbano film. It was good but for some reason both Rachel and I found ourselves dozing, maybe that’s what retired folk do. Then it was time to walk the dogs before bed.

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Friday 1st. May, 2015 -- May Day and Mix's Twelfth Birthday 

Today Rachel fitted up this panel on the window in my Bothy. She was away this morning at her glass class and is clearly in the glass-fixing mood. It's beautiful and all over Mount Pleasant new glass masterpieces are appearing

My goodness so we have now had Mix with us for a bit over three years! How he has settled down and how happy he is. Today Digger got his car back from the garage and the Bongo got its tyre repaired – not a puncture in its case but corrosion of the wheel rim which we were able to get fixed without too much trouble by the firm in Berwick.

I worked in the morning and then spent the afternoon with David – sorting cars as indicated above and during which David discovered that the brake pipe which has broken in the Toyota is not one of the flexible hoses but one of the fixed hoses. We have arranged that it will be dealt with on Tuesday by our garage and until then I have the use of the Bongo! So now we have three working vehicles again!

Yesterday, I learned, David had been to Newcastle to collect a bit for the trailer for the boat. The plan had been to fix that today but time having been taken up in other directions this has been put on the agenda for tomorrow.

Soon it was time for supper after which I retired to the Bothy to leave the Granary for Rachel to watch television while I followed the Test Match on my computer. I came back in to watch the News (more elections) and soon it was time for bed (after walking Mix who also got an extra evening walk immediately after supper to celebrate the fact that it was his birthday.)

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Thursday 30th. April, 2015 -- Off to Dunblane for the Day 

I would have provided a picture of Dunblane but with the early start I forgot my camera (and my telephone doesn't take pictures). So here is Mum's window box, planted out last week by Rachel during the celebrations of Mum's birthday

I was up at five-thirty this morning and we were on the road by six as Rachel drove me to Morebattle (it doesn’t mean anything about battles but means the settlement by the lake) where I was joining Margaret and Richard who were driving me to Dunblane for the Scottish Pilgrim Routes Forum meeting today.

It was an uneventful and a pleasant drive and as we were early we were able to enjoy breakfast in a cafe before the meeting started. There were representatives from around twenty-five different organisations and we learned a great deal about all of the different pilgrim routes which are being planned, some of which are at an advanced state of completion.

We broke for a sandwich lunch (during which I went across to the cathedral) and then spent the afternoon working on the forward strategy of the organisation. It was good to be back in Churches House, now called Old Churches House and under new management. It seems to have a new lease of life and each of the rooms now has an ensuite facility – a far cry from the days when I used to visit regularly.

We were back home at Mount Pleasant by half-past five, giving me the opportunity of showing Margaret and Richard around, before they set off for Morebattle. We dined in the farmhouse and in the evening I watched the Leader’s Question Time at which I thought David Cameron was the most assured of the three participants. In the programme following I thought that Nicola Sturgeon was, as usual, excellent. I despair of the ignorance, almost stupidity, of some of the television interviewers who seem unable to hear the answers to the questions they ask, and who, having asked a question, seem anxious to close down the answer as quickly as possible to enable them to ask another question. I thought that the BBC’s Glen Campbell was particularly bad this evening.

During the evening Marjorie and Bruce Lawrie, brought Mum home from a trip out which she had made today to meet up with friends from Kirkcaldy at Kelso (but moving on with them to Selkirk). It seems that Mum had missed Mount Pleasant when she was navigating home and as a result Marjorie and Bruce had a forty minute detour of the borders before they found where we are. It was good to see them before we walked the dogs and went to bed.

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Wednesday 29th. April, 2015 -- More Presbytery Inspections 

The reason I'm trying to take so many pictures from the garden and around here is that my blog is read by family in Australia who are anxious to see what things are like here at Mount Pleasant. So here is Mum's garden in shade. I love the white pebbles and the plants in their pots so that everything may be kept quite easily

Again David was with me today – it was as well that he was because today was the day of the next chapter in the Mount Pleasant car fiasco. You will remember that we have only one working car at present, my Toyota. Well in the afternoon (after a morning in which I finally got everything ready for posting – letters to ministers, presbytery papers to those who don’t have emails) Rachel set off for Duns, planning to post my mail and attend to a number of items of business of her own. David and I set off in the Berlingo to get its puncture repair – it had been punctured by a roofing nail off the farmhouse roof but it was more appropriate to replace the tyre so that was what we did.

We returned home and for ten minutes had two functioning cars at Mount Pleasant. Then Rachel phoned from Duns to say that mine had broken down. I was just about to have a shower and get ready to go out to another evening’s entertainment at the Presbytery inspections, round two, so David went up to Duns to discover that my car had fractured a brake pipe. Fortunately David was able to bring it back home. So we are back where we started.

I went off for another evening at presbytery, this time in the hall at Duns. Again it was fun meeting people and I was back home by ten this evening ready to watch, you guessed it, more programmes about the election. Still, apart from the cars it has been a good day – Tom was here early on and we talked a bit about getting the boat down south. I walked Mix before bedtime.

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Tuesday 28th. April, 2015 -- Presbytery Inspections 

I took this snap of the hanging basket outside Mum's door -- aren't the colours wonderful? I really do love yellow

Up early and walked Mix. This morning one of my colleagues came to talk through the next Presbytery meeting with me so that we can be sure that everything is prepared. It seems that it is and all I need to do now is to print out material and send it to everyone. I also have to write to all retired ministers to ensure that they are aware that it is time to reapply for a practising certificate – more mindless regulation to sit alongside OSCR, Data Protection, and (some aspects) of the different protection programmes. It seems that people catch sight of a need and then solve it with overkill and we all then have so much of our time taken up with dealing with these matters that our own core business gets squeezed out.

David arrived and started fixing the wiring on Olivebank and during the afternoon we had time for a number of cups of coffee (although not biscuits because David tells me that he has eschewed biscuits to ensure that his new clothes continue to fit). Progress is now being made on the boat.

The excitement today occurred when Digger who had gone into Duns to collect Mum from her hairdresser (because Rachel’s car is off the road) phoned to say that his clutch had packed up and he was marooned in Duns. David and I drove to Duns in my car, now the only car functioning, rescued Mum and Digger and assisted in the towing of Digger’s car to our garage where it will be repaired. Now we have one car functioning and three cars off the road.

I had an early supper before setting off for Foulden Village hall to take part in the presbytery inspection of records, a highlight in the ecclesiastical calendar all over Scotland for those who love bureaucracy and enforcing Assembly rules – I really am not cut out to be a presbytery clerk although I have to say I love the friendship I found at the inspection and the fact that here in this presbytery everything is done with a very light hand, a deal of humour and no absence of kindness. It was after ten by the time I returned home, just in time to catch more election programmes on the television. Still there isn’t long to go now.

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Monday 27th. April, 2015 -- Our Christian Aid programme is finalised 

This is a picture of Olive's new herb garden, radiating out from the little bay tree and cut into the lawn and filled with the herbs which are going to flavour our food over the coming years

Today, as usual, I walked Mix and then I had to start getting things in order for the presbytery meeting a week tomorrow. There is not quite so much to do as usual because there are few written presbytery reports but it does still require attention. I was quite glad to have to be inside because it has suddenly got very much colder and I understand that this cold spell is to last for the whole of the week. Tom arrived early and we had a Christian Aid meeting after which I emailed our programme to Donald who will incorporate it into the programme for the whole of Duns.

I chatted to Christian Aid in Edinburgh to apprise them of our plans and then got on with preparing for presbytery.

We all dined together at the farmhouse in the evening and then we had a relaxing evening in front of the television before walking the dogs and retiring to bed. I watched an edition of Panorama in which an American who had correctly predicted in every detail the result of the last American election came to Britain to learn about our system with a view to preparing a prediction here as well. The final prediction will be made next week and it will be interesting to see how his skills transfer across the Atlantic.

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Sunday 26th. April, 2015 – The Fourth Sunday of Easter 

Rachel and Olive at the Mount Pleasant family table – it’s stovies on the menu and knowing how much I like stovies, Olive always makes two big dishes

Up early because I was on duty today. I walked Mix and then Mum, Rachel and I drove along to Gavinton where I conducted the service. I’m definitely getting out of practice and I won’t be doing too much more of this in the future but I was happy to step in today because Stephen had a very special Gallipoli service at Duns and required to be free before the service to meet his distinguished guests and marshal his troops.

After the service and after the coffee, we made our way home for lunch. The journey was not totally without incident as we discovered that the Berlingo had a flat tyre and Tom had to drive me back to Mount Pleasant to collect our pump to blow the tyre back up so we could get home. We now have both of Rachel’s cars out of action with a flat tyre!

I did a bit more work on the boat in the afternoon and then I got ready and went off to Berwick with Mum to attend the service run by elders from the presbytery in Berwick St. Andrew’s Wallace Green Church. I enjoyed the service very much indeed – and the refreshments following the service. Then we came home and I watched a bit of television before bed.

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Saturday 25th. April, 2015 – My goodness, April is nearly past! 

What a lovely place in which to live! The view from our front gate

Got up and walked Mix and then went across to the Bothy. The weather has broken and today it is wet but although the forecast was for rain all day it actually cleared up quite nicely in the afternoon.

Over in the Bothy I sorted out things for tomorrow at Church and then turned my attention to my daily diary on my website – this blog – and the question, am I going to keep it going? Or is now quite a good time to stop? In the end I couldn’t answer the question so I spent a considerable period of time getting it up-to-date and in order. I suppose that the real reason I want to keep it going is because it enables me to remember what I have been doing and when. I also like having a picture to remind me of each day. Of course, I could do all of this without putting it on my web-site. But in reality I know that I wouldn’t. It isn’t that I don’t have the discipline, just that other things would become more important.

We had intended to take Mum out to buy the new chair she wants for her upstairs sitting room. But with it being wet this morning that was put off for the future. Later, once the weather was better, we reconsidered the option, but instead Rachel set off for the Co-op and took Rowan for a walk – yesterday was Rowan’s second birthday but Rachel only remembered that last night so Rowan is being treated to a late birthday today.

Mix and I went for an afternoon walk in the sunshine and took the picture at the head of this entry. It is a lovely view from our front gate – the road running off to Swinton, fields to either side, the one on the left with a crop of rape seed quite well-developed, and on the right shoots already appearing in what was only ploughed and flattened last week; and then there is the sunshine!

And while we are enjoying the weather here, in Nepal people have been struck by a devastating earthquake. The television pictures bring home very clearly the horror of today and it is good to hear stories of countries around the world rallying to provide support.

We dined in the farmhouse. Watford have won promotion to the Premier Division in England’s football leagues, a small cause for celebration to me at least. If they win next week they will win their league as well, a cause for a larger celebration. So well done, Watford.

In the evening Rachel and I watched a Montalbano film on television – as always it was superb – after which I walked Mix before bed, (rejoicing to the news that England had defeated the West Indies in the final day of the second Test – quite a remarkable victory considering that West Indies were only two wickets down at the start of the day having reached 202 runs, wiped off the deficit and established a lead of 37 runs. Anderson bowled well and England only required 143 to win which they did for the loss of one wicket. Well done!)

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Friday 24th. April, 2015 – Fun on the boat 

The final picture of Mum’s birthday. Here she is squinting into the sun while she sits in the Garden Centre at Berwick. If you look carefully you can see that now she is ninety-two she has been reduced to half price

Up and walked Mix and then spent the whole day playing about on the boat – not in the water, alas, but in the yard. I got all of the running rigging sorted, renewed and fixed and Rachel and I filled the water ballast tank to ensure that there are no leaks (this last didn’t start until after four because Rachel had a kilt-making day) but I was kept very busy all day finding things and fitting them together and I really enjoyed myself. It was like being retired all over again!

Mum went off to her reading group this afternoon and Olive was supplying coffees and food to the kilt-making group (I joined in the eating activities as well). We ate again in the evening and then I retired to the Bothy to think about a service for Sunday – I am standing in for Stephen because he is tied up with Gallipoli activities. Later I watched some television. I have really enjoyed today.

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Thursday 23rd. April, 2015 – Another presbytery meeting. 

Another picture from our celebrations yesterday – Mum blows out the candles on her birthday cake

Up and walked Mix and then spent the whole day on presbytery activities with folk who wished to discuss things with me in both the morning and the afternoon and then a special meeting of an augmented Business Committee to look at some of the issues regarding the future of our Church here in the Presbytery of Duns.

It was a happy and a positive meeting and I came home happy that it had been a good day – even if I hadn’t got any work done on the boat at all!

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Wednesday 22nd. April, 2015 -- Mum’s Birthday 

A picture of the family – Heidi, Digger, Olive, Mum, Rachel and Rowan – on the beach this morning. It was a spectacular day and a lovely way to spend part of Mum’s ninety-second birthday (there will be other pictures of today in ensuing entries)

Today was Mum’s birthday. I was up exceedingly early to do the minutes from last night's meeting and then, with Rachel to go to Pearsons to collect the plants which we wanted to set out in a planter for Mum’s window to go along with the glass panel which Rachel had made. We also saw a glass butterfly which changes colour in the dark after it is charged up by the sunshine. We bought one as a wee piece of nonsense and, as so often happens, butterflies became the theme of the day, appearing on so many cards and envelopes and even on the birthday cake later in the day.

However, I’m getting ahead of myself. We all set off to visit Berwick – Mum, Rachel, Olive and Digger, the three dogs and I. It was a glorious day and our first port of call was to HomeBase so that Mum could buy a lampshade for her bedroom. We explored Homebase and admired the summer garden furniture which is now appearing in the shop.

From here we all went down to a beach which Rachel has found. It is quiet and extremely beautiful and Mum enjoyed walking on the beach right out to the water’s edge (as did Rowan, Heidi and Mix).

The sun shone and it was a wonderful morning. Rachel then set off for home taking the three dogs while the rest of us, in Digger’s car, went off to the Berwick Garden Centre which we explored (more wonderful garden furniture) until Rachel returned without the dogs and we all had lunch together.

By now we were well into the afternoon so we made our way home and pottered until it was time for a birthday evening meal for which we were joined by Scott and Sue who brought the birthday cake with its theme of butterflies. We talked into the evening. It was a splendid occasion.

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Tuesday 21st. April, 2015 Anti-fouling, removals and a Presbytery meeting thrown in 

I spent a large part of this morning lying under the boat just here – I really am getting too old for this. The green tape will be peeled off afterwards to provide a lovely straight line of black, at least that is the theory

I rose and walked Mix and then decided that as it was such a lovely day I would get the second coat of anti-fouling on quickly so that the aches and pains would land on top of the ones from yesterday rather than have to start again from scratch.

I got the boat anti-fouled while Rachel had another kilt-making class on in the Stables. That done I showered and tried very hard to remove the anti-fouling from my head, with not total success. I had lunch with the kilt-making course and then in the afternoon I went along to Tom’s to help him complete the removal process. Not only now can he and Dorothy sleep in May Cottage but they can welcome guests to sleep there too!

I returned in time to get things ready for the meeting of the Business Committee of Presbytery which was held in the Church Hall at Duns. Then I drove into Duns for the meeting itself. It was quite uneventful and happy and I was home by nine ready for my tea which was waiting for me to pop into the oven and then enjoy as I caught up with the News before walking Mix and retiring to bed with a book. It has been a very good day.

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Monday 20th. April, 2015 -- Removals and Antifouling 

Rachel bought the book she is reading when she was out shopping today. It is entitled ‘Care for your puppy’ and she is reading it in preparation for getting a new puppy from Sang’s latest litter. The puppy is already named ‘Bramble’ and we are able to watch her exploits on Sang’s Facebook page, really the first reason we have found to have access to Facebook

I got up and walked Mix and no sooner was I into the Bothy than Tom ‘phoned seeking the loan of my brawn! So I spent the morning with him helping move some of his bits and pieces into his new home. In particular, we moved the bed which means that if Tom and Dorothy wish to sleep, they will have to be in their new home.

Moving over for today I returned to the Granary catching the launch of the SNP manifesto as I drove. It sounded like quite an event and will no doubt start more scare stories and dire warnings of doom ahead. I suppose that it must have been the same when the Labour Party first appeared and disrupted the cosy two-party Tory/Liberal establishment.

I caught the News while I had some lunch and then I spent the afternoon anti-fouling Olivebank. I have a lovely black anti-fouling paint which actually goes well with the black and white lines of the boat. It is always easier too when the new anti-fouling is a different colour from what was on before – the previous anti-fouling was red.

By the time I had finished I was finished. Last time I crawled around under the trailer I was quite a bit younger and my body seemed to work a bit better in those days. Still, that is the first coat done.

Dined in the farmhouse and then relaxed in the Granary watching an Australian detective programme followed by a Canadian one. It was quite fun – well, I was so sore that there was little I could do but sit and watch tv.

Finally, after the News, I walked Mix and retired to bed.

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Sunday 19th. April, 2015 The Good Life continues. 

A picture of the Berwick Town Hall (the Guild Hall) where I attended a very special concert this afternoon

Up a little later than usual because today I went to Ayton Parish Church (Mum and Rachel came with me) and the service didn’t start until 11 a.m. So I walked Mix, showered and got ready in plenty of time.

Ayton Parish Church is a beautiful building with a fine pipe organ and splendid painted glass windows, including one really splendid nativity scene. We were made extremely welcome, were given coffee after the service and were led through a very thoughtful service by the minister Norman Whyte. I thoroughly enjoyed our expedition and gained from it.

On the way home we dropped in a birthday card for Annie at Gavinton (Annie is ninety tomorrow) and once home I had to leave almost at once because I was going to the twenty-fifth anniversary celebration concert in the Town Hall at Berwick for the Maltings Theatre. It was a thoroughly good afternoon. The Town Hall was absolutely full, the Scottish Youth Orchestra strings (thirteen young folk in all) were in fine form, the soloists were excellent and the programme was varied and just right. I loved it.

The programme started with Grieg’s Holberg Suite, moved through two works by a Bolivian composer now living in Northumberland, Agustin Fernandez, and ended the first part with Kettletoft Inn (with the Northumbrian Pipes) by Sir Peter Maxwell Davies.

The second part started with Gustav Holst’s St. Paul’s Suit (which I love) and ended with four works each either composed by or arranged by Matthew Rooke, the extremely talented artistic director (and chief executive) of the Maltings Theatre. These were ‘An a craw can sing anaw’, ‘Joseph Knight’, ‘A Northumbrian Kist’ -- a beautiful piece which included several Northumbrian folk tunes -- and finally a comic item ‘Wor Geordie’s lost ‘is penker’. Talented, talented people.

On the way home I picked up a Chinese take-away which I ate back at the Granary – Rachel had gone off to Evensong in Berwick. On her return we watched Poldark as it wound up towards the conclusion it will reach next Sunday evening.

Then it was time to walk the dogs before bed. It has been a spectacular day and a wonderful weekend. Halleluia!

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Saturday 18th. April, 2015 – Electioneering! 

I took this picture of Eyemouth Harbour this morning. It really was this blue and it was a lovely, lovely day. I love this view of the working harbour even if there wasn’t much happening when I was here today

Yesterday I learned that there had been a new poll out (probably several) forecasting the way that the General Election will pan out. From what I can gather the SNP are on course to vastly increase its representation from the six in the last parliament, however a poll conducted by Lord Ashcroft (a conservative peer) examined our constituency and found that the Conservatives have 30%, SNP 29% and the Liberal Democrats 28% (as there is a 3% margin of error it is clearly all to play for). So I decided to do my bit and drove to Eyemouth to meet up with the team of SNP canvassers who were delivering a new leaflet, organising a stall outside the Co-op and doing a bit of canvassing. With a very pleasant couple I was sent out to one of the areas on the edge of the town and spent a happy couple of hours leafleting and speaking to folk who were around. It was fun and I enjoyed it greatly.

Afterwards we met up in the Rialto Cafe for scones and coffee – that was fun as well and I made some new friends. Back home it was soon time to get ready (after walking Mix, of course) to go out with Mum, Olive, Digger and Rachel for a meal in the Black Bull.

It was a splendid meal, I started with mushrooms filled with Stilton cheese and garlic and cooked in breadcrumbs and went on to a prawn curry with rice and chips before ending with a raspberry cranachan. This is the life. Came home and watched an episode of Montalbano before walking Mix and going to bed.

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Friday 17th. April, 2015 To the Dentist 

This is one of the fields opposite our home. It has now been got ready for a new crop. It won’t be any time at all until something is growing – I haven’t a clue what will come up but it will come up soon. Watch this space!

I was up and away from home before six-thirty this morning so that I could avoid the worst of the traffic around the ring-road at Edinburgh. I saw Andrew, my dentist, bright and early. He took my troublesome and painful tooth out and then struggled with a root which was under a tooth which was not a real one but was fixed on to the one next to it. It involved a lot of excavation and by the time he was finished my mouth was pretty sore even although I had received no fewer than four injections.

I drove home with it getting sorer and sorer as the anaesthetics wore off.

Back at Mount Pleasant Rachel and Ann were running a new kilt-making course – I declined anything to eat until a bit later to allow my mouth to recover and instead I returned to dealing with paperwork in the Bothy and keeping an eye on the final day of the Test Match from the West Indies. The course went well and will pick up momentum as the weeks go by.

I dined in the farmhouse – didn’t eat too much because of my mouth – and then went back to the Granary in time to see James Anderson become the English bowler who has taken most wickets ever in Test cricket and then watched the recorded final part of Banished. I really would have preferred a happy ending but it had been marching this way ever since the programme began and there was a certain morality to it all.

Walked Mix and went to bed.

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Thursday 16th. April, 2015 Peter and Linda come to visit 

I took this picture last week when Tom and I were part of a local congregational review team to Legerwood Church. On the day of the visit I showed a picture of the exterior of the lovely Church but I also took this picture inside of one of the oldest parts of the building. It is quite beautiful and, in fact, we sat in this aisle for our meeting

After our morning walk and a while in the Bothy sorting out our Presbytery’s entry in the new Church of Scotland Year Book, Peter and Linda arrived from Kilmacolm to visit. We went off for lunch to Hugo’s in Duns where I enjoyed an excellent antipasto platter.

In the afternoon we walked around Duns Castle so that Mungo, their Dalmatian puppy of ten months, could have some exercise. Then we returned to Mount Pleasant before setting off to visit Ladykirk and Norham Castle (where we got locked in – captured by the English because of the SNP sticker on my car)!

Having made our escape, we came back to Mount Pleasant where Olive had prepared a banquet for us all and for Ann who had come through because Rachel and she have a kilt-making course tomorrow. Rachel was also back at home having been away at her glass class during the day.

After Peter and Linda set off for home, I watched a bit of the latest debate (I thought that Nicola Sturgeon did extremely well) and then was glad to get to bed because I have an extremely early start tomorrow morning.

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Wednesday 15th. April, 2015 Sending out materials to the Business Committee 

A picture I took on Sunday of my Godmother (my Aunt Agnes) and my mother outside the farmhouse

This morning I got up and walked Mix before settling into the Bothy to prepare the bits and pieces to send out to the Business Committee. That’s now all done and I think that I am now up to date with Presbytery business.

Tom popped round to say hello and together we looked at what needs to be done before the boat can go down the road to Amble. We also enjoyed a coffee and whiled away a bit of the afternoon as older people do! (We did lower the mast so that I could strip out the halliards and wash them)!

Again, after dinner, I had a relaxing evening although the news programmes just seem to go on and on at this election time.

I walked Mix and went to bed.

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Tuesday 14th. April, 2015 Durham win in Three Days 

With more books on the shelves the Bothy really is beginning to look quite good. It certainly feels like home to Mix and me

Up and walked Mix before settling in at the Bothy to deal with Presbytery matters. It has turned into another very fine day and I resent being inside (especially when there is so much to do outside).

In the afternoon I found another box of books in the carriage shed and I got that opened and sorted during the afternoon. I can’t find any more boxes of books but yet I don’t seem to have all of my books – I’ll have to do a bit more searching when I have a bit more time.

Meanwhile down in Somerset, Durham completed their first victory of the season and now sit at the top of the first division in the county championship. We’ll lose that position next week because we are one of the teams without a game but it has been an excellent start to the season.

I walked Mix and then we ate together in the farmhouse. In the evening Rachel and I watched some television but quickly fell asleep. I suppose I did absorb the political state of the parties, surely it can’t go on like this for another three weeks?

Walked the dogs and went to bed.

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Monday 13th. April, 2015 – The Election Gets Closer 

Our house tells the world – or at least that part of it which passes our door – where our sympathies lie

Rose and walked Mix and then went and started to work through some of the paperwork for the Presbytery. There was a knock on the door and Charlie from the local branch of the SNP arrived. We had a grand old chat and with everyone’s agreement we told Charlie that he was welcome to put up an SNP sign on our property because it is such a good site, being at a crossroads.

I went back to work but later in the afternoon Charlie returned with his signs. We got them erected and then settled down over a coffee which I greatly enjoyed.

I missed out on dinner because I wanted to get up to Duns in good time for the Hustings. The Hustings were held in the church where there was a very good turn-out for a debate which was held in remarkably good spirits. To be fair, it wasn’t really a debate, more a question time. I am getting a bit weary of these question times because there is never any time for a candidate to develop a full answer to a serious question. It is all sound-bites.

I also felt extremely sorry for Michael Moore who I gather has served this constituency well over the last sixteen or so years. He clearly cannot understand why he is now being rejected by those who have always voted for him in the past. We have been inundated with literature from Mr. Moore over recent weeks but I am afraid we won’t be voting for him.

I was disappointed in John Lamont, the conservative candidate. I came expecting to be impressed by him and he did speak well, but his grasp of the motivations of the poor and his attitude to low wages and food banks left me cold. I thought that Calum Kerr of the SNP did quite well – I didn’t think that he was able to answer the question about how the SNP would fund the half a per cent spending increase, largely because he wasn’t given the time to spell out the alternative to austerity: which takes me back to my weariness with these question time debates.

I came home and watched still more political debating on television while I enjoyed a late supper, finding time to watch the final of University Challenge before going to bed. I’m sorry that the series has come to an end, it was a good exercising of the brain on a Monday evening.

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Sunday 12th. April, 2015 – Low Sunday 

Robbie, Eric, Aunt Agnes, Mum, Jill, Rachel and Martin (with Rowan getting into the picture and enjoying the April sunshine)

I got up, showered and had walked Mix by half-past eight. I breakfasted and then drove with Rachel and Mum to Gavinton Church where Stephen conducted the morning service. It was Low Sunday and considering that it was the Sunday after Easter our twenty-three folk in church wasn’t too bad. Stephen spoke about doubting Thomas coming to faith and then went on to discuss the marks of a Christian congregation’s attitudes to each other (and I suppose to others as well): speaking individually about each of the qualities of being loving, encouraging, forgiving, serving.

I came home and started on the final assault of getting the Bothy completed. Soon afterwards my aunt and Godmother (they are one and the same person) arrived from Edinburgh with her son (my cousin Martin), his wife (Jill), her Dad (Eric) and her son, Robbie. It was really good to see Aunt Agnes; she has come through a major operation after cancer was discovered in her mouth and she is quite, quite remarkable – talking well, in wonderful spirits and looking like a million dollars! The reason for the visit is that Robbie was to be measured for a kilt that Rachel is making for him. That took a very little time and then we all had a snack lunch of soup and rolls with tuna mayonnaise, curried eggs, salami and cheese. There was wine but I settled for my customary Ginger Beer and then coffee in the posh cups!

Before they all left we took them on a tour, lots has been done since they were last here and it was good to show them all that we have been up to. And the rain of the morning had faded away leaving Mount Pleasant bathed in April sunshine.

In the later afternoon I completed the work in the Bothy. It is now tidier than it has ever been and looking quite smart. What a lot of books we have accumulated over the years.

Today was the opening day of the cricket season in England and I followed Durham against Somerset at Taunton on the radio as I worked. It is always hard to get a result at Taunton partly because Somerset are a good team and partly because the pitch is usually very batsman-friendly. It looked like that was the way it was going with Somerset passing 220 runs with only two wickets down. However, Paul Collingwood came to the rescue, taking five wickets, and Somerset were all out for 299.

Durham started badly with two wickets lost for only 13 runs, but by the end of the evening session they had fought back to 98 for two and must be quite content with their first day’s work.

My room tidied and the cricket over, I wandered back to the Granary to discover that Mum had been on the telephone to Cathy who leaves tomorrow for Ireland. She told Mum that Robbie had not been well and had been taken into hospital. I telephoned Marie at once to see how Robbie was and discovered, to my horror, that he had died this afternoon. I was more taken aback than I can say. Robbie was one of those people who just seemed to go on and on. He and Marie came down to stay with us last year and we had a very happy few days visiting places around here and going to see a farming friend of Robbie’s from years ago.

Robbie was the first person I got to know at Luss. It was to his home that I was invited before he took me to the Village Hall reading room to meet the vacancy committee. It was he who asked me to come to Luss and who spelled out exactly what he was looking for in a minister. And when I came to Luss it was he who was my greatest supporter and my Session Clerk throughout the fifteen years I spent there.

I remember him and his wife at the Bible Study groups we shared in together every Monday evening for more years than I care to remember. I remember his encouragement as we started our youth programme, rebuilt the Pilgrimage Centre, created the bridge over the Luss Water to the Glebe (built by members of the Royal Engineers). I remember the great year of 2010 when we celebrated fifteen hundred years of continuous Christianity by Loch Lomond-side, a year-long celebration filled with activities at the centre of which Robbie was always to be found as we welcomed visitors and told the congregation’s story. He was a totally remarkable man.

But most of all I remember the conversations we shared. I learned of his deep faith in a loving God. I learned of how he had had to take over the running of the farm at a very early age, of the accident which left him with only one kidney, of his activities within the Young Farmers which led to his scholarship and his trip to Africa and New Zealand and Australia studying sheep farming around the world. I saw the regard with which he was held in farming circles throughout Scotland, heard of his exploits as a Councillor on the old County Council, learned of the way his farm was at the forefront of new methods of recording sheep and developing the best strain of sheep for the future. I admired the way he was there as the patriarch of his family, supporting, loving, advising and caring for them – although he was growing old in body, he remained so youthful in mind and in outlook (even if he did get a bit forgetful in more recent times).

Always the church had first call on his time. If there was a film show, he was there. If the Guild was meeting, he was sitting in the Pilgrimage Centre supporting it. I don’t think he ever missed a World day of Prayer Service and he was a well-respected member of the Presbytery of Dumbarton. In the Church itself he led by example, a Session Clerk who stood in the church porch Sunday by Sunday to welcome members and visitors into worship, showing elders by his example how to be a really good elder.

Together with Hamish, the treasurer, he spear-headed the project to totally refurbish the Church, raising funds from Historic Scotland and from the Heritage Lottery Fund but also setting up a Church gift shop to raise a huge amount of money locally. More recently he would come and take a turn as beadle during the wedding season, ensuring that brides’ nerves were calmed and visitors were welcomed. Not only was he the embodiment of the Church to many people, but he also stood for all that was good in our village. A friend to many, an example of all that is good and honest and true to his community, and the best Session Clerk a minister could ever wish to have.

Robbie will be missed by so many people but it is of his family I find myself thinking tonight. He shared twenty-one happy, happy years with Marie. They looked after each other in their different ways, they went on wonderful holidays, sometimes abroad seeking out the sunshine, sometimes on coaches throughout Britain -- and they loved to entertain, Robbie sitting at the head of the table conducting conversation while Marie looked after the physical needs of their guests (and she is a fabulous cook). Every Presbytery evening I went for a meal before the meeting. It was a mark of my welcome and acceptance that we ate in the kitchen, everything always beautifully done and always a lovely meal. Robbie would say grace and we talked through everything that was happening within the church. When I think back over my fifteen years in Luss, those occasions with two such special people are among the fondest of my many happy memories.

The news of Robbie’s death naturally doused the sparkle of the day, but I did watch the conclusion of the golf and I did walk Mix before bed. At times like this it is hard to be so far away from those of whom one is thinking.

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Saturday 11th. April, 2015 – An all-day slog 

While I worked hard in the Bothy, Mix wandered outside to enjoy the sunshine

I awoke and walked Mix. Rachel and I decided that as our rooms were totally destroyed – Rachel’s study and my Bothy – that we would spend the day trying to get them properly in order. I was keen to do this, not least because I think that while I haven’t quite unearthed all of my books I have unpacked at least ninety percent of them.

In fact Rachel decided that before she started she would take Rowan for a walk along the coast at Berwick and she was away for almost three hours because the beaches on which she wished to walk were all extremely busy because of the warm weather. I slogged on (the work being made easier by the Indian Premier League on Sky Sports with two superlative innings in consecutive matches by Brendon McCullum and Chris Gayle).

In fact I slogged on right through until meal time (I did take Mix for his afternoon’s walk) which was later than usual at 7 p.m. because Scott, Sue and Nicholas were coming along for a meal to belatedly celebrate Sue’s birthday. We had a very happy meal and some happy chat before we walked back to the Granary in time to catch the late night news and see peace break out between Cuba and the USA. Cuba is one place I would very much like to visit, but soon: before it is swallowed up by the influx of modern tourism brought about by the return of normal relations with the western world.

I sat and watched the conclusion of the third day’s play at the Masters – very exciting with Justin Rose doing his best to catch and match the wonderful play of Jordan Spieth. Tomorrow night will be extremely exciting. I walked Mix and retired to bed.

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Friday 10th. April, 2015 – Busy again 

My lovely bothy in total chaos -- however, it is a step on a journey to having all the boxes of books opened and stored in their rightful places

I was up and showered and out walking Mix by twenty to eight this morning because I had to meet with my life-style adviser at 8.30. I was there in good time and went in clutching my diary of all I had eaten and drunk over the last month and with my pedometer readings to account for the exercise I had been taking.

Almost immediately I found myself on the scales and I was surprised and pleased to discover that I have lost half a stone in the four weeks of this programme. My adviser was delighted and I must confess to being slightly surprised. However it seems that this is just the start. I only require to lose another stone and a half and then I will move into the category of just being ‘over-weight’! I have been promised more energy, a greater quality of life and even that I will enjoy my food more. I came home with another appointment for next month only to hear on the radio a new study has discovered that people who are overweight are much less like to get dementia while people who are underweight are much more likely to suffer from this disease.

Decided that this morning I would have to get my blog up to date and, indeed, by lunchtime I had achieved that. I am at a bit of a cross roads with my blog and part of me thinks that now is the time to stop it altogether. I seem to be so busy and my current lifestyle (which I enjoy) just doesn’t permit the time I need to do it justice. Still I enjoy having my blog because it gives me something to look back on and see not just what I did but also what I was thinking about things. Of course, I could do all of that by keeping a diary but I know that I wouldn’t have the discipline for that. It is only the fact that I have to put it on line which gets it done and also which compels me to take pictures for the blog which are the real fun of looking back as the years go by. Well, we shall see.

I celebrated losing weight by having three cheese rolls for lunch and I looked up Sang’s facebook page and watched the videos he has made of the new puppies and their extravagant names – Leviathan, Rommel, Monty and our Bramble who will soon be making the journey south to Mount Pleasant.

Rachel went out to walk Rowan this morning and was away for three hours, so I was getting a bit concerned but she returned and, as so much of the day had passed, we decided that rather than continue on the boat we would try to make sense of the carriage shed, moving boxes out into the sunshine of the courtyard before packing them away again with room for more to follow from the Hen House.

By the end of the afternoon we had unloaded more than twenty-five boxes of books – the majority of them are now spread over the Bothy and my task over the next little while is to get them all unopened and sorted onto the shelves. I could have done without it but Rachel was desperate to get her books into her new study and we found lots of her books as well – and as we open all of the boxes who knows what else we shall find!

We all dined together in the farmhouse (after I had walked Mix) and then I ran Mum into Duns where she was going to see her hairdresser in the local show. Back home, Rachel and I watched a Montalbano on the television – however, both of us fell asleep and we walked the dogs and were in bed before ten!

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Thursday 9th. April, 2015 – Cleaning the Boat, finally! 

With the summer suns staring to hit the summer house I realised that it will soon be time to open it up again and resume summer living. I suppose that it could have been used right through the winter but in reality it has become a store until the upstairs in the Hen House has been completed. There isn't a lot to do -- it's just finding time to do it!

Up and walked Mix, and then Rachel and I set about cleaning Olivebank, working through until it was time for a late lunch.

We were both quite tired out by all of the exertion and so took the rest of the afternoon more restfully – I took Mix for a walk, we dined in the farmhouse and in the evening we watched the penultimate episode of Bannished. It is extremely hard-going – and that is not meant as a criticism of the play – it just is a vicious, cruel, impossibly hard situation for convicts newly transported to Australia and to the troops who are there to guard them. At the end of the episode Rachel said that we should turn on to the News for some light relief!

And it felt like that although there was still endless discussion about the election now that there is just one month to go until we all cast our votes. The you-gov poll out tonight shows that 49% of Scots are now supporting the SNP with 25% supporting Labour; we also learned that 56% of those polled believed that Nicola Sturgeon had ‘won’ the Tuesday evening’s debate (Ruth Davidson 14%, Jim Murphy 13%) with results not yet announced for the debate last night, which all goes to show, as I wrote earlier, that people think that their own preferred candidate did best – they were those kinds of debate.

I tidied up my eating diary and my exercise report for my life-style adviser tomorrow morning, walked Mix and went to bed.

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Wednesday 8th. April, 2015 – Off on a local Church Review 

I took this picture of Legerwood Church in the early evening. It is a beautiful building and obviously very well cared-for

Normally I would have prepared the minutes of the Presbytery meeting last night but with having watched the leaders’ debate I had to do this today. So most of the morning was taken up with dealing with bits and pieces from last night and in sending out the draft minutes to all members.

After a spot of lunch I did some more presbytery work and then got ready to collect Tom (walked Mix and had a shower) and drove with him to Legerwood where we shared in a local church review, meeting members from the first two of Tom’s congregations, first Legerwood and then Gordon: St. Michael’s. It is always a humbling experience to visit congregations on these occasions. Folk have been worshipping in Legerwood for more than eight hundred and fifty years and the building serves a community of seven farms. The church is beautifully cared for and there is a service on the first Sunday of every month.

Naturally as farm workers’ numbers have declined, so has the population of this very rural community but now some of the old steadings are being brought back to life and new people are moving in providing hope and new life for the future. It was good to be there and as I’ve learned that the church is open I will go back there to visit over the summer.

We travelled in convoy to Gordon and another spectacularly beautiful and well-cared for Church. I was surprised on seeing the church and having read about all that it does to learn that the present congregation is, like many throughout Scotland a small one. What a tribute to them that they achieve so much. It was good to hear of new links with the local school providing, along with the work in the community, a source of hope for the future. It would be easy in such situations to find reasons to be discouraged but what an encouraging evening it was for me.

I came home in time to catch some of the post leaders’ debate discussion – yes, there was another one tonight, this time on the BBC. I listened to this analysis and then, as Rachel had recorded it for me, I listened to the debate from Aberdeen. This time the debaters from Labour, Conservative, Liberal Democrat and Scottish Nationalist were joined by the Greens and UKIP and, with this bigger size, it was potentially much less manageable. However, I thought that it was significantly better moderated than the debate last night. Patrick Harvie from the Greens was a good addition although the less said about UKIP the better. Tonight I thought that Nicola Sturgeon came out clearly on top – and this in spite of the fact that the others were all seeking to knock her down and that the majority of the audience, because it was based on so many for each candidate rather than reflecting the percentage support in the country, was naturally opposed to her views. I thought that Willie Rennie was being treated as an irrelevance as his leader was in the debate last week, that Ruth Davidson was too strident and that whoever has been advising both Ed Milliband (last week) and Jim Murphy on presentational issues ought to be dismissed. This attempt to woo the camera, to refrain from answering questions, to hector others and then to preach sermons without providing facts, really doesn’t work. I would have expected Mr. Murphy to have launched detailed attacks on Ms. Sturgeon based on her record in government or on the record at Westminster of Scottish Nationalist MPs in the last parliament but none of that was forthcoming and it must have been an opportunity missed for him. I suspect that the public view when poll results come out later in the week will declare Nicola Sturgeon clearly the winner (not that such a poll really matters).

I walked Mix and went to bed. It was by now really quite late!

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Tuesday 7th. April, 2015 – Presbytery 

Ann arrived to stay overnight and so that she and Rachel can plan their second kilt-making course -- after the enormous success of their first course. There will be a new level one course starting in a week's time and also a new level two course to be slotted in as well

Up and walked Mix and soon afterwards Alan arrived to talk through the business for Presbytery this evening. Alan is the Business Convener and has been keeping me right – soon he will take over as Moderator in his fortieth year in his current charge, after which he will retire.

I walked Mix in the afternoon (I have to present myself to my life-style adviser at the end of the week and she is expecting to see me having lost some weight).

Soon it was time to make my way to Duns Church to get things ready for the Presbytery meeting and then to share in that meeting. It lasted about ninety minutes and was a perfectly normal presbytery meeting with most of the committees reporting and a brief foray into private to hear a local church review – it wasn’t that there was anything untoward with the report, just that in this presbytery these reports are always heard in private.

On the way home, my treat, I bought a sausage supper (what will my life-style adviser make of that)! Then I watched the Scottish leader’s debate and the bits and pieces of analysis which followed. I wasn’t enormously impressed by this debate. Of course Nicola Sturgeon didn’t get everything her own way as she had in the debate with the UK leaders last week but I thought that she did well and I didn’t really think that anyone did badly. I did think that this programme was a bit ‘all-over-the-place’ and that this was largely because it was not particularly well moderated but afterwards everyone seemed to think that their own particular favourite had done well.

And so, after walking Mix, to bed.

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Monday 6th. April, 2015 – Holiday Monday. 

This is Rachel's Easter tree -- we always have little eggs hanging from a tree made out of branches. Some have come from holidays at places like Prague with its wonderful Easter market), others Rachel has made herself: but Easter wouldn't be Easter without our Easter tree!

Well today is a holiday but I had to work. The day was spent getting everything in order for the Presbytery meeting tomorrow evening. Presbytery is definitely taking up much more of my time than I had anticipated, still it is only for this one year but my other projects are certainly being neglected.

I tried to catch up on emails and did manage to sort out my finances and, of course, Mix and I went for a walk: the weather continues to be wonderful!

After eating together with the family in the farmhouse we settled down in front of the television. I watched the semi-final of University Challenge and then, because there was little else worth watching I came back out to the Bothy to do a bit more work until it was time for the news, after which we walked the dogs and went to bed.

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Sunday 5th. April, 2015 – Easter Day. 

A picture of lunch in the village hall at Westruther -- a really happy occasion with food enough to feed the entire presbytery and still have some left over!

This morning Mum and Rachel got up and drove to Gavinton for Easter Communion conducted by Jeff. I drove to Westruther for the service conducted by Tom Nicholson at which the Moderator spoke. It was a delightful family Easter Service with a considerable number of children in a well-filled church, with the congregations of Westruther, Gordon, Greenlaw and Legerwood (all Tom’s congregations) coming together for the celebration.

After the service, at which a long service certificate was presented and the Moderator gave a gift of a dove, most people moved across to the village hall for an excellent Easter lunch. Food was available in abundance and the company was excellent. I really enjoyed it and the day was helped by being a glorious one – sun and warmth and blue, blue skies.

I drove home and found no one there as everyone was over at Scott and Sue’s for Easter lunch. They returned later in the afternoon for an Easter Egg hunt. I showed Katie all that we had been doing on the building front since she was last here and while I was doing that, Mix went on walk-about so it was panic stations everywhere. It was Rachel who eventually found him, being walked back along the road from Bogend farm by two women. I was in a total panic both because of the traffic on the roads and because of all of the lambs in the fields – but it all ended well: we are extremely fortunate.

I went off and collected Stephen and together we drove to Kelso for the joint presbyteries’ Songs of Praise addressed by the Moderator and organised by the Presbytery of Jedburgh. It was a happy occasion with a good turn-out of the ministers from our presbytery and an appropriate end both to the Moderator's visit and to Easter Sunday, after which I drove Stephen home and returned to Mount Pleasant where it was soon time to walk the dogs before bed. It has been a very good day.

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Saturday 4th. April, 2015 -- Holy Saturday 

The Moderator, deep in conversation with two of the ladies from the local churches, tramping along beside the River Tweed on the journey from Abbotsford to Melrose

Today I was back on Moderator duty. After getting organised, Rachel and I piled the dogs into Rachel’s Bongo and drove off to Abbotsford where we met up with the Moderator and his wife along with folk from Melrose and Peebles Presbytery and from Jedburgh Presbytery. I suppose that there were about a dozen of us in all. We walked along the River Tweed towards Melrose.

In fact we didn’t make it because on the way we found a deer which was severely hurt and we took on the task of alerting the SSPCA. In fact we eventually discovered that a staff member of that organisation lived just two hundred and fifty yards from where the incident had occurred and she was able and willing to take over.

As a lot of time had now elapsed Rachel and I decided that rather than try to catch up with everyone else we would retrace our steps to Abbotsford. We immediately met up with a very distressed lady who had lost her dog so we spent the next while searching for her dog. It was successful search as we found a lady who had found the dog and were able to share in a tearful reunion and then to find the lady’s husband who was continuing to search unaware of the successful outcome of the hunt.

Back at Abbotsford we met up with Victoria and Tim (from Stow) who were returning to collect their car having completed the planned walk. We recounted all of our adventures and came home just in time for our evening meal.

Later we relaxed by watching a Montalbano film. It was very good. Then we walked the dogs and retired to bed. It had been an eventful day.

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Friday 3rd. April, 2015 – Good Friday 

When I arrived at Cranshaws Kirk, Janet was assembling her Good Friday Cross in the Church vestibule. It was just right

I got up and walked Mix before doing a bit of work in the Bothy. Then I went off to Duns to attend the Good Friday noon service which was conducted by Stephen. Again it was very simple and straight forward and I enjoyed being part of the small congregation.

After the service I came back for lunch at the farmhouse and then I drove into Duns to do some Easter shopping. I went back to the Bothy – there were still books waiting to be sorted – and later I walked Mix before having a shower and setting off early to pick up Tom and go to Cranshaws for the Good Friday service conducted by Jeff. We were early because Mum wanted to buy some Easter eggs from the Co-op which we did (and I bought some as well).

The service at Cranshaws was a good one – reading the story of the Passion and singing Holy Week hymns. After coffee we came back home and settled down in front of the television before walking the dogs and retiring to bed.

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Thursday 2nd. April, 2015 --- Maundy Thursday 

Tom took this picture of the Church at Abbey St. Bathan's on his telephone and emailed it to me as I had forgotten my camera

Rose and walked Mix before moving into the Bothy to get caught up. Presbytery papers normally go out on Tuesday but I had been with the Moderator morning, noon and night (and I couldn’t do anything earlier because the reports don’t reach me until Tuesday). So I spent all morning working away at getting things ready to send out – there are only half a dozen folk who need paper copies of things because they don’t have email but that half dozen results in so much extra work and expense. I drove into Duns and posted the reports and came back for lunch in the farmhouse.

I got a copy of the Berwickshire News which had a picture of the Moderator on the front page and a double page spread inside. It was very good and as I have taken most of the pictures I felt especially pleased (and they looked extremely good). Maybe I could have a career as a press photographer!

In the afternoon I sent out all of the presbytery materials by email and then got a few more boxes into the Bothy so that I could unpack them and store more books on the shelves. It is an ongoing activity and I need to try to get it completed.

Tom arrived to take Rachel, Mum and me to the Holy Week service which tonight was a Maundy Thursday Communion Service at Abbey St. Bathan’s conducted by Stephen. It was a good simple straightforward service in the beautifully restored little church which is now in private ownership but which we are allowed to use. Coffee was available after the service after which Tom drove us home and we were able to watch the UK Leaders’ Debate.

It was interesting and I don’t know why David Cameron refused to debate further than this one event. I suspect that it is going to be harder for him to win the election than it is for a left wing alliance to assemble the votes to keep him out. And yet he debates well and out performs Ed Milliband in my view. It was good to see the other leaders present and I was surprised by how good a debate it was and how it did manage to flow. Nicola Sturgeon did extremely well, and Plaid Cymru’s Leanne Wood did well – although she did not speak to the rest of the UK in the way that Nicola Sturgeon did. I thought that Natalie Bennett of the Green Party was a bit out of her comfort zone and Nick Clegg seemed to be treated as an irrelevance by the others. What did I think of Nigel Farage? Well, I didn’t like what he said but I am sure that he was ticking all of the right boxes for his supporters and that they will have thought that he performed well. In fact, it was that kind of debate, no one landed a knock-out blow on any of the others and many people will feel that their person did best. I think that it was a pity for the greens that they didn’t use Patrick Harvie from Scotland because he is well used to the cut and thrust of debate and, in his own way, has become quite charismatic. I don’t know who had been advising Ed Milliband but his long soulful gazes into the camera must have been a mistake.

We walked the dogs and went to bed. I imagine that it will be wall-to-wall politics on the television for the next month.

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Wednesday 1st. April, 2015 – An Away Day with the Moderator and with the members of the Other Two Border Presbyteries 

John is deep in thought as he wonders how to address the ministers from the three Border Presbyteries

Up and walked Mix, showered and was ready before nine to be collected by Alan who was our driver for today. In all there were Alan, Stephen, Jeff, David and me in Alan’s car and we went off to Tweed Horizons Conference Centre which had been booked for the day. There was a full turnout of Duns ministers and a lot from the other two presbyteries as well. The format really consisted of dividing us up into groups and inviting us to speak to each other in small groups about those things which we had found hard and to share those things which we had thought successful. I guess the issues weren’t that important, it was about sharing and getting to know each other, particularly across presbytery boundaries.

The facilities at the centre were really good – lots of coffee and cake and, at lunchtime sandwiches and wraps in abundance. Everyone had been asked to share a verse or a passage which spoke of their ministry. Several folk shared their passage in the morning and several others just after lunch. I didn’t get to share mine – I wasn’t bothered because I am not really a serving minister any longer. When the email had come in I had immediately thought of the Road to Emmaus, with the wonder of Easter (this in Holy Week) and the discovery that Jesus is there in the meeting of strangers. I’d quickly gone on from there to Isaiah chapter forty-three, paraphrased in Songs of God’s People ‘Do not be afraid for I have redeemed you’ – a passage which has meant a great deal to me at different times, particularly when things haven’t been going well – or rather when I got trapped between political parties with our employment programme in Buckhaven. It’s a good passage and it’s good to remember that it is directed towards Israel and therefore its promise can be transferred to the Church: when we are in situations made difficult because of misrepresentations or different ideologies, we are not alone. In fact, had I been asked I would have spoken about the best chapter in the whole of scripture, Luke chapter fifteen – the story of the shepherd seeking out his lost lamb (You matter to God as much as a sheep does to the best shepherd imaginable), the woman searching for her lost coin (You are as precious to God as an engagement ring is to a woman in love), and the lost son (God cares for you as the best father in the world cares for his son). Again promises not just to me but to all – and therefore affecting the way we all relate to each other: which takes us back to the Road to Emmaus.

In the afternoon we talked about the difficulties of operating as small presbyteries with the thought, perhaps, that the time is right for us to consider seeing a future for ourselves together with our sister presbyteries in the Borders. It could be fun – different kinds of meetings, perhaps just twice a year with meals and speakers and celebrations, extra staff (including a full-time clerk so I could get back to building). Well, we’ll see.

We were driven home by Allan and after supper left for me by Olive (the rest of the family dined at lunchtime) I watched some television and quickly found myself asleep. I woke up in time to walk Mix and get to bed. It had been a good day.

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Tuesday 31st. March, 2015 – The Moderator comes to Mount Pleasant 

This is Dryburgh Abbey Hotel and, as can be seen from the picture, the sun is shining. During the course of today we had everything: sun, rain, snow, sleet and high winds. But throughout it all, it remained very pleasant.

I was again up early, showered, walked Mix and set off for the Dryburgh Abbey Hotel by half-past eight, picking up John and Liz and bringing them back to Lanark Lodge for half-past ten. We met up with Alan and Mary, with Stephen and with David and then with the staff of the Lodge – a centre for folk with learning difficulties. Our guide was Rod Scobie, the Manager of the Centre, who had started as a volunteer, twenty-eight years ago and then worked his way up to his present post.

John and Liz at the door of Lanark Lodge

Welcomed by Rod

In the wood-working room

The Moderator undergoes a sensory experience

Making new friends

The Moderator gathers folk together so that he can tell them about the Bethlehem dove

Handing it over

Lanark Lodge is light and airy, it is bright and appeared to be well-equipped. It was certainly happy. I guess that being an old building there must be problems of accessibility but the staff are clearly motivated and kind and I imagine that they can cope with anything. I certainly admired all that I saw.

The folk who used the facility were impressive as well and obviously both enjoyed being there and had a good relationship with the staff members.

Our visit lasted an hour and a half at the end of which the Moderator presented the Lodge with a dove – my goodness, we are certainly getting through these doves.

From Lanark Lodge we drove to Mount Pleasant – it was not planned for lunch to be here but the original plan had fallen through and we were delighted to step in. Because we were so up to time I was able to get Rachel to show folk the Stables with its kilt-making and weaving facilities. (I also showed the Moderator the Hen House and he was impressed by all that had been done upstairs – and of course we popped into the Bothy which is my pride and joy.)

Around the table at Mount Pleasant

Olive and Rachel served us an excellent lunch – a really excellent lunch: vegetable soup, salad with salmon mouse, lots of different cold meats, potato salad and roast beef, home-made coleslaw, beetroot and much more, all followed by a syrup pudding, fresh fruit, cream and custard, a cheese board and coffee to wash it all down. After the meal John presented Mum with another of his Bethlehem doves, Mum had joined us for the meal, and it will certainly be treasured.

Mum in her garden room with the Moderator and her dove

We couldn’t linger and immediately after lunch we set off for Duns to visit the Church where the local primary school children were attending a Heart and Soul of Easter celebration. Classes started off by watching a short film – the Lego Story of Easter, ably presented by Jeff, Stephen’s American colleague. Then the children visited four tableaux – each consisting of a scene with a presenter – the first was Golgotha where the Roman Centurion described the events of that first Easter, from here we went to the exterior of the building in which Jesus and his disciples shared the last supper (and in which Jesus’ disciples subsequently met). The owner of the room described the events both before and after Easter. From here we went to the garden tomb where the stone had been rolled away and Mary Magdalene spoke of the events of Easter Sunday morning and finally we were taken to the gardener who had cared for the tomb and had witnessed what had happened there. It was good and the children were mesmerised (and they enjoyed their biscuits and juice as well).

The Centurion at the Cross

The keeper of the Upper Room

Mary Magdalene with her audience of children in front of the empty tomb

The gardener by the tomb

Jeff welcomes another party of children

The serious business of juice and biscuits

Following this visit I drove John and Liz to visit Hen, my predecessor as Presbytery Clerk. Helen had made most of the arrangements for this visit and she appreciated both the visit from John and Liz and the dove which John left with her. I drove John and Liz back to the home in which they are to have tea and then came back to Mount Pleasant to catch up before returning to Duns Church for our Presbytery Celebration.

I was at Duns Church in very good time and watched as the church gradually filled up. Stephen had arranged a good programme, starting with some music and leading into the presentation of long service certificates.

In introducing those to whom long service certificates were to be presented, Stephen reminded us that those here pictured together represented more than a thousand years of service to the Church. Now that is quite something

Next came the central section in which five different projects were described – five different projects which are active at present within the presbytery. These projects used video so it was difficult for me to get a picture of them for this blog. But it was exciting stuff starting with Ali Birkett talking about ‘Gateways’, a project in Hutton and Paxton designed to reach people who didn’t naturally gravitate towards the conventional church; Di Murtray picked up the story to describe ‘Coming Up for Air’ which tries to find space and time for parents to think about those things which are important. Next was a presentation on Messy Church described by Andy Haddow as a place where anything goes as families meet to worship, do things together, play and share a meal. Bill Landale described the Root to Fruit course which seeks to train lay people to do many of the tasks currently performed by the clergy in the hope that ministry teams can help to revitalise the church. Finally Mark Bruce described the work of the Berwickshire Christian Youth Trust which reaches out to young folk at school, in holiday clubs and in youth activities throughout our presbytery area.

After some further music the Moderator spoke about his vision for the future of the Church. We have to remember that we are all playing for the same team, he reminded us on several occasions. Often we can be our own worst enemies because we fail to concentrate on what we have in common but prefer to constantly argue about our differences. It was ever thus! Let’s concentrate on growing our Church, If every congregation added ten new members a year for ten years we would increase our membership by 100,000 over the period. Now there is a vision.

The Moderator presented a dove to Duns Church – here he is telling its story

After a final song, the gift of a dove and the benediction we moved into the hall for coffee and cake after which I drove John and Liz back to Dryburgh Abbey Hotel before returning to bed.

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Monday 30th. January, 2014 (later) An Eventful Afternoon 

There is always a camera when the Moderator is around. Kimberley from the local press catches Andy (on the left) receiving a Bethlehem dove from the Moderator

I drove back to Eyemouth after a late morning at Mount Pleasant (during which I prepared some of the documentation for sending out for next week’s meeting of presbytery) and arrived just as the Moderator and his two partners were completing their round of golf. I was greeted with the words, “Well, the course won” from which I assumed that the high winds had taken their toll. However as conversations developed it appeared that the golfers had done rather better than they had at first admitted. To me it was just staggering that John had gone round without losing a ball – but that probably says more about my golf than it does about his.

We assembled in the bar for a drink before lunch (well, we had to because the ladies hadn’t completed their round). We were joined by Gordon who had organised the event and his wife Heather, and by the local ministers Adam with his wife Catriona, Andy and Carry, and Norman, and, of course, the golfers.

The ladies completed their round (they had missed out three holes) and were glad to get in out of the wind. We dined in the clubhouse. It was an excellent lunch, just right for after a round of golf – just right for me, too, even if I hadn’t played golf: fish and chips and peas followed by profiteroles and cream.

Liz holes out on the eighteenth green

An excellent setting for an excellent meal

Ready to embark

After coffee we left to deliver the Moderator into the hands of the life-boat crew and to wave him and Liz off from the quayside.

However when we arrived, the crew were keen to take a full complement of visitors to sea and so Norman and I joined Andy and the Moderator and his wife for an afternoon cruise. It was good to be on a boat again and it was lovely and blowy and quite bouncy at times as well. I was interested to look at all of the instrumentation and equipment they had on board – I will certainly have faith if I ever need to rely on the lifeboat. The crew were nice folk and genuinely pleased to have us all on board. Our trip lasted fully an hour and took us to St. Abb’s Head – there was a great deal to see.

This is really quite fun!

The Moderator takes control

Scotland’s coast-line is spectacular

Yes, we are particularly glad that we came to Duns Presbytery

Sometimes as Moderator you have to put your head above the parapet

Exhilaration or Benediction?

That was really, really good

Don’t mention the Titanic

Jamie receives a dove on behalf of the Lifeboat Crew

Having disembarked we disrobed from our survival suits and lifejackets while the Moderator presented a glass dove to the crew as a memento of his visit, and then it was quickly on to Coldingham Priory where some of the congregation were waiting to greet the Moderator and to share in afternoon tea. A party of pilgrims en route for Holy Island were there as well and this was more than a little appropriate. Again the Moderator presented the congregation with a dove and also he presented a long service certificate to Margaret who had served as an elder in Coldingham Priory for more than thirty years.

A view of the interior of Coldingham Priory

John shows the dove, the symbol of his moderatorial year, to the congregation at Coldingham Priory. It was made by people in Bethlehem out of the remains of buildings destroyed by shelling – something beautiful from the ruins

Liz and John are shown around the grounds of Coldingham Priory by Heather who is pointing out one of the many points of interest to her guests. The grounds have been exceedingly well developed to tell the story of the Abbey in an appropriate and unobtrusive manner

I was most impressed by Coldingham Priory. It is not what I had expected from seeing it on several occasions from the outside. It is beautiful, airy, worshipful, appropriate and modern while retaining a feel of all that has gone before. The Moderator reminded the congregation that now they had a beautiful worship space it was there to be used and to be used adventurously. I was glad that I was there.

About six I drove the Moderator and his wife back to Dryburgh Abbey Hotel and then made my way home. Mum and Rachel were out, having gone to a Holy Week Service in Berwick, Olive was getting things ready for our guests tomorrow. I came across to the Bothy to deal with the photos I had taken today and then I grabbed something to eat before walking Mix, watching the News and retiring to bed. It has been another good day!

And yes, I had a good day too!

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Monday 30th. January, 2015 (early) On Eyemouth Golf Course! 

A Picture of the Moderator with his two playing partners in front of the spectacularly situated club house

This morning, having walked Mix and dealt with emails, I drove down to Eyemouth Golf Course where the Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, the Right Reverend John Chalmers, and his wife, Liz, were playing Golf as part of their week in the Border Presbyteries. It is a lovely morning, cold but sunny, windy but not yet stormy, and Stephen, the Presbytery Moderator, and I waved John and Liz off on their journey around Eyemouth, a course which to me seems to have the most splendid of views.

John is glad of the opportunity of honing his drive as he is hosting a golf day on Friday 17th. April at Craigielaw Golf Club in East Lothian in aid of Crossreach. Already sixteen teams have arranged to join him on the day but there is space for a few more. (And there is lunch and dinner as part of the programme.)

Liz gives the ball a good belt into the wind from the first tee.

We hope to see them back at the clubhouse soon after one for lunch.

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Sunday 29th. March, 2015 – Palm Sunday 

I took this snap of Annie, one of the stalwarts of Gavinton Church, outside Longformacus Village Hall where we enjoyed our palm Sunday service this morning

The clock went forward but even so I managed to get up and hour earlier than I had intended and it was before eight (new time) that Mix and I were wandering along the country roads which were totally quiet, absolutely deserted. It was rather good.

New Zealand, having played magnificently right through the world cup, let themselves down a bit in the final and did not even manage to assemble two hundred runs, nor to bat out their allotted fifty overs. Of course, I could equally record that Australia played particularly well – and that is certainly true. So it is Australia’s prize but New Zealand have done well.

We set off at nine twenty (BST) and arrived at Longformacus just twenty minutes later, the tom-tom having found a quicker route than that we normally use. There was a good congregation (twenty-three, I think) in the village hall and a good Palm Sunday Service led for us by Stephen, followed by coffee and chat.

On the way home I checked where Lanark Lodge was (for the trip on Tuesday) and then with help from Rachel loaded another eight boxes of books into the Bothy before lunch (which was later than usual at 2 p.m. because Olive had students this morning).

The rest of the day was spent unloading books and stacking shelves – a lengthy business but we are making progress. (I had intended to work on the boat but unfortunately it rained for most of the afternoon).

I stopped in the evening for a snack and then to watch Mr.Selfridge, the series ended tonight and unlike Downton Abbey felt that it will readily bear another series. I watched the News before bed (after walking Mix).

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Saturday 28th. March, 2015 – The start of our Moderator’s visit 

Another picture from yesterday – a mountain of puppies and all doing well

Rose and walked Mix. Then I went across to the Bothy to start to get things ready for the presbytery mailing which is due to go out next Tuesday but Tuesday will be a very busy day because the Moderator will be with us in Duns.

At lunch time I had a snack and dealt with a number of phone calls and then I started re-organising the Bothy – not bringing in more books but sorting all of the items which had been displaced by books being brought in; and trying to organise a huge number of DVDs and video tapes.

Stopped for a shower and to get ready and was then collected by Stephen to set off and welcome the Moderator when he arrived at Dryburgh Abbey Hotel for his week-long tour of the Border Presbyteries.

Arrived at the Hotel with Stephen in time to welcome the Moderator as he arrived (and carried his case to his room). The hotel had set aside a small lounge in which we were able to meet John and Liz – two of us from Duns, with two from each of the other two presbyteries. After a small discussion we all ate together in the hotel dining room – a pleasant meal – after which Stephen drove me home and he went off to ensure that everything was ready for church the next day while I, being retired, was able to relax!

We walked the dogs and went to bed.

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Friday 27th. March, 2015 – an Away Day to Visit Sang and his puppies 

It is less than three days since Bramble was born and here she is sitting in Rachel’s hand while Ella looks on protectively

Rose, walked Mix and set off with Rachel to visit Sang in Alloa. We stopped off in the town to buy some bits and pieces for a snack lunch and then descended on the Manse. Sang was busy nurse-maiding his seven puppies. Ella, the mother, was in total control and very happy and maternal. Wittgenstein, the father, was running around and constantly reminded me of Rowan with his mannerisms and behaviour.

Rachel loved seeing the puppies and there is one waiting for us – Rowan’s little sister – soon to be named Bramble. (Bramble because it is from the same genre as Rowan but also because it sounds different from both Mix and Rowan, and with three dogs that will be important.)

We drove home arriving back about 5.30 p.m. Of course there were things waiting for me to do for presbytery and then I had to walk Mix so I was a bit late for tea (and it was stovies, which I love).

In the evening we wanted to watch a film and we had settled on one called ‘The Man in the Tall Castle’ not realising that this was just part one of a series. It was, however, quite interesting, being set in America in 1962 with the premise that Germany and Japan had won the second World War. I’ll look forward to seeing more of the series as it becomes available. Instead we watched the Mrs. Brown film which Rachel loved.

Walked the dogs and went to bed. It has been a very good day.

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Thursday 26th. March, 2015 -- Head down getting things sorted out 

I snapped this butcher’s advert when we were in Kelso at the weekend but the reason for including it here is that the butcher’s main shop is in Duns and he (Greg Foston) has been in the news for designing a Scotch Egg for Easter – sausage meat around a Cadbury’s chocolate egg!

I woke and walked Mix before having porridge in the farmhouse. Then it was off to the Bothy to try to sort out a number of issues which had been given to me at the Presbytery Business Committee. It was a successful but time consuming activity and took me until lunchtime when I ‘enjoyed’ some oatcakes with cheese (I’m on a diet).

Now we know whom New Newland will face in the final of the World Cup on Sunday. It will be an Australian New Zealand clash and I suspect that the fact that the game is in Australia and with their superb record that Australia will be the favourites, but I still fancy New Zealand. They have played with courage and flare and have nothing to lose.

In the afternoon David popped in. It was good to see him and he was a bit more mobile than last time I saw him. I then carried seven boxes of books into the Bothy and spent the rest of the afternoon and some of the evening unpacking them and putting them on the shelves. Progress is being made, slowly.

I ate with the family in the farmhouse, soup and my favourite cheese and bean pie, and later at nine, we watched Banished on the television. It is pretty grim but also quite fascinating. I watched the News before bed and I have been re-watching some of the old Rising Damp programmes starring Leonard Rossiter. They really are very good!

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Wednesday 25th. March, 2015 – Catching Up 

This is a picture of the ruins on Kelso Abbey which I took at the weekend when we were on tour with our visitors. It must have been a magnificent abbey in its day. What a pity so many of these buildings were destroyed

Up and walked Mix and then settled in at the Bothy to write the minutes of the Business Committee meeting last night. Everything was done and I was up to date by lunchtime when I stopped and enjoyed a couple of cheese rolls. In the afternoon I went out to visit Helen my predecessor as Presbytery Clerk. It was good to see her and to catch up with how she is getting on.

Back home, Mix and I went for a walk, wandering along Bramble Avenue which Mix really enjoyed. We dined in the farmhouse and I did a bit more work in the Bothy before returning to the Granary to watch the News, walk the dogs and retire to bed.

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Tuesday 24th. March, 2015 -- A Business Committee Day 

I snapped Rachel looking very happy in the new coat she got from Tweedside Tackle when we visited Kelso on Saturday afternoon. Doesn’t she look good?

I woke and immediately turned on my i-pad. Instantly it was clear that the New Zealand versus South Africa game was going to be a real thriller. And so it turned out with New Zealand eventually winning with a six off the penultimate delivery of the match. It could have gone either way and in some ways (such as the weather) New Zealand got the rub of the green. But both teams got their chances in what was a hugely exciting game.

I walked Mix after the game had ended (missed out on breakfast) and came to sort out some of the presbytery bits and pieces which had piled up since yesterday. It was a good morning because I got people in when I ‘phoned them (which is certainly not always the case). I had a couple of rolls at lunchtime, sent out a reminder to all ministers about the details of the Moderator’s Visit (and about long service certificates which are to be presented), got things ready for the Business Committee and printed out the documents I require.

As there was a bit of time left over, I started getting some of my own bits and pieces sorted out. I hadn’t imagined that I would get quite so busy. However, I put things to one side and took Mix for his afternoon walk before coming home and enjoying a shower before going up to Duns for the meeting.

It was a busy meeting, a full house for, I’m told, the first time for a while, and as well as all of the ordinary business we wrestled with the important issues of data protection, the future shape of our presbytery, and the forthcoming Moderator’s visit. We ended almost exactly at nine and I went off for a sausage supper to celebrate!

Back home I watched the news and then was glad to get to bed. Normally I write the minutes before bed but tonight I had a head-ache (it wasn’t brought on by the meeting) and was glad to get my head down. It was more likely caused by lack of sleep through watching cricket!

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Monday 23rd. March, 2015 -- Our Visitors Depart 

These beautiful plants were brought to Rachel by Morag -- don't they look good?

Up and walked Mix. Breakfasted and then spent quite a long time first with Bill and then with Morag setting up the built-in GPS system in Bill’s car. Next time they come it should shorten the journey by at least two hours!

Too soon it was time for Bill and Morag and Cathy to set off. We waved them away after a coffee in the Bothy at which point I set about creating some kind of order in the Bothy and then preparing for the Business Committee tomorrow evening.

I stopped for tea (steak pie, peas and potatoes) and later I watched University Challenge before returning to the Bothy before watching the News and walking Mix before bed. (I’ve noticed that I diligently record my walks with Mix in the morning and evening. In fact I almost always take Mix for a walk in the late afternoon; rarely a day goes by when we don’t enjoy that afternoon perambulation together.)

Then it was bed with a book and just a little bit of cricket before I fell asleep. Tonight was the first of the semi-finals, New Zealand against South Africa, and I have tipped New Zealand since before the competition began. I was concerned because in the short while I listened, New Zealand dropped both openers. That can be catastrophic as was shown when New Zealand’s Martin Guptil was dropped a couple of days ago. He was on 4 at the time, I think, and went on to make something like 237 not out.

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Sunday 22nd. March, 2015 – Touring Again 

The communion table is covered with stones -- Church Stones -- with which Jeff illustrated his address on 'building on the rock'.

After walking Mix and breakfasting with our visitors, I drove them and Mum to Church, Rachel having gone on ahead to get the organ into operation. The service was a lively event led by our new assistant minister, Jeff. He was good and afterwards Mum and I went to the Stated Annual Meeting while Rachel drove our guests home. In common with many congregations we have trouble balancing our income and expenditure, well there are few of us and almost all of our givings are required to pay the costs of ministry. But everyone was in good heart as Dorothy gave her first financial report as treasurer.

Back home, we all enjoyed Sunday lunch before I loaded Mum, Cathy, Bill and Morag into my car and we set off on a mystery tour which took in St. Abb’s (a lovely look down on the harbour and the sea beyond), Coldingham Priory (where we explored the grounds), Eyemouth (a walk around the harbour, along the beach and back through the town), Reston (a visit to Mum’s former cottage which is currently on the market) and then home in time for afternoon tea before another snack in the farmhouse.

In the evening we talked, breaking off to watch Mr. Selfridge followed by Poldark – the two being necessary viewing because we all watch Mr. Selfridge and Bill and Morag watch Poldark. So everyone went to bed happy! It had been a super day.

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Saturday 21st. March, 2015 – On Tour 

Here we are outside the ruins of Kelso Abbey, reading all about what is to be seen within. We had a very happy visit

After walking Mix and a leisurely breakfast with Bill, Morag and Cathy we all climbed into Rachel’s Bongo and set out on our adventures. We went first to Kelso where we wandered around the remains of the Abbey. Our route took us past Tweedside Tackle which is a sporting shop selling some quite upmarket jackets. They had a sale on and in the sale a jacket that fitted Rachel perfectly, so she came home with a new jacket.

Having wandered around the town square we got back into the Bongo and drove to Hawick, chosen for our tour because it is where Bill and Morag spent their honeymoon, quite a few years ago now. We stopped for lunch at the Night Safe, a converted bank and now a beautiful little restaurant which fed us extremely well and fortified us for our trip to the old tower, now part of the centre of Hawick and telling the story of weaving through the ages in Hawick. We explored from top to bottom and even saw a rug-making class in operation. It is very well-worth a visit.

Back in the car, we tried to find where Bill and Morag had stayed, but with absolutely no success at all so we came back to Mount Pleasant in time for a quick cup of tea (while we looked at the first half of England versus France) before dinner and some very pleasant ham.

In the evening we all gathered to watch Mum’s DVD of Mr. Turner. (I quickly nipped along to Church before the film started with Rachel to install our organ for the service tomorrow and to help Dorothy set up her computer for the Stated Annual Meeting.) I don’t think that it was what any of us had imagined but it was an extremely beautiful film. It was also very clever. It didn’t appear to have much of a narrative and yet we learned a great deal about Mr. Turner and his paintings. It was a long film and by the time it was over were all extremely tired and ready for bed.

I reflected on how exciting the rugby had been. All three of the games had been high scoring and open because points were needed to win the competition. Maybe next season there should be no points for winning games but the whole competition should be won or lost on overall points difference. Saturday’s games showed what could be done and such a system would provide exciting, open attacking rugby every game.

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Friday 20th. March, 2015 -- Our Visitors Arrive! 

This is the result of Rachel's pinhole experiment -- eclipse over Mount Pleasant

Walked Mix and then waited with Rachel for the eclipse of the sun. Unfortunately the sun was hidden by cloud for most of the time but Rachel did get a super picture of the ecipse using a pin hole camera which she had made (well, two sheets of paper really, but it was very effective. It was noticeable how dark everything got and how the colour seemed to drain out of the landscape. (I remember the last time there was an eclipse. We were in Luss and it was a glorious summer’s day. We watched the reflection of the sun in a bucket of water in the manse garden. Happy days!)

Soon afterwards I set off with Stephen, Donald, Alan and Bill to attend the funeral of a member of the presbytery who had died. Rev. Bruce Hay had been a minister in the neighbouring presbytery but since his retirement had lived in Berwick. The funeral service was held in Smailholme Parish Church, one of the churches in which Bruce Hay had served and the service was conducted by Christopher Smith from the Anglican Church in Berwick, the congregation with whom Bruce and his wife worshipped since their retirement. It was a good service and an uplifting one and afterwards we joined the family at a reception in the village hall.

I came home to discover that Mum’s U3A reading group was in full swing in the farmhouse, discussing literary events in Peru before enjoying afternoon tea provided by Olive and a tour of the Stables from Rachel.

While all of this was going on Bill, Morag and Cathy arrived having driven from Kirkintilloch by their usual circuitous route. It was really good to see them. I took them on the tour of the premises and they noticed that things ere quite different from the last time that they were here. We had some afternoon tea ourselves and soon it was time to get them moved in and then for dinner. Olive had prepared an excellent meal with soup and stew with potatoes and carrots followed by treacle sponge.

After coffee Cathy, Bill, Morag, Rachel and I retired to the Granary where we talked and talked and by the end of a long evening felt that we had almost caught up!

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Thursday 19th. March, 2015 – Preparing for Christian Aid 

Now this boat does look as though it is just a little bit loved!

After walking Mix and having my porridge I went off to a Christian Aid meeting in a lovely home up near the Golf Club – people were playing, it was a lovely morning, and it made me long for a game of golf. I’m actually very keen to play but a little shy at going along on my own (probably because my ability at golf is distinctly limited – and that may even be an understatement). Anyway I had been invited to the meeting by Donald, a retired minister like myself, who has been running Christian Aid in Duns for yonks. I discovered a keen team of folk from all of the Duns Churches, only our Church in Gavinton does its own thing and I asked if we couldn’t be involved with them rather than continue on our own. I think everyone was quite pleased that this be the case. However for this year we will do our own door to door in Gavinton and in Cranshaws, even if it is just Tom and me, and we shall arrange our soup and cheese lunches.

Back home there were so many matters relating to the presbytery to be attended to, so I just settled down and got them done. I recalled that at the presbytery clerk’s conference there were folk who told me that they did all the work of presbytery clerk on a Wednesday morning between ten and twelve. Well, I wish it could be the case here.

We dined in the farmhouse and afterwards I came back to work in the Bothy, stopping in time to watch the news before walking Mix and getting to bed.

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Wednesday 18th. March, 2015 -- Off to the Theatre 

Mix is king of all he surveys!

Walked Mix and then set off to meet up with Tom and go to Andrea’s for a Stewardship Committee meeting. In fact there was only Tom, Andrea and me at the meeting but we enjoyed Andrea’s coffee and talked through some ideas. Clearly the role of the stewardship committee has been seen as primarily a fund-raising one; I have my own reservations about this as to me the financial side of stewardship is about encouraging folk to give generously through the weekly plate in response to God’s goodness to us. But I’m the new boy and I will learn!

Back home it was back to the boat, but just for a short time as I had to stop half-way through the afternoon to get all cleaned up in preparation for going to the Maltings Theatre to see the Royal Ballet relay production of Swan Lake. I had four tickets so Olive, Digger and Mum came with me. Rachel, surprisingly, doesn’t really enjoy classical ballet so she remained with the dogs and enjoyed an evening in on her own.

Back home I walked Mix and went to bed. I had thoroughly enjoyed my evening at the ballet. It was beautifully done and quite spectacular. What a difference this ability to stream productions has made.

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Tuesday 17th. March, 2015 -- Boat Cleaning! 

A fine dog -- Rowan is looking good in the garden. I wonder how she will react when her baby sister arrives?

This morning, after walking Mix, I met with one of my colleagues in the Bothy to talk through some of the issues coming up in presbytery – I am still on a steep learning curve. I had some croissants and coffee at lunchtime while I caught up on emails and then I spent the afternoon cleaning Olivebank.

I set to on the boat with a vengeance. Rachel came and helped and we started inside the boat. I got underneath the cockpit sole and cleaned for Britain (as well as removing all of the water which had got into the bilges, and almost everywhere else as well). Tom popped in and admired our progress.

It was a long job but we made progress and by the end of the afternoon it was apparent that someone had been working on the boat! It will be more of the same tomorrow.

We all ate together in the farmhouse (Rachel had been away at another training course today and Mum had been to get her hair done). In the evening we relaxed before walking the dogs and retiring to bed.

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Monday 16th. March, 2015 – A bit of everything 

A red letter day for Alison and Olive both of whom completed their kilts and their kilt course this afternoon. I pictured them in the stables with their kilts and with their certificates. Well done! A new course will begin very shortly

I got up, walked Mix and breakfasted on porridge in the farmhouse. No sooner had I started washing down the boat than Tom arrived and we stopped for coffee. Soon afterwards David arrived and started to tackle the boat’s electrics. He was making progress but tripped over Rowan (who had ran behind him) and fell down and hurt his back. I don’t think that it is serious – I wanted to take him to the hospital for an x-ray but he preferred to go home on his own first. I 'phoned David later and he is getting everything checked out. He will be stiff tomorrow.

I moved into the Bothy and caught up on a great deal of the work of Presbytery which has been waiting for me. I worked until dinner time when I stopped to eat in the farmhouse and then came back to work in the evening. I did catch University Challenge and later the programme about Connan Doyle (Arthur and George) but by the time I went to bed, I felt that things were really quite under control (almost).

For me the great thing about retirement was that there would be no more deadlines. Unfortunately it doesn’t quite work out like that. Presbytery, by definition of the monthly meeting imposes deadlines, getting a boat ready and into the water for the start of the sailing season imposes deadlines. There are other things which I can take more slowly – working on the Hen House, completing the Bothy and so on. But I did covet a deadline-free lifestyle and that has gone for the present!

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Sunday 15th. March, 2015 – The Ides of March 

Back in Sang’s manse, I took this picture of Sang with his Mum and Dad before setting off for home

I was up early today so that I could shower and walk Mix and still have plenty of time to drive to Alloa to attend Sang’s Church this morning. Sang worked with me in Luss and I am very fond of him and also of his parents who are across in Scotland for a very few days.

It hasn’t been a happy trip entirely because Sang’s great friend Rosemary died and Sang’s Mum and Dad had made the journey to Great Britain to attend the funeral with Sang. I know that it meant a great deal to Sang that they did.

And so this morning I wanted to go to be with Sang as he conducted his morning service – Rachel would have liked to have been with me but today in Gavinton is our new minister’s first Sunday and she wanted to be present for that. In the event she was there on her own as Mum has a bad cold and Tom and Dorothy were also away with their grandson.

I arrived early in Alloa (I am always early) and so I explored a bit and discovered that Alloa really is quite a big place. I got a good welcome at the church door. Did I have a communion ticket? No? Well I could have one, and having been issued with it, it was promptly taken from me! I sat with Sang’s Mum and Dad and after the service (which included as well as the Sacrament of Holy Communion, the ordination and induction of seven new elders) we were joined by Sang’s colleague Sarah and all walked to Wetherspoon’s where we had a very pleasant meal in a crowded restaurant – well it was Mother’s Day. I had eggs, ham and chips; it couldn’t have been better.

I discovered that my path had crossed with Sarah’s before. When Dad was at Glamis, Sarah was a nine year old lass in the Sunday School, and I went to preach at Glasgow Cathedral on Sarah’s first Sunday as probationer assistant. She had been left in charge of the cathedral due to the minister’s ill health. She is now in Castlemilk and is the mistress of Annie, one of Rowan’s sisters. I enjoyed meeting her again.

It was really good to see how well Sang is doing. He is clearly loved by his congregation, is working hard and is reaping the rewards of that effort.

After eating we went back to Sang’s manse where I saw Ella, Rowan’s Mum and already heavily pregnant again. Soon I was back in the car and driving home, arriving after an uneventful journey about half-past six.

I spent a while getting organised, changing out of my suit and having a couple of tea cakes by the fire with Rachel, delivering some roses to Mum for Mother’s Day, and then Olive, Mum, Rachel and I watched Mr. Selfridge before the News, walking Mix and retiring to bed. It had been another good day.

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Saturday 14th. March, 2015 – A Day Cleaning the Boat! 

I worked hard today cleaning several years of grime from Olivebank. It is still a work in progress but this shot of the cockpit shows that I have made some progress (although not yet of the deck)

Up and walked Mix and then started work on cleaning Olivebank something which went on until mid afternoon when I got lured by the rugby. Wales beat Ireland in an exciting game and Scotland lost to England but I thought showed a huge amount of character in their ferocious tackling and determined defence.

David popped in earlier in the day and will come and help me with the boat electrics on Monday. Tom was in later in the afternoon and we had a grand blether.

I dined with the family in the farmhouse and then settled down to watch another old episode of Foyle’s War before the News and bed.

It has been a good day and I have enjoyed it.

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Friday 13th. March, 2015 – Sixty-nine today 

I was presented with this blue badge by Olive and Digger. The whole tone of the place has been raised

I woke and discovered that England’s game was rain interrupted but that they seem to have got the better of it and have a relatively easy target in a limited overs run chase (shortened matches seem to me usually to favour the side batting second. Firstly you know exactly what you have to do and secondly you have all your wickets in hand for a shorter time chasing.)

My aunt Agnes (who is also my Godmother) phoned early to wish me Happy Birthday because it was such a big one. She had thought that I was seventy – so I disabused her and felt young all day!

Mix and I went for a walk and then Tom arrived sharp at five to eleven. However David didn’t arrive until half past.’ He had brought the instruments but hadn’t had a chance to read through how they all worked so he has left them with me and I will have a shot at that. I am panicking that the trailer won’t be ready in time. David says not to worry it will be working before the end of the week, but I have my doubts.

We all – David, Tom, Dorothy, Rachel and I – went off to Pearson’s for lunch (treated by Tom) and I enjoyed mince, potatoes, peas and carrots followed by a malteser biscuit and washed down with Ginger Beer. It was very good.

Back home, Tom and I raised the mast on Olivebank so that I can get on with cleaning her out. I made a start and then went and had a shower before a birthday tea with the family (including Scott and Sue who had come along for the occasion). Earlier Olive and Digger had presented me with a blue badge for the exterior of the Bothy. It appears in the photograph at the head of this entry. Mix thinks that it is very appropriate.

We had a very pleasant evening, a real family evening with lots of talk of long bygone times (some of which, distressingly, I could remember). If being sixty-nine continues like today it will be quite good.

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Thursday 12th. March, 2015 – Well, at least I now have a clean car! 

Wheels on, mast down, ready for work to begin

David arrived early this morning to put the wheels back on to Olivebank’s trailer; he then took my car away to be valeted. He brought it back several hours later very clean indeed. I’m told that the person cleaning out the car ended up with more hair than would be necessary to knit two dogs.

During the morning I walked Mix, breakfasted on porridge, and brought more boxes into the Bothy which all duly got unpacked. I also did some work both for the Presbytery and for the Green Pilgrimage Network. Tom wandered over and we lowered Olivebank’s mast in preparation for David to do some work on it. We all went our separate ways agreeing to meet up at Mount Pleasant at eleven tomorrow when David would take us through the instrumentation and how it was all going to fit together.

I went off for a shower and then Rachel and I drove into the Maltings in Berwick where first we dined (cullen skink, Scotch egg with salad and fried potatoes, pear and almond tart and ice cream) and then we watched the streamed National Theatre production of Behind the Beautiful Forevers from the Olivier Theatre in London. It was fabulous, set in Mumbai and following the lives of a number of people who live in a slum dwelling beside the airport and jammed between some expensive hotels. I say it was fabulous, what I mean is that it was a fabulous production: but it was also shocking, disturbing, funny and deeply touching. It also gave me what I believe is a real insight into a world I knew little about.

Back home I caught up with the News before walking Mix and retiring to bed (wondering how England would do against Afghanistan in their final match of this world cup).

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Wednesday 11th. March, 2015 – Lots of Fun! 

You can see from this picture that the shelves are filling up now – and there are still so many boxes yet to unpack!

Walked Mix – I saw the Robertson’s of Duns bus that hit me yesterday, but today I was on the other side of the road because I had moved over to get around the one blind corner or our route. Surprised that they still haven’t contacted me.

While we are breakfast Tom arrived and we set off for Cranshaws to collect hymn books and to check out the manse. On the way home we dropped the hymn books into Stephen and then came back to Mount Pleasant. Soon afterwards David set off for Berwick to collect the tyres for the trailer and we all met up at Gavinton Church Hall were we joined in the soup lunch. It was very good, I particularly enjoyed the green soup (broccoli and stilton) and the blue cheese.

I came back to Mount Pleasant while Tom and David went off to buy a new cooker for the Church Hall. My afternoon task was to load some more boxes into the Bothy and to unpack them. It was a good afternoon’s work and the shelves are already beginning to fill up.

I dined with the family in the farmhouse and then Mix and I came across to the Bothy where I sorted out the DVDs and tapes (and sorted out my accounts as well).

Later I caught up with the News before bed. Today we received a small double sheet newspaper called the Berwick News which was issued by Michael Moore. I was quite taken aback by it. Even although in tiny print on the back it said that it was published on behalf of Michael Moore, it still felt it appropriate to announce in much bigger print that the Berwick News was supporting Michael Moore, giving the impression that this was an objective decision it had come to and that it was in some way an independent view.

Even worse was the poll which it published suggesting that only the Liberals could stop the Conservatives in this constituency. It suggested that 45% were in favour of the Liberals, 34% were in favour of the Conservatives, 10% in favour of SNP and 9% in favour of Labour. Nowhere (and I searched very carefully), did it say where these figures came from, or what polling sample had been taken and from whom and when. It was just announced. This is particularly surprising because one can go to the website of Electoral Calculus (who have been predicting election results for the last twenty years, who use sophisticated polling methods and who came closest of anyone to predict the seat by seat results at the last election) and find a very different picture painted.

This is from their web-site: Liberal 20.4%, Conservative 33%, Labour 2.6%, SNP 34.9%, UKIP 5.1%, Green 3.9%, Others 0.2%. In other words Electoral Calculus after absorbing all of the myriad polls and using proven methods to reach their results agree that there will be a tight battle but sees quite clearly that it will be not between Liberals and Conservatives but between Conservatives and the SNP. Against that background it is hard not to see some dishonesty in the claim that only the Liberals can defeat the Conservatives in this seat.

It makes me wonder what sort of people politicians imagine us to be (and also what kind of people they must be to endorse such misleading tactics). And a final word, Electoral Calculus reckons that the chances of each party winning this seat are as follows: Liberal 9%, Conservative 35%, Labour 0%, SNP 56% and the other parties 0%. That may all change – but it would be wrong were it to change because of wrong polling figures which are presented as truth with no kind of basis in fact at all. That’s my rant for today. (You can find electoral calculus at

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Tuesday 10th. March, 2015 – St. Kessog’s Day 

Today has been a gloriously sunny and warm day – the wind has dropped. It has been lovely. It doesn’t look like that in the picture because it was taken at six o’clock this evening once the sun was down. But the picture shows Olivebank without her wheels – they are away being re-tyred. And because Olivebank has no wheels we couldn’t move her forward to lower the mast. No matter, there is always tomorrow ...

I was up quite early and out with Mix by half-past eight. Our walk today was eventful; walking down the road, facing on-coming traffic as instructed by the Highway Code, I managed to get myself hit by a Robertson’s of Duns bus. I say ‘hit’ I actually got a belt on the upper arm by the bus’s mirror but it was enough to send me sprawling on the grass verge. The bus carried on, but the traffic behind stopped and came to my assistance. One very kind lady wanted to load Mix and me into her car and bring me home. I was embarrassed and just wanted to be left alone – but it was kind and I appreciated so much assistance and kindness.

I was quite surprised that the bus didn’t stop, at the very least it must have wondered why all the traffic behind had stopped. I phoned the bus company on my return home and the gentleman who answered said that he would speak to the driver when he got back to the depot. The same gentleman phoned an hour or so later to see how I was and said that he would phone back after he had spoken to the driver. I didn’t hear any more about it but that may have been because I was out in the middle of the day. However, it shook me up a bit and I am going to have a real good bruise on my upper arm.

I spent the morning in a meeting with a ministerial colleague sorting out presbytery business and then David and I went off to get new tyres for the trailer on which we will take Olivebank to Amble. We will get the wheels back tomorrow and will then be able to manoeuvre Olivebank so that we can unstep the mast to deal with its internal electrics.

Having got the tyres organised we went to buy cable to rewire the boat, stopped off at Aldi to buy biscuits for with the coffee, and ended up buying a gas blower heater for the new theatre (as yet unbuilt) which is our project for this summer.

We had a coffee and a cake in Pier Red in Berwick before driving to Eyemouth where we bought anti-fouling for Olivebank and wandered around the town in the sunshine. We returned to Mount Pleasant, had a coffee and then, before dinner, I walked Mix along the Swinton Road, this time without incident. Reflected that it was 1505 years ago today that St. Kessog was killed a mile south of Luss, today I felt as if I had enjoyed a lucky escape!

After a splendid supper Mix and I came across to the Bothy and did some work before going across to the Granary to watch a bit of tv and relax. (An old Midsomer Murder and then the Scottish Immigration Debate.) Later, we walked the dogs and went to bed.

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Monday 9th. March, 2015 – Working Away 

Even after loading in lots more books, with Rachel’s books transferred to her new study, I have quite a lot of room left – just as well, as there are many, many boxes waiting to be opened

I got up and walked Mix. Came home and had a plate of porridge for breakfast and then started on emails and bits and pieces. I kept an eye on the cricket – England have plumbed a new low today (that’s not strictly accurate because we were beaten by Bangladesh before) and now we are out of the World Cup. There will be repercussions for both players and management, I would imagine. Certainly we have played rather badly when compared to other teams.

Rachel has now got all of her books and things out of the Bothy and into her new study so I was in the Carriage Shed unloading boxes of books and tidying them into the Bothy – a long job but I got a lot done.

Mum went off to school today to help the children with a project about the war. She enjoyed her time there and the questions which the youngsters asked.

David came down this afternoon to do some work on the trailer in preparation for the boat going into the water at Amble fairly shortly. Of course we had coffee before David went off to a Town Council committee meeting to see what was going on. I went off for another walk with Mix after which we dined in the farmhouse before watching University Challenge and the second part of a series about Conan Doyle. Then I walked Mix and went to bed (catching a bit of the News before I went).

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Sunday 8th. March, 2015 – A Special Sunday in our Congregational Story 

A picture which I snapped while walking Mix today – the wind has dropped but we are expecting it to return

I woke later than usual on a Sunday morning and got up in an extremely leisurely fashion. Rachel was already up and was soon off to Berwick to attend the service at the Anglican Church. I walked Mix, watched New Zealand defeat Afghanistan, had a shower and got ready to go to Church at Gavinton. I was there for about one-thirty and I found everything perfectly in order: the Church was looking good, the hall was ready both for the Presbytery and for the reception afterwards, Janet was running the show and Tom was looking after the Church.

The Presbytery was constituted by the Moderator, the service went ahead in a very well-filled Church – an excellent sermon from Andy and the Linkage and Induction beautifully handled by David. Afterwards we all enjoyed the hospitality provided – We are lucky to have a minister ready to take us over as soon as our last one retired: what would Arrochar and Luss have given for that?

Back home I took Mix for a walk and then we all dined in the farmhouse. Mum hadn’t come to the Induction as she was a bit under-the-weather (nothing at all serious). In the evening we watched Mr. Selfridge followed by the News. We walked the dogs and went to bed. It has been a thoroughly good day.

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Saturday 7th. March, 2015 It is incredibly windy – and the wind just goes on and on 

Rachel’s study is now taking shape. After the erection of the bookcases, now the books have started to arrive and Rachel’s childhood desk and a rocking chair and a very attractive rug

Slept in because it is Saturday. That’s not actually true, what I mean is that I woke but didn’t get up. Instead I lay in bed and watched Ireland against Zimbabwe in the World Cup.

Eventually I did get up and Mix and I went for a walk, along to the farm cottages at Bogend, then down the road to Fogo Church, through the woods by the side of the Church to the river, across the bridge and up to the road and from there through Caldra Farm to Crunklaw and Nisbet Hill and back home. It was a lovely walk – we saw many very small lambs and almost no traffic but, my goodness, it was windy.

Back home I had one small finger roll with cheese for lunch (was delighted to see that Ireland had won a close fought match) and then tidied in the Bothy while Rachel started removing books to transfer to her new study. Tom popped in to see how the Bothy was standing up to the wind. He declared himself satisfied before setting off to do some more plaster-boarding in his new cottage.

David arrived and we went out delivering magazines – it was hard even to stand, the wind was so strong. Back at Mount Pleasant I showed David how I prepared midi files for the organ and then, after David set off for home, Rachel and I joined the family for supper.

We then relaxed in front of the fire during the evening, watching a Foyle’s War which I hadn’t seen before. Caught just a bit of the New Zealand against Afghanistan cricket match – New Zealand looked to be on top when I went to bed.

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Friday 6th. March, 2015 – The World Day of Prayer 

Spring is on the way!

Up early and at the doctor’s surgery before half-past eight to see a life-style adviser who talked me through my life and took me to task for being overweight. Learned that I am an inch and a half shorter than I used to be and have to lose around four stones in weight. Of course, it is all going to come down to eating less – and I get so much pleasure from my food! Ah, well.

Back home I started getting things ready for the Presbytery Service on Sunday, preparing the edict – it is quite long and tortuous – and searching out my robes, unworn since my retirement and not yet unpacked. I completed the end of month statistical return for Edinburgh and dealt with emails.

David came and took away a bit of the trailer to repair and, at six, we dined in the farmhouse before setting of for the World Day of Prayer service which this year is in the Roman Catholic Church at Duns.

The Roman Catholic Church in Duns is a beautiful little building and the congregation were extremely welcoming. There was an excellent attendance and I enjoyed the service from The Bahamas very much indeed. The music and singing was excellent. The words too were good but I was sorry that we didn’t ‘do’ the special bits – the mime that was offered, or the address or use the card-shaped footsteps which were suggested in the text as a way of identifying our present or future contributions to show Jesus’ love to his world and his people. (Actually this last idea reminded me of my trip to Trondheim for the second international Green Pilgrimage City conference where people from all around the world had brought a ‘footprint’ which spoke of their pilgrimage journey and set them out around the Cathedral of St. Olaf.)

After the service we were all invited into the Presbytery for tea and cake – having had the experience I had first thing this morning, I welcomed the tea but declined the cake!

Back home I settled down in front of the television and watched the evening news before walking Mix and retiring to bed with my book.

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Thursday 5th. March, 2015 --- It wasn’t to be! 

I took this snap out of the kitchen window of the Manse at Cranshaws -- what a lovely view from a kitchen window!

Well, it wasn’t to be. Bangladesh actually won quite comfortably with eleven balls to spare and plenty of wickets in hand – but Kyle Coezer was ‘man of the match’, something I expect that he will remember for years to come.

I walked Mix and then at ten I set off with Stephen to attend a meeting in Hawick with representatives of our two partner Border presbyteries to plan the visit of the Moderator of the General Assembly at the end of this month. I say ‘to plan’, of course, our planning was done a while ago and our programme was submitted to Edinburgh more than a month ago; today was a day of co-ordinating the Moderator’s activities within the three presbyteries.

We enjoyed a sandwich lunch with our colleagues and then drove home. For some reason today went quite slowly I suppose because I was surprised how soon we got back from Hawick. So I did some work in the Bothy and went for a walk with Mix. We all dined together in the farmhouse – I hadn’t been there for a couple of days – and then I came across to the Bothy to prepare the music for Arrochar for the World Day of Prayer. That done I joined Olive, Mum and Rachel to see the first episode of Banished – a seven-part series set in Australia in the time of the convicts arriving at Botany Bay in 1778. It was well done but I haven’t quite made up my mind about it yet.

I walked Mix and went to bed.

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Wednesday 4th. March, 2015 – Off to Cranshaws and to the Theatre 

Rachel's new study is beginning to take shape

I was up early and walked Mix before setting off to Tom’s for half-past eight. He and I went up to Cranshaws to help with the final stages of getting Ann off to her new home. David arrived to take down some light fittings and we also went into the Church to do some checks that were required.

Drove back home and helped Rachel build bookcases in her new study, walked Mix and returned to complete the final bookcases (we put up eight in all) before setting off for Berwick to attend the streaming of the Royal Shakespeare Company’s production of ‘Much Ado about Nothing’ or, as they preferred to call it, ‘Love’s Labour’s Won’ (it was presented in conjunction with ‘Love’s Labour’s Lost’ which we thoroughly enjoyed last month). It don’t care what they call it, it was absolutely superb – I thought that I had seen the best Shakespeare ever several times over during this last twelve-month but this surpassed them all. It is a wonderful play, beautifully presented and the audience loved it.

I came home raving about it and then settled in to watch Scotland playing Bangladesh. Now, I couldn’t stay up all night because I have duties tomorrow but I did stay up for the whole of Scotland’s innings; so I saw Kyle Coezer’s 156 and Scotland’s 318. I went to bed quite optimistic about the result that would await me in the morning.

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Tuesday 3rd. March, 2015 – Presbytery 

Ann and her son Dave who are slaving away at the Manse trying to get everything packed so that they can move to South Queensferry tomorrow

Again I was in the bothy, having walked Mix, before eight and I spent the day getting everything ready for the meeting this evening. In particular I wanted to write a letter to each of the people invited to receive a long-service certificate from the Moderator later in the month. I will get them delivered by the ministers this evening.

As I’ll miss dinner I made myself some lunch -- cauliflower, carrots and broccoli in a cheese sauce – great! Rachel got her bookcases delivered from IKEA, a happy pair of workers, good ambassadors for their company.

Shortly before four, I knocked off, took Mix for a walk, had a shower and got ready for Presbytery.

I was up at the hall in Duns by six ensuring that everything was ready for the meeting at seven. I met with Jeff and had a fine old chat with him before the meeting got underway. One of the reports arrived just before the meeting so I had to get that on to the power-point before the meeting began.

The meeting itself was uneventful. We received the accounts which showed that there is money to pay the bills for this year, approved the budget and set the level of presbytery dues. Then we went on to hear reports from the Business Committee, the Fabric and Glebes Committee, the Ministries Committee and the Superintendence Committee, completing the business in under an hour and a half.

I went off for a Chinese take-away and then did the minutes before walking Mix and retiring to bed.

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Monday 2nd. March, 2015 – Running Around 

A clean car

I was up and had walked Mix in time to be in the Bothy and at work by half past seven. Soon after eight Tom arrived and he drove, with me following in my car, to St. Boswell’s so that my car could be examined under a recall notice to do with the steering. Given that I have just completed 100,000 miles I would have thought that had there been a problem it would have become apparent before now.

From St. Boswell’s (my car left behind to be examined) we drove to Gavinton to meet with the steeple-jacks who were expected to complete a repair on the lightning conductor. They weren’t there so Tom ‘phoned their office and they will arrive, we are told, later today.

We drove to Cranshaws where we helped Ann and Jack’s son David empty the barns into a skip and had lunch with them all before returning to empty a lorry load of wood for the floors in Tom’s house in to the house. Only by the time we arrived the wood had been unloaded and transported into the house by the tradesmen working on Tom’s house. We couldn’t have planned it better – that’s not right, of course, we did try to be there in time.

Now we set off to have a second shot at seeing the steeple-jacks. They were in their van behind the church, fast asleep – waking quickly as Tom approached. In fact they weren’t here to carry out the repair, just to clean out the gutters. It seemed strange to me.

Now Tom drove me back to St. Boswell’s where I picked up my car. It had been checked and found to have had no problem. I didn’t recognise the vehicle as it had been power cleaned. I drove home feeling very swanky and the car obviously felt good too, having been washed for the first time since I got it.

We dined in the farmhouse and in the evening I watched University Challenge and then the first episode of a Martin Clunes series about Connal Doyle. It looks as though it will be a good series. Then it was time to walk the dogs before Newsnight and bed.

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Sunday 1st. March, 2015 -- Ann's last Sunday 

This is a snap of the congregational lunch at Gavinton Village Hall. You can see clearly what a good time we are all having

Got up to the news that Sri Lanka had bettered England’s target with ease and the loss of only one wicket. England must now hope desperately that their games against the so called minnows are not disrupted by the weather.

After walking Mix, Rachel, Mum and I went off to Church for Ann’s final service (technically she retired last night but today was her final service). Lots of her friends were in Church. I counted eighty nine-folk, normally we are just either side of thirty – there were lots of good-byes and Ann was quite emotional describing herself as theologically, from the liberal woman’s liberation wing of the Church. I’m not quite sure that I agree but I have greatly enjoyed sitting in the pews during her time as minister.

After the service and presentations, we all went down to the Village Hall for lunch – an excellent affair, Gavinton does good food. We ate well and we were in very good company. And then we came home.

I got a bit done before it was time for Rachel and I to have a snack (Rachel had been to Evensong) and then we all watched Mr. Selfridge before bed. I had to be up early so I was glad to get to bed.

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Saturday 28th. February, 2015 – An Ordinary Saturday but with much to do. 

Rachel spent much of today in the Stables, not kilt-making or weaving, but working with her glass. Here she is grinding a piece of glass to size before fitting it into her latest creation

I got up and walked Mix. He seemed pleased that I was home and, even although it was very cold, he enjoyed his walk. Having been for a walk I settled into the Bothy. First of all I gave the new (second-hand) organ a thorough going over. It is perfect, exactly what I wanted and I am delighted.

Then I started getting things in order for the presbytery meeting on Tuesday. There is always a lot to do to ensure that everything runs smoothly and I was glad to have got a lot of it done by the end of the working day (working day? It’s Saturday and I’m retired.)

We all dined together in the farmhouse and then Rachel and I continued our Saturday night tradition of watching the old episodes of Foyle’s War. They are so well done and beautifully written.

I walked Mix and then settled down to watch England playing Sri Lanka in the world cup. I stayed up for the whole of the English innings – we reached 309 but it was a stodgy affair until the final overs and I didn’t go to bed confident.

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Friday 27th. February, 2015 – And the Journey Home 

I saw this building as I walked home after our evening meal last night. I was really taken with the squinty door -- I'd love a door like that

I woke at seven with the light streaming into my ground floor bedroom and the most glorious view of Canterbury Cathedral filling the window. I got up and showered before making my way to the dining room where I enjoyed a full English breakfast washed down with lashings of orange juice. (I caught up with the world cup as I dressed – Chris Gayle came good as he was bound to do.)

We all made our way across to the Diocesan Centre and met again in the Board Room. All of the discussions of yesterday had borne fruit and there was agreement about the way forward. We will seek to carry forward the Green Pilgrimage Network (an international name but concentrating initially on the European sector while encouraging and working as best we can with partners further afield). The large number of emails which have been received from all around the world show that to be the only decision. Green Network India will continue as it is but is anxious to develop partnerships with us and wishes the international (world-wide) dimension of the network to continue, led from Europe.

Agreement was reached on a constitution which was adopted and an application to register as a charity was set in train. Office bearers were appointed and a number of targets for the immediate future agreed. Finally we said farewell to Alison and Jean from the Alliance of Religions and Conservation who stopped working for that organisation after today. We will miss them both but it is certainly not beyond the bounds of possibility that they will return to work for the Green Pilgrimage Network as an independent charity once it is up and running.

With all of the work done, and with our good-byes said, I hurried for a lunch-time train to London and from there to Scotland. The train to Scotland was a bit of a disaster – two other trains (both to Leeds) had been cancelled and, as a result, there were far too many passengers on board – with the knock on effect that the guard and other train officials hid until the crush disappeared after Doncaster. I was OK. I had my booked seat which I had got onto as soon as the train arrived at the station but others were not so fortunate.

I arrived in Berwick just a few minutes late. Rachel was there to meet me and we were soon home at Mount Pleasant where we joined Olive, Digger and Mum for supper before I fell asleep in front of the television. It was good to be home. (I’d bought Rachel a pendant from the shop at the Cathedral – a pendant based on the crozier of Thomas a Becket as illustrated in one of the cathedral’s stained glass windows. Rachel liked it very much.)

Walked Mix and went to bed.

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Thursday 26th. February, 2015 -- A long train journey 

The view from my bedroom window -- it doesn't get much better than this

I was up at half past five this morning, showered and driven to Berwick by Rachel in time to catch the nine minutes past seven train to London. It was an uneventful journey and I had no one sitting beside me all the way to London. This made it easier to do some work on the journey and by the time I had arrived at London around ten minutes to eleven I had completed quite a lot of the work I needed to get done for the meeting I was attending.

In London I wandered from King’s Cross to St. Pancras and caught the very deluxe ‘international javelin’ to Canterbury West arriving just after mid-day. I wandered through Canterbury, taken-aback as I always am by how many young people there are in Canterbury. Of course, there are two universities but even so it seems a youthful and a thriving place to be. I popped into a McDonald’s for a sandwich and some fries before making my way to the cathedral and signing in at the pilgrim’s lodge.

I was able to go straight to my own room – a lovely room with a view of the Cathedral – and after freshening up I made my way to the Diocesan Offices in the board room of which our meeting was to be held. This was an important meeting of the steering group of the Green Pilgrimage Network Europe, set up at the last major conference in Trondheim. The reason that the meeting was so important is that the time has now arrived for the Green Pilgrimage Network to come out from under the umbrella of the Alliance of Religions and Conservation and stand on its own feet as an independent charity. In part this is because now is an appropriate time for this to happen and that perhaps by remaining under that friendly umbrella for so long we have got too cosy and have not pushed on with some of the opportunities which have presented themselves; it is also an essential time for this to happen because the Alliance of Religions and Conservation is cutting its activities down very substantially, partly because this is what it wishes to do and partly because it has been subject to a massive funding cut.

So the afternoon’s discussions with representatives from Norway, England, Sweden and Scotland centred on finding the optimum shape for moving forward as well as discussing the kind of organisation which we would like the network to develop into. There were messages of support from the Green Pilgrimage Network India and the Alliance of Religions and Conservation is obviously keen to assist until we find our new shape.

Considerable discussion centred on whether we see our future as a European network or wish to maintain our world-wide links. It wasn’t that anyone didn’t want us to be a world-wide grouping, it was just would we be able to maintain such a presence or would it be better to concentrate on Europe? Final decisions on these matters will be taken tomorrow.

Some of my colleagues around the table at the Parrot -- Berit (second left) seems to have her mind on other things -- in fact I think that she was on the phone to her family in Norway

We broke from our discussions and went to Evensong at the cathedral. It was a lovely antidote to all of the discussions we had been having and after the service – and a brief break to change our clothes – we all went out to eat in a restaurant, an extremely old restaurant with a medieval hall over it, where we enjoyed a splendid meal and good company. I was sitting between Alison, the organiser of the Green Pilgrimage Network from ARC, and Rune from the town council of Trondheim and we enjoyed some spirited conversation.

The banqueting hall which goes back to medieval times

We all walked back together through the cathedral precincts and I was soon in bed (having first telephoned home to ensure that all was well with my folks and my dogs). I was surprisingly tired and was soon fast asleep with the flood-lit cathedral outside the window for company. It had been a very good day.

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Wednesday 25th. February, 2015 – Our journey to Muirkirk 

Here is a picture of Muirkirk which I believe, until I am corrected, that this was Bill and Morag’s Church. David and I found it and I tried to get in but the door was locked but it seemed very well-cared for and rather special

Today David and I set off in the Bongo for Muirkirk. The reason for the visit was to see an organ which had been put up for sale on Gumtree. We took the opportunity of driving (David that is) the Bongo which has been in need of a good drive for several months. Indeed as we drove the little faults all ironed themselves out and the vehicle returned to Mount Pleasant in perfect working order.

We drove to Muirkirk via the A1, the Edinburgh ring road, the M8, Motherwell, and Hamilton. We returned via Peebles and Galashiels. It was a good round trip and until the final stretch it was a lovely day. In Muirkirk we inspected the second-hand organ and purchased it. It is in excellent condition, is a perfect match for the one which has broken down (so we can use one as spares for the other), and was at a very good price.

We arrived back at Mount Pleasant at 6 p.m. just in time for supper—we were both very hungry as we had only stopped for coffee and a cheese and onion pastry at Harthill soon after mid-day. Olive gave us carrot soup followed by beef olives (one of my absolute favourites) and a desert she was experimenting with which involved a treacle and syrup turn-over cooked in milk. It was a fabulous meal.

In the evening, of course I had to experiment with the organ but more importantly I had to pack for my journey to Canterbury tomorrow. Everything here is up to date and I am now off to bed for a very early night (even although Scotland are playing cricket – and Ireland won a splendid narrow victory over the United Arab Emirates last night). I’ll get the result when I get up at the crack of dawn tomorrow.

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Tuesday 24th. February, 2015 – A Presbytery preparation day 

It has been cold for a few days now and Mix has taken to wearing his jacket when we go out for a walk. I have never had a dog who was so happy to dress up before, but it must give him warmth in these cold times

Up and walked Mix and then quickly got into the Bothy to get things in order for next Tuesday’s meeting of Presbytery. I sent out all of the paper materials and then emailed all of the rest. I set about preparing the service for 8th. March at which the congregations of Duns and District Parishes and Langton and Lammermuir Kirk are linked and Stephen, the current minister of Duns is inducted into the new charge.

I also tried to sort out the figures on the presbytery information management system which were not altogether making sense.

In the late afternoon, Mix and I went for a walk. It is still extremely cold and the wind, while it has abated a bit, is still pretty piercing. We all dined in the farmhouse and then Rachel and I relaxed in front of the stove in the Granary. I still constantly am amazed that we should have inherited such a beautiful place to live.

In the evening I had intended to watch an old episode of Judge John Deed – one I hadn’t seen before. However, although I saw the start, I was soon asleep, waking just in time for the News and the debate that followed about our oil future. I walked Mix and was soon in bed.

The cricket last night didn’t start until 3.30 a.m. and so I missed Chris Gayle’s historic and amazing double century for the West Indies.

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Monday 23rd. February, 2015 -- Starting to get ready for Presbytery 

This afternoon Ann, our minister popped in to visit and I took this snap. Ann has really been my first minister -- growing up as I did as a manse-kid and then being a minister myself for so many years. I have enjoyed her ministry and we will miss her and her husband Jack when they leave next week.

Up and walked Mix. It is unbelievably cold today and the wind is hugely strong. We settled into the Bothy and started to get papers ready for Presbytery. Of the fifty or so people who attend Presbytery all but six have email, but that six generate at least half a day’s work each month. No wonder in Aberdeen, we were told last week, the decision had been taken that papers are only sent out by email and that ability to have access to email is something to be thought about when appointing a presbytery elder.

David popped in, in the afternoon and Jack came to visit Mum. Later in the afternoon Ann came to collect Jack and we all shared in afternoon tea (with cream cakes which I had bought this morning when I took the car into the garage to get petrol – the computer said one mile of petrol remaining and my fifty litre tank accepted fifty-three litres of fuel).

After afternoon tea. It was back to the bothy to continue with the Presbytery agenda and then it was time for our evening meal in the farmhouse. More lovely food followed by University Challenge on tv and a very disturbing documentary which seemed to show Malcolm Rifkind in a very unflattering light. I really was quite shocked although I know that was the intention of the programme makers.

Malcolm Rifkind opened our theatre in Buckhaven and I have always watched him kindly but the person captured on the secret filming was not the one I recognised. What a blessing we are not all subject to having our foibles exposed in this way.

I went back out to the Bothy and did a bit more work before settling down to watch the News and some cricket – and yes, last night England did win against Scotland quite convincingly in the end although Kyle Coetzer who used to bat for Durham batted with some spirit for Scotland.

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Sunday 22nd. February, 2015 – Ann’s last ‘official’ Sunday at Duns. 

It was cold today, and windy ... but it was warm inside the church and lovely to see all the daffodils a sign, if one was needed, that Spring is just around the corner

Up and walked Mix before setting off with Mum and Rachel to Gavinton Church where Ann was conducting her final service as minister of the congregation. That’s a bit misleading because Ann retires next Saturday but will still be here next Sunday to conduct her final service and this will be followed by a farewell lunch in the village hall. It was a good service. It seems no time at all since Ann had a year to go -- and now it is gone. We have now been here for fifteen months, fifteen months since I retired and it still feels like yesterday.

Today there was no farewell lunch: we had to make do with coffee in the hall – it was good.

Came back to Mount Pleasant and had lunch in the farmhouse with the family and with Digger’s friend Dave with whom Digger had been out on the town yesterday evening, visiting, so they told me, no fewer than four of the hostelries in Duns.

After lunch I set off for Greenlaw where I attended the Annual General Meeting of the local branch of the SNP. I am enjoying seeing how local democracy works at close quarters. With the election getting closer we were all warned that everything we did we did as ambassadors for the SNP! Fallouts, disagreements and diverting our energies for other purposes is all forbidden! It really does seem that the SNP believes that this seat is one which is distinctly winnable. There were about thirty people present, a far cry from the huge numbers of Friday evening but a massive increase on previous years, I understand. The AGM was conducted in a business-like way by Christine Graham, MSP, from the neighbouring area. I am enormously impressed by Paul Wheelhouse, MSP who is always there, always encouraging and always with something good to share.

I came home via Duns because I needed petrol. When I got to the petrol station I had enough petrol for nine miles according to my on-board computer. Imagine then my horror when the garage night petrol system wouldn’t accept my credit cards and I had to drive home, petrol-less. I now have petrol for five miles left!

Rachel went off to Berwick to attend Evensong and on her return we enjoyed a snack before watching Mr. Selfridge with Mum and Olive. No sooner was that completed than it was time to watch England against Scotland from Christchurch. England made a splendid start but they didn’t press on as I had expected, settling for a score just over 300 when I think that 350 or even more might have been achieved. However, that should be sufficient. I retired to bed during the interval between innings.

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Saturday 21st. February, 2013 – A Good Day 

In the west we had midges and rain and traffic jams; here we have wind. If you doubt that, this used to be a brand-new tarpaulin firmly fixed over the bows of Ianthe, now it barely exists. The wind here can be ferocious .... I still prefer it to the midges, the rain and the traffic jams

I got up late and took Mix for a walk. Then I came into the Bothy and sorted things out a bit before spending some time with midi music files and, in particular, singing my way through Princess Ida.

In the afternoon David arrived and he and I went off to Berwick where I bought the paint, rollers and brushes for dealing with the upstairs in the Hen House – it is only white emulsion but I’m told that the new plaster will drink up a couple of coats very quickly and that only once that is on will we be able to think about the eventual colour. I also finally got Rachel’s bookcases for her new study ordered. They will arrive on the 3rd. of March so that sets a deadline for having that room ready to receive its new furniture.

We dined in the farmhouse and then in the evening we watched an old episode of Foyle’s War which, as usual, I enjoyed. I walked Mix before getting caught up in cricket watching again – by the way, Pakistan did crumble last night and, in the end, West Indies won quite convincingly.

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Friday 20th. February, 2015 – in the office and out at Kelso 

I snapped Olive, Ann and Alison as they were hard at work making kilts. I like Fridays because we always get lunch

Rose early because I had an appointment at the doctor’s surgery to check on my alleged asthma! I really am feeling extremely good and the doctor told me that I did not need to attend the meeting with the nurse next week. I have an inhaler which I am to use if and when I feel the need of it.

Back home I started to catch up on all that had gone by the board while I was away in Crieff and at Stirling. David popped in – it was good to see him – and Rachel and Ann continued with their kilt-making course. Two of their students have now completed their kilts, been awarded their certificates and set off triumphant into the outside world. Mum went off this afternoon to her University of the Third Age book group to continue her study of South American literature.

In the evening, Olive, Mum, Rachel and I went off to Kelso to the Cross Keys hotel to attend the adoption meeting of our local SNP Westminster candidate, Calum Kerr. It was a grand event, around two hundred and fifty people present, the evening chaired by Paul Wheelhouse, MSP with a speech from Calum, an excellent buffet dinner, some musical entertainment and the main speech of the evening by Alex Salmond, MSP. I have heard many politicians speak but what made Alex Salmond stand out for me was his good humour (not his comedy but his good humour which never descended into slanging off his opponents in the way which has become customary at such events). It was, in fact, a family event as Alex Salmond’s sister is the candidate’s agent and at one point the former First Minister sang a duet with his young niece, ‘Jock O’Hazledean’. It is reckoned, I understand, that seventeen thousand votes will win the constituency and the SNP already has more than thirteen hundred members. It is a good start.

Alec Salmond at the Cross Keys Hotel in Kelso. I like this picture (taken by Rachel on her phone) because it catches something of the meeting. Lots of people, lots of people taking pictures and Alex Salmond taking time to wander around and speak to everyone. I am quite sure that he didn’t get his meal (unless his sister kept him a sandwich). It was a thoroughly good evening

All of us, Mum, Olive, Rachel and I, enjoyed the event and admired the way Alec Salmond worked tirelessly to ensure that the evening was success. He must have spoken to, or had his photo taken, with almost everyone and I, for one, was enormously impressed.

Came back home and walked Mix before sitting down to watch a really good fifty overs innings from the West Indies against Pakistan. I suspect that their three hundred and a bit total will be too much for a Pakistan team that is looking more than a little bit jaded. (Mind you, they often start badly and then bounce back – just are the West Indies are bouncing back after defeat by Ireland.)

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Thursday 19th. February, 2015 -- Off to Stirling today! 

Today my car completed 100,000 miles. That’s an awful lot of driving, although I doubt if it has actually been all that far at all, just over the same roads over and over again. I wonder how many miles it did between Luss and Arrochar – and how many more it will do between Mount Pleasant and Duns?

I got up, showered and walked Mix before checking emails and then setting off for Stirling to attend the meeting of the Trustees of the Scottish Pilgrim Routes Forum. It was good to see everyone again and to share in the excitement of all that is happening on the ground. In particular plans were being made for the forum meeting at Old Church’s House in Dunblane in April and then for our big event in the Autumn which this year will be held in Melrose and will be associated with St. Cuthbert’s Way. Both will be events to which to look forward.

I had to leave early to drive home so that I could be ready for the meeting of the Presbytery Business Committee this evening. The main business, as always, is ensuring that everything is ready for the Presbytery meeting at the start of March. We talked about the accounts, ensuring that they are ready for presentation at that meeting, and also about the forthcoming visit by the Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland.

On the way home I bought a sausage supper – I don’t see to have eaten at the farmhouse for such a long time! I walked Mix before bed.

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Wednesday 18th. February, 2015 – Crieff and Berwick 

I took this picture of the main entrance as I left. Crieff Hydro is very grand!

I had intended to get up at seven but I turned over when the alarm went off and woke with a start at quarter to eight. Still I showered and was down at breakfast for eight in time to have something of everything for breakfast. It was a huge plateful of all that a modern hotel provides for its guests, and I certainly did it justice.

There was time to return to my room, do such packing as was necessary, return my luggage to the car and still be in the conference suite for nine. We started with prayers (presented ably by Victoria my neighbouring clerk from Melrose and Peebles presbytery).

Now we were into a session on terms and conditions for presbytery clerks – a session which highlighted the differences between clerks in different presbyteries. While the ‘top table’ had wondered if there was a case for a centralised contract with similar conditions, the clerks themselves seemed to me to be more in favour of a guideline approach. However the session was soon over and we were into another in which we were introduced to matters on the horizon – things about which to be aware as the next Assembly approaches. I found this quite interesting and it led us into coffee before a brief AGM – clerks will be back at Crieff next year for another instalment – and then a short service of Holy Communion before it was time to leave.

One o’clock is a perfect time to drive home from Crieff. I was back in Mount Pleasant by three and the journey around the by-pass took only a little more than ten minutes. I had time to deal with emails and sort myself out a bit (and take Mix for a decent walk) before Rachel and I set out for Berwick to attend the Maltings Theatre where we ended up at a production of Treasure Island by the National Theatre aimed clearly at children and quite significantly rewritten. The children in the theatre clearly enjoyed it and the set was quite stupendous.

On the way home we stopped for a Chinese take-away which we enjoyed at home. It was delicious.

Walked Mix and went to bed.

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Tuesday 17th. February, 2015 – Off to Crieff 

I was given this huge bedroom on the ground floor – what an enormous bed (but very comfy – no wonder I slept in)

I was up and showered and in the car ready to set off for Crieff by six in the morning. It was far too early but an hour later would have been far too late, all brought about, of course, by the necessity of driving round the Edinburgh City By-pass. As it was I hit the by-pass just before seven and even so it took half an hour for that part of the journey. I arrived at Crieff Hydro before nine and was an hour early but that was better than the alternative.

My first impression of the conference was of an awful lot of people, there must have been sixty or seventy people present – that was my first lesson: not all presbyteries (nor presbytery clerks) are created equal. Some presbyteries have clerks, deputy clerks, secretaries and administrators. They have offices and all kinds of facilities. Some are just clerks doing everything from the dining room table of their already busy manse. I sat smugly thinking that I was the only one with a custom-built office in a barn (even if in every other way I was at the underprivileged end of the clerk’s spectrum).

We started with coffee, moved on through worship to a session on clerk’s concerns – and there were many, ranging through work-load and the complexities of data- protection, OSCR, child-protection and so on to the problem-solving, and person management situations in which people found themselves. I was taken off with a group of eight or nine other new clerks to be inducted into the mysteries of form returning and entrusted with a sheet of ‘very important dates’ by which certain returns had to be made, failure to comply with which the Church would spontaneously destruct itself – and it would all be my fault.

So that you can imagine what the conference was like, I took this picture before one of the sessions started

Next a session on useful statistics in which it was certainly suggested that the Church would start asking clerks for new and better data because existing data (which I had just spent a month extracting from Session Clerks throughout the presbytery) may not a) be very useful or b) be read by anyone.

Never mind, the lunch which followed was exceedingly good and I was sitting between my great friend Peter and the Presbytery Clerk of Ayr who presumably thought that I must be OK because I was a friend of Bill who, he told me, had already got the Moderator’s visit in 2016 organised. (Took a note on my pad, kindly provided by the Crieff Hydro, to start getting the Moderator’s Visit for this Easter organised.)

In the afternoon we received three presentations. One on ‘Assembly Future’ consultation, another on a review of the Discipline Acts by a very energetic lawyer (Robert Hynd) who seemed to rejoice in the fact that there were now going to be more criteria for disciplining ministers than at present, including a new crime of ‘conduct unbecoming’ a minister of religion. I was glad that mention too was given to the importance of trying to resolve matters calmly and quietly without recourse to the big stick. I was in truth quite taken-aback by the number of clerks who spoke of the discipline matters they had had to deal with. It is certainly not somewhere I hope to be.

We got some coffee (and a very good sugar donut) before embarking on the final discussion which was on strengthening regional Church structures. How could the Assembly Council assist presbyteries? Here we got into discussions about assistance with such things as local reviews and, in our group, about assisting presbyteries to use the 4% of ministry money allocated to presbyteries for their use.

After prayers, we moved into our rooms and Peter and I went for a drink before dinner. This time I sat between Peter and David (the clerk at Dumbarton and my neighbour from Helensburgh). It was a happy meal, the food was good and Peter splashed out on a really good bottle of wine ( he is one of the high-paid clerks, of course – and has an office, and a secretary who does all of the work) and afterwards we retired to one of the bars for a few more drinks. It was a good evening.

I retired to my room – a huge room on the ground floor of the hotel, big enough for at least one family and beautifully fitted out. I phoned Rachel who had been at Selkirk for the day at a business course and then Peter arrived and we talked into the night.

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Monday 16th. February, 2015 – A lovely day 

It was a lovely day today and in the late afternoon Mix and I went out for a walk. I thought to myself, ‘I haven’t walked along Bramble Avenue since last Autumn, I'll see what it is like today’. Mix was walking ahead of me and without a word from me he turned into Bramble Avenue and started walked along it. Now how do you explain that? Whatever, it was a lovely walk

I was up early today because Simon the plasterer was coming to complete the upstairs of one of our projects. That is all now safely completed. I spent the morning tidying the Bothy. At lunchtime I went to Pearson’s to order coal and then to the garage to fuel my car for the drive to Crieff tomorrow. Back at Mount Pleasant I did some more organising before paying Simon and inspecting all that he has done. It looks super. Tom popped along and he too was impressed.

Mix and I went for a walk and I sorted out my finances – I always seem to do that before I go away, even if it is only for a night or so.

We dined in the farmhouse and then I had a restful evening watching television (University Challenge and then a docudrama based on the unlikely premise that UKIP won the next General Election). I should report that my fears last night were groundless – Chris Gale was out soon after I went to bed (I watched it on my i-pad) and with the West Indies at 87 for 5 I was quietly confident for Ireland. Mind you at 300 for 6, I was a little less so. However, Ireland got there and have claimed another famous scalp. I wonder if Scotland can follow their lead tonight?

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Sunday 15th. February, 2015 – Communion Sunday 

A lovely picture of the communion table, speckled with sun-light, and with the elements covered with their starched white napkins. Just as it should be ...

Walked Mix, showered and soon afterwards set off with Mum and Rachel for Gavinton Church and the service of Holy Communion. Afterwards we joined the congregation for coffee and then returned to Mount Pleasant with David who had coffee and took the lights on the cooker to bits before he set off for a music rehearsal with the Morris dancers.

We had a leisurely lunch in the farmhouse, after which I came across to the Bothy where I spent the afternoon getting everything in order for the Presbytery Business Committee next Thursday. David returned in the late afternoon to fit new bulbs in the cooker and, on her return from Evensong in Berwick, Rachel was delighted.

We all got together to watch Mr. Selfridge and then I watched a bit of cricket before getting to bed – it will be an early start tomorrow, Simon the plasterer will be here However, India have made a good start against the West Indies with two quick wickets – ominously, Chris Gayle is still at the crease.

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Saturday 14th. February, 2015 – A Sorting Out sort of a day and, of course, St. Valentine's Day 

Today Digger fitted the vent to his dome – the idea being to keep the hot air inside during the winter months. I held the vent while Digger fitted the screws (and then I took the picture)

After Mix and I had gone for a walk, we started to sort things out in the Bothy. The accounts arrived from the Presbytery Treasurer so I was able to send out the papers to the members of the Business Committee. Rachel received a copy of the DVD of her television appearance on Border TV and so I had a bit of a look at that as well.

The cricket world cup has started and New Zealand won their opening game. England didn’t., although it is not the end of the world as there are other games for them to win and still qualify for the quarter finals. What is bad, however, is that neither of the umpires knew the rules and it cost James Taylor his maiden international century. Taylor was wrongly given out leg before wicket, a decision which was overturned on review, however at this point James Anderson was given out run out when even I knew that on the umpire raising his finger to give Taylor out lbw the ball became dead. It was a poor show and left Taylor stranded not out on 98. It’s just not cricket! (The overall result was not, of course, affected as Australia were well in the ascendancy.)

David arrived – he has been trying to repair my organ, without much success as yet, but I am grateful to him for trying. He also went off to deal with the battery of the Bongo for Rachel.

Later, Olive, Digger, Mum, Rachel and I went to the Black Bull for our evening meal. As always it was extremely pleasant. This is the life – largely retired but with lots to do, and a glorious theatre down the road (and soon it will be the sailing season).

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Friday 13th. February, 2013 Not Quite as Planned 

Whenever I am passing on a Friday I pop into the Stables and take a picture of the kilt activities which are within. I like to see how they are getting on (and it also reminds them that I am here so that they remember to invite me to join them for lunch, which today as always was most enjoyable)

Today I worked in the Bothy getting everything in order for the Moderator’s visit. I worked away all day and also spent more than an hour on a Skype call with folk from the Green Pilgrimage Network. It was fun to listen to all of the noise from the streets in India – all they heard from here was Mix’s barking when a car appeared in the courtyard

I also had a long chat with the folks from Amble Marina. David, Tom and I had gone down to visit the Marina last year and we had been told of this special deal which they operate for small boats under six metres in length (Olivebank is 5.74 metres). However when I was sent the berthing contract to sign it said that the beam could not be more than 2.2 metres and Olivebank is 2.26 metres (6 centimetres wider than allowed). I phoned and said that if it was a problem I would prefer not to take the boat to Amble and the gentleman in charge (Karl) said that no he would sort things out for me. We’ll see what transpires – boating is fun and I wouldn’t want either to be in a spot which was too tight to easily get in and out or to create problems for others in that area of the marina.

We were to have gone to Scott and Sue’s for our evening meal but Scott has gone down with man flu so we all ate in the farmhouse and then came across to the Granary to watch the Fifth Estate, a film about Wikileaks and its founder Julian Assange. It was fun and afterwards I watched the New Zealand innings as they started their World Cup campaign against Sri Lanka. I have tipped New Zealand to do well in this World Cup and they certainly did well this evening.

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Thursday 12th. February, 2015 – Off to the theatre again 

Mix has been noticing that there are definite signs of Spring in the air; fields are ploughed, the days are lengthening and there is a feeling that everything is starting to wake-up after the winter months

Walked Mix and settled down in the Bothy to try to tie up the loose ends regarding the forthcoming Moderator’s visit. The frustration is always that people are out and that one can’t make contact with them by telephone. However, I made good progress and hope to have everything finalised by tomorrow.

In the afternoon David and I went into Berwick to buy electrical fittings for our projects, lights from HomeBase, plugs and sockets from City Electrical Factors and coffee from Tesco!

Back home, we dined in the farmhouse before Olive and I went off to the Maltings to see Them Beatles (where we were joined by David) – Mum had gone to the Gavinton WRI to hear the story of the area. The Beatles Show was superb, the actors were excellent musicians and told the story through the music, through changing instruments, costumes, hair styles and facial hair, with a big screen showing appropriate newsreel items throughout. By the end of the show we are all on our feet, some dancing, others clapping their hands and most singing along. It was another really first-rate evening. The Maltings certainly does us proud.

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Wednesday 11th. February, 2015 – Transported by the RSC 

At lunchtime today, Tom, Dorothy, David and I ended up at the soup lunch in Gavinton. It was Ann’s last such lunch and to mark the occasion Alison got out her guitar and sang ‘Will you no come back again?’ Mum was also here having come under her own steam with her friend, Annie

Up and about, walking Mix and then met with Alan, the Presbytery Business Convener, to prepare the agenda for the Business Committee meeting next week. I have all the papers ready and will send them out as soon as I get the accounts from the Treasurer.

In the evening Rachel and I went off to Berwick to attend the Maltings Theatre. We were in good time, time enough for me to have a sausage supper from the chip shop next door. The show was magnificent – Love’s Labour’s Lost – I have seen a great number of Shakespeare plays over the last year and I have enjoyed them all enormously but there was something really special about this one. It was staggeringly good. What a wonderful thing these Royal Shakespeare streamings are, making their productions accessible to thousands all around the world. I came home bubbling with excitement about what I had seen. It was too late for the News but I did get trapped into watching some more of The Bill!

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Tuesday 10th. February, 2015 – Another Presbytery Day 

Well, I am always happy to take a picture of the fields around here at harvest time, so why not now when they have been ploughed and will soon have crop sown. Everything around here seems so fertile. It is a lovely place to live

Up and walked Mix before starting on some of the bits and pieces for the Presbytery Business Committee next week. In the afternoon I was joined by two of my presbytery colleagues for a discussion about one of the matters of the moment. It was good for me to have to turn my mind to ecclesiastical matters after a year without such concerns.

Mix and I went for a late afternoon walk – the days are beginning to lengthen again – and then we dined in the farmhouse. I spent some more time in the Bothy but was back in the farmhouse in time for the news. I fell asleep and awoke to flick through the tv channels and found that The Bill was just about to start. It used to be a favourite of mine and before I knew what had happened I had got trapped into watching it, so it turned into a later night than I had planned.

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Monday 9th. February, 2015 – Normality returns 

Mix and I went for a walk just as dusk was falling and I took this picture. I think it catches the mood of this time of year

I was up ready to welcome the plasterer at 7.30 a.m. (he normally arrives about 7.40 a.m.) but today he didn’t get here until a little after eight as his van wouldn’t start. I have to say I wasn’t surprised as when Mix and I went for a walk it was as cold as I can remember it – the sky was clear and it was very icy. However the sun came out and it turned into a glorious day with sun streaming into the Bothy. Tom popped in to see how we were getting on, but was quickly on his way with work to do at May Cottage.

Simon – the plasterer – did a double-take when he arrived at all that we have achieved and it wasn’t long before he was confessing that our progress had taken him by surprise and embarrassed him just a little as he had only set aside one day to work here this week, never expecting us to have the whole of the upstairs complete. It isn’t a problem. He will return next Monday and we have lots of other irons in the fire.

I spent the morning on Green Pilgrimage business, including considerably in excess of an hour on the telephone with members of the European steering group in a conference call. Then this afternoon I worked on Presbytery business. There is a lot to do but I can happily work away at that this week – a lovely quiet week in the Bothy with little physical work to do. Maybe my body will recover!

Mix and I went for a late afternoon walk and then we dined in the farmhouse with the family. In the evening Rachel watched Broadchurch and I did some more work as I still haven’t got into that series. I did watch the news and 2015 before bed – today seems to have gone on for such a long time, and it also seems an awful long time since yesterday. Still that’s a very good complaint to have.

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Sunday 8th. February, 2015 – And a really relaxing Sunday again. 

The Church flowers were given to Dorothy this week. She celebrated her birthday and has also been a bit under the weather

Really appreciated today after all the hard work of the week. I rose, walked Mix and went with Mum and Rachel to Gavinton Church where the readings were of Naaman’s leprosy cure, the leper healed by Jesus, and running the race (from Paul’s letter to the Church at Corinth). Ann’s sermon was on the theme of ‘Ctrl c’, or ‘copying’ Jesus’ compassion for those in need. (Pity is a feeling, compassion is an action.)

We stayed for coffee with the congregation and then came home to tidy away the tools from the Hen House and give everything a final clean in preparation for the plasterer tomorrow. Then we lunched in the farmhouse, after which I spent the afternoon first having coffee with Tom (who had come to inspect the Hen House) and then working on emails and so on for the presbytery. This will be a Presbytery week I imagine.

Rachel went off to Evensong and on her return we had a snack before being joined by Mum and Olive (still elated by Raith Rover’s 2-1 defeat of Rangers) to watch Mr. Selfridge. It was good and I was glad to get to bed not too late as I will have an early start tomorrow.

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Saturday 7th. February, 2015 – The plaster-boarding is complete! 

What an incredible sky this evening – it bodes well for tomorrow

Rose, walked Mix and had a lovely shower ( my first of two today). I drove along to Tom’s and together we went to Cranshaws where we helped dismantle furniture and load it into a van.

By the time I got back to Mount Pleasant Rachel had cleaned the Hen House throughout the top floor. Together we set about completing the plaster-boarding and then removing all of the debris from the rooms. Everything was completed just in time for supper. I enjoyed that meal more than I have for a while – the relief that we have completed our task and that everything is now ready for the plasterer on Monday; and the knowledge that I will not need to spend more days plaster-boarding, at least for a while.

After another shower (plaster dust gets everywhere) I relaxed in front of the television watching an old Foyle’s War, and enjoying it enormously. Job done! Fabulous.

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Friday 6th. February, 2015  

Shona with her Mum and Dad (and Ann and Rachel) setting off for home having received her certificate and completed her kilt

Today Rachel’s celebration was that Shona, one of her students, completed her kilt. It looks magnificent and some of her family came to see where she was learning and to witness her receiving her certificate.

I worked away all day in the Hen House, you guessed it, plaster-boarding. Tom came in for a while this morning and helped me with the two big sheets with which I required a lift and by the end of the day I could see that progress was being made.

We all dined in the farmhouse and later I relaxed in front of the television with Death in Paradise but soon I was asleep, waking in time to walk Mix and retire to bed.

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Thursday 5th. February, 2015 – And another day hard at work 

Rachel (with her hair cut) and Ann leaning over the Mount Pleasant farm gate

There is little to report today. I walked the dog and then got stuck in to plaster-boarding in the Hen House. I plaster-boarded until six o’clock at which point I went and joined the family in the farmhouse for dinner.

In the evening, Olive, Mum and Ann (here for the kilt class tomorrow) joined Rachel and me to watch a film which Rachel had selected for us, entitled ‘Albert Nobbs’. It was set in Ireland in 1898 and centred around a woman who held down a job as maitre domo at a hotel by virtue of disguising herself as a man. It was a most unusual film (which is not to say that it was an odd film) and I enjoyed it enormously, particularly the performance of Janet McTeer (another woman playing a man). Well, you have to see it to understand.

Rachel helped me with the plaster-boarding in the morning before going to get her hair cut in the afternoon. I am making progress but still face a bit of an up-hill task to get everything done by Monday.

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Wednesday 4th. February, 2015 – Back in dungarees 

This is the window which Rachel plaster-boarded and has turned into something which is a thing of beauty (or at least it will be once it has been plastered next Monday). This house building really is quite satisfying

Rachel and I had intended to start early in the Hen House but our start was delayed because of a contretemps about our insulation delivery. I had ordered a load of insulation from Insulation Direct. It was promised for yesterday but hadn’t arrived. I telephoned this morning and they ‘phoned back to say that the consignment had gone missing en route and that they couldn’t now deliver any insulation until next week. In the end they refunded my money and left me without insulation, all pretty shoddy.

Next I went on to the website of Wickes who advertised next day delivery and free delivery for orders over £300. Not however, as I discovered, if you live near Berwick. Delivery here couldn’t be made until next week and there would be a delivery charge of £80 because we live in such an out of the way area! What bugged me was not the charge or the delivery arrangements but the fact that the web-site said something different (until you read the small print). I think it is terribly dishonest and I told the company so. However the upshot is not all bad, I am getting my delivery tomorrow and it won’t cost me £80, but I don’t think that I will buy from Wickes again.

But that didn’t help with the insulation I needed for today. I hadn’t gone to Pearsons (who supply just about everything I use) because I knew that they didn’t keep slab insulation. But I went up and told them about my problem and they took me away to a far corner of the yard, opened a lorry cover and produced something which got us through today. Now they really are stars and we are fortunate to have them so close to hand.

I came home and we got started – there then followed a stream of hugely pleasant interruptions: first Ann bringing Mum home from the book club they both attend in Duns (we had coffee together), then David who really is quite crippled with his bad knee but who managed to climb the stairs to the Hen House to advise on where to make holes in the plaster board for electrical installations in the future, and finally Tom and Dorothy on their way home from getting the car repaired well that's another story, too). Today is Dorothy’s birthday so we drank coffee and ate Panettone to celebrate.

Rachel and I had set a target of completing one wall in the bedroom today and we almost made it, returning after supper in the farmhouse (and after I had driven Mum to the Guild in Duns) to complete the final roof panel.

I watched an interesting programme on television about Tyndale (the Bible translator) and then came out to the Bothy to catch up on emails. Then it was time to walk Mix before retiring. It will be another hard day in dungarees tomorrow. (fun though!)

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Tuesday 3rd. February, 2015 – A Presbytery Day 

It really isn’t anything to write home about, but this is the first snow we have seen since we came to live in the Borders. While everyone else has been having quite a difficult time, our climate has been gentle and kind. (Those who know Rachel will not be surprised to see that we still have Christmas lights up)

After yesterday’s activity in the Hen House working manually with plaster board, today could not have been more different as I spent all day getting things ready for the presbytery meeting this evening. In my defence, it was my first meeting as Presbytery Clerk and I wanted to have all eventualities covered. In the afternoon I had a shower and changed into my dark suit and made my way to the Duns Church Hall to do what I could to assist the folk who were preparing for a reception at 6 p.m. before the Presbytery, planned to enable folk to say farewell to Ann, our minister who retires at the end of the month, having been here for twelve years.

It was a good reception, and a friendly one, well supported and with great food! Then it was off to the Presbytery meeting at which a formal good-bye was said to Ann, and she was able to reply.

Back home, I came across to the Bothy and prepared the minutes, getting them distributed before I went to bed.

Meanwhile Rachel and Olive and the rest of the kilt-making clan had been away on an outing to see around the Loch Carron mill visitors’ centre in Selkirk. They came home having had a great day out. Mum’s adventure had been to get her hair done.

As night fell it began to snow and, for the first time here this year, began to lie as well. I walked Mix and went to bed.

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Monday 2nd. February, 2015 – Candlemas 

Rachel and I worked all day in the Hen House today and at the end of it we have completed the ceiling and all but completed the wall which looks out on to the courtyard (if you know what I mean). There is still a lot to do before next week but we shall be at it all Wednesday and would hope to have the bedroom completed by the evening

Rose, walked Mix and changed into my dungarees before setting about the bed room in the Hen House. By teatime we had achieved our target for the day but I am absolutely exhausted. I suppose I am nearer seventy than sixty-five but I almost never feel it. Today I do.

We dined in the farmhouse and I was almost too tired to eat (it is the drilling and working above my head which seems to do for me; that and scrabbling around on the floor).

In the evening I retired to the Bothy to start to get things ready for the Presbytery meeting tomorrow. There is very little business but I am anxious to remember all that needs to be done!

I will sleep well tonight.

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Sunday 1st. February, 2015 – So much to hope for ... but not today! 

Through the wonders of television I was able to be transported to Australia this morning: to Melbourne for the Australian Tennis Final, and to Perth for the final of the tri-nations cricket contested by England and Australia. I remember as a teenager how I sat up and listened to the early broadcasts on the radio and marvelled that we could hear a voice from so far away and so share in the sporting events of yesteryear as they happened. Today television enables us to be there. Unfortunately the results did not go our way today. Andy Murray lost to Novak Djokovic (pictured above in his moment of triumph) and England slumped to a dismal defeat against Australia. Not all is lost however. Andy played better than he has for a while and has more opportunities to win a major later this year; and England are really in Australia to acclimatise themselves for the World Cup which will start shortly. There will be a lot more to watch

Rose and walked Mix, trying to keep an eye on both sporting events mentioned above.

Went with Rachel and Mum to Gavinton Church where Jeff, the new assistant at Duns, was sharing in leading the service with Ann. Tomorrow is Candlemas and the appropriate stories of Simeon and Anna were at the heart of our service. After the service we braved the icy under-foot conditions and joined everyone else for coffee in the hall.

Back home I was sorry to see that England had lost and I suffered as Andy Murray went down to defeat. We joined the rest of the family for lunch in the farmhouse and later fell asleep in front of the fire (as one does on a cold Sunday afternoon). Later Tom looked in and we talked through what I still have to do in the Hen House, had a coffee and put the world to rights.

Rachel went off to Evensong (again it was a Candlemas Service) while I dealt with Presbytery emails. We had a snack (well, more accurately I had a Chinese take-away) and then Olive and Mum joined us in the Granary to watch Mr. Selfridge. Following the News, I walked Mix and retired to bed. It is going to be a very busy week.

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Saturday 31st. January, 2015 – It’s the end of January already 

It still isn’t tidy – and all of my books have still not been brought here – but it feels comfy and it feels like home. Even although it is bitterly cold outside it heats up warm, and Mix and I love it

Rose, walked Mix and soon it was time to welcome two of my ministerial colleagues who popped in for a discussion – being Presbytery Clerk is helping me to get to know so many people.

Once my colleagues had lift I had a snack lunch before changing into old clothes. Rachel and I moved all of the wood from upstairs in the Hen House to the ground floor on the basis that if I continued with the plaster-boarding and we didn’t move the wood to the floor below, we would never get it down the stairs.

Mix and I then worked away in the bedroom and completed some more plaster-boarding – but there is still a lot to do. Late in the afternoon I walked Mix, took Mum on a tour of the Hen House and then we all ate together in the farmhouse (except for Digger who was away in Edinburgh watching Raith Rovers draw with Hibs -- a goal in extra time achieving a good result for the Kirkcaldy side).

In the evening Rachel and I watched ‘Foyle’s War’. These are not now new episodes but the programme is so good that it bears re-watching. I walked Mix in the snow and went to bed.

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Friday 30th. January, 2015 – A Trip to Jarrow 

I left Mount Pleasant this morning shortly before Dorothy was about to give a spinning demonstration to the kilt-making class. I arrived at Bede’s World at Jarrow and when I walked through the door the first thing I saw was a spinning group in full flow. Wonderful!

Up and walked Mix before watching the final part of the England versus India fifty overs game to see which team would play Australia in the final on Sunday. England won – they stumbled badly at the start, recovered magnificently in the middle and then did their best to throw the game away at the end. They did finally overcome, as a result, we shall go to church on Sunday morning while both Andy Murray and the England cricket team make their plays for famous victories.

Showered, got ready and set off with David (my kindly chauffeur for the day) to meet with the folk from Bede’s World and from St. Paul’s Church. It was a lovely meeting, part of my work for the Green Pilgrimage network. It was a particular thrill to meet Gillian, the new priest in charge at St. Paul’s who had only been in post since Sunday.

After the meeting David and I drove first to Newcastle to see if we could do anything about getting the Yamaha organ repaired (it seems that it is going to be harder than we thought) and then to IKEA where David bought two armchairs. We drove home as quickly as we could as David had a meeting to attend in Berwick.

I settled in to have some supper and then to watch an excellent programme on television tracing the story of the symphony. Afterwards Mix and I retired to the Bothy to catch up on emails.

Rachel’s kilt-making course had gone well – even without Ann who was snowbound in Gourock. David arrived late on in the evening to collect Beth, his dog, who had been being looked after by Rowan. It really is all-go .. but we wouldn’t have it any other way.

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Thursday 29th. January, 2015 – Another interesting day 

By the end of today it is possible to take a picture of the bedroom in the Hen house that begins to look as though one day it (the bedroom) will have walls

Rose and didn’t walk Mix because as I sorted the fire in the lounge I discovered that Andy Murray was playing in the semi-final of the Australian Open on tv. I determined that I would watch the first set and then would take Mix for his walk. It was a real tussle which finally Andy Murray lost (although I thought he was playing well). I took Mix for his walk, returning to the Bothy to catch up on Presbytery emails and other bits and pieces, only to discover that while the first set had taken ages, the second set had taken next to no time and that Andy Murray had won it six games to love. I was hooked and had to watch the whole of the match (well, I’m retired so why shouldn’t I?)

I took my i-pad (and my trusty dog) upstairs in the Hen House and for the rest of the morning and the first part of the afternoon I worked on the plaster-boarding of the bedroom (with more than half an eye on the tennis playing away on my i-pad). Andy Murray won and I continued to plaster-board.

Later one of my ministerial colleagues came to visit. I have to say that the real joy of being presbytery clerk is in meeting my colleagues (well, if I wasn’t clerk I wouldn’t have any colleagues, I suppose) and learning from them. I came away from the afternoon enthused by learning from someone else’s experience, and of the commitment and dedication with which folk approach ministry today in what are far harder times than people like me can remember from forty years ago. No wonder I remain optimistic about our Church.

We all dined together in the farmhouse and then I returned to the Hen House to do a little bit more work – you see we have a deadline: the plasterer is returning a week on Monday and he will expect me to have made significant progress.

David arrived and chatted and soon afterwards I gave up and went inside to relax in front of the television for a little while before walking Mix and retiring to bed.

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Wednesday 28th. January, 2015 – Lots of Different Activities! 

This is the Hen House bedroom ready for us to start work. We hope to completely plaster-board the room over the next couple of weeks. It shouldn’t take all that time, but there are so many other things to do as well – as today’s story indicates

I got up and walked Mix, my but it was cold today. Then I moved into the Bothy with lots of bits and pieces to do for the presbytery. I must admit that I did get side-lined by the Big Bash finale from Australia where the Perth Scorchers (for whom I was rooting) won against the Melbourne Sixers at Canberra on the final ball in one of the most exciting T20 cricket matches I have ever seen. Brett Lee, playing his last ever cricket match before retirement, with the scores level with three balls to go, bowled out two of the Scorchers and on the final ball, had it not been for a fumbled throw-in, would have had the batsman run out. As it was the Scorchers scraped home off that final ball. It was spectacular.

At this point I went to the Hen House and cleared the bedroom in preparation for plaster-boarding. Rachel and I started by plaster-boarding the ceiling, not all of it, we will complete it next time. But we are making progress.

David arrived and I had coffee with him and soon afterwards I took part in a conference call with other members of the Green Pilgrimage Network. These are exciting times for the network and I enjoyed hearing from my colleagues.

In the evening I went off to a presbytery committee meeting, returning home just after nine – Wolf Hall had started on the television so I kept out of the way (working in the Bothy) until it was over so that I can watch it all. Instead I watched the News while I ate a belated supper before walking Mix and going to bed.

It has been a hugely varied day – but quite fun!

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Tuesday 27th. January, 2015 -- The studio is plastered 

The studio has now been plastered and is starting to dry – some bits will take longer than others because of the remedial work which had to be done around our fairly inferior joins. But once it is dried and painted it is going to look superb

Rose early and welcomed Simon before quarter to eight. He was soon hard at work and completed the plastering by the end of the day. He is coming back a week next Monday when we will hopefully have some more plaster board ready for him to plaster (and maybe we will be better at it by then as well).

I spent the morning getting the presbytery papers together and sent out for the meeting next Monday. Tasks like these make one realise just how easy e-mail makes everything (and how cheap as well).

I then started work on the congregational statistics which have to be sent in to Edinburgh at the end of the month. We are still a few missing, but I guess that is normal.

Having worked through to the late afternoon, Mix and I went for a walk. David had called in earlier and had taken my organ away to see if it can be repaired. He left Beth, his dog, and Rachel took her for a walk with Rowan while Mum was getting her hair done.

We all dined together in the farm house and later in the Granary we watched the film 'Anonymous', a thriller based on the theory that Shakespeare’s plays weren’t actually written by him. I enjoyed the film enormously, real political intrigue and quite believable in an unbelievable kind of a way – and it was lovely and warm in front of the fire with snow forecast for tomorrow. And tomorrow could be quite exciting too with the Scorchers (from Perth) in the final of the Big Bash in Australia while, also in Australia India take on England for the right to play Australia in the final of the three-way competition in preparation for the cricket world cup. And Andy Murray is into the semi-final of the tennis – quite fun for the middle of winter.

We walked the dogs and retired to bed. In every way a very good day.

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Monday 26th. January, 2015 – Rachel, Ann and Olive are on the television! 

I took this picture before eight o’clock this morning just before Simon started work on plastering over the plasterboards. This is the before, watch this space for the after ...

Rose early and welcomed Simon the plasterer about quarter to eight. I helped him carry the plaster up to the studio and then left him to it. About nine, Tom and David arrived and David moved the light to enable Simon to have free access to the ceiling. Soon they went on their way and Simon set about his task with gusto.

I retired to the Bothy to do some of the Presbytery tasks which were awaiting me. I stopped for a bit of lunch around one and then it was back to the Bothy again. David looked in and, as we cannot get Border Life on our televisions, or so we thought, we arranged to drive over to his house this evening to catch the programme filmed here a couple of weeks ago.

Then it was time for me to join a conference telephone call with other members of the Green Pilgrimage Steering group to discuss the development of our movement. There is a lot going on, not least the folk from Jarrow and Bede’s World becoming full members of the network. The call lasted fully ninety minutes and there will be a further call on Wednesday – so many exciting things to arrange, and telephone or skype is so much ‘greener’ than all journeying to meetings.

We dined in the farmhouse and then Rachel and I set off for David’s home only to discover on our arrival that we had just missed the programme which was on thirty minutes earlier than we had understood. We drove home (after a tour of David’s establishment) to discover that Mum had got the programme on her television. However, I was able to raise it on my computer and we all sat in the Bothy and watched it together.

The programme was excellent, centering on Ann and Rachel, with cameo performances from Olive and Shona, and Sandy on the loom – and Mount Pleasant looked good as well. It was beautifully filmed and well presented by Fiona Armstrong who had done the girls proud.

Rachel went off to watch Broadchurch while I did some more work before walking Mix and getting off to bed. Simon will be here early tomorrow morning too!

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Sunday 25th. January, 2015 – An extremely busy Sunday 

This afternoon I had to drive nine miles south of our home to the picturesque village of Coldstream to attend a meeting. I parked in a little off-road car park, from which this was the view. Special, isn’t it?

The day started badly, at seven-thirty with Gavinton Church relying on our organ to supply the music, our electronic organ had totally given up the ghost. What to do? After a lot of experimenting I managed to email the music files to my i-pad, purchase an app to enable me to play them on the i-pad and then connect the i-pad to the speaker from the bass guitar in the summer house. It wasn’t perfect, not least because the slightest variation in volume seemed to be magnified a hundred-fold by the speaker.

Up in church we got the system set up and as the service progressed I thought that it wasn’t that bad – a bit fuzzier than the organ but certainly better than it might have been. Then we had our ‘disaster’. It came with I, the Lord of sea and sky. If you know the modern hymn you’ll know that it is one of those pieces which has accompaniment between lines and doesn’t just go note by note through the singing. Unfortunately the first two lines are, as with many hymns, the same. Rachel had provided both as an introduction, but the congregation started singing after just the first line. Now a real live organist would have been able to adapt, but not one who is playing something which has been pre-recorded. So we got in a bit of a muddle as you may imagine. Still, it would have happened just as much if we had had the organ. The lesson has been learned that with a hymn like that, one has to provide just a single line introduction and then sing loudly to ensure that everyone has got started!

The service was an interesting one with a speaker from the board of the Berwickshire Youth Trust who spoke enthusiastically about the work of the Trust’s staff members in local schools and in youth camps. Ann also spoke about Homelessness Sunday and the challenge which homelessness presents both to our country and to our Church.

I wasn’t able to stay for coffee today (Mum and Rachel did) but Tom, David and I had to drive to David’s home to transport some furniture into Berwick. That done, Tom dropped me off at Mount Pleasant where I just had time to change before driving off to Coldstream where there was a meeting which I wanted to attend. I enjoy Coldstream. It has character -- and wonderful views of the Tweed and of England beyond.

Back home, I enjoyed a late lunch, kept for me by Olive, and soon Rachel was setting off for Berwick where she attended a joint service between her Anglican Church and St. Andrew’s Church of Scotland. She enjoyed it very much.

On her return we enjoyed a snack together and watched the start of the new season of Mr. Selfridge – there were shots of the shop windows which reminded me of Rachel and my visit just before Christmas this year, and the lovely windows decorated for the season.

I was anxious to get to bed after walking Mix – tomorrow is going to be a busy day.

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Saturday 24th. January, 2015 – A Really Good Day 

A picture of Ann with her Vestiarium Scoticum – I suppose this is to kilt makers what the Rossdhu Book of Hours was to us at Luss. It is the first published work which records tartans and ascribes them to their clans. Whether it is a work of scholarship or a sophisticated sales brochure is open to debate; certainly this 1840 work, of which Ann’s is a superb example, is highly sought after and much admired

Rose walked Mix and saw Ann off on her journey home. Then Rachel and I set about the studio in the Hen House, completing the plaster-boarding and clearing the room before cleaning it thoroughly so that it is ready for the plasterer on Monday.

That done I had a snack lunch and Scott and Sure arrived to share with Mum and Olive some of Scott’s family research. I did a bit more work and then ended up in the Bothy with the organ, singing through the Gilbert and Sullivan opera Patience – absolutely fabulous. Rachel continued polishing the music files for Gavinton for tomorrow.

Rachel and I dined in the farmhouse. It was just us as Olive and Digger were off to Scott’s to play a game, and Mum was off to the Gavinton Burns’ Supper, driven there and back by David . One day I will rediscover my appreciation of Burns’ Suppers but I suppose I had more than my fill during the last fifteen or so years and I had a fabulous evening with Rachel watching the very first Foyle’s War in front of a roaring fire. What could be better?

We walked the dogs and went to bed.

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Friday 23rd. January, 2015 -- Another day at the Office 

Ann admires Kate’s work – that really does look good!

Up and walked Mix and then started work in the Bothy – all Presbytery bits and pieces, emails, statistics and preparation for the next Presbytery. Next door in the Stables the kilt-making course was going well and at lunch time David came to visit and he and I joined the ladies for lunch in the farmhouse.

In the afternoon it was more of the same but I also found a moment to reprise some Gilbert and Sullivan to the strains of the organ I now have in the Bothy. Mix and I went for a walk and afterwards I showered before we all went out for a meal to the Black Bull – Mum, Rachel, Olive, Ann, Digger and me. The cause of the celebration? Well when we moved here Mum’s flat hadn’t sold so we had to take out a mortgage for a small part of the cost of the property. Yesterday it was all paid off so we are now beholden to no-one. Halleluiah!

It was a lovely meal. I had breaded mushrooms stuffed with stilton and served in a garlic cream sauce, followed by prawn curry served with popadums and chips (well, it should have been rice but I had a very obliging waitress), followed by sherry trifle, washed down with coca-cola and followed by an expresso.

We came back to the Granary for tea coffee and chat. A really good evening.

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Thursday 22nd. January, 2015 – And another day yoked up 

Ann has arrived in preparation for the kilt-making course tomorrow and now, over a cup of tea from Rachel’s favourite tartan tea-pot, they are planning tomorrow. Mix has wandered into the shot, wondering no doubt what all of the hilarity is about. After all, kilt-making is a serious business

Got up and walked Mix before moving into the Bothy to continue sorting through the Presbytery bits and pieces. However, almost at once the phone rang with a presbytery query and once started the phone rang all morning. It was just like being back at Luss. Although I didn’t even get started on what I had planned to do today I did learn a lot and I did begin to feel useful as the day went on.

Mix and I moved the organ from the summer house into the Bothy and I prepared some music for a funeral at Arrochar tomorrow and also for Sunday at Gavinton when we shall be standing in for Gay.

Rachel was out at her glass-making this morning. David arrived at lunch time and did some work in the Hen House – we are trying to get everything ready for the plasterer next week. Later in the afternoon I took Mix for a walk and then Ann arrived and soon it was time for us all to eat together in the farmhouse.

In the evening I retired to the Bothy to enable Ann and Rachel to use the lounge for their preparations. I had a piece of music to find for Luss Church — which I eventually found and then wrote my first Allen midi file for a long, long while. (Normally I write files for the electronic midi keyboard organs and Rachel writes files for the Allen Organ but Rachel is deep into her kilt-making course so I did it this time.) And later still I watched a bit of television before bed (having walked Mix beforehand, of course.) Part of me grudges having responsibilities again, but part of me is thoroughly enjoying it and I suspect that part will gradually take over the other part (at least until the sailing season starts).

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Wednesday 21st. January, 2015 – A day in harness 

Now that I have evacuated the spare room I have fitted up a desk behind the sofa in the Bothy. It works very well. I have a computer and printer and some filing space as well. I also have a little dog who sits beside me while I work

Up and walked Mix before settling down to deal with all of the matters which flowed from the meeting of the Business Committee last night: correspondence and arrangements. In spite of my belief that it really wouldn’t take too long, it took me all day today and there is still more to be done. However, in my defence, this is the first time around and there won’t always be a Moderatorial visit to arrange.

In the middle of the morning I had to attend the surgery for a further consultation with my doctor, taking with me a graph showing my ‘blowing power’ three times a day for the last fifteen days. My power doesn’t seem to be in doubt, it is the variability which is raising concerns. I have to continue with my ‘blowing diary’, keep away from cigarette smoke and dust in the atmosphere and have a further meeting next month – so it can’t be very serious, just a mild asthma, it seems.

After lunch I continued working in the Bothy until Rachel returned from her visit to the dentist in Edinburgh at which point I took Mix for a walk (the days really are starting to draw out) and soon afterwards we all dined in the farmhouse – well, Mum was there but didn’t eat because she was going to the Duns Guild Burns’ Supper. I drove her there and she had a good time.

Rachel, Olive and I watched Wolf Hall, the first episode, and enjoyed it enormously. It will be good to see how it develops but it has made a good start. I walked Mix and went to bed. I have enjoyed today.

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Tuesday 20th. January, 2015 – The Business Committee 

This has been Digger’s project over recent times: designing and constructing this bookcase which neatly fills the alcove beside the fireplace in their lounge. In recent days books have been emptied from the barn and loaded onto the shelves; the empty spaces are for books which are piled upstairs and will soon make their way down to the new library. It looks good!

I rose, walked Mix, and got the Bothy ready for my meeting this morning with Alan, the Presbytery Business Convener. In my new job as Presbytery Clerk I am responsible for arranging a number of these meetings and, before the first one took place, I was anxious to talk it all through with the convener. I enjoyed meeting with Alan very much.

By the time he left, Rachel and Mum (who had already been to the hairdresser) were setting out for lunch at Clare’s. (Some lunch – it was nearly five before they returned home!) I made myself a snack and then settled down to get everything properly in order for the Business Committee which met this evening in Duns Church. That done, Mix and I went for a walk before it got dark.

I really enjoyed the Business Committee – when things needed done, people volunteered and there was a real enthusiasm and lack of cynicism in the meeting. I had gone early and had the key to the hall. I went in and groped everywhere but couldn’t find a light switch. David arrived shortly afterwards and immediately discovered the switches – of course, being equipped for folk of all ages and abilities, the switches were just where I had been feeling for them ... but much lower down.

We were out by half-past eight and to celebrate I went for a Chinese take-away. Life is just too good.

I came home, had supper and then prepared and circulated the minutes before walking Mix and retiring to bed. Another great day.

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Monday 19th. January, 2015 -- Hard at work  

Here is the first item in the new spare room. I bought it from a travelling rug salesman. I know you shouldn’t do that but I enjoyed it and I like the rug. I used to buy similar rugs from a similar van salesman when I lived in Buckhaven, thirty years ago – and I still have the rugs and they are still looking very good

Up and walked Mix and then started preparing for the Presbytery Business Committee tomorrow. Tom arrived and I went off with him to help him unload a complete toilet from the back of his trailer before driving with him to Pearson’s to buy plaster board which we then unloaded at his new home. (Of course, we did stop off at Pearson’s for lunch while we were there).

Back home I spent the rest of the day in the Bothy, right up until almost eleven, working on Presbytery papers. Once I have got everything sorted out, it will be much easier.

I walked Mix and was glad to get to bed. Happy days!

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Sunday 18th. January, 2015 – A cold Sunday 

The flowers in Church this morning were provided by Mum and bought and put in the vase by Rachel (yesterday). They looked very good and it is a lovely thought that every week flowers are taken to folk who are elderly or ill in the community

Rose and walked Mix (it was very cold and quite wet). I drove Mum to Church – Rachel drove to Edinburgh where she met up with Ann and together they went to the SECC to an exhibition of folk who were running similar businesses to their own. They made several good contacts and Rachel came home at the end of the day full of plans.

After church I ran Bridget home (Rachel was away and Tom was not at Church as he was going to be the duty elder at Cranshaws). Normally I might have gone with Tom but I was the reader at the service in Gavinton (standing in for Rachel as she was away in Glasgow).

Mum and I returned home after coffee and it wasn’t long before I was setting out to Greenlaw, to the Memorial Hall, where I attended the hustings for the SNP candidate to represent our area in the General Election in May. I was fascinated because this is something I haven’t seen before. There were three prospective candidates, each one very different from the others and the event was thoroughly good humoured and positive. I enjoyed it very much.

Back home Rachel and I enjoyed a snack meal and then settled down to watch the new episode of Foyle’s War. It was excellent. I should have gone to bed at this point but first I watched the News and then I got engaged in a quiz programme which I had to see through to the end. Still, it has been a good day.

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Saturday 17th. January, 2015 -- A long lie and a finished project 

At last the room is completely cleared out – the little cupboards are empty and everything is ready for its new life

Slept in today. In fact it was about half-past ten before I got up and walked Mix. It was lovely and I was so comfortable.

I spent the morning completing the clean-up of the spare room and the moving of the final items either to the summer house or to the bothy. Then I made myself some lunch: chicken, chips and hash browns; before moving into the bothy to find a place for all the new items and to deal with emails and other items of concern.

We dined at six and then in the evening Olive and Mum joined us to watch the 3D version of Titanic. It was superb and I enjoyed it very much. Walked the dogs and went to bed. It has been a very quiet Saturday but a most satisfactory one

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Friday 16th. January, 2015 – Kilt-making in the Granary 

I took this picture of some of the activity within the Granary today. Digger and I struggled across with the huge table top at first light, but everyone was warm and happy

Up and walked Mix and while everyone was at work making kilts, I was across in the Bothy trying to make the place look tidy enough for me to use to chat to folk as well as to work.

I dealt with Presbytery emails and messages and later in the morning one of my ministerial colleagues came in to visit me and spent an enlightening (for me) couple of hours.

Soon it was time for me to shower and get ready for my visit to the medical practice at Duns where I underwent a number of tests on my lungs. I was delighted to learn that my x-ray results were normal, and the tests today ruled out both an infection and asthma – in fact my ‘blowing’ results were good (the product of so much voice projection from the pulpit over so many years, I expect). I am to have a further session with my doctor next Wednesday: they really do take very good care of us. (I am also to have an hour session with a life-style doctor. I expect the question of my weight will be raised – how is that now I am retired I am so active, working on building projects from dawn to dusk, eat well but not to excess, walk the dogs and haven’t a worry in the world ... and still continue to put weight on?)

I popped in to see Dorothy and Tom later in the afternoon and then enjoyed my supper with the family before setting off for Ayton to attend a class about telephone canvassing. I found it fascinating and I was impressed by the tools which are provided for those who wish to be involved and by the numbers of people who wanted to take part.

I came home and walked Mix along with Rachel and Rowan and soon it was time for bed. Yet another day for which to give thanks.

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Thursday 15th. January, 2015 – Off to Cranshaws 

The entrance to Cranshaws Kirk, a beautiful old building in the village of that name where our congregation holds a service twice a month

Up and walked Mix and soon afterwards Tom and Dorothy arrived: Dorothy to go with Rachel into Berwick for their glass-class, Tom to take me to Cranshaws where we were to track down a smell which had appeared around the organ at a funeral earlier in the week.

We arrived in Cranshaws and smelled everything we could find. Yes, there is a smell of damp in the small ‘vestry area’ and a smell, now fairly faint, which suggests animal activity around the organ. Ann arrived while we were sniffing and told us that the smell was almost nothing now compared with how it had been. So we ensured that there was plenty of air around and hope that the problem will be away by the weekend.

Tom drove me home and I continued with the work of sorting out the spare room – moving lots to be stored into the summerhouse (which is now bulging) and much to be used into the bothy (which is also starting to bulge). Ann arrived to be here for the kilt-making tomorrow and, after supper, along with Mum and Olive, we all settled down in the Granary to watch the Falklands Play – a film about Mrs. Thatcher’s Falkland adventure. It made for good watching and we have planned another film night for Saturday.

Tonight is extremely windy and bitterly cold. I have persuaded them to have the kilt-making course in the Granary tomorrow on the basis that warm kilt-makers are likely to be better kilt-makers. I’m not sure that Rachel agrees.

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Wednesday 14th. January, 2015 – Progress 

Today was the day of the January lunch in aid of Church funds at Gavinton Church. We are a small congregation but, as the picture shows, lunches are well supported. Today we were served soup and cake by Gay and Christine. It was excellent

Rose, walked Mix and settled into the Bothy to deal with Presbytery emails and telephone calls before carrying items across to the store in the summer house and then having a shower before driving with Rachel to Gavinton for the monthly Church lunch.

On the way home we popped into Tom’s new house to see how work was progressing. It is all going very well.

Before we visited Tom’s new house, over lunch, Tom – with the aid of his napkin – demonstrated to Rachel some of the alterations he had been making

While at May Cottage, I met Simon who is a plasterer and who agreed to come and have a look at the Hen House with a view to doing some plastering for us. David came back to Mount Pleasant with us to advise us on some of the work which is outstanding (and to repair a vacuum cleaner and take away a tape recorder to repair).

I continued to clear away items from the spare room. The table went across to the Bothy and I worked through until Simon arrived soon after half past four to give me a quote for the work I want done. I enjoyed meeting him enormously and soon Tom joined us for coffee and a chat. It seems that the professional view is that for amateurs we haven’t done too badly with our plaster-boarding (but we should have known to fit the board into the channels around the skylights, and putting in boards backside forwards is a definite no-no).

After dinner, I did some more work but then capitulated (so I haven’t finished as I said I would yesterday – but I feel that I have made giant steps forward today) and spent the rest of the evening watching television (two episodes of Smiley’s People from 1982) in front of the fire (it is very cold). You get to do that when you are retired.

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Tuesday 13th. January, 2015 -- More of the same 

I have rearranged the Bothy to enable me to store more in it – temporarily, you understand!

I got up and walked Mix and then spent some time dealing with emails in the Bothy, there were quite a lot so this took quite a bit of the morning. By lunch time, however, I was not only back in the spare room but I had all clothes packed away and the boxes brought downstairs. On Rachel’s return from taking Mum to her hairdresser (and having coffee with Bridget), she kept the dogs in the lounge while I carried the boxes out to the summerhouse (this was necessary because otherwise mud would have been spread everywhere both in the summer house and in the Granary by cavorting dogs).

I stopped for some lunch and soon afterwards my hat-stretcher arrived. It looks grand and I am dying to try it out but I will persevere with the task in hand for a while longer. I worked in the spare room sorting and packing other items from cupboards and drawers and behind cupboards (under the bunk). I haven’t got finished but I expect to compete this part of the task tomorrow – what is taking the time is sorting everything out and putting together things which belong together.

As dusk fell, I took Mix for a walk (I was wearing the day-glo jacket I had found earlier in the afternoon) and then I spent time in the Bothy re-arranging it so that I can get another table in as I will need one on which to work. I dined with Rachel in the Granary (I’m out of the farmhouse this week until I have had another medical consultation on Friday) and in the evening I did nothing but enjoy our warm lounge with its fire and television set (we watched an old episode of Midsomer Murders). It is good to be alive.

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Monday 12th. January, 2015 – The first of a number of ‘boring’ days 

Today, while tidying through things in the spare room, I found this costume -- the picture was taken on a river cruise in Egypt: happy memories

This week is going to be tedious to read about, I’m sorry. My task, as I have already written, is to clear the spare bedroom, pack things away until we have a space for them and then try to find a place to store the boxes. It is a huge job because I have managed to jam so much into the room and have a positive mountain of clothes to sort through. In fact, for me it will be quite fun as I come face to face with so many old friends but it won’t make very interesting reading.

This morning I rose and walked Mix and then went across to the Bothy to check on emails for the Presbytery which I then dealt with. Soon I was into the spare room and I loaded all of the clothes from there into the bedroom, sorting them out on the bed and then packing them into boxes which I will take to the summer house tomorrow.

I worked through at this until half-past nine at which point I gave up. At least we can get into our bed, even if the room is still strewn with clothes. I had lots of adventures. I found the costume which I bought when I was in Egypt for the Egyptian evening on board our river cruiser – that brought back memories. I also discovered all kinds of hats which I have bought at different times of my life. I discovered that the one thing that almost all of them had in common was that they are too small (I’ve had my hair cut recently so it isn’t that). I went on line and discovered that one can buy a hat-stretcher. So I’ve sent away for one of those.

I also discovered all of my sailing gear, foul-weather clothing and so on. I’m going to keep that box to the front so that I can get at it when it is time to go sailing at the end of March.

I will start again tomorrow but this evening I joined Rachel who was watching a thriller (Broadchurch) and then caught up with the News and Newsnight before bed.

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Sunday 11th. January, 2015 – Two Services today 

The Church at Edrom is a beautiful one. I took this picture after the service while folk were enjoying tea and chocolate cake -- there is an attractive little area at the back of the church which has been cleared of pews and is used for small receptions: today we spilled all over the church. It was great

Rose and walked Mix before getting ready for Church. Rachel, Mum and I left as usual at 9.40 so that we could be in our pews in good time for the service to start at 10 a.m. Ann, our minister, (who had been missing with no voice last week) was back in her place today. She presented us with three vignettes – on the wise men, on the star which guided them and on the baptism of Jesus, the start of Mark’s Gospel.

After the service we enjoyed a coffee with friends in the church hall before returning to Mount Pleasant. Rachel joined the rest of the family for lunch, I stayed in the Granary getting things ready for the presbytery service at 2.30 p.m. (I am also finding my chest is getting affected by cigarette smoke in the farmhouse).

I was at Edrom Church in good time, taking with me the Orders of Service and a sederunt sheet. The service which marked the formal union of Edrom, Bonkyl and Duns Churches was well attended both by members of Presbytery and by folk from the congregations – the sermon was preached by Bruce Neill while David Taverner acted as Moderator (which he was last year but the present Moderator is also the minister of Duns Church so David took over).

After the service the congregation served us with tea and chocolate cake – it was very good.

Back home I continued with work in the spare room (Tom came home with me and we had coffee first) and while Rachel was away at Evensong in Berwick I moved a cupboard into my shower-room: space really is at a premium.

In the evening we had a meal together and watched the new episode of Foyle’s War which I thoroughly enjoyed. We walked the dogs , watched the News (largely from France telling of mass attendances at ‘Je Suis Charlie’ rallies) and went to bed. It has been a good day.

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Saturday 10th. January, 2015 – A Trip to the Cinema 

Rowan had a visitor for the day today – it is Beth pictured here with Rachel and Rowan on the sofa, Beth’s acceptance made clear by the fact that she has Rowan’s best ball in her mouth

Rose and walked Mix before doing a bit more clearing of the spare bedroom. I’ve put things in boxes ready to store. These newly packed boxes are to be distinguished from the boxes packed when we were in Luss which still have to be unpacked. It is all very confusing.

Rachel went off to Kelso on a shopping expedition, I was left at home because David was dropping off his dog Beth and I had to be here to receive her. So I watched a Big Bash T20 match from Australia. It was very exciting and went right down to the final ball.

After a snack I continued on the clearing, breaking for a shower and then for high tea before we all went off to Berwick to see The Imitation Game joined by Alison who has become a friend though her involvement in the kilt-making programme (by this time Beth had been collected by David). Once one accepted that this was a film and not a documentary it was really good and contained some excellent scenes which gave an insight into the remarkable work done by the code-breakers and into the wartime life they lived. It was also an enthralling film.

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Friday 9th. January, 2014 – Nothing ever works out quite as you plan 

I took this picture during a lull in the television filming at the Stables today. From the left: Fiona Armstrong (the presenter), Ann, Rachel, Shona and Olive

Well, what a wild night it was: wind, gales, rain and huge gusts shaking everything. I slept little and was up a little after six to check if we still had our summerhouse, bothy and so on. We have lost a tree which had already suffered during an earlier storm. It is sad, but not nearly as bad as I had expected.

I went back to bed and got up just before eight, just as the power went off. So my task was to dig out a generator and set up lighting in the Stables. And this is the day that the television company is coming to film!

Having got everything ready, the film folk arrived ... and the power came back on! Sandy was here to talk about the loom, and Rachel, Ann and their students Olive and Shona were all filmed and interviewed for a programme called Border Life which will be broadcast on Monday 26th. January at 8 p.m. Several times during the day the power went off and I was glad we had the generator to hand to carry us through. Alison arrived in the afternoon and everything went from strength to strength and after Fiona and Ian, her camera man, left chatter reached a record decibel level.

During the day, when not manning the generator, I cleared more clothes to the summer house and did some work on the Presbytery papers in the Bothy – despite the frustration of losing my place on the computer every time the power failed.

The Bothy is a lovely place to work and I worked through there and in the spare bedroom until it was time for supper after which I was glad to have a quiet evening in front of the television (watching the repeat of the first episode ever of the new Sherlock programme) before walking Mix and retiring to bed. (I’d love to have stayed up for the final day of the Australia/India Test Match but it wouldn’t have been sensible.)

I have to mention my sorrow at the events in France. Terrorism seems to be everywhere at the moment and there is little doubt that it is only due to the skill of our own counter-terrorism staff that violent outrages have been kept from our streets in recent times. There is a debate to be had about free speech, but not at this moment and nothing ever justifies the brutal murders we have seen in the last three days.

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Thursday 8th. January, 2015 --- Ann arrives to be ready for tomorrow 

After the dreadful mess I showed you yesterday, I have to report that the Bothy really is taking shape and is going to be a lovely addition to our facilities

Rose and walked Mix and then went across to the Bothy to check on emails for the presbytery and to sort out some of my own affairs. Helped Rachel move all of the excess materials from the Stables in preparation for the Kilt-making course re-starting tomorrow.

After a snack lunch I went upstairs and sorted through some of the clothes there, moving them out to the summerhouse and hanging them on one of the old costume rails which I have installed there. Tom and David arrived. Tom’s visit was brief but David’s was a two-coffee stop (during which he fixed the light in the summerhouse and the telephone cable from the house to the Bothy).

Moved into the Bothy and started working through other boxes of items which were packed prior to our move over a year ago. Joined everyone in the farmhouse for dinner (we were joined by Ann who had driven right through Edinburgh in the rush hour because she missed a turning to the city-bypass).

In the evening Mix and I did a bit more work in the Bothy and then returned to the spare bedroom. There is so much to do. Mum spent this evening in Gavinton at the WRI. Ann and Rachel are getting everything ready for tomorrow when they are also expecting a visit from a television programme which is anxious to catch up on their adventures – I’m going to be on the car-parking!

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Wednesday 7th. January, 2015 -- Chaos all around 

The picture that I should never have shown – the chaos which is the spare bedroom, clothes everywhere all piled on top of a bunk bed because we have no cupboards or wardrobes. Finally I am starting today to put this situation right. The drawers are all open because I have been seeing what a huge task lies ahead and am preparing to decant everything into boxes

Rose and walked the dog and then went across to the Bothy and did some more work on understanding the presbytery materials which have been given to me. I also dealt with some emails (and a couple of telephone calls).

After a snack lunch I spent the afternoon in the spare bedroom starting to make some sense out of the chaos which is there. For a year I have been living without a wardrobe or very much in the way of cupboards. Now everything is going to change. As a first step I am turning the summer house into a make-shift store to enable the spare bedroom to be converted into an office and workroom for Rachel. Watch this space!

We dined in the farmhouse and then I drove Mum into Duns for the Guild meeting. I returned and Rachel and I watched an episode of Endeavour before the News. I am horrified by the terrorist events in Paris in Paris and I despair for our world.

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Tuesday 6Th. January, 2015 --- Epiphany and a special meal 

It is Epiphany, Twelfth Night, and that means that the Christmas decorations have to come down. In the old days decorations were often left until Candlemas on 2nd. February and Rachel says that she is going to leave a few things up until then as well. However, tonight the tree and other greenery was given a send off using Rachel’s BBQ chimney, a gift from our churches when I retired. So here she is out in the courtyard, smoke billowing everywhere as she goes about her task. Later she served us all mulled wine around the chimney, it was good – but the courtyard was very cold

Up and went off for an appointment at the local doctor’s surgery, as a result of which I had to go off to Melrose for a precautionary x-ray (Rachel drove me there and on the way home she told me that she thinks it would be a good idea to move everything around as I suggested yesterday).

Back home I got the Presbytery computer fully operational (and talking to my printer) and started on some of the emails and telephone messages which had already built up since the start of the year. My friend Peter telephoned either to commiserate with me or to laugh at me, I’m not sure which – and before I knew where all of the time had gone it was time to join Rachel in the courtyard for mulled wine, before a super meal by candle-light in the farmhouse to celebrate the seventieth anniversary of Mum’s wedding.

By candle-light: Mum, Scott, Sue, Olive, Digger and Rachel with drinks in hand. We toasted everyone we could think of with a final toast for anyone we had not yet toasted -- so no-one was missed out. It was a happy evening

We were all around the table and Mum reminisced about the day of her wedding and all of the events which surrounded it. We sat over coffee around the fire and it was after ten before I made my way back to the Granary, just in time, in fact, for the start of the final day of the Test Match from Wellington which New Zealand duly won – it has been a real good Test Match and I still wonder that I can share in it sitting in my retirement home in Scotland while the match is played out on the other side of the world.

Over the next few nights I shall be going to bed early to make up for all of this missed sleep, but it has been worth it – and one of real bonuses of being retired!

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Monday 5th. January, 2015 – I start my new job 

Here is a picture of the Christmas tree in the farmhouse at Mount Pleasant. I suppose that tomorrow it will have to be taken down and everything always looks so bare after the decorations come down

Today I got up and walked Mix and soon it was time to set off to meet with the retiring presbytery clerk from whom I have now taken over. Helen was very kind to me and spent more than two hours not just giving me the presbytery computer but also explaining to me how it worked. So now I have all the presbytery papers and the computer and am ready to go. For one who was quite determined not to get drawn back into employment with the Kirk (rather than doing my bit as a congregational member) this is all a total volte face (as my friends continue to remind me). However, sometimes needs must and if there had been anyone else I would not now be in this position. That said, I will do the job to my best – and I will enjoy doing it as well.

I came home – driving past Edrom Kirk on the way, as there is to be a Presbytery service there on Sunday afternoon, to mark the union of Duns and Edrom and Bonkle into one congregation.

Back home I had a late lunch and did some work in the spare room.

As we draw up our work schedule for 2015 things are changing. Rachel is very anxious to have somewhere for her own (as well as the weaving studio). I am happy for her to have the spare bedroom for her own but the problem is that at present it is filled with my clothes for which there is nowhere else – and lots of other bits and pieces as well. The original plan was that once we had completed the Hen House I would move all of my clothes and other bits and pieces there. However that is not going to happen soon. So I have suggested that I move all of my books out of the summer house into the Bothy and then I move all of my clothes and other bits and pieces into the summer house until the Hen House is able to receive them. This will enable Rachel to move her books out of the Bothy (to let mine come in from the summer house) and to have a desk and whatever else she wishes in the spare bedroom. Rachel is thinking about it!

In the evening Rachel watched television while I slept, dozing on the sofa to the strains of Broadchurch. Later we walked the dogs and I sat up watching the Test Match between New Zealand and Sri Lanka – I know that it is totally crazy but it is a splendid match with superb performances from each team. After tonight’s heroics by Williamson and Watling I suspect that New Zealand will get home in the end but it could still end up going either way.

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Sunday 4th. January, 2015 – Back home and off to church 

Now I took this picture yesterday but I wanted to share it today. It is, I believe, one of the most beautiful stretches of the Leeds Liverpool canal and is part of the stretch between Barnoldswick (where the Young Rachel is moored) and Salterforth (to where Mix and I like to wander in the morning if we aren’t setting off on a cruise). As I approached this section yesterday morning I was hoping that there would be no one walking along the tow path so that I could take a picture. But what I saw was Rachel and Mix coming towards us – they had got up a little later than us and were approaching Salterforth as we were returning from there. But enough of that, even on such a dull, dark morning this stretch of canal retains its charm

Rose early and showered before walking Mix. It was back to old routes along the road towards Swinton. After breakfast Mum, Rachel and I set off to church at Gavinton where the surprise was to discover that Ann, our minister, was indisposed and so the service was taken by Bill, a retired minister who lives right next door to the Church. He had obviously been called in at the last minute (Ann had chosen the hymns and so on) and of course, did very well.

We sang ‘We three Kings’ – I think that everyone sings ‘We three Kings’ – and I really cannot understand why this carol is neither in our current hymn book nor in the one before this one. I don’t want to defend every word in it, I wouldn’t like to defend every word of many hymns, but it is so loved, used and is part of Epiphany for so many, that it really ought to be in our hymn book. It also really grasps the meaning of Epiphany and makes sense of the wise-men's gifts for folk who maybe haven't had it all explained to them! And it will certainly use fewer words to do that.

Back home, Mum dined with Rachel and me in the granary (on a fish-pie left by Olive). Olive and Digger had gone to Edinburgh to return luggage to Jeffrey and Devon. In the afternoon I sorted out the bits and pieces that had escaped me while I was away and then I started on the spare room in the Granary – Rachel was working in a similar fashion on our bedroom.

In the evening Rachel went to Berwick to attend the Epiphany communion service while I continued with the spare room and kept an eye on the dogs. On her return we had a snack and then watched Foyle’s War (a new series and every bit as good as the last one) before walking the dogs. Rachel retired to bed and I took in another morning’s play at Wellington before joining her.

I must record something quite surprising: On the Young Rachel, snug and warm in bed, I woke about three having had a bit of a nightmare. I dreamed that the wooden gate at Mount Pleasant had got opened and that the dogs had escaped. Of course as soon as I came to I realised that the dogs were on the bed with me and that it had just been a dream. But on our return last night, when we went out to walk the dogs I said to Rachel, ‘Let’s go and look at the gate’. And sure enough it had been damaged and was open enough at the bottom to allow a dog to escape. Today after Church the first thing we did was to screw it all together again. So the dogs are safe. But I thought it all quite strange!

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Saturday 3rd. January, 2015 – The long journey home 

This morning I again walked Mix to Salterforth and I took this picture of the cutting as I looked over the canal bridge at the Lower Park Marina. The picture has caught the light of the morning and I just love to look at all of the boats. I noticed that this year there are quite a few of them for sale. I’m not sure what that means because most of the boats here seem to have people living on them. Are folk moving on? Or buying new boats? Or leaving the waterways behind them? I hope not

Forced myself out of the most comfortable bed in the world this morning because we have to make the long journey home (almost four hours in the car) and there are many chores to be done before we can set off. But first the dogs had to be walked (I enjoy all this dog walking on holiday but we sure miss having the garden into which the dogs can be decanted until we are ready to set off on a wander).

My main task before we leave is always to deal with the toilet. This involves disconnecting the toilet cassette and taking it to the special toilet where it can be emptied and cleaned before bringing it back on board and preparing it for its next use by adding blue liquid and a quantity of water. I like it to be ready for our next trip (although we do have two such cassettes to ensure that we don’t get caught out).

Then we put the double bed away – it pulls out from the wall and goes across the whole width of the boat and ensures that we are so comfortable. Rachel had meanwhile cleaned and tidied and also had all of the elements ready so that next time we arrive it will be a matter of minutes to get the fire lit.

Finally we had to get the boat ready for our departure by closing the water tank, emptying the taps of water, turning off the electricity both from the shore and from the ship’s batteries, closing down the gas supply and so on.

We loaded the dogs and our spare rations on board and set off. Rachel chose to drive along the west rather than the route I normally take down the A1. As a result we visited a great deal of the borders on our way home, but we made very good time and were all unpacked and ready for our evening meal with Mum, Olive and Digger in the farmhouse.

In the evening we settled back into the Granary and watched an old film entitled The Seventh Coin set in Jerusalem (the tourist Jerusalem we knew quite well) and starring Peter O’Toole. It was quite good if just a little pantomimy (I know that is not a word). Rachel went off to bed – we walked the dogs first – and I settled down to watch the Test Match from Wellington: New Zealand against Sri Lanka. Kumar Sangakkara was magnificent, going on to score more than two hundred runs. Tomorrow night will be exciting.

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Friday 2nd. January, 2015 – The rain has stopped! 

I took this picture this afternoon. We are below the Greenberfield locks and because it is winter and the greenery has largely disappeared (or perhaps because we are more observant today) we have noticed this ‘little canal’ to the right of the present day canal. Perhaps this is a remainder of the original route of the canal which we know was somewhere in this place, or perhaps it is a run-off from the existing canal. I suspect that it is a bit of both, part of the original canal which is now being used as a run-off and which has been upgraded to make it suitable for that purpose

We woke and were pleased to see that the weather had changed and that it was fair (if not bright). Even the canal road had lost its flooding and was now back to normal – still pock-marked and ‘rural’ but largely dry.

We got up extremely leisurely – had the dogs not had to be taken out it might have been even more leisurely – and took the dogs for a walk. Mix and I made our way to Salterforth along the tow path. It was a pleasant walk. I had expected to meet Rachel and Rowan on the way back but it turned out that they had walked in the opposite direction towards the centre of Barnoldswick.

Back on board we had a late breakfast/early lunch. I had a roll, Rachel’s repast included Christmas chocolate. We decided to drive into Skipton but discovered that Skipton was literally full. We could find no parking place in any of the car parks nor were there any on-road spaces available. It seems that most folk are on holiday until Monday and so were brought out today to shop – I hadn’t realised that New Year was such a big holiday down here.

We went off to Tesco to buy what we needed and then made our way to Greenberfield where we walked the dogs along the side of the canal. The locks at Greenberfield were the first ones we navigated with the Young Rachel and so we have happy memories of them. The rain held off but it remained exceedingly cold.

Back on the boat we prepared for an evening on board. Inside it was beautifully warm but we set off for a final walk of the dogs so that they would be settled for the evening. I walked this time along the route taken by Rachel this morning – into Barnoldswick but only as far as the factory by the side of the canal which manufactures mattresses. We need a new mattress and it would be rather fun to pull up at the canal-side and take one on board (but how then would be get it home)?

In the evening, after a fine meal, we watched a film-remake of The Sweeney – my was it violent – but we enjoyed it none-the-less. We walked the dogs for a final time and then settled down in bed with our books. Mine – I got it at Christmas – is called Moriarty and is by Anthony Horowitz. I suppose it is a tribute to Conan Doyle; whatever it is, I am enjoying it enormously.

2015 is proving to be a very good year.

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Thursday 1st. January, 2015 --- New Year’s Day 

Green boat with cream walls, white over red stern, centre of the picture just to the right of a boat with a raised cockpit: that's the Young Rachel. She is lovely and being on board is quite the nicest place to be

Woke and got up in quite a leisurely fashion and took Mix for a walk. Came back and packed my book and my i-pad into a bag and loaded Mix into Rachel’s Berlingo along with Rowan. Rachel and I then set off for Barnoldswick to visit the Young Rachel (Rachel’s canal boat). It was just beginning to get dark when we arrived and it was absolutely pouring with rain – ‘chucking it down’ doesn’t do justice to how wet it was. By the time we had parked the car and transferred ourselves, the dogs and our bits and pieces to the boat we were all half-drowned.

The first task was to get the stove going and this was a bit problematic as we had no firelighters, nor kindling. Rachel nipped up to the garage and collected some of each and soon we were in business. In no time at all the boat heated up and it was lovely to be there. In fact we spent all day (morning and afternoon driving, and then on the boat) listening to Radio Four’s ten-hour dramatisation of War and Peace (with an all-star cast). It was superb.

We had a meal as we listened to the final part of the story and then we braved the elements to walk the dogs. I had changed into dry clothes and when we got back I had to change again. The marina road was under water. It was unbelievable.

And so we went to sleep in the cosy warmth of our boat, tucked up in our huge double bed, with dogs at our feet, listening to the rain bouncing off the roof. What a lovely way to start a new year!

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Wednesday 31st. December, 2014 --- It’s almost a new year! 

There have been lots of pictures this year but this one which I took just a moment or two ago is one of my favourites. It’s our library and only a few months ago this was an old bothy with no roof and with a ground base that had been used over the years for bonfires and refuse. It really was the blot on the landscape of Mount Pleasant and now it is beautiful and useful. Rachel was saying earlier today that our home has really doubled in size over the year. We started with our beautiful Granary with a glorious lounge and two bedrooms (one of which is still very much a storeroom) and we have gained during the year a superb weaving studio, a summerhouse (which is much more than that) and now a library. Of course there is still much to do and this year we will try to make progress with the Hen House and with the other barn. It would be good to sit here next year with significant progress made with both of them

Slept in and then tidied the bothy to make it look good for this year’s end. Had some lunch (after walking Mix) and then sorted out my new diary for 2015 and completed my accounts for 2014. By this time it was nearly 6 and time to eat in the farmhouse (which we did).

After dinner I had a shower (to be clean for the New Year) and then joined the family in the farmhouse where Scott and Sue, and Sue’s father, Bill, had come to visit. Later, after they left, Tom and Dorothy arrived and it was appropriate to end the year with them – they have contributed so much to our 2014 and we would have made only a fraction of the progress we have made without their assistance, skills and friendship.

Just after midnight, Mum, Olive and Digger arrived and we all had a drink to bring in the New Year. It was a happy time.

And so to bed (of course, having walked the dogs). If 2015 is a patch on 2014 it will be a wonderful year.

A Happy new Year!

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Tuesday 30th. December, 2014 -- The Fifth Day of Christmas 

Three generations of another branch of our family — my Aunt Agnes (very special because she is also my God-mother), her grandson Robbie, and Robbie’s Dad Martin. They popped down to see us this morning. Rachel is making a kilt for Robbie and today was the day of the all-important fitting

Woke and walked Mix. My aunt was coming down today and so I got coffees and some food ready so that Olive would not be put out (she has started marking examinations again and has to spend all day in her room).

Our visitors arrived and we had a very happy morning with them (and yes, Olive was allowed out for a quick coffee). After they left Rachel and I started to unpack more books from the carriage shed – the pile of boxes is going down slightly but there is still a long way to go.

Having unloaded the boxes the next step was to empty them and put the books on the shelves of the bothy. It will be a long job – and one which is made longer by the fact that I keep on finding interesting things and have to stop and ‘play’ with them. Today I found a disk of ‘Jack the Ripper’ a show we did at Buckhaven many years ago. So I stopped and watched it (and enjoyed it, too).

David arrived to fit the new brake-pipes to the boat trailer and to have a coffee. Later we dined in the farmhouse and in the evening Rachel and I watched the final part of ‘A Very British Coup’. It wasn’t very long so we tried to watch GBH, another old production. However this didn’t work on our television so we settled on the introductory episode of ‘Lipstick on your collar’. It was good.

No cricket tonight, and I have finished my book, so we walked the dogs and went to bed. A happy day.

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Monday 29th. December, 2014 – A Special Day 

My new work station – having moved from the summer house to the Bothy which will be my office base for my new job, starting on Thursday

Today is a special day for us as we were married forty- five years ago today in Beverley. It was a Monday and there was snow around. Today it was certainly cold enough for snow but there was none to be seen.

Rachel and I drove the dogs to Gavinton Church and then walked the dogs in the woods behind the church. It was a lovely thing to do.

Back home I had a pizza for lunch and then spent the afternoon tidying the bothy, preparing it for its role as my office and both of our library. Rachel came and sorted out some of her books and David also arrived for a coffee.

We dined in the farmhouse and then drank champagne while we watched ‘A Very British Coup’ on television. It was excellent. Finally we walked the dogs again – it s a bright star-lit night, very cold, crisp and frosty – and then I watched a bit of the final day of the Boxing Day Test from Melbourne before bed. Another lovely day.

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Sunday 28th. December, 2014 – The last Sunday of the Year 

All too soon Christmas trees will disappear – so here is a picture of the tree at Gavinton Church where we worshipped this morning

Rose, walked Mix and breakfasted before driving to Gavinton Church with Rachel and Mum. I had had a bit of an adventure this morning – our front door has been getting stiffer and stiffer and constantly jamming during the course of recent days. This morning it wouldn’t open at all – so I had to go out of the back door, climb the fence and attack the front door from the outside to get in.

We had a pleasant service, there is never quite as many folk on this low Sunday between Christmas and the New Year but we did quite well. We didn’t have an organist and so we sang unaccompanied (and in lovely low keys). It was great. Ann spoke about the slaughter of the innocents, about King Herod and about Mary. I enjoyed the service (and the coffee which followed it).

Back home we lunched on left-overs (again with some new things added). I don’t know when we are going to get through all of this food! It was a lovely meal. Tom arrived with new door handles for our front door – ones which we can operate but which, we hope, will be beyond the wit of Mix and Rowan. We will see – but it was really kind of Tom.

In the afternoon I moved bits and pieces between the summer house and the bothy, including moving my computer into the bothy and getting it all functioning well. David arrived for coffee and was pleased to see that the computer was operating well on the link which he had installed.

For me this week will involve much more of the same: sorting and tidying – but progress is definitely being made.

In the evening Rachel and I enjoyed a snack together. We watched a Montalbano film (The Paper Moon) and then I settled in to enjoy cricket from ‘down under’. Is there no limit to the pleasures of this Christmas?

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Saturday 27th. December, 2014 – The Partying Continues 

I gave everyone a break this Christmas – by leaving my camera at home. So this picture was not taken today but is of one of the courses of my Christmas Dinner in the farmhouse. Easy seen why I have to start on a diet as soon as we are into the New Year. As I said yesterday, this really has been the best Christmas ever

Today I was able to take everything very easily. Tom and David popped in (and I put the kettle on) and I walked Mix. I even did a bit of sorting out of the Bothy.

But the main event of today was our trip to Polworth to visit my brother and his family, Sue, Nick and Amy, and Katie. Again we were deluged with gifts and again we ate far more than we ought; again it was superb. I loved the company of the youngsters and it was grand to hear of how their lives were panning out – filled with enthusiasm and optimism and fun.

It was quite late when we got back home but I settled in and watched the cricket from the southern hemisphere: New Zealand against Sri Lanka from Christchurch and Australia against India from Melbourne. I watched for far longer than was good for me but I was so cosy in front of the fire and the cricket was engrossing ... (and I am retired and can do what I like)!

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Friday 26th. December, 2014 – Boxing Day 

This is a picture I took yesterday just as Christmas Dinner was about to be served at Mount Pleasant. We are around the table and the light is just beginning to fade. We had a lovely meal and a very Happy Christmas

I slept in – well, that’s what one does on Boxing Day if one hasn’t planned to go to the sales. It seems from all accounts that the retail trade has done enormously well this year and that if the projections turn out to be correct then today a fortune will be spent as well. We aren’t contributing to all this buying this year – partly because Rachel has spent the last months making our Christmas presents, beautiful glass items made with each special recipient in mind, and partly because it would be crazy for us to start purchasing new things when we still haven’t unpacked what we have and discovered if there is anything we really, really need.

Today was another day for pottering. Tom arrived on his way home from Hartlepool and soon afterwards David arrived as well. So I put the coffee on ...

Later I took Mix for a walk and then just after five folk started to arrive for our Boxing day eating up of all that was left-over from yesterday with a bit new added for good measure. Tom and David joined Mum, Olive, Digger, Rachel and me and we ate and in the background played some disks with music from the sixties. This in turn led to a great deal of reminiscing and joyful chat which continued until it was time to go to bed. It had been another really good day. I can’t remember a better Christmas ... ever.

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Thursday 25th. December, 2014 – A very Happy Christmas 

The Christmas Candles burning in Gavinton Church this morning -- the four red candles of Advent around the single white candle of Christmas

Today was immense! It was a wonderful, spectacular, glorious day.

I suppose I start by reporting that late on the evening of Christmas Eve Rachel and I went along to the watch-night service at Gavinton and sang the usual carols which make Christmas so special. Following the service we were invited into Bill and Isobel’s home, right next door to the church, and there we shared in a huge repast. It was lovely and the company was great.

By the time we got back to Mount Pleasant it was nearer two than one, and so we walked the dogs and went to bed -- waking early on Christmas morning with dogs to walk before we returned to church for the Christmas Day service. I enjoyed this service very much. We had been joined by Mum and Jeffrey and afterwards we drove gently back to Mount Pleasant ready for the celebrations to begin.

Christmas Day always seemed to rush by so quickly. This year it took its time and was the better for that. We opened presents, and were joined by David with whom we made our way across to the farmhouse where we all seemed to open more presents. At 2.30 we met up in the Granary for a refreshment before watching the Queen (in preparation for which there was an argument between the assembled royalists and republicans about what we were about to watch). I enjoyed the Queen’s choice of message on the theme of reconciliation and in which she spoke of her own faith.

We made our way to the farmhouse were we dined in style, all eating far more than was good for us but tempted by so many of our favourites. I took a bit of time out to write a wee thought for the Berwickshire News (I’ll send it off tomorrow) and afterwards those who were still standing (David had gone off home and Digger and Devon were nowhere to be seen) watched Downton Abbey. I was profoundly glad that Mr. and Mrs Mates ended the programme with neither of them in the pokey: that story has run on too long now.

As everyone made their way off to bed I settled in to watch the start of the Boxing Day Test Match between Australia and India from the MCG. It was good cricket and a fitting finale to a really good Christmas.

With clerics and politicians from around the world making their pronouncements today I found myself reflecting (as I have often in the past) on how much of our worldly wealth is spent on security. I don’t just mean the defence budget with its weapons of terror, but the border agencies, the cc tv systems and high street security staff, the anti-fraud agencies, OSCR, child protection, vulnerable adult protections, regulators of all different kinds which work to keep banks and business and so on in order. It is a huge amount of every pound generated. If only that money (and those resources of skill and time) could be set free to eradicate hunger, sickness, lack of education and so on what a different world we would live in. But then a world in which such emphasis was not required would already be a very different world. I suspect that it is only in communities in which people feel valued and feel that their world is a fair one that such a direction of travel is possible – which is why it is appropriate today for politicians and leaders of faith groups to stress the importance of social justice, and why little steps towards a fairer world are always important.

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Wednesday 24th. December, 2014 – Christmas Eve and everything is ready 

Our front room is ready for Christmas and Rachel has it looking festive and swell. We too are ready with everything prepared. What a difference from when I was working when there would be so many services over the next few hours. I am looking forward to bringing Christmas in at Gavinton Church and I am looking forward to being in Church again tomorrow morning

Rose and gently pottered, doing a little preparation for something I have finally to sit down and write tomorrow afternoon. Took Mix for a walk and then started sorting Presbytery papers in preparation for my new job starting on January 1st. In reality you can see that I spent today pottering – and very pleasant it was too. But it was the pottering of one who would normally have been busy on a Christmas Eve and who now is just a little bit as a loose end!

Tom came along to visit and we sat over a coffee and put the world to rights. Late in the afternoon I had a shower (having already washed most of my clothes) and then we all ate in the farmhouse, joined by Jeffrey and Devon who have arrived for Christmas.

Soon it will be time to drive along to Gavinton for the watch night service, followed by a bit of supper after the service and then the drive home in the early hours of Christmas. It is cold but fair – a lovely Christmas Eve.

I’ve found myself thinking about Christmas (as I do every year) but this year in a different kind of a way because I don’t have to share my thoughts with other people. I think were I to be preaching this year I would concentrate on the Emmanuel name of Jesus with its meaning ‘God is with us’. I suspect that looking around the world and the mess it seems to be in, the idea of us journeying through life ‘with God with us’ must seem like a strange concept. But many have discovered when they are in the depth of the worst that the world can throw at them that it is the experience of God with them that has enabled them to come through their nightmare. Similarly it is the understanding that God is with us that has encouraged many of the saints through the ages to take on the huge powers of injustice and evil and has enabled them to change the world for the better.

God is with us – having chosen to be born into the world powerless and penniless in the person of a tiny child, a refugee in an occupied state. There is hope for us yet.

May you have a very Happy Christmas!

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Tuesday 23rd. December, 2014 – A Strange Day 

Taken by surprise! I caught Rachel while she was sitting in the very fine bar at the Maltings Theatre in Berwick. She was reading the programme before we went in to the excellent production last night and looked up just as I pressed the shutter

Up and got organised quite slowly today – I don’t know why, but my bed was warm and welcoming and I didn’t have anything to do early in the morning. It is all so different from when I was working – I would have been so busy that I was just trying to get to Christmas Day. Do I miss it? Well, of course I do – but I certainly love being retired.

Rachel had set off early to go to Kelso to do some shopping. She phoned to say that she had remembered that she had an appointment for a scan with the mobile unit in Duns. She was in Kelso and the appointment was in ten minutes time! So I drove into Duns and made her apologies and they kindly suggested that she just get there as quickly as she could.

Later I drove into Berwick to do some shopping myself, visiting the main street in Berwick, the Tweedmouth complex and popping into Tesco before driving home. I took Mix up to the Co-op in Duns to complete my shopping and by the time I returned it was time for supper.

After supper I watched an episode of Foyle’s War. I had seen it before, but the themes are so well drawn and the filming so good that the episodes warrant a further viewing. I watched the News – the aftermath of the bin lorry crash in Glasgow is so sad and it all becomes so personal as the stories of the people involved begin to unfold.

I walked Mix and we went to bed. Tomorrow it will be Christmas Eve.

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Monday 22nd. December, 2014 – We visit the Pantomime and Glasgow is in mourning 

Last year we enjoyed the pantomime so much that as soon as the tickets became available for this year’s pantomime I was straight on line putting in our order. Tonight we all – Mum, Olive, Digger, Rachel and I – went along to enjoy Dick Whittington; we were not disappointed. Of course, one is not allowed to photograph the performance (rightly so) but I snapped the stage when we first went in long before the performance began to give just a flavour of what was a hugely enjoyable event, tailored for all the family and beautifully performed

Rose quickly when I realised that our coal delivery had arrived. The driver told me he had a long day ahead of him as we chatted while the coal was poured into our bunker. I closed the gate as he left and I looked down at my watch: it was still only half-past seven in the morning.

I walked Mix and breakfasted in the farmhouse before Rachel and I set off to do a little shopping – first at Kelso where we visited the garden centre there and then at Berwick, or rather Tweedmouth before returning for a spot of lunch, after which Rachel was back to Berwick to visit her hairdresser. Mum was taken into Duns by Digger to have her eyes examined. I entertained David who had popped in to visit and then there was just time for a shower as I got ready to meet up with everyone at five.

Rachel drove us all into Berwick (it was her third visit to Berwick today) and we had time for a drink in the bar at the Maltings before the pantomime started at 6 p.m. There were some splendid performances but for me Beth Lockhart in her first professional performance excelled as Alice. I think that she will be a name to watch and one, who if she gets the right break, could go far.

It was a thoroughly good pantomime, traditional and contemporary, full of fun and superbly presented. I will definitely make sure that a visit to the pantomime at the Maltings is part of my Christmas celebrations next year.

We collected fish suppers on the way home and ate them together in the farmhouse kitchen. It had been a wonderful evening.

Back in the Granary I turned on the television and caught the full horror of all that had happened in Glasgow where a bin lorry had run amok around George Square, possibly – and no-one knows yet – because the driver had suffered a heart attack. What is known is that six people were killed and more than that are seriously injured. A tragedy at any time made more poignant by its proximity to Christmas – but at least (and this is not in any way to belittle what has happened) it seems as though it was an accident and therefore of a different order to the events in France caused deliberately by terrorists. We can mourn and be shocked but the element of anger and outrage is not part of the equation.

‘No man is an island’ runs the quotation, the truth of which has been brought home to many today.

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Sunday 21st. December, 2014 – The Fourth Sunday of Advent 

I don’t really know the story of this donkey but he seems to appear in Gavinton Church every year at this time. He reminds me a bit of a rabbit but I suspect that his real purpose is to remind us of the journey from Nazareth to Bethlehem in the Christmas story. He does make me smile

Rose, showered, walked Mix and breakfasted in the farmhouse before Rachel, Mum and I all set off for Gavinton for the Service for the Fourth Sunday of Advent which moved us firmly into the season of Christmas.

Ann presented us with four little meditations: on the Christmas crib, on Jesus’ name, on Zechariah and Elizabeth , and on Mary’s role in the Christmas story. We sang some good hymns as well, including my favourite Christmas hymn (Joy to the world), my grandmother’s favourite carol (O little town of Bethlehem) and Lorna’s favourite hymn (Lorna was my sister-in-law who died many years ago – At the Name of Jesus). The singing was good in spite of all of the seasonal sniffles.

In fact both Tom and David were missing today, Tom being under weather and David being absent without leave. After the service we joined the congregation for coffee and heated mincemeat pies before driving back to Mount Pleasant for Sunday lunch. It was, as usual, excellent. Olive is working on marking examinations at present and seems to be making good progress.

I spent all afternoon in the summerhouse working at my financial review. It all seems to be working out well but there is nothing like looking at actual figures to see where one can do better next year. Rachel went off to Evensong, I stayed with the dogs and later, on her return we watched television and enjoyed a snack together. Christmas really is getting very close and I am looking forward to this Christmas more than any I can remember for years!

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Saturday 20th. December, 2014 – It is still extremely cold 

A picture of David on the ladder completing the cable junction which has taken a telephone and a computer signal to the Bothy. I was anxious to take the picture from this side, even as it is in to the sun, because David tells me that this is his better side

Up and walked Mix before breakfast. David arrived and set about completing the cabling of the wifi and telephone contacts with the Bothy. It took a long time, primarily because it was so very cold. Several coffee breaks and a lunch trip into Berwick were required to facilitate the completion of the exercise, but completed it was by the middle of the afternoon.

I spent the rest of the afternoon and much of the evening in the summerhouse with Mix preparing my end-of-year accounts. Now that they are just for me I am enjoying the exercise enormously. I took a break naturally for supper and also to watch a Montalbano film but otherwise I was in the summerhouse where Mix and I worked through until almost one in the morning. It was fun!

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Friday 19th. December, 2014 --- My but it is cold! 

Things continue to take shape in the Bothy. Today David has been working to install wifi and telephone connections and I am starting to move in some of the Presbytery bits and pieces which have been given to me by Helen to enable me to take up my new post at the start of January

Woke and walked Mix before breakfast. It is much colder than it was yesterday and the wind makes the cold eat into your body. All day long Mix has been looking for a fire to lie down in front of – and complaining bitterly when I go out of doors and he feels that he has to accompany me.

David arrived and we spent a great part of the day working on a cable connection from the Granary to the Bothy to carry telephone and computer signals. The job isn’t completed, we were beaten by the cold, but we will get everything finished tomorrow in the morning. Everywhere I have significant sorting out to do – it is that stage of developments. The summerhouse is upside down because some of the contents have been moved to the Bothy and other items found in the Carriage Shed have been brought to the summerhouse. The spare bedroom is upside down for the same reason and progress in the Bothy will continue to be slow until we have worked our way through all of the boxes in store.

We dined in the farmhouse and then settled down to watch a film about the Americans search for Bin Laden. I have no idea why we chose to record the film, presumably because there was some publicity about it and we were intrigued. It made a good film, full of action even if we did know how it would end and I could see that it would appeal to the American market but I did stay awake to the end!

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Thursday 18th. December, 2014 – Another interrupted night 

Tom and I went to Duns Kirk this morning for the primary school service. I didn’t like to take a picture of the service (although lots of the parents were) so I took this picture as everyone was leaving. I had never been inside the Church before and I was struck by the size of the worship area, by the dominance of the most impressive organ – and by the beautiful Christmas tree!

Well, we had another interrupted night during which Rachel caught three mice and put them in a box (all fitted out with sawdust and food) to see them through until morning when they could be released in the forest. And then, just when I was hoping to get some really good sleep, the fire alarm went off: Rachel had left one of her famous Christmas candles burning. No harm had been done, but I certainly have sleep on which to catch up.

Showered and walked Mix before being picked up by Tom and together we went to the children’s service at Duns Church. I enjoyed it very much and afterwards I drove to visit Helen and to get a further briefing (and three boxes of papers) about the task I am to take on for the Presbytery in January.

When I got home David was here and he has started work on installing a computer and telephone link to the Bothy. We had coffee and then I started getting ready for a Skype call about Green Pilgrimage. Tom arrived and we put the world to rights and then when he went off to prepare tea at The Old Manse in Gavinton, I had a splendid conversation regarding our Green Pilgrimage plans.

The next activity was to prepare the music files for Arrochar – for this Sunday, for Christmas Day and for the final Sunday of the year. By the time I got all of that done and sent off to Jamie it was time for supper after which I was glad to settle down in front of the fire and rest my eyelids. (Mum missed supper as she was off to a Rural Christmas party in Gavinton.)

It has been a busy day. (I was, however, quite shocked by the Panorama programme about Apple this evening. It seems that every stone anyone turns over has something not very nice underneath. This was augmented when the News came on and the first item was about a paedophile ring of politicians, policemen and others from the ‘top drawer’ of London society forty odd years ago. It really does beggar belief.)

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Wednesday 17th. December, 2014 – Mouse tracking and Carol singing 

This evening Tom and I drove up to Longformacus to join the folk carol singing, something we had done last year. Tom is always in great demand because he takes his accordion with him and makes music

Didn’t sleep too well because Rachel was convinced that we had a mouse in the bedroom – there are lots of mice around, little field mice who have come into the Granary, and the farmhouse, and many other houses around here, to escape from the cold. However, on getting up this morning Rachel was totally determined that we would make the house mouse-proof. I’m not sure how possible that is, living the country with so many old barns around but we’ll try.

Rachel went off to Duns and came back with some sealant. The furniture was moved from the walls and every crack, hole and possible entry place was sealed. I walked Mix and breakfasted and later David arrived for coffee and to discuss a computer terminal in the Bothy. Once he had left I started to sort out the spare bedroom so that, in time, it too can go through the anti-mouse treatment. I have had to abandon work on the books for the present, but it is all in a good cause.

After an early supper, I went off to join Tom and drive to Longformacus to take part in the carol singing in the streets. We were joined as usual by young men from a nearby training centre and after an hour of singing we were fed in the village hall – and quite some feast it was as well.

Back home I walked Mix and went to bed, hoping to have a night’s sleep uninterrupted by Rachel or any furry friends.

Mum went off to the Duns Guild Christmas party tonight and during today I have found myself thinking about last night’s ballet. It was broadcast to over thirteen hundred theatres and cinemas in twenty four different countries and at the last minute, shortly before the performance, one of the two leading men (the white rabbit) was injured (I guess in rehearsal) so an understudy took over. He was superb but what a time to be bounced into the limelight. I suppose that careers are made like this.

I also spent time thinking about the events dominating the news – the horrendous siege in Australia and the horrific terrorist shootings in Pakistan – and at the same time the investigation into whether British soldiers had committed atrocities in Iraq ten years ago. What a world we live in. It seems too that the allegations against British soldiers were untrue but that it has cost thirty-one million pounds to conduct the inquiry. Now I am glad to know that the allegations are by and large untrue – but surely there must be better ways to spend thirty-one million pounds? The Christmas message of Peace on Earth seems far away today – but there is no message which more needs to be heard. Oh, and I was pleased to hear that the Anglican Church now has in Libby Lane its first female bishop. Halleluia!

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Tuesday 16th. December, 2014 – Rachel is struck down with the dreaded lurgy 

It really is very cold today and Mix has taken to wearing his winter coat (even when sitting in front of the heater). I am surprised by how much he clearly enjoys putting it on and how proud he looks when people admire him in it

Woke and discovered that Rachel had finally succumbed to the cold which has been floating around Mount Pleasant for the last two weeks. She is totally stuffed up and coughing fit to burst. So she stayed in bed and I drove Mum into Duns for her hair appointment bringing back a selection of medicines for Rachel from the chemist (and a list of instructions about not taking two medicines at the same time).

I did some more work on carrying boxes of books from the carriage store to the Bothy and unloading them on to the shelves. It will be a long job but I am enjoying it enormously. I stopped briefly for lunch (during which I caught up with England’s disastrous cricket final one day match against Sri Lanka) and then continued with the work.

I stopped as it got dark and showered before an early tea and then Mum, Olive Digger and I went off to Berwick to enjoy the Royal Ballet’s performance of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. It was a relay performance from Covent Garden and, of course, it was superb. No! It was absolutely wonderful.

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Monday 15th. December, 2014 – Starting on the library 

Now things are beginning to take shape. The library is at the stage where it seems that there are very few books on the shelves (even although we have been at it for hours0. Very soon the shelves will be full and we will be looking for more space. At present the books are only being sorted very roughly but by the end of the year we will be in order

Up (a bit later than planned), walked Mix and then set about emptying the front of the carriage store to provide access to the boxes of books (hundreds of them). Sandy arrived and continued to do some weaving on the loom. When he left Rachel and I loaded the front of the carriage store (if you see what I mean) into the Stables as they will not be used again until after Christmas.

Together Rachel and I loaded boxes into the Barn and started putting books on the shelves. It will be a long exercise – but we have allowed ourselves until the end of December to complete it.

I lunched on the remains of my Chinese take-away from last night and later in the afternoon David arrived for a coffee, bringing with him the small vacuum which had had repaired – very clever, David.

I set about providing electricity readings for the electricity company and discover that we are using a fraction of the electricity that we used last year – and that it is very much cheaper than before. My new company really is such an improvement. It certainly does pay to shop around and to switch to get the best deals.

We all dined in the farmhouse and then Rachel and I relaxed in the Granary. I watched University Challenge and then dozed until it was time to go to bed. I’m told that it is not as cold today as it was yesterday, well, it seems pretty cold to me.

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Sunday 14th. December, 2014 – Imagine that – a working Sunday! 

Rachel put the flowers in Church this morning. I thought that they looked very good – and if you look closely you can just see a couple of our Christingles squeezing into the picture

Rose, showered, walked Mix and breakfasted before setting off with Mum and Rachel for Gavinton Church where I conducted the service for the Third Sunday in Advent complete with Advent candles and Christingles. In truth I was only standing in because Ann, our minister, was away to a wedding and I was delighted to do so even if by now I am well past my sell-by date. I spoke on the theme of the third Sunday in Advent: John the Baptist.

After the service we joined everyone for coffee in the hall and then made our way back to Mount Pleasant where we were joined by David who had some measurements to take on the boat trailer. We dined in the farmhouse, Sunday lunch this week, and then I drove Mum to the Women’s Rural Carol Service at Gavinton before driving on myself to attend the members meeting of the Scottish National Party, Berwickshire branch. It is extremely interesting to see how this party is developing from the grass-roots as a result of the huge growth in membership in the aftermath of the referendum. Sometimes it is hard to avoid the thought that the real winners of the referendum have been the Scottish National Party.

I listened with interest to our local Scottish Member, Paul Wheelhouse, and also to a gentleman who was later adopted as a person to be considered for the constituency in the Westminster elections next year. I haven’t been to meetings like these before and I found it all quite fascinating.

Back home I discovered that Rachel had spring-cleaned the kitchen (and I am almost frightened to set foot in it because of the mud in the garden which it is almost impossible to avoid tramping in). I went off to Duns to buy us a Chinese take-away which we enjoyed in front of the fire, watching television and doing very little. It was lovely! (We found a Vicar of Dibley Christmas special which Rachel hadn’t seen before and then the climax of BBC Sports Personality of the Year – won this year by Lewis Hamilton).

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Saturday 13th. December, 2014 A busy Saturday 

Mix inspects the Christmas tree

Got up and took Mix for a walk before having a lovely hot shower and setting off (with Mix) for Gavinton Church where I helped Rachel set out the Christingles and marvelled at the work of decorating the Church for Christmas.

On the way home I helped Ann buy a Christmas tree and loaded her car with logs from Pearsons – one of staff at Pearsons told me that she had often thought that I would make a fine Father Christmas: it is much nicer than being mistaken for someone unpleasant!

Back home, Rachel erected the Christmas tree while I ensured that everything was ready for the service tomorrow. Then I sat down to prepare some music for Bill had who arranged for me to be sent several pages of musical script. It took quite a while but I was happy with it once it was done.

We all dined in the farmhouse and afterwards Rachel and I watched an episode of Montalbano before bed. It has been a good day.

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Friday 12th. December, 2014 – Another day kilt-making (not me) 

A view of the kilt-making studio today. Everyone is hard at work and the loom is being re-warped at the same time (by the end of the day some beautiful weaving had been produced)

Rose and walked Mix before breakfast. David arrived and we set about installing the final four power points within the Bothy – there are now eleven, a sign of how much we rely on electricity today.

Today was the final day of the current kilt-making course before Christmas. The gas heaters ensured that everyone was warm and, in addition to the kilt-makers, Sandy arrived to complete the warping of the loom and Tom came along to assist in rebuilding one of the heavy rollers which is integral to the working of the loom.

Later in the morning Ann arrived with her husband Jack who stayed on with Mum during the day as Ann went off to do her Christmas shopping. David entertained Jack with stories of his musical days and later, after we had all enjoyed a buffet lunch, with an impromptu performance on my guitar accompanied by his new effects pedal.

Soon afterwards David set off to prepare for a dinner he was attending tonight. I went off into Duns with Rachel to buy a Christmas tree and also to get the final bits for the Christingles – and I remembered the licorice allsorts!

Olive has now started marking accountancy examinations, something which will keep her busy into the New Year.

After dinner Rachel and I made up the Christingles while watching an episode of New Tricks on the television. It was good to walk the dogs and get to bed – it really is very cold.

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Thursday 11th. December, 2014 – We stop work to prepare for Christmas! 

The new studio now ready for plastering, something which is beyond our ken. It looks good though, and once plastered is going to be a great addition to Mount Pleasant

Woke and walked Mix in the snow before driving to Pearsons with Rachel to collect two new gas bottles to ensure that her team are warm for the kilt-making class tomorrow. Fitted up the gas bottles and then Tom arrived. Neil was not with him today because with the bad weather he has decided to make an early retreat home to Yorkshire which, in the circumstances, seems very sensible. I am grateful for all that he has done to help us and I enjoyed meeting up with him again.

Tom and I completed the ‘studio’ plaster-boarding and cleaned up the room so that we can abandon it for Christmas. Then we enjoyed a lengthy coffee and watched England defeat Sri Lanka at cricket on the television. Just at the final moment, the connection went down and we had to listen as the anchor staff from London told us of the final over victory.

Tom set off for home and I set about fitting up my Skype for a call this afternoon. I also prepared all of the music for Arrochar for this Sunday and tried to prepare some music for Bill.

Unfortunately one of the pieces had no sheet music, only an mp3 file and one can’t make a midi file from that. I searched and searched the internet for either the sheet music or for a midi file which I could adapt, but without success.

David, still a bit under the weather, popped in to see me and is kindly coming back to complete some work on the Bothy tomorrow.

At 3.30 p.m. I joined Green Pilgrimage colleagues from Denver (USA), Norway, Sweden, Canterbury, St. Albans, and Bath for a planning meeting. Isn’t technology wonderful?

I taxed Rachel’s Bongo and then joined the family and Ann (who is here for the kilt-making tomorrow) for supper in the farmhouse. This was followed by a relaxing time in front of the stove – our house is very cosy – before walking Mix and retiring to bed.

Rachel was in Berwick for her glass class today. She also arranged to get contact lenses – she thinks that they make her look older, I don’t think that at all. Other news: it is extremely cold! I continue to cough but am certainly over the worst. We are preparing to make Christingles for Church on Sunday. Tom set off to buy bits yesterday but forgot the licorice allsorts. Rachel set off to buy bits today and she also forgot the licorice allsorts. It will be my turn to forget them tomorrow!

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Wednesday 10th. December, 2014 -- Two really lovely meals 

Rachel, Olive, Mum and Digger enjoying their meal at the Black Bull tonight. It was an excellent evening and a superb meal and made me realise how close we are to Christmas and how much I am looking forward to it

Woke, walked Mix, breakfasted and joined Neil and Tom in the Hen House where we all spent the morning plaster boarding. No, we didn’t finish the room (that will be tomorrow) but we had a grand time. The room, Tom has decided, will be called the Studio because of the excellent light. It was to have been a library but with all the bookcases in the summerhouse and in the bothy, another would be totally over the top.

David arrived and installed a power point for our electric saw and then he departed suffering greatly from a cold. Just about everyone has succumbed now.

Neil, Tom and I, along with Mum and Rachel, all went to Gavinton Church for the soup and sweet lunch. It was excellent and great fun and afterwards we all went our separate ways. I returned to the summerhouse where Mix and I prepared a service for Sunday at Gavinton.

Afterwards I had a shower and then went as Mum’s guest with Olive, Digger and Rachel to the Black Bull in Duns for my first Christmas meal of the season: Scotch Broth, Turkey and Christmas pudding. It was an excellent meal and beautifully served.

Back home I walked Mix and retired to bed – while my cold is retreating it is certainly not yet vanquished.

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Tuesday 9th. December, 2014 – Getting on with it! 

There is quite a difference since yesterday and I am really pleased. Mind you, we will be relying on the services of a really good plasterer to cover up our defects but we won’t be the first to do that!

Rose, walked Mix and breakfasted in time to be ready for Neil who was coming to help me with the plaster boarding in the Hen House. He was fabulous and we achieved a great deal, working around the window in the main upstairs room before we stopped for coffee and then, after we had lunched with Tom (who had been in England collecting his car) we completed the east wall. Tomorrow we will have the whole squad – Neil, Tom, David and me – and we hope to complete the plaster boarding of that room. It will be quite an achievement. Mind you, we intend to go to the church lunch so we may not get as much done as we expect.

David also arrived this afternoon (he had been in Edinburgh today) and he drove me into Duns to collect Rachel’s Bongo which had successfully gone through its MOT test. Also today, Mum had visited the hairdresser, Rachel had gone shopping in Berwick, Sandy had arrived and done some more work on the loom, Olive had helped Rachel complete her tax return and Digger had been working on his bookcase.

We all dined together in the farmhouse while all around the winds grew in intensity. I have had to tie the rubber dinghy to my car to prevent it being blown away (the dinghy that is). After supper we retired to our lovely warm Granary and relaxed in front of the fire before I took advantage again of an early night. I think that I am making progress with my cold – but it has not been beaten yet.

Walking Mix this morning, a car stopped and a lady driving said that she was sorry she hadn’t seen me walking Mix recently. (I was delayed today because of a delivery of concrete slabs from Pearsons.) She said that I reminded her of Father Christmas being towed along by my faithful reindeer. Well, I expect that there are worse people to be taken for (although Mix isn't sure about being taken for a reindeer).

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Monday 8th. December, 2014 – Colds update! 

A picture of the upstairs of the Hen House as it is today. David has installed a temporary light and we are already to start plaster-boarding again. Using this picture as a base I will be able to illustrate the progress we make

Rose early to drive Rachel’s Bongo into Duns for its MOT test prior to being re-taxed in January. David met me and drove me home. David and I breakfasted in the farmhouse and then David fitted up temporary electric lights in the Hen House so that we can get on with the plaster-boarding this week. I emptied all of the items which had accumulated upstairs in the Hen House over the last nine months or so and together David and I cleared away some of the jumble from downstairs. We also installed a gas heater in the Hen House to keep the workers warm!

After an extended coffee break in the Granary, David left and I prepared to take Mix on his walk (having missed the opportunity this morning). However, just as I was about to set out, Tom and Neil arrived – Tom having been in England getting his car fixed, Neil having come to spend time with Tom and keen to help with the plaster-boarding. We showed Neil all that had been done since he was here during the building of the summerhouse and then, having measured the distance from the Granary backdoor to the summerhouse, we went off to Pearsons and ordered slabs to make a walkway. This is not just to add to my comfort but is primarily to prevent mud being walked into the Granary, or at least, as much mud as is presently being trampled in every day.

Tom and Neil went off to Gavinton and I finally took Mix for a walk, returning to the Granary for a heat (it is very cold today) and then to the summerhouse to catch up with some administration.

We all dined together in the farmhouse and then it was good to relax for a while in front of the television before walking Mix and retiring to bed.

Olive had one of her students for a tutorial today – it will be her final tutorial for just now as the examinations are tomorrow. And tomorrow Olive starts marking examinations on her computer. Today she has been ‘spring-cleaning’ the kitchen.

And finally, a health update: Tom and Dorothy are both down and suffering from the cold. David thinks that he is starting a cold. Rachel and I are still both struggling (with me it’s a cough when I do anything strenuous) and Digger is definitely under the weather. I think that Mum and Olive both still have their heads above water but the best advice I have is to avoid Mount Pleasant for a day or two – I think that we should be flying a yellow flag. (My mobile phone has also packed up – but I suspect that this is nothing to doing with the present round of colds!)

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Sunday 7th. December, 2014 --- It’s cold! 

Since I retired and now attend Church as a member of the congregation I have noticed that I appreciate things much more than when I was rushing around responsible for all that happened. This little bunch of flowers was on the communion table (not sure about that, mind) and I was struck by how beautiful the flowers were – colours, shape, and just ‘being’ on such a cold, frosty day as today

Rose, showered, walked Mix and went off to Church with Rachel and Mum. Tom and Dorothy were missing (Tom is still laid very low) and so was David (who told me he slept in). The service was on the theme of the lectionary and introduced us to John the Baptist. I find it strange the way the lectionary works. Today we get John the Baptist according to Mark and next week we get John the Baptist according to John. I always followed the theme of the advent candles – the promise of Jesus to return again, the prophets ( and therefore the Bible), John the Baptist, and Mary. I will have to think about what to do next week as I am standing in for Ann.

Drove home after coffee and soon afterwards David arrived and told me the tale of all the work he had had to do on his Jaguar yesterday and of falling asleep and not waking today until half-past ten. I can identify with that as I found it really hard to get up today.

Rachel and I had a snack and then Rachel set about the house with Christmas decorations and I got the fire going and got side-tracked by a Carry On film. Later Rachel went off to Berwick to Evensong (in my car because her car has blown its headlights). On her return we dined in the farmhouse before retiring to the Granary where Rachel had a television programme to watch (Remember Me). I walked Mix and got to bed early in the hope that I will finally be rid of this cold.

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Saturday 6th. December, 2014 – St. Nicholas’ Day 

Mix enjoyed being in the summerhouse today -- although there have been great changes here, Mix's cushion still remains in front of the heater. Mix is happy!

Rose gingerly and walked Mix. I still have a big cough and I will definitely return to bed early this evening. David arrived and changed the brake-pads on his Jaguar (he has been using Rachel’s Berlingo since Thursday because his Jaguar brakes failed and his Saab has no clutch).

I started work on tidying the summerhouse but things happened slowly today. Everyone else – Mum, Olive, Digger, Ann and Rachel – went off to a craft fayre at Paxton House and then Rachel, Olive and Ann went for lunch at the Black Bull in Duns. I had a roll and cheese with the dogs (doesn’t it claw at your heart-strings)?

Later we dined in the farmhouse and I quickly walked Mix and retired to bed. I think I’m making progress and I hope that Tom is as well (Dorothy says that he is staying in bed today). Just to complete the sick report I should say that Rachel is now going down with a cold – she is much more sanguine about it than I am! (Digger is also sniffing and Mum thinks that she has the beginnings of a sore throat – Olive is fine.)

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Friday 5th. December, 2014 -- I spend the day in bed (almost) 

The Stables has now settled down and developed an atmosphere all of its own -- almost as if it had been a weaving shed and a kilt-making station for generations. Today it housed another session of a kilt-making course

I had decided that come what may I was going to spend today in bed. Past experiences of colds which drag on and on persuaded me that this was a proper response, of course I haven’t been able to do this before because I have always been working but now I am retired I can happily have a day in bed.

Of course, it didn’t work out like that! First Rachel discovered that both of her gas heaters in the kilt-making stables had run out of gas. So I had to get up and move the stoves from the Bothy into the Stables. Next Rachel discovered that the electric fault which had attacked the Bothy had now spread to the Stables so I attacked the fuse boxes and, more by luck than judgement, got the lights working.

I was up so I might as well walk Mix, which he appreciated, after which I did retire to bed with a Lemsip and a bottle of Beechem’s all-in-one cold cure. I read a little, watched a bit of television and slept the rest of the day away. Discovered that Tom is also laid low.

Rachel and Ann's kilt-making course went extremely well.

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Thursday 4th. December, 2014 -- Ploughing (bravely) on! 

Well, there is a long way to go -- but you can see how it is going to look

Up and walked Mix before breakfast. Tom arrived and we compared symptoms. In fact, all that we did today was to erect a screen in the Bothy and then Tom returned home to rest up his cold. I took delivery of the bookcase which had arrived damaged a week ago. I erected it and fitted it in place.

David arrived and sorted out a problem which had arisen with the electrics. Mum went to a meeting of the Guild at Greenlaw and then to a pantomime in Duns. Ann arrived to run the kilt-making course tomorrow with Rachel, and Olive did some work on her kilt. I prepared the music for Arrochar Church, sent it off and went into Duns to buy a cold-cure from the chemist (who was not happy about me having both Lemsip and a cold cure).

We all dined together (except for Mum who had gone to her pantomime) and after dinner while Ann and Rachel put the world to rights, I had an early night to try to dispose of my cold which is now firmly ensconced in my chest.

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Wednesday 3rd. December, 2014 – Into the barns 

I took this picture of a squirrel last week when we were in London. We were walking through Green Park and everywhere the wildlife was as tame as could be. I love the fact that the new National newspaper gives over its centre pages to a picture of the day -- one day I'll take a picture good enough to grace its pages!

Neither Tom nor David were coming today so I was able to sleep in a little. I thought yesterday that my cold had disappeared, but it was at that strange stage when it disappears from the head and has not yet started on the throat. Today it has reached the throat and my voice has gone a little awry.

I thought that today I would try to get furniture into the Bothy so that it can be used. Rachel assisted me to move the green leather armchairs from the summerhouse into the bothy, replacing them with my club leather chair from the Granary. (I need to have leather chairs everywhere I work because of the dogs who like to relax in them.) I found the cushions for the green sofa in the big barn and then Rachel and I uncovered the sofa itself in the carriage shed and Tom kindly nipped round for ten minutes to help me lift it into the Bothy. Tom is also showing signs of developing the same symptoms which I am enjoying – I can feel my cold slowly descending into my chest.

As a result, after getting the Bothy organised I retired to bed (partly to try to keep away from everyone else while I am so colded and partly to try to get rid of it). Rachel walked Mix and Rowan in the garden. Other news today is that Mum was at her book group and Oliver will soon start marking examination papers on-line for those who are just about to sit important accounting examinations. Olive was in Fife today meeting some of her students and was taken out to lunch by one of the firms for whom she teaches.

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Tuesday 2nd. December, 2014 – A Presbytery Meeting for me to remember! 

Escapade, our Wayfarer dinghy, is now sitting parked as if she were a motor car. Mum says that it is quite strange to look out of her bedroom window and see a boat parked in front of it

Up and walked Mix before breakfast. Met with Tom and we spent the morning fitting the bookcases to the walls of the Bothy. It was more difficult than in the summerhouse because the old Bothy didn’t have many square angles, but we managed and the Bothy is now really beginning to take shape.

In the afternoon, Tom and I went up to Duns Church to set out the seats for this evening’s presbytery meeting. We had been astounded to discover that for all the years that Helen has been clerk she has had to set out all of the chairs – what a pity we hadn’t discovered earlier or we would have done something about it.

In the evening I went to the monthly meeting of the Presbytery in Duns. It was a short meeting – there wasn’t a lot of business – but I came away from the meeting having been appointed as Presbytery Clerk for the next year. It wasn’t a total surprise: our fabulous presbytery clerk is unwell and had to give up, and both the business convener and the moderator had spoken to me, the conversation going something like this, “Helen needs to retire and there really isn’t anyone else.” So I have agreed to take on the post for a year which will enable the presbytery to see what it wants to do in the long term without a present panic.

Brought home a Chinese take-away. Shrimp foo yong with shrimp curry and chips. It was really good. Walked Mix and went to bed.

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Monday 1st. December, 2014 – It’s December already 

This is Olivebank sitting on her trailer -- the difference is that now the trailer is just about road worthy once again. David has stripped everything back and has rebuilt many of the component parts. He assures me that before the month is out, Olivebank will be able to be driven on the Queen's Highway and we will be able to trail her down to Amble for next season's sailing

I got up, walked Mix and breakfasted in the summerhouse. I am a bit under the weather with a cold. Today it is a head cold but if I remember colds rightly, it will spread down through my throat and end up in my chest. I say ‘if I remember’ because it seems an awfully long time ago since I had a cold, but this has all the hallmarks of a great one!

Met with Tom and David and then Tom and I spent the majority of the day putting together bookcases. We stopped at lunchtime and ate up some of the leftovers in the farmhouse and spent so long relaxing that we didn’t really get started again. Tomorrow we will fix the bookcases to the walls and then that will be that!

I dined in the farmhouse with the family and then retired extremely early to bed in an attempt to get rid of my cold.

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Saturday 29th. November, 2014 – A working Saturday, in parts 

The bookcases are taking shape. The real beauty of these units is that they can be assembled to fit any space and, once they are assembled and filled with books, they become quite anonymous (which is what I require from a bookcase)

I slept in today – I usually do on a Saturday – and it was after ten before I was out and about with Mix. We went to work in the Bothy, putting together some more bookcases. I would have spent the day at it but two of Digger’s friends, Alan and Liz, arrived and after showing them around our bit of the estate, we all had lunch together in the farmhouse.

It was a lengthy lunch and it was quite late before I returned to the Bothy – and stayed there only briefly because Rachel wanted help removing Christmas decorations from the attic above the bedroom.

Once that job was done I did retire to the Bothy and do a bit more work before joining everyone else in the farmhouse for a fish supper. In the evening Rachel and I watched another in the series of Montalbano stories on BBC4. As usual it was excellent.

We walked the dogs together and then retired for the night.

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Friday 28th. November, 2014 --- Working on bookcases 

Mix is in seventh heaven lying in front of this heater in the Bothy. I remember the first night we had him, I lit a fire and Mix barked at it and shrunk off to a far corner of the room. Nowadays, if there is a heater or a fire Mix's place is right in front of it -- the hotter the better

Rose, walked Mix and breakfasted in the farmhouse. Tom arrived and later, David. David went off to Berwick to buy electric cable and plugs, Tom and I started assembling bookcases.

Meanwhile in the Stables, Rachel and Ann were running their kilt-making class, stopping for lunch half-way through the day – and Tom, David and I joined them to help them use all of the soup which Olive had made.

In the afternoon, David worked on the electrics (installing electric sockets) while I continued to work on the bookcases. Tom went off home with chores to fulfil. Before I knew it, it was six o’clock and time to eat in the farmhouse before relaxing in the Granary, around the stove, with Rachel and the television for company.

It will be more of the same tomorrow.

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Thursday 27th. November, 2015 – Moving On 

A picture of the light-fitting in the Bothy. Doesn't it look baronial?

Today, after walking Mix and breakfasting, I met with Tom and we cleared the front of the Bothy and fitted up some internal decorations on the bothy walls. The light fitting has now arrived and this was fitted up in the afternoon by David.

At lunchtime we all dined at Pearsons (I had haggis, neaps and tatties) and then it was back to the Granary for David to fit up the light-fitting and for us to take delivery of a number of bookcases from IKEA. One arrived broken and I spent almost an hour on the telephone before I could get through to someone who agreed to change it as quickly as possible.

The bookcases are all flat packed and it will take us a few days to assemble them, but once assembled, I think that they will look superb. After Tom and David left, I erected the first bookcase and put it roughly in position.

Ann arrived (tomorrow is another kilt-making day) and later Rachel returned from her glass class. Mum too was home from her visit to the Guild at Gavinton where she had been sharing her memories of Bletchley Park. In the evening Olive had a student for some private study – she is being kept busy with students just now.

We dined in the farmhouse and in the evening I prepared the music for Arrochar this Sunday and then dozed in the Granary – I have to be fit for erecting bookcases tomorrow. Today the Smith Commission proposed that Scotland be given some more powers over income tax and some welfare benefits. It has been interesting to see the Great Britain parties claiming that this has been a massive transfer of powers while the SNP and the Greens have said that it comes nowhere close to what the national leaders promised in their by now infamous ‘Vow’. I regret that the Scottish parliament has not been given more control of the leavers which would make it most easy to stimulate the economy. Having said that, I think that there is scope to use the new powers, once they come, to show the rest of the United Kingdom the way in terms of working towards a fairer country. I look forward to the Scottish Government having a large tax band from £10,000 to £15,000 income with a nil level of tax, while increasing the current tax rate for those above that figure. (Making little difference for those earning just above that level but enabling the rest of us to pay a bit more to help those who at present have to use food banks). I look forward to the Scottish Government exploring new ways of using the ability to create new welfare grants more appropriate for our country in the twenty-first century. I suspect that politics will be exciting over the next year or two.

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Wednesday 26th. November, 2014 – Back home again 

Our train in Berwick station. Just over twenty-four hours since we departed we have been brought safely back home

We were woken by our sleeping-car attendant at 6.30 a.m. with coffee and tea and arrived into Edinburgh about half-past seven. There was time to collect a paper to read on the next train before boarding the eight-ten to Berwick where we alighted, walked down to parade to collect the car and drove home via Tesco where we filled up with petrol.

Everyone was well at home and Mix was especially pleased to see me. David arrived soon after we did and started work on the trailer for Olivebank. Tom also arrived to see how we were. We will meet up again tomorrow.

In the afternoon one of my ministerial colleagues came to visit and I greatly enjoyed sharing experiences and swapping yarns. Soon it was time for supper when we all got together around the farmhouse table.

In the evening there really wasn’t anything I wanted to watch on television and so I dozed until the News and Newsnight came on. I was anxious to watch these because today the new Scottish government had unveiled its plans for the coming year. I thought that they were moving in a good direction and I admire their emphasis on consensus. I wish them well.

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Tuesday 25th. November, 2014 – A Fabulous Day Out in London 

This probably marks a new low in my standard of photography. I took it as I sat down in the theatre just before the announcement that from this point on there was to be no more photography. So I of course obeyed the injunction, but I show this just to give a little bit of an idea as to what the theatre was like (and to show what a fine viewing position Rachel and I had)

Woke at six, showered and walked Mix before setting off with Rachel to Berwick where we parked before catching the eight-ten train to London. This is a good train – it has few stops and we were in London by twenty to twelve.

No sooner had we arrived than Sandy caught Rachel on the telephone so there she stood in Kings Cross station discussing the new wool for the weaving loom. We caught a tube to Oxford Circus from where we wandered down Oxford Street admiring the street lights for Christmas and the shop windows, in particular we admired the windows of Selfridge’s where we also went in and explored their Christmas bazaar. London prices are something else. I managed to break the frame of my reading glasses – I bought five pairs for just under five pounds in Wester Hailes. I went into Boots where they advertised a special offer of two pairs for thirty pounds. In Selfridges they were thirty-four pounds a pair! (I know that I am not comparing like with like but my pound-a-pair glasses work extremely well.)

Reaching Marble Arch, we crossed to Speakers’ Corner in Hyde Park – I recalled speaking there at a rally in the 1960s) – and made our way to the Serpentine which we followed along to Green Park. Form here it was a succession of tourist destinations which Rachel hadn’t seen for many years. We were taken with the Australian War Memorial, we saw Buckingham Palace, we walked down the Mall to Admiralty Arch, we saw Rotten Row and looked over St. James’ Park to Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament and we lunched at a Prete a Manger on Trafalgar Square looking up at Nelson’s Column and across at his lions.

After lunch we caught a tube from Charing Cross to Piccadilly Circus which we explored before getting back on the tube. I had intended us to move on to Covent Garden but there was a problem with the Piccadilly line (someone on the line we were told) and so we retraced our steps to Embankment from where we caught a tube to Mansion House which was just a short walk to St. Paul’s and then across the Millenium Bridge to the Globe.

At the Globe we were just in time to catch a tour of the theatre and, more interesting to us because we already knew the theatre, a lecture on its story and the opportunity to explore the fabulous exhibition centre there – the exhibition tells the story of the original Globe (and the one which replaced it when it got burned down) as well as the project which led to the existing Globe. A wonderful story and a great deal to see.

Now there was just half an hour left for us to move next door to visit the large Christmas market, all on its market stalls on the banks of the Thames. There was a touch of the winter wonderland about it all and Rachel bought herself a pendant watch as a souvenir. (This was actually our second Christmas market of the day as we had visited another one attached to a funfair in Hyde Park where Rachel had bought a star for our Christmas tree.)

Coming in out of the cold, we arrived at the Swan restaurant, part of the Globe complex, where we had a really good meal – I had soup, followed by salmon fishcakes with salad, chips and cauliflower cheese, followed by black forest meringue, washed down with ginger beer.

It was now time to make our way to the theatre. It is called the Sam Wannamaker theatre, after the person whose vision it was to rebuild the Globe. While the Globe reflects a best guess at Shakespeare’s theatre in the outdoors, the Sam Wannamaker Theatre is an inside theatre from a little bit later. The theatre took my breath away.

It is small (seating just three hundred and fifty people around the stage). It is lit entirely by candle-light. There are six chandeliers each with twelve candles in them and an additional four holders for two candles each. The actors also carry candles with them but the light is changed, as is the whole set really, by the raising and lowering of the candelabras.

By chance Rachel and I were in the best seats in the house, right in the middle with no one in front of us at all. Obviously one can’t take pictures during the performance so I must leave it to your imagination – it will certainly live on in mine -- aided by my puny effort at the head of this entry.

The play was ‘Tis Pity she’s a Whore (written by John Ford and first performed in 1629) and the production and performances were beyond anything I can readily describe. It captivated me from the moment it started until the final drop of blood was shed as the play reached its gory conclusion.

We walked back to London Bridge tube station and caught the tube to Euston Station in plenty of time to catch the 11.50 p.m. sleeper to Scotland. There is something so cosy about a sleeper and the motion of the train is a wonderful way of being lulled to sleep.

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Monday 24th. November, 2014 -- On Church Business 

It’s Tom back on a ladder, this time clearing out the gutters on the Cranshaws Kirk. It’s a hard life being a property convener in today’s church

Woke, walked Mix and breakfasted. Tom arrived and we went off to Cranshaws Kirk to clean the gutters and to remove the chairs from the laird’s loft which had been badly affected by woodworm. The little Church at Cranshaws is a fascinating building on a lovely site. It traces its reformed clergy back to 1572 although its history goes back much further: James IV attended worship here before the ill-fated battle of Flodden in 1513. I do hope that as the Church of Scotland declines all of the beautiful little churches in our country do not disappear.

Tom dropped me off at lunchtime and then picked me up again to take me back to Cranshaws to measure up the glebe and mark up the glebe plan for the benefit of the General Trustees. We met Clare, Ann and Jack (and had a very pleasant coffee in the manse). On our way out we met up with David who had come to repair the electrics in the Church and then it was back home to Mount Pleasant where I checked that everything was in order for our trip to London tomorrow.

We dined in the farmhouse – Olive was missing because she was working with a student, her second of the day. Clearly the examinations are getting very close.

I had a happy evening in front of the stove and the television watching University Challenge, Panorama and New Tricks before retiring for an early night before our early start tomorrow.

Should say that I read the first edition of the new newspaper ‘The National’. I am not a newspaper reader. When I am surveyed about what I read I have to confess to ‘Practical Boat Owner’. But I was taken with this first edition. It was fresh and lively. I liked its world news section and I liked its style. I’ll certainly read it for the rest of the week and see if I have become hooked or not.

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Sunday 23rd. November, 2014 – A Relaxing Sunday 

I took this picture as I walked Mix late in the afternoon. There was still a bit of autumn sun and I took this picture into the sun just as it was beginning to disappear for the day. Today has been an attractive day: it is colder than it has been but it is also crisp and fair

Rose, walked Mix and after breakfast set of with Mum and Rachel for Gavinton Church where the service was being led by members of the Guild on this the final Sunday of the Christian Year and the end of Guild Week.

It was a lovely service with Marga leading worship and Ruby preaching. Ruby described several of Jesus’ miracles of healing and then asked us what each one had in common. It was that Jesus had been interrupted from what he was doing. She suggested that sometimes we are not very good at being interrupted and that perhaps a good prayer for today was that we should pray to be interrupted with the opportunity of doing something special for other people and for our Lord. Everyone did well – and after the service we were all invited up to the Church Hall for lunch prepared by Janet (with some help from her husband). This was another good event and I enjoyed it very much.

Back home, Rachel set about doing her administration for the kilt-making course she is running with Ann. I took a sneaky picture of her deep in concentration over her laptop.

Rachel is preparing materials for her kilt-making students. I have looked in at the course as it is being run and everyone is having a great time

I had a leisurely afternoon. Mix and I went for a walk and I spent some time arranging a new web-site. What I mean is that I bought a domain from one company and I spent quite a while transferring it to my existing hosting company. I was successful but it took a bit of working out. What I shall be doing is launching a Green Pilgrimage site for Scotland. It will tell the story of the work of the Green Pilgrimage Network (in Scotland but also around the world) and it will highlight some of the great work being done by other groups on pilgrimage in Scotland as well. It will take me a wee while to get it up and running because there is so much else to do and several of my projects are reaching defining moments.

Rachel went off to Evensong in Berwick and on her return we all dined in the farmhouse (Olive had had a student today – accounting examinations are getting very close).

In the evening Rachel and I enjoyed a quiet evening relaxing in front of the stove in the Granary lounge. I watched the Antiques Road Show, dozed through some ghost story which Rachel enjoyed and then caught up with the News and most of a programme about Jim Clark (the racing driver from this area) who died in a crash in Germany in 1968.

I walked Mix and went to bed. We are enjoying a life such as I never even dreamed of – how fortunate we are.

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Saturday 22nd. November, 2014 – The carpet is finally laid 

It hardly makes a photograph, but for the record: the Bothy now has a carpet. During next week our building site will turn into a beautiful and useful room -- you'll see!

Today I slept in until almost ten o’clock! It was wonderful. I rose and walked Mix before going with Rachel into the bothy so that she could understand the delicate cut we required in the new carpet there. She completed the task expertly in no time at all and the bothy is now ready for furniture and fittings.

I had a chat with Alison from the Green Pilgrimage Network on the telephone and then a leisurely lunch in the Granary. In the afternoon Mix and I were back in the summerhouse sorting through some bits and bobs before a high tea in the farmhouse – Rachel had been at a final rehearsal for her concert this afternoon and returned with Bridget who shared our meal before we (Rachel, Bridget, Olive, Mum and I) set off for Berwick to attend the concert version of Hayden’s Creation.

We were right at the very front of a well-filled Church and gallery, and so I was able to sneak this picture of the sense of expectation and anticipation among the choir and orchestra members as the moment of truth drew near and the concert began

I enjoyed the Oratorio very much indeed – a small twenty-piece orchestra, three young soloists and an amateur choir producing a very satisfactory performance of one of the great pieces of music of its or any other time. We drove home and watched just a bit of television before retiring to bed.

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Friday 21st. November, 2014 – A gentle day 

Today was another kilt-making day at Mount Pleasant, and the subject was 'marking out'. My involvement was limited to ensuring that there were three heaters pumping out maximum heat from eight in the morning to ensure that everyone was warm from the moment they arrived

Rose, walked Mix, breakfasted and then met up with Tom who joined me in sorting out the carpet in the barn. We didn’t really do a great deal but after the running around of recent weeks it has been good to have a gentle day.

David arrived just as Tom was setting off for lunch with Dorothy. David and I enjoyed a coffee in the Granary. It was not without difficulties – the summerhouse was out of commission because the heater had been taken to augment the two heaters in the Stables as Anne and Rachel were running a kilt-making course today. And in the Granary the kettle has disappeared, taken, no doubt, to the Stables to enable the kilt-makers to have coffee. However, we managed.

After lunch, David went off and Tom returned and, in addition to pottering with the carpet (it is now ready for Rachel to make a final cut tomorrow), we blethered and put the world to rights. In a day which had elements of French farce about it, no sooner did Tom leave than David returned and it was time for more coffee. The kilt-making course came to an end for today and I transferred the heater back to the summerhouse, much to Mix’s delight.

We all ate in the farmhouse, Mum had considered going out this evening to a charity fund-raiser but decided against it, not least because she has been out for much of the day at a book reading club in, I believe, Berwick. I was glad not to be going out tonight. It is raw and cold and everything here is extremely muddy. I dozed in the lounge while Rachel watched a programme about choir boys and girls at Salisbury Cathedral, then I saw a bit of ‘Have I got News for you’ before the News and Newsnight.

I was interested that Nicola Sturgeon has unveiled her first cabinet and to see both the gender balance and the mixture of experience and fresh talent she has brought to her cabinet. I was enormously impressed by the way that she dealt with her first First Minister’s Questions yesterday. I hope that she is able to continue to build consensus – that requires good will not just from her but from others as well.

I was glad to get to bed.

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Thursday 20th. November, 2014 --- Normality returns 

This is Tom and Dorothy in the kitchen of their new house. It is a lovely house but those of you who know Tom and Dorothy will be able to picture them cleaning and polishing -- and that's before they have started doing all of the alterations to make the house just exactly the way they wish it to be. Whatever they do with it, it will be a very happy home and I wish them many happy years in it

Up, walked Mix, breakfasted and then Tom and I set off for Pearsons to buy guttering for the Bothy. It is a bit like a Meccano set – you have to know exactly what bits you require and then you come back home, put them all together and screw them on to the building. The gutter was up by lunchtime when we went, with David, who had arrived from meeting with the electricity board at Tom’s new house, to Pearsons. (I had a ploughman’s lunch – I had never seen so much cheese on one plate.)

Back at Mount Pleasant we fixed the downpipe to the gutter and then Tom did a marvellous job of fitting a final board under the front door to complete the seal. (Tom says I can have a guttering tick in my apprentice book, but in reality he did all the work: I held the ladder and passed the tools up and down. However, now I know what to do I will do the guttering on the summer house.)

Tom set off for home while David stayed for coffee and initiated me into CAD drawing on my computer. Anne arrived, she is here to run the kilt course tomorrow, and soon afterwards Rachel got back from Berwick where she had been at glass-making with Dorothy.

We dined early to enable Digger to set off for Berwick to collect Olive who has been in Dundee, lecturing, all day. Soon afterwards Rachel set off back to Berwick to attend the final choir rehearsal for her concert on Saturday evening.

I retired to the summer house to prepare the music for Arrochar for Sunday and to catch up on some administration. Olive, just back, had a student down here cramming for examinations which start very soon. Rachel returned home and forgot to close the gate. The next thing we knew, Mix had disappeared. A kind lady drove in to say she had seen a dog down towards the bridge. I set off at once with my torch, shouting ‘Mix’ at the top of my voice. Mix appeared in the distance racing back towards me. He is a very good dog and I am a very relieved master.

I walked Mix and retired to bed.

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Wednesday 19th. November, 2014 – An away day with David 

As my picture shows, the Metro Centre is already preparing for Christmas. I loved seeing all the decorations

Up early and breakfasted after walking Mix. David arrived and suggested that we set off for Newcastle to visit a shop he knew to buy a light fitting for the Bothy.

Before setting off, we visited Tom and Dorothy’s new house in Gavinton. Tom and Dorothy were up to their necks in soap and water, scrubbing out the kitchen, having already removed all of the carpets. It is a lovely house and will suit them well, although I imagine that Tom will spend most of his life out in the fine workshop at the bottom of the garden. He hasn’t got a coffee machine in there yet, but I dare say that it will not be long.

David drove me to Newcastle in his Saab and we visited his light-fitting shop. I have never seen so many lights in one shop, a huge shop spread over two levels. But although they had many, many light fittings and although the lady there was ever so helpful, they just didn’t have what I was looking for. So we drove on, visiting the Metro Centre before returning home.

The Metro Centre is so large and is either a place you love or loathe. I love the buzz, I love the variety, I love the crowds. We had a coffee and a panini at Starbucks – I do know that it is not politically correct to patronise Starbucks but David loves coffee ... now I would have preferred Kentucky Fried Chicken. On the drive home we talked about making a light fitting to my design.

We got to the farmhouse just before supper time in the farmhouse.

After supper I suggested to Rachel that we were going to make the light fitting. She suggested that I might find exactly what I was looking for on the internet. And so it transpired. Within five minutes. Exactly what I was looking for. And with free delivery. And far cheaper than any I had seen in the shops.

Rachel and I watched Enigma on the television. Of course we had seen it before, but it is a good story and the star, Dougray Scott, studied at Fife College (where Rachel taught drama). I walked the dog and went to bed.

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Tuesday 18th. November, 2014 – Back to Argyll 

I took this picture last week as I walked towards Canterbury Cathedral. This is a fascinating main street, cobbled and pedestrianized, retaining much of its medieval spirit while containing modern fast food shops and tourist emporia. I suppose that while the shops in medieval times would be totally different, those who ran them would be out to serve and to gain from the presence of the pilgrims in the town. It made me remember that while we see huge changes in the world around us, nothing really changes

Up early and away from home by half past seven to be at Cardross for a funeral at 11.15. I got there in time, but only just, having sat in a traffic jam on the Edinburgh by-pass for over an hour. It was as well that I set off so early.

The funeral was that of Hannah Stirling, a grand old lady of Loch Lomond-side who this year had celebrated her one hundredth birthday. While I was down in London last week (actually as I was walking through St. Pancras Station) I was telephoned by Jim Auld, the local undertaker and a good friend, and asked if I would conduct the funeral. I reminded him that I was retired and he rejoined by telling me that Hannah had left instructions in her will that I would conduct her service. I replied that her will must have been written while I was minister at Arrochar; he told me, no, that it was only six months ago. So as the service was in the crematorium and as I k new that Hannah was not a member of any church congregation, I had agreed to conduct her service. It was, of course, a privilege.

The tribute was paid by Hugh, a nephew of Hannah’s husband and he took us back over Hannah’s long life, speaking of her days as a Wren during the last war, of her marriage to her surgeon commander, of her love of travel and of the steely determination with which she worked to keep Loch Lomond as she passionately believed it should be. There is no doubt that she was a very special lady. It was good for me to meet up again with Leeanne who has cared for Hannah over so many years. Life will be very different for her without Hannah to care for.

After the service I went for lunch at the local garden centre with Jim and then I drove home, leaving after one and being home by twenty-past three – what a difference there is when there is no rush hour to drive through in Edinburgh.

I did very little once I got home. To tell the truth I was tired out with a long drive and with conducting a funeral again, the first for more than a year. I discovered that life had been continuing without me at the farmstead. Rachel had taken Mum to Newtown St. Boswells to attend a conference to mark seventy-five years of the Citizen’s Advice Centre movement. Mum had enjoyed it very much. Rachel, on returning home, had laid the carpet in the Bothy – it is looking grand.

No sooner had it got dark than Digger’s wood arrived and I helped him unload it into the one barn which we have not yet restored – we’ll be starting soon, now that the Bothy is almost complete. Then it was an early meal with everyone in the farmhouse before I set off to Duns to attend, as a visitor, a meeting of the Presbytery Business Committee.

Back home, I walked Mix and went to bed, shattered!

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Monday 17th. November, 2014 – More Progress 

Visitors who came to see Mum last week, while I was at Canterbury, brought this doll to Mum. It is a fisher lass, I suppose, and comes from the north-east. Now it sits on Mum’s chair in her garden room

Woke, walked Mix, Breakfasted and was just on the point of setting off to buy carpet (having exhausted my internet searches) when David arrived. We set off for Berwick together and found a grand carpet store with a very helpful lady who found just what we were looking for – dark, hard-wearing, unlikely to show mud, perfect.
We cut the carpet and loaded it into the Bongo along with under-felt and gripper rod and then visited HomeBase to see about guttering. They have plenty but as the Bongo was full we determined to return later.

Back home, we set about brushing out the bothy (again) and then fitted the gripper board and laid the under-felt. Then we laid out the carpet to flatten overnight. I was astonished to see that it was by now almost tea time – where had the day gone?

David set off for a meeting and I got ready for supper, after which I watched University Challenge before getting an early night. Tomorrow I will have an early start.

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Sunday 16th. November, 2014 --- A Happy Sunday 

Rachel took our organ to Church today to enable her to provide the music for the morning service and allow the regular organist to attend a Baptism service at Cranshaws. So we were treated to Rachel’s descants and arrangements: they were very good

Up, showered, walked Mix, breakfasted, loaded the organ into the car and set off with Rachel and Mum for Gavinton Church where Ann led our worship and preached on the parable of the talents. After the service we joined the rest of the congregation for tea and coffee in the church hall.

Back home accompanied by David and Tom for a little bit of planning about the next stage in our restoration programme. When they left I prepared a funeral service for a ceremony which I will conduct later in the week. Then I set off for Eyemouth to attend a meeting of the SNP which was addressed by Paul Wheelhouse, the Minister for the Environment and Climate Change. He had come to the Scottish Pilgrim Gathering and is the Minister currently responsible for many of the concerns of the Green Pilgrimage movement. I enjoyed listening to what he had to say. However, it is likely that Nicola Sturgeon will reshuffle her cabinet later this week and there is no way of knowing if Paul Wheelhouse will continue to hold that brief. (At the meeting I met Lothian from whom we bought Mount Pleasant. He was looking well and enjoying life beyond Mount Pleasant.)

I crawled home in thick fog – a deer leapt out in front of the car. I managed to stop and was glad that I decided to remain stopped because the deer was followed by another one almost at once. Back home Rachel took the fog as a cue not to drive to Berwick for Evensong. She was very wise.

Scott, Sue and Sue’s dad Bill had come to visit and I caught up with them in the farmhouse. On their departure Digger went into Duns to collect fish suppers for our tea. They were very good.

Rachel and I settled down in front of the fire and watched an old episode of Vera. I think it was good as well, although to be honest I dozed through the film, waking up in time to catch the News, walk the dog and retire to bed. Another good day.

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Saturday 15th. November, 2014 – They really can’t stay away! 

This is a picture of the Bothy at the stage we have now reached. The building work has been completed and the inside looks like a giant garden shed – but just wait until it has all been fitted out: it is going to look like a pine palace!

Slept in until half-past nine and then walked Mix and set about my morning’s work of cleaning out and cleaning up the Bothy. During the morning both Tom and David arrived – I think that they are both rightly proud of all that we have achieved and, like me, are looking forward to the next tasks, the fitting of lights, carpets, furniture and so on. (We won’t fit shingles on the roof until the warmth of the summer next year).

I got everything looking good (carrying wood and tools up to the next site of work – upstairs in the Hen House – and cleaning out the Bothy) and then had a snack lunch in the summer house, where I also spent the rest of the afternoon, catching up with tasks which were waiting to be done (not least this blog and my finances). Rachel is enjoying sorting out the music for the Gavinton Service tomorrow.

We all dined together at six, after which Rachel and I enjoyed a quiet evening in front of the fire watching an episode of Montalbano. What a lovely life we have.

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Friday 14th. November, 2014 -- The Bothy is completed 

Tom, working at height, is completing the final sections of the wall in what will be our new bothy

Rose and walked Mix, breakfasted and met up with Tom and later with David. We continued with the Bothy – these last boards cutting around the beams take ages. Tom went off to take possession of his new house in Gavinton and David and I subjected the Bothy to a major clean up (and drank some coffee). Tom returned and we made a sprint for the line, completing the last sections of the final wall just before eight o’clock in the evening.

It felt really good! I dined on my own (having missed my evening meal) and then collapsed in front of the television where I watched a recording of the final episode of Grantchester. It has been a very good series.

Walked Mix and retired to bed. Perhaps I will have a long lie tomorrow morning. It has been a very good week.

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Thursday 13th. November, 2014 – Back to normality 

Mum went to the WRI meeting in Gavinton this evening. Everyone had been asked to bring a tea cup and at the meeting they would learn how to decorate a tea cup with flowers. This is Mum's effort

Rose and walked Mix before breakfast. Tom and David arrived and work continued on the Bothy – not nearly as much work as I had anticipated because both Tom and David have been keeping things ticking over while I was away (how kind they are). Mid morning while David was sorting my car (it got a punctured rear tyre from one of the huge roofing nails from the recent roof repair at the farmhouse), Tom and I went up to Clare’s where we moved an electrically operated arm-chair from her house to the Manse at Cranshaws. This done we met up with David at Pearson’s for lunch and to buy some supplies for completing the Bothy before returning to the Bothy to do a bit more work.

Rachel, meanwhile, was in Berwick attending her glass class, returning for tea before going out again to her choir in Berwick, taking with her Bridget from Gavinton. I missed Rachel because I had gone out on a visit, returning just in time to drive Mum to Gavinton to attend the Women’s Rural Institute meeting. So we were all moving around in different directions.

Finally back home, I ate with Olive and Digger – Mum and Rachel had eaten earlier – and then I plugged myself into the summer house to prepare the music for Gavinton and for Arrochar. Rachel will take the music for Gavinton and augment it with her descants and other embellishments tomorrow.

Finally, on Rachel’s return, I walked Mix and retired to bed.

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Wednesday 12th. November, 2014 – Another day in the train 

A picture of some of my Green Pilgrimage colleagues, all of whom have become very good friends over the time we have met and worked together

Again I woke early, showered and enjoyed a full English breakfast before saying my good-byes, walking to the station and catching the nine-twenty-four to St. Pancras. It was a very busy train but I found a seat and soon I was in London. I had a bit of a wait in London so I explored St. Pancras and then explored King’s Cross. Again, my train was in the station early and I got on and settled down for the journey. Again the train was fairly busy but I had a seat to myself with no one beside me, so I had lots of room. I enjoyed a sandwich and a Fanta on the journey and got into Berwick about twenty to four to be met by Rachel and Rowan, finally getting home soon after four.

Rachel and Anne were in the midst of a day working with different of their students who were all coming in, one by one, to mark out their kilts. Mix was extremely glad to see me and, truth to tell, I really didn’t do anything else today. I relaxed in front of the stove in the Granary lounge. I dined in the farm house and then relaxed in front of the television (with my eyes closed). It has been a good three days – but it is always good to be home.

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Tuesday 11th. November, 2014 At work in Canterbury 

This is the view from my room in the Canterbury Cathedral Guest House -- the entrance to the Guest House in front and then directly behind, the Cathedral itself, imposing itself on all around

Rose early and showered before breakfast in the Guest House restaurant. I ordered the full English breakfast and wasn’t disappointed. We started work at nine-thirty (breaking just before eleven to be part of the Ceremony of Remembrance), continued through a buffet lunch before moving across to the conference room in the Guest House to complete our discussions. In the early afternoon we all went for a walk (partly to clear our heads and partly to continue the discussions in smaller groups).

Today we discussed the shape of the organisation in the future, funding priorities, action points for the next year and so on. It was an extremely positive meeting and towards the end I made a presentation regarding Bede’s World and St. Paul’s Church in Jarrow as part of a proposal that they become part of the Green Pilgrimage Network. There was enthusiasm about their work and agreement that they will become part of our network, something I will sort out once I get back up north.

Again we attended Evensong which, again, I really enjoyed. Now we were taken as guests of the Alliance of Religions and Conservation for a meal and then, a real treat, we went back to the Cathedral, now closed, to be taken on a candle-lit pilgrimage through the Cathedral. It was a moving experience and an appropriate end to our two days together.

I went back to my room, phoned home (Mix is still behaving) and I quickly fell asleep.

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Monday 10th. November, 2014 – A day travelling 

My first view of the Cathedral Guest House nestling in the grounds of Canterbury Cathedral and as luxurious as a five-star hotel

I was up just after six, in time to shower and walk Mix (in the half-light) before Rachel drove me to Berwick Station for my train to Canterbury. My train arrived on time just after eight and I had a totally uneventful journey down to King’s Cross Station where I arrived about twenty to twelve. There was an hour before my connecting train from St. Pancras but as I was quite engrossed in my book (which I was reading on the kindle given to me by my God-mother) I was happy to get on the train which was waiting for me at the platform and continue reading until the train set off. The journey to Canterbury was not a long one and soon I was walking through the streets of Canterbury, through the city gate and along a rather medieval street from which I turned off to walk not more than a few yards down to the cathedral entrance.

It may have been a blustery Monday lunchtime but the cathedral was busy with everyone paying large sums to go into the cathedral precincts (as I was a guest of the cathedral I didn’t have to pay)! I made my way to the cathedral guest house where I booked into my ground floor room overlooking the cathedral itself. The room was as comfortable as any hotel I have stayed in and included all of the usual facilities.

I didn’t have to present myself until three o’clock so I went out in to the town and as I happened to pass a branch of KFC I popped in for something to eat. Back at the cathedral I walked down to Diocesan House, in the Board Room of which our meeting was to take place. As well as the staff of the Green Pilgrimage network, I met friends from Norway, from Sweden, from Spain and, of course, from England.

We spent the first part of our two-day meeting discussing all that was going on in our own different countries. There was a great deal to report from Scotland, from the work on new paths – Glasgow, via Paisley to Whithorn, St. Andrews to Iona, the new Fife pilgrimage route, work in the north east; the existing routes such as St. Cuthbert’s Way and the recently opened John Muir Way. I reported on my involvement with the Scottish Pilgrim Routes Forum, on the recent Scottish Pilgrim Gathering in Dunfermline (with a major contribution from Green Pilgrimage’s Chris Baines) and on the growing support from the Scottish Government seen, in part, by the presence of a minister at that Gathering.

I listened with interest to the happenings in other parts of the network, from Norwich and Canterbury (a huge partnership network has been created around Canterbury), from Santiago de Compostela, from Trondheim and from Sweden. Alison reported to us on some of the other work which was developing in such places as Bethlehem and in France and Italy.

One of the major themes of our conference became clear. Next year it is programmed that the Green Pilgrimage Network should move on from its comfortable position under the branches of the Alliance of Religions and Conservation and establish its own identity, with its own staff and administration. Our task is to work out how to facilitate that transition, our responsibility being for the European Chapter of the network, but working closely with the Indian Chapter with whom we shall share responsibility for Green Pilgrimage Global. These will be exciting times and it is appropriate that once set up and running, organisations should be encouraged to stand on their own feet.

These were the matters which we discussed at length until shortly after five when it was time to move into the Cathedral for Evensong led by the Cathedral choir. I enjoyed the tranquillity of the service enormously.

After the service we set off for Waterstones Bookshop not far away where we attended a pilgrimage book launch – recounting a walking pilgrimage from Canterbury to Rome – before going to a very up-market restaurant as the guest of the Diocese of Canterbury where we met in a private room with many of the staff of the Diocese and of the Council over a very special meal. It was after eleven by the time we finished and I walked back to my room in the guest house with Peter, the Canon Librarian at Norwich.

I made a quick call to Rachel (and was glad to hear that Mix had been behaving well) before bed. I was quickly asleep.

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Sunday 9th. November, 2014 --- Remembrance Sunday 

A picture of the memorial and wreath with Rachel, Clare and Mum after the wreath-laying ceremony

Walked Mix and breakfasted before setting off for Gavinton Church for the Remembrance Sunday Service. Found the Church door closed – the heating had failed and we all worshipped in the Church hall (which was rather nice as the hall was absolutely full and also very warm).

After Ann had reminded us of the importance of remembering and shared two special meditations with us, we all made our way to the memorial where Mum had been chosen to lay the wreath. We made our way back to the hall for coffee and then back to Mount Pleasant where David and I fixed a plank in the Bothy which required a bit of remedial attention.

David went off and we all dined in the farmhouse before I drove along to Fogo for the afternoon service. I thought that it was at three but there was no-one there. However as there was no wreath in front of the memorial there and because the heaters were on in the Church, I deduced that the service was still to come. And it did, at half-past three. I was glad I had waited to share in the service again, naturally, on the theme of remembrance and again followed by the laying of a wreath at the memorial.

Back home I got my bits and pieces in order for my trip to Canterbury tomorrow. Rachel went off to Evensong in Berwick and on her return we had a snack before Olive and Mum joined us for the final part of Downton Abbey – I gather we still have a Christmas special to which to look forward.

I walked Mix and retired to bed. Tomorrow will have an early start. Amazing to think that twenty-five years ago today the Berlin wall began to crumble.

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Saturday 8th. November, 2014 --- A day in the study 

Most of today I sat in the summer house preparing a power point presentation on the theme of St. Paul’s, Jarrow and Bede’s World for the Green Pilgrimage network meeting in Canterbury at the start of next week. I enjoyed having a presentation to prepare, especially one on such a good subject

Slept in and didn’t walk Mix until ten in the morning. Then came straight to the summer house where I spent the morning tidying the summer house and sorting out my accounts – it was long overdue.

I then spent the afternoon preparing my presentation for the meeting of the Green Pilgrimage network in Canterbury. David popped in, he wanted to take a measurement off the boat trailer and then he was off to collect Sasha before driving to Newcastle to catch the shops.

After dinner – it was one of my favourites: tomato soup, toad-in-the-hole, cauliflower cheese and fried potatoes – I went off to the station to collect Digger who had been in Edinburgh with his friend David watching Raith Rovers against Hearts at football.

Back home Rachel and I watched an episode, or rather a film, in the Montalbano series, something which I always enjoy. Then it was time to walk the dogs. It was still very clear tonight. Last night we didn’t need our torches (other than if a car approached) because the moon was so bright and tonight was just as bright and clear. Haven’t mentioned Rachel except to say we watched Montalbano. Rachel spent most of today trying to clean up the lounge which has taken a hammering because of all of the mud which the dogs bring into the house on their paws. It can’t be helped but it is quite demoralising how quickly a clean room can become the opposite after the outside door has been open for only a moment or two.

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Friday 7th. November, 2014 – The Pine Palace takes shape 

Tom, up the ladder, fixes the final piece of pine into place in the end wall of the Bothy. We still have quite a bit to do at the other end of the building but it is going to look superb

Rose and walked Mix after breakfast today because Cathy was returning home and breakfasted early before Rachel drove her to Berwick to catch her bus. (There was a major panic because Rachel couldn’t find her car keys, so she took my car.)

Tom and I had planned to go to St. Boswell’s today for the auction market but the weather was so atrocious that we decided not to bother. Instead we continued with our joinery project in the Bothy and made excellent progress. Everything in the basic shaping of the Bothy has now been done except for the second of the end walls which will require quite a bit of joinery as the pine is fitted around the joists. Almost everything else has now been boxed in and it is looking great – like a pine palace!

Rachel shut herself in the kitchen to do her accounts, while Mum decided that she would have a lazy day. David did some work at his home on the brakes for the boat trailer and then joined Tom and me for the afternoon session in the bothy (and supervised the coffee breaks).

I enjoyed an excellent shower at the end of the afternoon, a super meal in the farmhouse with everyone, and then relaxed in front of the stove in the Granary. Mum joined us and we watched The Great Fire, a four-part drama set in the time of the great fire of London. It didn’t come across to me as being a drama with a great deal of historical realism but it was great fun – especially when one can watch it all at one sitting, flitting through the adverts with the remote control and seeing the four-hour broadcast in just three hours. It has been a busy week, but a fabulous one.

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Thursday 6th. November, 2014 – I work all day in the Bothy 

Late in the day, Mum and Cathy come to visit the Bothy and see all that has been done today. It is taking shape but we still have a large pile of timber which remains to be fitted

Up, walked Mix, breakfasted and set off to the Bothy to start work. Tom is already here, Dorothy is not going to the glass making today and Tom will only be here for a short time as he has other engagements during the day. Rachel, still tired out from yesterday, sets off for the glass-making and doesn’t return until late in the afternoon. David arrives and works with us until midway through the afternoon. I continue on my own, anxious to get as much done as possible as it may be a while before we are able to work on the Bothy again – tomorrow is St. Boswell’s auction day, and on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday of next week I am in Canterbury at a meeting of the European Chapter of the Green Pilgrimage network.

Cathy is busy upholstering chairs and Mum does a wash, Olive has a student to tutor in accountancy. We all eat together at six and afterwards Rachel sets off for her choir in Berwick. I come across to the summerhouse to prepare the music for Arrochar’s service this Sunday. There is little enough of it as this Sunday is Remembrance and the service is restricted to half-an-hour to enable everyone to walk to the war memorial.

I watch the News and am glad to get to bed. It has been a good day, but it has been a tiring one.

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Wednesday 5th. November, 2014 – Rachel’s course begins 

I popped in to the Stables and took this picture of all of the activity on day one of the kilt-making course run by Rachel and Anne. Everyone was having a fine time

Up and turned on the heating in the stables so that everyone would be warm at the course which Rachel and Ann were running. It is an eight-day course run over a number of weeks and it is the fulfilment of a dream for both Ann and Rachel – the opportunity of passing on their skills as craft kilt-makers. Olive has got involved to prepare all of the catering and the hope is that this will be the first of many.

I helped park the cars of those who arrived and everyone started their day in the farmhouse drinking coffee, enjoying scones and getting to know each other. Soon they moved over to the Stables to start to learn the theory and practice of kilt-making. I met up with everyone at lunch time (in the farmhouse) and they were clearly having a really good time. Then it was back to work in the Stables until just after four when our guests began to leave for home. It was, everyone agreed, a great start and Ann, Olive and Rachel and very pleased indeed.

Tom, David and I spent the day progressing the Bothy. Of course, we didn’t get as much done as we might have hoped because of our peripheral involvement in the course but it was a fun day. Mum went off to her book-reading group in Duns during the day and in the evening she returned to Duns to attend the Duns Church Guild.

Cathy, Rachel, Olive, Digger and I enjoyed an evening meal made up of all of the left-overs and then, leaving Cathy to continue her seat upholstery, Rachel and I went off to the Granary where we watched the second part of a Lewis. Unfortunately I had forgotten what happened in the first part, so I quickly fell asleep. I did watch a bit of the News before walking Mix and retiring for the night. It has been a really good day.

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Tuesday 4th. November, 2014 – I go to the Presbytery of Duns 

There is still a bit to do – but what has been done looks superb. There will be an update tomorrow by which time I hope this wall will have been completed

Up, walked Mix, breakfasted and started work with Tom on completing the second wall in the Bothy. We worked hard and it seemed that as if in no time at all we had completed the straight box part of the wall, however the next section of the wall, the apex or the triangular section, was much more difficult with every piece having to be cut to shape and fitted (often with great difficulty around the roof beams). As a result, although we worked all morning and most of the afternoon, we did not get the wall completed – but we still feel that we did well.

Lots of other things were going on around us: Digger had Heidi at the vet (she has been unwell and has a temperature – the vet has prescribed a course of antibiotics for her), Mum was at her hairdresser and later at her Tai Chi, Rachel was getting things ready for her kilt-making course tomorrow (in which connection Ann arrived to lead the course), David was in and around spending some time assisting Tom and some working on the boat trailer. Cathy has started work on the chairs in the farmhouse dining room (it is an on-going project for Cathy and I think that four have now been totally upholstered).

Later in the afternoon, I showered and after supper went off to Duns to attend a meeting of the Presbytery. There was little business except for the overture from the General Assembly regarding the proposed permissive legislation to enable congregations to call as minister a person in a civil partnership. After a bit of quite good natured debate, the overture was approved by twenty-four votes to eleven.

I returned home, had some trifle which Olive had kept for me, walked the dogs and after watching the news, retired to bed.

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Monday 3rd. November, 2014 – Digger’s birthday 

Digger admires his birthday cake – the candles have been blown out, we have sung Happy Birthday and now the lights are back on. Close inspection shows that the chocolate cake has been decorated with chocolate carrots: how appropriate!

Up, and after walking Mix, I breakfasted with Andrew who, in mid morning, set off for Hull and his ferry to take him on the next stage of his journey home to France. By that time Tom with very little help from me had completed the uprights for the second internal wall in the bothy and even made a start on the wall-cladding. We shall complete this wall tomorrow (and maybe make a start on the next one).

No sooner had Andrew left than Richard, one of my great friends from studying at Princeton days, arrived. I had a grand day with Richard, catching up on all that each of us is doing, having a snack lunch at Pearsons, showing him around our activities and visiting the churches in Gavinton, Fogo and Ladykirk. Before Richard left we had afternoon coffee with Mum in her garden room.

By the time that Richard left, Cathy had arrived and was having tea with Rachel in the Granary. I came across to the summer house to try to get my blog up to date but, just before dinner, a wood delivery arrived from the St. Bathan’s Sawmill, kindly brought down by Willie on his way to his band practice.

Rachel and I got the wood into the bothy (we should now have enough to complete the job) and then we joined everyone – everyone extended to include Scott and Sue – for a dinner in aid of Digger’s birthday. It was an extremely happy meal with a great cake made for the occasion by Sue and afterwards all of us (except Scott and Sue) made their way across to the Granary to watch Grantchester (held on pause until everyone was ready: isn’t technology great)?

After the news, I walked Mix and retired to bed contemplating how fortunate I am to have friends like Andrew and Richard. Life is good.

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Sunday 2nd. November, 2014 – Lots of Church 

At the service in Gavinton this morning the flowers had been provided by Mum (although bought and arranged by Andrea). I thought they looked really good. I wonder how many churches in Great Britain have flowers each Sunday on the chancel? It must be a huge number and must contribute significantly to the financial well-being of florists throughout the country

After all of the usual preliminaries, Mum, Rachel, Andrew and I went off to Gavinton for the morning service. After a three-week holiday Ann, our minister was back. Our service combined two themes, All Souls and the work of Crossreach (the social work arm of the Church of Scotland). A brief resume of the history and work of Crossreach was given by Clare, our session clerk.

We had coffee following the service and then drove home in time for lunch.

I snapped Andrew and Rachel as they walked down the Church path after the service -- both had obviously been given much food for thought by all that Ann had said

Just before lunch, Sandy arrived carrying with him the roll of tweed which he and Rachel had woven on the loom since it had been set up here at Mount Pleasant – the first roll of Mount Pleasant tweed. It is superb, not just to look at, but to feel. They have produced a real quality product and I have volunteered to wear their fabric in order to advertise it to everyone

Lunch was, as ever, really good and after lunch, leaving Andrew with Rachel to discuss her computer, Mum and I returned to Gavinton Church to attend a service in which we were encouraged to remember and give thanks for the lives of those we have lost and who were (and continue to be) an important part of our lives. It was a good service.

At the service this afternoon we were given the opportunity of lighting a candle as we thought of someone we missed

Back home, Andrew and I moved out to the summer house and soon afterwards Rachel set off for Berwick to attend the service at the Anglican Church. On her return we had another snack before sitting down with Olive and Mum to watch Downton Abbey in front of a blazing stove. It was a fine end to a good day.

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Saturday 1st. November, 2014 – Talking with Andrew 

As usual, Olive had prepared a splendid meal for us all and, because we had two guests – Andrew who was visiting me, and David who was visiting Digger – we ate in the dining room. Olive had prepared a splendid cherry tart which required a real team effort to serve, as the picture above makes clear

Everyone is welcome at meals in the farmhouse. This beautiful butterfly descended on a plate and was happier than many to pose for a picture before flying off

Rose and after walking Mix breakfasted in the farmhouse with Andrew. After breakfast I showed Andrew around our new home including the projects in which we are involved. We went up to Pearsons for a snack at lunchtime – I am becoming a real regular there – and then we came back to the Granary and blethered. We talked about school friends, about all that we had done in the intervening years, about our present view of the world and so on, and so on.

Later we joined everyone else (including Digger’s friend from early years, David from Kirkcaldy) for dinner. After dining I drove Digger and David into Duns so that they could conduct their conversations over a mini pub crawl! Rachel, Andrew and I turned our own talk in the Granary to computers. Andrew has strong views about speeding up computers by adjusting their registers and over the next couple of days he spent time looking at both my and Rachel’s computers. Mine is certainly operating much more quickly and, as far as I can tell, is still in one piece.

Digger telephoned to say that the one Duns taxi was unavailable so I went and collected David and Digger from Duns before chatting away the rest of the night with Andrew before bed.

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Friday 31st. October, 2014 – Hallowe’en 

Tom applies the final nails to the first wall in our new bothy. We are delighted with how it looks and hope that by the end of next week the bothy will be complete

Rose, walked Mix, breakfasted and then Tom and I set about constructing the first internal wall of the new bothy, a task we completed towards the end of the afternoon. David wasn’t with us today as he was off on a trip to get bits for his car.

Once the wall had been completed, I got ready for the arrival of my friend from school-days, Andrew. Although he lives in France, Andrew is a very keen member of the Scottish National Party so we immediately set off for Dumfries to attend a meeting at which Nicola Sturgeon was speaking. It was quite an experience. By my own reckoning there were significantly in excess of two thousand people present and Nicola Sturgeon both spoke extremely well and answered questions in a straightforward and friendly manner. She was very impressive. It was a genuinely inspiring and entertaining evening and I was extremely glad that we had made the long journey from Duns to Dumfries (and back again) on a cold, dark and wet Scottish evening.

Nicola Sturgeon spoke with passion about her view of a new Scotland, and particularly of her commitment to a fairer society -- something which she spelled out both in her prepared speech and in her answers to questions from her huge audience

On our return to the Granary we ate a meal prepared earlier by Olive and heated up for us by Rachel. Andrew and I talked our way into the night.

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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 somet