Thursday 5th. December, 2013 – A Mighty Storm and some Sad News 

There was a fence here yesterday

I slept fitfully – not least because there was a huge storm raging around the farm steading; but also because our alarm clock has a storm warning on it and this seemed to bleep every few minutes during the night. I got up and was taken aback at the damage which had been done. Our back garden fence had been blown out of the ground and the little gate through which one moved from the courtyard to the front of the farm house had been blown off its hinges. Walking Mix I found part of the exterior fence lying in the middle of the road. I wondered how it had survived the traffic until I realised that there was no traffic. Trees had fallen and we were almost totally cut off!

One of the casualties was the chicken house -- total destroyed by the storm: but not before the hens had got out. Digger spent much of the morning rebuilding their home and trying to ensure that it was warmer than it had been before, now that the really cold weather is arriving. He filled it with fresh wood-shavings and tells us that the hens were extremely grateful.

Back in the farmhouse we had visitors: a lady with three children from Bogend Farm had parked her car in our drive and was in the farmhouse with Olive and our guests. Keri had been driving the children along to catch the school bus when a tree fell, narrowly missing her car, and also cutting off the school bus. So although Bogend is only a few hundred yards away it was totally inaccessible. We enjoyed meeting Keri and the children but while we were chatting the power went off and we were without electricity for a couple of hours or so. I realised how fortunate we are to have gas in the farmhouse and that both buildings have wood-burning stoves.

Eventually the road was cleared and we said good-bye to our neighbours. Bill, Morag and I set off for Duns so that I could show them around and also buy some bits and pieces that we were requiring. We also bought some cream cakes for the snack lunch we were to share. We all gathered around the farmhouse kitchen table for ham sandwiches, cream cakes and coffee. After sitting and enjoying the warmth of the lounge – it is very cold outside (if not snow then certainly sleet) – we set off for Gavinton for afternoon tea with Tom and Dorothy. Morag saw the goats – of interest to her because she and Bill had kept a goat earlier in their lives. We saw around Tom and Dorothy and Tom’s daughter’s home. It is a conversion of a former Free Kirk and a splendid building especially after all of the work which they have had done.

Back home, it was soon time to join everyone in the farmhouse for drinks before and then the evening meal with lots of chat and good humour. I came back to the Granary around ten to learn of the death of Nelson Mandela. The news would have saddened me because I have always admired the way he responded to the opportunities of bringing his country together after he was released from prison. But it hit me harder because of my visit to South Africa a bit more than a year ago. So many people then spoke of Nelson Mandela, we visited museums which told his story, we visited his home in Soweto, we saw how there were still huge divisions in the country but that these were now largely between the haves and have-nots, rather than between black and white. He was a true reconciler and Nelson Mandela and reconciliation will often occur in the same sentence as history records his achievements. Yes, there is still a huge way to go but the achievements so far and the manner in which these achievements have been made will only be fully understood as time passes. He was a man with great qualities.

As I walked the dogs tonight (Rachel had retired to bed) I reflected that Nelson Mandela was someone who really had changed the world. If he had urged recrimination instead of reconciliation then the whole world would be a different place today. He was a man of peace -- but that is not to say that he was not a man of strong views, stubborn and forthright. He understood that lasting peace required something for everyone, black and white and his success can be measured for me by the fact that when we were in South Africa all of the white people we met accepted that the changes which had been made were for the best -- and that further change had to come. It is a journey which has only begun: but what a journey.

I found myself remembering that when I was at St. Andrews University, in my very first year, Winston Churchill died. Our Professor of English, Professor Falconer, walked into the lecture theatre at 9 a.m. to lecture to the General English class. On this morning he came in, set down his papers, looked at us (there must have been a hundred in the lecture room) and then spoke without notes and with passion about why Winston Churchill was the greatest man of our time and of how the world would have been so very much the poorer without his life. Tomorrow morning, somewhere, I hope that someone does the same for Nelson Mandela and that those who hear will recall what was said as vividly as I recall Professor Falconer after almost fifty years. (Of course, in today's world, the television does that for all of us and there will be many tributes over the coming days.)

I should record that I was meant to meet with a lady from the BBC this morning to record an interview for Christmas. This didn’t happen as there was no transport in this part of Scotland this morning: trains were cancelled, roads were blocked and the storm raged. I don’t know whether it will be possible to be recorded at a later date. We shall see. We have planned to go to Holy Island and Bamburgh tomorrow but the weather forecast tonight suggests that the east coast should be avoided and that much of it is being evacuated. So we still plan to do something special with Bill and Morag but we are not yet sure what that will be.


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