Friday 7th. February, 2014 – A visit to Wooler and the Winter Olympics begin 

In the canteen at the Wooler auction mart – they serve excellent bacon rolls

I was up earlier than usual this morning so that I could shower, walk Mix and have my porridge before Tom and Dorothy arrived at nine. We set off for Wooler for the annual sale at the auction mart – there are regular sales but most are of livestock; this was a kind of a jumble sale day. Everyone brought what they had to sell and depending on its size they were either laid out in lines inside or else set out in the open ground beside the main mart. People appeared a little bit dispirited from which I gathered that there was not nearly so much to buy this year, and equally, there were apparently fewer people to do the buying. It was for this reason, I suppose, that the auctioneer started the sale by announcing that, in future, sales would revert to being held on Saturdays.

A view of people gathered around the auctioneer as he conducted the sale

The sale began inside. There were some items which were obviously of value and these were bought up for appropriate sums, but smaller less valuable items sold for almost nothing, several lots of things like two spades and a fork, or a set of quite smart flower pots, realised as little as a pound.

A one year old Border collie was one of the items on sale

I felt sorry for the little Border collie who was up to be auctioned. You can see her in the picture, the next lot after the concrete mixer (which sold for around one hundred and fifty pounds). The auctioneer told us that Floss was a year old and was half-trained, was happy to jump on the back of a four-by-four or ride in a land-rover. He told us that both the dog and the cage were to be auctioned and he proposed to start with the cage. The cage sold for £80 and he turned his attention to the dog. The highest bid was just £50 which was obviously below the reserve price. The auctioneer turned to the owner and asked if he wanted to accept £50, to be told, ‘You can’t even get a wife for £50.’ So poor dog, its cage was sold but she wasn’t. Still it was obvious that the owner, who I gather is a breeder, would take her home and look after her.

A view of the auction once it had reached the outside area

Tom made a couple of purchases – a gate and gate-posts for his estate in Gavinton and a couple of hay dispensers for Dorothy’s goats. I just enjoyed being with them. We loaded up Tom’s purchases and drove home to discover that while I had been away Mix had managed to unlatch the gate in the garden (Tom had moved the latch to the other side of the gate to make it impossible to do this) and had been picked up by a kindly motorist who met Mix while Mix was walking towards Duns. Rachel spent the afternoon going into Duns, buying wire mesh and reinforcing our defences. I was in the summer house where I got a ‘phone call from my friend Peter with whom I spent a happy hour blethering. Then, as the weather was beautiful, I went into the barn and found another three boxes to open. I had just started on that when Carol telephoned from Luss to tell me that she had a problem with the Allen Organ midi assistant. Fortunately I remembered that they had one at Bonhill Church (just down the road) and they were happy to lend their one to Carol. Panic over – but a worrying time for her.

At four, I gave up everything and went in and sat in front of our big tv to watch the opening of the winter Olympics from Russia. I thought the opening ceremony was splendid and the facilities look out of this world. I loved the fact that the athletes came in first and got a seat for the rest of the show. I loved the history of Russia presented in music, dance, drama, humour and spectacular effects. It was wonderfully done and it spoke to me of Russia and her culture.

Next we all got together in the farmhouse for dinner after which Rachel and I watched an episode of Sherlock on tv – the last episode we saw was in Barnoldswick on the boat, this episode was in the Granary; technology is wonderful. I’ve left the summerhouse in a bit of a mess but I’ve got the weekend coming up when I can put all that right.

Caught Newsnight and was quite taken aback by the attitude expressed by Kirsty Wark suggesting that Russia should in some sense be criticised for presenting a distorted, in her view, story of its history and also commenting on the one electrical effect which didn’t go quite right – it’s a wee bit like taking pleasure when something goes wrong for someone else (something which may actually be part of some parts of the Scottish psyche even if we usually see it in its corollary of not being too pleased when something goes exceptionally well for someone else) and, of course, we choose to present the view of ourselves which we want to present on such occasions. I don’t think that ordinary people watched the opening ceremony with political thoughts in their heads. I certainly marvelled at the spectacle, rejoiced in the dance (which I associate with Russia), recognised the allusions to War and Peace and hoped that this will be a really good games. It didn’t in any way remove the concerns which I have about some of Putin’s policies any more than enjoying the spectacle at our Olympics removed my concerns about the growing gap between those in our country who have and those who don’t, and the responsibility which our government has for allowing that gap to get ever wider. For now I am looking forward to the ski jumping and the skating and the bobsleigh events: and to seeing the heroes and the heroines who will emerge over the next few days. And wasn’t it good to see Valentina Tereshkova who, in 1967, became the first woman in space, escorting the Olympic flag into the stadium this afternoon? Now there is a real heroine.


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