Tuesday, 10 July 2018

A Theatre Visit, More Scarecrows, & Flowers are Blooming


"It's Too Darned Hot"! goes the song from the musical "Kiss Me Kate" - and that was the weather this week - not that I am really complaining, as it is so unusual to have such a good long spell of all day sunshine.   The only gardening I did was to water the plants. 

An all singing, all dancing cast, full orchestra,and an impressive staging of the musical at Edinburgh's Festival Theatre in front of a packed, very appreciative matinee audience - bright, breezy, escapist entertainment at its best. And I cannot get out of my head the star numbers  for me "Another  Opening, Another Show" and the foot tapping  "It's Too Darned Hot". 

I always enjoy our city theatre visits with a friend, with a  leisurely lunch beforehand at our favourite Italian restaurant.  The streets were very busy, and however much I like going up to the city, I love the feeling of leaving it behind when we head home over the Border hills - the countryside at its best.   

I was crazy enough to take a longer walk than usual in this heat, largely because I wanted to do something different. I enjoyed it but the idea of taking photographic views over the village was thwarted by the height of the hedgerows. I was glad to sit down and take a breather - and have a drink - once I got back to the square.   

                                         Looking north from Georgefield 

More photographic joy in Melrose with the town sprucing up for its Scotland in Bloom entry.  

 Priorwood Gardens 

Civic Week's Scarecrow Festival really captured the imagination of the community  and here are more examples of resident's ingenuity and fun. 



Hotel Inspector - I like watching this programme, with my former tourism hat on, where "the hotel inspector" goes into failing hotels, and  bed & breakfasts and advises on the way forward - though I could do without her need for swearing so much. A "first" came with her very truncatted winter visit to the Borders which I was looking forward to.  The new laid back owners  decided very quickly they did not want her advice - and so "cheerio" - having presumably agreed to participate and have the TV crew etc. up there.

Even Wimbledon, for once, hasn’t captured much of my attention, with no Andy Murray to support.  However I saw Kyle Edmond win - but lose in the next round against Djokovic.

G. has been down in Derbyshire for the week, staying in a converted small barn on a farm - had a wonderful time, and has regaled us with lots of photos from visits to the National Memorial Arboretum on Armed Forces Day, Chatsworth House, Alton Towers and the National Tram Museum.   

                                A Bakewell Tart from Bakewell, Derbyshire

Kept getting a message on my main computer  that my server could not send e-mails and to "please contact your  server provider. "  I could not face dealing with BT India, so turned instead to my I Pad and everything was working fine there.  By the next day full service was resumed  on the main computer which I need to send attachments.  So much relief! 

But then I realised my charger for my I Pad was broken - my fault in trying to use it whilst charging on a short flex which pulled out and broke at the connection.  So a quick trip the next day into Galashiels to get a replacement.  I am far too dependent on my I Pad these days - and to think G  wondered if I would make much use of  it when she and N.   gave it me for my birthday! 

Garden Blooms 


Journal Jottings   
Recording my everyday life for future family historians

Developed from the "Genea-Pourri" prompt  on Randy Seaver’s blog Genea-MusingsI I decided to change his title for my own version of this weekly online diar.

Sunday, 1 July 2018

War Time Drawings, A Musical, Scarecrows & the Heatwave Continues

LIFE: June 18th-24th 2018

The fortnight began with dull grey days, until a wonderful return of the good weather with sun at 8am and sun at 8pm  - and for us very hot,  82F some days, - and we are flagging a bit in the heat.  Lovely, though to put on rarely worn light summer clothes and to go out at 9am, without thought of a cardigan,. fleece or jacket.  

Met K. who  was a child in the war, to gather her memories for our next Auld Earlston exhibition. She  remembered the Czech army officer who was billeted with the family He was a talented artist and left the  family  a beautiful little pen and ink drawing  Charles Bridge in Prague, and a water colour of the view from their house onto the White Hill in Earlston.  After the war, he emigrated with his famiy to Canada,and there has been no contact since 1965. 

K. has asked if I can trace any of his descendants to let them know about the drawings - so I have put my family history research hat on,  and  have got some leads to follow up, thanks to very helpful input from Canadian genealogists.

Sound, Sounds, Concert, Culture, Light  
Earlston High School's performance was brilliant, impressive  and moving -  the singing, acting, staging, choreography, and the 20 piece orchestra. Hard to credit that this was by students, no older than 17.

"Memories of a Land Girl" has had a great response in terms of page views and has boosted my confidence with the Auld Earlston blog. 

G. is down in Derbyshire on holiday and today is visiting the National Memorial Arboretum in Staffordshire where Armed Forces Day is being marked.  She e-mailed me this lovely  memorial to the Land Girls.

Earlston Civic Week began this weekend, and businesses and households were asked to take part in a Scarecrow Festival, with strange figures making an appearance around the village.  A great photo opportunity, but too many to show here, but take a look at this sample of  people's creativity and ingenuity. 

                                                Outside the Black Bull pub.

 Outside the Health Centre 

 More images on my  general Facebook page HERE 


Journal Jottings   
Recording my everyday life for future family historians
Developed from the "Genea-Pourri" prompt  on Randy Seaver’s blog Genea-MusingsI I decided to change his title for my own version of this weekly online diar

Sunday, 17 June 2018

A Book Festival, A Coastal Visit, and a Busy Blogging Spell

LIFE: JUNE 11th-17th 2018

I like a regular dose of history, culture and politics, so this was a good week for me at Melrose Book Festival. 

Shelf Books Library Reading Education Know

I listened to Rory Bremner interviewing  William Hague - former Tory party leader,  who proved to be a witty speaker, with lots of anecdotes  on his career in politics and his later career on writing  historical biographies of William Pitt, Britan's youngest prime minister, and William Wilberforce who led the campaign to abolish slavery.  

The second speaker I saw was former Labour prime minister Gordon Brown, who gave an impressive impassioned talk (without any notes).  He looked back to growing up as a son of the Manse and his early introduction into politics, but said very little on his time as Chancellor and PM.   His focus was on the current worldwide political scene with the polarization  of extreme views and lack of coming together to find a common ground. We needed messages of hope!   His talk was not without humour and he came across as  relaxed and likeable.   He admitted, though that he was not comfortable with TV and social media  and the intrusion any politician now faces in their personal and family life.  

I enjoyed both talks immensely - as did the rest of the 550-strong audience in the main festival marquee, with both speakers receiving prolonged applause. My only gripe  - I would have liked more time given for audience questions. 

The Festival has grown in stature since its launch in 2004  ago and is a great advert for Melrose.  We had to contend with frequent heavy rain showers throughout the day, but these had not deterred the large crowds in the setting of Harmony  Gardens, with lots of families enjoying the children's events.  People were very good-natured  and friendly and I chatted with  visitors from across Scotland and the north of England.

 Harmony Gardens, in Melrose - site of the Book Festival 
with the Abbey in the background - a very dull day!

We came to the end of our sunshine spell  and were back to grey days and temperatures plummeting to the 50sF/12C. - which meant I was more inclined to be on the computer.  Then Thursday we faced Storm Hector and the highest winds I can remember experiencing for a long time.  For our weekly walking group, we decided it was too risky  to go in the woods and contented ourselves with a safer route.  Friday brought a thunderstorm and more rain - at least good for the garden and saved me watering. 

Among  recent posts on my Family History Fun page
After feeling in the doldrums at the lack of response to blog posts for  my local heritage group, Auld Earlsto,  page views have suddenly shot up - thank you to my readers - a good morale booster. 

  • Britain's Best Home Cook Final -  I have stuck with this Mary Berry programme, though it has taken time to get into the new format. It was good to put the emphasis on home cooking, though, and not fancy "Fine Dining" and there was no question of the sense of camaraderie among the contestants.
  • The Hotel Inspector - with my ex-tourism hat on, this was not one of the best. The hotel was in a beautiful location in Devon on the route of a long distance path and had been taken over by a couple with NO hotel experience at all - what a leap om the dark!  Not surprisingly their occupancy rates were low to the point of them running out of money.  But Alex Polizzi (the hotel inspector) focused on the "drab, monochrome" bedroom decor (all be it good quality and modern}  and gave next to no attention to their marketing activities or even their website.  It took the mystery shopper guests to mention drying room faciltiies for walkers and cyclists, and secure storage for cycles overnight etc.

    I am looking forward to next week's when she is in the Borders in a country pub/small hotel where we used to go for bar meals. 

The Wednesday Club outing was to the coast - North Berwick, 25 miles south of Edinburgh on the shores of the Firth of Forth.  We were lucky with the weather and even managed to sit outside for coffee enjoying the views. 

To end on a historical  trivia fact:  
The Bass Rock in the distance on this photograph is now a seabird sanctuary, but in the late 17th century it was also the inhospitable site of a prison, where Alexander Shields from Earlston was sent, convicted of Covenanting activities.

 Covenanters were people in Scotland who signed the National Covenant in 1638 to confirm their opposition to the interference by the Stuart kings in the affairs of the Presbyterian Church of Scotland.

Journal Jottings   
Recording my everyday life for future family historians

Developed from the "Genea-Pourri" prompt  on Randy Seaver’s blog Genea-MusingsI I decided to change his title for my own version of this weekly online diary.

Monday, 11 June 2018

Land Girl Memories, Gardening, & TV Reviews

LIFE: 27th  May - 9th June 2018
The highlight of my week was talking to a local resident who during the Second World War  worked as a land girl on a poultry farm at Georgefield, near Earlston - all part of Auld Earlston's gathering memories project.  

B.was living in Morningside, Edinburgh, had left school at 14 to work in a solicitor's office in the New Town (actually built in the 18th century).  Then in 1944,  she was conscripted  to join the Land Army, with her sister sent to Munitions. Can you imagine teenagers today coping with such a massive change in lifestyle on the order of the government?  

For B. it was working 7am until late, mucking out the hen houses, feeding them,  carrying 100cwt of meal sacks,   and rounding up  the free range hens  at night to shut them in away from prowling foxes. Living quarters in a bothy were primitive and she learned to cook on a coal fueled stove.  Yet she felt they ate well - macaroni cheese or mince and tatties.  A huge bonus was getting a dozen fresh eggs a week which she often took home on her weekends off.  Making do with dried eggs was one of the mosthated aspects of wartime food.  Leisure time meant going to the dances , often twice a week, in the Corn Exchange, Earlston,  where the band  of the Polish soldiers based in the village was a great draw. 

B. met her hsuband in Earlston when he was home on leave, they married in 1948 and so Earlston has been her home for 70 years. 

              Looking north from Georgefield Farm, Earlston - taken February 2018.

Move It or Lose It
I thought we had decided our new exercise class was “Pilates for Seniors”, but then there was a view. that was neither exciting, nor inspirational nor true,  as we did’nt get down on the floor  - we would never get up again without help! So we voted on possible names and Move It or Lose It came tops - on the principle - keep our muscles and joints moving!

TELEVISION- a better week for me
  • Antiques Roadshow Special - marking 100 years  since (some) women got the vote in the UK.  A fascinating programme profiling women pioneers from the first female press photographer in the early 20th century, the women who made their mark in wartime, in sports, in exploration through to more recent times  with the  Dagenham women fighting for equal pay, the first female bishop,  and women achieving  key roles in politics.    It was only afterwards it occurred to me there was no mention of the pioneering women in the male dominated field of medicine. 
  • "Nothing like a Dame" was an informal discussion between four actress dames - Judy Dench, Maggie Smith, Joan Plowright and Eileen Atkins, all in their 80’s, and reminiscing about their lives.  At times the conversation got very rambling, until a disembodied voice  cut in (the producer?) to get them back on track e,g, “What was it like working with your husband?”  The production was a bit odd.  We saw them sitting in the garden,  the quartet being fitted with their mikes, make up touched up, and photographers circling round them, taking still shots - then it was all change as rain came on, so they had to retreat indoors and go through this palaver again.  Did we really need to see all that on screen?

    But the four clearly had a great sense of camaraderie  and it was all very witty, and entertaining, interspersed with old film clips of their early performances. A classic moment was Judy Dench being very vocal about a a medic,  recently treating her for a minor injur,  who enquired  “Do you have a carer?”  Her response was choice,  as she had just finished acting in a six week London run of a Shakespeare play.  Another revelation - Maggie Smith had been presented with a boxed set of “Downton Abbey”, but had never viewed herself in it.  A programme
    worth catching up with, if you missed it

    And here is a tongue twister to get your lips moving and articulating your words - try repeating  “Dame Judy Dench” quickly and repeatedly.
  • WDYTYA (Who Do You think You Are)   - I was delighted to see the return of this family history programme - but I didn’t think it was one of the best.  It featured Coronation Street actress Michelle Keegan (unknown to me) whose maternal ancestors came from Gibraltar and before that Genoa in Italy. On her father’s side there were links with Emmiline Pankhurst and the suffragette movement. The background story was interesting and I learnt a lot  - I never knew that during the Second World War women and children were evacuated from Gibraltar and taken to London.  But I found MK response very cliched - “Wow”,  - with her accent difficult to follow  - and I grew up in Lancashire!

    Country File is a programme that can be interesting, but it's not one I am bothered about missing.   This time it was from the Queen's estate at Balmoral, so the camera work and photography were stunning and I enjoyed the interviews with people working on the land.   But the commentary was "oh, so sycophantic".  Also I cannot stand the practice of introducing a topic for a few minutes and then saying "we will return to this later in the programme" as if we the audience's concentration span  is so limited, it cannot cope with a longer report - and of course when we go back to the topic,  time is wasted with a recap. 
  • Trooping the Colour   I indulged my love of pageantry and military bands by watching the ceremony in London. with central London  looking at its best in the sunshine,
The good weather broke last weekend which was a pity as various events were happening  in the Borders.   But then endless sun morning to evening returned   - very unusual for us to have such a prolonged dry spell  and so my afternoons were spent in the garden - cutting the grass, weeding, doing the edges, transplanting the nasturium seedlings and potting on geraniums and begonias.   Here's hoping for a riot of colour!  

Result by Saturday I was worn out, so had a lazy time, doing  minimal activity. Then we had  a noisy prolonged thunderstorm which at least meant we did not have to water the garden in the evening.
To end with a lovely photograph  of the rhododendrons in a friend's large garden. 


Journal Jottings   
Recording my everyday life for future family historians
Developed from the "Genea-Pourri" prompt  on Randy Seaver’s blog Genea-MusingsI I decided to change his title for my own version of this weekly online diary.

Monday, 28 May 2018

A Country House Visit, More Wartime Memories, and a new Woodland Walk.

LIFE:  21-27th May 2018

A Taste of the Grand Life!
Highlight of the week was a visit with the Earlston Women's Group  to the 18th century Mellerstain House,  approached down a long narrow straight road, through the gates into the parkland and the house.   Set amidst 100 acres, it is a grand Georgian mansion, that remains almost as it was when  Robert Adam  designed it over 240 years ago.

We had an excellent  tour from a very knowledgeable guide who also added plenty of quirky facts;  a walk in the beautiful landscaped ground and finished with a delicious afternoon tea.  

It took me back to my tourist board days when I visited there on a Fam. Trip (Familiarisation Visit).  I always felt I could move into Mellerstain - of course as a society lady, not as a scullery maid!   I would relax in the library with its magnificent Adam ceilings and friezes, and wake up in the spacious master bedroom in my four poster bed, looking out over the landscaped garden terraces and down to the loch. 

There were some  major drawback to life there though, there were no sanitary facilities until well  into the 19th century - and think of the staff having to carry water, chamber pots and coal  up and down all those stairs - on one short visit, they  took its toll on my arthritic knee!  Life wasn't quite as gracious as we like to think. 

It must have been quite an isolated life, living on the estate.  Although  it was part of Earlston parish, it is long, long walk to the village, unless you were lucky enough to get a lift there and back on a horse and cart.  The 1861 census  listed 130 people living in estate cottages, with occupations ranging from agricultural servants, ploughmen, poultry keeper, blacksmith and  gamekeepers, to joiners, millers,laundry maids, farm steward  and  schoolmaster. In  the 54 rooms of the big house lived George Baillie Hamilton and his wife ( Earl and Countess of Haddington) with with four servants. 

More World War Two Reminiscences  
More looking back on history, when I met with elderly resident R. to gather her childhood memories of the war for the next Auld Earlston Exhibition.  Her  father, was in a reserved occupation working for the local timber firm, but also volunteering in the Home Guard. R, recalled  him taking her into the garden at night to see the searchlights south of Edinburgh and his distress at what he witnessed at the site of the German bomber that crashed near Earlston in 1943, killing all the crew.   She had happy  memories of the Polish soldiers training in the village before D.Day - they held a Christmas party for the school children where they were given a Polish badge and a hand made toy.  

General Eisenhower arriving at Earlston Station to inspect the 

Polish Tanks in Earlston Square -
Note the two little boys giving them close inspection!

"It's always raining in Scotland" is a comment you often hear 
Well not this month, as the brilliant, dry, sunny weather continues.  Let's just hope this is not our summer! There have been blips - 72F on Monday, a chilly 52F on Tuesday. before the warmth returned mid afternoon Wednesday.  No wonder the weather is such a popular point of conversation. 

So no excuse not to do gardening - nor late spring cleaning, when we got the  carpets and three piece suite deep cleaned - cue to move what we could of the small furniture items into the kitchen, bathroom or back bedroom - and them move them back later. The day was enlivened by our carpet cleaner - a man from Tennesse with a very distinctive southern accent, who we enjoyed talking to.    He did a great job too, as the house looks so  much cleaner and fresher. 

Bluebells in a corner of the garden.

Woodland Walk
Our Thursday walk took us to Haughhead and the Leader Water, through a woodland path, new to many of us.



Journal Jottings   
Recording my everyday life for future family historians
Developed from the "Genea-Pourri" prompt  on Randy Seaver’s blog Genea-MusingsI I decided to change his title for my own version of this weekly online diary

Monday, 21 May 2018

Walks, Talks, Sunshine - and That Wedding.

LIFE: Two Weeks of Activity:  May 8th-19th  

A wonderful sunny, dry spell, with warm temperatures into the high 60's.  

The Walk it Group went to Tweedbank,   around the loch and down to the River Tweed   - one of my favourite walks, but I could not get my camera to work!  I had charged it earlier and kept checking  I had put the battery and card back in correctly. It was only when I got home, I discovered that the dial was still set at viewing my photos not taking new ones -  Ach!!  What a stupid mistake -but at at least it was not a camera fault.  

The next week off to Abbotsford House, near Melrose,  where they have done a lot of work over winter in creating way-marked paths, taking you through woods and down to the river.  

By the River Tweed
 Abbotsford House, home of writer Sir Walter Scott (1771 -1832)

A statue in the grounds - I have no idea who it is - but I like it.

Leafy Earlston Walks  -  it only seems 4-5 weeks ago that the trees were still quite  bare, but now they are in full bloom.

 Trees in Earlston Square
 Speedy's Path into Cowdenknowes Wood, Earlston

Leader Water at Earlston

The dry, sunny weather  has to mean gardening.  The local Horticultural Society held their annual plant sale in the Square, so I came home, (with husband's help) with geraniums, begonias and fuschia  - our favourite  plants  to add some colour to the shrubs. especially now the daffodils have faded.   So I planted, cut the grass, did the edgings and hoped it would rain overnight, to save me having to water the garden.  Given the way the state of the lawn after  the snows,  it is looking not too bad -  definitely -  not Wimbledon quality, but acceptable.  

For granddaughter after school,. it was the cue to make  a tent over the whirly clothes line, so it was a question of gathering any throws we would find to create this hideaway. Further cue for a picnic snack! 

The official name now for our new exercise/movement class.  At the last session we walked tall, as we thought about our posture and deportment. So if you happened   to see any of us on the  High Street, we are the people with head up, eyes ahead, tummy tuckee in and bottom tucked under - as long as there were no uneven pavement slabs or potholes to catch us  out!   Not recommended if walking on stony paths with half hidden  tree roots underfoot, where I need to keep my eyes skinned to the ground. 

At the  Wednesday Club we had a talk by the local vet, followed by something a bit different - an intriguing quiz when he passed around ten items of equipment/tools of his trade, and invited us to guess what they were for. It helped if you watched all those supervet  programmes on TV.  

At the WI (Women's Institut) we were also on a country theme, with a talk on the Wild Life Centre which focuses on gathering information on sightings of wild animals, plant species,  etc.  across southern Scotland - to help environmentalists, and planning authorities. Not exactly my cup of tea, but there was no doubting  the enthusiasm of the speaker for his topic.  

We heard about one funny incident, where a member reported the sound of a cuckoo in her  garden  - but was puzzled  that it was not  the season for cuckoo calling.  She then realized that the sound had come from a neighbour's cuckoo clock - oops!  Much embarrassment. when she admitted her mistake!    

War Time Recollections   was the theme when I met with an elderly  Earlston resident to gather her memories of the Second World War - as part of the work for the Auld Earlston exhibition on "Earlston at War and Peace 1914-1949." A very enjoyable session as she recalled the Polish soldiers based in the  village  training for D Day, the Italian prisoners of war, and the VE Day celebration. Particularly vivid in her mind was the little evacuee girl  (whose name she still recalled|) who  had stolen her coloured chalks for writing on her slate.   ( I didn't realise they were still using slates in school at this time).

The Polish band playing for a dance in the Corn Exchange.

Rings, Wedding, Gold, Marry, Gold RingI admit I like ceremony, pageantry, church music and military bands - so i had them all with the Royal Wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle.   After all the gossip,  and disharmony of the weeks running up to the event, the media went into patriotic overdrive to forget it all. But it was a wonderful two hours of TV broadcasting, and all the commentators seems to think it marked a seismic shift for the Royal family.  

Meghan's dress was beautiful, simple but  stylish;  her mother cut rather a lonely figure,  but was so dignified - I would have had my hanky out at the emotion of it all;  the little bridesmaids and page boys cute, the music wonderful,   and the American bishop who gave the sermon inspirational - you would never have got that from English/Scottish clergy who mostly  would send me nodding off to sleep.  And Windsor Castle looked magnificent in the sunshine. 

Flower, Symbol, Rose, Nature, Floral

Wedding images courtesy of www.pixabay.com


Journal Jottings   
Recording my everyday life for future family historians
Developed from the "Genea-Pourri" prompt  on Randy Seaver’s blog Genea-Musings
I decided to change his title for my own version of this weekly online diary