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Wednesday, 30 June 2010


I was going to start off with “It’s that time of year again!” but it’s been and gone now!  Being with Eunice, Keith and Ken in Moffat meant that we missed seeing the Wednesday night ride-out round the boundaries of the town, and the cavalcade of horsemen and women crossing the ford at Haylodge Park, following the Cornet, the leading man, and his party. “Safe oot!  Safe in!”   That’s quite a sight!  Well, there’s always next year.

However, on the Friday night when I returned home after saying “Not goodbye, just So long!” to my Kiwi friends, I joined with some of the staff of the British Heart Foundation shop to take part in the fancy dress parade.  beltane hearts We were, individually… warm hearted, faint hearted, broken hearted, half hearted, cold hearted, heavy hearted and chicken hearted, with a couple of Queens of Hearts thrown in!  The manageress and her assistant couldn’t decide which was to be the Queen so both were!   Somehow we didn’t manage to be in the competition, but we did get to parade along the High Street and round some of the back streets to return once more to the High Street and back to the Green where we’d started from.  It was actually a lot of fun, waving to friends, and anyone else really, with the traditional Hur-ray”shouted between!

beltane waggy walkers

These are the doggy walkers.  Can you spot the real dog?

beltane gnomes

Then the dig at the English world cup football team.  They said they were coming home , and they did,  in fact the very next day, a lot sooner than they thought.

beltane 2010f

These oversized leprechauns were in honour of Ryan, – could he be an Irishman perhaps -  the guy who got his 4x4 stuck under the Cuddy footbridge earlier this year – see Talk of the town!  

belatne riverdanceThey called themselves Ryan’s Riverdance!   Don’t forget you can click on the photos to enlarge them.

Saturday morning saw the children parading to the church steps, the arrival of the Beltane Queen to sit on her throne and be crowned by a worthy lady townswoman -  Catherine, this year, one of my former work colleagues from a few years ago.  Beltane2010a After all the pomp and circumstance, the kids in their traditional fancy costumes head off to join their float – I should think that all the lorries/trucks in the town are inveigled into service – for the Grand Parade. 

beltane 2010bThe streets are lined with townspeople and visitors -  many of them ex-pats from overseas who have returned especially for the festival  – and led by the Cornet on horseback and his party,


beltane 2010e followed by the Beltane Queen and her courtiers in their horse-drawn landaus and carriages, the parade begins. 


beltane 2010k


Pipe bands from Peebles, Innerleithen, Galashiels, Coldstream and Penicuik also took part this year, as did the Peebles Silver Band, 

beltane2010mand  various of the fancy dress competitors, beltane2010n




and the floats carrying the children –beltane 2010i


“wee mice peeping out”, soldiers and sailors, penguinsbeltane 2010j,


toys, children from other lands, archers….. I can’t think of them all.  All were cheering  - “Hur-ray!  Hur-ray!” You have to have that break in the word indicated by the hyphen or it doesn’t sound right, Beltane style! -  and sweets/candies were being thrown from the crowd to the children in the floats.  The floats tour around the streets of the town for folk who can’t come down to the town centre, and another “fording” takes place across the little Cuddy Burn to the north side of Peebles.  beltane drum band People still gather by the edge of the route to wave and cheer and throw sweeties, and finally the cavalcade meets up again with the bands for a final march along the High Street.  The children are usually a bit overwhelmed by all the excitement by this time and have given up cheering, though there are still a few tentative waves to the  remaining crowds!   beltane 2010c

But hey!  How could I forget the Rugby Club boys who get dressed up to entertain the folk waiting in the High Street  for the parade’s return!  It is always a laugh to see the wigs, balloon boobs, tights and high heeled shoes, etc. as they perform their dance routine to loud music carried with them as they move along the High Street.

And then it is all over!  In the afternoon, the kids can go to the fairground  – the Shows – in Victoria Park and later, in the evening, the pipe bands assemble once more to “beat the retreat” that indicates the end of the week’s festivities!  (I missed that, as I was up in Edinburgh by then.)  By early Sunday morning the bunting, flags and banners have disappeared, and the High Street looks as it usually does once more.  How the bunting hanging across the street brightened the place up.  Well, it’s gone now…  until next year!  “Ah well, then,” as one Peeblean puts it, “Soon be Christmas!

Oh, not too soon!  Pleeeeeease!

Talk again soon!

Sunday, 27 June 2010

Around Moffat, and a surprise

Eunice and I met through the internet, researching our families with the same surname in the same town.  We thought for a while we were searching for the same family, until I found a death certificate that explained why names and some dates didn’t tie in!  I had had to make an educated guess at one point but settled on the wrong parents for one of my Johns!  Anyway we had become friends by that time so were always interested in how the other was getting on, helping each other along the way too.

We first met – in the flesh - two years ago when I visited them in NZ and they introduced me to their family, took me out and about and generally treated me like one of the family.  I love them all to bits!

Anyway, after their few days in Edinburgh, we all came down to Moffat for a few days, this being the place where we each had had ancestors.   moffat our sc flat We stayed in a lovely flat right on the High Street, the main street, just up the road from the old cemetery and across the street and round the corner from “ancestral homes”.

The old cemetery had revealed gravestones of each of our sets of ancestors, my James and Christina, and their John and Jean!  Ken also found my James and Christina’s daughter’s and her husband’s  grave.   Rosemary, Eunice’s daughter, back home in NZ had suggested they put flowers on the grave, moffat my johnstonesand at my suggestion we picked posies of wild flowers growing in the church yard and placed them on top of our respective ancestors’ headstones.  After all, it was most likely those kinds of flowers that would have decorated their modest homes way back in the 19th century.

moffat old well roadWe walked round the various streets we knew were where our families lived and I am pretty sure each family would have known the other, as the town can’t have been very large 180 years ago.    I am fairly certain some of my ancestors lived in one of the cottages in this photo the ones almost hidden by the hedge and tree, and that the nearest one was also single-storeyed, originally.

Talking of ancestral homes, next day we drove up to Peebles, via the Devil’s Beeftubs road and eventually reached  Dawyck, and Stobo where some more of Eunice’s forebears had lived  - in a shepherd’s cottage high up on a steep hill.  I stopped to point it out, a distant speck on the hillside!   Photos were taken and on we drove,  past the road to the farm and the cottage itself - which I of course pointed out - to pull into the lay-by on the side of the road, where I announced that their transport to the cottage was waiting.  Linda was there in her 4x4 to take us all up the steep rough track!   LourShe took Eunice and me first then came back down for Keith and Ken.  

Well, the looks on all their faces was enough to tell me it had been right to bring them here!  They were super-delighted.  It had been beyond their wildest dreams! lour view from We spent quite a

while up there admiring the view and speculating on the kind of life the ancestors must have had up there in the 18th and early 19th centuries.  No 4x4s then, no electricity, no shops nearby……… a lonely hard life, looking after the laird’s sheep.

 stobo castle We came back down again in two journeys and after lunch at Dawyck, and a quick look at Stobo Castle Health Spa,  - there is a legend in Eunice’s family that a baby long ago was left on the steps of the castle before the parents emigrated, but the castle is too late in date, and nothing has ever been found out about  who the baby or its parents might have been, so nothing can be substantiated - came into Peebles where the red and white Beltane bunting was flying.

eunice on my balcony Eunice has been looking forward for ages to seeing the new french doors onto my balcony, and enjoyed standing there leaning on the rail ,,,,,,, just looking!.  They loved my view of the river!

us on my balcony


Ken even ran down to the Green and took this next picture of us giving a regal wave from our exalted position!!


We were meeting Morag and Mike later for a meal in a local restaurant but in the meantime had a cup of tea,eunice and kenand Eunice wrote an email to Rosemary to tell them where they’d just been!   Eunice is still smiling!  She said it felt like a dream!

We had a lovely meal at Osso, and then took a walk along the Green to where I had parked my car.   ev eunice morag mike and keithOne last photo was taken by Ken, of us with Morag and Mike, before we said our goodbyes, and set off down the road again back to Moffat.

I wish they could have stayed longer for a better look around the town, but at least they have been here, and hopefully will have plenty of memories to take home with them.

Talk again soon.

Playing Catch-up

Well, it has been an action packed few days since Eunice and Keith arrived, and we have had a wonderful time together.   Their son Ken arrived to join them last Sunday too.   queensferry north forth bridge harbour light tower queensferry north eke2We’ve been to





Queensferry, over the Forth to North Queensferry (left) culross mercat squareand


Culross, the 15/16th century village once a thriving coal mining village, and now restored as a visitor attraction as well as living village, culross nunnery


culross studio




culross tron and palace

and when Ken arrived we drove down to North Berwick one day, via the picturesque villages of nb drem Drem and nb dirleton kirk Dirleton





to visit the seabird centre where we could see on CCTV nb gannets on the Bass the gannet colony out on the Bass Rock – the largest gannet colony in the world  -  nb Bass Rock over golf course





nb puffinand watch video footage of the various  other seabirds to be found around the rock, like this puffin.



nb suttons

Coming from winter in New Zealand Eunice, Keith and Ken were enjoying the summer weather here, and so was I!   We don’t get enough of it normally, these days!


Talk again soon.

Saturday, 19 June 2010

Long time no see!

What a week this has been for catching up with old friends I haven’t seen for years!   I  mentioned Brenda in the last posting – we had taught at the same school in the late 70s, and though we kept in touch sporadically we hadn’t seen each other for a good number of years.


Coming out of choir practice last week I saw a face in the school corridor, that I recognised, though I hadn’t seen it since 1979!  It belonged to Sheila, from the Isle of Skye, my flatmate in Edinburgh for a couple of years before she got married.  I practically pushed everyone out of the way to get to speak to her before she disappeared.  “Sheila!”  It wasn’t even a question.  She hadn’t changed a bit.  Marriage and two sons hadn’t done what the years have done to several of my friends, and she looked as young as ever.  I, on the other hand, obviously have changed – well, I’ve changed my hair colour and style and put on weight – as she didn’t recognise me at all at first.  I had to remind her!  Well, she  knew immediately then, and we had a long blether – chat – about the years that had passed, before exchanging email addresses and phone numbers, and going on our ways.   It was strange to be able to tell choir members in the pub later that Sheila was the one who had introduced me to Gaelic choir singing during the time we shared the flat, and now I am hoping to reintroduce her to it, if I can persuade her to join the Lothian choir!

Next day, I had an email from Fiona, an old school friend, who I have only seen once since we left school in 1967class_of_1967_16_5_09 – and that was at the school reunion held last year, and which I talked about in the blog here at the time.  Fiona is on the right, standing at the back in front of the mirror.  She’s now retired and catching up with friends!  So we met for lunch the other day and blethered about school memories, our families, things we had done in the intervening years, places we had visited…. lovely!  I forgot to take a photo album along to show her, of the school cruise we went on when we were about 15, so next time we meet I will take it along with me.

keith and eunice My dear friends from Invercargill, New Zealand, arrived in Edinburgh on Thursday night, when I met them off the bus from Cambridge, and took them to their guest house.  We had tea together later, and then yesterday we had an afternoon out, driving a bit round the city, Britannia poster and visiting the former royal yacht – Britannia.  People are generally very surprised and somewhat disappointed at how ordinary and not at all “regal” the ship appears to be, and I think that is why the royals liked it so much.  It was somewhere they could just be themselves, without the prying eyes of the public and the paparazzi tracking their every move.  The private rooms are all very ordinary – stylish, but ordinary – when you see them through the glass panels that have replaced parts of the once solid walls  britannia queens sitting room There are the offices used by the Queen and Prince Philip, as royal duties continued even at sea,britannia dining room and the



state rooms where lavish banquets and receptions took place on visits overseas.  It is a very interesting ship. britannia drawing room

britannia petty officers quarters   In contrast to the spacious royal quarters the sailors’ quarters are small and cramped.  Up till 1979 they even still slept in hammocks,, but latterly had bunk beds – three, one above the other, in this case, on each side of a “room” with about 18 inches of a passage between beds. 

Later after tea in Ocean Terminal with views of Britannia’s prow, we took a drive round Arthur Seat and the Crags to see more spectacular views of Edinburgh and its surrounds.  edinburgh royal mile silhouette The sun was going down, but against all advice we pointed our cameras in its direction, to get the silhouette of the Royal Mile ridge in the distance, and nearer at hand, Salisbury Crags and the Radical Road, a pathway beneath the cliffs.  A little bit of tweaking on the computer helped to produce this picture….  I’m quite happy with that!

Today Eunice and Keith are having a relaxing day off, as they have been on the go non-stop for about two weeks…and blow me!  Ruth_and_Coco_et_alThe phone rang this morning and here was another friend from long years ago,1966 in fact, but who I have seen a few times over the years  – last time was about 3 years ago, when I made this scrapbook page.   Ruth and her husband are on their way north to visit their son, and are coming through Peebles in about an hour so I am off to meet them for lunch!  I’ll wait till later to post this on my blog and hopefully I’ll have a picture or two more to put in.


Well, I had a lovely time with Ruth and Patrick, first having a snack lunch and catching up on news, and then a walk along the Green for the views. ruth and patrick 002

We started to take photos of each other and finally had our picture taken all together by a kindly guy sitting on a bench nearby.  So here are the three of us together. 

Now they are on their way again, heading over the Forth Bridge and into the Kingdom of Fife!     I wonder who the next old friend to call will be!  I’ll let you know!

Talk again soon.

Friday, 18 June 2010


whistlebare and foxgloves  Brenda and Donald live in a cottage way up on a hillside, and this is the local name for it, a good one when you consider winter with the wind whistling around the place and the ground pretty bare of trees, except for the forestry plantation behind the house, and a tiny rowan tree Brenda planted in memory of her lost baby, who would have been a young man now had he been able to live.

 whistlebare the ruinWhen Brenda bought the cottage several years ago the place was a ruin – 4 stone walls, a roof you could see through (this was from a later picture when the roof was taken down), no window frames or doors, no floorboards – all were gone, used to make fires by walkers and others stopping by, after it was deserted by its last human occupant, the local gamekeeper, probably about 60 or more years ago.

 whistlebareSo, over the years, not without many difficulties and problems, Whistlebare has become a beautiful little house, with views over the Perthshire hills and countryside to die for.  I last saw it when it was in its ruinous state, but visited last weekend to see an almost finished home.     whistlebareJust a few photos then, and a quick posting, as summer is proving to be a very busy time!                                                The view from the front door.  The road is way down in the valley, with just a track leading uphill.view panoramathe neighbours    

The neighbours!

donnie, bee and sorcha

Donald, Brenda and her daughter.

Below is the living room.  I can hardly believe I saw this last when it was an empty shell! main room panorama b2




OK then, I’ll be back as soon as I can, so do keep dropping in on the chance there may be more from me!

Talk again soon.