Friday, July 24, 2009

A little blog adventure

You would think that a teacher on holiday would have lots of time to post fascinating items and to read others’ equally fascinating posts, but the trouble is that holidays are the times when teachers catch up with their social lives, so that’s part of what I’ve been doing this week. The other parts have been viewing flats with Daughter 2 - who’s considering buying one (very exciting and stressful) - and not doing some (but not enough) housework.

Let me tell you about Tuesday. Tuesday is when I met up with Rachel of Slow Lane Life ( in Berwick, which is just over the border between Scotland and England.

As those of you who’ve done this bloggy-meeting business will know, it’s a strange and lovely experience. You start a new friendship but at the same time it’s not so new. You know things about people that their real friends may not know: not necessarily the secrets of their hearts, but what they had for dinner yesterday, the colour of their new cushions or how they feel about their next-door neighbours. And you know they like to read and write – always an indication of a noble and admirable disposition – and are friendly enough to comment on strangers’ blogs.

So I was pretty sure that Rachel would be nice as well as funny and clever (which I knew she was). And she was indeed all of these things. I had suggested that we meet up in Berwick-on-Tweed, which is kind of half-way between Edinburgh, where I live, and Newcastle, where she does. So we both got the train and set off, texting as we went. For the first time in my life I travelled first class, since there was a cheap offer. This was a very splendid and roomy experience, though I demonstrated my actual second-class nature by buying a Times newspaper at the station so that when the girl came round with a free Times for the first class passengers, I was already reading mine. Then I wasn’t quite sure if I could eat the shortbread biscuit provided on the table without being charged for it (I could) or drink the fizzy water as well as the coffee that was brought round (I could). Goodness me: I’m 59 and still looking sideways at other people to see what they’re doing so that I can copy them.

We met at the station and apart from the fact that Rachel, who claims to be 60, looks about 40 (she needs to start selling the secret) we recognised each other immediately from the photos we’d sent and set off round the town. While I’d never set foot in Berwick – only come through it on the train from London – she had actually lived there, so greatly to my advantage, I had a built-in tour guide who told me about her life in terms of various Berwick landmarks. (I also talked. Try stopping me.)

We walked round the tops of the city walls as in the photo above. I assume these were to keep out the marauding English or Scots, depending on which nation owned Berwick at the time – it was much fought over. Then we went for lunch, during which two people – granted they were mother and daughter – came over separately and exclaimed with pleasure at seeing Rachel after all this time. Then we went to a lovely shop selling pretty things, and I started my Christmas shopping. Go me!

Then, and fatally, since we had a little time before our trains, we popped into a second-hand bookshop, which resulted in our buying a few volumes (oh, how I don’t need any more books in my house!) and nearly missing our trains. We had to run (like, as Rachel accurately noted, “women who don’t really run”) with our bags of books banging elegantly against our thighs. My train was then late, so that I could have strolled. But I’m sure the run worked off my broccoli and cheese quiche, don’t you think?

This is a little Berwick street. The shop on the right announces that its proprietors are the "sole makers of the original Berwick Cockles" - little pink and white boiled sweets - but alas, it's now empty. Clearly Rachel left the town and stopped buying Cockles.

This is a house. I was too intent on our conversation to take in its name, but there was a sign nearby with a picture of it in a derelict state, and it's clearly loved now, which is nice.

A somewhat Wizard-of-Ozzie-looking lion guarding the house.

A row of houses. Great for looking into the front rooms (sorry for my nosiness, owners).
I did take other photos but they have Rachel in them and for some reason, though I did warn her I was about to take them, she's looking a bit startled so I won't post them. Take it from me that one of them showed someone's very pretty garden at the foot of the town wall, conveniently on view to the passing blogger.
Hope to see you again soon, Rachel!


  1. You make me laugh....I looked "a bit startled" in those photographs??? More like an unravelled fanatic; I would died if you'd published them.

    And remembering how outraged you were about having bought a Times when you had a free one given later!

    I have a horrid feeling that I'd had the option of a first-class ticket too, but somehow didn't realise it at the time. Missing that luxury is worse than having two Timeses...

  2. Now, now. I wasn't outraged. It takes a lot to outrage me; in fact I don't think it's ever happened because of anything in my own life. Miffed, I'll allow you. Slightly exasperated. Regretful, as you'd expect a Scot to be who's just wasted £1. But then, those of us who can afford to travel first class can rise above that sort of disappointment.

  3. That sounds like a great outing - and Berwick is a really nice town. But I am frankly appalled at someone who is so apparently normal starting Christmas shopping in July. That is just....not right!

  4. A city that has walls.....
    those gorgeous photos ....
    I've GOT to get to England!!!!

  5. Anonymous12:12 am

    What a fabulous post.

  6. A grand day out indeed.

  7. I once entered a competition in the kind of magazine you wouldn't really think you ought to be seen reading in the 1st class compartment of a train - something like 'Take a Break' or something, to win a holiday in Berwick, which I really fancied, much more thn a Mediterranean cruise or anything.

    Alas, I didn't win, and have nver been there, but still harbour a secret longing to do so. It certainly looks very nice.

    Loved you Devon pics too, I love Lyme Regis and it always makes me a tiny bit homesick to think of it.

  8. How nice that you got to meet a blogger friend in person. Sounds like you had a wonderful day. I can totally relate to "women who don't really run."

  9. I remember being in Berwick, but don't remember much more than walking around the walls and out to the sea.

    Glad you had a good time with Rachel. Yes, meeting blog friends is wonderful. You're right, you know so much about them already that you there's no need for preliminaries.

  10. Mum, you have travelled first-class before. Remember when we went to Falkirk for my wedding-dress fitting, and accidentally sat in first class without either of us noticing it WAS first class until we were nearly in Falkirk?

    Granted, this is presumably the first time you have had a right to be there...

  11. I love seeing the photographs of those wonderful buildings.
    How green it all looks too. Lucky you, meeting a fellow Blogger.

  12. Mrs. Life! It's been fun to catch up with you and read about your vacation and your meeting with Rachel. I'm green with envy and wishing I had been there with the two of you. You made me laugh more than once -- you're so funny! How did the catlets survive in your absence?