I’m spending a few days in the Scottish borders with Marion this week. Some of my social media clients know Marion – she manages twitter accounts and Facebook posts, and is generally invaluable to me. Non-clients may know her as my friend of 32 years – there’s not much we don’t know about each other, that’s for sure. We worked together in our first jobs (substitute ‘laughed’ for ‘worked’) and we’re working together again now (sensibly).
I didn’t fly north strictly for a holiday; I was working in Edinburgh last week, running Plain English Business Writing sessions for a team from a local university. So it seemed like a good idea to combine it with a trip to see Marion.
We’ve had such fun. I always love to visit Kagyu Samye Ling, and this trip was our fourth visit to the peaceful and colourful monastery in as many years. So we were surprised to discover that we hadn’t ever taken full advantage of the wonderful place! It turns out that there’s more to the site than the Tibetan tea rooms where we like to take afternoon lime-mint tea and eat cheesecake, freshly baked in the monastic kitchen.
This time, we spent an hour in the glorious prayer hall. We didn’t exactly take part in the service, but we observed the monks chanting and praying. It was absolutely spellbinding. The temptation to join in was strong, but I simply adopted my meditation pose and let the sound of the cymbals crescendo around me. The sumptuous hall was heavily decorated in red and gold leaf and the Buddha smiled down on us as the chanting increased in speed and volume – it was bordering on surreal.
It was such a contrast to the previous day’s visit to an ancient ruined monastery in Melrose. The serenity of the ancient abbey belies its tortured past. Robert the Bruce’s heart is buried in a small grave in the manicured gardens. The medieval warrior king is fondly remembered locally as a national hero for his fight to gain Scottish independence. A source nearby said, “He was a bit like Alex Salmond but less aggressive…” (Far be it for me to comment on politics in this neutral blog.)
We visited the small border town in cultural mode for the annual Book Fair. Last year Jennifer Saunders headlined; we’d have loved to have seen her. This year it’s Dom Joly and Andrew Marr. I’d have liked to have bumped into him too as, like me, he’s a spokesperson for The Stroke Association.
We stopped off for a late lunch in the pretty town of Melrose – and I’d like to give a quick shout-out to the lovely lady in the Apples for Jam tearoom and gallery. She bravely left me in charge of the shop while she popped out to buy some gluten-free bread to serve with my soup – how’s that for excellent service?!
A visit to Floors Castle followed – a real-life Downton Abbey that’s partly open to the public: another nice tea room. Then a garden centre – yes… more tea and cakes.
It’s late on Sunday and I’m struggling to think of a Scottish song. But I’m here in the borders, so this is almost appropriate. (Yes, it’s a stretch, I know, but the sheep are bleating noisily and the cockerel doesn’t seem to have settled down for the night so there’s too much going on for me to run through songs in my mind.) ‘Please forgive me for my sins; yes, I swam dirty waters but you pushed me in. I’ve seen your face under every sky, over every border and on every line. You know my heart more than I do, we were the greatest, me and you.’
No one’s pushing anyone in any waters, but if you believe you can fly, you probably can. (But don’t try it at home.) I’ll be back in London before the week’s out; in the meantime, I’m here: @WeekendWitch.
(If you didn’t already know, the lyrics are by Adele.)