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The People’s Friend — January 27, 2018

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TV presenter Mary-Ann Ochota
uncovers Britain’s hidden history
7 short stories
Take just five
SPAM® Hawiian-style Pizza
The best fiction
• Katie Ashmore’s 1920s murder mystery
• A whimsical tale of redemption by Ellie Edwards
AU $4.50, NZ $4.50
27-Jan- 2018
UK Off-sale date - 31-Jan-2018
Competitions open to UK residents only, unless otherwise stated.
Jan 27, 2018 No. 7711
Bake a
Roast Pork Dinner
Away to
Enjoy a day out in the Scottish Highlands
to Robert
the world
Knit this
in a tweed
effect yarn
this week
Inside The People’s Friend
If you like the “Friend”
then you’ll love...
The People’s Friend Special
No 152, priced £2.99
On sale
l 8 pages of puzzles
l 14 brand-new short stories
The People’s Friend Pocket
Novel No 853, priced £3.49
l An exciting modern story set in
the Welsh hills
Available in newsagents & supermarkets
Cover Artwork: Aviemore, Highlands, by J. Campbell Kerr.
4 Daisy Turns Detective
by Katie Ashmore
15 Snow Days
by Brenda Storey
21 Blackcurrant Jelly
by Simon Whaley
23 SERIES Tales From
Prospect House
by Malcolm Welshman
28 SERIAL The Wooden
Heart by Mark Neilson
41 The Best-laid Schemes
by Joyce Begg
47 Let It Be
by Marianne Harman
53 The Miracle Man
by Ellie Edwards
56 SERIAL Return To
by Joyce Begg
79 Out Of Balance
by Paula Williams
by Glenda Young
7 This Week We’re
13 Maddie’s World
18 Health & Wellbeing
25 Brainteasers
26 Reader Offer: Unique
33 The Farmer & His
36 Cookery:
scrumptious dishes
using just five
51 Our Next Issue
61 From The Manse
71 Would You Believe
73 Knitting: look stylish
in a touch of tweed
with our beautiful
knitted waistcoat
76 Reader Offer: Travel
86 Between Friends
8 Morag Fleming discovers
there’s so much more to
Aviemore than just skiing
27 Alexandra Pratt finds out
about the pioneering
Victorian Order of Nurses
35 Polly Pullar takes a
lighthearted look at rural life
44 Mary-Ann Ochota points out
signs of “hidden” history
while out and about
65 Revive those 45s with advice
on choosing a turntable
67 Serve up a slice of
deliciousness with a
marvellous chocolate
marmalade cake
68 From the Birks of Aberfeldy to
New York, we celebrate
Burns in bronze
75 Looking for new crafting
ideas? Take a look at what’s
on offer
77 Enjoy our fun facts about TV
in the week of its anniversary
83 Extra puzzle fun
13 issues for *£6 when you subscribe
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Every year, on
January 25, Scots the
world over celebrate
the legacy of poet
Robert Burns. It’s over
220 years since he
died, but his influence
remains as strong as
ever, as our article
about Burns
monuments around the
world on page 68
shows. And the Bard
continues to inspire
other writers, too –
look no further than
Joyce Begg’s wonderful
short story “The Bestlaid Schemes” on page
41 for proof of that! I
hope you enjoy this
tale of a Burns Supper
with a difference as
much as I did.
It’s just one of an
outstanding selection
of stories for you this
week. Other highlights
include Katie
Ashmore’s lively
murder mystery set on
a cruise ship, which
conjures up an
evocative sense of the
1920s and features a
feisty young heroine
named Daisy and a
simply gorgeous
illustration by Mandy
Dixon. “Daisy Turns
Detective” is on page 4,
and there’s more magic
afoot in the whimsical
“The Miracle Man” on
page 53, which is by
Ellie Edwards. Happy
Angela Gilchrist, Editor.
Daisy Turns
Illustration by Mandy Dixon.
AISY squealed
and dropped her
copy of F. Scott
Fitzgerald on to
the library floor.
“Whatever’s the matter?”
The dashing head of Mr
Andrew Turnpike appeared
from behind a bookcase.
Daisy stood to one side,
swaying slightly. She was
feeling sick for the first
time since she’d boarded
the Emperor Of The Seas,
and it wasn’t due to the
swell of the waters.
Andrew rounded the
corner and turned a little
green himself.
“Gosh!” he exclaimed.
“This is a rum do.”
There, on the floor of the
liner’s mahogany library,
lay a body. It was as cold
as the ocean and paler
than a cockle shell.
“Who is she?” Daisy
whispered, moving closer
to Andrew.
The woman wore a long
evening gown, its silver
sheen catching the rays of
the morning sun. A fur
clung round her shoulders,
half-obscuring an ugly chest
wound, and a lock of hair
lay across one waxen cheek.
Andrew rubbed his chin.
“Seems familiar. I suppose
she’s a passenger. I’ve not
been introduced to
everyone. In fact,” he went
on, turning bashfully to
Daisy, “we haven’t been
introduced, though I was
hoping we would be.”
“Daisy Fossington,” she
said, extending her hand.
“Andrew Turnpike.” He
made a bow, squeezed her
fingertips and turned red.
Daisy smiled at him.
“I suppose we should tell
the captain,” she remarked.
“Yes, of course.” Andrew
pulled himself together. “I’ll
see to it, but first let me
escort you to your friends.”
Daisy’s “friends”
consisted of one formidable
aunt, Mrs Honoria Grimsby.
This lady was pacing the
cabin, her face puce, her
chins wobbling.
“I don’t like it,” she
declared. “Mixed up in a
murder. Outrageous! And
who’s this boy you’ve
picked up with?”
in the
The discovery of
a body had left
the whole cruise
ship baffled . . .
“His name’s Andrew
Turnpike, Aunt, and he
seems very nice.”
“Nice, indeed. What’s that
to do with it? Who are his
family? His connections?”
“I believe he’s from
“Wiltshire.” Aunt Honoria
stopped pacing and her
expression changed. “The
Turnpikes from Wiltshire? I
see. Well, we’re expected at
the captain’s table. Come
along, Daisy.”
Daisy raised an eyebrow
but did as she was bid, and
soon they were seated with
Captain Heydon and Mr
Turnpike, awaiting luncheon.
The captain was a tall man,
weathered and greying, but
immaculately dressed.
“I hope you’re feeling
better, Miss Fossington?”
he enquired gruffly.
“I’m perfectly well, thank
you.” Daisy’s eyes twinkled.
She had been momentarily
distressed, but it would
take more than a corpse to
upset her.
“Good. Well, at least Mr
Turnpike was present to
assist you.”
“It was jolly shocking,”
Andrew declared. “I say,
have you discovered who
the lady was?”
The captain shook his
head and stroked his
walrus moustache.
“No, but we’re checking
the passenger lists.
Meanwhile, you must keep
this matter quiet. I will not
tolerate panic on my ship.”
“Quite right, Captain,”
Aunt Honoria said
approvingly. “We are not
“I wonder why no-one’s
reported the lady missing?”
Daisy mused.
“Perhaps she was
travelling alone, as I am,”
Andrew suggested.
“Nonsense, my lad.
Unusual even for a fellow
such as yourself to be
travelling alone.”
Andrew’s colour
“Father thought it would
be educational – good for
my health. It was rather a
last-minute decision.”
The captain patted his
“Yes, yes. See the world.
Learn all you can.”
As Andrew shifted
uncomfortably in his seat,
Daisy wondered why he’d
really come, but her
attention was claimed by
Captain Heydon.
“I’m sorry to pain you,
Miss Fossington, but I have
to ask if you noticed
anything else this morning.”
She thought for a
moment, absently twisting
a curl of blonde hair.
“The woman’s nails were
unfashionably short,” she
said, “and her dress was
too long – though I don’t
suppose that matters.”
The captain coughed and
cleared his throat. He
obviously thought the
woman’s fashion sense was
of no importance.
At that moment, luncheon
was served and the
conversation returned to
mundane matters.
While Aunt Honoria
confirmed that Andrew was
a relative of Lord Turnpike
and set about interrogating
the captain, Daisy looked
around the dining salon.
The room was filled with
the buzz of conversation.
Ladies with bobbed hair,
drop-waisted dresses and
Mary Jane heels were
flanked by moustached and
suited gentlemen.
It was hard to believe, in
this luxurious atmosphere,
that anything as horrid as a
murder could have taken
“I say, I hope you really
are all right.”
Daisy smiled at Andrew.
“Perfectly, thank you.”
“Terrible business, but
super that we bumped into
each other.” He reddened.
“I mean, it’s dull travelling
alone and all that.”
Daisy nodded.
“Auntie and I only know
the Babinglys. It’s very
“Who are the Babinglys?”
She pointed to a nearby
table which held a family of
four – a large, red-faced
gentleman, his tiny wife
and two elegant daughters.
“That’s Walter Babingly
and his wife, Clara. Their
elder daughter, Violet, is
talking to the steward, and
there’s Maud, who is only
sixteen. Violet seems fairly
sensible but Maud’s rather
silly. I’ll introduce you.”
* * * *
The Garden Lounge was
quiet. Daisy found a seat
beside some ferns and a
potted palm. She settled
down to wait for Andrew,
who had invited her for
afternoon tea.
She’d left Aunt Honoria
on deck, wrapped in a mink
coat and cloche hat – the
sunshine had tempted many
passengers outside today.
Hearing voices, she
looked up and saw the
Babingly sisters. They were
arguing and Daisy hoped
they wouldn’t notice her.
Luckily, they were absorbed
in their own conversation
and walked past.
“For goodness’ sake,
Maud. You can’t borrow my
dress. How many times do I
have to tell you?”
“It’s not fair. Your clothes
are more elegant than
“That’s because you’re
still a child.”
Daisy smiled as they
disappeared and decided
to order tea.
Just then Andrew arrived.
“Have they gone?” He’d
been introduced to the
sisters earlier and, to his
horror, Maud seemed to
have taken a shine to him.
“Yes, the coast’s clear.”
He heaved a sigh of relief
and sat down beside Daisy,
looking dapper in plus fours.
“Sorry I’m late,” he said.
Daisy laughed.
“She’s an awful snob. Now
she knows your pedigree,
she’ll be a pussycat.”
He didn’t look convinced.
“She’s a dreadful old
hypocrite, too,” Daisy went
on. “She married beneath
her and the family disowned
“Then Uncle struck oil.
Now she’s a widow and rich,
they’ve welcomed her back
with open arms.”
Andrew shook his head.
“Families, eh?”
They lapsed into
companionable silence, but
Daisy was jolted from her
“I think the body was moved.
There was no blood in the library”
“Been playing racquet ball
with Bertie – decent chap
from the next cabin.”
A steward interrupted
them, bringing a feast of
petits fours, and poured
their tea. When he’d gone,
Andrew spoke again, his
eyes shining.
“I’ve had a thought –
about the murder.”
“Tell me, Andrew.”
“I think the body was
moved. I mean, there was
no blood in the library, was
“Then the murder took
place somewhere else?”
“That’s it. No sign of a
struggle, either.”
“I think you’re right.”
Daisy’s cheeks glowed.
“The woman had no bag or
gloves. I thought that was
odd at the time.”
They felt rather proud of
themselves for working this
out and tucked into their
tea with gusto.
Daisy soon discovered
that Andrew was the eldest
of seven children and,
although he complained
about his siblings, she
decided he was rather fond
of them and missing home.
“I’m an only child,” she
told him. “My parents are
darlings, but Mummy
doesn’t like society – it
makes life dreadfully dull.
I’m thrilled to be here with
Andrew blanched at the
mention of Aunt Honoria.
“She’s rather formidable,
isn’t she? Don’t think I
made a good impression.”
reverie by a particularly
discordant note from the
“Goodness. This man’s
playing is simply dreadful.”
Andrew nodded absently.
“He’s not the usual chap.
Normally, a woman plays.
She’s quite –” He broke off
suddenly, trembling with
excitement. “That’s her!”
“Who’s it?”
“The woman. The pianist. I
knew I’d seen her before.
She’s the murder victim!”
They stared at each other,
“I believe you’re right!”
Daisy gasped. “That would
explain why she kept her
nails so short.”
“Hello, you two. What are
you talking about?”
Daisy looked up to see
Violet Babingly smiling,
looking the height of daring
in her flapper dress. Maud
was behind her, gazing at
“Nothing much,” she said.
“Andrew’s been telling me
about racquet ball.”
“Have I? Oh, yes, great
fun. Do you play?”
They ordered more tea
and cake and were soon
discussing the ship’s
facilities. Violet had braved
the gymnasium and Daisy
loved the swimming-pool.
Maud didn’t say much but
sat giggling and glancing at
Andrew, though she was
eager to point out the merits
of the chocolate shop.
“I wonder they don’t have
more shops on board,”
Violet commented.
“Yes,” Maud piped up.
“Violet’s so careless, you
never know what she’ll
need to replace.”
“Don’t be silly, Maud.”
Maud subsided, but a
moment later, when Violet
was talking to Andrew, she
turned to Daisy.
“It’s true, you know. She’s
even lost a dress. I wanted
to borrow it, but it wasn’t
there. Daddy will go mad. It
cost a fortune – a silver
Lanvin creation, no less.”
“Really?” Violet exclaimed
suddenly. “How clumsy!”
The steward, who had
brought over more tea, had
spilled some on Violet.
“My apologies, madam.”
He was about to dab the
stain with his cloth, when
Violet leaped to her feet.
She blushed fierily and
averted her eyes.
“No, no,” she said. “I’ll
see to it. You’ll only make it
worse. Come along, Maud.”
As soon as they were out
of earshot, Daisy grabbed
Andrew’s arm.
“Did you hear that?” she
cried. “Violet’s lost a silver
Lanvin dress!”
He looked bemused.
“A bit careless, but . . .”
Daisy shook her head.
“The pianist was wearing
a silver dress. I’m sure it was
Lanvin and it was too long
for her. What if it’s Violet’s?
What if she was the target?”
* * * *
The next afternoon, Daisy
found herself on deck with
Andrew and Maud. Mrs
Babingly and Aunt Honoria
were tending Violet who,
after the events of the
morning, had taken to her
The captain had
confirmed that the
murdered woman was Olive
Parks, the pianist, and that
morning Violet had been
taken to see the body.
“Such a shock for her,”
Maud said, “but terribly
thrilling. She was the
intended victim! It was
definitely her dress.”
Daisy shook her head.
“She must be terrified.”
“What I don’t understand
is what Olive Parks was
doing with Violet’s dress in
the first place,” Andrew cut
in. “Jolly poor show.”
“Haven’t you heard?”
Maud gazed at Andrew.
“Olive Parks was a thief. I
heard the captain telling
Daddy. They searched her
cabin and found jewels and
all sorts.”
“That still doesn’t explain
why anyone would want to
kill Violet.”
“Exactly,” Andrew
agreed, smiling at Daisy.
Maud pouted.
“Something to do with
Daddy, I think. Threats over
some land dispute or other.”
She waved her hand. “I
could be at risk, too.”
She drew her chair closer
to Andrew.
“I’m terribly frightened.
Perhaps you could escort
me to the ball this evening?”
Andrew spluttered and
turned scarlet.
“I’ll do no such thing. Your
father can protect you. I . . .”
Maud burst into tears
and fled from the deck.
“I say, that’s a bit much.”
“It’s just a crush,” Daisy
reassured him, smothering
a laugh. “She’ll get over it.”
Andrew still seemed
“Girls get the wrong end
of the stick so easily,” he
confided. “I haven’t been
forward, have I?”
This time Daisy couldn’t
contain her laughter.
“Of course not, Andrew.
In fact you’ve done your
best to avoid her.”
He nodded distractedly.
“I’ve been in a spot of
bother before, you see.”
“Andrew, is that why
you’re on this cruise?”
“Yes,” he admitted.
“Father thought it a good
idea if I went away. It was
Rose, the vicar’s daughter.
Been close since we were
children, but she thought I
intended marriage. All
rather awkward.”
Daisy took his hand.
“Enough of that. I think
we should see Violet.”
When they entered the
cabin, Violet seemed fairly
calm. She was sitting,
wrapped in a silk dressinggown, drinking tea.
“We’re terribly sorry,”
Daisy said, pressing her
hand. “So horrid for you.”
“It is rather. Seeing that
woman.” She shuddered.
“Wondering whether one
will be next.”
“Steady on.” Andrew
looked shocked. “No need
to talk like that. They’ll
catch the blighter soon.”
“Is there anything we can
do?” Daisy asked.
“Thank you, but I don’t
think so.”
“We could try to catch the
fellow,” Andrew interjected.
“After all, we’ve already
solved half the clues.”
“What clues?” Violet
looked terrified.
“The woman’s identity,
that sort of thing. It was
Daisy who worked out she
was wearing your dress.
Oh, and I nearly forgot,” he
added cheerfully. “We think
the body was moved.”
Violet dropped her
handkerchief, her hands
“Let me.” Andrew knelt to
rescue it, but didn’t get up.
“What’s the matter?
Andrew, are you all right?”
There was a pause.
“I think you’d better take
a look at this.”
Daisy got down beside
him and her eyes widened.
There, beneath the bed,
was a large bloodstain.
“What is it?” Violet jumped
to her feet, just as Aunt
Honoria and Clara Babingly
burst into the cabin.
“It’s all right, Violet. You’re
safe after all.” Mrs Babingly
gasped for breath. “It was a
crime of passion. Olive had
been in a relationship with
a steward named Stokes.
“They searched his
quarters and found a
blood-stained glove. He’s
under arrest.”
There was silence, then a
crash. Violet had fainted
clean away.
* * * *
“You know, there’s still
something troubling me.”
“What’s that?” Andrew
asked, looking concerned.
“They’ve caught the
bounder and Violet is safe.”
Daisy and Andrew were
dancing in the liner’s Grand
“It doesn’t make sense.”
She frowned. “Why did the
steward kill Olive? Their
relationship was over.”
Andrew raised an
eyebrow and Daisy blushed.
“I questioned the maid.
They were quite cordial,
apparently. And why do it
in Violet’s room?”
“Must have followed her
there. Caught her stealing.
“I’ll tell you what is odd.”
“What?” Daisy looked up
questioningly into Andrew’s
handsome face.
“That steward, Stokes,
has been cropping up all
over the place.”
“He has?”
“Yes, he’s the fellow who
was talking to Violet when
you first pointed her out.
He spilt tea on her, too.”
“Then it was him I saw
leaving her cabin that day,
taking her dress to clean.
He had another one with
him – the blue one she was
wearing the night of . . .”
Daisy stopped, dismayed.
“What is it?”
She didn’t reply but led
him from the dance floor.
When they entered the
cabin, Violet looked up, her
eyes startled.
Daisy sat down beside
her and took her hand.
“Will you let him take the
blame?” she asked quietly.
“I don’t know what you
mean.” Violet pulled away.
“You killed her and
Stokes moved the body.”
There was silence, then
Violet began to sob.
“He did it for me,” she
whispered. “Only for me.”
“But why?”
“We’re in love,” she said
simply. “Olive found out.
She was blackmailing me. A
Babingly with a steward
– what a scandal! It was the
only way.”
Much later, when land
had been sighted, Daisy
and Andrew stood on deck
watching the lush shoreline
drawing near.
“What a trip,” Andrew
said, “and we’re only just
reaching our first port.”
Daisy sighed.
“The last for Violet. It’s
terribly sad.”
Andrew looked down into
her eyes and smiled.
“I would like the job of
cheering you up,” he said.
Daisy smiled.
“Are you sure? Because if
you show me too much
attention, I might get the
wrong end of the stick.”
Andrew coloured deeply.
“I don’t think you could,”
he said. “You’re the most
splendid girl I’ve met and
I’m going to spend as much
time with you as possible.”
“I’d like that.” Daisy
grinned and linked her arm
through his as the ship
sailed safely into port. n
Bright Spark
One hundred years after Muriel
Spark’s birth, 2018 will see events
celebrating her work – including an
event combining archive material
and personal items at the National
Library of Scotland. Free entry.
Rex Features..
This week we’re
Taking Cover
A wee vole was caught on camera in
Russia, sheltering from the rain under
this mushroom. It stayed there for a full
15 minutes, before a bird frightened it
Word Play
Gone Girl
Rosamund Pike was spotted by an
agent while at school. Her career
took off with her role in the James
Bond film “Die Another Day” and
her appearance in “Gone Girl”. She
turns thirty-nine this Saturday.
“Classic”, the new cookbook from
Mary Berry, features a selection
of traditional and modern British
recipes from her new BBC series.
They’re all written with minimum
fuss in mind – simple to make and
even easier to enjoy!
Lightbulb Moment
The Beam Smart lamp projector is the
size of a large bulb and screws into light
fittings or lamp sockets. When in place,
it can connect to your phone or the
internet and show TV and photos on any
surface – and it can also be just a light!
On for £349.99.
Lexicon-Go! is a new word game from
Winning Moves. It’s the perfect travel
game for up to four players, and is out
now, RRP £9.99, and available from
Instant Classic
Serious Viewing
Flying the “Star Wars” spaceships
might look fun, but you wouldn’t
want to foot the bill. Insurance
has calculated the annual cost of
insuring the Millennium Falcon at
£414,533. Ouch!
Astronomical Cost
Caring For Cats
Details correct at time of going to press.
In the largest single act of environmental
philanthropy in history, Chinese
billionaire Madame He Qiaonv is
donating over $1.5 billion to conservation
projects on wildcats. Plans are already
afoot to create two huge reserves to
protect rare snow leopards.
Telling the story of Bjorn Borg
and John
match in the
of 1980, this
film gives new
insight into
two of tennis’s
Out now on
Away To
Photographs by Morag Fleming, unless otherwise stated.
This popular spot in the Highlands isn’t just for skiers and
snowboarders. Morag Fleming finds out more.
VIEMORE is one
of the most
destinations in
especially in winter, but in a
way it is the least important
element of a visit here, as it
is the surrounding area
which really is the draw.
Visitors use the town as a
base and it does very well in
that regard. Every third
establishment in the town is
either accommodation, an
outdoors shop or a café and
they are all extremely busy,
especially in ski season. So
much competition makes
the standard very high.
Haughtily overlooking the
whole thing is the relatively
new “resort” which
comprises hotels, cabins,
activities, restaurants, leisure
centre, cinema and a wee
shopping mall.
I base myself at the
wonderful Rowan Tree
Country Hotel, just outside
the town, and my first
excursion takes me to the
Highland Wildlife Park in
This began in 1972 as a
private enterprise with the
modest remit of conserving
Scottish wildlife, past and
present, and pine martens,
wild cats, wolves and lynx
can all still be seen here.
In time, more exotic
wildlife has been
introduced, such as tigers,
polar bears and snow
leopards. The idea is that
these are animals that are
native to high altitudes, so,
for example, the tigers are
While we are on the
subject, if you do nothing
else when you visit the park,
see the feeding of the tigers.
They hang the food up and
hide it so the tigers have to
stretch and climb for it.
The sight of these
incredible animals straining
every muscle and wrapping
their immense jaws round a
lump of meat reminds us
how wild they are and how
Feeding time is a great
chance to see the snow
leopards up close, as well,
as they can be a little
elusive. Each feeding is
Who’s watching whom? A
macaque at the Wildlife Park.
accompanied by a talk by
the keepers so it is worth
keeping an eye on the
My next stop is Loch Insh.
This is a beautiful loch,
surrounded by sometimes
Strathspey Steam Railway.
The ski centre in full swing.
snow-capped hills and
rippled by sometimes
not-so-gentle winds.
There are outdoor
activities to be had here,
mainly on the water, but
one day when I go past I
see children flying down an
artificial ski slope, clearly
oblivious to the feet of snow
at Cairngorm just a few
miles up the road!
There’s a restaurant here,
too, and some lovelylooking cabins right at the
water’s edge with stunning
On the way back to
Aviemore is Loch an Eilein.
A walk round the loch is an
easy one, an undulating
three miles or so, and it’s
very pretty.
There is a ruined castle on
an island in the middle of
the loch. The island gives
the loch its name, and if you
clap your hands on the
reindeer centre which runs
trips up into the hills to see
“‘wild” reindeer as well as
having a few in paddocks in
the centre as well.
Feeding the reindeer on
the hill is an experience not
to forget and is
understandably popular
with children around
Christmas! For the grownups, Glenmore Lodge is just
up the hill and specialises in
walking and climbing
The road gets quite steep
in places as it heads up
Cairngorm and I pass a
couple of secondary car
parks, which are eerily
empty in summer months
and utterly hoaching when
it is snowy!
In fact, in winter the Hill
– as all the locals call
Cairngorm – is totally
transformed into a brilliantly
white city full of people in
estate cars, SUVs or camper
vans, and those on foot will
usually be wearing skis.
The road last winter was
so covered in snow that
when it was cleared it left a
sheer white cliff face of
snow 20 feet high!
The Cairngorm plateau
stands at 3,000 feet and is
home to wildlife you rarely
find anywhere else, such as
the mountain hare and the
But this world used to be
inaccessible for a lot of us,
leaving only the experienced
walkers, climbers and
Munro-baggers to sample
the views. This all changed,
of course, when they built
the funicular railway.
There was a furore over
the funicular at the time, but
it has opened things out
considerably. There are
guided walks from the
top, and skiing, of
Bactrian camels are used to the
cold steppe of Central Asia.
The Cairngorm Reindeer Herd
is at home in the wintry hills.
shore, it will echo superbly.
There is a pottery here, too,
and an art gallery, so this is
a day out in itself.
I drive through the woods
the few miles to the
looming Cairngorm ridge,
and it is certainly impressive.
On the way I pass the
beautiful campsite at
Rothiemurchus which is set
amongst the pines and is
wonderfully peaceful, with
walking and cycling paths
spreading out on all sides.
There is a farm shop, café
and restaurant at
Rothiemurchus as well, so it
is a good base.
Further on is Loch Morlich,
at the foot of the mountains.
Here there is a watersports
centre, a beach, lots of
picnic areas and parking for
walks, and another camp
site which is right on the
water’s edge.
Across the road is the
It’s also an area of secluded
lochans and woodland walks.
n Within the Cairngorms
National Park, 25% of
Britain’s threatened native
species make their home,
including black grouse
and pine marten. They
benefit from the
protection of the park,
which was Scotland’s
second, established only
recently in 2002.
400 million years ago these hills
were higher than the Alps.
large grouse eats only
pine needles, so while it is
a rare bird, places like
Abernethy Forest are
home to a few of them. It
certainly pays to keep your
eyes and ears open.
OSPREY: These fisheating birds of prey winter
in Africa, but in the
summer months ospreys
nest at Loch Garten. If you
are not lucky enough for a
live sighting, you can view
them from the visitor
centre which has a camera
trained on the nest.
n While walking on Ben
Macdhui, Britain’s second
highest mountain just
south of the town,
Professor Norman Collie
though he heard
something with long
strides following him –
one of a few claimed
encounters with the
yeti-like “grey man” of the
Aviemore area is a
stronghold for reds, who
are doing better than
greys – so much so that
they’re exported to other
parts of Scotland to fortify
local populations. It also
helps that pine martens
prefer to hunt greys.
n At the top of the
funicular, above 3500
feet, the Ptarmigan is the
UK’s highest restaurant.
course, but this access
has been carefully
managed so it is not
possible just to get off the
train and head out into the
wilderness yourself.
If you want to access the
plateau on your own terms
you need to climb up there
the old-fashioned (aka
hard) way.
But as well as the skiing
and the walking, this has
allowed people like me just
to get up there and take
photographs or drink in the
views, which many don’t get
to experience.
There’s a shop and a café,
yes, but that’s actually quite
The Highland Wildlife Park is
worth a visit in any weather.
Want to
nice, and it’s great for the
tourism industry in the area
all year round.
My next destinations are
Boat of Garten and Nethy
Bridge, a few miles from
Aviemore. Before I reach
either of these, though, I
find myself in Abernethy
Forest, a remnant of the
ancient Caledonian Pine
Forest and a great place for
a walk down to Loch
I wander the banks of the
loch for a bit, then the path
veers away from the water
and back into the woods
before arriving at Loch
This has been a real treat
of a walk – not too long but
very pleasant, with a wee
sample of what the more
remote corners of this area
have to offer.
Back in the car now, I
drive along to Boat of
Garten and Nethy Bridge,
which have hotels and
restaurants, making them
good bases from which to
explore the area.
These pretty villages are
also stopping points for the
steam train from Aviemore,
which is a massive draw for
tourists young and old in
the area.
There are various options
– to dine, or to partake of
“specials” such as the Santa
Express. Whichever you
choose, however, the real
draw is the train itself and
the beautiful countryside it
travels through.
This is just part of the
enduring appeal of
Aviemore and why people
like me just keep coming
back. n
Getting there
is 30 miles
south of
on the A9.
Trains stop
in town
and Perth, and CityLink’s
M90 and M91 bus
services run between
Edinburgh and Inverness.
Rowan Tree Country Hotel, visit or call 01479 810207.
Highland Wildlife Park, call 01540 651270 or visit
Find out more at, or try the Aviemore VisitScotland iCentre on Grampian Road or
call them on 01479 810930.
“Walking netball
sounds far more up
my street”
Photographs courtesy of Maddie Grigg and iStock.
In her weekly column,
Maddie Grigg shares
tales from her life in
rural Dorset . . .
HE women in the
village have been
talking about
setting up a walking
netball team.
Just like the men, who
have been playing walking
football in the next town for
several years now, the ladies
are thinking this could be a
good way of keeping fit and
having fun. It’s a team sport
they enjoyed at school, but
at a slower pace.
Leading the charge is my
neighbour, Mrs Bancroft,
who was apparently a pretty
nifty goal shooter in her
The position I made my
own, back in the day, was
wing attack. I remember I
had to do a lot of running
up and down the wing and
wasn’t allowed to try to
score a goal.
But I was happy at being
the key play-maker of the
netball court. It was my job
to create as many goalscoring chances as possible
by passing the ball to the
I was quite nippy in those
days, but not an accurate
goal scorer, so the position
suited me well.
I don’t know about you,
but I much preferred netball
to hockey. In my school
hockey was a pretty rough
game, with girls being
whacked (accidently on
purpose) in the shins or hit
in the face by a ball.
It was not uncommon to
see fat lips and bruised legs
as we limped off the pitch
when the final whistle
Walking netball sounds far
more up my street. And for
ladies over fifty here in Lush
Places, it could be a goer
because there are plans to
create a multi-use games
area next to the primary
On weekdays it will be
used by pupils then handed
over to the community in
the evenings and at
All we need is the funding
to make it happen, which is
a long game in itself.
Currently, my fitness
regime consists of three- to
five-mile dog walks on my
own and the occasional visit
to the gym.
I enjoy the former
because I can just walk out
of my back door with Arty
and be somewhere green
and pleasant in no time.
It gives me time to think
and admire all the natural
beauty around me. This
week, for example, I was so
much on a different plane, I
didn’t even notice when Arty
slipped her lead and I was
walking down the road
without her.
Luckily, she was sensible
enough to stay in the copse
we’d just walked through
and was there when I went
back to get her.
What the neighbours
made, though, of this mad
woman forging ahead with
an invisible dog on a lead I
dread to think.
As they say these days, I
was well and truly in the
It’s clear that I’ve fallen
out of love with the gym. I
have to drive the car to get
there and I find myself
planning my days around
sessions. I find it boring,
even though I know it’s
doing me good.
The more I put it off, the
less likely I am to do it
regularly. It’s really not for
So the idea of walking
netball, here in my own
village, alongside ladies I
know and like, fills me with
Mind you, Mr Grigg was
extremely keen when he first
joined the walking football
sessions. So much so, he
persuaded five other men
from the village to take part.
Every Monday they’d be
huffing and puffing in their
hi-vis jackets and squeaky
boots, trying not to run but
bursting out into a jog when
the referee wasn’t looking.
But for the past few
months, Mr Grigg’s been out
of action because of a cranky
knee. There are other players
with groin injuries, back
pain, problems with Achilles
tendons and hamstrings,
twisted knees and ankles.
There have even been
fights on the pitch.
Now I can’t imagine that
happening with the ladies in
Lush Places, but never say
never. It’s just as well we’re
not considering hockey. n
Walking netball is
coming to Lush Places!
Isobel and Ken were enjoying
the lighter side to a skiing
holiday . . .
Illustration by iStock.
SOBEL finished the
postcard she was writing.
It’s a beautiful place
with lovely scenery. I’m
even getting a suntan
– or snow burn!
That would do. She knew
people didn’t really write
postcards any more, but
she thought her
granddaughter would
appreciate the snowy alpine
And what she’d said was
true: the place was really
lovely, and all she had
hoped of from Austria.
Unlike skiing, which was
definitely not what she had
hoped for!
When she’d told her
young colleagues at work
that she wanted to try
skiing as the first step in
her early retirement plan,
they’d given shocked
warnings about how it was
harder than it looked, and
about broken bones taking
a long time to heal.
They had stopped short
of saying “at your age”, but
the message was there.
Someone had suggested
cross-country skiing as a
gentler alternative, and
Isobel had jumped at that
as an excellent
She was retiring early to
enjoy a bit of life, and she
couldn’t do that with a
broken leg.
So cross-country it was,
though it was definitely not
the easy option.
By the third day Isobel
could hardly lift her head
off the pillow, her muscles
ached so much.
“I think I’ll take a day’s
rest,” she’d told her
instructor, which was why,
instead of sliding her way
round the course, she was
sitting at an outside table
overlooking the square with
a mug of hot chocolate in
front of her.
“Rats! Sorry.”
Her drink sloshed across
the table as a man’s hands
grabbed at her chair.
“I’m so sorry. I slipped,”
he said unnecessarily. “You
didn’t get burned?”
He brushed snow off his
knees, trying at the same
time to mop up the mess
on the table – without much
success with either action.
Isobel laughed.
“I think we need to worry
more about you. Are you
“Oh, good, you’re
She shook her head.
“Scottish,” she said
“Really?” he asked,
raising his eyebrows. “Me,
too. I thought I was going
to have to summon up
every foreign word I know
to apologise.
“I can’t believe I’ve spent
the whole week skiing, then
nearly come a cropper on a
flat path.
“Let me get you another
drink. Do you mind if I join
you for a few minutes while
I gather my dignity, which I
seem to have lost
somewhere under your
Isobel laughed again and
felt her cheeks grow warm,
and not from the sun. How
could she refuse such
blatant charm, especially
from a gentleman with
sparkling blue eyes that
crinkled pleasingly at the
corners as he smiled at her.
She’d been on her own
for so long now, she could
hardly remember the last
time someone looking at
her had made her heart
drum against her ribs as it
was doing now.
Ken, he told her over the
new drinks, was here with
his son’s family.
“They’re a bit keener
than me, not to mention
younger and fitter, and
want to ski all day. I like to
explore a bit more, and the
cross-country trails are
ideal walking routes, too,
so I do that in the
afternoon. Have you tried
the routes?”
Isobel admitted that her
skiing so far had consisted
of walking up and down a
few lengths of prepared
route in the village centre.
“I don’t think I’ll be trying
anything much more
adventurous than that,”
she told him. “Anyway, I
have photos of me on skis
to show people, so no-one
needs to know I was on the
ground three seconds later.
You’re not the only one to
lose your dignity.”
He laughed warmly, and
the afternoon continued in
the same vein, until the
lights coming on in the
village square opposite
made Ken realise he had to
meet his family.
Before he left he asked
Isobel to join him for his
walk the following afternoon,
and promised he wouldn’t
fall again, so she laughingly
A pattern developed. They
both skied in the morning
(Isobel assumed that Ken’s
trips to the slopes were more
successful than her own
tours round the village
tracks), then met up for a
walk before completing the
afternoon with a coffee in
the café where Ken had
“fallen for her”, as he put it.
She liked his turn of
phrase, even if he was only
The rest of the holiday flew
by with this pleasant routine,
and on her last day Isobel
realised with a pang that
there would be no more
walks after this one.
They were both heading
home the following day, and
her flight was an early one,
so there would be no time to
catch up before she left.
How ridiculous, she
thought as they walked and
laughed together. A
woman of my age
getting caught by the
holiday romance thing.
But she knew she had
fallen for Ken, and not in
the way he had fallen for
She really had been quite
happy on her own,
saddened by her divorce
but knowing it was the right
thing to do.
She had always taken
care to see the positives in
it, but now the thought of
being alone was distinctly
less appealing.
She was more than
disappointed when at the
life. And he’s right. Just get
on with the life on your own
you’ve planned for yourself:
it’s a good one, after all.”
With a deep breath and a
straightening of her back,
she got on with packing.
On the bus to the airport
the following morning,
Isobel filled her time with
texting her children, telling
them her schedule, which
helped to lessen the
loneliness she was fighting.
Suddenly everyone
around her seemed to be in
happy, laughing couples,
The thought of being alone was
distinctly unappealing
end of the walk Ken said he
was going to give the coffee
in their café a miss, as he
needed to get back for an
early family meal.
He kissed her cheek and
gave her a quick hug.
“I must rush. It’s been
great to spend the time
with you. I’ve had a lovely
holiday, thanks.” Then he
turned before she had a
chance to formulate any
sort of response, and left
her standing alone on the
icy path.
Back at the hotel room,
Isobel gave herself a stern
talking to.
“You are not going to let
this spoil your holiday.
You’ve had fun, and
pleasant company. It’s
nothing more than that,
and Ken never pretended it
But although he’d never
said anything to suggest it
was, she was sure he’d felt
something from his actions
and his looks. They’d had
so much fun and laughter
together, but maybe that
was just holiday high
“Maybe he’s decided that
at our age romance is
nonsense; that we’re both
too old and heart sore from
though she was by no
means the only single. It
was amazing the difference
10 days could make.
The airport was hectic
and by the time she got
through security, she had
to head straight to her
gate, stopping only to get a
coffee from a kiosk.
At the gate there was
nowhere to sit, so she stood
with her coffee in hand and
bag at her feet.
Suddenly a voice near her
ear said quietly, “Mind you
don’t spill that.”
Startled, she turned.
“Ken!” She didn’t know
whether to laugh at the
surprise, or cry at the fact
that he was here, rubbing
salt into the wound he had
left on her heart.
“Why are you here?” she
asked. “Your flight’s not till
later. I thought you were
having a last shot on the
She knew her confusion
was making her babble, but
she couldn’t stop herself.
Instead, Ken stopped her
by taking her bag in one
hand and her hand in the
other, then leading her
towards a quiet corner.
“The others are still at the
slopes, but I got sent here
early,” he explained.
Isobel was confused.
“Sent? By who? I mean
whom.” Her command of
English seemed to have
deserted her in her
flustered state.
“Believe it or not, by my
grandson.” He grimaced
and laughed. “At dinner
last night, and then
breakfast this morning, my
lack of good humour was
“My twelve-year-old
grandson suggested I
should get my act together,
stop being a coward, and
come and find you.
“Apparently your
company has improved my
temperament considerably,
or, as he put it, I’ve been
smiling like an idiot since I
met you. He couldn’t
believe I didn’t ask for your
number. I’ve come to
rectify that.”
He pulled a pen and
paper from his pocket.
“May I have your
number?” he asked
Isobel hesitated.
“I don’t understand the
change of mind,” she said,
still reluctant to build up
any hope.
He took her hand again.
“Kyle was right,” he
assured her. “I’ve been on
my own a while, and
thought I was doing fine,
and I didn’t want to upset
“But according to the
family consensus this
morning, I wasn’t doing
fine. I have been miserable
since my divorce, right up
until the moment I met you,
they tell me.
“I can’t argue with that
last part,” he continued.
“Being with you certainly
hasn’t made me miserable.
Anything but.”
She couldn’t argue with
it, either. Although she
couldn’t vouch for what
he’d been like before, when
they were together there
was plenty of smiling and
laughter. There was no-one
less like a miserable old
With less than perfect
timing, her flight was called
and the crowd around them
instantly started moving
Ken raised her hand,
which he was still holding,
and brushed his lips against
the back of it.
“I’d really like to see you
again, if it’s possible, and if
you want to.”
She nodded, feeling her
cheeks glow like a lovestruck school girl.
“Yes, I’d like that,” she
said, laughing at herself and
her understatement.
She grabbed his paper
and pen and wrote down
her mobile number. She
really hoped she had
remembered it correctly.
The queue through the
gate was nearly gone, so
there weren’t too many
people to see their romantic
goodbye before she, too,
had to show her boarding
pass and head through.
She turned as she went
through the doors, and Ken
was still there, hand raised,
waiting for her to look.
* * * *
At the other end of the
flight, her daughter met her
at Arrivals.
As they walked to the car
park, Isobel remembered to
turn her phone off flight
mode, and within seconds a
text arrived.
Taking the boys skiing in
Glenshee next Sunday –
care to join us? No skiing
required. There’s a very
nice coffee shop. I promise
not to spill anything!
Isobel laughed.
“Something funny?” Claire
asked lightly.
Then she saw her mum’s
glowing face.
“Mum! You’ve fallen for
someone, haven’t you?”
“No, darling,” Isobel said
through her laughter. “He
fell for me!” n
Discover a new way to enjoy our favourite short stories
with weekly audio readings which are easy to listen to.
Each one lasts 15 to 25 minutes – just the right length
for listening to with a cup of tea!
Health &
Great advice to keep you happy and healthy
Q. My eyes often feel dry and bloodshot and I
am quite self-conscious in front of others. Is
there anything I can do to relieve the problem?
and Dry Eye
Specialist Niall
O’Kane is here
to help.
First of all, you are not alone! It’s
extremely common, but it’s important
to know that it can be treated. Red,
sore and watery eyes can actually be a
sign of Dry Eye Disease, when our eyes
water too much to compensate for the
In The News
Snuggle Up
It seems Granny was right after all
when she told you to get a scarf on
and wrap up warm against the cold.
Asthma sufferers have been
advised to do exactly this and wear
a scarf to cover their nose and
mouth when they go out this
winter, because studies have found
inhaling cold air can increase the
risk of an asthma attack. In fact, the
charity Asthma UK say wearing a
scarf could be a life-saver because it
warms cold air before you breathe it
in, reducing your risk of attack.
This dryness can be triggered by the
weather, so wearing sunglasses whilst
outdoors can help, and using
preservative-free eye drops like
Hycosan (£8.99) will help to soothe
and rehydrate your eyes and stop
them becoming inflamed.
If it’s an ongoing problem it’s better
to see an optometrist. Some
optometry clinics now offer a service
called Tear Clinic which will help to
identify the cause of your sore eyes
and find the most suitable treatment
for you. You can visit www.Tearclinic.
com to find your nearest one.
Sore Throat
Survival Guide
Doctors advise a yellow
coating or white spots in your
throat could indicate a bacterial
infection (which may require
antibiotics), but a red, sore and
swollen throat most likely
indicates a virus.
Try these tips from ear, nose
and throat consultant Alasdair
• drink water to stay
hydrated as this boosts
mucus and saliva production
which helps protect the throat
• gargle with salty water (stir
2 tsp salt into 500ml water and
chill) to help loosen mucus and
draw excess fluid out of
inflamed throat tissue
• avoid the dehydrating
effects of alcohol and caffeine
• use an anaesthetic throat
spray which contains
• take paracetamol rather
than ibuprofen or aspirin
which can impair immunity
Health Bite
Although they might be a little more
expensive than some other nuts, cashews
make a nutritious addition to winter salads
and stir-fries and are well worth enjoying in
meals as well as snacks.
They are a great source of plant nutrients
called “proanthocyanidins” which are believed
to help fight cancer cells by stopping them
Not only are cashews lower in fat than
many other nuts, they are packed with
vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. These
include vitamins E, K and B6, along with
minerals copper and iron (which help form
healthy blood cells) and phosphorus, zinc,
magnesium and selenium, as well as
antioxidants (lutein and zeaxanthin) which
help protect the eye from light damage and
can decrease the instance of cataracts.
We are unable to offer individual advice to readers. Please see your own GP if you have a medical problem.
can help you
to get back
on your
Of A Declutter
Help For Heel Pain
Our Health
Writer, Colleen
Shannon, explains
a common cause
and how to get
AINFUL feet can make you
miserable, so it is worth finding out
the cause and getting professional
advice. There is always a way to help you
feel a bit better.
The heel is one part of the foot where
pain often strikes. Most of the time, heel
pain is caused by a condition called
plantar fasciitis, which affects one in 10
people at some point during their lives.
The name comes from the part of the
foot’s anatomy that is affected.
This condition can clear up on its own,
but this can take a year or more, which is
a long time to keep limping around in
pain. And if it goes untreated, it can turn
into a lasting problem.
To learn more about the causes of
plantar fasciitis and how to manage it, I
asked Emma McConnachie, a podiatrist
from the College of Podiatry.
She explained that the plantar fascia is
a band of connective tissue that runs
down from the toes, through the arch of
your foot and then into your heel. It helps
to form the arch of your foot and it
distributes force as you move.
In plantar fasciitis, it’s generally thought
that this tissue becomes inflamed. This
could be caused by squashing or overstretching the foot, perhaps because of
badly fitting or worn-out shoes. Repeated
injuries, or an accident like a fall or
tripping over something, might also start it
There’s an interesting scientific
discussion about plantar fasciitis and
some studies now suggest that
inflammation might not be the whole
story. It’s possible that the tissue is
actually breaking down (degrading).
The most common symptom is sharp
pain in your heel area, especially when
you get out of bed in the morning or
when you have been sitting for a while.
This pain will often ease off after a short
time, but in some cases it will continue to
bother you for the rest of the day.
There are other possible causes, so if
your pain has lasted more than three
weeks then it’s best to get a firm
One route is to get advice from a
podiatrist. These health professionals are
specially trained experts on foot care.
They must be registered with the Health
and Care Professions Council and you can
look them up on
You can find a podiatrist near you by
checking the College of Podiatry website
You might be able to see a podiatrist
on the NHS or you might have to go
private. Ask your GP surgery about the
policy in your local area.
Once you have a diagnosis, your
podiatrist might recommend shoes that
raise your heel height by 1 cm. They
might tell you to avoid long walks, going
barefoot or high-impact exercise while
you recover.
They might also give you supportive
insoles and teach you stretching exercises.
Strapping, ultrasound and acupuncture
are other possibilities.
Some people need steroid injections or
surgery, but most of the time these
straightforward measures will get you
back on your feet. n
Psychologists warn that when
your surroundings are chaotic it’s
very easy to become distracted,
stressed and anxious, making
concentration and focusing more
difficult. However, a clean,
orderly space makes it easier to
focus and creates a sense of
So now is a great time to do a
bit of decluttering for an early
spring clean!
Instead of surrounding yourself
with clutter that might be
unwittingly causing you stress,
you could find fresh new space
for tools that promote your
health, such as creating space to
roll out a yoga mat for some
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Blackcurrant Jelly
It was his daughter’s favourite thing,
and Donald hoped it would get her
through this difficult day . . .
Illustration by Jim Dewar.
ONALD drummed
his fingers against
the steering wheel
of his Ford Focus,
his eyes fixed on
the school entrance.
Any minute now, those
doors would fly open and
hundreds of happy kids
would stream out,
overjoyed at their freedom.
Then he would see Suzie
emerge, alone and
despondent from the
challenges she’d had to
cope with today.
His stomach cramped as
if someone had pushed
their hand inside him,
wrapped their fingers
around his intestines and
Fingers. Everything was
about fingers. Ever since
that day three months ago.
He crossed his arms,
trapping his fingers. His
stomach cramped again.
Donald fought the wince,
but failed. It was nothing,
though. Nothing to what
Suzie had endured. Was
It had started with a
sniffle. An ordinary sniffle.
Colds are part of the school
curriculum, like Maths,
English and semolina
Donald smiled.
Surprisingly, that had been
Suzie’s worst fear when
he’d dropped her off this
“What if it’s semolina
pudding? I hate that.”
In the rearview mirror, he
watched her nose turn up
at the thought.
“Imagine it’s your
favourite,” he suggested.
Suzie frowned.
“Blackcurrant jelly?”
“Close your eyes.” He
said, then watched Suzie’s
reflection in the mirror.
“Now imagine the biggest
spoonful of blackcurrant
jelly in your mouth.”
Suzie giggled, her eyes
scrunched shut, causing
them to disappear under
her blonde fringe.
“Now swallow it,” he
Suzie’s lower jaw rolled
the imaginary jelly around
her mouth several times,
before her throat bobbed
as the imaginary jelly
journeyed south.
“That was lovely. Thanks,
Dad. I’ll definitely do that.”
He laughed.
“It’s all in the mind, you
see.” He tapped the side of
his forehead. “Our brains
are amazing. If there’s
something you can’t do, or
don’t want to do, let your
imagination take over. You
can do anything then.”
“I’m going to have
blackcurrant jelly during
“Not if it gets you into
trouble with Mrs Hopkins,
you’re not.” Donald arched
his eyebrows, then grinned.
“Go on. Off you go. Can
you manage?”
Suzie unclipped her belt.
“Yes, Dad.” She sighed,
as she jumped out of the
car. “Bye.”
The door slammed and
the car wobbled.
Sometimes the strength of
his seven-year-old daughter
astounded him.
She didn’t look back as
she ran into the playground.
Within seconds her friends
were gathering round, yet
all he could see were the
five stumps on each hand
where her fingers and
thumbs should have been.
His stomach churned as
he remembered Helen
rolling the glass against the
rash on Suzie’s arm. Their
horror was reflected in each
other’s eyes.
Helen dialled 999, but
Donald had scooped up his
daughter in his arms and
hurried out to the car. If
only they’d acted sooner.
That first sniffle.
The doctors said they
shouldn’t blame themselves.
Another hour would have
made no difference.
But Donald’s stomach
thought otherwise, torturing
him as they’d watched over
Suzie, lying in the hospital
bed, with wires and tubes
coming out of her, and the
tips of her fingers and
thumbs slowly blackening.
He didn’t remember
hugging Helen when the
doctor explained the need
to amputate. But he’d
hugged her so tightly his
finger marks were still
visible on her skin three
days later.
Finger marks. Something
Suzie couldn’t leave now.
The operation had gone
well. The doctors had saved
Suzie’s hands. Only her
fingers and thumbs had to
be sacrificed.
Three months’ recovery
had arrived at today – her
first day back at school.
He knew she’d been
dreading it. They all had.
But it was also the first day
of normality, whatever that
A cheer of screaming
children erupted from the
school’s double doors as
they escaped into the
playground’s freedom.
Donald’s stomach rolled
like a cement mixer,
constantly churning its
produce to stop it setting.
Then he spotted her.
Her arms were draped
around the necks of her two
best friends. His eyes fixed
on the stumps resting on
their shoulders.
She saw him and waved.
Her limb rocked from side
to side like a windscreen
wiper on its highest, most
frantic setting. No more
delicate finger waves.
Donald flapped his fingers
at her, then regretted it. He
still felt awkward at times.
All fingers and thumbs.
Suzie hurried to the rear
door and grappled with the
handle. Twice it slipped
from her grasp.
Donald stretched to open
the door from the inside.
“I can do it!” Suzie stared
at him defiantly.
Helen did the same
whenever he overstepped
the mark.
The door clicked open
and he sensed Suzie’s relief
as she jumped into the car.
“How was your day?” For
the first time since arriving,
Donald’s stomach froze.
“Brilliant! We had
semolina pudding, so I
imagined blackcurrant jelly,
and it worked. The dinner
lady said she’d never
known me to eat all of it
Donald grinned.
“See? I told you.
Imagination can turn the
worst things into the
best of things.”
Suzie nodded.
“Mrs Hopkins said I did
really well in Maths today. I
was the only one to get
seven times seven right.”
“Well done.” Donald
Her excitement put him
at ease. He’d imagined the
worst, but it hadn’t
“It was easy,” Suzie
continued as she struggled
to secure her seatbelt. “I
used my imagination, like
you told me to.”
Donald frowned.
A satisfying click
resonated around the car
interior and Donald
released a breath of relief.
Such a simple, ordinary
sound now meant so much.
Growing independence.
“I used my fingers and
In the rearview mirror,
Donald watched the grin
grow on Suzie’s face.
“I thought that if I could
imagine blackcurrant jelly,
then all I had to do was
imagine lots of fingers and
thumbs on my hands. It
was easy! I had fifty.
Twenty-five on each hand.
“I had one left over, so I
threw it away.” Suzie
beamed. ‘Everyone else on
my table had to borrow
someone else’s fingers to
keep track, but I didn’t. I
did it on my own.”
The anguish in Donald’s
stomach dissipated. It
hadn’t occurred to him that
Suzie would find advantage
in her situation. All he’d
imagined was the worst.
If Suzie could be positive,
then he could try focusing
on the positives, too.
For the first time in weeks
Donald felt hungry.
“Come on. Let’s go home.
What do you want for tea?”
“Blackcurrant jelly!” Suzie
“Blackcurrant jelly it is.”
Donald pulled out on to
the road, sensing butterflies
in his stomach. Not nervous
butterflies this time, but
butterflies of excitement.
Suzie was going to be OK.
He could see that. All it took
was a little imagination.
And some blackcurrant
jelly. n
There’s some
monkey business
going on in the
’M not one for taking
astrology seriously. So
when the Chinese New
Year comes round, it has
no significance as far as
I’m concerned.
Take the year before last,
for instance: 2016 was the
year of the monkey. As it
happens, I did see two
primates during that year.
Beryl often mentions the
encounter with the first one.
“How could I forget it,
Paul? That woolly monkey.”
She shudders at the
In fairness to Beryl, it had
been rather traumatic. Both
for the monkey and her.
Bolton was the monkey’s
name and he was brought
into the hospital by Kevin
Winters, Westcott Wildlife`
Park’s keeper.
The monkey had
swallowed a bolt, then
post-operatively had
managed to escape from
his pen in the hospital and
turned up in reception.
He rummaged through
Beryl’s handbag, extracted
her lipstick and applied it
with much smacking of lips.
“I was furious,” Beryl
often reminds me. “It was
my favourite colour.”
I remember it well.
“You’ve another monkey
booked in,” Beryl informed
me one morning early last
year, just before the start
of the year of the rooster.
“It’s a squirrel monkey
called Bimbo. Mrs Morello
is requesting a house visit
as the monkey’s poorly. It
would be too distressing to
come to the hospital.”
Later that morning, I
found myself at Mrs
Morello’s house in a quiet
suburban avenue, staring
across a dining-room table
to where a squirrel monkey
was curled up on the floor
of a cage.
“Bimbo only goes in there
to sleep,” Mrs Morello said.
“But he hasn’t wanted to
come out for two days.”
She blew kisses at the
“My poor little Bimbo.
You aren’t well, are you?”
Even though I had little
experience of monkeys, I
could see this one was off
colour. He was huddled up
with his tail curled over his
yellow-furred body.
The kisses blown made
him look up. His black eyes
were dull and, as if to
accentuate his illness, he
blinked and a large tear
rolled down his cheek.
That provoked similar
tears from Mrs Morello who
dragged a large white
handkerchief from the
sleeve of her blouse and
blew her nose violently.
“He’s been off his food
for days,” Mrs Morello
explained between sniffs.
“Even chocolate-coated
peanuts which he adores.”
I could see a pile of them
untouched inside the cage.
“I’m going to have to
catch him,” I warned Mrs
Morello as I donned a stout
pair of leather gloves that
I’d brought with me.
Even poorly, Bimbo could
summon sufficient strength
to give me a nasty bite.
Gingerly I opened the
cage door, inserting one
gloved hand while barring
the exit with the other.
There was no movement or
springing to the door.
There was only the merest
chatter of protest as I
grasped Bimbo and lifted
him out.
I took his temperature. It
was high.
I checked his nostrils.
Each was moist with a clear
discharge. Listening to his
chest, I could hear a distinct
I caught hold of his legs
which had been curled
round my wrist and
stretched him out. Pinpoint
red spots were visible in his
armpits and groin.
With a syringeful of
antibiotic already drawn up,
I got Mrs Morello to hold
Bimbo’s legs while I gave
the injection. There was no
reaction from the monkey,
though a little squeak was
emitted by Mrs Morello.
“What do you think is
wrong with him?” she asked.
“Looks like he’s caught a
cold,” I said, far from
convinced of my diagnosis.
“Has anyone in the family
got one?”
Mrs Morello shrugged.
“My Katie was a bit off
colour this morning. But she
still went to school.” The
front door banged. “That
will be her now. Funny
though, she’s early.”
Her daughter walked in.
“They sent me home as
I’ve come out in a rash,”
she explained.
Suddenly it dawned on
me. The spots on Bimbo.
“Who’d have thought?”
Mrs Morello wailed. “Poor
Bimbo. Catching measles.”
“Who, indeed?” Beryl
echoed when I told her
about it.
“Oh, by the way,” she
added. “The year of the
rooster starts tomorrow.”
I remember thinking, “So
what?” It didn’t mean I’d be
confronted with masses of
chickens that year.
More fool me. Next day
we discovered a cat carrier
abandoned on the steps of
Prospect House. In it was
crammed eight cockerels.
Clear evidence of fowl
play, and there was more to
come during the year.
More next week.
Word Ladder
Move from the word
at the top of the
ladder to the word
at the bottom using
the exact number of
rungs provided by
changing one letter
at a time (but not
the position of any
1 Lutherans, eg (11)
9 Dance for four
couples (9,4)
10 Resident of Khartoum (8)
12 Subject of Landseer’s
The Monarch of the
Glen (4)
14 City of NE Italy (5)
15 Large Nigerian port and
city (5)
19 ‘Terrible’ Russian
ruler (4)
20 Symbolist in 19th‑century
French literature (8)
22 Sunset Boulevard
star (6,7)
24 Creator of the Three
Laws of Robotics (5,6)
2 Inspector Wexford’s first
name (3)
3 Strong light metal (8)
4 Liverpudlian (6)
5 Cain’s biblical brother (4)
6 Atomic number of
scandium (6‑3)
7 First name of 1980s
javelin thrower
Sanderson (5)
8 Irish county east of
Mayo (5)
11 1950s/60s TV blonde
bombshell (5,4)
13 Female WWI spy (4,4)
16 Beatles’ drummer (5)
17 Former name of
Iran (6)
18 Surname shared
by actresses
Emma and
Sharon (5)
21 Ms Hobley, TV
actress (4)
23 1960s TV panda
puppet (3)
Fill the grid with the numbers
1 to 9 so that each row,
column and 3x3 block
contains the numbers 1 to 9.
1 4
7 8
9 7
1 4
1 5 2
Pertaining to sight
Prattle (on)
Brand of Mexican lager
With the help of the Across clues only,
can you fit the pieces into their correct
positions in the grid?
on p87
Try our general knowledge crossword
1 Undertaker
2 French for ‘noon’
3 Landing of supplies
by parachute
9 Mountain range in the
10 Flat kitchen surface
11 Slovenia’s currency unit
12 Rise above
All puzzles © Puzzler Media Ltd
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Lord and
with their
Lady Aberdeen (right)
with Henrietta
Edwards, who jointly
founded the National
Council of Women.
Hard at
for gold.
The Klondike
Alexandra Pratt finds out about the
Victorian Order of Nurses, who
were pioneers of their time.
Photographs courtesy of Library Archives Canada.
N 1896, in Canada’s
Yukon Territory, three men
discovered gold. Word
spread quickly, but it was
only when a steamship
arrived in San Francisco a
year later, carrying miners
with suitcases full of gold
nuggets, that the Klondike
Gold Rush began.
At its peak in 1898, the
Dawson area, previously
home to around 100 mainly
First Nations people, swelled
to over 100,000 fortune
hunters, dealers,
storekeepers, dance-hall girls
and anyone desperate
enough to risk the journey
to, and the privations of,
Dawson City.
Tensions rose with so
many Americans on
Canadian land, so the
Canadians sent a force of
200 soldiers to man the
border and maintain order.
With them travelled four
nurses (three were Canadian
and one, Amy Scott, was
British), the wife of a police
officer and a journalist
named Faith Fenton.
Nursing was still a
relatively new occupation
for women. Yet the region
needed medical care, so
Ishbel Aberdeen, the wife
of the Governor General,
established the Victorian
Order of Nurses, named in
honour of Queen Victoria’s
diamond jubilee, and she
sent the first recruits to the
The restrictions were
excessive by modern-day
standards. The nurses had
to be single, fully hospital
trained, required to dress
modestly and not curl or
crimp their hair.
The journey was an
indication of the trials to
come. While most
prospectors travelled the
shorter route via Alaska and
the steep Chilkoot Pass, the
nurses, soldiers and 20
mules made the longer
journey up the Stikine River
and through the Yukon
Often sleeping just three
hours a night, they walked
150 miles through swamps
and forests, then over a high
mountain pass to Lake
Teslin, where they paddled
a handmade boat
downstream to Dawson.
The journey took several
weeks and the women
cared for the sick and
injured along the way, but it
was Dawson that truly
tested their resilience,
determination and
Initially, Amy Scott stayed
at Fort Selkirk with the
soldiers, to nurse those with
typhoid. The other women
continued onwards to
Dawson before one went to
a hospital still only half-built
in Grand Forks.
Georgia Powell and
Rachel Hanna worked at the
Good Samaritan Hospital in
Dawson itself. In the early
days, they slept in a tent,
their beds no more than
sacks stuffed with shavings.
Only candles lit the
“hospital” which consisted
of two simple log buildings,
25 by 50 feet.
A typhoid epidemic raged,
with every kind of
complication from neuralgia
to rheumatism. Some men
lay only on blankets on the
bare floorboards.
Disinfectants, dressings
and other supplies were
limited. Both Amy and
Georgia contracted typhoid,
too, yet it was recorded –
“Not [a patient] had a bed
sore, or even a chafe, so
closely were they watched
and attended”.
Typhoid was not the only
epidemic. Scurvy was also
rife, described by Georgia as
“at best disgusting work . . .
the scrubbing of these
miserable creatures and
how some would fight
against the bath!”
Yet the nurses were held
in such high regard, it was
said a man would walk for a
day just to take a cup of
coffee from a woman’s
Unsurprisingly, the work
took its toll and Amy was
invalided back to England.
The nurse working alone in
Grand Forks resigned, but
Rachel and Georgia
remained in Dawson, until
Georgia left to nurse men
fighting in the Boer War.
Faith Fenton, the
journalist, married and
stayed in Dawson for several
Having faced pneumonia,
filth, unrelenting labour,
frostbite and typhoid, the
VON nurses’ selfless work
saved hundreds of lives and
brought comfort to the
despairing; all for an annual
salary that was less than a
miner could earn in a day! n
in 1897.
Stephen had
an important
decision to
make, so he
turned to
Gabrielle for
help . . .
Wooden Heart
Illustration by Helen Welsh.
The Story So Far
out of college in the
Borders. Her dad STEPHEN
is a widower and recently
lost his job as an engineer
in the oil industry. His only
focus other than Asha is
his Austin 7 car, which he
is restoring.
When Stephen married
his Indian wife, his father
disowned him. Upon his
father’s death, he finds he
has inherited his estate,
including his cottage and
woodcarving shed.
once a professional
violinist, lives a reclusive
life since a car accident
left her unable to play the
violin. One day she trips
while walking FRANZ, her
dog, and hurts her wrist.
Stephen comes to her aid
and drives her to A&E.
Ash sees a future for her
father living in her
grandfather’s cottage, but
Stephen has other ideas . . .
AN we really
afford this bottle
of wine, Dad?”
Ash asked
Beside her in the garden
seat, Stephen smiled.
“My daughter has just
graduated, so if we can’t
celebrate with a bottle of
discounted white wine
from the local Co-op, then
what’s the point?” He
raised his glass. “To you,
my beautiful daughter.”
Ash’s face felt warm.
“Embarrassing,” she
said. “But thank you.”
It was one of those rare
perfect Borders summer
evenings, when the sun
had real warmth and was
pouring down on to the
rarely used garden at the
back of their house.
She basked in it, her
Indian genes soaking up
the heat, while her
Scottish genes were
fanning themselves.
“We should be
preparing dinner,” she said.
“Later,” Stephen replied.
“First we’ve got to reach a
decision about the old
cottage my father left us.”
“Left you,” Ash corrected.
“Us,” he repeated firmly.
“That’s why what we do has
to be a joint decision. I
think we should sell it, using
the money we get to pay off
our overdraft.
“We can keep some back
for you to start up your own
design business, then live
on what’s left until I find
another job.”
Ash sipped her wine.
“Why are you so keen to
get rid of it?” she asked.
“It carries too many bad
Slowly turning her glass,
Ash watched the sun
reflecting through the wine.
“Was your childhood
miserable?” she asked.
Stephen looked round.
“Not always. There were
good times as well as bad. I
was a mother’s boy, and
my father had little to do
with me, except glower
when I made a noise or
annoyed him.
“He was so wrapped up
in his work that we barely
got a word from him for
days on end.”
“Then it was only the final
argument which was truly
bad?” Ash asked.
Stephen looked away.
“Maybe. It wasn’t all a
bed of roses after my mum
died. We were always
annoying each other.”
“Still,” Ash said, “your
main reservations about the
cottage are based on
memories of that final row,
aren’t they?”
“I suppose so.”
“But those would have
happened anywhere. They
were relationship issues and
had nothing to do with the
cottage itself.”
Stephen sipped his wine,
his eyes never leaving her.
“What are you driving
at?” he finally asked.
Ash sighed.
“I don’t think selling the
cottage is the best way
forward,” she said. “It’s big
enough for us to stay in,
and that old shed would be
perfect for working on your
car. We would probably get
at least twice as much for
selling this house.”
“I don’t want to sell it,”
he said gruffly. “We were
happy here.”
“Then don’t sell it,” Ash
said. “Rent it out and use
the money as a source of
income until we both get a
Stephen’s frown
“I don’t like the thought
of other people using our
furniture,” he said. “Your
mum bought most of that
and was so proud of it.”
Ash reached across and
gently touched his hand.
“Silly,” she said. “Mum’s
furniture – and anything
else that you want to keep
– would be coming with us
to the cottage. Anyway, it’s
our memories of her which
are important.”
He turned slowly, a wry
smile on his face.
“You are so like your
mum,” he said. “Able to see
straight to the heart of any
“She could always look at
the most complex issues,
then tell you exactly what
they meant.”
He paused.
“You make good sense,”
he admitted. “Both of your
options are better than
running blindly away from
the cottage. It’s big enough
for both of us and carries
no outstanding debt.
“OK, so we seriously
consider keeping the
cottage. That means we
have to decide whether to
sell or rent this house, then
get the lawyers to sort out
whatever paperwork is
He raised his glass again.
“To my bright and
practical daughter.”
“And my open-minded
father,” Ash added.
They clinked glasses, and
settled back to enjoy the
evening sun.
Minutes passed, then
Ash stirred.
“Dad?” she said.
“Yes?” The length of the
pause which followed made
him turn to look at her.
“Spit it out.”
Ash’s eyes dropped.
“Do you ever mind the
racial mix thing?” she asked
quietly. “The fact that I’m
half Scottish, half Indian?”
“What has race got to do
with it?” he asked. “You’re
my daughter. The most
wonderful treasure your
mother could ever have left
behind for me.”
Gently, he squeezed her
“We married because
race didn’t matter to either
of us,” he said quietly. “I
loved her for the wonderful
woman she was. She loved
me for the man she saw
inside me.
“What has the colour of
skin got to do with that?
Your skin is only what you
happen to be wearing.”
Tears stung Ash’s eyes.
“So it’s all right, then,”
she said. “Me being half
and half?”
“All right?” He smiled.
“It’s more than all right.”
Reaching for his glass of
wine, he added, “Every
night, I thank God that I’ve
been blessed to have you
as my daughter.”
* * * *
Ash walked along the
riverside, her eyes searching
the buildings opposite.
Most streets in Hawick
generally led to a derelict
mill, relics of what had once
been a prosperous past.
She was chasing up a
contact address which her
college tutor had given her.
“It’s a producers’
commune,” he had told her.
“Some very good young
people, all working at their
own thing. It might give you
a place to start.”
Maybe so, Ash thought.
The trouble was that she
still wasn’t clear how she
wanted to develop herself
as a textile designer, or
which aspect of design she
wanted to specialise in.
But a start had to be
made somewhere, and
today she was simply
prospecting, having a look
at the place and its people.
No commitment, no real
plans as yet.
She was simply taking
time out to search for a first
possible step in her own
career, before looking for
part-time work over the
She found the building,
an old dyeing mill within a
scatter of low brick-built
premises in wasteland
under the shadow of a
gaunt riverside mill.
It looked pretty grim, but
she could commute here
easily from the cottage,
catching the bus through
the village to Hawick.
The flaking brown door
hadn’t seen fresh paint for
centuries, and there was no
sign of any bell to ring.
Ash hesitated, then
knocked on the door. Its
A couple of tables had a
mix of metalwork and
jewellery tools stacked
neatly at their sides.
At the far end, under a
bare light bulb, the whistler
was hunched over
something he was working
“Hello?” she called again.
The man started in his
chair and looked up.
“Don’t creep up on me,”
he complained. “I nearly
lost a finger there.”
Ash walked over.
“I was given this address
by Jim Roberts at the
college in Gala,” she said.
Ash could scarcely turn back
at this stage
timbers were so heavy that
she made no real noise at
With the heel of her fist,
she hammered on the door.
Still no answer.
She could scarcely turn
back at this stage. Ash took
a firm grip of the old door
handle and the door
opened with a series of
tortured squeaks.
She stepped inside into
relative darkness and
There was almost total
silence, then she heard the
faint sound of someone
“Hello?” she called, but
the whistling continued.
Carefully, she edged
across the dark floor, lit
through small, grimy
windows, most of which had
been broken and stuffed
with newspaper.
The floor seemed clean
enough, but she was glad to
get to the far side of the
space, where another door
had patches of light
showing round the edges of
its frame.
Taking a deep breath, she
opened it and stepped
This was the main space
of the dyeing works, with a
long area with a few desks
and tables set under the
grimy widows, using what
light there was.
On these tables were
some textiles, folded and
with a scatter of scribbled
drawings beside them; on
another, what looked like
decorative leatherwork.
“What are you doing?”
The man grinned. On his
face was the kind of stubble
beard that most young men
were wearing, but this was
more fair down than
Reddish hair tumbled
down his forehead above
sparkling blue eyes.
“I’m saving the world,” he
said. “What are you doing?”
“Watching you,” Ash
returned. “What’s that
you’re making?”
“A salad spoon.” He
smiled. “A very special
salad spoon.
“A day ago it was lying in
a builder’s tip outside an
old cottage. For decades
before that, it was a good
old oak bed. Now I’m
bringing it back to life.
“People throw out
furniture, but you can
recycle some of it as
mahogany, teak, ash and
oak supplies. Plus, it’s
usually free.”
In his right hand was a
narrow and hollowed chisel.
He began to work again,
holding the wood in one
hand while he carved
dextrous little shavings
from what was clearly the
bowl of a large wooden
“It’s my contribution
towards saving us from
global warming,” he said.
“Don’t ask me where it fits
in to helping climate
change, but it must do
Ash perched on the edge
of his bench.
“How do you know
when it’s a spoon and
when it’s a bowl?” she
He looked up, smiling. It
was an infectious smile and
Ash felt her own lips twitch.
“Depends,” he said. “On
simple things like the size of
the block of wood – and
how many mistakes I make.
“Or on more complicated
things, like knots, grain, the
texture of the wood, or how
I think it would look waxed
She watched, fascinated,
as a spoon emerged from
the shavings.
“Where did you get that
kind of chisel?” she asked.
He shrugged.
“Like all the rest of my
gear, from market stalls.
They always have a tools
stall, and it usually has
some older tools bought up
from house sales.”
He turned the finished
spoon this way and that.
“Ready to be sanded
down and waxed to a
shine,” he murmured. “And
what do you do?”
He paused.
“I want to be a textile
designer,” Ask said,
His eyes opened
“Are you a knitter?
Ash shook her head.
“Drat,” he said. “We’re
all praying that Jim sends
down an old-fashioned
knitter to make us good
thick jerseys. It gets
freezing in here.”
“The only time I tried to
knit, I stabbed myself,” Ash
“OK, then. Are you into
making fabrics, or putting
designs on them?”
Ash relaxed.
“I haven’t really decided
which area I’m going to
specialise in,” she said.
“Up until now, I’ve gone
where I was pushed by the
college. Taking what fabrics
appeal to me, shaping them
into something, and
creating the designs I want
to put on them.
“What I would like to do
is take time to build up a
more professional portfolio
of designs,” she continued.
“Go out into fresh territory
and find my own theme or
style, as well as keeping the
best of the college stuff.”
She paused.
“Have you space for
another person here in the
dyeing house, or is that a
decision that everybody in
the commune must make?”
He rocked back on his
seat, considering.
“There are five of us. One
is away, using borrowed
metalworking machinery,
two are having the
afternoon off with their
boyfriends, and the other
two are having a long
brain-storming session.
Which, coincidentally,
happens to be in a pub.”
He looked thoughtful for
a moment.
“We have use of this
place for a token rent. If
you’re happy to pay your
share of rent and lighting
then you’re in.”
Standing up, he held out
a dusty hand, took it back
to wipe on his faded jeans,
then offered it again.
“I’m Calum,” he said.
“Welcome home.”
Ash shook his hand.
“I’m Ash,” she said.
“Short for Asha. That
means hope and inspiration
in the Indian culture, but
I’m still waiting for the
inspiration bit to kick in.”
“Join the club,” Calum
said cheerfully. “How about
I treat you to a coffee to
seal the deal?”
He frowned, reclaimed his
hand, and dug out some
coins from his pocket and
“I’ll buy you a coffee,” he
repeated. “If you lend me
fifty pence . . .”
* * * *
The River Tweed was
running low, murmuring
more like a stream than a
river as it flowed round the
outskirts of the town.
In the patchy cloud,
Gabrielle went to one of her
favourite places, the
suspension bridge across
the river, and walked
halfway across to where she
normally stood to watch the
river run through the valley.
A slight breeze lifted her
dark hair and she sighed.
The strapping was due to
come off her wrist
tomorrow. She couldn’t
wait. Why, as soon as it
became inaccessible, did
skin begin to itch?
Unladylike it might be, but
she was looking forward to
being able to give that itch
a good scratch.
A grumble sounded at her
“Quiet, Franz,” she
warned. “This isn’t our
private bridge. Behave.”
The bridge began to
bounce under someone’s
approaching footsteps.
Even after many years, it
was still disconcerting. She
tightened the extending
lead, getting ready to pull
her terrier towards her feet.
However, Franz had other
ideas. His ears pricked up
and his tail wagged, then
he was haring off towards
the footsteps, almost
spinning her off her feet.
She braced herself and,
with her good hand, began
to pull him back.
Franz stood on his rear
legs, leaning against the
lead, his tail wagging
furiously. What on earth
had got into him?
Shielding her eyes with
her strapped hand, she
peered at the approaching
It was a man, and not
just any man. This was the
man who had helped her
when she’d hurt herself two
weeks before.
By now Franz was
dancing, his front paws
Stephen leaned down,
caught his paws with one
hand and ruffled his ears
with the other.
“Hooligan,” he joked. “I
don’t even look like a
Straightening, he smiled.
“We meet again,”
Stephen said. “I’ve been
walking up the far side of
the river. How are you? Are
the wrist and hand healing
“None the better for this
wild creature,” Gabrielle
said, struggling to bring
Franz under control.
“Let me.” He took the
lead from her, dipping it
under the dog to sort out
the tangle and letting it
rewind. “Here. Sorry for
causing the disruption.”
Locking the lead, he
handed it back to her.
“Thanks – once again.”
She grasped the handle of
the lead more firmly. “In
answer to your question,
the strapping comes off
tomorrow. I can wriggle my
fingers again and even flex
my wrist slightly.”
“Good,” he said. “No
lasting damage, then.”
Stephen hesitated, as if
about to pass her and head
back to the town.
“Your scarf,” she said.
“You left it with me – the
emergency sling you made.”
He looked surprised.
“So I did. It’s not a
Gabrielle smiled.
“It might be, come
Stephen’s eyes crinkled.
“There are plenty more
scarves at home. I had an
aunt who always sent me a
scarf at Christmas. It was
her default gift.”
“You, too?” she said. “I
still have a dozen boxes of
hankies I’ve never used.
“Why don’t we walk back
home to my place and I can
give you back your scarf?
I’d hate your stock of
Christmas presents to be
“That would be lovely.
Shall I take Franz?”
“Maybe you’d better.”
Gabrielle sighed. “Until
now, I’ve only had rabbits
to worry about. No, Franz,
there are none in sight.”
She shook her head.
“He even knows the ‘R’
word,” she lamented. “In
fact, he has a wider
vocabulary than some of
the conductors I worked
Stephen grinned.
“But I wouldn’t trust him
with a baton,” he said.
Her answering smile
became a chuckle as the
image grew.
“There would be a lot of
prestissimo.” She laughed.
“Especially when he shook
his head.”
They walked back in the
summer sunshine,
comfortable in each other’s
She found herself chatting
about some of the great
conductors who had visited
the Scottish National
Orchestra when she had
played among the first
violins there.
“They were obsessive, in
what they saw and wanted
from the music,” she
finished. “But they were
usually such nice guys
when they were offstage,
full of fun stories about
their disasters with other
orchestras in other
The conversation switched
naturally and she found
herself asking him about his
past employment.
Stephen explained his job
as a marine engineer and
the work he had done on
the oil rigs and supply
vessels. He told her about
the wild storms out in the
open North Sea, and flights
out and back in helicopters.
“I hated those.” He
shivered. “Not just the
vertical landings and
take-offs, but because I
knew enough about
aerodynamics to recognise
that if those two rotors
stopped working, then the
pilot was left to fly a very
large brick.”
“I understand,” Gabrielle
said, opening her front
door. “Let Franz tow you
into the lounge while I
make us a cup of tea. Milk
and sugar?”
“Just milk,” he said. “And
not too much of that.”
He turned into the
lounge, stooped to let
Franz off the lead, then
stepped aside as the terrier
bolted back to the kitchen.
“Sorry!” Gabrielle called
through. “He’s only
checking if the food fairy
has been. He would eat
until he exploded if I didn’t
ration him.”
She came through with
the cups, a teapot and a
plate of biscuits on a tray,
to find him studying the
wall of her lounge.
“So much music,” he said
quietly. “LPs, CDs, stacked
floor to ceiling.”
“Once an obsession,” she
replied, pouring tea. “Tell
me, what have you been
doing since we met?”
Stephen sat down.
“You won’t believe this.
Remember the story of my
father? How he threw me
out and told me never to
darken his door again?”
“The Dickensian ogre.”
Gabrielle smiled. “Yes, I
Stephen puffed out his
cheeks. His gaze slid away
to the sunlit front garden.
She could sense that he
was struggling to marshal
difficult thoughts and to
control his feelings. She
gave him time.
“How can you spend
most of your adult life
virtually hating a man,” he
finally said, “then, when he
dies, suddenly realise that,
deep down inside, you still
love him?
“After all, he was your
dad. He was a huge figure
in your childhood and, now
that he’s gone, you actually
feel orphaned. Crazy, isn’t
Musicians know their role
in silences – the passages
where you don’t have to
play, but simply sit and
listen, becoming a silent
and supportive partner.
Gabrielle waited.
He was still staring blindly
out of the window.
“Ships that pass in the
night,” she quoted back to
him. “All secrets are safe,
whatever they are.”
He turned to her and
“I have a daughter who
can also read my mind,” he
“I don’t even pretend to
do that.” Gabrielle smiled.
“I’ll simply listen and
respect any confidences. As
we did before.”
He nodded.
“OK, I feel guilt and grief,
intermingled. Guilt that I
wasted so much time and
energy disliking the man.
“Grief that he’s gone
now, and I will never be
able to say I’m sorry, or
even to thank him for what
he did.”
Another pause, without
stress this time.
“He left me everything in
his will,” Stephen finished.
“Everything he had, though
it was only a few pounds
here and there, plus the
cottage I grew up in. It was
the house where he lived all
the years I knew him.”
He looked down at his
fingers and flexed them.
“Owning two houses
doesn’t make sense. Ash
and I have talked it
through, and we’re moving
in there, under his shadow
“The granddaughter he
never knew, like her
mother, will find the colours
and the fabrics which will
bring the house alive and
turn it into a home.”
“I think he’d like that,”
Gabrielle said quietly.
“Who knows?”
“And what are you doing
with your own house?” she
“That’s just it,” he
answered quietly. “Ash
insists that I make the
decision to rent or sell, but
I don’t know which.”
More pause signs in the
music score. Gabrielle
waited to be called in.
His eyes flicked up at her.
“What do you think?” he
Her eyes were level.
“Permission to speak
Stephen nodded.
“Go ahead.”
Gabrielle took a deep
“Being a professional
musician turns you into a
gypsy, always moving
between places, people and
“I have known people
who lost a partner, then
either turned their onceshared home into a shrine
or, worse still, a jail. It
doesn’t work.
“Putting your life on hold
never brings them back. All
it does is waste the life that
has been left behind.”
She paused.
“I had an old
grandmother,” she said
quietly. “Her advice was to
look forward, never try to
look back, because nobody
can change what has
happened in the past.
“From what I’ve seen of
life, it is the very best of
“Therefore, I’d advise you
not to hold on to your old
home and rent it, but to
sell it and walk away. Don’t
try to cling to the past. Set
out to do something new
with your life.”
Gabrielle swallowed.
“I never met your wife,
but she sounds very special.
If she was the person I
think she was, she would
tell you to set out to build
new memories.
“The good memories will
never be lost, but they’re
not enough on their own to
justify standing still, looking
This time there was a very
long pause; so long that
Gabrielle feared she had
over-stepped the mark.
Then Stephen nodded.
“One of the wonderful
things about women is that
they can see right to the
heart of an issue, then tell
you straight.
“Thank you – and your
old grandmother. You’ve
helped me make up my
“To do what?” she asked.
“Start again,” he said
simply. “What else?”
* * * *
It should have felt like an
adventure, but it didn’t.
Ash watched her father
close the front door of the
near-empty, echoing house,
turn the key in the lock,
then slip it slowly into his
“I’ll come back and scrub
out the place once the
house clearance men have
taken away what we’ve left
behind,” he muttered.
“We both will,” Ash
She looked around as
they walked down the path
towards their car. Where
was everybody? Then she
realised and bit her lip.
Gossips loved a story,
and where they didn’t have
facts they made them up.
Their leaving for Denholme
had grown arms and legs.
The rumour mill had
broadcast that they were
financially ruined, selling off
everything and leaving their
home a step ahead of the
The neighbours she had
known all her life were
staying away, embarrassed.
Defiantly, she waved
goodbye to the empty
street. A hand fluttered
uncertainly from one of the
windows opposite.
“Despite that silly rumour,
I’m going to miss the
house,” she said unsteadily,
slipping into the passenger
seat of their car.
“In fact, I’m missing it
Stephen said nothing,
simply started the engine
and glanced in the mirror at
the small trailer they were
towing, with its precious
tarpaulin-covered classic
Austin 7.
They pulled slowly away
in the wake of the removal
van, turning up past the
abbey ruins, then climbing
the hill to the market cross,
to turn left and leave the
town behind.
She had known no other
place to live.
“I think I’m going to cry,”
Ash said in a small voice.
“Feel free,” Stephen told
her. “I did my crying last
They turned on to the
road towards Gala to pick
up the main road south.
“Goodbye, my lovely
Tweed,” she said sadly.
“And the number of times
you sang me to sleep at
night. I’ve never lived in a
place without a river.”
Stephen glanced round.
“There’s still a river,” he
said. “There’s a stream half
a mile above the village. I
used to guddle trout there,
then run like mad if I saw
the gamekeeper.”
“What did your dad say
to that?” she asked.
He turned round to her, a
grin on his face. In it she
glimpsed the boy he once
had been.
“He never knew,” he
They turned on to the A7,
travelling slowly behind the
removal van. She glanced
out of her side window
when they passed the old
grey town at a higher level.
“Goodbye, Melrose,” she
said. “Goodbye, hills.”
Stephen shook his head.
“Not so final. You can
come back to see your
friends. You can get here
by bus, and it’s only half an
hour by car.
“You’ve plenty time now
for driving lessons. That way
we can both come and go
as we please.”
Ash heard, but her mind
was elsewhere.
The move had seemed so
sensible when they were
discussing things, she
thought. Now it was
actually happening, she felt
like curling up and crying.
It was just a house, she
told herself firmly. It was
the people who lived in it
who had turned it into a
home, and they could do so
She sniffed, searching for
a tissue.
Stephen glanced across.
“A wise woman told me
that you should never look
back,” he said quietly.
“What has happened in
the past is out of reach,
and we can no longer
change it.
“We can only face the
future and start again, to
write the next chapters in
our lives.”
He touched her arm.
“And you have so much
still to write, my darling,”
he continued. “Your whole
life is waiting to open out in
front of you. To take
whatever shape, whatever
direction, you make of it.”
“Who was this wise
woman?” Ash asked.
“Somebody I know,” he
said after a slight pause.
They followed Hawick’s
one-way road system,
before finally climbing out
of the town and turning
east for Denholme.
Her three hills, the
ancient Romans’
Trimonium, had gone, but
there were fields and minor
hills in plenty round about
them, and another small
river to cross.
“Not far now,” Stephen
said. “About a mile to go.”
A few minutes later, the
van in front of them slowed
down at the approach to
the village.
A hand appeared from
the driver’s window, waving
them forward, asking them
to lead the way.
Stephen checked his
mirrors and, slipping past,
turned up beyond the
village green into the rows
of small grey cottages.
He stopped in front of
their new home, switching
off the engine and forcing a
wry smile.
“The ancient Romans used
to burn their boats,” he
said. “To stop them going
back and forcing them to
go ahead and conquer.
“We haven’t burned our
house, but it comes to the
same thing.”
In his voice, she sensed
the same doubt and
uncertainty as in herself.
That would never do.
“Right,” Ash said more
briskly than she felt. “Let’s
go. Let’s make a start in
turning this old cottage into
our new home.
“Are you ready, Dad?”
To be continued.
Love reading? Don’t miss the Daily Serial on
our website:
& His
John Taylor
tries a
HATE to admit it, but my
memory isn’t what it used
to be. One Saturday
morning, the phone rang. It
was our daughter on the
line for Anne.
Apparently, one
grandson was coming
home for the weekend,
and another was coming
up from an English
university to play rugby
against Edinburgh
University. As the other
grandson lives in
Edinburgh, it meant she’d
be seeing them all.
Well, that news was
manna from heaven to
“I’ll make three steak and
kidney pies and three plate
Anne usually makes
steak pies in Pyrex dishes,
but not when they’re for
the boys. Then they’re
made on tinfoil plates.
We have a big, deep
cupboard for pots and
pans. As you can imagine,
all sorts of things get
thrown to the back of this
cupboard – including the
tinfoil dishes.
Well, it was February. In
other words, marmalade
I told you how I’d bought
some partially green
oranges and Anne decided
to make the marmalade on
Saturday night.
What I didn’t happen to
tell you was what
happened when I was
looking for the mincer. It
was somewhere in the pan
cupboard, lurking amidst
colanders, a deep-fat fryer
and an assortment of items I
couldn’t even identify!
I eventually found the
mincer hidden beneath a
heap of those tinfoil dishes.
Anne had gone out to see
to the hens. I got so annoyed
with the mess in the
cupboard that I pulled
everything out on to the
kitchen table and made a pile
of the things I was going to
throw away.
No such luck. Anne
announced she needed
everything there. However,
the tinfoil trays went into a
carrier bag without Anne
spotting me and were
disposed of.
Then, when Anne
announced recently she
needed some tinfoil plates, I
went to unearth them from
the cupboard and searched
everywhere before realising
I’d thrown them out.
The outcome was I got in
the car, drove into Anstruther
and bought four new packs.
And hopefully Anne will never
know. n
A breath of
country air
Renowned nature writer Polly Pullar
takes a lighthearted look at rural life.
Photographs by Polly Pullar.
T this time of year
we have a brief
window of
opportunity to look
in on the private life
of the toad, a fabulous yet
greatly misunderstood
There is frequent
confusion between frogs
and toads, yet when
examined even from quite a
distance, they are different.
Toads have warty, bumpy
skin, whilst the frog’s is
Toads are slow,
ponderous creatures, whilst
frogs move at far more
speed and can take
enormous bounding leaps.
Toads have eyes the colour
of amber, whilst frogs’ are
Toads spend the greatest
part of the year hidden
away in dark, dank places,
emerging in the evenings to
They love to lurk under
vegetation in the garden
where they devour slugs,
invertebrates and snails in
large number.
Though they favour a
damp habitat, they usually
only tend to go to water
during the breeding season.
Frogs, on the other hand,
are far more aquatic.
Some people find toads
repellent; this may be
because they still have an
association with witchcraft,
spells, charms and potions
mixed in bubbling
Toads and their various
body parts were indeed
frequently used as a cure for
a range of injuries and
ailments, including cancer.
Kenneth Grahame
brought one particular toad
to fame with his classic,
“The Wind In The Willows”.
The toad’s warty lumps
secrete a toxic substance
that helps to protect it from
predators. It does no harm
whatsoever to humans, but
Toads prefer to move
at their own slow pace.
on occasion a dog picking
up a toad may end up
frothing at the mouth. This
gave rise to the idea that
toads carried rabies.
Human toad-eaters once
performed bizarre displays
in circus and funfair acts.
It is thought that they
cleverly enacted swallowing
a live toad, but actually
never did.
Instead, they had soap in
their mouths that led to the
copious frothing. Then they
would feign an unpleasant
ritual of a near-death
experience whilst a
macabrely fascinated
audience looked on,
horrified. Poor toads!
It was also once believed
that the eggs of certain
birds, in particular the
wheatear, hatched out into
young toads.
The reason for this was
because toads were often
seen hiding in piles of
stones around field margins,
in close proximity to the
places that wheatears in
turn chose as ideal nest
Every year in early spring I
look forward to the arrival
first of vast numbers of
frogs, and then a little later
of parties of toads.
They arrive slowly at first,
but soon the path to the
nearby pond is littered with
rampant toads – little
croaking males in hot
pursuit of big bloated
females swollen with eggs.
Their breeding desire is so
strong that nothing stands
in their way, and sadly, as
they use traditional routes
they have followed for
generations, and with our
increasingly busy roads,
many are squashed in the
Whilst frogs lay their eggs
in great clouds, usually
around the edges of ponds
and puddles, dew pools and
loch borders, toads lay
theirs in neat chains, often
further out into the water
Toad chains develop in
exactly the same way as
frogspawn, though are often
far harder to spot in among
Later in the summer the
same migration routes that
the adults have used in the
spring will be thick with
minute toadlets – perfect
replicas of their parents.
Some summer nights,
whilst driving home late
across the moors, my
journey may take far longer,
for I stop to scoop them up
to carry them to safety.
Whilst they say you have
to kiss a lot of toads to
finally find your prince, I
cannot admit to kissing too
many, but I do admit to a
huge love and admiration
for these perfect little
Take a closer look and you
won’t be disappointed. n
We take another Breath
of Country Air in our
February 24 issue.
Give Me Five!
All these tasty recipes need only a handful of ingredients.
For all our
recipes, add
salt and freshly
ground black
pepper to
Course: Lunch or snack
Skill level: easy Serves: 4
■ 1 x 200 g can or tub of SPAM®
Chopped Pork and Ham, cut into
small cubes
■ 1 x large pizza base
■ 250 g passata tomato sauce (for
pizza base topping)
■ Drained pineapple chunks
■ 150 g (5½ oz) grated mozzarella
1 Pre-heat oven (according to pizza base
2 Spread the passata (tomato sauce)
evenly over the top of the pizza base.
3 Top with cubes of SPAM® Chopped
Pork and Ham, pineapple chunks and the
mozzarella cheese.
4 Bake in the pre-heated oven for around
15 to 20 minutes, until the topping is
slightly browned/crispy.
5 Serve and enjoy.
Roast Pork Dinner
Course: Main Skill level: easy Serves: 4
■ 2 loins of pork
■ 2 large onions, diced
■ 4 cloves garlic
■ 1 kg (2 lb 4 oz) potatoes
To Serve: seasonal
vegetables of choice.
1 Pre-heat oven to 240 deg. C.,
475 deg. F., Gas Mark 9.
2 Score the skin of the pork
loins with a sharp knife in a crisscross motion.
3 Pour boiling water over the
pork to help the crackling. Pat
dry with kitchen paper, then rub
salt and pepper into the pork.
4 Place the onions on a baking
tray with the garlic and place the
pork loins on top. Roast in the
pre-heated oven for 30 minutes.
5 While the pork is cooking,
peel the potatoes and chop
Leek and
Course: Main Skill level: easy
Serves: 4 Vegetarian
■ 1 tbs olive oil
■ 3 leeks, about 500 g (1 lb
2 oz) trimmed, washed
and sliced
■ 2 cloves garlic, chopped
■ 800 g (1 lb 12 oz)
Charlotte or Maris Piper
potatoes, sliced thinly
■ 300 ml (½ pt) vegetable
For extra
richness, add
some grated
Cheddar on
top for the last
15 minutes of
into evenly sized pieces. Place
in a large saucepan, cover with
boiling water and boil until nearly
done. Leave them undercooked.
Drain well, then put the lid back
on the top of the saucepan and
shake the potatoes so they start
to go fluffy. Set aside.
6 Turn oven down to
190 deg. C., 375 deg. F.,
Gas Mark 5 and continue
roasting the pork for an hour.
7 Remove the pork from the
oven, and let rest on a cooling
8 Put the potatoes into the
roasting tray with the onions and
pork fat, season well, and cook
until golden brown, roughly 20
9 Slice pork and serve with
the potatoes and vegetables of
1 Pre-heat the oven to
200 deg. C., 400 deg. F., Gas
Mark 6.
2 Heat the oil in a large fryingpan and fry the leeks and garlic
for 5 minutes.
3 Grease an ovenproof
casserole dish. Place one third
of the potatoes on the base, top
with half the leek mixture, then
repeat the layers, finishing with
4 Pour over the stock and
season. Lay a circle of baking
parchment over the potatoes,
cover with a lid and bake in the
pre-heated oven for 35 minutes.
5 Remove the lid and
parchment and cook for a further
15 minutes until potatoes are
tender and golden on top.
Remember: recipes have been given in both metric and imperial. It is important to use one method throughout as they are not exactly the same.
Steak and Chips
Course: Main Skill level: easy Serves: 2
■ 2 large floury potatoes,
such as Maris Piper or
King Edward, cut into
■ 150 ml (5½ oz) rapeseed
■ 1 x 113 g pack Castle
MacLellan Oven-roasted
Mushroom Pâté
■ 100 ml (3½ fl oz) single
■ 2 fillet steaks
1 Pre-heat oven to 220 deg. C.,
425 deg. F., Gas Mark 7. Bring a
large pan of water to the boil.
2 Place the chipped potatoes
in the pan and bring back to the
boil. Simmer for 3 minutes, then
drain well. Pat the chips dry with
kitchen roll and place in a baking
3 Place the dry chips on a
baking tray and drizzle with extra
virgin rapeseed oil (this nutty
oil perfectly complements the
mushroom sauce). Place in
the oven for 20 to 25 minutes,
turning every 5 minutes for an
even golden finish.
4 Meanwhile, to make the
sauce, add the mushroom pâté
and cream to a saucepan and
heat slowly until simmering
gently. Keep warm till ready to
5 Remove the steak from
the fridge 10 minutes before
cooking and rub on both sides
with extra virgin rapeseed oil and
a little salt and pepper.
6 Place a frying-pan over a
medium heat and fry the steaks
until cooked to your liking.
Remove from the pan and allow
to rest for a few minutes in a
warm place.
7 Once rested, plate up the
steak and drizzle with the
mushroom sauce. Remove the
chips from oven and serve with
the steak.
Cauliflower Cheese
Course: Side dish Skill level: easy
Serves: 4
■ 1 cauliflower
■ 4 tbs Freee Organic Cornflour
■ 500 ml (18 fl oz) milk (or vegan milk)
■ 150 g (5½ oz) grated cheese (or
vegan cheese)
■ 1 tsp wholegrain mustard
1 Chop the cauliflower into florets and cook in
boiling water until almost soft.
2 Put the cornflour and 4-5 spoons of the milk
into a bowl. Stir into a paste and set aside.
3 Heat the remaining milk in a large pan until
almost boiling then remove it from the heat.
Stir the cornflour and milk mixture back into a
paste and stir the paste into the milk. Return
the pan to a gentle heat and stir until the
sauce thickens.
4 Stir in the cheese, mustard, salt and pepper.
5 Grease a 1 lt (2 pt) ovenproof dish with oil
and pre-heat the grill.
6 Drain the cauliflower, add it to the sauce
and stir.
7 Tip everything into the prepared dish. Place
the dish under the grill for a few minutes to
brown the top.
Next week: tasty baked dishes.
For more delicious recipes visit our website:
in the
My mother’s carefully planned Burns
Supper was heading for disaster . . .
Illustration by Nick Spender.
N experienced
member of the
Bowling Club, my
mother was
heavily involved in the
club’s annual Burns Supper.
As secretary, she had
organised all of the
performers for the event,
and had also recruited the
kitchen staff from the ranks
of the primary school
dinner ladies.
The club president agreed
to chair the occasion, and
everything was finally in
place. So it was unfortunate
when all my mother’s
schemes began to unravel.
The main speaker for the
occasion, who was to
propose the toast to the
Immortal Memory of Robert
Burns, was to be the local
GP, Dr Hamish McKenzie,
her husband and my father.
“I’m no speaker, Jean,”
he argued when asked.
“You know that. Any talk I
give will probably mention
his drinking habits and his
rheumatic fever. I know
nothing about his poetry.”
He paused. “I could mention
his women, I suppose.”
My mother clicked her
“Of course you know his
poetry. You learned it in
school. Just say something
about his life and work and
why he is so greatly loved
in Scotland, not to mention
the rest of the world.”
“That sounds like a
“Nonsense,” she said
briskly. “Bert Smith did it
last year for the Masons,
and he’s an electrician. You
don’t have to be erudite.
You just have to be sincere.
And, if possible, funny.”
He drew himself up.
“I’m a doctor, not a
comic. What if I get called
out in an emergency?”
“We’ll worry about that
when it happens.”
Even I could see that was
a bad idea. Anyone taking
on the Immortal Memory
would need more notice
than you would get with a
suspected heart attack or a
premature confinement.
“What I mean is,” she
clarified, “if the worst
comes to the worst, Elspeth
could read your notes.
Couldn’t you, Elspeth?”
She turned to me, and I
held up my hands.
“Don’t look at me. Girls
don’t do that kind of thing.
It’s the men who make
It was true. Burns Nights
were male-dominated
affairs in our neck of the
woods. Even the Reply to
the Toast to the Lasses was
often given by a man.
The women did have their
place, mashing spuds and
neeps in the kitchen. There
was no suggestion of the
men rushing to take over
that domain.
* * * *
In the event, things were
taken out of our hands.
Seven days before the
supper, my father was laid
low with an attack of
lumbago which prevented
him from even writing the
speech, far less delivering
A locum replaced him in
the surgery, and my mother
had to think again about
her principal speaker.
As the day drew nearer,
things got no better. The
music teacher already in
place to accompany the
singer phoned to say he
had accidentally double
booked himself, but since
he had felt it his duty to
find someone to stand in
for him, he had engaged
the services of the church
organist, Mrs Niven.
“She’s happy to do it,”
he said. “She says it’s
decades since she’s been at
a Burns Supper, and she’s
looking forward to it.
“I’m really sorry for my
mistake, Mrs McKenzie, but
I’m sure Mrs Niven will be
My mother thanked him
and said she was sure Mrs
Niven would be fine, but in
reality she was cross. Mrs
Niven was a nice woman,
but she played the hymns
at a speed normally
reserved for particularly
lugubrious funerals.
The members of the
church choir were the only
singers in the building who
could get to the end of the
line in fewer than four
We would certainly
struggle to make “Comin’
Thro’ The Rye” sound
My mother was still
having no luck finding
someone to replace my
father, and I was beginning
to think I was going to have
to do it after all.
Then I thought of my
sister Alison, up at the
university, who could
possibly get home for the
weekend if there weren’t
too many unmissable
Before I could mention
her, however, my mother
had a thought.
“I’ll ask Isabel.”
Mrs Isabel Airlie had a
hidden talent. She was a
farmer’s wife, but she
herself did not come from
farming stock.
It was not generally
known in Inverkeltie, but in
a previous life Isabel had
been a deaconess.
“I don’t talk about it,”
she said once to my
mother, “because I spend
my life explaining it. I
worked in parishes where
there was no minister’s
wife, or where they needed
extra female support.”
When asked if she could
help out at the Burns
Supper, she was quick to
“Well, I have a few days
to prepare, haven’t I?”
she said cheerily. “I was
never allowed to
baptise or bury
anyone, but I gave a few
stirring sermons if the
minister was unavailable. I
could certainly have a go at
a talk on Burns.
“Yes, Jean, I will be
happy to do it, if they don’t
mind a woman at the
“They’ll be delighted,” my
mother said firmly, “and so
will I. Thank you, Isabel.
You’ve saved a life.”
She had. I could breathe
much more freely now.
* * * *
That was before the
postman who had
tentatively agreed to do the
Reply to the Toast to the
Lasses backed out.
“I’m in a panic even
thinking aboot it,” he said
to my mother. “I just
cannae dae it, Mrs
McKenzie. You’ll hae to get
someone else.”
By that late date, there
really was only me. I could
sense my mother’s
“You’re sitting your
Higher English, aren’t you,
Elspeth? What’s a fiveminute speech to someone
like you? You’d be just the
Family loyalty made me
say yes, but I didn’t get to
sleep till five the next
morning. All I could hope
for was that Ian Fraser,
grocer of this parish,
booked to do the Toast to
the Lasses, would also fall
by the wayside, and we
could miss out that bit of
the programme entirely.
Mr Fraser, however,
appeared to be in perfect
health, and was looking
forward to showing off his
wit and wisdom at the
expense of the opposite
By the time the next two
cancellations came round,
my mother was getting
blasé. The tenor booked to
sing four songs had
unexpectedly to attend a
family funeral 200 miles
away, and was desolated to
have to cancel.
So was I. Nigel was a
lawyer and a fine specimen
of young manhood. I had
rather fancied sitting beside
him at the top table.
Instead, at my
suggestion, two of my more
musical friends from the
high school agreed to stand
in. They were both girls,
and attracted by the
thought of a haggis dinner
and the chance of a sly
“They say it’s very good
for the vocal cords,”
Marion said.
“In moderation, of
course,” Hazel put in.
“We’re responsible adults,
taking on a professional
engagement. We will
moderate our
“Whatever you do is fine
by me,” I told them.
On the morning of the
supper Peter the plumber,
who played the pipes at all
village events including
weddings and
Remembrance Day, woke
up with a temperature of
102. His wife phoned my
mother, full of apologies.
My mother was almost
“Not his fault. I quite
understand. Tell him not to
worry, and give him our
best. I hope he’s better
She put down the phone,
and smiled bravely.
“Do you think Nan
Barclay would play her
fiddle? We could fiddle in
the haggis instead of piping
it in, couldn’t we?”
I grinned.
“I don’t see why not.
Let’s make it a take-over
by the girls. It’s about
When the word got out
that the performers
engaged for the Inverkeltie
Bowling Club Burns Supper
were almost exclusively
female, there was much
scoffing and merriment
among the males.
The chairman of the club,
a local businessman whose
company manufactured
fancy soap, was so
affronted that he pleaded a
late unavoidable business
meeting in London to get
him out of presiding at the
My mother was grim in
her condemnation.
“Business meeting, my
foot. Nobody in London
wants his rotten soap, and I
will certainly never buy it
again. He just doesn’t want
to be associated with the
Supper. How could he do
that to his own club? Who
am I going to get to chair
the thing at this late date?”
I had no hesitation in
naming the obvious
“Do it yourself, Mum.
You’d be leagues better
than him, anyway. All you
have to do is introduce
everyone and keep the
thing together. And another
thing . . .”
I took a breath.
“I phoned Alison last
night, and she asked who
was performing ‘Tam O’
Shanter’. When I said
no-one, she said the
Supper wouldn’t be legal
without it, so I asked could
she get home in time and
do it for us. She said never
in a million years, but I
think she will if you ask
My mother stared.
“Why didn’t I think of
Alison? She could get home
in plenty of time. You are
brilliant, Elspeth. Your
father might be laid low,
but the rest of the
McKenzies will rally. Lead
me to the phone.”
Alison did reluctantly
agree, and my mother
came off the phone
“She says she can’t do it
from memory, but she’ll
read it. Isn’t that great? I’m
beginning to look forward
to this.”
I felt that was tempting
Providence, but I held my
* * * *
In the event, my mother
was right to be optimistic.
The supper was a huge
success, if a little unusual.
Everything ran like
Nan Barclay danced down
the length of the village
hall, fiddling her heart out,
while the chief dinner lady
strode after her, bearing
the haggis aloft.
Alison addressed the
haggis – another small
chore undertaken – and the
evening got off to a
swimming start.
Although Mrs Airlie was a
fine farmer in her own right,
she was also a great loss to
the Church of Scotland in
terms of her capacity to
address the public.
She gave us lots of food
for thought about the Bard,
while making us laugh at
the same time. She was just
Marion and Hazel sang
like larks. Realising early on
that Mrs Niven was never
going to accompany them
at anything like an
appropriate speed, they
decided to sing
unaccompanied, and the
full beauty of the melodies
flowed round the room.
The only thing Mrs Niven
actually played was a
medley of Burns tunes
which sent three elderly
members into a happy
Mr Fraser the grocer
made a good job of the
Toast to the Lasses, and
was quite funny, if a little
predictable. When my turn
came to give the Reply I
was a touch apprehensive,
only ever having made a
speech in public at the
school debating society.
However, my offering
seemed to go down all
right, and Marion and Hazel
said I was much funnier
than Mr Fraser, which I
hoped was true.
The thing about the
Inverkeltie Bowling Club
Burns Supper that year was
that the village saw that
something run by women
could be just as well done,
and possibly better, than
something normally run by
The one man on the top
table performed well
enough, but then so did
everyone else.
As for the kitchen, that
was female territory, with
the exception of Malcolm
Barclay, student son of
Nan, who washed the
“I know my place,”
Malcolm said with mock
In fact, Malcolm had no
false pride, and was happy
to undertake a domestic
chore. He was young, the
same age as Alison, and he
knew things were changing.
Gender equality was some
way off in those faraway
days, but surely one day
women would be taken
seriously and given the
same chances as men.
It was gratifying to think
that Inverkeltie Bowling
Club had shown the way. n
TV presenter
Ochota reveals
how to spot the
secret signs of
our past that
surround us.
EOPLE have been
living in Britain for
tens of thousands of
years, and every
generation has
made its mark on the
landscape – building
monuments and graves,
shaping the land for
agriculture, travelling,
fighting, raising families and
growing communities.
The earliest folk were
hunter-gatherers who were
smart, sophisticated and
knew how to live off the
land. Then came farmers
around 4,300 years ago –
and that transition marks
the start of the late Stone
Age, or Neolithic, and some
of our most famous
archaeological sites like
After them, a succession
of farmers, raiders and
Old Churches
The earliest Saxon
churches (from 600 to
1066) were usually built of
wood, but sometimes had a
circular stone tower, or used
decorative patterns called
long-and-short work and
“pilaster strips” designed to
make the building look
Photographs courtesy of Mary-Ann Ochota.
Mediaeval Ploughing
Spotted a grassy field with a pattern that’s like wide
strips of corrugated iron? They’re ridges and furrows
made by mediaeval oxen pulling a plough! Mediaeval
farmers often shared space in large, open “great fields”
that were owned by the lord of the manor.
They’d each
plough their
creating a flat
bed for planting
(the “ridge”),
with a “furrow”
on each side. The
pattern only
survives if the
field was never
ploughed again.
traders – ours has been a
melting-pot island from the
Wherever you go in
Britain this history is woven
into the landscape around
us – often we spot the
clues from car or train
windows, when we’re out
on a walk, or even looking
at photos.
What are those lumps
and bumps in that field?
Why is that old wall such an
odd shape? Even the grass
under your feet can hold
evidence about the hidden
history of an area.
And at this time of year,
when the hedges are bare,
the ploughed fields stand
naked, and the winter sun
casts long shadows over
the scenery, you can spot
even more clues to help
you become a landscape
On your next walk or
drive, keep an eye out for
these intriguing features –
they’re all clues to the
hidden history of our
incredible countryside.
This is the best time of year to spot hawthorn hedges
that have been “laid” – a traditional technique where the
hedgelayer cuts part-way through the vertical stems
(“pleachers”), and weaves them into one another.
The most common type is the “Midland Bullock”,
where all the pleachers are laid to face the animals in
the field. The thorny barrier is strong enough to contain
even the most wayward cows! If the hedge is straight, it
was probably planted between 1700 and 1850. If it’s
curvy, it may be much older.
Ancient Burial Mounds
You can spot round barrows or “tumuli” on
the crests of hills, as uncultivated lumps in
farmers’ fields, and sometimes with trees
planted on top of them as “tumps”. They’re
the most common prehistoric monuments in
the country, and date from between 2400 BC
and 1200 BC, during the Bronze Age – about
as old as the Egyptian pyramids! They’re
earthen burial mounds with cremations or
burials inside them. Many have never been
excavated, and we don’t know who might be
Raise The Roof
Roman Roads
The famous
“High Street” in
the Lakes is of
Roman origin.
The Romans arrived in
AD43, and within a
hundred years, they’d built
10,000 miles of new roads
across the British Isles.
They didn’t stop at
Hadrian’s Wall – the most
northerly evidence is near
Inverness! Dead giveaways
are straight roads,
bridleways and footpaths
that link places with -cester,
-caster and -chester
placenames (from the Latin
castrum meaning “military
Pub Names
The Romans were the first to hang a marker outside
places that served beer or wine – they’d use a vine, ivy
leaves or a holly bush. The tradition continued, and in
1393 in the reign of Richard II, it became law that a
landlord had to display a sign if he or she was selling
beer. Richard’s heraldic badge is the White Hart – still
one of the most common pub names in Britain today.
Discover if a house
used to have a thatched
roof by looking at the
chimney. Because thatch
is much thicker than the
roof tiles that replaced
it, the chimney will look
strangely tall. The other
clue is the “weathering”
– projecting masonry
part-way up the
This would have
originally been at the
point where the roof met
the chimney, to prevent
rainwater seeping in. If
it’s now stranded above
the roof-line, bingo! It
used to be thatched.
Mary-Ann Ochota is a TV
presenter and author of “Hidden
Histories: A Spotter’s Guide To The
British Landscape”, published by
Frances Lincoln, RRP £20. She’s
passionate about British history
and helping people get outside and
learn more about our landscape.
I hadn’t spoken
to Kay for years.
Could I forgive
her after all this
Illustration by Jim Dewar.
Let It Be
HE last time I sang
in public was in
“South Pacific” in
my third year of
senior school.
I had been given the solo
of “Some Enchanted
Evening”, but could barely
hear myself over the school
orchestra, so I was all over
the place.
A particularly sweaty boy,
Michael Jarvis, was parping
away on his trumpet right
in my ear, enthusiastically
spraying spittle everywhere.
When I felt a big wet gob
of his spit land on my neck,
my enchanted evening was
well and truly over. I just
wanted to stop and “Wash
That Man Right Out Of My
“Stand still, Moira, and
keep your head up,” Mrs
Burton hissed though her
I squirmed and somehow
kept going. Then I saw her,
across the crowded room.
Kay Thorn was smirking
at me. I froze.
We’d been best friends
since we started school.
We’d been to all the discos
together, played in the
netball team together and
joined the choir together.
Never the wilting
wallflower, Kay had
persuaded me to go with
her because she fancied
herself as the next Belinda
Carlisle. When I was picked
for solos while she was still
third soprano she started
getting sniffy.
“Choir’s rubbish anyway,”
she’d say. “Why would I
even want to sing that
Eventually, she fell in with
a crowd who persuaded her
that I was too boring to
hang around with and she
dropped me.
Clever Jo and Carol were
lovely, but no substitute for
Kay’s raucous good fun. I
was heartbroken.
I’d never expected to see
her and her new friends at
the school production. They
were supposed to be way
too cool for that.
Kay could barely hold it
together as I warbled my
way through, singing the
words “someone may be
The sound of them all
sniggering echoed through
the years and I haven’t
sung in public since.
Today, though, is the
regional final of “Sing It
There’s a rumour doing
the rounds that head judge
Daniel “It’s a yes from me”
Waterman will be coming,
which has brought quite a
crowd to the local leisure
I watch the show every
Saturday, and for the past
few years I’ve hosted a
garden party for our choir,
Top Notes, on finals night.
We borrow a projector
and screen from the school
and one of the baritones
sets it up in Gill’s gazebo.
We’ve entered for the
first time this year, but
we’re up against the
formidable Vocality, who
have got through every
year since the start.
They even made it to the
televised live final last year.
Apparently, they’re
including a dance routine
this time, which got a
mixed reception from our
members, to say the least.
I’m just grateful that, as
chairwoman, I am purely
the provider of tea and
sympathy. Mind you, I’m
quietly hopeful it’ll be
prosecco and
congratulations as we’ve
got Julia doing our solo.
Vocality may be a good
amateur set-up, but Julia is
ex-West End chorus line
and has hoofed and sung
her way through masses of
musicals. She can put on a
show to rival anything
Vocality’s got.
The TV people have set
up a large stage in the
leisure centre.
First on is the Golden
Years Rock Choir singing a
Beatles medley. It’s a good
solid performance but, to
my untrained eye, lacks the
sparkle needed for
Saturday night telly.
Then it’s a men’s group in
full barbershop blazer and
boater get-up, singing rock
songs arranged for
I don’t recognise most of
the songs, but Jake, our
choirmaster, is a big fan of
that sort of thing and is not
“‘Livin’ On A Prayer’ in
barbershop? I’m all for
choirs doing modern stuff,
but that’s a travesty. ‘Ace
Of Spades’? Lemmy will be
spinning in his grave, and
so will I if I hear any more
of this.
“I’m off,” he huffs. “Have
you seen Julia?”
“No,” I reply.
Come to think of it, I
haven’t seen her all day.
“She didn’t come on the
coach because she’s
meeting friends afterwards.
I hope she finds us all right.
I’ll text her and see where
she is.”
The signal is awful in here
so I head outside, grateful
for a reason to get out from
under the heat of the
television lights.
Turning, I see a woman in
a pair of wide-legged
white trousers and
long floral tunic.
Gold-rimmed glasses sit
on a chain around a
neck topped by a head of
glossy blonde highlights.
She is much taller than
me and seems scarily
self-assured. I don’t
recognise her, but perhaps
she knows my name from
the programme and has
seen me with Top Notes.
“Yes. I’m terribly sorry
– I don’t think we’ve met,”
I say, trying to stuff my
mobile into my bag but
realising it’s still zipped. It
falls straight to the
“Oh, dear. You want to
try unzipping that first!”
“Between you and me,
it’s just a formality really. I
mean, these last two are
OK, but . . .” She pulls a
face. “And it’s Top Notes’
first year, so they won’t
have a clue. Oh, you’re not
. . . are you?” She giggles,
theatrically clapping her
hand to her mouth.
What was that about
leopards and spots?
I decide not to tell her
whether I’m with Top Notes
or not, and since her
favourite topic is probably
still Kay Thorn/Parnell, I
doubt she’ll bother to find
“Actually, I rather liked
She is much taller than me and
seems scarily self-assured
She laughs, watching me
scrabble in the grass.
Feeling flustered, I have
to stifle a sarcastic retort.
She bends down, scooping
up the phone in one
surprisingly fluid
“Here you are,” she
says, smiling.
No, she’s definitely
smirking, I decide.
Kind thoughts, Moira, I
tell myself.
Perhaps I’ve just
misjudged her. I am pretty
hot and bothered, after
“Moira, it’s me – Kay
Thorn from school. Well,
Kay Parnell now,” she
says, nudging my shoulder
a little too roughly.
Of course, I think,
vaguely remembering
seeing on Facebook that
she’d recently moved back
to the area. Not that I
dwell on Kay’s updates, or
spend too much time
deliberating whether to
accept her friend request.
“Kay, how lovely to see
you,” I lie, calling on my
mother’s mantra that
there’s no excuse for bad
She must be with Golden
Years, though I don’t
remember seeing her.
“You must be relieved
you’ve already sung.”
“What? No, I’m with
Vocality. Just waiting for
this barbershop lot to
finish, then it’s us.”
She leans in.
the barbershop group,” I
say. “I thought what they
did was really interesting.
But you’re right, Vocality
are very good.
“Mind you, I hear Top
Notes have a fantastic
soloist who sang in the
West End for years,” I
continue, “so they may be
the dark horse.”
That reminds me, where
is Julia?
“It was nice to see you
again, Kay,” I say. “I’m
really sorry, but I do have
to make a call. Would you
excuse me?”
Kay looks shocked that
I’m not bowled over to see
her and sheepishly ducks
Well, well, I think.
Perhaps she has mellowed a
bit over the years after all.
Then I hear her shouting
at someone to bring her a
drink. For now, I’ll just have
to put her to the back of
my mind and find Julia, or
we won’t be competing with
Vocality at all.
“Are you Moira from Top
Notes?” a bearded man
with a headset and
clipboard says, peeping
round the heavy door.
“Yes.” I sigh.
“You need to round
everyone up,” he says.
“Vocality are on in five,
then it’s you. We want to
wrap up this first round
sharpish so we can do the
final straight after lunch.”
“OK, thanks. I’ll let
everyone know.
“Where are you?” I ask
Julia’s voicemail.
* * * *
Vocality are mustering on
stage, which takes some
time. The rumours of a
dance routine can’t be right
as there’s barely room for
all of them to stand, never
mind dance.
They’re all wearing black
trousers and red shirts with
white belts – apart from
Kay, an operatic diva
asserting her position in her
billowing floral kaftan.
She takes her place at the
front next to the two male
soloists. I thought choirs
were beneath her, but it
has been a long time and
people change.
I stifle a snigger of my
own this time.
“Come on, Moira. Kind
thoughts,” I remind myself.
The choirmaster brings
them together with a
dramatic flourish. Vocality
launch into the rousing
opening harmony of Simon
and Garfunkel’s “Homeward
I have always found
massed voices very moving,
and when the younger of
the two male soloists begins
singing I have to admit
Vocality are very good.
They sing a couple of Tom
Jones numbers and then it’s
their final piece.
The band launches into
the old Aretha Franklin song
“Rescue Me.”
Kay steps forward,
scanning the room, enjoying
her moment.
She catches my eye and
her expression changes to
blind terror. I smile in what
I hope is an encouraging
way, but she misses her cue
and the band go into
another loop of the intro.
Their choirmaster flaps his
arms in panic and the choir
starts singing over each
other in confusion.
As Kay’s cue comes
round a second time, she
takes a deep breath, closes
her eyes and shouts,
“Rescue me. Take me in
your arms . . .”
The choirmaster starts
desperately trying to rouse
the choir ever louder to
drown out poor Kay.
By the third “Rescue
Me”, there are murmurs
in the hall and
embarrassed giggles.
Kay opens her eyes and
in that moment we are
back together in Swanfield
High School hall.
While I’d be lying if I said
a little bit of me isn’t
enjoying her getting a taste
of her own medicine, I know
how this feels and I just
can’t watch her go on.
Her arms stretch out into
the hall, reaching for a life
raft, and out of nowhere I
start singing. For the first
time in 35 years.
“Cause I need you by my
side . . .” I sing as I walk to
the stage.
We sing the whole song
together, clinging to each
When she calms down,
Kay’s voice is pretty good.
At the end, everyone claps
and whoops.
“Thanks, Moira. I just lost
it. You were amazing,” Kay
“You weren’t too bad
* * * *
“Brilliant,” the Vocality
choirmaster says. “But,
well, that’s it, we’re not
going through. And who,
pray tell, are you?” he says,
sniffing in my general
“This is my friend Moira,”
Kay says. “If it hadn’t been
for her we wouldn’t have
done anything.”
“Um, and this, of
course,” he says, gesturing
wildly at the choir, “is so
much better, I suppose, is
He is shouting now and
one of the older women
comes forward, putting an
arm around his shoulder.
“Come on, Charles, these
things happen, and it was
lovely in its way.” She looks
us up and down before
leading Charles away.
We collapse into each
other’s arms, laughing.
“I’m sorry I was such a
nightmare at school,” Kay
says once we’ve stopped
giggling. “I’ve really missed
you, but I didn’t know how
to put it right.”
“It’s OK,” I say.
I feel a hand on my
shoulder and turn to see a
young woman with an iPad.
“Daniel wants to see
you,” she says.
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Daniel?” we both say
“Yes!” She laughs. “He’s
over there.”
“Crikey, it’s a bit of a
day, isn’t it?” Kay says, but
before I can answer the
floor manager interrupts.
“Top Notes to the stage,
please. Five minutes.”
“Julia,” I say, suddenly
remembering. “Oh, Kay,
I’ve got to find my soloist
or we’re completely stuffed.
“I’m really sorry. You
don’t mind, do you?” I call
back as I rush off.
“No, of course not. Is
there anything I can I do to
“Just keep the floor
manager talking long
enough for me to find her,
will you?”
“Got it,” she replies,
I can’t take it all in. All
these years and it seems
I’ve finally got my best
friend back.
“Julia!” I shout
desperately across the
“Is she here?” Jake is
rushing around looking for
her, too.
“I don’t know. I called
her. Maybe she’s left a
message. I’ll have to go
outside to get a signal.”
I run into the car park
frantically waving my phone
in the air.
It blips and I swipe my
finger from the top. It’s a
new message from the
phone company offering me
an upgrade.
“Come on, Julia, where
are you?”
“Nothing?” It’s Kay.
“The floor manager says
you’ve got two minutes,
then you can either pull out
or . . .” She puts her head
down and says quietly,
“You could do it.”
“What? That’s ridiculous.”
Don’t Miss Out!
your local newsagent
to order this
“Why? You’ve already
sung once today,” she says.
“That wasn’t on my own,
remember. I can’t sing the
solo!” I exclaim.
“You’re right enough
there. Sing my solo? I don’t
think so.” Julia’s deep
throaty laugh bounces off
the leisure centre walls.
“Julia! Where have you
been?” I begin.
“Later,” she says, waving
me off with a smile. “Where
am I going?”
Julia is predictably
amazing. She comes
through like a real trouper
with no hint of the four
hours she’s spent on the
side of the motorway. That
woman would be glamorous
on a farm, and if she
weren’t so lovely I’d
definitely be jealous.
“Right, everyone, let’s
break for lunch,” the floor
manager calls.
“Moira, Kay,” he calls,
waving at us. “Can I just
see you both for a minute?
Daniel would like to speak
to you.”
* * * *
“Ladies, how lovely to
meet you both,” Daniel
Waterman says, smiling
I’ve heard that people on
the telly are always smaller
than you think, and that
definitely holds true for
“I saw you both out
there, singing together, and
I thought it was fantastic,
Moira. It is Moira, isn’t it?”
he says to me.
“Moira, it was a lovely
thing that you did – helping
someone from a rival
“Oh, we’re not rivals,” I
say quickly. “We’re old
school friends. We lost
touch and this is the first
time we’ve seen each other
in donkey’s years.”
“Well, we didn’t really
lose touch,” Kay says
quietly. “I was really
horrible to Moira and I
haven’t been able to pluck
up the courage to contact
her to say sorry.
“I only joined Vocality
when I moved back into the
area because I hoped she’d
be there, too,” she admits.
“She was fantastic in our
school choir and I was
always envious of her
standing up on stage and
singing so well. I would have
loved to do that, but I was
never good enough.
“I wanted to be pleased
for you, I really did, but I
just couldn’t get over my
jealousy. Anyway,” she
says, turning back to Daniel,
“I thought she must have
carried on singing and
would still be in a choir. It
was the only way I could
think of to get back in
touch.” She turns to me.
“Especially after you
ignored my friend request
on Facebook,” she whispers.
That stings, but can you
blame me?
“That’s lovely.” Daniel
smiles, trying to lighten the
mood. “It’s just the kind of
feel-good story about the
power of music in people’s
lives that we love to
showcase on ‘Sing it Loud!’
“Which is why I’ve
decided that there won’t be
a final this afternoon. Both
choirs are going through to
the televised shows.”
“Are you sure?” I ask.
“What about Golden Years
and the Barbershop Boys?”
“Well, they were good,
but to be honest they
weren’t really right for the
show. Now, do you want to
tell your choirs, or shall I?”
* * * *
“This is pretty good,” Jake
says. “I mean, it’s nice
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being on TV and all, but to
be honest I think it’s more
fun watching it at your
house, Moira.
“At least we can have a
glass of fizz or two,” he
adds, taking a healthy swig.
“You don’t seriously think
it’s better not to be in the
final, do you?” I say.
“No, but . . .”
“I know exactly what he
means,” Charles says,
grumpy as ever. “I can’t be
doing with all those silly
make-up girls constantly
dabbing me with their
“Which is why he kept
calling them over and
asking for more, I
suppose,” I whisper to Kay.
“Mind you, if we joined
forces and made one super
choir of our best people we
would definitely be up
there,” he says, pointing at
the finalists on the wobbly
projector screen.
“Oh, you think you’d go
straight to the final, do
you?” Kay says, laughing.
“Foregone conclusion,”
Charles says without a
trace of humour. “I thought
of Vocality Plus for a
“What about us? I think
“Top Notes V,” Jake says.
“V? Five in Roman
numerals? But that makes
no sense.”
“More sense than
Vocality. That’s not even a
“Come on, let’s leave
them to it. I hid a bottle of
prosecco in my bag before
Jake snaffled it all,” I tell
“That’s assuming you’ve
mastered the zip.”
“Oh, I’ve done the course
and I can even manage
Velcro now, I’ll have you
know,” I joke, and we head
off to find some glasses to
toast our rekindled
friendship. n
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Inside next week’s issue
Our cover feature:
Neil McAllister explores
London’s Borough Market
and the south bank of the
River Thames
l Wendy
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life and work
of author
Muriel Spark
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hoodie is
perfect for
little ones
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Illustration by iStock.
HERE was a small,
striped tent perched
on the village green.
It had appeared
there overnight. It
had an expectant air; a
jauntiness, even.
A single banner
proclaimed its owner and
its purpose.
Dr Incredible: Cures
Marnie saw it the
moment she raised her
kitchen roller-blind that
morning. It sat directly
opposite her house like an
She felt her insides leap,
and told herself sternly to
calm down. She was a
head teacher, not a
Initially, there were
whispered wonderings
behind the net curtains of
neighbouring households
and half-hearted jokes in
the public house.
Children dared each other
to peek inside while
mothers shushed and
chided; men feigned
disinterest while their wives
threw sideways glances at
the new arrival.
What was it doing there?
Did it require permission
from the parish council?
Marnie spent that Sunday
morning at the kitchen sink,
lost in thought, entranced
by that banner.
She snapped back to
herself with a shake of the
“Cures guaranteed,
indeed! Charlatan
She shut the blind and
spent the afternoon sorting
through photographs of her
dear mother, lost so many
years ago along with all
Marnie’s hope and
optimism and belief in the
general fairness of life.
Her grief mutated into
the familiar bitterness
brought by a sense of
She stamped up the
stairs, brushed her teeth
furiously and seethed into a
deeply unsatisfying sleep.
* * * *
Morning dawned,
unbiased and golden over
the village, washing its light
across the thatched roofs
and gleaming cars, the neat
flower-beds and that
innocent-looking tent. It
was a beautiful day.
Children on the way to
school craned necks
towards the mini-marquee,
while youngsters in
pushchairs pointed, kicking
their chubby, strapped-in
legs in a vain attempt to
divert their mothers
towards it.
In the bakery, villagers
were talking.
“He can’t be a real
doctor, can he? Not with a
name like ‘Doctor
Incredible’. Doctors have
names like Doctor Brown or
Doctor Mackay.”
“I had to see a Doctor
Patel, once, in the city. He
was a specialist.”
“Not all doctors are for
healing the sick.”
“True. Some are for your
One by one people slipped into
the little tent. And each of them
left with a lighter heart . . .
head. Or for books.”
“You think he’s a
university type of doctor,
“Heavens, no! It’ll be a
made-up title. To get
people’s attention.”
“He won’t get my
attention. I don’t care who
he is: he can’t just pitch up
here! I won’t be giving him
a moment’s thought, I’ll tell
you that.”
Everyone went about
their usual Monday, very
definitely not thinking
about the curious little tent
or the doctor inside.
Postie delivered the
letters, the teachers taught
and the office workers
ploughed through to-do
lists, and they all kept
reminding themselves not
to think about Dr
The tent was visible from
nearly every window in the
village, and finally a single
villager was seen slipping
between the canvas flaps
by Joan Robertson. A
naturally curious person,
she saw it her duty to
report any untoward
activity. By phone.
“Just now! Mary Elston: I
recognised her coat.”
“She’ll have gone
because of her baby.”
“It can’t be for that. She
lost the poor mite three
years ago.”
“It could still affect her,
“But ‘cures guaranteed’?
What can she be hoping
No-one witnessed her
emergence from the tent,
but the next day Mary
Elston was in the
churchyard, laying flowers
and smiling. Smiling!
“He’s given her some of
those drugs from the city.”
“Drugs. She’ll probably
overdose herself.”
“Poor thing. It’s not
normal to look that happy
on a weekday.”
* * * *
The following evening,
Mrs Tippins told the book
club that she’d seen
Norman Jacobs walking
back across the green from
“in there”, talking with that
“Can you blame him?
He’s at his wits’ end since
his business went bust.”
“Wasn’t his fault. That
London firm never paid his
last three invoices; owed
him thousands.”
“Not all his staff
understood that. Plenty
blamed him. Including his
“Look at him, now,
“Good morning, ladies!”
“Morning, Norman.”
He looked as if the
weight of the world
had been shifted from his
Marnie spent her days in
the classroom, refusing to
engage in talk of Dr
Incredible. She spent her
evenings watching
television, browsing family
photos and rereading old
Avoiding the windows.
Finally, having put it off
as long as she could,
Marnie ventured out to the
supermarket. Her spaniel
had no tinned food and
she’d been drinking her tea
black for two days.
She heard gossip in every
“Dulcie Gould, who’s
been stuck in her house
since she fell in the town,
seeing no-one but mealson-wheels nigh-on two
years. There she was
yesterday at that tent.
“Next morning, she’s
sitting in the tearoom with
her paper and her scone,
chatting away like the old
days, happy as you
“Heard about Harry,
Jenny’s youngest?”
“That little bully! He’s
never been in there, has
“Wouldn’t credit it, would
you? He strode off across
the green like a cockerel,
boasting to his friends that
he’d grab anything worth
taking from that tent. Two
hours later he’s running to
his mam with tears in his
eyes! I heard he went and
apologised to anyone he’d
ever hurt.”
“I’ll believe that when I
see it. What’s this doctor
said to him, then?”
“No idea. He’s like the
others: can’t seem to
remember exactly what
“You going in yourself,
“Oh, I shouldn’t think so.
No . . .”
Standing at the till,
Marnie’s heart raced. These
people had no idea. Only
she knew . . .
* * * *
Within two weeks, all but
one of the villagers had
slipped into that rosy,
warm interior with its
fragrance of warm
childhood summers.
Each was met by a tall,
pleasantly rotund man
whose clear hazel eyes
shone above his melting,
knowing smile. The
welcome was almost
hypnotic, a relief and a
Everyone experienced
something similar, yet none
felt able to describe it
accurately afterwards.
“I’m so very glad you
came,” he would begin,
guiding his visitor to a
comfortable chair.
“Unburden yourself. Tell me
every worry and ailment
that troubles you, and
leave nothing out.
“Only when I have heard
every hurt and pain and
slight concern can I help
you. And I will; I will help
Most would hesitate at
first, feeling bashful and a
little silly; a few launched
easily into their list. Some
consultations took three
Always, they emerged
looking lighter and
Always, they came out
Always, they came out
feeling better. Guaranteed.
Marnie couldn’t escape
the tent with its seaside
stripes and fluttering
bunting. From her bedroom
window, her bathroom,
even the lounge, it
remained in view.
At the school gates,
parents whispered about
the bemusing doctor,
swapping tales without
giving details.
Marnie buttoned herself
up tightly. Habitually aloof,
as befits a head teacher
seeking to maintain her
status in a village, she
didn’t indulge in gossip, nor
did she linger in the post
But she couldn’t ignore
this influence on the
community. It became
apparent that everyone else
had visited the tent. The
entire village seemed giddy
with goodwill.
“He’s a smasher, isn’t
“Oh, Sandra, he’s
changed my life. To say
nothing of our Frank. Thank
heaven that doctor came
when he did. It’s made my
world brighter, that’s the
How long had it been
since she’d felt that warm
and positive herself?
Certainly she had happy
memories from when her
mother was still alive.
Makeshift picnics in the
park, building forts from
sofa cushions, baking apple
tarts together.
Splashing in the sea while
her mother held her
upright, showing her the
striped seaside tents.
Father was still very much a
part of their lives, then.
Even when Marnie went
to teacher-training college
she’d felt bright about the
future, secure, loved.
The first signs of her
mother’s illness weren’t
immediately obvious, but
the tumour progressed so
rapidly that all Marnie
could do was reach out and
hold her mother’s hand
through the worst of it,
trying in turn to keep her
upright, willing her to hold
And what did he do, all
this time? Nothing. He
stood by and did absolutely
There was no taking away
the pain, no stopping the
Death rushed towards
them and swept her mother
away. And Marnie found
herself alone, her hand still
outstretched, but empty.
Years had gone by and
she still blamed him. She
hadn’t even said the word
“Father” for years except to
shout and scream and rail
against him, and even then
he’d said nothing to defend
himself or make her feel the
slightest bit better about
losing her mum.
Eventually they’d fallen
into silence.
But she knew, the
moment she saw that
candy-striped apparition on
the green. She knew
precisely what it meant and
saw it for what it was.
She already knew who
was behind that ridiculous
boast of “cures
guaranteed”. He was there.
He was waiting.
* * * *
Finally, it was time:
Marnie walked across the
green, head high.
She slipped inside the
canvas tent and felt tears
flow the moment she saw
his face. The name came
“Marnie. My lovely
He took her hands,
drawing her to him, and in
his eyes she saw a peace
she’d never known before.
“You might not believe it,
but when you and your
mother were going through
the worst, I was with you.
When you held her hand, I
held you both, sending you
“When you lost her, you
lost so much love that your
pain is understandable,
your anger is
understandable, but it was
her time, Marnie.
“I guided your mother
and she is there in warm,
golden light, waiting. I can
help you to let go of the
pain and to feel at peace
“I can’t. I lost my faith,
Father, and I couldn’t find
my way back.”
“You were always on
exactly the right path, it
was all as planned,
however hard that is to see.
“I have stayed within you
and around you all this
time, sending you love
through the children you
teach, through each dawn
and sunset, even through
the birdsong that wakes
“I knew you weren’t
about to step into a church
to find me again, but I felt
this little striped tent might
“I truly am so very glad
you came, my child. More
love is around the corner in
your life. And children of
your own. Everything will be
better now.”
“I believe it, Father. I
believe again.”
As Marnie leaned into
him, it was as if a collective
sigh ruffled the rooftops
and rippled the fields.
She walked home that
evening knowing that life
was unfolding afresh, feeling
love in her heart, and a new
sense of peace.
The very next morning, a
round patch of yellowed
grass was all that remained
on the village green. That,
and a sort of glow around
the village; shared, yet
secret. n
in the
Return To
Illustration by Ruth Blair.
SA and Tillie were quick to
come to Mrs Lightfoot’s
assistance, suppressing
their surprise.
Isa put her hand to
Margaret’s forehead, while
Tillie watched for signs of
“Whatever can have
happened?” she asked Isa.
“Could she have done
something to make her leg
hurt again?”
“I dinna ken how. She
was sittin’ doon, and she
was fine a minute before.”
Mr Philips asked everyone
to stay calm, a quite
unnecessary request. There
was quiet astonishment on
all sides. Maisie was
round-eyed and Arthur had
his mouth open, but no-one
was excited.
“I suggest,” Mr Philips
said, “that Isa and Tillie
take Mrs Lightfoot to her
apartment. Mrs Lightfoot is
obviously a little unwell,
but I am sure she’ll recover
in a few moments.”
That was exactly what
happened. Margaret came
round and tried to get to
her feet. Isa and Tillie
helped her up and escorted
her out of the kitchen.
Mr Philips looked round
the assembled company.
“I don’t want to hear any
gossiping about this. No-one
else needs to know.”
There was a murmur of
“Yes, Mr Philips” round the
table, and everyone
returned their attention to
their plates.
But the air of mystery
remained. Why should
someone who seemed
perfectly fit one minute
suddenly faint clean away?
What had prompted such a
Back in her room,
Margaret Lightfoot thanked
Isa and Tillie for their help,
and insisted she was fully
“Would you like me to
By the end of
their conversation,
Luke was already
captivated by
this quick-witted
girl . . .
get Miss Caroline?” Isa
asked, anxiety making her
revert to Caroline’s premarriage name. “She might
think you should see the
Margaret shuddered.
“No doctor, Isa. I think it
was just a little hot in the
kitchen, and it overcame
me. I’ll be fine. I feel much
better already.”
Isa refrained from saying
that she didn’t look it. Her
colour was still poor and
her voice shook.
But Margaret’s will
prevailed. No doctor.
“Thank you for your
concern, ladies,” she said,
with her usual formal
manner. “I’ll be perfectly
fine now. I may retire a little
early, but I’ll be right as
rain tomorrow. Please say
nothing to Mrs GrantSmyth.”
Whatever their
misgivings, Tillie and Isa
had to acquiesce.
“I’ll look in a little later,”
Isa said. “Just to be sure.
You have a good rest.”
* * * *
Although still not looking
her best, Margaret was
sufficiently recovered by the
morning to institute a
programme of domestic
housework that amounted
to a proper spring clean.
“Every spare bedroom
will be used by our guests,
so they must be properly
washed down and aired.”
The main house was
always kept in a state of
cleanliness and order,
especially since Margaret
had arrived, but the spare
rooms were another matter.
Isa and Tillie stood, ready
to face the challenge, while
the tweeny, Maisie, was
open-mouthed and wideeyed.
Margaret gave the girl a
small smile.
“Just do what Tillie and
Isa tell you, Maisie. They
will instruct you. Can I
suggest you start with a
proper apron? You’ll find
one in the airing cupboard
on the top landing.” She
turned and set off along the
corridor. “If anyone wants
me, I’ll be in the diningroom, counting the cutlery.”
“She seems fine again,
doesn’t she?” Tillie
Isa was unconvinced.
“She still looks upset, if
you ask me. However, ours
not to reason why, as my
granny used to say. I think
it was yon poet chap,
Tennyson, that said it. You
ken who I mean? The Queen
likes him.”
“Does she?” Apart from
what she had read out of
the Langrannoch library,
encouraged by Caroline,
Tillie’s knowledge of
literature was limited,
thanks to an idle dominie in
the village school.
Fortunately, he had
recently been replaced with
a younger and more
inspiring teacher. Tillie’s
brother, Leckie, was much
more highly educated than
Tillie had ever been.
“Right,” Isa said. “Let’s
find you an apron, Maisie,
then we’ll get your bucket
* * * *
Arthur Robertson’s
training as a footman had
some way to go. He was a
willing worker, and wanted
to learn, but Mr Philips
reckoned that the gap
between the boy’s own
experience and the tasks
required of a footman was
possibly too wide to bridge.
At least, not at the kind
of speed necessary for him
to operate successfully at a
grand dinner.
Mr Philips had never had
occasion to visit the seamier
side of Glasgow, but he had
heard that there were areas
of vice and squalor that
defied imagination.
The boy seemed guileless
enough, but how would one
know? Just because Arthur
came from a povertystricken background did not
make him a villain, but
there would always be an
element of risk.
And it certainly didn’t
make him a footman. He
was never going to be a
While Mr Philips
pondered on the problem,
the boy himself was well
aware of how lucky he was.
His mother had done her
feeble best to instil some
moral values in her children,
but was defeated by
circumstances and by the
brutality of her husband.
That said, Arthur had
picked up the idea of the
virtue of honest labour and
was determined to repay
those who had rescued him
from what he now saw was
a desperate way of life.
And now that his
breathing was causing him
less trouble, he worked all
the hours he could.
So it was unfortunate that
he came to grief while
serving dinner to the same
people to whom he owed so
much. The family only had
one guest, so it could have
been worse.
The guest was Doctor
Luke Jardine, who was
staying for two nights while
he and the Grant-Smyths
worked on the detail of how
the grand dinner would go.
“I’d be very happy to
address the company, and
give a lecture perhaps on
the living conditions of
some of our less fortunate
citizens. I want people to
know exactly where their
money will be going.” Luke
looked from one to the
“It’s all very well helping
the poor in a general sort of
fashion – everyone sees the
logic in that – but I want it
to be more clearly defined. I
want to set up a clinic and
“In the sideboard, sir.”
Philips clicked his tongue
in exasperation.
“Bring them out, boy.
They should be on the
The boy moved quickly to
obey, and in the process
dropped one of the pepper
pots. The lid, insecurely
attached, flew off across
the carpet, and the
contents of the pot blew up
in a fine mist. That was all
Arthur’s chest needed to
set up a paroxysm of
Luke Jardine looked up
automatically, recognising a
Arthur was a willing worker, and
wanted to learn
offer free advice and, if
possible, free medicines.
Just to get it established
will take a lot of cash, and
I’m hoping people will
respond to that.”
“I’m sure they will.”
Caroline spoke in
encouraging tones. “I would
suggest you include lots of
practical detail, without . . .”
Luke smiled.
“Without boring folk to
death. Yes, I’ll try to strike
a balance.”
He was interrupted at
that point by Tillie offering
more potatoes.
“Straight out of the
garden,” Rory said proudly,
as though he personally had
dug the soil and grown the
“They’re delicious,” Luke
said, helping himself to a
healthy spoonful. “Just
plain potatoes, served with
butter and mint. Perfection.”
Rory agreed.
“I quite like a dash of
pepper myself. Can I offer
you some, Jardine?”
He looked around for the
appropriate container, at
which point Mr Philips
stepped forward from the
side table.
“I’m sorry, sir. The pepper
pot seems to be missing.”
He signalled to Arthur,
also at the side table. The
butler’s voice was a
whisper, but Arthur heard
the rebuke just the same.
“Did you fill the pepper
pots as instructed?”
Arthur nodded
“Where are they?”
deep-seated cough when he
heard it. Tillie carried on
offering the potatoes, her
eyes swivelling to where the
pot and its lid had landed.
Mr Philips apologised to
Mrs Grant-Smyth, put down
the second pepper pot in
front of her and escorted
the hapless Arthur, still
coughing his head off, out
of the dining-room.
“I’m really sorry, Mr
Philips,” Arthur tried to say
in a series of squeaks.
“Go on outside and get
some air,” the butler said,
half magisterial, half
exasperated. “Tillie and I
will manage. Don’t come
back till you can breathe
without exploding.”
Back in the dining-room,
Rory was explaining Arthur’s
presence at the table.
“He’s a lad I had working
in the factory. He was in a
shocking state with his
chest, and I thought a spell
in the country might
improve things. Our butler,
Mr Philips, is training him in
the art of being a footman.
I’m not sure he’s
Luke smiled.
“Well, it was a kind thing
you did, Rory.”
“Arthur’s health has
improved a lot,” Caroline
interposed. “The fresh air
has done him a power of
good. The pepper was just
unfortunate. Any of us
would have had the same
Luke nodded.
“You’re probably
right. What kind of
background does the
boy have?”
Rory mentioned the
address that Arthur had
given Dr Webster in the
Luke winced.
“He’s well out of there.
That’s just the kind of place
I mean when I talk of
setting up a clinic. These
people have so little, it’s
criminal. Not everyone will
get Arthur’s chance, but
they’re entitled to more
than they have.”
He stopped to think a
“Perhaps Arthur could
help to illustrate the point
in my lecture.” He paused
again. “I’ll have to think
about that.”
“Meanwhile,” Caroline
said, “have some more
butter with your potatoes,
* * * *
Outside the house,
another drama was taking
place. As Arthur made his
way through the garden
and round to the stables,
his cough easing as he
breathed the summer air,
he could hear the head
groom Mr Spowart’s voice
raised in what sounded like
a heated argument. A horse
whinnied fiercely.
Arthur had an instinctive
liking for the horses.
Without ever getting in
Spowart’s way, he often
came and watched the big
animals, especially Samson
the Clydesdale.
Very occasionally, when
he was sure he wouldn’t be
found out, he chatted to
Samson over the stable
For some reason, in spite
of the straw and the horses
themselves, he never
coughed in the stables. His
chest didn’t seem to
protest at all.
This time, a mighty fight
seemed to be going on
between Spowart and
Roger, the horse usually
ridden by Mr Grant-Smyth
when he had the time.
Roger was high spirited
and occasionally objected
to being put in his stall.
This evening was one of
those occasions. Spowart
was losing his temper,
which even Arthur could see
was counter-productive.
Acting purely on instinct,
with no knowledge of horses
to go on, Arthur ran
towards the handsome
animal and grabbed hold of
his bridle. The horse rolled
his eyes, but Arthur spoke
calmly and deliberately,
stroking his neck and
encouraging him towards
the open stable door.
Spowart loosened his grip
slightly so that Arthur had
more control, and in two
minutes Roger had calmed
down, lowered his head,
and strolled into his stall.
If Arthur had expected
Spowart to glower at him,
he was not disappointed. In
fact, he cowered before the
older man, expecting a
rebuke for interfering.
“What did you think you
were daein’? Have you
dealt with horses before?”
Arthur shook his head.
“I just thought – I mean, I
didnae think.”
“You certainly didnae,”
Spowart agreed. “Roger’s a
mean beast. He could have
kicked you to Kingdom
come. You wouldnae have
been worried about your
cough then, I can tell you.”
“Sorry, Mr Spowart.”
“Aye, well. You were
lucky this time. Away back
to your domestic duties,
son, and don’t mess with
the horses.”
Arthur found an
unsuspected courage.
“Can I say goodnight to
“What? Say goodnight –?”
Spowart stopped and gave
a wry grin. “Och, all right.
He’ll no’ give you any
trouble, I’ll grant you that.”
Arthur approached the
gentle Clydesdale, stroked
his nose and chatted
quietly, while Spowart
looked on with a
speculative eye.
* * * *
It was the following
morning that saw Dr Luke
Jardine enjoying a corner of
the Langrannoch garden. If
Rory had thought that the
country air would help
Arthur, Luke knew that it
was likewise helping him.
He had found a bench
against a bank of azaleas
and was working his way
through his lecture notes
when he heard the voices of
small children and the
quiet, authoritative voice of
their nanny.
Although he had been
hoping to see more of Alice
Macleod on this visit, she
had rarely crossed his path.
He suspected that Alice had
her meals in the nursery
with her charges, which
must make her feel a little
Certainly, he had only
met her briefly, when
Helena came to say
goodnight to her parents.
There was something
appealing about the young
woman, something he
would like to follow up on.
The trio of Alice, Helena
and Isa’s son, William,
came round the corner of
the bushes. Helena spotted
the bench and its occupant.
“Look,” she said, “it’s
Luke,” which caused
confusion all round.
There was always some
doubt with Helena about
what she was actually
saying, which was
compounded this time by
the similarity of the words
“Doctor Jardine,” Alice
corrected automatically.
Helena barely listened,
intent on renewing her
acquaintance with the
doctor by showing him her
dilapidated but much-loved
grey elephant. William was
persuaded to join in,
though he was always a few
steps behind Helena.
The adults indulged the
children for a few minutes,
till Alice felt they should
move on.
“Come along, children.
Doctor Jardine is busy
writing. He’s got a very
important speech to make,
and he needs to
The chances of either of
the children understanding
that was very low, but it
made Luke smile, which in
turn elicited the same
response from Alice.
It was Luke who extended
the conversation, asking
how Alice was enjoying
Langrannoch, and whether
or not she would be able to
attend the dinner.
“I would love to,” Alice
said, “but my duties with
the children come first.”
Luke nodded.
“I’m pleased you’re
interested. It’s a very
worthy cause.”
“I’m sure it is, and I’d
love to help.”
“Would you?” Luke’s
eyebrows rose.
Alice took a deep breath,
then spoke out.
“Do you have anyone on
your team, Doctor Jardine,
who will be in charge of the
donations you hope to
Luke was open-mouthed
with surprise.
“Well, I – I imagined I
would do that.”
“It might be something I
could help with.” She met
his gaze levelly. “I’m good
with money. My father owns
a grocery shop and many
times I’ve been put in
charge of organising the
“So why are you . . .?”
Alice shrugged.
“My parents thought that
life as a nanny was a step
up from a shop girl. They
meant well, and my life
here is extremely pleasant,
but I’d really like to be
more useful.”
At that point, all four of
them found themselves
sitting on the grass while
Alice made daisy chains for
both the children to wear
round their necks.
The conversation with
Luke carried on throughout,
as they exchanged
information on what was
the best way to proceed.
Luke’s admiration for the
nanny grew by the minute,
her cleverness adding to
her understated good
looks. He was well on the
way to being totally
As the children tired of
the game and wanted to
wander further afield, Luke
got to his feet.
“Would you like me to
mention to Mrs GrantSmyth that you have
offered to help? I think she
would be very glad of your
Alice smiled widely.
“Always provided I can
care for Helena and William
at the same time. I do
understand that. I’m sure I
could manage both.”
Luke decided to forgo his
morning of planning, and
stayed with Alice and the
children for fully an hour as
they wandered round
the extensive gardens
of Langrannoch.
By then he was
convinced that Alice
Macleod was going to figure
in his life for some time to
come. Perhaps even for
He would have given a
great deal to know if Alice
Macleod felt the same.
* * * *
Once it came to Mr
Philips’s ears that Arthur
had shown an interest in
the horses and an aptitude
for handling them, he took
it upon himself to approach
Spowart and ask his
“To tell you the truth, Mr
Spowart,” he said, “the boy
will never make a decent
footman. He’s willing
enough, but he just doesn’t
have the skill.
“He tells me he likes
horses, and you have in the
past complained about
being short-handed. So,
what do you think? Could
he learn a bit more from
you than he has from me?
“I’m sure Mr GrantSmyth will go along with
the idea. He just wanted
the boy to get some
country air. I don’t think
he’ll mind how.”
Which was how Arthur
moved out of the room he
shared with Sandy, and into
the rooms above the
stables. He still came in
and out of the kitchen, but
was rarely in the house
proper. As Mrs Campbell
remarked to Isa, it was a
joy to see a lad coming
along so well.
“He’s put on weight and
everythin’.” She beamed.
“He just looks great. I wish
his mother could see him.”
Isa grinned.
“You’re feedin’ him too
well, Mrs Campbell. How
are the plans comin’ along
for the grand dinner?”
Mrs Campbell was
instantly diverted, and went
to check her lists yet again.
While Arthur was moving
from one job to the other,
it also came to Mrs GrantSmyth’s attention that Mrs
Lightfoot had been unwell
and fainted in the kitchen.
It was something the little
maid Maisie let slip that
alerted her, after which she
looked more intently at the
housekeeper, and noticed
her pallor and even more
exaggerated reserve.
It was during one of their
regular meetings about the
running of the house that
Caroline mentioned
Margaret’s accident in the
Sauchiehall Street store.
“I take it you’ve fully
recovered, Mrs Lightfoot? It
was a really bad fall you
took, and I just assumed
you had made a complete
recovery. Have you?”
“Yes, madam. I’m fine.”
“Mmm.” Caroline looked
at the other woman in a
considering way. “You still
look pale. Are you sure you
aren’t doing too much,
what with this dinner
coming up and everything?”
“I’m perfectly well,
madam. I never did have
much colour, I’m afraid.”
“Very well.” She decided
not to mention Maisie’s
accidental slip. “I forgot to
tell you that Doctor Jardine
was asking how you are.”
Margaret took a sharp
intake of breath.
“What did he say about
Caroline paused.
“He asked after your
health, Mrs Lightfoot. It was
he who treated you, after
all. He would regard it as
his duty to ask how you are.
What else would he say?”
“Nothing. Nothing at all,”
Margaret said, looking
down at her feet.
Her agitation showed in
her face, and Caroline laid
her hand on the other
woman’s arm.
“Something is bothering
you, Mrs Lightfoot. If you
take me into your
confidence, I assure you it
will go no further. I’m
happy to help if I can.”
Caroline’s kindness was
Margaret’s undoing. Her
eyes filled with tears, and
there was a racking sound
from her throat.
“Let’s sit down. Here,
take this chair.”
They both sat, Margaret
still choking.
“Are you unhappy about
something here? Has
something happened in
Mrs Lightfoot shook her
head violently.
“No, madam. I’ve been
so happy here. It’s been so
wonderful after – oh,
At this point, she broke
down entirely. Caroline
waited, and then spoke.
“Were you not happy
with Mrs Thorn in Bristol?
She gave you a reasonable
Margaret collected herself.
“Yes, she was a perfectly
good employer until she
heard about – about –” She
paused, and took a deep
“I was Miss Lightfoot
when I worked in Bristol,
and then quite by chance,
Mrs Thorn found out that I
had had a child. I wasn’t
married. I had never been
married. That was enough
for her, I’m afraid. I was
given notice to leave.”
The bleakness in her voice
touched Caroline in an
unexpected way.
“Why don’t you tell me
what happened, Margaret.
From the beginning. Tell me
about your child.”
Margaret took a shaky
“There was a young man.
Edward, his name was. My
father didn’t approve of
him, but I loved him, and
he loved me. We were
engaged to be married, in
spite of my parents.
“He had to go to America
on business, only for a few
weeks. We took a farewell
of each other more fervently
than perhaps was wise, but
it didn’t seem wrong, it
really didn’t.
“We were to be married
as soon as he returned. But
he didn’t come back.”
Her voice shook, but she
fought the tears and carried
“He took ill on the voyage
and died at sea. It was very
quick, apparently. And
then, no sooner had I heard
the news than I found out I
was pregnant.” She paused.
“In one way, I was
horrified. But I would have
had his child. He would live
on in his son.”
She was silent until
Caroline prompted her.
“What happened?”
“I was sent to a stranger
in Yorkshire with no contact
with my parents until my
son was born. Then my
father came and took him
away. He took him from my
arms – my little Edward!”
Caroline was appalled.
“Where did he take him?”
Margaret shook her head.
“I never knew. I would
like to think he gave him to
people who would love him,
but the steps of an
orphanage would be more
likely. It would be done
She paused.
“I used to dream that he
had been left in York
Minster, where at least he
would be sure of a little
Christian kindness. I even
asked once, years later, if
they had any record of such
a child. But they didn’t.”
There was silence.
Caroline could only imagine
how she would have felt if
someone had snatched
Helena from her arms. To
be in a situation like
Margaret’s would have
been intolerable.
“When Mrs Thorn
dismissed me, I became
Mrs Lightfoot. It seemed
safer, though it wasn’t true.
When I landed in hospital in
Glasgow and Doctor Jardine
examined me, I could see
he had noticed the marks
on my body. He knew I had
had a child. He said nothing
at the time, but –”
“He said nothing to
anyone, you can be sure of
that,” Caroline said.
Margaret nodded briefly.
“I’m sorry I doubted
him.” She sighed. “Then
Arthur appeared.”
Caroline was astonished.
Margaret half smiled.
“Oh, I didn’t think he was
Edward come back to me.
Not with the poor boy’s
history as it was. No, but
he was much the same age,
and he had the same
birthday: January twentyfive. The same as Robert
Burns, and my little
Edward. I was momentarily
There was a long silence,
then Margaret went on.
“Mrs Thorn spoke of
moral turpitude, and my
being a bad influence on
the young. If you wish me
to leave, madam, I will
quite understand.”
Caroline looked at the
older woman and thought
she had never heard
anything so sad.
“You must stay,” she said
firmly. “Rest assured,
no-one will hear your story
from me. Not only are you
a fine person, but you are
needed. The house needs
you and so does the family.
If you are happy here, then
do not think of going.”
This time, Margaret didn’t
try to fight the tears.
* * * *
The Langrannoch charity
dinner was talked of for
many years after the event.
The house was filled with
conversation and laughter.
In the kitchen, Mrs
Campbell reigned supreme
over a team of kitchen
maids and waitresses drawn
from neighbouring houses.
Isa was at her side, as was
Lady Grant-Smyth’s
companion, Grace, who
showed a surprising
capacity to work like a
The end result of all this
labour was a series of buffet
tables filled with a wide
selection of delicacies.
Throughout the meal,
Tillie and Sandy worked like
a well-oiled team, so that
Tillie began to see that they
might do well together on a
more permanent basis.
She found herself looking
at Sandy with fresh eyes.
Not only was he in tune with
her way of doing things, but
he was better looking than
she had noticed before.
Her ambitions to be
housekeeper at Balmoral
might well have to wait.
After the meal, when
everyone was replete with
food and wine, Luke took
the floor in Langrannoch’s
handsome hallway.
The company crowded in,
filling the corners and
doorways. On the top floor,
the tweeny Maisie held on
to Helena, who had been
allowed to stay up to see
the pretty ladies with their
elegant dresses before
being taken off to bed.
Luke’s talk was absorbing
and enlightening. He
decided not to use the
example of Arthur as
someone who had benefited
from a helping hand, not
wishing the lad to feel he
was some sort of exhibit.
Luke’s talk was
sufficiently impassioned to
stir the company into
unparalleled generosity. His
address was helped by the
presence of Alice, whose
charm and persuasiveness
masked a ruthlessness
unsuspected in someone so
young and presentable.
The offers of cash and
support were noted in ink
in Alice’s ledger.
Luke was delighted, and
completely captivated. For
her part, Alice was pleased
to be using her mind and
her talents in a different
way, and looked forward to
doing a lot more of it.
The question of Luke was
something she’d ponder,
though possibly not for
long, before deciding that
her future lay with him.
The evening marked
another turning point for
Mrs Lightfoot. Her powers
of organisation had been
tested and found excellent,
and she had loved the
whole experience.
As she watched the
company from the doorway
to the kitchen quarters, she
realised that she had at last
found a home.
After her father’s cruelty,
she had resisted his
demands that she return to
the parental home. She had
found work, and had
She had found happiness
and her future was full of
contentment and hope.
As the evening drew to a
close, Rory and Caroline
Grant-Smyth stood
together at the door,
waving farewell to their
guests. On her way back to
the Dower House with
Grace, Lady Gertrude
stopped on the doorstep,
and turned to her son.
“That was well done,
Rory. You have helped a
great cause. I speak as one
who has a lot of experience
with charity work.”
“Well, thank you,
Mother, but it was really –”
“I know,” Lady Gertrude
smiled. “It was Caroline
who did most of the work.”
She put her hand on her
daughter-in-law’s arm.
“I know you had a team
behind you, but you should
take the credit for getting it
to come together. The
evening was a big success.”
She turned to her
“Now, I would be grateful
for an arm, Grace. Let’s go
The End.
From the manse
by David McLaughlan.
N younger days, James was
an agricultural worker. He
enjoys sharing stories of
those times with greatgrandchildren, who listen as
enthralled as if he was telling
them about living on Mars.
None of the little ones can
imagine living in a dirt-floored
cottage where the only running
water ran through a nearby
stream. They love to hear
about it, but most of all, they
love to hear how Papa James
met Granny Helen.
The story began when
James opened his cottage
door and saw nothing but
white. A snowstorm had
almost buried the cottage.
For many it would be the
perfect excuse to go back to
bed and pull the quilt over our
heads, but James knew the
farmer would need help
finding the sheep before they
froze, so he set to digging.
Once he had space, he
surveyed the fields between
his cottage and the farmhouse.
Normally, they made for a
mucky, tussocky walk.
He had twisted an ankle
more than once crossing them.
Now, they were all the one flat
blanket of snow. Except . . .
He could make out the top
of the hawthorn hedges. They
were tough. They had to be to
keep the cattle in. The
branches twisted and
intertwined, providing strength
and support for each other.
Now they were full of snow.
With more digging and the
aid of a stout gate, James
stepped on to the flat top of
the hedge. It held his weight.
He tried a step or two. The
surface crunched underfoot,
but the snow was hard-packed
and the hawthorn provided
sufficient reinforcement.
From his vantage point he
saw Helen. She was a maid at
the “big house” and had made
her way as far as the road-end.
Deciding their fleeces
would provide enough of a
heat and air cushion for the
sheep to survive a while
longer, he set about
negotiating the hedges until
he reached the road.
Once there, he bent down
and offered a hand to the
surprised young woman. He
then escorted her all the way
to the big house before
heading off to work.
She was there with the
other women, providing a
warm welcome and hot food
to the men who brought the
flock safely home.
Years later, she said the
thing she liked about James
was that he looked for
solutions where others would
only see problems.
We say, when one door
closes another one opens,
but most of us are too busy
staring in frustration at the
closed door to look for the
open one.
James looked beyond a
doorway filled with snow and
found a way in something
that had once been a barrier.
Hedges that were supposed
to be obstacles became new
It’s a trait James and Helen
delight in seeing in their
children, grandchildren and
great-grandchildren, and one
we might adopt to good
This world is not set up to
stop us living life to the full. It
does open new doors when
old ones close. But it also
challenges us to find them.
And rising to that challenge,
finding the positive, wherever
it might be, is the best way to
get to where life wants to take
us. Just ask James. n
Next week: Janice Ross
celebrates Candlemas.
How To Choose A
Revive those 45s with advice from
consumer expert Lorna Cowan.
F your treasured
collection of LPs is sitting
idle in a cupboard
because you don’t own a
record player, here’s
some good news.
Vinyl sales are having a
revival, so with everyone
listening to records again
– you’ll even find them on
supermarket shelves – it’s
easier than ever to buy a
However, with prices
ranging from £50 to well
over £1,000, what should
music lovers look out for?
First of all, it’s worth
noting that although there is
technically a difference
between a record player and
a turntable, the words are
often used to describe both,
so do check what you are
If we’re being pedantic, a
record player comes with a
built-in amplifier and at
least one speaker, whereas
a turntable is a standalone
unit and needs to be
connected to an amp and
separate speakers.
The latter can end up
being an expensive
purchase if you don’t
already have some sort of
stereo set-up.
When buying a turntable,
make sure it will play all the
records you own. Ideally you
want one that is compatible
with LPs, as well as 7-inch,
45-rpm singles, and perhaps
even 78-rpm records. Also, if
you don’t want to disturb
others in the house, check it
has a headphone socket.
What’s on offer?
Portable record players
If you simply want to
reminisce while listening to
Digitising your record collection
If you want to transfer your music on to a Windows
PC or a Mac so you can listen to much-loved tunes
while writing e-mails or surfing the internet, look for
a turntable with a USB outlet. This is the easiest way
to convert your records into digital files as a USB
cable and software will be provided, and you’ll be
guided through the process step by step on your
computer screen. Some software also allows you to
edit out the sound of any scratches on the surface.
songs from yesteryear, and
you’re not too concerned
about top-notch sound
quality, a value-for-money
portable record player, such
as those found in Argos,
Currys and HMV, is worth
considering. Today, many
have a retro design and can
be carried like a briefcase,
allowing you to move it
around your home or take it
along to a dance – some
even have a rechargeable
Wireless turntables
Perhaps a better option,
especially for anyone with a
valuable record collection, is
a wireless turntable.
Sometimes referred to as
a Bluetooth record player,
these connect with
Bluetooth speakers and
produce a decent sound.
Brands such as ION can
be bought for under £100
from John Lewis, are
compact, have no visible
messy wires and when you
use with a Bluetooth
speaker, music can be
listened to in any room.
Automatic turntables
A turntable with auto
operation, which
automatically starts playing
at the push of a button, is a
good idea if you don’t have
Tempted to buy a
second-hand turntable?
Check its condition
first. The base needs to
be level so that the
tonearm can move
across the record
without causing any
damage. A new stylus
is a wise investment,
too, but they can be
difficult to find for
older models.
the best eyesight and you’re
not confident moving the
tonearm and putting the
stylus on to the record
yourself. The tonearm will
also return to its starting
position after the
record ends. n
If You Only
Bake One Thing...
Make it this marvellous Chocolate Marmalade Cake
The cake freezes
well. Wrap well
and freeze for up to
6 months. Defrost,
in the wrappings, at
room temperature for
about 2 hours. Ice
once defrosted.
Marmalade moments
The word marmalade comes from “marmelo”, the Portuguese
for quince, the fruits originally used to make the sweet treat.
Early marmalades were a type of thick fruit paste that could
be cut and served in squares, and were usually eaten in the
evening. However, when Janet Keiller, a sweetmaker living in
Dundee in the 1760s, acquired a cargo of Seville oranges, she
used them to adapt a recipe for spreadable quince
marmalade. Her idea was to include evenly distributed
“chips” of peel. The new product proved popular at breakfast,
changing the habits of a nation. Janet’s son, James, took over
the business and by the mid-nineteenth century, Keiller’s
Dundee marmalade was being exported all over the world.
Prep time: 20 minutes plus cooling
Cook time: 1¼ hours Serves: 10
Per portion: 462 Kcal, 23 g fat (14 g sat. fat)
u 175 g (6 oz) lightly salted butter,
softened, plus extra for greasing
u 175 g (6 oz) golden caster sugar
u 3 medium eggs
u 200 g (7 oz) plain flour
u 1 small orange, finely grated zest and
u 150 g (5 oz) dark chocolate chunks
u 75 g (3 oz) thick marmalade
u 25 g (1 oz) cocoa powder
u 1½ tsp baking powder
For the Icing:
u 110 g (4 oz) icing sugar
u ½ small orange, grated zest and juice
u 3 squares plain chocolate
u 1 tbs chopped mixed peel
1 Pre-heat the oven to 180 deg. C., 350 deg. F.,
Gas Mark 4. Butter and triple line a deep 18 cm
(7 in) round cake tin.
2 Beat the butter and sugar together for 2 to 3
minutes until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs one
at a time, adding 1 tablespoon of flour with each
egg, then whisk in the orange zest and juice. Add
the chocolate chunks and marmalade and sift the
remaining flour, cocoa powder and baking powder
on top. Gently fold the dry ingredients into the
creamed mixture using a large spoon.
3 Spoon the mixture into the tin and smooth the
top. Bake in the pre-heated oven for 1 to 1¼
hours until firm to the touch and a skewer inserted
into the centre comes out clean. Cool in the tin
for 5 minutes then turn on to a wire rack to finish
4 When the cake is cold, carefully peel off the
paper. Store in an airtight tin until ready to decorate
(the cake will keep very well for up to 2 weeks).
5 To decorate, sift the icing sugar into a bowl and
add enough orange juice (approx. 1 tablespoon)
to make a smooth, spreadable icing. Spread over
the top of the cake, right to the edge, allowing it to
drip over the sides. Using a vegetable peeler, shave
pieces of chocolate and sprinkle on the top of the
cake with the orange zest and the chopped peel.
Leave the icing to set for a few minutes before
This recipe is from “Cook It Slowly!”, the Dairy
Cookbook published by Eaglemoss Ltd. It’s
available to buy for just £8.75 online at or by calling 0845 0948
128. UK readers of the “Friend” can get FREE P&P
– just quote DDPR when ordering.
Burns In
New York
Central Park’s seated
tribute to Burns was
made by John Steell,
the Aberdeen-born
sculptor behind a large
number of Edinburgh’s
statues. In his lifetime
he produced at least
five likenesses of
Burns. He was also
credited with
introducing the art of
bronze casting to
Scotland. The statue
was built relatively
quickly, as the city’s
Burnsians had not
wanted to be
outshone by the statue
to Sir Walter Scott
erected in the park in
1872. It was officially
the first statue of
Burns unveiled outside
of Scotland.
Photographs © Alamy.
The Sydney Burns was
unveiled in January 1905,
and Australia’s largest city
saw a good turnout for the
event, though things were
kept abrupt as the weather
wasn’t feeling generous.
Wearing a Kilmarnock
bonnet and resting on a
plough still in a furrow, the
statue is a homage to
Burns’s rural background,
though in fact he was well
educated by a private tutor.
Burns stands on a plinth of
Melbourne granite.
The Canadian city’s
statue was the very
first built in the city,
having been erected
in 1928. The
Vancouver Burns
Fellowship formed in
1924 to study and
promote the poet’s
works, and several
fund-raising events
were held to drum up
funds. By the time the
was available,
commissions for local
artists to do the job
failed when the
Fellowship decided
the likenesses weren’t
good enough. In the
end, they
commissioned an
exact copy of George
Lawson’s statue in
Ayr, which was
shipped to the city
from Britain through
the Panama Canal.
In time for
Burns Night, we
look at tributes
to Scotland’s
Bard around
the world.
The second-largest city on New Zealand’s South
Island is a stunning combination of Victorian and
Edwardian architecture with a strong Scottish and Maori
heritage. Its name is a contraction of Dùn Èideann, the
Gaelic name for Edinburgh. The 1887 statue of Robert
Burns is particularly relevant here as for many years in
the mid-19th century, the poet’s nephew, the Reverend
Thomas Burns, was the town’s spiritual leader.
The Birks Of Aberfeldy
The woodland walk
around the slopes of the
Moness Gorge just outside
of Aberfeldy, called “the
Birks”, so inspired Burns on
a tour of the Highlands that
he penned a poem in its
honour. In commemoration
of this, a statue of him sits
pensively in the woods
overlooking the lovely
Moness Burn.
A campaign for a
statue in the city was
started in 1905.
Melville Earl
Cummings was
commissioned to
produce it, but while
it was at the foundry
for casting in 1906,
the great San
Francisco earthquake
struck and the whole
building and its
contents were
destroyed. The project
began again in the
city’s rebuilding and it
was unveiled in
Golden Gate Park in
1908. n
The Farmer
and His Wife
The bestselling
title and the
sequel together
in one great
value pack!
For many years, the stories
of John and Anne Taylor
and their life on the area
of Fife known as the Riggin
have been a mainstay
of “The People’s Friend”
magazine. Enjoy the first
and second collection
of these much-loved
tales, accompanied by
the original watercolour
illustrations created
by Dundee artist
Douglas Phillips.
1 2
318 846
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The Farmer and His Wife Volumes 1 and 2
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Volumes 1 and 2
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believe it?
Would you
Got a question? Get in touch through e-mail or *write to
“The People’s Friend”, 2 Albert Square, Dundee DD1 9QJ.
how far under the
water an Emperor
penguin can dive.
I am puzzled. I know that cats
are supposed to hate water, so
why does my kitten like to jump
into the shower cabinet once I’ve got
out in order to catch the drips? (I really
must get that fixed!)
Mrs L.B., Ipswich.
of men
prefer to
be clean
shaven. Beards are so
While most cats will interact with
water, drinking from a running
tap or pawing a few drops from
a shower, most felines like to stay in control of situations and so being immersed in
water is something they would aim to avoid. One exception is the Turkish Van cat,
which is also known as the swimming cat, in recognition of its love of having a dip.
I know about the Great Fire of London which
happened in the 17th century. However, my
friend told me there was also a big blaze in
Edinburgh which destroyed hundreds of homes, but
I’ve never heard of this and I live in the city! Is she
Miss K.M., Edinburgh.
Your friend is correct. The Great Fire of Edinburgh
occurred in November 1824 and the fire raged in
waves for four or five days.
The blaze began in a high street printer’s shop. Thirteen
people were said to have perished, including two of the
brave firefighters who were poorly equipped.
It is said that a heavy downpour eventually helped bring
the blaze under control, but not before 400 homes were
lost to the flames, as well as notable buildings such as the
Tron Kirk being badly damaged.
I heard
talking about
sparrow grass – what
on earth is this?
Mrs E.H., Leeds.
Sparrow grass is
another name
for asparagus.
Did you know this
vegetable is also
mentioned in what’s
believed to be the
oldest surviving book
of recipes? The book is
thought to date back
to the 1st century AD.
Something we didn’t
know last week...
How old are you? If you knocked
three years off your age before
answering that question, you’re not
alone! According to research carried
out by Soap Supplier, on average,
Brits say they are three years
younger than they actually are. And
it turns out that men are much more
likely to tell little white lies about
their age than women, proving that
men are the vainer sex after all!
*Please do not send an SAE as we cannot give personal replies.
July 21
was the original date
chosen for Burns
Night – the date of
the poet’s death.
of the British
regularly go
to the cinema.
645 guests
attended the world’s
biggest Burns Supper,
which was held in
Glasgow on
January 25, 2016.
3 hours,
15 minutes
is the length of
time it will take to
fly from London to
New York in 2025,
thanks to a supersonic
plane currently in
A Touch Of
Add a stylish top
layer with our
fitted waistcoat.
To fit sizes: 76/81 cm
(30/32 ins), 86/91 cm
(34/36), 97/102 (38/40),
107/112 (42/44), 117/122
(46/48), 127/132 (50/52).
Actual size: 88 cm (34½ ins),
98 (38½), 108 (42½),
118 ( 46½), 128 (50½),
138 (54½).
Length: 52 cm (20½ ins),
53 (21), 54 (21½), 55 (21¾),
56 (22¾), 57 (22¾).
Photographs by Ally Stuart,
Hair and make-up by Linda Wilson.
Photographed at Rufflets Hotel, St Andrews,
3 (3, 4, 4, 4, 5) 100-gram balls
of Stylecraft Tweedy Double
Knitting (shade Moss 3710).
One pair each 3.25 mm
(No. 10) and 4 mm (No. 8)
knitting needles. 6 buttons from
Duttons for Buttons, tel: 01423
502092, e-mail: michelle@
For yarn stockists telephone
01535 609798 or e-mail
22 sts and 28 rows to 10 cm
measured over st-st using
4 mm needles.
Alt – alternate; beg –
beginning; dec – decrease;
K – knit; P – purl;
rem – remain; rep – repeat;
st(s) – stitch(es);
st-st – stocking-stitch (knit 1
row, purl 1 row); tbl – through
back of loops; tog – together;
tw2 – slip next st, K1, pass
slipped st over st just knitted
and knit into back of it.
dec 1 st at centre of sts –
32 (34, 36, 36, 38, 40) sts.
Divide these sts into 2 groups
of 16 (17, 18, 18, 19, 20) sts
and slip each of them on to a
length of yarn and leave.
Important Note
Directions are given for six
sizes. Figures in brackets refer
to the five larger sizes. Figures
in square brackets [ ] refer to
all sizes and are worked the
number of times stated. When
writing to us with your queries,
you must enclose a stamped,
addressed envelope if you
would like a reply.
With 3.25 mm needles, cast
on 47 (53, 59, 65, 71,
77) sts.
1st row (right-side) – K2,
[P1, K1] to last st, K1.
2nd row – K1, [P1, K1] to
3rd row – As 1st.
4th row – Purl, inc 1 st at
side edge on 1st, 2nd and 3rd
sizes only – 48 (54, 60, 65,
71, 77) sts ★★.
Change to 4 mm needles and
Next (right side) row – K1,
[tw2, K5, tw2, P5] 2 (3, 3, 3,
4, 4) times, tw2, K5, tw2, P10
(2, 8, 13, 5, 11).
Next row – K10 (2, 8, 13, 5,
11), [P9, K5] 2 (3, 3, 3, 4,
4) times, P10.
These 2 rows set the pattern.
Continue in pattern until work
measures 31 cm from beg,
ending after a 2nd row.
Shape front slope –
Dec row – K1, K2tog tbl,
work to end.
Next row – Work until 2 sts
rem, P2.
Rep these 2 rows 3 times
more, then dec row again –
43 (49, 55, 60, 66, 72) sts.
Shape armhole – Cast off 7
(9, 11, 11, 13, 15) sts at beg
of next row – 36 (40, 44, 49,
53, 57) sts.
★★★Dec 1 st at front edge
on next row, then on every foll
dec 1 st at armhole edge on
next 5 (5, 7, 7, 9, 9) rows,
then on every foll right-side
row until 23 (26, 29, 32, 35,
38) sts rem.
Continue to dec at front edge
only on every 4th row until 17
(19, 21, 25, 27, 29) sts rem.
Work straight until front
measures 52 (53, 54, 55, 56,
57) cm from beg, ending at
armhole edge.
Shape shoulder – Cast off 6
(6, 7, 8, 9, 9) sts at beg of
next row and foll alt row – 5
(7, 7, 9, 9, 11) sts.
Work 1 row straight.
Cast off.
Work as given for right front
to ★★.
Change to 4 mm needles and
1st row – P10 (2, 8, 13, 5,
11), [tw2, K5, tw2, P5] 2 (3,
3, 3, 4, 4) times, tw2, K5, tw2,
2nd row – P10, [K5, P9] 2
(3, 3, 3, 4, 4) times, K10 (2,
8, 13, 5, 11).
Continue in pattern until work
measures 31 cm from beg,
ending after a 2nd row.
Shape front slope –
Dec row – Work until 3 sts
rem, K2tog, K1.
Next row – P2, work to end.
Rep these 2 rows 3 times
more – 44 (50, 56, 61, 67,
73) sts.
Shape armhole – Cast off 7
(9, 11, 11, 13, 15) sts, work
until 3 sts rem, K2tog, K1
– 36 (40, 44, 49, 53, 57) sts.
Work 1 row straight.
Complete as right front
working from ★★★ to end.
With 3.25 mm needles, cast
on 99 (111, 123, 133, 145,
157) sts and work 1st to 3rd
rows as given for right front.
4th row – Purl.
Change to 4 mm needles and
1st row (right-side) – P10
(2, 8, 13, 5, 11), [tw2, K5,
tw2, P5] 5 (7, 7, 7, 9,
9) times, tw2, K5, tw2, P10
(2, 8, 13, 5, 11).
2nd row – K10 (2, 8, 13, 5,
11), [P9, K5] 5 (7, 7, 7, 9,
9) times, P9, K10 (2, 8, 13, 5,
These 2 rows set the pattern.
Continue in pattern until back
measures same as fronts to
armhole shaping, ending after
2nd row.
Shape armholes – Cast off 7
(9, 11, 11, 13, 15) sts at beg
of next 2 rows – 85 (93, 101,
111, 119, 127) sts.
Dec 1 st at each end of next 5
(5, 7, 7, 9, 9) rows, then on
every foll alt row until 67 (73,
79, 87, 93, 99) sts rem.
Work straight until back
measures same as front to
shoulder shaping, ending after
a wrong-side row.
Shape shoulders – Cast off
6 (6, 7, 8, 9, 9) sts at beg of
next 4 rows – 43 (49, 51, 55,
57, 63) sts.
Next row – Cast off 5 (7, 7,
9, 9, 11) sts, work to end.
Next row – Cast off 5 (7, 7,
9, 9, 11) sts, work to end,
Join right shoulder seam.
Right front border – With
3.25 mm needles and right
side facing, pick up and knit
77 sts evenly along right front
edge to beg of front slope,
then 54 (57, 60, 62, 65,
68) sts evenly up to shoulder
seam, finally knit across first
16 (17, 18, 18, 19, 20) sts at
back of neck – 147 (151,
155, 157, 161, 165) sts.
Beg with a 2nd row, work
2 rows in rib as on right front.
Next row – Rib until 76 sts
rem, [cast off 2 sts, rib 12 –
including st on right needle
after cast-off] 5 times, cast off
2 sts, rib to end.
Next row – Rib, casting on
2 sts neatly over those cast off.
Rib 3 more rows.
Cast off evenly in rib.
Left front border – Join left
shoulder seam. Work to
correspond with right border,
omitting buttonholes.
Armhole borders – With
3.25 mm needles and right
side facing, pick up and knit
101 (111, 121, 125, 135,
147) sts evenly round
Beg with a 2nd row, work
6 rows in rib as on right front.
Cast off evenly in rib.
To Make Up – Press work
very lightly on wrong side
following pressing instructions.
Join side seams and armhole
borders. Join front borders at
back of neck. Sew on buttons.
Press seams. n
Next week: knit a
dinosaur hoodie for
a little one
A Good Cause
Clare Young, from Gloucester, supported
by friends, crafters and community
groups, is working on a full-size knitted
show garden installation for the RHS
Malvern Spring Festival (May 10-13). The
“Work of Heart” garden is in memory of
her husband, and she aims to help raise
£50,000 for Sue Ryder Leckhampton
Court Hospice. If you would like to
contribute by knitting, find out more at
The perennial classic pencil
skirt is never out of favour,
whether you opt for a kneeskimming business skirt, a
sassy, shorter version or calf
length. You’ll find a selection
of patterns at www.sewdirect.
com including McCalls
Learn to Sew design
New ideas for knitters and crafters
Do you remember making
loom flowers years ago? Well,
they are back in vogue and
Haafner Linssen’s new book
shows you how to make over
30 flowers and transform them
into stylish makes following
her step-by-step instructions.
Available in book and craft
shops or order from www., price £10.99.
RE you looking for some
new crafting challenges,
needing a gift for a friend
or just interested in what’s out
there? We have some great
ideas, and you can find out
about one
as she sets
out to knit
a garden.
The Focal Point
This giant floor cushion
comes in a kit which includes
DMC Woolly 100% Merino yarn,
cotton printed tapestry canvas, and
everything else needed to create a
stunning soft furnishing. At £200
it is a considerable purchase but
will offer you up to 200 hours
of stitching, great for your
well-being. The Big Chill kit is
available from
DMC stockists
If you’re looking to get away for some winter sun
make sure you have the right travel insurance.
People’s Friend Travel Insurance starts at just £18.10 for a family of four*
t this time of year a lot of people think about getting away from the cold days and dark nights to find a bit of
sun and relaxation. For peace of mind it’s also important to know you have the right travel insurance should
you need it.
With the People’s Friend Travel Insurance we offer a range of travel insurance policies with:
• No upper age limit on all single trip travel insurance policies
• Annual or multi-trip policies with an upper age limit of 85
• 24 hour emergency assistance
• Additional covers for things like golfing holidays
Plus we have cover for many pre-existing medical conditions that you can choose to cover
or not as part of the quote and buy process meaning your policy will be bespoke and
tailored to you and your circumstances.
• Buying your policy is easy:
• Buy online safe and securely or talk to one of our friendly UK based advisors
• Simple to compare multi quotes
• Tailor your quote; simply choose cover and options that are appropriate
• Receive your documents via email in minutes or through the post
Let us help you get your travel insurance sorted and leave you to
enjoy your well deserved break.
0330 606 2520
quoting PFD01096
Calls to this number from a BT landline are charged at local rate or using your call allowance.
Travel insurance arranged by A+ Insurance
The People’s Friend Money is a trading style
of DC Thomson Enterprise Finance Ltd. DC
Thomson Enterprise Finance Ltd is an appointed
representative of A+ Insurance Services Ltd which is
authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct
Authority. *Quote based on a single trip to France
for 7 nights for a family of four: two adults aged
35 and 40 and two children under 10. No medical
conditions. No extras (i.e. winter sports cover) with
documents delivered by email. Correct as at 23rd
November 2017. This insurance is available to UK
residents only.
Photographs by Alamy, unless otherwise stated.
John Logie Baird
On January 26, 1926, the
Scottish inventor gave the first
public demonstration of
television in front of a room of
scientists in London. Progress
was quick afterwards – in 1927
he transmitted images from
Glasgow to London through a
telephone line, and in 1928
across the Atlantic to New York.
Bring On
As Seen
Man On The
On July 20, 1969, over
600 million people tuned in
around the world to watch
Apollo 11 land on the
moon. It held the record for
most viewers of a televised
event until Prince Charles
married Diana in 1981, with
750 million viewers.
It’s estimated that we spend
over eight years of our lives
watching TV, with viewing hours
per week increasing with age. And
now we have so many channels to
choose from, we spend nearly a
year and half flicking through
them and deciding what
to watch!
launched on
November 2, 1936,
and had its first
major outside
broadcast with the
coronation of King
George VI in 1937.
During World
War II, BBC TV shut
down completely,
for fear that the
signals could be
used to help
German bombers
find London.
Enjoy our fun facts about TV on the
anniversary of its invention.
Famous Faces
Carol Hersee and Bubbles the
Clown (whom she still owns) are
the two faces that have spent
the most time on air in television
history. Test Card F was used
by the BBC when programming
finished for the day, and has been
on screen for over 70,000 hours –
just shy of eight solid years!
Clean Viewing
Early American TV
dramas were sponsored
by companies like Proctor
& Gamble and Lever
Brothers. As the firms
were all famous for
producing soaps, the
shows quickly picked up
the name of “soap
Big Spenders
The first TV advert cost watchmaker Bulova $9
in 1941 for 20 seconds before a baseball game.
Now the most expensive advertising slot is during
American football’s Superbowl. Thirty seconds of
air time will set you back a hair under $3 million.
Out Of Balance
Jane loved
Conor, but they
were too
different ever to
have a future
together . . .
Illustration by Michael Thomas.
ANE bristled as she
read the birthday
Old accountants
never die. They just
lose their balance.
The card was wrong on
so many levels. First,
thirty-five was not old.
Second, she had never
lost her balance in her life,
either literally (thanks to
her daily yoga practice) or
metaphorically (thanks to
her being a totally
consistent, even-handed
Libran), and she wasn’t
about to start doing so just
because she was now
halfway to her three-score
years and ten.
And last of all, that it
should have been Conor
who sent such a card
proved what Jane was
beginning to suspect – that
she and Conor were totally
In fact, to paraphrase his
silly card, they were
completely out of balance.
Her doubts were
confirmed later that day.
As always when there was
a special occasion coming
up, she had everything
She’d treated herself to a
glitzy new dress, she was
off to have her hair done
that afternoon and she’d
managed to book a table
at Luigi’s, the smartest
restaurant in town, for this
She couldn’t think of a
better way to spend her
It didn’t bother Jane that
it was always down to her
to do all the arranging,
even for something like
this. Conor was hopeless at
that sort of thing.
But that was fine. She
was good at organising; he
wasn’t. She was OK with
that. No, it wasn’t his lack
of organisational skills that
was giving her these
crippling doubts, but
something much more
The truth was, they were
total and complete
He was a dreamer, she
was the practical one. He
was an optimist, she a
realist. He liked dogs. She
liked cats. The list was
Their relationship simply
wasn’t going to work.
Should she cancel this
evening, feeling the way
she did? It was hardly the
right thing to dump
someone in a place like
Luigi’s, was it?
Being the true Libran she
was, she weighed up all the
possible options. She was
in a right mardle, as Conor
would say.
Then her phone rang and
things got a whole lot
“Hi, sweetheart.” The
excitement in Conor’s voice
made his Irish accent even
more pronounced than
usual. “I’ve got some
terrific news, so I have!”
No “Happy birthday,
Jane.” Not even a “Did
you get my card?” Just
“I’ve got some terrific
news, so I have.”
This better had be
terrific, Conor O’Mallin, so
it had, she thought.
“What is it?” she asked.
“Remember that agent I
was telling you about?
Well, he’s in town tonight.
He’s going to be at the
Three Bells checking out
some local bands, and he
wants to hear us.
“Apparently he heard us
at some gig we did a few
weeks back and thinks we
may be what he’s looking
for. This could be it,
“I’ve booked Luigi’s for
tonight. I told you.”
“Cancel it. We can go to
Luigi’s any night. I’ll never
get this chance again.”
“But it’s my –” she
began, then stopped.
He was so caught up in
the excitement of this big
chance that he’d obviously
forgotten that today was
her birthday.
Disappointment flooded
her. Actually, it wasn’t
about him forgetting her
birthday – he had, after
all, remembered to send
her a card. It was just one
more example of how
very, very different they
“You will be there
tonight, won’t you?” he
pleaded. “Because I’ve got
something really
special . . .”
“No, Conor,” she cut in,
wishing she didn’t have to
do this but knowing she
must. “I won’t be there,
I’m afraid. I’m going to
spend the evening with
Mum. I might even
persuade her to come
to Luigi’s with me.
She’s still very low, you
know. Missing Dad.”
There was silence on the
other end of the phone.
Jane could imagine the
puzzlement on his face.
She steeled herself not to
give in.
“Oh, how could I have
been so stupid? It’s your
birthday!” He’d finally
remembered. “I’m so sorry,
sweetheart. I sent the card
days ago and then, well,
the call from the agent
pushed everything out of
my head. I’ll make it up to
astonishment. “I really
thought he was the One.
You were so good
“Because, well,
because . . .” Jane twisted
her hair around her fingers
and avoided her mother’s
eyes. “Because I don’t
want to end up with a man
like Dad.” The words came
out in a rush.
She ploughed on, trying
to ignore her mother’s
shocked intake of breath.
“He – he was an
irresponsible dreamer, just
“I don’t want to end up with a
man like Dad”
you, I promise. But I
can’t –”
“I know you can’t,” she
said, struggling to keep
the tears at bay until she
could end the call. “Don’t
worry about it. Best of luck
for tonight,” she added.
“Not that you’ll need
luck. You’ll be brilliant, as
always. We’ll talk
tomorrow, OK?”
The call ended and she
sat staring at her phone.
She knew she was doing
the right thing, but why did
it feel so bad? Was it
because she couldn’t
imagine life without Conor?
He made her laugh, he
made her cry, but he
always made her feel
gloriously, zingingly alive.
But you couldn’t build a
future on zing, could you?
You only had to look at the
mess her father had left
behind when he died to
realise that.
It didn’t add up. And for
Jane everything had to add
* * * *
“Don’t get me wrong,
love,” her mother said.
“It’s lovely to see you. But
why aren’t you out with
Conor? I thought you had a
special night arranged?”
“We broke up,” Jane
said, unprepared for how
much saying those words
hurt. “Or we will when I get
around to seeing him so
that I can tell him to his
face. It’s hardly the sort of
thing to do in a text, is it?”
“But why?” Her mother’s
eyes widened with
like Conor. Always looking
for the next best thing but
never quite finding it.
Lurching from one failed
dream to the next.
“And then, when he died,
leaving you with such a
mountain of debts that you
had to get a job in that
pub to earn enough to pay
it off –”
“Stop right there, young
lady!” There was an edge
to her mother’s voice that
Jane had never heard
“For starters, if you do
find a man like your father,
then you’ll be one very
lucky girl, believe me. And
I always thought Conor was
that man.”
“Then you thought
wrong. I’ve just realised
how incompatible we are.
He’ll never change.”
“And why would you
want him to?” her mother
said. “I knew what your
father was like when I
married him and I wouldn’t
have changed a single
thing about him. Yes, he
was a dreamer, Jane, just
like your Conor.”
“Not my Conor any
“Just like Conor, and I
was privileged to share
that dream. And yes, we
had some hard times. But
he was a good, loving
husband and a kind and
caring father. You can’t ask
Jane shook her head. She
didn’t want to remember
what a kind and caring
man her father had been.
Didn’t want anything to
breach the wall she’d built
so carefully around her
heart since his sudden
shocking death from a
heart attack eight months
Her mother looked at her
intently. Then her voice
“I’d no idea you felt like
this about your dad. But,
sweetheart, you’ve got it
all wrong. I didn’t take that
job to pay off his debts.
Where on earth did you get
that idea from?
“Yes, there were a few,
but they were covered by
his life insurance. I took the
job in the pub to get me
out of the house during the
long, lonely evenings.
“And I love working
there. It’s really helping
and the people are so
Jane stared at her
mother without speaking.
Then, slowly, the wall
around her heart crumbled
and the hard lump that
had lodged in her chest
ever since that awful day
began to dissolve as the
tears flowed unchecked
down her face.
Her mother put her arms
around her.
“It worried me that you
never cried for him,
darling,” she said, her own
voice choked with tears.
“It’s time to let go of all
that anger. I felt angry,
too, you know. Still do
sometimes, in fact.
“I look up at the stars
some nights and I want to
scream and curse at him.
It’s all part of the grieving
process, so I’m told.”
“Why didn’t he take
better care of himself,
Mum? Why didn’t he go to
the doctor, like we told him
to when he first had those
chest pains? If he had –”
Her mother put a gentle
finger on Jane’s lips.
“It was his time,” she
said softly. “That’s all. And
what you need to do now
– and what I need to do as
well – is focus on the good
times we all had together.
“The grieving process is
hard because he was so
very, very much loved. But
it’s the price you pay for
loving someone. And if I
had my time over again, I
wouldn’t change a thing.
“Except,” she added with
a wry smile, “I’d frogmarch
the stubborn old fool to
the doctor instead of
believing him when he said
it was only indigestion.”
An hour later, Jane’s
tears had all been spent,
her make-up repaired and
she felt better than she’d
done since her father’s
She’d also made a
discovery. Something her
accountancy training
should have made her
realise sooner.
It was all about debits
and credits.
The first rule of doubleentry book-keeping, that
she’d learned all those
years ago, was that for
every debit there is a
corresponding credit. And
that was what achieved
perfect balance. Total
opposites, balancing each
other out.
Just like she and Conor
did. His yin to her yang.
* * * *
The Three Bells was so
packed she had some
difficulty getting across the
crowded bar. Conor and
his band were in the
middle of a number.
It was one of her
favourites and she was
disappointed to have
missed it. It ended with
huge applause and her
heart swelled with pride.
Conor held up his hand
and spoke into the
“Thank you so much,” he
said. “Now, for our last
number, this is a song for a
very special lady who sadly
can’t be here tonight. I
wrote the song for her but
I’ll sing it anyway.”
Suddenly, he looked
across to where she was
standing and a huge smile
lit up across his face. He
began to sing.
“I spread my dreams at
your feet,
My life, my love and my
Together we are
One life, one love and
one song.”
Old accountants needn’t
lose their balance, Jane
realised. Not if, like her,
they’d found the perfect
person to keep them on an
even keel. n
Find all the words related to
golf in the grid. Words can run
horizontally, vertically, forwards,
backwards or diagonally.
Can you fit the listed numbers into the grid?
Number Fit
3 5 3 4
1 5 5 2
2 4
8 5 6 6 2
1 8 8 7 1 6 4
5 3 4 0 0 2 6
5 3 1 7 4
1 1 8
1 7 5 7 3
8 0 2 4 6
7 0 6 1
6 5 1 6 3
1 3 6 0 5
5 digits
8 digits
7 digits
4 digits
6 digits
3 digits
Number Fit
All puzzles © Puzzler Media Ltd
Jim’s new puppy
is making
himself at
home. . .
IM’S got a new dog
already?” Mary said,
her eyes wide.
“Buster’s only been
gone five minutes!”
Ruby lifted her mug
towards her. She tried at
first with just one hand,
then realised she needed
both to steady the cup in
front of her.
Mary laughed when she
saw Ruby struggling.
“What on earth is that?”
she asked.
Ruby tried to take as
delicate a sip from the
coffee as she could, but still
ended up with a milky
moustache. She picked up
a serviette, wiped her lips
and smiled at Mary.
“The new drinks menu
called it a caramaccino.”
She laughed. “It’s caramelflavoured cappuccino.”
She stirred the drink with
her spoon, trying to make
the frothy milk at the top of
the cup disappear. She
glanced over towards Mike,
who was working behind
the Old Engine Room’s
“I wish I’d just asked for a
plain white coffee now. It’s
Mike’s fault for talking me
into trying this.”
“So is it true about Jim’s
new dog at the pub?” Mary
Ruby nodded.
“It followed us home the
other night when we
walked along the riverside.
Jim said he was only going
to keep it until they found
its owner, and I could tell
he was trying not to fall in
love with it.
“He rang around all the
vets in the area asking if
anyone had reported it
missing, and no-one had.
He even took it into the
vet to see if it was
microchipped and it wasn’t.
What else could he do?”
“Well, when you put it
like that . . .” Mary said.
“It’s just a puppy. Yet do
you know what it did,
Mary? The first thing it did
when it walked into the
“I dread to think.” Mary
“It walked straight to the
seat where Buster used to
sit and curled itself
underneath it and fell
asleep. Jim said it slept
there all night.”
“Has he given it a name
yet?” Mary asked.
Ruby picked up a
spoonful of frothed milk
and popped it into her
“Ooh, this caramaccy
whatsit is lovely. Would you
like to try some?”
Mary shook her head so
Ruby continued.
“Jim’s reluctant to give
the pup a name. He says
naming it will mean he’s
keeping it, and he’s not
over the loss of Buster yet.
But he’s such a little cutie.”
Mary raised her
“Who? Buster or Jim?”
“Well, Jim’s not bad,
either.” Ruby smiled. “But
we’re taking things slowly.
Neither of us are spring
chickens. But it’s nice to
have someone special, you
Mary reached across the
table and laid her hand on
top of her friend’s.
“I know, love. I wish you
both all the luck in the
* * * *
Meanwhile, up in their
apartment, Jenny was in
the middle of applying
online for an admin job at
the local hospital.
She was concentrating so
hard on the application
that she hardly heard the
door as Eric walked in.
“What are you doing
here?” she cried in surprise
when she spotted him.
“That’s a fine welcome,”
Eric huffed.
“But it’s the middle of the
day. You should be at the
office. Are you feeling all
right? You’re not sick, are
Eric sank down on to the
sofa still wearing his coat
and scarf. Jenny shot him a
“Should I put the kettle
Eric shook his head.
“I need something a bit
stronger,” he said quietly.
“You might, too, Jenny,
once you hear what I’ve got
to tell you.”
Jenny felt her stomach
turning cartwheels. She sat
in the armchair opposite
him, but Eric couldn’t look
her in the eye.
“Are the council making
redundancies again?” she
Eric shook his head.
“I was called in to see the
boss this afternoon,” he
began. “He claims that I’ve
been taking bribes from
Harry Mason, the land
“He said they’ve got
evidence that I’ve been
giving him insider
information on the land
that’s for sale along the
“And have you?” Jenny
said firmly.
Eric shook his head, still
refusing to glance up from
the carpet.
“I don’t know.”
“Oh, for heaven’s sake,
Eric! How can you not know
if you’ve been taking bribes
or not?” she cried.
Despite the sorry state
that he was in, all she could
feel was anger.
Finally, he lifted his gaze
and Jenny softened when
she saw tears in her
husband’s eyes.
“I’ve been stupid, Jenny.
I’ve been so stupid.”
She went to sit by Eric’s
side and took hold of his
“I thought Harry Mason
was my friend, you know?”
he pleaded with her. “He
said he’d cleared the way
with the council already, so I
took the money he offered
me. He said it was
commission. He lied to me.”
“But what exactly has
happened?” Jenny asked.
“I’ve never seen you like this
before. What on earth
happened today at work?”
Eric took a deep breath.
“They’ve sacked me, Jenny.
The council have sacked me
for fraud.”
More next week.
Charity Knits
This rainbow of colour shows just some of the
hand-knitted baby coats and hats I have
completed for the premature baby unit at our
local hospital.
I enjoy knitting and have had plenty of practice
over the years, with two daughters, six
grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren!
Even though I’m in demand for knitting items
for my own family – I just recently completed a
pattern featured in the magazine – I always
ensure I have time to donate items to the hospital
as I know how much they are appreciated.
I’ve never lost my love of knitting – I learned
when I was just ten years old and I’m now nearly
Mrs A.E., Cwmbran.
Write to us at Between Friends, “The People’s Friend”,
2 Albert Square, Dundee DD1 9QJ, or e-mail us at
Special Carol
Whilst reading “The People’s
Friend” recently, I was delighted
to see a story written by Annie
Harris set in my home town of
Coventry. Although it was set in
1534, the places mentioned
were well known to me.
The story revolves around the
Coventry Carol, a beautiful carol
with particularly haunting music
and one of my favourites.
When my son married on
December 23 some years ago,
this was the carol which was
sung beautifully by the church
choir whilst the signings took
Although I retired to Wales two
years ago, it was lovely to be
reminded of Coventry and our
special carol.
Ms L.T., Rhyl.
Fabulous Artwork
It was very interesting to read
about “The People’s Friend”
Illustrations Editor Sarah Holliday
in a recent issue.
I have always admired the
drawings and artwork in the
“Friend” and especially loved the
Wild West drawings by David
Young for the story “The Dividing
Tide”. Not only that, the stories
are great, too!
Ms A.J., Goole.
Star Letter
It’s amazing how much joy a family pet can bring.
Sitting looking at our much-loved cat, I decided to
write a poem to mark how much Mog means to us.
To Mog
You’re an old cat now, you no longer run,
But like to doze in the warmth of the sun.
Your lovely fur’s still soft to touch;
You seem content, don’t ask for much.
A bit of food, a comfortable lap
On which to settle for a nap.
What do you dream when you sleep all day?
Do you think of a time when you used to play?
Chasing some string or a tennis ball,
Do you remember the past at all?
Stretched out relaxed on my daughter’s bed,
Purring when I stroke your head
Or scratch that spot between your ears,
Our loyal friend for eighteen years.
Mrs F.A., Surrey.
Our Star Letter will receive a Dean’s all-butter shortbread tin worth
£13.69 RRP. Consume as part of a balanced diet.
All other printed UK letters will win one of our famous tea caddies
and a pack of loose tea. Our friends from overseas will receive an
alternative gift of a pen.
Serving Up
Following Mrs P.D’s letter of
December 2, I wonder if other
readers remember white Pyrex
From when my husband and I
got engaged in 1963 until our
marriage in 1965, my widowed
mother saved hard and bought
us a complete dinner and tea set
for a wedding present, which we
used for many years.
The pictured items are the
only ones to have survived, but
they are still in regular use for
family roast dinners. I treasure
what I have left of the tableware
and also the memories created
around the dinner table over all
those years.
Mrs D.L., Essex.
Warming Smile
Sitting Pretty
I thoroughly enjoy reading
“The People’s Friend” each
week and especially love
reading the articles and
Between Friends, including
the photos that are sent in.
So I thought I’d share this
photo of my beautiful
great-granddaughter Ivy, at
fourteen months old, enjoying
a slice of her favourite fruit
– watermelon. The smile says
it all!
Mrs J.W., Huntingdon.
I agree with the reader
who wrote about the power
of a smile.
My great-aunt Jessie was
a farmer’s daughter and one
of her father’s employees,
Lizzie, had a gift of writing
poetry and wrote one called
“Jessie’s Smile”.
It was about Lizzie’s visit
to church on a wintry day
and the church was cold
with just a few people
inside who, it has to be said,
were looking pretty
The line or two I
remember are:
“Nae silly pride was in her
And aye, I think I see
The smile that chased the
gloom away,
That Jessie gied to me.”
A smile costs nothing and
you can always rely on it
warming the heart. Any time
I feel a little low, I always
think of this poem.
Mrs A.N., King’s Lynn.
Test Of Time
One of my favourite gifts that I received at Christmas was a
“Friend” Annual.
I’ve never read one before, which is surprising as I never miss
my copy of the magazine. The “Friend” has certainly stood the
test of time, moving through the different generations from my
own mother to me and now my daughter.
I can see the Annual becoming a regular fixture in our family,
Mrs J.B., Dundee.
from page 25
Word Ladder
One answer is:
Cold, Hold, Bold,
Bolt, Belt, Beet,
Winning Ways
Here’s a picture of my bichon frise Nia with some of the prizes
she won last summer – 23 rosettes, a trophy and a diploma.
The other picture shows us at an RSPCA charity show in
September in which we got a prize for our joint fancy dress!
Mrs S.J.H., Somerset.
Heroines In History
I enjoyed reading the “Hall Of Heroes” article which took me
back 10 years to the first visit that I made to the Wallace
Monument with my daughter.
My mother’s ancestors were supposed to have fought
alongside William Wallace, so we felt a connection when we
We made it to the top – no mean feat as I discovered I don’t
really like spiral staircases!
What I really like, however, is that women are now being
recognised as heroines of Scotland.
Thanks for my weekly treat. It’s lovely to read such an
interesting magazine.
J.L., Australia.
Terms and conditions.
We’re sorry, but we can’t reply to letters or return photographs and poems unless you enclose a stamped addressed envelope. All contributions must be your own original work
and must not have been sent elsewhere for publication. The Editor reserves the right to modify any contribution. By making a contribution you are agreeing that we and our group
companies and affiliates may, but are under no obligation to, use the contribution in any way and in any media (whether now known or created in future) anywhere in the world. If
you submit a contribution featuring a third party you must ensure that you have their permission for us to publish their image or personal details. If you are sending in a digital image,
please make sure that it is high resolution. Always write your name and address on the reverse of any photographs; printed digital images must be on photo-quality paper and we
cannot use photocopies. Please note, for all advertising queries, call 0207 400 1054. For editorial queries, call 01382 223131.
Published in Great Britain by DC Thomson & Co. Ltd., Dundee, Glasgow and London. Distributed in the UK and Eire by MarketForce UK Ltd, 5 Churchill Place, Canary Wharf, London
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© DC Thomson & Co. Ltd., 2018. Editorial communications to “The People’s Friend”, 2 Albert Square, Dundee DD1 9QJ. While every reasonable care will be taken, neither
D.C. Thomson & Co., Ltd., nor its agents will accept liability for loss or damage to any materials submitted to this publication.
We are committed to journalism of the highest standards and abide by the Editors’ Code of Practice which is enforced by the
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write to the Readers Editor at The People’s Friend, DC Thomson & Co. Ltd., 2 Albert Square, Dundee DD1 9QJ.
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