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Friday, 16 April 2021

N for Noticing Nature & News Updates

A-Z Blogging Challenge 2021  - Scottish Borders in Lockdown    
Recording My Everyday Life  - A Picture for Future Generations 


NOTICING NATURE  - there is nothing like a walk in the countryside, or in a park or by a river to invigorate spirits  by noticing the sky, the shape of the trees, the show of flowers,  ducks in the river, birds and butterflies darting around the garden,  or  the smell of freshly cut grass or  hearing the woodpecker in the woods

I know I am lucky in this respect,” living in a rural area.  My cousin in a town suburbs says she has taken to walking the streets, to view the neighbouring  gardens in the changing seasons. 

All natural subjects for my camera - and great at counteracting  NEGATIVITY during Lockdown.


NASTURTIUMS  - one of my favorite flowers - and so easy to grow. 

 The River Teviot at Hawick where we lived for 40 years.


             The heron in Hawick is a familiar sight on the Slitrig  Water.  

A woodland primrose  
A robin spotted in the woods
A calming woodland walk 

A sunlit woodland glade
Butterfly on one of its favourite haunts - the buddlea bush 
The River Tweed at nearby Melrose
NEWS UPDATES - way back in March 2020 it was almost a  relief to hear on the news something other than Britain's protracted,  fractured Brexit  negotiations on leaving the European Union.  But that reaction soon palled, as Covid-19 totally dominated the media  with harrowing reports on the pressures in hospitals, of families facing tragic deaths,  of the economic impact & deserted High Streets, of the rising statistics etc. etc.

I made a  point of listening to the brief local news reports on BBC Borders, as I wanted to know what was happening in my immediate area.  Regional  figures were good and reassuring - up to September 2020   hovered around 350 in a population of 115,000, but then in the last 7 months have shot up to over 2800    - but still one of the lowest rates in mainland Scotland. l would like to have known where these cases occurred in the Borders - which towns were hotspots, but the media was rather quiet on that front. 

I did wonder what other news we were missing out on  because of the Covid coverage, but, just for the record, major events, unrelated to Covid,  which did make the headlines  were:

  • At long last just before the deadline date  the completion of the Brexit negotiations.
  • The USA Presidential Election and the fallout following President Trump refusing to accept he had lost. 
  • The violent storming of the US Capitol by Trump supporters.

  • The death of Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh just two months before his 100th birthday and in his 75th year of marriage to the Queen, recognised for his years of public service tothe country and to the Commonwealth.

  • Leaving the life of being a Royal for a move to the USA  - Prince Harry and his wife Meghan - an event which spawned thousands and thousands of words in media coverage.



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Thursday, 15 April 2021

M for Masks, Moans. Monotony and Music: A-Z Scottish Borders in Lockdown

A-Z Blogging Challenge 2021 - Scottish Borders in Lockdown  
Recording My Everyday Life  - A Picture for Future Generations
 In the early stages of the  pandemic, MASKS were  very little in evidence in my village of Earlston,   apart from in the  staff in the pharmacist.  The greengrocer  advised them, but I found mine steamed up my glasses, the staff weren't wearing them, and nobody else seemed to bother much. 

Of course that all changed once the wearing of them became mandatory.   People stuck to the rule in shops, but less so on our generally quiet High Street.  I couldn't  wait to get out of the shop and rip mine off - as I have never solved the problem of steamed up glasses, pushed them on top of my head, but then had difficulty reading labels on products etc.  

I soon built up a collection of masks - from the basic pale blue, the home-made (from a T-shirt), the pretty but useless one, the zany multi coloured one , the black serious one, and the tartan patriotic one.

I was persuaded by an advert on Facebook to spend £10 (!!!!) on the pretty one which claimed to be suitable for people wearing glasses - it wasn't!  And I had no wish to try out other similar claims at that kind of price.

But the wearing of masks, I predict as being a long term regulation. 

MOANS  - Yes,  moans often surface when  speaking with friends  and the moans have a common theme - the MONOTONY  -  the lack of variety in our lives being the principal one.  

What have I MISSED most during the full or partial lock-down?

My list ranges from the serious to the trivial - not able to meet friends and  relations, not able to go to the funerals of two friends;   not visiting  neighbouring towns (we are dependent on local  bus services which have been severely  cut back)  and it is now 5 months  since we have been out of the village and over a year since I have been in a major supermarket - 9 miles away;   not visiting the library, not having our regular lunches out;  not having much to talk about  since our local organizations no longer are meeting - and not getting my hair cut! 

But in our heart of hearts, we know we could  be much worse off - so we buck ourselves up, stay calm and soldier on! 

MUSIC for me is a great "pick  me up"  and I have Classic FM Radio on around the house  all day  - my favourite composer Tchaikovsky and other Russians followed by Mendelssohn  - in other words the romantic composers  who evoke a story in their music.  I like,   to,  choral works, opera and operetta (especially Gilbert & Sullivan) and ballet music.

Companies such as the Royal Opera House and the Royal Ballet have been  beaming excerpts on Facebook;  whilst i have joined in a Zoom concert performing "Faure's Requiem - a bit odd singing alone in my kitchen with 200 other singers on screen.  I have also seen similar Zoom performances of Robert Burns Songs for Burns Night  and Irish songs for St. Patrick's Day - a great idea for music lovers amongst us.





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Wednesday, 14 April 2021

L for Lockdown, Learning - or Lounging Around

A-Z Blogging Challenge 2021   - Scottish Borders in Lockdown
Recording My Everyday Life - A Picture for Future Generations
LOCKDOWN -  I live in hope that way in the future there may be readers wondering what was Lockdown all about,  so it is seems appropriate that I record it here. 
 In an attempt to counteract the spread of the Coronvirus (Covid-19) pandemic, and cases overwhelming the National Health Service (NHS), regulations were brought in by government.  These changed over weeks and months and different parts of the UK, but basically has meant:
  • Non-essential shops were closed i.e. only supermarkets, food shops & pharmacies open.
  • Social contacts between household severely limited even amongst families.

    Stay Home Stay Safe, Coronavirus
  • Pubs,restaurants and cafes closed.
  • Recreational facilities closed - theatres, cinemas, concert halls, sports facilities, libraries, museums, visitor attractions, theme parks etc. etc.
  • Churches closed for worship
  • Events, national  and local,  cancelled.
  • Numbers attending weddings and funerals severely limited. 
  • Social gatherings banned e.g. parties, raves, with fines of £10.000 for non-compliance.
  • Non-essential travel banned beyond 5 miles from home.
  • Non-essential travel abroad to be met with a £5000 fine.
  • Social Distancing - 2 metres apart -  to be maintained at all times
  • Face masks to be worn in public places 

So the tightest restrictions on civil liberties since the Second World War - it was hard to believe I was actually  living through this in 2020-21. 

The key message has been:

Stay home - Save Lives - Protect the NHS 
LEARNING OPPORTUNITIES  - I suppose with more time spent at home, there was an opportunity to learn  new skills such as recipes, languages, crafts, computer programmes etc. etc.  So what did I learn - how to use Zoom,  and how to make use  of my Ancestry DNA results seems to be the total sum.  So many of my interests are computer based, that  I did think it would be good to find something  new to do indoors, other than reading and crochet - but it has never happened yet.
And if nothing else appeals to you:  
Why not just enjoy LOUNGING AROUND.  or try your hand, say, at writing  LIMERICKS!
Image courtesy of Pixabay
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Tuesday, 13 April 2021

Scottish Kirk Session Records - NOW ONLINE

With Scottish Kirk Session Records recently made available online  (for not all parishes)   at  Scotlandspeople. I thought it worth repeating an article I wrote some years ago on what they are, and what you may find there.

For local and family historians,  Scottish Kirk Session Records    provide us with a unique  social commentary on life  at the time - with the emphasis on chastisement and charity, as the church provided help to the poor and needy, but censure to those involved in what was regarded as moral turpitude.

The Kirk Session, made up of the Minister and the Elders of the parish, 
was the local court of the Church of Scotland,  set up after the Reformation  of 1560 and the break with the Catholic Church of Rome.  Its duties were to maintain good order amongst its congregation, administer discipline and supervise the moral and religious condition of the parish. 
The Minute Books recorded:

  • Detailed accounts of income and expenditure.
  • Appointments of church officials,
  • Reports on the parish relating to poor relief, and the parish school. 
  • Proclamations of banns, communion rolls, seat rent books and the hire of the mortcloths which was used to cover the coffin prior to burial.

An illustration of the Parish Church, demolished in 1891.
From the collection of Auld Earlston.

Below  are some random entries from the Kirk Session Records (1820-1901) for  the village of  Earlston, Berwickshire, in the Scottish Borders. 
  • 1st January 1843 - the Kirk Session agreed that:

    "The Sacrament of the Lord's Supper be dispensed on the second Sunday in February  and that the Thursday preceding shall be observed a day of humiliation but likewise as a day of thanksgiving  for the late abundant harvest".

  • 17th January 1843 - "Paid three pounds, thirteen shillings and sixpence to William Scott, Saddler, for harness, and one pound, four shillings and seven pence for laying the gas pipe from the street to the church."

  • 8th January 1861 -  the Session recorded the early history of the Parish School noting that it had opened the beginning of winter 1825. 
  • 24th November 1856  - "Mr Daniel Aitkenhead , who was lately chosen to be schoolmaster of the parish, the Session unanimously appointed to the office of Session Clerk. At the same time they appointed Mr Robert Smith to the office of Treasurer and Mr Adam Shortreed to be precentor."
  • Mr Aitkenhead's signature appears at the end of many of the minutes.   He went on to serve Earlston in varied  roles, dying in 1922 aged 90. A memorial in the churchyard, erected by his pupils and friends noted that he was "a scholar for whom the ancient classics were his delight,  a teacher of rare merit and a man to all the country dear".
  • 1st May 1864 - reflecting concern  for the poor, the young and the aged,   2/- was paid to a destitute family, 6/6 to a family for school fees, and 5/0 to Widow Watson.

  • Bags of coal were regularly distributed to the poor, many of whom were listed as widows.  The local press reported on this gift  to around 50 poor of the parish who each received about 10-15cwt of fuel, supplied by William Gray, coal agent at Earlston Station. It was noted that this Kirk bounty would be very welcome in the severe winter.   Below a list of recipients in 1901.

  • November 1862 saw a surprising entry which reflected the church's concern for a wider mission beyond the village,  with the decision that:
    "A collection be made in the church on Sunday, the 23rd instant  in aid of the distressed cotton weavers in Lancashire."
    This was at the time of the American Civil War when a blockade of ports in the Southern states meant that raw cotton supplies were not reaching Lancashire and workers at the mills were unemployed and facing hardship.
  • 4th December 1859 - the Kirk Session discussed  a £200 legacy  from William  Rutherford, spirit merchant of Bruntsfield Place, Edinburgh to be used "for the benefit of the poor".  £200 in 1859 is equivalent to about £19.000 today, so a huge sum. According to a newspaper report on the bequest, Mr Rutherford was "believed to be native of Earlston."

  • Two pages of accounts for 1864 noted payments to Robert Shillinglaw  (a church official}, the salary to the precentor increased to £10 per annum, for communion wine, and  the  cleaning of the church yard walls, - and a rather unusual entry for the supply of cod liver oil.

  • Income came from legacies, church collections, fees for proclamation of the banns, from fines,  and from the hiring of the hearse and mortcloth for burials. 

    It was customary for Kirk Sessions to hire out a mortcloth (funeral pall) to cover the coffin or corpse during the funeral service.  From the point of view of family historians, the Earlston records,  unfortunately, do not name  the deceased person.

  • Many entries abound with the church's concern for what was termed "ante-nuptial fornication". The notable feature of these records is the fact it is the woman who bears the brunt of the  "rebukes".

  • 7th May 1820 - it was confession time for Isabel Dunn - although she had had a child out of wedlock, she now wished to have her church privileges restored. Compassion was duly shown.
  • As late as 14th October 1901,  a woman was brought before the Kirk Session  to be questioned on her "sin of fornication and having a child out of wedlock". 
"Having confessed  in sorrow for her sins and resolution to walk through grace in newness of life, the Moderator after solemn admonition did in the name of the Kirk Session absolve her from the scandal of her sin  and restore her to the privileges of the church."

How attitudes have changed!

  • Parochial boards later took over responsibility for matters such as poor relief, with elected parish councils introduced in 1894.
  • The records are not  indexed by individual names, so you do have a trawl ahead of you  to find note of an ancestor -  having a reasonable date frame helps. 


K for Kindness, Keeping on an even Keel & Knuckling Down: A-Z Scotish Borders in Lockdown

A-Z Blogging Challenge 2021  - Scottish Borders in Lockdown    
Recording My Everyday Life  - A Picture for Future Generations  
I admit that I found the letter K a challenge in itself to write for - but here are some thoughts. 
KINDNESS - is a vital competent in us coping with Lockdown, and we can be so heartened by the smallest of kind gestures.  Think of:
  • The many gifts presented to health and care staff
  • The volunteers helping in food banks 
  • Neighbours helping neighbours in social isolation 
  • Local resilience groups helping with shopping, prescription collections and a regular phone chats etc.
    Coronavirus, Social Distance, Donate, Corona, Distance


KEEPING ON AN EVEN KEEL   - we are constantly reminded these days of the importance of mental health,  so think of whatever inspires us and makes us happy and relaxed - for me that can be a friendly phone call, favourite music, noticing nature, a good read on my KINDLE,  contact with KINDRED spirits  in my family history activities and trying to  KEEP FIT - emphasis on "trying"! 

KNUCKLING  DOWN - think about all those  tasks  we always meant to do, but said we never  have the time  - well in Lockdown we have (unless of course you are looking after children), whether it be gardening, DIY  decluttering, baking, writing  - and maybe  KNITTING etc. etc.  Think  how satisfying it will be to cross these off your "to do" list. 
KITH & KIN -  I like this phrase.  I somehow thought it was Scottish but the dictionary  says it dates from the 14th century and is of German origin, with "kith" meaning "of one's native  land", and  "kin" your family;  used now to mean simply "friends and family"  - so important to us in Lockdown.