The Watch

Hallowe’en, 2020

Hallowe’en

A full moon at Hallowe’en is most auspicious. Will it bring evil or good?

And how will people know it’s Hallowe’en? The clock is stuck at midnight.

They’ll look at their telephones. Or in the watchmaker’s window. People are not allowed out anyway. Witches and ghosts are less worrying than the 2020 pandemic.

It’s been broken for months.

Since Lockdown, I think.

Not as long as that. But it’s the longest the clock has ever been broken. It was running two minutes slow for years. I definitely couldn’t set my watch by it.

My dear, no-one wears a watch now. Do you still have yours?

Indeed. The pin is broken, so I keep it in my pocket. I’m too old fashioned!

We’ve experienced so much. Things change.

I must say, if people are unafraid of spirits I would not have guessed. There are lanterns and charms in every street.

They chase evil spirits from their doors, even though they don’t believe. They don’t know true darkness. We remember when night was lit by dim lamps, and the moon.

The boundary between life and death was more apparent. We could see it and feel it.

Since you have your watch, how long till midnight?

Only three minutes. The moon is so bright.


The clock is stuck at midnight

Mummy, look!

What is it, Derri? Have you found something?

It’s a tiny wee clock, Mummy. Can I keep it?

Let me see…

Oh, that looks old. We need to find out who it belongs to. It’s a watch. An old fashioned watch. Ladies used to pin them to their dresses. The fastening’s broken. It must’ve fallen off.


104 Year Old Watch Found

On Sunday 1st of November, seven year old Derri found what she thought was a small clock. It was actually a very old watch.

This paper has investigated and we’ve found it’s owner.

But solving one mystery has led us to another, even stranger puzzle.

The watch belonged to Agnes Sharp.

Agnes was born in 1895, and died of Spanish Flu in 1919.

Agnes’ parents gave her the watch as a 21st birthday gift.

Agnes and her husband were two of the millions of Spanish Flu victims. The pandemic swept across the world after World War One. Our current pandemic makes this local discovery even more affecting and poignant.

If you can help this newspaper trace Agnes’ descendants, please email us.


Slow Bread

Slow risen bread

Less rush, better flavour

Life can be all Rush! Hurry! Quick! How lovely it is to be slow. Making slow bread forces me to calm down, step out of the moment, take my time.

It also tastes particularly good.

Bread in a flowerpot

I baked my first loaf when I was seventeen. It probably wasn’t very good.

I had a big, thick, general cookbook – I wish I still had it! Purnell’s Complete Cookery.

I loved my first big cookbook

I really wanted to learn to cook. I genuinely didn’t have a clue. Someday I’ll tell you that story. Why I became interested in the bread chapter, I do not know. It jumped out at me so I gave it a go.

Now these were ancient times, also known as the late 1970s. Possibly dried yeast was available in specialist shops on fancy city streets. Not in the industrial West of Scotland. So I did as my book instructed. I went to the bakery.

That’s the actual bakery. Not the shop where I bought German Biscuits and Sugared Rolls. No, round the back where the bread and rolls were baked.

A block of yeast in a twist of greaseproof paper cost pennies. I became a regular customer at the bakery close to my work.

I have no idea where I bought bread flour. Strange to think how unusual such a product was. There was a Fine Fare near my office. (That was a supermarket) Since Fine Fare was the first place I ever saw aubergines, courgettes, peppers, maybe they had bread flour.

Anyway, home I went to bake my bread.

I liked the sound of a brown loaf that included treacle.

From the start I thought it couldn’t be right. Quite a few tablespoons of treacle. The dough was dark, dark brown and very sticky. Having no experience of bread making, I followed the recipe nonetheless. It baked into a nice little loaf, but so very sweet and dense. More like a cake.

I made the same loaf many times with only a little treacle!

Very soon I had bought more cookbooks and tried many recipes. Then a new book was published.

My Elizabeth David bread book

English Bread and Yeast Cookery by Elizabeth David

My education in bread making began the day I bought it.

It’s beside my bed now, as I wanted to re read it before baking bread to sell.

Bread needn’t be quick

And this is what I learned from Elizabeth David: slow bread can be the best bread. Less yeast is required, and you get such good results.

It’s a lesson I have to re learn periodically. Many times I have rushed home from work, mixed the ingredients and left my dough to rise. As I grow more and more tired, I get angry at the dough for not rising quickly. I’ll be up all night! I must add more yeast! The bowl is going on the radiator!

When I get annoyed with a bowl of bread dough, I remind myself that the best place for it to rise is the fridge; and the best time for it to be baked is the following day. Perhaps the following evening!

Third rise

There’s a time and place for speedy cooking and baking. But it’s not compulsory.

Slow bread is flavoursome bread.

Two loaves of my “slow” bread

Thank you for reading my blog. Please comment, especially if you have a bread making story.

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Holiday Dreaming

By Isla

Wish I was in Spain again

The summer of 2018 we went to Spain in July. I was 13 at the time and could not wait to go. We stayed for 10 days and each day was amazing.

Dreaming of my holiday

It was amazing. We had a massive villa with a pool and outdoor kitchen, and the most beautiful view. The villa wasn’t the best in every way, it definitely had its faults but I’ll not get into that.

Amazing view

As soon as we touched down at Alicante airport and started the journey to our villa in Benissa, I took in every single thing I saw. I just wanted to explore.

When we arrived at the villa one of the first things all of us did was put our swimming gear on and ran to the pool, all running on around 1 hours sleep. It was lovely but the heat was powerful. My grandparents, who we were on holiday with, were sun worshipers as well as my mum. But my dad, brother and me not so much. Due to this heat I got sunstroke – on the first day. Great.

Look at the pool!

The town nearest us was Moraira which was beautiful. It was quite small but filled with culture. In the middle of the streets was a lovely market with locally made products. Along the beach front were unique little restaurants and cafes. Then standing on its own was a castle, very different to the ones to be seen in Britain.

The beach
Sand and sea

Throughout the time we were there we made the journey to a near by town Xabia. I loved it there. There was enough night life were you wanting it, and if you wanted something more quiet then there was the old town.

There was more wildlife than I expected, a lot of which I was scared of. The wasps were huge and rather aggressive. There was also some kind of beetle that lived in the trees. They would make a strange noise every few hours and it was bizarre, We thought it was the electricity masts at first. But there were some nice parts to the wildlife, like the little lizards that seemed to be everywhere.

Lizard at twelve o’clock!!

I fell in love with this country for many things. Its culture, food, language, lifestyle and its people. I hope one day to go back and perhaps live there one day.

Spain – I love you!

By Isla, young assistant in my shop.

One Basket

Thank you for reading our blog. There are plenty of posts to enjoy

Jane Eyre

Lockdown Memory 2️⃣

I lost interest after the interrupted wedding.

Everything up till then, captivating. Then downhill all the way. Including “Reader, I married him.” I didn’t even notice the iconic ending when I was twelve. My memory of Jane Eyre is much darker.

The Aunt; the school; the Red Room.

Mainly the Red Room.

Oh, and I adored Blanche. I wanted to be Blanche.

Anyway, the Red Room. I’ve seen films and television adaptations of Jane Eyre. They must’ve depicted it. But the most horrific, the darkest, most troubling Red Room was in my mind.

The Aunt made me angry; the school made my spine tense. But nothing came close to the horror of the Red Room.

Blanche was perfect. I didn’t read the book in the way I would later, as an adult. I read it in pure black and white, as children do. I didn’t see Blanche as opportunistic; I didn’t realise her dislike of Jane came about because she was beggin’ of her, please don’t steal my man.

Blanche was beautiful, as were her clothes. Abusive partner Mr R was used to telling pretty women what to do. We found out what happened to his previous partner once she ceased to be Eye Candy.

The wedding, the brother in law (an actual hero, sticking up for his sister) interested me. Tense and excruciating. Then Jane ran away, and the story ended.

Except it didn’t.

Jane found a family, inherited money, and returned to her abusive boyfriend. Nah! It didn’t work for twelve year old me.

Jane Eyre affected me. I only loved half of it, but that half is perfect.

Thank you for reading my blog. You’ll probably enjoy my Musical Lockdown Memory.

Please leave a comment.

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Music Time

15 Year Anniversary

Music Time – Wrist Bells

Fifteen years ago I brought together a group of children and parents, and we sang. I had never put myself in such a scary position in my life. I was prepared to dash home and cry if it went badly.

In my loft I still have the first song sheet notes. Should I fetch them down?

I worked in a playgroup and had observed that every child, whatever their other preferences, loved song time. I had an idea to form a separate group for music.

I bought books about teaching music to under fives, and was really lucky to attend a session organised by the National Youth Choir of Scotland (NYCoS)

Musical instruments for children

The day came, I opened the door, families poured in. We sang, we banged tambourines and shook maracas. It was amazing.

Two months later, rather than finishing as I had expected, I made plans to restart after the summer.

It has been like this for fifteen years. Every June I ask myself, Will anyone come back after the holidays? You always do. It amazes me.

Andy & William love Music Time!

April 2020 was to be a month of celebrating our group’s 15th birthday. Instead it has been a month of sadness and worry because of COVID19. Celebrating has been far from my mind.

Whether Music Time ever starts up again is impossible to guess. Maybe it consisted of a beautifully formed, fifteen year project. Maybe we’ll take up where we left off.

If you have ever been part of the group, I would so love to hear from you in the comments.

If you’re as happy as you can be in current circumstances…

CLAP YOUR HANDS!

Making Coffee

My Easy Enamelware Pot Method

Making coffee in an enamelware pot is easy

Self catering holidays when my children were young could have been seriously exhausting. To see me through a fortnight of family life up close, I always took my Enamelware Coffee Pot.

Since we have become so used to filter machines, drip pots, espresso makers and French presses, have we forgotten the simplest method? A jug. So simple you can make coffee anywhere. Even by a campfire.

I love enamelware. I’ve been making coffee in enamelware pots since I was a teenager. It’s so easy, and you need no specialist equipment. If you have ground coffee, boiling water, a pot, and a little bit of patience, you can make delicious coffee any place, any time.

You don’t even need an enamelware pot. An old teapot, a charity shop china coffee pot, even a saucepan with a lid will do. But I’ll always opt for an enamel pot.

Enamelware coffee pot from Prague

Here’s my infallible method:

Step 1

Put the kettle on to boil. To warm the pot, put a little hot water in it, or run it under the hot tap. At very least don’t use it stone cold. Enamelware will lose heat, so there’s no point in being part of the problem.

Step 2

Put ground coffee in the pot. Any grind will do. No need to worry – use what you have. Even if it’s very fine or course, we’ll make it work in your pot. If you grind your own coffee, or have the choice when buying it, take a medium grind. The amount of coffee is up to you. First time you make it use the recommended measure. Next time you can add more or less.

Three Hills Coffee, roasted in the Scottish Borders

Step 3

Pour almost boiling water over the coffee, but only to just below the spout. Don’t be tempted to add more at this stage. You’ll need space for Step 5. The water should be “off the boil”, that’s to say, not bubbling. So boil the kettle as you gather together what you need. It will be perfect when you use it.

Enamelware coffee pots from Turkey

Step 4

Put the lid on, cover the pot with a tea cosy or a folded tea towel (that’s what I use) and leave for about 5 minutes. Don’t cheat. Listen to a couple of songs, read a short article, chop some vegetables. If you think you’ll get distracted, set a timer. More than five minutes is fine, but if you completely forget about the coffee it will go cold.

Step 5

Now you have to do some work.
You’ll need more boiling water soon, so have that ready.
Stir the coffee for a full 2 minutes. It will seem like a long time but keep going. It’s worth the effort. You will see and feel the grains sinking, and the liquid will begin to look clearer.
When you’ve stirred all you can, fill the pot to the brim with boiling water, put the lid on, cover, and leave for a few minutes.

Step 6

Take the lid off and stir again, briefly. Cover and leave for a few more minutes. If you have stirred as instructed, you won’t even need to strain the coffee. Handy if you can’t find that strainer you thought was at the back of a drawer! However if you don’t want to risk the occasional piece of ground coffee sneaking into your cup, strain.

A perfect cup of black coffee

Do you take milk or sugar? I take my coffee black.

I hope you enjoy reading my blog, and drinking your coffee.

You may also enjoy my Instagram

Please let me know if you try my easy method for making coffee.

Dog Hair Care

By Flynn and Doris

Flynn’s POV –

Flynn’s Dog Hairstyle

I’m seeing more of my human family than usual – they call it Lockdown. Thank goodness they’re leaving my hair alone!

My favourite thing ever is sitting outdoors in a breeze. I love to feel the wind in my hair. Don’t humans know that cutting my hair = ruining my life? They have zero empathy. I tell them clearly to leave me alone, but do they listen?

Let me keep my fuzzy ears and crinkly beard forever.

Border Terriers: born to have wild hair.

River Walk

With Flynn, Border Terrier

Languid river walk

To keep my head above water at this unsettling time I take Flynn, my Border Terrier, on a river walk.

The River Tweed, as it flows through Kelso, is captivating in any weather.

If you visit Kelso, definitely take a river walk.

Flynn loves the River

Stay home for now.

Soap

Wash Your Hands

Soap Bars

Never did I think I would sell soap and shampoo bars.

Two years ago, before I knew they were a thing, my friend asked if I sold shampoo bars. Challenge accepted!

Friendly Soap Bars

At first I only sold Friendly Soap’s range. My customers really liked them.

Then, through Instagram, I discovered Superfly.

Superfly Soaps – wash your hands!

Lisa makes lovely, vegan friendly, natural soaps which my customers love.

Wash your hands” is more important than ever, so it’s a great time to start using quality soap bars.

Sensitive, great for frequent hand washing

Please ask me if you’re intrigued and would like to order a bar of Superfly Soap.

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Thanks for reading today’s post.

Nature Walk

Nature Walk – Celandine

In difficult times, a Nature Walk lifts the spirits.

Celandine, also known as “Is that a buttercup?”.

Probably appears unappreciated in normal years. One of many natural wonders that blends into general “Spring flowers”.

Mandarin Duck on the River Tweed, Scotland

On the River Tweed as it flows through Kelso, we have a resident mandarin duck. It swims with numerous mallards, geese and swans; one of a kind.

Nature keeps on naturing.

Nature Walk – Butterbur

And because Flynn doesn’t like to be forgotten…

Flynn, Border Terrier, by the River Tweed