Turning Point

The tent (and the Austin Cambridge)

A Kelso Story

The second time I came to Kelso it had turned backwards. I’ll tell you about that later

They say if you’re going to move to a town, first see it in the rain. Unplanned, that’s what I did

Should we move here?

Maybe for a few years?

Babies were born. I made friends in early years groups and at school gates. My children “Spoke Kelsae” with a wee hint of their origins as an Incomer’s Baby—like many of their friends

Back to the rainy day…

Our car was parked outside Freshwater’s florist. We wanted something to eat but couldn’t see through the wet windscreen. I think that’s when we found John Scott’s baker, just round the corner

So yes, I moved to Kelso in 1987. “For a few years.” I’ve spent most of my life here

_ _ _ _ _

The first time I came to Kelso I was fourteen. My parents had bought a fancy tent with sleeping areas and a canopy. I’d never slept in a tent before. In the style of all belligerent fourteen year olds, I hated it and made my hatred known

My parents, thinking I would be less teenager-ish if I was involved in choosing our destination, handed me the booklet of campsites in Scotland. I was to pick our next holiday

I’ve no idea what thought processes I used. Probably none. My finger landed on Kirk Yetholm

I don’t remember arriving at the site. I’m sure I didn’t help with putting up the tent. I do remember a horse in the next field

My mum’s cousin, born and bred in Ayr, was married to a psychiatric nurse. He worked in this part of Scotland so I think it must’ve been Dingleton. Since we were in the area, my parents arranged to meet their relatives. We stopped in Kelso for a look round on our way to wherever they lived

My brother and I stood at the door of Kelso town hall, looking over at a row of shops. You’re saying, that’s exactly how it is. But I promise you, when fourteen year old me stood in Kelso Square, the Town Hall was where Hastings is now

_ _ _ _ _

The third time I came to Kelso there was no rain, and the Town Hall was where it should be. Knowing my memory tricked me, I like to wonder how Kelso had reversed. I can still see the town both ways

Which may be a metaphor

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Thank you for reading my Kelso story. I’m in with the woodwork now! You can see me most days in my shop, One Basket, in Horsemarket

I originally wrote this for Visit Scotland, Year of Stories

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Grandparents

Shopkeeping – a family business

Unusually, I didn’t have grandparents

Well obviously I had grandparents, else I wouldn’t exist. It’s complicated

As a child I knew of two grandmothers and one grandfather

Grandmother 1 was known as Gran in hospital. She couldn’t talk, write, walk or even sit up. She’d had a stroke when I was five years old. There was nothing to be done for stroke sufferers. Grandmother 1 was called Annie. She lay in a hospital bed for seventeen years

Annie – Grandmother 1

Grandmother 2 never had children. She was our step grandmother, our dad having lost his mum when he was three years old. His dad remarried, but not until many years later. Grandmother 2 was called Jenny. My strongest memory of her is a collection of porcelain budgies. You read that right

Grandfather was in the RAF when my dad was little. When I knew him, he worked in engineering. When his wife died young their son, my dad, was mainly raised by his grandmother and his “unmarried” aunt – there’s a qualifier we can live without

Grandfather, who should be referred to as Grandfather 1, was called Allan. He was the youngest of a large family, which led to us having numerous second cousins

Allan – Grandfather 1,
and Jenny – Grandmother 2

These are the three known grandparents. Now I’ll move on to the unknowns. Sally and Jack

Sally died young. I can neither remember nor rediscover her cause of death. I do remember being told it could have been easily treated had antibiotics been available. They weren’t. Sally died leaving a three year old child, a widower, and an extended family newly liable for raising a wee boy

Grandmother 3, Sally: a grandmother who never aged

Sally – Grandmother 3 – with her family

Jack was never mentioned. My mother’s family emigrated to Canada when she was an infant. Several aunts, uncles and cousins emigrated together

A few years later, Annie – Grandmother 1 – returned to Scotland with her three children, no husband. Jack, Grandfather 2, stayed in Canada

One Christmas, I was seventeen, all the cards were on my parents’ sideboard. I read them, looked at the pictures, including one from my mum’s Aunt May in Canada

How can I describe my feelings as I read the short note inside? Shock; sadness; anger; distress; almost grief? It went something like this:

“Your dad has been unwell but he’s on the mend”

Your dad. That’s my mother’s father. My grandfather. Grandfather 2

No-one ever said he was dead. I had simply assumed. I grew up unaware that I had a living grandparent who had never been acknowledged – had never acknowledged me or my brother

Canadian relatives had visited my family. Had they spoken of Jack in secret? Not mentioned him at all?

Grandfather 2, Jack: a grandfather over whom a curtain had been drawn

One of them is Jack – Grandfather 2

So there it is. I had no grandparents, despite having five

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Thank you for reading my stories. I enjoy writing them

Visit my shop, One Basket, 46A Horsemarket, Kelso

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See you again soon

Macaroni Tuesdays

Macaroni

Every Tuesday morning I brought out my large oven dish, and set about making macaroni cheese

At Kelso High School lunch hour, a posse of teenagers came through my door, ready to eat the lot

I had a rough idea of how many there would be, but made extra to be sure

Now I look at the dish and wonder how long it would take my household to eat its full quota of mac and cheese. Maybe a week?

The teenagers are nearly thirty years old now. I wonder if any of them remember my macaroni

Thanks for reading. Visit my shop or my Instagram:

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Automatically Sunshine

Dedicated to Mary Wilson

Do you know what an Austin Cambridge was?

Automatically Sunshine?

This Austin Cambridge was our family car when I was a thirteen year old, awkward teenager

Holding my brand new transistor radio, in the back seat of that car, I was waiting for the ferry and our family holiday. It was a sunny day

The DJ on BBC Radio One introduced The Supremes singing Automatically Sunshine

Now this wasn’t classic Supremes

This wasn’t Diana Ross

This was Mary Wilson, Jean Terrell and Cindy Birdsong

Fin de ciecle Supremes

My life rather changed that day. Sunshine was never again Automatic

__________

I will tell you more about that summer, and how I changed, in future posts

Do you enjoy reading my stories? I love writing them. My day job is shopkeeping

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Fine Fare

Fine Fare sold LPs

Second Instalment

Other supermarkets and grocers in the 1970s sold food, washing powder, aluminium foil… Fine Fare was in a different league

The shop looked gigantic. My mum used the two Self Serve grocers in town. They weren’t much bigger than a corner shop. One of my “Aunt Marys” (my dad’s cousin) worked in the grocery. I’ll tell you about both my “Aunt Marys” in another post if you like?

Fine Fare opened the year I started secondary school. My mum made the first visit, came home full of enthusiasm, so we had to get down there

Now this was the early 1970s. Shops were not open after tea time. Fine Fare broke the mould – they were open late

Late, but not in a way we’d recognise in 2022. Late meant 6 o’clock most days, with wildly decadent, Friday late night shopping till 7 o’clock

So a family outing to Fine Fare was arranged. It must’ve been early winter, almost my birthday, since I remember choosing gifts

My birthday presents that year were:

1. A rubber plant (true fact!)

2. A patchwork suede shoulder bag (I wanted the suede patchwork skirt – it must’ve been too expensive)

A year later I was a music obsessed teenager with a particular liking for T.Rex

Fine Fare sold 99p compilation records at the check out. I bought the one pictured above

Later in my teens, Fine Fare was the place I shopped for groceries, including products I had only read about. But you’ll have to keep reading for those stories

Thank you for reading. I hope you enjoy my reminiscences

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Monaural

Lucky me

When you’re told, age nine, how lucky you are, you accept it.

When you question your “luck”, age 50, you feel ungrateful.

When you see an Ear, Nose and Throat consultant for a nosebleed, age 59, and he says he’ll investigate your unilateral hearing loss, you are shocked.

This is the first time in 45 years that a medic has shown any interest.

All that remains in my medical records – all that remains of the hearing tests, appointments with specialists, trips to hospital that took me out of school – is a letter signing me off.

We can’t help. Don’t call us, we’ll call you.

Well I wasn’t lucky.

Overnight I lost all hearing in my left ear. It never came back. My life has been adversely affected by monaural hearing. I’m not lucky.

Every day, every minute, I mitigate for my loss of hearing. Let me show you.

You go out with friends for a meal. It’s a rectangular table with ten chairs, five on each side. Where do you sit?

Beside your partner? Opposite your closest friend? Near someone you feel sorry for? Or simply the seat to which you’re directed? It’s your choice.

At that same table, there are only two chairs I can sit at.

I have never heard stereo.

My world is in mono.

You go to the cinema or theatre. You choose a good seat with the best view.

I choose the seat farthest to the left hand side of the room, whether or not I can see.

You’re outside, someone calls your name. You turn towards their voice and wave.

Wherever a person is shouting from, they’re at my right shoulder. The only way to find the voice is to turn on the spot, round in a circle, till I see them.

Don’t shout me. I’ve no idea where you are.

Stop, look, listen.

I’ll stop and I’ll look. No point listening, as all traffic noise comes from my right hand side. Better that I look again – and again, just in case.

In a new workplace you spend the first few days getting used to the layout and your colleagues.

In addition I have to learn the acoustics of the building, where I hear best, where it’s impossible to listen to speech.

You know that look on a person’s face when you misheard them, and answered the “wrong” question?

That’s me every day. Someone looking at me, judging me for not listening.

I was trying my best. I’ve been trying my best for decades. I’m so exhausted, trying my best.

“What’s your right side?”, people who know of my hearing loss ask. They know I can’t hear as we walk unless they’re on my “good” side.

But no-one ever remembers. Never since age nine has anyone remembered which side to walk at. Yes, on a familiar road, because a habit is formed. Not in a different environment. Because I’m lucky. I can still hear. Because it can’t be that bad, otherwise something would have been done about it.

The truly annoying comments – Oh I know exactly how you feel. My ears often block when I get a cold.

You have absolutely no idea how it feels to have permanent unilateral hearing loss. But hey, I’ll smile as usual and you can feel good about your empathy.

And by the way, my sudden hearing loss was probably caused by measles or mumps. No vaccine back then. We had to catch those diseases.

And some of us were lucky. It could have been so much worse.

Lifelong monaural hearing loss

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.

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Lockdown as a teenager (Q&A)

An Inter-Generational Conversation

Teenager in Lockdown – art therapy

Anne: Are there aspects of the lockdown that are better than you thought?

Isla: This whole situation we are in is so strange and as a teenager myself I am finding it hard.

Are there aspects that are worse than you thought?

It’s a shock from being able to go out with your friends and be free to have fun, to be in what feels like prison.

When lockdown first was put in place, I did panic and worried about what I would do with all this time, but now more so about my exams.

Do you organise your day, or just deal with what turns up?

After a few days I started to relax as it’s out of my control on what’s happening. But I was still finding it hard to keep busy as there was little to do.

About a week in I decided to try and get back into art, so I designed my own unique pair of jeans and then tried some painting designs that I had never done before.

Art is helping through the Lockdown

Do you feel more or less anxious than you did when the lockdown started?

At the current moment in time I am actually okay, obviously I’m bored but its manageable. There are some downsides though, for example siblings.

Being stuck with a 6 year old 24/7 really gets to you. Currently we can’t seem to last more than 20 minutes together without arguing.

Have some of your friends lost their jobs?

It’s also very annoying that for many adults there are aspects of work they can do from home, but for most teenagers they can’t do that and many have lost thier jobs as businesses can’t now afford young, less experienced people to be working for them.

All age groups are rediscovering their creativity

Thanks Isla. I’m always interested in your point of view. It helps to see things from a totally different angle.