“I’ve just thought,” says ActorLaddie, adjusting his rucksack on the platform. “That’s the first time she’s travelled on the underground.”
GrannieBorders would have like that. Being amused was her default setting. She was an easy audience: anything out of the ordinary would simply make her laugh. We are talking here about someone who once claimed their favourite film was On the Buses.
We trudge through Kings Cross station to wait for the Berwick train. We’re taking GrannieBorders home. ActorLaddie hitches up the rucksack which contains the bag with contains the bluebell decorated tube. It’s surprisingly weighty.
“Do you want me to take a turn with that?” I ask. He shakes his head.
“She ain’t heavy; she’s my …” he starts to reply, then catches himself. GrannieBorders would have laughed at that too. She wouldn’t have understood it; the Hollies being what she would have described as ‘too moderrrrrrrrn’ but she’d have laughed.
Waves of sadness come from left field. I was given three enormous bouquets of birthday flowers last week. They eventually fitted into the front basket but as I cycled home, it must have looked pretty weird. I suddenly thought ‘this would have made her laugh’; then had to stop and push for a bit.
I am writing this blog on the train coming back from the Borders. Sunday morning: to be precise; we’re just going over the Tyne. The journey up on Friday – my birthday – thank you very much – was punctuated by texts to and from Joshua, who is buying our house, and calls to our respective solicitors in a joint attempt to get the legal folk to exchange contracts and finalise a moving date. As we unpacked at Kelso, the call came through that we are moving on Tuesday week. That’s just ten days. Heck.
Saturday morning, we went to Lily’s house. Lily was GrannieBorders’s best friend from childhood, having grown up together on the same country estate. Barely a week went by when they didn’t speak to each other and, for many years, Lily would come and Grannie-sit in the summer while we took a holiday.
Lily is a demon with the patchwork; her house is basically fully quilted. And though she is now wobbly on her pins, her memory is still needle sharp. She’d gathered some old photos: the entire school assembled in the playground under the beady eye of the ill-named Miss Jolly, who used to fall asleep in the afternoons. In this photo, GrannieBorders is in the top row on the left; Lily is third from the right at the bottom, both with curls from the rags they used to wind into their hair at night.
This was their primary school, of course and the building is still there, though now a community centre. We visited later in the day together with GB’s sister, AuntBorders and ActorLaddie’s Cousin. AB pointed out where the school toilets used to be: some distance away from the building itself, close to the smithy. Trips to the loo were a serious business in those days.
“And that’s the path we used to walk down to the house.”
“That must have been lovely,” said ActorLaddie, looking at the path wending through woods and countryside.
“Not in the winter, it wasn’t,” AuntBorders told him. “Especially when the snow was deep. You couldn’t clear the path so we had to just walk on top of the snow.”
We all went to Bowden Kirk, a tiny building: very old, very beautiful. AuntBorders and Lily pointed out the pews where they used to sit during those interminably serious Sundays.
Some of the ashes were scattered round a tree in the churchyard. Then AuntBorders led us to an old bridge where she and GrannieBorders used to cross the Tweed: very peaceful, skirted by woods and hills. The water is amazingly clear at this spot with the odd splash as the salmon – and now GrannieBorders – make their way home.
Lily was full of anecdotes from their childhood, most which will have to be the stuff of another blog. Kings Cross is drawing nearer and then we’ve packing to do.
Just one image, to keep you going. The local secondary school was apparently considered too rough by their families. So at eleven, Lily and GrannieBorders started cycling to schools about seven miles away. We loved it, Lily told us. You’d push your bike to the top of the hill, then take off, sitting back nonchalantly with your hands in your pockets, leaning from side to side to steer through the turns, rag-curled hair flying behind.
That’s how to take the week ahead with its packing, hospital visits, report-writing and work: leaning back, hands in pockets; amused.