Yesterday morning, after our Day Eight self-administered Covid test, we received a text from the National Health Service that we were free “to return to work.” I interpreted that to mean we were free in general. Off I went to tour the town.
We are in a wee village, surrounded by fields and hills, across the Tweed river from a slightly larger town, Melrose. From our rented cottage, I turned down a narrow road past the “Pink Cottage” and “Tweed Cottage” and “School Cottage,” to a tree-lined road past some grand estates and meadows, arriving at a small suspension bridge over the river where I took a dirt path towards the town center. People filled the cafes and shops. It was a jolt to be in larger company again.
Several gardens were open for visitors and I ducked in. The British are fervid gardeners and it shows. For a long while, I lingered in the fresh open air admiring their handiwork. In the rugby field a game was on, and across the street a small group in chain mail was having a joust. The ruins of an ancient Abbey loomed.
Like people with strong traditions everywhere, the Scots work hard to preserve theirs and thus distinguish themselves from the English down south. Haggis remains a popular item in the butcher’s, tweed and plaid line shop windows, and bagpipes are essential to every main event. Watching teens and dogs play in the Tweed on a hot afternoon, I enjoyed the pre-digital vibe and felt a spiritual kinship with the Scottish insistence on preserving their culture.
And yet, there are those winds of change, some not so good, as in the cherished biscuit brand McVitie’s closing down its Glasgow factory. Covid is putting pressure on the ruling party. Brexit is inflicting pain on traditional industries.
But that’s all for later consideration. It’s Sunday in the Scottish Borders. The gardens beckon.