On Being Ardent
At my first guest house in Melrose, mein host breenged into the dining room while I was enjoying the full Scottish breakfast. He apologised for not greeting me the night before, explaining that he and his wife had been at a wedding in Edinburgh which had turned out to be really awful. I acknowledged that funerals were often more enjoyable. The worst part, he continued, was finding himself seated next to an SNP supporter during the dinner. “The thing about these SNP people is that they are so ardent.” he confided.
I couldn’t help glancing at the Union Jack cushions on his sofa.
Wooler was sacked twice by the Scots in the 14th Century, but on this warm Tuesday afternoon in June it showed every sign of having recovered its drowsy composure. Having just walked 17 miles from Kirk Yetholm over the foothills of the Cheviots, I felt in need of some refreshment. I repaired to a pub on the High Street.
“The Wainwright Ale is very popular with walkers.” offered the teenage barmaid helpfully.
“It looks as if it’s off.” I observed skeptically.
“Aye.” she conceded.
“Will it be on again later?” I ventured.
“No. We’ve run out.” she admitted.
“I’ll have a pint of Kronenberg.” I said glumly.
Fenham Hill Crossing
The final approach to Lindisfarne involves crossing the East Coast main line. I picked up the phone at the crossing and said to the signalman: “There are three of us here at the St. Cuthbert’s Way crossing. Is it safe for us to cross?”
“I need the name of the crossing.” said the signalman. “Crivens!” I thought. “It’s the ONLY crossing, but I’ve no idea what it’s called.” This was becoming a lot more difficult than I had anticipated.
“It’s where the St. Cuthbert’s Way crosses the line.” I said lamely.
“I need the name of the crossing.” repeated the signalman. “It’s on the notice on the phone.”
Frantically scanning the small print, I spotted a place name and read it to the signalman. “No. That’s where I am.” he said in the tone of someone beginning to lose patience with a half-wit.
Reading on, I came upon the name ‘Fenham Hill’ and tried that.
“That’s it.” he said. “Do you see a train coming?”
Repeating the question to the Swedish couple with me, I was beginning to wonder whether we might have the advantage on him. They craned their necks in both directions and then shook their heads.
“No.” I said.
“There should be a train coming from the south.” said the signalman, with what sounded like less than absolute conviction.
My companions became animated and started pointing southwards.
“Oh yes. Here it comes!” I conceded.
“You can cross once it’s passed.” said the signalman.
On the other side if the tracks, I picked up the phone to report that we had crossed safely. The signalman said that the warning tone he was hearing suggested that I had not returned the other phone to its cradle properly. I was pretty sure that I had.
“OK. Is it safe to go back?” I asked testily.
“Aye, go on.” was the laconic reply.
I scuttled hastily back over the tracks to find the other phone nestling comfortably on its cradle. I gave it a grumpy shoogle to make sure and dashed back across the line.