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After a great deal of time, I’m back!

I hadn’t realised quite how long it had been since I last put something onto my webpage. There are no excuses: well, I have a few and I’ll start by trying to share some of them with you.

I suppose that the hard slog of trying to put something on my blog each day just got too much for me and then I took on some additional responsibilities. First, at the start of 2015, I agreed that I would become Clerk to the Presbytery of Duns for a one year period to allow the presbytery to have time to find a new, permanent clerk. That didn’t quite work out as planned and I am still Presbytery Clerk.

Second, the presbytery planning process ran into a small problem which resulted in one tiny congregation requiring to be taken into the Guardianship of Presbytery. It required a minister (technically an interim moderator), there was no money available to pay one, I live close to the little village church and, as Clerk, I felt responsible. So in September 2016 I took on responsibility for looking after this tiny church. It has been fun and there will be more about this to come. The picture at the head of this entry is a picture of the church in question. It is called Fogo Parish Church and is extremely old. A notice at the church gate says that there has been worship here since the twelfth century and inside, the box-pews of ‘soon-after-the-reformation’ times are still used today.

Third, I gradually settled down into a retired ‘elderly gentleman mode of living’. I took up playing golf (still not very well — but there will be more of this to come). I continued to watch cricket at Durham. With Rachel I attend the theatre at Berwick-upon-Tweed and quite regularly have set out for trips to the Globe in London or the Royal Shakespeare Company in Stratford-upon-Avon. We go for trips on Rachel’s narrow-boat and Tom and I are engaged in getting Olivebank ready (with a new outboard motor) to be launched at Amble Marina in Northumberland.

Fourth, Tom and I are still working through our programme of building works at Mount Pleasant. Everything is going very much more slowly now that I have so many other Church responsibilities but we still hope to get everything completed before our bodies give out! At present we are working on the final phases of the Hen House — and there will be more of this to come as well.

Finally, we have our four dogs and they take up a great deal of time. Mix, my rescue dog, is now thirteen and he has three sisters: Rowan and Daisy (both of whom are four and were born twenty minutes apart) and their sister Bramble who is two. You will hear much more of them if you continue to follow this web site.

Rachel and I live in our converted granary, next to the farm house in which my mother, sister Olive and brother-in-law Digger live. We are a happy community — all of us content to be officially retired except for Rachel who is now running a kilt school with her friend Ann. The aim is to pass on the skills of traditional craft kilt-making and they all have a great deal of fun.

So that’s where we are and I hope you will enjoy learning something of our adventures as the weeks go by.

A Boys’ Day Out to Visit Amble Marina

On Thursday 16th. October, 2014 Tom, David and I set out to visit Amble Marina.

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The purpose of our trip was to find somewhere suitable to berth Olivebank next season. We are going to do quite a lot of work on her over the winter and it helps to know that once the work has been done there will be a berth awaiting her.

We are also still a bit bruised and battered after our concreting activities and are still awaiting a delivery of wood. In other words, we are in need of a day out!

David drove us south in his Jaguar so we travelled in comfort. Tom had his stopwatch running. We weren’t travelling fast and we weren’t in any hurry, but we did want to know how long it would take so we could consider that when we decided where to berth Olivebank.

In fact it took seventy-nine minutes, door to door. Our first view of the marina was a good one. It was everything a marina needed to be — lots of pontoons, all with security access, each with sufficient room for manoeuvring a yacht, and a clear way out to the sea.

The marina was almost full, even at this time of the year so I wasn’t sure that we would have any chance of getting a berth. We approached the office and were greeted in an extremely friendly manner. We were asked for details of our boat and we chatted about where we had sailed before and our experience of other marinas — limited really to Port Edgar, Inverkip and Rhu (all very different).

As an aside I really enjoyed all three of those marinas. Port Edgar was a former naval base and still had all of the Nissen huts in which I did much of the theory when I started sailing. It was friendliness personified and had a great little café (with glorious fry-ups) and a sophisticated chandlery. It was easy to sail from at any state of the tide and a glorious place to start.

Inverkip was much posher. We were there because Ianthe was bought there and we enjoyed our time. There was a wonderful restaurant ( more than a bit more expensive than at Port Edgar) and another good chandlery. It was fun to belong to Inverkip for a couple of seasons.

Rhu was close to where we lived at Luss, and here we were on a mooring. But again I couldn’t fault the friendliness nor the service we received. It had fewer facilities, a very small chandlery and no place to eat — but as we were close to home, none of that mattered at all.

We were told that there was a pontoon which could be available for us and we went and had a look at it. It looked super and everything looked extremely well organised and cared for.

We visited the toilets and saw the excellent shower facilities. I bought a copy of the local pilot book to study back at home and I cast my eye over the small chandlery facility which is provided at the marina.

There is no restaurant at Amble Marina but the small town is right on the doorstep and it abounds with great facilities. To check them out we wandered into the town and within ten minutes we were seated at a table in the Sea Salt restaurant preparing to get thoroughly tucked-in to an all-day breakfast which was of epic proportions and was served in a frying pan (which ensured that it stayed hot right to the last bite).

Sometimes my colleagues try to disassociate themselves from the breakfasts I enjoy so it is worth pointing out that in the picture in the gallery at the head of this post you will clearly see that there are three identical breakfasts on the table — I did not eat them all myself!

We made our way back to the marina by way of the High Street (there are some good shops including a large ironmongery and several food shops) and at the marina we handed back the pass which they had given to us to explore. (We didn’t actually hand it back as the office was closed, so we put it through the letter-box.)

Then we set off north passing, on the way, Warkworth Castle (which is just crying out to be visited) and crossing a very attractive bridge out of town.

Instead of driving home, we continued north to Eyemouth to see what kind of facilities it could offer us, and how much it would cost. We found our way to the harbour master’s office only to discover that he was on holiday but we were welcomed (and there is no other word for it) by his secretary who assured us that the harbour master would do everything he could to fit us in, should we wish. It would be easier to get a serviced berth (much more expensive and not really suitable for Olivebank which requires no electricity or water) but it was not out of the question to get squeezed into the unserviced berth area.

Eyemouth is a big commercial harbour, geared, naturally, more to fishing boats and commercial activities than little leisure boats but it would be a fun place to be and is much closer to home than driving down to Northumberland.

We had a good look around and I thought that this might be a good base for Ianthe once she is able to return to the water. I am not sure about Olivebank, however. I’m not sure that there really would be a saving of time because we might well have to disentangle her from her spot rafted up with other boats in the harbour each time before we could put to sea.

I must also confess that I quite fancy the luxury of a traditional modern marina with its pontoons and showers and so on. I also took comfort from the fact that at Amble there were so many sailing boats — not just within the marina itself but at the two sailing clubs which moor close by: Coquet Sailing Club and Amble Sailing Club.

Reading through the Pilot there are so many places to visit around Amble and, now that I am retired, it would be easy to spend the night down at the boat before (perhaps) carrying on for a short distance to Chester-le-Street to watch some cricket! Ah, how my life is panning out.

There will have to be some hard thinking over the coming days, but what a good day out we enjoyed and now there is a real incentive to get Olivebank ready to sail as soon as we possibly can. What an adventure!

A Visit to the Heavy Horse Show at Hay Farm, Etal

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On Saturday 11th. October, 2014 we went to the Heavy Horse Show at Etal.

It was Tom’s idea. He suggested to me that we take our Australian friends and join Tom and Dorothy in visiting the little village of Etal about half an hour south of here in England for its annual show.

I put it to Ewen and Jane and they thought that it would be a good thing for them to see. They had to leave us today so they would come with us to Etal and then continue on their way on the next stage of their holiday in Scotland.

I should introduce Ewen and Jane a little bit better. We got to know them when I was minister at Luss. There our Sunday service was broadcast on the internet and Jane and Ewen in Australia made up part of our world-wide congregation.

I remember so well the first time that they came to visit us in Luss. We didn’t know them at all but they knew all of us from sharing with us on the screens of their computers. We held a dinner party for them in Luss and invited all of the folk who normally took part in the services — Ewen and Jane knew us all by name and also quite a bit about us just from having shared with us over quite a period of time.

It was special to have them with us on that Sunday in Luss worshipping in the Church which they normally watched from afar. It was also special to have them plant a tree in the glebe as a reminder of their visit.

Well, Ewen and Jane have been in Scotland on holiday this year and they spent some time with us in our home here at Mount Pleasant.

If you have followed my blog — www.mountpleasantgranary.net — then Tom and Dorothy will need no introduction. I married them in Arrochar soon after I arrived there, Tom was my beadle in Luss for ten years, and both of them have been friends for as long as I can remember. In fact I actually met Tom for the first time when he was on a submarine in Genoa which I had to visit when I was port chaplain in the 1970s.

Well, after breakfast we all set off for Etal for the show. I had never been to a Heavy Horse Show so I had no idea what to expect.

In fact what we saw was heavy horses, Clydesdales, doing their thing at a farm called Hay Farm which specialises in heavy horses and which seems to have something for visitors to see almost all around the year. But this is a special once-a-year event.

One field was given over to parking (all beautifully organised by the local air training corps, or so it seemed to me). One field was being used by the heavy horses. There were single horses and pairs engaged in ploughing, and one horse which was occupied in harrowing. This latter was drawing attention because the owner was encouraging members of the public to have a shot of controlling the horse and Ewen was keen to take advantage of this opportunity.

So it was that Ewen marched down the field behind Lion as they harrowed. Ewen looked very good and even managed a fancy turn while he was in charge.

Meanwhile there was an opportunity to visit the other horses in their stables, each stable clearly identifying the name and particular talents of its occupier.

There was a large area given over to craft activities and stalls selling everything from sweets to jewellery, from cards to dying kits for treating fleeces (Rachel purchased one of these). Rachel also spoke for a long time to two ladies who were clearly expert spinners while I enjoyed being outside watching a blacksmith at work, seeing a builder working with lime cement while pointing an old barn, and looking at various old pieces of agricultural machinery and, among it all, an old penny-farthing bicycle!

We had coffee, some had hog-roast rolls and some enjoyed some of the sweets on offer, and all too soon Jane and Ewen had to set off on their journey. It has been great to have them with us twice during this holiday.

We had been joined at Hay Farm by my sister Olive and her husband Digger. They now left to go shopping in Berwick while Tom, Dorothy, Rachel and I decided to travel on a few minutes to visit the Estate Village of Ford (we might have visited Heatherslaw which boasts a small gauge railway and a working corn mill powered by water — the only one in Northumberland as its web-site proudly proclaims). But time was limited and so we decided to visit Ford.

At Ford we visited first the Forge. This is a now disused-as-a-forge cottage which has been set up as an antique shop. The bellows are still there and the roaring fire (which was lit), and it is staffed by delightful folk who make one’s visit a real pleasure. One really notable feature is the shape of the front door — a horseshoe.

Next we wandered down the main street until we came to the Lady Waterford Hall. We went in and found a charming guide who turned a quick look in to the hall to a full scale and memorable visit. Susan (or Susie) I think her name was.

She told us that Lady Waterford (Louisa) had married Lord Waterford who was the love of her life but who was killed in a riding accident in the mid nineteenth century. The main family lands were in Ireland but Louisa was left the Ford estate in her husband’s will. She was forty when Lord Waterford died and she devoted the rest of her life to improving the lot of her tenants here in Ford.

The old run-down estate cottages were removed and new homes created where they now are. A nurse was employed and given accommodation (and it was a condition, set down by Louisa, that tenants were not to give her refreshments when she visited because this was a drain on their limited finances).

Most notably, Louisa caused the hall which bears her name to be built and this became a school for the local people in a time when education was not yet compulsory. She wanted the school hall to be a special place and, having real artistic gifts which had been developed by her European tours when she was younger, Louisa set about decorating the hall with paintings which she did herself. It took her twenty-one years but it is still a work of art today. Down one side are illustrated stories from the Old Testament, Cain and Abel, Jacob and Esau, Moses, Samuel — nine murals in all. On the other are people from the New Testament leading to two special murals — Jesus among the doctors of the law in the Temple in Jerusalem, and Jesus blessing the children.

What makes all of these pictures unique is that Louisa used the local folk from the estate as the models for the pictures — adults and children, they are all there.

We started in a small room off the main hall where we watched a short video introducing us to Louisa and her life and then we walked around the former school and enjoyed the pictures and the stories of the people represented. It is really worth visiting and it is good to find a place so close which is so worth visiting.

Outside we looked down the main street to the statue of an angel on a pillar, Louisa’s gift in memory of her husband. From there the road continues to her castle. But for us our trip was over, we had to retrace our steps to the car and set off home for Mount Pleasant after a very happy day with friends.

 

 

Our Trip to London to visit The Globe Theatre

On Wednesday 1st. October, 2014 Rachel and I set off on an adventure to visit The Globe Theatre in London.

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It had been a long time coming — I had started to plan the day soon after I was given some theatre tokens as a gift after I had conducted a wedding for two very special friends.

Why not take Rachel down to London to see The Globe, I thought. Theatre has been her life and yet she has never been there before.

And then everything began to grow. If we are going for one performance, why not stay for two — there was one in the afternoon and one in the evening. But wouldn’t it be very expensive? I discovered that if one was prepared to stand then tickets were only £5 each. But daft to stand after such a long journey. And the cost of travel? I discovered that if one booked three months ahead it costs very, very little to get a train to London, twelve or thirteen pounds or thereabouts (with a Senior Citizen’s railcard) and one can return in style in a sleeper for only thirty-six pounds — what a bargain!

So I booked the seats and bought the tickets. In the afternoon we would see one of the first comedies written by Shakespeare: The Comedy of Errors, and in the evening, one the great Roman tragedies: Julius Caesar.   I arranged that we would dine between shows at the Swan, the restaurant within the campus of The Globe Theatre and named after another early theatre.

Olive and Digger (my sister and her husband) and my Mum kindly agreed to care for the dogs, Mix and Rowan, and so it was that having set our alarms for 4.15 a.m. we were up, showered and away to Berwick by five in the morning.

It only takes fifteen to twenty minutes to drive to Berwick and our train was not until six but we had to drive into the centre of Berwick to park the car as we would be away for more than twenty-four hours and thus could not park in the station car park.

Our train arrived at six and our booked seats were waiting for us. I was intrigued to discover that the train went all the way to Kings’ Cross but we had to change at Newcastle. Why was that? I asked the inspector. ‘Oh’, he said, ‘you just get off the train, stand where you are on the platform, our train will move out and almost immediately another train will arrive and you get on. You’ll even have exactly the same seats reserved as you have on this train.’ The reason for the change, I discovered, is that the train to which we moved goes directly to London without stopping, while our train had many stops on its way to London.

It happened exactly as we were told and we were in London King’s Cross just before ten minutes to ten with a whole day ahead of us.

It had been raining but was just fairing up. We saw umbrellas, just a few, but only for the first few moments of our stay.

Next to King’s Cross Station is St. Pancras with its huge brick façade and great towers. I was anxious to show it to Rachel not least because it was here in one of the towers that my father went to work in the days before the second world war as a young man in the estate department of the railway.

Nowadays, St. Pancras  is an international railway station, the terminus of the cross channel railway and, with its shops, restaurants and facilities it is more like an international airport than a busy city railway station.

From St. Pancras we walked along the road to Euston Station. It’s only a five minute walk but we wanted to start our journey to The Globe from Euston because that is where we will catch our train this evening and, as time might be at a premium, we wanted to know exactly how long it might take.

We went down into the tube station at Euston and caught a tube on the Northern Line (going south) to London Bridge, where we alighted. It’s a long way up from London Bridge Northern Line to the surface — fortunately there are escalators to bring us to the surface.

Now we went on a detour, really so that we could see a bit of London (we would do our time checks from The Globe to the tube later on).   We sauntered across London Bridge, looking to the right and seeing Tower Bridge, the next bridge down, and between us and Tower Bridge HMS Belfast which I remember visiting so many times in the past.

From the northern end of London Bridge we turned left and walked along the River Thames, marvelling at all of the buildings we saw. There was Southwark Cathedral nestling in between two very modern buildings, and soon we had reached Southwark Bridge after which we caught sight of The Globe for the first time, on the opposite side of the river. It too was dwarfed by modern buildings but it looked grand.

Now we were at the start of the Millennium Bridge — a pedestrian bridge which took us from almost the steps of St. Paul’s Cathedral across to Bankside, the site both of The Globe and of the Tate Exhibition Centre. By now the sun was shining brightly and it had turned into a beautiful warm summer day.

We admired the Cathedral and admired the bridge, and soon we had crossed the bridge and had come upon The Globe into which we went and explored the gift shop and got our bearings — already a queue had begun to form for the seven hundred £5 standing seats which are available ‘un-booked’ for every performance. Those who choose to stand are called ‘groundlings’ and will enjoy the performance in the way that almost all ordinary folk did in Shakespeare’s time.

Having sorted ourselves out, we continued (with our eyes on our watches again) walking along the riverside walk to London Bridge tube station. Yes, it should be all right. The evening performance ends by half-past ten and our train leaves for Scotland from Euston Station at 11.50.

So we wandered back to The Globe, taking our time, walking through a market, visiting Sir Francis Drake’s ship, the Golden Hind, and stopping at a café called Eat where we did just that, sitting at tables outside the shop from where we could see the river and St. Paul’s and the world going by. We were just in the shade of Southwark Bridge.

Now it was time to make our way to The Globe for the afternoon (2pm) performance. But we wanted to be early so that we could drink in everything about the theatre. So we were there as the gates opened and the ‘groundlings’ were admitted. We explored the courtyard where so many things were being sold — cushions for your seat (a necessity because the basic seats are hard benches); programmes, drinks, food, sweets, trinkets and so on. I suppose it must have been quite like it was in Shakespeare’s day.

For this first performance we had wonderful seats in the third (top) tier, right in front of the stage and in the very front row. It was great and we had a superb view.

Already I had started to learn about The Globe itself. The original Globe (of which this one is a very faithful reproduction — well, the architects had to explore all different sources including documents describing other theatres of the time) was erected near its present site in 1599, in no small purpose to house Shakespeare’s plays — the first of which to be performed here may well have been Julius Caesar, which we will see this evening.

The Globe burned down in the early seventeenth century and was rebuilt and now it has been rebuilt again due to the imagination and vision of Sam Wanamaker and opened in 1997. It is an experience of a life-time to sit and watch in such a wonderful surrounding — partly because of the history and partly because it is such a good setting for these plays.

The theatre was absolutely full — no photographs, I’m afraid. Well, they aren’t allowed and in any case I wouldn’t have wished to have distracted myself from the production. The Comedy of Errors is very early Shakespeare and is total farce. There are two sets of identical twin brothers, one set Lords, one set servants; both sets separated at birth and all coming together in one place. It was hilarious and, if you haven’t seen it, you must.

The acting was superb, the situation out of this world. I absolutely loved it and all too soon it was over and we were cheering at the energetic curtain call before pouring out into the street with all the rest of the crowd.

We had a bit of time in hand and so we walked along the riverside walk on the south (Globe) side of the river away from London Bridge. I noticed how St. Paul’s Cathedral continued to dominate the skyline. We saw a wonderful sand castle on a little bit of beach — and beside it was a tray inviting people to throw money as a ‘thank you’ to the sculptor.

We also saw how busy is the river — pleasure boats, cargo ships, police launches, all moving rapidly around the Thames.

We wandered back to the theatre where we made our way to the Swan   restaurant for our pre-show dinner. It was superb. We sat with a view of St. Paul’s Cathedral and the River Thames. In its way it was every bit as wonderful as when we sat in Cairo for a meal with the pyramids in the background.

We ate right-royally as well. A soup with tomato and sweet corn and much more besides, a chicken with cauliflower, cabbage, chips and much more, a summer tart, and wine or coke depending upon which of us you were. The service, the ambiance, everything was special.

And so we wandered back into the theatre courtyard. The groundlings (you can tell I love that word) were queuing, a puppet show was telling the story of Julius Caesar, people were selling their wares.

This time we were sitting in the middle tier, again right in front of the stage, this time in the second row: really great seats.

This time everything was different. The play was performed under lights. Now it was tragedy rather than comedy. It was just as good. I wouldn’t have missed this for the world. The actors used the audience as the rabble. One minute we were cheering for Caesar, the next we were supporting Brutus and the conspirators. Actors kept appearing among the groundlings, we were all swept along with the action and, although we knew the story, it moved us as it went.

There was one lovely little twist. When all is lost and Brutus persuades one of his fellow conspirators to hold his sword that he may die on it, the fellow turns out to be Caesar’s ghost — it made the audience gasp and it draws out Shakespeare’s point that we live and die according to the decisions we have already made about our lives.

If the curtain call for the earlier performance was energetic, then this was even more so and as it ended we set off on our journey walking quickly towards London Bridge where we caught a tube to Euston and were ready and waiting for our train to Scotland by quarter to eleven!

Our train duly arrived and we got into our sleeper compartment. It was extremely civilised and very comfortable. I had the top bunk and Rachel the lower one. I slept well and was woken at 6.30 with coffee by our attendant who told us that we were at Carstairs.

An hour or so later we got off the train in Edinburgh, looked around the bookstall and caught a train at just after eight back to Berwick. (I think the ticket price for this last part of the journey, necessitated by the fact that the night train didn’t come through Berwick, was just over £3. It pays to book in advance.)

In Berwick we walked to the car which I drove to drop Rachel off at her stained-glass class and then I drove home to Mount Pleasant. It had been a wonderful twenty-four hours and now it is time to plan another adventure!

Welcome

MPSep14

Today is Tuesday 30th. September, 2014.

My name is Dane Sherrard.

One year ago today I retired after forty three years of employment and moved down to live in the Scottish Borders, in a farm steading situated three miles south of Duns.

After almost fifteen years living in an extremely busy village on the banks of Loch Lomond, our quiet farm steading feels like heaven. Hardly any rain (or that’s how it seems), never a midge in sight, and quiet country roads. Don’t get me wrong, I loved my working life but retirement has so many attractions.

During the last year Rachel (my wife) and I have rekindled our love of theatre, regularly visiting The Maltings in Berwick. I have had time to watch cricket, being a member of Durham County Cricket Club (and how well we have done this season). With my friend Tom I have taken to sailing a forty year-old Wayfarer on the local Whiteadder reservoir and with his guidance and help we have started to repair many of the formerly broken-down barns which make up the farm steading.

We have joined a local congregation at Gavinton, a small village  just three miles from here, and enjoy attending services Sunday by Sunday, as well as sharing in special events.

We regularly attend country shows and auctions and events and already feel totally at home, as do our dogs: Mix (a ten year-old rescue dog to whom I belong), Rowan (a one year-old Border Collie puppy who looks after Rachel) and Heidi (who is getting on a bit but who goes everywhere with Digger and loves to travel in the car).

Mount Pleasant consists of a farmhouse in which my sister Olive, her husband Digger and my mother Mary all live; a refurbished Granary — Rachel and my home — and the barns which complete the other two sides of the square. These latter require a lot of work and I am enjoying becoming an apprentice joiner, builder, painter etc. after a very different career as a parish minister.

Today, as it seems has been the case for almost all of the last year, the sun is shining brightly and, having discovered that it had just become possible to get a web-site with a .scot suffix, I have set off into the world of a retirement web-site in which I shall seek to set down our adventures primarily for my own benefit but using the fact that it will be shared with others to provide the discipline which I will require to actually get around to doing it.

What a wonderful world we live in!