Tag Archives: scottish borders


Today I took a photograph from a very significant spot, NT 849 401 (UK map, OS locator if my grid references are accurate).

What does it show?

  • a snapshot of a tiny part of a tiny planet in an infinite universe;
  • the photograph was taken when the planet was billions of years old;
  • countless atoms of H2O that have been circulating the planet for eternity thanks to convection currents that take moisture from the surface of the planet up into the atmosphere so that it may be deposited again via precipitation (otherwise known locally as The River Tweed);
  • unseen are the countless elements that comprise the atmosphere – some of which are recycled thanks to the system which enables plants to convert CO2 into oxygen so that animals may sustain their lives by inhaling oxygen and expiring CO2 ; like the H2O molecules, these elements will have been circulating the planet as a result of the complex weather systems;
  • there are plants and trees visible that will mainly have grown thanks to a variety of natural seed distribution processes, the seeds may have originated quite a distance from the site of the actual plant;
  • for a very brief instant during the life of the planet, humans have played a part in modifying the landscape, resulting in the construction of the town of Coldstream as visible in the distance;
  • also in the atmosphere are numerous sources of telecommunications data – invisible unless decoded by appropriate equipment;
  • in the grand scheme of the life of the universe, the view represents so little, but if I focus a bit, I can describe the scene in less significant terms;
  • it is a view of a part of the surface of the northern hemisphere of planet Earth;
  • it is a view of part of Europe, but not quite continental Europe;
  • when the photograph was taken, everything that can be seen is considered to be a part of the European Union;
  • others may see the scene as simply a part of The United Kingdom;
  • it is also a view of tiny parts of two separate countries, England to the left and Scotland to the right, with the border being the centre of the River Tweed;
  • another way of looking at it might be to note that the land on the left hand bank of the river is part of the county of Northumberland, whilst the land on the right is part of the Scottish Borders Council administrative area (others might wish to note that previously the land on the right would have been part of the County of Berwickshire, whilst at present Berwickshire is simply an administrative division of a larger area;
  • I will not begin to attempt to research just how many elected representatives are paid from the public purse to seek to govern the people who live within the area pictured – I will, however note that there are local councillors, a constituency MSP, list MSPs, MPs and MEPs;
  • in around two years time those living on the right hand side of the river (as long as they are old enough) will be given a vote to record their opinion as to whether or not a more defined division will be constructed between the two communities, none of those living on the left hand side of the river will be able to formally register their opinions;
  • I find the whole situation rather depressing, arguments about Scottish independence have been conducted for as long as I can remember and will certainly increase during the coming two years;
  • I very much doubt that the outcome will make the slightest bit of difference to the way in which the river continues to flow, the air continues to circulate, or the wild plant life continues to germinate. One thing is very clear, however, if mother nature decides – the river will flood, the wind will blow as a gale, and the plants may contract some disease that might either kill them off of cause them to grow excessively with very little that humans might be able to do to try to control;
  • as the debate rages about the pros and cons of Scottish Independence I keep thinking about a wide range of issues; one of the possible outcomes is that an independent Scotland may have to apply to join the EU as an accession state (although how this squares with true independence I have no idea) – one consequence of a successful application might mean that Scotland would have to become part of the ‘Shengen’ border agreement, which in turn could mean an end to my present ability to freely walk backwards and forwards across this bridge without being subject to border controls. Now some politicians claim that this would never happen, although others seem fairly clear that it won’t – I have a natural tendency to disbelieve any promises made by politicians who are seeking my vote. Whilst they might not be deliberately lying (they may simply be choosing to selectively ignore particular legal advice), one thing is sure, they can’t both be telling the truth, but could both be wrong;
  • one thing that is abundantly clear to me – look at a map of this location and the current border between Scotland and England will be visible, but there is absolutely no sign of it in reality – just a river with similar vegetation growing on either side of it;
  • as far as I am concerned many of the world’s problems (both past and present) have been caused by the existence of such invisible lines


Living in the delightfully rural Berwickshire in the Scottish Borders does have some draw-backs. Something that many young people born and raised here are often quick to point out is that there is little to do. What this usually translates as, is that there are very few opportunities to engage with organised activities and events and pre-packaged entertainments. There are certainly plenty of things to do (at times I feel spoilt for choice), but these do rely on a deal of creativity, inquisitiveness and self-motivation. Opportunities to get out and about to enjoy the environment to the full are everywhere – as long as one is prepared to get out and walk, run, cycle, paint, photograph, write about, sing about, communicate with people, visit local attractions, discover historical facts about ……………….. etc.

What is lacking, however, is a wide range of opportunities to experience live performances of music, comedy and drama; and a comprehensive integrated public transport system to get to and from the things that are on offer. There are a number of gems, but the range is limited, the locations are widely spread apart and don’t occur as often as they do in city locations. A very good friend of mine once explained the problem; “there just aren’t enough chimneys.” He was referring to the low population density; what contributes greatly to what makes this part of Scotland such a wonderful place to live in, also creates a number of practical problems for anybody seeking to lay on cost-effective entertainments.

So it was that I found myself driving along the M8 en-route to Glasgow on a Saturday evening – some things that I want to experience just aren’t on my doorstep. That particular day was ‘the day after the night before’, the first official day of competition in the 2012, 30th Olympiad in London. I had managed to stay up to watch the whole of the Opening Ceremony in which Danny Boyle had managed to cause a sensation with his far from traditional spectacular. The political undertones had caused certain tongues to wag furiously, but in general most opinions that I have seen concentrate on the genius of Danny Boyle’s ability to distil much of what makes contemporary UK/Britain the way it is into such an expansive and inspiring production.

Inevitably, being a Saturday afternoon, I was driving with the radio on and was listening to a round up of the day’s sporting events, mainly a combination of the first day of the new Scottish football season featuring reports of the first Ramsden Cup matches, alongside details of the initial Olympic achievements.

The other major factor to come into play during my journey was the scattered torrential rain showers, some of which contributed to a dramatic vista in the distance, and others that had to be driven through. Driving along the motorway and entering Glasgow I caught sight of a brilliantly coloured rainbow in my rear-view mirror – a timely reminder of the ground breaking and controversial decision of the Scottish Government earlier in the week, to agree to seek to introduce legislation to allow same-sex marriages in the near future.

So it was against this background of thoughts that I parked immediately outside King Tut’s Wah Wah Hut in St. Vincent Street. I had been aware of this legendary venue for many years, yet this was to be my first step across the threshold. For a place with such a massive reputation it turned out to be much smaller and more intimate than I had expected. Rather than being a problem, I was very reassured as I really do prefer such venues to the bigger and much more impersonal ones. I am glad that I had seen Bruce Springsteen at Hamden, but please give me ‘up close and personal’ any time.

Even before I knew just how intimate the venue was, I did know that the gig was certainly going to be fairly ‘up close’, as I was due to interview the singer/songwriter that I had come to hear, and to take some live photos of her performance. Toni Etherson had appeared on my radar a few months back, and I had been most impressed by her work so when the opportunity to see her arose, I jumped at the chance to go. A review of the actual performance is available on my Tumblr site, along with my other reviews (www.dstrachan.tumblr.com).

Having driven across Scotland, this was one of these occasions where I left after the first act; in addition to being keen to savour the memory of the magical performance, I had checked out the other acts in advance and felt that whilst they might be competent enough, the tracks that I had listened to hadn’t jumped out and grabbed me enough to encourage me to delay my return to the east coast. Had the venue been nearer home and served by a reliable public transport service, I have no doubt that I would have taken the opportunity to give these other acts a fairer hearing.

In the meantime I will file the memories of an excellent set and a wonderful person away for future recall, and look forward to more from Toni in the future.


To me, the opening scenes are very familiar, rolling hills, sheep in fields, peaceful rural locations and ‘sleepy’ towns.

The voice-over begins, “in the countryside everything’s lovely, tranquil – life is good – that’s always how it’s depicted – in fact behind closed doors it can be a completely different story, even in the nicest villages;” and so the initial idyllic mood of video begins to change, and adopts a much darker tone.

Of course I knew the subject matter of this DVD before pressing play, but I still found it quite chilling to hear the stories as they were narrated with familiar Scottish Borders dialects over local scenery that has been my home for over thirty years. The video may only last ten minutes, but so much has been packed into that short space of time.

‘Hear Our Voice’ relates the experiences of four women in the Scottish Borders who have survived domestic abuse. In their own words, they describe the stigma, the shame, the barriers to getting help, and their journeys to recovery.

I found the presentation to be particularly effective, highlighting the fact that we may all see the same scenery, but we certainly don’t all see it through the same eyes. With some harrowing abusive experiences in their lives, the peace and calm of the Scottish Borders can present a bleak and threatening prospect for some. This video aims to give professionals and the wider community clear messages about what can be done to help, support and protect those in our communities who are experiencing domestic abuse and I believe that it achieves this very effectively.

It seeks to answer a number of key questions;

  • Why did I stay?
  • Who’s to blame?
  • How did you leave?
  • Who helped?
  • What should change?

Sensitively filmed and produced by mediaco-op in collaboration with The Scottish Government, SB Safer Communities Partnership and Scottish Borders Council, the DVD includes a very comprehensive thirty four page PDF document that gives advice on how to prepare potential audiences, along with myth-busting facts, useful contacts and much more.

Whilst the package was principally produced with a slant on domestic abuse in the rural Scottish Borders, I can imagine that it may be equally useful in more urban areas – it is just as easy to feel isolated and alone in the centre of a large city.

The absolutely unacceptable scourge of domestic abuse must be tackled head on; the ‘ostrich’ approach of seeking to avoid acknowledging it does nobody any favours, least of all a victim who may be in desperate need of urgent support – and may be a very close neighbour.

I would certainly encourage anybody working to try to support domestic abuse victims and attempting to find ways to rid society of this blight, to explore the possibility of incorporating this excellent resource into their arsenals.


If you would like further information about this excellent DVD please contact the Scottish Borders Council Safer Communities Team:



or by phone (44)01835 824000