I want to start this week by clearing up a mystery. The mystery of the ladder. I like to believe that you were all alert enough last week to be mystified why my humble ramblings about music were accompanied by a photograph of a ladder propped against a wall. The answer is me and modern technology.
I had begun to write my column when I had to stop and undertake a more important task – make coffee. I had already written about how I had been fortunate enough for my parents to pay for me to take piano lessons and how I had attended my first instruction at a house in Scott Crescent. There, seated at the ivories, my would-be instructor had pointed out of the window at a ladder leaning against the wall that at that time surrounded the grounds of Old Gala House. I was bemused. I was here to learn the scales. I already knew how to scale a ladder. But I was enlightened. I was told to count the rungs and the spaces in between. With me now? That ladder became my e..g..b..d..f as well as my g..b..d..f..a, and so on. I suspect that’s why I never became very good at the piano (although did pass one exam and manage to play Will Your Hold and Onward Christian Soldiers at the BB bible classes). No, that ladder confused me. Every time I looked at the keyboard after that, I saw a window cleaner or a painter or someone cleaning leaves from their rones.
So, I hope that clarifies the mysterious appearance of a ladder last week.
Last week I also made an appeal for a tea chest to be turned into a bass for the Bogie’s Close Stompers skiffle group in which I play the washboard and my pal Digger strums the bass. Thanks to the couple of readers who made offers – I’ll be in touch.
This weekend I hope to be under canvas at Newcastleton – better known as Copshaw. There’s a fantastic spot by the side of the Liddel Water that’s just made for camping. A surface free of bumps, a river for a chilly wash and a picnic table from which to eat. There are two – sometimes three – occasions when I venture into this wonderful village hovering on the Scotland-England border. There’s the Newcastleton Traditional Music Festival in July, the Holm Show (coos, sheep and walking sticks) in August and the Tub’s Ball. This Saturday is the Tub’s Ball. Let me explain. Intertwined with the musical festival is the Copshaw Common Riding where the principal is not a Cornet (think ice cream cornet), but The Tub (again, think ice cream). His Lass is obviously The Flake. But like all things associated with Copshaw it becomes confusing. Because sometimes The Tub is a woman and her Flake is ... well you get the idea. Their Common Riding is ridden on bikes and the colours are bright yellow (think Tour de France and the leader’s vest). They sing in The Shed and they Snog the Sod – and they do much more. Their motto is Pureous Bunkumos and I get to play the washboard with Jedburgh Pipe Band. Watch this space in July.
Like the Muckle Toon o’ Langholm, the Copshaw principal is elected by public vote. There are five candidates this year – four women and an unknown. Saturday promises to be interesting.