Pickin’ through the year’s best bits

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Monday at work was spent pulling together some extremely important dates for our editorial and photographic diary. If ever proof is needed that year follows year, it’s pulling together dates for a newspaper’s editorial and photographic diary.

Tomorrow is the last day of January, but already I am through to August.

Our year in the Borders is very much cyclical. We’ve mostly had our Burns Suppers and are moving on to the February and March season of the opera when local societies take to the stage and entertain. They do so after months of hard work and it’s all over after five or six performances. This year’s offerings provide a staggering variety – from the more traditional Patience and South Pacific to Summer Holiday and the Wizard of Oz.

There will be much enjoyment in front of the curtain – and much fun behind it.

I leave the sport diary to Fiona Scott, but of course April heralds the rugby 7s.

However, for many, April is the time when communities across the Borders appoint their chosen principals for common ridings, gatherings, festivals and civic weeks – young men and women who will hopefully be proud ambassadors for their native town or village.

Now, you would think that things that have aye been would pass of without much hassle. But each year I hear rumblings. Is it a pickin’ night or is it an appointment night or is it a declaration night.

Some, like Jedburgh are quite clear – the Jethart Callant is declared. Others are less so. For decades I reported on pickin’ nights. And then they became appointment nights.

I can only surmise, because nobody can tell me for sure, pickin’ was what you did to your nose with an index finger and was not the dignified manner in which to appoint a standard bearer, a cornet, or a lad. Langholm has it solved perfectly. They use a ballot box and publicly elect their cornet.

The pickin’ – yes I’m stickin’ with pickin’ – nights are barely over when the rideouts begin. It’s a whirlwind of a summer and our diary is brimming. It’s an extremely special important year for Hawick as they celebrate the 500th anniversary of victory at Hornshole on the outskirts of the town. It was in 1514, the year after Flodden, when Surrey’s men were still plundering and marauding. To my Hawick friends I wish a fantastic common riding – and please save some rum and milk for me.

As I filled in our diary, I took time to see what was happening elsewhere in the world. And I’m sorry, but I had to smile, in fact I had an inoffensive laugh, when I read what happened to poor Pope Francis and his birds. With the aid of two children the Pontiff released white doves – the traditional symbol of purity and peace – from a Vatican and window. Then it just all went wrong. Out of nowhere descended a seagull and a crow in a move that could have been orchestrated and practiced, to attack those birds of peace and purity. Somebody must have been on their side, because it appears they managed to escape. On a wing and a prayer, you might say.

Oh, and how do crows stick together in a flock? Obviously they use Velcrow.