My head of black hair has long gone. It lasted in varying lengths into my 50s but has now been replaced by a mop of speckled grey. It’s thinning a bit, but when the mood takes me I can let it tumble on to my shoulders. It incurs the displeasure of my sisters but it keeps my bonce warm, saves the price of a few haircuts – though the shampoo bottle doesn’t last long – and shows that I can still display some of the rebellious nature that has always been part of me. My beard has taken on a similar colour. It too can become a bit on the bushy side, but it is a shield against the bitter winter winds and freezing air. I save cash on razor blades and again it displays the rebel inside me.
My moustache is a rebel unto itself. For reasons unknown to its owner it has stubbornly refused to turn fully grey. It has two distinct colours – one either side of my top lip and split in the middle of my nose. When it is in full bloom, it tickles my nostrils and wakens me from happy dreams in the middle of the night. But you can’t have long hair and a tousy beard without a mouser. So it stays despite its refusal to become a grey matter.
And below those grey locks lies another grey. The grey matter of a brain of sorts. And that’s where all this rambling has taken me, and you. The progress of The Southern Reporter from broadsheet to tabloid produced a plea from the boss for columnists. I pondered the request as I used the bus pass I acquired courtesy of the Scottish Government almost two years ago for a jaunt to Peebles – one of my favourite Border towns. The journey up the side of the Tweed set me thinking. The river’s journey flows from one side of the Borderland to the other and touches many of our communities on its way to the sea. I must have been in a philosophical daze because by the time I disembarked and took a stroll along Tweed Green on my way to the Bridge Inn (better known as the Trust) I was pondering on life and how the journey through it is very much like a river. A tiny beginning and then a gradual growing, sometimes calm sometimes turbulent, but ever growing until it empties into the great beyond and who knows where. Peebles is a wonderful town in which to ponder. Wide open spaces, history at every turn and some fine hostelries. And so it was here, where two days a week of my early years in journalism were spent, that I decided I would take up the offer to become a columnist.
But what to call it? Time again to ponder. And as I pondered it came to me. Not in a flash of brilliance but in a comment from the corner of the crowded bar of the Crown Hotel. I heard : “Whae’s that grey-heided bugger in the corner? Ah ken his face.”
My pondering came to an end and this column became Grey Matter. That moment revived memories of another journalist’s suggestion for a title a few years ago, though the column never appeared.
Each week I shall share my thoughts and views with you. I will anger, please, upset. Hopefully my humour, such as it is, will make you smile or, on a good day, even laugh. This will not be a single-topic offering – I hope each week to reflect on what has made the Borders and the rest of the world tick. After 46 years reporting news without comment – my auld grey matter is about to take a different shade.