Fun and Frolics at Abbotsford

Hello? Anyone there?!

Hmmm. I’ll keep writing anyway, even though – since I haven’t blogged since May – you’ve probably all buggered off to read blogs by people who blog regularly (rolly eyes emoji)

OK, so it has been a while. In my defence, I got royally, spectacularly, brutally, heart-breakingly, out-of-the-fucking-blue-ingly dumped at the end of June. And, it has to be said, having your heart ripped out, then having it smeared all over your future – and past – then feeling like all you want to do is crawl into a ball, drink gin and eat crisps is not particularly conducive to entertaining writing. Or any writing for that matter.

But, anyway, here I am again, folks. Three months on: older, wiser (not), fatter (definitely, thanks to afore-mentioned gin and crisps), and just about surviving. Fuck it, let’s move on…

Aaaaaaaaaanyway…

One thing that The Dumping has encouraged me to do is fill up every bit of free time with Lovely Things. So, as well as gin, crisps and crying until I think I’m going to dehydrate so badly I’ll turn to sand (see? moving on….) the last three months has involved some excellent time with very good friends. And this post is about one of those times.

A few weeks back, I went away for the weekend with my very good friend Kate in her caravan. It’s strange: whenever I told folk we were going away in my mate’s caravan, they assumed it was, like, permanently somewhere (is it called a “static?”) “Ooh, where is the caravan?” was what folk kept asking. Er, no – it’s like a actual caravan – that you hook up to your car and go places. Kate and I went away in it last year, to Blair Atholl, and had a blast, so this follow-up trip had been in the diary for some time. We decided on the Borders – more specifically, the Thirlestane Castle caravan park in the village of Lauder.

Now, I’m ashamed to say that the Borders isn’t an area of Scotland that I know brilliantly well. It’s one of those areas that, whenever I go, I think “wow, it’s so beautiful here, I must come more often!” – then, before you know it, another few years have passed and I’ve not been back. Humph. Anyway, to Lauder we went – and it was a jolly nice wee caravan park, and Lauder was a jolly nice wee town – with a couple of excellent drinking venues, and plenty of top quality coffee and bacon rolls available (thanks, Spotty Dog Deli!)

Unfortunately, the handy local castle was shut on the Saturday, so my mate suggested a quick drive to Abbotsford, which was the home of Sir Walter Scott, close to Melrose. Of course you’ll know that SWS is one of Scotland’s most famous writers, who was born in Edinburgh in 1771 and died in 1832, after becoming one of the most successful writers of his time. Is it bad that I haven’t read any of his books? Probably. I’m a Bad Scot. Although I am often reminded of what the great Billy Connolly said with reference to SWS: “Have you ever read any Walter Scott? I’ve spent better nights with haemorrhoids!” I’m sure that’s not true, though. Maybe I should find out at some point…

Kate and I LOVE us some hot stately home action. And this place really delivered. It starts with a lovely, fairly new visitor centre, with a wee exhibition (and, obvs, a gift shop). Then you head through part of the beautiful grounds to the house itself.

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Happily, Kate loves a bit of nonsense and eagerly agreed to my suggestion of her mimicking some of the statues in the gardens. There’s little else that makes me as joyous as when folk agree to do this. And Kate’s a natural…

After these frolics – and a number of funny looks from some tourists – we were met at the door of the main house by really enthusiastic volunteers, who offered us a choice of two possible audio options: you could either hear “normal” descriptions as you went round, or you could have a guy playing SWS himself describing everything. I mean, what kind of choice is that?! Why do they even offer the former? Where’s the fun in that? So, we duly plugged ourselves in to hear from the Man Himself as we wandered through all the opulently decorated rooms, hearing all about the art and interesting furniture, as well as fun facts about the life and times of SWS. He built the place himself (well, I don’t mean he actually, physically, built it – like, he didn’t don a high-vis waistcoat, hard hat and walk around with a workie’s arse – he paid for it), since he was SO rich and could afford a kick-ass house in the country. Well, that was until he kinda went bankrupt. But that’s another story. Read all about SWS from folk who more about him than I do here.

The house itself is a wonderful place for a wander: there was an entire room full of guns and swords and stuff (why would a writer need them?!) plus loads of cool paintings to peruse.

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And Kate kept up with the statue mimicking throughout…

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But a visit to Abbotsford allows more than just a visit into the house itself. It’s set in picturesque grounds, overlooking the River Tweed, so you can wander at your leisure along all the paths, through woodland or beside the river. It’s really lovely and we spent a good couple of hours exploring.

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There’s also a wee chapel to the side of the main house which was worth a look – nice and peaceful.

For Kate and I, no visit to a stately home is complete without a scone and a Nice Cup Of Tea. And, fortunately, the cafe at Abbotsford is excellent and came up trumps. They even provided Kate with extra cream at no charge, which deserves a thumbs up!

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After a great afternoon of exploring and getting some culture, it was back to Lauder for an excellent meal at the Lauderdale Hotel (good food, MASSIVE portions!).

20180831_163950Then, after a couple of pints, we went back to the caravan to play an *excellent* game we had invented the previous evening: “The Archers” Drinking Game! Awww man, I bloody love The Archers – and Kate does too. The game involved each of us writing down ten characters / phrases / stuff that might happen in an episode, then picking them at random from the pile. Then, we listened to some episodes, and whenever any of those things happened / those characters spoke, you had to drink. It was an inspired way of spending the evening. Especially since Kate got “Alistair” and he was in just about every scene. Nae luck! We also had a few “wildcards” which meant we both had to down drinks. Any mention of “Herbal Leys” was my personal favourite!

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If this means nothing to you, get thee to BBC Radio Player and get involved! Trust me, once you’ve had a taste of Borsetshire Blue and Tumble Tussock, you’ll never go back!

To say that this weekend away was what I needed at that point is an understatement. Not only was it great to explore somewhere new, but it’s never a bad thing to be reminded that having good friends – who’ll help you through the shittest of shittiest times – means everything.

Onwards and upwards, eh? Slainte Mhath.

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