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We'll be the border Reiver all over again


/ "We'll be the Border Reivers all over again" /

“Are we in Scotland or England?” Jo asks me. I hadn’t looked at the map for the last twenty minutes so had to admit that I didn’t exactly know where we were.

We stop at the first cottage we see and, with the map in my hand, I get out of the car and knock on the door. A woman with long blond hair and an under layer of purple opens the door. She tells me that we’re near the village of Cornhill on Tweed, about two miles from the border – which, she tells me with some amusement, is technically in Northumberland, although they have a Scottish postcode.

Lynn, the woman at the door, invites us both in, telling us she is originally from Yorkshire, but lived in Newcastle long enough to get a Geordie accent and now actually feels Scottish. Inside her cottage - brightly decorated and with drying clothes strewn over every surfaces - Lynn continues, “Everything we do is in Scotland.”

“Berwick’s the nearest English place, but Kelso is nearer and that’s Scotland.  The doctor, dentist, hairdresser, local co-op, local post office; everything is in Scotland so you feel more Scottish because you spend more time in Scotland doing all your bits and bobs. We also get Scottish telly and have a Scottish phone number and yet we’re still classed as English.  Also, my son Glen’s got Crohn’s disease and we’re backwards and forwards to Scottish hospitals all the time. We even get free medication because our address is confusing. He’s getting injections at the minute – a trial thing - and it gets delivered here. But his Crohn’s nurse told us she had a right job getting the medication delivered to our house because she only just discovered we were actually in England.”

Lynn’s son, Glen, lives five doors down in his own cottage.  He works in Minetti’s coat hanger factory in Jedburg, in the Scottish borders, but is a trained gamekeeper.  Lynn says she’ll ask him that night if we can go out with him the next day for a hunt.

The next morning we meet Glen, a young man with tattoos covering his neck. He invites us into his cottage, which is dim except for the fluorescent lights coming off the 12 glass tanks for all his snakes and one bearded dragon lizard.  A large St Georges Cross hangs on the wall.  

Glen doesn’t say very much.  He just welcomes us in and goes straight for his coat and shotgun. We follow him out the door, across the farm and down a lane with trees either side of it.

Jo and I take in the surroundings while attempting to break the ice with Glen. We ask him about hunting, but his focus seems elsewhere. He whips round, points his gun into the sky and takes a shot. We hear a rustle and a thud. Glen run towards the wood, disappears for a few seconds and returns holding a duck. 

“I’ve always been into it,” he finally answers as we walk on. “It’s all I’ve wanted to do since I was young.  I trained to be a gamekeeper for two years in New Town St Boswells, in the Scottish Borders. We learnt how to shoot pheasants, grouse, deer, how to run estates and beating, you know, flushing all the pheasants out of the wood before shooting them. 

The woman who owns this estate has given me permission to shoot deer on her land because we’ve got this new environmental biomass heating, and we need trees to cut down for wood for the heaters. But the deer keep eating the new trees, so she’s told me I can shoot them.”

We return to Lynn's house to give her the duck, which Glen tells us, she’ll probably cook for dinner. 

Over a cup of tea, Glen tells us about his other hobby:

-“I like fishing too.  I go fly fishing, coarse fishing and sea fishing if I can.”

-“Do you need any sort of a licence to fish?”

-“In Scotland you don’t need a rod licence to fish but you do in England - so I generally fish in Scotland.  You’ll sometimes have a river where one side is Scottish and the other side is English, so if you don’t want to pay the rod licence you just fish on the Scottish side.”

-“So do you know exactly where the border is then?”  

-“Nah, not always.  There’s lots of places where it isn’t clear. But I’ll just go fishing anyway. I don’t think the authorities, especially those down in Morpeth, have a better idea where the border is. So I don’t really think about it to be honest.  You don’t really need to. It all sort of just merges into one here.”

But then Lynn jokes about how she might need her passport to go to the local co-op if the Scots vote for independence and they decide to put up border controls.

-“You’ll have people and things being smuggled across the border. We’ll be the Border Reivers all over again,” Lynn says, referring to the raiders who occupied the border region in the middle ages.

-“But we have no idea really.  We haven’t been told anything about how things might change for us, so I suppose we’ll have to wait and see.”


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