Border Lines

Berwick, North Northumberland: Food-Travel-Culture-Community

Words in my window: April

I hijacked the first words of April: MIRACLES/DO/HAPPEN into March. The 16-year-old felt the words that have, by default, become the first of the month were ‘too frivolous and obvious’. But this is what came to mind four weeks ago.

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Despite my daughter’s feelings, SPRING/IS THE/THING gained plenty of positive feedback on Instagram and Twitter. Perhaps courtesy of an optimistic bounce delivered by the changing season.

Spring garden

A little view along my garden path to lift the spirits

The bounce was short-lived. In a week where the USA, France and the UK bombed Damascus following Syrian leader Assad’s alleged chemical attacks on his own people, I felt bereft. The treadmill of violence and violent retributions seems relentless and inescapable.

Random acts of kindness and generosity – often acted out on a personal level – are so powerful. They often work to change perceptions and bring people and communities together in unexpected and productive ways.

Why does this not translate into world-stage actions? Why is the present endlessly shaped by stories that unfolded from divisions hatched long ago? Why has the status of land, nationhood and territory remained one of possession, exclusion and expansion? Why do we seem so easily to distance our macro actions from the micro state of being human?

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It can be difficult to remember the point of being. Two local events here in North Northumberland/Berwickshire helped me reconnect and breathe at a different pace. The first was ‘Food for Thought’, organised by the recently conjoined Scotus Society of Duns and Chirnside’s David Hume group (Thinking without Borders). It was a day to ponder senses, taste and pleasure, and to question the philosophy of food-related values and ethics. The following day, 20 or so people joined a Berwick Slow Food Event at Chain Bridge Honey Farm to celebrate National Tea Day. We listened, rapt, to Willy Robson’s tales of his family business – as a lad Willy was responsible for flogging the family honey and took a van to Edinburgh, supplying many stores on Princes Street. Times have changed: retail is transformed; and, with the advent of pesticides and climate change, so is bee-keeping.

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The Husband felt my words were ‘taking a sinister turn’. In my mind BEHIND/THE/SMILE summed up the sense of going beyond. Like the Spring that started the month, the smile is a strange and powerful force. Smiles can transform moments even while grief, hardship and unbearable events unfold in parallel. Despite the disturbing situation and general bizarreness, tell me you did not smile as the leaders of North and South Korea, Kim Jong Un and Moon Jae-in, held hands and stepped back and forth across the border between their countries on April 27.

I’ve been fascinated and delighted with the feedback I’ve received about the words in my window. People comment on social media and in person. It’s intriguing to hear what they have to say. One person said, ‘You have that stupid message thing in your window’ and then told me their reaction to LIFE/KEEPS/COMING: ‘I hope it’s not a bloody sequel!’. Another said, ‘That’s the house with the inspirational words in the window’. A local pub approached me to discuss whether they could do something similar in their window.

Hell, yeah!

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