Thursday, December 1, 2005

Due South
By Mark Entwistle
The Southern Reporter
Selkirk, The Borders

Hills of Innerleithen alive to sound of carnyx

Christmas — it may still fall on December 25, but it does seem to get earlier and earlier every year.

That’s possibly to do with the fact the stores and retailers are assaulting our eyes and ears with their Christmas adverts before we’re even half-way through November.

Already here in the Borders, some of our towns have the small Christmas trees which local chambers of trade supply, being erected outside of their shops.

Granted, their lights have not been switched on yet, but you can bet those little switches will be flipped as soon as possible!

The saddest thing about Christmas is that everyone here longs for those Dickensian Christmases you see depicted on Christmas cards.

You know the sort of thing — a small cottage deep in the heart of a snow-blanketed forest with smoke coming from the chimney and all the lights blazing, as a woodsman makes his tired way home with his trusty dog by his side.

But was Christmas ever really like that?

Unless you were one of the select few with a bit of money, Christmas for the majority of folks during the lifetime of author Charles Dickens was more Victorian squalor than festive fun.

I suppose for you guys in Mississippi, your ideal Chrismas is probably described as Rockwell-esque after your great American painter Norman Rockwell.

Our two cultures share a lot of common values and beliefs and Christmas is no exception. After all, the movie voted favourite Christmas film here in Scotland year after year is always that Jimmy Stewart classic, “It’s A Wonderful Life.”

Well, that’s enough of my ponderings over the meaning of Christmas. We still have nearly a month to go, and the subject is bound to crop up again in both the columns from Linda and I a few more times before this year’s Yuletide is done and dusted.

In fact, I think quite a few of our readers are hoping Linda will be cooking up some delicious Mississippian Christmas recipes to share with readers here in the Borders. (And no we don’t eat haggis for Christmas lunch! For most folk it is still the traditional dish of a fowl, usually turkey.)

So what’s been making the news this past week here in the Borders” Well, the bad news is that our local government says it is not going to get enough cash from the national Scottish government next year and that will mean a tight squeeze on public services, like schools.

There were also fears over whether our local health service would have enough flu vaccine, after scares about the spread of bird flu saw demand for flu jabs soar by 30 percent this month.

We also managed to feature your famous FBI in the pages of The Southern Reporter. It seems the FBI has produced a list of the world’s top 10 art theft cases, all of which they are helping investigate.

One of these is the theft, two years ago, of the Leonardo da Vinci painting, “Madonna with the Yarnwinder.” This was stolen from the Duke of Buccleuch’s home at Drumlanrig castle, near Moffat on the edge of the Borders.

And last week, saw local hills around the small town of Innerleithen alive to the sound of a carnyx. This is the name given to the giant war horns sounded by ancient Celtic warriors before battle —- usually against the Romans.

A replica of a carnyx was blown on top of a hill overlooking Innerleithen a week past Sunday, much, I would imagine, to the startled surprise of some nearby sheep and cattle!

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