IT WAS A PROPER PALAVER getting to the doctor’s surgery in Coldstream this week. The surgery is in Scotland whereas I live in England, five miles south of the border, which meant whatever I did I would have to cross the Tweed.
No problem normally; we do it every day. But we’ve had a bit of trouble with the Blue Bonnets O’er the Border recently: Scots protesters attempted to stop vehicles from England entering Scotland at the border four miles north of Berwick-on-Tweed. The STV news story told it all:
Protesters at the Scotland-England border were spoken to by police on Saturday afternoon after staging a demonstration urging English holidaymakers to turn back. The small group of protesters were pictured in a layby on the A1 at Lamberton; some of them wearing hazmat suits and masks.
They also carried Scotland flags and homemade banners urging holidaymakers travelling north not to cross the border into Scotland amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. One banner read: “Staycation: Keep Scotland Covid free”.
In my case, the writing was not so much on the banners as on the breakfast table, propped up against my steaming porridge bowl.
‘Your mission, should you choose to accept,’ wrote the Good Lady, ‘ is to infiltrate yourself into Scotland for your monthly blood test at the doctor’s, pick up a litre of semi-skimmed at the Co-op and leave the attached birthday card at the red letter drop outside the post office on the way back. Should you be caught or killed, the author of this note will disavow any knowledge of your actions. This message will self-destruct as soon as you’ve finished the porridge. Xx Gemma’
Unnecessary, that last bit, as the message was scrawled on my paper napkin which I invariably have to use to sponge the lumpy porridge drips off my jersey. Anyhow, I leapt to obey.
Once in the car, I shifted uneasily in my black, overly tight-fitting Lycra ski pants and squinted through the eyeholes in my balaclava as I approached the border. As always when I drive into the Land O’ Lockdown a Scotch mist of light rain was falling.
The traffic slowed then came to a halt as we approached the border bridge. Gritting my teeth Tom Cruise-style, I recalled the Bomb Squad being called out in 1996 to check the span for explosives when the Stone of Destiny was returned to Scotland after its 700-year imprisonment at Westminster. Was it for real this time or just another hootenanny hoax?
My gloved hands tightened on the steering wheel as a burly, flame-haired man wearing a yellow day-glo jacket and ski mask approached, carrying a pick axe. I inched down my window no more than a fraction and prepared for action.
“What’s the problem?” I growled as aggressively as I dared through what now appeared to be an over-generous two-inch gap at the top of the window.
“No p-p-problem, sir” the Big Man replied in a squeaky Little Boy voice. “I’m s-s-sorry there’s a wee d-d-delay.”
I was now feeling moreconfident of my chances of requiring no more than the blood test on my trip to the surgery. “So you’re not with the Scottish Defence League, then?” I ventured.
“Noooo,” he said, shaking his head vigorously. “We’re wi’ Scottish Borders Cooncil mending some wee holes in the road on oor side o’ the bridge there. We’ll no’ be a few minutes and we’ll be oot o’ yer hair.”
And they were. I reached the doctor’s surgery on time and in one piece.
Meanwhile, back on the A1 at Lamberton the traffic was backing up. . . heading SOUTH!
Yes, with pubs open in England a week before their own, thirsty Scots were beating a path to drink with Sassenachs. A third of the bookings at the Meadow House, the first pub in England, were from Scots ‘tour parties’ in buses, some making a two-hour, 100-mile journey from Glasgow.
No wonder First Minister Nicola Sturgeon was quick to condemn her drouthy countrymen. She’ll have known they’d come back from their latest border raid on Berwick teary-eyed with beer in their bellies and coronavirus in their veins.
It’s been going on for a while, actually; ever since the Edinburgh parliament hiked the tax on cheap booze and imposed a zero tolerance breathalyser policy up north, the Tartan Taliban have been commandeering buses and camper vans and mounting cross-border raids on Berwick’s supermarket shelves.
Hoots mon! The Campbells are coming, all right, and Berwick-on-Booze is the new Costa Calais!
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