On the second full day of their holiday, the assistants kicked off proceedings with a visit to Cafe U in Kelso, the place they had found closed on their previous visit. They found a parking space nearby and walked along to the cafe, passing the magnificent Kelso North Parish Church building on the way.
Cafe U was set up some years ago as a church project, incorporating a Fairtrade shop and cafe serving loose leaf teas and organic coffees. It originally went by the name ‘Under the sun’, but that name now only applies to the shop part of the business; the cafe has borrowed the shop’s initial letter, becoming Cafe U.
It was busy inside and the only table free was adjacent to one occupied by an excitable toddler with an excellent pair of lungs. They sat down and attempted to study the menu.
It was a pity they weren’t there for main meals, as the menu looked very enticing with lots of vegetarian and vegan options. Although the selection of teas was impressive, all three visitors went for organic coffees, delightful assistant no.1 having an Americano and her spouse and chauffeur decaf cappuccinos. They paired these with one cheese scone and one fruit scone, cut up into bits to share. They made a right mess of the table, but enjoyed their bite-sized portions.
When they had finished their repast and made use of the nice, clean facilities, they exited the building satisfyingly filled and relieved to step out into the relative peace of the outside world.
The sun was coming out after a misty start to the day, and they decided to have a little walk round Kelso’s cobbled central area, the largest market square in Scotland. In the sunshine under blue skies it had quite a continental feel to it.
On their way back to the car, the assistants stopped to admire the River Tweed.
After looking at the Tweed they walked along the street on which their car was parked. Coming towards them on the same side of the road were two cheerful-looking men dressed in policemen’s uniforms. As the policemen walked along, one on the pavement and the other on the road, they grabbed the doors of every parked car they passed, attempting to open them. This was something the assistants had never seen before and they watched with interest as the men drew nearer to them and then went past, not missing out a single car as they strode along. It seemed likely that the men were indeed bona fide police officers, rather than criminals dressed up as policemen, since they seemed delighted to find every vehicle safely locked.
Pleased with themselves for having witnessed this lesser-spotted bit of police activity, the assistants hopped into the car and drove off towards the English border, just a few miles away. Entering Northumberland, they made their way to the conservation village of Etal, via the Heatherslaw information centre. At the information centre, they learned an interesting fact about the county they were in.
As they went about during the day, they spotted several of these flags flying in various locations.
There was a tearoom at Heatherslaw, where they might have partaken of a spot of luncheon, but their chauffeur had other ideas. She was keen to try the Lavender Tearooms at Etal, which had a good reputation and glowing recommendations from tearoom lovers online.
Housed in the village shop and post office, the tearooms were doing good business, but thankfully there was a table free in the back room of the building, where the assistants gratefully sank into their seats to consider the menu options. Delightful assistant no.1 fancied a sandwich meal, and chose cheese and tomato on brown bread, while her spouse and their chauffeur succumbed to individual broccoli and red pepper quiches with salad. The quiches came with an unusual and delicious coleslaw which contained peppers, celery, sultanas and seeds alongside the expected carrot and cabbage.
While they’d been at the Heatherslaw information centre, delightful assistant no.2 had picked up a leaflet about a small narrow gauge railway running between Heatherslaw and Etal. For £7 (or £6.50 for concessions) visitors could take a return journey on this railway, pulled by a small steam train, admiring the countryside along the 6.4km route.
The train left Etal station every hour on the half hour, and when their lunches were finished the holidaymakers were in good time to catch the next train to Heatherslaw. They bought tickets from the guard and settled themselves into an open-air carriage to enjoy the journey.
The train departed in a cloud of steam with a peep-peep from its whistle, and began its jolly little journey along the track between a river on one side and fields on the other.
Their spirits soared as they were whisked along in the train, delighted to be enjoying such a pleasant and unexpected experience.
When they reached Heatherslaw, quite a few people got off the train and there were plenty of empty carriages. To allow both assistants and their chauffeur to sit facing forwards they split up into two carriages, with the assistants in front.
On the way back, the cows they had passed on the outward journey had wandered close to the fence. Normally, when delightful assistant no.2 is close to cattle, such as during a countryside ramble, he stops to give them a lecture on some topic or other. There wasn’t time for that as the train sped along, but some of the beasts looked up as he passed, perhaps hopeful of catching a wise word or two on the breeze.
On arrival at Etal, the journeying party got off the train and walked back to the Lavender Tearooms, ready for a small snack after the excitements of the train ride.
None of them felt particularly hungry, but the temptation of a cream scone was too much for delightful no.1 to resist. Delightful assistant no.2 and their chauffeur opted for the local speciality, the singin’ hinnie, which was described on the menu as ‘a large griddle scone with currants’. The scone was a decent size, but the hinnies were enormous.
Just after their food and drinks had been brought over, a cheerful couple appeared at their table and greeted them effusively. Disorientated and still reeling from the size of their snacks, the assistants were momentarily baffled by the warm greetings they were receiving. Moments later, they realised these people were in fact known to them. They were the next-door neighbours of the delightful assistants’ other daughter, and happened to be holidaying that same week in a village close to Etal.
They all agreed it was a remarkable coincidence to have bumped into each other in this tiny village over the border. When they had gone, delightful assistant no.2 got busy penning a postcard to his daughter, asking her to guess who she thought they might have met in the Lavender Tearooms. He was going to leave it a mystery, but decided to add the answer before posting the card, in case the suspense was too unbearable.
Postcards written and snacks consumed (as far as possible, with bits of hinnie being taken home wrapped in paper napkins for later consumption), the assistants left the tearoom and walked through the village in the late afternoon sunshine. Having had their appetites whetted by a most enjoyable and unexpected excursion on a little steam train, they were even more excited about the following day’s adventure that would see them fulfil their ambitions to travel on the Borders Railway.