8/8/22 (Melrose Abbey Lady Visitor)

Hello! Yes I skipped a week. Or a week and a bit. I was busy seeing two of my favourite people get married, and there’s work at the pub, and also I was taking part in the wonderfully wholesome and instructive workshops being run by the lovely people at Alchemy Film & Arts. We were filming on 16mm with vintage Bolex cameras, and it was a lot of fun. Maybe I’ll write about it next week. Maybe.

On the 23rd of July, I attended a writing workshop run by Historic Environment Scotland at Melrose Abbey. Always keen for a free ticket into something, and interested in how we write about experiences of historic places, I booked a spot, along with a good bunch of folk from the Borders Writers Forum, and let them know milk makes me fart. Here’s the scribbles I noted down during the workshop, where we’d been introduced to writings by women about the abbey, and visiting the abbey. Dorothy Wordsworth was my least favourite, with snobbish complaints about the locals daring to live in ‘insignificant houses’ as ‘national barbarism’… The peasants were clearly not behaving properly.

A honeybee plunders the white clover at my feet.
The sky is overcast and comfortingly threatening after the week’s weather.
Swallows navigate the ruins of Melrose Abbey.
Two children play on the steps. Their mother talks in a language I don’t recognise.
The man – who I assume is staff – dressed curiously with white ear flaps and a scroll of paper strolls in lines, waiting for this cue.
Maybe he’s a
A couple with hands in their pockets pass me quietly
Pigeons talk amongst themselves somewhere above me, but I can’t hear them
Willowherb and harebells sway in the breeze in what must once have been solid wall.
The couple walk back past me, her hands out of pockets now, typing something into her phone.
An older couple in walking trainers stop to read the information board.
the strangely dressed man talks to the mother and her children and a man too.
I check my fellow writers remain, so I won’t be late back to the classroom.
Maybe I can pinch an extra slice of vegan flapjack.
Layers in the arches, that mustn’t have been designed, visible when it was built.
The strangely dressed man speaks, he sounds like someone I know, from Jedburgh. maybe they’re related.
Tiles with shadows of their former patterns stones flat and plain and blocky give way to tiny carved details
‘is that it?’ a north american accented voice asks.
I circle the metal barricades
essential maintenance, unfortunate…
I eavesdrop as staff speak on the phone, ‘give us five, ten, minutes, right, yep, okay, yes, now then, I don’t know… right, yep, okay, bye.

The other side of the abbey, the south, I think, is more interesting, although the traffic from the town is louder. the wind is getting up.
A young woman in a cape with a leather bag, takes an analogue photo, three people trick in, a man at the front discusses the entry ticket price.
I asked one of the guides, about the tree in the corner – it’s some sort of cherry, not a wytch elm, but he says there’s one over by the other corner, and he’s hoping to see a rare kind of butterfly that lives in them.
A thrush calls, and there’s some sort of family reunion happening, three graves down. Dunbarton, Kelso, making the most of their Historic Environment Scotland membership before it runs out.
Headless saints stand and sit on plinths above an archway. The barriers are between me and them.
I try to draw the stonework… enjoying really looking at what remains after… 900 years of this place being a human place. Maybe longer, I’m not sure. i’m not good at dates.
German families, boisterous children
I said I’d write about this on my blog.
Will take some photos.
and buy a postcard.


(I didn’t buy a postcard, the shop shut before I got to it, but I did get to take away some vegan cake for later.)

Find out about the Borders Writers Forum here
And about Melrose Abbey here

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Jessie x