Tuesday, 29 May 2012

Memories are made of this

Some things are too good not to share, so I thought I'd do a picture blog after a sunny visit to the Borders at the weekend. You may have seen a few of these on my Facebook page, but no matter, follow me on a wee wander that brought joy to my heart.
The Cross Keys pub at Ancrum
I've always loved Ancrum, the small village just north of where I lived in Jedburgh. When I was at school I used to think nothing of walking the four miles to visit my mate Iain to go fishing on the river Ale or the Teviot, or if the weather was as seasonable as it was on this day, maybe even a 'dook' at the Quarry Hole. Later, I'd take the bus then walk another mile or so to Hopton, the farm where my lovely wife Alison lived with her parents. We'd visit friends, go to dances and drink in the village pub. Her mum and dad now have a house next to the bowling green and on Saturday, while we were visiting, I decided to take a walk down the river.

Looking east to Minto Crags and Fatlips Castle

Sandmartin's nests by the dozen above the river
From Ancrum, the Ale winds its way through fields and trees and I'd forgotten how beautiful it all was and what fantastic vistas you get of bonny Teviotdale. The first thing you notice is Rubers Law, the conical mountain that dominates the southwest skyline, birdsong fills the air, goldfinches, chaffinches, swallows and blackbirds, and hundreds of swooping sandmartins that nest in the sandy scaurs above the river.
The village green and the war memorial
As you make your way through the fields and over meadows filled with wild flowers the river straightens for the final length of its journey to merge with the more powerful Teviot. A few moments reflection and you realise you are surrounded by history. On a slope overlooking the far bank of the larger stream, you can understand how Timpendean Tower which I visited in a previous blog, must have dominated this key river route. In the far distance another tower looms down from Minto Crags a few miles west; quaintly named Fatlips castle is a sixteenth century peel tower built by the Turnbull clan, and which is now being restored to its former glory.
I once caught a salmon here, but probably shouldn't

And on a hill to the east, yet another monument, the most spectacular of them all. 
At first glance you could mistake what the locals call Penielheugh (pronounced py-nel-hyu) for a NASA rocket. It stands 150 feet tall and dominates the landscape for miles around. It is actually the Waterloo Monument, built for the Marquess of Lothian between 1817 and 1824 to commemorate the great victory over Napoleon. It stands on the site of an Iron Age fort and when I was young you used to be able to climb to the top, but elfn'safety has put a stop to that nonsense.

Looking east towards the Waterloo Monument
 From the top of the tower you could see across the Teviot Valley to Bonjedward and Monklaw, and it's said that the then Marquess (who may have been a bit mad, unlike the present charming incumbent) planted groups of trees to represent the relative positions of the allied and French troops, and that Penielheugh is where the Iron Duke would have conducted his battle from.
The picture of Penielheugh with wild flowers in the foreground is my favourite photo of the day. It reminds me that there's only one place you ever really call home.

For reasons that are beyond my technical know-how the typesetting on this blog is not what it should be, but I hope the spirit remains true.

Thursday, 24 May 2012

The Isis Covenant unveiled

I just thought I'd give you a flavour of my new book The Isis Covenant (published as James Douglas) which is out In August.

'The Crown of Isis, once part of the treasure of Queen Dido of Carthage, was reputed to grant its wearer immortality. In AD64 it was stolen from the Temple of Isis. It was believed lost forever. Until now. Art recovery expert Jamie Saintclair receives an unexpected phone call from Brooklyn detective Danny Fisher. Two families have been brutally murdered, one in New York, the other in London. The only link is a shared name, that of a German art thief who disappeared at the end of the war. Jamie’s investigation will take them into the dark past of Nazi Germany, to a hidden world of the occult – where a carefully guarded secret reveals a legacy of bloodshed. As Jamie and Danny will discover, for the promise of eternal life there are those who would kill, and kill again.'

The book cuts between a ruthless expedition in Roman Africa, the last hours around Hitler's bunker during the fall of Berlin in 1945, and a desperate contemporary life or death race against time to discover the truth behind a terrible secret.

Monday, 21 May 2012

Thought for the day

Apologies for the short absence. Normal service will be resumed once I've got my character up this mountain and made up my mind what happens when he gets to the top. Doug