Arrived at Lessudden House, on the outskirts of St Boswell, this afternoon. Lessudden was badly damaged in 1544 by the invading armies of Henry VIII, in what was called the “rough wooing”, when he tried – unsuccessfully – to force the Scots to allow their Queen Mary to marry the then Price of Wales. Elaine had stumbled upon Lessudden through the good offices of Alastair Sawday. Our hosts, Alasdair and Angela Douglas-Hamilton, made us feel very much at home – and her cooking is exquisite.
Lessudden, at least for Elaine and I, was spookily reminiscent of Gogar Castle, on the outskirts of Edinburgh, which used to be owned by my godfather, Sir James Steel-Maitland. He shared it with my two maternal great-aunts, Brenda and Dorothy, with whom he had a somewhat complicated, alternating history. Gogar is where my mother, who was living there at the time, first met my father, who then commanded RAF Turnhouse, now part of Edinburgh Airport.
Uncle Jimmy is one of the people I wish I could resurrect. Although his gifts to me as a child – an elephant-tusk-and-silver christening mug and twin hairbrushes made from ivory and whalebone bristle – would scarcely have stood muster in the 1960s, let alone today, I see his thinking on nature and building conservation as precursors of mine. Among other things, he collected animals for Edinburgh and London Zoos.
On arrival, Elaine and I walked down through the woods – where the horse chestnuts mercifully still show no signs of the devastating blight that is hitting their southern counterparts – and moseyed along the River Tweed, which runs alongside a golf course. The sun was setting, the fish were rising and all was well with the world.