Yesterday morning north of Berwick-upon-Tweed I crossed the border into Scotland, buffeted by icy winds along the coastal pathway which, for a few miles, runs parallel to the main railway line. As I struggled along trying to keep my balance, express trains rushed by, covering the journey from London to Edinburgh -- which will have taken me seven weeks -- in about five hours.
Last night the rain lashed down, but this morning the countryside was silent, grey and blanketed in thick fog. In the village I asked for directions to the coastal path at St. Abbs in order to continue my journey north, but was advised by a local resident to stay inland and take a road over Coldingham Moor; he told me that in early April a rambler had slipped and fallen over the cliffs at St. Abbs, dropping 350 feet to his death on the rocks below. Not wishing to risk ending my journey in similar fashion, I crossed the moor in the dripping mist, with visibility often down to 50 yards. At one point I met a farmer emerging from a field where he had been checking on his flock. I asked him at what age the lambs would be taken off to the abbatoir, and he told me "between three and three and a half months". Unable to resist, I asked him if he ever felt sorry for them. No, he never got attached to them; "there are just too many," he said. "Mind you" he added, probably having seen me flinch a little, "without sheep and cattle there wouldn't be any countryside for you to enjoy", and off he drove in his four-wheel drive. I meditated on this exchange as I continued on my way with hundreds (no, thousands) of sheep and lambs bleating invisibly in the dense fog around me, and soon decided that he was talking absolute piffle on both counts: what he really meant was without the sheep and cattle there wouldn't be any profits for him to enjoy, that's all.
Oh well...now I am Scotland, land of my mother's birth. I feel it in my bones. It's like coming home. I should be in Edinburgh after just five more days -- and then, finally, I can stop walking.