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Thursday, 24 April 2014

Wring oot yer semmits, please!

HOW MANY of you still use the word ‘semmit’? How many more are fair dumfoonert when they hear it?

Southerners certainly are and I’ll bet a lot of young people have never heard it spoken.

It came up in a Woman’s Hour programme when presenter Jenni Murray was interviewing members of an all-female ceilidh band, comprising fiddlers and guitarists only.

When asked why they had decided to form a ceilidh band with women only, one member replied she’d seen guys out there with beards and hairy jumpers and had decided that a new look was needed.

Jenni Murray asked what Scottish dancing was like because all she knew about it was when she watched Andy Stewart introducing the White Heather dancers on TV on Auld Year’s night. She was informed that this type of Scottish country dancing was very different from Scottish dancing at a ceilidh.

When asked whether it was important to know the steps, she was told that most Scots did not know the steps but still joined in the dancing. “If you can walk you can dance”. But it was pointed out to her that it’s easier for women – “men are dyslexic from the knees down”.

A group of volunteers who had been hiding in cupboards were dragged out and asked to dance a Gay Gordons, although the request to them to “heuch” met with blank stares.

Afterwards, Jenni said she’d never been so grateful to have had the excuse of a bilateral hip replacement because she had noticed that it wasn’t only men who were dyslexic from the knees down.

The dancers were perspiring profusely and were told that the band usually instructed dancers at the end of a ceilidh to “wring oot yer semmits”. What? “Undergarments to you, Jenni”.

When John Packer gave his talk at the Langholm and Eskdale art club on The Art of the Temple and the Tomb, he showed a slide of one piece of graffiti left behind in Egypt in 1822 by a Scotsman.

And the perpetrator? No less a person than a local man, John Malcolm. Yes, he whose monument stands at the summit of Whita Hill.

He had climbed to a roof-top ledge on one of the tombs and had carved his name into the stone. Quite clear even to this day are the words “John Malcolm 1822” and beneath is the signature of his aide “I Pasley”.

So graffiti isn’t a modern scourge on the environment, confined to vandals.

Returning home last week after a shopping trip to Carlisle I noticed a solitary oyster catcher digging away in a field this side of Longtown. It was unmistakable with its black and white markings and its long, bright, orangey-red bill and red eye ring.

But this early February sighting was by no means the first in the valley of the Esk. Robert Warwick was saying how he’d seen one in a field next to the Esk at Potholm Bridge on January 12. But, again, there was only one and they’re known to be gregarious birds. Perhaps they’re the scouts, sussing out the lie of the land for the later noisy invasion.

I overheard a Carlisle shop assistant telling another how a customer had tied up her dog outside the shop until she’d made her purchases inside. When she went outside, she found that someone had stolen the coat from her dog’s back. Unbelievable.

Are we in such deep financial trouble that someone felt the need to resort to such mean behaviour to acquire a dog’s coat or was it just a piece of nastiness?

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