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June 28 – Maybe I'm A-mazed
Morning in Melrose

Brr ... a chilly, misty morning assaults Dana and I as we step outside to greet the day. This is beyond chilly; it's cold, so cold we can see our breath. And this isn't mist, it's the rain we were promised the day before. Standing outside long enough to realize that we must be crazy if we stand outside much longer, we notice a tall sinewy man approaching with two English setters.

These dogs exude dignity in their regal carriage; their long coats flow out like capes behind them as they walk past. I smile to myself, thinking of a series of photographs I'd seen once humorously illustrating how pets and owners resemble one other. The long aquiline noses, the resolute stride, the self-possession – all are mirrored in the glimpse I get of these three as they pass by the drive. The dog nearest to us breaks rank though, and turns his head to look at Dana and I at the last moment, before we disappear from his sight.

Our plans for the day are very laid back. Find somewhere to do laundry, wander around in whichever town we end up while the cycles spin, a visit to Holy Island in the afternoon, when the tides will be with us, and possibly Rosslyn Chapel and/or Crichton Castle, if time permits. I turn my face up into the rain, searching the sky for the slightest hint of a break in the clouds. There isn't one. This doesn't bode well for exploring the ruins on Holy Island. Having extensively researched this area of the borders over the past several years, I mentally run through what I know is in the general area.

Recalling the unexpected pleasures of Castle Howard, I ask Dana what she thinks of seeing either Traquair House or Floors Castle instead of braving the tides of the North Sea in inclement weather. Torwood Lodge furnishes a comprehensive visitors guide in each of the rooms, so up we troop for a cup of tea and a discussion. Robin has just emerged from the shower and, after comparing the visitors' guide to her Blue Guide, and Traquair to Floors, we decide Traquair it is, after we deal with the laundry.

It seems to be a case of Murphy's Law with the weather. Our coldest, wettest day yet, and we're all scrambling into layers of what remains clean. Soon, breakfast is served, during which time Yvonne talks with us about our plans for the day as she goes back and forth between the dining room and kitchen. I can't get enough of her accent – a very heavy, charming Scots brogue, yet I have absolutely no problem understanding what she's saying to us.

At this time we are corrected, once again, on pronunciation. We plan on seeing Tra-kwahr, I say to Yvonne. She cocks her head, dark eyes bright as a bird's. After a moment she smiles. "Ah yes, Tra-queer," she says, "it's a lovely place". But first there's the laundry to deal with. She mentions having noticed a new shop in Galashiels called Bubbles (which she pronounces Boobles, much to my delight). She believes it's a laundromat but isn't sure, and calls Corrie in for his opinion. He hasn't noticed the new shop, doesn't seem to know what she's talking about. A little bit of friendly mother-son repartee passes between them, making me feel as if I'm part of the family.

After another table-groaning full cooked breakfast we head out for Galashiels with Yvonne's hand-drawn map for guidance. I'm thankful that I opted to pack a third pair of jeans as opposed to a lighter weight pair of khakis but wish I had my sweater, which is bundled up in the huge bag of laundry stashed in the boot. Shivering in my tee-shirt and waterproof jacket, I look out on the rain that is whisked away from the windscreen as we drive the short distance into town.

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