Aug 30 2011

Murder, mystery and the best charity shop in the world

Tonight you will have to gather around me cross-legged, light some candles and just listen. Modern technology in the form of photographs is not available for our camera is broken and there are no funds to replace it so I will simply have to tell a story.

Are you all sitting comfortably? Stop fidgeting at the back. Yes, I can see you.

Today the cold wind was blowing from the north, I saw an echo of a murder, standing stones that moved and then went to a magical place where things could be purchased for 30p or less.

I had read about Baldoon castle in Dumfries and Galloway and its ghost, a grade A ghost story that happily and spookily ticks every ghost story cliché in blood red ink. Or is it really ink? (Imagine this line written in a scary font unavailable to wordpress)

There is a wailing gibbering female ghost who appears in a tattered bloody wedding dress on the anniversary of the murder of her bridegroom and of course her ghostly boho visage is seen on the shattered remains of the castle where it happened. I see a picture on the internet and it is indeed a tumbling tower silhouetted by wretched remnants of gate posts and thus we drive to Bladnoch and see the faint ghastly outline of murderous history but it appears to be up a private driveway to a farm which now surrounds it and I really do not want to go on to private property to bang on about a ghost to some weathered cynical Scottish farmer with his hands up a cow. We drive on and see the black outline of the ruin. Surrounded by spiky moving machinery and industrial agriculture. I squint to see if I can see the ghastly screaming lady but my eyesight is poor and there are many far too modern gnarly appliances in the way.

We drive on. I frantically look for something else nearby on my phone and yay-standing stones-I do like a good standing stone. Unlike ghosts, you can rely on them to make an appearance and a stoic no nonsense portal to the past.

According to the Internet and the sign by the Drumtroddan standing stones, two remain standing and another is toppled possibly by medieval people renouncing paganism by making a sign of the cross. But we enter the site and but one stone remains standing.

We check the slight unobtrusive board but it merely has an illustrated pictured of woolly haired Neanderthals grunting with a stone and some rope on their backs to illustrate how the stones arrived there. And it clearly shows the stone that should be standing is not standing. I think. I am never very good with weathered diagrams in sudden rain.

I am with cleverer people than me and they are also puzzled. Very puzzled. And they note that the stone, which should be standing but instead recoils in grassy nirvana, is partially free of moss. As they pace and try to work it out with science, I rejoice. For clearly the standing stones have moved themselves. They are renowned for it, cheeky little buggers.

I could do more research on the net but frankly I do not wish to. I am happy with a sliver of intrigue that will probably have an explanation if I spend five minutes Googling. So I won’t-fingers in ears and la la la, stones move and life is therefore interesting and not just cheap consumerism and death.

And then I find cheap consumerism and am thrilled.

The Gatehouse Of Fleet is a small town surrounded by woods, mountains and moors. It reeks history through its very pores, we pass its turreted neo baronial gatehouses and forests to enter its long white street closeted by crofts and white crumbling town houses, a starkly beautiful place but not populated by second homers although it nods to them politely. A posh meal can be purchased at The Ship Hotel; there are artist’s studios, galleries and a bookshop.

And the best charity shop in the history of the entire universe. No fair trade chocolate or over colourful over priced woven stuff is sold here. There are no ethical but whitening Easter eggs still for sale but with a miserly discount several months since the Easter bunny has flown. Per Una is not priced at the same level as Vivienne Westwood and Atmosphere at Primark given a price tag more than its initial one.

But here, here be treasures. A giant mouse doorstop is 50p! Handmade artisan photo frames the same price. All clothes seem to be 1.50, amongst the Scottish woollies, some PVC leggings comes as a surprise. There is clearly more to Gatehouse than meets the eye. A tub of children’s toys reveal 20p nirvana and when I accidently set off a V-Tech Around The World ball, strangers are delighted to join in the revelry at the sagging creepy failing battery powered songs. Along with the sadly jolly talk about cancer that is never far away no matter where you live. But I  have two books and a very jolly ungrubby cuddly owl for 50p and nothing can touch me.

We drive away past the embellished clock tower, the thick thick woods, through the mountains and back into reality. And when reality comes, I feel thick and heavy and want to go back.

But now the candles have melted, harsh neon beckons and for tonight he fairy tale is over. Thank you for listening and goodnight. Sleep well.