It’s hard to believe that a couple of months ago, when I still lived in Tunisia, going jogging meant having to negotiate broken and uneven pavement-stones, bags of rubbish dumped on and spilling over those pavements, huddles of old men sitting outside sipping coffee and smoking shishas, tribes of scavenging feral cats and lots of badly-driven, smelly and noisy cars. Even when I reached a comparatively empty and quiet area to run in – Belvedere Park, whose lower slopes extended into my neighbourhood – I often had to jog around packs of stray dogs, past armoured vehicles loaded with suspicious-eyed cops and through the fog of musty animal smells that swirled out of Belvedere Zoo.
It was a great contrast, then, to my current jogging route. When the weather permits, I run from my Dad’s house to Hay Lodge Park at the western end of Peebles, and from there along the valley of the River Tweed. A path takes me by Neidpath Castle, up a flight of steps at the side of a disused viaduct and onto a former railway line, which I can follow to Lyne Station a couple of miles further west. Along the way I get to see some gorgeous scenery, so I’ve posted here a few photographs I took whilst jogging recently on a cold and frosty morning. Refreshingly, there isn’t a dodgy pavement, a rubbish-bag or an old bloke with a coffee and a shisha in sight. At worst, you may encounter a townsperson out for a walk or a flock of sheep.
I did, however, see a cat the other morning – a black one skulking on the former railway track about ten yards ahead of me. The moment it became aware of me, the cat vanished among the trees lining the track’s sides. I have to say this cat seemed inordinately big. Indeed, it almost looked panther-like. I wonder if I was actually witness to one of those ‘big cat’ sightings that are reported occasionally in the British media and that inspire crypto-zoologists to go combing the British countryside for roving pumas, leopards and jaguars.
It could, of course, have been a trick of the light – the stripes of sunshine falling between the path-side trees could have made what was a common household cat look bigger than it was. Or it could actually have been a black dog – though its long tail didn’t look very dog-like. Or maybe it was a hallucination induced by the medication I’m currently taking, which consists of four to five large drams of White and Mackay Scotch whisky every evening, prescribed by my Dad as protection against the onset of arthritis, hair loss, tooth decay and senility.