“Pet Bird to Blame for Neighbour’s Bust-Up”, ran the headline in a Borders paper recently. Closer reading revealed that the bird in question was not a budgie but a guineafowl. Somewhere between a pheasant and a turkey, these creatures are sometimes kept as an alarm system, because their warning calls are so loud and insistent. They sound a bit like a punk rock band.

According to the court report, this particular bird began ruffling feathers when it got onto the neighbour’s land, not only making a racket, but “defecating everywhere”.

On the day in question, shortly after midnight, the inebriated husband of the couple on trial stood outside the plaintiff’s house, and delivered a “foul-mouthed” tirade. Threats included “come out here and I will punch your f***ing lights out”.

Meanwhile, his wife crept behind the bird owner’s Mercedes, and could be heard scratching. Daylight revealed almost £1400 of damage.

It sounds like a turbo-charged episode of The Last of the Summer Wine, but there was real angst and distress behind this pair’s behaviour. The sheriff, who fined them £200 each, was not unsympathetic. As he summed up, “These things always sound worse when they come out in a public court for what really was a moment’s madness.”

The rest of the court pages are filled with similar moments of madness that most of the offenders probably live to regret. The Borders are no more lawless than anywhere else in the country these days, although that wasn’t always the case, as Sir Walter Scott’s journals attest.

To judge from the various convictions handed out, however, this is far from the untroubled country beat you might imagine when you live in Glasgow. Cannabis farms are a local speciality, a couple of inventive operations famously discovered some time back in the centre of Selkirk and Galashiels. Other crimes include a slew of assaults. One quick-thinking woman escaped her former partner’s attempted throttling by “seizing hold of [his] genitals and twisting them”.

As well as physical attacks there is theft of clothes, house-breaking, vandalism, extortion, shop-lifting, stalking, excessive barking from a dog breeder’s premises, breach of bail, possession of indecent images of children and threats to share intimate photos. Women are no more saintly than men, it seems, when it comes to theft or assault.

Meanwhile, on the news pages, there is a story about a crackdown on “rowdy youths” assembling in Kelso market square, breaking social distancing – and underage drinking – laws.

With the exception of digital crime, almost everything in these pages could be found in any period hereabouts since court records began. A great number of cases that came to trial, then as now, involved the violent breakdown of relationships, folk getting into fights, and stealing.

It would be interesting to know how hard up the least well off in society are now by comparison with previous generations. Until the middle of last century, living standards were far lower than today, but civic charity, and family networks possibly allowed fewer to fall completely between the cracks and find themselves utterly isolated and invisible.

Certain kinds of cases, such as child abuse or domestic violence, would hardly ever have been recorded, let alone discussed. Their appearance in modern courts can be seen, paradoxically, as a mark of enlightenment and awareness. The advent of County Line gangs north of the border is an unwelcome intrusion of 21st-century drug culture, targeting unsuspecting youngsters. Nothing remotely like this existed until lately, and it is a reminder that idyllic-seeming country locations can hide sinister and ruinous secrets.

For a relative newcomer to the Borders, a local paper offers an invaluable snapshot of the area and fills in some of its backstory. Crime can be illuminating, but my eye is usually drawn first to adverts: gentlemen’s outfitters, pet food suppliers, holiday homes, but above all upcoming livestock markets.

With one eye on these ads, and the other on passing trailers and trucks, I can work out what’s happening in the nearby agricultural mart. One of these days I hope to sit on the sidelines and watch as the main pen is filled with, as last week’s notice promised, primestock and store cattle and store and breeding sheep, including blackface ewes, ‘Top’ Blackface Wedder lambs and a special sale of rams. Next week, it’ll be suckled calves, featuring Charolais cross calves.

This is a most attractive breed which farmers prize less, it seems, for their good looks – their buttery colour and broad faces would melt your heart – but for their commercial success. Because they grow and put on weight so quickly, these calves can be taken from their mothers in seven to nine months. At the back of the paper, a market report shows that the best prices were fetched for Limousin, Charolais and Simmental cattle. Simmental is the hefty, cinnamon breed of the bull that once nearly collided with our car when it made a break for freedom. Any rust on the brake pads was burnt off that day.

Amid widespread concern about the effect of the pandemic on the region’s businesses, and on vulnerable members of society, there are stories about various charitable initiatives. But one article, which offers a welcome distraction from Covid 19, is unique to this part of the world. It concerns Rob Beaton, a 78-year-old Selkirk weaver who began as an apprentice in a textile mill in 1956, and still works five days a week. He went part-time last year, but has no plans to retire.

Some of the grandest houses in Hoolet were built by mill owners, and the trade runs through the village, whether in old cottages where domestic weavers once worked, or in the shape of textile workers who have settled here. Mr Beaton’s employer at Dunsdale Road mill believes he is the oldest employed weaver in Scotland, if not beyond. His concern is to find someone to whom the maestro can pass on his knowledge of the century-old looms on which he produces tweed and tartan.

Mr Beaton recalls that when, aged 14, he began as an apprentice, “My mum said it’s a brilliant job, and I’d be made for life”. And so it proved. At his peak, he was producing 25 miles of fabric a week.