NOISE carries far across this village. Sometimes you think a tractor is about to roll over your wall rather than finish its work on a distant field.

Occasionally I can hear dog-walkers ordering their mutts to heel out on the Common, and for about one week early each summer the call of a cuckoo reaches us from the woods at the foot of the hills, before it flits on.

One sunny afternoon in April, I was planting bulbs when the long-forgotten sound of conviviality reached my ears. At this point group events, even outdoors, were still strictly forbidden. As I buried irises – yet to make an appearance, possibly lost to foraging hedgehogs – the noise swelled. Banter; laughter; children’s shouts; the hubbub of cheerful conversation. Then I remembered. This was Wednesday, the day the fish van cometh.

Or, I should say, the new fish van, from far-away Eyemouth. The regular fishmonger, from the nearby town, had already done his rounds earlier that afternoon, and our haddock were now in the fridge, awaiting the frying pan.

I’d lived in Hoolet for almost three years before I even realised there was a fish delivery; a neighbour, who’s been here half her life, only found out last month.

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This winter his clockwork appearance has been a god-send, especially during the snow. Shortly after lunchtime, no matter the weather, he pulls up by the green, toots his horn, and one by one a smattering of customers comes out to see what’s in the back of his van. Even though Hoolet is his last stop of the day, we’ve never gone away empty-handed.

For some, however, the advent of the Eyemouth fishmonger has been revolutionary. As the numbers using the local van dwindle – I consider myself a loyal diehard – so the crowd around his rival’s display grows.

These are folk who know what to do with skate wings, or look forward to taking home scallops for a sizzling starter. As a lapsed vegetarian, I never stray far from the fish-finger entry level. Crustaceans and shellfish are far too exotic for my taste. Not so for the capable cooks of Hoolet who would be unfazed, I suspect, by octopus or squid.

The Eyemouth fishmonger has cheered Hoolet up no end. Occasionally I’ve been heading out for a walk at the gathering hour, and the throng fills the centre of the village. People are masked and socially distanced, yet manage nevertheless to catch up on the week’s gossip and news. There’s probably as much nutritional value in seeing neighbours as in the fish itself.

Hoolet, as I have often mentioned, is such a gregarious place, it is badly missing its hub. The bright and airy village hall was where we used to meet, for coffee mornings, or evening shindigs, or regular sessions of various groups, from the alpine society to the yoga class. To read the property pages, the ideal village revolves around a pub, but that’s not my experience. A shop or café would be far more useful.

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When it comes to refreshments, most of us operate our own pop-up bars, with the bartender snapping into action at the ring of a doorbell. Ours is perhaps less well-stocked than some. When friends came round the other evening, we took their orders: G&T for her, beer for him.

Beer? We looked at each other. We had only one bottle in the fridge, which was past its sell-by date. As Alan flipped off its cap (it took a while to find the bottle-opener), he suggested our guest make sure it tasted alright before taking a gulp. At that moment, all thoughts of branching out into the hospitality trade died.

Looking at villages in the area, it’s interesting to see what they can offer that Hoolet does not. Other than a beautiful medieval church, which currently accommodates about 13, our main asset for communal life is the village hall. When it was upgraded, some years ago, dynamite was required to blast into the volcanic rock on which it is built.

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Nearby Lilliesleaf also has a village hall, as well as a pub and café. It used to have a restaurant, but that closed a while back. Its close neighbour, Midlem, has a hall and seemed, at first glance, to offer a post office.

When I drove up late one day, hoping to catch the last post, I discovered the sign was a relic, and it was now somebody’s home. Somewhat unusually, though, Midlem boasts an air field, which explains the alarmingly low old planes that occasionally pass overhead, looking as if they’re about to scrape the telegraph poles.

On the downside, neither of these villages is on the bus route. In this respect Hoolet is fortunate, with a regular week-day service which, for all its inadequacies – not linking later in the day with Tweedbank railway station for instance – is a lifeline. Further south, lush and leafy Ancrum appears to have almost everything: a village hall, gastro-pub, shop, post office and a seven-day bus service. A full house, in other words.

I could go on, but might start to sound as if I’m trying to sell the area. Ever since reading Richard Ford’s brilliant series of novels about Frank Bascombe, sports journalist turned realtor, I’ve realised what an intriguing and eye-opening line of work it can be. I’ll be making an unofficial debut as a rural estate agent in August when a friend, who is planning to relocate here, comes for a visit and we start house-hunting.

Unlike many people who seek to escape city life without a clue of what they’re letting themselves in for (us, in other words), she already lives in the country. The prospect of a septic tank or barn conversion does not daunt her. She’s much hardier than we were when we landed in Hoolet, and has a woodstore three times the size of ours to prove it. She can pluck a pheasant, deal with tarantulas and manoeuvre her car out of snowdrifts, as on more than one occasion this past winter. There must be pioneer stock in her family tree.

When she starts her search for the ideal Borders cottage, Hoolet is obviously in number one position. Should there be nowhere suitable here, though, I’ll be pointing her towards places that not only have a village hall but lie on the fishmonger’s route.

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