Musings from the Merse
Saturday, July 31, 2004
This is such a beautiful place that it is hard to find the inspiration to blog. Write soppy and whimsical poetry yes-Moons and Junes but tomorrow is August-July is bad enough for a traditional rhymster. So I will have to return to the stimulation of the Merse before seeking creative inspiration. Distance from the M9 not withstanding the West Indies crumbled in a satisfactory way but I am getting less pleasure from such one sided contests. Hopefully half their team will defect and ask for asylum and then agree to play for Scotland. Yasser Arafat needs their support.

Soppy Haiku No 1

Its not June
obscured by Sun
Love abounds
But tourists

There is something magic about the M9 and its effect 0n the West Indies cricket team. Twice in the past our journey north has coincided with a test match against the former world champions. Twice the very act of turning on the car radio resulted in West Indian wickets falling like nine pins. To day I took two wickets in ten minutes but then made the mistake of stopping for a horrendously expensive cup of tea and scones at an antiques road house. When we turned on the radio again Lara and Sarwan were well set and even turning the wireless on and off every few minutes had no effect-another factor was that we had long left the M9-The A84 has no terrors for the men from the Carribean. The Antiques Road House was a treasure trove of things we did not need and could not afford. THe restaurant was different in that it was full of scones and tea we needed and had to afford. But £5-20 for a pot for 2 and two scones shared was even more expensive than some of the antiques but at least fresh. The service was appallingly slow. There are moments when it is an enormous gut wrenching pleasure not to tip and this was one pof them.

Killin is not like Hutton. Surrounded by very high mountains including three Munro's (look up)and full of continental tourists determined not to antagonise the natives and thus avoiding eye contact at all costs. Saying Hullo in Swedish does not seem to help.(actually it might in Hutton as there is a very small Swedish community) Hutton has harvest flies and Killin has midges.Neither avoid eye contact and my magic potion for keeping away African Mossies seems to attract Scottish insects. Tomorrow I am determined to get some kind of response, friendly or otherwise, from a passer by. I'll let you know how I get on.
Friday, July 30, 2004
Off to the Highlands to stay with the Loch Tay Relis. Blog possibilities limited given uncertain technology so far north. Pity as this week's Berwickshire has a rich vein of blogstuff from Sherrif Kevin to Low Flying Aircraft. Retrospective planned. Be patient.
Thursday, July 29, 2004
The Music Critic of the 'Berwickshire' has done the Paxton Music Festival proud. Under headline "Music with that touch of adventure at Paxton House" the virtually blank- card- carrying JLHT describes the Schoenberg as a Tour de force. And the young flautist who was so fiercely interrogated about his educational background is given a rave review and no mention of his PPE. The only criticism refers to the intrusive stage management -shuffling of chairs and music stands and the hope that in future players 'will equip themselves with hankerchiefs wherewith to mop their brows' I missed how exactly they coped with the rivulets of sweat-sheet music perhaps or the time honoured sleeve swipe. JLHT is obviously easily distracted. Best ever is the verdict. Next year will be the tenth anniversary of the Festival so we can only hope to have the pleasure of JLHT's company on that occassion.
Wednesday, July 28, 2004
have now found the court case about the alleged Honey Scam-from the Berwick Advertiser: A bit more light is cast.

"Taste of honey leaves a bitter taste as beekeeper fined
A BEEKEEPER has been stung for £600 after it was discovered his honey had been imported all the way from Argentina.

 Magistrates in Berwick heard how Richard Brodie of Wildfire Honey, Teviotdale Apiaries, misled consumers by labelling it as Woodland Honey, Ancrum, Scotland. He was caught when a rival honey producer, Willie Robson of Chain Bridge Honey Farm in Horncliffe, became suspicious. The court heard that Mr Robson wrote to the defendant in April last year asking him to withdraw the product. Two months later, Mr Robson saw the honey at the Good Life Shop in Wooler so alerted trading standards officers at Northumberland County Council. Analysis confirmed the honey to be Argentinian, although it was perfectly safe to eat and did not contain any of the antibiotics which are illegal in British produced honey. Brodie, of Denholm Hall Farm, Canongate, Denholm, Hawick, pleaded guilty to two offences under the Food Safety Act. He told magistrates he had bought a 25kg bucket of Argentinian honey to overcome the low yield of his own produce in 2002. "I could see there was a possibility of a shortfall of honey so I decided to use this Argentinian honey under the Woodland Honey label," he told the court. "I didn't want to change the label because I was trying to build up the brand. "This was an isolated incident and it was never my intention to mislead the public, although I now accept this is how it could be seen by others."  The prosecution said it was important action was taken to protect customers' interests. Prosecutor Susan Moore said: "When you buy a jar of honey that says Ancrum on it, you presume it was produced there. "It's important that people don't lose their trust in what they are buying, especially when it comes to local produce as that could have a detrimental effect on traders in this area." Magistrates imposed a £300 fine for each offence but said the defendant would not be liable for costs of over £2000. Ronald Barber, chairman of the bench, said: "These are serious offences which involved a certain amount of deception to consumers which could have a knock-on effect for other honey makers." Mick King, principal trading standards officer at Northumberland County Council, said: "The survival and success of the local food industry depends on the credibility and reputation of their products. If consumers feel that the products that they are buying are not authentic, they will lose trust in local brands and this will have a devastating effect on many small businesses. "We are totally committed to protecting the reputation and integrity of local food brands. This prosecution should reassure local businesses and consumers that we take this seriously."

14 July 2004

I noticed yesterday that the parking area outside the Chainbridge Honey farm was packed with cars. So Mr R's blow for Purity and the integrity of our honey will bring its own reward. And quite right to.

 A good thing that this did not come to light during the Falklands War as public reaction over using Argie Honey might have been more extreme. Mrs T would no doubt have sent a task force up the Tweed-it would have been turned back by the all powerful Tweed Commissioners in the interests of salmon conservation. Briskly too. No time for a game of bowls.


I feel some sympathy for Mr Willie Mack who has just lost his job as editor of the Southern Reporter-a sister(?) paper of the Berwickshire. He apparently caused some offence in ' Innerleithen and beyond' by putting 'dummy' captions onto pictures of this years St Ronan's Games Week and Cleikum Ceremonies. One of the captions described 'common riding' participants as "pious little bleeders" I won't go into too much detail about these festivities but it is yet another of those Borders' celebrations as are held nearer to Hutton in Duns and Coldstream. Involving in this case the male Dux and the female Dux of the secondary school at Innerleithen who represent (in the male case at least) St Ronan- an early saint immortalised in one of Walter Scott's works. 'Cleikum' means some thing like 'catching' -and the de'il (Scots for Devil) was famously cleikumed some time ago and this happy event is celebrated in this festival. St Ronan's games are partly athletic events of ancient provenance and partly social happenings. As all over the borders the 'common riders' inevitably harking back to the dreaded Reivers of infamous memory get into the act thus, apparently, irritating the editor of the Southern Reporter who may have felt that a little bit of micky taking might not go amiss. It  did however as 'he appeared to ridicule Borders history and tradition' by suggesting that those taking part, including a number of children, should "get out more for their sanity" (Full story in today's Scotsman by the way, page 3 and also on their website at http://news.scotsman.com/archive.cfm?id=857522004 ) Perhaps Mr M is a blogger and confused his blog with his editorial duties and committed the big offence of causing 'deep offence'
throughout the Borders common-riding community. A powerful lobby it would appear if it can bring about the downfall of a local editor.

At the risk of also attracting ire it is worth suggesting that there has been something of a sense of humour failure-an occupational hazard facing satirists, bloggers and others who may sometimes feel that just because something is local and traditional it can't be funny-haha or just plain peculiar.  I feel much the same way about Wynesome Maydes but I'll not advertise the fact in a local broadsheet.  

Those of you ago about the festival to http://www.teoma.com and put "St Ronan's Games Week"  or " Cleikum Ceremonies" into the search system and all will be revealed. It looks like fun but don't add an extra 'ny' , please.

Tuesday, July 27, 2004
I think it was mentioned that at the last Community Council a complaint was made about a dumped car being an eyesore in a nearby field. The Chairman was most reluctant officially to raise the matter with the farmer concerned as it is hardly his fault if a vehicle is dumped on his land. But closer inspection was needed so as a public spirited person could look at the offending article and make an informed judgement. Eyesore is a trifle unfair. The car can just be seen, partially at most, through a gap in the hedge-through which it was presumably driven in the first instance. It is more visible within the field –at least that part which lies above the wheat belt now a good metre off the ground; indeed the car is almost an art feature, a bit of urbe in rus, brightening up an otherwise monotonous cornscape. Nor can it be seen from anywhere else and certainly not from any occupied part of the village unless one took the trouble to climb a roof or two. It might be seen from the church tower but I didn’t check.

Inevitably Huttonian is reminded of the tale of a woman, suffering from a sudden outbreak of Victorian Values who complained to the local police that she was scandalised by little boys bathing naked in the river beyond her garden fence. The police moved them on around the corner of the stream away from public gaze. Next day she called the station to report that she could still see the urchins, from her attic window, standing on a stool and using a powerful pair of binoculars.

HUTTON HAIKU Number the next:

Get rid of
that dreadful car.
 I can’t
see it. But
 I know

it's there
Monday, July 26, 2004
There are those who complain that Berwickshire is a cultural desert. With not even an odd Oasis-Kelso, for example is in Roxburghshire and Duns, the county town of Berwickshire, has declined intellectually since the demise of Duns Scotus, the philosopher who is (probably erroneously) thought to have had some connection with the town. Thus the Paxton Musical Festival, if not an oasis, is at least a welcome watering hole. This is a two long week ended (?) chamber music event attracting distinguished musicians from all over the UK (one from Japan) playing mostly for love (certainly not for much money) Tout Berwickshire attends and from much further afield. It is not Glynebourne sartorially but out come the tweeds, the faded kilts some of dubious provenance , the rarely worn suits, the deer stalkers and the wispy beards. This is no Hicksville audience. The county is full of retired music critics, recently de-chaired Professors of Philosophy, former Oxford students who read PPE and chieftains of obscure clans who are probably rocket scientists in their spare time.. One critic whose reviews are identified only as JHLT gave one of the musicians a fearful grilling ('how is that you too have read PPE?' He kept asking) no doubt preparing a scathing column for next Thursday's Berwickshire. He handed over his card- a cheaply produced scrap of paper- which proudly stated 'No phone, no fax, no e-mail' In other words 'no come back' to any vitriolic literary cavils. Thursday could bring interesting reading.

Much will depend on how the Schoenberg went down with JHLT. I feared the worst when the opening bars almost shook the ancient pictures in the gallery out of their gilded frames, jolting awake two sleepers along the row from me. (?music critics from the SIS-they employ a lot of sleepers it is said) A genuinely hick audience would have started throwing the gilded chairs around at this point but last night's lot really enjoyed the performance, shouting, refinely, for more. An imaginative choice by the impresario who obviously knows his Berwickshire. Well done Gustav. Do it again next year. Please

A lovely afternoon, a delicious tea with sandwiches and cake-much as you could eat ('within reason' said some one anxiously) and it was only the usual lot of mostly incomers who bothered to turn up. What a shame for the Green committee. At least the £1 a head doggie bags were worth waiting for but where were the other denizens of the village. Glued to the cricket at Lords? I don't think so. A deliberate boycott? Or just indifference to a good thing? You pays yer money and you takes yer choice.
Sunday, July 25, 2004
Incomers to Paxton are a pretty enterprising lot. It was a risky business buying a building plot from the main developer and at a high price as well. And then to form a trust and to find more money to turn it into a village green-small but perfectly formed. This afternoon another fund raising event –Tea on the Green will I hope be better supported than some of their previous attempts to raise cash. It is a curious thing this bit of enterprise has had its opponents, both locally and in a nearby village. Denizens of the latter feared that financial support for the Green might make it harder to attract funding for another pet project two miles away. Nearer home there was some obvious resentment by some of the ‘natives’ that incomers were trying to throw their weight around and muck around with ‘their’ village. This faction voted with their feet staying away in droves from fund raising events and making disparaging comments about the green-into their beer and in other directions. Ironic really as the continued availability of the beer (and now outstanding grub) is solely due to the efforts of yet more incomers, and English to boot. The Cross is bringing hungry diners into Paxton and putting the village on the gastronomic map of ‘Short Break’ Scottish Borders.

But the Green is a delight and a tribute to the hard work and perseverance of the Trust committee-against all the odds. And now some welcome good luck. The new developer of the Orchard has agreed to contribute a substantial amount of cash to the Green. This is in compensation for not having to provide an ‘amenity area’ inside his development. In fact the houses are so tightly crammed together-or will be soon-that the only conceivable ‘amenity might be a small tooth brush holder tacked on to the one remaining tree.
 So Huttonian hopes that Tout Paxton will get to appreciate the Green and perhaps enterprising
people in the neighbouring village will follow suit.
Saturday, July 24, 2004
This week's Berwickshire is not such  a good read as usual. Even the doings of the Dun's Sheriff Court are mundane for once-theft, drugs, drunkeness, abuse of the fuzz and spitting at a police woman (not the same defendant in each case) -not really a typical week for peaceful Berwickshire. But Sheriff Kevin tempers justice  with mercy. One sentence for supplying cannabis on a 16 year old was deferred so as not to have an impact on his university application (a conviction would need to be declared on the application form) I wonder if the Sheriff was wise in this instance. I can think of a university or two where a young man with such proven skills might be made very welcome given the drug culture at some of our institutions of learning. "Yes, Vice Chancellor, three As and a cannabis conviction-unconditional offer don't you think?'"After all Cannabis to the modern student is rather what Lager and Lime (or babycham to the distaff side) was to Huttonian's  student generation.

Flodden rears its head again. The paper features a photograph of a  group of mostly English worthies including the Sheriff of Berwick being led by a Scottish Piper (why?) around a newly created battlefield walk which, apparently, 'soaks up the battlefield's atmosphere' There is also, at last, an interpretation centre. The article recalls that 10,000 Scots and English soldiers lost their lives in three hours-the vast majority from Scotland including their King. The battle is described as  'misunderstood' A typical  example, I suspect of Scottish revisionism. Nothing much to misunderstand. Scots invaded England to take the pressure off  the French engaged in their usual activity of being outfought by the Anglos. Scots clobbered.End of sad but simple story.

Much more about Flodden all too soon. Coldstream Civic Week will feature the usual ride to the battle site and the cutting of a sod to bring back across the border. If that goes on for too long there will be more of the battle field in Scotland than in England and the revisionists will be able to claim that it was an English act of aggression after all.
Friday, July 23, 2004
A bitter taste of honey"

Stinging accusations of foul play in the beekeeping world have exposed the ruthless side of a global trade. Michael Durham reports Wednesday July 21, 2004The Guardian The cosy-sounding world of honey - redolent of toasted crumpets and jars with flowery labels in country shops - has been going through turbulent times. When Northumbrian honey farmer Willie Robson blew the whistle on a fellow beekeeper, Richard Brodie, for potting Argentine honey and passing it off as Scottish borders honey, the court case that resulted last week before Berwick-on-Tweed magistrates exposed some of the tough realities of an intensely competitive international business.

The most significant of these realities is that bees - like any creature - can get sick; so beekeepers administer small doses of antibiotics. The less scrupulous overstep the limits by dosing hives with excessive levels or banned drugs. One reason that Brodie's scam rang food-safety bells is that Argentine honey has come under scrutiny in recent times. For while Brodie represented small-time honey laundering, Argentina is among a number of nations suspected by EU and other industry sources of having laundered on a larger scale honey that is not their own in recent years.

Britain produces only about one-tenth of the honey it consumes. The rest, about 22,000 tonnes of the sticky amber imported from countries all over the world, is often blended before sale. But how can we be sure that the honey in the pot is what the label says?
In the boardroom of Britain's biggest honey packer, Rowse - based in the Oxfordshire town of Wallingford, at the heart of Britain's "honey valley" - operations director Brian Butcher says that for legitimate blenders, "the trouble is there are so many places in the world where people are selling dodgy honey. Once you spot a problem area, it moves elsewhere."

Thus is the opening of  a newspaper story which the Berwickshire seems to have missed-but may have gone to press before the court case in question. Mr Robson is the owner of the Chain Bridge Honey Farm one of the few tourist attractions really pushed by the Scottish Borders Tourist Board despite being a short Bee line inside England. The Honey Farm is a showcase for the honey business with a display centre full of every conceivable honey based product-candles, soap, shoe polish, body wax and yards and yards of text about bees around the world. It even has a cut away hive behind a glass screen revealing real live bees doing their thing and looking as frantic as the denizens of  a Mumbai Call centre. The farm believes in out sourcing and has hives all over the area including, some seasons, in Hutton and as far away as the Lammermuirs where the Heather Honey is harvested. And now Mr R  is a local hero, the guardian of our purity and the publicity will do his business no harm as being the real kosher (as it were) local product. The Guardian article is worth reading (Go to    http://www.guardian.co.uk/g2/story/0,,1265467,00.html    )      Apparently it is mostly dodgy chinese honey which is imported to the UK labelled as coming from  from a number of countries including Singapore where there are no bees!

The message is simple: Trust no one except the Chain Bridge Honey Farm unless proved otherwise. Hutton Honey rules ok. Rush whilst stocks last and after the honey farm have a go at Farmer C's Amazing Maize Maze. Enjoy your extended short break.   And tell the SBTC that you would really like to have stayed longer.
Thursday, July 22, 2004

In response to popular demand (well, er, two requests actually) the elder granddaughter is seen in her Sunday-go-to-dedication mid summer outfit with matching accessories. No, anxious of Aynwick, she has two feet.

Wednesday, July 21, 2004
Yes it is good to be back in the peaceful Merse after the hurley burley of the Big Smoke but it is the little inconveniences of rural life which can be irritating. We miss Dave the Paper. The wife did her post Big Smoke shop to day but forgot the paper. The neighbour who goes into town on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays and volunteers to pick up the Indy for us forgot we were back, so confined himself to the Daily Mail. Its not really worth doing the round trip of 14 something miles just for a paper but at least it saved me from a fresh burst of irritation on the Indy's coverage of Iraq. Good for the blood pressure. 

Second rural affliction is the oil supply. In the absence of Mains Gas, solar power (obstructed by the sun hating Mr Fish) we make do with oil for cooking and heating. We have a large tank and we also have a winding lane. Since we arrived here most oil companies have abandoned their small 4 wheeler tankers for the giant articulated lorries which just can't back up our lane-no room to turn if they come frontwards as the Lord intended. We are left with a couple of companies who can just manage with unarticulated tankers but with highly articulated drivers who are wont to wax lyrical about the problems of reversing around corners up a pock marked lane closely hemmed in by rampant vegetation. But now one of the two  companies (who had offered us a regular top up contract) has backed out. Line 'too windy' (as in turns, not as in nature's flatulence) Also the driver is not 'allowed to climb a five foot wall' This is a reference to the wall which protects our brand new 2600 litre tank installed by the selfsame firm which now can't reach it. Their local  driver is suffering from two broken ribs from a previous five footer and enough is enough. Ladders have been removed from tankers as standard equipment in case the drivers have a rush of blood to the head,  succomb to temptation and actually try to put the pipe through a tank opening five feet above the ground. We can only hope that the other company will not now follow suit quoting health and safety and the 6th Amendment. If this happens we wil be 'quarely gunked'** as they say in Norn Ireland.

** Stuffed

Tuesday, July 20, 2004

Still there across the road at night. Spooks coming under cover of darkness.

This is the sign for the Spooks. Or is it a definition?
Just outside Palmers Green Station (Yes we are on our way north shortly) was a sign reading 'Spooks this way' (Photographic evidence to followfrom Ht2) What could this mean? A post Butler Report get together by the local coven? A ceremonial burning of the report? Very unusual for secret agents to break cover or even wind-farts are classified at least 'restricted' which is a mercy in windy conditions. We followed the trail marked by more notices to the local park where elderly gay men were sailing radio controlled gay yachts with geek like intensity. They were ordered out of the water (the boats that is the men were on dry land)  by 'M' (?) with a tiny loud hailer and it was announced that the Spooks were on their way. Investigation revealed tat this was a shoot (film not bang bang) of an 'interactive' scene from the BBC programme 'Spooks' about to be released shortly. I hung around behind a tree but nothing happened; perhaps the spooks were lost or the interactivity had been unilaterally postponed. Having no time for' Waiting for Doublot' I left. The notices are still there. Perhaps it was all a ruse to wrong foot Al Qaeda. It may happen today but I don't suppose I'll ever know.

Monday, July 19, 2004
It is interesting that whenever Huttonian moves away from the Merse hit figures for the Blog drop dramatically. Is it that the habitual bloggee is only interested in this peaceful if(in ancient times) strife torn location? Is it that devotees of the old blog are hoping for the sort of trenchant comment which caused local difficulties before? Huttonian has foresworn the confrontational approach (sorry, Peevish of Peebles) but there may be issues which if aired as they should be may raise a rankle or two.
I suspect that 'Housing in the Countryside' may be one of those. With big money at stake and with property prices rising at a rate never before seen in this neck of the marshes the temptation to go after the big bucks may be hard to resist in certain (carefully unspecified) circles. And with farming apparently in the doldrums the custodians of the countryside are going to face hard choices.  Land owners in these parts have clout-how many people own rural Berwickshire, I wonder? It is interesting how the Tweed has so far escaped popular development. What other river of its size in the UK has escaped the pleasure boating, water skiing, booze cruising and other tourist orientated enterprises>? What major river in the UK has one bank at least owned by so few people. Fishing interests are all powerful in what is now authoratively described as the 'Best Salmon River in the World'. This is healthy for the fish and for the environment but I wonder if the pressure of 'Market Forces' may yet change all this. Perhaps even the Tweed Commissioners have their price?
Any ideas for the shape of future rants or subjects in this area to be examined in depth by the Hutton Think Tank (Ht2) please feel free to  use the comment feature. Every point raised will be dealt with and ideas aired unless advised otherwise. Anonimity is guarenteed

Mr Fish is out of town and it is a glorious day!Monday but who cares. And yesterday was the dedication day for the elder granddaughter. Lots of relies from both sides of the family, a packed and lively church, ( a bit too much of the Tops of the Pops arms waving for every one's taste but emotionally charged, warm and friendly). Then a pub celie (excuse OzSpeak) with the same relies but with added drink and lots of friends. The Granddaughter seemed to enjoy being the centre of things and if a bit bemused behaved immaculately. Mr Fish was dribbling away but no one minded
Now a whole day to enjoy the outer fringes of the Big Smoke and back to the Merse. For once we will return less enthusiastically but the garden-the Rasberries, Strawberries, Black currants Red dittos and the thirsty tomatoes have us in their thrall and there is no escape.

Saturday, July 17, 2004
Sometimes it works by magic. Train ten minutes early-yes GNER (must be  worried about franchise renewal) Tube as we reached the platform-plenty of room; no aggressive severerly disabled mendicants. Connecting train to Palmers Green dead on time. Not a Big Issue salesman in sight. Sun shining (left the Merse with Mr Fish in charge-pouring) Senior Granddaughter full of shrieking welcome. What else can one expect? A British winner at TRoon? Dream on.

We are abandoning the Merse for three days in the Big Smoke. Not for a change of scene but to attend the celebrations at the youngest daughter's church for the eldest granddaughter. So no rant from here until Tuesday. I might be able to get onto the air via wonderful Broadband but family commitments may not make this easy or prudent. So it is back to overheated Tubes, aggressive Big Issue sellers, musical mendicants, eye avoiding passer bys and Greeks still celebrating the European Cup. Not to mention environmental hygenists rattling bins at 0630 outside our bedroom window.

Friday, July 16, 2004

The oldest granddaughter just after she started on solids being prepared for her churching on Sunday. This has been in preparation for some time as this picture was taken at Easter. For more exclusive Hullo type images follow the appropriate link.
Pity the poor parents at Hutton School. They have now been told that a decision on whether or not to close Hutton and Burnmouth Primary Schools has been postponed from August until next October. Apparently this is because the Scottish Executive is publishing guidelines on school closures in September. The Leader of the SBC has said that Councillors will then have ‘more confidence’ in making decisions on the remaining proposed closures-Hutton and Burnmouth being the two Berwickshire schools whose fate is not yet known. Yet they made decisions confidently enough to save Eccles/Leitholm Primary School in the absence of any guidelines. But now common sense is not enough.

All this means that children will start a new academic year without knowing if it is to be the last in Hutton. This will hardly encourage prospective new parents to send children to a probably doomed establishment and existing parents may well decided to desert a probably sinking ship. Hutton roll is already very low and sinking –one child has already been transferred to Chirnside but for reasons unconnected with the possible school closure. So even if the Executive’s ‘guidelines’ turn out to be helpful for schools like Hutton there may not be much of a school to save. Depressing

Just to remind Bloggees of Hutton School. OK it might not look much but it has provided an excellent education for many generations of local children. HMI particularily commented on its atmosphere and high morale of the children.
Thursday, July 15, 2004
Today’s Berwickshire is a less riveting a read-at least for Huttonian. Full as it is: three pages in the news section and half a page in the sports section- of the Duns Summer Festival. There is limit of the number of Wynsome Maydes, Reivers and Reivers’ Lasses which one can take at one read. The Sports page features the Hand Ba’ which is semi controlled riot involving a team of married men playing against a team of bachelors trying to get the ball into one of the two goals formed by corners of the market square. It was abandoned in the 19th century because of associated drunkenness but has been revived to bolster the festival. The organisers of the festival have a habit of producing strange abbreviations in their literature-Hand Ba’ is one but that is I suppose what it has always been called –worse is the Openin’ Ceremony balanced by the Closin’ Ceremony. Did people swallow their ‘gs’ in times gone by? It is all very irritatin’.

Anyhow Sheriff Kevin had a quiet week. Only one oddity. A woman from Newcastle was sentenced to 80 hours community service for carrying a locking flick knife in her hand bag. Her defence was that she had carried the knife for protection since an assault in her teens-had never used it.

She is now 25.

Wednesday, July 14, 2004

Sadly Cocky has not visited recently with his wife Hennie. I hope they have not been beguiled into the Pheasant breeding farm near Hutton Mill. About 20,000 of his young cousins are being bred there every year before making sport for the guns from the South. Cocky would be most unwise to join in their group activities without making seaching enquiries.

A recent visitor to the rant-Frog the Blog. He has views but he keeps them to him self in case he croaks
The air is heavy with rich agricultural smells and a balmy sou'westerly is spreading the scent. Will someone complain to the farmer concerned? Dangerous to speculate so I won't.
Tuesday, July 13, 2004
Coernwahl Bhacchlard Artur

An old Cornish Ballad book has just been unearthed and the following is a rough translation by a Borderer:

King Arthur was no Cornishman;
that’s just a silly myth.
He was born and bred
A Borderer-and that’s
Nae taking pyth.

He would have flourished hereabouts
and history would record
His deeds, his wars and victories.
At home and at abroad
And who would have sung his praise?
The Borders Tourist Board.

But sadly he could not stay
to give this place its due
Other attractions were too numerous
and tourists far too few.
The men in suits banished him
and built Paxton House in lieu

So now we have no memory
Of Ghouls and Dragons slain
Of Good Sword Excalibur
Splitting evil men in twain.

Instead of the Arthurian Legend
(Oh Shrive me from the shievers)
and in place of knights of old
We have the bloody Reivers.
Longer Days Longer Stays claims the Scottish Borders Tourist Board website-sitting slightly oddly with their rather downbeat slogan: The Borders are Scotland's favourite short break destination. So at least you can spin out your short break with a very long and lingering sunset-not that Mr Fish has sent us any sun this month. As Flanders and Swann put it 'In July the sun is hot. Is it shining? No it's not!' And Mr F has warned that today is to be the only decent day for 'sometime'. Cloud cover at 1000 feet rather than at 400, and no drizzle.

There is one local tourist attraction which the SBTB seems to ignore: Farmer C's Amazing Maize Maze. They have been dead against it from the outset. Their point being that there are too few visitors to the Borders to service the existing tourist sites-so no more sites please. Actually it is a highly successful project-simple in concept and good fun. It is of course only seasonal but then that applies to most of the borders tourist attractions-closing from October until April. The tourist people worry that if you go to the Maze you might then ignore Paxton House, or the Honey Farm or Manderston, or the place where Rudolf Hesse might have landed. You could of course stay longer? But that really would ruin your shortbreak. Go on have a go. Follow the Amazing Maize signs from the A1 and the other main roads in the Berwick/ Paxton/Chirnside/Duns area and head for Fishwick. If you get lost in the Maze that might also inadvertently stretch your short break-but from all accounts that's a risk worth taking.
Monday, July 12, 2004
Today the Blog; tomorrow the World. It is pleasing to count the Independent as a reader of this rant. Under the head line King MacArthur: Scots lay claim to the legend of the round table’ the Scotland Correspondent pokes some fun at the revival of Scottish claims to the ownership of the Arthurian legend. He can’t have read ‘Musings’ carefully as the Scottish Borders connection is confined to the final throw away paragraph. Much space is given to the utterances of certain Hugh McArthur (why is it that he is aged 42 worth a mention?) who with his name which I assume is not (assumed that is)is hardly an objective commentator. Mr McA cites many non Borders Scottish locations (eg Arthur’s Seat and Loch Lomond was The Lake’) in his claim that the Knights of the Round Table roamed the Glens in days gone by. He even drags in a Welsh/Breton connection with one Artur MacAeden a Welsh speaking Prince of the Britons who ruled the Strathclyde area between the 4th and 11th centuries. Tintagel as the seat of Arthur is rubbished (with the inevitable reaction from the custodian of King Arthur’s Great Halls who stated that ‘Scotland is a rehash of about three years ago.’ Since then the peripatetic Arthur has been claimed by Russia and Northumbia apparently.Cornwall is on to a good thing and will stick to it. )

All good publicity for Walt Disney’s King Arthur, the expected no 1 box office hit of this summer. Braveheart and Rob Roy did wonders for the Highland’s tourist trade-although not quite as well as Monarch of the Glen for Kingussie. In the meanwhile the SBTB is working on technology which will allow a severed arm to raise Excalibur above the surface of a local flooded gravel pit when tourists stroll by. Anyone with an arm to spare should contact the Board. Given some of the admission prices to our few attractions in these parts the contribution of a leg as well might be appropriate. Good luck I say.
The wife is an enthusiastic supporter of Borders Organic Gardens (BOG) which is a very thriving local organisation although centred on the central borders rather than in the remote fastnesses of bucolic Berwickshire. I can take gardening or leave it-preferably the latter but we are stuck with a largish weed plot which is surprisingly productive in the fruit and vegetable department and is, thankfully, a long way removed from the neurotically manicured suburban gardens where one has an urge to dump anal unretentive dogs to add that natural touch to the agent oranged weed free rockeries and the garish flower borders. Gardens, this time of year are rewarding with the fruit dripping of the bushes and the tomatoes ripening nicely in the green house-the only warm place in Mr Fish's July.

The wife has an urge to see other people's organic gardens- a form of masochism perhaps in the unfavourable comparison department-or to learn new techniques which are as yet unpractised in our lovesome thing. Yesterday was a BOG open day. It was wet, cold, midge infested-just the day for watching on TV the last round of the Scottish Open on the lush chemically controlled fairways of - 'I'll take the front tee and you'll take the back tee and I'll be in the water, afore thee' Loch Lomond (Trad.) So we set off to the furthest of the show gardens-52 miles of Sunday drivers, off duty tractors and horse boxes. The Borders are beautiful but not when blanketed by drizzle. I half hoped that the weather was so bad that the garden in the depths of Roxburghshire woukd be closed. No such luck-it was very open and infested with the traditional BOG types, hand Knitted sweaters, sensible boots, string bags,straggly beards, unkempt hair-and the men were much the same. The garden was ok, disappointingly weed free but hardly worth a round trip of 104 miles (nearly 4 hours on those roads)At least we could buy a few plants we did not really need and I could justify my trip with a cream tea of scones, cream, jam and freshly landed midges.

To do her credit the wife feeling slightly guilty about my golf deprivation drove back at speed leaving the last few dozy horseboxes struggling in our wake. We arrived just as a bloody Frenchman was celebrating his win. He would never have managed such an amazing fluke if I had been watching. Wasted afternoon really

Sunday, July 11, 2004

Herr Hesse might well have wanted to land here.
I must eat some humble pie and take my hat off, very belatedly, to the Scottish Borders Tourist Board. With unprecedented imagination (the vision thing) they are publicising King Arthur's connections with the Borders. Visit www.scottishborders.com and follow the Arthurian links inspired by a book written by a local historian. Forget Cornwall and that part of the ancient Celtic Kingdoms-it is the Borders where the Knights of the Round Table did their thing; Camelot, as is now well known was situated near Kelso at about the present site of Roxburghe Castle. Apparently this discovery of the link to Merlin and co is to mark the release of a 'blockbuster' movie about Arthur. A SBTB spokesman admitted that the film was not actually filmed here (unlike the location connections between Harry Potter and Aynwick Castle) but it is a good moment to 'exploit the region's links with Arthur'

With more imaginative research the historical links with the Borders could be carried further. Robin Hood could well have visited the Merse escaping from the Sherif of Nottingham; perhaps he even tangled with one of the predecessors of Kevin, Sheriff (Scots double 'f') of Duns. Did Dick Turpin haunt the road between Hutton and Paxton. We might well never
know but it is quite possible and worth 'exploiting' . More recently Rudolph Hesse landed in the wilds of the Highlands with a message from Hitler; research if properly conducted could reveal that he was trying to parachute into Fishwick but was blown off course. A Blue Plaque could be erected to mark the spot he should have landed at. The possibilities are immense. Also take the opportunity to capitalise on a revisionist history for the common good: "See where Mel Gibson defeated the English Incomers at Flodden." Come on the SBTC-keep up the good work. And you could change your slogan to 'Scottish Borders Scotland's favourite myth connection and slightly longer break than expected location'
Saturday, July 10, 2004
Two days ago was the coldest July day since records started (sometime between the 4th Plague and the Great Fire of London, apparently) How do we know this? The answer, predictably enough, is a Fish. Fish MBE to be precise. He appeared, trembling with excitement on our screens at peak viewing time to announce this momentous news. Triumphant would be an understatement as would be gleeful.Today, I reckon is even colder; it is also wet and the description 'awfu' dreich is not far from the collective lips of the Mersites(?) Mersenaries(?)(*)It is as if Mr F feels personally responsible for our climate. And revels in it. If this can be proved should he be stripped of his honour?

Anyhow no tennis today-just getting soaked getting to the Redcurrants before the Blackbirds.

(*) A bloggee has enquired does love making in the Borders involve the mersionary position? Perhaps the Hutton Think Tank can conduct a survey?
Friday, July 09, 2004
HUTTON HAIKU # 12Housing in the Country side. A farmer writes”

People need
We need
Writes itself.
Alert bloggees will notice that there is now a comment facility on the links. Do use it for anything to be got of chests or bosoms. Interestingly, since returning from OZ and focusing once more on things Merse the number of daily 'hits' has trebled. So some of the local readership is back. Welcome.

A charming aspect of the last community council meeting was the unexpected presence of a number of youngsters-mostly of primary school age.They had prepared a presentation about the need for a youth club in the area, ideally in Paxton village hall. They made a very good impression and have now put their case to the Paxton VH committee where they received a sympathetic hearing. One was asked why they felt the need for such an organisation-he replied that his father was anxious to keep him off the streets! This from a wee slip of a lad aged about 9!

There are not many youngsters in our community-the school roll is down to about 17 and falling (Hence the threat of closure)And there is very little for them to do apart from kicking a football down the main street in Paxton and along the only one in Hutton. Playgrounds are ok for the very small ones but there is a need for more facilities such as a skateboard 'pipe' and sports areas. The Paxton Village Hall will be a good place for table tennis, pool (small size table), badminton, internet connections with its computer room. So best of luck to this initiative

I was hoping to divert you with the latest justice dispensed by the Sheriff of Duns. But the Berwickshire is silent on the courts. Holidays? Duns has just had its Festival featuring the Reiver's Lass and the Wynsome Maid. Why these rogues and mercenary bandits of those dark bloody days in the dreaded Merse need so much celebration is beyond me. Its a bit like the Aussies admiration for the Kelly Gang and the, nearer to home, revisionist glamourising of Robin Hood and Dick Turpin. At least they were more or less mythical figures-but the Reivers were real enough and the scourge of the Borders-'English' or 'Scottish' as the mood or loot too them. Lasses in their era did not remain Wynsome for long.

Bring back the stocks I say. Witches to the stake and ducking stools for the scolds. Where are those old Tudor values we miss so much?
Thursday, July 08, 2004
The Community Council had a well attended AGM last night-this coming year is the last in the four year session and elections for a new council will be held next June. And the coming year promises to be an interesting one.Just as it seemed that the outcome of the two year discussions over a new local plan had just about reached a satisfactory conclusion: no inappropriate over development in this area and especially in Paxton there is a new spectre at the feast. Out of the blue a recently established sub committee of the Scottish Borders Council is been set to work on a study of 'Housing in the Countryside'. It could produce some controversial proposals which may sit uneasily with the local plan. The Borders is primarily a rural community. Farmers, especially the larger landowners (farms rather than body parts) have considerable influence. Farming is not doing well(Much blamed on the vagaries of the CAP) and there is inevitably growing pressure on what is blandly referred to as 'diversification'. This could be as imaginative (and as harmless) as Farmer C's 'Amazing Maize Maze' or it could mean covering green field sites with a variety of building blocks in the interests of 'rural revival' 'Local enterprise' and 'regeneration'. Buzz words in a number of bonnets.

What it is expected is that the 'Housing in the Countryside' will recommend a major relaxation of the rules for development outside the existing towns and villages. The local plan has focused major new development on the central borders-around St Boswells, Melrose, Galashiels in the expectation that the Waverley Line from Edinburgh to will be restored making this region a major commuter paradise. But I suspect that Berwickshire landowners are feeling out on the cold if they nurse ambitions to find a more profitable use of their broad acres than is currently provided by agriculture. Given the uncertainty of whether or not the WL will one day be restored they can point to the certainty of the A1 corridor. An increasingly effective means of communication as the A1 is dual carriagewayed for more of its length. It is now very easy to commute from even deepest SE Berwickshire to the fleshplots of Ould Reekie where property prices are at southern England levels. Thus argue some of our 'destitute' farmers,this is the region ripe for development;more houses, better infrastructure make good use of the countryside in the interests of all those folk who want to base themselves here and work for the common good. Our rural schools will be repopulated, our society rejuvenated and our country people (and especially those with unproductive land to offer for the benefit of all) can go laughing and skipping to the nearest branch of the Royal Bank of Scotland. They don't actually emphasise any profit motive out loud in a public place but you can bet your last Scottish Pound note that's what they are thinking. And if as a result of all this rejuvenation the rural environment is destroyed for ever-ah well broken eggs and omelets and all those Nimbies who object to over development can sell up, take their profits and whinge elsewhere.

Let us suspend our judgement until the Committee reports its findings. But there are so many straws in the wind that it is becoming quite hazardous to venture out in Mr Fish weather. Storm clouds ahead
Wednesday, July 07, 2004
I am still wondering if I should have taken the Gucci jackets. He was most insistent. But as one bloggee has commented it was sinister. That’s the right word. I can’t find ‘Candido Camera or even Trigga Contento TV on Italian TV schedules so perhaps this was not a jape. Anyhow would hardly make great TV unlike a Candid Camera episode I saw years ago featuring a respectable gent trying to give away cash to passer bys on a London street. No takers. Like me they thought there must be some catch in it. Now if Massimo X. Gratia (may not be his real name) had just left his jackets unguarded for ten seconds in Edinburgh Airport they probably would have been recycled in a flash. Anyhow not even the Suede jacket would have done much for either my image or my street cred so no worries mate. Comments and reassurance to old_greywolf2000@yahoo.co.uk.
Tuesday, July 06, 2004
Ordeal by Gucci

Weird. I was killing time before the dentist and avoiding the questionnaire clipboard terrorists in Princes Street when I was accosted by a motorist. In broken English he explained he was Italian and wanted to go to the airport. He parked, just missing my toes and only just giving me time to extract my head from the open window and ushered me in to the vehicle. In broken English and a wealth of gesture I drew him a rough map and a rather good picture of the airport sign for his guidance. His English moved up a gear. He was a Gucci rep and had just been at a three day sale fashion show. What size was I ? I said medium and he promptly produced a very smart suede jacket (retailing at about £500 he said) and offered it to me as a present-'you've been so kind'. I demurred' Not my style' He produced too more-all for me (black leatherjacket and an overcoat as worn by the late Marlon Brando in Godfather II) I made my excuses. 'Give them to your family. I have too much luggage-for you-free' He was getting quite angry. I couldn't see the catch except that being seen dead in them would have been ok but not otherwise. I thanked him but no thank you. He pushed me roughly out of the car shouting 'you are shiity' He then drove off indicating with one finger the whereabouts of low flying aircraft (There seems to be a lot of them about in the Edinburgh area) I noticed that he had not studied my map closely and turned the opposite way to the airport.

What was this about. Stolen jackets? Why not dump them?Why not sell them? Was there a Trigger Happy TV man about? He did look a bit like Dom Jolly.

I'll watch Italian TV with interest Candido Camera?
To Ould Reekie the morn, GNER always permitting. The wife has seemingly avoided the jet lag and so my base is secured. After commenting rather unfavourably on some of the household arrangements during the interregnum she has now rearranged the utensils as they were before our departure to OZ -thus destroying my methodical approach to such matters whereby I could put my hand on anything I wanted in a flash. Now I have to start again and will spend much time looking for vital artifacts in the furthest corner of this large kitchen. Time and motion expert required-I spend too much time and too much motion on fruitless searches of the most illogical places.And neatly piling up things wastes more tome better spent on more productive tasks

The dentist today. A filling long put off. It is no ordeal. Dr L is gentle and painless. Exquisitely so. Painfree tooth doctoring comes at a price. Paying for the soft furnishings, the Hullo Magazines, the tv in the ceiling usually blotted out by the dentist's kindly (but masked) face,the soothing music and the well turned out and helpful receptionists lovingly extracting the cheques and sweet talking you into another appointment. If it is not Dr L it is the hygenist who gently tut tuts her way through my gums with well meaning advice on floss, remote controlled electric toothbrushes and state of the art toothpastes.

And the back to our rural idyll for a bit.
Monday, July 05, 2004
Mission accomplished. The wife met,luggage intact, Greenlaw police napping. Only brush was with two leather clad bikies who I nearly unsaddled on the Edinburgh bypass-failed to see them in the mirror as they roared past at well over the legal limit. Their horn blasted me out of their lane and they overtook with a one fingered gesture seemingly indicating the presence of low flying aircraft? It may have been kindly meant (perhaps they were off duty members of the Borders police without their hair dryers)

But I doubt it.
The wife has called from Heathrow having survived the ordeal from Canberra-24 hours in the air by the time she gets to Ould Reekie. I shall drive her down to Hutton hoping to avoid the police ambush in Greenlaw which nearly did for us two months ago. At least it is not Saturday night and it will be more difficult to miss lurking plod cars in the deserted streets of the former capital of Berwickshire. Borders Police may be now more careful about using their hairdryers-speed tracking hand held machines-since the time that they aimed one at a low flying F16 just back from Iraq. Used to dealing with hostile radar in the then no fly zones the missiles locked on to the the police speed trap but fortunately none were released. Could have been nasty. And Sheriff Kevin of Duns would have had an unusual case of police harassment to deal with. Police are now instructed to keep the hairdryers in the horizontal position to minimise the chances of collateral damage.
Sunday, July 04, 2004
The wife is in the air from Oz to Scotia so I thought I should do a very clever unimpeded shop at 0830 at Safeways/Morrisons and enjoy the luxury of not having to confine myself to the 9 items. I knew that there would be no competition at that hour from Safeway's main customer base (seasonally adjusted) the Caravanners. All snuggly abunk and not conscious enough as yet to regret last nights excesses. They will be doing their two trolley shop this afternoon nursing hangovers and scratching recent tattoos. All the world was asleep save me

Too true. All the world includes the staff at Safeways. Long lie in. Store opens at 10AM. Foiled. Hopefully the wife will be too tired to eat on her arrival tomorrow- if not I have an elderly pizza and this can be topped up with our first strawberries from the garden plus yards and yards of lettuce.
Saturday, July 03, 2004

And the Post Office-the only amenity left in Hutton today

This festival is a rare event-last one ten years ago and is toi mark the 170th anniversary of laying the foundation stone of the present church. All the exhibits are anonymous-and all are excellent. Well done the Kirk

Each exhibit had a theme-this was the cobbler or shoemaker representing craftsmen in 'Bygone Days'

One of the exhibits at today's Hutton Flower Festival
Friday, July 02, 2004
Sheriff of Duns

When all else fails to divert the weekly Berwickshire News can be counted upon to provide light relief. Especially the cases in Duns Sheriff Court, Sheriff James Scott (vice Sheriff Kevin) presiding. To those of us living the good (and sheltered) life in Hutton and Paxton the depravity elsewhere in Berwickshire, as dealt with by the Sheriff of Duns is eye opening. This week the court dealt with a teenager calling a 14 year old a 'nigger' and a 'Paki'-result of a family feud and not racism according to the defending officer. The Sheriff was not impressed and the offender got 150 hours community service. Then there was the 46 year old taxi driver sending lewd text messages to a girl of 15. The.The correspondence had started when the Taxi man replied to a text from the girl about a foot ball match. 'Celtic are rubbish' perhaps. These messages were apparently meant to be a joke, although not shared by the victim as the 'string of texts became more and more explicit' The defending officer explained that the accused 'had no intention of carrying out any of those messages'. Case carried over for reports.

More mundanely a motorist who had refused to provide a breath test was in front of the Sheriff. He had been stopped smelling of alcohol and been seen 'weaving about the road and mounting the pavement'. His speech was slurred and he refused to give his name. The defence was unusual: apparently he suffered from a condition which made him gag when things were out in his mouth when he was under stress. He had not told the police as he thought they might not believe him. The Sheriff seemed to be similarly incredulous as the motorist was fined £200 and disqualified for 5 years

Final burst of shopping for 9 items this morning. Movement difficult tomorrow. The Jim Clark road rally disrupts Berwickshire as from tomorrow with roads closed in all directions as a collection of Mr and Mrs Toads terrorise the usually peaceful countryside. Hnotorious our notorios sharp bends will exact some revenge

Thursday, July 01, 2004
HUTTON SCHOOL. The Omens are not all propitious.

Today’s Berwickshire’s top story, eclipsing the visit of the Duke of York to Eyemouth, is the Borders Councillors voting to keep open Eccles/Leitholm Primary School despite the recommendation by the Education Department that it should be closed. Another Borders’ School at Roberton was also saved at the same meeting. “There were tears of joy on the last day for parents and pupils” writes the Berwickshire reporter who comments that it was the strength of parents campaign (on Eccles) and the case they put forward persuaded two thirds of the Councillors to agree that the school should stay open

If Councillors are voting to keep schools under threat open this could be good news for Hutton whose fate is being determined by the Council in August. The one Berwickshire school to have been closed under this review, Cranshaws, did so with the acceptance of the community but Hutton and Burnmouth are putting up a fight. Ominously three of the seven Berwickshire Councillors voted to close Eccles/Leitholm-how will they vote on the other two county schools: Hutton and Burnmouth is not known but Councillor Elliot stated that ‘we are proving ourselves to be an ineffective Council’ His point being that recommendations to close schools have only been made after exhaustive consideration and it was irresponsible to now rubbish them. On the other hand the leader of the council seconded amendments to retain Roberton and Eccles thus effectively opposing recommendations made by his officials. One of the other Councillors pointed out that keeping unviable schools would have implications for the Council Tax ‘We are representing a lot more than just people who have children at school’

I have heard a lot of complimentary comments made about the campaign conducted by Burnmouth Parents and support group. Hutton has been less visible and vocal recently but then I have been away. But comments have been made that Burnmouth has marshalled well reasoned arguments (on the lines put forward by Eccles) whilst Hutton’s campaign has been more emotional. Apparently some Borders Council educational officials feel that the Hutton targeting has been too personalised and this has seriously upset some of them. But it is the Councillors who take the decision and not officials but as a general rule reason is more effective than rhetoric.Especially when you are trying to convince people who have no local axe to grind.We shall see. But if Councillors vote to keep Burnmouth and to close Hutton some very serious questions will be asked in these parts.
I hope it won't come to that

Seasoned bloggees will note that thereis no mention of Tiger Tim.At least the last remaining Aussie has also gone out-so mixed emotions in the Sydney Morning Herald and perhaps a few splashes below Sydney Harbour Bridge. At least no one compained about the Swiss Umpire on the centre court!
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