Musings from the Merse
Friday, December 31, 2004
Yes, Yes, Yes. I apologise to non golfing bloggees. But what else to rant about on New Year's Eve-morn on a glorious day. Bear with Huttonian. We will be back in the Merse in 8 days and then will be the time to return to normal-Village Hall, Landowning Lairds, The Orchard, the Local Plan-can you bear to wait? Enjoy Old Years Night-the cup that cheers but does not inebriate.

9 am-no wind,bright sun and the greatest golf course in Europe. All to ourselves. Having holed out on the 10th

The drive at the 12th. No margin for error on this 500 yard par 5. This ended in the light rough some 240 yards on the side of the large dune to the right of the picture.

If you miss the fairway you are sunk. Tiger Woods took 85 when he last played here. Looking back along the 12th fairway.

If you miss this tiny green with your second you might as well enjoy the view and rue your luck-this is a view of most peoples third shot-actually Huttonian was down in two from here.
I am so glad, looking at the blurb for Hogmanay in Edinburgh that we will be this side of the water and aiming for a really early night. How anyone can enjoy wandering around a drunken puking up street party dodging dog pooh and vomit in the wee small hours is beyond me. From the Scotsman website:

ENJOY NEW YEAR, CLUB CLASS JOIN THE FIRST FOOT CLUBThe One O'Clock Run Available from the Hogmanay Box Office and by phone The Concert in the Gardens SOLD OUTThe New Year Revels SOLD OUTCandlelit Concert in the Cathedral SOLD OUTA New Year Conversation SOLD OUTThis year's Edinburgh’s Hogmanay programme promises to be the biggest and best ever.There’s something for everybody, from the Torchlight Procession on December 29 to the Concert in the Gardens with Blondie and Scissor Sisters to Parklife! and the French street theatre spectacular finale on the early evening of January 1 2005.Our programme this year celebrates the links between France and Scotland and ‘the Auld Alliance’ and also marks the end of the UK year of Entente Cordiale. We’ve got a feast of French food, cinema, music and the biggest ever assembly of French street theatre in the UK in George Street on December 30 as part of the Night Afore International.Nobody celebrates New Year better than the Scots. Join us for the best one ever. Remember, to enjoy New Year, Club Class join the First Foot Club

To sum up : a four-day party which includes the fiery Up-Helly-Aa Vikings, the Night Afore, and culminates in the street party on the 31st. The city's filled with attractions and places to eat and drink - if you're confused by the sheer choice, find the best of the capital in our City Guide.four-day party which includes the fiery Up-Helly-Aa Vikings, the Night Afore, and culminates in the street party on the 31st. The city's filled with attractions and places to eat and drink - if you're confused by the sheer choice, find the best of the capital in our City Guide.

Bah Humbug.

Thursday, December 30, 2004

Yes what a feast. No Turkey this Christmas. A change is reaaly as good as a feast.
Its bliss being in Newcastle in this dead period between Christmas and the New Year. Despite being, allegedly, a working day, the town is empty. No problem parking and getting a table at Mauds. No queue in the Cookie Jar; no Belfast day trip parkers in the main street who have come down to the seaside just to read their papers and return northwards without benefiting the town's economy by the meanest brass farthing. Only the Golf Course shows signs of life; not intelligent life but life nonetheless. Dreaded Golfing Societies are let loose in this quiet period but thankfully only on the Hen Run and not on the sacred turf of the No 1 Course (PBUI) Thick set men in dark clothing, pulled by rechargeable trolleys, hack their way around 18 holes effing and blasting and massively threatening collateral damage. Sadly it was a nice day so this rat pack may have enjoyed themselves with their impassioned competiveness and cholesterol raising rivalry. If there was a coronary or two I missed it but the frustrated rage of very bad golfers playing very bad golf did not lead to the odd episode of cardiac arrest then Bob was not my uncle, which he was. Tomorrow I will check for unmarked graves.
Tuesday, December 28, 2004

The middle nephew entertains the Scottish relies (it is not quite true that Scots have no sense of humour apart from jokes involving pecuniary loss) with a decorated Christmas Cake illustrating one of the great current issues. To read the blurb you will need to click on the image) Huttonian is not responsible for any offence taken but ifyou enjoy it-its thanks to him

Trying the cake again-some post Xmas bug is being mischievous
Actually, even when clicked the legend is hard to decipher-so, here from the mouse of the master is the original text

All Hail The Mighty Dump Truck!It is the near future. The iconography of the established church has fallen into disrepair - churches lie ignored in overgrown forests. The statues of their saviour - Old Father Christ - lean on their crumbling walls. The new Gods are the machines which move the very earth beneath our feet: the dump trucks and diggers. It is these mighty machines which are exhaled to the status of Gods, due to their might powers. Followers gather beneath an alter dedicated to a dump truck and begin their worship of its might. The stillness of the worship is only disturbed by the gentle idling of its engine. One old lady, who is celebrating her birthday, gets to sit in the tipper, as a special treat. No doubt she will be sacrificed to the diggers later, so as to ensure another years successful harvest of coal and oil.

NB The fate of the old lady is as yet unknown. (Blog-ed)
Irish newspapers reviewing 2004 are smugly satisfied at the fact that for the fourth year in a row the Celtic Tiger has the fastest growing economy in Europe and in terms of per capita GNP has overtaken the UK and Germany. They are however more reticent about the fact that Ireland has the highest rate of industrial pollution in the EU and the 5th highest in the world. Ireland is still blessed with vast energy reserves-not oil but grass. Well, actually 'Turf' or peat-combustible material from the bogs which still cover a significant proportion of the Emerald Isle. This is cut out, dried and processed into briquettes or used in its raw state for fueling powerstations and domestic hearths. Lucky Ould Sod-Piskieland is self sufficient in fuel and happy about it. But Peat is a very major pollutant and a significant contributor to global warming and not many people seem to mind down South whilst going after the American's for their environmental malpractices at the same time.

Huttonian is an accessory after the fact. Our cottage sitting room is warmed by the snuggest of peat fires; enchanting smell, efficient in terms of fuel usage and with a warm glow which lingers all night, long after the flames have disappeared. Pure self indulgence but I suppose we should desist for the greater good and put the dried flowers back in the hearth and turn up the central heating-oh dear that is oil fired. A dilemma. A suitable Resolution for 2005? Probably not.
Monday, December 27, 2004
This is the flat side of Christmas. The Brother in Law and A have left for Scotland so it is back to ourselves. The wrapping paper is away with the recycling and my attempt to golf thjis banl holiday was frustrated by hundreds of hens scratching away all over the course, in their gleaming red Christmas anoraks, swarming like maggots on an open wound. Luna the guest dog repaid our hospitality by crapping profusely and liquidly in the early hours of the morning. Fortunately the B-i-L had dealt with the mess by the time I emerged but the smell of Dettol was overpowering but a bit better than the alternative. On balance I prefer mice.

5pm. Coming back from Belfast and the Mournes rise to greet us. Magic.
Sunday, December 26, 2004
So to be pedantic this is not Boxing Day but St Stephen's Day. BD is tomorrow and is a Bank Holiday. Today is thus a bit of a non event-perfect for visiting friends in bleak Belfast assuming we can get through on icy roads. It was so good not to have Turkey on Christmas Day but Salmon. Thank goodness for a Veggie in our midst. Turkey is long in the making and boring in the eating. And thankgoodness we were not with the Scottish relies. So busy enjoying the snow in that brief period of twilight which passes for daytime in the Hielands that they missed the Queen's Speech and did not open presents until after 4pm. Such a break in tradition is unacceptable in civilised circles but apparently, according to my informant the whole day was 'child centred' Screams, petulance, meltdown, recriminations-well out of that for once.

Its worth adding this-snow is so rare in Newcastle by the sea that this scene taken at Murlough is worth recording. The wind was so strong that the snow blew away as soon as it landed. And now it is raining with mild weather forecast for tomorrow.
Saturday, December 25, 2004

Slightly worrying-the rescue boat roared out to sea before WS and A plus L the dog got in.

The worst bit-going in. Temp -2C. Sea Temp a bit warmer

Cold-Snow on Slieve Crewbe behind Newcastle

Yes. 11am Xmas Day. The Brother in Law and A enjoying (?) their swim. So is Luna
Yes we woke up to snow this morning-an almost white Christmas but probably too near the sea for it to lie seriously. And we are promised heavy snow today in Norn Iron. The brotherin law is going to swim so there may be one less for Christmas dinner? We have to await the Queen's Speech at 3pm before being allowed to open presents-only 4 of us this year, compared to 11 last Christmas and 16 on Boxing Day. No children which is sad but so much more restful! A happy xmas to all bloggees and if you are Muslim of Jewish don't take offence. You day will come.
Friday, December 24, 2004
I could not resist this from Man About Town column in the Mourne Observer. Pennies count in Norn Iron.

WORD reaches me that Scrooge is alive and well and living in Newcastle. A Mourne pensioner was visiting the town the other day and called at a well-known local business to buy some confectionery.She collected a number of different items and presented herself at the till, where the total came to £2.26. The pensioner opened her purse and counted out £2.25, then started hunting for another penny to make up the total.Failing to find the elusive 1p coin, she realised the next best thing was a five pound note. The assistant said that would be all right and reached for the banknote in readiness for handing back £4.99 in change.“I was having none of it,” the reader told the column. “I couldn’t believe the assistant would have broken a five pound note for the sake of a single penny. It wasn’t as if they were particularly busy and little wonder if that is the attitude they show towards customers.“I just walked out and told her to keep the sweets and you can be sure I won’t be back there in a hurry. It was such a contrast to other shops in the town where the spirit of Christmas is very much in evidence,” she added.Perhaps businesses in this part of the world should consider the approach adopted by many American shopkeepers. They keep a little jar filled with pennies (cents) beside the till and if the customer needs a penny to make up the total, then it is there “free of charge.” Alternatively, if the customer has a spare penny then he or she can pop it into the receptacle for someone else to use.
It is Christmas Eve. We were promised drizzle. We have heavy rain. It is cold. The heaving shops are best avoided, full of steaming people whose presents ordered on the internet have not turned up and they have only a few hours to buy substitutes. Half our mail has not arrived as it is being forwarded from the Borders and we are a few presents short for under the tree and the opening ceremony after the Queen has said her bit at 3pm. Snow is forecast. And that is something to look forward to. If we are spared
Thursday, December 23, 2004
To day's Berwickshire News on line carries this rather curious letter. Not the contents but the sender: I had no idea that the Kingdom of Scotland was located in Duns. I knew that the Kindom of France has an honorary consul in Galashiels-as a day job he restores old pianos. Mr Ritchie is the Regent-so where is the monarch and where do the Windsors come into all this. I think we should be told.

SIR, — Appeal for Scottish Observers at Ukraine’s December 26 Election The Ukraine needs to have the December 26 re-run of its presidential election observed by fair-minded observers from outside that country. I appeal for there to be one or two Scots present then at every polling station and at all the counting of votes to help ensure absolute democratic fairness this time. The Committee of Voters of Ukraine (CVU) has been told by myself that this appeal is being made here in Scotland. CVU is a ten year-old independent non-governmental organisation dedicated to legitimacy and openness and electoral and other rights of citizen protection, ensuring honest and democratic elections. So the Chairman of its Board, Igor Popov, tells me. He tells me, too, that they welcome the initiative being taken by myself to appeal for Scottish observers who will join those already known to be coming from elsewhere in Europe, from Canada, and other parts of the world. CVU’s address is: 01135 KIYV-135, Box 5, Ukraine. Its Tel/Fax number is: 00 380 44 490 61 35, and its E-mail address is: www.cvu.org.ua. MICHAEL RITCHIE, Regent and Acting Chancellor (Chief Minister) of the Kingdom of Scotland issued from: The Blue House, Duns.

I wonder if the Sheriff of Duns should not look into all this.
Wednesday, December 22, 2004
Norn Iron is back in the news for all the bad reasons-this time a £20 million bank robbery in the Northern Bank. Thank goodness I ran down my Northern Bank account some years ago-there may be a very small balance and the NB is welcome to it to help out with salaries over Christmas if they are that strapped. But why keep so much money in actual specie? Anyhow we are to look out for criminals splashing money around. A conspicuous sight that will be as Ulster folk part with cash very very reluctantly so someone waving £100 notes around will be noticeable.
They need not bother trying to use Ulster cash across the water. It is bad enough trying to have Scottish Bank notes accepted south of the border but Norn Iron money is as much use as Monopoly notes. And indeed the Northern Bank notes with bits of plasticy see through bits is particularity Third World. So it is only here that they can have any hope of spreading it around and it will have to be in very small denominations for humdrum items. It would take a lot of time to spend £20M in Pound Stretcher or even Safeways. If it is a Para Military gang they could arrange for every member to spend say £100 per night per pub until the new year. But these gangs are very small and one mistake-going into a Protestant Pub (assuming this is the IRA we are talking about) with the cash and their cover is blown with all the Orange customers-off duty members of the Police Service of Norn Iron to a man. The old Prod Pub down at the Harbour -some 199 years old and closed for the past few months has suddenly reopened. How it makes money is a puzzle-it can take 6 customers (or 5 with the door closed). It actually reopened on the night of the bank heist-so are we looking for a Loyalist Gang? That's a thought.

By great demand a return of the master-270 yard drive at the 17th on the No 2 Course-actully taken last Winter but it could have been today. This is Huttonian's usual golfing partner and one he has never beaten.

The fearsome finishing 18th. 547 yards into the wind-green just short of the mountains.
Tuesday, December 21, 2004
Today's rant is about golf so look away if you are not interested. Despite bitter cold and at least two pull overs too few I enjoyed an uplifting round in the winter sunshine. The dog and its handler was back but kept a safe distance. It couldn't bark or chew me as its mouth was filled with newly discovered golf balls-all worth a £ and then resold in the shop at £1-50. Nice work if you can get it. It was ladies day on the No 2 course-lots of hacking, scratching and genteel effing and blasting but I kept well away from this frenzy of activity. The photos below give some idea of the two courses and if you want a round here and have £98 burning a hole in your pocket, no problem.

Snow on top of Slieve Donard-looking back down the 2nd Fairway on the No 2 Course

Looking back from the 11th Green-450 yard par 4 with a 170 yard carry from the tee over the hill behind the flag to get the ball onto the fairway

Deceptively easy par 3-the 5th on the No 2 course. Ttry it with a 60 mph wind from the right and deep heather all around.

Chip and putt needed for par 4 at the third on the No 2 course.

2nd shot to the 6th. Huttonian is on the green and just missed a three. Click on photo to get more detail
Typical post Fish winter day. Sunny and still and the mountains covered in snow. So I could play on one of the world's greatest courses with not another golfer in sight on this magnificent links . Not true of the No 2 course which was surprisingly crowded with a number of wheezing, shrouded figures scratching their way round with wild cries of 'Fore!' as they practiced saturation bombing in the Rumsfeld manner with little care for collateral damage. Fortunately they were no threat to me protected by towering sand dunes and impenetrable gorse. One tiny aggravation as I was stalked by a large Alsatian and its owner hunting for golf balls. It came a bit close in search of booty but a threatening gesture from my new super putter drove it back into the bushes in persuit of easier prey.

It is now hissing down and the snow has gone from Slieve Donard. I'll take my camera next time and prepare a mini photo guide so as you can eat out your collective hearts.
Monday, December 20, 2004
The Belfast Bloggee is back in action again. I am slightly diffident about publishing his latest offering as I know this rant is probably monitored by the Animal Liberation Front since I started writing about mice. But the BB is quite likely to be a target for massive cruelty to little dogs as my kind, indeed loving, approach to little vermin is in marked contrast to his Rumsfeld like naked aggression. I am not sure what he has against the wee puppy. If it had its way with Clio it might do wonders for the breed. If Clio can't stand up for herself is she worth protecting......Anyhow here goes:

I have just taken delivery of a Spider-Man High Powered Water Cannon from Toys r Us. It is a splendid piece of engineering that can blast a jet of water over 30ft. This is ample range from my office window to our gate where an uninvited guest tends to linger just a bit too long and expectant. The guest is a fluffy, arrogant little mutt that has recently taken up residence a few doors down. He fancies his chances with Klio, the moose sized dog that lives here, but barely reaches up to her ankles in height.

Previous suitors have been met with a barrage of potatoes, the larger ones cut into quarters, but this little creep doesn’t know the drill. The PPW disapproved of the potato artillery, and less so of the onions that followed. The latter give a quite spectacular effect if the trajectory, speed and tarmac combine in the correct manner. This line of defence had to end when a friendly neighbour’s car became an innocent victim of an errant spud.

From my window I can spot the randy rat approaching and can prime the cannon in good time for his arrival at the gate. For such a little beast, it is quite amazing the height that he can achieve from a standing start when the icy blast meets him square on.

Yet, he is a lusty mutt and hasn’t been put off at all. An internet search has provided a means to acquire some bromide. I hope that the PPW doesn’t find it first."

Oh go on BB get it some Viagra. Has anyone consulted Clio.

Sunday, December 19, 2004

This was as far as we got to day. The path runs another half mile to the quarry. More photos, if we are spared

Looking down the line to the harbour. No stone boats left now.

This is the start of the bogey line project. This was a cable railway from the harbour to a quarry on the mountain from which granite was shipped in 'stone boats' to Liverpool and beyond. Much of Liverpool is built from granite from here. It ceased to function about 70 years ago and the old line has been turned into a walk.

Newcastle. Huttonian Cottage is the white sunlit building on right. Used to be the coachman's cottage for big house in front. The new building site is the bunker building on the left. All used to be my grandfather's land-pity we sold it so many years ago only keeping the cottage. Across the bay and to the right of the Victorian Slieve Donard hotel is the Royal Count Down Golf Course. PBUI
I rarely look at the comments because so few bloggees bother but the following is of national interest-received from Oz of all places.

Good Morning, Sir. I was recently reading your blog, and I thought...I would add to the Belfast bloggee's rant to point out that the whole Person Christmas fantasy is likely to be the result of drug induced hallucinations by Laplanders who have over-indulged in drinking their reindeers' urine (after the reindeer gorged themselves on the toxic fly agaric toadstools - hence Ms Christmas's red and white colour scheme). Whatever way you look at it, it is ridiculous, but I'm not about to tell my 4-year old that.

Good point I hear you cry.

Another bloggee asks about the Hutton and Paxton Panto-have we started casting yet? No-any ideas welcome especially for Sinbad, aka Tariq Aziz. Of Middle Eastern appearance, must be able to sort of sing. Knowledge of Arabic an asset.

We also want volunteers for the Three Not Very Wise Persons. They follow the wrong star and arrive in Hutton by mistake. Song:' Bother the Rainbow' Ideas via comments please-I'll try and read them more frequent;y.


An attempt to convey the Newcastle Street decorations as at 5pm on the last Saturday before Christmas.
Saturday, December 18, 2004
We have never been in Newcastle at this time of year since we got married early last century. It is slightly unsatisfactory as it is difficult to do all the things that we enjoy at other times. The greatest golf course in Europe a mile away and it is just too cold to enjoy a round-or even to contemplate one. Other people obviously don't feel like that as the car park was packed and well wrapped golfers hurrying out with joyful anticipation written all over them. It is probably a state of mind but it is going to take a big mental effort to break. There is always mountain walking. But the days are short-dark until 9 and dark again at 4 and the wind is whistling in from the North Pole so another mental barrier to remove before donning the extra socks, the boots, the pullover, the pullover, another pullover, the fleece, the wind proof over jacket, the woolen hat. And by the time you have done that it is 4 and the light has gone.

The only thing that is unchanged is Tesco's. Sad, really.

Newcastle Haiku # 1

Too cold for golf.
Too cold to walk.
Linger over the
9 items.

And so the day
Friday, December 17, 2004
Great to be in Norn Iron I thought as I crawled out of bed leaving the wife and a cold cup of tea. Sun blazing, sea blue, waves diminished. To the first tee, two practice swings, send the ball soaring down the fairway, short chip, simple putt-a birdie! What a way to start Christmas. So I donned the garb, found my tees, a new pristine ball. Flung open the front door-took in a lungful of crisp sea air. Five minutes later I had rejoined the wife with a microwaved cup of luke warm tea. It was freezing outside, the wind from the north, three pullover and a thick jacket weather. Golf can wait and the wife can bring the Guardian from Near Buy.

What a way to start Christmas. And no bloody mice to worry about.
So we are in Norn Iron but after a fairly hairy journey in gale force winds which delayed the ferry by an hour. We were warned by our captain to stay in our seats when the HSS was in the open sea and so we did. But the catamaran effect of the twin hulls kept the craft steady. It was a bit surreal looking out at the roaring waves from the lofty comfort of club class and its plug in minimalist Christmas tree- a bit like the Titanic, I suppose but no icebergs disrupted our crossing-the only ice clinked in the gins and tonics. Good to be here.
Wednesday, December 15, 2004

A gentle post prandial climb. The Hen Mountain in the Mournes. So called as it looks like a Cock

A bloggee, to put me in an Irish mood sent me the cutting from a Cork Paper. Apolgies for some of the language. My favourite Cork Paper headline-from the days of Catholic Ireland remains: FATHER OF TEN SHOT DEAD:MISTAKEN FOR A RABBIT
A glorious day-sun-no wind-sad to have to pack to leave the Merse for Norn Iron. Despite retirement of Mr Fish the forecast for tomorrow is dire-wind, gales, lashing rain. There has been no rain in Hutton since last month-a post Fish record, indicative of global drying. Stan the Man is on the way to mow the lawn-could not come on Sunday as he thought it would be raining despite lack of a single cloud from the Great Glen to the Tweed. It may of course be too sunny today for him to do his thing. So one last trip to Safeway's /Morrisons, fill the car with cheap Saudi petrol , get 9 items exactly and look forward to the ordered calm of Tesco in Newcastle Co Down where the worst that can happen to you at the wrong check out is a gentle knee cap. More of that anon. If I am spared
Tuesday, December 14, 2004
We have a very clever device which measures the wind speed and remotedly sends the data to a digital box and screen in the kitchen. It does the same with the rain which since Mr Fish's departure we have had not a drop this month. The wind is gusting at 56mph (about 90kph) and that is in the more sheltered back garden.Thank goodness we are not on our way to Stranraer today. Mind you the weather forecast for Thursday is for more of the same. I am hoping to adapt the technology so as to allow a mouse sensor to be placed in the upstairs airing cupboard to monitor the mice as they are caught. A webcam might do the trick.

Our Kitchen weather box has graphics. There s the figure of a little man who is always clad in a transparent dark suit with his y-fronts visible. If rain is forecast a furled umbrella appears in his right hand and when it is actually raining the umbrella is raised. We await the opening of the umbrella with interest-not unfurled this month but rain is forecast. Perhaps when it is open a couple of harvest mice will drop out?
Monday, December 13, 2004
The Belfast Bloggee is not a Christmas person and is pretty liverish already. He has drafted a guest rant which I publish below-his views are not necessarily Huttonian's but I too was a bit irritated to see Posh and Becks as Joseph and Mary in the Madame Tussaud's Crib. Joseph wearing a crucifix displaying a great gift of foresight. It does seem ok now to upset Christians but be careful of treading on other toes-Will the Red Cross drop its cross, I wonder. Indeed Ms Klaus has to be careful of the paedophillia angle. The little grandson perched trustingly on the knee of the OZ Father Christmas (see recent rant) may soon be an image of the past. Perhaps FC can buy some time by being gender neutral-away with the beard for a start. Anyhow over to Belfast:

"The absurdity of ‘Political Correctness’ is about to reach its annual zenith of hilarity as the season of turkey fever gets into top gear.

We all know that God is a woman, but the debate about ‘Father’ Christmas rages on. In this non-sexist PC age, the acceptable terminology is surely Person Christmas. But, it is not. While pandering to the suffragettes, the term remains offensive to those of a non-Christian disposition. Thus, the British Red Cross are among the leaders in the PC war by banning any form of Christian expression from their cards. Wonderful, but that is only the start because up and down the land do-good PC’ers have jumped on the bandwagon and are tippexing everything that may or may not cause offence.

Even poor Posh and Becks (who they?) are victims. Their wax images have been dressed up as the mum and dad of a religious leader who was born a couple of thousand years ago. Surely the greater offence is the appearance of Bush and Blair as two of the wise men?

And, what of poor Sinterklass? Leaving aside the issues of gender and religion, the poor man now has to confront his latent paedophilia. A cartoon in a recent satirical magazine shows a fat, fluffy little man seated with his prosthetic legs extending away by a few yards. At the end of one of these is perched a little boy, well out of harms way.

Just how Saint Nicholas, for it is he, got caught up in this mess is a combination of identity theft and moveable feasts. Nick was a fourth century Turkish nobleman who was generous in sharing his fortunes and thus established the gift thing that gives so much pleasure to retailers to this day. Centuries later in northern Europe his followers shuffled his feast day along by a few days to avoid being burnt at the stake for idolatry. They chose December 25th as a handy date because it was already in the book as the birth date of the religious leader mentioned above. The proposition that the latter was more likely born on September 29th 4BC is neither here nor there, but does add an interesting dimension to the whole thing.

Nick’s identity was claimed by various countries and/or religions, but we owe a debt of gratitude to our Yankee cousins for his present reincarnation. The New World was quick to adopt him as it’s own, but more particularly the manufacturers of a foul brown fizzy drink whose advertising image of him we venerate to this day.

Don’t you just wish that it would all go away?"

Being an Old Manse we have an Old Manse garden. Two ministers in 108 years had little else to do but lovingly tend it. It is really too big for us and the garden is always away ahead of us. We get occasional help from Stan the Man, a farm worker who moonlights (at times quite literally) as a jobbing gardener. We never know when he is coming even when he phones from his van that he is on his way-like Godot he vanishes en route. He is over committed and has to oblige too many clients to be reliable to one. There are certain things that Stan loves to do-to strim is his delight. We just stopped him from strimming a very young Beech tree which was 70 trees short of a hedge-Stan is good at strimming beech hedges so he thought that our wee tree would be a good start. He loves working in the dark-once he cut through our neighbour’s phone line mistaking it for a honey suckle shoot-easy to do 4 hours after the sun has set. He is not directable. The wife will patiently give him a list of tasks and unless one is strimming or another edging he won’t do them. He has a hazy idea on what are weeds and what are, say flowers, so weeding is a bit of a lottery. But I suppose looking at the balance sheet, he is just an asset. And a wonderful conversationalist. Get him between you and the door and you are there all night. He was meant to come today-a glorious Winter Fishless one-but never showed. Waylaid by his own verbosity, I suspect.

Hutton Haiku # 67

Stan the man is not
A gardener. But a two
Legged strimmer
. Pray the
Fuel runs out

Sunday, December 12, 2004

Mr P and Ms KB await the arrival of Father Christmas in Canberra. Temp 38c and no chimney. Could be a long wait

Yes they have Father Christmas in OZ. Would you like a cricket set, little mate?
Saturday, December 11, 2004

First sight of Fred the Vole emerging from his bunker. The Voles have taken over the trap and hopefully have seen off the domestic mice who are the destructive ones

Todays catch-a vole. Very friendly but not too indignant about being released outside-I am sure we will see him again-breakfast tomorrow?
Damp Grey and windless and its like that outside as well. Perfect weather for our Chritmas trip to Norn Iron-the first time in our married lives that the wife and I have xmassed in our Newcastle Cottage. A daughter in Oz, another in Colorado and a third in Welsh Wales we are missing a family holiday and having a good rest. So next Thurday its off to Stranraer in the gloom. More about the Merse before then of course but not to day. The Merse is right out of bloggable news. Patience.
Friday, December 10, 2004
Strike one for the Borders. The Sheriff of Jedburgh is in the international spotlight for his judgement on the local hunt which was charged with illegally fox hunting in 2002 a few months after a ban was imposed in Scotland. Not Guilty. They were not fox hunting but vermin destroying. OK the hounds flushed out the odd fox from cover but did not then hunt it. Instead it was despatched by a bloke with a gun as vermin. Sounds like modified fun for the hounds who at least had a day out in the stifling Borders winter and the Fox had a better kind of death-nicely shot and not pulled to pieces. His widow is not available for comment. It will be interesting as to what the anti fox hunting lobby say. There is no fox hunting around Hutton but it gives me an idea for dealing with the harvest mice-I need a volunteer hound and a very good shot. Stirrup cups on the house.
Thursday, December 09, 2004
Today’s Berwickshire has a page on the annual Gavinton Pantomime ‘Jock and the Beanstalk’ It would be good if Hutton and Paxton could get together to produce something similar now that the Nativity Play is likely to die with Hutton School.
‘Jock and anything’ is a bit too Scottish perhaps for villages with a high proportion of English incomers and the songs performed at Gavinton might not resonate here: “Ye cannot Shove yer Granny off a Bus” is merely a statement of the obvious in the absence of a proper Bus service and where most grannies have their own cars anyway. “There s been a murder in the Chop Shop” not appropriate for villages without any kind of retail outlet and “There’s been a murder in the Cross Inn’ lacks something.

Anyhow the Hutton Think Tank have come up with an outline suggestion-topical, relevant and accessible’ to summarise the 14 page introduction. 'Sinbad the Asylum Seeker’ The story of a man from an unnamed Middle Eastern Country desperately seeking refuge in Eyemouth is intercepted by Portuguese Fish Farm Workers and misled into thinking that the Whiteadder is the entrance to Eyemouth harbour. He is found by a local lassie trying to clean himself up in the river below Paxton Village (Song: Wash these lice out of my hair) Initially he is an object of suspicion and fear-is asked to leave a meeting of Knit and Knatter and refused a fourth drink at the Cross. He is desperately home sick (Song: the brown, brown grass of Home) but earns acceptance when he strikes up a relationship with the local laird and persuades him to abandon plans to develop a local field with low cost housing. The Home Office give him permission to stay and he is allowed to bring his family to Paxton. There is a touching, if a bit risqué, reunion scene (Song Stop your Tickling Tariq Aziz’) His 14 children of Primary School age are enough to reverse the decision to close Hutton School, and his wife a nuclear physicist on the US’s Most Wanted list volunteers to teach Science at Hutton School. His fund raising activities (song: Euros From Heaven) gets Hutton its new hall, and two more benches. There are one or two satirical scenes about incomers unhappy with the scents and smells of rural living (Song: The Slurry with the Whinge on Top), and everyone lives happily ever afterwards.
Wednesday, December 08, 2004
Scotland has such a poor record recently in sporting team events like Football or Rugby that it is a real delight to salute an undisputed World champion combination in Elephant Polo. The Scots have just won the World Championship in Thailand, the second time since 1991. Its not a game played widely around here unless the Duke of Argyll has a Polo ground on one of his estates-certainly plenty of room as he is a very large landowner even by Scottish standards. He is the Scottish team captain. Anyhow this event is always held in Thailand and presumably the elephants are kept there rather than being imported from some Highland Safari park when required. We look forward to a triumphal parade through the streets of Edinburgh in due course-there are elephants at the Edinburgh Zoo and they might be allowed to take part and thus save a bit of cash on hiring a team bus.

Mice are related to Elephants someone once told me and we seem to have another meister maus in residence. Last night I found a little harvest mouse in the humane trap. I parked him in the hall and went to put on my coat before going out into the bitter cold to deposit him in the Kirk yaird. In those 5 minutes he escaped-how, I have no idea. I think I will have to return the trap to Joes and ask for a replacement-recycling of mice within this house serves no useful purpose.

A rare trip to Auld Reekie on a glorious Winter morning. Sun streaming down Princes Street-not for long as dusk starts at 1045 am when the shadow from the castle plunges much of the main shopping mall into gloom. The usual suspects were in evidence-the pipers, the clipboard ‘just a few questions’ brigade, the man holding a sign post pointing to a golf sale which has been going on since 1980, the beggar with his dog in a tartan costume (the beggar is in a bag), the Big Issue sellers, just as aggressive as their London counterparts, a lady with a designer crutch for her left leg on which she never put any weight and hurtled along gabbling into a mobile phone. AS I returned to catch my train, the same scene but what a difference .I had just been fitted with two digital hearing aids (don’t ask the price) and it was a different world. Bad things: I could hear the pipers blocks away and the beggars dog startled me with a resounding fart from 30 metres. But good too: The designer crutch lady is Portuguese( I assume from her many references to Eyemouth) I could tune into conversations in any direction-returning on GNER I listened, effortlessly to 6 simultaneous mobile phone sagas despite being nearly deafened every time I swallowed my tea. The rustle of an outstretched Big Issue warned me, in good time, of impending highway robbery –ditto the screech of a biro on a questionnaire. At home I will have more warning of low flying aircraft and can work on the computer, listen to the Bill and chat to the wife around two corners without ever saying ‘what’.

Can life offer any more than that?
Monday, December 06, 2004
The rich cloying aroma of Slurry fills our lungs today/.I wonder if the usual complainant will tackle the farmer in question. He can’t count on the support of the Community Council as it does not meet until next month. But he has a feather in his cap as he succeeded in removing the dumped car from Farmer Os field. One hopes it has been taken outside the CC area.

For once we had to remonstrate over a smell-a noxious one from a bonfire in a neighbour’s yard –it smelt like tyres and plastic and a brisk west wind was blowing the fumes into our house (15 yards away) through our ill fitting 19th Century windows. With three small children and a case of bronchitis this was not funny. Our plea to douse the fire was accepted having established the ‘owner’ (Not the neighbour but a relation). He was very understanding and did the needful supported by a well timed rain shower.

He was in breach of the law. Quite seriously; but involving the fuzz is not an option in a small community unless you want to open long term feuds and bitterness. People are actually very reasonable and a polite suggestion will invoke a polite response. Some of our more aggressive incomers seem to find this difficult to understand.
A Beastie-no 12 or so-trapped alive. He looked very like his/her 11 cousins. Or perhaps there has only been one? I am still reluctant to clip, shave or spray. Actually he loved his little box and refused to leave when asked. I finally ejected him using considerable centrifugal force. After a twenty metre flight he headed happily to the nearest grave and no doubt hid there until I was out of sig
Sunday, December 05, 2004
I ranted previously about the 'executive housing' building project at the 'Orchard' in Paxton-still unfinished after many years and several changes of developer. One class of house, the meanest on the block-11/2 stories and 3 tiny bedrooms-one for the master of the house, one for the cat swinger and one for the cat-is called the Hutton. Two of these have come up for detailed planning permission. Neighbours objected as the three bedrooms at the edge of the estate will overlook their houses and being on the second (1/2) storey have a good view of happenings in the existing houses. Planning consent is given but on the condition that the bedroom windows have opaque glass! I wonder what potential buyers will make of this restriction? And I wonder if it will be adhered to?

Nothing much is happening at the moment as the developer can't find a good builder-all busy elsewhere in the Borders concreting up the landscape. I would kave thought, looking at the designs, that a bad builder would be quite adequate-but they are probably up to their eyeballs as well.
Saturday, December 04, 2004
We made a visit to Spittal today-a seaside resort just south of Berwick. Its name comes from Hospital and was once a leper’s community. It then had a brief moment as a booming seaside resort for the wool mills in the central Borders like Hawick and Galashiels at a time when a railway ran from Galashiels to Berwick with a branch line to Spittal. Then the closing of branch lines and holidays in foreign parts plus the popularity (and the mobility) of the caravan did for the tourist trade to this tiny resort. It has a faded charm and tries to exploit the Lowry connection. The great industrial painter was a frequent visitor to Spittal and to Berwick and there is a ‘Lowry trail’ taking in both towns-indeed he did a number of paintings of local scenes and people.

The beach is photogenic but is littered with storm and flood debris washed down the Tweed, and what is not taken up with this flotsam is covered rapidly with steaming Dog turds. They are visible on the Promenade as well and apparently local people are too nice or too timid to ask the hundreds of dog owners to scoop the poop. Those who do scoop and embag the proceeds seem to leave the plastic bags, neatly tied, as a kind of votive offering on the Promenade despite the many depositories vying for custom. Best to walk on the beach immediately after a high tide but even then watch your step.

This is Spittal. Berwick Harbour is visible top right.

Looking North. With a magnifying click and some imagination you can see Lindisfarne and Bamburgh Castles

The beach. Magnify for Doggie Doos.

The Lowry Trail. Girl in Red-painted in Spittal, apparently
Friday, December 03, 2004
I missed a nice little tale in the Berwickshire-as usual from Duns Sheriff Court-about a rogue taxi driver who frightened his passengers. Apparently ‘he negotiated corners in such a way that his passengers were thrown around in their seats and travelling at speeds up to 98mph without slowing down when being asked’ He also frightened passengers by driving on the wrong side of the road. The imagination boggles-where in the Borders can you get your taxi up to 98mph without coming a cropper at the frequent acute angle corners? The trouble is that anyone with a car can set themselves up as a taxi driver with the minimum of formality. Berwick Station is crammed with cabbies awaiting hire and very few get any business. There is no ‘knowledge’ and some get a bit lost if they venture outside the urban area. At 98mph you could get very lost very quickly.

In this instance Toad got a 2 year ban and fined £350. He was not Lithuanian.

By the way no mices in the house or the cottage for two days? Is this victory? Or a period for regrouping. We may be able to hold elections without fear of intimidation after all.

A typical Borders Old Manse-all built in the 1870s and 80s. Now that the Feu system has been abolished the owners cann call them 'The Old Manse' if they so wish-see previous rant.
Thursday, December 02, 2004
The Eastern European connection resurfaced in Duns Sheriff court according to the Berwickshire. A Lithuanian man was stopped by the police in July for a defective headlight and then found to have no insurance and illegal tyre treads. According to his solicitor the Lithuanian had missed an earlier court hearing as he had returned to Lithuania to get his licence:” I must have put the fear of God into him” The Solicitor smugly added.The Sheriff felt that God needed a bit of back up and fined him £175 and endorsed his licence with 6 penalty points. A friend from Paxton in the building trade tells Huttonian that anti-foreigner feeling in such places as Chirnside and Duns is high. They are accused of taking local jobs and cheap housing whilst any Brit wanting to go to say Portugal or Lithuania is not allowed to work or enjoy social security. Probably this is ill informed prejudice but sadly it is what is believed that matters.
It is intriguing to follow the battle being fought on the Isle of Lewis in the Outer Hebrides where local people are forcing the local laird to sell them his land as they feel it is not being used in their interests. Apparently this can be done as a result of the new land act which has swept away the old ‘Feu’ system whereby most of Scottish land was not freehold, as for example it is in England, but held nominally by Feu Superiors-in Huttonian’s case his Feu Superior is the Church of Scotland-see below.

Should the Lewis people be successful it might just start a fashion elsewhere. Say an unpopular Laird had land which he was proposing to use in way seen as contrary to the interests of local people-perhaps, to pluck a for instance out of the ether-selling a field for housing development, then it might be possible to use the act to oblige him/her to sell the land in question to a consortium of locals who might have their own plans seen as community friendly. Far fetched? Watch this space.

Huttonian inhabits a former Manse which was sold off some thirty years ago as being no longer appropriate for the Church of Scotland to underwrite the costs of running a large and expensive building. But the Church retained its Feu rights. Consequently when we bought the house we had to accept ‘Burdens’-no mention of the word Manse in the name of the house-no spiritual or religious meetings in the property-no gambling and no sale of alcohol. Presumably these restrictions were meant to ensure that no disrepute would be attached to what had been a church building (Apparently running a brothel is ok) Now it seems as these burdens will slip away and we will have full freehold. Playing poker for pennies,, saying grace before a meal, selling Pimms as part of a fund raising function (as indeed we have naughtily done) will be legally permissible. But above all we will be at last allowed to call our house-The Old Manse by which it is universally known around here rather than the contrived and grand address which even after 30 years often rings no bells with locals when asked where it is.

Happenings in A small Scottish Community


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