Musings from the Merse
Tuesday, May 31, 2005
One hates to be smug but it is very satisfactory to have played good golf on a glorious morning visualising all those post Bank Holiday commuters trudging to work, stuck in jams, crushed together on the buses, trains and tubes contemplating a day of drudgery indoors with only a flickery compuer screen for solace. Follow the disgruntled commuter link to see what I mean.Smugger still and smugger let our bounds be set as we take off into the heart of the Mournes for a walk and a picnic. The neo Fishes are talking about dreadful weather to come so carpe diem as the Romans had it and get cracking. As for the sea it is most un Newcastle like. Glassy calm this morning and even this brash town looking attractive. Not quite the Bay of Naples perhaps. But much nicer than that.

The Newcastle Mediterranean look.

The rest of Newcastle bay. Post bank holiday and the sun knows it. Lets do some thing really energetic like climbing in the southern Mournes

So here we go towards Slieve Bernagh.This the approved approach. Bernagh dead ahead,

This is the approach to Slieve Bernagh. The crag on the right is one of the Meccas for Rock climbing nuts

Coming up to the Hares gap (in the Mourne Wall-click to see ) The old smugglers route-the Brandy Pad starts from there

The final scramble to the top. Not today thankyou-no ropes or crampons. This picture is deceptive as the cliff is a good 400 foot climb

Looking anxiously for the lunch.

The view North from below Bernagh. The Trassey track is now well behind and below

On the way down. Lunch gone tea to look forward to
A very nice message from the Glasgow Herald to say that the correction to Mr Roddick's story appeared on Page 2 (no less) of the GH on Saturday. I am being sent a complimentary copy as it has proved difficult to get hold of the Herald in this part of Norn Iron. So all has been put right apart from no hint of an apology from the main culprit-Mr R himself. I could suggest anappropriate penance in the form of a suitable 'on the community' task for him which would not involve him being shackled or wearing an orange jump suit-taking the minutes of the Hutton and Paxton Community Council for the next two meetings. It would give the hard working secretary a couple of nights off and Mr R a first hand glimpse of what really happens on the CC. Sadly it might not make such a good story as he would like but he would learn for himself what a load of round objects he was fed by his local deep throat.
Monday, May 30, 2005
This is still Bank Holiday but the third day syndrome is cutting in-people just can't be bothered to go down to Newcastle three days in a row and are reading their papers in the comparative comfort of their own homes-or perhaps as it is a holiday, parked in their drives. Anyhow the golf course was an enormous pleasure this morning -all the ladies exhausted by two late nights still abed and the competition players still in Belfast. The Royal County Down has 295 members from Belfast and 5 or so from Newcastle including Huttonian. So my partner and I could play at a leisurely pace, drinking in the view and looking for each other's lost balls in warm sunshine. The stalker and his Alsatian were out as usual but we did not bother them apart from a shot by my partner which narrowly missed Mr Stalker-he pretended not to notice but you can bet your last Northern Bank Fiver that had we not found the ball it would have been in his pocket the second we were over the horizon. The dog has a soft mouth and is trained to pick up the balls very gently en route to wherever his master's marketing outlet happens to be. I suspect if he preservered in an earlier habit of selling balls back to the members that they had just lost his sojourn in the area would be a short one. Knee capping with a number 5 iron would be very painful and would give a new dimension to the expression 'one stroke penalty'

Sunday. May Bank Holiday.Warm. rain not threatening. Beach crowded? One wee lad and a couple in the distance. People do not come to Newcastle for the beach-strange-one of the finest in Ireland and this stretch is five miles of sand

a few minutes later. Seriously crowded!

Looking the other way on this amazing beach-and August it will be just as uncrowdwd
Sunday, May 29, 2005

The Nat Trust Murlough nature reserve. Near London it would be heaving on a day like today.
Saturday, May 28, 2005
You never can tell if it is a bank holiday in Hutton-no bank for a start but it is the absence of people out and about. The only time you can be sure of seeing people is when the 3 0 Clock Club assembles at the school gates to pick up the children and even then we are talking about three or four parents at the best of times. But that does not help with determining the existence of a bank holiday or otherwise as they are ignored by the schools

Newcastle, Norn Iron is different. Bank Holiday weekends are quite like ordinary weekends but worse. The town heaves. Pavements crammed with people going nowhere in particular and doing so very slowly. Mauds is crammed. Shops selling useless tack called names like " Heaven" are packed with bored folk buying things they would not look twice at in Belfast and at twice the price. The rest are in the Arcades playing the slot machines. No parking left by 10 am. Those who have been lucky remain in their vehicles reading newspapers brought from Belfast-unlucky ones drive round and round the one way system until in despair they return to Belfast, buy more papers in the hope they can find a nice busy spot to read them in. These are the day trippers-even with a long weekend this category accounts for 50% of the visitors. 3% in B and Bs and 47% in caravans. This last lot treble the town's population from May until September-quadrupling it in the season-July and August. Only in the season do the two swimming pools open-the (slightly warmed) Topicano and the (massively cooled) Sea Baths. Otherwise it is the beach where the odd surfer wearing at least two dry suits venture in to the freezing waters of Dundrum bay.

The golfers and the walkers are rarely seen. To them Newcastle is either an inconvenience to bypass or a convenience for a takeaway-oh yes the 'Conveniences' are also closed out of season so its leg crossed for several months until you can find a gorse bush in Donard Park.

So how do you tell a bank holiday weekend? The town is even fuller than normal. And, er, the Banks are closed. But its Sunday stupid. Ah, the ATMs are all empty.

Huttonian is ok. He lives at the quiet end of town beyond the Monte Carlo rally which is the one way system. A convenience shop, a functioning convenience but out of range of the normal tripper especially with legs crossed, two tired pubs, a down market and deserted hotel, an empty (but wonderful) restuarant and a peaceful harbour. And no parked cars-the view is too distracting and too nice for the average serious reader. And you can't tell if it is a Bank Holiday either. And you don't really mind!
Friday, May 27, 2005
An OZ bloggee comments:

I was recently reading your blog, and I thought...Slieve Bernagh is Mr P's favourite, but mainly because he thought it was called Slieve Bonfire (bernagh/burner/bonfire, geddit?). He was only 3

And smart with it.

And a 'streamer (as in Coldstream) has pointed out if you put 'gossip in Berwickshire' (without inverted comments) into Google you get two references (amongst many) to our Laird and East Lothian MSP John Home Robertson. Ain't life wonderful?
Every pleasure risks penalty and our amazing walk in the Mournes is no exception to this rule. Poor Huttonian is so stiff this morning that all thoughts of golf are banished and the wife was dispatched to get the Grudian from 'Near Buy' all of 80 metres away. It was out of Huttonian's range. Moral: climb small hills before you tackle even Ronnie Corbetts. Anyhow we got great photos and a yen to try it again in a couple of days when the tablets have taken effect. Fortunately the neo-Fishes are in the ascendancy and rain is likely to fall all day so the temptation to play golf is not an over powering one.

"Cartoons of Steaming Dog Turds" is the magic phrase or string of words which some Yankee seeker of the truth put into Google to find Musings. Why I have no idea. The rant has mentioned dog doings from time to time -a necessary part of any (now discontinued) discussion of Community Council meetings why the topic reared (no pun intended) its head regularly. Several thousand websites are revealed via the words above in Google and obviously it is the cartoon aspect which is so prolific. Or perhaps the seeker meant 'Cartons' although in the case of the Merse and Spittal Promenade 'little plastic bags of STD' is more apt. Especially those deposited in a public placed at the beginning of a walk to be picked up on return and often 'forgotten'


I don't want to pour
cold water on steaming dog
But it
You can always count upon the Berwickshire for the odd unusual letter like this one:

, For those who are under the wrong impression that me and my family slaughter baby lambs in our backyard I suggest that facts are checked before idle and malicious gossip is spread.In fact, the truth is that for the last three years we have taken in over 10 orphaned lambs from local farmers, and lovingly bottle-fed them every four hours for the first few months of their lives, until they were ready and able to graze and then taken up to a farm at Edington Hill Ñ feel free to go and look!During their time with us, in excess of £500 was spent on providing them with milk, pellets, bottles, bedding and vet bills. This can be confirmed by Border Farm Supplies (Duns), the Veterinary Practice in Duns and Pearsons Garden Centre from whom we even purchased a kennel so that they had shelter at night and during bad weather. Hardly the actions of someone about to eat a lamb.If we had wanted to slaughter our pets and eat them (which we DID NOT!) I am sure it could have been done in a less expensive way by just buying a fully reared one for a fraction of the cost from a farmer. No way am I saying that I dont eat meat the majority of the UKs population does but we have never on any occasion eaten what we consider as our pets.

The letter was headed 'Don't Listen to Gossip' and quite right too. I have never known a place so riddled with gossip as parts of the Merse. The Hutton and Paxton area is no exception, unfortunately. Even after 8 years in these parts I remain astonished how often it appears that people are all too willing to believe the worst about their near neighbours and will accept all kinds of rubbish without bothering to check the facts. Huttonian and the Scotsman is a case in point and I am now glad to report that the Glascow Herald is following the example of its Edinburgh rival in publishing a correction to the inaccurate story about the Community Council in its edition on Saturday. And the free lance reporter who peddled the original tale has been given a rap over his knuckles
Thursday, May 26, 2005
It is an amazing morning so we have cancelled all engagements(well one) and as the golf course is championshipped we we are off to climb everyone's favourite Mourne-Binnian.

Report later if we are spared. Plus the inevitable photos.

It looks easy enough from this distance. But it is deceptive. Only a Corbett from its height but a Barker in its hard going and fiendish intensity*
* Unwise to assume that bloggees are familiar with the Two Ronnies Blog-ed

Leaving the car park. 2000 feet to climb and 3 miles to walk. No chance of rain. Not quite as good as golf but not bad really

Starting our climb. Annalong Forest to the right. Legs fresh, orange juice unopened.

On the right as we climb -Donard and Commadagh in the distance. Legs getting sore, two packets of juice gone. Gingerbread as yet unwrpped

A glimpse of Slieve Berrnagh in the distance.Mr P's favourite mountain

The last few hundred feet to climb onto the Tors of Binion. Right hand tor is the summit. Only if we make it can we enjoy thelast packets of juice and the gingerbread. Calves aching, thighs aglow, knees trembling, roll on death

Looking South over the Silent Valley reservoir. Carlingford mountains in the Republic in the distance. At last sit down, unwrap gingerbread, guzzle apple-but bloody cold.

This is one of the stunning views from the top looking north towards Donard. Now thinking about getting down. I forgot my poles and the going is very rough and wet-that cold beer will taste good in Newcastle. If I am spared
If you go to Google and insert the following words into the search facility:

yoghurt drink competition on stage earls court

You will have as a first choice of websites : Musings from the Merse. Search engines are wonderful but why would anyone insert such a string into anything? People must have a lot of time on their hands. And what was the inserter hoping to find? He/she found Musings; I know from my hit counter.

Perhaps the Hutton Think Tank (HT2) could offer a prize for the best short story/poem using all these words: Entries in not more than 50 words via the comment facility. The Judges verdict is final.
Wednesday, May 25, 2005
The following has been received from Oz.

Good Morning, Sir. I was recently reading your blog, and I thought...why is it that all the big houses around Newcastle seem to have burned down? Could there be a link? Is this an 18th century unsolved serial arson attack that we can uncover? Or was it just that they were mostly made of wood and smoke alarms hadn't been invented?

Yours, puzzled, of Dahn Undah

An interesting question. But both Donard Lodge and Tollymore Park were burned in the 20th Century and were made of Mourne Granite. It is said that a canteen fire started accidentally by US soldiers did for the Donard Lodge in Newcastle. I don't know about the Roden house in Bryansford. And as for the New Castle (built recently in 16 something by the Magennises) it just disapeared and only a wee mound at the bottom of the Shimna River to mark its passing.

I'll do some digging -bit not as far as down under-and see what I turn up.
It is interesting that the pattern of bloggees is changing (as usual) when Huttonian moves from the Merse to foreign parts like Norn Iron. My site meter which records the ‘hits’ on the blog allows a form of identification in some cases allowing you to make educated guesses as to who has been looking at the rant. Obviously Merse faithfuls have little interest in events across the water (although one regular is apparently riveted by the golf!) and Norn Iron being such a specialised taste (for non-golfers anyhow) who is to blame them. The level of hits is however reasonably constant with a number of new ‘viewers’ from the US and Oz/New Zealand. More golfers perhaps who have found the website via ‘ The Blog of Blogs’ or Blogarama which is a sort of ranters directory: http://www.blogarama.com/index.php?show=new_blogs&sr=10&pp=10&cp=2

On the subject of Norn Iron-and that will be the main topic until 11 June (but not always golf) a regular bloggee told me of some graffiti which appeared in Unionist areas at the time of the Pope’s death. One read ‘Three Down and our Queen goes on’ A traditional anti Catholic slogan sprayed around for years was ‘Kick the Pope’ but a recent variation, just after the death, was ‘Kick the Pope(What do we do now?) However my favourite remains the huge graffito* on a Ballymena wall : ‘NO POPE HERE’ under which in smaller letters some one had written 'Lucky Old Pope' Amen to that

* Pedant-blog ed.
Tuesday, May 24, 2005
Huttonian was desperate to play golf today as the golf c course is closed from tomorrow for the Irish Seniors championship. But Mr Fish, helping out at the weather centre with his former colleagues on strike, sent most appalling weather at seagull fart this morning. Wet, Wet, Wet. Undaunted I put on all my wet weather finery-the absolutely waterproof jacket, the keep you dry all night trousers, the drip proof countryman's hat and the lace up not too camp golfing shoes and set out. Having waded to the first tee I found that I had no competition for the course. Green dripping and empty. And I played rather well with frequent wipings of the glasses with increasingly soggy, twice recycled loo paper. The wind was minimal and as Mr Fish returned to his retirement and to his MBE encrusted casual gear the rain relented and the sun very nearly came out. I played better, and started to be aware that I was still alone in this golfing paradise -the No 2 Course in all these islands was all mine as was its companion course running along side it. Thrushes yes, blackbirds most certainly, the odd eagle (as my putts dropped in) but homo sapiens no. How wimpish people must be I thought not to come out because of a wee bit of damp-now all gone.

The mystery deepened-I golfed on-alone and no one in sight anywhere apart from the odd greenkeeper stalking the fairways astride his machine-mobile phone clenched to his ear, a slightly damp ciggie gently smoldering. Then the truth hit me. The course was closed-too wet to allow the hackers on in case its condition deteriorated before the championship tomorrow. And only I was out breaking the cardinal rule of all cardinal rules-omitting to read a tiny little notice board beside the first tee which would read 'COURSE CLOSED' (Keep off being the sub text-that means you Huttonian as the sub sub text.) I could be drummed out for this, my putter ceremoniously broken across the knee of the Captain or at least a public lecture from the Course Warden. Accused of willfully reducing the standard of the Royal County Down (PBUI) to No 3 in the British Isles,I thought I should pick up my ball and sneak back the way I had come but keeping to the bushes-gorse and whins for cover. Then to my relief I saw four lady golfers striding out in the distance. Hurray the course was now open as the weather had improved or someone had over powered the warden, tied him up with special RCD red tape and thown away the notice. Or something. But I was not alone in my guilt. Play on. And I did.
Monday, May 23, 2005

Tollymore Park; once the seat of the Roden family. House burned down in early 50s and is now owned by the norn iron forestry commission.This would have been the view from the old house. Slieve Donard at the very back of the picture

The view from the terrace of the old house now a car park. The place is alive with Rhododendrums.

The Shimna River flowing through the park on its way to the sea at Newcastle

Still here from the great storm of boxing day 1998.

And from the more recent storm of '05. Several hundred trees went down and Tollymore Park was closed for some weeks. See Rant of January

Native bluebells-not like the Spanish ones around Hutton and oakleaves in the spring un
There are times when Huttonian wonders why he plays golf. Can it be for enjoyment. The neo Fish forecast mentioned a 80% possibility of heavy rain and strong winds-the little blue puddles on the BBC map-0perating despite the strike-were centred on Norn Iron so I knew it was safe to play anticipating zephry breezes and bright sunshine.

On the 16th tee I was already soaked to the skin. My special gale proof brollie was unusable as the wind and rain just brushed it aside and it needed two hands to keep it at the optimum 45 degree position so unless you pulled your trolley with your teeth you were in danger of being marooned. Water ran continuously down my glasses reducing visibility to 30 inches (ie 75 centimetres in the Euro Zone) My partner had lost 4 balls and I was extra wet from searching for them for the proscribed polite 5 minutes. Then I had a magic moment making it all worth while. A lovely shot heading into the teeth of the wind and through the murk towards the green straight at the flag-my glasses cleared long enough to know that this was going to b e one of these memorable birdies to tell the three grandchildren about-and my partner was lost again in some viscous gorse.

Twenty minutes later I still had not found my ball. Not in the hole, not even on the green. The rain was worse, the wind stronger-my skin wetter. My partner peering at his watch (5 minutes for his ball 20 minutes for mine is a reasonable rule of thumb) No phantom ball finder with his trained Alsation anywhere to be seen. So I lost the hole, lost the ball (£3 at least) and all after a wonderful shot in challenging circumstances.

Why do I play the game? Oh yes, it is for the exercise
Sunday, May 22, 2005
If you go to Google (www.google.com) and put in the search facility : elephant edinburgh zoo socks* you will be directed to the blog for December last year. My sitemeter tells me that this is how some new blogger found the rant. But why on earth did someone wish to string together these 4 words? Elephant and Edinburgh Zoo. Fine, logical, quest for useful knowledge for those taking grand children out for a fun afternoon. But socks? You might possibly expect an ellie in Edi to wear a kilt or even a Tam O' Shanter-or a large dangling Sporran for spare doughnuts -but socks? Thats just kinky. I hope the bloggee in question can use the comment slot to explain.

* http://www.google.com/search?hl=en&lr=&safe=off&q= elephant edinburgh zoo socks&btnG=Search Click on the blue lettersw and see what I mean
People in Scotland, including MPs, have been complaining bitterly about the new BBC Weather Centre graphics used by the post Fish team. The map centres on the trendy effete south and shows Scotland as a small distorted appendage of St George country and in consequence it is difficult to see where the virtual rain is meant to be falling-except you can be sure that it is falling in Langholm whatever the map might say. Norn Iron is worse-more distorted almost 'out of sight' as they say here when exclaiming about something good. The night we arrived with a car stuffed full of golf clubs in anticipation of my first round at crack of dawn we noticed from the new map that Newcastle, even a skewed version, was to be drop free next morning. So clubs and balls polished, trolley in boot, shoes unlaced and so to bed dreaming of a bright green Christmas and crisp dry golf the morning's morn. Woke to the sound of water roaring down our lane, leaden and weeping skies and a mighty rushing wind. Not even Huttonian can play in conditions like that-and note helped by the forecasts showing bright glowing sum all over Norn Iron. Come back Mr Fish etc.

Shopped in pouring rain and then when the first gleam in the cloudy murk rushed to the course. Of course everyone in Norn Iron had the same idea as Newcastle with its sandy soil was the only course for miles around not closed by floods. Even at £100 a go they rushed there butting and boring to get on to the first tee. Huttonian walked two miles to the far end of the course and found a gap behind 4 very old fogies who chatted their way around enjoying the fresh air, the comradeship and the slow appalling and creaking golf. Such play is infectious. I was also stalked by the phantom golf ball finder who has the uncanny habit of materialising after a bad shot, watches you fruitlessly search for your £3 Titleist, looks sad when you move on ball less, sends the highly trained Alsatian in to the heather/gorse bush/rabbit hole once you have moved on and then tries to sell you your ball back (or one very like it) a few holes later.

I eventually gave up as the four in front were approaching the first stages of rigor mortis and a heavy shower was moving towards the BBC radar screen. I spent a happy half hour on the putting green, umbrella in one hand and found I could putt better one handed than with the normal two. Not that is saying much. The four finally waddled past me. They were absolutely soaked.


To put the bogie line in context-it is in the gap in the trees above the lifeboat house. Slieve Donard, the highest Mourne can just be seen in the distance beyond the valley between the two nearer mountains.
Saturday, May 21, 2005

14th Green on the No 2 course. Miss this green and look for your ball-you might never be seen again

Just for bloggee golfers from the Merse-this is the Royal County Down, Newcastle. Rated no 2 in the UK just behind the Old Course St Andrews. In the worlds top ten. This is the place to be after your drive on the 12th.
I just failed to make it to the Golf Course by 8am and was pleasantly surprised to find the first tee unoccupied. I dashed to claim my place but as I did so 4 lady golfers emerged from their club house, all booted and spurred as it were, with sun hats replacing the customary helmet and visor. My heart sank as I knew that 8 am was the (almost literally) witching hour when ladies competitions teed off and would do so in fits and starts (plenty of the former) until about 10. I courteously started to leave the tee-4 to one was not odds I fancied. One of the ladies said-'oh please play on-we had such fun with the story about you in the Mail on Sunday and it is nice to see a Newcastle man in the limelight' Such is fame-they had missed the nasty story in the Scotsman. So after a bit of c hat I fortunately hit an amazingly long and straight drive and amid cries (and giggles) of 'blog on' I went my way on the nicest of post Fish days.

The delay had allowed a very unpleasant and rude man to cut in in front of us but I won the race to the first green but leaving him in front of the charming ladies who were now in danger of holding up the rest of the competitors. I had my chance at the next hole-the man rudely driving before I was out of range, his ball landed near a gorse bush to my right. AS he was bending to pick up his bag I flicked his ball into some of the most impenetrable gorse jungle on the course, and that is saying something. Twenty minutes later he was still searching in the depths of the Burmah Road as ladies streamed past. Poor man faced with the prospect of losing a £1 golf ball or his place on the course meanness and sheer stubborness got the upper hand.

I saw him later-behind the women but cheerful enough, 'Lovely Day' he shouted (I obviously was not associated with his earlier misfortune) 'Lovely' I agreed and he had made it lovlier. I think he must have found the ball as otherwise he would not have been in such good humour. So I didn't entirely ruin his day and I managed to repay a debt of honour to the women golfer bloggees. Good start to the weekend.

Thankyou Mail on Sunday

The granite trail starts here and follows the old bogie line up to the granite quarry on Milestone Mountain

The information board at the start of the trail. Click to read

The view down the bogie line-one in three gradient. The way that Huttonian used to climb up the highest Mournes when he was very young.

From the top of the old bogie line-one in three gradient-a very hard walk

The granite workers might spend all week on the mountain-this is a shoddy hut for their shelter-the wife is sheltering from the light sun and gentle breeze.

You may just be able to read this if you click hard enough
This is one of the trollies which carried granite from the Milestone quaryy to Newcastle Harbour. The old bogie line is now a very steep walk.
One of the trollies which brought granite chippings from the quarry to Newcastle Harbour
Friday, May 20, 2005
You can't escape the Berwickshire even in Norn Iron-but it is only the electronic version and sadly is far from complete. No Sheriff of Duns for example. The editor selects the best of the letters for the website-this weeks top choice is below. It is of interest to a farming community where animals are commercial products and not objects of sentimentality except perhaps Rosie the Cat,. Rosie one should mention is often glazed of eye and twitching gently-but not when she is being put to death but when she is dreaming of putting other creatures to death-little harvest mice or song birds. I don't think she worries if her victims are feeling pain-rather disappointed if they are not; she has not many other simple pleasures in her advancing dotage and is increasingly unable to catch anything apart from dead bits of chicken left outside the Old Manse side door.

Memory of this mornings broadcast is quite putting me off tomorrows dinner
SIR, This morning
(Saturday, May 14) I tuned in to Radio 4, to find that Auntie Beeb was visiting a slaughterhouse. An operative was explaining how a sheep is slaughtered. Apparently, a forked device is affixed to the animals head and an electric charge is passed through the prongs of the fork. This stuns the animal, so that it does not feel any pain. The animals throat is then cut, so that the animal bleeds to death, under the pressure of its own heartbeats.The operative was asked how he could tell that the animal didn't feel pain. The evidence was, apparently, that there was no movement from the animal except a slight twitch of the back legs, and that its eyes were glazed. One or two more people, associated with the food and farming industries, were invited to comment, and the atmosphere was pretty upbeat, with talk of effective animal welfare, and so on.Not being a vegetarian I found all this very encouraging. The only pity is, that if we examine the argument more closely it seems pretty weak. A person who believes that we ought all, on moral grounds, to be vegetarians might say to the slaughterhouse operative. You have shown us that the animal becomes immobilised, and that its eyes glaze, but you haven't given us clinical proof that this means that the animal cannot feel pain. We might expect exactly the same outward signs if the animal were in pain, but the electric charge had effectually paralysed the creature, so that it could not express its agony.I don't know how we might reply to this, but it seems a pretty formidable argument. After all, we know less about the workings of brains than about any other part of living creatures. Neurology, whilst employing some of the keenest edged minds in the scientific world is still a fairly young science and recently neurologists have begun coming to the view that some brain-damaged human beings in Persistent Vegetative States (PSV), although we have always thought them totally switched off, may in fact have certain areas of consciousness still operating, possibly even being tormented by vague dreams. If we know so little about our own brains, how much can we know for certain about conscious states in animals?As a meat-eater I hope that someone is able to resolve all this soon, because it is now Saturday night, and the memory of this mornings broadcast is quite putting me off tomorrows dinner.

I am not really quite sure what the writer's point is. If he is worried about his lamb chops suffering while they are still lambs and en route via the stun gun and the executioners axe to the butchers he should boycott the meat industry. Death inevitably involves some passing discomfort but mankind must survive and eating helps in this respect. Until 'all this' is resolved I suggest he (as it is) abstains from fleshy delights and sticks to pizzas-but then many pizzas have eggs amongst their contents-and we cannot be sure that the hens did not suffer in laying those gnormous Very Large eggs so beloved of Morrison's customers. Better become a Vegan and keep on the moral high ground, often a drafty and lonely place. Although I don't speak from experience

Here we are in Norn Iron. A trouble free transition only slightly retarded by 1000 (yes) 1000 bikers who took the High Speed Ferry to Belfast on their way to a rally in Portrush. It took for ever to load them on in batches of 50 or so with their bikes. Not a threatening event despite black leather looking more menacing than the dreaded hoodie and the average age, once they had peeled off their helmets and upper body armour nearer 55 than 50. All sexes represented and peaceful. Anyhow Huttonian and the wife were well sheltered in the Club Class lounge-for £10 extra as much as you can drink including wine and a variety of edible goodies and the consoling knowledge if the boat sank we would go down last being in the most elevated part of the stern. At thats worth ten quid in anyone's money.

So we spend our first night in the shadow of the might Mournes, as they sweep down to the sea. The forecast is ok for early tomorrow so it will be off to the golf course-if I am spared.
Wednesday, May 18, 2005
A final rant from the Merse before the trek to Norn Iron. This always a frantic day with the last bits and pieces before setting off at a very unearthly hour tomorrow to catch the High Speed Ferry from Strranrraer -as they say it there. One bit is the last mow of the lawn-lawn in afigurative sense aas it is a cropped meadow in a pure organic style-more moss and even couch grass than English Country Garden as described in House and Garden or seen in the back ground as posh yobs cavort in the Tatler. The two best croquet players in the village are totally bewildered by our croquet 'lawn' . No really flat runs and it takes enormous strength to reach the next hoop as the soft surface discourages a close cut.. But its fine for net practice the Hutton and District Cricket Club-now 4 members under 16-the nucleus of a really good team. We hope to challenge an older side at 'quick cricket' later this season possibly on the Paxton Village Green. With the Aussie out back ball-soft covered-no protective equipment required and the Cross's windows would not be in danger. But can we raise an adult team? We are so far 10 players short. Volunteers needed.

The wife slightly misjudged the planting season-and with -.08 C last night the newly planted beans expired and don't look like reviving despite tlc in the form of warm sun and fresh water. Will have to start again.Another threatened exhibit for the August Village Show. Like the tomatoes which are barely growing despite an early seeding. Spring has never really penetrated into the Green house yet.
More about the campaign to attract dogs to the borders -still confined to 'short breaks' I am sad to see. It is not clear if the well behaved dog is to be another Dog Ambasador like Lord Whatsit. Anyhow the deasdline for submissions is past but if you have a favourite dog walk let Ms Drane know. The Hutton walk would be my candidate but I am dogless and hope to remain that way. Dogs are fine in their place-on other people's leads for a start.

Scottish Borders Is A Dog Friendly Place

So says the Scottish Borders Tourist Board, (SBTB) as it prepares to launch its Dog Friendly Campaign highlighting the dog friendly nature of the region in an attempt to encourage short break holidaymakers to visit with their pets this summer. The SBTB is currently looking for a model dog to front its marketing literature and is asking owners of 'well behaved' handsom canines to get in touch. Fiona Drane, Director of Customer Marketing for the SBTB said: "We need a well behaved dog for the role as it will involve posing for photographs but the chosen dog will be well recompensed — with a doggie makeover and £100 to spend in its favourite pet shop!" About the campaign she said: "There are over 4.8 million households that own dogs in the UK and in the Borders we are fortunate to have an incredibly high number of accommodation providers and attractions that are dog friendly. We plan to launch a campaign to encourage pet owners to visit the Borders this summer." If you are a dog owner in the Borders region and you want to make your pet famous send a photograph of him or her with a covering letter detailling your dog's name and age, your home address and favourite dog walks in the Borders to: Fiona Drane, Scottish Borders Tourist Board, Shepherds Mill, Whinfield Road, Selkirk, to arrive before 30 April.

New calves at Hutton. Cows and calves have ear tags with the same number for mother and baby(ies) This is presumably so as they can recognise each other proving, as the Hutton Think Tank, has demonstrated, in its seminal paper 'Cow and Gate' that cows can read

I have spent months trying to get a low flying aircraft-the bane of our lives in these under populated areas. The camera responsevtime is so slow that I usually get nice blue sky. Sucess to day but it wasn't flying very low-just hurrying home for tea having reduced Duns to smouldering ruins. (click on image to reduce height)
Tuesday, May 17, 2005
One last basket only shop in Morrisons before setting off for the remoter pastures of Tesco in Norn Iron. Morrisons may not have the variety of goodies-especially organic that was the hallmark of the departed Safeways but it dwarfs the shelves of Tesco as far as customer choice is concerned. There is choice in Tesco-76 varieties of sliced white bread, 122 very similar sugar stuffed cereal, huge bottles of 7.5% Lager. I suppose it says something about the eating habits of norn ironers. Almost no local produce-Irish Honey, if you read the small print is the product of a number of countries all called China. The Deli has the same cheese and cold meats as on the normal shelves but served in fancy bags and a bit more pricey. And despite the huge selection of domestic cheeses now available 'down South' very few penetrate to Mr T's emporium. As for organic goods, dream on. But, at least the carvanners in Newcastle ( A town,whose summer population of 17,000-compared to 5000 in the winter is dominated by them) are from a different mould from the summer denizens of Berwick. No barging, FCUK teeshirts, blocking the aisles and rigid observance of the 9 items or less check out restrictions. Tesco's has another restriction about having a few aisles being alcohol free-so you struggle up with your groaning trolley to have to start again with your small bottle of Harp when you reach a check out person who does not have the licence to swill.
Yes we are off to Norn Iron shortly and it will be more of a Musings from the Mournes than from the Merse-but not to worry it is only for three weeks. In the meanwhile I am glad to publish a good news story-with no community council mentioned-about a project very dear to Huttonian's heart. This is the turning of the disused remains of the old 'Bogey Line' into a trail which goes up into the Mournes with a start point some 500 yards South of Huttonian Cottage. As a boy it was my favourite ascent way up Slieve Donard-the highest of the Mournes. Previously the bogey line carried the Mourne granite from the quarries to the harbour and via 'Stone boats' to pave and build Liverpool (and even, so it is said, the Albert memorial in Lunnon) The Harbour Association, of which Huttonian is a sporadic member, worked up this project led by Bernard Davey, a former BBC weather forecaster of the Fish era who retired early before he even got one hurricane wrong. We shall shortly walk the trail (see images in the December rant) and report further.

If we are spared

THE Newcastle Granite Trail, which creates a natural gateway from the sea to the mountains, has been opened.Down Council chairman Robert Burgess cut the ribbon yesterday (Tuesday) afternoon to officially open the project, which celebrates Newcastle’s long association with the quarrying of granite.The trail follows the line of the funicular railway that was first laid in 1824 by John Lynn, initially to Millstone Mountain and then on to the more productive Thomas’ Mountain. Known locally as the Bogie Line, tens of thousands of tonnes of granite were produced each year by the late 1880s. However, by World War Two the line had fallen into disuse and the metal was dismantled for use in the war effort.This trail is unique as it has a number of artefacts located at various points along the way, including the bogie trucks, which were used to transport the quarried granite down to the Harbour.REGENERATIONNewcastle resident Bernard Davey, who is secretary of the Newcastle Harbour Area Community Association (NHACA), has spearheaded the regeneration of the Granite Trail.He advised walkers to take the steep part of the trail “in fits and starts.”“Walk a short distance, turn round and admire the view, then walk on another section,” advised Mr Davey. “The trail evens out and becomes much easier, and, of course, when you are coming down it’s easier again.” Speaking at the official opening, Cllr Burgess said: “The Granite Trail has utilised the previously untapped natural and cultural resources of the area in a sustainable manner and we hope it will mark the start of the regeneration of the Harbour area.”These sentiments were echoed by Mr Charles Territt, chairman of the NHACA, who commented that the completion of the Granite Trail was a “good example of the partnerships that can be developed between community groups and Down District Council to achieve a positive outcome for Newcastle.”“This,” he continued, “is one of the most innovative projects in Newcastle for many a year.”The Granite Trail was made possible through funding provided by the Mourne Heritage Trust as part of the Natural Resource Rural Tourism Initiative under the Peace and Reconciliation Programme. It was a joint initiative between Down District Council and the Newcastle Harbour Area Community Association.

This account comes from the Mourne Observer of 5 May. Its a pity we don't have a Peace and Reconciliation Programme in these parts-we might be able to milk it to finish of the village hall?

Monday, May 16, 2005

The Paxton Painters are opening their annual exhibition at Paxton House on 8 June. This is a must see. Below are some examples of work by a young Hutton artist. Huttonian bought one of her first paintings three years ago. Good hedge against inflation not that I am selling Click for more detail.

A stunning still life. See it live soon

This is called 'The Ambassador's Glass'. Thereby hangs a tale.

This has been blogged before but now is your chance to see it exhibited and indeed buy it.

Finally, work in progress. It may be ready in time.

Yummy. Mr Morrison's finest?

Drought. Yes in Hutton! No dead horses or rotting camels or skeletons of exhausted steer. But dry and parched-no waterholes-not a good track for walkers until the rains come

The Hutton Footpath. Note footpath. The Laird who built the path with money from the foot and mouth recovery fund is adamant that this is for pedestrians only. A local horse person is equally adamant that it is ok for riders as well. Actually there is plenty of room for two and four legs. And it is Public so restrictions are probably not legal under the terms of the grant
Sunday, May 15, 2005
"Dog Friendly Borders'' were the search words put into Yahoo by someone who then stumbled across this rant-you will recall that the Borders Tourist people have appointed a Dog Ambassador to represent us at Posh Nosh and other promotional events aimed at ensuring a steam of visitors-two legged and (presumably) quadruped to these parts. Yahoo seemed to have fastened onto the blog because of that reference. But the same search engine also came up with the sad story from the Scotsman as below. In this case the dog may well have been friendly but its owner not-I hope the victim was not our ambassador. Unlikely as the Edinburgh incident was in February before His Canine Excellency licked hands on his appointment.

A blind man who allegedly bit his guide dog was arrested by police today.
David Todd is accused of sinking his teeth into the animals head in a busy street in Edinburgh
An eyewitness told Lothian and Borders Police the 34-year-old dragged the bitch across the road before biting its head and kicking its body.
Todd is facing charges of breach of the peace and animal cruelty for the alleged attack earlier this month close to Meadowbank Retail Park.
The eight-year-old Labrador/retriever cross was taken into protective care by police and handed over to the Guide Dogs for the Blind Association.
A police spokeswoman said: "Any attack on a defenceless animal, particularly one trained to help people, is appalling."
A 34-year-old man has been reported to the procurator fiscal in connection with the incident, which happened earlier this month.

And another thing- HCE Lord Whatsit, being a Border Collie descended from a long line of Border Kerrs would certainly have bitten back.

Saturday, May 14, 2005

Some one told Huttonian that every community has its black sheep. Here is a black lamb taken in 2004 which if it was spared and not savoured with mint sauce is likely to be a genuine Black Sheep. Similar lambs are frolicking on the outskirts of the village but I have not had the energy to interview them
With all the comings and goings over the Scotsman and the good news about the Village Hall, the Sheriff of Duns had to take a back seat. No harm, as Sheriff Kevin's cases get more mundane and almost predictable from week to week. Once again the focus is on 'Eyemouth men' -one received a jail warning following a pub brawl involving the police using a weapon of minimal destruction, CS gas (twice), to bring the accused under control.

The other Eyemouth man received an admonishment after assaulting his brother over household bills-it could have been worse but 'he had stayed out of trouble since his last appearance'

What is noticeable is the lack of mention of guest workers getting into trouble. This is good corrective counter fodder for a vocal and local group of grumblers whinging away about Portuguese fish workers and Lithuanian immigrants. One taxi driver bitterly complained that a Portuguese family had taken over a Fish and Chippie in Berwick and could hardly 'speak English' He being a big man (and going round a bad corner)I refrained from pointing out that a thick north Northumberland accent might have made some contribution to a lack of mutual comprehension. But I dursnt.
I had missed this in previous years but apparently the Coldstream Burns Club have an annual Bridge Ceremony to (in the words of the Berwickshire) to ‘commemorate the bard’s visit’ on 7 May 1787. On that occasion he went down on one knee reciting a stanza from ‘The Cotters Saturday Night’ which I am sure is familiar to most local bloggees. Apparently Burns crossed the bridge and reached English soil for the first ‘and probably the only time in his life’ What he thought of the English bank is not recorded nor indeed what he thought of Coldstream. Did he ever return to Coldstream, one wonders? One suspects not as a return visit does not appear to be celebrated locally. Presumably he ventured to the Borders town just to cross into England and having found Albion disappointing never haste he back again. Anyhow the one visit is a good excuse for a knees up and on this occasion was marked with an ‘enjoyable evening of impromptu recitations and songs from Burns enthusiasts.’ Not Huttonians cup of tea and I doubt if that beverage featured prominently in the celebrations. Perhaps it is good for local livers that he made only one visit to the ‘First Toon in Scotland’ or the last, if you are heading south.
Follow the Url : http://thescotsman.scotsman.com/scotland.cfm?id=520692005

Peter Hinchcliffe - a correction

You've read it before but if you want to read it again click above. Enjoy
Friday, May 13, 2005
To day's Scotsman duly carries the apology as promised by the Dep Ed. It takes some finding-small print, and tucked away at the bottom of the correspondence page, but is there. Thankyou. Now to 'move on' but I wonder if it is quite the end of the affair. If I was the free lance author of the original piece who has had his knuckles wrapped, his reputation damaged and possibly his livelihood threatened I would be looking for the 'two sources' for his story who have been demonstrated to be the purveyors of porkies. They are the mischief makers in this instance and have some explaining to do.

I can't find the piece on the website-as promised-it may also be tucked away in a n odd electronic corner. I have asked the Dep Ed for the URL*

* You can't baffle me with technical jargon-Blog ed

Hutton Haiku # 65a: The Flight of the Urls

The link is hot
But I have got it,

Google, Teoma, Yahoo are on the case.
Happy Hunting:
Live or dead on the WWW.
Thursday, May 12, 2005
Scotsman to get it right tomorrow

"sorry, took a bit more time to arrange the electronic version, will be in tomorrow's Scotsman and online tomorrow"-writes the Dep Ed of the Scotsman. Huttonian had asked for the corrective item to be shown on the website and he has obliged. Then it will be a matter of going after the Glascow Herald which published the original error ridden story from the same free lance.
This is the story as carried by the Berwickshire today

Big Lottery windfall for Hutton

IT was third time lucky for Hutton Village Hall committee, who have secured £195,000 of Big Lottery Fund money towards building a new hall on the site of the existing building.
Funding for the £328,000 project needs to be in place within six months, and the committee has so far raised £93,000 from fund raising events, such as coffee mornings, dances and events, financial contributions from Scottish Borders Council and the Robertson Trust, plus the lottery grant, leaving £40,000 to find from fund raising and other funding sources.Announcing the successful application to the Big Lottery Fund Developing Communities Programme, having been knocked back twice, Joan Purves secretary of the hall committee said: 'We are all delighted with our fantastic news and are grateful to the Big Lottery Fund for this award. "It has been a long and difficult journey to achieve the success we have today and our perseverance has now paid off."We still have some funding to find but the new hall is now just within reach and we hope to start building work in the summer.'We can now look forward to our brand new hall and a new range of services and activities for the community.'The hall committee has been supported throughout their applications by Scottish Borders Council and the Scottish Borders Rural Partnership, and Joan added: "The committee is very grateful for the help and support of Jean Robertson, the council's lottery officer and Helen Ford of the Rural Resource Centre.'Jean and Helen supported us through the many months of applications and assessments. They have been instrumental to our success.'

After two unsuccessful lottery applications and an unsuccessful planning application to have the hall re-sited to land opposite Hutton Church, the hall committee persevered with plans to replace the present hall with a new building on the same site and are finally getting close to seeing the scheme come to fruition.Plans for the new Hutton Hall have been on display for members of the public to view, the application to Scottish Borders Council's planning department having been made by Hutton and Paxton Community Council, saving Hutton Hall Committee 50% of the planning application fee.If there are any objections to the plans the application may have to be withdrawn and resubmitted by the hall committee as the community council will be unable to comment on the application in their name if objections are raised.

To celebrate the success of their lottery application and to continue fund raising for the hall, the village hall committee is holding a coffee evening, this evening, Thursday, May 12, at 7.30pm.Everyone is welcome along to join in the celebrations and to hear more about the plans for the future.
12 May 2005
Wednesday, May 11, 2005
Well the Dep Ed of the Scotsman has come up trumps and has accepted the word of the community over the misinformation picked up by the Free Lance reporter in question. Mr Stewart informs me that the Scotsman will carry the following item:

an article headlined "Ex-diplomat in tangled web with blog" published on April 26 we stated that Peter Hinchcliffe, community council chairman for the Berwickshire villages of Hutton and Paxton was facing a vote of no confidence in his chairmanship as a result of offence caused by a personal web log. We now understand that no members of the community council sought such a vote at the council's special meeting. We would like to apologise to Mr Hinccliffe and we are happy to put the record straight. We also said a member of Scottish Borders Council legal department was to be present and now undersatnd this was not the case. Again we are happy to put the record straight.

Huttonian is also happy to accept this apology. As far as the Scorsman is concerned incident closed and no addition to the work load of the PPC.

And as politicians inavraibly say when under pressure 'Lets Move On' Indeed
Yes you have worked it out-after years of effort and disappointment the Hutton Village Hall committee have successfully achieved an award of £195,000 from the Big Lottery Fund. This together with awards from two other bodies almost certainly means that work on a new hall can begin some time this supper-this I hasten to add is a supposition and a wish-the Hall Committee will reveal all at a celebratory coffee evening tomorrow. Although (I suspect) not all necessary funding is in the bag this massive vote of confidence, in effect, from BLF will surely attract other support from other agencies. Very Well done the Hall Committee and very well done the people of Hutton who have contributed so generously to the various fund raising efforts.

Huttonian has had his differences with the Hall Committee in the past. Those who recall the old discontinued rant will remember all that. Some of his comments caused some offence in certain quarters-not the intention and apologies for some of the phraseology are once again in order. He sometimes felt that there was not enough local participation and effective consultation in the decision making process. But all that changed and especially after the short lived idea to build on the field in front of the Kirk was very sensibly abandoned in the face of quite significant local opposition and planning objections. Now there is no doubt about local enthusiasm for this new hall on the existing site and we all owe an enormous debt of gratitude to the HHC for their persistence in the face of setback and the very hard work they put into the process. Take a bow the two J's and their fellow committee members.

Why is Huttonian Showing this picture of the Hutton Village Hall?

The clue to this mystery is the Logo on the Hall door. Click to enlarge Listen to the Borders News and get the Berwickshire on Thursday
Tuesday, May 10, 2005
Despite his death last year Yasir Arafat has returned to the Scottish Cricket team-the Saltires. Well actually nice as it would be to think that the great Palestinian Nobel Prize winner if he could return to our midst would choose to support the local cricketers it is another guy with the same name who is turning out in the blue flannels. Scotland' cricket team, like its footie and rugger colleagues are not amongst the top nations at the moment and Arafat has a lot to do if the Scots are to make their mark on the (untraditional in the frozen north) summer game. Its frankly too cold to expect to enjoy cricket in these parts and if it is not snowing then it is the midges which make it a penance to leave the security of the pavilion.

The Merse has its own Country House cricket field at Manderston. Huttonian is thinking of organising a single wicket tournament later this summer to raise money for a local cause. Open to people of all sexes there will be valuable prizes to be won-two overs only per person and a soft(ish) Australian 'out back' ball to face -no body armour or even 'boxes' to worry about. Unlikely to get a guest appearance from Yasir Arafat or even Abu Mazen who, it is said, bowls a wicked leg break but you never know. A national paper may send an ace freelance reporter to cover the event. If it is Huttonian's friend he probably won't bother to turn up, publish an account of the match anyhow and rely on getting the details of the scores from spectators who were not there. Indeed he could save us all a lot of trouble by publishing the outcome a few days before the event. There is professionalism for you.

Anyone who would like to play (and can afford the £20 fee) please use the comment link

Say what you like but the gardens of Paxton House are hard to beat on a (very cold) Spring(?) day. Not too unlike Washington DC-well up to a point-but much prettier
Happenings in A small Scottish Community


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