Musings from the Merse
Thursday, June 30, 2005
Today's Berwickshire carries this letter from the chair of a group objecting to latest group of wind turbines

Wind farm inquiry sought
SIR, North British Windpower have submitted an application to the Scottish Executive to build 62 wind turbines, each 410 feet tall, at Fallago Ridge near the Mutiny Stones in the Lammermuir Hills. Fallago Ridge will be intervisible with Crystal Rig, Black Hill and Aikengall wind power stations that are either built or in the planning process. It will be seen for miles and will dominate the iconic viewpoint at Twin Law Cairns on the Southern Upland Way. The Lammermuir Protection Group (LPG) is asking the Scottish Executive for a public inquiry into this proposal because we believe it is a wind factory too far. If you think so too, please write with your objection to: Howard Steele, Scottish Executive Energy Consents Unit, Meridian Court, 5 Cadogan Street, Glasgow G2 6AT, or you can object online at
www.a-ridge-too-far.com. Objections must be with the Scottish Executive by 28 July. I would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone who has given support and sent encouraging messages to the LPG - it is all very much appreciated. Kate Knight, Chair, Lammermuir Protection Group.

I fear the truth is, as far as the local people are concerned, this is a wind factory too near.

This was actually taken by the Middle Nephew from Embra over a year ago but it is exactly what Lindisfarne Castle would look like to day in the misty Haar. As I couldn't be bothered to go and take the shot-here it is. The people in the foreground ,if still there, are a year older. Happy birthday to all three.

Jumped out of bed at 6-15 am, looked out of the window and jumped back again. Visibility 20 metres and closing. Also drizzling, so there went this mornings golf. Even now (8am) the visibilty is not good enough for my booming drives So it is shopping in Morrisons for the next round of the Wife's valedictory menus.
Wednesday, June 29, 2005
A rare excursion to Ould Reekie. Mr Deakin has ordered rain and murk for the Borders so we hope for gentler climes further north. Embra is bracing itself for a series of manifestations connected with the G8 summit-the first being the massive demonstration this weekend in support of 'Make Poverty History' I wonder what the camouflaged mendicant and his wee dog on Princes Street will make of all this? Will he march or will he feel that with all the emphasis on Africa charity should begin nearer home. My advice would be for him to stay his ground, put on a less military garb, shampoo the dog, don't feed it for a few days and get a very large hat for donations. Middle aged matrons, fresh out of church organised buses will not be able to resist crossing his outstretched palm with specie and feeling that the end of poverty might as well start with him and a decent meal for the mutt.

Two would be marchers were discussing the event behind Huttonian on the train. One kept on referring to it as a protest and was conjuring up wistful visions of anarchists and tree huggers confronting mounted police wielding East Lothian issue batons, crowd control for the use of. The other referred twice to the demonstration as 'Make Puberty History' She probably has large spotty adolescent hulking sons and now has a cause she can wholeheartedly endorse. Our lay assistant in the Piscie church referred in his intercessions for divine support for ' Make Peace History' I may be mistaken but I thought I heard a chuckle up there amongst the suppressed hilarity of the congregation here below. Many a true word etc.

I have now killed enough time and the coffee is cold. So off to the Hygenist/dentist surgery.No pain here. Marble halls, soft music, ten copies of Hullo, beautifully appointed fittings, gentle hands, apologetically presented bill and a lighter wallet. Much lighter
As PS to the above Huttonian can report that the Prince's Street mendicant is alive and well as his his wee dog-or as much as of it as could be seen from the plastic bag in which it was sheltering from the elements. Sadly now that the scaffolding has been removed from outside one of the many Marks and Sparks in Prince's Street there is no cover for mendicants and wee dogs and the pair were looking thoroughly pussed off. I thought it wise not to stop to pass on advice on how to get the most out of next week ends marches and noted that the military jacket is still his principal outer garment. Probably better that than the FCUK tee shirts for not getting too much up the noses of visiting kindly world saving matrons.

There is some apprehension about next week's demonstrations. Monday sees 14,000 Anarchists (Make Property History?) parading in a presumably unorganised manner and then Wednesday is the St Bob G 8 jamboree. Lots of Embra people are living town ignoring appeals to house the hotelless multitudes in the comfort of some one else's home, shop windows are being boarded up -presumably the usual multinational targets, Mac Donalds et alios and people working in Financial institutions are being instructed to dress down all week so as to be able to mingle unobtrusively with the masses and not run the risk of being lynched as members of the military/industrial/financial/capitalist conspiracy.

I shall be in London
Tuesday, June 28, 2005

As the wife is in Foreign Parts I am free to rise early and golf at Duns. Duns Golf Club is no Royal County Down (PBUI) but it is a challenging wee course made more so by the heavy dew which soaks the grass for those inrepid golfers who set out, like Huttonian, whilst even the early sparrow has not yet urinated, never mind farted. It was murky (as in haar) in Hutton but blazing hot in Duns-and I mean hot by Lunnon standards. Playing by myself I was winning easily until I hit a beautiful drive at the 2nd and found that the fairway had moved to the right in mid swing and my ball sailed to the left, over a fence into a field, lush with dewy grass and full of horses. I don't really like equine quadruped. They are big, with dirty teeth and remind me (very slightly) of camels which are bigger and have even dirtier teeth. Anyhow I was determined to find my newish ball. Someone told me that the best way to deal with horses is to look the nearest one in the eye and show no sign of fear. They respect the masterful approach. This is a hard tactic to follow when looking for golf balls in long grass but I did my best. There were several nearest horses and they all seemed slowly to advance, tails still and ears back (a bad sign say the cognoscenti) I slowly retreated looking as many stallions in the eye as possible and searching desperately with my feet for the £1.50 Titliest 4. The horses advanced and I was just about to cut and run when I felt something hard and round under my feet-I scooped it up, put it in my pocket and got over the stile without troubling the step with the nearest near horse a metre behind and closing.

Back on the safety of the fairway I pulled the ball out of my pocket, sneering at the nearest and now corralled beast. Placing it for the next shot I found that my find was not my ball; it was not anyone's ball and certainly not a £1.50 Titleist 4. It was a round bit of very ancient horse manure presumably passed by a very ancient horse after two much organic oats. It was still quite smelly despite being sun dried and the tang remained in my nostrils, my throat and my pocket until I finished my round. Enjoying a post round cup of coffee I got some strange looks in the club house perhaps due to another bit of softer shiny horse dropping I had failed to spot on my left heel.

I should report that in my anger I threw the offending round object at the nearest horse. It missed but gave it such a fright that a golf ball it was thoughtfullyly chewing fell ou of its mouth.
Was it mine? I didn't look and I am not sure that I care.

This is the resident swallow in its nest in the garden tool room. (click on image for Oddie like quality) Or is it a House Martin? . The wife will know. Most of its sisters are nesting in the eaves directly above our windows which are slowly becoming opaque with bird droppings. And as long as they are in residence no window cleaner is allowed to darken our airspace. So it will become increasingly dark with an eerie dim white light until late October and as global warming heats up the bloody birds may never go at all. Whats the point of flying South when they enjoy a southern climate all the year round
Monday, June 27, 2005
The Berwickshire has its now familiar summer look with the main news stories increasingly squeezed out by large front page pictures of Gala Queens –as in Chirnside this week-and as the summer wears on we will feast upon huge portraits the Reivers, their lasses, more attendants; then the Coldstreamer with his left and right hand men. Plus innumerable common riders, another form of highly mobile Reivers who seemed to have covered an immense amount of territory on both sides of the Border in search of glory and loot, nor necessarily in that order.

Most towns will have some festival to celebrate with pageantry and large scale consumption of the hard stuff. I suppose its great fun for the participants but visitors must be a bit puzzled by the obsession to commemorate-in the case of the Reivers, bands of mediaeval thugs and in the matter of Coldstream, celebration of a battle lost long ago.

Perhaps Hutton and Paxton should get in the act and either commemorate a genuine historical event or make one up. It is believed that Edward 1 of England camped his army in what is now the grounds of Hutton Castle (on the site of an ancient Home/Hume stronghold) on the way either to besiege Berwick or to relieve it-the town changed hands 13 times between England and Scotland in 200 years or so. We could have a pageant about the ‘Passing on the English’ (‘passing’ thought to be a corruption of an original mediaeval word with a different meaning) with suitably clad locals re-enacting a skirmish in which the invading marauders are put to flight by sturdy Hutton and Paxton men. Not too wild a notion apparently. There is some evidence to suggest that Edward and his Kingly successors only came to Hutton the once so they must have had a hot reception in 12 something and never dared to return. It could therefore be called ‘Bloody Nose Day’ or something similar, to symbolise this victory The Hutton Think Tank has suggested that all villagers wear a red plastic nose throughout the celebrations and are seeking to copyright this idea. Anyhow it could be the basis of a fun day, photos in the Berwickshire and a dramatic increase in bar takings at The Cross
Day three of absent wife and the strain is beginning to tell. The wife thoughtfully left me a week's menu for evening meals and I thought the ingredients thereof. The menus labelled 'Sunday' 'Monday' etc are already out of sinc as a kind neighbour invited me to a lunch the day the lady of the Manse departed and I ws so stuffed that I could not face the menu for that evening involving organic sausages, new potatoes and fried tomatoes. So all the meals are moved forward by a day. But to night involves new (organic) spuds bacon and mushrooms. But where are the mushrooms-not in sight. I have tried everywhere including the freezers. Nothing. If the wife says there are mushrooms they are there somewhere. Could the master mouse have nicked them? Unlikely. I have e-mailed asking the boss but may not get a response by start the cooking time. So it is either abandon Menu No 2 and go onto Spinach, anchovies and Pasta or into town, and buy some mushrooms. Actually not a bad idea-the Garden Centre has lots of goodies like organic politically correct crisps ,normally off limits when the distaff is around, but now no leash, the sky is the limit. And anyhow I can't find the spinach either so would have to move on yet again to Sardines on Toast unless I can do the marketing right away.
Sunday, June 26, 2005
Returned from the Kirk this morning-no sorry from the church as it was Huttonian's turn for the Piscies in Duns rather than the parish church in Hutton which operates every other Sunday-to receive a nasty shock. Not only had the birds eaten a huge fat ball-three days ration in two hours but poor old Cocky was laid out stiff, cold and immobile at the end of the patio. Oh Dear-end of an era but a good innings. Who had got him? Rosie the decrepit cat? Surely not. Killer cat from next door? Possible but there did not seem any sign of moggie inflicted damage. The Sparrow Hawk? Could be but I would doubt if even a sparrow hawk who feasts mostly on wee song birds would tackle a large if elderly pheasant. Any how I went out musing on life, death and the English Cricket team to give Mr C a decent burial when he rose up from his incumbent position and strode off down the lawn in a marked manner indignant about his snooze being disturbed-especialy on a Sunday. Hence immobile but why cold? Silly question this is the frozen North. OK ,but stiff? Too much humpty dumpty last night I suspect -no wonder Ollie just glimpsed away from her chicks earler this morning looked so exhausted. Slow down Mr C is my advice or we will find you late and deceased one fine morning all ready for a Monty Python pheasant joke.
Saturday, June 25, 2005

Poor Cocky is suddenly looking his age and the colour is going from his back feathers. However he seems to have done his stuff as Ollie, his partner, has a nest full of chicks. Alert bloggees will note his one leg-no the other is there but gets a rest while he is snoozing
The wife is on her way to Foreign Parts and Huttonian faces nearly three weeks of unassisted domestic tasks. Shopping is the easy bit much improved by Morrisons (The Artists formerly known as Safeways) with everything-you-can-get-into-one basket-checkout-rule. As long as you can get there by 8am you will miss the caravanners and their anti-social shopping habits of lane crowding, fag end dropping, trolley arging and wrong checkout blocking. It is also a good time to fill up with petrol with your Morrisons buy 10,000 litres and get a £5 shopping voucher sometime next year scheme. I was slightly frustrated by a motor caravan(not a local camper) behind whom I queued assuming (as the cab was empty) that he was paying and about to be on his way only to discover after 10 minutes that if he was paying it was in the main store and had left his vehicle convenienty parked beside the pumps whilst he shopped for his months beer and groceries. It was my day for getting the neighbours Daily Mail and was back in the car when I discovered that it was the Scottish edition which they dislike and which to day was indistinguishablee from its English stablemate apart from the little red lettering 'Scottish edition'. So I had to take it back and exchange it for the south of the border one in case they felt they were being robbed of real news as opposed to the Mc Rubbish.

So now it is feed the birds -a four dish menu, keep the blackbirds away from the strawberries, the butterflies-cabbage white- from the broccoli or is it the brussel sprouts?-water and organically feed the tomatoes, weed the pond of erotic* plants , carry on removing grass from the drive-painting the Forth Bridge sort of task, hang out the washing and by that time all that is done it will be nearly the moment to think about the kitchen work-the wife has left me a daily menu in case I am tempted to stick to boiled eggs and sardines. Never a free moment.

*exotic surely? Blog-ed
Friday, June 24, 2005
A bloggee has reported that if you put in the following words-hardly a logical phrase- into Google:

natural and safeways to enlarge your penis at home you will be given a link toMusings from the Merse and two other websites. Why on earth anyone came up with this combination is hard to comprehend-unless some of the local caravanners have successfully found appropriate devices on the shelves of Morrisons (pka Safeways) which they can try out in the comfort of their mobile homes and want to spread the word. Before the less than well endowed rush off to scan the back numbers of Musings let me assure them that no such advice or instruction has ever been carried by Huttonian and the search engine has come up with a number individual key words which can be found in several disconnected passages an old blog. The other two websites are actually more appropiate for potential loin lengtheners ,if that is your bag.

Huttonian has mentioned the p word-as in 'Puppetry of the Penis' one of the more outlandish shows of last years Edinburgh Fringe Festival. I never actually met anyone who admitted seeing it, so perhaps nobody did.
Yesterday's Berwickshire has a frontpage story about the closing of the Hutton and Burnmouth primary school after the Scottish Executive had finally and very belatedly confirmed the decision taken months ago by the Scottish Borders Council. Amongst those prominent personalities asked to comment on this sad closure was the local laird and MSP for East Lothian. A bloggee has asked the significance of the Laird's comment that it was a pity that the (Hutton school) parents 'did not get wholehearted support from key members of the community council'
Search me, mate. Huttonian is enjoying a self denying ordinance on avoiding rants about the Community Council so all he will say is that this sounds like a load of elderly cobblers to him-the CC's position has been one of consistent opposition to the closing of the school as any intelligent follower of the councils proceedings will testify. So why did the tribune of the people of East Lothian make this remark? Search me again, love. I am not sure that he is much of a fan of the CC -he certainly has not darkened its doors for a long time and it may be that he is irritated it with it for reasons quite unconnected to the school closure issue. But don't ask me dear bloggee.Ask him and all may become clear. Or not, as the case may be.
A 'streamer bloggee with musical enthusiasms writes:

Big news today is that Coldstream Pipe Band (http://www.coldstreampipeband.co.uk/) will not be making it to the Peebles Beltane festival this weekend ). We have a chronic shortage of adult pipers and the young uns are at the 'coming on' stage rather than the 'piping up the street' stage. Drummers you ask? We've plenty and a nice wee grant from the Lottery has acquired us a full set of new, lightweight drums for the Cockburn brothers to instruct their young charges on. But pipers, oy vay! There's none. None, I tell you. They just get started in their teens and then they're off out of Coldstream like a miscreant from Sherrif Kevin's coort never to be seen again, so not like the sherrif court then! Are there no young potential pipers in the Hutton-Paxton conurbation? Or has Duns Pipe Band poached them all. Watch out, there's a press gang sailing down the Tweed toward Hutton as we speak.

I am afraid that once again Huttonian can't really help and I expect the raiding party will return empty handed. Something I read on a website before the general election suggested that our SNP candidate was a dab hand at the piping and had even piped in the Haggis at a Burns Supper-most unusual accomplishment for a distaff Scot I am told.
Thursday, June 23, 2005

It is believed that this unassuming little shack at a still officially secret location may have been the HQ of Fishwick Special Branch. All I can say is that it is not in Fishwick for obvious reasons.

It has been suggested that the FSB kept their weapons and anti-riot gear here. It was obviously an important store given its effective camoflage against low flying aircraft and spy satellites

The FSB was not too far (it can now be revealed) from this strategic road-the figure in front is walking in England and the photographer in Scotland-the border is marked by grass in the middle. In the old days vehicles (carts) could cross this ford to join a road on the other side of the Tweed in Northumberland; a forerunner or forewader of the A1.

A declassified interior shot. This building may also have been used by the Hutton Think Tank and it could be that their file was stolen from the cupboard beside the door.
Wednesday, June 22, 2005
A local bloggee has alerted Huttonian to an interesting development re the Jim Clarke Rally which for the first time, is to stage through Hutton. This stage will take the cars through our hamlet at Zimmer rattling speed, then hurtling past the new cemetry, around Hutton Castle , down the steep hill to the Whiteadder valley,and then over the Blue Stane ford heading towards Chirnside. (Twice, actually)For years (since a tragic accident at a similar ford on the Tyne) local people have been urging the Borders Council to erect flood measuring poles on either side of the Ford to show motorists how deep the water is and whether it is safe to make the crossing-a doddle in a tractor but can be problematical for a saloon car. Suddenly, aware that the ford might prove a good spectator and press vantage point, the Council has pulled out the appropriate digit and put up two measuring rods on both the south and north banks-with the desired for result I will leave you to judge. Careful scrutiny of the following images will help.

This is upstream from Blue Stane ford which can be seen towards the top of the picture. The Whiteadder is in a gentle mood but it can become a torrent without much warning and could prove a threat to the rally drivers

This is what the rally driver sees as he approaches the Ford from the south cruising at about 70mph. Measuring stick coming into sight on the right-moment of truth-cross the ford or return to the Cross for a pint?

This is an interesting optical illusion but the meter stick is actually under water up to six inches which indicates accurately the depth of the ford and will encourage Mr R. Driver as he roars past to go for it

Ford north side-according to the measuring stick it is dry and presumably safe to walk on! Has the tide suddenly gone out or have the Council put the device slightly out of place? View that Rally driver will see from rear view mirror.

Interesting siting-it could be showing two feet of water on the south side and still dry here-or perhaps the river has developed a slant? Take care crossing from Chirnside and perhaps some one should tell the council before the rally?
Dear Huttonian
I noted in the rant today that you made mention of the Tweed Cycleway. Is much use made of it do you know? Has, e.g. the pub and shop benefited at all. What is the signposting like, I have heard that Borders cooncil are unhelpful with granting permission to site signs (maybe they think there's still a war on and enemy parachutists are lurking in the hedgerows and ditches).
writes a bloggee from Streamer country. Not being a cyclist I am not sure how to reply with any authority to this query. The cycleway goes through our 'parish' but I have seen very few cyclists on it. Once in a while a mass of them appear and make their HQ near the crossroads 3/4 mile south of the village but the Cycleway is meant to be a tourist attraction for the long distance serious two wheelers and it may well be that too few signs have ensured that those hard cycling southern folk have got lost long before they have reached these parts. The only prominent sign posting around here is for the muddy mess known as the Orchard. Perhaps future archaeologists will unearth the skeletons of horibly lost perished cyclists who have drowned in the muddy expanses of earth works just out of reach of the pub-bare bleached bones and a natty indestructible helmet will be all that will mark their passing. As to the war not being over (and that would explain a lot) I refer the question to the Hutton Think Tank to ponder.

Does that answer the question about the pub? But the shop?! I wish.

The start of the traditional salmon netting process on the Tweed. The oarsman takes out the net and pays it out upstream of the netters on the Scottish Bank at Paxton House. The current then takes him and the net swiftly down the river hopefully meeting the salmon and trout as they come up against the current.

All pull together with, hopefully with lots of salmon and fat trout. After all this is the best salmon fishing river in the world

Nearly there-but the nets seem light?

Here they are lads, lets get at them

After all that pulling the catch totalled one largish trout (click image to magnify and look at back of net)-no salmon so back to square one. By 5 pm and several hours neting their catch was in 'the teens' and nearly all trout. Not much return for 6 men and a dog

The dog. Seems a bit pussed off and nothing to show for numerous swims.
Tuesday, June 21, 2005
The Embra authorities are apparently quite concerned about their ability to cope with St.Bob Geldoff’s call to arms to coincide with the G8 summit at Gleneagles. The Hutton Think Tank (Ht2) wonders if it is strictly necessary to use an already crowded site for such a demonstration involving, according to St.Bob, one million people. Ht2 proposes Hutton (and Paxton) as an alternative site where the Laird and other landowners could easily provide wide-open spaces for that number of people. Pre-harvest farming land could be a problem-like Hutton Hill which is currently under crop but given the success of concert ticket text message sales local farmers could be compensated for the damage done to their crops on top of the warm glow that they would experience for donating space for such a noble enterprise.

Local facilities might be strained-but there is a bus service from the railhead at Berwick to Hutton Paxton with the bus usually running empty. The Tweed cycle path is also underused and goes through the area. Public loos exist at Paxton House and at the Cross Inn and no doubt Mr R the drainage contractor could quickly excavate the necessary extra latrines at strategic places using straw bales as modesty veils for the distaff side. The Cross Inn has good bar lunches and although it is expected that there will be rather more than 5000 visitors on this occasion there are good historical precedents for conjuring up large quantities of especially bread and fish for hungry multitudes. The almost spiritual nature of this visionary enterprise may elicit powerful outside intervention.

Policing should not be a problem given the nearby cop shops at Coldstream with reinforcements if necessary from Duns. Anyhow the crowds are expected to be a peaceful and any anarchists attempting to disrupt proceedings would be seen off by the lads with pitchforks.

The full plan may be inspected at the Ht2 HQ and a response to their proposal is awaited from the East Lothian Police, St Bob and other high Heidians involved. The other suggestion to accommodate the demonstration, nearer to the action, on one of the many golf courses attached to the Gleneagles Hotel has been turned down because of practical problems of so many people having to pay green fees.
Monday, June 20, 2005
It is curious that three bloggees from as far apart as Oz and the US of A have logged onto the rant during the last twelve hours apparently in search of the same story from mid March about a woman in Scotland being served with an ASBO (Anti-Social Behaviour Order) for being seen by her neighbours scantily dressed -bikini or underwear. She was apparently told that she could not dress in this manner in the 'comfort of her own home' if she could be seen through the window. This story which originated in the national press and partially cut and pasted by Huttonian seems to be attracting interest again. Odd. The search words in Google are woman+Scotland+abso if anyone else is interested.

Judging from the amazing weather and searing heat (over 70F for the third day running-much too hot to run) even some people around here will be out in their bikinis. And if it is also as hot in the Berwick Caravan sites ABSOs would indeed be called for given the vast quantities of surplus and unsightly flesh likely to be on public display. There were some horrible male shorts on the streets yesterday and I doubt if the owners would have worn them if they checked their mirrors before venturing out.
Australia Lose Again- a quotation from the Australian Newspaper, internet edition. Beaten in a week by England, Somerset, Bangladesh and now England again. Crowds not on the streets of Hutton (unlike in Dacca yesterday) but I am sure discreet gloating over tea, or perhaps not. Any how all Oz is again waking up to bad news and it is Monday there already. Long may it continue.
Reading Big Smoke Blogs as one does makes me envious of the metropolitan transport system which we use from time to time when in Lunnon visiting the relis. All right, they might not be intergrated in a joined up sort of timetable way but at least they are not deliberately unintergrated as is the case around here. So at the request of bloggees, well one bloggee who may have forgotton, here again is the ditty of a couple of years back but which remains painfully valid.

Borders Bus

The number 32
from Golden Square to Timbuktu.
Via Paxton House (summer only)
Fishwick crossroads,
Hutton bus shelter
back again.

It’s integrated Borders style;
perfectly timed to leave Berwick station
just before the train arrives
And to return just after the next one

And at one thirty it gets
wnith all this excitement
stops for the day.
Thus being perfectly suited
the one way commuter.

Satisfaction rating:
100 percent.
No one has ever complained.
Not because Borderers are
stoic folk.
resigned to their lot
But because
the bus is always empty.

No one, it seems
wants to go

(even via Paxton House in the summer)

I am reminded that I am entitled to a free bus pass but I prefer to waste the government's money on some thing else

Sunday, June 19, 2005
Duns Sheriff Court continues to be a disappointing read as Sheriff Kevin deals out justice for more and more humdrum drug cases. This week he had an incident of racial abuse to cope with when there was an exchange in German in Market Square Duns. A local man abused a German resident of Coldstream and the defending solicitor explained that it was the German who had started it by swearing at the Duns man in German with the latter reacting as 'he knew what was said as a result of his own knowledge of the language'. Sheriff K had no doubt where the blame lay and the Dunse was fined £300-the Dunsderhead had anyhow overreacted by adding a bit of physical to the verbal.

A knowledge of Polish may prove useful in Chirnside as it is widely rumoured that a local agency has recruited a number of Poles to work in the area. Not only at the Fish processing plant but also as trades people including it is believed some Plumbers. It is said that the plumbers are female which may cause the same kind of bother for local blokes with their apparent reluctance to go to female hairdressers-see recent rant. But on the other hand perhaps not. We already have a distaff chimney sweep hereabouts so female plumbers may become all the rage.
One hesitates to gloat but when Bangladesh beats Australia in a one day test match by 5 wickets one is tempted.
Saturday, June 18, 2005
Disgruntled Commuter (see link) has drawn the world's attention to the Grudian's plans to change the size of its paper from a Broadsheet to a 'Berliner'; See below for extract from the Gerdian's website

Just over a year ago we made one of the most important decisions in the 184-year history of the Guardian and the 213-year history of the Observer," she said. "To design both papers again completely from scratch. To launch them in a new format never before seen in the UK. To build our own print centre and install the most modern presses in the newspaper industry. To position our papers as the first of a new generation of full-colour national newspapers."
The Berliner - a size that is between broadsheet and tabloid - will be unique among British newspapers. It is used by several mainland European titles, including Le Monde.
The move comes two years after the Independent changed to a tabloid size, quickly followed by the Times. Since the change, sales of both papers have bucked the industry trend downwards. In May, sales of the Independent increased by 1% compared with the year before to 263,043.
Sales of the Times increased by 5% in the year to May to 652,264. The paper, owned by Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation, has also benefited from a marketing campaign that included free DVDs and money-off vouchers.
Other daily titles have lost readers, hit by increased competition from the internet and changing habits. The Guardian's sales rose 1.4% in the month to May at 372,562 but are down 4.3% in the year.
Newspapers around the world have over recent years changed shape or tried free versions of their titles in an effort to increase sales.

Apparently this will be a great help to commuters on over crowded and at times oxymoronic London Transport. I am not sure if it will have any impact on the users of the no 32 Bus from Hutton to Golden Square, Berwick. Firstly users are not crammed shoulder to shoulder or even boob to boob-users exist but rarely on the same bus. Secondly the Guardienne is not read hereabouts to any great extent. Dave the Paper used to deliver two to tout eastern . Berwickshire. This is Daily Mail (Scottish edition) and for the intellectuals Daily Express. (Scottish ed) country with the odd patriot either taking the Scotsman or making the Berwickshire last a week. Thirdly has slipped my mind but it may have been germane-and talking about the Germanes there is a theory that when John F Kennedy famously said 'Ich bin Berliner' he was not referring to the Guerdian* but stating how he dealt with Le Monde.

* jokres about misprints in the Guardian are waring a bit thin. Blog-ed

21.5 c in the garden and it is only 9am-surely a record for Hutton even in 'Flaming June'-a complete contrast to yesterday while Britain 'sweltered' (The Sun) we shivered in an East Wind Haar. With good timing we have just received our tickets for the Hutton and Paxton Horticultural Society 99th Annual Show. The wife did particularily well last year although some of the winning exhibits were wrongly attributed by the broadsheet press to Huttonian whose tomatoes suffered from the usual discrimination by the Judges but no matter they are looking good this year and I suspect we will have a record crop, again, from our 16 plants shooting up in the newly painted green house. A pity that the show, becuse of its timing in mid-August has no entries for soft fruit (apart from jams in the 'industrial section') otherwise we get a whole lot more Red Cards for our crop. Anyhow morale is high amongst the garden staff and we should have some good news to support come August. If it is a blazing summer the competition will be stiffer-it has to be admitted that last year entries were at a record low but the wife will maintain that detracts nothing from the quality of her produce. Amen to that

Hutton Haiku No the Next

Tomatoes are not
the only fruit we grow but

the slugs don’t know that.

R.Mossom. Flor 2003.

Some of the tomatoes. Not too close up out of fear of revealing trade secrets but they are doing well I can assure the competition

The soft fruit-raspberies, blackberries, goose berries, Red and white currants and loganberries-well advanced already.

the lesser Raspberry bed-the other we do not show out of fear of intimidation and modesty

Strawberries. Don't look much? Wait a few days-it is going to be a record crop if we win the battle against the predatory blackbirds. Netting will foil them and possibly entangle a few of the more stupid ones
Friday, June 17, 2005
The Scottish Minister for Education, Life Long Learning and Early Retirement etc must have been reading my rant on the need to put us all out of our misery over the future of Hutton Primnry School as the decision to close the school wef end of the term ( in less than 2 weeks time!) has now formally been taken by the Scottish Executive. A sad end to a long era of effective community based education but at least we know. I hope that the Education Gurus at Newtown St Boswells will now be more supportive over those parents who wish to send their children to Swinton as opposed to Chirnside.

Note to The Maul on Sunday: Minister is a Mr Pocock and not Peacock.

A rioting of Starlings on the Wife's bird friendly wood pile demolishing her lovingly prepared fat ball which at this time of the year disappears by coffee break-ours not the Starlings. Our lodger does not approve and feels, as a countryman, that the birds can look after themselves without any assistance from sentimental city folk. The starling fledlings and our Greater somethinged Woodpecker family disagree.
Thursday, June 16, 2005
CAREER OPPURTUNITY Mens Hairdresser. Mr I the one of only two men's hairdressers in Berwick reports that he is overwhelmed with custom from the Merse since his counterpart in Duns hung up his scissors. He does tke appointments on Fridays or Saturdays-they are pop in, first come etc days. Last Saturday he was in at 6-30am for a 7 am opening to find a queue of six on his doorstep-all from outside Berwick. Eyemouth apparently only has female hairdressers and real men in the Borders do not take their heads to be given a Beckham or whatever was in fashion 3 years ago to women clippers. Actually, according to Mr I, it is the traditional short back and sides which still predominates even amongst the younger (under 70) set in these parts. Pudding bowl on head and remove all that is visible taking care to avoid ears style. Now that it is rumoured that the Barber in Tweedmouth is also taking down his sharpening strap and telescoping his pole the pressure on Mr I is bound to increase. Apparently the other Male Barber in Berwick is thinking of turning uni sex, if that is how you put it so he may also lose some of his traditional hetero trade from old customers who do not want to be seen by the distaff side reading the Sun in the waiting area.

Remember You read it here first.
145 new houses have been approved for our neighbourly village of Chirnside (5 miles as the Jim Clark Rally will go across the ford) which should increase the population of the settlement from its present 1,200 to well over 1600 thus putting a considerable strain on local services including the school-see a previous rant. The density of this new development will be 12 to 13 houses an acre even worse than Paxton's Kanes Close and the Orchard. Ha! Some may remember the opposition a couple of years ago to the Laird putting areas of land in Paxton forward for inclusion in the draft local plan including 14 plus acres in Knowes Close. Opponents of the proposdal claimed that this acreage could find rom for 140 houses-a thought rubbished by the Laird in the ensuing war of the pamphlets. But on the Chirnside Model 14 acres at even 12 houses per acre would well exceed the Knowe's Close estimate which is shown not to have been a scare mongering exercise as some suggested at the time.

But a big difference-the Chirnside development has alreadybeen ear marked in the old local plan of 1994 and is 'generally welcomed' claims the Berwickshire. But as far as Paxton is concerned the current draft excludes Knowe's Close and Vox Pop seemed massively against the idea when it was originally mooted. And in the event, earmarked or not, several people in Chirnside and a number of Borders Councillos oppopsed the proposal if only because of the density proposed for the site.
Wednesday, June 15, 2005
Barely two weeks left of term at Hutton Primary School and the silence from the Scottish Executive as to its fate is deafening. Poor parents, poor children, poor teacher and support staff some of whom have had redundancy notices. What does it all mean? Is there a change of heart in the educational establishment? The school to be reprieved after all? The investment required to be provided by high heidian money bags and we all go forward into a rosy dawn? It is possible that Pigs may fly but unlikely.

Two rumours-it is now too late to end the school's existence and it will stay open an extra term to allow parents more time to make alternative arrangements. Possible I suppose but very damaging having to move children half way through an academic year. How many parents would want to take advantage of a very brief reprieve just postponing the inevitable disruption-not too fair on the teacher either being redeployed in mid year.

Rumour two. Chirnside has suddenly realised that they can't cope with the extra (12 or so) Huttonians and faced with a significant development locally have now to to find extra room for scores of children from within their existing catchment area-classes are hovereing around the 30 mark already. But if this is so why are the Borders Life Long learning but-only at large schools-establishment dragging their heels over local parents' wishes to send Hutton children to Swinton rather than Chirnside which is the 'school of choice' and for which a school bus will be provided as it wont be in the case of Swinton which, incidentally, has plenty of spare capacity.
So if Chirnside is worried about being overstretched, this is not the view from St Boswells.

Our local MSP seems hamstrung despite being the Scottish Depute (ugh) Minister for Education as he is acting in this instance for his constituents rather than as a Minister. But surely he must be involved with his boss in taking such important educational decisions?

The Save our School Action Group has said some highly critical and indeed confrontational (not always accurate apparently) things about the Borders Educational authorities. But any criticisms about how this end game is being conducted can hardly be harsh enough. The Borders will of course blame the Scottish Executive in whose court the matter still lies and there is truth in this but the Borders are hardly covering themselves in glory with regard to communication with parents and being responsive to parents' wishes on how best to further their childrens education. Swinton has room, Chirnside may not so why on earth not lay on a bus for the children to go to a school more like Hutton than Chirnside can ever be?

Better still admit that the closure decision is ill considered-give Hutton the investment it needs and we can all get back to normal. The needs of the children come first is the cry-this seems a very strange way of achieving that goal. And the pigs can return to terrestial pursuits.
I thought I was a lone voice in being not too enamored of Morrisons-the artists formerly known as Safeways-but a lady writing to the Berwick Advertiser, the townie cousin of the Berwickshire is also not too impressed

SIR, Are any of your readers as bewildered by Morrisons as I am?I thought they would be a big boon to shoppers when they took over Safeway. Prices dropped and it seemed so shopper friendly.I have had one thing after another go wrong or I have found wrong that have so disheartened me. Firstly, Morrisons fruit and veg were of such a low quality. The veg was often going off or rotten within a day or two. They were of such poor quality. Then, one day I decided to buy sirloin steak from the butcher there. When I got home and cooked them for my husband and myself, they were so tough, we couldnt even cut through them no less chew them. They were as tough as old boots, as they say. I didnt buy any meat for the longest time until last week. This time I bought sirloin steak prepacked. I thought they HAD to be all right!!Again, the same problem. In fact the next day, I brought back the meat to Customer Services and showed them. What did they say to me? You are the first person to complain about our meat! I was flabbergasted! Then a man who stood behind me said: Well, I am here to complain about the sirloin steak as well! He was as disgusted as I was. So not one complaint but two within minutes of each other! One of their staff heard what was going on and told me in confidence that she also had bought steak and couldnt eat it. As an employee, she didnt want to complain. I dare not try to buy steak from them again!Then we decided to try their cafe.Have you tried getting a table without knocking into another table or another customer? The tables were squeezed together like sardines. I thought they were going to expand the cafe??? All they did was squeeze in more tables and make it chaotic. One woman with a tray had to put her tray on our table while we were eating our food because she couldnt squeeze past. She had to move chairs and a table to get to another table. While sitting in the cafe, we were bombarded with adverts on the loudspeaker! Constantly! Best for less is what was thrown at us incessantly! We couldnt even eat a meal or have a coffee without the loudspeaker blaring out the adverts so loud and so often. We felt like we were being brainwashed. We had a coffee and then decided to have a meal after. I had finished my coffee so I asked for a glass of tap water to have with my meal. The girl said she was not supposed to give tap water to diners because Morrisons want to encourage you to BUY bottled water instead. This is totally outrageous and unacceptable! How tight can you get !!To Morrisons the customer does not come first. Profit is the name of the game. Their quality is poor. Their service is unacceptable. I feel like I am donating to a big company and getting minimum back for it.

To finalise my complaints, have people tried walking to the shop past all the trolleys filling the pavement? I saw one woman walking with a cane who had to go out onto the road to walk because a trolley was being pushed in the opposite direction and there wasnt enough room for both of them along with all the trolleys parked on the pavement. Oh, one more (sorry to go on!!) but the aisles were so filled with promotional baskets and employees filling up the shelves, the customers could not go down the aisles to shop. They were too busy avoiding the baskets and workers with their stock. I guess enough people complained because this part seems to have gotten a wee bit better. I had high hopes for Morrisons. I had heard good reports about them. Now, all I can say is please, PLEASE let us be treated to a decent supermarket like Tescos or Asda. Create competition so the shoppers can get the best deal. Its about time Berwick and its stores were for the residents instead of themselves.BEST FOR LESS??? You pay out your well earned BEST money and get LESS FOR IT and, by the way, has anyone noticed how their prices are creeping back up too!!!!!!.

Mind you she can always shop at the Coop.

Tuesday, June 14, 2005
The Today Programme had an item about effete and whingeing southern folk being reluctant to go to York where 'Royal Ascot' is being held this year. Terror of having to go so far North-nearly two hours by train for goodness sake and the fear of being ripped off by the hard headed and stony hearted northerners who have apparently put up their prices in the face of this invasion by wealthy layabouts from the Big Smoke. Huttonian (himself of good Yorkshire stock) has his soft heart bleeding for these poor racing people who have to put up with so much hardship in pursuit of the Sport of Kings. And the Queen will be there and I bet she is not moaning about her lot and the ridiculous price of B and Bs.

As it happens the Hutton Think Tank (Ht2) put in a bid to out source Ascot when the event was out for tender. We have the infrastructure with Farmer O's field around Hutton Hill-quite big enough for a decent track and plenty of room for a temporary grand stand on top of the hill. Accommodation was said to be the biggest problem although with our four spare bedrooms, the 4 B and Bs in the near vicinity we could at least have put up the Royal party. The others could have stayed in big urban areas like Duns, Chirnside and even Berwick itself but we lost out in favour of York. We have hopes however to host on of the rural events in the 2012 Olympics-Tossing the Straw Bale or Rat in the Barrel perhaps.

And if southern folk are afraid of being overcharged they should keep away from Ould Reekie during the festival in August. But they swarm up in their thousands undeterred by the 200% increase in the cost of the famous Scottish hospitality and the 5 hour rail journey. They are obviously a different breed from the over dressed Ascot lot.
Australia 54 for 7. Now that is a score to relish. I doubt however that it is an accurate indication of what lies ahead in the annus mirabilis-a Test series for the Ashes. (Sorry Transatlantic cousins this is a highly technical subject with which you may be unfamiliar. But to put it into context :England versus Australia is one of those issues which makes the War Against Terror fade into insignificance- Our Axis of Evil is based on Canberra, ACT, Oz but only for this summer) The other burning issue is the Lions against the All Blacks-who are mostly white and that is not cricket. Clear? Cricket is the England Australia bit. Rugby the NZ/All Blacks bit-Rugby being a sport played by men (mostly) with odd shaped balls.

I suggest that this is enough bafflement. Blog-ed.
Australia All out 79. England win by 100 runs. I hope that this is not going to be like playing Bangladesh?
Monday, June 13, 2005
The trouble about exile in Norn Iron is the absence of the 'hard copy' of the Berwickshire. The E-version is fine for the top stories'' Fuzz in Dog Poo swoop'" etc but Sheriff Kevin of Duns goes unreported. Looking at last Thursdays broadsheet I have not missed much. 'No licence to drive forklift' £100 and 6 penalty points. 'Threw brick through window' £100 and £50 compensation -must look for that cheap glazier next time our inner hall door glass smashes. and finally 'Sentence Deferred' on some one who breached the peace at Duns Coop. (Asked for liquor before 12 noon on Sunday?) Actually swearing and shouting at the staff possible related to 'medication he was taking' I notice that the alleged offence was on a Sunday so it might well have been related to the antediluvian no drink on Sunday until 12 noon when you can get as smashed as you like rule. None of these offences would have rated a mention in the Mourne Observer or Down Recorder except possibly on the sports page.

I see we missed the visit of the Antiques Road Show to Manderston where a lot of local old artifacts rescued from attics were discussed and valued. A pity we were in Norn Iron.. I could have taken the wife.
A website which specialises in Scottish Blogs lists only three for the Borders:

gemmak's BLOGS : infoThe day to day ramblings of a computer addicted woman and her cats who escaped the 'big city' for an idyllic life in the middle of nowhere.
Martin Frost : infoA very grumpy old man
Musings from the Merse : infoA daily rant from the Scottish Borders which has had some notoriety in the Scottish press

Modesty prevents me from indicating my favourite.
Sunday, June 12, 2005

The wife is a bit disconsolate about the garden after three weeks away in Norn Iron but to my untutored eye it seems ok if a bit lush-but blame the neo Fishes for that 25mm of rain in the last few days and our garden helper away on other duties and Stan the Man nowhere to be seen.

And that is a nice display by anyone's standards-tropical flower forest if you like but wonderful cover for the frogs.

I can't resist sharing this picture of junior OZ brat-KB with a first birthday present from doting grand parents. Apropos of absolutely nothing. Yes it is a doll not a very small sister.
Stena did her bit. 5 minutes early into Belfast (despite a constant apology for any inconvenience caused for a 30 minutes delay-software malfunction?) 5 minutes early into Stranraer. A record 4 hours to Hutton and as we nodded sand waved to the throngs in the streets it felt as if we had never left. The state of the garden banished that thought as weeds are the predominant feature and the wife is going to have to extract digits if she plans to make a difference before she leaves for foreign parts two weeks to day. Anyhow good to be back if so far in a gossip vacuum apart from the fact that there is still no news on the fate of the school with about two weeks left this term-officially the last one in the long history of this beloved village institution. Really not good enough.
Saturday, June 11, 2005
The car is packed, the cottage tidied, the golf equipment put away, the sun is warm and shining, the sea is blue and shining, the wind Zephr like. And apparently Stena line is running '30 minutes late' No reason given. However check in as normal so more time for kicking heels in the dismal 'terminal' a building which has a rather final sounding air to it-like a crematorium; quite appropriate in this case as the micro-waved scones are often ashes like in their c onsistency.

But we have the comforts of Stena Plus to look forward to. The child free zone, the complimentary wines, the numerous copies of Hullo and Male Motoring to peruse. The panaramic view of the wake retreating at 50mph and the Merse in all its glory yet to come.

More later if we are spared.
Friday, June 10, 2005

The view from the Quarry on Thomas Mountain. Newcastle. Winter Pop: 7,000, Summer 27,000-thats the thousands of caravans for you some of which you can see in the middle distance.

This ugly building at the quarry. Perhaps the IRA's arms cache is here? As any one looked? If they are they will be 'beyond use' This is a rust trap with a leaky roof. The glorious view to the right and this monstrosity.

'Up the Provos' says the slogan on the door-a clue to what lies within. Somehow I doubt it. Its a long way (hours climb) to go to spray a graffito. There's committment for you.
I am endebted to the Berwickshire for this weeks front page story. The wife and I feel that we are something of pioneers in the composting business having gone organic as soon as we arrived in Hutton 8 years ago. We belong to BOG (Borders Organic Gardens) but in Eastern Berwickshire organic gardens are few and far between as indeed are people doing serious composting. At present all rubbish is taken away once a week and dumped in some landfill site-serious recyclers have to take everything into Berwick. Wheelie Bins have been promised for years but have not reached the Hutton Paxton Metropolitan area so all this is good news.

Scottish Borders Councils home composting campaign

THOUSANDS of homes in the Borders are about to receive a home composter as part of the Scottish Borders Council's home composting campaign which was launched this week, writes JANICE GILLIE.
A comprehensive advice and support service is available to the 15,300 homes due to receive the composters by the end of July this year.Crusaders were enlisted by the council to help persuade members of the public of the long-term environmental value of composting. Among those recruited is Alan Dewar from Allanton who was presented with his commemorative certificate at the official launch ceremony along with David Catt of Jedburgh, Mike Madden of West Linton and Ogilvie Dickson of Melrose.Alan is an avid advocate of recycling and reducing the amount of waste he puts out for collection. Nothing in his house or garden that can be composted or burnt is ever included in his general waste. He has been home composting for about six years, has several compost bins and a cone and uses the resulting compost as a soil improver by rotovating it into the ground.Free advice and support is available from two well-respected compost 'gurus', Dave and Jane Allan of ASK Organic.Not only does composting produce a great soil improver for your garden, but it is one of the many ways you can help protect the environment. Councillor Edgar explained: "By reducing the amount of waste we send to landfill less harmful methane gas and leachate will be produced. In addition less fuel will be used in transporting waste to other locations. "By using compost as a natural fertiliser less minerals and chemicals will be used, making gardening more sustainable."Composting will also be important when householders in rural areas receive their wheeled bins and recycling bags as part of the kerbside recycling initiative. "Householders will have their wheeled bin emptied each week and no extra bags of waste will be uplifted," said Fiona Deans, the council's waste strategy implementation manager. "In urban areas, residents will get garden waste bins which will be collected weekly, but we would still encourage them to use a home composter if they have space."Home composting will help deal with much of your garden waste and Dave and Jane Allan have lots of other tips for coping with excess garden material."Councillor Edgar added: "The council is delighted to be partnering with such knowledgeable people as Jane and Dave Allan for this project. It is great to be able to use local talent and expertise in our efforts to improve the world we live in."
09 June 2005
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Thursday, June 09, 2005
So our Norn Iron session is drawing to a close to the relief of a couple of bloggees who are not riveted by affairs across the water and are apparently looking forward to hearing more about goings on in the Merse. A quick glance at the Berwickshire reveals nothing of riveting interest except about composting-a novel concept around us-to which Huttonian will return later. Norn Iron is certainly light years ahead of the Merse on environmental issues such as recycling but organic food has certainly not caught on here either with the local Tesco as organic deficient as Morrisons in Berwick.

So it is away with the golf trolley and the clubs in the boot ready for a long sea voyage on Saturday. It was good to end golf here on a high note- a wonderful round with not a single bad shot-a first since many decades of sporadic golf and almost back to my student days when 54 holes in a single day was not unusual. But I went to Trinity College Dublin as I was told that there were twenty courses within 7 miles of Nelson's Pillar as opposed to only one within the same distance from Oxford city centre. And entrance to TCD was slightly less challenging than Oxbridge-one Irish grand parent and one 0 Level I was told by the Junior Dean at my admission interview. I was able to proudly tell him that I was doubly qualified on both counts.
And I never regretted my choice to attend an institution of higher education where exams were almost irrelevant and when if bored or stuck on one subject you could easily change to another. One student in my time was in her twentieth year as an under grad and had never gone beyond a second year on any degree course. But then she had an allowance from her parents estate which paid her handsomely as long as she was a student.

I ended 4 years (regulation time for an Honours degree) with a very low golf handicap, a tolerance for vast amounts of stout and other alcoholic beverages, an ability to hold forth fluently if not entirely accurately on any subject under the sun,and a tolerance for mankind in all her infinite variety. And ,oh yes, a degree. Not very useful attributes until I became a diplomat when the first three qualities became indespensible.
The Norn Iron Bloggee has drawn our attention to a 'heartwarming' news item on the BBC Norn Iron website. I suspect the poor wee creature got so terminally bored roaming the suburban gardens of north Belfast that it felt itself better off back in the Zoo. Pity about its dispute with Dad which may now be never settled but if it was continuing rabbitting or monkeying on about the virtues of Celtic Football club than it really had it coming. My sympathies with Father C who is a life long supporter of Rangers.

Zoo escapee returns to enclosure

Colobus monkeys come from Mount KilimanjaroA monkey which broke out of Belfast Zoo and went on the run in the leafy suburbs of north Belfast has returned to the zoo.
The Colobus monkey fled after an "argument" with his dad a week ago and had been spotted near the zoo.
The animal, nicknamed Mojo by residents, returned to his enclosure on Sunday, zoo manager Mark Challis said.
"He appears fine and has obviously been feeding. His welfare hasn't been compromised by being away," he said.
"We're delighted. He looks fit and well and is back in the zoo."
The missing monkey was seen by residents capering through gardens and waving through windows during his week-long adventure.
Mr Challis said their best guess as to why he ran away was a falling out with his father.
"We presume that he just got too old for the group and dad was starting to see him not necessarily as a threat, but was saying to him it's about time you left home and went off to do your own thing," he said.
Mojo will not be mixed back into the group, Mr Challis said, and the zoo will be looking to help the young male strike out on his own and form his own troop.
"I think it's time we found a new home for him, he's of an age where he needs to meet females and start a new group of his own," he said.
"It's highly unlikely we'll be looking to mix him back in with dad. I think dad's probably had enough of him by now."

If this is all the Norn Iron news can come up with it will be a relief to be back with Radio Borders

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

By public demand- KB the OZ younger Grand daughter-now just one year old

The younger grand daughter in Oz anticipating the dismissal of the Australian captain for a duck.
Yes, the Deep well mid South was up to expectations and it was good to see the Celtic Target economy at close quarters. One sign in the past that you had crossed the border into the republic (apart from the concrete bloc houses and barbed wire at the end of the 'British' side) was the sudden deterioration of the main road from First World to Third. No longer. The Dublin to Newry motorway is almost up to the border and suddenly it looks as if it is Norn Ireland-UK which is an economic basket case. Building building everywhere at astronomical prices. The average Celt seems very well off and many of the guest workers are English! Some live in Wales (cheap) and commute weekly to work in Ireland where the housing market has soared out of the poor struggling Brit's reach.
The golf clubs reflect this new affluence. Seapoint which is a decent enough track if not quite the Royal County Down (PBUI) demands a joining fee (partly bond eventually returnable) of 17,000 Euro-£ 12,000 in real money plus a hefty annual sub. And a commitment to spend a large annual amount in the bar (not a hardship for most people). Well for some.

The golf was good apart from the fact that my host had not been informed that we were to share the course with a golfing society and its 170 players. Our round took about 4 hours and in the end we walked in the last two holes as a huge tailback had built up in front of us. But Huttonian did not mind having clinched the match and won a staggering 4 Euros.

Yes a good day. And with the benefice of the post Fish generation of weather men in the ascendancy today looks like being even better.
Tuesday, June 07, 2005
"South of the Border down Drogheda Way" is the song on our lips this morning as we venture into the Republic for a lunch and some golf. Not the drama it used to be with the road blocks and military outposts and Soviet style Border controls ( I exaggerate slightly) But now you only know you have crossed the frontier when the telephone boxes and post boxes turn to Green and the petrol is marked in Euros (and well under the UK price)

Report later if we are spared

Today's walk took us past the Hen -one of the most spectacular of the smaller Mournes-a favourite with the rock climbers because of its 4 Tors

The walk was also an excuse for using the Volcano Kettle a wonderful invention credited to an Irish fisherman. It is hollow with the the water contained in a small tank around the central chimney. Fed with twigs and newspaper as a starter it will bowl 3 pints of water in about 5 minutes. Enough for 4 big mugs of tea

Looking into the top of the kettle-just like being above an, er, volcano-click on image to see the flames.

Boiling away awaiting transfer to the tea bags. Magic after a long walk
Monday, June 06, 2005
The ethnic and religious divides in Norn Ireland are still all too evident if not to the extent they were in the times of the troubles before the Peace Process began to take effect. In the bad old days Penal Laws (some aimed against Protestant non-conformists) as well as Catholics ensured that they were savagely discriminated against religiously, politically and socially as being a threat to the Protestant (meaning Church of England/Ireland) ‘Ascendancy’ The Catholics were seen as the main threat especially in Norn Iron where the Protestant plantation of Ulster had taken hold with many Catholics ‘native Irish’ driven off the best land and barred from the best jobs and also prevented from pulling their weight in the running of the country being largely disenfranchised. One major oppression was the banning of places of RC worship and of the public display of the religion thus driving church- goers underground like the non- Moslems in Saudi Arabia today. People were forced to practice their faith in isolated areas away from the eyes of the ‘pollis’ or in informal house churches or even in back gardens. Old ‘Mass Rocks’ still abound-as in the Mournes or its foot hills-some requiring a couple of miles walk from the nearest habitations. But secret Masses were not just held in isolated areas. In King Street in Newcastle, about 200 yards from the Huttonian residence (and 400 yards from the old Police Barracks) there is an old crumbling house, now up for sale, where Masses used to be held in the back garden. A path, known as a ‘Mass Pad’ led up from the harbour to King Street and used by worshippers from what was a predominately Catholic area to go to their surreptitious devotions. It has recently been identified for what it was and a notice marks where it emerges into King Street-a piece of ‘forgotten’ Newcastle.

The top of the path bringing worshippers to King Street. The path itself is not dissimilar to the Burma Road and needs a public spirited group of citizens to clear it.

This is the old house whose garden was used by Catholic worshippers in Penal Days. Prime site for revedelopment as a couple of bijou residences no doubt. Listing of such historical places and thus their preservation is a bit of an alien concept in Norn Iron
Sunday, June 05, 2005
What to do in Norn Iron on a cloudy and threateningly rainy Saturday with golf uncertain and Newcastle crammed with trippers and the mountains swarming with earnest,bearded eco walkers? A stately home perhaps-the Paxton House of County Down but with more to it in its 700 acres of woods, walks, sea side, bird centre and caff. Latter not as good as PH concentrating on woolen white bread sandwiches and over brewed tea. Typical National Trust fare-and only the brave deserve (or can risk) the fare. As you will see from the pics the house, same sort of vintage as Paxton was built by a couple with differing views on architechtural style-hence the classical front and the Gothic back-his and hers although I believe that it was she who had the classic front and he the gothic rear-judging from a large action painting of the family in the Stable tea room (another PH touch). But a good day and nice to be able to justify a rather pricey NT annual sub. A very Norn Iron consideration.

The Classical front-her choice-of Castle Ward

Gothic Rear. His choice.

Old Castle Ward. Guarding the approaches to Strangford Lough. From Plantation times when the occupying Protestant gentry (many from the Scottish Borders) had to live in houses like these

Not too dissimilar to Paxton House from theTweed. Castleward from Strangford Lough

Here there be Monsters?

Some one nicked his golf club and replaced it with a triton. Some one else nicked his trousers and left him with a long tailed dolphin to cover his credentials. Not a good shot from the water hazard-badly sliced.
Saturday, June 04, 2005

This is the quiet end of Newcastle with its three shops, two pubs and posh restaurant-no interest to the day trippers who infest the rest of the town

The 'Catholic Pub'-traditionally one of the pubs was 'protestant' , the other 'catholic' This one up for sale is apparently owned by a family with strong 'Nationalist' connections

The 'Protestant Pub' 5 doors from its 'catholic' counterpart. The Old Bar is 200 years old this year. To keep up with the competition it has a pool tble and 'beer garden'-a great change from the traditional gloomy interior and sawdust for the spitters

The main attraction (but not for trippers) in our end of town is the busy wee harbour-more for pleasure boating than commercial fishing these days. The EU fishing policy saw to that

The traditional fishing boat of which Newcastle used to have scores but now an endangered species.

The main customers for the harbour-Slieve Donard and the Bogie line berhind.
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