Musings from the Merse
Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Originally uploaded by erase.
A PS from Babymother just back from Paris. An exclusive picture of the Under three Toddler Bobsleigh team at the Pompidou Centre Village Olympique as Les Grenouilles would have it. Mmslle KB is in the Bow while Ms ZK controls from Stroke. One push and the minders withdraw from the rink.

Rather glad that we are not on our way to Norn Iron this morning. Its is -7C ( 9-30am) and loading up the car at 0700 at an even lower temperature would not have been fun. Ther nice Mr Deakin from the BBC Weather Horror Centre was gleefuly promising freezing fog in Dumfries and Galloway before he realised that we were not travelling and now we are staying put the 'Weather Warning Code Red'has been reduced to 'hazardous driving conditions wherever you are going' Btw a bloggee has asked (from Singapore I believe) what does -7C look like. Well here it is as at now. Cold and bright. Just in time as the frogs were thinking of spawning-don't do it mate unless you want to croak. As it were
Monday, January 30, 2006
Non Golfing bloggees will be delighted to read that Huttonian's trip to Norn Iron has been postponed until April. With the very cold weather promised for February by the neo-Fishes at the BBC Bad Weather Centre the prospects of golf were not all that good anyhow. The Royal County Down (PBUI) will be hosting a major championship this year and the Walker Cup next, so at the slightest hint of frost the course is closed-except of course on Saturdays when the Belfast members (95% of the total) come down for their gin and golf. Duns by contrast will stay open under several feet of snow thanks to the forbearance of the Gnarled Old Countryman-the Greenkeeper-what he lacks in formal qualifications from the Thames College of Advanced Golfing Technology and Gin Consumption he makes up in common sense. Frost and snow never harmed a course yet-especially a tough seaside one. If Newcastle really wants to protect its hallowed fairways and greens I suggest it bans a certain sort of muscle bound male player and a large proportion of the the distaff ones. They don't so much damage the course but redesign it with their earth moving equipment aka golf clubs. The Committee of the RCD have a fierce dress code for what garmentary is acceptable on the golf course (never mind in the Club House) no jeans, shirts tucked into trousers-trousers not tucked into socks, no sleeveless shirts, no logos, energy better spent in ensuring that golfers using the course can golf, even if just a bit. Just a thought.

Anyhow I shall have the pleasure of monitoring, at close quarters, further progress on the Village Hall. It it some times absorbing to spend one's waking hours watching cement dry. Beats paint anyday.
Sunday, January 29, 2006

A final image from Paris -the under threes plastic peddle car race-a new event for the Toddlers Olympics in Djbouti next year. Mmslle KB is roaring with triumph as she is clearly a wheel ahead whilst her rival the feisty Ms ZK is not too amused.The French contestant at the back is out of it-lapped and going the wrong way. Typique.
There is a Farmers Market every last Sunday in the month at the Maltings in Berwick-upon-Tweed. January is not too well patronised but the usual hard core of hard faced farmers wives selling soft cheeses, or vice versa, were there * On this occasion the Maltings throws open its Gents Loo to all comers as the visitors to the market are also their customers and not drop ins from the street in search of relief. So no need to seek the key from reception. I recall about a year ago when the restrictive practice for men (ladies loos always open) was instituted that having got the key after a short inquisition (yes I was having a snack in the restaurant, no I had not been caught short in the car park) I proceeded to business. In mid steam, as it were, another chap came in (I had left the door unlocked being a hospitable soul) . On completion I returned the key to reception and was halfway back to Somerfields when I realised that I had locked the door on my co-defendant. I rushed back and confessed my crime to the ladies behind the desk and dashed down two flights of stairs with the key to let the guy out before he could wrench the door from its hinges or create a horrible hullabaloo. No need for indecent haste it transpired. He was still taking his ease in cubicle No 1, no doubt reading the Berwick Advertiser (It may have been the other Berwickshire-the News-the door was closed and I did not like to ask in case I spoiled his concentration) Anyhow I flicked the keys under the cubicle door and asked him to lock up when he had finished. I got a grunt in response whether in acknowledgement or for some other reason I could not tell. I left. I can only assume he did the decent thing.

I will write to the management protesting their sexist practices when I have the time
* Huttonian means it ,alternatively, could be soft faced farmers wives selling hard cheese.Blogg-ed
Saturday, January 28, 2006

A few more days in the Merse and then off to Norn Iron for our February golfing break-yes I fear Angry of Ayton there will a lot more images of the Royal County Down Golf Club (PBUI) But in the meanwhile Huttonian is pleased to report on progress on the Hutton Village Hall. As can be seen we have a cement floor and I think the slightly raised bit represents the hall bit of the new building and the rest passageways, other rooms, post office etc-apparently the floor size of this area is about the same as the old hall. You will notice no people or indeed aliens. The Hall Committee has asked photographers , film makers, Video nasties and BBC documentary teams not to photograph humanoids without seeking their permission. Also being a wet Saturday (a marginal improvement on a wet Sunday) there was no one around to ask permission of. Sorry.

This is the first day of the RSPB's Big Garden Bird Watch in which you are asked to note down all the birds you can see in an hours period. Huttonian is not much help as the birds he knows for sure are limited to the Greater Spotted Woodpecker, sparkling black jobs,brown jobs, lighter coloured jobs, wood pigeons and collared Doves. The Wife is the dab hand at this and the hour for her starts when the Greater Spotted Woodpecker arrives in all is glory.

The image is of our woodpile -being a murky dreich day it is difficult to see what is going on but click on picture for a better view. Two smallish things are enjoying the seed dispenser (Goldfinches apparently) The GSW turned up as I turned away;typical . I can't help hoping that at the height of the count (so far I am told-the GSW, 3 chaffinches, 2 goldfinches, 6 starlings-the sparkling black lot-a wood pigeon, a collared dove, 2 sparrows, 2 dunnocks no way can I tell them apart) a sparrow hawk might turn up. Any Goldfinch then consumed would still count for census purposes. so that is all right then.

You can just see our Pear tree in the gloomy background. Sorry just off message to the far right, use your imagination please.No partridge so far but Cocky the Mail on Sunday virtual Peacock might yet arrive to stand up (and be counted)

PS Spell checker suggests Rosebush for RSPB. Nope, I have checked, all devoid of birdlife.

PPS And then suddenly there it was: Immature Sparrow Hawk orMerlin. The wife is not sure and neither were the other birds who did not hang around to find out. A clicked on image will be profitable. After 20 minutes it is still with us thus seriously disrupting our bird watch-Rosie the Cat where are you when I need you?

Friday, January 27, 2006
Thank goodness-another round of Burns' commemorations safely passed without the agony of direct participation-they used to be the low point of Huttonian's social calendar during a career mostly in foreign parts boozing for Britain aka HM Diplomatic Service. I have sat through more 'Immortal Memories' (which I used, naively, to associate with Nelson rather than the Dumfries plough boy) than I care to recall, suffered many 'tremendous' (The Berwickshire's epithet) 'Willie Wastles' , thunderous son et lumiere assisted 'Tam O'Shanters' and tremulous timorous beesties -an Ode to a Mouse, of course. This week's Berwickshire brings all these horrors back but I am sorry to have missed one Burn's masterpiece referred to in the local press as allegedly rendered by an 'irrepressible Dinger' : My Lobe is like a Red, Red Rose. Someone once told me that inflamed ears were symptom of too much haggis so I hope he makes a speedy recovery.
Thursday, January 26, 2006
  Lion enclosure

Lion enclosure
Originally uploaded by erase.
Huttonian is grateful to M. ZK's male minder for this image taken at the time of a family visit to Regent Park Zoo as recorded in a previous post earlier this month. It appears that the sub message here is that if a Lion escapes from its space you are advised to (a) break glass. How will this help?The Lions were behind glass and what happens if it is they who have broken it. Why did they break it? To escape, stupid.
(a) Jump into moat grabbing a lifebelt as you go. (lions are not supposed to like water except a little with their malt)My advice is to cut out (a) and go for (b) But NB check moat for crocodiles before you leap. And don't go headlong for the middle of the moat if you without a flotation device =-its a long swim to the lifebuoys.
The letter columns of the Berwickshire are usually confined to matters of compelling local interest like the closing of the Coldstream Cottage Hospital, attacks by aggressive seagulls on the long suffering Burghers#of Berwick, the inadequacy of the public loo and the occasional outpourings of the Scottish Regent -a local man. So it is unusual for a correspondent to go nationwide as follows:

"The time for the British electorate to stand up and be counted has arrived, now is the time to tell MPs enough is enough.We will not put up with your arrogance.The member representing Winchester in the latest in a big line of recent Lib Dem holders of high office to fail. This is a man who only last week stood up in Parliament and supported the education minister in the debacle relating to persons unfit to teach our children.Other parties are equally at fault , with a recent Tory PM having an affair with a member of his cabinet, the current leader supporting de-classification of cannabis.As for the Labour party where do you commence, a deputy leader who does not pay his council tax, a Home Secretary who attempted to pass a new law daily, whilst involved in a sordid affair with a married woman, a homosexual cabinet member who was twice compelled to resign office for misleading parliament yet is given a top job in Europe, a PM, who at best misled the country into war.These are all the same people who tell us we do not have the right to know if our twelve year old daughter is being prescribed the pill or that our sixteen year old granddaughter is to be given an abortion, or to smack a child etc. etc.So come Messrs Beith, Robson and co. start the ball rolling by condemning these actions, not for what they do, but as being unfit to govern and by definition tell the public what they should do" (name withheld as an act of kindness)

A bloggee has commented that the occasion for the electorate to stand up and be counted is called a General Election and we have quite recently enjoyed one of these. I suspect the writer peddled his epistle around the tabloid nationals : Grudian*, the semi-Independent and the Fascist Times without success before the Tweeddale Press took pity on him. I hope that we can now return to more parochial matters such as why the Malting's management lock the gentleman's (their description) toilet (ditto) and not the ladies. Another anti asylum seeker act of discrimination or just sexism. It can cause problems as Huttonian will explain in a later post. If he is spared.

#Btw. Its not necessarily relevant but I have been told that the leading players of the Berwick AmateurDramatic Society -BADS -have been referred to as the Hamburghers

* Spellchecker suggests Guardian but brisker for Berwickshire. Why? Blogg-ed
Wednesday, January 25, 2006
  Katy and Zoe

Katy and Zoe
Originally uploaded by erase.
The aprez skate team get together. Ms Z is not too impressed by Mmslle K's explanation of tactics for the uphill event.

Originally uploaded by erase.
Keen rivalry on the Paris Olympic Rink-the skating frames will have to be abandoned for the actual event and the minders returned to their rinkside psychiatric wards.

Originally uploaded by erase.
The two young ladies in prelimnary training for the Winter Olympics-Toddlers division. The French coach looks on impressed
Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Originally uploaded by disgruntled.
This image of Antartica is from Disgruntled Commuter-so p*****D off by London Transport that a 9,000 miles journey and a then a two week cruise was necessary to provide a sufficient antidote. And what has this to do with the Merse I hear you cry? Well I have been long searching for a picture which demonstrates to overseas bloggees what the Merse is not like, and after 4 years this is it. Thankyou DC
  Generation game

Generation game
Originally uploaded by erase.
They are seen together Chez KB in Mareil Marly but sadly the younger contender is obscured by her large Milk and Tonic with a twist of grapefruit. The Minders don't seem to.

Originally uploaded by erase.
The North Londoners are now in Paris visiting the Aussies and a fashion shoot out between Ms Z (seen here on the ferry with her minder) and Mslle KB is imminent.
Monday, January 23, 2006
Following the allegations that the British Embassy in Moscow have been engaged in the great game of espionage on our former Cold War opponents Fishwick Special Branch are likely to face similar embarrassment here. A leak (this time not on Paxton House notepaper) has revealed that FSB have for some years been using a camera concealed in an artificial rock as a covert spying device in the hope of monitoring the activities of any passing Al Qaeda agents. Unfortunately the results have not been dramatic as the FSB technician, putting the device into position had failed to notice the warning on the box:' Batteries not included' Thus it was not functioning for the first two years of the operation -this failure was initially put down to the absence of passing targets-The Merse not thought to be a high priority for Al Q operations-but you never know-the Price of Freedom being a constant supply of AAA batteries as an internal FSB report puts it.

At any rate batteries were eventually placed in the device. Results are again disappointing consisting of close up shots of dogs' private parts partly obscured by some kind of liquid. And nothing else. And the stone is now missing. According to the leak (no pun intended) the stone may have been inadvertibly incorporporated into one of the new houses in the Orchard development-new images could appear downloaded onto the FSBs spymaster's sweaty palm top at any time.(hopefuly not from stone imbedded in a bathrom wall) The FSB is seeking to salvage something worthwhile from this botched op. by suggesting as images are only triggered by potentially hostile objects that the dogs may well be linked to Al Qaeda. Plans are afoot to round up local curs to see if they can be positively identified by their dangly bits and then detained for interrogation. We await further leaks in due course.
Sunday, January 22, 2006
We are pondering how much longer we should enjoy our rural idyll-or to be more precise, how much longer it is wise for us to stay where we are. Even nearly nine years ago when we moved to the Borders, abandoning London with scarcely a backward glance we did question the wisdom of purchasing a very big house with a large garden-old manses are generally very big-and living in a fairly isolated area with the minimum of facilities and infrastructure. Having the village post office on the kitchen table was a facility few others enjoy but did it compensate for a poor public transport, no walkable to shops or pub, the expensive maintenance of an 1870 structure which lacked even one square mm of roof insulation, large airy rooms almost impossible to heat, large drafty windows, big dusty attic and a garden which takes a lot of time to maintain to the barest minimum standard of acceptable decency and where the growing of fruit and vegetables, the pruning and clearing of non productive vegetation, minimal weeding of a large gravel frontage and drive takes up time and energy-both of which commodities are likely to decline fairly rapidly in advancing years. Of course we have support systems with a near neighbour who comes in to clean and iron twice a week and will help in emergencies ( Family arriving unexpectedly tomorrow!) Even the garden has its workforce, but irregular and unreliable in one case and we can't expect a neighbours daughter to help out with the heavy and relentless lawn mowing as her own adult life takes up more of her time and energies. But there are also pluses-the milkman, the Green Shop delivery cooking fat powered van, Britain's only registered Woman Sweep

But we like it here.: love the house and get great pleasure and produce from the garden-well some aspects of it. So if we do move (when we do move) it will need not to be too far but it will also need to be more urban with those facilities so missing here. A reliable source of fuel-our tanker driver has on occasion refused to come up our narrow lane for fear of damaging his paintwork on the profuse overhanging tundra rain forest-lots of good shops to walk to, A GP reachable on two crutches, golf course, church, crumbly coffee place, a brace of pubs and with in manageable distance of a rail head; Duns is the front runner but no reasonable offer refused: 4 bedrooms (visiting broods for use of) a kitchen with a view, lots of book shelves, low maintenance garden with a few veg beds and soft fruit-flowers optional, lawn pocket hankerchief size. And those looking for a magnificent manse in the pink of condition with prizewinning Organic garden-your search is over.

Oh yes it must be in the Merse. Although after 'Huttonian', 'Dunse' will be hard to get used to.
Saturday, January 21, 2006

It really felt like Sping to day. Global Warming with a vengeance despite being threatened by the Daily express and AOL weather with the same conditions now being suffered by Muscovites. Here however we bask in 8c and in Moscow -60. No contest really .
But despite the balm it looks like mid winter-the Whiteadder looking especially uninviting through the branches of the great gorge
And the first snow drops have just struggled to the surface but if this is early or late I am not sure not being into that kind of botanical anarakary. If it stays like this the village hall work should proceed apace-we are apparently on schedule according to the official spokesman at today's coffee morning .The floor is up to floor level apparently but still floorless technically apparently-that is good, they say.
Friday, January 20, 2006
This week's Berwickshire devotes its entire front page to the big demonstration protesting the planned closure of the cottage hospital. Huttonian reckons that the 'exclusive' from the under cover 'Streamer-see previous post was punchier and more readable The paper however covered some of the placards carried during the demo including the to the point 'Save our hospital' via the meaningless 'Develop 0r die' to the slightly silly 'Get ill in Coldstream you might as well jump off the bridge' (Hardly a vote of confidence in the existing hospital!) The letter column carries several epistles including one raising the issue of Eastern Berwickhire, which includes our two wee villages as being a neglected area

SIR, - Whether or not marching 'people power' will deflect the superannuated troglodytes of the Borders NHS from this chosen path, the Coldstream protest march was an encouraging sign of the feelings of the threatened people of both Coldstream and Jedburgh. With Coldstream being in Berwickshire, therefore outwith the bounds of the 'Rugby Triangle' there is always a feeling of being somewhere around the ' coos tail' in what ever decisions emanate from the assortment of ivory towers and/on Bullshine castles that purport to have own interests at what passes for their hearts.As has been said before the sad sight of abandoned Trafalgar House is testimony enough to the compassionless bureaucratic mind.God knows, the further east in Berwickshire that one goes, the 'A Coos Tail' syndrome manifests itself in many more ways as to how our council tax payments benefit us so little - and there's damn-all sight of things improving.

The coos tail syndrome might well apply to the closure of Hutton and Burnmouth primary schools both in the deepest east and given that the most productive part of a coo is the tail region it could be that interesting modern book of philoposhy 'The Pooh Complex' could well apply to this area-what is however not clear is why the' superannuated troglodytes ' ruling in favour of the denizens of the 'Rugby Triangle' live in Ivory Towers and or 'Bullshine (shurely shome mishtake blogg-ed?) Castles' rather than in caves which is their normal habitat? Plenty of caves in Eastern Berwickshire if they feel a move coming on and they would at least provide some protection from coos tails or indeed from bullshine from whatever part of the anatomy of that noble beast it may emanate. Or have I got it wrong?
Thursday, January 19, 2006
I wonder what has happened to the Princes Street mendicant and his wee dog. I am told by street habitues that he has not been sighted for some time. Perhaps on a winter cruise still flush on his earnings on from the 'Make Poverty History' parade? He can't be a victim of any anti-beggar campaign by the city fathers as mendicants are still around like the new arrival at the rear exit from Waverley Street Station. He is of the no eye contact head bowed down school of street people and badly positioned IMHO. People going trainwards are in too much of a hurry to fumble for change and those leaving the station are also in haste to get to the pedestrian crossing before the lights change their mind. I much prefered the technique of the guy on the Fleshmarket steps who used to lock eyes and demand' Any money please. I am anxious for a drink' His avoidance of the usually dishonest old formula ' Spare change for a cup of tea' seemed to earn him quite a following. Long since retired he may well be the owner of a prosperous Tea Shoppe in Bath or even a pub. Possibly even the 'Half Way House', on the steps, a short hawk and spit from his previous station. It is said that he won 'the best customer accolade' for three years running in the 1990s and that would not have been possible on tea alone.

There is a moral there somewhere
So to Embra for the last time on an academic jaunt until March to give the final lecture in this series . It is very difficult to evalulate student feedback as the students are inavariably polite and publicly positive. We will await the truth when the evaluation feedback forms are filled in at the end of the semester and as these re anonymous the truth will come out!

A bloggee has enquired about the village hall. Progress is being made with a very small workforce in place. We now have a site office made from a container and the portaloo remains plonked on the site for instant relief. Now that the spectacular work is completed involving cranes and forklift trucks the spectators seem to have vanished . Also slowly vanishing is the old stone wall between Kirk Lane and the village hall-now surplus to requirements apparently. More images when there is some visible progress to report.
Wednesday, January 18, 2006

What ho Huttonian!
Here's an exclusive ahead of Thursdays' Berwickshire. :

There was widespread shock and panic on Saturday 14 January as over 300** Coldstreamers abandoned the habit of a lifetime and expressed an opinion.
Marching from the Market Square along Leet Street, over the Irish Bridge and up the hill to the Cottage Hospital, strong opinions were expressed although oaths were not uttered.
The march was led by a combined Berwickshire pipe band, with players from the Coldstream, Duns, Eyemouth and Lees Mill bands.
The crowd was addressed, moderately well, by Euan Robson MSP and very well by Christine Graham MSP. The view remains that the closure is part of a centralising agenda on the part of the health board to gather all health-care in the Gala/Melrose conurbation and so consign the Merse
to even further obscurity. Jedburgh Cottage Hospital is next, then, presumably, Duns, Kelso and all other towns. A great pity for those without cars and yet further evidence of the short-sightedness of health planners, encouraging more and more travel just as oil dries up.
Questions emanating from the march were: 1. Why did the march justify such a heavy police presence? This was hardly a picket of miners, see photo *for just how heavy the presence was, and:
2. Why did the police not allow the marchers to walk along the High Street. Is inconveniencing traffic in January more of a priority than allowing the _expression of opinions? If so, the Streamer looks forward to the annual humbug of the Flodden Ride-out being cancelled to stop 600 horses really inconveniencing

I am endebted to our special correspondent for this page 3 scoop. **He/she has added that 600 people turned out rather than the 300 originally reported and as this is about half the town's population this was an impressive indication of public opinion. A Police spokesman has commented that a very light police presence was not available because of the very light policeman being on other duties.
Tuesday, January 17, 2006
To Embra and back. No applause from the students on this occasion but at least no snores either. No applause for GNER either. Good going. Early in fact which is becoming a habit with the new generously timed schedules. But coming back the boycott of Berwick on Tweed apparently continues. We were firmly told at Dunbar by an announcement from the Guard that the next 'station stop' was Newcastle upon Tyne. In some alarm I asked a member of the 'Train Crew' what had happened to the timetabled stop at Berwick. 'We will stop there' I was told 'Its on the list' But why the announcement? 'He has the wrong list! ' I was not altogether convinced -what if the driver had the wrong list too? Burnt supper and a long trek back from the Tyne.

The train duly stopped ,if a bit abruptly as if the driver only got his instructions at the last moment. The guard stayed silent-none of the usual 'Berwick is your next station stop, take care to remove all your belongings and those of your wife etc and mind the step' No announcement was made. The train stopped. We got off and the 5-30 pm stations south rolled on relentlessly.

I later wondered if it was all a ruse to stop the caterers escaping prematurely (see a previous post). But as it happened there was a partial crew change as a lot of uniformed people disembarked from First Class.But the Guard stayed on board. Perhaps he had bad breath and his colleagues made their escape as he snoozed on to Newcastle. Once again we may never know.

The two little granddaughters: Ms KB Parisienne and Ms ZK Londoner are competing in the fashion stakes:
As an objective by-stander Huttonian is obliged to say that the Parisienne has just the edge at the moment-even her dummy has a certain je ne sais quoi about it. As for Ms ZK there is no disguising her charm but her Celtic impishness is more difficult to present haute couture wise

or is it some thing to do with the very French headgear?

Ps Proud parents please resist controversial and combatative comments (blogg-ed)

Monday, January 16, 2006

Having lived in Africa Huttonian avoids zoos specially those that lock up big cats in small cages. But with a small granddaughter around a visit to a Zoo is inevitable sooner or later and Regent's Park is better than most The tiger seemed contented enough with its lot
and the lion and his mate seemed more interested in recycling a christmas tree than disturbing foreign news that they would be exposed to in their natural habitat. Ms Z took the oppurtunity to wear her latest South Atlantic gear in an attempt to up stage her Parisienne cousin
WAGN and GNER permitting we should be back to the Merse later today embarking on a hectic week which includes two trips to Embra for more lectures. THe students were a kindly lot and for the first time in my 8 years of teaching at the uni I got a warm round of applause when I finished-well second time to be absolutely accurate as I had a standing ovation after my last lecture on Iraq at the end of the 2005 Spring semester-but students like the rest of us feel strongly about Iraq and it was more surprising to get enthusiastic endorsement for remarks on Suez and Aden fifty years on. And in the case of Iraq I had run rather late and the students may well have been standing to get out of their seats and possibly clapping to warm up their hands. So perhaps I can't claim that one. My next lecture on King Abdullah the First of Jordan may just keep them awake but that is the limit of my realistic aspirations.
Sunday, January 15, 2006
Huttonian should not be too disparaging about the denizons of N13 and compare them all too unfavourably with the Borderers. I tried to get some milk at the unearthly hour of 9am this morning. Of course Sir Morrisons was not open until 10 as all employees had some time off for early church or some other frivolity?. THe newsagents across from Sir M's had just run out of milk but insisted in handing over his own half litre carton , refused payment in a charming way so my breakfast was saved from disaster. I recall being chased down the main street here by a waiter from an Indian restaurant trying to return my gratuity which 'I must have forgotten from my change' This I think said as much about the tight fistedness of other habitues as his own honesty but I wonder if it would have happened in B-u-T?

Back to the Merse tomorrow. I hope the carriages are not too modern as I have an irrational fear of GNER's new space age capsule loos which open and close at the touch of a button and which have to be locked via another switch from within. THe locking switch has a red alarm one beside it 'For Emergencies' -like when the unlocking device doesn't. THe alternative is not to lock but that is also risky as you can be caught flagrente enthroned on the seat of majesty as someone opens the door from the outside and you are silently, slowly and surely exposed to the curious stares of people in what GNER calls the vestibule awaiting their turn for the convenience.

You can bet your last Scottish pound note that when you hear that plaintive automated alarm signal 'Attention Train Crew! Disabled passenger alarm activated!' that it is another muggins trapped in the capsule-either pressing the red button in panic as the door remorselessly opens to reveal his/her fundamentals or the unlocking mechanism has gone on the blink. I did notice as I nervously relieved myself during a fleeting visit to the facilities coming south how sparkling clean they were; I suspect most passengers are too frightened to use them. So there may be truth in the rumour that King Cross is also going to be called WaterLoo. Certainly the number of people, legs crossed, rushing towards the public toilets when the Train reached its destination was prodigous. Better luck going north-bring back the bog standard lavatories-no pun intended, naturally.
Saturday, January 14, 2006
Yes Huttonian is in London. N13 actually. No this is not a picture of rush hour in Palmers Green but a snowy crag in Snowdonia which is much more attractive than rush hour in North London
The Palmers Green link is that this a picture from the junior son in laws website and this crag was photographed by him last weekend.

Photos will follow of our fleeting visit to the Big Smoke including some of today's excursion to the Zoo but this will have to await our return to the Merse on Monday.

And where B-u-T beats PG hands down is the local Sir Morrisons (Image withheld by request) What a sad lot of people with down cast eyes and closed up faces. Eye contact zero and the check out ladies are carefully trained to avoid greeting customers and to shove their purchases in their general direction with a small grunt indicating 'pack them up quickly,pay and go,I havn't got all day' THey also have honed to a very fine art the technique of handing you your receipt, cash back and credit card with an impatient gesture just as your bag packing has reached a crucial stage of muddled and indecisive paralysis when the 4 litre milk bottle is definitely not going to fit into the same plastic shroud as the two bottles of organic freetrade wine and the next customer is frantically scrabbling through more plastic containers obviously wishing you the hell out of the bloody way Grandad. Yes I prefer Berwick despite the presence of caravanners in season and the absence of organic freetrade anything.
Friday, January 13, 2006
Safely in the big smoke a fter one of GNER's more unusual events. Huttonian and the wife arriving at B-u-T station found that our train, the infamous 9.43 seemed to be going backwards and it was the same story with all other rail 'movenents' Apparently a 'massive' signal failure near Dunbar. The passengers of one abandoned train, signal struck, arrived by coach to continuue their journey south but as nothing was getting past Dunbar that did not seem likely to help. Suddenly it was announced that an extra train was scheduled to arrive at 9-43 and we should all pile onto that and we would get to Lunnon town in due course. And yes the 9.43 was not our 9.43 but some kind of Flying Dutchman doomed to wander the network for eternity but now whose time (9.43) had come.

We piled on and it was half empty-perhaps the non surviving ghostly passengers had been thrown to the sharks around Dunbar? How this extra train had got past Dunbar was never explained and after some detective work with the GNER timetable (three times at the top of the best seller fiction list b ut never a Booker winner) I established this was the very late running 7am from Glascow. Extra? Well, yes in a sense as it was not scheduled to stop at Berwick upon Tweed. So technically did not exist and we were never asked for our tickets-why? Because as the train did not stop there no passengers could not get on-so we never existed either.

Anyhow we arrived in Lunnon half an hour before the real 9.43 if an hour late for the 7am
Glascow express not calling at Berwick upon Tweed. The passengers were profusely aplogised to and wil no doubt get a massive refund. I did not quite have the bottle to apply myself as it wasn't 'my' train and actually I was early. And I couldn't have got on at B-u-T could I as the train didn't..............

The other unexplained event was the catering crew suddenly abandoned the train at Telford More aologies for possible inconveniences caused but no explanation-perhaps they had to return North for another assignment-possibly to Berwick upon Tweed and needed to catch a train that stopped there? I doubt if we will ever know.
Thursday, January 12, 2006
Embra is surprisingly mild this morning and GNER astonished us all by reaching Waverley Street 4 minutes early. Spanking new carriage as well. Hopefully a good omen for tomorrow when I accompany the wife to the Big Smoke for three days of intensive grandparenting. Yes CB bloggee you will need to brace yourself for some teeth grating images of the middle granddaughter. If you can't bear to wait you can always follow the link to Babymother.
I will not have the time to check up on Embra's favourite mendicant and his wee dog as I head in the opposite direction nor will I run the gauntlet of the itinerant pipers who may well be in hibernation awaiting the first cuckold in the form of the early Japanese visitor rarely seen before the Ides of March. So it is off to the Uni to bore a new generation of students on Huttonian's involvement in Operation Musketeer of almost 50 years ago. A walking talking primary source (in the jargon) and I hope to be spared last years comment from body of the hall 'Are you really that old? Indeed Sir or Madam (declining eyesight) I am and a year older than when last asked. There are advantages of advancing years but as they advance you are inclined to forget what they are-but I can assure younger bloggees well worth waiting for. Probably.
Wednesday, January 11, 2006
The first trip to Ould Reekie in 06, GNER always permitting, early tomorrow. Back to Huttonian's somewhat sporadic day job teaching undergraduates some of the mysteries of the Middle East. No sleepers this year I am assured- even in an overheated lecture room with dodgy acoustics. It will be interesting to find out how many native Scots amongst this year's crop. Out of 100 plus students last year only one admitted, in public anyhow, to Scottishness and this in a very English accent. Edinburgh is regarded by many as not being a Scottish Uni-rather like St Andrews and I suspect a number of those from south of the Border are Oxbridge rejects or feared that they might be. But on past form they will be an agreeable and friendly bunch.

At last, the sun! But of course with a biting wind as some compensation. Featured is the Old Manse in its winter glory and makes Huttonian wonder how practicable it is for two old fogeys to continue to rattle around in this mansion only occasionally reinforced by the young and very young. Yes, a slight early case of itchy feet coming on-so any preliminary offers in excess of half a million in Scottish Bank notes will be carefully considered-No Mr B from Belfast I am not interested in a similar amount in Northern Bank currency-yes I realise that their £5 note is still legal tender but I am worried about where they have been-in some cases the paint is a bit flaky and surely its the Queen's image rather than Mr Adams that we should be admiring?

Looking north is no hardship in the January sun. The contrast between the sun lit uplands and the shade in the garden is too much for the digital to cope with. The pond glinting in the foreground gets no sun from late October until early March and it is perhaps fortunate that the finer points of the garden are obscured. A smaller garden in our next home will be a sine qua non.

PS sharp eyed bloggees will note that the snow people have gone. Couldn't take the heat.?
Tuesday, January 10, 2006
"December brings us sleet and rain
Then its bloody January again
" sang Flanders and Swann in a 'A drop of a Hat' and my favourite couplet :
'In July the sun is hot
Is it shining? No its not'

It may be boring to drone on about our climatic conditions but they do weigh heavily on our semi consciousness as day after day its dreich and sunless. Its not quite true to say we can't remember when we last saw the sun but it is becoming harder as each cloudy, damp period of 24 hours -half pitch dark half gloom-passes. Soon the bores will be on to it 'I can't remember such a long period without a glipmse of the sun since I was down pit before the great strike of 80 something' And the forecast on Creefax 'Borders and SW Scotland' continues to mislead with its 48 hours ahead prenogistications of sunny skies and at the worst, Chief Broken Cloud. Perhaps that's why Berwick has been dropped-prophecies of 'driving rain, gale force winds, visibility of 50 inches' are bad for morale if deadly accurate. Perhaps we should invest in them new fangled sun shine lamps which wake you up with soothing music, or sounds of a distant ocean and increasingly strong light so as you can enjoy July in Lanzarotte without having to leave your bed-or just nip out to open the shutters-see it is January in Hutton, on the front lawn anyhow, and then nip back into bed again.

In Hutton today is dreich,
and will remain
from weich
to weich

(From ' Swann Centre to Flanders Fields'-a Border anthology of bad verse)
Monday, January 09, 2006

Hols over work has restarted at the village hall site. A couple of blokes with a digger seem intent in making the hole even deeper-a wine cellar or underground car park perhaps? More likely to do with ducts for power and sewage connections.
And next door in the Old Manse garden as the weather considers its position something remains of the snow people, if not much-after ten days of 'thaw' and no further snow. A prize has been awarded as to the nearest human likeness of Ms. Snow Person. (See previous posts)No Anxious of Ayton I can't name names for fear or re attracting the attention of the Mail on Sunday and of being accused of interfering in the Lib Dem Leadership election.
Sunday, January 08, 2006
Very sad news that a car crash has taken the life of a verypopular local Woman Police Officer who was well known to our community through her regular attendances at the Community Council. A young life snuffed out without warning. There have been a number of very nasty smashes in recent weeks on local roads and her fatal collision with a van on the Duns/Greenlaw road is just the latest. Given the very light traffic and generally good roads our accident rate is very high statistically compared to the congested routes of further south. The A1 has invested in a series of bloodcurdling warning notices recounting the number of accidents recorded in the next x miles and well it might as this is a dangerous thoroughfare with too much of it still single carriageway where frustration from sitting behind a lorry or two leads to often reckless and calamitous acts of desperation. But away from the A1 where on some roads there is no traffic for miles on end (I have driven on a major B Road-if that is not an oxymoron-from Paxton to Greenlaw, midmorning on a week day and not seen another car) This may lull one into a sense of false security and of course it only takes one driver hurtling around one of our hall mark twisty corners on the wrong side to do a lot of damage. In the meanwhile our thoughts are with the family of WPC Karen Fletcher. The Lothian and Borders Police can ill afford the loss of a colleague of her quality and all of us will miss such a positive and helpful young woman. RIP.
Saturday, January 07, 2006
We used to boast in Hutton that we enjoyed amongst the driest weather in the UK-a distinction shared with sunny Dunbar and east coast Lincolnshire. Smugly we would watch the rain hiss down in Chirnside 4 miles to the north west and avoid the puddles in Paxton by taking the bypass en route to Berwick. Migrant geese, infected with all kinds of lurgis would overfly arid Hutton to descend on the flooded fields of Fishwick and Paxton. But I wonder if since Mr Fish departed with a gong and his humidity linked pension that things have changed. Recently forecasts (like today) promising isolated showers seem to concentrate the wet on us and no longer on our neighbours. So we are now getting Dreich and rain together and are now a desirable infection stop over for avian flu transmitters.

And another thing. Our bench mark Weather station used to be Berwick and ITV Borders Teletext p.152 gave our weather prenostications together with Dumfries in the West and Selkirk in the middle. Suddenly (yes it was about the time that Mr M Fish retired) Berwick has dropped off the list-appearing occasionally like on New Years Day, but not more than two or three times a year. And who ever now programmes the Teletext Forecast must have played games of imagination and terror involving Injuns and Cowboys in his youth as his forecasts are full of references to that romantic and stirring 'Red Skin' chief: Broken Cloud and his effete cousin Patchy Mist. My e-mails suggesting the return of Berwick to the Borders, meteorologically
speaking have been met with a conspiracy of silence.

Hutton Think Tank, Weather and Seasonal Affairs section, are working up a scheme for our own weather station but so far the right kind of seaweed has proved elusive. We will struggle on.
Friday, January 06, 2006

Although France is a strictly, indeed stridently, secular society, outlawing symbols of religious belief and turning Happy Christmasses into Happy Holidays so as not offend the sensitivities of ethnic/religious groups or vegetarians, Animal liberationists, Witches, Rastafarians, members of the Co-op etc, the odd glimpse of that old time religion slips in.
Hot feet from France comes the image of Mr P and his fellow classmates celebrating Epiphany. The crowns commemorate the Kings from the East (and not just left over Christmas, er, sorry, Holiday Crackers) A bit of political correctness has crept in as some of the Kings are Queens. Not biblically accurate as there were no females in that party-they had been left behind to do the washing up according to revisionist historians. However the Angel which appeared to the Shepherds may well have been a female. A bloke would have looked silly in a white dress, with glitter on the wings and wearing tinsel. And the Shepherds would have cracked up at such an apparition thus missing the central message

PS an alert bloggee has noted that the school dog is also wearing a crown-a Wise Cur from the East, one assumes. It was about then that the Arabic/Amharic proverb was coined ' Kelb mush faqt fi Id al Milad' -a Dog is not just for Christmas-for Epiphany as well it seems. They looked after their pets in them days
Thursday, January 05, 2006
I should have mentioned in the previous post that Berwick's Director of Regeneration warned of the possibility of graffiti on public art. But the greatest danger is ' lipstick on the faces of the figures. ' (and that is just the male ones?)'People put scarves on them and talk to them'* She claimed. This could be good news for Hutton where deserted street(s) make it difficult to be sure of finding some one to talk to when out for a walk. A chat with a statue could be better than nothing, I suppose.

* A bloggee has just commented on back channels:'You'd get more sense from the statues than the inhabitants of Berwick too! This may be based on personal experience of finding some Berwickers a trifle reticent.
The art establishment in Berwick long envious of 'public art' in Newcastle and elsewhere further south such as Anthony Gormley's Angel of the North have decided that Berwick should follow suit. The proposal is to construct 'a Replica Walls Gate' 2 metres high in Marygate (the main drag) complete with two seven foot high figures-a man and a woman, one passing through the gate and the other 'to one side'This will be the beginning of an 'art trail' including similar figures on Berwick ramparts. The 'computer generated impression' in today's Berwickshire looks a bit like a tall young lady (7 foot remember) exiting from a new fangled public loo with a slightly taller young man waiting to go in. So it is presumably a unisex urinal. The edifice is 'generated' to be on the main pavement used by the marketeers on Wednesday and Saturdays and by pedestrians who have crossed the road to avoid WH Smut and sons. In response to some public criticism about this idea Berwick's Director of Regeneration explained 'These will be Berwick Charecters, they will grow on people and say something about where we have been and where we are going' A sort of perpetualBus timetable in Cor-Ten steel (as used for the A of theN) presumably? Actually a public toilet would be more useful although it would have to be less open plan than the Replica Walls Gate as present visualised.

Hutton Think Tank (Culture section) are hoping to attract funding for a piece of public art in Hutton to draw attention away from the long abandoned caravan near the playground which has the look of modern street art, 1960s style but is a bit tatty giving a poor image of our village. Some one has suggested a eight foot figure (no English 7 foot dwarves around here thankyou very much- is one message) waiting for the bus at the village bus shelter-distressed steel and rural bronze would be appropriate. The artifact would be entitled 'Never on a Sunday' which would say something about the quality and quantity of local public transport-the figure would convey the message of Johnny Villager who has no oppurtunity to know 'where we have been and where we are going' Not until mid morning Monday at any rate.
Wednesday, January 04, 2006
Today should be the start of real life in 2006 as people skid back to work. Skid being the operative work as neither in the Scottish Borders nor in Northumberland have the roads people bothered to grit the roads and it is now (at 10.am) -4C .and the Hutton/Berwick rush hour has seen some spectacular accidents especially on the main road from the bypass leading into Berwick which is steep, slippery and lethal. A neighbour has reported, with some glee, that a car going down Castle Terrace has careered into the garden of a 'posh' house thus(on her part) revealing a certain class bias in that a posh house is any one bigger than theirs. Huttonian is relieved that his golf is 'off' given that getting to Duns along our narrow and untreated roads would have been very hazardous.

Talking of real life we can now expect work to resume on the Huttton village hall. No sign yet. The other big event for 06 is the Hutton an Paxton Horticultural Show in August. Last year was billed as the 99th Annual Show so a fuss is to be made of the 100th. This may yet be a problem. It is true that the show in its present form was established in 1906 having enjoyed a sporadic existence in the 19th century but apparently, according to a local historian, the event was not held in the First World War years so it is not entirely accurate to claim 2005 as the 99th annual show nor, obviously, 2006 as marking the 100th. The historian has suggested calling it the 'Centenary Show' entirely accurate as an anniversary without actually giving it a number as part of a series. Whether the Show committee will agree remains to be seen but there is no reason why they shouldn't for the sake of historical accuracy; how the count reached 99 in the absence of at least 4 shows (and possibly more in WW2) is in itself something of a mystery.

Whatever the event's designation Huttonian believes that 2006 will anyhow see his tomatoes belatedly given the recognition they deserve. They should have swept the field in 05 but sadly we were away for the show, otherwise the red of the amazing fruit would have been reflected in the colour of the card indicating its position on the winners rostrum.
Tuesday, January 03, 2006
Today is officially a Scottish Holiday-extra time following the own goals of Hogmanay. But England is meant to be back at work. But we suffer from the Borders Effect whereby people on on side of the frontier take advantage of what ever is going on (or usually not going on) the other. I have no idea if Berwick Banks are open but the mail, usually sorted in Berwick (Engerland) was not delivered to Hutton (Scotland) It may be that the postie sallied forth with the best of intentions this morning from Berwick (Engerland) and was turned back at the Border by Scottish vigilantees wishing to preserve the sanctity of Caledonian Holidays uncorrupted by Sassenach interlopers. I saw no signs of road blocks or flying pickets as I returned to Scotia after a visit to Sir Morrisons (substituting for the wife who was driving the Aussies to Newcastle en route to Paris) but the action may have been all over hours before. Indeed I saw little sign of anything once I had left England. Hutton is usually deserted but this morning it seemed even emptier than empty like all the dead Whisky bottles lying outside the bottle banks near Sir Morrisons. Why not in them? Perhaps that last heave was too much for the very well hung over?

Or perhaps it is a Bottle Bank Holiday? Now why didn't I think of that?

Here is the image referred to in the previous post-the Old Manse Complex bracing itself for the blizzard which was just about to engulf this part of the Merse. Huttonian is endebted to the South London Bloggee for this prize winning photo. The counter terrorism act is now deemed not to apply as the image was taken before the main snow-indeed a shot from the same position during or after the blizzard would have been impracticable without major risk to life and limb.
Monday, January 02, 2006
A southern bloggee and recent visitor-if only very much en passant-has sent in a stunning image *of the Old Manse in the recent snow, albeit during the early stages before it reached the 30 foot level. The title: 'Lest we forget' implies that such weather conditions are unusual. Far from it -the bores will barely mention this episode when droning on about 1947, 1970, 2002, 1805, 1066, the snow of May 1997, buses on the frozen Tweed etc etc ad nauseam . I know that the bloggee in question is off on a cruise to the Antartic in the near future. Fully kitted out by Tyndrum's finest may suffice for the South West Passage, and in Hutton Walruses may be rare but nothing can prepare one for a fearsome blizzard on Hutton Hill, with the only living creature able to survive such savage extreme conditions is Rosie (or perhaps Boots) the cat appaering wraith like through the white out with sparrows dripping from her fangs. Move over Hound of the Baskervilles you ain't seen nothing yet
* suppressed under the Prevention of Terrorism act: Cap 2 XII : Images likely to cause alarm and despondency.

The only trace of snow in these parts are the remains of the 'snowmen' on the front lawn. Hardly works of art at their peak but a local who saw the images remarked that they reminded him/her (identity concealed for human rights considerations) of a couple from this parish-strikingly so even if this type of art left him/her cold. I suppose it would. So for the Hutton Think Tank's New Year Competition you are invited to nominate a person as the inspiration for the 'female' snow person (with the straw hat). The other one is too easy as I am sure many local bloggees would agree. Prizes as usual : First: A week in Paxton at a B&B of your choice. Second prize: Two Weeks in Hutton. Judges decision final. Entries to the dead letter box by 6pm tomorrow please.
Sunday, January 01, 2006

New Year is no problem for Huttonian and 'the house party' as we were all in bed at the respectable hour of 11. TV was all jingoistic retrospectives and a succession of farflung capitals greeting the new year with fireworks and vomit. The neighbours set off a few tentative rockets at 12-15 am and then the Merse returned to its normal quietude. So with calm heads we enjoyed the first day of 2006 visiting early lambs some of whom had missed 2005 in its entirely and were as yet unaware of the tang of mint sauce which is their ultimate destiny.
The two white ones were barely seven hours old born as Newfoundland entered the new year. The black headed two day old is of an exotic cross breed, and has hair instead of wool so is even more likely to end up on a platter as being fit for nothing else useful. Ms KB missed the entire lambing as she was exhausted from her first solo run on the nursery slopes. Now the snow has gone her training schedule is totally disrupted.
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