Musings from the Merse
Its that time of the year again. The Berwickshire reports that
in preparation for the Duns Festival this years 'Reiver' and 'Reivers Lass', the Right Hand Man, the Left Hand Man, the Wynsome Maid (a Primary school child) and the Maid's attendants have all been selected. Huttonian gets a bit boring about all this and I am sure that local festivals are all jolly fun and makes for good community bonding but why on earth can the Borderers not find better role models than the awful Reivers-gangs of marauding and murdering thugs, cattle and sheep stealers and 'English' or 'Scottish' as their paymasters dictated-ad hoc, ad hominem and ad nauseam. Of course further south we have Robin Hood who was a sort of up market reiver or Dick Turpin the Highwayman with a conscience. Thugs certainly but at least their reputation is founded more on robbing the rich and befriending the poor than on out and out villainy. Our common or garden Reiver had no such pretensions to virtue and are better consigned to the land fill sites of history rather than gloriously recycled every year and not celebrated for the low life they were.
Mind you some of the Borders Establishment families can claim (or rather not avoid) direct descent from the most notorious Reiver clans. And not a few of those with handles to their names are descended from titled thugs who were no better than Reivers in what would now be called their life style. This week's Berwickshire also reviews a new book 'The Border Line' about our 'colourful area' Paxton (sadly not Hutton) gets a special mention by Eric Robson, the author:
' a beautifully proportioned demonstration of how the hoodlums who ran the Borders at the time of the Union of the Crowns adapted to King James reforms and continued to prosper'
I suspect it is Paxton house which is 'beautifully proportioned' rather than the sprawling and expanding village-and who the hoodlums were then and how they have prospered since we will need to let dear bloggees work it out for themselves. Or like Huttonian be off to Amazon to acquire this work which describes a walk from the Solway Firth to Berwick-105 miles and not a bus in sight. In that respect at least, nothing much has changed.
A Dead Pheasant Sketch
The wife's frenetic gardening was somewhat spoiled yesterday by finding the body of a Pheasant amongst the Ground Elder. Not overcome by Aviator's flue we hope but worn out after a long care filled existence. We suspect it was Cockie, Pheasant extraordinary and transmorgrified into a Peacock by the hacks on the Mail on Sunday in search for a more colourful spin to the story about the blogging ex-ambassador.
If it is Cockie who has gone to the great automated feeder in the sky (and he may yet surprise us all by returning as a non-ex Pheasant) then here is the last known photograph taken on Friday. He was in a very jumpy mood and not pleased to find his feeding area usurped by two partridges. But well enough to give his Famous Grouse impersonation. But he was obviously very irritated-indeed terminally so?
No flowers please. But donations of peanuts gratefully accepted.
After a very fast start the new house at Hutton Mill has not made much apparent progress in the last month. (See previous post) but it will be an impressive building-it is still away ahead of the Village Hall having started some time later. Curiously the design has the biggest windows at the front and meaner smaller ones at the rear where there is a stunning view including the dramatic Beech tree on top of the Whiteadder gorge.
Despite the reassurance of the Blackthorn Spring blossom residents of the new property will need all the warmth that modern technology can afford-the depth and shape of the gorge shuts out all sun light from late October until mid March-fine if your house is on the north bank but not on the southern bank as is this dwelling. If you suffer from SAD bring your sun lamp or stay in the Home Counties.
Many apologies the cows mentioned in a recent post, on closer inspection, are n't. But are Bullocks. Bulls less encyclicals. Sort of Bully Beef in waiting. Skittish and having fun while there is yet time having been cooped inside all winter.
The white one, the runt of the litter, was taken at speed caught in the act of doing a one point turn as he suddenly changed his mind about getting to know Huttonian better. Living in a mixture of curiosity, aggression and downright terror and not (just like the rest of us) seeing many humans in these parts their technique appears to be to send a scout and if there is no warning fart the herd charge over-then overcome by their own temerity charge off again farting furiously in our general direction. Only one had his horns and seemed to be in charge, throwing quite a lot of weight about-another variation one the bully beef theme, I suppose?
A rare visit to Ould Reekie-the first for well over a month and my luck with GNER ran out. Did have to chose the only late running train of the day (so far) which by the time it crawled into Berwick was 'very late running' and by Dunbar it became a ' very late running any inconvenience is regretted and GNER wishes to apologise' sort of train. I wonder if it will reach Aberdeen today, if at all. The duty station master confided that the problem was at King Cross as the wrong crew turned up and late or the right one didn't-same result. Not that this was admitted by the on train crew-'technical problems' naturally
Anyhow here Huttonian is, in his favourite Cyber Cafe where a very learned academic looking person on my left is typing away in Russian (A language I recognise, but never mastered from years of sitting next to Soviet colleagues at the UN-UK and USSR sat chummily side by side and delegates were often chosen because of exceptional peripheral eyesight which still serves me well) My neighbour Professor Russki-Ofcourseikoff is seemingly engaged in designing something which resembles a cross between a nuclear power station and an ICBM so presumably will need to be put into Farsee to maximise its sales potential. It might not come to that as his other neighbour has the sallow complexion and close cropped hair of a Mossad agent-hopefully the capsule containing a little known Latin American poison is slipped into the Prof's Latte and not mine. Embra has a sinister side if you only know where to look.
But you do need good peripheral vision.
Environmental issues are once again at the forefront of the thinking Borderer with the activities of the Borders Real Napp
y Network being publicised in today's Berwickshire.
Apparently 8 million disposable nappies are thrown away a day in the UK -three billion a year; some land fill sites are mostly nappies. The real Nappy Network is promoting the use of the old fashioned re-useable nappies to cut down on this avoidable waste and the paper carries a happy snap of a group of real nappy users, 4 of whom are babies. What to do with the nappies after toilet training I hear you cry-well they make excellent dish clothes (boil and rinse first) and have other uses such as key board covers, emergency hankies and occasional scarves wearable in our chilly spring. The also make quite dandy cravats for up market social occasions for the Beau Brummel in your life (to quote promotional material being worked on by the Hutton Think Tank-Media, ideas and Spin section)
Not all green mothers stay the course with all the washing etc of the reuseable nappies when bringing up a hyper productive child. One we knew felt obliged to return to the disposable type. She was thus liberated from one aspect of motherood and made quite a killing on E-Bay with her collection. Selling them as a' limited edition' caught the popular mood apparently
An old (in all senses) golfing partner has just reminded me of Huttonian's glory days of golfing in Norn Iron. When one's handicap was a quarter of your age-I was then 23 -and I would settle for a similar proportion now. The reminder came in the form of this photo taken in about 1960 at Ardglass Golf Club, County Down, Norn Iron. Huttonian is in the white sweater rather patronisingly watching one of his opponents line up a putt in the reasonably certain knowledge that he would miss while having a fairly short one himself. This hole was mostly sea-no fairway and was a good one to put behind you. Not Royal Coubty Down (PBUI) but worth a visit.
After three weeks the Village Hall has progressed-with the original gang of four supplemented by other skills-sparks
, chippies, plumbies (?) to add to the brickies. Its all very Aufweidersehen Pet without the subtitles. The Hutton Think tank is working on a documentary about the Hall called (working title only) 'See You Later Moggie' *
Huttonian can reveal exclusive coverage of the latest developments including a first of the interior of the hall itself which apparently is about the same size as the old hall main section. The other interior shot taken from what will be the front door is the area which will house the Post Office and the Loos. I apologise for yet more daddodils marring the fullfrontal shot-they are weed like this year and get everywhere.
* 'Moggie' may not be an exact translation of 'Pet' which is Geordie rather than German-Blogg-ed. Someone should warn HTT?
Its good to back in the Merse-Spring is really Sprang but I do wish we could exercise some restraint with the Daffs. Even Mr Wordsworth would have been turned off by the sheer volume of these plants around here. The Old Manse garden is restrained compared with the orgy of yellow outside the walls. Generations of past villagers must have spent their waking hours planting the bulbs and their children or incomers like Huttonian are possibly regretting it as they walk (or more likely drive) past rows and rows of homogeneous daffodils dozing and nodding their heads as they sleep off the winter. And not just Hutton-the roads are hedged in by this sea of yellow-not as bad as rape admittedly but on this scale it does amount to visual pollution of the highest order. At least 6.2 on the Yuchter Scale.
It is good to see the Hen Partridges back again-a few months of blissful existence before the Guns of August.
And to show summer is nearly here-or as near as it usually gets in these parts the cows are back in the field north of us. Cows usually look bored and unenterprising-that's what a cow is for. But this lot is well lead. Every so often (as in the image-click to enlarge) Top Cow says 'Come on Ladies, time for an exciting new voyage of discovery' And off they go,single usually single file once they have sorted themselves out, following the leader to nowhere in particular, mooing gently 'How very interesting' (a bit like a Royal Walkabout) and then wandering back again. Fun as we know it, perhaps not be but it is better than sitting disconsolately on damp grass and thinking beef.
(see link) has posted about the difficulty of finding a way through Bilbao by car. Bilbao, I can assure DC, has nothing on Selkirk. Selkirk is in Scotland; they speak English. The road signs are in English. The map that Huttonian was following from Stranraer to Hutton via the pretty route was in English. THe blow by blow instructions from the AA website, painfully detailed, were in English. But Selkirk has a problem. North means South and the Vicer the Versa. We came in from the West, we turned south, we proceeded south, we found that we were heading north. We retraced out steps and we folowed our map and our instructions. WE headed south, we proceeded south, we found we were going north. 4 times. We asked a nice man with a dog. We followed his instructions; we retraced our steps; it was deja vu all over again for the fifth time. South doesn't work in Selkirk.We abandoned south-(I had said regretable things to the wife who was driving. I apologise; it was not her fault) -it was a good move we went north and we reached Hutton via Melrose and Earston rather than via Kelso and Coldstream. It took half an hour longer than we reckoned, it shortened our lives emotionally. But we have seen Selkirk-several times. No need to go back.
Stuff the pretty route.
Weather moderated overnight and we are promised only a breezy crossing by the Norn Iron weather people-breezy being anything from a gentle zephry a beakerful of the warm stout to a routemaster felling hurricane. HSS Stena had technical problems all yesterday running 2 hours late-here again this can be anything from MacDonalds running out of ketchup to a rogue U-boat in the Irish sea. However all is said to be well today with vessels operating normally.
So to the Merse by this evening. If we are spared, of course
newcastle storm coming
We sail tomorrow-if motoring across the Irish see in a floating gin palace can be called sailing. And this is what we don't want to see in Dundrum Bay. Wind rising, rain coming, glass dropping
Dundrum castle. Built in King John's reign-one of the great castles constructed by theNormans to pacify the savage Irish. Dundrum is a vastly growing little village with property prices going through the roof.If you want to buy a wee pied a terre you are probably too late.huttonian
A closing shot of the approach to the 14th green on the Annesley Course at Newcastle. A good way to end the holidayhuttonian
So our last day in Norn
Iron for a wee while. We are back to the Merse Stena HSS always permitting tomorrow. Had my last game of golf this morning and was just early enough to beat snake killer and beautiful dreamer to the first tee on the Annesley Course (MPBUI). No sign of trolley follower until at the fifth he appeared from nowhere in front of me having I suspect walked straight out from the club house to steal a march on the early golfing afflicted. He was in danger of severely holding me up as his battery (or at least the trolley's) started to run down and refused the hill at the sixth. His drive had also refused the hill and ended up in a very colourful gorse bush followed by very colourful language. He reluctantly waved me through with very clenched teeth (don't try that at home) and I saw him still there on my way back thrashing the vegetation with a large sand wedge. No way was he going to give up the search whilst Stalker and his Alsatian ball finder were hovering in the vicinity-if there is one thing worse than losing your ball it is someone else finding it and this one had looked nearly new-perhaps his wife's Christmas present or millennium gift. I silently wished him luck and tried to put a mental jinx on Stalker and his large dog-they were obviously prepared for a long wait and were unwrapping their sandwiches-although I couldn't be sure exactly what Stalker was eating. I know Ally is partial to Cat and lettuce.
Next week to Duns. If I am spared.
I am again endebted to disgruntled. Ms KB reherarsing for a visit to Ascot, Angleterre. Sorry about that CB Bloggee
I could not resist this from Disgruntled Commuter's Flickr site. Mr P and Ms KB in the Pyrenees. KB knows that Big Brother is right behind her and she is not sure that this is a good idea given Mr P's well known skill with swings.
When Huttonian was here as a lad Newcastle was a resort of about 3,000 people.Now the population is about 10,000 rising to over 30,000 in the summer. This image shows about half the town polluting the once fair countryside around Dundrum Bay. The big factor in the dramatic increase in the summer population is the growth of caravan 'parks'This one is one of the smaller ones.huttonian
This is the caravan site in close up from the slopes of Drinahilly. For a sight of the full horrors of this blot on the landscape click on the image. I suppose it does serve the useful purpose of allowing city folk to escape Belfast and breath a little. Berwick has its caravans but not on this scale.huttonian
This is the main reason for going to Kilbroney. The path up the mountain goes through a very ancient oak wood-sadly the only remnants of a vast forest which covered most of the Mournes and which was destroyed by man over the centuries. These oaks were valued for ship building in the 16th and 17th centurieshuttonian
This is not a walk for the unfit. A sharp climb of over 1200 feet up the side of a cliff. Less fun going down as the path is muddy and slipperyhuttonian
The wife liked these in the oak wood. Wood anenomes, apparently. A sure sign of spring and a change from the ubiquitous Daffodils which tend to get up your wick after a bit.huttonian
On the way up to the Great Stone you pass an ancient dolmen or burial cairn-in this case completely unheralded. Not a notice around. Perhaps some of the locals are not too interested in such ancient stuff as being BTP-before the Protestants?huttonian
Thisis Clogh More -the big stone in the Gaelic, thrown by some unfriendly giant in the general direction of his rival Finn McCool-the original Irish Giant-son of the laid back one, in the vernacularhuttonian
The view from the stone is a fine one-in this case looking up Carlingford Lough towards Warrenpoint and Newry and across to the gloomy uplands of the Irish Republichuttonian
Last week end in norn
iron this time around and with Newcastle likely to be heaving we decided to go south. Not South in the political sense of the 26 counties still under Dublin rule but to the very sleepy 'resort' of Rostrevor in the semi Mediterrean climate of South Down. We headed for Kilbroney Park which lies on the slopes of Slievemartin overlooking Rostrevor and which unlike its fellow forests is free and therefore a great attraction for the thrifty Ulster Scots
particularily. The main object was to walk through the ancient oak woods and climb up to the Cloigh More. Not quite as nice as a round of golf on the Royal County Down (PBUI) but given how crowded that is on a Saturday-a second best thing.
The images above give a flavour of this walk. Yes, Yes this intro should have been before the pictures but no matter you can look at the pictures again. Click on them for dramatic enlargements
Across the entrance to Dundrum bay we found four groups of seals. This is one of them basking in the sun. Behindare the life firing ranges of Ballykinlar Camp. The seals feel more comfortable with the hi-tech weaponry on their side of the channel than with unarmed citizenry on the other?huttonian
From deepest winter to a hot spring! The first sandcastles of 06?huttonian
The sea today-as a contrast to the next imageshuttonian
The sea in an angry mood. Not today but two years ago.huttonian
Today all the weather forecasters in the known world agreed that it would nice day in Norn Iron-even the lads from the BBC blether centre, the more harmful of whom are still thankfully on an extended Easter break share this view. And they were all right. It was amazing to be playing on the Royal County Down (PBUI) championship links with not a cloud in the sky, no breeze, too hot in a light pullover and the mountains glowing in the background across a still blue sea.. When it is like this it is hard to remember how cruel this sea can be when the winds get up. 13th of January 1843 saw the loss of 72 lives in the Newcastle fishing fleet (46 from King street in Newcastle) -a row of cottages known as Widows Row (now bijou weekend residences) are a testimony to the carnage caused by that storm and were paid for by public subscription. 29 years before 37 men and boys from Newcastle and Annalong down the coast died in a snow storm. Looking at the image above taken in the great storm of o4 of the sea smashing over the harbour wall-and sinking three boats at their moorings you can iamgine how it is in the open away from the comparative safety of Dundrum Bay
Home Thoughts from Abroad
Sparked off by today's electronic Berwickshire.
The extract below is from Euan Robson's 'Mound Notes'. Our MSP is on one of his favourite topics: Planning. Our local experience has been that any proposal put forward by developers to do with housing has a strong presumption for approval whatever the views of the local community. What is more heartening is that planning propsals out with the areas mentioned by the local development plan have a presumption of failure. I hope our MSP is correct as we still live in the shadow of highly inppropriate development, strongly opposed by most of the community-and in this case 'people power' seems to have kept it out of our draft local plan-pending any appeals of course. Mr R has been very helpful over planning matters and I hope we don't have to quote his words back to him one dreer day
"AS mentioned in previous columns, a Planning Bill is going through the Scottish Parliament at the present time. When enacted, the new law will bring about changes to existing legislation in several areas.Too often the planning system is seen as being there to stop things happening. Planning as the word suggests should be about how to develop for the future and engaging the community in that process. Hence there is an emphasis in the clauses of the legislation on community involvement which has hitherto been understated. Community involvement will, particularly, be enhanced in the production of local development plans. These plans are to be updated every five years with a mid point evaluation process over that period of time. The local development plan will carry greater authority. Land identified for development will carry with it a strong presumption of planning approval in principle. Conversely, land excluded in the plans for development will carry a greater presumption against
development. Together this should ensure clarity for developers and local residents alike.Other changes will include greater speed and efficiency in handling planning decisions, a significant reduction in the number of small items requiring planning permission, greater devolving of responsibility to planning department officials with rights of appeal to elected members thereafter. A welcome change away from the developer providing neighbour notification to the local council doing so will be enacted as will a reduction in the maximum time allowed for a development to commence to a period of three years and there will be some restriction of appeals by developers against local authority decisions'
With Huttonian's Middle Eastern job experience we were very excited to hear that an Egyptian had bought the rather grim Fish and Chippery at the Harbour and turnedit into an Arab takeaway. Sure enough it has appeared in spanking new livery: Lazeeza is the Egyptian version of Latheetha-'delicious' . We went in and were greeted by the wee (very non-Arab) girl who seemed puzzled about the suggestion that she might serve oriental delicacies: Filafel, Homous Mezze struck no chord. We do fish and chips she said. We explained that the Arabic name had raised our hopes. Not hers. Fish and chips with all the occidental trappings. No ethnic muck here.huttonian
A near neighbour sports this notice on his outer gate. A very friendly Rottweiler lives within. I prefer another dog warning we saw in the middle of nowhere in theMournes on a very isolated (private road) 'Attention aux chiens eccentrics!' More effectiveI would say.At least you know where you are with a Rottweiller and have 3 seconds to do something about it. But un chien eccentric? huttonian
Much of the local Meedja
are heavily taken up with the Ballynahinch shooting as reported in previous posts. There have been eyewitness accounts of the local Parish Priest adminstering the last rites to the dying driver of the car who had been shot by the police having failed to stop at a check point. The Mass in his church had just ended and the incident was just outside. How did the PP know that the victim was a Catholic it has been asked. Apparently this was the natural assumption as he was wearing a Celtic Football shirt. It seems however from his name (a usual give away in Norn Iron) that he was of a different persausion-and indeed one of the other people in the stolen car is said to have loyalist para military connections. A good book about the factionalism in the Middle East was subtitled 'Tribes with Flags' Here we have tribes with football shirts. Misleading in this case perhaps but it could only have happened in Norn Iron or, of course in Glascow. But I doubt if theScottish Fuzz would have opened fire under similar circumstances.
It appears that the shooting in Ballynahinch was nothing to do with terrorism, sectarianism, extremism, nationalism, unionism, men of violence or the old troubles. Just a bog standard car robbery which ended in tragedy for the alleged thief. Or at least that what it looks like from the meedja. So the metamorphis from Royal Ulster Constabulary to Police Service of Northern Ireland has not necessarily turned the RUC into a force resembling East Lothian's finest. Arms still carried as a matter of routine. A point to ponder when nicking BMWs I suppose. Better stick to Astras and do it in Duns. The Borders Boys in Blue at least take prisoners.
Newcastle being even more stuffed on Easter Monday than on EasterDay we decided to go on safari looking for local fauna. huttonian
Norn Iron is well behind the Merse as far as this years lambs are concerned. Taken in Mid Down with Strangford Lough in the backgroundhuttonian
Not far from the lambs were these antique baths. One seemed full of mint sauce the other with Ketchup. Factory farming at its most visionaryhuttonian
One tends to get a bit complacent
about how much things have changed for the better in Norn Iron until pulled up by a jolt. The old 'Troubles' of only little more than 10 to 15 years ago seem very remote-the hours for instance I sat in a car in Newcastle main street as others did the shopping as unattended cars were not permitted for fear of car bombs; peering under my car before driving off in case some unfriendly person had taken exception to my official employment with HMG; the frequent road blocks manned by British soldiers; the armed military patrols creeping up suburban streets with soldiers in full battle gear scanning the roof tops for snipers; the heavily fortified pill boxes on the way to the Border and on the approaches to Belfast International airport, traffic slowed by elaborate chicanes and viscous spikes which when activated would rip your tyres to shreds. Police stations smothered in barbed wire, anti-mortar bomb devices on their roofs and guard posts with one way glass and protruding barrels of heavy machine guns.
But suddenly when all that seemed to have changed for ever and the sectarian venom relegated to the letter columns of the Mourne Observer, the army invisible, the barbed war replaced by Chinese Granite, at a vehicle check point outside the sleepy little town of Ballynahinch hallway between Newcastle and Belfast, police open fire on a vehicle killing the driver. Bang, crack, dead on Easter Sunday amidst a pile of vehicles heading to the coast full of Sunday supplements to be read in a cramped parking space with no view of the sea. And the other occupants of the offending BMW under arrest, supplements and all, presumably.
Why? Well nothing has changed here in one respect. No details beyond the briefest statement that the matter is being investigated by the Ombudsman. Were arms found?Did the car ignore orders to stop? Acting on 'information received' ? Watch this space; if you have the patience.
The original Wards of Castle Ward argued about the style of the building. He wanted a Classical facade for the front.huttonian
And she wanted a Gothic rear.huttonian
On the way to Castle ward we took in Down Cathedral where Saint Patrick has a grave. This is an image of the Mournes over the grave yard-as one feller put it 'Sure wouldn't the ould Saint died for a view like that and who would have blamed him?'huttonian
On the way back to Newcastle we captured this stunning view of the Mournes with two wee showers falling into the sea in Dundrum Bayhuttonian
What to do on Easter Day in Newcastle, Norn Iron-apart from eating a large organic easter egg thoughtfully laid (in) by the wife? Answer get out of it as Tout Belfast, Uncle Tom Murphy and all descend to cram the main street, block up the pavements, litter the post modern Promenade and sit in their cars until they have read the Sunday papers. An exciting and fulfilling day by the sea. Fortunately there was a rival attraction at Castle Ward-Mid Down's answer to Paxton House where there was an Easter Craft fair. When we returned from our outing it tool us about half an hour to get half a mile down the one way main street-in a sample count of 35 cars parked on the left-28 were occupied by ice creams and Sunday papers. And not one had any view of the sea
Inspired by Huttonian's post about the Newcastle Promenade the Hutton Think Tank (Ideas, Media and Vision Section) are working on the script for a new Dr Who series about a disabled Doctor and his single mother assistant time travelling in a Space Loo, suitably equiped for the purpose.huttonian
Tout Newcastle is talking about their new post modern Promenade gracing the Naples of County Down. Judge for your selves in the next few images. Click on pictures for spectacular results.huttonian
Stylish. Yes. Comfortable?huttonian
Looking South. I am not sure if the round receptacles are for rubbish. Whatever their intended purpose the outcome is all too inevitablehuttonian
Post Sunset the Promenade obelisk lighting glows eerily. huttonian