Musings from the Merse
Friday, June 30, 2006
  Jordan King Husseins Dove

Jordan King Husseins Dove
Originally uploaded by old_greywolf2000.
A final image from Jordan. Flight Buff will correct me but I believe this is a Dove. The same as the plane used by King Hussein in the late 1950s when still a young man. Flying over the Syrian countryside en route to Cyprus a number of Syrian MIGs tried to shoot him down. He was saved by his personal pilot Wing Commander Jock Dalgeish who took the controls and flew back to Amman at about 30 feet dodging through the wadis where the MIGs could not safely follow. The King never forgot this kindness , remained close friends with Jock and used to visit him in his Scottish village most years-wandering around the place wearing jeans and a sportshirt-the body guards waiting for him in London.

Other images of Jordan at http://www.flickr.com or at http://www.flickr.com/photos/44911990@N00/178324512/
Under the headline 'Eyemouth most English Friendly' today's Berwickshire' reports that in contrast to 'violence' elsewhere in Scotland, English football supporters are being shown 'tolerance' by the locals-English flags flying side by side with Scottish Saltires. The local Provost has a Union Jack and a Very Cross of St George flying from his window (can he see out?) and his neighbour sports the Saltire. How about that for racial tolerance?

It is hard to judge the mood in Hutton. I doubt if Engerland has many friends outside Hutton Hall Bsrns. However I have seen no Trinidad and Tobago, Swedish or Ecuador standards fluttering in the breeze. Nor a Portugoose one. But I well remember from a Hall function at the same time as the Rugby World Cup Final some one announced the score with England leading Australia by some 4 points. My muffled cheer was drowned by a stern warning by a member of the Hall Committee (not one of the English ones)

' Its no over yet'
Thursday, June 29, 2006

The Village Hall is at last in its final throes of completion even if 13 July is a tad optimistic . Inevitably the critics persist

The denizens of Kirk Lane are unhappy that the stone wall on the hall side is not to be replaced even minimally. But apparently a wall is to be erected (using stones from the old one) along the front. Paving is taking place as you can see. Cheaper than tarmac but I wonder if it will stand up to too many cars using it as hard standing. More controversially the area behind on the higher ground is being fenced off with a rustic plastic fence. Plastic? Apparently wood is no longer cool. This, we are assured, will look more like wood than wood does and no rain forests will be devastated for it. A bit like faux fur I suppose.

No one is claiming that the Hall is a thing of beauty. But a joy for ever?

Note the storm clouds gathering over the roof. An Omen?

Or what?

  Jordan Abdoun Bridge

Jordan Abdoun Bridge
Originally uploaded by old_greywolf2000.
Tout Jordan is obsessed with this massive erection-the bridge linking Jebel Amman with Millionaire Ghetto Abdoun. Causing total disruption for miles around as the approach roads are built it seems universally hated and distrusted. 'Never get me on that' they cry. Cars will be dropping off daily given the extraordinary driving standards now such a feature of life in Amman. It is said that people are selling up in Abdoun to get away from the bridge, its lethal potential and its inevitable ability to bring the lower orders in their charabancs, 'serviises' and rust wagons in their thousands to rub sweaty shoulders with the jeunesse doree of Exclusive Abdoun.
  Jordan Huge Flag

Jordan Huge Flag
Originally uploaded by old_greywolf2000.
The gigantic flag (30 m by 90m on a 150m pole) dominating the old city centre (nb British correct spelling) Jordanians widely believe that this the biggest standard in the world. When I suggested to one such claimant that there was at least one bigger somewhere else (thinking of Texas or Dubai) he replied' You may be right-there is a a bigger one'

In Aqaba
  Jordan Anjara Vineyard

Jordan Anjara Vineyard
Originally uploaded by old_greywolf2000.

Some of the vines at the Zureikat's vineyard in Anjara. At 1250 metres this is a cool spot even on a blazing June Day and with less haze you can see the Golan Heights and Mount Hermon (Jebel al Shiekh) to the north west across the Jordan valley. A tourist hop spot? It should be

Wine has been grown here-perhaps since Roman times but all kiled off in the 1940s. Could be something of a craze.

  Jordan Anjara Vineyard

Jordan Anjara Vineyard 2
Originally uploaded by

An Islamic Country, a monarch descended directly from the Prophet (PBUI) and vineyards?!

Yes indeed Jordan now produces some good wine and one of the best series of grapes (according to a French specialist) are to be found at the Zureikat Vineyard in beautiful Anjara in northern Jordan) Watch this space and wait for the premier cru in about two years time

Wednesday, June 28, 2006
The notice next to the loo read 'The gross weight of any cart or container or the combined weight of any carts or containers when stored together must not exceed the placarded maximum contents weight of the compartment when stowed'

This was quite a brain teaser when edging forward in the queue as World traveler passengers en route Amman-Beirut LHR waited to discharge their breakfasts-meat option or veg option as the fancy took you. In recycling terms the veggies had the edge judging from the quality of residue around the bowl.

The key to solving the math lay with the placarded maximum contents. None was visible. The plane was apparently placard free. I asked the steward what it all meant. 'Search Me! ' He responded with a deprecating giggle.
He was so bewitchingly gay that I really didn't care to.

In World Traveler there is no where to hide. Except perhaps in the loos

But you have to queue
Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Originally uploaded by hmorsi.
Amman skyline (thankyou hmorsi) Unlike Hutton buit similar to many Western cities. I prefer the old city which has much more charecter

Originally uploaded by tomfong.
This is 'down town-ugh' Amman taken I suspect from the Wild Jordan Centre. The huge flag on its 500 foot post is the subject of a previous entry. This will just be a distant memory when we return to the Merse
One of the Jordan Ladies (www.jordanjournals.blogspot.com) has complained that Huttonian's spelling is excerable (?spl) She means bad. Sorry about that. Books@Cafe have a fierce anti pop up programme so no spell checker available and I have yet to master the optical mouse which has a mind of its own. Back to the Roget, Spell checker and the Readers Digest guide to blogging tomorrow. If we are spared

At well before bulbul fart we set off tomorrow to return to the Merse. It will be sad to leave what was once a second home and is always a pleasure to revisit.

Even during the World Cup.

Last night dining with old friends at a favourite (Spanish/Italian) restaurant we made the mistake of arriving in the closing minutes of Italy versus Australia. Ushered smoothly to a table we were promptly forgotten as the waiters focused exclusively on the large screen on which the match was being projected. Attempts to attract attention foundered on the broad backs of the serving staff,all, presumably, rooting for Italy. Desperate for a bite, a drink, kind attention, anything and the usual polite calls of 'ustaadh', Ya sheikh, even WAITER-having failed to unrivet the watching orbs Huttonian yelled out in desperation: OFF SIDE!

That did it. A waiter was at our side. Mafeking relieved. Unseen by him the referee had indeed blown for off side-presumably alerted by the shriek from Second Circle. This led seamlessly to an Italian attack, an Oz foul and a successful Italian penalty. Game over.

The waiter missed it all as he scribbled down the pastas. We had a super meal but I remained with one lingering doubt.

I might have got it wrong.

About the offside.
Monday, June 26, 2006
  Ajlun-the Muslim Castle

ajlun from a distance1
Originally uploaded by tcmman.
The Levant is dotted with Crusader Castles like Krak de Chevalier in Syria or Kerak in southern Jordan. This looks like another bog or blog standard Christian job but is in fact the work of one of Salahadin's generals. This is in northern Jordan and is not visited as often as it should be. Thankyou tcmman
  Ajlun Castle Jordan

Originally uploaded by Paulvision.
This is a closer shot of Ajlun. It is very much on the same lines as the Crusader's castles but in the event more successful as I don't believe it ever fell to the Christian Knights. I am endebted to Paulvision
Sunday, June 25, 2006
I have come across a very entertaining local blog: www.jordanjournals.blogspot.com Check it out as they say in the US of A. Blogging here seems to be a hazardous exercise as one of the 'Jordan Ladies' who contribute to this cooperative site has just broken a toe apparently on one of Amman's multitude of building sites. Bad luck. I can only assume that a post was forming in her head, loss of pedial spatial awareness and bang, down she went.

Best wishes for a speedy recovery.

Mind you Amman's pavements with their unexpected steep steps, holes, one in one camber, extra rubble, occasional trees, slippery plastic bags are hazardous enough for even the most experienced pedestrian without seeking out the additional thrill of the building site. An uncompleted 17 storey building falling on you can be serious.

Even if you are wearing a hard hat
More Home Thoughts

Poor old Greenlaw, the Ancient (as in French ancien) Capital of Berwickshire continues to get slated in the letter columns of the Berwickshire (see below) and the debate has (mostly) moved on from Dog poo. The mention of a Town Trail has reminded Huttonian of an idea once canvassed by the Hutton Think Tank (Heritage and Haystacks section) to create a village trail perhaps to coincide with the next Jim Clarke rally* when the hamlet is flooded with tourists for almost three hours. The Trail might start at the Kirk, take in New Village Hall, Johnny Rutherfords Yard, the Old Smiddy, the surviving phone box, the old pub (alas now a private house) , the play ground, the old (closed ) school and then the Bus Stop where more adventerous tourists can take the No 32 to the Cross Pub in Paxton and end their adventure after an outstanding pub meal touring the Orchard Site. Next bus back might not be until the following morning but it onlyis a 2.3 mile walk-and after all it is A TRAIL . Now for the Greenlaw Letter-we at least avoid that sort of thing in our tidy villagr.

We are very much supportive of wildlife and its habitats here in Greenlaw (after all we have the famous Hule Moss and Moorland on our doorstep).However, the sights that yet again meet us in the middle of the village take wildlife habitat preservation a bit too far!Let’s take a Town Trail around Greenlaw. For the umpteenth year the state of the graveyard on Fathers Day brought tears to the eye for a very different reason than the sentiment attached to this time for loved ones.There have been an increasing number of complaints in the past few weeks about the usual grass cuttings left lying around - that’s after the grass does eventually get cut because it has been left until it is far too long.The weeds surrounding the whole place is akin to somewhere derelict. I think Highgate Cemetery in London is looked after better - and it is generally ignored!!Then take the children a walk to the park where the same applies and the weeds in the play park area are higher than some of the children. Grass lies everywhere amid the dog dirt (which would be a lot easier to spot if the grass was cut and kept). The bark underfoot is almost non existent and the polythene laid under as a ‘weed suppressant?’ is a grave danger to little ones tripping all over it.A couple of planting boxes either end of the village have had some plants put in, and lo and behold the weeds around the boxes peep over the top to see what they have to contend with this year!The planting areas on the green and at Wester Row have been treated to some hebes and ‘greenery’ - no need for lovely bedding like the thousands of plants in Bank Street Galashiels, Wilton Park Hawick or all over Duns flower beds and many other areas. A minute amount of these would fill the flower beds in Greenlaw.Why bother trying to make the village look good when you can put in a few hebes and leave them to fight the weeds for growing room?Whatever happened to the promises to make all areas the same?Why is the same year after year? Nothing ever changes, certainly not for the better.Once again we will hear there is no money, the budgets are tight, they are trimmed to the limit.Well maybe they are, but there are still seasonal workers hired and there is still money for the places that always get more ….. so just what did happen the the scheme for harmonisation in the whole of the Scottish Borders region?

* NB Verb. Sap. The Jim Clarke Rally might not be good time to sample the Hutton Village Trail or at least that part which follows the Rally Route. Blog-ed

Saturday, June 24, 2006
I have mentioned about the Yankee tinge to the Queen's English in these parts. Some of it is not so much American but off the wall, even when it is on the wall. I am still puzzled by the slogan(?) that is scrawled on the side of the former Communist Party HQ in Rainbow Street :

Potien it is good to be as a ceasre

It has baffled Hutton Think Tank Code breaking section even when using their new machine found recently in a skip which they have called Eminga. Ideas in invisible ink please on the frontof a post card to the usual dead letter box.

It rather lessens the impact of a health campaign (aimed presumably at locals) if the English translation is not spoton: At Second Circle you are greeted with a banner which reads (in much smaller letters than theArabic) BE Ware Drugs-later on atFirst Circle the warning is direr:

Drugs is certain slow SUCIDE
Friday, June 23, 2006
  © jane taylor, machaerus J174-4-04

© jane taylor, machaerus J174-4-04
Originally uploaded by old_greywolf2000.
Machaerus aka Herods Castle where Salome danced for the head of John the Baptist. This image comes courtesy of Jane Taylor from her book Jordan: Images from the Air-to see more go to www.janetaylorphotos.com
  The Treasury , Petra , Jordan

The Treasury , Petra , Jordan
Originally uploaded by rikdom.
This is of course the must have image of Jordan and perhaps the most famous-even, dare I say it, in danger of becoming the most hackneyed. Perhaps not up to the amazing pictures produced by JaneTaylor in her 'High Above Jordan' (see future posts) but not bad none theless (Thankyou rikdom-follopw link)
In many ways the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan is a British creation. Amir Abdullah, later King, was established in a British Protectorate in 1923 and the country achieved full independence in 1946. So one might expect that although a Arab state it would have English as its second language. So it does. Up to a point When we were first here 13 years ago American English was steadily replacing British English. Door keepers at Hotels were even then insisting you had a good day despite all the early indications to the contrary. Street signs were lapsing into americanese- the one which irritated me most were the constant references to Down Town. What in earth was wrong with City Centre? It moved me to call on the Mayor of Amman, to remind him of the country's linguistic roots and to suggest that a British expert be retained by the municipality to transliterate the Arabic into correct English English ( Al Baker Street for Al Bakr Street being a typical misleading case- a US diplomat had asked me about Al Baker-a regular guy?) and to make sure that the language of Shakespeare-well ElizabethII at any rate be used on directional signs and other public instructional material. City Centre being a case in point.

He was most attentive and said he wiould see what he could do while pointing out most reasonably that we were fighting a losing battle given the fact that about ten times as many Jordanians went for higher education to the US as to the UK. But he agreed 'Downtown' had a mean vulgar ring to it City Centre that had class that did. After all Amman was a city not a God Dam Town. Hicksville! No Siree! (The Mayorhad spent some time in Brooklyn on a USAID cultural exchange programme)

Some months later I had a call from the Mayor's Office. I would like the new sign at the Third Circle. I dashed out all agog. Paul Revere in reverse: The British were coming back.

A dazzling new large notice greeted me. Down Town had gone: instead

Thursday, June 22, 2006
  Al-Dei The'Monastry' Petra)

Al-Deir (Il Monastero) a Petra (Giordania)
Originally uploaded by shemale.

Sadly we will not have time to make the trip to Petra. Follow the link for the stunning photos we would have taken had gone there. It is not actually a monastery but early western travellers thoughtit was

  Ogwen Valley, Welsh Wales, Snowdonia

Ogwen Valley
Originally uploaded by erase.
For the benefit of Jordanian bloggees I have borrowed this image from the junior son-in-law who has just returned from attempting to climb 15 mountains in Wales (This is Snowdonia) in the one walk-all this for charity.. (See link to Babymother http://www.20six.co.uk/babymother for wifely comment) I like the picture as it could well be Jordan especially in the mountains that surround Petra-apart, sadly, for the abundance of water . If Jordan had access to Welsh Water she would not need to worry even about the monthly newly built hotels and their daily flushing of thousands of toilets and cleaning of hundreds of BMW's. Not to mention the 40% of water which is wasted via leaking or broken pipes.

A little vignette. I was at my favourite old supermarket the Rainbow Market below First Circle-our main source of supplies in our time year in the 1990s. As I was settling up in that chatty leisurely way no longer the practice in say Sir Morrisons when an old venerable gentleman courteously brushed past me with his solitary purchase. An Islamic scholar of the old school I thought.

Or perhaps not: As he left the premises I noticed he was 'telling' his prayer beads with his right hand and in his left he partially concealed his acquisition. A small bottle of Gin. Or it may have been Vodka

. Cheers!
Wednesday, June 21, 2006
One essential skill for blogging in Jordan is the ability to do so without breathing-or at least inhaling. I don't think that Huttonian has ever been to a country in his diplomatic travels which has more smokers than in Jordan. It is a way of life here.I don't recall meeting many doctors who didn't indulge in the weed. No smoking tables in restaurants are besieged by many more where smoking seems actively encouraged and even when eating outside as we did the other night the air was laden with fumes like the good old London smog of years ago. Using an Aqilah (water pipe) is really cool and socially desirable. Ramadan with its month of abstainance from sunrise to sunset must be almost unbearable and some I fear have to resort to the quick surreptitous drag in the loo to keep going. As I post I have a young lady to my left puffing away, charmingly-and a cheroot smoker to my right not dissimilar to Thomas the Tank Engine.

Jordan has one of the highest lung cancer rates in the world. But few seem to mind.

Oh by the way. Huttonian seems to have been read by some one at the highest level. (although perhaps not as high as www.godonlyknows.blogspot.com The ragged standard on its 500 foot pole has been replaced. Overnight.

Thats a result for tou.
If you pulled out a guide book -Rough Guide to the Borders, for example ,in Hutton Main Street-you would be ignored. Not out of unfriendliness by the natives but because it is unlikely that someone would see you in the absence of anybody. Do it in Berwick and if you looked asif you needed help the chances are that the Good Samaritan syndrome would apply- a quick side step or the crossing of the road to the other side.

Not so in Amman 'down town' (US 'English' rules ok) Pull out a map or a book and the nearest bystander is by your side. Brushing side your feeble halting Arabic he (unlikely a she) will seek to instruct you in feeble halting English. THe thought is immensely kind the result often irritatingly frustrating especially in those cases when you are directed up a street which YOU KNOW is wrong but it would be most impolite not to follow the instructions until you are out of sight of your kindly informant. And if outof sight means going up a steep hill in 37C of searing heat in the certain knowledge you will have to retrace your steps eventually and then go up another steep hill, albeit the right one.

Best tactic is to try and memorise your way-the maps in the Rough Guide to Jordan are first rate and if in desperation you do need to peek at one do so in some dark dusty corner as if you were consulting Position # 45 in the Kama Sutra* and did not want the book seller to notice. Even then some sharp eyed passer by may still rush to your aid but the risk is at least minimised.

Small prices to pay for the experience of enjoying the street life in that part of the city which is ignored by most tourists. And you have the comforting feeling that if you had a real problem you would not be short of help.

Lots of it

* Not Recommended Blog-ed. Stick to the single figures.
Tuesday, June 20, 2006
Sitting as one does on the cafe balcony of the inspirational 'Wild Jordan' building one enjoys a breathtaking view of old Amman spread out beneath our feet. A carelessly flicked coffee grind could cause serious damage falling at 22 feet per second per second (repetition partof formula apparently) into the streets below . Actually no danger of that particular missile ingredient-the Latte Caramel Surprise is drained to the last dreg but the rather dry Carrot Cake is less enjoyable and might serve as a mini Cluster Bomb in the right circumstance. Here is Jordan at its most authentic and viewed from the HQ an organisation that serves conservation issues so well. Well done H (is)M. G.

The view to theleft(Images will follow, InSh'allah) is dominated by a huge Jordanian flag flying from the Palace complex a good mile away. It is highly visible because of the flag pole which is nearly 500 feet tall and the flag itself is 100 feet by over 200. Not big enough to cover a bog standard (npi) foot ball pitch butit could conceal, say, 3 routemaster buses and three conductors-if such an 0fficial still exists. According to the Rough Guide this is not the tallest flag pole and biggest standard in the world contrary to widespread local belief. No mention of where is-if not Texas it will be Dubai you can bet your last Starbuck

But I hope the magnificent banner is not a metaphor for the present state of the Hashemite Kingdom. The end away from the pole is torn and coming apart, a victim of strong winds in the near stratosphere-Royal Jordanian flights duck as they pass. The whole impression is no longer of overwhelming magnificence. But a bit, er,

Monday, June 19, 2006

I hope a previous post does not give the impression that I am not too impressed with some of the fine buildings in Amman-my favourite diplomatic posting working amongst some of my favourite people. Buildings since my time-the King Hussein Mosque, the Motor Museum and the Wild Jordan headquarters for the Royal Society for the Conservation of Nature, are world class design and striking by any standard. The impression given by a superficial look at Amman is that this is boom town, capital of a wealthy country, modern Middle East at its most prosperous and dynamic. Some one told me in my previous incarnation that there were 1000 millionaires in the Abdoun/Jebel Amman area, residing in sumptious mini-palaces (and some not to0 mini) and as a Brit Gov representative I had great difficulty in persauding HMG that Jordan was in fact a comparatively poor country with rural poverty and enormous disparities between Abdoun and Wadi Araba' worthy of our support.

Our small aid programme has now gone and those from other First World Donors are under threat. Partly due I fear to the image of Jordan as presented by the bustling city centre and the affluent suburbs-not many foreign visitors go to admire South Amman of Jebel Hussein or some of the 'camps' on the outskirts. There is desperate poverty in the city but invisible to the casual visitor and to many, I suspect, of the Corps Diplomatique.

I am not suggesting that the erection of fine buildings are abandoned so as to correct the image of the 'real' Jordan but I do earnestly urge a look at government priorities. There is wealth in Jordan, abundantly so, but it is confined into too few hands and the disparaties between rich and poor are grotesque. And I wonder if the best memorial to the well beloved and much mourned King Hussein might not have been such a massive mosque, distinctive and beautiful as it is but an equally massive crash programme for the alleviation of rural poverty and the upgrading of educational and health standards out side the capital. Much money is pouring into the country as a safe haven from neighbouring problems and it is a great pity that it seems mostly directed towards real estate and ostentatious ego trips in glass and concrete.

Jordan is very short of water. Yet grandiose new hotels rise out of the ground relentlessly as if the Tigris and Euphrates, were flowing through the streets of Amman , harnessed to flush every loo, fill every bath, flood every swimming pool and wash every visiting Saudis state of the art Roller orBMW.

No Water? Ozymandias come back. All is forgiven
Sunday, June 18, 2006
Our little flat in old Amman may not have 47 stars but it is a real place with stunning views over the nearby hills. Old Amman (once known as Philadelphia and also, in 'Biblical times' Ammon) was built on 7 hills-New Amman must cover about 40 of them. It is at about 2700 feet asl ( actually higher than that from our nearest sea, the Dead, 4000 feet above which is the lowest point on earth at -1300 feet) I say real as new Amman has a sense of virtual reality with its shiny gleaming futuristic buildings some of which, with a certain built in impermenance give the impression of never actually going to make the future at all. Here in the old city we can sit on our shaded verandah where sun birds flit and sip amongst exotic pot plants and we are woken by the Bulbuls (well we were first disturbeb by abour 5 pre dawn call to prayers from too adjacent mosques) with their dawn chorus. Out of the direct rays of the sun the temperature is perfect with pullovers needed when a cool breeze springs up.

On arrival we were greeted by an old friend, the local small store owner who always tells us how much he loves the English (British is not really a commonly used term amongst the older generation of Arabs) and then immediately launched into the familiar diatribe of treaties long broken, promises dishonoured and old friends left to the mercies of the Jewish state=expelled from their neighbourhoods, properties sequestered and with no hope of return to that part of Palestine which now forms the State ofIsrael At least unlike some Irish people I used to know he will only start at Balfour in 1917 and not Cromwell in the 17th century as in the case of Ireland. For that relief much thanks. And although he knows of Huttonian's diplomatic past he bears no personal grudge just an air of weary sadness at the perfidy of the English in general and over Palestine in particular

After this rather one sided exchange of views(sympathetic noises are called for rather than an attempt to counter a somewhat distorted interpretation of History). Then it is up to the balcony, a cold drink and the serene contemplation of scene not much like Hutton-or even Paxton for that matter.

I saw Abu Khaalid, the shopkeeper, shortly afterwards when desperate for an essential ingredient for a pre prandial tincture . He heavily overcharged for a lemon thus belatedly settling a small part of an ancient grievance. Perhaps he felt a little bit better.

And the Gin and Tonic was greatly improved.
Saturday, June 17, 2006
We move out of the 47 star hotel today and into real life in a private house in the old part of Amman. No A/C 5 mosques with strident calls to prayer (4am is the most powerful) within 200 yards and fairly constant street noise but we won't miss the Very Grand Palace. The academics have gone but the Italians have moved in, by the tour bus load. I have nothing against Italians (not even during the world cup) but they take up a lot of space, make a noise not dissimilar to mating starlings and if you don't get down to the breakfast buffet by pre sparrow fart the tables have ben stripped of all sustenance=for starlings read locusts. So its in a 6pm check in -demolish the supper buffet, off to another adventure by 8-30am full of everyones breakfast. How they can enjoy the wonderful sights/sites of Jordan mob handed I have no idea but they seem to.

Internet access may not be so assured downtown although there is a formidable array of machines just down the road from our flat in Amman's only (believed to be) Gay bar. It is regularily raided by the police as Gaiety is illegal in these parts-whether the fuzz do so in persuit of arrests, or in search of custom (as has been alleged in certain quarters) is not knowna and I am not in a position to make an educated guess.

Friday, June 16, 2006
Home Thoughts from Abroad. Getting the Flavour

Excretion seems still to be high in the list of topics aired (no pun intended) the letter columns of the Berwickshire and this one strikes a resonance in far away Amman as a light relief from the usual preoccupations of Academe.

SIR, - At a recent meeting of Greenlaw and Hume Community Council the subject of of fouling reared its head yet again.Very strong views about this deplorable habit were passed at the meeting.The negligence of a small number of dog owners is just beyond belief, however, that small number of owners adds up to a very big problem for Greenlaw.The main streets are always covered with dog pooh, the playpark in the middle of our village is constantly soiled with it, the beautiful WS Happer Memorial park which could be such a lovely walking area is an obstacle course of doggie pooh, the football field where games take place has to be cleared before every game and the school playpark is just another doggie toilet.Be assured irresponsible dog owners, we know who YOU are, we WILL pass on names for prosecution and you WILL be named and shamed.We must do this for the sake of our lovely village and for the sake of the children playing there before one of them is blinded or worse by the terrible diseases that dogs faeces leave behind in the grass.Please remember next time you take your dog out, take a bag too - BAG IT AND BIN IT!!WILMA MOSCROP,(on behalf of Greenlaw and HumeCommunity Council and all like minded villagers).

Well done the G&HCC) Certainly we seem to have licked (npi) the problem in the H&PCC area-at least as far as my own observations are concerned. Dog owners have got the message and have bagged their dog's.

No one sems to mind here but then dogs are not a common sight being regarded by many Arabs as 'unclean'

I wonder why?
This is said to be the most important academic conference about the Middle East everheld in the region: to discuss its problems and grope for solutions. But as far as Jordan is concerned it is invisible. Not because of the competing attractions of the World Cup but as a result of a decision by local Unions to boycott the gathering and to urge Jordanian academics to stay away. Why? Because of the presence of a handful of Israeli academics which is another example of what is known as 'normalisation' (of relations between Israel and the Arab World, in this case Jordan) and thus bitterly opposed by a signifcant number of people here who still persist in a state of denial about their neighbour and oppose all contacts with the Jewish State with which the Hashemite Kingdom has had a treaty since 1994.

The Israeli government has certainly behaved with great insensitivity, shortsightedness and often barbarity in the on going dispute with the Palestinians. But the Israel academics here have strongly opposed many aspects of their govenments policy-two at least of them have been in trouble with the authorities over their actions. But of course no one knows about this here as the press seems determined to neither to look for positive aspects of the conference nor to find out what is actually going on. Close your eyes and when they are open again the bogeymen will have gone and you can assure yourself they were never ever here. And that is all right then. If you don't want to talk to anyone pretend they don't exist. Talking might lead to a marginal opening of your mind-and that is just too dangerous.

I am told that 53 Jordanian academics were registeredto attend WOCMES. Since the Boycott was announced 55 have turned up. Bully for them.

And England can still come 16th in the World Cup. The Cup is coming home-part of the distance at least.
Thursday, June 15, 2006
Huttonian hoping to escape World Cup fever has been unlucky in Jordan. The TV in the 47 star hotel has 47 channels with the World Cup on about 30 of them. None in English has it happens and for some reason BBC World is not one of them. A taxi driver congratulated me on England's success against Paraguay but I doubt if his heart was in it-every Jordanian will passionately follow the progress of Liverpool or Manchester United or even the non English player filled Arsenal. But come to the English side they will follow the firm Scottish tendency of ABE and if Jordan had a vote in the Eurovision Song Contest it would be Nil Points for the British entry every time irrespective of merit, in the unlikely event of there being any.

As I blog I hear the unmistakable roar of our national anthem sung discordantly issuing from the nearest of five TV sets in the 47 star lounge area-whether this to celebrate a Trinadad and Tobago own goal or an English one I know not. Its not that the Jordanians do not like us, or disapprove of what is being done in Iraq (as they do)-and they have a soft spot for the House of Beckham-especially the distaff side it just that they feel that uppity, over exposed and overpaid English footballers need to be taken down a peg or two.

Is the Cross of St George fluttering proudly over Hutton Hall Barns?-it certainly was on the newly built, but unfinished, house at Hutton Mill last time I looked. If England don't make the Quarter Finals than it will be more droop than flutter in the fiercely partisan Scottish wind.

I am not sure that I mind too much

Well that answers one question. A kind waiter has popped into the 47 star computer room with its 47-45 computers to tell me that England have beaten TandT . Were his teeth gritted? More, worn to the gums.So the flags flutter on at HCB and at HM-until the quarter finals at least.

Will teeth be gritted in Tout Scotland? Not so much as worn down to gums but bleeding ones.

And I am not sure I mind too much
Verb Sap. If your stomach has seemingly settled do not go out for an exotic meal.

Its not a good idea
Wednesday, June 14, 2006
Bloggees were obviously concerned about the Huttonian runs. Very much better thankyou (and so is the wife) and it was cheering to see that I was not the only sufferer at the Congress. The number of squirming academics eyeing the door of the seminar room with little maps of how to find the nearest loo was illuminating and I wonder if catering standards have slipped a bit since the visitors have returned to Amman in such huge numbers. One chairman left the seminar room four times during his own paper and when he returned from his last evacuation the paper he had been reading from had the last few pages missing so it had been put to an essential non academic use. As this shortened the procedings (even allowing for unscheduled seatings) this was no bad thing in the larger scheme of things. As one listener muttered sotte voce:

'It was a load of c**p anyhow'
Zarqawi's Revenge

It happens sooner or late: the runs, squits, Deli Belli, a walking stomach as the Arabs say. Unavoidable if you have been out of theMiddle East for some time and accustomed too long to bland squeaky clean Western diet. Its a nuisance-make sure you are within thirty seconds sprint of the nearest loo; make sure you are near the door so as you don't have to step on thirty pairs of academictoes en route to the exit. Both the wife and Huttonian are struck down and the wife is flowing at both ends. Shame. It was such a good meal.

But I don't want to think about that.

For the moment
Tuesday, June 13, 2006
Is this an Academic nightmare.? The World Congress for Middle East Studies (WOCMES) The biggest known gathering of Middle Eastern 'Experts' ever held in the Middle East. 1345 participants from 78 countries, most with long papers up their sleeve boring the hades out of each other. No tower of Babel however. If you don't speak Engliash (or French) you can only bore unintelligbly or be bemused coimprehensively. The French are a tight little bunch presenting odd papers on obtuse Francophone subjects-The effect of female circumcision on the commercial policies and practices of Tunisian noble men in the 2nd Century (Hijra) Sounds much more impressive in French. The other 78 nations struggle on in 78 versions of the English tongue-murdered, distorted, projected, corrupted-and some of them might as well be speaking in Double Dutch for all the sense they make.

We have over a hundred 'panels' a day-20 plus at the same time. The choice is bewildering. If the title of the discussion includes 'Iraq' the room is packed with people bristling with righteous anti-Americanism, including most American academics-if it doesn't you have a handful of tattooed, bearded, sandled scholars (the men are similar) talking to each other with a couple of audience asleep in the corner or noisly sucking Starbuck's coffee through long straws.

Huttonian's panel-all good Brits with the Queen's English-is on Thursday. Prince el Hassan, former Crown Prince, president of WOCMES (an old friend from Diplomatic days)has threatened to attend. He will be very welcome if a bit daunting but I hope he can be persauded to leave behind some of his bodyguards muttering into their lapels, a few private secretaries, at least 80% of his other officials, and the CIA agents marking his every move out of sheer boredom. If not there will be no room for an academic audience.

Mind you, that might not be a bad thing.
Monday, June 12, 2006
Amman is the most unfriendly city for pedestrians in the known world. They have two sorts: the quick and the dead. And the quick have to be very quick indeed. Our 46 star hotel is besieged by two two and a half throughways. It is almost impossible to cross to the other side where the rest of the city waits for you. If you manage to make it to the central reservation you might not be able to go further and find it impossible to return. Perhaps by 2am you might get across only to be mown down by a car with no lights that you did not see. Instead there is a foot bridge some distance away and in the direction you don't want to go. Some people in desperation stop a taxi and get driven a mile one way , round a flyover and back to opposite to where you started but on the right side of the road. A dinar well spent.

Personally, I prefer Hutton traffic.
Sunday, June 11, 2006
So back in Amman after a break of 4 years. And a trouble free journey with our luggage intact. It is strange to report that London is hotter than Amman and the cool of the Merse seems miles away-as of course it is. The ********** Grand Palace Hotel lives up to some of its ********s if not all of them. We got the news that Engerland had scraped through its first match in the World Cup. Anounced with great excitement by the BA pilot to a general sigh of indifference from the passengers who were presumably fleeing Europe to get away from the hype. But I assume that the cross of St G is fluttering proudly over at least one house in Hutton Hall Barns, if not yet, on the Village Hall.
Friday, June 09, 2006

Last day in the Merse before nearly three weeks in Foreign Parts: the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan where Huttonian and the wife are returning to our favourite Middle Eastern destination and are doing our own separate things. When we return (if we are spared) it will be good to report that the long running Hutton Hall drama is about to take a curtain call. 7 July now seems a reasonable completion date and I have to say (after strong initial doubts) that it is not going to look too bad. Even if it does not completely match its surroundings in pure aesthetics it is certainly less of a sore thumb than originally feared. Click on images to see what I mean.

The blog will continue, translated from Arabic, if only spasmodically. The hotel we are staying in for the first week has more (self awarded?) stars than the Milky Way and rejoices in the name of The Golden Tulip Grand Palace. Marble bathrooms but, surprisingly, the swimming pool is 'next door' (Hopefully not the Dead Sea)

It wil be good to escape the anglo centricity of the World Cup (it will be wall to wall in Jordan) The Merse seems to have escaped the worse aspects of Scottish chipiness-yet to see a Trinidad and Tobago flag (they have sold out in Glascow) And even if the nice Mr Murray is rooting for Uruguay I doubt if many of the (Scottish) locals care too much. If Uruguay do win I hope that Mr M enjoys his reception from English fans at Wimbledon-Anyone except Murray will be their cry.
Thursday, June 08, 2006
  Moffat-Selkirk. The lady has vanished

Originally uploaded by old_greywolf2000.
This is another image tken from the stunning A707which should have appeared in an earlier post. The car in front was fortunately not the one we encountered in the spring. http://huttonian.blogspot.com/2006_04_01_huttonian_archive.html Driven, one assumes, by a very old lady (it may have been Jason Button on a Sabbatical I suppose)(we never actually got a clear view.)The person was small, barely visible from the rear and drove the car very very slowly. No way of getting past on such a narrow bendy road. It hardly merited the A classification. I think the driver was either a Witch or a Warlock; we were certainly bewitched and failed, after five attempts, to find a road to the south out of Selkirk. This time we got lucky and only got lost once. As long as you remember there is no south in Selkirk and two easts, you'll be ok. Eventually
Huttonian noticed scenes of great euphoria in Sir Morrison's this morning on his return to this great shrine of Retail as he purchased a few items for the wife. The reason may lie at http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/business/5055040.stm No more hands on for Sir. Share price has jumped against the market trend and the staff were dancing light fandangos in the aisle-or it may have just been animated shelf stacking-some times hard to tell the difference.

But will we, Johnny Public notice the difference. Will the caravanners, Sir M's main customer base-and you can't get baser than that. Will they stop hiding the organics? Will it be possible to buy less than 20 packaged mushrooms at one go? Will the staff stop hogging the best parking places? And will they stop the mantra: Another reason for shopping at Morrisons after every in-store announcement.

There is no Sainsburys in Berwick.

The only reason for shopping at Morrisons.

The post from the Merse is a day late as Blogger was on local leave for maintenance. But real life was good with an incredibly easy transfer from Norn Iron to Hutton. The sea was glassy flat and did not even tinkle the ice in the gin and tonics in Club Class. Not, mind you, many G and Ts to ripple as wine is free and a lot of that went down parched throats smoothly-and for Norn Ironers being no charge, painlessly. So there was probably a lot of erratic driving along the A75 but if so it was all behind us as we were off the ferry ahead of the mob. The great pleasure of a gorgeous day is the drive between Moffat and Selkirk. Certainly the most dramatic road in the borders as the strangely doubled image demonstrates-this is the A707 near the Mares Tail Waterfall.

So to Hutton in the gathering haar. About 50 degrees colder than Norn Iron. But the village hall seems nearly done. The porta loo has been shifted to outwith the boundaries so perhaps the internal plumbing is all go. Report later if we are spared and have time before our venture to really foreign parts.
Tuesday, June 06, 2006
  mournes from murlough 3

mournes from murlough 3
Originally uploaded by old_greywolf2000.
Its going to be especially hard to leave Norn Iron to return to the Merse-then on to foreign parts in weather such as we have been enjoying over the last few days. We were expecting the golf to be mist bound again this morning but everything was bright and clear. All the better to see your shots soar far (and wide) into gorgeous yellow gorse bushes. Very pretty

The image is of, yes, the Mournes, from inner Dundrum bay. The tide is out and the mud flats are a paradise for twitchers;lots of brown jobs, white jobs, black and white jobs. Is that the common Sprodge? No I think it is the slighty spotted Bog Chaff. If we wait patiently for two hours it may turn round for ease of sex identifiction. Or it may not. In the mean while lets watch the sea weed float past. Fascinating
Monday, June 05, 2006
Huttonian has been enthusing middle daughters American father in law about the joys of the Royal County Down (PBUI). No 2 in the UK; No 8 in the World. Staggering views, wide heather bound vistas, massive towering sand dunes, rain forest size Gorse. This morning I took him out on a glorious early summer day to play a round on the Annesley Course (MPBUI) which marches with the championship circuit but not quite so devastatingly challenging. Glorious summer in Bath Lane was visibilty of 50 yards on the first tee. Vistas off. Surprisingly the green keepers had not closed the course for safety reasons so were able to cautiously drive off and be swallowed up into the swirling sea mist. For five holes we played through old movies of Dickensian London or the Raspberry Blower of Old Scotland Yard. More by feel then by anything else. The greens were only just visible from fifty yards out. No one else on the course probably, but hard to be sure. The only other living thing was a Hound of the Baskervilles (enough literary allusions-Blog ed)) which on closer inspection turned out to be Allie the Ball Finding Alsation. His master was no where to be seen like most every thing else.

Then dramatically the mist lifted, the Mournes reappeared. And all the things every one has ever said about the RCD (P etc) were seen to be true. Vista as advertised, Gorse ditto, and strangly enough having survived the whiteout without losing a ball I immediately lost one in the long range visiblity. A good one. One I was saving for the autumn and my old age, which ever is to come first. B~*#&r!

I may find it tomorrow. More fog forecast. Good
  Cultra BCDR engine

cultra BCDR engine
Originally uploaded by old_greywolf2000.
This a Belfast and County Down Railway (BCDR) engine from the 1930s exhibited at the Cultra Transport Museum. A nostalgic sight for Huttonian as it was this type of engine which took trains from Belfast to Newcastle up to 1952. The Saturday express (Golfers Special) took under an hour for the journey; hard to beat that on the road now.
  Ferguson aircraft at Cultra

cultra Ferguson aircraft
Originally uploaded by old_greywolf2000.
One star exhibit at the Transport Museum is Ferguson's Home built aircraft. Built in 1911 he won a £500 pound wager to fly it off Newcastle beach in 1912. He then went on to invent the tractor and with his Canadia colleague Mr Massey marketed it world wide. He is a Newcastle, County Down man
Sunday, June 04, 2006
  Castle Ward Pig

Castle Ward Pig
Originally uploaded by old_greywolf2000.
Photographed at Castle Ward. A guest left over from last night? Or a metaphor for one. See image below.
  The morning after the night before.

The morning after the night before.
Originally uploaded by old_greywolf2000.
The Castle Ward Opera Season is in full swing. This image is of last night's excesses-its a sort of local version of Glynebourne. Some Music. Lots of good food and even more drink. Mostly opera buffs but some clearly principally come for the beer and others to be photographed for the Ulster Tatler. Hopefully before they get too blurred
George exits Big Brother house by back door. THOUSANDS Don't CARE?

In case you missed the news item of the year Huttonian gratefully reproduces the story which has shocked and stunned Berwickshire and the wider Borders below. So many fluttering hearts and rising hopes were pinned on a local lad (Well he lives in Chelsea apparently) winning fame and fortune in the one event which easily eclipses the World Cup since Scotland's exodus from the preliminary stages. Borders eyes glued to the screens, Borders ears enthralled by George's familiarity with the RoyalFamily-never mind puny England obsessed with Rooney's imstep-this was the big one. And he blew it! Walked out for goodness sake and hadn't even been shown a Yellow card, never mind a Red one. Don't make Reiver stock like they used to.

HOPES of having a Berwickshire Big Brother winner were extinguished on Tuesday when our only hope walked out of the Channel 4 show.
Nineteen-year-old George Askew, a student from London, but originally from Ladykirk, had spent nearly two weeks in the UK's most famous house before deciding that the experience just wasn't for him.Just after looking like he was finally going to come of his shell, George told some of his fellow housemates that he wanted to leave and like a man of his word, he did.As the rest of the group gathered for the first round of nominations, George took off his microphone, asked for his bag and left the house for good, much to the surprise of his fellow housemates.Before he went he said: ""I know it's a big decision, but it's one I'm quite happy to make."It's one of these things where you're so sure and you don't even want to know."Having a one-to-one with Big Brother in the diary room he said that he worried about the pressures of fame and thought that it would be better if he went out sooner rather than later as then it wouldn't be so bad.Fellow housemate Grace had tried to convince him to stay but George had his mind set on going the same way as Shahbaz and Dawn and walking out without getting the chance to be grilled by the show's host Davina McCall.Unlike Shahbaz, George hadn't been a controversial housemate, choosing to sit on the sidelines instead of hogging the limelight.However, in the relatively short time he was in the house he did manage to break one girl's heart.After seeing Imogen and Sezer and Grace and Mikey pair off, promotions girl Nikki had her sights set on George but he simply said they had "nothing in common," and branded her a wannabe footballer's wife.On Saturday, George won some treats for the group after playing 'Meal or No Meal'- Big Brother's take on the popular Noel Edmonds quiz show.After successfully guessing which housemates some school children were talking about, George won the group some tasty treats which raised spirits after Bonnie became the first contestant to be evicted last Friday.An awkward moment for George came when the topic of the Royal Family cropped up in conversation.Rumours have been floating around about his possible friendship with some of the monarchy but he did keep fairly quiet on the subject, although he looked slightly bemused when Welshman Glynn asked "which one is the Prince of Wales?"After spending two weeks lounging around, George should have no trouble fulfilling his wish of going back to being just like any other student.
31 May 2006

Oh well Nae Bother. Lets await the next good news which will unite us all in rejoicing. England's exit from the World Cup-and lets hear it for Trinidad and Tobago.

Saturday, June 03, 2006
  ballykinlar seals

ballykinlar seals
Originally uploaded by old_greywolf2000.
Seal colonies on the Ballykinlar side of the entrance to inner Dundrum Bay. The seals feel safe on that side of the water despite the constant sound of firing from the camp behind them. Only trained killers in uniform are allowed across the channel. And seals prefer the trained killers to the civilians on the Newcastle side, And late on a Saturday night you cn see why
  ballykinlar: anti aircraft stakes

ballykinlar: anti aircraft stakes
Originally uploaded by old_greywolf2000.
The Mournes from the entrance to inner Dundrum Bay. The stakes are left over from WW2 and wer meant to stop enemy troop carrying planes landing on the beach s part of an invasion force. Never tested and most have gone from this magnificent baech. Today the tide was about two kilometres out. Behind us was the rattle of small arms fire from the army camp where Huttonian was once stationed
I had a dream. It was Newcastle. It was a summer weekend. The town was recovering from a night of drinking, mindless gaming in the arcades, equally mindless hooliganism on the post modern promenade. Early dogs avoiding late vomit. But at our end, the harbour community, all was clean after a blameless night of sea watching, moderate Guinness quaffing and strolling around the boats moored between the two piers. No vomit. No dogs.

Late dawn: the sun is up and warm; the tide is in; the sea is glassy smooth-not even a gentle zephyr. The sky is light blue and nary a cloud. The Guardian fresh from Near Buy is unruffled and unfolded. Awaiting attention. There are no stories about footballers health problems to skip swiftly The tea is brewing in a silent kitchen. House guests still snoozing quietly. Oh if only twas true.

It is.
Friday, June 02, 2006
Summer is a icumen in.

Although we fo not suffer the same heat as London nor its pollution it is really warm by Norn Iron standards. On the Golf Course (my only mention) I had to remove my RCD-strike-terror-into-other golfers-sweater-with- posh -badge and play in short sleeves. Others were more liberated with their shorts and no socks (against the rules as laid down by the Golfing Fathers-'Dress Code for Gentlemen Golfers although not so serious as tucking trousers into socks or bicycle clips or wearing logoed T-Shirts) and worse shorts and no shirt-a crime against humanity. But it is that time of the year again. And in Newcastle come June there is no difference between week day and week end congestion. To do day the heat is too strong for the trippers reading their papers in the discomfort of their own ovens-so it is out of the car, off with the shirt, a large cone and read the paper in some shady nook. If the light wind dies we will have cases of heat exhaustion, drink dependency, ice cream running out and most novel of all people sitting en plein air on the pavements sipping liquids a la belle France. There may even be topless swimmers-that occasionally happens elsewhere in the Province and in one case a lightly clad lady had a couple of ASBOs slapped on her.

One for each boob.
Thursday, June 01, 2006
  Glen River

Glen River
Originally uploaded by old_greywolf2000.
This pretty little river tumbles down the side of Slieve Donard to the sea at Newcastle. What you probably can't see in this image are hundreds of slivers of glass from broken bottles-and the area to the other side of the path is a dump of plastic bags, beer bottles and cans, cigarette packets. This is probably as high as some day trippers get on the mountain (200 feet) barbie up, get pissed and stagger down again. Why can't you just stay in your car and read comics like most of the other ASBOs from Belfast? Or find a MacDonalds to litter
  Newcastle Above the Bay

Newcastle Above the Bay
Originally uploaded by old_greywolf2000.
Looking from above Newcastle Harbour northwards across the bay-theRoyal County Down (PBUI) is in the sand dunes to the right of the bay.
  Newcastle Harbour June 06

Newcastle Harbour June 06
Originally uploaded by old_greywolf2000.
The harbour looks its best with the tide fully in. All those boats lie on thick mud when the sea retreats despite recent dredging. This is the harbour from which vast amounts of granite was exported to Liverpool and Manchester in the 19th Century and from where (it is said) the stone for the Albert Memorial was quarried. Now cheaper from China
New (not golf) Balls Please

A bloggee has complained (politely) about the emphasis on golf in recent posts. Well Newcastle is mostly about golf so I am only semi apologetic. But I will refrain from mentioning my round this morning on yet another glorious day-no need to chronicle my two birdies, my failure to lose a ball, my stunning drive on the 2nd and the lack of offensive, irritating and unsympathetic characters to immortalise in purple prose. Huttonian will actually be doing other things as from tomorrow as we have a visit from American in-laws and our middle daughter and American husband. They have been here before and look forward to re-visiting places like Mario’s with his mouth watering steaks, The Harbour Inn with its pool table, Mackens, opposite the Harbour Inn once a strongly ‘Protestant/Unionist drinking establishment but now it offers Irish music I suspect the new ownership digs with a left rather than a right foot. And it also has pool-rather an endangered pastime across the water as more and more pubs abandon their tables to make way for more eating space.

So that takes care of the middle son-in law together with satisfying his twitching needs. The middle daughter may also be similarly satisfied. Strangford Lough is mostly birds not to mention Dundrum Bay and Murlough. His mother is into stately homes and castles. We have lot of them –one at Dundrum built by good King John and knocked about a bit by Oliver Cromwell. Houses and gardens galore: Castle Ward, Mount Stewart, Rowallane. And other excitements: Exploris at Portaferry, Tropical Butterflies at Seaforde, (Why come to Norn Iron to see Tropical Butterflies-Colorado must be stuffed with them?) And of course the towering Mournes, full of good walks and lovely, long, lingering climbs for enjoyable cardiac arrests. Where better to be thus arrested than on top of Slieve Binion or Slieve Donard with its wide vistas south to the Dublin Mountains, North to Belfast, West to Newry, East to Cumbria and other places you don’t really want to visit and having seen them from 850 metres you don’t need to.

How about the American father? What can we offer him to compensate for three weeks away from the US of A ?

Golf. .
Happenings in A small Scottish Community


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