Musings from the Merse
Thursday, November 30, 2006
The saga of the Lord in Waiting may no longer be a big issue in the national press but it still features in the Berwickshire-if only in the letter column where a communication under the heading : 'Congratulations to our resident MSP' is far from congratulatory describing the Laird, 'the ex-fish minister' as 'surely a person well beneath contempt' Page 6 has the gory details.

By the Bewwickshire's usually high standards this is not a memorable edition with front page filled with two non-stories: An English MP suggesting road tolls on all English/Scottish roads at the border but only for traffic heading south. Bit of a non starter and put down to the wishful thinkings of an Essex Man. The Hutton Think Tank have long dropped their idea for a toll road between Hutton and Paxton to raise money for new public benches for foot sore pedestrians on this stretch of road. Dropped because of predictions about lack of traffic and absence of pedestrians. Draw a line and move on.

THe rest of the front page features an article about the latest loony tunes prenouncements by the self styled Regent and Acting Chancellor of the Kingdom of Scotland. Some mothers do have 'em and his was no exception and his latest campaign is to have St Andrews Day turned into a National Holiday throughout the independent Kingdom. The reporter comments that 'in truth that will probably only stretch as far as his own living room' So what? And why report these moronic ramblings. And what makes this non story even less news worthy is that the Scottish Parliament described by R and AC as the 'Vichy Scotland's puppet assembly'has alraedy designated St Andrews Day as a national holiday from next year.

Poor news week? Obviously. We may have to switch our patronage to the Berwick Advertiser-the town paper- until Berwickshire can come up with real news.

Although the East Lammermuir Community Council report on work at the Innerwick Cemetery not yet being completed has a certain promise.

Bloggees will wish to know of a brand new publication: Both Sides of Hadrian's Wall
published by the Lapwing Press -an anthology produced by local poets . About 100 poems by 60 different bards. I modestly refer to page 84 which has an offering from Huttonian which goes as follows:


“Good meeting I thought”
the Chairman

“No-one queried the accounts”
the Treasurer.

“Or mentioned dog poo”
the Secretary

“It’s good to get through the agenda

“and so quickly”

“Oh, by the way”
the Chairman
“Three is a quorum?
Isn’t it?”

The other two

“Until next month then”
the Chairman

And turned the lights

Cognescenti will know that this is nothing to do with the Hutton and Paxton Community Council which packs 'em in audience wise but many community councils not only fail to attract some of their members but no one from the 'public' as well.

Anyhow this anthology is an essential stocking filler at a very modest £6.50. Hurry.

Stocks are dwindling.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006
A message from the Belfast Bloggee worth passing on

You may be slightly amused by a conversation that I had with a helpline type person at o2 to sort out a fault in my mobile 'phone. Although Norn Iron through & through, I do have an exotic birthplace.

o2: Please supply your full name
Me: (full name supplied)
o2: Please supply your full address and postcode
Me: (full address supplied)
o2: Please supply your date of birth
Me: (date of birth supplied)
o2: Please supply your place of birth
Me: Kuala Lumpur


o2: Is that in Belfast?
Me: Er, no.

She said that she would sort out my 'phone anyway.

I just wonder if the call centre was in Malaysia? I had an unsatisfactory conversation with Rail Track rail call centre evidently in Mumbai or Banglore. Hot on cricket and well briefed on English football but could not help with train arrivals in Ber wick upon Tweed-which I had to spell out three times. Sorry Sir, no such place on our data base, cannot be helping.

You know sometimes I feel a bit like that about Berwick myself

For once it will be hard to depart from the Big Smoke without a feeling of relief. It is such a gorgeous day-Autumn at its best that even London looks inviting. The sun certainly has a mood changing effect. Two people on my way back from buying the Grudian, obviously late for the office, scuttling along, eyes down, counting the leaves and avoiding the cracks (for fear of lurking bears) looked up and gave me a beaming smile and a cheery 'Good Morning'. What's their problem would have been my automatic, instinctive and unworthy thought as a seasoned Londoner but to day, no, its the sun.(Or Prosac?- No, down Boy, down. Thats another unworthy thought) GNER could yet ruin it all on what Capital Connect calls the 'Leaf-fall season'. They warn that these right kind of leaves can delay their trainsup to FOUR MINUTES into London Termini. Four minutes late at Kings Cross-that could easily translate into an hour or so on GNER. Although I have to say coming down GNER was early at every station, oftgen slightly held up as the train occupying our platform was hastily shoved out of the way into that siding which still harbours the mail of Christmas 03.
THe image is nothing to do with a nice day in London. It is of the beach at Newcastle. Thanks junior son in law. Apropos of nothing except a certain regret that this is in and of County Down and not on-Tyne. For once GNER can say with truth

that they have the wrong type of Newcastle on track
Tuesday, November 28, 2006
  Storm Warning

Originally uploaded by old_greywolf2000.
AOL is now competing with the BBC Blether Centre to terrify us about
extreme climatic conditions. Apparently Tornados are on their way-this image is one they prepared earlier. This would only be possible in Hutton after an exceptionally high tide
A bloggee asks as follows

I wonder if you were assailed as we were at Paxton House over the weekend by the same odd tale told by one of the raffleticket-selling ladies?

It was an uninvited (and very defensive) explanation of the planned visit to Pax House of some descendants of the slave workers on “the family’s” sugar plantations in the West Indies. She went on to emphasize that the flow of money when the second brother took over the estates was from UK to West Indies to pay off £3000 of debt. The story ignored the huge wealth created for the family before this from the same sugar estates.

We wondered afterwards why we had been picked out for this and assume that it was a message being given to anyone who would listen. Why???? The answer to that came in the News on Saturday evening of Blair’s statement expressing sorrow at Britain’s role in the slave trade.

Do we get the feeling that certain aspirational people are feeling sensitive about the source of their wealth? Or may feel it necessary to attempt to protect their chances of be-ermined glory?

Certainly Huttonian missed this spiel as he went around unguided being familiar with the house and its history but the slaving connection previously eluded me.I wonder if this apology business is not getting a bit out of hand. Am I to bare my chest aboit being a former colonial servant and how about Dorothy Popplegate whose dog crapped on Paxton main street in 1876-she never picked the excreta up nor did she say sorry. Time for her great grandchilden to make amends?

Yes I am still in London. I can apologise for that.
  Speedy GNER

43008 Thackley
Originally uploaded by Thrash Merchant.
I am not sure how Thrash Merchant got this shot. Without risking decapitation and the wrath of the train crew leader. This is just the point that Huttonian is in the middle of an important converstion on his mobile. In the quiet coach of course,
Monday, November 27, 2006
I am really quite jealous of the rich human material that Disgruntled Commuter has available -blogging no chore-especially on what used to be called London Transport. Waiting for Capital Connect ( a name for a bank rather than a rail company surely)I was joined on my bench atg Finsbury Park by a large guy, jeans and boots, paint covered denim jacket, bristly, a couple of tattoos-what my maiden aunt would have called a rough looking type. But what this rural yokel from the sticks of Berwickshire found riveting was the exquisite diamond in his left ear lobe.No cheapie this-Tiffany(Southgate branch) perhaps. I did not enqire nor could I see his other lobe. In B-u-T the populace would have stared, in Hutton passed by on the other side. No notice taken here.

He boarded the Welwyn Garden City CC and his seat was taken by a Hasidic Jew; locks, garb, black Homburg etc as you would expect; no diamond ear decoration that I could see. He was enjoying his lunch pulled deep out of a plastic bag bearing the legend Fast Breakfast All Day. (it was 2.15 pm)

Looked very good. I may have been wrong about the ham but not the bacon.

Would not see that at the No 32 bus stop in Golden Square. Not in a month of Sabbaths
Huttonian is off to the Big Smoke for three days so musings will be from afar if not as distant as Paris. No news from Paxton House so I fear I did not win any of the expensive raffle prizes on offer at the Christmas Fayre. I was looking forward to the luxury hamper or a free visit to the MSP's surgery in Haddington.Apparently two weeks aa a Peer was not on offer.

Next time perhps
Sunday, November 26, 2006
Ordeal by Traffic? A solution

Huttonian has exercised something of a self denying ordinance on local planning matters as some people felt that membership of a council even at the lowest tier of local government should inhibit comment about matters discussed at the council which came to him in that privileged capacity. It was a bit of a non point as all council business is public and most if not all documents considered by the council were a matter of public record.

Huttonian can now abandon such inhibition thanks to a new website


which puts on public record not only all applications for planning but all ther comments made about the applications not only by official bodies such as the Hutton and Paxton Community Council (PBUI) but by Joe Public who may are may not be effected by the application. The link above (cut and paste into your browser if it is not seen as a 'hot' link) is all about a Fishwick Farmer who wishes to build a new road across part of his land to bypass a dangerous corner and a section of busy road pro bono publico ie in plain English to do a service for the local community. OK so far? But he needs to pay for the road out of his own money as this new stretch of tarmac will not be funded by the Scottish Borders Council. Still with me? Now, as it happens the proposed new road will run across the said Farmer's field thus making the portion of the field cut off from the rest difficult to farm and therefore suitable, yes you have guessed it, for development. Development equals housing and his application is for 6 dwellings. Outline planning permission at this stage.

I earnestly suggest you take the time to read the whole correspondence to unravel what theTory(Scottish Borders) Councillor for these parts might call the conundrum. You could then ask yourselves the following questions;

(a) Is a new stretch of road really necessary and is the traffic really that bad(read what the Community Council says about this)Consider also from Huttonians own observations that the vehicle movements around the 'dangerous' corner are unlikely to exceed 20 a day. Dangerous corner? I would put it well down the list of 'dangerous corners' around here. Even with the very faint chance of meeting a car coming the other direction the corner is bordered by a garden with a fence through which it is easy enough to see traffic coming in both directions. How do I know? I have tried it. In two hours (in separate visits) of observation and walking along the entire road to the Tweed (it stops there as otherwise you would get wet-its nota through road. I saw one car moving and it did not go as far as the 'dangerous' stretch

(b) What do the locals want? Our Tory Councillor attaches great importance to this aspect as part of his pragmatic approach. Read their comments bearing in mind that they will be living in an even less traffic zone and their horrific journey all of 100 yards to the main Berwick -Swinton road will be free of all cars except their own. What would you say in their shoes? And Nota Bene-only one respondent mentioned new houses -to be against them. Were they all answering the right question or were they just thinking about the road.

(c) Will the Said Farmer cover his costs, lose money or make a whacking great killing? Assuming at current prices each building plot with outline planning permission goes for something between £120,000 and £150,000 and bearing in mind that the new stretch of road is about 200 yards (look at the plans) you will need to reach your own judgment about this.

(d) If the road is not necessary then the case for this new housing in the country side falls flat.

(e) So is this a genuine road safety measure or a ploy to build housing?

(f) And if it succeeds might other farmers follow suit as away of circumventing the local plan?

You tell me.
Saturday, November 25, 2006
IT Did not Blow and they were not scattered

The terrorists at the BBC Weather Centre were in fine voice yesterday with dire warnings of the 'worst storm of the year' 'a vigorous depression' leading to '75mph winds' 'Super storm on stilts'-just short of a hurricane. And where-Eastern England including the south east and the north east. Technically we are in Scotland but meteorogically speaking we are as north eastern England as you can get and no self respecting storm on stilts is going to stop at the Chain Bridge and its Welcome to Scotland sign: 'er, sorry, oops this is Scotland, hush ye winds, still ye waters etc'

So we went into hurricane mode encouraged by helpful advice in large red letters linked to the BBC Weather Warning page-cars away from trees-parked leeward behind the house, shutters closed to stop fragmented glass carpeting the west facing bedrooms, garden furniture secured, visiting cat expelled early to go home safely and move into north facing tiny bedroom out of earshot of the banshee howling a south wester makes as it roars through the Ash trees. And out of reach of said Ash trees which if felled in our direction could cause the 'structural damage' the BBC was gleefully prophesising. One possible blessing: having cleared the front lawn/meadow of much of its leaves I reckoned the storm would disperse the rest to our neighbours garden becoming his problem, not mine.

I did note before retiring that there was a certain amount of back peddling going on: the sharp suited one was hedging bets and talking about the storm being at its worst in the south east but, he emphasised, remembering the hurricane that Mr Fish had ignored and never lived down, it could be very nasty almost anywhere. And if you were not blown away you would drown in the floods.

Huttonian had a peaceful night. So did the known world.The Blether centre talked lamely of a depression unexpectedly filling and changed the subject. The leaves on the grass also slumbered gently and I found them where I had left them.

Exactly where I had left them

Detective Inspector X. Home* of Fishwick Special Branch was philosophical about all this as is his wont' Reminds me of the case of the dog who slept through the night' he reminisced,sucking on his favourite pipe' 'But there was no dog' our old retired GP and part time amateur sleuth, well used to helping the police with their enquiries, gently reminded him. '

Precisely my dear Dr Whatson'


* 'Home' as a name in the Borders is prenounced 'hume' If you don't know that you might as well leave the blog immediately. Blog-Ed
Friday, November 24, 2006
  Berwick-Upon-Tweed-Not the 9.44

91125 Berwick-Upon-Tweed
Originally uploaded by Thrash Merchant.
I am indebted to Thrash Merchant for this flickr image of a GNER train crosing the Royal Border Bridge at Berwick-upon-Tweed. It is not today's 0944 to London. How can I be so sure? The 0944 was cancelled. No reason. Drunken driver at Glascow? Could be but not said. The old chestnut of leaves on the line? Plausible. It is Autumn after all. Not known. Just cancelled. Thank goodness I thought to check on line before dumping the wife at the station. Her cheapie ticket was not to be honoured on any other 'service' (oxymoronic surely) despite the cancellation of the only train it was valid for-or perhaps because rather than despite. So we had o get another one for the 1144 (late running inevitably) and no seat reservation apparently possible-and as the 1144 was carrying the 0944 lot a seat may be problematical. I await news on this.

A run in the mill event for Disgruntled Commuter doubtless but, to be fair, rare on GNER. Not like Virgin. They cancel at the drop of the 'Team Leader's'knickers (so I was told by a cognescento) 'Virgin 'he said was the most inappropriate name anyone could think of-as they did.

As the poet Rev. Burns put it:

She was aye a virgin at fourteen,
Highly unusual in Aberdeen
Thursday, November 23, 2006

Laird/Lord in Waiting, revisited

Heard at a recent meeting 'You heard about Johnny becoming a Lord' 'Aye, has it been confirmed yet?' 'Not as far as I know' 'Not a done deal then? Perhaps he has shot the gun' 'Big mistake to count your chickens!'And more in that vein

Indeed the press seem to have become bored with the story and any implications for the 'Cash for Honours' saga. So there may yet be a delay before the order can be placed for the ermine robes, coronet and matching accessories.

The image above is not from Paxton House or even the smaller pad next door. But from the Dauphin's Palace at Versailles which we managed to see as all the other visitors were queueing to get into the Big Hoose-or Palace. The house was sparsely furnished but did contain a couple of four posters-this one may have been Marie Antoinette's. She of the 'Let them eat Cake' fame. But the hungry peasants did for her in the end.
A salutary reminder of what can happen to aristos who get a bit uppity. That's revolutionary France for you-no hurry to seek a milordship once the tumbrils were on their way. Slightly different over here and helping the police with their enquiries does not inevitably lead to the chop; more likely a full spread on pages 23-78 in the Sun (Scottish edition)
Wednesday, November 22, 2006
  Versailles Photo Workshop

Versailles Photo Workshop
Originally uploaded by old_greywolf2000.
It was interesting how the Far Eastern Visitors spent so much time at Versailles photographing each other-see recent post. But I suppose if it takes you an hour or more to queue to get into the palace itself you might as well spend your time productively; ' Thats Lee with his back to the view and thats me photographing Lee with his back to the view. Where? Oh somewhere in France. Lee looks much the same anywhere'
Easy Jet-the Biblical Airline

Back safely in the Merse after a remarkably smooth Easy Jettery-15 minutes early. Noisy flight with so many Geordie families returning from Disneyland. But the children were very quiet.

Termination Three at Roissy Charles de Gaulle also, like NCL, has a silence policy. All flight announcements are by display board which is cunningly concealed behind a large kiosk on the airside departure area. You have to physically check every departure desk until you find your gate or else you run the risk of flying to Luton. Mind you you might get to Nice which would be.

Easy Jet has the irritating habit of no seats being allocated, free for all when you get on the plane. But the earlier you check in determines if you are in category A -the privileged early birds up to D -the laggards. We joined the check in queue at due time-two hours before departure-as instructed-to find the entire population of Tyneside ahead of us. 45 minutes later we were allocated a large D. It made little difference as boarding was initially via buses which went all of 50 yards to the plane. Ds getting on last were the closest to the bus exits and thus best placed to grab thev best seats after a short dash across the tarmac elbowing Disneyland traumatised kids out of the way.

The Good Book says the Last will be First and all that.

That's something that Easy Jets gets right.

Every time
Tuesday, November 21, 2006

The French do many things well but organising a major tourist attraction competently is not one of them The Palace of Versailles being a case in point Mid-November; off season presumably but the place is jam packed with as half a many people as they would expect in July or September. If the British invented the queue the French Took it to a fine art. Queuing for tickets: twenty minutes. Queuing to get into the main Palace: 40 minutes. Queuing for the one easily located loo :don't ask but you can't do all those things and have timer for anything else in normal visitinghours. Incidently from my O and M observations the female WCs have a faster throughput than the Gents. You stand in the same queue and separate at the appropriate moment making sure in my case that I am following a male Japanese rather than a female one. Why the difference in speed of passage I don't know -perhaps Japanese gents are more prolonged at their toilet than the distaff side.

The gardens are free-you need a ticket for everything else. With Ms KB in tow we could not manage the queue for the main palace so contented ourselves with the Dauphin's one. The best bit in here was Marie Antoinette's Bed (or two) (We think but don't know as we could not be bothered to go around with the walkman and ear phones.)

Katy had a good time and took a flight of 110 steps from the Orangerie to the Grand Terrace. I hope the Japanese and Chinese (95% of the visitors at least-came in over 50 buses) had a good time as well. Many of them were more concerned to photograph each other than actually look at anything!
Monday, November 20, 2006

What to do on a wet day in Paris. 'Do' Notre Dame and the Pompidou centre. Full m arks to French enterprise-it was not raining when we went into the Cathedral but it was when we exited.A young man approached and thrust umbrellas thrust into our hands and we 5 Euro into his. There is an idea for post Kirk service (no pun intended) in Hutton. The Ile de La Cite is the site of the oldest part of Paris and a plaque outside the West Door of Notre Dame marks Kilo Zero-the point from where all other parts of France are measured from Paris

The Pompidou Centre is also spectacular-its looks as if the building was never finished and the scaffolding still there. Sadly the view from the top was mostly obscured by driving rain-the Eiffel Tower just visible if you like that kind of thing.

Verb Sap. You would need to have a full day to attempt to get round the centre and its 5 galleries and it is 'forbidden' to photograph the exhibits. I did manage a wall image with its joke in two European languages.

Our return to Saint Germaine en Laye was delayed by the fact that someone had moved the Metro station from which he had emerged three hours before. I had carefully marked it on our Map but when we returned it had vanished. Three enquiries and three conflicting directions (and meaningless pointing) later we found another entrance to Chatelet des Halles. Metro signs are insignificant and look disconcertingly like MacDonalds.

Ah well we can now return to the Merse with some culture under our belts.
Sunday, November 19, 2006

There is no order of chivalry which makes awards for helping out at Birthday Parties for six year olds-mostly boys and not all six-but there should be. Huttonian has just survived Mr P's party which was quite decorous by most standards even if musical tyres ended in a punch up and wrestling match between the two finalists-boys of course-the girls were knocked out (no pun intended) at an early stage. One entertaining game was Pinata-a home made container suspended by string containing lots of goodies is hit in turn by the children with a rolled newspaper until it comes to pieces and the spoils pour out. One image has caught the moment that the Pinata exploded.Not a lengthy proceedings-most six year can demolish a home made Pinata in under ten seconds-even when (inadequately blindfolded) and it was nearer 5 on this occasion.
The theme was cars-hence the cake and the pinata. There was also a mini Grand Prix for home made racing cars constructed by the wife out of cardboard boxes. There was also lots of champagne for the grown ups(mothers-fathers usually stay away until the children are 17) so we all enjoyed ourselves.

As far as I can remember
Saturday, November 18, 2006
  L.'Etang la Ville: Silence!

L.'Etang la Ville Silence
Originally uploaded by old_greywolf2000.
Probably not necessary at the entrance to Hutton
  L'Etang la Ville War Memorial

L'Etang la Ville War Memorial
Originally uploaded by old_greywolf2000.
Not unlike the one in Hutton-but no Christian symbol. And an extra war: Franco Prussian 1870-71
  Toys R Us Dinosaur

Toys R Us Dinosaur
Originally uploaded by DMackey.
This is the kind of suitable toy for a 6 year old we were trying to find in ToysR Us. A bit big for the boot admittedly but it wouild at least not have slipped through the grill. (See post below) Tjhs branch is not in Plaisirs, France but in Times Square, US. Could not have parked there I suppose so no problems with grills. Next time perhaps
French Grills are rubbish-not the meat serving type but those that guard the drains in car parks. Not any old car park but the one in Plaisirs, outside L'Isle de France, and specifically the car park of Toys R Us (apparently untranslatable into French, like Disneyland) (Les Bagatelles sommes nous?)

Tip l'Un. Do not park beside the Grill in Toys R Us.

Having completed an exhausting shop for Mr P (six tomorrow) we rejoined our car. The senior son in law, hands numb from carrying heavyweight packages let the car keys slip from nerveless fingers onto Le Grill; they bounced once and dove from sight into the cavern below.

Tip deuxieme. Fasten your keys into something bulky like a small piano to prevent grill slippage.

Oh Dear. Que Faire? Well, fortunately the grill was removable. But how deep-watery leaves glinted up at us. The nice man from TRU produced a long metal pole. Poking ascertained that the uncovered drain had only 8cms of water. So the SSIL bravely desocked, rolled up his designer jeans and lowered himself into the drain-(actually mostly underneath the car parked beside us) After twenty minutes tramping on thick leaves the keys were finally located and recovered. The nice guy from TRU produced a towel and a bucket of water to allow basic toiletry and personally escorted the SSIL to les toilettes to complete the ablutions.

Tip le trois. If you must lose keys down a grill-go to Les Plaisirs.France. Don't try this at home and don't attempt it at, say, Sir Morrisons. Any help might be grudging and if you are French with no English,

Friday, November 17, 2006
  Friday Market St Germain en Laye

FridayMarket St Germain en Laye
Originally uploaded by old_greywolf2000.
Part of the huge Fromagerie at the street market. Mouth watering is inadequate. Oh for something like this on the Paxton Village Green

Here is an idea for Hutton. This image is taken from a pavement in St Germain en Laye. It indicates to dog owners that a crap depository is available across the road so in there slob. Trouble is you have to cross the road and that is more difficult than in Hutton. More cars along that particular stretch per minute than through Hutton in a year.

So if you are smart and rue wise you walk your chien on the other side of the street.

The image of the dog, tres chic, is very Parisien and would not do for the Merse. A shaggy Borders Collie or a Royal Corgi would be more appropriate. And the message would need to be more explicit-the animal could be depicted carying a wee plastic bag in its mouth, full of doings and even the dimmest dog owner would get the picture (no pun intended)
Newcastle International Airport or NCL has a silent policy-all flight announcements are confined to screen information except in extremis when they use a Geordie lady in impenetrable dialect distorted by an excess of woofer. Its fine if you are not visually impaired (or plain blind) and have brought your glasses. We obediently followed all screen prompts and boarded with the rest of category C and scrambled for good seats as no seating is 'preallocated' All on time-Well done Easy Jet; Paris here we come. Premature.

The pilot took some satisfaction in informing us that we were cleared for take off-good news; bad news: 8 passengers missing and 'we have no idea where they are'. Be patient. The Geordie lady must have gone ballistic with her appeals for 'the last remaining passengers' to proceed to gate 20 where the plane is itching with impatience, to some effect as they drifted on in ones and twos to sarcastic comments from the captain. He seemed a bit disappointed that he had to announce all present and correct (hoping for a wild night in NCL perhaps?) and we sped into the night.

Previously our wait in the departure lounge was enlivened by a pre recorded tannoy announcement to the effect that there was an emergency somewhere in the airport and to await further information. This was repeated in most known languages, over and over, until some one switched the hysterical female off Not that anyone took any notice. Later it was explained that it was a false fire alarm and inconvenience etc much regretted.

A bad night for the World's quietest airport.
Thursday, November 16, 2006
Today's Berwickshire carries the 'shock announcement' that the MSP for East Lothian, aka the Laird, is standing down at the next election. He feels apparently that it is the time for a change . He is taking up a 'fresh opportunity' but no mention of any elevation to the House of Lords. If you are interested to learn nothing more log on to the Berwickshire or pop out and buy it at the bargain price of 58p.
Wednesday, November 15, 2006

The blog is off to Gay Paree( Gay as in 19th Century speak) to escape the brouhaha of the Peers for Paxton saga-and also to see the grandchildren; so Chain Bridge Bloggee brace your self for more charming images. As above but in a French setting rather than the art nouveau rocking chair, Galashiels variety.
One Lord A Leaping

The Lord Paxton in waiting story is increasing its column inches in the national press-Scottish and English See (thanks to usual bloggee) the following links:





It is now moved well away from son's flats, grandfather's wills, commuting distance from Paxton to a major issue: whether the honours system is being corruptly applied as an inducement for one MSP to stand down and another, an ex-minister- to stand for the vacated seat in what has been a safe New Labour constituency. Presumably the Met will be obliged to investigate an official (SNP) allegation and thus, widening their current cash for peers exercise. So far we only have it from the member for East Lothian that Mr Blair has offered him a seat in the Lords, allegedly in recognition of the good job done in bringing the Scottish Parliament building to fruition. So far silence from No 10 and no further comment from the Lord-in Waiting.

Could someone kindly suggest something else to blog about? WE are used to the usual country stinks here-slurry and all that. Other smells, city and parliamentary variety getting up our nostrils we can do without.

Thankyou very much
Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Originally uploaded by Alan Pacetta.
Well this is Bethlehem , little town of, and the Israeli built Security 'fence' Fence?! It is planned to run for 600 kms 'protecting' Israel from the West Bank aka Palestine. In urban areas this 'fence' is a concrete wall several metres high. Shades of Berlin.

Fancy passing through this from Paxton to Berwick? (see post below)
Huttonian has been commissioned to write a think piece on the state of the Palestine/Israeli Peace Process for a working party set up by the Church of Scotland. Every year the General Assembly of the CofS produces a report on the state of the nation and, less comprehensively, the hot spots elsewhere in the world. Palestine is hotter than most and one could compose a five word comment: ,'Awful, likely to get worse'. But I have been asked to spread myself to 2,500 words.

Looking out of the window across the peaceful Glebe field, to the Whiteadder Gorge and beyond, with the sun blazing down, a slight breeze removing a few more autumnal leaves and Farmer C's cows doing bovine things in the middle distance, it is very hard to conjure up images of the Middle East; daily killings; sullen resentment; hopelessness; fear; widespread destruction.

I suppose one can wander along to the Orchard-our nearest equivalent to Gaza-as far as house density is concerned-imagining low flying Tornados deliberately breaking the sound barrier so as to terrify local people and firing the odd rocket into the Cross; or tanks swarming across Knowe's Close ready to take out 'radicals' holding out in Schoolers Row. Two houses are burning in Merse View. A helicopter circles overhead. Mobs demonstrating on the Village Green hurling rocks at East Lothian's finest and demanding an end to the occupation of the Merse and the immediate withdrawal of the army to south of the Tweed. All the time a huge 'security barrier' snakes its way along the Paxton -Swinton Road with two gates between Paxton and Kelso cutting the good folk of Fishwick off from their bus stop and driving Tweedhill Fisheries and Farmer N's piggery into instant bankruptcy.

My imagination boggles overtime. But some how I am still confronted with a

blank sheet.

I'll have to wait until the 6pm news for real inspiration
Monday, November 13, 2006
Telling Laird from Butter?

It is disappointing
for the reputation of the body politic that the Laird/ Lord-in-Waiting continues to get a bad press: see http://news.scotsman.com/politics.cfm?id=1676302006 even including suggestions that the alleged peerage is not so much a reward for services rendered-the 'iconic' Scottish Parliament for example but a preemptive strike to get him out of the way before he can do more harm to New Labour in Scotland. The worst of the press is in the comments on the article in question.

The Times on line has, coincidentally, an article on cash for peerages with, appended,the following on Lord Paxton ; ( http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,2-2451258,00.html )

Labour MSP who is retiring at next year’s Holyrood election claimed yesterday that he had already been offered a peerage by Tony Blair (Angus Macleod writes).
John Home Robertson, who is standing down as MSP for East Lothian, told The Sunday Times (Scotland) that the offer had been made in recognition of his services on a committee overseeing the completion of the controversial Scottish Parliament building in Edinburgh.

I hope he has factored in a suitable flat in London. Even more expensive than Ould Reekie
Sunday, November 12, 2006

I am very indebted to a bloggee for drawing Huttonian's attention to an article in the Sunday TIMES (Scottish edition) which begins as follows

A new lord of the manor in waiting
The Labour MSP John Home Robertson has been caught up in an expenses scandal, but as he defends himself to Gillian Bowditch, he also lets slip that he has a higher calling

It's 10 o'clock on a Thursday morning and I am in the parliament building when I find myself in uncharted territory. For the first time in 22 years I am about to be thrown out of an interview. My subject, John Home Robertson, the Labour MSP for East Lothian, last week announced that he is to stand down at the election.
He has just revealed that he is destined for the House of Lords. But now he is so incensed with my line of questioning, he wants me to leave immediately.

'I am not happy' he says getting up from his seat. 'I have made a huge mistake in talking to you'. The tension in the room is palpable. It is all the more perplexing because Home Robertson has just given a strong defence of himself. Two weeks ago it was revealed he had claimed about £7,000 a year in expenses to live in a flat bought by his 17-year-old son, Patrick, just days before he became an MSP in 1999. It has given his political enemies, who now call him John Home Improvement, plenty of capital.

This is his first real opportunity to respond

(see rest of story in the on-line edition at http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,2090-2447116_1,00.html

And although lengthy is worth reading in full. And if you might think it is most unusual that someone indicates that he is about to be elevated to a peerage before this is officialy announced. You would be right.

It is.


Once again I am very grateful to a Kuwaiti bloggee for an unusual image which needs to be clicked on to see it in its true glory. Connection with the Merse? Not even tenous although a former member of the Camel Corps does live in Hutton. Forth Homes have denied that the picture was taken in that remaining corner of the Orchard yet unbuilt nor is it from Fishwick. Traffic density there would discourage camels.
Saturday, November 11, 2006

It is astonishing how such an asset as Paxton House, only 6 miles from Berwick and 4 from the A1 is so under used by the great British public. In an hour on a ravishingly attractive Autumn day we saw six other people-half of whom had walked in from Paxton village. There is certainly no need to flog over to Dawcyk to see the autumnal tints and the Tweed below the house is at its most spectacular. The house here is seen from the south -it is usually photographed from the north because of the splendid Palladian front. One great feature of this side is the view across the Tweed to England. A sight to gladden every Scotsman's heart.
  Autumn Colours on the Tweed

Autumn Colours on the Tweed
Originally uploaded by old_greywolf2000.
The Tweed below Paxton House. The river very full and tide going out with the current behind it.

Nature brownish in beak and claw

There is a moment on the patio when suddenly the song birds and sparrows have gone, the Pheasants have scuttled off and the seed, nuts and fatballs are unattended. Rosie the Cat? Boots? No it is the dramatic arrival of Sadist the sparrow hawk.. Today it was unsuccessful in its murderous quest. It knows that the little brown jobs will ofen dart into the woodpile as a refuge and Sadist will now go straight into the woodery in the expectation of a quick breakfast. No luck today and after a bit of frustrated strutting he stormed off to beat the wife a bit.

Apologies for quality of image. Through murky glass onto a murkier patio is not ideal studio conditions
Friday, November 10, 2006
  Sick Alien with visitors

Sick Alien with visitors
Originally uploaded by old_greywolf2000.
Hutton Think Tank is dismayed to hear that the government department whose responsibilties include an Alien Watch is to be closed down. HTT had a nice little earner as a rural outpost of the agency- the deep ravines and wooded cover of the isolated Whiteadder valley was thought to be the ideal materialisation area for visiting aliens and the HTT had several sightings.

Mind you they got a bit discouraged after a sharp note in response to a recent sighting-from the agency concerned which read;

'Thats enough English tourists'

(I am grateful to AOL news for the image of the sick alien who subsequently became a prominent member of the shadow cabinet-after a pioneering face transplant.)

The official version of this development is at http://news.aol.co.uk/britain-wide-open-to-visiting-ufos/article/20061110032109990001
Thursday, November 09, 2006
It was such a glorious day in Embra that I abandoned the habit of a lifetime to cross Princes Street to view at close quarters the mendicant piper. I usually keep at least two lanes of noisy traffic between me and his caterwauling but today, buoyed up by the warm November sunshine and the sight (if not the sound) of the lone piper playing his paunch out,ignored by all and sundry. Even the 4 out of season Japanese tourists and the two Chinese ones with their best selling guide book 'Scotland on Ten Muckles a Day' were like Bad Samaritan, content to pass by on the other side. As I approached he seemed to break in to one of my old favourites: 'The Barren Rocks of Aden' (the approximate version)-that touched a chord (not musically speaking) and, moved by fond memories of lands afar and battles long ago, I fumbled for a coin and flicked it into his gapingly empty violin case (there appears to be nothing similar for the pipes, they are of course a bag in themselves) Only in mid air I realised this was a £2 coin and not the 10p I thought I had selected-still playing and with the sparkling coin still in mid air he had bent down and whisked it into his sporran before I could say ' Oh s**t' No change given, I presume. And as I moved away, poorer, if not wiser, the refrain changed;

'Will ye no come back again?'

Fat chance.
Wednesday, November 08, 2006
Unheard in Ambridge

I used to hear so much about country folk wisdom, wise old saws, the unclouded view of the worm's eye, sage advice given with the background of living in the rural front line that we had quite expected to be overwhelmed with it when moving to it-is -hard-to-be- more-rural-than-this -Hutton. To some extent we were not disappointed.: one villager whom we shall call Jock was free with his history of the locality based on over 40 years living here; our milkman, based in Berwick, a .Geordie Borderer rather than a Scottish one was full of home spun wisdom but mostly with what he would like to do to the English cricket team (that was before last year's Ashes win, I hasten to add) But there was little specific country based philosophy with which I had hoped to spice up Musings from the Merse and put it in to unmistakably rural context. Of course there was a lot of unsolicited comment about Mud, Foot and Mouth, Slurry, Tractors, dangerous chemical sprays, other smells but invariably from temporary country folk, incomers or blow ins as they are called in Norn Iron. Like Us. But where was the wealth of experience gleaned from generations of living on the edge?. 'Red Sky at night-the bonfire's Alight'. That kind of thing.

The man in the brown coat in 'Joes', an obvious countryman working in an urban hardware store in Berwick has however restored my faltering faith in bucolic wisdom. Our outside tap used regularly to freeze in the Merse winter. As regularly thawed and inevitably burst leading to all kind of technical challenges involving the turning off of the mains water half way down Kirk Lane-and the summoning of assistance from Mr R's yard next door. 'You must lag it the pundits insisted and so we did buying and cutting into shape expensive lagging material designed for exterior piping several hundred feet long. We used a tiny part, lost it over the summer and then could not find the remaining 99 metres which we had flung out in August as it was getting in the way every time we took the mower out for a brisk walk. This winter the merry dance started again. I staggered over to the counter at 'Joes' burdened down with lagging stuff.'Whats that for? Asked our eager salesman. 'For Lagging' was my intelligent response. 'Yes but what? 'Our outside tap' 'You don't want that expensive lagging stuff for lagging that' he said, abandoning an easy sale and part of a Christmas bonus. 'What you want is an old tea towel and some discarded bubble wrap. Next please..'

We did. And I bet you have never heard that on the Archers
Tuesday, November 07, 2006
  Paxton House (Illinois)

Paxton House
Originally uploaded by dkastner.
A bloggee fascinated by recent posts asked for an image ofPaxton House, the former seat of the Laird. (Seat as in home not parliamentary seat as in East Lothian) I had to resort to Flickr but clicked on the wrong image. There appear to be at least two Paxton Houses in the US and someone of that name. So apologies. Its anyhow an unusual building and worth a picture in its own right. We don't know if it is the home of the congressman from Illinois. If so he presumably has to rent an apartment in Washington. And may be lucky enough to have a family member there from whom he can rent.
  Paxton House

Originally uploaded by phiton4170.
There you are, dear bloggee the real Paxton House-no cheap US imitation this. Now closed to the public until Easter 07. The Apple House, main seat of the MSP for East Lothian lies to the right of the West Wing. Scottish Parliament, Embra is 91 minutes to the north
Monday, November 06, 2006
The Laird and his son's flat misadventure (if that is the right word) had a very heavy airing in the Medja over the weekend-many thanks to the usual bloggee for some valuable research: For example Take the Scotsman on Sunday

Invasion of the kimono snatcher


WHAT a week!

John Home Robertson, aka the Pompous Ass, sent round an e-mail insisting he had done nothing wrong by letting a flat from his son for £600 a week. "This is just media froth. The people of Scotland aren't interested. What they care about is what we're doing for social justice, and the cause of equality. PS. Does anyone know a decent butler? My last one quit and I'm buggered if I can find a new one. Experience necessary."

Nota Bene. These are not Huttonian's words- before any high-minded person complains that MFTM is getting after well meaning innocent local citizens. And although Huttonian, perhaps not thecontinuouss toast of Apple House should not have to be put in the position of defending the Laird, he feels bound to point out that Mr Mungo MCKAY may not altogether be sticking to all the facts. It is £600 a month, not per week for the filial flat and I would be surprised if the Member for East Lothian runs to a Butler. As I know to my cost Scottish journalists sometimes don't worry about facts getting in the way a good story-and

this is a good story

So good that it is written up elsewhere in some style. Sunday Herald wades in with
http://www.sundayherald.com/58902 and so does the Daily Record at

Its even crept south of the border to the Grudian Unlimited.

Why is it that our representatives seem to get into the news for all the wrong reasons. People are cynical enough about politicians without the latter having to prove the cynics right. Again and again.

And again.
After the angry sky of Guy Fawkes night and with the BBC Blether people forecasting terrifyingly strong winds it inevitably turned out a glorious Autumn day. So I was not surprised to find the car park at Duns Golf Club (MPBUI) sheltering a number of vehicles and air was aloud with the cries of cheerful golfers anticipating a fun round. Even the Gnarled Old Greenkeeper (GOG) looked less lugubrious than his wont and was down to one pullover and no green body armour. My partner was slightly late and I was worried that we would be held up not only by the cardiac three and the other usual early starters (We are talking 8am here) but by the others massesof would be players swarming all over the car park assembling their remote control trolleys, cocktail cabinets, MP1 players and all the other hi tech equipment necessary for 21st Century golf.

But they had all melted away. The cars were there, the trolleys were standing around reproachfully, unstubbed cigarettes smoldering on the tarmac. But humans gone. They must have all gone inside the club house. Why? A Masonic meting? A few hands of bridge? An epidemic of diarrhoea? We may never know, or care. The result was good: an unhurried round, good golf and an empty club house when we returned for our bacon butty and coffee. Cars still in car park but their owners were still invisible.

The GOG was still there. Finishing his butty, fourth cup of coffee and contemplating his lunch. AS far as he was concerned it was much too nice a day to go out on the course. Nice work.

If you can get it.
Sunday, November 05, 2006
  Angry Sky Guy Fawkes Night Hutton

Angry Sky Guy Fawkes Night Hutton
Originally uploaded by old_greywolf2000.
Guy Fawkes Night. Nary a fire work nor a '£5 for the Guy' But it is early yet. Never mind the rockets and Catherine Wheels .The sky seems right for pyrotechnics. Try photographing a sky like that in the big city. Mind you 5 November is not a big night in Scotland. The SNP at least would have wished Mr Fawkes luck
Saturday, November 04, 2006

Sometimes when (and if) you tire of walking through drying mud in Hutton on a gorgeous day, then it could be off to Duns where there is quite a lot to do even apart from the Golf Course (MPBUI)Away from the unhealthy obsession with Reivers there is, tucked away, high above Duns Castle, the Covenanters Stone where the army of Scottish fundamentalists raised their banner of rebellion in support of Cromwell and against poor Charles 1 in 1639. Quite a canny move as it was clear by that time that the Royalists were not going to win. It appears that there is very little if any written evidence of this event hence the careful inscription relying on oral tradition rather than contemporary bloggers.(Click on image to read)A pity as the Covenanters (aka in England, as Roundheads), unlike the bloodstained murderous Reivers had some moral purpose''right but revolting'is a slightly unfair description in '1066 and All That' The Reivers were 'wrong but never 'romantic' to complete the 1066 and 'a tha'(scottish version) reference to the Royalists.

Apart from the wonderful view of the Merse there is interesting flora, or at least fungi. Poking puff balls to see them smoke may not have the same challenge as a birdie at the first at Duns (MPBUI) but it can while a way a pleasant if otherwise uneventful morning. And there were a lot of puff balls from where this lot came.

Hurry, while stocks last.
Friday, November 03, 2006
It is not often that Huttonian reads good sense in the Berwickshire Letter Columns but this, extracts reproduced below, strikes a chord especially with a self confessed golfing nut

I am sure a great many people on both the Scottish and English sides of the eastern Borders would like to see the economy of the area greatly improved and strengthened.
One way this could be achieved would be if the two countries in Europe with the finest golfing traditions ie Scotland and England,(Oy What about Norn Iron-blogg-ed) were able to co-host the Ryder Cup at some point in time in the future.
This may seem an ambitious prospect but to me the ideal place for such a project is in the area between Coldstream and Berwick-upon-Tweed. Of course there would be many difficulties as there always are with any big project that requires a large amount of investment, however, this scheme would be of great benefit to the area and any drawbacks would be heavily outweighted by the benefits to the local economy and the population living there.
A new championship course straddling the Border would be unique and strategically it would be in one of the best locations in Europe for hosting golf's top team event. I hope the opinions and ideas of the world's top golf course architects would be sought and those in power in terms of both politics and financshoulddl be encouraged to take this idea further.

If you compare this potentialal project with the Channel Tunnel another great scheme that got the go-ahead, I think it compares favourably in terms of investment required, problems to overcome, ability to pay for itself and benefits to the local Border economy.
Just as the Channel Tunnel linked England and France, this new course would bring together Scotland and England so that these two countries could co-host a future Ryder Cup.
If fulfilled this would be a great project bringing together these two great nations and would be one which would really put the eastern Borders well and truly on the map. As for a name, thinknk the Tweed Valley Country Club would be most appropriate.

Hutton Think Tank (Golf and Country Club section) agrees that the project should lie between Coldstream and Berwick and suggests that the course be centred on the existing Paxton House estate with most holes on Scottish side of the Tweed stretching as far as Hutton Hill-there could be a splendid par 5 from the top Hutton Paxton Road to the top of the Whiteadder gorge over the hill. A few holes on the English side opposite Paxton House running up to the Chain Bridge with a dedicated ferry to carry golfers across to the English section, returning via the Chain bridge to a final hole through Tweedhill to Paxton House. Paxton House (Trust) itself would double as a new club house and be extended to include the Apple House-I am sure the present owner would not mind moving to his son's flat in Edinburgh so near to his place of work. And the creation of a golf course (or two) would seal the future of Knowe's Close to the benefit of local people who would find good local employment as caddies, greenkeepers etc. Also local farmers anxious to sell their land (we are assured that profitable farming is dead) could run, chuckling, all the way to the Bank of Scotland.(Nearest one traceable via the Calcutta Call centre)

Objections to the HTT dead letter box.

They will be ignored.

As usual.

Originally uploaded by old_greywolf2000.
I could have taken a shot of our frosty lawn at -1C in Hutton but this image of the Mournes-the long trek to the top of Donard from the south is more striking. And with our Rayburn having failed the temperature in our kitchen and that on the high Mournes is roughly comparable
Thursday, November 02, 2006
  Lauder Golf Club

Lauder Golf Club
Originally uploaded by JohnConnell.
I asked Flickr for images of Duns Golf Course (MPBUI) None. I widened the search to the Borders. And here is the result. One of four only of Lauder Golf Club. The photographer (thankyou John Connell) is faced with a very challenging shot. Or, see post below, it could be his opponents ball. Me, I would declare it unplayable and return to the clubhouse for a bacon butty and a coffee.
  Hutton Puddle jumping

Originally uploaded by erase.
A bloggee asked for an image of mud in Hutton. This is mud, with extra liquid it is near Hutton (just around the corner from the hall) but don't blame the farmers for this one. And it was taken in September. The pensioners probably do not appreciate these conditions but Ms Zoe does.
Despite the intense cold, being starved of golf since returning from Norn Iron I enjoyed (perhaps survived might be better) an early morning round at Duns (MPBUI) To early for the green keepers and indeed for the Cardiac Three who were noisely assembling in the car park as we set off in the bright winter sun. It shone but warmed not.

So with the intense cold and with too much breakfast tea aboard I needed a comfort stop in the thick vegetation to the left of the 15th green. In mid stream, as it were, and peering through the steam I found that I had uncovered small small white dimples. It was a ball, of course, and a good one too-Dunlop 65 no less-now well washed and shiny. I was fortunate to have relieved Mafeking where I did as the ball was completely buried-and was in the middle of a heavy shoeprint. It did not require the deductive powers of a Sherlock Holmes to uncover an unsavoury crime.

Picture the scene. A tense match. All square on the 15th tee. Serious money, 50p, resting on the outcome. Player A hooks his 8 iron to the left of the green-Amazonian stuff - a goner surely. Player B safely on the Green but some distance from the hole. B to show wiling goes into the woods to go through the motions of looking for his opponents ball. Gets in first (Player A perhaps having a bad tempered slash behind a tree) To B's horror there is the ball lying in open ground with a clear view of the green. So one great no 12 hoof, possibly cloven, is raised and brought down with lethal force and the ball is submerged in the soft ground. 'Sorry' he shouts 'Can't see it anywhere' ( now true enough) Player A searches frantically but hopelessly in thick grass but to no avail. B pokes bushes helpfully steering A away from the burial site. 5 Minutes elapse, ball declared lost by A through gritted teeth. Hole conceded.Match probably lost

I hope B slept that night with a clear conscience.

I am sure he did.
Wednesday, November 01, 2006
Sitting by the Sewage Farm

Such is the title of an old Borders Ballad dating from the last century. Such was the phone call Huttonian received at Sparrow burp this morning from an electrician summoned by the wife to fix our electric oven-the vital stand in for Ray Burn when he is off colour which is increasingly frequent. Anyhow the said sparks was lost and needed directions to the Old Manse. I gave him the usual instructions, making sure his car was pointing Huttonwards, Sewage farm on the right: 'Ah 'He said ' You mean the big house behind the Church with the silver car outside?' 'Yes'I said. 'I have just been there an knocked on the front door, but no one in' I explained futility of that when us in kitchen and John Humphries shouting down John Prescott. Next time yank bell (installed 1872)

So he came. Found fault was the inability of Wife to switch oven on in aftermath of previous servicing by grandson (5) who is an inveterate knob fiddler. Call out charge £19.98. (in effect £20 as border sparkies don't carry 2ps for change) 'No tea, I'm fine, next time will yank old fashioned bell pull thus drowning out even Mr H, in full flow, good bye and thankyou' And so the slow country day moved on.

Don't try that at home-in Lunnon anyhow. And expect change from a £100 note. And thanks?
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