Musings from the Merse
Tour de France 2003 - Col de Portes
Could well be Hutton to Paxton via short excursion to Lammermuirs-but they woiuld need to be on the left hand side of the road and beware of farm vehicles. And Pheasants in season.See Post below
BIENVENU Les FROGS
For the first time the Tour de France is going to have Le Grand Depart
( Unofficial Translation: On Your Bike, Mate) in London. This decision has caused much angst in the Hutton Think Tank who, in the spirit of the Auld Alliance (Unoff.Trans. Marriage of convenience) have been working for years to get Le Tour into the Borders. Hutton can offer a lot of advantages as compared with the Big Smoke: (a) no traffic disruption nor need to close roads:( no traffic and empty roads always avoiding Fishwick, of course). No traffic lights or pedestrian cossings to slow down for (b) good transport links to centres of population No 32 Bus, GNER Virgin. (c) Excellent local facilities for spectators: raised pavements for viewing, village halls in Hutton and Paxton, the Kirk for over flow and on the spot funeral management in the event of a fatality, Cross Inn in Paxton. (d)Medical and emergency; GP practice in Chirnside, cottage hospital in Duns and Berwick Infirmary for hopeless cases. Duns fire brigade. Coldstream Police Station-working hours only (e) and the 'killer' this the already existing Tweed Cycleway which has put the Merse on the cyclists map. (f) Add experience of similar events-The Jim Clarke Rally-the Hutton Whiteadder stage in which the village accomodated nearly 100 spectators with nae bother and you can see the strength of the Hutton Think Tank case. Just imagine a stage from Hutton up to the Lammermuirs, mountain stage one, back to the Cheviots, Mountain stage Two and a good supper in the Blue Bell Inn south of Coldstream.
Next year perhaps.
CREATING A SENSE OF PLACEArdent bloggees
will remember a wee bit of local controversy over Farmer C's plans to turn some of his less productive farming land into bricks and mortar-a potential development aimed, it seemed, at horsey people-folks who kept them, not necessarily looked like them, not of course mutually exclusive. The fruits of his enterprise are now becoming evident as the house agent's blurb puts it in relation to one two acre plot:The location at Fishwick Mains Farm is attractively
situated one mile off the B6461 Berwick to Paxton
road, at the end of a single track country road
(with passing places). The six houses to be built
are positioned off a central tree lined drive. Each
house will benefit from a southerly aspect, with
some of the houses having spectacular views
from the first floor across rolling border
countryside to the Cheviot Hills.
Within a couple of hundred yards, further
spectacular views of the River Tweed and its
valley can be gained and for those who like to
stretch their legs a little, the pretty villages of
Paxton on the Scottish side of the border and
Horncliffe and Norham, with their village pubs, are
not too far away on the English side.
All this can be yours for a sum in the region of £800,000. This is not just for the plot (spell checker suggested blot
)c but includes a house which you, lucky buyer, can build to your own specifications-and at that price it could be quite a place
And what a lot there will be to do when you get there and have assembled your pad;Recreational facilities in the area are superb. Golf
courses can be found close by in Berwick,
Eyemouth, Duns, Coldstream and Kelso, with the
East Lothian courses, including Muirfield, within a
half hourÂs drive. With the River Tweed just a
short walk away from your own front door, salmon
and trout fishing can be taken here or on the
nearby Whiteadder, Blackadder and Teviot
Rivers, or sea fishing from Eyemouth. For
walkers there are many coastal and varied inland
walks to be enjoyed. Fishwick Mains can also
cater for those who enjoy equestrian pursuits with
a number of horses currently stabled there.
Berwick has a number of primary and secondary
schools including the excellent Longridge Towers
Mind you I don't recommend you driving to Muirfield in 30 minutes-East Lothian's finest might put a stop to that. But perhaps a helicopter pad can be added for the convenience of those who fear the traffic through Fishwick and don't want to over exercise their horses.
Oh by the way Savills of Embra: Fishwick Mains, for the moment at any rate, remains in Scotland and not in Northumberland as stated in your glossy brochure. So when you stretch your legs a little dodging the fishermen and their incessant streams of 4x4s on the proposed Fishwick By-pass en route to Paxton and the Cross Inn you don't actually have a border to cross. That convenience should add a quid or two to the £.8 Million you will have to pay to enjoy 'a sense of place' as the Scottish Borders Council insists is the criteria for successful planning application for housing in the countryside. The one building up on the plot already would not look out of place in Sunningdale or Wentworth. But in the Borders with its lush green field, the Cheviots as backdrop and Farmer Cs beef cattle providing noises off........?
We await the plans of the new country house with interest.
And some apprehension
Virgin on the ridiculous
I don't mean to be a Northern (as in North UK-not as in Barnet/Edgware) branch line disgruntled commuter but both GNER and Virgin on the Ber wick to Embra sector are getting more and more erratic. Intent on a bit of pedagoguery with students this morning I GNERed to Waverley. Train allegedly on time until it stopped just before Ber wick and became officially 'late running' -4 minutes late. Despite this, and deciding to miss out Dunbar it was 15 minutes early-not bad on a 42 minute stretch with a 4 minute handicap. As we neared the city outskirts the train Guard or possibly the team leader announced that as we were so early-thankyou for traveling GNER- we would have to wait until a platform was cleared for us (swept with grapeshot, perhaps?)So we stopped as per cue and waited 10 minutes in the very middle of the longest tunnel north of Doncaster affording us no view of the old 19th century sooty walls and frustrating all those cell phone users trying to call bosses,partners,colleagues, mothers and au pairs to tell them that they might yet still be early and to put on the kettle.
Coming back Leisurely Virgin stopped completely some miles the Embra side of Dunbar. After a thoughtful silence the Guard explained that there would be a delay because of speed restrictions on this part of the track for 'current engineering work' Stopped is a fairly drastic speed restriction in my book and it was not clear how were going to make our way through the restricted area in the stationary mode. Eventually we moved off in first gear and were a significantly 'late running' train by Dunbar. The any inconvenience for customers alighting at Dunbar seemed minimal as nobody did but did any crew member spare a thought for those passengers retarded on stops further south hoping to get to Penzance by the end of the week? If so
They kept it to themselves.
I should add that as far as the human eye could see there were no engineers working anywhere near the line north of Dunbar. Being Tuesday they may well either not have come back from a long weekend or had already left for another even longer one.
Another great day for the wife
: the Big Garden Bird Watch
. We usually manage to include our Greater Spotted Woodpecker by starting the one hour bird check when he/she arrives. Brown jobs, common or garden goldfinches, starlings we can get any time but the exotic woodpecker is worth waiting for. Being a bit pushed for time we started our count at 8.55. 9.54 no Woodpecker and off to the Kirk we had to go with a minute of the scrutiny period unused. But on our return from church there she/he was and we had thirty seconds left, so down it went on our list.
We get quite a lot of our feathered acquaintances-bit presumptuous to call them friends as we are only on nodding terms. Our main attraction is the woodpile, loaded with goodies. I had suggested to the wife that we start with our even more exotic visitor: Simon the Sparrowhawk. Good thinking except one sparrowhawk equals no other birds for an hour or so as he lurks in ambush mode at the bottom of the woodpile, no other feathered thing, apart possibly from the big thick Cock Pheasant feels able to take the marauder on. Even Boots the Cat steers clear until the Sparrowhawk has gone on its way. In these circumstances our return to the RSPB would be One Sparrowhawk, called Simon and ,er, that's it.
No more talk of birds, I feel a rush of ennui coming on. So here is a nice seasonal image of our snowdrops. Pretty and don't cost us a fortune in nuts, fatballs,nyjer seeds and not quite stale unfinished loaves. Organic to boot.
How I suffer for the wife''s art.
SAVING THE WORLD IN MORRISONSYou have to start somewhere
So I very carefully took my 'bag for life' in one hand and the metal basket in the other. I selected the organic tomatoes, organic whole meal GM free bread, organic yoghurt, Fair Trade organic coffee and non-organic Hall's menthol throat thingees. Plus an organic, whingeing, liberal Guardian (and a fascist Jade supporting Daily Mail-not for me, the neighbour)
The check out for baskets only was free.I carefully placed my bag for life on top of the plastic bag dispenser so as the young check out hand maiden could see where I was coming from-I then turned my back momentarily to put the basket back onto the returned basket pile. In a flash the hand maiden and pushed my basket to one side and stuffed all the goods into a plastic bag. And gave me a sweet proud smile. The wife would have had the shopping out of the bag in a flash with a few well chosen words of indignation and instruction re global warming and land fill sites. I lack the courage of the true world saver. I thanked her meekly-put the offending bag into the politically correct one, paid the inflated price for the organics and went out to 'have a nice day'.
Out of eyeshot and fearing the wifely wrath to come I transferred the contents of Sir Morrisons earth destroying plastic bag into the wife's made-by-disadvantaged-people- in -a -poor -country Bag for life with a disdainful and earth saving flick of my wrist. I carefully left the plastic bag on the last check out but one for some other timid refusnik to show a bit more backbone. And returned car wards.
Before I proudly showed the wife the PC basket and its organic contents I went to pocket the non-organic menthol sweeties-I wanted to avoid a discussion on the morality of these and why I had not bought the organic version at the Green Shop apart from the fact that they are nothing like so effective-I discovered they were not there. I suspect they were unflicked and are still lurking in the returned plastic bag- a lucky find for some unprincipled shopper: Another Reason for Shopping at Morrisons.
Serve you right the Wife would say. If she knew.
And she will.
When she does
A fierce warning as you approach the 7th green at the Hirsel along a public footpath which crosses the golf course. The golfers are friendly enough it is their balls which bear watching. But apart from straightening your hat and making a quick dash to the comparative safety of the trees there is very little in the way of sensible precautions you can take. Unless the standard of golf has greatly improved since I was a member the safest place may well be the middle of the green.
Hirsel Highland Bull
All the soft heat loving cattle are safely tucked up in their winter quarters. But the hardy Highland coos are a tough breed and sit out the winter (such as it is) Here is the resident Bull at the Hirsel, Seaman he may well be called, braving a tributary of the Tweed which was meant to separate him from the coos. He managed the rapids easily enough, his massive encyclicals swinging beneath him. But having crept up down wind from the unsuspecting females he suddenly lost interest and chewed a cud or two.
Borders Folk are nothing if not generous to a fault
. The wife has been doing a series of talks to local organisations about our charity Cerebral Palsy Africa: < www.cerebralpalsyafrica.org > People will then insist on making a contribution-perhaps £30 from a very small Guild, £100 plus from the University of the Third Age, Eyemouth. But we were staggered to hear from St Andrews Church of Scotland Berwick that their Christmas collection had raised a staggering £500 for the work of CPA. And this on the basis of a 10 minute presentation made by the wife in December during one of their services.
All these acts of kindness (like our local tax accountants giving their services free) are crucial as it is very uphill work in extracting significant sums of money from the donor community-the big trusts, Banks, Business-with-a-conscience, the government organisations who have the big bucks-which we need if we are to make asustainableble impact in Africa. Disabled children are a very long way down the pecking order of recipients of official and private largesse. African governments concentrate on those who are likely to be 'economically active 'amongst their citizens and Donor governments will follow suit. AIDS orphans are politically sexy and anything to do with AIDS is a major magnet for cash. But children with CP,seem to be looked on as a hopeless cause and are treated accordingly except by the odd highly motivated individual who is likely to have a CP child within their family and can organise a support system to meet their child's needs and include other CP children as well. Lucky it is when we can find and work with such people. Its the mothers in Africa that bear the brunt of doing something for their children like these pictured in the Mutendere Clinic in Lusaka where at least there are some services, some trained phyiotherapistssts who ' can make a difference' But too few. However, at least, it is something that CPA can build on and Zambia (see the website) is a priority country.
The website will soon have a facility for channeling contributions to CPA. We will not fail to bring it to bloggees attention when it is functioning. In the meanwhile thankyou and
'Have a Good Day'. (As the mendicant remarked to me as I had passed her by on the Flesh Market steps back of Waverley Street Station, her tin untinkled-I returned and did my bit. And felt, foolishly, better for it)
Burns Supper Duns
I thank the Berwickshire News for this dramatic image of a Burns Supper -the Haggis is being 'addressed' and then put out of its misery for another year. As a Brit Dip I spent many formative hours at Burns Suppers in Foreign Parts. I had to explain to certain senior African Foreign Ministry officials that the molesting of a Haggis was nothing to do with human sacrifice, symbolic or actual. In this particular country the Suppers were banned following a visiting piper getting over intoxicated and being found next morning, naked, and unconscious draped around the national war memorial. He had been overcome with an excess of whatever, possibly the local beer,crawled out for some fresh air and had been robbed of his regalia as he slept. His Pipes, however, were not stolen as the thieves presumably thought they had a modest resale value. I was subsequently told, in no uncertain terms by the officials in question that this was one of those of British cultural traditions they could do without.
NB The lady on the right looks a bit apprehensive. Did she not know what was coming? Or she did and that was what was worrying her. One of these nights the Haggis will fight back.
Me, I am with the Haggis
The Old Manse in Winter
It seems that to the boys from the BBC that the only things that are newsworthy are south of Watford. So much coverage for the snow in the south east and great attempts to magnify Disruption and Chaos where non exists apart from a few slippery pavements, slushy by noon. Quite in the spirit of the BBC Foreign Parts cub reporter who sent a breathless despatch from somewhere East of Suez.' 'Difficult to exaggerate seriousness of situation here. But I will do my best'
No one is interested I am sure but here in the Merse the sun shines, the birds sing, the winds are stilled and the winter warmth permeating the mellow walls of the Old Manse ensure that all five fan heaters are on their lowest settings.
I accept that our good fortune does not apply 250 miles south of the Tweed. But please don't tell us about it. We
are not interested in the small discomforts of southron folk
To Embra to pontificate
but not to pedagogue on this occasion. So my journey to the poshest of posh areas took me up and down Princes Street. Embra buses must be the slowest (if the most frequent) in the known world so I was forced to disembark at the other (non Waverley) end of Princes Street to walk stationwards in time to catch the 1305 Virgin Voyager. It was good to resume acquaintance with the Doyen of the central Embra mendicants. Unlike South East England Scotland was quite balmy and snow free but he was taking no chances and was wearing his wee dog's Shia surplus camouflage jacket as well as his own Captain Scott double hoodie with extra fur. The wee dog seemed ok and its exposed state probably extricated more 50ps than usual from the reluctant pockets of passersbys. They, had, in any case, been driven to the Jenners' side of Princes Street by the unusually early in the season appearance of the Mendicant Piper. He was still warming up with his usual medley of unrecognisable 'tunes' -MacDuff's lament for a lost muckle, with a bit of A Scottish Soldier and the Skye Boat Song leit motif-off key and off message. As I thankfully reached out of earshot I could just hear his signature tune 'The Tourists Are Coming-Aha Aha' Two tourists, Far Eastern, quickened their step, but in the opposite direction so 'Have ye no some spare Yen' for them on this occasion. The MP has a long time to wait until August when his status is raised from' Embarrassing Nuisance' to 'Street THeatre' He may well have an act of two of contortionism up his sleeve (no visual pun intended) -he has a gift of continuing to 'play' (?) whilst at the same time flicking all coins of above 5p value from his voluminous Tam o Shanter gaping on the pavement into his Sporran. The coppers are left on display as an indictment of the meanness of passing mankind I only wish that some kind pipers from the Coldstream Pipe Band could takes him under their wing for a bit of basic instruction and then send him on a British Council sponsored tour of Micronesia with a one way ticket.
Back by Virgin. This time 6 minutes early to Berwick-time for a couple of leisurely smokes and a bacon butty by the Train Team. If they could make up six minutes on every leg of their 27 stop journey to the West Country they could reach Penzance 8 minutes before leaving Embra (This is a Hutton Think Tank calculation)
Dr Who would be proud to ride with them
Our local MSP has a weekly column in the Berwickshire
in which he writes about local issues. This last week he has reminded his readers that every year, as inevitable as hearing the first cuckoo, some one raises the question of altering clocks timing to cope with the problem of dark winter hours and their effect on road accident statistics: He writes, in part Simply altering the clocks of course does nothing to deal with poor conditions due to fog, wet and icy roads nor of course bad driving nor for that matter, lack of road maintenance.
In point of fact accident rates have decreased in recent years. UK figures show that total road casualties were 3% fewer in 2005 than 2004. Of course we should continue to make every reasonable effort to cut the death and injury toll further. Campaigns to do so are very welcome.
In Scotland where the advantage of a change in the clocks would presumably be said to be greatest, road deaths fell by 30% between 1995 and 2005 to the lowest figure in 50 years. Adding killed and seriously injured together, the total fell over the same ten year period by 45% which same percentage drop occurred if you isolate child casualties.
Again comparing 1995 and 2005, casualty figures by mode of transport show, car users were down 16%, pedestrians down 35%, motorcyclists down 11% and pedal cyclists down 41%.
The proposal in the Bill is that in summer, the time will be British Summer Time plus one hour and in the winter it will be Greenwich Mean Time plus one hour. Additional advantages are said to be greater exposure to daylight and thus benefits to people’s health, an increased opportunity for leisure activities together with an extended tourist season that would bring in an estimated £1 billion extra per annum.
The Policy Studies Institute has seemingly come up with this calculation but what methodology has been used to arrive at such a figure is unclear. I personally would say that it is a highly dubious proposition again taking little or no account of such factors as the weather, special anniversaries or events or such mundane things as exchange rates on tourist activity
I recall a certain Lord Archer involving himself in this issue two or three years ago. He bizarrely proposed that Scotland should be free to have a different time zone to England and Wales to take account of our more northerly geography.
Is Lord Archer's idea so bizarre?-a SMT* might well have some advantages although we in Hutton would need to constantly fiddle with our watches when going on on our hunter gathering expeditions to Sir Morrisons and the Green Shop. But easily coped with by having a wristwatch on both wrists, one set to GMT and the other to SMT*.
If you missed a bit of Big Brother in Berwick you could dash across the frontier to Paxton and watch the bit you missed at the Cross; or is it the other way round. Alternatively what about introducing SFT (Scottish Flexible Time) whereby on odd dates (or even ones-why make a fuss?) in months with an r in them you put your clocks back one hour at 6am to get an extra hour in bed and an hours more light for golf at Duns (MPBUI)in the early evening. Complicated and confusing? No Sir, not for an intelligent and prudent nation. I suggest that the 'Mean' of Scottish Mean Time' be replaced by a word less derogatory to the Scots-no stereotypes in this blog; thankyou very much . How about 'Munificent' Blog-
To Embra to pontificate
-GNER going Virgin returning. Once again the Great North Eastern Train was claimed to be on time-indeed Berwick station arrivals and departure boards were jammed with on time trains and one, three minutes early. But despite a self congratulatory announcement to this effect which turned all the travelers out of the snug waiting room to brave the Great North West wind on Platform 2 the train pulled in 4 minutes late. No explanation then or on departure northwards. But I overheard a couple of businessmen speculating on the uncrowded nature of Berwick Station and I gathered that 'Platform Congestion' was once again the reason for a four minute waiting period outside the station-just round the bend and out of sight. I suppose four minutes is about right for a sneaky cig by the Train Crew -not allowed when the train is in motion or at a 'station stop' Any better theories gratefully received.
Coming back the Virgin Train was, yes, 4 minutes early. No platform congestion here. So a well earned gasper in the back of one's hand on the platform behind the fire hydrant (Virgin have a more flexible no smoking policy. Virgin's time keeping record is impressive. Not surprisingly as several extra hours are allowed from, say, Edinburgh to Penzance which is now one of those 'Great Railway Journeys of the World; If you are not in a hurry, bliss.The train ambles on at just faster than walking speed, smoothly; no rocking, no swaying-no problem carrying dry martinis, neither shaken nor stirred. And with so much fat built into the timetable, very rarely late.
As I walked to my car across the bridge the train was still there; snoozing gently and chuntering to itself. The only smoke was rising from half a dozen half concealed cigarettes as the crew enjoyed their well earned break from not smoking on the train. A treat to be repeated at Alnmouth, Morpeth, Newcastle, Chester le Street, Durham, Darlington , York and all stops to Penzance including St Erth, Camborne,Redruth, Truro, St Austell....* 11 hours on a good day-why you could right across Russia in the Trans Siberian express in that time-and smoke on board.
* Thats enough Virgin stops-blog-ed
COCKIE and OLLY REVISITED
I fear the old Cockie and his consort Ollie have gone for good-perhaps wandered onto farmer R's land during a shoot. But in their place we have Cocky Mark II-all bright and gleaming ready to strut at the drop of peanut. The other bird might well be a second Ollie. But I wonder at its gender. It looks like a Hen but on the other hand it could be an immature male not yet awarded his team colours. Certainly Cocky treats it as a rival male and chases him around the wood pile until they both get dizzy. On the other hand we might be missing something. She might be a nubile young virgin ready to have a good flirt but not yet to lie down and think of Scotland.Its a bit early for such goings on and although to drop peanuts is seasonal. The same, in correct Pheasant etiquette may not apply to
Another sign of global warming?
(If any twitcher can confirm Ollie's gender-one way or the other. Many thanks)
Ffion. Pre-sheep period
I am grateful to Ffion's father for his flickr study of the wee girl who is well into her fourth week.
Sleeping like a baby is something of a cliche. But what else can you say about this image.
Do Welsh babies count sheep I hear you ask. I doubt if Ffion has seen one yet but that treat is only delayed. Surely?
Brushwood Hut Paxton House
If you go down to the woods today you won't meet Paxton Ted who is in hibernation. But you could come across this hut above the Tweed in Paxton House grounds. Its purpose is unclear-perhaps it hasn't got one until small boys find it. Forests near Versailles in France have lots of edifices like this. It may of course be an outstation for Fishwick Special Branch who are looking for a quiet traffic free location.
Huttonian deplores repetition
but there are times when banging on, year in, year out, seems indicated. A case inpoint is that passive tense, indecisive, notice about wheelchairs at the top of the path from Paxton House Croquet lawn to the path along the Tweed. Why such a timid approach? And why a misleading one? It is little to do with the gradient of the path which would not be too much of a challenge to the competent wheel chairer. But it is everything to do with the steep flight of steps 50 yards beyond the notice (no way round) and if you survive that there is a further assault course of pole obstructed pathway to shake up your liver and buckle your wheels. I wonder if the Paxton House Trust has cleared this message with its insurers. It does nothing to limits its liability in the event of an accident.
Please, Please Mr Director go for the simple advisory:
THIS PATH IS UNSUITABLE FOR WHEELCHAIRS. STEEP STEPS.
I don't want to have blog about this again
THE LAIRDS ARE GETTING WINDY?
Those of you lucky enough to travel through the Lammermuirs will have noted a great rash of wind farms. Not altogether popular with the locals who protested strongly at a proposal to build a third group of turbines at Fallage Ridge. The Borders Planning highheidyins seemed to agree with the protestors that less was enough. However the Berwickshire under the headline :Lammermuirs set for yet another windfarm
'FURY has erupted at the news that council planners have recommended approval of a 48 turbine windfarm at the heart of a Berwickshire beauty spot.
The recommendation signals a massive U-turn by the planners who initially opposed the windfarm at Fallago Ridge in the Lammermuirs.'
The windfarm plan has since been revised to 48 instead of 60 turbines but objectors protest that it will still be a massive blot on the landscape.
The site is in the middle of an area that Scottish Borders Council previously agreed should be protected but despite this and 700 objectors - including Scottish Natural Heritage - the planners now think it should go ahead.
Protestors claim that if it does the Lammermuirs will become a giant windfarm as there are already turbines at Crystal Rig, Black Hill and nearby Soutra.
Others are in the pipeline at Johnscleugh and Aitkengall in East Lothian.
Another 48 at Fallago will mean the entire area will be spoiled for ever, claim the objectors.
Kate Knight of the Lammermuir Protection Group said: "We are really concerned about the sheer volume of the turbines that are being imposed on the Lammermuirs.
"We feel it it is a special landscape not just for the Borders but for the whole of Scotland as it is one of the few remote wildnernesses in the area.
"This is an area designated as an area of great landscape value (AGLV) and it is really important for the Borders that we maintain these areas.' (the image above is of the site in question)But why the reference to a Laird? you ask.
The Berwickshire account continues:
' The land is owned by the Duke of Roxburghe who is also a shareholder in North British Windpower Ltd who have put forward the application.
'"The Duke is not a poor man and it is not like he really needs the money. We notice that he is not proposing to put them near Floors Castle," said Ms Knight'
The rest of the article concentrates on the pros (and mostly cons) of another 48 turbines and the remark about the Dukely Laird is rather left in the air.(No pun intended) But one wonders if His Grace's involvement with the developers is more to do with a burning desire for green power than an opportunistic vision of turning a grouse moor or two into a nice little earner.
I hope local Lairds are not tempted to follow suit: Turbines on Knowe's Close?
I doubt it-rent you will get but hardly enough to warrant a sufficient quid for your pro quo.
A local remarked in the Cross. 'We get quite enough wind around here without having to farm more'
It is very unusual for the glass to fall so low to 'Storm' . But for some hours it has been very still outside-the odd flurry of snow but no wind. The BBC Weather terrorists were promising us 70mph winds since midnight and we moved to Code Bravo ( B for Blizzard)-transferring our bedroom from the exposed south western corner where strong winds sound like a seamless procession of 747s as the gale rips through the boundary trees, to a snug little 'dressing room' at the north east end of the house, silent and sheltered until the wind shifts north. But it didn't shift as there was no wind at all and we could have dossed down on the garden seat without having our hair ruffled. I fear the BBC are premature rather than plain wrong and the wind will come.
I think we will stay where we are tonight.
No this is not very dramatic but it does represent snow falling at the Old Manse for the first time this Winter. It did not lie long being wet but the BBC Blether centre assures us that more is on the way with tremendous winds gusting to 60/70/80 even 200 miles an hour if you are really as scared as they hope you are. They will be very disappointed if there is not power cuts which will mean that we will not be able to watch their forecasts on the Box and will have to rely on the Hutton Think Tanks Seaweed and Fungi measurements.
(Generally more reliable)
A Quick Plug
Bloggees may wish to be aware of a new Merse based charity :Cerebral Palsy Africa which is one of a very few local organisations working in Africa and I suspect the only one whose focus is children. It is the brain child of the Wife, is supported by a group of Border based trustees and builds on work that she did in Africa during our diplomatic interlude and more recently during our Third Age. A number of local organisations have been very supportive-University of the Third Age (appropriately enough) Guilds-most recently in Coldstream and Berwick, Berwick Rotary and the Berwick Parish Church which adopted CPA as its Christmas Charity.
Have a look at http://www.cerebralpalsyafrica.org.
on the Great North Eastern Railway from Embra the train pulled up just outside Dunbar station. After a moment for silent prayer or contemplation the Guard (against what?) announced that the delay was caused by 'congestion on the platform' Congestion? At Dunbar? Like a traffic jam in Hutton. I consulted my little book of fiction I always carry with me : the GNER timetable with that eye catching title 'Mon-Sun'. No train going south had been due into Dunbar for 55 minutes and nothing going north for an hour ahead or since 45 minutes.Congestion? A huge queue for the Ladies had a 100 yard tailback and out of control?
The train creaked into the station. Slightly late running. I scanned the platform.
It was empty.
And nobody got out.
Swimming Against the Tide
An occasional bloggee looking out of the window at a lovely Scottish morning (although he can see a bit of England from his upstairs loo) and contemplating the next set of storms (disruption to power supplies likely,apparently) sent our way by the BBC Weather Terrorists asks how we can trust the SNP? Shume Mishtake Shurely as Private Eye might say? No Sir/Madam. His argument goes as follows: We can't trust the Weather centre since Mr Fish's famous cock up: the Scottish National Party leader is mostly a fish: Salmond; and his most important side kick (a position taken more seriously and literally in the BNP) is a complete fish: Sturgeon. And look at the Tories-most of their distaff side are old trouts; The Scottish Marxist Socialists: Red Herrings he adds for good measure and rests his case.
I am not altogether convinced by the force of his arguments although they are under study by the Hutton Think Tank-no piscine connection nor pun intended.. I doubt if a SNP revival at the polls will be apparent in the Borders but with the highly complicated voting system some unlikely candidates may slip through the net, as it were. The lurid press coverage of the antics of the Laird and his Embra domestic arrangements has done no favours for a positive view of the Scottish Parliament and some of its denizens but I don't detect much in the way of election fever in these parts nor a serious discussion of the issues. The borders and borderers are so much intertwined with our English neighbours that any kind of formal separation seems daft.
In the meanwhile our bloggee with his slogan 'Keep Fish out of Scotland' might yet have his party pick up a protest vote or two. And if he could add to his manifesto; 'And MacDonalds as well' I might even join his cabinet.
soon to lose its franchise for the East Coast line has been performing well recently-dead on the minute stuff. Today however it was not on is new sparkling form, stopping about a mile out of Waverley Street, Embra.Up to that point it had been a minute or so early and we awaited the usual explanation about ' a platform will shortly be available-'the train before is behind, besides' as the Norn Iron tannoy announcements used to say. But no. It was something to do with the giblets contracted in the cab-I thought I heard. The driver was dealing with the problem and we would be kept 'appraised' Ten minutes the train slowly got under way but then subsided with a shuddering screech. WE feared the worst and 100 cellphones burst into life as the passengers appraised partners, bosses,secretaries, colleagues mistresses, call girls, mothers etc of likely horrific delays. Then with no further explanation the train smoothly smooched into Waverley Street amid another flurry of mobiler corrective activity.
I saw the driver as he left his cab. Clutching a copy of the SUN and not his giblets. He was in a hurry.
Later I remembered the train was due to terminate until Inverness. So why the driver was descending at Embra I have no idea.
I may have been wrong about the giblets.
David Hume tower, Edinburgh University
Edinburgh U iversity although an ancient foundation is swamped with unattractive buildings with in some cases a 1960s Eastern European/Soviet pre-modernist style. THe David Hume Tower is a case in point. Huttonian used to lecture in the lower reaches of this building but is now in more attractive surroundings. Ironically qwqhim, who posted this image on flickr describes the building as the 'nicer-looking of the two blocks in the George Square Campus' Thats rather like saying my pimple is more attractive than your boil.
The original George Square is a very good looking Georgian neighbourhood now overshadowed by these monstrosities.
The Hindleg of a Donkey
rather surprisingly given advancing (or retreating?) years has had his Honorary Fellowship at Embra University renewed for a (rather cautious) further year. At least I think the fellowship has been extended although I have nothing in writing from 'Languages, Literatures and Cultures' which is one of my cover organisations within the Uni. Anyhow I appear in the 2006/7 Academic Year diary so I must exist. Moreover I am about to teach again this coming week-and we have a record number of students registered for Modern Middle East History. Over a 100 and have had to relocate to one of the biggest lecture theatres in the hope that most of those on our books bother to attend the lectures.
Last year the rooms were overheated and it was quite a challenge to keep most of the 'audience' awake after a good lunch-the students had the' good' lunch rather than me. One of my colleagues, fed up with snoozing students, tried the experiment of leaving the room during his lecture to see if anyone noticed. As he had left, and kept on going, he had no idea at the time if his absence had been noted although later one of his students told him a much he had enjoyed such a comprehensive treatment of the subject. I have only had one sleeping person (that I have noticed) who woke up with a jump and left the room abruptly. I subsequently established that he realised, on waking that he was at the wrong lecture.
It will be change to be talking at the young rather than the other round of Unis of the Third Age, Rotary Clubs, Guilds and Most recently a Very well patronised organisation which called itself The Over Sixties Youth Club. This ended with the first raffle I have known at which there were the same number of prizes as participants. It is better than some other groups which ask the guest speaker to judge some competition-best postcard, snapshot, souvenir or handicraft.Here you can only make one friend and countless new enemies which is why they ask a stranger(at the end of the proceedings) to be the Solomon. If you did the judger bit at the beginning you would have to speak to the usual audience of twelve, one glowing with the pride the others glowering with resentment.
At the end of the 'Youth Club' having drunk my tea and pocketed my winnings(Sugared Almonds) I was accosted by a very elderly (even by over sixty youth club standards) lady. ' Were you our speaker?' She asked anxiously. I said I was' 'Will you be coming next week? -Even more anxiously. 'No' I said.
'Ah. I'll be there' She said. No anxiety.
Just eager anticipation.
Part of the painted ceiling Taymouth Castle
A bloggee has suggested that this is the sort of decoration that would enhance the rather austere interior Hutton Village Hall now we no longer have the rather dreary black and white photographic copiesof old masters presented by the late Sir Wiliam Burrell of Hutton Castle in the 1930s.This image is from Taymouth Castle in Perthshire which is being turned into a several star hotel. For other stunning images follow the flickr link of nz willowherb. And for having a nice day enlarge this image and imagine playing Badminton as she looked down you. Nice legs, she hasn't.
Zoe has quite the look of a bar fly about her-a role model for Ffion?
Over Granny's shoulder
Smashed on milk and sleeping it off. Ffion not yet into the hard stuff
Charles Kennedy in the European Parliament
I thank Sameed for this flickr image-the one I referred to in yesterday's post is not available via the electronic Berwickshire. Anyhow Mr K was in the Borders to promote the BBC Scotland TV programme on the tricentenary of the '1707 Treaty of Union' as the Berwickshire describes it. Some of the footage was taken in Berwick where the 'locals refer to themselves as English, Scottish or Berwickers' as the fancy takes them and dependent on their state of sobriety and to whom they are talking. Presumably a significant number are also likely to claim to be Borderers. After all Berwick was the regimental HQ of the Kings Own Scottish Borderers now part of the Royal Regiment of Scotland. A Scottish regiment based in an English garrison town: there's an army of occupation for you. And Berwick Rangers although an 'English' team play in the Scottish league to spare English minnows like Sunderland and Newcastle United too much and too near, competition.
Mr Kennedy's programme has as its title the answer to the ancient conundrum 'How do you recognise a well balanced Scotsman? '
Answer 'He is the one with
a Chip on Both his Shoulders'
(Nice one BBC Scotland)
has a banner headline: DRINK DRIVERS ARE STILL PREPARED TO RISK LIVES with sub heading- a quote from a local copper:'What is most worrying is that a majority of of those caught in the Borders were not borderline cases (no pun intended?) but were well above the limit'
Immediately under the headline is a large image of Charles Kennedy photographed in front of a 'Scotland Welcomes You' -possibly at the Chain Bridge
It is not a wise policy
to mock the terrorists of the BBC Blether Centre. They strike back. Whilst in London they took advantage of our absence-fortunately-to send a mighty, rushing wind (possibly a PT*) which plucked out our skylight cover, bounced it once on the roof breaking a tile and having it fly on into the back 'lawn' Here it gauged out a large crater, just missing Maggie the Mole's wee personal mountain.Had it not been a south wind it might have gone off in the opposite direction taking a chunk out of the car or braining the postie. Miraculously the cover was undamaged and is back snugly in place. Also fortuitously there was no rain in the period from the ufo seting off and the object being discovered where it fell. So I take this to be a Blether Centre warning and not cruel and unusual punishment for lack of appropriate respek
* Personal Tornado
Coming Storm? Again?
No, don't panic bloggees, Huttonian is still eponymously in place but with the BBC weather terrorists again forecasting extreme conditions all over the UK I thought a nice stormy scene taken last winter in Norn Iron might be appropriate. Today's weather warning takes up a whole page of Ceefax and no part of the British Isles is omitted by the doomsters. Tonight the South and West, tomorrow the North and East. Blizzards in tribal Scotland, damaging winds elsewhere. Ferries scuttled or cancelled,trains blown off track, planes grounded, pedestrians advised to stay indoors, Dumfries braced for more flooding.Etc Etc
But in the meanwhile the Weather Centre in the sky has sent us a rainbow to promise the end of the rain. Nice of them. But it actually
has nor rained yet!
A bloggee writes via the e-mail link
"Good Morning, Sir. I was recently reading your blog, and I thought... A very pleasant read which even made me laugh. Many Thanks. A lady from Sweethope. (Much smaller than Hutton)"
Thankyou. It is nice to receive these (fairly infrequent) notes of appreciation. It is also good to know that there actually is a village smaller than Hutton and with such a charming name-so small indeed that it does not feature on my 3 inches to the mile Road Atlas of the UK (Hutton does, prominently). Of course Fishwick is smaller than Hutton but in many ways emotionally bigger because of its horrific traffic problem and its Dangerous Corner. We can only wish that Sweethope, whereever it is (and the bloggee concerned seems to know Hutton, so it could be in the Borders)is spared Fishwick's problems. Mind you if Farmer N gets his way with his new road and the housing development this could be the springboard for a massive expansion of Fishwick, leading, inevitably, in the fullness of time (5 years)to dwarfing its neighbour Hutton as the local metropolis(ignoring Paxton, naturally)
What will that do for the local traffic?
One wonders. Doesn't one?
Huttonian has received this query on another website My GG grandfather was John Edgar at the Hutton Church until about 1855. His grave site is right at the front door. The other note is that some place floating around that area of Scotland is a picture of John Edgar. I have seen a copy of a copy given to my by the gentleman that played the organ at the church at Hutton. The picture was sold in 1934 along with other items from the church by the then rector. Have you ever heard of the picture.
I am presently trying to find two of John and Janet Edgar's
Children that went to Australia.
If anyone can help please let me know via the e-mail link or by commenting.
It's Bloody January again' sang Flanders and Swann in 'The Drop of a Hat'. Swann is a good Borders name so he probably knew all about January in the Merse; bloody it can be. Its not the cold*-its the murk, the mud and the mizzle-dreich in a word. 'Awfu'Dreich' at times. Global Drying is what we all hope for here despite having the lowest rainfall in the UK. But in a bloody January the air is sudden, clothes hanging hopefully on lines are like blotting paper and puddles can swallow you up with a single gulp. And once you are off the sodden track you are in Hippo-potamus country-another song by Swann and co actually glorified mud-plenty here without bothering to go to the Limpopo. The Whiteadder Gorge as seen here is looking much more attractive in this Genetically Modified image than the real thing: great,grey, greasy and all hung around with crab apple trees. And even the Old Manse, mellow and welcoming has a gloomy and sinister look at this time of year-Wuthering Heights on Merse. And of course no one seems to venture out. Hutton is deserted at the best of times-and we do have those but in these dank days the stage set of the Marie Celeste is positively crowded compared to here.
* Effete southern based relis will of course not fail to mention the cold but compared to N13 in mid December this is the Tropics
DOG POO REVISITED (AS IT WERE)
Dog owners and their little plastic bags have generally done a good public service job in Hutton in recent years-particularly since the departure of a temporary resident whose cur growled, snarled uttering menaces-as well as crapped unrestrainedly. Sadly with the onset of 2007 standards have slipped. Huttonian observed and narrowly missed-two large offerings on the pavement of the road leading from the Kirk to down town Hutton. 3.25 pm precisely. An earlier pedestrian was not so lucky-male, I think, with about a number 9 shoe-he had a direct hit and presumably unwittingly spread the message as he proceeded into the hamlet.
New Year Resolution. Use the plastic bags please.
Sanctions may be necessary with close up images of the offensive droppings being posted on the blog. They may help those of an enquiring mind and of good observational powers to identify, if not the owner of the dog, the anal unretentive beast itself.
Anyone in the vicinity of the Kirk/Village Hall yesterday should have a hard look at the soles of the shoes they had on. A good sniff, although helpful
is not really advisable
SAVING THE WORLD IN MORRISONS
The wife who is well into rescuing the planet from its own greed and stupidity-an obsessive recycler, No to GM rain forest; Fair Trade even if it tastes foul, ditto Organics has now carried her campaign into the heart of enemy country as represented here by supermarkets, specifically Sir Morrisons and the Coop. Apart from verbals about the lack of organic stuff(hidden away as if they are objects of shame, rather than of desire) it is the aggressive no more plastic bags at the checkout which is turning heads amongst those lackeys of perverted consumerism: the check out ladies (sex optional-'woman as embracing man' to paraphrase Sir Winston)She not only brings her own cavernous shopping bad (not made from recycled materials but 'night glo' orange stuff) but also elderly (some from the days of Safeways) plastic bags so as she can sweep aside with a muffled snarl the pristine Sir Morrisons' ones. With the foe discomfited the campaign enters a new offensive: removal of plastic wrapping from purchased goods and dumping same with a few well chosen words of explanation at check out. Tills start closing all over the Coop when the wife is on a shopping rampage and is thought to be heading for a stormy exit-one trolley full of goods, the other, discarded wrappings.
Indeed the Coop is thinking of installing a special check out to deal with planet savers favouring direct action:Basket Cases Only
And Sir Ms? What does the young lady on the tannoy announce when when the wife is 'in store'another reason for not shopping in Morrisons'
( it is her fervent wish!)
Remembering the constant Liet Motif
of police car sirens in dodgy N13 it is a pleasure to return to what often seems a crime free Berwickshire. This impression is currently reinforced by the absence of the judicial activities of Sherif Kevin of Duns from this week's Berwickshire News
: no doubt on a well earned break in Aspen, Colorado from where our local builder/roofer/handyman has just returned. If life gets too stressful in the Merse, there is always Aspen, Colarado they remind each other in the Cross Inn.
However a veritable crime wave (they must know that Sherif K is away) has broken out as recorded in 'News in Brief', Page 1. Offside wings and door of a Vauxhall (is nothing sacred?) scratched in Greenlaw; a nearside wing mirror 'knocked off' (no pun surely intended in the sober BN) a Peugeot (Thats better)in Ayton and most horrific of all, a toilet roll set on fire in 'female public toilets' in Duns causing 'minor damage' . The ,I won't pay 20 p for a p' activists fighting back?
We had a similar happening in the UK Mission to the United Nations when I was in New York in the early 1970s. Our Ambassador announcing a small fire in the Ladies in our daily Morning meeting whose discussions were normally limited to more frivolous topics such as sanctions against South Africa, Portuguese colonial atrocities or the possibilty of nuclear holocaust, said that he was reminded of an English town. It was only the visiting Secretary State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, the late revered 14th Earl of Home could come up with the right answer:
I have rather belatedly discovered this item from December on the Paper Shop Blog (http://www.hunnymonster.org.uk/): The BBC News website reports that the SBC Councillor for Duns (previously mentioned here for bizarre letters to the Berwickshire News) has welcomed the plans for 62 additional houses in the town despite 50 objections received by the planners at SBC. Is this a wise move less than 6 months from election day?
In Huttonian's immodest opinion a SBC Councillor for an area very slightly closer to Duns has an erratic rather than bizarre attitude to planning which hardly seems appropriate for a member of the planning committee. He too may be in danger of courting popular displeasure as the elections loom but perhaps he and the hon councillor for Duns are not planning to risk the verdict of the ballot box next time round.
Its a bit of a conundrum
Sorry Chain bridge bloggee but I had to put this one up. Ffion in the unusual state of not sleeping or feeding but alert and very very nearly smiling after not quite a week in N13. Now we are back in the Merse we will miss the moment.
Thankyou Coffee Lover for this inspiring image of a GNER headrest heading (no bad pun intended) north to Ber wick on the 1500 from Kings Cross, So it is back to the museful Merse for Huttonian and the wife in need of rest after three weeks grand parental duties in N13. In fact last night was a doddle as baby Taffy Ffion abandoned the habit of her short life time and went through a whole night with no fuss.
I don't know how many commuting/Transport blogs there are purely about getting to work in London-see http://20six.co.uk/disgruntled for example and follow the links and read the comments. This would be a most unrewarding topic in Berwickshire where you drive to work. Or in a few instances you could take a bus but you would have to drive back. 5 buses on school days go from Hutton to Ber Wick-2 go in the opposite direction and peter out in western Berwickshire with an additional one which goes to the Borders General Hospital and returns almost immediately along the same tortous meandering route with ample time to have two coronaries on the way and only just enough time at the hospital to have a quick slash and to just miss visiting hours completely The two surviving passengers can then have their coronaries on the way back.They at least get value for money for their return tickets.The good thing about the BGH bus is that it will deposit you at the front door. If you drive the main car park is invariably full of cars belonging to staff and dead patients (Its f
ree, so that is ok)The overflow place where there is usually room on the flower beds is about 30 minutes walk from the building and only feasible if you are very very fit and have no business for being there in the first place.
The Hutton/Paxton/Berwick/Hutton Paxton/Berwick(ad nauseam or 4pm which ever is earlier) bus,no 32, will go to and from these termini via Paxton House to allow visits by tourists not wishing to use their own cars. I don't think I have ever seen it used by such a rara avis as a tourist going only to Paxton House.. Perhaps because of the time-tabling which ensures that the time between buses alowing you to explore PH is either 14 minutes or three and a half hours. Particularly irksome in the November to March period when the house is closed and the buses carry on regardless until the winter timetable comes into force in early February.
One of the best days in the High Season to visit PH is Sunday.The Bus Company being well aware of a genuine (and rare) marketing oppurtunity rises to the challenge. More buses on Sunday? Well actually:
Not that the Bus companies mind too much being generously subsidised by the good folk of Northumberland and Berwickshire to maintain a public service (on weekdays) at inconvenient times, on unpopular routes and used by almost no one.The drivers must be bored out of their minds by their own company and by the notice which forbids Mrs Busworthy on Thursdays and every third Monday to distract the poor man by talking to him And because she is of an uncertain age she has a bus pass and does not even have to ask him for a ticket.(Which potential distraction is permitted as you will see if you scrutinise the small print very carefully)
On second thoughts-coronaries and hasty slashes deserve some literary treatment:Bad Hearts and Coroners perhaps?
Hogmanay is off Dear
A sad Scot contemplating a lonely Hogmanay-the castle is lit up but with the celebrations cancelled he might not be.Mind you it will save him a couple of Mickles
Hogmoney** refund vow
HAZEL MOLLISON(writing in the Scotsman)
HOGMANAY street party revellers were today promised their money back after the cancellation of the Capital’s New Year celebrations.
More than 100,000 partygoers were left up to £ 40 out of pocket after the world- famous event was called off as gales of up to 70mph battered the hospital(Capital
shurely hic? blogg ed), it emerged today.
The plug was pulled on the main event after the wind caused two separate accidents* in Princes Street early in the evening.
If you have a view on this or any other subject, let us know.(phone number withheld for security and fiscal reasons)
City chiefs today said they were confident that the cancellation would not damage the reputation of Edinburgh’s celebrations.
They said they were sure visitors would continue to come to the Capital despite the disappointment. The wild Hogmanay weather created havoc across the city, and hundreds of homes in Lothian were among 26,000 across the country left without electricity due to the storms. ScottishPower said it was hoping to reconnect the last 4000 affected homes today.
The Lord Provost of Edinburgh, Lesley Hinds, said calling off the celebrations was a “very difficult decision”.
She said: “The paramount concern in all our minds was for public safety. I hope that people understand the reasons behind our decisions and had a good night anyway. “This is only the second time in festival’s history that any aspect of it has had to be cancelled."I have been asked to announce that 2p refund on all returned empty bottles is not on offer for 'budgetry reasons'
*Accidents involved money being blown out of peoples hands on two seperate occasions-fortunately,being Scotland this was a coin-not a note
** Scotsman's spelling. Perhaps pun intended? People making pigs of themselves?
41/2 Days Ffion
In her 5th day and already in a track suit
It was in the event futile to attempt an early bed on Old Years night in multi ethnic N13. Hogmanay we escaped, vomit was not apparent but the fireworks were-from about 11pm until 1AM -not the odd cracker let off by Nordics in Hutton-in years past-but continous barrage of explosions and crackling rockets turning night into a glaring high noon. Baghdad like at times and so noisy that the odd suicide bomber would have gone unnoticed Mind you with the 70mph winds forecast for Scotland by the terrorists of the BBC blether centre the OLd Manse would have been a noisy place as well. It must have been bad up there as the city centre Hogmanay parties were cancelled in both Glasca and Embra to the great relief of the city workmen detailed to be on glass and vomit duty tomorrow morning-nothing, of course, moving to day.
In the absence of cotton wool-all reserved for baby bottom cleansing-Huttonian made do with wet loo paper (water moistened)as ear plugs. Worked well but became uncomfortable as they dried out and required pencil end gouging to remove same this am. But it is a technique to be recommended in the Merse during forthcoming winter storms of which lots are promised by the meteorologists.
And an added local advantage is that I slept undisturbed through 3 or 4 hours of 4 day old baby refusing to accept that night is for slumber and not lung development. For that relief....