Musings from the Merse
Thursday, May 31, 2007
  Robin Hood

Robin Hood
Originally uploaded by johnmuk
We are deserting Reiver country for Robin Hood territory. Nottingham where much is made of the connections between the outaw and the city whose Sheriff he allegedly used to torment. All together a more pleasing charecter than the average Reiver if legend is to be believed -rather like Old Labour he used to rob the rich and give to the poor whilst the Border Brigands used to steal anything that they could move from anyone they could intimidate regardless of the extent of the victims disposable income.
Thankyou johnmuk for this image. It will save me having to pack the camera
Wednesday, May 30, 2007
Vandals are at the gates.And'won't stop.

According to an article in the New Statesman, reprinted in a recent ‘The Week’ about the science of Quirkology, one demographic group ‘Van Drivers’ are more likely than any one else to ‘push boundaries and break rules’ Now, there is a glimpse of the bleeding obvious I hear you cry. But hold on-its not just van drivers but women van drivers-Cor! Stone the sparrows! (we lack surplus crows around here) A think tank in the US has shown, for example that, sub species 12 c :WVD (not too far removed from WMD, we note in parenthesis) are particularly prone to break the speed limit-96% as opposed to 86% of male VDs. And when approaching a T-junction 99% WVDs fail to stop completely-Men mind you not far behind at 94%.And if they don't they presumably drive into the back of the one WVD immediately in front who did stop. Well, one should not be too surprised: that is standard van driver behaviour and especially White Vans are, er, in the van in this respect.

But Dr Trinkaus, the author of this seminal (no pun intended) study on the distaff driver has found that WVDs, away from the road also behave badly and are more prone than any one else to cheat in the TEN TIMES OR FEWER ITEMS check outs at supermarkets. Of cheats identified stuffing their trolleys with 11 items or more or taking through two loaded with ten each, 80% were WVDs taking a break from causing multiple pileups at the nearest T-junction.

This is a report based on New York research. This side of the pond I suspect that on the one basket or ten items check outs at Sir Morrisons WVDs are well down the list and can on no way compare with HTCs-Heavily Tattooed Caravanners. But they do have gender in common-Male caravanners, generally have less tattoos and better manners. The wimps.

And as for T-junctions-me, I’d prefer to face off a WVD than a HTC in charge of her Kommer Highwaywoman at any time-indicating right, turning left and dumping a Big Mac carton at the same time. As for coming to a complete stop?

Don’t be so silly.

The blog will be braving white vans tomorrow on a trip to southern (well north Midland) parts. Normal service Sunday.

If we are spared.

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Ratter wanted

The wife's wood pile so much prized by the birds is now harbouring two young rats who nick the food from under the brown jobs' beaks and scuttle back into the rain forest. 'Sweet' they may be but they are growing into nasty bog standard vermin at an alarming rate. But how to get rid of them? Rosie the No1 Cat is arthritic and past ratting, Boots, Swedish Fluff and Geordie- (Last two names indicate ownership rather than accurate nomenclature) from neighbouring premises are well honed killing machines but are really more interested in eating birds than rodents but no doubt would have a go taking out a couple of Goldfinches en route. Anyhow the wife has so terrorised them when they do venture onto the back patio that they would take some persuading to come back in an authorised capacity. I may have to borrow an air gun and lurk in the 'summer house' ( More of a Spring Hut)and pot them when they emerge from out of the forest. But the wife wants a clean kill. (Not a wing-shot, a brief prayer and a small axe as coup de grace) Why? Let them suffer I say but then I have to follow orders in such matters. Rubba't Al Bayt-Lord of the House (and by extension wood pile) as the Arabs put it

Any ideas, ideally on a £20 note, gratefully received
Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Scottish Piper At The Black Mount
Originally uploaded by G w Clark
This is borrowed from Flickr -thank you G w Clark. He is not the Princes Street Mendicant although I am concerned by the presence of a wee dog-see previous posts.

As GNER was leaving Waverley Street Station yesterday afternoon I had a glimpse of a piper ( a Major at least) in full regalia in the car park-staring fixedly ahead. Perhaps he could not remember where he had left his car. I did not recognise his tartan-certainly not MacDonald's or indeed Liitle Chef.

He had no pipes. Smoking is now entirely banned throughout the precincts of WSS. Perhaps the same applies to the skirl of the pipes?

Noise Abatement Act (Cap.6 Holyrood 2007)
Or : 'Committing a nuisance in a Public Place. ASB Control Orders.Piper Exclusion Zones (Cap 786. Holyrood 2006)

Or possibly he wasn't a Pipe Major-just the formidable Doorman from the Waverley Hotel. ( A Surrey man I believe-it could have been the Leatherhead plaid)

Yes it's wonderful what you can see from the train!

Oh Fat Pipe Major whom nobody loves
Why do you head for your car in gloves?
Humming a tune, oh Heavens Above
I have forgotten my pipes, I am losing my touch
Why do you head for your car in gloves?
Missing so much and so much?


Contrite apologies to Frances Cornford

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Monday, May 28, 2007
The train now arriving at Platform 1 won't

Train going north stopped abruptly. Guard' Apologies etc..we have stopped outside Dunbar Station (and with great satisfaction) Dunbar Station has only one platform.' I checked timetable (always carried about my person to supplement Guardian) No other train due into Dunbar, north or south for 40 minutes, plus or minus. Train moved into Dunbar Station. Stopped. Passengers got on.

Newly arrived Passenger to veteran passenger (got in at Berwick) 'Why did the train stop outside the station?'

VP 'Because Dunbar has only got one platform.They said'

NAP ''Yes we were on it waiting for the train'

VP. ' What about the other train blocking the platform?'

NAP 'What other train? This is the only one this morning so far'

The other train. Blocking the platform?:

Delete 'Flying Scotsman'

Insert'Flying Dutchman'
He who Pays the Piper-is in a tiny minority

A quick trip to Embra this morning to pass over more specie to the dentist but at least he makes undergoing a filling an enjoyable experience.

En route down Princes Street I checked up on the former mendicant and his wee dog whom I last saw a month ago selling the Big Issue and with no sign of a begging bowl. I thought then what an improved sense of self esteem he must have holding down a job and no longer dependent on hand outs from passers by. Stuff self esteem it appears. Begging brings in the Bucks. So it is out with the bowl. And has also requisitioned the coat he had previously given to the wee dog; the latter had to make do with a tatty blanket.

The Mendicant Piper was apparently having a bad day. On my way West he was desperately trying to prise heavy metal out of a group of Japanese?/ Chinese? tourists all clicking away with their digitals. With this smart push button technology it is possible to shoot with one hand and cover your more sensitive ear with the other-at least you then get 'A Scottish Soldier' mixed with the 'Bonnie Bonnie Banks' abominably murdered in mono rather than stereo. The MP just did not get it-had he stopped at the first wince they would have paid him handsomely out of sheer relief. But he soldiered on with his entire Medley and drove them out of sight or at least out of earshot-across the road just about covers it

When I returned. He had gone. And so had the Beggar and his dog from their pitch outside Jenners exactly opposite. Perhaps they work in cahoots-the piper drives the tourists across the Princes Street to escape the caterwauling of the MP. They then express their relief by topping up the bowl with large denominations(and pat the dog)

Later they meet in the pub and enjoy splitting the proceeds.

So perhaps not such a bad day after all.

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Sunday, May 27, 2007
  Gang of three

Gang of three
Originally uploaded by erase
I am endebted to the junior son-in-law for this study of Misses Zoe and Ffion plus their minder.

Hovercraft on the Tweed Two
Originally uploaded by old_greywolf2000
The Tweed Commissioners keep a very tight rein on activities on tne river. There is no commercial boating (nor indeed pleasure craft) and only the odd rowing boat out with fishermen. It was thus very surprising to witness the launch of a noisesome hovercraft yesterday afternoon from the bank below Paxton House. These were not intrepid explorers intent on emulating Speke or Livingstone in searching for the source of this great waterway but a gang of five (very occasional) 'sailors' who having dithered for 40 minutes over whether of not to put up a tarpaulin covering, another twenty trying to put it up and having suceeded went for all of ten minutes down stream (the source is not that way) and ten minutes back to the safety of shore. And then, sensibly enough headed off to the tea room to supplement their meagre rations.

The natives being friendly they presumably decided to stay but I am not sure if a Tweed Commissioner or two had been around that they would have avoided hostilties. And I saw no Gatling gun aboard.

Unarmed into unchartered waters. Foolish
Saturday, May 26, 2007

Hutton :Angry Sky
Originally uploaded by old_greywolf2000
According to a information board outside the Abbey on Lindisfarne 'Fiery dragons' were seen in the sky the night before the Norsemen attacked the Island and destroyed the old Abbey -in St Cuthberts time. (Some time ago and not covered in the Berwickshire Times)

Here we have fiery dragons over Hutton a couple of nights ago (Images taken 10 minutes apart just before 10pm). Nothing ontoward happened the following day although I did catch a glimpse of the Nordic lady who lives down the road. She did however not sack the church-not that many people may have noticed if she or another wave of Vikings had done so. An assault on the Village Hall? Now, that would have been different.

The other picture is Lindisfarne Abbey. None of the damage can be blamed on the Vikings-just long years of neglect
Friday, May 25, 2007
  Duns Pipe Band

Duns Pipe Band
Originally uploaded by old_greywolf2000
When I saw this image of a grinning piper in the Berwickshire I assumed that the Coldstream Pipe Band had carried off a major trophy. Wrong. It is the Duns lot which have won the Scottish Championships for the first time. And surely who wins in Scotland must also triumph in the world arena? Anyhow may I repeat a request previously made to Coldstream.? Round up the mendicant pipers who are the terror of Princes Street in Embra and teach them how to play. Please, Before my next visit.

Come on Pipe Major Andrew Ainslie. A small step for Duns a massive one for mankind
Non-Nuclear Winter

In the absence of a major vehicle pile up in Fishwick I, as usual, took consolation in the letter columns of the Berwickshire Professor Robb's polemic is in the wake of the SNP victory in the Scottish elections-the party's platform included the doing away with of nuclear power generation in Scotland.

SIR, - Now the die is cast and Scotland has voted overwhelmingly against the building of any new nuclear power stations.
The electorate may not have noticed, but that is what has happened. The terrible, incalculable, risks that nuclear power presents will be reduced and eventually eliminated. No more sleepless nights, waiting for the news of a disaster. No fear for future generations.
Thankfully too, our oil and gas will soon be used up and we shall be able to lead the world in evolving from a carbon based economy to one which will be virtually carbon free. Maybe our economy may shrink a little but, with our stoic approach to wealth and worldly comforts, that will matter not at all.
The wonderful future that awaits us without energy, except that from wind farms, will become an example to the world. No longer shall we indulge ourselves in centrally heated homes; instead we shall rely on the revival of the woollen industry to provide us with warm clothing. The porridge will become our staple diet providing roughage and calories and avoiding the energy wasteful process of feeding beasts for food. We may put on a bit of weight but think of the carbon we shall save by refraining from importing fruits and vegetables that we cannot grow ourselves.Our virtue may be rewarded - we may earn a special Scottish climate, with the gales tamed by the windmills and our bit of the atmosphere carbon free to the stratosphere. There could even be a real tectonic shift. As the windmills respond to the prevailing westerlies, we could at last sever the 410 million year union with England and drift away into the North Sea and attain true independence for ever.
Is this really what we voted for?
Few of those elected explicitly supported meeting the coming energy crisis by replacing our existing nuclear plant and building new plant to meet the needs of future generations. However, in private, I believe there is a growing appreciation, even among those supposedly anti-nuclear, that conventional energy prices will rise rapidly in the next decade, that supplies of oil and gas will be used not only as economic but also as political weapons.
As our conventional coal and nuclear plants reach the ends of their lives and the oil and gas run out, will it be woollies and cold gruel while we whistle for the wind, or, unworthily, health, wealth and comfort supported by our own independent nuclear energy supplies?
Much more important in our daily lives than a referendum on independence would be one on nuclear power.

We in the Old Manse are prepared for a Scottish post nuclear era. The wood burning stove is poised to be multi tasked, an unlimited supply of blankets and fleeces, wind up torches, ditto radio,(and the clever Mr Bayliss is working on a similar mechanism for computers) food storage no problem it being colder outside the fridge than in. So that takes care of the summers.

And of course, we and Mr Salmond share one consolation. If the lights do start going out all over the Merse

WE can import the stuff

From England.
Thursday, May 24, 2007

Traffic jam on the A2
Originally uploaded by Tom Waugh.
This is another mock up by Fishwick Special Branch of the Fishwick Trunk Road to the Tweed should the Bypass not go ahead. Depicted are angry fishermen foiled of their sport by a series of heavy lorries jack knifed just outside the Farmer C Conurbation known as ' Sunningdale on Tweed', The mountain scenery taken from a Swiss scene are purely artistic licence. Now planning permission is forthcoming such scenes are no longer likely

You will note that the road has been notionally updated to an A Road (itis a G one at the moment) to cope with anticipated traffic flows. In this case 'A' is as in 'A been here for yonks.' The usual Borderers claim when arguing with pushy in comers' and '2' as in ' 2 long' -the standard incomers retort.
Black Spot-not Treasure Island

Huttonian refrains from blogging about the Hutton and Paxton Community Council but occasionally intense public interest dictates the occasional policy modification. Last nights proceedings revealed that to one Borders Councillor (hint: big,farmer, James, Tory, conundrum-sorry that's the only clues I can give) Fishwick is apparently a Black Spot. Traffic that is. So a warm welcome for the new bypass being jointly financed by Farmers C and N in the public interest. Some one commented' sotte voce, more voce than sotte-that the only black spots in Fishwick were cowpats left by Farmer C's prize beef cattle. A lady present commented that it was not correct to make fun of Fishwick's travel levels-only that morning a heavy vehicle had gone past her front door. So there.

The post (in an electronic sense) is late to day as we had an 'interruption' to the power for exactly 4 hours. This was to carry out work connected with the supply to the church. So much of the village was turned off. I don't know who was asked at this end if this might cause little local difficulties on a Thursday. Like forcing the Post Office to close on one of the two mornings it officially opens.The power actually was restored within office hours so Scottish Power might feel it has nothing to reproach itself about. True.The juice came on again at 1229. The PO closes at 12-30.

Could not the work have been done on Friday I hear you cry?

Never thought of that. Any inconvenience much regretted.
Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Well done the Paxton House management for having removed the somewhat tentative sign from the top of the path from the Croquet lawn to the Tweed (see many previous posts)-a path which has two flights of steps and is no way suitable for a wheelchair. Disabled access to the river is certainly a problem but the house itself is accessible with a bit of help.

The next excitement at PH will be the visit of the descendants of the slaves from Grenada. Not to demand reparations, one hopes, but to dance and sing.You will be kept posted (no pun intended)


  Speed Bonny Boat

Stena Line HSS
Originally uploaded by cermivelli.
We indulge ourselves on the Stena HSS by upgrading to to a Club class-free drinks, including good wine, free magazines and papers, fruit, biscuits, tea, coffee and at your seat meals-waiter service. But the real perk is the panaramic view from the lounge, but only worthwhile if you manage to get one of the 12 seats in the front row. The supplement includes priority loading and disembarking-ahead of all the lorries a real benefit in the race out of the dock through craptown Stranraer and along the long, narrow, winding road East where one slow Juggernaut can hold you up until the first climbing lane 30 miles away.

But it is the embarking which is traumatic. As soon as you are tightly parked by an HSS Dollybird, blue top, minimal bottom (satorially speaking) there is an ugly rush by the cognescenti, bumping and boring, up the narrow stairs from the boat deck in a mad rush to get one of the 12 front row seats. We managed it yesterday but a very large elderly loveable grand mother type just missed it out.'Oh Dear' she said loudly 'I had set my heart on one of those seats' addressing herself to the very agreeable looking, slightly out of breath, high powered executive who had roared out of his powder blue Range Rover fast enough to get pole position in the middle of the front row. He smiled at her and said 'Tough. Better luck next time' and returned to his Fascist Times.

She turned away sadly and made for a vacant seat a row back. Always the gentleman I very, very nearly offered my seat to her.

But not quite

Tuesday, May 22, 2007
On our way back from Stranraer-a town so very pleasant to leave-I had sight of the first draft of a new publication by the Hutton Think Tank (Myths and Debunking section) 'A Revisionist History of Scotland and Famous Scots' I had only the opportunity for a quick look as the wife was driving and I needed to watch the road but my eye caught a passage from the chapter on the famous Scottish scientist, missionary and explorer: Dr David Livingstone. His famous conversation with Stanley, the tabloid journalist sent out to find him in Equatorial Africa, according to new material was actually as follows

Stanley : Dr Livingstone I presume?

Dr Livingstone: It depends. Who is asking??

The Section on Burns, is also revealing. Especially about his one visit to Coldstream which he is now thought to have described as 'awfu' crappe'. Some previously unpublished poems include 'My Love she has a red red nose' and 'Burning wi' Cuttie Sark'

Availability of the book and date of publication can be checked on www.amazon.com
Monday, May 21, 2007

Our break in Norn Iron is nearly completed and tomorrow we are away from 'Where the Mountains of Mourne Sweep down to the Sea' to where Farmer N's new housing complex creeps down to the Fishwick bypass.

So I leave you with an image of the mountains. Next time we will be back will be for the Walker Cup in early September. It will be interesting to see how the World's best amateur golfers cope with the world's toughest course. In particular the hellish drive from the 11th -a 450 yard par 4 which requires a drive of well over 2220 yards to just reach the fairway over a chasm of heather and with only a small pole to guide you-see top image. And in the meanwhie I will have to content my self with Duns (MPBUI)

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Sunday, May 20, 2007
Bowling down the Aisles

Attending St John's C of I church here in Newcastle always transports me back to my very early youth when I was dragged, with various degrees of unwillingness, by an aunt or two. Sometimes I was riveted especially by the very large muscular Christian, a former rugby international, who crashed his huge hairy hands down onto the side of the Pulpit roaring:' Pause, Brethren, Pause' We did.

I used to fill the idle moment with games of imagination and terror. Sermon cricket being my favourite-scoring runs from a menu of phrases: 'Trespasses' being a four and 'bigotry' (only rarely admitted in those days as being contemplated by'one of us')a soaring six. God, or Lord, I fear, rated a single only and 'Father' a well run couple. I certainly gave the Preacher my full attention, Wickets and some runs were taken by the preacher's hand gestures-pointed finger being run out and a sorrowful shake of his head a turning down of a certain LBW appeal. One preacher prone to a wagging digit as he rammed home his points got the entire visiting Australian side out for a virtual 9 runs.-Shades of Ireland who had that same year actually dismissed the West Indies for 25 at Sion Mills. I kid you not. Look it up in Wisden.

The other source of inspiration were the plaques around the wall commemorating the lives, loves and deaths of mostly the members of Ulster's equivalents of the Border lairds. Notably the Annesley Family who owned Castlewellan (apart from the bit owned by the Rodens) and then bought Newcastle as well. They still own most of it. Most of the Countesses-seemed to be called Priscilla and lived to great ages noted for a life devoted to 'good works' Except one who 'died suddenly' at Cowes. Fell off a yacht one assumes and long before Robert Maxwell.

I often used to imagine, I don't know why at that time, that she had had a very unsatisfactory life-before her sad demise. It was only when I was a randy undergraduate I thought I understood a possible root cause.Her husband, the Earl, who had survived Cowes summed up his epitaph on wife's life with a little quotation, I assumed referring to himself.

Revelations XXII Verse 12

'Behold, I come quickly'

Sad, that.
Saturday, May 19, 2007

I don't know if the full implications have yet sunk in in the fine streets of Hutton and Paxton but Channel Five's purchase of the Neighbour's series-currently on BBC-will deal a huge blow to audience figures-which must be running into the high teens-in our corner of the Merse. For those who don't have digital (78.453% at the last count)Neighbours will only be watchable by peering through some one else's window-one of the 21.something% who will be able to get Channel 5 digitally. Terrestial Channel 5 is just not viewable in vast stretches of the Borders. Another rural deprivation to add to the long list of no mains gas, cable, corner shops (any shop) village schools,post offices, bobbies on bicycles, traffic, buses (Fishwick always excepted)and dog wardens. And of course for many of us in these sparsely populated areas we actually don't have neighbours anyway. So bye bye Neighbours with a capital N

And in the place of the virtual reality of our disappearing soap in Ramsey Street we can look forward to the actual- soon- to- be- upon- us nitty gritty drama of life in the raw: 'Fishwick Bypass' A clumsy title, but needs must.

Hutton Think Tank (Drama section) is working on the first episode in which a sprightly grandmother (Kylie Mynogue) throws herself in front of a large 4wd vehicle full of drunken fishermen in an attempt to save her little granddaughter playing on a dangerous corner. Did she succeed?

Be patient!

Wait for Episode Two.
Friday, May 18, 2007
The Plural of Anus.

Playing in a force 14 wind this afternoon I was pondering on a question that my old Classics Master used to tease us all with : What is the plural of anus? As you will all know the correct answer depends on whether it is a Greek word: anuses or Latin: Anii. I really can't remember which one is right after all this time, but I do recall that we never got far in any discussion of the finner points of Greek or Latin grammar as Mr Lachlan would always get sidetracked. If he replied Anus is Greek, some bright little boy would ask. 'But sir, please sir didn't the Romans have anuses? And then we were off into the more obscure (and more interesting) aspects of classical life usually ending with vivid descriptions of the naughtier graffiti at Pompeii in which the anus played a respectable (by Roman standards) role. Or so he said.

I thought of this as I was caught behind the slowest four (male) golfers I have ever encountered. They were only playing 7 holes (that's about £15 a hole), had cut in in front of me and they were going to get their money's worth despite the wind and the occasional heavy horizontal rain shower. One of the four had a very prissy, short little step-as if he (and this started my train of thought) had something rammed up his singular of anii. This affliction, or obstruction, or insertion or whatever made a slow walker a very, very , very slow walker. Nor had any of them sense of etiquette. Left their trollies in front of the green, chatted whilst they putted, cleared the green at snail like pace. They could easily have waved me through but just could not be bothered.THey left great chasms in the bunkers and lots of partially smoked cigarettes scattered around the tees having, not surprisingly taken about ten minutes to light one in the fierce wind-and then the rain promptly put them out. Good. But very time consuming.

So it was when the last of the quarter reluctantly minced off the last green, making a rather contemptuous flick of his wrist in my general direction as if to say-your turn Grandad, that I remembered the correct plural of Anus.

Conundrums Revisited

In the absence of golf in the high wind today Huttonian returns, virtually, to the Merse having been intrigued by the Berwickshire belatedly devoting some attention to the Borders local elections:

Rather ominously, given local history an article on the newly elected council is headed

Affordable housing will be top of the agenda

The main points of interest in the article are as follows

CONSERVATIVE, Liberal Democrat and aligned independent councillors have joined forces to form the new administration at Scottish Borders Council following the May 3 elections, leaving the six SNP, two Borders Party councillors and one independent to form the opposition.
Voters in Berwickshire seem to have managed to understand the new voting system and super wards that have been created better than other parts of Scotland and there was a relatively low number of spoilt voting papers in the county compared with other parts of the country. However, there is uncertainty as to how these new super wards, each with three councillors, will work.

Scottish Borders Council has 11 wards, 10 have three elected members and one ward has four elected members.The political make-up of the council is: Scottish Conservative and Unionists - 11; Liberal Democrats - 10; SNP - 6; Independent/No Ticket - 5; Borders Party - 2.
All three East Berwickshire ward councillors have roles in the council's new administration - new councillor David Raw has been given the social work portfolio and Jim Fullarton who successfully sought re-election has responsibility for technical services.
Announcing the aligned coalition of Conservatives, Scottish Liberal Democrats and four aligned independent members, Scottish Borders Council described it as "a great deal for the Borders".
Despite the Conservatives being the predominant party they have conceded leadership of the council to former leader, independent councillor David Parker, on the grounds that he has "done a fine job in the last four years and he has experience", plus it was a question of continuity as the council is still working towards the corporate plan drawn up four years ago.
All administration posts, plus other committee appointments will be confirmed when the council holds its first meeting today, Thursday, May 17, and the administration is also expected to put forward its plans for the next few years.
Top of the agenda is expected to be affordable housing and already a task force of councillors which includes East Berwickshire's David Raw, plus Vicky Davidson and Carolyn Riddell-Carre will work with senior officers and registered social landlords to deliver a supply of affordable housing to rent, "Home Stake" shared ownership schemes, and through discounted sale by private developers in each housing market area.
This task force will also explore innovative new models of delivering affordable housing, particularly in rural areas, but first of all the different political parties will have to reach agreement on the level of affordable housing required in the Borders - the Conservatives are looking at a figure of 25% but the Liberal Democrats believe the figure should be nearer 30% to meet demand.
The new administration has also spelt out the foundations of what they hope to achieve in the coming years, for a "bright future for the Borders". As well as increasing affordable housing in the region, they want to see building design standards raised, including renewable requirements.
Sound financial management, minimal Council Tax increases and no increases specifically to pay for the Waverley Line are also high on the agenda, as is protecting rural schools, improved safety on school buses and the spending of up to £100,000 a year on Borders-wide youth projects.
A new tourism strategy for the region, support for local retailers and businesses and exploring innovative partnerships with Borders business is the way forward to improve the economic performance of the region according to the new administration.
On the transport front, investment in road improvements, better safety measures on the region's A roads and the introduction of a taxi bus service in rural areas are promised.
Community priorities are: enforceable road safety measures, particularly around schools; a pilot youth panel to address youth disorder; making the council more accessible and responsive to the community; promotion of community policing in each ward; delivery of more council services through local post offices; production of whole town plans; and development of a sport and culture strategy.
Care and health priorities are to secure long term funding for voluntary bodies to deliver community care services and improve their partnership with NHS Borders.
And on the environment front, renewable energy generations, more wardens to wage a war on dog fouling, an increase in SB Local rapid response repair teams, purchasing more local produce and developing a Borders rural development strategy are the administration's main priority

A great sigh of relief that Councillor Big Jim Conundrum is hived off to 'Technical Services' So a long way from planning, one hopes. As he couldn't get his head around the new voting system I hope that the technical services will not prove to be too technical for some one with an advanced Pooh Complex*

We also hope that new boy David Raw can get a good grip on such issues as social housing. Thank goodness he is not a land owner. I am sure a number of them-and I can think of two or three not a thousand miles from Hutton and Paxton-but rather nearer the latter who will be positively salivating at the prospect of getting around the developmental restrictions imposed by the new Local Plan via offering large tracts of their land for Social Housing and then being able to build over the rest as being no longer viable for agriculture. Social Conscience 3, Vast Profits 25
(Half Time score)

And who will be the Councillor from East Berwickshire detailed off to sit in on the meetings of the H and P Community Council, I hear you cry? We don't know and I think we should be told.

(* Pooh was a bear of very small brain and long words bothered him)
Thursday, May 17, 2007

Seeing Through Percy French

I promised bloggees images of the Percy French statue recently erected at the northern end of the neo-modern prize winning Promenade. He fits in well with the shiny tubular steel fittings elsewhere on the Prom but it is rather disconcerting to finds bits and pieces missing from his anatomy to allow views of the Mournes.

Newcastle is proud of its shiny, yes very, new Promenade. So much so that it has astonishngly avoided vandalism -even by visiting Yobs.
Don Quixote Alliance with Windmills Shock

Its a change to find a letter writer published in the Berwickshireactually in favour of wind farms. Read on:
SIR, - I write in response to the windmill issues featured in last week’s Berwickshire News.
These are made with special reference to the Drone Hill development and the setting up of an action group to oppose that siting. It matters not where prospective windmills are to be positioned the emotive, subjective (and at times ignorant) outcry is underpinned by the latent attitude we all harbour of “please not on our patch - put them in someone else’s back yard”.
Recognising again the controversial nature of the renewable energy debate it is never the less farcical to read exaggerated comments which suggest that the development will “devastate”, “industrialise”, “endanger” and “destroy” the eastern Berwickshire community at large! What are we talking about? Once established these are minimal in terms of disruption and pollution (partly because they operate without eight hourly shift changes necessitating hundreds of workers’ vehicles moving on and off the site). Fear of drivers being distracted is common to all roads at all times and anyone capable of such distraction from the A1 road certainly won’t be looking safely or responsibly at the road on which they are travelling.
I do feel concern, however, for the opening up of routes to the moor for the installation period. Of course this will require a high degree of heavy goods vehicles and plant machinery accessing this side of the county. Having experienced these problems on several occasions whilst living in Cumbria, I know that it passes and the “devastation” and “destruction” is then made good. Sheep and cattle were grazing peacefully alongside the windmills when I drove towards Whitehaven last weekend. The overall scene, to me, was more pleasing that several housing developments presently in progress in east Berwickshire.
Last week’s comments regarding the loss of flora and fauna and ancient hedgerow and trees during these operations had a ‘deja vu’ and amusing effect on me. The Templehall area has already lost ancient hedges and habitats for ladybirds, butterflies, nesting birds and much more with the arrival of property developers and builders, opening up what was a delightful garden, a child’s paradise, with hedges three times my height and full of wildlife. This was at a cost to some but also to the benefit of those who now enjoy the lovely housing development as their home.
Inevitably all change comes at a price. Climate change will be the costliest of our generation even if we do adopt a positive attitude to any effort being made to help. Of course renewables alone are not the answer but we must all “pay” something towards a solution.
Fairwinds, Allanton.

I absolutely agree with some of the points made about the over the top emotive and sometimes plain wrong arguments against wind turbines. Certainly they will hardly do more damage to the local ecosystem than farmers and SBC trimmers with their mechanised scalping of our Berwickshire hedges along the roads too often timed to coincide with birds' nesting seasons. Can't pin that one entirely on the developers. But I wonder where Mr Bell (indeed the name is so familiar)has found the lovely housing developments to which he refers? Fishwick? Not yet. Be patient Mr B. Your day will come. Tioch fhaigh bhur la as Sinn Fein might have it. The Orchard Paxton? Beauty is of course in the eye of the beholder and all minority opinions welcome. Hutton Think Tank (Media, Presentation, Spin and Plain Daft Section) is offering an annual award for the lovliest housing development in East Berwickshire. So hurry Mr B,suggestions; please entries close at dinner time today.

I suppose Mr B is inevitably a fan (no pun intended) of Turbines. Why else would he live in a house called

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

A bloggee has asked for the lyrics of the Mountains of Mourne by Percy French.

1. Oh Mary this London's a wonderful sight
with the people here working by day and by night
They don't sow potatoes nor barley nor wheat
But there's gangs of them digging for gold in the street
At least when I asked them that's what I was told
So Ijust took a hand at this digging for gold
But for all that I found there I might as well be
Where the mountains of mourne sweep down to the sea
2. I believe that when writing a wish you expressed
As to how the fine ladies of London were dressed
Well if you believe me, when asked to a ball
They don't wear a top on their dresses at all
Oh, I've seen them myself, and you couldn't in truth
Say ifthey were bound for a ball or a bath.
Don't be starting them fashions now Mary Macree
Where the mountains of Mourne sweep down to the sea
3. I've seen England's king from the top of a bus
I never knew him, though he means to know us;
And though by the saxon we once were oppressed
Still I cheered-God forgive me- I cheered with the rest
And now that he's visited Erin's green shore
We'll be much better friends than we've heretofore
When we've got all we Want we're as quiet as can be
Where the mountains of Mourne sweep down to the sea
4. You remember young Peter O'Loughlin of course
Well now he is here at the head of the force
I met him today, I was crossing the strand
And he stopped the whole street with one wave of his hand
And there we stood talking of days that are gone
While the whole population of London looked on,
But for all these great powers he's wishful like me
To be back where dark Moume sweeps down to the sea.
5. There's beautiful girls here - Oh, never you mind
With beautiful shapes Nature never designed
And lovely complexions, all roses and cream
But O'Loughlin remarked with regard to the same,
That if at those roses you venture to sip
The colours might all come away on your lip
So I'll wait for the wild rose that's waiting for me
Where the mountains of Mourne sweep down to the sea

(Image of Dark Mourne sweeping down to the sea supplied above)

A critic of the time of Percy French complained that 'Mr French seems to have had a rather low opinion of the typical Irishman's intellect'. Fancy digging for gold in London for goodness sake. And what exaggerated powers the traffic police had etc etc. Taking the Mick-in the old ethnic sense, perhaps. Could not get away with it nowadays. No statue for such politically incorrect lampooning. A fatwa and a knee capping if he was lucky.
Percy French is celebrated on Newcastle’s new promenade.

claims the local paper : The Mourne Observer a rather poor relation to the Berwickshire News

The story continues:

A statue of famous songwriter, artist and entertainer Percy French took its place in the seaside town.Down District Council’s Director of Cultural and Economic Development Ms Sharon O’Connor said NEWCASTLE’S reconstructed promenade welcomed a new resident last week, when a celebration : “Newcastle is immortalised in the famous lyrics penned by Percy French, ‘Where the Mountains of Mourne sweep down to the sea,’ and much of that romantic vision remains to this day.
“As part of the development of Newcastle, we are delighted that, in renewing the promenade, we have also been fortunate to commission this additional piece of public art for the completion of the second phase of the public realm,” she added.

The erection (image to follow when the rain stops) is unusual in that it is of a see through variety whereby you can view the mountains that Mr French 'immortalised' via gaps in hus anatomy.

Mind you the connection between our Percy and Newcastle is fairly tenous. It is not absolutely certain that he ever actually visited 'The Queen of Ireland's seaside resorts'. But the fame of the song has been enough for the Civic highheidyins to milk the alleged connection for all it is worth.

And why not?

(if you have an urge to look at him in glorious colour go to http://www.mourneobserver.com/Percy%20French%20honoured%20on%20Newcastle%20promenade.htm )
Tuesday, May 15, 2007
UFOS in Ulster no horror show sensation

Berwickshire bloggees will not be surprised to hear that the mysterious lights in sky, originally seen by some one out side the Cross Inn in Paxton-looking towards Berwick-upon-Tweed, have now resurfaced (if that is the right word) in Norn Iron. BBC Norn Iron carries this report:

Residents spot strange UFO lights

Amateur footage of the lights was taken
Residents in County Down have raised the possibility of a UFO sighting above the skies of Bangor.
Several callers to BBC Northern Ireland have reported a series of strange orange lights in the night sky.

Air traffic control at Belfast International Airport said it had also received reports about the sightings, including one from the Coastguard.

However, the airport said it had no record of any aircraft in the sky at the time.

The callers said the sightings had been made on Saturday evening.

Clifford Rossbottom from Bangor told the BBC: "There were three orange globes - nearly in a straight line - they were an absolutely fascinating sight.

"I watched them for five minutes, and then very slowly, they just disappeared.

"The only thing I thought it could have been was three high-flying aircraft.

"If that is not the case, then I have no idea, and the only other thing I can think of is in fact that they were UFOs."

This was the main item on the TV news last night with one poor reporter on an all night vigil in case they reappeared again. They didn't and may well be returning Paxton wards.

For a country with a long tradition of sectarian conflict all the commentators seem to have missed the most significant aspect of these sightings-strange in a province where symbolism counts for so much-and especially with a power sharing executive back in Stormont-much to the misgivings of so many hard line Unionists. Sharing power with Sinn Fein: thin edge of the wedge. So why do these lights give some encouragement to Unionist soothsayers? Why are they a glimpse of a more promising future?

Many onlookers disagreed about various aspects of the phenomenon. But they all agreed on one thing. The colour of the strange lights:

Monday, May 14, 2007
  heavy traffic, later at night Fishwick Bypass

heavy traffic, later at night
Originally uploaded by raddaqii.
A mock up by Hutton Think Tank of the sort of heavy traffic we might expect after the Pub(s) close in Paxton in about two years time if the Fishwick By Pass does not go ahead. The building in the back ground is supposed to represent one of Farmer C's modest little mansions so necessary for the economic regeneration of the Berwickshire countryside. Resident geriatrics are excluded from this montage as it is well past their bedtime.

Thank goodness Farmer N has the go ahead for his life saving new road
  The Border: Norn Iron

The Border: Norn Iron
Originally uploaded by old_greywolf2000.
It used to be road blocks, massive speed humps, block houses with one way bullet proof glass and machine guns manned by soldiers in flak jackets. But now on the main artery linking the Republic with the Six Counties of Norn Iron-the Belfast Dublin road, the only sign that you have crossed from the tyrannry of the South to the orange skies of freedom in the north is a slight change in road texture. Confirmation then comes at the first petrol station with prices in Pounds 35% higher than in the Republic. And, in contrast to the good old days the standard of the trunk road dramatically improves the further south you go.
After three golf less days in the Irish Republic it was good to be back on the challenging fairways of the Royal County Down (PBUI). Me, my partner and about 150 visitors from a golfing society in County Kerry. Or they could have been transatlantic visitors-fly in to Shannon Airport, golf Sunday in the West, Monday Newcastle, Tuesday, Portrush, Wednesday: Ballybunnion, Thursday: Killarney, Friday: Portmarnock, Saturday Shannon Airport. A bargain at US$1000. Flights extra.

I don't know how much the RCD charges these golfing tourists for the Championship course. I suspect it works out about £75 a round. This is good value compared to the £125 or so taken off you as a normal visitor if you dare contemplate playing at a weekend. Indeed to play at the weekend is hard given that Saturdays are members only and up to 12 noon on Sunday. Wednesdays is also a no no. You can always play on the number two, Annesley Course, but flying 4,000 miles to Newcastle, to be put at the mercy of horders of bedouin distaff golfers, a hail of grassy divots, ambuscade by misdirected golf blls-or should that be Ms. Directed-not what the average punter will put up with having parted with specie and having come a long way.

And now Monday is officially no play on the No One course to allow the greenkeepers unimpeded access to the links in preparation for the Walker Cup. But they could hardly turn away these guys (no women) who had come so far. So my partner and I snuck on playing the second nine whilst the Yanks went off at the first.

The problem with that ploy was that all the heavy machinery was concentrated on holes 10 to 18. And the greenkeepers were impatient at being interrupted by mere golfers. For my second shot at the 17th I was faced with three light mowers on the green, two heavy mowers on the fairway immediately in front of the green and the bunkers all around were filled with young fit men raking the sand.Behind the green was a further device-perhaps for taking stones out of horses' hooves, or perhaps not. When they saw us approaching the work force very reluctantly stopped work but the machines remained where they were. Quite unnerving as about 20 pairs of eyes watched are every move-a well honed sense of self preservation at work. My partner did not bother them as he was far, wide and handsome (THe Alsatian will find it one day I am sure) As for me-my shot was kept out of the left hand bunker by a carelessly placed rake, shot across the green richocheting off a light mower en route-hit the further device at the back, bounced back onto the green and ended up two and a half feet from the hole.If the massed ranks of green keepers were impressed they concealed their emotions.

Enjoying the rapt attention of the audience I missed the putt.

Bagatelle is really my game,

It seems.
Sunday, May 13, 2007
  Clare Glens: Nick it and drown someone

limerick Clare Glen notice
Originally uploaded by old_greywolf2000.
At a small stretch of river at Clare Glens about 20 miles North East of Limerick. A bit of a dramatic statement given the gentle nature of the stream beside which this piece of equipment stands-a bit of rope with a loop at the end. Mind you it seems to work as the device was safely in its bag

A few images from the Republic: Despite the great success of the Celtic Tiger economy some things never change: Birr a sleepy old town with stunning Georgian architecture used to boast a statue to the Duke of Cumberland -the victor of Culloden and therefore a good thing. After Irish independence-several years after-the locals carefully removed the statue from its pillar. It was too much trouble to put up a heroic Irishman in the Duke's place so contented themselves with a plaque to Robert Emmet instead.But if anyone can think of a suitable candidate to top the pillar let the people of Birr know. Mr Ian Paisley perhaps?

Also unchanging is the Irish election process. Every immovable object is plastered with photos of the candidates: Fianna Fail, Fine Gael, Sinn Fein, Buckley's Sausages, Labour party, New Democrats, Bring Back the Duke of Cumberland, etc
This is visual pollution of the highest order and imho some of the candidates might have been wiser to conceal their images from the wider public. One or two looked positvely shifty, another half witted and a lot of them getting by with considerable assistance from the hard stuff. One or two dolly birds painted to kill and a very attractive young lady whose agent had obviously asked her to put on a pair of spectacles to give herself some gravitas.

Better stick to the phamphlet and the facsimile letter. Or better still stay in your 4wd and let your daughter hand the stuff out.

PS Sorry about Robert Emmet appearing twice. This is an Irish made computer-in Limerick actually-and knows a kindred spirit when it sees one
Saturday, May 12, 2007
Hustings, Irish style.

Man, complete stranger, addressing the wife and her Irish cousin at the Limerick Market. (Apropos of nothing except that there are two weeks to a General Election): Politicians are like bananas-green at first, they quickly become yellow and then you can never find a straight one@

And as an encore: Politicians have three hands: one to the left, one to the right and one sticking out at the back, palm uppermost.

I am sure that would not apply to the Borders?

We drove through mile after mile of posters advertising the various candidates-photos and party allegiances.Perhaps as many as a dozen in half a mile and oftern the same fellow every few hundred yards. And in the middle of nowhere. The more nowhere the more contenders. Its a staggering waste of money given the widespread cynicism over politics generally, and the tendency anyhow, if you vote, to vote for the party you have always favoured.

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Thursday, May 10, 2007
Any Old Iron?

The blog is off with Huttonian to the Republic of Ireland tomorrow for a couple of nights-so any news from the 26 Counties will await our return. In the meanwhile an excitable neighbour has just rushed in to tell us that there were 'hundreds' of veteran cars parked on the sea front just down Bath Lane from our cottage. "Hundreds" were a slight over statement but certainly there were thirty or more on a crumbly outing heading south. I am sure car buffs will be able to identify the three oldies illustrated without difficulty. Too me they are old cars and drafty to boot (no pun intended)

The excitable neighbour asked me ' I suppose you remember driving cars like this when you were younger?' Cheek. I doubt if I can give her more than three years on a bad day. 'Not really' I said 'But I do recall my grandfather showing me some pictures of vehicles like these'

So there.
The Hustings: Post Mortem and Nuff Said

In the absence of startling golf in a Force 8 wind I decided to content myself with the Berwickshire , available in Norn Iron only in its electronic form. Although the nice Mr 'Rain Forest' Lamont's victory was given full coverage there was nothing on the council elections on the website so I still do not know how the three (Independent, Tory and LibDem winners polled-and how badly did Mrs O of the SNP)I have reprinted part of a letter from the former Councillor John Elliot with some interesting comment on the Hustings

SIR, - Views on last week’s Scottish elections were immediately given at a national level. I contribute a view with a more local focus as a happily and newly retired former Independent Scottish Borders Councillor.

I had no problem voting but I say that because I had done my ‘homework’. Introducing multi-member wards requires an attempt to encourage electors to think out beforehand what to do. It is pointless encouraging voters to turn up and write 1, 2, 3 and so on without preparation. That is one problem – how to get voters to prepare themselves! This is clearly something the Liberal Democrats (and Labour) had not foreseen or chose to ignore when foisting this system on Scotland.
I received no election literature from council candidates. I live in a farm cottage so I do not blame the candidates as their canvassing task was impossible (as well as environmentally damaging). Without my local newspaper (but not everyone buys a local newspaper) I would not have had information with which to prepare myself.
Having read the candidates statements I decided to vote tactically and to only use a ‘1’. My tactical vote was an attempt to avoid the Conservatives having two members elected in the ward. I live in a three member ward but was not impressed enough to give anyone a ‘2’ or ‘3’. I fully understand the system and did not want the polling clerk to perhaps query my only filling one box. Since there were six candidates I used 1, 4, 5, 6, 7 and 8 as where there is a gap all higher numbers are ignored. I could equally have used 1, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7.

Turning to the parliamentary votes, the rules of the list system are peculiar in that a party does not have to use its name! This was cleverly exploited by the SNP using ‘Alex Salmond for First Minister’. Because the ordering is alphabetic this took them to the top of the list in many regions. This SNP strategy worked for them – they have gained only 21 constituency seats out of 73 but 26 regional seats out of 56 – but possibly confused some voters.
The success of the SNP strategy, possible subsequent confusion leading to spoilt papers, together with the fact that the processing rules of the Scottish list system favour the larger parties, led to the suppression of smaller party representation in the new Scottish Parliament. Thus the very rules of the Scottish system should be subjected to scrutiny.

Councillor Elliot does not mention Mr Lamont's handout in which he cleverly 'advised' voters how to complete their ballot papers in which he had thoughtfully filled in his name and party in the appropriate columns plus more advice on which local council candidate they should support by name and number # One, naturally. So all that Konfused of Kelso had to do was to palm the slip and follow the instructions to the letter X and Number 1. It worked.

I feel sorry for Mrs O. She really bucked the trend in doing so badly for SNP but of course the Borders is not natural Nationalist territory. However unlike Mr Lamont, and rather similar to the departed Euan Robson she was largely invisible throughout the campaign despite the efforts of her children.

Mind you a lot of fuss has been made of the 140,000 spoiled papers-mostly in the more 'simple' Parliamentary elections. Come on. They were not that complicated and well explained in the case of Hutton by the officials manning the polling station. Some one suggested that the system was not 'Rocket Science' Some iijit of a commentator will always make thus point about anything remotely more difficult than filling in a lottery ticket. I think some one with a Doctorate in Rocket Science might have been the sort of person who would have found the different type of voting for different elections confusing. Their minds would have been on higher things, as it were. And anyhow a lot of them will have been ineligible or unable to vote being detained in

Abu Gharaib (and dreaming of a Nuclear Winter)
Wednesday, May 09, 2007
  Irish Bees are different. Apparently

Irish Bees are different
Originally uploaded by old_greywolf2000.
If you can't beat a rather silly record blame the bees. Especially if they are Irish. Seen near Downpatrick, Norn Iron in a nature information centre.

Dogged Does it. If not quite

I am afraid this is a successive second post about Golf. But that what being in Norn Iron is all about. And actually I would not have done so except for the curious instance of the dog that didn’t bark at all.

Returning on an empty course (well it was 8am) I hit a longish drive on the 15th-straight towards the top of Slieve Donard but fortunately not quite as far. Looking for it in lightish rough and well clear of the imported Gorse bushes I came upon a little heap of 4 very good balls and one of this new fangled brush tees in a posh plastic case. Who on earth could have lost four balls and a tee within 6 inches of each other?

Then I heard a snuffle. It was Ally the dog seeking Alsatian. He was still some distance away with his master, who was in his wellies searching the lake on the adjoining fairway, a good hundred yards distant. So it must have been yer man or his beast who had found the balls and left them in a little pile with the tee to pick up later. But funnily enough they did not seem at all concerned about a stranger being so close to their pirate’s hoard. And then strangest of all they moved off out of sight living me in possession of the treasure trove. It can’t have been theirs all along.Some one, a golfing benefactor, a Leprecaun perhaps, who had long since gone.

Moral dilemma.What to do? Should I take the lot? ‘Finders Keepers’ is the rule on golf courses even if one deplores the systematic search and rescue industrial approach of Ally and his keeper. But somehow taking all 4 balls, even 4 very good balls, seemed somehow wrong. So I took 2 and the posh brush tee (having lost mine on the previous hole) and moved on leaving the remaining two balls for some other lucky person.

I looked back just as I left the 15th green. Exactly where I had been stood Ally. Even from that distance it was clear he had two balls in his mouth. And he was whining. He also seemed

to be looking for something

‘Why’ asked Watson did the dog not bark at all ?

‘His mouth was full,

Said Holmes.

PS The image is nothing to do with the 15th. It is the drive at the 4th on the Annesley Course (MPBUI). Slieve Donard is a good line but if you reach it you are out of bounds.

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Tuesday, May 08, 2007
Golf, the great relaxant

It is wrong to hate. But today I felt something akin to that unworthy emotion when I was stuck behind two very large, very slow moving and very loquacious women golfers. The sun was warm, the rain had stopped,the wind had dropped and the Mournes were beaming benignly. I was moving fast, the course to myself until these two blobs of humanity filled the horizon as I had three holes to play. Chat, chat, chat. Take out the pin, putt, miss, putt again. Put back pin. Think about leaving green. Change mind. Take out pin, practice putt, miss, miss and miss again. Chat, Leave green. Oops forgot trolley was in front of green; retrieve it very very slowly. Stop, chat. Move to next tee.

Repeat process on next two holes. Huttonian fuming and contemplating harrassing fire with five iron. Decide against in interests of honouring peace process and new Ulster assembly. At last they prepare to leave last green. 5 farewell putts, three final exchanges of hot gossip,look over shoulder, see irrascible Huttonian leaning heavily on 5 iron and steaming. Giggle; fat busts quivering with barely suppressed mirth. Unpack trolley on green, find cigarettes, light them using seven matches, and very very very slowly head off to their clubhouse.

Getting into my car one of the mountainous maids greets me like a long lost rich uncle. 'Sorry if we held you up a bit out there....such a lovely day and it seemed such a pity to hurry. I am sure you didn't mind. Being on holiday, and all.'

What could I say? Conventional politenesses. Drive home. Bite lip, bleed slightly

Get out childrens plasticine. Make two blobs. Stick a fork into the larger, apologetic one.

Break Fork.

If you ever want to break your journey between Hutton and Stranraer-and postpone your arrival in that dreary town, let me recommend Kirkcudbright.All those concerned
with Planning in the Scottish Borders should be sent on a visit to this 'Artists Town' to learn how development should be done. This is no geriatric hidey hole so disliked by Farmer C but a vibrant thriving community built around its reputation as the St Ives of the North as one local modestly described it. No urbam sprawl, very few ugly buildings-a pity about the milk factory and the town itself has been lovingly preserved at the initiative of the local people who have a 'sense of place' and a pride in it. (A bit different from Fishwick, one might think) Obviously it is a haven for the well heeled, the galleries offer works of art at West End prices, stinking rich boat people lurk on their huge gin palaces in the Marina but there is plenty of affordable housing, well built and attractive. At a distance from big cities most housing is very good value.And the balance between the tourist and the local has been well struck. Put up an 'Orchard' here a la Paxton it would be torn down over night. Mind you it would never get off the drawing board. And any local farmers looking for a Fishwick type 'development'any where near Kirkcudbright would be hounded out of the Stewartry of Galloway by locals armed with paint brushes and the odd heat seeking missile. So Farmers C and N for your own comfort and safety........

The images above are mostly to do with one of the major 'sights' of the town which
is the former home of the Scottish 'colourist' artist EA Hornel (see portrait) who lived in Broughton House and designed its stunning garden. It is now a National Trust of Scotland property.There is so much to see in Kirkcudbright with its many galleries, good eateries and all set in a very pleasing little town. One oddity which was the statue to commermorate a long ago fishing tragedy. It seemed a bit off key (if not, indeed, off message) from the rest of the town.
Monday, May 07, 2007
I don't know if Stranraer features as one of Britain's 'Crap Towns' It certainly does in the Hutton Think Tank's new production 'Thirty Minutes in Certain Places'

The entry for 'What to do if you have half an hour in Stranraer?' :

Go to Tescos

And if you can squeeze in another 15 minutes?

Go to WH Smiths.

It is inaccurate to describe this place as crap.

It much worse than that

(But hard to avoid if you want to go to Norn Iron by High Speed Ferry.

Which we did and are once again

"Where the Mountains of Mourne Sweep Down to the Sea")

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Friday, May 04, 2007
Developers Hit Back

A bloggee obviously incensed by comments re appropriate development in these columns has e-mailed as follows

I was recently reading your blog, and I thought..this guy and his cronies wants Berwickshire preserved as an idyllic, financially unsustainable, child free, social deprived, geriatric enclave! .The children and young adults in the area can't wait to escape to a real life amongst a living population elsewhere. No doubt they'll return when their own children reach the "tempting years" to keep them out of harms way amidst the bright city lights; inadvertently driving them, through boredom, to underage illegalities and geriatric tauntings and, in due course, away to the city. Meanwhile their parents will stagnate to maintain the pool of social services and health trust dependent clients and vision less nimbys*. Free care in your twilight years is a great plus for Scotland but it does seem to attract an ageing population from outwith our borders, who, once there,seem determined to pull up the drawbridge and promote universal vasectomy for all those who can't, in order to preserve their idyllic peaceful haven. Unfortunately someone somewhere down the line has to pay for it all. Unfortunately to do this there has to be a vibrant living community! Unfortunately there has to be, heaven forbid, people who work! Unfortunately there has to roads and vehicles! Unfortunately there have to be taxes. Fortunately with a few more houses and a bit more economic activity Berwickshire might just manage to be a bit less of a parasite to the Scottish Borders economy. The planners know this, many of the regional councillors know this, as do many of the working population who rely on a vibrant, active countryside for their livelihood. It's time we all got together and worked towards a sensible balance. If you don't want the villages crammed full of houses in every nook and cranny, and you don't want the outlying settlements and farmsteads to be socially sustainable what do you want?

I am sure some others will wish to rush to agree. Hint on authorship of above-I believe he lives not a million miles from the Fishwick Traffic Hell blackspot. One at least of the regional councillors he mentions shares a common interest in farming and development-how one can help the other. And he himself has done much to ensure his outlying farmstead is socially sustainable by starting on a major concreting over of many of his broad acres. I doubt if even Don Quixote tilted at so many windmills simultaneously

* The Laird's favourite word-once famously preceded with 'poisonous little'

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Hustings Over Local Council Elections

So the three successful candidates are

East Berwickshire - Elected Councillors (three out of four)

1 Michael Cook, Independent

2 Jim Fullarton - Scottish Conservative and Unionist,

3 David Raw - Scottish Liberal Democrat

The person voted out of the Big Brother Berwickshire House is

Mrs A Orr (SNP) She rather kicked the nationalist trend by doing so badly. So perhaps next time she will consider doing the canvassing herself rather than sending the younger members of the family door knocking with the literature.

In Mid Berwickshire (ie the rest of it) the SNP (a 'Streamer) came second to the Tory

So it may be that Big Jim Conundrum will once again be in attendance at the Hutton and Paxton Community Council.

Can't wait.

In the meanwhile Huttonian is off to Norn Iron via two blog less days in Kirkcudbright.

Of all places
Pointless in Waverley
GNER nearing Embra, dead on time, suddenly stopped. 'Ding Dong. Regret to inform.....Points ahead not working. Keep you informed' Ten minutes later' Ding Dong. Apologies. Points not working rescue train on its way with engineers. Will be there in ten minutes' Ten minutes later' Ding Dong. usual preamble. Rescue train nearing faulty points (We are 2 minutes out of Waverley Street)Will be there in less than ten minutes' Ten Minutes later 'Ding Dong Rescure train arrived. keep you informed plus long list of connecting services from Edinburgh timed about two hours ahead. Thirty seconds later train started up again. No explanation. No further apology and no sign of any rescue train on our way into the station.

Little Play:

Rescue Engineer: What seems to be the problem?

Chap in Charge of Points: They are stuck. Look. Pushes thing. Nothing happens

RE Have you tried pressing that yellow button? It is your state of the art Rebooting, Failsafe, thing?

CICOP What Yellow Button?

RE THe one on that panel there marked 'Yellow Button'

CICOP Oh That Yellow Button. Is that what it is for. I thought it might be something to do with the election-electronic voting-and I dursn't touch it-Yellow is the SNP colours and I am no voting for them wasters

RE Don't worry. Elections over. Just press it

CICOP Gosh Points working. Those 42 trains can now go through Thanks.

RE Nae bother. But one at a time please. Have a nice week end

Exeunt omnes

Destroy a medium sized rain forest, knock on 20,000 doors (ring a bell at the Old Manse)and what do you get?

A surprise victory for the nice Mr Lamont overturning a largish LibDem majority and seizing the Eastern/central Borders (Roxburghshire and Berwickshire) for the Tories. So when Huttonian said he was going to vote for the winner he was wrong. I fear that the LibDems were much too laid back and took the constituency as their natural fiefdom for granted.

Still no details of the Local Council voting as far as individual candidates are concerned but given that the SNP have (surprisingly in the Borders) made gains I fear the worst. So we may get Mrs O here even if Holyrood will miss her. And I also suspect that given the success of the Tories in the Borders that Big Jim will be back to continue to baffle us with his wit and wisdom.

My street cred took some some thing of a battering last night. To honour my promise to a Tory worker (no oxymoron intended) I snuck down Kirk Lane 9 pm last night to rescue their sandwich board from outside the Village Hall and to hide it in an outhouse to protect it from nocturnal placard nickers. I was spotted carrying this Tory Puff by three late local electors. One asked, kindly, if I was tidying up. By implication on behalf of the SC &UP I spent some time explaining that my act of kindness was nothing to do with my political sympathies but I am sure I was not believed.

At least, if I wasn't,they will now believe I was on to a winner
Thursday, May 03, 2007
Fishwick Folly Fails to Flounder

If you have the stomach to go to http://eplanning.scotborders.gov.uk/publicaccess/tdc/DcApplication/application_detailview.aspx?caseno=J304S7NT70000

you will see that as we were concentrating on the Hustings the proposal to build six houses and a new bit of road at Fishwick has been approved. Not by the Berwickshire Area Committee but by 'the chairman's delegated decision' . At least it is the Chairman and not the 'Depute' Big Jim Conundrum. And there are conditions but not yet specified on the website. There you are. Berwickshire planning at its worst and a decision just taken before the election in case, no doubt, the new councillors might have wanted to say no. And a decision taken in the teeth of opposition from the local Community Council (referred to, disparagingly by the architects as 'the Parish Council') So we must be in Northumberland, must not we? There is local knowledge for you. And a nother horse and cart (or rather a gas guzzling Range Rover) driven through the Building in The countryside and Local Plan guidelines. Like forged fivers they are now not worth the paper they are printed on.

And all predicated on a monstrous fib-that a new road is needed in Fishwick because of its dangerous traffic.

Believe that.......


Huttonian and the wife did their civic duty and rushed down Kirk Lane to vote. We found that we were about no 30 and 31 to have done so and actually had to wait in a queue (of three-us and one them) before we could get our ballot papers. We just missed the SNP parliamentary and Local Council elections' candidate-she had to vote herself-daughter would not do on this occasion. The Post Office was open but the Post Mistress has to cast her vote in Paxton-irritating that as she sits 15 feet from the voting booth. Other wise it was very quiet. A villager told me that the Police were making frequent visits in their patrol car. Why?

Crowd Control, apparently.

PS the images above are a testimony to the effectiveness of crowd control measures this morning. Well done Borders and East Lothian Police. Rebus would be proud of you

Huttonian and the wife did their civic duty and rushed down Kirk Lane to vote. We found that we were about no 30 and 31 to have done so and actually had to wait in a queue (of three-us and one them) before we could get our ballot papers. We just missed the SNP parliamentary and Local Council elections' candidate-she had to vote herself-daughter would not do on this occasion. The Post Office was open but the Post Mistress has to cast her vote in Paxton-irritating that as she sits 15 feet from the voting booth. Other wise it was very quiet. A villager told me that the Police were making frequent visits in their patrol car. Why?

Crowd Control, apparently.


Wednesday, May 02, 2007

The prolific Mr Lamont, following cutting another swathe through the remains of the Borneo rain forest has sent around (courtesy of Royal Mail) what we all hope is his last effusion. A letter to me and to the wife-what a waste-does he not know we steam open and recycle each others mail? And an extra enclosure each: 'information about how you should complete your ballot paper on election day'(see image) He hopes we will find it 'useful. Me, I find it infuriating and somewhat patronising and I am sure enough others will do so as well to ensure that most x's and 'No 1s' go elsewhere. I wonder if he fully realises that doing a No 1 has a rather a different meaning in another context. Perhaps he does and 'The Scottish Conservative Party : The People that Dumps on You!' is the precise message he wishes to convey. And if you are going to be dumped upon in the local council elections in East Berwickshire it seems that #One, Big Jim Conundrum is the man to do it.

See you when the Polls open. Hutton Village Hall is ready. Two booths to protect your privacy. And if you come at the right time you can buy a stamp or two from our Post Office to make your visit worthwhile.

And who is Huttonian voting for? I hear you cry.

The Winner.

Playing with another man's balls

Oh dear. Coming down the 18Th fairway yesterday at Duns (MPBUI)having hit a very pleasing shot over the blind summit of the hill (see image) I found my ball exactly as visualised on the fairway and about 150 yards from the green (strong headwind) I proceeded to hit a four iron to the middle of the green giving my a reasonable birdie chance. Self congratulations were rudely interrupted by a plaintive cry ' You have played the wrong ball' from a gentleman scurrying across from the first tee having sliced his shot 70 degrees off course. At that moment my playing partner found another ball in the rough just off the fairway about 10 yards from where I had played my shot. It was mine. I should have checked but never expected....... Apologies all round and a promise to put the wrong ball behind the bar for the aggrieved party to pick up after his round.(This was to save me dashing the 3oo yards round trip to the green and back to pick up the 'wrong' ball)

In the bar consoling myself (yes I made a bit of a mess of my shot with my ball, since you ask) I was deep in a soothing conversation with a guy who was off to play at Newcastle County Down (PBUI) next month. I was terrifying him with the prospect of having to play over, around and in the famous Gorse which is such a feature of the Royal County Down(bracket contents as read)when he calmly informed me that his Borders based nursery had supplied Newcastle with gorse bushes for the last many years. Gorse bushes to Newcastle -talk about the proverbial coal. First the new Newcastle Police station wall made from Chinese granite, with the Mournes full of it; and now imported Gorse. 'And there stood Ruth amidst the alien Gorse' to paraphrase the Good Book, slightly. We will be importing heather next-and indeed perhaps we are-I dursn't ask.

And the wrong golf ball. I found it in my pocket this morning. In all the excitement
I had clean forgot to leave it behind the bar. So I will have to make a special trip to Duns today.

Might as well take my clubs.

Life is hard in the Borders.
Tuesday, May 01, 2007
Helping with Enquiries

Huttonian hopes it won't be held against him for helping the Tories. A posse of two called this morning at the Old Manse to ask if I could assist them on Polling Day in Hutton. They are fearful that their free standing poster for placing out side Hutton Village Hall, the Polling station, might be nicked if it is not put away safely once Polls are closed. I explained that I thought it would be safe in crime free Hutton but to be on the safe said I would put it in an outhouse and they could collect it at their leisure. The place in question would be unlocked as usual: for two reasons:
(a) Crime free Hutton and (b) Ain't no lock. When asked if this would be safe I referred the Honorary Gentleman to the answer I had given a few moments before.

I wonder why they asked me and not dwellings nearer the Polling Station. Am I an obvious Tory?* Or is it because we have a big house.?

Will any other party ask for storage facilities? 40 hours to go until Polls open.


(* This is rhetorical question: Blogg-ed)
Another Pigeon Post

It may have been nothing to do with the visit to Hutton of the Independent candidate for East Berwickshire but Stool the Racing Pigeon (Yes I have said this before, and been wrong) may actually have gone. He/she/it has never been so long away from the red plastic bowl and Katy's spade since his arrival over two weeks ago. It may well be that he(OK, sexist) is still in the neighbourhood-perhaps in the next door garden, having got fed up with roosting on (his) crappy window sill. So we may well see him again in search of organic grain and Hutton water. And of course we may still come across a pathetic heap of white feathers and the left claw courtesy of Sparrow Hawk or Megan, the next door dog. It won't be Rosie-in the one confrontation between the arthritic Moggie and Stool, the former fled without even as much as a spit.

One farmer told me that she has ten Racing Pigeon deserters on her farm having arrived over a period of time, found the natives friendly and have stayed on. Perhaps Stool has gone to join them on the banks of the peaceful Whiteadder. Or perhaps he has gone to the

Great Cote in the Sky.


And don't come back
Happenings in A small Scottish Community


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