Musings from the Merse
Monday, December 31, 2007

Counting the Empties

Hutton approaches another Hogmanay. It won't be like the massive celebrations in Embra as captured in the image above. We have had fireworks in the past-our neighbours had some squibs (dampish) and a Catherine Wheel which fell off the Trampoline in mid fizz. Further down Kirk Lane a few rockets were fired in our general direction by roistering Nordics. This year the Nordics have rented out the house to a party (no pun intended) of Glaswegians obviously hoping to see Old Year out in a civilised manner-Iron Bru rather than cheap Scotch -warm towels and not vomit buckets. No street parties here but there may be gentle first footing when the New Year creeps in. On Scotland a bit of excess is acceptable, expected and catered for. Our English neighbours take a days holiday to get over the fun:

here it is two

Huttonian will not see the New Year in. Any phone call after 10pm will be unappreciated

And unanswered

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Sunday, December 30, 2007
  Reston. The Train arriving at platform one....

End of a long day
Originally uploaded by p2wy
I asked Flickr to come up with an image of Reston Station, the eagerly awaited reopening can surely not be much longer postponed. p2wy was good enough to produce this. Sadly the Reston is apparently in Virginia USA but it could be an accurate prognostication of the up platform at Reston, Merse, Berwickshire, Scotland, Europe, the World etc. The one commuter back to Edinburgh waits for hs Virgin to bear him away.
Observer Status

I nearly broke into French:'Es que vous avez L'Observeur?' but just in time I remembered it was Chirnside, not L'Etang La Ville. Monsieur did. The last one. Last out of three apparently-two had just gone to 'strangers' possibly to people as far away as Allanton. As a Huttonian, I was lucky. Chirnside is our nearest 'retail complex. It will be different in Duns, two newsagents within two hundred yards; Observers galore but you have to get there before noon to be sure of having one left. Once, desperate for our weekly prize crossword fix I remembered too late that Chirnside closed at noon. I got to the shop at 1205. Closed. I was turning away wondering how to get through until next Sunday crosswordless when the door opened and I was ushered inside. Purpose of visit explained the owner painstakingly opened packages of unsold Sundays and finally emerged with the last Observer. I offered the £1.90 and had my money waved away.

The paper is unsold he said. Lets leave it that way.

And you can even get the English edition of the Daily Mail-as insisted upon by our neighbour -we alternate the paper run. This can be problem in Scotland. Once in Greenlaw I asked for the 'English' Daily Mail. Don't take it said the shaven headed Newsagent, giving me a nasty look, as if to say :

'What's wrong with the Scottish version?


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Saturday, December 29, 2007
No Truck with Death?

I don't think this letter to last Thursday's Berwickshire was written by the deceased (to Mr Callum Hay of the Scottish Borders Council) -although she (we know this)seems to be something of a funeral groupie given past correspondence with the highheidyins ic Borders cemetries.

SIR, - As director of technical services with Scottish Borders Council I would like you to explain the following.
Why, despite me having raised this issue numerous times with your department over the past few years (and know personally of others who have done likewise) Scottish Borders Council employees continue to show no respect for bereaved families at Eyemouth Cemetery?
I refer to the intrusion of a large, yellow, SBC truck being left in the middle of the cemetery, while a funeral is in progress. Mourners and funeral transport are left to detour around it, with people having to walk over paths and graves, which are often treacherous for those who are not sure foooted.
Are your employees completely insensitive, or just sheer lazy? Everyone in Eyemouth is aware the nearby carpark cannot accommodate the truck during busy times, but just what is stopping the driver* moving it to the nearby industrial estate and returning later?
The state of the cemetery is bad enough with very uneven paths and no running water in the new area without the indignity of having the said truck during any funeral. Maybe this letter will finally make a difference!

Funerals are much jollier affairs across the water-Ireland not France in this instance and an intrusion by a council truck presumably involved in the upkeep of the cemetry would raise few hackles and might even attract some applause. My favourite account of one of these unsolemn occasions appeared in the Cork Examiner a few years back:

"One of the mourners dropped dead at the graveside and this cast an air of gloom over the proceedings"

SBC Technical Services:

Follow that.

(* Might it have been his funeral? Just a thought. Blog-ed)

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Friday, December 28, 2007
The shock of mid-Christmas transition from Paris,France to Lunnon England was smoothed by a surprisingly uncrowded Eurostar. Bog standard is vastly superior to its equivalent in National Express but any warm glow mostly dissipated by the rude shock of sharing Northern Line with tout St Pancras. Its back to the rails today with National Express. Apparently NE will soon be offering through fares to Europe from the bigger East Coast Line stations. York yes,Durham yes but Berwick No. What kind of mindless discrimination is that? And,moreover, once Reston is open, the Commuter Crazed Gateway to Scotland, crammed with moneyed Europhiles, National Express will be offering fares to all over Europe including Istanbul and Telaviv. SAnd poor Berwick will revert to its new status as 'The Last Place in England' Not the strategic centre it usedto be. Thus at last, Macbeth's famous prophecy will be realised(Omitted from all save the Shakespeare First Folio)

"Woe to fayre Ber Wicke and its castle Roun
when steame it comes to Reston Toun'

It really is time to move to Duns

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Thursday, December 27, 2007
  LE grand DEPART

Me and My Eurostar
Originally uploaded by lewishamdreamer
So its back to the Merse courtesy of Eurostar and National Express. After the comfort of First Class going out we have been forced to downgrade to Bog Standard our way home. A night in Lunnon and then the great build up to Old Year's Night. Hogmanay and all thde other vomit inducing rituals of a Scottish New Year.

Can't wait
Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Boxing Day in L'Etang la Ville is rather like Boxing Day anywhere else. Its grey. The cold sunny weather has been replaced by a frigid Gallic Dreich. Some shops open, others firmly closed and a bitter blow this, La Maison Des Journaux is open, but the nouveau Guardian n'est pas arrive.'Peut etre cette apres midi, Monsieur-vous preferez le Herald Tribune?' 'Monsieur did not and the long uphill trek home, emtpy handed.

Only les hygiénistes environnemental lifted my spirits. Today is recycling bin day. All kinds of stuff are removed to be recycled and sent off to provide raw material for the French arms industry. Unlike Hutton glass goes as well. But the quality control at point of collection is ruthless. As I passed a bin under scrutiny a rummaging homme de refuse pulled out a collection of polysterene and kicked it in the general direction of the pavement strwing most of it over the road. A fierce rebuke from Le Capitan des hommes de refuse who then personally made a neat pile of polysterene. Stood back to admire his handiwork and then

Kicked it on to the pavement.

Quelle Finesse

The image typifies the overflowing bins. Surprisingly the rubbish blokes did not seem to mind collecting from outside the receptacles. It just had to be

The Right Stuff

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Tuesday, December 25, 2007
  The Spirit of Open Source

The Spirit of Open Source
Originally uploaded by Ross_Angus
Typical of christmas in Gay Killin when Goose was Goose for the saucy gander. Here in L'Etang la Ville we are more conservative and warmer clad. Such a sight in Hutton would escape comment, local people being polite. I doubt if Dingers would appreciate a gender bender Angelic Host
Cake and Ale@ in Killin

What is going on here?

Follow link at http://flickr.com/photos/ross_angus/2134543387/

And all will be revealed. Or not?

Judge for yourself

@ optional
Incroyable. The grandchildren politely asked their parents if they could open their stockings at 7am and did not ask for any other present opening from under the tree until 11am. Who can mock modern youth like these! Hope for the world yet.

Happy Christmas to all bloggees.


Monday, December 24, 2007
Reston Station. The Dream Continues

One of the supporters of RAGES-amongst whose wilder aims is the restoration of Reston Station has anonymously ctiticised Huttonian's opposition to this project and implying, as I am 'retired' and do not therefore need to work in Embra, or any other railhead, everyday, then my views are of no value on this issue. Well actually not being retired just differently employed and needing to go to Ould Reekie quite a lot, never mind Lunnon, I would love a more convenient station than Berwick: Hutton, old School, would do very nicely. And of course the denizens of Reston, working hard to drive the Berwickshire economy to new heights would greatly appreciate a station of their own, complete with Costas,no rubbish bins and video security. Convenient certainly; necessary? I wonder.

Sparsely populated Eastern Berwickshire can hardly justify a station. Reston is slightly less from the middle of nowhere than Hutton, or dare one say it, Paxton. How many commuters would Reston serve. 20 a day? And would they be economically active commuters? But say RAGES, put a station into sleepy Reston and watch the regeneration!

Yeah Right. Watch the property prices rise for a start. Build em, Flog EM and Scarper, By Appointment Developers to the Landed Gentry and Indigent Farmers, would be there in a flash and you would have two new Orchards and Three Kanes Closes before you could say ' Help!It's Not in the Local Plan'

And who could afford these new houses. Local people? Really? I doubt it. The bog standard commuter? Not at those prices. Who then:

The Affluent Retired. Those drones, put out to grass. Invisible, inactive; views not worth a damn. But they would really appreciate a station. Only one stop to the nearest Cremetorium.

Come on Anonymous. Do you really want a station?

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L'Etang la Ville is flanked by the vast Foret de Marly, a former Royal Hunting Forest. The ambiance is slightly spoiled by a graffiti infested pedestrian tunnel under the suburban railwayline. It is said to be the haunt of young glue sniffers with spray cans. The effect of their art work is somewhat grotesque but if you look carefully there are some startlingly good images, including, appropriately enough,
a magic mushroom.

Hutton Think Tank might adopt the graffiti therapy technique for glue sniffers in the Merse and a working party, after an all expenses paid trip to France have suggested that a tunnel studio on the Foret de Marly model, should be utilised to allow disadvantaged and disturbed youngsters to sniff in peace and develop their more sensitive talents. Spray cans will be provided by the Paxton Trust.

Only one problem. No Tunnel has been located. Reason?

No Railway.

Oh dear back to the Drawing Board, Er, Spraying wall?

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Sunday, December 23, 2007
Indoor games Near L'Etang La Ville

Some of the party being struckdown with a slight lurgi plans to visit La Grand Palais were abandoned; it being very cold-still -C a lot. So it is stuck inside with two under exercised and over excited children.`No problem Huttonian fancies himself as a dab hand with indoor activities especially those involving flying machines-and above all minature unbreakable helicopters-suitable for ages 7 and up?

Up? Perhaps there is an upward age limit. If not mentioned in the Catalogue: Presents for Boys. Or perhaps the flying device is meant to skid across the floor upside down, have more left ward tendency than Old Labour, disappear up the sooty chimney when hand launched and as an encore flick coffee cups off side tables. Beyond Huttonian, literally and metaphorically. 'Stop it Grandad'said the grandson before you break it.

I did.

Reward for prompt obedience: a go on Robot Quod. It dances,it squeaks, it has three modes : 'aggressiv' and 'tres aggressiv' and 'tres tres aggressiv'and has (suitable for ages 12 and up) an 'on demand, copulatory position featuring endearing squeaks and waving back legs.

And so the long days drags on.

Very slowly

Roll on Christmas.


Saturday, December 22, 2007
The middle daughter has just texted from Eurostar to say that the train is delayed: Wild Boar on Line.

GNER (of blessed memory) never thought of that one.

Wild Bores are to be found in the Borders.

Friday night at the Allanton Inn.


And possibly even in The Cross.

Depending on the Laird's other engagements for that evening



Grand Arche de la Defense 1
Originally uploaded by JöSi
Forgetting my camera bloggees will have to do with this landmark of Paris, (thankyou JöSi ) right in the middle of the main Parisian business district. The Christmas Fair is in the shadow of the Arche packed with a polyglot crowd and selling everything from Turkish carpets, via candy covered condoms to oriental incense burners. Christmas carols in English sounded a bit off message in this temple of secular non-spiritual festivites. One incentive to getting there was free travel on the SCNF this weekend-we only learned this after we had arrived at La Defense. No infofrmation at the station of St Nom la British and the free travel did not extend to the Metro or RER. Trains surprisingly uncrowded-were SCOTRAIL to offer free travel can you imagine the scenes with tout Scotland packing the stations anxious to go anywhere, just anywhere at all just for a free ride. And the queues at the ticket office:

ten free tickets to Dunbar, please, Jimmy

This is Dunbar.......


Friday, December 21, 2007
  Vive le Franglais

Super Market France
Originally uploaded by old_greywolf2000
Morrisons signing could learn much from our French Cousins even if this is not quite French. Franglais perhaps, Fancy a Pizza Pie. Or better still a Flunch?

Fast Lunch perhaps?

Or just powder votre nez.

An Englishman in Gay* Paree

Unlike Hutton L'Etang La Ville has shops. It was most refreshing to be greeted by the guy who owns the small newsagents with ' Bienvenu Monsieur Nous avons votre Guardian' or words to that effect(Last saw him in July) and after some small talk (in my case,very small)he reminded me: n'oubliez pas L'Observer arrive a dix heures le Dimanche. They go like hot cakes (Approx translation) They do indeed as the area is lousy with Brit expats-more of the Fascist Sunday Times variety but enough Grudian readers to provide healthy competition for les oiseaux de passage like Huttonian. Indeed the local railway station St Nom de la Breteche is known as St Nom de la British.

A Dimanche said my friend. Not so: I'll see him to day for a second helping og the Gerdian-if I am spared.

It is -10 C

And falling

* In the old sense. For Nouveau Gay scene see Lonely Planet Blog-ed

PS Note the clever French nomenclature for a newsagents. The third image is of the village christmas trees. Duns (Pop 3000) has one, L'Etang la Ville (Pop 300) has two point five

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Thursday, December 20, 2007
Hotelier conned out of £1000

Police issue scam warningis a headline in the e-edition of the Berwickshire News on a VDU near you.

The story continues:

Wanna Buy a couple of Vans

A LOCAL hotelier has been conned out of £1000 after he handed over the cash to a man claiming to be a customer - only for the money never to be returned.
The hotel - which is believed to be in Berwickshire - received a phone call from the supposed customer who said he needed the money to buy two vans.
The money was sent by taxi to the Strathclyde area but the man, who had knowledge of the local area, has not been in contact since with no sign of the £1000.
Police are warning that similar scams where a 'cold caller' persuades someone to hand over money has happened before and they have warned the public not to give out bank details or hand out money to people they do not know.

What bad luck. Had the money not been sent by taxi but on the 32 Bus it would not have gone astray I am sure.

I am actually in need of some readies at the moment to support two houses. Anyone would like to send me a grand (Eurostar will do nicely) I should be very grateful and look after the cash carefully, Trust me.

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Pas des incidents in Etang La Ville
Suddenly at 7pm our lights went out. A quick glance around confirmed we were alone in our misery. Everywhere else Christmas Trees, decorations, cosy rooms seen through frosted (literally) glass. For us Tenebre Profonde. Three chidren in house and two aged people. Crisis at Christmas

First IA (Immediate action as in military jargon)check the fuses and trip switches in the vast freezing garage, All Ok Second IA: ring the agent for the property. Out. Leave a message. Third : ring EDF (Electricitie Diaboloque Francaise) Can't help as son in law has hidden electricity bills and we don't have the account number. Ring son in law; out carousing with pals, leave messageRing ermergency electrician found in Pages Jaunes. Will come for 76 Euro but suggest call EDF. Will set out anyway, be there in an hour.

Cat asks to go out.

Ring EDF-ascertain from auto system : pas des incidents in our area. Not EDF's problem. Want to speak to human but still need the account number. Son in law returns call and follow his vague instructions to find bills. Find them somewhere else. Ring EDF , oldest daughter's mobile out of credit.Use mine making international calls on my UK account. Find Human in EDF (after 30 minutes on hold) No incidents in Etang La Ville. Not our problem. Find an electrician. And have a good day. Thankyou for calling EDF

Now 9.15pm. -10C outside, not much warmer within despite log fire lit with some difficulty using old electricity bills, The Guardian (Overseas edition) cereal packets and about 28 firelighters.Fire looks lovely but all heat up chimney. Two children asleep, one rampaging.

Ascertain that Emergency Electrician is 15 minutes away-only 90 minutes on road so far. Agent surfaces returning call. Stand down electrician he advises. He will come himself. Gives eldest daughter instructions on how to turn the power back on. Useless. He sets off.

Emergency Electrician turns up. Two small screwdrivers, a torch with no battery. Uses ours. No power coming through is his verdict after ineffectually trying all the switches. Pokes a few fuses. Advises call EDF. Demands Euro 150. His boss was mistaken in quoting 76. Eldest Daughter gives him short shrift. Accepts cheque for Euro 76. Departs, muttering.

Lights come on just as Agent arrives. Apparently the master switch is on the main road at our gate. The protective container is broken and the box unlocked and some jeune homme francais passing our gate presumably decided to pull up the switch as une plaisantarie seasonale. Or perhaps a manifestation of anti Brit sentiment. Agent switches on again. Merry Christmas

Finish off flat beer.

Son in Law returns. Full of high spirits and cheap wine. Asks about our evening.

We tell him.

Suggest cat comes in.


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Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Cherchez Les Diablotins

Christmas Crackers are a rare commodity in France. You can get British stuff in the more recherche supermarkets in the posher towns. The Prix Unique in St Germaine en Laye has an 'English Section' with Marmite, Heinz Baked Beans, Sandwich spread, politically correct crisps, lime marmalade-but we despaired of finding the crackers
anywhere-indeed the middle daughter had been tasked with bringing some over. But suddenly, in the goods exotique section there they were : Crackers (Diablotin). The lid carried careful instructions : Mode d'Emploi: Tirer sur le cracker d'un (sic)coups sec, bout de bras, loin du visage. No explanation that it requires two to crack* And there is the answer to 'Qu'est qu'un a Cracker?' explaining that in GB it is used on a variety of occasions especially festive ones; not at funerals then. It also urges you to use the crackers with a meal or refreshments. As for Noel-Les Britanniques have utilised the cracker as une coutume since 1850

The carton also has un photo of the plaisanteries ou enigme britannique and a nice selection of petit articles de cadaeu (sic yet again) ou de nouveaute

(* According to some French books of reference solitary cracker pulling is La Vice Anglaise-Blog ed)

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Bon Jour, Bon Nuit et Adieu

SNCF is not so courteous as Eurostar we found as we reached the improbably named Saint Nom La Breteche Foret le Marly. This is the end of the line-the Hutton of the Isle de France. As we entered the station the voice said (loose translation) This is it. The End.The Terminus. Your very last station stop. This train is ceasing to be. Dismount immediately and if you are hoping to use the train again=

Forget it.

Nous, Nous ne regrettons rien,

Have a good day.

And the lights went out


Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Originally uploaded by GriBBsY
This is Eurostar, National Express could learn a thing or two from Eurostar especially the economy of the language-and two languages at that. French first in France and English in England.

No inconvenience regretted.

There isn't any

Originally uploaded by GriBBsY
This is Eurostar, National Express could learn a thing or two from Eurostar especially the economy of the language-and two languages at that. French first in France and English in England.

No inconvenience regretted.

There isn't any
  Thatched House L' Etang La Ville

Thatched House L' Etang La Ville
Originally uploaded by old_greywolf2000
Not Ireland or Suffolk but a litle French village where the eldest daughter and her Oz/Welsh/English family inhabit. We hope to be there this evening courtesy of First Capial Connect, Eurostar RER and SNCF.
Sounds unlikely, doesn't it?
Monday, December 17, 2007

On The National Express
Originally uploaded by adambowie
Thankyou adambowie for this image of a National Express engine in its new livery. Sadly not is all changed from the old GNER. The Train Crew stilll gabble from the old scripts-'next station stop' 'Any inconvenience regretted' ' Thankyou for risking your lives in National Express' but a new gradation of tardiness has evolved : 'only very slightly late' (8 minutes and counting-down) a bit better than slighty late running-9 minutes and up to an hour or two.

We started at Berwick slightly late running and arrived at Kings Cross dead on time. (any pleasant surprise much regrertted?)

So no need to use the new excuse:

New Rail company on track.


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  Snow, well frost actually, in Scotland

Snow in Scotland
Originally uploaded by myeverydaysong
I am indebted to myeverydaysong for this snowy Scottish scene. As we leave the Merse for French France there is no snow but a very hard frost. -7.9C on our back patio' the pond is walkable on and it took two kettles to defrost the birds drinking water. And, and the Relis will have no difficulty in believing this: ice on the inside of our bedroom window at 7am this morning.

The forecast for Paris is for weather just as cold
Sunday, December 16, 2007

Le Bon Voyage

So its from the Merse to L'Isle de France via National Express and Eurostar. The simple pleasures of merging into the French Suburban scene: the trek to the boulongier for croissants chocolat, getting lost in the huge Carrefours-I'll meet you at the Horse meat, if you can remember where that was. The pleasure of using one's schoolboy French in search of Gallic Culture 'Es que Vous avez La Guardian' and 'Et L'Observer on trouve ici aprez 10 heures La Dimanche?' ' Desole M'sier Il-y-a seulement un Mail on Sunday-edition Ecosse' -Canard* that for a lark. Fortunately, unlike Paris proper the people of Isle de France are patient with the abuse of their tongue, and in L'etang la Ville, they are used to the British settlers and their simple pleasures. And toujours la politesse. Never omit the Bon Jour or the Monsieur/Madame, and the merci beaucoup. or the Pardon when some geezer barges past you on the Metro to grab the last available seat. One does not want to give the impression that we are not a race of hommes gentils. 'Un futball 'ooligan? Anglais? 'Ce N'est pas possible. Tous les 'ooligans sont Allemand or Italiens. Ne c'est pas?'

And don't mention the Rugby World Cup

* Slang rhyming: Canard equals Duck. Geddit? Blog-ed

I am endebted to Old Grey Wolf for the image taken during my last visit. I wonder how that would go down on the outskirts of Hutton?

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Saturday, December 15, 2007

Count Down to HogmanayAs the deep freeze intensifies in the Merse- a sighting of a snowplough yesterday may be some kind of portent-its off to the Isle de France, Greater Paree, for Christmas with half the family and 50% of the grandchildren-the other 50% having opted for a Welsh celebration.We will however be back for Old Years Night, Hogmanay and the rest of the Scottish end of year festivities. As Dr Johnston once said, or was it Boswell-'New Year in Scotland is like New Year in England, but with extra vomit' With the usual crack down on drinking and driving in the Borders the vomit may be confined to walking distance from the Cross and other hosteleries and towns with many pubs-Coldstream, Duns, Eyemouth, pools of the stuff may be confined to within the 30mph limit. Huttonian is glad to be in bed well before ten pm by which time, anyhow, the New Year is well advanced in Sydney, Wellington and Mumbai.

The French are determinedly and officially secular but Christmas is as evident in say L'Etang La Ville (The Town Pond apparently) as it is in Regent Street. It will be fun but we will miss the wild scenes of enthusiasm in Fishwick where (according to a Hutton Think Tank puff) the main street is a pedestrian only zone between 2 and 6am, long after the rush hour traffic has been parked before the dangerous corner and the cavorting fishermen, well away from their cherished 4x4s dance in thigh length waders to canned hits from the 50s and 60s. New Year is even wilder and an alternative to the massive Hogmanay Bash in Embra-see image above of the fireworks last year. No doubt Fishwick, the odd damp squib always excepted, will put up a similar display of pyrotechnics

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Friday, December 14, 2007
Tat for Free or nearest offer

Until we finally dispose of the Old Manse our life of Entre Deux Merses continues. Some nights in Duns, some in Hutton, some, it seems, in both. Which is Dr Jekyl's residence and which Mr Hyde's? The wife, already in mourning for the OM can only think of the small house in Duns as a holiday cottage, not as the permanent feature it will one day become. It is indeed a very small house-not so much down sized but shrunk. To the extent that we are going to have to build on an extension so as we will eventually have space to breathe out as well as in. And even after disposing of over 500 books, several heavy pieces of furniture to various family members (also living in smallish houses) we still have much to get rid of. Some Tat and surplus-to-never-requirements have been wafted away on the magic carpet of Berwickshire Free cycle but we are still stuck with lights, one, pendular, complete with fittings which tout Berwickshire has so far ignored-the 0 Gauge Hornbys, 00 ditto, cricket gear, picnic collection, lawnmower (broken) carpet, underlay, miles of lagging (not required by British Gas)were all snapped up no sooner had I clicked on the Post button. But the Light fixture languishes, lonely, unloved, apparently unwanted, next to the bird food.

Go on.Make it's Christmas.

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Thursday, December 13, 2007

Duns boasts a number (well two at least) of famous sons-Most notable perhaps was the late "Jim Clarke the Grand Prix racing driver (actually a Chirnside man but his 'museum is in Duns) and of course the great Duns Scotus. Wikapedia has this entry:

"Though of dubious nativity (one school would have it at Duns, in the Borders; another, elsewhere: off in Ireland) in 1291 Duns Scotus was recorded duly an ordained man of God, in Northampton, England; he was a student, and subsequently a teacher, beginning in 1293 and running through 1297, at the University of Paris, later at Oxford, and likely again at Cambridge. He was expelled from the University of Paris for siding with then Pope Boniface VIII in that pontiff's feud with Philip the Fair of France. At length, Duns Scotus settled in Cologne, Germany, in 1307.

Duns Scotus is considered one of the most important Franciscan theologians and was the founder of Scotism, a special form of Scholasticism. He came out of the Old Franciscan School, to which Haymo of Faversham (d. 1244), Alexander of Hales (d. 1245), John of Rupella (d. 1245), William of Melitona (d. 1260), St. Bonaventure (d. 1274), Cardinal Matthew of Aquasparta (d. 1289), John Peckham, Archbishop of Canterbury (d. 1292), Richard of Middletown (d. about 1300), etc., belonged. He was known as "Doctor Subtilis"* because of his subtle merging of differing views. Later philosophers in the sixteenth century were not so complimentary about his work, and accused him of sophistry. This led to his name, "dunce" (which developed from the name "Dunse" given to his followers in the 1500s) to become synonymous for "somebody who is incapable of scholarship", as is expressed for example in the, (now defunct) use of the "dunce cap" to punish pupils who behave badly in class.

So as with Jim Clarke D.Scotus may not be a genuine Dinger. Certainly apart from his possible birth in the Borders his subsequent connections with Scotland are a bit tenous. But as you can see he is the original Dunce-an early version of an ASBO. He used to wear a high cowl-a medieval hoodie and it was this shape which inspired the Dunce's cap as in the image above.

I get the impression that not all Dingers are too proud of this guy. He has a rather forbidding statue in the park. And an alternative town motto of Duns Dunces A' lacks a certain something.

The only image of the 'Blessed John Duns Scotus' to give him his correct style, wearing his hoodie, is also above.

* Not to be confused with an early 20th Century Motion Picture pioneer known as Dr Subtitilis-blog-ed

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Wednesday, December 12, 2007

As a PS to the post immediately below Huttonian's cameraman has reurned cold foot from Duns after a photographic safari with a few images of the lights in the Market Square. The Christmas Tree has an unusual feature: a gigantic cracker (the kind to pull, not to eat) with a collection slot for cash 'towards the cost of the Christmas decorations' I wonder how many p that will attract?

You will note the prominence given to the Town motto-perhaps the cracker has one inside as well?

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The Wynsome Mayde, no less, has switched on the Duns Christmas Lights-and what message of seasonal good will is blazoned out in glowing carbon positive letters of the deepest Red? 'Happy Christmas'?, 'Oh come all ye Faithful'? ,'Peace on Earth?'

No, none of these:


What's that again?

The official history of the town sheds some (non seasonal) light:

Percy, the Earl of Northumberland, invaded Scotland in 1377 and seemingly met little opposition. Upon reaching Duns, he relaxed his vigilance. The townspeople saw that the English were off their guard. The Scots made "a kind of rattle, made of dried skins distended round ribs of wood that were bended into a semi-circular form and fixed at the end of long poles". When shaken, they produced a horrendous racket that frightened the English horses, causing them to bolt. The Earl's men fled and were subsequently routed by local people. It may be from this episode that the town takes its design for the Burgh Arms and motto "Duns Dings A'".

The English had long memories as the history goes on:

The English razed Duns to the ground in 1544, 1545 and 1558.

So Duns Dings A' can be translated as 'Duns beats them all'

Stirring stuff. If not always accurate. As a glance at the recent playing record of the Duns Rugby Club illustrates.

But as a general statement reflecting the general desirabity of the Burgh vis a vis other Border Toons:

Fair comment.

(The image is of last years Christmas Tree. Borrowed from Flikr. Thankyou JDSTYNX)

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Tuesday, December 11, 2007


It may not match up to the new St Pancras but the modest little Merse has the odd dollop of public art in the most unexpected places. Odder than most to Huttonian's uncultivated eye is the redbrick structure below Paxton House on the wheelchairs- are- definitely -not- recommended path down to the Tweed from the Croquet paddock. Its been there ever since we moved to the Borders and once had a descriptive panel which now wishes to remain anonymous; not vandalised just weather beaten.It may be that the current custodian of the Paxton House art collection is more interested in the welfare of the exhibits within the house than in anything away from the main building. I hope someone, somewhere, has kept a record of the title of this exhibit otherwise it may go the same way as Churchill's Secret Bunker.

In the absence of a title for the moment Hutton Think Tank have launched a nation-well Merse- wide competition for one: Le Grand Pissoir is one entry from a Borderer exiled to France and on the same theme:

'Gentlemen: Standing Room Only' from 'Arty of Ayton'

You can surely do better than that. All entries with a sae for the certified results to the HT2 dead letter box, at the usual place.Allow for seasonal delays as the deadletter postman is on a skiing holiday in Kurdistan

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Monday, December 10, 2007

Seal on the Tweed
Originally uploaded by old_greywolf2000
Loch Ness has Nessie the elusive monster but on the Tweed? If you enlarge the image (click) it is surely a Hippo-note the eyes. Hippos on the Tweed in December? Could it be a cousin of Nessie's? Actually it is a playful seal; 7 miles upstream and making its way against a powerful spate after the heavy rain of the last few days. For more Tweed shots go to http://www.flickr.com/blog.gne
Winston Wuz (nearly) here

Churchill's secret bunker reconstructed in Coldstream

Trevor puts war items on display

is a headline in the Berwickshire about an addition to the sights of the well trodden tourist trail for visitors anxious to sample the delights of the Borders 'First Toon' Those who can't be bothered to visit the genuine article in Whitehall need only to visit Coldstream to see a genuine reconstruction:

AN old Coldstream Guard billet is the new home for a display of war memorabilia collected by an enthusastic ex-serviceman.
Trevor Brunning has made a reconstruction of Winston Churchill's secret bunker for World War Two alongside other war items downstairs from his army clothing shop on Coldstream's High Street.
Along with the sights of WWII, there are also the sounds, with Sir Winston's gravelly voice being played out along with authentic radio bulletins.
If you didn't know better, you would have thought you were in the 1940s.

reads the article, in part.

If you didn't know better and were of a certain generation you might think you were near Hutton. (Well nearer Hutton, Coldstream is not that far away) Some time ago, so it is said,the Hutton Think Tank, with technical assistance from the military experts of Fishwick Special Branch, constructed a replica of the Churchill Bunker with genuine cigar butts scattered around. It was in fact so secret, much more so than the original, which is clearly signposted in King Charles Street, SW12AH,that it has been completely lost. The map of how to find it was destroyed for security reasons and the original designer is rumoured to have been last sighted either in Kosovo or Basra-or it could be Helmand Province-but is now officially missing and therefore assumed to be living off the proceeds of an insurance policy in Panama, or something.

Anyone who can find the bunker will be warmly thanked by the highheidyins of the HT2
and FSB. Plus a free season ticket good for four visits. At least.

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Sunday, December 09, 2007

New initiative to stamp out dog fouling

"We Bag it, tie it and bin it" is the 'Curb your Cur' slogan of the month launched by the Scottish Borders Council in yet another 'initiative' -how many has Huttonian witnessed in the last ten plus years? . Hawick and Peebles are apparently the Borders (Dog) Crap towns. The full story in the Berwickshire is as follows:

SCOTTISH Borders Council's new campaign to stamp out dog fouling was unveiled earlier this week.
The council is targeting dog owners who do not clean up after their dogs in public places and they are being told to 'Bag it, Tie it, Bin it'.
New patrols will be enforcing the law across the Scottish Borders, focusing initially on Peebles and Hawick.
"It is important that dog owners are aware of their responsibilities and clean up their dog's dirt so that no-one's health is put at risk," said Councillor Len Wyse, executive member for environmental services.
"They can dispose of it in their bin at home or in any public litter bin. Stamping out dog fouling also means everyone will be able to enjoy our public places without worrying about what mess is lurking in their way."
The Dog Fouling (Scotland) Act 2003 means that fixed penalties of £40 can be issued on the spot to people who do not clean up after their dogs.
Dr Andrew Riley, director of public health at NHS Borders, said: "We welcome and support this initiative. Apart from dog fouling being unpleasant to see and on occasion to stand in, it can also be a health hazard. Some of the illnesses it causes can be serious, so prevention is very important.
"Picking up your dog's dirt should be an everyday habit. But remember that when you have handled any animals, including dogs, it is important to wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water."
Lothian and Borders Police confirmed that, if there is sufficient evidence, owners of dogs that foul in public places who do not clean it up will face a fixed penalty notice. Alternatively, offenders will be reported to the Procurator Fiscal.
To encourage people to clean up after their dogs, the council is giving away a limited number of free dog waste bags.
They can be picked up at council contact centres and area offices.
People who have a dog fouling problem in their area can call free on 0800 376 1030 or email dogfouling@scotborders.gov.uk to report it.
More details about the campaign can be found at www.scotborders.gov.uk/dogfouling, plus a new leaflet 'Dog fouling: you and the law' has been published by the council and will be distributed widely.

The image with the article is captioned

BAG IT AND BIN IT: Izar the Border terrier with owner Andrea Shearer and friends at the launch of Scottish Borders Council’s new campaign

So now we have a canine Poo Izar to encourage his colleagues not to defecate indiscriminately and only to do so near a fully paid up bag carrying humanoid.

I am told that the headline originally read : New initiative to stamp on Dog Fouling but a sharp eyed sub got there before the press run.

A pity.

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Saturday, December 08, 2007


We are as obsessed with the (wonderful) weather in the Merse as the next man-our occasional garden help, a gnarled (youngish) countryman cannot introduce any new topic without a discourse on the weather, nor abandon an old one for that matter. But our devotion to meteorology and the other black arts is ignored by the pundits at the BBC Blether Centre who neither know where the Borders are nor care. We get lumped in with 'Scotland' or 'Northern England' and by the southhron- centric the presenters on the Today Programme as that huge area of Anglia Deserta which they vaguely believe exists beyond Hampstead. 'Here be Bumpkins'

So the advent of the on-line weather map is a great boon and we can find ourselves on the larger scale ones. An example is above from Met Check and once you have got over the vivid, lurid, at times frightening, colours you are reassured to know, that weatherly speaking, we are part of the greater scheme of things-and have our own delicious, albeit, rarely delicate, shading and are regarded by that great crayon in the sky as equal value as say, the Home Counties where Mr Humphries friends garage their Chelsea Tractors and moan about congestion charges impeding their access to St James Clubland.

Is Met Check Accurate? Is the Pope an Agnostic?* You can put in your post code and get your own forecast covering the whole region from the Old Manse to the former Primary School. According to the prognostication for today (given in three hourly chunks) it is about to snow on higher ground (Village Hall roof?) and we now have 37mph winds. Nearly right. There is a warm drizzle and a dead calm. Daringly I inserted another post code-our cottage in Norn Iron; precisely (wrong word) the same forecast. Although, to be fair, the wind had allegedly eased a notch. I called a friend there and asked about the snow-he said that once the blue sky had cleared there might be a chance of it. I tried Llandudno. Same difference.

I suppose they may be right somewhere

Horrors I may have to go back to the BBC

*A meaningless aside, presumably. Blog-ed

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Friday, December 07, 2007

The train arriving at platform 6 will be split in two claimed our non-stop verbiage slim controller at Kings Cross-reminiscent of the famous announcement : 'The train arriving at platforms 4,5 and 6 is coming in sideways' or, 'the train standing on platform 9 will shortly be replaced on the rails' But our guy was not into schoolboy humour but deadly serious as he give a puff by puff account of each 'movement'. One train to Leeds broke down and the intending passengers had to stand in Queue D until a new train was made ready-and warned not to move from their line as 'I want to know where you are until we need you' The new train did not materialise in our time as the designated platform remained blocked by the malfunctioning one. It in its turn blocked the access to two other platforms-hence, presumably being split into two.(allowing it to be diverted to Euston and St Pancras simultaneously

Advice : Forget Leeds. Go to York and take a bus.

So far so good on the 1100 to Ber Wick. This may be GNER going out on a good note.

At least the on board team leader is mercifully sparing of his announcements
Perhaps he has been cut in two,


PS Back in Hutton after surviving the only slightly late running 'service' I should report that shortly after GNER cut my (apparently Swedish) internet connection in mid-post a rather jolly Guard took over the train announcements from the on board Team Leader (Succumbed to his wounds?) ' This train is entering Newcastle. Hope you had a jolly trip. Best wishes from Captain Flash Gordon and his crew. Its been a real pleasure travelling with youse (sic)'*

* Perhaps you mean hic? Blog-ed


Thursday, December 06, 2007

The global warming/climate change advisory unit attached too the Hutton Think Tank having seen the Betjeman Plaque with an example of his verse-see image have suggested that 'carbon' be substituted for 'exultant' and that readers be reminded of the importance of conserving fish stocks in the huge consoling sea There are limits to nature's bounty. Also we are reminded that the BBC Weather Centre cannot be held responsible for any references to possible gale damage referred to in Sir John's poetry. Meteorology although more technically advanced than in his day (Seaweed and Red Sky in the Morning) is not yet 100 reliable for insurance or other legal purposes.

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Wednesday, December 05, 2007


Scruffily and handbagged I stand
Business ladies hurrying past
To the glorious Eurostar,
Foreign climes in Tourist class
Whilst mere Londoners, in funeral drab
Can only dream of rich repast
Speeding to the Eiffel Tour
At One sixty something miles an hour

almost wrote Sir J B-and surely would have done had he lived to see the glories of St Pancras International Terminal
The image of the poet is larger than life size if not as large as the massive Lovers Meeting (as in Journey's end in..)-or The Giant Snoggers to give it the correct title-surely proof that London rather than Paris is the city for romantic liaisons or in this case La Grande Passion-grande being le mot juste

What would Sir John have made of these two figures. We will never know but

Lord shrive me from unseemly lust
For gigantic women about to rust

might cover it

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Tuesday, December 04, 2007
  graffiti. We have the answers

Originally uploaded by old_greywolf2000
Not a familiar sight in the Borders and of little use there. More likely to serve a purpose in Norn Iron where the Scrawl of the Wild has been a feature of the landscape for ages, What use in North London? Waste of public funds? Anyhow not on my Council Tax.


I may be being too unimaginative. It could be that the response team are not a load of spoil sports out to remove the Writings on the Wall
Rather it may have a literary purpose-Graffiti Response being a witty reply to someone's effusion. Like in Ballymena some years back when under a graffito:


the Response Team
had inscribed:

Back down to Lunnon. Apparently still on GNER who show no signs of quitting the East Coast route-even have designed a brand new web site! Where is National Express and why is GNER on the one hand putting in fresh investment and on the other removing therir insignia from trains and timetables?. Perhaps we will go down on GNER and return on National Express.

Hutton Think Tank are looking into it.

Lster. Worst fears realised. GNER is really letting go: Ancient rolling stock. Our carriage has a permenant cold draught, filthy seats, dirty windows. Only the disabled loo is spanking new but the last occupant missed the bowl by several inches so the floor is awash with a large quantity of sodden tissues keeping the Tsumani under partial control. And the Buffetis understocked and closed well before Journey's End for 'stock taking purposes'

Come on National Express. We really need you.

As we left Plastform 2 (on time mirabile dictu} I noticed that a lamp was attached to the engine; 'Not to be moved' in glowing red letters. The lamp or the engine? If the latter it was much

too late for that.

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Monday, December 03, 2007

Hutton Power Trip Horror

Since the great blackout of 01 -the longest Hutton has been without power since it got the electricity Scottish Power has kept the home (electric) fires burning; no mains Gas in rural Berwickshire, thankyou very much. So it was a bit of a shock (no pun intended) when the Old Manse went dark at 0805. Scottish Power Emergency number (not in the Borders phone book but on a card sent to us 24 hours after power was restored in 2001) was at first unwilling to accept we had a problem. No faults recorded in TD151TS. I said we had one. Checked your trip switches? Yes. OK a van is on its way. By wandering around I discovered that some of our neighbours had indeed got power, but one hadn't and apparently half of Mr Rutherford's yard was off. This I reported to the emergency Czar. She was grateful and said another van was on its way (due 0930): SP like BT tend to hunt in pairs except when there is trouble at Paxton exchange when they send 3 or 4. Enough for a couple of hands of Bridge, no doubt.

At 9.35 the power came on again. My neighbour to the West had a phone call from SP to say that the fault had been corrected 'remotely'-where ever did the two vans go to? Paxton Telephone Exchange perhaps?

Apparently the Old Manse has its main connection in the Church. Logical enough but why the failures in an adjoining cottage and half of JR's yard. And we subsequently we learned that some houses in the main street (north side) were also plunged into darkness at the same time. Some massive surge must have jiggered the system.

JR's tea maker perhaps.

(The image is off a candle in a power cut. Not ours this time as we couldn't find a candle in the dark)

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Sunday, December 02, 2007

Basket Cases

So now the wife has seen for herself the harsh and surreal conditions of life in the Retail Complex, aka Sir Morrisons.

Picture the scene. The wife in a tearing hurry with a basket of essential life support commodities ( organic, fair traded no GM content) clutched feverishly in an anxious hand as she rushes to the basket only check out. Short queue-second in line; hah! But what is this, the sole obstacle to paying and pushing off is the guy in front with the largest Sir M Trolley* crammed to the gunwales and beyond.

'Sorry Sir' says kind but firm Check Out Lady ' Baskets only- as indicated on that prominent sign above your head'

'No problem' says the g-i-f. And he slowly but methodically empties his trolley into 5 baskets left by previous customers. Wife steaming and still behind-no way past 5 baskets and a beer belly.

G-i-f pays (cash 2p by 2p) and departs stage right. The wife gets away, eventually, with at least a couple of items now past their sale by date.

So next time I blog about Sir Morrisons she may now realise that like the biblical lilies of the field I spin not. Honest, plain, unvarnished truth with a hint of lemon. So unlike the aspiring cub reporter e-mailing his Tabloid editor from some far flung disaster area:

'Impossible to exaggerate seriousness of situation here.But I will do my best'

* Another reason for shopping in Morrisons

(The image may well be of the offending trolley)


Saturday, December 01, 2007

Happy is the country that has no history

wrote someone, sometime about somewhere. It might have been about Hutton as our local wannabee Historian has apparently not yet put pen to paper despite amassing a box file or two of material about this ancient village. Our new home-to-be, Duns is better documented and even has its own website( http://www.duns.bordernet.co.uk/) -and the following brief history is taken from it:

The first written mention of Duns is when a 'Hugo de Duns' signed as a witness to a charter before 1214. Thereafter, Duns appears throughout the history of the Borders. Sited on the slopes of Duns Law, and close to the original Duns Castle, which was built in 1320, by the Earl of Moray, nephew of Robert the Bruce, the town was frequently attacked by the English as they headed North to lay waste to the Lothians. Sir Archibald Douglas, in 1333, mustered an army to march on Berwick, which was under siege by the English, but they were defeated at the Battle of Halidon Hill. Burned to the ground thrice within 14 years, in 1544,1545 and 1558, the town of Duns survived these repeated attacks to be a mustering point for General Leslie and his covenanting armies of 1640. Cromwell put a garrison in the town after the Battle of Dunbar in 1650, to keep the locals under control, and, no doubt, these soldiers ate and drank the locals into even greater hardship, as they did elsewhere in the Borders. An uneasy peace reigned in Duns, after the '45, and it grew rapidly in size.

History appears to have ended in 1745-or least of the bloodier sort and there is no mention of the (tenous) Burns connection. More surprisingly Duns Scotus gets no mention (*nor does the brand new Co-op)

Hutton Think Tank (Historical Research section) are working on a brief history of the village for a new History of Berwickshire website :


It present it states:Hutton. Wee wee village of obscure origins. Possibly English. Edward First's army may or may not have camped near before raising a siege or beseiging Berwick. May or may not have been burnt down by the English/Reivers/Scots from time to time. Used to have trades, school, pub, pumps. No known connection with the Holy Grail. Jim Clark Rally through village twice. Unlike Paxton has no historical link to Slavery. Unlike Paxton has a post office. On 32 Bus route.

* Blogg-ed (Retail)

The image is of Hutton last May -old pub in the background. Not very much happening.
But still, history in the making.

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