Musings from the Merse
Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Henry Moore
Originally uploaded by old_greywolf2000
Or so it says on the Ordinance Survey map. One of several sculptures scattered over a large area of Dumfries and Galloway countryside. No signs, no parking, no explanations. We can only guess at the titles but 'Odd Couple' might cover both Moore's
The third statue is obviously not an HM. Again no explanation. Title could be 'Nude with Codpiece' PPs concealed behind a slab of mossy copper.

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Tuesday, April 29, 2008
Out side Stranraer (best place to) a swanky new electronic sign proclaimed for the benefit of traffic going East on the A75-the Road of Dearth (of anywhere to stop) 'Forecast of Heavy Rain. Flood Warnings. Take Care' Not a cloud in the sky. Road bone dry. Has the BBC Blether Centre started moonlighting on trunk roads? Mr Fish recalled to the colours. Mystery. To be fair it did rain on our arrival in Dumfries but then it does on most people's arrivals Dumfries and Galloway must be Britain's wettest place. But no floods. We asked a cafe lady why people came to Dumfries. She seemed baffled by the question. Not the weather evidently? She agreed. Then her face lit up 'Its The Burns' she said.

I was rather afraid that might be the case. That's why two nights will be enough. 'Ah she added 'you have just missed the 800th anniversary celebrations'.? The Octocentenary of Dumfries When was that- Last week?

No 1986.

Narrow escape, that

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  Stena Line HSS @ Belfast (1)

Stena Line HSS @ Belfast (1)
Originally uploaded by clare&joe
Thanks Clare and Joe. We are looking forward to the Stena Plus lounge,
chilled Chardonnay, Prawns Rose Marie on Ulster wheaten bread,discreet music, Sky TV with the sound muted and first of the Ferry to Swinging Stranraer. And then to Burns favourite place-no, not Duns, or
even Coldstream, but Dumfries.
Monday, April 28, 2008
Dogged does it

Apparently at a very recent meeting of a Berwickshire Community Council the question
was posed:" What happens to Dog Poo?" Presumably referring to those canine deposits lovingly wrapped in plastic bags and placed in the red containers? Some one suggested land fill sites and was then asked that if this is the case why couldn't the crap in question go into the bog standard (no pun intended) black bins and not require a special container. After all soiled nappies are acceptable in the wheelie bins

No one really knew. Hutton Think Tank's controversial Report ' Binnie the Pooh' is still at the printers and may eventually provide some answers.

Which is more than Google does although there is a link to an interesting discussion on how to stop your dog eating his own excrement.

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Dumfries Urban Decay 001
Originally uploaded by mike_dowswell
The image is of Urban Decay' in Dumfries-Thankyou Mike Doswell.
I am only showing tbis as an indication that blogging over the next two days will be haphazard as we leave Norn Iron tomorrow-for-yes- a two day stay in Dumfries. No mad whim this. We are helping our middle daughter to settle in to her new home in a rural area-no decay involved but a spot which apparently makes Hutton appear to be densely populated. The MD has abandoned an urban life style and like her father before her as opted for the sticks to follow a writer's existence on the back of her first novel-now out- Out of a Clear Sky.. Lovers of psychological thrillers need look no further and if you are a twitcher-its your bag. You will need to rush-Amazon UK is down to its last copy already but no doubt large vans are hastening from Macmillan to replenish stocks.

Normal service should be resumed on 1 May when we return for, hopefully, our last two months in the Old Manse. But many a slip

If you want to read a good review of the MD's book go to http://doyouwriteunderyourownname.blogspot.com/2008/04/out-of-clear-sky.html

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Sunday, April 27, 2008
  Zoe and the black rock

Zoe and the black rock
Originally uploaded by old_greywolf2000
Huttonian as a very small boy a few years back used to swim from this black rock which is the distinctive feature of southern Newcastle. Nothing to attract the day tripper to this beach-no caffs, no trinket shops, just the odd dog and lots of lovely empty sand. The rock is as Huttonian remembers except that it has shrunk dramatically. Something to do with the high count of fecal matter, perhaps.

Zoe seemed to enjoy it
Saturday, April 26, 2008
  Grangemouth Refinery Shut Down

Grangemouth Refinery
Originally uploaded by davidqueenan
According to the relevant websites Norn Iron gets its fuel from Grangemouth. Yet unlike in Scotland there is no sign of panic buying nor any warnings about possible rationing. Strange that. But I remember when being here in the last fuel lorry drivers strike which was nationwide in GB -nothing happened here. It must all come from the Republic. So we should have enough diesel to get us home. And then what?
Friday, April 25, 2008
  Hare's Gap looking back

Hares Gap looking back
Originally uploaded by old_greywolf2000
There is country as wild as this back in Borders but not as beautiful. The image is looking back from the Hare's Gap along the three mile track from the Trassey River car park. Through the Gap and hading south the Brandy Pad heads along the 1500 foot contour around Commedagh and Donard to the sea at the Bloody Bridge. Brandy = brandy, as in VSOP and Pad equals path. This was the smugglers route from the beach to the other side of the mountains where the loot was spirited (no pun intended) away having avoided the attentions of HM Excise. Not a walk for a wet and windy day-if you get blown off the Brandy Pad, its a long way down and although the Mountain Rescue guys are only a mobile call away their services do not come cheap. Under the new Country (Mourne Mountain) Code the main provisions are:
(a) Plenty of protective clothing (b) look at Metcheck before you set off,
(c) make sure your mobile is fully charged and your GPS properly calibrated (d) Ensure your will is up to date and (e) Bring your credit cards to show the Helicopter crewman before he winches you up.

And have a Good Day
Thursday, April 24, 2008
  Percy French Memorial

Percy French Memorial
Originally uploaded by old_greywolf2000
As part of the shiny post modern Promenade in Newcastle there is a shiny post modern see through metal 'statue' of Percy French whose ditty 'Where the Mountains of Mourne Sweep down to the Sea' helped to promote Newcastle's reputation as the 'Queen of Irish Watering Places' Cynics believe that Mr French came to Newcastle as infrequently as Rabbie Burns came to Coldstream but no matter.The Mournes are here and the cerainly sweep down to the sea. This memorial has also escaped the attentions of the vandals- see previous post

But give them time
Wednesday, April 23, 2008
No Trouble at t'mill

Good News from the Merse. Huttonian has received a letter from the Planning Highheidyin to confirm that the planning application for the 'erection of a dwelling house' on 'Land East of Hutton Castle Mill' has been withdrawn

A victory for common sense. Power to the People, er Person-as only one member of the public objected: Huttonian. But well supported by the Hutton and Paxton Community Council. Had we not, would anyone have noticed even such an obvious nonsense?

Mr R's Baillie will have to be content with just the one house.

Watch out for the caravan site
  Turds and Whey?

Max Depth 2 metres?
Originally uploaded by Gary McMurray
I m indebted to Gary McMurray for this image of the sign at the outer edge of the Rock Seawater Swimming Pool in Newcastle County Down. Huttonian spent his formative years swimming up and down its 25 metres length-something to do when it was too wet to play golf
The vast depths of up to two metres did not really bother me but I did prefer the shallower bit where you could pop down the occasional toe for a bit of security.

The outdoor pool has been under threat for some time as the HighHeidyins in the local council don't really like such an old fashioned 'facility' cluttering up their upkeep portfolio-after all t here is a newer heated wave machine enabled state of the art pool just up town a bit, When it was closed a few years back there was such an uproar from the hard core of cold blooded salt water swimming enthusiasts that money was found to repair its crumbling infrastructure and reopen it for the hot season July and August

But now a new threat. The seawater at Newcastle is deemed to contain faecal coliforms (aka small floating turds?) and it is now in the 'poor water quality' . This is thanks to our inefficient sewerage treatment plant which spews its 'unsatisfactory effluent' into Dundrum Bay. So no Blue Flag status for the beach-and as sea water regularly enters the pool during high tides and strong winds, the pool is deemed unsafe as well. So until the Bay is declared turd free the pool will be 'temporally closed' 'Permenantly, I suspect if Down Borough Council has its way.

What a great start to the Tourist season
Tuesday, April 22, 2008

In a town unfortunately noted for frequent acts of desecration by vandals-the locals blame yoof from Belfast not their own, it is good to report that the magnificent post modern 'Promenade' and Main Street beautification has so far escaped the decorative talents of the yobs. In particular the shiny reflecting globe (see image) on the Promenade sea front has survived unscathed and unscratched. Local people are unusually unanimous in their praise for the new look town and, hopefully, any visiting would be hooligans with no respect for property will be seen off by Newcastle young.

In the image above its the high seas pounding the promenade which are more of a danger to the shiny globe than any visiting thugs

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Monday, April 21, 2008
Defence of the Realm starts here

Thank goodness we wil still be away from the Borders for Operation Joint Warrior which is due to raise the Merse Decibel Count very shortly.
As reported in the Berwickshire:

BERWICKSHIRE MP Michael Moore is advising residents of a military exercise that will take place between April 21 and May 1 which will involve a significant increase in low flying over the area.
The exercise, known as Joint Warrior, will involve units from all three branches of the UK armed forces as well as invited NATO and Allied Nations. Its aim is to equip these forces with the skills and expertise necessary to deal with multiple threats.
Thirty-eight ships, two submarines and up to 45 aircraft from the UK, NATO and Allied Nations will operate from various bases in Scotland.
Commenting in advance of the exercise, Mr Moore said: "We all realise the importance of equipping our armed forces with the skills and expertise required for active combat. In my experience, people in the Borders are extremely supportive of our armed forces and the vital job that they do in protecting us.
"However, it is important that disruption is kept to an absolute minimum, and the MoD lives up to its promise to ensure careful coordination of flying throughout the period to ensure that aircraft activity is spread as evenly as possible to minimise the impact on any one area.
"If anyone has any questions or concerns that arise from this exercise, I would be happy to take them up with the MoD."

Any one bothered by planes flying really low ie under 100 feet-can feel free to ring the MOD/RAF complaints line without bothering Mr Moore. We actually did this once after a F16 had flown between our chimney pots giving one hell of a fright to Rosie the Cat, both visiting Pheasants and prematurely de-gooseberrying our best bush.

We contacted a a very sympathetic retired Squadron Leader on the line who took all the details whilst expressing dismay that we had not been able to take down the registration number of the offending aircraft. Three months later we received a nice letter signed by a very senior RAF officer apologising for disrupting our Grouse Moor-shome misshtake shumewhere, presumably.

A submarine aground in the Whiteadder might be taken more seriously?

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Sunday, April 20, 2008
  East Wind But No Slurry

east wind storm waves
Originally uploaded by old_greywolf2000
This is what the East wind looks like where the Mountains of Mourne Sweep Down to the Sea but unlike those poor southron folk in SE England we have no sweet smell of slurry clogging our nostrils. The southerners have been exposed to the aroma of Dutch Spring Slurry Spreading Solstice carried across the channel by the East winds and they now know what it is like to live within sniffing distance of Farmer O or Farmer C when the muck gets chucked around in due season.
Saturday, April 19, 2008
  Dolmen. Or is it?

Dolmen close up
Originally uploaded by old_greywolf2000
Two years ago when walking in Kilbroney Forest Park, Rostrevor, Norn Iron, Huttonian and the wife came across this edifice which looks like one of those ancient Dolmens, several of which have survived in Ireland-a few in County Down. A blog about this caught the attention of a local historical website and some interest was caused as there was no knowledge of a dolmen being sited in the park and certainly no archaeological record. No one else on the website had ever seen this dolmen which is quite easy to miss as it is above the path and may have been hidden by bushes. Someone has suggested that it is just a jumble of rocks naturally formed. And they may be right. If not and it is a new discovery, unnamed and unregistered then it can be called the Huttonian Dolmen.

Fame at last
Friday, April 18, 2008

Any colour as long as it is black

Sometimes in Norn Iron you need a bit of the local context to understand what exactly is going on. Not in the rarefied strata of Stormont where it is all too bleeding obvious but nearer to the man on the 237 Express Bus-Kilkeel to Belfast.

Take this story from the Mourne Observer-Newcastle Edition. A young Kilkeel woman reports that at 1-30 am last Sunday her house was attacked after a ‘gang had assembled outside it’ A stone hit her window and “ there was a fella shouting and roaring ‘Get out you black b*******(count the asterisks carefully) Get the **** out of here’ Then a second stone was thrown. £500 worth of damage.

The headline claims that this attack was to intimidate her after she had moved to this area just two weeks earlier. Why? Lets read on

This is Norn Iron so the article volunteers, unbidden, that the young woman is a Catholic; her sister was in the house with her and, note a Protestant friend. Sex unspecified. And ‘others in the house at the same time’

If you count the asterisks you my reach the conclusion that the B word implies unmarried parentage and is in the singular. Just the one Bastard. But why Black? The young ladies are white. Very.

Now a clue: A Protestant. One specified. Singular. Sometimes they are Orange but, in the lingo of the time Black can go with Protestant . As in the Black North perhaps?

You might think that this is a bit of ethnic cleansing –not unknown in Belfast housing estates and have been exported to the provinces. Even Kilkeel.

It is certainly being taken seriously. The young lady and her sister are pictured with the Mayor (coincidentally related to the victims) and the broken window, Plus a large missile. The Mayor,is appealing for witnesses: ‘A gang of 15 people can’t walk about unnoticed.’

I’ll think you will find

They can.

I am indebted to a loyalist Flickr man for this image the taken in Kilkeel.The caption is 'God Save the Queen-we mean it Ma'am'

Perhaps not a sentiment shared widely in Scrogg Road?

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Thursday, April 17, 2008
Putting an Orr in?

This letter in today's electronic Berwickshire indicates a bit of disarray in the nationalist ranks?

SIR, - I read in last week’s issue with some degree of surprise that Aileen Orr is being quoted in your newspaper as Westminster Candidate and she is quoted as speaking for the Borders regarding independence.
While I am delighted that the Petition on Independence is getting some column inches in your first class newspaper I am disappointed that Ms Orr is once again being presented by the Tweeddale Press as some kind of local candidate for the SNP in Berwickshire.
This is extremely misleading for the electorate and quite insulting to our own Westminster candidate, Paul Wheelhouse who has been working across the Berwickshire, Roxburgh and Selkirk County Constituency since he was appointed last October.
Ms Orr may well farm with her husband at Hutton but that does not give her the right to comment on matters relating to this constituency without that comment coming through myself or our candidate.
She is a Prospective Parliamentary Candidate for an area which stretches from Clydesdale on the west coast down to Dumfriesshire and the Solway coast then up to West Peeblesshire. That, I am sure you will agree, is a bit further west than even the Berwickshire News can claim as its circulation area.
All press releases regarding the Berwickshire, Roxburgh and Selkirkshire Constituency are issued from either myself for Paul Wheelhouse and I would ask that you respect that position check with one of us before publishing items purporting to represent the SNP in this area.
Chairman, Berwickshire, Roxburgh and Selkirk County Constituency SNP Association.

Might it not have been simpler to ask Mrs O to button it locally rather than air party disagreements in the medja? And how is it Mrs O's fault if the local press has misunderstood her position?

Whilst wishing the Hutton Farmer all the best in the Westminster hustings may Huttonian respectfully suggest that door to door canvassing is not best done by sitting in car and sending the younger members of the family to stuff the letter boxes and knock the knockers. It did not work around here and I doubt if it will have a warmer response a 'bit further west'

Verb Sap as they used to say in Pompeii

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Wednesday, April 16, 2008
In Your Dreams

'Sorry its Ladies Day. You can't play until we are all finished.
I was puzzled. 'What time does your competition start?' (It was 8.45am)
'Nine o Clock', But that's not the point. Its Ladies Day. You are a man. You can't play until well into the afternoon'
'But if I tee off now I have a good 15 minutes start and playing by myself will not hold anyone up'

'What part of Ladies Day do you not understand?' She bent down and placed her ball on a smart red tee in the middle of the teeing off area. ' Now why don't you run along now and do something else until thne course is free'

Something snapped. I flicked my driver out of the bag, walked up to her ball and gave it a whack. Shades of Tiger Wood (although he is still alive) Long and straight, over the ridge, trickled onto the green, 240 yards away, and , yes, disapeared into the hole.

I turned back to the open mouthed, red faced, spluttering woman. Picked up her tee and handed it to her.

'Have a good round' I said

I woke up with a smile on my face.

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Tuesday, April 15, 2008

There are a number of areas where the Borders are vastly superior to Norn Iron-golf not being one of them I hasten to add-but top of Huttonian's list is recycling. The Borders was late into the act-we here had Blue (recycling) and Brown (Garden Waste) when the Reivers were in short pants but now compared to the highly restrictive regime in Norn Iron the Borders are a recyclers paradise in comparison

We have huge Blue wheelie bins: Newspapers fine; Magazines ok but no envelopes. They have gum and Gum is CONTAMINATION. And no, means no. The environmental hygienists, aka Refuse Collectors, akawell Bin Men (Persons) are instructed to scrutinise contents of said bins and if they find CONTAMINATION-envelopes,pizza boxes, hard back books, plastic wrapping,, yoghurt pots, plastic bags, bubble wrap, margarine tubs,pill containers, wall paper, shredded paper (including plans for WMD) paper bags (Yes paper bags) wrapping paper-the list goes on and on-then the BINS WILL BE REFUSED and perhaps if the eh/rc/bm are in a foul mood tipped all over the pavement and danced on. And any garden earth found lurking amongst the weeds, clippings etc in the Brown Bins will cause the BBs to be LEFT WHERE THEY ARE.

Mind you there is one inducement not yet introduced to the Merse. The EHs can award the accolade of 'Recycler of the Month. to say, Mrs Finola Bedworthy of Dun Bombin, Falls Road as her pristine blue bin contains nothing except back issues of the Reconstructed Terrorist, the daily organ of the Real IRA, , neatly folded and unread. No cash prizes but if you win the award often enough you can claim a new bin at the discounted price of £25. Collect it yourself from some recycled H Block depot in Lisburn. weekdays, between 10 and 1015.

THe wife is contemplating to take our recycling, plastic bags, envelopes, yoghurt pots and all back to Hutton. And if there is no room for the golf clubs;


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Monday, April 14, 2008
  car sunday papers

car sunday papers
Originally uploaded by old_greywolf2000
Nice day, lovely view. Heavy traffic from Belfast. Just the place to read the Sunday papers. Blast-forgot the 'Life style' supplement with the Malone Road Gracious Living article. Lets go back to get it, But thats a two hour round trip,

Yes. Convenient. Isn't it!

After all Parking is free.
Sunday, April 13, 2008

Big Mac Meets Cotton Bud Stick

Looking out on the pristine and empty beaches of Dundrum Bay it is hard to be too concerned about the following item from the on-line Berwickshire; (hard copy not available in this part of Norn Iron where you have to choose between the Mourne Observer and the Down Recorder)

CONTINUING tide of cotton-bud sticks has helped tip Scotland to the bottom of the UK league for beach litter.
Sewage-related debris (SRD), consisting mainly of cotton-bud sticks, accounted for 26 per cent of the total litter found in Scotland, according to the Marine Conservation Society's (MCS) Beachwatch 2007 survey report published earlier this week.
The density of SRD in Scotland (708.8/km) was the highest of any country and over five times the UK average (125.7/km).
But although sewage waste is a large contributor to the litter on Scotland's beaches, it is not the main offender.
The highest percentage of litter comes from recreational visitors dropping bottles, cigarette butts, cans etc on beaches during their time there.
And with tourism vital for the economy of Berwickshire towns and villages like Eyemouth and St Abbs, both see their populations swell dramatically during the summer months.
But with this comes the inevitable litter, although Kevin Rideout, Head Ranger at St Abb's Nature Reserve said it can be difficult to pinpoint just where it comes from.
"Most of the litter that arrives on beaches on the Berwickshire coast is washed up from the sea although you don't always know where from.
"It could be from nearby or it could realistically be from anywhere on the east coast.
"For example a beach like Linkim Shore near Eyemouth doesn't get a lot of visitors, yet it still gets its fair share of litter.

And a lot could be from Big Mackers heading north-but to be fair to them most of the wrapping has been tossed out of the car on the A1 long before the St Abb's turn off.
As for the precise provenance of the Cotton Bud sticks one is tempted not

to enquire

too closely.

(But Hutton Think Tank have an on going study)

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Saturday, April 12, 2008

Allie Baba the stricken thief

So standing on the 18th tee at the Royal County Down (PBUI) with the sun glinting on the snow at the top of Slieve Donard (Snow just visible if you click on image), a light wind, the hacking women confined to their own course and no threat to proper golfers, and a series of good holes behind me-all was right in the world. One thing was certain, one thing was sure that my drive at this par 5 540 yard hole would be the best yet. This might be a tough finishing hole but Huttonian was up to it.

Sure enough-swack-straight up the middle, right at the saddle between Slieve Donard and Commedagh(but not quite that far) -but wait a minute-what is that is fast converging on the spot destined for my drive to finish? Oh No its Allie the ball nicking Alsatian, desperate to add my Titleist 4 to his collection. To lose my ball at this stage and it has done me three rounds-what a tragedy.

Then a mighty yelp and Allie took off like an, er, stricken Alsatian. The Titleist 4 had struck him just above the tail and he rushed off without a backward glance-for the safety of the far rough and the Yellow Gorse. My ball lay glowing proudly in the middle of the fairway.

After such a good drive it was a pity that my second shot disappeared into a Bunker.

But on balance.

A good morning

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Friday, April 11, 2008
  The Mountains of Mourne from Dalby, Isle of Man

The Mountains of Mourne from Dalby, Isle of Man
Originally uploaded by lizjmitchell
Thankyou lizimitchell for this image of the Mourne Mountains from the Isle of Man. What the Norn Ironers in Newcastle don't want to see is the Isle of Man from here. The old saying is that if you can see the IOM it is going to rain, and if you can't

its raining.

Today it has rained-just enough to frustrate the golf. It is now sunny. I have just rushed out to the sea wall-hurrah! No Isle of Man.

So its going to be fine and those dark clouds whistling in from the West will not bring rain? Can't, surely. As the Isle of Man is not visible.?

I am not sure how much you can trust these local saws. Me, I would normally consult the bit of seaweed which used to hang in the porch. If its dry: good weather, certain sure. If its wet-some idiot left the door open.
Anyhow someone has recycled it with the garden rubbish. That's closed that option.

The barometer has broken and the digital one is out of batteries.

So I'll risk the golf

And take my brolly
Thursday, April 10, 2008
  Stena Line HSS @ Belfast (1)

Stena Line HSS @ Belfast (1)
Originally uploaded by clare&joe
Its good to sit in the Stena Plus Lounge, sipping a cold Chablis and watching Stranraer disappear into well merited obscurity. Belfast in an hour, shoals permitting.
The terminal building at Stranraer had a new notice aimed at Football fans, I assume. No Football Banners on Board, No booze to be taken on the boat and above all :

No singing of Sectarian Songs

So what is there to do on board?
Wednesday, April 09, 2008


Or as the Berwickshire put it in Tomorrow's Paper:

First Class Ticket Second Class Service

is about a couple going to York on a discounted First Class ticket and then being turned away from the First Class lounge on Berwick Station-wrong type of ticket in hand. National Express had the answer:

The supervisor explained this was standard procedure although Lynda, her sister and the other two ticket holders hadn't been told of this rule at any time prior to that day.
"We went assuming we'd get into the lounge and had absolutely no problems getting into the first class carriage on the train or at any other point on our journey."
Commenting on the issue, National Express East Coast spokesman John Gelson said: "Our First Class lounges are a popular facility and to ensure space is available, especially at busy locations such as London King's Cross, our policy is that access is available to holders of full open First Class tickets.
"Our advance purchase discount tickets are an increasingly popular way for customers to try out our First Class service on the trains, but unfortunately we don't have space to accommodate everyone and so we offer the lounge service only to full fare ticket holders and not to those holding discounted advance tickets.
"We publicise this both at the point of booking, which for most advance ticket customers is via our website, and at the lounges."

I was once told by a Station Person (Deputy Assistant Acting Platform Team Manager)that the Berwick First Class lounge is rarely used-months with a K in them- so this seems rather mean. And the only way you can read the notice saying you can't use the lounge, is in the lounge, which you can't go into.

The plans for the soon to be reopened Reston Station includes a First Class lounge, open to all and a standard one, not open to First Class Ticket holders, but will be to those holding discounted First Class tickets. Except on week days.Or Bank holidays.

Social justice at last

The image is a mock up of Reston's proposed First Class Lounge

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Off to the Province

And so after a long period of self denial it is off to Norn Iron for a few holes of golf and a chance to write the second edition of that rip roaring best seller : Jordan A Hashemite Legacy A paper back edition out by the autumn and so there will be no need to have to fork out £65 for the hardback . Mind you worth every penny, but still. I fear non-golfing bloggees will have a thin time but normal service from the Merse will be re-established on 1 May. No big tournament to frustrate the ordinary player as was the case with the Walker Cup last September and I am told that the Royal County Down (PBUI) is in tip top condition.

The image is of a previous visit to Newcastle-a fine lofted drive-click on image and you will be rewarded with the sight of the ball, soaring, dead straight, as seen against Cloud 9. Surely a magnificent birdie coming up.

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Tuesday, April 08, 2008

I don't know how they did it as the Frogs have been notable by their absence these last few days but suddenly the pond is full of spawn, bubbling away and in some cases looking a bit like primeval jelly fish. This is by far the furthest into 'spring' that the ejaculated sago has appeared -31st of March was the previous latest date for that.

As for the proud dads they seem to have gone to ground-sleeping the sleep of the exhausted amongst the Daffodils. But I think we can say that Spring has really come despite the forecast for yet more frost and snow later on tonight.

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Monday, April 07, 2008

All the Wine that's fit to drink?

Huttonian has much sympathy with the letter published in last week's Berwickshire (which I have only just seen thanks to the inability to find a copy in the main Palmers Green newsagent; for goodness sake. They had Le Monde, USA today,the Dandy, The Guardian but no Berwickshire News.
As follows:
SIR, - I hope that I'm not your only reader who read last week's item on how Morrison's is celebrating April with a promotion of "all things French" with some sadness and growing anger, when just a few pages on, the headlines included "Concern as pig crisis worsens" and "Fair deal sought for farmers."
Was it an early April Fool's Day joke that they are "the only retailer to sell fresh oysters and crab that have never previously been frozen"? Surely not? When I last looked, excellent fresh local crab was available landed at Eyemouth from local fish merchants such as Collins,' whilst only a few miles away some of the best oysters in the world are available at Lindisfarne - so good they had sold before I'd even got to Kelso farmer's market!
Those of us who are privileged to live in Berwickshire are not just surrounded by stunning scenery, but are lucky enough to live surrounded by a whole host of wonderful food producers. Those lambs now appearing in the fields are not just window dressing, but a reminder that great lamb (and mutton, and beef, and pork too) is produced locally by a whole host of farmers. Whilst their produce can't always be found at the supermarket, you'll find it at the great independent butchers we are still lucky enough to have here in Duns and at Norham and Berwick. Farmers’ markets, also nearby at Berwick and Kelso - but sadly not yet in Duns - give a great introduction to local produce and its producers, whilst increasingly some innovative farmers such as Peelham and Reiver are becoming both direct suppliers as well as farmers.
Meat isn't all that is on the local menu either and a wide range of locally produced food is increasingly available. Duns now has a great greengrocers where produce is clearly labelled as "organic" or much better, as "local," whilst the friendly deli has a range of local cheeses and locally smoked fish among the chorizo and pasta that we love too.
Nearby are Stitchill's wonderful dairy products and Windsheil's organic eggs, whilst Berwickshire now has its own organic box scheme from Tweed Valley Organics.
We even have our own locally produced oil in Olefiera, just over the border Carrolls are supplying heritage varieties of potatoes to some of the country's most famous restaurants whilst locally shot game has always been in demand. On wine I though I'd be stumped until I discovered that Prentice's in Duns were stocking wine from a Berwickshire-owned vineyard (albeit in South Africa) but over in Ayton, Peelwalls are making a whole range of individual wines from each of the classic grape varieties!
If you want a true taste of France this month why not try some local produce? After all, as we still eat our own produce too rarely, the best is frequently shipped to France where they really do appreciate it. There is a lot of great local produce out there and it deserves our support when we can - just occasionally why not ask "is it local?" Bon appetit!

Yes, Sir Morrisons is notable for its reluctance to support local produce-'Central purchasing-economies of scale-value for the customer' is their defence Supporting the local community-forget it.

The writer, in his list of local produce has overlooked the virtually unknown* Hutton Wine Industry run by the viniculture wing of the Hutton Think Tank. Only a small production, 9 bottles in 2007 (not a great vintage, admittedly) but one which has aroused comment amongst the cognescenti. The Hutton Hill was described in the 'Gourmet Grocer' as 'redolent of rural aromas, warm, with a strong astringent appeal, requiring a good strong nose...memorable...slurry without its sting..a worthy companion to Haggis' The 'Australian Wine Buff' correspondent ( a Mr M.Python) with perhaps a touch of envy for an outstanding non-Oz product was less forthcoming:

'A Wine for laying down

And forgetting'

(*perhaps that why it was overlooked? Blog-ed)

The image is of the last bottle of the 2006 cru- 'Whiteadder Red': 'The Perfect Companion to a Strong Curry'-the Readers Digestion Guide to Unusual Drinks

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Sunday, April 06, 2008

Indication One:

The Loos are usually 'engaged' despite the carriages being uncrowded.

(more indications to follow)

Gradually National Express are casting off the shadow of GNER (but the crockery is GNER stock as are the handbags and other matching accessories adorning the crew)but one development is that 'Attention Train Crew Disabled Passenger Alarm Activated' is now strangled at its first piercing beat. And the unspoken message is

Disabled Passenger Alarm


That's progress for you

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Saturday, April 05, 2008
The Flowers That Bloom in the Spring Tra La should be uprooted

Flower Bed OTT
Originally uploaded by old_greywolf2000

Relis used to live in Dialect* Bay, in Fife, a purpose build sea side suburb brand new in the 1970s-for people who were upwardly mobile but not upward enough to live in Embra. Some of the gardens in this new community of (sometimes pretentious) gracious living were almost grotesque, often neurotic, in their colourful splendour-garish was the adjective that came to mind. The sort of manicured lawns which were calling out for some public spirited vandal to cover in steaming dog turds to make them look a bit more natural. The occupants of these bijou residences spend to spend 90% of their lives in their gardens and 10% washing and buffing their Beamers. And that was the men-who earned the dosh was a great mystery

I thought of those verdant claustrophobic half acres when going around Regents Park yesterday-this display.image above, had DB written all over it. Enlarge to enjoy its full over the toppery-enough to give passing bees a severe migraine.

Now en route to Hutton courtesy of National Express and with a bit of luck the coming cold snap will put pay to the struggling Daffodils for good and all.

* The real name is disguised to avoid giving offence-but if you put it into SpellChecker out pops Dialect. So be it

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Friday, April 04, 2008

Zoo Notice
Originally uploaded by old_greywolf2000
Many things cross Huttonian's mind when visiting the Regent Park Zoo but singing like a Gibbon is not one of them. And no chance to day as Mr G was hiding in a bucket throughout our visit. Sulking? Had someone stolen his Karaoke Machine? (Click on image to read the small print)

The other creature which seemed a bit pussed off with life was the Lemur which took refuge on its keepers shoulder overwhelmed by public attention 'I am a celebrity-get me back to Madagascar' it seemed to be indicating


Thursday, April 03, 2008
  St James Park, London

St James Park, London
Originally uploaded by hanneorla
Thankyou hanneoria for this image of St James Park See post immediately below. Not as nice as Paxton House grounds perhaps but the bird life is prodigous. The Pelicans are especially awesome, towering over and impeding the passage of the Chinese tourists who have to bribe them to get past
Adventures in Technology Number One

I don't often like to be away from the Merse but an exception is when you emerge from Green Park Tube station on a warm Spring morning, a cup of Latte in one hand, serious papers for the Foreign and Charlie Office in the other and then have to walk through long dead Daffodils and rampant Pelicans in St James Park under trees in their spring foliage to where the FCO gave you so many years of gainful employment all that time ago. Such a contrast to exiting from the Hutton underground on the Rural and River Line-all stations to Reston, to a chilly blast and daffodils un bloomed and frog spawn un ejaculated.A tale of two nations indeed.

I had bought a cheap day return at Palmers Green station to convey me to Westminster and back at the 'strewth knock me down price' of £6.90. Or £7 in Scottish money at the current rate of exchange. On alighting at Green Park-a stop short of Westminster my card refused to open the the exit barrier. A friendly functionary tried it again and the gate reluctantly let me through. 'Where are you going?' asked the FF -no doubt spotting a country bumpkin, confused and vulnerable in the bewildering Big Smoke. 'Westminster' 'But this is Green Park, Westminster is a stop further on the Jubilee Line' 'I know but I wanted a walk' ' But does your ticket know that? That could have been the problem?' I looked at my ticket. It looked unblinking back. I noticed that I had been given a one day travel card-presumably cheaper than the return. I pointed this out to the FF-'Look it does not say Westminster-how can it know exactly where I wanted to go?' 'Ah' he said, taking pity on the elderly technophobe:

'Its a smart card'

As I left the station heading for Latte and London. I looked back

The FF was convulsed with laughter.


Disgruntled Commuter subsequently told me that Travel Cards are not 'Smart' but I am sure mine had at least a fairly high IQ. Otherwise.....


Wednesday, April 02, 2008
As we were feverishly awaiting the arrival of the prompt running 1141 from Embra the station master or platform crew leader announced that the next train to arrive at Platform One was on training and no one was to 'attempt to board' No sooner had it jerked to a shuddering halt when a disabled woman on crutches made a sort of dash for Coach D and hammered on the door with a crutch when it would not open.'Stop' shouted the PCL 'This train does not stop here. Didn't you hear my announcement?'Of course not' yelled the DW 'I am deaf. Aren't I' ' I'll never get to Edinburgh at this rate! .
'This is not the Platform for Embra' screamed the PCL ' This is Platform One-Edinburgh is Platform Two'

'Well why did you not say that before you silly man' And off scuttled the DW.

But the Endinburgh train had just left. And the PCL had retreated to his lair, double bolting his door. And I left on the real 1141 so I did not see the ending of this little drama.

I bet it was not very happy. That's just for Fairy Tales



National Express/GNER IC225 82 203, Kings Cross
Originally uploaded by crashcalloway
I am indebted to crashcalloway (I hope in his case no pun intended-interesting name for a train buff) for this image of a National Express train, still in GNER colours, at Kings Cross. It may well be the same engine pulling Huttonian to the Big Smoke for some family visiting today. By booking months ahead I have acquired a sort of First Class ticket. 'Sort of' as it is cheapie which does not entitle you to use the First Class lounges at stations but at least you can sit in comfort in the posh bit and have at seat service with seven different vintages of Iron Bru and a Northumberland breakfast all day if the chef is on board. Vox Pop says that the nosh on National Express does not measure up to the old lamented GNER despite, apparently, taking on GNER staff as a job lot-perhaps the old chefs have downed ladles and have gone off in a collective huff to McDonald's.

Will report further if I am spared.

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Tuesday, April 01, 2008

A bloggee referring to the post about the mysterious new house for the gamekeeper at Hutton Castle Mill has reminded Huttonian of the word on the street, well, Kirk Lane, anyhow that the syndicate who own the fishing rights, pheasantery (and the Guinea Fowlness), the self catering converted mill and the actual, existing, Game keepers house (Dun Poachin?) have plans for a Caravan Park along the bank of the Whiteadder. No planning application as yet and I wonder if the Planning Highheidyins will be all together happy about this idea beside a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) -apparently the fossils in the Whiteadder at that point are real old-man-and must not be disturbed from their slumber. Moreover the proposal would further increase the number of things at risk on a flood plain. Although the flood protection officer (the guy with muddy wellies and two umbrellas) commenting on the house application stated that floods only came about every 200 years-the last huge one was as recently as 1948, so that's all right then.

I suspect the syndicate may have second thoughts-I doubt if many members of the sort of well heeled clientele that the fishing and the mill often attract would relish being next door to a caravan park with heavily tattooed ladies breathing down their Barbours as they struggle with the one that gets away and 'snotty nosed kids' (do they exist any more?) nicking their flies and smearing dirty fingers over the finely buffed Chelsea Tractors. And the game keeper may have all his work cut out-Strangled Pheasant and Chips is not on the usual caravanner's Menu but you have to start somewhere and the Guinea Fowl are quite easy to catch as well

(the image is of a pheasant, glad to escape from potential carnage at t'mill, seeking political ayslum at our kitchen door. Cognescenti will note that he is at the pre-strangulation stage)

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