Musings from the Merse
Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Huttonian wondered if he had been an unexpected victim of the credit crunch following an encounter with a Norn Bank ATM yesterday. Having paid out a modest contribution towards coping with the cost of living in Newcastle, the machine refused to return my card. Pressing all available electronic buttons and striking the machine a couple of sharp blows as a restive queue built up behind me brought no positive results so I went into the bank in search of assistance.

A young lady within explained that as the missing card was not a Norn Bank one the rules required it be destroyed-as suspect-and I would have to sort it out with my bank. But if it was suspect why did it pay me out money? I wondered. She took the point and said that if I could produce ID the card would be returned-the card is my ID but I ain't got it, you have.

But they didn't. Machine card less-it must have come out and was now presumably in the possession of some dishonest passer by emptying the remaining contents of my account and buying Easy Jet tickets to exotic far a way places. I rushed out of thr bank (not too easy to rush with two security doors to negotiate) I looked again at the machine. It smiled back but no card between its teeth. A rather scruffy gent to one side asked 'Are you looking for this?' My card! I was. 'It just popped out. I was just wondering what to do with it' (Easy Jet? Amazon UK? A hedge against inflation?) I told him and he handed it over, trustingly,-no request for ID.

I thanked him and left him leaning against the ATM. Peering expectantly at the card slot.

I told the Norn bank teller the good news.

I doubt she believed me.

(The image is a Norn bank fiver-plastic and shiny, its like Monopoly money issued by a Third World Low Street bank)

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Monday, September 29, 2008
Blast. Nice Try, Near Miss

The new post modern Promenade in Newcastle has deservedly won many awards for its imaginative design-gleaming metal balls, artfully placed Chinese Granite boulders, sweeping panoramic views of (Irish granite) Mourne Mountains but the city/town fathers (parents?) do not seem to believe that it should be a launch pad for having fun in the sea or on the beach as this notice-displayed every few yards- testifies (Click on it for detail) No Wave Dodging-just stand there and let them knock you down? No inflatables-off with the armbands and let poor Katy sink? Dangerous Currents? Yes about 2 miles out to sea. Slippery Rocks Yes it is a beach-and no rocks actually, just pebbles. And what I really appreciate is the injunction to cautious careful parents to 'report near misses'

'Yes its a Mr MacKeown. From Ballymena, visiting. No 'Mac' not 'Mc'I have to report that my Willie -no its a child- was nearly hit by a small wave which he was not allowed to dodge. No he is ok now. Nearly gave him an awful shock. No not at all; I thought you should know about it. Any chance of compensation for his ice cream he dropped in his fright? £1.75 with a flake. 'No? Flipping mean in my book-and same to you. Last time we come here.'

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Sunday, September 28, 2008

Artful Aroma

Newcastle's saddest event (long before Huttonian's triple bogey at the short 7th) was the great fishing disaster of 1843 which took the lives of 46 local fishermen. Another event was the running aground of Brunel's steamship the SS Great Britain up the coast in Dundrum Bay. Recent murals at Newcastle Harbour commemorate these events as part of the town's connection with the sea and do something to distract your attention from the smell-partly the glutinous mud at low tide and partly a niff of sewerage from the treatment plant on whose wall the murals have been painted. You will need to click on the individual pictures to achieve full effect.

The smell you will have to imagine

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Saturday, September 27, 2008

Borders folk are being encouraged to think up new reasons why rxiled Scots should take advantage of the Year of the Home Coming-or Many Happy Returns designated for 2009.
The latest initiative -Common Ridings Meets the Reiver's Return is mentioned in the Berwickshire here You will note that Duns is to be included in a cross Borders project to enhance existing civic weeks to welcome 'hame' exiled Scots who may well have left the native hearth for good reason, like being a Prime Minister in London. The organisers have coined 'Return to the Ridings' as an appropriate eye catching slogan which they hope will resonate with Border Scots' terminally bored with Galashiels and earning big bucks in Dubai.

Expatriate Yorkshire people might be a trifle misled?

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Friday, September 26, 2008


'11th Hole closed' said the notice in the Club House. 'Closed?' Must be the wet weather of two weeks ago. Huttonian had never known a hole on the Royal County Down (PBUI) to be closed for anything less than six feet of snow or a nuclear holocaust-both rare events in Norn Iron.Even during The Troubles.

THe hole concerned is actually on the Annesley Course (MPBUI) And when we arrived on the tee expecting a fierce notice saying 'No Play-walk on to the next hole' we found that the par 4 had been turned into a three with a temporary green on the fairway about 160 yards away. Which we duly played (rather well since you ask) That was three days ago. Today on the first tee we got into conversation with a garrulous gent who was anxious to tell us about the 11th' 'Its because of the caravans-'theys' ( a reference to the golfing highheidyins don't want youse* to hit a drive because of the caravans.' To cut a long garrul short, apparently a caravan got struck by a golf ball recently (perhaps injury inflicted)driven from the 11th tee- a mighty blow look you and a mighty slice to boot. The caravans infest a patch of heathery ground well to the right of the 11th fairway. They have certainly been there ever since I can remember and the golf course even longer. They are no nearer to the golf course than loads of houses running along the first three holes of the Annesley Course whose gardens, greenhouses, ponds etc get regularly peppered with balls from errant hackers-by the 11th most of this fraternity have returned home right out of balls.

So why this drastic action? Its rather like closing the Road Hole at St Andrews (RAOPBUI) just because a golf ball lands on the road, or better still, in the adjoining hotel. I suspect the lawyers and the insurance sharks are locked in battle and the highheidyins are keeping their highheids down until the smoke of battle has cleared. No point risking an injunction stopping golf on the links completely.

One solution would be to move the caravans out of range.

They have wheels, after all.

* standard norn iron plural

(The image is of the 12th fairway on the Championship course-not the 11th hole in question. Will have to do for the moment.)

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Thursday, September 25, 2008

From the Berwickshire News of 100 years ago

A NUMBER of Border railway stations have received awards in competition for the best kept stations. Burnmouth, Cockburnspath and Marchmont received the first class prize, while Ayton received second class. Duns and Innerwick took a third class and Chirnside, Edrom and Grantshouse a fourth class prize.

What fun traveling must have been in those days. Rattling through Berwickshire covered in soot. Bit galling for third class Duns travellers having to share a line with fourth class Chirnside. And what was so well kept about Marchmont, one wonders? And Glory BE! -no mention of Reston or the urgent need to reopen it? Nor reference to the lack of a sausage roll facility to which one correspondent recently made reference . Perhaps it had not even been opened by 1908.

I hope the Borders Party can launch a campaign to bring back those rural railways if only as a major tourist attraction Also give RAGES something sensible to get its teeth into besides endlessly faffing on about Reston.

What about Duns, for goodness sake?

(Image is not of the Chirnside to Marchmont -change at Duns-Express leaving Fourth Class Chirnside Station only 19 minute late. Delayed by waiting for the bus coming in from stationless Reston. Just out of the picture a mob demanding the opening of a suitable facility at Reston, or failing that Hutton, are being dispersed by mounted police

But it could be.)


Wednesday, September 24, 2008

The Royal County Down (PBUI) used to have the reputation of being the snobbiest golf club in Ireland. Visitors not allowed inside the club house unless as a member's guest; jacket and tie compulsory in the club house (not to mention trousers) and the qualifications for membership were restrictive. Doctor OK -professional man-Dentist?-no thanks -works with his hands, sort of mechanic fellow don't you know? What. That all stopped when two dentists moved into town; one had a handicap of 1 the other scratch. They were quickly snapped up by the club in case they were tempted to be enrolled in the neighbouring 'town club' ' (Mostly 'Artisans'as they used to say) which share the links on a very restricted basis. Other clubs retaliated with notices: 'Visitors from other clubs Welcome except from Royal County Down' Huttonian used to claim membership of another club to avoid such snubs.

Much has changed. The visitors can use the splendid facilities in the newly expanded club house. There is a 'spike bar' in which you can sit tieless and in your golfing clothes (but not shorts and ankle socks, thank you very much) Membership is now closed so not even a scratch player, Brain Surgeon of royal descent can join without invitation which boils down to dead men's shoes. Men is the operative word -the women, excuse me, ladies have their own (modest) club house.

It is said that the IRA had a problem when they decided to target the RCD as a symbol of the British Establishment. Any old banger conveying a bomb would look very conspicuous in the car park with its up market models. So they had to splash out for a top of the range Jaguar which duly exploded causing considerable damage but as everyone was out on the course, no casualties.

But I suppose it is the thought that counts

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Tuesday, September 23, 2008


is the headline on the front page of our local weekly-The Mourne Observer is about a drugs find in a neighbouring village. And in the very (former) house (image above) of the owner of the local riding school where the Huttonian girls had their early riding lessons. The owner of the school is at pains to point out that she sold the property some time ago -to a local developer whose recent attempts to put more concrete into the few remaining building sites in Newcastle have been happily frustrated by the planning officials (But there is no suggestion that he is in any involved in the drugs business:

CCHINESE drug producers are believed to be behind a substantial cannabis find in Maghera, outside Newcastle, at the weekend.

A quarter of a million pounds worth of the drug was discovered by police in a bungalow in the heart of the village on Friday evening.

The find, the second large haul in the area in three months, has prompted police to probe whether or not it is linked to the £1.5m haul at a large-scale cannabis factory in Castlewellan in June.

No arrests were made during the weekend’s operation in Maghera; however three men of Chinese nationality have appeared in court in connection with the June discovery.(Full Story Here)

Chinese incomers have allegedly been active in this part of County Down and it is said that their main market is the Middle East which makes Maghera a rather curious choice of a manufacturing site- Chinese nationals are hardly inconspicuous in South Down and their facial characteristics may not be in their favour as they seek to avoid the dragnet. One retired copper believed that former colleagues had had problems issuing descriptions of the wanted men so had the notion of downloading an image of a Chinese person from Flickr and then reissuing it a a 'Wanted Person' circular. 'But it may not bear any resemblance to the suspects' a senior officer may well have protested. No matter-the theory being that to the locals those guys all look the same and if the pollis can pick up a enough people as a result of 'information received' they are sure to find the ones they want amongst them.

So if you are Chinese or indeed from anywhere in the Far East visiting Norn Iron, my advice is keep well clear of South Down. Perhaps a change of plans?


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Monday, September 22, 2008

"I am sorry Sir" said the pleasant, assistant deputy Acting Head Greenkeeper, just after Huttonian had nailed a 250 yard whizzer down the 11th Fairway, 'You are a bit previous Back* Nine does not open until 0930' I looked at my watch. It was 0929. 'Minute to go then' 'No this is the eleventh. You are ten minutes ahead. Clock starts on the 10th tee. You will get entangled with our fairway modulating machinery and the greens will not be ready for you. Suggest you walk through the team ahead and start on the 12th.'

I crested the hill of this 'blind drive' hole. The 11th fairway stretched ahead of me. No Machines; no teams just my ball bang in the middle of the presumably unmodulated fairway. I decided to play on. Then discovered that there was no flag on the green. It was not ready for me? Not to worry. I did not get to where I ought to be today worrying about flags on greens, or the lack thereof. Five iron. Splat. Middle of green. No flag but a hole-5 feet from the ball. Nice three.

Enter stage right on his iron steed. A green keeper, second class just junior to an assistant, deputy, acting Head Green keeper. 'Sorry Sir. You are a bit previous. The twelfth fairway ahead of youis full of modulating equipment and the greens ahead are not ready for you' I looked at my watch 0942. The Tenth hole had presumably been modulated and green ready for 12 minutes. 'Should I wait? I asked. 'Could be a long time, I suggest you carry on on the No 2 Course. I did so glad that I had not paid £125 to play on the championship course (PBUI) and then turned off it to be fobbed off with the £23 Annesley-mind the ladies and watch out for the hackers-course.

AS I went off to the 6th tee on the 'henrun' I noticed Stalker and the Ball Finding Alsatian waiting patiently in the rough beside the 11th Fairway in anticipation the great harvest of balls hit over the blind summit and hooked into the gorse. Which they would be able to see but not the hapless striker. I really could not be bothered to tell them that until the fairway had been modulated and the green prepared they might have a long wait until any more golfers were allowed through.

Patience brings its own reward.

They say

(The image is of the view from the furthest forward of the tees at the 11th. Once the ball has cleared the hill you will not see it again until you have climber over the ridge.

Even then you might not see it again if Stalker has got there first)

* Back as in second 9-you are coming back, eventually.

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Sunday, September 21, 2008
  Fisherwick House

Fisherwick House
Originally uploaded by old_greywolf2000
Bought in 1921 by my grandparents and sold by the next generation in the 1950s. My base for many years. A reasonably tasteful conversion into 6 flats although the Palm trees are hardly appropriate for the Norn Iron climate. The first owner (1830s) built the extra storey to spite the neighbours and he had a coach house and an orchard. Arrived! Yeah. Some linen magnate's seaside pad.
Saturday, September 20, 2008
Up the Orifice

Its not always that the letter writers to the editor if the Berwickshire News</span> gets it right but this one did :

SIR, - Several of your correspondents urge readers to write to the Post Office’s “consultation” team giving their views on its branch rationalisation (closure) plans.
As a general believer in democracy, I wish I could endorse this plea as worthwhile.
However, judging by the recently concluded exercise on this side of the border, the whole process is a sham.
The announced outcome and its timing do not suggest any real consultation of the many representations made. Responses from the “consultation” team do not reveal any familiarity with the areas affected.
Remote bureaucrats forwarding computer-generated public relations-speak responses do not show any feel for the issues, but that may only be expected as a reflection of Post Office management, arrogantly aloof from the real needs of the service which it has been steadily eroding, whilst all the while maintaining its corporate bonuses.
So, by all means go through the motions of responding to the “consultation”. The outcome is certain - longer queues in the few remaining branch post offices, or a roadside wait in a wind-swept layby for an outreach van.
People’ Post Offices my derrière.
Berrington Lough,


And in Hutton there is not even a layby.

I suppose you can take it in turns to wait in the Phone Box


Friday, September 19, 2008

Encounters of the Absurd Kind

Its usually a safe bet to reach the first tee by 8.10 am and be sure of having the great course to your self even if by that early hour there are two touring buses full of American Golfers-its Friday so its Newcastle-raring to go but not allowed off until 0830. Anyhow my intention was to play the number two course to get in a bit of undisturbed practice. I surveyed the known world from the First Tee: No ladies; check. No hackers in shorts;check. No tattooed shoppers waiting for Sir Morrisons to open; check (actually no Sir Morrisons in the whole of Norn Iron)No one at all except for a guy stage right apparently digging in the rough.treasure hunting? No threat to Huttonian.

As I was contemplating my second shot-wedge should do it the treasure seeker emerged from the rough and walked purposefully towards the green. He had golf clubs and his digging in the rough was probably some form of extreme practice. He stopped directly in my line to the green and started hitting chip shots onto the green. Back firmly to me. I coughed in a marked manner, I paced up and down, I took three practice swings; my cough worsened, I waved in a polite manner. No use. I then tried the traditional attention seeking tactics. I shouted 'Fore!' . No reaction. I tried slightly louder : 'fore' then 'FORE!!!' He turned round' saw me and returned to his practice. Well he had been warned-I floated a wedge shot over his head, landing it neatly about two feet from the pin. That would show him what a good player he was messing with. It did. He picked up his balls, picked up mine and walked off the green into the gorse bushes never to be seen again.

When I reached the green it was clear that my Dunlop had gone forever but nestling in the hole jammed next to the flag were three brand new balls-obviously the guy was a decent chipper and had left them behind in his hurry to nick my ball and hightail off.

So Treasure Seeker if you read this I would like my ball back and a cringing apology for your appalling golfing etiquette, never mind, barefaced daylight robbery. And you can have your nice new Titleists back.

If I haven't lost them by then,

So Hurry

(The image is from the 1st tee of the No 2 (Annesley Course MPBUI) looking back over the car park to the Mournes)

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Thursday, September 18, 2008
Post Orifice under fire

As foreshadowed in yesterday's post( even in this context npi) the saga of the fuss over the proposed closure of the three Berwickshire post offices, Eccles, Greenlaw and Hutton, occupies quite a large chunk of the latest on-line Berwickshire. If you have time and patience read about it here Sadly I doubt that all this activity will make a whit's* worth of difference. In the wide world of the Post Office its the Big Picture which is important and a few frustrated customers in deepest Berwickshire is not going to change minds when the accountants are in charge.

I note that rhe Hutton Hall Committee are keen to take over the Hutton facility themselves and that the Post Office representatives noted this idea. Surely far better to keep on our current postmistress and pay her out of Village Hall funds-given that she only works for about 8 hours a week this is a manageable expense. One fund raising coffee evening could probably cover her for a year. I doubt however that the PO will change its mind over closing the office as it still has to deliver the cash, upkeep the computer, pay the phone bills and provide the stamps etc. Just too much bother. Lets have one big Berwickshire Orifice, say in Duns and if the customers can't be bothered to make their way there let them use e-mail like everyone else. (You can download stamps for goodness sake) Oh people like cash in hand when collecting their pensions!? How quaint. Come on Oldies get real. Don't be so Twentieth Century. This is the age of electronic cash. Get your self a bank account and shop on line. User friendly Tescos will deliver, even to Hutton.

You know it makes sense.

*75p at today's rate of exchange


Wednesday, September 17, 2008
  Hutton Village Hall

Hutton Village Hall
Originally uploaded by old_greywolf2000
For the record-the home of the Hutton Post Office now under threat from the bean counters. Having been one of the few Village Halls in tout Scotland to boast a purpose built PO it is likely to be one of the very many

that doesn't
Sadly we missed the protest meeting in Hutton on Monday last about the threatened closure of the Hutton Post Office and its replacement with a twice weekly mobile post office also serving some other settlements in Berwickshire. Huttonian is told that the meeting was lively and included interventions from the Laird in a rare public appearance. My informant believes that the strength of local feeling may persuade the Post Office to change its mind-and their representatives at the meeting claimed that this was a consultative exercise and 'no decisions had been taken' Certainly on cost basis Hutton remains very competitive despite its small customer base(Compared, say, with SW1)

'Are You waiting for Godot?'
the small lady with the large dog.

'No He has been and gone'
the natty gent in the beer stained trench coat

'Its the post office I am
waiting for.'

' Its too late for Monday and a bit early
for Friday'
Said the large dog;

'Oh I'll go and put my teeth in then'
the gent.

'Nothing like putting your teeth in
for killing time. As it is only just


I'll do it really

(From the Godot in the Borders Hutton Think Tank -attrib.)


Tuesday, September 16, 2008
Glenn Miller in Kelso? Yes. Realy

A bloggee with close connections to the musical world has given Huttonian this 'Heads UP' as they say in the low flying aircraft sorority:.

On Friday 26th September The Glenn Miller Orchestra under the direction of Ray McVay is at the Tait Hall in Kelso. Ray's an old friend and I can tell you that if you like big band music then this will be a fabulous night. It's a twenty piece band and they are terrific.

They have no box office at the Tait Hall so tickets can be purchased through Browns Newsagents 01573 224269 or through Border Events on line at www.borderevents.com/tickets

Please feel free to pass this along to anyone in the area.....The Glenn Miller Orchesra will not let you down. If you go, say hello to Ray, and tell him Richard sent you!

So Heads Up Borderers.

And get back for a Book at Bedtime



Perchance to dream?

I was waiting for the Pompous Old Fart to finish his cigarette on the 18th Green and remove his trolley and self from it as I fumed (smokeless) a wedge away when it occurred to me that I had never listened to Radio 4's a Book at Bedtime. This was apropos of very little except from wondering if POF, County Down's most erratic golfer would actually get out of my way (A Hook at Bedtime, perhaps?) before 1045pm and whether death by Titleist 4 would be justifiable homicide or premeditated murder? In my case Crime Passionelle would be appropriate-or terminal exasperation in plain English. Having missed his last three putts and reluctantly left the green thus allowing me to place my wedge shot neatly into the left hand bunker-his fault for keeping me waiting so long, I decided I would lose my BatB virginity this coming Monday 22 September. Nothing to do, of course, with knowing the author but 'Out of a Clear Sky' is a rattling good yarn. I have some doubts about airing a 'psychological thriller' (I quote from the blurb-p117 next weeks Radio Times) as you prepare for a dreamless sleep and I suppose you can use the listen again facility if you fear your slumbers may be disturbed by stirrings of nameless dread or something. I think I'll risk it-I know the ending anyhow

You can read about the author here And if you can't bear the suspense spread over 10 fifteen minute episodes you have just time to buy a copy-the Radio Times has a number to call and a discount.

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Monday, September 15, 2008
Hic, Haec, Hack

The BBC Blether Centre promised unrelenting rain for County Down especially. No prospect of golf so we did something which we have previously avoided-go to Newry. In my youth Newry was a town you hurried through on the way to escape austerity in Norn Iron heading for the Elysian fields of the Republic. Heads down and pray the IRA were on annual leave,. As Crap towns go it was surely Number One in the known world-away ahead of Stranraer, Slough. Greenlaw and even Kinshasa.The kind of place you really enjoy leaving after a wet day in its mean streets. Actually Newry is now rather smart. Massive up market shopping malls and so redeveloped that the old street names have gone, together with the mean streets-something which made Tom Tom less than useful for navigation. And it was a nice day, irritatingly enough.

So back to Newcastle as soon as possible and out on to the Royal County Down (PBUI) I didn't get really wet although the rain had been waiting for me from the 11th tee on-I started at the tenth and a fourball chain smoking dithering, chattering, hackers had abandoned the No 2 course for the glories of the real thing-and hovered in front of me like a great cloud of persistent midges. Fortunately all four lost their balls simultaneously at the 14th and I snuck past in the gathering dreich. I was glad to see, as I passed by, all four locked in argument with Stalker and his ball finding Alsatian who had typically retrieved at least two of the lost balls before they were, as it were, properly lost. The argument 'But Ali only finds lost balls' was seemingly not cutting much ice with these gentlemen whose definition of lost involved slicing a Titleist so far out to sea that it was last seen heading towards the Central African Republic. ' Yours I believe?' said Stanley handing a ball to the distraught Dr Livingstone-sort of thing.

It was in the end, worth getting damp for.

The image is of the 12th fairway-Stalker, Ali and the Fearful Foursome just out of sight,

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Sunday, September 14, 2008
Percy French Country

Bloggees have asked for a glimpse of the Huttonian Homestead in Norn Iron. So here it is. A modest and very freshly white washed sea side pad which used to be the coachman's cottage of the house in front, between it and the sea. Maternal Grandfather Huttonian bought the House, cottage and orchard (now the site of six houses) in 1921. The Parents sold the house (and orchard) in the 1950s and it is now 6 flats-but fortunately held on to the cottage. It has a partial view of the sea, occasionally obstructed by Belfast day trippers parking to read the Sunday newspapers-as in the third image. Not necessarily there all day as they may have to pop back up to town to pick up the supplements.

When Percy French wrote the lyrics of the Mountain's of Mourne Sweeping down to the sea he no doubt had our lane in mind. Out of the cottage, right, right and first serious left again you are at the top of Slieve Donard.

If you have gone far enough

PS If you click on the top picture you can clearly see a lady reading her paper-broadsheet? Observer? And which supplement has she yet to open or fetch from the Malone Road?

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Saturday, September 13, 2008
  Royal County Down(PBUI)

Royal County Down
Originally uploaded by Rick McGrath
The drive from the 15th tee actually Fancy being uncertain about that Rick McGrath. Hopefully Huttonian will soon be standing on that self same spot but the forecast is unpromising after a real pet of a day wasted on the Ferry and in the car
Friday, September 12, 2008
It's a dog's life! is the headline heralding this summers most pointless story in the Berwickshire:

WHEN walking along a coastal pathway near Eyemouth last Thursday, a dog owner got a shock when his collie dog Ben fell over a cliff and onto the rocks below.
He immediately called the Coastguard who tasked Eyemouth lifeboat to assist. Due to the location of the dog, the crew launched their inflatable boat to get ashore.
Once ashore, a crewman found that the dog was uninjured and looking anxious to get back to its owner. He managed to collar the dog and was about to take it to safety when it scrambled back up the cliff and was captured by the waiting Coastguard team

What cub (npi) reporter produced this drivel? Its on a par with the world's most boring headline;


Lets hope the silly season is over by the time we return from Norn Iron

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Originally uploaded by Maximio
Thankyou Maximo. Your image captures Stranraer in all its gloom and dreich

Not Huttonian's favourite place. Top of my personal list of Crap Towns. Dreary streets, muddy beach, gloomy people and usually wet. The most rewarding view is from the stern of the departing ferry.

As we will enjoy shortly

The other image is of dogs killing time while waiting to board the HSS Stena Ferry to Belfast. Chatting away whilst the owners pretended to admire the other people's curs. Better than wandering aimlessly around Stranraer wondering if it is Wednesday

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Thursday, September 11, 2008
  18th Tee Championship course

18th Tee Championship course
Originally uploaded by old_greywolf2000
Yes its of to Norn Iron again. Sorry non golf loving bloggees. There will be a lot of this I am afraid. Royal County Down(PBUI) here we come after a brief interlude near Dumfries


I am sure a number of people, among them Farmer C, Organic Egg guru M, the Laird and possibly even Big Jim F would agree, for different reasons with Professor Robb's letter to this weeks Berwickshire

:SIR, - The letter claiming that “planners are at the mercy of councillors” (September 4) asks what is the point in employing professionals to form and implement policy when their recommendations are overturned by councillors.
I agree, absolutely no point at all! Indeed, as I shall show, there is no point in involving the committee either.
Officials have the task of ensuring that all applications are in compliance with the rules which they have devised and which the council has approved. Only applications that are in compliance with those rules should be sent to the Area Committee.
The committee should not be allowed to open the file of any application that has been blessed by officialdom as being in compliance with the rules. Indeed, the file could come from the officials already stamped with the committee’s approval. Think of the saving in time, effort and cost! And it would be cruel and unusual treatment of officials were any councillor to open the file and question the officials’ recommendation. After all, officials are only doing what the council agreed. Obviously, there is no need for the committee to address planning applications at all.
There are wonderful unintended consequences of the council approving these all-embracing rules. By ticking a number of boxes on the application form, applicants could self-certify compliance with each rule and get immediate and automatic approval.
The tedious business of inviting comments and objections could be eliminated. Auditors could test a random sample of applications for compliance and there would be no need for planning officials at all.
Thus, there would be no opportunities for councillors to be merciless to officials, simply because there would be no officials – problem solved!

This kind of simplified planning procedures is reminiscent of the Hutton Think Tank report : Do, Dirty Dogs, and Dirt Disposal (Proceedings of Htx2, Occasional Papers, Volume CLII)on the vexed question of dog poo. They recommended that the problem could easily be solved by shooting all dogs within a three mile area centred on the Hutton Village Hall. Simplicity and direct action is surely the key to dynamic and user friendly local government, they argued

Dog owners always excepted.

And the dogs of course

(Htx2 warned that of course dogs might learn to shoot back-the image from appendix 45 of their report illustrates the danger)

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Wednesday, September 10, 2008
Cooped Up

Its a great relief to lose our dependence on the 14 mile round trip to Sir Morrisons and replace it with a 14 minute return journey to the Coop via a vegetable shop, two bakeries, a delicatessen, a hardware store, an electronic goods emporium, several convenience spots, three takeaways, a brilliant Chemist, two newsagents, a large post office with several watering holes and coffee places to break the tedium, both coming and going. The Coop is not that exhaustive but it is certainly not exhausting-a three person check out queue is unusual, most people seem to just have hand baskets to pay for and alright, there are not 27 different types of Brown Sauce, but you can generally find what you need, if not entirely what you want. Lots of organic stuff and a dearth of 'customer announcements' as are the bane of Sir M's.

And no caravanners.

I was extolling the virtues of Duns shopping to a fellow incomer, but with browner knees, having moved here from Embra 15 years ago.(So he is up to the 'D' in Dinger)
'Couldn't agree less' he said. 'Shops are rubbish. Thank goodness for on line shopping. Weekly order to Tescos, bring it around, help us unpack and it is all very reasonable'

'But what can't you get in Duns that you really need?' I enquired

'You mentioned it!

27 varieties of Brown Sauce'

( Sorry no image -I tried Flickr with the following result:

"We couldn't find any results matching Duns and Co-op.

Would you like to try a search for farm, switzerland, zurich, chicken or chickens instead?"

No thanks)

AS the Arabs would say : الكبيرة للتسوق في الجمعية التعاونيه*

* (rough translation) Great marketing in the Co-operative Society-Google translation)

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Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Honey Still for Tea?

Not for long in Berwickshire? There has been a noticeable lack of honey bees this year-both in the Old Manse and in our new garden at the small-house-in-Duns. Fortunately the bumble bee is still around and doing all the pollinating. Although serious articles have been hard to find on the subject the most recent press article, slight as it is readable here Huttonian went to investigate at the Chain Bridge Honey Farm which is just outside Scotland-about a 3 wood away across the Tweed-and had a rather cautious response to my enquiry ' I don't know. They are keeping very quiet about it' Translation ' Yes; we have a problem but I have been told not to talk about it'. 'They' were not around to interrogate further so I panic bought two jars of Heather Honey and a Comb.

I remember reading recently-not traceable on the User Obstructive Berwickshire News website that the Chain Bridge Farm had abandoned their rural hives-some in Hutton-and were concentrating on the Heather honey in the Lammermuirs where the virus seems not to have penetrated. Their usual cross-- section- watch- the- bees- at- work exhibit had been taken away, presumably because of a lack of workers-who may of course be at the TUC conference. Instead you could enjoy a gigantic mural of most of the Eastern borders-the one with Duns on it is above-click to enlarge and apologies for the poor quality. And with no bees in evidence you had to make do with a gigantic wasps nest. It really is a Marie Celeste exhibit-empty and abandoned.

I didn't really mind

But I would hate to see the Bees take Mankind with them. Huh? It must be true its in the Daily Record. Scare the this (anag) out of yourselves here and be very very nice to any honey bees you come across. And stop worrying so much about the Red Squirrel for the moment- The survival of the Honey Bees are much more important. 'Death where is your sting?'

Quite literally.

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Monday, September 08, 2008

Edington Mill. Damn Close thing*

I am indebted to a bloggee for this image of the Edington Mill complex at the height of the flood yesterday-my video was some hours later. The Bloggee reminds me that the site was flooded some years ago and the new buildings partially under water. Up to about 4 feet on the side of the old mill. The developer was warned about the likelihood of flooding on this site but carried on regardless. Quick Buck and off I suppose. Off he is but with how many bucks I know not. The new properties do not seem to be selling. The blurb on the sale boards promise 'optional' swimming pools. These could, some day be compulsory.

(Click on image to get maximum effect)

PS I have now been sent some images of the bigger floods in 2003 referred to above.One of them clearly show the flood waters around the old mill building-not quite up to the 17 feet measured in 1948 which swept away the buildings downstream at Hutton Mill and two bridges as well

This might well read better as Dam Close Thing?

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  Video:Whiteadder in spate

Video:Whiteadder in spate
Originally uploaded by old_greywolf2000
This is the Whiteadder in spate at Edington Mill. The river level had gone down otherwise the precinct would have been in severe danger of flooding
The Good Life. Part the twelth

The major advantage of the move from Hutton to Duns is the dramatic decline in the pressure of the process of the daily grind-the remorseless routine of rural isolation. Gas on tap. No worries about getting the oil tank filled by a truculent driver navigating the Kirk Lane rain forest. The 13 miles round trip to Sir Morrisons and running the gauntlet of the tattooed, obese, aggressive caravanners, jamming the aisles (npi) and blocking the checkouts is a chore of the past; here a leisurely stroll to a wide range of shops. Friendly service, no queues. The broadband is fast (after a big battle with BT admittedly) the garden is small, the house easily manageable. We miss the postman and the personal mail pick up but here our letters are here by 8-30, ditto the milk-yes in bottles and the sorting office is 150 yards. We also miss the lack of light pollution but it is minimal in this quiet road (And low flying aircraft are rare-only over the town when their Tom Toms are on the blink) and with double glazing the house is snug and easily warmed up. Even the most sensitive of our visiting relis are likely to leave off their fleeces, always worn when in the Old Manse-even in August and once the wood burning stove is in action we may have to open some windows to escape the tropical temperatures.

And of course no newspaper run. No more cringing from the wrath to come as you ask a Salmond lookalike for the English Daily Mail. Rather a 2 minute walk to one of two newsagents, the Grudian thrust into your hand and the stroll back to the snug garden room for croissants and coffee-well toast and tea, actually.

For a moment I thought I was back to Sir M's this morning, when walking, Guerdienne clutching, homeward bound. A well built lady in front of me briskly propelling a child infested push chair. Broad of back, muscular hind parts, thick arms, tree-trunk legs. Her designer jacket said it all:

Koo Ga'

Built for Rugby

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Sunday, September 07, 2008

Waiting for Noah

It was our boast in Hutton that we lived in the driest area of the UK-stretching from Dunbar to the Merse. And within that area, Hutton itself often stayed dry whilst Paxton got a soaking and Chirnside drowned. But Duns? Since moving on 21 July we have had our wettest August ever (and I am including six years on Zambia and Tanzania in our calculations) and since Friday afternoon we have had 105 mms-4 inches in real money-more than the whole of September 2007 and 2006 combined in sun scorched Hutton. And our near neighbours in Newtown Street with a slightly less sheltered garden than ours recorded 6" in the same period.No wonder they are returning to Zimbabwe next week.

Yesterday afternoon we went on a flood watch. The Blackadder has a flood warning-images above taken from Allanton Bridge and the Tweed was in spate making the riverside walk impassable. The other pictures are of the fast moving current taking debris towards Spitall beach. I am surprised that the cautious of indecisive management has refrained from a notice stating 'It is thought that the riverside walk is unsuitable for non-swimmers'

I asked if the Old Manse has seen any rain or was it in blazing sunshine throughout. 'Yes' it had. 'A lot?' 'Yes'

That makes me feel better.

Especially as it has very nearly, but not quite, stopped raining

(I apologise for the Blackadder duplication-try it in stereo)

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Saturday, September 06, 2008
A great leap backwards?

It may be the weather or the problems facing the nice Mr Brown, or even the successful self publicity antics of the slippery Mr Salmond (npi) influencing the running poll in the Berwickshire which is moving steadily towards incorporating Berwick-upon-Tweed into Berwickshire:

Would you be happy to welcome Berwick into Berwickshire
52% Yes. it's a great idea
45% No, Berwick is part of England and should remain so
3% I have no opinion either way.

I am not sure how many people actually vote-I did so twice this morning but the figures did not change so there may be more people taking part than I used to think. The3% 'don't cares' remains constant although I can never understand why people with no opinion care to express it?

The Hutton Think Tank now back from its holiday in Spitall have produced a novel idea for solving the whole Berwick/England/ Scotland/ TD1TD16/ Climate change problem in their just released 'Brown Paper' entitled 'Kicking His out of History' This is nothing to do with post modern feminism as the title might suggest* but a suggestion that Berwick be incorporated into Berwickshire in accordance with the popular mood and Berwickshire made part of England as dictated by natural justice and common sense.

* Asked why this title the HTx2 spokesperson said.

'We liked it'

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Friday, September 05, 2008

Dr Foster avoided Gloucester

Huttonian was hoping to be heading south this morning but was put off by the horrific weather conditions promised by the BBC Blether Centre. We just did not fancy a 650 mile round trip (crammed into 48 hours) on water logged motorway with the week end loonies desperate to get away from the big cities en route driving like Toad. As part of our proposed trip was to be a mass picnic I think we have made the right decision.Mind you according to the usually reliable met check Duns is to be the wettest place in the UK with not much short of 3" rain crammed into tomorrow.See the grisly prophecy here. Conditions around Oxford are slightly less wet but it is getting there and back which bothered us-call me wet (npi) if you like. A pity as I am a patron of the highly successful African-Zambian-Charity Cecily's Fund and the picnic was to celebrate its tenth anniversary-as described here

As for Hutton. No doubt dry and sunny as per usual.

Anyhow our non departure gave me the chance to argue with Scottish Power about a bill received this morning for electricity consumed at the Old Manse. After 20 minutes of classical music and 12 buttons I explained to a genuine Scottish Lass (unless she was a Bangalorian with elocution training) that we had moved out of Hutton on 21 July and closed our account then. A long sigh:

'Oh Dear. We seem to have cocked up bigtime'

(The image is of Dinger type rain through a glass dimly. No windscreen wipers needed, thankfully)

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Thursday, September 04, 2008
Duns Roamin? Scotus Returns

I don't know who selects what items from the Berwickshire should go on line but this week is an example of a really interesting article, well written and researched, being omitted from the website. So you will have to fork out 62p (a silly figure) and turn to page 3 where any thought of a topless filly (and in Berwickshire it would be a filly) has been abandoned in favour of the camp image of John Duns Scotus-similar to Huttonian's post of a few days back. Unsurprisingly similar as it is the same statue which graces Duns Park. Next November is the 700th anniversary of Scotus' death-the statue was to mark his birth in either 1265 or 1266; birth certificate mislaid presumably.

The writer claims Duns Scotus as the town's greatest son and even more distinguished than other famous local figures: Jim Clark (Chirnside ex Fifer) the other philosopher, David Hume-Chirnside, Alec Douglas Home (the Hirsel) Louise Aitken Walker ( A genuinely local lass- see here) and as bang up to date, Tilda Swinton. I am sure none of the other worthies wore a Dunce's Cap-another claim to fame of the late Blessed John. Anyhow you can all troop along to the Southfield Community Centre and read all about him from next Monday, Station Road*, Duns. It will probably be more interesting than the Jim Clark Museum for all except Toads. See you there.

And btw, Duns Scotus has progressed from Dunce (12 something), to Venerable (1991) to Blessed (1993). If he keeps this up, next stop Saintship?Sainthood? Saintliness? Saintsbury's?

St Duns. That will another one in the eye for Greenlaw

This is Post Number two for today. Its to make up for a blogless absence down south starting tomorrow.

Sunday. If we are spared.

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Planning on the Hoof

A 'Name and Address Supplied' Has written to the Berwickshire as follows

SIR, - Staggering is the only word for it.
We may not always agree with what we perceive to be the decisions that the “planners” make but we must be aware that they, the “planners”, are often completely at the mercy of the councillors on the Berwickshire Area Committee.
Attending the committee last Tuesday was an eye opener - what a farce! The ignorance of planning policy, voted for by the councillors themselves, and of basic legal procedure defies belief.
What is the point in employing professionals to form policy, and then to try to implement that policy, when it is regularly overturned by councillors who are completely subjective in their judgement and make up policy on the hoof. Of the eight planning applications before the committee on Tuesday three of the decisions overturned the recommendations of the planning officers and were clearly against the published policy.
A fourth was continued, against the recommendation of the officers, while councillors hunted in vain for a policy on which to hang a refusal. No wonder Michael Cook, the convenor, was despairing.
Next time you see an isolated house in the countryside that spoils the view, or a completely inappropriate development, or hear about the “planners” blocking something that might be worthwhile, don't necessarily blame the “planners” - check out the minutes of the Berwickshire Area Committee to see who really cocked it up

Huttonian would like to have the address supplied, brown envelope is fine, and will call around to shake the writer by his capable hand. For the moment a fervent 'Amen' will have to do.

The faffing councillors except for the exceptionally excellent Mr Cook are unnamed. I'll bet my last Scottish Pound note that big Jim Fullarton was amongst the faffiest. A combination of ignorance and loud mouthed inarticulateness is a heady mix especially when combined with a large and insensitive hoof.Of course I may be flattering him. I have not personally seen him in action since the heady days of the Hutton and Paxton Community Council so he may be worse than I remember.

If so I apologise.


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Wednesday, September 03, 2008
Its That Bear Again

Huttonian had rather hoped that we had heard the last of the Polish fighting Drinking Smoking Bear-Voytek by name- who has once again put Hutton on the map as the wretched animal was briefly 'posted' there with the Polish army in the latter stages of the war. It ended its years in retirement in the Embra Zoo. If you want an unexpurgated frank account of this rather unpleasant animal you can read about it here

It made an appearance on the BBC TV One Show earlier this week with the energetic Mrs O, SNP candidate for Dumfries etc at the next general election, making her pitch for a memorial for the beast in the Hutton area. Recently a local writer has written a book about the bear-see here and a mention on the One Show will do its sales no harm.

Given the number of existing tourist sights in the village-the Village Hall, the 4 pumps, the great Kirk, The former Manse, The Old Manse (AKA Antrim House), the 39 Steps,the former pub, the bus stop,the sign post to Paxton, The Millenium stone, the existing phone box does Hutton really need a memorial to a politically incorrect bear who is mostly remembered by the very olden folk for its habit of scaring the this (anag) out of innocent villagers? Given its record of bowel moving escapades a fitting memorial might be a

Public Loo

(With so many extra tourists we might need one)

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Tuesday, September 02, 2008
  Sunflower Duns

Sunflower Duns
Originally uploaded by old_greywolf2000
The wife is planning a Sedum (spl?) roof on the kitchen extension flat roof in the small house in Duns. But a neighbour has beaten us to it with a dashing Sunflower which emerged from her roof, presumably as the result of some clever gardening by a passing bird. The wife does not have sunflowers in mind for our project-me,I 'd like brambles interspersed with gooseberry bushes. In the end I suspect we will end up with a carpet of boring wild flowers and the odd nettle
Monday, September 01, 2008
Anyone want a Sheriff

Although it may be a bit late to make a significant career move Huttonian would like it known that he is happy to be invited to serve as an Honorary Sheriff in support of the diligent Sheriff Kevin of Duns. According to the Berwickshire three new Honorary Sheriffs have been sworn at, no, sworn in in Selkirk-the article is here Apropos of the the Selkirk trio I am not sure that it is a wise move to have one of the sheriffs with a possible personal grudge against the criminal fraternity especially if she can lash out with the odd stiffened custodial sentence. In my case I have no (local) scores to settle and although I am not a direct descendant of John Buchan there are one or two decent writers up the ancestral sleeve - if this is a desirable qualification for the post. I am not sure if Duns goes in for Honorary Sheriffs and if not I am content to be considered for membership of the

Honorary Posse.*

(No horse to hand but I can get to the lynching in a Vauxhall Astra)

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