Musings from the Merse
Wednesday, December 31, 2008

The House of Hangover

Sean X Hume, the great Scots Philosopher and grave robber was once asked by Dr Johnston to define the difference between Hogmanay(Scotland) and New Year's Eve (rest of known world). 'Sir' he said ' Hogmanay is the same as New Year's Eve but with extra vomit'

To assess the accuracy of this description one need go no further than Embra to participate in the Hooley there. You can get some idea idea of the excitements in store (and a possible whiff of the vomit yet to come) if you go to the lavish website here but if you are trying to get a ticket (essential to penetrate the orgiastic city centre) you may have problems. Hence the error message:

We are sorry, but an error has occurred whilst trying to process your request:
There is no row at position 0.

There may be no row at position 0 but a hell of a shindig elsewhere.

Bah, Humbug and all that but Huttonian will be in bed by 2200 hours which will already be New Year in Amman, Ankara, Addis Abbaba and all points east.

As the Psalmist had it 'Sufficient to the evening is the vomit thereof'

Why actively seek it out?

For those who are wondering what Hogmamay actually is I can do no better than consult Wikapedia

: Hogmanay (pronounced [ˌhɔgməˈneː] — with the main stress on the last syllable) is the Scots word for the last day of the year and is synonymous with the celebration of the New Year (Gregorian calendar) in the Scottish manner. Its official date is 31 December (Auld Year's Night). However this is normally only the start of a celebration which lasts through the night until the morning of Ne'erday (1 January) or, in some cases, 2 January which is a Scottish Bank Holiday.

You can't put it fairer than that. Especially the cautious and non explicit reference to the 'Scottish manner'

You will note that the website gives no date in January for the end of the celebrations. The 2 Jamuary suggested by Wikapedia may be

a trifle conservative

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Tuesday, December 30, 2008
  Christmas Child Labour

Ffion Gardening
Originally uploaded by old_greywolf2000
Christmas Dinner would not have been enjoyable without the home grown sprouts here being harvested by Zoe, Ffion and an unpaid helper.

Sadly all this cheap labour has gone home-to London, Paris and remote regions of Scotland
Monday, December 29, 2008

No Reds under the Bed

Those involved in a long running campaign to save the Red Squirrel in the Borders will not share the sentiments expressed in this letter from the latest Berwickshire

- Grey squirrels are beautiful, intelligent and highly adaptable animals and yet there appears to be an intolerance – even a hatred – of them by some people.
Demands for their death come largely from just two sources: those with vested interests, and so-called conservationists who whimsically favour one animal over another. We should not forget that, not so long ago, red squirrels were accused of all the things for which the greys are now blamed. As a result, hundreds of thousands of reds were killed – driving them to near extinction.
It is not the fault of grey squirrels that they were brought to this country 130 years ago and, despite everything, have thrived. To kill en masse such a hardy species flies in the face of Darwinism – it is the killing of the fittest.
Finally and most importantly, squirrels feel pain. That they can legally be beaten to death in a sack, trapped, shot or even drowned by ‘pest’ controllers, is an indication of how unfeelingly savage our society has become.
Anyone wishing to find out more about the hidden motives behind wildlife culls can order a free copy of With Extreme Prejudice: the culling of British wildlife by calling 01732 364546 or emailing info@animalaid.co.uk.

I have on several occasions waited patiently in the hide in Paxton House for a sighting of the Red Squirrel. Once, only once, after 30 minutes, I was rewarded with one making its way towards its nut container. Unfortunately I was unable to suppress a sneeze and off it went. Never to reappear. I have not seen once since.

Nor have I seen a Grey. Perhaps the Reds have wiped them out?

Never trust a Red, Senator Joe McCarthy used to say.

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Sunday, December 28, 2008

Council bids to steer region through recession
is the front page lead in the Christmas edition of the Berwickshire As you can see from the story here imaginative and visionary measures are in place to steer the region through the worst recession since, well, quite a long time. Fear not,your council is on the ball, focused, proactive, positive, fearless and does not face election for three years. Throwing money at the problem a la Darling and that White Scot Brown, I perceive you think. Right.

Resigned sigh; how much?



Are we short of a few noughts?

Apparently not. In the prudent corridors of Newtown St Boswells they know how to make a few Muckles go a long way.

So it seems

But how? A carper carps

We will be producing new promotional material including a DVD and will develop a new, more business-oriented web presence," announced Councillor Vicky Davidson, SBC's executive member for Vision and Wishful Thinking-sorry-Economic Development

And then:

"Underpinning all this, we will carry out research and feasibility work to identify all opportunities in particular sectors and actively pursue them."

In this way we will miss the worst ravages of the recession. So we are told.

Money well spent. Ain't it?

'Bloody expensive DVD' said the guy from the Black Bull.

Might get it cheaper on Amazon?

(The image is of Newtown St Boswells, the beating heart of Borders decision making)

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Saturday, December 27, 2008
Scene in Newsagents this morning:

Irascible Old Gent: 'What happened to the Guardian yesterday?

Newsagent 'Not published on Boxing Day'

IOG ' Was last year'

Second IOG 'No it wasn't. (Aside re IOG) We had this conversation a year ago'

IOG (aside re SIOG)) 'Marbles going...anyhow have you my Guardian today?'

Newsagent ' Yes' starts to hand it over

IOG 'You can keep it. Pinko rag. Lot of layabouts taking two days for Christmas' Exits

SIOG 'Marbles Gone'



Friday, December 26, 2008

Duns Christmas Show

I am indebted to the junior son in law for this image of a budding thespian performing her one person show in the Small-House-in-Duns immediately after the Queen's Speech. This is the Duns Premiere of the Magic Box.

A rave review is expected in the Berwickshire

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Christmas Day over. Children exhausted and quiescent. Intellect damaged by cracker riddles-two each cracker plus a 'trivia' quiz question for goodness sake. (What is the longest river in the USA and the largest one. Who cares.?)

Now Boxing Day. Batteries to be recharged before second coming of more children this evening. Gentle stimulus required plus opportunity to get mildly irritated but not terminally incandescent. Newsagents open. Guardian ordered; leisurely read in prospect.

Jog to shop.

'Guardian not published on Boxing Day' said in tone of gentle satisfaction (Suspect a Telegraph reader) NO thank you to Mail and Herald. Reluctantly buy the Independent. Note last copy.

Walk home slowly.

No fear of incandescence. Nor gentle stimulus.

Just Boredom.

(Perhaps batch two of children may arrive early)

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Thursday, December 25, 2008

Say what you will about Duns. And many do, the Rotary Club knows how to throw a good party in the Market Square. Mulled Wine,Mince Pies, Carol singers (mostly from the Piscie or 'English' Church) and a visit from Father Christmas. So long was the queue for Santa's makeshift grotto that despite waiting in line for 40 minutes Huttonian had to leave

empty handed.

Note. Come on time next year

Yes Critical of Coldingham. The images are a bit blurred when enlarged. Then so were many people there present

The mulled wine was strong.

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Wednesday, December 24, 2008


Praise the pigs*. Ready. And it looks as if it has been part of the house since it was originally built.1950s pebbledash and all. A good job. Passed as satisfactory by the inspection team pictured above and a cheque is in the post.

Prompt cheque. Not prompt job. 5 months and three days after due date of 21 July. Someone said let them wait 5 months for the final payment.

Tempting. But no

* An expression, Mohamed of Maidenhead,-nothing to do with East Lothian and Borders Finest nor any disparagement of your dietary restrictions.

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Tuesday, December 23, 2008
  A teatime performance

A teatime performance
Originally uploaded by erase
The youngest grandchild (Thankyou junior son-in-law) Now amongst the house party on the small-house-in-Duns. How much will she enjoy Scottish Organic Turkey and Borders Christmas Pudding remains to be seen.
Christmas Post

Blogging will be a trifle haphazard as the wider Huttonian clan descend on the small-house-in-Duns in relays. Some (6) for Christmas. Others (4) for Boxing Day and the rest (2) for BD+2. Even with the fabled extension open and functioning the 4 non breeders are moving out to an even-smaller-house-elsewhere-in-Duns for 4 nights and the nearly two year old is impeding the great work by having to sleep under the computer, more or less.

So Last Post will sound at 7pm.

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Monday, December 22, 2008

BY RAIL TO OMDURMAN (Change at Galashiels)

Huttonian has been forwarded by a member of the Borders Party an article from the Scotsman about the public spending debate in Scotland suggesting how the Scottish Tories, traditionally, in recent years anyhow, almost irrelevant to politics here, might seek to make an impact at Edinburgh. The section relating to the Borders is as follows

Sitting on her mare not sure whether to enter the fray, maybe not sure which side to back - for over the last eighteen months she has been riding with both sides, is General Goldie. The Scottish Boadicea of Bishopton. But what can the Tories do, how can they make themselves relevant to the public spending debate in Scotland?

One way they could make an impact would be to make more of a noise about the many expensive Labour strategies of the past that the SNP has adopted and is now defending as its own. The first place to start must be halting the Borders Railway line and then identifying other such unaffordable luxuries, such as the unnecessary Glasgow Airport Rail Link.

The Borders railway is still mistakenly referred to as the Waverley Line, it is no such thing, that was twin track and went all the way through Galashiels and Hawick on to Carlisle – this one shall be single track halting at Tweedbank, between Gala and Melrose. The proposed commuter line has never made economic sense for it was always a political trade off between Labour and the Liberal Democrats that neither the SNP or the Tories would attack as they thought there were votes in it for them too.

The Scottish Parliament expected £3.6m of year one revenues based on an average fare of £2.75, implying 1.3 million trips. Of these about one fifth would be in the southernmost 25-mile stretch of the line towards Gala. Rail sceptics Transport Watch estimated that, in common with the rest of the UK’s community rail network, such a line would require operating subsidy of £5m-£7m even before capital cost, priced at Government gilt yields, is added in. So the £2.75 average fare could in reality be supported by double that amount in subsidy.

The basic numbers of the scheme have always been challenged, originally by rail engineering specialists Arup Associates, and we now know that the first business case that all the political parties marshalled behind was indeed a sham. We know this because in a recent report for Transport Scotland, the government body that now runs the project, the infrastructure consultants Cyril Sweett say as much.

Apart from cost levels being understated, the projections were “not robust”, the programme “overly optimistic” with “significant flaws” and with presentation of information “very poor”, including “erroneous calculations”. Errors included a failure to cost in the connection of the branch line to the main network and a projection of 400 peak time passenger numbers that the three carriage trains that hold 200 would be too small to carry - with no allowance for additional carriages. It was this business case that Parliament approved by one-hundred-and-fourteen votes to one. The proposed railway line has since been criticised by John Kay, a key economic advisor to the SNP Government.

So a new business case has been developed, in which time the cost has soared from £75m, through £151m at parliamentary approval in 2006, to a ‘range’ of between £235m-£295m – the allowable variable being almost as large as the original price!

For reinforcement, the train set brigade could point to an analogous project in Wales, the Ebbw Vale line linking the former South Wales steel town with Cardiff has a similar catchment population in the communities its serves. Here, an expected 22,000 trips forecast was outstripped by a doubling of actual journeys attained to 44,000. Unfortunately the better than expected real annualised figure of about half million in Wales serves to underline the nonsense of the predicted demand in the Scottish Borders of a staggering 1.3 million journeys.

More damning is that the Ebbw Vale line was already in existence for freight and cost only £40m to upgrade - against the probable £295m for the Borders. No solace there then.

Most damning of all though, and surely the reason that the Tories can save taxpayers across Scotland a big bill, is that the business case relies on 14,000 new homes being built to feed into Edinburgh’s workforce - a number the Sweett study calculated should be 23,500! This just is not going to happen. Not now, not for a long, long time to come.

The big question is though, will General Goldie and her platoon be brave enough to make the charge? Regularly attacked on all fronts they need to do something or their best hope will be that they are ignored – left to a slow political death as the grim reaper harvests their members and many of their voters. Surely it makes more sense to go on the attack and charge at Swinney’s positions winning support from Labour renegades that always doubted the scheme?

Like at Omdurman they might lose some casualties, but at least Kitchener’s 21st Lancers did clear the path for eventual victory.

the author,Brian Monteith, is a policy advisor to www.ThinkScotland.org

Dingers and incomers alike seem indifferent to the debate on whether or not there should be a railway. Not much use to Eastern Borderers who wait with baited breath for the great passenger rail Mecca at Reston to be reopened. No doubt, useful or not, we will be called upon to help finance what could rapidly become as pale elephantine as the Millennium Dome. Until some grandson of Beeching comes up to put us all all out of a misery and the long narrow strip occupied by the Waverley Line reverts to what it does best:

Sheep grazing

(Image is an optimist's impression of the marshaling yards at Tweedbank issued by the Waverley Line's Supporters Association. Motto 'Edinburgh and Bust'))

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Sunday, December 21, 2008

'Mild, breezy, dry' said the BBC Blether Centre. Mild; yes. Dry;yes.

Breezy? We came back from Church to find our two large wheelie bins five yards from their usual place on their sides and gaping open ; the tall garden storage cabinet also on its side with the contents scattered over the garden and the large storage chest upside down with the rest of the garden paraphernalia sucked out and blown into a variety of interesting places. As for tomorrows cardboard recycling it had disappeared, heading, no doubt, to a nearby land fill site to await the arrival of its mates.

A small breeze induced whirlwind? A zephyr motivated typhoon? Take your pick-as it did our garden fork.

As the plasterer, a Pailmerk from Gala remarked on Friday, water flowing down his face, 'Duns has its own climate.' The worst in the Borders?

No, in the known world.

And that includes Dumfries and Galloway.

Climatically the move from Hutton was in the wrong direction.

(Is Friday's copy of the Guardian, Sports Section at the top of the whirlwind as pictured above? Difficult to be sure)


Saturday, December 20, 2008

Duns Dings Merrily

The usual fair effort-One actual Christmas, ie Nativity, display, one triumphal gesture, a good tree and a well decorated square.

I hate to say it but not quite as good as Coldstream -well worth going to the First (or last) Border Toon
to see how it should be done.

Eight out of Ten

The red cracker in front of the tree is for voluntary donations for the cost of the decorations. I suspect there is still room for more specie.

So hurry.

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Nearly, Nearly There. #6
Well I suppose being 5 months late in a three months job could be worse. Like being 6 months late. We were originally promised in May that the project would be finished-cross my palm and hope to die-by 21 July. The day of the Move from the OM to the SHID. It may be more or less finished by Christmas-but I suspect the latter. At least we can live in it and do without the slap dash-sorry, pebbledash, aka rough casting until the New Year.

Which New Year?

Morning or Afternoon?

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Friday, December 19, 2008

If Huttonian had a Christmas Message to offer it might run along these lines-or, rather, it might more likely if it came from the wife:

Wise Women
You know what would have happened if it had been Three Wise Women instead of three Wise Men ?
They would have asked for directions, arrived on time, had reservations at the Inn, helped to deliver the baby, cleaned the stable, made a casserole and brought practical gifts

Thankyou occasional bloggee from Llandudno.

And if Mary had been of Scottish Extraction she would have opened the Inn door to the Three Wise Women with that most welcoming of greetings:

'Come in. You will have had your tea'



Chicken Hearted?

Farmer M Junior is not having much luck with his planning applications. First the affair of the four new houses and the access road which got up the noses of his neighbours-and now the mobile poultry unit which might literally have done just that judging from the letter from SEPA as posted on the Scottish Borders Council Planning Application website:

Erection of mobile poultry unit and extension of access road

Land North East Of Hutton Hall Barns Hutton Scottish Borders

As with the previous expansion undertaken in 2007, Environmental Health is unable to support this application as it is in conflict with Section 13.14 of the Code of Practice ‘Prevention of Environmental Pollution from Agricultural Activity (2005)’, due to the proximity of existing dwellings. The risk from nuisance is significantly increased due to the proposed enlargement of the business and although the current operation has not been subject to formal complaint an increase in odour has been detected by some of the occupants of neighbouring housing*. Should the proposal be accepted great care will have to taken to ensure odour and other potential nuisances from flies, feathers and dust do not increase to unacceptable levels.

This application is now withdrawn pending the provision of new information in its favour.

So the recent applications (over the last two years from this gentleman run:

Applications: Three.. Withdrawn: Two Refused: One)

I suggest advice from Farmer C on how to get proposals through the highheidyins in Newtown St Boswells might not come amiss and a glance at McDale Carnegie's famous tome : How to win Friends and not Piss off Neighbours (Chatshow and Windbag , Kelso 1972) would help

All this is a great personal disappointment to Huttonian. Farmer M's organic eggs sold to the public at the entrance to his drive are the best in Berwickshire (if not in the Borders and the known world) and reasonably priced at that.

(* Again the dog did not bark? If no formal complaint was made how does SEPA know that 'an increase in odour has been detected by some of the occupants of neighbouring houses? 'Look I am not complaining but.......?')

The image is of Chicken Licken and a friend going off to tell the King that the planning application has fallen in.

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Thursday, December 18, 2008

Stoned ?

Some time ago Huttonian and the wife stumbled (and I use the term advisedly) over an apparent cromlech or ancient tomb in Rostrevor Forest in our way up to the well known Cloughmore stone. I posted this on a local website and caused some bafflement as no one else seemed to know anything about this ancient construction and indeed there was speculation that it was a natural formation rather than man made. The correspondence and other images can be seen here Now a comment on the website seems to provide the provenance for our find:

O S Memoirs Vol 3 Oct 1836 : Giant's Grave or Cromlech.

"The cromlech of Kilfeaghan consists of a large block of granite of irregular form, 6 and a half feet thick at the upper end and 4 feet thick at the lower end, supported to the south by 2 large stones or pillars partly buried in the stones of a cairn which surrounds the cromlech. It has been evacuated a little within a few years. Form of chamber : plan dimensions 7, 4 and a half and 3 feet. Upper surface of top stone : plan dimensions 9 and a half and 8 and three-quarter feet. The cairn commences 8 yards to the north of the upper part of the cromlech and ends 25 yards to the south of the upper part of it, being 10 yards broad at the upper part, coming in at right angles at the lower part of the cromlech and then being 4 yards broad. It is elevated 2 and a half feet above the surface of the ground"

Although I had been up the old path to Cloughmore stone a number of times, I never heard anyone mention this cromlech. The O S described Cloughmore stone in 5 lines but required 20 lines for this monument. It would appear to be a much more interesting item than the big stone. You may wonder how ancient people constructed it at that elevation, even were they to obtain the top stone nearby. Stanley

Someone has suggested that if this item really is interesting archaeologically speaking it should be named after its discoverer. So how about abandoning the rather prosiac The cromlech of Kilfeaghan in favour of 'Petrus Huttonius rarus' And who might the giant be I hear you ask? Could it be the daddy of all Big Fellas?

Finn Mc.Cool?

How McCool is that?

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Wednesday, December 17, 2008
Wakey Wakey

To the Wilds of Perth for a cremation of an old friend and then a Wake afterwards-in the best Gallic tradition. Its a brilliant way of celebrating the memory of the recently departed-Wake the Dead indeed and I am told at some wilder Irish gatherings this may happen-especially if the verdict of death was a trifle premature. (Fortunately, in these cases, traditional wakes precede the burial/cremation in the presence of the alleged corpse) Irish funerals can also be jolly in themselves. As the Cork Examiner once reported:

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

One happy person to whom I was talking over the whisky and smoked salmon sandwiches regaled me with an account of similar functions he has evidently so much enjoyed: a veritable Hereward the Wake, you might say. 'Its become a way of life as far as I am concerned' He looked hard at me 'Are you feeling ok?'He asked anxiously (eagerly?)
I said I was. He may have been a trifle disappointed. Nothing personal I am sure.

Perhaps too long a gap in his Wake Calendar?

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Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Will ye No come back again? (For a brief visit?)

An article in the recent Berwickshire News starts thus (see the rest here)

MANY Borderers are set to put pen to paper and invite their friends and family back to the region to 'Return to the Ridings'.

The Border common ridings and festivals have launched the Return to the Ridings invitations, a selection of iconic postcard images for each of the participating events, which residents can send to all their friends and family.
The Return to the Ridings is part of the Homecoming Scotland programme, extending the invitation to Border Scots throughout the world to return to their ridings and join a series of co-ordinated ancient festivals across the Scottish Border towns

The Homecoming Scotland is making use of a Big Burns Commemoration in 2009 to attract expat Scots to revisit the Hameland and spend many Dollars, Euros and Muckles* (a prototype currency for a future Independent Alba)to revitalise the depressed Scottish economy. So out of tax exile will come the fervent patriots Sean Connery, Donald Crump, Gordon Brown et alios attracted by (says the blurb) the whisky, the golf and the music. Donald Crump may not quite appreciate the irony of the Golf.

The image above is one of the 'iconic' postcards now winging their way (Lost Christmas mail bags permitting) to exiled Borderers urging them to revisit the ancient Ridings festivals some of which go all the way back to the 1950s.

Next year will see a lot of this sort of thing.

Ad Nauseam

springs to mind

* At current rates of exchange many Mickles equate to a Muckle.

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Monday, December 15, 2008
Can you spare a job Guvnor

I rejoined Berwickshire Freecycle to dispose of a large garden storage chest surplus to shrunken garden requirements. With the credit crunch the site seems more popular than ever(16 responses in about 30 minutes about the storage chest which is moving all of 50 yards to its new home)

Sign of the times: 'If anyone doesn't want their job anymore can I have it. Anything reasonable considered'

The message has now disappeared. I hope he got something. Sorry I couldn't help.

Is blogging a job?

(I am also letting a beloved folding golf trolley go. Almost works)


Sunday, December 14, 2008
Bitter Pill # One

Fumbling as one does for a pill in the faint light of a Duns Dawn Huttonian found that he had mistakenly swallowed (ingested as NHS 24 insists) a button battey for his digital-even-works-in-the-Borders-after-the -great-switchover-hearing aid. Went down a treat/

Hearing aid hors de combat. I may soon be reminded of:

I sat next to the Duchess at Tea
It was as I knew it would be
Her rumblings abdomenal
were some phenomenal
And every one thought it was me

They say the battery has a life of 7 days.

(And of course I may get it back)
Saturday, December 13, 2008

Green Box (of tricks?)
A bloggee from Whitsome has sent in this image of a glorious winter's scene outside the village and wonders how fellow villagers will deal with the proposed development mentioned in the previous post and goes on : Not sure what can look worse than the green box attached though..
I agree it somewhat detracts from the rural view but seems to be a bog standard agricultural building-so many in the Merse which is after all mostly a farming community. And to my untutored eye the bigger eyesore is the hall(?) in front of the green whatever. But in Huttonian's view better what they have than a 'residential development' of executive houses, on good agricultural land, not affordable by the locals and ugly to boot.They escaped that in Paxton thanks to communal popular action.

This may be a case of being thankful for small mercies?

And may the credit crunch last long!? Stalled development is one obvious upside

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Friday, December 12, 2008
Concreting the Merse. Episode the twenty fifth

Poor old Whitsome seems to be heading for the title of the most badly developed settlement in the Merse if this writer to the Berwickshire is to be believed :

SIR, - I see that yet another inappropriate and unwanted housing development is to be foisted upon Whitsome.
The Local Plan and other policies of Scottish Borders Council appear to have been altered. We have already endured well over a year of filth and noise resulting from an earlier planning decision.
A previously glorious view south has been destroyed by unsuitable buildings which are well out of local people’s pockets.
Nobody seems interested in the heritage of small Borders hamlets or in the opinions of their inhabitants. Many people don’t bother to go through the hassle of preparing a submission against planning applications any more because they know their voices don’t matter to anyone.
At least the coming financial doldrums could call a temporary halt to the gradual dissolution of a once lovely environment. Scottish Borders Council would do well to address the real housing issues of the region.

'Amen' we say and a fervent thanks that Paxton (apart, of course, from the unfortunate Kanes Close and the mud splattered Orchard)has been spared further inappropriate development with the fading of the monstrous prospect of 100 plus houses in Knowes Close. Well and truly killed by the credit crunch, one hopes. People power originally scuppered that little scheme-perhaps the people of Whitsome should follow suit; Not that seems necessary for the moment.

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Thursday, December 11, 2008

"Our countryside is being vandalised with these damned industrial machines because the administration in Holyrood does not have the guts to go down the nuclear route," blasted Jim Fullarton (East Berwickshire"

speaks the well known voice of moderation. (Full report here) Short and to the point which is not at all like Big Jim. My instinct after being subjected to blasts of long winded (npi)incoherent rhetoric by Jim F whilst serving a few years on the Hutton and Paxton Community Council is to support anything he is opposing. In this instance I have the unworthy thought that perhaps there is an element of a Border Collie in the rabbit hutch behind this vehemence, opposing turbines wherever they may wish to be. Some fellow landowners have done quite well renting out vast tracts of territory for wind farms. Damned industrial machines pay quite a nice lot of rent. Has anyone asked Jim for a slice of Coldingham?

Thought not.

(The image is of Hardens Hill Turbine farm-marching towards Coldingham so Big J could yet be lucky?)

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Wednesday, December 10, 2008
Tide Turns

Today's Vote in the Berwickshire:

Would you be happy to welcome Berwick into Berwickshire?

50% Yes. it's a great idea

46% No, Berwick is part of England and should remain so

4% I have no opinion either way

Huttonian is glad to report that the Yes vote is on the decline since he last looked. And those people who have no opinion either way and who have bothered to express it are on the march.

Viva The Don't Know Party. We will overcome one day

A recent poll carried out by the Hutton Think Tank as to the respective merits of living in Hutton as opppsed to Paxton (as is often the case)

Hutton 2%

Paxton 2%

Very strongly held no opinion 7%

SNP 1%

Where are Hutton and Paxton? 88%

(After two recounts

Who says Democracy is not alive and well in the Borders?

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Tuesday, December 09, 2008
Is this the party before?

Could well be asked shortly. Huttonian is marking the move to the-small-house-in-Duns with a house warming (The Hutton event was a Manse Cooling). When serving HM the Q we occupied houses which were purpose made for entertaining and once you got to a semi dizzy height well equipped for the purpose-grape scissors and all. A Counsellor was allocated a dining table which sat 14, a Grade 3 Ambassador 20 and so in until the Grade 1 Ambo could entertain all the occupants of a Routemaster to a slap up sit down dinner if he/she so wished. A Grade 4 Reluctant Dinger has a table which can seat 8 if you are all very friendly and standing room for not many more. So we decided to invite our guests in two standings or shifts (dress casual) -one lot from 6-7-30 the others from 7-30 until we close the bar. Many a slip: people anxious about the weather might come earlier than invited, others might get lost and end up at a Third Coming and so on. No doubt we will survive as numbers are not great.

This is not a new technique. I learned about it from a very ferocious Ambassador of the old school and representing a middle ranking European Power. Underpaid and ill equipped with a tiny residence (Ambos don't slum in 'houses') he entertained reluctantly and frugally. He hit on the two standings technique and timed it to a second throwing people out at 1929 from the First Shift and getting rid of the second lot at 2100, with the fire alarm if necessary. He was so unwelcoming and subject to sudden rages that guests tended not to linger. But one occasion, when he had carefully divided the sheep and goats into the boring but worthy (6 to 7-30) and the slightly less boring but known early bedders 7-30 to 9)he awaited his party with less apprehension than usual.

No one came.

Apparently he had carefully mentioned the times but not the day.

And no-one had risked his ire by ringing up and asking for clarification.

I think we have told our guests which day. Will soon know

If we haven't

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Monday, December 08, 2008

That's no Eyesore. That's my house

A bloggee has suggested a new competition: the ugliest/most inappropriate/ nastiest building in the Borders-lets specialise in Ber Wick Shire to narrow the field a bit.

The bloggee writes :
My nominations for eyesores of the Merse could be any of the new buildings around Whitsome, but at least, despite their tastelessness, single storey, apart from that vile thing behind the old village hall. The mother of all architectural excrescences has got to be the 2-storey executive hoosie by the side of the B6437 south of Whitsome which is not only ugly and inappropriate but has the compounded disadvantage of totally pointless location being totally without views. My runner-up is the grotty little new settlement at Ravelaw or maybe that vile housing estate at Berrywell.

Hutton Think Tank are on the job, again and suggest (based on the extract above) three categories :
(a) Vile (b) Eyesore on Stilts (c) Tasteless (d) Absurd

Of course a really outstanding entry could win all categories and the prize outright
My candidate would have been the Berwickshire Housing Associations much vaunted 'Green' house in Ayton which had every planet saving gadget known to woman imaginable-even the solar panels were operated by other solar panels. Cutting edge of something; sure, but so (unnecessarily) ugly that the BHA had great trouble in finding a tenant. This is five years ago and it may now be occupied. And it may indeed have been given a makeover with the solar panels replaced with an integrated wind turbine with pink sails-so I'll not formally enter it in the (b) category until I have sen it again.

In the meanwhile a short contest on the most tasteless small town Christmas decorations.

Mail early and correct postage please

(The image is Duns Christmas Tree -2007 version. The 08 one was lit up last night and report to follow)

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Sunday, December 07, 2008
Left at Fishwick Cross roads for, er, Harare?

A bloggee who lives not a hundred miles from the uncompleted Fishwick Bypass has written as follows

"House nearly completed - palm trees just been transplanted. Trust you feel we have done justice to your "McMansions" epithet!!!
Pool was a bit nippy this a.m. though!....... and we do need a new blade in the lawn mower!
But at least it's a bit warmer than Duns down here in this neck of the woods

A number of images were attached. Wow! Even by Fishwick standards these are high; even dare one say it: OTT. On stilts. I wonder where this pad has been tucked away in leafy Berwickshire. Would Farmer C know?

But wait a moment. The building itself has an old colonial flavour-the exterior not the living rooms I hasten to add-as an Old Colonial myself. Not unlike the former Government House in Salisbury, Southern Rhodesia. Now Harare, Zimbabwe.

Now who would live there now?

Setting a fine example for his people.

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Saturday, December 06, 2008
Sir Gerry Atric?

Huttonian should congratulate Berwick's long sitting Westminster MP on his trip to Buck House last week to receive a knighthood. See the report in the Berwickshire hereBut my effusives are slightly diluted as I can't help remembering his response to my plea to sort out the way the Berwick Infimary had treated a very elderely and distinguished couple from Hutton-neglect plus indifference and the geriatic ward was in my view a disgrace to humanity particularily with regard to the attitude of the staff to their vulnerable charges. I said all this at a social occasion to the then plain Mr B (some 7 years ago) and promised to follow up with a detailed letter about the couple's experiences. He listened politely enough and responded ' Hmm.They were very good to my mother' And turned away.

Good to the MPs mother. Gosh.

What ever next


Friday, December 05, 2008
Jungle Drums

A bloggee who we will keep anonymous has sent a heart rending Cri de Coeur. In part:

Perhaps it is because we are in a parallel universe ‘cos NOBODY KNOWS WE ARE HERE. According to all satnavs and all data bases when the postcode here is fed in, my own little spot on the planet seems to be somewhere else. This can be summed up as the traditional Borders mathematical problem which goes: How many hours does it take a Curry’s van to deliver a freezer to postcode X? Snowploughs trundled past us at least twice yesterday but they were obviously on their way to somewhere else – hey, guys, there’s like, er, snow/chilly slippy white stuff on the road oootside ma hoosie – will ye’s no’ clear i’? At least the vibrations shoopk some of the grunge from the windows. The people who clear the roads never think that many people pass across the B6461 and have an international trek over to Norham to get this and that. I managed it at the start of the blizzard and I don’t know how. I spent the rest of the day comatose in front of ITV3 watching old episodes of Wycliffe. At that time of day the Northumbrian side had done its bit and the bridge and road were almost navigable. I also wonder why the 2 departments can’t get together and arrange a priority system for crossing the bridge where there are not infrequent Mexican stand-offs

Huttonian has every sympapthy. My Tom Tom, in its 'Sean' voice mode (changed from a prissy English Miss: Penelope?) also has problems with the parallel universe aka Ber wick Shire. He can't get out of his head that we no longer live in the Old Manse and has it as 'home' in his elephantine memory which I don't seem to be able to re-programme. The youngest daughter travelling from Duns to Berwick was instructed to turn right just beyond Chirnside and suddenly found herself about to cross the Bluestane ford which had drink taken and was in a bit of a spate. As soon as she had reversed and driven away towardsw the main Chirnside-Berwick Road Sean got increasingly agitated demanding 'Turn around Where Possible' (Perhaps the Gaderene Swine had faulty Nav Sats which explains their headlong rush into the Sea of Gallilee?)

The image is of the Bluestane Ford. Our little Astra would never have emerged again had Tom Tom's directions been followed)

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Thursday, December 04, 2008
  When Winter Comes

When Winter Comes
Originally uploaded by old_greywolf2000
If the wife had plans for a lunch al fresco she has probably abandoned them for to day. What did they used to say? : When Winter comes can Spring be far behind? With 20 slipping days to Christmas and as seen from 55 degrees north the answer is a resounding

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Virgin Virgin needs no Urgin'

Huttonian has mentioned before the uncanny ability of Virgin Trains Aka Cross Country to run their trains on time whilst holding the record for the slowest long distance journeys from Point A Scotland-to B South West England, and vice versa. Their secret formula is to deliberately lengthen the time allowed for each leg thus ensuring adherence to the time table sometimes involving 10 minutes or so stop over at each station until the advertised departure time is reached. Hence today after leaving Lancaster we arrived at Penrith 5 minutes early, Carlisle 12 minutes in advance of schedule, Lockerbie 5 minutes and Edinburgh a whacking great quarter of an hour At times there are casualties: having to wait posed to get off the train for 15 minutes whilst the designated platform is vacated or when an impatient driver, non smoker and in no need to snatch a soothing fag behind the waiting room exit or for urinary relief at whatever Hole-in-the-Marsh station he has arrived at before the time table said he should, gets fed up with the unproductive hanging around and gets going when he feels like it.

Thus to day heard in the Lancaster Waiting Room'

WWould those passengers awaiting the departure of the 1322 to Barrow on Furness kindly be advised that it left

5 minutes ago?

(I am assured by Mike Stuartwood of Flickr that the image is of a Virgin Train passing through Lancaster Station)

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Tuesday, December 02, 2008
Westward Look! Its much warmer

Huttonian is in Lancaster today at the Uni for his annual visit. What a contrast to the Merse. We left from Duns at 730am in -4C-snowy icy roads all the weay to Ber Wick. Turned back at Foulden with road blocked by a very nasty crash at the Hutton turn off. Barely mounted Allanton bridge. Missed my train comprehensively-East Coast irritatingly on time-next train late but just got connection to Lancaster at Embra. Marooned for half an hour just south of Penrith on top of old snowy but now in balmy Lancaster 6 C and no snow. Back to Duns tomorrow, if spared. Brrrrr. Lets move West, Old man.

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Monday, December 01, 2008


A bloggee has mentioned the possibilty of being observed as curtains twitch in a certain Borders 'hill' village. Huttonian has just come across this ditty penned (?typed) by a local bard recalling an incident which I was told was true when we first moved into Hutton eleven years ago. Curtain twitching is surely not confined to the Hills-or even to the Borders

Neighbourhood Watch

‘Community Alert’ some call it here.
Oxymoronic surely.
Our rural calm is soporific.
Unbroken by any suspicion
of criminal intent ever since
the village burglar was apprehended
escaping from the scene of his crime
on a stolen bicycle.

He might even have got away
had he not been walking the bike
uphill. (He had nicked the one
without gears.)

Now if you venture through the village
in its post neutron bomb like emptiness
all you get is
the occasional curtained twitch
of the neighbourhood watch
going about
your business.

(When Hutton got its speed limit it celebrated with its Neighbourhood watch notice as well)

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