Musings from the Merse
Saturday, January 31, 2009
Backwards to the Future

Huttonians do not traditionally show much sympathy or even regard for Paxtonians but one of the latter ilk is on the wrong end of one of the stupider planning decisions to issue from the lowheidyins of the planning office in Duns. Full saga can be found here

But if you want to avoid wading through faff, suffice it to know that a very junior planning officer, on her own initiative, it appears, has turned down a planned extension to an existing building on the grounds that it interferes with the privacy of a house yet to be constructed: rather like:

Yesterday upon the stair, I met a man who wasn't there. He wasn't there again today, Oh how I wish he'd go away.

You might say.

If she had bothered to look closely at the plans for the proposed extension and put them with the design of the house which is not there (and in the present climate likely to stay that way) she could have worked out that the only way that the privacy of the virtual house could be jeopardised by the not quite yet extension would be for some one in the room on top of the extension, when completed, to peer out of a window (someone should hold his legs) proposed to put in and by turning his head 78 degrees to the left and looking down at an angle of 97 degrees might just be able to see part of a corner of a room, as yet non existent, unless of course the eventually to be hung curtain was drawn. Then he could see nothing. Tough being a Peeping Tom in a future Paxton.

I suspect the appeal will find for the applicant. In which case one hopes a sharp rap on the real knuckles of the Planning Officer in question might remind her of the purpose of her office is to be helpful and constructive to Johnny Citizen and not a pain on the collective backside of the Merse community.

Dream on

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Friday, January 30, 2009

Last Post: Definitive

As you can read here the Last Post has sounded for the Hutton Post Office-18 February is the day chosen to close its doors, according to the article. Curious choice as it is a Wednesday and the PO would not have been open anyway-but perhaps the Post Mistress can be summoned from her retirement (Monday 16th presumably being the last day it will be functioning)to open the door and bang it shut. Hard.

I hope there will be a rousing party to mark the event and even a closing down sale-Buy two First Class stamps and get a second class free, or vice versa.

As a former Post Master I await

my invitation.

Angry Pensioners
First Class Stamping
in muddy Boots.
The Post Office is late,


( J. Hume 113 1/3 attrib)

The image is of Hutton Village Hall.Very few village post offices have such a splendid building. And it never gets punctured


Thursday, January 29, 2009
Tight Change

I fear the credit crunch has hit Embra judging from the increase in the number of mendicants in the Princes Street area-one well dressed guy may have been surplus to Royal Bank of Scotland requirements is now in the place where the long term beggar with the wee dog in the flak jacket used to be. No sign of him. He may have made a fortune from a hedge fund and moved on, or it is just too bloody cold.

A new recruit to the fraternity has taken up his position on the Fleshmarket steps. I was coming down just behind a very well dressed prosperous looking bloke who was accosted by the mendicant with the routine inquiry as to the availability of loose change. The VWDPLB stopped and asked, rather aggressively as to what 'Loose change constitutes in your book' The novice mendicant looked the inquirer up and down slowly and said 'You look good for 20p' The VWDPLB stormed off muttering something about bloody insolence.

I joyfully parted with a quid.

Without being asked

My battered, tattered fleece may not have looked worth a P.

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Wednesday, January 28, 2009
The Gatherin' of the Grocers

A rather worrying BBC headline about Sainsbury's Starts a Ground Offensive which you can read here drawn to Huttonian's attention by a regular bloggee is, on closer examination not about the Grocer forcing his wares on Gaza with Israeli military support but to do with turf wars in Kelso.

I hope Tesco wins the day in Kelso and drives out the marauders from Sainsbury's. Not because I carry a candle for the ambitious and ruthless Mr T. Quite the reverse.

Its a case of FIKTD.

Yes, Perceptive from Paxton : Failed in Kelso Try Duns. You are very welcome here. The old High School, now surplus to requirements is just the site for you.

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The Relief of Tunis

Tunisia Loos
Originally uploaded by old_greywolf2000
The Connection with the Merse is that this delightful image of public toilets in Tunisia has been sent in by a regular Mersian bloggee. The four cabana arrangement appears to cater for a broad sweep of humanity judging from the symbols (click to enlarge) Cabin Left seems to be for females, albeit those in Western style dress. Next an obvious hot blooded betrousered male is pointing to his seat of majesty. The third open door has a more enigmatic and sexually neutral figure-for those uncertain of their sexuality perhaps-similar to a voting booth for the 'don't knows' and Lib Dems? The fourth 'craperie', Tunisia has a strong French influence, may be in use and could be reserved for members of the WCT-World Council for Toilets, note prominent logo. The photographer could not wait to enquire

The Western Dr Who travels space and time in a Police Phone Box. Perhaps in Tunisia, where the popular spin off Al Doctuur Loo
is cult viewing, his North African Time Lord colleague prefers a more convenient ( cpi) form of time travel. You never know, especially BC (Before cubicles) when you might be caught short

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Tuesday, January 27, 2009
Upward Mobility?

A bloggee from deepest Berwick Shire has contributed the following :

Strange advice noted while driving up A1 just north of Berwick on that silly illuminated sign which dispenses useless information. It refers the hapless driver to a website for all the latest traffic news. As one white van man put it – how can I have room on the dashboard for a laptop as well as a satnav? I’ll have no hands left for the mobile……

Indeed the law on mobile use while driving is not fully understood in these parts. I once saw three successive drivers using them on the stretch of road between Paxton House and the turn off to Allanton. That was a 75 % hit rate. The fourth driver had no mobile visible but he seemed to be trying to put on a CD whilst lighting a cigarette. Just a quick glimpse so it may not have been musical manoeuvrings but changing his Sim card with a mobile held between his knees. No law against that. Jimmy

Mind you I have yet to see in the Merse what was a common sight in Kuwait-driver of a Cadillac (invariably) with mobiles held to both ears. And, sounding his horn to clear the way ahead of his magic carpet.

That's dexterity for you

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Monday, January 26, 2009
Best Laird Plans?

Huttonian is told that the Laird is showing remarkable persistence in the face of non cooperation by the planning highheidyins with a regard to his plot (npi) on the upper Hutton road. You will recall from scrolling down here (june 28th 08) that his application to build two bijou residences on 'scrub land' was rejected as for 'scrub land' read ''small wood' throughout. But after a visit by two burly blokes and a Bull Dozer 'scrub land with stumps' is a fair and accurate description. So we can anticipate another proposal before many moons.

Nothing like creating facts on the ground.

As any Israeli illegal settler in Palestine will tell you

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Saturday, January 24, 2009
Plumbing new depths

For the second time in three months the sink in the small house in Duns blocked up. Wrong sort of rice down the plug hole possibly. Not to worry we have an emergency plumbing cover 24/7 including Christmas Day and 29 Feb in Leap Year. And this was an emergency. 5 for lunch and no chance of using the dishwasher which exhales through the same hole as the sink. And the latter full of greasy water. Immobile and unsmiling.

'Home Sweet home serve' was as charming as ever. Promised that a local plumber would call within an hour. In the meantime I did battle with our plunger. A feeble little thing for clearing little old ladies eye baths.It did not even stir the greasy liquid; just irritated it. Off to Mr Pearsons to get a man sized plunger. Two in stock. Massive. Would remove the elephant in the sink, never mind the room and get stones out of horses hooves as an encore. At £1.94, credit crunch price, a snip. Started plunging. After ten satisfying gloops, the water level sank a bit and the plunger disintegrated-the rubber thing coming off the wooden handle showing evidence of perishing in a neat circle. Call Home Sweet Homeserve. Plumber will certainly call back very soon. One was in the vicinity TY12? No TD11. Of course.

Back to Pearsons. Nae bother will get you another one. Picked it up off the shelf. Promptly disintegrated. Another perisher. More expected next week. No thanks. Took the £1.94, the profuse apologies and observations on Chinese workmanship; and left.

Sink had sort of cleared itself. Secret is boiling water and lots of washing up liquid. But still needs a plumber.

Phone rings. The Home Sweet home serve duty plumber. 'Just finishing a little job-you are next on my list'

'Where are you?'

'Middlesborough' 'Middlesborough?' 'Yes. Born and bred'

I told him that as time was of the essence we could probably manage without him. He seemed disappointed. All the way to Duns at Homeserves expense, I presumed. 'Duns is a very long way' I told him.

'Oh' he said. 'Where exactly is it'

I told him. 'Oh' he said ' Not just south of Newcastle? I thought they said. The B*****S''

He put the phone down.


(We will find some one in Duns, come Monday)

If we are spared

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Murray cruises to win over Melzer

is the BBC sports headline. In the first two rounds he was referred to as the Scottish No 4 Seed. Now he has won three rounds he has become the British hopeful Dare we anticipate should he win this Grand Slam event he will achieve the highest accolade of all:

The English World No One

(And if he doesn't: Yet Another disappointing Scot)


Friday, January 23, 2009

Iconically Yours

Such is the demand for space from the usual suspects in the Berwickshire News letter columns that it is a novelty to have two letters published on the same topic-and with the writers in agreement

SIR, - With reference to Richard Walthew’s letter last week in which he describes the new Scottish Parliament as “an iconic building in which the spirit soars and any true Scot can be proud of.”
Methinks Mr Walthew is confused with some other building!!


SIR, - Mr, Walthew’s definition of a true Scot, is that he, or she, be spiritually uplifted by, and feel pride in the Scottish Parliament building.
Presumably he, or she, should also find magnificence in the Emperor’s New Clothes.
Personally I think the building is an architectural and functional disaster. Perhaps Mr Walthew would widen his definition.

Some other place

What is it about the Scottish Parliament which arouses such a fierce reaction. And what is wrong with 'Iconic' to describe it? I am sure you can be

Iconically bad?

Just like some of those McMansions which sprung up in the property boom in Fishwick New Town.

And, I may be in a minority but I rather like the Parliament and especially the debating chamber. I wish I had had a space like that to enjoy during my three years at the UN.

There's iconic for you

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Thursday, January 22, 2009
Recovering from Burns

I have to admit that I enjoyed our Burn's Supper last night, Not the traditional Hooley. No Scotch, No Piper and No Vomit.And a very good Haggis

In preparation I had researched the rather tenous connections between the Bard and Duns. But, yes, he had visited. Twice. In the same week and as recently as May 1786 as part of his 'Tour of the Borders'This was to stay with his friend Robert Ainslie. It was also en route to a very brief visit to England via Coldstream. His visit was described like this : (You can read more here )

The duo (the Bard and Ainslie) set out on the 5th May via Haddington to Ainslie's home, Berrywell near Duns.

Burns was impressed by the character of Ainslie’s parents and charmed by his sister, Rachel.

The next day was Sunday. Burns went to church with the family and sat next to Rachel.

During the service she became quite upset at the sermon on sinners and could not find the referred text in her Bible. Burns took it from her and on the flyleaf wrote the following.

Fair maid, you needna take the hint
Nor idle texts pursue;
'Twas guilty sinners that he meant
Not angels such as you!

The following day the duo made a day trip to Coldstream and crossed the bridge into England.

This was the first time Rabbie had set foot on English soil. To Ainslie’s surprise Rab threw away his hat and, then knelt down with uplifted hands and seemingly in a fit of enthusiasm & with great drama, prayed for and blessed Scotland most solemnly, by reciting in loud, tones with deep devotion, the two concluding stanzas of `Cottar's Saturday Night'."

They then returned to Berrywells not far off the Duns Chirnside road.

Away from Scotland for a few minutes and the Bard starts behaving like a typical expatriate Scot Another 5 minutes on English soil, doubtless, he would have founded a Caledonian Society in Cornhill and booked himself in for an Immortal Memory or two for the following January.

There is no other record of him visiting Duns that I and Mr Google can find.

And it would be nice to know:

What happened to Rachel? Did the chat up line in Church bring the Rabbie positive returns?

We should be told

(And if you are not sick and tired of the Bard go to the Scottish Review here for an alternative view

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Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Third Degree Burns

Rather against his better judgement Huttonian has been inveigled into attending a Burns Supper this evening. The first since our arrival in the Borders 11 years ago. It does however promise to be a much more relaxed and less self consciously heavy occasion than most of the suppers I was not able to avoid overseas where there were huge ex pat Caledonian Societies whose functions I had an (official) duty to attend. In certain cultures these tribal gatherings were not trouble free. I need not recount again my attempts to persuade a very senior Tanzanian Ministry of Foreign Affair's highheidyin to lift a ban on the local Society holding a Burns event imposed as it was believed that stabbing the Haggis was a metaphor for human sacrifice; nor, the next day trying to explain how the imported Caledonian Airlines Piper was found, at 6am unconscious and naked except for his pipes, draped around the Dar Es Salaam War Memorial. And not necessary again to go into detail as why it was that in Kuwait, very banned alcohol was served in brown teapots at Caledonian functions where the only Kuwaiti guest was the patron of the society having wasted (his words) his formative years at Glasgow University. One other Kuwaiti friend has repeatedly turned down invitations to Burns suppers as he was convinced that the Haggis was entombed in a pig's stomach rather than a sheep's.

But my main problem with Burn's memorials were the horrendous 'Immortal Memories' the main toast to the Bard. Long winded (less than forty minutes regarded as disrespectful) often incomprehensible, usually humourless and generally delivered by imported professional 'Burns Speakers' who might be giving the same address to 10 or so expat gatherings in 10 different countries in the course of second half of January. Most of these garrulous gents (never a woman) had recourse to the 'Burns Supper Companion' with its three specimen 'Immortal Memories'. Thus a 33.3333% chance you had heard that speech last year, and ditto,you would, the next. You could shorten these odds as happened on one occasion: the speaker, a rep from a Scotch Distillery, high on his sample miniatures, give all three addresses from the 'Companion' and was only drowned out towards the end of Act 111 by the hastily revived Piper, recovered from under a table, being ordered to break prematurely into Auld Lang Syne followed by a rather pointed 'Will Ye No come back again' with the emphasis on the


Tonight will not be like that. No Piper, No Tam O Shanter with Son and Lumiere. Haggis an Neeps. OK don't mind that and otherwise readings about or from the Man. I am even doing a couple of readings about the 'Farmer Poet' which can be read in incomers English (I was warned sternly not to attempt a Scottish accent-for that relief, much thanks)

And no need to explain the mysteries to anyone. And no cause to follow the example of a former British Ambassadorial colleague, our man in Telaviv, who having invited a fairly orthodox Jewish acquaintance to a Burns supper found it necessasry to explain that 'Rabbi' as applied to Burns was not a description of his religious functions so as to avoid his guest taking unnecessary offence from some of the proceedings.

And Shall Ould Acquaintance be forgot?

After a nip or two


(The image is from a Berwickshire News story about the official Burns Supper in Duns a couple of years ago)

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Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Who is my neighbour?
is not the easiest question to answer in the Small House in Duns when the yard/garden/ is tucked away behind the backs of two rectangular sections of terraced housing. One neighbour whom Huttonian is hoping to be able to help with his enquiries has an overflow pipe, in constant free flow, spewing hot water down his wall into our yard and too close for comfort to the woodpile.

We managed by examining the chimney pots and roof profiles in one of the adjoining roads to identify the incontinent property in question. After several attempts to attract attention the door was opened by a two young Eastern European men, fluent in (?) Romanian but had little English. In a mixture of Romanian,Arabic,Old Norse French and a choice Borders phrase or two we managed to establish that (a) they had no idea it was going on (b) they would like to stop it (c) did not know how and (d) their landlord would deal with it but (e) they did not know or could not reveal who the owner was.

And then the water stopped. So they must have tackled Mr Big

That was four months ago and now Niagara is at it again. So let us cut out the middle man and find the Landlord. No one knew. Even in a small town like Duns it is a mystery.

Ask the Council. After 10 minutes staring at a rather irritating notice which said : 'Your query may take longer to answer than you would like. So Please Bear with US' I was told that all the resources at the disposal of the Duns Mediumheidyin's customer help squad had failed to identify the owner. But, nae bother:

The Housing Strategy Team would deal with it

Sceptical as ever I tried the 01835 number. The chap did not ask me to bear with anyone nor was my call being monitored for training purposes. An audible click of the mouse and he could confidently tell me that they had no record of any ownership of that property. But:

He would find out and get digits extracted promptly. "I'll call you back"-he said

He did. Owner, Mr Big, is in Rossshire; agent in Duns. Latter out to dinner but as soon as he had slurped his tea and returned to his place of work the HST would be on to him he would be asked to fix the problem, like, pronto.

That was 1230. It is now 1500. Water still flowing-cooler; the hot must have all gone down the wall.

Action this day as Sir Winston used to say. And if not

It is the thought that counts.

(Images reveal the current weeping eyesores. If Mr Big,you are on the blog, please send your Baillie round, sharpish)

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Monday, January 19, 2009


THe small house in Duns has one small deficiency; despite its usual tropical wood stove induced heat it is invariably cold by 5am. Not cold by Town Mouse's high standards. But cold. Huttonian has the answer. Mr Romanes rubber, red, hot water bottle. Fill it with boiling water (contrary to the manufacturer's explicit instructions)and by 5 am it is still piping hot. The wife too has a rubber (NO bad American pun intended) Buff coloured, ridged and less cuddly HWB than the Red Devil. She is of the cautious school of HWB techbology: half fill, do not boil. But her needs differ from mine. Warm the bed to bum glow levels, settle down, turn out the lights snooze and then expel the device before it cools down too much

Monday 5AM. Wake. Cold.search for bottle Find it. Recoil in horror. Corpse like-long dead cadaver to boot. Barely tepid. Inspect by discrete light of pencil torch. Buff, ridged, deceased.Red bottle on wife's side of bed; on floor. Stone cold. Shivering.
Take down to kitchen for refill. Bad start to week.

Wife apologises nicely. Later at Breakfast asks rhetorically what is worse than bombing civilians in Gaza

I tell her.

(Image is of the wife contemplating which hottie francaise to toss out of son lit)


Sunday, January 18, 2009

For some Foul Reason?

Huttonian is a great fan of the product of Borders Eggs and you can read all about their highly successful concern here. (Don't be put off too much by the writer placing Hutton Castle Barns in Northern England-the Post Office do it all the time)

I also admire the sheer persistence of young Farmer M returning to the charge after several planning reversals including withdrawing a similar application for increasing his Radio 2 serenaded hens from 9000 to 21,000. Neighbourly objections, and there are some, again, focus on the 'foul smell' (Npi)If 9,000 stink what will 21,000 do it is asked (if only in a hot summer which we don't have much)
The tone of the comments seems one of resignation rather than of expected success. Even the Scottish Environmental Protection Agency (SEPA) while expressing continued opposition to the project because of the increased stink, can, apparently, live with it with certain provisions including screening, keeping the hens at a reasonable distance. Perfume bombs from low flying aircraft, have, surprisingly, not been suggested.

Also worth noting that the main objection is from the Community Council on planning grounds. Planning grounds! How quaint! Bitter experience has shown that planning arguments often cut little ice with the highheidyins in Duns and higherheidyins in Newtown St Boswells unless it suits their book. But at least with no high flying developer involved in this case the CC's point may be taken more seriously than usual. I am not too hopeful

It would be wrong too suggest that all the comments are critical-and all can be seen here One member of the public has written as follows:

I write in support of this application and to allay the minor concerns of the neighbours.
a) Grazing on the north side of the buildings.
Mr Richards has raised an issue about this which is in complete contrast to the many positive written commentsby local customers of Border Eggs. They express delight at being able to see the hens ranging in such a healthy and natural environment. We are not aware of any restrictions on farmers as to where they may/may not graze
their livestock on their own land, whether in proximity to a public road or not.
b) Screening
There is an existing hedge to the north of the sheds. When the farm was originally acquired, all hedges and woodlands were in a sadly neglected state and this hedge along with all others has been greatly improved over the years. If the planners wish, it can be allowed to grow a few feet taller to provide more screening. We
believe this to be a better and more natural alternative to the use of artificial screening.
c) Smell
As residents to the nearest house to the sheds, we are not aware of any odours from the hen enterprise. In conversation with Mr. Richards outside number 5 Hutton Castle Barns in spring and autumn 2008, he expressed a similar opinion. The only smell that we are aware of is during the period when local livestock farmers spread dung on neighbouring fields, which is all part of the natural process of livestock farming.
A great deal of hard work, effort and enthusiasm together with financial investment has gone into this enterprise. With the average age of farmers in excess of 55 years, if a member of the younger generation choosesto remain on the land and to try to earn a living from agriculture in these difficult times, we feel he should
be given support and encouragement. These people, providing employment and assisting the local economy, are the future of agriculture in the Borders.

Good stuff. I like the 'minor concerns' being allayed (npi)

Nice point about needing to support a member of the younger generation being prepared to live on the land and make a living out of agriculture in these difficult times.
Especially if its on his fathers farm and the comment comes from

his father.

(The image,thankyou Borders Eggs website, is of Chicken Organic Licken going to the King and asking for Radio Three, please)

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Saturday, January 17, 2009

The weather in Duns

'Effing* Cold' said the man in Joe's. And then seeing the wife emerging from behind the kitchen bowls, (almost)blushed.

'Sorry' he said 'I didn't know there was a lady present'

The wife has heard it all before and reassured the man: no offence taken.

(She agreed it was 'effing cold' but being a lady

Kept it to herself)

The image is of Duns Market Square before the snow. I have a similar picture after the snow has gone. Available on request

The team in the BBC Blether Centre forecast effing cold to continue, with the possibilty of effing -to the force of two- Snow

Next effing week.

(* expletive modified)

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Friday, January 16, 2009

Originally uploaded by pinkturtle2
A bloggee has asked why Musings is silent on Gaza and more concerned with local issues like whether or not trains should stop at Longriddery and should Reston station be reopened (Yes and No since I ask)

Gaza is a horror and an abomination. And will remain so until the State of Israel realises that long suffering and oppressed people cannot be bombed and bullied into acquiescence. And until terrorist organisations like Hamas themselves realise that Israel is not going to disappear however many rockets are fired in its general direction. And also until the Great American Public take it in that unthinking and unstinting support for the Jewish state is not in their national interest.
Sadly I doubt if even a fresh broom like Barack Obama, with all the best intentions in the world, will be able to stand up, for any length of time to the powerful lobbies which direct their energies to ensuring that the US' 'special relationship' is not, eg with the UK, or with Europe but with Israel. In the heady mid 1990s with Rabin and with Arafat the Dove of real peace very nearly landed but since the Israeli statesman was murdered by his 'own' side the Dove has taken off in fright and the F16s

taken over

Perhaps when the blood letting, mostly of the innocents, is halted the talking can begin.


And I fear with the same result as before. Another brief pause in the 100 years war.

"When will they ever learn?" as that 60s protest song had it

So back to the dog crap
Thursday, January 15, 2009

SIR, - It’s great news that the construction of the Waverley route in the Borders is to be speeded up by at least a year.

writes a Mr Colin Maclean from Embra. And goes on:

However, folk in the east are still waiting for the proposed Edinburgh/Berwick hourly stopping service. This is to provide a local, seven day a week, 18 hours a day, service from Edinburgh serving Longniddry, Dunbar, East Linton and Reston with its abundance of car parking space for an eastern Borders rail parkway. These proposals have been on the cards for years, yet all we get is endless, expensive and time wasting consultation, surveys and meetings.
Pressure must be speedily put on our MSPs and MPs to deliver the railway we all want before our scheme is hijacked into an Edinburgh/Newcastle stopping service. This seems to be the thought in London.
Not many folk wish to travel to Beal, Belford or Widdrington. It’s Edinburgh we all want

And do 'many folk' not wishing to call at Beal, Belford or Widdrington realy want to be bothered with Reston, East Linton, Dunbar and Longniddry

Especially if

'It's Edinburgh we want'

(The image is of Longniddry Station. Nice name, nice station but nothing to detain us, if it is Embra we want)

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Wednesday, January 14, 2009
Post Hoc

A bloggee has indicated what may be the shape of things to come for Hutton, Swinton and Greenlaw: go to here to see what he means. Of course we have not reached that stage as yet.In the absence of any firm date for the start of the mobile service the three immobile ones will continue sine die

And as bloggees will recall we also await the provision of a very special van with the ability to operate either in a time warp or in a parallel universe. Or both. Otherwise the need to be in Hutton and Greenlaw simultaneously will encounter some technical problems.

It is of course possible, but not likely that the Post Office, taking a leaf out of HMG's book will throw money at it: three vans no less. And one Friday; after the pensioners have shivered for hours waiting for the the No 32 Hutton Express Postal Service mobile unit-three will come at once.

And its worth considering the Hutton Think Tanks suggestion of combining the mobile Library with the post office van. That will give you a selection of Mills and Boon to read while the pensioner in front of you in the queue takes what is due in second class stamps. And insists on

two recounts.

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Tuesday, January 13, 2009
  ELBA (Not Napoleon's-Lammermuirs)

Elba Bridge Notice
Originally uploaded by old_greywolf2000
If I was a typical Berwick Caravanner, brought up on Sir Morrisons I would not risk this bridge; even on my own. But its far enough from McDonalds to deter the caravan fast set
No such Thing as a Free Cycle?

A cri de couer posted recently on Berwickshire Freecycle:

Lately this has become a place where members are able to post about urban myths atlength and we can have debates about it, but not about equally "off-topic"humanitarian issues.

It has, in my mind, strayed quite a distance from the motto of the mother site-
Changing The World One Gift At A Time.

Being someone who has recently had a "gift" from another Freecycler taken away
(the person in question gave it to someone else the day before they knew we were
collecting it and didn't have the grace to let me know) I am beginning to feel this is more about people getting good stuff for free.

Not interested.

I will contact BAVs about my house clearance next month. Wash and press all the
clothes and take them to charity shops in Edinburgh instead. (addressed from Duns)

What is the main beef here? : One possibility is the refusal by the moderators to publish information about local protests on the Israeli invasion of Gaza. I suppose fair enough as this forum is not the place for such 'political' issues, however worthy the motivation may be. But I think the principle objection is understandable pique over the free cycler who give away something previously promised to the writer. Irritating as this certainly is (and in my case its usually about people who say they want something and then don't bother to turn up with no word of apology or explanation. Or complain about the quality of the item on offer!) But surely not a reason for abandoning the whole system?

And as for " I am beginning to feel this is more about people
getting good stuff for free"

Er, Yes. It is. Isn't that what Freecycle is for?

Or have I missed something?

And good news: a guy is coming around this evening to TAKE ALL THE RED GRAVEL

If he doesn't I have a good mind to wash it all and take it up to the charity shops in Edinburgh

But why Edinburgh I hear you cry. There is a perfectly good one in Duns

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Monday, January 12, 2009
Merse Code

'What a lovely little town' said our visitor from Spitall.

I looked around: Sun shining, wind gone, warm; attractive market square, clean pavements not too gummed, greeted by locals, no evasive down cast eyes, no Parking Wardens in sight, dogs anal retentive ( so unlike Spitall).

I agreed.

'Cup of Coffee and a tea cake in cosy* surroundings?'suggested the vfS.

Then I remembered.

Bloody Monday. The Merse Dead (Cafe) Day.

'18' closed, Fantoush closed, Siamese Kitchen closed.

What about Spitall?

Needs must
(* US spell checker fails to recognise 'cosy' suggests 'nosy' There's small town USA for you)

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Sunday, January 11, 2009
Third Class Mail?

Despite being under sentence of death since last October Hutton Post Office is still functioning with no date given for its final closure-this according to the Berwickshire as you can read here Apparently, or so Huttonian is reliably informed, highheidyins on the second to top floor of the Post Office Tower-about as high as your heid can get, having decided to close three offices in Berwickshire, and replace them with a mobile post office van, have failed to find a driver for the Stampmobile.

So could there be second thoughts on the closure?

Or might it have been better to have had a more sensible

first thought?

Mind you a problem may have been caused by the inability to find a driver to get the Pension Bus to two places at once. You will note that :

"The van is set to call in at Greenlaw from 2-4pm on Mondays, 9-11am on Tuesdays, 11.30am-1.30pm on Wednesdays, 2.30-4.30pm on Thursdays and 12-1.30pm on Fridays"

Now Hutton is to 'enjoy' this service on Mondays and Fridays from 12-1-30. Fair enough; Jehu can get his van from Hutton to Greenlaw on Mondays leaving Hutton at close of play in time to open up and have a pub lunch at Greenlaw at 2pm. The odd dead Pheasant en route is acceptable collateral damage. But how on earth is he going to operate in both Hutton and Greenlaw simultaneously on Fridays?

I think he should be told.

But perhaps he has-

Beam me up Scotty may be the answer

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Saturday, January 10, 2009

Red Stones in the Sunset

could well be the theme tune for today, except no sun. It never really rose so no reason to set. But we do need to get rid of a very large quantity of red stone gravel-from one of the very few quarries in the UK where this stuff comes from-Northumberland and as patronised, amongst others, by HM the Queen. And it is a huge amount, several inches deep and covers the whole top section of what should be the upper(Hanging possibly) garden in the Small House in Duns. Our predecessors covered what used to be a lawn and a Plum Tree bed with the red stones-nice if you like that sort of thing.

But the wife doesn't. So the plan is for a grassed area riddled with soft fruit bushes: 10 rasps, 3 blackcurrants, 2 redcurrants and a gooseberry. Apple trees also poised. All duly purchased from Woodside today. We anticipated that with the red stones gone by this evening we could get working on the earth moving next week. Here we were a trifle optimistic.

We had advertised our stuff on Berwickshire Freecycle with the usual enthusiastic response but the guy, the first to respond, who came all the way from Hawick filled his trailer to the rim. 'I have hardly scratched the surface' he said sadly. And left. We have other people after the gravel-not HM the Queen unless she uses Freecycle under a pseudonym: BlueBlood 1? so its over to them and the groundsmen at Balmoral are very welcome to phone in. There's plenty for everyone. And likely to be a lot

left over

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Thursday, January 08, 2009

Being Careful at the Castle

If you put 'tight' into the Berwickshire website you won't get necessarily be directed to the story about the number of drivers with drink taken nicked over Christmas (93-43 fewer than last year). More likely you will go to a reference to a Channel 4 programme 'The hunt for Britain's tightest person' in this case the chatelaine of Duns Castle, where the Hay family have been ensconced since 1696. Apparently Mrs Hay's frugality whereby she uses only half a tablet in the castle's dishwasher and shops in a 'budget' supermarket rather than say, the spendthrift infested Co-op will be highlighted in the programme. It would be useful, for the anorak who specialises in trivia, to know how many half tablets of economy dishwasher tablets the Hays have used since the end of the 17th century and what, if anything, they do with candle stubs apart from relighting them? (I remember the result of a survey not too long ago on what Scotsmen do with old razor blades-the answer, predictably, was they shave with them)

Could be riveting viewing. Peak time:7.35pm tomorrow. Should be good publicity for the budget supermarket if identified, and indeed for the Castle upmarket (and several flights of stairs) B and B business. Although possibly some future guests might tend carefully to check their breakfast crockery to see if half a tablet in the dishwasher is

really enough.

(Looking at the image one wonders if stinting on the Windowlene might be a more effective way of cost cutting?)

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Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Erection Section

Huttonian was intrigued to see the Duns Christmas tree and the rest of the festive decorations being taken down early last Sunday morning. Sunday? How much overtime for the SBC workmen* might this mean-can't they do it in working hours ? etc etc Faff Faff.

But not the council it seems in this instance :

SIR, - May I, through your columns, thank the group of men in Duns called ‘The Erection Section’ who are responsible for putting up all our Christmas lights and decorations in the town centre - what a fantastic job they do.
It is not the council, as many visitors to Duns assume, who are responsible for putting up the lights but local men who give up three consecutive Sundays to put them up and then another Sunday in January to take them down. They also spend time throughout the year repairing the lights and getting them ready.
These are also the boys who, along with their helpers, put up the Duns Summer Festival flags as well.
We appreciate you boys and it was a fantastic show. Well done!
(Name and address supplied to editor

So well done the community minded Dingers. Reiver, Reiver's Lass, Right hand man and now the Erection Section. A group of men the writer states. Indeed .Well might they boast that their

collective erection lasted a good three weeks

* Council Workmen used to be an example of an oxymoron. Lke Military Intelligence.

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Tuesday, January 06, 2009

FORE and again I say FORE

Thank you techie bloggee for this link

Golf damaging hearing is a new concept for me. Mind you I doubt if the ball comes off my club face creating a sonic boom at the best of times (more like a Stealth bomber) so I need not worry even if I do use new fangled metal clubs-I wonder if depleted uranium may be the answer and give me that penetrating flight, Tiger Wood like, capable of boring a hole in any passing (Israeli?) Tank or even the green keeper's obstructive golfmobile.I wonder what PG Wodehouse's Oldest Member would have made of this-one of his more sensitive golfing partners complained of being put off by the roaring of butterflies from an adjoining meadow

But poor hearing is dangerous especially when amongst the hackers at the Annesley Course at the Royal County Down (PBUI). On the very rare occasions that they bother to warn you of incoming fire by shouting Fore!

They mean it.

And so dangerous are some of these 'players'(for want of an otherwise deleted expletive) that the club has been obliged to lengthen one hole and move the fairway 50 yards to the left so as neighbouring caravans escape collateral damage. £200,000 bill it has been suggested. Cheaper to have moved the caravans one might have thought but in this age of litigation........

(The image is of a very competent player at the 7th on the Annesley Course. Were the drive to carry 2200 yards and drift slightly left the caravans might be in trouble)

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Monday, January 05, 2009
On the 12th Day of Christmas I removed the earplugs

Sorry Chain Bridge Bloggee but I could not resist these two images taken at the Duns Childrens Academy for Musical Excellence. These two pianists are not only playing a Pianaforte Work for Four Hands-the Duns Scotus Variations ,(known to cognescenti in the trade as Exercise for 16 fingers and four thumbs) but are also practising their response to standing ovations. They are more advanced in one of these skills than the other. But early days yet



BBC Radio Tweed

At a bloggee's request I have posted the image of the Workingman's Institute in Duns, home of a BBC studio-keys obtainable from the newsagent (in case you want to seize it and announce a change of regime in Berwickshire) The studio is apparently owned by BBC Radio Tweed-programmes seen here which seems to be Radio Scotland masquerading under the Tweed logo as I could not detect a really local, local programme.

"Here is the Tweed News: There isn't any. The headlines once again"

According to the studio log book the previous user to me was in May last year so no wonder the room was bloody freezing, but at least the BBC headphones kept my ears warm and the whole shebang worked very well all the way to Belfast, Norn Iron.

But I was spared the heart stopping moment in an empty cubicle/studio in Belfast when I was about to join the Today Programme; as Sue MacGregor said 'Good Morning Huttonian-or words to that effect the door burst open and a cleaner, with bucket and mop strode in-it was difficult, without alarming the waiting millions, to respond to Ms MacGregor and at the same time to get the cleaner to ,er, go away. 'Are you there?' anxiously asked the presenter.

I could assure her I was. Alone. At last, in a cleaner less, uncleaned environment.

Exiting the cubicle, pontification completed, I fell over the bucket.

Perhaps my gesticulation to the cleaner had been misunderstood. Less courteous then I intended


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Sunday, January 04, 2009
Road Rage on the B6461

A fairly local bloggee is worth quoting:

I generally take the B6461 into Berwick. The stretch of road between Fishwick and the A1 appears to be a variant on the Bermuda triangle mystery. Low budget cars (with the exception of mine) appear to be prone to a malaise which only allows them to do less than 40 m.p.h. and also to turn off the road without signalling. Recent carriers of this plague include a Vauxhall Astra and a Ford Corsa. I am not known for my reckless driving and detest the local speed culture but nevertheless find the go-slows both dangerous and irritating, especially when there is a gas guzzler behind trying to put tyre marks on my roof. At least a third of the tractors on that road are gents who actually signal when the road ahead is clear, but not these ones. Neither do they seem to be flat cappers. The other scourge of that stretch of road are the folk at night who can’t work out that having headlights on full is not very kind to the person in front of them, usually me.

Right on. In my experience it is the slow faffers, not the Toads, who are the real menaces on the road and especially the stretch that leads from the entrance to Paxton House until the A1 as identified above. This stretch is undulating and twisty and only encourages the boy racer to have a go at overtaking when he really shouldn't and even a 40mph crawler is not a safe bet. I remember a voluble attender at Hutton and Paxton Community Council meetings complaining (at every opportunity) to the visiting fuzz about the dangerous drivers on this road-subsequently I found myself stuck behind the complainer who only exceeded 35 mph, once, when, perhaps, unexpectedly passing wind*. Two toads behind me could not bear to be thus stifled and both overtook us barely missing an oncoming tractor. The slowster in front indulged in a lot of angry gesticulation and would never have admitted being the main cause of such dangerous driving.

For a fun and challenging respite from the funereal B6461 try the Fishwick Bypass. If the late Jim Clark had ever taken on one of Farmer C' 4wd fisher folk friends he would have come

a very bad second

(* by the slow speed not the toxic emanation)

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Saturday, January 03, 2009

It may not rank with the Queen's message but Huttonian is on the airwaves tomorrow broadcasting from Duns. Duns? Yes, the BBC studio in the Workingman's* Institute in the Market Square. So that will be Radio Scotland then? No, Radio Ulster's Sunday Sequence which is explained here

Whenever BBC Norn Iron get heavy with the Middle East-especially Palestine/Israel they track down Huttonian as a sort of honorary Norn Iron political commentator where ever he may be : I have pontificated from the Old Manse, Duns of course, and nearer to the Six Counties, from a wave swept radio car on Newcastle Promenade, from the janitors payphone (could not open the studio) in the St Patrick's Centre in Downpatrick and from the comfort of my own stairs in our cottage in Newcastle. The BBC techies hate you using your own phone for quality reasons but in the end I usually do. Even the little used room in Duns-a do it yourself studio, despite all the imposing looking technology and pages of instructions on how to go on air are using a bog standard phone line-not an ISDN, to reach their audience. So I might as well stay in the Small-house-in-Duns- and address the good people of Norn Iron from there. But no its out into the Dawn's early light, get the key from Messrs Nairn's and get on air.

Last time I had to virtually wrest the microphone from the hands of the only other known user of the facility who records sporting comment for Radio Scotland. I was to be live and he was not, so he kindly let me have the mike. I hope sparrow fart on Sunday will still find him in his warm bed.

Tomorrow morn I am helping not so much helping with the stated aim of the first in January programme to " review the big ethical stories and issues of 2008" but to try and cast some light on the horrors of Gaza. My old friend and co author Professor Beverley Milton Edwards will be live (one hopes) in the Belfast Studio to put me right as I rabbit down the line.

Essential listening. Prompt at 0830. So is that is to early for most bloggees you can us the listen again facility.

And again

* An endangered species in the Borders

(The image is an old one of Israeli troops in Gaza. They have since withdrawn..but tomorrow or the day after?-they could be back again. And that would be very foolish)

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Friday, January 02, 2009
Work Ethic 2009

The SNP is always preaching to us about how a dynamic,technologically advanced, proactive (a favourite SNP word), commercially aggressive Scotland would be the envy of Europe and the known world if only it could escape from the stifling embrace of the United Kingdom. The known world would not have been too impressed with Duns, this very second of January, 2009. Dead would be too lively a description. Bank Holiday Day Two. Nothing open apart from two enterprising-non Scot run, corner shops and newsagents. Even the crumbly servicing coffee shops were shuttered and the only action in the Market Square by 1030 was a couple of proactive Pigeons crapping under the Christmas Tree. Meanwhile in Ber wick, south of the Border the rest of the UK went about its business. And I doubt if Saturday will be much better.

'Hows your Hangover, Wullie?'

'Bollocks, thanks for asking Mrs Broon'

'Shutters down til' Monday then?'

'Aye. But we don't normally open on Monday, do we?'

'True. Lets not upset the habit of a life time then.'

Now that's how to deal with a recession. Like a hangover, if you lie down long enough

It will go away

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Thursday, January 01, 2009

OIL at a SNiP ?

Alex Orr a SNP activist (see No 10 here) and I think no relation to our indefatigable Mrs O writes to the Berwickshire as follows:

SIR, - I was bemused to note that Norway has just announced that it is going to dip into its $332 billion sovereign wealth fund (£222bn) to finance a new fiscal spending package.
The oil-rich Norwegians will use the fund, the world’s second largest after Abu Dhabi, to offset a rapid slowdown in economic growth next year. And it aims to use these funds to stimulate target sectors expected to experience the sharpest slowdown, such as the construction sector, and invest in public buildings, schools and infrastructure. Oslo is in fact heralded as one of the best places in the world to spend its way out of the downturn, using its vast oil wealth.
Meanwhile in the UK, which has been running a structural budget deficit for years, the UK Government announced last week that is going to borrow £10,000 for every man, woman and child in the UK. There is something indeed more than a little ironic that at a time when record Scottish oil revenues are flowing to the London Exchequer - £55 billion over the coming six years compared to £41 billion during the previous six – Scotland is bailing out the rest of the UK and being saddled with levels of debts that will cripple this and future generations.
Jim Murphy’s infamous ‘Arc of Insolvency’ remark has badly backfired, and while oil-rich Norway can tap into this wealth, oil-rich Scotland is not only bailing out the rest of the UK, but facing a £1 billion upfront budget cut courtesy of the UK Government.

Sadly one slight flaw in his argument. Its not Scottish Oil but British Oil. Kingdom of Norway United Kingdom of GB and NI as it says on the tin, if not on the barrel. AS in British Army, not Scottish Army. And likely to remain so whilst a majority of the citizens of Scotland retain some common sense.

But says Mr O, don't be obtuse. I am talking about what should be: a fabulously wealthy independent Scotland keeping its huge oil revenues for itself. Those in the SNP who think like Mr O must have been positively salivating with excitement (and resentment) when last July oil was at $146 a barrel. But look now it is $34 on a good day. And if Mr Salmond's team of in house economists are dreaming of an Independent Alba financed by oil-fluctuating in price and starting to run out at an alarming speed the perhaps the drawing board beckons. Why not let things as they are; you really are in a win win situation. If the nice Mr Brown wins the election you will still have a Glaswegian at the helm-if it is the brash Tory leader who polls the votes...

Isn't Cameron a good Scottish name? A white Scot perhaps.

But a Scot.

(The image is murky-like the future of North Sea Oil?)

And oh yes, A Happy and as prosperous-as-can-be-reasonably-expected- New Year to all bloggees. And if you don't quite last the course I hope the proverb from the Ould Sod resonates with you :

May You be in Heaven before the Divil knows you're dead

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