Musings from the Merse
Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Nunraw Abbey. Walking the Walk
Originally uploaded by old_greywolf2000
Huttonian joined a party from the Hutton and Paxton Kirk to Nunraw Abbey near Haddington. This was for the annual open day (5th Sunday in Lent) and for an Ulster (ie Norn Iron) Protestant to walk (with 150 or so devout Catholics apart from the Huttonian /Paxtonians)the 14 Stations of the Cross was an unusual experience. How many long gone relis were revolving in their crypts I shudder to think.

The Abbey is currently manned (the operative word ) by Trappists. I was glad to find out that their vow of silence did not extend to describing the rather complicated route to the Loo in the guest house shown here.

The story goes that at another religious establishment the vow was relaxed for one Monk every seven years. One Brother grabbing the mike complained that the Soup was always cold. Seven years later another Brother insisted that the soup was actually sometimes a bit too hot.

Seven more years elapsed. The Abbot rose to his feet and complained

"I can't stand this constant bickering"

More about Nunraw here

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Monday, March 30, 2009

Its Getting Wetter- Official

As an update to the Leak Saga-the Rising Water (promoted from Rising Damp) Investigator from Scottish Water called today. His written report states 'Will recall Squad to re fix' But refix is not the operative word. Apparently the Leak squad are contractors-Scottish Water don't do leaks in house, as it were. Out sourced and out fixed. The lot who came last Tuesday-the ones that dug up the street-reported that they could not find the leak although it was wet enough for a change of boots. Poked around fruitlessly, filled in the hole and went off for their dinners.

So now says Rising Water Investigator, very apologetically,-squad will return and stay until it is fixed.

His judgment so far :

" It's getting wetter"

And from the image muddier-grit is seemingly coming up from the depths of sub-terrainian Duns. But the dirty mud is a puzzle. Perhaps the Squad all washed their feet in it before sealing the hole?

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Rubble, Rubble Toil and Rubble

No, not Mackbethian witches, but the wife in her spring gardening frenzy. The Small House in Duns being on the site of a former industrial establishment connected to the food industry long since 'redeveloped', ie knocked down, has a persistent layer of rubble on which the garden has been overlaid. So as she digs around the 'wild' Primroses she will encounter pockets of resistance which are gathered up, scraped of valuable soil and discarded into plastic bags to await planet saving disposal.

Disposal? Berwickshire recycling is second to none with the possible exception of Stockholm. Anything-plastic (not bin bags apparently) clingfilm, food containers, windowed envelopes (not allowed in Norn Iron, newspapers, Coop flyers, tins-you name it, in it goes to the one bag; purple or white it matters not. That's for a Monday collection; Tuesdays:Garden waste surplus to the wife's comprehensive Compost bins but rubble not included. Where is the nearest land fill site?

Think local urges the wife.So Huttonian, wife too busy, takes his usual consignment of bottles and textiles-last years socks,boxer shorts, moth eaten pullovers to the Great Duns Collection Centre. But Get it Sorted First you are urged so I left my two bags of rubble behind as I had never seen a facility there.

Sure enough. bottles satisfactorily smashed and Great Ormonde Street supplied with enough boxer shorts they could shake a paediatric thermometer at, search for the rubble container. None to be seen. A last throw of the dice ask an employee of the GDCC. A very large one was leaning against an even larger large green metal thing ' Can I dump Rubble?' I ask.
He moves aside and behind where his back was resting was a sign :


So now I know.

Why had I not seen it before. Perhaps the large guy is always there?

But they have a weakness. No batteries accepted.

Just put them in your bin' was the official advice; straight to the land fill in

China? Coldingham?


I must ring up the Borders Recycling Team and find out. But they are elusive bunch. Always playing away one assumes and the Help Line


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Sunday, March 29, 2009

Taking a Leak

As reported before the leak engineer from Scottish Water duly arrived last Tuesday and with the aid of a large digger laid waste a substantial area of the road outside the Small House in Duns. It seemed a big hole for a small leak but I am no rocket scientist, nor even a mechanical engineer and my previous experience in Whitehall concerned a different type of leak. After two hours hard labour he made off-hole dug, pipes patched, rubble replaced, tar spread and dinner consumed

Sadly I have had to report to Scottish Water via their website that if not a leak we have a dribble. Not much of one but a loss of precious water none the less. So no doubt we will have the gang of three once again:

The rising water investigator to flag up the problem, then the Flagger up Confirmer and finally the leak fixer.

But this time I hope it will be, finally.

I wish I had never said that this saga would run and run

Many a true word etc

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Saturday, March 28, 2009
Hands Across the Border. Unclench your fists?

Close cooperation across the Border is called for in a recent report described here This coincides with the latest shift in the running poll as to whether Berwickshire should welcome Berwick on Tweed into its Alba bosom-now a massive 54% of readers of the Berwickshire News think this a good idea. It seems that Huttonian's weekly vote against is not denting the margin

Cooperation in practical ways already exists. The former landlord of the Hoolit's Nest (now The Cross) in Paxton was advised by the Lothian Fuzz to call the Berwick (Nortumberland) Police if he wanted urgent assistance as in Yobs breaking up the place. Berwick is nearer than Coldstream to Paxton so that makes sense. When our neighbour had a chimney fire in Hutton and dialed 999 the Berwick apparatus was first on the scene beating Duns by a short ladder and dealt with the emergency which involved making a lot of unnecessary mess: Huttonian, the Wife and the neighbour's daughter had doused the flames and put the kettle on. The Dingers were kept out of it-Kirk Lane not supporting two engines simultaneously and went muttering into the night. And as a recent letter in the Berwick Advertiser revealed The Scottish Borders Tourist Office in Kelso advertises the charms of Berwick much more effectively than does the Northumberland lot.

Now that a new unitary authority for Northumberland is being established-with its HQ likely to be Morpeth, Berwick, with its local government offices being rationalised-ie closed, will be out on a limb and might as well look towards Berwickshire as its natural hinterland thus making TD15 a more cohesive unit.

Only the Coldstream Flodden 1513 Club maintains its ancient nationalistic pretensions. 1513 is neither forgotten or forgiven. They commemorate the Scottish dead suckered into battle by James IV invading England to do the Francais ensanglanté a favour. Yet bigger minded men than them, about 100 years ago erected a monument on Flodden Field :

To the Dead of Both Nations

Next time their members ride across Coldstream Bridge to nick an (English) sod from the battle ground a Northumberland PC Plod 49 may well put up his large palm in the middle of the bridge, halts the cortege, Coldstreamer, Lass and all, and suggest that they push off hame

To think again.

Thats cross border cooperation for you

And how about an apology for the invasion?

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Friday, March 27, 2009

Turn Around When Possible

is a frequent refrain from Sean, the nice Irish voice on our satnav. We went over to Sean from Sarah (Cool and English and rather bossy) and have yet to love Bruce, the Strine with attitude-'Turn left NOW you effffffing Pommie b?????d' Sean is cool. collected and respectful even when urging you to drive across Whitestane ford through six feet of raging torrent. And he remains calm, without a squeak of protest. when according to him, you are traversing fields of golden Corn, or more likely Rape, on the new A68 connecting road from the Embra bypass heading Jedburghwards. Yet to be programmed into Tom Tom like much of the Borders-Terra Incognita 'Here be Speed Traps' or more correctly : Hic exsisto Volo Laqueus

I suspect Bruce was at the helm when this happened

I dare say Bruce's philosophy is :if you must go

Take a Pom with you

And of course if its the other programmable Bruce, with the Scots twang, the same strategy would apply.

I might revert to Sarah.

(The image is Blue Stane ford in spate. Water over the gauge but Sean can't read)

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Thursday, March 26, 2009
For some foul reason

Sometimes the Berwickshire letter column produces a gem:

Sir- What glorious weather last Saturday!
Recently on my feet again after a week in the BGH, what could be nicer than an afternoon stroll round Happer Field in Greenlaw?
A football match between Greenlaw and Gordon was an added bonus. As I got nearer the illusion was shattered by the appalling language both on and off the pitch.
Happer Field is shared by all the community, including young children. To have this facility abused by a few foul mouthed footballers is selfish in the extreme.

Oh dearie me it would not happen in Hutton (no pitch) or on the football ground in Duns Park which is more suited to water polo and anyhow the eastern and central Borders are not a foul mouthed lot as this excerpt from 'Muddied Oafs' by the relatively unknown Berwickshire Playwright A.B Hear demonstrates:

'The large Hawick striker, rushes across the muddy penalty area and having tripped the Eyemouth defender kicks him twice in the face. The referee rushes over brandishing a red card and pointing to the spot. Slowly the Eyemouth man gets to his feet;

'Bother' he says

'Mud on me clean shirt and laundered this mornin'

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Wednesday, March 25, 2009
Less Power to the People

Arriving back from Embra and picking up the Gerduian from Mr Nairn's Huttonian found the newsagents plunged into darkness-well actually a bit shady as it was an almost Spring afternoon and sunny outside. 'Didn't pay your bill then?' Gleefully asked toothless Daily Express. 'In that case' said Nairns no one else around here has' Indeed a power cut had blacked out the north side of Market Square closing the Dentist (clock work drill being serviced) the Butchers, the Deli and some other establishments. South of the Christmas Cracker Romanes the Chemists blazed with light.

Power cuts were a way of life in Hutton-one lasted 9 days in the Great Snow of 0 something. This is the first one we have noticed in Duns and the Small House has so far escaped. 'I see Finnies (the other Newsagent) has its electricity' commented hirsute Readers Digest-'stealing a bit of a march on you? 'No problem for us' said Nairns' We have not got an ice cream fridge on the go.' He did not say unlike Finnies.

No one seemed to know what had caused the problem 'Road works' suggested unkempt Scottish Daily Mail 'It'll be on at 2 according to Scottish Power' said Nairns.

We looked at our watches.


'At the earliest they said 'added Nairns

'You can say that again' agreed Daily Express

Some one did

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Tuesday, March 24, 2009
Packing them in

Off to Embra for a final burst of pontification, this time not at the Uni but at the Morningside Justice and Peace Society: a formidable audience especially when talking about the merits (?) of the war in Iraq. And it will be a large turnout as well.

So I will not need my ice breaking story of the man who turns up at a meeting to find the room empty apart from a single person in the front row of the hall. No chairman in attendance he nevertheless, nothing daunted, delivers his talk and sits down warmly applauded by the sole member of the audience. Starting to leave the podium the guy in the stalls shouts out

'Please, don't go I am the second speaker'

I told this to a smallish audience at a Women's Guild meeting in the Borders to make them feel better about a 9 person turnout-quite good by their standards apparently. There was a puzzling lack of appreciative reaction and the Chair suddenly stood up as I was just about to launch into my talk. She glared around the room as the members quailed before her: 'Come on. Own Up. Who thinks they are the second speaker?'

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Monday, March 23, 2009

Events Scotland and the Perfect Stage

The Known World will be grateful to a fellow Borders Blogger 'Havering On' exposing yet another money gobbling organisation hoovering up tax payers money to persuade visitors to flock to Scotland 'The Perfect Stage' as they describe Alba. Event Scotland's tightly packed (crack induced?) Vision can be seen in all its glory here In its attempt to demonstrate how widely its consultation net has been cast there are a list of bodies who no doubt have been liberal with their advice and lavish with their praise of this yet- another- initiative to induce wretched foreigners boldly go where no tourist has been before-like much of the Borders. You will see if you have the patience to get to the bottom of the last of 15 vision filled pages that amongst those whose advice has been much valued is The Borders Council (N0 1) and further down the list is The Scottish Borders Council. There is evidence that the Scottish Borders Council exists (flimsy, but it is there) but The Borders Council? If you google the latter you get the former, two for the price of one. But to have it appear on a consultation list as presumably a separate entity is a tad careless or possibly, even dishonest.

And the gravy has been further thickened by including the Events Scotland Board and the Events Scotland Staff-some of whom may well have been involved in writing this effusion. The postman who delivers their mail is not specifically mentioned (Nor incidentally is the Hutton and Paxton Community Council) and his comment of 'Bollocks' when shown the first draft may not quite qualify as a positive reaction, however appropriate. 'Consultation' in Quango speak equates with total agreement

All Alba is the perfect stage and we are merely players. Or should that be


(The image is from EventScotland=the rich pageantry of Scottish History. And Sam Torrance really is history)

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Sunday, March 22, 2009

Berwick upon What?

Its usually the VisitScotland highheidyins who attract a lot of stick about their unwillingness or inability to portray the Borders as a Tourist Paradise but now a writer to the Berwick Advertiser: the Berwickshire News' townee cousin who has targeted the Northumberland Tourist people (aka Visitnortheast) for virtually ignoring the charms of this ancient walled city.

SIR, - I have watched Berwick Borough Council’s tourist guide develop into a publication worth keeping. Not only was it an informative source of encouragement to visitors but also a souvenir record for locals, packed with images and details of all that our unique town and borough have to offer Northumberland’s tourist economy.
Visiting London in January I was horrified to pick up a leaflet advertising Northumberland with no mention of Berwick. Then our local borough guide successor, the 130 page grand and glossy ‘Visit Northumberland’ hit my mat. Berwick merits only one small picture and a few paragraphs, no mention of our historic Parish Church but invitations to visit the 13th century ruined castle site by the railway and news that our Main Guard had been miraculously relocated to Castle Terrace! Did the editor visit Berwick?
On Saturday last I was shown a 16-page advertising supplement published by The Daily Telegraph and funded by ‘Visitnortheast.’ The front page invites readers to ‘Discover North East England’ but I found no image of Berwick amongst its 37 photographs and only a couple of paragraphs of information. The final page has a map of Northumberland, with Berwick-upon-Tweed over the border in Scotland.
The supplement invited folk to visit ‘our’ tourism web site www.visitnortheastengland.com but its map has our town standing south of the mighty Tweed and when invited to click on labels ‘don’t miss’ ‘visitor itineraries’ ‘walking routes’ ‘cycling routes’ Berwick does not merit a showing in any category.
On the evidence so far, I am beginning to think that Berwick is being painted out of the Northumberland picture and tourism may be just the start, unless we can work together and set out our stalls. For a start, I warmly invite any staff members from ‘northeastengland’ to tea at The Vicarage to learn a little more about Berwick, surely a worthy jewel in Northumberland’s tourism crown and hope that next year’s publications will give us our due.
PS. I was in Kelso on Monday and they had a wonderful range of guides published by VisitScottishBorders which included Berwick in them, and gave the town lots of mentions, including our tourist information office, market and station. The maps even include Berwick in their area, with Northumberland starting south of the Tweed.
Is this the reason for the silence over the unitary authority’s care of us - have we been ceded to Scotland without a referendum?!

Marketing Berwick as a Northumbrian town is probably mistaken. Given its long period of separate existence '

"Scotland, England and Wales indeed.
Its Great Britain and Ireland
and Berwick upon Tweed"

as the old song had it.

Its better treated on its own merits and not part of the North East of England with which it has only geographical links. It sits easier with the Borders than with England and logically should be treated as part of Scotland-it has the look and the feel of a Scottish town. And its good that VisitScottishBorders is treating Berwick as part of its bailiwick. Given that visitors are invited to enjoy the Borders as Scotland's Favourite Short Break Destination,if you omit Berwick from your itinerary you might as well not bother to stay the night, especially before Easter when everywhere worth visiting is

very shut.

(The image is of a cannon on Berwick's walls. Pointing south.

Towards England)

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Saturday, March 21, 2009
Quis custodiet ipsos custodes? *

You don't happen to have kept last Monday's Guardian? said the newsagent to Huttonian last Wednesday. We under ordered and have an anxious customer. Fortunately the recycling had gone on Monday morning and the Guardian in question was in the new bag. But, Horrors, I had forgotten that the wood burning stove had gobbled up half the review section the day before (4 sheets of G2 will ignite the kindling if used the day after publication, 3 sheets the following day as they will have dried out a bit. As my father used to say: the Guardian is for Wets**)

I gave the Newsagent what I had. All complete but for a mangled G2.He said that his customer would be most relieved, as was he.Apparently she comes in on Thursdays from the country and only takes Monday's Guardian amongst a range of weekly publications. Why? What is so special about Mondays? Would she not mind about the gutted G2? Don't know.Still don't know . No; she claims not to read it.

My theory is that she lights her fire once a week , on Thursdays; by which time a bone dry paper is up to the job. G2 is too fiddly, better the Sports Section where you get a lot of blaze for your buck.

And in the Summer?

Well for some thing else, in Lieu***. Fit for purpose. The Coop not having any of the politically correct, recycled, double sided, porous stuff which will one day save our planet and unnecessary trips to Lidl.

* Rough trans: Who will look after our Guardians if the Newsagent doesn't
** But not Tory ones. To my dad an oxymoron. Only Liberals read the Manchester Guardian.
*** Convoluted Pun intended

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Friday, March 20, 2009

Creating Facts on the Ground

No, Not in Palestine. In the Small House in Duns. Soft fruit garden. AS Burns never had it :

Spring is Sprung,
the Grass is Riz'
I wonder where the Ras'bries

All the other fruit is showing signs of growth but the Rasps

10 sticks in the ground. Remain just that:


But the one label says: 'Bliss' and the other 'Tulameen'

I think I can see a very very very tiny bud on a Bliss.

Keep you posted (npi)

(No more growth in the next two weeks and its the stick burning stove for the lot)

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Thursday, March 19, 2009
Milking the Applause

"Students were not like that in my day" moaned one of my maturer colleagues over the hi tech coffee machine in the department. I agreed; after 11 years at Embra I can form a preliminary view as we accies say. Edinburgh University students now, Trinity College Dublin undergraduates in the 1960s: compare and contrast. We at TCD were rude, arrogant, inattentive (if we bothered to turn up to lectures at all)scruffy and generally uninterested.We rubbished our teachers And gloried in it.

This lot are quiet, attentive, polite,well dressed and engaged. And they sometimes clap at the end. For goodness sake.

"Moronic lot!They don't clap me" said the mature colleague with a certain grim satisfaction. "So I must be doing

some thing right"

"Perhaps you should enthuse them a bit more?" I gently suggested
"Enthuse Them!???"

I am not here to enthuse them but to stuff thick heads with enough knowledge to get them through exams.Just. That's what I get inadequately paid for, and that's what I do. If they don't like it, that's their problem.Not mine."

Yes students have changed but I wonder about the lecturers

Are the Dinosaurs really extinct?

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Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Rising Damp

For some time the road outside the Small House in Duns has been damp, then wet and we noticed water oozing out from near the Scottish Water stop cock hatch outside our gate. The Very User Friendly Scottish Water website allowed us a wide range of contact methods, possibly pigeon post included, but we opted for the e-mail. Like rubbing Aladdin's magic lamp. Quick response (On a Sunday) and action promised next day. Huttonian was pontificating in Embra so the wife received a visit from the engineer bearing a card asking him to 'investigate rising water' Which he did explaining how lucky we were that the mini Niagara was outside our property and therefore Scottish Water's sole responsibilty. He left and according to the wife the leak appeared to have stopped.Road dried up. But on returning much later from Embra I noticed that the rising water had risen, after only one day, and was flowing once more. Looking at the card the engineer had left behind there is a section which asks: Is Work Complete?
The word Yes had been circled and NO ignored.

On to the computer. E-mail re Service Request Number 2556096/87/098-H?-56231 or similar. Within seconds the phone rang. Customer Services. I went through the problem-leak-engineer-Mission Accomplished-more leak-help' Yes said Customer Services Mr Taylor had reported customer absent but customers wife on scene. Rising Water looked into and a repair request flagged up. But why, I asked, had Mr P Taylor indicated work complete? 'Silly Old Pete' said Customer Services.

Well said the middle son in law on a visit 'Work Complete' refers to the investigation of Rising Water no repair indicated. Right on. Logical when you think of it. But yet the water had stopped running for a bit so Pete must have had a crack at fixing it but lack of confidence in his ability to do so had presumably led to him 'flagging up' the problem.
So now the procession starts-first the rising water investigator, then the Flagger up Confirmer and finally the leak fixer.

This saga, I fear

will run and run
(I asked Flickr for an image of Scottish Water-this came up. Our leak is not that bad. Yet)

Later (Friday) the man from Scottish Water who came today is obviously the Flagger Up Confirmer. No actual flag but he left the notice tied to our fence indicating all was under control. No action this day.Monday

Just a thought. One someone at Scottish Water tells colleagues that he is going out for a leak, what exactly does he mean?

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Tuesday, March 17, 2009
Roll Over

'Sorry Sir we only have 5 filled rolls left so if you want to be sure you must order one now' said the First Class 'attendant' to the smart looking couple across the aisle. 'But I don't really want to eat my dinner now. Can I order and pay and have it after Newcastle?'.

'Well that's what I would like' said yer man but there is a full crew change at Newcastle and we have to close our books and the new crew start afresh. Food cannot be carried over. So up to you order now or risk disappointment later' As he moved on a heated conversation broke out between the slc as to the timing of dinner.

The attendant reappeared , at- seat- menu in hand. 'We will have a roll each now' said the non distaff (aka Designer stubble) half of the slc.' Sorry Sir. All the rolls are now gone-previous passenger selection' 'Well we will have to wait until Newcastle then' ' Should have mentioned it before but no catering after Newcastle as the crew chef is indisposed* and no food will therefore be on loaded' ' So what have you got?' The menu was consulted' We have one steak left-its quite big so I could split it and happy to compensate with an extra portion of chips-I think we have some left' How do you like your steak? ' 'Medium Rare' said Distaff 'Well Done' said Designer stubble.

' Once Piece of steak!Two culinary approaches.Well that is a challenge for the Chef then'

As I was leaving at Berwick the Attendant was coming carefully down the carriage-two big plates covered in chips and two portions of steak sitting proudly amongst them-at least I assumed it was steak. Difficult to be sure as they were concealed

by the rolls.

Regurgitated or returned? I will never know

* Food poisoning?

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Monday, March 16, 2009

The Muse has Landed (from Paxton)

Huttonian is pleased to report that the first contribution for the anthology of Berwickshire verse due to be published in October and to be sold for local charities has landed on our doorstep. A stirring ballad of 8 verses entitled 'The Summer of 2008' it is setting a high standard for the rest of the contributors. If any. The author, who lives not a million miles from Paxton has pointed me towards a 1930s collection of mostly poetry:

"Folk Tales of the Borders" which has a splendid opening line ;
'I stood open Eyemouth Beach and what do you think I saw?'( Bloggees are earnestly asked for suggestions...) Had it been Spitall Beach the answer would be noisesomely predictable.

A title for the anthology is needed. Some one suggested ' Musings from the Merse' but that's, er, taken. (There actually is a 19th century collection of Borders Poetry called Merse Musings which I only heard about well after I started the blog)

The editor would welcome ideas on this as well

(The image is of Eyemouth Beach. NB hopefully continent dog. Nevertheles, if standing on it, be careful)

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Sunday, March 15, 2009

If we had not dumped the Observer for Scotland on Sunday we might never have learned of yet another Scottish 'first' to add to Baird(TV) Sir Fred Goodwin (Pensions) Macadam (Tarring, inter alia, the B6461) Livingstone (Africa) R.Bruce (ARACHNOLOGY) Mackintosh (Pre-anorak rain coats)Burns (poetry) Brown.G. (the credit crunch) and that is Jonathon Fletcher. Under the headline 'GOOGLING WAS BORN IN STIRLING the SOS reveals that this Yorkshire man: (never mind- presumably dead stupid before he crossed the border) having taken a first class degree at Stirling University, went on to invent the first internet search engine 'Jump-Station' which, sadly never caught on commercially and it seems likely that his Big Idea was subsequently successfully imitated and exploited by Google, Yahoo etc. I suspect as the year of the home coming drags on more and more famous Scots will be dragged out of obscurity to celebrate the genius of the nation.

It can become a bit tedious claiming such and such invention for such and such nationality. Horrors-the Belgians may have invented cricket according to recent research (By a Belgian?)And if you have the luck and the honour to be Irish never forget that it was an Irishman who invented the lavatory seat.

A hundred years later,

an Englishman

put a hole in it

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Saturday, March 14, 2009

spring duns first daffs
Originally uploaded by old_greywolf2000
A week to go the official opening of Spring and the first daffs we have seen around here are in the most sheltered part of the garden in the Small House in Duns. Soon the whole county will be lousy with them-no more so than in Hutton in the road down to the Kirk. Visual pollution at its most powerful-until the Rape ripens

Sadly I have free cycled my scythe

The snowdrops are well past their prime and heads hanging in shame for still being around.

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Friday, March 13, 2009
Leave the sand on the beach,please

We often complain about the weather in the Borders. I used to in Hutton, most unfairly, as it was one of the driest places in the UK-it was the house that was so cold not the climate. Dreich at times, yes; snow sometimes but rarely disruptive for long and the one occasion the power was cut off for a week we were snug in Norn Iron. And now that Mr Fish has retired and joined George W on the well paid lecture circuit we are safe from hurricanes.

So spare a thought for the folks in Riyadh and the Middle East generally-the image (thank you a Kuwaiti bloggee) is of a sand storm taking out the Saudi Capital. Kuwait was just as bad:45C and driving sand-the grains got everywhere even with windows sealed and the air conditioning at full blast. Gritty gin with the tonic. Hell on earth. It was almost worth ditching the gin.


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Thursday, March 12, 2009
Post Code Clottery

The old question of the TD15 postcode and the inability for highheidyins to realise that some of it is in Scotland and not in England has raised its ugly head once more as you can read here Obviously the temperatures taken in mild sea side Berwick were not cold enough to justify cold weather payments for the denizens of Foulden, never mind Hutton where the temperature inside the Old Manse seemed to be well under 1C for weeks on end or at least visiting relis used to claim shivering in three layers of fleece. And there appears to be another error, as yet unnoticed in the Berwickshire We inhabitants of the Small House in Duns despite well over two weeks of sub zero temperatures as certified at the weather station in Greenlaw have yet to receive our extra 25 smackers. And this is TD11, all Scottish.

I feel very sorry for the guy in Foulden whose Greenhouse registered -1C throughout the qualifying period with no monetary compensation. My advice, for what it is worth (perhaps even £25)is, unless he lives in an Old Manse, to abandon the greenhouse

and move indoors.

And bully for the Berwickshire. This story is about an anomaly and not an


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Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Have Faith in the Grudian

As the newsagent riffled through the papers he kept for those who had reserved one - English Daily Mails well represented, I noticed that my Guardian was the sole specimen from that stable. 'How many do you stock?' I asked 'Twelve and they generally all go' 'And am I the only customer who reserves a Guardian?' 'Yes'.

Now what does that say about me and those others who need their daily fix of good quality if often inaccurate and stridently querulous journalism. Me, I am I like to be sure person. No empty handed return to base and a thirty mile round trip to Berwick to Sir Morrisons. But that does not seem to apply to the 11 other Faithful Guardian Readers. Laid back and trusting they are confident their reliable friend will be in the racks and for a measly 90p it will be theirs to have and to hold if not to light the wood burning stove. And does not No 11 FGR, late riser, picking up his paper at 4-30 pm realise how lucky he is-the whole mathematical formula could have failed him thanks to a visitor from beyond the Merse, Guardianless in the wilderness and picking up the last copy at 4.29.

I must ask Mr Nairn how often a natty gent, corduroys and leather elbow patches comes into his establishment and shouts ' ****! No ******* Guardian That will be the moment gently to suggest ' Shall I order one for you?'

And Huttonian's copy, behind the counter, jostled by those nasty common Daily Mails, will not feel so lonely anymore

The image? Yes, Yes Observant of Oswestry, I know it's not today's (all gone actually)

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Tuesday, March 10, 2009
Come in. You will have bought your stamps'

High Noon. Monday.There it was, dead on time, the Post Office Outreach Mobile Post Office. The shivering queue of pensioners outside Hutton Village Hall surged forward-'One at a time please' barked the voice of the Mobile Post Mistress 'This is the Post Office, customers privacy to be respected. One at a time' Huttonian was the last in the queue, 40 minutes in light rain later (the Village Hall was locked, no shelter there)7 pensions dispensed, 4 stamps sold, I boarded the van and advanced, unimpeded to the 'counter'. 'Who are you?' asked the MPM. 'I told her' 'I have not seen you before' ' My first visit since the service replaced the post office' ' Are you from here?' 'I was but now stay in Duns' 'Sorry I can't serve you. This van is only for the community' 'But surely this is a public facility' 'Public as in Hutton or, at a pinch, Paxton. Think about it. If every Jock, Sean and Jimmy turned up we do not carry enough stock to satisfy demand. Sorry. Back to Duns' '

'But I only want a packet of First Class Stamps'

'Dream on' and slammed the grill shut.

My blistering retort died on my lips

And the wife bent over me with a warm mug of tea. 7-15 AM Tuesday.

(I really must get to Hutton and see what really happens(

But I fear the worst.

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Monday, March 09, 2009

Signs of Spring # 1 in the Small House in Duns is the arrival of the fruit garden where the red heavy duty gravel used to be and waiting to burst into bud are 11 raspberry canes, two blackcurrants, two redcurrants and a gooseberry bush. Ditto three apple trees. One of the points of moving from the Old Manse to the SHID was to shed the gardening chores. Oh well. At least the 'lawn' is less challenging in terms of square mileage and some of the lower portion will be taken up with a small pond. A very small one; enough room for two frogs as long as they are not in the water simultaneously. And the water will be kept sparkling clear by a solar pump-I am fighting off the water feature-

Sun? In Duns?

Glorious today. Sunny and very warm

Sunday, March 08, 2009

Hunter Trials

I doubt if John Betjeman every attended the Duns Hunter Trials-his famous poem is very Home Counties but I doubt if the atmosphere is much different:

It’s awf’lly bad luck on Diana,
Her ponies have swallowed their bits;
She fished down their throats with a spanner
And frightened them all into fits.

So now she’s attempting to borrow.
Do lend her some bits, Mummy, do;
I’ll lend her my own for to-morrow,
But to-day I’ll be wanting them too.

Just look at Prunella on Guzzle,
The wizardest pony on earth;
Why doesn’t she slacken his muzzle
And tighten the breech in his girth?

I say, Mummy, there’s Mrs. Geyser
And doesn’t she look pretty sick?
I bet it’s because Mona Lisa
Was hit on the hock with a brick.

Miss Blewitt says Monica threw it,
But Monica says it was Joan,
And Joan’s very thick with Miss Blewitt,
So Monica’s sulking alone.

And Margaret failed in her paces,
Her withers got tied in a noose,
So her coronets caught in the traces
And now all her fetlocks are loose.

Oh, it’s me now. I’m terribly nervous.
I wonder if Smudges will shy.
She’s practically certain to swerve as
Her Pelham is over one eye.

* * *

Oh, wasn’t it naughty of Smudges?
Oh, Mummy, I’m sick with disgust.
She threw me in front of the Judges,
And my silly old collarbone’s bust.

Today Duns is swarming with horsey men horsey women, horsey offspring and, er, horsey horses with huge horse boxes and general purpose pantechnicons grinding up Gourlay's Wynd hot tyre for Duns Castle where a cross country course winds through the grounds.Tout Berwickshire (not to mention Tout Fife, Selkirkshire, Peebleshire and other shires) Barbour jackets, green wellies, brown jodhpurs, hacking jackets swarm over the town noisily raahing away. A large sign across the road from The Horn says HUNTER TRIALS and a separate AA one repeats the same message. One can imagine definitely disgruntled and determinedly drunken of Duns, no admirer of the landed gentry despite their impressive seats, staggering out of the hostelry, peering blearily at the notice and proclaiming

'Hunter Trials? Find the ******* lot Guilty'

(One image is Wales not Berwickshire but authentic enough-wind, rain and in the case of Duns Castle, the odd flurry of snow. The others are actualite but just as the event was finishing as I was reluctant to take out my camera in a windchill factor of -7C)

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Saturday, March 07, 2009

Are you a poet and don't know it?

is a small headline on page 7 of the latest Berwickshire. This is a project to attract poets in Berwickshire to send in contributions verse for an anthology due to be published in October to raise money for a local charity. Huttonian has some experience in this type of project having put together an anthology of diplomatic verse ( somewhat oxymoronic concept suggested Mike Longley, the Norn Iron poetic giant) Oxymoron or not, having paid for the production up front the book made several thousand pounds profit for three charities working overseas. And it was reviewed in the New Statesman-surprisingly well, given that organ's usually ill concealed dislike for government institutions and their stuffy and unimaginative lackeys. I suspect the problem in Berwickshire will be persuading diffident closet versifiers to send in their contributions. The High Schools are a potential rich vein of literary talent and we are hoping that we can attract prize winning poetry as a result of in-school competitions-the glittering prize being publication and an invitation to read some of their work at the launch of the anthology at a performance poetry event.

I am hopeful that local bloggees have unpublished master/mistresspieces lurking in some dusty drawer or can find the inspiration to put mouse to Word: 30 lines maximum , theme unimportant but ideally a Merse connotation, however contrived; free verse is fine, scanning more important than rhyme, humour particularly welcome

More details via the Comments to Huttonian e-mail link

(Image is of the dip ditties publication)

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Friday, March 06, 2009
Many a Muckle

" Mind you get the correct change" said a mother of three outside the newsagents as her eldest lad went in to buy his comic.Transaction completed he rejoined his mother on the pavement. Guardian safely in hand I passed the foursome as I headed back to the fruit and yogurt. As I overtook, the mother was saying 'Are you sure you got the correct change?'

'Make sure you get the right change' could well be an alternative motto for the folk of Alba*-a prudent careful people who don't like being taken for a ride (or for granted). It may be significant that in the Lords Prayer, Church of Scotland version-debts not trespasses are forgiven-perhaps that is why there is no law of trespass in Scotland? You are welcome on my land but get your hand out of my purse, Jimmy.

* No, ignorant of Inish, Albanians are something else

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Thursday, March 05, 2009

Booze Cruise

What a wonderful market opportunity for, eg, the frustrated Mr Crump, should the Scottish Government decide to raise the price of liquor to discourage excessive drinking. And obviously the Borderers are on to the economic implications as reported here

Perhaps now TD15 post code can work for The Cross in Paxton by claiming location in Northumberland rather than Scotland(as most insurance companies and white van men believe) Or failing that some enterprising person in Hutton can set up a Speakeasy and undercut the official minimum prices. The former Manse (not the Old Manse aka Antrim House)would make a good site. Bona Fides only please. What officious official would think of looking for an illegal drinking den in a former Manse-or in Hutton for that matter which just might depress business a trifle

And now for the aforementioned Mr Crump. Get your people to recommission the former Royal Yacht now doing nothing useful in Leith; stock it up (don't bother with the Iron Bru, Jimmy) and offer booze cruises up the Tweed as far as say Coldstream keeping carefully in English territorial waters-great views from the river through the bottom of your glass-Paxton House, Fishwick McMansions, shooting the rapids at the Chain Bridge. Cheap English prices on board and no passports required (so better no short break in the Scottish Borders en route). A bit of culture too with guest lecturers- Farmer C on local vernacular architecture The Laird on 'Appropriate Rural Development' and Crump himself on Dunes Management in NW Scotland. Magic

Laughing all the way to the Royal Bank of Scotland

Image is of HMY Britannia heading somewhere. To the mouth of the Tweed?

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Wednesday, March 04, 2009
Dinner All Day

Huttonian made the mistake of going to buy his lunch in Duns at lunch time-the kitchen being reinstalled and the wife away in deepest Northumberland on Cerebral Palsy Africa work I found that both Prentices (Sausage Rolls and Borders' Tarts) and Borders' Baguettes had long queues of older school kids from the High School. Waiting for Breakfast-all-day-with-extra-bacon baguette I asked a largish 16 year old as to why he did not have a school dinner which I was told were very good. 'They are rubbish' he said adding another packet of crisps, and two extra portions of chips to his hamburger bag. Another lad disagreed-' they are cool in the new school' he said. So why are you here I wondered?

He looked down at me from nearly two metres, thin as a lathe pointing to his double whammy hamburger oozing red sauce and speaking through clenched chips

'This is me afters'

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Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Peripatetic Post

The Berwickshire reports on the first week of the new Mobile Community Outreach Post Office here Huttonian has yet to revisit Hutton between 12-1pm Monday or Friday to buy a second class stamp or have his passport checked or any of the other services offered by Mary the Peripatetic Postie. The article has an image of the previous Post Mistress being the first Hutton customer to use the new 'service' I wonder if she was

the only one?

(Given how fed up local people were about the closure of the last remaining public service based in Hutton)

Having your dinner or braving the elements to get your parcel posted.

Not much of a choice.

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Monday, March 02, 2009

Following my last post (no military pun intended) a number of people have pointed out that I have not done enough justice to the best places for seeing Red Squirrels in southern Scotland and the Borders. So you can make up for my omission by going here Amongst the 'best places' in the Borders is Paxton House-if it is a best place I really wonder what the worst places are as it has become very difficult to see the varmints there.It may be that they are fed up with being stared at from a 'hide' by whispering humanoids with large binoculars and sandwiches-not a crumb of which is left behind and have moved off to somewhere where their privacy is respected. I did ask some one at Paxton House where on earth the squirrels were and was told that they were likely to be still hibernating. This was July but with the Borders summers you never know.

And a bloggee told me of how after a long hot wasp infested afternoon in the Hide, totally Red squirrel-less, he drove over one on the way out-just at the point which it says 'Beware Squirrels Crossing' making it the only notice is the whole of the grounds which has any relevance to the actualite. No doubt some one will shortly replace the notice with

'This crossing point is not thought suitable for Red Squirrels'

If only they could read.

They might live longer

(Thnkyou Robert Grove for this image of Red S cautiously making his way over the safe crossing point)

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Sunday, March 01, 2009
Red Squirrels in the Sunset*

People spend hours seated in the hide at Paxton House looking for the Red Squirrel. They have been seen, once by me but are increasingly elusive. A mere 100 miles to the north it is a different story and the sister in law's garden in Killin is a Red Squirrel haven and it seems to be the birds that are endangered as the squirrels nick the nuts. The Sciurus vulgaris to give it its proper name is down to the last 140,000 in the UK which does not sound too endangered but they are apparently been driven relentlessly out of southern England by that brash North American cousin: the Grey.
All you need to know about Red Squirrels can be found in the National Trust puff here Scotland does not get a mention although Norn Iron does. But you don't need to fork out a small fortune to join the NT-viewing is free in Killin. And not just in the Sister-in-Law's garden

The images are from the Killin garden. I am sure you can find better ones on Flickr

* It was actually about 9-30 am but Red Squirrels shortly after breakfast' is a rubbish title

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Dogged Doings Revisited

Coming back to the Merse a couple of days earlier than scheduled for complicated reasons not unconnected with sore teeth another reference to the burning topic of dog waste caught my eye in the letter columns of the Berwickshire

, - I write on behalf of Duns Amateur Football Club to appeal to the dog owner(s) who have recently been allowing their pet(s) to foul on the football pitch at Gavinton without picking up their mess.
I am sure that the culprit(s) will already be aware that it is against the law not to pick up after your dog(s) and that the irresponsibility of their actions can also have serious consequences to the health and safety of others.
Please put a stop to this disgusting practice, pick up after your dog(s) and have more consideration for the many adults and children who share Gavinton football pitch.

Reading between the lines I suspect that the writer has a suspect or even suspect (s) in mind who may have one incontinent mongrel or a number of cur(s) . Its actually quite rare in country parts and unknown in Spitall to have one man, one dog, and the professional dogwalkers can have up to a dozen on leash with the human minder's pockets bulging with little plastic bags, or in the case of Spitall, not.

Gavinton is a small, neat ,well organised village and irresponsible dog owners would be pretty conspicous and especially so when allowing their charges to crap all over the football pitch. For goodness sake make use of the miles amd miles of lush uncrowded pastures where your best friend can foul the endless fields of billous rape to its heart's content.

Gavinton has a tradition of an annual Pantomime. Lots of local dramatic talent. One would hope that the offending animal owners could be suitably pilloried-named and shamed in deathless dramatic drama in a production say of

Dick Whittington and his Incontinent Cat?

Goldilocks and the Three Curs?

The possibilities are endless

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