Musings from the Merse
Thursday, April 30, 2009

No 34 Bus

You have a choice of Bus to Berwick from Duns. No 60 direct via Chirnside
No 34 Indirect; via Eastern Berwickshire. They leave at the same time from the same stop and they are both marked Berwick

It Says Berwick on the Front
said the driver.
To my timid inquiry

Via Preston. Two got off.
Two got on;
Auchencraw. No time for a pint
Two got off.
Fat lady running' driver never saw her
Reston Post Office, no time for a stamp
Another fat lady. Driver ignored her
Ayton. No time for nothing
So missed nothing.
Two got on

Eyemouth. No time for a fish supper.
Four got on
Roaring along A1
Speed Cameras flashing.

Sir Morrisons? asked a passenger
'Sorry can't stop'
said the Driver.

'Try Aldi'

(But didn't stop either)

Golden Square.
(65 minutes from Duns)
'That was a roundabout route'
I suggested.

'Yes. No 60 directer'

'Why didn't you tell me?'

' Why didn't you ask me?
You wanted Berwick.
You got Berwick
'That's something;
in this day and age'

(The wife drove me back)

The image is of a Borders Bus-to Galashiels-the westward terminus of both the 34 and the 60

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Anything Goes? But not in Duns, apparently

I don't know what it is about theatre groups and other cultural organisations in small communities which arouse such strong emotions but the Duns' Operatic Society is getting quite a lot of stick following its last production of Anything Goes. Following a tepid review in the Berwickshire which spared off a fierce response praising the production this week's letter column caries this:

I write in response to the letter from your correspondent, Pat Scott, who is presumably the current president of the Duns and District Amateur Operatic Society, and who was therefore in overall charge of the recent production of ‘Anything Goes’.
As someone who has carved out a professional career from writing criticism for the press, on both sides of the Atlantic, I can do nothing but wholeheartedly support the way Simon Duke "reviewed" the show.
Pat Scott should be aware that he had a dreadful task to write a positive article in the way he did considering the lack of direction, shameful dialogue delivery, missed cues, actors forgetting their lines, unremarkable and tired scenery, poor costumes etc, etc.
I refrained from writing to the ‘Berwickshire News’ at the time after witnessing such a calamity, feeling it would be counterproductive, but I cannot allow Pat Scott's comments to go unchallenged.
There is mention of the younger members of the cast, indeed the show was populated by school children, and again your correspondent is quite correct when she says it is remarkable a small society can stage a show of this quality.
The standard compared to previous shows was appalling.
Over the past few years Duns has achieved great heights, culminating in the Queens Award. I am sure Her Majesty would have enjoyed ‘The King and I’, ‘Hello Dolly’ and ‘Aladdin’, and been impressed at the professional standards reached, this year she would no doubt have left at the interval as I did.
Looking around the hall on the last night, a hall not even touching half full, I wondered if this was not down to the insipid and insignificant advertising. Perhaps word of mouth was more to blame.
The poorly reproduced programme with indistinct photographs and several blank pages was merely a precursor of the fare to be served up. Overall Ms Scott there was no quality.
Duns and District Amateur Operatic Society will need to pull out all the stops to celebrate their Golden Jubilee.
In conclusion Simon Duke did you and the society a huge favour in writing the review he did, and in writing to note your displeasure you have merely highlighted your own shortcomings in not presiding over a tighter ship. Pun intended.

Expect a counter blast next Thursday.

I saw the show which if a bit dated (rather a curious choice, actually) was good fun; excellent music, competent singers and two brilliant junior leads, one of whom, aged 17, is off to join the Globe Theatre right out of Berwickshire High School without bothering with drama school. Yes, it was a bit 'amateur' but that's what they are; yes one or two 'dries'-one of the players made a virtue out of not remembering his lines and was helped out by ingenious ad libs from fellow actors.

I don't know Mr P but I suspect there is a bit of history there-the management of DOS has recently changed and the Old Guard may feel that standards have slipped since their time.

And verb sap to Mr P. If you want your opinion on a show to be respected-stay for it all-you might then know what you are talking about. I imagine Her Majesty would have stayed the course if only out of politesse.

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Wednesday, April 29, 2009
A rare visit to Embra to the expensive dentist and a welcome chance to lunch in that haven for Ladies who Lunch-'The Place to Eat' in John Lewis. Huttonian has a soft spot for the P2E ever since he caused such a stir by eating the demonstration sandwich as recalled here (Scroll down to second post)(Note today's demonstration sandwiches are yesterdays best left over)The wife had just left me to join the other Ladies who Queue-Q2P that is-Gents never need to queue but women always will until like German Frau's and/or Frauleins they learn to do it standing up.

But I digress.

The man at the table next to me suddenly sneezed violently- not followed by an Oink so I assume not Swine Flu-upsetting his glass of water into his lap. A waitress, happening to be passing shouted 'I'll deal with that' preempting the attentions of an advancing waiter-stage left.

Grabbing a handful of paper napkins-mine included, she started to dab the young man's affected parts -rather lingeringly I thought considering it was his lap and I doubt if they had been introduced.

Yes she was attractive,

Yes He seemed to be enjoying it.


My glass was empty.

(You can keep the demonstration sandwich-water boarding is much more fun)

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Tuesday, April 28, 2009
Get me to the Post in time

Huttonian paid his first visit to the Mobile Post Office -Hutton Branch-yesterday. It comes hot tyre from Coldstream for one hour 12 to 1 on Mondays and Fridays disrupting, one assumes, some pensioners' dinner times. One old friend was being served when I arrived so I had to wait in the Hutton chill while she was being served-only one customer in the van at a time for 'security reasons' This could be a problem on wet and windy days especially if a queue builds up and one solution would be to open the adjacent village hall during post office times (It wasn't yesterday) Nor was there much sign of customer demand-I saw one other pensioner in the twenty minutes or so (out of the hour the van is there) so I wonder if the come and get it facility but you have got to hurry is been given something of a cold shoulder.

The van itself is hi-tech with a gsm mobile phone type connection for on line transactions. Its shiny new and with a more or less full time post mistress/driver (It serves three other locations and the pm/d is part of the Coldstream PO not yet closed but I suspect living on borrowed time.

AS I helped the sole other customer down the rather difficult steps at the end of the van I asked her if she missed the old post office-'Desperately' she said and especially when it was in the Old Manse. 'That was fun' she said 'On the kitchen table and all'

Indeed; even if it sometimes meant licking the marmalade* and brushing the crumbs** off the bottom fiver of your pension.

I bought 4 packs of First Class stamps.

A Hutton record I believe.

(* Post Mistress responsibility. ** Pensioner's ditto)

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Monday, April 27, 2009
Council of Perfection
As a former chair of the Hutton and Paxton Community Council Huttonian keeps an eye on the proceedings of this august body via the very full minutes published in the Berwickshire News In my time the business of the council varied from the frantic (as when fighting off the Laird and his development plans or trying to keep the village school-the first a success the second a failure)to the soporific when we had little more to do than give a hearing to the local fuzz-no crime to report- and approve the minutes of the previous meeting. Accordingly I am impressed by the range of business being transacted by the present council and I am glad to note that some thing we initiated-the repairing of all the benches in both villages (13 apparently) have at last been completed. How many years? But no doubt worth the wait although I can think of a couple which have probably not supported a bum for decade or more.

Its also interesting to see that projects we ignored-indeed actively so-years ago have now come to fruition: Floral Gateways being a case in point, if only in Paxton. Me, I don't like this wee village beautification as it often results in particularly inappropriate garish flower beds and worse still, equally over stuffed baskets which require considerable maintenance-which if not done conscientiously results in a series of Hanging Jungles of Babylon.A particularily horrid example of a 'Floral Gateway' can be seen in Newtown Street Duns.

I like the idea of information boards indicating the points of interest for visitors to Paxton and Hutton-something which has been discussed before but with no outcome. A cynic might suggest that the boards would be mostly blank. But take Hutton, with the Old Manse, the less Old one, the striking village hall, the walk to the Mill and the Pheasant's pre slaughter pens, some distinctive village buildings:Old Smiddy, Old Pub, the 19th century church, a description of Hutton Castle of Burrell Collection fame (albeit not open to the public) there is a lot to see and some excitement if your visit coincides with the arrival of the 32 Bus and/or the mobile post office

As for Paxton there is also a lot to see apart from the walk to Paxton House and one hopes the connection to Robin Adair is mentioned (See reference here But I suspect most visitors will really only want to know one thing:

Where is the Pub?

And others, having been around the sights, might echo the famous line from the lyric:

You are welcome to Paxton, Sweet Robin Adair

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Sunday, April 26, 2009
IT Ain't Half Hot Ma; not yet leastways

If its getting warmer it's not our fault is the theme of two letters to the Berwick Advertiser attacking the 'warmists' which in all their polemical lunacy you can read here (Click on Letters to the Editor) Its interesting that the editor is happy to give so much space to the 'deniers' I wonder if it reflects his views.? If so he might be in a majority. I don't find too much heated (npi) interest in Global Warming in these parts-being usually so cold that many Borderers might welcome it and I suspect therefore that not too many people take it too seriously as an issue which will personally effect them. The Marshall Islands might sink without trace, but they are an awfu' long way from here and Eyemouth has very high cliffs so why worry. And if the Tweed Valley becomes a major wine producing area (Chateau Paxton '47)as it may have been in Roman times, is not that good for the local economy? Farmer C will have to ensure that any future Mac Mansions are centrally air conditioned but I am sure he will rise to the challenge.

As the man on the Hutton Omnibus remarked to no one in particular 'All that fuss about the Millennium Bug-lots of hyped up nonsense, never came to anything apart from buying unnecessary and expensive anti-bug software-perhaps all this warming stuff is another con? Someone is bound to make a lot of money out of it. At our expense'

The first Tsunami in Coldingham Bay may change all that but if anywhere in the UK is the centre of Warm up Scepticism, I suspect this is it.

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Saturday, April 25, 2009

Edin's Fort Broch The Broch
Originally uploaded by old_greywolf2000
I am indebted to old_greywolf2000 for this image of the Iron Age Broch in the fringes of the Lammermuirs near Abbey St Bathans. It may not be quite as old as Stone Age as there are, apparently, references to it featuring in a local planning controversy in the CLXXIV editon of the Anglo Saxon Chronicle Alba Edition.

"At a Meeting of ye Lammermuirre Concel did Laird Minimus ye Farmerre C supported most strangly by ye Counsell Year Grosse Jem Fullar Ton make bid to construire ye Broch or localie kent MacBroch contrar to Buildin in ye Ruralitie, Lex CIV. Sware Counsell Year Jem, with sakred oathe, no pre cedent wood be sette but to no availe in abbsense of Ekestinge Bulding Blokke despote muche proferring of Free Ale and induciemints to Earl and Sundry'

Later this decision was overturned by 'Hisse Most Excellente Majestie' following 'a Convincinne Petitionne' with 'Ye Bronne Envellope stuff ed with coigne of ye Reallme'

And the MacBroch was duly built.

Times have clearly changed; what?

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but in a Norn Iron Supermarket. See here
Thankyou Farmer C-I hope it was n't one of yours?

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Friday, April 24, 2009
Berwickshire Has Talent?

Back in Duns Huttonian was greeted with this story in the Berwickshire: Read here

Alert bloggees will know that the poetry anthology is my baby and I am glad to report the poems are coming in but plenty of room for more. And if you scrutinise the small print regarding the various events you will see a reference to a chance to win a week's stay in a 'County Down, Cottage' No prizes for guessing which cottage and where. Hint (a) not unconnected with the Huttonian tribe (b) close to the Mountains of Mourne and (c) one mile from the brst golf course in the British Isles (PBUI) and currently rated No 2 in the Universe. So come along, dig deep and enjoy.
Talent not required in this instance.

Just cash

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Thursday, April 23, 2009
Wet Dreams en Route

Is Dumfries (or should it be are) and Galloway the dampest places on the known earth. For some one whose experience of Scotland -Hutton primarily-is of a bone dry climate, (Dunbar is statistically the driest place in the UK) -Dumfries is a nasty shock. Pouring and dreich, visibility about 4 London buses or half a football pitch and motorists, albeit rare in the hinterland, who glorify in driving through a puddle if it is anywhere near you.

Why was Rabbi Burns not obsessed by the weather :

My Love is like a wet wet Rose,,. That’s newly soaked in June :
My love is like the summer rain. That’s damply out of tune.

Not surprisingly one of Scotland's most successful bands is called Wet Wet Wet

They came from Clydebank; it is damp but not in the same morass as Dumfries.

I would like to suggest a new local Dish for the Liitle Chef on the A75:

Dum Fries


Soggy Chips.

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  HSS Stena Voyager

HSS Stena Voyager
Originally uploaded by fray_bentos91
The Blog is on the move from Norn Iron to the Borders with a stop in bandit/Burns country tonight.

Thus in a small way we are contributing to the year of the Hame Coming
Wednesday, April 22, 2009
Writing in Neutral

Huttonian nearly missed this letter in the Berwickshire:

I can assure readers of the Berwickshire News that the European Union has no plans to introduce “gender neutral legislation” (your report March 19).
So ‘Mr’ and ‘Mrs’ will not be banned and the tradition of the Common Riding is perfectly safe - contrary to what the Conservatives would have people believe.
All that has happened is that the European Parliament has produced a short guide for staff and translators who have to write documents for people from 27 different countries.
This is similar to advice already given to staff and Members at Holyrood, Westminster and the Welsh Assembly.
The Conservatives do recognise in their comments that there are major problems to solve in this world. My advice to them ahead of the European elections in June would be to focus on these rather than inventing ones that don’t exist.
Liberal Democrat MEP for Scotland.

Never mind the EU, gender neutrality has long been the bane of Academia and especially when writing books. Co-authoring a text book on Jordan as an academic virgin in the late 1990s I was pulled up short by my fellow writer, a long standing scholar and lecturer at Queens Belfast for penning : 'King Hussein's Statesmanship'. No, No; will not do: King Hussein's 'Statespersonship' is the correct formulation. Much too clumsy so I had to rewrite the entire paragraph, keeping it gender neutral and still stylistically readable. Foolishly,tongue in cheek, I wondered if 'King' Hussein was acceptable-King being identifiably masculine; the co-author pleased that I was catching on to the accepted niceties suggested that the king's title could be disguised by referring to him as the 'Jordanian Monarch'

Winston Churchill had it right when he said that when he referred to the male sex he meant 'Man as embracing woman'

In the meanwhile we can assume that the 'Coldstreamer' (invariably male) will not be inflicted with a Right and Left Hand Person. And the Reiver, in Duns, can hold on to his Lass (npi) -Reiver's Companion (sex irrelevant) does not quite have the same ring about it.

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Tuesday, April 21, 2009
Dogged Does It

Huttonian was not going to post again about golf-of little interest to the Merse readership (Patience-back in the Borders all too soon)but he is still recovering from unprecedented experiences on the Championship course of the Royal County Down (PBUI)So I record for posterity that the worst golfers I have ever had the misfortune to encounter in 50 years of golfing were not amongst the usual suspects on the Annesley Course, aka Ladies Course, aka Hen Run where hacker is King (more usually Queen) but on the hallowed turf of the NO 1 links-specifically the second hole. This couple of elderly gents, indeed elderly by contemporary standards plus a decrepit dog seemingly pulling one of their golf trolleys took 30 minutes to traverse the 150 yards from the tee to the top of the ridge where the fairway starts-see image. Old Gent # one took 21 shots (not including air shots-complete misses); Gent Two: 19 and the dog was about to play his 14th when he was rather rudely told to pick up his ball and stop wasting time (I am interpreting the body language, the actual words were lost on the wind)The playing of shots (for want of s better description) were punctuated with tut tuts, effings and blindings and in the case of the dog, with two craps.
I calculated that at 30 minutes for 150 yards this party would take 11 hours to complete the 9 hole circuit back to the club house. A full day for the 18 allowing for comfort stops and a couple of takeaways. So I went on my way, ducking and dodging past them-there was no offer to let me through

I kept an eye open for the wanderers who were approaching the third green as I drove off the 9th so there must have been a sudden burst of speed somewhere.

To be safe I reported the party to the professional shop in case a search party had to be sent out. The guy who sold the green fees recognised my description. 'They were on the Championship Course? But I sold them tickets for the Hen Run-they said it was their first time on a golf course-must have gone to the wrong tee' 'Perhaps someone should go and rescue them' I suggested' its tough out there in the vast desert caverns of the 4th and 5th; no water no food;we surely don't want their skeletons showing up in a month or so!'

'I wouldn't worry said the Assistant Pro. Its not as bad as all that. They may be complete novices but I happen to know that

their dog has played before'

(Golf bloggees should go here

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Monday, April 20, 2009

Landscape with Faffers Huttonian had forgotten that it was Monday when standing on the first tee this morning. Mournes misty; sun hot; wind none. 7.45 am. Not another golfer in sight. Bliss. On stilts.

But it was Monday and as I crested the rise to the first green I saw the second fairway was as crowded as a G20 demo in EC1. An army of apparent faffers were moving slowly down the fairway, poking the soil with sticks and filling holes with bits of turf and sand. Not faffers as in hackers from Belfast, but faffers as in retreaded green keepers retained solely for Monday morning duties; the divot fillers.
, the hacked sod replacers, the turf fairies of the Anneseley Course (MPBUI)Fit only for a half day's work, on the 19th hole of their lives, they painfully slowly progress green wards, stopping every few seconds to fill in the collateral damage left by hordes of week end trippers 'Golfers' an inaccurate description of that species of sub human, homo faffians, the £13 green fee Genghis Khant-hit-a-ball-to save-my-life polluter who does more damage in a round of 'golf' than global warming ever managed in a decade.

I was stuck behind their resolutely collectively turned backs; shouting 'fore' pointless given the lack of a one hearing aid amongst the 12 of them. Nothing for it but to risk a drive over their heads, a mad dash past and a quick 8 iron to the green. A wonderful birdie as it happens but not one of the twelve noticed this unusual feat. The youngest, about three score years and a couple of rounds more, glanced up as I passed-grimaced at me,squinted at the cloudless light blue hazy sky, grunted at my greeting and apology and pronounced

'Looks like rain' ('hopefully' he meant)

I asked about the pock marked fairways and commiserated with the task of repairing tbe ravages of Huns who would rather die than be caught replacing their divots

'Thems good for us' he said.' No damage to repair, no pay cheque'

I carefully replaced any divots I inflicted as I went on my way; and as I did so my main emotion was not of satisfaction of a crisp 5 iron, well struck. spinning back towards the pin but a slight feeling of


In a recession leave your divots where they lie.

You know it makes good economic sense.

Mr Darling

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Sunday, April 19, 2009
  Newcastle Promenade, Ball; singular

Newcastle Promenade, Ball; singular
Originally uploaded by old_greywolf2000
After nearly two years Newcastle's neo-modern Promenade retains a pristine appearance earning the town the accolade of Norn Iron's best kept town last year.

No Graffiti; no rubbish; no dog turds

Come on Spitall
Saturday, April 18, 2009

NOT Spitall Beach

From Duns or Hutton, Spitall Beach is the Mecca for Borders sea seeking folk-or Coldingham at a pinch, especially pinched in the inadequate car park. If you can avoid the dog excrement-ie follow the falling tide very closely, that is. But neither, I fear, can begin to compare with the golden sands, empty and clean, of Murlough in Dundrum Bay, just north of Newcastle The images were taken today -a busy Saturday with Newcastle crammed with day trippers from Black Belfast and the beaches more or less empty. And the painting by a local artist, acquired by the eldest daughter yesterday seems to say it all. She and her sisters have ridden on this strand years ago and the painting brings it all back

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Friday, April 17, 2009
Greenlaw farmer praised for housing plans

(by Fellow Farmer Shock)

Cognoscenti of Borders Planning shenanigans will find this story here drearily familiar. Farmer looking to diversify (tr. Make money out of housing) Produces scheme. Opposed by local community as represented by the Community Council usually for very good planning reasons including in this case a clear breach of how many new buildings can be built near an existing building group. Oh its just the Nimbies says the Tribune of the People-aka Local Borders Councillor. Endangering bats? Birds? That's strictly for the Birds And Bats. Bats! In a word ;BATTY. Berwickshire Civic Society objecting? Lot of Middle Class reactionaries Keeping booming Berwickshire in a Guardian reading time warp.. Imaginative scheme. Pushes it through the hoops.

But this little latest triumph for the farmers/developers has another familiar element. Indeed a common -no slur intended-denominator: Yes you spotted it!

Big Jim F.

One just has to admire his consistency/persistency. When ever a farmer proposes any kind of development, regardless of merit (as it often is- apart from ladling in the readies) it seems to the keen observer Jim will try to fix it. And in this case building apparently for rent is singing from BJ's favourite hymn sheet. By coincidence his Coldingham farm stead has housing for rent and a few more buildings dotted around the rape,in accordance with planning precedent elsewhere in Berwickshire might not come amiss.

Am I being a bit cynical?

Am I Donald?*

* Borders rhyming scan-blog ed

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The days of the anti-Roman Catholic and Non-conformist penal laws have long gone in Norn Iron but there are reminders here and there . One of the most spectacular and least accessible lies on the steep slopes of Altataggart Mountain in the South Western Mournes . There is no path up the mountainside, possibly deliberately so as no doubt the 18th Century worshipers did not want to leave an easily visible trace of their activities, so you can assume that the congregation made their way individually up the steep slopes; as we did with the 8 year old grandson away in the lead.More images here
Click on the images for best effect

Yes, Yes Merse bloggees this is very much off message-back in the Borders in a weeks time

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Thursday, April 16, 2009
Men of Violence

''So where are you visiting from? Asked the large man in 'Near Buy' the only 'retail outlet' a general purpose store in the Tourist neglected Harbour area. He had beaten me to the counter with his Belfast Telegraph, Sun, Mourne Observer and Down Recorder. He looked at the Guardian with disbelief : 'You read that on Holiday?'

I told him about the Borders. He said he had once nearly been to Hay on Wye. No, the Scottish Borders I explained. 'Not much going on then?' He suggested after I had told him about the pleasures of Duns.' At least we were spared the Troubles'

'You people across the water get it all wrong about the Troubles. Thems were the days.'

He exited, buried in papers.

I asked the young woman behind the counter if he was a local man.

Indeed he is

Seemed to enjoy the Bad Old Days?

'They all did'


'The Men of Violence'

I thought of the beer belly, the wispy hair, the stoop and the pebble glasses'

'He? A Man of Violence'


In his Dreams'

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Wednesday, April 15, 2009
  Newcastle Dreich (Why leave Duns)

Newcastle Dreich
Originally uploaded by old_greywolf2000
From glorious bank holiday weather to dreich. Actually this image is from the day we arrived. Today it is much worse-too wet to even take the camera outside-hence the flickr offering.

Problem what to do with 4 grandchildren on a day like this?

Cocos will be heaving with the caravan off spring-more even than Berwick. Butterfly House boring after ten minutes. Aquarium awash and too far. And Huttonian cannot even escape to the golf course.

Good healthy walk in the forest?
Manic soaking run on the beach
Bracing walk on the neo modern promenade
Cards around the ashes in the grate
23 piece jigsaw?

Coffee and cake at Mauds?

Now you are talking
Tuesday, April 14, 2009
  Newcastle Harbour with extra seaweed

Newcastle Harbour
Originally uploaded by old_greywolf2000
This is the dismal prospect of Newcastle Harbour with the tide out. If see weed is your thing, enjoy. Otherwise do what the notices advise-see post immediately below
  ANy port in a storm but preferably not this one

Newcastle Harbour Notice
Originally uploaded by old_greywolf2000
THUS FAR AND NO WAVE DODGING is the basic message which confronts visitors to Newcastle Harbour. A sad reflection of its former glory. The fishing fleet is gone. No coastal tramps or anything else calls herer any more. The local small boats have yet to take to the water. Water? Its sea weed until the tide comes right in. The two piers are usually locked and I doubt if anyone will be tempted to wave dodge. No waves for a start. Sad place and the faint whiff of sewage from the adjacent plant doers nothing for its charms.
Monday, April 13, 2009
Hame is where the Poet is

The story here in the Berwickshire News is very good news for Huttonian's Autumn project about which there have been previous posts. Not only will the first three prize winning poems appear in the money-raising anthology but two others from Eyemouth pupils will also be featured. I also expect that Berwickshire High School pupils who are running a competition for 5 poems will prove to be equally proficient

So much for the kids. The response from more senior folk has been disappointing numerically-a few excellent efforts but not enough for a worthwhile anthology. There is still time

But not much

In the meanwhile I think this is an astonishingly good effort from a third year pupil


"From the weather- beaten shore to the bright city lights,
In a crowded bar with beat-up guitars.
Friday and Saturday night we lose ourselves to the beat and folk,
While a room full of people dance and sing,
Beer spills and the room fills with comforting cigarette smoke,
A beautiful girl saws on a fiddle, looking down she smiles at her feet,
Her blond hair glows in the lime light from adoring faces,
We feel sheltered and loved under the clouds while they leak,
We walk singing through the city,
Instruments slung casually over our shoulders,
In black cases reflecting the night.

But we move away from this beautiful land,
To ski, surf and sit in the sand,
We won't feel any pain being this far away,
As long as we sing our Strathspey in the rain.
And one day we'll hitch' home, settle down, never go far
And pick up our guitars where we left off in the bar

Go on, match that.

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Sunday, April 12, 2009

Newcastle Beach Easter Saturday
Originally uploaded by old_greywolf2000
Yes its a Bank Holiday. Yes Newcastle is two miles down the beach is heaving with humanity. Its sunny, its warm, balmy breeze and apart from the tracks made by Man Saturday and a couple of distant faffers the beach is empty.

Don't spread the word
Saturday, April 11, 2009

CRAVEN COTTAGE The Royal County Down Golf Course (PBUI) has been on its present site since being laid out in 1889 by Tom Morris at a rip off cost of £4.

In the 1960s caravans started appearing in the dunes to the right of the 12th hole on the Anneseley Course (Aka No 2 Course, Ladies Course, Hen Run)Then someone built himself a permanent structure a good forty yards from the edge of the fairway (see image-click on it and you can see golfers tip toeing past)-how they got planning permission to put something which was not 'mobile' in this area I do not know but the caravans are now formally in a 'park' and a blot on the landscape they certainly are. And this is an area of Outstanding Natural Beauty! The other image is of the Mournes providing a back cloth to the course, beyond the 12th-as seen from the offending 'cottage'. The scenery looking the other way is less edifying

About a year ago some inaccurate golfer gigantically hooked his drive from the 12th tee and struck the cottage. Litigation broke out and the hole was temporally remodeled (into a short par 3) to prevent long shots from the tee so as to lessen the danger of collateral damage. Apparently an over enthusiastic player managed to strike the building with his second (or even fifteenth) shot thus provoking another rash of solicitors letters to the highheidyins of the RCCDGC (PBUI)Now the entire fairway is to to be moved to the left, virtually creating a new hole at the modest cost of not less than £250,000. It would have been better to buy the wretched target house and bull doze it into the sea. At an earlier hole-the third tee has a notice forbidding men to play off it as it is dangerously close to a row of expensive houses which have been there for the last thirty years. Men are moved forward and well to the right thus shortening and ruining an outstanding golfing hole Seeing some of the massive female golfers who infest this course in action I am not sure that the denizens of 'Dun Golfin' or 'Tired Bankin' to the left of the ladies tee are any safer than many parts of Baghdad, but there you go.

On the whole this is craven behaviour by the golfers. They are still bruised by the massive damages paid out to some chancer who managed to overturn his rented golf buggy as the hill he was driving up was 'too steep for safety' They paid up and

sold the buggies.

When I find a few very elderly golf balls I know where I am going for a bit of target practice.

See you in court

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Friday, April 10, 2009
Driving us mad

Our Berwickshire Motoring Correspondent Rhodda Hogg reports

The B6461 is now minus roadworks between Swinton and Berwick although confusing diversion and road closed signs remain in situ. The chain bridge corner has 2 signs, the placement of one which looks as if the way ahead to Berwick is closed. Roads in the area are now populated by some very dangerous folk driving INCREDIBLOODY slowly to enjoy those views as yet uncontaminated by wind farms.

This coincides with a major story in this week's Berwickshire here about complaints about potholes from local motorists. Apparently the Borders does not figure in the top ten pothole infested areas in the UK as measured by suspension problems: Ayrshire is the potholers paradise but our neighbours Northumberland are in the second slot.

I have always believed, as hinted above by Ms R Hogg, that the main danger on Borders roads and especially the notorious B6461 is not potholes, or even Boy Racers but the very slow drivers which infest these parts. We should start photographing their number plates or noting them down and reporting them to the fuzz. A few of these faffers hanging from gibbets along the B6461 would encourager les autres to drive with more consideration-and would be an alternative attraction to the wind turbines which we cannot hope indefinitely to escape.

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Thursday, April 09, 2009

Just idly looking out of the window as one does on wet mornings in Norn Iron I was rewarded by the sight of a sweet and gentle elderly lady being lead up the lane by her wee dog on a very long lead. She, having halted the cortege busied herself with the good citizen's task of clearing up the considerable mess around our neighbour's skip full of garden rubbish and sundry objects apparently surplus to requirements resulting from a project to turn her garden into a large area of decking. The wee dog helped by sniffing around,nosing said articles and occasionally lifting a delicate leg to add to the moisture flowing down the lane.

Task completed she headed homewards up the lane. Dog to the fore. Then stopped to contemplate an object she had missed: a large plastic pot. Tastefully pink. Stooping down holding the dog lead in her right hand she used her left to flick the pot up and away-into the neighbours garden from whence it had come-a good 15 feet vertical and about twenty horizontal.A new Olympic sport was born: flicking the garbage from full stoop.Remember; you read about it here first.

Rubbing her hand clean the pair changed direction and headed down the lane. The wee dog obliged with a celebratory crap which duly was bagged. And where did the bag go?

Sorry I missed it.

But I'll check the skip.

In case she didn't

When the rain has stopped

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Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Something made Huttonian check the oil tank in our Norn Iron cottage-a bit against my better judgement as we had left a full tank of oil in October and it has only been used intermittenty ever since. Its something of a palaver There is no guage. You have to peer into the entrails with a torch standing on a rickety table clearing cobwebs with your hair. I did. Horrors -an inch left at the bottom. Another hour of heating and we would have had an empty tank and a massive air block.

I called our suppliers. 'So this is an emergency?' asked the kind lady. 'No not really but a top up today would help. 'I am on the case...I'll see what I can do, But our tankers are all busy, the day'

I resigned myself to a chilly end to the week.

10 minutes later as I returned with my Grudian the lane was mostly occupied by a large tanker. Most impressive.

'That's fantastic service' I told the driver ' Its not 20 minutes since I phoned'

He looked at me and a huge grin spread over his face:

'Its more than fantastic' he said

'It's sticking out'

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Tuesday, April 07, 2009
Degrees of Doom

Stena Line has a customer service number on which you can access such useful information as whether your ferry plans to sail on time, whether it has been sold for scrap and most important the weather conditions in the Irish Sea. Being booked on the 1440 from Crap Town to Belfast I rang the number at 9am and got a message timed at 0400 that the Ferries were all on time (at 4am?) and that the sea conditions were 'calm'

Nearing Crap town I rang again. Message dated 0907. Ferries on time. 'You can expect a good crossing' Calm to good is downhill in Stena Speak; from one to two on the Rictus Scale. We entered the port-quite early to get out of CT. Sea conditions 'fair' Scale three. And when the captain greeted us on weighing anchor (27 tonnes since you ask) he promised us a reasonable crossing, The wife's heart sank and I hoped the ferry wouldn't.

It was dead flat. Calm on stilts and the freebie Chardonnay in Stena Plus was neither shaken

nor stirred.

And as we approached the Port of Belfast the weaather 'closed in' as in hissing down with added dreich thus rendering the capital of Norn Iron totally invisible.

Be thankful for small mercies

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Monday, April 06, 2009
Calling more Burns

Poems are slowling trickling in for the anthology of Berwickshire verse we are putting together to raise money for local charities. I like this one :

A Whiteadder Day

I lie in supplication, awaiting the fiery face
Of a shrouded sun to warm my pallored cheeks.
A toying breeze touches and teases slender reeds
Whispering windy warnings of gales to come,
Whilst blowing angry clouds to other tearful skies

The myriad starburst, a celebration
Of the sun’s arrival to the rippled lake.
Makes fishermen release their uncaught sorrows,
And sailor’s leathered faces mirror cheery flags
On rainbowed, scudding, white-sailed yachts.

The harshness of overbearing, sentried hills is softened
By the sun-peeped patchwork of purple-heathered slopes,
Quilting the slate-capped, white-walled homes.
Whose windows gaze, sightless, on a blood-berried ash
Clinging bent, wind-wizened, to the rocky shore.

One gory branch waves a warning of impending gales
To pack-burdened walkers on a distant rocky ridge,
Crawling their ant-hilled, zigzagged way to home,
And fish-gorged herons fly to their fledgling families,
But I lie still, anchored to the earth by mankind’s gravity.

We need a lot more to make tha anthology worthwhile. Anyone who has a poem in them is very welcome ro contribute. You don't even have to be living in Berwickshire. Sad if you are not but worse things happen


Sunday, April 05, 2009
as Jack McGloughlin my first golf teacher used to tell me

Annesley course good drive 4th
Originally uploaded by old_greywolf2000
Yes it's that time of the year again when Huttonian (and a slightly reluctant wife) upsticks (or clubs) and heads off to Norn Iron. And it heigh Ho to the Royal County Down (PBUI) we go.
Still rated the UK's number one course and second in the world> See here. And again here. So I fear images of golf and later a complete set of grandchildren will follow. Sorry Chain Bridge Bloggee. Its only for two and a half weeks and my agrnts in the Merse will keep me updated with developments here

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Saturday, April 04, 2009

longformacus heather fire
Originally uploaded by old_greywolf2000
Around the Lammermuirs the air is full of smoke. This is Sign of a Borders Spring # 56. Slash and burn somewhat reminiscent of parts of the Third World. No slash actually except for/by farmers caught short far from home comforts but plenty of burn. This is not to turn the acres of heather into something more productive for humankind but to encourage the growth of green shoots, Phoenix like, amongst the ashes-the staple diet of wee Grouse chicks. Who then grow up to be fine game birds providing sport for wealthy visitors-stockbrokers (if any left) and dismissed Bankers fresh from perching on their large pension pots, sitting comfortably in/on their Butts, Purdeys poised.

The image of the heather fire is from near Longformacus that rather unusual village in the foothills of the Lammermuirs which seems geared primarily for the shooting. Perhaps the only village in the known world where worshippers cannot bring their cars into the Church car park which is reserved purely for beaters. As you my revisit here
Verb sap: if you are an overweight hunter wishing to walk off your aforementioned pension pot you would be wise avoid the charming walk along the road towards the Warch Water reservoir.Or at least do not be tempted to try the charming rustic bridge close to the road. If you are about the average weight for a HBOS executive director (16.2 Stone apparently, or that may be a Scottish front row forward)) you would be in danger of falling straight through the rotten planking which has mostly been repaced with grass sods. In this event you would be in severe danger of damaging any

remaining assets

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Friday, April 03, 2009

Voytek the Soldier Bear - Redbraes Scottish & Polish War Memorial
Originally uploaded by Flying Badger


It appears from this image (thankyou Flying Badger) that the wretched Voytek/Wojtek-see post immediately below, already has a memorial in a public space in Edinburgh-Redbraes Park. So why does Mrs O want another one-even if it is to be lifesize.

So whose money is to be wasted on this.?

In the middle of a recession!

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Hard to Bear

It seems that when ever the Berwickshire News is short of, er, news it will produce yet another item about the world's most boring and overblown animal-the smoking, swearing, fighting,etc Polish Bear : Voytek.Aka Wojtek. The latest effusion is here

One wonders who paid for this knees up in the Scottish Parliament and who can really think that charity funds are appropriately spent in financing a statue in Edinburgh to this beast-hardly an inspiration for the modern generation of human kind never mind a new litter of cubs.

The hard copy Berwickshire has a picture of some worthies at the parliamentary reception including the indefatigable Mrs O who has been the brains and the brawn behind this campaign although I think she would have preferred to have the memorial in Hutton where Voytek was once stationed with his Polish comrades. One can only hope that she will be satisfied with an erection in Embra thus leaving Hutton (relatively) unpolluted.

Disapointingly for one who is adept at self publicity she has been bumped from the electronic Berwickshire by the equally camera friendly Mr Lamont, our Tory MSP. Wherever there is a sniff of a good (?) news story he is there taking as much credit as he can-any band wagon will do; what the vote nabbing value of this one is I have severe doubts but it seems to be his philosophy that when two or three people are gathered together, shake all their hands

And bring a cameraman

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Thursday, April 02, 2009


howls the banner headline in today's Berwickshire with the titivating sub heading that the Scottish Borders ''Local Team' cleans up 335 pieces of dog dirt in Coldstream in just one steamy day*. Gory details here

Coldstream seems to have been a particular target for the Dog Warden's squad as they 'rapid response' the 'First Toon in Scotland' (Or the last depending on direction of travel) The story relates that some one fed up with excreta smeared footwear is hitting back with poisoned pellets which is a trifle OTT (Misguided says the Berwickshire) perhaps.

I don't think we have such a problem in canine anal retentive Duns. There are no statistics on the number of dog owners in Duns out of the 5,205 who were formally warned of their responsibilities in the Borders in the last 8 months in 2008. Most of the local dogs seem to enjoy their walkies in Duns Castle Park beside the well named Hen Poo lake-although it is the Ducks (rather than Hens) and the Geese which are responsible for most of the droppings encountered on this road.

I would be interested to see a similar breakdown (npi) of Dog crap in Spitall. The DP capital of northern Northumberland. With all this talk of international cooperation here is a splendid opportunity for a bit of technical assistance from good neighbours in Berwickshire.Plastic bags and fixed penalties across the Border, sort of thing

Thanks to flickr for the image. No sure from where

* Who is counting? They are apparently

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Wednesday, April 01, 2009
All That is left is Scotland

"Conditional discharge for train vandal" is a small headline in the Berwick Advertiser
over this little item

A MAN who drank 15 pints of alcohol and then punched a ceiling panel on a train to Berwick after a Newcastle United football match was given a 12-month conditional discharge and ordered to pay £990 compensation and £70 costs at Berwick magistrates court on Thursday.
At an earlier hearing, L R , 19, from Golden Square, Berwick, was given a three-year football banning order at the court on March 19, preventing from attending matches in England and Wales and from England national team matches in the UK, following the incident on December 21 last year.
His case had been adjourned for pre-sentence reports before further sentencing.

Gosh what stamina. Even in his prime Huttonian could only manage three pints spread over most of a day and it rarely made him aggressive even to inanimate objects like roof panels. The cat possibly but we rarely had one and never in the UK. That may have been the reason but I forget.

Possibly Mr R may have been playing that game beloved of students in the 1960s -a pint in a succession of pubs and the winner was the one who held out going to the loo the longest. The record was I think 14 pints Mr R may well have broken it although he did not actually have to change premises which I think would make it much harder to endure. I suspect having got to the magic 15 he rushed to the toilet to find either it was engaged or, more likely on National Express, flooded/jammed and therefore locked (Withdrawn from service in the jargon) -'Inconvenience for no convenience regretted; no doubt he was told' So in excruciating pain and frustration what do you do?

Punch a roof panel of course.

More satisfying to punch the train team leader. But in his absence in his armour plated cubby hole.

Needs must

Now Poor victimised Mr R has to endure cruel and unusual punishment.

Under the terms of his ban, if he wants to follow international football, he has no choice but
to watch the Scottish team

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