Musings from the Merse
Sunday, May 31, 2009
Excuse me Sir, Where am I ?

When Huttonian was a lad the travel from Norn Iron to south of the Border was tedious if not hazardous. You had to actually import your car into the Republic even if you were off to Dundalk for the afternoon to top up your meat ration-8 pence worth -old money- per person in the UK a week. Across the wild frontier meat was widely available and no hint of rationing.Later on with the Troubles in full swing there were military check points and road blocks to contend with. Customs stations, production of passports and often thorough searches of your vehicle.Any suspicious looking Paddy would often get the full treatment from a British squaddy. Most of the minor roads were 'unapproved' and in several cases bridges crossing streams on the border were destroyed and /or physically blocked. One other indication of what country you were in was the state of the roads. Up here good; down there awful.

Now all that has gone. No visible frontier.No customs (EU of course) and only indication is when post boxes change from Red to Green, the speed signs switch to kilometres and the signposts have Irish as the primary tongue; also fuel prices in Euro and much cheaper than the UK, and, oh yes,the trunk roads dramatically improve once your are out of the Six Counties.

The image above (click to enlarge) is the exact point that Norn Iron in a political sense begins on the Carlingford (County Louth) Newry (County Down)Two give a ways: 60mph speed limit and the graffiti. Nota Bene this area, close to the border is one of the recruiting grounds of the Real IRA; (the reference to British prisons in Lithuania eludes me for the moment)

And I'll try to keep it that way.

So now you know how, when, across the Irish Sea, to work out whether or not you are in God's Own Country.

But which one of the two is that is a different question.

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Saturday, May 30, 2009

Week end Bulletin from our motoring correspondent:

'Whew, this is Rhoda’s busy time of year:

"1.Today there are outbreaks of cyclists sporting strange headgear which resembles half a boiled egg and wearing unfortunate garments for their body shapes. They are all over the Merse and, tut, tut, even through the very toune o’ Dunse.

2.Those who go to Berwick for the weekly shop are requested to watch out for the new yellow sign by the North Rd/Morrison roundabout saying Edinburgh ………….or does it? If anyone could check and confirm, put a 5” fluorescent circle in your rear window and Rhoda will not tailgate you along the B 6461.

3. Those driving within 5 miles E or W of Paxton are asked to take especial care towards the village because the slow mob are having a rally centred in the village today.

End of report."

Here in Newcastle, Norn Iron-outside my own front door or nearby I had to wait ten minutes to cross the road. People coming from the south eager for the ice cream parlours, tacky gift shops, slot machines and fast food outlets of down town and an equal number heading south

escaping same

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Spurred on by their townee cousins in Westminster Scottish Borders Councillors have had their (relatively modest) expenses published-see the story here The biggest earner appears to be mileage claims for official travel-presumably within the Borders. And guess who is the largest claimant in these parts-yes, Big Jim Fullarton (see next para) who is of course rather isolated at home in the wilds of Coldingham. His portfolio includes Roads so no doubt he has to make a point of using them-even the track from Hell -the B6461

(East Berwickshire councillor expenses: Councillor Michael Cook (executive member for economic improvement) - salary £23,550, mileage £3,989, subsistence £10, telephone and ICT £1,276, other expenses £1,417, total = £30,242; Councillor Jim Fullarton (executive member for roads and infrastructure) - salary £20,478, mileage £6,291, telephone and ICT £1,094, other expenses £6, total = £27,869; Councillor David Raw (executive member for social work) - salary £23,550, mileage £5,163, telephone and ICT £1,137, other expenses £5, total = £29,855.
Mid Berwickshire councillor expenses: Councillor Trevor Jones (vice chairman planning and building standards) - salary £15,821, mileage £ 2,548, telephone and ICT £1,028, total = £19,397; Councillor Donald Moffat (chairman of scrutiny) - salary £17,663, mileage £2,868, telephone and ICT £1021, other expenses £351, total = £21,903; Councillor Frances Renton (chairman of Berwickshire Area Committee) - £15,821, mileage £3,680, telephone and ICT expenses £737, other expenses £94, total = £20,332)

But even given his responsibilities a mileage claim of £6,291,-at 40p a mile represents an awful lot of motoring in Borders Country on official business.

It is all official business isn't it?

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Friday, May 29, 2009
That will be 10 Trillion, Sir

Thank goodness I have booked our return voyage by HSS Stena from Belfast to Crap Town, Dumfries and Galloway, before the fares went up so dramatically-I am grateful to a long term bloggee for the tip off-the BBC report is here

I was quoted for one single, off peak, (Wife in hold?) £10,823,000,335,693,400,

It would not have been too disastrous as a frequent sailor I have enough Compass Points to get a

10% discount

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Dinging Duns Again?

One of the periodic 'Issue' polls in the Berwickshire invited votes on the Jim Clark Rally as follows:

Would you like to see the Duns stage of the Jim Clark Rally repeated next year?
Yes [50%]
No [50%]
Don't Know [0%]

Perhaps only two people have voted so far: Kevin McPro and Sandra McCon. No can't be that as I have just clicked my vote and the result has not changed.

Rigged Ballot?

Anyhow I suggest that the test of opinion is confined to the citizens of Duns. Some envious Greenlawer might well like to have stuck up Duns incommoded for a second time.

Anyhow good people and true; rally round and make your vote count.

Cringing apologies: the Poll is obviously kosher and three hours after I cast my vote the result now is ;

Yes [33.3%]
No [66.7%]
Don't Know [0%]

So at least one more person has voted no.

Go on Anon of Ayton, do it again.

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Wednesday, May 27, 2009
B Roads B Ware

Flash Bulletin from Rhoda Hogg

There has been an outbreak of stretches of road being closed by SBC other than for rally requirements. The B6437 south of the Whitsome Hill crossroads is closed between there and the Norham road between 8 and 5 on Thur, 28th May only. Nobody knows why and 1 day is not enough to replace the badly crumbling road edges into which you must subside when a large agricultural vehicle is approaching from the opposite direction. Those approaching the crossroads from the north are advised to slow down well before the junction because the road has got very smooth again. Reports of closures elsewhere would be interesting

Huttonian is heading south of the (Irish) Border so is relaxed about all this.

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Corn Trampled in Great Success Saga Shock

Tomorrow's Berwickshire (so this is tomorrow's post) carries the following effusion

SIR, - May I through your column praise the recent Jim Clark Rally event which run last weekend.
I feel the need to write to your newspaper to praise the event and the way that I feel this has put Duns firmly back in the picture of the Scottish Borders, especially surrounding all the uncertainty recently over our Royal British Legion and Volunteer hall etc.
I am by no means an avid rally enthusiast but to see my little girl Sophie (who is only four) cheer on all the competitors and watch her little face light up with all the excitement in which I felt was a true carnival atmosphere was just the crowning to a great weekend.
Now I know there will be letters criticising the inconvenience, litter and trampling of corn fields no doubt, but for once could we please put all the negativity aside and look forward and take the positives out of such a well organised weekend.
Lastly on behalf of my family we would like to give a big vote of thanks to the marshals who give up their time to make such an event a great success. (Name withheld by Huttonian to avoid possible bloodshed

So apart from the trampling of Corn fields, mountains of litter and undoubted inconvenience for hundreds of people not interested in motor sport this was a very enjoyable experience. Aka A Great Success

Oh Goody

(A balanced article on the event is here)

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Yer Man from the Pru

is the problem said the greenkeeper manicuring the already perfect 5th green. Caution gone mad. Have you seen the notices on the third and fourth tees on the Annesley Course (MPBUI)?'

I had. 'Do not drive until all the adjacent fairways are clear' or at the 18th 'Make sure the First fairway and the 1st Green are totally free of other golfers' In other words: if anyone is in sight keep your hands in your pockets and your driver in the bag. And while you are at it make sure that no one is moving on the Mournes. In practical terms, if you were to obey this instruction to the letter you could never hit a golf ball of the 4th tee which has the third fairway of the Annesley Course to your right and the 17th of the Championship course PBUI) to the right for most of a summers day when both courses are busy.

All this springs from the incident of a caravan being struck or nearly struck by a wandering Titleist two years ago sliced from the 11th tee on the Annesley Course (MPBUI)resulting in much threatened litigation and a decision to move most of the hole out of range-no suggestion to move the bloody caravan whose idiot owner parked it near a golf course and then took the wheels off thus becoming a permanent structure. The whole sorry saga is related here

The saddest sign of all is the one on the former back tee at the Third. 'Men are not permitted to use this tee' The men's tee is now 100 yards further on and at a safe distance from the newish posh houses set back from the course to the left. Thus ruining the toughest hole on the course. And it is all a bit silly and indeed sexist, implying that frail women golfers (a) don't hook their drives and (b) if they do they haven't the strength to do any damage to 'Dunbanking' 'Mon Allowed Expense' or other desirable residences cowering to their left.

Judging from the massive club wielding Amazons which haunt the course on Ladies Competition days this a very dangerous assumption and I doubt would meet the approval of

Yer Wimmin from the Pru

(The image is of the 5th Green on the RCDGC Championship Course PBUI)

'Er No' as that irritating Insurance Watch Dog, Churchill might say

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Tuesday, May 26, 2009
Scots Make Hae. Revisited

It was JM Barrie who said 'There are few more impressive sights in the world than a Scotsman on the make' and he was not, one assumes, referring to the outgoing Speaker. Less impressive to the objective observer is a smug Scot, and a smug slug Scot like Alec Salmond also takes some stomaching. Smugness has been rampant as Westminster MPs are lectured by their Alba cousins on how much cleaner the MSPs are than the parliamentarians down south And how much better the parliamentary expenses system is up here and not open to abuse. To judge how justified this feeling of self satisfaction should be you should now read the latest edition of the Scottish Review here And we all in these parts vividly remember the Laird's, when a MSP, misadventures over his family flat.

Mercutio, in Romeo and Juliet was obviously prescient in this passage about our parliamentary system:
"I am hurt.
A plague o' both your houses! I am sped.
Is he gone, and hath nothing?"

Both your houses? Westminster and Holyrood?
Or the one you can claim on?
And the one you shouldn't?

And who has gone and hath nothing?

What's the name of the Speaker, again?

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Monday, May 25, 2009

Aye Be Cee

There should be a local pop group called something like 'Aye Be and the Incomers'

'Aye Be here for McYonks and can't stand the bloody incomers, telling us all what to do'

Echoes of this in Greenlaw apparently

SIR, - In response to the anonymous letter which refers to “incomers” contributing to the organisation of the Greenlaw Festival, one feels compelled to ask, if there are to be no incomers, what is the option for growth in the community: inbreeders?
It is sad that in difficult times the Borders small town mentality persists at just such a time when we need inward investment and skills to help us through the depression we are in.
One distinctly hears a tone of neo-Nazi sentiment in the first letter, which is most worrying, and it is no wonder it was sent anonymously.
There appears to have been a misunderstaning over the Slaters incident.
What it has uncovered, though, is an extremely worrying attitude which I thought we had moved-on from. Sadly, it appears not.

To be fair we did not find too much antagonism when we first came to the Borders in 1997. Having the Post office on our kitchen table helped.But you had to watch it a bit. Of the five Community Councils closest to Hutton and Paxton four had incomer Chairs (Worse: English) and at one time on the H&PCC there was never more than two menbers out of 8 who were locally born and bred. There was a fine balance to strike: too involved you were pushy, keep away from loal matters and you were stand offish.

Here in Norn Iron my grandparents bought this house in 1921-now belongs jointly to the three daughters: 4 generations and five coming up. And the bigger house, next door, was continously occupied by the family for 40 years, this cottage off and on for 85! But I suspect that most people around here would assume that I was not an incomer but

A Blow In.

(The image is of a County Down Sea Pink. Not an incomer but could be a blow in. Killard Nature Reserve near Strangford)

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Sunday, May 24, 2009


"The Paxton curse is manifest again. This time, the darkish
blue offending vehicle of Wolfsburg construction settled on a fixed speed of
43 m.p.h. for a long, long journey before disappearing (without timely
signalling, natch) to a certain executive-housing-plagued village

writes our motoring correspondent who was presumably intent on escaping from the Jim Clark Rally. But the occasional faffer on the B6461, however intensely irritating that can be, rather fades into insignificance when compared to the Newcastle County Down heading traffic on a Norn Iron Bank Holiday. You never have tail backs in Berwickshire, apart from the Fishwick By Pass of course and the mad rush of two fisherman past Fishwick Mains and the Farmer C rejuvenate the Merse building development. But County Down is serious stuff and even when you reach Newcastle your problems are not over as it can take half an hour to squeeze past the massed ranks of day long parkers jamming the main drag or endlessly circulating around the One Way System, radios blaring until they appaer raey to disappear up their own.... Huttonian dwells at the quiet end of town,beyond the snarl of the OWS. But to get there...You could always take a thirty five mile detour via Newry, the Stranraer of Norn Iron, minus the ferry, coming up from ther south and I am sometimes tempted.

But not yesterday. Town almost empty. Wet morning. All the day trippers had gone home.

Good riddance I say

The image may not be of Newcastle but come here on the 12th of July you would find this scene familiar

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Saturday, May 23, 2009

Today is Food Day in Castle Douglas. Huttonian and party had food and coffee: Huttonian a large cup of Latte, The Wife Ditto. Middle daughter and American Son in Law arrived later. Coffee for her;coffee for him. Filtred. Cups or Mug? asked the waitress. MD and ASIL looked at our cups and ordered mugs (Huttonian was paying) Scones amd tea cake finished; coffee downed, Huttonned enquired about the bill.' What did you have?' Three scones, teacake, two mugs coffee, two cups Latte'. The waitress disagreed. 'The Latte came in mugs'. Huttonian mildly countered: 'My wife and I had cups- round thing,handle and saucer' ( Too late in in my minds eye I realised that the mugs also had handles and came with a saucer-but they were mugs. (I haven't got to where I have after so long without knowing a mug when I see one, And a cup) The waitress had the last word 'The Latte comes in a mug. Them big cups are Mugs.

I paid.

Glancing at the menu as I went out I found that Coffee in a Mug was £1-20.

Latte was £1-60. Containers not specified

Next time I shall specifically ask for a Mug of Latte. Only way of making sure of getting a big cup which probbly holds more than a bog standard mug)

Skinny Latte (I noticed) comes in a glass. With a handle and a saucer.

But you will still pay for a mug.

(But only on Food Day, Perhaps)

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Friday, May 22, 2009
The Marshalls are Comingg

WE escaped from Duns as the iron ring of the Jim Clark Rally was snapping shut around the beleaguered town.'No parking' cones or as they are calling it ,'No waiting' ones (Difference not explained*)have sprung up like mushrooms in even such obscure and rarely visited locations such as Gourlay's Wynd and The Clouds. Roaring from supercharged gas guzzling rally cars and fumes were sending up a haze around the Small House in Duns as we loaded up in record time and scuttled off to disappointed looks from the gang of marshalls and their posses sealing off side streets as we passed by Even as roared past the Gavington turn off at nearly 28 mph the danger was not over as drivers and race officials streaked past us to lay ambushes and block off peaceful country lanes in our path. Fortunately the Greenlaw Earlston road was still open although a couple of C roads had been blocked by officious persons hiding behind their Bullet proof 'Road Closed' signs.

When I grow up I would love to be a JCR Marshall, with my looking-like a real driver- boiler suit, my silver star, aka official pass, my beer belly and a Road Closed sign to put anywhere my fancy took me.

A75 just before Stranraer perhaps. But after I had escaped crap town on the ferry

(* In Ireland it is 'No Parking at All' and, fiercer still, 'No Parking At All, At All))

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  UFO heading towards the Borders?

Originally uploaded by metamodeler
This was allegedly photographed over London but it could have moved north to Foulden,Tweedmouth and Spittal.

Couldn't it?
Thursday, May 21, 2009

News being slow at the moment the Berwickshire News cleared 10% of its front page to record UFO SIGHTED OVER FOULDEN and over Spittal 3 hours previously. 'Garry' saw it in Foulden at 0210. Up in Foulden at 0210! Not a helicopter , not a plane, no flashing lights so not an airborne Christmas Tree either. Moving towards Ayton and after 20-30 seconds disappeared. This seems to have been the same alien craft seen over Tweedmouth and in Spittal earlier that night:
"Me and my wife" said a Mr Charlton of St Bartholomew's' Crecent saw an orange ball coming 'towards us from Priory Park' Travelling, he said at the speed of an 'RAF training jet' but silent.

Garry described his sighting as 'some thing unusual' Not a bog standard space ship then?

If someone saw something unusual in Hutton at 0210 he would soon be helping the police with their enquiries.

Hutton does not do the unusual very well

UFOs have form in this blog. Go here for past sightings and scroll down

The Blog, fleeing UFOs and the Jim Clarke r Rally is off Norn Iron wards tomorrow.

If we are spared

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Vox Pop in the Berwickshire

A Dinger writes

Sir,The order closing roads in Duns town centre prohibits movement in much of the centre of Duns. Included in the banned actions is walking. I live in the town centre and on one of the closed streets. It seems that my wife and I, along with many others as well as trades people and shoppers not connected with the rally will be denied access or confined to our homes.
And people complain about terror camps in Cuba!

At least no Orange Jump suit is required

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Wednesday, May 20, 2009
'Anything for the Weekend?'

I am usually supportive of the Rally but this year they have gone too far' said the guy with the clippers and the cut throat razor to hand.

Huttonian did not argue

'Trapped in Edrom all day Saturday. as the Rally comes past my door. Road closed from 7am until 5 pm'

Huttonian nodded sympathetically

'Friday is a washout as many of my customers are refusing to come into Duns with road closures and parking restrictions. Main road out closed. No visitors to the Knoll hospital all week end'


'They can do what they like on Sunday. No skin off my nose.

Huttonian gurgled solidarity

Fingering cut throat razor and regarding the remaining hairs on the back of my neck.

'Bloody Rally'

Huttonian indicated his sympathies were with him.

And escaped

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Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Un Happy Land Far Far Away

As a PS to yesterday's post Huttonian strongly recommends the article about Michael Martin's constituency where his son is the sitting MSP.

The febrile atmosphere of Westminster? Indeed; having worked many years in and out of Whitehall I can vividly remember the hothouse frenetic feverish atmosphere in which we all worked long hours but achieving what? No matter, you felt at the centre of things, 'exciting intoxocating' is right,and it used to give me a bit of a frisson to be able to say at some party in reply to the usual first question 'In the Foreign Office, actually' pursing my lips to discourage the next probing question, as if to convey, ' Her Majesty's secrets are safe with me'. Most people I met on the social round used to assume that all members of the FCO were spies and it was fun to let that thought ride, undenied. One genuine spook acquaintance when naively asked 'What exactly do you do?' used to put one finger against the side of his nose, smile enigmatically and ask the waiter for 'Another Dry Martini please-less stirred than the last'

Now deep in the Borders, my one way pad and poisoned Carnation spray handed back to Q,I feel very detached from Whitehall, Embra and even Newtown St Boswells. The Borders doesn't do politics with a big P and I doubt if many people around here have got too worked up about the expenses row, and fewer still will know or care who their Westminster MP is. Certainly they will all know the MSP, the ernegetic Mr Lamont who pops up all over the place but the Scottish Executive has a much more sensible arrangement over MSP's expenses although it can be abused as alleged when the Laird made headlines over the use of a family flat in Embra (See here for a refresher course-scroll down a bit)

Mind you if we were suddenly ethnically cleansed and transported at gun point to Martin and Son land as described in the Scottish Review we might feel a bit differently about goings on in the capital

Some one being asked, this morning, in Nairns about voting in the forthcoming European Parliamentary Elections replied 'What Elections are those?' -he may have been tempted to add 'What Parliament?' but was suddenly distracted by the sight of the Jim Clarke Rally Official Event Programme. 'Closing all those bloody road, Effing inconvenient'

Now that really matters

(Does anyone know what the image is? Not Farmer C's latest Tweed Side Pad. I thought not)

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Monday, May 18, 2009

It was not so long ago that a Scottish accent somehow conveyed an impression of probity and rock solid integrity. Indeed competence; Dr Cameron on Dr Findlay's casebook for example for the silver surfing generation. Or even our dear Prime Minister when he was the Chancellor. But now it doesn't. At least, to my ears, the Glaswegian burr in particular carries a different kind of message: Not the one he says but the one that goes 'I am on the make, So are my mates. Its within my rights. And I like it like that'

Or is it only Speaker of the Commons Michael Martin?

Now if he had a Borders Accent

We would want to trust him?

(I'll make an exception for Big Jim F, the well known Scottish Borders Councillor)

There have been other Glaswegians even in those halycon days when Scots were cool-Mc Cool in the vernacular with whom I had no trouble contemplating avoiding the barge pole approach.

Did some one say George Galloway?

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Sunday, May 17, 2009
Always on a Sunday

Coming from the Newsagent at a reasonably earthly hour this morning carrying my Scotland on Sunday (Yes, dumped the doom infested Observer)I met a guy going towards Market Square carrying a paper. To the Newsagent, Newspaper in hand. Why?

Returning the English edition of the Mail on Sunday bought by mistake?
Hoping to get 2p back on yesterdays?
Returning the Independent on Sunday as too boring and wanting his money back?
Wanting to trade in the Mail on Sunday, Scottish Edition for.....anything else?
Being sent back by his wife with a warning not to return until he has got her paper ..and 'return that rubbish, I don't want it in my house'?.
Page 3 in the Scottish Sun is missing?
Or out of focus?
Had an elderly moment (he must be nearly 40, after all) and forgotten he already has bought his paper?

I will worry about this all day

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Saturday, May 16, 2009

The roar of Boy racers is heard in the land- hearing the second Cuckoo you might say- as Tout Berwickshire girds itself up (or leaves the County) for the Jim Clarke Rally. Huttonian and the wife are in the leaving the county-actually country- category and will have to rise at Sparrowfart to get away before the Rally kicks off-or revs up-in the early hours of Friday morning. As you will see here Duns will be closed to the outside non racing world for most of Friday and Saturday and it is a holiday week end to boot (npi)Having endured two Rallies-in Hutton-we will be very happy to escape the epicentre for a brief visit to Norn Iron. The eye of a hurricane is usually calm and quiet-neither epithet will apply to central Duns this coming week end.

Up to then we will watch the rear view mirror for the hyper Boy Racers, keep out of the single track roads in the Lammermuirs where they will be showing off their skills with total disregard of their own safety

and anyone else's

(Thankyou Mr Craig of Flickr for this image from the 2008 Rally)

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Friday, May 15, 2009

You can always rely on the Berwickshire News letter column to strike the right note on 'issues' of the moment

SIR, - There is currently a public enquiry into an appeal by three wind farm developers taking place south of the border at the Maltings, Berwick.
The wind farms would be sited at Moorsyde, Barmoor and Toft Hill. Various disruptions to views looking south from Scotland would result were permission for these installations to be granted, not only intruding into a unique landscape but also affecting views towards Flodden Field with a restless, moving and inappropriate industrial element.
Nobody north of the border was ever consulted during any stages of the planning process.
Members of the public will have the chance to present their views to the Inspector on May 27.
A visit to Berwick or a telephone call to Northumberland County Council should provide information about the correct procedure for those who wish to speak.
This is the one chance Scots will have to safeguard what is arguably a national shrine and an indelible part of the Scots psyche.

So it is not just our own Pheonix Reiver (see post below) who deplores the connection between Flodden Field and a proposed wind farm. It is interesting that a defeat in a major (if totally unnecessary) battle is part of the Scottish psyche. Which disastrous military debacles have entered into the English soul, Huttonian wonders?. The Aussies have Gallipoli which they (rightly) blame on British (not all of them English) generals but from my schooldays I can only remember being taught about English or British victories from Agincourt to Alamein. Defeats, if any, were glamourised : 'A Bridge too Far' being a case in point-and Dunkirk is also remembered as a victory.

And who will Braveheart blame defeat at Flodden on? James IV. I doubt it. The Borderers? Unlikely. The English who out fought and out manoeuvred the Scots,


And now its English wind turbines which are desecrating a sacred site.

Me I am opening an appeal for a memorial to satisfy both sets of bruised nationalistic psyches.

Put it half way across Coldstream Bridge

To the Unknown Reiver

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Thursday, May 14, 2009

Coldstream pulled out all the stops, as only the First (or last) Toon in Scotland can to mark the 250th anniversary of Burns' birth with a special commemoration of the Bard's visit to Coldstream with his Dinger friend Robert Ainslie and his dramatic foray onto English soil. The gory details are here

It is never been satisfactorily explained to Huttonian why the Rabbi's visit to England (his only one?) was so brief. Late Running Stage coach to Dumfries to catch? Expected for a pint or three at the Black Bull in Duns? No convenient toilet facilities in Northumberland? Did he take such a scunner to Enger land that he could not bear to be a way from his native hearth a minute longer?

Apparently he never returned to Coldstream either.

That's more easily explained.

(The image from the Berwickshire shows Burns and Ainslie looking quite chuffed at being on English soil.

Aa so they might)

Ye may be scared of English Folk
And timorous venture across the Tweed
But summon forth Alba's might
And do not the bluidy Saxon heed
Aye, put on woven hose and Aussie hat
Jimmy may chuckle behind your back
Care Not the sniggers of your mates
Come on.Ye are no Sleekit Beastie

A Man's a man for 'A' that

(From 'Undiscovered Burns'-awaiting publication)

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Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Towers of Silence? Or Flodden a Dead Horse?

I know it is wrong of me, and as French diplomats put it, uncommunitaire,not to get the wind up, as it were, about the rash of Turbines breaking out all over the Lammermuirs.From Harden's Hill to Crystal Rig. Its probaly because they are invisible from the Small House in Duns and more important apparently-soundless. Some people living near these giants are driven to distraction by the noise they make. And they are not very bird friendly either. They have a certain grace which is appealing if you do not live right under them.

I am informed by our alternative energy, countryside watch dog and Scottish Heritage correspondent that the rash now is spreading across the wild frontier.

"Folk on our side of the border are totally unaware about the enormity of what is being planned by the 3 wind farm buccaneers/multinationals just across the border in Northumberland and whose appeal against the refusal of planning permission is the subject of the current public enquiry at Berwick. Not only would they spoil the view of a lovely bit of countryside but they would also desecrate the vicinity of Flodden , the Kosovo Field to my fellow Caledonians " (from Reiver Phoenix)

So is Flodden Field a factor in all this. If the threat of desecration is enough to have this important historical site treated with more respect by the custodians of such places, well and good. It saw one of the most significant engagements of the 16th century- but the history is almost impenetrable for the casual visitor. (Although the interpretation has improved recently as blogged previously (Scroll down )And I can never understand the Scottish obsession with this bit of England, a steadily diminishing bit at that, sods from which are carried ceremoniously to Scotland every year, by reincarnated Scottish Reivers, as part of the Coldstream Civic Week celebrations. The Flower of Scotland cut down as a result of a naked act of aggression just to do Les Frogs Sanglais a favour. And the Borderers, at least those led by the Earl of Home, have especially little to be proud of having deserted the field at half time loaded down with ill gained booty. Had the Scots won you can imagine the point of a hooley but a shamefully lost battle...

Bury it under Turbines, Jimmy, should be the cry?

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Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Portsoy's Complaint
Originally uploaded by old_greywolf2000
They don't seem to like Quad bikers around Portsoy- On that unfriendly to visitors coast south of Aberdeen. This was at the bottom of the only track down the cliff to the beach which had been thoughtfully blocked at the top by a carefully parked car.

I rang in to report an Ant Incident to the Grampian Police on the number displayed. I noted that a Lack of Ants on Quad bikes was very striking but the guy at the other end seemed a bit unsighted. Perhaps my Borders' accent threw him

The other image taken just above Auchenblae is a good example of a tacky Saltire ruining a stunning view. We were spared a mendicant piper but I suspect one may be hovering around, out of tune, out of breath and out stretched hand in the tourist season. Yes we know its Scotland. Don't need to be constantly reminded.

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Monday, May 11, 2009

Cullen Beach
Originally uploaded by charminbayurr
We walked Cullen beach this morning on a day as glorious as the one portrayed in this image (Thankyou charminbayuurr.) Not mentioned by the photographer is the name of the rock in the middle distance: The Old Fisherwoman of Cullen; You can see her in profile bent under the weight of the fish she was carrying. Apart from these rocks this is a traditional Strand, as they say in Ireland, miles of sand, and on a May Monday, deserted.

Cullen folk they say can be a bit standoffish. But I suspect the real unfriendly ones ont his coast are the retiree incomers. One road to a beach near Aberdeen had the only possible parking spot blocked with large stones and further down the road was coompletely sealed by a car parked across it.. The house owner in question had, for good measure, put a large notice 'No Admittance' on his best Homebase picnic bench in a fenced off area adjacent to his garden. At whom was this friendly advice directed one wonders?

His wife?

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Sunday, May 10, 2009
Go north young man. Now

We used to be told when we first arrived in Hutton that the further west you went across the Borders and through Dumfries and Galloway the more unfriendly people (superficially) at least became. Apart from the glaring exception of Stranraer (and Dumfries town itself) we have found people generally and genuinly welcoming.But going north along the East coast it does seem (superficially, again)that the folks are less welcoming and visitors actively discouraged. Its probably the Aviemore First rule of Tourism: the more visitors you get the more you dislike them. But the buggers keep coming and actually you do need them and that makes you hate them the more. We in the Borders don't get many tourists and we don't expect to get them being content to be served by that stunning and beguiling invitation 'Scotland's Favourite Short Break Destination'

Actually around here I suspect they get a lot of the wrong kind of tourist.Seeing some of the visitors in these parts especially those from South of The Border who have thankfully passed through us or flown over the Merse in search of greener pastures further North I suggest an addition to the 'Welcome' notice:


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Saturday, May 09, 2009

The blog is on the move to deepest Banfshire and will be out of the Merse until late Tuesday. Posting will be fitful, if at all. I assume there will be Internet connection in those far flung rural parts. But has greater Cullen got the electricity?

We will soon find out

The area is famous for its Whisky Trails-more stimulating than the 'Tweed Cycle Path'

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Friday, May 08, 2009

Well Paxton can boast, and no doubt will, that one of its daughters made it to the Finals of the UK section of the Miss Universe contest-read all about it here. Sadly Georgia did not win and will not now progress to the World Finals in the US en route presumably to be blasted off to the Universe deciders on the third planet west of the Sun, or in that vicinity

Of course had she been groomed in Hutton rather than Paxton the outcome might have been different The Hutton climate is well known for its climate and the beneficial effect on your complexion and other attributes

And if you doubt that Hutton is the centre of the known earth go to here

The old ditty goes:

"Hutton for Old Wives
Paxton for Lasses so fine
-or is it 'fat swine'

I must check

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Thursday, May 07, 2009
Hubbly Bubbly £1.25 a cup?
It was inevitable that the newly installed Coffee Hub in Scottish Borders Council HQ would attract the attention of the regular letter writers to the Berwickshire; hence:

SIR, - Yet again I feel compelled to vent my frustration at the gross hypocrisy of our so called council and councillors.
It was reported last week in the local and national press and the BBC that SBC have just spent nearly £20,000 of our money on a “coffee hub”, this includes £13,657 on alterations and £3,123 each on two new dispensing machines. The new look hub replaces three self operated hot water machines.
The “Hub” is situated next to the debating chamber and dispenses free drinks to our councillors and guests, however, to us mere mortals it is £1.25 thank you very much.
Depute leader Alec Nicol tried to justify the expenditure by saying: “It follows longstanding dissatisfaction with previous arrangements expressed by members and officers alike and a desire from them for a more palatable alternative, provided through improved facilities”.
This is the same Alec Nicol, among others, who told a packed Drill Hall in Duns just three weeks ago that there had to be cuts and it was unfortunate that the renewal of the lease for the Drill Hall was one of them.
He is obviously of the opinion a “more palatable” free cuppa for him and his cronies is more important than providing a community hall in Duns.
Most people in their workplace have to pay for their own coffee through kittys or by bringing their own. Just what sort of arrogance leads them to believe they are above such practises?
The other councillors could learn a lot from Councillor Nicholas Watson who branded it “a waste of public money” and Councillor Davie Paterson who brings his own flask to meetings as a matter of principle.
I urge the people of the Borders to no longer accept these double standards and start asking questions of our council’s behaviour.
Councillor Nicol, wake up and smell the coffee, £1.25 please!

£1.25 seems very reasonable to me

And now a flash from our motoring correspondent:

"This tale of the B6461 is, for once, not a tale of snail-like geriatric motorists.

"En route to Berwick last night in the early evening I was at the big bend due west of the Low Baldersbury sign. Towards me, riding at excessive speed and largely on the wrong side of the road (i.e. the bit with me on it) was a black clad motorcyclist. Not only that, but he was leaning in the direction opposite to the biker depicted on the tacky yellow sign. Blog readers are advised to proceed with caution

Presumabaly he will have reached his destination by now?


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Wednesday, May 06, 2009
Cuisine in Coldingham?

Now a question from our new cookery correspondent, Poll Pott: why does a certain Duns emporium advertise its strange iced buns as Danish pastries? Do they have a grudge against the Danes?

Huttonian has not sampled said buns, but in principle, is partial to them and is intrigued by the same establishment promoting (Pimping?) Border Tarts-succulent and of easy virtue presumably.

And tout Duns is agog about the forthcoming opening of a Wine Bar (A Wine Bar in Duns? Yes!) by the establishment which owns Eighteen in the Market Square now losing its coffee section to the distress of ladies who sip.

Best eatery in Duns at he moment is in my view the Siamese Kitchen. Brilliant and authentic Thai food, staffed by brilliant and authentic Thais. I am not sure that Duns is really ready for good and exotic oriental food- there are also two Chinese restaurants who are more takeaway than sit in-I suspect all three struggle but the Siamese Kitchen has the quality to survive and seems to attract clientele from a wide radius beyond Berwickshire.

Why head this post : Cuisine in Coldingham'-Blog Ed has asked. Is there any?

We must despatch Poll Pott to find out

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Tuesday, May 05, 2009


Huttonian rather likes the article in the Scottish Review which you can read here in which Kenneth Roy states his belief that the medja have fallen over themselves to exaggerate the threat from a Swine Fever pandemic egged on by irresponsible statements from the World Health Organisation (WHO) (composed of lots of DR Whos one can only assume) who have form in exaggerating the potential of health scares-Avian flu being an example.

Although Scotland can boast (as only Scotland can boast-as only Ms Sturgeon can boast) the very first cases of the infection and also the first human to human transmission in Europe to someone who had not actually been to Mexico, panic has eluded the Borders. Certainly in Duns (and I suspect in Hutton although I have not checked) upper lips remain stiff. Selkirk may seem a long way a way but goodness knows collecting your Gerdian from Nairns of a morning you may actually inadvertently have rubbed shouders or involuntarily ingested sneeze vapour from someone who has had contact with a guy, who had a drink with another guy who had sat in the train from Embra with someone who had just had another (previous) drink with a chap who had recently met a mate back from Mexico City. Thus spreads Pandemics, Level 6 pending.

Thoughts and worries seem elsewhere. No popular hysteria about the risk of airborne infection from the organic pig farm towards Dunbar Pig farms yes; Wind Farms no says Jimmy Citizen. Horrid Turbines, ruining the landscape, killing the birds, threatening the low flying defence of the realm F16s. Sweet cuddly pigs, free range and lovingly cared for. In two words

Lucky Swine

As for the medja one recalls the tale of a young cub reporter (John Simpson 50 years ago?) sent to make his name covering some far flung Imperial crisis telegramming his editor

" Difficult to exaggerate seriousness of situation here. But will

do my best"

The image is of two happy pigs. Organic surely?

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Monday, May 04, 2009
Bikers: Get on them

Our Motoring Correspondent writes:

In recent days there is a new temporary road sign, just one of them, which has appeared along the B6461 a few yards east or the turn-off for Horndean and Ladykirk. It is a yellow rectangle which bears the black picture of a motorcyclist leaning sideways. Can anyone explain its provenance or significance?

Mischievously yours,

Rhoda (1 D only) Hogg

Huttonian has seen another one-on the Duns/Chirnside road about a mile out of Duns heading away from the capital. It must be something to do with the up coming Jim Clark Rally (which I will happily escape in Norn Iron).But the JCR is for mptorists (using the term loosely)Are Motor Cyclists been warned to keep out of the way?

Or what? Someone will know?

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AS you can read here Borders Councillors have been engaged in a fierce debate as to the cost and propriety of spending several thousand pounds on new coffee dispensing machines-or 'hubs' in council-speak. Me, I can't see what the fuss is about; no one can really operate at peak efficiency without a twice daily fix of caffeine-not that should be an 'issue' for our elected representatives-'peak efficiency' is less of an aspiration than an oxymoron in these parts. And a few thousand quid wasted on such extravagances pales besides the vast sums locked away in the frozen deposits of the Bank Icelandski.

The Depute (ugh) Leader who has a somewhat ponderous turn of phrase, as he might not put it, answered criticism with :

"It (installation of the Coffee Hub Facility) followed longstanding dissatisfaction with the previous arrangements expressed by members and officers alike and a desire from them for a more palatable alternative, provided through improved facilities"

A Palatable Alternative? NPI, Huttonian suspects

'How about a well stocked bar with drink at taxpayer subsidised prices?'

How palatable is that? Spirited discussions guaranteed. And for 'working hours' read 'Happy Hour' throughout

And the Council's efficient decision making mechanisms would certainly be

well oiled

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Sunday, May 03, 2009
Spring is Sprung. The Grass is Riz. I wonder where the mower iz

Small House in Duns Spring garden
Originally uploaded by old_greywolf2000
First spring images of the garden at the Small house in Duns. A labour of love and not of desperation as it often seemed in the vast acres of the Old Manse in Hutton. Its still a three pullover Spring but the Blether Centre has promised us a long hot summer. Cast not a clout 'til May is out will still apply.

Our raspberry plants seem to be the victim of very cold late summer-not a single bud on any of the 11 stalks but 5 shoots have emerged from underground to promise fruit next year at the earliest. The image is of the healthiest survivor

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Saturday, May 02, 2009
Et CO2 Brute?

The two local papers : the Berwickshire News (rural) and the Berwick Advertiser (Urban)cover many the same news stories apart from the odd Berwick specific item of no interest to the country cousins and the Berwickshire reports of eg Community Councils are not carried in the Advertiser-as of no interest to anyone really, apart from the Secretary of the council concerned (Hutton and Paxton always excepted).

The letter columns are different. Berwickshire carries fewer loony contributions than the Advertiser with the notable exception of the effusions from the self styled, self appointed and self certified Acting Regent of Scotland who, it must be said, is keeping his head down recently or may have defected to England; hopefully. The Advertiser has a coterie of regulars who are now focused on man's contribution to global warming-debunkers, deniers and Dodos-most of whom not only dismiss the weight of scientific evidence as to the part played by CO2 emissions but also deny the existence of climate change at all. Their opponents are equally abrasive: for example from Thursday's column:


SIR,-The logic of Mr Ross’s letter of April 23 eludes me. On man-made climate change, he appears to agree with Prof Carter (also April 23) that it isn’t happening.
He writes: “Our own eyes tell us sea levels have not risen. What is more, if they haven’t risen at the mouth of the Tweed, they haven’t risen in any of the island nations who are out with their begging bowls at every opportunity.”
The flat earthers also believe in the evidence of their eyes, as did the medieval church in their denial that the earth revolved around the sun.
But did this make them right?

I don't know if A Knight is the urban opposite number to our own bloggee A Peasant but I am sure he will not have the last word. No doubt Mr Gudgeon of Norham will have another go on these lines

Pure superstition

Sir,-The idea of man-made global warming is a good example of modern-day superstition.
The dictionary says superstition is an irrational fear or hope in magic.
Physicists generally don’t waste their time with delusions or irrational thinking which is why they don’t get involved in the global warming debate.
“Do the Maths” is all they would say on the matter.
For the benefit of Mr Ross, Professor Bob Carter and Robert Leetham, here is the short formula which a physicist would use to dismisses the idea of anthropomorphic global warming:
Plants are the only source of oxygen the world needs for combustion, respiration and decomposition.
Without the level of oxygen dropping, then levels of CO2 can’t be rising. It’s basic chemistry.
Plants provide virtually all the world’s free oxygen. There is no other major source of oxygen. Since we know the level of oxygen in the atmosphere isn’t falling, plants (using photosynthesis) must be generating enough oxygen to supply everything that breaths, as well as every car, every engine, every power-station, every blast furnace and heating system on the planet.
Plants produce so much oxygen that even colossal forest fires don’t affect oxygen levels.
Since virtually all the oxygen in the atmosphere is sequestered from H2O+CO2 and the CO2 only comes from the oxidation of organic carbon, the two gasses have to rise or fall in strict proportion.
To believe humans are responsible for an increase in CO2 is therefore pure superstition.

Norham West Mains

I don't want to add (fossil) fuel to this debate but having to put a third pullover on on a sunny day in May makes me wonder about global warming-except of course climate change can work both ways:

Like getting colder?

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