From Charles: Thank you for your work on the Unifying Cairn: and meet Sir Ranulph Fiennes!

July 23, 2014 by

Hugh Paxton’s Blog will attend this cairn building exercise on the 28th of this month. And will let you know a little bit more about what it involves. The cairn aims, symbolically to heal wounds and prevent the break up of friends, neighbours and countries. The following message and invitation to bring a rock comes from Rory, one of the project’s organisers.

Dear Friends of Hands Across the Border,

Thank you all very much who came yesterday. We saw 2 year-olds, and 92 year-olds carrying worn peridotite stones from the summit of the Black Cuilin in Skye, quartz form the cairngorms, Shropshire Slate, millstone grit form Derbyshire, and a sharp-edged brown flint from Kent. There were miniature pebbles form the Tyne and Thames, and a stone the size of a table-top from the exact line of the border. Some had been painted with Saltires, others inscribed with poems – others just bluntly stated “Old Red Sandstone Perthshire” or ‘Christenberry crag”. By the end of the day the rocks lay six layers deep, forming what will be the foundation of the Auld Acquaintance cairn. The music came from the pipe-major from Langholm, an English piper from Dumfries – accompanied by a Scot with a piccolo, and finally from a man in full Jacobite fig, who was still piping six hours after we had begun.

My favourite moment, however, was at two o’clock, when almost five hundred of us – Welsh, Kentishmen, Cornish, Ulstermen, Highlanders, Borderers, and Cumbrians, linked arms, to sing Auld Lang Syne. That powerful, linked circle three deep, has now defined the perimeter of the cairn – which will be 150 feet in circumference. (See photo). The sun, the gentle movement of the river Sark, under Thomas Telford’s union bridge, the number of families, all emphasised the peaceful solidarity and friendship that has grown across the border over the last three hundred years. We came from four nations, and dozens of counties, but built the structure, together like one extended family.

Now comes the hard part. It will take, hundreds of thousands of stones to build the sides of the cairn, over the next few weeks. Please, therefore, if you haven’t come, come soon. If you were with us yesterday, please come back and donate a little time, helping to build the structure. If you were prepared to volunteer a day over the summer, working on site that would be particularly welcome – gloves, and burgers will be provided.

And please pass on the message to friends from anywhere, and from any political persuasion. It is not intended to be a party political event – yesterday we had the Shadow Scotland Minister Russell Brown (Labour, Dumfries and Galloway) working alongside David Mundell (Conservative, Dumfriesshire, Clydesdale and Tweeddale). The historians Simon Schama, David Starkey, Max Hastings, and Antony Beevor, the philosopher AC Grayling, the General Charles Guthrie, and the writer Alain de Botton have all contributed stones to the cairn.

Finally, if you would like to meet – and work alongside – the explorer Sir Ranulph Fiennes, or know anyone who does, he will be working with us on site, next Monday, 28 July, in the afternoon. He will also give a short speech, reflecting on stone, rock and the union, and would be delighted to meet anyone who is there. We will also be joined next Monday by the great climber Alan Hinkes OBE – the first British man to climb every peak over 8000 meters. And we are inviting climbers, mountaineers, and explorers from across the United Kingdom to join us for what will be a challenging afternoon.

The cairn is behind the ‘First House in Scotland’ toll-house at Gretna (just South of the Gretna Gateway). Directions can be found at We are also collecting donations towards the project. Any donations of any amount welcome at
Thank you again very much for all your support. And hope to see many of you soon, perhaps this coming Monday,

Very best wishes


Copyright © 2014 Hands Across the Border, All rights reserved.
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MP for Penrith and the Border · House of Commons · London, London SW1A 0AA · United Kingdom


African conservationists call on internet retailer Rakuten to cease all sales of elephant ivory

July 23, 2014 by

Hugh Paxton’s Blog got this from the Humane Society speaking on behalf of a number of conservation organisations and individuals operating, working or living in Africa. Many are Africans.

From: Raul Arce-Contreras []
Sent: Wednesday, July 23, 2014 2:27 AM
Subject: African conservationists call on internet retailer Rakuten to cease all sales of elephant ivory




WASHINGTON, D.C. – Conservationists from leading African organizations are appealing to internet retail giant Rakuten to immediately cease sales of elephant ivory products during the current poaching epidemic. Rakuten is stimulating market demand for elephant ivory by facilitating the sale of tens of thousands of ivory products.

"We appeal to Rakuten to help protect Africa’s elephants by banning all ads offering ivory for sale on its Japanese website,” said Iain Douglas-Hamilton, Founder and CEO of Kenya’s Save the Elephants. “With so many African elephants being killed for their ivory, it is vital to reduce demand for ivory in Japan."

Up to 50,000 African elephants are poached annually to satisfy the demand for ivory from countries like Japan and China. More than 65 percent of Central Africa’s forest elephants have been wiped out since 2002. In Tanzania’s famous Selous Game Reserve, the elephant population declined 67 percent in just four years.

Ofir Drori, director of the Cameroon-based Last Great Ape Organization, said, "Rakuten must take action to ban ivory ads to help protect the forest elephants which are being slaughtered to provide ivory to Japan and China. Continued ivory ads on Rakuten mean a death sentence for our elephants."

Executive Director of WildlifeDirect Paula Kahumbu said, "Africa’s elephants, and thousands of rangers, both men and women, are not safe from poachers as long as Rakuten is inviting people to buy ivory. We beg Rakuten to be responsible and announce a total ban on advertisements selling ivory."

NGOs working internationally and on the ground in Africa have reached out to Rakuten’s headquarters and various subsidiaries requesting that Rakuten bans ivory ads on all of its subsidiaries’ sites. Rakuten has yet to respond to their appeals.

Allan Thornton, president of the Environmental Investigation Agency, said, “Rakuten must respect appeals from Africa to halt ivory sales to eliminate the supply that’s stimulating demand and driving poaching.”

Rakuten, “striving to become the world’s no. 1 internet services company,” states in its Code of Ethics its intention to “staunchly reject any request to engage in illegal or morally questionable activity.” By continuing to post ads for ivory, Rakuten is tainting its global reputation.

Kitty Block, vice president of Humane Society International, said, “The Rakuten Group must enact a company-wide ban on ivory sales – global consumers today want no part in this slaughter. We urge Rakuten affiliates and citizens worldwide to press Rakuten to ban ads offering elephant ivory.”



Maggie Dewane, Press Officer, EIA, 1-202-483-6621

Raul Arce-Contreras, Senior Public Relations Specialist, HSI, 1-301-721-6440

Humane Society International and its partner organizations together constitute one of the world’s largest animal protection organisations. For nearly 20 years, HSI has been working for the protection of all animals through the use of science, advocacy, education and hands-on programs. Celebrating animals and confronting cruelty worldwide — on the Web at


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Humane Society International, 2100 L Street, NW, Washington, DC 20037 United States

Brigitte’s Pick : Clever Volkswagen ad – PLS watch it!

July 23, 2014 by

Brigitte’s Pick. VW cares about you (and Hugh Paxton’s Blog suspects, selling you cars).

Start from Brigitte:

EVERYONE should watch this – very clever advert and very thought provoking.

Well-done VW

Brigitte’s Pick: Coca- Cola

July 22, 2014 by

Hugh Paxton’s Blog presents another Brigitte’s Pick. This one on the perils of advertiing!

We begin!

Disappointed salesman of Coca-Cola returned from his assignment to Saudi Arabia.

A friend asked,"Why weren’t you successful with the Saudis?"
The salesman explained, "When I got posted, I was very confident that I would make a good sales pitch.
But I had a problem. I didn’t know how to speak Arabic. So I planned to convey the message through three posters.

First poster : A man lying in the hot desert sand totally exhausted and fainting.
Second poster : The man is drinking Coca-Cola.
Third poster : Our man is now totally refreshed.
And then these posters were pasted all over the place.

"Terrific! That should have worked!" said the friend.

"The hell it should have!" said the salesman.
"No one told me they read from right to left!

Thai Days: Rather nice photos from brother, Charles

July 20, 2014 by

Here they come and Hugh Paxton’s Blog rates them as stunning! My brother and his beloved wife, Kimmie, are currently repairing a trailer in the south of northern America and they seem to be on top of the endeavour. Nice photos. Charles is also maintaining a parish newsletter in Cumbria. Multi-tasking! At its best and most imaginative!

Parish Directory 2014.pdf

Thai Days: Party Time and a pub quizz!

July 20, 2014 by

Hugh Paxton’s Blog attended a great party last night. One of those parties that have conversations going all over the place and really crummy food, utterly awful! and warm beer.

Herge was gay? Tin Tin a Nancy? I wasn’t having that! Argument one!

King Arthur was Belgian? Maps appeared to prove this theory. Argument two!

Talk surged from continent to continent and argument to argument! I thought I’d been everywhere and was feeling smug but with this mob it really wasn’t possible. Everybody had been everywhere, too! Everybody had been shot or been fired or set on fire and been shot or had died of cholera twice and it was that sort of thing.

Timothy Boyle, the evil swine I was sitting next to was a pub quiz horror. He looked me in the eye, I blinked, afraid, and he asked me to name a word that contained three consecutive double letters.

The nice thing about parties like these is that there are beautiful women present, with brains. I looked at the nearest beautiful woman and she and I watched this quiz man. I decided to change the subject. You remind me of Teodor Eicke. I told him. Good old Teodor . A serious Nazi. This got him intrigued and gave us valuable time. He didn’t look anything like Eicke. No resemblance at all! But it took him time to discover he didn’t look like Eicke. It didn’t help us much but Sarah was thinking.

Tim doesn’t let go. But after he had established that he didn’t look like Teodor he began to deliver clues. There is humanity in Tim. Sarah has a valuable mind, and mine from time to time, sparks. But this question was becoming harder and harder. The more I looked at Sarah for an answer the more I thought about her beautiful nose and the eyes! And the more I forgot about the question.

“It’s something in Welsh,” I said, breaking the Sarah spell. Tim’s Welsh and deserves all the jokes that come at his nations’s expense. Most of the best Welsh jokes come from Welshmen. A bit like Ireland, Scotland and England in that regard. For some reason we like laughing at ourselves. Perhaps because we really are rather funny as well as being tragic.

Anyway, this was a wild guess and was wrong. Tim looked at me with contempt. “Horses,” he suggested. That made me turn back to Sarah. That face! Exquisite! What a beautiful nose! This woman is enchanting!


“Books,” suggested Tim.

Sarah, and I, knew Tim was helping and he thought that we were both idiots. Horses. Books. Sarah. How the hell can you concentrate on a quiz when you’ve got a Sarah right there and a Tim right behind you? Beauty and the beast.

“Books!” suggested Tim. Again. “Do you keep books?”

“I’ve got loads of them. The ones I write are the best.” I’m no pussy and can stand my ground and Tim was really making me look intellectually inadequate. Books? Keeping them? I glanced at Sarah but found myself looking into the eyes of her husband, he was mellow but obviously he wanted to kill me.

Then it came! The answer! Three consecutive double letters in one word. Sarah, and I love to see success, and we smiled. Bingo! Tim invited me to a seedy Bangkok den called The Pickled Liver for his next pub quiz.

The party went on and remained extraordinary and the food never ever approached FAO health safety standards but the question remains.

We want three consecutive double letters in one word. If you had been at the party you would have had a lot of fun. And you wouldn’t be wasting valuable time wasting time with this nonsense.

But there they are! Out there! Three consecutive double letters in one word! Rather sad. You don’t get a Sarah to solve it. A Tim to jeer. And Hugh gives no clues! He doesn’t have too many at the best of times!

No googling!


Hugh in Bangkok!

From: Midori Paxton []
Sent: Friday, July 18, 2014 9:32 PM
To: Hugh Paxton
Subject: FW: For Hugh

From: Timothy Boyle
Sent: Friday, July 18, 2014 9:01 PM
To: Midori Paxton
Subject: For Hugh

Thai Days: My cat

July 19, 2014 by

Hugh Paxton’s Blog has had enough feedback about Brigitte’s jackals or ratels or rachels or whatever they are called. Everybody in Thailand finds them cute. Are they being polite? Or are they just simple minded! I opt for the latter.

My dog is frequently described as cute, too. And it is. When it’s banged up in its cage and isn’t eating my cheese and Branston pickle sandwiches as soon as my back is turned for three seconds.

I loathe my dog!

And I’m not, currently, overly delighted with my cat.

It has just urinated on not one but two suitcases I have been packing. Anxiety? Territorial markings? I’ve no idea and really don’t care for motive, purpose or excuses. My room is a stench. Of dog. And cat. And I’m running out of suitcases.

When I leave Bangkok tomorrow I will smell horrible, wear a sickly grin, miss the city – but I won’t miss my dog (unless we get lucky and the taxi gets into bulls eye mode whacks the mutt full frontal and smashes Buggly to a hash) and the cat can go feed a python. They are in monsoon mode and are sliding quietly out of the canal behind our house looking for prey.

Our rat, named Ratnee? He ate his mate. My beloved daughter, Annabel explained that Ratnee didn’t really eat his mate just skinned its head and had a go at cracking its skull to access the brains and sludgy bits “Because it was sick.”

Yes. Highly likely. Just makes you want to hug cuddly little Ratnee! So cute! Cannibal rats! So fluffy!

My fish have no power of speech and that is why I like them.

I’m off to find another suitcase. Then my passport. If the dog’s chewed it, the cat’s peed on it, or Ratnee has shredded it, I will slay!

I told Chang to kill all my pets (apart from the fish) while we are away and provide plausible excuses on our return but he’s too damn Buddhist and thinks (arghhhh!) that they are cute! So no help from the Burmese! We get the pets. Can’t get the staff!



Brigitte’s Pick:: dackels – Brigitte’s dogs

July 18, 2014 by

Hugh Paxton’s blog has been informed that if you post a picture or pictures of a dog on your blog lots of people get excited and hits soar. Here are Brigitte’s dogs.

Brigitte calls me Pax by the way. It is infuriating!

Hi Pax

These are our three musketeers that would have loads of fun with your long-tailed liguaan oder whatever that was…:))



Thai Days: The gigantic cucumber

July 18, 2014 by

Hugh Paxton’s Blog was looking at a dull but satisfactory afternoon. We’d bought an Apple TV gizmo that had worked and offered us limitless options of TV dramas and movie choices. After one Hercule Poirot and a Sherlock it stopped working. Our neighbor, Pascale, can probably fix it. It was her idea in the first place. We’ll see how that goes.

Our gardener normally looks like a man facing a twenty stretch in Bang Kwang prison (the Bangkok Hilton, one of the last places on earth you would want to stay in, utterly penal and terribly dangerous) but this afternoon he arrived smiling.

Extraordinary what a smile does to a face.

He looked handsome, alert, and even his silly banana leaf hat had a jaunty tilt.

I thought right! I’ll ruin his day! Trim those trees! Trim those shrubs! Work, man work! And work he did. Trees were trimmed, shrubs were trimmed, a birds nest was discovered and trimming stopped. We both looked at the fledglings with a sense of awe and hope and then I grabbed our cat and flung her into the living room. No worries there. The cat’s used to it. And richly deserves it! We then checked the bush for snakes. None. These little birds looked like a proposition. Nothing around that would tear them to shreds or gulp them.

About an hour later the gardener and I were still pottering about in the garden. He did the work, I did the pottering and I brought him iced water and money and we didn’t say anything because he can’t speak English and I can’t speak Thai (if he is a Thai) or Lao (if he is a Lao) or Vietnamese (if he’s Vietnamese) ) or anything else (if he’s anything else). But it was a comfortable time. I was the lazy boss. He was the fairly busy gardener. He likes it that way. It’s steady, reassuring. Comfortable. And a lot better working for a polite, overly generous white man than digging drains for the Khmer Rouge and getting shot in the bollocks then bashed in the head by a ten year old wearing a red scarf and black PJs. After all was trimmed and the security of the fledglings and nest was assured, the gardener gave me an extreme smile and staggered off with his ladder and a very very very long pole with a hook on the top. He uses it artfully to cut tamarind from the trees and he carried with him fruit and more than his average day’s wages.

Chang then appeared looking triumphant waving a cucumber that was the size of a water melon. It was a huge cucumber! By huge I mean HUGE!

It was the biggest cucumber I have ever seen! And Monsanto had nothing to with it!

“Take a photo!”

“Great idea, Chang! But there is a but. My wife’s taken the camera!’

BLOG ED NOTE: Did anything else happen?

Hugh: Yes. Lots of people arrived and they all brought things, strange intriguing things. And a giant turtle splashed into the pond. It was almost twice the size of my cucumber and wanted to eat my tropical fish!

BLOG ED: No photographic evidence of your Guinness Records cucumber? Or your turtle?

Hugh: She’d taken my camera! My wife! She took it!

BLOG ED: So no evidence?

Hugh: The cucumber’s in my fridge and there’s a turtle in my pond and why am I arguing with you?

BLOG ED: Why are you posting this blog? Nobody’s interested in your day to day what I did today blather.

Hugh: You are right, it is a bit dull. I’ll stop. And I’ll go and have a very large cucumber sandwich.

Thai Days: FW: BBC News: ‘Deep shock’ over Malaysia jet crash

July 18, 2014 by

Hugh Paxton’s Blog suggests that this is the time to book a flight with Malaysia’s flag carrying airline! Nobody else will be doing it, you’ll have elbow room, plenty of space, three hundred meals to eat, and the in-flight staff will be very attentive because they will be under-worked and scared rigid.

Just because a plane’s been shot down and another one has vanished without trace doesn’t mean the airline is incompetent. Or incapable of flying you to your destination and delivering you intact with all your luggage. I suspect that the ticket price has become attractive. Don’t desert this airline! I’ve flown with them frequently and haven’t been killed or dunked into the depths of the Indian ocean and eaten by gigantic crabs in the sun-less seabed.

The food I recall – rather good! I have always liked the stewards and stewardesses. The pilot chatter “Sit back and relax” has been short and comforting, but most importantly, short, and I rate the airline service as superior to many of its competitors.

These chaps are just having a run of bad luck. I’m flying to London on Sunday – not with Air Malaysia – but if I could, I would.

Cheers from Bangkok!



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