Thursday, December 31, 2009

Blue Moon Hogmanay birthday, end of the decade lists, 2010 looms

A 'blue moon', technically, is a second full moon occurring within a month of a previous full moon. And there's one today. Which is not only Hogmanay, obviously, but also my 54th birthday.

The lists thing began yesterday with 'my top ten live albums of all time' and then provoked a couple of old pals (Douglas Small and Phil Blakeman) into requiring my top ten ALBUM albums of all time. As by that time it was mid-evening and I was already celebrating my impending birthday, it was an off-the-top-of-the head, three-glasses-of-sweet-sherry attempt, which you can find at the end of this post. I see no reason to retract. I will go along with Phil's list, though (also reproduced), as excellent in every way other than Robin Trower (bad cape) and Anita Baker (one good song.

Anyway, this is just for fun. Enjoy, disagree, fulminate and agitate. And have a good time tonight.

Tom's Top Ten Albums of the (ie,made in this) Decade:

(in no particular order)

The Killers: Hot Fuss
Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds: Dig, Lazarus, Dig!
Hello Saferide: More Modern Short Stories From Hello Saferide
Lambchop: Is a Woman
Ryan Adams: Gold
Bob Dylan: Love and Theft
Elbow: The Seldom Seen Kid
Paolo Nutini: Sunny Side Up
Elvis Perkins: Ash Wednesday
Arcade Fire: Funeral

(lurking: The Hold Steady: Boys and Girls in America; Moby: Wait for Me; Amy Winehouse: Back to Black (and not 'Back In Black' which is someone else entirely)

Tom's Top Ten Tracks of the Decade

The Killers: All These Things That I've Done
Arcade Fire: No Cars Go
Paolo Nutini: Growing Up Beside You
Idlewild: American English
Elvis Perkins: Ash Wednesday
Elbow: Grounds for Divorce
Bruce Springsteen: Radio Nowhere
Bob Dylan: Mississippi
Hello Saferide: Anna
Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds: More News From Nowhere

(lurking: Frightened Rabbit's Swim Until You Can't See Land; Ryan Adams' version of Wonderwall; Amy Winehouse: Rehab)

Tom's Plucked from Mid-Air Top Ten Albums of All Time

Darkness on the Edge of Town - Springsteen
Funeral - Arcade Fire
Blue - Joni Mitchell
London Calling - Clash
Humans - Bruce Cockburn
The Las
Steve Earle - Guitar Town
Van Morrison - Veedon Fleece
Live 1966 - Bob Dylan
A Walk Across the Rooftops - Blue Nile

Different tomorrow. Costello first somewhere. Hank Williams Health and Happiness Hour. Waits Asylum Years, etc etc
(on reflection, Spotlight on Al Green would be in there, the Greatest Seduction Album Ever(!) Also Out On the Floor Tonight (Stateside Northern Soul compilation)and that great Atlantic/Stax four album set).


Phil Blakeman's Top Ten (roughly) Albums of All Time

Blood on the Tracks - Bob Dylan
Rapture - Anita Baker
Into the Music - Van Morrison
Poet 2 - Bobby Womack
Born to Run - Bruce Springsteen
Heartattack & Vine - Tom Waits (if we are not allowing greatest hits) Last Record Album - Little Feat Argus - Wishbone Ash Robin Trower Live Tonight's the Night - Neil Young Average White Band (first album) Royal Scam - Steely Dan 10 Easy Pieces - Jimmy Webb Hats - Blue Nile Every Picture Tells a Story - Rod Stewart

For the moment, that's all folks! But as I say. It may all be different tomorrow...

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

The top ten live albums of all time...as they occur to me this minute

Following on from a non-sequitur on yesterday's show, and the news (thanks, Mike Ritchie) that Van Morrison is a father again at the age of 64 (to George Ivan Morrison III, dead spit of his dad, poor wee sod), it occurred to me that the Top Ten Live Albums of All Time might be an interesting notion to pursue...so, off the top of my head (and revealing a sad nostalgia for the 70s and beyond):

(1) It's Too Late To Stop Now - Van Morrison and the Caledonia Soul Orchestra
(2) Live in Europe - Rory Gallagher
(3) Bootleg Series: Live 1966 - Bob Dylan
(4) Live - Randy Newman
(5) Live 1975-1985 - Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band
(6) Get Yer Ya-Yas Out - Rolling Stones
(7) Live at Folsom Prison - Johnny Cash
(8) Live at Leeds - The Who
(9) My Feet Are Smiling - Leo Kottke
(10)Before the Flood - Bob Dylan and the Band

....and I have to admit that in my admittedly dodgy opinion, Wings Over America, Bob Dylan At Budokan, the 1964 Dylan Bootleg series live album, and Bruce Cockburn's Slice O'Life are lurking just outside...

Hi-Viz and getting down to broadcasting basics

Strange time of year; strange days. In between Christmas and New Year, loads of people on holiday, loads of people mildly or very drunk, loads of people hungover, shopping, dreaming, playing with new Santa delievered toys.

The Tom Morton Show has always gone for live as opposed to pre-recorded when it comes to the festive season, basically due to a recognition by all concerned,I think, that I'm really, really crap at pre-records. Unless we're talking highly structured, carefully written mega productions like the recent alcohol endeavours. I sometimes think I've developed such a tolerance to adrenalin after the years of live broadcasting that without the mild threat of disaster a live show brings, the tamped-down rush, there isn't the concentration or energy to produce the requisite performance.

So I really don't mind the two hours of live TMS each day, while other presenters are at home or engaged in apres-ski at their Alpine chalets. No, that's not resentment. I hate ski-ing. One agonising weekend in Aviemore was enough.

I suppose this live broadcasting lark is a bit like exercise. Once you're running or cycling or Pilates-ing daily, missing a session leaves you feeling...naggingly incomplete. Two hours of inconsequential nattering between records, waiting for either wit or witlessness to come out of your own mouth, gets to be a habit.

Of course, you can (and regularly should) get over this. That's called a holiday, when you can go through adrenalin detox and the Powers That Produce can try out potential replacement presenters. And there's loads of them about. I used to worry about this - after all, that's the path into Radio Scotland I trod myself - but what's the point? If the worst comes to the worst I can always get on eBay and start flogging all those free CDs I've accrued over the years (only joking! These days, compliance rules mean that surplus CDs aren't even given to charity shops; they're landfilled).

Actually, what I wanted to write about today was Hi-Viz jackets, and the way that, during these strange half-lit, snow-filled days, everything is reduced to the absolute essentials of existence: Get up, check the (cold) weather. Breakfast, do news and web checks, dogs out, dogs in, dress. No-one cares what I look like. Radio Shetland's shut, there's nobody there but the occasional painter. And me in the self-op studio. The only people I'll be speaking to, save family, are listening to the radio. So it's the uber-practical approach. And in Shetland, potentially lifesaving: Old jeans, thick socks, Raichle hiking boots, t-shirt, jumper (hoodie for prime comfort) hat, British Army tank commander gloves, padded Hi-Viz jacket, 20 quid from North Eastern Farmers. Warm and in darkest daylight Shetland, the only thing that prevents a pedestrian being pulped.

Transport? Not the classic Merc, which is rubbish anyway and still in the garage. Not the newish Citroen, which is hopeless in the snow. Got to be the crude-as-a-brick Isuzu pick-up truck, noisier than a cement mixer and almost as fast. Old, rusty but with everything in it working perfectly. That'll do. Overnight bag in case I get really stuck. Food, shovel, de-icer. Into town, 35 miles. Broadcast. Come back.

Broadcast: how does that function? A producer and an engineer are in Aberdeen, connected to the Big Aerial in Glasgow. I have a list of songs, all stored on the mainframe computer, somewhere deep below Wick. A playlist for daytime broadcasting is compiled weekly in Glasgow, although me and the producers can mess with it, to an extent. I'm checking and listening all day for stuff that I can talk about, and more importantly, that the listener might be interested in. Being connected is the thing. All media, old, nearly new: papers, radio, telly, internet. Family stuff, local news, dog behaviour. Sometimes it works well, sometimes it just works. Facebook and Twitter have changed the relationship with the audience over the past year. There are regular listeners, erudite, clever folk with funny tales and suggestions for topics we could discuss. Interactivity? You got it. We need it.

So there we are. Broadcasting a two hour live music show, stripped down to basics. I still love it, of course. In a curious way, especially at this strange time of year.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Sea level snow at daybreak.

Woken for some reason at 5.00 am to find snow falling in shovelfuls. It was, thankfully, a shower, not a Narnian Event. The roads have, as usual in Shetland, been cleared and gritted. Scandinavian welfare state, you see. Still, should be an interesting trip into Lerwick.


Saturday, December 26, 2009

Robert Stewart's CCTV birdboxes in Shetland

These magically quirky CCTV birdboxes are sculptures built by the Glasgow-based architectural model maker Robert Stewart. They were part of Susan's Christmas (after much heart-stopping trepidation on my part, she loved them)and are now installed inside and outside our house. You can buy them from Glasgow's superb Recoat Gallery in North Woodside Road. Many thanks to Amy for getting them here in time for Christmas Day.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Tom's Christmas guide to Shetland pick-up truck culture (keeping the TM Show on air over the festivities)

Merry Christmas! Here's my Christmas Eve guide to the wondrous vehicle that gets me in and out to Lerwick when more sophisticated 4WDs slide, slither and slump. Remember, the TM Show is live on BBC Radio Scotland throughout Christmas and New Year, with the exception of Christmas Day itself.


Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Hey, fancy a wee train trip in the snow?

This is just 10 glorious minutes of the train journey through the mountains between Bergen and Oslo in Norway, shot from the front of the engine. In the snow. Believe it or not, Norwegian broadcaster NRK will let you download, free, the entire seven hours in HD...if you have a spare 22gb. Emerging from those tunnels is like...happiness.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Ferry in the snow, and the Invisible Source of All British Wealth



To Lerwick, early, on relatively clear roads, thanks to absolutely superb gritting and ploughing. And the fact that nothing like as much snow fell as expected. I'd arranged to collect Magnus from the ferry at the relatively civilised time of 9.00am, though it usually gets in at 7.30. Not today. Horrendous weather south of Orkney meant she didn't dock there until 2.00am, though time was made up in the (quite) calm seas between here and Kirkwall; she got into Lerwick around 8.00am. All times are approximate due to Magnus being sound asleep/oversleeping. Hence me waiting in the terminal buildng drinking lousy machine coffee.

It's now a gloriously sunny day, though we await further snow with interest. The second picture shows (though you have to look very, very carefully) the source of all the UK's oil wealth, the Sullom Voe oil and gas terminal. Due next year to see massive new investment from Total in a gas-fired power station. Couple that with the proposed new wind and wave farms, and Shetland could become Britain's oil, gas and electricity powerhouse. Shetland is also very pleasing aesthetically, as you can probably gather. Though being a tourist over the next few years could be tricky, as all hotels are likely to be full of Frenchmen in boiler suits.

You can see how much of a visual impact the terminal has...though I should point out that at this time of year, it gets dark at 3.00pm...so it's even less visible!

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Brutal weather settling in for the weekend


Very cold, windy and sideways snow that (so far) isn't staying put. Forecast for tonight and tomorrow much worse, which is a pity because Mag's on the boat tonight. Stove lit, generator filled with petrol, Citroen abandoned in favour of Isuzu double-cab 2.8-litre turbo diesel 4WD pickup. Economical? No, but it'll go up The Clavie in 5th gear...

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Lerwick and Hillswick by day, Voxter by night




I'm afraid my night-time mobile phone snap doesn't communicate the full, overwhelming impact of those Christmas lights. And this in a community so dark-ridden at this time of year that valiant battles against the night result in probably the most spectacular household lighting in Europe.

The other pictures show a salvaged anchor up at Bruce Wilcock's smithy in my home village of Hillswick (he makes new versions of that, full size, if you're interested) and a couple of hyper-trawlers in Lerwick with just a few of the boxes needed to hold their catch. These boats are so powerful and their catching capacity so massive they fill their annual quotas very quickly; they're at sea only for part of the year and still make very large amounts of cash indeed.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Paolo Nutini and The Vipers cover Arcade Fire

backstage in Paris. I'm sure you'll agree it's rather good! The limited edition vinyl box set of Sunny Side Up is still available (1000 copies only) and is a dead cert for collectability, particularly if you don't play it! But that would be a shame, as the vinyl mastering is a bit of a revelation.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Christmas cards, political iconography, flags, history and hyper-realist art: be very careful


Alex Salmond, Scotland's First Minister, wishes us a very merry Christmas with his official card, seen here. It's a painting by Gerard Burns called 'A New Journey'. I'm afraid it sent me off on a disturbing trip through Google Images. Hyper-realist art, flags, and young girls with blond hair? Some images cannot be redeemed from past associations.


Sunday Herald Diary/Tom Morton's Week (13th December)

Unsubbed copy for those unable/unwilling to access the print version, which comes with pictures. Though I believe you can subscribe to a full digital edition online at
http://www.heraldscotland.com


December Sunday Herald Diary 13th December

Monday

At this time of year, the Greater Zetlandics, in which I live and breathe and have my tattie soup, are darker than the heart of a senior Royal Bank of Scotland executive. There are brief blinks of -often beautiful - light. giving rise to what the locals call 'lightsomeness'. Flickers of happiness in the murk of midwinter.
But seasonal affective disorder takes its toll on many, and today I, feeling the need for some ultra violet stimulation, go looking for the SAD lamp I was sure lurked somewhere in our old house's ample innards. Aha! Here's one, I think, rummaging amid abandoned computers, some mummified sheep, whales' jawbones and piles of dead mobile phones. Sure enough, plugging in and switching on the four-tube Phillips apparatus produces a blinding purplish light that, after several minutes, seems to be improving my mood. At least, my vision is suffused with a pulsing, hazy opacity and the surrounding darkness appears to be receding. I am conscious of a strange prickly sensation on my beardless patches, however.
At this point, my wife bursts in and switches the thing off, informing me that this is NOT an SAD-alleviating lamp, but an abandoned acne-curing skin-sizzler once used by one of my departed-for-Scotland sons. I had been at risk of (1) blinding myself and (2)crispy beard syndrome. Not to mention blazing eyebrows. I stagger outside into the howling morning darkness, let the cooling hurricanes waft around my visaqe, and wait for something approximating proper vision to return. Then I check on the sea.
This is not difficult, as our house adjoins the foamy deep. In fact, sometimes, our house is actually in it. Back in the late 1970s, three feet of the North Atlantic invaded the kitchen, and while rock armouring, a sea wall and other measures have since been put in place, it always pays to check the ocean's mood before assuming that the day, and the house, will be entirely free of salt water. The kayaks are always kept accessible.
As for what global warming will do, we can only await developments. The house has been in its present position, perched on a spit of shingle between two beaches, for over 300 years; some of its timber window frames, as the double glazing man discovered, made of old ships' spars. But what's 300 years these days?
Over in Copenhagen, they're having a summit on the climate. Something Must Be Done. Its is, self-proclaimedly, 'the most important conference the world has ever held.' Park that Range Rover! Buy a bicycle. Meanwhile, all our ground floor electrical sockets are four feet off the ground, just in case the arctic ice cap melts suddenly. Better safe than unable to watch the X Factor. Or order a 'Go Mouse' online, one of the hottest Christmas presents this year, allegedly. Worldwide controversy has broken out over one that is meant to sing 'Jingle Bells' at the touch of its furry little foot, but instead appears to be proclaiming 'paedophiles! paedophiles'. It makes an appearance on BBC Radio Four. Something to do with a Chinese accent speeded up, apparently. Now the whole lot risk being dumped into the sea, there to add to the vast quantities of pollution currently strangling the prawns. I expect to see a bedraggled Go Mouse washed into our kitchen in a couple of years...

Tuesday

Tiger Woods' sponsorship deals are now not so much ebbing away as plunging down the Reichhenbach Falls like a misjudged Moriarty jet ski record breaking attempt. To quote the great Howard Jones: Tiger, you can look at the menu, but you don't have order the entire a la carte selection. A traffic accident has morphed into a hasty exit from his own house, pursued by Elin Nordengren Woods, a vengeful viking supermodel chucking mobile phones and whirling an iron. Add to that mounting evidence of drink, drugs plus a trashed vestibule. Then you have Jesper Pernavik suggesting, helpfully, on the Golf Channel that the aggrieved wife's choice of club was ill-advised. Something with a bit more clout might have been better. Suddenly, more and more women are coming out of the woodwork, the cocktail bars, the strip clubs and porn movie shoots to claim that they, too, have (insert golfing double entendre here) with Mr Woods. Let's just say playing away from home.
It's now very difficult to see how Tiger can ever excel at this most psychological of games again, unless he wears incredibly efficient earplugs to prevent him hearing the, ahem, pithy comments of both galleries and partners, just at the crucial moment of addressing the ball. (Hey Tiger! you and your wife going clubbing later? If you're taking the car, better use a driver, etc etc. I'm keeping it clean, obviously.)
David Letterman,whose hands are not exactly clean when it comes to dodgy
behaviour on the romantic front, broadcast a 'Top Ten Ways for Tiger to Improve His Image' list, the best of which was probably 'Release list of women he hasn’t slept with', but it was the 79-year-old Clint Eastwood who quipped, off the cuff,
'I have great respect for him as a golfer, especially now - that I realise he wasn't thinking about golf when he was out there playing.' So that's the secret! Right. I'm off to the driving range to think about sex all the time. Mind you, it's never helped in the past. Fore!

Wednesday

Back in the eye of the storm - Lerwick Town Hall, where all kinds of hellery was expected to break loose at the meeting of Shetland Islands Council. It's probably too complicated to explain for non-islanders, but here's the executive summary: New chief executive Dave Clark gets up the noses of various councillors. The council gets up its own nose, and various of its other orifices, in a series of bizarre decisions costing millions of pounds that leave the local populace wondering what on earth is going on. There are accusations of drinking, shouting, insults, swearing; sex rears its head, then discreetly nips out for a cigar; the police are called, the police go away, The Assistant Chief Executive is told his job has been deleted, he takes three months off work, the Audit Commission are called in, make aghast noises, go away. So does a very unhappy man from ACAS, called into mediate the unbiddable. Shetland MSP Tavish Scott and his Lib Dem colleague Alistair Carmichael wade in on the Assistant Chief Executive's behalf. Councillors proceed to get lawyered up, ready for what is hinted could be punitive claims for compensation from Mr Clark, who's fed up being badmouthed from Muckle Flugga to Fitful Head. Today, it's all meant to come to a head, with six councillors calling for the chief exec's bonce in a bucket, or his ritual dunking in the harbour until he cries for mercy.
Instead, the assistant chief executive, Willie Shannon, gets offered his job back. A new, £100,000-a-year Extra Additional Assistant Chief executive post is created to Mr Clark's specifications, no-one gets decapitated or defenestrated, and phew, it's Christmas. Ho ho ho. It'll be Up Helly Aa soon, a festival which Mr Clark apparently asked to take part in. He was quietly told that so many of the satirical skits being prepared by guizers involved him as a character it might be difficult to tell the reality from the fictional. And then someone thought, but what if we had the REAL chief executive playing himself? Like Boris Johnson in East Enders? Developments are awaited.

Thursday

The fragrant Roseanna Cunningham, that groovy goddess among grumpynats, is now Minister for Crufts and Tweed, and thus finds herself in Inverness for the launch of predecessor Mike Russell's Tweedy Crufters Bill. Doubtless she will be explaining to the many tweedy (and non tweedy) crofters gathered in Dolphinsludge, Queen of the Highland Fleshpots, that all that stuff she told Gamekeeper's And Poachers Weekly about not wearing tweed was woven by the evil gorehounds of the press into something much less wearable than it actually was. Loving the Lidl look, Roseanna.
Meanwhile, Mr Russell himself, no longer Minister for Crufts, but Education And Everything Else, pops up, confusingly still representing Culture, External Affairs and The Constitution, as writer of the foreword to a truly excellent book by Professor Alastair Dawson, called So Foul and Fair a Day: A History of Scotland's Weather and Climate. A great Christmas present, this book not only spells out, entertainingly, how weather works, but traces Scotland's history in terms of the weather and how it has affected various events. From the Goniel Blast of 1794 to the legendary flying pig of Orkney (1934; it belonged to Peter Johnson of Gaitnip Farm, East Mainland, and travelled 50 yards through the air), it's a bracing but very pleasant breeze of a book. The copy I have is shockingly bound, however. Tug the pages a bit before you buy it.

Friday

Much musing about the decision by Annunziata Rees-Mogg, prospective Tory candidate for posh-shire, to change her political name to Nancy. Nancy Mogg? It sounds like a cartoon cat. The shortening or familiarising of nomenclature can be a thorny subject. My wife, Susan is called Sue by many, and always, within five minutes of meeting, by those from south of the border. She hates it. I have been Tom since I went to university, and abaonded the 'Tommy' I had been since birth (named for my grandfather. Until my own sons, the Morton male line had been George/Thomas/George/Thomas unto time immemorial).
Media lawyer and man-aboot-Glesca Austin Lafferty tells me that his name is actually shortened from Augustine. Why not go for Augie, I tell him, in that Noo Yawk style? too late, it seems, but at one point, for meeja pruposes, he was Gus. Like Tom, it's a one-syllable winner, but alas theere are loads fo Gusses and many more Toms, including, oddly, on in Australia, who's a broadcaster, journalist and author. Confusion can reign across library sheklves, and once did for me at a reading in Lossiemouth. it was at this point that I nearly changed my name to 'Thom' but realised everyone would think I had developed a lisp. Meanwhile, what I want to know is: where have all the Sengas gone?

Saturday
I was very sorry to hear about the tragedy that befell German tiger-tamer Christian Walliser, who was mauled by his three Bengal tigers during a performance in Hamburg. Surely, though calling the evening The Dinner Circus was tempting fate just a tad?

In: Alistair Darling's eyebrows (still blacker than the Ace of Spades)
Out: Alistair Darling's hair (receding like the tide on a Hebridean beach)
Shake it All About: The economy. A big enough shoogle and something's bound to happen.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Extraordinarily beautiful weather in Shetland today





These were all taken on a Nokia 5800 phone on the drive into Lerwick. the first picture is Johnnie Mann's Loch in Northmavine, a place I once stopped next to at night for a sleep, until I woke up remembering the horrifying ghost story associated with it (headless horseman). No sign of the fellow.

Anyway, the further south I got this morning, the more fog began to gather, until the Tingwall Valley (which contains an airport) was covered in a layer of sunlit mist. Lovely. But a bad sign for the Steve Earle gig tonight at Clickimin, which had to be cancelled due to freezing fog in Inverness.

Frosty dawn over the backyard, after a beautiful starlit night



...and curiously, I heard this lovely song by Canadian singer-songwriter Bruce Cockburn just as I sat down at my computer after a walk in the utterly still, starlit Shetland night. Don't think I've ever seen Orion so clearly outlined. But no aurora! The sun is too cool for Da Merrie Dancers to make their appearance. Mair sunspots!

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Effortless on-stage tuning of a 12-string guitar disguised by great tale about Bob Dylan.

Leo Kottke is a genius. I bought the album My Feet Are Smiling in 1974 on the basis of a review in the NME and a poster I saw in the SRC building at Glasgow University, advertising one of his gigs. The poster showed him juggling oranges. I knew nothing about him, but I was obsessed with the acoustic guitar. I can still just about play All Through The Night in open G using a slide, as a result...

I remembered him this week because he was a major influence on wunderkind Newton Faulkner, whose first album Hand Built By Robots is thoroughly recommended. Parental record collections have a lot to answer for.

Saturday, December 05, 2009

Tom Morton's Week - in The Sunday Herald today (6 December)

Impossible to find via the Herald website, so...buy the paper. Loads of good stuff in there. But if you want to read the unsubbed column, it's here. And here.


TOM MORTON’S WEEK



Monday

It’s St Andrew’s Day, and what better time to debate Scotland’s history. As opposed to ‘Scotland’s History’, the BBC series that is fast becoming the barber’s chair into which the forces of heavy-duty historical education wish to bind Mr Neil Oliver, a male model. There to saw off his lank, if heavily conditioned locks with a rusty claymore.

The spat between Mr Oliver and, in particular, Professor Tom Devine over their individual physical attributes has afforded hours of pleasure to those of us more accustomed to discussing history without reference to the Atkins Diet and Mr Vidal Sassoon’s various products. The Great Devine, a man blessed with verbosity so uninterruptible I once heard Garrison Keillor reduced to monosyllables on live radio, has attacked Mr Oliver’s Braveheartian style. Mr Oliver has commented on the gravitas-laden Devine’s ‘substantial’ appearance. Alas, though, we were not afforded the chance to compare and contrast their two carefully calibrated ‘looks’ on the BBC’s St Andrew’s Night Debate. Mr Oliver was in evidence, The Great Professor nowhere to be seen. He claimed to have been ‘blackballed’ by the BBC.

Not the case, I am assured. It was purely due to a production error involving swopped photographs of Professor Greatness and the actor Brian Cox, who did appear on the programme, wrapped all in jute and with a most unconvincing Broughty Ferry accent. Mr Cox, set to appear in the upcoming multi million pound feature film ‘My History – The Devine Story’ has been auditioning (along with Tom Cruise, Ewen McGregor, Gerard Butler and Zac Ephron) for the part of the Prof in said biopic, and was booked due to understandable visual confusion by a media underling. The actor’s decision to take Robert De Niro’s Raging Bull approach to impersonating the Prof seems to be paying off. More pies! Meanwhile, attempts to persuade Mr Oliver to shave his head for Children in Need failed miserably, after he claimed that, were this to happen, ‘all his strength would desert him.’ There appears to be a precedent for this. In history. Or mythology. Or something. What’s the difference?

Tuesday

Full moon. Scary stuff abounds. Such as the prospect of environmental minister Roseanna Cunningham (inspiration for that peculiar lyric by the great band Toto ‘all I want to do in the middle of the evening is hold you tight’) dressed head to toe in Harris Tweed, rampaging on horseback through the fields of Perthshire, whip in hand, bellowing ‘mair foxes!’

This is not, you will be relieved to know, one of Tavish Scott’s mid-debate fantasies, but perhaps the greatest inner fear of Ms Cunningham herself. In an interview with that mass circulation organ, SGAM, The Scottish Gamekeepers’ Association Magazine, the Perth MSP said: “The danger is it (tweed) gets wrapped up in a very 19th-century Victorian gentleman’s view of rural Scotland.

“I see people who have no major connection with the country wearing the costume, and that I shy away from.” (note reference to horsewomanship) “I hate seeing that. The reason people wear tweed is because it’s hard-wearing and it identifies, but not so they can stand around and look scenic for tourists. Tweed was appropriate for ghillies and gamekeepers, she said, but not for her: “If I were to dress like that I would be in danger of becoming a laughing stock, as many people do.” Surely not, Rosie? And you in that Primark top, too!

This has, inevitably, provoked fulmination from the Harris Tweed industry, who point out that their hand-made local product has become the choice of top designers worldwide. I can only say that, as someone allergic to horses, I have recently acquired a Harris Tweed waistcoat and cap, though I couldn’t afford a jacket and had to buy a Yorkshire tweed version. I’m going for the John Bonham (while still alive) rock drummer look. Waistcoats disguise a multitude of overindulgences.

Meanwhile, you may be aware that former Labour Party tactical nuclear missile Brian Wilson is now an eminent figure in the world of Harris Tweed. Prompting the joke from a columnist on this very publication: Why do Brian Wilson’s tweed jackets not fit properly? Because he’s got a chip on both shoulders.’

Wednesday

My all-female production team refuse to sanction an on-air discussion about record players, turntables, CD players and streaming audio, as ‘it’s a man thing.’ Huh. Then, in the privacy of my own living room, my much-esteemed wife demands that my much-loved pile of Linn, NAD and KEF hi-fi equipment is ‘made less intrusive.’ In high dudgeon, I remove it all, setting it up in the shed (it’s a large and weatherproof shed. Or, if you prefer, small house). Along with the, ahem, other two sound systems, recording and broadcasting gear, bicycles, disassembled Suzuki GS1000G, photography equipment and life size portrait of Roseanna Cunningham.

It has just been announced, first that Eaglesham hi-fi manufacturer Linn is to abandon making CD players, in favour of boxes that’ll play music from computer files. Linn will, however, continue to make the machine that started it all for them, the Sondek. A record player. A thing that plays vinyl LPs. Remember them? It seems more and more are discovering their superior sound. Not, however, Technics, who have just revealed that production of their legendary 1200/1210 turntable (beloved of DJs and hip-hop scratchers the world over) is to end.

During my days as a salesperson for Russ Andrews HiFi’s deceased Glasgow branch, Maeto Musik, Linn’s founder, Ivor Tiefenbrun was forever in the shop, fulminating, as was his Malcolm Tuckerish wont, about everything from CDs (‘the pits’ was the motto on one Linn t-shirt) to middle eastern politics, Jaguars, German cars and the utter rubbishness of all sound equipment not made in Glasgow. Including, it should be said, Technics record decks. This is the man who once, during a meal at a Mexican restaurant, sliced apart the in-house speaker wires when the owner refused to switch it off. As my producers say, maybe it’s a man thing.

Thursday

Shane McGowan of the Pogues may be a sorrowful figure to some – a semi-functioning alcoholic, with rotting teeth, unfocussed eyes and, when he can actually move of his own volition, stumbling gait – but he is also one of the greatest lyricists in modern music. And a survivor.

One of the earliest Sex Pistols superfans (there’s a picture of him having part of his ear bitten off at a Pistols gig) he is now set to follow in the celebrity footsteps of Johnny Rotten Lydon by taking part in a reality TV show. To be broadcast on RTE1 on Monday, 'Victoria and Shane Grow Their Own' follows the adventures of McGowan and girlfriend Victoria Mary Clarke when they try living in eco-friendly fashion, growing their own vegetables and rearing their own animals.

All, you will be unsurprised to know, does not go according to plan. Clarke is no gardener and McGowan does not fancy himself as a horny-handed tiller of the soil. 'Victoria and Shane Grow Their Own' is due to be broadcast on RTÉ One on December 8th. The concept has not found favour with some dyed-in-the-wool Pogues fans, who see Clarke as taking advantage of Westminster School educated McGowan. Still, surely that fresh air will be good for them both.

Friday

It’s Shetland Times day. The last saturation-coverage newspaper in Scotland, possibly the world, publishes this morning, and throughout the islands, everything stops for perusal of the hatches, matches, and dispatches, the for-sale classified (‘one wedding dress, never used; sheepdog, good with children’ ran one I remember).

After a year, I can buy a Times (and hereabouts, there is only one ‘Times’) locally, as our township has its shop back. Community owned, too, after a buy-out, refurbishment (almost entirely by voluntary labour) and much commitment by all of us actually use the thing, rather than travelling the 35 miles to our nearest supermarket.

And what’s in ‘da pepper’? Favourite chorus from notoriously cynical Shetlanders is ‘dere’s naethin in it’, but that has certainly not been true over the past year, which has seen the near-meltdown of the local council in a welter of police complaints, personal accusations and shouting; a furious local row about a planned windfarm, and even the statement by a sheriff last week that Shetland had the highest rate of heroin abuse in Scotland.

All this has happened on the watch of editor Paul Riddell, formerly at The Scotsman and prone to what some may call eccentricities in his editorial style, including a recent leader entirely in loftily-quoted Latin. Lately, contributors to the paper’s letters page have found their missives going unpublished. However, the Times’s on-line rival The Shetland News, has been airing them. Last week, this provoked Mr Riddell himself (at a reputed 50 grand a year, the best paid local editor in Scotland) to contribute to the News’s letters page: a savage attack on one climate change doubter whose letter had failed to reach The Shetland Times’s high standards of objectivity, and adherence to the views of Mr Riddell. Oh, the joys of island media life!

Saturday

It’s The Thick Of It Day. Malcolm Tucker is in meltdown, and yet Peter Capaldi’s character remains the best hope for a Labour victory at the next election. But it’s not over. As he said himself last episode: “I used to be the f***ing pharoah, but now I am f***ing floundering in a f***ing Nile of shit. But I am gonna fashion a paddle out of that shit.” And, as everyone knows, Curly Wurlys should be the size of a small ladder.



IN: Gary: Tank Commander: best Scottish comedy series since Still Game

OUT: Happy Hollidays, worst Scottish comedy series since The Dawn of Time (but that was on Grampian)

(Don’t) SHAKE IT ALL ABOUT: Neil Oliver’s hair.

Tuesday, December 01, 2009