Sunday, December 27, 2015

On Mixcloud (with talking) and Spotify (no talking) The Beatcroft social embarrassing-dad/grandad-dancing New Year shindig playlist (with aspects of modernity)

Spotify playlist (no speech) here:
 https://open.spotify.com/user/shetlandic/playlist/1rPpTvq1v8x1w9aDVYfKiR


Or play the full 2-hour Mixcloud radio show (with talking) here:




Tumbling Dice – The Rolling Stones
Run Like The River – Vintage Trouble
Take Me To The River – Al Green
Mustang Sally – Wilson Pickett
Bad Moon Rising - Thea Gilmore
Rock’n’Roll Girls - John Fogerty
Poor Poor Pitiful Me – Warren Zevon
Tainted Love  – Gloria Jones
Some Kind Of Wonderful – The Soul Brothers Six
Money (That's What I Want) - Barrett Strong
(Love Is Like A) Heat Wave – Martha Reeves & The Vandellas
Too Many Fish In The Sea – The Marvelettes
Wishing Well – Free
Uptown Funk – Mark Ronson, Bruno Mars
Teenage Kicks – The Undertones
Song 2 – Blur
You Give Love A Bad Name – Bon Jovi
More Than a Feeling – Boston
I Fought the Law – The Clash
Won't Get Fooled Again – The Who
Ace of Spades – Motörhead
Jessie's Girl – Rick Springfield
Superstition – Stevie Wonder
Town Called Malice – The Jam
Does Your Mother Know – ABBA
Heroes  – David Bowie
Blitzkrieg Bop – Ramones
Good Times – CHIC
No Woman, No Cry  – Bob Marley & The Wailers
Get It On – T. Rex
Addicted To Love – Robert Palmer
Teardrops – Womack & Womack

Miss You  – The Rolling Stones

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Unfit for purpose? Lives at risk as decrepit air fleet fails Shetland

Sumburgh, Wednesday night. Photo:Ronnie Robertson/Shetland News



I have flown in and out of Shetland on all kinds of  aircraft.  Shorts of Belfast Flying Skips, Islanders, dodgy Cessnas, Made-in-Prestwick Jetstreams, the brilliant King Air air ambulance, Budgies (Hawker-Siddeley 748s), even the venerable Viscounts British Airways used back in the late 70s and early 80s. 

Ah, British Airways. Free booze, sometimes in very large quantities if things were becoming tricky. Who can forget the nail-biting, Budgie-buttock-clenching night we made three attempts to penetrate the thick fog around Shetland’s sooth end, each one abandoned at the last second as engines screamed and the aeroplane stood on its tail, double miniatures of your choice served after every aborted touchdown? Wild ballerina wingtip pirouettes around Sumburgh Head in high winds? Wave-height Dambuster runs from Orkney? That time a captain, on his last pre-retirement flight, decided to fly at low level from Glasgow up Loch Lomond and the Great Glen to Inverness?

Then BA offloaded everything to Loganair, and sold the right to paint the aeroplanes to something called FlyBe. Saabs, which always made me feel secure. Comforted. I liked Saabs. Reliable cars, heavy, solid, Swedish. Of course aeroplanes need somewhat different qualities from earthbound vehicles. The ability to take off being the most obvious. And land. Safely.

Loganair, on behalf of Flybe , who take the money, operate 13  Saab 340Bs, (34 leather seats, worn and rattly nowadays) and four stretch Saabs, called 2000s, seating 50. No booze, free or otherwise. bad coffee and a Tunnocks Caramel Wafer. They are not bad aircraft. Their worldwide crash record  is good. But they’re old and unreliable (even Saabs wear out) and, in the challenging (!) conditions of the Shetland run (Aberdeen to Shetland is 163 nautical miles, and should take 51 minutes), they are plainly past it.

Don’t just take my word for it. In October the pilots union BALPA complained in writing to Loganair that broken aircraft were “being returned to the line despite being unserviceable” and in some cases “aircraft retain defects that clearly affect flight safety”. BALPA subsequently stressed that their pilots would never fly an “unsafe” plane, and Loganair stated that  “the safety of our crews and passengers is and always will be our number one priority”.

But the ‘tech’ delays  have continued, public unrest in Shetland has grown and then last night, the Wednesday before Christmas, in nasty weather, a full emergency was declared at Sumburgh when a fully-loaded Saab landed on one engine. A warning light, so far, is all we know. 
How do you think it feels to be on a flight which declares a full emergency? To land in the brace position, in gusty winds, in the dark? Again? Old? With a heart condition, an ill baby, just out of hospital after an operation? To wonder if you or your loved ones will get home for Christmas? To live in a community utterly dependent on this lifeline service, and be treated, apparently with contempt not just by the private companies who seem worse-than-indifferent to the people they serve, but by the Scottish Government, which provides heavy subsidies, and the UK Government, which has authority over air safety via the Civil Aviation Authority?

I have a dozen close family members coming to Shetland over Christmas and New Year, and some of them have never been here before, never flown in anything smaller than an Easyjet Orange Charabanc, certainly nothing with propellers, something that looks like a prop from Casablanca. I want to say to them, look, trust the pilots: they won’t fly unless it’s safe. But why should we be put in this position by Loganair’s reliance on a fleet of aircraft that should have been replaced years ago? If, with take-the-money-and-paint-our-logo-on FlyBeNight, they’re refusing to invest in new hardware, how can we be sure their investment in maintenance and repair is beyond reproach?

Me, I prefer to travel by boat. Not that NorthLink, now run by Serco are above criticism. Their flat-bottomed ferries are not really suitable for the 200-mile, 12-14 hour Aberdeen-Shetland run (officially the longest and most dangerous ocean crossing in UK waters). It can be rough. As the joke goes, on FlyBe you think you’re going to die; on SercoLink you wish you were dead. Bad weather and, yes, technical problems over the festivities have seen sailings disrupted. But I always take comfort in the fact that boats sink relatively slowly. There are lifeboats.  

As far as I know, those much-vaunted lifejackets under your seats on aeroplanes have never saved a single life. But good engineering, properly maintained, most certainly has. People here in Shetland have lost confidence that Loganair and Flybe are supplying that good technology and proper maintenance. 

They are playing fast and loose with our lives. We are absolutely sick of it. And we are frightened.


Tuesday, December 22, 2015

A Shetland winter solstice, looking south to Edinburgh

22 December 2015


The sun has stopped
And turned
The slow climb north
Begins at last

The worst
Is never past
The past
Is not the worst

There's more. There's always more

Day broken, now
Grey flutter, mirk and gutter
Fire lit, peat reek
Lost summers speak
In smoke and flame

Water boils
Lamb roasts
Bread bakes
Fish fries

Past noon, the night
Frowns, glowers
This day of shite
Shuts down

The hours pass
Slow spring beckons
The clink of glass
Spirit poured, the burn

The glow
The parched demand

More. More
There's always more.














Saturday, December 19, 2015

A Beatcroft Social Christmas: 19th and 23rd December on Radio Vera Ireland, and Mixcloud from 20th

Here's the playlist:

Rockin' This Christmas – The Tractors
Jingle Bells – Booker T. & The MG's
Back Door Santa – Clarence Carter
Christmas In Washington – Steve Earle
If I'm Unworthy – Blake Mills
Tobacco Road – The Nashville Teens
Christmas Card From A Hooker In Minneapolis – Tom Waits
Presents For Christmas – Solomon Burke
Merry Christmas Baby – Otis Redding
Every Day Will Be Like A Holiday – William Bell
White Christmas – Otis Redding
Let it Snow – Harold Melvin & The Blue Notes
White Christmas – Aaron Neville
Blue Christmas Lights – Chris Hillman
Muhammad Ali (The Meaning of Christmas) – Greg Trooper
Cool, Cool Christmas – Bobby Nunn
Merry Xmas Everybody – Karine Polwart
Wonderful Christmastime – The Shins
Holiday – Vampire Weekend
I Heard The Bells On Christmas Day – The Civil Wars
Baby It's Cold Outside - feat. Norah Jones – Willie Nelson
Angels We Have Heard On High – Sufjan Stevens
Just Like Christmas – Low
Blowin' Free – Wishbone Ash
Winter Wonderland – Macy Gray
Deck The Halls – R.E.M.
Please Come Home For Christmas – Aaron Neville
O Come, O Come, Emmanuel – Punch Brothers
Jingle Bell Rock – Daryl Hall & John Oates
Santa Bring My Baby Back (To Me) – Elvis Presley
Lonely Christmas – The Moonglows
Santa Baby – Eartha Kitt
Santa Claus Is Comin' to Town - Single Version – Bruce Springsteen
Run Rudolph Run - Single Version – Chuck Berry

Jingle My Bells – The Tractors

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Too late: The loss of Ian Bell



Too late.

As we both approached our days-apart 60th birthdays, I thought about getting in touch with Ian. In the past we’d at least commiserated with each other about our mutually-advancing years. But I didn’t.

Lot of water under the bridge, lot of other stuff too...

Mostly to do with the referendum, I think. The curious thing is, although I knew Ian for 25 years, although we met, drank, ate, corresponded, we never really talked about politics. Which may seem strange, given he was Scotland’s pre-eminent political columnist. But it was all music, newspapers, family, books, dogs and a bit of religion. Gossip. Dylan and Springsteen, publishers and editors and...other stuff too. We just kind of got on.

Don’t get up gentlemen, I’m only passing through  

We shared a publisher, Mainstream, the same employers at different times. There was a memorable year of very sociable brainstorming sessions at  STV as members of a ‘cultural think tank’; some evenings and lunchtimes I can only remember patchily (“there’s jellyfish on this menu...jellyfish”), calls and letters and long emails about this and that. The thumb drive he sent me, containing an enormous selection of extremely obscure Bob bootlegs, still sits on my desk.

We rarely met, once I moved to Shetland. Eyemouth is  a long way, even in this small country. There was the occasional rendezvous in Edinburgh or Glasgow. A Book Festival gig which ended with me making dreadfully ill-judged jokes at a terribly serious  Amnesty International event, a drink or three after interviewing him about his wonderful, magisterial Dylan biography. I could never keep up, not remotely, not in any sense.

People are crazy and times are strange

The referendum. I wrote a  couple of heated columns, blogged, sometimes intemperately, wrote and published some songs and poems which I thought were entertaining and not too offensive, though with hindsight, they were. I argued against borders. Ian was of course the most trenchant, eloquent and committed supporter of independence.

There was no confrontation. Just a sudden absence of communication. We both had a lot to say, and suddenly nothing to each other. 

Things changed. And now we’ll never speak again.

Too late.

I’m locked in tight, I’m out of range

Like so many others who knew him, I’m absolutely devastated. 




(Things Have Changed by Bob Dylan)

Thursday, November 26, 2015

The West of Scotland Way



Spread the butter to the edge of the toast
That’s the way I like it most
Let it soak right in
Then lots of butter again
It makes my heart sing
It’s a West of Scotland thing

The bread? White, sliced, either plain or pan
That’s the only kind I can stand
Never wholemeal or brown
I can’t keep those down
You have to obey
What your West of Scotland body says

A grey meat pie, I always fancy that
Hot, with a crust so you can drink the fat
Chips should be soft, not hard
And always cooked in lard
That brings the sweetest joy
To every West of Scotland girl and boy

Irn Bru for breakfast, full sugar of course
And a Greggs jam doughnut, I could eat a horse
And maybe I did
That time in Madrid
It was hard to prove
Those weren’t West of Scotland hooves

And when I went to Venice
I almost died
Till I taught them that pizza
Had to be deep fried
Like Mario’s in Dumfries
Using West of Scotland grease

Benson and Hedges, tear the filters off
I need something to deal with my cough
Maybe some tonic wine
That works every time
You can keep your Beaujolais
I drink the West of Scotland way

I never walk if I can get the bus
I’m never ill, I never make a fuss
I’ve lived a good long time
I’m nearly 49
I’ve had a few good days

That’s the West of Scotland way.


BEATCROFTING, Tom's limited edition book of verse and daft prose (not incuding the above!) is available from The Beatcroft Shop.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Latest Radio Vera Ireland Beatcroft Social on Mixcloud, the playlist on Spotify and The Beatcroft Shop


Back in the Greater Zetlandics after our trip sooth which took in Aberdeen, Dundee, Glasgow, Edinburgh and London for Doc Suzy's elevation to Fellowship of the Royal College of General Practitioners (she joins such luminaries as Jamie Oliver). We missed the worst of the weather on the ferry crossings, but, as ever, thanks to Phenergan and a glass of wine, unconsciousness was our friend anyway...

Here's last Saturday's Beatcroft Social, as broadcast on Radio Vera Ireland and repeated Wednesday night at 10.00pm. Brand new one this weekend. The Spotify playlist can be accessed here.

Oh, and by the way, the wall panel/collage used to illustrated the show is spoken for but one or two others are available to buy at The Beatcroft Shop here.


Thursday, November 12, 2015

Cheers, Abigail. Storm surfing in the Shetland Isles

18.40

Well, it's still pretty breezy, but the Rayburn is on, I have a decent single malt within grasp, and some sturdy hurricane soup bubbling nicely. Steak pie and the last of the garden tatties, possibly a wee glass of Claret later. There is, after all, no more Scottish drink (discuss).

Flights have been getting in, the boat is probably going to sail north later, bringing with it the desperately needed supplies of sun dried tomatoes and organic orange-oil flavoured chocolate. I have cleared the dogshit from the doctor's hoose garden, and it's warm there too. So Dr Luke and his family should be OK when(if) they arrive tomorrow.

I think I will close this blog entry here. Abigail was over-hyped and fed into a media too keen to exaggerate scary natural phenomena its practitioners don't really care to understand. I'm growing increasingly fed up with the poor grasp of simple things like geography, spelling and wind speed possessed by my former journalistic colleagues in print and broadcasting.

Anyway, have a good night. And cheers.


13.40

Here's the Shetland Times story as of a wee while ago: Power cuts overnight, mostly caused by lightning. Gusts up to 68 mph on Unst (kinda average day, then!) First flight just landed (from Aberdeen) at Sumburgh. Bet that was fun. All Scatsta flights cancelled, limited service on internal ferries
http://www.shetlandtimes.co.uk/2015/11/13/storm-abigail-leaves-1000-properties-without-power

Much more entertaining is this, from the entirely serious Da Bonxie...
Meanwhile, Dr Luke and family are heading for Aberdeen and the boat should be in Shetland sometime tomorrow afternoon. I've just been up to the house they're coming to, and the central heating is working! Thanks Ross. This is the view from the lounge window.


Now, excuse me, I'm off to kill some mice. Or rather, one mouse. Ever seen the movie Mouse Hunt? It's happening right now, in Hillswick.

11.55
From the NorthLink website. Check in as normal at Aberdeen. They'll sail 'at earliest opportunity'.
M.V Hrossey
  • M.V Hrossey arrived in Aberdeen at 02:40 and is scheduled to depart at 19:00 sailing for Lerwick.
  • Due to on going weather conditions the departure time will now be delayed with the intention to sail at the earliest opportunity that sea conditions allow.
  • ETA in Lerwick will be Saturday afternoon.
  • Exact time will depend on departure from Aberdeen.
  • Passenger and Car Check-in opens at 17:00.
  • Final Passenger and Car Check-in is 18:30.
  • Car drivers are recommened to check-in at least 1 hour prior to departure.
  • All passengers are reminded to bring their booking reference with them for check-in.
  • For further information please call 0845 6000 449.


9.50am

Bluemull Sound ferry (Unst-Yell) now running 'normally'.


Friday 13 November 8.55am. Hillswick, Shetland
West Ayre this morning from a safe distance

Not as bad as anticipated, by any means, but still pretty hairy outside, particularly on the west coast. Both the Yell and Unst ferries are off, No planes have arrived in this morning, and there's water slopping over our armouring into the garden as the tide is very high. If the wind veers round (which it will at some point) in combination with a high tide, we could be in for flying beach stone/flooding action. Trevor's latest says this:
13/11/15, 08:30 is 5.9C (-3.7), rain today 0.14in, pressure 29.56in (Rising), wind W 23.5mph.
High tide at the garden wall
But Met Office forecast has gusts up 67 and steady winds of around 37. Add 10 to both of those figures for exposed lumps of the Zetlandics. All Shetland schools are closed, but the Hillswick surgery is open...Took the dog out for a dauner, though, pretty uncomfortable but the West Ayre is spectacular (sorry about the picture, doesn't capture it). That's an iPhone from the surgery garden.

NorthLink says the Hrossey got in to Aberdeen at 2.30am but tonight's sailing 'could be delayed', with an announcement later this morning.

Heating problems at the house Dr Luke and family will be staying in, so the Emergency Plumber Act is being invoked. At least the power is still on. For the moment...

22.00, Thursday . I'm going to venture out briefly with the dogs and then head to bed with a copy of Alan Furst's Midnight in Europe (comfort reading). Oddly, having told Susan that strong winds rarely cancelled flights, I notice that the Orkney-Shetland plane is coming up as 'diverted to Inverness due to strong winds' which may have been more in Orkney than Shetland, as the last Flybe/Loganairs from Edinburgh and Aberdeen got in. 

12/11/15, 22:00 is 9.2C (1.5), rain today 0.19in, pressure 29.50in (Falling quickly), wind SSW 20.2mph.

Wind gusting a good bit higher than that outside, but actually, it's not too bad at the moment by Shetland standards. Though I am glad I'm not on the Hrossey heading sooth! Night night...





18.04 Hillswick. Susan safely home. Wind now getting up. I have a bottle of Duvel, the thinking man's Superlager. NorthLink tweeting 'disruption' tomorrow. What, on Friday 13th? 

@NLFerries: **Advance warning of disruptions** Fri 13th Nov 2015 - Northbound Hrossey sched dep AB-LE 1900. Due to forecast may be rescheduled later dep

Meanwhile, the glass is, as they say, falling...
Shetland Weather 12/11/15, 18:00 is 8.9C (0.2), rain today 0.13in, pressure 29.72in (Falling very rapidly), wind 23.3mph.

...and earlier today, here's the very definition of No Fun: The Hrossey off Sumburgh, heading south into the gathering lumpiness...



15.45, Sumburgh
SIBC Radio news saw Ian scathingly pointing out that Abigail for Shetland will be no more than a gale...storm? What storm? We'll see. The council have closed all schools, colleges and daycentres for tomorrow. Meanwhile, I'm at the airport and Susan's flight looks like being on time...just had Dexter out for a run at West Voe beach. Breezy but perfectly pleasant.


11.20 am, Hillswick

Hearing that the Friday boat north may go after all (this via Susan from random Shetlanders met at Union Square in Aberdeen, which is really a kind of Zetlandic shopping embassy). Meanwhile...

Shetland Weather 12/11/15, 11:00 is 7.3C (4.5), rain today 0.13in, pressure 30.03in (Rising), wind 3.7mph. #Weather #Shetland via @tpw63


9.35am, Thursday, Hillswick

Shetland weather (thanks to @tpw63 - follow him on Twitter)

Shetland Weather 12/11/15, 09:00 is 6.6C (3.1), rain today 0.13in, pressure 29.99in (Rising quickly), wind 5.4mph.

The Met Office is predicting a steady rise in wind speeds from about 15.00, with gusts of  around 60mph by 21.00, all day tomorrow and Saturday morning.

NorthLink confirm that tonight's northbound Shetland ferry will leave Aberdeen at 15.00 and ONLY go as far as Orkney. It won't go on to Lerwick and will return to Aberdeen on Friday.

No decision regarding Friday's northbound sailing but I've been told it's unlikely, which means Saturday is probably going to be the first boat north.

Susan is in Aberdeen now, having travelled down overnight on Tuesday for a one-day course. She has to be back by Friday and was booked on tonight's boat. I've cancelled her booking and she's on the 15.00 flight to Sumburgh, which means she'll leave the car in Aberdeen at my daughter's flat, and we'll pick it up next week, when we're both supposed to be south. Hoping for the best from hassle-hit Flybe, and will be watching the Sumburgh arrivals page... 

Meanwhile, our newlong-term locum doctor and his (very young) family were due to travel north on Friday's boat. Just had a call from him in the deep south of England, as they head off on their journey to Aberdeen. Have advised them to re-book for Saturday. They've got relatives in the Lake District they can stay with tonight and tomorrow.

So, the immediate questions here are: will Flybe manage to get Susan home today? What needs secured outside? Where's the safest place to put the cars? What would P&O have done? (Answer, almost certainly attempted to keep to schedule and hammered through unless sheltering in Scapa Flow became a necessity. But those old Baltic ferries were built for this kind of thing, unlike the flat bottomed miniature cruise ships we have now).

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Remembering. How the sea brought Petty Officer Lown to Hillswick



“To the world, he was just one. To me, he was all the world.”

I managed a walk this afternoon, in the brief glimmer before sunset that's my favourite time of the day in a Shetland November. I drove a mile or so from our house up towards the peninsula of Eshaness and parked on the abandoned piece of single track tarmac near the spectacular Heads of Grocken, an often ignored but spectacular piece of cliff scenery. To the west, the islands of Papa Stour and Foula. The Edge of the World, Ultima Thule. 

There are no sheep at this time of year and Dexter can run off the lead in pursuit of a million strange aromas. And the cliffs are fenced, so  he can't pursue seagulls in defiance of gravity.

There's a cairn from which the whole of Eshaness and Hillswick tumbles away around you, and in the pulsating, constantly changing light, the shift between blue sky, dirty storm clouds and vast white cumulus, I could see our house. The tiny, vulnerable splinter of land Hillswick sits on, waiting for the climate to change even more, the seas to rise and the Ness to become an island. Again. What will happen, then, to the bodies in that sandy, seagirt cemetery of ours, steeped as it is in legend, superstition and tragedy? The last 'witch' burned in Scotland died after being accused of seeing 'trowies' (fairy folk) dancing there.

So I was thinking about the sea, the storm we'd just had, and the one coming tomorrow (boats cancelled, travel arrangements in tatters). And I remembered. Remembered the date. 

What follows is a piece I wrote initially for Shetland Life Magazine, but which was edited and published this month in Scottish Memories. 

November is the month of remembrance. Remembering the dead of not just two world wars, but the wars that have taken place since. The ones still going on. Those who left to serve and fight, but never returned. Shetland, where I live, became a garrison in both world wars and, at the crossroads of the North Atlantic and the North Sea, a place familiar with the terrible cost of war.  There were 78 recorded air crashes on or around Shetland in World War Two, many involving multiple fatalities.
And there were those given up by the sea. It’s something rarely mentioned or discussed, and awful to contemplate - the many, many bodies washed ashore throughout Scotland in the course of world War One and World War Two. But a cursory look at  headstones in coastal cemeteries throughout the country  reveal the appalling numbers. 

There are other signs of death and destruction still visible. On remote Shetland hilltops lie the remains of some of those 78 crashes. You can see the solidified remnants of heavy bunker oil from long-lost convoys ingrained in outcrops of rock, and until quite recently a bale of raw latex, cargo from a sunken cargo ship, was used to hold down hauled-up boats below our old house at Heylor.
But the gravestones all tell stories. Notably the one (pictured) in the Hillswick graveyard at West Ayre - site of an ancient kirk, with nearby monastic settlements and signs of a broch. A place which has always been special, probably always holy, for as long as humans have been here. And past which I walk my dog every night.

The story of Petty Officer NE Lown  centres on HMS Bullen, a Captain class Frigate built in the USA as part of the lend-lease scheme which saw a great deal of military matériel being provided for the use of British Forces in the Second World War. She was system built as a submarine hunter, welded together like the notorious Liberty Ships, and her crew, probably including PO Lown, travelled to New York aboard the Queen Mary to bring her back across the Atlantic. They had some adventures in the USA, some of which you can hear about in the voice of one of the crew members, Rating John Albert Hodge interviewed here http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/80020888 for the Imperial War Museum’s archives.

HMS Bullen - named for one Nelson’s commanders at the Battle of Trafalgar - joined the 19th Escort Group based at Belfast, and on 6 December 1944 she was off Cape Wrath, protecting a convoy which came under U-Boat attack. But the submarine hunter became the hunted. A torpedo from  U-775, commanded by Oberleutnant Erich Taschenmacher, hit her amidships, an explosion occurred on the starboard side, just behind the funnel. The aft engine room and boiler room probably flooded immediately. The ship quickly broke in two, the forepart turning on its beam ends and the aft-section floating vertically. Within an hour and six minutes, both parts of the ship had sunk. Ninety-seven men were rescued, many in a poor state from cold, injury or from inhaling oil. Seventy-two died. U-775’s part in the war was limited. She sank only the Bullen and one merchant ship. She was at sea for just 86 days.

Erich Taschenmacher survived the war, surrendering U-775, which was sunk by the Royal Navy along with dozens of other empty U-boats. U-775 was used for target practice.
And Petty Officer Lown’s body was taken by the sea, moved by the strange shifts of currents, eddies and tides, until it ended up in St Magnus Bay, to be buried in  the company of Northmavine’s dead, other lost seamen, soldiers and civilians. In the strange hush of our round graveyard with its careful wall. But where the waves from the West Ayre can still be heard, and the beam of the Eshaness lighthouse sweeps over each night.

The heartbreaking family inscription, easily missed at the bottom of the stone, perhaps expresses the real cost of war, the true and eternal story of loss. And sums up why it is important that we remember, not just on 11 November, but always, the price that was paid by so many.
“To the world, he was just one. To me he was all the world. Always loved,deeply missed.”


Sunday, November 01, 2015

Saturday 31 October - Tom Morton's Beatcroft Social on Radio Vera Ireland

Here's the show as broadcast on radiovera.ie on Saturday 31 October - can you spot the single, hidden reference to Halloween? And the single, not-so-hidden editing mistake?

 Requests for the next show by Wednesday please to thebeatcroft@gmail.com . And remember you can only buy the Beatcrofting hoodies, T-shirts and bags for another 10 days or so. Click here to order!


Sunday, October 18, 2015

Saturday 17 October Radio Vera Beatcroft Social now streaming on Mixcloud

This is the Radio Vera 2-hour Beatcroft Social first broadcast 17 October 2015. Repeated Wednesday 21 October and available now on Mixcloud. Dylan Thomas to Jennifer Warnes, Moloko to Brinsley Schwarz, Del Amitri to Yvonne Lyon.


The Beatcroft Social on Radio Vera Ireland, Saturday 17 October. Dylan Thomas to Del Amitri by Tom Morton's Beatcroft Social on Mixcloud

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Hipsters

Hipsters, Glasgow

There go the hipster boys on a Friday night
With their Harris Tweed jackets, two sizes too tight
Their cleated brogues clicking down the street
They could be gamekeepers, but they don’t eat meat
And those silk cravats are what some laird might wear
Same as that floppy fringe, Old Etonian hair
And those Biblical beards their weak chins sprout
They have to practise eating before they go out
Chinese food can mean their dignity’s loss 
With follicles dripping sweet and sour sauce
I’ve spoken with their girlfriends, and they all say
Their kisses can taste like an entire buffet.


Friday, October 16, 2015

Playlists for Tuesday's Orcadian Dalliance show and upcoming Beatcroft Social

Hi folks - just to let you know that the BBC Orkney Show 'Tom Morton's Orcadian Dalliance' is downloadable and streamable via Soundcloud here

https://soundcloud.com/radio-orkney/tom-mortons-orcadian-dalliance-tuesday-13th-october-2015

And here's the playlist:

Tom Morton’s Orcadian Dalliance

TX BBC Radio Orkney, 13 October 2015

Frightened Rabbit   -  Holy
Dusty Springfield    -  Son of a Preacher Man
Aidan Moffat, Bill Wells - The Copper Top
Loudon Wainwright III - Down Drinking at the Bar
Drever, McCusker, Woomble - Into the Blue
Idlewild - Everyone Says You’re so Fragile
Lucinda Williams - Something about What Happens When We Talk
MC5 - The American Ruse
Simple Minds - The American
Taste - Same Old Story
Sidney Bechet - Hold Tight (I Want some Seafood, Mama)

James Carr - The Dark End of the Street


On Radio Vera Ireland (http://www.radiovera.ie) Saturday 17 October at 7.00PM, there will be a bit of chattering from me, and this:

Drunk In A Band – Del Amitri
Surrender To The Rhythm – Brinsley Schwarz
Make Me Smile (Come Up And See Me) – Steve Harley, Cockney Rebel
Dirty Work – Steely Dan
Something In The Air – Thunderclap Newman
Heart Of Oak – Richard Hawley
Bad Case Of You – Carol Laula
Mercy Now – Mary Gauthier
Laundromat - Live - Remastered 2011 – Rory Gallagher
Something In The Air – Thunderclap Newman
Heart Of Oak – Richard Hawley
Malt And Barley Blues – McGuinness Flint
Don't Give Up On Me – Solomon Burke
The Weight – The Staple Singers
This Wheel's On Fire - 2000 Digital Remaster – The Band
When I'm Away From You – Cosmic Rough Riders, Joe Walsh
Dance Me to the End of Love – Leonard Cohen
Elvis Presley Blues – Gillian Welch
Good Rockin' Tonight – Elvis Presley
You Make My Heart Beat Too Fast – Buddy & Julie Miller
Please Forgive Me – David Gray
Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night – Dylan Thomas
Pure Pleasure Seeker – Moloko
The Girl On the Flying Trapeze – Yvonne Lyon
Black Fang – Cherry Ghost
Blue Monday – New Order
First We Take Manhattan – Jennifer Warnes, Stevie Ray Vaughan

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Drug Lord

Drug Lord

Not Cloppy Doggerel
Cloh-PID-o’grell
Keeps platelets from sticking
Aspirin does as well
Candy Staton, I call it
Candestartin
Maintains my heart in
Working order
On the borders 
Of health
Betas blocked by atenolol
Stomach soothed by lanzoprazole
Which works quite well with alcohol
(Not that I drink much at all
These days)
Cholestorol 
Races through my bloodstream
The fat in
There repaired
By Atorvastatin
I sleep, and, no perchance,
For dream I will
Nightmare on nightmare, 
And no idea which pill
The cause. Still
I wallow in pharmaceuticals

And swallow

Wednesday, October 07, 2015

The Beatcroft Social on Radio Vera Ireland, Saturday 3 October 7.00pm, repeated Wednesday 10 October 10.00pm GMT

The show will be on every Saturday at 7.00pm for two hours, with a live chatroom operating at radiovera.ie and will be repeated at 10.00pm on Wednesdays. I'll be doing my best to hang around in the chatroom on Saturdays, not so much on Wednesdays. The show will be archived on Mixcloud every Sunday. Hope you like it.

Radio Vera Ireland - Beatcroft Social, 3 October 2015, repeated 7 October 10.00pm by Tom Morton's Beatcroft Social on Mixcloud

Monday, September 28, 2015

Preview 30 minutes of Saturday's Radio Vera Beatcroft Social two-hour show...

Now on Mixcloud. Saturday's 120-minute show starts at 7.00pm on radiovera.ie and there will be a live chatroom in which I will be giving my tuppenyworth. Contrary to what I say in the cloudcast, the repeat on Radio Vera will be on TUESDAY nights at 7.00pm, and the show will be archived here after broadcast.




Beatcroft Social on Radio Vera Ireland - a wee preview by Tom Morton's Beatcroft Social on Mixcloud

Monday, September 21, 2015

Beatcroft Social Volume 13 - on Mixcloud (with talking) and Spotify (without).

Before the Beatcroft Social heads for a new Saturday night slot on Radio Vera Ireland, Tom Morton takes a trip from Halifax Nova Scotia through Old Scotland to Northern England and points West. A dog poem features, involving Rottweilers. And much more nattering of course. You can also find the playlist in full on Spotify here: https://open.spotify.com/user/shetlandic/playlist/5T3oYvVjy4D54qVi2OHzvq


Monday, September 14, 2015

Beatcroft Social Volume 12 on Mixcloud (with talking) and Spotify (without)


Latest Beatcroft Social now available on Mixcloud, and featuring the Everly Brothers, Richard Hawley's new single, The Saints, the terrible obscure (but not terrible) Stewart and Kyle, Pulp, Mike Scott and New Celeste. And if you don't want to listen to me talking, you can stream the entire playlist on Spotify here.



Saturday, September 12, 2015

Beatcroft Social to go out on Radio Vera Ireland from 3 October, and new monthly show on BBC Radio Orkney


Just a quick preview of what will be happening in October.

On October 3rd (Saturday night) The Beatcroft Social will go to two hours and be heard first on Limerick-based internet station Radio Vera Ireland. After broadcast it will be available on Mixcloud as usual. The show will be recorded, but I will host a live chatroom during broadcast from 19.00 until 21.00 on the Radio Vera website. Here's a link to a trail for the show.

 Then, Tuesday October 13th at 18.10, BBC Radio Orkney will broadcast a new monthly show - Tom Morton's Orcadian Dalliance. That'll be on 93.7 FM in Orkney and Shetland (and parts of Caithness)as well as via Radio Orkney's Soundcloud page (from where you can actually download the full show) Here's a link to a trail for Tom Morton's Orcadian Dalliance.


Monday, September 07, 2015

The Beatcroft Social Volume 11: Iceland to Wales via Leith and various parts of the USA. Also approximate Spotify playlist

Here's the latest Beatcroft Social show on Mixcloud, featuring The Beat, King Creosote, The Proclaimers, Steely Dan, Wilco and more. The link to an approximate Spotify version (substituting King of the Road for Get Ready by the Proclaimers and Quicksilver Messenger Service for Help Yourself) is here.

The Beatcroft Social Volume 11: Iceland to Wales via Leith and various parts of the USA by Tom Morton's Beatcroft Social on Mixcloud

Thursday, September 03, 2015

Dismaland, take two: in the daylight and inside the beast

It's a grey and blustery old Scottish day down here in the deep south west of England. Weston looks like Ayr, feels like Ayr. Hey, it's kind of Celtic. You can see Cardiff.

And Dismaland looks and feels different. The sinister, war-zone garishness has gone, and the lazy steel guitar soundtrack makes the crumbling seaside ambience feel less oppressive than it did last night. Not so sinister.

It takes a lot longer to get in, as there seem to be more people in the 'booked online' queue (and several hundred waiting on the off chance for returns) but once past the histrionic 'security'actors, everything seems more accessible. Or maybe my aged eyesight likes daylight better. I head for the three main inside galleries, and immediately Dismaland stops playing around and gets serious.

The huge Damien Hirst installation is accessible, intellectually impressive and visually appealing. Making the sinister glint and glitter is his speciality, and the (very expensive) knives here have a wicked shine and shimmer. And there are actual paintings, many very impressive and on a huge scale. I absolutely loved the photo-realist Lee Madgwick pictures and the Jimmy Cauty model world is an urban and rural dystopia in OO scale. All it lacks, and as a railroad freak I would have adored this, is a working model railway. Oh well.

The Cinderella/Diana/paparazzi installation is clever and disturbing, but the execution outruns the idea by several furlongs, so that you're ready to leave before your photo with the dead princess is ready. OK, got the notion, let's move on.

Elsewhere, some of last night's impressions are confirmed. Too much message-led conceptual art by numbers, too great a wallowing in smartass sarcasm. The scaffolding horse and the twisted mega-truck could fit in an unironic seaside attraction without difficulty. David Shrigley's knock-down-the-anvil sideshow lacked its essential balls, and too many of the other takes on fairground games were obvious and one-dimensional.

Worth going? Well, really I'm down here to see my sister, but as the major British art event of the year it was definitely worth a detour. Some of the more traditional, exhibited work is breathtaking and it's surely significant (he says, sounding like some kind of raving conservative) that the outstanding moments are the most highly evolved in terms of training and craft. The rest of you? Keep practising...

Wednesday, September 02, 2015

Dismaland after dark: quick first impression

An eight-hour drive from Glasgow, complete with a 45-minute crawl nearing Birmingham on the M6, meant my 9.00pm Dismaland session tonight was always going to be a battle between art appreciation and overwhelming knackeredness.

Weston-Super-Mare itself is a cross between Largs and Ayr, with lumps of Aberdeen's Codona funfair thrown in. There is The Grand Pier, which was shut. And about 20 fish-and-chip shops, none of which were Frankie's of Brae. So I ate some Matteson's Spicy Chicken Fridge Raider Bites and was thankful. Oh, and some Oreos.

At 8.30pm, the herding had begun at Dismaland. The 'real' security guys were polite and helpful. No request for ID, despite the dire threats against ticket profiteers. The pretendy 'art installation' attendants were abusive and convincingly nasty, even throwing people out and plucking individuals from the crowd for searches. Only the obviously  vulnerable, though, which left a bad taste.

And the sour sense of a corrosive cynicism  just kept on coming, at least for me. Before I left Glasgow, number three son asked me, genuinely puzzled: "Why are you going to Dismaland? It's so...obvious." I replied that I liked the obvious when it came at you from unexpected angles, or was seen in a strange context. Which is how graffitti 'art' works.

But this. All this adolescent sneering, this monetised renegade embellishment of very simple ideas and messages, this (at its worst) dumb sloganeering...'Un-fuck the system" How? There's a weird moment when you find yourself among smiling, apparently genuine representatives of very old school political extremism from the anarchist and RCP school, all newspapers and Crass reprints. If that's a masquerade too it's not just cynical, it's a sad, terrible admission of political defeat.

Bank's own remote-control refugee boats and mediterranean naval interceptors 'game' packs an enormously emotional contemporary punch, but as you exit, inevitably through a really crap gift shop ("we're out of stock") there are youngsters signing brown paper bags and offering them for £50, possibly as a joke.

Anyway, as I say, I'm tired, it was dark. I'll go back tomorrow for another look. As I left I noticed a huddle of people crouched around a  roaring log fire. It seemed the only piece of genuine warmth in the entire ramshackle edifice. But that'll be where they burn the Jeffrey Archer books, presumably. I'm glad I didn't see that. A book is still a book. They're not for burning.

Tuesday, September 01, 2015

Live at Troon this Saturday 5 September and The Beatcroft Social Volume 11

I didn't think I was going to get to the Tom Morton's Homecoming Sessions gig in Troon on Saturday night due to that pesky heart business, but recovery has well and truly set in and I'll be toddling along to hear JJ Gilmour, Ashton Lane and Nicky Murray and Chloe Rodgers, at the South Beach Hotel. Full details here. 

JJ, Ashton Lane and Nicky all feature on the latest Beatcroft Social Cloudcast, volume 10, which you can listen to here:
....and there's also a Spotify playlist here.

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Twelve not-entirely-unsurprising health 'benefits' of drinking whisky. Or whiskey.

....written in response to this article 


(1) Injury to the consumer and to others. Motor function, hand-eye co-ordination, impaired vision, hearing and inability to assess distance and/or speed can all contribute. This is due to the high levels of alcohol found in whisky.

(2) Memory loss and brain damage. Alcohol’s effect on brain function is well-researched and anecdotally familiar to all users. Damage to the brain can be permanent and severe. Any so-called improvement in memory function due to ‘antioxidants’ is insignificant in comparison. This is due to the high levels of alcohol found in whisky.

(3) Cancer. Sustained consumption irritates mouth, gullet, oesophagus, gut and indeed nasal passages should you become a profligate dram-sniffer, and has been proven to provoke the growth of malignant cells, particularly combined with highly toxic burnt or burning carboniferous compounds, for example tobacco smoke. This is due to the high levels of alcohol found in whisky.

(4) Emotional disturbance and consequent violent altercation, often resulting in injury (see (3) above and/or court appearances and/or imprisonment. See ‘effect on brain function’ in (2) above. This is due to the high levels of alcohol found in whisky.

(5) Loss of creative abilities in the fields of music, art, literature etc. This may be accompanied by an initial euphoria that one’s creativity has actually been improved, but the toxic physical effects attested to above and the drink’s essentially deceptive qualities, tend to breed overconfidence in one’s abilities. In the medium to long term this always leads to an objective diminution of skill and insight, due to the high levels of alcohol found in whisky.

(6) Depression. Whisky is a  noted depressive. This is due to the high levels of alcohol found in it. Alcohol, despite the initial sense of euphoric happiness it may imbue, is a depressive drug. Whisky, though, is thought to be particularly mood-lowering due to the presence of... 

(7)... toxic compounds produced during the traditionally crude distillation process (congeners and phenols such as Furfural and Ortho-Cresol) and also during ageing in wood (lactones). Furfural is lethal in large quantities and also found in beer, as it is a product of malting barley. Ortho-Cresol is corrosive and poisonous, and is used as a disinfectant and solvent. It is most apparent in Islay single malts. These also contain high levels of alcohol.

(8) Diminution of intellectual ability/increase in dogmatism. Whisky (see (2) and (5) above has an effect on mental processes which combines an increased certainty of rectitude with a slowing of function and decrease in ability to argue effectively. Flexibility of thought is hardened and may cease altogether due to the high levels of alcohol. Also...

(9)...control over bias, bigotry, dislike and deep-seated hatreds, normally moderated by logic and manners, often disappears. This can result in, at the very least, social discomfort and sometimes assault, injury or even violent death depending on how much alcohol (and whisky contains high levels of it) has actually been consumed.

(10) Hangovers. A whisky’s taste and character essentially comes from variations in its impurities (see (7) above age, and the quality of the distillation process (not all distilleries are the same, are well run or operated with a punctilious attitude towards, err...cleanliness and precision). While the hangover or ‘morning after’ syndrome may simply be caused by the high levels of alcohol, the toxins in whisky can exacerbate the situation severely. 

(11) Cost. An enthusiasm for single malt whisky may, simply because quality malts are expensive, restrict consumption on economic grounds or - and this is more common - lead to  over-expenditure and financial difficulties or even bankruptcy. This is not due to the high levels of alcohol but the greed and malevolent, grasping market manipulation of many companies who trade in the stuff.

(12) Ill-advised sexual and/or emotional attachment, coupled with short-and-long-term performance inadequacy. This is due largely to the high levels of alcohol contained in whisky.

Apart from that, it’s great. Slainte!

(Please note; there is no functional health difference between drinking whisky and whiskey (with an ‘e’). But spelling ability is also an historical problem related to high alcohol consumption.)


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