Thursday, September 14, 2017

The Beatcroft Social, Saturday 16 September 2017. For Hugh Docherty; remembering Colin and Pearl

Och, it's seven or so years since that picture was taken, at a lay-by on the A77, just before the Kilmarnock turn-off. Hugh had met me and Rob Allanson (we were on borrowed Triumph Street Triples; I nearly totalled mine at the Bushmills Distillery, but that's another story) near Carrbridge and accompanied us south. We were heading for Wigtown, but everything went a bit pear-shaped near Stirling, with Rob zooming off by accident towards Edinburgh, and the weather turning frightful. Hugh had been planning to come to Wigtown with us (Rob and me were heading off to Ireland afterwards) but went off to his hometown of Kilmarnock instead. This is where we said goodbye.

And now we have to say goodbye to Hugh forever. He was an extraordinary character, absolute stalwart supporter of the Tom Morton afternoon and evening shows on Radio Scotland, organiser of FOTTOMERS (Friends of the Tom Morton Evening Radio Show). I talk a bit about him on this week's Beatcroft but there was so much more to say: his tales of offshore engineering, his musical adventures, motorcycling and stewarding at East Fortune, the cars, the crack, the characters. Those fantastic tales of derring-do in Volvo P1800s and Ford Mustangs. Incredible antics on helicopters over the North Sea. What happened at the Isle of Man. The guitars, the gigs.

Hugh was kind, wild, thoughtful, generous, extreme, cautious, careful, completely over the top. There were shows he single-handedly rescued from tedium. Entertainment was his middle name. I twice nearly bought a bike from him, latterly a Honda Hornet which was all set to go on the boat north until there was a serious problem loading it onto a trailer at Hugh's home. In retrospect, I wondered whether it was the first sign of the illness that would lead to where we are now. Once, he nearly bought a bike from me. He frequently tried to interest me in buying one of his campervans.

I'll miss him. His zest for life, his taste in music, his spirit of adventure. I've been trying to find pictures of the FOTTOMERS Malt and Barley Revue gig at Eurocentral, but perhaps this one sums up the spirit of the man. Much missed. Ride on.

This week's Beatcroft Social playlist - Spotify playlist is further down

Call Mother a Lonely Field - Jackie Leven
Don't Try To Lay No Boogie-Woogie On The King Of Rock And Roll - Long John Baldry
Ancient Jules - Steve Gunn
Heavy Heartless - Neon Waltz
Laundromat - Rory Gallagher
Motorcycle Emptiness - Manic Street Preachers
Walkin' My Cat Named Dog - Norma Tanega
People Get Ready - The Chambers Brothers
I Just Don't Have The Time - Randall Bramblett
Theme For An Imaginary Western - Jack Bruce
Avenging Annie - Andy Pratt
Indianapolis - The Bottle Rockets
Back In The Night - Dr. Feelgood
Ain't Wastin' Time No More - The Allman Brothers Band
This Ain't New York - Mercy John
Travelling Riverside Blues -  Led Zeppelin
Come On In My Kitchen - Robert Johnson
Divine Intervention - Matthew Sweet
God's Song (That's Why I Love Mankind) - Etta James
Wandering Boy - Randy Newman
Excuse Me Mister - John Martyn
Diamonds On the Inside - Ben Harper
Whenever You're On My Mind - Marshall Crenshaw
Vagabond Moon - Willie Nile
Turtleneck - The National
Into My Arms - Shelby Lynne

Red Right Hand -  Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds

Friday, September 08, 2017

The Beatcroft Social, 9 September: Remembering Walter Becker via Steely Dan's earliest days, celebrating the rhythm guitar and more...

Steely Dan were always for the more cerebral among us, which kinda left me behind with my Uriah Heep,  Steeleye Span (easy ordering mistake to make, maw) and Led Zep albums. The truth is, I always loved the very early stuff, from hearing 'Dallas' (still very difficult to find on CD and vinyl) the first single, on a Probe Records sampler which I still have. Don't get me wrong, I later grew to love Donald Fagen's voice, but David Palmer on 'Dallas' and 'Dirty Work' is fantastic. He went on to co-write with Carole King after Fagen's voice 'grew strong enough' for live work. And he's still around.

Becker of course, departed the planet this week. While I've always found some of the Dan's work cold and, with its self-conscious virtuosity, alienating, I loved chunks of it and I will always remember a first family trip to Florida when we hired a massive SUV and headed from Miami to Orlando, a CD of Steely Dan's Greatest Hits providing the perfect accompaniment to freeway driving.

Meanwhile, this week has seen Shetland beginning the withering into winter with the first equinoctial gales. As you can see below, I did manage a splendid trip out on the electric bike, the ideal mode of travel for gentlemen of a certain age. Though it's coming up for end-of-motorbike season, which means there could be an MZ or BMW GS going cheap. Keeping an eye out anyway.

This week's playlist follows. 'Dallas' isn't on Spotify.

Dallas - Steely Dan
Biloxi - Hiss Golden Messenger
Biloxi - Ian Matthews
Biloxi Parish - The Gaslight Anthem
Never Been a Captain - The Barr Brothers
Jersey Girl - Hell Blues Choir
Her Eyes Are A Blue Million Miles - Captain Beefheart & His Magic Band
Help You Ann - Lyres
Can You Please Crawl Out Your Window - Wilko Johnson
Midnight Train - David Rawlings
Johannesburg - Gil Scott-Heron & Brian Jackson
Sabrina - The Stray Birds
Beautiful Scars - Blackie & The Rodeo Kings
If You Want Blood (You've Got It) - AC/DC
Crossroads - Gurf Morlix
The Hook - Stephen Malkmus
A Life Of Illusion - Joe Walsh
Dirty Work - Steely Dan
Time to Pretend - MGMT
Iron Sky - Paolo Nutini
Survival Car - Fountains Of Wayne
Who's Got A Match? - Biffy Clyro
Hedy Lamarr - Findlay Napier
Standing Over Elvis - Paul Brand
Rescue - The Legendary Hearts
Uptown Funk - Mark Ronson
Living For The City - Stevie Wonder

There She Goes, My Beautiful World - Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds

Tuesday, September 05, 2017

Not run-of-the-mill: A wee electrobike jaunt to Eshaness and secret Tangwick

A bright, beautiful, slightly windy day and so it was off on the hill-smoothing, gust-busting electrobike up to Eshaness, where I was distracted by the usual dreadlocked ponies. With the lighthouse and cliffs looking a tad too tourist-tastic I diverted down the Tangwick road...
Get lost. I know you have no carrots

...There to see, as I had done many times previously, the tiny sign 'to watermill'. I'd always thought it signified the usual clutter of stones along a burn where grain had been milled in the past on quernstones, but feeling more curious than usual, I trundled along the track until a  line of posts led into what seemed like remotest bog...

Walk from here. Bike is great - limited to 15.5 mph on batteries but freewheeled to 36 mph going downhill
....then there appeared two carefully-constructed wooden walkways and a bridge, plus a stone, turf-roofed building. There was the sound of rushing water. After yesterday's torrential downpour, no surprise. A notice explained that, a decade previously, with grant aid from some of the usual suspects (who had money for this sort of thing, back then) the Hillswick and Eshaness Area Regeneration and Development Association had restored (and essentially reconstructed) the watermill to full functionality.
The daily grind
                                ...though the millstones weren't actually going round and round,  because the horizontal mill wheel was jammed, either deliberately or through rustiness. Was I tempted to crawl in there and see if I could get it (and the stones) turning? Momentarily. The sensation passed.
If only I'd had some WD40...
.and so it was back on the bike for the return trip. Alas, the Braewick Café was shut, but Martha had left some of her excellent espresso chocolate cupcakes in the fridge at home. Of which, relatively guilt-free, I duly partook.

View from Braewick towards the Drongs

Friday, September 01, 2017

The Beatcroft Social - Shawn, Mark, Angela and Neil - Special Shetland Visitors' Edition

It's been quite a week - Shawn and Mark from Virginia, Neil from Crieff and Angela from Auchtermuchty came to visit - long-term friends of the various TM radio shows, and I thought it'd be good to get some song choices from them for the show. Actually, Mark and Shawn put together their own celebratory show for the visit which you can find on last week's posting here - every song themed to 'radio'.
Oh, and I can't resist pointing out to the powers that think they know about promotion that Angela, Mark and Shawn have all considered moving to Shetland - and only because they discovered the place through the radio shows and the Promote Shetland webcams.

 Shawn, as you will hear, chose several songs, which is fine, and I think you'll enjoy this "visitors' selection", along with my own. I can't get Richard Thompson's 'Guns Are The Tongues' out of my head at the moment'. And the new David Rawlings album, Poor David's Almanack, is marvellous.
Just a quick word for two of the 'Fottomers' team who haven't been well recently - the founder of it all, Hugh Docherty, and Edward Johnson-Ott over in Indianapolis. Thinking about them. And in a week when most media attention has been on the awful flooding in Texas and now Louisiana, the last track - Stevie Ray Vaughan's Texas Flood - is also a call to remember the thousands who have died and the hundreds of thousands affected by terrible flooding in India, Bangladesh and Pakistan.

Friday, August 25, 2017

The Beatcroft Social for 26 August 2017: Tom Morton's weekly musical meditation on Sheffield synth-pop, crunchy Modern-Lovers-influenced indie sarcasm, arty detours, earnest hollers, much twanging in the Shetland peat bogs, and loud thumping noises to boot...

Summer slipped away this week. Shetland had two gloriously warm, sunny and ferociously midgey days, and then, as the nights began to make their darkness felt properly for the first time, the clouds descended, the rain started falling and then the wind began to blow.

Anyway, here's the show. The Spotify playlist is at the bottom of the page,  just after the lyric which in fact marked the last BBC late-night show I did, more than two years ago now. I'm still thrilled by so much music, new and old, and was thoroughly inspired by reading this Quietus piece by Joe Thompson of the band Hey Colossus.

Enjoy. Next week I hope to include some chat with longstanding listeners and visitors to Shetland Mark Buff and Shawn Morton, who have come all the way from Virginia. They have their own radio show on Mixcloud, available here: Remember you can get in touch via Twitter @thebeatcroft or on Facebook

That Sound

Seven inches of plastic
Or 12 if I have the time
10 inches of shellac
Never eight or nine
45 or 33 and a third
78 rpm
Even if you don’t like numbers
Remember them

Watch the needle dropping down
Watch the record going round 
Everything you’ve ever lost 
Everything you’ve ever found
Is in that sound

People say I’m stuck in a  groove
I don’t care
Everything I need to hear
Is there

Talk about jumping, pops and clicks and hiss
Those are the things I always miss
I remember every scratch, every listening lover
Every joint that was rolled  on the cover
Take a sapphire or a diamond
You need a precious stone
To get the music from the holy

Watch the needle dropping down
Watch the record going round 
Everything you’ve ever lost 
Everything you’ve ever found
Is in that sound

Friday, August 18, 2017

New Beatcroft Social Show now streaming via Mixcloud. Oh, and a poem about bogies

One of those weird weeks that start slowly with nothing much happening, then gradually accelerates until, on Thursday and Friday, you're running about like a mad thing trying to finish promised pieces of my case, articles about Lumpfish and polytunnels. Such is the cutting edge investigative journalism that pays (at least some of the) bills.

The weekly Beatcroft Social is always a pleasure, and here it is. Spotify playlist (scroll right, further)  can be used if you wish to avoid my verbal rumblings. But I should say there is a great story about abandoning drummers in Texas on the Mixcloud stream. But hey, uh, nothing ever happens, does it?

By way of added value, here's a poem from my so far unpublished children's book called 'Disgusting Songs for All Occasions'


I love breakfast
When I wake up
I drink tea
From a big white cup
I like cornflakes and I like toast
But there one thing I love the most

They come from out our noses
they taste like Cadbury’s Roses
If you don’t believe you should do a scientific test
You’ll find that bogies are best

I like dinner
In the middle of the day
Some call it lunch
Why I just couldn’t say
If there’s not enough I know what do
I just blow my nose and have a chew

Teatime I have juice
And that’s all right
Supper just before
I go to sleep for the night
If I wake up with a need to munch
I’ve got some dried in a matchbox - they make a LOVELY crunch!

They come from out our noses
they taste like Cadbury’s Roses
If you don’t believe you should do a scientific test
You’ll find that bogies are best

Friday, August 11, 2017

The Beatcroft Social, 12 August 2017 - From Glen Campbell to Superchunk, via The Saints and Greta Van Fleet. And Led Zeppelin of course...

It's been a hard but satisfying week, writing 30,000 words of a food book I'm collaborating on with my son James. Morning until night, writing in the same way I wrote Spirit of Adventure, Going Home and Red Guitars in Heaven. Is it any good? Time, James and our editors will tell. I think I get better the faster I go and the more I do, but that's the old hack in me talking.

So I haven't been out much, or taking in much new music or media. It was impossible to miss though, the outpouring of affection and sense of loss that accompanied the death of Glen Campbell. The Rolling Stone obituary was insightful, I thought, in quoting Tom Petty to the effect that Campbell was never cool, and you had to work a bit to get beyond the mom'n'pop right wing appeal - a point raised by my friend Audrey Gillan on social media. This after all, was the guy who, when he first met his lifelong friend and songwriting inspiration Jimmy Webb, said sternly: "Get your hair cut!"

Anyway, here's this week's Beatcroft Social. Thanks for the feedback last week re Patreon, and the offers of support. I think I'll just bash on in my amateurish way for the moment, until I run out money. There will be more stuff for sale via The Last Bookshop and this site, though, and of course there are always the books on Amazon, Etsy and at The Shetland Times. Cheers! That's about the size of it for this week...see you next week! and of course on Twitter @thebeatcroft or

Here's the playlist. If you have Spotify, you can of course listen without hearing me talk...

Friday, August 04, 2017

The return of The Beatcroft Social on Mixcloud - two hours of music and inconsequential chat on Mixcloud and Spotify (without the wittering)

Posting a bit earlier than usual, here's The Beatcroft Social, fresh in after a two-week break. If you enjoy the show and want to support it, please buy a book or a lump of artiness via Etsy, Amazon or eBay - see the links on the right. There will be more artefacts up for sale in the course of the week from The Last Bookshop.

I've been pondering the use of Patreon to support the show - it creates a kind of membership-by-subscription thing with added benefits for subscribers which I suppose might include special one-off shows, gigs, postcards, limited edition books and the like.  I've always been averse to the whole crowdfunding culture, but Patreon is close to the way public radio is funded in the USA. Any thoughts welcome.

Tuesday, August 01, 2017

Why I won't be writing for iScot again

 iScot Magazine is a Scottish-independence-supporting online and print magazine, for which I’ve written extensively over the past two years, including a monthly whisky column. Its August edition sports a cover based on the 17th Century Rubens painting The Three Graces, with the heads of Ruth Davidson, Theresa May and DUP leader Arlene Foster superimposed.

The original’s famous portrayal of nakedness has been modified with Photoshopped ‘modesty’ bands. This is a change from the much-trailed-on-social-media version of the cover, which featured crudely drawn-in ‘bikini’ patches.

That first version, which was evidently aimed at creating controversy and attention - and succeeded in doing so - was condemned by a number of people associated with the independence movement, including Women For Indy board member and owner of Glasgow’s Yes Bar, Suzanne McLaughlin, as ‘misogynist and puerile’.

I can only concur. The ‘modesty’ version which has ended up being published is in some ways worse, in that it references the controversy and demeans a piece of great art, reducing it to mere prurience. 

I put my point of view to Ken McDonald, owner and editor of iScot, before publication and it became evident that we disagreed. As he put it, many women ‘did not find the cover sexist.’ My argument would be that not only is the cover sexist, in that it demeans, is prejudiced against and attacks women for being women, but it is misogynist in that it shows a deep contempt for women. As one appalled (female) observer said: ‘The power of that cover comes only from the fact that naked female bodies are displayed. It would never be contemplated with male nakedness and male politicians. It attacks the people concerned simply for being female.”

Ken has committed his savings, indeed his life to the magazine and has been a delightful and supportive person to work with over the past years. My own tentative move towards support for independence was narrated in the magazine, and while there were always issues with some of the less professional and occasionally peculiar contributions, the publication’s sheer existence against considerable odds has been extraordinary, and a real tribute to Ken’s commitment and energy.

Over the past week, and indeed fuelled by the trailing of the August cover, a slow fund-raising and subscription campaign has accelerated and - heavily endorsed by the blog Wings Over Scotland - taken off, and it now seems the future of the magazine for the next year is secure. 

I, however, will not be writing for iScot in the future. It is ironic that my piece in the August edition reviews Rachel McCormack’s new book Chasing the Dram - a thoroughly feminist look at Scotland’s relationship with whisky.

It would be easy to point to the extreme corners of the independence movement and identify lurking elements of sexism, homophobia and, as Neil Mackay, editor of the Sunday Herald said on (and about) Twitter this week, ‘dumb toxic bile’. You can find the same sentiments among unionists.

But neither nationalism nor unionism is more important than respect for human beings. Than simple decency.

Saturday, July 15, 2017

The Beatcroft Social, 15 July 2017: The world of Mickey Jupp, and much more. Full text playlist and Spotify playlist too

Regular listeners will know I'm a big and longstanding fan of the enigmatic Mickey Jupp, and I'm currently reading an excellent biography by Mike Wade called Hole in my Pocket: The True Legend of Mickey Jupp, the Rock'n'Roll Genius Who Declined to Be A Star. That includes a list of Mickey's favourite tracks by other artists, and a couple of those are included here, along with something incredibly powerful by his band Legend and a cover version of one of his greatest songs by Dave Edmunds. Then there's a whole heap of other stuff...accompanied in this instance by a glass of mysterious, unlabelled whisky. Which was quite nice.

  • Legend - I Feel Like Sleeping
  • Dave Edmunds - Standing at the Crossroads
  • Elmore James - Standing At The Crossroads
  • Jimmy Martin & The Sunny Mountain Boys - 2020 Vision
  • Margie Hendrix - Don't Destroy Me

Saturday, July 08, 2017

A turbulent week with two hours of music at the end to look forward to...

Well, it's been a bit of a week. All the fuss about the health board exploded all over the local media, mainly because I was determined to have my say, and not go quietly. I'll publish my full, 1000-word article about why I resigned as a non-executive board member next week, as it's only fair that The Shetland Times has it exclusively first. Look there and on the Shetland News site for news of how Shetland Wool Week has been saved by Loganair sponsorship, and other island matters.

Saturday, July 01, 2017

The Beatcroft Social on Mixcloud, 1st July 2017. Complete with not very subtle book plugging!

Welcome back!

Well, here we go again. No Saturday night drives to Lerwick, enjoyable badinage with Iain, Andy and Bo, or fabulous webcam coverage from around Shetland's wondrous coastline. It's an audio-only Beatcroft Social from Quidawick in Ramnavine. Great music, slightly less interactivity. And some photographs from the Attic of Obscurities here at The Last Bookshop. Have a browse if you like. See you - or to be precise, hear me - next week. Same time, same place.

Monday, June 12, 2017

Signed copies of In Shetland, and all the online options...

OK, I have a couple of boxes of books now, and so you can get signed and personally dedicated copies direct from me here. The Shetland Times Bookshop in Lerwick has signed copies too.

Otherwise, here's how to get the book. In paper and cardboard, it's available from The Shetland Times Bookshop in Lerwick; You can order it through ANY bookshop quoting the ISBN number  (tell them it's distributed by Ingrams). It's cheap online via Lulu, and roughly the same in paperback if you have Amazon Prime, as that includes postage. Amazon also have it as a Kindle download and this is REALLY CHEAP - less than a third of the paper price (bit of a Morton obsession, Kindle pricing).

Monday, June 05, 2017

In Shetland: Tales from the Last Bookshop. Signed copies available. 'A Present from Ramnavine' pack SOLD OUT

Please read the next post, the one below. But if you just want to buy In Shetland: Tales from the Last Bookshop, here are the various online options:

 The limited edition 'Present from Ramnavine' pack is now SOLD OUT. All orders will be sent out on Tuesday of NEXT WEEK (waiting for delivery of books). If you just want a signed copy, for £9.99 plus postage, go here. Again, waiting for books, so it'll be Tuesday before I can send anything. I'll be delighted to write a dedication to you or someone else if it's a gift.

Otherwise, here's how to get the book. In paper and cardboard, it's available from The Shetland Times Bookshop in Lerwick; You can order it through ANY bookshop quoting the ISBN number  (tell them it's distributed by Ingrams). It's cheap online via Lulu, and roughly the same in paperback if you have Amazon Prime, as that includes postage. Amazon also have it as a Kindle download and this is REALLY CHEAP - less than a third of the paper price (bit of a Morton obsession, Kindle pricing).

Book making: 'In Shetland' has escaped into the world...

A Present From Ramnavine...
I wanted to make a book about my relationship with Shetland. A love story, really. Truthful, factual, fictional. Tender and brutal, caring and funny and capturing the place, the people, the sheep, goats and boats as best I could. I wanted to delve into 20 years and more of writing about being here, and make something of all those words, tens of thousands of words, some published, some not. And I focussed on the Last Bookshop idea because I did, in fact, run our old croft Gateside as an actual, come-in-and-have-a-coffee second-hand bookshop for a year or so. Have ever since dabbled with selling books and art online, and recently taken the whole thing a bit more seriously (£179, the other day, for a rare whisky book which cost me nothing; more than I've earned from actually writing books for...a long time.

Front cover. That's Muckle Ossa in the simmer dim
I began editing, then rewriting, and writing afresh. Monthly blogs from Promote Shetland turned into essays, began twisting in my hands into something else. I made some pieces of -  let's say art, from beach finds, seaglass, wood, stone. Sold them. I left the BBC, blogged, broadcast locally but also to the world on 60 North Radio/TV, and about Shetland. And I wondered: could I put this together? A blog, a bookshop, a book about a bookshop, broadcasting, the artwork? Be a small, remote, connected self-contained creative unit? Tell some stories, make some noise, make some things to put on people's walls? Sell stuff?

I don't like the crowdfunding concept, and sites like Patreon still less. I don't want to beg for support, or ask for help in writing a book, or making music which could, in the end, be rubbish. I particularly dislike the 'tipping' notion that Patreon thrives on. It's like busking, only you're asking people to give you cash on the basis of what you might be like if you only had a chance to work on your act. Truth is, many years ago, in another life as an evangelical 'living by faith' musician, that's what I did. I had a 'prayer letter'. I cultivated support. I begged. (And gigged and made records, it must be said). It felt weird and wrong then. It feels weird and wrong now. When there's no praying for money.

Religion aside (and I look back on my Brethren past a little in the book), I've been writing and talking professionally for over 30 years. I believe in what I do. I'd rather make something and offer it for sale. Sure, there's an act of faith (small 'f') involved. The excerpts online or that you leaf through in a  shop may not be representative. There's luck. But anyway, I've made this stuff, paid for it. Here it is. If you like, you can weigh up the idea, sample it online and pay me for it, see how you get on. I like the notion of a transaction. For a long time, I was a typewriter for hire. For cash money. Hitting deadlines, wordcounts, timings. Was I any good? Good enough to get paid. Maybe I've written enough. Who knows? Soon find out!

At least the stuff is out there. And as far as In Shetland is concerned, I think it contains some of my best writing.

What I've decided to do is produce something new about Shetland (pictures, writing, videos, poems) at least weekly here, online, for free. And I'll offer some stuff for sale, too: My writing, art, second-hand books. Check out the side panel for links to my eBay and Etsy shops. And if you're in Shetland yourself, drop in and browse. At the actual Last Bookshop. Because it does exist. All you have to do is find it.

What's it like? Have a read at the first chapter on Amazon. You don't have to own a Kindle or register with Amazon. Just click on 'Look Inside' here.

The limited edition 'Present from Ramnavine' pack is now SOLD OUT. All orders will be sent out on Tuesday of NEXT WEEK (waiting for delivery of books). If you just want a signed copy, for £9.99 plus postage, go here. Again, waiting for books, so it'll be Tuesday before I can send anything. I'll be delighted to write a dedication to you or someone else if it's a gift.  If you just want a signed copy, for £9.99 plus postage, go here.

Otherwise, here's how to get the book. In paper and cardboard, it's available from The Shetland Times Bookshop in Lerwick; You can order it through ANY bookshop quoting the ISBN number  (tell them it's distributed by Ingrams). It's cheap online via Lulu, and roughly the same in paperback if you have Amazon Prime, as that includes postage. Amazon also have it as a Kindle download and this is REALLY CHEAP - less than a third of the paper price (bit of a Morton obsession, Kindle pricing).

I'm enjoying the process of being a book maker. I hope you enjoy the end result and maybe some of the associated attachments. I'm betting you will.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

The Wren


I will awaken the world 
With slivers of sweetness
I am King of the Dawn
Spring’s desolation shivers
Into life for me
My song
Makes bullying bonxies 
Tumble from the sky, 
Dogs stumble
Cats cry tears of rage and terror
And flee my might
Dull clouds are pierced
By pure light

Razors of sound

See me, tiny, unafraid
Louder than bombs
Stronger than the sea
Everything lost
Is found in me
For a moment
I master everything
Hear me sing

I am King

Tom Morton, May 2017, Hillswick, Shetland

(This poem is about The Shetland Wren (Troglodytes Troglodytes Zetlandcus), but I think the picture is of the Falklands subspecies and the song is North American...)

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Thursday, April 13, 2017

The (Other) Keir Hardie Tea-Towel

Keir Hardie
was dapper
His nickname was 'Papa'
He took PE and games
His illustrious name
Was his  grandad's
It cut no ice with the lads
Of Marr College
Our political knowledge
Was zero
An old Labour hero
Meant nothing in Troon
We preferred Gordon Broon
(Not the politician
The rugby tactician
Always full of good cheer
And possibly some beer
But that was back in the day
When Scotland could play)

Today, I saw something foul
A Keir Hardie tea towel
Highly absorbent
Signed by Jeremy Corbyn
£100, it's on offer
To replenish Labour's coffers
And briefly I wondered
If someone had blundered
And my old schoolmaster
In a PR disaster
Was now drying plates
With a screen print of his face

Which would have been quite a story
Because I suspect 

Papa was a Tory...

Saturday, April 08, 2017

A Wee Political Domestic

It seems nobody loves me
But you and the SNP
I know you’re quite particular
But I’m not sure about Nicola
Our relationship was full of promise
But in her e-mails she calls me ‘Thomas’
She never uses ‘Tom’ or ‘Tommy’
She's always wanting money from me
Her or that Peter Murrell
I'm not inclined to quarrel
But they don’t seem to remember
It’s six months since I was a member

At least you know how to say my name
And married life is pretty much the same
I cook your breakfast, lunch and tea
Although politically we disagree
About the basics of independence
We both hate the binary nature of referendums
(Although some say the plural’s ‘referenda’)
I detest everything about Eastenders
You never miss a single show
But there’s one thing we both know
One unifying truth we’ve been absorbed in
Neither of us can abide Jeremy Corbyn

That romantic, 1970s pseudo-Marxist
That deluded, arrogant  narcissist 
Who’ll destroy the Labour Party, given time
I don’t know why you’ve not resigned
But where would you go then?
You ask how I can defend
The posturing hypocrisy
Of the governing SNP
Navigating a road to ruin
When there’s so much they could be doing?

Truth is, I'm no starry-eyed student
And I wouldn't.
As for  the Greens and the Lib Dems
No-one gives two Tweets about them
And their fantasies of power and glory
Don’t even mention the Tories
Who - some of my best friends fear -
Could be in power for the next 15 years
Even in a free, but utterly defiled
Caledonia, turned stern, once mild

Oh, it’s a crisis, all right; but let’s not make it a domestic drama
We both like Homes under the Hammer
And though, largely, I favour secession
We need to wait for a proper recession 
When London house prices start falling
And the Trotskyist Hampsteaders start calling
Estate agents in Wick
Saying: 'Buy me a shooting lodge, quick'
And Dion Dublin's advice
Is that Thurso is nice

I know, I know. It's a fantasy
Fuelled by daytime TV
So let's not argue, please
Have some more toast and cheese
Crowdie for me, and  Cheddar for you
Camembert or Rauchkässe would do
Cambozolo, Weisslager, 
Queso Cabrales or Limburger
Manchego, Roquefort, or Mimolette

At least Brexit hasn't happened yet

Friday, March 31, 2017

Seven pretty good grub-orientated joints in Aberdeen, from cheap to exorbitant

The Inversnecky Café 

An institution. On the beach, rocking a Jersey Shore boardwalk (only concrete) vibe, complete with adjacent somewhat grubby fairground and seagulls. Or as I would say, shows. Ideal off-the-boat breakfast, great parking, stern, buffeting beachwalks available. Good coffee, and everything you could ask for in a fry-up. Also pioneered the daft blackboard notice and has great ice cream for the one or two days a year when it's sunny. Actually, that's a cheap shot: Aberdeen is one of the sunniest places in Scotland. And speaking of cheap, the Inversnecky ain't dear. No website! How cool is that?

The Silver Darling

Wonderful quayside setting, with a light, airy cruiseliner dining room which becomes beautifully atmospheric at night. You can watch the ships coming and going while eating very good, very ornate, very expensive dishes, with a leaning towards the city’s excellent seafood. Can be a bit intimidating, perhaps because you're wondering if your Black Amex still works. Be prepared for  £55-£80 a head at night, including wine. Lunch around half that. Only for serious expense accounts, freebies and Big Nights Out. In 30 years of travelling through and staying in Aberdeen, I’ve been there once.

 The Moonfish Café

My top Aberdeen choice. Superb, tiny room, small, mostly seafoody menu but with meat and vegetarian options. Not cheap, but not in same price bracket as The Silver Darling - £40-55 a head including wine at night for three courses and their always excellent cheeseboard, lunch half that or less. But you can eat more abstemiously for less moolah, and because it’s a cheerfully informal joint, without any worries that the staff are being sniffy about your cheapskatedness. Book well in advance. Not a place for intimate conversation - hard surfaces means people with headphone-induced tinnitus can struggle. Still brilliant, though.

Rye and Soda

Hmm...I really like this place, but I have a feeling I’m a bit too elderly to fit in at certain times of the evening, when the cocktails are flowing and that weird Aberdeen combination of hipster beards and diamante glam is a-waggling and a-glinting. For a meaty brunch, though - and it markets itself as ‘an American brunch café by day’, it is unsurpassed (see Food Story below for veggie options). Huevos Rancheros, all the classics of hangover-alleviating breakfast, the astonishingly evil pizza chips, and really good coffee including a decent Aeropress. Great, informed, friendly service, too.


Brewdog-owned these days, Musa offers some great opportunities to pair mainstream and obscure, Brewdog-curated (as well as brewed) beers (tasting measures offered) with high quality Scottish food.  The grub is perhaps just a touch fussier in presentation than it needs to be and not especially cheap. But then, this is Aberdeen, even in an oil price downturn kinda situation. They have live music, often jazz, and changing art exhibitions in what is an unusual and not entirely comfortable space which can get very hot and busy, particularly if there are performers squashed in front of the wine racks. Dinner Around £30-45 for three courses including drinks. Can wind up more expensive than you think it's gonna be. They do a two-course lunch special for £16 excluding booze.

Food Story

I’ve heard rumours of bacon sandwiches being available, but think of this as essentially a vegetarian café and you won’t go far wrong. I’d say it was preposterously post-hippydom-dungaree-trendy if  it weren’t for the blingy Prosecco-quaffing shift that tends to drift in during the evening. No licence, reasonable corkage, so you can bring in your crate from Oddbins and get bubbly at speed, then nip out for replenishments.
Great falafels, chillis and lasagnes, wonderful salads, and probably the best sourdough bread available to eat on-site in Aberdeen. For me it’s somewhere for lunch, late (relatively healthy) breakfast and mid-morning ab-dabs, as the cakes are truly superb. So is the coffee and (if you’re into it) their range of space cadet teas. Hilarious toilets. And very reasonable prices, with nobody making you eat too much. Good atmosphere, gets very, very busy. 

6 Degrees North 

Naughtily opening just down from Brewdog, only for the uber-brewers to open another branch almost alongside, 6 Degrees ( distance north of Brussels; they’re Belgian beer fans) is an offshoot of parent brewpub in Stonehaven and has a phenomenal selection of obscurely drinkable stuff. It is also a really good place for a semi-liquid lunch or early tea, with their sharing charcuterie platters a treat and also a total bargain. Not for teetotallers or Proseccotisti/a.

Monday, March 27, 2017

Shetland Truck culture

Once this addiction starts
I cannot stop
I need an Ifor Williams top
Though never will a sheep or dog,
Woman or child 
Scratch my tailgate

I hate the thought 
Of grubby paws, or bags of Tesco shopping
Scarring the luscious Mitsubishi sheen.
I've been there. I had a HiLux once,
A crew cab, with roll-bar, shotgun rack
Springsteen, Steve Earle and Daniel O'Donnel tracks
Red tins of beer

It ended in tears:
A wife, a collie, trips sooth to IKEA
Talk of baby seats and daft ideas
Concerning Citröens, Peugeots, or worse
A Vauxhall Zafira
I did not hear her
For I was gone, long gone
Working offshore in Venezuala 
My relationship a failure

But I saved sufficient cash
For a Barbarian, with leather seats
The sound so sweet
Of its diesel engine in my ears
Crankshaft and gasket failure fears
Assuaged (That was in the early L200 years)

And so I drive from North Roe down to Sumburgh
And back, in only clement weather
I'll wash her with the finest chamois leather
And in the heated garage
Stroke her gently

She's better than a Bentley
Or Nissan, or Toyota
Not one iota of regret
Do I feel
This love is real
I count my blessings and my luck
In finding you, my one true pick-up truck
My L200
My precious! Do not fear

I'll never over-rev you in third gear

(And, when launching a boat into the sea,
I promise not to reverse you down 
Door-deep, until your footwells are awash
With salty water
Which, long ago, I did.
Warned many times, I just refused to listen
However, that truck was leased, and besides
It was a Nissan)