Friday, October 29, 2004

Baked tattie

Tatties and Point for lunch, a massive chili-cheese-baked potato (healthy) followed by a Twix (unhealthy) and a Diet Coke (neutral). I now feel strangely bloated, like John Hurt in Alien, just at the point when his character was thinking: some Milk of Magnesia should sort this out...
There was a time here in Shetland when the prime winter sources of vitamin C were kale and tattie skins. Frankly, I can live without kale, a vegetable suitable only for sheep. But tatties are a whole other matter.
Are you a waxy or a floury person? For me it's got to be floury all the way, except when it comes to chips. Chips demand a waxy tattie. However, the good old Maris Piper offers a reasonable compromise, being suitable for chipping, boiling, baking and mashing. Raw like an apple is an option even pigs won't entertain. Or at least, Derek The Randy Boar (now living on that most isolated of isles, Foula) demanded that his tatties be cooked before he would deign to partake.
Dirty weather, still, low cloud and haar. On the bus today which means there's time for my ritual Friday pint at the Marlex prior to heading homewards. Note to self: must remember to have a pee before getting on the bus this time...

Monday, October 25, 2004

Big bad wind

"Hear it howlin' around my kitchen door..."
...or in this case, the door of the BBC studios in Lerwick. A really nasty day, thick with grey soupy rain, all of which is moving fast, if somewhat lumpily. Winter is here.
Still, the weekend was autumnally beautiful, as can happen in Shetland. Saturday, James and me were to be found toiling, velocipedally, up the Eshaness road in the early evening, James (13) taking tremendous pleasure in the fact that I was in the bottom of 27 gears and he was still on the big chainring and finding it all very easy indeed. Top of the hill, as ever, the Eshaness peninsula opened up, along with a salmon-pink, forgot-my-camera-again sunset. The freewheel home into the gathering dusk was magical.
Sunday saw me walking the ageing but still willing Quoyle (black labrador) onto the Ness of Hillswick, in bright, still but cold conditions. The ground is already soaking wet, which doesn't bode well for the winter. And it's set to get wetter.
Bad news today about the "paper plane", the Highland Airways Cessna which delieverd the daily papers. It crashed over the weekend on the way back from Stornoway, killing the pilot, Tim, who was a regular on the Shetland run, and sadly, both about to leave for a new job and to get married. Have a look at
I was on the same aircraft just a fortnight ago, though not with Tim flying, and had a delightful trip from Shetland to Inverness. Curiously, I always feel less vulnerable on small aeroplanes than I do on larger ones.

Friday, October 22, 2004

Bad day at the Temple of Mutton

I have a friend who works in a hotel, and his job involves being nice to people, polite, offering good service, even when he doesn't remotely feel like it.
The weird thing about what I do - broadcasting, or to be precise, talking between records - is that most of the time, when I feel like (as Michael Stipe once said) Dog, by the time 2.00 pm comes along, some mystical process turns me into a reasonably articulate member of the broadcasting (not necessarily human) race. And for two hours, I become the relatively entertaining figure I am, in real life, not.
Today started off brilliantly. I found some documents I'd been looking for all week. Good news arrived regarding work and play. Cars started, bicycles were ridden. There was good news about Black Gold Tide, the new book with Tom Kidd(first edition almost sold out - go to for more). I had some great soup for lunch. But as soon as I opened my mouth at the start of the TM Show I knew it was going to be a real struggle. Something wasn't working right.
How bad or acceptable it was you can judge (for a limited period) by going to and having a listen. Words came out garbled; stupid and marginally insulting things were said. I wandered, I woffled and stammered and stopped. It was just really, really hard.
Why? Years ago, I occasionally (early morning show) broadcast with ferocious hangovers or somewhat sozzled. These days, the TM Show goes out sober. There was nothing about the music or the "furniture" today which was wrong. It was just me. End of the week blues, some sort of inner exhaustion? Who knows?
In the end, it's like relationships with friends. You hope you aren't judged on one anomolous performance, conversation or encounter. It's a continuing thing, and you put the bad stuff aside and keep going.
Afterwards, as I was getting the bus home, I headed for the Marlex and had a pint of Belhaven. Perspective gradually returned. On the bus there were two girls from my son's year at school, dressed in pyjamas and apparently handcuffed together. I have no idea why.
Maybe I was hallucinating.

Thursday, October 21, 2004

Think you're tough, eh?

I've downloaded various training plans for marathons, half-marathons, 10-Ks and the like, and the first week is always a doddle. Or it reads that way, until someone as sedentary as myself starts trying to jog for 15 minutes.
Good grief. I've spent most of life trying to avoid pain, and suddenly, here I am deliberately inflicting it on myself. I wasn't prepared for the fear, though. When I was a youngster, being forced to run, jump, climb ropes and generally exhaust myself at the behest of Marr College gym teachers Bryan Gilbert and 'Papa' Keir Hardie ( grandson or great grandson, I believe, but posh) there was always the sense of physical invulnerability. Now, jogging along the Ness of Hillswick, every step (even cushioned by peat and grass) bone-jarring and heart-palpitating, there is the worry that proof of coronary heart disease might come slamming in at any moment.
At my considerable age (48), it's possible that even grass-damped running could damage my joints. So cycling may be the least impactful (is there such a word?) option. and besides, I love cycling. I love bicycles. They are, as Joe Breeze, American bike guru says, possibly the most beautiful and elegant result of human ingenuity.
Meanwhile, as hurricane force winds gather around Shetland, and I huddle away pretending to exercise on my turbo-trainer, I think of this lot
... and shiver in admiration.

Wednesday, October 20, 2004

St Bernard's Infirmary

The news that the alpine monks of the St Bernard's Pass are selling off their biggest, furriest, most slobbery assets has largely passed Lulu and Lucy, our two St Bernard sisters (not nuns, dogs) by. They remain more concerned with eating (almost anything, though Lucy for some reasons detests eggs) barking at anyone who looks vaguely threatening to them, the house or the family (straggly beards, dodgy hats and glasses usually suffice to inflame canine rage) and sleeping.
Indeed, Lulu and Lucy sleep more than any dog I have ever come across. You can just about persuade Lucy to go out for a morning constitutional, but Lulu has to be dragged off the sofa and then hauled out of the door on her back before she groggily shakes herself more or less awake.
Of course, once they are sentient and active, they can be a bit of a handful. Apparently the St Bernard's genes go back to Hannibal's fighting mastiffs, and when they get frisky, it's best to stay well clear. Not that they will do you any intentional harm. It's just that having 14-odd stones of fast-moving dog cannon into you can be somewhat discombobulating. And break bones.
The monks are flogging off, it seems, 18 fully-grown St Bernards and 16 pups, on condition they have them returned every summer so tourists can pat, coo and give money. The legendary ability of the St Bernard to find travellers lost under snow has been superseded by helicopters, complex electronic equipment and "smaller, more mobile dogs" like labradors and Alsatians.
Hmm...nothing sniffs out out humans like a St B. Our two, as pups, excavated centuries-old human bones from the back garden, much to the discomfort of the lawn. And their well-attested habit of cuddling (there's no other word for it) avalanche victims to warm them up is hardly what you expect from a German Shepherd.
Still, we won't be taking on any of the Swiss refugees, I'm afraid. Because, lovely though Lulu and Lucy are, they are providing as much cuddling, sniffing and slobbering as the Morton family can handle. Or the lawn. And we won't go into their other bodily functions...

Friday, October 15, 2004

Thinking about drinking

There’s some trouble I’ve been having
I can’t spell Bunnahabbhain
And I keep saying GlenmorANGIE, which is wrong.
It’s GlenMORangie I know
But my brain is running slow
I’ve been thinking about drinking far too long.

I’ve drunk Talisker in New Orleans
And Jack Daniels in Skye
I’ve mixed my Glenfiddich with Irn Bru
I’ve had pakora sauce with Jura
And Coke with my Laphroaig
American Cream Soda with Tamdhu.

It’s time to pour a glass or two
And let the liquid say what’s true
I’ve been thinking about drinking far too long

I met a man in Florida
Who swore me to secrecy
And gave me what he said was pure moonshine
It gave me double vision
Which was just as well for me
Three other folk who drank it all went blind.


I’ve used Macallan in a motorbike
To make the engine run
And I’ve cauterised a cut with
I’ve used Scapa as an aftershave
Cleaned windows with Famous Grouse
And stripped off ancient varnish with some Powers


Copyright Tom Morton 2004. All rights reserved. From the song cycle Spirit of Misadventure

Thursday, October 14, 2004


It's been a gloriously velocipedal week, all spokes and derailleurs...The poor old Edinburgh Courier nine-speed has been lying, burst of back tyre, for almost six weeks, chained and so undesirable that alone out of the four bikes regularly left in its repository, it has remained unstolen.
I spent Sunday afternoon oiling, repairing, messing with inner tubes and generally fettling (including the repair of a bicycle pump) and then set off for the Aberdeen beach, which has been a destination every day so far this week. Somehow, just getting on the bike and pedalling makes me feel good...maybe it's a return to childhood, I don't know.
I've just finished re-reading Matt Seaton's wonderfully poignant book about cycling and the Big Nasties of life, The Escape Artist. Along with Tom Davies' criminally underrated Merlin the Magician and the Pacific Coast Highway, it continues to motivate and the diamond-framed bike a passport not just to physical fitness, but spiritual and philosophical insight, or even peace? Doesn't seem like it when some idiot taxi driver has just pulled out in front of you, but you learn, you keep learning. And my aluminium-framed, beautifully simple, rear-derailleur-only bike is, not to be too mawkish, a teacher: it instructs and reminds on the need for simple, human-centred, elegant design; to keep your equipment well-maintained; the need for physical and mental alertness; the inherent wrongness of our obsession with the internal combustion engine...and much else.
Last night, the smirry rain and cloud cleared around 5.30 pm, and as giant rollers came thundering in, a few brave surfers were caught in the twilit sunset down at the beach. I had a burger at the Inversnecky Cafe, then cycled up to Vue to see Collateral, a further instalment of Michael Mann's continuing love affair with the psychogeography of LA. Can you cycle in LA? Is it legal? As hilly as Aberdeen.
It's not as cold, anyway. But I can see the Beach Boulevard/ Venice Beach comparisons. Sort of.

Wednesday, October 13, 2004

Presbyterian kisses

Songwriting has taken a bit of a back seat lately...but things are changing...

Presbyterian kisses

Mary had a ten grand Cartier watch
She kept it under her bed
It was a present from her late ex husband
Before he was dead
Ronnie was somewhat greasy
But he met a dreadful fate
Burned to death in a chip-pan fire
Which seemed appropriate

Mary Mary I can offer you only this
Presbyterian kisses

She used to smoke Marlboro Lights
Flicked the ash off with a snap
She said I know these things’ll kill me
But I don’t care about that.
She liked Seven Up and sulphate
The sound of taxis in the rain
Her favourite kind of holiday
Was having sex on aeroplanes


Now that we are married all is well
For now that I have rescued her from hell
She fills me with the greatest exultation
She shares it with the congregation

She likes Carlsberg Special
And cask strength whisky, neat
She wears Manolo Blahnik shoes
Upon her lovely feet
I took her to the church one day
So we could kneel and pray
She pleasured me upon a pew
I found I quite liked it that way

Presbyterian kisses
Presbyterian bliss...

Copyright Tom Morton, 2004.