Tuesday, August 29, 2006

St Bernards, bonxies and the best beach in Britain...

Lucy is heavily pregnant and is off to the island of Yell tonight, there to be delivered, we hope, of her (seven and counting) puppies. Doesn't she look happy? Meanwhile, I took advantage of what was probably the last fine day of the summer to do a walk I've been promising myself for nigh on 20 years - the hike out over the arctic tundra of Ronas Hill - Shetland's highest point - to what some say is Britain's finest beach, The Lang Ayre.
Over 1 km long, it's only accessible via a steep gully at Kettligill Head (easier getting back up than down)and it took me two and a half hours to walk there from the car park at the old NATO station on Collafirth Hill. An hour there (probably could have spent longer) and two hours back. If you're thinking of going, it's worth taking a tent and camping, as you can walk on next day to Uyea Isle, another of Shetland's great geological wonders. There's a good track from Uyea to North Roe, and from there you can phone somebody in tears and plead for a lift back to points south. Or hitch.
Shetland's many advantages over the West Highlands include fewer people, no clegs, insignificant midges (though they've been bad this past week) and no snakes. We do, though, have those marauding pirates of the sky known as bonxies, or great skuas, and I was attacked by one particular pair on the way back. Believe me, this was shot using a 28mm lens, and it was A LOT closer and closing at speed on my head.

Birdman supreme Martin Heubeck told me that they very rarely hit you, and then only by accident, but bonxie attack (all you hear is the swoosh of their wings) can be terrifying if you're not used to it. A few years ago an elderly tourist was found dead of a heart attack in the middle of a bonxie colony. Very Hitchcockian.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Big Bannocks, Kirnathons and Grands Sprix!

I wouldn't know where to begin in describing Da Big Bannock. Suffice to say that the biggest bannock (cheese, this year) in the world is cooked. Teams compete to make butter (Da Kirnathon). There is a stunt 'iron horse' display (an iron horse, tiller or cultivator is a motorised plough) and of course the Merry Tiller Grand Sprix.
The Big Bannock is a...sort of festival/outpouring of madness/spree organised by a group of Northmavine chaps each summer in North Roe, about 12 miles from our house. There is a DVD release (this year, hilariously, it's Croft My Ride). There is a theme - this year, Knights of the Round Table - music (Vatersay Boys) and a colossal amount of drink. It's all in aid of charity. You really had to be there. If you ever saw the Father Ted episode involving the Craggy Island Gala Day, well, it's much more extreme than that. Theme song this year was a take on Okie From Muskogee ('I'm Proud Tae Be A Magnie Frae Northmavine') which featured the immortal line: 'We don't burn our galley in a playpark', which only those who know about Up Helly Aa and the inferior Lerwick version (in Northmavine, the viking galley is burnt at sea) will truly appreciate.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Back home, and...shouldn't we be gigging tonight?

Well, no, actually. Glasgow ABC2 was the last of the tour (pictures by the excellent Stewart Cunningham), and now it's back to mowing the grass and cooking the tea (bolognese). But it's impossible to leave the guitars alone, and also impossible to avoid searching eBay frenziedly for that brilliant wee valve pre-amp Gypsy Dave Smith was using, not to mention that Marshall acoustic amp...oh and possibly an Aria F-50E to go with it. Well, it's cheaper than a motorbike. And safer.
Only having had three days at home in the past month, it's odd that I feel completely settled back in Shetland after, well, 14 hours. Keeping the Bookcroft shut until Saturday, I think, and no broadcasting so I can gad about the islands to my heart's content. Cycling and playing the guitar, though not at the same time.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Off again - rock'n'roll mobile blogging

Heading off on the boat tonight (Wednesday) for nearly three weeks on the road playing music...me and James (The Tom Morton Two. Blogging will be conducted via the Moblog site - pictures and text daily, I hope, at http://www.moblog.co.uk/blog/tommy or HERE. I won't be on the radio for four weeks...but stay tuned! for details of gigs go to my myspace page - http://www.myspace.com/tommortonmusic or HERE. I will be turning up to play at Kirkcaldy, Forres, Ullapool, Inverness, Aberdeen, Invershin, Belladrum Festival, Glasgow, Leicester, Nottingham, London, Devon, Liverpool.