Friday, November 30, 2007

Hillswick Ness on a very dreich day (let's geocache!)

Got kids who would rather sit in front of a computer screen playing Guild Wars than go for a bracing stroll through bog and down marshland? Want to inspire in them an appreciation of the great outdoors, while catering for their gadget freakery? or for that matter, your own?

I have the solution. It is called Geocaching, and involves a combination of the internet, portable GPS satnav units, stout footwear, long walks and treasure hunting. Essentially, it IS a treasure hunt, using GPS. Boxes (hundreds in Scotland) are hidden. You have to find them, secretly. You can take one of the small 'treasures' contained therein, but you should exchange it for one of your own, and note your discovery both online, at the Geocaching site, and by recording your visit, usually in a notebook in the cache.

I look after two local caches (you find your nearest caches on the Geocaching site by typing in your locality postccode - ZE2 or Shetland will reveal Cairn No More and, now the UK's most northerly Geocache, Another Fine Ness. Sorry about the puns.

This morning I loaded up the Magellan GPS (£40 off eBay) and took a strenuous 45-minute hike out on the Hillswick Ness to make sure all was well with Another Fine Ness for winter. It's there and it's dry and clean, with a brand new notebook for St Andrew's Day. Congrats to 'Jersey Royals' for travelling from the UK's most southerly geocache (and an offshore islet,no less, near Jersey) to the most northerly. Hope you got the easterly and the westerly as well.

The pictures show the location of the cache, with stunning views out to the cathedral-like stacks called The Drongs, and what is either a sheep fank or a Pictish cairn. Or both. It was a dull, wet and windy day. I was grateful for my wonderful Raichle boots.

Christmas is coming...but do you have the bottle for it?

This was forwarded to me by Fraser, one of the show's American listeners. As I said yesterday on air, this wonderful tree would not survive 30 seconds in a house incorporating a St Bernard's tail.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

(Sort of) prank call par excellence (thanks Chris)

Posted by Chris Dooks to my Facebook Funwall....not a video, but a clip from a radio programme in Ireland. The girl 'phoning is apparently eight years old...

Dawn over Shetland

My first attempt at mobile phone blogging. This was the view from my bedroom window at 7.50 am today.

Monday, November 26, 2007

One of the oddest music videos ever made

And, this freezing cold Monday night, which band should that pianist have been playing in?

Friday, November 23, 2007

Spirit of Adventure - TV series online!

Thanks to the fine Scotland on TV website, you can now watch the first episode of the Spirit of Adventure TV series (Orkney, Highland Park, Scapa and much more) by going to the Experience home page at the SoTV website.

Home after Children in Need, No Music Day, the Great Volvo Adventure and more...

Discombobulated is not the word. Actually, discombobulated is rarely a word worth using as it's so difficult to spell. Anyway, I'm disorientated (some say disoriented, but that's WRONG)dizzy and unsteady on my feet, not because of drink (don't jump to conclusions) but last night's boat trip north from Aberdeen.
It was a corker. Severe gale nine, and a northerly, which meant the good shop-shaped-ship Hrossey was slamming most of the way. 'Slamming' being a technical term not denoting poptastic approval, as in 'hey, that band were slammin', man', but meaning the boat was rearing up out of the water as it hit the massive oncoming waves and then dropped, flat-bottomed, into the water with a resounding bang.
Phenergan elixir meant I was dozy, but the movement was so marked it was impossible to sleep for long. Anyway, I'm home, and with the Volvo Torslanda too! Here's a picture of the mighty £390 car by my old mate Stewart Cunningham, nicked from his blog, which is well worth checking out, along with a snap of Boo Hewerdine (formerly of The Bible, and currently Eddi Reader's guitarist and songwriting cohort). Boo played at Bar Brel in Glasgow on Wednesday night, which was also No Music Day. Guess I betrayed its spirit, though having done a totally music-free two hour show in the afternoon, I think I deserved a break. Boo seemed to want to display his inner busker at the gig - too much singing along and cajon-bashing by enthusiastic friends for my liking. A shame, because he's an astonishingly gifted songwriter and singer.
On Saturday night I saw The Poems, featuring Karine Polwart's wee sister and an astonishingly well preserved Robert Hodgens (aka Bobby Bluebell) at the new and excellent Stereo venue in Renfield Lane. An odd business, what with mayhem outside in the aftermath of Scotland's defeat by Italy. There are some fantastic songs in the set but a degree of discomfort with the live environment. New single I Am A Believer is great.
CIN went well, I think - check out the pictures on Jeff Zycinski's blog, and the No Music Day show rocketed along. Big thanks to Colin Somerville for epic sidekick services. And a million thanks to the many people who texted, emailed and phoned, many (the majority, just) saying how much they'd appreciated the absence of music, but were looking forward to having it back.
And now it is.
As for the Volvo, it's always with trepidation that you buy something motorised on eBay and then face the drive to the Shetland boat. The Mighty Torslanda, last of the great Volvos, gave no hint of trouble as it made stately progress up the M90. It's odd sitting inside - it's an older generation of car, small doors, small windows, a sense of seriously protective bodywork, old-fashioned suspension, rear-wheel drive. Yep, tank is the operative word...AND discombobulation.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

The shirt off Amy Winehouse's back

Here we have the Scotland shirt worn by Amy W at her Barrowlands gig in Glasgow last Saturday, caught by regular listener Brian when she threw it into the audience and(it's a kids size, XXL) now the proud posession of his wee daughter. Signed, too!

Here's the email Brian sent to the show:

I went to see Amy at the Barrowlands on Saturday. Great show and a storming atmosphere post Hampden etc. But on the subject of e-Bay… Just before the encore Amy came on with a Scotland jersey, Winehouse, No 7, said sorry about the football then tied it up and gave it to one of the backing singers who flung it into the crowd…..right to me! It would have landed on my head if I hadn’t grabbed it, then hid it quickly from the descending hordes who scrabbled about at my feet while I looked elsewhere.
It got a lot of attention post gig, and I’ve had many people saying that I should put it on e-bay, but I can’t do that. Doesn’t seem right really, like selling a present. He wee yin was wearing it yesterday afternoon, fits her better than me anyway, but it’s a top souvenir, and Amy signed it too, with a x. She’s clearly still stuck on Blake though, wouldn’t stop talking about him in Pentonville Prison. Asked us to send him roses.
Great talent Amy, hope she has better times ahead. She was clean and sober on Saturday unlike much of the audience…

Monday, November 19, 2007

After THAT weekend...

Seven pubs, we tried to get into on Saturday night, in order to watch the football in, like, a communally cultural context. No chance. Not in the vicinity of Byres Road Bohemia, anyway. So it was a quiet pint in the Lismore and a wander back to Havelock Street as the game ended, updated by bulletins from the crowds crushed in doorways from Dumbarton Road upwards.
Next day, the newspapers were, to we veterans of 1978 and worse, wearily predictable: we wus robbed, the referee's a right pasta, the boys can hold their heads up high. Another glorious failure. But hey, we've learned how to hope hopelessly and lose wonderfully: on to the next. Or, as the flag-bedraped chap on the Underground said, 'We're gonnie win the World Cup!' Of course we are.
Grangemouth last night, which is like the set of BladeRunner, with a squeakily new ASDA, then back to Glasgow in the newly-acquired Volvo, which is going well so far. If only the heated seats worked...

Friday, November 16, 2007

Children in Need

The special Children in Need Radio Cafe/Tom Morton Show came live from the Beeb's brand spanking new HQ at Pacific Quay, Glasgow, and I think it all came together in the end, despite some scary moments. Guests included Wet Wet Wet (Marti's star power REALLY came over) The Proclaimers, Runrig, Michelle McManus, Dropkick, Jackie Bird, Chick Young, Brian Taylor, and many more. Big thanks to all who took part and the production teams from both the RC and my own show who made it possible. Oh, and to the live audience, who put up with a strange bleeping noise from the doors and some very uncomfortable seats. Thanks to Billy for the salmon!

To hear the show, use the Listen Again facility on the BBC website.

I'm off now to buy a very old Volvo Estate.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Fred, hating The Beatles and the late flight south...

To the Radiocroft this morning, earlier than usual, to take part in a discussion on the Fred Maculay (and Co) show about why The Beatles were/are rubbish. This featured a brief snatch of the Tom Morton Two song Learning to Hate The Beatles which you can download for free HERE.
Hamish from the NME seemed like a nice chap, and according to him, I sounded like Bruce Springsteen. That's good enough for me ('Springsteenian' - NME). Others have compared me to Robin Hall and Jimmie McGregor. Well, one or other.
It's a day of glorious crisp, winter sunshine in Shetland (have a look at the Lunna House webcam if you don't believe me).I've been out for a run on the bike and blown away any residual cobwebs, and now I'm getting ready for more than a week away from home. It's Children in Need on Friday, followed by No Music Day next Wednesday, and in between there are people to see and, old Volvo 240 Torslanda estate to pick up. And hopefully, drive back to Shetland. With the help of a ferry, obviously.
I'm getting the late flight tonight, and finally managed to get a bed for the night in Aberdeen - the city is often full midweek, and very expensive. Then it's off to Glasgow.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Christmas is coming, and the books are going fast...

Joe at the Hillswick Post Office is getting used to my almost daily visits with books to send all over the world...but stocks are diminishing fast. Thank goodness! This business of being a literary entrepreneur takes up a lot of time and energy. Not to mention money...

So, if you fancy giving a copy of Spirit of Adventure as a present this Christmas, best move fast, and click on the links for The Bookcroft. Remember, it's £9.99 INCLUDING postage within the UK for a SIGNED copy. DEDICATIONS to anyone you like are no problem - just specify when ordering.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

The Pretty Things

Excellent piece in Mojo Magazine about The Pretty Things, which sent me hunting through YouTube for footage....two classics here from circa 1965, one from Swedish TV ('Popside') the other from a Dutch pop festival. All together: 'the pretty girls...they are like a melody! The Pretty Things, they are a Beat Sound!"

Friday, November 09, 2007

Roastie toastie peat-fired Radiocroft

In response to listener Billy Long from Dalry, whose house is in a smoke-free zone and who has therefore not seen a solid fuel fire for 18 years he says, here's the Radiocroft today with the pot-bellied stove on. Welcome to the BBC's (and possibly the world's) only peat-fired radio programme!

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Slightly windy

A lot of talking about the weather on the show can hear it in its two-hour entirety using the BBC's Listen Again service...or just bits of it.
Many, many texts and emails...why was Troon 'like Boston'? Was there really a five metre swell on the Pentland Firth? (It's five to seven metres in the open sea, they say...all ferries to and from Shetland, and all planes, are currently off.)
Loved this poem, which came in anonymously:

A N.wind fairly fankles quines'tresses,
Causin'mony emotional stresses.
But fit sair gars'em greet-'S horizontal caul'sleet.
Scotia's wither jist isna for Jessies!

Not sure if 'Jessie' is politically correct, but when it comes to the weather...

Meanwhile, as I write this, there's a weird suction effect within the house which means all the water in both toilets has been sucked out, and the cat flap is perpetually open as if there were wind blowing from the inside of the house out...I believe the wind creates a vacuum, which is why, in tornadoes, houses can implode.

Despite the forecasts, conditions have worsened as the night has gone on. It's about as bad as I can remember it, with that weird low vibration you get during big gusts (anything up to 100 mph) when the house seems to thrum and hum, you can feel strange eddies in the room, and you sense the change of pressure deep in your chest. It reminds of the night the wind scoured (most of ) Shetland clean of the oil spilt by the tanker Braer, as I sat drinking and yarning in a cottage in Skeld...

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Big bands, wee ( or just odd) gigs...and Fife, Kingdom of Rock!

This all stated with an emailfrom Sandy and Fiona Forbes, who comprise the moving force behind the excellent Kirkcaldy Acoustic Music Club.

Recalling the importance of the 1960s Island compilation album You Can All Join In (we had a 'sampler LP' thread running on the show last week) Sandy mentioned the stellar lineup of bands that appeared during the 60s at, of all places, the YMCA in Kirkcaldy:

I mentioned some bands including John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers, Peter Green was part of the line-up that played and also Mick Taylor who was with the Stones for a while.

Other great bands were Dean Ford and the Gaylords who became the Marmalade, The Pathfinders, The Writing on the Wall, The Chris McLure Section, Jimmy James and the Vagabonds, Rosetta Stone, East of Eden, Tear Gas with Zal Cleminson, The Stoics with Frankie Miller, The Groundhogs, Earth who became Black Sabbath, The Bay City Rollers and probably my favourite Rory Gallagher with Taste.

The Tremolos even tried a change of image and came as the “new heavy” Tremolos and we also had a band that didn’t seem to fit the “heavy rock” era in any way whatsoever, the Third Ear Band

Nazareth played their debut gig at Kirkcaldy YMCA having changed their name from, I think, The Shadettes. Days afterwards Nazareth shot into the singles chart.

Fiona recalled Robert Plant and the Band of Joy and remembers listening to the radio with Jimmy Young interviewing a lady caller who went on to say her son played in a band. “Oh yes, what’s the band’s name” says Jimmy. “Robert Plant and the Band of Joy” says the caller. At which Fiona’s ears pricked up because they had just played Kirkcaldy YMCA a few weeks before. We often wonder if Jimmy Young made the connection to Led Zepp.

Well, reading this out yesterday on the show opened the floodgates. Not only did Fife appear to have been the epicentre of Scottish rock'n'roll activity throughout the 60s and 70s, but there were som eextraordinary memories of incongruous band/venue matches.

Brian Johnstone mentioned that
I can vividly remember seeing The Clash and Richard Hell and the Voidoids at the Kinema in Dunfermline back in the 70s - I can still feel the globules of spit seeping down my neck!

But it was Brian Petrie who pointed me in the direction of the extraordinary kinemagigz website, a detailed history of the Kinema venue in Dunfermline (still functioning as Velocity) and the 10,000 odd gigs that have taken place there, including such luminaries as Jethro Tull and Cream. What on earth was it about Fife?

Thanks to everyone else who sent in their memories....there are some more still coming in!

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Check these out

...first, the band from Shetland attracting heavy duty interest from record companies, lawyers and music biz types from a' the airts. This is their first video, shot by my old pal Dave Hammond. Black Bic Biro, then - whaddaya think?
...and another wee word about my Logik Reciva wi-fi radio: the whole experience of using it is I think akin to what radio must have been like in the early days of clothes line aerials dragging in Hilversum and Luxembourg and the American Forces Network to valve sets assembled from kits. You have to position the Logik somewhere it can pick up the wi-fi signal, and somewhere social. It's not a bedroom radio, it needs to be a place you can hear it while you're doing what you do...well, it needs, in my case, to be in the kitchen. Because that's what live radio is: a soundtrack to activity, and why podcasts are basically the sonic equivalent of write-in factsheets or cassette tapes of favourite shows.
Anyway, you find a place where it works, and then you start searching for stations (only five presets: way too few). You do it by genre or location, which means your longing for Zimbabwean township jive or the real Radio Norwich can be satisfied wherever you are (in the kitchen, in my case). It picks up anything registered with the Reciva system, and that obviously opens up the slightly (sometimes very) esoteric world of internet-only radio stations. And there are tens of thousands out there, many you just stumble across because of their interesting or evocative names.
My favourite so far (chosen because if it's called East Village Radio it has to be cool), and the one that had me writing down snatches of song lyrics all day in a desperate effort to identify tracks (especially on Lexi's soul and funk programme How Urban Radio Saved My Life), is East Village Radio from New York City. It's already somewhat famous for the show Mark Ronson hosts on a Thursday, Authentic S**t, but it has everything musical and odd you could ask for, from 1920s jazz on scratchy 78s to psychedelia, electronic bleeps, fractured dance and bizarre, disturbed country. And that's just a fraction of what's on offer. All from a tiny storefront in the heart of NYC. And no ads.
It reminded me of the way Shetlanders Tom Anderson (born and raised just up the road, who built, and installed some of the first radios in the isles) and Peerie Willie Johnson spent hours tuned to the AFN signal from Schenectady, New York, before World War Two, listening to the likes of Eddie Lang and Joe Venuti, learning and adapting that transatlantic music to their own Shetland styles.
Now here I am, scribbling down Nothing But a Heartache and Giving Up Food for Funk, when a simple look at the EVR website would have given me the names I was looking for (The Flirtations and the JBs. Great, unfussy website too. It's easier for me. I don't have to go outside and wrestle with a 30-foot aerial in high winds.
Obviously you (and I) should be listening to BBC Radio Scotland, particularly weekdays between two and four. But if it wasn't for Mr J Zycinski, head of Radio Scotland, I wouldn't have bought the Logik anyway. So it's really his fault...