Sunday, December 28, 2014

Leftovers - a post-Christmas poem for Rug and Dexter


Last of the turkey - the 29th of December
Roasted, sandwiched, utterly dismembered
Stock into soup, unknown leftover veg
Boiled and blended. Now I pledge
Henceforth, no fowl will be consumed
No chicken, duck or pheasant will be doomed
To a culinary fate
No bird will grace my plate
Fly, fly away sweet goose and grouse
Go far away from our unfeathered house
Vegetarians we shall become, and stay
At least until the dawn of New Year’s Day
For then we must, unless we die
Partake of butcher’s shop steak pie
Which, while it contains some form of meat
Does not have wings that flap or beat.
As for the dogs, Rug was outdone by Dexter
He stole her turkey skin, which vexed her
And come New Year, he’ll lick the ashets bare
And leave poor Rug to stand and glumly stare
At glistening foil, her slobber all a-dangle
Her jowls a-quiver, her sensitivities mangled
By the presence of this hyperactive beast
This devil dog, this appetite unleashed
Competing with her over every scrap
Disturbing every well-earned 12-hour nap
With pawings, nips and barks and growls galore
Which penetrate the deepest St Bernard snores
Until she’s forced to rise to her full height
And clench her massive jaws with all her might
On Dexter’s tiny head
He would be dead
If she had any teeth - but only gums
Close on his canine cranium
So he’ll survive into another year
He’ll cause no end of trouble too, I fear
In 2015. There is no doubt of that

Especially when he meets our brand-new cat...

Friday, December 12, 2014

New poem: The Generator's Song. Walking the Doggerel book available now

Walking the Doggerel: Unreasonable Rhymes by Tom Morton. Available here:

The Generator’s song

Mr Soichiro Honda, I salute you
Not for your Goldwings and Blackbirds
Your Deauvilles and Dominators
Varaderos and Nighthawks
Much as I have loved them, 
Bought, sold traded in
Fallen off and fallen in love
With Fireblades and Valkyries
Transalps and Africa Twins

It’s numbers, letters for me now
Not CX500s or NS400s
Or where it all started
A CD175, black and silver
Those elipses, those pudgy curves...
An HRX 476 is what I keep
A gentleman’s lawnmower
Reliable, instantly woken
From its season's sleep

But now, at the heart
Of our bleak winter 
Another machine stands silent
Ready to provide salvation
Heat, light and television
Internet and radio
Connected, primed, 
Its tank is full
When crisis hits
It starts with just a single pull

EC2000! In hurricane and gale
You should know, Soichiro-san 
It cannot fail.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

The Weather Bomb Disposal Team: new poem. And order the collection Walking the Doggerel for Christmas

Walking the Doggerel: Unreasonable Verse by Tom Morton. Available now here

The Weather Bomb Disposal Team

Apparently, this one is black
TV presenters
Are putting on anoraks
Unchained from their workstations
Actually going outside
It’s really quite windy
Down there on the Clyde
Which, it seems, runs from Glasgow
Right down to the sea
(I’d never guessed
That’s how rivers can be)
But anyway, here we are
In Largs, Ardrossan or Ayr
- It’s really quite easy 
To get a crew there -
The waves are quite wavy
And splishing and splashing
But in breathable Goretex 
Everyone looks quite dashing

Look, there’s a cafĂ© - 
They’re shutting up shop in despair!
They’re out on the terrace, 
They're stacking the chairs!
If things get much worse
Says the owner, looking grim
We might even have to
Start carrying them in
And there’s a couple of greyhounds
Out there on the prom
Doing their business
With great natural aplomb
They’re both squatting calmly
Looking like kangaroos
Their owner’s got plastic bags
He’s going to pick up the poo!
What a great TV moment
What grace under pressure
It’s at times like these
We take humanity’s measure!

Quick! Point that camera and shoot
Make sure the memory card’s loaded
The weather bomb’s here, and thank God

It’s exploded!

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Stormwatching, Northmavine, Shetland, 10 December

The Dore Holm



The Mari Dawn, hauling creels, Ura Firth. Weather? What weather?


Tuesday, December 09, 2014

The Ballad of Tunnock & Lees - excerpt from Walking the Doggerel, available now for a fiver!

New collection of song lyrics and poems from The Malt and Barley Revue, The Fairly Good Show, My Bad Gospel and Scar Quilse's Referendum Songbook. A fiver or so in paperback.

The Ballad of Mr Tunnock and Mr Lee

I’ve lost faith in beer and wine
No nicotine for quite some time
Facebook and Twitter - just boring me
All I want is Tunnocks and Lees
When life seems hard, when things get squalid
Just give me sugar and cocoa solids
The products I know will scratch that itch
They come from Uddingston, they come from Coatbridge

Mr Tunnock, Mr Lee
The pleasure you have given me
I gave you my molars and my wealth
But I would sacrifice my health
Mr Tunnock, Mr Lee

You will always be in my dreams
Teacakes, Snowballs, Wafer Creams
Some swear by Cadbury, by Frys or Mars
No Quaker could create the Macaroon Bar

Sometimes sugar just will not suffice
There are other passports to paradise
You must taste and try before you die
The products of Mr Whyte and Mr Mackay

But tastes expand, you crave variety
Then Elgin City is the place to be
116 years of whisky for sale

At Mr Gordon’s and Mr Macphail’s

Thursday, December 04, 2014

New Scottish drink-drive limit: how not to fall foul

Rules for drinking and driving. Just the one. Just the one rule, that is:

 If you’re driving, do not drink anything alcoholic. At all.

Some doctors of my acquaintance used to talk about ‘New Zealand rules’  - which, incidentally, I’ve never been able to track down - guidelines allegedly aimed at rural doctors who faced constant sobriety while socialising due to public transport being unavailable. The deal was that it takes approximately one hour to metabolise one unit of alcohol. So you gauge your drinking over an evening to leave you under the driving limit by the time you get in the car.

This is bullshit. Here are a couple of reasons. 

First, the notion of ‘a unit’ when you’re drinking delicious craft beers of anything between 5 and  10 per cent alcohol, or malt whiskies ranging from 40 to 57.9 per cent. How do you assess the number of units, especially when you’re being served varying quantities? One small (330ml) bottle of Duvel Golden Ale, 8.5 per cent, contains 2.81 units. But the delivery mechanism (fizzy, delicious, and it’s beer, award-winning ‘World’s best’ beer) means three will put you on your back and deliver the worst hangover in the world, too. Believe me, I know. Not for nothing is it called The Devil. Made by Monks, too, Belgian ones. They’re experts in brewing. And in demonology.

Second, people, and drinking conditions, vary. Different body weights, different degrees of liver capacity/damage, different amounts/types of food consumed, even different times of day - all can change the way alcohol works on your system. I haven’t drunk at lunchtime for years - until a rural Shetland occasion a few months ago when I had a single, small glass of wine with a salad, leaving me well within driving limits but almost comatose.

Third, alcohol is not some magic potion that makes you a better driver. Why imagine that it is? Unless you seriously can’t do without it, in which case you have a problem. Nor, for that matter, does it make you a better conversationalist, or even more relaxed and more adept at social interraction. You don’t need a ‘digestif’ to make that meal go down. Lacking one glass of red wine is not going to mean you will have a heart attack. Take a soluble aspirin instead. Yum!

If you work for Network Rail, you're subject to random breath tests at all times. The limit for all employees is not 80 mg, not 50, but 29 mg per 100 millilitres of blood. In Northern Ireland, legislation is pending to bring in a 50 mg limit, like Scotland, but in addition just 20 mg, which basically means nothing, for the recently qualified (up to two years) and professionals such as lorry or taxi drivers. 

I think that lower limit sends a more precise and better message: 

Do not drink and drive. At all.

One more thing. “I think I’ll leave the car.” Fair enough. You have that great sense of relief that you can now get absolutely guttered without worrying about anything but the taxi fare home and remembering where you parked. When you come back to get the car next...when?

Because a full-on binge (and this is Scotland, come on, that’s what we do. We like our moods to be well and truly altered) will not leave you with the ability to count up your units. ‘Proper’, especially wedding, party or seasonal drinking, will leave you over the limit the next day. Definitely. It’s not even a question of when, next day, your blood alcohol dips below the legal limit. It’s when you’re sober, as opposed to thinking you’re sober.

My informal  rule, and take it from One Who Binges, or at least Has Frequently Binged? 

Heavy drinking session, leave a 24 hour gap before driving. Or broadcasting. Or operating a chainsaw.

I mean, this isn’t for a laugh. This isn’t waking up on the couch at noon, gazing out the open door to the car, sitting in the street with the engine running and the driver’s door open, wondering ruefully how on earth you got home.  This isn’t even about health. It’s about not killing yourself and, more important, not killing other people.

So if you’re going to drink, take it seriously. I like that Innes and Gunn advert - ‘make it Innes and None’ . Brave of them. Though not a problem for me, as I’ve always found their beers, far, far too sweet. And strong.

To be honest, I’d much rather have a Duvel...

Tuesday, December 02, 2014

Win a pair of badges! Tom's very hard, very unofficial, mostly Scottish Christmas rock'n'roll quiz.

These are Morton Through Midnight badges, but they are UNOFFICIAL, and COMPLETELY UNRELATED to the almost quite good radio programme hosted by yours truly on BBC Radio Scotland (10.00pm-1.00am, Friday through Sunday).

And so is this little quiz. For reasons related to BBC rules and regulations, I'm doing all this myself for a bit of a laugh. Neither the BBC nor Demus Productions, who make Morton Through Midnight, have anything to do with it, OK? 

So. I have 20 pairs of badges (paid for them myself) and will send one pair to each person who successfully attains 50 per cent or more. That's 26 points AT LEAST! Please use the comments facility on the blog to provide your answers, or message me through Facebook if that's easier . Please do NOT email the show or use the Morton Through Midnight FB page!

I've tried to make these questions difficult to answer via Google, but indefatigable internet searching will probably reap dividends eventually. Alas.

Answers and winners (plus their scores!) will be posted here, once all the badges have gone. Or when we all get bored. If anyone enters...


(1) He's a Scottish guitarist who has played with Clapton, Van Morrison, Robert Palmer,  Alannah Myles, Sting, Paul McCartney, Neneh Cherry & Bonnie Tyler. Name him, his first band and the lead singer. (3 points)

(2) July 18 1970. Who headlined which festival, where? (3 points)

(3) Born in Dornoch, July 1949. Who? (1 point)

(4) Give the three previous names of a famous Glasgow city centre  nightclub and venue, now part of an arts centre. (3 points)

(5) Which Scottish band is thought to have inspired the entire genre of symphonic keyboard-led prog rock during one London residency? Name the keyboard player? (2 points)

(6) Skye-based salmon processing company. Name it and its (former) rock'n'roll connection (2 points)

(7) John Lennon crashed his car while holidaying in the Highlands in 1969, injuring himself and his passengers. Name ALL the passengers, the hospital they were taken to and the make of car he was driving (5 points)

(8) "Old Clothes do not make a tortured artist" - sleevenote on which album? (1 Point)

(9) In April 1969, The Who performed the live version of their rock opera Tommy for the first time (possibly in Europe, certainly in Scotland) where? Please be specific about the geographical location and the name of the venue (2 points)

(10) He once lived in Moscow. (1 point)

(11) What is Eric Clapton's main hobby? He has what named after him, and what is it called? (3 points)

(12) Hard rock band from Strathaven The Almighty used to be called what? (1 point)

(13) Sydney Devine recorded most of his early albums in a multi-purpose hotel/recording studio in Lanarkshire. Name the village (1 point)

(14) Headlined the Shetland Folk Festival in April 1988. Who was he? Who duetted with him at the Garrison Theatre show? Who was one of the (very hungover) support acts? (3 points)

(15) Jackson Browne, Glasgow Apollo December 1976. Who was the support act? Who played guitar with both Browne and the support? What specific, highly technical act did Browne carry out during the gig? (3 points)

(16) During his cameo in The Sopranos, what did David Lee Roth say he could once write off against tax? (1 point)

(17) He co-wrote one of Iggy Pop's most famous songs and played with Bowie. Who is he, and which Edinburgh prog rock band did he emerge from? (2 points)

(18) In 1983, Brian May of Queen produced an album for which Scottish band? What was the album title? (2 points)

(19) Which instrument does which legendary guitarist play on Cliff Richard's Time Drags By? (2 points)

(20) Name the venue and the town described by Melody Maker in 1972 as "The last bastion of Teddy Boy violence".  In a review of which band? Stiff package tour played there too in 1978. Full lineup and name of backing band, please! Also - how did they travel? (10 points, one for each correct answer).



Good luck...