Thursday, October 22, 2020

Proust with a crust

 Proust with a crust: Loaf Story, by Tim Hayward



The Honda C50 cost £19. It was supposed to be twenty but the elderly seller in Templehill, Troon solemnly handed me a pound note back for luck. That summer, at speeds up to and including 35 mph, it provided freedom: a first pint - shandy-  in the unobserved Sun Court Hotel; 130 miles in an evening, on one gallon of petrol, to Kirkcudbright and back for a kiss. And I was able to putter daily to my first job as a waiter-cum-general-dogsbody with what was then Trust Houses Forte, who had the catering contract at Prestwick Airport.

It was terrorising. Ferocious managers, bellowing in black tie at cowering students in little blue jackets. Equally abusive kitchen staff. We seasonal temps were lower than the lowest dishwasher, and we behaved badly too, mocking and spilling and generally faffing about. We did everything, from mopping floors to fumbling silver service in the never-busy grand restaurant. We learned how to fake double layers on ham sandwiches. Why that particular transatlantic pilot always took his coffee with a double whisky automatically slipped in before flying. How instantly vomit-inducing a coffee served with tomato sauce and salt can be.

All this came flooding back on reading the final story (Cook’s Perks) in Tim Hayward’s new book, Loaf Story. His first job after school was in a massive Fortes establishment on the English coast, and post-service staff gorging on leftover roasts with “kitchen bread” clearly inspired his career path to bakery owner, restaurateur and one of the world’s top food writers.

Alas, working for THF at Prestwick inspired me to leave within a month and get a job pumping petrol. I didn’t like that either. In fact, I didn’t (and don’t) enjoy working much at all. I suppose journalism was inevitable.

Loaf Story (subtitled, A Love Letter to Bread, with Recipes) is not about making bread. There are no detailed action plans for converting your house into a centre for sourdough theory and practice (for that, may I recommend both Brilliant Bread and Super Sourdough by one James Morton). It’s a book about the love of bread, what you can do with it, and it’s about memory. Proust with a crust.

Because bread, literally the staff of life, carries with it not just a host of spreads, fillings and succulent soaked-in-sauces, but our deepest and earliest experiences of food, and of it being provided with and as an expression of love. Often fried. In bacon fat.

There’s some beautiful and very funny writing here about the simplicities of loaded bread (beans on toast, the corned beef sandwich) as well as more complex and obscure loaf-related joys such as valpellinentze (alpine cabbage and bread soup, one of several international potages described) and queso fundido. But there are also some splendid and simple recipes, wisely kept separate from the memoir and celebration in the main part of the book. And there are a host of hard-earned cheffy tips, hacks, wisdom and lore. I will never deal with raw onions in the same way again. The photographs, by Sam Folan,  have an iconic quality. These are much more than just dishes. They’re pieces of a life.

The search has now begun here in Shetland for Kewpie Japanese mayonnaise. Though in the meantime, Loaf Story has inspired me to try mixing Hellmann’s with local favourite Heinz Sandwich Spread, to glorious effect. Tastes great with homemade madeleines.

Loaf Story: A Love Letter to Bread, with Recipes, by Tim Hayward. Hardie Grant/Quadrille, £20

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Loaf-Story-love-letter-bread-recipes/dp/1787134776




Sunday, October 18, 2020

The Beatcroft Social 17 October 2020

 

AC/DC        Shot in the Dark

Mark Knopfler, Ruth Moody         Wherever I Go

Duffy            Whole Lot of Love

Biffy Clyro        Space

Dawes       Who Do You think You’re Talking To?

Sunset Gun         Be Thankful for What You’ve Got

Todd Rundgren         Down with the Ship

Marvin Gaye         What’s Going On

Otis Redding         A Change is Gonna Come

Mavis Staples       The Weight

Kenny Vass            Railway Girl

Old 97s        Diamonds on Neptune

10CC         Old Wild Men

Mott the Hoople        All the Young Dudes

Doc Watson Family        Your Long Journey

Blind Faith          Can’t Find My Way Home

Bob Dylan      Goodbye Jimmy Reed

Shakin’ Pyramids       Hellbent on Rockin’

Al Fleming         Grey Granite

Kate Mackenzie     I Get the Blues When It Rains

Dougie Maclean     All Who Wander

James McMurtry     Restless

Midnight Oil          Gadigal Land

Jackson Browne          Downhill from Here

Robert Plant and Patti Griffin       Too Much Alike

Swamp Dogg           Good, Better, Best

Demi Lovado           Commander in Chief

Friday, October 16, 2020

Sober photography with an £18 camera.

 Four weeks aff it. Two of Sober October (unwillin’ to support Macmillan, but that’s a whole other story) and two of half-remembered September. Beery instincts appeased by a host of zeroholic brews from Beerhawk, Brewdog and a visit to the excellent Hidden Dram in Glasgow. And speaking of whisky, journalistic duties regarding tasting the cratur are being done via sniffing, micro-swilling and spitting. As in fact quite a few teetotal industry professionals do. Don’t tell anyone.



I’m sleeping better, when not disturbed by this old house’s rampaging mice. Eating (a lot) more chocolate and those deliberately addictive Swedish cinnamon biscuits you can only get in IKEA (and after consumption of which you find yourself mysteriously ordering van loads of meatballs, bunk beds, pickled herring, Poang chairs and tealights).

Two weeks to go until The Return of Duvel, and frankly I don’t feel any sense of deprivation. Harviestoun Wheesht  and Rothaus Tannenz├Ąpfle are the best of the booze substitutes, though all three Brewdog non-alcs are pretty good. I really despise these so-called alcohol free spirits we’re being flogged at full, excise bound prices. Almost as much as I hate 90 per cent of all known fully electric gins. Energy? Maybe I have a little more. Blood pressure still too high. Better take some exercise.

So today I had a wee walk with Dexter the ADHD dog. And here are some pictures. These were taken with a Canon IXUS 155 compact I got off eBay for £18, with 8gb memory card. It has a monochrome setting which I thought might be interesting. Of course, it helps having Eshaness and indeed the entire Shetland Islands to wander around. 


Saturday, October 03, 2020

Get well soon, Donald John



Get Well Soon, Donald John

Get Well soon, Donald John
Might have been an idea to keep that mask on
Don't worry about being impeached
At least you'll get a chance to try out the bleach

Melania's in quarantine too
It's very unlikely she got it from you
At least you didn't give it to Joe
They're flying in hydrooxycholoroquine from Moscow

Get well soon  Donald John
I hope you're hearty and I hope you're hale
Get well soon Donald John
You'll have to be healthy to get by  in jail

Now you've  got  time to look back
And properly calculate your income tax
You can pray God will give you a break
But God knows the news about your faith is fake

Get Well soon Donald John
With your nylon hair and your cashmere coat
Get well soon Donald John
Remember you can always get a postal vote
Unless of course this is some kind of con
Get well soon Donald John

Tuesday, September 29, 2020

Stuck Inside Murano Street With the Lockdown Blues Again



(For all the Glasgow University students quarantined in the Murano Street Student Village)


The rats along the Forth and Clyde Canal
At least they can go swimming with their friends
I gaze from my window out at Maryhill
And wait for my quarantine to end

I have 22 Pot Noodles in the kitchen
Sweet and Sour, Brazilian Barbecue
From Friday through to Sunday it’s McDonalds
We’ve all got discounts  on Deliveroo

And I pray that Princess Nicola will someday set us free
If you want to test a vaccine stick a needle into me
The university say 
They won’t refund our rent
I’m Stuck Inside Murano Street
With the Lockdown Blues Again

I’m sharing with two guys from South Korea
One from Singapore and one from Stornoway
Joe the civil engineer is back in Saltcoats
He was kidnapped by his Auntie yesterday

Chorus

Thousands of us here now have been afflicted 
It’s not as if this could have been predicted

Sunday, September 20, 2020

The Beatcroft Social, 19 September 2020

 


Saturday night's show from Shetland, available on Mixcloud here.

Semisonic                  The Basement Tapes

Rolling Stones            Scarlet

Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings                  Signed Sealed Delivered

Pretenders                        I Don’t Want to be this Lonely

Oggy Why                          Hunger

Maria Muldaur                  Midnight at the Oasis

Lord Stornoway                      Don’t Worry

Gillian Welch                      Wouldn’t Be so Bad

Reckless Kelly                     I Only See You with My Eyes Closed

Jimi Hendrix                        Voodoo Chile

Janis Joplin                         Me and Bobby McGee

The Doors                            Changeling

Dave Edmunds                     I Hear You Knocking

The Monkees                          Me and Magdalena

Lucinda Williams                   When the Way Gets Dark

Soul Children                         Don’t Take My Kindness for Weakness

Mad Lads                              Make this Young Lady Mine

The Temprees                        Come and Get Your Love

Gladys Knight and the Pips            Who is She (and what is She to You)

Valerie June                            Workin’ Woman Blues

REM                      What’s the Frequency Kenneth

Terry Allen                             Abandonitis

Gretchen Peters                    Wish I Was

Chuck Prophet                       Fast Kid

Porridge Radio                       Seven Seconds

Elvis Perkins                          See Monkey

Kinks                                       Big Sky

Eels                                         Are We alright

Lord Stornoway                      No Vacancies

Saturday, September 19, 2020

Footballers, Actors and Musicians (Lament for Van Morrison)





Footballers, Actors and Musicians
(Lament for Van Morrison)


What did a former Miss Ireland see in you
Apart from your sunny disposition?
The money perhaps , and the Dapper Dan suits
You were quite the Beautiful Vision

I took a girlfriend to hear you sing
I told her  you’d be a real delight
For two hours, Ivan, you didn’t turn round
Just played the saxophone badly all night

I gave my life to rock’n’roll
But then I came to a decision
Talent doesn’t mean you’re not an arsehole
Footballers, actors and musicians 

This charming man maybe can dribble or kick
Write or memorise the lines for a play
You can play great guitar and still be a prick
And have nothing worth hearing to say

Thursday, September 17, 2020

A Static Caravan in Berwick Upon Tweed



A Static Caravan in Berwick Upon Tweed

In a currency crisis
It’s all I’ll need
A static caravan in Berwick On Tweed
Three miles north, I’m in Scotland again
Under an hour to Edinburgh by train
Walls to keep the Scots out - I was intrigued
The football team plays in the Scottish League

I take salt in my porridge oats
But I don’t want my benefits paid in Groats
I’m a single malt socialist, that’s a fact
But I can do without paying any more income tax
There's beaches and a harbour and a view of the sea
At least half a dozen former MSPs

Across the border
But only just
Protect my pension?
I think I must
I always wanted to see
Scotland freed
But I’m going to buy a static caravan in Berwick on Tweed

There’s a Willerby Granada, it’s second hand
Haven welcome pets - it’s only 30 grand
I've got enough lump sum left it’s almost free
Let the Morningside flat out on AirBnB
I’ll watch Braveheart on Netflix, I’m a believer
Check my accounts in Zurich and Geneva
Eventually Berwick will be Scottish of course
I’m just part of the advance occupation force...

Across the border, but only just
Protect my benefits? I think I must
I always wanted to see Scotland freed
But for fiscal reasons
I'm going to Berwick On Tweed

Or maybe a static caravan in Alnwick
Somewhere in Northumberland. Or possibly Cumbria...

Copyright Tom Morton 2020

Sunday, September 13, 2020

Mayflies


Irvine New Town, Ayrshire, 1975, and I was working that summer for  Irvine Development Corporation as a playscheme leader. There was money to splurge on the new fangled notion of “community development” as the amazing new three-storey IDC houses went up and great lumps of Old Irvine were torn down. The future was bright. The future was fork-lift trucks, explosives, pulp-into-paper and the shopping centre to end all shopping centres. There was still deep mining nearby.


I was from Troon, along the coast a few miles. They scrapped and built ships there, and played a lot of golf. Barassie bred new housing. My dad commuted to Glasgow every day.


There were playschemes scattered throughout the New Town area that summer, from Dreghorn to Kilwinning. Children enrolled, and while their parents were at work or home, played games old and hippyishly new. With parachutes. The bairns were also entertained by a visiting cast of aged, retired circus performers who brought hoops, trampolines and banjos, and ranged from the delightful (Hampe and Lola, creaky tightrope walker and her husband, a  juggler) to the horribly unpleasant (shouty Banjo Karl, the country and western clown). It was my job to organise these performances, guide the artistes to their community centres or patch of grass, and stop the children spitting at them, if possible.


So-called “Glasgow overspill”: the motivated from the big dirty city 23 miles away followed the promise of a seaside lifestyle in new houses and work. An influx of energy and talent and weans, to the remains of an ancient town already teeming with legends and strange rituals. Lodge Number 1. No wonder the place ended up throbbing, for a time, with culture, with music, with artistic life. Borderline Theatre, the Magnum Centre which provided The Smiths as well as swimming pools and ice rinks. The Eglinton Folk Club. Eddi Reader, her wee brother Frank and the Trashcan Sinatras, John Niven, Andrew O’Hagan...and Keith Martin, the inspiration for the central character Tully, in O’Hagan’s  latest novel, Mayflies.


It’s an absolutely hilarious, profoundly moving, heartbreaking book about a close-knit group of friends. Andrew and his chums, those still around, are a decade younger than me. So as I read this wonderful story of a boy who burned brighter than the sun, the overwhelming power of music in memory and ambition, and friendship, I was back on the Low Green in 1975, surrounded by screaming, fighting and fulminating seven and eight year olds. Who was that child who took over Lola’s trampoline and performed daring somersaults far, far better than she ever could?


Were there Nivens and O’Hagans and Martins among that mass of boisterous boys and girls? Who knows? Maybe they were uber-cool even at that age and at home listening to rare New York Dolls imports, reading Edith Sitwell and Alexander Trocchi and thoughtfully deconstructing Findus Crispy Pancakes.


This glorious book affected me greatly. I’d be surprised if it isn’t the first novel to be shortlisted for the Booker which provides a philosophical explanation of why the pissed-in-at-a-party-pint-glass is always destined to be drunk from, copiously, later in the night.


Or was. I’m sure that sort of thing doesn’t happen with Aperol Spritzers chez O’Hagan these days.


Mayflies, by Andrew O’Hagan. Published by Faber. £14.99 in hardback. Not suitable for e-readers.


Wednesday, September 09, 2020

The Richard Leonard Blues (A Jeremiad)





Richard Leonard Blues

I’ve got a contemplation window
In my cell at Holyrood
I see the seagulls over Calton Hill
I’d join them if I could

Nobody seems to hate me
I've read all the questionnaires
Nobody can even remember
The colour of the tie I wear

I just wanted to be like Jeremy
I’ve got the haircut and the suits
Two first names were not enough for me
I've got the Richard Leonard Blues

I’ll always be a Yorkshire lad
This accent's the only one that I've got
I’ve been in Scotland 40 years 
I still sound like  Geoffrey Boycott

And yet no-one  recognises me
It’s been a problem all my life
A woman called Karen told me last week
She’d just remembered she’s my wife

Those Blairite bastards are trying to bring me down
And some Bolshevik bastards too
But when I asked which bastard will replace me
No bastard has a clue

So Richard Leonard will have to do

Copyright Tom Morton 2020

Sunday, September 06, 2020

The Splendour of My Isolation





(Cito longe fugeas et tarde redeas)

I don’t want to go to Portugal
I don’t want to go to Greece
I’ve already been to the south of France
It wasn’t very nice in Nice

I don’t want to fly on an aeroplane 
Breathing recycled Ryanair
Passengers with masks on their foreheads
Mr Ryan doesn’t seem to care

I don’t need a holiday in the sun
There’s paella and moussaka right here
Greggs do those tasty little custard tarts
Better than in Albufeira
You say there’s so much out in the world to see
But I can watch Attenborough on TV
In the splendour of my isolation

I hear young people want to party
They’re hiring mansions on Airbnb
Three hundred people listening to Harry Styles
Necking alcopops and DMT

I’m happy here in the kitchen
Bluetooth headphones on
Warren Zevon and Carlsberg Special
Dancing with myself till dawn

I don’t need to meet other people
I don’t feel the need to connect 
I get all my food delivered
Don’t even have to click and collect
I don’t want a kiss and I don’t want a hug
I don’t want your respiratory bugs
I’ll breathe easy in the splendour
Of my isolation

Copyright Tom Morton 2020

Saturday, September 05, 2020

The Beatcroft Social, 5 September 2020

 


PLAYLIST:
The National Abel
Colin Clyne Where the Ships go to Die
Lily Hiatt Trinity Lane
John Hiatt All the Way to the River
Bonnie Raitt I Can’t Make you Love Me
Nathaniel Rateliff and the Night Sweats You Worry Me
Ray Lamontagne Rock and Roll and the Radio
Creedence Clearwater Revival Up Around the Bend
Van Morrison These Dreams of You
Led Zeppelin Gallows Pole
Phil Cook Miles Away
Cold War Kids Can We Hang On
Wild Rivers Howling
Isaac Hayes Do Your thing
Frederick Knight I’ve Been Lonely For so Long
Mavis Staples Endlessly
Graham Central Station We’ve been Waiting/Release Yourself
Parker Millsap Other Arrangements
Los Lobos Emily
Lyle Lovett Long Tall Texan
Nick Lowe Indian Queens
Lake Street Drive Shame Shame Shame
John Martyn Johnny too Bad
Dr John I Don’t Want to Know
Blank Range Proximity
Booker T and the MGs Twist and Shout

Friday, September 04, 2020

Speed Records, Troon: Gateway to the Underworld



A few cream deco tiles are all that remain of the George Cinema, Portland Street, Troon, which closed in 1974 and was finally demolished in 1986.They frame the frontages of The Lavender Room, Corum Estate Agency, The Card Warehouse and a small, empty shop unit which was once the gateway to another world. At first fearful and awed, eventually casual and at ease with the patchouli vapours, fearsome volume and ultracool, astonishingly hirsute proprietors, we would hang out there after school in our blindingly purple Marr College blazers. Speed Records.
I can’t be sure, but I think Speed opened in 1970, gradually usurping the nearby electrical retailer Fairbairns as the place to buy vinyl. Further along towards the sea, in West Portland Street, was Bethany Hall, the Brethren assembly our family attended, more than religiously. There, on Sundays and many, too many other days of the week, lay the way to heaven. Speed (that name! That mushroom logo!) was a direct portal to The Other Place, and as such devilishly attractive.
What did I buy there? As a teenager I could afford very little in the way of full price albums. I’d discovered that Boyds, a dark and threatening newsagents (assistants in nylon housecoats) on the other side of the road, sold ex-jukebox singles and occasional deleted LPs. It was there I found and bought This Is Blues, a superb compilation of electric blues released on the Sue label and curated by Guy Stevens for Island. I still have it. The badly-copied-from-78 version of It Hurts Me Too by Elmore James, that scary slide guitar, the swoosh of static and needle-worn grooves...a love was born.
And that led to the two actual purchases from Speed I can remember, both records by Rory Gallagher: Live in Europe in 1972 and the following year Blueprint, which I took back and had replaced as it was warped. Arguably the best live rock album ever made. And the worst follow-up. I hate that electric piano.
Speed opened a branch in Ayr, which continued into punk and beyond. The Troon shop closed, but by then I was in Glasgow, flipping through the racks in Listen, 23rd Precinct and that treasury of used obscurities, Lost Chord in its original, almost mirage-like Ibrox location.
But that’s another story. Today I’m remembering Speed because a long-lost fellow Marr pupil, Ian Gunn, noticed an online reference to my affection for the place, remembered he had one of the shop’s carrier bags in his loft, dug it out and sent it to me.
History. Mystery. A way out of small town Ayrshire. A container for dreams, ambitions, and the thrilling magic of The Biggest Noise.




Friday, August 21, 2020

My August podcasts and columns in Scotland Correspondent Magazine

 Some of you will already be aware of my work for the free online monthly magazine Scotland Correspondent - soon to change its name to Discover Scotland.


I write a whisky column, and produce two podcasts - The Musical Correspondent, an hour long showcase for traditional and contemporary Scottish music with a folk bent, and Strange Tales From Thin Places, stories about Scotland's supernatural and monstrous mythology.

Look out for news about Discover Scotland in September.

Thursday, August 20, 2020

Two weeks a Year (60 Grand Motorhome)





Two weeks a year

I was always a wanderer,  restless at heart
Ready to range and to roam
Now the road beckons me, I’m wild and free
In my new 50 grand motor home
I have Steppenwolf Springsteen and Zeppelin on my phone
I let Aly Bain and Phil Cunningham play
 I cry at Margaret’s Waltz Thunder Road, Born to Run
I weep during Thought for the Day

Two weeks a year
Two weeks a year
When I leave the driveway
I’m King of the highway 
Two weeks a year

I park up in laybys to empty my tank
I let all that waste fluid flow
I'm sure that those chemicals nourish the earth
And the mess will eventually go
I’ve got Harley, a Vintage Fat Boy
It’s in the conservatory 
I never ride it I just sit astride it
And think of places I could be

In winter I put the van safely away
wrapped in clingfilm in a heated garage
Then I sit on my Fat Boy sip single malts 
And watch videos of Nigel Farage

Two weeks a year
Two weeks a year
Any longer than that
You might as well rent a flat
Two weeks a year

20 year’s holidays 
All already paid

Copyright Tom Morton 2020