Friday, January 26, 2007

Hear the new hit single! Welcome to Bobland!

Here's the new song, Welcome to Bobland, in all its Garageland glory (what a great piece of software...if only I knew how to use it!). Download or just listen online, and remember, if you do meet Bobby Z on the Cairngorm railway, do tell him that Shot of Love is the great underrated album, Self Portrait will come to be regarded as a masterpiece, and that you know there was no motorcycle accident...
or click HERE

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Income tax a-go-go

The tragic and very sudden death of my accountant, Bob, has meant that for the first time in a decade or more I've been having to pore over the income and expenditure of the Morton endeavours. Failing completely to understand anything at all about capital allowances, written down values and all that gubbins, I simply worked my way through the VAT ins and outs, copied Bob's old annual accounts, ignored the capital allowances and filled in the Revenue's on-line form. Slightly more than last year, but not too much. That's the Broons and Oor Wullie factor, I suppose. Goodness knows if they (the Revenue, not DC Thomson)will send the tax police after me.
Vast panic on seeing that the on-line tax calculator insisted I pay the tax for 2005-2006 and half the tax for 2006-2007 as well. But...but...I spluttered, I paid an estimate of the tax for 2005-2006 last year, so...and then I realised that I just had to make up the difference between last year's estimate, and pay half this year's. Or something like that.
Let's hope so, anyway. Otherwise I'll have to flee the country.
By the way, eBay have taken down the item I linked to in yesterday's post....which was something like 'One ship, slightly damaged, buyer must remove'. They've pledged to remove any MSC Napoli salvage from the site, though it seems the police were telling folk they could take what they liked from those washed-up containers (beats washed-up entertainers, I say).

Meanwhile, I'm fascinated by this. I'm obsessing over folding bikes at the moment, and I can neither afford a Brompton nor do I particularly want one (too few gears, wheels too wee, no good for touring. This chap Professor Yan Lyansky seems just to have taken his design to China and said 'make that', to tremendous effect. It's had fantastic reviews everywhere, Professor Yan replies to this emails personally, and they're cheap, even including shipping from the USA. I want one!

Tuesday, January 23, 2007


Much as one deplores the activities of those Devonians who have been ransacking the containers of other people's stuff washed up in Lyme can't help but be amused by this...

Monday, January 22, 2007

Something approximating winter...soup, a proper sale and Norwegian crime

...has just arrived. There is snow on Ronas Hill! It's cold and changeable but relatively survivable - one of these days when you really want just get on the all-weather gear and head for the remotest parts of Northmavine, such as Uyea, the Lang Ayre or the top of Ronas Hill itself.
Good to see Mark and Sam on Saturday, who had just finished a trek to the Summit of Shetland...they had been hoping, given the forecast, for something of an Alpine experience but alas, it was pretty wet and nasty until the upper slopes. We fed them Ainsley Harriot cup-soup (NOT Cuppasoup which is a registered trademark, like Portacabin). Far be it from me to recommend a commercial product, let alone one bearing the fizzog of the unbearably cheerful Ainsley, but this stuff is, if not in the home-made-reestit-mutton class, Very Acceptable; and it's not full of chemicals. I heartily recommend it.
It's too late to recommend the LHD sale (two days only) but my goodness, that's what ALL sales should be like.LHD is a marine supplies/chandlery in Lerwick, full of everything from seaboots and rope to satellite navigation systems and survival suits. It is also Shetland's prime source for trousers and jackets, ranging, oddly, from the frivolous and fashionable to the mind-bogglingly technical.
I didn't even know there was a sale on, but I was determined Martha and James, both prone to wandering about dressed in sub-zero temperatures wearing t-shirts and flimsy-but-groovy jackets, should get robust and warm protection from the weather. It was only after biting the bullet and agreeing that Martha should have that £100 Sprayway and James the £60 Weird Fish (the only jacket for sale in Shetland he would even think of wearing, he later informed me) that I noticed the discreet sign stating there was 30 per cent off every jacket in the place (20 per cent off shirts, trousers and everything else). That prompted me to buy myself The Best Lightweight Jacket Ever, the Sprayway Windbloc with extra waterproofing and hood. The, ah, third Sprayway of my life. As recommended initially by friend Mike, who ran across the Sahara wearing nothing else. Well, presumably shorts and shoes. Alas, I forgot to look for the freezer-trawler wellies with insulated soles that are, allegedly, the best footwear known to humankind for cold weather escapades.
And seeing as I'm in the mood for recommending things, let me say that I was inveigled into buying Jo Nesbo's thriller The Redbreast when I was in The Best Bookshop in North Britain Apart From The Bookcroft, The Shetland Times. I could not resist - I love police procedurals set in cold climates, and this is the first Norwegian novel I think I've read apart from Knut Hamsen's Hunger, which is only read by writers.
Set in Oslo, The Redbreast tackles head-on what I know is still a hugely painful issue in Norway - collaboration with Nazism during World War Two. It has some what I assume are weird Norwegian in-jokes on racial stereotyping via phrenology, and some other bits of translation that go awry, but on the whole it's a really tremendous read. It's ruthless in dealing with its very rounded characters in very unexpected ways, full of fantastic details about Oslo, where it's set, funny and brutally exciting. And the hero is called, ahem, Harry Hole ( pronounced, I think, Hew-lih)
Inevitable comparisons are with Henning Mankel's Swedish Wallander novels (Nesbo is funnier; or to be precise, is funny whereas Mankel never is)and with Maj Sjowall and Per Wahloo's much odder and more existentialist crime masterpieces (start with Roseanna). Nesbo's Harry Hole series is being published in English completely out of sequence, which is nigh on unforgivable. But The Redbreast has apparently been voted Norway's best ever crime novel, so perhaps it's understandable. The Devil's Stain is a sequel but was published here first. Never mind, I haven't read it yet!

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Welcome to Bobland!

Lines on the occasion of Mr Bob Dylan buying a house in Nethybridge...

I was living in a caravan in Aviemore
With a rescue greyhound called Joe
And a Polish girl called Perdita
In the first of the winter snows
And the condensation fell like rain
Even the dog wore a plastic suit
Perdita went back to Krakow
She was suffering from trenchfoot

I was working for the Forestry Commission
Looking after their Christmas trees
Until a carbon monoxide problem
Affected Joe worse than me
I buried him out at Nethybridge
In a plantation that we’d cleared for spring
When this little guy came up to the graveside
And he began to sort of sing

He sang
Don’t think twice Joe it’s all right
There’s an endless highway and it's calling you tonight
If dogs run free, go now if you gotta go
If you see Davey Moore say I said hello

The stranger took me to his house
He said his name was Bob
It had 37 en suite bedrooms
And he offered me a job
He said I believe a hard rain's gonna fall
You could live here - it’s safe and warm
I said as long as you don’t use Calor gas
I could shelter from the storm


Perdita came back from Poland
and now she cooks for Bob and me
We bought three Lhaso Apsos
Called Lily, Jack and Rosemary
Bob's just bought Boat of Garten
Because Kingussie was a wee bit dull
He says he’s going to call it Bobland
And charge 25 quid per skull


Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Saying stupid things on the radio...when puns go wrong... remarkably easy. No excuses. Well, all right, one or two: The Tom Morton show is completely unscripted, and occasionally things can become a little fraught, what with technical breakdowns (we had a weather-related loss of my connection to the BBC yesterday) and the need to do four or five things at once ( check e-mails, look for information, listen to producer, think of something funny to say...)
Or not think. And yesterday I found myself responding to Abeer Macintyre's news preview in a totally inappropriate way.
Writing about the incident here probably just makes things worse, but it helps me feel a little better (self-flagellation, doncha just love it?). There was the possibility of an apology at the end of the show, but my call was that we would just draw attention to what I'd said.
Which was? Well, Abeer had a heartwarming story about Italian psychologists setting up football teams for their patients. I know, I know. This half-baked pun formed in my mind and was then blurted out: "They'll be forming psycholeagues, then..." Psycholeague, psychology...always worse when you try to explain. And then, with a vision of both One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, and a friend's recent tale of a football match he once played in at Carstairs, swimming around my head, I muttered something else which probably made little sense, but conveyed the notion of aggressively violent players creating mayhem.
Two complaints ensued, both pointing out that not all mentally ill patients are psychotically violent. Well, quite. I knew that. I just said something else, something I'd have given my kids a bawling out for saying.
I could say, och well, it's live radio, and it's history. Except of course, it's available for a week on the BBC's Listen again facility. I can see the headlines - Storm over DJ's 'Psycho' jibe - mainly because I used to write headlines like that. But then, maybe I've overreacting. I'm just off to see a psychologist. One that does martial arts.
Note to self:forget planned career as stand-up comedian. It's the great thing about writing - it's all in the revision. If I'd said "hey, they'll be forming a psychology psycholeague" that might have worked.
Oh, please yourselves...

Monday, January 15, 2007

Home and Ivor Cutler

A truly dreadful trip home on the MV Hrossey, 14 and a half hours of misery, not really because of feeling sick in the dreadful conditions, but just the discomfort and inability to sleep.
Susan reminded me that I once wrote: "The difference between the ferry and the 'plane is this: On the 'plane, you're afraid of dying. On the boat, you wish you were dead." Well, it wasn't quite that bad, but I'm still feeling a tad discombobulated. Especially with income tax returns and VAT to deal with.
Friday's Ivor Cutler tribute gig at The Lemon Tree in Aberdeen went pretty well, I think. The Fence Collective contingent (King Creosote, Pictish Trail, Jo Foster, MC Quake, Dougie Paul)were good-humouredly ragged, but effective. Loved the way they all cheerfully admitted to having heard only one Cutler album, Velvet Donkey. Watch out for Jo Foster in future- any woman who performs wearing wellington boots and allegedly ate three portions of lasagne pre-gig should be taken seriously. Michael Marra was great, as you'd expect, as was The Artist Formerly Known as Sid Ozalid. Although I have to admit that I have, for the time being, had my fill of Cutlerisms. I'm in the mood for something a bit less concise (cue enormously loud blast of The Hold Steady doing The Swish from their first album).

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Sad news

Terribly saddened to hear late last night about the death of Harry Horse (Richard Horne) and his wife Mandy. All day I'd been wondering about the identity of the couple found dead in Shetland. Devastating to find it's people you know and admire so much.
It's all over the papers, as I suspected it might be. David Ross's careful and sympathetic piece in the Herald is the best source of information. Surprised and horrified by the approach of The Scotsman - The Record's straightforward approach is a lot more responsible and less sensationalist. One of those days I'm glad not to be a journalist.
Heartfelt sympathy and prayers for those left behind.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Slow computers and more Maverick mobility

BBC Scotland is in the middle of installing something called VCS Dira, which is basically a piece of software for taking in, editing and playing out everything from news to music.
I hope I'm not letting any digital cats out of pixellated bags here, but the only effect on my work at the BBC has been (1) I can't play my own CDs on the show, as VCS uses digital files rather than CD tracks, and I haven't been trained on how to operate it; (2) Computers in Aberdeen and especially Shetland, where the system is being pioneered, are now running painfully slowly, to the extent that it's far more efficient for me to work from the Radiocroft, using my own computer and a 64k ISDN computer connection.
(3) VCS, from my broadcast-face experience, is a clunky, inflexible system that chops off record fades, messes up intros and won't let you change running orders at the last minute.
Apart from that, it's wonderful. Of course.
I'm only mentioning this as I'm in Aberdeen and the desktop PCs are running at half speed. Left Glasgow at 7.30 am, the Maverick behaving in an exemplary fashion and the exhaust not too noisy. Delays at Cumbernauld and expecially at the Broxden roundabout outside Perth, but despite the Tay bridge being shut due to high winds, Dundee was OK. Stopped at the Kingsway Tesco for a stupidly high-fry breakfast, then a thrash up the road to Aberdeen, where the Maverick was finally switched off in the bowels of the Travelodge's underground car park, part of the secret underwharf of Union Street, the UK's first elevated city-centre roadway. Maybe I'll leave the Burgundy Beast there for ever.

Monday, January 08, 2007

Glasgow in much dreichness

Grey and wet, as per usual. Managed to get here in the dubious Ford Maverick, no trouble so far except for what sounds like a small hole in the middle silencer. I am so sick of bad cars. That is the last time I buy anything vehicular on eBay.
I'm 51 years old and it seems I've spent all my driving life listening out for strange drivetrain noises in dodgy second-hand cars with bad resprays...or just waiting for them to break. The wee Citroen C2 GT I leased has, on the other hand, been very good, and opting for a full-maintenance-and-tyres contract has proved cost effective. The peerie pocket rocket uses tyres like paper hankies.
Magnus is safely re-installed in his flat. Bizarrely, as we drove into Mingarry Street on our way to Beanscene for lunch, I came close to running over our friends Ian Begg and Ruth Fiskin, well away from their more everyday patch of Plockton. Said hello and cheerio, with a promise to meet up in Shetland. The same day, I met singer-songwriter Yvonne Lyon and her husband in IKEA. Small country, large shop!
Swithered about having the Maverick exhaust repaired/replaced, but have decided to hot foot it for Aberdeen tomorrow and decide there, depending on how noisy it is. There are various people back in Shetland who want to buy the beast (seven seats, diesel, towbar, new tyres) and I'm not in the mood for spending money on it.
....and speaking of not spending money...£25 a skull plus booking fee for restricted view seats of Ricky Gervais tonight at the Royal Concert Hall? I don't think so!

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Here we are, then...

...and a good 2007 to you and yours.
I'm looking forward to an alcohol-free period of detoxification, exercise and less indulgence in chocolate and rich foodstuffs. But then, ain't we all?
I should say that despite the - suprising - reappearance at Hogmanay of last year's Broons documentary, I am NO LONGER writing the Broons and Oor Wullie scripts for the Sunday Post. No bad feeling, no falling out, I just became totally and utterly fed up with it. It was an honour to do it, especially as the first non-DC Thomson employee to be let loose on Glebe Street, but Wullie and That Family tend to take over your life...
Don't know if it'll come up again, but worth zapping with Sky Plus if you have it, is John Maclaverty's Hogmanay edition of The Cinema Show on BBC4. I only watched it because I'm in it, but it is an absolutely hilarious and absorbing look at the horrors that have passed for Hogmanay TV on the BBC. Including the infamous Gleneagles debacle of 1984/85 (Chic Murray: 'It's chaos! Chaos!)and the (in some ways worse) Edinburgh Castle show which featured a gospel choir doing Flower of Scotland. Watch it and cringe with the shame so interestingly absent from those interviewed who were and indeed still are responsible for what brings in the New Year on telly.
Caught some of this year's weather-battered stuff, and felt sorry for a clearly very tired and emotional Paolo Nutini. Still Game special was very funny, but surely the central conceit was historically inaccurate: Greg, Ford et al dress like 80-year-olds for their Still Game characters; in 1975 they'd never have looked the way they were so meticulously portrayed. It's people now in their 50s who, alas, dressed like that. Those, dare I say it, nearer Greg and Ford's real ages...