Sunday, September 27, 2009

Sunday Herald Diary 27 September...if you can't buy the print version...

Tom Morton's Week (Sunday Herald, 27 September) (but this isn't available there)


We are awash with rhubarb and ginger jam, which I made yesterday in a fit of autumnal domesticity. I also made a rhubarb crumble so large it could alleviate the Texan constipation problem, which is allegedly as large as most Texans. How are they off for rhubarb in Dallas? Loads of its verbal namesake in Bournemouth, as former Glesca cooncillor, and once lecturer at Gilmorehill Dr Vince Cable ( that name sounds like it should belong to an actor, possibly from something like...The Wire) sends panic rippling through the beards and sandals of the assembled Libocrats.
A tax on rich people's houses, eh? Catchy. Goodness, that reminds of something, let me see if I can remember...yes, I have it! It was called, eh, socialism. Something Dr Hawser was not unacquainted with in his bell-bottomed Caledonian days, when he was contributing to a book called The Red Paper on Scotland, edited by a raging lefty called...Gordon Brown.
Next minute Dr Strand is glooming and dooming in Bournemouth about Scotland declaring itself in the huff, should the Tories win the next election (fat chance, eh?). This process would be known technically as Decameronisation, which is, alas, nothing to do with Giovanni Boccaccio.
I spy my wife sneaking out the door with clanking shopping bags. We have too much rhubarb jam, she tells me, and it must be distributed to the needy. I'm wondering if she's going to offer it to patients she diagnoses as suffering from that medical condition known as bungedupness, but it's just been revealed that doctors never, ever get their diagnoses right. It says it on the telly so it must be true. Never mind, I have sneaked several gallons of jam into a back cupboard and will sell it on the internet as a cure for gallstones. If I say that on the internet it will become true. This is a rule.


Formula One is in disarray once more. Honestly, if it's not dodgy sex games involving spanking, everybody getting really, really annoyed about their tyres, or Jensen Button allegedly having such tiny hands some photographs of him steering utilise a 'hand double' (and what kind of name is Jensen Button, anyway? It's as if your dad called you Ferrari Pandy, instead of plain old Andy), it's Nelson Riddle crashing his Renault deliberately.
Sorry, Piquet Junior. Nelson has turned Mosley's Evidence, so he gets away without even a smack. And after all, it was his life at risk in that hefty colllision with the concrete. The Renault officials responsible for ordering him to crash have already walked, so all that remains is for Bernie Ecclescake and co to warmly congratulate the company on their strategic thinking. No, they don't do that, but the mild whisk with a warmed set of birch twigs they do get seems, to any neutral observer, laughable. Call that a sport?
Formula One is a bad, boring, ludicrously expensive joke, wholly compromised by peculiar leadership and venal practitioners. And the reverberations reach right down through almost all motor sport. If you want to see pure, motorised racing, so dangerous it can never be televised, so frequently fatal even mentioning it in some quarters is frowned upon, investigate the twilit world of the Irish motorcycle road races. This is competition virtually devoid of financial reward. The North West 200 in Portrush, Portsewtart and Coleraine, dangerous enough with its street furniture and white lines, is the least of it. On closed farm roads throughout Northern Ireland and the Republic, during the summer, bikes ridden by amateurs slither and howl at speeds of over 150mph, and crashing is never, ever deliberate, strategic or usually, anything but fatal. It puts the antics of millionaire cheats like Piquet in some kind of context.


Tonight sees another edition of Jonathan Meades' Off Kilter series broadcast on BBC 4, in which the acerbic aesthete, cultural critic and wearer of lumpy suits takes on Scotland, whence his maternal grandparents came, prior to their sudden appearance in whatever southern branch of Bohemia Mr Meades stems from.
I like Meades. His glum, St Bernard's face and poor-man's-Anthony-Burgess locution is a refreshing antidote to the other approved practitioners of television documetary - Griff Rhys-Jones, Paul Merton, Neil Oliver (Get your hair cut! Wear a net! Stop shouting!) and Lord William of Connolly. Meat has already cut a leisurely swathe through Aberdeen and Lewis (Rust Island) in this series, so to see him taking on the likes of Cowdenbeath, Dunfermline, Methil, Kirkcaldy and other communities known only to him through the football pools was always going to be bracing. The selection of 'Jakey drinks' was illuminating, though it's Scotsmac, not Lanliq that was made at the old Viking cinema in largs by James Wham, a former war hero who was involved in the raid mythologised in The Guns of Navarone. There were some great moments of scathing commentary - Celtic, Rangers, Hibs and Hearts dismissed as 'excuses for hatred' - but Mr Meat (a Maed, by the way, in Shetland is a navigation cairn used by fishermen to guide their way home) is best over 30, not 60 minutes. I was looking forward to his celebration of Grangemouth's greatness, as it matches my own fascination with the place, where my good friend Lindsay Hutton lives and breathes and provides the world with the best online rock'n'roll blog there has ever been or will be, the legendary Next Big Thing. Scouringly abrasive, grumpy and perceptive, romantic and bitter, Lindsay is a kind of Ramones-loving, Cramps-worshipping Jonathan Meades of Scotland. Pity they never met. Pity I fell asleep for the last bit of the programme.


I have recently acquired the DVD of In The Loop, Armando Ianucci's (with help from 'swearing consultant' Ian Martin) excoriating take on Anglo-American political relations. The extras are, unusually for a DVD, absolutely superb, including a stunning encounter between The Crossest Man In Scotland (spin doctor Jamie, played by Paul Higgins) and Gina McKie, Most Beautiful Woman Ever In the History of Tyneside. There's also an interview with Ms McKie (I'm not ashamed to swoon) and Chris Addison, in which Gina (I can call you Gina, can't I?) quietly bemoans the fact that she did not get to go America with the rest of the cast, instead filming her ostensibly New York-set scenes in Glasgow. I thought I recognised Lally's Palais, masquerading as the UN.
Anyway, In The Loop, with its squirmingly embarrassing scenes where the pathetic Brits desperately try to arrange meetings with senior American politicans, was inevitably brought to mind by the antics of the Downing Street press corps last night at the real UN, as they attempted to engineer a meeting between Once-Red Gordon Brown and Smokin' Barack Obama, in the face of apparent US indifference. Obama was up for meeting the Chinese, Japanese and Russian Premiers, but not the Democratically Elected King of Kirkcaldy. Presumably he doesn't want to waste his handshakes when Cameronisation is imminent. In the end, Gordon and Barack bumped into each other in a kitchen, where our PM was presumably 'accidentally' hanging around, checking the quality of the bean sprouts.
As for Colonel Gadaafi-Bono's sopeech, what a corker! Who killed JFK, Swine Flu an example of biological warfare...did Dan Brown write it?


And now, to more important things: Peter Andre, sometime pop star (for about three minutes or less) and erstwhile partner of forward-biased glamour novelist Jordan, has been mobbed during a series of appearances at...supermarkets. It's wonderful to see someone begin the long road back to true stardom. Reduced to signing albums at branches of ASDA, the coverage of his break up with Katie Jordan-Price has fuelled what appears to be mass public interest. Four thousand turned up in Bolton to swoon, including one lass who had been in hospital with pneumonia for six weeks, but queued for six hours as inmmediatel tcured, six times over! This is sinister, as you can see from the appearance of the number 666! What's that tattooed on Peter's forehead?
There's a great (and possibly apocryphal) tale about the hyper intellectual Peter, that he read somewhere about how good bananas were for you, and began a six-week banana-only diet. He allegedly managed only a few days before being rushed to hospital, suffering from potassium poisoning. But he's all right now. And doubtless preparing for the reconciliation duet single with Jordan which will be released, oh around Christmas, coupled with a joint guest appearance (possibly with weans) on either the X- Factor or Strictly Come Dancing.


Vegetarian alert: risk of offence coming up! Hell's teeth, I hate hens. We have several of the filthy beasts, which are far better wrapped in polythene and chilled or frozen from the supermarket. Alive, they have feathers and defaecate absolutely everywhere. Only geese are worse, the filthiest birds in the universe. At least the French have worked out someyhing to do with their livers
Chickens are also very difficult to kill. I once shot a particularly vicious cockerel (the postman eventually refused to deliver to our house, as his trousers were being regularly ripped) seven times with a 12-bore, and it failed to expire. You could see through it in several places, but it was still running about and squawking in a belligerent, cocky fashion. And don't believe all that stuff about grabbing them and wringing their necks. During the summer, my son and his wife were visiting from Northern Ireland with their dog Cuillin, who is from Derry and was a trifle confrontational. Cuillin, no more than a puppy, pounced on a half-grown cockerel and took several lumps out of it. I gave the damaged bird's neck a severe twisting and chucked it over the sea wall to be eaten by passing bonxies, otters and other forms of nature, red in tooth and claw. A week later, with a somewhat extended neck, the bird was back. Now it's hale, hearty (if somewhat giraffe-like in appearance) and an Incredible Hulk among fowl. Cuillin, meanwhile, having had his genitals removed, is living a peaceful life in Tyrone.

In: Chas

Out: Dave

Shake it all about: The decision by Dave Peacock to stop touring with this long-term partner Chas Hodges means that the long-standing rock'n'roll urban myth has come sadly true: it goes like this. There's a notice outside a venue saying 'TONIGHT: Chas and Dave (not original Dave)'. Chas Hodges has announced that all outstanding dates will be played by Chas 'and his band'.


Saturday, September 26, 2009

Absolutely brilliant - the last word on Lily Allen and her anti-filesharing campaign

Honestly, the viral existence of this, the brilliance of it, the effort put in to write and perform it, the humour, the sentiments gives you hope for the future of music, art, the human race...

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Tom Morton's Week - in The Sunday Herald

Tom Morton's Week (published in The Sunday Herald, 20 September 2009)


I'm having a bit of a cake problem. Desperate attempts to lose weight have foundered, and instead I have taken to the Top Gear solution (wearing sports jacket to disguise increasing chest flab). This has sent me rolling down the road to confectionary perdition, snacking in a sugary fashion whenever temptation presents itself.
So here I am, leaving Govan's great riverside filing cabinet, wherein the BBC lives and breathes and has its panic attacks, when I notice that the wee coffee bar in the foyer (open to the public, by the way; free wi-fi and celebrity spotting opportunities) is offering sumptious Victoria sponge which has every appearance of being home made. I buy and scoff some immediately, my girth increasing noticeably within seconds. This is shameful, as during my previous week's squatting in Pacific Quay I had glimpsed young David Macdonald, aka Tennent, who has the gangly frame of your average stick insect, only thinner. Or maybe it was the fact that he was watching Brian Taylor chair his Large Debate radio programme that made it look that way.
Anyway, the sponge fuels me for my drive to Perth, where I like to decompress from the vicissitudes of the Dear Green Place before Aberdeen and the boat home to the Greater Zetlandics. Still hungry, I partake of a steak at the Harvester Industrial Process Feedery, and am served with a pepper sauce so pungent I'm convinced hydrocarbons have been added by mistake. But no, it's only essence of Stilton. Or Eddie Izzard's marathon running socks, or both. Whatever, it's like sucking fuel from an ancient diesel tank while munching old, suppurating trainers. Mmm. Good value though.
Back to the Lodge (Travel, or travail; not masonic cavorting) to watch, in appalled awe, Keith Allen's documentary about Keith Floyd (65, looking 90). I switch it off in mid-cringe. What must Floyd be making of this, I ponder?


Well, it seems Keith Floyd did not like that TV film at all. So little, in fact, that he appears to have shuffled off this mortal coil. How must Keith Allen be feeling? As it turns out, Floyd died of heart failure after a hefty lunch involving oysters, shrimp, partridge and various wines. The four divorces must have contributed, methinks. Cooks of every variety and coiffeur are queuing up to say that he was the best TV chef, the one who started it all, who paved the way for them to make their millions out of sponsoring bad electric juicers. Though surely one or two must have blanched at his branding each and every one of them as c***s on the previous night's telly. What a way to go!
Patrick Swayze is dead too. The clips being shown on television from Ghost and Dirty Dancing look like awful parodies, but they're all too real. The mullet. Now there was a haircut. And a fish.
I passed through the Broxden Interchange a few scant days ago, heading south on the Megabus (it's now BBC policy that all staff up to DG level travel by bus and skateboard at all times). There was a ferociously drunk man aboard, who was determined to sing the Wild Rover in the style of Saint Steak and Kidney. It is a tribute to the democracy of bus travel that he lasted all of 30 seconds before being very forcibly silenced. I was tempted to take the same approach to the over-large students who insisted on fully reclining their seat backs 'because we're going to London', but didn't. Instead, I bashed my knees against their seats in time to my iPod's blasting of Elbow's Leaders of the Free World album, all the way from Dundee to Cumbernauld.
Today I am in a Citroen, a form of French car. There is more legroom than on the Megabus. But it smells even odder. That's because I lent to my son. He is also a large student.


Off the ferry and back in Shetland, where all kinds of hell has been breaking loose, the chief executive of Shetland islands Council is under investigation for, it seems, drinking in his office, his back garden and possibly - you won't credit this - in a pub. And, allegedly threatening, during a telephone conversation, to 'kick in the teeth' of a councillor. No less a councillor, in fact, than the Very Rev Dr Jonathan Wills, legendary ex-Shetland Times editor, natural historian, boatman and first student rector of Edinburgh University, BG (Before Gordon).
It's the talk of the steamie. Indeed, it's the talk of the steamie, the cludgie and probably the budgies, who tend not to survive long in Shetland as they're considered a delicacy by the native Great Skuas, also known as Bonxies.
Jonathan has reported the mater to the police, who duly announce they're not pursuing the case. The council, on the other hand, launch an investigation, and the chief executive decides to take eight weeks off. The allegations about drinking in his office are dismissed. Jonathan issues a statement of Great Unhappiness.
Who is this beleaguered council official? None other than David Clark, fresh to local government after working as a consultant with his own firm, Dalzell Projects, who advertise themselves as 'troubleshooters, practitioners and advisors'. The company's website also says:
'Problems? Whatever your need, Whatever your problem, No matter how dire, We can put things right! Contact us NOW.' Err...right. I know someone who might be looking for that kind of help.
Mr Clark is the son of the legendary Ian Clark, Shetland Islands Council's first chief executive, scourge of the oil industry and then later, poacher turned gramekeeper with Britoil. What he's making of all this is anybody's guess.


Last night saw Radioplay, sorry Coldhead, hit Hampden, triumphing in front of 40,000 fans while the man initially touted as 'joint headliner', Jay-Z, faced a half-empty stadium. Beyonce, his wife, wasn't there for him. X-Factor supremo Simon Cowell, on the other hand, was present for Chris Martin and his boys, at least in video form. As at other gigs, the image of Cowell was used to 'judge' the singalong performance of the Glasgow crowd.
Meanwhile, and much more importantly, Bathgate's answer to Lena Martell, Susan Boyle, was reinforcing Cowell's plans for world domination as she performed on America's Got Talent in front of the high-trousered-philanthropist, and several million private health care enthusiasts. Bizarrely, she sang a version of the Rolling Stones' epic ballad Wild Horses, which is about as appropriate as Val Doonican doing Steppenwolf's The Pusher. She's heading for number one in the states with her debut single, apparently. Simon must be pleased.

Dan Brown has a book out. You may have noticed. It's the best-selling book in the history of malignant tosh, is called The Lost Symbol and does for Freemasonry what the Da Vinci Code did for the Roman Catholic Church. Only it's nicer about the rolled-up-trouser-legs stuff.
Mr Brown's Grail epic led of course to Rosslyn Chapel's becoming a kind of Knights Templar Disneyland, awash with tourists looking for Tom Hanks and Audrey Tatou (who wore, in the movie, a very nice Fair Isle ganzie).
Now, as the new Brown opus sells in giddying amounts, the Freemasons are ready to reap the benefits. Doubtless fast-track 'Be-a-Mason-for-a-day' experiences are being prepared, souvenir aprons, set squares and the like. In Kilwinning, home of Lodge Number One, 'The Mother Lodge', they have bigger fish to fry. Or grails.
According to a new book by Jamie Morton (note to compliance police: no relation) the Holy Grail is not at Rosslyn, but was buried in Kilwinning. The fact is that Rosslyn, weird as it may be, was built after the Templars had been wiped off the face of the earth. Not so Kilwinning Abbey, which is often touted as the link between the Templars and the Freemasons.
Anyway, Cousin Jamie claims the grail may be in the vicinity, and now there is talk of an archaeological dig to try and find it. Could tourists soon be flocking to Kilwinning (Burns connection too: surely a Masonic Homecoming initiative has been missed?), the obvious missing link between the Da Vinci Code and the Lost Symbol? Take that dagger away from my breast!


I’ve always mildly disliked The Beatles, with the exception of Abbey Road, the second album I ever owned and every note and lyric of which I can still reproduce vocally. Which is how I regularly get thrown off the Megabus.

Anyway, there’s no escaping those durn moptops at the moment, with the remastering of records (again), mono pressings, and of course the computer game (‘guitar simulator’) Rock Band, now available featuring the likes of McCartney’s Hofner Violin Bass, twiddling of plastic switches for the use of.

For those of you who’never played Rock Band, and it’s big here in the Morton Manse among the junior inhabitants, it involves listening to songs and trying to match colour coded. blobs roughly linked to said songs with similar colour coded blobs on plastic imitation instruments. I hate it. Because I’m useless at it. Yet it has introduced my 15-year-old Katy Perry-adoring daughter to Steely Dan’s Reeling in the Years and other hoary old chestnuts from the dawn of cocaine rock.

Talking of hoary old nuts, former Rolling Stone Bill Wyman has come harrumphing out of his rock’n’roll rest home to condemn Rock Band, as ‘it makes less and less people dedicated to really get down and learn an instrument.’ Oh yeah? Proof, please, Bill, whose bass playing was of such prowess that Keith Richards sometimes took over his duties in the studio.

Most touring rock acts take one or other version of rock band with them for dressing room diversion, and the new Beatles version will doubtless prove popular with the now-grounded and Oasisless Noel Gallagher. If it had existed in his younger days, he wouldn’t have had to write all those parody Rutles tunes. And that, Mr Wyman, would surely have been a real service to humanity.

IN: George Burley’s fading-and-falling, ageing 1940s matinee-idol haircut, which has re-introduced the concept of ‘the shed’ for a generation used to something a tad more tousled.

OUT: Steven Pressley’s seriously unkempt hairstyle, coupled with the kind of unshaven chin his namesake Elvis would never have countenanced.

SHAKE IT ALL ABOUT: The ‘c’ words. As used, finally, by Gordon at the TUC conference (c**s) and by the late Keith Floyd in reference to every other chef who has ever appeared on telly (c***s). And let's not even mention c**es. Oh, all right, Make mine an Apple Turnover.


Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Journey's Blend, the TV series - now online from SingleMalt TV

This is the film record of my June trip with Rob and Ken around the most northerly, southerly, westerly and easterly distilleries in Scotland. Made by The Drapers, father and son, for SingleMalt TV, I think it's rather amusing. And instructive, both about whisky and archaeology.

Monday, September 07, 2009

The theory of pessimistic hopefulness and its application to international football

I mentioned on the show today that, in my opinion, the best approach to Scotland's crunch World Cup qualifier with Holland on Wednesday was pessimism. This was born of the hideous, depressing experiences I have had in my life of actually supporting, optimistically, Scotland's national socceristas in their quest for glory.

It works this way: Assume abject defeat, and a proud, slight defeat with flickers of talent becomes tremendously pleasing. Assume abject defeat and a draw inculcates rosy euphoria. Assume abject defeat and victory is the greatest pleasure anyone can know outside of a 1974 Gordon and Macphail Ardbeg (from the cask).

Assume abject defeat and get abjectly defeated, and you lose nothing. You are in a state of emotional and spiritual balance.Your yin has been well and truly yanged.

Now this may all sound a tad...well, defeatist. In fact, the head of Radio Scotland, Jeff Zycinski, gently chided me today in an email, though I am certain that in his heart of hearts he knows the power of pessimism, or negative optimism. His argument is that pessimism does not play well on the radio. Which may well be true. Like Scotland not playing well in away games.

But the power of pessimism is in its ability to protect passionate hopefulness. If we cower in doom and gloom, it is only to guard the sliver of wishing-for-victory that has been battered so many times in the past. It's healtheir.

The other thing to do is stop my wife, Susan, watching the match, as whenever she does, Scotland lose.

It's scientific. I can prove all this. Come away the Tulip Eaters! All together, Scotland! Assume Abject Defeat! Or Assume Abject Annihallation! AAA!

Sunday, September 06, 2009

How low can you go?

"I won't flinch..." I think this guy's accent betrays a Scottish origin.

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Journey's Blend, new whisky-and-motorbikes book, now available

This is a bit of an experiment. In June, as you can read in the Journey's Blend blog, Rob Allanson (editor of Whisky Magazine) Ken Hamilton and myself completed a 1500-mile motorcycle journey around five Scottish distilleries, collecting samples and creating what we think of us 'the ultimate geographical blend'.

This was filmed for the internet TV station singlemalt tv and has now been turned into a lavishly-illustrated book, featuring written contributions from each of us (including 12,000 words of my own deathless prose).

There are only 50 bottles of the 'Journey's Blend' whisky available, in a presentation box with a signed copy of the boook. These are available only from Whisky Magazine or at the various Whisky Live festivals (including the upcoming one in Glasgow, at which the book and blend will be officially launched).

You can buy the book on its own from the magazine, or from Preview it by clicking on the link below:
By Five distilleries...