Sunday, January 25, 2015

The Burnsian Ballad of Rug and Dexter

Great, slobbery, fat and lazy dug
You lie upon the lino like a rug
Or rise to block our viewing of the telly
Furry, aromatic, downright smelly
Affectionately covering us with drool
A massive, moving, bloodshot-eyed footstool
You shed your hair at least five times a day
I hoover, but it never goes away
It blows around the house like tumbleweed
If you’re allergic, the last thing that you need
But when it seems that things could not get worse
There’s feeding you: Like dealing with a horse
Sackfuls of food just disappear
We spend thousands of pounds a year
And it’s not enough, though it beggars belief
For you’re a sneaky, unrepentant thief
Who’ll raid our bins, our pans and pots
What will you eat? It matters not a jot
You are a menace. That’s absolutely true
But we’d be at a total loss without you

Wee, sleekit, always in a hurry
You slither, jump, you scamper and you scurry
You bark at shadows half a mile away
The postman is retiring, people say
Because of you, your manic morning rage
Sometimes we have to lock you in your cage
Until you calm. Then you can be charming
Quite lovely, friendly, obedient, disarming
Anxious to please, to chase and fetch a ball
Though after seven hours, that can pall
Amazingly you’ll sleep right through the night
Though, sudden noises can give you a fright
And then you’ll wake the whole house with your barking
Even if it’s only someone parking
Their car five miles away. Your hearing
Is acute, I’ll find you peering
Into the night, determined to protect
Us from an evil only you detect
But no-one else can see
Still. I’m grateful you’re concerned for me

They have their faults, these two imperfect mutts
We’re stuck with them though. No ifs or buts

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Sunday lunch after the storm (Telt dee. But dü widna listen)

Hillswick, 11 January 2015

Buses and fences unwheeled, uprooted
Tossed impatiently aside
Like ill-advised sheds
From B and Q
(Telt dee, telt dee, but du widna listen)

Solar panels ripped from roofs
Rippling like some stray goddess's
1960s Danish jewellery
Lost after a wild night out
At Posers
(Telt dee, telt dee, but dü widna listen)

Hedges of tangle, heaped
On misshapen beaches scoured of bruk
Salmon farmers prowl in Fladen suits
Searching for runaway cages
And boats
(Telt dee, telt dee, but dü widna listen)

In this old wooden hotel
Creaking like a galleon
Beneath swaying chandeliers
We eat and drink the gale goodbye
Pudding? Well...
(Telt dee, telt dee, but dü widna listen).

Friday, January 09, 2015

The Dundee Vegetarian (for Mike Ritchie)

I quite like fish, maybe you’re surprised
As long as I don’t have to look them in the eye
The thought of dead cow makes me hae a fit
Unless they’re ground up into tiny wee bits

Don’t think if I see a tree I hug it
I’m very partial to a chicken nugget
But no if it’s got feathers and a squawking beak
The very idea makes my knees go weak

I don’t eat red meat
But mince and tatties just cannae be beat
I’m no a contrarian
Just A Dundee vegetarian

I make exception for pies or pehs
I could eat an ingin in every single day
But what’s inside can be a mystery
As long as it comes with brown gravy

You say I’m a hypocrite, I don’t care 
I’m from Dundee things are different there
I like the animals in the Camperdown zoo
But I don't like the taste of a Whitfield Coo

I don’t eat red meat
But mince and tatties just cannae be beat
I’m no a contrarian
Just A Dundee vegetarian

Copyright Tom Morton 2014. All rights reserved

Wednesday, January 07, 2015


Their expressions said it all: there but for the grace of God.

Those pre-dawn TV shots of the Hrossey's passengers describing the sight of the Cemfjord's upturned bow, a brutally floodlit gravestone to her eight crew, in the Pentland Firth, hit hard in Shetland. Along with her sister ship Hjaltland, the ferry travels between Lerwick and Aberdeen every night, a 150-mile journey which lasts between 12 and 14 hours, taking in the most exposed and dangerous open-sea route in UK waters.

All of us have been on the boats in dreadful weather. We've slammed into huge waves, heard the car deck alarms going off, watched unsuspecting holidaymakers heaved down staircases. In the old P&O days, when crossings were undertaken in much more extreme weather than today, we've been hove-to in Scapa Flow for days, seen cars smashed flat by overturned HGV trailers, watched our meals fly sideways off tables. And now, with Aberdeen's estuarial harbour terribly vulnerable to certain winds and tides, you can find yourself wallowing off the Granite City for hour after vomitous hour until that final hair-raising, stabilisers-off dash for the narrow gap between breakwaters.

But you never think you're going to die, not really. The old joke is that when you're flying to Shetland, you're sure you're going to die; on the boat, you just wish you were dead.

I watched the faces, some of which I knew, listened to the island accents, and I could see and hear the grim, rueful sense of survival, the recognition of and gratitude for escape.

Island life, or life in these islands, is not easy. It's not safe. Sure, we try and make things as comfortable as possible. But at the crossroads of the Atlantic and the North Sea, we are exposed, both in transit to and fro and during our everyday existence. Helicopters, fixed-wing aeroplanes, fishing boats, yachts, ferries, tankers, cargo vessels, cars, motorbikes, even walking home over the hill. Technical failure, human error, and most of all the weather. All weighing down on you. You just plan, prepare and try not to worry too much.

Weather, though. Is it a Russian or a Chinese proverb? There's no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothes. No. There are bad cars, bad tyres, bad boats, bad decisions. Bad forecasts.

Here we are connoisseurs of forecasting. Everyone has their favourite website, obsessively monitored along with one or other of the AIS ship movement services. Current favourites are the Norwegian YR (, the surfing service Magic Seaweed ( and the one recommended to me by a local inshore fisherman last week, XC (

It's fair to say that things are not looking good for the weekend. XC is much more focussed and detailed than those TV 'amber warnings', and we're looking at Saturday into Sunday as the worst period, with average windspeeds in the 60-70mph region and gusts of up to 93mph. Boats and planes will be cancelled. Power lines will come down, particularly if the predicted snow arrives (wind-driven snow is death to exposed electricity cables).

And so we prepare: Petrol for the generator. Oil for the central heating. Peat for the fire? Not with our chimneys. The Rayburn will have to stay cold and glum. I'm due to broadcast three three-hour national radio shows from the house, as usual, Friday through Sunday, right in the midst of the hurricane's worst period. Saturday night's forecast offers the worst risk of falling off-air, though the Uninterruptible Power Supply gives me enough time to get to the washhouse and start the generator. While a record plays in from the Glasgow studio where my producers sit, waiting to start the back-up pre-recorded programme. If there's lightning, that will wipe out the secure, one-to-one ISDN line to Glasgow, leaving a sometimes wobbly internet link from an iPad.

Worried? A bit. But it's just Shetland. At least I won't be outside. At least I won't be at sea.

Monday, January 05, 2015

East Coast Kiss - verse for the New Year

An East Coast kiss

And so, we’re here
Happy New Year
I said, and then I tripped
Before I knew
What I was doing
I’d kissed her on the lips
No no, she said
And shook her head
That’s inappropriate
I’m sorry, I lied, and she replied
That garlic that you ate
Quite gave me a turn
And I returned
To the years I spent in France
Bien sur, Je disais
Thinking: that was easy
Voulez vous a peerie dance?

We cut a rug
And drank a jug
Or two of Bloody Marys
Then it was time to go
Through the ice and snow
The trip was pretty hairy
To her Marchmont door
Where we kissed some more
I’d been eating spearmint creams
But when I said
I think it’s time for bed
She said, Casanova, in your dreams 
I hitched a lucky ride
Back to East Kilbride
I glimpsed a sign in the morning light
But it wisnae true
'Embra welcomes you'?
Aye. That will be shining bright.

I was welcomed home by my Rottweiler Lee
On the sofa she’d done a copious pee
So I opened a Belgian Golden Ale
And sat, like Oor Wullie, on a pail.