Sunday, December 27, 2015

On Mixcloud (with talking) and Spotify (no talking) The Beatcroft social embarrassing-dad/grandad-dancing New Year shindig playlist (with aspects of modernity)

Spotify playlist (no speech) here:

Or play the full 2-hour Mixcloud radio show (with talking) here:

Tumbling Dice – The Rolling Stones
Run Like The River – Vintage Trouble
Take Me To The River – Al Green
Mustang Sally – Wilson Pickett
Bad Moon Rising - Thea Gilmore
Rock’n’Roll Girls - John Fogerty
Poor Poor Pitiful Me – Warren Zevon
Tainted Love  – Gloria Jones
Some Kind Of Wonderful – The Soul Brothers Six
Money (That's What I Want) - Barrett Strong
(Love Is Like A) Heat Wave – Martha Reeves & The Vandellas
Too Many Fish In The Sea – The Marvelettes
Wishing Well – Free
Uptown Funk – Mark Ronson, Bruno Mars
Teenage Kicks – The Undertones
Song 2 – Blur
You Give Love A Bad Name – Bon Jovi
More Than a Feeling – Boston
I Fought the Law – The Clash
Won't Get Fooled Again – The Who
Ace of Spades РMoțrhead
Jessie's Girl – Rick Springfield
Superstition – Stevie Wonder
Town Called Malice – The Jam
Does Your Mother Know – ABBA
Heroes  – David Bowie
Blitzkrieg Bop – Ramones
Good Times – CHIC
No Woman, No Cry  – Bob Marley & The Wailers
Get It On – T. Rex
Addicted To Love – Robert Palmer
Teardrops – Womack & Womack

Miss You  – The Rolling Stones

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Unfit for purpose? Lives at risk as decrepit air fleet fails Shetland

Sumburgh, Wednesday night. Photo:Ronnie Robertson/Shetland News

I have flown in and out of Shetland on all kinds of  aircraft.  Shorts of Belfast Flying Skips, Islanders, dodgy Cessnas, Made-in-Prestwick Jetstreams, the brilliant King Air air ambulance, Budgies (Hawker-Siddeley 748s), even the venerable Viscounts British Airways used back in the late 70s and early 80s. 

Ah, British Airways. Free booze, sometimes in very large quantities if things were becoming tricky. Who can forget the nail-biting, Budgie-buttock-clenching night we made three attempts to penetrate the thick fog around Shetland’s sooth end, each one abandoned at the last second as engines screamed and the aeroplane stood on its tail, double miniatures of your choice served after every aborted touchdown? Wild ballerina wingtip pirouettes around Sumburgh Head in high winds? Wave-height Dambuster runs from Orkney? That time a captain, on his last pre-retirement flight, decided to fly at low level from Glasgow up Loch Lomond and the Great Glen to Inverness?

Then BA offloaded everything to Loganair, and sold the right to paint the aeroplanes to something called FlyBe. Saabs, which always made me feel secure. Comforted. I liked Saabs. Reliable cars, heavy, solid, Swedish. Of course aeroplanes need somewhat different qualities from earthbound vehicles. The ability to take off being the most obvious. And land. Safely.

Loganair, on behalf of Flybe , who take the money, operate 13  Saab 340Bs, (34 leather seats, worn and rattly nowadays) and four stretch Saabs, called 2000s, seating 50. No booze, free or otherwise. bad coffee and a Tunnocks Caramel Wafer. They are not bad aircraft. Their worldwide crash record  is good. But they’re old and unreliable (even Saabs wear out) and, in the challenging (!) conditions of the Shetland run (Aberdeen to Shetland is 163 nautical miles, and should take 51 minutes), they are plainly past it.

Don’t just take my word for it. In October the pilots union BALPA complained in writing to Loganair that broken aircraft were “being returned to the line despite being unserviceable” and in some cases “aircraft retain defects that clearly affect flight safety”. BALPA subsequently stressed that their pilots would never fly an “unsafe” plane, and Loganair stated that  “the safety of our crews and passengers is and always will be our number one priority”.

But the ‘tech’ delays  have continued, public unrest in Shetland has grown and then last night, the Wednesday before Christmas, in nasty weather, a full emergency was declared at Sumburgh when a fully-loaded Saab landed on one engine. A warning light, so far, is all we know. 
How do you think it feels to be on a flight which declares a full emergency? To land in the brace position, in gusty winds, in the dark? Again? Old? With a heart condition, an ill baby, just out of hospital after an operation? To wonder if you or your loved ones will get home for Christmas? To live in a community utterly dependent on this lifeline service, and be treated, apparently with contempt not just by the private companies who seem worse-than-indifferent to the people they serve, but by the Scottish Government, which provides heavy subsidies, and the UK Government, which has authority over air safety via the Civil Aviation Authority?

I have a dozen close family members coming to Shetland over Christmas and New Year, and some of them have never been here before, never flown in anything smaller than an Easyjet Orange Charabanc, certainly nothing with propellers, something that looks like a prop from Casablanca. I want to say to them, look, trust the pilots: they won’t fly unless it’s safe. But why should we be put in this position by Loganair’s reliance on a fleet of aircraft that should have been replaced years ago? If, with take-the-money-and-paint-our-logo-on FlyBeNight, they’re refusing to invest in new hardware, how can we be sure their investment in maintenance and repair is beyond reproach?

Me, I prefer to travel by boat. Not that NorthLink, now run by Serco are above criticism. Their flat-bottomed ferries are not really suitable for the 200-mile, 12-14 hour Aberdeen-Shetland run (officially the longest and most dangerous ocean crossing in UK waters). It can be rough. As the joke goes, on FlyBe you think you’re going to die; on SercoLink you wish you were dead. Bad weather and, yes, technical problems over the festivities have seen sailings disrupted. But I always take comfort in the fact that boats sink relatively slowly. There are lifeboats.  

As far as I know, those much-vaunted lifejackets under your seats on aeroplanes have never saved a single life. But good engineering, properly maintained, most certainly has. People here in Shetland have lost confidence that Loganair and Flybe are supplying that good technology and proper maintenance. 

They are playing fast and loose with our lives. We are absolutely sick of it. And we are frightened.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

A Shetland winter solstice, looking south to Edinburgh

22 December 2015

The sun has stopped
And turned
The slow climb north
Begins at last

The worst
Is never past
The past
Is not the worst

There's more. There's always more

Day broken, now
Grey flutter, mirk and gutter
Fire lit, peat reek
Lost summers speak
In smoke and flame

Water boils
Lamb roasts
Bread bakes
Fish fries

Past noon, the night
Frowns, glowers
This day of shite
Shuts down

The hours pass
Slow spring beckons
The clink of glass
Spirit poured, the burn

The glow
The parched demand

More. More
There's always more.

Saturday, December 19, 2015

A Beatcroft Social Christmas: 19th and 23rd December on Radio Vera Ireland, and Mixcloud from 20th

Here's the playlist:

Rockin' This Christmas – The Tractors
Jingle Bells – Booker T. & The MG's
Back Door Santa – Clarence Carter
Christmas In Washington – Steve Earle
If I'm Unworthy – Blake Mills
Tobacco Road – The Nashville Teens
Christmas Card From A Hooker In Minneapolis – Tom Waits
Presents For Christmas – Solomon Burke
Merry Christmas Baby – Otis Redding
Every Day Will Be Like A Holiday – William Bell
White Christmas – Otis Redding
Let it Snow – Harold Melvin & The Blue Notes
White Christmas – Aaron Neville
Blue Christmas Lights – Chris Hillman
Muhammad Ali (The Meaning of Christmas) – Greg Trooper
Cool, Cool Christmas – Bobby Nunn
Merry Xmas Everybody – Karine Polwart
Wonderful Christmastime – The Shins
Holiday – Vampire Weekend
I Heard The Bells On Christmas Day – The Civil Wars
Baby It's Cold Outside - feat. Norah Jones – Willie Nelson
Angels We Have Heard On High – Sufjan Stevens
Just Like Christmas – Low
Blowin' Free – Wishbone Ash
Winter Wonderland – Macy Gray
Deck The Halls – R.E.M.
Please Come Home For Christmas – Aaron Neville
O Come, O Come, Emmanuel – Punch Brothers
Jingle Bell Rock – Daryl Hall & John Oates
Santa Bring My Baby Back (To Me) – Elvis Presley
Lonely Christmas – The Moonglows
Santa Baby – Eartha Kitt
Santa Claus Is Comin' to Town - Single Version – Bruce Springsteen
Run Rudolph Run - Single Version – Chuck Berry

Jingle My Bells – The Tractors

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Too late: The loss of Ian Bell

Too late.

As we both approached our days-apart 60th birthdays, I thought about getting in touch with Ian. In the past we’d at least commiserated with each other about our mutually-advancing years. But I didn’t.

Lot of water under the bridge, lot of other stuff too...

Mostly to do with the referendum, I think. The curious thing is, although I knew Ian for 25 years, although we met, drank, ate, corresponded, we never really talked about politics. Which may seem strange, given he was Scotland’s pre-eminent political columnist. But it was all music, newspapers, family, books, dogs and a bit of religion. Gossip. Dylan and Springsteen, publishers and editors and...other stuff too. We just kind of got on.

Don’t get up gentlemen, I’m only passing through  

We shared a publisher, Mainstream, the same employers at different times. There was a memorable year of very sociable brainstorming sessions at  STV as members of a ‘cultural think tank’; some evenings and lunchtimes I can only remember patchily (“there’s jellyfish on this menu...jellyfish”), calls and letters and long emails about this and that. The thumb drive he sent me, containing an enormous selection of extremely obscure Bob bootlegs, still sits on my desk.

We rarely met, once I moved to Shetland. Eyemouth is  a long way, even in this small country. There was the occasional rendezvous in Edinburgh or Glasgow. A Book Festival gig which ended with me making dreadfully ill-judged jokes at a terribly serious  Amnesty International event, a drink or three after interviewing him about his wonderful, magisterial Dylan biography. I could never keep up, not remotely, not in any sense.

People are crazy and times are strange

The referendum. I wrote a  couple of heated columns, blogged, sometimes intemperately, wrote and published some songs and poems which I thought were entertaining and not too offensive, though with hindsight, they were. I argued against borders. Ian was of course the most trenchant, eloquent and committed supporter of independence.

There was no confrontation. Just a sudden absence of communication. We both had a lot to say, and suddenly nothing to each other. 

Things changed. And now we’ll never speak again.

Too late.

I’m locked in tight, I’m out of range

Like so many others who knew him, I’m absolutely devastated. 

(Things Have Changed by Bob Dylan)