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.