Saturday, December 05, 2009

Tom Morton's Week - in The Sunday Herald today (6 December)

Impossible to find via the Herald website, so...buy the paper. Loads of good stuff in there. But if you want to read the unsubbed column, it's here. And here.


TOM MORTON’S WEEK



Monday

It’s St Andrew’s Day, and what better time to debate Scotland’s history. As opposed to ‘Scotland’s History’, the BBC series that is fast becoming the barber’s chair into which the forces of heavy-duty historical education wish to bind Mr Neil Oliver, a male model. There to saw off his lank, if heavily conditioned locks with a rusty claymore.

The spat between Mr Oliver and, in particular, Professor Tom Devine over their individual physical attributes has afforded hours of pleasure to those of us more accustomed to discussing history without reference to the Atkins Diet and Mr Vidal Sassoon’s various products. The Great Devine, a man blessed with verbosity so uninterruptible I once heard Garrison Keillor reduced to monosyllables on live radio, has attacked Mr Oliver’s Braveheartian style. Mr Oliver has commented on the gravitas-laden Devine’s ‘substantial’ appearance. Alas, though, we were not afforded the chance to compare and contrast their two carefully calibrated ‘looks’ on the BBC’s St Andrew’s Night Debate. Mr Oliver was in evidence, The Great Professor nowhere to be seen. He claimed to have been ‘blackballed’ by the BBC.

Not the case, I am assured. It was purely due to a production error involving swopped photographs of Professor Greatness and the actor Brian Cox, who did appear on the programme, wrapped all in jute and with a most unconvincing Broughty Ferry accent. Mr Cox, set to appear in the upcoming multi million pound feature film ‘My History – The Devine Story’ has been auditioning (along with Tom Cruise, Ewen McGregor, Gerard Butler and Zac Ephron) for the part of the Prof in said biopic, and was booked due to understandable visual confusion by a media underling. The actor’s decision to take Robert De Niro’s Raging Bull approach to impersonating the Prof seems to be paying off. More pies! Meanwhile, attempts to persuade Mr Oliver to shave his head for Children in Need failed miserably, after he claimed that, were this to happen, ‘all his strength would desert him.’ There appears to be a precedent for this. In history. Or mythology. Or something. What’s the difference?

Tuesday

Full moon. Scary stuff abounds. Such as the prospect of environmental minister Roseanna Cunningham (inspiration for that peculiar lyric by the great band Toto ‘all I want to do in the middle of the evening is hold you tight’) dressed head to toe in Harris Tweed, rampaging on horseback through the fields of Perthshire, whip in hand, bellowing ‘mair foxes!’

This is not, you will be relieved to know, one of Tavish Scott’s mid-debate fantasies, but perhaps the greatest inner fear of Ms Cunningham herself. In an interview with that mass circulation organ, SGAM, The Scottish Gamekeepers’ Association Magazine, the Perth MSP said: “The danger is it (tweed) gets wrapped up in a very 19th-century Victorian gentleman’s view of rural Scotland.

“I see people who have no major connection with the country wearing the costume, and that I shy away from.” (note reference to horsewomanship) “I hate seeing that. The reason people wear tweed is because it’s hard-wearing and it identifies, but not so they can stand around and look scenic for tourists. Tweed was appropriate for ghillies and gamekeepers, she said, but not for her: “If I were to dress like that I would be in danger of becoming a laughing stock, as many people do.” Surely not, Rosie? And you in that Primark top, too!

This has, inevitably, provoked fulmination from the Harris Tweed industry, who point out that their hand-made local product has become the choice of top designers worldwide. I can only say that, as someone allergic to horses, I have recently acquired a Harris Tweed waistcoat and cap, though I couldn’t afford a jacket and had to buy a Yorkshire tweed version. I’m going for the John Bonham (while still alive) rock drummer look. Waistcoats disguise a multitude of overindulgences.

Meanwhile, you may be aware that former Labour Party tactical nuclear missile Brian Wilson is now an eminent figure in the world of Harris Tweed. Prompting the joke from a columnist on this very publication: Why do Brian Wilson’s tweed jackets not fit properly? Because he’s got a chip on both shoulders.’

Wednesday

My all-female production team refuse to sanction an on-air discussion about record players, turntables, CD players and streaming audio, as ‘it’s a man thing.’ Huh. Then, in the privacy of my own living room, my much-esteemed wife demands that my much-loved pile of Linn, NAD and KEF hi-fi equipment is ‘made less intrusive.’ In high dudgeon, I remove it all, setting it up in the shed (it’s a large and weatherproof shed. Or, if you prefer, small house). Along with the, ahem, other two sound systems, recording and broadcasting gear, bicycles, disassembled Suzuki GS1000G, photography equipment and life size portrait of Roseanna Cunningham.

It has just been announced, first that Eaglesham hi-fi manufacturer Linn is to abandon making CD players, in favour of boxes that’ll play music from computer files. Linn will, however, continue to make the machine that started it all for them, the Sondek. A record player. A thing that plays vinyl LPs. Remember them? It seems more and more are discovering their superior sound. Not, however, Technics, who have just revealed that production of their legendary 1200/1210 turntable (beloved of DJs and hip-hop scratchers the world over) is to end.

During my days as a salesperson for Russ Andrews HiFi’s deceased Glasgow branch, Maeto Musik, Linn’s founder, Ivor Tiefenbrun was forever in the shop, fulminating, as was his Malcolm Tuckerish wont, about everything from CDs (‘the pits’ was the motto on one Linn t-shirt) to middle eastern politics, Jaguars, German cars and the utter rubbishness of all sound equipment not made in Glasgow. Including, it should be said, Technics record decks. This is the man who once, during a meal at a Mexican restaurant, sliced apart the in-house speaker wires when the owner refused to switch it off. As my producers say, maybe it’s a man thing.

Thursday

Shane McGowan of the Pogues may be a sorrowful figure to some – a semi-functioning alcoholic, with rotting teeth, unfocussed eyes and, when he can actually move of his own volition, stumbling gait – but he is also one of the greatest lyricists in modern music. And a survivor.

One of the earliest Sex Pistols superfans (there’s a picture of him having part of his ear bitten off at a Pistols gig) he is now set to follow in the celebrity footsteps of Johnny Rotten Lydon by taking part in a reality TV show. To be broadcast on RTE1 on Monday, 'Victoria and Shane Grow Their Own' follows the adventures of McGowan and girlfriend Victoria Mary Clarke when they try living in eco-friendly fashion, growing their own vegetables and rearing their own animals.

All, you will be unsurprised to know, does not go according to plan. Clarke is no gardener and McGowan does not fancy himself as a horny-handed tiller of the soil. 'Victoria and Shane Grow Their Own' is due to be broadcast on RTÉ One on December 8th. The concept has not found favour with some dyed-in-the-wool Pogues fans, who see Clarke as taking advantage of Westminster School educated McGowan. Still, surely that fresh air will be good for them both.

Friday

It’s Shetland Times day. The last saturation-coverage newspaper in Scotland, possibly the world, publishes this morning, and throughout the islands, everything stops for perusal of the hatches, matches, and dispatches, the for-sale classified (‘one wedding dress, never used; sheepdog, good with children’ ran one I remember).

After a year, I can buy a Times (and hereabouts, there is only one ‘Times’) locally, as our township has its shop back. Community owned, too, after a buy-out, refurbishment (almost entirely by voluntary labour) and much commitment by all of us actually use the thing, rather than travelling the 35 miles to our nearest supermarket.

And what’s in ‘da pepper’? Favourite chorus from notoriously cynical Shetlanders is ‘dere’s naethin in it’, but that has certainly not been true over the past year, which has seen the near-meltdown of the local council in a welter of police complaints, personal accusations and shouting; a furious local row about a planned windfarm, and even the statement by a sheriff last week that Shetland had the highest rate of heroin abuse in Scotland.

All this has happened on the watch of editor Paul Riddell, formerly at The Scotsman and prone to what some may call eccentricities in his editorial style, including a recent leader entirely in loftily-quoted Latin. Lately, contributors to the paper’s letters page have found their missives going unpublished. However, the Times’s on-line rival The Shetland News, has been airing them. Last week, this provoked Mr Riddell himself (at a reputed 50 grand a year, the best paid local editor in Scotland) to contribute to the News’s letters page: a savage attack on one climate change doubter whose letter had failed to reach The Shetland Times’s high standards of objectivity, and adherence to the views of Mr Riddell. Oh, the joys of island media life!

Saturday

It’s The Thick Of It Day. Malcolm Tucker is in meltdown, and yet Peter Capaldi’s character remains the best hope for a Labour victory at the next election. But it’s not over. As he said himself last episode: “I used to be the f***ing pharoah, but now I am f***ing floundering in a f***ing Nile of shit. But I am gonna fashion a paddle out of that shit.” And, as everyone knows, Curly Wurlys should be the size of a small ladder.



IN: Gary: Tank Commander: best Scottish comedy series since Still Game

OUT: Happy Hollidays, worst Scottish comedy series since The Dawn of Time (but that was on Grampian)

(Don’t) SHAKE IT ALL ABOUT: Neil Oliver’s hair.