Saturday, July 15, 2017

The Beatcroft Social, 15 July 2017: The world of Mickey Jupp, and much more. Full text playlist and Spotify playlist too

Regular listeners will know I'm a big and longstanding fan of the enigmatic Mickey Jupp, and I'm currently reading an excellent biography by Mike Wade called Hole in my Pocket: The True Legend of Mickey Jupp, the Rock'n'Roll Genius Who Declined to Be A Star. That includes a list of Mickey's favourite tracks by other artists, and a couple of those are included here, along with something incredibly powerful by his band Legend and a cover version of one of his greatest songs by Dave Edmunds. Then there's a whole heap of other stuff...accompanied in this instance by a glass of mysterious, unlabelled whisky. Which was quite nice.

  • Legend - I Feel Like Sleeping
  • Dave Edmunds - Standing at the Crossroads
  • Elmore James - Standing At The Crossroads
  • Jimmy Martin & The Sunny Mountain Boys - 2020 Vision
  • Margie Hendrix - Don't Destroy Me
  • Mickey Jupp - Pilot
  • Dan Penn - I'm Your Puppet
  • The Inmates - Get Back
  • Steve Earle - Feel Alright
  • Allie X;Valley Girl - Need You
  • Little Feat - Willin'
  • The Band - Up On Cripple Creek - 2000 - Remaster
  • Randy Newman - I Love L.A.
  • Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers - Free Fallin'
  • Chris Spedding - Hurt By Love
  • Arcade Fire - Creature Comfort
  • Moloko - Pure Pleasure Seeker - Edit
  • Hot Chip - Ready For The Floor
  • That Petrol Emotion - Big Decision
  • The Undertones - Tearproof
  • Ian Hunter - Wash Us Away
  • Patti Scialfa - Rumble Doll
  • Nils Lofgren - Black Books
  • Bruce Springsteen - Radio Nowhere
  • Shawn Colvin - Tougher Than The Rest
  • Mark Kozelek - Up To My Neck In You
  • AC/DC - If You Want Blood (You've Got It)
  • The Rolling Stones - Rocks Off

Saturday, July 08, 2017

A turbulent week with two hours of music at the end to look forward to...

Well, it's been a bit of a week. All the fuss about the health board exploded all over the local media, mainly because I was determined to have my say, and not go quietly. I'll publish my full, 1000-word article about why I resigned as a non-executive board member next week, as it's only fair that The Shetland Times has it exclusively first. Look there and on the Shetland News site for news of how Shetland Wool Week has been saved by Loganair sponsorship, and other island matters.

Apart from that, my book In Shetland: Tales from the Last Bookshop has kept selling. Still five stars on Amazon, though could do with some more reviews if you fancy having a go. Kindle edition still only £2.30.  Signed copies and some second hand books, not to mention coastal art and sculpture, on sale at The Beatcroft Shop on Etsy. Thanks to everyone who's bought stuff. Your support is really appreciated.

Anyway, here's the show. Hope you like it. Share it if you do. Back next week.

The Inmates: Back in the USSR
Cheap Trick: Brand New Name on an Old Tattoo
Shack: Comedy
Michael Head and the Red Elastic Band: Josephine
Julian Cope: Trampolene
Säkert: Snooza
Primevals: Boho Baby
Midnight North: Playing a Poor Hand Well
Moon Martin: Bad Case of Loving You
Mickey Jupp: Brother Doctor Sister Nurse
Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers: Down South
Willie Nile: Love Minus Zero (No Limit)
Fleshtones: American Beat '84
Chris Rea: The Road Ahead
Nihilists: Wall Space
Puressence: This Feeling
Lindi Ortega: Angels
Kevin Ayers: Stranger in Blue Suede Shoes
The National: Guilty Party
Kathryn Williams: Road of Shadows
Amanda Anne Platt and the Honeycutters: The Road
Shirley Ellis: Soul time
Larry Williams: A Quitter Never Wins
Donovan: Hurdy Gurdy Man
Eric Bibb: Toolin' Down the Road
Paul Heaton and Jacqui Abbot: I Gotta Praise
The Saints: Know Your Product
Van Morrison: Linden Arden Stole the Highlights
Shannon McNally: You Made Me Feel For You
Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes: I Don't Want to Go Home
...and at the suggestion of my son Magnus, here's the Spotify playlist (except different Primevals tune)

Saturday, July 01, 2017

The Beatcroft Social on Mixcloud, 1st July 2017. Complete with not very subtle book plugging!

Welcome back!

Well, here we go again. No Saturday night drives to Lerwick, enjoyable badinage with Iain, Andy and Bo, or fabulous webcam coverage from around Shetland's wondrous coastline. It's an audio-only Beatcroft Social from Quidawick in Ramnavine. Great music, slightly less interactivity. And some photographs from the Attic of Obscurities here at The Last Bookshop. Have a browse if you like. See you - or to be precise, hear me - next week. Same time, same place.
New batch in - signed copies available!
Did I mention the signed books? The artwork? The rare stuff? I did? OK, I'll shut up. Oh, except I forgot to mention the arrival of a new batch of A Whisky in Monsterville. With glossy cover. Signed copies available! You can get stuff from Amazon (click on the cover link on the sidebar) or signed and customised copies, plus all the arty stuff, on Etsy, HERE.
The new book - signed and dedicated to your specifications!
Warren Zevon: Lawyers Guns and Money
Primevals: I Got Strong
Dahlmanns: The Last Time
Mickey Jupp: Politics
Rockpile: Play That Fast Thing One More Time
Jackson Browne: For a Dancer
Crosby Stills and Nash: Helplessly Hoping
Manic Street Preachers/Nina Persson: Your Love Alone is Not Enough
Gloria Jones: Tainted Love
Dells: Run for Cover
John Hiatt: Have a Little Faith in Me
The Killers: The Man
Blue Oyster Cult: Cities on Flame with Rock'n'Roll
Carol and the Treats: It's Cool to Rock
Records Are Like Life
Starry Eyed and Laughing: Chimes of Freedom
The Records: Starry Eyes
Kursaal Flyers: Cruising for Love
Eggs Over Easy: I'm Gonna Put a Bar in the Back of My Car
Inmates: Dirty Water
Legendary Hearts: Make a Home
Kodaline: Brother
The Attic of Obscurities...

Suzy Y Los Quattro: Dance the Night Away
Tony Clarke: Landslide
Clarence Carter: Do What you Gotta do
Contours: Baby Hit and Run
Lorde: Sober
Bettye Lavette: It Don't Come Easy
Thea Gilmore: Another Damn Love Song
Alison Moorer and Shelby Lynne: Not Dark Yet
Bob Dylan: Mississippi
Roddy Frame: Postcard
Orange Juice: Blue Boy
...and the view from the Attic of Obscurities

Monday, June 12, 2017

Signed copies of In Shetland, and all the online options...

OK, I have a couple of boxes of books now, and so you can get signed and personally dedicated copies direct from me here. The Shetland Times Bookshop in Lerwick has signed copies too.

Otherwise, here's how to get the book. In paper and cardboard, it's available from The Shetland Times Bookshop in Lerwick; You can order it through ANY bookshop quoting the ISBN number  (tell them it's distributed by Ingrams). It's cheap online via Lulu, and roughly the same in paperback if you have Amazon Prime, as that includes postage. Amazon also have it as a Kindle download and this is REALLY CHEAP - less than a third of the paper price (bit of a Morton obsession, Kindle pricing).

Monday, June 05, 2017

In Shetland: Tales from the Last Bookshop. Signed copies available. 'A Present from Ramnavine' pack SOLD OUT

Please read the next post, the one below. But if you just want to buy In Shetland: Tales from the Last Bookshop, here are the various online options:

 The limited edition 'Present from Ramnavine' pack is now SOLD OUT. All orders will be sent out on Tuesday of NEXT WEEK (waiting for delivery of books). If you just want a signed copy, for £9.99 plus postage, go here. Again, waiting for books, so it'll be Tuesday before I can send anything. I'll be delighted to write a dedication to you or someone else if it's a gift.

Otherwise, here's how to get the book. In paper and cardboard, it's available from The Shetland Times Bookshop in Lerwick; You can order it through ANY bookshop quoting the ISBN number  (tell them it's distributed by Ingrams). It's cheap online via Lulu, and roughly the same in paperback if you have Amazon Prime, as that includes postage. Amazon also have it as a Kindle download and this is REALLY CHEAP - less than a third of the paper price (bit of a Morton obsession, Kindle pricing).

Book making: 'In Shetland' has escaped into the world...

A Present From Ramnavine...
I wanted to make a book about my relationship with Shetland. A love story, really. Truthful, factual, fictional. Tender and brutal, caring and funny and capturing the place, the people, the sheep, goats and boats as best I could. I wanted to delve into 20 years and more of writing about being here, and make something of all those words, tens of thousands of words, some published, some not. And I focussed on the Last Bookshop idea because I did, in fact, run our old croft Gateside as an actual, come-in-and-have-a-coffee second-hand bookshop for a year or so. Have ever since dabbled with selling books and art online, and recently taken the whole thing a bit more seriously (£179, the other day, for a rare whisky book which cost me nothing; more than I've earned from actually writing books for...a long time.

Front cover. That's Muckle Ossa in the simmer dim
I began editing, then rewriting, and writing afresh. Monthly blogs from Promote Shetland turned into essays, began twisting in my hands into something else. I made some pieces of -  let's say art, from beach finds, seaglass, wood, stone. Sold them. I left the BBC, blogged, broadcast locally but also to the world on 60 North Radio/TV, and about Shetland. And I wondered: could I put this together? A blog, a bookshop, a book about a bookshop, broadcasting, the artwork? Be a small, remote, connected self-contained creative unit? Tell some stories, make some noise, make some things to put on people's walls? Sell stuff?

I don't like the crowdfunding concept, and sites like Patreon still less. I don't want to beg for support, or ask for help in writing a book, or making music which could, in the end, be rubbish. I particularly dislike the 'tipping' notion that Patreon thrives on. It's like busking, only you're asking people to give you cash on the basis of what you might be like if you only had a chance to work on your act. Truth is, many years ago, in another life as an evangelical 'living by faith' musician, that's what I did. I had a 'prayer letter'. I cultivated support. I begged. (And gigged and made records, it must be said). It felt weird and wrong then. It feels weird and wrong now. When there's no praying for money.

Religion aside (and I look back on my Brethren past a little in the book), I've been writing and talking professionally for over 30 years. I believe in what I do. I'd rather make something and offer it for sale. Sure, there's an act of faith (small 'f') involved. The excerpts online or that you leaf through in a  shop may not be representative. There's luck. But anyway, I've made this stuff, paid for it. Here it is. If you like, you can weigh up the idea, sample it online and pay me for it, see how you get on. I like the notion of a transaction. For a long time, I was a typewriter for hire. For cash money. Hitting deadlines, wordcounts, timings. Was I any good? Good enough to get paid. Maybe I've written enough. Who knows? Soon find out!

At least the stuff is out there. And as far as In Shetland is concerned, I think it contains some of my best writing.

What I've decided to do is produce something new about Shetland (pictures, writing, videos, poems) at least weekly here, online, for free. And I'll offer some stuff for sale, too: My writing, art, second-hand books. Check out the side panel for links to my eBay and Etsy shops. And if you're in Shetland yourself, drop in and browse. At the actual Last Bookshop. Because it does exist. All you have to do is find it.

What's it like? Have a read at the first chapter on Amazon. You don't have to own a Kindle or register with Amazon. Just click on 'Look Inside' here.

The limited edition 'Present from Ramnavine' pack is now SOLD OUT. All orders will be sent out on Tuesday of NEXT WEEK (waiting for delivery of books). If you just want a signed copy, for £9.99 plus postage, go here. Again, waiting for books, so it'll be Tuesday before I can send anything. I'll be delighted to write a dedication to you or someone else if it's a gift.  If you just want a signed copy, for £9.99 plus postage, go here.

Otherwise, here's how to get the book. In paper and cardboard, it's available from The Shetland Times Bookshop in Lerwick; You can order it through ANY bookshop quoting the ISBN number  (tell them it's distributed by Ingrams). It's cheap online via Lulu, and roughly the same in paperback if you have Amazon Prime, as that includes postage. Amazon also have it as a Kindle download and this is REALLY CHEAP - less than a third of the paper price (bit of a Morton obsession, Kindle pricing).

I'm enjoying the process of being a book maker. I hope you enjoy the end result and maybe some of the associated attachments. I'm betting you will.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

The Wren


I will awaken the world 
With slivers of sweetness
I am King of the Dawn
Spring’s desolation shivers
Into life for me
My song
Makes bullying bonxies 
Tumble from the sky, 
Dogs stumble
Cats cry tears of rage and terror
And flee my might
Dull clouds are pierced
By pure light

Razors of sound

See me, tiny, unafraid
Louder than bombs
Stronger than the sea
Everything lost
Is found in me
For a moment
I master everything
Hear me sing

I am King

Tom Morton, May 2017, Hillswick, Shetland

(This poem is about The Shetland Wren (Troglodytes Troglodytes Zetlandcus), but I think the picture is of the Falklands subspecies and the song is North American...)

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Thursday, April 13, 2017

The (Other) Keir Hardie Tea-Towel

Keir Hardie
was dapper
His nickname was 'Papa'
He took PE and games
His illustrious name
Was his  grandad's
It cut no ice with the lads
Of Marr College
Our political knowledge
Was zero
An old Labour hero
Meant nothing in Troon
We preferred Gordon Broon
(Not the politician
The rugby tactician
Always full of good cheer
And possibly some beer
But that was back in the day
When Scotland could play)

Today, I saw something foul
A Keir Hardie tea towel
Highly absorbent
Signed by Jeremy Corbyn
£100, it's on offer
To replenish Labour's coffers
And briefly I wondered
If someone had blundered
And my old schoolmaster
In a PR disaster
Was now drying plates
With a screen print of his face

Which would have been quite a story
Because I suspect 

Papa was a Tory...

Saturday, April 08, 2017

A Wee Political Domestic

It seems nobody loves me
But you and the SNP
I know you’re quite particular
But I’m not sure about Nicola
Our relationship was full of promise
But in her e-mails she calls me ‘Thomas’
She never uses ‘Tom’ or ‘Tommy’
She's always wanting money from me
Her or that Peter Murrell
I'm not inclined to quarrel
But they don’t seem to remember
It’s six months since I was a member

At least you know how to say my name
And married life is pretty much the same
I cook your breakfast, lunch and tea
Although politically we disagree
About the basics of independence
We both hate the binary nature of referendums
(Although some say the plural’s ‘referenda’)
I detest everything about Eastenders
You never miss a single show
But there’s one thing we both know
One unifying truth we’ve been absorbed in
Neither of us can abide Jeremy Corbyn

That romantic, 1970s pseudo-Marxist
That deluded, arrogant  narcissist 
Who’ll destroy the Labour Party, given time
I don’t know why you’ve not resigned
But where would you go then?
You ask how I can defend
The posturing hypocrisy
Of the governing SNP
Navigating a road to ruin
When there’s so much they could be doing?

Truth is, I'm no starry-eyed student
And I wouldn't.
As for  the Greens and the Lib Dems
No-one gives two Tweets about them
And their fantasies of power and glory
Don’t even mention the Tories
Who - some of my best friends fear -
Could be in power for the next 15 years
Even in a free, but utterly defiled
Caledonia, turned stern, once mild

Oh, it’s a crisis, all right; but let’s not make it a domestic drama
We both like Homes under the Hammer
And though, largely, I favour secession
We need to wait for a proper recession 
When London house prices start falling
And the Trotskyist Hampsteaders start calling
Estate agents in Wick
Saying: 'Buy me a shooting lodge, quick'
And Dion Dublin's advice
Is that Thurso is nice

I know, I know. It's a fantasy
Fuelled by daytime TV
So let's not argue, please
Have some more toast and cheese
Crowdie for me, and  Cheddar for you
Camembert or Rauchkässe would do
Cambozolo, Weisslager, 
Queso Cabrales or Limburger
Manchego, Roquefort, or Mimolette

At least Brexit hasn't happened yet

Friday, March 31, 2017

Seven pretty good grub-orientated joints in Aberdeen, from cheap to exorbitant

The Inversnecky Café 

An institution. On the beach, rocking a Jersey Shore boardwalk (only concrete) vibe, complete with adjacent somewhat grubby fairground and seagulls. Or as I would say, shows. Ideal off-the-boat breakfast, great parking, stern, buffeting beachwalks available. Good coffee, and everything you could ask for in a fry-up. Also pioneered the daft blackboard notice and has great ice cream for the one or two days a year when it's sunny. Actually, that's a cheap shot: Aberdeen is one of the sunniest places in Scotland. And speaking of cheap, the Inversnecky ain't dear. No website! How cool is that?

The Silver Darling

Wonderful quayside setting, with a light, airy cruiseliner dining room which becomes beautifully atmospheric at night. You can watch the ships coming and going while eating very good, very ornate, very expensive dishes, with a leaning towards the city’s excellent seafood. Can be a bit intimidating, perhaps because you're wondering if your Black Amex still works. Be prepared for  £55-£80 a head at night, including wine. Lunch around half that. Only for serious expense accounts, freebies and Big Nights Out. In 30 years of travelling through and staying in Aberdeen, I’ve been there once.

 The Moonfish Café

My top Aberdeen choice. Superb, tiny room, small, mostly seafoody menu but with meat and vegetarian options. Not cheap, but not in same price bracket as The Silver Darling - £40-55 a head including wine at night for three courses and their always excellent cheeseboard, lunch half that or less. But you can eat more abstemiously for less moolah, and because it’s a cheerfully informal joint, without any worries that the staff are being sniffy about your cheapskatedness. Book well in advance. Not a place for intimate conversation - hard surfaces means people with headphone-induced tinnitus can struggle. Still brilliant, though.

Rye and Soda

Hmm...I really like this place, but I have a feeling I’m a bit too elderly to fit in at certain times of the evening, when the cocktails are flowing and that weird Aberdeen combination of hipster beards and diamante glam is a-waggling and a-glinting. For a meaty brunch, though - and it markets itself as ‘an American brunch café by day’, it is unsurpassed (see Food Story below for veggie options). Huevos Rancheros, all the classics of hangover-alleviating breakfast, the astonishingly evil pizza chips, and really good coffee including a decent Aeropress. Great, informed, friendly service, too.


Brewdog-owned these days, Musa offers some great opportunities to pair mainstream and obscure, Brewdog-curated (as well as brewed) beers (tasting measures offered) with high quality Scottish food.  The grub is perhaps just a touch fussier in presentation than it needs to be and not especially cheap. But then, this is Aberdeen, even in an oil price downturn kinda situation. They have live music, often jazz, and changing art exhibitions in what is an unusual and not entirely comfortable space which can get very hot and busy, particularly if there are performers squashed in front of the wine racks. Dinner Around £30-45 for three courses including drinks. Can wind up more expensive than you think it's gonna be. They do a two-course lunch special for £16 excluding booze.

Food Story

I’ve heard rumours of bacon sandwiches being available, but think of this as essentially a vegetarian café and you won’t go far wrong. I’d say it was preposterously post-hippydom-dungaree-trendy if  it weren’t for the blingy Prosecco-quaffing shift that tends to drift in during the evening. No licence, reasonable corkage, so you can bring in your crate from Oddbins and get bubbly at speed, then nip out for replenishments.
Great falafels, chillis and lasagnes, wonderful salads, and probably the best sourdough bread available to eat on-site in Aberdeen. For me it’s somewhere for lunch, late (relatively healthy) breakfast and mid-morning ab-dabs, as the cakes are truly superb. So is the coffee and (if you’re into it) their range of space cadet teas. Hilarious toilets. And very reasonable prices, with nobody making you eat too much. Good atmosphere, gets very, very busy. 

6 Degrees North 

Naughtily opening just down from Brewdog, only for the uber-brewers to open another branch almost alongside, 6 Degrees ( distance north of Brussels; they’re Belgian beer fans) is an offshoot of parent brewpub in Stonehaven and has a phenomenal selection of obscurely drinkable stuff. It is also a really good place for a semi-liquid lunch or early tea, with their sharing charcuterie platters a treat and also a total bargain. Not for teetotallers or Proseccotisti/a.

Monday, March 27, 2017

Shetland Truck culture

Once this addiction starts
I cannot stop
I need an Ifor Williams top
Though never will a sheep or dog,
Woman or child 
Scratch my tailgate

I hate the thought 
Of grubby paws, or bags of Tesco shopping
Scarring the luscious Mitsubishi sheen.
I've been there. I had a HiLux once,
A crew cab, with roll-bar, shotgun rack
Springsteen, Steve Earle and Daniel O'Donnel tracks
Red tins of beer

It ended in tears:
A wife, a collie, trips sooth to IKEA
Talk of baby seats and daft ideas
Concerning Citröens, Peugeots, or worse
A Vauxhall Zafira
I did not hear her
For I was gone, long gone
Working offshore in Venezuala 
My relationship a failure

But I saved sufficient cash
For a Barbarian, with leather seats
The sound so sweet
Of its diesel engine in my ears
Crankshaft and gasket failure fears
Assuaged (That was in the early L200 years)

And so I drive from North Roe down to Sumburgh
And back, in only clement weather
I'll wash her with the finest chamois leather
And in the heated garage
Stroke her gently

She's better than a Bentley
Or Nissan, or Toyota
Not one iota of regret
Do I feel
This love is real
I count my blessings and my luck
In finding you, my one true pick-up truck
My L200
My precious! Do not fear

I'll never over-rev you in third gear

(And, when launching a boat into the sea,
I promise not to reverse you down 
Door-deep, until your footwells are awash
With salty water
Which, long ago, I did.
Warned many times, I just refused to listen
However, that truck was leased, and besides
It was a Nissan)

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Dog Psychology For Beginners: poem

One dog stumbles, blind, towards the smell of toast
One dog creeps upstairs, into our vacant bed
And pretends to be asleep, while waiting for the post
To come. That mailman will be dead
Or  badly barked at; Dexter can’t bear to miss

Rug, the aged and infirm, will howl in furious fright
Should Dexter, raging at some fluorescent stranger’s cheek
For being visible, give voice with all his might
And threaten deadly, toothsome measures to a meek
Innocent and hapless lurker
Or shirker

Dressed in yellow or orange, extremely reflective
Dexter, clearly suffered in the past at someone’s hands
Woman or man, who knows? I’m no detective
But  our dog has learned to hate, to fear and understand
That safety-inducing bright
Means fight
Or flight

Rug, the blind and deaf St Bernard, lives by aroma; by her nose.
She gets excited these days only by Chinese food
When a takeaway is planned, somehow she knows
She’d live on chicken curry if she could
She’s young and free
It’s the MSG

One dog remembers noodles, oyster sauce and rice, stolen or fed
One dog was hurt by someone wearing orange or yellow clothes
(They can’t see red)

They don’t forget

(c) Scar Quilse, 2017. All rights reserved

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Delicious: Hot jazz on a chilly Aberdeen weekend

A trip to the 2017 Aberdeen Jazz Festival

Trio Vein

I always quote the Bonzos: Their track Jazz (Delicious Hot, Disgusting Cold) is a dada-esque parody of the Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band’s trad roots, found in all its 32 bars of cacophonous (they all played instruments they’d never picked up before) glory on the album Gorilla.

It kind of sums up my thoughts on some elements of jazz, though frankly the word ‘jazz’ is like the word ‘music’ -  it covers a multitude of sins and blessings. But it also could, I pondered as I wandered through the rain towards His Majesty’s Theatre in Aberdeen, cover the idea of a jazz festival in Aberdeen. In March.

And I had worries, too about the Curtis Stigers/Ryan Quigley Big Band gig I was heading towards, notably what my plus-one, - my 22-year old indie hipster daughter - would make of an evening comprising mostly songs made famous by Sinatra, entitled One More For The Road.

This was the first time the Aberdeen Jazz Festival, organised by Edinburgh-based Jazz Scotland, had attempted to fill the cavernous but lovely  HMT, and it was busy. Those who had come remembering Stigers’ brief worldwide, mullet-wielding  fame in the early 90s with the likes of I Wonder Why and You’re All That Matters to Me were not disappointed - he performed both, beautifully - but the rest of the gig was a warm, self-effacing, and very entertaining romp through Sinatra’s greatest hits, plus a scattering of Stigers’ own takes on the genre.
Curtis Stigers and the Ryan Quigley Big Band

The Quigley band was exemplary throughout, playing with fire, passion, all the technical chops you’d expect and great good humour. And my daughter - who’s a classically-trained and occasionally orchestral musician, after all - loved it. These songs, beautifully played and performed, are history-proven, time-tested, and among the best ever written.

Stigers, suited and booted, looks like a scrawny, desiccated, older George Clooney and mixed happily with the audience during the interval. He’s a very good saxophonist, too, and it’s worth delving into the nooks and crannies of this eclectic talent’s output. His work on the soundtrack to TV series Sons of Anarchy is astonishingly powerful, notably his version of Son House’s blues gospel classic John the Revelator. His voice is a flexible instrument, and his jazz credentials are impeccable, going back to his beginnings. I’d buy his new album, which represents this show’s content but was recorded with the Danish Radio Big Band.

So, a triumph, and I could have gone on to the informal club at the centre of the festival, Aberdeen’s legendary Blue Lamp and enjoyed, no doubt, some more interpretations of the classics, this time Colin Steele tackling Miles Davis. But having been up since 5.00am, it was time to crash back at the Skene House Apartments in Rosemount, my home for the weekend. And very nice too. Good breakfasts, great staff, and just down the road is the wonderful Breadmaker café and the excellent Maidin Vinyl record shop. That’s what I call a location!

Next day I was engaged with things culinary and liquid, of which more elsewhere, and the evening took me to the Blue Lamp, which is a really fantastic venue, candlelit tonight and giving a very convincing impression that it’s really located somewhere in Brooklyn or just across 110th Street. It’s also completely packed for the Swiss band Trio Vein, with special guest the American saxophone legend Rick Margitza. This is contemporary, ‘modern’ jazz by piano-and-drums brothers Michael and Florian Arbenz, and bassist Thomas Lahns. Rick Margitza interracts as if he’s been playing with them forever, and while this is demanding, intellectual, occasionally abstract music it also has a warmth which makes it playful and without intimidation.

I skip off before Scottish full-on jazz-funk party outfit Fat Suit, who I know are very good indeed. Back to Skene House and a documentary on BBC4 about country music. This is what age has brought me to.
Silver City Soul Revue

Sunday is the day the festival takes to Aberdeen’s streets, with all the risks that involves. The weather, however, mostly behaves, and a selection of visiting and local acts are able to play at various open-air locations and indoor venues throughout the city centre, all for free. 

This is where the festival really, for me comes alive, with clearly enthused and occasionally joyous volunteers guiding us hither and indeed thither to investigate some unexpected musical delights. The Silver City Soul Revue down in the sub-Union Street depths of Aberdeen’s ancient Green are, for me, quite inspiring - whip smart covers of all the soul greats, and some funk treasures including Wild Cherry’s Play That Funky Music, White Boy sounding swaggeringly convincing. Up to the entrance to Marks and Spencers, where the wide-ranging nature of the festival is displayed through a local blues rock band’s effective channeling of Zeppelin and Purple.

And then, as a spattering of rain comes in from the sea, it’s off to the long-standing Belmont Street bar Drummonds for shelter, mineral water and what gradually emerges from the long, tunnel-like venue as a one-man blues band. A diminutive figure plays electric guitar and harmonica, hidden behind a gigantic bass drum. It’s great, and gradually I realise I’m listening to and watching a Scottish musical legend, the great Mike Whelans. Last seen by me in the Thule Bar in Lerwick 30 years ago, at the end of a Shetland Folk Festival, singing La Bandiera Rossa with Tich Frier and the late Davey Steele.

Time is running away with me, but as I’ve spent some 20 years passing the band stand on top of the Trinity shopping centre without ever seeing a band on it, now is an opportunity to see the edifice functioning as it was designed.  And Dope Sick Fly, a highly-rated Glasgow band who combine rock, funk, soul, jazz and hip-hop brilliantly, absolutely own the stage and the Astroturf in front of it, even though it’s getting cold and their Alabama-born singer Ant Thomaz is huddled in a very odd (but warm-looking) cardigan.
Dope Sick Fly

Truly, I only saw and heard a fraction of what was on offer at the festival. But what’s really appealing about the event is the range of styles on offer, the accessibility and sheer enthusiasm and friendliness of those involved. My experience? This jazz was hot. And delicious. Oh, and on my way to the airport, I stopped off at Maidin Vinyl and picked up some bargain LPs. Sinatra and 1920s ragtime. Scalding!
Cardigan cool

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

A light lunch at Udny Green - eating where Donald Trump failed to get in

Eat on the Green, Udny Green, by Ellon, Aberdeenshire. Dinner £39-45 per person. Lunch £25-30. Menus and winelist online at:

The Kilted Chef is wearing breeks today, albeit tartan ones, and nursing the after effects of a night in Edinburgh where his restaurant Eat on the Green did NOT win the ‘Best Restaurant Experience’ gong. That went to Glasgow’s seafood joint Gamba, which I once ate in, very expensively and not without dissatisfaction.

Mr Wilson doesn’t seem bothered. Eat on the Green is one of North East Scotland’s top  dining destinations, located in a former pub in the rather perjink village of Udny Green, near Ellon. The interior brings together the sumptuous, the pure-dead-flash and the homely; its appeal to Aberdeenshire’s somewhat reduced Porsche-and-champagne set (there’s a Laurent-Perrier sponsored ‘clubroom’ , Le Salon Vert, with silvery sofas and a chandelier made of dangling bottles, not Kristal, by the way) leavened  by some quite serious art (including a massive Gerry Burns) two lovely private dining rooms, one off the kitchen and a  reception desk beamed in from the Starship Enterprise.

All of this in a low-ceilinged building with lots of quirky corners and a newly-refurbished £20k men’s toilet, any surface off which you could eat your dinner. That, however, is unnecessary as we are at that ‘chef’s table’ from which you can see into the kitchen, but don’t have to sweat with the brigade. Unless you want to pay your £200 and be a ‘chef for a day’ on one of Mr Wilson’s cooking courses.

He’s a star, Is Mr Wilson, but a genial one, and entertaining as he tells his tale of a local boy returning to his roots and finding culinary success in this initially suspicious farming community.

“How much are ye takkin fir a bowl of soup?” He remembers the craggy local comments. “Aye, I quite likkit it. But it’s affy dear.” He was determined, though, when he set up the restaurant in 2004, that it would be fine dining without snobbery (“We’re not a burger bar”), the best ingredients sourced from as near at hand as possible. Which wasn’t without difficulty. A few leery local suppliers kept him at a distance until they realised just how good Eat on the Green was, and how popular. With big names too. Sean Connery, Alex Ferguson. And Donald Trump’s golf complex is just down the road.

“We turned him away,” confides Mr Wilson, with a discreet hint of pride. “He and his entourage wanted to have dinner, but we were full.”

Mr Wilson’s career started at the Strathburn Hotel in Inverurie at 16, before a move to the prestigious Ballathie House in Perthshire (“I took a 50 per cent pay cut at 18 and a half”), Cromlix House in Dunblane as head chef and time with Baxters as a development cook. based in  Grimsby. Yes, Grimsby, where Baxters had a plant developing ‘fresh soups’. Inevitably, he began to hanker for home.

It was in England he developed the kilted persona which became popular with local TV producers, and has become his hallmark in the USA and beyond. He’s tireless in raising money for charity, seems good to his staff (they all exhibit an effortless friendliness you don’t get from cheffy shouting) and is a family man with four children, one recently born. 

“My wife says that when I cook, it reminds her why she likes me.” 

I am here as part of a whistle-stop food, drink and music press trip organised by Visit Aberdeenshire and Aberdeen Festivals. For lunch. It’ll be the usual slivers of showy, fancy food full of foibles, I surmise. A palate-tantalising taste and then on your way.

I couldn’t be more wrong.

What Mr Wilson does is take the opportunity to present us with the best of his ingredients and what simple, heartfelt, very careful high end cookery can do with them. Or in the case of what is more cheese table than board, present local products in their pristine state. They didn’t stay that way for long. I still feel guilt at what I did to that amazing, unopened smoked Clava from Inverness-shire.

Post-canapés and champagne, gigantic sharing plates are paraded through one after the other: black pudding balls, deep fried (haggis and black pudding are the coming cool ingredients of 2017, I am informed by another member of the party). Tempura vegetables and caramelised roasted roots veg, all  from the restaurant’s own polytunnels. Venison, right on the money with that tender texture it’s so difficult to achieve. Pork belly, three ways, halibut in a delicate, tangy sauce. Arbroath Smokie in pearl barley risotto, delicate and moist. Scallops and giant crayfish, from nearby Foinaven Fish using boats based in Buckie and Peterhead. Huge, generous quantities, all the cooking calibrated to perfection. While Mr Wilson turns the tables, literally, and quizzes each of us in turn about what we do , why we do it. He likes to talk, to meet people. Going around his guests and chatting is part of the deal for him, rewarding, instructive and essential. Food is social. And essentially unpretentious.

"I’ve never been into that spacebomb and foie gras sort of thing. Finesse without the bullshit, that’s me. Mince and tatties, but done really well.”

It’s the beef cheek, cooked for 14 hours and with a deep, utterly irresistible gravy, that knocks me sideways. I’ve had this cut before and found it impossible to eat, the strange, grainy texture and thin lines of fat sucking all the moisture from my mouth.

“If you cook it long enough, the fat dissolves,” says Mr Wilson, and that’s the simple truth. This is fantastic, melt-in-the-mouth meat which responds to the warning he was given when he opened the restaurant: “Remember, it’s good beef country here - remember, loon!” Me, I’m in beef bliss.

Couldn’t eat another thing. Except, oh, all right then, some slates (enough with the slates, OK? We Want Plates!) of puddings too perfect to ignore in their pressing of all those chocolate brownie, fruit and tart/sweet buttons. And what about some cheese?

All right then.

Now, I wasn’t paying for any of this, I hadn’t seen any prices, and I wondered if we were looking at the kind of colossally expensive place only really accessible for special treats, celebrities and football managers. It’s got a private champagne club, for heaven’s sake! But a quick look online showed that  Eat on the Green is actually very reasonable indeed. Dinner is £39 for two courses, £45 for three, with a very uncheeky £5 beef supplement. A decent bottle of Rioja is less than £30, a dram of Glengarioch £4.50. Obviously, boats can be pushed out if you so desire.

Me, I’m thinking about Gamba, the fortune I lavished on our family dinner there, the unexpected, somehow lax fussiness of ungenerous servings. Eat on the Green is on a different level. An admiring Gordon Baxter, Mr Wilson’s former boss, arrived to celebrate his 80th birthday at Udny, and afterwards told his former protegé: “We’re here...and you’re there. You’re the real deal.”