Thursday, 1 December 2016

Christmas music (I wish it could be breakfast everyday)

Published in Shetland Life magazine, December 2016

I don’t want to come across as a grinchy humbugger. I really do like Christmas. What could be a finer way to spend time than relaxing with friends and family with good food and some drams when the weather is fierce outside?

But I’m not too keen on being force-fed Christmas for weeks in the run-up to the actual date. By far my the most irritating aspect of this is the mind-numbing genre of ‘Christmas Music’.

To qualify as Christmas music, there is a checklist: sleigh bells, church bells, children's choirs, insipid major melodies and/or lyrics which repeat the word ‘Christmas’, ‘snow’ or ‘santa’ as many times as possible.

It might sound a little extreme, but I find the way that music is often ‘used’ at Christmas to be an affront to its beauty and artistry. It is frequently music at its most unadventurous, formulaic, predictable, sentimental, puerile and repetitive, and it is the repetition that I find to be the most difficult to deal with.

Tuesday, 1 November 2016

If music be the food of love: a journey from fry-ups to Freeform Jazz

Published in Shetland Life magazine in November 2016

During my stint as an electrician on Glaswegian building sites I was party to several conversations with colleagues who had an even shallower appreciation of food than I did. Debates included, “Why does milk hae a cow as a logo. Is there cows that live near the factory?” and  “Pork canae come fae a pig - it’s bacon that comes fae a pig. And does ham come fae turkeys? Y’know, that turkey ham?”

I was able to fill my colleagues in with the basics, but my culinary knowledge didn’t extend much beyond that. I’m still a relative newcomer to the pleasures of food and the satisfaction of cooking. Until fairly recently my diet was poor at best - it’s probable that I had early-stage scurvy due to the absence of fresh fruit and veg for a decade or two.

As a bairn, I was always well fed on good wholesome fayre - nothing too fancy though, as I was a bit of a fusspot. Mince and tatties and tomato soup (and of course Sassermaet Clatch) were the order of the day. But I can’t recall ever actually cooking anything during my childhood. I was too spoilt to have to do ‘chores’ like that.

When I cut the apron strings in my late teens, I degenerated into a skint student who had neither knowledge nor interest in food. My culinary goal was to spend as little as possible on grub so my budget could stretch to more days in the pub. I lived on ‘economy burgers’ (the distant relatives of meat) and 10p cans of soup. It was a pitiful attempt at sustenance, but I had a great time in the pub.