The Shetland Islands around 170 kilometres (110 miles) north of mainland Scotland, and 356 miles from my own home, near Glasgow
Every year the Shetland Festival of Up Helly Aa, a fire festival, is held in Shetland, in Scotland, in the middle of winter to mark the end of the yule season. The festival involves a procession of up to a thousand guizers in Lerwick and considerably lower numbers in the more rural festivals, formed into Jarl squads who march through the town or village in a variety of themed costumes … or dressed like absolute dicks, if you’d prefer.
The current Lerwick celebration grew out of the older yule tradition of tar-barreling which took place at Christmas and New Year as well as Up Helly Aa. Squads of young men would drag barrels of burning tar through town on sledges, making mischief. There is a main guizer who is dubbed the “Jarl”. The procession culminates in the torches being thrown into a replica Viking longship or galley.
The Weather forecast was abominable on the Monday morning, and all flights had been cancelled on the previous day due to gale force winds
The plane was a Saab SF340A/B – 36 seater, twin prop plane … and not particularly to be recommended for the faint-hearted
I love flying, and don’t give a fukk … so … wheeee!!!
The weather was blustery and wet, with sleet and rain … but once above the clouds, the world is always sunny!!
 After an hour and ten minutes  flight in a small plane, which sounded like having your head stuck in a washing machine … Shetland appeared through the mist, hazy through the wind, rain and sleet
We were picked up by a local taxi, whose driver insisted there was “no crime on the island” … which must be a helluva surprise to the production team of the TV crime-thriller “Shetland”, which my son is currently working on … and to the local cops, I imagine.
The taxi driver said, “We had a car theft last week and that was headline news … I mean, where are they gonna take it … it’s a wee island?”
My companion, Billy Kirkwood, and I booked in at the Not-So-Grand Hotel … an old, tired building, where our rooms were fine, though not exactly luxurious, and where the windows rattled with the gale-force winds
I did a quick reconnoiter of the area around the harbour, and deduced that there were no hookers standing in doorways … They’d either been blown away, or were more sensible than I was on such a freezing wet night and were safely ensconced indoors … and only idiots were abroad.
 The workers building the new gas refraction plant, and power station are staying in two large floating hotels in the harbour … The Floatel is the zebra-striped one on the right, below
The next day, we went up to The Mareel, the lovely new venue where our show was on … had lunch, and got ready for the show
Mareel-Web 073-(2)B
Sandy Nelson had arranged the gig for Billy and myself, and compered the evening, as he regularly does each year, having been a resident there for some 5 years, until recently … and was returning for a jaunt with his lovely wife and wonderful weans
We then had a quick wander around the town of Lerwick, where we were based, spying a highly appropriately named clothes shop, KLAIZE, and some stunning stained glass in the Town Hall
The Viking Galley awaits its fiery fate … smaller and more pantomime than heritage, I felt, as was much of the iconography and the costumes on display.
By seven in the evening, we were waiting with Sandy and his family, in the cold and dark, listening for the boom of the flare-gun which announced the start of the Up Helly Aa festivities
And then there was an almighty BANG … the torches were lit, and the festival began
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The galley was set ablaze amongst much singing, brass bands, pipe bands, and hearty cheers from the huge crowd … dressed as cows, can-can dancers, Santa, Blues Brothers, and every sort of Halloween style costume imaginable.
The crowd, and the entire event, is very MALE in its nature, with women being noticeable by their absence.
The major, female contribution being from the many, many men who had chosen to dress as women … mostly of the pantomime dame variety, or of the screamingly heterosexual-in-denial, drag persuasion
_72585718_020823320-1 torch-light-parade_1566966iUp-Helly-Aa-2-660x423 Up-Helly-aa-Torches
The Jarl Squads then set off around the halls, to perform their sketches and get mightily drunk for the rest of the night and early morning, or so I was informed
Being sober amongst all this was, I’m sure, a bit of a novelty … and probably gave me a rather different perception from the majority there
Weird … very weird
Sandy, Billy and I then headed off to The Mareel A Centre, …. passing harlequins, angels and demons …. to perform our Stand Up Helly Aa Show
Billy’s lap dancing skills being appreciated by a resident deep-sea diver
Both Billy and Sandy did a brilliant job of warming up the audience, and I had a truly lovely time, with a rather sharp, and highly appreciative, audience who, I reckon, were glad to have escaped the drunken madness of the Jarl Squads and their transvestite leanings … or so I suggested to much amusement
We went down for breakfast at 08.30 next morning, to be greeted with a dining room which featured loads of drunken guest, still in fancy dress; cows, deer, faux-hippies, cowboys, hookers and dishevelled …. and  four burly BOUNCERS
Security at the breakfast table !!! … a sign of just how drunk the squads were, as they’d been at it, continually for 12 hours and were now just waiting for the bars to open again at 11am
Our taxi to the airport never arrived, of course, as the driver was probably still suitably pissed … but after hurried phone calls, a replacement arrived, and we set off for Sumburgh once more
Our taxi driver, Ray, in his 50’s and originally from Glasgow, was University educated and a wee wealth of local knowledge, and obviously infatuated with the place … such a nice man … even stopped at a passing point on the narrow road to allow me to try to photograph the raging seas along the shoreline. It was pissing down and very windy, but he stopped and was the model of courtesy and patience
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He informed me that those lovely, wee Shetland ponies. which we were passing in the fields and crofts, were no more than pets nowadays, as their use down the UK’s mines, or as carriers from the crofter’s peat diggings, was now longer required, and you could buy one for £5
They were also so hardy that they stayed out in that fierce weather all year round
Tough wee fukkers, beyond a doubt
Our flight was delayed, as the incoming plane couldn’t land because of the fierce cross-winds, and was circling the airport … hmmm … that’s not confidence inspiring!!!
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And so we left Shetland, as sober as we arrived, and probably part of a very small minority of tee-totallers on the island
A fantastic experience, and one more thing crossed off my Bucket List
I’d highly recommend the Up Helly Aa Festival to any of my hard-drinking, raucous mates … and I’d recommend a visit to The Mareel Theatre complex to any of my fellow performers, comedians, and musicians … a great and welcoming place
Shetland was strong in its sense of community, and is well-off in comparison to the recession-hit UK, or so it seems … the oil, the building construction, and low unemployment make that possible
Maybe they’d be even better-off, if they adopted independence … from Scotland
Just a thought????


A song I recorded maybe a decade back, with the help of my son, Kahl, and friends, Paul Dowie on guitar, and Paul Cotton doing the recording
The topic of UFO’s and alien overlords still haunts many, whereas I believe the aliens are definitely amongst us … they’re called Capitalists
Unidentified Flying Objectivity
There’s aliens about, so, watch out
It might be you
It might be me
You look alright, but I still got my doubts
Everybody’s suspect, no one’s innocent
All taking part in an alien experiment
Filling us with chemicals and changing our air
I wonder if you are aware
We are surrounded by aliens
In every town, there’s an alien
Don’t look round
There’s an alien
And there’s no running away
Everybody’s talking ’bout alien visitors
Contemplation of invasion
All they need is good solicitors
Legalising murder and mass starvation
Jobs as policemen and policewomen
They ain’t half funny
And they ain’t half-human
It might get better
It might get worse
When Earth becomes the nigger of the Universe
They don’t have tails
They don’t have tentacles
They wear nice suits and gold-rimmed spectacles
Changing slowly
Changing time
Changing bodies and changing minds
Taking over the population
Effecting a mass mutation
Your resistances will be overcome
Your disbelief at what I’m saying
Is the first symptom
We are surrounded by aliens
In every town, there’s an alien
Don’t look round
There’s an alien
And there’s no running away
Unidentified Flying Objectivity
There’s aliens about

Tell Me Why – Stu Who?

My latest wee vid, done whilst trying out new editing software, as a learning exercise … and a long, slow fukken annoying process it was
I did the music on an old steam-driven prog … vox added on the laptop … rather lo-fi, but that’s the way I like it
After lotsa mistakes and hassles, I give up … this’ll have to do
The next one will be better … as I dumped that software and will start afresh
The words are from poem that I wrote, performed over a bit of music that I also wrote, and played, … they just fitted perfectly together somehow
“Out of the mouths of babes and sucklings” sounds like screen directions for a crap, porn film  … but it also has that ring of truth to it … Kids can ask the most naive and simplistic of questions that cut through the bullshit and flim-flam, getting right to the heart of the matter … the real questions which need answering



I’d forgotten about these illustrations, done for a wee story I wrote


The first drawing is a view of the Land Of The Celts, where Musky The Wuskie was born

The second is an illustration of The Grand Wazoo, indulging in the ceremonial act of, Sky Ski-ing , and was done to accompany a story I wrote about a wee character called Musky The Wusky – who is trying to save his village from the influence of the marauding Pictish hordes.

The long road you see in the 2nd drawing, runs through a 23-mile long canyon, which was eventually flooded, and is now known as Loch Ness


And, here is Musky, leaving home to set off to find his fortune and save the tribes colour fields, where all the world’s colours and hues are grown & harvested.

MUSKY 1 copy (2)




Vera the Volkswagen lived in Llandudno
God knows why anyone would
Battered and worn by years of neglect
In a lonely back-alley, she stood
Her paintwork was yellow, all covered in dust
Her badge in some Beastie Boy’s trunk
Her doors hanging loose, through casual abuse
From schoolboys, and hobos, and drunks
The number of miles that showed on her dials
Was quite astronomically high
Twice ’round the world; that’s not bad for a girl
Who refuses to speed ‘cos she’s shy
Down in the bumper, and dull in the windscreen
Flat in the tyre, front and back
Vera’d had many owners, both cheerful and moaners
But now, she’s with old Mr Jack

Mr Jack was so old and forgetful, you see

He’d forgotten poor Vera existed

He’d walk down the shops on his grocery stops

Though his old bones were tired and twisted

So, starving for fuel and thirsty for water

Vera just sat there and rusted

Watching other folks’ cars being treated like stars

With one eye, … ‘cos one headlight was busted


Through Winter to Spring, she would quietly sing

Trying to keep herself warm

A sweet lullaby that made each passer-by

Think they’d heard the birds’ chorus at dawn

The thrushes and larks, the small birds in the parks

The squirrels, and rabbits, and mice

All heard Vera’s sweet song, and so they sang along

As the Spring sun dissolved Winter’s ice


As Vera grew weak, to her left came a squeak

And a rustling, slithering throng

From the bushes and trees, moving slow by degrees

Came the creatures who’d heard Vera’s song

In their snouts and their beaks, there were berries and leeks

‘Cos remember this tale’s set in Wales

They brought acorns and fruits, herbs and exotic roots

Clutched in paws, claws, and even on tails


They filled Vera’s tank with a mixture that stank

Of fermented, potato peelings

A mixture that bubbled, until the stink doubled

And left Vera senseless and reeling

Did they know that the mixture would mend her and fix her?

Who knows what the animals knew

But Vera grew stronger, as the day it grew longer

‘Till she revved up and sparkled anew


With her dents hammered out, by a woodpecker’s snout

And her bodywork polished by rabbits

With a tank that was full of vegetable fuel

Now was Vera’s big chance, if she’d grab it

On a willow that weeped, sat an owl, half-asleep

Or seemingly so, and he muttered:

“Vera, go to the land where all humans are banned

And you bread will be oiled, not buttered !


There’s a place on the route, where no hand has set foot

Where no man has driven a car

The country of Volks has no wimmin or blokes

With a full-tank, you’re sure to go far

Take the road out of town, take a left, then go down

Under the crust of the planet

There, the Earth is quite hollow, and there’s a path you can follow…”

Take it!  said a by-passing gannet


So, Vera the Volkswagen started her quest

To seek out this mythical land

Where cars could run free and have sweet liberty

Go wherever they wanted…. unmanned!

Vera rumbled and shuddered, her solenoid juddered

As her old engine stuttered to life

With a spluttering cough, and a bang! …. she was off!

Like butter on a hot pancake knife


As she drove from the alleyway, slow and uncertain

Old Mr Jack waved her goodbye:

” I was just wishing that…. I’d a nice car like that! “

And he sighed, but he soon forgot why

As Vera moved faster, no thoughts of disaster

Or troubles ahead slowed her down

On a wide open road, with no passenger load

Vera roared out of Llandudno town


Vera drove on and on; soon all landmarks were gone

She had no need for fresh fuel-injections

As the creatures of Wales had left vegetable trails

Both for fuel, and to give her directions

By the side of a log, sat a big Traffic Frog

With one webbed-foot raised from the road

Vera smiled and said: “Hi!”, as she swiftly drove by

‘Cos Vera knew the Old Highway Toad


She came to a stop, near a small coffee shop

Amazed by what she saw ahead

A demonstration of mice who, against good advice,

Were striking for cheese with their bread

With placards and banners, they marched single file

In front of a line of Police Cats

Demanding the right to eat cheese every night

And to have equal rights with the rats


Some militant mice, who were young, but quite nice

Dressed in PVC, made from bin-liners

To a thunderous applause, dug a hole with their paws

‘Cos they weren’t sixteen, therefore minors

The Welsh minor mice dug a hole, in a trice,

Vera jumped in, and dropped like a stone

With a song, to inspire, by a Welsh Male Mice Choir

She leapt into the vast Great Unknown

Now it turns out the Earth, for what it is worth

Is hollow like Easter eggs are

And instead of Hell, the inside of the shell

Is the planet of Amerrycar

The Amerrycar nation, for untold generations

Had lived in both peace and tranquillity

All the cars ran unfettered, un-numbered, un-lettered

With no Car-Kings and no Car-Nobility


The cars’ only toil was to find veggie oil,

Which they ran on, without making fumes

And the oil dripped, with love, from the plants up above

And was totally free, one presumes

In Carboniferous time, their lives were sublime

The atmosphere clean, and not smokey

And each night they would sing, as they sat wing-to-wing

And they called it the Big Caraoke



As her wheels hit the ground, Vera’s gaze swung around

To take in the landscape around her

As a klaxon horn sounded, she was quickly surrounded

By The Car Park Attendants who’d found her

They were all two foot tall, bald as a snooker ball

With the occasional, odd tuft of hair

They all limped a bit, ‘cos their shoes didn’t fit

And, in fact, weren’t even a pair


They wore all the odd shoes, which people might lose

When they’re barefoot and playing around

They’d been brought here by foxes, with all the odd soxes,

That get lost and can never be found

The Car Park Attendants had no kids or dependants

No homes, and no incomes or debts

Each one lived with a car, and were most popular

With their owners who called them Car-Pets


Two Car-Pets called Tough Ted, and Partially Rough Ted

Came over to Vera, and spoke:

“Hello, little car … We don’t know who you are

But you must be exhausted!, they joked

“We noticed you bound from that hole in the ground

And you look like you’re not from ’round here

You’ve still got number plates

And just look at the state

Of your hearing

You need a career!


“A Car… Ear!…. Do you get it?”

Vera whispered: “Forget it!

Excuse me! 

I don’t mean to be rude

You seem awfully nice blokes, but these corny car-jokes?

You can kiss my carcass … Understood?”

They laughed in delight for the rest of the night

Then took Vera on sightseeing tours

They did impersonations of the cars of all nations

With both car-toons, and car-icatures


They told Vera how pigeons had brought them religions

By carrier-post, causing panic

But they’d settled for Karma, and now wouldn’t harm a

Living thing …. Bless the Great Karmachanic

All the roads, they explained, were repaired and maintained

By gigantic slugs who left trails

Of tarmac behind them

And the slugs, when they find them,

Would eat the exhaust cars exhale


“This place sounds like heaven!”

 Said Vera,  “I’ve driven

For hours, and just love this domain.”

“Ah, well ….?“, said the Teds,

As they both scratched their heads:

“There’s a problem, you see … We’ll explain!

Although things look great…. When young cars congregate

They are easily led by example

And some bear the curse of a problem much worse

And that car, coming now, is a sample!”


Coming towards them, in a great cloud of fumes

Came a rip-roaring Hell-Car on wheels

It screeched to a stop, on the highway’s blacktop

Just inches from the Two Ted’s, odd heels

The car was as sleek, and as black as a raven

An open-topped, roadster, two-seater

Red-leather upholstered, with chrome in abundance

And a steering-wheel, covered in cheetah


“It’s Vlad the Impala!”, the Two Teds intoned

As Vera looked on in amazement

If life is a building … The best at the top….

Then Vlad the Impala’s the basement!”

“Harsh words!”, growled Vlad

Through a tightly clenched grill

Doesn’t jealousy colour opinion!

These creatures resent what I best represent:

A Master who once was a Minion.


I can see that you’ve come from “Up Top”, little Vera

Where cars are still slaves of Mankind

Down here, we’re in charge And though car-ears are large

You may not be deaf, but you’re blind!

Hoodwinked by men, with their stories and jokes

And compliments, flattering sweet

Before you know it, they’ll be back in control

And sitting in your driving-seat


Surely you yearn for the freedom to run?

To drive on, for ever, and ever?

The Road is eternal, as wide as an ocean

We’re raindrops in life’s flowing river.”

And as he spoke, Vlad throttled his engine

His voice rising over the roar:

“Follow me now!   Freedom awaits!

Let no man put his foot to your floor!”


In a ricochet torrent of gravel and dust

Vlad screeched away, into the night

Barrelling westward, in constant pursuit

Of that Darkness which runs from the Light

Vera sat stunned, as his tail-lights grew distant

Vlad’s words echoed loud in her mind

Then, before she knew it, she’d done a u-turn

And followed Vlad’s trail close behind


As they drove through the night, Vera drew close to Vlad

As their twin headlights lit up the road

And, just for a moment, they seemed like one car

One that carried a really wide load

Ahead in the distance, a dark building glowed

A massive, grotesque silhouette

Of towers, and arches, and battlement walls

Done in dull-chrome, and red leatherette


“Welcome” said Vlad …”To the kingdom of Carmalot!”

As they pulled up outside the main gates

“Where, just like the fable, we have a round table

Days are short here,…. but some knights are great!”

Now Vera’d had dreams of a dashing, young prince

And life in a romantic era

He would carry her off on his twenty horsepower:

King Carthur and Queen Guina-Vera


As they both drove inside, steel gates tall and wide

Swiftly closed with an ominous bang

Suddenly, Vera was quickly surrounded

By a mean and unsavoury gang

Cars, big and small, with no manners at all

Jostled and bumped her around

Some missing wings, and bonnets, and things

And all starting to make a weird sound


Phillip! Phillip!”, they chanted in time

“Phillip!“, screeching faster and faster

“Fill up her engine with oil that’s crude

And we’ll fill up her mind with The Master!”

“Vlad!“, Vera cried.  “Please help me!  I’m trapped!”

“You certainly are!“, he replied.

“I’m the Master, you see!  When I said you’d be free

If you came here with me… Well…. I lied!


Freedom’s a tale for the weak and the frail

An invention to keep you contented

Every car needs an owner

Like kebab needs a doner

Heaven’s not true! It’s invented!

It was made up by men … Told again and again

Until small minds believe that it’s real

There’s no Happy Land, but with me in command

 I’ll bring POWER to your steering-wheel!


I control all the oil that’s gathered each day

To make sure that none of it’s wasted

Join with us Vera. You surely need fuel?

It’s the best stuff that you’ve ever tasted!”

A wily Mondeo had crep up behind Vera

A nozzle held tight in his grill

Attempting to stick it in Vera’s fuel tank

Like a matador going for the kill


Vera shot forward, and swerved to the right

The Master screamed: “Ok boys! Get her!”

Vera squeezed through a space

Between two startled Saabs

And revved up her old carburettor

As she circled the courtyard, the cars in pursuit

Crashed into each others rear-quarters

Vera spun like a top, did a quick handbrake-stop

And aimed at two, big car-transporters


One transporter’s ramp was down at the rear

Vera raced up its length at full-power

Like a bonfire-night rocket, she shot off the top

And sailed past the battlement tower

Over the walls, Vera flew like the wind

And just as she started to fall

From under her chassis, emerged gliding-wings

Quite adequate, ‘though rather small


When all of the animals down in the woods

Had done Vera’s big renovations

The birds and the bees, with mechanic’s degrees

Had effected some modifications

Now Vera could glide … like an overweight eagle

Elated by this discovery

She swooped and she soared, as the crowd beneath roared

And she sang, saying: “Isn’t life lovely?


Lovely! Lovely! Isn’t life lovely?

Thanks to all those lovely creatures

They helped me recover, and now I can hover

I wonder if I’ve more hidden features?

I wonder what makes all those cars act so nasty

 Vlad sure has a bee in his bonnet!”

Her descent soon revealed a flat, pasture field

Vera bumpily landed upon it


From the dark walls of Carmalot, cries could be heard

As Vlad the Impala went nuts

“Find her! – Get Her! – I want that car caught

And I don’t want no Ifs, Ands, or Buts!”

But Carmalot’s exits were hopelessly blocked

By the crashed cars who’d tried to chase Vera

So she turned and she drove, still singing her song

As the start of the evening grew nearer


Finding the road that she’d travelled with Vlad

Vera drove back the way that she’d came

To look for adventures in Amerrycar

Vera hoped it lived up to its name!

The Two Teds were waiting, surrounded by cars

Of all colours, and every variety

“Welcome back Vera!” said the Teds simultaneously,

“Did you suffer from Vlad’s impropriety?”


“No. Everything’s fine. I learned a good lesson:

Be careful who you call a friend.”

“That’s right!” said the Teds

“Don’t get tyred of retreads!

‘Cos they can drive you round the bend!”

Vera giggled, “You’re daft!

That’s the first that I’ve laughed

All day.

It’s good to be back

You’re such uplifting folks, in the land of the Volks

They should start calling you the Car-Jacks!”


And they laughed on and on, ‘till the light of the dawn

Made their sleepy eyes close for a slumber

Dreaming dreams of the ways they could have better days

Better weeks, better years, without number

A life without worry, no reason to hurry

Wing in wing, paw in paw, hand in hand

Where even the snails have the right to have tales

Just like


In Vunderland