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On the buses

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Tom Morton Tom Morton | 10:00 UK time, Monday, 24 May 2010

It's a 70 miles round trip to the BBC studios in Lerwick from my house, and I do it by motorcycle, car or bus, depending on the weather, my mood, or whether or not it's Wednesday.

Wednesday is when the 'shopping' bus ( which leaves Hillswick at 10.00 am) doesn't go. The occasional 'doity' (senior citizens) bus is not quite within my remit, and catching the 7.30am charabanc for 'proper' workers is a bit, well, much. Considering the programme doesn't actually start until 2.05pm. I mean, what do you want? Preparation?

Bus is cheapest, by a long shot. A diesel car will use at least £36 worth of fuel a week, a petrol one (the four wheel drive Subaru, kept for winter use, mostly) almost double that. The motorbike can only be used when the weather's fine (I'm a wimp, and anyway, it's for sale) and costs somewhere about the same as running the diesel Citroen. The bus, thanks to my special season ticket swipe card thingy, lets me travel at £2.20 per single jouney. So that's, let's see, £22 a week, if I girded up my loins and got up for the 7.30 bus on a Wednesday. Which I won't. I need to do the shopping one day a week, anyway. You just can't get those sun dried tomatoes from the local community store.

But the bus has other pleasures. All kinds of curiosities. The man last night, coming home from Lerwick, three sheets to the wind, and clutching a fish tank, complete with what looked like a baby angler (monk) fish burbling in the bottom of it. 'This'll give the goldfish a shock' he hiccupped, strapping the tank into place with a seatbelt. The 70-year old fellow talking about his youth hostelling holiday last year in Sicily. The mysterious parcels, from (dead) fish for the hotel to urgent supplies of beer for the general public. Tourists, some with bicycles, others frankly disturbed by the oil-subsidised cheapness of the tickets. The interesting...aromas, particularly when people are bringing back curry or chow mein from Lerwick takeaways. The vastly variant styles of the drivers, from full-on Dakar Rally to gentle Vicar's tea-party meander.

The Lerwick bus

And the things you pass by: sheep, seals, otters. Tourists on ill-advised recumbent tricycles. The seemingly endless bog of the Lang Kames, sea and more sea, salmon farms, fishing boats, beaches, wind generators, helicopters, tankers, ferries and of course, Shetland ponies. It's an hour and a quarter trip. A the end of it there's Lerwick's cafe culture (the best home-made scones in Europe, and some of the best cakes too) and plenty of time to do research for the programme. Preparation is so much easier when you're nicely rested. Did I mention that I frequently snooze all the way into Lerwick, and back home? Only on the bus. Never on the motorbike.

Oh, and it's better for the environment, too. Probably.

Listen to Tom Morton every weekday at 1400.


  • Comment number 1.


    I thought your show was broadcast from your home?

  • Comment number 2.

    Hi there...the show hasn't been broadcast from The Radiocroft (not where we live, but a tiny cottage on the croft we have a mile away from the house)for almost 18 months.

    We used what's called ISDN (Integrated Systems Digital Network) technology to connect the Radiocroft studio with BBC production centres on the Scottish mainland. However, the house sits, along with the local BT exchange, in a notorious blackspot for lightning strikes. After six years trouble-free broadcasting, a change in the hardware used by BT meant that even nearby lightning was tripping the equipment off, on several occasions while I was on air.

    In the end, for reliability and safety reasons (to avoid last-minute high speed dashes to Lerwick) It was agreed that the show should be broadcast from the fully-equipped BBC Radio Shetland studios in Lerwick. Hence the bus!

    I do miss chasing sheep out of the garden, though.

  • Comment number 3.


    Not that I enjoy adding to Brian Souter's wealth, but I have to admit that I have not acquired a drivers license, and hence I conduct my 11 mile morning and evening commute via the Stagecoach buses for the past 5 years.

    Last month, I splurged for the yearly pass (costing ~£800) but that brings the cost of my weekly commute to approximately £16. I had previously purchased monthly passes, but with savings accounts earning nothing, it was a sound investment to purchase the annual pass.

    And by the way, I catch the 0712 morning bus. Happy commuting to you.

  • Comment number 4.

    Hi Eric
    £800 is some commitment! I guess that gives you free travel on Saturdays and Sundays, though.
    I bit the bullet and bought a sleeper ticket to London for next month's jaunt to see Sylan and Van Morrison. Bot so much to be green as to prevent myself turning green on teh trip down. I get sick on motorways.

  • Comment number 5.

    Tom - you are catching my typo disease!


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