With major constitutional change in the air, Scottish publishing has typically fallen to the occasion, with little to show for the ferment in folk’s heads. Thankfully, a more enterprising London publisher has commissioned a leading Daily Mail columnist to write the first truly challenging Scottish novel since devolution.
Here it is.
WAR AND PISH
By Starkey Quentin
Och aye at the moment. It’s a braw, bricht, moon illuminated evening as I write to you from my estate in bonny Castlemilk.
Pick up your bothies and gather round and I’ll tell you of the day I visited Edinburgh. Strange thing happened.
Normally a placid individual, my inner Wallace erupted and I wanted to hew every Englishman in sight. I hadn’t felt this since 1966, when at least it was understandable, unlike my accent.
It was a braw, bricht sunlit morning, and milking wenches were singing gaily in the overgrown backgreen. I reached for my breakfast swig of Buckfast: the bam’s dram.
That felt good. I zipped up my kilt and stuck my sgian dubh in my braces. Sgian dubh is Gaelic for skiing pigeon. That’s me! Being Scotch, I’m unemployed but get to the slopes three times a year, thanks to the generosity of the English taxpayer.
Looking over the crenellated battlements of what I’m assured is one of the finest council houses in Strathclyde, I reflected on the dual nature of we Scotch folk. Our most famous — and possibly only — writer, Walter Stevenson, delineated this well, you ken, in his famous poem Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde.
I’d never taken the tale seriously. How could a civilised man mutate into his opposite? It would be like George Osborne mutating into Rob C. Nesbitt. But, even I, a Scotchman born and bred, with liquid haggis running through my veins, had noticed in my fellow Caledonians a two-faced nature.
One face looks up to London, admiring her wealth and power, happily helping in her wars. The other is sullen, resentful, ungrateful, envious, restive even. When signing on at the Barroo with my fellow Scotch, I often see people with blue woad on their faces. Even my accountant sometimes attends our monthly meetings like this.
Most peculiar. I was musing thus when the taxi arrived to take me to the station. As we drove past leaping deer and caber-tossing enthusiasts into the heart of leafy Glasgow, I felt unsettled.
I took another swig of Buckfast — 2011, good vintage — and prepared to enjoy the journey.
I was visiting Edinburgh to buy drugs and, ironically, ten minutes into the train journey, a syringe fell from the luggage rack above and embedded itself in my head. Instantly, I felt woozy and, next thing, I’d fallen asleep.
When I awoke, we were at Waverley, the train station about which the aforementioned Stevenson had written an entire novel. I felt strange, but curiously alive, like an animal, half-grizzly bear, half-scottie dug. Thick hair had sprouted on the back of my hands. I checked my reflection in the carriage window and, lo, my face had turned blue! With woad!
Worse still, I felt an animal ferocity and a deep desire to kill Englishmen! I roared and left the train, virtually unnoticed among my fellow Scotch, many of whom were similarly covered in fur, even those in suits!
Edinburgh is the capital of our great region. It’s right posh and so is swarming with English. A ba’-faced news vendor was urging passers-by to purchase a copy of the Scotchman, the famously objective paper respected for its fair reporting.
“Haw, you,” I announced. “Geez wan o’ thaim!”
“Hold your wheesht, yonder Weegie fellow,” said the Embra twat. “I’ll furnish you with a journal when you’ve a civil tongue in your head or heid.”
“Aye, well stitch that!” I declared and heid or headbutted the fanny, taking a paper as I left the scene.
I read the headline, “SNP accused blah-blah”, and threw the blatt away. I could hear shrill squeals of outrage as the pages floated on the breeze, littering their right posh Princes Street.
A speccy twat cycled past on a long bike with a separate wee bit for his glaikit wean on the back. You could tell he was English just by lookin’ at ‘um.
“Haw, Humphrey!” I shouted. “Yir a c*** and so’s yir monkey!” Very satisfying.
I was due tae buy ma drugs oaf a top MSP at the Scotch Assembly in Holyrood. Ah’m no sure aboot indiependance. Ah dinnae like that Salmon. The papers say he’s a bawbag. Smug an’ that. Much as ah hate the English, who’ll pay ma welfare money in Scotchland, when everyone else is on the Barroo?
The MSP arrived at the entrance, wi’ his big heid and a bag marked “Drugs”. Eeejit. Ah wiz aboot tae shake his haun and call um a c***, when a helicopter hovered overheid and a loodspeaker announced: “Put your hands in the air! Drop the drugs! This is the Embra polis!”
A tranquillising dart was fired into my head and, suddenly, the fur receded from my hands, I’d a brief vision of a Union Flag, and I felt civilisation coursing through my veins once more. “Well, this is a thundering nuisance,” I remarked to the people’s representative, whose curiously ashen face I briefly registered before I slumped to the ground unconscious.
TO BE CONTINUED (OR PROBABLY NOT).
Since last time… despite evil magpies, big increase in back garden sparrow population … lost half a stone having smoothies for lunch … gained half a stone eating popcorn nightly.