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'u n u n g l u s h m u n w e e r i n a k u l t'

 

"there's some devil in us that drives us to and fro on everlasting idiocies. there's time for everything except the things worth doing. think of something you really care about. then add hour to hour and calculate the fraction of your life that you've actually spent in doing it. and then calculate the time you've spent on things like shaving, riding to and fro on buses, waiting in railway junctions, swapping dirty stories and reading the newspapers."

- from 'coming up for air' by george orwell

the latest spam nonsense is an avalanche of emails containing a picture of some winsome hoo-er, purportedly from russia, claiming that they want to sleep with me. nothing new there but the wording is a little concerning. 'i want to fuck with you' it says, the 'with' suggesting that it's not so much sex that they have in mind but a kind of sinister harassment. i imagine silent phone calls and dead animals nailed to my front door... but of course spam itself constitutes something of a sinister harassment, so maybe that's what it meant. bastards.

these people have been making a fizzy passion fruit drink in a can for many years now. i have frequently told hostess elisabeth that i'm partial to said drink. and yet every single time she happens to be in a shop that sells rubicon drinks and thinks she's buying me the one i like, she comes back with mango. "this is the right one isn't it?" she always asks. now don't get me wrong, the mango is nice and i appreciate the thought but the strange thing is the sub conscious reasoning we've uncovered behind her constant mis-choosing. the mango comes in a blue can, the passion fruit in a purple one. hostess elisabeth has realised that as she reaches for the purple (correct) can, she hears my voice in her head saying that i don't like the colour purple (no offence whoopi), as it's a "a bit too goth", and her mind then tells her to pick the blue one. the mind is a complex and fickle organ.

and so all of a sudden we're off to scotland, en masse, for the second of my unconventional weddings this year. hostess elisabeth's mother is renewing her wedding vows and has planned quite a weekend of wingdings. and all and sundry were invited: myself, hostess elisabeth, the venerable gude, mr. roast, american john and both my parents. something of a beano. minus american john (who has to fly in from paris) we all fly from that oppressively tedious and grey warehouse of an airport, stanstead, a building which seems to have sick building syndrome written all over it. the traditional ritual humiliation of daylight robbery for a tea and a croissant having been endured, we proceed through security, and eventually onto the ryanair plastic bucket of a plane. everything is insubstantial looking and of disconcertingly cheap appearance. part of me thinks i should be searching the fixtures and fittings for the fisher price logo. it seems that 'cheap flights' mean that they cut back on everything, including not having emergency procedure cards in the (sweet wrapper) pocket in the seat in front of you. the emergency procedure is printed instead on the headrest of the seat in front and there is no pocket to put your sweet wrappers into at all. even the stewards seem 50% less gay; o it's all cut backs aboard ryanair. the pilot comes over the intercom and i can't help but notice that he's slurring his words. "is he drunk?" i ask out loud before realising that in saying this i could significantly freak out other passengers (why the thought failed to freak me out is beyond me). the pilot introduces himself and it sounds for all the world to me like he's saying "captain dragon ostrich"; later others in our party claim to have heard the same thing. he mumbles incoherent sentences of which only a handful of words are identifiable, and them simply trails off into a kind of incomprehensible slurry of sound. as we take off i hope that ryanair haven't cut back on the luxury of a co pilot...
...
glasgow prestwick airport has it's own slogan: 'pure dead brilliant'. the venerable gude is the first to ask the question "why would anyone choose to slap the word dead over an airport in huge purple letters?" later that day, hostess elisabeth's mother, on the subject of eating huge breakfasts while on holiday, says the words "aye well the stomach can only take so much", perhaps an apt suggestion as a slogan for the whole country?

scotland: the stomach can only take so much

only a day in and mr. roast, the venerable gude, american john and myself head off into the sun on a hike north along the beach, with the idea that we might make it as far as the wonderfully named 'troon', some unspecified amount of miles away. it all goes very huck finn, with us throwing stones, grimacing over beached jellyfish, jumping over sand dunes and stopping for ice cream (well, we all had an ice cream except for the venerable gude, who of course had a civilised cup of tea). sitting consuming our ice creams and tea, i notice that while everyone else, whether sitting on the beach, or the green, was facing the sea, we were facing inland. i'm sure that says something deep and contrary about us, i'm just not sure what exactly. we make like a towel and press on. luckily the jaunt is cut short before it can progress from huck finn to lord of the flies when we come across an impassable river blocking our way up-shore we do our best to convince the venerable gude to wade in but it's clear that it'd be chest deep at least. we later discover that the river is called something like 'pow burn', which sounds to me like two technicolour exclamations from batman. we trek upriver inland, cutting through a golf course, and come across what looks like a massive meteor crater but is in fact where they get all of the sand for the bunkers. climbing this gives a good enough view to see our way back to the road near the airport and finally, feeling by this time a little like ants under a magnifying glass, we get a taxi back. a wholly satisfying boyish day; we stopped just short of building a den.
...
a sign near hostess elisabeth's mother's house reads 'no fly tipping'. american john, being from the colonies, asked what this meant and we duly explained. he admitted that his first thought on seeing the sign was about cow tipping and had begun to wonder how on earth you could 'tip' a fly.
...
returning put me right back into the maelstrom of the 'wedding' preparations, the various costumes, arrangements and foodstuffs that go into such a do. having declined the offer to be an usher, i struggle to take a back seat. that night everyone with an actual part to play in the ceremony leaves for a rehearsal at the church round the corner. hostess elisabeth, in her capacity as 'matron of honour' (insert kenneth williams impression here) had been given the job of escorting a little girl, rhianna, age 3 -and for 'escorting' read 'herding... with extreme prejudice'. it seems that during the rehearsal rhianna was scared to hold hostess elisabeth's hand; call it some instinctive survival skill early man used to protect himself from his natural enemies. the girl has to be tethered to h.e., as she apparently does whenever out in public, to stop her running wild. a strap is fastened around the girl's wrist and held by the accompanying adult to prevent toddler frenzy. i'm told she gladly holds up her hand to be restrained and says in a loud voice "i need my strap on". ahem.
...
the little girl in question, having followed me around the house, having watched me brush my teeth and then insisted that she too brush her teeth, decided that she wanted to show me the new frilly underwear she's been bought to compliment her wedding outfit (why, i cannot fathom). the knickers themselves look not unlike underbear, and call me old fashioned, seemed a little too ornate and frilly for a l i t t l e g i r l. but of course showing me them wasn't enough. on no. rhianna then proceeded to change into them while i was in the room. i stared intently at the television. after she'd left the room i was left to wonder whether i'd just committed some kind of sex crime...
...
there is a house on hostess elisabeth's mum's road called 'craigness', which is probably a family name but it struck me that it could mean the essential essence of what it means to be a man called craig.
...
rhianna's little brother, grant, 2, is described quaintly as "a right little magpie" because if you leave anything lying around "he'll have it". magpie? or fucking little t h i e f ? "your honour, members of the jury, i put it to you that while my client did break into the house, was caught red handed with the dvd player in his hands, he is not, as the prosecution will assert, a burglar. he's merely a cheeky little magpie."
...
in fact, just before we enter the church on the day of the 'wedding', grant punches his sister swiftly in the throat, thus ensuring that she'll cry throughout the ceremony. lovely wee boy.

“the truth is that kids aren't in any way poetic, they're merely savage little animals, except that no animal is a quarter as selfish.”

- from 'coming up for air' by george orwell

gathering in a nearby pub before the ceremony proper, i'm surprised and amused to find out that that very morning american john went into ayr, found a kilt shop and after inquiring as to what "most americans buy" promptly purchased a kilt! so that was mr. roast, american john and myself all skirted up for the occasion. the venerable gude had to make do with his infamous beige linen suit, which is kind of a cross between 'our man in havana' and 'the man from del monte'. to each their own but before dear reader you castigate him for not joining in, believe me when i tell you that the public at large are not ready for his legs, nude, for all to see. think anaemic twiglets and you're part way there.
...
the ceremony, conducted by the fantastically dickensianly named 'reverend crum', went ok, barring of course the screaming of rhianna, who, it must be said made quite a noise for someone whose trachea was no doubt... compromised. the hymn singing was strange as i hadn't been in such a situation for years, and like i always recall there being, there was someone who was really belting it out (perhaps hired to encourage the others?), drawing concerned stares. somewhat more uncomfortable though were the prayers, another quaint anachronism that i hadn't been subjected to for a dog's age. mustn't make eye contact with other atheists present... mustn't instigate a ripple of giggles...
...
then it was back to the savoy hotel (ayr) for the continuance of the festivities and an ogle or two at the hotel's taxidermy collection. it was at this point that it was sprung on me that, as hostess elisabeth's 'partner', i had to greet e v e r y o n e in attendance along with the happy couple and family. we were stood in a line reminiscent of a firing squad and shook the hands of all and sundry. perhaps i should have asked for a blindfold. i suppose this is an acceptance that i'm as close to family as i'm likely to get, barring any unforeseen and accidental marriages ("oops, i appear to have married you, i'm most dreadfully sorry"). those who know me can imagine the ordeal this meet and greet session was.
...
sitting near us for the meal (at top table, larrdeedarr) was an old friend of the family, a man who looked spookily like our own mr. liles, just twenty or more years older. he even had the dissatisfied scowl of a liles.
...
there was food. there was cake. there was drinking. you know the drill. just when i thought i'd escaped any further participation i was dragged on to the dance floor, which apparently all family members have to do, after the happy couple's first dance. fuck knows why. tradition as ritual humiliation. it is in this way that i find myself 'dancing' to jennifer rush's 'the power of love'. sweet baby moses. i tried to tell myself it could be worse but i'm afraid my imagination deserted me when asked to come up with just how. then some elton john drivel from the ruddy lion king comes on. o the humanity. i manage to throw in a bit of my trademark leg-shaking to appease the baying crowd and hastily retreated to the gardens outside.
...
mr. roast spent most of the evening getting accosted for being quote "un unglushmun weerin a kult" unquote, to which he replied that it was an irish kilt, because it was and to shut them up. and if it's one thing scottish men don't like to have done to them by englishmen, its be made to shut up. hence there were a few close scrapes with some of the more inebriated present. most notable among them was the one we christened 'muggybonehead' who was bald, had a large tarbrush moustache and a face that no doubt could, if turned to the purpose, cause spontaneous involuntary defecation. i'd met him of course when i was shaking everyone's hand and he'd looked at me like he wanted to eat me. we later learnt that he'd been inside... twice.
...
the day after we all decide to go on a trip to somewhere called wigtown (pronounced wigton), which unlike the name suggests has lots of bookshops in it and is not, sadly, teaming with toupee emporiums. the town is also near some standing stones that the venerable gude has been itching to see. apparently. mr. roast drives us there and not half an hour into the journey, along the winding roadways and lanes, i start to feel something i haven't felt for years: carsick. mr. roast, unknowing of the severity of my feeling (or so he later claims) decided to try and make the car actually take off over a few of the many humpback bridges we encounter. i close my eyes and try to think happy thoughts -i should have known that that wouldn't work, i'm simply not equipped for the job. twenty or so minutes outside wigtown i pipe up from the back that perhaps they might like to make an unscheduled and very quick stop, unless of course they wanted to be wearing my breakfast. in the middle of nowhere i stumble from the road into the woods and try my best to void my stomach, but nothing doing. all i get is buzzed by strange hoverflies who stop mid air in front of my face to glare at me. we try the car again but not five minutes later i call stop again and this time chuck my guts up on a hedge somewhere. the hoverflies are the only ones who seemed happy with this turn of events, buzzing around and i suppose eating my sick. so it's come to this, i've become a vending machine for flies. it occurs to me now that it's a shame i was in no condition to attempt a 'tipping'. i get back into the car but soon we have to stop again. then again. by the last time we're on the outskirts of wigtown and i'm bent double on a grass verge dry heaving, my stomach doing its best to turn me inside out. i send the car ahead and hostess elisabeth and i walk into town. it starts to rain. lovely.
...
wigtown is in fact full of bookshops but for some reason we failed to visit any of them. logic takes a holiday. instead we go for something to eat and then trek out into the country, in the rain, to see something called the martyr's stake , where two local women were drowned for failing "to submit to the instruction of episcopalian bishops or the use of the liturgy in their services". idiots executing morons. blind leading the bloody blind... on the way back, we take a detour to see the venerable gude's standing stones. a game begins between hostess elisabeth and american john, the rules of which consisted of pointing at every stone, every pebble, every wall and rockery we pass and asking loudly "is that them?"
"is that them?"
"is that them?"
"is that them?"
"is that them?"
you get the general idea. in time we drive past a number of squat, rather unimpressive stones, looking somewhat like giant gravel and the call goes out "is that them?" and then venerable gude had to admit that, joking aside, yes, ahem, that was them. i think hostess elisabeth was expecting something more akin to stonehenge and couldn't stop laughing... even the plaque described the stones as "dumpy". bless him.
...
at the market we see a hairdressers called 'arf ya heed'.
...
during hostess elisabeth's mother's barbeque, myself, the venerable gude, american john and mr. roast escape to the beach just as muggybonehead arrives. he shakes mr. roast's hand and mumbles something about him not "weerin a kult" and we beat a hasty retreat to the beach just as the sun goes down. as we headed down there we pass four young girls and one of them calls out to mr. roast "like yer hair", to which he replies quite involuntarily in the campest larrdeedarr gunner graham voice you've ever heard "ooh thanks, so do i". he dips likewise into the pool of homo two further times while we're in scotland. apprarently something about the bracing landscapes of scotland dissolves his usual butch exterior and brings out the effeminate dandy in him. once on the sands mr. roast finds a golf ball and we indulge our boyish sides one last time by throwing it at each other. man, that venerable gude can move when he wants to avoid a golf ball between the eyes.
...
on our last day, american john having already left for paris, mr. roast, the venerable gude and myself drive out to wanlockhead, which has the honour (?) of being the highest village in scotland at 1531 feet above sea level. at some point on the journey my ears pop, though that could have been the venerable gude's swerving to try and hit the quails we saw in the road. carsickness is averted by my sitting in the front seat, and by the venerable gude, attempted quail squashing notwithstanding, refraining from driving like a fucking maniac. wanlockhead also boats a visitable (word?) lead mine, which is our reason for going. we are met by stewart, our guide, who hands us our hard hats (insert helmet themed joke here), and away we go. over the next half hour i am forced to add lead miner to the ever growing list of jobs i never want. so far the list goes, in no particular order:

trawlerman
chef
lead miner

these poor fuckers reeeally had it tough. stewart, with his luxuriant and copious nostril hair, tells us all about it. working in cramped conditions, often in pitch dark, with falling rocks, the swinging picks of others and all sorts of other fun to deal with, including the fact that they had to buy their equipment from the company store. o, and of course the fact that lead is poisonous too. lovely. no thanks.
...
we exit the mine and on our way to the miner's cottage and the beam engine, we hear a dog (wolf?!) howl... stick to the path boys...
...
nearby, in a dry river bed, we notice a pair of discarded knickers... now i'm all for sexual abandon but trust me, the surrounding area would be no place to be inserting yourself into anyone or anything... perhaps the thin air up there had addled their brains. but there's no time to ruminate on, or indeed try to persuade the venerable gude to re-enact any furtive gropings in wanlockhead, as we've got to shoot off back to ayr and onto the plane home.
...
on said plane home i'm sitting across from a woman who's so fat (how fat is she?) she's so fat that she needs an extension on her seatbelt. jesus. to quote mr. roast: "how could you live like that?" -originally he said it while talking about... daleks. no, really.
...
and talking of quotes...

favourite quotes of the scotland trip:

the venerable gude: "i'm not the treading in dog shit kind of person"

the venerable gude: "i struggle to see myself in a pinny" (on his reticence to join the masons)

the venerable gude: "i think i saw my father's once" (when asked if he'd ever seen an appendix)

but the run away winner has to be american john with his: "imagine how many people wouldn't be alive today if piss were flammable"

(a round of applause)

while we were in scotland the local paper had reported that staff at prestwick airport thought it was less than 'pure dead brilliant' that missiles bound for israel, which israel are then to unceremoniously pass on to lebanon are passing through the airport. the idiocy of things never goes away, it just hides in your indifference for a while.

"it's all going to happen. all the things you've got at the back of your mind, the things you're terrified of, the things that you tell yourself are just a nightmare or only happen in foreign countries. the bombs, the food-queues, the rubber truncheons, the barbed wire, the coloured shirts, the slogans, the enormous faces, the machine-guns squirting out of bedroom windows. it's all going to happen... there's no escape. fight against it if you like, or look the other way and pretend not to notice, or grab your spanner and rush out to do a bit of face smashing along with the others. but there's no way out. it's just something that's got to happen."

- from 'coming up for air' by george orwell (published 1939)

things i have learnt since being home: that when it comes to being man-handled by a professional cage fighter, i bruise like a peach.

recommended: (audio) ''the eraser' -cd- by thom yorke / (comestible) 'dressed' fish / (visual) taxidermy at the savoy hotel / (sensorial) a boyish jaunt

reviled: (audio) elton john / (comestible) haggis and whisky vol-au-vents / (visual) flies on vomit / (sensorial) carsickness

and finally, a postcard bought by hostess elisabeth at prestwick airport: