The Emperor's New Kilt
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© Gavin Sinclair 2002

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"My point, Billy-boy? My point is that even with this kind of crap, the guy who wrote this is, and I quote "one of Scotland's most promising writers." He is also, and more importantly an "award-winning writer. Do you know why he is an award-winning writer, Billy? Can you figure out how someone with his paucity of imagination..."
"Ah, here I must take issue with you Bob." I pointed to the newspaper. "Anyone who writes this and can describe himself as 'the missing link between Lewis Grassic Gibbon and James Kelman' can't be said to be totally devoid of imagination."
"Good point, Billy, but let me return to the point I was trying to make. Here's a few reasons why this guy is so lauded in the press." He picked up the paper and scanned it with his bleary eyes. It seemed to me that he was having some difficulty focusing, but I underestimated him, for after a few seconds he pronounced:
"Bleezed" He was silent for a moment, then " Spirkle. "Cushie" 'Peching" "Scrunty' 'Howking . He looked up from the paper and for a moment I saw a look of genuine disgust on his face, before his customary composure returned. "All it takes is a few words of dialect to turn a banal schoolboy essay into a new force in Scottish literature. In this city, Billy-boy, the Emperor's new clothes are a kilt and tammy."
That night, I couldn't sleep. I sat up with copies of the local papers, studying the arts sections. The more I read, the more I realized how right Bob was. The pages were full of the outpourings of literary Harry Lauders and the gushings of their groupies. Poets scraped the gutters for smut that was transformed in the minds of the critics into "vibrant earthiness" by its dialect. "Exciting new novelists" wrote of fights in pubs, or rather bothys, filled with a tedious succession of obscure Scots swearwords. My God, there was a whole industry out there. People in the know were sitting with Scots dictionaries propped above their keyboards, seasoning their otherwise bland prose with generous spoonfuls of this Celtic curry powder. I finally fell asleep and dreamed of collecting an award for my story, waving a gnarled old walking stick while the assembled dignitaries sang along in a chorus of "Roaming in the Gloaming."
The next morning I rose early, got myself a cup of strong black coffee, sat down at my keyboard and typed the title of my new story:
"The Bochle's Spyug". I took a gulp of coffee, stared out of the window for a moment, and then typed: "Tam was fair droochled that day and the glirt on his flookie traiched uncomfortably."
"That's more like it Billy-boy. A winner if ever I saw one. I was moved to tears when the broochies lost their haisters." Bob raised his glass in salute to Scotland's brightest new talent. "Lang may yer lum reek, my boy, lang may yer bloody lum reek."
I fiddled with my bow-tie, exhibiting a disarming nervousness to my admiring audience and looked at my speech through the plain glass of my little round spectacles. They had been Bob's idea, just like my brand new short spiky haircut. "Got to look the part, Billy-boy. Got to look the part."
"I really never expected this award. I don't know what to say. As Tam, that incorrigible bochle might say, "I'm richt scooried."" There were titters as the audience looked at each other, having first applied the comprehending smile that confirmed their Pictish roots. "Especially in front of such a crippit nest of humpies as yourselves." The titters turned to appreciative laughter and someone applauded. Although he always denied it, I still suspect that that was Bob.

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