The Emperor's New Kilt
Page 3 of 4

STORY TIME

© Gavin Sinclair 2000

"Saw you on the telly last night," said Bob as I handed him his drink and waved aside the change proffered to me by the barmaid. I had taken to such grand gestures since my sudden fame. At the back of my mind I hoped someone would recognize me and tell all their friends, "You know that Billy McGregor that's always on the telly? Well he's dead nice really. Generous too."
"You were a right pillock." Bob's blunt observation snapped me out of my reverie. "A pompous little git."
"Aye, but I fooled them again, didn't I?"
"Oh you did that, Billy my lad, you did that. And who do you have to thank?"
"You,
oh wise one." I executed a mock bow before we sat down at the table.
"It's their street credibility you see, Billy. They may suspect that you're full of shit, but how could they ever prove it, eh? They could never admit that they didn't understand all that gobbledygook. What if it was real dialect? They'd have blown their Caledonian cultural cover. Can't afford to risk that."
I listened patiently as Bob explained for the millionth time the predicament in which my emergence as a promising new Scottish writer had placed the Edinburgh cultural establishment, or "the blethering classes", as it amused him to call them. I owed him this indulgence. I owed him a lot more. It was Bob who had encouraged me to accept the invitations from BBC Scotland--"Just ham it up, Billy-Boy, just ham it up. They'll never twig you're just a big bag of wind. Don't you see, they can't afford to take the chance. And I'll tell you an even more important reason." --at this point he had given me one of those strange and surprisingly intense looks he has --"They want you to be real."
"Are you ready, Billy?" To a professional Scots media icon like myself, the man's English accent seemed strangely jarring in a television studio. I had been dreaming--an indication of how blasť I had become about television appearances--and the man's prompting brought me back to reality. I was in London to do an interview on national television, a great opportunity to plug my new book of poems,
The Wheechle's Groot and Ither Spavies. It seemed that the stir I was making in Edinburgh literary circles had rippled out as far as London. This was my chance to stake my claim to international cultural significance. Play my cards right, and a tidy little grant from the European Union was now firmly within my grasp. I was quite at ease when I took my seat opposite a smiling Frank Speeking, not at all unnerved by the brightness of his star in the BBC's cultural firmament. I had learned from my visits to the studios in Scotland that interviewers were nice people, whose business it was to help you to shine. But as soon as I heard his first question, I knew I was in trouble. I was expecting something like "Tell me about how your upbringing in a small Scottish turnip-processing town in the grim reality of Thatcher's Britain is reflected in the experiences of Tam in your defining work, "The Bochle's Spyug"." Instead I got: "Tell me Mr. McGregor, what exactly is a glirt?" I should have anticipated this, of course. After all, I was in England now, where the rules of the game I had been playing didn't apply. What did Frank Speeking have to lose by asking this question? He had no Scottish credentials to guard by reticence on this awkward subject.

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