Category Archives: True Tales From The Hebrides

Truer than something blue.

Days Of Wine and Wellies. Part The Firste

What could be sexier than drinking champagne from the lip of your loved-one’s wellie? I know. Not flipping much. But we don’t have time for you to be drifting off in a moon-eyed reverie right now, so focus. For I have a tale to tell you. Up here in the romantic North-West we have to be more practical than you on the mainland because if we stand around being romantic all the blowy day we’ll get chills in our bladders and on our blains and other assorteds. This makes us ineffectual and we are nothing if not fectual. For who then will feck the fish off the boats and then feck them over to the shop for the rest of we feckers to buy for our fecking teas? Exactly. We do all our romancing in the warm nooks of  peatstacks or Ford Pintos until our grannies die and we get their houses.

It all began, as many things do, with a vomiting incident on a CalMac ferry. It was a fearsome morning at sea, which would have sorely tried the valves of the most iron-stomached sailors, and thus, for Oliver from Basingstoke, things went swiftly from green to purple. On a tossing ship at sea, everyone lives their own digestive drama oblivious to everyone else. We reel about the deck, one hand clutching our stomachs, the other stapled over our mouths, bouncing off each other like  pinballs, hair streaming, bobble hats and small pets flying as the seagulls scream for us to vomit. The average person can resist throwing up under such circumstances for about half a bilious hour but unfortunately the ferry ride lasts two and a half and Oliver was from Basingstoke besides. Hence, 5 minutes out from the port of Ullapool, our poor, wretched hero was coming face to face with his own biology, God and strawberry pop tart.

However, as everyone who ferries knows, once you have up-chucked, you are grand. Grander than all the other miserable souls trying to preserve their over-priced Inverness breakfasts and determined to, as a matter of bloody principle after managing to keep it down on the roller-coaster bus ride to Ullapool (or Ullapoop as children and Free Church elders hilariously call it.)

Thus it was that our friend, Oliver, was feeling quite chipper when the boat reached the head of Loch Broom, where the ancient submerged moraine makes for notoriously choppy waters even on glass calm days. He was strolling about deck, whistling and nonchalant at a 45 degree angle against the battering gale, when suddenly from out of the deserted cafeteria hurtled a vomiting girl – no, a vomiting woman – of such rare and green beauty that Oliver’s hat was quite blown off. You might say, “Ach, PCB, away and boil your bunions with onions, it was just the wind, lassie!” But it wasn’t, you know, it was love. I’m from the romantic NW and we see this sort of thing all the time. Yes, and have to listen to the naysayers too. It’s never the wind. The wind only takes gloves and high-denomination currency, and pregnancy tests before you can read them. It’s only love can blow your hat off like that. (If you are a man and your scarf should blow off, however, island lore says you may find you have lost something very precious indeed, so make sure to tie a good windsor in it. The scarf.)

OK, now I have drifted off in my own moon-eyed reverie and can’t focus n’more. Plus, I only have until 1pm to do all the things I’ve been putting off  this morning by reporting on this instead.  I shall continue the tale of Oliver and his Vomiting Venus the next time I have other stuff I’m meant to be doing. Kim doesn’t believe me, do you Kim?  And Conan thinks this will be just another half-baked, half-finished, half-tale from Sam. But I will. I will. So until then I leave you with that too, too solid advice from the last paragraph of the story there: tie a knot in it. Plus video of the same ferry that used to run between Ullapool and Stornoway in the Outer Hebrides. Now in New Zealand or Fiji or Somewhere.

Pip-pip, peeps.

HMV Suilven. Erstwhile Ferry For Lewis And Harris

My Dreadful Dream Hell

Friends, it was terrible. It was more terrible than I have words for. I only really have gutteral belchy sounds for what it was like, with the faintest strains of Rick Astley in the background.

As for what my terrible, dreadful, no-good, very bad dream looked like – well, it would curl your hair. More. It would reach deep down into your gametes (gametes of the sort that aren’t a type of Small French ham steak although if you need me to point that out you are most probably a closet Communist or something mustachioed like that) – anyway, this dream, it would get deep, deep down into your gametes and affect the future hair of your future offspring, curling their future hair too. In the future, like. And if they were going to have curly hair, this nightmare would curl the curly bends back on themselves thereby making the curly hair be straight hair. Yes! Even that hair! And who wants that?

A tiny but potentially devastating (!) shift would occur in the shampoo market with brands known for their excellence in curly-hair products either losing or winning – who can tell which? – and shampoo futures would plummet, along with shampoo presents. Leaving only the smug Ghost of Shampoos Past.  All rather like that butterfly effect doodad, which basically states that if a curly-haired butterfly flaps its wings in Kansas, the tipping point in global air-streams might be …uuhr…tipped, and, ipso facto, that could cause a tsunami in Asia which would wash away all their shampoo factories and people wouldn’t look so good – curly-haired or no – and nobody would get any dates and the birth rate would decline and people would get upset – even more than they normally would because they’d be extra uptight on account not getting any action – and all because of what could happen if I told you about my dreadful nightmare! Which, curiously enough, featured only hairless people.

You’re not with me any more, are you? I can tell. Neither am I, truth be told. I couldn’t explain this again from about the third “the” on, in the paragraph above.

Anyway, what about them Oscars this year, eh? Who says women can’t direct harrowing-yet-compelling cinema about the complexity of the soldier’s psyche and do big bangs and crashes good too? Probably, the same people who say women can’t parallel park. Probably even the same guy who clipped my car last week, trying to parallel-park for the 3rd time before squealing off to find an easier spot to maneuver. That’s one in the eye for him, then!  Hahahahahaha. The rotten, stinking car-clipper.

Righto, just one more teensy wee weensy glass of wine and then off to bed with me, I think. Yep, just the one…

He Wears A Yellow Jumper

Going to Stornoway with the chidderkins for a couple of weeks. Because this trip has worse connections than a two-bob psychic we leave tonight but are not actually going to get to Sunny Stornoway til Thursday morning.  I feel like a salmon swimming, struggling upstream in a mighty, epic journey to the spot of my spawning, where I will probably be half-eaten by a bear. (Hedgehogs are our largest carnivores though, I think. Prolly be half eaten by a hedgehog if half-eaten by anything); or die flopping uselessly in the sunshine on the banks of the river Creed, mouth opening and closing silently as I slip away, cursing this life and its miseries, and maybe cursing you too, so be nice to me.  Or maybe the metaphor Gods will switch the analogy on what the trip is like when we get there and I won’t have to die.  I just hope it’s not any metaphor to do with the Middle East or the hills of Bora Bora.

They say it’s sunny there right now and, in the larger sense, I suppose it always is*, but some days the clouds don’t agree. So in the hopes of luring a behatted sun out to shine on our wearied, jet-lagged, holiday-making limbs, I am going to spend most of the fortnight in a canary-yellow jumper singing wholesomely in various groovy positions upon a boat, like my most current crush, the enigmatic Mr. Daniel Of Donnell. I think you’ll agree that this is him at his finest (and dishiest. *Blush*).  Aren’t his moves just the Very. Living. End? *Swoony*. I don’t know about you other girls, but I’m going for a bit of a lie down. 

Anyway, Danny Boy…baby… I dedicate this holiday to you…

*Looks into middle distance profoundly, contemplating the larger resonances of what I just said.  That’s profoundly, see? Profoundly.  Not vacantly, dreamily, absent-mindedly or constipatedly, OK?  I don’t care what anyone says, that’s my profound look.  Shut up. 

Daniel O\’Donnell, I Can See Clearly Now

Twitching

Some days in the wild Western Isles are days when the only thing to do is curl up tightly and twitch.  If you should come a-knocking on Lewis’s front door on such a day, and nobody answers, it’s because we’re all at home, curled up tightly and twitching.  Check the sky.  It will probably have clouds that look like God has just revoltingly added extra milk to his already o’er-milky tea.  Check your expensive mainland shoes.  They will probably be partially submerged in puddle and doom. There will be no movement behind our curtains, and there will be no light in any window.  Traditionally, we twitch in the dark.  You should turn around immediately and return some other day.

What’s The Matter With Annabel Sue?

Annabel Sue was a terrible case
The worst Doctor Whom would e’er again face.
See, Annabel suffered from awful complaints
O Annabel’s agonies would sore try the saints!

“I’m sure that my ileum must be quite septic!
Can’t recall when I last felt so vile and dyspeptic,
My hear palpitates, every breath is a mercy
And that pain in my coccyx is getting quite piercy.”

“I’ve always been delicate, wispy and frail,”
Anna said heaving o’er like a great lacy whale.
“Now leave me a while, I must have my nap
Wake me round ten with sweet tea and a bap.*”

And often…

“Oh crivens my bones!  Oh Heav’ns, my gall-stones!
I’m fading away, Look! I’m just mere skin and bones!
Call out for the doctor! This pain, I can’t bear it!
(If you’re going past the kitchen i could stand a welsh rarebit…)”

Ann said to the doc. “I’m not one to complain
But I really do think you should cure my chillblains.
After all, I lie here, a martyr to pain!
A slave to my ailments! You can’t know the strain

Of lying here day after day after days
With nothing but telly and all-day buffets.
How I wish I could rise and labour and toil!
How I wish, but I can’t on account of my boil

It’s in rather a delicate place, as you know
The slightest wrong move and that sucker could blow!
Plus I have this strange, bald patch where hair will not grow
And only this morning I staved my big toe…”

Well…

Doctor Whom was just sterling, a real multitasker
But still Annabel suffered, was wretched – just ask her!
Every day brought more ailments, tv ad-break swooning,
(Annabel’s weight was by now fair ballooning)

The good doctor was tested, ne’er rested, befuddled
Sworn to cure…trying to grasp…with reagents she guddled.
She ordered Clear Soups and Tonics and Salves
And ointments to rub on Ann’s shins and her calves.

When that didn’t work she cried “Nil By Mouth!”
But Annabel soon sent that idea South.
On account of her “digestive difficulties”
Anna-belle self-prescribed only cakes, steaks and cheese.

Meanwhile…

The poor doctor read widely from tomes (e’en in leisure):
Annals on anal discomfort and pressure,
Case studies of bunions gone bad, lab reports
And causes for gastric distress, and strange warts.

She consulted with doctors all over the land
“So what can be done for vague pain in the hand?
While Annabel’s kin sold off lamps, rugs and chairs
To keep her in food and them out of arrears.

But…

Then came one day, (notable for more moaning)
Doctor Whom woke up fresh, her head clear, brain not groaning.
She suddenly saw what she had to achieve!
No stethoscope needed, no blood-pressure sleeve!

She strode past the family and up the back stair
She knocked once, went in, and to Ann did declare,
“Annabel Sue, the cause of your affliction’s
No physical problem, but Sickness Addiction!”

Anna cried “Oooh! I’ll get a pill for that then!
Do fill out the prescription at once, here’s a pen!”
“ANNABEL SUE, GET UP OUT OF THAT BED!”
Doctor Whom screamed quite calmly, face not the least red.

Annabel Annabel tried to arise
Shocked Annabel Annabel, stunned and surprised!
Doctor had ne’er before been quite so forceful
Sure sometimes resourceful, and sometimes remorseful

At not having got to the heart of the matter
About Anna’s so oddly becoming much fatter.
“You’ve bankrupt your kin, dashed near ruined their health
In caring for you they’ve lost most of their wealth!

Annabel I will not tell you once more
Get up!  Take a walk, try a stroll to the door!”
“No!” shrieked out Annabel, I WILL NOT DO IT!
You’re fired Dr. Whom! Oh boy, you done blew it!

Dr. Whom smiled and quietly gathered her things,
Downstairs listening, the folks packed their scarce belongings.
They all left together and shut the front door
As upstairs Anna did rage, scream and roar.

And…

Annabel Annabel, ne’er really ill
Annabel howls and is sitting there still.

THE END

One Of The Perils Of The Shawbost Kid

The Shawbost Kid crossed the moor on a Shetland Pony with no name.

(What was a Shetland Pony doing on Lewis?  It swam, OK?  Stop asking questions.)

Barely conscious, bleeding and shirtless he kept one eye peeping open so that he would be sure to guide The
Shetland Pony With No Name into the part of town favoured by the Ladies Of The Night, who he hoped would still be up as Dawn touched the sleepy town, probing slowly, gradually into its most secret crevices.  Down by the already busy harbour, a hauling-crane reached up to its fullest height.

Men were chasing The Shawbost Kid, men with guns,  men in whose bellies burned the righteous fury of those sworn to uphold the Law in these wild and Western Isles. One of them had a white hat. Others of them didn’t. He needed a refuge, a place where someone would risk their lives to hide him, and if, in that refuge, he could have as many bosoms as possible pressed around his attractively wounded head, he was sure that that would help too.

The only trouble was, in order to get to that part of town, he had to go right through the part of town favoured by the Old Knitting Ladies Of The Mid-Morning.  These ancient women would sit and knit on their doorsteps from about a quarter past nine ’til when Neighbours came on the telly.  They would talk of purling and the old ways.  Sometimes they would sing in eerie voices and their quick hands were mere blurs on their flashing needles.

Although it was Dawn, The Shawbost Kid didn’t want to risk alerting any rogue knitters, knitting outwith the usual hours.  He knew they would take him in and look after him well, but he really, really wanted to seek his desperate refuge with the Ladies Of The Night instead.  So he rode up into an alley, leapt off The Shetland Pony With No Name and tied Tesco bags around her hooves with the rustic twine he always had to hand.  Together they padded back into the winding street.

Slumped, gashed and goosebumpy but still somewhat sexily, our bare-chested hero and his mysterious steed, rode their way through the Knitting District, the sharp clops of hoof on pavement muffled by the plasticy crackle of unhappily non-biodegradable shopping receptacles.

At last they reached the neat, well-kept houses on the street of the Ladies Of The Night.

“Please, still be up! Please please please!” thought the Shawbost Kid fervently.

He rode up that winding hill of transacted love in the sexiest, most heroic way any Shawbost man ever could, bleeding, broken, and clearly – to anyone with half a brain – in need of the tender ministrations of pretty ladies.

Nothing.

Damn!  The Tesco bags.

He leapt off and removed them behind a sudden convenient peat-stack.  He rode back on down the hill, this time the clippety clops of hooves ringing out sharply against the tarmacadam.

Nothing again.

Gritting his teeth, he turned the Shetland Pony With No Name and they plodded slowly back up the hill.  This time he moaned and whimpered as loudly as he could, peering out from beneath his hat-brim for any sign of movement.

Not a door opened, nor a curtain twitched. This was getting ridiculous.

The Shawbost Kid didn’t have time for this.  He needed water offered to his cracked lips and he needed it now, dammit! Also, he needed tender injunctions to eat delicious soup, the soft brush of perfumed bosom on his rough, grateful cheek, and the solicitious, revivifying massage of capable hands on his bits and pieces.

But most of all, he needed a jumper.  It was colder than a nun’s nipple out here and he’d always been chesty as a boy growing up.  Being chesty isn’t sexy for an outlaw on the open moors.  Look, at Seamus “Catarrh” MacLeod, the Holy Terror of Barvas.  He never got laid.  Besides, fugitives from justice couldn’t risk imperilling their safety by going into the villages to buy cough-drops.  And it wasn’t cool to ambush the shop-van on the way back to town either.  People’s grannies relied on that shop-van and he sure wasn’t the kind of asshole outlaw who approved of inconveniencing people’s grannies. Leave that to the Hearadhs.

Man and inscrutable mount turned and headed back down the hill for a final sweep-through.  If this didn’t work he was going to have to go back to the knitters and some of them had 3-hair warts and reminded him of his great-auntie Etta.  He shuddered.  But his pursuers would be here soon.  So, flopping around in his saddle, wailing and shrieking his agonies to the street, he gave this last performance his all.

“Hey, I’m not bad at this! ” thought The Shawbost Kid .”Maybe, if I gave up my wild rebellious ways, I could get a gig on the stage or screen!”  But he thought he remembered hearing that actors don’t get laid a lot, so he banished that thought quickly with a flea in its ear.

On and on he wailed, he even gnashed his teeth which isn’t as loud as it sounds and so he quit that in favour of some more wailing and carrying on.

And then… right at the bottom of the hill, a trim little yellow door with roses all around started to open.

“Pssst!  Quick, over here, I can’t risk being seen!” The whisper was low and urgent.

The Shawbost Kid needed no further encouragement.  Sliding brokenly, wincing and exhausted, he dismounted his unfathomable mare, who looked somehow as if she had seen this all before – in other towns, with other outlaws – and limped, foot dragging dramatically, over to the yellow door.

A hand pulled him inside and, too late, The Shawbost Kid realised his mistake.  For the hand that pulled him was not slender and soft, nor was it plump and warm.  This hand was broad and black hairs curled from it like his mammy’s wire-wool pot scrubber.  He should have known!  He should have guessed from the naughty garden gnomes that frolicked around the polished step!  With a last glance as he was dragged inside he could see now just how naughty these gnomes were being.  He should have noticed the alphabetically ordered pots of common kitchen herbs lined neatly up under the windows!  He should have spotted the tiny (but oh so there, oh so very there) little rainbow flag in the bottom corner of the window!

The Shawbost Kid swallowed hard as the full realization came upon him.  He had somehow managed to be rescued by the one and only Laddie Of The Night in all of Stornoway.

“Oh, wait! Wait!” he protested in the floral hall as the door shut behind him.

“Wait!, I’ve made a mistake.  Look, hey, I think you guys are great, right, and I fully support you and your right to have your marriages fully recognized under UK law, I mean my cousin’s a gay and I played with him my whole life…I mean I didn’t play with him that way, I mean not like that, wink wink… God and Christ, no! No winking…I mean…Look, I reeeeaaally appreciate you saving my life and all but the thing is I’m really feeling much better now and my pursuers probably won’t be along for a whiley yet. So you know, if I limp quickly I’ll probably be safe enough to make it to the holy sanctuary of the church around the corner.

Just then, a great clatter of hooves resounded from the street outside.  Through the top square of the charming 9-pane window, he saw a white hat.  Shit.

“God, It’s always the same with you straighters” said the Laddie, a towering, beautiful, oiled Adonis standing in the hall with nothing but a Nigella Lawson apron on and spatula in his hand.

“Why would you imagine for a minute that I’d be interested in seducing you?  I mean, look at the state of you, man!  You stink! Just because I’m gay doesn’t mean I want to shag everything walking around with a willy in the Outer Hebrides, you know.  I have standards like everybody else.  I mean, I bet the reason you’re up here is that you didn’t want to be rescued by any lady older than 70 who has wiry three-hair warts, am I right?

The Shawbost Kid looked down at his wellies, and mumbled a sheepish “Yes”.  He should feel relieved right?  Yet, why was he wishing he had shaved that morning?  Why was he so strangely miffed that this man, who was frankly, feckin’ gorgeous (even Chuck Norris would have to admit that) didn’t think he was even a wee bit cute?

The clatter in the street stopped suddenly…footsteps outside the little yellow door.  Suddenly the door exploded inwards, splintering ahead of the foot that followed it.

The Laddie grabbed the Shawbost Kid to his burnished chest, shielding him by turning away from the door, and kissed him, kissed him like The Shawbost Kid had never been kissed before. Through the shattered door-frame, the embarrassed lawmen looked at the embracing pair – the huge Laddie hiding most of the Kid with his broad, muscular back – and they coughed a little.  And again. And then cleared their throats a little more loudly, chestiness being an attribute in their line of work.

“Um.  Excuse us, like. We’re just checking the neighbourhood for a desperate outlaw.  Sorry about the door and that.  Can’t be too careful you see. You wouldn’t have happened to see such a desperado this morning, sir…would you?

Laddie and The Kid continued in their passionate snog, seemingly oblivious to the awkward, shuffling defenders of justice peering in from the garden.

“Righty-ho! then,” said the man in the White Hat with excessive joviality. “I can see you’re busy – got to keep the wheels of commerce rolling, eh? Ahahahaha.  Nice to see a young man up and at work so early. Look, we’ll just leave our card here and, you know, if you should…Jesus!”

Our Saviour was brought into the conversation right then on account of The Shawbost Kid’s hand moving down from the lean, muscular waist to cup the taut buttocks of the Laddie Of The Night.

“Umpff, let’s go lads, there’s nothing more we can accomplish here.”

And, calling back something garbled about sending a receipt for the damage to the station, the hard-riding, weather-beaten lawmen of Lewis beat the speediest retreat from the little cottage since 1973 when Sidney Wetherbottom of Little Chipping, Yorkshire, pulled out of Janice Cuddieswick just as Thomas Cuddieswick strode through the bedroom door – widely regarded as the speediest retreat beat by anyone, ever, in the British Isles.

Releasing The Kid with an involuntary shudder, The Laddie said to him, “Well, that was close!  Go back there into the kitchen and I’ll make you some breakfast.  You can lie low for a day but then you’re out, dyahear? Gone.”

And turning at the end of the hall, the glowing, handsome Laddie Of The Night, looked back curiously at the dazed, slightly swaying Shawbost Kid and said, “You know that’s one hell of a grip you’ve got with your right hand there, cowboy.  My tush is going to be black and blue for a week!”

The Shawbost Kid looked at his hands.  They were shaking.  Frowning, confused, he touched his hand to his lips. Then he sat down and took off his wellie boots.

THE END.

The Song Of The Sexy Crofter

Yippee kai-aye-yay get along little ewe-hoo
You must be at market by 8 o’ the clock
Though it hurts me to tell you
My friend I must sell you,
I’ve spent all the savings I keep in my sock.

That’s what the sexy crofter of Brue sings early in the morn, (it’s like a regular morning but with more curious fawns and delightful butterflies) as he walks down the lane to his  other field. The village girls line up in their smart office-wear to catch the early bus to Stornoway.  Each is beautiful in her own special way; each has her own special memory of the Sexy Crofter; each has had her own special dose of antibiotics. They watch him go by.

What is it about him?  He’s no good, they all know it.  In fact he’s a lyin’, cheatin’ son of a so’n’so and he doesn’t even try to pretend otherwise.  In fact, he goes out of his way to tell you he’s a wrong ‘un.  He has no
money and any he gets goes on beer and sheep-dip. But he is tall, and he is dark and he is deeply, deeply sexy.

He does sexy things, like saving people from certain peril and there’s nothing sexier than saving people from certain peril.  He’s done that 3 and a half times this month already. First, he ran into a burning dry-cleaners and rescued the shop’s beloved goldfish.  Fluffy was half-boiled when he found her but he CPRed her back to life with a pipette that was thrust into his hands by a passing lab technician, horrified by the carnage in front of him but too allergic to fish to leap in himself, even to save a life.

Then, using just his bare hands and the fortune the gods give to straight-toothed heroes, he lifted a lorry that had accidentally parked on old Mr. MacWhirter .

Next, he rescued an adorable little girl from the jaws of a tiger-shark.  Tiger-sharks are not normally found in the cold waters of the North Atlantic but this one was part of a shark TV-crew on the way to the Arctic to film the effects of global warming on the polar ice-cap and had come into the bay at Dalbeag to warm up. Wrestling and writhing, thrashing and throttling went the sexy crofter across the shallows with the shark, trying to tug the child from the hideous toothy terror, and finally most of her came free.  This was not the half rescue of the 3 and a half though.  The adorable child was counted as a whole save because the loss her leg to the knee didn’t make her any less adorable.  If anything, more, according to Creepy Norman in the Post Office.

The real half-save was really just an error of hearing in the pub when the story of the 4th rescue was told.  After a while, people in that particular pub get so that not only their vision but their hearing goes blurry.  Anyway, as we now know, what happened was this:

Murdo ‘Leccy, the notorious adulterer of Sand Street, was canoodling deep in the ferns by the town hall one night with Janet from MacLean’s when his wife’s sister, Maureen, walked by, pausing to flick a cigarette end into the fountain.  Seeing the ferntops twitching rythmically, she was moved to investigate because she hasn’t a lot else going on in her life.

“Oh, Murdo Leccy!”  breathed Janet, all goosebumps and exclamation marks.  “Where did you learn how to do that?”

But Janet had gasped too loud.  Out in the lamplit street, Maureen’s eyes narrowed.

“Murdo! Is that you in there, you filthy, harlot-hopping, little weasel-todger? I know it is!” She began to cackle a nasty cackle.

“You’re up to to your miserable gonads in trouble now, ‘Nad-Face!  I’m calling my sister! There’s no way you can talk yourself out of this one!  Who’s in there with you?  Is that “Gives You The Extra Yard” Janet from the
fabric counter at MacLean’s? ”

Murdo froze solid, apart from one part of him which shrank away like a terrified mouse into a skirting board.  Thinking fast, he did what he always did in a fix.  He speed-dialed his cousin, who, as it happens, is our hero, that impossibly sexy crofter of Brue.

“Ferns!” he hissed into his Nokia. “Maureen!”

The sexy crofter, round the corner in the Fisherman’s Rest, took the call, put his new pint back down on the
counter carefully and walked out the door. Reaching the corner, right behind the tall ferns, his stunning blue eyes took in the scene immediately and in one fluid motion he’d dropped on his belly like a snake you’d just love to…pet.

Unseen by the shrieking, triumphant Maureen, the sexy crofter writhed his way into the ferny undergrowth with the kind of loose-hipped agility that would make a nun weep.

He reached the disheveled lovers just as a Honda Civic screeched to a halt on the street beside them.  The door opened and a little mountain of beer cans and scorched styrofoam cup ashtrays avalanched tinkily, ominously, onto the pavement.  He could see the pink nylon slippers of a woman coming out of the car.  Closer came the pink nylon slippers, closer, into the ferns now, which were being thrashed aside with a… holy shit! With a cleaver! And a pretty, flipping capable looking arm attached to it!

“I’ve caught you this time for sure,” snarled the raspy voice of a saw-throated woman . “Let’s see what your
lawyer has to say about this, eh?”

The ferns parted and a bulging-eyed gargoyle thrust its head through to glare down in darkness at the couple in flagrante…

“Pardon me, ma’am” said the sexy crofter.  “Oh hi, Beryl, it’s yourself! Look, I don’t mean to be rude but you’ve sort of stumbled into an occupied fern-patch, here.  If you go over by the quay, there’s a good clump there, ‘fyou like.  Bloody council, eh!  Never get around to the weed-whacking.  Now, if you wouldn’t mind just closing the foliage up there, Beryl, there’s a bit of a draught when they’re open, see.  There, that’s great, much obliged to you.  Bye now!  Say hi to Murdo for me!”

Beryl retreated to the pavement sputtering, and gurgling like dodgy plumbing with air in the tubes.  She looked at Maureen.  Maureen looked at her furious sister and began to open her mouth…

“I…”

But that was all she got out before Beryl’s pre-brick-filled handbag made the sort of sound against her skull
that a butcher’s bag of minced beef, eggs and parsley makes when it’s dropped from a third-storey window.  And sustaining the kind of injury that had become known in the hospital’s A&E, down the years as a BSM: a Beryl’s Special Meatloaf.

Meanwhile the dog, Murdo, smudged green and reeking of Elizabeth Taylor’s “White Diamonds” slipped into a still-warm seat at the bar in the Rest, picked up his devastatingly sexy cousin’s pint, and drank with all the gusto of a man who had just escaped certain Beryl.

Peril and Beryl are practically the same things and both often result in a grisly death so this piece of selfless,
and therefore sexy, saving of a life was counted as a half, a half being deducted for being related to his stupid-ass cousin whom everybody else would have like to see castrated. Strangely, no-one ever wished a castration upon the Sexy Crofter of Brue.

So he had that: selfless acts of death-defying courage, for sure he had that.  But there was something else,
thought the ladies at the bus-stop, each to her secretest self, half of them hoping he’d look up and seek out their eyes as he walked past, half of them praying he wouldn’t.  All of them half-hating, half-loving him.  All of them wondering what he was thinking.

And here’s what the sexy Cowboy of Brue was really thinking as he strolled down the lane, his hands in his
pockets, the morning sun on his back, and here and there gorgeous butterflies settling Disneyesquilly on curious fawns’ noses, contributing to the aura of magic that surrounded him at all times; here’s what he was really thinking:

“Christ, I’ve really got an itch in me balls! It’s like there’s a ball-weevil in there with a little feather duster! How the hell am I going to scratch it with all these gorgeous women over there at the bus-stop?  God and me guts are giving me jip, an’ all.  Shouldn’t have had that paneer aloo gobi last night with my beans.  Man, I’m just going to have to wait til the bus has gone and then I’ll let one rip and really have a good root down in my breeks.”

He walked on, humming to distract him from the tortuous itch and the ballooning pressure.

Yippee kai-aye-yay get along little ewe-hoo
You must be at market by 8 o’ the clock
Though it hurts me to tell you
My friend I must sell you,
I’ve spent all the savings I keep in my sock.

Across the street, the women sighed their private sighs.  And then the bus came.

Love In The Time Of A Hacking Cough

Once upon a time in the Outer Hebrides, there was a cough Going Around, a nasty, phlegmy, be-streaky-sputumed cough. Those who caught it and coughed it sounded like a troop of asthmatic tapdancers dancing in a long echoey hall each time they were moved to expectorate. Their lungs bubbled and wheezed and, once it struck the pestilence could not be shifted from the sufferer’s body for at least a year and left the victim in a significantly weakened condition for perhaps several more.

The curious thing about this cough was that small children, people over 60 and those with compromised immune systems went completely unaffected by it, while otherwise strong and healthy adults were laid low. Not only were they laid low, but they were also laid less and less. They simply did not have the puff to manage it any more.

The only strong and healthy adults not to be affected were The Ruddy. In the same way teeny-tiny, microscopic way as the sickle-cell anaemia allele protects against malaria, something in the rosy-cheeked gene was acting as a lung-protectant against the Hacking Cough.

In the Outer Hebrides there is no such thing as Performance Anxiety. Everybody can do it just fine, left to their own devices, and some don’t even need devices. What we do have though, is Population Anxiety. Many a promising evening has been cut short by one or other partner (heterosexual partner that is, of course – God has blessed us such that gay people don’t exist in the Hebrides. Nope, not a one.) … where was I? Many’s the promising evening that has been cut short by one or other partner rolling dramatically off to one side and rubbing their temples, saying “It’s no use, a’ghraidh, the pressure to produce the next generation so we won’t be a top-heavy population, graphically speaking, is just too much. O, unhappy demographic! If only Westmister hadn’t mandated an uptick in our breeding!”

You can imagine then that a year or more out for members of the breeding population was a hard blow for everyone. Without more young people, there would be no more grants from Europe, no more Crofting Development Programmes and no more lovely, lovely subsidies to spend down at the Legion. What was to be done?

An emergency meeting was called with the sick being wheeled in by variously The Very Young, The Very Old and The Ruddy so that a full community vote could be cast. What with the hacking of the ill, the bawling of the very small and the dozing of the old, things were proceeding very slowly. It was left to The Ruddy to take charge. Fortunately there were some natural leaders among them who now saw that their time to shine was nigh, only this time the shining would be metaphorical. They were being called to do something for their island, something noble, something magnificent, a selfless gesture of defiance against the blight that plagued their people. The motion was put by Rubicund Rory:

“I move that The Ruddy, being of sound lungs and florid cheeks, be called upon to lay themselves down for their countrymen and women, and for the duration of this Hacking Cough, endeavour to make as many babies as possible,”

Rosy Rosie seconded and the proposal was put to the vote.

“All in favour say Aye!”

“Huh, what was that? Oh, aye, aye, right enough then,” said The Elderly

“Aboohoo aboohoo waaaaaahaye aye aye!” said The Very Young

“Ackh ackh ackh wheeze!” said The Sick, nodding.

“Aye!” said The Ruddy solemnly, flushing with pride and responsibility and taking the full brunt of island expectations on their ham-dappled shoulders.

Noone could know the Hacking Cough would be Going Round for another 10 years. In that time, The Ruddy surpassed all expectations. Ruddy ladies turned out 1 and a third babies a year and ruddy men ran hither and yon making sure that The Ruddy Young didn’t wander near clifftops or drink bleach.

That was years ago, but even if you go to Lewis today, you will see everywhere the legacy of that love in the time of a hacking cough. From the blowzy drunk on the corner to the raw-headed, black-clad, turkey-vulturesque church elders at the Seminary; from the florid florists on Cromwell Street to the sanguine sailors on the quay; from the bloom-cheeked merry folk to the face-like-a-slapped-bum dour contingent, the extraordinarily high proportion of The Ruddy in the Outer Isles is one of the first things a visitor will notice. Right after she notices that some people have more than ten fingers and all of the clocks are moving much…more…slowly…

Smirk

Nobody likes a smirker.

In the town of Stornoway, at the turn of the 20th century, there were two men well known for their smirking. One, Smirky Smith (45) had a congenital condition called rigor smirkus which caused his facial muscles to sieze up into an infuriating smirk at unpredictable moments, much vexing his neighbours. Stress aggravated the poor man’s affliction and not being able to trust his facial expressions made social situations tortuous, and not in an even slightly sexy way.

The other smirker was a mere arsehole, and by mere, I mean utter. He was the local councillor for the powerful Seaforth Ward and was feared mainly for his ruthless smirk, and his “I know something about the municipal sewer system you don’t” smirk although he had many other kinds. He had pretensions up the skatoolumshinopterops (local euphemism for the bottom), fancied himself a wag and was the sort of fellow who, upon hearing about a devastating monsoon in Bangladesh, would send the Red Cross an umbrella, barely able to conceal his cleverness at the Post-Office and completely unable to conceal it later at the pub. An arsehole then. His name was Hugh Jorgan (42), and he was.

Even in the year 2000, there were many in Stornoway who didn’t believe in congenital conditions, only character flaws and punishments from God. Smirky Smith was deemed to be a puzzle. He was also deemed to be a butcher and one and half of these things was right. He was known far and wide as a fellow generous with his time and money, always the first to help a neighbour or do some kind service for some-kind-service-needer. But except for a few understanding old ladies, people couldn’t understand why he so often also appeared to be a prick.

In the shop, while he would give all his regular customers an extra sausage in their packets, sometimes his face would twitch into a knowing smirk right at the worst moment.

“Extra sausage in there for you this week” he would wink with a kind smile to poor Mrs. Matheson whose husband had run away with all her money and a freckled prawn-packer from Balallan, “I’m sure you can use it.”

But right then his kind smile would contort into a salaciously knowing smirk and Mrs. Matheson would get it all wrong about the sausage and declare “Oh! Oh! Did you hear that Mrs. MacLeod? I’ve never heard such impertinence in my life” and beat him about the head with her handbag. Sometimes other shoppers would join in.

Incidents of this nature happened about once a week. Not enough to put housewives off his delicious meaty vittles, which were the best in town, but just enough to make them wary of his sudden, disconcerting smirks.

As you might imagine, Smirky Smith was a lonely, unhappy man. Hugh Jorgan on the other hand never met a person he didn’t feel he could be smug and supercillious to. His smirks weren’t the comic or impishly charming smirks of the incidental smirker. Hugh Jorgan’s smirks were all about power. They were designed to put people in their place – to show who was the smartest at the table, to mark himself as the urbane fellow who knew the system because he kept the system in his pocket.

The odd thing, considering the size of the town, was that the two had never met. One day they did. It was at the annual regatta on the harbour. The weather was foul. Rain lashed the beshorted’n’tee-shirted islanders on their purple and white variegated legs, and wind whipped puffs of their candy-flosses into the hair of other people too cheap to buy their own which was dead unfair. But despite the thunder and occasional lightening, people were having fun. And the Bonny Baby contest was just about to be decided! Look!

Traditionally a butcher judged this event, having an eye for a good healthy hock and experience in identifying a superior breeding line. This year it was Smirky Smith’s turn and he was dreading it. What if he smirked when announcing the winner? What if it looked like he thought the island’s bonniest baby, the very bonniest it could manage, was really a little goblin? How upset would the parents be? How enraged the crowd? he thought as mounted the outdoor stage and walked up and down the row of dribbly little humans sitting on their beaming mammy’s laps. He made his selection, a fat, jovial little bubble-blower from Ranish, the one with the least snotty summer cold.

Hugh Jorgan, also sitting up on the stage behind a table full of trophies was the local dignitary selected to present the prizes this year. He sat there in full-on self-satisfied smirk, puffed with his celebrity and the thrill it was sending through the proles. A thrill that didn’t in fact exist, even in a parallel universe. Rather, in all other possible parallel universes, and even the impossible ones, the crowd was as one brain in thinking “God, would you look at that smirking bastard up there all smug and condescending. Why I’d like to…!” And there they split off from one another in a babble of preferred come-uppances for their councillor.

The time came for Smirky to announce the winner. Trembling he approached the microphone. The crowd hushed in anticipation, and, as if this were some sort of made-up story and not the absolute Gospel truth, even the rain and wind seemed to calm momentarily. For a minute he stood there, swaying, facing the upturned faces like a pinata who knows the beating he was born for was about to begin. He removed his cap and ran his fingers through barely there hair, staring into his cap as if it contained the answers to all his questions. He looked up.

“The, uh, th…” (Oh God, the dreadful twitching was starting) “…the winner …” (Oh please God, no! Don’t let me smirk, please don’t let me smirk!) “um… of this year’s bonny baby competition…” (Oh no! Here it comes! No no no!) “is…”

But Smirky never did get to say who had won, for at that moment the heavy heavens cracked open and righteous fire from God’s own finger* struck the mercury amalgam fillings in the head of one of the mammies on the slick, wet stage, sending heaps and heaps of volts through everyone on it. The crowd screamed or bellowed according to their voice-ranges and relative level of operatic training. The figures on the stage, jumped and jiggled and all their skeletons glowed bluely through their bodies. Percy Veerence, stoic and father of 7, just had time to notice with a groan another tiny skeleton sucking its tiny bony thumb, deep in his wife’s pelvis, as she and # 7 jerked up and down the stage.

And then it was all over. God put his finger away, zipped up the low-slung heavens and the people on the stage collapsed like charmed cobras might if a sudden snake-charmer strike with immediate effect had been announced.

Nobody on the stage that day died but some formerly straight-haired people weren’t any more. The same thing could be said of the straight-laced people whose morals suddenly went all curly. But something much more remarkable happened. For on that wonderful day Smirky Smith lost the smirk tht had plagued him his whole life, and Hugh Jorgan lost the smirk that had supported his ego.

Hugh experienced a catastrophic loss in confidence without his smirk, resigned abruptly from public life and slowly but surely, through means of a Deepak Chopra Audio lecture on DVD and a high-fibre diet, rediscovered the lovely person underneath the arrogant bastard.

Smirky Smith was never to lose his nickname but, now, finally able to control his facial muscles, he quickly became a beloved figure in the town, married a woman with a skellie eye and a twinkle in it, and lived pleasant-facedly ever after, out from under the shadow of the Vale of Tears And Smirks.

*Or lightning.
The End

The Tale Of Howlpants Sheeppoke, The Hallucinating Shepherd Of Brue.

Howlpants Sheeppoke, the Hallucinating Shepherd of Brue never meant to hurt anyone that October day so it was with dismay that he sat on the high hillside and watched the village explode and burn. He took no pleasure whatsoever in seeing Mrs. MacCuish from the Post Office flung 30 feet in the air in a slow elegant arc, even though a small part of him thrilled to the naughty semantic thought of her being hoisted on his petard. As a boy in the shop with his mother, he’d always taken a secret pleasure in being pressed in fond envelopment to Mrs. MacCuish’s suffocating bosom, with the sure certainty of a lollipop to follow. He hated to see her looking so floppy and flying.

Oh, he knew he hallucinated, he knew as well as anybody. The gentle rattle from the pill-bottle in his pocket usually soothed him, but looking at old burning Mr. Jamieson racing towards the duckpond, his clothes all aflame, the tinkle seemed to be mocking him. You shouldn’t have forgotten us on Tuesday…shouldn’t have forgotten us on Tuesday…Tuesday…Tuesday… they seemed to say.

But when exactly did the hallucination begin that day, and when did it end? Howlpants Sheeppoke, the Hallucinating Shepherd of Brue, could not be sure. Was he still hallucinating now, even nasally, as the smell of burning chaos drifted up the hill to his nostrils?

He was pretty sure now he had been hallucinating when he tore into the village shop screaming “The clouds! The clouds have fangs! Look everybody! See how their abominable maws are slavering with rain! They mean to fang US! Fang us to death! Hide! Throw tins of soup! Anything! Don’t just stand there gawking! O rainy, unhappy day of the fanged clouds! Who will help me throw things at them? Who will listen to me?”

The people had stared of course, they usually did, before saying to each other “Oh that’s just young Howlpants Sheeppoke, he’s an hallucinating shepherd, you know. Don’t pay him any mind. Nice lad really” Then gradually they’d gone back to the usual things of stacking the shelves, chatting by the eggs, doing some minor shoplifting.

Mr. MacKenzie was looking at the birthday card for their son Calum that Mrs. MacKenzie was showing him.

“Oh I don’t know, The Transformers? I mean he is turning 21, Effie.”

“Don’t be silly!” bustled Mrs. Mackenzie. “He loves technology and things of that sort. I think it’s Calumy, very Calumy.”

And that’s what had gone wrong. As she said “It’s Calumy, very Calumy” she chanced to look up and straight into the dilated pupils of Howlpants, now sitting quietly on the ice-cream freezer and eating scratch-cards.

Howlpants Sheeppoke heard nothing at all about a beloved son. What he heard was, “Calumny, very calumny,” and a gear snapped back into place in his head, the fan-belt engaged again and started up blowing hot winds of sulphurous rage over his throbbing, hurty brain.

For if there was one thing that everyone knew that Howlpants hated, it was to be called a calumnist. On less insane days, he knew that technically some of his Cassandra-like proclamations in the shop about man-eating Glaswegians coming over the hill, and all the tractors suddenly melting, thawing and resolving themselves into a dew, were not true, but, he had maintained at the emergency meeting last year – as had his doctor and indeed most of the village, except the minister – that because the hallucinations were true to him, he could not be called a liar. He would not be called a liar. The last person to call him one, he’d beaten so badly she couldn’t go to play-school for a month.

But, and also yet, here was someone looking him straight in the eye and saying “Calumny, very calumny” (albeit a bit archaically – but wasn’t that Shakespeare dude really popular, right now? Hadn’t the Barvas Players just done “As You Like It” in Shawbost? This woman had obviously picked up Elizabethan speech patterns and was using them to fling the stinging insult at him from her lair, by the greetings cards.) He could not stand for it. His brain kicked up another gear and with a fury that knocked the crisps-rack clear 10 feet across the shop, he leapt to his feet and attempted to strangle Mrs. MacKenzie.

Mr. MacKenzie paused only very slightly before rushing to his wife’s aid. He pried the mad shepherd’s fingers away from the purpling neck of his semi-beloved and was lucky to sustain only a broken coccyx when Howlpants’s rage-fortified strength lobbed him backwards into the washing powder.

Howlpants flung his head backwards, his neck ropey with fury, and screamed at the ceiling tiles “Calumny? Calumny, is it?” Then seizing the basket of Halloween rockets by the counter and a Zippo from the window display he roared out of the shop as suddenly as he’d entered it, leaving the shocked shoppers to attend to the whimpering MacKenzies.

All through Brue phones rang and the word spread rapidly that Howlpants Sheeppoke had really lost it this time. The village went eerily quiet. By and by, one by one, people started coming out of their doors to see what was happening. The first ones to do so were also the first to see the rockets go off as Howlpants clambered to the top of the statue of The Unknown Crofter at the crossroads, laughing maniacally and howling “Calumny nononononononononohahahahahahaha!”

The rockets’ red glare, the bombs bursting in air – it’s an old story but never was it played out so multicolouredly as it was at Brue. Howlpants had been everywhere with his fireworks. The barns exploded, the library van, the church, the holiday cottages, the Post Office and the Whaler’s Rest. But not the school. Not the school.

And how beautiful it all was, thought Howlpants Sheeppoke from up on his hill. If you could ignore for a minute the flying cows and people, and the annoying screams of anguish, how beautiful to see the pub explode into green and red like that, the church into blue and gold! And suddenly, Howlpants was not sorry any more. Not sorry at all.

*

Not long after the sound of the explosions and burning Hebrideans had subsided, Flossie, Howlpants’s favourite sheep, wondered over and licked him absently with her rough tongue. He came to groggily, sat up and gazed down at the peaceful green village beneath him. He saw Mrs. MacCuish wave goodbye to the post-van from town, and there was Mrs. MacKenzie hanging out her washing. He lay back on the soft mossy grass, closed his eyes and smiled. It had all just been a beautiful dream.

When he opened his eyes again, it was raining and a grinning fanged cloud leered down at him as it descended upon the hill, shrouding it, and muffling all noise…

C?irdeas-Sliasaid Agus Am Baile (Sex and the Village)

There isn’t much I could tell you about the sex lives of the Free Church elders that wouldn’t make you scream and cut your ears off with a circular saw. I could write it here but, if the countless people worldwide that read this blog were suddenly all to gouge their eyes out with grapefruit spoons on the same day, questions would be asked, and answers would be given and pretty soon word would get back to the elders about my suggesting they have sex-lives. Then they would tell God and I wouldn’t get into Heaven. I’m not risking eternal damnation for you lot, so instead I’ll tell you that pipistrel bats are active in and around Stornoway.

Stop 221 On The PCB Guide To The Hebrides

Your tour guide here! Here we are at stop 221, a popular attraction: Phil, The Lonely Fly-Fisherman And His World-Famous Interesting Mutterings. Everyone off the bus!

Phil, the lonely fly fisherman is out fishing again, alone. Let us approach him quietly from behind so we might overhear his mutterings all the more sneakily.

The mutterings of a lonely fly-fisherman are among the most interesting in the world. Now you won’t read that in any book nor hear it from any statistician, but you can count on my word that it’s true, friends. Have I ever steered you wrong? Only a divorced single of mother of 6 living in a mid-priced suburb of Brasilia has the edge on the lonely fly fisherman for interesting mumblings, for she, also, has noone to talk to despite her large and clamorous family.

Right now, sshhoooooooosh! Softly, softly we approach the huddled figure at the loch’s edge. We’re in luck! He’s mumbling. Everybody crouch down behind that boulder there while I swing this fuzzy microphoned boom out over him. Let’s see if we can pick up some mumbles. OK folks, don your headphones!

Lonely Fly Fisherman: “Oh why did I lie that time to Miranda? It was always between us after that, besmirching her trust for me like a lollipop stain on a priest’s surplice. It was such a little thing too, I hardly know why I did it. Why oh why oh…
Wait! Was that a twitch on the water…?

(Silence for 83 seconds)

Why? Why did I have to tell her I was a dangerous and sexy maverick librarian who categorized his own way, the rules be damned? I guess I was desperate for her short-term love. But she saw it, saw the lie behind my eyes. She knew I’m not man enough to mess with the Dewey.

(Silence for 18 minutes.)

I wish I knew why soda bubbles only stream from certain points in the glass. There’s probably some very simple chemistry or physics behind it that I feel I should know about, as a reasonably well-educated man living and fly-fishing in the 21st century. I’m pretty sure there’s no biology behind it. I don’t think. Nah, no biology. Bubbles aren’t living things…although they do grow and move and reproduce… Goddammit! What’s the matter with you, man? Bubbles aren’t alive! I wouldn’t have to think these thoughts if I weren’t so awfully awfully lonely…!

(Phil sometimes has periods of crippling despair like this. Don’t be concerned though, they never last longer than a month or so at a time. And besides, when he’s cheery, he doesn’t come fishing and then we’re left with no stop 221. The mainland press, as I’m sure you’re aware, have tried to imply we’ve paid all his old friends not to talk to him anymore, just so we can cram another stop on the tour in, but there’s no truth in that. Ahahahahaha.)

Oh! Oh, I just thought of a joke! Which world capital has the most junked out automobiles in the world? Khartoum! Ahahahahahahahaha! Oh I must tell that to … to whom? I have noone. There is nobody to whom I can tell my joke… Oh for Chrissakes, why do I have to be so bloody grammatically correct all the time? I’m all by my bloomin’ self out here! Why am I so anal? Why must I be so self-pitying and loathsome?

Biff! Biff!

(Observe as the lonely fisherman slaps himself upside the head, folks…Minutes pass… He’s calming down now…)

Why doesn’t analyse mean bullshit? It’s right there in the word – anal lies! Why don’t therapists just tell you the truth and say they’re going to bullshit you? Oh this is going nowhere…!

(Attraction 221 will occasionally break down and weep like he’s doing now but, again, there’s no cause for alarm. Weeping’s just a form of happiness for Phil, the Lonely Fly-Fisherman.)

Fish? Hello? Fish, if you’re out there, give a guy a break, eh? How about it? You sacrifice your life to my hook and I will tell everyone you were much bigger and more fearsome than you are. Except I have no everybody…There’s only the wind will hear my big-fish lie.

(Silence for 3 more minutes)

Did you know, fish, that the word ovation comes from the Latin ovis – a sheep? I think that might explain why I find myself cheering and clapping loudly at things I didn’t think were as good as all that.

Another thing, fish. Montaigne once said, “Even on the most exalted throne in the world we are only sitting on our own bottom.” I hope he said it more than once. I would have. It’s a good one.

When I was 9 I could play The Well Tempered Clavier by Bach with only two fingers (moving really quickly) and I was hailed as a prodigy. When I hit puberty I lost that ability. Science can’t tell me why.

I should have moved my bowels this morning before i came out. I knew it, and yet I didn’t. I didn’t, and now they’ll be waiting for me when I get back.

How long could a person live if toothpaste was the only thing to eat?… Oy, fish? Any guesses…?

What’ve I got in for my dinner tonight…?”

The fuzzy boom retreats.

*

Well there we have it, folks. Not as interesting as I’d hoped but you can never tell how his thoughts will turn. I’ve noticed that when there’s cheese in his sandwiches he’s at his most interesting but, as you might be able to see, folks, today it’s some sort of involved fancy schmancy Mediterranean wrap which does actually look quite interesting itself. See, it hasn’t entirely been a waste of time, eh? And it’s certainly whetted my appetite for some of Mrs. MacIver’s lovely scones at Stop 222. Ahahahahaha. Of course, Phil’s really at his most interesting in the early mornings and at sunset but during the day he can lapse into drivel, like we’ve heard. Yeah. Sorry about that. But what can you do? It’s beyond our control. One of these things. You pays your money, you takes your chances etc. Ahahahaha.

‘K, everybody, back to the bus. There’s a pine-fitted gift-shop at the tea-rooms beside attraction 222 and they have copies of The Lonely, Muttering Fisherman: His Greatest Hits available for purchase in both tape and CD formats, if you’d like to hear him a bit more, uh, on form. Ahahahahaha.

*

The moral of the post is: Stay away from people who are not as interesting as their sandwiches. Also, don’t pay for any Hebridean bus tour until it is over. These people will so screw you over.

A Summer’s Tale

Square-Jawed George adored Genevieve above all the other rabbits in the warren. Splendidly, Genevieve admired George’s muscular haunches and his strong, decisive chin. Square-Jawed George and Genevieve would often lie among the primroses under the old willow tree and read poetry to each other, or go strolling ardently by the river. Sometimes they would skip and scamper through the meadow, laughing and laughing as if they were the first bunnies ever to have loved.

But this wasn’t enough love even for two so star-crossed as they, even for two who had his moon rising in her Sagittarius. Their love grew and grew until pretty soon it was nauseating the whole warren. Square-Jawed George and Genevieve would walk the wooded meadow as lovers do, lost in each other’s eyes, occasionally knocking over toadstool dwellings but oblivious to everything and everyone except their love. As they passed by, in their wake they left dozens of innocent rabbits doubled-up, heaving and retching out their half-nibbled stomach contents in the pleasant meadow flowers. The ladybirds who lived in the toadstools were furious too at having lost yet another housing development cul-de-sac to the lovers. The whole meadow smelled of regurgitated dandelion-stems, and toadstool prices in the area had plummeted. The strain on the community was beginning to show.

The rabbits and ladybirds took their complaints to the warren-council where dark words were muttered and mid-toned discussions screamed, but there seemed to be nothing in the law books which forbade the public exchange of tender lovelinesses between consenting rabbits. It seemed the law’s paws were tied. Maybe it’ll stop when Spring is over, they hoped.

Spring turned to Summer. One Wednesday in July, a hot, stifling day which left even the most equable rabbits grumpy and irritable, the meadow was smelling particularly rank. Square-Jawed George and Genevieve had been even more vomitsome lately. Sweaty bunnies lay here and there in the scorched and scratchy grass, fanning themselves with blighted dock leaves and bickering. Malnutrition from all the vomiting had taken its toll on some of the bunnies. Everywhere ears drooped, teeth rotted and ribs showed painfully through their dull coats. Only Square-Jawed George and Genevieve were still bright of eye and perky of bob-tail. And here they came.

“What shall I compare thee to today, my sweet doe?” trilled Square-jawed George buckfully. A summer day’s sooo been done.” But, because his chin was so very decisive, the word came to him almost immediately. “An evening! A summer’s evening!” And Genevieve loved him even more for his easy command of words.

“Oh Christ, here they come again!” said one rabbit and the word spread throughout the meadow. “Quick – paws in ears, eyes shut and lalalalalas!

But the mood was different in the meadow today. The rabbits didn’t put their paws in their ears or shut their eyes or do lalalalas. Instead, it was very, very quiet, each rabbit straining to hear what the lovers were saying as they passed, as if masochism were the new arugula. Here and there a bunny eye glinted. Square-Jawed George and Genevieve lolloped on, not seeing or hearing anything but themselves.

And something snapped. it was impossible to say who started it, only that an electrifying twitch-nerve surged through the watching rabbits like a sort of murderous Mexican wave and all 700 rabbits sprang forward in a fury, launching themselves at the lovers with their teeth bared.

Long after the fluff had settled, and the blood trickled away into the soil, long after the crows had done for the remains of the tragic pair, I, an old, old owl, who had seem it all come to pass from my high forest perch by the meadow would gather my grandowlets around me and tell them the tale of Square-Jawed George and Genevieve.

“Why did they have to die?” they would sob, doing little owl droppings of despair all over my nice rug.

And I would shake my wise old head, as I handed them buckets of water and disinfectant to clean up.

“They were too beautiful for this world.” I would whisper, my eyes shining with brine. And I would turn away from my darlings then, and all the old guilt would come flooding back. The guilt about how good the lovers’ little hearts had tasted as, unseen, I plucked them from their breasts before the crows came for their broken bodies.

THE END

Hector’s Story. Experimental Post – Reader Participation Required!

It was one of these days. It dragged and bulged and time was all wonky. It was a Sunday in Lewis. Hector wanted nothing more than to life face down on the cool linoleum in the kitchen, or lie face up under a coffee-table but he was stuck there on the sofa between his granny and his grandpa listening to the minister. He could feel his brain writhing in boredom in his skull, pulling his eye-tubes back painfully, trying to get them to roll the bulbed eyeballs back into his head and take a nap.

“Hnngg ahhhngg ee hnng hnng hnnng” droned the minister.

“Oooooh! huhee huhoo huhibbleibbleibble” exclaimed Granny.

“Gildy bildy beedly o?” asked Grandpa.

And so they went on. There would be another hour of this at least and he was of an age now where he was supposed to be able to participate in after-church chat with the minister before a light tea of sandwiches and then out to church again to burn the holy taper at both ends. Candles and tapers weren’t allowed in the Worshipful Spartan Free Kirk Of The Hebrides though, being too wicked, so he doubted if candle metaphors were allowed either. He spent the next 5 minutes of his life concentrating on all he had ever heard about candles.

At 13, Hector knew there had to be more to life than this. He was stuck here for the next 5 years until he could escape off the island to university. The thought of almost 300 more sundays spent like this between now and then squeezed and pinched at his brain making it want to leap right out of his head and onto the carpet to gather some soothing, muffling fluff. He stifled a yawn.

The proximity to hellfire made a Lewis Sunday curl up like a leaf. In this stifling tube of a day with light only at either end, a child could curl and take in the hell-fire heat, or that child could use his imagination to take himself to a place that wasn’t Sunday: to go to one end of the tube and peer through the quiet, hot noise of Sunday to the next week as if the rolled-up day was a telescope; or at the past week like it was a microscope. I myself was a microscope kid. I pored over the minutiae, the hurts and small insults of the past week, the faces of people, why they might be the way they were: jolly, lumpy, tired, angry. Hector was a telescope kid though. On Sundays he looked forward.

“Hngg, ee hngii Machnngh hingee hnnngh” said the minister.

Suddenly Hector had an idea. It was a big big idea. It was a Big Idea.

He was going to start a cult. An undercover cult, of course, he couldn’t let his granny find out it was anything to do with him. But with the internet, starting a cult anonymously should be a breeze.

What did he know about cults? Hector forgot to be bored. His near-cooked brain-meat was alive again and full of possibilities.

Cults needed a charismatic leader, of that he was sure. That leader needed to have the wide, slow smile of fearlessness. He needed to go for long periods of time without blinking. He needed to shock peoples’ sensibilities with flat outrageous sentences such as “People whose names begin with L deserve to die!” or “The BBC will poison your souls unless you purify yourself by sleeping with me!” The more outlandish the statement, the more he could convince people of its essential truth and quake all their mental geography to the point where they were capable of anything. These people would be called Hectorians.

“Aaah, beedly bildy ba diddle-glid.” intoned his Grandpa.

Hector began to think.

To Be Continued…

(This tale will be told in episodes but I want you guys to be a part of it. So you tell me, what is this cult about? What does it celebrate? Bear in mind the setting is the Western Isles so sun-worshipping is probably out.)

Donald Trump Visits His Mammy’s House In Lewis.

Look! Donald Trump visited his mammy’s old house in Lewis! And it’s in papers other than the Stornoway Gazette!

Fame! Fame beyond our wildest dreams! God, I hope we comb our hair before the tourist hordes arrive. And tidy up the sheep mooching around all over the place. Oh God, what’ll we give them to eat? Do you think, you know – being Americans – they’d like homemade millionaire’s shortbread or would anything less than billionaires shortbread be insulting? Will we just play it safe with a nice selection of Mr. Kiplings, then? It’s so hard to know the customs of peoples who aren’t from our immediate surroundings, people from the mainland and beyond(!), people called exotic names like Sarah and Adam.

Should we talk up our famous son, The Donald? Ah, right you are, we probably shouldn’t mention him too much. Jeez though, what’ll we do with them on Sunday? There’s nothing open for a cup of tea even. Maybe we can sneak them into the Sea Angling club before the seminary’s out and feed them there. We could have people on alert with walky-talkies outside the churches to make sure stray coorumachs aren’t sneaking out early and seeing us.

O mo chreach! My nerves! Quick! Where’s the hoover? Will somebody please put these sheep in a box or something! The hordes won’t know about sheep in the road and that’s just plain dangerous because tourists are known to drive awfully fast. The last thing we want is dead hordes on our hands. They can’t spend any money if
they’re in the belly of a plane on the way home for their funerals now, can they? And in these times of credit-crunch and rocketing food and oil prices we need to impress the money right out of their foreign wallets, into our hollowed out bibles and then straight under the mattress with them. We can count it when they’re gone. But if Lewis is to make it through another winter, we need to impress like the wind this summer, Sunny Jim. Like the gale force 10 wind. The impressing is all!

Right. What else? I know I’ve forgotten something, I know it. Oh hey, maybe we could get the council to pretend they don’t really tie up the swings on Sunday just til the season’s over. There’s no need for visitors to know a thing like that. We don’t want them thinking we’re backward and joy-killing. Ooooooooooh! I know! We should sell miniature standing stones with money off and a free beanie-baby midgie if you buy the whole Callanish set! Oh, we do that already? Huh.

Run over to the mainland for some arugula and cherry tomatoes, would you? Holidaying masses love them. And don’t tell Skye or Ullapool who they’re for otherwise they’ll be over here nosing before you can say “Holy timely
economic uptick, Batman.” If they ask, just say it’s because we’re trying out a new Delia recipe. And leave your shoes at the back door when you get back. I’ll have hoovered from Ness to Luskentyre by then and I don’t want your muddy footprints all over before they start arriving.

Oh and stop at the co-op for some bottles. They’ll spend more if they’ve had a few. And if they’re hooched up a bit maybe they won’t notice the crapped-out buses-turned-greenhouses in people’s gardens. There are always a few who let us all down. You know who I’m talking about. Never mind. We’ll just drive past these houses extra quick and point out the other side to the glorious beaches or the quaint black-houses, whatever. We’ll have to remember our “quaint“s and “glorious”es. And we’d best throw in a good few “authentics” and “it’s not catching, honest, it’s just a hereditary skin condition”ses.

Oh heck! I’d better give the rooms a good airing and put fresh sheets on the beds. So much to do!! Isn’t it
exciting! You know if Lewis can pull this off and woo all these international Donald fans, soon we’ll be able to go to Inverness and buy as many Mark’s And Spencer’s frozen meals as we can carry back on the ferry! We’ll be living like kings!

*Runs off to find duster and Pledge.*