Digital Ischemia


Robert McNeil, Sir

Robert McNeil caricature

Robert McNeil

The turn of the century found me in Edinburgh, desperate furra change of joab. This in turn found me slapping through The Scotsman newspapyrus on Fridays with sputtering hope of my dream professional opportunity and my ready ability to rip any vaguely promising advertisement to tatters in extracting it fae the page. My slapping was arrested by a phizog: I’ve a weakness for an unclupped barnet and here was one fine flowing specimen, be-bearded too, and furthermore cartoonified. This caricatural eye-candy was the byline for Robert McNeil and his Week. I should sample this boy’s wares.

Simultaneously, but coincidentally, Scotville gave birth to its ane wee baby parliament. The wean was initially incubated in a contorted gothic tardis, accessed aff the High Street on foot only, via a close, a tunnel, a giddying left-hander and a ramped glass decontamination chamber. Allegedly a religional edifice, the public viewing balconette with spittle-proof perspex was reminiscent of the bingo hall-cum-cinema of the parochial toun where I wiz schooled. However, the entertainment was somewhat elevated.

In those formative days – of the parly, no masel’ – the big twae and a hoaf: Donald Dewar, Alex Salmond and David McLetchie wid debate. Thursday afternoon was First Minister’s question time and simultaneously, but coincidentally, my day aff. Stratospheric needle-nosed Donald, wee caterpillar-eyebrowed Alex, and the bristly one, scythed such witty repartee about, such banter, ye almost forgot they were meant to be governing.

That wiz the thing, see: this McNeil fella seemingly had been there too. He wrote about our shared experience but, oh my goodness, with such hallucinogenic elaboration upon reality, and ascension into the hysterical surreal, that I quickly jettisoned my neonatal interest in politics and transferred allegiance to the Sketch.

Uncle Robert – my initial adolescent-style infatuation had to evolve to relate my affections to someone so clearly out of my league – wrote about other things too: he stoatered aboot Embra-toun, he reported in the Embra vernacular, inventing wurds where common language failed and shovelling in a good few literary lexicals too. He deprecated hissel’ jist as much as anything else. He inhabited a meta-Embra. I fancied I could waft about there too. It was the imaginary Elysium I sought through drink and always missed the turn for. And of course he made my lungs spasm rather pleasantly. He became legend.

Shamefully, after 68 applications, I got a new joab. I moved out of toun chasing a mortgage, a manageable commute and other unoriginal life tedia, and disappeared up my own arsehole. Recently asking myself why, why, why, brought back misty-eyed memories of rudely suspended influences. I summoned the wab to my idiot lantern and dialed up the Hootsmon. Pages of finger-tingling results. Mr McNeil’s consistently chortlesome observations preserved just in case I should come to ma senses. For example: I love the park though of course it makes me miserable. I am in raptures.

Sadly the 21st Century-style date-stamps abruptly fizzle at August 2009. You want to know how it ends? Naw, ye dinnae. Did he get soocked into yin ae his transvortectional pipeways to ooterspace? Gie up the writing? Naw, efter a brief stint in the ether in 2010, he went tae Glesga. Ach.

Away noo an’ gie us peace wi’ ma back issues.



Filed under: Shorts — Tags: , , , , , , , , — Teepwriter @ 17:46

Water trickles over Gilbert’s ample flesh. He’s beyond cuddly but it’s not what you’d think. He halts the soap between his shoulder blades.

The caller is neither prepared nor equipped to meet a large, wet, naked householder. The caller is a shrivelled 22 year old guy who looks 47 due to nearly a decade of nicotine and alcohol abuse, physical labour and sleep deprivation; all self-inflicted.

“Eh, ur, sawry te boather ye, but I was daein’ a quote fur yer neighb–”
Gilbert interjects, “what’s your business?”
“Eh, clean yer roof, redo yer slabs, lift–”
“–What’s your business name?”
“FN Landscaping. Like I was sayin’, that tree–”
“–You have a website?”
“Eh, naw, youse can get–”
“–A mobile?”
“We’ll be roun’ on Tuesdae if yer–”
“–You won’t.”
“Oh, aye, we–”
“–You chose to ignore my sign.”
Gilbert stares at his doorbell. The doomed but oblivious caller follows his gaze to squint at a little plastic plaque: no sales.
Gilbert rattles on. “FN Landscaping. Be ready for a FN shitstorm of…” He tips his dripping palm to an imaginary CCTV camera under the eaves. The construct expires.

Of course he’s alone. The caller legged it after six words, some mileage he’s going to get out of telling the boys about this nutter.

Gilbert squeaks back into the shower tray. His ire dissipates. He turns on the water and succumbs to deep sadness. Water trickles over his face, diluting his tears. He’s still reacting.

In 2007 the doorbell rang while he was in the midst of wiring a light socket over the shower. Returning from the pointless distraction, he unwittingly missed a loose end. Later, the way freak accidents happen, his wife and daughter ran squealing to the shower. Making it a competition tricked the lassie into wanting to get in. They grabbed the hose simultaneously; the current reinforced their grips indefinitely. Their shrieking sounded like part of the game. For a wee while.

These bells are not imperatives.

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