When I first lived in Edinburgh, I briefly dated a girl called Ewa. She was practically my only friend in the city, and whenever we both had an evening off work we would go to her council house on Granton Road and watch television through the night. We would usually eat pizza, because it was both the cheapest meal in the supermarket and the easiest to cook. Whenever I look back on those days, I shudder slightly and touch the nearest thing to hand, to assure myself that I am now safely in the present. That tiny house was constantly full of the fumes of cheap pizza, a sort of pizza mildew was spreading over the walls of the kitchen and living room, and whenever I made love to Ewa, her sweat seemed always to taste of pizza.
One evening, however, I went to Ewa’s home by myself for the first time, and found that I could not remember which house in that long road was hers. Whenever we had gone there before, she had always led the way, but now I found myself looking at a row of identical houses. I narrowed the choice down to under six, but beyond that I was at a loss. I did not have my mobile phone with me – in those days, we had not yet learned to carry them about – and I could only imagine Ewa inside one of those houses, sliding the pizza into the oven, putting new sheets on the bed, and waiting for the doorbell to ring. I stood in the road for about an hour, watching the houses sink into darkness. Everything was still and quiet. I finally went home.
The precise circumstances in which Scott Mahony’s Octomonkey was created – in Appleton Tower’s “Animal Experimentation Lab” – remain unclear, although it is unlikely that the engineering of such a thing, which has no discernable social benefit, would have been funded under the present Research Excellence Framework. Octomonkey is at first turned away from the University of Edinburgh because it is a “distinctly white, middle class institution,” and he is only let in after disguising himself as Caucasian. He gets into Uni without any mention of grades, so he must have octopus/monkey parents with deep pockets – in this particular sense he is probably a foreign student. Yet in being forever alienated from campus life – abandoned by half-arsed lecturers, unable to obtain basic textbooks in the George Square library, vomited over in Big Cheese, and having his tentacles sliced off by skateboarders in Bristo Square – he is a figure for every lost and demoralised fresher to identify with.
It is a pretty grim fate being an Octomonkey – one has merely the sad wisdom of a monkey, and none of their agility and fun. Octomonkey instead slides along on his landlubbered tentacles. He is probably a celibate – there is no Octomonkeygirl, and he is unlikely to meet anybody who would be turned on by the prospect of fucking an octopus with a monkey’s face. He has a good sense of reality though – he can see that the guy talking away on his mobile phone in the George Square library is “a knob.” How odd that the best thing in Edinburgh University’s Student Newspaper – and its most accurate reflection of student life – is a cartoon about a monkey-fish. They should make him editor.