Blackwood's Edinburgh Magazine, Blogging, Brexit, Catholicism, Edinburgh, Edinburgh University, Fascist, Freedom of Speech, Hong Kong, Humor, Jacob Rees-Mogg, Markus Meechan, Nationalism, Opinion, Paul Kavanagh, Politics, Professor Peter Mathieson, Pub, Satire, Scottish Independence, Scottish Nationalism, The Nazi Pug, USS Strike, Wee Ginger Dug
[SCENE: The BrewDog on the Cowgate, an apparently half-dismantled bar with bare brickwork on the walls and a stripped-away ceiling. Tychy, Pablo, Tori and Hutu the Clown are drinking in an alcove, beneath a mass of ventilation shafts that gleam like exposed entrails.]
Tychy: So I have assembled you here today to interview the two candidates who have made it through to the second stage of our selection process. When we rise from these seats, we will at last have a new editor for the Tychy website.
James: Hello one and all…
Tychy: Ah, the incumbent.
[Nobody makes room for James to sit down. He hovers forlornly around the mouth of the alcove.]
Tori: It’s very sweet that you want to help us, James. And you are welcome, of course…
Tychy: In the same way that tuberculosis might be welcome at the meeting of a hospital board.
Tori: But this is all proceduralism. To make a bureaucrat out of you we would need to wring out all of your fun and freedom. And how could you wish for such a tragic…?
James [suspiciously]: What is he doing here?
[Everybody looks at Hutu the Clown, the popular entertainer and creator of the Wee Ginger Dug children’s character. A depleted, sour-looking old man in a clown costume, with his hand inserted inside a rectum of a shaking, glassy-eyed dog.]
Tychy: This man’s WordPress website is seventy times more successful than our own. He has very generously agreed to join us in an advisory capacity.
Pablo: He is the guru, eh? This weirdy-man is, how you say James, the freshest thing you have got in the fridge in the Scotland politics.
James: But aren’t you feeling a little apprehensive at the moment, Hutu?
Hutu the Clown: No, the fight has only just begun. Whilst the UK state falls to pieces quicker than a square of Tesco Value toilet paper, those of us who support independence are used to waiting, used to enduring the barrage of personal attacks, used to the insane SNPbaddery and the hysterical delusions of crazed Tory froth-merchants. Scotland is not a poor country…
James: I was in fact referring to the Nazi pug conviction.
Tori: What is this?
James: A really unnerving case. One of those things that genuinely spooks you out. A 30-year-old man from Lanarkshire named Mark Meechan had taught his girlfriend’s dog to perform Nazi salutes, simply as a prank and to annoy her. Rather unwisely, he made a video of this dog performing and he put it on YouTube. He has been convicted this week in Airdrie Sheriff Court of being “grossly offensive” and committing a hate crime.
Tori: You know, I’ve heard about this. Won’t he be jailed – just for telling a joke?
James: This has been the trial of the century. It is Scotland’s equivalent of Oscar Wilde’s conviction.
Tychy: Yet wasn’t there a similar incident down in England in which a man made a joke on Twitter about blowing up an airport…?
James: The man was named Paul Chambers and the airport was Robin Hood Airport. His conviction was overturned in 2012. No doubt something similar will happen with Mr Meechan. This is the problem with this recent wave of legislation against freedom of speech. It has been planted in the law on the implicit understanding that nobody will take it literally. But occasionally some moron – in the case of the Nazi pug, Sheriff Derek O’Carroll – doesn’t clock that it is only there for discretionary usage during riots and public emergencies.
Tori: This poor man, Sherriff O’Carroll, he really does sound the most devastating moron.
Pablo: Maybe he was drunk? In English you have the expression, “as sober as a drunk”?
James: A judge, Pablo. “As sober as a judge.”
Pablo: You mean a drunk judge? “As sober as the drunk judge”?
James: No, it’s just “a judge.” “As sober as a judge.”
Hutu the Clown: I hope you are not suggesting that there is any connection between my soft old sweetie here and this vile Nazi dog. That was a dog that gave Hitler salutes…
James: And yours is a Scottish nationalist.
Hutu the Clown: That was a dog that was trained to troll and annoy everybody in a petty way…
James: And you are a highly esteemed journalist for The National.
Pablo: Eh, let’s have some fun with your soft old sweetie. You want to gas the Jews, eh… oh no, wait, it must be the English. Gas the English, boy!
[The wee ginger dug begins to Sieg Heil frantically.]
Hutu the Clown: I’m not an ethic nationalist! This is all a misunderstanding! It’s civic nationalism!
Barman [approaching]: Sir, your dog appears to be committing a classifiable hate crime on our premises.
Hutu the Clown: No, no! A person in North Berwick and one in Berwick-upon-Tweed can co-exist perfectly peacefully. It’s just that the ones below the border are somehow inexplicably different. Not inferior, just different! They should get their ane state!
[The dug is now goose-stepping on the spot and yowling “Flower of Scotland.”]
Tori [fluttering her eyelashes at the barman]: We’ll keep the clown, I mean the dog, under control Mr Barman.
Barman: See that you do!
Tychy: To business! Our first candidate is Professor Peter Mathieson, the new Principal of Edinburgh University. He has already passed the preliminary interview with me on Skype.
[Enter Peter Mathieson, a somewhat harebrained-looking man with spittle on his lips. He is accompanied by a happily bounding dog and a frisky cat, both on leads. His dog and the wee ginger dug start to bark at each other immediately. Tori and Pablo encourage Mathieson to push past James, who is still standing marooned without a seat, and they make room for him.]
Tori: Welcome to the Tychy website, sir.
Mathieson [beaming and twitching]: Thank you very much.
Tychy: So what ambitions do you have for our website?
Mathieson: I’ve consulted widely with friends and colleagues, and of course my inestimable wife, and I think that it would be a good way for me to gain a foothold in this city and to promote my values and principles…
Tychy: If I can cut you off there, sir, your previous tenure was as the President and Vice-Chancellor of Hong Kong University?
James: Oh this is wonderful! I really can’t believe it!
Tychy: In arriving from a far more deferential, some would say illiberal climate…
James: This man will be ideally qualified.
Mathieson: Various newspapers have written that I left Hong Kong having caused a bit of a stink. But I saw it as my role to further collaboration and bridge-building between all of those people who believe in democracy and those who don’t. In a robust but consensual manner.
Tychy: When glancing at your C.V., I see that one member of Hong Kong’s university council, Professor Lo Chung-mau, has called you “ignorant, incompetent and heartless.”
James: But Professor Mathieson fits very well into the bigger picture. Ever since the referendum result, Edinburgh University has set its face against the largest democratic vote in UK history, wailing at every given opportunity that its rights and privileges are threatened by Brexit and remaining wilfully deaf to Brexit’s historical democratic significance. And now we have procured a Principal who was literally in charge of Hong Kong University during the anti-democratic crackdown! A time when banners reading “I need real universal suffrage,” a Brexiteering slogan if ever there was one, were being ripped down by the authorities.
Tychy: James, not absolutely everything is about Brexit.
James: Yes it is! Brexit is magnificent!
Hutu the Clown: Brexit – magnificent? Do you kiss your mother with that mouth? You are fixated on this nostalgic Dad’s Army daydream of yesteryear. It’s sad, truly sad, whilst the rest of us are getting on with achieving the altogether more modern and sensible project of Scottish independence. This will show Thatcher!
Pablo: It is James that is confused. Hong Kong is one of the good ones, no? Though he’s always throwing the bananas that are less cool than the mushrooms and his fat bike never has the grip on the road.
Tychy: Professor Mathieson appears to be perplexed. Turning back to your editorship, sir, we are in some minor disquiet about the level of your expected salary. It is – let me see – somewhat north of £300,000. You are anticipating quite a leap in revenues.
Mathieson: That is excluding my expenses. My dog and cat must travel by taxi of course – the night air is far too inclement for them.
Tychy: How will it be possible for us to afford such a vast salary?
Mathieson: I think that restructuring the pension scheme could generate major economies. Switching you all over to much more realistic zero-hour contracts will also help things considerably. Of course, I must appoint a suitable committee to ensure that I have no traceable responsibility for these reforms. The changes should come to eventually seem like a natural and inevitable aspect of the workplace.
Tori: Ah yes, so how is the strike amongst your staff going? What is your exact position on it?
Mathieson: I think it’s important that we listen to the very real concerns of our valued employees. But of course I also desire to mitigate the disruption and the inconvenience for our students…
James: A strike is meant to cause disruption, you old fool! That’s the whole point!
Tori: So are you, er, for or against the strike?
Mathieson: I’m listening carefully to all of the relevant views. My preference is for using imagination, thinking outside the box, flexibility and conciliation to restore trust and bring the dispute to an end. And if we set up some complicated bureaucracy to adjudicate on people’s pensions, everybody might lose interest in them.
Tori: So that’s against…
Mathieson: And also for. If I can sum this up by using a visual metaphor, my cat here will represent my favourable response towards the strikers [the cat’s tail pricks up and it begins to purr loudly] whilst my dog will simultaneously express my concern about the disruption across campus [the dog begins to yap.] Just as I was both for and against democracy in Hong Kong. What do you think about those bad strikers, you little cutey… Oh my goodness! Oh no, this is not appropriate at all [the dog has begun to Sieg Heil and goose-step on the spot.]
Pablo: Eh, he is copying the dog of Mr Fruity-Loop.
Hutu the Clown: No, that dog is an ethnic nationalist. My own is a civic nationalist, which is completely different.
Barman [approaching and pointing mistakenly at Mathieson]: That’s it sir, that’s your final warning. You are no longer welcome on our premises.
[Mathieson, his frisking cat and his goose-stepping dog all trail sorrowfully out of the bar.]
Tychy: Well, he was rather expensive and he didn’t come across as being greatly effective for such a huge price-tag. Our next candidate is Jacob Rees-Mogg, MP. Not only will it be a sizeable asset for us to have a future leader of the ruling party as our editor, but Mogg is also an implacable Brexiteer, which will surely charm James out of most of his criticisms.
James [grudgingly]: Mmm… he does sound like the best candidate so far.
[Enter a blinking, milk-faced man, obviously kitted out by Savile Row, who looks like a minor character in one of those classic Monty Python episodes.]
Rees-Mogg [speaking as though he has a mouth full of the finest cream and reciting absolutely everything that he says as though it was Kipling’s poetry]: It is my great privilege, Mr Chairman, and all you ladies and gentlemen, to be here in this wonderful part of the world. I am honoured and deeply delighted to accept the editorship of your wonderful…
Pablo [laughing uncontrollably]: Hee hee hee, oh fuck me, oh no, oh fuck, ha ha…
Tori [hissing sotto voce]: Pablo! This is a future British prime minister!
Pablo [wheezing]: Ha ha, oh no make it stop, hee hee, please make it stop….
James: Pablo, this is one of the most credible Brexiteers available. The entire country is practically in his hands.
Pablo: Ha ha ha! Oh no, this is too much, oh fuck, ha ha ha! This is hurting my belly!
Tychy: Would you like a glass of water Pablo?
Hutu the Clown: Hey, I am being once again ignored and treated as second best by the Unionist media. He’s not even wearing the proper make-up.
Tori: Pablo, try to think about something very serious. This will stop you laughing. Think of, say, the Holocaust.
Tychy: Tori! We can’t afford to have this now! Oh no, what have you done?
Pablo [very angrily]: Eh, what is this story to scare the children? There was crowding, a few people got squashed or suffocated. It was maybe a hundred thousand, maybe. And besides, they needed a strong man to sort everything out, just as you need your own stiff upper Brexit to fix the EU!
Hutu the Clown [excitedly]: See this is ethnic nationalism! Completely different to my civic nationalism!
Rees-Mogg [reciting with immense care]: My friends, what we need is a calm, measured Brexit, that appeals to our outward-looking, non-protectionist instincts, and not the kind of Brexit that you describe. We should be able to determine our own regulatory systems and negotiate freely with others… er, I say, does that dog happen to be goose-stepping?
James: To cut to the chase Mr Rees-Mogg, isn’t your stance as a sceptic of the EU rather undermined by your willingness to flatly accept every European regulation going from the Catholic Church?
Rees-Mogg [looking dutiful]: I take the teachings of the Catholic Church
very seriously. I support them in every respect.
Tori: Yuck! You oppose gay marriage?
Rees-Mogg: Marriage is under the authority of the church rather than the state. This is exactly the argument that Thomas More made in opposition to the marriage of Henry VIII to Anne Boleyn.
James: I knew it! Henry VIII was the very first Brexiteer – Nigel Farage is simply the same ale watered-down – and Mr Mogg is here on the side of the Remoaners!
Rees-Mogg [brightening a little]: No young man, my distinction is an important one and it is this. Christ said in relation to the woman who was taken in adultery that “he who is without sin should cast the first stone.” As the editor of your website, I could not in all conscience throw a rock at any of your readers. It is up to them to bear witness to their own actions.
James: Ha, look! He’s more Catholic than the Pope!
Tychy: You’re more of a Brexiteer than Mr Rees-Mogg.
Tori: So what percentage of our readers would you reckon to be sinners?
Rees-Mogg: You mean those who have transgressed the teachings of the Catholic Church in relation to their personal conduct? I would judge the answer to be about 95% But it is not for me to ever utter a single remark of disapprobation.
Tychy: But isn’t sin indivisible? Surely, in this respect, sodomy would be just as sinful as a mass murder? If it was sincere enough.
Rees-Mogg: Quite. But through an unhappy accident of history, sodomy is not at this point contrary to any of Her Majesty’s sovereign laws. And yes, it is a shame that our present Pope is such a snowflake and that, in accordance with the teachings of the Catholic Church, snowflakery is now infallible.
Tori: You are keeping very quiet about this, Hutu. I’m surprised – I thought that you might want to take a more combative approach.
Hutu the Clown: I’ve noticed, Mr Rees-Mogg, that we are both wearing carnations in our buttonholes.
Rees-Mogg: Indeed, my friend. And a new shine to our top hats.
Hutu the Clown: Yes sir, but might the gentleman require a bit of spit and polish for his boots?
Rees-Mogg: Charmed, I’m sure.
James: What are they talking about?
Tori: It sounds like a code.
Hutu the Clown [taking out a gigantic envelope of roubles]: The ringmaster of the circus wishes you to be on the receiving end of this custard pie.
James: Oh fuck, we’ve been infiltrated by the Russians!
Rees-Mogg: Well, I’m going to bid you a merry toodle-pip. When shall I commence editing your website?
Tychy: Sadly, sir, the incumbent appears to now have several more months left to fill.
Rees-Mogg: What an immense pity! Have I been perchance unsuccessful in my application?
Tychy: Yes, we are anti-establishment but within certain definite limits, sir.
Rees-Mogg: Ah well, let us drink a toast to the honour and the future prosperity of your marvellous website!