I’m sure you’ve all been on tenterhooks wondering where I’ve been since I took my somewhat elastic hiatus from blogging back in the Spring. No, really, you have, haven’t you? You’re just faking that look of complete indifference. And that grimace at the realisation that, whatever was keeping me away from the keyboard, its effects seem to have worn off.
Well, no matter how you feel about it, I’m back. I’m passionate about my right under Internet law to assert that my clueless opinions about stuff I haven’t bothered to research are just as valid as the product of years of scholarship. And remember that publishing them here is the soft option. If I weren’t doing this, I’d be calling radio phone-ins, thereby subjecting you to my whiny voice as well as my rancid views. Or possibly I’d be crayoning vaguely threatening hate mail to Cabinet members, creating unnecessary alarm and wasting the time of Special Branch.
Since you last tuned in much has changed. Despite the best efforts of several acne-ridden estate agents, we finally found someone willing to buy our home in leafy Berkshire – obviously, judging by the feedback we got from moanier viewers, a fan of microscopic gardens, old-fashioned décor and ominously creaky floorboards. We took the buyer’s money, made sure we didn’t give her a forwarding address, and skedaddled up the M6 before she cottoned on to the place’s obvious flaws. Brutal, I know, but at least, thanks to the subsequent South East housing bubble insanely engineered by Wee Georgie Osborne, she’s sitting on a tidy paper profit.
So we’ve now crossed the border and settled in Scotland, which I understand is either
1) a proud nation preparing to knock the socks off an admiring world with its Nordic prosperity and universal childcare. This is the version proclaimed by the indefatigably self-assured Alex Salmond, leader of the free world and a legend in his own lunchtime.
2) a bunch of North British subsidy junkies who can’t be allowed control of the oil because they’ll just spend the proceeds on Buckfast. This is the diagnosis of the increasingly twitchy and tetchy Alistair Darling, whose eyebrows declared independence a long time ago.
The truth undoubtedly resides somewhere between the two. It would be nice to get it from the mainstream media, so that the Scottish people could make an educated decision. We have, after all, recently been adjudged better at reading and counting than the English (albeit still a bit on the rubbish side), so we could have a fair crack at doing the sums, even though the nanny government doesn’t allow us fag packets any more.
But the cream of Scottish print journalism, aided and abetted by an unfeasibly supine BBC Scotland, doesn’t seem to do “factual”. Instead, it seems intent on addressing this particular subject with an unending stream of what might charitably be described as “unmitigated pish”. This is annoying, even for a placid, unexcitable chap such as myself, so I may be compelled to return to this topic in future. (For viewers outside Scotland, alternative programming will be available.)
But who cares about grubby old politics when there’s so much to enjoy in Scotland? The jaw-dropping scenery, often visible for as much as 15 minutes before the rain forces you back under cover. The friendliness: here, unlike the Home Counties, children say “hello” to you in the street, and you can safely respond without being arrested. (For a small fee, they’ll even look after your car while it’s parked.) The cuisine: macaroni pies, Stornoway black pudding, Tunnock’s caramel wafers and, of course, tablet, the quickest known route to hyperglycaemia. Oh yeah, and just to annoy the snobs, two Scottish finalists in Masterchef!
As someone whose daily pill intake officially qualifies him as a percussion instrument, I have to say it’s great not to have to shell out £104 per annum for my prescription “season ticket”. Plus, when I spend that extra money on junk food, I can be sure that the ambulance will get me to A&E faster than it would elsewhere in these islands. (Bugger about with NHS Scotland at your peril, Andy Burnham! Assuming the voters allow you the opportunity, that is. And I’m not talking about the 2015 General Election.)
I wouldn’t wish to argue that everything’s perfect here. In winter, it takes only ten minutes of walking around after sunset for it to feel and sound as if my trousers are full of ice cubes. I’m constantly dreaming of woodpeckers as the rain batters the velux windows overnight. And the standard of football isn’t a patch on the moneybags English Premiership, although as a Crystal Palace fan I notice this less than others might. But hey, those are minor niggles, and I don’t wish to do the place down, especially when that’s evidently the Secretary of State for Scotland’s job.
That’s the story, then. After a period of upheaval, I now embark on the next chapter of my life.
Downsizing? Definitely: I haven’t earned a bean in the last 18 months, although there is the consolation of not having to stand on a crowded train for 75 minutes each day with my face jammed into someone’s armpit.
Retirement? Hell, no! I’m in this writing business for the long haul. There are enough gullible people out there for someone to pay me for it some day. In Sterling, Euros or Scottish Poonds, whatever the redoubtable Alex S manages to negotiate. Assuming the voters…. oh, you know the rest.
So this time it’s not only personal - this time it’s permanent. You know, just like RBS says to you every time it tells you it's fixed its cashpoints.
Welcome back aboard. You did bring the map with you, didn’t you?