P&J Column 3.11.16

Halloween’s changed. Who else misses the smell of burning neep?

Fergus Lamont, arts critic and author of “My auntie is pals with her mum”- Emile Sande, 21st Century Bothy Balladeer.

The most thought-provoking pieces of art can also be the most elusive. Very occasionally, however, a veritable masterpiece actually seeks one out, catches one by surprise and slaps one in the face, screaming ‘Breathe, breathe, damn you!’ like a poorly trained paramedic.

Monday night proved just such an occasion for your humble art critic. I’ve recently chanced upon a marvellous new drama which is broadcast on the wireless. It emanates from my valve-set periodically, in a narrative form reminiscent of Dickens. I doubt you’ll have heard of it – it has received little if any publicity; but the intertwining of the mundane and the pastoral in “The Archers” makes it a perfect thematic companion-piece to Grassic Gibbon’s magnum opus, ‘Sunset Song’). Not long after I’d listened to the latest what I will call, for want of the mot juste, ‘episode’, the doorbell chimed, unexpectedly. When I answered I was delighted to see a travelling troupe of players, in the mode of those deployed by Hamlet to ‘catch the conscience of the king’. They disported themselves in an array of outlandish costumes and sought to engage me in a piece of improvised comedie dell’arte!

“Trick or treat?”, a young performer bedecked in a white sheet with holes for eyes implored of me. The crudity of his garb deftly symbolising the eternal struggle of man to maintain the exterior façade, while wrestling with his inner demons. “Hey min, I says, Trick or Treat?” He repeated.

“Treat!” I replied, barely able to contain my excitement. “Fit’ve you got, like?”,  his witty riposte. In this brief exchange, our “expect everything, earn nothing” culture had been beautifully lampooned. “Bravo!” I yelled, and went to fetch them some of the quinoa and kale vol au vents I’d enjoyed at supper.  Sated, and with a firm handshake from a very grateful spectator, the troupe headed off into the night.

They weren’t done though, as I was treated to a most avant-garde denouement, they proceeded to pelt my Orangery with eggs, flour and what I suspect may have been animal excrement!

I wept.  As did, upon his arrival the following morning, my window cleaner.

View from the midden – rural affairs with MTv (Meikle Wartle Television) personality, Jock Alexander

It has been a multi-functional wik in the village. I was maist impressed tae read the news of Billy Muir, the Orkney sheep fairmer dubbed ‘Britain’s hardest-working man’, fa this wik won a Pride of Britain award fore hauding doon a total of 20 jobs at eence.  As a sheep fairmer myself, I staun open-mouthed, baith in admiration, and because sometimes, ‘at’s jist the wye my face gings.

Clearly, though, the Pride of Britain committee didnae come near Meikle Wartle fan they wis cairrying oot their exhaustive search for the nation’s maist ower-employed mannie or wifie. Here in the village we hiv someone who looks doon her nose at the sort of layabout fa only tackles twa dizen occupations.  Feel Moira currently fills aboot twice that number, fit with being village postmistress, midwife, milkman, cattle drover, butcher, baker, cunnlestick maker, teacher, weather girl, astronomer, astrologer and kiss-o-gram.  And that’s jist on Mondays.

Then there’s the jobs she diz without asking folk first, like that time fan Skittery Willie’s roof needed mending, and she built the scaffolding, took doon all the auld slates, and selt them.

She explains that she has sae mony jobs because of her unwillingness tae trust anybody else tae dae ony work themselves withoot “makin an erse of it”. If ye wint something done proper, dae it yourself. Unless, like me, ye really canna be bothered, and it’s gye caul in the morning, and the duvet is fine and warm, in which case get Moira tae dae it for you.

She also tells me that her incredible dilligence comes fae the strong work ethic instilled in tae her by her grandmither, “Feel Muggie”, who, legend has it, built the majority of Old Meikle Wartle single-handed, oot of drystane and, sadly, highly flammable, wattling. Nooadays, no trace of the original Meikle Wartle wattle remains, but Moira has had the tale handed down to her of how, one cauld November nicht, the hale place went up in flames. Sadly, naeb’dy realised fit wis happening, mistaking the billowing smoke for a particularly thick haar. And we commemorate it still, each year on November the Fifth wi’ a great bonfire and fireworks, on fit we in the village cry ‘Gye Foggy Nicht’ . Cheerio!