MY dear friend Monsignor Tom Devine has outed himself.
When this news was first relayed to me, I admit to being shocked, the monsignor being a husband, father, grandfather and, for all I know, great-grandfather. However, it transpires that he is not, as I was first led to believe, gay, but a Yes man. How cheering! This leads me to wonder whether there is anyone with an iota of intelligence who is not going to vote Yes. I suppose there may be one or two and, after September 18, they may need to have their heads examined.
But I digress. Mgr Devine tells me of the strange case of a wealthy, fifth-generation Texan woman who engaged an Edinburgh-based genealogist to look into her ancestors, in the hope of discovering that she was related to Bonnie Prince Charlie or the Loch Ness Monster. One can well appreciate her disappointment when she was informed that in her background there were no such notable forebears; on the contrary, she was of humble stock from Motherwell. Consequently, she refused to pay the genealogist. I share her chagrin, as I do his. But I am more aggrieved on Motherwell's behalf. It deserves better.
HAVING said that, I boarded a bus recently in Hamilton and asked the driver if he was going to Motherwell. "Unfortunately," he said. I know plenty folk called Hamilton but just one called Motherwell, the American painter, Robert Motherwell. His father, by the by, was called Robert Burns Motherwell, which suggests that somewhere down the line he had Motherwell blood in his veins. Wouldn't it be wonderful to have an exhibition of Mr Motherwell's work in Motherwell?
One of my dearest friends is called Airdrie. She lives in Toscana and often asks about Airdrie and what it's like. "Not quite like San Gimignano," I say, "though it does have one or two towers." Airdrie longs to visit Airdrie and may yet. If she does, I'll let you know what she makes of it. Once I said to her: "It could be worse, you could be called Coatbridge." By her expression I could tell it was one of those jokes that didn't have a passport.
EVEN as my dear friend Ben Treuhaft, his tent and piano have been evicted from it, one learns that Portobello beach is to host qualifying events for the volleyball tournament at the 2016 Rio Olympics. In general, this has been welcomed by the natives, many of whom can barely contain their excitement at the thought of seeing scantily-clad human persons leaping around like salmon on the shores of the Forth.
A few others, their glasses invariably half-full, have made disparaging comparisons between Copacabana and Porty. This does not bear much scrutiny. Does Copacabana have a promenade like Porty's? Or a fun fair? Or my dear friend Terry Watson's coffee van? Or, indeed, swimming baths, which I am due to visit any day now in the hope of becoming Lothian's answer to the Thorpedo?
What it comes down to is weather. Porty has it, Copacabana doesn't. Thus endeth this argument.
AM I surprised that Aberdeen is a "Mafia stronghold"? Of course not. Is anyone? I would have been surprised if, say, Tobermory or Tillicoultry was. But Aberdeen? Come on! Still, sentient readers of this always throbbing organ may recall that it was my dear and courageous friend, Roberto Saviano, who revealed in his book Gomorrah that Aberdeen was a "conquered" territory. "I wanted to get out of Scotland," he wrote, "go away and never set foot in that country again." Who can blame him? In a recent visit to Granitedom I was struck by the number of menfolk who bore an uncanny resemblance to Tony Soprano. Were they all engaged in Mafia activities? Or were they just fat slobs? So many questions, so few answers.
OF course, long before the Italians adopted Aberdeen there was an extremely energetic Mafia in the city. I refer with regret to the Doric Mafia whose tentacles even today reach into every nook and cranny of society, destabilising civilisation with their inbreeding and addiction to rowies. Unlike their Italian counterparts, however, they do not deal in drugs or traffic slaves. Their chief source of revenue is fish and, of an evening in the Prince of Wales or the Grill, one often used to spot grizzled men of a certain age who smelled of mackerel furtively passing tinfoil-wrapped parcels under the table to their drinking companions. More often than not these included a few haddock but occasionally there were much-prized herring, one sniff of which could do more damage to your nostrils than a snort of pure cocaine. One tried to eavesdrop but it was difficult because, like their Italian brethren, the Doric Mafiosi spoke in a language all but impenetrable to outsiders. Fit wye? Fa? Foo? Foos yer doos. What on earth were they banging on about? A heist? A hit? A stroll round the docks?
WHERE, you might ask, have I been this past while that I have not come across Calvin Harris? Mr Harris, whose real name is Adam Wiles, was born in Dumfries 29 years ago. He wanted to be a footballer like Steve McManaman but was thwarted as he didn't have curly hair. After working in a factory, he changed his name and became a DJ. Last year, according to Forbes magazine, he was the world's highest-earning DJ, making $46 million. "With his neck scruff and thick Scottish accent," says Forbes, Mr Harris is "the face of the electronic music revolution that has long simmered in Europe and finally made its way to America." For a night's work in Las Vegas, he can earn $300,000. His album, 18 Months, sold like toffees to the toothless. His motto, tattooed on his arm, is "Enter With Boldness" and he puts his success down to luck. His fans, he says, are "not all electro EDM-heads". No, I don't know what he's banging on about either, but good on him anyway.
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