Gary Johnston


A former BBC Scotland comedy writer, Gary has lived in Australia for over 10 years, working as a fruit picker, nightclub bouncer, waiter and then, somewhat bizarrely, a probation officer in the town of Nimbin: Australia’s Marijuana Capital. He currently teaches English and Drama at a secondary school in the mountains of Victoria. His hobbies are various outdoor pursuits, playing guitar and observing Scotland from a distance. Gary’s latest “project” is a Clydesdale/Appaloosa foal he’s named Hugh in the hope that the local horse breeding society won’t realise the significance of its second name being Jarse.

You can follow Gary on Twitter @gjp3003


  • The Big Man needs a test.

    That’s the unanimous verdict of the wee group of people I’ve been watching the tennis with. We’ve bonded, the same way you do with those people you sit next to at the football.

    There’s me and Billy ‘Mr Zydeco’ Abbott of course, his daughter Nina Simone, Dave the Scot, Beryl the delectable Kiwi, Alan fae Dufftown, and Ped who won’t give me his full name because, as he says: ‘I’ve got more warrants out for me than ‘Bible John’.

  • ‘You know what’s it like when you’re fighting a wee skinny guy in the National Health glasses’? says my mate Billy Abbott high up in the stand at Hisense Arena. ‘You take it easy.  It’s almost impossible to go completely radge.  You feel kind of sorry for him…’

  • It’s not easy to tell which of the two players on the court at Rod Laver Arena looks the most Scottish but Big Andy’s opponent, Ricardas Berankis, just shades it.

    Oh Andy looks pretty Scottish, we know that, the ginger hair being a bit of a giveaway but Ricardas, from Lithuania, reminds you of a certain kind of Scot.

    A Ned, to be honest.  A wee Schemie.

  • It’s 41C.  That’s 106F in the old money. You could fry an egg on the pavement outside Hisense Arena except you’d probably burn it.

    Hot.  And humid.  ‘Okay if you’re with a women, not so good at the tennis’, as Robin Williams nearly said in the film Good Morning Vietnam.  

  • Like every sporting event, it’s different when you’re actually there.

    As Andy Murray strides on to the Rod Laver Arena, in glorious Melbourne morning sunshine, it’s simply impossible not to feel proud.  

    And yes, I admit it, patriotic.  He’s Oor Boy.  And he’s a superstar.  

    Thanks to a Facebook spoof which portrayed him as Mick Dundee, Andy, now known locally as Crocodile Dunblane, is absolute top drawer.  Pure class.

  • It’s hard to believe – and about as easy to swallow as a Tunnocks Teacake if you’re reading this on a typically Baltic Scottish winter’s day - but it’s a picture perfect high summer here in Australia.

    There, that makes you feel much better about the wind and the rain doesn’t it?

    Yes indeed, blue skies and searing heat all the way through to April, which potential bush fires and sunstroke aside, still beats the keech out of whatever Ma Nature has in store for Pitlochry, Pittenweem or Partick.

  • We never had a dog when I was a kid and as for cats, my Mum’s attitude was best summed up by her short yet surprisingly insightful appraisal of the blockbuster Andrew Lloyd Webber musical of the same name.

     ‘Duff.  It wiz aw aboot bloody cats.’

  • Compared to being in prison it’s all right, I suppose.

    At least it’s a holiday and you have an excuse – if you’re the sort of person who needs one – to eat and drink to excess, but it’s still crap, compared to what it used to be like.    

    Way back when.  Auld lang syne. Yeah, I know.  I sound like an old bore. What’s worse, people are starting to talk.  The jury isn’t even out any more.

  • It’s not a fake by the way, it’s genuinely the man himself. Check out that unmistakable light tenor voice trilling its way through about a dozen verses of the famous ditty much loved by rugby players and other assorted dirty-minded topers.

    Some of the verses are merely whimsical, a few are on the mildly coarse side but a couple are so downright filthy, you’re momentarily shocked to hear Ken singing them. 

  • When I first lived abroad, one of the things I missed the most was tuning in to my favourite radio station and classic, timeless shows like ‘I’m Sorry I haven’t a Clue’, ‘Just a Minute’ and, of course, ‘The Archers’.

  • In Colorado, as a matter of fact, more people backed easy access to the weed than voted for either of the two candidates, a situation which obviously says something quite profound about politics.  (I’m not sure exactly what, but hopefully it’ll come to me when I’m a bit less baked.)

  • My local pub, The Albion Hotel, situated in the bucolic village of Swifts Creek Australia, is no different in this respect.

    Our local resident expert diddy is a fella known as Wombat, not because he eats roots and leaves (no matter where you place the commas) but for a much more obvious and fundamental reason: he has a huge arse.

  • And just imagine how difficult it is to describe Jimmy Savile to people who’ve never ever heard of him.

    'Well he was this sort of old, sleazy, weird guy with peroxide hair - wore tracksuits and loads of bling.  Spoke a bizarre nonsensical jargon – asitappens, owsabout.  Liked to talk about how much work he did for charity and generally came across as an arrogant, creepy, self-promotion merchant.  Very popular, he was.  Never off the telly.'

  • I don’t have a clue where it came from because we were just about the furthest thing you can imagine from a horsey family and, coming from a council house estate, the pungent aroma of horse dung was as rare as, well, the imaginary stuff that emanates from rocking horses.

  • Younger fans – assuming there are some – might find it hard to believe, but such was not always the case.  Admittedly, Scotland has never actually won any tournament of significance, but we did, once upon quite a long time ago, used to have some decent players who were capable of, if not exactly making us proud, then at least showing us how to enjoy oorsels.

  • Oh, not in those words of course, I mean you can hardly expect learned and erudite Herald correspondents to use such a plebeian word as ‘diddy’.  (Though, on the other hand, some of them probably hear it all the time.)

    It’s quite a strange experience being pilloried and although one or two people seemed to agree with me, the majority of respondents to my last blog managed to insult and affront me in a number of inventive ways labelling me: a clown, a Tory, a Unionist and, worst of all by some considerable margin, an Australian.  

  • One of the rounds of Superscot that Big Jane ruled with her characteristic velvet gloved/iron fist was called "Born Scot or Not", featuring a number of well-known Jocks who might - or then again might not - have actually been born there.

    Since the show's contestants were usually studious types – I seem to remember a lot of retired headmasters and librarians – obviously plastic Scots such as Rod Stewart didn’t figure here.

  • Part of it is the way they always hype it up – previews and trailers long before the Games actually start, portentous, cliché ridden cobblers intoned by that bloke with the impossibly deep voice who used to do the Hollywood Blockbuster voice-overs, promising 'glory, guts and achievement', inevitably accompanied by a soundtrack of Spandau Ballet singing ‘Gold – always believe in your soul’ – whatever that means.

  • "Pain", he said, "is temporary. Quitting lasts forever". 

    The first time I read it, I remember being quite taken with the notion that you can conquer physical encumbrance by focussing on your inner mental strengths.  Hmm, I thought, that’s right on the money, I might give that a go. 

    Tell the truth, I was really quite enthusiastic about it; fired-up you might say, inspired almost. Drugs, eh?  But maybe I wasn't the only one.

  • Wimbledon, in particular, has always got right on my thruppennies. Because of the crowd mainly, the Union Jack Waving, laugh-at-anything Henman Hill lot – though I’m sure I’m not alone there.  I mean come on, who doesn’t hate them?

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Gary Johnston

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