THE scene: an ordinary council flat in Glebe Street, one Sunday afternoon.

The family matriarch sits in her armchair, reading her paper while knitting. Her husband puffs contendedly at his pipe. Their two daughters are watching a soap on television. Their youngest, an ageless child known for generations as The Bairn, plays with her dolls. Suddenly, a stricken cry of 'Michty me!' is heard from the matriarch. She has turned distinctly pale.

"Jings!" exclaims Paw. "Whit's wrang, Maw?" She is unable to speak. The paper falls to her lap. Paw, startled, goes over to her. His gaze lands on the paper. And thus it is that he reads the story that has so troubled his wife. His jaw drops. He seems to age several years in the space of a few seconds.

Loading article content

The girls, Daphne and Maggie, realising something is amiss, switch off the television. A strange silent tableau greets them: Maw staring into space; Paw, his hand on her shoulder, standing as though in a trance. "Crivvens!" cries Maggie. "Has somebody died?"

Maw, on the verge of tears, shakes her head and points to the paper. Maggie crosses the room and looks at it. As she reads the story, the colour rises richly in her cheeks. Daphne joins her and reads over her shoulder. Her eyes widen and she covers her mouth with her hand.

And so it goes on, all afternoon. Henry and Joe return from the fitba' and find the family utterly downcast. Horace, too. Finally, the twins emerge from whatever it is they have been doing. Though too young to understand, they know that, somewhere, a bridge has been crossed. Dinner in the Broon household that Sunday night is a mournful affair. A spell has been cast over the entire family. Finally, the silence is broken by Maw. "I jist cannae believe," she says, pouring herself another strong whisky, "that DC Thomson is daein' that erotic fiction. Whit on earth's the world comin' tae?"

"Whitever happened to guid auld family entertainment?," Paw grumbles to no-one in particular. The erotic plots are painfully fresh in his mind: a naive young lady meeting a wealthy businessman. A woman going to America to see a man she has met on the internet. At that moment, the doorbell sounds. "That'll be Gran'paw!" says Maw, alarmed. "You cannae tell him aboot this – him wi' his bad heart tae!"