THERE’S something embarrassing about me. No, madam, though I frequently make out otherwise for laughs, I do not have – and have never had – either syphilis or haemorrhoids.

Nor do I consider my ignorance, so proudly displayed on these pages every week, a source of shame. It’s an advantage to be innocent, naive, unworldly. It lends my words an artless honesty and, er, whatnot. Honest, it does.

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No, what is embarrassing is my social phobia. It’s shameful. It has lost me friends. I’ve turned down several invitations to give the eulogy at funerals. I haven’t turned up for wedding receptions, leading to people never speaking to me again.

I never turned up to collect awards – yes, that made you spit out your falsers, madam; “Best article about haemorrhoids” two years running – again often resulting in anger and resentment. The one time I did attend a ceremony (as a loser) was during a time when I suffered badly from rosacea – face going bright red indoors – and one bovine idiot stared at me directly the whole time. When my picture appeared on a big screen, people burst out laughing, either at my hair, nose, clothing or expression. I still have nightmares about it.

I haven’t been to a house party in 13 years. On one occasion, I dreeped down a pipe outside the bathroom window to escape. I hated it. Can’t even really put my finger on why. I’ve read that “highly sensitive” people cannot take being bombarded with too many sights, sounds and signals. Highly sensitive? Moi? Aye.

I got better for a bit when I used a technique that takes in the whole room rather than desperately trying to take in every single person individually at once and feeling overwhelmed. But it’s an age since I was in a social situation, so I no longer know if this works.

You’ve no idea the agony that declining invitations causes me in the days preceding the events. I try plucking up the courage to attend. I’ve even stood outside the flat where a party was taking place, but have then walked home alone and disconsolate.

Not going to the wedding reception – just along the road from my house in a small town – was a bad one. Not turning up at the house party of a new college friend from Nigeria was a bad one. In my late teens, not turning up to the pub to meet my mate and his new girlfriend (later wife) was a bad one. I just never showed, and hoped people would forgive me: “It’s Rab. He is what he is. Artistic personality, ken? Also, a poltroon.”

How did I become sociophobic? Well, certainly, my parents rarely went anywhere. They’d the same two small groups of friends round every month, but that was it. My brother and I would hide. Partly, this was my dad’s fault. Fancying himself funny, he’d humiliate us for cheap laughs.

If ever there was an unexpected knock at the door, my mum and dad would panic as if it were the Gestapo. Dad wouldn’t tell me about works parties for kids and was furious when, accidentally, I stumbled on one at Christmas, gaining entrance when I told them who my father was, even though I was all muddy and clutching a football. I had shamed the family. Needless to say, I had no birthday parties.

I remember being turned away from nursery – actually taken out from playing with the other kids – because my mother hadn’t registered me. No early socialisation for me. As a wee fair-haired boy I blushed madly at school, and the class would all point at me shouting “Beamer boy!”. To this day, I fear the tribe turning on me.

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Later in life, the above-mentioned rosacea made matters infinitely more difficult. I got rid of it by accident when inadvertently following an alkaline diet (and being teetotal), but the psychological issues remain (and the drink has brought it back).

There are signs I’m getting better, as I get older and don’t give a stuff. But I look back at these social refusals with shame and regret. On the bright side, it was probably being introverted that led to my interest in writing. Now it’s your turn to feel regret.

Crush the virus!

HOW surprising that Professor Susan Michie, a scientist advising the English Government on the pandemic, is a member of the Communist Party. I don’t wish to be judgmental but don’t you have to be a nutter to be a Communist today? After all that happened in eastern Europe and elsewhere?

As with Scottish Labour supporters, I suspect it’s a tribal thing tied up with psychological belonging. These affiliations are normally made in youth and provide a ready-made community of like-minded wackos. After many years, it’s difficult to extricate yourself from the personal and communal ties.

I’ve never felt accepted in any community, not in any place nor even by my trade or fellow fans of my football team. That’s why I’m so happy all the time. Joke.

Surprisingly, Prof Michie has called for “maximum suppression” of the virus. Yes! Send in the tanks! Crush the counter-revolutionary running microbes of capitalism!

Muppets, goofs and palookas

IDIOTS have been in the news this week. The word isn’t mine. The Herald discourages us from describing people in such terms, which is terribly limiting, forcing us to reach for the thesaurus. Thus, if you see references to someone as a chowderhead or goof, you know what we mean.

The first use of the term “idiot” came in a news item about 1746. That was how Bonnie Prince Charlie described his top military commander in a letter, only he spelled or spelt (covering my back here) it “ideot”.

It was eerily prescient of these people online who keep calling people out for their spelling or grammar while making spelling or grammar mistakes themselves.

But “ideots”? Maybe that was how he said it. But, if he had addressed his generals in a meeting as “ideots”, there would have been tittering.

In other news this week, leading Scots poet Liz Lochhead described the Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA) as “absolute idiots” for making wrong choices from her work in the curriculum. The SQA said the appellation was “not acceptable”. Quite right. She should have called them absolute chowderheads.

Vowel of silence

AS you might expect, a stern moralist like your columnist cannot be expected to approve of Standard Life Aberdeen changing its name to Abrdn. Dropping the venerable title “Standard Life” is one thing, but no vowels? Leave it out.

The move was supposed to signpost a “modern, agile, digitally enabled brand”. Agile? I would not want my financial affairs managed by anything “agile”, nor yet nimble, sprightly or twinkle-toed.

This orthographical atrocity follows the gauche trend of putting organisation titles in lower case or running the words together. It might be acceptable in website addresses but not in the real or digitally unencumbered world, mister.

Needless to say, the headline writers had a field day, talking about “irritable vowel syndrome” and “the dngrs of dropping ‘e’s”. The blame for the farce has been placed on marketing consultancies. Whether that is the case, I do not know. Certainly, Standard Life may have been working on the premise that any any publicity is good publicity. But now they just look like palookas or, indeed, plks or even – dare I say it? – dts.

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