HERE’S a thought I had the other day (reader’s voice: “Oh lordy, here we go”): all the world’s a stage, and I shall never strut upon it. Indeed, I’ve never strutted on it, never disported myself, never “performed” for an audience. I’m going to die never having been on a stage. Not even at primary school, that I can remember, did I ever get up there.

Like most shy people, I deplore actors who claim to be shy before getting on stage and capering about in front of folk. Naw! Youse arenae shy. Fact.

Where I will give such folk credence is that they may be shy one to one, whereas I’m the opposite, effortlessly entertaining and dominating all encounters face to face with my overwhelming wit, erudition and charisma dazzling all who find themselves individually in my presence. Well, I am as soon as I get home and think of what I should have said.

Here’s something else: I’ve played the guitar every day for 46 years and, in the early days, fantasised about doing so on stage. No longer do I entertain such dreams. I’ve tried to record myself but can’t work the “even a child could use this” equipment. One also factors in that I’m tone-deaf, have fingers like elephants’ feet and, in the whole 46 years, have never learned one tune.

However, I can speak, with my voice and everything. Basically, according to the latest research, you just open your mouth and make a droning noise. I could do that. On a stage. Except that I can’t.

I dread being the centre of attention. I even hate seeing my name in print and my stupid face staring back at me. Once, I went into a pub and ordered fish and chips to go with my pint of absinthe. The dish had the gimmick of being wrapped olde-style in a newspaper and, as I depleted the contents of my repast, my daft face on a picture byline slowly started to emerge, looking up at me all glaickit and, worse still, covered in grease. Just like in real life.

I was tempted to take the dish back, saying: “I can’t eat this! It’s got me in it!”

As for acting, I can see the attraction of being someone else. I’d love that. Being anyone but me. Has there ever been a role for someone hyper-sensitive – shut it, youse – boring, miserable, peculiar-looking and moody? Nope. Even I couldn’t play that part – because I’d just be playing me.

I suppose vlogs have given people a platform, or stage, on which to be viewed virtually. I could give these a go but, alas, I’m even camera-shy. Also, as you must have noticed, I haven’t anything to say. You’d click me on yonder YouTube and just find me sitting there all greetin’-faced saying: “What’re you lookin’ at?”

Ach weel, I’ll leave the stage to those and such as those. As for you, stop looking at me. And keep your fish and chips off my ruddy face.

Folly of height

ANOTHER thing I deplore about me is my lack of height. It wasn’t something I was ever aware of until about 10 years ago. Until then, I’d thought I was fairly normal. And, at 5ft 9in and a bit, I’m actually average male height, apparently, but it doesn’t feel like it, with all the younger, taller people around.

And it’s not just them. Many mates my age in Edinburgh are taller. We’d stand together in a bar and my eyes would be level with their nipples. Irritating. I felt like a Hobbit surrounded by Ents.

People in the capital are noticeably taller than those in the provinces. Maybe it’s to do with eating salad, which only folk in Edinburgh do.

So I was glad to read in yon papers that the Dutch are getting smaller. They’re still the tallest people on the planet, but starting to shrink, though the phenomenon is attributed to immigration. In the earlier part of the 20th century, oddly enough, they were the smallest people in Europe.

Then they invented cheese in 1956 and started shooting up. There seems little other explanation: maybe exercise. They bicycle a lot, but not like the aggressive nutters here.

Tallest people I’ve ever met were Finns. I’ve met three different individual ones in my life and, as well as being tall, they were among the best folk I’ve ever encountered; magical folk, like wizards out of The Lord of the Rings.

Do Finns eat cheese? Maybe it’s all the saunas, but you’d think these would shrink you. Certainly, never made me taller, although one odd thing happened. After a sauna, I’d have difficulty getting into my T-shirt. I felt my torso had expanded in the heat. I asked two gym staffers about this: one pooh-poohed it but the other thought here might be something in it.

The problem was I wanted to grow up not out. I’ve really missed our village sauna, which hasn’t reopened since that Covid. Indeed it’s where I met my last Finnish pal. He was gigantic, but he never looked down on me. I was always grateful for that.

Hoots, mon

I DISAPPROVE of birds of prey but like to hear an owl at night. That’s a lot to take in, so here’s some context. Staycationers, more used to Majorca, have been finding life in rural Britannia rough. In particular, Airbnb hosts have received complaints about owls hooting “too late”. Other complaints include birds tweeting “too early”.

This isn’t new. Once, I stayed in a Kintyre cottage, where a particularly lovely feature was a house martins’ nest above the door. However, the townies in before me had complained about their poop. They also complained about the mice.

On the other side of the coin, in the Borders one time, the landlady came riding over the fields to let me in, running her hand across the kitchen surface and laughing: “Damned mice droppings!”

I suppose I was supposed to be shocked. She was like those Barbour-clad women in French and Saunders, revelling in gore and muck. I dislike rural supremacists almost as much as birds of prey. But, in the country, you must accept creature noises. It’s the human racket that isn’t so much of a hoot.

Shoogly peg

HOW fascinating to learn that US president Richard Nixon told Elvis Presley to spy on John Lennon. Both of them hated the Beatle, and Presley had Scottish blood in him, usually a characteristic of America’s most reactionary people. Nixon was of English heritage, and they’re nearly as bad.

I never got Elvis. He was before my time, and looked more like our dads than us, with his brilliantined short hair and properly ironed shirts.

Nor did I like his records, as I deplore any genre of music that has “and” in it. Rock and roll, like he sang, was awful. Country and western is dreadful. Rhythm and blues: terrible. It’s an iron law of music. The funny thing is that rock, country and, er, rhythm without the “and” are all good. If you’re an academic, or have one in the house, suggest to them that they write a thesis about this.

Women liked Elvis because he shoogled his leg aboot. You never saw prog-rock bands like Gentle Giant or Matching Mole shoogling their legs aboot. Maybe that’s why prog was mainly a male thing.

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