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Sunday, 14 September 2014

Better together

Casual callers are not encouraged at Blane Mansions, so when a knock comes to my door last week, and I rise to answer it, I'm expecting the postman or someone trying to sell me something. Because that's all I usually get.

Come to think of it that's not quite true. The police occasionally call, which always gives me a nasty moment. Last time they wanted to know if I had seen anything suspicious when a neighbour's house was burgled, as the perp seemed to have gained access through my garden. 

"It wisnae me," was the first thought that came into the wee Scots boy part of my brain, one of the surprises of advancing years being how large that part remains, even as your body shrinks, wrinkles and grows ever more grizzled with each passing year.

Anyone under 50 goes into an old folks' home, they think they're looking at a bunch of old people. But they're wrong. What they're looking at is a gang of kids, astonished by the age and infirmity of the bodies they're trapped in.

Where was I? Oh yeah. I had to tell the surprisingly small policewoman - when I was a boy the polis were ten feet tall - I hadn't seen a thing, although I was uncomfortably aware that I probably wouldn't have, even if the burglar had walked past my window with a crowbar and a big bag that said 'Swag' on the side.

I used to tell people I was a trained observer, and I believed it because I'm a scientist. But I've gradually realised that other people notice far more than I do. I have a theory about this. I reckon it's because I'm always pondering deep questions about the nature of physical reality. 

Questions like what is this place, how did I get here and where am I going with this small aardvark on a leash?

Friends and relatives have another theory. They reckon I'm gormless, this being an old Scots word that means either you've lost your gorm or you never had one in the first place.

I remember my sister coming to the door unexpectedly once - this is true - and I opened it and stared at her for several seconds. Her face was familiar but I couldn't quite put a name to it. Then it came to me in a rush. 

Now I know what you're thinking but are too embarrassed to say. Despite the illusion of having a wee boy's brain, my mental faculties are starting to desert me. But you're wrong because this happened 25 years ago and I've recognised my sister practically every time I've seen her since.

So anyway, I get up and answer the door and there's a well-dressed elderly gent stood on my step.

"Good evening, Mr Blane," he says. "I'm from Better Together and I was wondering if you were planning to vote in the Referendum and whether we can count on your support?"

He seems a pleasant, civil sort of person, so I break it to him gently.

"Yes and I'm afraid no," I tell him.

He stares at me blankly. "Pardon," he says.

"Yes, I will be voting," I say, taking it slow and watching to see if he's got it this time. "But no I'm afraid you can't count on my support."

His wee face lights up as understanding starts to dawn, then looks suddenly crestfallen as he gets the full meaning. "You'll be voting 'Yes'?" he says.

"Yes," I say.

"Thank you," he says and turns on his heel and walks away, leaving me feeling guilty for a while, like I've stolen his sweeties or something. But I cheer up when I figure out the implications of what just happened.

If Better Together are sending people with even less gorm than me to knock on people's doors, I don't fancy their chances come polling day.

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