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Saturday, 1 November 2014

Double act

"It's called The Butterfly and the Pig," my son says, when he returns to the table in the Bath Street basement restaurant we've wandered into out of the rain.

"What is?" I say.

"This place," he says. "The toilet has fancy green tiles of a pig nosing a butterfly, to remind you." 

I can make no sense of this so ignore it for the moment. "So how are you doing?" I say. "I've not seen you since you started back at Art School."

"Awright, thanks" he says. "I'm kinda re-motivated. There's more happening this year and they've got good guys in, to tutor us. Real artists." 

"Like who?" I say and the question presses the little button in his head marked 'gibberish generator', which used to drive me nuts when he was a boy and I was trying to figure out what his problem was, so I could help him. Too many questions would always push that button. It's one reason he was never a huge favourite with teachers. That and the fact that he used to accidentally set his head on fire.

"We're getting all these projects from guys from you know the sort of last crowd that were do you remember Glasgow artists that were doing good?" he says.

"Who were they?" I say, hanging on to his train of thought by my fingertips.

"Various people," he says.

"What were they called?" I say.

"Different things," he says.

"Did their group have a name?" I say.

"You mean like Young British Artists down in London?" he says.

"Yes," I say.

"No," he says, and I take a deep breath. 

About this point is where people with less self-control than me would chew a leg off the table and start hitting him with it. Not me. I remain cool, laid-back, imperturbable.

"What the **** are you talking about then?" I shout, grabbing him by his jacket lapels and trying to shake him until he rattles, while the maddening little smile I've known since he was three plays around his lips. 

Pointless of course, as he has bigger muscles than me and much more mass. See, he is a sculpture student at Glasgow Art School, an excellent photographer and a competent drawer and painter. But the art he really excels at, the one for which he would easily win the Turner Prize, if there were one, is getting on your tits. 

I have never seen anyone in remotely the same class at turning civilised intelligent people into screaming, slavering, homicidally quivering lumps of apoplectically inarticulate jelly. 

He does it deliberately. He thinks it's funny. It all began when he was a dyslexic, sensitive wee guy, bullied by a cruel teacher called Mrs Gary. But all his teachers since, as well as several of his parents, have been paid back in spades. He has elevated extreme annoyingness to an artform.

"You got me wrong this time," he says, pulling my hands off and placing me gently back in my chair. "I am trying to remember but it's not coming to me."

"Fair enough," I say, not entirely convinced, but wanting to get back to friendly relations. "Do you know why this place is called the Butterfly and the Pig?"

"That I do remember," he says. "The waiter told me last time I was here. Guy that owns the place has a son who had a girlfriend who treated him badly. She was the butterfly, flitting and fluttering around, and he was the pig, lumbering after her."

"That's unflattering," I say. "How would you like it if I named a restaurant after you and Linda?"

"What did you have in mind?" he says suspiciously. "Dumb and Dumber?"

"No, no," I say. "Something that reflects your respective talents, as constructor and musician. How about The Dam-Building Beaver and the Malabar Thrush?"

"Cool," he says. "I'll start making the tiles for the bathroom when I get back to art school."

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