All hail King Roderick
IT’S a raw autumn morning and I’m sitting in the Inverness retail park Costa having a cup of hot as hell, black as death with Roderick, when a fellow in a Stetson, short-sleeved paisley shirt, shorts and narrow, tinted glasses sidles up and mutters in his ear: ‘It’s a terrible year for maggots in the sheep.’
Roderick has spent many years busking the friendly streets of our town. He’s well known to locals, but the closest he gets to sheep is when he’s sporting occasional mutton-chop whiskers or when he’s eating lamb stovies. He lets the comment pass with a terse nod and Hunter S. Thompson, or whoever he is, wanders on to get a caffeine hit.
We continue our discussion about the re-creation of the Kingdom of Moray, which came to a bluidy end in 1130, but lives on in glorious Technicolour in Roderick’s head. For reasons I can’t yet disclose, mainly because I don’t understand them, he wants my wife to be the Queen of Moray.
For reasons I can’t yet disclose, he wants my wife to be the Queen of Moray
It’s polite of him to ask my permission. As he’s destined to be King, I‘m not sure I’m in a position to refuse. I’m prepared to let it ride for the moment, especially as I think my wife would make a wise and merciful monarch and because the whole project seems to be designed as a Sturgeon tease.
King Roderick assures me that the first measure this born-again kingdom would implement is to seek independence from Scotland and the rest of the UK. When Orkney and Shetland tried that on La Sturge, she came over all narky and Rosa Klebb-ish.
Outside his geo-political interests, Roderick’s professional life has been spent as a musician, doing sessions at Apple Studios in the 1960s and playing in a band called The Grope, who may need to consider a name change if they ever envisage a comeback tour. Closer to home, he headlined a seminal event called Throbbin’ in Thrumster and he has plans to complete a musical about Murdina Morag, a hot-pants designer from Mallaig.
We discussed the possible introduction of real sheep into the chorus—suitably dipped, of course, if it’s a year like this one. Anything with sheep is a surefire winner in the Highlands. The canny old Beach Boys knew a thing or two when they released Baa Baa Barbara Ann in 1965. It sold out in a jiff in Record Rendezvous, mainly to men in wellies.
Gender, gender, gender. Yawn, yawn, yawn. Does anyone think about anything else these days? If you believe some people, you’re transgender if you only cross-dress once in a blue moon. Up here in the kilted Highlands that puts us some way ahead of the curve.
Some of my neighbours, who are male as far as I know—let’s not make assumptions here— take it a stage further and turn up to the odd party in a frock. Their usual explanation is that the moths have got their breeks, but perhaps they’re transitioning and just not telling me.
Not for us the sort of mess the Barbican cultural centre has got itself into with its rest rooms. Gender-neutral inclusion has been the norm for 15 years at our annual festival jamboree, where the Portaloos have always accommodated both sexes. If you want posh segregation, you have to pay extra.
As for non-binary inclusion, it was years ago now that I wandered over to see Hector, one of our food traders, for my customary free cappuccino. There he was, same dear old Hec with five o’clock shadow—at 9am—and a mop of unruly hair. ‘Hi Hector,’ I greeted him. ‘It’s not Hector, it’s Nikita mate,’ came the reply in basso profundo. ‘Chocolate on top?’
Did the ground open and swallow us up? Did the heavens split asunder? Did they hell. We chatted away about outboard engines and the like and I went on my way.
The gender-neutral sports day at one of our local primary schools hasn’t gone off quite so well. A young laddie suffered a meltdown competing in a running race against girls only when they comprehensively trashed him, but, as the saying goes, you can’t make an omelette without breaking eggs.
In the distant past, at her primary school, our youngest daughter morphed into a boy called Scott. Had this happened today, things could have been quite different. As it was, it was a cunning ploy she devised because she fancied a young gent who was at that stage when he was only interested in spending his leisure hours with other young gents.
Mind you, the way this whole fluidity thing is going, it’s a ruse she might have to revisit if she wants to find herself a hubby in a few years’ time.
Joe Gibbs lives at Belladrum in the Highlands and is the founder of the Tartan Heart Festival Next week: Ysenda Maxtone Graham