All hail King Rod­er­ick

Country Life Every Week - - My Week - Joe Gibbs

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

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