There’s been so little in the media about it, you’d be forgiven for forgetting there’s some sort of event in Scotland today. And now that I’ve had two days off with flu doing nothing but rubbish doodles of my characters, I’ve managed to get out and about to help local volunteers on the campaign trail. Now, I’m pretty partisan on the matter, and I was never the world’s most political person; but seeing the average person come alive with their anger and opinions blazing, not to mention the arts side which has flourished with National Collective, has been really inspiring.
Last month I saw Alan Bissett’s play The Pure, The Dead and The Brilliant at the Fringe, which conveniently crosses into the mythological territory of my own writing.
The premise is fairly simple. A selkie, a bogle, a banshee and Black Donald meet at a Hogmanay party and progress to a court setting to discuss independence. The bogle, excellently played by a bekilted Paul-James Corrigan, gently pokes fun at the shortbread-and-Braveheart view of Scottish politics, while Black Donald stalks about, camply menacing and unable to say the word ‘happy’ without choking. The banshee, played by veteran favourite Elaine C Smith, feeds off the misery of humans so is hoping for a No vote; but the selkie, resplendent in a glittering ballgown, only goes along with her devilish lover’s wishes. (She also has it in for kelpies. Mine would like to point out that they are not thieving bastards at all.)
It’s a partisan production, but there were plenty of targets for satire on both sides of the debate. The po-faced No canvassers working the audience with cries of ‘Vote Naw or Nicola Sturgeon will kidnap yer dug!’ were particularly good. They also hit on the novel idea of an impromptu audience vote using the programmes. We were surrounded by a very mixed bag: an old Yes gentleman next to me, a gaggle of gently confused American tourists in front, and two undecided old ladies. Presented with a selection of politicians’ quotes, they tutted to each other, muttered things like ‘He doesn’t even live in Scotland!’ and ‘What a load of nonsense!’ then held up their Yes pages. Splendid. It may have been the case that the old adage went ‘In Scotland, never talk about religion, politics or football’ but if that conversation generates a wave of creativity, I say bring it on.
And now my shipment of American soda and snacks is ready to be consumed for an all-nighter of short story writing and result watching. My legs are about to drop off after climbing 13 floors of one of Craigmillar’s high rises (I may have to make my protagonist’s leg muscles a bit stronger after that). I’m heading back there soon to accompany the locals to the polling station, complete with a flaming bagpipe player and the local activist who started it all. If I spend Saturday asleep, you’ll forgive me. Have some flyer art to tide you over until then. See you on the other side!