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Monday, 26 December 2011

MY NOVEL AS A COMMENTARY ON MY COUNTRY.

Posted by RLL for REPORT FROM A FUGITIVE. © RLL, 2011.

The latest statistics are in. Our murder rate is up. That includes the crime of culpable homicide – akin to manslaughter in other jurisdictions. If you wave a knife at your foe and cry AH’M GONNAE GET YE (Transl. You are about to be murdered by an irate Scotsman.), then you’ll likely be done for murdurrr once your foe’s pulse ends. There’s enough malice aforethought in the act to class the fatal assault as a murder.
   Culpable homicide would involve spontaneously grabbing a knife, skipping the speech, and waving the knife at your foe to ward the bastard off. An “accidental” stabbing of that nature will be shot down in flames if described as self-defence. Five stabs to the herrrt after a speech means murder, most foul. One stab to the heart in silence could be passed off as culpable homicide. Don’t bet your freedom on it.
   How wild is the Wild West of Scotland? Out of roughly five million people, not even half of those people live in this area. The major population centre in the west is Glasgow – our country’s real capital city. Edinburgh’s just where we sent all the lawyers.
   Would you expect the majority of murders to occur outwith the Wild West? Yes. Fewer people here, so, fewer murders here. Right? Wrong. Fatal incidents in the Wild West are hovering around 66% of all cases. Is it dangerous out there?
   Hard to say. The operative word is out. I listen to the news, and constantly hear that someone has been found dead in a flat. (A report has been sent to the Procurator Fiscal.) If you’re watching a Hollywood entertainment, the serial killer will generally operate in woodland. No one is watching. There’s cover in which to dig a grave. In Scotland, where we do have woodland, the preferred method appears to be as follows…
   Make the acquaintance of an individual who lives in a flat. Buy or sells drugs in the flat. See some sleight, real or imagined, in the attitude of the potential victim. Get drunk. Go to the flat, determined to start an argument over money. Get drunker. Start shouting. Grab a knife. Kill the person. Leave – possibly setting fire to the flat before walking off down the street. Be shocked when the polis arrest you after an hour-and-a-half.
   The figures are for 2010, showing a shocking increase in the rate. In 2009, 78 deaths were recorded. The rise to 97 deaths for 2010 gives cause for concern. Be wary, entering flats. Especially if you are with people you know.
   Most killers know their victims. Some form of narcotic effect features in the majority of cases. Drunk or drugged-up, the killer is likely to be male. A bladed weapon is the favoured implement of death. This is old news, from the latest statistics.
   That’s the way the country is, and has been for a long time. Knife culture. Booze culture. The impulsive stab becomes a full stop to a life after a long cluttered sentence of grievance, over-the-line banter, and festering hatred.
   I can’t understand the booze-stoked violence. After all, it is illegal to serve a drunk person more alcohol. Whoops, my Irony-Detector just exploded. And that puddle on the floor appears to be what’s left of my Sarcasm Alarm.
   What do you get for murder? Around 11 years, on average. I don’t have space for the clichés. This uncultural culture served as the backdrop to Neon Gods Brought Down by Swords. Perversely, I let Gilach Mac Gilach spend much of the story running around without a sword. He gains and loses blades with alarming frequency.
   Why do we have this ineradicable problem with blades? Young men travel through the streets in packs, frightened of all the other young men roaming the darkness in packs. An advantage is called for, in the event that one pack is larger than another. Enter the chib. Usually, though not exclusively, a knife.
   To avoid being murdered in Scotland, stay out of Scotland. If you must travel through the country, avoid befriending drunks/druggies who live in flats. Stay out of the kitchen. Foreign visitors are advised to refrain from imbibing alcohol that would be classed, in their countries, as extremely hazardous motor vehicle fuel.
   Another handy tip is to shy away from shops. It is difficult to get through life without stumbling past a vast army of children desperate to taste the vices of adulthood before their time. They want you as a recruit in their army.
   Could ye buy us some faaags misturrr?
   What the not-so-innocent cherub is really after is something else entirely. He (invariably though not exclusively he) opens the dialogue concerning cigarettes as a way of leading to the main meal. This discourse on the matter of an illegal tobacco-based transaction is the starter.
   Wull ye buy us some Buckie?
   A reference to an atomic wine that, with the appellation Buckfast, sounds more like a prison than something manufactured by monks. Being sentenced to do time in HMP Buckfast seems about right. The cherub is ignored, politely rejected, or told to eff aff. If the cherub is 12+, a chib may be produced.
   I’ve observed the chaos in our lives, and fictionalised it. There’s a name for the disease. The West Coast Mentality. If you look at someone the wrong way, at the wrong time, for the wrong duration, the conversation starts with a head-butt and works its way up to some violence.
   As far as tourism goes, we trade heavily on our violent past. It feeds our appetite for a violent present and a no-less-violent future. In the old days, a man would think nothing of whipping out a sword and settling a neighbourly difference of opinion by means of several feet of cold steel.
   Little has changed.
   Baseball is not popular in Scotland. The bat associated with the game, however, certainly is. It has one advantage over walking the streets with a Samurai sword. The bat can be explained away as having a sporting function. This is not so easy an excuse to furnish, when armed with a Samurai sword.
   Just doing my bit for the tourist industry.
   What is that? Oh, a misbegotten creature that has our hearts swelling with pride at the thought of all that glorious scenery. As though not bulldozing all that glorious scenery is a fine excuse for overindulgent pride.
   See that fantastic glen? We’re proud we didn’t pour all our slurry there!
   You might as well praise a man for not being a killer.
   There’s old Mister Henderson. He’s not a killer. So far. Makes you proud, eh. That, and the scenery.
   Old Mister Henderson goes on to chib six children for having the nerve to ask him to buy faaags. We suspect those cherubs looked at old Mr Henderson for the wrong duration, rather than in the wrong manner or location.
   I have rendered vice cheap in my fiction. Endless stories of city tanning salons turned my head with the strangeness of it all, giving rise to the Lotus Houses in Neon Gods. I should have thrown in technological marvels in the shape of tanning-beds, but doing that would’ve given the game away.
   How awful is Scotland? Dig out your own murder rates. Five million people. Under a hundred murders in the last year for which statistics are available. What are the odds of being murdered? Nowhere near as nasty as the odds of being killed by our cuisine.
   Pardon me. Cuisine was too strong a word.
   I am considered superhuman in Scotland as I actually perform exercise, partake of fresh fruit, and manage to stay out of the doctor’s clutches for as much of my life as possible. You may be forgiven for thinking that, away from my typing, I leap tall buildings in a single bound. Well, I can manage up several flights of stairs. That’s as near as damn it the same thing.
   Have I painted a gloomy picture of my nation? No. If I were to do so, you’d leave this blog with tears streaming down the inside and outside of your face. There is hope, while the bulldozers are kept at bay. The scenery, where scenery exists, is truly stunning. I must add that the same is said of many of our towns – though that is no compliment.
   You will find a warm welcome in this nation of mine. Just as you’ll find a warm welcome in most of the world’s nations. We like to moan, and complain, and make grumpy comments. That’s a ploy, to keep the best of the country to ourselves. Quiet-like. Oh, you wouldn’t like it here. The weather. That’s bound to put you off. And the midgies.
   Midgies don’t exist. We just tell tall tales of evil car-sized insects capable of having a man’s arm off with a swish of the razor-sharp proboscis. All the more scenery for us, if you flee the hills. (I was lying. Midgies are real.)
   Remember all I’ve written here, should you read Neon Gods Brought Down by Swords. That story is, for the most part, fiction. If you are struggling with my sense of humour, struggle on. Just don’t look at me the wrong way, or for the wrong length of time…

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