Doric – Not Just A Column Holding Up An Ancient Building

One of the reviews I saw on the UK Amazon site for Mac and June: Love In The Time Of Oil commented that the dialogue wasn’t how folk in the Aberdeen area spoke. I believe the word ‘disappointed’ was in there.

Doric is the dialect spoken in the North East of Scotland. In ancient Greece, the residents of Sparta were Dorian Greeks, a rural area, and they spoke differently than the sophisticated Athenians did. In other words, they were considered hayseeds, uncultured bumpkins. Hence the term.

I always wanted the novel to be accessible to as many English speakers worldwide (duh), and so I did somewhat ‘water it down’.

In the upcoming sequel, Mac and June: Sex And Drugs And Sausage Rolls, I’ve added a bit more, but it is by no means indecipherable.

As an example, and a little preview of the second book, here’s Grandpa explaining Doric to Mac.

 

JIVE TALKIN’

Mac sat with Grandpa in the Meldrums’ back garden, waiting for June’s co-worker, who lived close by, to drop her off from work. The American’s head was spinning, and he was wondering what had possessed him to bring up the subject. It had started simply enough.

“So I read in the paper that this,” he held up his fingers in quotes, “language you speak here is called Doric.” Mac laughed. “I just thought you all had bad pronunciation.”

Grandpa took another cigarette from Mac’s pack, even though his own sat on the small table between them. Mac noticed.

“Hey, what’s wrong with your own?”

“Ach, I’ve only a few left, and I canna be buggered to go down to McGillivray’s shop to buy another twenty. Leave me yours when June comes, and I’ll gie ye a lesson in Doric for free.”

“How’s it free if I’m giving you half a pack?”
“Ach, dinna fash yersel’.”

“Is this it? We’re starting the lesson? What did that mean?”

“Means keep a calm sooch.”

“Wait, you can’t explain one piece of gibberish by quoting another.”

Grandpa lit the stolen cigarette, and took a drink of his tea. “All right. A calm sooch is a gentle wind.”

“Oh, so don’t get fired up. I get it.”

“We should start with the three F’s.”

“The three F’s?”

“Aye. Fit, Fan, Fa, and Far.”

“That’s four F’s.”

Grandpa silently mouthed the words while counting them on his hands. “Right. Four. So, fit.”

Mac smiled. “As in ‘I’m fit and well.’”

Grandpa gave an exasperated grunt. “No, as in, ‘Fit time is it?’”

“That what people say when somebody’s going to the gym?”

“No, Jesus, that’s when folk want to know what the time is.”

“Ahhh. Number two is…?”

“Fan. ‘Fan are ye comin’ hame?’”

Mac shook his head. “Nope.”

Grandpa rubbed his nose as if there were ants inside his nostrils. “Okay, Try this.” He rubbed his nose again. “F is instead of wh—fit is what, fan is when, fa is who, and far is where. Got it?” He sat back, dazzled by his own brilliance.

Silent, Mac sat for a moment, running this magic formula around in his brain. He heard a door slam inside the house. “Ohh, so when you guys say, ‘Fit like?’, you mean, ‘What like?’, as in ‘How’s it goin’?’… is that right?”

“The boy’s a genius.” the old man leaned over and put out the cigarette in the ashtray. “Think it’s too early for a beer?”

“I have to drive June home.”

“It’s one beer. What—have ye joined the Temperance Movement or somethin’? Go and get us a couple.”

Mac knew from experience there was no point in arguing with the wily old bastard. “Okay, okay, I’ll go.” His face broke into a sly grin. “Far are they?”

Grandpa cracked a smile. “Go to the top of the class, young man.’ He rubbed his hands together. “They’re in the fridge. Hurry back, this teachin’s makin’ me thirsty.”

Mac wandered in through the open back door, past the washing machine, and into the cool kitchen. June was sitting at the table. She was reading the paper. He decided to try out his new-found knowledge on her. “Aye, aye, darlin’. Fit like?”

June put down the paper, and looked up at Mac as if she’d never seen him before.

Mac walked over to the fridge and opened the door. “Grandpa’s teachin’ me Doric,” he said to the leftover leg of lamb sitting on a plate on the middle shelf. He grabbed two beers, and closed the fridge. Turning back to the still-staring June, he held out a bottle. “Want one?”

His wife picked up the paper again, and spoke to it. “Nae iv noo, ma feet are affa sair. I’m needin’ awa hame fan ye’re deen wi’ yer beer, an Grandpa. Ken?”

Mac stood with his mouth open. “Whoa, whoa, slow down there, sister. I’ve only had the one lesson. Gimme a break, would ya?”

June straightened the newspaper and switched to a Brooklyn accent, in the style of Sean Connery. “Snap it up, then. My dogs are barkin’. I wanna split, pronto. Got me, Jack?”

Mac pointed at her. “No fair. You watched all those Jimmy Cagney movies growing up.”

When Mac met June

It’s 1974, and Mac is a young American just arrived in Aberdeen to work in the oil business – definitely a stranger in a strange land….

On a cold, gray Friday night in February, at the end of his first week living in Aberdeen, two work colleagues, Tony and Ian, took him out for a night on the town to celebrate his first week on the job. They consumed several pints and a couple of whiskies in a starkly austere pub populated with craggy, old men. Mac was despairing of Scottish nightlife until Tony told him they were only drinking there because it was a lot cheaper than at the dancehall they were heading to.

An hour and a half later, and suitably lubricated, they weaved their way down a cobbled, dead-end street in the old part of town. The freezing night air attacking his lungs was a sharp contrast to Mac’s Southern California home. He hoped their destination was close. Halfway down on the left, stood a four story granite Victorian edifice. The word ‘Palace’ glowed in red neon on the side of the building. Like moths to a flame, several dozen other revelers converged on the sign.

Mac turned to Tony. “Where did all these people come from?”

Tony ran his hands through his hair, and straightened his tie. “The pubs are all closed now, but the Palace has a late license.”

“Aye,” chimed in Ian, rubbing his hands together, “so let’s get in there, have a little dance, a little drink, and maybe get lucky.”

They paid the cover and went in past the broken-nosed bouncers. One or two looked like they’d beat him senseless for free. Once they’d handed in their overcoats at the cloakroom, Mac opened the doors to the main room and was smacked by a wall of sound. The live band on the wide, raised stage was belting out a competent rendition of All the Young Dudes.

Hundreds of women and girls danced with each other in the middle of the dance floor. An equally large number of young men circulated slowly around the perimeter, like a pack of wolves sizing up a herd of sheep. On the back wall under the balcony, a long bar ran between the two entry doors. The crowd was four deep, but after standing in line for five minutes, eventually they got their drinks; two each, so they wouldn’t have to fight the throng again too soon.

Since conversation was well-nigh impossible, Mac had been looking around the hall, taking it all in. The band was playing Bye Bye, Baby when he felt a tap on his shoulder. He turned around to be confronted by a young woman with shoulder length dark hair and straight bangs. She wore a plain, scoop-necked black top with an impossibly short, lime green mini skirt, black tights, and matching green platform shoes that raised her height almost to his six feet.

Her eyes, blue and kohl-rimmed, surveyed Mac’s face. “Gonna give us a light, please?” she shouted in his ear, holding up her cigarette.

Mac nodded and handed her one of his drinks as he fumbled for his lighter, switching the glass in his hand as he moved his search to his other pockets. She was smiling at him. He held her gaze and smiled back.

“Cool band,” Mac screamed at her, hoping he could prolong the conversation. He thought she was gorgeous. He found the lighter and sparked it up.

She shouted back. “Aye, no’ bad.” She leaned in, and lit her cigarette, exhaling a blue plume away from him. She moved her face close into his ear. “Be even better if they’d stop playing that Bay City Rollers shite.” Her perfume was ginger, musky. He could smell hair spray, and her voice, close and in his ear, gave him a tingle. She stepped back, but her scent lingered. He was enchanted.

She handed him back his drink and shouted, “Thanks.”

Before he could come up with something else to say, she was off, walking away to rejoin her girlfriends. Mac cursed his luck. He willed her to turn around. Just when he was thinking he’d made no impression, she looked over her shoulder, and their eyes locked, just for a second, before she disappeared back into the shoal of dancers.

Mac and his buddies continued drinking until the place closed. He swept the room, hoping for another glimpse of the lime green mini. No such luck.

 

Back outside, Tony and Mac sidestepped the scuffles and vomiting, and walked along the frosty streets. Steam flowed off the top of their heads as they navigated the cold, February night.

Mac felt they were going the wrong way. “Where you going, Tony?”

“Chips. I’m needin’ some chips,” Tony slurred, weaving from sidewalk to street and back again.

“Chips?”

“Yeah, everybody goes to Freddy’s chip shop after the Palace.”

“What the fuck is a chip shop?”

Tony stopped and pointed to a brightly lit, glass storefront with a door to the right. Above the window, a hand-painted sign read Freddy’s. A cartoon fish, with its tongue hanging out and a jolly look in its eye, gaped down at them. The windows were completely steamed up. “That, my American friend, is a chip shop.”

Inside, it was mayhem. The place was heaving with hungry, impaired people all talking at the top of their voices. Someone was singing The Wonder of You, sounding remarkably like Elvis, but with a Scottish accent. The air swam with the smells of hot oil, battered fish, pastry, and malt vinegar. Behind the counter, a stout middle-aged woman, wearing a grease-spattered, flowery pinafore and sporting thick eyeglasses, served customers with a serene smile.

In complete contrast, behind the massive, stainless steel and glass fryer that dominated most of the chip shop, stood the most pent-up looking man Mac had ever seen. Freddy, the eponymous proprietor Mac assumed, was a tall man with arms like whipcords, and a jaw like a car crusher. He worked the fryer with the single-mindedness and determination of a machine-gunner mowing down advancing attackers. Patrons cried out greetings to him as they staggered in. His smile was thin-lipped in its fleeting acknowledgement, while still one hundred per cent devoted to the task at hand.

Tony nudged Mac, nodding at the dervish battering fish and pouring five gallon buckets of cut up potatoes into the roiling oil. “That’s Freddy. God help anyone who starts anything in here.”

“Oh yeah?”

“Yeah. See his wife? Louise. She’s the only one that can keep him under control. When he loses his shit, he’s like the fuckin’ Incredible Hulk. I’ve seen him in action a couple of times.”

Mac looked up at the bill of fare on the shiny, Formica wall. “What are you going to have?” He looked behind Tony. “We’ve lost Ian, by the way.”

Tony grinned. “Oh, no we haven’t. He managed to pull. We won’t be seeing him until Monday.”

“Pull?”

“Got off with a woman at the dance hall. You know, hooked up.”

“Oh, sure.” Mac blinked. The vinegar in the air was nipping his eyes. “So, what are you having?”

Tony pointed to the glass-fronted case on top of the fryer. “Freddy’s wife makes the best chicken pie in town, so it’s a chicken pie supper for me.”

“Supper? It’s after midnight.”

“That’s what it’s called when you get it with the chips. You’ve got to have Freddy’s chips, especially now, when everything’s fresh out of the fryer. Magic.”

“I’m never gonna understand your accents and words, even if I stay here a hundred years.”

A thin, red-faced man, in front of them in the line, turned on Mac with eyes flashing. “Then why don’t ye do us all a favor and fuck off back to America, ye Yank bastard?”

Mac watched the spittle fly, as the man poked him in the chest with a concrete finger. The  man continued. “It’s just like the war again. You come over here, lording it over all of us like your shite doesn’t stink, shagging our women, and then leaving them in the lurch.”

Mac, shocked by the sudden ferocity, resorted to humor.

“Have we met?”

“Fuck you. Outside. Now. You an’ me.”

Freddy momentarily stopped scooping fresh chips out of the fryer to issue a dire warning. “If anybody starts a fight in here,” he barked, “I’ll be over this counter like a rat up a pipe, and you’ll both be eating hospital food for a week.”

A quiet murmur ran through the patrons; even Elvis stopped singing.

“There you are.” Mac turned. It was the girl in the lime green mini. She pushed her way through the crowd and put her arm through Mac’s. She smiled at him. “I’ve been lookin’ everywhere.”

“Hello Jake,” she said to Mac’s aggressor. “Been oot for a few, hiv ye?”

Jake was taken aback. “June? What are ye daein’ with this fuckin’ Yank?”

“He’s ma cousin. Visitin’ from America.”

Mac’s eyes widened. June continued. “My dad said you had a good week on the boat.”

Jake shuffled his feet. “Aye, yer dad’s a good skipper, right enough.”

June gave him a dazzling smile. “I’ll tell him I saw you. You’re next. See ya.”

Jake looked confused, swiveling his red eyes from June to Mac and back, before quietly ordering a bag of chips. He got his food and walked out without another word.

The babble of voices resumed. Elvis tore into “All Shook Up.”

Mac shook his head in amazement. “Hello again. What just happened?”

“That was Jake. He works on my dad’s fishing boat.” She moved them up to the counter. “Nice enough bloke until he gets the whisky in him. I think you should see me home. It’s not safe with all these drunks about.”

“I’m Mac.”

“Mac, eh? Pleased to meet you, cousin. Want to split a chicken pie supper?”

 

After saying farewell to Tony, who was lurching around outside the chip shop devouring his food, they walked to an all-night coffee bar that June knew. Warming themselves over several mugs of tea, they talked and laughed for a long time, getting to know one another’s stories.

Finally, in the wee hours of Saturday, with their eyelids growing heavy, they took a taxi through the deserted, frosty streets to her parents’ home in Seatown, where she lived.

Outside June’s house, its motor idling on the street beside them, Johnny Cash’s gravelly voice crept from the cab. Folsom Prison Blues. Something about having shot a man in Reno. The driver had the window cracked, and was blowing out smoke, pretending to ignore them.

June and Mac stood a foot apart on the sidewalk, next to the small, low gate in front of the two story detached house. The front lawn, covered in old, gray patches of snow, had several dormant rosebushes around its borders, and was split in half by a short concrete path. A hallway light shone out through the half-glazed front door.

She stepped closer to him until they were face to face. Mac’s whole body was tingling. He had slept with a total of three women, but this was different. More than lust, or attraction—he really liked her.

“Thanks again for saving me. Back at Freddy’s,” he said, grinning.

“No bother at all.” She was looking at his mouth. “What lovely teeth you have.”

“Thanks.” Mac nodded toward the house. “You should probably go in, eh?”

“Trying to get rid of me, are you?” Now June was grinning.

Mac stammered. “No, no – I don’t want to say goodbye. I just thought you’re probably freezing.”

“I’d ask you in, but they’d hear us talking, and then my Mum would get up and be rushing around making you tea, and bacon and eggs.” She rolled her eyes.

“It was great to meet you.”

“You too.”

“Well, I guess I’d better be going. Can I call you?”

June opened her purse, pulled out an eyeliner pencil, and rummaged around for a piece of paper.

As she wrote, Mac admired her long eyelashes. “What are you doing tomorrow? Want to go to the movies, or something?”

“Something sounds good,” she said, handing him the phone numbers, thick and black on the crumpled scrap of paper.

“Thanks.” Mac felt another stupid smile forming on his face.

“Right, I’m off inside. Aren’t you going to kiss me?”

Mac tilted his head down slightly. June opened his overcoat, then her own, and hugged him to her. Mac closed his eyes, their lips were drawn together magnetically, and they kissed. Tentatively at first, until passion quickly took over. Their mouths stayed open, their lips mashed together, sliding around. Mac could taste her lipstick. Their breath steamed in the night air, like thoroughbreds after an early morning workout. June’s tongue slyly probed his mouth, touching his tongue. She made a sort of whimpering sound. Her chest mashed against his. He felt a stirring, a buzzing; he gave a low, guttural moan.

They pulled apart. Mac felt the cold air on his wet lips.

“Well, that was very nice.” June’s eyes sparkled.

“Mmm, I think I’d better go before I’m not responsible for my actions,” Mac said, hoping his dark jeans and the night were minimizing the obviousness of his erection. He quickly closed and buttoned his coat.

“Tomorrow, then?” June said.

“I’ll call you in the morning, if that’s okay?”

“Not before ten.”

“Of course not.”

They were both goofy. Mac leaned in for another kiss. It started to get intense again. June pulled away, laughing. “I’m going inside. I’ll see you tomorrow, Mr. Mac.”

She squeezed his hand and kissed him on the cheek before turning away. He watched her open the gate and walk up the path to the front door, fishing the key out of her purse on the way. Mac stood looking as she waved goodbye from the open door. He waved back at her as she closed it and turned out the light. He gazed up at the stars in the clear, freezing night, and smiled at his good fortune.

The grey-haired cab driver rolled the window down, and threw out his cigarette. “Hey John Wayne, are ye off on a suicide mission tomorrow morning, or what?”

“No, I’m not,” Mac said over his shoulder, still smiling to himself.

“Hiv ye got her phone number?”

“Yeah,” Mac said. He turned and showed it to him.

“Then get in the fuckin’ car, ye’ll get pneumonia standin’ oot there.”

Mac got in the back of the taxi, smothered by the instant heat. They pulled away from the curb, and accelerated down the street. Mac turned his head to keep June’s house in view as long as possible.

“That was some hot stuff back there, by the way.” The driver looked over his shoulder at Mac. “I was almost getting a hard-on myself.”

Mac stared at him, shocked. “Fuck off. You’re not supposed to be looking.”

The driver turned back to the road. “No wankin’ in the back seat. Okay?”

The Message Boy

024_2A(Names have been changed to protect the guilty.)

In Scotland, at least where I grew up, groceries were called “messages”. For four years, from 1969 till I left for London in 1972, I was a message boy, delivering provisions to homes in our town. I worked Thursdays and Fridays after school, all day Saturday, and for the last year or so, on Sunday mornings. That was the day we delivered supplies to the fishing boats tied up in the harbor, before they headed out into the North Sea for the week.

For the most part, I was driven around in a Vauxhall Viva estate (station wagon), by either the grocer, his wife, or, if the shop was really busy, the grocer’s father, Jim Sr. The latter was, to this callow youth, an intimidating man. A former sergeant-major, he brooked no suggestions, or advice from a young, long-haired lad. Our trips together around the town often took way longer than necessary, since he ignored my planned-out route, and just drove wherever he wanted.

I stood on many a doorstep in rain, snow, darkness, and sunshine, waiting for the grocery box to be emptied and returned to me. Through those door frames, I saw snatches of events on televisions broadcasting in front rooms: Apollo 13 taking off on a rainy Saturday, putts missed at the British Open, football matches, the announcement that Jimi Hendrix had died, Vietnam war casualty figures, as well as more mundane fare, such as game shows and sitcoms.

One older couple who lived close by the shop down by the harbor often invited me in for a cup of tea, so I always made a point of delivering their groceries after lunch on Saturday afternoons. I remember watching the annual Oxford/Cambridge boat race a couple of times in the cosy front room of their little stone house. Years later, my mother told me they’d lost their son at around my age, and that the company of a young man, reminiscent of their own, was a comfort to them.

All this took place as hormones raced through my skinny, adolescent frame, and I freely admit to harboring fantasies of a physical nature toward a few of the ladies I serviced. Of course, nothing ever happened; I never would have picked up on their transmitted signals anyway, being a Johnny-come-lately to the complex minefield of l’amour.

One Friday night, in the dead of winter, with ice covering the streets of our town, and snow piled high on the rooftops, Jim and I were heading back down the hill, having finished our deliveries for the evening. Coming up the hill on the wrong side of the road, a car headed towards us, fishtailing as it tried to gain traction. We assumed the car would move over, but as it got closer and closer, headlights weaving back and forth, it soon became apparent that it wasn’t changing course and was still headed straight for us. At the last moment, we made a swift left turn on to a side street. The other car hit us on the rear quarter despite our evasive move.

With expletives and clouds of condensed air flowing off his tongue, Jim jumped out of the car, took a quick look at the damage, and slid his way over to our assailant’s vehicle. Incensed, he hauled the door open, only to be greeted by four skippers of fishing boats, all drunk as skunks. All of whom happened to be very good clients of the grocery. His anger instantly subsided, and he wished them all a safe ride home with a laugh and a smile. This inebriated encounter provided me with an early lesson in diplomacy, and taught me to always remember on which side your bread is buttered.

During the day on Saturdays, the shop furnished me with a message bike to make deliveries. I think that old warhorse weighed around a ton. It varied from a regular bicycle in that it sported a small front wheel, thus giving ample room at the front for the giant wicker basket that sat in a metal frame. When the basket overflowed with boxes of groceries, the bike felt front-heavy, to say the least. I had to lean on the saddle as I pushed it along. This prevented the rear wheel from heading skyward. “Why not just get on the bike and ride?” I hear you ask.

The town we lived in was built on the side of a steep hill, and the shop was about three-quarters of the way down, near the harbor. Many’s the Saturday afternoon I could be seen grunting my way up the main street. On one occasion, a middle-aged man, who was also walking up the hill as I wrestled with the black behemoth, shouted across the road at me. He wore white, painter’s overalls, and a black beret. “Want to go to the pictures with me tonight?”

Stunned, I mumbled back. “No, thank you.”

That’s me, polite to a fault, even in face of attempted pedophilia.

As tough as the slog up the hill was, riding back to the shop with an empty basket was no picnic, either. The bike had, in effect, no brakes. I would barrel down the hill, dodging cars and pedestrians. How I wasn’t killed many times over is still a mystery to me. I did become quite adept at braking by jamming my right calf on the pedal and applying my right shoe to the road. My father was always puzzled by the extremely uneven wear on my trainers.

Delivering messages to the fishing boats often proved to be eventful. One year, close to New Year’s Eve, a very busy time, the owner enlisted the help of his brother-in-law, Eric, to drive me around. It was low tide, and the boats sat a long way down from the quay. At high tide, I could just jump across on the decks, but that day it meant climbing twenty feet down the steel rungs embedded in the harbor’s concrete wall.

A wooden rail, to stop cars from plunging into the water, ran the length of the wall. The first rung was on the quay itself, on the other side of the barrier. Eric promised he’d hold my left arm to help me get it on to the first vertical rung, since I was carrying a fifty pound bag of potatoes under my right arm.

“You got me?” I asked, looking in his eyes.

“Safe as houses,” he replied, smiling.

I took my left hand off the rung, and he immediately let go of my arm. The potatoes and I plummeted to the deck. The potato bag hit first, split open, and spuds flew everywhere. I fared better than they did, landing on my back on a large coil of rope.

“You okay?” Eric shouted down. I didn’t reply, mostly because I’d had the wind knocked out of me. After I got my breath back, I voiced my disappointment in him using language that would have impressed a sailor.

A couple of times a year, big storms would batter our little harbor, occasionally so fiercely that a boat or two would slip their moorings, and proceed to wreak havoc on the others. After one such storm, on a Sunday morning, we had to drop off supplies to half a dozen boats. The worst of the weather had passed, but the water in the harbor was still quite choppy. We pulled up to one vessel whose moorings had become slack. The boat sat about ten feet off the quay, pitching around in the rolling water.

“You’ll have to jump,” Jim told me. “I’ll throw the stuff across.”

“I can’t swim,” I confessed.

He gave me a short laugh. “I’m nae asking’ ye to swim across. Jump.”

Adolescence is a funny business; fear is something never to be shown, or admitted to, even in the face of being asked to do something stupidly dangerous. So I backed up several steps, watched for when the boat came closest to the quay, ran for all I was worth, and leaped. Yes, of course I made it. If I hadn’t, I wouldn’t be writing this, having been crushed these many years ago, betwixt ship and wall.

So it was definitely a formative experience, those four years delivering groceries. I knew everyone in our little town, and they all knew me. Returning home for my father’s funeral, fourteen years after I’d left, almost everybody who shook my hand remembered me from my message boy days.

I was still an idiot for the next twenty or so years, but not as much of a one as I might have been, had I not been the Message Boy.

 

Good News, Bad News

Bad news first  – sad to say Mac and June: Love In The Time Of Oil did not make it into the quarter finals of the 2014 Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award. Managed to see the two judges’ reviews, and all I will say, because it is a subjective process, is they were diametrically opposed in their opinions. I could elaborate, believe me, but what’s done is done, and I have moved on.

Good News – the follow-up to Mac and June is moving right along. (tentatively titled Bicentennial, partly because it’s set in 1976, and partly because some of the action takes place in the USA. Mac and June have to go there after …. Oh no, I’m not giving that away.) I feel I have a pretty solid 150 pages in the bag, although I’m still waiting for the fog to clear so I can find a path to lead me through the final third of the novel.

All the usual suspects return, including Grandpa. He’s in fine form, and as unruly as ever. Mac gets a Doric lesson, the Meldrums go to see the Royal Family, an elderly relative (even older than Grandpa) pays a visit to Seatown, and something big happens by page forty….

Stay tuned,

David

 

Mac and June now in print!

Yes, the book is now in print, I’m delighted to say. With its standout cover, designed by Stuart McKay, it is available on the following sites.

Createspace https://www.createspace.com/4545284

Amazon.com http://www.amazon.com/Mac-June-Love-Time-Oil/dp/1494298783/ref=sr_1_1_title_1_pap?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1387411231&sr=1-1&keywords=mac+and+june+love+in+the+time+of+oil

Amazon.co.uk http://www.amazon.co.uk/Mac-June-Love-The-Time/dp/1494298783/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1387411352&sr=8-1&keywords=Mac+and+June%3ALove+In+The+Time+Of+Oil+book

If you could stand a laugh about now, or know of friends or relatives who could do with a bit of cheering up, send them off to Scotland in the 1970’s with Mac, June, Grandpa, Ronnie, Doug, Bessie, Peggy, Joggetts, and Nurse Brigid.

Grandpa

By far the most popular character in the Mac and June novel is Grandpa. A crotchety old man when we meet him through Mac’s eyes, with a hatred for Germans born out of life in the trenches during World War I. As the book progresses however, Grandpa is the man who pulls no verbal punches, and often says what everyone is thinking but dares not say; one of the few benefits of old age.

People ask me who the real Grandpa is, did I know him? Is he one of my own grandparents? Sadly no, both of mine were dead long before I had the maturity or ability to observe any of their character traits. My father then? No, Dad was an affable, kind man without a malicious bone in his body.

Physically, he started out as the grandfather of one of my school pals. An old man who sat by the fire all day and was fairly stoic apart from the occasional terse outburst of vitriol.

If pushed, I’d say he is me, only without the social constraints.

Fifty Years Ago

November 22nd, 1963; half a century ago, and in the next few weeks, we will be inundated with specials, documentaries, and books, commemorating the anniversary of that infamous day in Dallas.

Do I remember? Of course I do, everyone from my generation knows where they were, and what they were doing.

Where was I? Well, I was a boy of nine, living with my mother and father, and three siblings in Scotland. My parents went to a ball that night. The time difference was/is six hours, so the news didn’t break until after they had left; Dad in his evening suit, and Mum in a gold dress, both looking very glamorous.

A couple of years ago, I started writing a story involving time travel, a subject that has always fascinated me. I wrote about ten chapters, and then Mac & June entered my life. They subsequently took up all my writing time, but since this dark anniversary is upon us, I’d like to share with you Chapter Two of Wonderful Inc., about a broken man who invents something ‘wonderful’ only to find himself, and those closest to him, on the run for their lives.

Do you think I should continue with this story? Any feedback would be most welcome.

Here you go.

Wonderful Inc.

2

 

May – Two Days Earlier

 

      On a plate he recognized in front of him, sat two sausages next to a small hill of baked beans. A slice of buttered bread lay on the matching side plate. The smell of the food was intoxicating.

     There they were. Just like he remembered it. All seated at the table in the kitchen. He could smell the tea in the giant white teapot, and hear his mother stirring his cup before placing it in front of him. She was wearing a housecoat and had rollers in her hair. 

     “Pass this tea to your father,” she said.  He saw his own arm move, and pass the cup and saucer to his brother, who in turn passed it to his dad.

     The windows were completely steamed up. Outside, the inky blackness of an early evening in November was punctuated only by a sodium streetlight, a lone sentry in the night a hundred yards away beyond their back yard. With the constraint of only being able to see and do what he/his host chose, he was helpless, but fascinated.

He pushed the button, the kitchen was gone, and he was looking up at a shaded fluorescent ceiling in an antiseptic room.

Danny was in his face, staring at him with a concerned look. “Did it work? Are you OK?”

Surprised by them, Ian wiped away the tears streaming down his face. He wanted to return immediately, to experience more of his past. It was like a drug. But he needed to compose himself and report in a scientific manner.

“Danny, that was fucking unbelievable,” Ian took a deep breath and exhaled, his hands on his knees. “I don’t know what to say. They were all there. He, I mean, I… whatever, was eating sausages with baked beans, and they tasted like the best thing I ever put in my mouth. My lungs felt like I could have inhaled the room, and my eyesight was perfect. Jesus, it’s kind of depressing how our senses deteriorate. At least nature is kind enough to do it so slowly that we don’t notice.”

Danny butted in, “Yeah, but were you able to do anything–like move a leg or an arm?”

“To tell the truth, I was so overwhelmed by the situation that I didn’t try any of that. Put me back in and I’ll give it a shot.”

“I thought I was going next,” Danny grumbled.

“Yeah well, I want to be out of the room if you’re picking what you said you would.”

“Are you kidding? Of course that’s where I’m going.”

“Might not be the best way to dip your toe in the water.”

“It’s not my toe I’ll be dipping.”

“I’m serious. We don’t really know if, or how, this all works yet. Don’t you want to try something more normal?”

“If this works out, we are going to be stupid rich. Dude, one of the most popular activities on this thing will be sex. Let’s not be puritans about this.”

Ian took the helmet off and climbed out of the chair. The actual invention and concept was his, but Danny had been invaluable in writing the software necessary for it all to work. That, and the vast supercomputer they had been borrowing from their employers in the wee hours of the morning for the past eighteen months had made it all a reality, so to speak.

Whenever Ian tried to explain how the procedure worked, Danny’s eyes would glaze over. On the other hand, Ian was impressed by how Danny, a computer genius, had managed to interpret his scribbles to write code that would make the the whole thing function. Most of all, they were both amazed they hadn’t been caught.

“We are going to have to wait ‘til tomorrow for your lustfest with Tina, Danny boy. It’s four a.m. and the early shift’ll be here soon. We have to put our toys away. I don’t want to get caught when we are so close to being complete.”

“Shit. All right, I’ve waited this long, suppose another day won’t make much difference.”

Ian started dismantling their custom chair and equipment while Danny extricated them from the mainframe and did the necessary fiddling with the clocks and memory to conceal the fact that they had been hijacking the computing behemoth they were tasked to baby-sit every night. Somehow, Danny was always able to bullshit the early shift guys and to assure them that any anomalies in the system had been fixed by he and Ian during the night. How they never figured out that the system had been hijacked was always unbelievable to Ian. He figured the day shift guys didn’t really care about their jobs. Fine by him. The less they cared, the more he and Danny could get away with.

 

A year ago, Ian had discovered a bar close to the company headquarters that none of the other Solaris workers frequented. They didn’t want anybody from the company putting them, and two and two, together. The Choking Chicken sat in an anonymous strip mall in Tempe, sandwiched between a pet store and a TV repair shop. It was somewhat seedy, but the food was good, the beer selection was large, and the jukebox was remarkable. There was also discreet parking in the rear. The place closed at two and opened again at five am, catering to night shift workers who wanted to unwind a bit before going to bed. For Ian, Maria, the bar owner, didn’t hurt to look at, either.

He’d discovered the bar around the same time he had recruited Danny. They’d met at the nightshift Christmas party. Ian was amazed that a completely blitzed Danny could still write code when the computer had suffered a breakdown in the middle of the festivities and he’d had to fix it on the fly. Afterwards, they had gone to a bar to continue talking and drinking. After a few more sessions following work, Ian had carefully sounded Danny out, asking him his opinions on various topics, he had even told him a secret about himself that was not true. He waited a couple of weeks to see if it came back to him. It didn’t, but Danny was pissed when he found out that Ian had been testing him.

No one in the company would have dreamed Ian and Danny could have anything in common. They were an unlikely pair, to say the least. Ian was fifty-something, graying, longhaired, and divorced. Tall and still fairly fit, he was a history and nostalgia freak. He was also a burned-out theoretical physicist who had suffered a complete mental breakdown some ten years before.

Danny Norton, at twenty-six, was pushing two hundred and sixty pounds and sported a buzz cut. Ancient Nordic tattoos adorned his large frame. He was the archetypal computer geek with a passion for role-playing games and unattainable women. He could also polish off two dozen buffalo wings at a sitting, and down a pitcher of beer in well under a minute.

 

In the windowless bar, they sat silently across from each other in their usual booth. Maria, who looked like she had seen it all and then some, brought their drinks.

“Tough day at work, boys?” she sneered as she threw down two beer coasters and plunked the drinks unceremoniously on top. Foam ran down the sides of the tall glasses on to the cardboard mats as they swapped beers. Maria either couldn’t remember their individual beer choices or didn’t care. She was very attractive in a mid-fortyish, well-traveled way, and brooked no shit from anyone. Ian imagined that a crash helmet would be on the checklist before heading into a bedroom with her. Not that he wouldn’t have minded finding out.

“Breakfast?” She raised an eyebrow to reinforce the question.

Ian looked up at her, smiling. “We’ll have a few of these first, thanks Maria.”

“I’m here to serve, my Lord. Your wish is my command.” She cracked the gum in her mouth, turned on her heel and headed back to the bar. She winked at two older drunk men in ventilated trucker caps who sat on shiny red Naugahyde stools and were blatantly staring at her chest. Ian watched Maria go, admiring her legs, particularly her slim ankles. She walked like she knew she was being ogled.

Danny took a long pull of his Guinness, put it down and made the satisfied sound men make when first tasting a malted beverage. He sat back in the red booth. Ian took a drink of his Newcastle Brown Ale and put both elbows on the table between them. They looked at each other without doing so until Danny cleared his throat and sat upright.

“How come it was November twenty second, nineteen sixty three that you went to?”

Ian snorted and swallowed another mouthful, “Lots of people my age would choose that particular date. For my generation and a bit older, it’s a day they will always remember. People younger than me would pick other days, days where everyone knows where they were or what they were doing. I imagine… what are you, twenty five?”

“Twenty six.”

“Then someone your age would probably pick Nine-eleven. Right?”

“If I didn’t happen to remember the date when I had sex with Tina, then, I guess, so. Maybe I would pick something like that. Just to see what it would be like.”

“Didn’t you ever have a memorable birthday with maybe your Grandpa or Grandma? How about the first time you went to Disneyland?”

“Yeah, that’s all great, but I want to see Tina face down on the bed again, with her ass in the air.”

“Charming.”

“Whatever. So, what happened on November the twenty second, nineteen sixty three?”

“Kennedy was shot in Dallas in an open car.”

“The President?”

“Yes. Jesus Christ. Don’t they teach you kids anything in high school these days?”

“Well, we didn’t cover ancient history, if that’s what you’re asking. Listen, you boomers are going to be supported by us soon. You’d better start being a bit more respectful, Grandpa.”

“Yeah, well I’m not on a respirator just yet, so let’s talk about our next step.” Ian leaned in. “I am going to talk to Venner tomorrow.”

Danny paused in mid-swig, “Venner? That bastard has screwed so many people in the technology business… including you. Why would you want to bring him in?”

“Because he’s got the money, the resources, the infrastructure and, most importantly, the name recognition.”

“Better get a good lawyer.”

“Got one. We are now the clients of H.B. Bachmann.”

“The guy who took down Infratech?”

“The same.”

“Fuck me. You have been busy. I guess it’s on then.”

“Yep, starting tomorrow night, we disassemble the chair and all the peripherals and you wipe the mainframe of everything pertaining to our work. By Friday, any footprints we may have made at Solaris Systems Inc. will be gone, and their computer system as pristine as the driven snow on a February morning.”

“Yeah, they can go back to their prime directive; analyzing weather patterns and predicting crop prices. What a waste for a machine like that!” Danny turned around to face the bar. “Maria!” He swiveled back, face lit. “This calls for a celebration.”

Ian put his hand over Danny’s glass. “No. Not yet. We have to keep our wits about us. We can’t get careless and make a mistake this close to the finish line. One more beer, some breakfast, and then some sleep. We have a big week or two ahead of us.”

“All right, old man. We’ll do it your way,” Danny poked Ian’s arm,  “but once this is all settled – it’s party time for this zillionaire.”

 

TALES FROM THE FRONT ROOM. 1: Master of the Television

Growing up in Scotland meant spending a lot of time indoors every year, from the end of September to at least March, unless driving winds, snow, leaden skies, and cold rain pelting your skin like thousands of needles, got your juices flowing.
I grew up in a time when even prehistoric games, like Pac-Man or Asteroids, were still a glint in the eye of their inventors’ parents; an iPad was something you put on your face after a visit to the optometrist.
We did own a Monopoly set, but it wasn’t in what you’d call in museum-quality condition; a fair amount of the ‘money’ had disappeared, and most of the tokens had been lost over the years. Cards. We did play cards. This became tiresome after a very short time, especially when the deck was so old that by looking at certain folds, chocolate stains, and dog-eared corners on the back your opponent’s hand, you knew whether or not they were going to trump you.
There was always physical combat. My sister and I did quite a bit of that on those endless, gray afternoons.
Television, then, was our prime source of entertainment. Oh, I hear you say, were there no books in this household? Did not your imagination soar and swoop through fantastical worlds? Yes, I remember books, and these many years I have been a voracious reader, but back then, I was more of a comic (graphic novel) kind of guy. They’re good for about twenty minutes.
Including my parents, six of us lived in our little house on the Moray Firth in the North East of Scotland. A television sat in the front room, next to the fireplace; the screen a rounded, almost rectangular, fourteen inches (from corner to corner), and in glorious black and white. It took about three minutes to warm up, depending on the time of year. There was no remote control, but instead a rotary dial that clicked between channels. A beautiful piece of cabinetry, with book-matched veneers on either side, it received a loving polish by my mother every week. This wood and vacuum-tubed wonder sat on a matching wooden stand that swiveled to face the viewer.
That prime viewer, when he wasn’t working, or on the golf course, was my father, and the television pointed directly at his armchair.
He was a benevolent dictator. A man who lived by that old parental dictum – do as I say, not as I do. It worked well for him, for it was backed up by the ever-present, and definitely not-to-be-wished for, Wrath Of Dad. We very rarely experienced it, and once having done so, it was a scene to be avoided at all costs.
There also existed the wrath of Mum, but that we could handle; she was all smoke and no flames. I suspect the old man relied on her to be the policeman on the beat, keeping the natives quiet. He was the SWAT team, the riot squad, the nuclear option. Don’t get me wrong—we’d josh with him, like lion cubs nipping at their father’s ears, but should we cubs ever try out our growing claws on his scrotum, we’d be swatted like flies.
Back to the television. In the early sixties, we had a choice for our viewing pleasure. There was the BBC, the British Broadcasting Corporation, and in direct competition, the only competition, we had ITV, Independent Television. We got Grampian Television, a regional offshoot of ITV, that served our area. It was so named after the Grampian mountain range, the highest in Scotland.
Very little was on during during the day. If you were desperate, you could watch the test card, a potpourri of lines and technical-looking circles that engineers used to calibrate cameras and televisions. This would go for hours at a time. Children’s programming started around 4pm, for kids back home from school. This lasted until 550pm, when the national news came on. At that time, we would just be sitting down for our evening meal, our “tea”.
My father, having already arrived home from the office, would sit in the front room until tea was ready. He’d read the paper, and often as not, grab a quick nap. My mother would call us all to the table. To my mother’s eternal exasperation, this was my father’s cue to go to the toilet. Upon returning from his ablutions, he would swivel the TV on its stand, and take his place at the head of the table in the kitchen. We weren’t allowed to watch TV while we were eating, but my father had the catbird seat, and was the only one who could both hear and see the broadcast through the door into the living room.
When we had finished our tea, my father would say something about the food having been fit for human consumption, thank my mother for cooking it, rise from the table, and head back into the front room to take up residence for the evening in front of the tube.
Paper in his hands, sometimes actually reading it, he’d listen to the program as he held the broadsheet in front of his face. This was frustrating to us serfs, but only when there was something on Grampian we wanted to watch, like Thunderbirds, or Fireball XL5. The exchange would go as follows:
“Dad, it’s almost seven o’clock. Can we switch over to Grampian?”
“What for?”
“Um, Fireball XL5.”
“That thing with the puppets?”
“Yes. It’s really good.”
“It’s rubbish.”
“Dad.”
“No. Anyway, I’m watching this.”
(This, would be some political discussion about the funding for a new water treatment plant in Aviemore.)
“But Dad, you’re reading the paper.”
(He was. It was totally obscuring his view of the screen.)
“I’m doing both. I’m listening while I read.”
“Dad.”
“No.”
“But—”
“Haven’t you got any homework to do?”
And that would be the end of that.
An hour later, my mother would enter the front room, having done the dishes, tidied up, cleaned the kitchen, skinned and gutted a deer, and brushed all our shoes for the next day. (One thing in the previous sentence is not true.)
Dad, done with the paper, having read it from stem to stern, was watching the TV. Mum would pick the paper up from his lap, and have a look through. By this time, the rest of us were engrossed in something that we all wanted to watch, Dad included. Z Cars, or No Hiding Place. We always watched Hans and Lotte Hass, they were a pre-Jacques Cousteau/Steve Zissou, underwater couple.
Apart from the TV, silence reigned until Mum inevitably started a conversation with Dad about something in the paper.
“Did you see that Bob Scott died in an accident?”
“Yes.”
(Mum, reading from newspaper) “‘Local mechanic Bob Scott died on the A98 yesterday after his car collided with a tractor hauling hay. Mr. Scott, a war veteran—’”
“I know. I read it.”
“was attended to at the scene by a passing doctor, but was pronounced dead on arrival at Aberdeen Royal Infirmary.’ Isn’t that terrible? His poor wife.”
“It is. David, turn up the television.”