Sunday, November 11, 2012

Goats and monkeys

In the 1990s my sister (who must surely by now be tiring of me appropriating her/our stories) was invited to travel on an all expenses paid trip around the motorways of Britain as "assistant" to a family friend who was writing a book about off-the-motorway beauty spots. (A great idea, I think - instead of stopping at some moribund service station for grey coffee, chips and sad burgers, why not, guided by the book, travel up some anonymous slip road and find a small pub by a river with a weeping willow under which you consume delicious roast pork sandwiches? But I guess the internet will do this for you now.)

The "assistant" tag is as dodgy as it looks; he was after her body, but was, I'm afraid,  a deeply unprepossessing man - we'll call him A - known to us as "A the Goat" because you didn't even need to half-close your eyes to see him as a billy (perhaps even the stinking one my Dad once owned, a creature who was dubbed by my brother "the Cultural Wizard" on account  of his little wispy beard and crazy-wise yellow eyes, who had to be locked in a shed down the road far from human habitation because he smelt so bad). Claire was having none of it, and at one point stormed from the car with A tailing pleadingly after her.

A drank himself to death at a tragically young age, and my mum went to his funeral last year. She passed on the post-funeral celebration, which was scheduled to take place down the pub. A fitting location, you might think, given how much he loved booze, but I think it a little bit of a queasy choice to be celebrating the life of someone who killed themselves with alcohol by raising a glass of it.

Although my sister and I mocked him (and we had some prior history with him, having spent a very strange Christmas in a holiday cottage in Wales with him and his girlfriend at the end of the 1980s, and Claire endured who knows what on her motorway odyssey), I'll always have a special fondness for A because, in a travel piece he wrote for the Scotsman, he managed to get this past the subs: "The Kyle of Localsh and the Kyle of Minogue".