William Duguid

Another Perthshire Writer

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william duguid

After years of procrastination and dabbling, I finally began to write reasonably regularly in 2010. Iíve always favoured writing humour, because it represents my best chance of finding a distinctive voice, which is another way of saying that Iím pretty ordinary at writing the serious stuff!

I found Perthshire Writers in 2014, shortly after moving to Bridge of Earn following 30 years "down south". I was immediately struck by how welcoming and supportive they were, and Iíve continued to draw a great deal of encouragement and enjoyment from meetings. Iíd certainly recommend the group to any writer who wants to share experiences with like-minded folk in an informal setting.

That Flaming Confetti

There are parents in Tesco whose offspring throw paddies,
Political foghorns who govern like haddies,
Executives gorging expense-account luncheons,
Policemen who like tapping heads with their truncheons,
Composers of headlines like "Phew! What a Scorcher!"
All doubtless in need of some merciless torture,
But the man I would drown off a rickety jetty
Is the man who invented that flaming confetti.

Itís as I feared, itís everywhere,
Itís in my beard, itís in my hair,
Itís in my case, itís in my toes,
Itís on my face, itís up my nose.

There are match-making aunties who love playing Cupid,
TV sports presenters who act like theyíre stupid,
Expensive greengrocers with peppers that shrivel,
Companions at parties who bore you with drivel,
Boy racers whose driving puts cyclists in traction,
All doubtless requiring remedial action,
But the man I would strangle with coils of spaghetti
Is the man who invented that flaming confetti.

Itís as I said, itís everywhere,
Itís in the bed, itís in the chair,
Itís up the lum, itís in my teeth,
Iím going to thummon the poleeth.

There are gossips who broadcast your secretive doings,
Estate agents plugging extortionate ruins,
Incompetent trumpeters haplessly tooting,
Patricians in green wellies hunting and shooting,
Proprietors of restaurants that pass on infection,
All doubtless deserving immediate correction,
But the man I would feed to a ravenous yeti
Is the man who invented that flaming confetti.

A Catastrophic Decision

When the proposals were first announced I was concerned, along with many others. In the following weeks, as various conflicting views were aired at great length and volume on the Internet, I saw nothing to ease my qualms. Finally, after a lengthy and tortuous debate, a decision was made yesterday that will change the world forever.

Hasbro, the makers of the board game Monopoly, have retired the "iron" token used by players and replaced it with a cat.

Iím shocked and saddened by this decision. A game with which I grew up has been completely ruined by being forced through the merciless prism of public opinion. At a stroke my childhood has been destroyed and an age of innocence cast into the abyss.

For me, the iron was at the heart of traditional Monopoly, symbolising as it did domestic order, neatness and control. How is the property magnate to display his authority and power without a shirt freshly ironed that very morning by his wife? How is he to impress his mistress if the hotel bed-sheets havenít had every crinkle steamed away? How can he brazenly open his Daily Telegraph in another manís face if it limply sags away because no-one has properly attended to its folds?

With an iron as your token, you could proceed smoothly along the board, metaphorically flattening your opponentsí pitiful attempts to prosper. With sufficient sleight of hand you could even nudge their hotels off their territory in the direction of your own Whitechapel Road gentrification project. The iron was solid, dependable and predictable. No surprise, therefore, that itís fallen victim to trendy social attitudes, beginning with the sad introduction of the Corby Trouser Press and reaching a sickening nadir with easy-iron polyester.

Cats are simply wrong for Monopoly. Itís obvious to anyone who has an iota of respect for the rules. Apart from the furballs, the little pools of sick and general allergy issues with hairs, they donít have the correct attitude for the game.

While your opponents are busy hoovering up houses and hotels all over the board, theyíll be distracting you by rubbing themselves against your legs and miaowing plaintively. When not falling asleep on top of the Community Chest, theyíll wander wherever they feel like and then plonk a dead bird in the middle of the Angel, Islington. And have you tried getting the flaming things to pass "Go" when they donít want to?

Monopoly will never be the same again. With their built-in sense of entitlement, the cats will soon become fat. Then the bank errors will always be in their favour, theyíll lap up all the "Free Parking", and as for "Go to jail, go directly to jail", donít make me laugh. The traditional street names wonít be enough for them and theyíll treat your puny plastic buildings with nothing but contempt. Before long theyíll build their own enclave of skyscrapers called "Canary Wharf" under the dining table, then sit there all day driving you nuts with their purring and sinking their claws into your arm if you interfere.

Once youíve re-defined Monopoly in this way, anything can happen. How long before tokens are allowed to include man-eating tigers, velociraptors and talking meerkats? Will the game be taken over by the climate change lobby, so that youíre forced to erect plastic wind turbines on Mayfair? What if the powers-that-be in Brussels force us to replace it with a game called EUtopia, where the players just throw money into the middle of the board and Spaniards and Greeks set fire to it?

What about the effect on other games? Iím used to my pieces of pie in Trivial Pursuit, and I donít want to see them replaced by fairy cakes. I like a bit of chess, too, and Iím keeping my eye on the bishops to ensure they donít start growing bumps in the wrong places. And when Colonel Mustard charges into the library to dispatch his unfortunate victim, Iíll be annoyed to find his lead piping has just turned into a giant sausage.

When I emerged from my underground shelter this morning, I was amazed to find the world was still in one piece and that I wasnít clinging to a bare lump of rock hurtling into space. But I checked again with the wizened old crone at the edge of the village, and she still says no good will come of this. There will be misery and pain, with people in chains forced into hard physical labour by satanic monsters with whips, and Iím not just talking about Westminster Councilís new homeless policy.

The hell with it. Iím off to marry my sister and live in a mťnage ŗ trois with a horse. Weíve got to make the most of these remaining days, after all.

Spooks

Ladies and gentlemen of Auchenshuggle Probus Club, many thanks for inviting me to speak to you tonight.

We in Her Majestyís Intelligence Services get a lot of unjustified flak. Liberal softies are always at it, accusing us of snooping, just because we take the trouble to make sure weíre incredibly informed about things, and of interfering with the media, just because the BBC Director Generalís interesting holiday snaps happen to have come into our possession.

Why do we inspire such fear and suspicion? Yes, we did once accidentally brainwash one unfortunate subject, who started breaking the necks of passers-by whenever he heard the word "delphinium". We still have cold sweats about the day he got tickets for Gardenerís Question Time. Mostly, though, weíre dedicated civil servants, working hard for a gilt-edged pension and guaranteed knighthood. From your Facebook posts, Tweets and telephone conversations, we know what your values are, and we broadly support them, as long as they donít irritate our American colleagues.

Should your children be interested in a career, there are various ways in which we recruit. My own start was a chance conversation with my Oxford college tutor in a broom cupboard. Before that, I was a misfit: I didnít shave, wore odd clothes and wandered round making enigmatic remarks. There werenít many posts suitable for me, although I did once get an interview for Archbishop of Canterbury.

Now, content in my little GCHQ cubicle, I spend the daytimes monitoring "chatter" on the airwaves. The Jeremy Kyle Show is a must-watch for its analysis of sociological trends. Iím also keeping an admiring eye on Jessica Fletcher in Murder She Wrote: not only is she a top-class serial assassin, but she always manages to find someone to frame.

Exchanging our carefully gathered intelligence with our American partners is crucial. Every week we supply them with CCTV footage of UK citizens going on protest marches, parking illegally and recycling rubbish in the wrong bins. In return, they let us have their copy of the Wall Street Journal when theyíre done with it. Itís quite a challenge, as the crossword is often still incomplete!

We also make a contribution in countless specialist ways. My unit, for example, is unofficially known as "the plumbers". Just last week the Americans had a blocked toilet and, as they were in collective denial as usual, we had to fly over, plungers at the ready, to save the day. Naturally, we have techniques to ensure nothing horrible ever sticks to us.

None of this would be possible without meticulous organisation. There are more intelligence departments than you might realise. There are the ones everyone knows about: MI5 bugging domestic targets and MI6 destabilising regimes abroad. But thereís also MI25, which is a spy ring surrounding London. MI57 controls the worldís largest concentration of baked beans. MI64 is a Paul McCartney tribute act. And MI666, of course, keeps open those all-important communication channels with Satan.

Thank you all for listening, and donít worry, you can be sure weíll be listening back!