A visitor from a distant galaxy – one where the weird is not yet normal – has been visiting the offices of the Scottish Review, challenging the editor to explain the baffling events on Planet Earth. On this occasion the editor was surprised to see him.
I thought you'd gone. We announced your departure last Friday.
Couldn't tear myself away. Quite mesmerised by your strange ways. Nothing personal.
You mean all that nonsense on the bridge?
Hilarious, I agree. That blessing...the poem. Oh dear. But not worth staying for. Or even writing home about.
The threat of nuclear war, then?
Merely the latest manifestation of your race's death wish. Hard to take you lot seriously, really.
That just leaves Wayne Rooney and the brunette.
Not quite. You've forgotten the extraordinary case at Perth Sheriff Court. Couldn't make that one up.
The couple from Troon. What do you know of Troon?
It's a strange little town on the Clyde coast, not far from here. Includes some of the poorest social housing in the area, home to a retired Northern Ireland terrorist, scene of the occasional beach riot. Yet also renowned for its millionaires' row, where the lottery winners are rumoured to live...you know...the Weirs.
Oh, the people who bankroll the Scottish National Party?
That's them. I didn't realise they were the couple from Troon you had in mind.
No, no, it wasn't the Weirs who rampaged through the hotel. Not at all. It was another couple from Troon, Mr and Mrs Fergus. He's quite big in the local rugby club, altogether a well-respected figure. He 72. Mrs Fergus 69. Both old enough to know better, as you might say.
Ah, I dimly remember now.
They went for a short break – I believe that's what it's called – to an establishment known as the Macdonald Loch Rannoch Hotel. Are you familiar with the Macdonald Loch Rannoch Hotel?
I'm not. I don't drive. It makes life quite tricky. Tend to stay at hotels as close to railway stations as possible. Carry on. The Ferguses...
They'd had too much to drink. I am informed that people in Scottish hotels do drink rather a lot, and that occasionally it leads to unfortunate confrontations with the staff.
So would you say that the treatment of Miss Titkova was typical?
Miss Titkova? I'm not with you.
The member of staff Mrs Fergus threatened to shoot.
That does seem a bit extreme. Even by the standards of Scottish hotels.
'I'm going to get a gun and shoot you,' Mrs Fergus told Miss Titkova. Mr Fergus meanwhile was tearing through the hotel naked, smashing a pane of glass, brandishing a pair of scissors, severing the hotel's communications cables and warning people that he proposed to slit their throats. I cannot believe that a 72-year-old gentleman from Troon, bare-bottomed in the corridors of the Macdonald Loch Rannoch, made an altogether pleasing sight, with or without his scissors.
Quite, quite. What did poor Miss Titkova do?
It is not clear whether it was Miss Titkova herself who organised the mass evacuation. But it seems that the terrified staff and guests fled to the nearby village of Kinloch Rannoch, seeking refuge from the Ferguses. Do you know this place?
Not really, but it features in a Scottish traditional song called 'The Road to the Isles.' Pleasing enough. There's a line in it, 'Sure by Tummel and Loch Rannoch and Lochaber I will go...' It must have been written by someone who hadn't encountered Mr and Mrs Fergus from Troon.
I will ignore your attempt at levity and continue. Mr Fergus was found
pissed – I understand that's the slang word for his condition – at the wheel of his BMW. I further understand that he and Mrs Fergus were proposing to terminate their short break and return to Troon. A misguided enterprise had it succeeded. Again it is by no means clear whether they settled their bill before leaving.
Thank you for that. Still not sure, though, why you're so preoccupied by this case. We have the miscellaneous absurdities on the bridge, the threat of nuclear war, Wayne Rooney and the brunette, and all you can think about is Mr and Mrs Fergus.
It was the outcome that intrigued me. I naively imagined that a couple who had done all the things that the Ferguses did would now be serving exemplary prison sentences. Instead they received monetary penalties, the sheriff observing sympathetically that no doubt they would regret the incident for the rest of their lives. Is it not true that most people charged with crimes in your country tend to regret it for the rest of their lives? What makes the supposed regret of the Ferguses so special, so worthy of comment?
It's hard to say. I have given up trying to read the minds of the Scottish judiciary. I can only assume – well...
I do hesitate. But the unworthy suspicion is there: that a working-class pair from a rough Glasgow scheme would not have got off so lightly for the same offence.
But that's disgraceful...
It is the way of the world, my friend. Our world. You need to lighten up. Come for a coffee, and I will sing to you 'The Road to the Isles' or recite the latest profound work of the Scots Makar or read aloud a freshly minted column by Lesley Riddoch. All three, if you are very good. Come. I insist.