Wednesday, 25 March 2009

March Spawned a Monster

In Battle I met Ben.

Ben - around 40, short black hair, open-collared shirt revealing a forest of tangled hairs - grew up in the Highlands of Scotland. I told him I was visiting Edinburgh soon for the MoonWalk (excellent cause!). "Edinburgh folk are like the English." I must've looked offended. "Not that I mean that in, you know, a bad way. I like the English. Just don't like Edinburgh folk."

If Ben had looked any more like Morrissey in his "November Spawned a Monster" video, he'd have recently released a new album. I chatted to my new friend in the Abbey Hotel, where I was meeting my old friend, the barman, for my moonwalk of Battle.

"You know, I knew Chris when his mum still called him Christopher," Ben slurred at me, his animal-tooth necklace slapping his uncovered, hairy chest.

"But that's not my name," replied Christophe.

"What is it?"

"Christophe."

"Are you sure?" asked Ben, before sinking the dregs of his glass and fumbling for coins in his change bag.

As the Guinness disappeared down his throat, Ben became more animated. At one point he challenged Christophe to spit in the crackling fire, just to prove that modern art is over-rated (I'm not sure I'll ever make the connection). But as the barman left to clear the rubbish and the tables, Ben took me under his drunken wing. As our relationship blossomed, I felt confident enough to ask for any Highland connections to the full-moon. Uh-oh.

Ben's eyes widened and pupils narrowed. He flopped up from the bar (as only a drunk person can do) and took two steps towards me. Uh-oh.

"The full-moon, you say?" he asked my right ear.

"Yes...I think."

"You know what they say about the full-moon?"

"No. Yes. Well, they say quite a bit-"

"True. But what about the kelpies? Did I ever tell ye about th' kelpies?"

"I've never actually met you-"

It was like trying to reason with an angry man with an axe (he has the axe, not you). Over the next ten minutes Ben led me through the forests around Fort William. At times his thick Scotch accent dropped to a sort of Surrey melody. But as he acted out stories of mythical water-horses, which he guaranteed would lure me to a loch and drown me, I reacted to every breath (true, a lot of my reactions were provoked by the alcoholic haze escaping from his mouth). He pranced beside the bar. Howled in terror. Cackled. All the while he sipped from his fresh pint. When he ran out of puff he looked straight at me - after a brief wobble.

"Sorry about the accent. Think I dropped it a little in the middle. Haven't been up there for a while, you see."

The details of the story he created are for the book. But the man deserves to be the star of this blog entry. After all, who better to meet on a full-moon than a self-proclaimed lunatic?

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