The ego has landed in print

1st August 2003 at 01:00
GUESS what, folks? I'm a published poet ... in a book ... that you can buy in the shops (or on! Before I tell you what the book is called, so that you can rush out and buy several copies, here is a sample:

"The Bahookie Dug is ugsome,It bides down in the cowp,An the scaffies say its coupon,Looks like a muckle dowp."

Good, eh? The Bahookie Dug is just one of the Boggin Beasties you can read about in the compilation King o' the Midden-manky, mingin rhymes in Scots.

You probably don't need to be told that it is published by Itchy Coo.

Unfortunatelyfortunately, not all of the book is written by me, and in one of my sadder moments I considered counting the words in it and all the words in the poems I contributed, then expressing the answer as a percentage.

Don't do that, though. Instead, check out Brent Hodgson's wonderfully daft "Shetland Cuddies Wi Wheels and Wi-oot Wheels" or James Robertson's "Sergeant Snoddy".

When it isn't appealingly surreal, the humour of King o' the Midden is appealingly gross. It has every chance of captivating the eight to 12-plus age group the way that the same publisher's Animal ABC did with younger children.

Why, then, was King o' the Midden not released as one of the first Itchy Coo titles? The editors' preface gives a clue. Although the rhymes are intended to leave readers "no weel" with laughing, "it's important to mind that the Scots language itself is not all just a big joke ... All life is in our language."

I know why they said that. Two years ago, I would have laughed at the suggestion that the toilets in the Scots Parliament should be signposted as "cludgies" or "shunkies". Ha ha ha ... those are rude words!

I fell for the centuries-old lie that Scots is coarse and not to be taken seriously. Though I am ashamed to admit it now, I did not know that it had been the language of educated men and women, of law-makers and philosophers as well as writers. My knowledge of history was too sketchy for me to appreciate that Scots was sneered (and in schools beaten) almost out of existence by its own people.

It is a testament to Itchy Coo that I and doubtless many others are now enlightened. As such, I am chuffed to bits about being in one of their books - though suffering as I do from Writer's Ego, I'd probably be chuffed about being in any book. But this is a good one, so away and buy it and find out why I had to apologise to Cliff Richard.

Gregor Steele should be live at the Edinburgh Book Festival.

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