Oor Wullie meets a michty dominie

21st March 1997 at 00:00
School is off and I am up sharp with my son Andrew. We are busy with the Lego set building bin lorries. The Tom Morton radio programme is on in the background. They are having a competition: listeners have to telephone with a new Scots word. As I invent a refuse wagon tilt mechanism from bits of Lego that were not around when I was a lad, the subconscious part of my mind comes up with "cyberpeerie" - one whose head is spinning from overuse of the Internet. I put the phone on the kitchen table and call Radio Scotland.

Andrew wants to know what is going on and climbs up on a chair. In the middle of my call he falls off and the telephonist is treated to him howling down the line. I think up a few other potentially prize-winning ideas but decide to put them in writing. These include "skoadit" - to have one's choice of motor vehicle gratuitously abused by the uninformed. I send off the letter along with the suggestion that the whole of Dundee is turned into a Scots language theme park called Oor Wullie World.

On the final day of the competition I get a call from the same lady who was subjected to my son's wails to tell me I have won a box of Scottish food goodies. And would I talk to Tom live on air? I agree.

There is a problem. Even my wife tells me my telephone manner is terrible: flat, dull, monosyllabic. I hate telephones almost as much as I hate recipe suggestions. I tell myself I must not say anything stupid. In the event, I am on the air for about 10 seconds. Tom asks where I got my inspiration and I tell him I used to read the Sunday Post a lot when I was young.

"That's enough advertising," he says and launches into the "that's all we've got time for . . ." routine. I congratulate myself for not having said anything stupid. I am still congratulating myself when a reporter from the Sunday Post telephones. They want to do a story and ask if they can send a photographer round.

The photographer arrives. He walks down the path carrying a large piece of white card. Being a little knowledgeable about matters photographic, I deduce it is a reflector for balancing lighting. It isn't. It's a life-sized cardboard cut-out of Oor Wullie, thumbs up, sitting on a bucket. The photographer assures me that I don't have to sit on a bucket too, but he would like Andrew in the picture. They are pursuing the falling off the chair stuff as a human interest angle.

Unfortunately, Andrew is out with his Mum and doesn't arrive back for three-quarters of an hour. During that time I learn that the photographer's daughter recently qualified as a teacher and has yet to find permanent employment. I rant sympathetically and lend him my TES Scotland.

Andrew returns. He wants to play at driving the Skoda but is whisked in to be photographed. He is not pleased and begins to cry when plonked down beside Oor Wullie. The photographer knows when to quit and settles for a few shots of me, thumbs up, beside DC Thomson's greatest star. When he leaves, Andrew begins to cry again. He wants to keep Oor Wullie.

The story appears that Sunday. The following day my fifth-year module class applaud as I arrive to teach them.

This all happened because I believe that, like most teachers, I am a bit of a show-off. Deprived of my usual captive audience I have to look for other outlets during time off work. Perhaps that is why we are so hard on chronic attention-seekers - anyone who steals the limelight is asking for a whole bucketload of trouble. Michty!

Gregor Steele liked the cock-a-leekie soup best.

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