Skinflats and the Magic Torch

The bonnie village of Skinflats.

Skinflats is actually quite a nice wee village, and I’m not just saying that incase some of its residents read this article. Well, OK, there’s a little of that. Have you seen some of the people who live there? Big leg-o’-lamb arms, match-strike chins and shotgun licences. (hack punchline alert) And that’s just the women! Do you know what Salmand Rushdie’s agent said to him when he was writing ‘The Satanic Verses’?

‘Say what you like about Mohammed, mate, but for fuck’s sake don’t slag off Skinflats.’

‘You aint from around here, are ya, boy?’

The village is surrounded by acres of fields (or, to give them their local name: the burial grounds). Those fields are to the people of Skinflats what the empty desert is to the mobsters of Las Vegas. Many a fingerless hand and a brutally disembodied boaby sleeps with the bushes up them thar fields. So, if it’s all the same with you, I’ll just say nice things. I want to be Robert de Niro in this movie; let some other daft cunt be Joe Pesci.

What I will say is this: I had the pleasure of working in Skinflat’s local shop many, many years ago, and found the village to be a lot like Brookside Close. But with slightly more laughs. And a lot more hidden corpses.

Skinflats, though, eh? What a name. It sounds like the sort of place lost hillwalkers stumble across in the dead of night, tragically unaware that its inhabitants are all horrifically disfigured mutant cannibal serial killers who live in tents made from human flesh. The sort of place whose name you’d never expect to utter without the accompaniment of terrifying, Castle-Dracula-style thunder claps. The sort of place that would make an estate agent say: ‘Well, congratulations on your land purchase. I hope Skinflats proves to be a lucrative location for your new motel, Mr Bates.’

David Beckham was so distressed when Seb Cole told him he had to go to Skinflats, that he started to morph into Bruce Forsyth.

So what was I doing there? Taking a walk down memory lane? Admiring the scenery? Scoring drugs? No, it was Olympic Torch day. The flame had been to Stirling and Falkirk that morning, and was about to be carried through Skinflats on its way to Fife and Edinburgh. The people of Skinflats were overjoyed to be having their ten minutes of fame.

‘This’ll put Skinflats on the map,’ I heard someone say. No. No it won’t. An air strike would put Skinflats on the map. Tomorrow, they won’t even be talking about this in Bo’ness, much less London. Even in fifty years time when some plucky lad who got the day off school to see the flame pass through the village tries to remember the splendour of the day, he won’t be able to differentiate this real memory from the sixteen-thousand acid flashbacks also housed in his brain. ‘I’m sure it was a zombie Colonel Gaddafi running down the street with that flame. Just as the air strike hit.’

Anyway, maybe he can just re-read this blog and it’ll all come flooding back to him. The day was nice and bright and sunny, and the whole village was bustling with people waving flags, cracking jokes, and smiling and laughing, and generally having an awesome time. I dunno; maybe they were just drunk.

Normally if you saw a guy carrying a flaming torch through Skinflats, you’d expect the rest of the villagers to be right behind him with pitchforks shouting, ‘Burn the monster!’ Or, at the very least: ‘The Sun says there’s a paedo living somewhere within a fifty-mile radius. Let’s burn the fucker who moved into number 27 last week, just incase! Anyway, he said ‘hello’ to my daughter this morning, and that’s how it starts!’

But this day was different. Even the convoy of police bikes was greeted with warm, uproarious cheers. This struck me as odd. Like George Bush being carried through Baghdad by way of a jovial mass crowd-surf. Usually the arrival of police vehicles in Skinflats causes a mass exodus, or at the very least turns the village into a fortress: with every snib on every door clicking shut, and those behind the doors jamming them up with tables and wardrobes, and blacking out the windows, like they’re preparing to survive to the end of a zombie film.

The bike cops clearly thought they were the star attraction, as they gunned it down the street giving a series of wacky waves and salutes. One cop even gave a rolling five slap down a line of children’s hands. You might be cheering now, kids, but that’s the cunt who’ll be arresting you for cocaine possession in eight to ten years – which, coincidentally, will also be your sentence.

The best thing about the torch coming through Skinflats was the traffic chaos that preceded its arrival. A long jam of angry, self-conscious people all trapped in their cars, whilst a whole village peered at them. They must have felt like they’d gone for a day out at the safari park, and broken down in the lion enclosure. I tried to stare at as many of them as possible.

The Cunta-Cola truck.

It wasn’t long before a procession of yellow Olympic vehicles came trundling through the village. Lots of cars that looked like New York taxis. And the Coca Cola truck, of course, with a gang of reps walking beside it handing out free bottles of cola. Principles be damned: it was a hot day and I was thirsty. That freebie was gubbed. I know McDonalds sponsor the Olympics, too, and was a little annoyed that they hadn’t sent a truck laden with free beefburgers. Bank of Scotland had a truck in the procession, too, with some English cunt on its open top-deck dancing like a dick to shitty pop music. No free money getting handed out, I noticed.

Nice choice of sponsors for an international sporting event: Coca Cola, McDonalds, and Bank of Scotland. ‘Hey, kids. You’re all going to be fat bastards with diabetes and no pensions. LET’S FUCKING CELEBRATE!’

Eventually the guy with the flaming torch got off of his little yellow bus, jogged for about 100 metres, everybody cheered, and then he got back on his bus again, the lazy bastard. And I’m glad I was there to see it. One day I’ll be telling my grandkids about this. Telling them how shit it was. The free Cola was good, though.

This is the best picture I could manage!

* sincere apologies to the people of Skinflats. I love you all, you know I was only having a laugh (ie, please don’t kill me – I’m trying to put you on the map!).

** Note to foreign readers of the site, especially Americans. Skinflats genuinely is a lovely village, and also the birthplace of William Wallace, so do come visit if you’re flying in to Edinburgh. Thanks, Jamie.

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