My name is Michael Grundy. I wish I didn’t need to share that, but it’s important that it is made clear to everyone before they read the following story. And by ‘story’, I mean the incredible, yet wholly real, absolute clusterfuck of events that it has been my fate to endure.
I spent three or so days around New Year in Scotland, which was a pleasant enough experience even when the wind, rain, and pervading atmosphere of impending doom are factored in. I passed the early evening of New Year’s Eve at an enjoyable dinner party in Edinburgh with a few old university friends, along with some unfamiliar faces. I only mention the fact that it was particularly enjoyable as I’m somewhat prone to bouts of nausea at the dinner table, especially when not already acquainted with my fellow guests. I will typically go silent, begin to sweat uncontrollably and find my stomach twisting itself into reef knots as I struggle to eat, regardless of how hungry I might have been before. I should really, I suppose, see someone about this.
On this occasion, however, there was a rich and convivial atmosphere that allowed for a greater degree of relaxation than is usual on my part in such a situation. We were all resigned to the fact that we were to spend the rest of the evening together, ringing in another fucking year where nothing of note would actually happen and, on that basis, we might as well tuck in, drink up, and enjoy ourselves. All of us are going to die (according to statistics, those living on this northern side of the border considerably earlier), so why not make merry, grab a Buckfast and run the risk of waking up next to an acne-ridden trout of a woman from Musselburgh the next morning?
After dinner, it was agreed that for midnight we would head over to the house party of a friend who had purposefully not been invited to dine with us. This person, hereafter known as Dougal, was, and to the best of my knowledge still is, Scottish. Dougal as a Scotsman falls into a very distinct category: that of what my grandfather would have termed the ‘skiting Scot’. Wherever one travels, whether it is Berlin, Bangkok, Minsk or Mumbai, as an English speaker, especially an English English-speaker, one is bound sooner or later to run into this sort; the kind of Scotsman (and frequently Scotswoman) whose sole purpose in life is to bore others to death with tales of Scotland’s greatness.
I have no doubt it is a magnificent and scenic country, which has given birth to some of history’s finest thinkers, artists and writers. But those of Dougal’s nature wish to berate others ceaselessly with the fact that the television, telephone and teleprinter are all entirely Scottish inventions. Not only does Dougal incessantly bother others with the stories of Bannockburn and the Highland Clearances (affecting, of course, a deep resentment of his southern neighbours), he considers himself a great comedian and practical joker. The joke he was to play on me, while from any rational-minded and level-headed point of view would generate nothing but disdain and annoyance, Dougal undoubtedly considered among his best.
After negotiating our way through the cobbled streets, a struggle compounded by the fact that we were now all of us decidedly half-cut, we made it to Dougal’s flat in the genteel Marchmont district. He was waiting to greet us, a cheery grin pasted across his mottled Celtic countenance, dressed in a smoking jacket and, of course, aggressively kilted.
‘Ah, Sassenachs! Come on in, y’English bastards!’
Dougal’s hospitality knew no bounds, and he merrily introduced us around. Already in attendance were his teenage cousins from Dumfries, a rather moody bunch who had segregated themselves off from the main party, blocking the way to the bathroom. The majority of guests, however, were the host’s high school chums from North Berwick, a charming seaside town frequented by the young Robert Louis Stevenson during his school holidays, and nowadays widely renowned for its golf courses and teenage pregnancy.
Midnight came and went, according to the usual sequence of events: a brief period of euphoria found itself replaced by a feeling of worthlessness and self-loathing as the night became just like any other. It was around one o’clock that I decided the room had swelled to such a degree that it was time to remove my jumper. As I placed it safely on the bed of an unoccupied room, I could not have guessed at what an egregious error this would prove to be; an error that Dougal was to capitalise on.
By 5 a.m. the party was over. Dougal’s cousins had disappeared, the floor was thick with the sleeping bodies of revellers and a thick miasma of stale alcohol had insinuated itself into every possible corner of the place. It was time to leave. As I tottered towards the front door along the carpet that was now indistinguishable from a gravel path, I couldn’t help but get the feeling I was forgetting something. Not to worry, I thought as I hiccoughed my way out. I’m sure it’s nothing.
A week later, I had safely returned to my leafy suburban idyll of London’s zone 6, and received one of those wonderful red cards the postman leaves when he decides, on whatever arseholish whim, not to deliver your mail. On top of the card was the name ‘Schmichael Schmundy’. It had to be Dougal. While I appreciated the gesture, as I had by now realised I’d left my jumper at his place, that base level of humour could only have been him.
To this day, I have still not retrieved my jumper. While perhaps there is a little laziness at play on my part, it is overwhelmingly due to the incompetence and absolute scumbaggery of the post office. Who is called Schmichael Schmundy? You would think that the man behind the counter could have employed a little common sense when he saw that my address was the same as Mr Schmundy’s.
But he has always refused to hand the parcel over. ‘I have to protect the public’, he said. From who? Schmichael Schmundy? That devilish bounder? Dashing around town seducing wealthy dowagers and recklessly affixing his name to other people’s mail so that they too can experience this minor inconvenience on a Saturday morning? Fuck the post office. And fuck Dougal.