Sunday, July 29, 2007

Taking Control of my Future

Rather than descend into a period of doldrums over my recent bad luck, I have vowed instead to tackle my listlessness head on. I will be an agent of my own change. Not for me the route of despair and denial: I will face my foes and fears with force.

The facts in this case are as follows:

1) I have somehow impregnated an Art tutor.
2) She is unaware of her gravidity.
3) I must tell her of her condition.
4) I must wed her so that the child, when born, is not a bastard (if male) or bitch (if female).
5) She has a suitor who will not be happy at my attempts to woo her.
6) I must remove the suitor from the picture.
7) Permanently.

To deal with points 5 through 7, I have written a letter to her suitor to invite him to join me in a duel to the death. Here is the letter which is blunt and to the point:

Dear chump [by using this demeaning title, I hope to rouse his fury from the off],

You have been observed making unseemly and unwelcome advances towards my gal [I use the slang term 'gal' to make me seem more like a New York tough, and hence to worry him]. You are hereby challenged to a duel. Be prepared to fight to the death. The winner takes all.

Yours angrily [here I have replaced the more traditional 'Yours sincerely' to emphasize the extent of my ire],

Horton Carew

This letter has made its way to my Art tutor's pigeonhole in Duncan of Jordanstone Art College. On the envelope, I wrote "Please pass on to the suitor of Ms Carol Doocot, nymphean Art tutor". By now it should have reached the swine. I must go and practise my fencing skills.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

The Engagement does not go as Planned

Yesterday's encounter with the Art tutor Carol Doocot was, emotionally speaking, a tumultuous one. With some compound of horror and hope, I approached her in the studio before the class began and stated my case. A combination of excessive nervous energy and a surfeit of fortified wine resulted in a dangerous lapse in restraint on my part: regrettably, I misjudged the situation and was far too forward, too blunt, and this discourteousy may ultimately have cost me dear.

What I intended as a fervent and passionate sweeping off of feet became a clumsy and awkward embrace. And when I say 'embrace', I mean 'an unwelcome and unreciprocated fumble', and when I say that, I mean 'a headbutt'. You see, I accidentally tripped over an easel in my enthusiasm as I rushed towards her, and consequently fell in such a way that my forehead struck her nose. Naturally I apologised profusely and, in an effort to placate her as she daubed uselessly at the rivulets of blood gushing from her broken face, I proposed marriage. Obviously she was too shaken to fully comprehend what I had said, for her only response was copious weeping.

Conscious that the situation was not proceeding as intended, I panicked and began blurting out as much of my planned speech as possible, with no thought towards decorum.

"You have my child! You will be mine! You will wed me! I will get a job! Your child is mine!"

I had no opportunity to hear her reply for at that moment into the studio rushed an alarmed looking man who pushed me away from my ladylove.

"Get away from my girlfriend pal!" the goon bellowed, allowing saliva to spray freely from his mouth in his fury. He snatched her up in his arms and cradled her head in his palm.

In terror I absconded.

I do not know what to think. Clearly, I have a rival for Doocot's affection. One who does not know of her secret - that she has permitted herself to become impregnated by another man, i.e. me (Horton Carew). I will doubtless have to arrange a duel with this cove in order to win Doocot back.

For the moment, however, I must allow myself time to weep and to claw at my scalp in anguish.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Rehearsing my Engagement Speech

Tomorrow is Wednesday, the day of my Art class and the day that I must finally confront my Art tutor Carol Coocot about her impregnation. She will likely be unaware that she is with child so I will have to handle this situation sensitively.

I must make my intentions plain so that there is no room for misunderstandings. I will march into the studio, grab her firmly by the wrist as though I was a smouldering and impassioned Rock Hudson, and state boldly and decisively the following:

"Carol Doocot, as far as can be ascertained you are pregnant with my child. Thus, I will wed you whenever is convenient with you. You will have ample time to finish off any paintings you might be working on and so on and so forth. It is my intention to begin gainful employment as soon as possible so that I can support you and your child financially in the coming years. I have settled upon the name 'Gordo' or 'Aubrey' if the child is male and 'Meemsy' or 'Debs' if the child is female, but I am prepared to hear your suggestions. Assuming this satisfactorily squares with your expectations, I will begin preparations directly."

Once she agrees to be my spouse, I will reward her with an engagement ring which I have modelled from clay. As she is an earthy artistic type, she will appreciate this personal touch.

Wish me luck readers for I have limited experience in engagements and begin to suffer from nerves.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Contemplating my Future as a Husband

Now that I am to be a father of a baby child, I must take my place in this world more seriously. My carefree batchelor days will soon be over for I must now wed the art tutor Carol Doocot whom I impregnated. If I am to offer stability and a healthy upbringing to a baby child, it will be essential to have some form of wife who can feed it milk and help it learn quadratic equations and such.

Although a mere quirk of fate has cast myself and the Art tutor Carol Doocot together forever, I must confess that I rather like the idea of owning a wife, baby or not. I will be able to visit public houses and talk about my wife to other men. I have decided that although I will doubtless dote on my wife in private, when I discuss my wife with other men I will adopt a tone of comical downtroddeness and refer to her as "She Who Must Be Obeyed" and "The Old Ball and Chain" and similar epithets because that will make me appear to other men as though I am unemotional and that I would not necessarily have chosen to get married but was somewhat coerced into it by circumstance. This routine will engender a sense of camaraderie with other married men, who might buy me a pint of bitter and eventually invite me to join them in a game of golf and ask me to their family barbecues, etc.

Although Carol Doocot is obliged by her pregnancy to accept my offer of marriage whether she likes it or not, it is not my intention to be a boorish husband. I am keen to show her that I am thoughtful and caring by giving her an engagement ring and kneeling, which I understand is considered romantic. Once she has agreed to be my wife, she can move into my Dundee home at once and prepare the house for my baby's arrival by cleaning my rooms and redecorating the bedroom upstairs, which has needed a lick of paint for some years now.

A comical metaphor for married life that I will employ to appear worldly in front of other men

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

The Truth is Revealed at Last

Tonight's art class provided the perfect opportunity to ascertain whether or not the art tutor Carol Doocot had indeed been impregnated by me. Sufficient doubt remains in my mind as to the precise mechanics behind how a woman becomes heavy with child, but as I have seen Carol Doocot naked once and consequently experienced a spasm, I felt that a pregnancy was probable enough that I could not afford to ignore the likelihood.

But how to ask her? How was I to frame such a question, the answer to which might very well bind the woman to me in perpetuity and change the course of my life forever? Just thinking of it caused me to bite my lower lip and fret. I eventually decided that there was no need for me to ask Carol Doocot directly and that I could establish the truth covertly. I have seen enough soap operas to know that there are ways of discovering pregnancy using small white plastic sticks that change colour when urinated upon. It was such a method that I chose to employ this evening.

Having no Home Pregnancy Testing Kit available in my Dundee home, I was forced to improvise by affixing a strip of litmus paper to a toothbrush: as the final product visually approximates a Home Pregnancy Testing Kit, I assume it is also functionally identical.

When I arrived at Duncan of Jordanstone Art College, I was greeted by Carol, who welcomed me into her classroom and asked if I had made a full recovery from my spasm. I used this opportunity to quickly check her over for any signs of pregnancy, such as having a swollen abdomen or emitting a womanly glow, but she was found wanting in both departments. Further measures were needed.

It was then that I realised my Home (-made Home) Pregnancy Testing Kit was of limited value for its success depended entirely upon the Art tutor Carol Doocot introducing the Kit to a stream of her urine and I could see no way of persuading her of this course of action without arousing suspicion. I would have to be wily.

Thus it was that I snuck into the women's toilet immediately after she had used it and daubed my Home (-made Home) Pregnancy Testing Kit around the toilet bowl. The litmus paper changed colour. Readers, I tremble as I write this... the paper turned red.

I am to be a father. Carol Doocot is pregnant with my child.

I celebrated by buying a fish supper on the way home.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

What Did I Do in the Great War?

I find that the above poster by Savile Lumley still works its propagandist magic, for its message has played heavily on my mind today. If my own child, full of wonder and pride, asks me what I did in the Great War of 1914-1918, I will be obliged to answer that I did nothing, which will humble me and make me adopt an expression of consternation just as the troubled father in the poster is doing.

Through consulting the newspapers and the internet cobweb, I was delighted to be reminded that Britain is technically at war just now. Although it is no 'Great War', I will surely be able to do something to help the war effort and hence avoid an awkward, shamefaced silence when my baby becomes a child and asks me what I did to help the nation.

I am not entirely sure who the enemy is - what I have been able to pick up is that Britain and the US (America) have been bombing some countries and shooting some people to help save them from tyrants. Some of the people are not grateful for being saved in this way and have been shooting back. I think they are the enemy. The tyrants are the following: Saddam Hussein, who lived in a hole in the ground, then was hung, Osama Bin Laden who has a big beard and who lives in a cave, and a man called George Galloway who lives in a house with Rula Lenska and Pete Burns, but I remain unsure of his involvement. None of this fighting in hot and sandy countries is of any use to me, however, as it is all happening at the other side of the world and you cannot get cheap return flights to Iraq from Dundee airport.

Thankfully, there is an enemy closer to home that I might help to fight: Terror. On our fair island are agents of Terror who live in Britain and who assiduously help Osama Bin Laden's Terror-Cause by inciting Terror. I only have the popular media to go by, but these Terror-Enemies seem to be some species of Mohammedan gremlin which ruins public transport for everyone by self-destructing during rush hour.

They seem to be the main Terror-Culprits, but they are certainly not the only ones. I have noticed that many other people cause needless Terror-Terror in Britain today: last night, even the BBC proved themselves guilty of helping the Terror-Enemy by showing Tales From the Crypt. What chance have the government got if the country's main broadcasting station is working for the War on Terror by further Terror-fying the populace? The bit with the murderous Father Christmas and the Joan Collins engendered nothing but Terror in me. Congratulations BBC! What a disaster for the war effort - Osama Bin Laden will doubtless be laughing when he hears of this.

Readers, my solution to the War Against Terror is the liberal application of Courage. I have spend much of today bolstering my stock of Dutch Courage by drinking endless mugs of Kentucky Bourbon, and I suggest you soon do likewise. Not only does is boost your Courage and hence reduce your Terror, but it also benefits the American economy, which I have gathered is also somehow related to helping the war effort.

I would like to see Osama show me Tales From the Crypt in my newly fortified state - he would soon realise that us Britons are made of sterner stuff! Now, when my child asks me, "Daddy, what did YOU do in the War?", I will be able to look him squarely in the eye and say, "I beat Terror, son." Then I will offer him a slug of Wild Turkey to help him beat Terror too.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Further Measures to Protect My Future Child

Readers, I must tell you that despite my initial misgivings about fathering the child of an Art tutor, I have warmed to the idea considerably. There are one or two things I fear about being a father, such as having to involve myself in the Father and Son Sack Race at school sports day. I am not proficient in athletics and worry that I will show my son up and embarrass him in front of his friends. Even if I just have a daughter, I will still be expected to give her a lift to the Brownies every week and I cannot drive. Above all, I live in terror that my offspring, whatever its gender, will develop a terrible wasting disease and die young, or that some awful calamity should end its existence, a tragedy that would break my heart. I would be unable to cope with the grief and would likely force a screwdriver into my ear to puncture my brain and expediate my own demise.

Such are the perils of parenthood. To protect my future offspring from disasterous death, I have taken further measures to ensure its wellbeing within my Dundee home. I have wedged Gluetack (a mixture of Blu-Tack and Glue of my own devising) into all the electric sockets in my home so that my baby does not electrocute itself by insering a metallic strip into one of the zapholes.

All poultry has been exorcised from my kitchen to avoid the risk of botulism. I have heard that babies cannot tolerate salt in their diet, so I have dutifully expunged my sellars and saltlicks. A grave risk to our nation's young is scalding: to remove this hazard, I have committed my kettle to the flames, and have cast away my plugholes - if a bath or sink cannot be filled at all, then there is less chance of it being filled with boiling water, and therefore less chance that I submerge my baby in it in a fit of pique.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Potential Fatherhood

Readers, I have decided that if Carol Doocot, the Art tutor, has been impregnated and if I prove to be the father of the child, then I will do the honorable thing and help her to raise our baby. As I have already intimated, I am unsure exactly how a woman becomes a pregnant woman, but I am certain that female nudity is involved at some stage in the proceedings. As I witnessed Carol Doocot in a state of undress at Wednesday's Art class, it will be safest to assume that I have indeed impregnated her until I learn anything to the contrary.

I have already sellotaped bubblewrap to all the sharp corners in my home, removed the bleach from under the kitchen sink, and hidden my revolver in a shoebox to protect my offspring from injuring itself when it arrives in this world, young children being notoriously stupid and foolhardy in such respects.

Tomorrow I will clear out my tools from the garden shed and begin preparations to convert it into a Wendy House for the child to play in. I will attach plywood turrets to the roof of my shed so that the child can pretend the Wendy House is its magical castle. If the child is a boy child, it can pretend to be a prince or king: if the child is a girl child, it can pretend to be a princess or queen. I will also plant some saplings in the garden so that a tree might eventually grow and I can build my child a tree house. I believe I will make a good father to my child.

Friday, July 13, 2007

An Art Class and a Spasm

Yesterday I promised to tell you about a recent stressful incident at an Art class. Because I am a man of my word, I will today tell you about a recent stressful incident at an Art class. My four regular readers will remember that on 22nd June I was offered a place at an evening Art class run by a graduand/graduate of Duncan of Jordanstone Art College. She had been singularly unimpressed by my efforts at portraiture, all of which she claimed looked like characters from The Munsters, and so proposed that she tutor me in the ways of Art. I made the rash decision to accept her tutelage but now regret it bitterly.

On Wednesday night at 7:00pm I arrived at the appointed room in the Duncan of Jordanstone building to be met by Carol Doocot, the tutor. Curiously she was wearing a white dressing gown, but I put this down to Artistic eccentricity. She bade me sit by the group of shabbily attired, rough looking young sorts (some of the females sported tattoos and some of males unashamedly wore earrings) who were to be my classmates. Several of the roughs attempted to engage me in conversation on a variety of topics, but I steadfastly ignored them.

"Well class, we have a new member joining the group today," announced Carol. "Horton Carew - he's the street artist I was telling you about. I'm sure you'll all do your best to make him feel welcome. Sorry to put you on the spot Horton, but perhaps you could tell the class a bit about yourself."

Happy that my reputation evidently preceded me, I grew confident and agreed to share a few tidbits of biographical information to keep the baying mob satiated, as well as offering a little advice to the scruffier elements of the group on how to present themselves more respectably.

"Thank you Horton. To fill you in, last time the class met, we'd just started some life drawing which we'll be continuing with today. Okay, if everyone could get their materials out, we'll make a start."

I took out my habitual Artistic tools - a biro and a pad of A4 lined paper from Woolworth's - but Carol informed me that if I wanted to do proper Art, I had to use more expensive paper and draw with sticks of charcoal to make my work a little more smudgy. Furthermore, it was essential to attach the paper to a wooden board with two metal clips and stand whilst drawing. Only through this method would my Art be considered acceptable.

These measures taken, I watched as Carol flitted around the room giving tips to my peers, such as to avoid using the pink pastel for skin tone, but to instead use blue and yellow. That way, it would look more Arty. The phrase 'skin tone' gave me a clue as to what our subject would be: something with skin. As it transpired, that was only the half of it. Readers, what I am about to impart is doubtless the raciest episode yet recorded in my electronic diary. If you are offended by filth and indecency, I strongly recommend that you do not read further lest you faint and crack the side of your head on a radiator as you collapse to the floor in your swoon.

Carol casually announced that she would be today's subject then promptly disrobed. With no sign of a blush, and no concession made whatsoever to cover her shame, she stood in the centre of the room completely naked. To compound this felony, none of my classmates appeared at all phazed by this unannounced nudity, and at once went to work sketching her.

"Remember to pay particular attention to the negative space; the space around the subject," suggested Carol, as though she were clothed instead of standing unadorned in a room full of people clutching charcoal sticks.

Appalled as I was, I made to leave at once. But readers, I must admit that I persuaded myself to reconsider, telling myself that all Artists must go through terrible ordeals and suffering in order to improve and inform their Art. No readers, to my everlasting mortification and regret, I elected to stay in that room among the nakedness. I had the opportunity to leave but did not, and I have paid for that decision since.

I did my best to draw the denuded Carol, starting with her head and working down. I kept my eyes focussed above her neck at all times so as not to corrupt myself more than was necessary. But readers, my anxiety continued to rise as my gaze was obliged to sink lower. Through deftly averting my eyes, I did manage to draw one of her naked arms, but when I came to draw her private chest area I am afraid I was corrupted. My heart beat faster, my breathing rose and fell rapidly and full drawn; a sobbing, that rose into a sense of strangulation, supervened, and turned into a dreadful convulsion, in which my senses left me, and I became unconscious.

I awoke to find a now-robed Carol hovering over me, asking if I was all right. She apologised, saying that the room can get very warm and that she should have opened a window. In terror, I grabbed my Artistic apparatus and fled that den of iniquity at once.

Readers, I confess that I have no experience whatsoever in matters such as these and am largely ignorant in the ways of love and the mechanics of human procreation. I am not entirely certain what happened to me on Wednesday night, but if I am correct in my suspicions, I fear that Carol may now be pregnant with my child. If that is the case I will either have to marry her soon in order to save face, or flee the country and disavow all knowledge of her.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Eight Facts About Me

Readers, soon I will tell you about my traumatic experience at an art class, but in today's entry I must indulge a brief digression. I was recently 'tagged' by an internet entity who told me that I must share with my readership eight facts about my miserable life. Though I cannot be sure, I believe it to be a legal requirement that I share these facts or else risk the gaol. At any rate, I have researched the internet cobweb and discovered that this practice of writing eight facts about one's life is something of a fad on electronic diaries at present, so I think that if I go along with this, it will make me more popular.

Eight Interesting Facts about the Life of Horton Carew.

1. I am a male person.
2. As a youth, I once caught a crab at Lunan Bay, which I christened Mortimer.
3. I have never committed a murder of a man.
4. I have two permanent diseases.
5. In the past, I have feigned an allergy to brine in order to impress a bully.
6. I once appeared in an episode of To the Manor Born.
7. My favourite food is lovely.
8. A childhood accident involving a calliper has left me unable to correctly pronounce 'Cincinnati', 'plinth', and similar words.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Rebuilding Dundee

You will note that I have of late been providing you with detailed descriptions and pictorial representations of several Dundee landmarks. Because of this recent diversion, one reader has written to me (for some of my readers can also write) to ask me if I am trying to do for Dundee what James Joyce did for Dublin. By that I assumed that my correspondent meant that I might eventually have several walking tours around the city named after me, but this was not the case. Of his populist trash Ulysses, James Joyce apparently boasted, "I want to give a picture of Dublin so complete that if the city one day suddenly disappeared from the earth it could be reconstructed out of my book". My correspondent wondered if I intended something similar for Dundee with my electronic diary.

Of course, I sent that reader a vicious and abusive reply telling her to mind her own business and not to be so damned nosy in future. After a while, however, I began to worry about what might happen if Dundee did suddenly disappear from the earth, and all that the architects and planners had to go on was the information contained in my electronic diary. Clearly, they would be unable to make much headway on the project.

Thus, to help those builders, and to best Mr Joyce and his lowbrow penny dreadful, I will begin to use this electronic diary to furnish the reader with detailed topographical information about the streets of Dundee.

Today for example, I walked from East Whale Lane to Euclid Crescent. First, I departed from East Whale Lane by turning left into the Seagate where I walked for approximately 0.01 miles (0.02km) before bearing left for a further 0.05 miles (0.08km), then I crossed at the Marketgait roundabout and bore left for 0.05 additional miles (0.08km). At this point, I turned right into Sugarhouse Wynd which I strolled along for 0.06miles (0.1km) before turning left into the Cowgate. There I ambled for 0.09miles (0.14km) until the street became Panmure Street. I walked along Panmure Street for 0.13miles (0.21km) then bore left for 0.03 miles (0.05km), where I successfully turned right into Euclid Crescent.

Here is a map for further information:

That should be enough for the builders to make a start if Dundee should disappear tonight.

Friday, July 06, 2007

The Great McGonagall

Despite today's atrocious weather, I have managed to produce yet another Artistic gem, albeit one soggier than usual. It would perhaps be immodest to say 'masterpiece' at this stage, but as you have pressed me, readers, I admit I can find no other suitable word to describe it.

As local readers will note from my masterpiece below, I have been to Dundee's Magdalen Green today to add the statue of William McGonagall to my folio of masterpieces. Local readers, I know the following will be painfully familiar to you already, but I would ask you to be patient while I describe to ignorant non-local readers the tradition associated with this statue.

Statue of William Topaz McGonagall, Magdalen Green. Ignore the smudges - it was raining heavily when I drew it.

Non-locals are often curious as to why the statue, erected in 1912, has two right hands and outlandish headgear. Well my foolish non-local readers, I will explain why this is. During World War: Part 2, people all over Britain tore out metal railings and sacrificed milk pans to help the war effort. This metal was made into tanks to destroy Germans or something. Many Dundonians felt that McGonagall's statue, being made of valuable metal, should be melted down and turned into bayonets to help the brave tommies doing their bit for King (and country). The council forbade this course of action but this did not prevent one Lochee man from sawing off McGonagall's left hand and donating it to a scrap metal collector. For its own safety, the statue was removed from public display and kept in Barrack Street museum for the remainder of the war.

When McGonagall came to be displayed again, the statue's missing left hand proved problematic: metal shortages thanks to the war made sculpting a new one unfeasible. As it happened, at the foot of the Wellgate steps there used to stand a statue of Janet Keillor, the Dundonian who invented marmalade, almost all of which had been commandeered by gung ho citizens and eventually melted down to make several Goshawk engines. The council had only been able to salvage a knee cap, a portion of inner thigh, and a right hand. As a temporary measure, McGonagall's statue was fitted with Keillor's right hand. Over time, Dundonians grew to love this eccentricity and have resisted any attempts to give McGonagall a new left hand.

The outlandish headgear is easier to explain: from the 1970s onwards, Dundee's student population began decking McGonagall out in various hats as part of a drunken prank. This sort of thing passes for humour among students. Initially, traffic cones and bobble hats would find their way onto McGonagall's pate, but over time the hats became more elaborate. On Hallowe'en for example, he would be seen sporting a witch's hat, whilst on Christmas Day, a Father Christmas hat would be his headgear of choice. And so on.

Today, students still take responsiblity for his hats, and the position of Group Organiser for the Dundee University McGonagall's Hat Society is now highly sought after. McGonagall now has enough hats to enable him to wear a new one every day of the year, and some of the more extravagant hats designed by Art students can take several hours to set up. As you can see from my drawing, he was still to be found wearing a faux-crown in honour of the Queen's visit to Dundee on Monday. Her Majesty was said to be "slightly amused" at the spectacle.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

The Dundee Dragon

The most recent piece of sculpture I have turned my Artistic eye to is the Dundee Dragon, just outside Waterstone's (formally Ottakars, and formally Pottakar's during a recent Harry Potter promotion).

The story goes that in times of old, a Dundee farmer sent his daughter down to a well to fetch water. She never returned so he sent another daughter who also failed to return. Thus he sent another daughter who did not return either. Rather than go down to the well to investigate his daughters' disappearance himself, he sent all nine of them down to the well one after the other until all were lost.

Well, as the title of this tale is 'The Dundee Dragon', some readers may have guessed that the cause of the daughters' vanishment was that a dragon had devoured them all with no small amount of greed. A hero was called for who, after some difficulty, killed the beast, as heroes typically do.

To commemorate this dragon, the city of Dundee commissioned sculptor Prentice Oliphant to create a statue in its memory. Oliphant's Dundee Dragon is designed to be interactive: children are welcome to clamber over it, pensioners are encouraged to sit on its snout and enjoy a rest, city workers typically grab a quick lunch leaning against its wings. A particularly ingenious aspect of The Dundee Dragon's interactivity is that when a button under its chin is depressed, a brief flame eminates from a tiny tube concealed in the tip of its mouth. Dundonians can frequently be seen using the sculpture's intriguing mechanism to light cigarettes, cigarellos, cigars, and pipes.

I have ensured that my drawing of the statue shows it being used as the Artist intended. I am very happy with this drawing and do not think that there are any contemporary Artists operating today who could do better than me. I hope people viewing the drawing at my street artist stall will agree with this assessment, for I mean to charge £20.00 for this one.

The Dundee Dragon

My drawing of the Dundee Dragon, featuring a young Dundonian lighting a cigarette

Tuesday, July 03, 2007


New visitors to Dundee will perhaps be surprised to note the preponderance of penguin statuary in the city. However, if they have the foresight to read the explanation contained in this electronic diary entry, they will not be surprised and will instead be well-informed. At the time of writing, over thirty sculptures of penguins can be found around Dundee and environs. Here are some photographs showing just a few of them:

St. Mary's Tower, Nethergate

Riverside Drive

Dock Street (sculpture donated by Roy Castle)

Dundee Law, next to War Memorial
I will now tell you a little about Dundee's connection to penguins. I have decided to do so in the manner of a tourist guide book so that you all pay attention. Dundee's famous association with penguins stems from 1905 and Dundee's ultimately doomed attempt to establish a zoo. Plans for an internationally-renowned attraction in Dundee, featuring hundreds of exotic species and an area selling candyfloss, had been in place for several years. Suitable animal habitats had been constructed in Camperdown, but insufficient funding meant there was a great paucity of animals to delight the people of Dundee. The biggest draws were a tawny owl and a shrew, but both died after only a few months in captivity.

Salvation seemed at hand, however, when Captain Robert Falcon Scott of the RRS Discovery, who had recently returned from his expedition to the Antarctic, donated two valuable penguins to Dundee Zoo as a thank you to the city for building the ship that valiantly remained intact for the two years it was irretrievably trapped in ice. Thousands of Dundonians flocked to see the birds, but sadly their patronage did not save the zoo from closure. Dundee Zoo was downscaled to Camperdown Wildlife Park, which still remains today and displays only dull animals such as foxes, rabbits, and otters, and all the then-useless zoo animals were butchered and served to the homeless.

All that is, except for Gideon and Elnora, the two Dundee penguins. The public had grown so fond of them that there was outcry at the suggestion that their flesh be used to sustain the poor. Thus, to a cheering crowd, the pair were released into the Tay on 21st December 1905. Evidently, the penguins preferred Bonnie Dundee to the chill winds of the bleak Antarctic for they refused to leave Dundee's shores. There they remained for many years, rearing several penguin chicks, which similarly flourished.

Land reclamation work at Dundee's waterfront in the late 20th century displaced the small colony of penguins, but thankfully only as far as Broughty Ferry beach (still technically Dundee), where a modest penguin population still thrives to this day, each of them descendants of the original Gideon and Elnora. As the UK's only wild penguins, they are constantly monitored and highly protected. They are one of Dundee's biggest claims to fame, hence the abundance of penguin statues in the city. Here is a photograph of the birds today:

Penguin colony at Broughty Ferry Beach

And so my dearest and eagerest of readers, my latest Artistic work that I plan to hawk to tourists is one that I have entitled "Penguins". It is my intent to have this image printed onto t-shirts and sell those to people. As you will note, I have embraced all the tenets of modern design to produce a classy yet funky graphic to adorn a range of different sized tees. If you wish to buy one, it will cost you £12.99. Kindly ignore the smudges - my pen leaked.

Sunday, July 01, 2007

Robert Burns (poet)

Continuing my Artistic tour of Dundee's statues, I now turn to the famous Robert Burns who sits outside the McManus galleries, seemingly thinking up new poems in perpetuity. This is one of four identical statues of Burns sculpted by Sir John Steell: the others are in London, Edinburgh, and Loblolly Bay.

Dundee was selected as one of the lucky places to recieve a statue because of Burns's famous association with the city. During his Poetry Tour of 1789, on the journey between Kirkcaldy and Monkbarns, he stopped off in a venerable Dundee hostelry known as Pudgetie Samuel's (still operating today under the updated name 'Fat Sam's') to use the toilets.

The eponymous proprietor was apparently furious that Burns has used the facilities without first buying a drink and threatened to hack the poet's cheek with a trout scaler unless he agreed to purchase some measure of refreshment at the inn. Having no money, Burns placated the irate landlord by offering to write a poem free of charge. Alas, only the opening stanza has survived:

To Dundee:
On Visiting a Howf in the Town (1789)

Thou donsie, bowfin, oorie city,
I gie your neebors a' ma pity;
Your glaikit bairns are far fae pretty,
An' reek o' pies.
No place in a' the world's mair shitty
Or mair despised.

A plaque featuring the poem can be found above the entrance to Fat Sam's to commemorate Burns's visit to the city.

Below is my drawing of the statue. Whilst all of you will doubtless look at the drawing itself and think, "Horton has triumphed again - good show!", I know that some of you might criticize my latest effort as being too commercial. Lest you judge me too harshly, remember that I am just trying to make money by appealling to the tourist market which laps up any sort of Scottishness. This is why I have drawn the national bard looking wistful with a selection of quotations from his poetry hovering above his head, as though the statue had just thought of them. It will appear to Americans and the like who will think this a fitting tribute to the great man and a suitable summary of his best works. I have entitled the drawing "Rabbie", which makes my rendering appear more affectionate and familiar, so that more tourists might buy a copy.

£5.00 per photocopy.