The Comedy of Tragedy

by afatpurplefig

What to do on our last day fuelled much discussion. Kirkcudbright for seafood? Exploring Kenmure Castle? The Glasgow Mural Trail? Unfortunately, our plumber had different ideas, with his time frame to replace Jimmy’s leaking pipe encompassing most of the sunlit hours of the day. In retrospect, we should have declared our need to explore more of Scotland an emergency.

On our way to Jimmy’s, we visit St Michael and All Angels’ Church, which is situated on a hill in the ancient parish of Arthuret. The present gothic-style church was built in 1609, however, the site itself dates back to at least 1150, and ‘could be’ the final resting place of King Arthur himself (there are a lot of ‘could be’s around here).

It is easy to fall into a historical rabbit hole when researching monuments and locations, and I often have to tear myself away from the 85 tabs I have open on my laptop in order to see them. Arthuret is particularly enticing. The church is said to have been built at the behest of the favourite jester of King James 1, Archie Armstrong, who was from this area and is buried in the church yard in an unmarked grave.

I’m planning to have a read through his ‘choice banquet of witty jests’. How’s this one for eliciting some chuckles at a dinner party?

‘Two poets being merry in a Tavern, the one was desirous to be gone, the other entreated him to stay, telling him, that if he did go away, he would make a Comedy upon him: You shall get nothing by that, replied the other; for then I will make a Tragedy on thee, and in the latter end of it, thou shalt hang thyself.’

I guess you had to be there.

Archie was from a border-reiving clan before relying on his wit to make a living. The Border Reivers were the raiders of the ‘debatable lands’ of the Anglo-Scottish boundary, whose chief business was pillaging and plundering. I’m impressed with Archie’s range, and unexpectedly delighted when I find ‘Beattie’ on a list of notable reiver surnames. I shall keep this in mind the next time I am plagued by hesitance.

Jimmy could have been a court jester, slinging insults at all and sundry who appear on his television screen, and keeping Lucy and I in stitches. He is particularly fond of ‘You’ve Been Framed’, the British version of ‘Funniest Home Videos’, roaring with laughter as an ongoing stream of idiots fall off ladders and cop wallops to their balls. A bunch of right fopdoodles, methinks (I have decided to revise some of these old English words).

While we wait, I get to work on his iPhone. The data isn’t working, which is probably a blessing, given the half-face selfies he has attempted to send to the local garage. Lucy sets up an online chat with support as Jimmy grows increasingly frustrated. ‘Gie it tae me’, he repeats, before firmly re-claiming it, ‘Ah’ll tek it oop tae Dumfries meself’.

After waiting five hours, the plumber cancels, and Jimmy is all out of material, declaring it is time for a shower and a lie-down. We know a hint when we hear one, and head for Dumfries – the best option in the dark – and have a lovely afternoon in its charity and souvenir shops, ducking and weaving in a social-distancing two-step. Marks and Spencer is busy, so we hold our breath as we search fruitlessly for their famed three-pound Scotch eggs.

At the parking station, we are cashless at a cash-only ticket machine.

Kilnford Farm Shop and Farmhouse Kitchen Café is a ray of foodie sunshine in an otherwise dismal day, and we stock up on fancy salt and vinegar chips (‘nuanced’, Lucy adds later in the car, as we scoff them) and Scottish tablet.

Later, after our two-meat dinner, with chips and beans, Jimmy goes to town on the news story about a man who has to give up golf to pay his power bill. ‘Ah, ye poo-er bugger. Ah canny play the goolf either’, he chortles, patting his rather-generous stomach.

I laugh as my insides weep.