(1984 was George Orwell’s nightmare. This is mine.)
Bored now, Prince Shuggie tossed the paperback onto the cheap plastic table. Like he cared that cheap plastic tables were banned. He’d inherited it from his grandfather. It was his legacy.
God knows how much environmental damage was caused in its creation. Three generations ago they didn’t care. And right now, Shug didn’t care either. It was an heirloom, but a comfortable one. One of the few material possessions remaining from what he thought of as the ancestral period. It was collectable, certainly, if you had the right contacts. It still had the original B&Q label on the underside northwest quadrant.
Over his right shoulder, the bio-fuelled train puffed fake smoke as it hauled brave English tourists over the viaduct en route to Mallaig. He marvelled at the marketing prowess of CometoScotlandorbeEternallyDamneddotcom. It was hard to believe that this initiative could be the product of a puppet government. And equally hard to believe that the new Pope’s father still sold ice-cream in Maryhill.
Anyway, it was just another November morning at the head of Loch Sheil. The sun blazed down on Prince Hugh Edward Stuart. His solar-powered radio updated him on the latest global warming disaster. The number of submerged English counties had risen to seventeen overnight. He reached out and picked another pineapple.
After generations of exile, and years of Arctic melt, he reckoned he’d made the right move.
His great-grandfather had been one of the first in the Glen to own what they called a car. Shug had a limited knowledge of the internal combustion engine, given that they were banned before he was born. But being a Prince, and therefore with some connections, he was aware his old man had stashed a couple of Rollers, a Jag and a sixteen-valve Prescott before the big clamp-down. Sadly, he didn’t know where.
What he did know was that his great-grandfather, almost a century ago, had traded up from a Morris Eight, which looked like a coffin with a nose-cone, to a state-of-the-art Standard Eight. In Blue. His grandfather told him about this sleek new blue motor-car, and his old man found a Dinky replica in a saleroom. Just before he succumbed to the global heat, he passed the Dinky on to Shug.
With his breakfast Foster’s in the other hand, Shug lifted this beloved model and studied it in the morning sun.
And not for the first time, a Prince raised his Standard in Glen Finnan.
The paperback was Culloden, by John Prebble, which had been banned as “propaganda, potentially inciting violence” by an Act of Parliament in the Blair Era of the twenty-nothings. Although by the twenty-nothing-sixes, this had been replaced by the Brown Era, the ban was never lifted. And today, possessing a copy was a hanging offence.
But then, possessing a B&Q plastic table was a hanging offence too, so Shug just shrugged.
After all, he wasn’t best pleased with the Watford Government. (His father wasn’t too happy with the Westminster Government, but had died deliriously happy when it disappeared beneath the rising Thames.) That’s why he’d sailed from what was left of France, to stake his claim to what was still above sea level in the UK.
And why, this fine morning, he was awaiting the arrival of the current Lord Pitsligo and the current Earl of Mar.
Both were late.
The Watford Government had banned private transport, but of course only provided public transport within the Home County (the one which was left when the tide came in). So in Glen Finnan, and indeed in all parts of rural Scotland, feet were vital.
The Earl of Mar’s descendant still had gout, which was hereditary, and the current Lord Pitsligo was already in his dotage. Dotage wasn’t quite as hereditary as gout, but young Pitsligo had a love of nature, with a particular penchant for certain weeds.
Prince Shuggie just didn’t have the necessary attention span, and when Flora McDonald’s great-grand-daughter, also called Flora and allegedly easily spread, dropped in and offered him her bannocks…
Well, you have to take your chances when they arise, and reclaiming the Kingdom could wait another day. After all, it had waited 260 years.
Mar and Pitsligo were roused, though. Embarrassed by guilt and self-inflicted disability, they took the only reliable public transport available north of Watford – the Cairngorm Funicular. Armed with the broadswords of their ancestors, they dismounted at the summit ready for the fray.
Muttering those forgotten lines of the old Unionist national anthem “Grumph, grumph, rebellious Scots to crush, grumph, grumph” they awaited the advance of young King William.
Then a burly security guard reminded them they couldn’t actually alight from the Funicular. The Cairngorm massif was too fragile.
When they explained that they were meeting the tyrant English King, to battle to the death, Big Jimmy the Funicular Guard explained about the delicate alpine plants. And also pointed out that if King Wills, or anyone else for that matter, tried to take a short cut onto the plateau from the other side, sensitive management of the area by Scottish Natural Heritage would ensure that “me and big Jock will kick the sh*te out of them”.
Mar and Pitsligo, somewhat chastened, returned on foot to Glen Finnan.
Prince Shuggie disentangled himself from Flora, for the greater good.
“We must make haste for Drumossie Muir,” said Mar, who was quite into his history.
“Aye, right,” said Shug, “And get slaughtered again? Pitsligo, yer auld man ended up a pauper the last time. Gonna dae that again?”
Pitsligo thought for a moment about Alexander Forbes of Philorth, his great-great-grandfather. Then he paused and pulled out his lap-top. Even now in 2045, Forbes Magazine was still a force to be reckoned with. Great-grandpa had had to hide in a cave and beg for food after Culloden. But his progeny had made good abroad. Even if humans couldn’t read anymore, Forbes had conquered the Internet.
“Sorry, Shug. Last time we gigged at Drumossie, it was sh*te, and my grandpa had tae live the rest of his live in a cave. But oor Bertie did well across the puddle.”
Prince Shuggie ignored him, and cast a despairing glance at his inherited plastic table.
“Is it really on, Mar? Or are you just telling me what I want to hear?”
Mar thought hard, then spoke from his heart.
“We could go back and try again, but we’d have a job finding Drumossie Muir. The National Trust bought it, and changed its name to Culloden. All our folk were slaughtered by that Butcher Cumberland on Drumossie Muir, then the NTS bought it, and called it Culloden. What does changing the name do, exactly? Does it bring anyone back? In fact, they sold most of the battle site for housing. Shuggie, get real. We can’t have a pitched battle in the gardens of Inverness commuters. Some of these houses are reserved for expatriate SNH employees.”
Prince Shuggie shooed away a sheep which was once a crofter.
He’d had tea and cucumber sandwiches the previous night with Herbert Sellar, owner of fourteen thousand square miles of Highland wind farms. Not unlike his great-grandfather Patrick, Herbert had cleared the Highlands of sheep and crofters for a greater ideal.
Maybe it was a lost cause again.
The following year, Prince Hugh Edward Stuart got as far as Derby. His horse came in last.
Flora inherited the B&Q table, which she sold on eBay for a small loss.
And in yet another missed opportunity, later that year Scotland voted in another referendum to continue to subsidise a Watford Government.
© Mike Clark 2005