One of the curious things about this column writing game is that a lot of people assume everything you write is made-up. This couldn’t be further from the truth, every word is hewn from the granite of ones own humiliating and, usually, downright embarrassing experiences. Which is why my partner – I’ve been told to say partner rather than girlfriend, because girlfriend makes me sound young – cringes whenever she reads my scribbling. A brief flick through the 49 Leithers that have gone before, prove she has every right to be concerned. In fact, if we were married and she filed for divorce citing mental cruelty, I’d probably get banged up for 25 years. No parole.
As evidence I offer, with not a scintilla of pride, Issue 3. Where I was first sick on a girl; then managed, in my drunken fumbling, to knock her headfirst of a gate and finished up burning her arise in quicklime on a bowling green. Sounds like the work of a serial killer, rather than someone trying to woo his schoolyard crush. Issue 4 found me poured on to the Edinburgh train in Pitlochry, a bottle of whisky to the wise. With, for some reason, 5 kilos of chanterelle mushrooms in a basket. I woke as the train crossed the Forth Rail Bridge, there were mushrooms all over the aisle and people, very kindly, tried to tip toe round them. I say kindly, because I was splayed all over two seats with my, ahem, ‘tackle’ hanging out of my trousers. My fellow travellers would have been perfectly entitled to take a more judgmental approach. A pistol whipping would not have been out of the question.
Issue 6 saw me win the girl and, surprise, surprise, lose the girl, after failing to make it to three meetings. To one of which I plead extenuating circumstances, I was upside down in a hedge, in the lawns of a palatial hotel, er, drunk. Our last attempted liaison went so badly pear-shaped that I woke up the next morning in a pigsty, in the middle of winter, hugging a pig for warmth. Which was, gentle reader, my first ever one-night stand. Issue 21 offers up the disastrous radio tour of the Highlands. The one that culminated in a gig in Inverness, where I was asleep behind my guitar amp after six songs and the drummer had put his kit together so haphazardly that the bass drum rolled off the stage into the lap of a guy in a wheelchair. Lastly, but not leastly, Issue 33. Where your correspondent decides to do a bit of culture vulturing at the Edinburgh Festival. Fisticuffs with a minor poet and a kerfuffle involving a D List celebrity, out of which nobody emerges with much merit, ensue. As a postscript, I feel it incumbent upon me to make no mention of the column entitled, “Teenage Dog Orgy.”
So how did I first volunteer for this, very public, humiliation? Mr. Peter Laing, our then editor, popped into my place of employ, whilst The Leither was but a twinkle in his eye. He was noticeably rubicund of feature and obviously a few brandy and ports to leeward. “Who writes the rather amusing blackboards outside?” He hiccupped. I told him that would be me. “Could you expand them?” What, make the blackboards bigger? “No, no, no, expand the words dear boy, the words. This is no time for persiflage.” Of course, as ever, he was right. And here, red-faced, nonetheless, I remain.