Sometimes I just don’t know when to keep my mouth shut – there are many instances of that and a host of people who will happily verify it.
Sometimes it gets me in bother; sometimes it lands me with doing something that a few hours later I realised I didn’t really want to do; sometimes it enrages others and makes them fly off the handle (now that bit I like); sometimes in makes people laugh and sometimes I just want the earth to open up and swallow me.
An instance of the latter came a few years ago when my son and I attended a funeral at that concrete monstrosity that is Mortonhall Crematorium in Edinburgh. During the handshaking ritual at the end of the service, the new widow thanked me for coming, to which I replied without truly thinking: “It was a pleasure, I wouldn’t have missed it for the world”. I realised immediately I had blundered, wished to be swallowed up in a great hole, and didn’t receive the invitation to tea and scones which was politely proffered to other mourners.
And I got a kick from my wee sister once in the main chapel of the same crematorium. It was the dead of winter and the place was freezing as we waited for the service to begin.
This was a particularly sad funeral and I should not have said: “Of all the places that shouldn’t be cold, surely it’s a crematorium. There’s plenty of heat downstairs.”
The bruise on my shin lasted a week.
And it wasn’t me, but another rookie reporter who had been sent to interview the parish’s new Roman Catholic priest and asked him how many children he had.
But it was The Southern’s late and much-lamented photographer, Alastair Watson, on an assignment to photograph the officially-garbed Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, who asked the Kirk’s man if he wouldn’t mind taking his anorak off for the picture. That story was recounted to much laughter at Alastair’s funeral last week.
During this month’s Selkirk Sessions music festival, I was in the local Conservative club. I am not a member and have no inclination to be, but I am tolerated three times a year as a guest.
I remain mooted and guarded in conversation here, because for many it is a hallowed place. A place of blessed reverence to all those who cross its threshold in the name of true Conservatism.
It is not a place where you take the name of Margaret Thatcher of blessed memory lightly. So, I have no tales of putting my foot in it within these cherished walls.
But it was here where I opened my mouth without really thinking and agreed to help out a pal by taking over his important role at the town’s annual Scott’s Selkirk extravaganza.
Grey Matter has now been confirmed by the festival’s organisers as the official town crier for the day.
It was late in the evening when I agreed, but agree I did, and in truth I am now truly looking forward to it. I will be loaned a flowing red robe, a funny hat and, of course, a bell. I will proclaim to all those gathered what is about to happen.
But I’ll have to be careful, because there will be mulled wine laced with brandy – and I’m a Gala man with much to say in Selkirk.