On Saturday I’m speaking at the Yes Bar at the Glasgow launch of Greg Moodie’s new book, Cool Scots. For the benefit of all of you who are far from Glasgow, or who have better things to do, or who are just too lazy to come along, here’s the speech I’ll be giving.
I was very pleasantly surprised when Greg asked me to speak at the launch of his book Cool Scots. My first question was “Am I in it?” To which he gave a withering look and said “Of course not. You’re not cool. Your dug is cool. But he’s Spanish.” So now I know how batteries feel. They’re rarely included in things either.
But it is true that I’m not cool. I tried to kid myself on that I was the cool form of uncool even before uncool became a thing. But then I looked at my wardrobe and realised that my favourite pair of trousers are beige and they come up to my nipples, and that having a shaven head is not a fashion choice it’s just that most of the hair on my head grows in my ears and nostrils. That’s when you know when you’ve lost your chance at youthful coolness by the way. It’s when you see an advert for a nasal hair trimmer and you think “Oh. That’s going to come in useful.”
I once asked my daughter whether a t-shirt with a slogan on it was cool and she said it was. And then she added that it would immediately cease to be cool the moment I put it on because all things cease to be cool as soon as a teenager’s dad does them. Her pal once remarked to her – your dad writes for a newspaper, that’s pretty cool, and my daughter replied “Naa, he’s just an idiot.” Then I did some dance moves and she disowned me. So I’m not sure what cool is, but I reckon I must be an expert on uncool. It’s that look you get from your offspring when you are the father of teenage daughters. But I got my own back on my eldest. My daughters and their mothers are English, and live in London. When my eldest introduced her first serious boyfriend to me I growled at him in my best Weegie accent, “I don’t mind going back to jail you know.”
Truth be told, a middle aged baldy man in a tweed suit is pretty much the definition of uncool. I’m so uncool that for years I thought my daughters were fans of Justice Beaver, and believed him to be a crime fighting rodent. However all fashion is circular, and all things that are out of fashion will come back into fashion in a few years time. That means I’m not really uncool, just a trendsetter years ahead of everyone else. Which is my excuse for having socks which are years older than the guy with the ironic beard in the hipster bar along the road. They say that anyone can be cool, but it takes real skill to make uncool things cool again. That’s clearly a skill I’m sadly lacking in.
Hipsters aren’t cool by the way. They try too hard. Cool is effortless and if you’re working on your coolness by definition you’re not cool. Which means that people with ironic beardage, tattoos, and typewriters are kind of like slinkies. Pretty useless but they still give you a laugh when you push them down the stairs.
Anyway, I tried, for the benefit of this book launch, to have a wee think about what cool is. Which is a bit like asking Ruth Davidson to come up with the definition of a compassionate social care policy or answering a question without saying that Scotland doesn’t want another referendum. But Ruth’s not cool. You can’t be cool if you’re hyped up by the press. That just puts you in the same category as scratchcards. They’re going to cost you and you’ll end up disappointed.
But I thought I had the definition of cool worked out when I noticed this guy wearing a leather jacket, and I thought – well that looks pretty cool. Cos I’m not wearing it, obviously. If I was to wear a leather jacket it would just look like a midlife crisis. But on some people it looks very cool indeed. And then I noticed another guy wearing a leather waistcoat, and I thought – well that doesn’t look cool at all. So the essence of cool must lie in the difference between the two, which is leather sleeves.
But really, you can’t define cool. It’s one of those things that can’t be defined, like true love, you just know it when you see it. Cool isn’t something that you get from following fashion. It’s not an ironic beard. It’s not searching out the latest trends before they become mainstream. Cool is the realisation that life is short, so smile while you still have your teeth. Cool is the knowledge we only get one shot at being here, and so whatever you do should be done with passion. Cool is knowing that we all die, but not everyone lives. Cool is being a saint, it’s being an utter bastard, but whatever you are – cool is being good at it. Cool is knowing that the key to immortality is to live a life that’s worth remembering. Cool is the ineffable quality of doing what you love, being true to yourself, and not giving a tuppenny fuck what anyone else thinks. Cool is knowing that if you don’t define yourself, you’ll be defined by other people. Cool is the realisation that self-determination begins with the self. Cool is the awareness that independence begins in the mind.
Scotland is full of people who instinctively understand that. This cold and damp country is full of people who open the curtains, gaze upon a grey and dull day, and who resolve that they’re not going to live a grey and dull life. They’re going to do, and not be done to. They’re going to act, and not be acted upon. They resolve to make themselves the masters and mistresses of their own destiny.
Greg’s book is full of examples of Scots, born Scots and adopted Scots, who’ve learned the lessons of cool. It’s funny. It’s informative. It even has some lines in it I wish I’d thought of myself. And being the product of one of Scotland’s leading cartoonists it is of course copiously illustrated, which means that even people like Labour cooncillors who need books with pictures in them will find it accessible. Although I should point out to those cooncillors that the pictures have already been coloured in. Buy it. Read it. Have a laugh. Be inspired. It’s the coolest book of the year.
You can get a copy of Greg’s book on his website here :
Or on Amazon, here :
The book can be yours for just £12.99, which is more than Amazon pay in tax.
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