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Hobbit and The Ball of Kirriemuir

On 18 June 2007 HMSOldies received the following message in response to the IC item of 29 May entitled ‘HMSO Tartans’:

Sir, Although I am prepared to recognise that Hobbit is basically well-intentioned, it ill behoves someone with great, hairy feet to pass judgement on anyone else’s carbon footprint.

Nevertheless, however, taking all possible factors into account — not least the reaction of the responsible Minister, whose response so far to the proposed scheme, despite his professed enthusiasm for the virtues of the Private Sector, small businesses, start-up enterprises, wet-behind-the-ears consultants and campaign contributions in plain, brown envelopes, has been on the doubtful side of lukewarm (which is, you will realise, par for the course regarding any proposal crossing his desk which has the faintest taste of novelty, enterprise and political risk) — and making due allowances for Hobbit’s known record in several fields which the Official Secrets Act and my natural politeness forbid me to mention, I am forced to reluctantly admit that he has put forward some suggestions that are as worthy as any I have previously heard from him, and that I will indeed give them all the consideration which they deserve, ie not much. (Now try reading that sentence in one breath!)

As to the staffing and location of the mooted manufactory, I must admit to a certain lack of sympathy for Hobbit’s advancement of the case for relieving the situation of the distressed gentlefolk whom he identifies as former employees of a certain institution which it is best should remain nameless (as consideration of it tends to being tears to my eyes for a variety of reason which are best left to your — and Hobbit’s — imagination). As always, they are best left to shift for themselves as well as they may under all the prevailing circumstances. As for the location, I can only imagine that English Heritage may well have views on any attempt to impose on the scenic and architectural magnificence of Anglia Square, anything so humble and down market as a manufactory of checked cloth, Scottish peasants and American tourists for the use of. No, I have in mind certain salubrious premises neighbouring the Usher Hall in the Northern capital, which I have some reasons to believe may shortly be on the market at a knockdown price.

In the meantime, and before anyone does anything so rash as actually initiating anything, could you please have all files sent to me, so that I can cover the top of my desk with them and look busy. I am sure Hobbit will recognise this as the best way forward in such a potentially controversial and delicate area.

Yours, for a consideration

Kirriemuir (I like that!)

On 23 June, Hobbit duly responded:

Reg , Sorry about this but . . .

"Great hairy feet" indeed! Kirriemuir is patently ignorant of the fact after Beltane, the lower extremities of the Hobbits are subjected to the "full Brazilian" treatment (if in doubt about this, I'm sure that the female inhabitants of Ashwellthorpe will provide enlightenment).

I understand from local historical sources that similar treatment was applied, on a seasonal basis, to the nether regions of unmarried male pole dancers in the Aberdeen area up until the mid 1960s.

Location, Location, Location!: By all means transfer the production facilities from Anglia Square to Edinburgh . . . especially in view of the recent announcement by the UN that Anglia Square is to become a Site of Special Scientific Interest (Anthropology). Should the Usher Hall area continue its downward trend in terms of salubrity, social cohesion and the availability of communal urinals, may I suggest that the Disused Regional Seat of Government in Barnton Quarry in Edinburgh be given some consideration?

Staffing: Whilst fully appreciating his desire to provide employment for his kinfolk, will he provide assurances (preferably, hostages, female and nubile) that under no circumstances will he employ ex-members of the HMSO South Gyle-Uzbekistan Lang may your Lumb Reek Friendship Society? Security sources inform me that ex-STASI members from East Germany have infiltrated the Uztoshkitob (the Uzbekistan Republic Wholesale & Retail Association of the State Publishing Committee (probably somewhat similar to the old HMSO Horticultural Society) have infiltrated a number of immigrants into the aforementioned society. Sympathetic Masonic* members have provided the immigrant labour force with underpaid jobs in the Deep Fried Haggis Bladder & Spleen sweatshops in the festering hovels of Charlotte Squares, but when the call comes, they will rise up, track down and eliminate all those responsible for the supply of 13inch foot rulers, non elastic bands, rubber drawing pins and abrasive toilet paper to the People's Republic in the mid 1990s. A fearful and diminishing labour force is the last thing we want!

Production: Will Kirriemuir be moving Northwards to project manage the enterprise? Far better we have home grown talent in control, fully au fait  with local customs, prejudices, brands of Malt and the "nudgery winkery" of the local business ethos — even a daily pre-business rendition of "Flower of Scotland" would not be amiss and would be an improvement on the bastardised version of the Rolling Stone's hit "Hey! Macleod get offa ma ewe" which a previous English ex-manager tried somewhat unsuccessfully to encourage his Scottish staff to serenade visiting businessmen (and potential clients) with, when they visited South Gyle.


*Is it possible to roll up the left side of a kilt, or must Scottish Masons wear trews? The English Public have a right to know!


23 June 2007

Sir, Hobbit’s latest missive has borne home to me how sensitive he is to any unflattering reference to his over-large, hirsute pedal appendages. I now realise that in future I must allow him more credit for his native wit and directness of expression, and harbour less aversion for those physical features which are an unavoidable heritage of his genes.

I had certainly failed to give Hobbit due credit for the fact made apparent in his latest outpourings that, like Frodo and Bilbo before him, he is well travelled, especially in the northern area of the Shires, with whose best and worst aspects he displays a disturbing familiarity. Indeed, his commentary on my proposed location and its available labour force, obviously proceeding from a deal of apparently first-hand knowledge, sounds so many warning notes that I am inclined to take serious note of his forecasts of potential doom, and shift my planned centre of operations some distance northwards.

I have therefore set my agents searching diligently in the Spey valley for premises which will offer large open plan buildings to house the Jockard looms and provide storage for finished goods, along with the supply of good spring water necessary for the manufacturing process which will take wool from the sheep’s back (I trust Hobbit will not jump to any unjustified conclusions in this respect) all the way to finished cloth. I believe the ideal premises would be a mothballed distillery, where an empty bonded warehouse would offer appropriate machine and storage space, and the distillery’s local spring would be an ideal high quality water source. It might also be the case that such a project, offering industrial redevelopment and employment arguably in keeping with the area’s nature and history, might be eligible for a grant from our good friends and neighbours in Brussels.

The thought also occurs that, given an appropriate Nelsonian blind eye from the local Gaugers, it might be possible, with the help of an experienced local work force and some discreet out-of-hours working, to reactivate a couple of stills for the production of our very own uisge beatha,  prudent under-the-counter sale of which through local trusted outlets could contribute usefully to the whole scheme’s financial viability. The more I think of this, the more I like it. Perhaps, after all, I owe Hobbit a debt of gratitude for opening my eyes to opportunities beyond those of the Northern capital with all its pitfalls.

In reference to Hobbit’s final question, I must point out that the decorative pin which fastens the kilt is invariably worn on the left front of the garment, the unfastening of which as and when required thereby offering a proper alternative to the up-rolling of the left leg of the trews. This is a wholly lay view of the situation and not to be taken as coming from an initiated source.

Yours, in grudging respect


Editor: Talk of pins on kilts suggests that things could get nasty, so I suggest that 'this correspondence is closed' for a statutory cooling-off period. Reg

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