Tartan Short - Mel and Me
Patsy was casting. She was loud. I liked her and she liked me back. I'd bulked myself up in an old furry flying jacket and I posed as I sang my funny song. She laughed and said she thought the star would laugh too. She promised to speak with my agent.
The script was simple: celtic fundamentalism. I jumped straight to my bits. Lines! I resisted trying them in my mouth. I wondered who'd point out the americanisms: weans crying they'd quit their chores, mom, butt, etc. I began to smell shite in the sandwich but I needed the bread. The money was agreed and I took the job.
I smiled at my reflection in shop windows. What a man... a hero! Well paid as well - at last. Fighting for Hollywood and Scottish independence, week on, week off. Free riding lessons and rubber swords if things got dangerous. I'd be able to buy a heater and a suit, new books, fix my guitars, pay my debts. Aye, wheel on the Sassenachs!
I fell off my horse twice but we soon got up to cantering and I began to feel historical. I bought some Nigel Tranter books from charity shops (in which I'd soon be recognised) and second hand dumbells. I bummed a few quid and flew to try my costumes on in Shepperton.
A PR pawed me into the first press conference and I shook the star's hand like I was used to it. He wasn't that wee - or maybe he was lifted, I couldn't tell. Nobody asked me anything. They put our photo in the papers. I hadn't trodden on the golden hem, it was going to be fine.
That first week we saw plenty of good whisky but no horses. I worried along with the Irish guys. But we were being paid good money and assumed they'd prefer to keep us alive so we bore the tedium. I lounged about in K's caravan. She confessed to difficulty in her love scenes with the star. Up close he was getting old. I didn't mention he was younger than me.
My horse finally arrived - Olly. He looked down his nose at me and I climbed on. He was big and better at the riding game than me. He'd suddenly move off and I wouldn't know why till I realised I'd shifted my weight, which for him was an order.
I spoke and his ears moved. I sat up straight and he just waited for me. I began to enjoy looking at him and wondered if I was betraying my class - and if he was wondering the same about me.
I hung around on the set. The star walked backwards, his costume aged with fullers earth and hair-spray, a megaphone pressed to the famous profile, urging the child actors on - Yeah honey, keep walking... That's great. Now turn round, look at William. Real sad... Yeah... Now pick the thistle. No honey, the plastic one with the green tape. Pick a thistle? The shitey sandwich stuck halfway down. It was good to get back to the hotel, to be alone again.
The night shoot was coming up so I missed breakfast for a lie-in. There was afternoon grub in the marquees for hundreds, good but toyable so early in the day. Then it got dark and they bussed us to the glen for the burial scene.
Scented smoke billowed from out-of-shot, the burning green wood-smoke stung my eyes and real tears came easily. The piper mimed on his reedless pipes. They'd glue the music on later. I borrowed a mobile and rang whoever was still up. I wondered how my daughters were.
I'd been teaching the English crew whisky so I bribed an assistant director with a bottle of his newly favoured Oil of Ulay to let me home for the weekend. I promised I'd call in daily and be back first thing on Monday. I ran for the train to Glasgow.
Being home again was great. I booked a Sunday hack, played my guitars and made love in my own bed. The first cheque arrived. I breathed out, repaid some good friends and then I went back.
At last we got riding down the hill. We had pigs on the set now and Olly didn't like the smell much. Our period saddles felt different and there was mud everywhere. Warplanes sporadically swept down the glen, practising their noise. Worried volunteers held our horses down as they freaked. Action! Off we went, me glad I was in the middle of three of us, banging each other's stirrups.
We'd nearly canned the shot. With a lean of my head for Olly, we exited left, on cue. I steered onto a ramp of slimy logs. Another jet screamed low and Olly reared and nutted me backwards. I came to on the ground below beside the ramp.
Twelve feet up he was still rearing, hooves in the air, tons of him teetering above. He slipped and fell towards me. I was going to get it in the head and chest. Fu I thought and rolled away but too slowly. He crunched onto my hip and lay there. There must've been a pause. "Help!" I sucked in a lungful. "HELP!"
Franco the trainer was first, swearing in Spanish. Right away he put the 'fluence on Olly. Somebody called an ambulance and heads leaned over. The star untied his sporran and passed me rescue remedy. It tasted of booze and I held on to it. Nobody wanted to move me but after a while Olly got restless, wanting up, and no amount of Franco was going to stop him. "Look, you can all witness," I said. "Just pull me out!" So they did.
Nothing sounded too crunchy. After a bit I could tell when the unit nurse was jabbing my feet and when she was just kidding. An hour or so later the paramedics slotted my spine into a stretcher, fitted a collar and yomped me up to the road and the hospital. They X-rayed everything and showed me my broken pelvis. They hooked into an unbruised vein and dripped stuff in. I swelled up and begged for a catheter.
Hollywood lent me a mobile and bought me a telly - which they'd take back. Two days later the morphine ran out and I tailed off on paracetamol. Folk brought whisky and magazines. I read about myself, slept and dreamed of sex with nurses till my catheter hurt. I phoned round the world and supped green syrup daily but couldn't shit for weeks.
The show would go on. I leaked into my bag and slipped quietly out of the picture.
Though not evident in the film, Allan's performance was nontheless well-received:
" ...Alan Tall as the elder Stewart, father to Hamish... Outstanding performance."
Next - "The Radiant Agency"