Searching for Mike

As far as we knew nobody had seen Mike Macduff for decades. I’d heard wild stories about him in my childhood because he went to school with my dad. Nobody knew if he was alive or dead, (but it wouldn’t surprise anybody if he was.) I decided to track him down.

Mike was apparently very clever. His classmates were a bit wary of him because they knew he could make the people around him do what he wanted like a skilled chess player.

Mike was the type of kid who’s so clever they get bored by school. By All accounts Mike’s school did not cater for smart people; rather it was intended to train young men to take over the British Empire. It has been described as a place designed to make a young man capable of going out to east Africa and taking over a patch of land from the last guy. The graduate would then keep watch over her majesty’s interests and make sure the natives behaved until the next guy came along.

Legend had it that Mike had been on an international school trip. He had a packet of cigarettes he knew would be found at airport customs- where they’d be confiscated as he was a minor. Mike’s plan had been to get caught smoking in front of the teacher on purpose. The teacher confiscated the cigarettes, put them in his pocket and walked them through customs. All Mike had to do was lift the cigarettes out of the teacher’s pocket once they were through security.

Supposedly there was a teacher at Mike’s school who would walk up to boys in class and touch their legs while they sat working in silence. Mike’s solution was to position a ping pong ball in his shorts. When they teacher came in for a feel, the ping pong ball was dislodged. It fell to the floor with a clatter, breaking the silence of the classroom. The other students turned in their seats to investigate the noise only to find the teacher in a compromising position.

How was I going to find this guy? His friends hadn’t seen him, but they did know his family came from an area of Scotland called Black Isle. (Black Isle is extremely remote and its local dialect died out in 2012.) The nearest civilisation to Mike’s family home is a village called Munlochy. I did some digging. Munlochy has a village Facebook page. I posted an ad on the Facebook page asking, “Do the MacDuff family still live in these parts? Has anybody kept in touch with them?” 

Some time later I got an email from a local who’d seen my ad. No, the Macduff’s had moved out years ago, but there was a lady who had lived in the area for decades. She might know something.

The lady had kept in touch with Mike’s brother who me in touch with Mike. As it turned out he was in France “working with fruit” (whatever the hell means.)

Psychological Warfare

By Conrad MacLean

You are taking a car ride with your sister and your Uncle. Your sister has really been getting on your nerves because she’s a pathological suck up. If somebody who she perceives to be powerful makes a statement like ‘what a lovely day’, she’ll jump in with something like ‘Oh my god! Yeah! I was just thinking that!’

Let’s play.

You know the local farmers in the area are supporting a cull on badgers. Badgers are a pest or something. Your sister is planning to protest the cull with her friends. You know your Uncle is in full support of the cull.

“Uncle,” you ask. “What did you say your thoughts were on this badger cull?”

“Oh it’s something that needs to be done; they dig holes and make it hard to plant crops.”

Your sister looks uncomfortable. She will never argue with Uncle but she will sit silently and listen. She’ll squirm.

“I hear people play loud music outside the badger burrows,” you say. “And when the badgers climb to the surface to investigate the noise, they wack them with shovels. Is that still a widely used killing method?”

“Wouldn’t surprise me,” says Uncle.

“Tell me more about why we need to cull them.”

If your sister does try to change the subject you gently bring the conversation back to your Uncle’s rant. You stoke the fire gently to keep him talking.

“Oh and you were saying the farm animals break their legs in the badger holes, Uncle.”

You watch your sister out of the corner of your eye.

“They break their legs in the badger holes, yeah, it’s a massive problem; of course these hippies protesting the whole thing don’t know what the hell their talking about.”

“Fascinating, tell me more!”

Your sister gives you a death stare and murmurs “why are you doing this?”

Uncle is oblivious to the full situation and continues talking.

Doing a Tony Clifton

You’ve pissed off your peers. Perhaps you’re about to be fired, or your co-workers are building a work place complaint case against you. Maybe your housemates are going to call an intervention and ask you to find somewhere else to live because you never do your dishes or pay your share of the rent.

Before the work place hearing or the share house intervention can be arranged you call a meeting of your own. Sit each member of the aggrieved party down together. Talk how much you value them and give each one a token of what they mean to you. (Like a small stuffed plush puppy doll or an acrostic poem you’ve written about each individual at the meeting.) Let’s see them get rid of you after that.

“why are you doing this?”

Plausible deniability

You are twelve years old. You’re in primary school and recess has just ended. On your way back to class you see that teacher you hate.

It’s fun to stare at this teacher during recess to freak him out.

The teacher has painted a line on the ground. He’s telling who ever will listen that this line signifies the school boundary. Anybody who steps over the line gets in trouble. It’s petty but it’s something the teacher seems to care about.

You put one foot over it, saying “oops.”

The teacher stares at you.

You step back and forth over the line saying in bored voice “Oh no! I’ve stepped over the line. Somebody stop me before I do it again.”

The teacher knows better than to react but you know from experience you can make him crack. “Oh stop me, dear teacher,” you drawl. “Mend my wicked ways before I step over the line again. I can’t help myself. I’m devoted to a life of sin.”

Finally the teacher goes for the bait and leads you off to the principal’s office.

The principle obviously thinks this is petty but humours your teacher.

“Do you know why you’re here?” the principle asks you.

“No! I have no idea; my teacher just led me here. I don’t know what for!”

The Principle tells you to wait outside his office. You hear him talking to your teacher inside.

“What can I do?” the principle asks “he’ll deny everything. You can’t prove anything and he’ll complain to his parent that we pick on him.”

“He always does this!” your teacher fumes.

The principle calls you back into his office and says “leave Mr Watson alone.”

Life-size teletubbies in the real world. Photo by: Madura McCormack

Life-size teletubbies in the real world. Photo by: Madura McCormack