Gardening Leave, part 1


Everything that follows is a lie. But you knew that.

McLeish  Turned out nice again

Hughes is silent.

McL  Aye. Cracking day. Look, is that a sandpiper?

Hughes is silent.

McL  I think it is, you know. Fancy that. A sandpiper. All the way out here.

Hughes  It’s a pigeon.

McL  Are you sure?

H  Yes. Sandpipers have long legs and narrow wings, and live by the coast. Pigeons, however, closely resemble pigeons. There’s one there, look.

McLeish is silent.

H  (to the pigeon) Fuck off and shit on an Englishman, you cunt!

After a moment, the pigeon flaps away.

McL  (after a moment) I don’t see why you have to swear all the time.

H  Aren’t you from Glasgow?

McL  Barrhead, actually. And anyway, Glasgow’s not all foul-mouths. Haven’t you heard of Belle & Sebastian?

H  Soppy cunts.

McL  Well, quite.

 Besides, Stuart Murdoch says “fucking” in ‘The Chalet Lines’, so he’s more of a man than you, you soppy cunt.

McLeish is silent.

H  Has the ‘phone rung?

McL  Aye.

 (momentarily excited) Who was it for?

McL  Billy. It was the garden centre calling him back. He says his seeds are (winces) “absolute effing garbage”, and is demanding some more expensive ones.


A pause. A voice can be heard in the distance, saying “Look, Billy Davies knows when Billy Davies is being given shite for seeds, you hear? Now, Billy Davies is thinking to himself –”.

McL  Is it because he’s lonely?

H  What?

McL  Is it because he’s lonely that he talks like that? As if he was somebody else?

 It’s because he’s frightened.

McL  Frightened?

 Yes. You slip into the third person when you don’t feel like yourself. Billy knows he’s not a person that sits, and talks, and thinks, and answers questions; he’s a man who swears at footballers and shouts “give it!” a lot. It is alien to him to do anything else. He’s trapped inside the body of somebody else — at the moment he’s a gardener, stuck on these fucking allotments — and it scares him, so he treats that person like a stranger.

A pause.

McL  The body of somebody else?

 Aye. A cunt.

A pause.

McL  Did you ever actually hear from – ?

H  No.

McL  No?

 (angry) No I fucking did not. No wonder he’s called Randy, the fucking pricktease. It’s all “oh yes, Mark, we agree, you’re better than Fulham” and “oh, Mark, tell us more about this break clause” and “oh, Mark, yes, we love Gorky’s Zygotic Mynci” —

McL  Well, who doesn’t?

 — and then I do it, y’know, I walk out, in the full and firm expectation of a giant claret-and-blue plum. “Mr Al-Fayed,” I say, “t’s been a pleasure, I’ll be in touch about Dempsey and the giant Viking”. And despite what you’ve read in the paper, he didn’t give a flying one. Didn’t even look up from the saffron-drowned tiger heart he was eating. Prick.

McL  Fair.

 So there I am, free, available, waiting, all lubed up and tumescent in anticipation of the call, and then I hear that they don’t like the manner of my exit. That it’s unbecoming of the kind of appointment they’re looking to make. That wanting the job is vulgar, or some such shit. Brummie fucktards. No, sorry. Yanqui fucktards.

A pause.

McL  I think … I think I might go for it.

H  You?

McL  (boldly) Aye. Why not? Their people have made contact with my people.

 Why not? Why the fuck not? Well, let’s think. Maybe because you did exactly the same shite as me, only you did it by email?

McL  Well —

 Maybe because you’re even less popular with the fans than that fucking Dutch prick.

McL  He’s not actually Dutch —

 Maybe because you’re a wee timorous ginger shite who’s never achieved fuck all?

McL  Now, if you look at my Wikipedia page —

 (shouting) Ever beaten Italy? No. Ever made Roque Santa Cruz look like a goalscorer? No. Ever made Stephen Ireland look like a footballer? No. Ever made Craig Bellamy look even remotely human? No you fucking haven’t.

A long pause.

H  (quieter now) Cunts. All cunts. You and Billy and Randy and Al-Fayed and Belle and Sebastian and everyone. All cunts. Except Mark Hughes. (whispering) Mark Hughes ain’t no fucking cunt.

He gently places his spade on the ground, and walks away.

McL  Didn’t even offer to shake my hand.

He waits for a moment, then glances around to see if he’s alone. He is. He sings to himself, to the tune of “Tom Hark”.

Alex McLeish, digging up carrots. Alex McLeish, planting the seeds. Alex McLeish, raking the lettuce. Alex McLeish, hoeing the peas.