Last year, leading up to the referendum in Scotland, I published a satire based on Scotland’s then fictional First Minister, called Sandy Trout The Memoir. He’s a popular political genius but hapless, shambolic and particularly accident prone.
It was a very enjoyable project, I found myself laughing – surprisingly an unusual occurrence for a comedy writer- at my own work and the situations Sandy would find himself in.
Following the resurfacing this weekend of the famous Alex Salmond ‘Solero’ photo in which he’s pictured rather casually letting a young woman bite from his ice lolly, I was thinking of a chapter in the Sandy Trout book I took out. Salmond reveals in the interview in Buzzfeed that the photograph of a 17 year-old student biting his ice lolly had made his wife Moira mad. In my fictional account of a very similar moment, in a chapter called Solerogate, Sandy’s wife Jean was seriously upset and threatened to chop off his majority with a meat cleaver from Lidl. Sandy claimed he knew Jean well enough to know when her threats were real and his security detail increased for a weeks around the house.
To those who don’t know, like most things in my life thus far, everything seems to be made of small, accidental or fateful connections and strands. The initial idea for Sandy Trout was to do a sitcom called First Minister, about life as The First Minister in Scotland while a camera crew are filming and all the asides and accidental things that would occur, like getting caught reading the Racing Post when he should’ve been reading an important document from The Lord Advocate. The pitch was ‘Alan Partridge meets The Thick of It’. Lack of interest and a sense that it would take too long to produce and miss the indyref bus suggested a different route.
I thought it needed another character and did a version, more like a novel and introduced a character called Danny Hoffman, a sort of PJ O’Rourke meets Hunter S Thompson American political ghost writer. He was there to shadow Sandy and write the great political memoir but loved malt and golf courses more than the written word. I chose a more direct anecdotal approach. Then thought maybe it could be adapted into a broadsheet comedy column. Sandy Trout’s Diary, a weekly column for The Herald. I pitched the idea and they liked it. Initially the online editor wanted to me to write one for a fake Labour leader the following week for balance. I suggested if they wanted I could do a general comedy take on the week in politics. That evolved with some help and encouragement from Marianne Taylor at the paper’s online version into a blog called Impolitic, supposedly for a few months but in the end for 82 weeks and 82,000 words.
Highlights included being threatened with legal action for slagging off Karren Brady and the paper’s lawyers looking after me. I’ve added that to my CV. I was appreciative of the platform and the general idea was that I would shamelessly plug the Sandy Trout Memoir at every chance. We had some good fun having a pop at subjects as diverse as Ukip, James Corden and Gary Barlow, Darth Vader, Nicola Sturgeon (Minnie the Minx), Pandas and Dr Alice Roberts.
This imaginary claxon sound you can hear now, is me getting to the point. Before I decided to publish on Kindle, I spoke to a few well placed Scottish publishers who liked it and were laughing too. Despite the deliberate and ridiculously close parallels which I hoped would be drawn with then FM Alex Salmond and Sandy Trout, one of the more hip Scottish publishers said the Solerogate chapter would have to go. It was definitely too close to the Solero photograph.
In the end and because of time constraints I felt the format actually suited Kindle and I went for it but taking advice from a few others, took the Solerogate chapter out.
In my version, a tabloid famed for pranks and page 3 ‘stunners’ had ambushed a young sexier Sandy, the girl involved almost propositioned him in a sun-bathing costume like something from Carry on Girls. The girl in question cups both his hands and eats all of the ice lolly in what can be best described as a lewd and rather suggestive manner. The ice lolly melts and bits fall off and stain his shirt and trousers, a light white cotton suit, Mimi Vice style, it was hot after all and the mid 1980s. Of course the girl is photographed rubbing the stain off his trousers and Sandy’s laughing and looking like he’s enjoying it. As he says ‘…and chaos, media-wise, ensued’.
At the moment the second installment is in its infancy but begins along the lines…
‘I’m in London. I’ve stood down as FM, I’m on the telly all the time and my face is everywhere on big billboards…I love politics…’