A Drunk Woman Looks at the Thistle

This is the script of a Play performed by Karen Dunbar at Oran Mor for Play, a Pie and Pint series. Copyright is retained and will be enforced with fisticuffs if needy beeb.

Dire warning! 
This show contains language. If you are a nervous item, or have never read a toilet wall, please stay away.

Extra warning! 
This sign has been in proximity to language and may give off waves.


Karen falls during david’s intro, off stage, alarmingly noisy. David is unsure as to whether to go let the play go on and looks to the back of the room for a signal. The sound guy talks into an imaginary walky talky and gets an okay. Karen hurples on. She is playing an aggressive drunk but looks as if she may really have hurt herself and is frightened.

The drunk:

At the start she is a drunk in Sauchiehall street but within a few stanzas becomes a powerful universe figure, dignified, superhero: Half devil, half oracle, all woman.

Wha? Don’t like what ye see? A bit rough and ready?
I’m a TK’d, cut-price, Primarked mess
In my pink paper stetson, stiletto-unsteady. 
Naw, it’s not a hen night -that’s just how I dress.

I’ve the wisdom of MD, the king of the drinks
White Lightning afore thee I kneel.
Sic shoosh clarifies, purifies, lays bear the chinks, 
Ma comfort-companion; the jizz o’ the deil.

Men-poets are drowning in songs about drink
But for wumman it’s most unbecoming,
When I look in your eyes, I can see that ye think: 
‘ There’s nothing se low’s a drunk wumman’.

Aye, I’m a barley-corned traitor to my sex,
A paralytic Paragon, a staggering stoater 
Notifyin’ absent pals of all my crimes by text:
“ Met a married man the night and shagged him in his motor.”

We’re all o’er: bold, impenitent drunks
Loud, proud Scottish birds on the skite,
But in all men’s fiction we live like monks 
Nursing wrath, minding weans, crossing ourselves when we dae a shite.

The figure of the wife:
Frustrated, pursed-mooth
Draining men of the stuff of life 
Cause of perpetual drouth.

Not me:
I’m the loose-skantied barmaid
The girl he can’t forget,
Had him fried, grilled and sautéed,
When I left him he died of regret.

(Sings As a bitter aging, cross-dressing, Berlin Cabaret Star - Terrifying)

Look at me, I’m Sandra Dee
Lousy with Virginity,
Won’t go to bed till I’m legally wed.
(Back to self)
A life guarding your ha’penny’s not for me


Ye don’t ken me, dae ye?
I’ll tell ye fur why:
Ye’ve only ever seen me 
Through another’s eye.

The story of the Wild Woman is sorely suppressed
In the close-scribbled pages of this small nation. 
I’m a bitch, a witch, any wumman they detest
I’m a cutty sark’d infestation.

Male volent and spiteful

Yees slag me ‘cause yees fear me
And yur right tae do so tae,
I say what I like and I fuck for free.
I’m the real Queen of the May

In a Hyndland accent

“ But Scotland is so cultured now
We’re not all batter and bagpipes.
It seems so retrogressive, somehow,
Rehashing tired old stereotypes.”

There’s a hell of lot we cannae face
When we’re striving to convince.
Facing the truth’s a drunkard’s grace:
So I’ll happily sicken your mince.

A country with a drink for a name
‘ A shot of Czech?’ - No, not at all,
‘ Let’s toast the bells with Spain’. 
One half of our helix is alcohol!

“ Oh ho, hey, pal-
Gonnie gae us a coup’l a quid?”
The Glaswegian Attache to Pall Mall
Is in residence and receiving.

Why hide the lowing of the lowly
When a man’s a man for a’ that
Put the revolution in a thimble 
And museum-ize the tat 
For the tourists 
And returners:
The children of migration
The ambitious ones all fucked off,
We lost the store seed of our nation.

And us that’s left? We’re the dregs
The cowran, timorous beasties
And even Burns, he would have left
If Highlan’ Mary hadn’t died just before he was due set sail for the colony of Jamaica

No, it doesn’t scan but it is historically correct. What d’ye want? 
I tried 
But she died.
(pretends to cry and Mutters ‘moving - genuinely moving)

Okay, I admit, I’ve had a bucket
What d’ye want? Want back your money?
You’ve eat your pie, so fuck it
Ye can raffle your donut, honey.

This is what the drunkard sees:
Vino Cheapo gives permission
There’s no attempting to appease
‘ Cause the Thistle’s is an honest vision.

As Bill Hicks: Arrogantly lingering over the offensive bits

Glasgow’s major export is drunks.
Carol Smillie is thin, not bonnie.
The Krankies are creepy and Tartan is gaudy.
Salmond looks like Macca Pakka.
River City’s shitty.
However he’s hung: Tommy swung,
And Lorraine Kelly’s sexy as a welly.
The weatherrrr is shit here.
We are fat.
We are small.
(whispering) We are shit at football.

Yeah, I can feel ye bristle.
But I won’t cowtow 
To a sacred cow,
I won’t ‘cause I’m the Thistle.

“ I’m a real Scot frae Ayr.”
I read that in a traffic jam
‘ Real’? Whit the fuck is that?
Are the rest of us just hologram?

In the battle of identities 
One Scot circled another
Said, ‘You’re a fake and a lie, you’re a pile of empties
Says, ‘Naw son, I’m your mother’.

Definition by exclusion
What we’re not, we know that well
But by Pinocchio’s protrusion
We’ll wrap it in tartan and make it sell.

I’m a real boy 
Frae Cumbernauld

Ven Diagramme:
We’re Scottish, 
Not English, 
But maybe some Welsh,
Awful Irish, 
Kind of French.

We’re Europeans, don’t you know? 
We’re Russian all the way
The only countries we can stand 
Are them that’s far away.

Italian American
African American
Greek American.
Americans have a sophistication
That we can’t handle in our nation:

“ I’m a real Scot, fae East Kilbride’ 
The bumper sticker cries.
How’s ‘real’ to be surmised?

The sporran and the skean dhu are Walter Scott’s invention,
Mel and Liam free us do 
From bastard English Intervention
Ye have tae ask: what is true?

I’m through and through.
I AM the Thistle. 
Village drunk of the world.
To see the spirit o’ this wee nation
Look for no one above my station.

The Thistle-
Wild on the mountains and growing on waste ground
A bomb-site beauty, 
Bursting through walls on schemes

And I’ve always been here,
Working the herring, feeding the weans,
Hoiking oot tatties frae gravel
Cleaning the close as I go through birth pains,
Running for trams while all habbl’t.

I am the Thistle
So, you fuck off tae Tartan Week
While I get pissed at the dancing 
Take a ten quid passage to Barrow Creek
While I sob at the side of a glassing.

Mood swing: Suddenly prudish, clasping chest

Mibbi my coarseness causes offence,
I’m foul of language, devoid of shame.
Is there a single Scot due deference
Who could mitigate my blame?

Suppose: attending to your thirst,
Ye were in the Gallowgate, 
And after a while, 
Returning a smile, 
Ye found a brand new mate.

Published poet no less, 
Mutton-chopped, handsome and arty
Goes, ‘Rabbie’s the name
Farm labouring’s the game 
I’m fresh here, where’s the party?’

The patter’s a gush o’ hilarity
Everyone flushed wi’ the bevvy
Legend o’a night,
Moon neon bright,
Ye consider, as he downs his heavy

The both of yees are buzzing, 
Be a sinful mood tae scupper
Would ye, stroking your chin 
And downing your gin 
Go: “To the Clydesdale Bank’s Burn’s Supper!”

Grab your jacket, ‘Taxi‘! and off.
Yees blag yur way into the do.
Tartan Skirts
Evening shirts
Wanks slurring, “Force not guile could not subdue!”

A poem gets chewed out,
A Parcel of Rogues take their place
And everyone sits
In their Scottishy kits
And listen wi’ stiff smiles and grace.

‘ Get table ten their Cranachan’
You’ve both been mistake for help-
But Rabbie’s a scamp,
(He’d tumble a tramp)
Some matron gi’es him a skelp-

“ Maitre D’, come here please
The waiter just grabbed at my arse!” 
You’re chased, 
Both disgraced,
Expelled from the do, per French Farce.

Rabbie the plough would spin in his box
He’d put out his own lights, 
At the parsimonious wankery
The choreographed confectionary
Of Burns Supper Corporate Nights!

How did he get reduced to just
A new years eve hand shake?
He wasn’t writing for the upper crust
It was them he was trying to break.

He carved David from a spud
Graced every Scotch bookshelves
Now he’s reference, not read, ghostly in dust
His enemies took him for themselves.

And Ivor Cutler, Matt McGinn
How long before they disappear?
It’s a shameful effing sin
To let them pass without revere.

But we don’t celebrate the locals
All ye yokels, for Lauder applaud!
Wilnae clap unless we’re telt tae,
Cause you’re shite till ye’ve made it abroad.

Sir Walter Scott, the Royal toady, 
Greeted his social inferior:
“ Oh, well done, Burns, you’ve pass yoursel’
Though ye’ve a common enough exterior.’

“ One ranks as weel’s another”
To quote
“ For he but meets a brother”
Rab wrote.
Could Scot not read?
Was he thick in the hed?

Actually, Scot was so busy brown nosing 
And hanging about with the chosen
When he first met the King.
He said George, d’ye swing?
Cause I’ll suck yur cock right through your hosen

I know cause was Scott’s hausfrau
I’m every wumman, me,
Anything you want right now
I’ll do it naturally.

They feared Burns and despised him then
We’ve that in common at least
Cause I’m the Thistle, 
A knob of gristle,
Stuck between roguish teeth.

Don’t get me started:
I’m bawdy beyond conception
I’m grinding up and fanny farted 
Meer mention gaes me an erection

No, hang on.
For wummen the pay off is affection
I’ve got tits, hence no erection.
I can’t see God when my body shudders
I’m just a baby cage, with udders.

Poetical epiphanous rides need balls.
My testicular capacity is minus though
My courage bag is empty, so
I’ll make do with eggs.

Stored since conception
Released in silence,
A twinge in the side of the world
One half an epic floats off

Do I touch God when I’m riding?
Only sometimes. It takes a job of talking
To tell someone, this way, that way, 
Don’t go there!
That’s an exit,
Not an entrance,
Get it out and nevermare

But when it comes -
The universe engulfed,
The meaty thistle blooms abundant, 
Deadly undertow sucks at ankles
Pulling under, under, into me

Under, under,
Never fear
Motherhood is drawing near
And then the crash upon the shore
Jonah spat out on the bed
Salt water runs into the pillow 
Beneath my hips.

Sleepy and relaxed 
Fucking hell.
(rubs her nose)
Fucking hell
I needed that.

Forgive to all transgressions
Connection, compassion, communion.

Through love-puffed eyes
The world is softer
All is calm,
All is bright,
Absolute amnesty
From omni-me.


My dentata still chewing away
But I sit up and look around.
Someb’dy’s missing?
Where’s God in all of this?
Where is she?

The all-seeing omni-right
Mysterious mover and shaker?
Breaker of bridges, stealer of children
The Out-to-lunch while famine rages
The Kill-us-all in stage-by-stages.

Not here.
Replaced by kind connection
Humanity as cheer
And Scotland, gentle now, misty,
Sitting on the side of the bed
A sweat-glazed man with one sock on,
Not tall, but charismatic
Not rich, but fuck-ecstatic
My dear, kind hearted love.

Bewildered by his definition
As woad-besmirched invader,
A man as common as perdition
Made blasted heath soothsayer.

(Choking with tenderness)
Put your other sock on, lamb,
Ye’ll catch your death.

(To audience)
But I digress
You amn’t seeing me at my best
I’m a bit 

The guy,
On the end of my bed...
Who is he?
No Ewan McGregor
No Francie or even Josie 
No Shrek,
Oh God not him again,
I woke up next to him before.
That’s the last time I drink Spain.
If not defined by exclusion
Then who?

The Thistle is, well, The Thistle was..
And here we have the omission.
A list of scrawls
On a Brian Souter Petition?

In the absence of a voice
The imagination runs free
For most of us the choice 
Is ‘everyone here is like me’

We’re all liberal and tolerant
And fanatical racists too,
We’re crofter conservationists,
And urbanites through and through

We like a drink but we’re teetotal
We’re funny but we’re dour as hell,
Consensus exists in the imagined State
But not in reality as well.

Identity’s a lucky bag
W’ hundreds of bits o’things
What ye throw off on the roundabout 
ye can pick up on the swings.

So we study our book history,
Cullodon, The Union and the Book of Kells
And reflect on the awful mystery
Of blaming the English for what we do to ourselves.

The thistle’s an angry adolescent 
Nothing’s my fault and you’ll have to pay
I won’t clean my room, I’m not your servant
And you’re not my real dad anyway.

Would it kills us to admit it,
Cause it wasn’t rock and roll:
We built this city on sugar and fags
On slavery: all that we got, we stole.

The mortar’s ground-up slave bones
And forgetting that’s a crime.
We were the willing lackies of the Empire
Cos it suited us fine at the time

But now wur like ‘ I wasn’t even there’
And ‘How could ye tell on us, eh?’
‘ I’m gonnae get you in the playground’
An’ ‘see you, ya bastard, you’re gay.’

The gay thing?
Will we dance around that now?
While I’m literally on the offensive:

(as a rhythmic chant)
Souter fouter
Organised religion
In-group out-Group, hey
Anal penal 
Somebody to pick on
In-group out-group,
Three minutes hate.

If God is love 
Why the fuck are you so angry?

It say in the Bible
It says in the bible
It say don’t eat lobster or eagle
It says in the bible 
It says in the bible
That trimming your beard is illegal

So, why does a centralised spiritual authority
Enforce that lone prohibition?
Wake up tae yur fucking selves, honestly,
Use an unarmed foe for self-definition

Hmm, an ‘unarmed foe for self-definition’?
What does that take me to?
Hmm, Ing ing, ingracious, inguinal ingram ingrate inglorious

As Canadian is to American
As The Flemish are to the French
Small neighbours the world o’er rebelling
At their perfect cousin’s stench.

Well, let’s get out of the Union then
Break off and pursue our own pleasure.
Plead lack of consent and dissolve it,
Divorce and repent at our leisure.

Freedom’s no more than a ‘yes’ vote away 
All black and white but never grey
And on utopian Scots bookshelves
All the flowers even pick themselves.

Freedom to what?
Raise a tax
Expel wetbacks?
Order attacks?

In debates they asked all the MSPs
“ Are you in favour in more power to you?”
And after a think they’re like, “Yes please”
It’s like offering Teenagers glue.

Politicians, you must understand,
Can’t hear us talking at all.
They think when we say ‘Scotland’
We’re talking bout them and it sticks in my craw

That every time the Thistle’s pride 
Pheonixes once again,
A rustle of suits harness the tide
Crying ‘break from the Union, Amen!’

I’m no agin it, but I’m no fur it 
And I ferociously resent 
That every spark of national pride 
Elects a president.

I’m not really ready to do or die
Cause some toff scribbled a line
And I won’t buy into the stupid lie
Of that bit’s yours and this is mine

Yet they wilfully mishear me
Shout the screaming Thistle doon,
Tourist-poster pretty-smear me
In metaphysical - fantoon

We must not trust
Committee men.
To decide
Who bides inside

Should we ask the artist then?
Who has more to give than them?
Perhaps they’ll help in definition
And ease the thistle’s hard transition?

(Lord Larry - chewing up the scenery)

Allow, allow, O peerless muse
To the audience, an aside
(Ignore that man behind the curtain)
That ever shall thy loving eye give light 
To mark the rubble road, of that I’m certain.

Angry at audience
The man behind the curtain’s no concern of yours!
Fedora-less, devoid of prize
You’re nothing but a swarm of ill-read boors,
Now, concentrate while I count my sighs...

Lord Larry again
O, deny the philistines handrails
They should have studied in class
Intellectual pigmy snails
No pipe, no goatie, no glass.

Lord Larry aside
(How can you hope to write poetry 
If your liver isn’t close to exploding‘?
Without cirrhosis or even leucosis 
You’ll be roaming in the gloamin‘)

The market’s the sole arbiter
Of all that’s valid, see
And art can have no value 
If it’s not sold to you by me.

What’s that I hear yous cry?
Dares’t thou’st question’st I?
The romantic artist is a class-ridden nineteen century creation?
(Gubs, appearing lost )
What am I going to do with all these berets then?

I’m the lone aesthete
I’m an intimate of Joyce,
- Not Grenfel
I am an acolyte of Homer
- Not Simpson
And GM Brown’s 
No out-of-town
Relation to number ten Glebe Street.

What are yees all doing in my house?

Elitist literary technicians
Are worse than lazy politicians
Unknowing, unthinking,
Unusually ginking,
Rehashing given definitions

At first I was afraid
I was petrified
Kept thinking I could never live
Without you by myside

Is there no poetry in Karaoke?
No culture in Corrie?
Nothing can matter or feel real
If there’s no a thesis to quarry.

Dig, dig, digging the kailyard.
The kailyard?
Bitter patter
Smitter smatter
Comptemptous pretentiousness
Provincial pomposity
A row of men at a urinal.

The Kailyard boys wouldn’t play with me
So I look at thistle and that’s not what I see
I see warmth
I see grace
I see story telling, 
Glowering skies 
Deep fried joyride
Stalagmites of uncut skag 
And humour
I see humour.
If God is a quality: humour

His prentic’d pen he tried on men
Then he got up and told a joke.

A joke.
Cannae own it, 
Cannae store it,
Cannae copyright the bugger,
Cannae will it to the nation
Or stop it circulating.

The lowest of the arts
The slightest of its parts
Most democratic political tactic:
A joke.

Presented for your consideration:
The absolute perfection of a small thing, 
Ill considered.
The transendental joy knock knock can bring 
When well blithered.
The world-changing power of a small item 
When utterly itself.

We’re small and ill considered,
And we are funny
...Just not always deliberately.

Who are the real scots?
Who are these people?

When Gibson cried Freedom he played to the crowd 
Got a round of applause at the pictures
And Conner McCloud of the Clan McCloud
Is one of our national fixtures.

We’re certain of one guy: Groundskeeper Wullie
And Scotty from Startreck he’s Scotch too
There’s no one more Scottish than Mrs Brown’s gillie
And I have my suspicions ‘bout Mr McGoo.

To spurn the curse of fame, 
The sight of you 
in other’s eyes,
We need to be looking out from in 
Not buying into a bunch lies.

To see the multifarious truth 
As neither right nor wrong,
No gurning, no churning, no spoof
We can’t all be Rob Roy.

The Thistle’s really a wee guy
Who seems to be six foot five
If ye look closely ye can see why:
He’s got built up heels and a beehive

To her invisible intimate friend) 
Mr Thistle, cast aside your prosthetics!
I’d like to greet ye as ye stand!
I’d love ye as well without the synthetics

(Karen bends down to a small invisible man and shakes his hand, friendly. She looks suddenly shocked and stands up. He is twice as tall as she thought and she has been shaking his cock. She is embarrassed)

Sorry, I thought that was your hand.

The Freedom of Self-Definition
Good idea, 
But I’m not clear 
Just what that means.

Freedom to be:
Another tourist destination
Another barb-wire boundary
Another small off-shore tax haven.
Enlightenment was forged in our foundry!

Look, Glen Almond in a smear of smir.
A cloud of tumbling midgies-
Microscopic carnivorous starlings.
Sea sides graced with bitter wind 
That could strip a soul of original sin.

A good, kind people:
Not simple, country folk
Not a couthie cow poke,
But real, know?
Angry, kindly, funny, inventive.

The reason we can’t find what’s Scottish
Is that nationality’s like pottage
A dish with many bits of wastage
All added in at different times
That’s what adds character to the cottage
Not clean, stripped lines.

Should we organise an angry picket
Because some boy cheers Pakistan at cricket?
Will Scottish National Security brick it
If Somalian is spoken?
Why treat the truth of us as illicit
And insist the circle go unbroken?

Even Hugh’s look at who we are
His attempt to point to a faint lodestar
Is mak in terms frae near and far
And some Norwegian.
So here’s the national psychi’s scar:
Our name is Legion.

We are as many as the stars
We’re Fergus and the callus cars
We’re Edinburgh rock in Taiwan jars.
Authentic is a bastard myth
Let’s admit it, and heal the scars
Of phoney Tartan Monolith

We’ve had a thousand years of lies
Let’s start again. 
Clean slate. 
The Thistle is-
No new definitions!

Take one thistle,
Rip it from the grun
Strap it to a table,
Set a committee all around
To fester for a year.

Elect a chair,
Pour millions there.
Serve tea and coffee
And Walker’s shortbread,
Sandwiches, when they run late
Then set a date 
For publication.

(As an officious committee member delivering the verdict. Clears throat.)

Honourable Committee Number Five
Of the Province of Falkirk in the Central Region
Have calculated the national bloom:

It’s deid.

Death by observation.

Our greatest possible ambition
Should be to set no definition.
But watch and tend
And kindly see
What spring 
Will bring.

A people truly radicalized
Would set our own agenda.

Roots up! And up!

Why spend the money on new committees
When we could nationalise McVities?
Or on one day take every wean, wee bitties,
To the seaside on a train

Let’s airdrop Nicorette o’er Shettleston
And see if just one single son
Could live past sixty.one.

Let’s build a statue to the Giro, eh?
Let’s quality test all heroin
Host National gae-up-a-grudge day
Develop a proper railway system

Or become kindly at the stem
And every Scot go get a towel 
And dry a tourist’s hair for them.
(Try not to slag 
Their bum bag)

Let’s celebrate the daily arts:
Graceful queuing outside Greggs
Shouting at the television
Fighting for the bill in a tea shop - put that purse away!
Eating tablet 
Keeping warm in the rain
Midgie dodging

To cherish each other and ourselves
Would make a nation.
“ To be ourselves and make that worth being”
Imagination is creation.

We are gobby, bright and fighty people.
Can we come up with nothing new?
Just bend in awe before the steeple 
Miss the chance and forever rue?

Question, question and question again
The very central premis.

We can be more than just 
A foot print pressed into the dust,
Another bloody, tattered flag.
A uniform in a laundry bag

Those boys, our boys, what are they doing over there?
It’s not right is it?
Close to crying
It isnae fair.
Change to selfish
A sleep the noo would be just rare.
Hink I’ll lie doon on the flair...

Ye’ve hurt your finger pair wee man...

What am I saying? 
Have I rambled on?
I’m braying, braying, fucking braying
Ye’ll be wishin’ I’d just gambled on.

Oh Christ, I shouldn’t have said that sexy stuff,
Yees’ll think I’m nothin’ but a walking muff.
Yees are ladies, even the guys
Ye only come in fur pints and pies, 
Ye didn’t need tae hear all that.
Just ignore me, Missus I’m a twat.

Stops, sags, burps;

That’s not sitting right.
I gave my leg a skite
Think I’ve really hurt myself’....
Very melancholy - high point of sadness
I fell.

FX: Text message alert
Karen gets her phone out

Hang on,
‘ Scuse me,

Reads the message. Sniggers guiltily

Oh shite.
I think I might.....

Presses a button on the phone to speed dial. Swivels her head around as she speaks, as if looking for someone.


Suddenly angry

Well, how was I tae ken?

Other person speaks. We don’t hear this.

I cannae ‘member that, hen.
Her man?
His motor?
I hope she’s got a fucking photie.

Whispers to herself


To the woman on the phone

I never recognised him, naw.
I wasnae really on the ba’
He wasn’t wearing a wedding ring,
Well, he wasn’t wearing it on his thing...


Aye, she’s gonnae kill me,
Is she?
Does she know 
I’m a McGlinchie?
Listen listen where Are you?
Got anything in?
Malibu? Taboo? Have you?
Right I’m heading o’er the noo

Hangs up abruptly

I think I’m in a spot of bother


I better go and sort it oot
I’ll mibbi see yees all the morra
Let’s face it, it’s been a hoot.

Bye ya.