Thursday, 28 November 2013

Scottish independence, a cryptozoological perspective

The Slightly-Less United Kingdom: the shape of things to come?

I've not given the Scottish independence debate an awful lot of thought, really. Beside my standard response to any prospective ripple of change disturbing my own little pond - which is fear and panic, of course - I've largely been of the viewpoint that in the case of any referendum taking place over 400 miles from where I live and in which I don't get a vote probably isn't really anything of my concern. Aside from a few procedural queries - what would happen to the Union Flag? Will I need a passport to get into Scotland? What now for shortbread? - I remain admirably placid.

Until today, that is, when I realised that the United Kingdom would be losing its only cryptid of note to another sovereign nation. This is a complete disaster and it needs to be addressed in parliament as soon as possible. The Nessie question.

Loch Ness: goodbye to all that

The Loch Ness Monster is possibly the most famous cryptozoological creature in the world. Only our hairier cousin (or less hairy cousin, if you come from Dorset) the Bigfoot can hope to rival it. It is by far and away the most important possibly-exigent creature in the UK today. A Union without Scotland would have to completely revise what it believed in.

Because, to put it simply, the Loch Ness Monster exists whereas all of the middling British cryptids that skulk in her shadow are probably don't. There is every chance, indeed, that they are in fact merely the fevered imaginings of people who are quite deeply unbalanced in some way. The question of what would give a Scotland-less Union its air of magical mystery is a difficult one to answer. Britain is an ancient land and it relies on its essential cryptid economy for its very survival. It is, perhaps, going to prove the final irony that it was only in killing the last remaining dragon that St. George was able to found the first English settlements.

Nessie: voting YES on Scottish independence

It is certainly an issue important enough to begin to address now, rather than waiting on the results of next year's vote. Britain's most senior post-Nessie cryptid must be decided ahead of time. There cannot be any sort of cryptozoological interregnum in this sceptred isle; that would be a breeding ground for panic, dissension and claimed sightings of all manner of three-headed goats. I don't for a moment claim to be clued-up enough to be able to predict the likely outcome of the Scottish independence referendum. All I do know is, it's not something that those of us to the south of Hadrian's Wall can afford to make assumptions about or adapt to on the hoof. Nessie herself is probably pretty much in the "pro" camp. A lot like Sean Connery, with the additional benefit that she actually lives in Scotland.

To this end, I have been dredging up all the peculiar beings that England, Wales and Northern Ireland have to offer, in order to find a potential replacement for Nessie should one become required from 2014 onwards. Here are the front-running candidates.

THE OWLMAN OF MAWNAN

Advantages: For a start, just look at the thing. The power of flight is also a significant bonus after a century of a rather more geographically-limited Top Cryptid. Also, the Owlman is a known sheep attacker, an always welcome Cryptozoological meme.

Disadvantages: The capacity for flight is a double-edged sword. Defections to Ireland or France remain a possibility, making the Owlman an unreliable choice. There's also the troublingly likely possibility that it's just a Cornish malcontent wearing feathery pyjamas, working through a series of highly ritualised but ultimately unsuccessful suicide attempts.

THE BEAST OF BODMIN

Advantages: In addition to a name which is guaranteed to capture the imagination, the Beast of Bodmin Moor is also much more fierce than the Loch Ness Monster ever was, and more proactive. Unless Nessie starts to pull sheep from the banks of the Loch, the beast offers a far more tantalising mortal threat.

Disadvantages: Let's not beat about the bush, it's probably just an escaped big cat. Or a nutter. Or nothing.

THE TUNBRIDGE WELLS BIGFOOT

Advantages: Unlike the Owlman and the Beast of Bodmin, who are both of a more bucolic disposition, the Kentish Apeman brings a frisson of cryptozoological terror into the more densely populated English home counties. With fewer sheep to bother, this Bigfoot will surely have to start preying on dogs, cats or teenagers with paper rounds, a welcome trope in the study of mythological creatures.

Disadvantages: Very badly lacking in any real caché, an English bigfoot would only add to the already swollen tales of hominids from throughout world folklore. The only potential for originality would be in naming the beast, so that it might be distinct from its hairy brethren the Saquatch, Yeti, Hibagon or Almasti. Also, knowing Kent it's probably just a hairy bloke.

GENAPRUGWIRION

Advantages: From Abersoch, this Welsh condender could possibly give off enough of an air of inclusiveness that would prevent another country buggering off because they hate English people.

Disadvantages: At just a foot long, a skulky brown insect-eating lizard is hardly likely to set any pulses racing. However, this could be the ideal cryptid for home pest control use during the hot summer months.

SHINY THE CAT

Advantages: Fierce, massive, violent, psychopathic and terrifying. Also, its definite existence and ease of location are both a serious boon, after a century of pilgrimage to Loch Ness.

Disadvantages: Perhaps a little too commonplace to really be outstanding, Shiny the cat's key excluding criteria is in fact the high probability that he will fuck you up. Nevertheless, a leading candidate.

SPRING-HEELED JACK

Now we're getting somewhere.

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