by David McVey
An honest man’s the noblest work of God, said the poet, but here at Pastry Pleasures we dare to disagree. Rather, we would suggest that our Heavenly Father’s finest moment came when He inspired the invention of the meat pie, and introduced an ineffable joy to the world.
I’m Geoff Bridie and I edit the football pages of Pastry Pleasures, the most popular weekly publication devoted to the contemplation of the pie. My section of the mag has become highly influential; I cannot name the club involved, but after we described their pie fare as ‘cold, with leathery pastry and a tasteless interior’ their crowds plummeted and they entered administration. Legal action against us continues. After we ran a feature on Carlisle United’s excellent meat and potato pie, the club’s home crowds doubled. Since we praised the mutton pies at Kirkintilloch Rob Roy FC, the club secretary has contacted us to say that more people come now to experience the pies than to watch the game. I feel very proud, but also strangely humbled, to work in a branch of journalism where I can actually make a difference.
The strange story I’m about to relate started when a reader’s letter urged us to investigate the mutton pies at Nairn County FC of the Highland League. I needed little excuse to visit again the land of my parents’ birth, so I checked the fixture lists for a suitable date and called the Trainline to book tickets north for Sally, our photographer, and myself. In mid-transaction I was interrupted by our office junior, Jason. ‘Nairn?’ he asked, ‘you’re going to Nairn?’
‘Can I come? Please?’
Now, let me make this clear; I deplore any lazy stereotyping of my fellow human beings. But how else can I describe Jason? He wears little round glasses, is tall and thin and has spots. He has the complete boxset of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Deep Space Nine. He collects Star Wars figurines. Much of his spare time (and too much of his work time) is spent on conspiracy theory web forums. As a result, he believes that JFK was shot by small, human-like creatures from another dimension that the authorities Don’t Want Us To Know About. Jason doesn’t have a girlfriend.
‘Why are you so keen to go to Nairn?’
‘The NP, of course?’
‘The NP. The Nairn Parallelogram. It’s, like, an area with a high concentration of UFO sightings. It’s so cool.’
I sighed. Still, there seemed no harm in giving him some career development. Sally disliked going too far out of London, anyway, and she was happy to give Jason some basic tuition with one of the office cameras, showing him how to take match action pictures and portraits of fresh, hot, steaming pies.
The journey north was long and we had to change at Edinburgh and Perth before dumping our stuff at a hotel in Inverness. On the morning of match day we boarded a train for Nairn. At the end of the short run, we stepped out on to the platform and I hailed a rail employee who was standing nearby, gazing up in a peculiar manner at the sky. ‘Excuse me - can you direct us to the Nairn County football ground?’
He didn’t look at me - didn’t look away from the sky. He just stretched out his left arm and pointed to the train. It obligingly pulled away and there, beyond the far platform, was Station Park, home of Nairn County FC.
Just inside the entrance to the ground stood a middle-aged man, with small, quick eyes that darted about, wearing a trench coat. He eyed us suspiciously. We introduced ourselves as the visitors from Pastry Pleasures.
‘That’ll be Jessie you want,’ he said, beckoning to an elderly lady who was standing pitchside, staring into the sky, ‘She’s the Pie Manager.’
‘And you are?’
‘My name’s MacKenzie. I’m the Stadium Detective.’
As we shook hands with MacKenzie and Jessie, I reflected that I had been to some explosive Old Firm derbies. I’d been to the Maracana, the Nou Camp, the San Siro. I’d been to a Cumnock - Auchinleck Talbot cup tie. But I’d never heard of a Stadium Detective before.
‘Why do Nairn County need a Stadium Detective?’
Jessie and MacKenzie in unison each pointed a finger to the sky
‘I blame the Sputniks,’ said Jessie, ‘it only started after them things went up.’
Later, just before the match, I sat in a small room with MacKenzie and Jessie, sampling some splendid pies while Jason took pictures of a particularly fine specimen that had been sprinkled with chopped parsley and drizzled with a redcurrant jus. ‘You see,’ explained MacKenzie, ‘apparently, the extra-terrestrials never used to bother with Earth. Nothing here they needed. Then when one got accidentally grounded, it ended up trying a meat pie and that changed its life. It went home to wherever it came from, told all its pals, and back they all came. Eventually the word got around that the Nairn County pies were the best. Now, they’re friendly enough, these aliens, and they always pay their way, but they like to buy in bulk. We can’t cope with that. Imagine a big crowd at a cup tie with Forres Mechanics, all of them hungry, and every pie already hoovered up by the extraterrestrials.’
The camera shutter clicked again as Jason immortalised the garnished pie; I could sense his disillusion. He had grown up imagining that galaxies of superintelligent beings were stalking the Earth, bent on conquest, domination of the universe and grisly experiments carried out on abducted humans. And now he knew that they were only after our pies.
‘So how do you discourage them?’ I asked MacKenzie.
‘Yellow,’ he said, mysteriously, starting on a fresh pie, ‘there’s something about the biology of their eyes. Yellow gives them headaches. That’s why County play in yellow, and why we’ve painted the stand that colour. Even the floodlight pylons are yellow – that stops the aliens landing on the pitch.’
The match was a routine 6-0 demolition of Fort William with no alien interruptions. Afterwards, MacKenzie offered to show us around the town centre where there were local shops that also offered celebrated pies. Indeed, we quaffed and photographed two very acceptable examples and were standing outside a deli that specialised in pastry delights when there was a chorus of shrieks and screams accompanied by fingers pointing to the sky. We looked up and, high above the main street, a small alien craft cleaved the darkening sky.
It was a red Austin Mini.
‘It’s a Mini!’ I said, ‘Just a car. Flying.’
‘Aye, they’re cunning,’ said MacKenzie, ‘They morph their ships into shapes that will blend in if they have to land. Awesome technology.’
Several shopkeepers had emerged into the street, and as the Mini swooped low over the buildings, they each held aloft, in a practised manoeuvre, a large sheet of stiff yellow plastic. The effect was startling; the Mini seemed to stall in mid-air and then it hurtled away out of control. It careered over the river and, with an explosive rumble of collapsing stonework, it crashed into a building and became embedded, its rear half protruding above an outdoor clothing shop.
The vehicle appeared to be undamaged - that superior technology again - but stuck fast. Two sheepish and hungry aliens emerged, looking like small hairless humans with only a single eye, mumbling about being in big trouble when they got back home.
Afterwards, the insurance assessor told the shopkeeper that there was no point in trying to remove the alien craft. ‘It’s stuck there and, whatever it’s made of, it’s holding the building up now. Just leave it as a quirky feature.’ Until another spaceship - this time disguised as an ice cream van - could retrieve them several weeks later, the aliens worked as assistants in the outdoor clothing shop for wages of three pies a day each. Of course, they’ve gone, now, but the alien Mini remains. No, really. Go and see it if you don’t believe me.*
During the incident, Jason had snapped away with the camera like a photographer demented and days after we got back he resigned and started a new job at Encounters with Aliens magazine. His first article, ‘My Escape from Death in the Nairn Parallelogram!’ led their next issue.
I was in the Press Bar, alone, reflecting on an unusual week, when a hack I vaguely knew (he worked on What Lawnmower?) wandered in. He asked what I’d been up to, and I told him I was just back from a job in Nairn.
‘Nairn?’ he answered, brightly, ‘Aunt of mine retired there. Sometimes go up, visit, and play a few rounds.’ He thought for a while before adding, ‘Nice place. Quiet.’
‘Yes,’ I agreed, ‘Quiet place.’↑