My Favourite Octagenarian

Happy 81st Birthday, Ivor Cutler, Scotland’s living National Treasure. He has been broadcasting poignantly odd songs and stories since the late 1950s.

I went to school in the same area of Glasgow where Ivor grew up. Indeed, we’re cursed with the same accent; whenever I read out loud, I sound just like him.

When I lived in Scotland, I saw him perform live several times. I have a signed copy of “Life in a Scotch Sitting Room, Vol. 2” that I picked up in Foyles in London. It seems he randomly signs his books on the shelves there.

Ivor Cutler doesn’t like people quoting his work. But few people outside the UK know his work, so in order to let you know what he’s about, here’s A Real Man, from his 1999 book South American Bookworms (Arc Publications, ISBN 1-900072-35-1):

A Real Man

When I was 12 I wanted to be a real man — an old man with a beard, sitting at a table with a huge book full of wisdom. And what did society hold up to me for my admiration? A golfer, a boxer, a man who ran quickly; a soldier, a lawyer, a tycoon; a motorist, a pop star; a footballer. Into what kind of madhouse had I been born? And what have I become? A child, witlessly pouring out whatever enters my head. I am a madman and people gather to listen to me make a fool of myself. I am not a role model. This is my protection and security. I still long for the table and the book, the smell of an old man and an old book; the afternoon light fading.

If you want to hear what he sounds like, here is an MP3 recording of Ivor Cutler reciting A Real Man from a 1997 radio broadcast (via ivorcutler.org).

Better yet, buy some of his books, or CDs. Virgin have recently re-released many of his older recordings, so there’s no excuse.