IN CONVERSATION WITH BILL BOWMAN ON THE GREAT NORTH ROAD

The real sceptic, he said, is sceptical by character rather than conviction; the intellectual drapery in which he clothes his scepticism has as little importance as the demonstrations of the believer – it is, indeed, more likely to veil than to reveal the naked Truth. Moreover, knowing that his mind will enable him to doubt everything, the sceptic scorns the crudity of stating his belief; he merely lives it.

“For instance, take what happened to me while I was on my way to Scotland to join some friends for a climbing holiday. Halfway up the Great North Road – I was travelling by bicycle – I began to suspect that Scotland did not exist: that it had been invented just to make a fool of me. All of the books I had read, all the stories about thrifty Scotsmen, Shakespeare’s Macbeth, Rabbie Burns, songs about Loch Lomond and Bonnie Charlie: all these were part of the conspiracy.

“The northerners who pretended to come from Scotland were all in the plot; their accent had been invented for the purpose. I was almost convinced that at Berwick-on-Tweed I should be laughed at by thousands of practical jokers whose entire lives had been devoted to bringing about this one ridiculous event.

“I became so apprehensive that I was unable to continue my journey by cycle. I thought that if I went by train I should avoid exposure; for if Scotland really did not exist the Railway Company would certainly know about it and would not issue a ticket. But when I got to the booking office I realised that if this was the case I should look just as foolish trying to buy a ticket as if I had tried to cycle to Scotland – with no possible chance of pretending that I had really no intention of going further than the border.

“I realised too that if there actually was a conspiracy the Railway Company would be in it and would have false tickets ready at every booking office in case I came along.

“But it was too late to turn back. I bought a ticket to Berwick, and was almost sure that the clerk looked disappointed. Once on the train I made discreet enquiries of my fellow travellers, besides examining labels in the luggage van, and decided that if it was all part of the conspiracy it was a remarkably thorough business.”

“I decided that Scotland was a calculated risk worth taking. At Berwick I left the train and cycled over the border.”

Link to SCOTLAND THE WHAT?
Or to Grand Central

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