“Everything the light touches is St Andrews.”
“Wow… But what about that shadowy land?”
“That’s Dundee. You must never go there, Simba.”
Such goes the popular meme that has marred the reputation of the city many prefer to call ‘Scumdee’. Any mention of this ‘forsaken’ place is usually accompanied by a tirade of aggrandized abuse hurled at our friendly neighbour, involving vague generalizations asserted about its unkempt estates, ‘dodgy’ streets and the little known yet infamous specimen – the ned. These tropes have indubitably filtered into the St Andrews subconscious, constantly shaping the perceptions of those who dwell in the safe, noble confines of the Bubble.
I am not here to convince you to like Dundee. While I am personally quite fond of the place, let’s not kid ourselves – Dundee is no cosmopolitan metropolis brimming with sleepless activity and cultural life. It’s a lacklustre port city that prides itself on the unremarkable production of jute – a vegetable fibre used in rope manufacturing – whose most noteworthy landmark is arguably its only shopping mall, Overgate (which incidentally is only two letters short of being ‘overrated’).
Nevertheless, I am here to come to Dundee’s defense. St Andrews may have it ‘better’ in a number of ways, but we need to stop acting so stuck up about it. Instead of an impassioned exhortation or disingenuous rant, however, I will simply offer one reason as to why you should reconsider your opinion about Dundee. This reason is Fat Stevie.
Fat Stevie is not a fangled derivative of ‘Fat Sams’, Dundee’s biggest nightclub that has been host to oodles of reckless debauchery since its inception in 1983.
No – Fat Stevie is a man. He came into my life like a daffodil in the wind, wonderfully and unobtrusively, one fateful day during an adventure in Dundee. He introduced himself to me and my friend as “Fat Stevie – nay, phat with a PH”. A quick search on Urban Dictionary informs me that “phat” in fact stands for “pretty-hot-and-tempting”. He reassured us that he wasn’t a paedophile just because he wanted to buy us a pony and chaser, and proceeded to give us an extended lecture on the history of Dundee in the full richness (or profanity, if you prefer) of the Dundonian language.
“Don’t worry lassies. Yoo’r my daughter’s age,” he said. “She’s fookin’ mental. Just like me, but with tits!”
Upon a particularly euphonious crescendo of the Gaelic song playing at The Pillars pub, Phat Stevie out of nowhere burst into song, belting along in falsetto at the top of his lungs, all the while spinning around on his bar stool, zipping and unzipping his fly with pronounced zeal. With aplomb hard to come by in anyone, the episode culminated in his bellowing “FOOK IT!! FOOOOK IT!!!!” repeatedly, to the bartender’s complete unconcern.
When Phat Stevie found out that I was from Hong Kong, he told me about his days in the navy, how much he thought the British should have “fought harder” during the handover, and that he only wished he got to see more of the city because he spent most of his time there inside a submarine. Despite the circumstances, his most distinct impression of my hometown seemed to be the fact that people there apparently put their “babies in fookin’ cages”. I was not entirely sure what this meant, so I just nodded along.
Despite his broad travel experience and knowledge of Dundonian history, Phat Stevie remains an humble man. With a startling sobriety, he pointed at a painting hanging above a row of seats inside The Pillars, confessing: “I’ve been drinkin’ at this pub since I was 14. I’m 43 now, and I still hannae a fookin’ clue what that painting means.” He then took us out on a pub crawl around Dundee, considerately sending us off in time to catch our bus back to St Andrews.
Phat Stevie is one of the most memorable people I have ever met. Without him, I would have never known that there is (allegedly) a pub in Dundee that has leather seats made out of whales’ foreskins. Thanks to him, I can now ably tell people to “please excuse themselves and lie in a pool of their own urine” if I wanted to, or more precisely “awaagh leh, inyar pish” – no doubt a skill of self-defence that will surely benefit me later on in life. Because of Phat Stevie, Dundee is a brighter place, one that I would have been proud to call home.
But the story does not end here, for Phat Stevie left us with one wish.
“Seriously ladies, I tell you, I am passionate about one thing – that’s Dundee. Go back to St Andrews and tell everyone to come find me, and I will take a selfie with them.”
So dear readers, I challenge you to join this revolution.
Let us break the red-robed shackles that bind us, the tartan misogyny of the Kate Kennedy, the filibuster of tutorials and committee meetings. Let us march towards the land of hopes and dreams. The land of neds, jutes and much besotted McDonalds. The land of Phat Stevie.
Join us in this social media storm. Today, you too can take your #selfieswithphatstevie.