I flew through the dark beneath the Wallace Monument, my feet unmoving on the pedals while the wind at my back drove me forth. Stirling was behind the hill so the Victorian monstrosity of the monument hovered in electric light, reminding me I was cycling over the site of Wallace’s crushing victory over my English countrymen. The ranks of my ancestors contain as many Scots as anything else, but I’d always be a sassenach unless I could trace my ancestry back to the Battle of Bannockburn, a couple of miles and a few centuries away.
My headlight reflected off the black dome of an umbrella, tacking into horizontal rain. It was not a rare sight, but this one looked as though it had been taken flat aback. The gentleman behind it was unsteady but upright. He assured me he was well and we parted, him battling into the rain and me with it at my back.
I cast a wary eye at Wallace’s legacy, glowering down on me. I wondered how the old bandit would regard his statue up there, which was supposed to depict Wallace howling a battle cry while standing over the body of his decapitated English foe. In fact, it looked as though Mel Gibson had just dropped someone’s head on his toe and was yelling ‘ouch!’ In a nation whose last duel was provoked by a bank manager hitting one of his depositors with an umbrella, I like to think Wallace would have laughed heartily before he swung his sledgehammer.