For a little over four years, I led a secret double life.
I ran, unknown to anyone, the local news satire site “Inversnecky“. Basically something like The Onion or The Daily Mash but for Inverness, it was a satirical look at local news, giving more than the occasional ribbing to those responsible for the city and some of our wonderful local pantomime baddies such as Tesco.
I really enjoyed writing it, and was determined that I didn’t want it to be about me, so I remained anonymous (only my wife Nicole knew). On a couple of occasions I even found myself in conversation with people about Inversnecky in which I had to be careful to bite my tongue and not divulge more than I should.
In the end, though, I decided to give it up. While Inversnecky gained a small cult following, it really was small and the hit-rate on the site wasn’t all that great. That in part was due to another reason I stopped: I just couldn’t keep up with the rate of articles required for a good, consistent satire site, even with the occasional and very welcome contributor who would write with an article idea. I could have made the site a more professional one, I could have expanded the range of content, and I perhaps could have done extra things like come up with t-shirts or a guerilla marketing campaign offline.
I didn’t though, due to a mixture of a lack of skills and creativity, insufficient knowledge of local goings-on, and also life was busy. I had lots else I did with my time, and I really didn’t want to spend time thinking up and writing articles or recruiting trusted others. Moreover, doing it more seriously would have required keeping up with local news, and that would have meant regularly buying the Inverness Courier and Highland News. I have limits, you know.
Perhaps the biggest reason for stopping Inversnecky, though, was a bit of boredom. You can only squeeze so much original content out of the developments in a modestly-sized city, and there are only so many articles you can write about council incompetence, Tesco hegemony and other local in-jokes before you feel like you’re repeating yourself.
As such, I figured it would be better to quit rather than to keep flogging a slowly dying horse, so I announced in Inversnecky’s final post that I would be “retiring” the blog. I also, in the interests of accountability, “came out” as the anonymous creator and writer.
A few months down the line, I am able to sit back and reflect a little on Inversnecky, and I have to confess I did enjoy writing it and I am very proud of what I came up with. The writing is a bit crude and simple in places, and it’s definitely from the more aggressive end of satire, but it was fun to be able to write something that was “no holds barred”.
So if you’ll excuse the completely self-indulgent blog post, I would like to reflect on all that by sharing what are, at this precise moment in time, my ten favourite posts:
1. The Polish phrasebook – Perhaps my favourite creation was the site’s Polish phrasebook. When I started Inversnecky, the Polish population in the town was still huge – at its peak it was reported to be 10% of the city – and it really changed the nature of Inverness (very much for the better). I figured it would be good to come up with some helpful phrases to help locals engage with their new Polish neighbours, and so the Polish phrasebook was born.
Anyone with a passing knowledge of Polish football goalkeepers will probably be quite familiar with most of the phrases, and it is my biggest regret about Inversnecky’s low readership that “dóbrý dudek” didn’t take off as a local greeting.
2. Year of Highland Culture Comes To An End – …demolition of Eden Court begins. After all the razzmatazz and effort involved in the Year of Highland Culture in 2007, the highlight of which was the redevelopment of Eden Court, I thought it would be nice and ironic to imagine that it would all be demolished again afterwards.
3. 30 minutes’ less drinking time on train – With more than a little personal experience informing this article, I decided to paint the announcement of shorter train times to Edinburgh as being about cutting down on drinking time.
4. Police patrol railway line for LibDems – A story about police attempts to stop trespassing on the trainline past Culloden happened at around the same time as the massacre of the LibDems in the 2011 Scottish Parliament elections. A connection was just begging to be made.
5. Something interesting happens in Milton of Leys – Yeah I know. I think I took satire into the realms of the unbelievable here.
6. Tattooists protest against defence cuts – One of the lesser-considered factors when Fort George was under threat was the effect on the industries that depend on the military.
7. Balvonie encampment urged to move on – One of the numerous stories about illegal traveller camps coincided with the controversy about the Scottish Housing Expo. I decided to merge the stories.
8. Outbreak of beard-stroking sweeps Inverness – There’s a curious, and I am entirely sure quite coincidental, habit of the city’s abandoned old buildings to catch fire in unexplained ways. As I say, curious.
9. NHS prepares for outbreak of Gaelic – Two healthcare stories emerged around the same time a few years back. One was about preparing against swine flu; the other was a controversy about Gaelic signs at Raigmore Hospital. You can guess what I did with that.
10. Tesco chairs Asda enquiry – More sad than satirical, but there you go. Tesco (The Evil Supermarket Company) were one of my favourite targets in Inversnecky.
So that’s a wee taster of the news satire site that claimed to be “Inverness’s least regular and worst informed news source”. No more Inversnecky, but it was quite fun while it lasted. I’m glad I quit when I did, though, as all good things come to an end.