For several years George Mortimer has run a website called Media Underground which has been a safety valve for the impending dystopian collapse; sort of a catch all for the fringe element of society’s global mind. His new book Bothy Culture is a seriously funny antidote to a world gone mad. In a cesspool of technological trinkets, mobile phones, Twitter, Facebook, the electric toothbrush and global surveillance Mortimer rips out the parking break and makes a complete u-turn. He drops everything and wanders off to a bothy.
For the “uninitiated” American a bothy is like a small shack out in the middle of nowhere in the Scottish outback free for anyone to use. The description on the book reads, “Bothy Culture focuses on exploring the rich subculture that can be found at some of the remotest locations throughout the Scottish wilderness”. In Scotland I guess they use the word “wilderness” but when Americans hear it we think of an actual jungle. I envisioned it more like a greener version of the Houses of the Holy album cover with creepy albino kids crawling on their hands and knees. It must be somewhere beyond civilization with no map to point the way and Aleister Crowley poking his head out every now and then.
Mortimer’s keen observation is a vast uncharted middle ground that no one actually explores because your average Scotsman A) only walks two blocks to the pub or B) is compelled to climb a sheer cliff up K2 with his bare hands. Mortimer creates his own category in the between world of fact, fiction, history, occult initiation and humor. His first bothy trip sends him on the path to record the history and impressions of every single bothy in the Scottish high country kind of like trainspotting for remote shacks. Or more of an off-grid bothyspotter with a backpack filled with beer, coal, roast duck, a pipe and “Blue Cheese” weed.
And don’t forget to bring coal to stay warm. Not charcoal or a Duralflame log. Actual coal like the kind demons shovel in hell or Santa Claus leaves in your stocking if you suck. It has to be enough coal to make the trip significantly hard as fuck. The whole deal with the coal was interesting because he never divulged the secret where he actually acquired it. As an American I can’t imagine they still sell it at the convenience store. I can only assume you might find it behind an electric plant or on display at a Charles Dickens museum. He keeps his cards close to his chest on the coal or maybe it just falls out of the sky in Scotland. The point is this is not a Fodor’s Travel Guide. This is more like a trail of bread crumbs to an unknown world.
Mortimer is not completely alone. Just as Don Quixote had Sancho Panza, Mortimer rides with an equally amusing Dazbo to share the pipe and beer. He speaks in an almost unintelligible Scottish accent as they ruminate on the arcane. There’s also The Matron who’s more of a professor type everyone looks up to. A more experienced veteran. Gacked out of their mind in a haze of “blue cheese” in a goddam shack out in the middle of nowhere they come up with an electronic gadget to detect poser wannabe hikers they call Outdoor Knobbers. By chapter two it all seems to make complete sense.
Lao Tzu should have got a copyright for the Tao te Ching because it seems George Mortimer in Bothy Culture has unwittingly stumbled upon its 2500 year old plot line. The basic Taoist back story goes something like this, “Lao Tzu (George Mortimer) was a record keeper (ran a subculture website) for the Chou dynasty (Scotland) who saw his country in decline so he departed for the woods (the bothy)”. It’s been said if you’re going to plagiarize you might as well steal from the classics but knowing Mortimer’s extreme distaste for religion we can only assume the more flattering theory that great minds think alike.