AH’VE got twa neeburs doon here in the Tory-Blue Borders – Jimmy, an the Duke o Buccleuch. Jimmy’s got the wee hoose jist throu the waw fae mine. The Duke o Buccleuch … weel, he’s got everythin else.

Jimmy’s been bidin there a couple o years. He’s a nice guy, a decent neebur. The kind o life he’s líved is scrieved aw ower his face, in lines faur mair eloquent than ah can muster here. Time has turnt the Reid Haun o Ulster on his airm intae a pale orange birthmerk, an his lucky midden o a hoose is the pentin o the Forth Road Bridge writ muckle; a perpetual patch-up job, nae suiner finisht than stairtit again. He hasnae ony faimily - weel - if he does, ye never see them.

The Duke o Buccleuch is a nice guy an aw. He can afford tae be. The contours o his life are written across his face, gentle an saft, like the rollin hills o the muckle lands that sponsor it. Ah’ve been tae his hoose – wan or twa o them. Ah say ‘hoose’, but naebody seems tae bide in their vast, cauld ruims, full wi the bric-a-brac o Empire an the hum o the robot gresscutters. If the Duke is ever at hame at aw - if he’s ever at hame onywhaur - he comes an gangs throu different doors than the rest o us.

Jimmy, on the ither haun, he never seems tae gang onywhaur. Hasnae ony vísitors. Disnae wirk, or hae pals, or dae onythin much wi himsel but sit in his hoose o a day an a nicht, watchin thrillers wi bass-heavy soondtracks. If it wisnae for the occasional rummle o an explosion, the whirr o helicopters ower a collapsin brig, ye widnae even ken he wis there. Every noo an then, ah wunner if he’s deid in there, an hou lang it’ll be afore onybody notices; then England let in a goal, an there’s a lang, low groan, like the wakin o the deid, an ah ken aw is weel – an that England are gettin beat, forby. Happy days.

The Duke o Buccleuch ah dinnae see at aw fae day tae day. It never occurs tae me tae wirry aboot whether he’s deid or no. He’s like wan o thae sub-molecular atomic forces – ye cannae see him, but ye ken he’s there fae the chaos he wreaks. Wance in a while, somedy in wan o the pairts o Scotland that actually maitter will mind o the Duke, an get up in airms aboot whit he represents. When that happens, ah turn ower ma egg timer an wait for it aw tae blaw ower. Media scrutiny o the Borders never lasts; no while there’s Brexit tae digest an Love Island on the telly.

But wha can blame them? Naebody in the Borders gies muckle thocht tae Jimmy or the Duke o Buccleuch either. The twa o them dinnae ken each ither, an if they did, they widnae be impressed. They’re the opposite ends o a paper chain o Tory voters, a marriage o convenience that’s convenient mainly for the clueless chancer they heeze intae Westminster atween them. They dinnae ken that they’re on the same team. They dinnae ken that they’re Better Thegither. Theirs is an alliance o the lost an the lanely. The anely thing they hae in common is that they woke up at 4am last nicht, and lay there listenin tae the duntin o their herts. Jyne the club, eh.

It should gang wioot sayin, ah howp, that ah’ve a sicht mair empathy for yer man Jimmy than for the Duke o Buccleuch, an a bit mair again for Syrian refugees an víctims o domestic abuse than for either o them. But tae bide in the Tory hertlands o Scotland is tae be minded again an again that fellae feelin for yer fellae mortals isnae a zero-sum gemme; that compassion is a skill that impruives wi practice; that kindness tae ane can, should, an must mean kindness tae aw.

Which is no tae say that’s me awa roond tae the Duke o Buccleuch’s wi a platefu o rock cakes an a ‘Kick Me’ sign on ma back. Ah ken ma límits. But there’s nae pynt in ma kennin them if ah’m no in the business o pushin them. It’s easy tae gang in twa-fittit on Follow Follow Twitter profiles. It’s harder tae dae tae yer neeburs, yer community. Yer freends.

The martial turn that oor political language has taen recently is a thing o wunner.

Pull the trigger, keep yer powder dry, the Dunkirk spirit; it’s aw braw stuff. Really maks ye feel like ye’re crawlin throu the jungle wi a knife atween yer teeth.

But as military epigrams gang, ah still think the man tae beat is auld Sun Tzu. Ken yer enemy, ken yersel – win a thoosand battles wi nae danger. Brilliant.

An wha kens – mebbe if we tried tae tak thon advice on board, we’d hae a few less battles tae fecht, an a few less enemies tae ken forby.

The general election is comin

– ye can feel it in the air, like ancestral vyces, prophesyin war.

An when, as it will, thon election is cawed; an when, as it will, the electoral map o Scotland turns neon yellae, but for a strip o foostie blue alang the edge; an when, as they will, ma pals in ither pairts roll their een as if ah’ve jist stramped dug keich intae their spang-new cairpet, an ask me “Whit kind o haufwit votes for the Tories!?” – weel, ah’ll tell them; it’s jist the twa fowk. But, ach – ye widnae ken them.