I dread to think about the number of times I’ve bumped into former Scotland rugby star and celebrity landlord Norrie Rowan in Edinburgh’s pubs, clubs and other venues over the past 20 years.
But there is one common theme linking every one of those occasions – he never has the faintest, vaguest clue who I am. I’ve interviewed Norrie several times, I’ve interviewed his friends, family. I’ve been introduced to him by umpteen people in who-knows-how-many different places. I’ve shanken his hands, exchanged bawdy and ribald tales, discussed work, sport, bought drinks, received drinks, but never quite made enough of an impression to stick in the Rowan memory banks.
There’s no malice intended. Norrie always listens to my explanations of where I’ve met him previously and is very polite and even chatty. But it’s the same blank look every time I make the introduction. I don’t take it remotely personally. Ten minutes in Norrie’s company makes it clear that he is one of those guys who knows everybody and is accosted roughly every thirty seconds by someone saying hello, swapping anecdotes, checking on mutual acquaintance or offering to buy a drink. It’s little wonder that when I do ths same once or twice per year my name, face etc just merges into the morass.
One thing is certain about Norrie – there’s never a dull moment in his life. He rubs shoulders with every flavour of society, from the downright shady to the most influential movers and shakers (often they’re one and the same). He’s also a man notorious for enjoying a lively social life and more than his fair share of late nights
All of which means he is an entertaining character. Which is why the latest stories revolving round Norrie came as no susprise. He’s stuck an interesting sculpture on the wall of an old town building – lovingly known as the Farting Cow. The plastic contraption, set about 20ft up on a wall, lights up. But the real secret of its burgeoning success is that, on a regular basis, it lifts its tail and let’s rip. Classy.
According to Norrie, the Farting Cow has now become a fixture on Edinburgh’s toursit trail - attracting as many gawking visitors as the much-loved statue of Greyfriars Bobby. It’s apparently based on the famous Astronomical Clock in Prague. Er, right then – but wouldn’t anybody interested in seeing a Scottish version of the Prague clock be better nipping round to view the Millennium Clock in the National Museum on Chambers Street?
That aside, the Farting Cow is pretty amusing. The last time I saw a more entertaining half of a coo, it had just been embalmed by the art world’s enfant terrible, Damien Hirst.
I’m sure Norrie is also making some subtle and clever statement. Maybe its aimed at the global warning refuseniks, who try to convince the gullible that man’s rape of the planet is less harmful than the methane-laden bottom burps from the global population of cud-chewing cows.
Or maybe the plasticky-looking sculpture is a dig at the nearby – and equally weird looking – Scottish Parliament, whose occupants let off an untold amount of hot air.
But I reckon it’s Norrie’s personal tribute to some of the rugby players he faced in the scrums – who had the looks and charm of the back end of a cow.