Do you remember March 2020? The world turned upside down.
My father had passed away near the end of 2019 — an event that had deeply affected me. The pandemic was a different upheaval, one that involved isolation, masks, shortages at the grocery store, and a lot of fear of the unknown.
As COVID settled in, I decided to make the best of it. I took a few online art classes. I zoomed with friends and family. I started learning Scottish Gaelic via DuoLingo.
Learning Gaelic led to trying to learn Scottish history and more about Scottish culture. I binge-watched Shetland. I searched for Scottish podcasts. I read a few books about Scotland. I traced my own family tree to Edinburgh.
The pandemic dragged on.
Cooperstown that summer was delightfully boring. No baseball swarms. Just restaurants trying to entice the locals to get takeout.
The pandemic dragged on some more.
I began driving to Syracuse to help with my grandchildren and found myself needing to fill the two hours of drive-time. I think it was late-August when I first listened to Thistle Do Nicely.
Can I just say here — publicly, out loud — that I cannot imagine getting through the pandemic without Rory, Chris, and Jonny?
These guys make me laugh out loud every single time I listen.
Then I would feel guilty about the whole thing.
I mean, their humor — especially early on — is roughly 5th grade boy. Episode #3 Fartin’ In Tartan, for example. Yes, I listened to it. It wasn’t all about flatulence. It was about The Highland Games.
F-bombs are sort of a fixture in the podcast. They’ve gotten more restrained, but in the early days, I remember thinking, If my kids knew how much I was loved this, they would be shocked. I’ve been known to turn off movies because I hate listening to bad language. I’d say, “Nobody talks like,” but it turns out that people do — and they come from Glasgow.
And f–ing doesn’t necessarily mean f–ing.
Listening to the show is like sitting in a pub and eavesdropping on three guys in the next booth. They laugh at themselves and laugh at the world — but never in a mean-spirited or condescending way. They have running jokes, like calling their listeners “readers.” They love puns and wordplay. They love a good story.
Some of the best stories were told by Rory. In their Macbeth episode, he found a fascinating bit of New York history about the Astor Place riots. As much as I love Scottish history, I love New York history even more. In their current episode, Rory tells a story about a failed hanging. When I was researching Cooperstown history, I found the story of a hanging-that-wasn’t, and this reminded me of that.
Rory is the main storyteller. I think he roped his friends into doing this podcast. He feels, to me, like the the steadying force behind the whole thing. He is earnest and sincere, occasionally befuddled, but always a good sport about his friends’ antics.
Jonny is both a musician and artist. He wrote a song to the tune of The Wellerman and sang it for the podcast. You can listen to it in the episode about Charles Rennie Mackintosh. I’m pretty sure Jonny also designed their logo.
Chris is the wit. He comes out with the pithy zingers. He teases. He creates the running joke and carries it through. James McElvoy. Belgium. Charles Darwin. Patents. Readers. You may have to listen to know what I’m talking about.
I’m embarrassed to say that I am a running joke on the show. I unsuspectingly wrote to them after about a month of listening just to tell them that I like the show. They read the email out loud. On the show.
When they ask for questions (and even when they don’t), I send them questions. I can’t help it. I have a thousand questions.
They’re taking a break starting August — and I’m already dreading it.
At the same time, I am so very thankful. In the dark world of a global pandemic and in the wake of the grief of my father’s passing, they brought me joy and laughter.
Well done, lads.