As I sit in a cafe in central Edinburgh waiting for Nessie to arrive, I feel slightly apprehensive. Nessie has given so few interviews over the years that I feel quite nervous about being given the opportunity to interview this reclusive Scottish legend.
Suddenly I hear a lot of gasps and excited chattering. I look towards the door and there he is. It’s Nessie, or the “Loch Ness Monster” as he’s often called, and he’s stuck in the cafe door. I head over to help him squeeze his large body through the small door frame.
After quite a bit of careful squeezing and shifting, Nessie finally makes it through. He looks very embarrassed. People crowd around him to ask for autographs and pictures. He signs several autographs, and poses with various cafe customers, before we sit down in a quiet corner to talk. I say to him,
Sorry about the door frame. Does that happen to you a lot?
Nessie smiles and sips a cappuccino.
It does happen a lot but I’ll tell you, Charlie, I still find it incredibly embarrassing. I can just imagine what people must think of me.
The people here seem delighted and excited to see you.
Perhaps, but when they tell their friends about me, they’ll no doubt talk about how HUGE I am, and wonder how I managed to put on so much weight.
I try to change the subject.
So, Nessie, the public is desperate to know about you. Could you tell us a bit about yourself?
Yes, I’d imagine that people are curious. I’ve always been wary of the public though. It wasn’t that long ago that posters were spread all around Loch Ness saying ‘Loch Ness Monster Wanted Dead or Alive’.
That must have been awful. How did you manage to escape capture?
Well it wasn’t that hard really. There’s a museum near Loch Ness called ‘The Museum of English Life’. No Scottish person has ever been seen there, so I used to spend most of my time hiding there. There was one exhibit that I quite enjoyed. I think it was called ‘Queuing Through the Ages: A history of English Etiquette’.
Don’t Scottish people queue?
They do, they just don’t go on about it.
Oh right, of course…
Yes, that was a very difficult time. People were throwing words around like ‘Monster’ ‘Serpent’ and ‘Dragon’. It was very unsettling.
I know you don’t like talking about this, but what are you exactly? Are you a fish? A land-mammal?
To be honest with you, Charlie, I don’t know. It’s been a source of much angst and existential confusion to me. I don’t know what I am. For a while I thought I was a sort of Sea-Elephant.
People have suggested that before.
People talked about it a lot after the ‘Surgeon’s Picture’ was published.
Nessie is talking about one of the most famous pictures of Nessie that was taken by a Surgeon in the 1930s, which is shown below. It was suggested that the long neck that you see in the picture was akin to an elephant’s trunk.
For quite a while I thought that I might be a large eel.
Yes, I’ve often wondered if that were the case.
But I’ve hung about with eels over the years, and I just never felt like one of them.
That must have been quite an alienating experience.
It was. For a while I thought I might be an alien.
Recently I’ve been reading an excellent book called ‘Understanding the Monster Within’. It was written by Frankenstein. He has struggled with his identity for many years and his book was a great comfort to me.
It must have been hard when people kept denying your very existence. I’ve heard numerous people saying that reported sightings of you are merely hoaxes.
The question of existence is covered beautifully by Frankenstein. He says ‘as long as you believe in yourself, it doesn’t matter if other people don’t believe in you’. That thought really stayed with me.
Towards the end of our conversation, Nessie sighs and looks out of the window. I ask him what he is thinking about.
I just wish that people weren’t so afraid of things that they don’t understand. It makes it difficult for creatures like me to live in a world like this…
Nessie is author of two books. His first was Monster and Stigma, an exploration of the stigma that surrounds so-called monsters. His second book is Lochs and Laughs, an anthology of the niche area of ‘Loch Comedy’, popular among inhabitants of large expanses of water. If you want to read more about Nessie, additional sources are listed below.