Pardon Monsieur… am I hearing you right? #1

I MUST start by admitting that I know nothing about snooker and class it as a sport left on my personal coat stand, along with show jumping, all-in wrestling and synchronised swimming.Stephen Hendry

I must also add that I spent the first four years of my life in Hull and the next 14 in Sussex and North London. Upon leaving home at 18, I have lived and worked in South Yorkshire, Manchester, North Wales and now Shropshire.

So my natural speaking accent is somewhat neutral and I pride myself that I can often place someone to any area of the UK by their dialect.

But nothing prepared me for the 11 wonderful years I spent in Scotland where the regional accents and dialects vie for total uniqueness.

And lay ready to trap me many times.

In my first year in Argyll, I was bemused whenever I covered a district council meeting.

The chairman of the council was called Dick Walsh, yet the clerk kept referring to him as Jim!

It took me four meetings to discover that the clerk was actually saying “Chairm’n”, which to my un-tuned ears sounded clearly as Jim!

So I now take you forward a few years to 1995.

I was working as a reporter at The Herald newspaper in Glasgow – then a big selling broadsheet daily.

I have just come off the back of a week-long 10th anniversary investigation into the mysterious death of Scottish Nationalist Willie MacRae. I was in need of a couple of days of routine news writing.

Suddenly, the news editor Colin calls across to me: “Nic, we’d like you to cover the wedding of Stephen Hendry later today.”

“Okay,” I answer nervously.

I think deeply… I recognise the name, but who the fuck is Stephen Hendry?

Within 10 minutes, I have grabbed my reporter’s notebook, latched up with a staff photographer and together we share a car to the village church near Stirling, where the wedding is to take place.

We arrive in good time and join a small but growing band of journalists outside the church.

The as yet unknown Mr Hendry has provided the press pack with a stack of Coca Cola and brief but clear instructions to give the wedding party space and respect the happy occasion.

I have yet to admit to either my photographer or any fellow journalists that I haven’t the foggiest idea who Stephen Hendry is!

Cars start to pull up and an assortment of Scottish VIPs emerge and mingle with family and friends of the bride and groom as they enter the church.

Another car drives up and a smiling young man gets out.

I recognise his face and instantly realise this is Stephen Hendry. But I am still no clearer about why he is so famous.

The cameras start to flash and snap and the reporters around me scribble notes. A few questions and greetings are yelled and I hear the words: “The man’s a tart”!

Open mouthed, I jot down a few notes and wonder why he is being called such a term… maybe he’s a comedian!

But then my moment arrives.

Behind the groom’s car, another is decanting its occupants and outsteps football mega star and Celtic legend Kenny Dalglish.

I make a short move in his direction and blurt out some inane question such as: “Good weather today, Mr Dalglish?”

He smiles and utters a reply: “Yes, perfect,” and follows the groom’s party into the church.

I kick myself at not asking more obvious questions, such as “Are you interested in managing Celtic?” or “How do you know Mr Hendry?”

But the moment is lost.

A few minutes pass and the bridal car arrives and outsteps the beautiful bride. She turns and smiles at our press gallery and disappears into the church.

As the service begins, a grey-suited usher hands us all smart orders of service and a press release.

I read through the sheets carefully and everything becomes clear… world snooker champion Stephen Hendry is marrying his childhood sweetheart Mandy Tart!