Sunday, 29 December 2019

Swally time


   So here we go again, making things up to pass the 2 hours it takes to fly from France to Edinburgh and typing them into my phone for you to read. Well I don’t exactly fabricate all my paragraphs, consider it more of an embellishment of the day to day mundane, and an exploitation of the bizarre. 
   You will, of course, by the time this hits your doormat, be gearing up for the horrors of Christmas shopping and a general election. And perhaps a little intrepid - or jubilant - that if the communists get into power they will ban all things holy and you will never have to listen to Jingle Bells or Noddy Holder ever again, let alone queue up in Argos for the latest throw-away toy. Were it not that I believe that what masquerades as a labour government would also force everyone to become vegans, I might even be tempted to go along with the anti-Santa idea myself. However, both history and common-sense advocate that extreme leftism is about as practical as a cardboard oven, yet nonetheless it is as close now as it ever was during its halcyon 1970s decade. Of course, extreme rightism is hardly much better, in fact extreme anything only ever satisfies a small minority. But there are a gathering number who are either fed-up with middle-of-the road politics, or really do believe that a man with a white beard and red trousers will bring joy down their chimney.
    It is 10 years to the month since the editor asked me to pen this regular column and, during that time, we have seen a few ups and downs when it comes to political surprises. Back then smiley Mr Blair was promising us all that Britain would be nuclear-power sufficient within a decade, house prices were on an ever upward trend and Donald Trump was a mere TV presenter. I could have quite rightly predicted that these and other certainties of the time would change.  But never in my wildest dreams of cynicism did I predict that a has-been forgotten student activist such as Corbyn had a realistic chance of getting the keys to the country. Clarkson once described him as the “Ebola virus, on a bicycle!” In hindsight, even that was tame!
   Anyway, parking my fears in the dark space away from the streetlight, let me raise the tone a little to announce that the reason for my carbon-producing flight today is that I am off on a jolly. Although hard to believe, it has been four decades since my wife first attended Edinburgh university, but I am sure she won’t thank me for sharing that fact. To mark the occasion, she has gathered all her fresher friends from that era so they can embark on a pub-crawl of student proportions around the city, and, possibly to their detriment, have invited me to tag along. It may, to coin a phrase, get messy. Realistically, it will probably just involve a few pints of heavy, and a nightcap dram, and we’ll all be tucked up in our onesies before closing time but, in our own heads, we will have painted the town in rainbow colours and showed our younger selves a lesson or two.
   As it is still only mid-November in real-time, the city will be just gearing up for the festive season and hopefully not quite so OTT as its southern counterparts. Also, because it is November, I can no longer fly directly from one place to another in a straight line – Ryanair only do that in the greedy months - and hence a 90-minute stop-over in Stanstead complete with all the rudeness it purveys. Having been through one set of security checks in France, wouldn’t it be nice just to seamlessly merge into a queue for the next flight without the hassle of a second round? But no, as we are herded through a maze of seatbelt tape and glared at, my turn eventually comes to put my stuff on the conveyor and off I go through the hoop of shame only to set off the metal detector alarm. Why me? Stand over there. Why me. Raise your arms. Look, no belt, no shoes, my pockets are empty? But somehow the machine decided I was carrying a bomb, or even worse, a tube of moisturiser, and singled me out for a whole-body search. Was I not within my rights to demand an apology from the man who put his hands down my trousers? Or at least an explanation for why the bloody machine went off and delayed me 10 minutes, despite me being as clean as a washed sock. Nope. Nada, zip. In this cry-baby world where everyone is offended by everything, I find this offensive. But what can I do? Sadly, I am not one of Greta Thunberg’s chums, so I don’t count.
   Anyway, I am now safely reunited with my wife after a week’s absence, in the chilly but cheery north. Never mind the gluhwein and carols, break out the Macallan and haggis - and, for a few days at least, all will be right with the world.




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