John Gibson: Hilary and her belly still here

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A TREE fell on her. But she survived. Having what seemed like a petrified tree topple through her corner shop window in the Canongate was a stomach-churning experience.

But Hilary Thacker, her belly unscathed, has come back from a shopping jaunt to Marrakech to confirm her faith in the Royal Mile as a shopping thoroughfare by signing up with the city council for five years, taking on a punitive lease.

Hilary is telling me: “I’ve already been here two-and-a- half years. I came down from George IV Bridge where I had Hilary’s Oriental Bazaar.

“Not quite the same as here in terms of tourist footfall, although I did have Greyfriars Bobby virtually next door.

“What’s significantly helping me cope is the teaching. I run belly-dancing classes three evenings a week in Broughton Street. Not as many pupils as there used to be – women of all ages – and, of course, that’s a sign of the times.

“I started teaching in Leith 20 years ago in a Turkish restaurant. For some of the male customers I was, I suppose, the main course. A kind of Turkish delight.

“What’s taking some of my teaching business away is the Zumba. That’s the relatively new distraction compared to the ancient art of bellydancing.”

Hilary, 50, goes shopping to Marrakech several times a year to stock up her shop. She’s praying meantime that no more of these age-old trees fall on her.

Afterwords . .

. . . Joan Collins dabbling in politics: “We used to have leaders like Churchill and Roosevelt and Maggie Thatcher. And whatever you think about her, I like her. Now what do we have?”