Last year, it was my privilege to interview an incredible man called David Goldberg. When David was just a teen, he and his family fled Nazi Germany to relative safety in Belgium.
David’s father was no fool, though, and knew things were getting worse. He heard of the Kindertransport, where children were being permitted refugee visas for the UK. There was one place left.
Mr and Mrs Goldberg put their son on the ship and didn’t see him again for nearly six years.
Young David learned English. He signed up for the British Army on his 18th birthday. He fought through Europe, translating for the Allies, and eventually found himself at Nuremberg, where he read the long, detailed documents the Nazis carefully kept of the Jewish men, women and children they murdered.
David translated them for the British prosecuting lawyer Shawcross, who was astounded that the Nazis might gas you and your family but would ensure they spelled your middle name correctly.
David Goldberg stood in the same room as Hess and Goering.
He married a lass from Penicuik and became a fine upstanding citizen of Edinburgh. He liked the Scots. He thought we were tough, resilient and had a nicely grim sense of humour.
Sadly, we lost David just a few weeks ago. For an elderly man, he never seemed old.
He told me a joke about the Holocaust. It’s worth remembering that, in these prickly times when people seem to take offence faster than a stroppy teen, humour can sometimes be the greatest slayer of fear.
So. Rebecca gets liberated from a concentration camp. She makes her way to Israel. And one day she wins a million shekels in the State Lottery.
“Rebecca,” they say, “what will you do with the money?”
“Well,” says Rebecca, “I’ll give some to the Jewish Orphan Trust, some to my synagogue, some to the Germans, and I’ll buy a car.”
“Whoa, Rebecca!” they cry. “You’re giving money to the Germans?”
“Well,” said Rebecca with a chilly little smile, pulling her sleeve up her arm. “They gave me the numbers.”
Sometimes I wish we could laminate people like David so we could keep them forever.
Vlad’s pally antics make him more chilling than ever
There are an awful lot of elections about. Politicians, usually American ones, are all over the telly waving and clutching spouses (only their own, mind) to their chests and air punching (note to Mr Joyce. Air. Not fellow MPs, whatever you might think of them).
The clutch and punch routine is usually punctuated by a point and grin move into the crowd like they’ve suddenly spotted their best friend. Or their largest campaign donor. They think it makes them look like they’ve got pals.
Like I say, it’s usually Americans, but I have spotted evidence to suggest that the pointy, twitchy smiley thing has spread. Vladimir Putin, a man for whom an election rally is as pointless as an exit poll (“and who did you vote for?” could be your very own exit poll) was having a bash at it.
It didn’t really make him look any more pally. And would you like Vlad suddenly pointing you out in a crowd? Scary . . .
Radio silence failed to put this city slicker on a different wavelength
While thundering through the northern fastness of the Cairngorms last week on a dark and stormy night I broke the car radio. Well, what I mean is, it stopped working, and I couldn’t get it working again. I had lost radio contact with civilisation. Button punching at 60 miles an hour in the dark in a Highland glen is generally considered a bad thing, so I pulled over.
Button punching at a standstill turned out to be equally infuriating, so I got out of the car to get some air and have a bit of a scream. I was on Layby 96, on the A9, at night, in the middle of seriously nowhere.
And being a city rat, what did I do when I got out of my car? Whipped my key out and prudently locked it.
Now, ask yourself, just exactly who did I think was lurking at the side of the A9 on a bitterly cold night on the wild off-chance that a screaming woman with a busted radio would leave her car negligently unlocked? Eh?
Oh, and I know you’re thinking – well, good heavens, you never know what’s around the corner. True. But you have to remember that the nearest corner to Layby 96 on the A9 was about 5 miles back. I think I might have seen them coming.
Ghost in the machine
So, there’s to be the biggest shake-up of the city centre traffic management system since Mary Stuart went up the High Street on a cuddy. Gee whizz, folks, you mean there’s been a management behind city centre traffic all this time?