It was many, many years ago in Stirling, where I spent my student years. I was Christmas shopping, and desperate for refreshment.
This before the days of the coffee shop on every corner, if you can imagine.
The only place to refresh the weary shopper was the first-floor cafeteria in one of the department stores, where all the lighting was brilliantly bright and the staff were weirdly glum, as if Disneyland had done a deal with Eastern Germany to create the Cafeteria of Doom.
In the grip of the holiday mood, I threw caution to the winds and treated myself to one of those little packs of three Digestive biscuits, wrapped in cellophane.
The cafeteria was jam packed. I managed to find a seat opposite a dodgy looking chap. I cleared and returned my tray, being the polite sort. I sat down, sipped my coffee, opened my biscuits and took a bite.
He reached across the table and took the packet and took a biscuit and took a bite.
Well, remember I was very young then, and lacked the confidence to create the kind of scene I can whip up now, so I just stared at the biscuit thief in disbelief. I didn’t really know what to do. I mean, I was the most decorated Girl Guide in Tannochside at one point, but the Guiders Handbook didn’t give instructions on what to do if a complete stranger started to steal your biscuits in Debenhams.
He gave me a shifty look. I gave him an outraged look. It was quickly turning into a biscuit-based tribute to the final gunfight in The Good, The Bad and The Ugly. You could practically hear the overwrought trumpet playing in the background to ramp up the tension. He blinked. I won, I thought, but no! He glanced down – yes, there was one biscuit left. The swine had his eye on the remaining digestive.
Never. Without hesitation, I slam-dunked that biscuit of mine straight into my gob. So did he. The game was on. Biscuit crumbs flew like shrapnel across the Formica plain that separated us. He sacrificed a fair chunk down the front of his coat, but in vain, as I seized the final biscuit with both hands and stared him down.
Defeated, he slunk away. In victory, I savoured my prize.
I bought my mum a scarf that year for Christmas. As I reached the checkout, I put my hand in my pocket for my purse, and found my packet of biscuits, which I had stuck in there before sitting down opposite the man whose digestives I had stolen.
A special gift for shopping
IN my defence I should explain that I was still very new to the whole Christmas shopping experience.
Remember, it had only been a very few years before that I simply strolled downstairs and accepted the gifts piled under the tree with barely a thought as to where they came from, but did wonder why mum was always so wearied out.
In fact, I can’t actually remember ever having the conversation where it became apparent that after all the years of ripping the wrapping, I was expected to ante up in the gift department myself, but for me it just added to Christmas.
What? All this, and guilt-free shopping? Bring it on! I realise my two brothers did not feel the same.
Let’s hope history repeats itself next year for national festival
AND finally, once again, Previously . . . Scotland’s history festival was a roaring success. A huge part of that success is down to you, the great people of this city, who turned out in such numbers to our events.
And let’s not forget the good folks of Glasgow, Dunfermline and Stirling, who also got to join in the fun this year.
A chap called Ian Harrower is the real brain of the outfit (I tend to wander about waving my arms around and generally behaving like Margaret Rutherford on steroids), and I’d like to thank him here for all the work he did.
If we have the energy, time and money (oh yes, Creative Scotland, we are so looking straight at you), we’ll be back next year, but for now, thanks to you all.
Who opened the floodgates?
AS I recall, the shopping centre in Stirling was called the Thistle Centre.
There was a brief attempt to rebrand them as Malls, but because we didn’t have American-style Mall Teen Queens (white teeth, tall, fit, healthy and tanned) or Mall Teen Rats (white teeth, tall, extraordinarily fat and peculiarly pale) the idea never took off.
So we suddenly and rather inexplicably turned to the word “Gate”.
Now no town in Scotland is safe from the sudden appearance of Overgate, Undergate, Meadowgate, Gategate, probably, if they still plan on building these things. Look at Falkirk. Used to have a Mall, now got a Gate. I rest my case.