DEAR city. I will never leave you again. I return from the vastness of the islands, glens and mountains and do solemnly swear I shall never again stray beyond mobile phone signal reach.
There are people who like the country, I’m told. Well, good luck to them. I break out in a sweat when I can’t smell diesel.
It’s the lack of retail opportunity. I am a woman who likes to shop. In Tiree, Oban, Tobermory, Lochgilphead and Campbeltown I was a bargain-seeking missile hunting locally-sourced retail therapy.
Very quickly you find out you have to be keen on the Co-op – all five aisles – until you notice the soap shops. I swear you can swing the length of the Great Glen shopping solely in purveyors of handmade soap.
Swathes of bracken-sheathed Highland hillsides reek of patchouli, sandalwood and lavender.
Quite why the glens are suddenly the epicentre of artisan soap making is anyone’s guess, but I have to confess that even I – the woman who would be found in the Gobi desert staggering about with a tenner in her pocket “just in case there’s a gift shop” – reached the point where I felt I couldn’t look a bath bomb in the face.
Don’t get me wrong, the soap is great. And there’s a lot of local pride in the soap shop. It’s usually the first thing the barmaid/hotel receptionist/ random punter at the bus stop tells you.
Have you been to the soap shop, they’ll ask, here in Glen Terriblywee?
Oh, you’ll innocently answer, wouldn’t you know it, we went into the soap shop in Plaid Bridge and bought a whole load of lavender and heather scented bath bars.
Cue narrowing of the eyes and tightening of the jaw of the punter at the bus stop, the nice lady in the tourist office or the girl serving the coffee in the bakery.
You’ll hear a hiss of a Gaelic curse and a whisper in your ear.
Them in Plaid Bridge, is it, thinking they can corner the Highland handmade soap market? Well, we’ll see about that.
Then, in the background, the sound of the claymore being stropped on the whetstone. Soap is serious business in the Highlands.
Can’t put a finger on those missing gloves
In April, I carefully bundle up the family gloves and pack them off for the the summer. As the nights get longer and colder, I go to the drawer where the gloves hibernate, only to find that the right-handed gloves have gone.
Where do they go? Do they escape? Is there a glove-loved land of freedom, perhaps in a remote patchouli-scented glen where the right-handed gloves get together? Why do they leave the left-handed ones behind?
Either way, it means I spend the first days of autumn walking about with one hand in my pocket, looking like an insouciant dilettante, or wear two left gloves, which makes me look like someone who still needs their mum to dress them. Which my mum would say I still do....
Don’t make drama out of crisis
JIMMY Saville was the best advert I’ve ever seen for a properly funded NHS, which doesn’t need high-profile creeps doing a lorra lorra work for charity – especially with a hordes of camera-wielding paparazzi in attendance.
By all means, do stuff for charity. Run a 5k for Cancer Research, walk the West Highland Way in slingbacks for endangered birds (watch out for the soap shop warriors) or sit in a bath of beans (c’mon, some people just like doing that) but charity is there to help others, not for grandstanding egos – or worse, to mask sordid personalities.
Once upon a time, I used to help out at a charity that worked with women to get them into employment and out of the benefit trap. Childcare was a big issue, of course.
One day, to our astonishment, a whopping cheque arrived from a charitable trust, with the proviso that the money was to be used for childcare. The letter came from posh lawyers representing the trust, who told us, in horrified tones, that we could not name our benefactor in any press releases we sent out.
Our private thanks, they said, was quite enough.
Let’s put it this way, there are women in this city who got their big break to escape from the benefits trap because of a boy wizard.
That, my friends, is how you give charitably.
Shaken not stirred
Good heavens, so James Bond is celebrating 50 years of being on Her Majesty’s Service.
When all’s said and done he may have seriously natty workwear and be able to karate chop bad guys who favour underground bunkers and pedigree cats, but the man is just a civil servant. Of course, perhaps Bond stays on the job because the government has cut his pension and he can’t afford to retire.