Well, I thought, here’s a rum do. Even though we were approaching Glasgow, it was most peculiar for my car to take up smoking with such enthusiasm. We were at Harthill, and I had just pulled in to avail myself of the conveniences, having reached the age where loo stops are almost as frequent as they were when I was a child.
As the old Rover slid to a halt, copious acrid white smoke billowed out from under the bonnet. Naturally I was rather taken aback and immediately thought my cover had been blown, and that the forces of SMERSH had finally tracked me down. And then I remembered I don’t have a “cover” as such, because it’s only in my head that I think I’m 006.
It is astonishing how fast you can move when you think your car is about to go ballistic. A young man helpfully hurtled towards me shouting “get out of the car!” – a command rendered redundant by the distance I had already cleared. Usain Bolt would have looked like my Great Aunt Suzie next to me sprinting to hide behind the petrol tanker.
We popped the bonnet and a huge cloud of stinking white smoke enveloped us. Something, he said, had melted. I was inclined to agree. I immediately phoned my breakdown/technical/information technology/bulb changing department. He was at home, watching the Great British Bake Off, I think it was. He quite reasonably pointed out that he was at home in Leith, and I should really be calling the actual breakdown service that we pay for. Pfft, I thought. Why did I marry the man? The car is his responsibility.
It was going to take two hours to get to me. There’s little enough to commend Harthill at the best of times, is there? The staff were nice and helpful, and I quite like the rebranding, “Harthill – Heart of Scotland”. Can’t help but notice that it is a very Scottish heart, since its two main arteries are almost permanently blocked.
At least there is a mini-branch of Marks and Spencer to keep a girl entertained whilst waiting for the RAC to turn up.
Once again there was a great deal of peering into the depths of the engine, waggling of pipes and dear-oh-dear-what’s this – which always turned out to be a false alarm. And so there was nothing to do, but hook up the old Rover to the tow truck and haul her back to Leith, where, to the bafflement of all, she has performed flawlessly ever since.
The mystery smoke? Your guess is as good as mine. Perhaps it was SMERSH, after all.
Candy? Yanks but I’ll stick to the tea cakes
Is it my imagination or is there some sort of strange city-wide infestation of fake American shops selling sweeties, or as they call it – wrongly – candy?
Quite why being American should be seen as a selling bonus in the sweetie industry is a bit of a mystery to me. Ever since I was a child in Dunoon in the 1960s and 70s it was a given fact that the Yanks might have the submarines, the missiles, and the Apollo space mission, but we could boast Milk Tray, soor plums, Highland toffee and homemade tablet – and that’s not even going into the territory of the Caramel Wafer, Tunnock’s Tea Cake or the mighty Snowball.
We, in the front line of the Cold War on the Clyde, knew exactly what American sweeties entailed. The US navy base in the Holy Loch meant that Scots kids had a more than passing familiarity with Salt Water Taffy and the weirdly gritty chocolate.
In fact, it was our proud boast that we sent the Yanks homeward to think about their sweeties again. Candy, indeed.
Pulp Friction sends boys on the road
The Harthill staff are great, but some of the customers would seem to drive a very long way just to be rude to them. Perhaps the loud lads in question were the South of England Retail Assistant Baiting Team, and they were on a UK-wide tour trying to find counter staff who would rise to the bait.
Well, hurrah to Team Harthill, all of whom just eyed the noisy pillocks silently and then one gave a smile of chilling charm and said: “You drive carefully now” in the sort of threatening tones only the Scots accent can give.
It was like a scene from a Tarantino film. The lads fell silent, one by one, and left with eyes downcast.
Raining on hit film’s parade
Haven’t seen Sunshine on Leith yet, but I hear great things about it. The only drawback I understand is that people from hereabouts spend a lot of the film muttering “that bus is going the wrong way” and “you can’t get to Leith Links up that road”.
Let’s be honest, as a nation we embrace being a tad pedantic, so, of course, we love the film.