Just imagine that David Cameron used to be a bus driver. Bear with me now.
He decides that even though he’s the PM, he’d still like to keep his hand in and drive a bus through town now and then so he can get closer to ordinary folk like us.
One sunny afternoon he’s driving along Princes Street, nice and slow, exchanging banter with the punters. It’s a week before the general election.
The window’s down and he’s in his shirt-sleeves, steering the bus with one hand, waving at babes-in-arms with the other. There’s the flash of a raised arm from the crowds lining the pavement. Mr Cameron is hit in the side of the head . . . by a ripe mango.
Once his security detail have calmed down, he looks at the mango lying in his lap. In black felt pen there’s a woman’s name and phone number and the message “If you can, call me.” Later that night, he dials the number.
The woman who threw the mango answers the phone. She explains that she’s lived with her parents all her life and now she wants a home of her own. Next day, David Cameron appears on his TV show, Hello Prime Minister, and announces to the nation that as part of his Great British Housing Mission, he is giving Mango-Woman an apartment.
The most incredible thing about this story is that it’s more or less true – except it happened last week in Venezuela to El Presidente Nicolas Maduro, who will do just about anything to save his ailing re-election campaign.
Generally when people throw stuff at politicians here, it’s to register a protest. Like when an SNP hothead threw an egg that burst on Jim Murphy’s shirt during the indyref. Murphy wore his yolk-splattered shirt to every political meeting from then on as if he had suffered a sucking chest wound inflicted by a mortal enemy in the heat of battle.
Nope, I think I can safely say that if you manage to hit David Cameron on the head with a mango, he won’t be giving you a house the next day.
That’s a shame, because all four of my kids would love to get on the housing ladder in their twenties, same as I did. Three of them live in London where you can’t afford to buy a house unless you’re a Russian oligarch. The same city where a couple paid £420 a month to rent a single room they could only get into by crawling up the staircase on all fours.
So here’s the thing: if you don’t like the way Westminster politicians are running things just now, don’t listen to Russell Brand. I admire the guy’s revolutionary fervour but encouraging young folk not to vote is crazy talk.
Millions of people died in two world wars defending our right to vote. The least we can do is exercise it. Right now, Westminster would rather the Scots didn’t vote at all. All that love-bombing of us during the referendum is finished. Now the idea we might vote 50 candidates from a party they don’t like into the middle of their cosy club is being portrayed as an assault on democracy.
There were plenty of general elections in the past when it felt like our votes didn’t matter; the party we voted against still got into power. This time, we can make a difference. So don’t waste a mango, cast a vote.
Take steps to absorb Walter’s wise words
Even Edinburgh’s pigeons look as miserable as Morrissey on a Monday morning. They don’t have quite the same spring in their chewed-up, pink bubble-gum feet as they do on Friday evening.
Let your eyes drift up to the faces hurrying to work and you can feel the dark thoughts behind the mask. This nervous-looking office boy shivering in his Topman suit and shirt has a boss he can’t please. That single woman who squeezed herself into clothes that have become a size too small feels jealous of the hottie who gets all the boy chat at the coffee station.
We all struggle to think charitable thoughts about our fellow human beings. Especially if they really have done us wrong. The cure, I suggest, is a little walk down the Waverley Steps into Waverley Station. Don’t feel guilty about taking the escalators. They’re one of life’s most exquisite small pleasures, like good sunglasses. They go at the perfect speed for you to take in the simple, black and white quotations from Sir Walter Scott’s stories and letters that have been draped along the routes into the station by Edinburgh’s wonderful City of Literature people. “LIfe is too short for the indulgence of animosity” reminds me to nip in the bud any bad feelings I might have about anybody. Honestly, what’s the point and where’s the pleasure? Every time you cling on to unkind thoughts about a fellow human being, who’s the one that gets hurt? You, obviously.
Is alcohol the answer to the ills that befall us? See what Sir Walter says: “A glass of wine is a gracious creature and reconciles poor mortality in itself and that is what few things can do.” He’s not far wrong about that, either. The very act of uncorking the bottle and filling two glasses means you’re halfway to setting the world to rights.
Walter Scott didn’t have the easiest of lives. He contracted polio when he was two and was lame for the rest of his life. His first love, Williamina Beslches, spurned him. His publishers went bust halfway through his writing career and the year after his wife Charlotte died. He rose above it all and wrote his way out of debt.
Despite his troubled times, he exercises a benign presence over our city. Sitting comfortably with his faithful hound, ensconced in that soot-blackened Gothic space-rocket that is the Scott Monument, he looks as if he’s ready to blast off and share his wit and wisdom with other galaxies. According to his son-in-law Lockhart, nothing became Walter Scott so much in his life as his leaving of it, at the age of 61. Here’s the eyewitness account: “About half past one on 21st September Walter breathed his last in the presence of all his children. It was a beautiful day – so warm that every window was wide open – and so perfectly still that the sound most delicious to his ear, the gentle ripple of the Tweed over its pebbles, was distinctly audible as we knelt around his bed.” Not a bad way to go.
By the miracle of Skype, my other half is able to have loads of quality time with her 16-month-old wee nephew Davidka in Budapest. He’ll give her eye contact, wave his hand and wink. But she wants Skype kisses. She recently bought him a weird teddy-thing called Makka Pakka from CBeebies’ toddler-telly hit, In The Night Garden. Hoping this would win him over, she held it up to the screen. He ran forward and slobbered all over her laptop screen with his lips. But when she held up her cheek to be kissed? Nothing.