Last week I made a list of the things I thought certain well-kent folk should get for their Christmas. This week I’d like to tell you what I want.
Dear Santa, here’s what I’d like you to bring me:
1. A new US president: If there’s any truth in the suggestion that Trump’s people colluded with Putin’s people to influence the result in Trump’s favour, Trump’s January inauguration should never happen. Bin him now and let’s get Michelle Obama in.
2. Membership of the EU: I’m a European. Italian’s my second language. I want to be able to move freely inside Europe. I’m in no doubt we benefit more from being inside than out. Like two-thirds of my fellow-Scots, I feel cheated by Brexit. Not just because I voted against it but because of the lies that were told and the racist slurs that were hurled in the run-up to the vote.
3. David Bowie back: He made my life bearable when I was a crazy, mixed-up kid. He made it okay to experiment with make-up and sex. And he wrote words and music that tugged me out of the dullness of the daily grind into a different universe of aliens, outer space and rebellion. I miss him. I want him back. If he could bring Prince with him, that would be good.
4. A Scottish Cup win for Hibs: Oh, I forgot, I’ve already got that.
5. A flat belly: It’s okay for you Santa. You suit your paunch. It goes with the outfit. Facing the mirror in a black T-shirt I can pretend mine’s not there. But as soon as I turn sideways, there it is – twins.
6. Scottish independence: Sorry for nagging. I know this’ll be the second time I’ve asked for it. But honestly. The shower we have in Westminster now are even worse than the ones we had before Brexit. When you compare Mhairi Black and Nicola Sturgeon with the likes of Michael Gove and Amber Rudd, there’s no question the SNP have a better calibre of politician. Okay, so our economy will suffer a wee bit in the short-term. But aren’t we getting hammered enough already? Haven’t our benefits been cut enough? And aren’t we sick of the UK’s problems being blamed on poor people and immigrants?
7. A couple of new teeth: Not my two front ones. They’re okay. But I’ve got a couple of gaping gap sites and my wife’s getting sick of retouching all my photographs to make me look semi-presentable.
8. Less litter and dog-poo in Leith: It’s easy to blame the council for the mess on our streets. It gets folk off the hook. “Why should I pick up litter? That’s the council’s job.” Why shouldn’t you pick up litter, pal? You’d be setting a good example to your kids. And now that the council’s giving away free litterpickers and gloves, you’ve no excuse. As for the so-and-sos who let their scabby dogs poo on the pavement and in the parks, read my next request to Santa.
9. A fleet of camera-drones: The biggest problem with dog poo is enforcement. Unless you film somebody in the act of leaving their dog’s mess behind, you won’t be able to make it stick in court, forgive the pun. Let’s get drones up , hovering over our parks and pavements at all hours of the day and night. The dog-foulers won’t have a clue they’re up there and we’ll get the footage we need to incriminate them.
10. More women in power: What a mess we men have made of the world. One bunch of guys tells women they have to wear a burkini. Another bunch of guys tells them they’re not allowed to. What’s it got to do with blokes how women choose to dress? If we’re ever going to get peace in the Middle East, an end to global warming and social equality, we need to give women a chance to run things their way. They run our households. Why shouldn’t they run the world? What do you reckon, Mrs Claus?
Ho ho no. I’m late for a very important date..
I was in hospital visiting my son. My mobile buzzed and a message flashed up from Willy Barr. “Will you be here soon? I nearly passed out. I’d agreed to be Santa at the Citadel Christmas Party but I thought it was the Sunday, not the Saturday. I was supposed to be there at 3pm. It was already 3.10. The Citadel’s in Leith. I was in Morningside.
“I’ve got 60 children and their Mums and Dads waiting to see you.” “Look Willy, can you get Mr Boom to keep singing for half an hour? I’ll be there.” My car’s an old heap. But it’s got fuel injection. Baby Jesus and the angels must have been smiling down on me as I gunned the motor out of the car park, spraying gravel and sweary-words. All the traffic lights turned green. All those wee ladies who drive with their hats on stayed off the road. Bin lorries got out of the way. Pedestrians scattered. And for once, the Queen’s Park didn’t have the barriers up.
On the doorstep of The Citadel, an elf was waiting for me. A big elf with big ears and rosy cheeks. Not a happy elf. It was Willy. He dragged me into the office and threw my Santa suit at me. “Mr Boom’s on his last song now, you better hurry.”
“Mr Boom’s probably on his last legs” I thought “filling in for me.” At least his spaceship was parked on the Citadel roof, hidden from the traffic police.
I looked at myself in the mirror. I wasn’t there. In my place was a fat man in a red suit with a matching face. “Ho bloody ho,” I said and made my way out to the back entrance with a collection of lady elves, all of whom were a good deal prettier than Elf Willy. They wheeled me into the hall singing “Jingle all the way”. It worked. The kids looked entranced.
“I have an early Christmas present for you, children,” I bellowed in my best Brian Blessed voice. “According to my sledge radio, the Hibees are beating Dumbarton 1-0.” A huge cheer went up. There was no doubting these were Leith kids.
My elves bundled me out of the hall and sat me down in my Grotto. I was so relieved I felt like greeting. It’s funny, we think children these days are spoiled and demanding. But when I asked them each in turn what they wanted for Christmas, most of them said “I don’t know. Anything really.” How nice is that.
That’ll doo for hungry catfish
The last episode of Planet Earth 2 was the best. We saw some of the most amazing wildlife filming in the least likely place: our cities. In New York, peregrine falcons looked down at tiny yellow cabs from their skyscraper perches. Leopards stalked pigs in the housing schemes of Mumbai. And monkeys ganged up to shoplift fruit from stalls in Delhi. But the most astonishing footage of all was of monster catfish in a French river. Having eaten just about all the other fish species, they had learned to creep out of the depths and ambush unsuspecting pigeons at the water’s edge. Thrilling. But in a horror-movie way.