Susan Morrison: Charity begins at home, but not like this

Susan's radar for unwelcome callers let her down this time
Susan's radar for unwelcome callers let her down this time
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She got me with my guard down. She knocked at the door late enough into the evening to make me answer, fairly certain that it wasn’t a man with a clipboard who wanted to talk to me about changing utilities or seek my opinion on wind farms, or even to discuss God.

Now, normally in these circumstances I have a strategy to deal with unsolicited door bangers and bell ringers. I transmorph into a Portuguese au pair called Fatima who knows nothing about electricity or wind farms and has fairly set views regarding God.

Five minutes of what I fondly believe to be Portuguese usually clears the doormat. But this one got under the radar.

I opened the door and spoke in my native Scottish accent. I’d blown my cover. There was a young woman standing before me resplendent in a sweatshirt with the name of a respected charity emblazoned across her ample bosom. She was, she admitted, a charity fundraiser.

Now, here’s the thing. I do give to charity. Don’t we all? I have done sponsored walks, runs, and even silences to raise money for good causes, and my devotion to the charity shops of Edinburgh (well, anywhere, to be honest) is well nigh legendary.

So don’t get me wrong. Charity is a good thing, especially if you get a designer jacket for less money than it costs to get it dry cleaned.

But charities hunting you down and ringing your doorbell is another thing entirely. Gee whizz, where will it stop?

Organ donor campaigners rocking up on the welcome mat asking for any spare organs? Undertakers touting for business by knocking on the door at particularly scary moments in the film hoping to scare up a bit of trade? Politicians standing by your 
herbaceous border begging for your vote? Oh hang on, I think there might just be a Lib Dem lurking by my recycling bin, after all. So British Heart Foundation, off you pop.

I’ll still support your work – God knows I won’t be able to resist your bargains in your shops – but that’s a copybook blotted.

Incidentally, those cheery retail staff give their time for free, unlike the voluptuous young lady who doorstepped for charity who, apparently, gets paid.

Pre-mixed gin and tonics are for beginners

So, Shirley, how were you, the day after your train trip from Aberdeen?

You may not remember much about it, but the rest of the carriage will, and for a very long time.

I admit to a sneaking admiration, since I’m fairly sure I couldn’t down a bottle of Shiraz between Aberdeen and Dundee, even though I am younger than you. Your technique for drinking gin and tonic was almost ninja. A quick gulp of the miniature, straight from the bottle, then a slug of tonic, straight from the can. Classy.

Incidentally, you got the words to New York, New York slightly wrong. Every time you sang it . . .

It’s a burning issue, even in Scotland

ON the train from Leuchars, a tiny Scottish women was busy explaining to some young tourists that the sunny weather was perfectly normal and that the sun could be just as dangerous in Scotland as in Italy. Indeed, she announced, and I quote verbatim, for I feel this information should be shared: “You can get sunburned in Scotland, you know. But you have to work very hard at it.” Peeling skin. Something to aspire to at last.

Come to Leith.. end up in Valparaiso

A few years ago I led a history walk around the Shore during the Leith Festival. There were about 20-odd Edinburgh folk, and three perfectly pleasant Americans. The tour ended at the Port O’ Leith, which was then the fiefdom of the regal Mary Moriarty, and the smoking ban was a politician’s dream.

We finished outside the Port, and with a flourish, I threw open the doors. The sound of The Proclaimers exhorting us to walk 500 Miles was pounding out over the speakers. Everyone was bellowing the chorus louder than a drunk woman on the Aberdeen train.

The air was thicker than a Tory party leadership plot. Two barmaids may or may not have been swinging T-shirts above their heads. All in all, a pretty quiet night at the port.

The walking tour poured into the bar, including the three Americans, who were never seen again. I have long suspected that they woke the next day to find themselves deck crew on a tramp steamer bound for Valparaiso.

I can’t guarantee you a booze- fuelled career change, but I can tell you that during the Leith Festival I’ll be barrelling around the Shore leading the Witches, Quacks and Painted Dames tour.

Come on down to Leith Beer Company at 7.30pm on Friday 14, Saturday 15. For only £5 you’ll get a laugh, a walk and a pint. Just don’t sign

anything that looks like a job offer.