My Young By Name column from the September issue of the Tetbury Advertiser
Whenever I’m on holiday, my writer’s habit of eavesdropping on other people’s conversations goes into overdrive.
It is particularly well rewarded this August in the heart of Inverness’s shopping district, a regular pit-stop when we’re touring the Highlands in our camper van.
Outside the Co-op in a seedy side street, a cluster of pale, unkempt young men is hanging on a bedraggled, older woman’s every word. She looks like she is holding court, giving her loyal troops their instructions for the day.
“There’s the cemetery, like, the graveyard. There’s always the graveyard.”
I am unsure whether this is a deployment directive or a warning against disobedience.
Peril in Primark
As my teenage daughter checks out Primark, a father and his little girl are idling in the toy section. He must be under orders to occupy her while his wife enjoys a bit of low-budget retail therapy. The child, decked out in princess pink, is beautiful: strawberry blonde curls, blue eyes, sweet face. She seems to be taking the lead in the entertainment stakes, so perhaps the maternal instructions were for her to keep Daddy amused, rather than the other way round.
“Let’s play chicken,” she suggests brightly.
He looks blank, unsure of the rules. I pretend to browse a nearby rack of t-shirts while I wait to find out.
She seizes two plastic bazooka-style guns from a nearby display.
“You’ve got to shoot me, and I’ve got to shoot you. Bang, you’re dead! Now you shoot me. Now we’re both dead.”
The father looks dumbstruck, and I suspect I do too. What has he raised? The natural successor for the lady outside the Co-op?
Models in Marks
Half an hour later, towards the top of town where the smarter shops are, I am heartened by the approach of a more wholesome-looking family group emerging from Marks and Spencer: a father, son of about ten, and daughter young enough to be riding on her father’s shoulders. They are all bronzed, beautiful, and glowing with health. They could have stepped out of the pages of an upmarket Sunday lifestyle supplement.
Their glowing tans make me wonder which country they’re from. The Highlands is awash with foreign tourists in summer. Parked near our van that day are high-end cars registered in Monaco and San Merino, as well as the usual swarm of Italian, French, German, Spanish and Dutch motor homes. Then I spot the boy’s West Ham supporters’ scarf.
As the group passes by, the little girl’s crystal tones ring out in Queen’s English: ‘Well, everybody has to pass wind.”
I suspect Daddy may be regretting offering her a shoulder ride.
Tourists in Tetbury
I wonder what Tetbury’s tourists take away from conversations they hear in its streets? Listen out next time you venture into town – you may find your routine shopping trip more entertaining than you expect.
You’ll find more like this in Young By Name, the book that brings together my first 60 columns for the Tetbury Advertiser, available both as an ebook and in paperback. Click here for details of how to order your copy.