We’re due in Scotland for a week, doing Clan things in the midst of lots of Americans. Sadly I have given away most of my flashy Highland gear to needy relatives, so I will not cut much of a dash amidst their finery. I once went to a ball in Blair Castle thrown by some ancient local laird. The kit the guests dug out was astonishing and very little of it was less than a century old – snarling otter and wildcat sporrans, tartan jackets dating from the 19th century, great baroque jewels pinning their plaids and lots of moth holes. I once had a dog that saw an American with a racoon sporran protecting his nether regions. He fell upon it with howls of rage and it was hard to prise him away from the terrified wearer.

A Scots friend stayed with us last month. I had a plaintive contact from him a couple of days ago. He had been given a parking ticket in Paris, which was odd as he hadn’t been near Paris with his hired car and it was parked in front of this house at the time in question. The maire was put on the job and he had good fun abusing the hire company and the guys that issued the ticket. He dictated a snotty letter for the appeal but didn’t hold out much hope. The French system does not allow for errors. He knows someone who was flashed at 145kph on the motorway – in his elderly tractor. He had to pay in the end.

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