How to welcome home a US president
THE orange eagle has landed. Set faces to stunned. We always knew the arrival of The Donald on these shores was unlikely to be a sedate affair, but the last time I saw an entrance like that, a crazed Jack Nicholson was putting an axe through a bathroom door in The Shining. Here’s .... Donny!
The US President did not need to give an interview to the Sun newspaper in which he trashed his host’s handling of Brexit and praised her rival Boris Johnson to the hilt. He did not need to, but he wanted to, and what the toddler-inchief wants, he gets.
We must not be rude in return, however. What is it former First Lady Michelle Obama said? When they go low, we go high. As it happens, Scotland is better placed than London to deal with Mr Trump. As a nation which has exported its sons and daughters all over the world, we have decades of experience in accommodating visiting relatives from abroad. Mr Trump fits into that category by virtue of his Outer Hebrides-born mother, Mary Anne Macleod.
Sons, daughters, cousins from Canada, aunties from America, uncles from Australia and brothers from the back of beyond – we wave them all off, and sometimes we welcome them home. There are eight million stories in the naked city, as the famous sign-off to the cult police drama had it, and I have often thought the same could be said for the international arrivals hall at Glasgow Airport.
You can spot the ones waiting for relatives from abroad straight away. There are always in a large group, for a start. Even though international travel is taken for granted today, it is still a big deal when the “rellies” as Australians call kith and kin, rock up. Since they have come all this way, it is the least families can do to form as big a welcome party as possible, if only to carry all the suitcases the new arrivals will have with them.
These days, with Facetime, Snapchat, and Skype, it is easy to recognise the long-lost rellie as they come through the sliding doors, blinking and jet-lagged. Imagine what it must have been like when there were no such gizmos to keep in touch, when only photographs sent in the post charted the passing of the years. Is that him, could that be her, the welcomers must have asked each other as they caught sight of a vaguely familiar face coming down the gangway. Such arrivals seem much more romantic, more like the kind they have in the movies. Think of the tears that must have flowed in those days, too. When most people left Scotland it was assumed they would never return. Those determined to make it home had to save for years, decades, even lifetimes. Gangly youths left, only to return as old folk with walking sticks, here to say hello and goodbye to the old place.
With all Scotland’s experience in this area, it would be neighbourly of us to offer some words of comfort and advice to Mrs May. Who knows, she may still be in power the next time The Donald visits.
First, count yourself lucky he only stayed in London for a couple of days. Rellies from abroad usually come for at least three weeks. It seems like a good idea at the time, but guests, fish, three days and all that. If it turns out you do not get on as well as you thought, the time together can be a trial.
Most visitors will not give interviews to the Sun slagging you off. They will resist giving chapter and verse on your questionable taste in home furnishings, your flatulent dog, or the fact that the lady of the house could not cook her way out of a paper bag. They can, however, put their feet in it in more subtle ways. At some point the conversation will turn, for example, to house prices and what you get for the money. Photos may be produced showing large homes with big gardens, all made possible by there being more land to go around.
Similarly, Mrs May, you will need to bite your tongue after the umpteenth time of being told that things are so much better in Far Away Land. Transport, food, clothes, bars, cars, all superior. Annoyingly, it is probably true.
Do not despair, either, at being asked to play up to the tourist image of your country. If you have to throw a big party at Blenheim Palace so The Donald will think Britain really is one big Downton Abbey, so be it.
In Scotland, hosts should brace themselves to join long queues at whatever tourist attraction takes their guest’s fancy. Wade into all that tartan tat, embrace your inner Brigadoon, they love it and so, in turn, must you.
Follow this advice, Mrs May, and you too can be a successful host to our friends from overseas. Otherwise, have you ever thought of building a wall?