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?

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