Sketch: Christine Grahame tells a love story
Christine Grahame is an old romantic at heart. All she has wanted to do for the last 24 years, since her election in ’99, is to tell everyone the story of her first love. At last, now is the time. Because someone finally, finally, brought a debate about camping to the parliament chamber. Ooh, matron.
Her story begins with a troop of girl guides camping in the wilds of… North Berwick. A young Grahame is patrol leader of the Daffodils. The trip starts well enough, with the girls hoisting their “heavy-duty bell tents” and having a not-quite-midnight feast of “smuggled cold baked beans washed down with Creamola foam”. Very glamorous. “We thought that we were living the high life. Ah, the simplicity of youth,” Grahame recalls, misty eyed.
Then the tale takes a dark turn, as they always do. Only it was no poisoned apple, no evil stepmother, no gingerbread house. Merely a typical Scottish summer. “Over the next few days, the skies opened and opened and opened, the rain varying only in quality and quantity. Bell tents began to sag, as did our spirits. One touch of the canvas and water poured in. Even groundsheets lost their efficacy,” Grahame tells her enraptured colleagues, her expression revealing she is still haunted by this harrowing experience. So much for the title of the debate, “promoting the benefits of camping”.
The romance was killed off by their first date when 'my shoe embarrassingly fell off', Grahame says. Some things just aren’t meant to be
The girl scouts were the ultimate damsels in distress. O! Won’t somebody come and save them! And this wouldn’t be a true love story if no one heard their call.
What ho! On the horizon! “That day, like the cavalry over the hill, came a troop of North Berwick boy scouts to rescue us and our equipment,” Grahame reveals.
And within that group of boy scouts is the hero of this romance: Colin Campbell. “My very first serious boyfriend,” she says. “He was a man,” she adds, huskily.
Sadly, there was no happy ending for Christine and Colin. The romance was killed off by their first date when “my shoe embarrassingly fell off”, Grahame says. Some things just aren’t meant to be. Still, decades on Grahame finds herself pondering, “Colin Campbell, where are you now? I hope still alive and kicking.”
So Colin Campbell, should you happen to be reading, maybe drop your old pal a line. Because decades on, that memory of him riding to her rescue still warms her heart. He was “definitely a benefit of camping,” she concludes.
So there we have it: go camping, score a hot date. Find your Colin.
Unfortunately for John Mason, that’s not how his trips usually go. Instead, he speaks excitedly about how he gets “a better night’s sleep in a tent than I do anywhere else” – which is probably not the way most would prefer their hot dates to rock.
Still, Mason insists he enjoys it anyway because his “pace of life slows down a lot”. Normally, he’s living in the fast lane, giein it laldy in his Shettleston home. Probably hosting his own prayer meetings or quietly camped outside abortion clinics on what he says “could not really be described as a protest. It was more like a vigil.” It’s always the quiet ones.
Mason goes on to urge his colleagues to camp when on parliamentary business. He reveals that when travelling with committees in the past, he forewent the hotel and opted for a night under canvas with a mess tin of baked beans. No doubt to his colleagues’ relief… until he turned up the next morning disheveled and un-showered, anyway.
“He was happy and we did not have to sit upwind of him, so it was all good,” Edward Mountain chips in. Then Mountain regales the chamber with his own personal experience of camping: the time he “thought that I might end up sharing my camp bed with a hyena” or the other time he “spent most of the final hours of daylight collecting cow poo”. These MSPs really are unconvincing brochures for the great outdoors.
Eternal boy scout David Torrance at least gets into the spirit to speak about a topic “close to my heart”. In his excitement, he even tries something he’s never done before – attempt to tell a joke. He mumbles an anecdote about a boy called Johnny and a cow. He then smirks at what we can assume was a punchline but no laughter comes. Ah well.
Wrapping up for the government is multi-millionaire businessman Ivan McKee, who has probably never seen the inside of a tent in his life. He has no stories to tell his colleagues about less-than-happy times in the great Scottish outdoors. He no doubt prefers holidays at a spa in the Maldives or island-hopping in the South Pacific. He will “get the opportunity to see first-hand the benefits of camping when I visit a campsite next month” for work, though. How the other half live.
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