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by Ruaraidh Gilmour
30 November 2023
'I hung our curtains facing out because of people walking past – they are now the right way'

Owen Thompson | Alamy

'I hung our curtains facing out because of people walking past – they are now the right way'

Owen Thompson, the MP for Midlothian and SNP chief whip at Westminster, tells Holyrood about his contentious collectables and a squabble over curtains

What is your earliest memory? 

My memory is horrific, but I remember random and obscure things like someone saying something in a meeting four years ago. But my earliest memory is when I was a child, I think I was at a family party, during Halloween.  

I was dressed up as Spider-Man and I was being held up above the door by one of my older cousins. I remember peering over the top of the door like I was Spider-Man. I reckon I was about four or five. 

What were you like at school? 

I was really sporty. I took part in any and every sport while I was at school. I was probably for the most part quite quiet, I just kind of kept my head down.  

I haven’t really carried any of the sports on. I did kickboxing until I was in my mid-20s. But then I had a period away from sport; work really got in the way. I still try to play five-a-side [football] with pals when I can, and I get the occasional game of 11-a-side, but nothing that I would consider in any way serious, or in any way organised.  

Did you ever have any organised kickboxing fights? 

No, no. It was more training and a bit of sparring. We didn’t enter competitions. I was training for my black belt, and at that point work and an injury got in the way. It is something that I have said that I would always go back to because I was never fitter than when I was doing it. But life gets in the way, and I never did return to do it. Suddenly here we are 20 years later.  

What is the worst thing anyone has ever said to you? 

That I wouldn’t be able to do “that”. 

And what was ‘that’?  

That was in my past life in financial services. I had a boss who didn’t think I was suited to it, and it turns out he was absolutely right. But at the time I felt like I wouldn’t let anyone tell me I couldn’t do “that”. And that has been my approach to most things. If I’m told I can’t do something it makes me doubly determined to show that I can.  

What’s your most treasured possession? 

It is, tragically, probably my Star Wars collection. I have managed to maintain a number of my original figures from when I was wee, which are apparently now collectable. It has been added to over the years from time to time, and it now includes a number of Lego Star Wars items.  

It is the bane of my wife’s life the fact that I have these things and being unable to find somewhere to put them. But they are certainly never going anywhere.  

Have ever had your collection valued? I know they can often be worth quite a lot. 

No, but it is one of these things that I keep thinking I should probably do. Then again, if I put a number on it, it could make it more of an argument of whether we should move them to somewhere where they would be of better use.  

What is your guiltiest pleasure? 

It is probably building Lego – I find it really relaxing. It is something I will periodically do. A few years ago my mum got me a Darth Vader helmet set.   

I do it every so often when I’m in the flat in London by myself; it’s quite a nice and relaxing thing to do to shut your brain off at night, you can watch programmes on the TV and do that. It’s something different.

If you could you back in time, where would you go?  

I was always fascinated by the Romans growing up, so I would probably go back there. 

Have you been asked recently by anyone how often you think about the Roman Empire? It’s a trend, I hear. 

Well, it’s not something that I think about every day, that’s for sure. I spend a bit of time when I have some spare looking into various bits of it, the different emperors and how they organised things, their senate.  

It was a really interesting period, they were so advanced for the time, and a lot of that fell by the wayside for a period. It is genuinely interesting to see how they developed what they did during that time. 

What skill should every person have? 

They should know how to put curtains up the right way. We have just moved house and it turns out that apparently there is a right way and wrong way to do it. 

I thought you wanted the design facing out of the way because of people walking past, but apparently, you want the design facing in the way, and this is a very important skill that I have been made aware of. It has caused quite a bit of debate in our house over the last few days since I hung them. They have now been turned around.

What is the worst pain you have experienced? 

It was losing my dad. I was only 12 and you don’t really think about it in those terms when you are that age, but looking at it now that would absolutely be it. We were very close.  

It’s completely different to a physical pain like tearing ligaments in your ankle, which I have done playing football. 

What is the best holiday that you have been on? 

As a child, we used to always go to Fife. I remember being on the beach, I was quite wee, and we had a dinghy. It was one of those holidays where every day was perfect sunshine and picnics. I remember my dad taking us up and down the edge of the beach on the dinghy. That was brilliant.  

And then more recently, my wife, stepson and I went off to Mauritius, and it was a totally different type of holiday than I was used to. It is a huge windsurfing destination, the beaches were absolutely packed with them. 

What was the last book that you read? 

It’s called The Dungeon Crawler Carl, and it’s part of The Eye of the Bedlam Bride series by Matt Dinniman. It is, again, total escapism, with aliens landing. Everyone on the planet has to run into a dungeon where they have to fight their way through the dungeon and its various levels, and it is a gameshow for an intergalactic audience. It’s very funny. 

I am into Tom Clancy and Scott Mariani as well – like I say, a wee bit of escapism.

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