Friday, January 19, 2007


"Excusez-moi, madame!"

I had my back turned to him, so I suppose all he saw was the skirt and the pony tail. But his face, when I turned around, was a picture - of shock and embarrassment. "Madame" turned out to be six feet, two, with a prickly silver beard. For a moment, I guess, he thought I was going to hit him. But when La Patronne burst out laughing and I grinned, his fear gave way to embarrassment.

I had been about to enter one of these airport queueing mazes at the wrong end as we headed towards the security check, and the security guard had made an unfortunate error in identifying my sex.

When I take my kilt with me on transcontinental promotional trips, I never risk leaving it to the vagaries of the baggage handlers. It would, after all, cost nearly a thousand euros to replace. All eight metres of heavy tartan wool. So I wear it for travelling.

It always attracts attention, whether in France or the States. Sometimes, as at the airport, it is the wrong kind. I always get searched. Take off the boots, take off the sporran, take off the belt. And, in this case, twice. Once at security, and once again before being allowed to board the bus that would take us to the plane.

I'm sure I only get asked to take off my boots so that when I crouch to lace them up again, security officers of both sexes are hoping to get a glimpse of what I'm wearing underneath the kilt.

Sometimes the attention it attracts is a little more welcome, as on the plane itself when I was accosted not once, but twice, by pouting stewardesses anxious to talk to the man in the skirt. As I stood mid-aisle exercising to avoid a long haul embolism, a tall, elegant ebony-skinned stewardess approached and leaned close. "Are you Scottish?" she whispered. "Oui," I told her. She giggled. 'Oh, I like it,' she said, and flushed, and hurried quickly away.

La Patronne returned from another adventure at the toilet, to tell me she had overheard two stewardesses excitedly discussing the man in the skirt - "didn't you see him coming on the plane?" - blithely unaware that the woman beside them was his wife.

Then later, when the cabin steward leaned over to tell me that "you are my first Scottish", his colleague - a striking looking stewardess with brilliant red lip gloss - dipped her eyes coyly in my direction and said, "I find eet ve-ery sexee.'

Which was when La Patronne drew the line. "Don't tell him that!" she snapped - the rest left unsaid, but not misunderstood. She's a real spoilsport!

Many hours later, tired and crushed by the coach class experience, we arrived in LA to be met by a seriously unwell Susie, with whom we would be staying at Newport Beach for the next two weeks. Ravaged by a virulent cold virus (what else would a virus be but virulent?) that had reduced her voice to a sound like torn paper, we headed south for a quick meal at her home overlooking Balboa Island, before putting her to bed with a hot toddy. Then falling, ourselves, into bed, to sleep away the effects of the journey, glad to be in southern California, in the sunshine, for a brief oasis of calm before the storm of the tour.

Day dawns over Balboa Island...

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