A Basketful of Snowflakes by Peter Kerr

By Peter Kerr

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One moment, please, Mr Burns,’ the officer went on, apparently not having caught Jock’s caustic quip. He produced some forms from a desk drawer, flicked through them, extracted the relevant ones, then presented them to Jock. ‘You will find everything to allow the legal 38 MISADVENTURES OF A PARTY ANIMAL immigration of your little friend there,’ he stated. ’ He’d said this in all seriousness – or so he’d have had Jock believe. But, watching him closely, I was pretty sure that the same mischievous smile that I thought I’d detected after his earlier detention of the haggis was tugging gently at a corner of his mouth again.

After a good year of practice, I was quietly confident that my pronunciation of at least the most often-used phrases in my repertoire was now indistinguishable from that of a native Spaniard. ‘Buenos tardes, señor,’ I smiled back, then asked for a table for four. ’ He beckoned us to follow him. Suitably deflated, I decided it would be simpler not to pursue the subject of nationalities further – particularly one that might be regarded by the waiter as being of the hairsplitting variety anyway. Automatically calling all Brits 53 A BASKETFUL OF SNOWFLAKES ‘English’ tends to be a fairly common inaccuracy abroad, and there are times when it doesn’t do any harm to remind the mistaken party that Britain comprises more than just one country.

I jerked my head towards the inglenook’s open fire, which Charlie happened to have his back to. ‘Some size of a log that,’ I casually remarked. While he looked round to admire the blazing chunk of olivewood, I swiftly thumbed through the menu until I found the page with a little Union Flag in the top corner. ‘But just to improve your vocabulary, Charlie,’ I said offhandedly, ‘I can tell you for nothing that the dish you 54 MONEY DOESN’T GROW ON TREES asked about is actually small barrels of veal, with a stuffing of minced meat laced with pine nuts.

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