I met a very interesting man today. I found him in the tea shop where I go to re-fill my caddy with my favourite orange pekoe. He called himself ‘anglo-indian’ – his father from inverness, mother from madras – and gloried in the name of Mr Laird Mclean.

He had worked as a manager on a darjeeling tea plantation then in a jute factory before moving to the uk in the 60s. He proudly served his ‘queen and country’ in the Gordon Highlanders but, all through his life, he’s had to justify his right to his father’s name.

Mr Mclean was most friendly and I enjoyed listening to his story. However, in his exuberance, he punctuated every few sentences by bringing his hand down – thump – onto my left shoulder. After a while I was sure I was growing shorter on that side and could feel my teeth rattle with every blow. For that reason I was forced to make my apologies and beat a retreat.

I’m uncertain whether I’ve sustained permanent damage. I suspect my shoulder is a bruise waiting to happen and do not look forward to the morning. However, at least I met Mr Mclean.


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