The festive season kicks in this week when I am invited to switch on Christmas tree lights. Mercifully the December weather is kind. Last year this annual event was abandoned, courtesy of Storm Desmond.
This time, though, all is calm, all is bright. As dusk falls, the town band jollied us with seasonal songs and carols whilst a sea of twinkling bulbs illuminates the square.
The sleepy Borderland town of Langholm is in need of a little light relief. Last month locals were left reeling after a bank robbery. And one so audacious and old-fashioned it made the national news.
Wads of money littered the High Street. They literally blew the bloody doors off. Well, they exploded the cash machine on the wall. It happened in the early hours, so, happily, no-one was hurt. But it came with touches of the wild west. Like the Langholm of old.
Three hundred years ago no one would have batted an eyelid in these once unruly reiving parts. But that was then. These days the ‘muckle toon’ boasts less lawless connections.
Langholm may have a famous Common Riding to remember its riding and raiding days. But it is also the birthplace of Hugh MacDiarmid and it once hosted a celebrity moon man. Back in the 1970s Neil Armstrong came to celebrate his Borderland roots and to receive the Freedom of the Town.
Still, if Brexit and Trump can come to pass, then little Langholm can be the victim of a gangster raid. The unlikeliest things are happening all around us.
But back to my Christmas tree. If you allow them to, switchings and unveilings can be part and parcel of a broadcaster’s life. If your face appears on the telly, or your voice graces the airwaves, the chances are you will be asked to do the honours. But like Langholm, such events are not always danger-free
Earlier this year I unveiled ‘The Scottish Soldier’, an eight-foot high wooden military figure. He had been carved with a chainsaw and the plan was to send him the length and breadth of Britain to raise awareness of the work our troops do.
He cut quite a dash. Someone had dressed him in Highland uniform. I think it was the Gordon tartan. But just as I was about to pull off the sheet that covered him, the organizer whispered in my ear. “Do be careful. The kilt’s not securely pinned on.
There was no matador-style flourish with that one. There was no dramatic pull of the cloth. No, one hand gingerly edged off the cover whilst the other kept a vice-like grip on the back of the kilt. I wasn’t about to let the waiting crowd see exactly what a Scotsman wears underneath his national dress…
I don’t think they ever found the Langholm bank robbers. They’re now looking for dog walkers who may have seen something and could help in the hunt. Who walks their MacNaughties at two in the morning?! That’s perhaps another story for another day…