We have had a somewhat atypical Saturday. The Uni is celebrating the tenth anniversary of an institute dedicated to both sides of the Irish sea. A two day conference is in process. At one point, the prof and I were both supposed to be giving papers, but we were hauled off that familiar task, because a couple of pretty senior Irish politicos who had done Inspirational Stuff at the beginning of the morning needed to be amused, lunched, and what-so-have-you thereafter. Thus, we were deemed to be of more use to the respublica literarum by doing our anorak act — ‘there are some very interesting facts about Old Aberdeen which you might not know’ — and sweeping them off in a taxi for a decent lunch in the environs of the railway station. The individuals in question were interesting. God cooperated — i.e. blue skies all morning and after the last few weeks, this was definitely something to be taken into account. Lunch was fine, everyone got on famously, we waved them off in their taxi at half past one feeling that it had all gone pretty well. At which point, our instincts would normally have said HOME. But instinct is not always a guide: we had promised to go to a 6.30 concert of Hiberno-Scottish music, laid on for the delegates (this being the end of day one), so we were stuck in Aberdeen for five hours. We went shopping. The thought that there are people in this world who go shopping on a Saturday on city high streets for fun recurred from time to time in the course of the afternoon with a sort of blank amazement. We do need City shops once in a while. I refuse to buy anything but free range chicken, and only outlets with a substantial bourgeois hinterland stock it — thus Inverurie’s my nearest. There’s a place in Aberdeen where you can get Pu-erh tea. The Professor wanted two square pillowslips to replace ones currently nearing the end of their useful life. We needed a pair of lampshades, and at the risk of socially divisive comment, the farmers’ wives’ taste represented by our local Independent Department Store, while exciting in its own special way, is not quite what we had in mind. (The aforementioned store caters quite brilliantly to its own clientele. Everything is very good quality and built to last. I buy saucepans and suchlike there in the sale. But the arredamento is something else: should you want, e.g. a fake-bronze tastefully semi nude maiden on a rearing horse with no visible genitalia, the whole assemblage some seven feet high, it would be the place to go). So we went shopping, tried not to think of the individuals bombinating in the malls as legions of the undead, and managed to get about 90% of what was on the list. A happy thought since it will be ages before we need to go back.