On Friday, I arrived at Heathrow Airport from eastern Europe on my way back to Scotland.
I had been visiting a country at the front line of global tensions. One where life is a struggle for many, but where the fervent desire is to be at one with the world.
I had timed my travels well. As I sat in Terminal 5 waiting for the connecting flight, TV screens were beaming out the swearing-in of Donald J Trump as the 45th President of the United States of America.
Most faces were turned towards the televisions and there was a palpable sense of anticipation – or was it trepidation – on the faces of my fellow travellers.
It was one of these shared global moments when you will always remember where you were when the news broke.
I am, by my nature, an optimistic chap. I had spent the incoming flight in hope.
Hope that the protests would be peaceful.
Hope that in the very moment of assuming office, the new president would rise to the occasion.
Hope that this was the day when wounds would start to heal and the USA would be reaching out to the world.
As I boarded the plane to Edinburgh, my hopes, each and every one, were being dashed.
Americans had made much of how Inauguration Day was a thing to behold – the peaceful transfer of power.
As if other democracies didn’t manage the same. But in Washington a few anarchists and idiots decided to make their case by burning cars and trying to run riot.
For them, it wouldn’t have mattered what the new president had said on the steps of the Capitol.
He might want to literally build a wall. They just wanted to metaphorically burn bridges.
The new president had the chance to set a new tone. Perhaps a softer, more conciliatory tone. He had, by his own account, written the speech himself.
I don’t doubt it. In short, it was a speech worthy of a town hall stump, but was it worthy of a man entering the Oval Office?
Its central theme was “America First”. And it would be churlish not to agree that the first duty of any country’s political leader should be to its own people.
To promote jobs and business and international relations with your own at the forefront of your actions.
But when President Trump says “America First”, it sounds like “America Only”.
I hope he didn’t realise that the slogan he chose was the one used by the Americans opposed to the USA entering the Second World War.
Because surely, in an interdependent and global world, don’t we need less protectionism and short-term, rigid self interest and more free trade and mutual support?
But what does it all mean for us here in the UK?
It may be that we are better placed than many think. There is little doubt that President Trump has a soft spot for Britain, especially Scotland, given his maternal Lewis links, and his Aberdeenshire golfing links.
He is on the record as promising that we are at the front of the queue for a new trade deal post-Brexit, of which he is a fan.
It is not about the so-called “Special Relationship” but more about finding and building shared interests, of which there are many.
It is about shaping the agenda before minds get fixed across the Pond and influencing the president to see that free trade is the best trade.
That American protectionism would be, in the long term, bad for Britain, bad for business. And bad for the USA.
And on the international stage, to explain that Nato is a force for stability.
That foreign aid is a force for good. That emerging democracies need to be encouraged and nourished, not ignored. And that the national interest of America doesn’t end at the borders with Mexico or Canada.
So let me end by wishing Donald J Trump well in his job.
Mr President, you have assumed awesome responsibilities. You may wish to put “America First”, but I trust you will not forget your duty to the world.
If we have to pay, can we please use good old fashioned cash?
I feared it would come to this.
I am a fan of contactless payments. I use Apple Pay every day. Chip and pin is so last year.
But I still like cash. It has a certain comfort. The tinkle of coins. The wad of notes. It’s real money.
So, as I boarded my BA flight to London last Monday, I was prepared for the culinary shock of having to pay for refreshments.
Prior to then, the airline had provided snacks and drinks free of charge. A cuppa and a biscuit were just the job and simple to serve.
But I was not prepared for the fiscal shock which awaited unsuspecting flyers.
Not the prices. Reasonable enough. And the fare was fine. Thank you M&S.
But seriously, BA? Credit or debit cards only? No contactless? AND NO CASH!?
Your hard working attendants now serve fewer people as many don’t want sustenance if it isn’t free.
But trundling the trolley up and down the aisle is taking longer as passengers have to find their credit cards, often tucked away in the overhead lockers.
And your team has to process each payment. It is taking an age. My bottle of water was no sooner served than we had started our descent to land.
So a wee plea. If we have to pay, can we please use good old fashioned cash?
I’m British. And we know how to queue
We’ve all been there as we approach the check outs in the supermarket.
The big decision. Which queue to join? Time might not be pressing, but somehow it just matters.
We assess the size of the trolleys. The expected speed of the shoppers at packing and paying. Even the competence of the check out assistants.
We watch the person who joined another line at the same time, to see if we picked well.
So there I was in the airport. Fifteen different queues for the passport and visa check. A familiar situation. I am supermarket trained. I can do this, I thought.
This one I decide. Definitely this one. I wait in line, smug in the knowledge that it was the shortest. I’m not alone. Another passenger picks the same one a moment later.
As we progress, out of the corner of my right eye, I see a suitcase edging its way past me. Slowly.
An inch at a time. A sort of soft shoe shuffling suitcase.
I check again. It’s getting ahead of me. Its owner is pretending to gaze elsewhere, seemingly ignorant to their takeover bid for my place in the queue.
I edge to the right to block its progress at the barrier. Success.
But then, out of the corner of my other eye, I see the sneaky suitcase making a cunning detour. It has switched to my left. And picked up speed.
The slowly, slowly approach has been abandoned. We are nearing the checkpoint. It is a battle of wills.
Me versus the sliding suitcase.
It was no contest. I won. After all, I’m British. And we know how to queue.