Opinion: Janet Christie's Mum's the Word

Lockdown lifts and I’m dismayed, sorry I meant to say delighted, to see what look like tourists in the heart of the city.

Lockdown lifts and I’m dismayed, sorry I meant to say delighted, to see what look like tourists in the heart of the city. But they’re rubbing the Greyfriars Bobby statue.

“Look! No! He just rubbed Bobby’s nose,” I say to Youngest.

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I’m taxi-ing her and her skateboard away from what has become a prime teen hangout in the absence of pedestrians - and why not? They’re often too young and skint to get into reopening pubs, given that most work in hospitality/retail, if they still have a job, and most don’t. Give them a break.

They’re social distancing, exercising, even wearing coats as a year of socialising outdoors in an Edinburgh winter put paid to the time-honoured tradition of young folk refusing outerwear. She might go out in crop top and shorts, but always returns cosy in joggers, a hoodie and puffer jacket.

“So?” She says.

“So? So? Rubbing the Bobby is not allowed. It’s just been fixed. It was never a thing anyway.”

“It’s always been a thing. For luck.”

Greyfriars Bobby masked up during Covid to prevent the spread of the virus and protect his nose.

“Never was.”

“I always do it when I go past,” she says.

“Well you shouldn’t. Do not rub the Boaby!”

“Don’t say that mother,” she says.

Greyfriars Bobby, the statue of the Skye Terrier who was the pet of Edinburgh constable John Grey, who died of tuberculosis in 1858. Bobby sat near his grave in Greyfriars Cemetery every day for 14 years until his own death and the statue was unveiled in 1873. In recent years, the habit of rubbing his nose for luck has seen the black finish being worn away with restoration work required.

“It’ll get rubbed away again now lockdown’s over. They need a bigger sign. Do not rub the Boaby.”

“Please stop saying that,” she says. “It totally means something else.”

“I know.”

“You don’t,” she says.

“Do.”

“What does it mean then?”

“Boaby is another word for penis. Just because I always used the correct terminology, don’t think I don’t know more words for penis that you’ve had mobile phones.”

“Bet you don’t,” she says.

And so the gauntlet is thrown.

I’m not proud of this conversation but it’s been a long lockdown, and while we do discuss more elevated topics like party manifestos and our voting system ahead of this week’s election, along with Covid and climate change, let’s be honest, there aren’t a lot of laughs there. Anyway, she’s an adult now.

Clearly I’m not, and I rattle them off as we drive down The Mound and through the city. She’s silent at first, but as I race past 20 and struggle to reach 25, she joins in and we smash it.

“Pleased with yourself?” she says.

“Very. You?”

“More disappointed.” She smirks.

“But you’ll think twice now before...”

“Mother! How about you tell me again how the additional member system works?”

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