Observant readers may have noticed a change of title for this long running  and, indeed, integral part of Comment as Brown’s Around gives way to McSter MacSter.  Really observant readers will have spotted that it’s being written by the same person.  So what’s the difference?
Glad you asked.  Allegedly, Brown’s Around had a musical theme or seam running through it whereas McSter MacSter has - as the name suggests - er, not necessarily a musical theme or seam running through it.  Okay, that’s that taken care of so on with the Muttley, as Dick Dastardly may have said.  So let me tell you a story from here in Comment territory, or as it was known to the Picts - The Land Between the Pylons and the Turbines. 
A couple of years ago I visited the Highland Wildlife Park at Kincraig and was so taken by what I saw that I bought the place.  No … not exactly.  What I did was take out a subscription to the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland which entitled me to pop up the A9 anytime I liked and drop in to have a chat with the residents; a yak with a yak you could say.
My favourites were the Amir tigers and if the visit coincided with feeding time they would gather round to watch me expertly tear the top off the salt and pepper packets and sprinkle them on the ploughman’s lunch.  It seemed to give them much enjoyment though I imagine it irritated the ploughman whose lunch it actually was.
All went well; my visits brought me into contact with the late and lamented Mercedes, the Zsa Zsa Gabor of the polar bear world.  She told me one day that she had a niece who had met David Attenborough.  “Nice man,” she said, “and does all his own stunts.”  Her niece was quite shy and had met him at a party but found it hard to break the ice.  She also had a distant relative on her mother’s side who had done the original advert for Fox’s Glacier Mints.
The surprise came in the post a few days later.  It seems that every so often the Wildlife Park chooses at random a name from their membership list and rewards that person’s loyalty with a small gift.  Coasters with fetching puffins or carrying crows are popular, as are the hand-carved teak bookends “I’m a Right Monkey” and “And I’m a Left One.”
But I sensed immediately that this was different.  “Dear Alan,” it read.  “The guys and gazelles (RIP Sir Jimmy) here at Kincraig have voted you our Visitor of the Month.  You are eligible, therefore, to have one of our residents visit you and stay for a weekend.  Please indicate your choice from the attached list.  Terns and pond fishes apply.”
There was never any doubt about my choice.  I knew Mercedes would love Tegarmuchd.  It’s the ideal spot for a polar bear watching the sun and rain making the pylons grow.  There’s a burn runs through the garden and I could visualise her recumbent on a rock, using a passing hedgehog as a loofah and pausing occasionally to scoop up with one mighty paw a passing salmon which I would bat across to her with my Andy Murray carbon fibre racquet as quickly as I could prise open the tins of John West’s best.
Alas, old age and illness struck and Mercedes is no more.  I still take comfort from the visiting woodpeckers and red squirrels, and I have fun with the smaller birds recreating that scene from the musical about Uncle Remus as we join in the chorus of Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah.  Unfortunately the little birds get so excited that there’s often more than just a bluebird on my shoulder.
Life looked like continuing on its merry if unspectacular way when the other letter arrived.  This time it was from Highland Wildlife Park’s big brother - Edinburgh Zoo.  It’s official!  They’re coming to stay for the first weekend in March.  Both of them!  Now, does the Co-op sell bamboo shoots?

 

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