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I think Gill has been spending too much time listening to wild tales of her friends and their parents’  food smuggling activities. There are the Italians who fill their suitcases with salamis, cheese and homemade sauces, the Indians who bring in exotic bits of home from half-a-world away all because they know in their heart of hearts that nothing of the same caliber exists where their children currently live.

And even her own mother’s possibly skirting of the law by bringing a jar of live and kicking sourdough starter from San Francisco years ago could be in play. On that one, I plead both ignorant and innocent–there was no evil intention beyond having delicious pancakes. These instances are not so much breaking the law as looking after our offspring. Who could fault that?

What does this talk of food smuggling have to do with Gill? This was the weekend that she  was celebrating her 40th birthday in a castle on the remote coast of Scotland. I am impressed that she, not exactly an event planner or packer extraordinaire, put the entire venture together herself. I haven’t heard of any disaster befalling the Group of Eight, so I’m assuming everything went off without a hitch. Then again, tomorrow’s Skype call may reveal a different truth.

Gill had organized who was cooking which meal, where the groceries would be purchased, all the odds and sods that might be required. She was making the first evening meal: chili.

“You’d be so proud of me, Ma!” she gushed. “I remembered to bring a coat, two pairs of jeans for when one is wet from walking in the near-freezing ocean, my favorite socks, and whisky. And, drum roll please, I even got one of those small pill containers, you know, with seven individual compartments…”

“Pill containers? What on earth for? Can’t you just take all your meds — you might need them all. Your body is unpredictable. You don’t want to be caught short.”

“No, Ma. You’ve got it all wrong. The pill containers are for the chili.”

“Is this a bad connection? Did I miss something? What do pills have to do with chili?. Tell me you’re not trying to poison your friends!”

“Nice, Ma! Really nice. How could you think that of me? The pill boxes are for spices. I have all the spices I need here in huge bags, but I can’t lug them to Scotland. And it would be uneconomical to buy new supplies there since I need such a small quantity. I’ll just spoon a tiny amount into each pill container and there we are, instant flavor to go.”

“Brilliant!” I conceded. “But what about security? Aren’t they going to question why a white lady is importing unlabeled powders into the country? And if there’s any strange white stuff in the mix, how do you convince them you’re not somebody’s mule?”

“Ma! You’ve got the Scottish border confused with the U.S.-Mexican border!I realize you’re more familiar with that one, but not everyone is as paranoid as you are about border crossings. Besides which, Scotland is still part of the U.K.”

“I know that, it’s just that, with your past history of visa complications and David Cameron’s new immigration crackdown, you don’t want to find yourself with a one-way ticket back to Canada. You know, I always travel with pills in the proper bottles –just in case. I think you may be taking unnecessary risks.”

“If I get caught and they won’t let me take my spices into the country, I’ll just dump them.”

“But that’s just wasteful! Coming back from Australia, I saw a young girl forced to dump an unopened, expensive bottle of perfume she’d bought in Duty Free because it was too large to comply with new security regulations. She looked distraught. You don’t want to be her!”

“Ma, again, it’s a few spoonfuls of turmeric, chili powder and Tex Mex mix for God’s sake! I CAN buy more if I have to.”

“Fine. Don’t listen to your mother. I hope you don’t regret it.”

“Ma, shall we talk for a minute about your episode of bird smuggling 40 years ago? Huh? Pot calling kettle…”

“Yes, well if my mother had known, she would have stopped me…”

“Ma, nobody could have stopped you…”