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Anent, Tranent. We'll not quickly forget you, Tattie, the Commonwealth athlete who bowled us over

ANENT - we shall not forget!

- the Commonwealth Games and, in particular, the magnificent achievement in lawn bowls by Alex Marshall, I am reminded that this sublime athlete hails from Tranent, one of the few places in which "anent" is given its proper due. Mr Marshall won two gold medals, en route to which he celebrated with the cry: "Get it up ye!" Were he a nation, in the medals table he would thus be ahead of Papua New Guinea, Botswana, Pakistan, the Bahamas, Namibia, and the Isle of Man to name but a few. He may also be the greatest bowler who has ever breathed. Mr Marshall's nickname is Tattie, for which I have yet to be given a proper explanation. Does he, for instance, have an inordinate passion for mince and tatties? Or could it be, as a rival bowler speculates, that Mr Marshall got the sobriquet because back in the day he dressed rather tattily? I do think we need to know.

IN a poll, Scotia and Skegness have come ninth-equal as popular holiday destinations for English folk. There are some subjects about which even I am unable to summon comment.

THE meeja hereabouts have decreed that Ally Dahling walloped Alexei Salmonella in STV's debate. This has been duly reported ad nauseam by the Beeb, as if it's possible to determine decisively who wins such things, as if they were a pigeon race or a cockroach fight.

The fact is that the meeja is - with the exception of this throbbing organ - by and large hostile to the Gnats in general and independence in particular. Had, say, Mr Salmonella obviously triumphed you can be sure that it would have been spun in some way to his detriment. What is interesting, however, is that the viewing public emerged from the two hours even more convinced of the case for independence than they were before the programme started. An ICM poll for the Embra Evening News suggests that before the fisticuffs, 47.2% intended to vote Yeah, with 34.6% saying they'd vote Naw, and 17.8% swithering. After the dust had settled 54.1% were in the Yeah camp, 40.2% in the Naw, and just 5.1% still sitting on the fence. Fascinating, non?

AFTER living in a tent on Portobello beach for the last four months, my dear amigo, Ben Treuhaft, has been told by Embra Toon Cooncil that he must leave.

Mr Treuhaft, whose mother was Jessica Mitford, Jakey Rowling's favourite journalist, and whose father was Bob Treuhaft, a lawyer who took one Hilary Rodham Clinton as an intern, now has no option but to pack up his things, including his piano, and go. So ends one of the most diverting sagas in these parts for centuries.

Mr Treuhaft, who is 66, landed on the beach after he was told to get out of the family home by his Hungarian wife. It's not clear whether she actually meant him to depart or whether she just lost the rag momentarily because he was annoying her. Be that as it may, Mr Treuhaft did not hang around and immediately bought a tent in which he could sleep and use as the HQ for his piano-tuning business.

When I finally caught up with him in person, he was tuning a piano for Kong Ki from Macao, whose Fringe show - Puzzle The Puzzle - you simply must see. Mr Treuhaft was barefooted, with a pink-tinged goatee beard, baggy Japanese pants, red and black bandana, and green toenails. In short, a sight for sore eyes.

He'd just come from a weekend in the Borders where he was staying with his relative, Stella Tennant, "the most beautiful woman in Scotland". Asked how he survives and thrives, he said: "I've never done an honest day's work in my life." Having said which, he gave me his business card, in case I knew of anyone who needs a piano tuned. If that's you go to: tunerben.com.

TALKING of the Mitfords, I've been reading Jessica's Hons And Rebels. Isn't it wunderbar? Say what you like about our nearest (and dearest) neighbours but no one does eccentricity quite like them.

Arguably, the Mitfords were the most eccentric family ever put on the planet. Of one of her sisters, writes Jessica, "she ... wanted to be a horse, and spent long hours practising to be one, realistically pawing the ground, tossing her head, and neighing".

Another thought it a hoot to wrap her pet snake round a toilet chain, which gave an unsuspecting governess the fright of her life. Another spent long hours trying to imitate the look on a hen's face as it laid an egg. Jessica, meanwhile, who was as far to the left as Hitler-loving Unity was to the right, used to amuse herself by giving her father daily Palsy Practice, which consisted of her shaking his hand while he was drinking tea.

"In a few years," she told him, "when you're really old, you'll probably have palsy. I must give you a little practice now, before you actually get it, so that you won't be dropping things all the time." I shall be very surprised if we see their likes again.

TELL them I'm out of scoops, were apparently almost the last words of Chapman Pincher, the celebrated hack who has died aged 100. By the spookiest of coincidences I've been thinking about last words, many of which seem to me to have been rehearsed before the bell tolls. I have always been fond of those credited to Gertrude Stein. "What is the answer?" she asked.

On being given no reply, she murmured: "In that case, what is the question." Saki, who was killed by a sniper in the Second World War, went to his doom immediately after he said: "Put that bloody cigarette out!"

I'm fond of unusual endings too, none more so than that of poet Lionel Johnson, who legend has it died after falling off a bar stool. But what about James Agee and Robert Lowell, both of whom died in taxis? Not something you'd wish on your worst enemy; may they all expire on the No 26 bus.

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