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Et tu, Mauchline: Ayrshire village or council Caesar, always look out for the stab in the back

I have returned to base after a sojourn in deepest Ayrshire attending the Bachelors' Club Burns Supper.

It was a select gathering of 30 or so gents with hair growing everywhere but on their heads. The principal speaker was John Shirkie, a local man, who took us on a mesmerising tour of Tarbolton, or Tarbowton as it's known thereabouts. The village's name, explained Mr Shirkie, means a hill on which worshippers gathered to make offerings to their gods. Recently, he said, a group of local teenagers had re-enacted this tradition by setting fire to a Vauxhall Astra. The Diary's army of fact-checkers has been unable to confirm the veracity of this story. Checking with Mr Wikipedia proved futile. However, Mr W does offer the following: "Some language experts have suggested that the word 'Tarbolton' directly translates into 'a sad, dirty place where almost everyone's IQ is below 80'." I suspect foul play, doubtless perpetrated by a resident of nearby Mauchline, which was often referred to in the course of the evening by members of the Bachelors' Club, rarely complimentarily.

LOOPY Rupe, owner of numerous offensive rags, is raging because of a cartoon in the Sunday Times by Gerald Scarfe, which Zionists claim is offensive. I dare say it is. Though I could also argue that it ain't. It is, after all, a cartoonist's job to be offensive. My old amigo, Ralph Steadman, stopped caricaturing politicians when they started buying his cartoons and hanging them in their loos. But anent – aha! – Rupe. Older readers of this throbbing organ may recall that this was the same dingbat who ordered the Sunday Times to run the Hitler diaries even when told they were fake by Hugh Trevor-Roper, aka Lord Dacre. If my memory serves me right, Rupe's exact reaction on that fabled occasion was "F*** Dacre!".

SO faretheweel Richard Stern, American novelist. Who he, I hear you ask, and not without reason. Though lauded by the likes of Philip Roth and Anthony Burgess, dear friends both, Mr Stern never quite hit the bookish big time, not because he didn't have talent but because there were too few readers with the wherewithal to recognise it.

"Admired but obscure" was the Noo Yawk Times's verdict, with which one cannot quibble and which should perhaps be carved on Mr Stern's heidstane. However, he did have another claim to fame, as the author of a damning review of Joseph Heller's Catch-22. It was, quoth Mr Stern, "no novel", "repetitive and monotonous", "an emotional hodge-podge", and much more besides. Mr Heller died famous and revered; Mr Stern didn't.

I confess to being somewhat surprised when, a year or so ago, St Andrews received £150,000 from Creative Teuchter, the useless arts body, as one of Scotia's first Creative Places. I used to visit St Andrews irregularly, usually to view the permanent exhibition of pies and sausage rolls in Fisher & Donaldson's window, but hitherto I had not thought of it as in urgent need of our help. But who am I to say? Perhaps all those folk dressed from head to toe in Barbour and Agent Provocateur were really on the breadline and needed an infusion of our dosh to drag them off the Old Course and into theatres and galleries.

Where, one cheekily wonders, did all that cash go? Not, it seems, into the Byre Theatre, which is due to close because of a cash shortfall. Who is to blame? Doubtless the finger can be pointed at a number of sinners, but for me Creative Teuchter is the biggest. If, as has been reported, all the Byre needs to see it through a lean patch is a measly £75,000, then why could CS not find it? Surely its panjandrums knew what trouble the Byre was in?

Having said which, several of the aforementioned panjandrums have already left, never, one trusts, to be seen in these parts again. More – including the entire board – should follow their example. Meanwhile, CS announced the latest round of Creative Places awards on January 23. Where? You've guessed – the Byre!

FOR reasons that are beyond explanation I found myself recently watching an old STV interview on You're-a-Tube with Norman MacCaig. The interviewer was my old friend Jenny Brown. As devotees of the great man know he was three-quarters Gael, thanks, largely, to his mother's kin. This, said Mr M, was the well from which his poetry sprung. Or words to that effect. His mother, he added, arrived in Edinburgh without a word of English. One of the first she had to learn was "yes", for which, apparently, there is no Gaelic equivalent. Can this be true? Thus, if one Gael says to another, "Will you be going to the shops today?", the other can't simply say "yes", but must say something along the lines of: "I will be going to shops today." This explains a helluva lot.

GORDON Matheson, leader of Glasgow Council, has gone in the space of a few weeks from being Laybore's next Big Beast to the man whose name dare not be spoken in polite company.

First, he admitted to having a affair with an "old flame", having been caught allegedly doing something unspecified in a car park. Strathclyde's finest say the matter is now closed and refuse to elaborate but confirm Mr Matheson's bumper was not damaged.

Then there was the stushie over the redesign of George Square, Mr Matheson's "brainchild". Ahem. Apparently, when Mr M was told what the preferred design was he had what sources described as "a fit of pique". Meanwhile, the guid folk of the Dear Green Place are wondering what they're paying their council tax for. As time ticks by and the Commonwealth Games creep ever closer there is much muttering behind the arras in the City Chambers. So far the Laybore group has stuck Velcro-like to its leader. Readers eager to know what happens next should turn to Wullie Shakespeare's Julius Caesar (Act 3, Scene 1, Line 78).

IMPERTINENT EmPees want Nicola Sturgeon, Empress o' the Gnats, to spell out what plans there are come independence for a tartan MI6. What she should have said – but didnae – is she can't because it's a secret.

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