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Trot to the shops for a trolleyful of haggis and cheap CDs but beware the sell-by date of grapefruit

PLANS are afoot to redevelop Glesca's George Square which, fear those who are scunnered at the thought, will turn it into a permanent fairground, as opposed to an occasional one.

I am reminded by my dear friend Robert Crawford – whose new book, On Glasgow And Edinburgh, I urge you to purchase – that it was not so long ago that local residents used to hang out their washing there. This seems to me a good use for it, though I doubt the unwashed denizens of the City Chambers will countenance it. Having said which, one can imagine the kind of gear the sado-masochists of the nearby Merchant City would be likely to display.

I do hope, though, that the hideous red tarmac with which the square is covered will go. I am told, admittedly on dubious authority, that it was rendered thus by a left-leaning lord provost in a misguided attempt to replicate Moscow's Red Square.

AS I feared, HMV may be a goner and with it, Fopp. This is nothing less than a national tragedy and I am astonished that Posh Dave has not called an emergency debate in the Commons to see what can be done to avert it. I visited HMV in Princes Street the other day, trying single-handedly to avert the crisis, but no matter how many CDs I bought I could sense it was not enough.

Cheap as chips though they were, the well-informed dude in the classical music department insisted on deducting another 25% from the price, which meant that after adding everything up the store owed me money. When I suggested this could not go on, Mr Dude gave a wan smile and said: "Enjoy it while it lasts." I ought to have listened to him.

But what now can be done to protect this British institution? A white knight may appear on the horizon but they're rarely as white as they seem. Would it not make more sense for those who love HMV and Fopp and cannot bear the thought of life without them to organise a community buy-out, as did the islanders of Eigg? We cannot stand idly by and watch them go down the tube.

LIKE every right-thinking person on the planet, I believe we waste too much food. When I was a lad, which was just the other day, you were not allowed to leave the table until you'd cleared your plate. The longest I sat at it was two weeks, such was my hatred of stewed onions.

Nowadays we have such things as sell-by dates, to which countless folk pay too much heed. Not me. It is still within living memory that I gave a beer to my dear chum Harry McGrath, who politely pointed out its vintage and said if he drank it he would be a goner.

The Home Secretary – who, incidentally, I have seen leave scraps by the side of her plate – recently raised an eyebrow over the ancient sell-by date on a tin of grapefruit. Of course, I told her to ignore such rubbish and start gobbling. On opening the tin she found that the grapefruit was so old it had dissolved, as if in acid. Be all of that as it may, I have just spread some peanut butter on toast, which tasted not quite right.

Indeed, it tasted revolting. On inspecting the jar I note that its sell-by date expired two years ago. Reader, it's in the bin.

NO-ONE is more pleased than yours truly at the resurrection of darts as a national pastime. Eventually, one hopes to see it become part of the Olympics, for what is darts but a miniature version of the javelin?

When I first began to frequent public houses, everyone played darts and always carried a set of arrows around with them on the off-chance of game.

There was a dart board on the back of every male teenager's bedroom door, as there were posters of Che Guevara and that female tennis player who preferred to go commando. If nothing else, it helped one become a whizz at mental arithmetic. Darts, I mean. What also appealed was the idea that you could play when supping beer, the two going together like vinegar and chips.

Alas, there is no darts-playing permitted in my highly exclusive club, Stagg's. When I pointed this out to Nigel, our Don Corleone, he was in no mood for negotiation, suggesting that to put a dart in the hands of members who may not be entirely compos mentis was like giving a Masai warrior a spear. What a bleak view of humankind!

NEWS reaches me from sundry astonished sources of a creative writing course based in a luxury retreat, Ardoch, on the shores of Loch Lomond.

Aspiring Irvine Welshes, James Kelmans and Janice Galloways will need to cough up £1500 to get the kind of tuition only those with money to burn can buy – for example, you will learn how to construct "characters that feel real". Whoop-di-do!

And when you are not staring at a blank screen, you can gaze vacantly at a view recommended by Christopher Brookmyre (one of the tutors) or sail or hillwalk or visit a distillery or attend a Highland Games. You couldn't make it up, could you?

BURNS season is upon us, which means bumper sales for haggis and neeps and, in the case of Whiterashes, which is a favourite haunt of Alexei Salmonella, mince. Tonight I am giving the Immortal Memory in Portobello, which is more famous for its swimming baths than any association with the Bard. What new can one say about Him? Precious little, I fear.

It occurs to me, however, that an enterprising publisher could make big bucks by publishing a collection of the best Immortal Memories from which desperate souls such as myself could borrow shamelessly. As it is, I fear I have no option left but to make it up as I go along.

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