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When Bozzie met Sammy, rise of the metrosexual male and the sad demise of the natterjack toad

I surely do not need to remind readers of this constantly throbbing organ that it is 250 years to the month that James Boswell first came face to face with Samuel Johnson.

It was on May 16, 1763. Bozzie was in a London bookshop when Sammy dropped by. Introduced as a Scot, Bozzie wittered: "I do indeed come from Scotland, but I cannot help it." To which Sammy famously replied: "That, sir, I find, is what a very great many of your countrymen cannot help."

Thus was born the most successful Anglo-Scottish double act in music hall history. To celebrate this unforgettable occasion, I travelled to Auchinleck, Bozzie's family seat, which is now owned by the Landmark Trust.

However, last weekend it was host to the small but perfectly formed Boswell Book Festival, whose USP is the art of biography. Being Ayrshire, it poured, dampening everything but the spirits of the festival-goers, among whom were a direct descendant or two of Bozzie himself.

Auchinleck, I was reminded, was visited by Bozzie and Sammy on their jaunt around Scotia but Lord Auchinleck, unlike his son, was disinclined to play straight man to Sammy's wag and engaged him in a robust argument on the subject of Charles I's execution, during which the exchanges grew "exceedingly warm and passionate", and not in the sensual sense.

TO the General Assembly of the Kirk where, as ever, homosexuality was top of the bill. Much ado was made by the "commissioners" about whether someone could be an IM Jolly if they're "actively" gay.

There is no more entertaining sight than the Kirk getting its knickers in a twist over sex. The debate lasted longer than one of Fidel Castro's speeches, at the end of which a compromise was plucked from thin air by the wonderfully-named former Moderator, Bertie Bogle. Putting aside his traditional traditionalism, Rev Bogle proposed that congregations should be allowed to choose whether or not to recruit a gay minister who may be active or just "practising". Who wouldn't love to be a flea on the wa' during that interview!

The motion was duly passed and the Kirk was saved from fracture at the last minute. But how long will unity last?

In the meantime, various elderly elders muttered darkly about rubicons being crossed and precedents set. If congregations can appoint active, practising gay meenisters, what other powers might they seize?

It won't be too long, I suspect, before the first Betfred or Wetherspoon's opens in a kirk in Sodom or Gomorrah.

MY ignorance of popular culture is second to none. I have never, for example, seen an episode of Doctor Who or watched any of the Star Wars movies.

Why would I? Until recently I thought a Big Mac was an oversized raincoat and KFC stood for Kilmarnock Football Club. I suppose I ought to get out more.

Which is how I met my new dear friend Cerys Matthews, chanteuse extraordinaire, who used to be in a combo called Catatonia with whose oeuvre, alas, I am unfamiliar.

Ms Matthews also appeared in I'm A Celebrity ... Get Me Out Of Here and currently presents, on BBC 6, the best music show on the airwaves.

Our paths converged in Edinburgh where Ms Matthews was sent at the behest of The One Show to make a film about my favourite subject – no! not me! – Muriel Spark, whose novel, The Prime Of Miss Jean Brodie, has been chosen by the Beeb to be featured in a wee series, Britain By The Book.

Among the locations we visited was the Water of Leith where one of Miss Brodie's star pupils encountered a flasher "joyfully exposing" himself. I am relieved to report that no such incident occurred on our visit.

ACCORDING to a rag, "metrosexual males" are high-maintenance. You may ask what a metrosexual male is and I wouldn't blame you.

Doubtless the Kirk knows and is considering what should be done with them. Apparently, a typical MM insists on eating only in swanky restaurants, wouldn't be seen deid on public transport, spends more time in the boudoir than his female partner and – get this! – "refuses to go camping".

The strain this puts on relationships is clear for all to see. Imagine you are an outdoorsy kind of woman: how would you feel if your bloke insisted on staying in and blowdrying his locks rather than conquering Arthur's Seat? Then there's the cost.

MM's need to be showered with gifts or they go in the huff, which they seem to do regularly. Hence the widely-held belief that they're tubes.

NATURE is under the cosh. Again. You could almost hear the croak in Jim Naughtie's voice as he bemoaned the demise of the natterjack toad.

Beetles and wild flowers have been badly hit but there's also been a dramatic drop in the number of turtle doves, hedgehogs and tortoiseshell butterflies. There are various reasons for this disastrous state of affairs, such as the evil use of pesticides and the inadequate teaching of the highway code to various species.

Some 25 conservation organisations have contributed to a report titled The State Of Nature, including the British Lichen Society, one of whose aims is the study of lichen on headstones. I think I may become a member.

SERGIO Garcia, a stupid Spaniard, has apologised to Tiger Woods after he said that in order to resolve a recent dispute between the two of them he would invite Mr Tiger round for dinner and serve him "fried chicken".

Consequently, all hell has broken loose, because "fried chicken" was a dish often eaten by slaves and is judged to have racist overtones.

This is the second occasion a white golfer has cracked a "joke" about Mr Woods and fried chicken. The previous offender was one Fuzzy Zoeller, who was subsequently dropped by his sponsor Kmart. A similar fate may yet await Mr Garcia.

Meanwhile the golfing gods are happy to have black caddies dressed in prison-style overalls lug white players' bags around country club courses.

SAYS Matt Damon, aka Jason Bourne, of his new movie, in which he gets hot and steamy with Michael Douglas: "I now have things in common with Sharon Stone, Glenn Close and Demi Moore." And Catherine Zeta-Jones?

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