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Would a good scrub with carbolic soap help clean up the Co-op Bank? Otherwise it's the casino for me

MICHTY me!

I refer to the astonishing revelation that Ally McCoist, manager of the Gers, could well be responsible for the annihilation of humankind. Little did one appreciate this as one watched the poor fellow suffer as his hapless crew struggled to overcome the likes of the Forfar Bridies and the Brechin Bannocks.

It transpires that the breakwater he built at his second home on the Cowal Peninsula has been deemed a hazard to national security and must be demolished. The MoD - Ministry of Death - says that nuclear subs, going to and from Faslane, could be endangered, leading to Armageddon. Mr McCoist appealed unsuccessfully to the Scottish Government; he'd have been as well talking to Neil Lennon, manager of the Tic, for all the sympathy he received. If we are to believe the MoD, "secret" underwater microphones in the area - designed to pick up enemy threats - could be disturbed. To which one's only comment is: well, they're no' secret noo.

TO the Old Bailey and the ongoing phone-hacking trial, a constant source of amusement. On the stand is Andra Coulson, erstwhile editor of the News of the Screws and former adviser to Posh Dave. The annual budget for the rag was £32 million, we learned, which is slightly more than that for the Sunday Herald.

The point Mr Coulson (who denies all the charges) was making was that he, as editor, could not possibly know how every penny was spent. As ever, context is all. The Screws spent £10,000 a year on flowers and £12,000 on champagne. Even more impressive, however, was the mighty amount it paid annually to its astrologer, Mystic Meg (not her real name). She got more than £200,000. I'm sure she was worth it, for it's always harder to make stuff up than to regurgitate wire copy. No-one knows this better than moi.

A belated faretheeweel to Sue Townsend, creator of Adrian Mole. In the many fond tributes to her, few made mention of my dear, departed chum, Giles Gordon, Ms Townsend's literary agent.

Mr Giles was often credited - not least by himself - for discovering her, as Captain Cook did Australia, and for helping her translate Mr Mole from a radio script to a book. History records that Mr Giles got her a £500 advance, which even in the 1980s was not a lot. History also records that the Mole diaries went on to sell by the barrowload, not only making Ms Townsend well off but Mr Giles too. Not for nothing did he title his autobiography Aren't We Due A Royalty Statement?

NURSES in Ingerland have been told to wash their hands to prevent the spread of infection. Of all the things they need to know, one might be forgiven for thinking they ought already to know that.

Apparently not. This seems an appropriate moment to mention Joseph Lister, erstwhile professor of surgery at the University of Glasgow, who, in the late 1800s, realised that patients had a better chance of survival if the people who were caring for them were not themselves in need of a good scrub. Mr L was especially keen on carbolic acid, the beneficial quality of which he witnessed when it was spread on noxious fields. Verily, he was a man obsessed. For their honeymoon, he took his wife Agnes to France and Germany where they spent three blissful (and doubtless spotless) months visiting medical institutes.

AS someone who has a couple of bob locked in the Co-op Bank I am watching in horror as it and its sister company lurches from crisis to crisis. In so doing I have come to realise just how elastic is the term "banker". Naively, I used to believe that a banker had to have certain qualifications. Not at the Co-op.

There is a certain irony in the fact that the Rev Paul Flowers was a Methodist preacher, the perfect job for a snake oil salesman. Many of those who trusted the Co-op with their dosh did so in the mistaken belief that it was, as Rev Flowers insisted, an ethical bank, in comparison to most other banks which are about as ethical as oil and gas companies. Now, one has no ethical illusions about any of them, which is a parlous state on which to build a financial relationship. Increasingly, I am drawn to the bank in the Monte Carlo casino, which at least is upfront about the risk it poses to its punters.

I hear by osmosis that the most-read article on a broadsheet blatt's website is a recipe for lentil soup. I am not surprised. For many papers these days a lentil soup recipe, especially one with an exotic ingredient, would deserve to be given the front page let alone banished to the gulag of the internet.

Readers of this throbbing organ may not be surprised to learn that when it comes to soup-making I am right up there with the Raymond Blancs and Ma Broons. Lentil, of course, is my piece de resistance. Aficionados know that it is essential to soak the seeds for at least eight hours. I prefer those that are Indian in origin. To them I add - not necessarily in this order - vegetable stock, an onion, and vegetables bought at the supermarket for a quid already cleaned and chopped. Occasionally, if I'm in a continental frame of mind, I add a clove or two of garlic. Also, Herbes de Provence and a twist of salt and pepper. The only other ingredients are oil and water, which are not supposed to mix but do. Stock-wise, I never use a ham shank, lest it provoke letters from barmy veggies. Invariably it tastes yummy. Increasingly, I find lentil soup is unavailable in the outside world, supplanted by butternut squash. What's that all about?

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