AUSTRALIAN bar staff have been commonplace in Scotland in recent years, as they take a break from back-packing the world.

Martin Morrison in Lochinver tells us about a local winding up an Australian barman by asking for a packet of helicopter flavour crisps.

Says Martin: "Said barman was new, and too polite to question him, and dutifully perused the selection of crisps on offer. 'Sorry, mate. We don't have any.' 'Oh well' said the local. 'Just give me a packet of plane'."

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Getting needled

TATTOOING can cause unexpected problems. A tattoo artist tells in Glasgow journalist Deedee Cuddihy's new book, Under the Skin of a Scottish Tattoo, about a chap who came in and said: "I want my wean's date-of-birth tattooed." Recalled the tattooist: "I said, 'What is it?' and he said, 'I don't know'. So he called home to find out and I heard his wife shouting down the phone, 'You can't remember the wean's ******* date of birth?'"

Any more tattoo tales gratefully received.

Hours to reason why

"I SEE the film 127 Hours was on the telly the other night," said the fan of a Highland League football who called us. "I didn't know if it was about a trapped mountain climber or about the last time Fort William won a match."

Card sharp

MORE birthday card difficulties, as Lois McGinty tells us that her sister-in-law took her 98-year-old mum to look for a card for her son's birthday.

Says Lois: "She seemed to be having difficulty finding what she was looking for, but all was explained when she was heard to ask the assistant if she had a 'Happy 70th birthday, Son' card."

Can he fix it? Yes he can

IRISH bookmakers Paddy Power is trying to make American politics interesting by offering odds on cliché betting – choosing which hackneyed phrase President Barack Obama will say first today in his State of the Union speech.

Favourite at 8/1 is "We have more work to do" with odds also on phrases such as "As I stand here today", "Building a better America", and "reduce the deficit". Film fans though will be delighted that you can have odds of 250/1 on "Life is like a box of chocolates".

Generation ex

RETIREMENT continued. Recently retired Angela Simms passes on the maxim "The problem with the younger generation is... I am not in it."

Frozen out

BURNS Night tomorrow, and Ian Lyell, president of Mauchline Burns Club recalls: "I was once addressing the haggis in Alloway. In full flow I was ready to trench its gushing entrails bright but found I could not as the beast had not defrosted. To make things worse, Willie Johnstone of Reporting Scotland was standing beside me with a camera. Nobody could understand why I was unable to cut it up with ready sleight."