'SALMONELLA faces backlash from clergy for backing gay marriage." So reads a headline.

Whiplash would have been more interesting. Who cares what the "clergy" think? Indeed, do they think or do they just react, like Pavlova?

Various priests and meenisters say they are horrified at the thought that their premises will be used for gay marriages. But who would want to get married in such a place by someone who doesn't want to marry them? The happy truth is that neither Catholics nor the Kirk have half as much influence as they believe they have.

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As ever in such debates, if such this is, spurious fears are touted, namely the possibility that after gay marriage passes into law, polygamy will be next. When I mentioned this at my club the other evening a hard-of-hearing member responded: "What's that you're saying about origami?"

ALARM, apparently, is spreading across the land because no-one is shopping for Christmas. Crucial is footfall. As you put one foot in front of another you are allowing your foot to fall. Ideally, plead retailers, you should let it fall in a shop, where it can be counted and thus compared with feet that fell in years past.

So far footfall is down in malls by 4.9% and on the high street by 0.8%. To blame, says a bloke employed by a retail consortium, are poor folk who for inexplicable reasons refuse to spend money they don't have. What is the world coming to! Then there is the cold weather, which poor folk who can't afford clothes don't like, preferring to stay indoors. Retail-wise, says the retail consortium bloke, it's a lethal combination.

Then there is the internet, which, say its devotees, is like John Lewis without the queues. Everything there is cheaper, it seems. The only drawback is you have to wait in for someone to deliver it. But given that you can't afford to leave the house anyway that shouldn't be a problem. All's well.

GOOGLE is cock-a-hoop because Apple has been making cock-ups with its maps, sending folk who want to go to Timbuctoo, Africa, to Timbuctoo, Lanarkshire.

One fondly recalls the story of two female Japanese tourists who told a taxi driver to take them to Stamford Bridge in the hope, presumably, of witnessing in the flesh John Terry's rippling thighs. Instead, they were taken to Stamford Bridge, Yorkshire, site of a famous battle. It's easily done.

Once upon a time the Home Secretary and I decided to visit Drumlanrig, the Dook of Buccleuch's pile in Dumfriesshire. At some point on the journey it became obvious that something had gone badly awry. I was navigating, there being no satnav in our charabanc. On and on we travelled, but Drumlanrig got no closer. One hour passed, then another, then yet another. What looked like steam seemed to be coming from the HS's lugs. "Where," she said, her tone exuding exasperation, "in the name o' the wee man ur wi!???!" This was not an easily answered question.

What I – and she – did know was that Drumlanrig is nowhere near Troon, which is where we appeared to be heading. Having said which, neither is Drumlamford, to which I seemed to be guiding us. How annoyingly confusing.

THEY have made a 3-D film of The Hobbit, which wild boars would not drive me to experience. A very dear friend, who is also an eminent film critic, attended a viewing in London, after which he hurried off to catch a sleeper to the Frozen North. En route to the station he got a few odd looks, but who doesn't. Indeed, there are a lot of funny-looking people abroad at this time of year at least some of whom are surely not wearing straitjackets as fancy dress.

Before boarding, my friend ordered a vegetarian pasty. Normally, this transaction takes place without incident or remark but my friend was aware that in purchasing the pasty he was given an odd look which suggested he was an object of some curiosity. Is it, he wondered, because I'm vegetarian? All, however, became clear, when he climbed aboard the choo-choo and realised that he was still wear the green, 3D glasses with the Hobbit logo that he'd been given to watch the film. How different things must have looked when he took them off.

A "senior" pee-er has called my old chum John Swinney a "scoundrel". Up with this I will not put! Mr Swinney is an honourable man I would trust with the contents of my sporran, which is more than I can say for the pee-er, who would rather believe the chunterings of an EU tube called Bozzorosso than our Meenister for Moneylending.

Mr Bozzorosso says that come independence we will have to apply to join the EU; Mr Swinney begs to differ. This has had those on the "nay" side doing cartwheels, including, interestingly, Posh Dave's Dodos, many of whom are keen to find an excuse to exit the EU.

TO London, where one of Boris's pals, policing chief Stephen Greenhalgh, has apologised "unreservedly" after he patted a woman worker on the bum.

Mr Greenhalgh says he has "no recollection" of doing so but has apologised just in case he did. What are we mere mortals to make of this? Is it possible, one wonders, to pat someone, anyone, on the bum without remembering it? If so, this is hardly complimentary to the recipient of said pat. If one must have one's bum patted, you'd like to think that the patter cherished the memory.

Of course, Mr Greenhalgh may be suffering from uncontrollable palsy which leads him to pat incontinently. If so, he has our sympathy. If not, he should come clean and say he had an irresistible urge to pat the woman's bum. And resign forthwith.

Hallelujah! Silvio Bonkersconi, who may yet become PM of Italy for a fourth time, has a new squeeze. At 27, Francesca Pascale is bit old for him. Like him, she is a singer, best known for singing: "If you pull your knickers down, the ratings go up". As it would appear have hers!

So that's what Drumlanrig looks like – I could have saved myself a journey

Even 3D glasses couldn't help me tell a hobbit from a dwarf