MY first thought on learning that my old chum, John Sweeney, had invaded North Korea on behalf of Panorama was sympathy for Kim Jong Ill-behaved, the nut who wants to nuke us.

Mr Sweeney is well known for turning up uninvited where he is not wanted.

One recalls, for example, the occasion when, disguised in wetsuit and snorkel, he singlehandedly invaded the Channel Island of Sark with the intention of buttonholing my former employers, the Barclay twins, who, I suspect, were not in residence at the time but out clubbing with my other old amigo, Andra Neil.

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But I digress. Mr Sweeney got into North Korea by posing as an academic from the London School of Economics. Have you seen what Mr Sweeney looks like?

If he can be mistaken for an academic then I am Vladimir Putin. Earlier in his career, Mr S was briefly employed by The List magazine in Embra where he was assigned to interview Greta Scacchi, the movie star. If memory serves me right she had a sniffle, which consigned her to bed where, graciously, she agreed to be quizzed.

Mr S, however, took it upon himself to give a graphic description of her symptoms – runny nose, rheumy eyes, blotchy skin etc – which was deemed ungallant and therefore brutally cut from article just as it was about to go to press.

Shortly thereafter, Mr S headed south in search of streets paved with despots.

A Shropshire woman says she is being stalked by a pheasant, which, experts reckon, is male. Things have got so bad that she's taken to carrying a badminton racket to fend off the bird. How very Shropshire. Were the woman in another part of the world, Tranent, say, or Troon, you can bet it would not be a badminton racket she'd be carrying.

Pheasants, of course, are the dumbest birds on the planet and make suicide bombers look savvy as they throw themselves in front of cars.

This pheasant is no different. "When we get in the car," says the woman, "he will appear from nowhere and jump in the car or start pecking it. He runs alongside as we drive away, pecking and headbutting the wheels."

This leads me to assume that it must have been bred in Glesca. A spokesbloke for the World Pheasant Association reckons the bird is simply protecting its territory and sees the woman as a male rival. How likely is that!

We're all Thatcherites noo, says Posh Dave, his voice cracking with emotion. Why do politicians say such daft things? On the day of her funeral I did a vox pop in George Street, Auld Reekie, bumping into one old friend after another.

Irrespective of gender they were all in the mood to celebrate her demise with a glass of champers and a plate of spag bol at Jamie O's latest greasy spoon.

I gather the nosh was no less fancy at the wake in Westminster where the wine flowed and unspeakable acts were committed against mushrooms. This is not how funerals should be conducted.

My old friend Alastair Clark, folkie extraordinaire, who departed last year to the great ceilidh in the sky, judged it perfectly, specifying that those mourning him should be supplied with "cheap wine, tired sandwiches and lukewarm sausage rolls because that's what people expect".

IT is always a pleasure to read the reminiscences of my old amigo, John Calder, publisher, opera buff and man about town, who divides his time between Edinburgh, London and Paris. His latest offering is called The Garden Of Eros, which, as the title suggests, is often concerned with sex. The 1960s was a golden decade for the sexually active and it's nice to be reminded that not everyone who was "at it" was a pervert, pace Jimmy Shovel. Orgies, it seems, were commonplace, though I have never understood their appeal. Having said which, I get the willies in crowded rooms. Mr Calder's great chum is Jim Haynes, founder of the Traverse theatre and a co-editor of Suck magazine, the least said about which the better. According to Mr Calder, many folk in Paris, including the legendary publisher, Maurice Girodais, were convinced that Mr H – whose pals included John and Yoko Lennon and Salvador Dali – was a CIA agent which, if true, makes the mind boggle. Mr H, writes Mr C, sowing seeds of suspicion, "managed to travel everywhere in the world he wanted to go, or as was said by many, where he was sent; how he managed it financially was one of the mysteries of Paris".

ANENT – yikes! – Maggie Thatched-Cottage. I was intrigued to see photies of her on a visit a millennium ago to our wee sister paper, The Herald, when she was conducted round the policies by Arnold Kemp, the then editor.

What was most astonishing was the prevalence of moustaches, which were once habitually worn as were ties.

One wonders why this was so. Was a moustache part and parcel of the journalistic uniform? Or were moustaches a reflection of wider society when hairiness was a signal of virility and a hirsute chest, for example, made women of a certain age go jelly-kneed?

I am so glad that Andra Marr, broadcaster extraordinaire, is on the road to recovery and may soon return to the goggle-box.

I am not surprised, however, to learn that the stroke that nearly killed him was prompted by an excess of hard exercise, which medics are now advising against. I could not agree more.

Not a day passes without me spying sundry old geezers wheezing past my window dressed in trainers, obscene shorts and a Bruce Willis vest.

Doubtless in pursuit of health and everlasting life, they invariably look as if they're shuffling towards the departure lounge and that it would only take a slight upping of the tempo to see them off.

That's not to say I don't exercise myself. I walk, I swim, albeit in the too-fast slow lane, I dry dishes, I reach for books. One way or another I am constantly in motion, even if it involves no more than a vigorous raising of the eyebrows.

The football hooligan who punched a police horse has apologised to it, insisting he loves animals. As yet there has been neigh response from Inspector Dobbin.