A FEW days ago the lights went out in the middle of the six o'clock news.

In these circumstances I did what I always do, which is panic.

First, I phoned the electricity company and was told that if I didn't have my account number to hand I could sod off. I then phoned the local police station and was put through to Police Scotland who told me I should call my local cop shop. This is what's called a vicious cycle. By now the enormity of the problem was beginning to dawn. First, the Home Secretary fished a torch out of the car.

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Then she said she thought there had perhaps been a terrorist attack on Torness nuclear power station and that the end was nigh. Frankly, I couldn't have cared less; I was starving and had hoped to microwave a tin of baked beans which, with toast, makes for a tasty repast. Being powerless this was an impossibility.

The HS said that we should have fish and chips instead but she soon realised that the chip shop would also be hors de combat. Instead we had raw eggs and banana and sat staring at our reflections in the blank TV screen.

At eight we went to bed and read by torchlight. I have since discovered we were not alone. Not, of course, in bed.

My friend Bob dashed immediately to Staggs where Nigel, the host, had decreed that there would be business as usual, albeit by candlelight. I have since seen the pictures to prove it.

The electrics came back on around midnight. As ever, rumours of Armageddon had been grossly exaggerated.

A NEW cooker has been installed at vast expense. The chap who did the deed assumed that its operator would be the Home Secretary whom, I told him peevishly, couldn't boil an egg.

She has since corrected me, stating that boiled eggs are one of several dishes she is capable of producing to Michelin standard. I am happy, therefore, to set the record straight.

We were given strict instructions how to keep the exterior of the cooker shiny. This, said the chap, could be accomplished by the application of baby oil.

Any suggestion of innuendo went right over my pate. But I do recall when my dear friend Donald Dewar asked a hostess who had served him a delicious roast chicken for dinner how she had got it to taste so succulent.

"By rubbing butter into its skin," she said, "as you might apply baby lotion to your lover's naked body." Not without reason did Mr Dewar look at her as if she'd gone stark, raving bonkers.

IT is the Home Secretary's birthday. Out goes the bunting. All morning, relays of posties have been arriving with cards and presents, in defiance of the recessionary gloom and doom.

Nothing, however, compared with my own contribution to the feast, namely a CD entitled Classic Bruce Willis, which, when the HS first clapped eyes on it, was comparable only to the look on a wean's face when it realises that Santa has come up trumps again.

DONOVAN, a rock god, has nominated Bert Jansch, guitarist extraordinaire, to be in Scotia's Music Hall of Fame when it opens in a year or two. I agree.

Says Mr D, Mr Jansch's "influence is huge, stretching round the world, especially to the American singer-songwriters". Among those who revered Mr Jansch, who plucked his final note last year, were Neil Young, Jimmy Page and Johnny Marr.

By the spookiest of coincidences I have been watching a DVD called Acoustic Routes, which was directed by my old chum and sometime collaborator Jan Leman. An homage to Mr Jansch, among those featured in it are Billy Connolly, John Renbourn, Albert Lee, Jacqui McShee and Brownie McGhee, along with other stalwarts of what was known as the folk and blues scene.

Another shade who makes an appearance is Hamish Imlach, who had the dirtiest laugh on the planet. Mr Leman tells me that Mr Imlach, who was as broad as he was tall, met Ghandi as a child and helped bring up John Martyn. Jings! Mr Imlach, adds Mr Leman, once buckled the suspension of his booze-laden car when driving it off the Calais ferry.

In the film, he is seen entering the Howff, a famed folk club in Edinburgh, whereupon he says: "I can honestly say that this is the first time I've ever come in here sober."

TO Staggs, where I spot my friend John taking a packet wrapped in aluminium foil from his pocket. What could it be other than crack cocaine?

Once upon a time another old friend, Wull, was seen doing something similar, though he had the grace to do his dealing outside the premises.

It transpired that he was providing those and such as those with leeks which he grew in his allotment. John's product was no less pungent; trout smoked in his own apple wood. I was privileged to taste it and suffice it to say I have never eaten anything like it. In a good way.

John's quaffing companions, however, were rather less charitable, putting distance between them and him as the heat rose and the fishy smell began to circulate.

ANENT - the fight goes on! - Ryanair. Its boss, Michael O'Leary, says he wants to stop passengers putting luggage in the hold, a move, he admits, that's preparatory to charging for carrying bags on board.

Thus, little by little, Mr O'Ludicrous makes life intolerable for those responsible for lining his pockets with gold. Soon, one imagines, he will specify what togs folk are allowed to wear on board his metal birds. Coats will probably be the first items to be proscribed. Personally I am all for travelling light but it's difficult to travel without any luggage at all.

To combat Mr O'L's diktat I bought a coat of many pockets and stuffed it with toiletries, gadgets and undergarments and passed through Ryanair's checkpoint trouble-free though I sweated like a slice of brie. The price of the flight was niggardly but the experience was soul-destroying, which is what, one suspects, Mr O'L's legacy will be, that of the man who made air travel as appealing as the commute on the No 26.