A CHRISTMAS quiz question. Which is the only major Scottish town or city without a branch of Greggs. A: It’s Inverness.

But that’s going to change in the new year when the Newcastle-based invaders move in.

It’s going to be sausage rolls at dawn, a major bunfight, because two local bakers, Harry Gow and Ashers, are hegemonic there and will be resisting down to the last crumpet and toasted tea cake.

But it isn’t even a full-frontal high street assault because the first Greggs will be based at the Esso garage on Longman Road. Nothing like the whiff of petroleum to set your taste buds dancing.

Love me don't

Into the lexicon of romantic affairs come two new ones on me. There’s “hesidating” – after lockdown it’s ambivalence about winching – and “cuffing”, where you hook up with someone just for the cold and dark winter months.

It was so much simpler in my day. Now, there aren’t just these, but you have to work out whether to wear a mask, shake hands ungloved, or quiz the other not on their sexual history, but how many, if any, vaccine shots they’ve had.

No Turning point

I’VE been invited to join a group on social media, based on others I follow apparently, which has more than 11,000 members. It’s called Segmented Bowl Turning. And, no, I have absolutely no idea.

Bars ire brews

I REALISE there won’t be much of a thought given to prisoners at Christmas, or at other times, but we’re jailing more people than in England per head of population and most of the rest of Europe, save Turkey and Russia, and the number of deaths inside is at a 10-year high.

Thirty-nine have died so far this year, compared to 23 for the full year of 2011.

And, of the 39, 10 were suicide by hanging, compared to just three Covid deaths and two drug-related, although seven deaths are still unascertained.

We jail 178 per 100,000 of the population, higher than England (167/100k), France (105/100k), Italy at (89/100k) or Germany (76.2/100k).

Another depressing statistic is that jail for sexual offences has doubled in less than seven years and 16 per cent of the prison population is there for sex crimes.

A Case to answer

YOU might have thought that the UK’s top civil servant Simon Case would have recused himself from investigating the notorious Number 10 Christmas party last year because he held one of his own two days later, but not so.

Perhaps the thinking was “who better to check it out than a party animal?”.

The whole thing has been a charade. We all know there was one, not just one, and they were raising glasses in all the great offices of state while the rest of us were separated from family and seeing dying loved ones. I mentioned last week that The Sun, unlike every other newspaper and news organisation, didn’t splash on the party because its now-deputy editor was at it.

There’s another reason. On the same night they were throwing them back in Boris’s gaff the paper was having its own unmasked, boozy jamboree.

Commons cretin

MY two adult girls had a long weekend in Krakow recently. The main reason they went is so that they could visit Auschwitz concentration camp, the permanent symbol of Nazi genocide and liquidation of Jews.

The further we move from it the more important it is that younger and future generations should know of it and ensure that it is never forgotten and can never happen again.

For them it was, of course, a deeply affecting visit.

And then up pops the Tory MP for Yeovil, Marcus Fysh (it rhymes with urine), who opposed the idea of vaccine passports because, he said: “This is not Nazi Germany.”

To casually and cretinously throw that in, comparing a QR code on your phone to the murder of six million Jews, unnumbered communists, socialists and gypsies, and the 30 million or more in the USSR who died, is inexcusable. There should be a recall petition launched against him in the constituency.

Fysh has voted against an elected House of Lords, against higher benefits for illness and disability, and for cutting local government funding.

And he has voted for the Nationality and Borders Bill, which is just the sort of measure Hitler would have championed, that people can be stripped of their citizenship without even being informed about it.

Another moron who joined in was the actor and politician Laurence Fox, who tweeted Fysh’s comment. He also said of the proposal for compulsory Covid passports: “Mengele would have no doubt approved.”

Yes, Dr Josef Mengele, aka “the Angel of Death”, who experimented on Jewish and Roma children at Auschwitz and collected the eyes of those he murdered as “research material” and wasn’t even tried for it. See what you mean, Lozza!

Fox founded the Reclaim Party. Its candidate in the North Shropshire by-election came below Ukip and Reform, polling just 385 whackos and he lost his deposit.

Fox’s marbles left a long time ago.

Claus out for reindeer

THE big question of this festive season is: are Santa’s deliveries carbon neutral? If not, should he be sanctioned?

Scoff not. It’s one that may decide whether the old geezer has finally to be pensioned off and entirely replaced by Amazon.

This isn’t the place to go into whether his production facilities meet health and safety standards or whether the workforce is unionised – that’s for later. This is about what Dancer, Prancer and Co do to the environment in their worldwide peregrinations.

Certainly considerably less than doing it by air. Someone has calculated that a return trip from London to San Francisco, or even Las Vegas, coughs out enough CO2 to melt five square metres of Arctic sea ice.

You may not care about this, but polar bears do.

Reindeer are ruminants which means they eat plants and consequently produce considerably more methane than you and I. They also eat the shrubs and vegetation which help deal with their farts.

According to the findings of a bunch of scientists in the Global Change Biology journal, which you may have missed – it’s nightly reading for me – year-round grazing resulted in the tundra having dwarf shrubs that hold onto carbon in the soil more securely.

The study was on the Norway-Finland border and the scientists found that with winter-only grazing, native birch spread faster and released carbon more quickly.

An interesting finding was that in eating the birch they also gobbled up the fly agaric toadstool Amanita muscaria, a pillar box-red fungus which looks as if it’s flecked with dandruff or vomit.

The beasts wolfed them down and then went prancing and dancing, running around in circles and making strange sounds, like an aggrieved kid when his PlayStation doesn’t arrive.

Shrewd reindeer herders cottoned on to the psychoactive effects of these fungi and, after a few of them died eating them, they realised they could get the same hallucinogenic effect by drinking their charges’ urine, which had the natty effect of retaining the hit but removing the toxins.

I wish I had made that last bit up, but I didn’t. Try not to think about it as you drink your mulled wine this Christmas.

Another study this year in Finland found that reindeer droppings deposited on the bogs and fens they graze on in summer increased the production of methane.

So, is Santa’s run carbon neutral? It will be if his reindeer graze all the year round. I wrote a letter asking him if they did and put it up the chimney but he hasn’t got back to me yet.