TO Edinburgh Zoo yesterday, exotic venue for the nuptials of my dear amigos Harry and Theresa. We took the No 26 omnibus, which, as many a passenger will attest, rather resembles a zoo in motion.

At Meadowbank, we were joined by Kenny MacAskill, until recently Meenister for Lawr And Order. There being no seats downstairs, Mr Mac climbed to the top deck, which was also packed to the gunnels.

Like others, he elected to stand, but we had gone no more than a stop before the driver switched on his megaphone and told Mr Mac it was against regulations and he must descend or face the consequences. How the mighty are reduced to naebodies!

The wedding was a splendiferous affair, if a touch surreal. After the ceremony we had a couple of hours to tour the zoo, the highlight of which was supposedly a penguin parade. And that was exactly what it was because only one penguin could be bothered to parade.

Thereafter, the Home Secretary and I visited the meerkats, which look just like they do in the ads. As you might expect, they're very well organised. Apparently, one meerkat is always on lookout duty, which lasts an hour. This makes me wonder if they are the only non-human creatures who can tell the time. After the wedding we got lost on our way out of the zoo. It was dark, damp and we could hear dreadful noises, possibly involving person-eating beasts. That's something I've yet to experience on the 26.


RATHER belatedly, I have learned that my dear friend Phyllis James - PD to hoi polloi - has shuffled off this mortal merry-go-round. Unlike much of the tosh that masquerades as detective fiction, Ms James's novels were stylishly written and spared liverish readers, like moi, the kind of gory details which are apt to put one off one's beans and toast.

Her detective was called Dalgliesh, and I once asked her if he was named in homage to King Kenny. The look she gave me suggested that I was barking up the wrong tree.

Ms James was fond of churches, as I am so long as no-one is using them for sermonising. I took her round a few in Edinburgh and I think it's fair to say she was impressed, especially by the blood-stained drapes in St Giles'. She was also a stickler for accuracy and was upset when a reader told her that the motorbike described in one of her novels could not possibly have reversed down a country lane.

He suggested that in future editions she change the make to a Harley-Davidson, which is capable of reversing. This Ms Phyllis did at the earliest opportunity.


READERS of our always throbbing sister paper, The Herald, will know that my holiday to Italy did not get off the ground. Literally. I got no further than the departure gate at Edinburgh Airport whereupon I was overcome with skull- splitting toothache and had no option but to retreat and seek succour from my faithful dentist. For future reference, my dear friend Harry Reid has kindly supplied me with the name of a dentist in Rome. More useful, though, would be a dentist based at the airport.

It took my own dentist no more than 15 minutes to deal the offending tooth a mortal blow, which is less time than it takes to process through security.


WHO, say those in the Holyrood steamie, does Cochrane think he is? I refer to my old colleague Alan Cochrane, Bampot-in-Chief of the North British edition of the Dodograph, who has produced a diary - Alexei Salmonella: My Part in His Downfall - in which he claims single-handedly to have saved the Union. Even if this were so, would you want to boast about it?

Be that as it may, Mr C has many unkind things to say about many chums. It's as if he has been recruited by pointy-heided Union tubes, strapped into a suicide vest and ordered to blow up himself and everyone else at First Meenister's Questions.

Unkind others have suggested that it is not so much a suicide vest he needs but a straitjacket. Hmmm.

One dear friend points me to passages in Mr Cocker's jottings in which he drools when in the presence of Posh Dave. Could he possibly have the hots for him? Surely I can't be alone in detecting a homoerotic undercurrent in these unsettling passages.


AS an unreconstructed snob, I could not bear to watch I'm A Celebrity ... and was thus dependent on rags to tell me what was going on in the jungle.

Michael Buerk lived up to his name. Having been ejected, he clyped that two or three of his fellow contestants didn't know what a pineapple was. How unusual is that?

As regular viewers of Come Dine With Me know, it's quite normal for the participants not to be able to tell fish from fowl, let alone an Eton mess from a dog's dinner. Meanwhile, Edwina Currie played Jane to various youthful Tarzans, which must have scared the living daylights out of them. Her fee for the show is going to fund an extension to her 17th-century house.

Can she be that hard up? Couldn't she have remortgaged?


A portrait of Mary, Queen of Scots, purporting to be one of - if not the - earliest depictions of the flame-haired tragedienne has been discovered.

It was painted in the 16th century by a Frenchman called Francois Clouet, who also painted Catherine de Medici.

It was found by Philip Mould, who appears on TV programmes. He paid £10,000 for it and it's now believed to be worth 10 times that. Her face is Goth pale, making her look as if she's seen a ghost, possibly her own.

Surmises rent-a-gob historian, David Starkey-Malarkey: "This is Mary, the dutiful widow, reluctantly taking up her role as Queen of Scots."

Alternatively, she may well simply have been bored witless.