MIKE Smith tells us: "My dear mother, 79, has lived in Edinburgh for several years, although she has never forgotten her Aberdonian instincts. Travelling by taxi last Saturday lunchtime, she immediately challenged the taxi driver over the fare as the cab pulled up outside my house. '£12.30?' she remarked, 'that's more than double the last time.'

"The genial Edinburgh cabbie pointed out the fare was only £5.70 - but the time on the dashboard was certainly half past twelve."

ACTOR Colin McCredie of Taggart fame is at the Theatre Royal in Glasgow this week with the Cold War thriller Democracy, with the actors playing West German chancellor Willie Brandt and other Berlin politicians. Surveillance photographs of the actors as the German leaders flash up on the back-cloth at the beginning, and Colin tells us: "An auld dear as she left last night stopped a member of crew and said, 'It's amazing you were able to find actors that look so similar to the real politicians."

NOT had a psychotherapist gag for a while, so a reader tells us: "A psychotherapist told her patient, 'It looks as though you have a phobia about marriage. Do you know what the symptoms are?'

"When her patient replied, 'Can't say I do,' she told him, 'That's one of the symptoms, yes."

THE Herald archive photograph of Margaret Thatcher on her first trip to Scotland as Prime Minister reminds my old colleague Jack Webster of flying up to Edinburgh with Maggie and husband Denis that day which he wrote about in his book A Final Grain of Truth. Said Jack: "Denis, sitting on my left with gin and tonic was a funny man. He told the story of sitting down in an empty rail carriage, and only then noticing that the carriage was reserved for the annual outing of a mental institution. Sure enough, they were soon crowding around him and the superintendent began a head count. 'One, two, three, four', then came to Denis. 'Who are you?' she asked.

"Denis said, 'I'm the husband of the Prime Minister'. The superintendent continued, 'Five, six, seven'."

DAMNED with faint praise...Leith writer Irvine Welsh now lives in Chicago and as he stated yesterday when asked about the Labour leadership contest: "Being based in America, I saw Owen Smith on telly for the first time today. Kind of understanding what all the lack of fuss is about now."

SCHOOL reports, continued. Says Linda Meiklejohn: "Years ago whilst teaching in Paisley, the new curriculum had been introduced. Guidelines suggested that most children should reach Level A by Primary 3, Level B by Primary 4 etc. Children in Primary 7 would be working within Levels D and E.

"A colleague was therefore very surprised when one of her Primary 7 pupils appeared with a bouquet of flowers for her. On enquiry the Primary 7 boy explained to her that his father was so delighted that his son had achieved an A at long last. The first in the family."

IS it a sign of the times?" asks Christine Martin. "My grandson, aged six, instead of waiting for his Dad to give him money for a promised football magazine said, 'How about I just take his credit card?'”