THE Diary is sad to hear of the death of Alasdair Gray. Often regarded as Scotland’s greatest modern writer, his talents stretched beyond mere scribbling to painting and book illustration. Gray was also the first person the present Diary editor interviewed as a journalist. I was a gauche Glasgow Uni student at the time, commissioned to write a profile of the great man by the varsity newspaper. Gray was affable, kind and put up with any number of silly questions fired at him by me. Many have compared his work to the great modernists of literature such as James Joyce and Franz Kafka. He certainly reached those lofty heights. Though being a modest man, he admitted his earliest influences were slightly less awe inspiring. It was The Beano, The Dandy and the Rupert The Bear annuals that first guided him on the road to immortality.

Lot of bottle

FACING budgetary constraints and staffing shortages, many local councils now train their staff to multi-task. Reader George Dale tells us this arrangement is most certainly in operation in North Ayrshire, where bin men have been given secondary roles as town criers. Early one morning last week George had a special Christmas uplift. It being the festive season, there were a few extra bottles lurking in his bin. On noticing this, the bin man/town crier felt duty bound to boom at the top of his voice (thus enabling the entire street to be made aware of the important breaking news): "You should see the amount of bottles in this bin!"

Shoeless and legless

PEAKY Blinders and River City actor Douglas Rankine is also feeling festive. He describes his current state of being as: “When the priority is to have your first beer of the day rather than put your shoes on.”

Death by chocolate

BAILLIESTON based comedian Jamie Dalgleish is in a similar frame of mind. “I’m one Ferrero Rocher away from death,” he burps, then adds: “If I'd written a letter to Santa this year it would've just said ‘Gout’.”

Taunting about jaunting

OUR challenge to come up with new acronyms for Saga, the travel company for grey haired globe trotters, continues. Ian Craig from Strathaven tells us Saga helped him arrange two recent trips to America and Africa. A third escapade is lined up for next year when he’ll visit Russia, Mongolia and China. “So to those who laugh about Saga,” says Ian, “I’m pleased to be a…. Smug, Aged, Global, Adventurer.”

Brought to book

SOMETIMES there’s no avoiding our increasingly violent society. Even in our homes we find ourselves risking injury, as Mel Bryson discovered. “One of my books fell and hit me on my head,” groans Mel, who adds with commendable honesty: “I’ve only got my shelf to blame.”