Watch the birdie

FOR Diary readers who are already nervously pondering what present to buy their main squeeze this Christmas, may we suggest a romantic tome which is rather sweetly titled Love & Vermin.

The book, published next month, is the product of the fevered imagination of Will McPhail, and is a collection of delightful drawings, many of them of rats and pigeons.

Will regularly contributes cartoons to the swanky New Yorker magazine, based in the Big Apple, though he gained his knowledge of icky animals studying zoology in Glasgow.

The helpful chap is now willing to supply novices with a handy hint about how to draw pigeons. (Such a skill is bound to come in handy the next time you find yourself with a pencil and pad in Glasgow’s Central Station, and have just been informed that your train is running two hours late.)

Will says that when sketching a pigeon’s feet, you should aim for a “gnarled mess of growth and deformity. You want your stomach to turn when you see them. That’s the goal.”

Which is useful to know. Though we wonder if da Vinci had the same brief when he started work on the Mona Lisa...

Beat the clock

WHEN he was an apprentice in the 1960s, reader Stewart Burgess had an older colleague who impressed younger staff members with his athletic prowess by boastfully announcing he was "the first man to dae the half-hour in 20 minutes".

Musical munchie

A READER recently astounded us with an illuminating history of the bicycle, which included the startling fact that the machine’s "Handel-bars" were named after the composer.

Inspired by this titbit of knowledge, Ian Budd, a retired member of the Royal Scottish National Orchestra, says: “In all the times I played The Messiah it never occurred to me that we were playing Handelbars, even though I always enjoyed playing Mars bars in Holst's The Planets.”

Mind your language

AMBITIOUS Julie Bruce is attempting to write a novel, and recently got a top tip from a local author she knows, who advised: “Avoid clichés like the plague.”

Off the rails

WE mentioned a horse taking a jaunt on a train. Arnold Fowler, who used to work on the railway, recalls two chaps bringing a couch, a wardrobe and a bath on to a train in Greenock.

Clearly they were trying to make themselves feel right at home during their jaunt…

Food for thought

“WHAT type of cheese is made backwards?” asks an interrogative Beth Miller. The answer, is, of course… Edam.

Read more: The day a conductor had to say neigh