IF YOU ever find yourself at a loose end in Edinburgh, I recommend you seek out the square behind St Giles Cathedral on the Royal Mile.
A CHAUFFEURED four-by-four with tinted windows pulls up at the kerb a few feet ahead of me and out steps a glossy couple dressed entirely in black and bling. They walk up the steps of a French-colonial mansion and ring the bell.
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TAKE two beaches. One is a perfect crescent in a peaceful bay, where see-and-be-seen Spaniards stroll along the waterline before an easeful afternoon under a blue-and-white-striped sun canopy on the sand.
GOD, I feel old. It seems only yesterday that a spotty young man called Danny Alexander was the newly appointed press officer for the Scottish Liberal Democrats.
WHEN students of business studies are learning about branding, their tutors point them towards a particularly instructive case study.
GERRY Kelly is, without doubt, the scariest man I have ever met. Scarier than loyalist renegade Johnny "Mad Dog" Adair. Scarier than the guy in the Brazen Head pub in the Gorbals who cheerfully explained how he was going to kneecap me, helpfully jabbing a finger into the appropriate hollow in my knee to demonstrate his technique.
PERHAPS more in hope than expectation, they were dubbed The Three Wise Men. Crawford Beveridge, Sir Neil McIntosh and Robert Wilson were given the task of coming up with a programme of public sector cuts so Scotland could survive the impending squeeze on spending. Breath was bated.
ONE euphemism often used about us Scots is that we are "disputatious".
EARLY yesterday morning, just before the first coffee of the day kicked in - always a dangerous time, when I'm liable to feed muesli to the cats and stick my spoon into a bowl of Whiskas - an item on Radio 4's Today programme caught the attention of the few brain cells that were operational.
WHERE are my scissors? Ah, good, here they are. Now, give me the ribbon. Ta. Everybody ready? Okeydokey. Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, it gives me great pleasure to declare the 2011 Holyrood election campaign officially open. No scratching or biting, please.
MY FAVOURITE Donald Dewar story concerns the time Tony Blair invited him upstairs to the Downing Street flat to see the Blairs' new-born baby son, Leo.
WHEN I was a teenager playing in a band around the working men's clubs and bingo halls of Dundee, a guaranteed floor-filler was the Canned Heat classic Let's Work Together.
I TRIED, I really did. I tried to give David Cameron the benefit of the doubt. There were aspects of his coalition government I found attractive - the rhetoric about common endeavour, the attempt to present the administration as a National Government facing a national crisis, the admirable way he dealt with the Saville Report into Bloody Sunday.
IF THE bookies are right and Iain Gray becomes Scotland's First Minister in May, it won't be because of his chummy likeability. It has to be said, Iain Gray can come across as a bit scary.
WHEN pub talk about politics turns to who will win the Holyrood election, there's a phrase that keeps cropping up in the conversation.
THIS is when we find out what Scotland's politicians are made of. It's when we find out if they're willing to put their country's interests before their parties' interests.
LET me first declare an interest. I have a 17-year-old son who hopes to be starting an undergraduate course at a Scottish university next autumn.
AS A Dundee United fan, I am used to bitter disappointments. I've always believed that if there was a trophy for coming second, United would be runners-up. Not for nothing was the original United fanzine called The Final Hurdle. Over the years, I have comforted myself with the thought that the many glorious defeats were character building.
SOMETIMES you don't need a constitution to run a country, all you need is common sense and an instinct for the decent thing to do. Which is why I think some of the scenarios being bandied around by Nationalists as we head for the Holyrood election in May are just wishful thinking.
ABOUT 15 years ago I wrote in this newspaper that the SNP had by far the best campaign machine in Scottish politics, effortlessly outshining its Labour rivals.