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Kirsty McLuckie - Pubs are often the canary in the coalmine for small communities

THE NEWS that a community group has been granted the right to buy its local pub in Midmar, Aberdeenshire, is of particular interest to my own West Coast community.

The problem for the people of Midmar is that the pub's owner has no intention of selling and plans instead to turn it into a house. The building is also his home and he now wants to use it as one, without having the hassle of bar meals or chucking out over-refreshed customers.

If you live in a city or a large town you probably think that's reasonable, as it is his own property. But in our small clachan of 188 souls near Tighnabruaich, the loss of our pub, the Glendaruel, was a body blow. It was put on the market last autumn after the previous owners had run it for less than a year. There were a few viewers and we became used to being on our best behaviour should if we saw anyone looking round. Locals would introduce themselves and dive into marketing the place better than any estate agent, extolling the virtues of the local primary school and the quality of life. Far from being the stereotypical rural Scottish village, suspicious of strangers, we were practically begging people to take it on, no matter how unsuitable they were. A low point came when I found myself extolling the virtues of the Glendaruel Hotel to an IT worker from Doncaster, who had no experience of the catering industry but thought that it would "be a laugh" to run a pub in Scotland.

Perhaps we overdid it; the owner moved away in January without selling. Since then, we have heard the empty building has been repossessed by the bank. We don't even know if it is still for sale, there are no signs up and the area outside it is looking overgrown.

And it isn't that we are a community of drunkards who cannot travel eight miles to the next nearest pub. It's just that in the past 20 years we've lost the post office, general store and tearoom and even the church has become part-time. The pub is important as a meeting place if we want to retain our strong sense of community, already under threat from holiday-home owners who don't engage in local life. I don't expect the government to provide pubs as a basic human right to rural communities, although I imagine it would be a great campaigning issue in a by-election. Perhaps giving locals the right to buy a pub even if the current owner wants to convert it to residential use is the way ahead. Meanwhile, the people of Midmar should object to any planning permission for change of use for their local. We would, but we don't know who to picket.

X marks the Y chromosome for Brangelina

ANGELINA Jolie's choice of name for her new son, Knox, makes it a hat-trick of boys' names ending in X, her other two being Pax and Maddox. Which suggests she is theming her children's names, revealing that the world's coolest couple to be a bit naff. It's not as obvious as having a Jade, Jonathan, Julie and Justin, but matching the initials at least has a practical purpose; you can bulk-buy school nametags and save a fortune.

Which, when you have as many children as the Jolie-Pitts, is something they should have considered.

EXPERTS at the Natural History Museum have been baffled by the presence of an unidentified insect appearing in their own back garden.

The tiny red-and-black bug first appeared in the museum's wildlife garden in March 2007. Since then, it has become the most common insect there and has also been spotted around London, but no-one has been able to identify it. It might be that this odd little fellow is a new mutation, or that it is a rare species that has migrated here for the first time because of climate changes. Or, as I suspect it might be that the experts can't actually be bothered to compare it to the 28 million specimens they hold in the museum (would you?) instead declaring it a new species and making up a name for it; thus neatly providing an etymological solution, rather an entomological one.

 
 
 

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