On a lost umbrella

PROPPED up beside me as I write is an umbrella or, in that it is large and untidy, a gamp. It is of the promotional kind that is now almost universal, and it advertises a company or a partnership called Sedgwick.What Sedgwick does or where it is to be found, I know not, but I have been advertising its name since Wednesday night.

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Housebreaking in Helensburgh

THE dinner party in Helensburgh was going well. A magnificent Beef Wellington, a whole fillet in an envelope of pastry, was being carved when the lights went on in the garden outside, activated by a cell which detects the approach of visitors or intruders.

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Litter in Glasgow's West End

SINCE the storms of early January a plastic bag, blown by the wind, has lodged in a tree outside the window and has assumed the shape of a bird. In some lights it looks like a roosting heron. On the rare occasions when it is caught by the rays of the winter sun, its appearance is more that of some exotic dove from the rain forests, its dirty white transformed in the rosy glow of sunset.

Here in our corner of the West End the human zoo produces much spoor. From time to time its accumulation is such that I don gloves and old clothes and sally out with brush and shovel. As I work away in the midden, restoring it to some kind of order after the depredations of various visitors, or extract the week's offerings that have been jammed into the hedge by passers-by, I amuse myself by reconstructing in my mind the provenance of the jetsam and flotsam.

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On rollicking busmen

WHAT economists grandly call the theory of duopolistic competition has a classic case study. This is of two ice-cream salesmen working a long beach. Logic suggests that each would pitch his stance a quarter way in from each end. Thus the whole beach would be conveniently served. What happens, according to the theory, is that they both go to the centre. Life offers ample confirmation of the tendency for players in a market to cluster: competing newspapers become more rather than less like each other; bookshops have accumulated in Charing Cross Road, and GreekĀ  restaurants in Paris crowd together in a little street off the Boule MIche.

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A win at Kelso races

THE old saying that you don't meet many poor bookies has a self-propelling logic. Once I did see a bookie at Kelso come close to a lynching after he had increased the odds to drum up trade: just in time a runner arrived with more cash as the punters turned nasty. It is a profession in which incompetence is quickly punished.

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