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Jotter - Snookered in the armadillo

Our esteemed columnist Gregor Steele, physics specialist par excellence, was worked particularly hard last week, having to give a talk at the Scottish Learning Festival on the new "contemporary science" initiative.

We bumped into him as he manoeuvred his way through the crowds under the massive and distinctive dome of Glasgow's SECC. Steele was a little unsure of where exactly he was to make his presentation, but his humour rarely deserts him. He was hoping, he quipped, that someone would: "Show me the way to Armadillo ."

By a happy coincidence, the SLF was taking place under the roofed armadillo at the same time as a star-studded snooker tournament. The presence near the learning festival of seven-times world champion Stephen Hendry brought to mind the immortal words of his West Lothian guidance teacher who told him confidently he was wasting his time by continuing to frequent snooker halls.

Prayers answered

Still at the Scottish Learning Festival, Father Juan Pablo stole the show (it says here), despite standing just 13 inches in his cassock. The pound;25-a- piece "huggable vocations doll", as it was described by manufacturers Wee Believers of Pennsylvania, was doing a roaring trade at the Redemptorist Publications stand. He comes complete with a book of stories in which five real priests tell why they chose their vocation.

But it seems priestly dolls may be going the way of their human brethren, for Father Juan was eclipsed by Sister Mary, another pound;25 doll in full habit, who sold out on the first day of the festival. Verily, a story for our times.

Food for thought

If the sale of little priestly dolls is one bonus of the papal visit, Benedict's influence on the good of the nation's health among real little ones was not so positive - judging by the chip, buffalo burger and ice cream stalls at Bellahouston Park. "What can you do?" asked one despairing heidie. "But it's a special day out".

His Holiness may have warned young people off a host of vices, but unhealthy eating was not among them.

Crumbs of comfort

Savage cuts are apparently on the way at the Scottish Qualifications Authority, if reports of a recent high-level management meeting are to be believed. The cost-cutting item on the agenda that allegedly took up over 20 minutes of discussion concerned the abandonment of digestive biscuit provision for staff.

However, the possible effects on morale of such a policy were considered potentially too severe to contemplate, and a compromise was hammered out. McVitie's have lost the contract, and digestives from a well-known supermarket's "Value" range will be introduced instead.

An SQA insider could not be tempted to comment that the decision took the biscuit.

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