MY old gran once told me that a country’s parliament can only be considered grown up once it’s had its first massage parlour scandal. And I think I may have stumbled across one. This being Edinburgh though, it’s a slightly arid affair. But a scandal is a scandal and you must make the most of whatever comes your way.

Colonel Olaf, our Ukrainian former Spetsnaz operative, has acquired a lively property portfolio in the New Town which he’s turned into up-market massage and relaxation facilities. I meet him at Conn & Bauld’s, the new vegan deli at the top of Fleshmarket Close.

The Colonel and his former military associates have been granted a few large development contracts in the waste disposal sector as a sort of thank you for their efforts in rescuing Peter Murrell from the Irish horse-racing gang when he got in over his head with the party’s missing £600k.

He has a memory stick which he plugs into his laptop.

“You vill not belief your eyes when you see this, Rupertski,” he says.

Several Scottish Tories are cavorting in what looks like a rainbow-themed playroom. There are seven of them and they’re all dressed up as Snow White’s dwarfs in short trousers. There’s a bouncy castle and a table laden with ice-cream, jelly and chocolate cakes.

They then proceed to throw it at each other and soon the walls are smeared with the confectionery. There’s a massive television screen playing old repeats of The Magic Roundabout. There also appears to be an assortment of uncommonly large home-made cigarettes.

I had previously thought that the Sunday National might be happy to receive this. On reflection though, it’s definitely one for the old Currant Bun. The following morning the paper runs with the story and a banner headline which reads “HIGH HO! Tories in gluttony romp shame.”


I’M invited to afternoon tea with Stewart McDonald and Alyn Smith at Belanov’s, the new Ukrainian-themed pop-up café on George Street. I’ve had a rather teething relationship with the pair ever since I left them howling with the drink on a night out in London last year with my old Whitehall chums who mocked them for wearing tartan trews. But they’re good sports, although they have a rather startling habit of finishing off each other’s sentences.

“The thing is, Rupert,” says Stewart. “We’re rather put out …

“… That neither of us have featured,” continues Alyn.

“On Putin’s banned list of British MPs,” says Stewart.

They ask me to see if I can use my friendship with Colonel Olaf to rectify the situation.

“We deserve to be on that list …” says Stewart, “… much more than some of the johnny-come-latelys who are on it,” adds Alyn.

And then they both say together: “No one hates Putin more than us!”

I tell them I’ll see what I can do but that I can’t promise them anything.


I’VE arranged to meet John Nicholson at McAvennie’s in Milngavie where he’s visiting to help with the local council elections. He’s wearing a powder-blue, crushed velvet trench-coat and a frilly white shirt with large dangling cuffs that spread out like a lampshade over his hands in the style of a regency dandy.

“Bit early for a fancy-dress party, old boy,” I say cheerily. But he’s unusually gloomy today and my gentle jibe misses the mark.

“Rupert, dear boy,” he says avidly. “I agreed to complete one of those ‘Life in a Day’ features for the Sunday Times magazine and I fear I may have inadvertently made rather a fool of myself,” he says.

He reads me a paragraph. “I wake up at 6am and immediately consult my sleep tracker which measures the quality of my slumbers. Then, for the next 15 minutes I chant that uplifting Chumbawumba chorus: ‘I get knocked down, but I get up again. You are never gonna keep me down.’ Breakfast is from a Tahitian diet featuring kelp and seagrass which I source from a marine food specialist in Marble Arch. It helps me maintain my Cicadian sleep cycle.”

“What’s the problem with that,” I ask him.

“Turns out the Marine Food specialist in Marble Arch is wanted by Interpol arms smuggling,” he says. “Special Branch have been at the flat already. Don’t you still have decent contacts at Whitehall,” he pleads.

I tell him I might be able to help. But only if he stops being beastly to Joanna Cherry.


I PLACE a call to Lord F----- S------ who sits on the Unusual Global Crimes Directive. “Ah, Lord F-----, how are you. It’s about your Nicholson investigation. I have a very eye-watering picture of Sir D------ O------- of the Joint Chiefs at a Russian-themed Serfs and Tsars party at a massage parlour in Edinburgh …”