MOIRA and John, an elderly couple from Edinburgh, were taking pictures of the Ashmolean Museum from outside the Randolph. They were on a bus tour and making a first visit to our city. It was for one day only; Wednesday they were off to ‘the other place’ and Thursday to Windsor – an altogether tight schedule.

“A rushed opportunity before Alec Salmond makes Scotland a foreign country?” I suggested somewhat sarcastically.

“Over his dead body,” declared John, an immovable supporter of the Union.

“And he means that,” confirmed Moira.

Watch this space.

I FEARED that Mario, who makes sand sculptures in Cornmarket Street, would be seriously affected by the heavy showers. If he was it didn’t show and the morning crowd all admired his work, a Boxer dog with menacing eyes.

How realistic was it? I thought it was near perfect – an opinion shared by a passing dog which, snarling and barking, did its best to engage in a fight, saved only by its owner’s strength and a stout lead.

MOST of us enjoy a cliffhanger when it comes to a theatre visit. There is one brewing at the Playhouse where Agatha Christie’s Poirot play, Black Coffee, is to be staged near the end of the month.

But current tension is not about the play, but whether the extensive refurbishments of the front bar and foyer will be completed in time. Press officer, the ever-smiling Bethan James, hardly a Miss Marple but just as reliable, says it will.

Workmen have 11 days to prove her right.

FINALLY, there I was last week, moaning about charities paying badly briefed agencies to raise funds. Seven days later two Oxford organisations that help children with life-limiting conditions prove that no-strings help is still very much alive.

Four young people – Nick and three female colleagues, Jade, Charlotte and Tanith from Grant Thornton, the accountants, were giving their time to help Oxford’s long-established hospice and respite home for young people, Helen and Douglas House. They were selling cakes and running a lucky dip outside the charity’s shop in the Covered Market.

Meanwhile the 12-year-old Rosy support group, which to my eternal shame I know little about, had helpers on the streets selling cakes. Two couples accosted me in Broad Street alone. Waist lines were in grave danger.

The volunteers – all of them young and part of the Oxford Spires Summer School at St Catherine’s College – did a grand job, just as does Rosy each day in helping families of children who are being nursed in their own homes. Money raised in both cases went direct to the charities; no carve-off for fund-raising agencies necessary.