Can it be coincidence that the Co-operative Group's new headquarters in Manchester given the green light this week by the European Capital of Gratuitous Ugliness looks like a giant glass dog turd? Whatever the inspiration, my impression was of a massive canine coiler, as I lightly quipped to St Peter Marks on a fact-finding mission this week.

'Skid' Marks was in irrepressible form as he administered his special handshake to each of the city councillors. But then he's been on a bit of a roll recently, having subsumed the latest co-operative society into his sprawling empire, this time the holy brethren of Plymouth. Frankly they're pretty grateful if they get anything better than grog and hard tack in your average Devon c-store, so Marks will be rubbing his hands in glee at another channel through which to offload his pre-Cambrian Scotch eggs.

And the poor old mom 'n' pops have been having a bit of a hard time recently as it is. Turns out the vast body of cosy community retailers can't be arsed to enforce the most basic legal standards regarding fag sales to small children. According to the increasingly desperate ACS it is an infringement of their human rights to prevent them from making money from propagating carcinogens to minors. As ACS chief exec James 'Gasper' Lowman put it: "Test purchasing figures are a poor measure of the performance of shops in preventing under-age tobacco sales". He actually said that I nearly choked on my Capstan Full Strength. Well, my eight-year-old nephew did at any rate.

But I must dash I'm due to meet David Tyler down at the Club for an introductory pint of Sainsbury's Pitcher (sub judice). Tyler will of course be King Justin's new boss, but for how long? Last time I bumped into Climbing Rosey (shinning down the Pumsey Towers drainpipe) he seemed distinctly demob happy. And KJ would feel so at home among the women's underwear.