DO WE need a Boris Johnson in North Devon?
I have to ask because I can't quite make up my mind whether he's barking mad or verging on genius – although I suppose the two aren't mutually exclusive.
But there's no doubt the London mayor keeps the capital firmly in the spotlight. And if an area needs the oxygen of publicity, then he's your man.
His latest cunning plan to lure Chinese students to study in London is to hint they could end up romantically involved with Harry Potter.
In a speech to students at Peking University, Boris asked: "Who was Harry Potter's first girlfriend? Who is the first person he kisses? That's right, Cho Chang, who is a Chinese overseas student at Hogwarts School. Ladies and gents, I rest my case."
Then he asked where Harry caught his trains to Hogwarts.
"King's Cross, absolutely right. Which is where? London."
He continued: "Where does Harry Potter buy his uniform and his wand and stuff like that and his books? I think it's in Diagon Alley which is in London.
"Where is the location of the Ministry of Magic? London."
I hesitate to mention that Harry, Hogwarts and the overnight train are fictional creations of JK Rowling and students have as much chance of ending up with him as they have of Boris willingly handing over the office of mayor to Ken Livingstone, but his comments have gone around the world.
Now, Petroc, perhaps you could lure a few more students to Barnstaple by sending out an ambassador to hint that Damien Hirst might use them in one of his art installations – encrusted in diamonds rather than cut in half and put in a tank, obviously.
Or perhaps you could tell them they could join the Parkham Pirates and swashbuckle their way around North Devon's stunning coast.
As for Boris, hopefully he's making a better impression than he did at the Olympic Games held in Beijing in 2008.
At the ceremonial passing of the Olympic flag from China to the UK, he managed to insult the entire country by saying: "I say this respectfully to our Chinese hosts, who have excelled so magnificently at ping-pong. Ping-pong was invented on the dining tables of England in the 19th century and it was called wiff-waff."
I WAS chatting to a friend the other day. He's not in the first flush of youth and was reminiscing about his time in the Army while doing National Service, which ended in 1960.
He's a lovely chap – quiet, modest and totally law-abiding. But it seems not all his Army friends were quite so well-behaved.
One had worked out a clever wheeze for travelling free on the trains. He'd wait until someone went to the lavatory and then shout authoritatively outside the door: "Tickets, please!"
The poor person inside would almost always obligingly pass a ticket under the door.
Another Devon lad who worked in the camp butcher's was pinching the steak to sell to butchers in the town.
One day the commanding officer, taking a tour of the abattoir, asked him: "Why do we never get steak for dinner?"
He quickly replied, in tone which implied the CO should know better: "These, sir, are the wrong sort of bullocks."
The CO walked on, satisfied with the answer.