Tuesday, March 29, 2005


Hamish McShanks Secret Diary - Part 36

Hamish McShanks Secret Diary w/e 28th March 2005

You will have gathered from previous diaries that I am now a homeowner. Apparently it is ‘traditional’ after purchasing a house to invite your friends around and have a house’ warming’ party. Having been to a few of these affairs myself I was at a loss as to how welcoming a lot of your soon to be ex friends around to trash the most expensive possession you’ll ever own constitutes ‘warming’. Mind you I suppose a house ‘wrecking’ party would have never caught on.

Not one to shirk tradition I made the appropriate overtures to my friends who seemed elated at the thought of ‘warming’ my house. Bouyed by the positive response I rushed to consult my homeowners manual to find out how best to stage such an event. It was at this point I realised my home did not in fact come with an owners manual.

How can that be? I mean you cant buy anything nowadays without set of instructions. A fecking candle comes with a four hundred page user manual, usually in eighteen different languages and advising that the safest way to enjoy your candle is to leave it in it’s original packaging put it at the bottom of a very deep drawer and forget you ever bought it. A candle is a dangerous dangerous thing, it’s flammable. On no account actually light the smegger because it’s a fire hazard!

A house on the other hand comes with nothing, your solicitor hands over the keys, you turn round and insert them in the front door and by the time you turn the handle he’s legged it back to his office. Your fumbling about amongst the bare wires on the wall for the light switch the previous owners decided wasn’t ‘fixtures & fittings’. Three seconds away from doing the electric fandango soiling your underwear and providing your family with a rapid claim on your life cover.

All the while ‘Cyril Fatkins’ of messuers ‘Fatkins, Grobber & Nitch is nestling into his big green leather chesterfield lighting a havana cigar with a fifty pound note putting his feet up on a servant and laughing as he watches his foi gras getting stuffed! Bitter? Who me? fifteen hundred pounds well spent…………. I digress.

In the absence of any user instructions I consulted a few close friends who advised that the laying on of some nibbles and perhaps a courtesy drink were the order of the day. Seems fair enough I thought. I also received one specific plea for sausage rolls, not an unreasonable request I think you’ll agree. With their helpful advice ringing in my ears I set off for the supermarket.

Saturday morning probably wasn’t the most sensible time to go shopping but the party was that evening so I didn’t have much choice. Things started badly when I had a small incident with another driver. I’m exagerating really, it was hardly an ‘incident’ at all. He pulled sneakily into a space I was starting to reverse into. I got out and tapped on his window to let him know he had taken the space in error. He in turn vocally suggested I go forth and copulate with myself. I smiled politely and returned to my car rummaging briefly in the boot.

He was still in the driver seat when I returned. Once again I tapped on the window, he didn’t seem pleased to see me. I informed him that whilst sticks and stones may break bones that names never hurt anyone. I further enquired whether he would like to test the former part of that very statement with the eight iron I was currently smacking into the palm of my hand. It’s amazing what you can achieve through civillised discussion.

Having parked the car in the smoke filled but newly vacated space I headed into the store. Top of the list were sausage rolls. They were also bottom and in fact middle of the list. Bearing in mind the list comprised the words ‘sausage rolls’ scribbled on the back of an old envelope. A comprehensive menu that caters for all I think you’ll agree. And just in case your shouting ‘Aaaaah what about the vegetarians’ I’d thought about that. They can poke the sausage bit out and think long and hard about how limited a lifestyle choice they’ve made as they munch on lard ridden puff pastry.

The first sausies I spotted were in the frozen section. Seventy five ‘value’ sausage rolls for thirty eight pence. I pulled a bag out of the freezer, It seemed too good to be true, I turned the packet over in my hand and scanned the ingredients. Twelve point five percent ‘pork’. I raised my eyebrows, thirty eight pence? The words ‘mechanically recovered’ sprung immediately to mind. Even if you could could be sure that this meagre percentage was in fact composed of an identfiable cut of meat and not just snout, trotter and ringpiece what in the name of god is in the rest of the sausage? I mulled this over for a couple of minutes before deciding ‘ach ah’ll just not tell anyone’ and filled the trolley.

A quick jaunt to the wines & spirits ailse and we were home and hosed. My luck held out. They were doing a special on value French lager and boxes of fine English wine two for a pound. I loaded up the trolley and wheeled it towards the checkouts. The wheels were beginning to buckle under the weight so I unloaded as quickly as possible. Forty carrier bags and seventeen pounds later I was on my way out.

My first guests arrived at the back of seven ‘Hello folks’ I ushered them into the lounge and sat them down ‘What would you like to drink Brian? lager? Wine?’, ‘I’ll have a lager please’, ‘Claire?’, ‘White wine for me thanks’ I went into the kitchen ‘help yourself to a sausage roll’ I shouted whilst preparing their drinks.

Quality shines through as they say. It didn’t take long for my ‘value’ sausage rolls to reveal their true qualities. I sprinted through at the first sound of wretching. With hindsight a glass of water would have been a better idea. ‘Christ are ye alright Brian’ he was convulsing quite badly ‘Drink this’ I poured some refreshing French lager down his gullet and he immediately pebbledashed the opposite wall ‘OOOaaarrghh’, ‘better out than in’ I finished lamely as he collapsed on the floor. I gave him a wee nudge with my foot. He didn’t seem to be moving much, his face was a bit purple.

Claire pushed me out of the way. She quickly rolled him over locked her hands round his waist and pulled hard. A large lump of up to 12.5% pork richoched off the wall and came to rest on the fireplace. Brian sucked in huge lungfuls of air and his face gradually returned to a normal colour. I didn’t say anything I just fetched the coats.

‘Thanks for coming’ I shouted as their car screeched down the road.


Monday, March 21, 2005


Hamish McShanks Secret Diary - PArt 35

Hamish McShanks Secret Diary – w/e 20th March 2005

Ffffsttt glug glug glug ‘Aaaaah that’s the ticket’ a blizzardly cold beer, a comfy chair and rugby on the telly. What more could a man want? I settled down on my lazee-boy recliner munching on some crisps, revelling in the feeling of being encased in sumptuous soft leather ‘A wee kick back I think’. I leaned over to pull the lever…..

The lazee-boy has a silky smooth reclining action; it’s almost a sensual experience as you slowly transfer from elegant upright comfort into decadent horizontal luxury. Well it is if you’ve assembled your lazee-boy correctly. If on the other hand you’ve been a bit slapdash because you were in a hurry to watch the rugby then the motion is more akin to skydiving out of an aeroplane backwards. ‘Right here we go then, just a wee tug here andoooaaaargggooommpffff.

Dignity is hard to find when your lying on your back with your chest covered in crisps and your bottle of blizzardly cold beer now soaking it’s way through the crotch of your jeans. Sympathy is also at a premium when your family are involved. My twin brother came in from the kitchen to see me lying with my back on the floor and my legs draped over the base of the lazee-boy. He stepped over the debris picking up the crisps and parked himself on the sofa before glancing down ‘Training to be an astronaut are ye?’, ‘HA bloody ha’ I grumbled as I pulled myself upright.

Ye look like ye’ve had a wee accident there son’, ‘It’s ok, I just need to fit the top bit back on again, it’ll be fine’, ‘more than can be said for yer jeans, shall I nip out for some pampers or are ye on the pull-ups yet?’ I ignored his sniggering and hobbled towards the door, wet denim clinging uncomfortably to my thighs ‘Oh look it’s John Wayne as I live and breathe’ he roared. I gave him the finger before gingerly climbing the stairs trying to keep the chaffing to a minimum.

When I returned Scotland were already 20 points down ‘Aaaw for fecks sake, I’m off to the shops’ My brother just grunted and cracked open another tinny. ‘Want anything?’ I enquired. He gave me a quizzical look ‘Like some beer’ I hinted whilst muttering ‘that you’ve paid for’ under my breath. ‘Naw there’s plenty beer in the fridge’ he replied. ‘Yes I know I bought it’ I replied coldly. I waited for a response but he was studiously ignoring me and intent on excavating his nose. He seemed to have encountered a particularly rich seam of bogeys as I stormed out the front door.

I headed for the big shopping centre on the outskirts of town. Having recently become a homeowner I needed a few bits ‘n’ bobs to make my house a ‘home’. It is a fairly big centre but it can’t be more than 5 minutes walk from end to end. Unlike the lazy gelatinous blobs that drive their cars ‘between’ the shops I elected to park in the middle and walk. ‘Hmmm curtains first I think’.

How hard can curtains be? With hindsight I think the woman was trying to justify her job either that or she was having a laugh. ‘Hello sir how can I help?’, ‘I’m looking for some curtains’, ‘What sort of curtains?’, ‘Well I-‘, ‘lined curtains, unlined curtains, tab top curtains, eyelet curtains, voile panels’, ‘I’m not really sure-‘, ‘What material did you have in mind?’, ‘I hadn’t really th-‘, ’faux suede, taffeta, chenille, jacquard?’, ‘or did you want blackout curtains?’, ‘Blackout’ I enquired ‘are we still at war?’ She gave me a withering look ‘they keep out the light’, ‘oh yes of course’ I mumbled

The next three quarters of an hour was a lecture on co-ordinates, width, drop and the importance of pleats. I was losing the will to live when another assistant came over to ask my torturer a question ‘one moment Janice I’m with a cust-‘ this was my window of opportunity and I wasn’t going to waste it. Despite the atrophy in my muscles after an hour standing being bored to tears I was gone. A whippet on speed wouldn’t have caught me, although a whippet on speed probably wouldn’t have run headlong into an advertising barrier and gone arse over tit into some bushes.

Not that I let a few broken teeth or a mouthful of dog turd slow me down one little bit. I’d glanced over my shoulder and spotted her waving fabric samples at the front door ‘Sir sir I haven’t told you about our tiebacks yet’, ‘No fear luv’ I gasped as I legged it across the car park my lungs burning as I set a new world record for the 150 metre dash.

Next on the list was ‘Shower enclosure’. After last weeks near death experience I’d decided to revamp the bathroom i.e. Rip out the bath and hack it to pieces with an axe. Ok so a non-slip bath mat would have been a cheaper and simpler solution but I needed ‘closure’ and a frenzied psychotic attack on an inanimate object does it for me. There’s something very therapeutic about destruction, I’d created a 40,000 piece 3D plastic jigsaw. Sweet!

I’m not the smallest of blokes so I wanted to get the largest shower enclosure I could afford. I popped into homebase because I knew they had a sale on. Initial signs were very promising, there were a large number of very attractive funky looking enclosures. Groovy walk-in jobs that wouldn’t have looked out of place in Star Trek. There were no prices on display so I beckoned a sales assistant across

‘Hello I wonder could you tell me how much this enclosure is?’, ‘Certainly sir that one there is 700 pounds’, ‘for a shower!’ I gasped ‘No if you want the tray and the shower as well it comes to 1100 pounds’, ‘Eleven hundred notes!’ She must have sensed the anguish in my voice or possibly the waxen look on my face or more likely picked up the recognizable odour associated with a sudden relaxation in sphincter muscle.

We do have a slightly cheaper one over here’ she blurted out whilst waving her brochure frantically in front of her and gagging for breath. She took me downstairs to the storeroom. ‘I think this is more you sir’ she said pulling a dust sheet off what can only be described as a white fibreglass coffin, albeit a coffin with a built in watering can ‘This is our economy model and prices start at 299.99 for cold water feed only’, ‘it comes with a handle on the outside only and a glass panel is extra I’m afraid’, ‘hmm hmm’ I giggled ‘Are you alright sir’, ‘mm mm ha haaaa, I’m fine, fine’, ‘Is there anything else I can help you with?

‘Well yes, yes there is, I wonder if you could point me in the direction of your glues?’


Tuesday, March 15, 2005


Hamish McShanks Secret Diary - Part 34

Hamish McShanks Secret Diary – w/e 13th March 2005

‘Nessun dorma!... Nessun dorma!..’, ‘La la la laaa la la la laaaaa’, ‘Do dooo de doo da da da daaaah’ I continued warbling as I scrubbed my back with gusto, or more accurately a luffa. ‘il nome mio nessun saprà!’, ‘la la la laaa’ The hot water poured over my body as I luxuriated in the warmth of my centrally heated bathroom, a huge grin across my face. It had taken a wee while but my central heating was finally fixed. I had gallons of piping hot water, toasty warm rooms and a song in my heart.

The radio was blaring out and I joined in with large amounts of volume, if not talent. ‘Dilegua, o notte! tramontate, stelle!’ I was building up to the big finale, ole Pava whassisname would have been proud. ‘Tramontate, stelle! All'alba vincerò!’ time to wind up the lungs for a belter of a finish ‘Vincerò! Vinceroohoooohfuuuuuu-

Engrossed in the music I was caught unawares as my left foot slipped forward. Naturally I’d gone to step back with my right foot to steady myself. This would have worked fantastically well had my shower been set up in the conventional fashion i.e. Shower head at the tap end of the bath, plenty space front and back.

Sadly my shower appears to have been installed by the chimp out of the PG tips adverts. Having of course been fitted in the middle of the bath. Thereby forcing the user to carry out his or her ablutions whilst facing across the narrowest part of the bath. Genius, I mean I don’t know about you but I always want to do the splits whilst showering.

So anyway, when I attempted to step back to steady myself my heel hit the side of the bath and only succeeded in knocking me further out of kilter. I did do a very quick and rather impressive moon walking routine as my feet desperately fought for grip. But to no avail. All bets were closed gravity was winning this one.

The whole episode probably took less than a second but it felt like about five minutes. I recollect going through a series of emotions. Initially there was mild concern, rapidly followed by enormous fear, hotly pursued by absolute panic and finally trumped by sheer terror. There was also a brief interlude of ‘bricking it’ but the less said about that the better.

Similarly I clearly remember scrabbling at the shower curtain. An obvious and very solid point of support you’ll agree. I can still feel the horror as I watched the curtain rings pinging off the rail one by one. All the while my feet were feverishly rotating in cartoon like fashion. It seemed to take an eternity and I vaguely remember whimpering ‘mummy’ as I watched my only possible salvation unravelling above me.

There was a brief ray of hope when I realised I was still holding on to the showerhead itself. But this was cruelly dashed as the metal cased hose connecting it to the wall disintegrated under the strain of a sixteen stone man. My millisecond of optimism was replaced with a guaranteed future of pain.

It’s still so vivid. The feelings of anguish as my soaking hands flapped around vainly searching for purchase. My heightening distress as I keeled backwards pulling handfuls of fabric towards me. ‘This will make a nice shroud’ I thought whilst plummeting backwards. ‘I’m sure JC himself would have liked one with pink jellyfish and yellow anenomeoooompppffff’ The garish piece of polyester billowing gently before settling on top of my saturated body.

I’d landed on my back. My feet were still in the bath and I had folded painfully at the knees. My calves were on fire from friction burns but my buttocks, neck and head had all suffered trauma and were clamouring for attention. It was at this point the curtain rail caught up with events and bounced off my baldy heid. I decided a ‘power nap’ was in order before carrying out any further damage assessment.

When I came round I was looking at the underside of the toilet, my head must have missed it by centimetres as I crashed to the floor ‘That could do with a clean’ I commented before gingerly checking that I could move my extremities.

I needn’t have worried my extremities were all sending me messages along the lines of ‘oooh ya baaas that wis sair’ my vertebrae seemed particularly annoyed. Although there they seemed to be in debate with other regions as to who got it worst ‘Sair? Sair! ye don’t know yer living pal, try being a buttock sunshine, we took the worst of it’, ‘Ha you’ve got the most padding fatso, try being a vertebrae, we’ve nae lard to protect us’, ‘Oh aye! Well if ye wernay so rigid and inflexible ye might have a few mair cells who would rally round and help ye yah stuck up baaaastard!’, ‘Stuck up, ah’ll gie ye stuck up ye blubbery bag of cellulite!’ …….

I ignored the bickering in my head and struggled up to survey the wreckage. The curtain rail had suffered a compound fracture and one half was jutting out from behind the toilet. The chromed shower had proved an ineffective safety rope and was lying in several sorry pieces. ‘That’s goosed then’ I sighed before tossing the head away and switching off the water. The parting of ways had created an impromptu Trevi fountain and it was soaking my stylish new jellyfish and anemone sarong.

The bathroom mirror had fallen off the wall but was surprisingly unbroken ‘Well that’s something at least’ I grumbled as I mopped the floor. I rehung the mirror and went to get changed. I had just dried off and was pulling on my jeans when I heard the crash. ‘What now for pities sake!’ I hobbled back through to find the bathroom mirror lying in a thousand pieces and it had helpfully broken the towel rail on its way down.

I snapped. I stared skywards and shook my fist ‘You baaaaastard’ I bellowed ‘What have I ever done to you? Mmmmm?’, ‘Spin on this you cantankerous old git’ I screamed extending my middle finger and waving it with righteous indignation ‘You’ve done your worst!’, ‘You cant do anything else to me today you fecker!’, ‘Ha ha Haaaaaaaa’

And then I went to the rugby.


Monday, March 07, 2005


Hamish McShanks Secret Diary - Part 33

Hamish McShanks Secret Diary w/e 6th March

The dashboard was strewn with old newspapers, empty coffee cups and chocolate wrappers. A ‘blonde’ page three girl was strategically placed so her silicon duffle bags were on display and a selection of empty crisp packets finished the effect off nicely. I was quite pleased; we had definitely captured the ‘White Van Man’ look.

We also tried to get into character by leering and wolf whistling at passing women. With somewhat limited success I will admit. The first ‘girl’ we whistled at tripped over her Zimmer frame whilst turning round trying to locate the noise. To make matters worse the old bird keeled backwards over a hedge while attempting to adjust the volume on her hearing aid and disappeared from view. That seemed as good a point as any to quickly roll up the windows and hide behind our papers. Friday lunchtime in Dunblane is not the place for ‘totty’ well not unless you’re Wayne Rooney.

We were waiting for the keys to my new house. I had enlisted the help of a friend from work, why carry boxes yourself when you can pretend to be phoning the solicitor as your pal lugs all the heavy stuff in to the back of the van that’s what I say. ‘Aye ah’ll be with you in a minute, just talking to my solicitor’ (as you listen to the mp3 player on your groovy new phone) I was nearly caught out when Scotty heard me humming along to a particularly catchy tune ‘Oh aye ah’m on hold just now while he looks up some legal stuff’ He gave me a suspicious look whilst struggling out with another big box of books, sweat pouring off his brow ‘Bloody typical eh’ I said raising my eyebrows in an exasperated fashion and pointing at my phone ‘hmmm mmm mmm la la laaa…’

Surprisingly enough my ‘solicitor’ completed the transaction just as he loaded the last box in the back of the van. I walked over to where Scott was sitting, drenched in sweat and rubbing his aching back ‘Good news, we can pick up the keys now’ I shut the back doors and started her up ‘Cmon Scotty don’t dawdle pal there’s work to be done’. A picture says a thousand words; a hand gesture would seem to say two.

In my defence I did buy the lunch and considering the number of carrier bags I came out the bakers with I may well have been cheaper hiring a removal firm.

Munch munch … rustle rustle …. Munch munch …. Rustle …. ‘Buuurrrrp oooh better oot than in eh’ rustle rustle ‘Gies the Irn Bru fat boy’. Scotty looked up from his paper ‘Who are you calling fat ye lardbucket?’ I gave him an astonished look ‘Sorry how many pies have ye just guzzled?’, ‘Four, what’s your point caller?’ I dropped my newspaper in exasperation ‘Four family steak pies and yer calling me fat!’, ‘it says four on the packet!’ he exclaimed waving the empty wrappers in my face. ‘I think if you take a closer look at the packaging my portly friend you’ll see it actually says serves four’ He stared at the wrapper then went very quiet, his face turning crimson ‘the writing could be a bit bigger’ he mumbled. I shook my head and went back to my paper.

Unfortunately for me it was at this point he recalled the division of labour to date ‘Hey I’ve done all the work anyway ye lazy git’, ‘No, not true I’m afraid’, ‘You haven’t lifted a finger ye lazy baldy bloater!’, ‘Another lie’ He looked at me askance ‘I drove the van’ I replied. The rest of the move was a much harder what with me being on my own…..

Furniture was less of an issue; I’d managed to procure a two-seater sofa and a ‘lazy boy’ recliner from two friends at work. Admittedly the seller of the lazy boy was having trouble parting with it ‘You’ll look after her wont you’ he pleaded ‘Yes yes I promise’, ‘She doesn’t like to be too close to the fire’, ‘right, gotcha, not close to the fire’, ‘Oh but she does like the fire’ he blurted out ‘just not too close’, ‘ok I’ll be very carefu-’ ‘And you should give her a wipe down with a mild solution of soapy water once a week’ he interrupted ‘Yes of course, I understand’ I replied in a soothing voice. I did my best to placate him whilst his missus pried his fingers off the arm of the chair. The tears were all rather unseemly and I could hear him scrabbling at the back door as I drove away.

It wasn’t till I went furniture hunting for my brother that I realised how lucky I’d been buying it from friends. We scanned the small ads for chesterfield sofas and came up with four potentials. All in ‘good or excellent condition’ and all within his budget. I closed the paper stood up and punched the air with my first ‘To the batmobile da da da de de de daaah’ My brother just shook his head and walked out the room ‘Yer a bloody eedjit’ I slowly dropped my arm and trailed out after him.

The first sofa was described as ‘Excellent condition for age’ shame they hadn’t mentioned what age. It was indeed in excellent condition …. for a pre-Cambrian sofa. I could certainly imagine a Neanderthal sitting on this freshly stuffed mammoth scratching his baws waiting for someone to invent television. ‘Eeer were here to see the sofa’, ‘Aye that’s it boys’. This is when having your brothers mobile number on speed dial comes in really handy. My bruv answered the phone ‘What, a fire you say, okay we had better go right now then, thank you’ he said in a very loud and stilted voice as we both backed out of the house and legged it to the car.

The second place was no better. Another sofa described as ‘good condition’. We knocked on the door and a wizened old man emerged. ‘Awright lads, yer here aboot the sofa ah’ll just open the garage for ye’ Alarm bells ringing ‘It’s a wee bit dusty’ There go the sirens now ‘Don’t mind the smell the dugs a wee bit incontinent’ Claxen rattling itself off the wall. We looked down at the sofa, a long way down.

Stop me if I’m wrong but I was under the impression that a sofa should allow you to sit down. To me ‘sitting’ is when the portion of you leg above the knee is horizontal and the portion below is largely vertical. When both the upper and lower are horizontal that’s called ‘lying’ down.

‘Aye there are wee bit on the low side are they no? they seem to have sagged’, ‘No no son that’s the way they are supposed to be’. Hmmm time for another speed dial ‘Aye well it’s not-‘ Brrring BrrrringHello? What’s that Officer? Kidnapped you say! Oh my god! We had better come immediately’ I started to raise my fist ‘To the batmobile da da da de da deoooommmpppff

Two house moves in successive weekends, not a good idea!


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