Monday, June 20, 2005


Hamish McShanks Secret Diary - Part 47

Hamish McShanks Secret Diary w/e 19th June 05

A nice sunny weekend, time for some garden chores methinks. The hedge and grass hadn’t been touched for weeks and I much as I wanted to I really couldn’t put it off any longer. I flicked the kettle on and peered sullenly out the kitchen window scanning the horizon. My demeanour took a further downward turn as the immediate perspective was nothing but a wall of green. There was no sign of the garden shed. The garden shed that contained all the garden tools ‘Oh b*gger’

I took solace in a hot brew and a few chocolate hob-nobs. I idly chomped my way through the packet as I chastised myself for being so lazy in looking after my garden. Before I knew it I’d guzzled three quarters of the packet, disgusted at my own gluttony I scoffed the rest quickly and hid the evidence. I staggered rather queasily to my feet and fuelled with over a thousand calories of refined carbohydrate headed out into the garden.

I got three feet before I was forced back by the dense foliage ‘bloody hell’ I grumbled as my hands were lacerated by razor sharp leaves and prickly stems ‘Right I’m not having this’ I stomped back into the house and got my nail scissors. ‘Aaaha now yer sorry’, ‘Now yer quaking in yer roots’ I screamed before diving in and attacking the nearest stem…… yes well, hindsight is twenty twenty.

A few moments later I slumped onto the doorstep, dripping with sweat and utterly defeated. I stared at my bloodied palms, turning them over and examining the backs ‘Should have cut my nails first’ I mused looking up and gazing wistfully at the dense grass where I’d just lost my nail scissors. I hadn’t made the slightest impression. The forest of grass seemed to be mocking me, the light breeze making the stems flutter and dance. ‘You baaaastard’ I shouted ‘look at you, dancing in the wind, I’m gonna fix you, I’m gonna fix you good!’ I bellowed before trudging back into the house.

‘Ok Ham all your gardening tools are in the shed, which you cant reach, think lateral Ham, think lateral’ I started raking in the cupboard under the sink ‘Shoe polish, No’, ‘Furniture polish, No’, ‘Mousetrap, No’, ‘Oooh there’s still some cheese on it, mmmm cheddar’, ‘Sink plunger, No’ I was losing hope when I spotted my salvation ‘Ha ha ya beauty!’ I grabbed my prize and emerged, an evil grin on my face.

I strolled out to the garden whistling nonchalantly and headed towards the wheelie bins. I rummaged behind the bin till I found what I was looking for. An extremely large and sturdy ‘For Sale’ sign which the selling agent had neglected to take away after selling the property to yours truly. To be fair he was probably too busy counting all his money to come back for a six-foot length of two by four with a thick sheet of board nailed to the top.

It was this thick piece of board that I was currently working on. I’d found a wood plane under the sink and I was patiently fashioning an extremely sharp edge onto the board. I glanced across at the grass occasionally whistling tunelessly as my homemade scythe started to take shape. ‘Do dee doo hmmm la la la’ The grass was motionless, eyeing me suspiciously ‘Aye yer not dancing now are ye sunshine’

After another twenty minutes of labour I surveyed my creation ‘Aye well I don’t think I’ll win any design awards’ I muttered as I lay it against the wheelie bin ‘but I think it’s sharp enough’ I finished as the two half’s of the bin crashed to the ground.

‘Right, time to kick some arse I think’ I stood up and cracked my knuckles ‘Oooh aaarggh’ I stretched my back and started warming up my chest and arms. The grass was wilting visibly as I finished my warm up and grabbed my scythe. It had a good feel to it, quite a scary feel actually. Nicely weighted, it felt almost part of me ‘do de do, la la laaa’ I ambled towards the shrinking foliage.

I stopped in front of the wall of green and spat on my hands. Settling on a comfortable two handed grip I looked up and smiled ‘Heeeeeeeere’s Ham!’ I bellowed as the first swipe sliced through the jungle greenery like a hot knife through warm butter ‘Yeeee haaaa’ I roared as swing after swing felled great swathes of grass. I was cackling quite madly as I neared where I thought the shed ought to be. Not that I cared now I was running on adrenalin. Primeval man didn’t need a strimmer or a shed of metal tools! Man had made a tool, man was king, man ruled the jungle, man roared!

Sadly man didn’t observe the viciously sharp but shoddily nailed board slowly parting company with the length of two by four he was holding ‘Ha Ha Ha Die grass dieoommpffff’ I should probably be grateful for the poor quality workmanship because if my ‘blade’ hadn’t parted company from the handle then when I struck the shed with my last blow the resulting ricochet would have cut my head off instead of rendering me unconscious. A fact that escaped me as I slumped down the front of the shed my nose rattling off the clapperboard door as I ‘rattatated’ into a burbling heap.

I’m not sure how long I was out but I felt absolutely awful when I woke up. My head was spinning the horizon wobbling around me. I was sweating buckets and feeling extremely nauseous. I could hear chattering all around me, which was very odd indeed. I tried to move and realised I was firmly bound. As my senses slowly returned I couldn’t help but notice that I was tied to a roasting spit. An extremely short man with a gigantic lower lip was slowly rotating me above a bed of hot embers.

This certainly explained all my symptoms but I was somewhat bemused as to why I was being prepared for dinner ‘Eeer you are aware that this is no longer a council estate’ There was no response from my big lipped friend ‘I shall be writing a stern letter of complaint to the authorities you know, this is a smoke free zone!’ He just smiled and turned my over. The heat was becoming rather a worry as my jeans started to scorch ‘Iceland are doing a great range of buy one get one free’ I pleaded

Just then a group of men in blue boiler suits burst into the clearing shouting and screaming. They were armed with backpack sprayers and they proceeded to douse the whole area. My captors fled in terror and the boys in blue cut me down ‘Lucky escape sir, that’s the worst infestation of pygmies we’ve ever seen in this area’, ‘mmm’, ‘You want to cut your grass a bit more regularly sir, stops em breeding see!’, ‘mmmm’ his mobile phone rang ‘Colony of baboons?, well be right along sir’ and with that they were gone.

Council tax …….. worth every penny


Tuesday, June 14, 2005


Hamish McShanks Secret Diary - Part 46

Hamish McShanks Secret Diary – w/e 12th June 05

‘This is your 3pm travel report, approaches to the Forth Bridge are-‘ I fiddled with the radio searching for a suitable music channel. Various tunes blared out between the walls of white noise. Radio 1 was given a swift body swerve what with me being over twelve years of age and my testicles having well and truly dropped. I scooted past Radio Scotland for a second time ‘car fire on the northbound carriageway of the A-‘ through more white noise and on to Radio 2, the crumblies radio station.

I was drumming my fingers on the steering wheel crooning away ‘drove ma Chevy to the levee la la laa’ my head bopping about as I belted out the notes at the top of my lungs. The cavernous interior of my Citroen berlingo accentuating the harmonics and convincing my deluded brain that I was in fact a diva and it was only a matter of time before I made it as a professional singer. My ears that to their cost knew better had long since shut down and popped off for a cuppa.

I was giving it laldy when I opened my eyes and noticed that the road in front was rapidly running out. Open tarmac was being replaced by imminent death. A very large very imposing and above all, very solid articulated vehicle was stationary fifty yards ahead ‘good ol boys were drinkin whiskeyJEESUUUSFU-‘ I hit the brakes and slewed sideways, blue smoke pouring from the front wheels.

From the outside it might have looked like some fairly slick driving as I swerved round the back of the lorry and slotted neatly in between a red Vauxhall astra and a dark blue BMW. It may have looked slick but in fact I had elected to close my eyes again as obviously not being able to see the vehicle would make it go away! Quite how the crying was going to help I didn’t know but a good bubble never hurts.

As the smoke settled and my heat rate slowed to a few hundred beats per minute I heard a tap tap tap on the side window. I slowly wound it down and peered out ‘That’s some interesting parking sir’ came an ominous rigid sounding voice. My heart sank as a peaked cap emerged from the receding tyre smoke. I glanced in my mirror and noticed his partner sat in the blue BMW. They seemed less than impressed by my emergency stop.

‘Yes well I can explai-‘, ‘In a rush are we sir’, ‘well yes, I mean no, I-‘, ‘Perhaps you’d like to have a seat our car and you can expl-‘ he stopped abruptly as his nose started wrinkling in disgust. His eyes were beginning to water as he backed away quickly trying not to gag ‘We pheeew can let it go this time sir… jeeeessuuus christ’, ‘I did get rather a big fright’ I mumbled in reply as he ran back to his car, slammed his door, and wound the window tightly shut.

Four hours later we finally started moving again. A car fire on the A9 had blocked the carriageway and as both lanes were clogged with traffic the emergency services couldn’t attend. The poor driver had to wait until his vehicle had burnt itself out before pushing it to the side of the road. At least he had some marshmallows with him so it wasn’t a complete disaster.

I was heading up to my bruvvas house to help with some decorating. He lives fifty miles from Aberdeen in a wee toon called Keith. ‘The Friendly Town’ a sign proclaims as you enter the place. ‘That’s nice’ I thought as I drove past. A poster had been erected next to this sign declaring this was also the weekend of the Keith Folk Festival ‘Excellent some live music too!’

I turned into the high street and nearly mowed down a gentleman with a guitar. This wasn’t actually a reflection on my driving skills as the gent in question was stotting doon the middle of the street pinballing from one parked car to another. He was clearly well prepared for the summer sunshine being stripped to the waist. His crispy sunburnt shoulders and back providing a stark contrast to the milky white guitar shaped siloutte around his midriff. It may have been sunstroke that was hindering his efforts at ambulation but I suspect our lobster coloured friend may also have kept himself well hydrated with beer.

I waited until he stumbled into a side road and drove slowly down the street. There were quite a few drunken revellers carrying a variety of musical instruments. Clearly the folk community of North East Scotland like a bit of a bevy with their music and the friendly toon had evidently proffered a few large drams. Although I don’t think the young man who was using his tenor saxophone as an impromptu urinal was going to be hitting many more high notes that night.

The music from Platoon was stuck in my head as I crawled down the high street swerving between the casualties. I was particularly taken by a prone piper who gracefully regurgitated what looked like a haggis supper over his prized pipes, lifted his bleary eyed head, took another glug of McEwens Export and then blurted out ‘Some f.f.fnbaaaastards spewed on ma pipes’ before passing out. Not quite the tartan dolly drummer image our tourist board would like to portray.

Some youths from the friendly town were also taking the opportunity to rifle through the unconscious mans pockets. Doubtless liberating him of all that terribly heavy cash and those viciously sharp credit cards in his wallet. A civic duty to protect the poor man from injuring himself. Makes you proud that kids today are so thoughtful. Quite where a kick in the spuds featured in civic duty I don’t know but our unfortunate highlander received one or two when he threatened to rouse.

I pulled up outside my brothers’ house and went to open his gate. There were a couple of banjos and a skiffle board blocking the way ‘Looks like the country boys have been run out of town’ I mused. Folk music and Country music don’t mix well in the North East of Scotland. The line-dancing fad of the late nineties didn’t help, the country boys got too big for their boots if you’ll pardon the pun.

I’m thinking of writing a musical about it myself. I’ve pencilled in Ewan McGregor, Nicole Kidman and Jimmy Shand in the leading roles. It will be tale of burning love against a backdrop of fierce musical strife between two feuding genres with ancient and deep-rooted prejudices. And a cast of over a thousand accordions!

Watch out for ‘North East Rammy’ in a cinema near you ……


Wednesday, June 08, 2005


Hamish McShanks Secret Diary - Part 45

Hamish McShanks Secret Diary –w/e 5th June 2005

‘Right Mr Shanks if you just follow me I’ll show you to your room’ I picked up my bags and followed her down the corridor. The hotel was bigger than I had imagined. The website describing it as a ‘Quaint former coaching inn with spectacular views of the Perthshire countryside’ Sounded nice and cosy, just what my bruvva had requested for his stag weekend.

In fact his exact words were ‘Somewhere where I can park my arse and get rubbered without having to traipse all over the shop tae hunners of different pubs’ His only other criteria being a pool table. I’d searched for literally minutes before coming across the advert for this particular hotel. It looked ideal and all for twenty-five quid a night what a bargain!

After walking for fifteen minutes down a series of longer and narrower corridors I was beginning to suspect we were not in the premium section of the hotel. When we finally stopped at a battered fire exit door and she fished out a rusty old key the alarm bells really started ringing. I was already bricking it at the thought of my brothers’ reaction to the trans-Perthshire trek to his room when my fears were further aroused by the state of the door.

There were a large number of dents and bulges protruding on the inside of the door. My sour faced host seemed oblivious to this as she flicked on her head torch and wrestled with the padlock. My eyes kept returning to the badly damaged door as my imagination ran wild. If it was this bad on the inside what was it like on the other side or more to the point what was on the other fecking side!

‘Don’t be silly’ I said to myself ‘There’s probably a perfectly simple explanation’ I continued as my mind dredged up images of large carnivorous creatures ‘Probably a bin fell against it’, ‘Oh aye that’s right a bin fell against the door half a dozen times!’ chimed in my brain sarcastically ‘Might have’ I mumbled ‘It’s a fecking big slavering animal sonny boy use yer eyes!’ Certainly it didn’t take a crime scene investigator or Ray Mears to conclude that bins don’t leave lots of parallel scratch marks ‘Well it coul-‘, ‘It’s a smegging bear ye dumpling were all going to die nooooooooooo

Disgusted with my brains lack of moral fibre I focused on how I was going to explain the accommodation to the boys as Mrs Bates struggled with the lock. After a few more minutes of fiddling and a final hefty push with her shoulder the door burst open. ‘Right you are Mr Shanks your party are in the flat roofed accommodation’ I peered out into the damp gloom. We seemed to be in a sort of atrium formed by the backs of all the scabbiest parts of the hotel. The flat roofed accommodation looked suspiciously like a large portacabin and by the smell of things it had been wedged in somewhere between the kitchen skips and the generator shed ‘Right, er thanks’ I replied weakly as she thrust the keys in my hand.

‘Breakfast is served between eight thirty and nine, no noise after ten at night and mind and always shut this door’ The emphasis she put on the word ‘always’ was a tad worrying ‘Why?’ I enquired ‘oh no reason just tidiness that’s all..’ she replied whilst furtively scanning the floor before hurrying off. Despite being quite a sunny evening only thin shafts of light penetrated the gloom.

I gazed skywards as the weak daylight struggled it’s way between the towering chimney of brickwork above me ‘Spectacular views my a*se’ I grumbled. I dumped our bags in the room and headed off to find my brother who had conveniently planted himself in the bar the moment we’d arrived (for which I was now grateful)

Half an hour later I stumbled into the public bar ‘Alright bruv’ I wheezed ‘Aye not bad what’s the room like?’, ‘Aye I’ll have a pint please’ he gave me an odd look and ordered a Guinness ‘So is the room ok?’, ‘have you eaten yet? I’m ravenous’ I could feel his eyes boring into me as I grabbed the menu and tried to avoid his gaze, ‘what’s the soup of the day do you know?’, ‘something you want to tell me about the room is there?’ he enquired whilst examining his fingernails then fixing me with a steely gaze ‘I think I’ll go for the steak pie and the-‘ The menu was whisked out of my hands

The room, tell me about it, all about it’ I shuffled awkwardly at the bar, tapping my finger nervously on the wooden surface ‘uum now I can explai-‘ Just then one of the stag party arrived in the room ‘Christ almighty the rooms are miles away!’ he exclaimed. My brother, already suspicious, had anticipated my ‘flight or flight’ response and had grabbed my tapping finger, he was now bending it back at a particularly painful angle

So the rooms are in Dundee then are they?’, ‘gnnfmm I canoowwfuu’, ‘what’s that? Sorry?’, ‘gnnfmuummy..’, ‘Your going to treat me to a new room?’, ‘Gnnff but I’m skint. oowwww yesyesyestheroomsonmeaaaargghh’, ‘excellent’ he let go of my finger and I slumped below the bar. He was greeting the new arrival as I massaged some life back into my swollen finger, I also took the opportunity to pair it with a less damaged companion and give him the vee’s behind his back.

The arrival of some more stags seemed to mellow him as the evening progressed and god bless him he even stopped slapping me every time I passed. It was indeed a symbol of forgiveness and in light of this act of contrition I stopped gobbing in his pints and wiping his pork scratchings on the pub dogs arse. A blow for the dog which seemed to be quite enjoying it and an all round lowering of their nutritional quality.

The evening degenerated into the drunken ‘yooormabestpaal’ nonsense that all stags do. Arrival of the ‘suicide tequilas’ signified loss of all remaining sanity. Simply snort a line of salt with the aid of a rolled up ten pound note, down the tequila in a one’er and then squeeze the lemon into your eye! What could be more sensible?

Breakfast was a rather sorry affair with only a fifty percent attendance. The stalwarts who did make it were struggling to read the menu with their one functioning eye and dripping snotter blurring the text even further. My brother was in an even worse state seeming to be off all pork products entirely.

Luckily the service was so woefully poor that we were all going to be desiccated corpses by the time the sullen teenager masquerading as a waitress put away her petted lip away and took our order.

The hotel was a great advert for Scotland. Haste ye awa!



Hamish McShanks Secret Diary - Part 44

Hamish McShanks Secret Diary –w/e 29th May 2005

I fumbled at the drawstrings of the hood, my frozen hands groping clumsily for the elusive black cord ‘Feckin crappy jacket’ I grumbled as my sausage fingers finally got hold. The rain was battering down, raindrops ricocheting off the ground as I tried to protect as much of my face from the raging elements. Welcome to Perth Volleyball Tournament 2005. If only it was Perth Australia.

I’d enlisted the help of a gullible team member to help me put up the tents ‘Aye it’ll only take half an hour then we can head doon the pub’ Three hours after we started we were still wresting with the final tent. Two forlorn figures hunched over reams of billowing wet nylon ‘Look this pole go’s in that sleeve’, ‘it disnay’, ‘aye it does, ‘no it disnay’, ‘aye it fecking does’, ‘Ye cannay read ye baldy eedjit’, ‘hark at you with yer full head of skin!’ Things took a rather unseemly turn at this point but we managed to reach a compromise. I agreed to finish putting the tent up myself and Euan agreed that I could ‘go awa and lie in my ain pish’ whilst he went to the pub.

A rapidly growing storm of biblical proportions was threatening to engulf me so I decided to forego my attempts to read the extremely damp instructions. I shoved the nearest pole in the nearest sleeve. Five minutes later I hammered in the last peg unzipped the door and stepped inside ‘Oh’ …….. ‘hmmm’ My tent looked like something Picasso might have painted if he’s just popped a tab of acid.

I was towelling myself dry when Simon and Katy pulled up next to me ‘Bloody awful day isn’t it’ I shouted through a crack at the top of the window ‘Aye tell me aboot it’ replied Simon ‘I’ll just pop the tent up and we can go doon the pub’ I gave him the thumbs up and whispered ‘ye poor sod’ as the rain pelted off the windscreen. I was slipping a dry shirt on when I noticed Simon toss something quickly out the door.

I stared open mouthed as he pulled on a length of red cord which was attached to this mystery object. There was an explosive hiss and this black package erupted before my eyes, one second a suitcase sized parcel the next a fully erected tent with kitchen annex, en-suite toilet facilities, patio, decking and sunlounge all with commanding views over the rolling Perthshire countryside!

‘What the fu-‘, ‘No bad eh?’ he shouted through the window, holding his thumb up and mugging happily. I turned away to hide my sour face. I thought it would be churlish of me to wave two fingers at him and shout ‘that’s not real camping ye poooooof’ quickly supplanting my green with envy face with my burst a blood vessel angry red one. Instead I confined myself to a grumble whilst pulling on a dry pair of jeans and muttered ‘Bloody fancy dan with his la de da inflatable fecking tent’ The final turd in the pillowcase was realising that the rain had stopped just as I’d got dry.

I stepped out of the car and into a puddle of water nearly a foot deep. The cold water rushing into my shoes and soaking the fresh pair of socks I’d just put on ‘Great’. ‘Luvlee day isn’t it’ shouted Simon as he flipped open a deckchair and sparked up his gas barbeque ‘Yes isn’t it’ I replied through gritted teeth.

I unpacked the rest of my camping gear and put it in the tent. My rollmat had seen better days and was about as thin as a rizzla paper. Compared to my sleeping bag it was in pretty good shape. The bag was fifteen years old and now had a certain translucent quality about it. Although the faded label purported the contents to be ‘duck down’ I think this bird had most definitely flown the coop. There were a couple of lonely feathers gathered around the base but it was basically a glorified sheet.

‘Ach well it’s lasted no bad’ I muttered as I opened my sandwiches ‘Aaaw for fu-‘ the rain had got into my lunchbox and my sanees were now buried at sea. To add insult to injury the tantalising smell of grilled meat products was wafting from next door and my stomach was grumbling nosily ‘Be still my beauty’ I soothed whilst gently rubbing my belly.

Knock Knock’, ‘Anyone in?’ I pushed my head out of the tent to see Simon dressed in his Chefs whites an apron with ‘My Other BBQ is a George Foreman’ and clutching a set of fearsome looking tongs ‘Fancy a bite to eat Ham?’ he enquired. I was going to retort with ‘surely you forgot the hi-didilly-ho neighbour didn’t you?’ when he thrust a cold beer in my hand. My stomach growled to remind me not to look a gift horse in the mouth and I took the beer gratefully ‘Cheers Simon’. After all it was hardly his fault I was being a grumpy bawbag.

I have to say the quails eggs whilst not my normal starter were exquisite and how the man managed to cook a whole smoked chicken and a side of salmon on a barbeque was beyond me. The evening was looking up as we reclined on the deckchairs and sipped a number of chilled beers ‘s’reallygoodthis’ I mumbled through an alcoholic haze ‘would you like some dessert?’ my eyes started to fill up ‘dessert?yoovgotdessert!’, ‘Well we have a selection-‘, ‘yoor the besht Shimon, yoooooo n K.k.katy rrr the besht’, ‘Would you like the chocolate tort or the apple strudel? It’s homemade? It was all too much and I burst into tears before sliding off my chair.

Realising my evening was over they kindly poured me into my ‘cubist’ tent and placed me in the recovery position as I mumbled ‘yooorsooonice’ broke wind in Simons face and started snoring noisily.

It was five am when I awoke. Frozen to the core. My zero point five tog ‘sheet’ and wafer thin roll mat providing little protection against the chill of the night. My bladder was suggesting an imminent toilet trip wouldn’t be a bad idea either. I fumbled blindly with the zip and staggered out into the dawn. The toilet block was far too far away for my bladder to handle so I ducked behind the back of Katy and Simons tent.

I barely pulled the old fella out in time ‘Oh yeaaah’ I sighed with relief. I took a small step to my left to steady myself and trod on a discarded beer bottle ‘Woooaahhh’. Before you could say ‘on your back and covered in piss’ I was on my back and ….. well covered in piss

Thankfully there was no one about to see me adding a water feature to Katy and Simons canvas penthouse. Although I feel I can only have added to the value, if not the drainage.


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