Monday, September 26, 2005


Hamish McShanks Secret Diary - PArt 59

Hamish McShanks Secret Diary w/e 25th September 2005

Wednesday night 7:32pm : Ham is shoving the last of his dirty rugby kit into the washing machine and glancing at his watch. The rest of the team are already down the pub enjoying a blizzardly cold beer.

‘Bloody hell I’m late!’ I grabbed my spicy chicken slice and wolfed it down. Thirty seconds later I was watching it return for a porcelain encore ‘uuurggaaaahh’, ‘Urroooaaahh cckk cckk uurrggg oh that’s foul’ I mumbled whilst spitting fragments of mechanically recovered poultry into the pan. Experience had taught me not to get too excited at the first sign of respite. I took a deep, careful, breathe and waited ‘Five, four, three, two onagurrrgnnfoooaahhh aah aah aah ppt ppt ptt uuuh’ I could feel my head trying to burst as my tongue made a futile bid for freedom along with the remainder of my pasty. Just when I thought I was going to pass out the rumbling spasms in my abdomen subsided and my banshee impersonation came to an end. Gradually I slumped to the floor my arms still lovingly wrapped round the bowl as I drew long deep ravenous breathes. My head rolled to the side and I felt the reassuring touch of cold porcelain against my cheek. ‘I’ve got to stop buying those’ I muttered

Now in my defence there isn’t any fast food outlet near my house, for which my waistline is eternally grateful. However there is a rather handy, some might even say convenient, store at the end of the road. Ok so it’s not quite Asda but they do sell such delicacies as morning rolls, spam, tattie scones, spam, lard, square sausage, offal, spam, tripe and Gingsters parties. Unfortunately I hadn’t the time to rustle up a tripe and square sausage piece so I’d gone for the pastie(s). Buy one get another absolutely free, gratis, on the house, just take it away, you aint seen me right!

I’m sure it was the free one that did for me. Either way it was an inauspicious start to the evening and I was running late. I’d managed to make it to the wash hand basin and was feverishly trying to remove the pieces of diced carrot, which were caught in my beard. Time was pressing though and I had to make tracks, luckily being of the ginger persuasion I was able to leave the smaller pieces to blend in with the ‘countryside’.

I squirted a shot of toothpaste into my mouth and galloped down the stairs three at a time. Grabbing my jacket I dived out the front door. It was at this point I realised hurricane Katrina must have popped across to bonny Scotland for its holidays. It was absolutely pelting it down. The raindrops were bouncing wildly off the road and the wind was blowing fiercely whipping up a maelstrom ‘Oh for chris-‘ I was about to go off on one when I saw the bus turning the end of the road and pulling up to the only stop. I couldn’t miss it the next one wasn’t for forty minutes.

Despite my earlier exertions I found an amazing injection of pace as I sprinted towards the bus. I was quite astonished; I’d been struggling to run all night at the rugby, now all of a sudden I was like a whippet. I was positively eating up the ground between the bus and myself. Each stride was comfortable and easy as if I was floating on air. The last passenger was alighting and I was only 10 yards from the bus. Oh this was a dawdle, ‘Where are ye now boys!’ I bellowed. I could have skinned any of them I was going so fast ‘Ha HA HAAAAA!’

Then the wind changed direction.

Turns out I had been floating on air! Or at least getting blown along like a galleon in full sail. Unfortunately now I was pointing nose to wind and my speed was depreciating noticeably. Worse than that the bus doors were closing and I had only just reached the rear wheels.

I put my head down and started pumping my arms and legs ‘gnnnff got to get bus’ I winced through gritted teeth. The driver was indicating and pulling out at the same time. I was only a few feet from the door as he started to move off ‘Noooooo’ I wailed. I was trying to run and smack the side of the bus at the same time ‘Stooooop’, ‘forfuuucksaaakestoooop’ I pleaded as he gained speed. Now it was anger that was fuelling my muscles. I’m sure the bastard had seen me legging it up to the stop. I made one final effort and dived towards the closing door….

I kind of made it.

My outstretched left arm had prevented the door closing but the driver hadn’t stopped. So now I had one arm trapped in the door, partially suspending me, whilst my feet were furiously thrashing to try and keep up with his rapidly accelerating vehicle. ‘Stoooop stooop for fuuuucksakestoooop’ I screamed as my feet slipped and slithered over the greasy road. This seemed as good a point as any to start weeping ‘Uhuu huu huuu huuuu phuu leee aaase stoo ooo oop’ Alas my snivelling was to no avail. We accelerated.

On the plus side I seemed to be bobbling along quite rhythmically ‘Arrgnnfugaaugaa aaaah aaah’ although my ankles, knees, pelvis and back all felt like they were about to shatter with every step. More worryingly, as each foot thumped into the ground my stride length increased. I became particularly concerned at about twenty feet that was when I discovered what is really the limiting factor to stride length. It’s nothing to do with the biomechanics of your pelvic region, muscle strength, or the capacity for ligaments and tendons to elongate under stress. No it’s basically how far yer bawbag is going to stretch.

Clearly all the extra folds of skin are there to take up the slack so when your running at forty miles an hour with your arm stuck inside a municipal vehicle your legs don’t disappear in different directions! And I for one am grateful for such a wonderful gift. It may not be pretty but it does a job, two actually, if you want to nitpick.

I’ll give the driver the benefit of the doubt that he didn’t heard me approaching, what with the wild weather and all. However I think it’s stretching things to say he didn’t see the mildly freckled hairy left arm protruding through his door or hear the terrified screams from the other side as I broke the land speed record for human ambulation (albeit assisted by a double decker bus).

I should be grateful he let me on for a half!


Monday, September 19, 2005


Hamish McShanks Secret Dairy - Part 58

Hamish McShanks Secret Diary – w/e 18th September 2005

Did you know that the very first words spoken on the telephone were ‘Mr Watson come here. I want you’ spoken by Alexander Graham Bell to his assistant Thomas A Watson. Apparently a flustered Mr Bell had just spilt acid over his nether regions and was requesting some rapid assistance from Mr Watson. Despite our intrepid inventors being in separate rooms Mr Watson had picked up this message on their newly constructed ‘harmonic telegraph’.

Ground breaking though this was if I had been the valiant Mr Watson rushing to render assistance I would have been a tad concerned to hear a large grey bearded man profess his desire for me as he feverishly tried to remove his rapidly dissolving trousers. This is the point where most people would decide their wages really didn’t cover this sort of work. I would also like to suggest that if I had just tipped battery acid over myself you wouldn’t need a telephone to hear me in the next room, or in fact the next street. Anguished cries of ‘forfuuuuucksakegerritooffmeeeee’ tend to carry a reasonable distance.

That however is not the point of this particular rant. The reason I’m harping back to the birth of the telephone is due to the large number of unsolicited sales calls I have recently received on my home phone. Mr Bell would be spinning in his grave if he realised that his ‘electrical speech machine’ was being abused so. Let me give you one example of a recent conversation I had on the old dog and bone.

Imagine the scene, it’s six pm, 18:00hrs if you’re that way inclined. Call it what you like, I call it teatime. A time when I like to sit and consume my evening meal with perhaps a nice glass of merlot or a blizzardly cold lager and read the paper or catch up with the news. It’s my time.

Briiing Briiing ‘Oh for fu-‘ Briiing Brii- ‘Hello’, ‘Good evening’ pause to read the name on their computer screen ’Mr Shanks’ This is usually where I let out a long pained and above all noisy sigh ‘Yes’, ‘Do you have a mobile phone?’, ‘No and I don’t want one thank you’ another slight pause to get down to the required reply on their crib sheet ‘Can I talk to you about your telecoms needs?’, ‘No thank you‘ Now normally that would be enough, they would realise they were on to a non-starter and give up the fight.

However the other night after replying with ‘No thank you, I’m not interested in anything you have to sell’ I got the reply ‘Why not!’ I would add that this was in a really indignant whiny voice. I’m afraid that the blue touch paper was well and truly lit ‘Why not’ I replied in a loud voice ‘WHY NOT?’, ‘I’ll tell ye why not ye insolent little shiiite’, ‘because I don’t want any fecking telecoms solutions from you or anyone else’, ’because I’m sick to my back teeth of being disturbed during my evening meal’, ‘because I’m fed up of having conversations with feckless halfwits who don’t have two brain cells to rub together’, ‘but most of all the reason why I don’t want to buy anything is BECAUSE I DIDN’T FUUUCKING CALL YOU!!

Strangely enough they hung up after that, how rude.

I’ll tell you what I did find out during my research into Mr Bell and his electrical speech machine. It seems like all good businessmen he ripped the idea off someone far more intelligent but far less wealthy. Specifically someone who didn’t have the wedge to patent his invention. An Italian by the name of Antonio Meucci. Meucci was too brassic to afford the 250 dollars required for a patent but in 1871 (five years before our Scottish hero patented his telephone) he filed a one-year renewable notice of an impending patent. Unfortunately our Italian chum didnay have a good grasp of the old English, and was possibly a bit too greasy and foreign looking so was refused any financial backing for his talking telegraph.

Ye think that’s bad. He even sent a working fecking model and all the technical details (no no no what were ye thinking) to the Western Union telegraph company and they accidentally ‘lost them’. This was after their executives told him to ‘get stuffed wur no interested in yer telephone it’ll never work’ as a loud ringing noise emanated from the room behind them and the secretary popped her head round the door to say ‘that’s the stores on the phone they cannay make earpieces fast enough’. Try using some of the brass from their necks I would suggest.

Three years later the poor sod couldn’t even afford the $10 to renew his patent and it lapsed. As luck would have it one of Meuccis fellow inventors, who coincidentally shared his laboratory, managed to file a patent two years later and Roberts your mothers brother or Alexander is your thieving Scotsman as the case may be. Oh and guess which upstanding corporation bought the rights to Mr Bells shiny new telephones and knocked them oot by the bucket load? Yup good old Western Union.

Is any of this sounding strangely familiar? Thank god nothing like that would happen these days.

So what I should have actually said earlier was Antonio Meucci would be spinning in his grave if he knew how his invention was being bastardised today. Of course without my explanation you would be thinking ‘Alexander Graham Bell invented the telephone ye dozy fud whose this eyetie yer on aboot!’ but now you have been properly educated you can shut yer yappers and please don’t use the phrase ‘eyetie’ it’s derogatory.

Oh and here’s the ultimate irony, ye know what he invented it for? So he could communicate with his bedridden paralysed wife in her bedroom while he was busy inventing downstairs in his workshop. So the first words on the telephone were more probably ‘Antonio canna you come’a and empty the a pissapot ama getting wet cheeks baby’, ‘Mama mia woman ah’m a trying to inventa hands’a’free kit justa throw eet out the window’ If only a hatless young Scotsman hadnt been walking under that window, it all could have been very different…..

You heard it here first*


* any suggestion that the Alexander Graham Bell stole the concept of the telephone from Antonio Meucci because he was picking claggy bit from his beard for a fortnight are entirely fictional………… He did it for the cash and the women.

Sunday, September 11, 2005


Hamish McShanks Secret Diary - Part 57

Hamish McShanks Secret Diary – w/e 11th September 05

Greetings readers, I’m going to bore you with a brief potted history of a common domestic household appliance. Please bear with me, my reasons for doing so will hopefully become apparent.

The vacuum cleaner; Invented 1901 by Hubert Cecil Booth, the ‘Mark 1’ was about the size of a milk float. So big in fact it had to be horse drawn to a location outside the property. Once secured in place a noisy petrol engine would be sparked up and four to six burly men would start feeding large hoses in through your front window. It was very efficient at removing dirt, small pieces of furniture and any particularly lethargic pets that happened to get in the way. Not the most convenient you’ll agree. Things progressed though, William Henry Hoover produced the first ‘bag on a stick’ cleaner in 1908 which was a welcome improvement on the old horse drawn milk float and of course allowed us to create the word ‘hoovering’. A marked improvement on ‘Huberting’.

Since then we’ve had cyclone cleaners, bagged, filtered, dual bagged, bagless, cylinder cleaners, upright cleaners and tiny li’ll miniature cleaners and latest of all ‘balls’ (thanks again Mr Dyson). Normally our vacuums are electrically powered but some pretty wacky solar, wind and nuclear powered prototypes have been proposed. All in all quite a variety for something that basically sucks up dirt. You would imagine such a common household appliance would be fairly straightforward to purchase wouldn’t you?

Now let me bring you back to the present day, or more correctly last Monday. Picture the scene: A large electrical retail outlet on the outskirts of Stirling. Mr & Mrs Shanks have been perusing the vacuum cleaners on display for a couple of minutes. It’s been quite pleasant to date. We haven’t had to fend off the usual greasy haired youth smarming ‘Can I help you sir’ the second our feet crossed the threshold. Neither have we been completely ignored while the same greasy haired youth stands idly bogey mining oblivious to the shop full of irate customers. No in fact on this occasion the staff had clearly been trained enough to let you actually look at their wares before going in for the kill.

Enter salesman stage left. ‘Can I help you Madam?’ (he wasn’t talking to me before you start) ‘Yes I’m interested in this upright Hoover’ replied Mrs S. HHe glanced down at the model in question. It was a Hoover Gsi 9000 quantum turbo easy glide with patented volcanic suction, a wide array of click on tools and beautifully presented in shades of lilac and cream (or so it said on the label) Last one in the shop reduced to £99 what a bargain! Not however, according to our salesperson.

Alarm bells were ringing before he even started talking. He started making that awful sucking noise you get when you inhale sharply through your teeth ‘ffffffff Oooooh I wouldn’t sell you that Hoover even if I could’ we both looked at each other incredulously ‘What!’, ‘Weeeel even if I had the box for it I wouldn’t give it to you’, ‘Why?’, ‘it’s ex-display you see’ (we didn’t) ‘what if a wheel falls off when you take it home? you’ll be back in a flash

I looked at him askance ‘So why is it on display then? With a big red reduced sticker on it and Hurry last one in stock?’’ He was about to reply but I was on a roll ‘You like taunting your customers do you? Hmmm? Hmmm? Think it’s a laugh do you?’ ‘Well sir-’, ‘Ooooh I understand it’s past it’s sell by date is it? Throw out all your display stuff do you? Hmmm? Should I rake in the skip for it tomorrow’ I bellowed stabbing a finger into his chest.

As is often the case when I lose the napper my baldy head turns an angry crimson. This provided a sharp contrast to the sales assistants now ashen face. A light sheen of spittle had settled on his zit covered cheeks and his adams apple was bobbing wildly as he frantically backed away from my wagging finger. Meanwhile Mrs Shanks was quietly shaking her head as she pulled me towards the exit ‘let’s try Curry’s shall we’

Curry’s may well have had a fine selection of vacuum cleaners but we’ll never know. Our visit was in always in danger of being cut short from the second my big toe crossed the threshold of the shop. Attack was instant ‘Can I help you sir?’, ‘I-‘, ‘Can I interest you in our apparently interest free scheme? buy everything in the shop right now and pay absolutely fuck all, that’s right fuck all for nine months’ (Until you forget about it and then get reamed in nine months time at 150% apr and you realise you secured the purchase on your house, which is now Currys!) ‘Look I-‘, ‘Perhaps Sir would like our extended warranty scheme’, ‘Please be quiet’, ‘this product only comes with a 30 second guarantee and frankly that isn’t worth the paper it’s written on and the cleaner itself is a bag of sh-‘, ‘STOP TALKING!

He was slightly taken aback at my outburst but I believe his desperation to make a sale made him bite his lip. ‘Yes you can help me’ I said rolling up my sleeve and removing my watch ‘I will buy this very expensive vacuum cleaner if you will do one thing for me’, ‘certainly sir, anything’, ‘could you walk to the back of the shop please’ uncertainly he complied ‘give me a shout when your as far back as you can go’ I shouted after him. Steadying myself in a nice wide stance I extended my right arm in front of me at head height ‘I’m ready Sir’ came a faint voice from the store room

‘Good now I’d like you to run as fast as possible into my fist’ there was a rather long silence ‘sorry Sir?’, ‘having trouble with the concept are we?’, ‘No I-‘, ‘c’mon it’s very straight forward, I want you to sprint down the shop as fast as your spindly little legs will carry you and plant your spotty ugly pointless lying coupon on to my clenched fist’ There was another satellite delay ‘I’d rather not’ he whimpered ‘Really really’ I replied in a rising hysterical voice ‘Well I’d rather not be accosted by a pre-pubescent pleb whose baws have barely dropped the second I step in the door’ I roared ‘but that didn’t stop you did it sonny!’, ‘please leave me alone

‘What’s wrong don’t you want the sale now! Isn’t my money good enough’ I bellowed throwing the contents of my wallet in the air ‘C’mon it’s only pain ye wee baaaastard!’ The other sales assistant was feverishly dialling on the phone as I felt a sharp tug on my sleeve ‘Come along dear I think Comet have a sale on’

Behind every mad man is a sane woman (thank goodness)


Monday, September 05, 2005


Hamish McShanks Secret Diary - Part 46

Hamish McShanks Secret Diary w/e 21st 28th August 4th September

6 am and morning had broken crisply. I stepped outside the caravan door, a light mist hung in the air and a fine layer of dew covered the grass. The sun, pale and orange was struggling to climb over the horizon as a flight of swifts’ noisly dogfaught over my head. Beautiful sight though this was I hadn’t risen so early to appreciate the vista. Last nights sumptuous repast of fish, chips and peas was looking to settle it’s bill and vacate. In fact it was being most insistent on the matter, to the point of touching cloth.

Sadly my five star luxury caravan did not include double-glazing, running water, electricity or any toilet facilities. My brother had been rather sketchy on the fine details when he’d invited me down to stay for a couple of days. He was on a ‘flying’ holiday, a refresher for his microlight licence. ‘A nice grass strip in the heart of Cumbria’ he’d said ‘beautiful scenery and fresh air’ he’d mentioned ‘Rustic caravan’. Nothing about the amenities, because of course there weren’t any.

To be fair there were toilet facilities if you didn’t mind strolling a mile to a nearby farm where an outside lavatory was at our disposal. I snatched a roll of toilet paper and informed my bruv of my departure ‘mind the dog then’ he mumbled from inside his sleeping bag ‘What dog?’ but loud snoring was already coming from the top of the bag ‘git’ I grumbled before setting off quilted velvet in hand.

It was a painfully slow journey both literally and metaphorically. I really should have got up earlier but as it was so baltically cold in the van I’d hummed and hawed for a couple of hours. Eventually the discomfort in my bowels had triumphed over the fear of brass monkeys, but not before the turtles heid was in danger of poking oot. It took nearly ten minutes to gingerly crab my way round to the farm.

The need for my trip nearly became obsolete when I opened the farm gate and a large long haired German Shepherd lunged at me ‘Oooo sweet jes-‘, ‘Zee toilet is oofaa there mein Herr’ he cackled pointing a gnarled stick at an outhouse in the corner of the yard. Then he leaned closer and whispered with rather garlicy sausage breath ‘don’t vorry ze dog is chained up’ nodding at a small Jack Russell sleeping a few feet away. ‘Uum eeer thanks’ I mumbled as he headed off to tend his flock and I tentatively inched the last few yards to colonic freedom.

It was ‘basic’ facilities but I couldn’t have cared if it was a hole in the ground, when ye have tae go, ye have tae go. I fumbled with my belt, dropped my jeans, sat and expelled in one swift movement ‘Ooooooh yeeees’ I sighed as the agonising pressure was rather noisily released. Normally I would be cursing the lack of any suitable reading material but I was so pleased to have avoided soiling myself I’d just closed my eyes and savoured the relief. …. Until I felt a hot breath on my neck. I opened my eyes and was greeted with the sight of a large pair of equine nostrils.

Turns out the cludge had been installed at the end of a row of stables; clearly no one had felt the need to build up the side of the existing stall. In my rush to open bomb bay doors I hadn’t picked up on this quirky little feature. Shergar seemed unconcerned at my vulnerability and was more interested in ferreting around my person for some munchies ‘feck off ye big lump’ I cried, swatting it away. The beast gave up on my pockets and decided to lick my baldy head instead ‘can ah no have a dump in peace!’.

The abrasive nature of a horses tongue should not be underestimated and I was forced to abandon my position while I still had some skin on my head. However now unburdened of my fish supper I was able to skip gaily back to the caravan.

My bruv was busy making a brew when I arrived ‘milk and two sugars’ I requested breezily. He looked up and sighed ‘find the cludge did ye?’, ‘Aye and ye could have mentioned the resident nutter’ I added reproachfully. He just smirked and added a splash of milk to my tea. He handed me a mug and went to peer out the window. I clutched it gratefully. The windsock was billowing lightly and there was nary a cloud in the sky ‘should be good flying this morning’, ‘Hmmm?’, ‘I said should be good flying today!’, ‘Mmmm?’, ‘Ye deaf Eeedjit’ he sighed before draining his mug and walking out.

I wasn’t listening because I was totally preoccupied with how I was going to carry out my ablutions. We had no running water, no bath, and no sink. We had a bucket and five litres of mineral water; it was going to be a Ray Mears bush craft job. I thought a shower would be the best idea and the easiest to construct. A few strategically placed holes in the bucket, hang it up somehow and bing bang bosh, Robert is yer mothers’ brother!

It was a moments work to turn the bucket into a colander, being a former boy scout I always carry a Swiss army knife. It has that useful thingy for taking stones out of horses hooves (and poking holes in plastic buckets as it happens). Rigging up my new patented ‘Shanks Bucket’ was a slightly trickier proposition. There was nowhere in the caravan that was suitable so it would have to be an alfresco job. There were a few outbuildings, which doubled as hangers, and I managed to find a suitable cul-de-sac between two, which kept me from sight.

A convenient rusty nail protruding from the woodwork provided a perfect hanging point. I only had five litres of water, with the number of holes punched in the bucket I calculated I would have about four minutes to wash. That’s plenty time for a man with no hair but it still needed a bit of organising. I got my shower gel and towel laid out, checked the bucket for fit on the nail and we were ready to rock and roll.

‘Right so it’s, Add water, Hang Bucket, Wash, Rinse, Dry and we are clean and fresh’ I tipped the mineral water into the bucket and quickly hung it on the nail. Water spewed forth, cold water, ‘Brrrrr Jeesus christ’ it was a tad invigorating but seemed to be sprinkling well. I quickly lathered up with shower gel and was covered from head to foot in soapy bubbles when I heard this thunderous roar ‘Holy fu-‘

A yellow microlight crossed overhead, I had foolishly erected my cubicle under the flight path. The associated rush of air unsettled my poorly constructed shower and as a result my planned routine of ‘add water, hang bucket, wash rinse and dry’ turned into ‘hang bucket, lather self in bubbles, get sconed on head by bucket full of water slipping off dodgy rusty nail, fall unconscious into nearby shrubbery and be found in the all together by sniggering Farmers wife’

Oh to slip the surly bonds of embarrassment ……


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