Tuesday, December 20, 2005


Hamish McShanks Secret Diary - Part 70

Hamish McShanks Secret Diary w/e 18th December 2005

‘So here it iiiiis merry Chriiiistmas everybody’s having fuuuuuuuuuun .. la la la laaaa’ I hummed away happily as I got ready for the ‘works Christmas dinner’. Always an entertaining affair it has to be said and I wanted to look my best. My fresh dry cleaned kilt was looking immaculate and with two more turns I’d finished adjusting the leather cord on my new Jacobean shirt. Whilst I have to admit ye can look a little light on the loafers wearing a Jacobean shirt, I felt I’d chosen wisely going for black rather than white material. ‘Big’ shoulders were also off the menu ‘plain shoulders’ I’d insisted as the sales assistant had minced around me holding up a purple creation that looked like a puffer fish had been stitched on each shoulder.

The bonnie Prince Charlie outfit is very smart but I can’t stand wearing a bow tie, I find them very restrictive. The downside of the ‘shortbread tin’ Jacobite shirt is you need to be a boy scout or a mariner to be able to tie the correct fecking knot round the neck. However at least when you do you aren’t being garrotted the entire evening (unless of course you have tied a particularly bad knot)

I surveyed myself in the mirror. Everything seemed to be in roughly the correct place, matching socks, no toothpaste on face or kilt, shirt not inside out, shoes on correct feet ‘Right Ham let’s do a quick check’ I opened the top of my wee badgers handbag and delved inside ‘Money’, ‘Camera’, ‘Keys’, ‘Phone’, ‘aaaaand the most important item of all bawbalm’. For those of you unfamiliar with the wearing of the kilt, it is done ‘commando’ style i.e. nae underwear. However you only need to wear the kilt once to realise that al fresco spuds lead to severe chaffing. The simple solution is a small tube of lipbalm in your sporran. At convenient intervals during the evening (in the privacy of a toilet cubicle) simply apply a thin film of ‘bawbalm’ to your nether regions and Robert is your mothers bother.

The doorbell rang just as I closed up my sporran. I grabbed my jacket and headed out the door. Dinner was seven for seven thirty with a champagne reception prior to the meal. It was now six pm and prior to the champagne reception we were having a beer reception at the Gilroy residence. To top off the service Mr & Mrs G had even provided a courtesy car to pick up Mrs Shanks and myself. After all what’s the point in having children if ye cant get them to chauffeur you and your friends around when yer oot on the lash …… what’s that? …. best thing ever ….. Joys you cant comprehend? .. naaaah it’s the chauffeuring!

We pulled into the driveway of the Gilroy residence and I levered myself out of the car. Our hostess was there to greet us at the door with a selection of canapés ‘Evening Mrs G’ I palmed a shilling into the drivers hand as we left the car, he didn’t look impressed ‘call that a tip!’, ‘oh you want a tip’ I scratched my beard for a second ‘dinnay catch yer baws on a barbed wire fence son’ he looked even less impressed with my sage advice.

The beer reception went very well and after an hour or so of pleasant conversation (and half a dozen bottles of Miller) we boarded the Gilroy express and departed for our final destination, the rugby club. The driver didn’t seem to appreciate my back seat driving as we travelled through the town ‘wooh wooh wooh tiger, easy on the gas son’. In fact fifteen minutes later he was looking positively vexed as we pulled into the car park and didn’t seem interested as I tried to palm him another tip ‘Thanks driver here’s a wooaaah’ the car sped off in a plume of blue smoke. I picked up the tenner that had fallen from my hand ‘strange lad’ and headed inside with the others.

Our table was located at the far end of the hall, it was tastefully decorated with festive goodies, sparkly tinsel, golden stars, silver ribbons and multi-coloured baubles. Each place setting had an exquisite arrangement of posh sweeties and clearly a lot of thought had gone into the whole thing. The entire room was looking fantastic and there was even an enormous chocolate fountain in one corner of the hall. All tell tale signs that it had been all been organised by girls. Lets face it if the blokes had been in charge the centrepiece would have been an extra large pork pie and the table would have been ‘decorated’ by a selection of beers. The only concession to the Christmas season would have been a few cranberries on top of the pie and perhaps a bottle of advocat for punishment drinks.

We sat down and cracked open the house wine. Now table or ‘house’ wine can be very hit or miss. And I don’t want to seem ungrateful, after all the rest of the organisation was perfect. But I like to call a spade a spade and the wine tasted like horse piss. Not, I hasten to add, that I go around tasting horse piss but if I did I’d probably have kept a glass of it to wash out my mouth after drinking the house wine. Of course everybody else was far too polite to slander it and restricted their comments to ‘oh it’s quite sharp and fruity isn’t it’ and ‘yes a definite hint of tartness’ as their eyes watered and their mouths pursed as if licking vinegar off a nettle.

The evening wore on, the craic was excellent and the meal superb. I was being enveloped in a lovely alcoholic haze when the band started up ‘Wahaay it’s dancing time’. This should have been a good indicator that I had exceeded my weekly quota of units. I’m a man, therefore I hate dancing. Not tonight though, tonight I was a disco diva. I was strutting my funky stuff ‘oh yeah baby’ I crooned as my elbows flailed about like an out of control threshing machine. The dance floor opened up around me, Bruce Lee couldn’t have taken out as many people as I spun and turned, shaking my booty for all I was worth.

Of course the exertion of shaking my money maker just helped the alcohol course through my veins, I was Patrick Swayze, Michael Flatley and John Travolta all rolled into one. A big climax was called for, a long slide and finish on my knees seemed appropriate. I pirouetted two or three times riverdancing my way across the wooden floor. I must have been going at quite a lick as I started my slide ‘Looking good Ham’ I thought as I flew gracefully towards the bar. Then I dropped to my knees (in my kilt) Skin, unfortunately, sticks to wood ‘Da daaaarrgghhooomppff’. My envisaged big show finale of wide-open arms and rapturous applause was replaced with a long agonised scream and rather clumsy nosedive into the centre of the chocolate fountain. My limp kilt forlornly settling around my ears to reveal parking for one bike.

The last sounds I remember before my ears filled with chocolate were cries of ‘dear god not the chocolate fountain noooooooo’

Merry Christmas one and all


Sunday, December 11, 2005


Hamish McShanks Secret Diary - Part 69

Hamish McShanks Secret Diary w/e 11th Dec 2005

‘So you’d recommend the Navtom BC9000 GTI XL in car satellite navigation system would you?’, ‘yes sir’, ‘why’s that then?’, ‘because I get the most commission for selling this model’, ‘Sorry I didn’t quite catch that?’, ‘because it has the best features for the price sir’, ‘such as?’, ‘one hundred quid in my pocket’, ‘sorry can you speak up please’, ‘certainly sir this model has the world renowned blah blah blah and of course exceptional route finding blah blah’ I’ll give him his due, he had certainly rehearsed his sales pitch. Half an hour later I looked at my watch, it was nearly midday and I had to be in Edinburgh for one so I decided to cut him short ‘ok fine I’ll take it’, ‘excellent choice sir …you sucker

He disappeared off into the back of the shop. It was five or six minutes before he returned ‘I’m sorry sir that’s the last one we have on display’ Normally I wouldn’t touch ex-display but the unit was safely enclosed in clear Perspex so I took a chance ‘well can I have the display one then?’, ‘of course sir let me just find the box’ Before I could say anything he had done a Mr Benn and disappeared through the back again. Ten minutes later he popped his head through the door ‘wont be a minute sir just having trouble locating the box’, ‘look I’m in a bit of a hurr-‘ he’d vanished again.

It was half past twelve when he returned clutching a battered and very dusty box ‘sorry about the delay sir-‘, ‘look just shove it in it’s box and take me to the till I’m in a hurry’, ‘Oh I’m sorry Sir I’ll need to get security to remove the item from display we don’t have keys for that’, ‘WHAT! and how long will that take?’, ‘I’ll just find out sir’ , ‘Nooo don’t go-‘ but he had already vanished

I was starting to get quite tetchy. The clock was ticking both on my journey to Edinburgh and my next stroke. The clever money was on the coronary episode. It was quarter to one when Mr Benn returned ‘right sir they should be able to remove that in ten minutes or so’ (the books closed now) ‘Ten minutes!’ I burst out. He gave me a disgruntled look ‘There’s no need to take that tone sir’. Oh dear, oh dear oh dear, clearly he had failed to notice the warning signs of a gently simmering customer and had now turned up the heat. I erupted ‘TEN MINUTES! I’m supposed to be in Edinburgh in fifteen’, ‘There’s no need to shout sir’ (that’s right stoke it up)

I placed both hands on the counter and leaned forward so we were nose to nose, my face crimson with anger ‘Don’t tell me what to do sunshine and don’t get snotty with me either ye wee pre-pubescent bawsack! I don’t need satellite navigation anymore because you’ve fanny’d about for so long! Now I need warp drive or a fuuuucking time machine!’ I roared drenching him in spittle. He was leaning back and frantically fumbling under the counter ‘I’m going to have to ask you to leave sir’ he whimpered. My eyes lit up with fire ‘I would have left twenty minutes ago if I’d know ye wur a wasteooompppff

Turns out it takes security ten minutes to remove a product from display but only thirty seconds to eject an angry customer. I did derive some satisfaction from the fact it took three of them to oust me! ‘stick it up yer aaaaarse’ I bellowed over my shoulder as I limped painfully to the car. Luckily I had printed off the directions as a Plan B, now I just had to find a rent in the space time continuum and I could make it.

‘Ok Ham it’s nearly ten to one and you’ve got thirty seven miles to cover in ten minutes’ …….. ‘okay Ham it’s nine minutes to one you’ve been crying for a minute and you’ve still got thirty seven miles to cover’ I gunned the engine ‘let’s roll’…

Getting out of the shopping centre via the conventional route was going to take too long so I elected for a ‘short-cut’ over a flowerbed and through a flimsy fence. The fence disintegrated with pleasurable ease but did manage to hang on to a sizeable portion of my exhaust. I was happy for the reduction in weight although it now sounded like I was driving a tractor.

I was battering down the bypass heading for the motorway when I saw some flashing blue lights in the rear view mirror ‘Oh feck’ it would seem my little off road excursion had not gone unnoticed. I think my ejection from store must have involved a few head shots because instead of pulling over and proffering a lame but grovelling apology to the boys in blue I yanked the rear view mirror from the windscreen and tossed it out the window ‘la lalala laa I cant see you lalala’. Then I put the pedal to the metal ‘ha ha you’ll never take me alive copper!’

Junction 11 roundabout was approaching at great speed, I managed to swerve round a couple of slower vehicles but I was coming in a bit too hot for my exit, or indeed any exit. Another off road adventure removed the rest of the exhaust and the front bumper as I careered straight over the top ‘Oooooh mummy’ I heaved the steering wheel round in an effort to get on to the motorway, I was partially successful in that I was on the M9. The problem was I was heading south on the northbound carriageway.

Thankfully my playstation 1 Colin McRae Rally experience came to the fore as I sped up the hard shoulder ‘Okay Ham stay positive, you’ve lost the Feds! Okay so your melting up the hard shoulder on the wrong carriageway of the motorway at 95mph and if you hit anything you’ll be chunky salsa but you’ve lost the Feds’ It’s amazing how difficult it is to see a silver lining at times like these and I rolled down the window to let the smell of my anxiety dissipate.

Fortunately it was only three or four miles before I found a slip road back off the motorway. Okay we’ll gloss over the fact it wasn’t actually an exit! But I did manage to miss the oncoming vehicles and get back onto the correct side of the road. Unfortunately I’d picked up quite a lot of debris on my wheels, at least two of my tyres were now nearly flat and the rear bumper had also gone for a burton ‘Only a few miles to go Ham, you can make it, you can make it’

It was ten past one as I screeched to a stop in the car park. The plumes of black smoke coming from my car obscuring my arrival. I grabbed my kitbag and jumped out, Kenny was standing at the front door ‘Am I too late’, ‘No need to rush Ham the games cancelled they cannay find the key to the equipment cupboard’, ‘what?’ I whimpered grabbing on to the lapels of his jacket and pulling him towards me ‘aye apparently the Janitor cannay find them and- can you hear sirens Ham? .. Ham? …. Ham?

You aint seen me …..right!


Monday, December 05, 2005


Hamish McShanks Secret Diary - Part 68

Hamish McShanks Secret Diary w/e 4th December 2005

‘C’mon Kenny where are you?’ I pulled the drawstrings tight on my hood and shivered as the raindrops pitter-pattered off my head, what had started as light drizzle was now fairly steady rain. I was just about to head back to my car when I saw an approaching vehicle ‘bout time to’ I grumbled as Kenny pulled up in his car. My hand reached out for the door handle vroooooom! He shot forward a few yards. ‘Aha ha most amusing’ I took another few steps vroooom. The car sped off again ‘oh he’s a card that Mr Gilchrist’ I mumbled through gritted teeth.

Five attempts later he finally let me get into the car and I wedged myself behind the passenger seat. ‘Bit slow today aren’t you Ham?’ Kenny’s grinning mug was filling the rear view mirror ‘you’re a very funny man Mr Gilchrist, I don’t now how you think them up, really I don’t’ I replied whilst scraping as much mud from my shoes over the pristine upholstery ‘Aye yer so sharp one of these days ye might cut yerself’ I continued, grinding the dirt into the carpet with my toe.

We were off to play volleyball in deepest darkest Prestwick. I had planned on driving until my brother had phoned to offer me a lift. I didn’t hesitate to take him up on it, as it’s a pretty dreary drive. Of course had I known it was the ‘G Man’ driving I would have declined. For those of you who don’t know, Kenny and I have some ‘issues’. Well I say ‘we’ when of course I mean ‘Kenny’. He’s still a wee bit bitter about a coaching decision at the Perth volleyball tournament two years ago. In my defence I’ll simply say, it turned the game, we won, and the cone was there on merit. Needless to say the boy blunder didn’t see it that way and has held a bit of a grudge ever since.

Confirmation, if it were needed, that he hadn’t forgotten came at the first set of roadwork’s. Most people may clip the odd traffic cone when they are zooming through those mobile chicanes. Kenny went straight through; in fact he was straddling the cones for a full quarter mile. Thump thump thump thump ‘Eeeer Kenny’ thumpthumpthump ‘don’t you think-‘ thumpthumpitythumpthumpthump ‘we should perhaps get back on the road’ thumpthumpthumpthump. I was starting to feel a bit dizzy with the blurry red & white pattern burling over the bonnet of the car.

Kenny wasn’t listening; in fact he was accelerating hard and gripping the steering wheel so firmly his knuckles were turning white. I must say they did provide a nice contrast to the crimson of his face. Bizarrely the large vein on his temple was actually pulsating in rhythm with the thump thump thumping of the cones as he feverishly scattered them to the four winds. I was going to press the issue on safety grounds but he had a fiercely determined look in his sticky out eyes and I decided that I would be safer taking refuge behind my paper ‘Okaaaaay’ I whispered under my breath.

The remainder of the journey was mercifully cone free and by the time we arrived at the sports hall Mr G had returned to a more natural pink colour. Conversation had dried up during the cone rampage and there was a bit of a bun fight as we all scrambled over one another to collect our bags and get out of the car as quickly as possible ‘gerroutofit ye fecker’, ‘Aaaah my eye someone’s poked my eye’, ‘you fecking eejit you stood on myoommppff’. There were quite a few cuts and bruises by the time we got to the changing rooms.

Unfortunately the fighting didn’t stop there. We have, how can I put this, a number of larger volleyball players in our team (you’ll note I didn’t say taller). However we only have two large shirts, and even they are a bit on the figure hugging side. It was another twenty minutes before we separated the combatants and finally get changed.

My older brother, who was coaching us, finally lost the rag and bellowed ‘Look just settle down for Christ sake!’ This was met with an awkward silence apart from one particularly sullen player in the corner ‘s’my shirt number eleven, I always get number eleven’. Neil ignored the muttering and started his team talk ‘Right boys, today were playing blah blah blah and we need to focus on yah de yah yah and if we don’t pull our fingers out of blah blah blah’. Neilly’s team talks are all the same, ye’ve heard one, ye’ve heard them all. I tend just to nod a lot and ‘yeah uhuu hmmm right’ and that seems to do the trick. He tries his best …… bless.

The warm up was excellent, I was hitting the ball rather well if I do say so myself, I was making spectacular pickups and pinpoint accurate sets. I was basically playing out of my skin. The fifteen minutes flew by and we were ready for the off. I felt very confident; surely I’d done enough for a starting spot. We gathered round for some final words of wisdom from the coach and to hear the starting line up. ‘Okay lets really get stuck in blah blah blah and I want to hear blah blah blah lots of commitment and ya de yaa yaa particularly in defence blah bah’, ‘yeah uhu hmmm right’ I nodded encouragingly

‘Okay here’s the starting line up Kenny at zone 1, Dicksy at …..’ the list went on ‘and finally Morgan at zone 6, okay guys lets-’, ‘woooh wooooh there Tiger, I think you might have made a mistake’, ‘sorry’, ‘you seem to have got the numbers mixed up, I am number eleven’, ‘yes’, ‘Well you haven’t mentioned my name’, ‘that’s because you’re on the bench’ I looked at him incredulously ‘Okay boys so we need to concentrat-‘, ‘didn’t you see the warm up’, ‘yes?’, ‘I was on fire man!’ He patted me soothingly on the shoulder ‘Ham Ham Ham I’m looking for the right balance in the side’, ‘Well ye wont find it while your head is stuck up your backside! Are you blind I’m red-hot today!’

With hindsight telling your coach he has his head up his arse is unlikely to push you up the pecking order. Neither is scuffling with him on the sideline and having to be restrained by two of your teammates likely to raise your profile in any helpful way. I do think that strapping me to the bench with duct tape was taking things a bit far though. I looked like Hannibal Lecter as they wheeled me from side to side during the changeovers.

The final insult was when Kenny came across to gloat ‘Alright Ham, having fun are we?’, ’yoognnffmaastard’ my expletives were strangled by the duct tape across my mouth. ‘Tut tut Ham, such bad language’ I glared at him as he pulled a brown envelope from his pocket ‘I think you’ll find this was the balance your brother was interested in, his bank balance’ and with a cheery grin he was gone.


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