Monday, January 30, 2006


Hamish McShanks Secret Diary - Part 74

Hamish McShanks Secret Diary w/e 29th January 2006

BeepbeepbeepBeep …. BeepbeepbeepBeep … Bee- ‘whassat?..fngsssmm-‘ pBeep ‘aw for fnnn’ I slapped at the alarm until it ceased it’s infernal noise. Heaving myself upright with a weary grunt I sat on the edge of the bed alternately rubbing my bleary eyes and my itchy knackers. You have to do it alternately it’s like rubbing your stomach and patting your head, it just requires too much coordination.

Speaking of stomachs (you were worried there weren’t you) mine was grumbling noisily and not in a ‘feed me I’m hungry’ sort of way, oh no, this was more of a ‘oooh aaah ah’m not feeling very well’ kind of way. I gave my knackers a rest for a moment and gingerly rubbed my stomach. It was rather hot, in fact lets be honest, it was very hot. I quickly removed my burning hand and placed it on my now thumping forehead. This was cold and clammy. Whilst soothing to my scorched skin it was a worrying contrast. I mulled things over. ‘Hmmm I seem to be burning up and freezing cold at the same time? That’s not usually a good sign’. I’d only lain down for a short snooze prior to heading to the pub what on earth had happened to me?

Struggling upright I tottered off to the bathroom. My arms were flailing about the walls for purchase as I lurched nearer the cludge. I decided to have a wee pit stop at the door and clung woozily on to the handle, all the while panting like a bulldog on a hot summers day. ‘Okay Ham you went for a wee pensioners nap and now you’ve woken up sweating ice water, you have a small furnace in your sixteen pack, a dwarf appears to be hiding inside your cranium and playing the fandango on your frontal lobes, otherwise your fine’

The thumping inside my head was getting more incessant preventing any efforts at rational thought ‘Ach feck it, lets see what things look like in the mirror’….. ’Aah’ After the initial panic of thinking I was a small red fishing boat tied up in a harbour I took a step to the right and looked in the mirror instead. ‘Ooh’ The fishing boat was looking better by the minute. Think pallid, think clammy, think ashen and above all else think haggard. I was making David Blunkett look like a beauty queen.

‘Ach I’m just a wee bit dehydrated’ I mumbled as I pitched sideways towards the bath, catching myself on the wash hand basin ‘I just need a wee glass of water’ and I’ll be right as rain. My hands groped around for the glass tumbler as I tried to focus through my bloodshot eyes. I’d like to claim I was showing a stiff upper lip and not letting a little discomfort ruin my night. But the fact that I could barely consume a small glass of cool clear water without my stomach growling in protest should have indicated a quiet night in was the more appropriate choice.

I donned my hat and gloves and strode manfully out the front door. The cold air hit me like a slap in the face ‘Oooh that’s bracing’ I whimpered as the arctic wind whipped round my ears. Again the feeling that an icy phantom had just ripped out my lungs and was slapping them against a roughcast wall should have suggested that a stiff upper lip is a poor substitute for a warm bed and an early night. However that kind of attitude never won us a war! Never mind the tactical ineptitude of Hitler opening a second front in Russia and the Japanese bombing of pearl harbour forcing the Americans into the war, it was us Brits and our stiff upper lip that won the day! Forget your body armour my rigid top lip can repel any bulletaarrghhhgurglegurgle

That’s the kind of mentality that makes you head out for a night in the pub when you’re clearly unwell and in no fit state to imbibe alcoholic beverages. Oh but I went.

Even the ‘stoned out of his tree’ Jakey at the bus stop was in a better state than me. I’d managed to walk the 500 yards without collapsing and was feeling rather self satisfied as I sat in the bus shelter wheezing and puffing. I noticed that my neddy friend was examining the timetable in great detail whilst occasionally glancing across the street, then at his wristwatch. All of a sudden he dived across the road causing a number of cars to screech noisily to a halt. Unperturbed by their loud jeers he dived into the local kebab shop. Ninety seven seconds later he emerged clutching an extremely large carrier bag and repeated his frogger dash back to the bus shelter.

Fair play to him he timed it perfectly as the bus arrived twenty seconds later. I boarded first and took a seat near the front, he headed to the back after thanking the driver profusely for being able to drop him at his desired destination. If I hadn’t been feeling so low I would probably have piped up that this is what normally happens when you board or you’re on the wrong fecking bus! I doubt he would have noticed anyway his eyes were rolling around like the reels on a pugee machine.

I tried to settle down for the ten-minute journey in to town and forget about my churning stomach and thumping headache when the worst happened. Mr Buffalo soldier in the back seat couldnay wait till he reached his destination and started wiring into his munchy bag. Normally the smell of chicken pakora and lamb dopiaza would have had me drooling with envy. Not tonight though. Tonight the aroma of saturated fats and hot spices was turning my stomach. The rumblings were become closer together and louder in volume. I didn’t need to be a seismologist to realise an eruption was imminent ‘Ah’ll just get off here thanks’ I squealed at the driver ‘but wur no-‘, ‘HERE!’ I bellowed.

It could have been the pleading tone in my voice or possibly the terror in my eyes, it may even have been the simple good nature in the man that convinced him to let me alight at an unofficial stop. Personally I think it was the diced vegetables coming out my nose that carried the argument.

Now a mile from home and feeling worse than ever my stiff upper lip wobbled, in fact it crumbled ‘Ahuuu huu huu huuuuu’ I sat on a wall and bubbled and wailed. ‘I want my muuum uhuu huu huuu’ Conscious of the fact my mother now lives two hundred miles away and I’m probably too old for a tummy rub anyway I realised I had little option but to pull myself together. Therefore with tear soaked cheeks and re-stiffened lip I staggered home, arriving in just enough time to catch the porcelain bus (I got an all-night ticket too – what a bargain)

There something painfully cruel about waking up with your arms wrapped around the toilet and your stiff upper lip stuck to the porcelain by a piece of desiccated carrot when you know you haven’t had a drop of alcohol in a week.


Monday, January 23, 2006


Hamish McShanks Secret Diary - Part 73

Hamish McShanks Secret Diary – w/e 22nd January 2006

‘Stoooooop!’ my legs were pumping as I tore across the bridge, I could see the train, the guards whistle was nearly in his mouth ‘Nooooooooo’ I screamed as I careered down the stairs and on to the platform. His hand was reaching for the master key as his lips pursed and formed an ‘O’ round the whistle. Twenty yards to go, one big effort was all that was required. Time for a traditional Scottish battle cry ‘Aaaw C’mon yoooo baaaastaaaard’ I screamed in anguish. The guard glanced up and we made eye contact, my lungs were trying to jump out of my chest as I gulped down great lungfuls of dirty station air, he smiled at me, then blew his whistle.

‘You fu-‘ anger helped me find another spurt of acceleration. The doors were closing. Glancing up I saw my salvation a few feet ahead. With the last throw of the dice my right hand snatched at the passing pillar and faster than you can say ‘excremental overpriced public transport’ I was swung through ninety degrees and slung shot at the side of the train ‘HaHaHaoommpfff’ ……. I threw snake eyes.

If only there had been a door where I actually hit the train I feel confident I could have made it. With hindsight it was the weight of my rucksack that threw out my calculations. The extra mass increased the centrifugal force and I over rotated, a schoolboy error. These thoughts all came to me lamentably late as the train pulled sluggishly away from the platform and I slithered down the side of the carriage leaving faint scratch marks on the glassy surface. My last observation a lingering image of a sniggering Scotrail employee, whistle in his hand, waving at me as I slid gently onto cold wet concrete and face first into a puddle.

There’s something about a urine filled puddle that revives you quicker than you’d imagine. Fairly cleans out the sinuses too. I decided to use the twenty-minute wait for the next train to ‘clean’ myself up. I use the word clean in the loosest sense as I’m afraid to say the wash hand basin in the toilets was only marginally cleaner than the puddle, I probably had more germs on me afterwards. Mind you the wash hand basin was spotlessly clean compared to the toilet itself. One look explained why the puddle had seemed a better option to a previous patron.

Safely ensconced on the next train my thoughts wandered to tonight’s entertainment. I was off to see a band that was playing at the ‘Celtic Connection’ music festival in Glasgow. I was getting quite excited, there’s nothing like live music to fire the soul. Being musically illiterate I have the utmost admiration for anyone who can play any musical instrument, with the possible exception of the spoons. Spoons are for eating with, they are not, repeat not a musical instrument. ….. No they aren’t a percussion instrument either. They are utensils for aiding the consumption of soups and desserts, nothing more.

Having put the boot into spoons I would now like to sing the praises of fiddles, or more correctly fiddlers. That's the musical variety not the fraudster type. The amazing speed and co-ordination of finger movement and the way the bow flashes across the strings does my head in. I just know I’d cut my fingers off and saw through the neck of the instrument if I was allowed anywhere near the thing. I think it’s this added knowledge that even with a hundred years tuition and the finest Stradivarius violin I’d really only have a very expensive cheese grater.

The train trundled nosily over the points as we entered Buchanan street station. I heaved my rucksack off the parcel shelf and stood at the door as the train gently rocked to a standstill. I was clutching my ticket firmly in my hand having been caught out the last time I’d travelled to Glasgow. To combat fare dodgers you have to insert your ticket into an automated barrier to exit the station. Being a simple teuchter lad from the sticks I was unaware of this requirement and I’d tossed my ticket into a bin on the train as I left.

This led to a frank and forthright discussion at the exit. A very bored, rather sweaty and rotund jobs worth guard was in no mood to be sympathetic. I probably would have been allowed through after ten minutes of arguing and waving my switch receipt. But I’m afraid I snapped. I sarcastically enquired how long I should retain my ticket. Till my 60th Birthday? Till my death? Till I was standing in front of the pearly fuuuuucking gates? Whilst this hardly helped my case I think the more likely reason for my having to pay twice was when I suggested that he was so lardy there wasn’t a big enough gap for him to squeeze his ample backside through to the platform side. But should he ever fancy a holiday to see the choo choo trains I would be more than happy to assist his transit with the toe of my boot.

Having learnt my lesson I didn’t throw my ticket in the bin, I simply raised the collar of my shirt, pulled my bobble hat down over my ears, put on my dark glasses and sidled quietly through the exit. Relieved that the ‘sarky bastard lets give him a doing’ alarm hadn’t been raised I accelerated towards the station bar where I was meeting Mrs Shanks and the other revellers.

‘Alright folks’ Mrs S was there with her two sisters and their husbands. Everyone was looking very smartly dressed and giving me rather strange looks as I ordered a drink from the bar ‘anyone else for a pint’ I enquired. There were polite refusals and a small amount of sniggering. Mrs Shanks grasped me by the elbow and steered me into a quiet corner of the bar ‘Any particular reason why your dressed like a hippy and wearing a rucksack dear?’ I gave her a rather quizzical look ‘were going to a concert aren’t we?’, ‘yes that’s right’, ‘well I’ve just got a few essentials, food, drink, tent, sleeping ba-‘, ‘it’s in the Royal Concert Hall’, ‘- the where?’, ‘the Royal concert hall’, ‘come again?’, ‘indoors’ she replied shaking her head ‘aaaah so it’s not an outdoor festival then’, ‘no’, ‘not really the kind of place where people have dreads in their beards then’ I enquired whilst holding a hand over my face ‘correct’, ‘aaaah’ …….

The band was great. Two fiddle players giving it laldy on the cheese graters and a lad on the accordion with more fingers than I’ve got brain cells (nine) . Top quality craic and foot tapping entertainment. Only slightly spoiled by some idiot leaving a rucksack on the stairs that tripped up a gentleman coming back with a tray of pints. He was ok but the drink was launched across four rows of revellers who didn’t take kindly to their impromptu beer shampoo. The resulting rammy held up proceedings for half an hour while the police ejected the combatants.

Live boxing to Irish folk music, it’ll catch on ye know!


Sunday, January 15, 2006


Hamish McShanks Secret Diary - Part 72

Hamish McShanks Secret Diary w/e 15th Jan 2006

January, the most dreaded of months. Thirty-one days that seem to last three hundred and thirty one. Your liver has only just recovered after two weeks of constant alcoholic abuse leaving you with a fetching yellow ‘tan’. After a month of listening to Slades ‘Merry Christmas everybody’ your goodwill no longer extends to all men. It doesn’t even extend the length of your arm. It’s driven you so mad you’re now as grumpy as a bear with a sore head. In fact you’re as grumpy as a bear with a splitting migraine whose just caught his nadgers in a bear trap and is then forced to watch his missus be given a good seeing to by another bear while he attempts to untangle his meat and two veg from the clutches of mechanical death. Having finally extracted his bruised plums, without the benefit of opposable thumbs I might add, he hobbles home to his semi-detached cave in search of a sympathetic ear and some tender loving care only to find the nuts and berries have disappeared along with the wife.

So as you can imagine January does not particularly fill me with great joy and happiness. To compound matters, payday is a distant dot on the horizon. After emptying my copper collection and following an extensive rummage under the cushions of the sofa I appraise my financial situation. It’s not good. Removing chocolate coins and foreign currency from the pile I have a budget of three pounds forty-seven pence to last me till the end of the month. A quick calculation reveals I must survive on twenty-three pence a day till my next wage packet. Challenging I think you’ll agree.

I have to say I find it particularly ironic that the month of January is actually named after the Roman God ‘Janus’ (no relation to Samantha) who is the God of beginnings, guardian of gates and doors. Often depicted with two faces because he could look forward and backwards at the same time. He is said to have ruled at a time of peace, honesty and great abundance in an era known as the Golden Age. ‘Oh we are blessed indeed’ I grumbled whilst inspecting my bare cupboards. Sadly it appeared that Mrs Hubbard had already been and legged it with what meagre rations remained after the festive gluttony. My cupboards were graced with an abundance of space and nothing else ‘Thanks Janus, Gaaawrd bless ya!’ I muttered sarcastically.

The fridge was not much better. There were a couple of furry mushrooms and a single sprout looking rather forlorn at the bottom of the vegetable bin. A sliver of mouldy cheddar and a jar of pickled onions completed the inventory. ‘Oh well the classic combination of cheese and onions what a lucky lad I am’. I will admit I do enjoy cooking and like to experiment with different ingredients but this was a bridge too far. ‘C’mon then Ainsley Harriet lets see ye make a fecking meal of this’

It always makes me laugh when I watch ready steady cook. The chefs are provided with a five pound mystery goody bag from each contestant and are challenged to create interesting and tasty cuisine in twenty minutes. ‘Oh how harsh’ I hear you cry but don’t fret they are of course allowed to use the usual store cupboard ingredients found in any home to pep it all up. Sadly my cupboards tend not to be stuffed with every fresh herb and spice you could imagine. Nor is my bread bin brimming with a selection of breads from around the world. My fridge does not overflow with milk, cream, eggs or crème fraiche and my floors are not paved with cheese!

They don’t need a fecking goodybag! There are enough ingredients in their normal cupboards and fridge to feed an army. I reckon Jesus had a ready steady cook store cupboard when he fed the five thousand ‘your healed my son! Now do you want ciabatta or the French loaf?’, ‘loaf, okay now would you like the mackerel or the plaice? I’m doing a lovely lemon sauce with the plaice?’, ‘I’ll have to hurry you, I’ve only got twenty minutes…….’.

After rustling up my mushroom, sprout, cheese and onion risotto (I found a grain of rice under the microwave) I elected to have an early night. There seemed little point in staying up as I’d already licked all the patterns off the plates. I was back to work the next day anyway so going to bed at six thirty seemed a sensible option.

The morning broke crisp and cold. Well technically it broke noisily and then crisp and cold. That one sprout could cause so much wind was a mystery to me! Surely I was breaking some fundamental law of physics as I hovered my way through to the bathroom. I decided that not caring and breathing through my mouth were the best options and carried on with my ablutions. Twenty minutes later dressed in my finest school clothes and washed behind the ears I set off for a brand new year at work.

It was when I started the car that I got another kick in the happy sack from mighty Janus ‘Oh for fu-‘ The petrol warning light came on indicating I had a gallon of fuel left at best. I was going to have to run in ‘super economy’ mode. I gingerly pulled out of my parking space and trundled slowly towards the main road. Thankfully I live at the top of the town and it’s downhill almost all the way to work. ‘Ok Ham just nurse her to the roundabout and then coast your way into work’

There seemed to be a large number of impatient drivers on the road that morning as I moved with glacial speed towards the roundabout. I was keeping my revs under a thousand to conserve fuel, which obviously meant I wasn’t exactly in danger of breaking the speed limit. Unfortunately there was a lot of oncoming traffic so overtaking opportunities for the people behind were at a premium. This may have led to the road rage incident. I was just adjusting my flat cap in the mirror when a rather large man atop a steamroller went flying past me. He was waving his fist and shouting rather loudly. I wound down my window ‘I’m sorry I didn’t catch that, I’m a what?’…..

I wound my window back up again and wiped the spittle off my face. ‘Well that was rather rude’. Apart from his singular absence of manners I wasn’t sure I could actually be all the things he’d mentioned. I’m sure some of them were mutually exclusive. Undeterred by his rudeness I swung round the roundabout and down the hill. Time to switch off the engine and coast ……….

I don’t know what’s happening in the world today, I really don’t. You try to conserve a bit of fuel and be a wee bit environmentally friendly, save the planet and reduce greenhouse gases. And what happens? A mob of motorists drags you from your vehicle and set upon you with pieces of two by four.

Three square meals a day in hospital though. That Janus works in mysterious ways….


Sunday, January 08, 2006


Hamish McShanks Secret Diary - Part 71

Hamish McShanks New Year Diary w/e 8th Jan 2006

Gooood morning folks and welcome to the Craaaazy Davey Day show it’s eeeeight am on this wonderful christma-‘ A hairy arm shot out from under the duvet and swatted the alarm clock away. It was a well timed strike; most definitely ‘middled’ you could say. In fact it created sufficient momentum to skim the clock along the side of the radiator, rattling the ribs like a poor mans xylophone then ricocheting back off the window ledge and finally nose-diving into the crotch of a pair of decidedly second hand looking boxer shorts. I’d love to say it was skill and judgement that left crazy Davey mumbling away into a large skidmark in the depths of my laundry basket, but it was merely ‘serendipity’, or ‘luck’ if you haven’t swallowed a dictionary.

‘Oooooh ma heid’ I gingerly pulled the duvet away from my face and opened my eyes. Not a good move. ‘Aaaarrgh oh sweet jesus’ my eyes were on fire, every time I blinked it was like rolling my eyelids over hot grit ‘feckfeckfeck keep your eyes closed Ham’. I must have fallen asleep whilst wearing my contact lenses, now they were dried out and firmly welded to my eyes. Moisture was urgently required, eye drops preferably but tap water would do for the moment.

Blindly I stumbled through to the bathroom, my arms outstretched in front of me like Frankenstein’s monster. Frantically I fumbled for the sink. I was feeling rather disorientated which I mostly attributed to the drink ‘Where’s the fecking window sill’ I whimpered. Clearly some bastard had rearranged the bathroom suite overnight as I managed to stub my toe on a mystery piece of porcelain ‘Oooohaaaargh’ Eyes still firmly closed I bent down to massage my now broken toe and head butted the wash hand basin ‘Gnfffmmpf’ This seemed as good a point as any for a wee lie down and I crumpled into a heap on the floor.

I’m sure I wasn’t out for long. The acrid aroma pervading my nostrils was better than any smelling salts and roused me from my porcelain induced slumber. The tangy bouquet not only suggested my head was in fairly close proximity to the cludge but reminded me that despite being temporarily blind I still had four other senses. Given my location I decided to eliminate taste as an option straight away. ‘Okay Ham what’s your sense of touch telling you’ I could feel the plastic side of the bath sticking against my back and the texture of wood against my throbbing toe ‘okay Ham you’re against the bath and the door is to your left, so the window is up and to your right’

Buoyed by my unusual application of intelligence I stood up and discovered that every silver lining has a cloud. ‘Ommpfggnnnf’. Turns out I had five senses after all, I’d completely forgotten about the sense of pain. Now it was telling me the basin was still directly overhead and the growing lump on the back of my head was clamouring for attention with the half egg on my forehead. ‘At least I’m symmetrical’ I grumbled as I gingerly felt my way up the porcelain. Having located the taps I was about to rummage on the windowsill for my lens solution when I remembered the aftershave, shower gel and myriad of other bathroom products that were also on the shelf. All more than capable of inflicting even more pain in the hands of an incompetent buffoon like myself. I opted for a basin of cold water.

Eyesight restored and abloutions complete I put the kettle on and made a brew. I was heading up North for the festives and I had a three or four hour drive ahead of me. It was bitterly cold so I made up a flask for the journey. I was quite smug as I’d even had the foresight to pack the day before. We’ll gloss over the fact I hadn’t had the foresight to not go drinking or take my lenses out, lets focus on the positives eh!

I stepped out the front door of the house into a crisp white winterland. Everything was coated with frost and ice. In fact my car looked like a large white lollipop. I wasn’t bothered; I like the cold crisp mornings. Let’s be honest it never takes more than five or six minutes to defrost your motor. Just start her up, turn the heater on full bore then by the time you’ve finished scraping all the windows your car is toasty and warm.

Which is why I’ve never understood the ‘porthole’ people. You know the type; they will scrape a six inch circle on the driver’s side of the windscreen then set off! What the bloody hell are they thinking of? You cant see left or right, you cant see what’s behind you, in fact you cant see a smegging thing! Would you proactively disable yourself in this way doing anything else? Would you sit at work and cover ninety percent of the screen in post-it’s, then squint and stare at the remaining ten percent scratching your head trying to read your word document ‘look that’s a letter B and this is an A and-’ I think not.

Maybe it was because I was slightly hungover that day, maybe it was because my eyes were still nipping, maybe it was the multiple blows to the head. Who knows maybe it’s just because I have a general predisposition to being a grumpy bastard. Whatever the reason I felt compelled to intervene when the young man in the car next to mine finished his porthole and attempted to get in his car

‘In the Navy are we’ I enquired whilst grabbing his arm and thrusting it behind his back ‘what the fuooomppf’, ‘Just wondering why you’re only clearing a tiny porthole?’, ‘wh-‘, ‘Oh how silly of me you’ve got x-ray vision haven’t you’ I pushed him against the side of my car ‘gerrof me you nutter’, ‘Oh now where’s your manners’ I grabbed a white T-shirt out of my bag and thrust it over his head ‘Were just going for a walk my psychic friend’ I marched him round the corner to a busier road. He could hear the traffic thundering by ‘Right I’m going to twist this shirt round so you can only see a little bit out of the armhole then you’re going to cross the road’, ‘whaaaat’, ‘surely you can do that with your special powers?’ I said in a manic singsong kind of voice

‘You’re fecking mad’ he squealed, wriggling in my iron grip. ‘But you can drive your car on the roads without seeing anything cant you’ I replied in my best adult talking to small child voice ‘but-‘, ‘you can see through a quarter inch of solid ice’, ‘but-‘, ‘no buts sonny boy’ then I bent and whispered in his ear ‘Don’t worry Luke, just use the Force’ before pushing him hard in the back ‘Nooooooommmppff

I know it’s not big and it’s not clever but I did snigger when he wet himself ‘you crazy bastard’ he screamed as he pulled the T-shirt off and realised I had pushed him into a parked car ‘then use your eyes you cretinous wee baaaastard’ I bellowed after him as he sprinted up the street.

I see it as a public service to educate


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