Sunday, February 26, 2006
Hamish McShanks Secret Diary - Part 77
Hamish McShanks Secret Diary – w/e 26th Feb 2005
‘Okay Ham just a little bit more’ I carefully added a few more sprigs of coriander until the needle on the scales touched the required weight ‘Ok that’s fine’ tipping the ingredient into the blender I once again peered closely at the recipe ‘Pulse ingredients until coarsely mixed’, ‘pulse? What the feck does pulse mean?’ A quick check for vital signs convinced me the blender was in fact dead. I’ll admit I hadn’t held high hopes that it was alive in the first instance but thought I better be sure.
A quick phone call to Mother Shanks and all was explained ‘oh right so just switch it on in short bursts, right you are, cheers mum’, ‘yes I will be careful crossing the road, uhuu I am wearing clean underwear, hmmhmm right don’t talk to strangers ok, got to go, bye mum’ I replaced the receiver and after a quick underwear change (I don’t like to lie to my mum, and it had been a week) I returned to the cooking.
I was having nine people round for dinner and in the absence of an actual dinner table I ‘d decided to serve a hot buffet, specifically curry. I’d plumped for three different main courses and one starter. I was a bit tight for space on the worktops and things were getting a bit hectic on the stove but so far the day had been disaster free. To be honest cooking really isn’t that difficult. These poncy TV chefs get on my wick, as long as you follow the instructions and get your measures, timings and temperatures correct it’s a dawdle.
I was expecting my guests for seven and was going to be busy in the kitchen right until they arrived. This meant I wasn’t going to be able to watch the Scotland versus England rugby match. I am a huge rugby fan but if there is one game I just don’t enjoy it’s the annual Calcutta cup clash with the auld enemy. Even when we win, which is as rare as a five-leafed clover, I don’t enjoy watching the actual game.
It must be hundreds of years worth of little brother versus big brother Scottish evolution that makes me want to shout, scream and try to metaphorically right 300 years worth of perceived wrongs through the medium of International Rugby Union. After twenty-five years plus of following the fixture, I’d realised it wasn’t doing me any good. Your body doesn’t know the difference between a real rammy and one that you’re fighting in your head. All the ‘fight or flight’ hormones kick in regardless whether you are actually in the fight or are just imagining you’re skelping Will Carling in the face with a bit of two by four. Bottom line was I didn’t want to have a heart attack so I was happy to give it a miss this year.
I was feeling quite smug as I stirred the last of the three main courses. They were simmering away gently and the house was filled with wonderful exotic aromas. All I had to do was get the lamb kebabs on, the turmeric rice and rattle off a couple of dozen poppodums and Robert would indeed be your mothers’ brother.
I’d had to slightly modify the kebabs into flat burgers when I realised that my grill was gubbed and I didn’t actually have any wooden skewers. Not to worry though, my George Foreman ‘I’m a fat b*stard but I can still pan your face in without breaking sweat’ Grill would do the job nicely. And of course they would be healthy because all the fat would run off* (*into the tiny inadequate slops tray which will then overflow and run down the back of the worktop leaving the lingering smell of congealed fat in your house for months to come)
I fired up the grill and piled on the kebabs, my turmeric rice was coming to the boil so I added the prescribed dose of coconut milk and reduced to a simmer. Everything was running smooth as silk, nothing to this entertaining malarkey. I cracked open a bottle of beer and waited for the oil to heat up so I could get my poppodums done. Glancing at my watch I realised the rugby must be nearly finished so I risked putting the TV on to see how much of a hiding we were getting. Big mistake. I’d miscalculated the timings and far from being over there were still twenty minutes of the match to go. Astonishingly we were 12:9 in front. I nearly choked on my beer ‘Fuuuuucking hell’
Now I did say I don’t enjoy the game, and I don’t - even when we are doing well. There is always this wee voice at the back of my head going ‘wur doomed, doomed dae ye hear, they will score a try in the last minute and pinch it, ye know they will, dinnay watch!’ I ignored this sage advice and turned up the volume.
Within thirty seconds the endorphins were pumping round my system. Blood vessels were dilating, heart rate was climbing and that funny vein on the side of my head was starting to pulsate ‘C’mon get intae them!’ I bellowed at the television as another England attack was thwarted ‘tackle the baaastard, get him doon for fuuuuksake’ as the white shirts swarmed towards our twenty-two. I was jumping up and down and pumping my fist as every bone crunching tackle went in ‘cream him!’ I screamed as their full back made a break down the wing ‘fuuuckingkillhim!’. One of our back row players obliged, not literally obviously, but enough to curtail the threat ‘YEEESSS!’
My body was definitely in ‘fight’ mode; all unnecessary senses were shut down as a cocktail of primitive hormones coursed through my veins. A few minutes to go and I was getting really agitated. We couldn’t seem to get the ball and wave after wave of white shirts were streaming forward in relentless fashion. The thin blue line was resolute and the tackling ferocious but the nagging voice at the back of my head was getting louder ‘they are going to score, ye know they are, just accept it, were going to lose, we always lose, we are losers’, ‘Shut up, shut up you baaastard’ I screamed in reply.
Time was up, the referee looked at his watch and blew the whistle, and we actually won! We fecking WON! I dropped to my knees and ecstatically raised both arms in the air, leant back and screamed ‘YEEEES FUUUCKING YEEEEEEEEEEEES’
‘I told ye didn’t I’ I bellowed at my now silent inner doubt ‘ye wur wrong ye weasely fecker HA HA HA‘, ‘Ye’ve scuttled off now havnt you because you are the loser are’nt ye!, ‘LOOOSER!’ I yelled placing my right hand on my forehead, thumb and forefinger in the shape of an L.
‘Fight or Flight’ now over, some of my previously suppressed peripheral senses came back on line. I’m not sure which I noticed first, Mrs Shanks and her relatives standing in the lounge staring slack jawed as I appeared to bellow expletives at myself, or the smell of burning curry and plumes of black smoke emanating from the kitchen.
My arms dropped limply by my side ‘Ah …… Hello dear…..’
Monday, February 20, 2006
Hamish McShanks Secret Diary - Part 76
Hamish McShanks Secret Diary w/e 20th Feb 2006
‘Spring is in the air la la la lalalaaa’ I threw the curtains open and let the winter sunshine flood into the room. The unseasonably good weather was an unexpected bonus after waking up so early on a Saturday morning. I hate it when you’re wide awake at 8am and it’s the weekend, unless of course that’s because you’ve not finished drinking from the previous night. Although to be honest these days I would pay for such folly for the rest of the week so it aint worth pretending I’m 19 again. ‘Stick with yer coco and slippers Ham’ I hummed to myself as I descended the stairs.
The downside of the good weather was I no longer had an excuse for not tidying the garden. It was in a bit of a state and in desperate need of some TLC. My biggest job, quite literally, was the pruning. I have three trees in my back garden, I cant tell you what species they are, definitely wood, I cant be any more specific than that. What I do know is that they grow very quickly, very very quickly in fact.
I’ve been in my house for nearly a year and the trees seem to have doubled in size, ok I may be exaggerating because lets be honest I didn’t measure the smeggers when I moved in. Whatever there starting elevation two of them were now above the height of the telegraph poles. I hadn’t been brave enough to prune them in summer because I feared I might also prune the telephone cable. A great way to ingratiate yourself with the neighbours. Knock Knock ‘Hello?’, ‘Hello my names Ham I’m your new neighbour and the fanny that’s just cut through your phone line’.
But now there was no foliage on the trees and no reason not to get on with the job. Grabbing the key for the shed I headed outdoors. Despite being sunny there was still a frost on the garden and the padlock to the shed was also frozen tight. Cursing I marched back inside for some hot water. My evil twin was sitting at the kitchen table yawning ‘Are ye putting the kettle on then’, ‘Aye but no fer you, it’s for the padlock’ He gave me a withering and disbelieving glare ‘Oh that’s nice’ he replied sarcastically, ‘why not stick a couple of slices of toast on for the padlock as well then, and if the padlock cannay manage inside for a wee fly cup of tea and some toast I’ll have them’ he growled.
Some people aren’t good with hangovers; my twin is one of them. Surprising really, considering the gusto with which he piles into my drinks cabinet and hoovers back all my single malts every time he visits. Just think of an even shoddier Father Jack with less hair and slightly more swearing. I bunged a couple of rounds of bread in the toaster and headed back out.
The hot water did the trick and soon I had the saw, loppers and stepladder in position. Eight feet seemed a reasonable amount to lop off and was the limit of my equipment anyway. I’d borrowed the loppers from my older brother and they were fairly heavy duty. When I’d enquired what thickness of branch they could cut he replied ‘anything you can get them round’. I remember looking at them thinking ‘bloody hell one chop and I’ll have the tree down’.
With his helpful user guide in my mind I climbed to the top of the ladder and selected a branch about the diameter of a rolling pin. I positioned the mouth of the device around the branch and heaved the handles together. It cut about an inch and then stopped ‘Oh for feck sake‘. I tried to open the loppers up but they were stuck solid ‘c’mon you baaaastard’ I grumbled whilst twisting and wrestling the handles. The dam thing was stuck solid. My shoulders were starting to ache and the heat of the sun was making my hands sweaty.
Unfortunately the warmth of the suns rays was also defrosting the grass and it was at this point I realised I should have placed something solid under the feet of the ladder. No amount of fancy footwork was going to save the day, I was going down and it was going to be a straight k.o. Thankfully my hands had the presence of mind to cling tightly to the loppers as the steps clattered over. Regrettably this was only delaying the inevitable and now I had some nice pointy metal to land on. I darent look down as I clung grimly on. A voice piped up as I rocked gently in the breeze.
‘Enjoying yourself?’ I could hear tea being slurped noisily and the crunch of toast ‘Yes it’s lovely up here you should try it’ I replied through gritted teeth ‘Oh well if you don’t need any help then-’, ‘ok ok ok gies a hand for Christ sake’, ‘no worries bruv, you just divulge the location of the 25yr Old Macallan and I’ll get yer steps for you’, ‘Whaaat that’s 60quid a bottle you bastard!’, ‘Yes I’ve heard it’s worth every penny, nectar they say’, ‘aye well your not gonnay find out!’, ‘Fair enough, Oh did I say, I’m just popping out for a long walk, clear the old head, should be back in a couple of hours, three at the most-’, ‘right fine it’s in the cupboard under the stairs at the bottom of the toolbox’ I replied wearily.
Ever the trusting soul, he disappeared back inside to retrieve his loot as I dangled precariously from the boughs of the tree. A minute or so later he returned and erected the steps before settling down on a deckchair with my precious bottle and a glass in his hand. ‘It’s only 10 in the morning ye fecking Alkie’ I shouted as I shakily descended the steps, my loppers stuck firmly in the branches. ‘Hair of the dog sunshine, best thing for ye’, ‘kick up the backside would be the best thing for you’ I grumbled as I picked up the saw.
In light of my near death experience on the steps I decided to give the trees a proper ‘short back and sides’ with the saw. Too scared to get on the ladder it meant I was now cutting the branches just above head height. My brother was taking an avid interest as he guzzled my good whisky ‘Ye probably want to-‘, look shut it I’ve had enough from you today’ I roared. My arm was a blur as I hacked away at the tree, imagining the branch to be my brothers throat ‘aye fair enough but ye might-‘, ‘look I don’t need your advice, I don’t need you anymore’ I bellowed, angrily waving the saw at him. ‘I’m on the ground now’ I muttered before attacking the branch again. ‘Okey dokey’ he retorted smugly.
Anger is a terrible thing, it is a destructive emotion and it clouds your judgement. The sensible thing for me to do was sit down with a cup of tea until my desire to kill had subsided then calmly get on with the task in hand. But no, I let anger take control and that was always going to end in disaster.
Knock Knock ‘Hello?’, ‘Hello my names Ham, I’m your new neighbour and the fanny that’s just felled a tree on top of your greenhouse’
Hamish McShanks Secret Diary - Part 75
Hamish McShanks Secret Diary w/e 12th Feb 2006
Revenge is a dish best served cold, or so they say. Personally I’d rather have my revenge served hot, with a side order of roast potatoes, several Yorkshire puddings and lashings of hot onion gravy.
Whatever my temperature preferences I recently found myself in a position to exact some revenge on my elder brother. You may remember he ‘set me up’ at a murder mystery night last year. I was assigned the character ‘Countess Bogoff’ and was required to attend this soiree in full evening dress, and when I say dress, I don’t mean black tie, I mean a feckin dress. Despite the fact I looked absolutely radiant in my black sequined ball gown and was the belle of the ball I felt somewhat resentful that I was forced to cross dress and quietly vowed to get my own back.
Now I’m starting to believe in karma because less than a year on and that self same elder brother asked me (on the basis of writing this every week would you believe) if I would like to ‘write’ a murder mystery night for him and his friends. ‘Why of course’ I replied ‘Mhuhaha Mhuhahah MHUHAHAHAA!’ Possibly I should have left the manic laughter till after he’d left the room.
I thought a wedding would make a suitable theme for the mystery and a couple of weeks before the event I sent out everyones ‘characters’ so they could sort out costumes etc. It wasn’t long before I received a rather irate phone call from my elder brother. ‘A Bride!’, ‘yes’, ‘you’ve made me a bride!’, ‘no, no, no’ I soothed ‘I’ve made you the Bride, is there a problem?’. Apparently there was.
The rest of the guests were reasonably happy with their parts although I have to confess my brother wasn’t the only person forced to cross the gender barrier. If you were an observant person you would probably notice they were the people that laughed most heartily at yours truly in his sparkly frock last time. What goes around comes around I always say. I had a couple of surprises planned for ‘on the night’ as well. I was going to play my Joker card after the second act.
It wasn’t long till the big day came around. I was getting quite excited. The bride was understandably apprehensive as we helped her into her dress ‘For fuuucksaaaake min it’ll never fit’, ‘should have cut doon on the pies then shouldn’t ye son’ I grunted as we attempted to zip up the back of his frock ‘ye should have got a bigger one’ he wailed
’Twenty eight was the biggest they had’ I replied, wrestling with the zip ‘just another wee … gnnfff’ with a sudden jolt the zip snapped shut and the toggle came off in my hand ‘Is that it’, ‘aye all done’ I replied, staring wide eyed at the small piece of metal in my hand ‘thank Christ for that, I’ll be glad to get out of this at the end of the night, this frock is killing me’. I watched him mince out of the room and then quietly dropped the toggle behind the sofa.
I had to get round to the venue and sort out a few bits and bobs so I left the bride to be doing her hair. ‘Dear God what have I created’ I mumbled. ‘She’ was quite the catch. There are not many brides that can boast as hairy a cleavage I’d wager. It was quite disturbing, like looking down the back of a pair of builders jeans. I had suggested he might shave for the wedding but that proposal had been vetoed along with the false eyelashes. No commitment that’s the problem.
I got round to the venue and found the chefs looking rather flushed. Behind them was a mound of several hundred poppodums. Around twenty pans of differing shapes and sizes were spread on the counters and floor. The aroma was fantastic. ‘Alright Mogs, eeeh you do know there are only 26 of us?’, ‘Aye bonny lad but yer a hungry lot’ he replied in his thick Geordie accent. My gaze fell on the fifty-kilogram sack of basmati rice ‘Uuuum’. Some crunching footfalls caught my attention and I gazed upwards to see Jackie scaling ‘Mount Pakora’ and depositing another portion onto the summit cairn. ‘Uuuum right I’ll leave you to it then’.
The food seemed to be in hand and the host and hostess had done us proud with the table settings. Twenty-six is a big ask and I was particularly impressed with the way the tables snaked their way out of the kitchen, through the dining room, into the lounge and finally terminating in the shed. Lets just hope it’s not a windy night for the four people in the carport.
Guests were arriving thick and fast. I was absolutely gob smacked at the costumes, everyone had made a big effort and the house was bustling with all the various characters. Special mentions need to go to ‘Maisy’ in his fairy outfit, ‘Kevin’ the blue nose teddy boy (don’t actually remember writing that one) and ‘Dave’ the grey man Vincent. Top quality, although I did think I was tripping at one point. Things that start in yer heid should probably remain there.
It wasn’t long before nearly everyone was present. My good friend Kenny had been cast in the role of the Groom and was waiting rather impatiently to see who was playing his ‘gorgeous’ bride. I shall never forget the look on his face as my hirsute brother lumbered through the front door, his face painted like aunt Sally and lipstick smeared liberally over his top lip and five ‘o’clock shadow. ‘Quite the catch isn’t she’ I said nudging Kenny jovially in the ribs.
The first act went rather well if I do say so myself. Everyone seemed to be enjoying themselves, well except Kenny who was looking daggers and had the demeanour of a man chewing a wasp. The second act and the ‘Wedding’ itself went nicely although the happy couple refused to comply with the scripted French kiss despite the guests’ encouragement. As the end of the second act approached I signalled to three strong friends and we approached the Groom.
‘Good news Kenny we’ve found another bride!’ His eyes lit up and he breathed a sigh of relief ‘Thank fuck for that, nae offence but yer brother is a minger-’ I cut him off in mid-sentence ‘aye but there’s also a bit of bad news’ I continued with an evil glint in my eye ‘ye see it’s a gay wedding, and you’re the other bride’, ‘recognise this dress?’ I enquired, holding up the sparkly black number I had been wearing the year before and Kenny had found sooooo funny ‘Nha ha ha ha’
I was wrong ye know, it is best served cold …. Mhuhaha MHUHAHAHAA .. to fade