Monday, May 29, 2006


Hamish McShanks Secret Diary - Part 88

Hamish McShanks Secret Diary w/e 28th May 2006

Camping?’, ‘Aye it’s great fun’ Euan looked at me askance ‘Again?’, ‘Aaaaye’, ‘After last year?’, ‘Look it’ll be fine, it’s summer after all’, ‘only in spirit, I saw a penguin yesterday!’, ‘AND a polar bear’ I gave him a withering stare ‘you were at the zoo’, ‘aye but it was wrapped up in a duffle coat’, ‘we managed last year didn’t we?’ I continued ‘it was a monsoon!’ he wailed ‘look the forecast is fine’ I snapped. He gaped at me incredulously ‘aye if yer spending the weekend inside a centrally heated house’. I waved a dismissive hand ‘stop being a big Jessy! Were camping and that’s final!’ He stomped off with much grumbling ‘aye well a penguins a fecking penguin that’s what I say

Perth Volleyball tournament was upon us again. Two nights out on the lash with little or no sleep, followed by two days of bleary eyed physical exertion as you desperately try to hold on to your breakfast and not be the first player to heave on a wet muddy court.

I don’t know what Euan was complaining about anyway. The Forecast for the weekend was a few showers but mostly sunny. When Steve and I arrived on Friday evening the rain had just stopped and sunshine was bursting through the parting clouds. I nudged him in the ribs as we unpacked the boot of the car ‘See, look at that’ and pointed to the clearing sky ‘and Euan was greeting about the weather!’ It was half an hour’s work to erect the four tents. We were just cracking open a tinny when Euan rolled up in his car.

Reclining in my deckchair I slipped on my sunglasses and theatrically placed a solar reflector under my chin as he struggled towards the tent clutching several heavy bags and an inflatable mattress ‘Alright Mr Kerr?’ he glanced up and scowled when he saw the glasses ‘
oh aye very funny Ham, you’re a card right enough’, ‘remember the radiators did you?’ I enquired as he disappeared inside the tent. I couldn’t make out his reply but I’m fairly certain he wasn’t wishing me wealth, health and happiness.

After a few more cans of lager we adjourned to the pub. We chose a hostelry that had treated us very well the previous year, The Ring ‘O’ Bells. It has table service to save you all those tiresome trips to the bar. A tab to save all that tiresome opening and closing of your wallet and a twenty fourth century matter transporter to literally take the piss out of you and save all those tiresome trips to the toilet! Ok, ok, ok so it doesn’t have a matter transporter but that’s the only thing that’s missing.

When we poured ourselves out the door at midnight there was a decided nip in the air. The warm sunny sky had been replaced by a black starlit number, awfully nice to look at but dashed inefficient on the insulatory front. It was fecking Baltic! I zipped up my jacket and turned the collar up around my ears ‘Oh look at that, it’s almost frosty’ piped up Euan gleefully ‘ach it’s r.rr.rr.rrr.oasting’ I replied through chattering teeth ‘w.ww.what are y. ..y.. ye? A bb.ig jessy?’ He just smiled and pulled on his hat and thick gloves ‘c.c.cmon lets back the camps.s.ssssite’ I stammered.

By the time we got back I was chilled to the bone ‘Well nite nite then Ham’ chuckled Euan as he opened his tent door. A wave of heat blew out ‘och look at that I’ve left my heater on, better switch that off’, ‘I’ll just make do with the electric blanket’ I stared slack jawed at the cables stretching from the tent to the boot of his car where the gentle hum of a small generator was barely audible.

Thrusting my frozen hands ever deeper into my pockets I trudged off to my own tent. The thin layer of frost clinging to the outside surface was not a good sign. Cursing Mr Kerr, I fumbled clumsily with the zipper. Ten minutes later I was inside and tucked up in my sleeping bag, this wasn’t much of an improvement. Despite being brand new it was not coping well with the ambient temperature. Foolishly I’d gone for a ‘two-season’ sleeping bag. If I’d know the ‘seasons’ it had been designed for were high summer in Spain and mid winter in Barbados I would have invested in a different bag.

It was a long cold night. When Euan ‘knocked’ on my tent door the next morning I could barely move, partly due to the cold and partly due to the fact I was wearing every item of clothing I possessed ‘Alright Ham fancy a cup of tea?’, ‘aye aye that would be great’ I mumbled, determined not to let him know how uncomfortable I had been.

The kettle had boiled by the time I’d rubbed my frozen limbs into life and clambered out of the tent ‘good kip then?’, ‘oh great, top notch in fact’, ‘not cold then?’, ‘Noooooo’, ‘och that’s grand cos it’s to be lovely and warm today but it’s to be even colder tonight’ My face was frozen in a strained smile ‘well that’s not a problem for me’ I replied lamely ‘that’s good then’ he respond, taking a big slurp of tea ‘fine’ I retorted, a tear welling up in my eye.

The day’s volleyball was a blur. All I could think of was another nights kipping in my icy coffin. I couldn’t take it, I cracked and picked up the phone ‘Alright bruv any chance I can kip at yours tonight?’, ‘aye nae bother I thought you were camping?’, ‘change of plan…’

Andy McNab would have been impressed with my evasive manoeuvres. Ten minutes after lights out and I had managed to exit the campsite unobserved. It was a mere twenty minute run to my brother’s house and before you could say ‘two faced Judas’ I was tucked up in a cosy warm bed. I’d set my alarm for 07:00hrs to make sure I could get back to my tent before the rest of the team were up. That way nobody need know about my little excursion to the comfort zone. ‘Sweet dreams Ham’ I chuckled pulling the fluffy duvet over my head and falling into a deep sleep

The campsite was spookily quiet the next morning as I slipped between the tents. Heavy snoring and occasional expelled wind were all that could be heard. Reaching my own tent I gingerly opened the zipper and slipped inside. My face fell, it was empty. No sleeping bag, no rollmat, nothing ‘oh fu-‘, ‘looking for something?’ My heart sank at the sound of Euans voice. Reversing out of the tent I turned to see him smiling broadly. He was holding my sleeping bag in one hand and a video camera in the other.

Smile for the camera YA BIG JESSY!


Monday, May 22, 2006


Hamish McShanks Secret Diary - Part 87

Hamish McShanks Secret Diary – w/e 21st May 2006

You may remember I’ve recently changed my car. The extremely thirsty, yet wonderfully comfortable and fabulously spacious Mazda 626 is now a mere memory. It was traded in for a thrifty and frugal, peanut sized Peugeot 106. And don’t get me wrong, I love my little 106. It does about 400 miles on a thimble full of diesel and the insurance company are sending me a cheque every month. But it has to be said, space is at a premium. The full impact of this became apparent last weekend.

Mrs Shanks and I were heading off to the East Neuk of Fife for a well earned break. I was packing the car, or more correctly, trying to pack the car when the lack of space started to become an issue. On previous trips it was simply a case of tossing everything into the boot of the 626 and making sure didn’t throw it ‘too far’ in or we’d never find it again. Now I had to play Tetris with the luggage.

I’d love to be able to pander to stereotypes and blame the lack of space on all Mrs Shank’s bags and female paraphernalia but she travels extremely light and it was all my keech that was causing the problem. We were going to be staying in a self-catering cottage and perhaps I was going over the top with my logistics ‘Just another gnffmm wee bit uuughhhmmm’, ‘You think we’ll need our own dining table then do you?’, ‘you never know’ ,’and the roll of carpet?’, ‘it’s better to be prepared’, ‘oh I agree, I just didn’t realise we were preparing to move house’, ‘aha ha ha you’ll thank me when we get there’ I replied whilst strapping the mattress on to the roof of the car.

Not the speediest vehicle at the best of times my wee sewing machine was struggling to climb it’s way up the hill and out of my housing estate. I had to accede to my good ladies pleas to leave the three bags of cement I’d stashed on the back seat ‘well don’t come crying to me when we get there and the gable end needs pointing’ I grumbled as I heaved the bags back to the shed ‘and the sand!’ she cut in as I returned to the vehicle and attempted to nonchalantly move off.

The journey was quite pleasant now that we could travel at post glacial speeds. We took the cross country route through some of Scotland’s more agreeable scenery. The sun was bathing the hills in a warm orange glow and our spirits were high. The forecast for the weekend was more sunshine and reasonable temperatures. We are of course talking reasonable for early summer in Scotland i.e. no need for crampons and ice axes, which was just as well because Mrs S had vetoed those getting packed as well.

It was nearly nine pm when we rolled up to the front door of our holiday home. It was gorgeous, a lovely whitewashed cottage nestling atop a hillside looking out over the fife coast towards the Isle of May. The Sun was dropping down towards the horizon, golden rays glinting off the tips of the waves as we gazed at the fantastic view from the back door ‘bloody hell’ I whispered’, ‘aye it’s no bad’ replied Mrs S. In one swift movement she planted her bag on the kitchen floor and expertly uncorked a bottle of red with her other hand ‘Well that’s me unpacked, so I’ll just sit here and enjoy the sunset while you unload your gear from the back of the car’ she sniggered, raising her glass.

Two hours later I staggered into the kitchen with the last box of provisions. Mrs S was reclining on the couch and reading a book in front of a crackling log fire ‘that you finished then dear?’ she enquired whilst pouring another glass of shiraz ‘just about’, ‘glad you brought the two sets of Le Creuset pans then are you?’, ‘oh aye, I just need to inventory the crockery and I’ll be ready for a glass of vino’, ‘that’s nice dear’ she mumbled, whilst delicatly licking her finger and turning the page.

Wakey wakey Ham’, ‘whassat? Mnnfggz’, ‘Fancy a cup of tea’ I raised my head and tried to open my eyes, everything was black, ‘Aaarrrggh I’m BLIND!’ A swift ripping sound followed by a searing pain in my forehead and suddenly I could see again. Mrs S was holding up a piece of tattered paper ‘fell asleep on your inventory again didn’t you ye fanny’, ‘no’ I replied indignantly. She gave me a withering look ‘Why don’t you scrub the Times New Roman from yer face and I’ll rustle up some breakfast eh?’ I looked at my watch, it was 9:30am ‘Eeer ummm right’ Sheepishly I scuttled off to the bathroom.

‘Fancy a walk down the beach today?’ I enquired through a mouthful of toast ‘you haven’t seen the weather then?’, ‘What? It was lovely yesterday and the forecast was great’, ‘aye well there are lies, damm lies and then there are weather forecasts, have a look outside’. I stood up and walked to the kitchen window, a sheep blew past at head height, it didn’t look happy. The haar had come down and visibility was about twenty feet, the few trees I could see were all bent at 45 degree angles ‘bit breezy isn’t it?’ remarked Mrs S.

I started to get angry, a lot of planning had gone into this weekend, and I wasn’t going to let the weather ruin it. I didn’t drive ninety miles towing a greenhouse to sit inside all weekend. ‘Well I’m going for a walk on the beach’ I growled through gritted teeth ‘Fair enough you nutter’ shrugged Mrs Shanks ‘you can drop me at a café though’.

Torrential rain lashed against my jacket as I kneeled on the swet and. Savage gusts of wind whipped the toggles of my hood, causing them to repeatedly flog my grimaced face. large red welts were building up around my cheeks and forehead as I worked my spade venomously into the sand ‘fnnbaaastrds’ I mumbled as the plastic bounced off the solid surface ‘gonna make a fffnn sand fffn castle if it’s the last thing I do’ unfortunately my construction efforts were being destroyed before they even left the spade.

‘More Tea madam?’, ‘Aye I think I’ve got time for another cuppa’ remarked the lady as she stared out the window. The waitress dispensed another stream of hot brown liquid into her white porcelain cup ‘anything else madam?’, ‘Yes there is’ she replied, whilst carefully adding a spot of milk, ‘could you phone the Coastguard please, my boyfriend appears to be trying to break the world record for rowing to Norway in a novelty bucket, oh but before you do, could I have a look at the sweet trolley please? Thanks

I could have made it you know ……..


Sunday, May 14, 2006


Hamish McShanks Secret Diary - Part 86

Hello folks

Here's the latest installment of the diary. Yes I know, I know, it's a tad on the late side, but hey we could spend all day arguing over 'who' didnt get his diary out on time and 'who' always makes lame excuses.

The main thing to focus on the fact that there IS a diary today. We dont need to dwell on the poor standard of service or the promises that have been broken, nor do we need to highlight the lies, deceit and sleaze (I should be so lucky) that has plagued the Shanks administration. We need to focus on what the future holds and what we at Shanks Diaries can do to improve our service for you. Yes YOU! Because Hamish loves you all, each and every one of you, he loves you like you were his own family ...... possibly like a ginger stepchild, but family all the same.

Finally let me assure you that Hamish fully intends to serve an entire third term.......

Kind Regards


Hamish McShanks Secret Diary – w/e 14th May 2006

Imagine it’s
8 am on the first day of your week’s holiday and you have just heaved yourself, bleary eyed, from your comfortable bed. You don’t want to get up early; you’re on holiday after all. Unfortunately the extremely loud clattering, banging and smashing noises that roused you from your slumber suggest that some inconsiderate b*stard is digging up the road outside. Surely not? This is your holiday, doesn’t everyone know that? Yawning and scratching an extremity of your choosing you now head angrily towards the bedroom window. You are preparing a tirade of abuse for the individual who has disturbed your beauty sleep, god knows you need it.

Flinging open the window you take a deep breath ‘For FU-‘ you stop abruptly in mid-sentence as you realise it’s a beautifully sunny day outside. There’s nary a cloud in the sky and it’s warm. That’s right, warm, and at 8 in the morning! Something happens that you’re not used to, the edges of your mouth, normally fixed in an angry grimace move upwards? You feel cheerful, upbeat and benevolent. You no longer wish to wreak havoc with a length of two by four. That angry pulsating vein on your forehead ceases to protrude so prominently and you feel, well …… happy?

I ran down the stairs and hurriedly consulted teletext, the forecast for the whole week appeared to be more of the same ‘Ha ha ya beauty!’ For once the rain gods had decided not to sprinkle me with golden showers and I had the perfect opportunity to get all the outdoor chores done round the house. I flung open the front door and hailed the workman who had woken me ‘Morning lads! Bloody great day isn’t it! Ha Ha’ the dirty looks I received suggested this was not the case. Presumably when you’re digging a hole in the ground, for minimum wage, on a hot sunny day, the last thing you need is some cheerful wanker shouting at you. Undeterred by their abusive gestures I returned inside to sit down with a cuppa and make a plan for the week.

Becoming a homeowner does give you a different perspective on property. As a tenant you can quite happily ignore cracked and decaying brickwork, loose or missing slates on the roof. Basically as long as it’s not inconveniencing you, who cares! When you actually own the house you think ‘feck, better get that fixed before it costs me even more money’ I had a number of small tasks requiring my attention, the most pressing of these being repairs to my doorstep.

My house has a small step as you enter the front garden and a second larger step at the front door. Both of these had, at some time in the past, been covered with lovely ‘jobby’ coloured ceramic tiles. Not only were they a hideous colour but several were cracked and dangerously loose. It was only a matter of time before someone slipped and hurt themselves, and let’s be honest; it was going to be me. Even when securely fixed, ceramic tiles are treacherous when wet. Loose and wet is just asking for trouble, in fact it’s not just asking for trouble it’s like poking trouble in the eye, knocking his pint over and calling his girlfriend a fat slapper! They had to go.

Clutching a large chisel and a lump hammer I approached my doorstep ‘Ok Ham, lets get the rest of these tiles off then’ There were about thirty tiles in total, six of which had already fallen off. You would imagine therefore, that the rest would detach themselves fairly easily……. You would of course be wrong

Sweat poured off my brow as I drove the edge of the chisel under yet another tile. Thump Thump THUMP! ‘Who on earth gnnfmmp thought this was a good feckin gnnfmmaah ideaaarrghhh!’ Yelping I jumped to my feet, the hammer and chisel clattering noisily on the bare concrete as I sucked my swollen thumb for the fourth or fifth time ‘
Aw look lads the wee boy is sucking his thumb, he must want his mammy!’ I stomped inside the house with the sound of the workmen’s laughter ringing in my ears.

‘Fecking tossers’ I grumbled as I ran my damaged digit under the cold tap. Glancing in the mirror I couldn’t help but notice my baldy heid and face had already caught the sun ‘oh great I’m getting sunstroke as well’. Having patched up my mangled thumb I started raking for some sun cream. Half an hour later I located a bottle of factor 25 Nivea sun cream, it must have been quite old as it was priced at 49p. Squinting to read the label I managed to make out ‘best before Aug 1988’ barely visible under the grime ‘Ach it’ll be fine’ and I slapped some on my face.

You know how sun cream is supposed to be invisible when applied. A sort of hidden barrier keeping out the suns dangerous ultraviolet radiation? Well clearly age affects these properties. After half an hour of waiting for the cream to soak ‘invisibly’ into my skin, my face was still china white. I looked like a mime artist ‘Oh marvellous, bloody marvellous’ Attempts to wash off the cream were fruitless; it now appeared to be bonded securely to my skin. ‘Right fine, who cares at least it’ll keep the sun off’ I tossed the bottle into the waste bin and trudged downstairs.

To add insult to injury I couldn’t find my usual baseball cap, I had to settle for an old wide brimmed cricket hat. Not an ideal choice for a sunhat as there was a strong breeze outside, which while mercifully cool, would almost certainly blow the hat off. My earlier good humour had now all but dissipated. I stomped irately round the house in search of something better, but to no avail. Exasperated and getting angrier by the second I grabbed a pillowcase and wrapped it over the top of the hat. I knotted the material under my chin, grabbed my sunglasses, and stormed out the door.

Yes with the benefit of hindsight I should have realised my getup was likely to invite comment. Red pillowcase over white hat, dark sunglasses and porcelain face ‘
Alright Barbara how’s the writing going? We thought you were deid! Ha ha’, ‘where’s yer poodle luv? Had it stuffed? Ha ha ha’, ‘No chiffon today Miss Cartland?

What is the collective term for a group of Daily Record reading, work shy, big-mouthed, fat arsed council workmen? Is it a ‘bawbag’ of workmen perhaps?


Monday, May 01, 2006


Hamish McShanks Secret Diary - Part 85

Hamish McShanks Secret Diary w/e 1st May 2006

Then you just pull the brush down to expel any bubbles underneath’ I watched as Mrs Shanks demonstrated the technique, she had clearly done this before, very professional. She finished off with an accomplished flick of the wrist ‘There’ she stood back to admire her work ‘Now you have a lovely smooth and straight piece of wallpaper’ I stared in awe at the perfect positioning. Mumbling and touching my fingers, I repeated my new papering mantra ‘Paste, lift, hang, brush, paste, brush, hang, lift’, ‘Now, do you think you can manage the rest?’, ‘Oh aye, nae bother’ I nodded enthusiastically. She raised her eyebrows ‘no honestly; I can do this’ I repeated. Reluctantly she handed over the brush ‘Well if you need any help I’ll be next door preparing the spare room’, ‘I’ll be fine, leave this to me’.

You may have read about my previous decorating exploits at my older brothers house up North (Stallig 13) I’d done my painting apprenticeship and now it was time to move on to wallpapering. My girlfriend was redecorating the upstairs bedrooms in her house, and being the kind man that I am, I’d offered to help. Watching her hang the first piece of paper, I couldn’t see what the fuss was about. There weren’t even any fancy patterns to match up. How hard could it be!

‘Ok Ham, start with the pasting’ I unfurled a roll of paper; the free end immediately curled up and sprang back in my face ‘mmnnfgg’ simultaneously the heavy part rolled off the end of the table, skiting and tumbling out the door. I was pulling the paper from my baldy heid when Mrs Shanks appeared with the rest of the roll ‘So soon?’ she murmured wearily ‘it’s ok, it’s ok, I just dropped it’ She placed the roll back on the table, shook her head, and walked out. My face flushed with anger and embarrassment and I glared at the offending cylinder, pointing a shaking finger ‘right ye fecker, nae mair of yer shite!’.

Grabbing it firmly in one hand I pulled a length of paper out and held it at arms length. Lifting my right leg up on to the table I forced the springy end down. Gradually I turned the roll until I had the required length laid out ‘Ha ha ye’ll have to get up pretty early to catch out old Ham..- ’ It was at this point I realised the paste pot was now out of reach ‘Oh for fu-‘. A bolt of inspiration struck me. I leaned forward until my forehead was now against the thick end. This released my left hand and with a modicum of groaning and grunting I managed to grasp the brush with my fingertips ‘Ha Ha’. A few quick dollops of wallpaper paste were enough to tame the rebellious rag.

Suitably drenched in paste it was now time to proceed to phase 2 : Hanging. I’d even had the foresight to position the steps correctly so all I had to do was ascend a couple of rungs and apply the paper. Carefully I aligned the sheet so it was adjoining the original and sitting perfectly straight. I pulled the brush from my back pocket ‘Now I just pull the brush down’ the paper was going on beautifully ‘to expel any bubbles an-‘ Six inches from the bottom there was a muckle great lump under the paper. My jaw dropped when I saw the source ‘ooooh shiiiiit’. One of the cats had been playing in the paper cuttings. It was about to discover that it’s tail was tethered to the wall.

Very slowly I placed the brush on the ground. The cat was still batting a piece of paper about and oblivious to it’s new binding ‘Oookay kitty you just carry on playing with that while I gently-‘, ‘MEEEIOW!!’, ‘sshh shh there there there it’ll be alrighOOOWWW’, ‘Ya wee bast-‘, ‘everything alright dear?’, ‘aye, fine fine’ I replied shrilly.

The cat wasn’t happy, understandable given the circumstances. One minute you’re toying with a paper ‘mouse’ gleefully practicing the best way to torment another creature to its death, and the next, some big baldy fanny has glued you to a wall. Lets be honest, that’s going to grate. Unfortunately being a raging, spitting, razor sharp ball of fur wasn’t making my job of releasing it any easier.

I reasoned that as I couldn’t get close enough to peel the paper away gently the only option was to whip the sheet off quickly. In the manner of an elastoplast if you like. Okay so I would have to rehang the sheet of wallpaper, but it seemed churlish to complain considering the plight of this poor animal ‘Okay Ham, it’s cruel to be kind’, ‘cruel to be kind’ I whispered as I gripped the end of the sheet with both hands ‘on the count of three’, ‘one’ my muscles tensed ‘two’ I splayed my feet to get a good platform ‘three!’, ‘WHOOSHAAAARRRGHHHH!

The flaw in my logic was not anticipating the adhesive powers of wallpaper paste. Rather than whipping quickly off the cats fur, with the possible loss of a few hairs. The cat remained firmly attached to the paper as I pulled it upwards. This meant of course that at the end of the wrenching motion, when my hands were on either side of my face, the enraged feline was now at eye level. Not one to miss an opportunity it latched itself on to my phizog in the manner of one of Sigourney Weavers Aliens ‘Anngmmpffaarggh

The plan was partially successful, in that the cat was no longer stuck to the wall. On the downside it was now stuck firmly to my face and turning my cheeks into steak tartar. Blindly I flailed around the room ‘Need any help dear?’ came a voice from the next room. ‘Mmpffgalrightaarggh’. Fumbling on the floor I managed to grasp the brush. It had a reasonably stout wooden handle and I felt now was the time for drastic measures. I was losing a lot of blood and I needed to remove the beast sooner rather than later. With one quick blow it was all over……

Admittedly it would have been better if I’d hit the cat rather than my own forehead, but I was unsighted at the time. Keeling slowly backwards like a felled Oak I hit the papering table square in the centre. The cat decided it wanted to save one of it’s nine lives after all and had the foresight to flee on the way down, pausing just long enough to rip a final chunk of flesh from my face before nailing a perfect four point landing. The table quickly folded into its requisite halves giving me a final box on the ears as I slumped into unconsciousness. The last thing I remember is the vision of the paste pot arcing its way down towards my bloodied face, the sound of the door opening and the shrieks from Mrs Shanks as she surveyed the carnage.

Back to the painting for me I think, I know my limits …….

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