Sunday, August 27, 2006


Hamish McShanks Secret Diary - Part 98

Hamish McShanks Secret Diary w/e 27th August 2006

‘The Roof?’, ‘uhu’, ‘you want me to get up on the roof?’, ‘yup’, ‘all the way up on to that high roof’, ‘yes’, ‘by means of this thin rickety ladder?’ my brother looked at me with mounting disdain ‘what’s the problem fatboy?’ my petted lip was sticking out as I mumbled ‘I thought I was putting the shelves up?’, ‘I’m doing that’, ‘why?’ Sighing he picked up the hammer and waved it below my nose ‘because you’re a complete DIY disaster area’, ‘I-‘, ‘because you’ve got all the manual dexterity of a pigs breast’, ‘bu-‘, ‘because you don’t know you’re arse from your elbow’, ‘look I-‘, ‘but mainly because cleaning moss off roof tiles is about all I’d trust you with!’ I gave up protesting. He had a strong argument no doubt about it.

To explain: My twin brother and I were at our mums for the weekend. It was her birthday and we were both vying for the accolade of ‘Golden Child’. I’m sure all families with more than one child will be familiar with the concept. Unlike the Olympics or the World Championships where your years of graft and dedication lead to a title which is guaranteed for at least four years the Golden Child tag is extremely short lived. Sometimes only lasting as long as the next cup of tea. Yet it is still highly regarded amongst most siblings and we were no exception. I like to think I play fair but my twin brother was making an extremely shallow and flagrant attempt to curry favour by cleaning out the shed and tarting it up with a few extra shelves.

The shed which of course my mother uses on a daily basis. Therefore constantly reminding her about his good works and scoring heavily on the brownie points. Which was of course why I was so upset when the sly bastard beat me to it! Unfortunately this meant I was left the task of cleaning the moss off the roof. Ok so the roof is far more functionally important than the shed but is pretty much taken for granted. Let’s be honest when’s the last time you looked at your roof? Hmmm? Exactly! I’d been stitched up like a kipper and he knew it!

Unfortunately that wasn’t the biggest setback. The main reason I was so tetchy was my problem with ladders, or more specifically, falling from them. I don’t know what triggered this phobia; I’ve never actually fallen from one so I don’t know how I developed this trouser staining fear. But it’s there and it’s no fun. I’ve never been a fan of heights in any situation but ladders are my biggest fear. However in the quest for golden status I did think that perhaps this was the opportunity to get over it? Perhaps I could ‘grasp the nettle’ as they say ‘face my fears head on’ and and and ‘put one over on that bastard of a brother of mine!’

My optimism evaporated with every rung as I gingerly scaled the ladder. My head cleared the eves of the roof and I stared at the moss covered incline. It looked dark and foreboding. Great clumps of moss were perched at precarious angles on loose and flaking tiles. Thunder clouds were gathering at the apex of the roof and the occasional flash of lightening lit up the sky. From the ground it had looked like a fairly shallow pitch but close up it was like the North face of the Eiger. My Adams apple was bobbing up and down as my heart sank to my stomach. Pressed for space my stomach sank to my boots. Luckily for my brother I’d tucked my trousers into my socks.

‘What’s the hold up?’ came the bellow from the bottom of the ladder ‘I’m just psyching myself up’ I replied weakly ‘what are ye going to clean the tiles using the power of your mind?’ he replied sarcastically ‘look I just need a couple of-‘, ‘get a shift on’ he shouted, shaking the ladder violently with both hands. I was up on the roof quicker than a mountain goat.

I lay shaking on the damp moss as a selection of cleaning tools were tossed up after me. Wire brushes and tile scrapers rained down as I cowered in shock, desperately wanting to shout some abuse at my brother. Unfortunately during the recent world breaking ascent my heart had left my stomach and was now resident in my mouth. All I could manage was to wheeze ‘fnnn baaastttrd’ and wave an inverse victory salute over the edge of the roof as my pulse slowed to a few hundred beats per minute.

My gestures went unheeded as the back stabbing Judas sidled off to simper beside my mum ‘would you like a nice cup of tea mumsy wumsy’, ‘oh I do like those shoes mummy’, ‘would you like a biscuit with your tea mum?’ Makes ye want to puke!

It took me six hours to clean all the moss off the roof and the whole time I was trying to avoid thinking about going back down the ladder. Unfortunately the job was now complete and I was going to have to descend or spend the rest of my life on the roof. A quick glance around revealed Spartan living conditions and little prospect of a vibrant social life. Therefore I plumped for the trouser filling descent instead. What the heck, they were full already.

I spent the next ten minutes ‘psyching myself up’ i.e. working myself into a fearful tizzy before I even approached the ladder. Bubbling clearly wasn’t working so I was going to have to call in the cavalry. After a deep breath I managed to compose myself enough to call out to my brother ‘alright bruv that’s me finished now, can ye hold the ladder for me please’ The sound of a hammer clanging was followed by a weary ‘och for Christ sakes can ye not manage yersel?’ My fragile composure cracked, time for full blown panic.


He sensed the anguish in my voice, it’s a twin thing.

To his credit he didn’t laugh, he didn’t mock at all. Even when I was unable to put a foot on the ladder and was frozen in terror. He slipped seamlessly into plan B. He just popped inside and pulled the mattress off the bed ‘Will one be enough?’ he enquired as I peered over the edge ‘Two please’ I replied with reddened eyes. He ventured back inside and returned with the mattress off the spare bed ‘anything else?’, ‘could you turn your back’

The only comment was when we were taking the mattresses back inside ‘cheers bruv’, ‘cheers who?’, ‘cheers ….. golden child’, ‘that’s the bunny


Wednesday, August 23, 2006


Hamish McShanks Secret Diary - Part 97

Hamish McShanks secret Diary – w/e 20th August 2006

The Edinburgh Festival Fringe has been running since nineteen oatcake. To my undying shame, until this weekend, I’d never actually been. A festival of world renown on my own doorstep and I’d never bothered to visit. This is partially due to my poor organisational abilities and to a degree due to my poor organisational abilities. This combined with my inability to organise and you can see the problem. It doesn’t help that getting tickets for any of the main acts requires months of forward planning and if you’re a halfwit who leaves it until the last night of the show you’re probably not going to get!

Luckily I have a friend Sam (yes I do) who is organised and he had arranged for a Friday night triple bill with which to pop my festival cherry. The evening would commence with Mr Paul Merton and his improv chums, this would be followed by an audience with Bill Bailey and his steam trumpet? Finishing in style with the ‘zany’ ramblings of Rich Hall. A potential side splitting laughathon I think you will agree.

We arrived in Edinburgh around lunchtime and adjourned to a local hostelry to lubricate our laughing gear. It’s a serious business is laughter. You may mock but it can be very dangerous chuckling with a dry larynx, could do yourself a nasty injury, and naturally we didn’t want that. Our festival host recommended beer as the most appropriate lubricant, and who was I to argue with festival ‘protocol’. After all Edinburgh does have a large number of fine ales and it would be rude not to try some.

My personal favourite turned out to be ‘Deuchars IPA (India Pale Ale)’. A sumptuous pint which would best be described as; of a pale gold colour with intense hop flavours and aromas balanced with Caledonians traditional soft maltiness, or so it said on the big black board over the bar. Five or six pints of soft maltiness later we staggered off towards the first venue. The rain gods ensured that by the time we got there we were as damp on the outside as we were on the inside.

The rain was hammering down as a cheery faced man in a see through plastic poncho handed out pieces of damp paper and cheap ballpoint pens ‘Can everyone write down an odd situation for Paul and his chums to act out later on’. ‘This ish jusht like ooose line ish it any-hic-way’ isn’t it’ I mumbled to Sam whilst jovially nudging him in the ribs. He looked at me with disdain ‘It is whose line is it anyway you idiot!’, ‘Oh … right, hee hee hee’ I was having some problems focusing on the paper. Clearly my beer goggles were not the same prescription as my contact lenses. I couldn’t think of anything to write, so in the spirit of a ten year old, I drew a picture of a knob and balls and thrust the paper into the collection bucket.

The venue was quite small. I guess it probably held about a hundred and twenty people and the queue moved quickly. Too quickly in fact. As I sat down I realised that in my haste to sketch a comedy knob for Mr Merton et al I’d forgotten to buy a drink! Visions of laryngeal dryness filled me with dread and I was about to burst into a screaming hissy fit when Craig tapped me on the arm and passed a pint into my grateful hands.

The ‘hall’ turned out to be the size of my front room and with seventeen rows of plastic school chairs crammed inside it was fairly compact. Let’s not beat about the bush, we were sat cheek to jowl. If only the cheek which was in close proximity to my jowl had been from someone else’s face I would have been much happier. These minor discomforts were swiftly forgotten with the arrival of Mr Merton on stage.

The show was fantastic, it was only an hour long but it was a total scream from start to finish. I particularly enjoyed the posh woman sat in front of us who just shouted complete filth out all through the performance. It’s nice to let your hair down I feel.

We managed to sneak in another couple of pints before Bill Bailey. ‘Cant be too careful’ Sam warned as he pointed to his larynx and thrust another pint in my hand. The world was looking extremely rosy as I was engulfed in a pleasant amber hue. Even the persistent rain was not an issue as we tottered to the next venue. Although I did get a bit of a shock when I arrived. I didn’t realise Mr Bailey had such an ardent following of weirdo’s. I thought we’d mistakenly arrived at a Sci-Fi convention when we entered. ‘Bloody.. hic .. hell were shurrounded by Orcs!’ I giggled as we made our way to the bar.

It was another top drawer performance. I was having a whale of a time at my first Fringe ‘s’reeeeally really good thish Sham, yooraflippin greeeeat hosht, yoo are’eally reaaly are’ I slurred as we meandered round to the assembly rooms for the last show of the night. But not before we had another couple of pints. It would have been a schoolboy error to let ourselves ‘dry out’ this close to the end of the night.

The queue for this venue was a tad longer than the previous gigs. It snaked out of the assembly rooms, down George Street, along Princess Street, up round the castle and down to the docks in Leith. Ok so it wasn’t that long but it was pretty extensive. Certainly long enough to mean that despite ‘going’ before we started queuing, my bladder was again in need of emptying. Unfortunately we had been shepherded all the way up into the ‘Gods’ at the very back of the hall. I managed to squeeze my way back out and searched frantically for the little boy’s room.

Actually the little boys, big girls, medium trannys, any kind of fecking room was going to have to do. I was about to wet myself when I saw a door marked ‘private’. That was going to have to suffice. I twisted the handle and amazingly it opened, possibly giving it a hefty nudge with my shoulder at the same time had helped. I burst into the room and spotted a fire bucket in the corner ‘Ohthankfuuuck!’ my zip was already down when I reached the bucket and I let rip into the dry sand ‘Ooooohyeeeeeees’

Jeeese buddy most people wait to hear me before they take the piss’ whispered a voice in my ear. At which point I shat myself.

Never meet your heroes, especially when it’s in a quiet cupboard and they are having a sly smoke…….


Tuesday, August 15, 2006


Hamish McShanks Secret Diary - Part 96

Hamish McShanks Secret Diary w/e 13th August 2006

I have a question for you. How do you choose your supermarket? We have a choice of four in our town but they all have their good points and their bad points. Do you shop at the store with the greatest range of products? Nice selection but invariably the most expensive and you can’t really justify the free range organic duck milk at a fiver a pop (nice though it is) so do you shop where your cash goes the furthest? Another difficult one, it’s nice to get a weeks shopping for three pounds forty seven but there is only so much chopped ham and pork you can eat in a week and what is ‘Haslet’ anyway? Or do you simply plump for the nearest? Personally I rotate. I have no brand loyalty and I like to see how the other half lives.

This particular evening I was in a hurry so I stopped at the nearest supermarket. The one where ‘every little helps’. A little more width on the parking spaces would have been a good start as I unsuccessfully attempted to prise myself out of the gap between my car door and the vehicle parked next to me ‘It’s no use getting gmnnfff more fecking gnnfmmm spaces in yer car park gnnfmmpff if ye cannay get oot of yer fecking car’ I grunted whilst switching to Plan B and exiting via the sunroof.

My humour was not greatly improved when I found all the baskets were taken and I had to get one of the ‘huge’ trolleys. You know the kind, the ones where some long suffering mum manages to pack in enough food to feed the third battalion of the Grenadier Guards for a month but the plague of locusts that she calls children have practically demolished before she gets to the till. It must be heartbreaking to watch half packets of biscuits and empty bottles getting scanned through and knowing the rest of your three hundred pounds worth of groceries will be guzzled before you even get back to the car.

I watched a weary looking mother herd her offspring away from the sweetie aisle, the dog working hard as it flashed round the display of beans before doubling back behind the condiments aisle to nip at the heels of an errant child. Impressive work. She kept him on the whistle all the way round and there was a smattering of applause from the other mothers when the shrieking youngster was finally ushered back to the trolley. I gave her an approving nod as I pushed my disabled vehicle past the newspaper stand.

I say past the stand, when of course I mean, ‘into the stand’. I’ve given up ever trying to find a normal trolley. I’ve come to the conclusion that they don’t exist. I think they are actually designed to pitch from left to right so that you can’t avoid a collision. I also think a lot of the shelves have spring loaded trigger release mechanisms. It seems even the slightest graze of your trolley will set them off. Pass a micron too close and BAM! The entire edifice collapses and you are engulfed in a landslide of toilet roll or tunnocks tea cakes. All designed for the maximum embarrassment so you quickly stash most of the ‘debris’ into your trolley. Which is fine if its tea cakes but not so great when you arrive at the till to find you’re about to purchase a dozen packets of sanitary towels.

Hence the reason I always try to get a hand basket. I’d rather have a pulled muscle in my side and one arm two inches longer than take a trolley. It was doubly annoying this evening because I was only in for a few things. I’d been sitting at work, packing up my jotters and waiting for the bell to ring when a sudden craving for Jambalaya had come over me? I’ve no idea why, but I just wanted Jambalaya for my tea. Creole take-aways are woefully thin on the ground in Stirling so I was going to have to cook my own. Hence the pit stop for provisions.

Now there are a number of different recipes for Jambalaya but I like to use chicken, chorizo and prawns as the ‘meats’ along with red pepper, tomatoes, onions and corn. Apologies to any Jambalaya aficionados out there if this clashes with your idea of the perfect Jambalaya but this is my favourite. I feel you should always have food the way you like and enjoy it. Not how some prissy ex-footballing tw*t who runs a swanky kitchen in London says it has to be made……….….. sorry …… went off on one there

I did have a bit of a problem getting the chicken. Not because there was a shortage, quite the contrary. There was a rather bewildering array of poultry on offer. Everything from free range, barn fed, tucked in and molly coddled chicken to ‘value’ chicken. Now what’s that all about then? Hmmmm? What may I ask is the difference between ‘value’ chicken and ‘standard’ chicken? I’ve been struggling to answer that. Did the ‘value’ chicken fall on hard times? Did the standard chicken benefit from a proper education prior to getting its head chopped off and eviscerated? Stop me if I’m wrong, but a chicken is a fecking chicken is it not? Exasperated with the choice I did a bit of ‘eany meany miney mo’ and ended up with the corn fed, free range ‘executive’ chicken GTI special.

The fish counter was equally distressing but only because the elderly fishmonger was having problems weighing out the prawns. He was getting rather confused as he juggled the various plastic containers. He was trying to ‘zeroise’ the scales so I wouldn’t be charged for the thousandth of a gram that the container actually weighed. Unfortunately his Alzheimer’s must have been playing up because he kept weighing the container that already contained the prawns then transferring it to a fresh container and weighing it all again. He was getting quite flustered and was trying to make light of the situation as he showed me the containers ‘Is it this one?’, ‘No hold on it’s this one here’, ‘or is that one there, ahaa haa’ I swear it was just like Tommy Cooper. I left him adjusting his fez and went in search of chorizo.

The chorizo at least was not a problem. They didn’t have any. Nor did they have any similar types of sausage. I even went to the butcher’s counter where they offered me half a pound of ‘link sausages’. I glared at the butcher ‘link sausage’ I growled ‘yessir’ he replied happily as if Link sausage was manna from heaven. I don’t like to think of myself as a food snob but if the best description you can come up with for your product is the method of construction it’s not a good sign. By this point my blue touch paper was well past lit ‘Link f*cking sausage for JAMBAFUUUUCKINLAYA!!!

Apparently attempting to insert a chicken in a member of staff is frowned upon in this supermarket. Worth thinking about before you choose where to shop.


Sunday, August 06, 2006


Hamish McShanks Secret Diary - Part 95

Hamish McShanks Secret Diary w/e 6th August 2006

I don’t know about you, but I’m beginning to think there’s something in this global warming thing after all. What’s happened to the normal Scottish summer? It’s the first week in August and we’ve hardly had any rain for the best part of a month. July is normally one of the wettest months of the year? Stranger still it’s actually been hot? And when I say hot, I mean hot! The fleeces have been put away and the T-shirts have been dusted off. My usually translucent Scottish skin has taken on an almost healthy pink colour and is now covered with freckles. Or soon to be malignant melanomas if all the recent reports on the uselessness of sunscreens are right!

My internal temperature regulation has also been struggling to acclimatise to this unnatural heat. There are only so many cold showers you can have in a day and I’m beginning to look like a shrivelled prune. For me things came to a bit of a head this week when Saturday dawned with another scorching day in prospect. I was going for a run first thing and then off for lunch with my evil twin. Ye know it’s going to be a hot day when yer sweating putting yer trainers on! Despite a cold shower I was still roasting after my run and not in the best of humours when my bruv picked me up.

‘Twenty seven degrees’ I sighed wearily. My brother glanced across from the drivers’ seat ‘what are ye on about now?’ I pointed at the digital thermometer in his car ‘look at the temperature’, ‘so it’s a wee bit warm, what are ye greeting aboot?’ I turned on him angrily ‘I’m greeting about melting into a greasy spot, I’m greeting about sticking to your cheap plastic car seat and needing a fish slice to prise myself off, I’m greeting about sweating like a pig, I’m greeting because it’s twenty seven degrees fecking Celsius’, ‘that’s what I’m greeting about’ I replied hysterically.

‘Heat getting to you is it?’ he replied calmly. I was going to explode again but realised I didn’t actually have the energy, Instead I slumped down in my seat and concentrated on looking sullen ‘Right, first of all he started ‘pigs don’t sweat, they havnay got any sweat glands, that’s why the roll in mud to keep cool’, ‘would you like me to roll you in some mud?’ I didn’t reply, I just stuck my petted lip slightly further out ‘secondly, you’d only be complaining if it was cold, and thirdly, you’re an annoying whinging bawbag and I’m fed up of yer moaning so shut your noisy yapper and get oot of ma car! Wur here’ it was difficult to fault this line of reasoning so I grudgingly exited the car.

It was only when I got out that I realised my schoolboy error ‘Ooooch what an eedjit’, ‘what now?’, ’I left my baseball cap in my own car, I’ll have sunstroke by the time wur finished walking roond the toon’ I opened my mouth for another rant about the sun and my baldy heid when my brother held up his hand to stop me ’will you shut up if I buy you a hat’, ‘aye ok then’ he shook his head and sighed ‘you’ve got a fresh nappy on have ye? I don’t want to be wiping yer airse for ye as well’, ‘oh ha ha’

Luckily there was a sports shop on the opposite side of the street. I headed straight for the golf section and selected a top of the range ‘Tiger Woods’ Nike golf cap. Might as well splash out when someone else is picking up the tab I thought. Nice idea, but I was intercepted by my brother as I headed towards the till ‘wooah there Tiger, I think we can find you something a tad cheaper and just as effective’ He handed me a wide brimmed cricket hat.

I say handed, but it took two assistants to help him lift it off the shelf ‘this will keep the sun off yer heid’ he said with a wry smile. The sales assistants guided it on to my head as my twin tossed the baseball cap over his shoulder. It was a fairly big sunhat, ‘for an entire team is it?’ I grunted as the full weight hit me ‘do you want sunstroke?’, ‘I’m more concerned with a spinal injury or a strangulated hernia at the moment’, ‘you’re never happy are you’ he muttered as the cashier handed him his change.

Tottering towards the door I wondered how I was going to get through such a small aperture. By carefully tilting my head at a forty five degree angle I was able to squeeze out with only minor structural damage to the doorframe and a couple of pulled muscles. The sales staff were all waving and smiling. I’m sure I heard some ‘high five’ slapping and mumbles of ‘I cannay believe you finally sold that piece of shi-’ as I exited to muffled laughter.

Thankfully it wasn’t a windy day or I fear I may have disappeared into the stratosphere. As it was I eclipsed the sun from most of the surrounding area. Diners at the myriad of outdoor cafes had been revelling in the warm sunshine. They were now understandably distressed to find themselves plunged into darkness halfway through their starters. Small children were crying and hugging their parents ‘why has the world gone black mummy?’, ‘I’ve been a good boy really I have’. One of the big issue sellers threw his magazines in the air and ran down the street shouting ‘I told you it’s the end of the world, I told YOU!’, ‘It’s Armageddon!’, ‘The four horseman are coming!’

Looters were smashing in shop windows and filling trolleys with various sized electrical appliances. Police were fighting pitched battles with rioting youths and two people were caught red handed trying to sneakily return their purchases to TK Max. It was all getting rather ugly and a quick exit down a side street seemed the most appropriate course of action. Ditch the hat and stroll nonchalantly back to the car seemed the best plan.

Unfortunately, narrow alleys, running and wide hats don’t mix. I was at top speed when the brim of my hat wedged firmly between the two walls. Ok so my top speed aint that fast but sixteen stones of baldy teuchter has its own momentum. I ‘exited’ the hat with a loud popping sound, managing two turns and a half pike before crashing face first into a handily placed wheelie bin ‘Ooyah fuuu-’

Don’t you like the hat then?’ my brother enquired as he pulled up in the car. I staggered to my feet and dusted myself off ‘no it’s lovely’ I replied. Frantically trying to open the back door. One eye on the approaching angry mob ‘it’s just not my colour’ I mumbled as we screeched down the road, my feet dangling out the back door ‘You’ll remember your own one next time then’, ‘yes I expect so’ I whimpered as bricks and bottles clattered on the road behind us.


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