Tuesday, September 26, 2006


Hamish McShanks Secret Diary - Part 102

Hey hey folks

Here's a diary at long last. Apologies for the dreadful service. It's hard work trying to juggle a heavy workload, organise a touch team and still find time for a nervous breakdown and writing a diary!

Hope you enjoy, I'm afraid the intermittant service is likely to continue for a few weeks yet

Kind Regards


Hamish McShanks Secret Diary w/e 24th Sept 2006

Aristotle’s law of contiguity states that: "When two things commonly occur together, the appearance of one will bring the other to mind."

Now I know your thinking; ‘Jesus Christ Ham, this is a bit heavy, what’s wrong with ye?’ The answer is nothing. I’m just trying to rationalize my behavior every time I return home to the North East of Scotland. Particularly when I crest the top of the hill outside Aberdeen and see the city unfold below me. Whenever I see the swathes of grey granite and the spires of the toon peeping through the haar I get quite emotional. For the life of me I don’t know why? I couldnay wait to get out of the fecking place when I lived there. It must be some kind of Pavlovian conditioning and with hindsight perhaps I should have warned the passengers in my car……

Oh look there’s Aberdeen, where di-’, ‘Theee Northern lights of Old Aberdeen, mean home sweet hooooome to meeee’, ‘what are you doing?’ (ignoring you and taking another deep breath as it happens) ‘the Northern lights of Aberdeeeeeeen are where I want to be’, ‘gonnay stop?’ (nae chance) ‘I’ve been a wanderer all of my life and maaaanys a sight I’ve seeen’, ‘I’m serious’ (I’m in full voice now) ‘God speed the day when I’m’ (nothing’s going to stop me)oooon my wayooommpffff’ (except a quick chop to the windpipe it would seem)

We had been on route to a touch rugby tournament in Aberdeen. I’d persuaded the troops that the Granite City wasn’t always freezing cold and foggy. In fact on some days you could get by with just the two jackets and a fleece. Convinced by my lies they had agreed to travel north. Having just topped the hill and set sight on my hometown skyline I’d burst into very loud, very badly sung folksong. I suppose the Pavlovian punch in the throat response was equally understandable but nevertheless slightly detrimental to team morale (well mine at any rate)

Team spirit was fully restored by the time we trooped out onto the pitch for our first game and we started off with a solid draw. As the Captain I felt some stirring words of encouragement may be in order ‘unbeaten so far’ I wheezed whilst desperately sucking in lungfuls of air ‘they were a good side’ I continued before collapsing on to my knees at the side of the pitch ‘just keep up that workrate guys’ my left arm was now strangely limp ‘great teamwork’ I mumbled clutching my chest with my good arm before crumpling backwards on to the grass ‘jusht keep… t.t.talking to each other….’ I slurred whilst a paramedic ran to my aid ‘and s.s.shtay focuuuuused…..’

Storm in a tea cup. Couple of minutes of CPR, a few hundred millijoules of defibrillation, a cup of tea and I was good to go again. I’d thoroughly recommend a few savage jolts of electricity to pep you up in the morning. Beats the crap out of red bull any day of the week and it doesn’t taste like shite either. Although it does play havoc with yer fillings.

Suitably duracell’ed up I headed back to the fray.

We had a mixed bag of a day but still managed to reach a semi-final. We might have won it too if we hadn’t already adjourned to the bar by the time we realised we were supposed to be playing. There was little enthusiasm for getting changed back into our cold wet kit and my new paramedic friends insisted I take it easy for the next two or three months. We had no option but to concede the game. Consoling ourselves with the fact that we were getting some early training in for the evening’s ceilidh I persuaded the boys in green to push my gurney to the bar and purchased another round of drinks. We would definitely be hitting the ground running tonight, or possibly just hitting the ground. Time would tell.

The Ceilidh venue was an exceptionally impressive building at the heart of the University campus. Stout oak panelled walls were topped with a high vaulted ceiling. Mighty wooden beams traversed from side to side way above our heads. It was a daddy of a venue, it definitely had a feel of history about it ‘bloody hell this is the mutts nutts’ mumbled one of the team ‘aye yer not wrong’ I replied pulling the last of the wires from my chest ‘but I’m fairly sure it’s just as easy to admire from the bar, mines a pint please’

So you think it was sensible to discharge yourself do you?’, ‘Aaaaaye!’, ‘contrary to medical advice?’, ‘Ach there’s nothing the matter wi me’, ‘they did recommend you should take it easy’, ‘ach dinna be fashing yerself’, ‘It’s just that you’ve seemed a bit …. Uuum …. Odd..’ my face screwed up in bewilderment ‘odd?’, ‘yes a bit … eeer … strange since it happened’, The band started playing ‘enough chit chat my dear’, ‘come let’s dance Susan’, ‘I don’t think that’s really appropriate’, ‘why?’, ‘I’m Colin, we don’t have a Susan in the team’, ‘Oh you shy little minx, don’t toy with me’ and grabbing him by the hand I spun him on to the dance floor.

Look Ham I know you’re not well but-‘, ‘shhh don’t talk my love, savour the moment’, ‘I’m going to savour kicking you in thewoooaahh’ Another two spins and we were back dancing cheek to cheek ‘don’t fight it Susan you know you want me’ his voice was somewhat muffled as I bear hugged him into my chest ‘oh it’s been a perfect night sweet darling Susan’ he was wildly flapping his arms behind my back as I crushed him tightly.

Luckily we have a psychiatric nurse in our team. Years of dealing with the deranged and mentally infirm meant she recognised the warning signs immediately. ‘Hello there vicar’ she said to herself ‘two men dancing together in public, one clearly struggling for dear life the other staring glassy eyed at the horizon, we have a stonecold maddy in our midst!’. She leapt into action. Stealthily creeping up behind me she reached for a stuffed salmon on the wall ‘Ohh Susan were going to be so happy togetooompppfff

Caught me a beezer, I was out like a light and the luckless ‘Susan’ was saved.

So next time ye worry about the state of the national heath service or how our taxes are spent, just think. An amateur could have killed me but the blow was hard enough to disable me without actually helping me on to the next world. A true professional and I would salute her if I could just get my arms out of this fecking jacket …..


Sunday, September 10, 2006


Hamish McShanks Secret Diary - Part 100

Hamish McShanks Secret Dairy w/e 10th September 2006

Is that everything sir?’ she enquired as I peeked over the top of my groaning trolley ‘jusht thish’ I replied, spitting out a packet of batteries I’d been clutching between my teeth. She gave me a withering look as she scanned the soggy item, holding it gingerly between her fingertips. Handing over my switch card I watched in disbelief as she ‘swiped’ it through the till. She used the same action that would be required to cut through an exceptionally tough piece of steak with a particularly blunt knife. Clearly electronic information needs to be thrashed out of these cards. It’s a good job that we have chip and pin though, it’s far safer than a signature. I feel significantly more secure having to enter my unique pin number on an open keypad in full view of the entire shop. Safe as houses.

Replacing the fractured piece of plastic in my wallet I headed off to the car. I’d only popped out for a couple of plant pots and a new pair of gardening gloves but my flatbed trolley was now in danger of buckling under the weight of the ‘Hooded three burner Gas Barbeque’ which was taking pride of place. The main selling point for which had been a big ‘50% off’ sticker slapped on the outside of the box. With hindsight the swiftness with which three strong men were found to load it on my trolley and usher me to the checkout before I changed my mind should have rung some alarm bells.

Unfortunately in my clamour to pick up a bargain I hadn’t thought out how I was actually going to get it home. The box was rather large; in fact it was about half the size of my car. Clearly it wasn’t going to fit so I pushed the whole lot back towards the store in the hope that they might be able to deliver it. Two of the men who had helped heave the box on to my trolley in the first place were having a sneaky smoke outside the front door. They had wry smiles on their faces as they watched me struggle back.

‘Excuse me’ I panted ‘Do you-‘, ‘Bit big for the car is it sir?’ interrupted the first one ‘ye-‘, ‘slightly too large for you to take is it sir?’ continued the second ‘yes I-‘ ,’would you like us to hold your big one for you sir?’, ‘your not funny-‘, ‘would you like us to stroke it sir, would you would you?’ they both collapsed into a giggling heap. It was at this point I realised there was a hint of special ‘Dutch tobacco’ mixed in with the cigarette smoke. Shaking my head I about turned and returned to my car ‘Fecking students’, ‘never mind there’s more than one way tae skin a cat’

Fifteen minutes later and I had completed unpacking the contents and re-packed them into the car. I took the opportunity to swiftly defecate in the empty box before leaving it, and the trolley, as far away from the front door as I could manage. It was a moments work to remove one castor and before you could say ‘enjoy tidying that up ye stoned wee bast*rds’ I was on my way home.

Those are nice plant pots’ noted my brother as I struggled in the front door with armfuls of barbeque components ‘aye very funny, don’t bother helping me then, you sit there, I can manage all this by myself you know’ I retorted sarcastically ‘okey dokey then’. Two trips later he was still firmly ensconced in the lazy-boy recliner. No amount of fierce glaring had any effect ‘constipated are you?’ By the fifth trip he had opened a can of beer. As I staggered in, dropping the last few pieces on the floor he flicked a salted peanut in the air and caught it in his mouth ‘that you done then?’ Ignoring him I opened the assembly instructions ‘hope there are some pictures for ye’ I gave him an inverse victory salute.

There were pictures as it happened. Sadly they bore no resemblance to my barbeque. The assembly instructions were a bit like the manuals you get with a new car. You’ve saved and saved to finally buy a new car. You only just managed to afford the bottom of the range 1.1 popular plus with the manual windy up windows and non-metallic paint. You take delivery of your new vehicle. Your feeling as proud as punch, you open the owners manual and there in front of you are in depth instructions about how to operate the full length electric sunroof, set the air conditioning and operate every bell and whistle you don’t actually have. You start to cry

Undeterred I started assembling the base ‘you’re going to build it in here then?’, ‘yes’, ‘inside your living room?’, ‘yes’ I replied shortly ‘and you think that’s a good idea do you?’ thumping the instructions on the ground I rounded on him ‘yes I think it’s a FUUUCKING GREAT IDEA ACTUALLY!’ unperturbed by the spittle on his face he casually took a handful of peanuts from a bowl on the coffee table and leant back into his chair ‘ok then

Assembly time was allegedly one hour. The base looked fairly straight forward; it was a simple wooden frame, albeit a sturdy and substantial one. It had to be to hold the weight of the main body. In fact all the components were of the highest quality. Shame the assembly instructions had been written by a chimpanzee ‘Insert the wing flange (a21) into the lever sprocket (c45) using the securing bolts (m24) x 6’, ‘what the feck does that mean?’ it continued ‘The front legs, which are obviously shorter, should be attached as per diagram 13(iii)’ The accompanying diagram was an exploded view of the rear leg which had different fittings altogether ‘och for fuuuuckssssake!’

Trouble down t’Mill?’, ‘no everything is going hunky dory actually’, ‘so you don’t need a hand then’ enquired my twin as I spun the diagram through 360 degrees to try and make sense of it ‘I’m doing fine!’, ‘and you’re still happy about your location for construction?’, ‘feck off’, ‘okay….

Four hours, FOUR fecking hours it took me! In the end I just gave up with the instructions and worked things out by a process of elimination. There were a few bits ‘n’ bobs left over but broadly speaking it looked like the picture on the box ‘That you all done then?’ enquired my brother from behind his newspaper ‘yes’ I replied smugly ‘do you fancy a barbeque then?’, ‘If you like, but I have a feeling we might end up having chips’, ‘Oh ha ha ha! Ye of little faith’

With a flourish I pulled out the ‘travel handles’ and giving him a smug smile I wheeled my creation towards the door CATHUUUNK! ….. ‘Bit wide is it?’ he enquired between my sobs ‘I’ll have a fish supper thanks’, ‘plenty salt and vinegar


Sunday, September 03, 2006


Hamish McShanks Secret Diary - Part 99

Hamish McShanks Secret Diary w/e 3rd September 2006

I am about to make a sweeping statement but I think it’s one that holds true. ‘For most men; representing your country at sport is the ultimate honour’ There I’ve said it, you can come out from behind the sofa now! I know, it wasn’t very controversial was it. However it is relevant to the following story. Most men have dreamt of being at the centre of some form of sporting heroics. Holding the World Cup aloft perhaps, scoring the winning try in the six nations, seeing the chequered flag as you cross the line at your home Grand Prix, smashing a forehand winner down the line to win Wimbledon. Don’t lie guys, we’ve all done it. It’s what we do, we are men. We like to dream.

A few of the more avid Shanks readers will also know I am quite keen on ‘touch rugby’ or ‘tig’ as it is often referred to by the facetious. Well no one was more surprised than me to find out there is actually a tig World Cup, sorry ‘Touch World Cup’. It’s been on the go since 1987 so I am a wee bit behind the times, nineteen years if you want to be picky. Anyway the next one is being held in South Africa in January 2007 and Scotland is entering a side.

Now I know what you’re thinking ‘so what? You’re well past it old man?’ but that’s where you are wrong(ish)! They have a ‘masters’ category for over 35’s! Again I can hear the snigger ‘Thirty five stone is it’ guffaw guffaw. But ye can shut yer yappers cos I was invited to go to the trials! Yes I was! So there, na na na naa naaaa. Ahem. Anyway the trials were this Sunday…….

Things didn’t bode well as I ambled up to the registration tent. There were a number of very athletic looking blokes warming up nearby. Their jogging looked faster than my sprinting ‘ok Ham don’t worry, those must be the guys for the main side’, ‘the crumblies must be somewhere else’ I knocked on the tent flap and entered with some trepidation.

Introducing myself I watched with increasing anxiety as the guy scanned the list on his clipboard. It’s never an encouraging sign when somebody is sucking air in through their teeth and clucking their tongue noisily ‘Shanks, Shanks Shanks’ he muttered whilst rummaging through all his sheets. Eventually he stabbed his ballpoint pen on the paper and glanced up at me ‘Ham Shanks?’ he enquired ‘yes?’ I replied with relief ‘nope we don’t have you on the list’ my heart sank to my boots ‘but I was invited’ I mumbled lamely. The waterworks were about to come on when one of the other organisers came into the tent ‘are you the guy from Stirling?’, ‘aye that’s me’ I replied whilst trying not to bubble ‘better get a move on were just about to start the warm up

My relief was short lived. I emerged from the tent to see twenty guys warming up; none of them looked like they were near thirty years old. I wondered whether some of them had even started shaving yet. The gentleman taking training was a sinewy looking individual with the look of ‘special forces’ about him. Before I could enquire where the ‘masters’ were training we were off ‘Ok guys follow me for a quick warm up’. Twenty minutes later we returned. Give him his due, we were warm. You could have fried an egg on my baldy heid.

Despite my crimson colour and drenched shirt I had managed to keep up with the young whippets so I was quietly pleased. I would be laughing when I joined up with my fellow oldies ‘Ok guys when I shout out your name come and pick up a red bib’, ‘John, Dave, Bill, Steve…’ One by one all the fit young speed merchants trotted forward to pick up their bibs. ‘I pity the poor basta*ds that have to chase them’ I whispered to the guy standing next to me ‘what do you mean?’ he replied handing me a blue bib ‘were playing them’, ‘Mmgnnfwhassat?’, ‘we are the opposition’, ‘but but but what about the over thirty fives game?’, ‘oh the games are all together, didn’t you know?

Our team captain came over for a motivational chat and to go over tactics. I missed most of the motivational part as I was still in shock. Things went from bad to worse when he started discussing strategy ‘okay guys everyone here knows the wedge formation yeah?’, ‘I-‘, ‘good, right we’ll also use the standard play calls, Green, Cut, Anchor and Widget yeah?’, ‘what ar-‘, ‘and of course always remember to draw your man sideways so we can open up a route for the gold play’ There was a chorus of laughter as if having to mention such an obvious play was ridiculous ‘what the fu-‘

‘Okay I need to know your preferred positions’ he went round the team one by one. My mouth was hanging open as I’d never heard of any of the ‘positions’ they were talking about. ‘Okay, Ham are you a link player or an outside wingman?’, ‘Uum link, yup definitely a link player’, ‘Okay you pair up with Chris then

Chris was six feet two with muscles on his muscles. He had a lean hungry look and wasn’t enamoured at being placed on the ‘possibles’ side. I think he had most definitely expected to be playing in red for ‘The Probables’. Turned out he didn’t suffer fools gladly either. I tried to break the ice by nudging him jovially in the ribs, nearly breaking my elbow in the process ‘what a team Chris eh eh’ nudge nudge ‘we could be twins eh Chris eh eh ha ha ha…..’ he glared at me. I was definitely Danny DeVito.

In my heart of hearts I can’t really say I expected to make the team but there was always a glimmer of hope. Any tiny flicker of optimism that burnt in my heart was swiftly snuffed out with the first play of the ball. The dummy half passed to his outside. Chris pointed at me ‘he’s yours’, ‘I’ve got him covered’, ‘I’ve got him covered’ I shouted confidently. There was a flash of red in my peripheral vision and I heard the referees whistle blow behind me ‘and that’s a try!’

Chris wasn’t happy….

He was even less happy when I repeated the feat six more times. People always say they like consistency, but they don’t really.

Anyone for tiddlywinks? It’s the World Champs in 2008? ……..


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