Sunday, December 17, 2006


Ham Shanks Secret Diary - Part 110

Ham Shanks Secret Dairy w/e 17th December 2006

If I asked you what your ‘Gender Role’ was, what would you say? Other than ‘lighten up Ham, I’m not a Guardian reader’. Well neither am I, a Guardian reader that is, in fact I buy a newspaper unless it contains a fish supper, and if we are being picky I’m actually paying for the fish and chips, not the newspaper. Besides, my battered Haddock is more likely to be nestling between Linda Lusardis cleavage than between the ‘debate’ section of the Sunday Times. Gleaning any insight into the complexities of culture and gender role is therefore remote. On the upside you usually get to look at a nice pair of knockers!

But I seem to be digressing from the original question, so c’mon what’s your gender role? Look the only reason I’m asking is because it was suggested to me that a man baking a cake was not ‘acceptable’. It might lead one to assume that the gentleman in question is a little ‘light on his loafers’ if you get my drift. Apparently deftness with flour and eggs implies that one likes to play for both Man City and Man United. Please note that the latter part of that football analogy is usually delivered a semitone higher than the rest of the sentence and accompanied by rising of the eyebrows, surrepticious winks and a final conspiratorial tap on the side of the nose.

What the fuck are you talking about Ham? Are you on the magic mushrooms again? I hear you mumble. No I’m not; the pixie chief won’t let me have anymore. Anyway what I’m really asking is ‘does possession of both a Y chromosome and the ability to bake delicious cakes make you a puff?’ I don’t think so, and this is not because I recently baked a very fine chocolate cake, no it’s because I just fucking do okay!

Ok ok ok so I got a slagging at work and I cant understand why. It’s not like I minced through the office shouting ‘Ooooh hello sailor would you fancy a bit?’ groaning like Frankie Howard and wiggling my posterior in an alluring fashion (I think I managed to capture all the traditional stereotypes in that sentence don’t you?) All I did was pass a large slice of cake to a fellow chocoholic. It was mentioned in passing that I actually baked the fecker and you should have heard the hullabaloo.

Clearly crime of the century and conclusive proof that I like playing hide the sausage. It’s a fair cop guvnor, I done it and I deserve everyfing I get, filthy faaaaacking pervert that I am. Hark at me, libidinously baking a cake! A brown chocolate one at that! I should be bloody well hung!

Time for another tablet I think

Anyway what I did find interesting in the whole debate were the terms used in my character assassination. Apparently it’s ‘society’ that condemns me. Not the individual in question who was so palpably uncomfortable with my baking prowess. Apparently it’s ‘society’ that protests that I’m deviating from the ‘agreed’ gender roles. Not that I ever recall their being a ‘treaty of the genders’ or perhaps I just missed it when I was whipping up a lovely light Victoria sponge? ….. eeeer anyway, back to the story …

Baking it was proudly, but somewhat foolishly, declared by one gentleman ‘is the remit of women’. There was a sharp intake of breath from the ladies present when this opinion was voiced. I think the condescending manner in which it was delivered didn’t help. I had a puzzled glance round the room as the tumbleweed blew past and the ambient temperature plunged below zero. However an absence of bakelite telephones or greasy haired teddy boys confirmed that despite his Alf Garnett comment we had not in fact been transported back to the 1950’s.

Intrigued by this stereotype I pressed the gentleman further ‘so what you’re saying is all bakers are gay?’, ‘wha-’, ‘except the female ones’, ‘no I-‘, ‘Oh so they are lesbians are they?’, ’what! Of course no-‘, ‘what about chefs? They bake and make creamy desserts’ My emphasis of the word ‘creamy’ clearly caused significant discomfort ‘well yes but they do savoury as well’ he replied as if this were mitigation.

So in a nutshell cooking savoury things, like dead animals, is an indication of a strong ‘hetro’ disposition. Whereas creating a soft yet deliciously moist sponge cake covered with mouth watering chocolate fondant icing cake makes you a birrova gay boy!

Roasting a complete side of beef or barbecuing an entire suckling pig must resonate on some sort of prehistoric level. Perhaps it’s this link to our own ancient past which promotes our ‘natural’ animalistic predilection for woman. Because of course we wouldn’t have dreamt about choosing ‘the backdoor’ or biting the pillow in Neolithic times. Chiefly because pillows were probably made of stone and therefore likely to break your teeth but mainly because we didn’t actually have to ask for it! (Oh controversial Ham!)

Lets not beat about the bush (no pun intended) there were a shocking lack of manners in the Stone age. A courtship ritual didn’t commence with a trembling young Neanderthal shuffling up to a young lady and asking if she would like a spin around the cave floor. Perhaps followed by some light refreshments and a brontosaurus burger. Oh heavens no. A swift skelp across the napper with a dinosaur leg and get them before the came round or stopped breathing was the order of the day!

At this juncture I would just like to point out that I am in fact an enlightened 21st century guy and I certainly don’t condone that sort of courtship behaviour, either now, or even in the primordial society of 20,000 years ago. It’s just not the done thing.

What intrigued me about the whole cooking and gender role debate was the obvious double standards. Why nobody raises an eyebrow at the concept of a woman rolling up her sleeves and dismembering a turkey, scooping the innards out of a salmon or eviscerating any other variety of creature whilst in the kitchen? That seems perfectly acceptable. Nobody dives in and bellows ‘stop in the name of the King’, ‘that’s mans work’ then ushers the lady out of the kitchen. Far from it.

The self same modern man that is content to slag off me for my baking abilities is also quite happy to lie idly on the sofa, drinking beer and scratching his nuts, screaming ‘where the f*cks ma dinner woman!’ to his long suffering other half.

I therefore feel totally at ease with both my baking proficiency and my gender role. Now if you’ll excuse me I’ll just die if I don’t get those french fancies iced soon!


Sunday, December 10, 2006


Ham Shanks Secret Diary - Part 109

Ham Shanks Secret Diary w/e 10th December 2006

‘Tis the season to be jolly’, ‘fa la la, la la la’, ‘deck the hall with boughs of holly’, ‘fa la la, la la la’ It might well be the season to be cheerful, happy or even convivial but right at this moment my twin bruv didn’t look very jolly at all. Not unless your definition of jolly is ‘sporting a face like you’re chewing a turd’ The reason for his faecal munching demeanour was not my rendition of ‘Deck the Halls’ although lets be honest that didn’t help. No, it was the large puddle of water on his hall carpet that was causing considerable consternation

He came back through to the lounge where I was reclining on the sofa, my feet propped up comfortably on the arm ‘Fecking letterbox’ he grumbled ‘every time the postie shoves the letters through it sticks open’ I peered out from behind my copy of the Radio Times and nodded my head in agreement ‘yeah imagine putting letters through a letterbox’ I replied sarcastically, ‘very funny, what I meant wa-‘, ‘I mean the complete bastard, what was he thinking of…..’ I continued before trailing off lamely as I felt the iciness of his withering glare bore through the magazine.

‘Anyway’ he continued huffily ‘We are going to replace the letterbox and the carpet’, ‘We?’ I replied in a panicky voice ‘that’s right laddy, you’re helping me lay tiles’. He had anticipated my reaction to the prospect of unpaid work and the doors and windows were already securely fastened ‘so we’ve got some plywood, waterproof membrane…’ he droned on, ignoring my fevered scrabbling at the windows ‘tiles, grout….’ My fingers were getting quite raw as I scraped frantically round the base of the door ‘…spacers and screws’, ‘ok were ready to go!’ absent mindedly handed me a handkerchief ‘now dry your eyes while I set up the workbench’

Ten minutes later I was holding down a large piece of plywood as my evil twin hacked away at the far end with a saw ‘Dunno why you need me if you’ve got a workbench’ I mumbled gloomily ‘because, my cretinous relative, this piece of wood is too big for the workbench’, ‘now shut up and put your back into it, it’s still moving’ Grumpily I leaned my full weight on the board, miming silent obscenities at him as he cut carefully down a pencil line.

He only had a few centimetres of plywood to slice through when my phone went off. Without thinking I straightened up and pulled it out of my pocket ‘Hello Ham Shanks spea-‘ CRASH! ‘-king’…. With mounting horror I stared at the end of the bench. The painful clattering noises which followed the disappearing plywood had now ceased. It was eerily silent. I could see a trembling hand emerge from a cloud of sawdust and fumble weakly for the edge of the worktable. An impatient voice babbled away in my ear ‘Uuum I’m going to have to get back to you’ I mumbled cutting them off as I thrust the phone back in my pocket and ran to my brothers aid.

He was most understanding about the whole incident. He conceded it was a mistake any complete f*cking idiot without a cerebrum could make and assured me that even though there were cheese moulds with greater intellectual capacity than myself he wouldn’t hold it against me. Which I thought was very gracious of him.

As the wood was now small enough to fit in the workbench he continued measuring and cutting without me. I was handed a task ‘within my skill set’ i.e. ‘cleaning up that mess’ and ‘keeping the fuck out of his sight’ until he needed me.

Having prepared the plywood sub floor we had to lay an isolation membrane on top. This is basically a thin sheet of rubber which prevents the tiles cracking after you’ve laid them. After clumsily poking a couple of holes in the membrane as I tried to lay it I was banished to the kitchen to make so tea, but only if ‘I could manage that’

I was becoming a little fed up. After all I hadn’t even wanted to help and now he was berating me and treating me like a five year old. ‘Fine then’ I thought as I prepared his cup of tea ‘treat me like a child and I’ll behave like a child’, ‘that’s milk, two sugars and three teaspoons of max strength senokot syrup’, ‘I’ll fix you good’ I sniggered before shrugging and tipping the rest of the bottle into his cup.

‘Teas up bruv’, ‘Oooh thanks, I’m parched’ he glugged down a couple of big mouthfuls ‘hmmm that’s an odd flavour?’, ‘aye it’s that fancy Chai tea’ I replied politely ‘mmm not bad’ I presssed on with the sales pitch ‘aye it’s got lots of those aunty oxidant thingy’s in it’ I continued cheerily ‘cleans ye oot so I hear’ I thought I’d gone too far but he gave me an approving ‘you’ve actually done something correct’ look and drained his mug ‘right better crack on with these tiles then, times a pressing’, ‘aye ye better had’ I smirked before whispering ‘quicker than ye think’ under my breath.

The bottle had suggested a teaspoon would take effect in a few hours. I surmised half a bottle should work slightly faster….

I was being the ‘labourer’, lifting and carrying tiles, mixing grout and suchlike as my brother the ‘Craftsman’ laid the tiles. He’d arranged about half a dozen before there were any outward signs of distress ‘everything alright bruv?’ I enquired as beads of sweat started to appear on his forehead ‘aye aye ..’ however he sounded uncertain ‘are you sure?’, ‘you look a little bit …. peaky’ I asked in my most concerned voice.

Loud gurgling noises were emanating from his abdominal region and the sweat was pouring off his brow ‘I think I may need to use the toilet’ he mumbled quietly as he very slowly stood up. It was a rather laboured affair as he attempted to get his feet without the use of his legs. All the muscles in the lower half of his body were grimly focused on retaining control of a single aperture ‘something the matter?’ I enquired innocently. There was another agonised groaning sound from his nether regions and his eyes crossed in a painful looking manner. He saw my smug expression and the penny dropped. There was a sudden look of hate before he sprinted for the toilet. A Doppler scream of ‘y.y.yo.o.o.u .b.a..a..a.s.t.a..r..d’ faded into the distance.

Whistling contentedly I strolled through to the lounge and jumped onto the sofa. Kicking off my shoes I picked up the Radio Times and thumbed through to Sunday ‘Now shall I watch Columbo or Casablanca?’ The sounds of multiple toilet flushing and agonised cursing were drifting down the hallway ‘Keep it doon a bit will you’ I shouted ‘I can hardly hear them rounding up the usual suspects!’


Tuesday, December 05, 2006


Ham Shanks Secret Diary - Part 108

Ham Shanks Secret Diary – w/e 3rd December 2006

‘Tick tock’, ‘tick tock’ I glanced upwards as the second hand gradually circumnavigated the clock face ‘tick tock’, ‘tick tock’ The pressure was mounting as each minute passed without news. I checked my wrist watch and unsurprisingly it proffered the same time as the clock. Annoyed at the lack of a differing time zone between the two I slumped back in my seat …. ‘Tick tock’, ‘tick tock’ … ‘Clunk!’ The sudden striking noise of another minute was the final straw; I jumped impatiently up from my seat and marched towards the glass door.

It was one of those frosted glass doors, which to my mind defeats the point of glass. If it’s designed to prevent anyone catching a glimpse of what’s behind it then why the feck don’t you just make it out of something solid like wood? Hmmm?

This didn’t deter me from trying to peer through the opaque gloom and I screwed up my eyes in an effort to squint through the glass and see what was happening within. Foiled by the frosting I resorted to the tried and tested method of peeking through the keyhole. Imagine my embarrassment therefore when the door promptly opened and I was left staring at the crotch of a gentleman in a white lab coat ‘Mr Shanks?’, ‘eeer yes yes that’s me’ I mumbled, straightening myself up and attempting to appear slightly less like a voyeur.

‘I’m afraid it’s bad news’ my heart sank to my boots and I stumbled backwards, landing heavily on the cheap plastic chair that had been my home for the past three hours ‘give it to me straight’ I whispered in a quavering voice ‘I can take it’ I continued, despite all outward appearances to the contrary.

He took a deep breath …

‘Well your hard drive is fragmented to buggery, I’ve seen jigsaws with less pieces’, ‘your mother board is completely fused, it looks like an Albanian plumbers been at it’ I turned scarlet as memories of some of my DIY servicing efforts sprang to mind, with the benefit of hindsight a fork isn’t the most delicate of tools. My reverie was interrupted as he continued ‘the RAM is practically incontinent, with all the memory leakage I’d say your lucky if you have enough left to boot up a toaster’, ‘the fan appears to be clogged with what I can only hope is marmite’, ‘ah yes well I can exp-‘, ‘and your floppy disk has a colony of cockroaches nesting in it’ He thrust the report in my limp hand ‘otherwise ok?’ I mumbled

I watched as a gang of men in boiler suits and breathing apparatus trooped past me brandishing fumigation equipment. Half an hour later my laptop was returned in a sealed plastic bag. The staff member, now resplendent in a paper coverall made it plain to me that future custom was not welcome. He picked up the intercom and angrily punched a few keys. Moments later I was escorted off the premises by a pair of burly security men who reinforced this ‘stay away’ message with the help of Doctor Marten and Mr Dickies.

But every cloud has a silver lining and the demise of my pest infested laptop meant I was now free to buy a new gadget! With a light heart and a limp in my step I hobbled off to the retail park.

I think someone once said that the average mobile phone has more computing power than was used to send the first man to the moon. An astonishing statement I think you’ll agree. Until you query whether they actually got the man back again or how many pieces he was in when he arrived. Lets be honest a few hundred pounds of high explosive and your half way there!

But despite my trite comments it’s safe to say that computing has moved on immeasurably in the last few years. This was immediately apparent as I strolled round the store. Big chucky monitors that would heat your whole house have now been replaced by wafer thin ‘plasma screens’. Agricultural base units that looked like they had been hewn from granite or welded together by a chimp have been replaced with sleek models constructed from composite plastics and high tech polymers. The whole display was like a set from Startrek.

‘Oh coooool it’s the Captains chair’ I gasped as I sat down in a large leather ‘executive’ chair. My elbows resting on the plump armrests. I pointed theatrically to a display of shimmering monitors ‘Make it so’, ‘Engage the warp drive Mr Worf’, ‘Modify the defl-‘, ‘can I help you sir?’, ‘Holy FU-‘ A smartly dressed young man was smirking at me ‘..Uuum yes’ I stammered as I felt a wave of crimson wash up from my boots ‘..eeer .. uum I need a new computer’ I mumbled, my face suggesting I was now an avid Liverpool fan

‘Certainly sir, what do you need the computer for?’ he continued as I sloped quietly out of the chair ‘uuum just sending e-mails ‘n’ surfing the net ‘n’ stuff like that’, ‘Do you game at all?’, ‘am I game?’ I retorted indignantly, raising my eyebrows and taking a careful step back ‘no sir, do you play computer games sir?’ another ripple of scarlet surged to the tips of my ears. I must have looked like a warning beacon ‘Eeer yes, I mean no, eer maybe, why? should I?…’ He just smiled.

The rest of the dialogue is rather hazy, I was so mortified at making an even bigger tit of myself I just acquiesced to every request ‘yes yes I definitely need a wireless router’, ‘scanner? Yeeees of course I want a scanner’…..

So I now have enough computing power to send the entire population to any planet of their choosing, I can play a thousand different games online, I can watch, copy and create DVD’s, I can podcast, webcast and any other kind of cast you care to name. My computer has enough storage space to hold every album ever sung, every book ever written and every word ever spoken since the dawn of time.

But that’s not all, oh no. It can see the future, it can heal the sick, it can feed the hungry, it can right wrongs, it can wipe you’re a*se and it can even tell you the meaning of fecking life! (but you wouldn’t understand anyway) in fact it’s practically a sentient life form.

So you can understand my despair when I unpacked my new super computer and it didn’t have a fecking plug! It’s Christmas 1979 all over again. The only 11yr old boy with a table top version of ‘Galaxians’ in the North East of Scotland and it didn’t have batteries or a plug. Thanks Santa you jolly fat sick bastard!


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