Monday, June 25, 2007


Ham Shanks Secret Diary - Part 129

Ham Shanks Secret Diary w/e 24th June 2007

Referee [ref-uh-ree] – noun – an official who supervises a game or match to ensure the rules are adhered to; that’s the dictionary definition in case you hadn’t guessed. Unfortunately I was about to learn how to become a ref in real life. Why? You ask with barely disguised incredulity. ‘It’s the worst job in the world’ you shout at me, ‘everybody hates you’, ‘nobody will talk to you in the bar afterwards, let alone buy you a pint’ you continue to scream, drenching me in spittle, as your vicious tirade against referees reaches a crescendo. I’m starting to get the distinct impression you’re not a fan of the men in black.

Well fear not because I’ll be wearing yellow. That’s right yellow because I am about to become a touch referee! At this point I would imagine you have thrown your arms up in the air and are now mumbling words along the lines of ‘Christ it’s not even a f*cking real sport’ and ‘he’s dressing up like a bleeding canary’ and you’d be wrong (except I probably will resemble a canary, albeit a rather tubby one) However touch is a real sport and as such needs real qualified referees; something that we had a dearth of for our upcoming tournament. There was nothing else for it but to get ‘qualified’

Luckily our national association (yes we have one!) was able to run a course for us at short notice but they would require a minimum number of attendees. Undeterred I rallied the troops, gathering together a ‘coalition of the willing’ to attend i.e. I bribed, browbeat and bullied people into doing it, threatening to come round their house and shout through their letterbox till they gave in, or leave horses heads in their beds; that sort of thing. It’s a carrot and stick approach; if shoving a carrot up their nose doesn’t work I’ll start hitting them with the stick.

Fast forward to Friday night at the rugby club and picture the scene; half a dozen bruised and battered individuals gathered round a slide projector as the training is about to begin. The instructor (Peter) fires up the projector and our transition to specky four-eyed two-faced biased Judases is under way. The slides cover all the basic rules, player attire, the dimensions of the pitch and the ball, how the ground should be marked out and lots of other good stuff. Interesting though this was, there’s only so much theory you can take in; thankfully we were about to progress onto some practical training ‘Okay guys now you’ve done the theory we are going to go outside and practice signals and whistles’ My heart sank to my boots as I realised I’d forgotten to get whistles!’

Pete was rummaging about in his bag as I emptied my pockets and feverishly tried to work out how I could construct six whistles from half a packet of fruit pastilles, a biro and seventeen pence in loose change. My first attempt at hollowing out a fruit pastille with the biro was less than successful, not as much as a peep; although it was rather tasty. A full blown panic attack was on the cards just as Peter emerged from his bag clutching a handful of silver objects ‘as part of the course we provide you all with a brand new whistle’ Revising my belief in the possibility of an omnipotent deity watching over me I accepted the whistle gratefully.

It wasn’t just any whistle though, oh no, I was the proud recipient of an Acme ‘Thunderer’ whistle. Which according to the packaging was recommended for: Tough Sports, Military, Police, Industrial, Fire & Safety ‘Hmmm doesn’t seem to mention touch??’ I mumbled as I turned it over in my hands and read the blurb on the back.

According to the manufacturer it ‘Stands out from background noise’ always a useful trait in a whistle I think you’ll agree; those ‘silent’ whistles just never caught on. Further reading indicated that its Blowrate is ‘Hardest to blow’ its Blowsound is ‘medium loudness’ and its Blowtone is ‘Deepest’ all very interesting information but up until thirty seconds ago I’d thought the Acme Company only produced road runner traps? Somewhat concerned that I was about to be squashed flat, incinerated or dropped to the bottom of a canyon I followed the rest of the group outside.

‘Okay guys I’m going to show you whistle technique’, ‘there are three different whistle sounds you need to master’, ‘so get your whistles out of their packets and we’ll all practice together. ‘What’s to learn? ye just blow!’ I mumbled. Feeling somewhat foolish I ripped open the packaging to extract the whistle. When my fingers touched the shiny metal surface something very strange happened ….

Every position of power has a symbol of that authority; the clergy have their dog collars or coloured robes (depending on yer flavour of religion) the judiciary have their wigs and scales of justice. Parliament has the mace sitting atop a table in front of the speaker. Coppers have their ceremonial truncheons, although they also have modern extendable batons to give you a proper doing if need be. Luke Skywalker had his light sabre and Gandalf has his staff.

Referees have a whistle; which up until thirty seconds ago I would have laughed at.

Peter was blathering on about long and short blasts as I stared in wonder at my Acme thunderer. What magic creation was this? Shivering pulses of electricity were flowing through my body, if I’d had any hair it would have been standing on end. My fingers were surrounded by a purple and green aura, this was some form of magic or alien possession. I felt ten feet tall, I felt invincible, I felt like a FUUUUCKING GOD!!!

‘So what you need to do is hold your finger over th-SHRRREEEP-esuschrist!’ a shrill whistle blast two inches from his left ear seemed to catch his attention ‘Get back ten your offside’ Peter stumbled to the side, holding his hands to his ears ‘for pities sake Ham I’m trying to run a-‘, ‘SHREEEP’, ‘button the lip smart boy and get back another ten’, ‘I think you’ll find-‘, ‘MOVE IT! HUP HUP HUP!‘ , ‘Look Ham I’m trying to demonstrate whistle-‘, ‘there’s always one isn’t there’ shaking my head I theatrically put a finger to my lips before reaching into my pocket and pulling out a yellow card; which I brandished with a flourish in front of his face ‘two minutes in the sin bin sunshine’, ‘Ham this is intoler-‘ ,’shhhhhhhhh

With hindsight sin binning, then red carding, the head of the referees association and the man in charge of my training probably contributed to me failing the course. However once a referee, always a referee and as I said during the fight to relieve me of my Acme thunderer ‘from my cold dead hands, from my cold dead hands’


Sunday, June 17, 2007


Ham Lives!!

Hello Folks

Ham lives (just) The touch tournament is finally over and thankfully it was a roaring success so I guess it was worth all the weeks of stress. That means the return of Ham Shanks diary! Woo Hoo or Boo hoo (depending on your point of view)

This weeks effort is not about the tourney but there will be a 'Tourney special' diary coming soon(ish) - Honest

Hope ye enjoy this installment folks and we should be back to the old keech service as of now

Kind Regards


Ham Shanks Secret Diary w/e 17th June 2007

Gadgets; how did we ever manage before they arrived? Satellite navigation is an absolute boon, gone are the days when you had to plan your route in advance, pouring over maps to ascertain the easiest route through an unfamiliar city. Scribbling down cribbed ‘pace notes’ to help you navigate through the labyrinth of side streets and invariably falling foul of an unmarked one way street. No longer do you need to pull over and have a shouting match with your other half after you’ve failed to follow their clear direction and are now berating them for not ‘telling you in time’.

Many a relationship and fat lip have been saved by the miracle of satnav and I think we need to thank the designers of the system for that. Ok so the Global Positioning System was originally developed by the American military to aid in the targeting of weapons systems and greatly increase their lethality, but I think we need to balance the huge number of military and civilian deaths that system has helped wipe out against the large number of marriages that have been saved and the resulting pressure that relieved from the divorce courts. C’mon they get a pretty bad press most of the time, so lets have a big hand for Uncle Sam and his death ray targeting device.

Unfortunately like Unca Sams military intelligence your GPS device is only as good as the information that it overlays. It can tell you what your position is on planet Earth to within a few metres, which lets face it is pretty impressive. However if your TomTom map is out of date, or the intelligence arm of your government agency doesn’t know it’s backside from its elbow then you have a big problem.

Luckily in our case we didn’t ‘accidentally’ bomb the Chinese embassy in Belgrade, however we did get a tad lost whilst trying to find our hotel. We should have been more alert to the possibility at the start of our journey. When you can’t actually locate the street you want on your satnav gadget that would tend to suggest the probability of reaching your destination is not that good. As it turns out, choosing a street name that was ‘quite close’ to the one we wanted was not a winning plan either.

I’ll admit we weren’t using the most up to date version of TomTom but in our defence the destination was a Georgian Terraced street in the West end of Glasgow. It’s been there for about 150 years so it isn’t exactly a ‘new build’; you would think the mapping department for might have noticed it first time round. Sadly they must have been on a tea break when they swung past Hughenden Terrace or perhaps the accounts department insisted that as part of a new cost cutting initiative work should be subcontracted out to ‘locals’ wherever possible........

Ho Dobber whut are ye deein?’, ‘Am drawing a fuuuuckin map man!’, ‘Whut? Yer pishing aw over the paper ye numpty’, ‘Ah’ve no got a pen ye bampot can ye no see that?’ pan right to third young man examining his empty buckfast bottle ‘Oooooh man wur oot of buckie’, ‘tae fuck wi this map shit man, let’s get some jellies’, ‘ho there Shuggie that’s a dancer of a plan wee man’, ‘who you calling wee ye lanky streak of pish?’ A three way fight now ensues as the crucial directions to Hughenden Terrace blow gently down the street.

As a result of the companies penny pinching approach to subcontracting we are now lost. Devout worshippers of the gadget now prisoners of its failings; and we don’t have a backup plan. Tears and tantrums prove of little use. Just as I’m about to start on a second bout of blubbing my mobile phone rings, it was one of the other wedding guests. ‘Hello?’, ‘Hey Ham we're waiting for you at the Hotel where the hell are you? We’ve only got half an hour till kick off’ after explaining our predicament through sobbing breaths I received directions for the last half mile and we are on our way.

Having located the mythical Hughenden terrace our next challenge was to find a parking space. Despite the compact nature of our vehicle it was proving problematic. Shouts of ‘stop there’s one over there!’ were cut short every time as we encountered driveways, double yellow lines or plain optical illusions. A gap that looked plenty wide enough from ten metres away would on closer inspection prove barely broad enough for a slice of toast. The hotel was disappearing into the distance in the rear-view mirror as we crawled along the roadside wasting precious minutes. Stress levels were rising; I hate being late.

Abandoning the car with a pencil drawn ‘Drugs Dealer on Call’ sign in the windscreen we legged it back to the hotel. A further hoof in the happy sack was finding out our room was up at the very top of the four storey building. The doddery old proprietor insisted on showing us to our room. We ascended the stairs with glacial speed. Mrs Hubbard stopping every three steps to pause for breath and inform us she wasn’t as young as she used to be. ‘Neither am I since we started this journey’ I mumbled whilst glancing anxiously at my watch. After what seemed like an eternity we arrived, thanking her profusely we tossed our belongings onto the bed and sprinted back downstairs. There was no sign of the Turners; their mobile was going straight to answer phone ‘Feck they must have left without us, c’mon lets go go GO!

We are wearing heels, we can’t run anywhere!’ protested the girls. There was no time to order a taxi; we were going to have to improvise, I nodded at Brian ‘Right, we’ll carry ye; get on our backs!’ After a few minor protestations the girls saddled up for the race to the church and we were off. Not the most graceful of arrivals, galloping up to the front door with your girlfriend on your back. I don’t think she really needed to use ‘the whip’ either. An umbrella is for protection from the rain, it’s not for thrashing your ‘steed’ as it struggles up the last steep hill. Although we did beat Brian and Claire on a photo finish so it was worth the pain.

Out of breath, but on time, we staggered into the church. Ushered into an empty row, I glanced around at the assembled guests. There was no sign of Mr & Mrs Turner. ‘That’s strange’ I thought as the organist struck the first notes of ‘Highland Cathedral’ the intro for the bride. We stood up and turned to face the front door just as an out of breath and red faced couple came rushing in past the minister ‘sorry sorry sorry’

The disapproving stares they received from the rest of the congregation were nothing compared to the withering Paddington stare I was receiving from Mrs Turner as she scuttled into the row behind us. It’s amazing how difficult it is to concentrate and sing a hymn when somebody is whispering ‘youarefuuuuckingdeadshanks’ in your ear all the way through. In the house of God too, tut tut ………


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