Sunday, February 24, 2008


Anger Management

Ham Shanks secret diary w/e 24th Feb 2008

As you may be aware I am currently injured and unable to exercise. A couple of disgruntled vertebrae have colluded to ensure I can’t get my daily endorphin fix; and like most addicts I have taken this well. My normally sanguine, placid and patient temperament has taken a turn for the worse. You know how it goes, little things that I would normally shrug off just GETONMYFUUUCKINGTITSOK! And I find it difficult to keep perspective when IWANTTORIPYOURFUUCKINGHEADOFF for asking me whether I’d like a cup of tea or not.

Helpful hint here; telling a very angry person to ‘calm down’ is akin to putting a fire out with paraffin whilst holding a lit distress flare between your teeth. It doesn’t help and you’re likely to become ‘collateral damage’ in the process. Best thing to do is let the ‘fire’ burn itself out. Let the ranting person pop a blood vessel and slump gently under their desk. Plenty of time thereafter to shake your head and remark on their idiocy as the paramedics charge the defibrillator and shout ‘clear’ for a third time

But you’re absolutely right; that’s not what should happen. The person that’s ranting should ‘get a fecking grip’ stop spreading misery and pull themselves together. Whilst technically this is correct and obviously you have the moral high ground; having not lost the napper. I would have to suggest that in the heated environment of a major rant this is being somewhat unrealistic. Moral high ground is a poor defence against a well aimed fist and feeling righteous is little consolation for ending up with a smile like Doug Rougvie.

They do say people who don’t bottle up their anger live longer. Perhaps this is because they kill everyone else first? Just a thought.

This got me thinking about other scenarios where the correct advice might prove less than useful in a ‘real’ situation. Let’s take the analogy of a bear attack. Lots of people like hiking in foreign lands and should really know what to do if the encounter these animals. The advice states that the first thing you should do is ‘remain calm’ Ok let’s think about this, you’ve just stumbled across an extremely large, extremely powerful and now exceptionally angry carnivore. Yes calmness would be my first reaction I’m sure; after evacuating the contents of my bowels into my hiking trousers obviously.

Now you have to ‘back away slowly – never run! Bears can run as fast as a racehorse both uphill and downhill’ Nice to know, and I’m looking forward to the Yogi Bear 2000 Guineas next year. However the knowledge that this enraged beast has the ability to outpace me even were I mounted on a horse does not aid feelings of calmness and serenity. I’d probably plump for a trouser filling encore and hope the beast slips up on my slurry trail as I leg it in the opposite direction.

However assuming I’ve managed to follow points one and two. Which in all likelihood I might actually manage as I’d be frozen with terror anyway. We are now advised that if an attack is still imminent to ‘roll up in a ball protecting the face and back of the head with your arms; and play dead’ So not quite presenting myself with an apple stuffed in my mouth but certainly a couple of limbs as a nice ‘starter’ for Boo Boo.

But it gets even better, they have further advice to remember whilst you are being eaten alive ‘Remain still until the bear leaves the area. These attacks seldom last more than a few minutes’ Oh well that’s fine then. After all how much damage can a half ton predator armed with razor sharp claws do in a few minutes?

I mean I’ve got my epidermis to protect me. It’s got to be at least 20 cells thick and waterproof. Can’t say I recall the term ‘bear resistant’ anywhere when I was studying physiology at Uni but it definitely serves as a protective barrier preventing internal tissues from exposure to trauma, ultraviolet radiation, temperature extremes, toxins, and bacteria. Other important functions include sensory perception, immunologic surveillance, thermoregulation, and control of fluid loss. Nothing about carnivore repellence unfortunately?

However I needn’t worry because ‘If the attack continues for more than several minutes, consider fighting back’ Yes well, I shall definitely consider that. I’d probably have to get a meeting organised though. Make sure that my head and the rest of my body could be briefly reunited while we discuss how best to repel the marauding beast. If only I’d purchased a ‘bear attack survival kit’ I’d have been fine.

Don’t laugh. There is such a thing.

Foolishly I’d presumed this would consist of a 45 revolver and a sh*tload of ammunition. But no, what you get is a little less lethal; some may say effective. The patented bear attack survival kit contains six ‘bear bangers’ which are not condoms as I first thought. They are bangers as in firework – Scare the nasty ole bear away. You also get six flares. Presumably one for each remaining identifiable body part and really as an aid for the recovery team. A large can of bear ‘repellent’ which turns out to be chilli spray. So nae luck if yer bear likes spicy food – you’re effectively seasoning yourself. The last item is described as a ‘screamer/whistle’ somehow I’d imagine there would be ample screaming already?

Now you see what the real advice should have been for the real situation was; Stay the f*ck out of the woods there are bears in there for Christ sake! They are fecking enormous and will gut you like a clam without compunction. STAY at home, watch TV and live to a ripe old age. Or ‘Shoot it and eat it first’

Oh and the last piece of advice ‘Afterwards, leave the area or take a detour. If this is impossible, wait until the bear moves away. Always leave the bear an escape route’ Hmm technically you do leave the area; albeit in the stomach of a satiated bear. Best not to think of the resulting escape route….

It’s amazing the things you learn when you’re home on ‘sick leave’ for head butting your PC. Although I do think it’s a bit harsh to be formally disciplined when I definitely came off worse in the altercation. YTREWQ will be tattooed on my forehead for ever more. A lasting reminder of that moment of folly and a testament to the resilience of Dell computers.

Au revoir mes ami

(thought I might as well learn a language in my time off)

Sunday, February 17, 2008


Thicker than Water?

Ham Shanks Secret Diary w/e 17th Feb 2008

You will all be familiar with the saying that ‘Blood is thicker than water’ A strange phrase I’ve always thought. Suggesting that an ancestral or family bond is more important than a hydrogen oxygen bond? The scientist in me says I beg to differ; parents excepted (cos you can’t be here without them) you can probably manage quite nicely without any other blood relatives. Nae brothers or sisters or Aunties or Uncles won’t harm ye. However a few days without water and yer going to be deid.

And why is thickness the preferred measurement of choice? After all treacle is thicker than blood and tar is thicker than treacle? So by the strict definition of the saying you should put your relationship with the road above everything else (some people do love their cars more than their partners right enough – and let’s not even talk about the bloke that was caught humping his pushbike) but I digress. What’s so great about being thick anyway? Generally speaking that’s an insult. ‘Oi thickee!’ isn’t likely to be complimenting you on your familial closeness is it? Hmmm?

‘What the f*ck are you talking about Ham’ I hear you cry

Ok I’ll get to the point. My evil twin has recently spawned. Well clearly he didn’t; his wife Shirley did. In fact she did an excellent ‘baking’ job producing a healthy six pounder three weeks ahead of schedule. I certainly hope she got a productivity bonus for completing the contract within timescales and to specification – Bouncing baby boy called Robbie. Uncle Ham was invited up to see his new nephew.

Bing-Bong! Bing-Bong! A few seconds later my bleary eyed brother answered the door ‘can ye not just use the bell like everybody else?’, ‘I like saying bing-bong’ I replied before brushing past ‘Where’s the wee lad then’, ‘in the living room, but he’s having his dinner and-‘, ‘Hello ShirlWOOAH .. sorrysorrysorry’ I leapt back out of the living room like a scalded cat ‘as I was saying, he’s being fed’ muttered my bruv, shaking his head ‘not on solids yet then?’ I replied sheepishly ‘No strangely enough he’s still on milk what with him only being a week old’, ‘yes well um I saw that eeeer I mean uum eer …. Here’s a present’ I replied, thrusting a badly wrapped package into his hand.

Shall I keep this for Shirley to open?’, ‘why?’, ‘I think you’ll find the mother generally gets to open the presents’ he said patiently ‘after all she’s done most of the work’, ‘yeah fair point’ I mumbled, feeling somewhat out of my depth with the unknowns of these child related protocols. Fraz meanwhile had fallen asleep leaning against the coat rack. Hanging my jacket on his nose I knocked gently on the living room door ‘safe to come in yet?’, ‘yeees it’s fine now’ came the reply.

Noting that the ‘Milky bar’ was now closed for business I tiptoed across the room and peered at the tightly wrapped package sleeping in her arms. A wee pink nose was nestled at the top of a white wool chrysalis, tufts of dark brown hair were sticking out from under his hat ‘Aw he’s a wee mite isn’t he’, ‘what did you call my son!’ shouted my brother; now standing behind me and bristling with anger’, ‘a wee mite M-ite’ I replied whilst mouthing the letter m theatrically ‘oh sorry bruv, am a bit tired the noozzzzzzzz’, ‘doing that a lot is he?’ I asked Shirley as he slumped back onto the sofa

Yes we’re both a wee bit tired’, ‘would you like to hold him?’, ‘Not really, he’s a bit big?’, ‘Not him! The baby!’, ‘oh aye … eer yes I’d love to’ Two minutes later and I was holding my nephew. I’d have said in my arms but at arms length would be closer to the mark ‘he’s not an unexploded bomb’, ‘right right … eeeer so like this?’ Shirley turned him through 180 degrees ‘that’s probably better’, ‘oh yeah right I see now’

The wee lad was now correct way up and nestled in the crook of my arm. I gazed down at his rosy face. All of a sudden I was beginning to ‘get’ this blood is thicker than water malarkey. Cos if I’m being honest up until this point in my life most every bairn I’d ever seen was exactly the same; a mini pensioner. Stick a cigar in their mouth and you’d have the spitting image of Winston Churchill. But wee Robbie felt different. I mean he looked exactly the same as all the other new sprogs, but he somehow felt different.

In any Childs defence you’re never going to look your best after you’ve just been born. Who would? You’ve been tucked up indoors nice and warm for the last 9 months. Patiently dividing from a single cell, cleaving yoursel into yet more cells, gastrulating (which doesn’t sound nice) then differentiating yer shiny new cells into tissues and before ye know it yer forming fancy things like limbs and heids and all the other complicated paraphernalia that makes up a bairn.

Hard graft all that cell division but at least ye get free central heating, food on demand; without even having to think about it. No need to go to the bother of chewing and swallowing it all arrives in optimum concentrations and quantities. Throw in the rent free/mortgage free accommodation, no commute to work in the morning and life’s pretty sweet you’d have to agree. Well it is until some complete git pulls the plug. Bang! Waters break and soon after yer getting sucked down a plughole.

I mean think about the process people. It’s a long time ago and ye probably don’t remember (if ye do I’m very worried) but try to imagine……

If you were shoved very slowly through a narrow rubber aperture whilst having seven lumps of keech knocked out of you all the way; you’d look less than happy. Add the indignity of being pulled the last couple of feet by the application of large metal tongs hooked behind yer lugs and yer just not going to take a good photograph. And what is your reward after ye’ve endured this traumatic experience and made it to the outside? To the Promised Land? A smack on the airse; can ye blame the bairn fer greeting.

Anyway I still think Robbie looked a bonny lad and I’m not even the faither; am only the uncle. It seems there must be some strange genetic witchcraft at work after all because I wasn’t even fibbing when I said it ‘Aye he’s a bonny lad …. Fraz? …. Shirl? ….’ Zzzzzzzzzzzz

‘Looks like Ma & Pa are sparked out Robbie’, ‘lets see what’s on telly’, ‘Ah now this is what we call football; first thing ye need to know about this is that footballers are overpaid mincing primadonas’, ‘Now Rugby on the other hand …….’


Sunday, February 10, 2008


Ham Shanks Secret Diary w/e 10th February 2008 – Best Laid plans

This weekend has been a bit of a ‘so near and yet so far’ one for me. I’m not referring to any dodgy decisions by Italian TMO’s that cost Scotland a game of rugby (cos let’s be honest we were keech and deserved to lose) Although I do think Mr Damasco may be registered blind or perhaps half welsh or maybe he was simply on the other channel watching Italian housewives cook pasta in the nip as was asked to rule on whether Shanes whitewashed covered foot was in touch or not ‘Che? Try? Si Si eets a try … mama mia nice teets’

It was actually my Friday night that caused more consternation. I was out celebrating with a friend who had just landed a new job. This was her leaving night so a group of us were out painting the town red. We’d spent quite a few hours applying an undercoat of fifteen lagers and a couple of bottles of wine. Over that time almost everyone had departed for trains and buses. In fact by midnight it was just me and the lucky escapee left. We were now discussing whether to go for the single malt or tequila slammer topcoat when things started going slightly awry

I tottered up to the bar and waved at the barman. After trying to ignore me for several minutes he eventually came across ‘Sorry pal the bars shut’, ‘whaddya mean shshshut?’, ‘I mean it’s closed’, ‘closhedd.d.d?’, ‘but you jusht gave h.h.him a drink’ I slurred, pointing a thumb at the guy next to me ‘yes but the thing is; he’s not sh*t faced’, wobbling gently I tried to focus on the man; it would appear my eyes were broken ‘s’afair point’ I mumbled before stumbling back to the booth ‘fnbaashtard wont sherve me’ I dribbled before sliding under the table.

Whaddyamean he wont sherve you’ mumbled Jennie from far above ‘he thinksh am drunk’, ‘whaaaat?’, ‘thatshfuuuuckingdisshgrasheful’, ‘am having a word!’, ‘Ooh I wouldn’t do that ee’sh gorra point - am f’nsteamin’, ‘No no no! amnot .. hic … aving it!’ drawing herself up to her full height of five foot five she marched off to the bar. Well she was aiming for the bar, but some strong invisible gravitational pull seemed to drag her to the left. Or possibly it was the lack of a left shoe? Either way the couple enjoying a quiet drink were less than impressed when she appeared on their lap ‘you couldn’t get ush a drink could you?

Dusting ourselves off outside we turned to give the doorman the vees before staggering off down the street towards the chip shop ‘never liked that plashe anyway’, ‘aye sfnpants ishnt it’, ‘yeah real ddogy customers …. they served us after all

‘Chipsh or kebab?’ I slurred as we stood in Stirlings Bermuda triangle of eateries. Certainly it’s where my money always seems to mysteriously disappear on a Friday and Saturday night ‘Dunno which ones better?’ replied Jen as she clung grimly on to the lamppost ‘Eeeer the nearest one?’, ‘s’good enuf fer me

Just as we were ascending the steps to the chip shop door it was slammed in our faces and a ‘closed’ sign spun quickly round onto the glass. A greasy faced youth glowering at us in disgust ‘looks like it’ll have .. hic .. to be a kebab then’ tottering across the street we were literally feet from the door when the same thing happened again. At least the proprietor had the decency to tell us to f*ck off as well – Nice to have a personal touch. Looking at my watch I realised it was well after 1am ‘Och buuugger theyur all shshshut now’, ‘better get a taxi …’

Not a chance. The taxi queue was snaking down the pavement and away out of sight ‘where does you shister live again?’, ‘Bannockburn’ came the reply from the prone figure slung under my arm ‘Oh that’s ok, that’sh not too far’ ….

Amazing how alcohol affects the brain. I live about a two mile walk out of town and I tend to tramp home cos it’s only a 40 minute walk and ye can never get a taxi anyway. Bannockburn high school is a 5 minute walk from my house so it seemed reasonable to assume that it would only be a 45 minute walk to Jens sisters. Turned out I was having a bit of a ‘blonde’ moment. You see what I forgot was that Bannockburn is quite big and the school is at one side; the near side.

Jennie’s sister lives at the far away side. Sorry I mean the far far far far fecking far feckity far away side. We found this out the hard way.

‘Are we there yet?’, ‘No’, ‘Are we there yet?’, ‘No’, ‘Are we there yet?’, ‘No’, ‘are we there ye-‘, ‘how the f*ck should I know you’re the one that lives here!’, ‘that’s a good point Jeffiner …. Are we there yeooooomppfffff!’ I felt a punch in the face was a tad harsh considering that due to her loss of footwear I was being her ‘steed’ for the journey home ‘look you can wear my shoes if ye want to take a turn driving?’ I mumbled through my fat lip ‘ooooh I’d like to but they are just too big; I could go over an ankle’ she replied ‘now c’mon giddyup!

Boosted by the sugar lump she’d palmed into my mouth I accelerated into a steady canter. At least the rain had stayed off and we were making steady progress towards home. Unfortunately the litres of lager I’d consumed earlier were now wanting to wave goodbye ‘m’gonna have to stop’ I shouted to my Jockey ‘Why?’, ‘need a wee wee’, ‘Oh for goodness sake’ I pulled over beside some bushes and waited ‘what now?’, ‘can you get off please?’, ‘And stand on this barefoot! Don’t flatter yourself Ham my eyesight isn’t that good anyway; get on with it

Nothing as underrated as a good p*ss;‘Aaaaaaaah’ Bliss! Well it was right up until the flashing blue light lit us up ‘Shiiiit’, ‘c’mon go go GO!’, ‘but we-‘ WHIISHK!! ‘ooya fuuuu-‘ WHIISKK! ‘-ker’ Quite where she got the whip from is probably best not answered but by gum it did the job; I was off like a rocket. Our ‘hack’ home had suddenly been converted into the Grand National as we took an ‘off-road’ route to lose the feds. I could practically hear Jim McGrath commentating in my head

‘And it’s Bald Beauty coming up to the first fence’, ‘it’s Bechers Brook and he’s stuttering slightly; could be refusing, but the jockey is reaching for her whip’, ‘Oh my word he’s cleared it by a good ten feet’, ‘he’s four lengths in the lead now with Blues & Twos coming up on the rails’, ‘they are both about to reach the canal turn and this is where the race really can be won and lost’, ‘Bald Beauty has gone for it! …. ‘Oh what a leap!’ ‘Blues & Twos are right behind’, but he’s gone too early, he’s clipped the fence, oh my he’s landed on his face and Bald Beauty is out of sight!’

Cue music and slow motion shot of steed galloping across the moor ‘la la lalalala laa’

Sunday, February 03, 2008


Ready Steady Cook?

Ham Shanks Secret Diary w/e 3rd February 2008

Tell me dear reader; have you ever wondered whether programs like ‘Ready Steady Cook’ are actually genuine? I mean do you really think the chefs haven’t seen the contents of the bag before the contestant upends their mystery plastic holdall on to the work surface of the green pepper/red tomato kitchen and this week’s celeb chef regales us with a fantastic recipe before the spuds have even finished rolling?

I also have to take issue with the number of ‘store cupboard’ ingredients these culinary wizards have at their disposal. A dozen eggs, milk, cream, cheese, butter, breads and every herb and spice you could imagine constitute a weeks shopping in my book. Both these points might seem pernickety to you but given the fact we have only just seen the back of the leanest month of the year my cupboards are fecking bare. I can’t replicate any of these dishes! In fact I’d like to see what Nick Nairn could have done with my ‘goodybag’ and the normal store cupboard ingredients you could find in the average house at the end of January.

Cue Ready Steady Cook music and dancing Ainsley Harriott …..

So ladies & gentleman our first contestant is Ham Shanks from Stirling’, ‘So Ham what have you brought in for Nick today’, ‘Well this is a pretty normal days rations for January’ I reply as I tip up my goodybag on to the worktop …… a piece of tumbleweed blows across the stage as Ains and Nick stand slack jawed ‘As you can see I’ve got a handful of woodlouse that I found underneath the bath; just think of them as land prawns’, ‘I’ve also got four thin stemmed mushrooms I managed to find growing on some rotting wood in the garden’, ‘lastly I have some dust that I swept from the back of the cupboards’ after a lengthy pause Ainsley pipes up ‘any ideas Nick?

Of course that would never happen because the floor manager would have inspected my bag long before I set foot on stage. So no doubt I would have tipped out a leg of lamb, a couple of lobster and a packet of baby asparagus! ‘All for three pounds twenty’, ‘oh we have shopped well’ squeals Ainsley ‘No pal; you’ve shopped well’, ‘I’ve been licking the fecking pattern off the wallpaper for the last three weeks’ I’d reply before quickly seasoning his leg and taking a big bite.

Sharp hunger pangs brought me rudely back from my reverie ‘Right c’mon Ham, only three days till payday, there must be something left to eat’ rummaging in the depths of the lower cupboards I managed to find a brillo pad and bar of ‘Pears’ soap ‘Oooh medicated, my favourite flavour’ Placing the brillo pad to the side for dessert I was about to bite into my aperitif when the cat flap burst open ‘what the fu-‘

The cat came bolting in and skidded across the wet floor; it had a mouse in its mouth. Our eyes met; there’s a lot of good eating on a mouse. Human and feline were weighing each other up. I smiled as the cat started to growl ‘Here puss puss’ I murmured gently, my left hand gently reaching back for a frying pan. Its eyes were still fixed firmly on mine, I tensed for the strike ‘Meeeeeiow’ it sensed my attack and shot out from under the descending orange blur and 4lb of cast iron Le Creuset smacked on the floor WHUMP! ‘come back ye wee sh*te!’ …… The chase was on

The foolish moggy had scuttled into the lounge, running after it I slammed the door shut behind me ‘Nowhere to hide now ma wee kitty’, ‘Ha ha mhuuaHAHAAAA!’ there were limited hiding places and it was only a matter of time before I caught my dinner. Creeping round the back of the lazy boy recliner I gently placed a foot on the side arm. Hefting the pan above my head I kicked oot ‘Aaaarggotchyayeweebas!’

But it was empty underneath apart from a piece of half chewed Wrigley’s Orbit gum, ‘Mmmm minty’ Buoyed by my sugar free fresh breath I turned to the only other refuge the cat could have found; the couch. It was too heavy to tip over without using both arms so I would have to use guile and brains ‘Okay Ham first we need to find out which side the wee sh*te is hiding at’ slipping off my shoes I crept stealthily up to the sofa and leant down ….

From the cats point of view life seemed a tad unfair. After half an hour of careful stalking it had managed to slay some poor hapless rodent for its dinner. It was so hungry it hadn’t even bothered torturing it before it took its life. Just as it was about to tuck in to this well earned repast a bigger cat took umbrage at this unauthorised invasion of it’s territory and attempted to scratch seven colours or cr*p out of it. Having successfully evaded evisceration and managed to scarper home with dinner intact it would appear the big baldy cat was now trying to scone it with a frying pan.

Sometimes enough is just enough ……

Breathing as quietly as I could I lowered my head to the floor so I could peer under the sofa, my eyes slowly adjusting to the light levels as I scanned for my quarry. Suddenly there was movement to my right! ‘Ahaa..AARGGHHH!!’ a whirling dervish of angry fur and claws shot out from under the sofa and clamped itself on to my face ‘Aaaaah AAARRGHH GERROFF! GEROFFYAFUUUCKER!’ Predator had turned into as the raging feline dug its claws firmly into the side of my head ‘GERROFFGERROFFGERROFF!!’ sharp teeth were sinking deep into my nose as streams of blood spattered onto the floor.

Flailing wildly about the floor I wrestled vainly with the enraged feline. I was losing big style; I didn’t have the speed or the strength to compete. This wasn’t going to be a points decision, the cat was going to win in a first round bloodbath. With one hand trying to pull the livid moggy off my face my free hand fumbled blindly about the floor. Miraculously I caught hold of the handle of the frying pan. Without hesitation or compunction I swung hard ‘CLUUUUUUNG!

It was indeed fortunate I was already lying on the floor. It was only this that prevented me from further ‘falling’ injury as I knocked myself unconscious with 4lbs of continental cookware. The cat escaped unscathed.

5…4…3…2…1…Stop Cooking!’, ‘so Nick what have you managed to make for Ham?’, ‘well Ains we’ve done a Filet mignon of woodlouse with magic mushroom soufflé and florets of dust all smothered in a lovely cream, cheese, butter and herby bread sauce.

It’s like Bullseye isn’t it ‘Here’s what you could have won’ …….

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