Mulligans Coddle

For breakfast this morning I prepared for Siobhan and myself a family favourite of poached eggs with caramelised onion and tomato on focaccia bread. This was followed by several espressos perched cosily on the indoor balcony watching the cold Glasgow weather creeping in as we  argued diplomatically discussed the best way to prepare a proper winter stew. There is something to be said for her slant on winter vegetables, preparation of meat stock and the consistency of her dumplings. Best described as an eclectic mix of flavours with a very obvious hint of her growing up as a child with money on the kitchen table. Me on the other hand, I grew up with eleven siblings, a faither who was often refused work in the shipyards because of his religion, and a wonderful mammy who worked 29 hours a day to keep us all clean, safe and fed.

After ten long months without a wage from the shipyards, the faither took up employment as a groundsman assisting a clique of Govan men in one of Glasgow's biggest cemeteries. 'Assist' is perhaps too strong a word for what his duties actually entailed. He would dig a six foot hole alone using only a wooden shovel and the strength that his god gave him. The man was a bull in his prime. Thick of muscle and brawny shouldered, he never gave best to the cold or the clang of hard rock upon the steel of his blade. He would rest after his mornings exertions in the bottom of the grave and drink fresh tea from a metal pail that we, his childer, would fetch to him from across the way in Drumchapel. He would stand at full height and watch as we made our way back, his head and neck clearly visible above the ground. A big man in every way was the faither, a man we truly loved.

A respectful man, he bore no grudge against those of the protestant faith who kept him from the working life building the biggest ships in the world. On those mornings when the deceased where driven up to take their place amongst the fresh earth of the hole he had previously prepared, he would remove his cap and stand quietly amongst the trees in respect. It was the done thing to wait until the last mourner had left before the first shovel of earth would land atop the coffin lid. In his own words, it wasn't a mans work that afforded him the satisfaction the Friday pint would normally bring. But it was work and where the da was concerned, his family always came first. I would often see the health draining from him as he would pretend that he had eaten heartily during the day and push his plate away, much to our delight as we hovered for the taste of meat.

Many years later my uncle Christie told me that he had come across a frightful sight in the graveyard as he had gone to meet with my faither. He was sitting cross-legged on top of a pile of fresh earth. Below him in the hole lay three other gravediggers, decidedly dishevelled, bleeding and bruised. Beside my faither was his best shovel, a strong oak handled tool with a stout blade. It was broken in two. When Christie questioned my faither on 'why' he explained that these protestant men had proudly declared that they were always happiest after a catholic child's funeral as they would steal the chocolate left on the children's graves. It was to haunt us both, faither and son as later we would each bury our own children. Not a word about his work ever reached the ears of his childer as he would clatter through the door of a night with that big smile upon his face. He kept the evil and the badness inside of him until the very end.

He was fetched from his bed one winters morning, a rapid chapping of the door by his own brothers saw him whisper words to the mammy and he was away. Gone through snow and cold with only his woollen coat and his flat cap to keep him warm. It was long after the darkness had arrived that he returned with blood on his coat, a sack over his shoulder and a smile as wide as the sinew on his neck. A bullock had been hit by a truck delivering coal to the rich people of Bearsden. It had knocked the beast into the tall grass at the junction of the Milngavie road. Fortunately, the driver, a man by the name of Mulligan, had been able to carry on and deliver his coal to the silver spoons in the big houses, so as not to see them pad about their big carpeted rooms with cold feet. It was Christie himself who had stumbled upon the prone beast as he walked home after his work. Several hours later it was gone. For a whole month we feasted upon stews between us and the other poorer families of Drumchapel. Our bellies extended, we found a vitality often denied to us and other families on a meagre wage. Not a scrap of meat, fat or bone was wasted as the women turned their hands to many a tasty meal.

To me, a good stew is about the preparation, the care of the ingredients and most definitely the memories associated with the various aromas of not only the food, but also the smell of the tobacco about my faithers auld coat. I recall being puzzled when on occasion the oul fella and my uncles would raise a glass and smile as they chanted their toast to someone called Mulligan!

Mulligans Coddle

1 oxtail, cut into joints
1 lb of best Scottish topside, diced and floured
1 tbsp cooking oil
1 red onion, chopped
2 small scallions, diced
6 large carrots
2 tsp sea salt
freshly ground black pepper to taste
2 bay leaves
2 whole cloves
2 cups beef stock
1 cup vegetable stock
12 oz tinned whole tomatoes, quartered
8 fresh small pickling onions (not the ones in vinegar, Jaysus!)
2 celery stalks, sliced
2 large neeps, peeled and cut into chunks
8 new potatoes
1/2 lb fresh wild mushrooms, wiped and sliced
4 tbsp medium cream sherry
8 oz pint stout (any good brand)
8 oz red wine
2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
3 tbsp chopped fresh parsley

Remove any excess fat from the oxtail and brown both meats in heated cooking oil in a heavy-based ashet. Add the onion and scallions and saute until translucent. It is important at this stage to get the meat sealed to retain the full flavours.

Add the seasoning, seared meat, stock and tomato, cover with lid, reduce heat and simmer for 3 hours or until meat is tender. At this point the meat will fall off the tiny bone of the oxtail. Take each piece out and discard as the flavours will already be nicely infused with the thick stock. Add all the vegetables, I have a liking for Savoy cabbage personally, but any good cabbage will suffice. During the last 30 minutes of cooking time add the sherry and wine, plus the spuds, simmer gently, do your taste test using a wooden spoon. Remove the bay leaves, finally sprinkle with parsley.


Glasgow Tommy

For breakfast this morning I feasted upon burned bacon, very black pudding, something that once resembled a sausage, eggs with broken yolks and a sprinkle of tepid baked beans intertwined with what looked like tree bark. My beverage of choice was a perfect insulation against the chill wind, piping hot tea served in a large metal mug, still containing the spoon. Just a shame it was the same spoon used to dish out the baked beans. Admittedly, # 4 son has many fine qualities, but cooking is sadly not one of them. It didn't matter, we were far too busy enjoying a few days relaxation. An early autumn break spent fishing on the west coast of Scotland is a memorable and a very pleasurable experience amidst the backdrop of the hauntingly beautiful waters of a certain loch, of which shall remain nameless. Cannae have it spoiled by tourists, eh?  Many an hour was happily spent in the company of my brothers, sons and nephews, fishing for salmon, rod in hand, casting our nets upon these waters, listening to Mathew, Mark, Luke and John talking to us about Jesus and his forty fishes..... no wait! Wrong fishing story.

In a nutshell, fishing, away up the west coast, we enjoyed it, however a decision was made not long after the rain began lashing and the whisky had finally gone, time to head home again with very little plate offerings between us. It was easier just to visit my pal Glasgow Tommy, who likes to keep his hand in by coming up with the odd fish or two on request. When I say odd, I don't mean the fish he supplies have 3 heads or a tail shaped like the jawbone of the Mexican fella who used to ride a motorcycle in that 70's polis show in Amerikay. No,  I mean he regularly has access to some very nice fresh salmon. Tommy fae Glasgow that is, not Officer Poncherello, for the love of God. He must surely be retired by now and not thinking about supplying hooky fish to tall Glaswegian strangers in a pub car park. I'm not sure about you, but I do love a tasty bit of salmon on my plate of a night. Especially when you know that it hasn't previously been dredged up from the bottom of the Ubangi river four months prior to it arriving on a Norwegian fishing smack covered in ice and accompanied by half of John West's salted kipper haul destined for Hong Kong.

Preparing and cooking a whole wild salmon is traditional, but isn’t the easiest of kitchen tasks, especially given the size of the beauties to be had up here in Scotland. It can end up bubbling away in a long dish or fish kettle, as they are better known, straddling two rings on the gas cooker and needing constant attention before boiling dry while you are upstairs taking a quick whizz. Let that old method fly right by you out of the kitchen windy. Here's a more efficient method for you to try. Your dishwasher. Dishwashers heat their water during the cycle, and that heat is enough to poach a salmon. No need to thank me or your God for helping you understand kitchen technology. Remember, religion is only for people who don't understand science. Okay, wrap your salmon tightly in aluminium foil and run the dishwasher on the highest and hottest cycle. And for the love of all things fishy, do not put detergent in it, but that surely goes without saying, right?

Glasgow Tommy's Salmon Supreme.

You will need:

1 large stolen freshwater salmon from the Duke of Argyles private land.

175ml plain low-fat yogurt

2 teaspoons lemon juice

3 egg yolks

1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard

1/4 teaspoon low sodium salt

1/4 teaspoon caster sugar

pinch ground black pepper

dash hot pepper sauce, such as Tabasco

4 free range eggs

10 slices rye bread

1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley for garnish

1 teaspoon capers for garnish

3 man size fingers of Glenmorangie
To make the sauce: In the top of a double boiler, whisk together plain yogurt, lemon juice, free range egg yolks, Dijon mustard, sea salt, white sugar, black pepper and any decent hot sauce. Cook over simmering water while stirring constantly, for 6 to 8 minutes or until sauce is thick enough to coat the back of the spoon. Try to use a wooden spoon if possible, in my experience a metal spoon can taint the taste. Use plastic if you have it, but for the sake of the holy trinity tell not a soul.

In a large stock pot bring 2 litres of salted water to the boil. Carefully break the eggs one at a time into the boiling water. Treat them gently, just as you would treat a dear elderly lady who had just reversed her Honda Civic into the door of your vehicle earlier today. (Yes, this actually happened) When all the eggs have been added, reduce the heat to medium. Lean against the worktop, tip head back, swally the 3 fingers. Refill glass. When the eggs float to the top, remove them with a slotted spoon and let drain briefly and allow them to cool.

To assemble the final dish: Toast bread slices and place on warm plates. Top each piece of toast with a generous slice of salmon and a hot poached egg. Drizzle with sauce; garnish with parsley and capers, pour yourself another large whisky and let's get stuck in. Remember, for extra flavour that really brings out the natural goodness of the salmon, use white pepper and sea salt. To finish up any left over salmon, blend roughly and mix with breadcrumbs and fluffy mash tatties to make tasty fishcakes. Sprinkle on lemon juice and serve up with a winter salad.

I'm away to dry my boots, cheery bye the noo.


Seek The Rainbow

For breakfast this morning I enjoyed hot buttered barley scones teased with fresh Scottish butter and drizzled with fresh honey and cream. We took a flask of hot tea and our warm scones down to the river beside the ancient brick of our wishing well. We sat and watched as the sun rose and shone on each of us in turn. For a while I found an inner peace that for quite a while had avoided me. Above us the curlews cried and kestrels soared as if to signify our new happiness. We laughed as Beauty, my wife Siobhan's wee goat, ran off with her head still in the bag containing the last scone. Peace had finally returned to our lives with a flourish

The stench of ancient dampness and dirt invaded my nostrils with a ferocity that I had for so long been unaccustomed to. The broad staircase, once magnificent in oak was now rotted and hung forlorn as the bangs of the once beautiful woman now aged and whose dank lifeless hair now merely fell upon the lines of her face. I gazed upon the porcelain tile cracked and defaced behind the corrugated metal sheets, destroyed by those who would never understand the importance of their own history. The Georgian fireplace, so grand as it heralded a families photographs in situ behind silver frames of prosperity. Smashed and in ruins beneath my feet. The blood red scrawl of illiterate spray paint told drug-fuelled stories of hatred and abuse. I shuddered with the pain of it all as I knew she had spent nearly a year curled up upon a filthy mattress in this very room. I ran my fingers over the large blunt end of the hammer in my coat pocket. It felt ugly in comparison with the lethal beauty of the folded razor nestled comfortably in my other hand. Only the love of someone so precious, so completely sucked beneath the surface of the evil syringe kept me walking up those stairs. It was time to pay another terrible price and bring my daughter home.

That was three long years ago. At times, her anguish brought a terrible sadness to each of our hearts. I returned briefly to a world I had left behind in order to create a future for us all. I can now watch as my daughter walks in front of me with the sunshine reflecting from her hair as she dances around with my wife as they collect wild garlic and brambles from the fields and hills that have long been my own salvation. It has been a while since anyone of us wanted for much, the reason for this I will leave you to draw your own conclusions. One thing for sure, money does not always make a man happy, it merely offers him options. These days, seeing the smile of my youngest daughter, knowing that she is safe and back to her old self under my roof is worth more than any amount of cold hard cash can ever afford. This morning, between us, we all  helped to create a dish in her honour. Sweet, and made with love in mind. I cannot stop smiling in the presence of my new kitchen helper. With my help and her family around to love and support her, she will continue to claim the once lost happiness in each our lives. Just like the perfection and time it takes to create the perfect recipe, a person should never give up or lose hope. A lesson to us all. Seek the rainbow, it is there beyond even the greyest of clouds.

Zara's Delight

16 cups popped corn
1 cup of brown sugar
Half a cup of golden syrup or treacle
1 tsp each of almond and cinnamon essence
4oz Pecan nuts
A wee dod of fresh butter
Cook sugar, syrup and butter in a glass bowl in microwave on high for one minute. Stir and repeat for a total of five minutes. Should be hot and bubbling.
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2-1 tsp vanilla essence

Mix until foamy. Put popped corn into a brown paper bag. Pour the syrup into bag. Stir to coat. Fold bag over. Place in microwave and microwave for one minute and shake. Repeat. Microwave 30 seconds and shake. Repeat. (Sprinkle with extra cinnamon if desired and shake again)
Pour popcorn out to cool on wax paper.


Roscommon Patsy

For breakfast this morning I enjoyed a man size portion of Pecan pie served with fresh cream and a smidgen of stewed pear. I accompanied my feast with a cup of green tea infused with mandarin and herb. It keeps me regular. About 9am to usually a quarter past for those who like to be exact. It was moreish, succulent, exquisitely flavoured, and if I am totally honest, my third attempt. Tis the Pecan pie I am talking about here, not the bowel movement. Stay with me people, focus, focus! I used a recipe sent to me by a very nice young lady by the name of Hope. If you are not regular readers of Hope, then why not? Pecans have a unique flavour that blends so well with literally hundreds of dessert recipes. They do not get enough publicity, which in itself is a crime against culinary humanity. I advise you to go to her blog and copy the recipe for yourselves. You will not be disappointed, trust me.

Because I am still full of the milk of human kindness, not to mention Pecan pie, I am going to dish out a recipe of which my own grand mammy handed down when her parents were still picking potatoes back in the republic of Roscommon. If I may digress for a moment, just down the road from Roscommon, not a million miles away from my old hoose, is where another raggedy-arse, snot-nosed street urchin was dragged out of the mud and given a proper job. Aye, that one. Wee Mhàirtin himself. Or, as he was known locally, 'Stumpy'. Not these days though, oh no! These days he is known across Ireland as 'Stumpy Doonican' the favourite crooner of many, many housewives and single ladies over the age of 75.

Today's recipe is dedicated to the little singing fella,  Mhàirtin , for putting up with me borrowing his hedge trimmers and breaking them. I haven't told him as yet, but the dry croak you can probably hear right about now is him reading it for the first time. Hopefully this will sweeten him up a smidge, so what better way than a nice tasty piece of Roscommon Patsy to fill his gob the night. This ones for you pal, especially as I know you are sick and tired of the same oul Belgian waffle that is most definitely past its sell by date.

Roscommon Patsy

1 cup self raising flour
1/4 cup brown sugar
6 large rosy apples
1 beaten free range egg
2 ounces Irish butter
1/4 cup full fat milk
pinch of sea salt
1/2 teaspoon ground fresh ginger
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg.

For this recipe you must first think of Ireland. No, not the faux green plastic shamrock Ireland you see on the TV during St. Pats from some dismal bar in downtown Boston. That Ireland only exists in the heads of those 5th generation eejits trying to find an identity. The real Ireland. Where the colour green has always been considered unlucky to the Irish. So let's get that straight before we start. No green clothes, right? Okay, let's go. Sift flour, ginger, salt and sugar. Rub in the fat. Add milk and eggs to bake a soft dough. Roll out on a floured board. Cover the base of a greased pie dish with the pastry. Cross yourself several times and then grate the apples onto the pastry. Dot with wee dods of butter. Sprinkle cinnamon and nutmeg over top. Bake in a moderate oven for 1/2 hour. Serve hot with homemade custard or fresh cream. For the love of the little Pope fella himself, no synthetic creams, got it?

For those who prefer a softer filling, cook for 45 minutes on a moderate heat until golden brown, follow it down with good fresh hot coffee. Enjoy.


Another Time

Breakfast that morning had been brief and left an aftertaste from the smooth waxiness of paper coffee cup guzzled on the way to the meeting place of which we had agreed. I had risen early and dressed with only the company of my thoughts to spur me on. The thin gold clasp of my watch snapped shout between over eager fingers which had begun very slightly to shake. I took from the bedside table the brown paper bag containing a liquid of comfort that I had grown to know so well. The white crisp of my shirt made my neck feel thicker than the norm. Perhaps the constant rain had even caused my pensive body to stiffen and swell, each vein, a tensile steel rope, pulsing, taut and coiled. Another few gulps and the old magic began to kick in. I could put off the inevitable no longer. I gazed at my face in the mirror. I held my own stare, a sure sign of a soul that had come to terms with his deeds and had long since made amends with a God who did not believe in him. With a practised zeal I again threw on that familiar long coat. I smiled, after all these years it still fitted as well as the tailor had intended. Money well spent. Money which had been intended for the pockets of unworthy men. One final slug and the acid of my empty stomach churns the whisky into bile. I closed the hotel door behind me. It was that time again.

Beneath the stark Belfast sky nothing had changed. As the large black raindrops fell indiscriminately onto the shoulders of the leather of my coat, the fresh pungent aroma of aged church moss evoked memories of another time. Tall needles of grey slate vie for attention between the ancient iron monoliths, each point accusingly as if in great pain beneath the plum skies. Copper sculptures once a proud moniker of the Titanic now lay waste and green from the harsh elements. A sunken wall still dividing two religions, they lie together, but still apart in death below the crumbling stone and patchy turf of the hallowed ground. Age does not defy the texture of the acres of rain-slicked marble tributes that stretched for miles in front of our eyes. I lay my hand upon the smooth stone and feel the coldness of death that haunts my dreams on the loneliest of nights. The stoic droplets of rain provide a steady drummers beat as we stand before the grave. The leather of expensive shoes ruined forever from the puddles of dirty water that are everywhere. A rusting shovel lays forlorn and forgotten amongst the longer grass. It's blade of orange rust provocative amongst the ancient black markers of the dead. Dark days, darker deeds, we never escape our past. It binds us with rotting string and creates a parcel of guilt that two old men have carried for many regretful years in their hearts.

Increments of steam run in unique racing droplets inside the large glass window of the cafe. The cracked dull red of the aged Formica table does nothing to disguise the heat rings created by the years of many coffee cups. Towards the rear, the hot plates give off the acrimonious smell of over fried onions. I crush spilled sugar granules with the back of a spoon as we struggle to find the words. I notice the odd raised eye from behind the rustling of racing papers from across the linoleum floor. The threat of violence permeates the acrid cooking smells and invades my senses. I am no stranger to the essence of tension that envelopes the room. The cut of our clothes does not fit with the downtrodden feel emanating from the regular patrons. Black silk against a rough labourers tweed. They wonder who we are.  I see the confusion in their eyes as they take in the deep facial scar and broken feature of my nose. It is my eyes that keep them seated. They are masters at detecting the look in a man's eye that reveal his occupation. In Belfast, you never ask. It is the eyes that can keep you safe or cost you the years of your life. They wait for me to betray myself with an accent. I do so with great pleasure as I summon the waitress with the bill. Shoulders sag under the heaviness of coats as I stand and ask the room in general with my guttural Glaswegian tone, "What about yis?" I get no reply.

I watch with heavy heart as the dimming glow of the tail lights grow ever smaller into the mayhem of rain slicked traffic behind the Cathedral Quarter. Another year passes with few words spoken about the purpose of my visit. I understand his love for me, I just cannot find it in me to say out loud the feelings I have inside. I light a cigarette for the first time in 20 years. They were his. He left them on the bar before he left. My need is to feel closer to him than the brief handshake that went between us when we met. The forgotten taste of tobacco does not suffice and now lays crumpled and wet beneath my heel. I keep the pack, for they are his. I will put them in the oul brown suitcase that once lay beneath our mothers bed. Inside that case we are still all as one. Brothers. Young men forged of poverty and Glasgow steel. Memories of a time before a time. Our number has been lessened by an unforgotten deadly few. Grown men who could never complete the journey would return early to the earth of which they had been called. I owed it to my brother to return every year to Belfast. I promised him that he would never be alone in the guilt of our actions as we stood in judgement as young men in the midst of another time. With my long black coat buttoned against the cold I turn towards the first leg of my journey home. The cold rain still falls, only this time it is inside of me.


Harry Rumble

For breakfast this morning I created a wee piece of heaven by way of a delicious sliced kumato, seasoned with black pepper, Gruyere cheese, and a poached egg atop a wheat English muffin served with a prosciutto wrapped rasher of smoked bacon in the middle. To smooth its passage I made a nice big pot of Brazil's finest rich roasted blend. For perfection itself the entire ensemble was served up on square Belgian plates, pure glazed white in colour, trimmed with fine gold thread, a present from a long standing friend. I shall ignore the fact that written on the back in a neat hand the words 'Property of the Hilton Hotel' can be clearly seen. I'm sure Paris's family has enough to go around and these won't be missed.

This good friend goes by the name of Harry Rumble. His claim to fame is that he is in fact distantly related to the infamous Joe Byrne, colleague of the notorious Irish / Australian, Ned Kelly. Joe Byrne was a lover of horses. So much so that he was deported from Ireland for stealing 30 or so thoroughbreds from an English landowner near Roscommon. Good man that Joe! Quite a feat for a relative of Harry, considering that he is someone who gets asthma every time a horse passes wind within a mile of his house. Now Harry, a man of considerable intellect and quite an expert on existentialism and the meaning of life, not to mention vintage motorcycles, Roman architecture and single malt whisky, has one big weakness.


According to his charming wife, I bring out the worst in Harry and unleash in him a beast that is hard to tame and impossible to handle once a notion is put into his head. Oh, I know what you are thinking, debauched sessions of week long drinking bouts ending in unbridled lust, pillage and cold nights spent on lumpy mattresses in pish stained polis cells waiting to be bailed out by our wives. No, you must be thinking of this guy, not me. I'm the quiet one who ends up having to carry him home after half a pint of shandy and a sniff of the barmaid's apron. Not so much a singer, more of a hinger on oul ladies doorsteps as he relieves his stomach of the remnants of expensive gold all over his black slip on shoes.

No, for the love of all things culinary, when Harry and I get together we spend our time debating, not debauching,  the art of creating the perfect skink. Harry is a real chef, unlike masel, and has worked with a few of the greats himself. He has a mission in life to create the worlds tastiest broth by using only the bare minimum of ingredients, relying totally on his knowledge of combinations of the best produce to hand. I swear, that man could make hot water and salt taste like ambrosia, nectar and the ultimate elixir of kitchen life. Me, on the other hand, I like to rely on tradition, freshness and just a cheeky wee hint of good luck. Not to mention a selection of frozen homemade chicken stock (our secret, reet?). I will soon be dining at his table with his delectable wife. I will be on my best behaviour I promise. I will also be discussing my favourite soup recipe, Cullen Skink. Do have a wee bash yourself and let me know what you think.

You will need.

A large smoked haddock raked free of wee bones
1 medium white onion, finely chopped
1½ pints milk
2 tablespoons good butter
8 oz mashed spud
Salt and white pepper
1 bay leaf
Chopped parsley
Spring water
2 Scallions, chopped
Bacon Goujons, about a handful and a half 

Partially cover the smoked haddock with spring water, any bottled water will do if you live outside of Scotland, damn heathen hordes the lot of yis, in a shallow pan, skin side down. Bring to the boil and simmer for 4/5 minutes, turning once. Glance quickly at the photie on the wall of his holiness the Pope before you take the haddock from the pan and remove the skin and any remaining wee bones. Break up the fish into flakes, return to the stock and add the chopped onion, bay leaf, salt and pepper. Simmer for another 15 minutes. Strain, remove the bay leaf but retain the stock and fish. Do not get sidetracked at this stage of the process, otherwise I shall not want to work with you anymore. Add the milk to the fish stock and bring back to the boil. Add enough mashed spud's to create the consistency you prefer (don't be afraid to make it rich and thick like that American eejit on the Fox network, aye, that's the one.) Add the fish and reheat. Check for seasoning. Just before serving, add the butter in small pieces so that it runs through the soup. This is important, so do not for the love of your God skip the step.
Serve with chopped parsley on top, accompanied by triangles of toast and a chilled bottle of Chardonnay, a well established low maintenance wine that produces a clear crisp zing of buttered oak and crispy apple when served with all fish courses. Enjoy. Should you require religious or alcoholic assistance in my 'short' absence, please contact the wee man in Limerick, he has the key and will gladly let you in.

Wipe your feet though, eh?


Bravery, Fear and Grapefruit

For breakfast this morning I delighted myself with the fresh fruits of Mother Nature. Easy to produce at the drop of a hat. Cut a plump grapefruit in half and top with one tablespoon of fresh honey and a wee dash of cinnamon. Place under the grill for 7 minutes, then add brambles, pineapple and a good few slices of one of those bright yellow bendy things. Eat while still warm for optimum taste. My personal beverage of choice was pomegranate juice, freshly poured from the carton I purchased last night. It will give you everything you need for the day ahead. Try to find 10 minutes in your schedule around 9ish for when the fibre kicks in.

I was saddened this morning to read in my newspaper about the 14 year old girl blogger shot in the head in Pakistan for defying the Taliban by daring to go to seek an education. I was actually shocked at the cruelty of such an act. After a lifetime living in Glasgow there isn't many things that I haven't seen that still shocks me. It is very easy to glorify guns and other violent acts on the big screen, the hero always stands up after being shot and declares his injury to be merely 'a flesh wound' as he kisses the leading lady and drives off in a gaudy looking sports car. In reality, violence is very different. Cruelty seems to be on the rise. My generation seems not to have instilled any lessons on today's up and coming baw bags.

Rival drug dealers in Scotland during the early eighties perfected the removal of an eyeball using a blunt edged teaspoon. It got to the stage where Boots the chemists made a fortune selling plastic eye patches at the rate of sometimes 20 per month. For a while, Glasgow appeared to be a happy hunting ground for great hordes of tattooed pirates during the late summer of 86. All that was missing was the Black Pearl moored to the side of the Erskine Bridge as she stuck fast in the mud of the dingy River Clyde. Stop a moment to think about the excruciating pain involved in such a barbaric act. Now think about the mentality of a person who could do such harm to another human being. Shooting an innocent bairn in the head takes violence to a completely different level.

Take it from someone who has been shot, the pain and shock is horrific and can best be described as being hit with a very large hammer. Back in the day I was in my physical prime. I was pretty much known for showing little fear, pain or emotion in my old trade. Let me tell you this, the pain of being shot near had me peeing in my pants and crying out for the mammy. When a fast moving blunt object hits you at speed and forces itself through your body narrowly missing your vital organs, then smashes through several layers of skin and then rips an exit hole in your side, you fall over and you do not continue to fight. Anyone who claims not to experience fear and pain when shot is a liar.
Fear is one of the most powerful aspects of our society in general because it is something we share in collectively and all understand. Nobody, regardless of location, reputation, connections or marital name is immune to fear and it’s powerful feeling that we’ve all felt since birth. We’ve tried over the many thousands of years since science first created mankind to understand it and most recently we’ve had psychology spring up to attempt to explain some of the many reasons why humans are afraid.

If you put any fear on a pedestal and break it down we all agree on one thing: fear results when we find ourselves uncertain of what is about to happen. In other words, the number one leading thing that sparks us to become afraid of anything is our uncertainty, doubt or any other emotion that leaves us feeling powerless. I have a loyal friend who stood beside me for many years, through thick and thin, during a different time growing up in Glasgow, he and I are both respectable these days and would pass for being 'worky-type lads' as we prop up the bar on a Friday night in one of our old haunts. Apart of course, for the very neat deep slice that still separates the hair on the right side of his head from where a meat cleaver was embedded during a scuffle over something quite trivial.

It took him the best part of three years to recover from the initial injury, then the various operations over the years to regain his balance, sight and speech. He freely admits to his fear. He has recovered now, but it stopped him dead in his tracks and made him look at violence from a different perspective. On the night in question I cannae recall seeing a beautiful woman dabbing his forehead with a wet-wipe and helping him into her bed. I do recall dragging him across a bar, shots being fired, with a large flap of his scalp gaping open and pumping blood and splinters of white bone all over his favourite camel hair coat. No heroes were present in that bar. No heroes were created after the incident had been forgotten. The real heroes had already walked away and were probably at home watching the TV.

Violence is horrific in any form. It is grotesque and usually fails to achieve anything other than more violence. Yes, I am a hypocrite, a bloody big one in fact, but that is not the point of this post. It doesn't take a big man to shoot a little girl. The bravery belongs to a small oppressed child who stood up for what she believes in and shamed a breed of savages that live and will hopefully die by the sword.  No war has ever been won by violence. It is clever thinking, strategy and brains that win the day. I hope that her courage is a message to others and a warning to some. The Taliban failed when they attacked her. They failed in the eyes of the civilised world. The bairn on the other hand, she achieved my respect and that of many people across the world. Good for her, I hope that she can go on to find that education. It certainly never did me any harm.

Ironically enough, it was violence that foiled the infamous attack on Glasgow airport a few years back by terrorist extremists armed to the teeth and a jeep full of bombs. One Glaswegian gave them the beating of their life halfway through their attack, he averted a major catastrophe and sent a clear message to the world when he was later interviewed. "This is not England, if you come to Glasgow to do us harm we will set about you!"  My theory may have just gone out of the windy. What can I say, Glasgow folk, eh?


Molly Malone

For breakfast this morning I indulged myself with a big oul Scottish fry. Square sausage, bacon, eggs, mushrooms and toms. I then added small rounds of black pudding, vegetarian haggie, fruit pudding heavily spiced with white pepper and of course a nice wedge of soda bread to soak up the bacon grease left in the pan. On the side of my plate was a famous Morton's roll, available only in Glasgow, unfortunately for you. A large mug of tea and a peaceful swatch at the newspaper completed my morning before I gathered my thoughts about preparing this evenings meal.

We currently have guests staying with us from Ireland, and is the way of most Irish women, they like to outdo each other in the kitchen, so it is a battle of the ladies this very night. Have you never wondered just why the wee Map man fae Limerick is so portly these days? Just ask his gorgeous lady wife. My guests are from the south, while my good lady herself was raised in the north. Game on! Friendly rivalry has begun.

To stir up the pot slightly, I have suggested that they prepare the following.

Molly Malone

1/4 cup virgin olive oil
2 fresh carrots
1 bulb fresh fennel, diced
1 fresh leek, diced
1 stick of celery, diced
1 sprig thyme
1 sprig rosemary
1 bay leaf
5 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
2 glasses of dry white wine
2 tablespoons tomato paste
2 glasses of dry cider
1 pint of fish stock
6 pinches saffron threads
8 red potatoes, quartered
1/2lb Scottish cockles
1lb Irish mussels, cleaned
1lb fresh white fish of your choice, cut into 1-inch cubes
12 large prawns, peeled and de-veined
1lb of squid, cleaned
6 rashers of lean smoked bacon - diced
1 ounce Pernod
1lb ripe toms, seeded and roughly chopped

In a Catholic stock pot, heat the olive oil and the carrots, fennel, leek, celery, thyme, rosemary, bay leaf, and garlic. Stir and cook for 5 minutes. Add the Protestant wine, tomato paste, fish stock, and saffron. Simmer for 8 minutes. Bless the fish and give thanks to your own God that the mercury has thankfully been washed clean away at the fishmongers slab. Blend for 1 minute with a hand-held blender until smooth. Add the tatties and begin adding the seafood as gently as a Presbyterian ministers wife weeing behind the barn on a winters evening after the annual hayride. Firstly, the cockles (cook for 1 minute) and then the white fish (cook for another minute). Then add the cider, squid and mussels. Fry off the bacon and a handful of scallions to taste, but for the love of all things holy, do allow them to cool before you introduce them into the pot. Add the liqueur and chopped toms. Simmer for 8 minutes. Place in large soup tureen or serve in individual dishes with garlic toast and small rounds of grilled black pudding.

For the sake of the divil himself, do not season with salt as this will be deemed as an insult to your flavour combinations and is punishable by spending the night in the spare room next to your mammy-in-law. And we all know how much scallions upset her digestive system, eh?


Pure Scum

For breakfast this morning I devoured the newspapers, ravenously hungry for more facts in regard to the disgraceful cover up by one of the UK's biggest institutions, the BBC. A scandal which now threatens wider repercussions for those celebrities who abused their status to protect themselves and others of sex crimes involving young children.

As the proud faither of two beautiful daughters it would be fair to say that I have at certain times during their lives, been guilty, overwhelmingly so, sometimes violently  quite firmly to those who pushed their luck, of being extremely protective when it comes to my girls and the opposite sex.
Men are after sex with your daughters, sisters and wives... make no mistake, but some twisted individuals prefer them to be well below the age of consent!
Perhaps now that one of Britain's (sadly for justice, deceased) more eccentric television personalities has been exposed as a possible child molesting rapist, I can finally, in their eyes, justify my actions.

Savile, allegedly, once tried to recruit the services of a 'figure' from Glasgow to introduce himself as a northern England nightclub owner with links to the Scottish underworld while he hid away in his small cottage away up in Glencoe. This was an attempt to give him credibility and protection from the rumours already circulating about his sexual deviant behaviour. During the meeting which took place in a dingy flat near Leeds, England, Savile made remarks as to his preference for enjoying hunting for 'budding' young girls under the age of 14. He once said that he his decor of 'pink and brown'  reflected the colour of young sex. It was around this time that he is reported to have encouraged the rape of a minor by the convicted child molester, Gary Glitter, in his dressing room at the BBC. He even stooped so low as to molest a young cancer patient in her hospital bed. Needless to say, Savile was rebuked vociferously by the 'figure', as only a Glaswegian can when faced with 'wan dirty heinous bastard', and shunned by the people who mattered in Scotland back in the day.

I am not a believer in the treatment and sympathy of those who harm weans, neither am I one who believes that punishment is best left to a God. Violence is very rarely the answer. Sometimes these predators go unnoticed by the authorities and are allowed to ruin innocent young lives. It is far easier if they were allowed to be 'retired' by those with certain connections, quietly and without fuss they would vanish. It is too late to bring Savile to justice after his death. The Masonic Brotherhood behind the scenes within the BBC could have stopped the corruption of minors, however it chose to do nothing. They failed many innocent children rather than bring shame upon themselves. An unforgivable act by both a twisted oul man and the shadowy world of the Masonic Order.

The crux to this post is simply this. Kiddy-fiddlers do not look unlike the postman, the teacher, kindly do-gooding charity fund-raising television presenters, priest or politicians. They blend in and groom our children from behind a secret mask of friendly guise. Trust no one with the most precious gift a parent can have, our children. The harrowing description which came to my attention of Savile with his tongue in the mouth of a naked eight year old girl reminds me of just why I stood over my own girls when my spider senses tingled. Trust... no ... one.

As for Savile, may he rest in pish.


Of Crows and Lions

For breakfast this morning we exchanged watery smiles as we fumbled with pearl buttons, re-tied shoelaces and adjusted our ties that gaped at the necks of wider men. Many years had passed since I made the decision to leave violence and misery outside of my tall metal gates. My inner sanctuary is just that, my place of peace from the world outside. Yesterday, misery was allowed inside to enter its ugly head into my private family life. The thin October sunshine played weakly upon the blackness of the paintwork on the many assembled cars. My sons, from boys to men, they walked by my side as we followed that slim oak box to the earth. The silence, so loud, broken only by the footfalls of expensive shoes upon the gravel crunch of Dalnottar. We stood as we had done so in childhood. Our glassy eyes spoke to each brother as our tongues lay thick and useless inside of our dry mouths. Now only the eight of us remained. Orphaned and lost without our sister, our ages reverted back to a more innocent time. I called silently her name, but she was not to reply.

The priest had initially said no to the request, but we did it anyway. It was not easy to scold so many hard faces that wore the head to toe black that matched perfectly the red of their eyes and the scar tissue of old Glasgow. The more pious of the black crows very nearly turned puce at the suggestion of the idea that such an unholy guest would walk freely in the house of the Lord. One of them, rotund, unctuous, wheezing like a blacksmiths bellows - far too many free luncheons, you'd guess, or the green opaque of the gin bottle - and the other, his club foot beating a merry tattoo on the parish floor with the terrible nerves of it all. The first one swung an urn of incense back and forth, filling the aisles with the scent of frankincense. The second one walked piously, with his hands folded around his Bible. The plump one went out of his way to make eye contact with all of us heathens, as if adding our names to his own holy hit list. The fat ones fatwa, most probably.

The heads shook aplenty when the idea was first offered up as to which one of us her god would damn for all eternity first. Those in Glasgow who mourn carry only the care for the souls that live on in our hearts, not for what others think of us. The decision was made, the procession was of course lead by a tall scarred fellow with more than a single tear on his cheek as we carried the sister safely upon our shoulders into the church. Followed closely at heel was her oul blind raggedy dog. He sat, befuddled and lost. I amongst others felt the same way. The dog in question has many friends because he wags only his tail instead of his tongue. Like Mary, he never judged, he knew she was loved. An afternoon of glaring at grey grocers and frightening fishmongers with the blindness of his oul eyes was set aside to fret and mourn for his mistress of many years. He had the right to walk behind the men who are to be his new protectors now that the love of the sister has been taken from him.

The rakes and paper ruffians with cameras who haunt the pavement along the way are not yet out in force this day. Some have been drinking, and at least one thinks that amongst the mourners he may have found his column inches. A quiet word to the privacy-rapists and their foul practise was quickly ended when they are educated the hard way that the friends of the family in attendance is that of the Brádaigh's. The community of Mary's friends and families gathered the evening before the main funeral liturgy to pray and to keep watch with the inner sanctum of our family. It is to be expected that the field of mourners is varied. There are many local bruisers, a distinguished man, two women holding hands (the scandal of it!) as well as their tears. Tucked away at the back, a minor celebrity who has the darkest of tanning-shop skins. Friendship has neither prejudice or moral codes when it comes to the people of which we surround ourselves in life and in death. All were welcome. Even the nuns, the stragglers, the English few and those who had felt the kindness bestowed upon them by herself.

The word of her God is proclaimed as a source of hope in the face of darkness and death. The Glasgow pride is particularly more deadly when wounded than the most savage of African lions. The first pious crow prays for the deceased even though our Celtic rituals widen his eyes. There are also prayers for those dealing with the loss. Me, I am in another place as I hum her favourite songs silently inside of my head as those around us disguise the signs of our emotions as we mourn. This is Glasgow and our sisters passing is meant to be celebrated on the night before the funeral. If there is to be tears and sadness, it is appropriate at the vigil, but never the wake. I long for the whisky to take me away from the blackness in my heart. Flanagan and his brood fae Belfast had put aside their drinking for the morning to pay their respects to Mary. Rough of character, self made men, natural enemies to our business faith, they stood with shoes shined and with the brandy still upon their breath. We had not spoken since the money-lenders wars, but still a nodded head was aimed our way. We respected them in turn for that.

By the door, the landed gentry and the Highland bourgeoisie  had been discussing complex methods of escape in case the aftermath threatens to turn to an alcoholic haze at the drop of a brandy glass. An eclectic mix, an invisible line between the Catholic and Protestant communities is lifted as those of the blue came to pay their respects to our lady of the green. There was indeed something about Mary.
We celebrated her life with love and respect. We placed wee chocolate frogs from Grady's sweetie shop in our suit pockets just as we had done so in our Sunday school play days. Around us her songs both chilled us and warmed us with her memory. And then the tears. It was our first time together as a family that our beloved sister had not joined us in the coming together of the clans. The brothers, we took it in turns to console the oul wans, to wrap our arms around their shoulders and pretend that we were comforting them, when in reality, they were comforting us. Me, I wondered how I could ever go back into my kitchen without noticing the empty chair where Mary had sat forever chiding me for rough cutting scallions and the laughter we shared.

When the day is done and the oul wans are tucked safely in their beds, our women folk reassure the weans, "och, your da was no crying, he just had a wee something in his eye". We, the brothers, the sons, the uncles, nephews, cousins and only the closest of male friends gather to drink long and hard into the night. The talk is of fitba, of Celtic and our sister Mary's pride for her gallant lads of the green. We raise many glasses until the cock grows hoarse from crowing at the demise of the yellow waxy moon. The dawn breaks as we make our way along deserted streets to our sisters favourite place just outside of Milngavie. Today we drink again until the moon will rise, tomorrow we may ourselves be dead. With our feet not yet in the sod we celebrate the living of life. We mourn amongst the living, we cherish the memories that death has seen fit to leave behind. In Glasgow, we survive.