The Second Coming

For breakfast this morning we arose late and languidly consumed a light feast of melon, honey and fresh eggs as we perused the Sunday papers. After our meal we splashed each other with the dew that decorated the branches as we made our way like teenagers towards an exciting new adventure beyond the wooded skyline. We held hands as we walked together across the fields and stood by the lower road hoping to catch a final glimpse of the huge metal beast that had recently visited with us. I caught myself humming a forgotten tune as her perfume delicately wafted on the autumn breeze about me. Below us, the hillside still shrouded in a fine mist, cast an even backdrop on what had been a perfect beginning to the day. To our right, the distant smoke from a neighbours chimney seemed to wave at us as if beckoning on the cheeriness of which we possessed inside. The beast was no longer to be seen. Our weekend was very happily complete.

The last time it had arrived was on the back of a medium sized yellow truck. I remember it well, the air brakes hissing as they carefully manoeuvred the upward climb, the height of the exhaust stack glinting conically in the mid-summer sun above the hedgerows as it wound its way through the hillside. A week prior to the arrival the delivery company decided to do a dummy run unladen, just to ensure it would survive the journey through the winding road that leads to the property. The tall wrought iron gates gave only a hairs breadth as the driver eased the vehicle in reverse to the edge of the carefully coiffured lawns. It took three strong men half a morning just to lower it to the ground where it sat gleaming on the mustard hogging stone of the driveway before it was sadly rejected and reloaded as the sun had begun to set on such a truly magnificent object. This time it had to be right.

Once again, the man in over-all charge was a woman. Siobhan herself, dressed in her faded blue Sunday jeans, designer plaid press button shirt atop a white T-shirt and brown worky boots, her beautiful hair pulled back in an almost casual knot. If she wasn't already my wife I would have made a move based just on the magnificent way in which she looked before me. It was moments like this that made me realise just why she ate so carefully, like that of a very beautiful dove. My eyes travelled between my wife and the new arrival on the back of the truck. I watched as she stood, hands on extremely slender hips, her pale pink lips set firmly in the same way in which she does when I am in her bad books. The steel grey of her Irish eyes flashed authority as she emanated power just from her presence alone. I felt a hunger stir inside of me as she paced slowly up and down the cobbled slate of the pathway. Her anticipation matched an entirely different hunger to mine.

The mechanical arm moved steel hawsers majestically until they reached the perfect pivotal point of counter balance. The driver, a nonchalant man nearly as wide as the crate itself, was barely vocal in his directions to the guys assisting the cable winch. Slowly the mechanical boom took up the strain and the crate rose above the shingle of the lower roof tier as it began its ascent high enough to clear the leafy lushness of the neatly trimmed topiary. The rough pine of the timber planking gave off a faint essence of Scandinavian wood, a mere rivers crossing from the origin and birth place of the item inside its secure timber housing. My eye caught the green and bronzed hew of the twisted metal banding that gave the packaging its strength. The earthy elements of metal, wood and nature was not lost on me. It gave me an inner satisfaction that only a working man can recognise and appreciate.

The meal on Saturday evening had consisted mainly of hearty foods, comforting and wholesome for our invited friends. The conversation was taken up considerately by the arrival of the new addition to the large open plan room that had once housed those who insisted upon doing good deeds in exchange for a god fixing the subsequent emptiness that demented their insides. It had been nearly five years in the planning, the searching, the travelling, the resurrection and refurbishment, not to mention the added expense of the second shipping. It was as natural to its new environment as the day it had first been nurtured to such an original magnificent design. I had spent many an hour savouring it in my minds eye, admiring the craftsmanship many a night as I lay down in my bed. The intricacy of its design, the way in which it would never chime, beep or trill. A stoic masterpiece of Mother Natures engineering stood before us.

It was with no little sadness that an anti-climatic feeling was upon me after our guests had departed happily in spirit and in wine. The enticing crackle of the thick fire log merely enhanced the beauty of the room that evening. Our own wine glasses stood untouched as we headed hand in hand towards the focus of so much conversation in the curvature of the room. I sighed deeply as I realised that as good as it had looked hidden beneath those dusty oul barn sheets during our long weekend so many years since, it did not hold quite the allure that I felt for my wife. As the shadows of the open fire played devilishly upon the high ceilings of our once christian home, nothing could ever come close to being quite as perfect as the woman who stood before me. Happiness is not always at the expense of a gift secured for its long journey aboard many a foreign truck. Sometimes the object of a mans desire is right before his very eyes the whole time.

We retired as lovers by the fireside as we consumed the best part of our midnight dessert. A recipe of  such intimate and special ingredients, of which I am unable on this occasion to record.


Blessed Are Those Without Spirit

For breakfast this morning I had a smile nearly as wide as the centuries old catholic/protestant divide. There are few traits of social life in Northern Ireland more repulsive than religious tyranny. I refer not to the wrongs, real or imaginary, that engage our attention in ancient and modern Irish history. My visited tyrants are not those who have waded knee deep through fields of blood to Masonic thrones and grievously oppressed their brother men clad in Celtic green. I speak of the petty tyrants of the Belfast fireside and the social circle, who trample like very despots on the opinions of the average working men of a different faith. You meet people of this ilk everywhere. They stalk by your side in the streets, they seat themselves in the pleasant circle on the hearth casting a gloom on your forced sobriety and they start up dark and scowling in the midst of scenes of innocent mirth to chill and frown down every participator. They “pooh! pooh!” at every opinion advanced as they make the lives of their mothers, sisters, wives and children, unbearable. Beware then of the tyranny of the non-drinking men of Norn Irn.

A good, staid Glaswegian gentleman, when in company, is ever humble, yet the tyrant is never courteous to those who serve even the whitest black crows. Humility and gentility is neither in birth, wealth, or fashion, but in the mind. A high sense of honour, a steeled determination never to take a mean advantage of another, adherence to truth, delicacy and politeness towards those with whom we hold social intercourse, are the essential characteristics of a gentleman. Little attentions to your mother-in-law, your wife, and her pig ugly sister, will beget much love. The man who is a rude husband, son-in-law, and brother-in-law, cannot be a gentleman and will be lonely within the marital bed. He may ape the manners of one, but, wanting the refinement of heart that would make him courteous at home. His politeness is but a thin cloak to cover a rude, unpolished mind. So, with all this said, I decided to take the moral high ground and behaved impeccably during my time in the home of my beloved wife's family.

I did not once pee upon the toilet rug in anger or frustration, neither did I take umbrage at the way in which my offer of helping in the kitchen was so pointedly rebuked. I even pretended not to notice when my morning tea was served in a rather grand cup graced with a portrait of HRH herself.  I like to believe that I can hold my own in any circumstances, all be it outnumbered by a bunch of dim-witted Ulster men with an axe to grind against the Glesga man who turned their sisters head many years since. Tis the charm, you see... What better than to verbally beat the troglodyte's at their own favourite game... Each evening as they gathered to watch their nightly helping of mind numbingly boring soap operas, I began to quote continually from the Christian bible which had been placed so considerately at my side. Just like the Religiosaurus - they too verged on the veritable precipice of extinction once they were starved of their nightly sustenance. Piety is always a religion best served cold.


3lb vine-ripened tomatoes, diced to 1cm
1 red onion, finely chopped
1 clove of garlic, finely chopped
1 medium red bell pepper, de-seeded and chopped
2 pinches sea salt
4 pinches cayenne pepper
20ml white wine vinegar
1 tbsp brown sugar
400ml still spring water
50ml extra-virgin olive oil
2 basil leaves
1 pen
1 newspaper crossword
4 large glasses of red alter wine (don't let the priest see you steal it)

Mix all the ingredients and seasoning together in a large glass bowl. Swally down the first glass of wine. Cover with clingfilm and marinate for a minimum of one hour. Begin the crossword, sample the second glass of wine. Purée in a liquidiser for two minutes on full power. Strain through a fine sieve, add the third glass of red wine to the mix, taste and adjust the seasoning if necessary. Next,  3 down - a small crooner with a club foot from Limerick - 7 letters, begins with 'M'. Refrigerate until required. The mix NOT the crooner. Serve in a chilled bowl. Enjoy the fourth glass of wine, you have earned it. The success of this recipe is determined by the quality and ripeness of your vine ripened tomatoes; the amount of sugar required depends on the natural sweetness of your tomatoes. Choose carefully and for the love of all things biblical, do not refrigerate the toms prior to the preparation of this dish! For a suave garnish I would recommend chopped black olives, sliced hard-boiled eggs dressed with cracked black pepper and garlic croutons. For those out to impress, ciabatta bread with wee dods of fresh butter as an accompaniment. Finally, 17 across is incorrect. Think again.


Jimmy Con Carne

For breakfast this morning I was told we decided to visit Siobhan's family in Belfast for a few days. Sadly, this will mean that by Tuesday I shall probably have lost the will to live. I am a meat eater, I have contacts in the east end of Glasgow. I drink alcohol, I religiously follow Celtic fitba club, I drink alcohol and I have been known to scratch my man bits (discreetly) whenever the need arises. Oh, by the way, I drink alcohol.

In protestant Ballymena, all of the above are duly frowned upon. I am expecting some serious disdain as well as one or two awkward moments should my deeply superlative christian brother-in-laws decide to debate my three... least... favourite... things,

R*ngers FC (now happily deceased)
The Church of Ireland
The benefits of instant mash

As it looks as though I shall be enjoying some heat, all be it away from the sun, I thought I would leave you to try some of your own. Enjoy.

Chili Con Carne

2 large Spanish or Italian dry cured pork sausages
2 large Spanish onions finely chopped 
1 chopped green bell pepper
8 garlic cloves,
1 lb finely shredded sirloin steak 
1 jalapeño pepper, chopped
2 tablespoons chili powder
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 tablespoon ground cumin
3 tablespoons tomato paste
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 bay leaves 
2 glasses of Merlot or decent Sangria
2 pints of cold lager
tins peeled tomatoes, undrained and coarsely chopped
tins kidney beans, drained
Remove the casings from the sausages. Add sausage, onion, and the next 4 ingredients (onion through jalapeño) to pan; cook for 8 minutes or until the sausage and beef are browned, stirring to crumble.
Add chili powder and the next 7 ingredients (chili powder through bay leaves), and cook for 1 minute, stirring constantly. Drink the first cold lager. Stir in the wine, tomatoes, and kidney beans; bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer for 1 hour, stirring occasionally. Drink the second pint of lager. Uncover and cook for 30 minutes, again stirring occasionally. Discard the bay leaves. Sprinkle each serving with cheddar cheese. Like most chili's, this version tastes even better the next day. Save me some, reet?


The Holy Trinity

For breakfast this morning I spilt hot tea over my shoes and threw two fresh omelette's half way to the ceiling as I reacted to the sound of a refuse truck exploding on my driveway. Luckily it was still some way from the house when it went up, the cause still to be officially determined, but the fire brigade believe it to be a carelessly disposed butane gas cylinder hidden inside some thoughtless feckin eejits discarded deritus. The darkened stain on my gravelled entrance is removable, alas, the same cannot be said for the postman's shorts. It took a good few slugs of my blended whisky to calm his shattered nerves. It could have been a lot worse. Siobhan's first reaction was to offer him my single malt. A disaster and a divorce narrowly avoided.

In honour of my friends in Amerikay who are also currently living through difficult times in changed circumstances where good food is not yet readily available, I shall dedicate my version of quick and tasty chow to the cause. I hope it meets with the high USA burger standards.

The Holy Trinity

2 tablespoons finely chopped onion
2 tablespoons chili sauce
2 teaspoons Worcester sauce
2 teaspoons mild mustard
1 lb ground beef
4 slices Edam or cheddar cheese, halved diagonally
2 slices Swiss cheese, halved diagonally
4 burger buns, split and toasted
Lettuce leaves, sliced tomato and onion, ketchup and mustard
1/2 lb Piri Piri chicken pieces
4 rashers smoked back bacon
free range eggs

In a large bowl, combine the first four ingredients. Crumble beef over mixture and mix well. Shape into four patties. Grill, covered with a metal dish over a medium heat for 6 minutes on each side or until a meat thermometer reads 160° and juices run clear. Warm the piri piri chicken on a medium heat griddle. Throw on the rashers of bacon  for 2 minutes per side. During the last minute of cooking, top each patty with two triangles of Edam cheese and one triangle of Swiss cheese, add the chicken, bacon and a fried egg. Serve on buns with the lettuce, tomato, onion, bacon, ketchup and mustard if desired.



For breakfast this morning I prepared the perfect tea and toast served in bed, for my better half Siobhan. Piping hot green tea in a delicate porcelain cup and saucer, flavoured with a wee infusion of Chinese herbs is her favourite. The toast, brown and malty, has to be exactly one minute per slice in the toaster then cut into delicate triangles and free of butter or margarine. Her scrapings of choice included marmalade and lemon curd, but never together as that would be just plain wrong. It often amuses me in the way that my good lady eats her food. Refined manners and etiquette are never far away as she nibbles and sips almost birdlike at the child's portion I place in front of her. It is all to do, so I am constantly told, with dress sizes!

I have always liked the feeling of being well dressed myself. The special feel of an expensive silk shirt with a finely woven jaiket and a dapper long coat about me always gave me extra confidence whatever the occasion. Okay, maybe not during my 'collection years'. I had a lead pipe, a hard stare and a pair of meaty fists to give me confidence back in the day. Calvin Klein would have been just another overdue Jewish bookmaker to me. One more name to visit weekly in my little mnemonic notebook, scrawled in pencil and most probably badly misspelled. Things haven't changed that much!

No, perhaps a throw-back to my infant years when I spent the first 10 years of my life wearing Salvation Army seconds and my brothers brown shoes, polished in vinegar, to mass with the mammy on the Sabbath. It was hard to praise the lord when all I could smell was pickled onions and my belly rumbling louder than the priests wrath. I recall one particular Sunday when I was handed two left shoes in the rush to get out of the door and appease the black crows of the pulpits. I spent the entire morning turning left and walking in circles due to the pain across my toes.

However, disturbingly enough yesterday, I found myself lingering inside a rather well known designer men's outfitters in Glasgow with Siobhan, discussing which shoes would blend best with the leather finish of my belt and the hide finish of my wallet. It was half-way through such pretentious ponderings that I actually remembered that my feet are always most comfortable when they are squarely rooted upon the ground. I can't do pretentious. It doesn't suit me. I am at my happiest with a sausage roll and a mug of tea to hand, my trews tucked in my boots and a set of van keys in my pocket.

I will always be proud of my Irish parentage, my home city of Glasgow although it is far fae Monte Carlo with its designer couples, shiny Porsche's and sparkly lifestyle. I still have acquaintances who you definitely would not want to meet in well lit alleys, let alone dark ones. Needless to say I also have life-long friends who are law abiding and are always beyond reproach. I am what I am, and I enjoy a simple, but very happy existence in my own skin. So, what better way to endorse the simple most humble Scottish dessert dish of cranachan. You'll find nae luxury here, apart fae the taste. Enjoy...


125g porridge oats

250ml double or whipping cream

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 punnet of fresh raspberries

4 tablespoon single malt whisky

4 fresh mint leaves for garnish
Heat a large heavy based skillet/frying pan on the stove until hot. Add the oats and stirring constantly, toast the oats until they have a light, nutty smell and is just beginning to change colour. Do not leave unattended, the oatmeal can quickly burn. Remove the oats from the pan.
Keep a handful of the raspberries to one side, place the remaining raspberries into a food processor and whizz once or twice to create a thick purée, do not over blend it's fine if there are a few wee lumps of whole raspberry.
In a large bowl whisk the cream, vanilla extract and whisky to form firm peaks.
In either a glass trifle bowl, or individual serving glasses layer the dessert starting with cream, followed by raspberries, followed by oatmeal. You can either make small layers repeating several times or layer 1/3 of each to fill the bowl or glass. Always finish with a layer of cream and a light sprinkling of oatmeal.
Cover the bowl or glasses with plastic wrap and chill for a minimum of one hour or several if possible. To serve, drizzle over a little extra honey and add the mint leaves to the top.