Tuesday

Much Ado About Nothing



At best, it can most probably be accurately described as one of those more avoidable moments where politeness and etiquette collide with the same startling 'wump' of an English woman's backside connecting with a smooth wooden chair. Much ado about nothing really. Of course, the incessant, clackety-clack clackety-clack, of his somewhat garish supermarket brogues, as he tapped out what one can only imagine was some sort of nonsensical, if not downright preposterous, eastern-bloc melody, began to annoy long before the 10:15 from Manchester rounded the bend at Carlisle. Steaming merrily away from the delirium of such a vibrant city at a fair rate of knots, the journey up until that point had been good natured and quiet. The door opened abruptly. He reached into his musty tracksuit pocket and deposited the contents onto the carriage floor in front of us with a Lemony-Snicket sneer. I counted twenty-three salt sachets, two of which had been opened, an old Renault car key, chiselled and worn at the nub. A grizzled chunk of Hungarian salami, the inexpensive kind that contains the husks of cracked black pepper, bread crumbs and insidious lumps of bold gristle. A large serrated edge bread knife and something that looked like it had fallen from an ill dogs nose. Siobhan gripped my hand tightly, more out of displeasure than of fear. The quite unmistakable stench of three-day old garlic and urine assaulted my senses as he shifted his weight in order to excavate his other track-suited bottom pockets. An indolent, pimple faced youth seated nearby, pale of face, scrawny of build, most certainly art studenty of nature, sniffed loudly with disdain. His Adam's apple bobbing furiously in mechanical angst. The rotund lady from Enniskillen sitting opposite, the only character in the carriage without those white musical thingies stuffed in her ears, leaned forward, pointed at the mess on the carpeted floor and waited for a response. It came without warning. A large globule of silvery flecked saliva, twisting, changing its spherical shape several times en route, before exploding into a visceral multi-patterned spatter on the rather inviting looking herringbone pattern of her jacket. A veritable rainbow offering of disease cascaded in tiny drips, encapsulating perfectly her clasped hands brooch and all that is wrong with the current influx of steadily arriving detritus, adding hourly to the current displeasurable quagmire at every port.

In battle, the immediate scacchic surroundings are chloroformed into a cyclonic whoosh of testosterone and supplementary pain, both given and received, not forgetting an oozing blast of intoxicating adrenaline that beguiles those nearest to the windmill of body parts whirling ferociously at all and sundry if interrupted. Our track-suited friend soon found himself laying face down on the floor, the rather angry, spat-upon lady now positioning his arm, severely bent, in a seemingly rakish angle. Her very Irish eyes were noticeably not smiling at the time. The pimpled student, arisen and eager to act, his size three foot firmly positioned in an area close to the groin. The spitter, his eyes, by this point bulging and without question registering shock, disillusionment and what must have been a considerable amount of pain. My head turned slightly between the upturned beer can that dripped its contents from his jacket pocket and his apparent lack of winter socks in such inclement weather. Three rows along, a small man, receding hairline, with a Peter Stuyvesant umbrella, carrying a largish parcel bound up in old fashioned brown paper and string, notably blanched at the activity most uncommon in a first class carriage. His portly companion bravely ducked his head back into the large pages of his upside down newspaper and found a vivid interest in the nonsensical crossword he had previously completed. It was left to me to assist my fellow passengers and free them from the troublesome bother of dealing with the now loudly profane assailant heaped somewhat unceremoniously on the floor. Keeping in mind that my attire was more appropriate for our evenings attendance at the opera of course. One does not purposely stride forth with the shit on the shoe of life in plain view for all to observe. Further up the British Rail procession, the driver, a collector of picture postcards and small wooden toys, slowed the train by a deft instep on the brake pedal and the engine began to wind down as it made its way into the intermittent concrete banking of the approaching station ahead.

As we alighted at the small village of nondescriptville, a middle-aged man, notably with an unmistakable penchant for caravan holidays and a garden shed full of daffodil bulbs, made a fuss about the possibility of an elongated delay to his onward journey to Edinburgh. His rather comical middle England accent saw much derision ensue from the semblance of passengers now grouped somewhat animated in the rain. Overhead, grey clouds of puffy cotton wool began to weep as if in in sympathy for the restrained 'spitter' with the supermarket shoes. A somewhat non scholastic peeler made his way to the noisy stramash now spilling out onto the damp asphalt and immediately began to assert his full 5ft 6"of authority. Along the platform I heard the distinguishable pitter patter of the rain as it fell softly upon the receding man and his stringed brown paper parcel. Camera phones containing irrefutable moments of vilipend footage of the spitting man's beleaguered journey through sedate second class carriages were now proffered in evidence to the ruddy cheeked enforcer as his initial thoughts threatened to stall due to the momentum of the crowd now bunched before him. As usual, his glassy eyes fell upon my not insubstantial features. Cogs stuttered, unique metal pins fell slowly into place as he took in my broken nose and overheard my Glasgow accent. Like cheap plastic leaping frogs in a 70s board game, he jumped unquestionably backwards towards a conclusion. His gnarled hand hesitated between his pepper spray and his constantly squawking radio latched by Velcro to his body armour. It was at that precise moment that my phone pinged with a message wishing me a very Happy New Year, wherever I was. Further up the platform, the brown paper parcel had finally split to reveal a large haunch of unsalted fresh gammon. I heard the station masters black Labrador whimper in barely concealed excitement.

Happy Hogmanay, to each and all....

55 comments:

  1. Sending a Happy New Year, complete with heartfelt hug, to you and yours!

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    1. Accepted dear lady, with thanks, and sending ours by way of return.

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  2. What a nice surprise. A story with a happy ending! I love that sort of romance.
    A Guid New Year to you and Siobhan!

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    1. May the coal in your hand always be black, my dear fellow. Romance without spittle is slightly akin to meat without a pie.

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  3. And to you and Siobhan, Chef. 2014 slipped peacefully and quietly through my doors and windows, very quickly engulfing my whole cabin inside and out; quite a few hours before it reach you way up there!

    I sit here still waiting for that tall, dark handsome stranger to come a-knocking on my door...but I think he either lost my address or by-passed me and knocked on the neighbours' door across the way. How silly! Oh! Well! There's always next year. Did I say that? We're only just over half way through the first day of this year! Well, down here in the land Down Under we are!

    Your wonderful tale is why I live such a reclusive lifestyle..by personal choice...I never use public transport or amenities. Now I'm going to raid my fridge...and slice a few more slices off the leg of ham that sits therein.

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    1. There is no outright owner of the Mona Lisa either my dear. Sometimes beauty and presence is far too precious for only one person to have and to hold. Reclusive lifestyles are very close to my own heart these days. Our slice of Scotland nestles quietly outside of the big city behind private stone walls of history and hedges, a lush Celtic green.

      Enjoy your feast Lee, food is indeed one of life's biggest pleasures.

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  4. First Foot my best friend. ;-)

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    1. First foot indeed my wee singing pal, tis the head I have about me this day.

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    2. How be the heid now sham? I'm having my Jameson hot tonight, feckin' too many late nights drinkin' out of damp glasses!

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    3. Damp glasses indeed, try sleeping at home rather than in the park on the grass for a change, eh?

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  5. And a Happy New Year to you and your family, dear Chef. Good for Irish Eyes taking it upon herself to give that fella what for. If it were me in the same situation, I am thinking my knuckles may have connected with his nose.

    That ham looks delicious! I like to coat the scored fat with a glaze of brown sugar, mustard powder, ground cloves and vinegar. It adds a lovely nuance of flavours to the outer layer of crispiness.

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    1. It all happened so fast Pony, my dear. Although quite violent in its eruption, quite refreshing to see that good people are about and refuse to stand for any nonsense.

      A glaze of brown sugar is perfection itself, however do try fresh honey and the use of a catering blowtorch. I use sea salt, honey, English mustard and finally a dash of French mustard to finish off!

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  6. Lots to say, but the photo at the top of the post is killing me. There's a joint in New Orleans called Mother's that serves a side dish for breakfast called black ham or something like that. It's the shaved trimmings from delicious baked ham, just the trimmings. I want to have it's baby, it's so good.

    They also do another side dish called debris, which is the dripping or trimming from a pot roast in gravy. If you order both with the same meal, you might see heaven.

    What did I see? Where have I been? Yup.

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    1. You have me salivating again sir! Nothing says New Year quite like a good piece of succulent ham.

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    2. Mother's black ham! "Debris" is what they call the shavings... oh, lord, i need a road trip... that photo does invoke serious ham lust!

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  7. Happy New Year, m'dear!
    I just wish I hadn't read this whilst eating my lunch.
    Sxxxxx

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    1. You have been missed Ms Scarlet, the thought of you cooking for another man still smarts at my eyes, but brings great pangs of relief to my belly.

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  8. See, this is what happens when you travel by train in this country. Nice montage of desciptions all mixed in like the sultanas on a cake. One important question that I need to know the answer to. How did you know the train driver collected toys?

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    1. Elementary, my dear Anthony. He had a catalogue of toy fair dates in his sandwich bag atop the drivers cupboard.

      Travelling by train never ceases to amaze...

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  9. The wolf and the lamb shall feed together, and the lion shall eat straw like the bullock: and dust the serpent's meat. They shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain, saith the LORD.

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    1. Perfectly put my dear fellow, whatever it was that you said.

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  10. Once again, i'm smitten to distraction with your lush description of the sheer romance of train travel... i cannot wait to put on my finest carriage boots, and a proper hat (the one i purchased from the haberdasher for the royal ascot in 1997), and alight on a journey full of intrigue and adventure!

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    1. The wearing of a hat is essential when taking in the countryside by steam train, it would seem. So many things to pick during water stops in quaint meadows, so many white picket fences at country stations and fair haired maidens dressed in denim offering buttermilk and fruit.

      Intrigue and adventure stops, as does the toilet facilities during station stops, but soon picks up again when the buffet car opens for refreshments amongst those who take great delight in spilling wine and slopping peas from the shiny metal forks on display.

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    2. Oh, the buffet car! No stale sandwiches, oozing ptomaine-salad against cheap plastic wrap, of course! Fine linens on the tables! Real china plates, handled by white-gloved porters! Can't wait!

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  11. Duntocher Brian8:25 p.m. GMT+5

    An interesting evening in your old haunts, but I'm sure you have already been informed of the dramas involving drink. Happy Hogmanay biggun.

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    1. Word has reached me of the rather boisterous activities that took place in Duntochers loneliest pub.

      We shall speak no more of it here.

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  12. Tony's mention of sultanas and cake immediately brought to mind my grandmother's spice cake... I may need to do some baking again soon. It would be a splendid finish to a ham dinner.

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    1. Anthony indeed makes a splendidly plump sultana and rum cake, my dear. However, he may well have competition if one is to add delicious and aromatic spices to the mix.

      Over to you Anthony.

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    2. Hi Ponita, spice cake is a favourite of mine. I would be interested in hearing about your grandmothers recipe. I make mine using fresh grated ginger, dark rum and plump cherries amongst other dried fruits.

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    3. Tony, this cake uses nutmeg, cinnamon and allspice. It contains nuts and raisins, but I am sure you could put whatever fruit you like in it. It has the consistency of a regular layer cake, not a fruit cake of the Christmas variety (of which I have a studendous recipe ~ dark, rich, moist, laden with nuts and fruit, ridiculously expensive to make, and drizzled with dark rum for weeks ahead of the holiday). The spice cake is two layers and is iced with a coffee buttercream. There is no rum in this one. But it is delicious and harkens back to my childhood, as it was my father's favourite.

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  13. In this day and age it is galling to find that semi-intelligent people actually believe that they have a God given right to make available racist remarks at the expense of others. Great Britain, England in particular was formed upon the compromise of many other nations. Why stir up more hatred with snide insidious remarks about the Romanian people and their right to enhance theirs and our cultures?

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    1. Sir/Madam, only a semi-intelligent fool would read the wrong meaning into words that clearly do not exist. If you are intimating otherwise and hoping that I will reciprocate so that a pointless, venomous dialogue may then commence, you are to be disappointed. I shall have my say, you will digest and either come back with a sensible apology, or you will merely run along. I am open equally to both options.

      However, to clarify, should any provable 'God', have any given rights, I doubt very much as to the credibility of support after the infamous empire created by the 'British', was destroyed, especially as their optimum desire was to 'rule' other, weaker nations.

      Moving on to the mere mention of immigrants in other countries, it may well have escaped your notice, should this be the first time that you have stumbled through the doorway here. My place of birth was the Republic of Ireland, my family immigrated to Scotland, where we settled to our hearts content. To add to your confusion over my views on immigrants and immigration, I recently made my second home in the country of Spain. Yes, my friend, another bout of immigration on my part. Kind of blows your limp theory out of the window somewhat, eh?

      It has nearly been a pleasure to enlighten you on the facts.

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  14. Which other arriving detritus at the ports did you mean then? You have been reported to Blogger.

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    1. Pure poppycock if ever I heard it. Great clamouring malignment sir. I do believe it was you who first deemed fit to mention a particular nation, not I. Your traducement is deliciously laughable. Your idea of a hatchet job and mine are two very different things indeed. Report all you like sir, you are quite clearly a buffoon. Or, as they say in Romania, 'băiat prost'.

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    2. You must be the one remaining Tory voting prick still left in the country who cannae see that England is overrun with scumbags itching to turn our nation into a shithole. Take them over to your house, let them breed for a while and see if your opinion changes then you daft bat.

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  15. I have also reported you JB for insulting my cake making abilities in regard to the plumpness of my sultanas. They were in fact currants.

    And as for you Mr Anonymous, you are as they say in Corby, a tube. Get a life.

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    1. If I am honest, the rumour gathering momentum in middle England, is that they were not currants, sultanas or raisins at all. I did however hear mention of mouse droppings...

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  16. Helen Devries12:09 a.m. GMT+5

    I think Anonymous has the wrong end of the stick...the undesirables arriving at U.K. ports are the rich French currently infesting South Kensington.
    He may report me to Blogger at his leisure. I post on Wordpress.

    Alas, train travel here does not match up to the splendours of the home islands....all that happens is that those strolling along the tracks with things screwed into their ears are run down by the trains with the slowest speeds and loudest hooters it has ever been my pleasure to encounter.
    And I speak as one who experienced Belgian stopping trains with wooden seats.

    A grand New Year to you and all those you hold dear.

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    1. Ah Helen, Kensington will soon retaliate by insisting that the Mercedes dealerships sell exclusively to the Arab nation, of which not only own France, but also Switzerland, Italy, parts of Spain, but obviously not Belgium. No one is that desperate.

      Slatted wooden seats fitted to trains are a memorable experience to those of us young enough to remember them. Gone are the days when pride in manufacture came before the cheapness of tacky velour. Damn them!!

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  17. Happy new year cheffie, lets hope that its gonna be a better one that the last bugger. Nice new pic by the way, although it doesnt do you justice in the height departnment.

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    1. It's not the might of the height my friend, it's merely the sharpness of ones best writing pencil. Let us see how long the Mags can stay up this year.

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  18. Happy New Year to you, your loved ones and everybody else! I hope it brings you good health, good love and good blogging! What a beautiful story (and what a mouthwatering ham!). ;)

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    1. I am aware that my ugliness is regarded as beauty by some ladies out there who appreciate a bit of rough, but calling me a 'mouthwatering ham'?

      Well I never...

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    2. Please, take it as a compliment, dear sir... ;)

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    3. I'll take it any way I can get it dear lady...

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    4. That's what I heard..... :)

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  19. Happy Hogmanay to you, your family and everybody else too!
    Nice change of header, btw. I see pretty (Scottish?Irish?) girls dancing, strange guys playing guitar, another strange man playing violin, 4 waiters, people having ... ice creams? That's a bit intriguing. What happened to the man in grey? ;)

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    1. Very cleverly worked into the painting is a whole host of extremely important people in Irish history. To anyone in the know, the painting depicts a traditional hooley, thus meaning as a whole, each individual makes for a very interesting picture.

      Notice how the childer are grimacing rather than grinning at visiting Disneyland? Outside of the USA, Disneyland is regarded as cheese heaven. Sorry if I offend some, just telling it how it is. The little girl with the mouse ears is the catalyst. Look hard and you will also see James Joyce, Brendan Behan alongside Martin Stewart and Luke Kelly. In the background are more contemporary figures: Bono, the horrible little bollix, his wife and The Edge. The fingers pointed in the shape of a gun is a little more than just symbolic. The chef, well let's just say that in very different circles a chef is also known for other 'professional' services.

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    2. Oh dear, it's true! Your dear friend Mr. Little Singin' Fella rubbing shoulders avec la crème de la crème!

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    3. If you can spot him with your first guess I shall offer up a wee surprise as a reward and post it this very day.

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    4. Hahaha... I spotted meself right off! Fecker!

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    5. (I don't think yer allowed that stuff in the post!) :)

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    6. There you are son, as bold as brass in the company of giants.

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  20. Happy next trip around the sun to you and yours Chef.

    I hope somewhere in the next year you surprise yourself.

    No witticisms, Sir. You know what I mean.

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    1. Eileen, every day I see the sun rise high in the sky it is a surprise to me hen. My time should have come over twenty years ago.

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Thank you, the chef is currently preparing an answer for you in the kitchen. Do help yourself to more bread.