Hasta la Vista Baby

For breakfast this morning I sat behind the wheel of my trusty van in the rain clutching a cardboard coffee cup and feeling a slow trickle of dirty water drip-drip-dripping into my sock. As I wiped the condensation from the windae I took in the depressing view around me. The tipping of rain drenched hats, sporadic as they glance in respect of the long since buried dead of their own. Nearby, at Langfaulds, still the flowers placed almost daily about the faither's grave. The significance of lapsed souls is not lost upon the priest as it was on those who stared fae sheltered doorways with betting slips still to hand as the procession wound its way through Hardgate towards the Milngavie Road. A twinge, a certain sadness, I felt not for the unknown deceased now prone in the black and glass carriage as it passes us by in all its mournful glory. I feel for the loss of a young generation who may never make it away fae these inner dwellings, the concrete schemes and the pish reeking stairwells of Clydebank in general. It is getting ever closer for my time to leave.

Here, behind the scenes, I am making preparation for my own journey. No, not imminent death you morbid bunch of reprobates, that's a long way off yet I hope. Besides, the money (the legal stash as well as my alleged 80s 'acquired' Security van proceeds) are long since written into my will, of which your names are no scribed for fear of my early termination by unknown hands. Oh aye, it happens, believe me. Many an oul fella has been laid to rest while his closest family are already on route to an exotic location to mourn by the side of the Mediterranean with a pina colada and a dusky wee beauty to wipe away the crocodile tears of loss. I often sit at the bar beside the little singing fella as he mentally measures me up for a pine box and takes a crafty swatch at the linings in my wallet.

Well see me? I'm staying one step ahead.

For years I have grafted in deep dirty holes and filthy cellars, building houses and homes for those in England and beyond who have had the advantage of wealth and means to retreat to a weekend abode of which they can frequent when the rat race becomes too much to take. Now it is my turn to sit back, relax with a long cool drink and perhaps tinker with my new sun deck on my latest acquired property.
Majorca has long since been a sanctuary of the mind to many a weary traveller looking for a certain two week period of relaxation and sunshine away fae the drab reality of life. The hardest part is always leaving it behind and returning to civilisation, taking up the shovel, standing behind the mixer and flinging cement and concrete to earn a crust. Well, for me, no more. This time my stay will be extended. No more vacation blues as you arrive at the airport only to see the latest incoming wearing exactly the same smile that you wore only a short fortnight before.

Yes, I shall miss my beloved Glesca a smidgen while I soak up the sun and dip my big toe or two into the Med. The freedom of air to my shorts will liven me up no end as I dream up witty lines to send to my wee gorgeous daisyfae. I shall look at the white band of skin on my wrist and grin as I realise that time is of no importance when you are away on your hols.  Oh aye, I'll be back, just no within a fortnight, so don't wait up. Here's a little taster of what I shall be preparing for masel while I am away. I would no want you wicked mob to starve, eh?

Prueba de Chorizo

1kg fresh, loose chorizo meat
1 large Spanish onion, finely diced
3 large potatoes, or equivalent number of smaller
4-6 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
Olive oil, salt, black pepper, sweet pimenton, fresh parsley

Scrub the tatties well, as  it is always best to cook them without peeling them. Once they’re perfectly clean on the outside, cut them into cubes of about 1-2cm and dry. In a heavy based pan, heat enough olive oil to cover the potatoes. If you have a frier, that would work even better. Obviously you can substitute the olive oil for any other type of frying oil, but it has to be said that the olive oil will give a better taste. Rather than using the highest quality extra virgin stuff, you can use a cheaper, lighter variety, either virgin, or just olive oil, as it’s technically referred to in Spain. If you can’t find either of these, you can mix the extra virgin stuff with a lighter oil of your choice, vegetable works well.
Once the oil is hot, add the diced potatoes and turn the heat down to a simmer. For the love of all things holy you don’t want to boil the potatoes in the oil, like you do when making a tortilla, but you don’t just want to sear them on the outside either – something in between works well.

While the spuds get going, pour a large slug of white wine and guzzle, add the loose chorizo meat to another saucepan and add just enough water to cover. Cook the meat in the water until it changes from a predominantly red colour to a brownish-grey. At this point, most of the water will have boiled off, but if there is any left, just discard. To the meat, add the chopped onion, garlic and a few good glugs of olive oil and fry the whole lot on a medium heat until you get a deep brown colour. Refill your glass, this recipe prepared in a hot kitchen will require a minimum of 3 bottles of wine consumed by the chef and his wife. At this point, the potatoes should be more or less done. Remove the heat, drain the oil and add them to the meat mixture. Add a handful of chopped parsley, a pinch of pimentón, a few teaspoons of fresh cream, a few generous turns of black pepper and salt to taste. Fry for a minute or so more and you’re done.

Enjoy, I shall bring you each back a sombrero and a wee stuffed burro for your sideboard.


Séimí Fergal Bradaigh

For breakfast this morning I took a roll and sausage with the eldest of the sons. He explained his anguish after a recent chance meeting in a bar with a young fella by the name of McDonough who had asked him the history of our own family name. The son was both saddened yet indignant as we sat and drank the breakfast tea as he began to tell me of the mans questions about me and the story of his own oul fella and his McDonough name. It stirred a momentary glow of bitter hatred within me, of which I have long since tried to put aside. I no longer look in the mirror and see a resentful man. These days I prefer peace to fragmented bone. But auld wounds still run as deep as the scars that forever line my face to remind me of what I once was. I reminded him of the blog entry below I revealed some years ago, of which some of you may remember.

McDonough was his name, but he also masqueraded under the name of Flanagan to be associated with the heroes of an earlier time. A big man he was, both in name and of stature. He had the most determined of walks, and would make a show of the defiance by way of his stride. No working man on the docks of Glasgow had time for Flanagan. Not even when he was in the company of money and the drink was about him. A protestant man he was, and loud with it, although his chest bore no symbols of Ulster or the red hand. When he took to striding down the dock at the back of two, many a man would tremble behind his piece and cheese and tremble the jar of the warm Barry tea.

“Move that feckin jay-ket, can you’se no see that ah’m an important man in need of a seat?” he would cry.

If the owner of the coat was slow to move, Flanagan would reach down and toss it into the waters murky depths out of sheer spite.

“You’ll no need to be telt the twice again!” he would proclaim to all those before him.

Many eyes would flash with the anger of it all, but Flanagan was a union man and no to be crossed by those who relied on the Friday shilling to keep their families warm. It was the Saturday after the funeral of the first born son, which saw my faither sitting alone on the bitterly cold dock with his auld mash of tea by his side. A small space had been cleared by the men, who although they could not utter the soft words of comfort to a bereaved man of Glasgow, could muster a show of respect by leaving him be. It was then that Flanagan chose to make his imposing entrance. He stood in front of the faither and pointed at the small brown keepsake of a shoe fae the boy who had been lost to the terrible cough. It was his only remembrance of such a wee life taken so young.

“Move that, or fish it back oot” came Flanagan’s harrying cry. “Whit is it, a wee dolly shoe eh?” said the man who had little thought for anyone but his self.

The faither rose, the great bull of a man that he was, the look of the divil came about his face as he stood square before him, a great blackness reaching out fae his eyes as he gripped the protestant man firmly by his coat.

“I pity you Flanagan” said the faither. "The very inside of you is cold, and you will never feel the love or the warmth of childer. My first born is only just laid to rest, and yet the love he leaves inside of my soul will always stay with me. You have no one, and will always remain an empty shell of a man to the end. Turn away and be gone, take this heed and wear it well, for I cannae guarantee what the rage will do to a dog such as you.”

But McDonough who was also Flanagan, did not heed the warning of my faither and was brutally pitched over the side by the very same men who could no find the words for a bereaved man of the docks. Let no talk of religion, nor the softness of words stand between men born of poverty and Glasgow’s proud men of the shipyards. No a word was said between the two for more than the passing of ten years, until the morning Flanagan was cold and present at his own wake. It was a sparse congregation that stood and watched my faither enter the protestant kirk and approach the man who could find no happiness even under two names.

“Now I can finally forgive you” said the faither, as he placed a blackened and torn welder’s glove atop the casket lid. “Now you fully understand the pain of loss, but sadly it is your own. Pray that no man will ever ask you to move this glove.”

His words were vague to those few who stood before the casket, but some eyes smiled. There were those in attendance who remembered back to that bitterly cold day on the dock.

No recipes this day from masel. Instead, I journey spiritually to the place where my oul fella now lays. I like to believe that he made me and the sons the men we are this day. For you da, the very words you used to sing when we were all feart back when men died of the poverty, drink and the blackness of their own sin.

Dreaming in the night,
I saw a land where no-one had to fight,
Waking in your dawn,
I saw you crying in the morning light,
sleeping where the falcons fly,
They twist and turn all in your air-blue sky,
Living on your western shore,
Saw summer sunsets, I asked for more,
I stood by your Atlantic sea,
And I sang a song for Ireland