French Film Noir? French Film Non!

It's impossible for me not to despise the figure of Jean-Paul. Lank of hair, hispid, pouty and distinctly waspish in appearance, an odious character in both shadow of night and light of day. He is arguably the quintessential unintelligent, not to mention foolish, foppish ox in a very crowded French field. His mistress, Veronique, doesn't fare much better. You would think that one's sympathies would have to be with the thoroughly miserable Beatrice, the uglier of the seemingly constant chain-smoking siblings, but no. Not in this case. Portrayed by yet another one-dimensional unknown actress, possibly Belgian, Beatrice was listless, flat, and so vacuous that you really cannot blame Jean-Paul for looking for action elsewhere. Veronique, who self-medicates with heroin, unfulfilling sex, and by repeatedly slamming her hand in a kitchen drawer, has a strange affixiation for clipping her toenails for a combined period of forty three minutes during the first 2.5 hours of the film. That was pretty much it when it came to the action sequences. You know those cramps you get if you eat undercooked chicken wings at your pals barbecue? Like an endless twisting pain as though the diarrhoea you're moments away from experiencing decided to have a knife fight with your ever expanding colon? Then welcome to French film noir.

The plot? I have no idea. I would much rather have spent another wet Wednesday evening in the rank-smelling city of Edinburgh, listening to Siobhan's other passion of indulging laborious ephemeromorph student artistes, fresh off the coach from yet another impoverished third world city (Brussels?) reading dreadful poetry from assorted crinkled cardboard shittery held aloft on cue cards for the serial unintelligent. Last month's dreadful subject matter included claims that the once prestigious University of Cambridge now debate such topics as how to make dead dish shine, how to speak calmly when encountering demons deep within a Welsh coal mine, and whether American sperm are actually fully formed small humans that expand like a child's bath sponge on contact with the innermost workings of a female. Unigravida, uterus's, undeniably utterly unmentionable I say. I'll end there. What goes on inside a lady should never have to enter into the sensitive minds of the more sociable members of the human race. Men.

Admittedly I spent a good 15 minutes reading the back of my orange juice carton by the light of my cell phone. Something may just have happened that I neglected to recall. But I doubt it. Just when the bulk of the film appears that it cannot possibly sink any lower into an ominous gloom, which consisted mainly of Veronique, Jean-Paul and Beatrice moping, clipping toenails and many precious interludes of supposedly sensual smoking, along comes cousin Yvette, a serial moper of course, and the crying really begins. And that was just me.  When people say that they cannot abide foreign cinema nights, this is exactly the sort of film that they are thinking of. And, in this case at least, their sentiments are more than justified. I went, I saw, I slept. My husbandly duties complete for another mid week rectalgia 'date night', we left early and ate steak. No french dressing was required. Next week I get to choose the venue. I'm thinking an evening of culture, artistic movements, a deep psychological delve into two men and their innermost abilities. So boxing it is then.

Chefs Steak Dinner

1 large, thick T bone steak cut directly from a succulent premier Scottish bovine.

Rub steak with fresh garlic, oregano and a dusting of white pepper. Throw on a wood-smoke griddle or an open flame for no more than 3 minutes per side. Serve with thick cut potato wedges, crispy salad and at least 3 bottles of a good Italian red wine, plus an even dozen bottles of chilled lager. Always best served with friends of course.


The Dilemma


I understood perfectly his dilemma. To the left, the carriage was empty apart from me and the jaded looking drunk slumped in the corner attempting to pee discreetly into an empty soft drink can. It would have to be an educated guess, but I imagine it was a diet Coca Cola. Even the great unwashed in Glasgow are health conscious these days it would seem. Stopping only to collect the filter tipped and menthol of discarded cigarette ends from the gutters, they ply their lucrative trade of begging mainly outside of health clubs and tofu bars to ensure the best return for their day's extensive labours. To the right, my eyes never left another fellow traveller as he reached the climax of the intrusive exploratory excavation of his nostril, reached gingerly into his briefcase and extracted the familiar embossed oblong leaflet introducing the sacred word of Jehovah. For it is written, thou shalt not go any longer than one hour without making a thinking persons life a misery with their illustrated piffle. I looked neither left, nor right as he stood to make his first approach with a somewhat nervous tic above his eye. Before he had made it as far as aisle 2 of the quiet carriage, a great exuberance of confidence had manifested itself upon his clean shaven face. Whatever recent substance he had so enthusiastically removed from his beak had not been his religious zeal. The creases dropped out of the clean, but too-short trouser legs, his mismatched tie swung like an enthusiastic American at a Billy Joel concert. For a fleeting moment, whilst making his final approach, he perfected the outstretching of the arm, the clearing of the throat, even the nervous grin fluctuated only slightly before popping into the biggest coprophagous grin this side of the White House. In my lowest of low growls and without the slightest betrayal of annoyance, I uttered the single commanding word of "stop". The moment was fraught for a tense few seconds as the guttural account of my vocal challenge hung in the air before it began to sink in. And then, as if Ghod himself had overseen the protection of his representative and intervened on his behalf, a small, calm, seasoned voice from the opposite corner of the carriage piped up just long enough to say: "I cannae stop now son, I'm already halfway to the top of the can." The mood was broken, the pish continued, I accepted the leaflet, while my fellow biblical traveller used the small break in the tension and resumed his erstwhile position with middle digit once more firmly ensconced up his hooter.


It was with a certain reluctance that I swept the unsuspecting fellow from his favourite place amongst my elegant ladies. For once, it had taken slightly more than a moment of dutch courage. With a last arrogant squawk he rebuked me vociferously as only the venom of a snoozing male will allow. He fought bravely, but it was to no avail. Once hooded and shackled with my best garden string, I marched him off in the early evening gloom to where my awaiting vehicle sat with its engine purring, lights off, eagerly awaiting my command to ease itself from the gravelled driveway and make its silent escape. We drove for a good ten miles in silence before we reached the previously arranged location in which we would execute our final plan in regard to our impotent friend. Siobhan glanced sideways at me under the stilted glow of the dashboard lights. I felt her hand caress mine to relieve the awful tension that ensued. After ensuring that we were far enough into the woods and away from any possible unwelcome interruptions, we stopped. Taking out a former favourite business tool from its silk lined jacket pocket, I ran the sharp blade against my finger to test its mettle. With a swift upward thrust of the blade I dispatched the terse string that bound our captive to the tether. With the hood fully removed he gave me one last vehement stare and ran into the woods. I looked across at Siobhan, she smiled, 'it had to be done, it's for the best'. We drove back in silence. It wasn't the first time I had taken a former pal out into the woods for a one-way midnight stroll. But this time it had been personal. My fresh egg dependency had come to a head. Mr. Rooster could no longer perform. My ladies were seemingly verging on mutiny. At the poultry market that morning I was unable to raise my head due to the shame of my limp cock. Fare thee well my old rooster friend, enjoy your freedom, the new virile replacement arrives on the morrow. My ladies await.

Divine Scottish Omelette's

300g smoked haddock
2 bay leaves
10 peppercorns
fresh full fat milk for poaching
8 tablespoons crème fraîche
2 lemons, zest only
225g freshly grated Parmesan cheese
large bunch of fresh chives, finely chopped
black pepper
9 large free-range eggs
Kerry butter for frying

Place the smoked haddock into a large skillet or wok that has a lid. Pour in some milk. Add the bay leaves and peppercorns. Gently poach, as if your very life depended on it, over a low heat for 10-12 minutes before setting aside to cool. Whilst the fish is poaching, mix the crème fraîche with the lemon zest, grated Parmesan and most of the chives. Season to taste with freshly cracked pepper. No salt for the love of all things smokey, the fish has plenty in it already. Heat the butter in a large ovenproof pan over a low heat, pour in the eggs, stirring lightly as if you were preparing the food in a loved ones dream. Flake the haddock, removing any skin or bones while the eggs are perfecting. When the eggs are still slightly runny on top, but have started to set, spoon over the crème fraîche before scattering the flaked fish on top. Cook for a further 5 minutes until nicely brown. Add lemon slices and the remainder of the chives before serving. Delicious with a single helping of rocket or any peppery salad.


You Can All Go To Hell

... for the meagre sum of only €4.99. Of course, that is, once you have queued for the obligatory two hours in the hunt for the illusive all day parking space at the shopping mall that clearly doesn't exist. Only row after row of spotty faced young men in fluorescent tabards, busily connecting to the book of faces whilst directing your pride and joy into a space not large enough to park a bicycle. Gone are the days when, wrapped up in a warm winter woolie and a ridiculous hat, you would shuffle along the icy pavements, one hand secured to your nearest in height sibling, the other wiping the constantly running emunctions onto your charity shop mitten. It was always just the one mitten. They were shared out amongst the eleven of us and we were advised to keep one hand in our trouser pockets. The oul fella was very good at solving mathematical equations when he was down to his last shilling. We would stand outside of the bakers window and watch his festive display of a brightly coloured mechanical Santa rubbing his threadbare belly and patting his hardworking dwarf's on the head. We would laugh and watch until our cheeks became as red as wee Santa and the baker would bring out warm biscuits for us to munch upon. The oul fella would take a cheeky wee nip with him and we would move on to the next window and do the same thing all the way along the street. All gone now. Now we have anonymous malls. Once inside the magnificent glass edifice of Braehead, no wait, I'm getting confused with the Audi garage along the way a bit. Once inside the not so magnificent edifice of Braehead shopping centre, you can marvel at the lack of Christmas festivities taking place. The long faces of shopkeepers as they dust off the same tired old tinsel and red cracked baubles as they lament the quickening march of internet shopping. Everywhere, delightfully filipendulous Chinese manufactured elfin, dancing to the beat of the humming from ancient air conditioning. Small pockets of unlicensed traders, busily hawking genuine Scottish shortbread in hushed tones, of which was not surprisingly made in an industrial kitchen somewhere near Chechnya. And then, there it was. Tired, still dusty, probably rescued from broken excess stock from the busiest outlet of them all, the latest delightful addition at 'The Pound Shop.' I was delighted to see that the price of going to hell in a wooden, Christmas related, bespangled Taiwanese handcart, was again on offer this year for under a fiver. Bob Cratchit and tiny Tim will be turning in their grave.

This year I have been besieged with requests for playing the part of Mr Claus at my own company celebrations. It is the one time of year when my particular wheels of industry are allowed to grind to a halt and we lay on a bash for those good enough to tolerate my ill humour, lack of tanquam and a general desire to see everyone ombrophilous in their work throughout the rest of the year. What type of sadists lurk under my employ if they wish to unleash a battle-scarred, whisky-breathed pug such as me upon their offspring? Can you imagine the nightmares, the bed-wetting and the mental repugnance that this will inevitably lead to after the event? The weeping and the caterwauling will continue long after lights out on Christmas eve. And then there's the children. I can only think it is a ploy and that the kids will be too frightened to step out of line and mess with the whole good behaviour routine as the build up to Christmas begins. "Behave yourself now, otherwise the Frankenstein Santa will bite off your head and eat your brains when you meet him at uncle Jimmy's Christmas do." At one point last year we did think of asking a short acquaintance of mine to play the part of Mr Claus, especially as he frequents a Peter Pan-esque reality on a regular basis. The only problem was that the kids would be getting confused when they were asked to name the other most famous of dwarf's. Most got the Sleepy, Grumpy, Dopey and Bashful characters, but they were pretty stumped when it came to recalling 'Drunky'. Me personally, I think I have been asked to play the role since my return from the time in the sun. I appear to have developed the slight beginnings of a belly. Don't blame it on the sunshine, don't blame it on the cocktails, don't blame it on the good times, blame it on the barbecued goodies.

I am soon to depart to deepest darkest England to patch up the rift between me and a rather pretty wee train traveller with a somewhat 80's tattooed face. I hope she likes flowers. I was thinking perhaps along the lines of self-raising. Strangely enough, I miss her.

Chefs Luxury Saturday Toast

I large fresh egg
1 egg white
1 tsp brown sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
3 slices whole grain bread
1/2 cup fresh strawberries, blueberries, bananas or raspberries
2 tsp of golden syrup

Heat a skillet, crack the egg and egg white into a porcelain bowl. Add the sugar and cinnamon and beat until well mixed. Pour a generous glass of single malt, tilt head and pour slowly down throat until a certain glow appears in your cheeks. Dip the bread into the egg mixture before placing into skillet for 3 minutes on each side. Remove bread and dress with the fresh fruit and drizzle lightly with the syrup. For those of Scottish descent, eat while still warm, alongside a cup or three of decent whisky laden tea to accompany the first and most important meal of the day.


Xanthippe and its Quasi, Quintessential, Consequential Delights

Always a trifle disconcerting when a precious memory comes at you when you are unprepared. Granted,  it's not quite as disconcerting as when the wonky Scarlet one comes at you, naked, valgus, slathering and me, totally unprepared of course. Tantamount to terebration. Nothing in life can prepare you for that particular dark night of horror. I digress. Returning to the house you grew up in only to find that is in the process of being demolished. A brief glimpse of forgotten, long covered over,  yet very familiar faded wallpaper hanging forlornly on brickwork that was once your parents bedroom wall. It was a strange experience standing in the rain, watching, half hoping, expecting my oul fella to come around the corner of the broken stairway in his thick woollen overcoat with a cup of tea for the mammy. He would trudge in from his work of a night, regardless of what his day had brought to him, be it good or nae, he would fetch the woman her cup of tea. The oul fella was a brawler in his day, that much is true, but he loved and doted on his good lady and we loved him even more for that. Mind you, she would be none too pleased now to see coarse looking workmen with bushy moustaches and mucky boots in what was once her parlour with its fine china cups and all. Oh how she loved those cups. Hated moustaches though. Hated them...

I have received numerous official letters from the Post Office, which was quite a result considering the following, informing me that they are unable to deliver any future mail due to the fact that we appear not to have a visible mailbox attached to either the gate, wall or suitable adjacent protrusions to the property. Their words, not mine. It seems that a backlog of mail has built up at the local office and because they can never get a response from the intercom on the gates they have been unable to proceed with the direction of Her Majesty's insistence that the carriage of mail must be delivered if it has been affixed with an official stamp. 'It is hereby recommended that you put forward a remedy to ensure that the current delivery system is improved forthwith before a handling/storage fee is produced.'
Which is all very well and proper in an intimidatory type of way, but considering that it was addressed to a Mr McBillicoddle, a mysterious gentleman who according to the address on the envelope lives in the next village and to the best of my knowledge, not at my actual address. I also pointed out in a rather eloquent way, that herself down there in the palace of Buckingham is the queen of England, not Scotland. Let's not point out the technicalities, feazings and politics involved here, why spoil a good yarn?  Of course, I have had to return the letters to the Post Office myself. Well, I didn't want them getting mislaid, eh?

It is not often that I am sent to the supermarket to get food messages for our household. Something to do with the flamboyant purchase of a Christmas goose back in 1983 if memory serves. I somehow managed to lose three days of memory, the little singing fella and one brown leather brogue. I was heartbroken to lose such an expensive companion. Good shoes are hard to find. Not to mention the contents of my stomach when I got peckish in the gutter, where I wound up rather merrier than what was intended and took a bite of raw goose. However, on this occasion I was dispatched to the supermarket specifically to purchase a suitable margarine to accompany my wife's penchant for small sheets of carpet underlay mistakenly labelled as dietary crisp-breads. Siobhan, waylaid at the gym and too busy ensuring a suppleness about her body continues to manifest itself, had decided that her rumbling belly required immediate sustenance on her return home.

I stood motionless for the best part of the mornings foray into the magnificence which is known locally as the ASDA. Before me was a vast, spectacular array of vegetable fats of all shapes and sizes. I counted 27 in total before I realised that I had strayed across to the full fat section. Silly me. It was an innocent moment, I meant no one any harm, my intentions were strictly honourable. I merely wished to satisfy my curiosity over the contents of something called 'Seedburst'. An item which was surrounded by many eco friendly shoppers in their Toyota Prius driving jackets, biodegradable sandals and strangely wispy beards. The packaging offered up all kinds of exciting promises about what lay inside. At no time did I see a sign that said 'please do not open the lid and dip your finger into the yellow creaminess of butter heaven.' The days of try before you buy ceased in 1972 I was rather curtly informed. Before I was asked to leave. By a sales assistant of no more than twenty three. And she was a girl too. Possibly Scarlet has a sister. Also with a beard.

Apple Charlotte with Cinnamon Sabayon

For the mixture:
1/2 tub of seedburst margarine or butter
4 Granny Smith apples
1 vanilla pod, scraped
1 fresh lemon, juiced
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon

For the batter:
2 large free range eggs
1/4 cup whole milk
2 tbs white sugar
1 tbs ground cinnamon
2 tbs unsalted butter to grease the ramekins
20 slices of good brioche, no crusts ladies, no crusts.

For the sabayon:
6 fresh egg yolks
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1/3 cup of calvados
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 vanilla pod, again, scraped
dash of spring water

Make the filling. Put a large saute pan over a medium heat and add the butter. Peel and cut the apples into 1/2" chunks. Once butter has melted and just starting to foam, add apples, scraped vanilla pod, lemon juice cinnamon and brown sugar. Coat well by tossing the mix for 20 minutes until the apples are tender and the liquid has gone. Let the sauce caramelise until nicely rich and dark.

In a shallow dish, make the batter by combining the eggs, milk, sugar and cinnamon. Whisk well until combined. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F and generously butter and sugar 4 ramekins. Invert a ramekin, or use a round cutter on half of the bread slices to use as a guide to cut out circles. These will be the bases and top of the charlottes. Cut the other slices into lengths half lengthwise.

Working with the circles, lightly coat in the batter and place in the bottom of each ramekin. Lightly dip the other rectangles of bread in batter as well, then use them to line the walls of each ramekin. Stand them upright around the edges, but leave an overhang. Use the overhang to seal the charlottes. Bake for 25 minutes and allow to cool.

Pour the sabayon on top of the charlottes and demolish with a nice cup of tea and a read of the Daily Mail.


The Paramnesia Contemplations of a Serial Muser

It wasn't the fact that she sat so close in the otherwise empty train carriage that unnerved me. No. It was more to do with the weeping, brim-full bottles of clandestine urine that she had balanced rather precariously at the top of her flimsy array of shopping bags. "It's okay" she said, her blackened fingernails glinting demonically under the flickering of the fluorescent carriage light as they drummed a pizzicato against the glass, "it is my own, I haven't just found it on the platform". I declined her kind offer of a closer inspection of the slightly stained labels, I was quite content to take her at her word. I stood carefully to leave as she enthused once more into yet another quadrumane monologue in which she described the benefits of bottling her own flatulence. It's not that I am a snob when it comes to other peoples urine, far from it. I have often been accused of taking the pish out of a lot of people I come into daily contact with. The little singing fella to name but one. It's just that Harris tweed is a real bugger to dry clean, especially around the leather elbow patches. And then there is that rather awkward moment that occurs when one enters the realm of the dry cleaners and the woman chafferer behind the counter asks your opinion on exactly what kind of fluid may have caused the brownish patch of which she is furiously rubbing with her delicate dactylion probe. My honest reply of "I do believe it may be pish", somehow always manages to turn the corners of her smile neatly upside down. I live in a small Scottish hamlet-like environment, they already talk about me in hushed tones whenever I enter the fishmongers every second Friday.

Earlier today I found myself ensconced in a somewhat rhadamanthe magazine article, thoughtfully arranged on a small but modern coffee table in the dentists waiting room. It detailed perfectly the correct etiquette in which a trans gender gentleman should display himself, possibly an ill turn of phrase all things considered, whilst enjoying cycling a bicycle between France and Switzerland during the month of Lent. My attention was seemingly grasped so much so that the torn faced rixatrix receptionist had to call my name on three occasions before resorting to removing her large posterior from the very small chair and having to physically find me. I have serious doubt that she has ever found herself, legs pumping, clenched buttocks quivering, enjoying a wind in her hair moment, upon a vintage leatherette bicycle saddle in any particular cold climate. A regular visitor and consumer of rhubarb by the look of her complexion, but undoubtedly never a two-wheeled thrill seeker in France. Disappointingly enough, when I returned after my visit with the wapperjawed ultracrepidarian behind the surgical mask, a fellow tooth sufferer, without etiquette of any description I might add, had buggered off with the magazine by all accounts. I doubt now that I shall ever fully understand exactly which side a true gentleman should dress himself during a bicycle blizzard, regardless of missing equipment such as a tool bag and pump.

Tomorrow, I have promised faithfully, that I will go on a scouting party with my good lady in order to select the 'perfect' tree for next months festivities. What, I ask myself, for the love of all things holly, is the point to shopping for an eight foot spruce tree a whole month before the silly season begins? It is not a turkey that we have raised lovingly on organic corn whisky and ripened barley throughout the year. We cannot eat it. It is not a puppy of which we can give back to the shelter on boxing day after it has chewed my slipper and fouled my pulpit. We are not inspecting something that we have invested time and money into in respect of getting a healthy return come the pending visitation of the old gentleman in the red suit. It is a tree. No. Worse than that, it is a tree that stands amidst twenty thousand other trees on the same hillside. They are identical. They do not come with any significant variations. One simply cannot pull up a catalogue on line and say, 'Oh look, that spruce has been nurtured into the shape of a donkey. Let's have that one for the novelty effect and amuse the neighbours.' No. A tree is simply that, a tree. They are tall, green and leave behind a sticky residue that stains the centuries old timber that exists purely to be my sitting room floor. They belong outside on a hillside. They do not travel well. They leave behind pine needles akin to the devils calling cards, that slither between the leather seats of my vehicle and only reappear 6 months later when they are brown and sharp and I am wearing shorts but no underpants. Each year I spend a thousand hours on Christmas eve arranging plastic elfin, sugar striped candy canes, 40 million twinkling lights and many, many, many  age old hand painted wooden toys to each prickly, sap-drenched, rash causing, spike filled twig that threatens to poke out my eye at the tug of every tiresome tiny tindrel of twined tacky tinsel. Then I sit back, exhausted, only to discover my wife has rearranged the whole cursed tree when I have retired to my bed.

What do I really want for Christmas Mr Claus? A clear window view of someone else's tree would be an excellent start!

Chef''s Christmas Brekkie Egg

You will need:
Dark Rum

Slice the bread, press out a small hole using a teacup (a tin mug if you live in Limerick, a gin glass for the Devon region) Place the bread in a hot buttered pan. Break the egg into the holey bread. Lightly fry. Serve with a whisper of smoked streaky bacon and a glass of warm dark rum.


And On the Seventh Day, He Rested

The apology was offered in good faith by myself, not for one moment thinking that it would cause even the smallest of slight where my young niece is concerned. How wrong could I be? It would seem that teenage pregnancies are no longer a personal and private affair. Each twinge and pang are to be shared throughout the females of the family. Each of them, their hormone levels racing, find the smallest little thread to unravel over comments that would normally be considered innocuous and innocent. I arrive home, tired, foul of travel, only to find that my wife's goat has eaten my favourite sweater, while the elderly man hired to tidy the grounds and feed the chickens has absconded with my prize Buff Orpington and a wooden lamp table from the vestibule. An anonymous voice informs me he was last spotted, drunk, in a bar in a wee place just outside of Nottingham. My once controllable world has begun to melt as quickly as the polar ice caps in Australia or wherever MI5 have them stashed away these days to save the clearly undead Bin Laden from stealing back his barrels slopping over with American oil.

It has always felt slightly awkward to hear myself use the word 'sorry' ever since I watched Clint asking those roughshod gentleman killers to apologise to his rather charismatic mule. It isn't a word that slips easily from my tongue, I will admit. It was merely an oaken table, a rough cherry ran the borders, its fine lip belied its pedigree that began the unigravida turmoil in regard to my niece. It was the first household item we purchased for our own converted dwelling, an item we stumbled upon whilst browsing the usual antiquities that are to be found at Sunday fairs in Glasgow during the summer rain. How was I to know that it held sentimental value beyond reproach? The clearest memory that springs to mind was how I struggled to get the damn thing home on the bloody train. To me, it was merely a table. To my wife, well, let me just say that it was the first gift that we had chosen together. I had my eye on a rather fetching radiogram in a faux mahogany case, but as is life, women always win.

Mid-life crisis beckons its finger increasingly urgently at me it would seem. One moment I am happily spawning endless rows of children, fulfilling my biological purpose in life, the next I am considering the purchase of a motorcycle in between peeing into a cup in the corridor of a doctors office. I'm not sure who was more embarrassed. The lady with the paper towels or me for surpassing the inimitable 'fill level 'line. It stands to reason, if nature bestowed upon me the equipment of a racehorse, the very least I can expect is to pish like one also. One simply cannot turn off the tap in mid flow. How exactly does one apologise with an open fly and equipment limply to hand? It won't be long now before my pate recedes and the hair chooses to push its way, not from my scalp, but from my ears and protrude from my nose. I worry that bending to tie my shoelaces will allow a cavalcade of wind to escape from my backside increasingly without warning. Where once I browsed Saville Row for its finery of shirts, I now find myself perusing pinstripe suits that flatter my flaccid dead flesh at the ceremony of my wake.

Toy shopping for the grandchildren has suddenly changed. Where once an intergalactic space station, complete with opening doors, realistic laser rays and gamma bomb dispensers would appeal to both man and boy. It now appears to be old hat. I find myself queueing to make an appointment with a rather churlish representative of the Ubuntu company. He, I am informed, will verbigerate constantly about a subject that is alien to me, before being able to decide whether or not I am a suitable candidate to spend eleventy thousand euros on something called an Android Ram Mega Zoid Mk III. Containing an element of non explosive gigabytes, 4G's guaranteed to multi-replicate 60 gazillion pixels in under 0.1 seconds, it also exceeds the ionosphere regulations and has something called automated diacritics, which activate whenever the sun in Mexico is at its highest point. I bet it doesn't have camouflage paint and a realistic siren that shrills whenever the sand people attack. Girouettism aside, my bearded friend is about to experience a sudden onslaught of dysphoria after having my foot placed in the soft crack of his tightly trousered arse if he patronises me again!

I call into an old haunt in the backstreet of my youth. There, time has stood still. It is still very much 1980 to the day. From the long wooden bar with its three bare wooden stools stuck for a lifetime to the worn lino etched with cigarette burns and spilled blood from match day altercations with the auld enemy. The framed photie of Jinky Johnstone, still hanging from the same rusty nail above the broken jukebox. Men sit in cloth caps and worky boots in front of creamy black pints and jars of pickled eggs floating in nauseating cloudy vinegar. No one has ever apologised to each other in here. There has never been the demand for quidnunc remonstrations amongst those who come here merely to drink. No one is remotely interested in a vulva or a Volvo. No flyndrigs or English tourists looking for Marti Pellow or Rob Roy's grave are allowed to enter through the solid glass doors. No women are ever passed via the public bar phone to their menfolk, complaining of ruined dinners, lamp tables or missing chickens. This is a place where urine cups and Ubuntu devices are as foreign as French mustard to its unique clientèle. I like it. They have steak pies on the menu. Nothing else, just steak pies. I think I'll stay for a while before I leave for a wee place just outside of Nottingham.

Glasgow Steak Pie

25g sunflower oil
25g plain flour
500g braising steak, cut into bite size pieces
1 brown onion, finely chopped
3 oxo cubes
8oz button mushrooms, cut into halves
1 pint of boiling water
1 tbsp of Worcester sauce

Make your pastry first. Heat the oil in a large skillet. Toss the meat in the flour to lightly coat and then add the beef to the skillet. Fry it in the oil until evenly brown and then add the onion and the mushrooms. Splash in the Wooster sauce and add salt and pepper to taste. Let it simmer for 30 minutes until nice and tender. Add the stock to boiling water and soak the meat. Again, simmer gently for 30 minutes before covering with the pastry lid and baked in the oven for 25 more minutes. Serve immediately with nothing but a fork and a few friends.


Table For None

We should have taken the train. I knew from the very outset that the whole shebang was doomed to failure. It stands to reason that if a certain percentage of much sought after prime greenbelt land is offered up for development by bankers, they will throw concrete walls, monoliths of glass and great steel girders up willy-nilly until every square inch of plot is filled. And then they remember. People will flock to the newly erected 'East Meets West' restaurant, despite the fact that it is strangely located on the outskirts of civilisation, undoubtedly arriving in a motor vehicle. The fact that there is no car parking space because the Spanish architect with the brightly coloured tie and the still remaining trace of egg on his face has been a tad ambitious with the larger structure itself. Lo and behold, a stunning restaurant that will comfortably accommodate 200 people, but only has the ability to accept 7 parked cars and a moped. We really should have taken the train.

The owl shaped waiter, the one who eventually remembered he had paying customers still seated at a table. The very same waiter, the one with the strange elongated, rubedinous nose and preposterously large shoes, was sadly a ubiquitous bore. I've read vacuum cleaner instructions which have held my attention longer than his personal, somewhat nasal choice of menu wines. "Perhaps sir would like to try this?" He produced a bottle of something which sounded like an ageing dromedary with its throat cut had hawked phlegm onto a church window. I wiped his unrequited spittle from my dinner jacket and tried hard not to acknowledge the tap on the shin that my good lady had so kindly introduced into the equation. He waited, his anasarcas owl-like stance fixed with an ingratiating smile while I sampled a taste. Memories of Christmas 1986 flooded back to my mind, thoughts of the dusty bottles of homemade rhubarb and pish-thistle cider that the little singing fella, my long-suffering, gambrinous, agenhina pal, had brought to our table back in the day. It was the first year the whole family had spent the night of Christmas together under the same roof for many years. All of us, for hour after hour, huddled over the one solitary toilet we had, being violently ill.

At the table to our right appeared to be the remnants of a Welsh tyre fitters convention. Lots of sternutatory aftershaves moistened the ambience, along with chain store trousers and Miami Vice tee shirts bagged over at the waist. The Mullet hair-piece has definitely made a comeback in the more southerly quarters of  deepest, darkest Wales it would seem. The larger one, a tatterdemalion fellow with a constant cacoethes for drumming his one remaining tooth with a butter knife, approached our table and asked if he could retrieve his sesame seeded roll which had somehow managed to find its way beneath Siobhan's feet. With some nifty footwork which would have put the current English football team to shame, I manoeuvred the said item in his direction with my instep. With a deftness that would have defied even the most dedicated of stage magicians, he then proceeded to ingest his recovered property in the blink of an eye and with only one solitary, but yellowing denture. The remainder of his black finger-nailed compadres were to busy to notice his food-vanishing act, scratching their uniquely thatched heads at the hor d'oeuvres selection and discussing exactly what a 'horses doofer' could be.

As we stood to leave some 35 tedious minutes later, our owlesque friend with his veritable fissilingual manner, arrived at the table with the first course of our long awaited meal. A brief, dentiloquent moment between me and our ventripotent friend soon had our bill torn in two and disregarded. We left as we had arrived. Hungry, but much wiser. Unlike Senor Owl. Eventually, after much silent cursing, we managed to locate our vehicle amongst the larger than large ensemble of abandoned cars that were strewn haphazard from pillar to post. I made a mental note to my wish list to include some kind of orthopter for just this type of occasion. I decided against mentioning the newly acquired deep scratches in the recently repaired bodywork to my good lady. The evening was still in its infancy, I had high hopes of a more intimate and enjoyable vespertine act.
To lighten the mood we stopped off at the all night deli and perused the many kilometres of rafter strung dry-cured sausages on offer in this part of the world. Nothing brings a shine to the eye of a lady better than a well hung length of prime sausage and an expertly parked vehicle in her allocated space. Especially when it follows a hearty meal.

Venison & Herb Sausage, Mustard Mash with Red Onion Gravy

1 tbsp virgin olive oil
1 red onion, thinly sliced
2 tsp soft brown sugar
900g floury, waxy spuds cut into small chunks
4 good quality dry cured venison and herb sausages that are both thick and extremely well hung
1 tbsp plain flour
300 ml hot beef stock
1 tsp fresh bone marrow
100 ml red wine, French is best
1 tbsp Worcester sauce, if you are a resident of the UK, or Worcestershire sauce if you are from Amerikay. Please note, to set the record straight. The correct pronunciation is Wooster, not Worcestershire. It begins to grate after a while when I keep it hearing it mispronounced by even the ex-pats who have been living in Cally-forny-ar for less than six months. Stop it! It's just wrong.

100 ml full fat milk, warmed
50g unsalted Irish butter
3 tsp wholegrain mustard

Caramelise the onion. Heat the oil in a large frying pan. Add the onion and sprinkle with the sugar, then cook gently, stirring from time to time for 12 - 15 minutes or until the onion is lightly caramelised. Preheat the grill. While the onion is cooking, boil the spuds and grill the sausages, turning them regularly for about 10 minutes until they are evenly browned.

Make the gravy. Sprinkle the flour over the caramelised onion, stir and cook for 1 minute, then gradually stir in the stock, wine and Wooster sauce. Bring to the boil, reduce and simmer gently. Mash the spuds with warm milk, butter and spoon over the gravy. I prefer a good bottle of red wine to accompany this particular dish, but it goes well with just about everything. Apart from Owl wine of course, but that goes without saying, eh?


Not So Pale Rider

Some people have the morals of zoo animals. I should know, I once put the heads of two uncouth gentlemen into a suitcase during an overnight train journey from London to Glasgow. No need to panic and believe at this point that you may well be reading the diary of a seemingly bowdlerising madman. My colloquialisms are merely running amok. I eventually let them out for air once they had finally understood that foul language and an ability to play the anal trumpet does not impress ladies in enclosed spaces. Funnily enough, they alighted well before they reached the end of their intended destination. We politely rolled down a window and bon-voyaged their luggage a few miles further on. I had no regrets then, or now, although in hindsight it was politically incorrect of me to create litter for rats to inhabit amongst the nylon robes of my fellow ex-travellers. In Glasgow, keeping rats is now encouraged just in case the need arises to cultivate a new ear upon its back should you ever walk in upon the wrong bar fight.

Turkey is where you eventually go when you have made a complete pigs ear of your life. It's full of Russians and Chechen's who look as though they are damaged extras from a Bruce Willis movie. When you have more than five of them sitting around a restaurant table it can look as though an angry child has run amok in a Mr Potato Head factory. But they have morals and codes, they also detest the work-shy detritus of today who spit, fart and play loud music in public places instead of contributing to societies needs and expectations. Their days of living amongst a fimicoloud, drenched in ambeer and wearing threadbare jackets with the pockets stuffed full of rotting turnips are over. Most of them own English football clubs, machine gun factories, or are employed as advisers to those still searching for plainly-in-sight members of the Taliban. They seek out a different kind of rat, but instead of eating them they exchange them for remuneration to create even more roorback and mayhem. The wheels turn, the rats once again peel away and hide.

I sip my tea in a small dismal cafe to the south of middle-Englandshire, my eyes hungrily devour the words informing me of the latest scandals. It is full of stories about disreputable newspaper editors who hack the iphones of murdered children while their parents sit at home awaiting the dreaded official knock on the door to inform them that their world is just about to end. Girouettism abound, they twist and bend with the wind in order to deceive and writhe back to the ultimate safety of the gutter they helped create. I shake my head in disdain as I read about firefighters who walked away from their colleagues at the scene of a huge fire in order to piss and moan about pay-rises in the comfort and safety of a bar. I hang my head as I see pictures of a retired schoolteacher beaten and raped by asylum seekers fresh in from the endless boats that continue to dock unheeded. The promised chiliasm has all but failed. Gerontocracry has definitely failed us all.

When the time finally arrives, when my services are again sought after, when it comes a time for someone other than the current adhocracy. Someone tall enough to stand and be willing and able to deal with those members of the public who continually refuse to live by the rules of decent society, I shall step forward and grasp the rusty sword of justice. A new zeitgeist has dawned. Armed with a bar code reader an indelible ink pen and my trusty sawn-off, I shall read, mark and under the new three strike rule, remove those who create an unsightly stain on society. Child molesters, muggers, those rats amongst us who continue to harm the auld and the frail, murderers, priests, TV presenters with bad haircuts as well as rapists and kiddy-fiddling disc jockeys will all fall at a single stroke of my pen. Those who have carried out a misdemeanour such as poor-parking, littering or wearing too-tight trousers past the age of thirty, will be banished to a dismal, dirty hole in the ground, surrounded by barren landscape, water-sodden trenches and inhabited only by strange animals, natives speaking in tongues, surviving on food salvaged from rotting fields of soured crops. It will be known henceforth as London. I shall be the solitary figure wearing a raincoat made entirely out of seal guts, riding upon the back of a pale horse and wielding a great scythe.

There will be no food preparation this day, instead please see photo above and then add hot water, while I seek salvation under the warmth of my hotel duvet and slink further into my seemingly endless funk.