News of my death have been grossly exaggerated it would seem. Stories of languid Belgian walking holidays involving poached egg poisoning and even hospitalisation due to an alcoholic dependency big enough to bring down a camel are abound. All stuff and nonsense, nihilistic hogwash of seemingly cotard delusion, brandished around like cheap supermarket butter on other social media sites of stale bread. Monochromatic reports that I have recently been sighted rowing merrily in an organic cardboard coracle somewhere east of Kilimanjaro amused me muchly, especially as even the haters are aware just how much salt water plays terrible havoc with my sinus. Perhaps the most bizarre story of all was the supposed botched assassination attempt on my life by the Chechen farmyard animals in cheap business suits that tend to frequent the less salubrious parts of the city of Glasgow. Honestly, who would have thought that polyester and gun oil would ever make such a huge comeback amongst the great unwashed? Most of it is simply not true. In reality, I have been kept busy engaged in the frenetic toil of filling endless sandbags for the increasingly beautiful Patricia against the ever rising river that borders her stately home down there in Swanage. Outside toilet facilities, wandering hands and lukewarm tea in ceramic mugs have hindered my progress somewhat.
At times, as Pat and I gazed across the immense social divide towards the poorer part of town, it felt as though the ghost of our dear friend Scarlet had again arisen to haunt me for my impure thoughts in her direction. Obviously in her pre-ginger years and before she moved to her new static caravan home in Parkdeane Sands in the council quarter of Cornwall of course. That much goes without saying. The ebb and flow of her flat-spotted Dunlop's as the water lapped so rhythmically against the septic tank kept both Patricia and myself amused long into the evening as we sipped a decent port up there in the safety of the front balcony overlooking the drenched hyacinths and humble climbing roses. Who can ever forget the hangdog look about her deliciously saline eyes as she thumbed through page after page of home truths and poured her heart out to me about her previous acting career. All water gushing harmlessly over the beleaguered bridge as far as so many incredulous scandals are concerned. Oh how she once lived. The rumours of Errol Flynn did not once disappoint.
However, reality forces me to speak the truth, so in all honesty the above, well some of it, is a fish riding a bicycle lie. I have merely returned for a brief period of utter tranquillity to the more sunnier climes of our distinctly quiet hacienda in the sun. Apart from the odd furry caterpillar, sun drenched lizard and mysteriously convex frying pans that awaited me, time had stood still, as have I. Pure bliss. I shall return as soon as I tire of being at peace with the world. Do help yourself to a wee nibble, I may be some time.
During the great flooding of Drumchapel in the 70's, Noel Duggan came for me at the back of eleven one wintry night, his grand long beard all awry with the stress of it all. It would seem that his ninety-three year auld grandmother, who lived in a small basement apartment below the music shop in Pitmilly Road, had fallen foul of the dreadful weather and had seen herself flooded halfway up to the gunnel's. As we battled hard at taking out her oaken front door with our bare hands, an almighty swoosh was to be heard and Granny Duggan gleefully floated out on top of a large wooden cello. It was music to our ears alright, but nothing could beat the magical moment when enquiring about her husband, she told us that not to be outdone, he had soon followed suit and accompanied her on the old piano. There was always music in her, people would say. It was nearly five years since she had passed before we found out that the organ player from St. Patricks had been rumping her religiously every Sunday behind the closed curtains of the vestry. God bless her soul, the dirty wee mare.
Come on all you people of Scotland, what is wrong with the picture here? Have the damply limp English mob brainwashed you into being as soft as their sorry lot? For the love of all things holy, when I was a wee nipper and the snow fell, the rain pished and the wind howled, we went out, built grand looking snowmen, splashed in rather wet puddles the size of Loch Ness and flew homemade kites made out of bible pages and gnarled twigs from Ma Kelly's thatched roof. The only reports of people going missing back then was a certain fella in Provanmill who fell down a storm cellar after a night on the lash, the other being a young girl by the name of Dorothy and her wee pooch from Kansas, who allegedly blew away in a storm. Or did they? I never did quite get the gist of that rather strange movie. Lions looking for courage, little old men hiding behind curtains, not to mention a walking oil can that was the very first homosexualist ever seen on Christmas TV. My father refused to have the television on in the room for years afterwards whenever he was alone in case he became corrupted and began walking with a lisp and talking with a limp. I was twenty-seven years of age before my phobias surrounding scarecrows relaxed enough for me to be able to enter a field to relieve myself during the long nights walking home from McGillicuddy's all night bar and grill.
There is no particular moral to any of this other than let us not allow the weather girls on the telly to overplay their part. They were lucky to get a couple of minutes after the news and before the test card back in the days when we had real weather. Now they get fifteen minutes, every hour, on the hour, live from somewhere beyond the car park at the BBC in some anonymous monstrosity of a sky tower, where the wind whips through even at the height of Summer. With exaggerated hand gestures, tight bodices and the fluttering of heavily made-up eyelashes, they point randomly at satellite pictures of a low pressure system somewhere out there in the darker side of the world. Possibly Belgium, where it is always grim. Holy Mary herself, they were more believable back in 1979, when wee Hamish McFutter, aged three and three quarters, sent in his hand paintings of his mammy with a crayoned umbrella chasing a damp looking cat beneath puffy white clouds and a smiling sun. These new showbiz antics actively promote people ringing in advance to their work, possibly next Thursday, cancelling hair appointments in favour of sandbagging the front garden against the incoming tsunami that in all reality is little more than a few drops of acid rain. Possibly, they might be swept away by a monsoon, even though the enforced hosepipe ban back in 1983 has never officially been rescinded.
Cold Weather Cottage Pie
1lb of minced leg of lamb
1 tbsp good olive oil
2 medium red onions, peeled and chopped
3 oz of carrot, chopped very small
3 oz turnip, again, chopped very small
1/2 level tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp fresh thyme
1 tsp fresh parsley
1 level tbsp plain flour
10 fl oz fresh lamb stock
1 level tbsp tomato puree
pinch sea salt and milled black pepper
2 oz mature Scottish or Irish cheddar, coarsely grated
2 medium sized leeks cut into bite size pieces
2lb of King Edward tatties
2 oz fresh Irish butter
Begin by taking the frying pan to an open flame, gently heat the olive oil. Fry off the onions in the oil until they are tinged brown at the edges. Add the chopped carrot and turnip and cook for 5 minutes or so, then remove the veggies and put to one side. Turn the heat up and brown the meat in batches, tossing it around to get it evenly browned. As always, a wooden utensil must be used if you are to break up the mince without tainting the flavour.
Give the meat a good seasoning of salt and pepper, then add the veg, cinnamon, thyme and parsley. Next, stir in the flour, which will soak up the juice, then gradually add the stock to the meat mixture until it is all incorporated. Finally, stir in the puree. Turn down the heat, put the lid on the pan and let it cook gently for about 40 minutes. While the meat is cooking, make the topping.
Peel the tatties and boil them up. Drain, cover with a clean tea cloth to absorb the steam and leave for 5 minutes. Then, add the butter and salt, but never milk for the sake of his holiness the Pope fella himself, When the meat is ready, spoon over the mashed tatties, sprinkle the leaks, scatter the cheese and bake for 25 minutes until the top is golden and crusty. Serve piping hot with fresh green beans and a chilled glass or two of white wine. Put it on the windows edge to cool if you must, but do keep one eye on the weather. It looks possibly like it might rain.