It would be somewhat remiss of me to describe a year on the misty Isle without touching on the thorny subject of the demon brew and the associated perils therewith.
Fortunately due to unstinting research I can maybe claim some small authority on the subject.
On arrival I eagerly anticipated learning and experiencing the subtle differences found within the finest whiskies known to man.
I was somewhat nonplussed to find that the locals pretty much lived on “The Famous Grouse” whisky and Tennents lager supplied in tinnies if you were standing up (not for long) or pint glasses if you were posh and sitting down.
On arrival I’ll admit I went quite starry eyed at meeting the local GP (think Doctor Finley) who seemed to have huge fan club amongst the locals.
His halo slipped a little when he was found in full clan regalia playing the bagpipes at 4am one new year’s morning with an empty half bottle of single malt hanging out of his pocket
I’m afraid most of the stories re Scots and their love of a wee dram are true normally followed by a fish supper and a bit of a punch up to end the evening. These were hard men and locally you were considered a bit of a pansy if you still sported a full set of front teeth.
The Darwin awards
From the BMJ 2014
“ Winners of the Darwin Award must eliminate themselves from the gene pool in such an idiotic manner that their action ensures one less idiot will survive “
If like me you have a certain penchant for stories about the sort of person who tries to nick the steel hawser holding up a lift by sawing through it whilst standing in the lift,
or the guys at the ski resort who removed the protective padding from the metal railings to use as a sledge and promptly crashed into the now unprotected railing (one survived)
or the pensioner who decided to save a few bob by wiring his shed up (illegally) to the local distribution point in the pouring rain…
More at www.darwinawards.com
And yes ladies. I’m afraid despite all your struggles for equality when no less august a journal then the BMJ analyses the results and finds 88% of the “winners” were male. (They even gave it a name MIT or Male Idiot Theory) when it comes to “dumb ways to die” us blokes are just way ahead of you.
Get over it.
And so as a Hogmanay bonus you get a lecture on
“Things not to do whilst under the influence of alcohol” ..
in conjunction with my own modest attempts to join the recipients of that most coveted of awards
From personal experience alcohol doesn’t mix well with:
(2) Operating a chain saw
(3) Asking a Scotsman what’s under his kilt
My £22 a week wages normally stretched to cheese on toast and a few pints in the pub in the evening.
Even now it gives me a warm glow to think back to the sacrifices I made in the interests of research.
I spent pretty much all my formative years hopping around on slippery weed covered rocks on the south Wales coastline At the risk of sounding immodest I was pretty good at emulating a mountain goat in my ability to scramble over and up the various rocky formations.
As a teenager there was little to beat spending a freezing November night lying on some rocky outcrop watching a (normally stationary) rod tip for signs of a bite.
Well there was, but my mum held pretty strong views about the corrupting influence of the fairer sex so fishing it was.
Imagine my anticipation at fishing the crystal clear waters around Portree harbour I clambered out onto the far end of a rocky promontory. Unfortunately I’d now graduated to carrying the ubiquitous can of Tennents with me.
One can later and lulled by thehypnotic rhythm of the rod tip I suddenly noticed I had a wet foot, the tide was coming in and I was in imminent danger of getting cut off. I grabbed my gear and started to rock-hop back towards the distant shoreline.
Under the influence of a single can the mountain goat had grown two left feet and to a casual observer was now doing a passable impersonation of Coco the clown.
How on earth I didn’t break a leg or get wedged and drown from the incoming tide I’ll never quite know.
(2) Operating a chain saw
Seemed like a good idea at the time
They hadn’t invented central heating up there so the only means of keeping warm was an open fire, one night I returned from the pub to find someone had kindly left a pile of logs and a chainsaw in the porch.With vague thoughts of “How hard can it be?” I cranked it up and resting a log on the bottom stair and holding it in place with my trainer clad foot set too with a vengeance.
A chainsaw can be a lively wee beastie at the best of times.It kept bouncing about and sliding down the wood and hitting flat against my shoe. Luckily they hadn’t invented health & safety in those day’s.Only in the cold sobriety of the following morning did it register that a slightly steeper angle and it would have gone through my foot like butter and I’d have bled to death there on the floor.
(On the plus side you’d now bedoing something more useful with your time than reading this, every cloud eh?)
At the Ceildh
Two of life’s great mysteries emanate from north of the border and I managed to answer neither.
Saturday night was dance night which invariably involved the locals dancing round like eejits with a half bottle of whisky hanging oot the back pocket. They were an amiable bunch once you got to know them and I soon found myself looking forward to these events. Burns night came and everyone turned up in kilts, thinking I was by now one of the gang I ill-advisedly decided to clear up one of life’s mysteries and innocently asked the nearest kilt wearer “that” question.
I said putting on my best Monty Python nudge nudge wink wink voice
“Come on, what’s the answer to Scotland’s biggest mystery?”
The next thing I found myself pinned to the wall by the throat with a fist the size of a ham waving menacingly in front of my face.
“ANGUS!!! LEAVE THE POOR WEE MAN ALONE” Fortunately Moira (Mrs Angus) had just emerged from the ladies. 4ft 6in of fiery redhead,
Angus knew better than to argue and I slid gratefully to the floor. Once my ears stopped ringing and my vision cleared I picked up on the tail end of their conversation:
“So Angus, what was all that about?”
“I dinnae know hen, I think he wanted me tae show him the loch ness monster..”
“Och Angus, why would he want to see that pooer wee timorous beastie..?”
I kept a bit of a low profile for the rest of the week.
And did I learn to stay away from the demon brew?
Did I heck as like?
A little from the long suffering wife
Whilst on the subject of Darwin Awards
After many years of marriage I finally thought that Paul had taken the hints one Christmas when under the tree I spotted my present.
Being a nosey type I prodded and shook it and decided that it definitely was the designer handbag I had spent many years lusting after. By hints I’m not talking of sublety, dragging him past the displays in John Lewis over and over again, always commenting if I saw said bag being carried by anyone etc, etc. It was the right shape, weight and size. I felt quite guilty about what I had brought for him but it was too late to do anything about that (a man cant have too many socks)
Christmas morning finally came and I could hardly contain my excitement as I ripped off the paper to find an electric Hobby Saw !!!
Maybe he misread my lack of enthusiasm
“Think of all the useful things you can do with it”
The worst of it was that he couldn't understand why I was upset.
Our sponsored dog Isaac is has grown into a big strong lad and is progressing really well, you can see his latest photo’s at: www.guidedogs.org.uk/gallery-issac
This time last year
Just for a bit of a change of scenery I’ll go back to this time last year when I spent quite a bit of time lying in some hospital bed or other.
It started early September when I was helping my daughter move flat and felt a bit breathless
I mentioned this to the GP at a routine check up, a blood test later and I was rushed into hospital kidney function at 10% which if they didn’t sort PDQ I’d likely soon be joining the celestial lens twirlers.
Treatment involved a lot of “plumbing” and a funny walk
I was not a happy bunny.
On the plus side I lost 2st in as many day’s although with hindsight I’d tend to recommend a somewhat more staged approach to weight loss
When a health care professional tells you something it’s for your own good, right? And you tend to follow said advice, right?
Well that is unless your like me and think you know better.
What followed were inevitable consequences involving lots of interesting infections with long names and plenty of trips to various hospital wards
One episode in particular involving a nice young lady doctor caused lots of ribald amusement at my expense. (sadly completely unprintable)
By November it was decided I’d skived off work enough and the only solution was an operation. let’s just say it’s what the medical wags refer to as a “rebore” and involves a bit of “Dynorod meets Black n' Decker"
I wasn’t exactly brimming with enthusiasm but it was made quite clear what my life would be like if I didn’t get it sorted.
I put it off to mid December on the basis I could recover over Xmas
On the plus side I figured if I played my cards right I’d be able to milk it over xmas getting waited on hand and foot with mince pies and the like.
The Op loomed and forms of anaesthetic discussed, I wanted to be fully non compos mentis but the benefits of epidural were extolled to which I reluctantly agreed and they wheeled me down on the trolley.
“Why It’s Mr Rees” say’s the nice lady anaesthetist “I used to walk past you when I was a medical student”
At this point I belatedly asked what were the risks of a spinal injection?
“Oh, it’s only a problem if I miss and hit your spine in which case you’d be paralysed, but that isn’t going to happen now is it?”
Whilst squinting at the rather large needle she was now brandishing
“fortunately I didn’t need your services then, now I’m trying out these new bifocal contact lenses”
“Can’t see a bloody thing ….”
Her colleague took one look at me and asked “Should you really be telling him that?”
Seeing my expression she sought to reassure me
“Nothing for you to worry about though eh?”
I blame the drugs
Cutting a long story short it turned out fine and I awoke the next day to find myself surrounded by some extraordinarily pretty nurses all seemingly eager to mop my fevered brow.
Visiting time came and with it a rather concerned looking Stella, the nice young ladies continued to fuss around. After a bit we were left alone.
“Who was THAT??”
“Oh” I said rather enthusiastically “That was the lovely Moira”
Whilst not qualifying for a Darwin award on the grounds that I lived to tell the tale the above was nominated for a commendation and a “better luck next time”
Which as it turns out is exactly the sound the sympathy vote makes as it exit’s promptly stage left
Had to get my own slippers, beer and Christmas pies after all.
All joking aside for a moment I would like to take a moment to thank all three of the girls for putting up with me through last Autumn it wasn’t the best time of my life and their humour helped carry me through