That pure Cane Spirit since 1848.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

The first LP I ever bought, (that is, I said to my dear mama, “I want that one”) was “Oliver”.
That’s right! The Lionel Bart musical.
Family pictures of the time show a cherubic little Maroon smiling into the camera with his face washed. I really thought those songs were the pinnacle of musical development and surely the best music ever. I was eleven years old.

Not three months later, I had turned twelve and bought my next LP.

It was Masters of Reality by Black Sabbath.
Back then, this stuff was called “underground music”. At first I thought it had something to do with the subway, no kidding.
I put it on my father’s gramophone, which had valves and up till then had only played Deutsch Gramophone records or Richard Crooks or Bing Crosby or Bob Newhart [v funny], anyhoo, I cranked it up a bit, and stuck on the record.

It took out three windows across the road and the police were called. Best day of my life.

I wonder if any of you remember such landmarks. Perhaps it was the day you put away your dinky cars and action man (with the bionic eye) and went cycling with the girl next door instead, or maybe you slung your Sindy doll in her box, and decided to hang about the park, or chip shop, or corner, chewing gum in a provocative manner…

Do tell.

Saturday, January 27, 2007

I must be careful, but the Burns Night what I went to, just there, was totally garbage.
The H, Ns, &Ts were fine, but throw in a 30cc measure of Grouse and that was it!
It was like school dinners.
I should have known by the cheap price of the tickets that something was up.

A proper organised Burns Night follows a pattern.
The pattern is always the same.
That’s why it’s called a pattern.
It’s just like weddings, they follow a pattern.
Firstly, there’s a top table just like a wedding.
The singer(s) and MC sit here along with the host, the pub landlord, club committee or whoever.
We sit at one of the other tables, then there’s a toast and a welcome.
The MC, usually a minister or even a priest, but in this instance the Presbyterians do it better, will say a short poem of welcome,
Then The Selkirk Grace.
Then you start on your starter, whatever it is. It’s not usually anything fancy like freshwater crayfish in raspberry sauce.
Then the haggis is piped in,
by a piper,
on a platter,
carried by a cook,
in a chef’s hat,
And the MC does The Address and waves a bread knife about before cutting open the bloody thing, at which point, young waitresses in the traditional long tartan skirts and white waitressy blouses come in an distribute plated up dinners as fast as possible.
There may or may not be a pudding, usually trifle, then oatcakes and cheese then shortbread and whisky.
Ah, Whisky.
Aquam igne et aquam haurio.
Then replete, the fun starts.
The singer [s] will sing love songs, and A Man’s A Man For A’ That, and Scots Wahay!
It sounds corny, but if you get a good singer singing unaccompanied, it’s really quite stirring. Sometimes there is piano accompaniment but that’s it.
No fal de rals with Burns.

A Burns Night isn’t the White Heather Club with accordions and Donald where’s yer troosers, in fact there may be the odd kilt, and some tasteful tartan kitsch, but it’s a LOWLAND night on the piss, NOT a Heilan‘ one. Ask Sam if you don’t believe me.

Any way, interspersed with the singin’ and the drinkin’ and the poems, Tam o’ Shanter etc., the MC will tell funny stories about Burns, or what happened on his way to the pub, you know the sort of thing, but it’s about Burns. It’s his night.
A good MC is a bit like a protestant Borscht Belt comedian.
A good one would convert you, so I always carry a rosary in my breast pocket. I’m no’ daft altogether.

Anyway, after all that, there’s the toast to his immortal memory, and Auld Lang Syne etc.
A great night if you ever get the chance.

So what was that, three spheres of food on plate, thank you and goodnight rubbish we got the other night?

Friday, January 26, 2007

As the whaler neared the shore, they passed another at a cable’s length, rowing out into the bay. In many ways, the image of their own, there was one conspicuous difference. Instead of a nervous man of letters gripping the gunwales, there stood a fearless midshipman, his brass buttons ablaze in the setting sun: for all the world, General Washington Crossing the Delaware.
They looked upon him with admiration.

“That’ll be our new officer.” remarked Bananas, spitting into the wind for luck.
“What a splendid young gentleman.” said Ayres, “he‘ll shake up the ratings for sure.”
McShae, who had the keenest sight of the three and was examining the young man closely, simply nodded.

In a half dozen strokes the whaler had beached, and Ayres leaping out with the little wooden box, managed to put a buckled shoe in the salty water as he always did.

The other two followed and soon they were surrounded by the nets and spars of Sam’s Chandlery.
McShae was pushed and prodded over to the counter to arrange things with Mistress Sam while Ayres and Bananas wandered the store, innocently examining binnacles and cleats.

“Fine open weather we’re havin’ if it wasna for the fogs.” he said.
“What can I get you? We’ve some Jamaica just new arrived.” said Sam, ignoring preliminaries.
“No, I’m not right wanting a drink today.” he said, blushing.
“Are you well McShae?” asked Sam in genuine concern.
“Look I’ll come to the point.” said he, “We’ve a friend of ours called Foot Eater who we haven’t seen for a week and who’s not in the jail and our botanist, that‘s him over there wi’ the wet foot, thinks he may be drow-ned. He’s cook on the Shannon, not him over there, the one that’s missin’, could you not throw one of those trances for us and ask Bloody Mary whether he’s on deck or under hatches?”

A bargain was struck and Mistress Sam led them to an airless store room where she lit a sooty lamp and turned it down to a peep.
From a shelf, she took down a green glass fishing float and stared into it, occasionally parting unseen mists with elaborate waves of her hand.

“You are seeking a friend.” she said at last, “He is a sailorman. He has the initials F. E. He has travelled a lot in boats. Whiles he drank and his language was coarse.”

“Holystone the decks! That‘s him exactly.” exclaimed Ayres in amazement clutching the little box.
“Did ah not tell ye?” beamed McShae, “Pure science. None o’ yer hurdy gurdys here.”

Satisfied with how things were going, Sam now pulled a small table and four chairs into the middle of the floor.

“Help yourselves,” she said, indicating the seats.

To the eternal embarrassment of McShae the shipwright, bo’sun Bananas misunderstood but spoke up for all three:

“Please Mistress, there’s no need to put yourself out. We’ve just had a splendid tea…”
“It’s a séance you're getting, not your dinner,” she interrupted, ”now, all of you, sit down with me and join hands.”

The men were reluctant. It was one thing to cross the threshold of the occult and risk their souls, but to sit holding hands…

“How else can I contact the other world?” cajoled Mistress Sam. “Now do as I say; we don’t want to make Her angry.”

“We maybe shouldn’t vex her at all.” suggested Bananas, “Bonnie Mary of Argyll is too grand for the like of us. Is there not somebody cheaper? A plain dead sailor would do.”

“Man, yer makin’ a cod o’ the whole thing!” exclaimed McShae in disgust, “will ye no’ sit yersel’ down bo’sun and stay at peace.”

“It’s too late anyway!” intoned Sam, shutting her eyes, “She’s comin’ through…quick everyone, shut yer eyes tight, and keep yer hands joined…good evening your majesty…”

And in a startling Scotch accent, using Mistress Sam as her earthly conduit, the tragic queen related the fate of poor Foot Eater who had indeed drowned the week previous. It had been merciful quick and he was now at rest among Drake’s Drummers.

There was silence in the room at the dreadful news.

“He had the lend of my penknife, did he take it wi him?” Asked McShae.
“Now that I remember, he had a half crown off me.” said Bananas.

Mistress Sam hesitated and opened an eye to check on her clients, but they were still eyes shut and gripping each others’ hands as if their lives depended on it.

“He doesnae say,” she continued, “all he says is, you’ve no’ tae worry aboot sich matters and that he’ll be suppin’ wi’ one o’ ye, afore the month’s oot!”

“Holy frost! Stop there Mistress!” said Ayres in a panic, before adding - “how much do we owe ye?”

For whatever reason, both the bo’sun and the shipwright tried to kick Ayres under the table, but it was the little mahogany box that took the blows. At any rate, the séance was over. As Mistress Sam tidied up her spiritual accoutrements, the three men withdrew to a corner, where with a bitter argument conducted in whispers, the one and ninepence was made up between them.

It was a sad little trio that climbed aboard the Shannon that night. They were subdued not only by the loss of their shipmate but also by the grim reality that one of their number would soon be joining him. They were therefore astounded when who should they see but the cook himself, large as life and sitting on a barrel peeling potatoes.

“Great God Almighty! where ye been Eater?” asked McShae.
“Oh, just perusin' the docks o’ Dublin." said the cook mildly, “I fell in wi’ a lot of chaps. Did you not see me rowing out wi the new officer?”
“Of all the cheating, conivin’, lying tricksters, ” exclaimed bo‘sun Bananas, stamping on his pipe in a fury,

“the worst by far is that Mary Queen of Scots.”

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

I sing of a river I'm happy beside
The song that I sing is a song of the Clyde…

Oh the river Clyde, the wonderful Clyde
The name of it thrills me and fills me with pride
And I'm satisfied whate'er may betide
The sweetest of songs is the song of the Clyde

You may be interested to know, dear reader, that yesterday; Yours Truly was at the launch of D33, a type 45 destroyer! That’s right! Me! Well hurrah and three cheers for Maroon. There was free drink and vol-au-vents and hearts of oak.
There wasn’t hearts of oak, which was a disappointment, but I did meet the Commodore Home Fleet that I slagged off way back at the start of Cape to Rio.
A unexpected surge of patriotic jingoism forbids me to tell you how wonderful a ship it is. Suffice to say that at full steam ahead, it would move too fast to water ski. In fact, it may well be the fastest ship afloat.
There, I’ve let the cat out.
Can’t help it.

You can see the launch here:

BBC news


wikipedia HMS_Dauntless_(D33)

.wikipedia. WR-21

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Naval Tradition.

Four handsome oarsmen pull for the shore, in long, sweeping, arcs.
Bo’sun Bananas has the tiller, softly calling the strokes.
McShae the shipwright sits beside him as the whaler surfs in on the grey tide.
While hunched at the prow with a small mahogany box on his knees, is Ayres, the ship’s botanist and confirmed landsman, counting the yards to the shingle.
These three are on an errand of their own concern.

It’s 1796 and in Dublin Bay, HMS Shannon, at this time still His Majesty’s Ship, in name anyway, has taken up her usual anchorage after an uncommon good four-day voyage. Uncommon good that is, for her captain and crew. Two nights previous, a rendezvous had been made with a fat ketch definitely not flying the colours of revolutionary France. The two vessels had lashed themselves together and in the first unrecorded instance of replenishment at sea, had transferred their cargoes.
In a transaction worthy of his reputation, Captain Barney had negotiated the exchange of all the Admiralty powder he held in his magazine for every ounce of brandy and claret that the Shannon would hold.
And now, back in home waters, and below in his cabin, and feeling magnificent after his shave, he turns his eye to the finest of ankles dangling from his bunk and is moved to song;

There once was a band, of Irish dragoons,
Come marchin’ down through Fyvie-O…..

“Who’s that wailing?” asks a sleepy voice from under the bedclothes.

Undeterred, he sings on;

‘…And the captain fell in love, wi' a bonnie bonnie lass
And he called her by name, pretty Catty-O…

McShae the shipwright it was, who first reported the intelligence to his shipmates that the owner of the most disreputable shebeen this side of Wicklow conducted heathen communication with the spirits. And not the spirits that sailors were commonly in heathen communication with either: these didn’t come in a bottle, - Madam Sam spoke with the dead!

“Mother of God! You don’t say“. said Bananas lighting his pipe.
“As true as eight bells on a Hamburg cutter!” affirmed McShae.
“Smoke and oakum.” muttered Ayres.
“There’s maybe something in it,” remarked the bo’sun, “for I once heard a knockin’ in a kitchen dresser I couldn’t explain.”
“Of course there is.” continued McShae, drawing his stool closer to his two confederates.
“Ah’m telling’ ye. That last time we were berthed waitin’ orders, I was ashore and ah went into Sam’s Chandlery for a bit o rope. Anyway, they didna ha’e the right kind, but seein’ ah was there, I stepped into the back shop for just the one wee refreshment no‘ worth talkin‘ about.”

Both bo’sun and botanist examined the deck planks.

“Ye needna worry,” said McShae, sensing some doubt in his companions, “it all took place before I had ma ration. Onyway, the mistress, that Sam hersel’, flung a trance and spoke tae Mery Queen O’ Scoats, passin‘ messages from the dear deperted to the locals for a shillin‘.”

At the mention of money, the bo’sun and botanist crossed themselves although neither was catholic.

“Messages from the departed?” asked Bananas.
“She had Bloody Mery to the life!” attested McShae.
“A shilling?” asked Ayres.

It was therefore decided among the three, that at the next chance, they would avail themselves of Mistress Sam’s uncanny gift, to see what had become of their friend Eater, the ship’s cook, now missing this past week, feared drowned upon the rolling billow.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

I’ve done my voting
in the Irish Blog Awards thing, so we won’t see Major for another year.
Is it a year? They seem to come round faster than Christmas.
I remember the first ones, when all this were just fields and kids was respectful to their elders.
Back then, The Vaporiser got my nominations but the organisers pulled him, so ‘stuff that’ I thought.
Then they started disappearing up their own backsides with all their categories.
Best use of Irish patois in a non-political-group-singing-blog, etc.
Remember The Maroons, the antidote to awards?

Anyhoo, I’ve voted.

If there’s any justice, The Swearing Lady will win best blog, TM will be invited to the ceremony and go this time, but not win anything and be beaten up by some or other group he’s slagged off in the last year, [which is why he sends his gophers to collect on his behalf] and Fatmammycat will sweep the board and become Irish President and appoint me her “special secretary of state with unfettered personal access” and we will fly round the world in Aer Lingus’ best jet spreading love and goodwill among the poor and ignorant.
If there’s any justice.

I see from my new clustermap that there is a significant blob on what I believe is Washington State.
I wonder if they will make themselves known to us. It’s always nice to see a new face.
No pressure.
You’ll have had your tea?

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

I taint dead.

10 or so days ago, I had some coffee from Klatch.

That’s right! I drank from that bitter chalice.
Fool Maroon.

“…and, when the angel with his darker draught draws near, shrink not, but boldly grasp the cup …and drink your fill…”

So it goes.

In actual fact, it doesn’t.

It goes thusly. (depending on translations)


So when that Angel of the darker Drink
At last shall find you by the river-brink,
And, offering his Cup, invite your Soul
Forth to your Lips to quaff--you shall not shrink.

Anyways, the fabulous world of jet engines has its hold upon me, but you are all uppermost in my thoughts.

Apart from SafeTinspector and that other one.

Monday, January 08, 2007

On with the motley….

Klatchian coffee.
You take too much and you come out the other side. You see the world for what it is.
What it is, is a terrible struggle where the fishes of the sea, the fowls of the air and the beasts of the field are tearing open anything that moves to get at the soft fatty offal within.
You can’t get it in Starbucks.
Well, there’s a blessing.
We are not greedy.
That’s a Godamn lie. We are not overly greedy is what I mean. If we had as much money as we needed, we wouldn’t want for more.
Today might be a good day to sit and stare out the window.
Might see a goldfinch or two, might see a cat or sparrow hawk grasping it and biting it and spitting its blood over its beautiful plumage.
I’ll be as right as rain come Burns Night.