Saturday, 8 December 2012


I was walking though town today, and although I was not deliberately out Christmas shopping, I found the ideal gift for someone whose spouse you absolutely hate.

In a music shop window, a plastic-encased kit sat invitingly close to the glass, and the caption on the cardboard backing read,  "Teach yourself to play the Irish Penny-Whistle."

Set in the transparent outer wrapper was, indeed, a shiny golden Penny-Whistle with a red plastic mouthpiece, and beside it was a CD ROM to which - presumably - you can play along with as you learn. The cardboard backing was printed with a photo depicting a rural Irish scene, complete with a castle and setting sun.

What a brilliant and cost-effective way to: cause a domestic murder; the break-up of a partnership that you never approved of in the first place; justifiable infanticide - or simply get rid of in-laws who have overstayed their welcome beyond the 25th of December.

A friend of mine bought his 9 year-old son a full-sized but cheap drum kit recently, but could not afford the isolated house on the remote moor to go with it. His logic was that the kit was too large to be set up in the living room, so - unlike a traditional Victorian tin-drum which can be carried from room to room as it is smitten by the child - it had to be set up in the lad's bedroom. He had forgotten how loud a real drum-kit actually is, so he now spends most of his son's waking leisure time in the pub.

When I was younger and constantly moving from shared flat to shared flat, I always wanted to - having passed the informal interview with the rest of the potential flat-mates - turn up on the day of moving in with a full-sized Tuba, just to see the look on their faces. It was only the cost which put me off the little joke, but I suppose I could have borrowed one for an hour or two.

I once - and this is true - got thrown out of a shared flat for grilling a whole packet of Bombay Duck. In case you don't know what Bombay Duck is, let me tell you that it is an Indian delicacy that has nothing to do with birds. In certain parts of India, they catch long, thin, scraggy fish which have hardly any meat on them at all when alive, then they allow them to rot in the sun for a few weeks until they resemble strips of stinking Biltong. They then vacuum-wrap them (or triple wrap them in the old days) in bundles of about 10, just so they are allowed to put them on a plane for export.

I am not sure how you are supposed to prepare them in their country of origin, but I developed a taste (when living on my own) for grilling them until they turned into greasy, crunchy strips, then eating them without accompaniment, bit by bit. Like Roquefort (or that fruit which you are forbidden to carry on public transport by local law) they absolutely stink, but they taste strangely delicious - once you have got over the gagging reflex caused by the grilling. I was told by one of the erstwhile flatmates that they had to bring in professional cleaners when the smell showed no signs of dissipating after about two weeks.

So there you have it - forget turkey this year, give them Bombay Duck instead.


  1. Someone once gave Lady M a CD of Irish folk songs for Christmas. It went directly to CD heaven, via the wood burner.

    Disclaimer: Personally I adore Irish folk music; all complaints directly to Lady M please!

    1. I like professional Irish music - but only played in Ireland. Same goes for all ethnicity, particularly the Gaelic sort.

  2. Have you never allowed yourself to enjoy the painful phase of a child learning an instrument? Even penny whistlers have to begin with either the penny or the whistle, attempting to meld the two into some harmony.

  3. I have a button that reads, 'If thine enemy offend thee, buy his child a drum'.

    I think it quite funny, but drummers i know take offence.

    I have played a penny whistle and tried to teach myself after playing a fife. So, i play it more staccato, than in that lilting Irish way, but the real torment occurs when i play a fife tune and forget that a penny whistle was never really meant to play a third octave. Yes, i've tried, being the absent minded git on occasion, and it clears a room like nothing else.

    I've never eaten Bombay duck, although i once worked with a Chinese woman who'd heat up a very stinky lunch on occasion. The smell literally drove me from my workspace (she would bring it back to the cube farm, and the odor permeated). I never asked her what it was, only knew i couldn't get past the smell. I wasn't the only one, although i was the only one at that time who sat in close proximity to her.

    1. Drummers deserve everything that is thrown at them. They are a bunch of mad and a-social fuckers.

  4. Irish music
    only enjoyable if you are pissed as the proverbial dublin nun

    1. I am still toying with the notion of learning the Northumbrian pipes....

    2. I bet I could play the pipes better than Russell Crowe can act.

  5. ps thomas
    send me your address again
    I have a really shit local christmas card to send to you