Manly things for MEN (and women too)

Well it’s officially summer in the MacBride household (not that you’d know it with all the hail and rain pummelling down from the mottled grey sky). I always find that the first swallow’s return from Capistrano is a bit of a random barometer when it comes to predicting the seasons up here. The little feathered freeloaders pop up whenever they feel like it, usually after stocking up on duty free booze and fags, and spend their first three weeks here blootered out of their little feathered heads, spilling ash everywhere and shouting offensive sexual epithets at the blue-tits. A much better way of telling the change in seasons is the greatest male ritual of all: the BARBECUE. Once you’re able to burn a chunk of meat in your back garden – without the associated risk of chilblains, hypothermia and loosing the odd toe to frostbite – you know it’s summer.

This auspicious occasion occurred yesterday, after I'd spent a good chunk of the day cleaning the damn barbecue pit and rewiring the ignition system. This is more important than it sounds. I got the BBQ from Norman, as it was surplus to his requirements (not being all that practical in a top floor flat with no garden) and semi-trashed. Which meant it was going cheap: hurrah! But also meant that there were bits missing and the ignition system was buggered. The missing bits mean that there's nothing between the gas burners and the grill where the meat goes, because, according to Norm, something disgusting happened to the fake coals. So, we have open gas flame and no ‘easy click’ way to light them, and for the past two years I’ve been cranking on the gas then dropping lit safety matches between the bars on the grill and hoping for the best. Which has to qualify as an extreme sport on a par with base-jumping. It’s like playing Russian roulette with a flamethrower and your eyebrows. But no more: for I have fixed it, like the singed, manly, bearded man I am.

Saturday night’s tea consisted of two thick rib eye steaks from the butcher in Tarves, corn on the cob (mmm…), a bit of salad (to pretend this is all healthy), and a couple of baked potatoes. Which turned out to be every bit as dangerous as lighting the barbecue used to be. She Who Must Be Fed Before Nine Or She Gets Grumpy and I have been on this fad diet thing and baked potatoes have been verboten for about, what, two years? As such I’d forgotten the pitfalls and dangers involved. I’d reasoned that I could recreate that great taste of baked tatties you used to get at municipal bonfires, by baking the potatoes in the microwave, rubbing them with olive oil, sprinkling them with sea salt, and popping them in the now non-fatal barbecue to finish off. What I hadn’t realised (because I’m stupid) is that there’s a reason for the old saying ‘don’t pick it up: it’s a hot potato’, though what it really should say is ‘don’t pick it up and rub olive oil on it with your bare hands: it’s a hot potato, stupid!’ Pause – as nervous system can’t believe the current display of idiocy is for real – two, three, four. AAAAAAAAAAA! It’s the self-service equivalent of deep-frying your fingers. Very tasty, but very painful.

All in all it was a good meal, even if I did have to eat it with both hands swathed in white gauze bandages and burn cream.