Being Irish


Pukka Pie?

The connection?



In the world of Jay Cool, all is connected. If like I, Jay Cool, your genetic material was handed down to future generations via a sperm and an egg that got together in a cave in Nescliffe, Myddle, courtesy of your Great-Something-Grandfather, Humphrey Kynaston, you will understand my meaning.

The particular bundle of DNA that was one day to contribute to the emergence of Jay Cool, was unable to be contained in a cave. It went on an adventure, an adventure that took it from Myddle, to Albrighton, to Newport, to Wem – and then? Unable to stick to its Shropshire roots, it took itself off to Grimsby and from, thereon, disorientated, became confused, taking on various transformations in various coastal locations. It might have gone further, but it was, after all, at least in part, from the Myddle. The oceans beckoned. Jay Cool took a side-step.

To Aberdeen.                      And another side-step.                          To Immingham.

Back in Aberdeen, I, Jay Cool, once tried to digest the inside of a Haggis. It came in a bag of skin, tied up at both ends with some kind of washer. You had to attack it with a knife, at which it would spew forth from its bowels a sort of crumbly-dry meat infected with lots of green herbs. I figured that was because the Haggis ate lots of unusual grasses during the summer months of its mountain marathon. Against my common sense judgement, I was at the tender age of eight, persuaded to try some of the Haggis meat.

Photo by Steve Brown:

It was not a pleasant experience – memorable? Yes! But not at all pleasant or purposeful. Whose idea was it to eat the bodies of animals that had died after falling tragically down from the mountain peaks? It was hardly sensitive to the feelings of the other Haggis’ – kindred spirits deep in mourning for their lost friends! Neither was it very sensible to eat meat already in a state of decomposition. The flavour of the Haggis could only be described as foul, a foul fiendish invention, not even suitable for a dog’s tea, and if you ever visit Scotland, please avoid it!

I mention the Haggis, albeit briefly – because in a roundabout way, a very roundabout way – the English Puka pie reminded me of the Haggis. You see, after the  disastrous Haggis tasting session, I still hadn’t learnt my lesson about not listening to grown-ups (they have different taste buds to children, but are still self-centred enough to believe that their children should like everything they like), and I was talked into trying the Scotch Pie; a genetic sister of the English Puka Pie.
If you even get a whiff of a Scotch Pie cooking in a Scottish oven, get out one of those old grandad handkerchiefs and secure it around your face to cover up your air holes. Try not to inhale again. Do not underestimate the unpleasantness of the fumes of the Scotch Pie. If you’ve ever had a dad, a brother or a husband – conjure up the stench emanating from the bathroom  after they’ve been for a long stint to dispose of a Dirty Monkey. I think you get the picture (or the smell).
If you really feel compelled to go for a sampler, cook the Scotch Pie well on a high heat – it is better burnt! I realised, as soon as I had cracked open the tough-outer pastry of the Scotch pie, that it was a pie full of lies. Lies and trickery and deceit. The Scotch pie must surely have been concocted by some desperate dinner lady, in some vain attempt to re-use the regurgitated leftovers from the previous day’s servings of Haggis.
That is why, when, in Immingham, I saw an advertisement in the local ‘Fish n’ Chip’ shop window for Pukka Pies, I nearly passed out.
The Haggis had without doubt returned, not in the form of a Scotch Pie, but in the aptly-renamed Pukka Pie. I asked a girl, Tracey1 (all the girls in Humberside were called Tracey, back then, hence the numbering system!), at my new school, whether she’d ever tried the Puked-Up Pies in the ‘Fish n’ Chip’ shop, but she glared at me with blank hostility and instructed me to stop speaking in Irish.
I informed Tracey1 (politely, of course) that my accent was from Scotland, not Ireland, and that I was actually English. She didn’t believe me, partly I think, because she didn’t understand me. Someone else (Tracey2) came up to inform me that I talked too fast and would need to slow down – if I wanted to be friends with any of them! Slowly. Very s l o w l y, I tried to explain to her that I couldn’t help my Scottish accent, having spent two and a half years living in Scotland. She seemed to understand me and shouted over to someone else: “Oi, Morag! Get yourself over here. Here’s someone else who’s Scottish, like you – you might just be able to understand each other!”
“Bla, bla, bla,” this Morag girl rabbited on. I couldn’t understand a word she said. I don’t know which part of Scotland she had originated from, but it wasn’t from the Grampian Regions – that was for sure! Being polite, I took the tactic of pretending to comprehend. “Which part of Scotland do yeh come fae?” I asked.

“What’s she say, Morag?” asked Tracey . “Do you understand her? You must do – you’re both Scottish!”


“Nah,” she said. “I’m not Scottish. I’m from Glasgow. And she’s not from Glasgow – she’s Irish! I don’t understand a word of what she’s going on about. See you later!”
And with that final word ‘later’, Morag was off and I don’t recollect ever seeing her again. I did ponder on what she’d said, however – and realised that there was some truth in her accusations. My ginger hair had not come from my brown-haired English parents.
But … my Great-Grandmother (or so the legend went) – she was Irish, and she was ginger. She was also crazy – but that’s another story – for another time.

After that politically-contentious encounter with English playground politics, I, Jay Cool, 9% Irish and still traumatised from my past encounter with the Scotch Pie, swore that I would not be so foolish this time round. For it was highly probable that the Pukka Pie contained poisonous substances: substances designed to weed out any foreigners – anyone who was vaguely Scottish, Irish or only tenuously English.

I, Jay Cool, to this day – have never tried an English Pukka Pie.
Copyright owned by Jay Cook, November 2017
Image of Pukka Pie sign by YayAdrian and available on’ via non-commercial use Creative Commons License.


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