The Ballad of Lachie McLachlan the Third

Come on everybody, and sit round the fire

While I tell you the tale of a brave DIY-er.

Well-read though you are, folks, I’ll bet you’ve not heard

The ballad of Lachie McLachlan the third.


From his nine-to-five job Lachie longed to break free

(He worked as a chartered accountant you see.)

At weekends he stripped, sanded, papered and painted,

At night he escaped to his shed and invented.


A heatseeking pencil, a cloak for a gnat,

A football with engines, a solar-powered hat;

Our Lachie’s inventions were truly unique,

And he kept on producing them week after week.


Now Lachie himself would be first to confess

That sometimes his hobbies would make quite a mess.

The burns on the carpet and holes in the wall

Were none too impressive when friends came to call.


One day, with the house falling down round her ears

His wife Emma cracked (she’d been crumbling for years).

To be married to Lachie was trying enough,

But life in the midlands was proving too tough.


She pined for the bagpipes, the mountains, the heather,

The real butter shortbread and terrible weather.

“Now Lachie,” she said, “Wave your DIY wand,

To remind me of Scotland of which I’m so fond.


Make over the lounge for your daughter and me

And make us believe we’re back home in Dundee.

So spare no expense, love, I don’t want it spartan,

And no holding back – I want everything tartan.”


So Lachie went shopping for tartan wallpaper

And carpet and curtains – oh my, what a caper!

He called at each furnishing store in the mall

But none of them had any tartan at all.


When Lachie told Emma he hadn’t been able

To find any tartan, she banged on the table.

“I won’t accept no for an answer,” she said.

“I want the walls chequered in blue, green and red.


If the lounge isn’t tartan by this time next week

I’m leaving you, Lachie. Shut up, let me speak.

I’ll take a memento or two when I go

Like your platinum card and your vintage Bordeaux.”


While the sudden departure of daughter and wife

Would not leave a huge gaping hole in his life,

The permanent loss of his platinum card

Would curtail his inventing. This hit Lachie hard.


Gone midnight, while Lachie was lying in bed

A dirty great light bulb went off in his head.

He knew what he needed to solve his dilemma.

A big tartan paint bomb would satisfy Emma.


So Lachie got up and slunk off to his shed,

Feeling certain that hours of work lay ahead.

By daybreak he’d finished – the job was complete

And a bleary-eyed Lachie was dead on his feet.


As Emma got up, Lachie crawled into bed.

She asked where he’d been. “Just inventing,” he said.

“I’ve invented a paint bomb.” This got her attention.

She asked him at once to describe his invention.


Said Lachie, “It’s really the simplest thing.

The paint bomb’s attached to the ceiling with string.

You light the fuse quickly, and then leave the room

Before the device has a chance to go ‘boom’.


Once everything’s dry I’m convinced you’ll adore

The bold tartan checks on walls, ceiling and floor.

Updating the lounge will be done in a flash.

With no carpet to buy we can save loads of cash.”


So that afternoon Lachie switched on the heating

And covered the windows with blue plastic sheeting

So that anyone sat on the suedette settee

Would still get a view of the A43.


He filled his invention with red, green and blue

And took down the curtains and photographs too.

He hung up the paint bomb with Blu-tac and string

And then lit a match; ah, but here is the thing:


The fuse Lachie fitted was too short, my friend,

And as soon as he put a lit match to the end

The paint bomb went off with an ear-splitting roar.

Poor Lachie keeled over and fell to the floor.


To spare you, dear reader, additional strife,

I’ll tell you our hero escaped with his life.

While the payment he made for his error was high

He didn’t end up in the shed in the sky.


Instead Lachie found himself lying in bed

Looking up at a white-collared face overhead.

Said the doctor, “You must think me terribly rude.

I’ve not introduced myself – I’m Doctor Pseud.


You’ve been in a coma but now you’re awake

And you’re going to get better for everyone’s sake.

There’s just one small problem. We scrubbed at your skin

But we couldn’t get rid of the paint on your chin


Or your cheeks or your forehead, your neck or your nose.

How on earth you tattooed your own face, heaven knows.

But there’s one thing I do know, because I’m so clever:

It’s not coming off. You’ll be tartan forever.”


Though a lesser man might have been crushed by this fate

Lachie wasn’t too bothered – in fact, he felt great.

He was over the moon to escape with his life

And gladly returned to his job and his wife.


At work Lachie’s boss called him in for a chat:

“You can’t meet our customers looking like that.

I want you to leave by the end of the week.

This firm is no place for a tartan-faced freak.”


When Emma found out he’d been given the sack

She said, “Right, I’m leaving. I’m not coming back.

I can’t stand the taunts on the street any more

And losing your job is the very last straw.”


The bank sent our Lachie a note to explain

The house that he lived in was in his wife’s name.

She stood to make quite a big profit, no doubt,

And he had till the end of the month to get out.


This news left poor Lachie too gobsmacked to speak;

He’d lost job, wife and house in the space of a week.

But despite his misfortune he didn’t start whining;

He knew every cloud has a platinum lining.


These days Lachie’s life’s not the same as before.

He’s no longer bored with his job, that’s for sure.

His paint bomb’s sold millions, won glowing reviews,

And it now comes equipped with a very long fuse.


At weekends our hero dons sporran and sword,

And full highland dress for the Scots Tourist Board,

And whenever they’re touring he earns what he can

As the Bay City Rollers’ publicity man.


At long last we come to our thought for the day,

The message of this, our morality play:

Though the cards that life deals you may look pretty lame

If you play them with skill you can still win the game.


And so, dearest readers, my story is done.

There’s no more to say, no more tales to be spun.

But I bet you’ll remember it now that you’ve heard

The ballad of Lachie McLachlan the third.


© Helen Lewis 2009

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