MY Christmas gift voucher for an afternoon cookery lesson for four was about to expire, so I decided to go ahead and book it up.

Reluctantly, my friend Susan and her husband David agreed to join me with my gay friend Michael, who was over the moon.

"It'll be great fun," I enthused.

To let you understand, Susan doesn't have a great track record in the kitchen and her husband David has only ever managed beans on toast.

But Michael, well Michael is a perfectionist, who believes himself to be a Cordon Bleu chef.

We received a two-course menu in advance, giving us a shopping list of items to purchase and, of course, the wine was optional.

So on Saturday afternoon we stepped off the train in Glasgow with baskets of pre-selected provisions and bottles of wine and as we were nearing the cookery school, David piped up.

"Why don't we nip in there for a quick drink?" he said pointing to the pub. "After all, we're half an hour early."

So, with shopping bags in hand, we entered the pub and ordered a drink. "One more?" pleaded David 15 minutes later.

"Okay, one more," agreed Susan scolding David with her eyes.

Soon it was 2.50pm and we climbed the cookery school stairs and were met by our teacher.

"Come in, come in," she shouted with a broad twang. "I am Hilda from the Highlands and I am your Masterchef."

Now, Hilda-from-the-Highlands was about 60, with grey hair in a bun, wearing kitchen whites and a hat with a hairnet. After the introductions she got down to business.

"Chop chop, ladies and gentlemen. Time is precious!"

David shook his head in denial that he was here for a cooking lesson. But Michael was already changing into his apron.

"Hands please," instructed Hilda-from-the-Highlands. "All hands must be washed before we begin. Now stand at your workstation and place your ingredients on top ready to begin."

I noticed David had already begun. He'd opened the wine and was already starting to get into the swing of things.

Hilda-from-the-Highlands continued in teacher mode: "Now, look to the blackboard and you will see I have written a simple step-by-step recipe guide for you to follow."

Our mission was to cook stuffed mushrooms, followed by chilli meatballs and spaghetti. Simple.

Michael was already way ahead and had started to mix stuffing in a bowl.

Susan was inspecting each mushroom individually and David, in between swigging his wine, was already in a bit of a muddle.

"David," shouted Hilda-from-the-Highlands, "you are supposed to mince the garlic before you place it in the bowl."

With no idea how to mince garlic David simply shrugged and replied: "No bother' before taking another swig of wine.

Susan, meanwhile, was too busy perfecting her dish to notice her half-cut husband.

And all the while the bold Michael was in heaven, humming as he cooked.

Twenty five minutes later the starters were displayed for inspection. Hilda cast a disapproving eye at David's attempt before eying Michael's offering.

"Well done, almost perfect," commended Hilda-from-the-Highlands.

We ate our starters and enjoyed a glass of wine, which was by no means David's first.

"Meatballs next", we were reminded as we were commanded back to our workstation.

I was now really enjoying myself and thinking how glad I was that David was positioned next to me as he was making me look quite professional.

"David, please follow the instructions on the blackboard," scolded Hilda-from-the-Highlands.

"You must use the pestle and mortar to grind the chilli."

David, who had no idea what a chilli was, never mind a pestle and mortar, took another gulp of wine as he endeavored to mimic me.

"Bish, bash bosh," shouted Michael in the background, seeing himself as Jamie Oliver.

"Don't forget the seasoning," interjected our teacher. "And remember, if your meatballs are larger than golf balls they will take longer to cook."

But before she can utter another word some of David's newly sculpted meatballs had rolled off the tray and on to the floor.

UNFORTUNATELY, two of them rolled to a halt besides Hilda-from-the-Highlands' ugly white loafers.

"Now," said Hilda-from-the-Highlands, interrupting my laughter, "by this stage your meatballs should be braising in the pan which gives us a little time to tidy up and relax with a drink before we start on the pasta."

"Sounds good to meeee," slurred David.

Ignoring him, she continued: "Remember, your spaghetti should be al dente."

And we all tested the firmness of our pasta before Hilda-from-the-Highlands gave us our next instruction. "Finally, for the garnish. Let's shave the cheese."

But David had had enough. Pouring the dregs of wine into his glass and now fairly inebriated he toasted our stony-faced tutor.

"Hilda, you're a very nice woman. But what are you rambling on about? Sweating, golf balls, seasoning, al dente?"

And turning to me, a confused David said: "Janice, now she's asking me to shave the cheese?!"

Laugh? It was better than a take-away any day.