Archives September 2020

Two Have Fun in the Bathroom

Come here,” he said.

She stepped obediently towards him. He reached his hand out. Pulled the bow. The wisp of black silk slid to the ground.

His eyes held hers.

In the shower,” he said. “Now.”

She knew better than to disobey him…

Well, that’s this morning’s fantasy over. Is that what you thought when you saw the title? Really? Don’t you know how long we’ve been married…

Saturday morning. I took my lovely wife a cup of tea in bed. “Sorry,” she said, bleary-eyed, “I didn’t sleep well. I didn’t mean to sleep in.”

“No problem, sweetheart” I said. “If you’re tired and want to clean the bathroom another day that’s fine.”

“No,” she said. “We’ll still do it.”

“Honestly, darling, I don’t mind. Another day is fine.”

“We’re cleaning the bathroom,” she said. Yes, in that tone of voice.

…Which rather scuppered my plans.

I’d been planning a morning’s writing. And it was Saturday. A day when my thoughts traditionally turn to the round ball…

“Are you sure you’re alright, darling?” I made one final try over breakfast. “You look a little run down.”

“No, I’m fine.”

“Well, don’t forget you need to see your mum today.”

“Not until this afternoon.”

Ten minutes later I was carrying every cleaning implement we own – plus Mr Muscle’s entire range – upstairs. And five minute after that I was balanced precariously on top of a stool.

“There,” she commanded. “Right in that corner. And use some elbow grease.”

And then I was doing the same in the shower. “Right up to the top. And you can clean the shower head while you’re up there.”

Who would have thought a shower head could get dirty? Clean water pouring through it every morning. Ah well, you live and learn, I thought, as limescale rained merrily down on me…

Then it was toothbrush time. “Are you sure you wouldn’t like a cup of tea, sweetheart?” I said, trying a hopeful shot at goal from 50 yards.

“No, you can have a break when the shower’s clean.” Not the words you want to hear when you’re using a toothbrush to clean it. But eventually the tray that holds the shower gel was shining like the proverbial new penny.

And then it was the glass. “I probably ought to go downstairs and put the breakfast things in the dishwasher.”

“You mean you probably ought to go and look at the football forum.”

That’s the problem with our marriage. My cunning plans are long past their sell by date. I need new excuses. Maybe I could embrace advancing years as a get out clause? ‘What was that, dear? Trouble with my hearing aid…’

The toothbrush gave way to a cloth. A vigorous 15 minutes of squirt n’ rub followed. And you know what? I felt a tad vulnerable. There I was on my hands and knees in the shower…

“Whoops!” my wife said – sounding more like Dick Dastardly than Penelope Pitstop – “I nearly knocked the shower tap on, darling. That would have been funny wouldn’t it?”

Hilarious, dear.

I crawled out of the shower on my hands and knees. I was so stiff I couldn’t get up.

…And carried on crawling until I reached the top of the stairs. Where – and this will surprise you – I reached for my phone.

“Caught you. I knew you’d be reading a football forum.”

“Well, I’m not, so there.”

“What are you reading then?”

“Twitter.”

“What about?”

“Football.”

“Anyway, we’re finished.”

“Thank God,” I said, “I need a wee.”

“What? In my clean toilet? I just put bleach down it. You’ll have to wait. Or crawl downstairs…”

My first novel, Salt in the Wounds, is now available on the Kindle.

Absolutely brilliant story that had me hooked from the first chapter. I was intending to read a few chapters and then do the ironing. Ended up reading the whole book in a day and the ironing was forgotten. I can’t wait for the second book!”

The Hunter Gatherer

“I’m going into the garden,” I announced.

My wife raised her eyebrows.

She did that inverted commas thing with her fingers. The one she knows annoys me so much. “More ‘creative thinking,’ dear? Don’t forget your glass of red wine.”

“I’m going to bring the harvest in,” I said, reaching for a basket.

It’s a sore point in our marriage. My wife does 90% of the work in the garden (maybe adding the extra 9% would be more accurate…) and I claim 50% of the credit.

Especially at this time of year.

I suspect a traditional education is to blame. Harvest festival is deeply embedded in my psyche. And while Beverley ploughs the fields and scatters – so to speak – I like to harvest the ripe fruits in the garden. (No, I couldn’t remember the words to All Things Bright and Beautiful. I had to Google them. Maybe not such a traditional education after all…)

“So what exactly are you going to harvest?” she demanded.

“The plums,” I said.

“Well don’t eat too many. You know what they do to you.”

The sort of useful advice Monty should dispense on Gardeners’ World…

Basket in hand I headed out into the sunshine. The plums were the clear winner. Crop of the Year by a country mile. The tomatoes – last year’s winner – hadn’t even come close. “Sunshine at the wrong time of the year,” my wife said knowingly. If you say so, dear…

If I’m being picky – ha, ha – I was about three days too late. The ideal time would have been the middle of the week. But we were on parent duty. So let’s make a belated start.

Blimey that one feels juicy. Perfect. Just perfect.

Don’t eat too many. You know what they do to you.”

Well one isn’t going to hurt is it?

My basket fills up rapidly. And then, from nowhere, an evil spirit lands on my shoulder.

How are you doing, mate? That first one tasted good, didn’t it? And look at that one there. Soft, ripe, yielding… Nah, don’t bother washing it. That’s for wimps. See, you knew it’d taste good. And this is what men do. You’re a hunter-gatherer, providing for his family. And nothing tastes better than fresh fruit off the tree…

I walk proudly back inside. “The hunter-gatherer has gathered,” I say.

“Took you a long time,” Mrs H-G replies. “Anyway, now you need to stew them. And then I’ll freeze them.”

“And then you’ll make plum crumble?” I ask optimistically.

“If you insist.”

I did insist. Bluntly I couldn’t see much point in the freezer being involved. But it’s a long winter. I suppose we need to lay in stores. Stock up the back of our cave…

I set to work. Slice ’em in half, squeeze the stone out, into the pan.

And he was back.

How many’s that in the pan then? Seven or eight? Well, fair’s fair. You’re entitled to one now. Maybe another one. There’s loads. Of course she won’t notice…

Beverley glanced into the pan. “Is that all?” she said. “I thought there’d be more than that.”

“It always looks less when you start to stew them, dear.”

“And since when were you an expert on stewing fruit?”

That was on Sunday. “What do you want to eat tonight?” the hunter-gatherer’s loving wife asked on Monday afternoon.

“If it’s all the same to you… Well… Not very much.”

“Why not?”

“Well… I don’t feel very well. Haven’t fell very well all day.”

“What’s the matter?”

“Upset – ”

At which point our hunter-gatherer rushed out of the cave, grabbed a handful of leaves and ran into the bushes…

My first novel – ‘Salt in the Wounds’ – will be published in the next seven days. Here it is on Amazon

The Volkswagen BackSpasm

“All set?”

“You sure you don’t want me to drive?”

No. With a full Scottish – a full English minus beans plus haggis – inside me I want to drive. I have to drive.

Sitting in the passenger seat checking my e-mails as my beloved hurtles along a narrow country lane isn’t what my digestive system needs…

And it’s a long way. Mid-afternoon according to whatever app we’re using to tell us where the speed cameras are…

Or possibly not.

Mid-afternoon may be a touch optimistic.

“There’s something wrong with the car.” We’re 500 yards down the road when I deliver this grim verdict.

“What do you mean there’s something wrong with the car?”

A two second glance is enough. “We’ve got a flat tyre.”

Cast your mind back to the old days. You’ve got a flat. It’s raining. You dive into the nearest shop. ‘Where’s the nearest garage?’ ‘Dunno, mate, I don’t drive.’

Or you search for a phone box. Someone’s stolen the Yellow Pages.

What’s that? Change it myself? My wife values her life. And she knows the limits of my mechanical expertise. Two hundred miles when I’ve changed a wheel and we haven’t got a spare? Nae chance, as the locals would say.

“There are four,” she says, consulting her phone.

“Four? In a town this size?”

We’re in St Andrews. We’ve dropped Alex’s things off in Edinburgh and taken him up to see his girlfriend.

We’ve never been to St Andrews.

The beach, the harbour, the ruined cathedral. And the industrial estate, to complete the sightseeing.

Still, four tyre and battery places. And only a very slow, very careful drive away.

Kwik-Fit’s the first one. “Aye, nae bother. We can do it tomorrow afternoon.”

I wish I’d taken a photo. Beverley’s expression was something to behold.

“I’d prefer not to spend another night in St Andrews,” she said. Or words to that effect.

She wouldn’t have. The second garage could do it. But not until the middle of the afternoon.

“Where’s the next one?”

It didn’t matter. “Nae chance this week, I’m afraid.”

“What’s going on in this town?” I said. “It’s half the size of home, has twice as many tyre places and they’re all booked solid. Home of golf my £$%&. Home of the puncture more like.”

It’s always darkest before the dawn. The Fife Auto Centre rode to the rescue.

The three of us – me, my wife and my indigestion – were finally on the way home.

And as we crossed the Forth Road Bridge we had a depressing conversation.

“I’m going to have to change the car. It’s got to that stage. That’s two visits to a garage in two months.”

“It was a tyre.”

“It’s a sign.”

“I suppose you’re right,” she said. For some obscure reason she was staring at me. “Things do reach an age where everything starts to drop off. Or stops working…”

Was that one of her ‘subtle’ comments? No, definitely not.

“What are you going to get?”

“I might go back to a Golf,” I said. “Maybe a GTI or whatever the boy racer ones are called these days.”

“Er…” she said.

“What?”

“What about your back?”

And that, gentle reader, is the sad truth. That’s the determining factor in buying a new car. Not performance. Not economy. Not carbon emissions.

How low is it? Can I get into the damn thing without injuring my back?

The story of my life, told in cars.

Battered Mini – slightly less battered Mini – first ‘proper’ car – my beloved original Scirocco – sensible family car – the very sensible Tiguan that carried the kids backwards and forwards to uni…

And now. The final humiliation.

A Volkswagen BackSpasm…

His best friend’s been murdered, his daughter’s in danger

There’s only one answer. Going back to his old life

The one that cost him his wife…

My first novel – Salt in the Wounds – will be published on Tuesday September 29th

Shades in the Rain

It’s quite alarming how quickly you lose your fitness. Well, it is at my age.

It’s not a long, lingering goodbye. There’s none of that, ‘This is not goodbye, just au revoir’ nonsense.

“Right, mate. That’s it. I’m off. See ya. Bye.”

And it’s gone.

Over the hills and far away. And you’re too knackered to run after it.

I was quite fit in the early weeks of lockdown. Two miles every morning. Then pop my shades on so the Government drones didn’t recognise me and a mile in the afternoon as well.

Then Alex and I decided we wouldn’t do a walk this year.

My motivation took a dip.

And then I started writing my novel.

The fat lady belted out the Lost Fitness Blues…

I’ve no doubt there are plenty of people out there who do five miles in the morning and 5,000 words in the afternoon. Huh. The sort of people who like porridge made with salt and water.

For me, writing and walking are mutually exclusive. I can get up at 6:00 and walk a couple of miles or I can write 1,000 words. This summer I chose the latter. And I’m paying the price.

Fifteen months ago Alex and I walked 125 miles round County Kerry. I walked up the near-vertical Lack Road and through Windy Gap. Limped the 15 miles from Kenmare to Killarney on the last day. And I got out of bed that morning and thought, ‘I’m in pain. A lot of pain. But it’s only 15 miles.’

Pain? That was before I put my boot on. The boot that still contained a 50/50 mixture of Irish bog and cow £$%&.

So here I am, the beginning of September and I’m in the Last Chance Saloon. I’ve got four days.

Alex is back from St Andrew. Three weeks – can you believe – to help his girlfriend ‘move into her new flat.’ There must have been a lot of boxes…

But he’s here and – assuming the Heavens dinnae open – we’ve four more walks before he goes back to Edinburgh.

Four more walks of two miles. That’s my whack at the moment. Write all morning, Two miles in the afternoon. My fitness isn’t impressed. ‘I might come back. But you’re going to have to do a lot more than that.’

But what happens when my will power is 200 miles up the Great North Road?

He posed that very question. “You’re going to keep doing this when I’ve gone back, aren’t you, Dad?”

“When it’s cold and dark and the cliff top’s frozen and muddy?”

“Duh, Dad. it can’t be frozen and muddy at the same time.”

Quite so. He has an irritating habit of correcting me. And saying ‘that’s bollocks’ in response to some of my well-crafted monologues.

But it’s a small price to pay. Ask me to name one thing, one pleasure, that being a dad has given me and it’s walking with Alex. So let’s make the most of it.

And here we are. A mile or so from the car and it’s a beautiful day. The sun’s shining and we’ve both got our shorts and sunglasses on.

Correction. It’s September. The sun was shining. And what’s that I feel? A spot of rain. If I want to look stupid I wear a hat. But wearing sunglasses when it’s raining comes a close second. But I can’t take them off because they’re my prescription sunglasses. If it’s all the same to you, I’d prefer to see the edge of the cliff.

So a 20 minute trudge back to the car. Shades in the rain. We did our best to look cool…

I’m delighted to say that my first novel – Salt in the Wounds – will be published on September 29th. You can order it from Amazon by clicking this link.