Old Dog, New Bone?

We’ve all heard the phrase, ‘boomerang kids.’

They leave home – college, uni, a job – and then they boomerang back home.

We’ve just had a month of it.

So not so much a boomerang, more a fly past.

Dan was between flats. Did he need to stay in Leeds? No. With everything online it didn’t matter where he was.

He could have been anywhere. Anywhere in the world…

But there’s this pandemic thing. You may have noticed.

And there were other considerations. Was ‘anywhere in the world’ free? Did it have a washing fairy? A fridge which magically re-filled itself? A voice floating up the stairs every night saying, ‘dinner’s ready?’

‘Anywhere in the world’ didn’t tick any of those boxes.

Mum and dad’s ticked them all.

So I was despatched to Leeds to fill the car. Dan followed on the train. After a couple of nights with his girlfriend…

And we really enjoyed having him here. The empty nest wasn’t empty any more.

“We’re needed after all,” my beloved said. Then – for some reason I can’t work out – she gave me one of her looks. “Not that there’s a time when I’m not needed…”

So Dan was back. But he’d brought a problem…

No, that’s unfair. A challenge. Blimey, it could even be an opportunity by the time I’ve finished writing…

He’s a vegetarian. And to a man whose definition of ‘erotic fantasy’ is a ribeye steak and pepper sauce that was – at first – a problem.

There was an awful lot of veggie lasagne in the first week…

But a month? Thirty days of “I’ll make a meat sauce for us and leave the meat out for Dan” was stretching it.

Besides, lasagne demands garlic bread and red wine. A month of that and even my most ‘athletic’ waistband would be under pressure…

But Dan had brought his cookbook home. I can’t remember the exact title – the River Cottage one. With old Hugh’s promise on the front that we’d want to eat more and more veg because – bluntly – they’re delicious.

My wife didn’t appear to be overjoyed. She’s long known the effect onions, leeks and their co-conspirators have on my digestion. And more often than not Hugh was recommending a curry…

Let’s take a step back.

Had you said to me three or four years ago – perhaps even 12 months ago – that I’d enjoy vegetarian meals I’d have politely suggested you increase whatever medication you were taking.

Bacon sandwiches, chilli, spag bol. That ribeye steak in a County Kerry pub. ‘No thanks, mate. Whatever tablets you’re taking, take more of them.’

But gradually the old dog started chewing on a new bone.

The shopping list changed. Chillies, sweet potatoes and coconut milk were at the top.

And spinach.

Oh my goodness, did we ever eat a lot of spinach…

Now spinach – as Popeye used to point out – is remarkably good for you. It’s also 93% water.

If the shopping list was looking increasingly different, the bathroom was looking increasingly familiar.

Especially in the middle of the night.

I’m surprised Popeye had any time to rescue Olive Oyl. ‘Try and hold Bluto off, love. I just need to go behind this hedge…’

But guess what? I lost weight while Dan was at home. Without increasing my exercise, without feeling hungry. I forgot that feeling of being winched away from the table…

But not everything had changed. Dan still liked his chocolate. The up-market version. Lindt dark chocolate with sea salt. Thank goodness it was on special offer at the corner shop. I fair wore a groove in the pavement.

But a much lighter groove…

The Scars Don’t Show – the first in the Michael Brady Short Reads series – will be out this week. The book’s set in 1998: Brady is 26 – a young detective on his first murder case and desperate to impress. Maybe too desperate…