“I’ll See Your Tripe…”

It’s one of the fundamental questions of life isn’t it? Why do fish and chips taste better eaten with your fingers? In the fresh air, by the sea, eaten with your fingers.

And let’s make those namby-pamby boxes illegal. Come on, Boris! Bring that little square of greaseproof paper back. Haddock n’ chips wrapped in last week’s Sunday People.

Chip forks can go at the same time.

I’ve checked. There’s a vacant spit in the underworld. Just between the guy who invented the party bag and the person who first said ‘paperless office.’ The smug so-and-so who came up with the chip fork will slot in nicely. Another miscreant roasting for eternity…

Sorry, I was ranting.

Fundamental questions…

There’s another one. Of possibly even greater import.

Do you have mushy peas with your fish and chips?

Of course you do!

Unless you’re my wife…

I sent her the opening chapters of the latest book. “It’s alright,” she said. “But…”

“But what?”

“He’s bought her mushy peas with the fish and chips.”

“So?”

“No woman likes mushy peas.”

“You don’t.”

“No. Not just me. No woman likes mushy peas.”

What man doesn’t seize the chance to prove his wife wrong? And a survey of my pals on Facebook would soon sort that.

And what could be more scientific? More clinically accurate? If I’m not on SAGE by this time next week I’ll be phoning Matt Hancock…

Especially as the result was overwhelming. 53 to 37 in my favour. (Plus one ‘write-in’ from the USA saying, ‘What the £$%& are mushy peas?’)

Unbelievably, my wife refused to accept the result. “Your sample is skewed,” she said. “Everyone you’ve asked is the same age as you. Ask your daughter.”

I didn’t have to. One of my pals replied almost instantly. ‘My daughter is 30 and she looovves mushy peas.’

What more evidence could anyone need?

And then the discussion disappeared down the rabbit hole.

My mum (from Yorkshire) cooked tons of the things. There was a good supply over the weekend. They sat in the pan, cooked but cold. Every time she went past Mum ate a spoonful. Yes, cold!

Followed by several vomiting emojis…

After that the discussion went even further downhill.

Downhill – but interesting.

A word of warning. If you’re from the South, proceed with caution. And if you’re a vegetarian, don’t go any further.

My grandma used to add mint to them if we were having them with a Sunday roast like lamb.

And then the T word tiptoed into the discussion…

Mushy peas must have been hell if you didn’t like them. Bit like tripe in milk, but let’s not go there (face that has seen a ghost emoji…)

Memories were dredged, recipes were compared. A high-stakes game of poker ensued…

Mum cooked tripe in the pressure cooker and served it with a white sauce made from the liquor – thickened it with cornflour.

That looked like the winner until Phyllis swaggered into the saloon. Clearly, a woman who should have played poker for a living. She saw everyone’s tripe and raised them…

My mum loved tripe and worse still, she loved cow’s udder. Don’t think I’ve seen that on sale for 60 years.

Cow’s udder? Everyone blinked – or vomited – and folded. Phyllis scooped the pot.

I crept off to Google to do my research. And here’s Samuel Pepys in October 1660. Mr Creed and I to the Leg in King Street, where he and I had a good udder to dinner.

53-37 and Samuel Pepys. My wife got off lightly with a side order of mushy peas. Let’s see how she copes with tonight’s delicacy.

Humble pie…

I really enjoyed my first meeting with Michael Brady. His story drew me in from the first page. I need Book 2…” ‘Salt in the Wounds’ is now available on Amazon.

“I Understand how you Feel…”

Legend has it that the KGB came for you at four in the morning. You were woken up. Your brain was foggy. You accepted your fate. Scratched your name on the wall of the Lubyanka…

You know what I’ve always wondered?

Did they let you have a wee before they hauled you off?

Sadly that’s the only thing I want at four in the morning.

That’s what I needed last Monday. And that’s when the KGB came knocking on my door.

Or their 2020 successors.

Amazon.

Like all authors I have a love/hate relationship with Amazon.

They’re just like Angela Miller.

All my teenage years spent asking her out. All the pain, the rejection, the hoops I had to jump through…

Yep, Amazon are exactly the same.

Four in the morning and foolishly – very, very foolishly – I open my e-mails.

‘The paperback will be published by now,’ I think. The paperback of my first novel. ‘Whoop’ will be a significant understatement.

No, it’s not published. Instead of a little box inviting you to ‘buy now’ there’s a dash. And two lines of deathly prose from Amazon. This product is currently unavailable. We don’t know when – or if – it will be available.

The KGB may as well be hammering on the door. I’m wide awake.

What on earth have Amazon done? I need to get in touch with them.

Now.

I could sit up in bed – yes, next to my gently sleeping wife – and dictate an e-mail straight into my phone.

“Hey, Siri! Open e-mail!”

I could do that, but the life insurance wouldn’t pay out. They’d say it was a ‘stupid and reckless act, knowingly endangering my own life.’

And they’d be right.

So I stumble downstairs.

The next few days are stressful. I send e-mails. I make phone calls. The paperback is available to me if I want to buy an ‘author copy.’ But the mighty ’Zon refuse to make it available to anyone else. To the queue of people – alright, we’re not talking Harrods on Boxing Day, but still a few – who want to buy it.

Amazon are unfailingly polite. They hope I’m keeping well. They hope I ‘stay safe in these difficult times.’

They ‘remain in the best of dispositions for any future enquiries’ I may have.

But nothing happens. And there’s nothing I can do. They have me over a barrel. Between a rock and a hard place. By the short and curlies.

Wednesday. I check my e-mail again – my bladder is nothing if not punctual.

And I finally go mad.

Four in the morning and I’m in full rant mode.

‘I understand how you feel’ one of the Amazon team carelessly types.

No, you do not understand how I feel.

Writing a book is supposedly the closest a man ever gets to giving birth…

And I’ve delivered a bouncing baby. But the midwife is refusing to let me see it.

I understand how you feel? That’s like me looking solicitously as my wife when she’s eight months pregnant. ‘You can’t sleep lying down and you can’t sleep sitting up, darling? Your boobs are hurting and you’re fed up to the back teeth? And at the end of it all you’re going to have to give birth which everyone says stings a little bit? Yes, I’ve got a bad back so I understand exactly how you feel…’

‘You’re going through the menopause? You’re getting forgetful and you’re not sure if it’s the menopause or dementia? And you’re having random, violent hot flushes? Yes, the heater in the car was too high this afternoon. So of course, sweetheart. I understand exactly how you feel…’

I’m delighted to say that the battle with Amazon was eventually won. You can buy the paperback and the Kindle version of ‘Salt in the Wounds’ right here.

Bill the Bogeyman

Let me start with an apology. If you’re forced to self-isolate, it’s my fault.

If Boris comes round and bricks you up in your house… Yep, that would be me.

The Government is now relying on me for data. I’m part of the Covid-19 testing programme.

What could possibly go wrong?

My wife got the e-mail. It could even have been a letter. I don’t know. But she offered me some money. I said yes.

“What do I have to do?”

“Looking at this, stick a swab up your nose.”

Fifty quid. It seemed a lot for ten minutes’ work. Then again, if the Government can give HS2 enough money to employ 17 PR firms they can give me fifty notes to stick a lollipop stick up my nose.

The appointed day arrived.

I was expecting Chris Witty to turn up in a full hazmat suit. And flanked by a squadron of motorcycle outriders.

Instead an assistant bank manager turned up. Driving a Ford Fiesta.

I’m not sure I even caught his name. He didn’t seem very sure on a lot of things. His name could well have been one of them.

The ABM consulted his notes – scribbled on a sheet of A4 – and launched into a series of probing questions.

“Have you got Covid-19?”

“No.

“Do you think you’ve had Covid-19?”

“No.”

“Are you currently self-isolating?”

“As I’m standing on the doorstep talking to you, no.”

He fed this crucial information into the very latest iPad. It was instantly and wirelessly whizzed back to London where a state-of-the-art supercomputer crunched the numbers and gave Boris the intel.

“I’m really, sorry,” he said. “I can’t get a signal on my phone. Been meaning to upgrade for months. I couldn’t use your wi-fi could I? And I’ve deleted all your answers. I’m sorry. Could we start again?”

But the moment finally came…

“Would you like a cup of tea while you’re waiting?” I said to the ABM.

“Better not. Ha ha. Don’t want to contaminate your cups.”

Not a reply which filled me with a huge amount of confidence…

By now my beloved had done her test. She seemed to have survived. So naturally I allowed her to do mine.

I was ordered to wash my hands and blow my nose. “And then sit in the chair.”

She stepped towards me with what looked like a long plastic knitting needle and a test tube full of urine.

“What do you have to do?”

“Swab your nose and your throat.”

“Does it matter which way round we do it?”

She gave me one of her patient looks. “Not at all, darling. I’m sure most people choose to stick it up their nose first and then down their throat.”

“Not so far down my throat that you make me sick. I don’t want to puke all over Bill the Bogeyman’s equipment.”

“Just shut up and open wide.”

She rummaged around in my tonsils.

“And now your nose. Tip your head back, dear.”

“Both nostrils?”

“You can’t have too much of a good thing, sweetheart.”

I had a moment of panic. Wasn’t this how Russian secret agents were trained to kill people? A knitting needle up the nose? Straight into the brain…

Yes, officer. I was doing his Covid test. I’d just pushed it up his nose when I sneezed. Then the cat knocked my arm. Just to make sure. Counselling? No, no, I don’t think I’ll need counselling…

That was last week. We’ve not heard anything. Either we’ve tested negative – or the ABM is still sitting in his Fiesta trying to remember our wi-fi password…

Loved this book! The sort of book that really sucks you into the story. The characters were likeable, the dialogue witty and natural. Can’t wait for the next one…’

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

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