She’s Moving Home…

It’s a fine line. One minute I’m interfering, the next I don’t care.

Was it not ever thus?

She must have been about 12. For some reason I was working at home – in the days before it became a government diktat.

Beverley walked in through the front door, followed by the angelic children she’d collected from school. “Hello, boys,” I said. “How was your day?”

They grunted, walked past me and emptied the fridge.

No matter, here was my beloved daughter, just on the cusp of becoming a teenager.

“Hello, sweetheart,” I said. “How was your day?”

She stared at me. “Why don’t you just get out of my life? Why are you always interfering? Why do you keep asking stupid questions?”

She stormed upstairs. I looked helplessly at my wife. My ‘what did I do?’ expression.

“Hormones,” she mouthed at me.

Ah, I thought. I understand. Eleanor wants me to be cool, detached.

Fast forward 24 hours. The scene is played out once again.

“Hello, boys, how was your day?”

See above: grunt, fridge…

And my daughter. Remember. Cool, detached…

I smile. Nothing more.

She storms upstairs. Pauses halfway. Fixes me with her killer stare. “That’s right! You ask the boys how their day was! You don’t ask me! Because you don’t care about me! You’ve never cared!”

I looked helplessly at my wife. Yes, I used that expression a lot over the next few years.

And you can guess her reply. “Hormones…”

Well, fast forward a dozen years. A baker’s dozen. Hormones? I have no idea, because now she lives 60 miles away with Could-be-Serious.

…And I may have to give the boy a new name. When you’re buying a house together, maybe it’s a little bit more than ‘could be serious.’

Yep, my little girl, who barely five minutes ago was giving her four year old brother a whack to keep him in line, is buying her first house.

Otley, in West Yorkshire, where – the wheel turns full circle – my grandfather was born.

Found the house, got the mortgage, had the survey done: it’s proceeding at a pace. And – all credit to her – the deposit paid from her own savings. I couldn’t be more proud.

I just need to show the right level of interest…

I texted her during house hunting.

How’s it going, love? Found anywhere yet?

She replied to my wife…

Will you tell Dad to stop interfering? Always asking questions.

(Apparently I hadn’t factored in how stressful it all was.)

And then they found a house…

Why hasn’t Dad sent a text to congratulate us yet? Doesn’t he care?

Rewind 13 years. Clearly I have learned nothing at all.

But it’s all good. It keeps me on my toes.

And it’s a lovely house. First house? You couldn’t ask for anything more – especially the kitchen/dining room. One of the bedrooms is a touch pink – well, very pink – but that’s not a problem.

I’ll lose my wife to a weekend’s decorating. But beer, football, pizza…

No, no, not a problem at all.

And, of course, another rite of passage ticked off for the ageing parents. Nursery, proper school, big school, first boyfriend, serious exams, off to uni…

They’re rites of passage for your children but they’re rites of passage for mum and dad as well. And now she’s buying a house. Does that mean we can turn her room into an office? Will I finally be able to gaze lovingly at that hand-made desk? Bookmarked on Etsy for at least three years…

I’m not sure my lovely daughter can raise an objection. What about my wife?

It might be time for a cup of tea in bed…

THE RIVER RUNS DEEP

Bad people do good things.

Good people do bad things.

Sometimes it’s hard to know the difference…

The follow up to Salt in the Wounds is out now and available on Amazon

The Yorkshire Grunts

Many husbands – you may have noticed this yourself – can be irritating.

I’d like to say that I’m the exception. But you know me of old.

And my wife proof-reads these columns…

She’s long found me… ‘Challenging’ is a good word to use.

This week it was the turn of our old friend, the kitchen cupboard door.

“The cupboard door has come off again.”

“OK, I’m just finishing my book. I’m at 86,000 words.”

“The [word deleted] cupboard door has been hanging off since you were at 20,000 [oops, deleted again] words.”

In the old days I used to reason with her. Point out that Shakespeare never broke off from Hamlet to reach for his Phillips screwdriver. Surprisingly, that never went well…

Still, we’re getting a new kitchen as soon as you-know-what ends. I expect the cupboard doors will fix themselves.

But what really has her reaching for the nearest sharp/heavy/pointed (preferably all three) object is when I start speaking in tongues. Specifically Welsh, Scottish or the dialect she cheerfully refers to as ‘Yorkshire idiot.’

I think the children could be to blame. Alternatively it could be demonic possession.

We trundled off in the car on holiday. A cottage in the Borders. What could be more lovely? We’d stop for something to eat, we’d stop for someone to vomit and eventually we’d see a sign that said Scotland.

At which point I morphed into the lovechild of William Wallace and Rab C Nesbitt.

“Aye, we’ll soon be at the wee cottage. Aye, I’ll chase a haggis roond the garden the noo…”

The children loved it. My beloved was less impressed – especially if we’d been through the Tyne Tunnel and she’d spent half an hour sitting next to a deranged member of the Toon Army…

Wales? “I’m sorry, children, your father thinks he’s Ivor the Engine.”

Cornwall? No. There are certain parts of the country we never visited. Come to think of it I’ve never been to Liverpool or Brum with my wife either…

But there you are. No-one is going anywhere at the moment, so the accents round on Whose Line is it Anyway is a thing of the past.

If only…

The merest mention of West Yorkshire and I’m off. “Does tha’ want a cup o’ tea, our lass? ’Appen tha’ll be wanting t’biscuits for a spot o’ dunkin…”

This would be bad enough – but it’s combined with my advancing years. I can’t now get off the sofa/bend down/go upstairs without making a noise.

Beverley was knitting. “I need something to help me relax.” Something that involved teeny-tiny knitting needles. “Don’t worry, they’ll still go up your nose,” she said encouragingly.

But what you don’t want when your trying to relax is a Yorkshire idiot giving a running commentary as he turns the fire on…

“Tha’ wants t’fire on? By gum n’ it’s a long way down, tha’ knows.”

“Would you just – ” [go away is a loose translation] “ – with your Yorkshire grunts.”

“What did you just say?”

“I don’t know. I told you to be quiet.”

“No, the exact words.”

“Go away with your Yorkshire grunts.”

Well, not quite the exact phrase, but close enough.

And what a magnificent phrase as well. The Yorkshire Grunts.

It is – very obviously – a euphemism. Halfway through January and it is already Euphemism of the Year.

“Don’t eat too many eggs,” my Gran was fond of saying. “They’ll bind you. You don’t want to be costive.”

And that’s clearly what ‘the Yorkshire Grunts’ is a euphemism for. My wife – unwittingly – has launched a new phrase into the English language.

“Where’s Dad? Haven’t seen him for a while.”

“Aye well. ’Appen he’s locked away in t’privvy. Not enough fruit and veg. Bad case o’ t’Yorkshire Grunts…’

Fabulous! Had me gripped from start to finish. Reminded me of Mark Billingham’s detective, Tom Thorne. Excellent, can’t wait to read the second book.”

Salt in the Wounds is available on Amazon. The follow up, The River Runs Deep, can be pre-ordered now and will be published on January 31st

The Dad’s Gambit

My eldest son reached forward. Picked up the chess piece. “Pawn to e4,” he said.

A classic opening.

I countered with one of the lesser known chess moves. But one I’ve been working on for years. I’ve perfected it. I am – at least as far as this move goes – a Grandmaster.

I reached forward. Picked up my glass. “Wine to mouth 1,” I said.

I pushed a pawn forward. “The Sicilian,” I confidently declared.

Two moves later and Dan had taken it. “Sicilian? I think you’ve confused it with the pizza, Dad.”

What happened this Christmas? My boys played chess.

Wind back the clock and they disappeared to their bedrooms, linked laptops and slaughtered aliens.

This year? Chess is the new Halo.

The black bishops are the evil spawn from the outer Galaxy.

They trooped into the dining room, decided who was white – and spent an hour in silent contemplation.

They had an unofficial mini-league. Dan, Alex and Lizzie. You-know-what meant she couldn’t go home for Christmas. So here she was: 10,500 miles from her mum and dad and checkmating my youngest son.

“What’s that?” Alex said. “Twelve all?”

“I think I’m winning 13-12.”

And there you have it. Shared interests? Shared sense of humour? Forget ’em. Want your relationship to succeed? You need the same chess rating.

I didn’t get involved in the Christmas games. Largely because I spent most of Christmas washing up, peeling potatoes or exhausted on the sofa. I wandered in occasionally, noted that Dan generally seemed to be winning and wandered out.

And then Alex and Lizzie betrayed me. They braved Nicola’s border guards and went back to Edinburgh.

“Do you want to play chess after dinner, Dad?”

Yes.

And no.

Obviously I want to play chess with my son. But Dan’s doing a PhD. One that features equations. Equations that feature lots of Σ’s and those big, squiggly F’s.

So I wasn’t optimistic. The bookmakers were offering long odds on my survival.

And chess isn’t my game. I’m not sure it’s any writer’s game.

The wrong type of brain. Faulty wiring.

Creative, not analytical.

My brain especially. Definitely faulty wiring. But not the faulty wiring that Messrs Fischer and Spassky had.

I’d like to tell you that the game was close. That my ruthless execution of the Queen’s Gambit left him helpless. Floundering.

That after an hour of an intense battle between two intellectual titans we shook hands – whoops, bumped elbows – on a draw.

I’d like to tell you that. In truth it was the Chinese People’s Army against a primitive tribe who’d barely mastered the bow and arrow.

And it only got worse when he went back to Leeds.

Our games moved online.

See above. Faulty wiring. Inability to concentrate. And when you can’t concentrate, online is not a good place to be.

You’ve taken my Queen! I wailed into the chat box.

Yes, you moved your knight, he typed back.

Well I wasn’t concentrating

That’s not my fault, Dad

You took so long to make your move that I checked the football scores

So I checked the scores again. No change…

“I’d threaten his Queen if I had any pieces left,” I complained to my lovely wife. “I managed one cunning plan. Skewered his castle – ”

“And then you sat on your laurels.”

Yes. And drank some more wine.

“I tell you what I’ll do. I’ll offer him a draw. What could be a fairer result between father and son? A magnanimous draw, both players acknowledging the other’s skill and prowess?”

I reached for my mouse. Double-clicked the ‘offer draw’ button.

Dan’s response was simple and to the point. He checkmated me…

Michael Brady had my interest from the first chapter. By the fifth I had a crush. Salt in the Wounds is an exciting story, played out in a location almost as engaging as the book’s characters. Can’t wait for the second book…”

The second book, The River Runs Deep, will be published on January 31st. You can pre-order it by clicking the link.

Gin, Pale Ale and Mushy Peas

“I need to go to Whitby,” I said to my lovely wife. “Do some research for the book.”

“And would you be having mushy peas with that research, dear?”

“As it happens, yes. There’s a scene in the book where the hero eats fish and chips. By the harbour. I need to get it right.”

My wife consulted her laptop. She checked her phone. “Astonishing,” she said. “They’re both faulty. They’re both saying it’s December. When obviously – if you want to stand by Whitby harbour and eat fish and chips – it must be July.”

“We all have to suffer for our art, dear.”

You’d better imagine her reply. It’s best I don’t quote it word-for-word.

But a few days later here we were, trundling across the Moors. And with the car full to bursting as well.

Alex back from university – and with Lizzie. I’d explained the plan. They’d looked doubtful. But they’d dutifully climbed into the back of the car. “Not long,” I said. “Ten more minutes and we’ll be there.”

No-one whooped with joy…

I parked the car and we walked the deserted streets of Whitby. No room at the inn? Not a light on in any of the inns.

I pulled my coat round me. The wind did seem a touch sharp…

“What do you want to do?” my wife said.

“Stand by the harbour. Eat fish and chips. Make sure I get the scene right.”

“You realise it won’t do a lot for Alex’s relationship if his girlfriend dies of hypothermia?”

“I’ll just take some photos,” I said. “Then I’ll get the fish and chips.” I left them huddled on the swing bridge and walked down to the edge of the water. Checked what my hero could see. Did exciting researchy things like pace out the distance to the rubbish bin.

I walked back up the steps. “We’ve taken a vote,” my wife said.

“What do you mean you’ve taken a vote?”

“What I say. We’ve voted that you’re taking us to the Magpie. I booked a table while you were staring at the harbour. And I’ve got to tell you…” she added.

“What?”

“…I’m fairly certain Hemingway never photographed a rubbish bin.”

“So three to one?” I said.

“Yes. And no time for a recount. We’re due there in five minutes.”

So it was that I found myself face to face – or face to mask – with a waitress.

“Can I get you a drink while you’re looking at the menu?” she said.

What else do you drink with fish and chips? “Pot of tea for four,” I said confidently.

My wife coughed. Alex said, “Hang on, Dad…”

Another tradition was carelessly tossed out of the window. My beloved had seen the word ‘botanical’ on the menu. You know what that means.

And my youngest son had spotted his favourite initials – IPA.

“It comes in a pint bottle. Is that alright?” the waitress said.

“More than alright,” the boy replied.

Two craft gins were added to the order.

“And for you, sir?”

“I’m driving,” I said glumly. “Mineral water, please. And we’ll need bread and butter for four.”

Nope, we wouldn’t. The younger generation didn’t even have fish and chips.

But the meal was delicious – once we’d got the plates the right way round.

“Are the mushy peas for you, madam?” My wife swiftly reached for her crucifix. “That’ll be a ‘no’ then…”

“Have you got all your research done? Can we go back to the car?” Beverley said half an hour later. After another round of gins and another pint of IPA.

I stared at the bill.

What was that about suffering for your art…

An engaging plot, interesting characters and a real sense of place. I usually keep a book on the go to dip into when I want some distraction – but not this one. I read it over the weekend – I really needed to know how it finished!”

Salt in the Wounds is available now on Amazon.

The follow up – The River Runs Deep – will be published in January

King Alfred’s Heir

As regular readers know, I have long considered myself to be the rightful King of Northumberland, descended – on my mother’s side – from King AElla.

Once I’d heard the story from Auntie Marjorie I needed no further convincing – despite the fact that she lived in a semi in Wakefield, rather than a hill fort commanding the Cheviots.

Then my lovely wife took a swab and researched my DNA. “Good God,” she said, “I thought you were from a long line of Yorkshire peasants. You’re Swedish.”

That was enough for me. AElla was dismissed. “So I’m a direct descendant of Eric Bloodaxe?”

“He was Norwegian.”

“Close enough.”

Sadly neither may be correct – especially if behaviour has any bearing on genetics.

If any royal blood pulses in my veins then AElla and Eric are out. And King Alfred is in.

Yes, that one. King of the Anglo-Saxons. And famously associated with cakes…

You know the story. Alfred is on the run from the Vikings. He takes refuge in the hut of a peasant woman. She asks him to watch her cakes – small loaves of bread – baking by the fire. But poor old Alfred is more worried about the Vikings. He lets the cakes burn and ‘is roundly scolded by the peasant woman.’

There you are. Cold tongue pie was alive and well in 871…

“I’m going round to my mother’s,” the peasant woman – whoops, beloved wife – said on Friday morning. “Can I leave you in charge of the bread?”

“Yes, of course,” I said. “How many times have I done it before?”

Despite my City and Guilds as a master baker my wife insisted that I write it all down.

15 minutes, bread out of the basket, put it in the Le Creuset dish to bake. Twenty minutes for the rolls, 30 minutes for the bread.

“No problem,” I said. “What could possibly go wrong?”

My wife left. I spoke to Siri. “Hey, Siri, set a timer for…”

Sadly there was a problem. I’d been distracted. Writing the latest chapter. Easily done.

In the time it takes to think, ‘I’ll just finish this sentence and then I’ll set the timer…’ I forgot to set the timer.

So technically I didn’t say, ‘Hey, Siri.’ I said, “£$%& Siri, we’ve forgotten the timer.”

Give AI a couple of years and Siri will say, ‘What do you mean we?’

I took a stab at it. “Hey, Siri, set a timer for … ten minutes.”

Ten minutes passed. A very old car sounded its horn. I walked into the kitchen.

‘Hmmm…’ I thought. ‘That hasn’t risen very much.’

And then – for some unaccountable reason – I pressed the top of the bread. Which meant it had risen even less.

A vague feeling of unease crept over me. “Two minutes, mate,” I said to the bread. “I’ll give you another two minutes to rise. Or prove. Or whatever you’re supposed to do.”

It didn’t do anything. Sat there like a lump of dough. So I stuck it in the oven, already turned on for me because – obviously – finding gas mark 6 is a tricky business.

You know that saying? Lighting never strikes twice? It does…

Somehow between thinking, ‘Now I need to set the timer’ and walking back to my laptop, I forgot.

See above. Writing, distracted, easily done.

I took another wild guess. Let’s just say the bread was well baked. Well baked and squashed.

“Hmmm…” my wife said. “What’s happened here?”

I shrugged. “I did exactly as you told me, darling.”

I don’t think she suspects. So keep it to yourselves, will you?

Being chased by the Vikings is one thing. Being chased by my wife is quite another…

Have not enjoyed a book so much for years. If you enjoy a good detective story I cannot recommend highly enough, this one is a real 5 star page turner.

My new novel ‘Salt in the Wounds’ is now available on your Kindle and in paperback.

I’m in Tiers

“I may be a bit dim,” I said.

My wife smiled. “No, darling. No-one could possibly say that. Lots of people climb over gates onto railway lines.”

It’s a good job I’m a patient man…

“…As I understand it, we can go for a walk with them. But we’re not allowed to knock on their front door. And we can’t walk along the garden path with them.”

“Exactly.”

I’m often confused by instructions. This week’s Covid Tiers have taken my bewilderment to a whole new level.

Beverley had looked up from her phone ten minutes earlier.

“Leeds is going into Tier 3,” she said.

“When?”

“Monday.”

“Does that mean Eleanor can come over?”

“I don’t know. The rules aren’t very clear.”

The Beloved Daughter – now two years into her relationship with Could-Be-Serious and looking at houses – was due to visit. The first weekend in November.

Brilliant.

Except that…

“What do the rules say?”

“They should try to avoid leaving the area.”

“But it’s not illegal?”

“No. But she probably won’t want to risk it.”

“So the answer is simple. We drive over and see her.”

“When?”

“Sunday. The day before they go into Tier 3. And we can see Dan at the same time.”

“But he’s in his bubble.”

“But surely he can come out of his bubble to see his mum and dad? Can’t we all meet in the pub? What about Sunday lunch?”

“No. Definitely not. You can’t socialise inside.”

“So we can’t go to the pub and – even if she comes here – she can’t come inside?”

“Yep.”

“What can we do?”

“Go for a walk.”

At which point I got even more confused. Because – if I’m reading this right – you can go for a walk but you can’t stand in a garden.

“So we can walk on a path with them if it’s by a road? But not if it’s in a garden?”

“Yes.”

“Can we go into the park?”

“Maybe.”

“What about the beach if they come here?”

“It’ll be November. It’ll be too cold to socialise on the beach.”

I went online and read the Government’s explanation. Then I needed a drink.

“Don’t forget we’re going to the theatre next week,” my beloved said. “The e-mail says you have to wear a mask all through the play. But you can take it off if you’re eating and drinking.”

“Why?”

“Because you can’t eat and drink if you’re wearing a mask. I know you’ve tried it once or twice…”

“So the theatre is saying I have to wear a mask to watch the play?”

“Yes.”

“But if I buy a beer and drink it very, very slowly… I don’t have to wear a mask to watch the play.”

“Yes.”

“Maybe it’s because it’s a comedy,” I said.

“What do you mean?”

“If you laugh you’re bound to send germs over a longer distance.”

“Possibly.”

“So the answer’s simple. The theatres can re-open but they can only do Waiting for Godot. Anyway,” I added, “There’s another thing I don’t understand.”

My wife rolled her eyes. Bake Off was on in five minutes. Was she losing interest?

“I’m allowed to sit inside – in a socially distanced theatre – and watch a play. But I’m not allowed to sit outside – in a socially distanced stadium – and watch a football match.”

“No.”

And here’s me part of the Government’s testing programme. My wife sticks a swab up my nose every Tuesday afternoon. Boris Johnson sends me a letter with an X in the ‘no Covid symptoms’ box.

“Don’t we get some special status for that?” I said.

“What do you want, dear, the Covid equivalent of diplomatic immunity?”

“Yes.”

“No…”

A great book – really looking forward to the sequel! A wide variety of likeable and engaging characters in a fantastic setting. Can’t wait to learn more about Brady’s backstory.” Salt in the Wounds is now available on your Kindle and in paperback.

“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!”