Tag markrichardsauthor

The Not Very Good Friday

Easter Saturday! We’re off to see the Beloved Daughter!

She’s moved into her new house. Her first home. First time buyer. Mortgage. ‘Here are your keys.’ The works…

And yes, she’s bought it with the boy formerly known as Could-be-Serious. It may be time to start writing a speech. 

…And preparing a list. Apparently we need to take her some herbs for the garden. A bottle of wine. Some flowers, obviously. 

“And I won’t be allowed through the door if I haven’t baked her a loaf of bread,” my beloved sighed on Friday afternoon. 

“Is there anything I can do to help?” I said – after a suitable interval. 

“Yes. Stop thinking about your damn book for ten minutes and make some pasta sauce for dinner.” 

I repaired to the kitchen and did as I was told. Bacon, chorizo, garlic, shallots, a tin of chopped tomatoes. Nom, nom as the hashtag has it…

So who does find the body on the Moors? 

“It’s about ready,” I shouted. 

It can’t be a group of ramblers. That’s just too complicated…

Pasta and sauce in the bowls, some freshly grated parmesan on a plate. No garlic bread…

So it has to be someone on his own.

…But here’s a freshly baked loaf of bread. I’ll cut a few slices. Blimey, it’s still warm from the oven. Smells delicious. Hard to cut though…

If the kitchen floor had a shred of humanity it would have done the decent thing. Opened up and swallowed me. That fresh, crisp, warm loaf of bread? 

Which was oh-so-clearly destined for the Beloved Daughter…

Gentle reader, I feel I must spare you the next five minutes. There was an expression of surprise. An indication that one of us would need to bake a new loaf of bread. That it wouldn’t be me as I was mentally challenged. 

Just not in those exact words…

Eventually we sat down with our bowls of pasta perched on our knees. 

“Would you like a glass of wine? I really like this one.” 

“Yes, that’s why I bought it for Easter Sunday.”

But at least we had the world’s best bread in front of us. 

“It was a compliment,” I said. “A compliment to you. I saw the bread. It looked perfect. It is perfect.” 

Did the compliment work? Once again I cannot share my wife’s witty response. 

Mercifully the pasta sauce was good. “Is there any left?” she asked.

“Yes,” I said. “It’s in the pan.”

“Make sure you save me some parmesan.” 

“No problem, I’m nearly finished.” 

I reached for the parmesan. Sprinkled some on my remaining pasta. Put the plate back on the table. Thought I’d put the plate back on the table.

A poltergeist is the only possible explanation. I heard a noise. The sort of noise a plate makes when it falls on the floor. And leaves a pile of parmesan on the carpet. 

“I suppose you’re going to tell me that’s a compliment as well are you?” 

She left for the kitchen. 

I followed. “Do you want me to help with the kneading?”

“No. I just want you to leave my bread alone. Don’t touch it, don’t look at it and don’t eat it.” 

“I may as well go to the shop for some Mother’s Pride then.” 

“This is Mother’s Pride. I’m her mother and I’m proud of my bread. Or I was until some overweight, greedy person (never did three words need more paraphrasing…) decided to hack away at it.” 

“Do you want to watch a film tonight?” 

“No thank you, darling, I shall be in the kitchen for some time.”

Yet another sentence that needed editing…

Michael Brady is willing to risk it all

His career, the woman he loves. Maybe even his life

And he’s risking them for the man who nearly killed him…

The Scars Don’t Show is the first Michael Brady Short Read – a book you can read in an evening or over a weekend. It’s out today on the Kindle at £1.99 – the paperback will follow later this month. 

“No, Not a New Screwdriver…”

Regular readers will know that I’m a huge fan of my wife’s gardening.

Onions, carrots, wandering down the garden and eating the tomatoes… Since we became more or less self-sufficient in fruit and veg it’s been one ‘this tastes waaay better than Sainsbury’s’ after another.

Oh… Apart from that time I was sent out to pick the plums. And foolishly worked on the ‘one for me, one for the basket’ principle. Touch of the runs. Well, more than a touch if you must know…

But – inevitably – there’s a price to be paid.

We needed to build a new raised bed.

“It’s given up,” I said. “Gone to seed. The sides have given way.”

“Yes,” my wife said, giving me one of her looks…

It had. Collapsed under the weight of cauliflowers fluffy and cabbages green. What was once raised was now level with the garden…

A delivery man rapped out a merry tattoo on the front door. I got downstairs to see him wave and climb back into his van. Our drive was now home to a large number of plastic-wrapped planks.

My mission – if I chose to accept it, and if I didn’t my wife would come home and find planks all over the drive – was to carry the blighters inside.

Well, there’s nothing like a hernia to greet the first day of spring. She came home and found them propped up in the hall.

“Take care,” she said. “Don’t get distracted thinking about your book and walk into a plank.”

As if…

And then she reached for the black cap. “I’ll need your help to put it together.”

We’ve been married a while now. We’ve reached an understanding on DIY projects. We don’t fall out like we used to. The evil spirit that once lurked in my toolbox – unaccountably nicknamed ‘Mr F’ – has been exorcised.

Nope, DIY projects where my wife needs help are now simple. She asks for my help, I agree – for the sake of my ego – and spend five minutes proving I’m as useless at DIY as I’ve always been. Then I’m sacked, replaced by one of my sons and the job gets done.

But here we are. Rattling round the empty nest again. Dan back in Leeds, Alex reprising Chariots of Fire on the beaches of St Andrews.

Which means…

“Can you carry the planks out into the garden?”

…At least I’ll have matching hernias.

The planks are released from their plastic. I volunteer to put the plastic in the bin. Make a cup of tea. Do some measuring. Anything to put off the moment when I have to look at the diagram and accept that nope, my visual dyslexia has not cured itself and whatever I’m holding in my hand – a bracket, maybe? – bears absolutely no relation to the bracket on the diagram.

It does, quite adequately for 99% of the population. Carelessly, my wife married the 1%…

Eventually we sort it out. Not by looking at the diagram but by finding a photo of the finished thing on Google images. Each bracket – and its mate – needs fixing onto a corner support.

“Cripes, they’re sturdy.”

“I bought a good one. No point doing this again in five years.”

We started the long, laborious process of screwing the brackets into the Giant Redwood supports. “Blimey this wood’s hard…”

“Like I said I bought a good one.”

Quite. But it doesn’t do you much good to realise you’re building a raised bed that’ll almost certainly outlast you…

“The screwdriver’s slipping. I need a new one.”

She muttered something. It sounded like, “It’s not a new screwdriver I need.”

But it couldn’t have been.

Could it…

Michael Brady is willing to risk it all

His career, the woman he loves. Maybe even his life

And he’s risking them for the man who nearly killed him…

The Scars Don’t Show is the first Michael Brady short read – a book you can read in an evening or over a weekend. It’s out today on the Kindle at £1.99

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…

The Road to Trackie Bottom

In the olden days I wore a suit for work. My wardrobe groaned under the weight of 14 stripy ties. 

I had the occasional flash of heresy: ‘Do I really work any more efficiently because there’s a yard of silk round my neck?’ 

And the occasional flash of insight as well. Twenty quid for a tie and then eating a cheese and tomato. Hmmm… perhaps not the wisest move I’ve ever made.

But, of course, every other dull – ‘person’ will do – in the financial services industry was wearing a tie. And they’d go off to see a client, park the car and eat a sandwich for lunch…

I remember the moment. Whitby. A crisp, clear autumn day. One of those days that demands you eat your lunch by the sea. Wind the window down. Let some sea air in…

And there I was. Time for lunch. Next appointment in an hour. A can of Coke, a packet of cheese n’ onion. An egg mayonnaise sandwich. 

And a new silk tie. Red and navy stripes. Even my teenage daughter thought it was tasteful. 

I bit into the sandwich…

Blimey, they’ve put plenty of filling in this one.

…And watched the horror movie. 

Like all good disasters, it happened in slow motion. 

I’d bitten too hard. It’s simple science. Pressure at one end, something has to give at the other end.

In this case it was a piece of egg. A large, liberally coated with mayo piece of egg. It escaped from the sandwich. Hovered in mid air for a split second. And then slowly, gently, bounced down my tie before nestling snugly in my groin. 

“Oh dear,” I said. 

Not long after that I ran away to join the circus. Started writing. Sent the 13 stripy ties to the charity shop. And a fourteenth, which had never quite recovered from its day out in Whitby…

‘For this relief much thanks,’ as our old pal Shakespeare wrote. 

Couldn’t agree more. No-one cares what a writer looks like. T-shirt and hoodie? Faded jeans? But supposing you need to meet a client? That would be the black chinos and grey jacket then… 

But then came the rumours. Some sort of bug. Started in China…

Lockdown. Meeting clients became a criminal offence. The office was abandoned, the spare bedroom was the new normal. And…

Sadly there is no elegant way to put this. My sartorial standards slipped. 

“Slipped, dear?” She’s reading over my shoulder. “Slipped? I think you need something a damn sight stronger than ‘slipped.’” 

She may be right. 

Black chinos? Grey jacket? They’ve retired. Living out their days in the wardrobe. 

I wear a t-shirt and fleece. Tracksuit bottoms. Right now it’s the navy ones. Tomorrow it’ll be the black ones. 

Exercise? I wear my old walking trousers. 

Those are the only trousers I’ve worn since March 23rd last year. Almost 365 days of elasticated waists. 

‘What about Zoom?’ you cry. ‘Facebook Live?’ I wear a shirt. No-one sees the bottom half… 

But there might still be hope. A tiny flicker at the bottom of Pandora Hancock’s box. 

The Football League sent me an e-mail the other day. They wanted me to take part in a survey. 

As a reward for giving them 20 minutes of my life they’d enter me into a prize draw for…

‘A Doncaster Rovers first team shirt.’ 

Now I’ve a soft spot for Donny Rovers – but they play in red and white hoops. 

There it was. The tiny flicker. However far my standards had fallen, they hadn’t reached a red and white hooped football shirt. 

Hang on. Red and white hoops. Black trackie bottoms…

That would work…

Had me gripped from the start. A truly captivating story, very well told. Really didn’t want it to end and eagerly awaiting the next one.” Salt in the Wounds is in paperback and £1.99 on your Kindle. 

My Vital Organs

T’wife were feelin’ a bit out o’ sorts…

My beloved had been a touch off colour for a couple of days. Now here she was waking up and feeling dizzy. 

“Like I had three or four years ago, remember?” 

“I do. Just stay there and take it easy,” I said, handing her a cup of tea. 

Speaking of which, a week or two and it’s 28 years (of bliss, never a cross word etc etc). Knock off a couple of hundred for days I’ve been away and that’s nigh on 10,000 early morning cuppas. Birthday honours, your Majesty? I know there’s a few folk done some work in the pandemic but 10,000 cuppas lovingly carried upstairs… It must be worth a small gong?

Where was I? Blowing my own trumpet. When I should have been thinking of my wife…

“Just stay there and get better,” I said. “It’s not like you’ve got to do anything today.” 

“Except look after my mother.” 

I nodded sagely. “True. Very true.” 

“And the washing needs doing.” 

“I can do that for you.” 

She gave me one of her special looks. Disorientated, but still special…

“Darling, we’ve been married nearly 28 years and you still haven’t learned to separate whites and coloureds.”

That, sadly, is true. I’ve always worked on the ‘yellow and pink are nearly white’ theory. It’s failed me several times. What was once white is now cream. With a hint of pale pink…

“Er… We’re out of bread,” I said nervously.

She sighed. “So nothing to do except look after my mother, do the washing and bake some bread. A man can work from sun to sun, but a woman’s work…”

“Don’t forget your uni work,” I said. “When’s your assignment due?” 

And then I tiptoed out of the room. 

I was finally entrusted with the washing. Anything with a hint of pastel was cast to one side. ‘Maroon, navy blue and black, step this way…’ 

And then I ate a slice of toast and reflected on aches and pains.

When I were a lad it were simple…

Why is my knee hurting?

Because you fell over and scraped it. Look, there’s a bruise coming.

Oh yeah. But the other knee’s bleeding…

Right, because you did an even better job of scraping that one. 

I’m in bed and not feeling well. 

Right, because you’ve got measles. Look, you’re covered in spots. 

Oh yeah…

And wait while you’re a teenager. Chicken pox, mate. You ain’t seen nothing yet…

Scabs. Looking back, I liked scabs. Badges of honour. Swots didn’t get scabs. And you knew where you were with a scab. You knew the stages it went through. You knew there’d soon be that lovely day when you could start to pick away at the edges…

But then you get older. The aches and pains join the secret service. They go undercover. Start to wage psychological warfare. 

And they’ve got an ally. A fifth columnist. Someone on the inside. 

Your imagination. 

Especially at three o’clock in the morning…

That’s a new pain. Or is it yesterday’s pain? No, it wasn’t there yesterday. Has it moved in the middle of the night? Ouch! What’s inside my body just there? Kidneys? Liver? Spleen? (I tossed my spleen in to sound intelligent. I’ve no idea what it does. Or where it is…) 

Ouch! There it is again. Isn’t there a vital organ somewhere down there? Should I wake my wife up for a second opinion?

You want to wake your wife up at three in the morning for a second opinion? Go ahead, mate. Because then you’ll definitely have a pain in a vital organ…

“You know you’re hooked when you really care what happens to the characters. Read it in three sittings.” Salt in the Wounds is available on your Kindle and in paperback. £1.99 on the Kindle