And Then There Were Four…

And then there were four

Just the four plates this year…

“Is it alright if I work on Christmas Day?”

I’d been half-expecting the question. The hotel had decided they couldn’t be without their star waiter on Christmas Day. And it looked like the star waiter wanted to work…

“Well… In a perfect world we’d have you all at home.”

“Yeah, I know,” Ben said. “But I sort of feel I owe them one for last year. And it would be interesting to work just once on Christmas Day.”

And who can’t see that? Work means commitments. And in a busy hotel, one of those commitments can easily be Christmas Day.

Ah, well. We’ve known the day was coming… [Read more…]

Nietzsche Stole my Will Power

Nietzsche Stole my Will Power

It was all his fault…

Here’s a simple question: one that goes right to the heart of the human condition. And married life as well…

Does a man’s will power only exist while his wife is in the same room?

In my case, the answer is simple. And obvious.

Thursday night. I’ve spent the day at work locked in a sweaty embrace with 2,500 words on Philip Hammond’s Autumn Statement. But that’s what I do for a living: all stress levels are normal.

But my beloved is away. And 90 minutes later I’ve destroyed the kitchen and drunk far too much red wine.

Whose fault was it? Another obvious answer… [Read more…]

I Need a Hygge

I Need a Hygge

The view I won’t be seeing. Not yet anyway…

Hygge. Pronounced ‘hue-gah.’ Unless you’re in our house, in which case it’s ‘hug.’ Or ‘higgy.’

It’s the Danish concept of living well, living simply and being good to yourself – and no ‘wellness’ guide can exist without it.

As far as I can tell I’ve been good to myself for several years. Too many, according to the waistband on my grey trousers…

But I’ve always been good at home. I’ve never set foot in Denmark. It’s on my bucket list: one of the countries I really want to visit. Copenhagen, and then a jaunt up the road to Aarhus (see above: pronounced ‘our house,’ obviously…)

And last week, for thirty glorious seconds, I was on the plane. [Read more…]

The Drinks Machine

The Drinks Machine

Ben’s rubbish bin. No, I’m joking. Honest…

There are certain disadvantages to your children turning 18. For starters, this conversation…

“I’m going out on Saturday night.”

“Where?”

“Into town.”

“Whereabouts in town?”

“Around…”

“Who with?”

“Just friends.”

“What time will you be back?”

“Dunno. I’ll take my key.”

At which point you have to wave the white flag. You’ve invested 18 years in your children. You have to trust them, however vividly you remember your own nights ‘just in town, just with friends…’ [Read more…]

The Coffee Snobs

The Coffee Snobs

Acceptable to the boys. Just…

Really sorry if you got caught in a traffic jam on the M1 this week. It was almost certainly my fault. A virtual pal of mine was in trouble. I had to help.

Panic! he tweeted. Our coffee machine has broken down. We’re having to drink instant Followed by every ‘terrified face’ emoji on the app store…

Now, if you’re in Barnsley or Bolton or Barrow you’d just shrug and carry on. You’d reach for the warranty or your screwdriver and drink instant.

But this poor bloke doesn’t live in any of those beauty spots. Sit down, because this is serious stuff: he lives in the South.

So no coffee machine – having to drink instant – is as bad as it gets.

When the news leaked out the value of his house plummeted faster than a pound coin faced with a Far Eastern trading algorithm. Social isolation was inevitable. “Drinks instant,” they whispered as he walked past… [Read more…]

The Food Rant

Not good enough: needs a salad garnish...

Not good enough: needs a salad garnish…

It must have been all that fresh air on the Pennine Way. I started ranting about food on the first night and I haven’t stopped since.

“What’s on the menu?” I said to Ben. Jane had decanted us in Malham and we started walking in the morning. But first some delicious Yorkshire home cooking in the pub.

Or maybe not…

“Award winning Malhamdale sausages,” my son said.

“Awesome, I’ll have those. What about you?”

“Rabbit pie. And it says the rabbits were ‘locally shot by Dave Parker.’”

“Well let’s hope the vegetarian society doesn’t have its AGM in Malham. Dave’ll have to go into hiding.” [Read more…]

Pretentious? Moi?

Photograph my food? What's he talking about?

Photograph my food? What’s he talking about?

“I’ve got an idea,” I said to my beloved. “We’ll go into town and go to the market. Then I’ll take you for coffee.”

Clearly I’d been hit on the head. Or maybe I’d inhaled something. Maybe I thought I was still in France…

At least twenty years since I’d set foot in the local market and now I realised why. There was a butchers and a fruit and veg man – and three stalls selling old Superman comics. Presumably to each other.

Anyway, we needed vegetables. Jessica was on her way home from university. She’d sent a text demanding fresh vegetables. I still have trouble squaring this with the seven year old girl who forced me to say, “I don’t care how long it takes, you’ll sit there until you’ve eaten your sprouts.” Words I vowed would never pass my lips… [Read more…]

The Mother’s Day Deputy

"The best Sunday lunch you've cooked, darling..."

“The best Sunday lunch you’ve cooked, darling…”

A lie-in. Cup of tea, slice of toast. A husband prepared to brave the elements and go to the corner shop; who’ll struggle back to the house under the crushing weight of a Sunday paper…

Yep, it’s a day to show the mother of my children how much we all love and appreciate her.

Thank goodness she finished filling the walls and hanging the wallpaper yesterday.

I’ll be expelled from the Real Men’s Union but it’s true. As the children get older Jane and I are specialising. She’s a remarkably competent decorator. My talents extend to putting the wallpaper paste on and making tea. I can, however, spatchcock a chicken.

Not a skill I’d be needing this week… [Read more…]

The Bread from 20,000 Fathoms

What I was expecting...

What I was expecting…

I tell you, that Mary Berry’s got a lot to answer for. Wife away, football on TV and what am I doing? Baking. Not a sentence I ever thought I’d write: but never say ‘never…’

The seductive smell of freshly baked bread to greet me as I stumble downstairs tomorrow morning. But only two slices for breakfast: must remember my diet and the iron will-power I’m famous for.

And what a treat for Ben – home alone with a perfectly baked loaf. Should keep him going until at least lunchtime… [Read more…]

The Antidote to the Aphrodisiac

Awesome! Everything planned.

Tom at uni? Check. Jessica? Ditto. And Ben safely at work for five hours…

The romantic meal to end all romantic meals. “You get changed, darling. I’ll cook.” Oysters, asparagus, a few flakes of chilli on the meat, dark chocolate to finish with. There’s a man who knows how to Google ‘aphrodisiac food…’

“Just the two of us on Valentine’s Day,” I mused. “How many centuries since that happened?”

“I can’t wait,” my wife said, smiling seductively. “Your flat stomach, your rippling six pack, your rock hard abs…” [Read more…]