My favourite lunch

My wife Janette is a classically trained chef, so over our years together I’ve eaten well and healthily. I learned a lot from her and used to enjoy cooking up experimental storms before I got too ill to stay safe in a kitchen.

So I know about nutrition and I appreciate good food. I’m not some slob of a bloke who can’t imagine anything more adventurous than opening a tin of something and nuking it.

But that’s exactly what’s required for my favourite lunch, which is corned beef hash. This is my version of that classic camping meal. It comes out of a pair of tins, and takes five minutes max from decision to plate. Perfect for the middle of a writing day when I need quick and tasty fuel.

The ingredients are:

half a tin of corned beef (I prefer Fray Bentos)

half a tin of Heinz baked beans (none of your sweet bean American nonsense)

1 beef stock OXO cube

My method:

put the corned beef in a microwave bowl and cut into 1-inch cubes

add the beans with half the sauce from the tin

mix gently

crush and sprinkle the OXO cube over it and stir again

nuke on full power until it’s cooked (that’s 4 minutes in my microwave)

stir again, gently enough to spread the heat evenly but not so much that it breaks down the cubes


Our daughters think it’s a yucky looking slop, and they won’t try it no matter how often I tell them the blend of tastes is great. Interestingly, Janette thinks it’s fine. Not for every day, obviously. Not even every week. But once or maybe twice a month she knocks it up for me while I’m clattering away at the keyboard.

And of course the remaining contents of two tins are in the fridge for sandwiches or snacks later in the week.

Let me know if you try it and what you think of it. And maybe you’d like to share your quick and easy but nutritious lunches/meals/snacks in the comments here?

Thank you, my dear friend

Jacob, our lovely German Shepherd, died last week. I mentioned him on Twitter and Tumblr when he went, and several of you sent kind messages of comfort, but I haven’t been able to talk about him properly until now.

It wasn’t a shock. He’s been poorly and we’ve been monitoring his quality of life closely. When that plummeted suddenly, it was his time.

He’s been my best friend for 12 years. I’m not being sentimental. He really did have the loveliest nature of any dog I’ve ever known, and we’re a doggy family so there have been several candidates for that title. It’s Jake’s, though. He was intelligent, witty, faithful, protective, understanding, full of fun, and simply my best friend.

JacobOur house is in the foothills of Dartmoor, and that was our favourite place.  We loved it up there on the moor. It’s wild, and big, and free, and there’s so much space! He couldn’t wait to leap down from the car and charge off like a racehorse, but he always came back for me. Then he’d charge off again, and charge back again, grinning all over his face and his big tongue lolling with unrestrained happiness.

Those Dartmoor walks were the highlights of our life together. Being with you made me happy, Jake. I don’t think I’ve ever been happier.

4998567493_71391ef484_oHis ashes came home today, in a heavy ceramic urn. They’re on the bottom shelf of my CD cabinet with Tex’s (who lived with us immediately before Jacob) and Harry’s (who was Jacob’s big brother). One day young Elvis’s ashes will join them. And one day, mine will come home in an urn too.

I’d like my family to wait for a bright, blustery day, and to mix my ashes with Jacob’s, Harry’s, Tex’s, and maybe Elvis’s if he precedes me, and to scatter us to the wind all together. I want to run with my boys. Especially with Jacob. We’ll run like the wind.

Thank you for being my friend. Jake. I love you.

A productive first third of the year

Surprisingly so, considering the scary medical stuff I’ve been through. But this post isn’t about scary medical stuff. It’s going to be refreshing to talk about writing instead.

I’ve finished my litfic novel The Honesty of Tigers. Drafted at 1k words per evening then edited, beta-read, edited again, and polished until it gleams. I’m pleased with it. It’s out with my betas again now, and I’m on target to sub it before the end of May.

Talking of subbing, The Bridport Prize deadline is the end of May too, so I’m using this time while I wait to get The Honesty of Tigers back to write a new short story for that. It’s dark, set in a wetland just like the one I grew up near, and it tastes delicious while I’m writing it.

2015 is already a good writing year.

Not a heart attack

I spent last night having a heart scare in the excellent Emergency Department at Plymouth’s Derriford Hospital.

Since Sunday evening, my shoulders, upper arms and neck have been extremely painful. Constantly, heavily, stiffly, horrible. Okay, so ME does that. I just accepted I was in a bad flare.

Tuesday afternoon, I got nausea and diarrhea, developed a high temperature, and was intermittently delirious. Okay, I thought, I have a bug. Another day, same shit. Upper body parts were still very painful. In fact it was a lot worse.

At 5pm Tuesday afternoon I got a very bad pain in my breastbone, like a chisel being hammered in and twisting. Very bad pain, and it lasted an hour. At that point, I was thinking, hm, these here are some primary and secondary symptoms of a heart attack. I still thought it was ME plus, but I was alert to the possible alternative.

6pm, I vomited for the first time since the chest pain started. Never a pleasant experience, but within a few minutes the chest pain dissolved. That’s good, I thought. Obviously not a heart attack.

Janette didn’t agree and when I refused to go to the hospital she got, how shall I put it, a bit shouty. :)

Then the big chest pain came back and my argument folded.

Bev went with me to hospital. We were there from 7pm to 2am, and they ran exhaustive ECG and blood tests and chest x-rays and everything, waited a while then ran them again, and again.

All this time I was feeling more and more desperately ill, but I was able to separate the normal effects of bad ME from the unusual symptoms I’d suffered earlier, and which by now were lifting. Except for the nausea, etc.

The staff of Derriford Hospital Emergency Department were fantastic. Every nurse and doctor I talked with was lovely, caring, fully engaged, and friendly. Also, brilliantly, every single one of them accepted ME as the real and serious illness it is. I can’t describe what a relief that is, when you’re ill and in a medical environment.

Maybe the bad old days are over? I’d love to think so.

Anyway, it turns out my initial self-diagnosis was correct. I do know my body. But Janette was also correct, in that I needed checking out.

Progress report

Two months on from the eye surgery. Learning to function on the computer while we wait to see how it’ll turn out. My surgeon says it’ll be another ten months or so before we know for certain how much sight I’ll have in that eye.

Managing to write 1k words per evening on The Honesty of Tigers and happy with that, although squinting gives me a helluva headache by midnight.