Earl Grey

The truth was that she hated tea, even the smell of it had made her gag since her grandfather had knocked a cup over her when she was quite little. Like Grandpa’s  stubbly chin and whisky breath which had set up avoidance behaviours that followed her into adulthood, tea brought so many unpleasant flashbacks that it was only when she was dozed with cold that Suzy could bear to be around it.

At least Joe didn’t drink English breakfast  tea. For him it was Earl Grey and the underlying bergamot notes and the slice of lemon he took in it meant that it was almost like sitting across from someone taking their morning medication – forgivable but undesirable. Dear Joe, clean-shaven, tea-total Joe, just not the morning Joe she really wanted.

Rising and making her way to the Nespresso she poured herself another cup and imagined it was for George Clooney.


It was the words on the advert which had made the “girls” opt for an awayday on the steam train. “indulgent… intricate… authentic… crisp… sparkling… bespoke… sumptuous”, expectations were high. They had dressed as if for an afternoon at the Ritz in satins and silks and put away their statins for the occasion.

It was a last hurrah for Dolly’s retirement, the last of them to stop work. She was worried about being bored but a little bit of luxury never went agley. Undulating countryside and glittering coastline sped past, occasionally obscured by the steam from ahead as the track twisted one way or another. Forty years of mundanity in a solicitors’ office was being left further and further behind as the train sped on.

“Cheers girls,” said Dolly as they clinked glasses and giggled.

All those years of forced politeness to lawyers and crooks and sometimes, to be honest, it was difficult to tell one from the other. Her solicitors had a great reputation for getting their clients off, Scot free, with some clever loophole or another which seemed like slight of hand to the non professional.

Dolly had picked up some tricks and knowledge herself over the years. That’s why she had set up a shell company at Companies House for the princely sum of £12 – Dolly Inc. Her former firm’s major client was now her first investor. 1% of whatever he moved in or out of Dolly Inc. was hers. He was even encouraging her to take this trip as a legitimate business expense. All Dolly had to do was sit back and enjoy the ride of a lifetime then hand over a small package, currently in her handbag, as a favour to her client at the end of the line. What could possibly go wrong?

The library

A highly polished mahogany table with matching chairs upholstered in green velvet dominated the centre of room. On two walls were long, white-painted sash windows with cushioned window seats in the recesses. The other two walls had floor to ceiling book shelves neatly stacked with orange Penguin paperbacks.


Marco sat by the Blues Cafè window, nursing his cappuccino, looking out at the comings and goings of the hoi polloi, who still had places to go and people to see. He had perfected the art of making each sip last an age so that every cup was a prolongation of his need to return home.

Teraessa still thought that he was going out to work every morning but Marco’s guilt got slightly worse each day. His laptop before him, Marco applied daily for jobs online in the hope that one would be at least on the cards before Teraessa found out.

So far there had been no call backs.

One ideal job today and a few that would tide them over if push came to shove. Time to crack on.

He’d have one more cappuccino and begin again. Marco D’Aviano – baggage handler, bartender or Barista? Time was running out.


Vera – welcome back




Season 10 | Episode 1 | Length 2 hours

Episode 1 – Blood Will Tell: DCI Vera Stanhope investigates the case of a murdered entrepreneur whose legacy of unpaid debts and ruined lives leaves no shortage of suspects.


Vera opened with one of those scenes that almost looked like a channel ident – man in various locations taking money out of tills to the chagrin of the regular employees. It was only when we saw him leaving the city for his country pad that it was obvious that we were right into the action. Two flashes seen from outside the house accompanied gun shots and when we finally saw inside the house there was the inevitable corpse bleeding out on the kitchen floor, Freddie Gill, who had a new luxury car but hadn’t paid his mortgage or leckie bill.

Cue Vera.

Everyone liked him, according to one acquaintance Mr Ali. Not everyone, obviously, rejoindered Vera.

Jade his ex wife was told Freddie had died at her father Arthur’s funeral. Get your lucky white heather  here.

Jade’s mother seemed an early suspect because she was largely in control and tearless, unlike Jade. The look between mother and daughter suggested all was not what it seemed.

Eastgrove, a care home, provided information on another shooting victim. The nurse, Laura, who had cared for Jade’s dad had also been shot at Freddie’s home. Were both the intended victims, or just one?  Was her husband Nathan now in the frame?

Mr Ali’s business was torched but he survived and gave a description of a stocky male assailant. Mr Ali was being held accountable for  seventy grand borrowed by Freddie. Mr Ali’s two sons were different types, one studious and the older brother more forceful. Nathan had an alibi for this attack at least.

Freddie’s lawyer Forrest was questioned but had no alibi. Was his shock genuine or contrived?

Laura was then finally well enough to be interviewed and she threw Jade’s brother into the mix of suspects.

So, of course, Vera solved the conundrum with her usual aplomb. Who was it? You’ll have to watch to find out.





Every New Year someone would light a small beach campfire and the brave souls of the congregation would arrive for a prayer and a hymn as the sun came up. Emma had been there every year for the past nine years, some years in the rain, some with snow underfoot but always wishing that this year would be different –  she would be worthy.

A New Decade could be so much more, so yet again with hope, she made her way down to the beach with the others. She hands in a semi-circle behind the fire facing the slowly emerging sun offering the tiniest scintilla of redemption.

A fresh start, no longer Emma-who -killed-a-child but just Emma.

This time she didn’t go back with the rest for breakfast but instead walked along the shore.

Most people were still asleep having raised a glass at Midnight so she had the beach to more or less to herself. It was so quiet, the only sounds being the waves rushing in towards the rock pools and the occasional dog walker as Emma walked to where the grassy sand dunes were.

Jimmy slipped into her mind, as he always did. Ever running along the pavement kicking his ball hidden from view by parked cars darting out to catch a wayward ball and bouncing against her car as she struggled to stop. A heavy 4×4 and his little head hadn’t stood a chance as he dropped to the tarmac. The blood pooling thick and sticky, as she ran to cradle him, this boy that she didn’t know but would never forget. The smell of iron didn’t leave her fingers for months although no one else seemed to notice it. Jimmy wasn’t the only one to die that day.

But, it was time for a fresh start so Emma took off her coat and shoes and laid them neatly next to her bag and waded into the sea.


Cold, so cold…


Was there ever a more welcome sign than “Bookshop Open?” Supermarkets and online ordering were all very well but browsing locally was where it was at.
Lecky’s was a joy of filled bookcases – a curving walk past Biographies and Sci-Fi led Margaret to the heavenly sight of “New Authors“ displayed in a fan shape in front of eye catching posters.
It was a good spot.
Not yet a window display, nor the “Best Sellers” table but Margaret could barely contain her excitement for there she was, Margaret Millar “Paris Grey”. Finally, in print, her scribbles were out there in her local bookshop for others to hopefully love. Was she the new Tartan Noir Queen? Time would tell.


In more innocent times, Martha and Malcolm had taken their first holiday together on the Norfolk Broads. Martha’s mother had phoned ahead to make sure that they would be staying in single rooms as if all teenagers thought about was sex! It wasn’t all they thought about, there was also freedom, sunshine and navigating the waterways.
Malcolm had a plan which involved plying Martha with as many dark rums and pep as he could afford as they stopped at various pubs along the waterway. Unfortunately for Malcolm, Martha had hollow legs and matched him drink for drink so that by the time she was squiffy enough he could barely stand. That was what came of dating a sailor’s daughter.
On the plus side, at least Martha would remember how to speed them back to the hotel now that his faculties had left the building. What a great girl she was. He’d have to remember to tell her when he woke up. zzzz

We’re no awa’ tae bide awa’

“We’re no awa’ take bide awa’”  go the lyrics and as children we don’t quite get the significance of “We’ll aye come back and see you” because at some point they won’t.

In the days of black and white family photographs I would have been somewhere between six and eight when my extended family gathered at Glasgow Central wrapped up against the cold. I hadn’t known most of the people who seemed to be quite elderly. We children just joined in with the songs and the kisses, barely understanding what was going on. Women who looked like different versions of my Gran, dressed in their fur coats and sporting perms led the celebrations, singing and hugging and, no doubt, crying while we said goodbye for the final time to the two most adventurous sisters who had gone to live in Australia and were returning after their last visit to the auld country.

Never would “For auld lang sang” have meant so much to my Gran and her sisters and yet we children just enjoyed the running into the centre of the family circle and out again at the “here’s ma haun’” bit which must have broken their hearts in two.

These were the days of Glasgow room and kitchens with coal bunkers and toilets on the landing. Health was hit or miss, the underground smelly and the fog above ground seldom cleared in Winter. Women in Glasgow dreamed of indoor plumbing, telephones, televisions and underfloor heating. To get away from the big smoke one moved to the Glasgow overspill or, more drastically, abroad where even the poor had the basic essentials of modern life.

A move abroad meant no instant conversation because there weren’t even telephones in every house. If something newsworthy happened it was a letter which would take days to get there. The choice to be truthful or to self edit when telling those far away, who could do nothing to help, must always have been in their minds.

Decades later, they are of course all gone. That line of strong women is carried on by their daughters, granddaughters and great grandchildren. As the bells strike twelve, we’ll raise a glass or three to those who cannot come back and see us.

May those who love us, love us;
And for those who don’t love us,
May God turn their hearts;
And if He doesn’t turn their hearts,
May He turn their ankles,
So we will know them by their limping.

Back to the kitchen

Morgan’s muscle memory took over every Christmas morning.

Whilst others opened lavishly wrapped presents and watched trite TV, Morgan measured by eye, stuffed, basted, roasted, chopped, boiled and flambéd in the kitchen without breaking a sweat or raising an eyebrow.

It was always the same: something fishy, followed by broth then a break with  Lizzie talking about her annus  horribilis or mirandum like she was one of the family. Lizzie glittered and spoke just long enough to help make room for the turkey and trimmings and finally the button popping fiery pudding would be greeted by cries of “Well, maybe just a little!”

Morgan would then allow Jim and the family to clear away, cover, refrigerate, scrape, rinse and load and that would be it. It was the easiest meal of the year, truth be told, but also the only one Morgan thought it was worth getting back to the kitchen for.