SWB loses the will

There are fewer greater disappointments in life than pish wine, and I should know, because I’m after enduring two of them, and I’m going to NAME AND SHAME. The M&S Dine in Deal: there should be a law against it. I’m after nearly spraying the book I’m reading (Country, by Michael Hughes, more of which to come) with a mouthful of the foul Daniel’s Drift, but I swallowed it back because it’s a signed copy and one which I’ll reread because it is a GEM.

The Dine-In is a take on, for SO many reasons. If there’s no rotissererie chicken on the menu, don’t even think about it, that’s my motto. The wine is usually vile, only fit to cook with, though a French person would query that. I once read a book by the wife of the fellow who runs Veuve Clicquot and she had a recipe for chicken cooked in champagne. Can you ever, EVER, imagine having the cash to immerse your fowl in bubbly for a mid-week supper? Have you ever heard the like? Marie Antoinette wouldn’t be in it. And don’t get me started on the overuse of plastic. Oops, off I go. The packaging on the veg cracks me up, and the desserts. Not a bit of need for it.


Right, shite wine number two. I came home from my holidays, all excited about white Rioja. ‘Sí, sí’ said a Catalan friend, ‘You can buy it from Sainsbury’s.’ And how serendipitous, because last week they had 25% off when you buy 6 or more bottles, (no problem there for our family) and down the hill I zoomed and stocked up. ‘Muy buen,’ I said when I spied it, and into the trolley went a bottle. ‘I shall open that for aperitif when friends visit,’ I said to myself. And I did, and some poor bastard drank it and said it was lovely but I must have been on the red for I have only just sampled it there this evening and it was horrific. No wonder they only had one small glass and legged it. Must have thought the standard had slipped something shocking here in Sour Towers.

So there’s two glasses, destined for the slop bucket, and me in a state of profound agitation with youngsters who at nine pm are like yoyos up and down the stairs. ‘She nipped me!’ said one. ‘She called me FART,’ said the other. Bring back the rod, says I. And himself ensconced in The Northern Lights tucking into chicken wings, AFTER DOING YOGA! The cheek of it. Anyone would think I’d been at a literary festival all last week or something. Me nerves.


So to sum up: M&S Daniel’s Drift Shiraz Cabernet Sauvignon: let it drift on, and Viñedos Barrihuelo Rioja: pure minging. I’ll be lucky if they don’t kill the lavender out front; may need diluting, as apparently,  does urine, according to The Mothership, who looked it up on the internet.


But back to the author: Michael Hughes, the man is a genius. This is only his second novel and it’s a thriller set in Provo land in South Armagh in 1996. It’s a riveting, at times stomach curdling read, and wait for it, he’s only gone and based it on Homer’s The Iliad. Brains to burn, yon fella. So there’s all these funny in-jokes and parallels and as one who loves the Classics I’m reading it in a state of near euphoria. I’m almost demented at the thought that I’m half way through.  AND he manages to make it funny with his topsy turvy use of syntax. Now I’ve studied The Iliad and it wasn’t a laugh a minute, but I keep reading snippets of ‘Country’ out to himself when he’s trying to sleep or get a bit of work done, and I’m laughing away to myself so much I can hardly get the words out. Maybe that’s why he’s in the Northern Lights this evening and it was nothing to do with their ‘Buy one bowl of wings get one free deal.’ It’s all about the deals this night isn’t it?


In a fit of imitation being the best form of flattery, I wrote  about the trauma that was breakfast this morning in the style of Michael Hughes. This is very niche and to be honest, if you haven’t heard the man himself (as I did last week at the Hewitt in conversation with Glenn Patterson), you’ll not get it. You’ll probably think I’ve gone completely mad, but here it is and sure just skip on if you don’t get it.

 Troy via Four Winds

(In a reversal of the myth, Helen is left while her beloved takes his leave, sailing off, the wind on his back, down the Ormeau Road. The onslaught begins.)

‘Where’s my toast? I want a drink. Would you cut me out a tail? I’m making ‘Pin the Tail on the Donkey’ for tonight.’

‘Could a mother not take her tea in peace?’

‘Here’s a pen, draw it, now.’

‘Would you whist a while, Gumtree has me rapt.

‘Draw. Here’s the donkey. Where’s the blu-tack?’

The clock chimes half past nine, it’s Playball time.

‘Playball! NOOOOO!’ (They loved it yesterday, but like the Ancient gods my children are capricious.)

‘Up the stairs. Those teeth need cleaned.’

The blood gets up. Brioche ground into the rug.

Chocolate stained milk up-ended. ‘DON’T YOU SLAM THAT DOOR!’


The mother gives a gulder that would wake the dead in Hades. Lifts off the roof.

Up rears the cat and out.

Hair uncombed, in rats’ tails hanging. Vests back to front; shorts inside out.

Fleeces wet from water wars, left to moulder on the floor.

Not a coat, a water bottle, a lunch box. All is lost and it not yet ten. My parenting in tatters and STILL A MONTH OF HOLIDAYS TO GO.

Send in reinforcements, quick.

(Neither poem nor prose, just a lamentation.)


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