It’s all about sprouts at the Old Engine Room this Christmas . . .
ITHOUGHT I’d make steak and chips for tea today, George,” Mary said brightly. “And I’ve made trifle with hundreds and thousands on top, just the way you like it.”
George put down the string of Christmas tree lights he was unravelling.
“That’s kind of you.” He patted his stomach. “But there’s no need. I feel like you’re fattening me up for Christmas!”
“Nonsense!” Mary smiled. “It’s the least I can do for my husband. Shall I put the kettle on and bring in those biscuits you like?”
Without waiting for an answer, Mary headed to the kitchen.
George shook his head and resumed untangling the tree lights. He wasn’t sure what had got into Mary lately, but she’d been acting rather oddly.
What he didn’t know was that Mary had never felt such a fool. There she’d been, thinking that George was having an affair, only to have the truth revealed after she’d gone to the length of spying on him up at the allotment.
It wasn’t another woman George was texting; it was another gardener who specialised in her favourite flowers – tiger lilies.
As Mary prepared the tea, she tried practising surprised expressions for the moment George presented her with the pot of tiger lilies on her birthday next year.
Over at Anna and Carol’s hair and beauty salon, Carol was flicking through the appointments book at the reception desk.
She let out a long sigh. “What’s up?” “We’re fully booked with appointments from now until we close at noon on Christmas Eve.”
“Well, that’s good, isn’t it?” Anna smiled. “Why are you so down about it?” Carol closed the book. “I was trying to find a day when I’m not likely to be working. I wanted to go on a date with that guy, Joe. Do you remember him?” Anna laughed.
“The one who saved you from the botched proposal of marriage from Juan in the Old Engine Room the other week?”
Carol smiled. “We’ve not been out on a proper date yet and I thought we might be able to fit something in before Christmas. But after I’ve spent all day in here, I don’t have the energy to go out in the evening.”
Anna went to the reception desk and opened the appointments book. She ran her finger down one page, then another, then she flicked through a few more pages.
With a pencil she struck through an afternoon of Carol’s appointments.
“You’re free this time next week. Does that suit?”
“You can’t just cancel my appointments like that!”
“I’m not busy that day, so I’ll take your appointments for you. There are only two clients coming in.” Anna peered at the book. “You’ve got Mrs Marshall at three and Bob Lewin at four thirty. They’ll not mind me looking after them. All Bob Lewin ever comes in for is a cup of tea and a bit of peace and quiet.”
“Thank you,” Carol replied. “I appreciate it.”
“What does he do, then, this Joe?” Anna asked. Carol shrugged.
“He says he works in publishing. A big bookseller by the sound of things. I’ll call him to see if he’s free.”
In the kitchen at the Old Engine Room, Clive was sitting with Dave and Mike, planning the deli’s Christmas menu.
“It’s not that I don’t like sprouts,” Mike said. “And you both know we’d be lost without George’s vegetables from the allotments, but I’m not sure what we’re going to do with all of those.”
All eyes turned to the five sacks of sprouts propped up against a worktop.
“George said he had a bumper harvest this year,” Dave explained. “He kept bringing them in. I could hardly say no, could I?”
“Not when he’s your father-in-law,” Clive agreed.
“We’ll get through a lot of them,” Mike acknowledged. “Most people have sprouts with their Christmas meals, don’t they, Clive?”
“Yes, but folk are looking for something new and exciting to eat at their Christmas meals these days. We need to come up with some recipes to use up the sprouts.”
“Sprout soup?” Mike suggested.
“Sprout curry?” Dave added.
Clive shook his head. “Something more exciting, that will grab people’s attention.
“Something that will get us into the ‘Ryemouth Advertiser’. Imagine – we’ll be the talk of the town.” Clive waved his hands. “We might even make it on to the telly. I’m going to come up with ways to serve sprouts that Ryemouth’s never seen before!”
Mike and Dave exchanged a look as Clive excitedly scribbled his ideas down on a notepad.
“We’ll have customers queuing from here to the Ship when they get wind of my plans for sprouts this Christmas,” he gushed.
“I’ll drink to that, Clive.” Mike raised his glass. “Good idea.” Clive added
sprout wine to his list. More next issue.