I've been away for a while, writing, working, trying to complete a novel in a year.
The blog has suffered - but all credit goes to Derek who has held the fort. And big congrats to Derek and may he enjoy the fruits of his labour!
I've been working on my next novel Acts - it follows a university lecturer and his wife who are battling mental health problems while concealing a shocking, dramatic secret which will change the way their small village sees them.
However, once I'd finished the novel, I had the occasion to pen a letter of complaint. Now I never complain! But had to on this occasion - and all credit to Marks and Spencer who are kindly sending me a gift token to make up for Mustardgate!
Here we are:
Dear Marks and Spencer
Let me begin by saying how much I love your food - doesn't everyone? The vegetarian kievs, the garlic bread, olives and the rye bread salad sandwiches are my favourites. You see, I've been doing this meat and fish free malarkey since 1992 and the selection of vegetarian food is very good indeed. Furthermore, the vegetarian and vegan labelling on the wine is especially commendable, and doesn't even come close to competitors, so I salute you M&S.
But let's get down to business.
Unfortunately I became embroiled in a mustardy receipt-gate on May 27, 2015 at the M&S in the Fairhill Shopping Centre in Ballymena, hey (local joke). It wasn't on the same scale as Watergate, but nevertheless it did leave a sour taste in my mouth. I'm not in the habit of complaining, in fact this is my first ever consumer complaint (I didn't so much as squeak when the now defunct Air 2000 forgot to feed all the vegetarians on my long haul flight back in 2001).
I decided I'd take advantage of a great three for two deal on the condiments last week. I selected a lemon mayo - wow, taste sensation, I kid you not. My second selection was the garlic mayonnaise. One can never have enough garlic in one's life. Not leaving the mister out, I selected an American mustard mayonnaise, not vegetarian friendly, but then, I didn't care - I wouldn't be eating it. He would. Or at least I hoped he would.
You can imagine my post-purchase delirium when I started to peruse the back of the container and realised to my horror that it was dated Best Before End May 2015 (the other two were quite rightly dated May 2016). Now I realise it's not a crime but the mister would have liked more than a few days to enjoy his condiment.
To be precise, the BBE gave the mister approximately 4.3 days to consume the contents as it neared the end of its life. Now, unless someone is going to devour the entire contents of the mayonnaise (which is not advisable as he or she will inevitably end up on that obese Jesse Pavelka show), this is clearly not a good buy. Did the shelf stacker try to conceal this one rogue bottle? I don't know.
And here's the unfortunate bit.
I'll tell you what went wrong - if the mister had been able to time travel back a few months (like the bloke in that book The Time Traveler's Wife) and enjoy the mustard mayonnaise, I would have been happy, but I was faced with 4.3 days of potentially feeding him a range of dishes from hot dog smothered in mayonnaise, chicken smothered in mayonnaise, veggie burgers smothered in mayonnaise to apple tart smothered in mayonnaise. Do you feel sick yet? Do you get that drowning feeling? Moreover do you get the point that this is Simply M&S Not On?
So the mustard languished in the refrigerator until I was in a position to request a swap. I did just that on Wednesday, June 3, 2015 - seven days after I purchased it (due to work commitments).
I walked straight in and pulled the offending condiment from my handbag. I explained to the nice ladies that no one could possibly consume an entire squeezy of mustard in 4.3 days, otherwise one would become morbidly obese practically overnight.
To my utter horror, Mrs M&S peered at me over her glasses and said no - not without a receipt. But, I said: 'It's blatantly obvious it's an M&S product - it's not as if I'm trying to pass off Lidl own brand mustard!'
Maybe they thought I'd shoplifted it?
Surely, surely, surely, if i wanted to shoplift I'd choose a pallet laden with vegetarian kievs and the extra strong garlic bread along with a selection of fresh side salads. Or I'd make the extra effort, Great Train Robbery style, and drill down into the secret food storage basement and carry out a diamond style heist, procuring a huge selection of only the finest vegetarian canapés, sandwiches and pizzas (I can take or leave dessert, thank you).
I was broken. I did the rest of my shop and left crestfallen. I was bereft and inconsolable.
I'm now in the habit of walking round shops checking best before dates in case I get my fingers messy again. Yes, M&S, you've dented my faith in shopping.
All I want is a new mustard. As we spend around £100 per week in the store, I think you could at least furnish me with a new, preferably in-date squeezy mustard mayo.
Yes it's my M&S, not yours! I'm happy to enclose a mugshot, back and front of the perpetrator.
Yours in anticipation