FUDE Do you recognise this feeling? You don't know what to cook for supper and you don't want anything processed and crappy but you can't be arsed to think about it too much, never mind start searching out ingredients and weighing them? Of course you do. If you're anything like me, you have that feeling six days out of seven. Well, next time you feel that way, murmur 'Spaghetti aglio, olio e peperoncino' to yourself and start moving around your kitchen like an assured and smug cook-bot.
Boil a kettle of water, then pour it in to a big pan, add salt (unless you're a salt nazi, in which case forget I spoke) and then pop in as much spaghetti as you desire. While that is cooking, heat a healthy dollop of your favoured oil in a frying pan, and when it's hot squeeze your cheat-tube of prepared garlic in to it. Use as much or as little as you like – I use loads. Let that sizzle and caper (but don't let it burn. If it burns, start again.) and then scatter in some dried chilli flakes. I am moderate with these, but you can blow your hat off if you like. Move the garlic and chilli around the pan, then turn off the heat. You don't want to cook the bejaysus out of them, you just want a wonderfully aromatic and tasty oil. When the spaghetti is cooked, drain it and return it to the pan. Then empty your oil over the pasta, and swirl them together. If the dish needs more oil, drizzle some in.
You're so good at this stuff that you'll already have warmed bowls waiting. Empty the pasta in to the dishes, grate some parmesan over and hand around to the waiting hordes.
THE WORLD ACCORDING TO MAVIS This week our bog-eyed heroine has been trying out her new bed. Like an internet date, it's rather larger than it looked on the website, and Mavis sits in Queenly splendour, not a coherent thought in that hairy head. She snoozes, farts, and emits the occasional piqued yip when the doorbell rings. Much like her owners, on the adjacent, only slightly larger sofa.
AND WHO SAID THE IRISH ARE UNSENTIMENTAL? Here is a verbatim email snippet from a cousin of mine in Dublin.
"We got your book all right and it came in handy. It’s propping up the kitchen table along with the others you sent. We’ve needed something for that short leg for ages."
It's a good job I love him.
BEING A WRITER There are perks to this job. For example, you can go about your business in a dressing gown, which would be problematical for a bus driver, or the Prime Minister. You can Google hedgehogs for three hours straight and call it 'research'. You can work when you please, before anybody is up or long after they're crept to their beds. You see your name – your real, actual name – on a book in a shop and humans can pick it up, buy it and read it. All these bonuses are nice enough, but the one I cherish is being able to dedicate a book to somebody. My latest, Why Do We Have to Live with Men?, is dedicated to Robert Berry with a teasing 'for all sorts of reasons'. Hopeful that this may have sounded like I had a swashbuckling lover who swung from the chandelier and wore out my G spot, I must confess that he is my bookkeeper. But he's more than that, he's a bookkeeper-plus and a valued old friend who occupies a very special Robert-shaped niche in my life. Robert foresaw the collapse of my business many years ago, and rescued me from the rubble. I gave him the book over tea and cakes, and waited for him to discover the dedication. Suddenly, his face was flooded with feeling. Sometime's it's just lovely being a writer.
THINGS I INTEND TO DO WHEN MY HUSBAND DIES No. 2 Read in bed.
I am Bernadette Strachan, but please call me Bernie or I’ll assume you’re telling me off. I am an author of romantic fiction, with added funny bits. Six books are already out there in the world (WHY DO WE HAVE TO LIVE WITH MEN? came out in October 2010) and number seven is coming to life under my fingers at the moment.
I live in Kingston, Surrey with my husband, my daughter and our dog. The husband is Matthew, a composer. The daughter is Niamh, she’s six years old. The dog is a spaniel called Mavis. She is quite thick. As Niamh might put it, I superduper love them all.
I’m mad about books, and consider it a privilege to be paid to write. I love to cook, I overeat, I feed gangs of people as often as I can. I’ll be your friend forever if you offer me Pavlova but I may avoid you if you insist on giving me fish. Just can’t be doing with fish.
I can’t bear txtspk, I love bad television, I think Johnny Depp should be available on the national health. I’m rather shy, although I can be horrendously extrovert when the spirit moves me, I do yoga once a week, I have a stationery fetish, I love it when Niamh puts on shows for me in the kitchen.
Err, that’s all really.