Scottish play and English vegetables

Browsing in my local greengrocers, I found a veritable cornucopia of vegetables. Oregano, mange tout, pak choi, rocket, okra, samphire, fennel, sweet potato . . . all wonderfully cosmopolitan, but no sign of a humble marrow.

I don’t mean zucchini or courgette, often described (wrongly) as being baby marrows. I mean full blown cucurbit, described in finedictionary.com as ‘an egg-shaped gourd, commonly eight to ten inches long. It is noted for the very tender quality of its flesh, and is a favorite culinary vegetable in England’.

Not so favourite that I can find one.

I asked in my local greengrocer and not only had they no marrows in stock, but also asked me to spell it, so they could write it down (M-A-R-R-O-W) to ask their wholesaler.

In the unlikely event of anyone finding a marrow anywhere, the usual way of serving it is to stuff it with meat, served grilled or as a curry; or make into a cake; or turn it into soup. For me, I just like it boiled and sliced, then served with beef mince or lasagne, peas, red wine and copious amounts of gravy!

My vegan daughter says marrow’s tasteless. But then, if you looked at my record collection, you’d say the same about my musical tastes! So marrow and me are a perfect match.

In the absence of any on the shelves of the shops, I could always grow my own, I suppose.

But my garden is a small, city space that supports wildlife (frogs, toads, newts, birds of all shapes and sizes) but has insufficient room for me to become a modern-day Tom Good and go for self-sufficiency. And anyway. my fingers are better suited to a keyboard than being green.

Perhaps I am forever scarred by my father’s failed attempts at horticulture, with the annual ritual of green tomatoes lining the window frames and rotting until December before being consigned, with a reluctant sigh, to the rubbish (in days before there were compost bins).

It has occurred to me that I should initiate a Marrow Appreciation Society, to spread the word, commend marrow to the world at large, build up some enthusiasm for it. It has led me to carrying out some research on its history. Disappointingly, I found only two references in literature. Dickens mentions marrows in Nicholas Nickelby;

What!’ said Nicholas, ‘cucumbers and vegetable marrows flying at the heads of the family as they walk in their own garden!’

Use as a projectile was not what I had in mind.

Then, as I recall from my schoolboy Shakespeare, growing them crops up in Macbeth.

To marrow, and to marrow, and to marrow,

Creeps in this petty pace from day to day.’

At least, that’s what I thought he wrote. Maybe that explains my C- grade in O level English Literature.

But popular culture aside, my tastebuds still crave marrow. Except it’s November and marrow is seasonal. I’m fearing this could be a marrowless autumn. This blog is my last hope. Should you happen across one on a shelf somewhere, please let me know. Failing that, I’ll have to go to my local greengrocer and ask for turnip. Yes, that’s T-U-R-N-I-P.

(From http://www.finedictionary.com/)

If you’ve been wondering why my blogs had dried up over the last few months, it’s because I’ve been concentrating on a second novel. It’s now with my editor and any day now, after months of working on it, I’ll get it back with the inevitable ‘good draft, now it needs some work. . . .’ In the meantime, if you haven’t caught the first, Homeward Bound, you should still be able to find it on https://amzn.to/3mI9MpB

Homeward Bound

What’s it all about?’

Tara is eighteen. She’s a musician, about to start uni and hoping for her lucky break. George is seventy-nine. As Tara’s grandfather, he’s expected to be in retirement but in truth, he’s not quite ready to close the lid on his dreams.

When he finds himself on a tour of retirement homes instead of the cream tea at the seaside his family had promised, it seems his story might prematurely be over.

He finds an answer by inviting Tara to share his house, along with his memories and vast collection of vinyl records. He thinks he can teach her about music. She just wants to get on with her own life.

What unfolds are clashes and unlikely parallels between generations – neither knows how to work a dishwasher – as they both chase their ambitions. But when the past catches up with George, Tara has to make the same life-changing decisions her grand-father faced six decades before.

Where you can buy Homeward Bound

It’s published by Matador in paperback, RRP £10.99, and on Kindle ISBN: 9781838591595 online as well as all good bookshops.

What people are saying about it

Blogger What Rebecca’s ReadHomeward Bound is a funny, feel-good read that I’d highly recommend.’

Helen Tovey (Family Tree): ‘Blurbed as a story telling of the ‘clashes and unlikely parallels between the generations’ this novel caught my eye, and what unfolded was a poignant, very believable story, laced with reminiscences (particularly if you’re a music lover you’ll enjoy the references), twists in the plot, and loveable and interesting key characters in Gramps and granddaughter Tara. An enjoyable read that reminds us of the passing of time and the value of family.’

Selection of initial comments from Amazon, Waterstones and Goodreads

Peter W

 ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ Very enjoyable read

I really enjoyed this book. Although it will clearly appeal to music fans of my generation (over 65) who will appreciate the way Richard skillfully weaved the many music references into the story, the book will appeal to younger readers too. The central premise that young people should take every opportunity to follow their dreams is very poignant. It wouldn’t take much to turn this book into a film script.

R Mackinney

★ ★ ★ ★ ★ It was amazing Fun interesting warmly written book really enjoyed it and love the fact that there is also a Spotify playlist of all the music references available on the author’s website

Mr G.

★ ★ ★ ★ ★ A pleasure to read whether as a reflection on life or a distraction from it!

A pleasure to read whether as a reflection on life or a distraction from it! Well done Mr Smith on your debut. (Format: Kindle Edition)

Chris O

★ ★ ★ ★ ★ A Great Read

Once you have started reading this book it’s hard to put down. It’s an excellent first novel with some great music references and some important messages- not least , the close relationship between two people from very different generations who have a lot more in common than they might think and the importance of having a purpose in life and taking a few risks to follow your dreams. Looking forward to the next one !

CherylWillis

★ ★ ★ ★ ★ Lovely poignant novel

I really enjoyed this novel, amusing and sad all rolled into one.

Mr. S. J. Thorpe

★ ★ ★ ★ ★ Great Page Turner!

When I started to read this book I didn’t really know what to expect but I very quickly became immersed in the narrative of two people united in their love for music. You get no spoilers from me but needless to say the characters are likeable and their journey is both fascinating and poignant. Highly recommend you invest some time with this novel, you won’t regret it!

Eco bunny

★ ★ ★ ★ ★ Real page-turner

This book is a lot of fun – I read it in two days, finding it hard to put down. Richard Smith’s dialogue is fantastic! It’s a family drama, but will be especially good for anyone who loves music as they are sure to enjoy the parallel experiences a grandfather and his granddaughter adjust to the next stage of their lives. If you enjoyed “Elizabeth is Missing” or “The 100 year old man who climbed out the window and disappeared” then you’ll like this. Humane, witty, super-readable, enjoy.

fusionchuckle

★ ★ ★ ★ ★ Wonderful first novel

What a wonderful first novel. The main character George is a loveable chap and his relationship with his granddaughter is heartwarming. Great read, looking forward to reading more from Richard Smith.

Peter Thombs

★ ★ ★ ★ ★ Music lovers, enjoy! Reviewed in the United Kingdom on 25 February 2020Format: PaperbackVerified Purchase A wonderful book which took the reader on a special journey. A simple but well written story line with a musical treasure trove of memories. Couldn’t put it down.

Becky

★ ★ ★ ★ ★ It was amazing

I got this book as a gift and found it really enjoyable and hard to put down. It’s a story of music, relationships, dreams and realities.
The author managed to bring the characters to life in a way that had me totally invested – I was really annoyed by one character’s actions, which to me is a sign of a well-written book.
I really enjoyed the musical references too; some I recognised from my parent’s era, some were current that I knew and some I looked up on the book’s Spotify (available from author’s blog page) which brought the story to life further! I’d definitely recommend it and think it could also be a good one for book groups too – lots to discuss

Pat Cooper

★ ★ ★ ★ ★ Couldn’t put it down

This is such an enjoyable read . The main characters are warm and believable. You feel for George and Tara and want them to be happy . The book is full of musical memories which was an added enjoyment . Overall a book about love and family and well worth reading . I am sure to read it again , I enjoyed it so much .

Claire Smith

★ ★ ★ ★ ★ Engaging work from a new author

Heart-warming but not sentimental story dealing with the issues of older age and inter-family relationships particularly that of a teenage girl and her grandfather. It is told with a wry sense of humour.
Also great for people who love music as lots of references to familiar songs but all within the context of a well developed storyline. Made me dig out my old record collection and reflect on the power of music in life; and how complex and interesting family relationship are.