It’s spousemeal time again.
What? You don’t have spousemeal?

Oh, that’s probably because you’re not married. And a co-writer of comic fantasy novels. And spend more time with your co-writer than your own wife.

Spousemeal (I can’t remember when it got the name but I like the way it sounds like a German compound noun, like it’s a proper thing) is quite simple. When we finish a book, Heide and I thank our spouses, Simon and Amanda, by taking them out for a meal. Thank them? Well, they do have to put up with us, both in the general sense and because, since we hold down full-time jobs, we spend a lot of our free time doing writing stuff and, you know, it’s nice to celebrate the completion of a project.

As with all traditions, it just started as a one-off thing and then, with each successive occurrence, traditions and rules build up around it.

The first spousemeal – The Jade Wok, Station Road, Solihull

I have no idea of the date of this one. Some time in 2012, following the completion of Clovenhoof. Heide booked this one as a sort of compromise place, being roughly halfway between our respective homes. It was also the first time that Amanda and Simon had met which, for some reason, made me anxious. They’re the best of pals now and enjoying nothing more than helping Heide and I keep our feet on the ground (i.e. knocking us back and rolling their eyes at our stupidity). The food was… Chinese. Nope, can’t remember more than that. It was a meal. It was a spousemeal and it gave us the first rule.

Rule #1 – There will be a spousemeal following the completion of every book

The second spousemeal – Piquant, St Mary’s Row, Moseley

I booked this one. We’d finished writing Pigeonwings, a book which had also entailed me and Heide (and Heide’s son Angus) going off for a weekend to Llyn Peninsula for research and I think there was an air of expectation that, since Heide and I had had our jolly outing then Amanda and Simon deserved theirs too. Piquant is an ever-so-slightly-classy curry house and the food was as expected. We then decamped to the wonderful beer garden of the Prince of Wales and sank a few drinks. Nice.

Rule #2 – Iain and Heide will alternate in deciding where to eat.

The third spousemeal – Le Truc, Ladywell Way, Birmingham

Heide booked this after she and Simon had done a test-dine there some weeks before (Heide and Simon do test-dining; for a significant birthday of Simon’s, they did a test-dine of several restaurants before picking the actual one they would have the meal at – even though that sounds to me like they had a half-dozen meals to celebrate the birthday instead of one, but I digress). It was nice. As it was French and I was in an ironic mood, I had snails for starter and then a Royale with Cheese as a main. Yup. Sadly, Le Truc has closed its doors now.

Rule # 3 – Heide and Iain might book the restaurant, but they should play a diminishingly small role in its selection.

The fourth spousemeal – Annexe, Corporation Street, Birmingham

There was a bit of a to-do regarding this meal. It was clearly my turn to book and Amanda and Simon had been doing their research and both of them wanted us to eat at Carters in Moseley. It was an up-and-coming restaurant, popular with foodie types. I phoned them two weeks before we intended to eat. Now, in my opinion, no restaurant should be booked up more than a day or two in advance. If they are, that’s their problem. Simon and Amanda thought I was laughably naïve to think I could book such a place at short notice. Everyone’s entitled to their opinions.
Instead, we were forced to book the equally pricey but not-so-booked-up Annexe, a French restaurant near the law courts. I don’t like posh restaurants. I don’t like menus with stupid words on. I don’t like it when my meal comes and I can’t work out what I’ve ordered. I hate style over content, particularly where my stomach’s concerned. I was prepared to come out poor, hungry and angry. I was therefore horribly disappointed to find Annexe’s food was perfectly pleasant and plentiful. Someone had kangaroo or ostrich or something. There were puy lentils. The rest escapes me. What I do remember was the amount (both in quantity and price) of alcohol that Amanda and Simon drank. Amanda drank the restaurant’s entire supply of Prosecco. Simon drank a series of cocktails that probably cost more per millilitre than Chanel No. 5. Needless to say, a good time was had by all.
Carters in Moseley was awarded a Michelin star about a week after we failed to dine there. The waiting times for a free table are even longer now.

Rule #4 – Amanda and Simon will attempt to consume all of Heide and Iain’s profits during the course of the meal.

A problem had arisen. We had our spousemeal at Le Truc because we had completed and published our third novel, Godsquad. However, we had written Godsquad and Hellzapoppin’ at the same time, so the Annexe spousemeal came long after Hellzapoppin’ was finished and while we were working on Beelzebelle. Therefore, it was clear to us that no additional spousemeal was needed for Beelzebelle; it was inherently covered by the Annexe meal. Sadly, it was not similarly clear to Amanda and Simon. The ambiguity this caused meant that no additional spousemeal was held for the completion of Beelzebelle and this was further compounded by the fact that we had completed Oddjobs before Beelzebelle was launched. Did we need a fifth spousemeal for Oddjobs (or Beelzebelle and Oddjobs), or a fifth and sixth spousemeal (one each for Beelzebelle and Oddjobs)?

The fifth spousemeal – Bistrot Pierre, Gas Street, Birmingham

This was last night so I can actually remember and report what I ate, although the wine menu was longer than the food menu and had far more attention paid to it. I definitely had some sort of pate thing and then some sort of seafood thing (I’m not going to make it as a restaurant reviewer, am I?). Although Heide and I did an unusually spectacular job of not talking about writing, some small amount of time was devoted to establishing whether Amanda and Simon were currently owed any more spousemeals at this time. Heide and I were firmly in the “no” camp; Amanda and Simon were strongly undecided.
Heide skilfully suggested that the next spousemeal should be held in Scarborough in September, since we would all be up there for Fantasycon by the Sea (where Heide and I are both scheduled to be on discussion panels). I might have then foolishly pointed out that the hotel deal we had all booked already included evening meals. Simon might then have expressed some heartfelt opinions about the quality of fare at a certain hotel chain.
Where and when the next spousemeal might be and what criteria should rightly trigger it remained undecided.

Anyway, I’m sure there was going to be some sort of point to this blog.
Treat your loved ones well?
Get the rules down in writing before your make a habit of something?
Don’t write so many books?
Don’t rely on Iain to book a Michelin star restaurant?

Whatever. Here’s a picture of two stupid people and the people foolish enough to marry them.