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Gerald came to visit me in London just for one night. Suffering with throat cancer he said he was doing the rounds, saying his goodbyes. He’d arrived up at my apartment earlier in the day. It was strange, the occasion, this visit. He had two tickets to a West End show and we were on route, crossing London in my clapped out Clio. Gerald said he’d tried to read one of my novels, my second one. It was a love story with an unhappy ending. 

‘You can write,’ he said, ‘but…’   

We were driving along the Marylebone High Road. I was indicating a right turn, conscious of the slow movement of traffic and imminent rise of the theatre curtain. Determined to clear the junction, I took a risk despite the light being amber. 

‘Jesus,’ he cried, ‘I’m not ready to go yet.’ There was a momentary pause, ‘You should read Howard Jacobson. Now he’s good, very funny, very human. Are you working on anything at the minute?’


The day before I’d lunched with my big shot agent. It was an annual event and I couldn’t help noticing that over the three years of representation the chosen restaurants were getting progressively shittier. When he sold my first novel we’d dined at Nobu. 

Yesterday I’d sat in a cafe across the street from his office. 

‘Can’t beat a Pret tuna baguette,’ he cheered.

‘Yeah the egg mayo is really good.’

The crusts of our sandwiches touched.

‘So,’ he said, ‘I read through your idea.’


Big into manifesting, I’d envisaged a best seller, a world wide book tour, film deal. I was willing it into existence.

The plot was kinda Thelma and Louise, only set in Ireland, but instead of two leads it centred round an Irish Jewish family (father, mother, daughter and grandson). They were on a road trip. I had recently spent Christmas in Ireland with my young son and my parents. We’d driven down to Kenmare in Kerry on one of the worst weather days in the history of the Republic, minus zero and the entire country wrapped in snow. 

Anyway the Bagels set off on holiday only they take the wrong turning and end up driving along a dirt track in the dead of night. It is pitch black, a strange but handsome man suddenly appears before them…. Frantically flagging them down. The car screeches to a halt.

Inadvertently the Bagels stumble across Hollywood heart throb Brad McCavity. Yes, that Brad McCavity! Front page news for the past two weeks, Brad had been kidnapped and held for ransom by the IRA. 

MaCavity jumps into the back of the  Bagel’s car, a burgundy Jaguar and squashes up beside Jenny Bagel, (youngish, single mum, a bit like me). 

‘Peddle to the  Metal’ shouts MacCavity, ‘Hey Cutie, who are you?’ 

‘What?’ Asks Mr Bagel.

‘Not you,’ MacCavity says, ‘this sauce pot to my side. Come on old man, the RA is on our tails.’

Mr Bagel slams his foot down on the accelerator but loses his grip and the car rolls over several times, ending up in a ditch.  Miraculously everyone is fine. They flag down the next car to come along the track. Help is at hand, only you’ve guessed it….

The car is driven by the leader of the IRA.

To cut a long story short, Jenny and McCavity get it on and this being Ireland it turns out Mrs Bagel knows the IRA leader from way, way, back… from when he was a shabbos goy and came to turn on the Friday night lights at Mrs Bagels’ orthodox religious parent’s house. 

Gerald yawned, ‘What did your agent say?’


‘Look if I’m honest…’ My agent had dabbed the edges of his mouth.‘I’m not feeling it,’ he’d sucked at a bit of something stuck between his teeth and began opening his cake wrapper. He could see my disappointment. It rolled down my cheek along with a few mates.

‘You okay?’

‘It’s the miso soup,’ I replied. ‘like a cloud effect… it’s nothing...’

 ‘Strange…’ he said, ‘anyway how come Brad and Jenny don’t stick together?’

 I’d plotted it so Brad is called back to Hollywood to finish a movie called Mr and Mrs Jones, his kidnap has cost the studio millions. In the final scene he boards the plane (a la Casablanca) and cries out ‘I’ll never forget you Jenny Bagel.’

‘Any other ideas?’

I told my agent I was toying with a kid’s story about a mother and son, who ran a detective agency. In one episode the alphabet went missing (nothing made sense anymore). In the next, all the numbers disappeared, (naught was adding up) and in the final chapter,  all the colours were sucked into a rainbow the wrong way and became a mucky brown (there was nothing black and white about that case).  

‘What’s it called?’

‘The Mummy and MooMoo Detective Agency.’

‘Single mum…. detective agency… there may be something there. Look you’re an okay writer…’

I wondered where this conversation was headed. 

‘If you want my advice stick to writing about what you know.’ He jumped down from the stool, ‘I’ve to get back to the office.’ 


My uncle Gerald was famed for his annual impersonation of Joyce’s one and only, Mr Leopold Bloom – black bowler hat and Edwardian three piece suit, tie, chain and watch, Ireland’s most famous Jew. On the 16th of June he would be Bloom. It became an annual tradition and the press loved him. He was plastered all over every paper, on TV and radio. He was also one of Ireland’s leading abstract artists, a Joycean scholar, raconteur and jazz connoisseur. He owned a print shop and gallery in Capel St and founded his own recording company Livia records. He married my aunt and together they had three children. Growing up I frequently stayed over at their house, a hub of strange people; musicians, artists, dancers and writers.


Gerald had a studio in the attic. There was a narrow pull-down ladder which you’d have to climb up. The place smelt of oils and paints, turps and fags. It was full of paintings, frames, canvas’ easels, palettes, knives and brushes. There was a sky light and scrawled on one of the vertical roof beams was the following phrase, life is a journey death is a destination. 


Time was ticking. Gerald had cancer and would die from it. He had come to say goodbye. It was unusual. It was the only time we ever spent alone together.  


Curtain up in five minutes I was stressed about finding a parking space. Finally I managed and we raced to the Shaftesbury theatre to see Maureen Lipman, in the show Thoroughly Modern Millie. It was Spring, 2003. Maureen was a friend of Gerald’s and post show we met her backstage. 


A couple of years later, Gerald was in Greystones fading fast and my comedy detective novel The Honey Trap  had just been published. Single mum and agent provocateur, Issy Brodsky works at a detective agency specialising in apprehending men on the verge of infidelity. I didn’t send him a copy. Instead, I sent the latest novel by Howard Jacobson along with a note. In it I recalled climbing up the ladder to his attic studio, being entranced by all his stuff and that phrase, ‘Ger,’ I wrote, ‘Bon voyage and happy travels.’  He died aged 66 in June 2005.


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