Friday, December 28, 2007

gammon to last a lifetime

Danny Boy (the poipes, the poipes) has won the prize for the most unique Christmas present. Now I don't know what the young man has done to upset his in-laws (apart from rolling in pie-eyed most of the time) but they certainly know how to make a person feel loved.
There he was, delving into the parcels under the tree that were marked with his name, when he came across one that left little to the imagination. The shape of it suggested one thing, and one thing only. But The Poipes thought: "It just can't be."
But, stripping off the wrapping, his worst fears were confirmed. It was a coat hanger. A top-of-the-range coathanger, sure, and as he put it, "It will hold trousers as well as a shirt", but it's pretty difficult to paint it in any better light.
They did actually buy him another present to make up for it - three cans of deodorant. It went with the other four cans that he had received from various people. Are people trying to tell him something, I wonder?

The first Thirsty Thursday after Christmas became a pretty revealing adventure in which we finally learned some of the dark secrets that Roberts has been hiding in his dim and murky past. The secretive one has always managed to keep things under his hat before now, but there was a chance meeting with a former mate of his, over from Japan on a week's holiday.
Shockingly I can reveal:
* He was the bass player in a band called The Trees.
* He used to drink with a bunch of desperados in the Square Club, a now defunct Cardiff boozer for ne'er-do-wells.
* He and Tucker, the Western Mail soccer writer who also doubles up as a stand-up comedian, used to be big boozing buddies.
Ok, it doesn't reveal a great deal - but it's a darn sight more than we ever get out of Wales' No 1 rugby writer normally.

Back to Christmas dinner. Shopping the day before in Waitrose I ventured, "Do we need half a gammon or a full joint."
There was no doubt in the Fat Kid's mind. "We need the big one."
Now, bearing in mind there were just the two of us, plus two tiny tots, it did seem rather excessive, particularly as we were having beef as well, but I went with the flow.
When I got the joint back home I decided to boil it in a pan with fennel, black peppercorns, two onion halves and two carrots. Trouble was it wouldn't fit in the Fat Kid's biggest pot, so I had to cut it in two and do it in two batches.
The secret is to put the gammon in first and cover it with water, then bring it to the boil. Once boiled you then empty the water and fill up the pot again. At this stage you add the veg and the peppercorns, bring back to the boil, skim off the surface and then simmer for the best part of an hour. Rest it then for 20 minutes, and wrap in foil. When it has cooled down put in the fridge to heat in the microwave before eating.
I also chopped potatoes and parsnips, peeled the sprouts, and cut the swede into cubes.
Next day I put the oven on 180 degrees, boiled up big potato chunks and simmered for five minutes before putting in a roasting tin and adding goose fat. With the beef I added liberal sprinklings of rock salt, basil leaves, slices of red and green pepper and three garlic cloves, wrapping all this in silver foil and putting in the oven.
On another baking tray I smothered the parsnips with honey, chopped up two shallots thinly, peeled a couple of carrots, smeared goose fat all over, and put on the bottom shelf of the oven 20 minutes after the beef and potatoes started cooking.
Next I boiled up the swede for a good while until it softened, then mashed it and added a knob of butter.
Meantime I made pigs in their blankets by wrapping streaky bacon around cocktail sausages, and also made up a packet of cranberry and chestnut stuffing, wrapping some of this in more bacon, before using the rest to make small round stuffing balls.
When the beef had been cooking for just over an hour and the potatoes had browned nicely I removed them and the parsnips and carrots from the oven. I put the bacon rolls on a thin baking sheet, put some ready made Aunt Bessie's Yorkshire puddings on another, wacked the heat up to about 225 in the electric oven and put them in.
At this stage I boiled sprouts on the hob and filled another pan with smaller chunks of potato for mash.
After 15 to 20 minutes I removed the Yorkshire puddings which had risen and browned, then returned the beef to the oven.
When the potatoes on the stove had done I mashed them with butter and milk.
When the bacon and beef appeared done I started to load the plates up. Slices of beef, slices of gammon, yorkshire pudding, bacon rolls, stuffing, sprouts, mashed potato, roast potato, parsnips and swede.
I put the carrots and shallots into another pan, added 3/4 pint of cold water, mixed up four heaped teaspoons of Bisto gravy with a small amount of water, added that and brought the gravy to the boil, stirring frequently. When it boiled and thickened I started to heat the food plates in the microwave, finishing off with the gravy. The Fat Kid opted for apple sauce with hers, I went for horse radish. We spent the night blobbed out on the sofa watching Eastenders.

Boxing Day and I suddenly realised the full pain of being a Gashead. I watched my football team draw 1-1 at home to Luton who, by the end of the match, had only eight players left on the field having had three sent off. Oh, the humiliation.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Dinner's in the dog

WHILE most of us were enjoying a luxurious, belly bursting dinner on Christmas Day there was a bit of a surprise in store for the Little Bowling Ball.
Brammy travelled up to enjoy the festivities with his brother's family in the wilds of Powys. The round one who, incidentally, does appear to have started to lose weight (damn his eyes, I don't really fancy thinking up a new nickname for him when I love the current one so much) is nothing if not a creature of habit. And every year he waddles down to the local pub with brother and sister-in-law at his side. On this occasion his nephew from Australia was in attendance, too, I understand.
As the christmas dinner roasts away quite nicely, they proceed to sink a fair few pints of old scroat to "build up the appetite".
Then they struggle back up the hill, rolling Bram along as they go, to settle down and gorge themselves silly.
Imagine their surprise and shock, then, that on entering the house it appears to have been turned over by some cowardly, opportunistic burglar who has, quite literally, ransacked the place.
But first impressions can be deceptive. And it was when they discovered the family dog chewing off the legs of the nephew's golf bag that they began to piece together the true nature of what had taken place.
Apparently the dog (best description from Bram "dunno what make it is but it comes up to about my knees - miniature poodle, perhaps?) has turned from meek, mild household pet to mad dog in the blink of an eye. As well as decapitating the golf bag it has also managed to knock the flower pots from the window sill. And the full horror is yet to come...
Walking into the kitchen, the gathering are horrified to find just a collection of bones where the Christmas turkey had been sitting on the table ready to be reheated. The woofer had scoffed the lot.
Fortunately there was still beef in the oven and the family had to make do with that.
I have a few little suspicions about the validity of the story, though. A. This was a mild mannered dog and b. If you see the amount of food the Bowling Ball consumes on a Saturday you soon realise the guy has a phenomenal appetitie for a person of his dap.
Could it possibly be that, using the excuse of a visit to the loo, he escaped out the back door, sneaked into the house, gorged himself on turkey, placed bones in strategic places near the dog, wound the dog up then escaped back to the sanctity of the pub?
I guess we shall never know.

As for myself, Christmas Day was a delight ... for about 10 minutes. That was before I had to assemble the first of many Taiwanese made kids' toys for the Vin Man and Big Boy. As soon as they opened a parcel to reveal another "do-it-yourself" item, I instantly felt the Christmas spirit drain out of me.
Not only does each particular "toy" require a skilled engineer, carpenter or such to put it together, but they must also have an A level in understanding intricate tech drawings with bits all over the place. And, of course, there is always a screw missing. And I don't just mean in my case.
The worst moment came when we had to put together a "Baby Quad Bike" for the Big Boy. Bloody hell, never had such things in my day I can tell you. You were content with action man, a subbuteo set or, in one extreme circumstance, a brilliant game called pro-shot golf, where a stick the size of a golf club held a little action figure on the end and by pulling a lever up and down you could make him play shots. You could even change the clubs in his hand, too. Provided me with at least 10 minutes of excitement, I can tell you.
Anyway, back to Baby Quad. Having fitted the wheels, and screwed and screwed and screwed until it all seemed relatively right, we found we had one cable still open to the elements. By this time I was really losing it. "Perhaps that is just how it is meant to be," said the Fat Kid.
"Don't be so b***dy stupid. It's got to go somewhere, hasn't it? These bloody kids things, whoever made them are a bunch of tw**s." You get the picture.
Anyway, having finally managed to put it together, with the kids driving me crazy asking for drinks of water, crisps and chocolate while we are doing it, we then realise the battery must charge. The Big Boy is dying to climb on board, but he can't. It only takes a mere 10 hours to charge, I then discover. B*££*+!s
My Christmas dinner, however, was somewhat of a triumph. I'll give the full recipe later cos at the moment I am dying for a pint and Roberts is hanging around making me nervous.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

rabbit and gammon suet pudding

GREAT news! I now have the keys to the executive washroom, just like Jack Lemmon in that brilliant comedy the Apartment. What I will have to pay for this privilege I am still waiting to learn.
On Tuesday the long wait came to an end with a phone call from the Boss who, after alerting me to the fact we all had free invites to the opening of a new Vodka bar in Cardiff, slipped into the conversation that my application to become an Executive Editor in the new-fangled Meeja Wales operation had been successful. Wooppee!
Immediately I was informed by Roberts that my membership of Boozeday Tuesday would be torn up and I was no longer welcome at Wednesday Club. "You'll be hobnobbing with the gentry from now on," he inferred sniffily.
But like those entirely honest lottery winners who appear on the news every week I can declare here and now that my new lofty status "won't change me a bit" (Just put a bit more black dubbin on those shoes, so that I can see my face in it, please, Shutts).

Tuesday night in the Yard with Wren, the Prince, Roberts, Withers, Danny Boy (the poipes, the poipes), Smashy and Nicey and the news is filtering through about who got which jobs. Nicey informed me that my recollections of Friday night's Echo party ommitted the fact that I had rolled my trouser legs up to my knees and performed a perfectly reasonable impression of Angus Young out of ACDC in Highway to Hell. Apparently there are pictures. No doubt they will turn up in the tabloids thanks to some kiss n tell merchant jealous of my new elevation to Godlike status. For the moment I am denying all knowledge while desperately trying to obtain the incriminating material.
Tuesday was a good night as the election results filtered through. Nicey is Head of Content, Martin Wells head of production and the Greek, as expected, will lead the way in sport with Blanchy as his deputy and Smashy as one of his assistants. Congrats all.
Long after I was tucked up in my bed I understand the Poipes came up with the worst chat up line of all time (bearing in mind, of course, that he had no intention of it being successful, or so he assures me). When introduced in the Buffalo Bar to a girl from Blackwood in Gwent, his alcohol confused brain somehow persuaded him to ask: "Do they have sandwiches there?" Strange is not the word.

Thursday night was about the third official goodbye to the Fab BB. I get the feeling the Wonderful Withers of WoS is already trying to give me the slip on the basis that he cannot be seen to be consorting with management. When I arrived at the Yard the place was packed but of the WoS crew there was no sign. In dire need of a drink I texted Withers. "Where are you guys?" I asked.
The answer came back. "Champneys."
I'd never heard of it but remembered someone had once mentioned a secluded bar at the top of St Mary's Street.
Having walked the entire length and found nothing vaguely resembling Champneys, I questioned the Wonderful One again.
"It's just before you get to Mill Lane on the left hand side," he told me.
Ah, Champers, he means. As opposed to Champneys, which I understand is some luxury retreat where people go to lie around in mudbaths and generally spoil themselves. Tw*t.
There is a good turn out and though the San Miguel comes in at £3.60 a pint at least there are quite a few spare seats. Eventually we all drift on to the new Vodka Bar, called Revolution and situated near Dempseys opposite Cardiff Castle.

What a brilliant night. I've now discovered the best bloody mary in Cardiff, made with pepper vodka, tomato juice, tabasco and Worcester Sauce. "Where's the celery? They give you celery in New Orleans?" I explained to the extremely patient barmaid.
"Just coming sir," she said and next minute there it was, a stick of leafy brilliance poking out from a magnificent cocktail. Curry in a glass. I had a couple more, too.
The place was rammed and there were a few famous faces around. Roberts introduced me to former Wales international rugby player Neil Jenkins. The last time we'd met I presented him with an award. It was many moons ago, back in the days when I had hair. No wonder he smiled faintly and pretended he knew who I was when he obviously hadn't a clue.
Meanwhile, Mad Liz turned up to brighten up the night. First she danced insanely to every sound that came on... then she took a liking to the stags heads adorning the wall. At one stage she was politely told to return one as she smooched lovingly with it around the room.
This led to the invention of a new dance. I don't suppose it has quite the Street Cred of Souljah Boy, but the running stag soon caught on with our lot. It involved putting a curled finger either side of your head and charging towards each other making strange mooing noises. I didn't know stags moo'd but you learn something moo every day. Boom, boom.
At the end it all got a bit emotional. Baker Boy and Catherine Mary, who have had a few disagreements in the past, made friends again while I paid tribute to the Fab One and all he has done for the great ship WoS. I'm sure he will be a great asset to the Peeps. We will miss him greatly.
By this stage I had stripped off my fave shirt, although to be fair I did have on a T shirt underneath. Sadly when I climbed into a taxi just after one in the morning, the shirt was still nestled comfily on a couch in Revolution. At least I went home with my baseball cap and have an excuse to return to the bar again some time.

Friday morning bought the hangover from hell, but I had plenty of things to do. Bas is now fixed, thank God, and I had some last minute shopping to do before setting off for the South East on Saturday.
Opting for an early night my sleep was pretty intermittent, not helped by a congratulatory text from Ballsy at four in the morning! Of course, you can't tell how much people have had to drink when they send a text but the clue was in the timing. I guess if she was saying it, the words would be something like: "M'out wiv Lau..uh Evns and sheesh told me yer've got the job. Sh'brillliant mate." Thanks for the kind words... no matter the time they arrived, Ballsy.

The drive up to Lavernham (a good 250-mile trip) went as well as could be expected though I was still feeling a bit dozy.
I arrived at Wren's mum's at around 3.30pm and after a bit of a chin wag and a lovely cup of t we then spent a romantic evening at the Black Lion in Long Melford, a lovely little hotel which also boasts the best restaurant in Suffolk (not my words but those of the East Anglian Daily Times).
There were a few teething probs, like the heating in our room didn't work, but the dinner was excellent. Wren enjoyed a terrine of Partridge and Hare in an apple cider jelly followed by a whole Sea Bass, while I experimented with Cod and Leek fishcakes followed up by a Suet Pudding containing rabbit and Gammon. These were all served with seasonal vegetables and were lush.
The following morning there was another hiccup. No hot water. But the very friendly staff explained there was a plumbing problem that they were having to sort out and that we could use another room if we needed to shower. Their customer service could certainly teach Cheltenham's stuck-up Hotel Du Vin a thing or to.
There was a lovely cooked breakfast, with Long Melford sausages to die for, and on top of it all a £20 discount for any trouble we had encountered. A lovely Christmas treat.
After writing this blog it's off to Southend, where the Vin Man is currently enjoying his fifth birthday party and the Big Boy has probably eaten all his cake. Merry Xmas to all my readers...

Saturday, December 15, 2007

A bowl of mixed nuts

IT was one of those mornings. I woke and peered through bleary, screwed-up eyes at the clock on my bedside table - it had just clicked around to 8.59am. Oh, bugger. I had a minute to get showered, drive into work and then prepare for conference. I decided I wasn't going to make it.
I made pretty quick progress though and was out of the house in 10 minutes. Got into Bas, turned the key... and nothing happened. I had a flat battery on what must rank as the coldest day of the year.
In the end I ran for the bus, and finally got to work 40 minutes late. A pretty poor start to another nightmare Saturday. And all because of the Echo party...

On Friday night we left work determined to have a drink. But it was immediately obvious to Withers, Marc, Danny Boy (the Poipes, the poipes) and myself that this wasn't going to be easy. They were already queueing to get in The Yard and it wasn't even 6pm. Seems like Black Friday had been brought forward by a week.
Eventually we settled on the City Arms, knowing full well that it was rarely packed there any more. We even, wonder of wonders, found a table. And soon the Prince of Darkness, having inquired about our drinking habits via text, arrived to join the melee. The last pay day of the year and we were determined to have a good night.
The City Arms was ok, but the company wasn't up to much. There were three pie-eyed Cardiff City fans determined to sing loud songs while being genuinely disruptive and, horror of horrors, SMOKING in the pub.
So we opted to move on to the New Model Inn next door.
Danny Boy purloined a buxom young BBC wench who was determined to chat up the Fab BB and, when unsuccessful with that venture, moved on to the Prince. The Poipes, meanwhile, was content to admire her buxomness. She was a bit mad, though.
Then off we went upstairs to the Echo do where there was a good turnout. It didn't take long for us all to hit the dance floor - what with it being the Fab BB's unofficial leaving party.
A few more beers, a bit more Christmas cheer and I had managed to persuade the DJ to play Oops upside your head. Gathering a few like-minded idiots we scrambled on to the dirty floor to perform rowing motions to the Gap Band tune.
For some stupid reason I also decided to engage in a 'mock' fight with Nicey. Well, that was what I was supposed to be doing. Somehow at one stage my knee managed to make contact with his nose - a foolhardy action which no manner of apology could forgive. Poor bloke's eyes were streaming. Hope nothing's broken.
Swingler, meanwhile, the Echo photographer who seems to make a habit of being outrageous at the Echo Christmas do, had by now begun a food fight. Only thing was, no one else was playing.
As usual the wonderful one lost something. This time it was his suit jacket AND his phone. And as usual I found them by looking about three inches from where he was standing, crying out with apoplexy at the way the miserable world always picked on him. Numpty, as Woody might say.
Eventually decided to call it a day and wander home early so that I could get in at a reasonable time for the busy day ahead. Imagine my astonishment when I discovered on arrival that it was, in fact, 1.45 and I was totally bladdered. The only thing for it before bed was a little snack of mixed nuts. Thank God I am off work next week.

Friday, December 14, 2007


I WAS all of a quiver this morning. There it lay, on my desk. A letter postmarked Buckingham Palace. At last! The OBE was here, the knighthood in the bag, fantastic. Either that or the Queen was cordially inviting herself to the final meeting of Boozeday Tuesday.
"One has a bit of a buzz on," she might have written. "Wowy, wowy." That's if she has a copy of the Prince of Darkness' guide to drinking.
As it was, this was nothing to do with our Prince. It was in fact the Prince of Wales inviting me to an exhibition of the Royal Collection Trust, which is taking place in the drawings gallery at Windsor Castle to celebrate his 60th birthday. Not really up my street, I must confess.

Meanwhile, it appears The Voice of God has decided to revisit the book of Genesis. The Voice is now the proud owner of a snake, would you Adam 'n' Eve it? So what does he call his snake? Sammy Slither? Ka, like the one from the Jungle Book film? Maybe Slippery or Scaley?
When you ask him he has a special patter in which to reveal the Information. In his deep, booming voice he says: "I call it Ursula Blake, my f***ing snake".
Weird is not the word for it.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

WoS Xmas party (lamb shanks and many thanks)

WHEN the boss finally decides to move on I can see him fitting into the role of motivational speaker. His performances at our Xmas parties are, quite frankly, legendary. And this time was no exception.
With the impending arrival of One Team Meeja Wales I guess this goes down as the last of the Wales on Sunday parties, even though we are talking of having revival evenings every year.
The WoS xmas party, for anyone who has worked with us or been unfortunate enough to encounter us, tend to turn into mad contests to test every ounce of stamina. I remember the first one was at a rather sleazy Cardiff hotel which doubled up as a venue for prostitutes to peddle their wares and started off on a Tuesday evening at about 7.
After that they began earlier and earlier including one famous year when we had barely touched base in the office before we were off to the Queen's Dungeon for a quick snifter. This was the famous time when one of our number, a certain Smiffy, tried to molest a waiter at a local restaurant and got us banned for life.
On another occasion ex-Echo editor Richard Williams, joining us from the Liverpool Post and as yet to take up his role with the newspaper, was greeted by a gang of scousers wearing black curly wigs and false moustaches and shouting "eh, eh, eh!" at the top of their voices. The Greek, at that time deputy sports editor to myself, got very upset when we told him he could not have one of said wigs. "Why not?" he demanded.
"You don't need one. With that curly perm you already look like a dodgy scouser," we told him.

So on to the Boss.
One year he decided to have a quick word in the ear of our chief reporter. The conversation ended with the chap handing in his resignation there and then.
The Boss always uses the Xmas party to make a lasting impression on his journalists - to outline his in-depth plan to take WoS onwards and upwards. Bouncing to his feet on one occasion, he announced in his delicate Glaswegian drawl (pretty well perfected for an honest-to-goodness Irishman): "A' wan' Shcoops, shcoops, shcoops!"
As tends to be the practice on these occasions everyone looked at each other, mouthing: "What on earth is he saying? Is he asking for the restaurant to bring out the ice cream."
But in his persuasive way the Boss found a way to explain what he was getting at. "Shhhhhhhhcoooops!" he shouted so loud the window pains rattled.

Later he dragged aside our newest recruit Rosey - who had only joined the paper on that day and must have been wondering what on earth was going on. He had yet to even see the inside of our office.
"Hey, you, Jimmy," shouted the boss, probably getting Rosey mixed up with someone else.
He then stood an inch from the face of his quarry and engaged him with a steely eye.
"Ah, wasna' shure whether to take ye on, but Rippers wanted ye so here ye are. Yah better not let us doon, A'm expecting great things from yoos."
Quite a daunting challenge for a guy who had been on the payroll for just five hours.

This year the boss had prepared to give a rousing final send off to the good ship WoS. "S'pleasure to work with ye, your the best crood WoS ever had I reckon (It's something he says every year which just signifies the rapid improved of the product). It's been fantastic."
On this occasion I sneaked away feeling rather emotional about the whole proceedings. But I understand the Boss went around, geeing up the troops until the early hours of the morning.
To the Fab BB, who is leaving us for the Peeps, he declared: "Ah wan yer to goo oot wi' a bang - I'm expecting two Shcoops from yer in yer last two weeks."
Not too much of an ask for a guy of the Fab BB's talent, but he has certainly produced plenty of those since he's been with us and will be greatly missed.
To Danny Boy "the poipes, the poipes": "Who do ye like and who do ye think is a c**t?"
And to Wathanovski, who has only been with us a few weeks since becoming a soccer writer on WoS: "Ah'm shure ye'll be fine in the new regime as long as ye keep producing the stories. Now let me tell you all about Celtic..."
As I say, I wasn't there so there's no way of verifying this, but apparently the conversation continued for the next half hour. Nothing to read here though about Gordon Strachan's mighty green and white army... probably because Wathanovski couldn't understand another word.

Lovely to see Kempy at the do - our first contact since she went off to have baby Paddy - and likewise Captain Mainwaring, who gave birth to George.
The food at Mimosa's in Cardiff Bay was absolutely spectacular, it must be said, the Lamb Shanks, Duck Salad and Oatcake and Cream left me feeling bloated but satisfied. When it came to going on, though, I left it to the younger set who apparently finished up at Buffalo until 3.15 in the morning.
Poor old Robot, though. He turned to the Boss and the Prince of Darkness and slurred: "See yoush inthe morning."
"Nah, ye won't son, A've booked the day off!" revealed the Boss.
The Prince meanwhile is on a week's holiday (no truth in the rumour he is spending it at the Priory)
Warriors as we are on WoS the guys who did show up, despite the green-faced appearances, put in a full day's work.
Outstanding. The Boss will be so proud, as no doubt he'll tell us in the pub sometime...

Friday, December 07, 2007

corned beef sandwich

ANOTHER day, another Crimbo party, but I was still feeling pretty green by the time the Wales News shindig began at 6.30pm. A couple of beers and a few hellos and then it was off home on the bus - at least it would have been if the bus had turned up. Instead I had to wait in the freezing cold for 30 minutes until three No 8s came along at once. Of course, sod's law that I would get on the one that stopped at every point on the journey to pick up hordes of late night christmas shoppers.
Throughout the day more stories emerged of the high jinx at the Equinox do, including the time I earnestly tried to persuade a PR person to hand over an exclusive story while wearing a tie around my head. Apparently I wasn't the only one knocked for six by the cocktails. Friend of Withers managed to fall across a table sending drinks flying everywhere.
At least the PR girl who spoke to me at the bar is now fully aware of Wales on Sunday.
Having joined the company barely two months before, she introduced herself and asked where I was from.
When the reply came she nodded sagely. "I was in the office collating all the responses to our invite and they nearly all came from your newspaper. I asked one of the other girls why that would be. She simply replied 'oh yes, Wales on Sunday. They like a drink'.
Hope this doesn't get around. Meeja Wales newspapers have been doing stories for the last six months about the booze culture affecting Wales, in particularly in relation to their underperforming rugby team.
Fair play to WRU media manager John Williams then. He arrived at a leaving do for Rimmer, my erstwhile colleague at Westgate Sports Agency who has just taken the job of press officer for the new Wales coach Warren Gatland. As our colleague on the Snail, Simon Thomas, arrived and hot-footed his way to the bar gagging for a pint, John said caustically: "So this is the drinking culture you've been writing about, is it?"

Sorry for the lack of recipes lately, but I just haven't found the time to cook. Last night involved a corned beef sandwich with tomato, pepper and brown sauce. It hit the spot a bit better than the breakfast curry I must say.
PS Any information on the Prince of Darkness' late-night activities on Thursday night would be gratefully received. All in the strictest confidence, of course.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Cold breakfast curry

"THE HORROR, the horror". I had an Apocalypse Now moment this morning when the Fab BB thrust his phone in my face and showed me a disturbing picture of a bloke looking remarkably like the bald-headed, topless, totally insane Marlon Brando from the aforementioned film. I was even more disgusted when I realised that said image was of me having apparently removed my shirt during the karaoke Christmas Party held by the PR firm Equinox. Free booze, free food, free entertainment - where could you go wrong?
By ordering giant jugs of some strange cocktail that bore a passing resemblance to Margueritas, that's where. Roberts (for I unreservedly blame him) decided it would be a good idea to order two of these jugs when, quite frankly, I was happy to continue merrily sipping away on the lager.
As I recall he sidled up to the bar, accosted the barman, and announced: "A jug of Mojitas, my good man." It was the start of the slippery slope as Myself, Roberts, Smashy, the Prince of Darkness, the Fab BB, Withers and Friend of Withers tucked in with relish (well, I'm not saying we added relish to the drink, but at this time anything seemed acceptable)
It was a short step from there to joining Mad Liz at the mic as she performed a highly original version of the Proclaimers "I'm gonna be (500 miles)" without apparently ever having heard the song before. She managed to make up the words, but did manage to sing them in a passable Glaswegian accent having spent the previous two weeks on holiday in Scotland.
Then settled back to watch the other brave efforts to entertain us, until finally getting a bit bored by the time Aled, a reporter from the Snail, stepped up to the plate. It just happened that at that moment there were plenty of empty cocktail glasses around containing redundant straws and pieces of lime.
For some strange reason, by this time sans shirt, I decided it was time to deliver my verdict on the unfortunate hack by means of throwing fruit and straws in his general direction.
Cannot remember much else, to be honest, but waking at 6am this morning, feeling like crap, I realised I was still half clothed and then recalled at some point buying a chicken curry off the bone at Dirty Dots in Cardiff's Chip Alley. Not recalling having eaten curry I made a quick trip to the kitchen where I discovered it, still neatly wrapped, on the draining board.
Well, waste not, want not...

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

waggon wheels (rollin' rollin' rollin')

REMEMBER that famous film of the veteran US soldier in the wheelchair entitled "Born On the Fourth of July". Well I reckon the Prince of Darkness will star in the sequel "Born Yesterday".
Tuesday's Boozeday events were interrupted by a scruffy looking individual in a wheelchair who, however hard I tried to imagine it, bore absolutely no resemblance to Tom Cruise. Having been helped out of Sh*tty O'Grim's by a very kindly Smashy so that he could have a cigarette, the man in the chair, having drunk a steady stream of pints of Stella throughout the afternoon, decided to follow our motley crew to The Yard.
While the Wonderful One, Roberts and I were standing outside puffing on a tab, he rolled up to within a few feet of the pub back door and demanded: "Help me boys I am in desperate need of the toilet."
Withers was his usual christian self. Keeping his eyes firmly fixed in the other direction, he insisted: "I'm not helping him, that's Smashy's job. Anyway you might have to get his thingy out!"
Smashy, however, was firmly ensconsed in his pint inside and had not seen the dilemma facing us at a time of Goodwill to All Men.
At that moment the Prince of Darkness decided to join us for a cigarette. And, lo and behold, it was the macabre one who came to the rescue. Roberts, belatedly, sprang into action and they wheeled the poor chap, now fast asleep in his chair, down a ramp, into The Yard, and helped him into the toilet.
I can't record what happened within those confines because a. I wasn't going anywhere near the scene and b. Because the Prince and Roberts remained completely tightlipped when rejoining us at our table.
All Roberts would offer was "he's hardly an invalid, he's only busted his foot and he's got a plaster on that". He then insisted that our "war hero" would have no trouble leaving the confines of the men's room.
Ten minutes later and he was revising that assumption. "Come on Prince of Darkness, we'd better go and find him."
Moments later the Prince and Roberts emerged, pushing our poor vet out into the street once more.
Only Roberts returned. The Prince, he told us, had gone to help the poor blighter cross the road to O'Neill's.
Ten minutes passed... 15... 20. Of the Prince, there was no sign. Had he decided to push the geezer all the way back to his home in Culverhouse Cross, the invalid ordering "just a bit further mate," like that guy who carried a woman's pushchair to the top of a mountain in a famous episode of The League of Gentlemen?
Withers went out as a one-man search party to find him. He returned a few minutes later. No sign. He picked up his phone and tried to ring the Prince. There was a ringing noise on the table. The Prince had left his phone behind.
Finally, the Prince arrived, looking flushed and out of breath. "It's just not right," he said, shaking his scraggy main and turning puce from the cold and effort. "I pushed him into O'Neill's but they couldn't find the key to the disabled toilets. The bloke was very apologetic but it's a disgrace really.
"I then had to push him on to the Queen's Vaults. Thankfully someone knew where he lived and offered to make sure he got home. I had visions of walking the entire length of St Mary's Street looking for a toilet."
His mood wasn't helped when one of the Yard Birds (our politically correct nickname for the female members of the Yard staff) told him: "Oh yeah, he was hear the other day. Sick all down his front, p*ss*d himself. It's a regular occurence."
The invalid, I think she meant, NOT the Prince of Darkness.
I get the feeling the Prince might be hiding in the shadows next time the drinkers' version of Ironside comes asking questions...

Saturday night and we had an early finish. We were printing WoS in Birmingham so that they could shut the Cardiff press down and do urgent repairs. So we all decided to go out on the town to celebrate the birthday of Withers' flatmate Grace.
We decided to call this outing Super Saturday. It was like lifers being on day release from a maximum security prison, and we drank accordingly.
Smashy, the Prince, Baker Boy, Withers and myself were joined by Wren, Posh and Becks. Eventually we adjourned upstairs for their excellent Indie night Twisted by Design. And the booze kept flowing.
At one stage I bumped into one of my Beeb fan club Steffan, and to show our new cameraderie we took over a piano in a backroom - even though I have never played the thing before in my life. As a result we produced a quite effortlessly tuneless duet. Girlfriend Wren, frightened we would be chucked out or, worse, accosted by giant bouncers, stuck by her man. Or rather, she scarpered pretty quickish. Eventually an old bloke turned up and said: "Please leave it alone boys we have only just had it tuned."
At the end of the night, after voddies and all manner of other alcoholic mixtures, there was suddenly a great catastrophe. It began with Withers: "I can't find my coat!" he shouted.
I wandered over before he lost the plot, pointed to a coat three yards away and inquired: "Is that it?"
He looked at me quizzically. "Only when I have put my hands in the coat pockets and found something that I own can you call me a tw*t," he ordered.
Two seconds later I called him a tw*t.
Meanwhile, there was more upheavals elsewhere.
"I can't find my jacket," said Wren.
"Nor can I," declared the Prince.
"Nor me," said Smashy, making his way out of the building and down the stairs.
Within seconds I had found all three jackets. Just call me Coatfinder General.

Friday, November 30, 2007

Christmas cheer

IT was all quiet on the WoS front. Then the phone rang.
The wonderful Withers rushed to answer it and, in hushed tones, conducted a meaningful interview with a contact.
Serious stuff - something about the amount of suicides that had been committed over the last few years at one of the local prisons.
Without warning a huge voice boomed out. "IT'S THE MOST WONDERFUL TIME OF THE YEAR!" sang The Voice of God in his deep baritone voice. Withers looked up and almost castrated him with his glassy-eyed stare. Quite what possessed the Voice to decide at that moment to let rip with the song currently being given a good airing on the Marks & Spencers ads none of us will ever know. But it certainly left us all shook up.

The Voice, as befitting his reputation, has found a new level of oddness these past few days. On Wednesday he sidled up to me and asked: "Would you like to see my pet snake?"
I must admit the idea didn't thrill me. Not to be put off he whipped out his mobile phone and showed me a picture of a corn snake climbing up the inside of one of his jumpers. And he was wearing it at the time.
Don't be surprised if The Voice is on I'm a Celebrity next year.
At the end of last night's vocal delight it was the rest of us screaming "Get me out of here!"

Thursday, November 29, 2007

A strong punch

"Ladies and gen'lmen, in the red corner, fightin' out of Neaf, south wales, please welcome... the Genius!"
Thunderous applause.
Believe it or not our Genius, the former Wales on Sunday fluffy, nice-as-pie, wouldn't say boo to a goose, Genius, is making a name for herself ... in the boxing rings of Dubai!
The Genius has recorded her debut on her facebook site, if anyone fancies a gander. Back here in Wales we gathered around the Robot's computer screen to watch her take on some tall, blond, fit-looking Norwegian with Viking written on her trunks. A tough bout you might think, for a girl who once failed to fight her way out of her own bathroom (at least, that's what we were told when she failed to make the Fab BB's birthday party).
Well, think again. You can take the girl out of Neath, but you can't take Neath out of the girl. I understand on her last trip home she got in some vital lessons on how to beat the cr*p out of someone from Swansea's world cruiserweight champ Enzo Maccarinelli. And boy it showed.
The Genius ripped into her opponent from the off and we stared in wonderment at her punching power and sheer raw nerve. The little bowling ball, a self-proclaimed expert in the pugilistic arts, even commented: "She's keeping her defence up well. She looks good."
On the back of her trucks, the Genius boasts: "No fear". And I can see exactly what she means. So can her poor, worn out, punching bag of an opponent who flops against the ropes as the ref throws his arms out to stop the fight.
Pure Genius. Watch out, Joe Calzaghe, or any news editor who might unwittingly upset the fluffy one.

The building site at home is starting to take shape remarkably quickly. I now have a respectable looking, freshly tiled bathroom and a spacious-looking kitchen. Excellent.
My on-running saga with the company that's been chasing me over the mortgage shortfall hasn't been so good, however. I signed over a cheque for eight lousy grand today. You can't beat these bastards. Well, maybe you can, if you have the Genius clad in a balaclava waiting down a dimly-lit lane to greet the miserable debt collecting git when he finishes work.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Some class A drugs

"You lookin' at me? You lookin' at me?!"
Those immortal words from Robert de Niro in Taxi Driver came back to haunt me on Monday.
I had just enjoyed a rare More Beer Monday session with Withers in which we discussed the Wonderful One's recent press freebee to Rotterdam.
The way I understand it his brief Hiatus in Holland was spent mainly travelling from club to club drinking strong beer and holding court with members of the Doncaster Free Press and a travel website in deepest west Wales.
It finished with a four-hour session at Amsterdam airport before the journey home, so he was only reasonably with-it when we met up at the Yard.
Following a few swift pints and a final fling in the City Arms, where we had the jukebox to ourselves and revisited old music classics like Tom Robinson's 2-4-6-8 Motorway and Egyptian Reggae by Jonathan Richman and the Modern Lovers, we parted in a reasonably fit state, though to me a bus was out of the question.
Then came the nightmare journey home. Climbing into a black cab at the St Mary's Street rank I was faced with a tough-looking dude who fancied himself as a cross between Biggie Smalls and 50p (well, that's the English version of 50 cent according to the Roberts lexicon of music). Still having "a buzz on" after five pints of watery Carling, I gave him a beaming smile and told him the address. He glared.
Before I had time to fix my seatbelt we did a 180-degree turn, brakes squealing like something out of the film XXX or the Sweeney. After that it was a hair-raising ride as we joined the bus lane and sped at 70 miles per hour before screaching to a halt behind the no 45 to St Mellons.
Finally I plucked up the courage. "Do you mind slowing down a bit, please, and not overtaking on the inside?" I asked in my politest voice.
"Hey man, you a taxi driver? Didn't think so. See that sign? taxis and buses. So don't speak til you know what you're talking 'bout."
There then came another glare, and a violent scratching of the right arm. Coke? Heroin? He was certainly jumping out of his skin.
Eventually we wheel-spun to a halt outside the house. I looked through my wallet. Sh**!
"Can you change a £20 note?"
"No man. You my first fare, man. You gotta have something smaller."
I searched through my pockets. Nothing. Nada. I dropped my phone in the haste to stop this gangbanger pulling out his weapon and plugging me full of holes.
"What can I do?" I looked at him despairingly.
"I'll drive you up to de pub up the road. You can go in and get change."
I did as I was told. If he didn't get a wrap of crack soon he was gonna blow. I ran into the Crofts, not the most salubrious of local drinking haunts, and straight to the bar.
"Hey mate, I've got a nutter of a taxi driver who can't change £20. Can you help?" I pleaded.
Luckily the barman could see my growing sense of panic. "Sure mate," he said, and got me the required change.
I passed it through the window. "Thanks, mate," said the gangbanger, nice as pie. And off he screeched into the distance. If I was his first fare I'd hate to see his last after six hours without his fix.

I had the big interview today for the new Meeja Wales regime. I've applied for the job of Executive Editor, and did my homework on Saturday night, writing down a host of ideas of how I would take on the new role.
Today I went to find my notes, which I had saved in microsoft word on my desktop. There they were, intelligently named "Interview Notes".
I called them up.
Now I am not sure the Editor in Chief in Meeja Wales has got the recipe for Indian Paneer Curry, but if he wants it he just has to contact me. He will find it on a Microsoft Word document on my desktop. It is titled "Interview Notes".
Where the real notes got to is beyond me, but I think I tap danced through the interview ok. Our Human Resources guru, whose first name appears to be just a string of initials, saw the funny side. "Struggles a bit with technology," he wrote on the form in front of him. Doh!

Friday, November 23, 2007

cheese on toast with green chillis (big mistake!)

IT'S official - the little bowling ball is officially an old git! The doddery geezer in question, Brammy to his closest friends, caught the bus to work today and found that it was standing room only. Huddled under his tartan cap and wrapped against the cold in his leather jacket he swayed along, head down, on the way to Newport railway station.
There then came a tap on the shoulder. Swivelling as quickly as his old knees and rheumatic hips would allow he came face to face with a woman who was herself edging the wrong side of 50. "Hello, dear, would you like to take my seat?" inquired the kindly old dear.
The rotund Gloucester-born, Powys Liberation Front member stood there in abject shock. Then he blurted out: "It's ok, I have to get off at the next stop!" The fact he had to get off the bus two miles from his destination was beside the point. Rather that than suffer any more acute embarrassment.
Tomorrow he will no doubt wake up to an OAP bus pass, a pension book and offers of over-50s holidays in Devon from Saga.

Meanwhile, at the other end of the age scale the Vin Man has been in trouble at school. He may not have reached five yet, but he already takes after his grandad and, dare I say it, the Fat Kid.
She rang me to say: "He was caught with another boy. They were sat in the corner cutting each other's hair!"
"What on EARTH possessed him to do that?" I asked.
She had no answer, but apparently the teacher had given him quite a scolding poor dab.
Fast forward a few hours and a memory comes back to me which suddenly throws a different light on the situation. There we were, getting ready for the Evans fancy dress show, and I am proudly displaying my giant green mohican wig.
"What's that, grandad? Can I have my hair done like that? I like that hair."
Luckily the green paint was out of reach at infants school yesterday.

Having enjoyed the new burger king chilli and cheese balls at a service station on Monday, albeit a bit expensive at 4 for 99p, I thought I would adapt cheese on toast with the addition of some green chillis. It led to a rather bad night, I'm afraid.
First off I managed to sting my eyes because I didn't wash my hands enough after chopping up the little green devils. Then, to add insult to injury, I decided to wear some eye-comforting patches I bought from Boots the other day. Aaaaagh! The pain was something special. Finally at 2am I woke up with my stomach in such pain I swear that little creature from Alien was going to pop out of it in just the way it did from John Hurt in the first film of the series. I may think twice about the chilli/cheese combination in future.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

braised steak ready meal (oh dear)

POOR old Roberts. Our chief rugby writer, faced with the prospect of being hoiked kicking and screaming into the computer age, has been feeling all nostalgic of late. Well, that's the only reason I can think of for his actions in the early hours of Sunday morning.
Fearing the inevitability that this wonderful life of Wales on Sunday will be replaced by the monolithic monstrosity that is meeja wales, Roberts has obviously been delving through his loft and bringing down all his cuttings, souvenirs from WoS christmas do's and the like, so that he can reminisce about the good old days when he bestrode the Welsh rugby world like a collosus with a laptop.
Now who knows what fate awaits him or, indeed, the rest of us?
Anyway back to Sunday morning and at 12.55am, as I prepared to stumble home from the Evans shindig, my phone bleeped at me in the way it generally does when I have received a vital message from the outside world.
Staring blurrily at the screen I noted that the message was from Roberts and wondered what had kept the rugger bugger awake until this ungodly hour after a hard Saturday night's work.
"It's been an honour and a privilege working with you," it read - or some such thing. And, of course, that scared the living daylights out of me. Had I been sacked? Were the rumours spreading through Thomson Towers even as I took a rare Saturday off? You know, while the cat's away...
It was only when I met up with some of my fellow WoS-ites before the Stereos gig on Tuesday that the full story came about. The Prince admitted, "Yeh, I had a strange text, too, telling me what a great bloke I was."
And Smashy revealed the morose one had told him he had done "an excellent job" that Saturday.
Even Shutts didn't miss out on his share of the glory, having some rambling message about the "pleasure of working with you". Now, anyone who knows Shutts would immediately smell a rat.
Then Shutts revealed the full story - and all became crystal. "Apparently Roberts opened a bottle of JD on Saturday night, then set about emptying it. When he got near the bottom he felt he should share his feelings with everyone."
We're a close-knit group, us WoS-ites. There will definitely be the mother of all parties soon - and all ex members of this exclusive club will be invited.
They may take our newspaper, but they won't crush our spirit!

Last night I broke all my rules and settled down to watch England's abject defeat to Croatia at Wembley with a, wait for it, ready meal. Five minutes in the microwave and I had braised steak, carrots, mash and onion gravy. Unfortunately I was still hungry afterwards and indulged in half a bag of the peanuts left over from the secret food frenzy Wren and I had enjoyed at the flicks.
It won't happen again, honest.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

A big bag of twiglets

RUSSELL CROWE may come across as the most honest cop that ever walked the planet in his latest film American Gangster, but he is a distinct shade of grey when compared to whiter-than-white Wren.
On the way to the Cinema at Atlantic Wharf on Tuesday afternoon we had first popped into the local Tesco to buy some goodies. We loaded up with miniature pork pies, handy-sized quiches and pasties for our lunch. Then I had an idea.
"Instead of spending outrageous prices at the cinema why don't we buy our snacks here?" I suggested.
"Good idea," said Wren as we started to fill the cart with nuts, crisps, chocolate and a big bag of twiglets.
When we got to the cinema I turned to see Wren trying to stuff all the food into her dinky black handbag. She finally gave up when it came to the twiglets, returned them to their plastic bag and put the bag on the back seat.
"What are you doing?" I inquired, suspiciously.
"Well, we can hide all these, but that bag won't fit."
"And why do we have to hide them?"
"Well, we don't want to be caught taking food into the cinema," came the reply.
Gordon Bennett! Surely we could just leave all the food in the carrier bag and walk straight in, as if we had just been shopping. Wren was having none of it, so we reached a compromise. I HID the giant bag of twiglets inside my bulky raincoat and, like some naughty petty criminal, sneaked in passed the ushers.
Moments into the film Wren had a nasty surprise; some semi-blind old biddy mistook her for a chair and tried to sit on her, almost breaking her glasses. She was not best pleased, particularly when her box of Roses was also in danger.

It has to be said that Siouxsie Soux (aka Wren) and Sid Vicious (aka me) had a wonderful night at Evans' 30th fancy dress party in Southend (oops, I mean Leigh on Sea).
On Friday night Wren dyed her hair black, though after plenty of moisturising and rinsing it came out a dark brown. C'est la Vie. Then on Saturday lunchtime we set out on the four-hour drive to the chilly south East.
The journey was pretty uneventful and there was a warm welcome from the Fat Kid, Vin Man and the Big Boy, who is now walking around and talking... well, to a fashion. I do believe he said Grandad on Sunday!
After a quick bit of nosh it was time to get down to business and we disappeared to the bedroom to work on Wren's hair. The Fat Kid almost died of shock - "I could never, ever do that to my hair," she said as Wren did the best she could to back comb it and create the necessary tangle and split ends required by a punk goddess.
It was easier for me, though, with my lack of hair. On went the Mohican wig and I then ripped an old pair of black jeans to shreds before putting them back together with safety pins. I also customised black bin-liners for us both.
the Fat Kid, meantime, had found an old skirt and tie, and bought a white school blouse. Putting her hair in bunches, she was Britney.
All that was left to do was call a taxi and it was off to the party. We picked up the Fat Kid's mate, Jenna - dressed as a cowboy - on the journey.

It was great to see Evans again, resplendent in pirate's uniform (she knows the way to a Gashead's heart). Boyfriend Matt was dressed as his hero Dr Who, and among other creations were Geri and Posh from the Spice Girls.
The Fat Kid walked straight into a terrible fashion faux pas - three Britneys! And all in her school uniform faze (not sure they were all wearing the necessary underwear, mind). Among them was the Bermondsey Bird (former journo with that fine upstanding agency Wales News), who had just landed a staff job after more than two years at the Daily Star. She was keen to celebrate, too, downing what looked like three quarter pints of water but turned out to be rather large vodka and lemonades - or some such. The home made punch was also pretty effective.
Like all good parties it soon degenerated. The Fat Kid and Jen went off to town promising to return with a taxi by 1am, while others disappeared into various parts of the house. One girl, dressed as an air stewardess, made Wren immediately. "Oh my god," she declared in excitement, "You're Souixsie Soux! My sister wants to be you at a fancy dress this Christmas."
At this stage she started taking posed pictures of Wren, who was now a celebrity in her own right, while the good Doctor had collapsed on the decking outside and was oblivious to the freezing weather in his long trench coat.
The Bermondsey Bird had tweetered off to bed after fighting a losing battle with her balance, while another of the locals, who claimed to be Madonna, lost her blond wig soon enough and stropped around declaring that no one really liked her. Didn't even know her personally, but she did a good job in hiding the coats.
By 12.30 there was Evans, Wren, myself and another straggler who bore a huge resemblance to Chas from Chas and Dave and seemed to be dressed as the snooker loopy singer, too.
Finally, the Fat kid, talking far too much as usual, arrived and it was time to go home. Good fun, though, and a nice change. Oh, and my mood was helped no end when the Gas won their first home game for six months with a goal three minutes into injury time at home to Millwall.

Sunday night and the hangover had set in during the journey back down the M25 in pouring rain. Wren was suffering, too, with the onset of a heavy cold and we opted to hold up for the night in a Premier Travel Inn at Bracknell. A good eight or nine hours kip and it was back on the road again. I had to stop off at Bristol to visit my dad and collect my stepmum Jean from hospital where she had been interned since contracting a nasty chest infection.
I sent Wren on ahead as the scouting party and when I arrived back in Cardiff at around six it was to be greeted with the news that there was no heating in my flat. Never mind, we made ourselves comfy in scoobies' place, getting out his giant bean bag and settling in front of the tv.

Tuesday afternoon and American Gangster. Terrifically enjoyable film with great performances from Denzel Washington and Crowe, who plays an upstanding copper who lifts the lid on the corrupt nature of the New York Police Department. At one stage he finds £10,000 in the trunk of a car - and makes himself public enemy No 1 by handing it in. Puts my twiglets offence into perspective, I reckon.
Headed off to see the Stereophonics in the Cardiff International Arena that night. On the way we bumped into Smashy, Danny (the poipes, the poipes) and the Prince of Darkness - the hardcore members of the boozeday Tuesday crowd.
They were cosily ensconsed in the Yard, and the Prince "had a buzz on", meaning he was onto the double vodkas. A short while later we had to prize him away from a tough Slovakian lady who could not believe he was a journalist because "he doesn't know which countries border Slovakia". Didn't help that the Prince kept referring to her beloved country as Slovenia, nor the fact he was staggering forward and backwards going "I know it, lovely country, sloveenivakia."
She came up with the pretty clever reply, "I reckon he must be a designer."
Spot on.

Later saw the Stereos, but wasn't hugely impressed. The CIA is a terrible venue with queues going around the block for the bar, like a breadshop in post-war Poland or a post office on pensioner pay day.
By the time we managed to buy a £3.70 pint of watered p*ss, the band was already on stage going through some tried and tested numbers. These days people seem to spend more time taking pictures with their mobiles than actually enjoying the occasion. A bit of a damp squib, I reckon.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Skool daze

THE fabulous one must be counting the days before he exits Cardiff and heads for the relative sanity of the Peeps. An ashen-faced Baker Boy came back to work this afternoon after accompanying Mad Liz on a job out to the wilds of deepest, darkest Wales.
"Oh my God, that was painful!" said the expressive one, throwing his arms up into the air and glaring at the ceiling, as he is wont to do. "It was like a bloody school outing. We had to keep stopping all the time because Liz was feeling dizzy from the drive and kept having to be sick at the side of the road."
Only the Mad one could make such a seemingly languid jaunt into seem more like a 24-mile yomp across the roughest terrain of the Falkland Islands.
Meanwhile, there was quite a take-up for Thirsty Thursday with it a. being pay day and b. a week from the deadline when everyone will have to apply for jobs they are not even sure they want with the new all-singing, all-dancing interactive newsroom at Thomson Towers.
The Prince of Darkness was in his element, however, being surrounded as he was by the stragglers from Beaujolais Day (an infamous day of debauchery in this neck of the woods) and the 40'ish, slightly crazy females preparing to throw their pants at Enrique Iglesias, who was performing in Cardiff that night. Guess he may have mistaken the sight of red wine for blood.

Congratulations to Ballsy who, I understand, has landed a staff job with the Daily Mail in London. I found this out from her old college pal Wathanovski. Mind you, the look that crossed Shutts' face when the Russian-sounding one revealed he had been out for lunch with our former colleague was, apparently, priceless.
Shutts likes to have a monopoly on females that come and go from WoS, and any news they might have to impart has to pass through him first - a bit like a girlie spin doctor. Upstaged by Wathanovski, apparently Shutts resembled the Prime Minister's private secretary in Little Britain as he pouted and sulked in a way that only a 6ft 10ins big girl's blouse could throw a strop.

Withers, meanwhile, is finding that he still has to undergo the embarrassment of being sent to his room - even though he is 28 years old. Apparently the landlord has returned from London and is inclined to be a bit selfish when it comes to use of the front room. Apparently he just has to point upstairs for the Wonderful One to get to his feet and trudge up the wooden stairs to Bed-fordshire.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Chicken soup with Orzo

I had a bit of a Heineken moment yesterday. Not only did it refresh the parts others can't reach but it knocked some of them totally senseless. And you've guessed it - it just happened to occur on boozeday Tuesday.
The earlier scenario was fine. I swam 52 lengths of the Maindy Pool, went to the local solicitor's office to retrieve a lost baseball hat (as for my reasons for leaving it in the solicitor's, that story will follow at some stage), then wandered into town to buy some much-needed articles for the fancy dress party I am attending with Wren and the Fat Kid on Sunday. It is being held by Evans, who is about to hit the 30 mark, and should be fun. Full report will follow.
Having crammed so much into a busy morning I then found myself in Sh*tty O'Grim's where the rest of the WoS crowd have taken to drinking lately on account of the fact it is a lot cheaper.
I had built up a real thirst by then, both for alcohol and knowledge of the impending changes that are striking the fear of God into everyone at Thomson Towers including - now the reality has kicked in - me.
After one pint of Carling which didn't touch the sides it was time to get on to a drop of the H stuff. Now, I've sworn to avoid these strong lagers on the basis that they enduce total amnesia after a couple of pints. On this occasion I just wanted to drink for Britain.
People came and went, but I chugged along until at some stage managing to break out into a rather loud and out of tune Anarchy in the Western Mail (based on that song first made famous by those punk rocking roughnecks the Sex Pistols). The barmaid informed me we weren't the only people drinking in this den of degradation - there were two old deaf duffers at the other end of the bar - to which I replied, rather stupidly, with an uncooth insult. After a quick ciggy outside I finally saw the error of my ways, apologised for my actions, turned down the remaining half of my beer and hot-footed it outside to flag down a taxi.
Now the memory gets a bit hazy but I do seem to remember some road rage incident involving my driver and another car, and that I tried to leap out of my door to confront the other fellow, only for said driver to hold me back. And all this, my faithful reader, by 5pm.
By 5.30 I was in bed, by 5.31 I was asleep and no doubt snoring loudly, and at 10.30 I woke to phone Wren and engage her in a rambling, moaning conversation. Heineken is now on the banned list.

Meanwhile, the more seasoned boozeday crowd went on well into the night, taking advantage of 2 for 1 drinks in the Lava Lounge. The Prince of Darkness, rather than feasting on blood, was having to donate his own rich red stuff today on a trip to the doctors. I am unaware of any truth in the rumour that it contained 98 per cent Vodka. I'm sure we will find out when the results come back.

Spent two hours at Halford's on Sunday being entertained by their version of the Youth Opportunities Programme. Didn't want to spend two hours there, we just popped in to buy Wren a car stereo for Christmas. We saw one we liked then had to go through the whole rigmarole. First the computers were down, then the pimply youth who served us disappeared into a storeroom for half an hour only to emerge and tell us that they didn't have that model in stock. The only one they did have, shown off in all its glory, was the one on display - and we weren't allowed to buy that.
So then we had to look at some alternatives. Finally finding one, tweedle dum at the till took a good 15 minutes trying to show tweedle dee how to make the first sale null and void and replace it with the new purchase. Oh Lordy, what a tiring experience.
It was then into town for a stroll around in search of fancy dress, but because of the Halford's delay we got to the Joke Shop just as it was closing. Boo sucks.

The builder has arrived. Scooby has decided to make the whole upstairs flat - my flat - self sufficient with its own gas boiler etc. That's fine in my book but there will be a lot of disruption over the next few weeks. Dan, a mate of my pal Pete, is doing the job and seems a good sort, though, even if I feel like I am wading through a bomb site at the moment.
On Monday night I still managed to reach the cooker to do Chicken Soup and Orzo which I have adapted from my Sopranos Cookbook to make use of leftover cooked chicken.
What you need:
A pack of Orzo (Small pasta which resembles large rice, which you can get from continental delicatessens like the wonderful Whalley's in Cardiff)
Two sticks of celery (chopped)
two carrots (chopped)
Half an Onion
A bunch of flat leaf parsley
The remains of a cooked chicken (from Sunday lunch) - including bones
Six black peppercorns

What I did:
Bring a large pan of water to the boil
Add the veggies, peppercorns and parsley
Cook for around 25 minutes, then break up the chicken but add all, including bones
Bring to the boil again and scrape off any foam that rises to surface.
Cook for another 15 minutes, then remove the bones and take off any chicken from them, returning the chicken to the pan and casting aside the bones.
Add the Orzo and bring to boil again.
Simmer for about 15 minutes until the Orzo is cooked.
Leave to stand for another five minutes with the lid on so that Orzo soaks up the juice.
Serve, with salt and pepper to taste.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Fish supper Mad Liz style

SOME may be wondering why I refer to our sole photographer as Mad Liz. Well, there is a perfect reason for this and I think you will understand fully when I explain a few things.
Liz, you see, brings a whole new meaning to the phrase "chaos theory". She only has to enter a room to cause widespread mayhem among those unfortunates who are already there.
On Thursday morning there was a perfect example of this. Liz walked into the office and our reporter Catherine Mary rushed up to her. "We've got this model who's a long jumper and she is coming into the office to have her picture taken," said Cath quite reasonably.
"What, in a long jumper?" said Mad Liz.
"Um, no Liz, you don't understand. She is a long jumper," explained Cath, patiently.
"Well, she can't be," said Mad Liz.
"What do you mean she can't be? That's what she does. She competes in long jumping in athletics."
"Oh, I thought you were saying she's a long jumper - you know like a woolly garment. So you want me to take a picture of a woman modelling a long jumper?"
"No Liz, she isn't modelling a long jumper, she is modelling some other clothes. She just happens to be a long jumper."
"What, she's a garment?"
And on, and on, and on.
When Mad Liz finally gets the significance of what Cath has painstakingly explained to her, she starts laughing. And doesn't stop. And tells everyone who comes within half a mile of her. So much so that Robot, her rather fatigued boss, has to snap regularly, "ok, Liz, ok, can you stop now please and get on with your work there's lots to do."
"Yes, Rob," says Mad Liz, "But what happened was..."

Stories of Mad Liz are legendary. She regularly accompanies the Fab BB to Men dressed as Ladies night and has been known to invade the stage after a few sherbets. One time while the Fab BB was at the bar she was offered a small "drink" in a bottle. She drank it in one, realising far too late that it contained the drug most commonly known as poppers.
Her cooking stories are also highly amusing. She once complained the pizza she had cooked straight from the freezer was too crunchy - then realised she had forgotten to remove the polystirene base.
And on Friday night I understand she returned home rather tired and emotional after a few drinks, started cooking some fish and mash and promptly fell asleep. Four hours later she awoke to an awful smell - a mixture of burnt offerings and fish.
Apparently all her clothes now smell of this rather untempting concoction. Poor dab.

Friday, November 09, 2007

Oven-baked bass with cajun potato wedges

WHEN Mastermind comes back on our TV screens I am putting forward the Prince of Darkness as a contender. I don't know about his general knowledge but I believe he would walk the specialist subject round. Sadly Magnus Magnusson is no longer in the chair, but John Humphrys has stepped into the void. I imagine it would go something like this...
JH: So Prince of Darkness, your specialist subject is BBC2 and you have two minutes to answer questions on it starting now...
What did Nigella Lawson cook in her recent show Nigella Bites?
The Prince: Well it was a very nice sherry trifle, heavy on the sherry, with a crisp chocolate coating over a cream and custard topping.
JH: Correct. Now what followed Heroes on Wednesday night?
The Prince: Well, first came Dragons Eye, followed by Newsnight with Paxman, an interesting documentary about the military rule being imposed on Pakistan by General Musharaf and later again followed by the Indoor British Bowling Championships from the Billy Buntins Holiday Camp in Suffolk.
JH: Correct. What was Paxman wearing in the said programme?
The Prince: He had a silver gray Armani Suit, blue and black striped Ralf Lauren tie etc etc etc.
Why, you may ask, is the Prince such an expert on BBC2? You would imagine he might spend most of his time watching the Elligible Virgins channel or the Horror film special, or Devil Dog borstal, for instance. The trouble is that the Dark Lord has only managed to tune his television in to two channels. As the other one is the Welsh Language Channel S4C, and he has no working knowledge of his home tongue, it means he has been glued to the second Beeb channel for the last few weeks.
Every morning he comes into the office and regales us of what he watched last night. Come to think of it, perhaps the Prince should start up a blog devoted entirely to this pastime of his. He could call it something like: "What I watched on BBC2 last night."
Back to Mastermind, and it seems the Prince is already warming up, though I think he's got his eye on the questioner's chair.
When the shout goes up. "I'm buying a round, how are you doing for a drink, Prince? You seem to have almost a full glass."
"No problem," says his nocturnal eminence. "I've started so I'll finish."

Last night I cooked bass for the first time. Very nice. I found an easy to follow recipe in a cook book/dvd which was passed on to me by the wonderful Withers.
What you need:
two pieces of Bass
Rock salt
two slices of lemon
potatoes, washed and cut into wedges with the skin left on
A Schwarz packet of cajun wedge mix
A large handful of spinach
Two cloves of garlic, sliced thin
A table spoon of olive oil
A sprinkling of salt
A spoonful of sugar

Heat the oven to gas mark 6
Put the wedges in a bowl, poor over some olive oil, then add the cajun mix
Place on a baking tray and put in the oven, turn regularly and cook for 45 minutes.
Cut the bass in two, put two slices of lemon side by side between the two parts of fish, add black pepper then cover with rock salt.
Wrap with foil but don't cover. Put into the oven when the wedges have been cooking for 25 minutes.
With five minutes cooking time left, heat some oil in a frying pan, then add the sliced garlic and salt for about 15 seconds. Add the washed spinach and wait for it to wilt to about a third of the size. Add a spoonful of sugar, stir and cook for a further three minutes.
Serve the fish together with the lemon juices which ran into the foil, then add the wedges and spinach to the plate. It's a nice, easy meal and healthy, too.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Bonfire supper (and plenty of fireworks)

WE are all one big, happy family now. We are going to be called Meeja Wales and we are going to go about like smiley, happy people singing the company slogan from the top of our voices and making friends with the Interweb. What's more there is a good chance of an increased membership of the Wednesday club in the fact that the three newspaper staffs are to be amalgamated in a grand plan thought up by the rapidly rising editor of the Daily Snail.
This newspaper Utopia is a beautiful idea in theory. The only thing we don't know is how the hell it is going to work in practice. Never mind, I'm sure it will all come out in the wash.
Meanwhile, it's amusing to see journalism's great and good (and downright bad, in some cases) gathered in little corners of Thomson Towers debating exactly what is going to happen and who is next for the bullet.
In honour of this ground-breaking announcement there was a hastily arranged Boozeday Tuesday session of which, unfortunately, I was not a part. But I'm told the alcohol was flowing and there were a few bleary eyes the next day.
Danny Boy (the poipes, the poipes) made his excuses to the solicitor. "It's all hell broken out here. There's talk of redundancies etc and I think I'd better stay out to see if I can glean any useful information," he told her.
Many hours later he returned home in a rather tired and emotional state. "I'm going to sleep in the spare room," she told him as the unmistakable smell of stale hops flooded the bedroom followed by an amorous but incapable Danny.
"I'm coming too, then," slurred the Poipes, ambitiously and somewhat bravely.
Admitting defeat, the solicitor returned to the marital bedroom and, no doubt, blocked her nose with cotton wool.
Next morning as he fell out of bed and somehow managed to put his clothes on in the right order she gave him a frosty glare. "I just want you to reflect on your behaviour last night," she told him icily.
The wonderful Withers, meanwhile, was up with the lark at 7.30 but was not quite co-ordinated enough to make a healthy breakfast. Instead he looked in the cupboard for something which would take the minimum of brainpower to cook, settling in the end on a box of pringles.
The Prince of Darkness remained nailed in his coffin, taking the day off in fear that the sunlight might finish him off forever.

I myself had a quite enjoyable November 5. I am not the greatest fan of things that go wizz, bang in the night. In fact, I bear a remarkable resemblance to the Catherine Tate character who jumps out of her skin at the slightest noise, like a cork being pulled from a bottle or someone putting a piece of cutlery down loudly on a counter top.
When Wren came over for the evening I decided we should mark bonfire night with a suitable supper without leaving the safety of the house. Having bought a bargain pack of ribs, chicken wings and sausages for £2 from sainsbury's we sat in the kitchen by candlelight and watched the fireworks go off. Bliss.
Then we retired to watch a DVD of V for Vendetta, on the basis that it's based loosely around Guy Fawkes and his ill-fated assault on the Houses of Parliament. There's a theme here, you may notice.

On Tuesday morning, of course, my phone was red hot with text messages. Evans informed me that the news had already travelled as far as Essex by lunchtime. "Wow, what's going on at your place? Very dramatic," she said.
We quickly looked on Wren's laptop to find the news was all over Hold the Front Page and the BBC website. Then we looked at our own website, IC Wales. Not a mention. Seems like the new Interweb-dominated era is going to take a while to take off then.

Withers, reviving his writer-broadcaster career on Radio Wales that morning, decided to break new ground. More to the point, he actually invented a new word.
Discussing a story in that morning's paper about a tower in Germany that leans at a sharper angle than the famous one at Pisa, he lamented: "It seems like Pisa isn't the leaningest tower in the world any more."
Leaningest, Withers? I envisage a new entry in the Oxford Dictionary next year.

Saturday, November 03, 2007

A glass of red wine

IT was all hell let loose in the bustling newspaper offices of Wales on Sunday today. And it all centred around a tip off from a loyal reader. Smashy, who took the call, leapt into action - well perhaps leapt is a bit over-egging the pudding. More to the point, he wheeled himself a few inches on his chair, pivoted and announced, "Apparently Gatland (that's Warren Gatland, the man being widely tipped as the next Wales rugby coach) is down at the St David's Hotel in Cardiff Bay, meeting with some of the Union bigwigs."
Shutts turned the other way, and Wathanovski yawned. Then he realised that someone had to respond. After all, our chief rugby writer Roberts was high-tailing it to Leicester to watch a game.
Like the good team player Wathanovski is, he volunteered to go down and spy on the top-level talks. The only problem was they were taking place in a six-star hotel - and he was wearing a crusty old pair of trainers. "Anyone got a pair of shoes I can borrow?" he pondered.
It was left to Danny Boy (the poipes, the poipes) to provide him with the necessary footwear and pad the corridors of Thomson Towers in his stockinged feet. And off went Wathanovski.
But what about pictures? Our snapper Mad Liz was off to some rugger game up the valleys, and all calls to freelances proved fruitless. Monsieur De Lebussier suddenly found all eyes upon him. At least HIS mobile phone was capable of taking pictures. Wathanovski's, like most company phones, was about 10 years out of date (our video players use betamax, too).
Grab a car, the aristocratic one was told. But, as seems the norm these days, there were no company cars. Fortunately, the editor of the South Wales Echo had moved on "to pursue other career avenues" on Friday, so his company car was still out front. Keys in one hand, phone in the other, off sped De Lebussier, absolutely clueless about who he actually had to photograph.
Just as he was approaching the hotel, Wathanovski called the office. "Yeh, they were here but they have just gone. Got in the same car and drove off."
No doubt they passed De Lebussier on the way. He probably didn't notice. Without the presence of his chauffeur the young trainee is, quite frankly, lost.
Wathanovski, meanwhile, was stuck in the bar, waiting to settle up his bill having had to maintain his undercover persona by ordering an extremely reasonably priced glass of red wine for £6 from the waiter.
Now, THAT'S how it's done News of the World.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Moroccan lamb soup

NICE bloke, Jeff.
Known him for ages, but haven't really seen him since I arrived back in Cardiff four-and-a-half years ago. He used to work at one of the large car companies on the Newport Road on the way out of Cardiff. He lodged with my former landlord Cliffy, the ex-jailer at Cardiff Nick. We used to share a few pints in the old haunts of Roath.
That's why it was great to see him in The Yard the other night, sitting opposite two women. He had put on a bit of weight, but as far as I was concerned it was the same old Jeff.
"Hey Jeff," I said smiling as I retreated towards the beer "garden" to join the wonderful One and the Prince of Darkness for an after-work pint and cigarette. "What are you doing now?"
He stood up and smiled back. "Right, butt? I'm doing a bit of work for the Scarlets now, see, back down in west Wales."
The realisation suddenly dawned. This Jeff wasn't the Jeff I knew as Jeff. Holy moly.
But I didn't have the heart to end the conversation, or own up to my rapidly waning powers of recognition.
"Oh yes, very nice," I said, trying to find an excuse to back out of the door as quickly as possible and leave this embarrassing incident behind me. Not only did I not know this man, he was obviously a dyed-in-the-wool Welsh rugby follower. A former prop, to boot, if I was taking an educated guess. And a Llanelli Scarlets supporter.
Strange thing was, he seemed to recognise me so I couldn't just cut it and run.
"So what brings you to Cardiff?" I asked.
He waved a mighty mitt towards his two female companions. "Down here with the wife and mother-in-law, like. We've come up to see Englebert Humperdink."
About to close out the conversation, it suddenly dawned on me that I had picked up some news about that particular concert that might be of use to him.
"Actually, I think it's been cancelled," I told my newly acquired companion.
"You're joking."
"I'm not sure but I'll go out and check."
I left the bar and rang the Robot, who happened to have bought tickets for the concert for his mum.
"Is Englebert Humperdink off?" I asked.
"Yes, he cancelled," said the Robot. He then spent around 10 minutes trying to explain the reasons. "It says on the door he fell down stairs, but on his website it suggests he had chest pains. I tend to favour..." Typical Robot.
Yeh, thanks for the in-depth analysis but my "buddy" is waiting.
I went back into The Yard to break the news.
"Aaaaaaaaw, nooooooo!" screamed his Mrs, an obvious Englebert fan.
My new pal was grateful, though. "Awww, thanks a lot for finding that out for me, butt," he said.
And off they went to get their refund.
As for Jeff? God knows where he got to.

Regaling this tale in the office, Danny Boy (the poipes, the poipes) jumped in to tell us of a similar case of mistaken identity which had befallen him during his days out in the wild West (well, Swansea, then).
The story goes that Danny was walking along the street when he noticed a pal of his taking money out of the hole-in-the-wall. Rather than shout out to him, he decided it was an ideal chance to sneak up and whack his pal over the head with a rolled up newspaper.
Which he did. A shocked face turned to meet him... one that the Poipes had never seen before.
Somehow he survived to tell the tale.

Last night I went home early in time to watch Heroes, then saw some more of my Lost Series 3 dvd which I bought last week, having missed the series while on the Ashes tour last winter. I had a pumpkin all ready to cook for Hallowe'en night but ended up enjoying a tasty can of Morrocan lamb soup I bought in Morrisons a couple of weeks ago.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Super Sandwich (and free beer)

A FREEBEE Brains Brewery Quiz night... and another chance to prove that attempting to answer questions after a Boozeday Tuesday session is a surefire recipe for disaster.
Yet there was no hint of the mayhem to follow when I set off for the Maindy swimming pool that morning. It being half term there were very few people in the pool and I managed to fit in 66 lengths, making me feel very proud of myself.
An exercise of this nature has great spin offs because it wipes away all feelings of guilt when you later spend five hours sat outside The Yard with your WoS colleagues shooting the breeze about practically anything that qualifies as trite nonsense.
A roll call of the usual suspects: The Prince of Darkness, Danny Boy (the poipes, the poipes), Smashy, Roberts, the Wonderful Withers, Wathanovski. But added to that there was a surprise appearance by Becks on a quick whistlestop from London. Interesting really because, in the Wonderful World of Withers, Becks and our other former colleague Rosey no longer exist. Withers refers to them these days as "my erstwhile friends".
I had every intention of returning home until persuaded by half the crew that the annual SA Brains Brewery quiz night was a reasonable alternative. The splinter group, the Prince and his forces of darkness, went off to see Arcade Fire (although "see" is probably being far too kind after the amount of alcohol sunk by the gig goers).
Of course when I turned up at the Brains do with Roberts, who was by that stage dragging around a 5 litre barrel of lager presented to him by those wonderful people who sponsor the Heineken Cup, the quiz had already started.
In fact they were on question 14 in the first round... but, of course, we thought that men of our calibre would be able to catch up in no time. We were wrong. I vaguely remember the answer artichoke being correct, but other than that we had given up long before the end.
Elsewhere, Withers had somehow managed to find himself in the team captained by Raffles, the honorable thief, and containing two blond vixens I had never encountered before. The wonderful one had, not for the first time, found himself the odd one out when the coke-sipping Shutts began selecting the team mates more likely to be impressed by his amazingly egotistical acts of Bon Viveur.
His preferred entourage included the obligatory female "mate" and he ponced around as if he were Russell Crowe organising his crew in Master and Commander.
Unfortunately, Shutts' crew won the trophy, probably helped by the fact that they were all sober. Apparently Withers' response to having missed out on the glory was to bustle up to Wathanovski as if spoiling for a "gay" fight (Wathanovski's words, not mine).
Shutts, meanwhile, accused me of being drunk, proving himself not only brave but, some would say, foolhardy. People have had ashtrays emptied over their heads for less.
Poor old Wren took a phone call from me during one of the cigarette breaks in which I proceded to hiccup down the phone for a good five minutes while trying to conduct some semblance of sensible and erudite conversation. Failing miserably I gave up, then stumbled home soon afterwards in a pretty sorry state, I must admit. Ever tried to watch Spooks out of one eye with blurred vision? Not recommended, I can assure you.
Wales on Sunday is doing a green edition this week. By a strange coincidence there were plenty of green faces on view this morning.

Wren paid me a visit on Friday night.
The phone call went like this:
Wren: "Where are you?"
Me: "Outside the Yard. Where are you?"
Wren: "Outside your house, waiting for you to let me in."
Doh! I get the feeling she wasn't best pleased when she picked me up, but don't let anyone tell you I don't know the way to a woman's heart. Domino's pizza. Works every time.

On Saturday night, after spending half an hour trying to escape a gridlocked Cardiff because of a Monster Trucks event at the Millennium Stadium and some stupid police decision to close down St Mary's Street to traffic, I persuaded Wren that the best way to finish the day was by watching the third game of the World Series between the Boston Red Sox and the Colorado Rockies. She didn't even last past the programme's opening credits, while I was still watching when the Sox wrapped up victory just before 5am. Go Sox.
Sunday afternoon was spent enjoying a belly-busting, as-much-as-you-can-get-on-your-plate Toby Carvery. Mind you, it wasn't surprising we were hungry. Having found a place in Pontprennau on the website we then spent 45 minutes driving around the area before realising we were in the wrong place. When we did arrive there was a queue a mile long. Still, all in all it was worth it.
More baseball to round off the perfect day, as the Sox completed a 4-0 series clean sweep.
On Monday we went to Cineworld to see Rendition. A terrific film, starring Reece Witherspoon, I would recommend anyone to see it. It gets you thinking.
Afterwards we paid a visit to Wally's, the delicatessen that has anything a foodie's heart could desire. It's situated in one of the arcades off St Mary's Street, Cardiff. I bought some Italian sausages, a huge bag of dried chillis, some venison pate and some lovely peppered Pastrami.
On Tuesday lunchtime, after swimming and before boozeday, I made a triple decker sandwich with some lovely gammon I had cooked on Sunday and the pastrami, topping it off with horse radish. It set me up for the shenanighans to follow.

ps. for those who read my useless info about Withers' Good Morning Wales radio appearance, I apologise. The wonderful one will, in fact, be resuming his broadcasting career NEXT Tuesday, 6.35am. Be there or be sensible, and have a lie in.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Stewed beef northern style

AFTER months of agony, and fears that his chosen career as a writer and broadcaster have been thrown onto the scrapheap, the Wonderful Withers of WoS is back in the big time. Well, more to the point, he has been asked back to do the newspaper review on Good Morning, Wales at the God-awful time of 6.30 in the morning. Good luck to him and his three listeners.To be fair, I think the wonderful one sees it as some form of redemption.
A couple of years ago when he first decided that he wanted to enter the wacky world of broadcasting I managed to land him his first gig with the Beeb via Nickers, one of our former casual subs. She always told me how DESPERATE they were to get people in at that ridiculous time to do the job, so when she mentioned desperate it was a short leap to Withers.
So fast forward a few weeks and he finally gets the call. "Is that Matt? Yeh, we will send a taxi for you and then wheel you into the studio and you can give your verdict on the stories in the papers that day." Quite easy, you would think. But this is Withers we are talking about.
Now I am in the dark here. I have no idea what he could have done to queer his pitch with the Beeb but he has not been invited back since. Instead a number of weird and wonderful people have joined presenters Reeeeeeen and Sarah (or whoever) on the show to demonstrate their political and current affairs knowledge to the listeners. People like Mr Bill Smith, the owner of the local chip shop just outside Knighton, or Mrs Jemima Buttleworth, the president elect of the Dolgellau Mothers Union (the names have been changed to protect the guilty). Withers' big political journalistic rivals (he sneers at the very mention of their names) have also appeared on a number of occasions. But he has sat by the phone waiting for the call and... zip, nowt.
I don't know how things have changed, though rumour has it the Wonderful One has gone out of his way to make Best Friends with one of the Beeb's Commissioning Editors, going out on the lash, and even to a gay club, in an effort to chat up his new buddy. He has, no doubt, been regaling him of tales, too, of his "triumph" on delivering his speech to the Poor old students of Sheffield who, he claims, hung on his every word (that's if they didn't hang themselves earlier, I guess.
So Tuesday 6.35 it is then. BBC Wales. Listen out. Judging by last time, it may be an awful long time before we hear the Wonderful One on the wireless again.

Last night I cooked a very tasty stew from my Ken Hom cookbook having bought myself a Mooli, which is commonly known as a white radish and looks like a giant parsnip which has been genetically modified to the size of Shutts.
When cooked it's very tasty because it soaks up all the juices from casseroles etc, but this is the only genuine recipe I have known to make use of it.
You need:
1lb beef chopped into 2 inch pieces
2 spring onions cut into two inch diagonal pieces
2 tbsp peanut oil
6 slices fresh ginger
4 cloves of garlic
4 dried red chillis
A large mooli

Braising sauce
1 pint chicken stock
2oz sugar
1 and a half tbsp light soy sauce
2 tablespoons dark soy sauce
3 tbsp chinese rice wine
4 star anise
2 tsp five spice powder
5 tablespoons hoisin sauce
1 tablespoon yellow-bean sauce

Heat a deep non-stick, thick-bottomed saucepan until hot
Add peanut oil and heat until smoking
Add the meat and brown all over, then add spring onions, stir for five minutes, then add the ginger, garlic and dried chillis and stir fry for five minutes.
Add all the braising ingredients and cook for 1+1/2 hours.
Then add mooli and cook for 30 minutes, then put on high heat for 15 minutes to thicken sauce. Serve with boiled rice.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

24-hour party people

I'VE got a new project for Keifer Sutherland - that's if he needs something to occupy his mind after he's served his debt to society and put distance between himself and his drink-drive conviction. It's kind of a Welsh version of his hit TV series 24 and it involves the staff of WoS, at least those who put their neck on the line throughout the week at such stamina-sapping events as Boozeday Tuesday, Wednesday Club and Thirsty Thursday.
This idea came about when we held an impromptu conference in our own version of CTU, that's The Yard public house for the uninitiated. What with the Prince of Darkness now pursuing an entirely nocturnal existence, and with the daring escapades of the Fabulous Baker Boy reaching my ears, I reckon it will go like this...

(Baggsy doing the Jack Bauer voiceover)
The following takes place between 5am and 6am on Sunday morning...
The Fabulous BB, hideously outnumbered by the air stewards from a Cardiff flight inside one of his all-day drinking establishments, finally manages to extricate himself and stumble home. On arriving he reckons he can handle a few hours sleep and will rise nice and early in time for lunch. In fact when he wakes it is dark and he believes he has only been asleep for a few minutes. In fact it is 5pm in the afternoon. The Fab BB, undeterred, goes out again, not to return until 4am the following morning.

The following takes place between 6am and 7am...
The Prince of Darkness stirs in his coffin, opens a bleary eye in the semi-light and immediately considers calling the police. He believes his place has been vandalised during the night by a secret cheese sandwich eater who has left bread crumbs, flaky bits of cheese, tomato ketchup and all manner of other things all over the floor, the work tops etc.

The following takes place between 7am and 8am...
Brammy waits in vain at a bus stop, forgetting that the clocks have actually gone back and it is in fact an hour earlier. The wonderful Withers, meanwhile, is already playing the martyr and wants to go into work two days early just so that he can say: "Well, I went into work two days early."

The following takes place between 8am and 9am...
Roberts flicks on Sky Sports and watches the first of many nob-end rugby games from the other side of the world.

The following takes place between 9am and 10am...
Smashy turns over, snores and goes back to sleep.
Meanwhile, Monsieur de Lebussier rings mama from his luxury pad in the bay and asks if she can forward him another slice of his enormous inheritance so that he can lord it around Cardiff a bit longer.

The following... Oh, that's enough of this nonsense. How Bauer does it I don't know, but I am sure that we would lose a few hours of the tale, particularly during boozeday Tuesday. It wouldn't help my voiceover either... Previoushly on twenny fur... I'm sure you must have had days like it, Keifer.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Ham and cucumber sandwiches on brown

ANOTHER Saturday from hell in the WoS offices, and my mood wasn't made any better by the fact I must have left my mobile phone in my flat this morning. It seems strange that 10 years ago I didn't even possess one of these essential devices. If someone needed to get hold of me they would ring me at the office, or on my BT landline, or just send a carrier pigeon. In those days you actually possessed a phone book, with phone numbers in, so that you could look up someone's number when you wanted to speak to them.
Not any more. Nowadays my phone is my life. It is the only place where I keep my numbers, it is the main place where people contact me, whether it be by text message or a straight call, and without it I feel like I have travelled half way down the Amazon in a canoe wearing only a loincloth and armed with just a paddle.
It put me in a grumpy mood all day because I couldn't text Wren for any aimless chitter, chatter, or maybe just a moan about... well, leaving my mobile phone at home, for starters! It's pretty bad that I cannot even recall my girlfriend's number because all I do these days is look up her name on my phone then press a button. It rings her automatically.
I went through a silly spell a while back when I kept leaving my phone in pubs. There would then be the cry of anguish and the trip out to a nearby kiosk to ring the damn thing. If my luck was in someone would answer and I would then arrange to pick it up or, in some cases, arrange for the taxi driver who suddenly found this awful din going on in the back of his car (possibly a Goodnight Irene ringtone or even my most recent, Kenny Rogers' "What condition my condition was in" or some such) to bring it back to me at a reasonable price.
And every time it happened I promised myself that in future I would write all my numbers down, particularly after losing the odd mobile and having to piece together my life from my most recent itemised phone bill.
Anyway, it never did happen and today I have spent minutes just wondering who has rung my phone during the day. Ironic, really, because when I get home I will almost certainly find I have no missed calls. It's like facebook really. You think you have friends, but in reality you're Norman No Mates.
The rest of the day was pretty dire. England lost the rugby World Cup, work was a pain and the only saving grace was the two surprisingly tasty Ham and Cucumber Sandwiches that Brammy very generously left me as he sloped off into the night at half past 11.
Still, not long to go now and I'll be re-united with my phone. It must be love.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Greek salad

IT seems my opposite number on our sister paper The Daily Snail has engulfed himself in another Greek tragedy. The curly-haired one set off for the tiny outpost of San Marino this week to cover Wales playing football. I'm not sure what he did in an earlier life to suffer such an indignity but I'm sure Glenn Hoddle would be able to tell him.
Anyway, having booked at the last minute the Greek had to travel via Amsterdam, arriving in San Marino in good time for the game. Unfortunately his suitcase remained in Holland.
Now, having regaled you already of his quick-fix solution when he was suffering a busted flush, you might expect him to ring up his right-hand man Owenov and order him: "Get on the next plane to Amsterdam, mate, pick up my suitcase and then bring it out to me."
But no. Instead the Greek, who has an almost teenage girl-like crush on the Wales football manager John Toshack, approached his fave man in the game and told him of the tragic tale. Hours later, I am reliably informed, the Greek one was walking around, pleased as punch, wearing a spare pair of jogging bottoms donated by Tosh.
Just goes to prove what most of us have believed for a long time: That the Greek has been desperately trying to get into the big man's trousers for ages.