ALWAYS ones to bulk with convention, my sports desk enjoyed our Christmas dinner on Wednesday - three months after the festive period. Truth be told, we had a little bit of cash spare from freelances who choose to bribe us in order to get their stories in the paper. Not a conventional, or even legal, policy I agree, but as long as it isn't broadcast publicly (oops, what the hell am I doing)...
Anyway, we enjoyed a very pleasant evening at La Tasca, a Spanish Tapas bar in the Brewery Quarter of Cardiff. Shutts, failing to appreciate that I was poised to do his appraisal, made the first faux pas of the night. "Smoking or non-smoking?" asked the waiter.
"Non-smoking," said the soon-to-be-presented-with-his-p45 youngest member of our sports desk.
The ensuing outcry - if you can describe the hollering of myself and Roberts as an outcry - quickly persuaded the waiter that we would rather sit in a smoking area of the restaurant.
Once seated at a table for five squeezed into the space of a table for two, we were greeted by a pretty law student from the Czech Republic, who was trying to pay her way through university by waiting tables in Cardiff.
Roberts was immediately smitten while Rosey kept his own counsel, no doubt secretly plotting how he might get her phone number without any of us noticing.
Dismissing the a la carte menu, we chose the Tapas for a tenner option - and what a bargain that turned out to be. You each order three dishes off the tapas menu, but can keep re-ordering as often as you want. If we had not physically dragged Shutts, now a perfectly formed 19 stone after his brief romantic interlude in Rome last week, away from the table he would still be ordering now.
By the time we had gone through four rounds of Tapas, two bottles of red wine and a couple of San Miguels (for yours truly), Roberts was slavering and almost speaking Slavic. Shutts, by contrast, was showing more interest in the clientele at another table dressed as Rydell High schoolgirls from Grease.
When it came to the bill it was all left in the hands of Owenov, who had been charged with the scary task of protecting our windfall for the previous three months. Earlier that day he had given us all a bit of a fright, particularly the 6ft 10inch Hungry Hippo across the desk, by declaring: "Oh damn I can't find my credit card. My Mrs must have dropped it when she stole my wallet."
Fortunately it later turned up.
As he handed over said card to the Czech charmer, another problem ensued. The machine kept rejecting it. I wondered if they would have enough marigold gloves for the five of us.
"It's void," Rosey said. "What does that mean?"
Our waitress responded quick as a flash: "Deprive of legal validity; make legally void or invalid; avoid. Annul, cancel."
We all looked at her gobsmacked. Never try to catch a lawyer out when she can quote the exact dictionary description back to you. At that stage Roberts and Rosey both realised she was out of their league...
Back at the Yard the Fabulous Baker Boy and the Wonderful Withers of WoS were waiting for us to return. The Fab BB was in a right state. Having booked the next day off he was going for it in a big way. As he stumbled out of the pub he declared he was off to see "Debbie Dazzler". We doubted whether that was her real name. You've guessed it... Men Dressed as Ladies night had come round again.