Saturday, April 28, 2007

Chicken curry off the bone from chip alley

EVER had an embarrassing moment when you just want the ground to swallow you up and that everything you say seems to make the whole thing worse? I had just such a moment at Wales on Sunday's groundbreaking double leaving do yesterday.
We were saying goodbye to Becks and Rosey, who are both off to the smoke to find fame and fortune on the gold-paved streets of England's capital. The Prince of Darkness delivered a speech extolling the merits of young Becks, who replied in kind by thanking everyone in the building for their help... by name.
Unaccustomed to public speaking as he is, Becks began to sound a bit like the Vicky Pollard character out of Little Britain as time wore on. "Yeh but, no but, yeh but..."
Still, its quite a nerve-wracking thing, public speaking. As I found out when I delivered the eulogy for Rosey.
To be honest, I couldn't have done a better character assassination if I had been handed the best man role at his wedding. Then again, Rosey bought it all on himself - never could a tale of such misdemeanors be so easy to recall. But I won't go into them here... they have already been catalogued in previous blog entries.
From the office it was straight off to a little establishment called Zync on the corner of Mill Lane where, thankfully, they have a number of outside tables to cater for us bell-ringing, unclean-chanting smokers. There was a huge turnout, too, mainly because Rosey and Becks had managed to plaster so many posters of themselves over the walls of Thomson House that those working inside must have felt the redecoration work had begun early. Even the legendary Barry John turned up.
At some stage, many beers in, I encountered Posh and we had a chat. "Hey, I went to that lovely little hotel in Devon with the four-poster bed, very romantic... you know, the one where you and Becks went."
Then Posh came out with an answer that had me reaching vainly for my spade and wishing I could dig a hole deep into the Cardiff concrete. "But I've never been to a hotel in Devon with him," she said, the confusion spreading across her face.
"Oh dear, maybe I got it wrong, perhaps it wasn't you and Becks, perhaps it was another couple..." The crimson colour spreading across my cheeks told her all she needed to know about my deception. Oh, nuts.
Quickly seeking out Becks I told him of my silly indiscretion. Apparently the trip had happened a long time ago, when he was going out with another young lady. I'm sure he talked his way out of it. I can just imagine the confrontation when they got back to Beckingham Palace...
"So Chris want to tell me about this trip to Devon, do you?"
"Yeh but... No but... yeh but..."

Shutts had the mightiest of frights that night. Not only did he find himself surrounded by a bevvy of girls that he spends most of his time dreaming about (Rhian the Western Mail Ed's temporary secretary, Laura Wilby etc) but he was also confronted by someone even taller than him. The fact the bloke was walking around the streets of Cardiff on stilts is neither here nor there.
Having to actually look up at someone was quite disorientating for the big man, and the fact the Stilts bloke kept coming back to engage him in conversation every five minutes turned him into a quivering wreck. Not a pretty sight, all that flesh jiggling about like Wales has suddenly been struck by an earthquake measuring 6 on the richter scale.

Withers, meanwhile, was keen to show off his athletic prowess yesterday. Mid afternoon, and with the speeches imminent, he decided it would be the perfect time to break into full Zippy from Rainbow mode as he predicted how my speech would go. There I was beavering away at the computer, trying to get everything done before the nights frivolities, when from the far corner of the room I hear "... I remember back in 1953..." It's the Wonderful One in full Rippers impression mode.
I felt it was only right that I point out the error of his ways, disrupting a busy newsroom with only 30-odd hours to go to deadline. Rising from my seat I strode towards him, only for our political writer (who incidentally now wants to be referred to as the writer/broadcaster Matt Withers) to leap from his seat and then jump over the desk next to him, printer and all, in an attempt to avoid confrontation.
My God, I don't think Silver Birch, this year's winner of the Grand National, could have cleared Becher's so cleanly. Withers you're an athlete. And a bozo.

On the way home last night I treated myself to something I haven't had in over a year: A chicken curry off the bone with chips from Dirty Dot's in Caroline Street. Wonderful.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Indian paneer chicken curry

OUR posse and Brammy's brainwashed mob are now at loggerheads over the term Wednesday Club. The little rotund one seems to forget that the name was first coined when he worked for us and we all toddled off to The Yard on a Wednesday. Brammy, meanwhile, went up to the Boar's Backside on his lonesome, on account of the fact he had wangled a student discount on his beer. While there he ended up chatting to a number of nincompoops and ne'er-do-wells and was often found shooting the breeze with two old tossers (literally, by the look of them).
Regularly we Wales on Sunday groundbreakers had a quorum - it was THE place to be on a Wednesday. Sometimes things went on well into the evening and, admittedly, when we got a bit inebriated we tended to drop in at the Boar's for a bit of Brammy baiting before bedtime. Still, that was off the agenda... you couldn't class that as official Wednesday club business.
Imagine my shock when Keri the worst copytaker in the world sent a text message to the Fab BB the other day inviting him to "Wednesday Club" at the Old Scroat, Keri not even being a member of that fine establishment. Then only today Bram sent out a text announcing that "Wednesday Club" was in the Model at 5.30pm. Since when did he decide the venue for a club which has yet to accept him into its bosom?
I'm afraid the battle lines have been drawn.
This is war.

Withers, always trying to play down such serious matters, has actually pointed out that there has been a Wednesday Club for the Performing Arts, apparently the oldest continuously operating music organization in the United States, since May 17, 1882. It was for charitable and educational purposes. Well, this aint the same. Our club is more involved in the business of getting extremely drunk and talking b*ll*cks.
As they say in that famous film The Highlander, "There can be only one".

Meanwhile, Becks took the opportunity on his last-ever boozeday Tuesday to come out with what must merit an A-plus in the talking b*ll*cks stakes. Discussing his music faves the Lightning Seeds he suggested that their "best of" selection was comparable to anyone's in the world ever. "The Beatles, Becks?"
"Yeh, even The Beatles".
Top b*ll*cks, mate.

The wonderful Withers, meanwhile, was so put out by some old biddy who sat on the table next to him in the Yard, called him "baldy" and pointed out that he looked a tight git, that he actually went and bought a round costing just under £20. I wish my insults had that same effect.

Last night got in and watched a superb Champions League semi-final between Man United and AC Milan which United won 3-2 after being 2-1 down at half time. Two top goals from Rooney sealed the game. While I watched I enjoyed a curry made with Paneer cheese and cooked chicken.
What you do:
TO MAKE THE SAUCE: put six red chillis and two green chillis in a blender and add 2 cloves garlic and a chunk of garlic. Mix, then fry up with a red onion, add six or seven chopped vine tomatoes. Simmer and continue to stir. Add fenugreek leaves (if you have them) or Fenugreek powder.

FOR THE STIR FRY: Fry onion, garlic, peppers and a couple of chillis. Add paneer cheese and then the sauce. When all mixed in add lumps of chicken and cook for 10 to 15 minutes, stirring only occasionally. Near end add a big bunch of ripped up coriander. Serve with rice.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Merguez roll with drippy mustard

INNOCENT little Catherine Mary has fallen into the decidedly sticky web of that serial philanderer Brammy (well, he wishes, anyway). The crafty old bowling-ball shaped one has a special way with the ladies that goes something like this... he spots a delicate young flower, sidles over in his friendly way - like a favourite uncle who spoils you rotten - and makes her an offer she can't refuse. As she is young, and new, and eager to make new acquaintances, of course she is going to accept.
The conversation generally goes something like this:
"Hello, my lovely. Me and some of the chaps are going out for a little drink tonight and thought you might like to come."
"Oh, that's very kind of you... thanks very much, I'd love to."
"Ok, then be in the Old Scroat (*delete for Model Inn/Boars Backside where appropriate) at 6pm."
Of course, when his prey walks into the trap, Brammy is ready to pounce.
On Friday Catherine Mary turned up expecting to see all her old Celtic newspaper mates sitting around, drinking beer. Bram had some bad news for her.
"Oh, I'm sorry lovely, they've all gone. You know, had to get away early for their buses etc. Never mind, have a pint of old scroat, I'm sure someone else will turn up soon. By the way, would you like a roll up, it's mixed shag you know."
And after half an hour of this banter he feels comfortable enough to pounce. "So what are we having for breakfast, my lovely?" is the normal chat up line.
By the time we turned up to visit him on Friday night Catherine Mary was nowhere to be seen... the problem with Brammy's plan is that, even after honing it over hundreds of years, it has yet to pay off. Never mind, old chum.

Today was a particularly arduous day. Once again Welsh rugby's great bubble of anticipation was burst when the Scarlets failed at the Heineken Cup semi-final stage (beaten by those English chappies at Leicester, don't you know) and the Dragons came a cropper in France in Europe's minor competition.
Lunch was pasta carbonara half and half, and I also had a Merguez sausage roll with salad and English mustard. When Wren turned up to collect my keys so that she could drop some stuff around the house the mustard had managed to find itself onto my nice, clean white shirt. I am a mucky pup.

Friday, April 20, 2007

jalapeno jellybeans

THE wonderful Withers is looking wonderfully withered of late, thanks to some new shoes from George of Asda which fit him like a crumbly old vice. He bought them two weeks ago in the wilds of Crewe, afraid to tell the shop assistant they didn't fit because he used to work with her and she could recall some rather unmentionable details about his sordid past (which involve a small Chinese man, his p**is and... but, no, honestly, I can't tell).
Anyway, thrusting the £20 into her hand, bowing his head and mumbling "bye" to avoid further embarrassment, he quickly departed the store... and has been ruing his haste ever since.
Withers, though, is not one to own up to the error of his ways. And he's too tight a b*gger to throw away a pair of shoes which have set him back an exorbitant 20 quid. So instead he has been hobbling into the office like some inexperienced cowboy who has had a rather nasty time trying to ride a particularly feisty stallion over a treacherous mountain path.
It's become quite fun, though, to wait for the traffic lights to turn red on the way to the pub, then shout: "Quick! Come on!" and watch as he hobbles across, looking anxiously left and right like the Dustin Hoffman character 'Ratso' Rizzo in Midnight Cowboy. Hope he doesn't peg out on the flight to Corsica in a few weeks time.
It makes it worse that Withers is this week acting news editor. It means he has to move from one side of the desk to the other every five minutes to check Kempy's e-mails. Trying to look authoritative when your face is screwed up like one of those Chinese Shar-pei dogs with piles isn't easy, I can tell you.

We had a nice treat on the desk yesterday, a box of jellybeans of every flavour imaginable. There were toasted marshmallow flavour jellybeans, margarita flavour and even jalapeno chilli flavour, which were particularly nice and gave off quite a bit of heat. Thanks to the generous contributor who supplied them.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

(No-such-thing-as-a) Free meal

WELL, that was an enormous shock to the system! At the weekend I went on what I was reliably informed was 'a freebie' to the picturesque South Devon coast. Definition of a freebie: a gift or service, offered free (according to the Penguin English dictionary I found on Rosey's desk, anyway). Definition of free: Without charge. Definition of charge? Oh, get on with it!
To be fair the weather was almost tropical for the time of year, the views from the courtesy hotel spectacular, the cliff walks invigorating, the company enjoyable and there were splendid days out in Paignton and Exeter.
Paignton, in particular, provided great fun. It's a real picture postcard town, the kind of rude picture postcards that you used to find on the English riviera in the good old 60's (or so I am reliably informed) - the ones embellished by fat, nearly-naked women making insinuations.
It was all candyfloss, cheapo shops and donkeys on the beach.
I spent a fair amount of time in the amusement arcade, trying and failing miserably to win a cuddly Garfield toy with one of those grasping hooks you just KNOW won't work. Amazing, also, how you can fall for that sliding 2p coin machine, where you see money and prizes galore just hanging off the edge. Just one coin applied to the machine at the appropriate time will bring a fortune crashing in your direction. Will it hell! About 40 years after I first attempted it I am still drawn in, though, spending a hard-earned 50p on the task before realising too late that it has done me again.
Did I say done? Well that's how I felt on Monday morning when, checking out of the glorious establishment at which I had stayed, having enjoyed their hospitality and eaten what I had been reliably informed was a free meal accompanied by a free bottle of wine (a pontneuf something or other retailing at the reasonable price of £39) imagine my shock and horror to be presented with a bill for £53! I asked the woman behind the desk whether, in fact, there had been some mistake. No, she said, that was the extras. The room and the scones and clotted cream afternoon tea were free but not the extras charged on the dinner specials or the wine from the exclusive list. B****cks! I don't even drink wine. I only had a glass to be sociable. I'd rather have wasted my £39 on, say, 14 pints of Carling Extra Cold in The Yard.
Did I say Yard? Not very happy with that place either. On Friday I was enjoying a drink in the freezing environment of the outdoor smoking "lounge" when the urge grabbed me to visit the little boy's room. On my return some hairy bozo of a bouncer looked me up and down, fixed his eyes on my blue Australia v England, New Year's Test, Sydney 2007, baseball cap and announced: "Next time you enter, can you take your hat off, sir?" How the hell I didn't reply with: "Do you know who I am?" I am not sure. Oh, actually, I did. Well something like that.
He suggested I was getting a bit mouthy, I suggested he was the one who started it and that I would take my custom elsewhere. I also informed him I drank in The Yard every day of the b***dy week and should be treated with a bit more respect.
To be honest, he didn't take a blind bit of notice so I rounded up Withers and Freeman and off we toddled to the good old City Arms. At least THEY value my custom.

Friday, April 13, 2007


TWO little words were enough to destroy any dreams Shutts might have harboured of leading the England cricket team's pace bowling attack in the future.
Having supped a few pints with Withers and Catherine Mary in the chilly environment of The Yard smoking area (two tables, no heating) I decided to end the suffering and return to the warmth of my own home. Who should I bump into on my wobbling way to the taxi rank but the Glamorgan fast bowler Simon Jones, now looking fully recovered from his injury problems and fit as a flea.
"Hi Simon," I said, knowing full well that he was very unlikely to recognise me having only met me once previously - that being about three years ago. Also, unlike him, I haven't done any centre spreads for Cosmo or Hello magazines (can't think why, every day I'm waiting for the phone to ring so that I can quote them something ridiculous for full frontal pics).
Simon's one of my England Ashes heroes and he disguised his confusion very well as he wondered who the bozo was offering to shake his hand.
"You spoke to my reporter colleague Shutts the other day," I told him, nudging his memory.
Enlightenment spread across his face and he looked to the skies. "Oh, yeh. He's a biiiiig bloke, isn't he?"
Glad to now be engaging the great man in conversation, I joined in the theme. "Yes, he is about 6ft 8ins. He's about as big as Curtley Ambrose (the great West Indian pace ace). Do you reckon with the right training he could bowl fast for England?"
Simon looked at me knowingly, smiled and gave a dismissive shake of the head. Then he patted his belly. "Too fat," he said. Sorry, Shutts, you can put those whites away now.

The stand-up comedians of Britain can sleep soundly in their beds tonight, safe in the knowledge that the wonderful Withers won't be stealing their thunder. Withers, not surprisingly, pulled out of the three-minute audition which could have seen him elevated to global status on the basis that "the trains aren't running" and "I would have to take the whole day off". Other unkind individuals are more likely to suggest, in the words of Roberts, "his a*** went". Sadly, we shall probably never know the truth. At least he bounced back with an appearance on Radio Wales this morning, waxing lyrical about the joys of political blogging. When his interviewer suggested that some blogs were inclined to just go on about "what people did in the pub the previous night" he had the perfect opportunity to talk about the most entertaining blog around. Once again, he failed miserably. Withers, you're a bozo supreme.

Last night I got home and cooked Kedgeree. It wasn't supposed to be Kedgeree, it's just I overcooked the rice and the cod broke up quickly so I mixed the two together. And it was very nice.
What I did was rinse the rice then cover it with plenty of water, bring to the boil and then leave on a high heat until must of the water evaporated leaving a gooey mess at the bottom of the pan. I then put olive oil into a frying pan and when it got hot I added a large spoonful of flour and stirred it into the oil.
This produced a paste and I then fried some chopped shallot in it before adding the fish, skin side down, allowing this to crisp. Turning the fish I added three fresh chopped tomatoes and a teaspoon of paprika. When the fish was done it broke up, so I just added it to the rice and stirred it in. It was actually surprisingly tasty.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Meateor Pizza (mmmm...)

IT'S amazing how different life can be when you have a girlfriend. Normally over a bank holiday weekend I would laze about, visit the pub, drink beer, treat myself to a Sunday lunch and then watch wall-to-wall sport. Basically I would do all those things a laddish singleton does. Obviously this all changes when someone else comes along to share your spare time.
This weekend Wren (I must think of a better name than that) popped over for a visit and we spent a very pleasant Easter Sunday. First we lazed about, then went for Sunday lunch at a wonderful carvery in Caldicot called the Tippling Philosopher. After that we headed back to the bright lights of Cardiff where we popped down to The Claude for a couple of pints then moved on to the Tut where we settled down to watch England play Australia at cricket.
On Monday I persuaded the lady that she would find no better place to spend a day on which the temperature touched 75 degrees than on the terraces of the Memorial Ground, where we watched the Gas batter Bury 2-0 and push their play-off claims. Wren says she enjoyed it, though I suspect she had an aching neck afterwards, peering skywards watching the ball sail through the air. It spent about 70 minutes as far away from the turf as it was possible to get without ending up in orbit. Never mind... the Gas are on the march.
This was followed by a visit to a couple of Bristol pubs (no smoking ban yet... luxury!) and a Meateor pizza.
Now I've been promising myself a Meateor pizza ever since Domino's unashamedly started advertising them between episodes of the Simpsons. Not very healthy, I grant you, but I don't see any problem in indulging yourself once in a while.
Apparently The Guardian recently devoted a whole page to this culinary extravaganza, and their take on it wasn't very good. Then again it wasn't made out of wholegrain and didn't include Tofu, so what would you expect? To be honest, the fact that some tree-hugging, Jesus-sandal wearing reporter didn't approve made me all the more determined to try it.
And I wasn't disappointed. It was lush, particularly the Barbecue Sauce inside which just added to the tingle on your tastebuds. I won't make a habit of it, but I will certainly be trying it again. With Garlic mushrooms. Fab.
So, all in all a completely different weekend. I was able to laze about, visit the pub, drink beer, treat myself to a Sunday lunch and then watch wall-to-wall ... hmm.

THERE has been a side effect to the pub smoking ban that is very worrying. It now appears that smoke-free pubs give parents the licence to wheel hundreds of kids through the doors and allow them to run riot while we serious drinkers are forced to mind our p's and q's, button our lips and sip our pints without being able to hear ourselves think. The trackie-clad parents, meanwhile, sit around oblivious to their offsprings antics, knocking back their bacardi breezers and pints of strong lager, partying like its 1999.
Now, there are plenty of pubs around that cater for kids anyway - like the Charlie Chalk's chain, for instance. So why a good old boozer like the Claude should change its whole raison d'etre and turn into Chav central for the lazy parent is beyond me.
One of the Claude regulars, who has probably been drinking there for the last 30 years or so, made a very pertinent point to the bar staff as he purchased his brew with a melancholy grimace on his face. "Since when did this place turn into a bloody kindergarten?" he asked quite reasonably. Silence came the stern reply.
If this carries on we dedicated drinkers will be huddled together in the beer garden, fighting against the cold, while the main bar resembles a scene from Buggsy Malone. I'm not impressed, I tell you.

THE smoking ban is proving a disaster for the Prince of Darkness. It now means that on sunny days he actually has to go through the torture of... sitting outside!
Even his family are feeling the force of his ire. In fact, his Missus had to go out and BUY him a packet of fags just to ensure he didn't create bloody carnage through the picturesque cobblestoned streets of Caerleon on Sunday. Sounds like he needs to smoke to keep his sanity, anyway. Every morning he clambers out of the coffin and traipses downstairs to find the Labradoodle has doodled all over the kitchen floor. Nightmare.

Today could be a momentous event in the history of British comedy. The day the world discovered Withers. For today is stand-up day though, judging by his pre-audition nerves in the Yard last night, we may yet to be deprived of his undeniable talent.

Friday, April 06, 2007

Pasta in sauce with mussels

IT'S a case of the last one to leave WoS turn the lights out. Becks has finally negotiated his transfer and is heading for the bright lights of London, having landed a job in the delightful surroundings of Bermondsey where every week the front page is dominated by one shooting after another. Meanwhile, Rosey has been seduced by the idea of working for the nationals and is moving to the smoke, too. Best of luck both.
Withers sees his career moving in a different direction, however. He fancies himself as a stand-up comedian and has a three-minute audition for a new TV programme. I've offered him the chance to steal material from the blog, but he has turned me down flat. I hope he isn't going to rely on his impressions, which all sound remarkably like Zippy from Rainbow.
He also has a good line on tailgating at the hand dryer in pub toilets. I'm not sure the world is ready for his talent quite yet, but best of luck to him.
The other night I made a lovely pasta sauce with Mussels. The recipe came out of a little pamphlet given to me by Wren, which appears to contain some very tasty meals. This one was meant to be Spaghetti ai frutti di Mare, but as I only had mussels I decided I would try it with them alone and some nice new dried pasta I have bought known as Bucatini.
Olive oil
1 onion chopped
4 cloves sliced garlic
2 chopped tomatoes
packet of cooked mussels from Sainsbury's
Fresh parsley
glass of white wine
salt and pepper.

To do:
Wash the seafood (you can use a seafood mix if preferred)
Soak them in the white wine.
Meanwhile fry garlic in oil in a large pan
Quarter the fresh tomatoes and add them
Then add parsley and salt and pepper (I used some paprika too, which was nice!)
When this is cooking, add the white wine and seafood.
Cook the pasta, drain when half done and add lto pan.
Continue cooking until the pasta is done. Serve with some hot garlic bread.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Lava Lamb takeaway with the Kempster


THE big day finally arrived. The Gas at the Millennium Stadium. Having got to the final of the Football League Trophy with victory over our arch rivals across the City, anything else was going to be a bonus. Sadly, anything else didn't come along.
Despite a late Saturday night on WoS, I was up with the lark on Sunday. My mate Haydn, his son Liam and accompanying entourage arrived outside my house just after 9.15 demanding sustenance. "Where's the best place to go for a big breakfast and a drink?" demanded my old school pal. I suggested the Wetherspoons around the corner. He could park the car outside my house and we could trot around to said pub, then walk the 20 minutes into town.
"Isn't there somewhere nearer?" he enquired.
Big Mistake No 1.
We drove over and parked the car in Sophia Gardens, then walked the short distance into town. One of Haydn's pals was on the phone to his mate. "Where are you?" he asked.
"The Wetherspoons."
"Which one?" A reasonable question. There are four or five in Cardiff and the surrounding area.
"The Ernest Willows in City Road."
Ah, yes. The one approximately 100 yards from my house. Doh!
Anyway, we intrepid Bristolians wouldn't be put off. We were directed towards the Prince of Wales where at 9.45am in the morning it was already heaving with Gasheads. We were told to queue at the front doors. The queue stretched around the block. These poor souls were operating on the one in, one out policy. I bet most of them didn't see the inside of the pub before the 1pm kick off.
Our little group decided to march on. And after three quarters of an hour we finally settled in at Lloyds where they had approximately three bar staff serving in the region of 800 people. By the time we got our breakfast, met up with another old mate Brocky, and walked to the ground, it was 12.30 - half an hour before kick off.
Still, we were in good voice. Thirty seven thousand west country accents drawling "Good Night, Irene, I'll see you in my dreams". The confidence was huge.
The bubble was deflated within five minutes, by which time we were 2-0 down and moaning to our heart's content. "Ah well, at least we beat the City," was our consolation chant.
But, lo and behold, Rovers as usual filled us with false hope, drawing back to 2-2 in a rousing second half and only being denied victory by the brilliance of goalkeeper Neil Sullivan, between the sticks for Donny.
Into extra time. No one was sure whether it would go to penalties or not. Six minutes from the end we were still hopeful. Then Irene's dream was blown apart and we headed for home, heads down, the Watney Cup from 1974 still the only trophy in our cobweb-strewn trophy room. That's what being a gashead is all about.

Met up for a consolation pint and a final smoke with Withers and Rosey at the Pen and Wig. We've decided the word of the month should be Bozo. It's a wonderful name for a completely foolhardy individual of a certain type. Can't explain the type, you just know who is a bozo and who isn't.
This conversation took place as we munched on spare rib flavour crisps (a new one on all of us). Meanwhile, Withers defiantly stood his ground when his cigarette packet flew off the table. "Never mind, I'm giving up tomorrow," said the firm supporter of the smoking ban or "traitor" as I now call him.
This man, one of the political movers and shakers in Wales today with a blog and column which commands the respect of... well quite a few people read it anyway, has refused to raise a voice in protest against this Fascist move by Rhodri and his Doddery mates. Shame on him. His reason: It will force him to give up and save oodles of cash.
Moments later, though, the wonderful one did a shock about-turn. He raced after the packet and seized it within his grasp. "I just realised there was one left," he said.
One ciggy later, though, and he is already feeling withdrawal symptoms. "Give us a fag, Rippers?" he demanded. "Bugger off, traitor. You supported this ban, now live with the consequences," was my firm reply.
The little man's face crumpled, his eyes looking up at me in pleading earnest ... it was a pitiful sight, as Rosey would agree. "Pleeze, pleeeeeze, pleeeeeeeeze, Rippers!" he wailed, his hands out like a dog sitting up on his hind legs, begging for attention.
It was so embarrassing I had to give in.
Withers, you're a bozo.

Scooby is off to photograph Rhodri and a Doddery having a "smoke-free" lunch in the Halfway in Pontcanna. The Assembly first minister is, without doubt, a bozo of the highest order. So, for that matter, is his gruppenfuhrer, sorry, wife, Julie who would rather shoot us smokers on sight than just kick us out of the pubs. For my part, I won't be drinking today.

After swimming 50 lengths at the local pool to get this growing anger out of my system, I finally decide to take the plunge and enter my first "smoke-free" pub. It's booze day Tuesday but I am approaching it with some reticence.
In the Yard the Prince of Darkness is hovering gloomily over his pint of Krony, fingers scraping at the table as he mourns the death of little pleasures. Poor Becks, a non-smoker, then has to put up with over an hour of conversation centred around cigarettes. When Roberts turns up he looks like he has developed St Vitus Dance or something. I myself feel a nervous tick affecting my eye. This is horrible, terrible, the worst pain possible. We're like junkies deprived of a fix. Perhaps that's what we are. The beer tastes decidedly lousy. Maybe I don't like alcohol, after all. My God, I've been drinking it with gusto for the past 30-odd years.
Finally I wander home, disgusted. Brammy, meanwhile, has found himself a little haven - and I can't say where because Big Rhod-er and the smoke police might be listening in - where he has been contentedly puffing away with pint in hand (and I don't mean the local park). Spend the night switching between the cricket and the footy on TV.

To avoid the drink I go around Kempy's for a curry, and we have a good time watching England lose to Sri Lanka off the last ball of a tremendous World Cup cricket match, discussing work as we do. I have a meal called lava lamb (not to be confused with lava lamp, which might prove a bit crunchy) while she settles for a chicken biryani. Then its home for an early night. The drummers are in session downstairs, it's boys night out for Scooby and the lads.

Among our number in Thompson Towers, where the three Cardiff-based daily newspapers live, is a person I can only describe as Raffles. Certain of our number gave him this nickname because they are convinced he is a "gentleman thief". This well-spoken, jovial, dapper-looking gentleman seems a real bon vivre on the outside, but behind the exterior lies a mystery wrapped in an enigma. You half expect him to twirl his moustache and say "Don't you know" at various intervals.
He has been spotted wandering the corridors long after his fellow workers have left the building, opening drawers and rifling through them, though hard as they try my spies have no proof that anything has gone missing (may explain the disappearance of my face-off car stereo, though).
Raffles also claims to have lost his money in the chocolate machine on numerous occasions. It's situated in our office so we go through this little drama nearly every day.
Shaking the machine, our gentleman thief demands "Where's my chocolate? The machine has swallowed my money!" None of us have ever seen him put real money INTO the machine, however.
For this reason, it was galling for Withers when he put his own money into the same machine and failed to get the cigarette-substitute fix he needed. As he wandered off, muttering under his breath, Raffles appeared on the scene.
"Don't put any money in, it's not working," cried one of the more generous of my colleagues.
Ignoring the plea, Raffles inserted some "coins" (probably old roubles acquired in his distant past or perhaps even silver buttons off one of his many ancient blazers) and minutes later two chocolate bars dropped. Of course, one belonged to Withers. Before he could speak up however, the Gentleman thief had faded into the distance, munching gaily on his ill-gotten gains.
Gadzooks, what a cad!

That recipe I promised you of Finnish meatballs is as follows:
3 slices of white bread, crusts removed, soaked in 5fl ozs of milk for 30 mins.
One egg
500g minced pork
500g minced beef
1 egg
1 peeled and chopped red onion
2 teaspoons of allspice
21/2 ozs butter
2 tablespoons of olive oil
1 tbsp plain flour
7 ozs sour cream
Cranberry Sauce
Salt and Pepper

Mixed bread with milk soaked up with mince, egg, onion, allspice, salt and pepper.
Make into balls the size of walnuts.
Heat some of the butter with the olive oil in a non-stick pan.
Fry balls in batches making sure not to burn the butter. Transfer them to a large saucepan.
Sprinkle flower in frying pan and mix until smooth.
Add butter and cook, stirring until golden.
Remove from heat and add 18fl ozs of hot water. Stir in sour cream and mix. Then pour over the meatballs.
The sauce may separate slightly but don't worry. Season, bring to boil and then simmer for 15 minutes. Serve over a nice pasta or some mashed potato.
Well worth it.