Wednesday, May 30, 2007


WEMBERLEY, Wemberley... we're the famous Bristol Rovers and we won at Wemberley...
Well, it may have taken me 40 years of hurt and two previous visits to be able to appreciate the full enormity of this achievement but Saturday was one of the greatest sporting days of my life. Fantashtic! as Roberts would say.
Myself and 40,000 Gasheads travelled up to the gleaming new edifice buried away in the bowels of London and wallowed in a 3-1 victory over Shrewsbury. Wren came up with me the previous night and we stayed at a Premier Travel Inn just a few hundred yards from the ground. It was the perfect base, right next to Wembley Park tube station, from which to watch the crowds gather the next day.
Wren very kindly entered into the occasion by wearing my blue and white Gashead top while I wore our away kit of blue and black. Baseball caps on and a light drizzle in the air we had a walk around to soak up the atmosphere of the occasion, get some money and enjoy a hearty brekky (Wren normally has two, but was on rations for this one). We then returned to the tube to meet my school buddy Haydn, his wife Sian, son Liam and his mum's other half Ron. Having earlier spied a temporary bar being set up outside our hotel, we spent a pleasant hour and a half soaking up the atmosphere of the occasion as thousands of blue and white decorated fans from the west country joined those from Salop on winding their way down Wembley way.
We eventually made our way to the new stadium and were delighted to have seats just off the halfway line as the Rovers fans welcomed their players onto the pitch to the strains of their familiar (some may say too familiar) song Goodnight Irene.
The new ground is excellent, the views from nearly everywhere perfect and the legroom great. It's a shame the atmosphere fell dead when the Gas managed to repeat their Millennium Stadium feat of a couple of months earlier and fall behind within three minutes. Here we go again!
But Richard Walker, striker par excellence, pulled us back into the game with two first half strikes and though we were too nervous to sing in the second half I did manage to lose my voice chastising the referee. With two minutes of injury time remaining the Shrews threw their goalkeeper up for a corner. Rovers managed to scramble it away and we then screamed our backing for little Sammy Igoe as he legs carried him from his own half with about four Shrewsbury defenders in hot pursuit.
It was like something out of the Benny Hill show and we could almost hear that famous music "didladeedeedee, didladeedeedee, didla dee da da da da da dee" as his lead began to evaporate. But cunningly, when he looked like heading for the corner, he turned back and slotted the ball slowly but perfectly into the unguarded net. What a moment to savour!
Most of us looked around not knowing what to do... unfamiliar with the procedure associated with actually WINNING one of these damn things. It now means the Gas have another trophy to put in the cabinet that still probably guards the Watney Cup of 1972.

It was piddling down afterwards and took us over an hour to get out of London, despite waiting on and having a very enjoyable Nepalese curry. During our meal we were interrupted by a guy in a Gashead shirt who came over and starting lambasting us with "Wasn't that brilliant, fantastic. That will show those arrogant Sh**heads. I love the Gas, I do, I really do. Actually this is my team (shows us Villa badge under his lapel), but I do love the Gas."
Wren, cottoning on to the implication of his supporting Aston Villa, asked: "So you're from Birmingham, are you?"
"No, love, Weston-super-Mare."

That night we got home and watched the highlights on Sky Sports. Sadly they restricted them to just half an hour. Jolly bad show seeing they have sod all else to show in the summer. Ah, well.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

A good kipper

EVER had one of those moments when you have woken up and are
a. far from your bedroom and
b. totally bemused at your surroundings?
That's exactly what happened to me after a quick afternoon drink turned into a heavy Boozeday Tuesday.

It had been a pretty quiet weekend up until then. Wren came over and we spent a pleasant Sunday afternoon travelling out to Usk where we toured the castle to the background of a pageant where all manner of local characters appeared to be trying to spear each other with giant poles which had bits of pointy steel attached to the ends.
Making a hasty retreat we enjoyed a couple of quiet drinks in the sun-drenched car park of the In-Between pub, where I managed to spill the entire contents of a bag of cheese nibbles as I tried to pull them from the front pocket of my new black jeans. Drat.
Then it was back home for Sunday Lunch of Chicken with mascarpone cheese and pancetta accompanied by some interesting vegetable dishes taken from a new cookbook/DVD that Withers passed on to me the other day. When I remember the recipes they will be appearing here.

On Monday I became the unhappy owner of a new temporary crown. My dentist insisted that the emergency job I had in Sydney after the pork scratching disaster of New Year's Day would not stand up to too much pressure. She therefore whipped that one out (without too much fuss I am happy to report), made a mould of the gap and then put in another temp job until my glistening new tooth can be made and fitted in two weeks time.
I must admit, though, it's a rather uncomfortable partnership. There seems to be a big, ragged tear down the back of my new tooth which I continue to rub my tongue against in the hope that it will disappear. No luck so far.
To ease my anxiety about my good looks being interfered with, Wren and I went to see the thoroughly enjoyable This Is England. The prices at the local Cineworld are nothing to smile about, however, which is pretty lucky seeing the state of my gnashers. Over £6 each for tickets, plus ridiculous prices for popcorn, nachos or hot dogs - £5.80 anyone for a hot dog meal deal?

I approached a vast pile of ironing on Tuesday feeling pretty reticent about the whole thing. The good news, though, is that I have two tickets to see the Gas at Wembley, all for the reasonable price of £58 (I think that's about £8 more than a season ticket in Gas terms). Still, you have to be there, don't you - 40,000 Gasheads can't be wrong.
While wading through the ironing I contacted the Wonderful Withers of WoS. "Is there a boozeday?" I asked.
He, shockingly, replied in the negative. Apparently he was waiting for a new pair of running shoes to arrive. Running shoes? Suddenly I came over all cold. For one, I've never seen Withers run anywhere in his life and, for another thing, the thought of his size 11 feet pounding around Cardiff is enough to turn a grown man into a trembling wreck. Are they going to evacuate Cardiff because of the earthquake this will undoubtedly cause, I wonder.

There's only one thing for it, I realise. The sun is out, the sky is blue, it's the perfect BoozeDay and I've got to make the emergency call. The Prince of Darkness does not let me down.
So we start in the Yard and have a couple of pints before the Prince decides he's got to buy a very expensive suit, just to get even with the wife who is due to make a trip to Selfridges to find a new dress to wear to the Welsh Open golf dinner at Celtic Manor next week. "If she can do it, so can I," he reasons, still believing that old adage that two wrong make a right. Don't know if his bank manager believes that, though.
Withers, meanwhile, has joined us having given up on the running shoes. As usual, the bozos who are supposed to be delivering them have decided to cancel the home visit without telling him. He's straight into the pints, but insists he is on a diet so will be drinking pints of Brains Bitter rather than Brains SA from now on. There's logic there somewhere.
As the afternoon meanders on he continues to stick rigidly to the diet: two pints, three, four, five. He must have lost loads of weight by now. Me? I'm just keeping him company.
Later, the Prince returns. This signals that it is pretty damn late. He's brought his suit but he soon realises that trying to have an educated conversion with me isn't going to happen and toddles off home.
Withers and I head for ... hmmm. Must be the City Arms but I can't recall. Later... no, its gone.
When I open my eyes I am curled in the foetal position with the strumming of a certain Greying pensioner invading my ears. Aaargh! Looking up its Brammy and his guitar-twiddling pal Rog playing along in the upstairs room of their usual Tuesday venue. Withers, like the good mate he is, has long gone.
"You're very good," says Brammy, "Your snoring may be loud, but it's perfectly in time with the beat." Wonder if there's a band out there looking for a rhythmic snorer? If so, I'm their man.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

sausage, bacon, mushroom and tomato butties

Brammy's got The Shining, boy! That's all I can surmise from his strange activities on a Saturday night in the office. The golden olden one keeps shivering, looking around at every slight sound, a haunted expression crossing his face. And as the light fades and he nips outside to puff on a roly he finally reveals the source of his concern.
"It's old Geoff," he says.
"Who?" Owenov and I inquire, looking at each other in confusion.
"Geoff Rich, the former editor of the South Wales Echo. He died not long ago. He stalks the corridors on a Saturday night, mark my words."
Seeing Bram spends most of his life in a metaphorical Sleepy Hollow you would think he would be used to things that go bump in the night by now. It's normally the lawnmower he keeps in his spare bedroom, falling to the floor with a thump.
Apparently this unhealthy superstition began one night when he was in the office and the phone rang. When Brammy picked it up... there was no one there. Wooooh! I wonder if he has ever heard of wrong numbers.
Still, can't say I am exactly looking forward to the day he pushes his head through the door, rather than around it, and announces: "Heeeeere's Brammy. Fancy a drink down the Old Scroat chum?"

Thursday night was wonderful. After cooking up a quick supper of sausage, bacon, mushroom and tomato butties I settled down to watch the Gas beat Smashy's team Lincoln 5-3 in the second leg of the playoff semi-final in a thrilling match described by pundit Tony Gayle as possibly the most entertaining he has seen all season. Now it's off to Wembley for the final against Shrewsbury and I am desperately plotting how to get the day off. You see, those inconsiderate Welshies have organised two mammoth sports events on the same day - a meaningless rugby union tour match in Australia and an even more meaningless friendly soccer game against New Zealand in the wilds of Wrexham. How I suffer for my art...

Nicey (or is it Smashy) met up with some like-minded fellows from his home town of Glaaaster on Friday night. It was a rugby player's stag do and they invaded the Old Scroat, immediately engaging us shivering smokers in conversation. When a local woman and her mates turned up to celebrate her 40th birthday the combustible mix always threatened to be a lethal cocktail. And so it proved. By the time the clock struck 7.45 some jovial banter had turned into fullscale face slapping, shouting and squaring up. Don't you just love Cardiff at the weekend? We didn't even make our excuses, just left.

Our after-work boozing crew is dwindling to almost nothing and Withers and I are seriously considering a recruitment drive. Well, I can hardly spend every night staring at his miserable face and no doubt he feels the same about mine. There's no Rosey and no Becks, both gone on to pastures new, no Kempy (preggers), no Fab BB (just being a bit contrary I think, or probably fed up with sitting out in the cold perishing while us smokers get our fix), no Catherine Mary and even Macca has pulled out since I insisted he bought us both a pint the other week.
Roberts, too, is rarely seen outside of captivity, ie rugby circles, these days. The Prince of Darkness? Well, he's been on holiday. The day he stops turning up is the day the Apocalypse begins.

Shutts, meanwhile, is today unveiled as a complete and utter fraud - I'll be surprised if the police don't turn up and cart him away soon.
He has signed on to one of these new-fangled, schoolkid infatuation type web thingies called Facebook. It makes people believe they have lots of friends, rather than mere acquaintainces, and is a legal way to "poke" whoever you damn fancy.
In Shutts' case he can pretend he is a boozer. Note one of the photo albums attached to his site. It's entitled "Shuttsy's hard-drinking Nights on the Tiles" and contains numerous pictures of him leering alongside anything in a skirt.
The lie, though, is there for all to see. In every picture he is holding a glass of, wait for it... Diet Coke. You can take a horse to water, but you can't make him drink.
He gives a bad name to us hardened boozers - it's time he got some proper vices of his own.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Leek, celery and pancetta bake with a little kick

I'VE always fancied myself as a member of the Sweeney, or perhaps a SWAT recruit. And I got the chance this week, on boozeday Tuesday to be precise. Sitting outside the City Arms getting merrily sozzled with Withers and Nicey, who recently I called Smashy by mistake (the two are quite interchangeable really) I heard the sweet sounds of some ageing muso from the upstairs of the grotty old building opposite.
Honing in on this poor man's Ralph McTell one thought entered my head: Brammy. And another thought quickly followed - that must be the smoking room where he really isn't allowed to smoke but gets away with it because no one will go within a hundred yards of the infernal racket eminating from said room.
Withers was keen to explore further and, on the basis that I had drunk too much to raise any sort of a protest, we walked around the corner, found the door and entered a rather seedy old drinking den. This was when the idea hit me.
Climbing the stairs quietly it suddenly felt like we were about to burst in on some drug dealers swapping some of that expensive white powder for cash rather than a little old man in a cap sneaking a crafty fag out of the window. The music got louder as we reached the second floor and I put my hand out to Withers in silent warning: Stand back!
Then I raised my foot to about my waist and smashed it against the door, sending it flying open and catching Brammy in the middle of an illegal puff. He was like a rabbit in the headlights, jaw open, offending article perching from bottom lip in the manner of Andy Capp. "You're nicked!" I shouted.
As the truth dawned on him and the alarming look dropped from his face, I could see in his eyes that he was pleased to see me. "Daft bastard!" they seemed to say.

Last night had a quiet night in and cooked a leek and celery bake. It seemed a bit bland though so the addition of two chopped green chillis and some of that cubed pancetta certainly gave it a zing.
What you need:
75gms butter
tablespoon olive oil
1-2 leeks, sliced thin.
2 sticks of chopped celery, chopped
3 cloves of garlic, crushed
2/3 peeled and thinly sliced potatoes
1 pint of vegetable or chicken stock
2 small chopped green chillis
Some chilli powder for sprinkling

What you do:
Heat oven to gas mark 6 or equivalent.
Heat the oil and butter together in frying pan until butter melts
Add the leeks and celery and cook, stirring occasionally for 10 mins on medium heat
Then add the crushed garlic and cook for another two mins.
Add some flat leaf parsley, the chopped chillis and the pancetta cubes and cook for another five minutes.
Grease a casserole dish.
Put in a layer of the leek mixture followed by a layer of potatoes.
Sprinkle a small amount of chilli powder over the top.
Put in the oven with a lid on, removing the lid after half an hour.
It's ready to serve in an hour.
The addition of chillis might not be to everyone's taste, or the pancetta for that matter, so both can be left out for vegetarians and those of a weak disposition.
For anyone else: It's got a real kick. Just like Brammy's hidyhole door received.
Sprinkle some chilli powder

Tuesday, May 15, 2007


THERE I was, standing outside my house at close to midnight, throwing my bag to the floor, emptying my pockets onto the pavement and aiming karate kicks at the wall while muttering to myself in an incandescent rage. Anyone watching behind the twitching curtains over the road was probably reaching for the phone at that moment, alerting the men with white coats to come and take me away ha, ha. But I can assure you it was no laughing matter, just the end to a day that had turned from sublime to ridiculous.
If Michael Crawford was ever to do a new series of Some Mothers Do 'Ave Em he could probably devise an entire episode simply from following my progress on a day that will from now on go under the name of Bloody stupid Sunday.
And it all started so well. After a relatively calm Saturday night in the office, in which I actually found time to watch the whole of the Gas's magnificent play-off victory over Lincoln on TV and still managed to beat the deadline without breaking sweat, I felt awake enough to travel over the bridge and see Wren.
On the way into Bristol I bought the Homer Simpson recommended Hot Stuff pizza from Domino's, arriving at my girlfriend's door at 11.30. Not bad.
Next morning, waking with the lark, we peered out of the window to see the rain coming down in buckets. The driest April on record was quickly turning into the wettest May. We had been told it was going to be a long, hot summer.
So what to do? After reading through the Sunday papers (they don't sell WoS in the biggest newsagents in Bristol's student-infested area of Redland, ridiculously) we thought it would be nice to get out of the house for a bit and go for a nice drive. Rejecting the easy option of taking Wren's shiny newish Micra for a spin, instead we opted for Boo.
Now Boo is the name of my ageing black Fiat Tipo. It's called Boo because that's exactly what the last three letters of my registration plate spell.
Boo has been very reliable under the bonnet but can be described as a bit flakey elsewhere. It's sunshield visor has fallen off regularly and the driver's side window won't open on account of the fact some little thugs bent the door sideways one day in a bid to nick the small number of 2p coins deposited in the little compartment next to my seat. Then there is the bonnet catch, strategically placed slightly out of reach under the steering column. This has fallen off so often that I now keep it in the glove compartment. To open the bonnet I have to contort myself like some Russian Olympic gymnast, attach the handle and then give a mighty heave.
We set off first for Cribbs Causeway shopping mall but, having been caught up in a long traffic tailback, we aborted those plans for a nice drive in the country. I had the brainwave of showing Wren all the old haunts I used to visit during my dual life as trainee journalist covering the wilds of South Gloucestershire during the day and pool captain of the Western Coach House, Frampton Cotterell, by night.
As the country roads quickly turned into rivers I began to ponder the sanity of this decision. It didn't help that my driver's side door had started leaking again, with a steady stream of water pouring in and soaking my legs and feet.
We travelled through Almondsbury, Tockington, Alveston and Thornbury, as I pointed out the landmark pubs along the route. Then, cutting back through a lane the size of a bicycle track, we eventually made our way through Yate and Chipping Sodbury, arriving at the lovely converted farmhouse known as the Cross Hands at Old Sodbury.
There we enjoyed a pleasant sunday lunch before deciding to call it a day and head back to Bristol. Now here comes the catalogue of catastrophe.
Starting up the car it shuddered a couple of times, then stopped. That should have been a warning. Eventually it started but for some reason opted to Kangeroo hop down the street rather than smoothly accelerating to warp factor speed. Wren, a devout follower of Top Gear, wasn't too impressed.
Soon, though, we were speeding along back through Iron Acton and, on arriving in my old village of Frampton I offered to show her the house where I lived during my misspent youth. Nice to see that 4, Prospect Close was still standing, and it brought the memories flooding back.
Boo, though, decided this was a diversion too far and decided to chug, jolt and gurgle her way out past Fromeside Youth Club and down Watley's End Road. When we were passing my old school, the Ridings High at Winterbourne, I finally decided enough was enough, with a string of cars nose-to-tail behind us wondering who the jerk was who couldn't find the right gear in front.
I wanted to shout out of the window "it's not my fault, the car's broken". But, of course, I can't open the window. So I opted to pull into a layby.
"Why don't we just go and get some WD40?" said Wren who, in her spare time, has taken car mechanic courses. Hmmm. I opted instead to look under the bonnet, juggle some leads, dry out anywhere that looked wet with a tissue, then try again. It still sounded ropey. Eventually I opted to call the AA.
After an hour's wait in which Wren, quite sympathetically, declared "I'm bored", the AA man arrived. He looked under the bonnet, dried out some leads, gave everything a good squirt of, you've guessed it, WD40. Then he kindly offered to follow us back to Wren's house in case anything went wrong again.
It all seemed ok when I was going at 40 mph but whenever we reached a junction the car began to bunny hop and goosestep along like Herbie going bananas. When I explained this to the AA man he declared that it might not be advisable to drive back to Cardiff in such a state and that he would get me relayed home. All I had to do was ring the AA 30 minutes before I wanted to leave. A bit embarrassing but somehow it seemed the only option.
At 7.30 I was on the phone to them. "Yes, we have a message from our man. We'll pick you up any time between now and 10." When I told her I had been advised it would take about half an hour she chuckled and didn't reply. Apparently the rain had brought Britain to a standstill again, causing a number of RTA's on west Country roads.
Wren and I bided our time and I must admit I failed miserably to hide my frustration, nipping out for a fag to prevent me cursing in her presence. On returning the call finally came through. "Has anyone turned up yet?" inquired the AA operator.
"Not yet."
"Ok we'll make a call."
Seconds later I was told a flatbed truck was waiting by the car.
Saying goodbye to Wren, from that moment on everything went as smoothly as was possible and I arrived at my door at 11.30.
"Just be careful when you drive the car off the flatbed," the guy said.
I reversed out slowly and then drove the car into a parking space opposite the house. Boo now sounded like a million dollars, on account of the fact it had stopped raining four hours earlier and had turned into a rather pleasant evening.
I put my hand in my pocket and pulled out some keys... Wren's keys. Oh my god, she only has one set. I must have pocketed them when I went out for a cigarette. Nightmare.
I asked the driver if he was heading back to Bristol. "No, mate, Weston-super-Mare," he informed me. B*ll*cks. I tried to ring Wren but she had gone to bed and switched her phone off because she was up at 5.15 the next morning to do the early shift on the Bristol Evening Post. She would be highly stressed in the morning once she discovered I had her keys. What to do?
Only one option for a true Brit in times of strife - I would go indoors, charge my phone and make a cup of tea. Then I would be in a calmer mood to tackle the problem of Wren's keys.
I waved off the guy with the truck and he hot-footed it back to the motorway and Weston. Then I started to search for my own keys. As usual, I had about eight pockets to search, each bursting with the normal array of chewing gums, loose change, wallet, bits of miscellaneous paper, umpteen packs of cigarette papers, a pouch of tobacco and the odd scrunched-up tissue.
No luck.
I tried again. In reverse order. Each time I thought I had found them. Each time it was Wren's keys or my car keys.
After a third aborted mission I decided to empty the entire contents of my pockets on the ground. Zilch, nada, no keys. F**k.
Then came the cursing - all aimed directly at myself. "You stupid b**tard why don't you ever learn? Why don't you ever put these things somewhere safe like normal people do? Now what are you gonna do, eh?"
For some reason my brain answered "Kick the wall" and in my confused state I tried it a couple of times until the pain brought me back to my senses. "Think, think, think," I told myself. "You're a problem solver, that's what you do, what are you going to do now?"
Eventually I called the AA. They called the company that had relayed me home. They called their driver. My phone, meanwhile, was in the red zone, about to cut out any minute. And I had no way of charging it. I needed my keys for that. Isn't it always the way?
Finally the woman from the relay company spoke. "It's ok, sir, we have found your keys on the flatbed. You must have dropped them. We are now going to take them back to Bristol."
On the flatbed? They could have blown away at any time!
"Well, that's no good unfortunately, because I am in Cardiff and need them here."
"There's nothing we can do about it."
"But where will you drop them in Bristol? I'm not there!" I began to rant.
Cool down, or she'll ring off, my brain reminded me.
Then a brainwave.
"My car seems to be working now. Could your driver stop somewhere on the motorway and I'll drive down there and pick them up?"
"Let me see..." On hold again, forever. I could almost hear my phone ticking off the seconds before death.
Finally... "The driver has stopped near junction 29 of the M4. He will wait for you on the hard shoulder." Yippee!
Boo, of course, now decides to handle like a dream, tearing down the motorway at, umm, 70mph with a screaming banshee behind the wheel. "Yes, yes, yes! There it is!"
I pull in behind the flatbed and the driver gives me a knowing smirk. "Sorry mate, it's not been a good day," is all I can think of to say.
I get home and let myself in, then make straight for the kettle. Now, what to do about Wren's keys? I ring the local taxi firm. "Sure, we can deliver them. We'll pop them through the letter box overnight. It'll cost your £70." By then I am passed caring. I wouldn't sleep anyway, knowing that Wren would wake up sans keys. "Oh, go on then," I agree.
The story isn't quite over. The driver arrives and it's good to see he has Sat Nav. The only problem is I can't quite remember the address. I know it's 66, and I think it is Hampton Road, Redland. We follow the route on the Sat Nav. It seems about right but just to make sure I ask him: "Can you ring me and describe the house when you get there?"
Forty minutes later comes the call. "I'm outside the house. It's right opposite a petrol station."
"No it isn't," I deflate his bubble of confidence. "There is no petrol station. Perhaps it's Hampton Park then. Is there one of those nearby?"
There is, thankfully. Just around the corner. His description fits perfectly.
"Job done," he says.
I bang my head against the wall with relief.
Wren rings next morning to confirm she has her keys. "You know, I could have driven over after work to pick them up," she says.
Oh, yeah, so you could.
"Doh!" as Homer Simpson would say.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Secret policeman's tea party

THE genius has added another string to her bow - a disappearing act. Apparently the Duchess of Dubai was back in good old Blighty this weekend and told various known associates that she would meet them for a drink on Friday... and nothing was heard of her again.
It all made Shutts rather apopletic and left party animal Lyds with nowhere to party. As for Withers, he was distraught... nay, angry. Having not heard from his former housemate for about a year, he received an e-mail recently requesting he help her out with a little project. This involved a fair bit of work but, being the wonderful one, he obliged. Then when the invites were handed out for the Genius' re-union party, somehow he was left off the guest list. As were most of us other mere mortals, so it happens. Mind you, the rest of us didn't spend the rest of the week crying into our beer.
For Withers, you see, it was more the embarrassment of it all. Lyds had bumped into him in town and said: "It's going to be great to see The Genius again, isn't it?"
Cue a totally perplexed expression on the wonderful ones fizzog.
"Oh," said Lyds, backing off slightly and looking sheepish... "You haven't been invited, have you?"

I'm sure we will hear from the Genius eventually, but meanwhile Friday night began with us freezing to death in the smoke-unfriendly environs of The Yard, where we bravely sat outside sucking on soggy dogends as the rain teemed down.
The Fab BB was not amused at all, him not being a smoker. "Pleeze can we go somewhere else," he whined, rubbing his wrists together as if this would set fire to the nearest kindling and provide us with a cosy camping scenario. Eventually even I had to give in to my Nesh side, and we toddled off to the Old Scroat, which was really quite pleasant.
Outside they had up a rather large brolly, and although one of the wall fires wasn't working there were still enough bodies outside (mainly rugby fans ready to attend what I was told was a crunch game for the Blues) to raise the heat levels. When Withers and the Fab BB had pushed off home, I was left drinking with the mission-seeking Smashy. When he ordered me another pint I protested, but was actually glad he did when a few minutes later a young lady emerged carrying plates of cheese sandwiches, sausages on sticks, mini pasties and Scotch eggs. "Tuck in!" she announced to everyone, and Smashy was immediately chin deep in egg and pasty.
"What's the big occasion?" I asked her.
"Oh, there was a leaving party, but we couldn't finish it all," she informed me.
"And who do we give thanks to for this marvellous feast?" I asked, but not quite in those terms.
"South Wales Police," came the shocking reply.
Blimey, whenever the cops have served me before it's come on a metal tray and been shoved under a locked steel door with bars for windows. This was much more pleasant.
"South Wales Police, you've proved that the famous song 'all coppers are b*st**ds" isn't strictly true. I thank you."

Friday, May 04, 2007

Benecol drink and cup of tea

IT'S nice to know that the BBC still have an abort button whereby they can cut someone off instantly when they think they have gone too far. I recall it originally came about when a cheeky young lady appeared on the Radio One Roadshow and was accosted by that most annoying of all DJs Dave Lee Travis. "So is there anyone you would like to send out a message to?" asked the absurdly nicknamed Hairy Cornflake.
"Yeh, I'd like to say hello to Mike Hunt," replied the girl. Say it quickly and you get the picture.

I reckon that same button is now being used to cut people off when they become too boring. People like TV and radio's Matt Withers, for instance.
The poor old Wonderful One was roped into giving his expert political opinion on the Beeb's Election special this week. "Not just in Wales," he boasted egotistically, "now I'm going national." Something not be missed, I thought.
Then I discovered the time of this monumental moment in British TV history - Five in the morning.
Yep, 5 bloody AM.
Still, when you know it is going to be such a never-to-be-forgotten piece of television you watch it, don't you? Just like many of us stayed up to see that famous night 10 years ago when Michael Portillo and Chris Patten were booted out of parliament unceremoniously. Or when England took on Brazil in the quarter-finals of the World Cup.
Withers assured me he was going to stay up all night to do his research, monitoring the goings-on as Wales elected its new Assembly (whoopee do!). I, on the other hand, chose to go to sleep early then rose just before the big event, knocked back a Benecol yoghurt drink and returned to the bedroom with a cup of tea.
In the safe hands of David Dimbleby the election was in full flow. Politicians from every party were sat around the table discussing the Conservative gains, Labour losses and Lib-Dems doing absolutely b*gger all.
First the Beeb toddled off to Scotland to get the news on the ins and outs at Holyrood, then the bloke in charge of the new fangled computer graphics had his go, explaining to us exactly what it meant. He even did a little dance to 50 cent's In-Da-Club as he described how Menzies Campbell's Libs had performed. Very entertaining.
Finally, the moment arrived. At around 5.25 Dimbleby handed over to Wales where a presenter eagerly welcomed the United Kingdom's massive audience from a scenic office overlooking the Assembly building in Cardiff Bay. Panning back, we got our first sight of the wonderful Withers, leaning casually against a rail, like a prima ballerina about to practice her pas de bourree at the barre.
His introduction done, Withers began to speak with great authority about how Doddery Rhodri, the Wales first minister, might now decide to call it a day in the wake of bleh, bleh, bleh... Building up a head of steam Withers continued in his learned, authoritative way ...
Then blam!
Diddly squat.
Just a big blank red screen and a high-pitched humming sound. National debut over, done, down the pan. Don't call us etc etc.
Back to Dimbleby in the studio and his hand seemed to be resting suspiciously under the rim of his desk. Is there a Dimbleby panic button, I pondered? You know, something he presses when the boredom factor reaches critical levels?
Or was Withers' arch nemesis, the mystery political blogger Arsembly, sneaking around in the background with a pair of garden shears? I guess we will never know.
Withers reaction? "Bah!"
I imagine we now have to revert to calling him "Writer and Broadcaster Matt Withers". Or Bozo for short.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Toast with sardine butter

IT'S official. Woody is the biggest numpty to work on WoS. There was never really any question about it, but the man who actually invented the word "numpty" about other people should wear the badge with pride this week.
Woody is a casual designer who spends a fair amount of time designing and sub-editing for news and sport, in between "nipping out for a sandwich" (which normally involves coming back smelling suspiciously of alcohol) and surfing the internet for anything to do with the true passion of his life... rowing.
He is press officer of Monmouth Rowing Club (official or unofficial I'm not sure) and bores us all to death with his stories. He can often be overheard having coded conversations down the phone. They go something like this: "Can you cox on Saturday? I did have you in the bow of the eight, but then John became available, so he moved up from the four and, oh yeah, can Pete pick up the rollocks on Friday and deliver them to the club on Saturday because Sandy's got to row in the pairs and can't make it."
To say he is a wee bit disorganised is akin to suggesting that Homer Simpson is partial to pork chops. Every week the call comes in: "Am I working this week? I can't remember." Followed by: "Sorry guys, I'm going to be a bit late, a flying saucer has landed on the motorway between Monmouth and Newport."
This week, though, was classic Woody. On Thursday was the "am I working?" call, followed closely by the you-couldn't-make-it-up" excuse for his late arrival.
"Bit of a problem," announced Woody. "I came out of work last night, chucked my jacket in the back of the car with my contacts book etc and then shut the door, somehow managing to lock my keys inside the car in the process. It meant I had to ring the Mrs, who had to come all the way in from the wilds of Monmouth to pick me up, and we arrived at a dinner for 10 of us about 50 minutes late. The upshot is that I am going to have to come in by bus and train and I won't be there until about noon."
Classic Woody - what a numpty.

ON Sunday I visited the Fat Kid at her palatial new three-bedroom house in Shoeburyness. All very nice. It means the two boys are sharing one room, sister Lottie (who, with her close friend Wendy, I have taken to calling the Glimmer twins) has another and Jem has a massive room for herself. There is also a nice back garden suitable for a barbecue.
It was lovely to see them all again, and I must say Big Boy has grown remarkably. Plus the fact instead of rolling around he is now crawling everywhere and anywhere. He's a real star, with a big smiley face. I sense the Vin Monster is a little bit jealous of the attention his younger brother gets and this feeling intensified when the little b***er bit me on the shoulder after I lifted him out of the bath. We were getting on fine and I wrapped him in a towel and started to carry him down the stairs. Suddenly I felt this sharp pain by my neck and when my thoughts clicked into gear I realised what had happened. He got a severe rollicking, I can tell you.
Jem thinks he is being spiteful because he has spent too long with some of the neighbours. Looks like he could be grounded for a while.
Big Boy, meanwhile, has also taken to swimming like... well... a baby to water. He splashes about in a big yellow rubber ring, big smile firmly engraved on his face. He's a real sweetie.

ROSEY took Roberts and I for a farewell meal on Tuesday. Interesting choice of venue, I thought. A little Italian called Casanovas. It could hardly be more appropriate where our former chief soccer writer is concerned.
After that met up with TV and radios Matt Withers. He wants to be called TV and radios Matt Withers on the basis he was interviewed on the BBC Wales election bus earlier in the week and also has the scintillating job of providing "expert" analysis of the Welsh Assembly elections on national TV tonight. Can't wait to see him. Wonder if he will try some stand up?
Talking of TV, Roberts is appearing on the Scrum V rugby programme on Sunday. He was press-ganged into appearing with the Daily Mail's Peter Jackson, the two of them pretending to be court barristers debating one of the big (yawn) issues in Welsh rugby. It happened in front of a schoolroom full of 14 year olds. Gosh, they must have been fascinated!

LAST night watched Manchester United bow out 3-0 to Milan in the Champions League, following on from Liverpool's victory over Chelsea on penalties the previous night. Followed that by having some sardine butter on toast. Easy to do but surprisingly filling. Just open a tin of sardines, drain and put in a bowl. Add almost an equal amount of butter and some lemon juice and pepper, mash together then spread on toast. I added some cherry tomatoes, too. Very nice.