THE Boar's Backside is open again and Bram is quite excited. Mind you, he does get quite excited these days and complains regularly of hot flushes.
Do men go through the menopause? They should do, it sounds like they are named after us.
Anyway Brammy who, at 52, must be the oldest man around to have a students discount card, is busy inviting everyone along to this wonderful occasion which he treats like the state opening of parliament. He's quite excited about the new selling point, too.
Since his favourite boozer got burnt down mysteriously just before the smoking ban came into being, it has undergone a complete facelift.
Well, not really.
Basically, the only change appears to be that the landlord has decided to employ Welsh-speaking bar staff to attract the locals -which doesn't help when the majority of Cardiffians don't understand a word of it. I reckon it's a last roll of the dice because it's always empty, apart from Bram and a couple of mysterious acquaintainces (I once found him being chatted up by a 6ft 4ins 'lady' who had a remarkably large adam's apple).
Even the fervently Welsh Brammy knows about three words of his native language and has twice given up after-work courses. He can mumble the national anthem with the best of them until of course he shouts out "Glwad, glwad!" with firm gusto when the noisy bit comes around.
On Wednesday Brammy was cajoling me to join him up the Boar's. I determinedly resisted but, as the rain pelted down outside the Yard and the air turned decidedly chilly, the Wonderful Withers, back from his Corsican crusade, persuaded me to "go for a quick look".
As far as I was concerned the Boar's hadn't changed a bit. Brammy and four work colleagues hunched around their beers in one corner, no other clientele anywhere to be seen. At least there wasn't a queue at the bar.
Fortunately it was Withers' round and he actually understands some of the mother tongue. He ordered a pint of some mysterious Scotch ale and asked me for my choice of tipple.
"A pint of Carling, please".
The barman switched from Welsh to advise me. "Sorry, the Carling's off."
How on earth could that be? A newly refurbed boozer, trying to attract more customers, and on its first night it has run out of the most commonly supped lager in Britain! I ordered a bottle of something, but by the time I reached the pub's most vigorous PR man I couldn't hide my anger.
"How the hell can a pub with only four people in it run out of lager, Bram?" I demanded.
Even PR man Bram had no answer for that one.
Perhaps it was just a ploy to get rid of the Englishman. They needn't worry, I won't be going back. Well, until next week perhaps.
I made a lovely tender gammon joint recently, courtesy of a Nigel Slater recipe in the Observer Food Magazine.
What you need:
A nice juicy gammon joint complete with a layer of fat around the outside
Two small onions
A bulb of fennel
Two small carrots
12 black peppercorns
A handful of parsley stalks
What you do:
Put the gammon in a large saucepan and cover with water. Then bring water to the boil and quickly drain.
Refill with water and submerge gammon again, this time halving the onions and slicing the fennel down the middle from bulb to stalk. Slice the carrots in half and add it all to the water, then put in the black peppercorns and parsley and bring to the boil again, syphoning off the foam that rises to the top.
Turn down to a simmer and leave for 30 to 40 minutes, then turn off and let stand for another 20 minutes.
I had this with celeriac and potato mash, chopping both celeriac and potatoes into cubes then adding them to boiling water in a saucepan and cooking for 10 minutes until easily penetrated with a fork. Drain, add salt, pepper and a couple of knobs of butter and a small amount of milk. Replace lid long enough for butter to melt then mash up.
Cut slices from the gammon and put on a plate then serve up the mash as well and mix up some English mustard from dry so that it has a bit of a kick.
Any gammon left can then be eaten with a fresh French baton, as chunky sandwiches. Gorgeous.