Friday, June 15, 2007

Jazz and Spice Shepherds Pie

COLEY was 50 yesterday. Now this was somewhat of a momentous occasion. At one stage earlier in his journalism career I didn't think he'd reach 33. In fact, it nearly all ended on his 32nd birthday, such was the tale of drunken debauchery that took place on that famous day - June 14, 1989.
Coley was deputy sports editor when Wales on Sunday first opened its doors back in those dim and distant days 18 years ago. For my sins, I was what was termed the Chief Sports Sub-Editor. It meant I had to take his 3000 words of indecipherable garbage about some obscure athlete never to be seen again and turn it into something readable. A mammoth task, believe me.
Anyway, six months into the job Coley was desperately unhappy. Having been told that if he joined the newspaper he would be sent on the Lions rugby tour to Australia, instead he was sent out to Canada with the Welsh rugby dregs that had been left behind. This made him an angry man, so angry in fact that when our sports editor said he was going to be out of the office for the day, Coley's dedication to duty wore a mite thin.
He was supposed to take charge and his first rallying call to the troops went something like this. "Right you lot, it's my birthday and I'm meeting my bank manager over the pub. Any of you want to come along, you're welcome. Don't know when I'll be back."
It's the kind of invitation that Marlon Brando's Godfather might suggest you can't refuse. In Welsh journalism circles anyway. So off we all trotted to a boozer in the main street called The Cottage, there to spend six hours or more on the razz.
It got to the stage where members of the public began to trickle in for an after-work drink and the barman started getting edgy about the increasingly rowdie crew at the top of the room.
At this stage it was my round. "Pleesh can I have five pints of lager, two ginishes..." He cut me off. "I can't serve you mate."
"Why the hell not?"
"Cos one of your lot fell off his stool."
"Who wossh zat?"
"You mate!"
At this Coley appeared at my shoulder, demanding to see the manager. "D'you know hoo Iyam?" he inquired.
"I don't care who you are mate, you're both barred."
So off we toddled, swearing under our collective breaths.
Some might think that would be the end of the frivolities - not a chance.
Coley then insists on dragging us up the stairs into a casino of which he was a member. But before long that caused a problem, too.
Another of our motley crew, Gibbo, was chatting away to me when the manager appeared decked out in penguin suit and bow tie.
"Excuse me fellas, is that your mate over there?" he asked.
We peered across to see Coley lolling all over the roulette table.
"Yesh itish," we replied.
"Well, I don't want to upset him because he's a very good customer of ours, but is there any way you might be able to edge him out of the exit? He keeps falling over the table and sending the chips flying everywhere."
Ho, hum, easier said than done. But with one on each arm we finally got him out of the door and onto the street.
Where now? We decided on an old haunt, now sadly gone, called the Press Bar. Don't know why it was called the press bar as only two or three journos ever went there. We stumbled across the road, then for some reason began wrestling and falling through some bushes.
Finally we entered the press bar and immediately realised our mistake. The editor "Mad" John Humphreys was drinking there. Time for a sharp exit.
Unfortunately, Coley had other ideas. Charging towards the bar he managed to slip, go flying and landed on a round table, preceding to fly across the bar like a lunatic aboard a mini hovercraft.
Gibbo and I closed our eyes, but somehow Coley survived the wrath of the boss, who wasn't called "Mad" John for nothing.
Finally Gibbo and I decided enough was enough, and schemed on how to get Coley into a taxi and send him home to Penarth. We managed to get him out of the front of the hotel and even pushed him into the back of a cab. But as we gave the driver directions the opposite door open and Coley climbed out of the other side, running back into the safety of the bar.
We both shrugged, gave up and decided to go home.

Next day.
11am, no sign of Coley.
11.30, no sign of Coley.
12 noon, no sign of Coley.
Finally at 12.45 after numerous calls to his house and fears that he had met an untimely end, our deputy sports editor turns up, face white as a sheet, looking hopelessly dishevelled and having difficulty with his speech.
The boss asks him about the ordeal of the previous night.
"Funny you should say that," said Coley, "I was lying in the bath this morning, minding my own business, when the wife came in waving my white shirt above her head and ranting about grass stains. 'Where have you been and who've you been with?" she demanded.
"I looked up at her and said 'give me 24 hours and I'll piece it together'."

A few days later, with me having recently split from the psycho, he very kindly invited me to his house for tea. To meet the wife. Like the fool I am, I accepted.
Opening the door this frightening looking woman towered over me. "So you're the one that led him astray on his birthday?" she said.
Caught. Hook, line and sinker.

COLEY is a different animal now. Still enjoys the occasional shandy but has his own agency, a PR company/freelance journalism operation employing a number of people. It's called Westgate and he even employed me for a short time until I managed to escape.
He's also divorced and re-married, with a seventh child on the way (what must he be thinking?) and we had a very enjoyable night celebrating his birthday in Cardiff Athletics Club last night.
Despite the new relaxed Coley, don't be surprised to hear more about him on these pages in future. That's if his solicitor doesn't get to me first.

AT the weekend Wren came down and we had a lovely day enjoying the sun on the cliffs of Southerndown, overlooking the Bristol Channel. It was a real scorcher and later we quenched our thirsts with some lovely Heinekens in the Tut.
I also found time to cook on Monday and did Ainsley Harriot's Shepherd's pie. I'll put the recipe on tomorrow's entry.

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