Thursday, September 27, 2007

The first curry I ever made (enhanced a bit)

BOOZEDAY Tuesday appears to be a monster growing out of control. Fortunately I was saved from this week's test of stamina and endurance by the fact Wren was on a day off and I visited her in Bristol.
Didn't stop Smashy texting me at 8.45pm that night, moaning: "The Prince of Darkness is out of control."
The Prince, you see, has moved to Cardiff and therefore does not need to drive back to his Gwent Castle - a bit like his buddy Dracula relocating from Transylvannia to Yorkshire in search of fresh blood.
I sensed from Smashy's cry for help that Boozeday was continuing well into the evening, a feeling that was firmed up on Wednesday morning when a collection of bleary eyed colleagues slithered, rather than strolled, into the office.
Piecing it together I discovered that a young student barmaid in The Yard had been talking to our motley crew and informing them that "If you go to the George in Roath tonight it's £1 a pint". She failed to mention that in order to take advantage of this offer you needed a special student card, one similar to that which Bram has had in his possession for most of his 50-odd years.
Still, Danny Boy (the poipes, the poipes) was quick to rally the troops, and off they went to flag down a taxi. Once back in the Badlands, they managed to talk a student into lending them her card, and in exchange bought a number of the great unwashed drinks, still managing to make a generous saving on the deal.
For my part, I was behaving. Wren and I paid a visit to Cribbs Causeway, where we first enjoyed a burger and some delicious prawns in TGI's, then sat through an hour and 45 minutes of fist-clenching terror watching 1408, the latest Stephen King spine-tingler starring John Cusack and Samuel L Jackson. Very good it was, too, as Wren can attest, possessing as she does some nail marks deep in her palm where I was clutching it so tightly. What a wus!
I'm kind of like that Catherine Tate character that jumps at the tiniest of noises when she isn't expecting them. I was hopping about all over Cineworld at the sound of the slightest shriek, scream, crash or bang.
Followed that with a visit to the folks for tea and cake, then later went to Dominos to enjoy a large meteor pizza (one between two, you understand, I'm not THAT greedy).
Oh yes, also bought Marc Bolan's Greatest Hits and, though Withers might scoff, his music is still infinitely superior to that of ELO.

On Sunday afternoon there was an impromptu gathering of the clans to watch Manchester United wallop post-Mourinho Chelsea 2-0 in the Tut. As well as the usual suspects, The Solicitor turned up accompanying Danny Boy (the poipes...) suggesting they were speaking to each other at last. I think they reverted back to the Status Quo after his Tuesday tour of Cardiff, however.
Pete and his girlfriend Helen, on a brief visit back to Cardiff before a six-month world tour, also came in as did my landlord Scooby and Paddy the Clown (real name, honest). A good day was had by all, apart from the fact that I managed once again to depart sans Baseball cap. Down to four now, I'm afraid.

Wednesday club was a pretty reserved affair, not surprising really, and later I went home to reheat my world-famous curry. It was the first one I ever made, back in the day when I actually took voluntary home economics because it came just before lunch and you could then sit and scoff the meal you had made. I've embellished it since, and here is what I do.

Two or three peeled potatoes, cut into big chunks
two eggs
cooking oil
1/2 red onion
two cloves of garlic, peeled and crushed
a stick of celery, sliced
Two heaped teaspoons of hot curry powder (less if fancy a milder curry)
1lbs mince
Pint of beef stock
Tea Spoonful of Cumin powder
Tea Spoonful of Fenugreek leaves
Five chopped mushrooms
Chopped red pepper
Bunch of spinach
Three tablespoons coriander
Generous sprinkling of Garam Masala

Boil saucepan containing the potato chunks and whole eggs in their shell
Remove potatoes after 10 minutes
Continue to hard boil eggs
Drain and put to side
Heat oil in wok
Add curry powder and stir but don't burn
Put in the garlic, onion and celery. Mix and cook for five minutes.
Add potatoes and fry in the oil to give a slightly firm, crisp coating
Add the beef and cook for 10-15 minutes until brown.
Add beef stock to cover mince (save the rest for if it boils too dry), cumin and fenugreek
Cook for a further 15 minutes on medium heat, stirring regularly.
Wash spinach leaves and add to the dish.
Then add mushrooms and peppers. Remove shell from eggs, and slice before adding to pan in last five minutes of cooking.
Cook for a further 10-15 minutes, then serve with rice.

Friday, September 21, 2007

selection of cold meats

DANNY Boy (the poipes, the poipes) is getting the cold shoulder from The Solicitor. From my understanding, she has put an injunction on him going anywhere near her, particularly after he stumbled home six hours late following a racous session in Dempsey's at the nether end of Boozeday Tuesday.
Apparently he joined Withers, the Fab BB, Monsieur De Lebusier and the Prince of Darkness in this well-known Irish haunt. To me it appeared to be a blatant attempt to suck up to the Boss, who had already booked his seat for that night's Celtic game in Europe.
Also there were the Boss's pals, who sound like characters out of an ancient Whizzer and Chips annual - Biff, Griff, Diff, Chiff, Stiff and Miff. Apparently by the end of the night they were all bouncing up and down singing "Hey, Hey the Celts are here...", according to my spies anyway.
Then on Thursday lunchtime, while squeezing in a ciggy break, Withers and I noticed Danny Boy (the poipes etc) sneaking back into work with a large package under his arm.
"What's that?" we quite reasonably inquired.
"Um, it's a blow-up sofa - apparently I broke the other one on Tuesday night," he replied sheepishly.
The scenario played out in my head. Danny Boy (the poipes etc) stumbles up the stairs to bed; The Solicitor boots him out and tells him to sleep on blow-up sofa; Danny Boy, not happy with this state of affairs, promptly chews hole in said sofa and pleads to be let back into marital bed. Then again, the story might be totally different. I'm sure it will come out in the wash...

News reaches me that our features editor Captain Mainwaring has given birth to a boy as well, following on from Kempy's happy event. The new arrival is called George which is, coincidentally, the first name of the actual Captain Mainwaring of Dad's Army fame. Hope the wee lad's mates never get to view the old sitcom, but I wouldn't count on it knowing the BBC's penchant for repeats and the advent of digital channels like UK Gold. We salute you, Captain.

There was a rather truncated Wednesday club this week involving myself, Smashy, the wonderful one and the Prince of Darkness. A few pints were supped in appalling weather, reminding us exactly what the smoking ban is going to do to us as the cold nights draw in.
Then on Thursday Wales managed to rescue some of their rugby pride with a 72-18 win over Japan. The Wonderful One, who has never shown any interest in the oval ball game until now, seized on some spare tickets for the game.
Turns out the second ticket was for Gracie "Fields", the new lodger in his Canton commune.
"Didn't think it would be a bloke you were taking along," teased Roberts.
The Wonderful One responded in typical fashion. His ears went bright red and he stomped out on his Size 11 plates shrieking "Grow up".
The rest of us new exactly where Roberts was coming from. In fact, it is just the kind of remark that has seen Withers on the receiving end of a flying flower vase in the past.
The Biter bit, methinks.

Bought some lovely meats from Sainsbury's the other day - French Saucisson, German pepper salami and Mortadella. Went down very nicely with a boiled egg, Bavarian smoked cheese and Dutch Gouda, I must say.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Abergavenny Food Festival

HOW the hell a cool dude like myself can end up being mentioned in the same sentence as Steve Coogan's social pariah TV character Alan Partridge I'll never know... but Withers managed it on Tuesday.
All I happened to do was relate the tale of how I took Wren to an Owl Sanctuary at Kington, near Hereford, on Monday morning. That was it. Immediately Withers tore in. "Just like Alan Partridge! Remember that girl he took on a date to the owl sanctuary near Norwich," he bellowed in front of a packed Boozeday Tuesday crowd. Thanks Withers.
The truth is I wanted to give Wren a treat for the weekend as it was the start of her holiday. As I wracked my befuddled, post-Saturday night brain to decide what we could do, I suddenly remembered, in my capacity as cordon bleu chef, that the Abergavenny food festival had been running from Friday. Then I remembered that Wren was also a big lover of owls, and in fact owns a furry toy owl that goes by the name of Owzat. Recently she had been telling me about an owl sanctuary somewhere out in the wilds of Herefordshire.
Why not kill two birds with one stone? Well not literally kill... you know what I mean.
Anyhoo, that's what we did.

Off to Abergavenny first and an enjoyable day it was, too. A bit pricey, though, I reckon. It cost £4.50 for a red bracelet just to let you tour the various stalls, which were advertising everything from a wonderful sleep elixir to a grow-your-own-hot chillis franchise. Wren and I settled for some "Glam Lamb", a lovely burger of Welsh lamb on a giant field mushroom, topped with mint mayonaisse. Gorgeous, I must say. We also bought a home-made steak and kidney pie to have when we got home and a lemon cake for Wren to take to her mums (if it lasted the journey).
Good fun, particularly when we saw the Cosmic Sausages in a tent outside the Castle. Pure genius, particularly their rendition of the James Bond theme where they managed to play the music on Mandolin, string bass and other assorted percussion instruments while moving around the tent and donning various disguises. ]
Apparently the voice turned up at Abergavenny as well, though we didn't see him. When asked what he did at the festival he replied, in his growling tones: "I had chips." Does the adventurous spirit know no bounds?
Back to the car and we drove on to Hereford, opting to stay at the Premier Travel Inn (an old favourite) before the next day's journey to see the Owls. That night, in the Starting Gate Beefeater pub opposite the Inn, we enjoyed a pretty sizeable meal for just £36. After we enjoyed a mixed platter of fish to start, I gorged on a 16oz sirloin with peppercorn sauce and Wren tucked into a huge rack of pork ribs. Worth every penny and highly recommended.

On then to the Owls on Monday, once we had negotiated our way out of Hereford. Wren had told me the sanctuary was in Knighton, around 50-odd miles away. Luckily, to a background of tut-tutting as I looked through the day-out brochures arrayed in the hotel lobby ("You'll never find anything there) I struck lucky. The biggest owl sanctuary in Great Britain, plus miniature horses and, amazingly, red squirrels were housed just 15 miles down the road in Kington. Probably saved us 100 miles of useless searching, I reckon, so who's tutting now. Like the good boyfriend I am, I rubbed in my triumph at every opportunity.
Anyway, the owl sanctuary was fantastic. You could even stroke some of the owls. They came from as far away as Mexico and, wait for it, the Sahara. The mind boggles at how one of these cute little chaps with the beady eyes could survive in the heat of Africa.
Everywhere we walked we were followed by a honking goose with a green beak who I christened Honky. I've always been a bit wary of geese since they attacked my mum at Bourton-on-the-Water.
This time, though, it was the black swans we should have been looking out for. Two of them took an instant dislike to us walking past our pond and escorted us away from their premises pretty sharply before turning their attention to attacking some poor little neighbourly ducks. Vicious things, we reported them to the owner, who explained how territorial they were.
A splendid day despite the Swan attack, though, and we drove back that night well satisfied with the day's work.

Got a text that night from Ballsy. "Has Kempy dropped her baby yet?"
"Not yet," I replied, not realising that I'm now firmly out of the Kempy social loop.
On Tuesday afternoon I introduced Wren to the delights of Boozeday for the first time, only to see Withers bumping his gums, gloomy look spreading across his face.
"I don't believe it... I don't bloody believe it!" he growled. Apparently, some of us weren't included on the list of "need to knows" when her and Coggsy's baby Patrick was born, 6lbs 10ozs, on Sunday. The Fab BB? He knew. As did the Prince of Darkness. It only made Withers feel marginally better to know that I, too, was in the dark.
As will Patrick be, by the time he is 18, no doubt. How a fervent Welshman like Coggsy can give his son such an Irish name is beyond me. Now the poor kid will be confined to a life of drinking Guinness and Magners, lazing around and telling stories. Just like Dad, really.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Hot spiced chicken and noodles

THE voice of God doesn't just strike fear into the hearts of us adults. We now know little kiddies are also sent wailing by his menacing presence.
Our former secretary Lisa arrived in the office with her 15-month old child the other day to show him off to her former colleagues. But while she was having a quiet conversation with the editor, nipper nipped off, only to find himself confronted by the deep-voiced Gwenty.
"Hellooow," boomed the voice in what he thought was his best baby-talking manner. Immediately the child's face crumpled and he turned away in abject fear. Lisa was straight out of the editor's office to cuddle him in her arms and protect him from further anguish.
Feeling pretty bad, the Voice didn't know where to put himself, particularly with his colleagues all now staring at him, wondering what on earth the Godly one had done to the poor child. That was until Nathan piped up: "You're breaking at least 11 court orders by being in such close proximity to a child."
Oh how we laughed.

Aren't the Welsh wonderful. That English-hating, leak-wielding billiard ball-shaped tyro Bram was still laughing about my fellow countrymen's World Cup defeat to South Africa as we stood outside the office enjoying a ciggie and listening to Welsh rugby songs being piped into the street by security guard Glyn's CD player.
Welsh fans strolled past on their way to witnessing their own mauling at the hands of the Aussies.
But a nagging suspicion was upon me and I decided the question had to be asked. "Can you actually sing the Welsh national anthem, Brammy?" I piped up.
The Thompson House equivalent of Owain Glyndwr responded: "Well, some bits of it."
Doesn't really back up his patriotic boasts, does it?

I'm not saying I'm a mind reader but some of my skills even frighten me. Standing outside the pub on Wednesday night Withers was regaling me with the latest tales of his rather extrovert flatmate, known generally as Dirty Tim.
"You'll never guess what he turned up dressed in the other day," he said, ready to shock me with the revelation.
"A tutu?" I ventured.
"How the hell did you know that! Yes a yellow tutu."
Just call me a genius.

I enjoyed a drink with the staff, including the Fab BB, Catherine Mary, Mr De Lebusier, Smashy and Roberts. Withers, meanwhile, was in Llandudno showing off his red socks to the Great and the Good and the politics version of Glastonbury (according to one particular writer on the Western Mail). In plain English, the Plaid Cymru Conference.
With a busy day ahead, however, I returned home early to cook up a Chinese meal from my Ken Hom recipe book: Hot spiced chicken...
You need:
1 lb chicken thighs, rubbed with salt and left for 30 minutes then cut into pieces.
4 spring onions
5 fl ozs groundnut oil
3 dried chillis, sliced lengthways in two.
1 tsp more oil
2 tsp finely chopped ginger
1 tbsp chilli bean sauce
10 fl ozs chicken stock
2 tsp whole peppercorns, roasted and ground in mortar and pestle
2 tsp sugar
2 tbsp dark soy

Heat wok till hot, then add the 5 fl ozs of oil and wait until smoking
add dried chillis and stir for few seconds. Turn heat down.
Add chicken to pan and brown slowly. Remove chillis now if prefer it milder.
Drain off oil in colander with metal pan underneath
Wipe the wok clean, then add the tsp of oil
Heat until hot, then add chopped spring onions (in 2cms pieces), ginger, chilli bean sauce.
Cook for short while then add stock, peppercorns, sugar and soy.
Turn low and return chicken to pan.
Cover and cook for 30 mins and serve with plain noodles.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Breton leg of lamb

ANOTHER one bites the dust. The Fabulous BB has landed a fab job on the Sunday People after prostituting himself shamelessly around the Street of Shame over the last couple of months. Good luck to the old boy, I say, though WoS will be a lesser place without him.
The Fab One wasn't letting on at all on Wednesday night. He is the first person I have ever come across who has been able to stage a leaving do without telling anyone he is actually leaving. Like all newspaper offices, the rumour mill was ablaze, however. "Och, that Baker's goona join the Wes'n Meal," said the Boss in his lilting Irish, Glaswegian tones.
Good exclusive, Boss, but wrong, I'm glad to say.
It was a pretty good booze up, even so, and made up for the fact that I missed Boozeday Tuesday because Wren was over for a visit. We spent an enjoyable Tuesday in the beautiful grounds of Margam Park, near Neath, enjoying cakes and tea at the castle and then visiting the kids' Nursery Rhyme village. Even at my diminutive height I managed to bang my head on a trip around the house of red riding hood's gran. I've still got the cut to prove it.
Wednesday it was back on the news desk and a welcome for another new arrival, Bad Manners, our new features editor. Don't know why I've christened her Bad Manners, other than the fact the surname is strikingly similar to her own.
Withers, meantime, has reliably informed me that I have the spelt the nickname of our other new man wrong. How the hell he can tell me that when it is an invented name anyway I don't know.
Apparently, it should read Andrew Le Debussier, a bit like Le Tissier.
Last night, after a hard day at the front, Wales were playing a European Championship qualifier in Slovakia so we adjourned to O'Neills to watch the game. Wonder of wonders, Wales did not only manage to win, but won emphatically 5-2. And, in a wonderful night for British football, England overcame Russia 3-0 to put their qualification back on track and Scotland somehow managed to win 1-0 in France, to the delight of the Boss, who switched to being Scottish for the night. "Ah canna beleeeve it!" he screamed during one of our many fag breaks.
It was certainly a good attendance and a good night, though there were some pretty hangdog expressions on the news team faces today. I, fortunately, managed to get away while the going was good - only to fall asleep watching Heroes, a mistake which must have put me in Wren's bad books, as I had promised to ring her at the end.

On Tuesday night I found a recipe for Clarissa Dickson-Wright's Breton leg of lamb in an old Observer magazine. Fantashtic, as Roberts would say.
You need:
250gm tin of haricot beans
1 carrot
1 onion, stuck with a clove
bouquet garni
salt and pepper
1 leg of lamb
cubed pancetta or gammon
150ml of double cream

To do:
Heat the oven to gas mark 4
Put the beans in water with carrot, onion and bouquet garni
Bring to boil and cook for 15 mins.
Drain, remove veg and season
Spread butter over the lamb fat
Put in oven to roast per packet instructions
Season halfway through
25 minutes from serving prepare the beans
Put them in a casserole, fry up the pancetta and add it to the beans
Pour over the cream and add a small amount of butter, cover with breadcrumbs and dot with butter on top.
Put in oven and bake for 25 minutes with the lamb.
Serve up the lamb with the beans.

Saturday, September 08, 2007

Cote de porc a la charcutiere

THEY say God is love. Well it appears the Voice of God has found love via that wonderful "social-networking" tool known as Facebook.
The Voice has been absolutely beaming these days. Rather than shooting thunderbolt stares at people and growling dire warnings, he is more likely to be seen skipping around the office, humming gaily to himself. I swear his voice has risen half an octave, too.
Apparently the Voice was contacted by an old "friend" from his schooldays and the rest, as they say, is history. Some might say it's a miracle that a man so willing to unleash a mighty wrath on anyone that crosses his path can change so much in such a short space of time.
Then again, it's amazing what a bit of nookie can do.

On Friday all Wales was preparing for a mighty assault on the rugby World Cup. Before that there was a little matter of a game of footie at the Millennium Stadium between Wales and Germany. The recent performances of the round-ball team had meant only 25,000 tickets were sold - hardly the kind of crowd that was likely to bring chaos to the streets of Cardiff.
But first sign of those awful football fans, and Wales goes into meltdown. Drinking with one of my old pals from the nationals on Friday night, we decided to make the most of a balmy evening by standing outside so that I could puff contentedly on a roll up.
Fine, until it came to a trip to the bar. When the barmaid plonked my pint of Carling down it was, heaven forbid, IN A PLASTIC GLASS.
Of course, I complained. "Sorry," she said, "but it's the law."
Well, it's not the law every other Friday when we drink outside the Yard. And I'm sure it's not the law when thousands upon thousands of alcohol-addled rugby fans visit the city with the express intention to get wrecked.
Double standards, I tell you. Double standards.

As for the meal I enjoyed the other day, I have refreshed my memory of the Anthony Bourdain recipe for cote de porc.
1 tbsp oil
1 tbsp butter
4 large, boneless pork chops
a handful of shitake mushrooms and some big sliced Portabello mushrooms
salt and pepper
1 small onion, finely chopped
2 tsp flour
two washed and roughly chopped, but not peeled, carrots
2 sticks of celery
2 finely sliced shallots
1/2 cup white wine
1 cup beef stock
2 tbsp dijon mustard
1 sprig flat-leaf parsley.

Sprinkle the chops with rock salt and black pepper and leave to dry for 15 mins.

Pre-heat oven to about gas mark 4
Place carrots, celery and shallots in an oven-proof pan and pour over olive oil.
Put that in the oven and roast for 15 minutes, then toss into a large saucepan.
Heat up and mix in 1 tsp of flour.
Add a pint of beef stock and boil rigorously for a while, reducing and thickening.

Meanwhile, heat the oil and butter in a large saucepan, or griddled saucepan if you want to be fancy.
Add the chops, put the mushrooms around them and sear them for 4 mins on both sides
Transfer both to an ovenproof pan and place in the oven, cooking for 8 minutes before removing from oven and placing on a plate, covering with silver foil.

At the same time as the pork is in the oven, drain the vegetables from the thickened stock with a sieve placed above a measuring jug.
Put the frying pan with the chop juices back on the heat and add the chopped onion.
Cook until golden, then add the flour and stir in. Add the white wine, and reduce, scraping up all the good bits.
Add the newly made stock a bit at a time, stirring all the time.
Reduce by half then remove from heat and whisk in the mustard.
Add the parsley and adjust the seasoning to taste.
Lay the pork out on a plate and pour over the stock. Serve with the sweet potato and spring onion mash featured on the previous blog entry. Mmmmmm!

Thursday, September 06, 2007

sweet potato and squash mash

DO you remember the Krypton Factor. Back in the day it was quite a popular programme where contestants were put through a number of difficult challenges to test their physical and mental strengths.
And the first one was always a memory test in which they had to recall a set of pictures, numbers or patterns in the correct sequence they had been shown.
So what's that got to do with the price of bread? I hear you ask.
Well, it has now become abundantly clear to me that my girlfriend Wren would never have got through the first round on the Krypton Factor. Or, indeed, been able to compete in the world memory championships which were staged just a few weeks ago.
Why have I come to this conclusion? Simply because Wren never seems to have the slightest idea what her working rota is. In fact, I can probably recite it better.
On Monday an incident happened which makes me think she must start training her brain much more efficiently.
I was awoken early by a text, telling me she was feeling tired but up for the day. Then at 7am came a follow-up message containing rather a lot of expletives. "Hi, am so p*ssed off. Got my rota wrong and am not due in until 8.30. Could have had another hour in bed. *!@*@!"
Oh how I laughed!
Her mood later improved, though, with a trip to Starbucks and a muffin.
It's all left me a little bit worried, though. The last time I received a similar message about tardiness it was from that old fogey Bram, who had forgotten the clocks had gone back and waited an hour, cursing the bus that never arrived. The difference is that Bram's brain has been addled with pints of old Scroat and has gradually been wittled down to the size of an old, dry walnut.
Heed the signs, Wren.

We had a Boozeday Tuesday indoctrination ceremony for the new boy, and there was an exceptionally good turnout. He's a nice lad and brings a bit of class to the proceedings, being an Oxford graduate.
Somehow the classless Withers has taken to renaming him Andrew De La Busiay, for reasons I can't quite fathom. But it's catching so he already has a blog name.
I say classless, but Withers is still intent on upwardly mobility. His hobnobbing with the great and the good of Welsh politics has prompted him to buy a pair of startlingly bright, red socks. He explained that it was something all the big hitters in his field were wearing these days.
I must admit, though, that we all spluttered over our beer when he told us the price.
"£11! For a pair of socks!" I shouted, open-mouthed in shock. This, remember, is a man who needs a surgical operation to remove his wallet from his trouser pocket.
"Yeh well, I had a £10 voucher from House of Fraser for my birthday," he explained hastily.
Even so...

Danny Boy (the poipes, the poipes) is on a particularly tight leash these days with his wife, the solicitor, turning up midway through the afternoon to escort him back for some painting and decorating. So much for his proud declaration that "she is going to have to get used to me being late home on Boozeday Tuesdays."
The Fab BB, the wonderful one and Smashy weren't so keen to call it a day, however. Long after I'd left the fray they were regailing tales of WoS daring-do to the Newbie in the City Arms. I'm surprised he turned up for work the next day.

I did a superb meal on Monday night, A French pork dish in white wine from my Anthony Bourdain cook book, but can't quite remember the recipe. I'll try to fill you in later in the week.
To accompany it, though, I tried sweet potato and butternut squash mash which proved to be a great discovery.
Peel and cut the sweet potato and butternut squash then put into a pan of boiling, salted water.
Wait until the potato is easily pierced by a knife then remove from heat and drain.
Add two tablespoons of spring onion and one red chilli, chopped up with seeds removed, together with a large dollop of butter, a small amount of salt and black pepper. mash up then serve.

Saturday, September 01, 2007

Greek tomatoes with eggs

I thought I had taken on a lot of new responsibilities this week... that was before I heard of the kind of thing Owenov is expected to do in his new job.
My former colleague was employed to be the new design guru of our sister paper the Western Snail, but it appears he failed to read the small print.
Apparently his new boss, the Notorious Greek, demands quite a bit more than 100 per cent from his staff. In fact it is fair to say they are expected to get down and dirty for the tyrant with the rapidly disappearing curly perm.
This week Owenov turned up for work to be confronted by a particularly anxious looking Greek. "I need you to help me out," he ordered, with the smile of an assassin. Poor old Owenov should have known better than to answer in his usual convivial "glad to help in any way I can" response.
"Well, it's my toilet," the Greek announced, stepping through the opening at roughly the same breakneck speed he approaches someone with loose change near the coffee machine or a person about to buy a round at the bar. "The flush has stopped working and the Mrs is going to kill me if I can't find someone to fix it."
Most of us would venture the helpful suggestion "Get a plumber then, you knob."
But not good old Owenov. The gentle-natured one asked his superior exactly what the symptoms were of his toilet's disease. Then, having fixed plenty of similar faults in the past, he proceeded to tell the Greek exactly what he had to do to fix the problem himself.
Next day, though, the Greek was looking even more downtrodden, and not a little soggy around the edges.
"What's wrong?" asked the sympathetic Owenov.
"It's terrible! I thought I'd fixed the problem but I've flooded the bathroom and the entire upstairs. Pleeeze, you've got to help me. Get your coat on, we're going to my house."
Design guru? I expect Owenov to be charging by the hour soon and adding on extra for parts.
Rather than tell the exalted one where to stick his plunger, however, Owenov went back with him to his house in one of the posher suburbs of Cardiff and fixed the problem. The Greek stood there, like the foreman he is, giving extremely unhelpful suggestions while Owenov plunged his hands into the depth of his cistern.
Watch out, Owenov. He will be handing you the bogroll and asking you to perform other menial tasks before long. Yuck!

Withers, meanwhile, has found an interesting way to impress his new female flatmate. Returning from drinkies in the Yard the other day, Withers stumbled in on his new house companion moving her stuff in with a mate of hers.
Having introduced himself and welcomed her to Chez Withers, the new arrival had just one question for him: "Are you drunk?"
Having denied the accusation vehemently and excused himself on the basis he was "a bit tired", he then managed to fall down the stairs, landing embarrassingly at the feet of the new acquaintaince.

Back to my busy week. I have finally stepped into Kempy's shoes and have switched my allegiance from sport to news. It's been a really hectic schedule, involving some late finishes, but I've enjoyed the first week very much.
Haven't really had much time to myself, though. The week started well with Wren and I watching Wales lose another rugby game heavily, joining Smashy, Withers and Danny Boy in my local boozer in Roath.
Then on Tuesday I caught up with my chores, had a good swim and later went to see the Gas lose a good Carling Cup game against West Ham 2-1. After that it was work, work, work - not helped by the fact my first introduction to the news desk was interrupted by two fire alarms, meaning we got about half an hour's work done before lunch. Apparently someone kept burning the toast in the canteen.

Nicey and his band were off to a festival called Glustenbury in Leicestershire this weekend, but they joined us for a quick pint on Friday night. We were discussing the latest news that a budding young female TV presenter was replacing one of the more experienced members of the BBC news team.
"It's a shame, I really fancied her," admitted Nicey, talking about the former darling of the regional news. Then he thought about it a bit more. "Mind you, I wouldn't turn down a threesome with them both."
The man is ALL charm.

The other day I cooked a really quick and interesting meal that is apparently very popular in Greece. It's called, quite simply, tomatoes with eggs, and is a terrific quick snack.
YOU NEED: 3 tablespoons of olive oil; 50 grams of butter, four ripe tomatoes, peeled and chopped; sugar, salt, pepper and a good sprinkling of oregano; three or four eggs, lightly beaten.
To make peeling a bit easier, pour boiling water over the tomatoes and let them stand for a short time. Then peel and chop them.
Put the olive oil and butter into a large frying pan.
Add tomatoes and all the seasoning, including a spoonful of sugar, and cook slowly until the mix becomes a thick sauce.
Beat the eggs lightly with a pinch of salt and pepper. Stir into the saucepan and use a fork to drag the egg through the tomatoes. When it starts to curd remove from the heat and dip fresh, crusty bread into the pan, eating it in a peasant way. Either that or serve on a bed of wholemeal pasta (I used penne). Gorgeous.