Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Super Sandwich (and free beer)

A FREEBEE Brains Brewery Quiz night... and another chance to prove that attempting to answer questions after a Boozeday Tuesday session is a surefire recipe for disaster.
Yet there was no hint of the mayhem to follow when I set off for the Maindy swimming pool that morning. It being half term there were very few people in the pool and I managed to fit in 66 lengths, making me feel very proud of myself.
An exercise of this nature has great spin offs because it wipes away all feelings of guilt when you later spend five hours sat outside The Yard with your WoS colleagues shooting the breeze about practically anything that qualifies as trite nonsense.
A roll call of the usual suspects: The Prince of Darkness, Danny Boy (the poipes, the poipes), Smashy, Roberts, the Wonderful Withers, Wathanovski. But added to that there was a surprise appearance by Becks on a quick whistlestop from London. Interesting really because, in the Wonderful World of Withers, Becks and our other former colleague Rosey no longer exist. Withers refers to them these days as "my erstwhile friends".
I had every intention of returning home until persuaded by half the crew that the annual SA Brains Brewery quiz night was a reasonable alternative. The splinter group, the Prince and his forces of darkness, went off to see Arcade Fire (although "see" is probably being far too kind after the amount of alcohol sunk by the gig goers).
Of course when I turned up at the Brains do with Roberts, who was by that stage dragging around a 5 litre barrel of lager presented to him by those wonderful people who sponsor the Heineken Cup, the quiz had already started.
In fact they were on question 14 in the first round... but, of course, we thought that men of our calibre would be able to catch up in no time. We were wrong. I vaguely remember the answer artichoke being correct, but other than that we had given up long before the end.
Elsewhere, Withers had somehow managed to find himself in the team captained by Raffles, the honorable thief, and containing two blond vixens I had never encountered before. The wonderful one had, not for the first time, found himself the odd one out when the coke-sipping Shutts began selecting the team mates more likely to be impressed by his amazingly egotistical acts of Bon Viveur.
His preferred entourage included the obligatory female "mate" and he ponced around as if he were Russell Crowe organising his crew in Master and Commander.
Unfortunately, Shutts' crew won the trophy, probably helped by the fact that they were all sober. Apparently Withers' response to having missed out on the glory was to bustle up to Wathanovski as if spoiling for a "gay" fight (Wathanovski's words, not mine).
Shutts, meanwhile, accused me of being drunk, proving himself not only brave but, some would say, foolhardy. People have had ashtrays emptied over their heads for less.
Poor old Wren took a phone call from me during one of the cigarette breaks in which I proceded to hiccup down the phone for a good five minutes while trying to conduct some semblance of sensible and erudite conversation. Failing miserably I gave up, then stumbled home soon afterwards in a pretty sorry state, I must admit. Ever tried to watch Spooks out of one eye with blurred vision? Not recommended, I can assure you.
Wales on Sunday is doing a green edition this week. By a strange coincidence there were plenty of green faces on view this morning.

Wren paid me a visit on Friday night.
The phone call went like this:
Wren: "Where are you?"
Me: "Outside the Yard. Where are you?"
Wren: "Outside your house, waiting for you to let me in."
Doh! I get the feeling she wasn't best pleased when she picked me up, but don't let anyone tell you I don't know the way to a woman's heart. Domino's pizza. Works every time.

On Saturday night, after spending half an hour trying to escape a gridlocked Cardiff because of a Monster Trucks event at the Millennium Stadium and some stupid police decision to close down St Mary's Street to traffic, I persuaded Wren that the best way to finish the day was by watching the third game of the World Series between the Boston Red Sox and the Colorado Rockies. She didn't even last past the programme's opening credits, while I was still watching when the Sox wrapped up victory just before 5am. Go Sox.
Sunday afternoon was spent enjoying a belly-busting, as-much-as-you-can-get-on-your-plate Toby Carvery. Mind you, it wasn't surprising we were hungry. Having found a place in Pontprennau on the website we then spent 45 minutes driving around the area before realising we were in the wrong place. When we did arrive there was a queue a mile long. Still, all in all it was worth it.
More baseball to round off the perfect day, as the Sox completed a 4-0 series clean sweep.
On Monday we went to Cineworld to see Rendition. A terrific film, starring Reece Witherspoon, I would recommend anyone to see it. It gets you thinking.
Afterwards we paid a visit to Wally's, the delicatessen that has anything a foodie's heart could desire. It's situated in one of the arcades off St Mary's Street, Cardiff. I bought some Italian sausages, a huge bag of dried chillis, some venison pate and some lovely peppered Pastrami.
On Tuesday lunchtime, after swimming and before boozeday, I made a triple decker sandwich with some lovely gammon I had cooked on Sunday and the pastrami, topping it off with horse radish. It set me up for the shenanighans to follow.

ps. for those who read my useless info about Withers' Good Morning Wales radio appearance, I apologise. The wonderful one will, in fact, be resuming his broadcasting career NEXT Tuesday, 6.35am. Be there or be sensible, and have a lie in.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Stewed beef northern style

AFTER months of agony, and fears that his chosen career as a writer and broadcaster have been thrown onto the scrapheap, the Wonderful Withers of WoS is back in the big time. Well, more to the point, he has been asked back to do the newspaper review on Good Morning, Wales at the God-awful time of 6.30 in the morning. Good luck to him and his three listeners.To be fair, I think the wonderful one sees it as some form of redemption.
A couple of years ago when he first decided that he wanted to enter the wacky world of broadcasting I managed to land him his first gig with the Beeb via Nickers, one of our former casual subs. She always told me how DESPERATE they were to get people in at that ridiculous time to do the job, so when she mentioned desperate it was a short leap to Withers.
So fast forward a few weeks and he finally gets the call. "Is that Matt? Yeh, we will send a taxi for you and then wheel you into the studio and you can give your verdict on the stories in the papers that day." Quite easy, you would think. But this is Withers we are talking about.
Now I am in the dark here. I have no idea what he could have done to queer his pitch with the Beeb but he has not been invited back since. Instead a number of weird and wonderful people have joined presenters Reeeeeeen and Sarah (or whoever) on the show to demonstrate their political and current affairs knowledge to the listeners. People like Mr Bill Smith, the owner of the local chip shop just outside Knighton, or Mrs Jemima Buttleworth, the president elect of the Dolgellau Mothers Union (the names have been changed to protect the guilty). Withers' big political journalistic rivals (he sneers at the very mention of their names) have also appeared on a number of occasions. But he has sat by the phone waiting for the call and... zip, nowt.
I don't know how things have changed, though rumour has it the Wonderful One has gone out of his way to make Best Friends with one of the Beeb's Commissioning Editors, going out on the lash, and even to a gay club, in an effort to chat up his new buddy. He has, no doubt, been regaling him of tales, too, of his "triumph" on delivering his speech to the Poor old students of Sheffield who, he claims, hung on his every word (that's if they didn't hang themselves earlier, I guess.
So Tuesday 6.35 it is then. BBC Wales. Listen out. Judging by last time, it may be an awful long time before we hear the Wonderful One on the wireless again.

Last night I cooked a very tasty stew from my Ken Hom cookbook having bought myself a Mooli, which is commonly known as a white radish and looks like a giant parsnip which has been genetically modified to the size of Shutts.
When cooked it's very tasty because it soaks up all the juices from casseroles etc, but this is the only genuine recipe I have known to make use of it.
You need:
1lb beef chopped into 2 inch pieces
2 spring onions cut into two inch diagonal pieces
2 tbsp peanut oil
6 slices fresh ginger
4 cloves of garlic
4 dried red chillis
A large mooli

Braising sauce
1 pint chicken stock
2oz sugar
1 and a half tbsp light soy sauce
2 tablespoons dark soy sauce
3 tbsp chinese rice wine
4 star anise
2 tsp five spice powder
5 tablespoons hoisin sauce
1 tablespoon yellow-bean sauce

Heat a deep non-stick, thick-bottomed saucepan until hot
Add peanut oil and heat until smoking
Add the meat and brown all over, then add spring onions, stir for five minutes, then add the ginger, garlic and dried chillis and stir fry for five minutes.
Add all the braising ingredients and cook for 1+1/2 hours.
Then add mooli and cook for 30 minutes, then put on high heat for 15 minutes to thicken sauce. Serve with boiled rice.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

24-hour party people

I'VE got a new project for Keifer Sutherland - that's if he needs something to occupy his mind after he's served his debt to society and put distance between himself and his drink-drive conviction. It's kind of a Welsh version of his hit TV series 24 and it involves the staff of WoS, at least those who put their neck on the line throughout the week at such stamina-sapping events as Boozeday Tuesday, Wednesday Club and Thirsty Thursday.
This idea came about when we held an impromptu conference in our own version of CTU, that's The Yard public house for the uninitiated. What with the Prince of Darkness now pursuing an entirely nocturnal existence, and with the daring escapades of the Fabulous Baker Boy reaching my ears, I reckon it will go like this...

(Baggsy doing the Jack Bauer voiceover)
The following takes place between 5am and 6am on Sunday morning...
The Fabulous BB, hideously outnumbered by the air stewards from a Cardiff flight inside one of his all-day drinking establishments, finally manages to extricate himself and stumble home. On arriving he reckons he can handle a few hours sleep and will rise nice and early in time for lunch. In fact when he wakes it is dark and he believes he has only been asleep for a few minutes. In fact it is 5pm in the afternoon. The Fab BB, undeterred, goes out again, not to return until 4am the following morning.

The following takes place between 6am and 7am...
The Prince of Darkness stirs in his coffin, opens a bleary eye in the semi-light and immediately considers calling the police. He believes his place has been vandalised during the night by a secret cheese sandwich eater who has left bread crumbs, flaky bits of cheese, tomato ketchup and all manner of other things all over the floor, the work tops etc.

The following takes place between 7am and 8am...
Brammy waits in vain at a bus stop, forgetting that the clocks have actually gone back and it is in fact an hour earlier. The wonderful Withers, meanwhile, is already playing the martyr and wants to go into work two days early just so that he can say: "Well, I went into work two days early."

The following takes place between 8am and 9am...
Roberts flicks on Sky Sports and watches the first of many nob-end rugby games from the other side of the world.

The following takes place between 9am and 10am...
Smashy turns over, snores and goes back to sleep.
Meanwhile, Monsieur de Lebussier rings mama from his luxury pad in the bay and asks if she can forward him another slice of his enormous inheritance so that he can lord it around Cardiff a bit longer.

The following... Oh, that's enough of this nonsense. How Bauer does it I don't know, but I am sure that we would lose a few hours of the tale, particularly during boozeday Tuesday. It wouldn't help my voiceover either... Previoushly on twenny fur... I'm sure you must have had days like it, Keifer.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Ham and cucumber sandwiches on brown

ANOTHER Saturday from hell in the WoS offices, and my mood wasn't made any better by the fact I must have left my mobile phone in my flat this morning. It seems strange that 10 years ago I didn't even possess one of these essential devices. If someone needed to get hold of me they would ring me at the office, or on my BT landline, or just send a carrier pigeon. In those days you actually possessed a phone book, with phone numbers in, so that you could look up someone's number when you wanted to speak to them.
Not any more. Nowadays my phone is my life. It is the only place where I keep my numbers, it is the main place where people contact me, whether it be by text message or a straight call, and without it I feel like I have travelled half way down the Amazon in a canoe wearing only a loincloth and armed with just a paddle.
It put me in a grumpy mood all day because I couldn't text Wren for any aimless chitter, chatter, or maybe just a moan about... well, leaving my mobile phone at home, for starters! It's pretty bad that I cannot even recall my girlfriend's number because all I do these days is look up her name on my phone then press a button. It rings her automatically.
I went through a silly spell a while back when I kept leaving my phone in pubs. There would then be the cry of anguish and the trip out to a nearby kiosk to ring the damn thing. If my luck was in someone would answer and I would then arrange to pick it up or, in some cases, arrange for the taxi driver who suddenly found this awful din going on in the back of his car (possibly a Goodnight Irene ringtone or even my most recent, Kenny Rogers' "What condition my condition was in" or some such) to bring it back to me at a reasonable price.
And every time it happened I promised myself that in future I would write all my numbers down, particularly after losing the odd mobile and having to piece together my life from my most recent itemised phone bill.
Anyway, it never did happen and today I have spent minutes just wondering who has rung my phone during the day. Ironic, really, because when I get home I will almost certainly find I have no missed calls. It's like facebook really. You think you have friends, but in reality you're Norman No Mates.
The rest of the day was pretty dire. England lost the rugby World Cup, work was a pain and the only saving grace was the two surprisingly tasty Ham and Cucumber Sandwiches that Brammy very generously left me as he sloped off into the night at half past 11.
Still, not long to go now and I'll be re-united with my phone. It must be love.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Greek salad

IT seems my opposite number on our sister paper The Daily Snail has engulfed himself in another Greek tragedy. The curly-haired one set off for the tiny outpost of San Marino this week to cover Wales playing football. I'm not sure what he did in an earlier life to suffer such an indignity but I'm sure Glenn Hoddle would be able to tell him.
Anyway, having booked at the last minute the Greek had to travel via Amsterdam, arriving in San Marino in good time for the game. Unfortunately his suitcase remained in Holland.
Now, having regaled you already of his quick-fix solution when he was suffering a busted flush, you might expect him to ring up his right-hand man Owenov and order him: "Get on the next plane to Amsterdam, mate, pick up my suitcase and then bring it out to me."
But no. Instead the Greek, who has an almost teenage girl-like crush on the Wales football manager John Toshack, approached his fave man in the game and told him of the tragic tale. Hours later, I am reliably informed, the Greek one was walking around, pleased as punch, wearing a spare pair of jogging bottoms donated by Tosh.
Just goes to prove what most of us have believed for a long time: That the Greek has been desperately trying to get into the big man's trousers for ages.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Italian Sunday Gravy and assorted meats

LONG after I had retired to my bed following an extensive boozeday Tuesday, it appears the Prince of Darkness and his hordes were out and about in the wilds of Roath, feasting on young students.
The story reaches me that Roberts, a stranger to these late-night excursions, was dragged along by that ne'er-do-well trio the Prince, the wonderful Withers and Danny Boy (the poipes, the poipes).
In fact, the latter mentioned reprobate is beginning to resemble the kind of creature of the night you would expect to be in the company of his Royal Darkness. Danny Boy's sideburns seem to be creeping ever further down his face. He is looking a bit like Jack Nicholson in Wolf and I fear it won't be long before his face is hidden behind a mass of black, curling hair.
Anyway, apparently Roberts and the vagrants, all far well dressed for the Royal George, were accosted by a number of young females. Danny Boy even managed to scrounge a student card off one of them to take advantage of the cheaper beer deals.
It was Roberts, though, who scooped the jackpot with two students hanging on his every word. I'm not sure how many times he told them that he was "Wales No 1 rugby writer" but according to witnesses it had the desired affect. As far as he could remember, there names were Mel and Kim. It was left to me to remind him that Mel and Kim were actually a pop duo from the 80s who released such classic hits as "Aint never gonna be respectable". Sums up Roberts to a t, I think you'll find.
Next day there is an e mail from this student double act, claiming that Roberts can get them free publicity for a sporting project they are launching, sponsorship and a one-on-one discussion with the Welsh Rugby Union's chief executive. Oh, what some people will do for a bit of female attention.

Withers, meanwhile, is having what Sir Alex Ferguson once described as "Squeeky Bum time". He now realises that his decision to volunteer to give a seminar on journalism and politics to a bunch of Sheffield University students was a wee bit optimistic. The Wonderful One's writer and broadcaster label, which he has given himself, is sure to be tested to the limit.
He has discovered that not only will he be appearing with such luminaries as Radio Five's head of talent and a top bod from the Associated Press and Reuters, but he will also have to speak for one whole hour! Not only that but he has discovered that what he thought would be a cosy little classroom tutorial will be in the main Sheffield lecture auditorium, with podium and all, in front of a crowd of 200.
Knowing how he pulled out of a five-minute stand-up comedy routine one wonders what excuse he can find to dig himself out of this hole.

On Monday I cooked the famous Italian Sunday Gravy from my Sopranos cookbook, and had the various meats with some wholemeal pasta and sauce. I make this in the biggest saucepan I can find because any leftover gravy can be used for Lasagne or baked ziti recipes.

To make the gravy you first brown two spare rib chops in olive oil, remove them and then brown two veal steaks, remove them and then brown four Italian sausages. Finally remove them then put in four squashed cloves of garlic until they go brown, discarding them after that. Add a 1/2 cup of tomato puree and stir around for a minute. When that has mixed with the olive oil and meat juices, add a giant tin of tomatoes and two smaller ones and a cup of water, return the meats to the pan, add six ripped up basil leaves then bring to the boil. Cover and simmer for two hours then take some of the sauce, mix with the pasta and some grated Parmisan, then put on a plate and serve with the spare ribs and the veal. Top off with more Parmisan and some chilli flakes. Lovely.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

It's a party (and Bram can cry if he wants to...)

THE little bowling ball was getting terribly excited all day. "You coming down the Scroat Minor tonight old chum?" said Brammy on Friday. "It's that little girl... what's her name, pretty little thing... she's leaving the Echo to join the police press office and is having a bit of a do. Should be good."
We all nodded at his excitement, knowing exactly what he was thinking. The old bloke fancies the pants off someone who was born at least two decades after him. Nothing strange there and none of us had the heart to spoil his fun.
Instead, of course, we went off to the Hard Knob Cafe to enjoy £2 pints of lager and take advantage of happy hour. The Fab BB was moaning about the fact that his contract with the Peeps had still not turned up while Monsieur Le Debusier was secretly talking on his mobile, taking a call from his broker and trying to decide which luxury yacht to buy next with Daddy's hard earned.
The Wonderful One was determined not to stay out long. "I can't afford to get drunk, I've got to drive to the Lib Dems conference in Aberystwyth at 5am tomorrow."
Well, stranger things have happened, I guess, but I didn't believe it for a moment.
As soon as the clock hit seven and the prices escalated accordingly, however, the Scroat Minor didn't seem a bad idea after all. Even I decided to pop in, though I had pledged to have an early night because of the prospect of a busy day on Saturday.
Off we toddled then, the Prince of Darkness emerging for the Witching Hour after feeding himself on babies (well he claimed to be designing our annual Cutest Kids supplement but I'm sure he had pilfered one away in a sandwich somewhere) while Smashy was up for rubbing shoulders with former colleagues and telling them how much better his life is now he's joined the winning WoS team. Not sure whether they believe him, though, especially old sparring partner Nicey.
On entering the Scroat we came across a number of the usual suspects from our rival paper, and I had a good old natter with party-girl Lyds, who seemed to be well into the spirit by the time we marched through the door.
Then the Prince decided to hone in on the girl for whom the shindig was being held - PC Anna. He had obviously noticed there was a juicy white neck on display to sink his fangs into under her long brown hair.
Before he could pounce, though, she began to regale us of a strange tale.
"Some little old bloke came in, don't know for the life of me who he was, and wished me good luck."
"Wearing a flat cap and shaped rather spherically. Probably about 2 foot shorter than you?"
"Yeh, that's the one."
"What happened?"
"Well, when I looked totally puzzled and let him know I didn't have a clue who he was, he just turned and walked out of the door."
That would be Brammy, then. We never did see him again.
I departed shortly after this conversation to go home and order a pizza and settle in for the night.

Lucky I did. Today was the day from hell. Kempy's computer is already the slowest piece of technology on the planet, but of all the days to decide to contract a virus. B**tard thing. IT came out. "Turned it off? turned it back on again?" Cheers, boys.
Then they ran a diagnostic. "Yep, definitely a virus. Don't know what we can do about it."
Then he turned it off and turned it back on again. Three hours later, fed up with being mauled, it decided to wake up and work.
This wasn't the first "excitement" of the morning. I arrived early to survey the morning papers, an important part of my job, only to find they hadn't turned up. The female version of Len was doing security. She spent most of the time ignoring everyone and talking on her mobile phone. Ooh, I was angry. I ended up going to buy all the papers myself and asked the Boss whether he knew why they hadn't turned up.
He made a few calls. "Apparently, the bloke who normally delivers them has gone away and arranged for someone else to deliver them."
Well, that didn't happen. Only it did. At 3.30 in the afternoon. Great!
Anyway, somehow we managed to fill the paper despite all the barriers put in our way. Then it was down to the press. Which went wrong. For the second successive week. Lummy days.
The only joy of the evening was rushing around to see how our Powys Popular Front terrorist managed to cope with England beating France to reach the World Cup final, a feat which was supposed to be that of Wales if you listened to this nation of rugby optimists.
"What a crap game of rugby," stormed the little bowling ball with his best "Steptoe Senior" scowl. "Humbug! They don't deserve to win anything."
Poor Brammy, the Gods just aren't being kind these days, are they?

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

new joe's special (whoever joe is)

NOT only do I have extraordinarily pert buttocks but they now have to be registered with the appropriate authorities as a lethal weapon. What on earth is he on about, you may ask? Well, like most stories on this blog it is one that originates at that well-frequented watering hole known as The Yard.
Last Wednesday there was a good quorum of the usual suspects gathered around one of the tables discussing what they would be doing later. The Prince of Darkness was looking decidedly ropey after a long weekend and was bemoaning the fact that he had been summoned by the Boss to Dempseys, the Irish bar which is treated as home by the disparate group of people that make up the Celtic Supporters Club, Cardiff Branch.
Now I have been there before and must say it is a bit of a surreal experience. The wonderful Withers has also experienced this rare phenomenon. It is a bit like going to some out of the way wildlife park and seeing the monkeys climbing all over your car and breaking off the windscreen wipers.
To demonstrate this to those who haven’t been so lucky to visit the Dempsey’s menagerie I decided to give a demonstration of what they might expect.
Bouncing up and down and singing a quick rendition of “Hey, hey the Celts are here nah nah nah nah nah…” there was suddenly a loud crack and I looked down to see I had broken one of the wooden slats in my chair perfectly in two. Oh the humiliation. I felt like one of those kung fu guys who shouts "Ar... shole!" as he splits wooden planks with his fist.
The rest of the gang were falling around laughing, which wouldn’t be so bad if it was a one off but…

Move forward to Sunday afternoon. We are sitting in exactly the same place, enjoying getting sloshed Sunday, which is a new version of More Beer Monday, Boozeday Tuesday, Thirsty Thursday etc. There is a reason for this gathering of the clans. We are celebrating the joint birithdays of the Wonderful Withers and the Fabulous Baker Boy. They are moaning that the previous night we were so busy in the office that they couldn’t actually get out and enjoy the evening among the thousands of kiwis, French and, for some reason, Irish who have invaded the Welsh capital.
Extraordinary day, by the way. The two southern hemisphere giants went out of the rugby World Cup at the quarter finals stage – Australia beaten by England and the French notching an amazing win over New Zealand. Kiwis are miserable even when they are winning, so when they lose it’s a wake of huge proporitions. It didn’t help that most of them had been convinced they would be staying until the final stages and were now left kicking their heels around Cardiff, not knowing how to hide their disappointment and embarrassment.
But, not for the first time, I’ve veered off the subject. On this occasion the broken chair which was the handiwork of my bum cheeks is still plainly visible, so I go and get a new, fresh seat to sit on. At one stage I jump up – don’t know why to be exact – and sit down rather hastily. Crack! It’s happened again. Cue more outrageous laughter.

… But that’s not the end of the story (stop yawning at the back!} Shift forward again to Boozeday and the Prince of Darkness, the wraith-thin overlord of the night, is discussing his rather underground taste in music – bonny Prince Billie, Seasick Steve and the like - when, lo and behold, he slumps back into his chair and crack! He’s done the same thing. Well, we could have laughed for weeks.
There’s no doubt that we are both black belts in the Marshall Arse. More importantly, it seems to me that Brains brewery have bought a faulty batch of chairs. It’s time they sorted it out because I don’t think I can stand much more of this embarrassment.

Back to Sunday and a fun day was had by all. At about 11 we adjourned to the lava lounge where our photographer Mad Liz, all 4st of her in dripping wet clothes, is thrown around the room by some giant Frenchman keen to show off his jiving skills. The poor thing looked like a rag doll by the end of it.
The wonderful one, meanwhile, was in that kind of drunken state which inevitably brings on a strop. “Where’s my jacket, someone’s stolen my jacket, I’m going home!”
I walk 10 yards to the next table, lift a pile of coats lying beneath it and inquire: “This jacket you mean?”
What’s worse than the wonderful one in a strop? The wonderful one swearing undying gratitude and hugging you. Oh Lordy.

On Sunday I needed a quick meal before popping out so consulted the Observer Food Magazine’s 101 summer recipes and came up with an easy option… they call it the New Joe’s Special.
All you do is brown minced meat with crushed garlic and chopped onion. (I added some mushrooms when the mince was brown). When almost cooked add chopped spinach and stir until wilted. At the last minute stir in two eggs, grated parmesan cheese, salt and pepper. Serve with spaghetti. Good fuel for a boozy day and remarkably quick, too.

Saturday, October 06, 2007

Too many crooks...

THE cops are keeping a close eye on the inmates of Wales on Sunday these days. On Friday two of our number were being pursued by the Boys in Blue for their nefarious out-of-work activities. First, the Voice of God got a call from Plod - accused of speeding away in his far-too-big BMW without paying for his petrol.
It's fair to say the Voice was a bit taken aback by it all and vowed to return to the scene of the crime to sort it out. Fortunately he was able to find the receipt and only then did he realise he had been charged for a whole host of confectionary he had purchased - but not the petrol for which he was being pursued. It was all put down as a misunderstanding and the Voice sheepishly brushed aside the moths escaping from his wallet to hand over the relevant dinero.
Then it came to light that we had another crook in our midst. The Wonderful Withers answered the phone to be greeted by "ello, ello, ello, you've been a naughty boy my san". Apparently he was accused on disturbing the neighbours with one of his over-loud, over-long parties at home. Well, that would be if he had any parties - or any mates to invite.
Truth of the matter he was over 150 miles away, at home in Crewe, while his landlord Dirty Tim invited the cream of the Welsh glitterati around to make sweet music in the back garden. Apparently said party went on from mid evening until 4pm the following afternoon - no wonder the neighbours weren't best pleased.
The police obviously discovered Withers' name on the electoral roll and decided it was time he had his collar felt. Withers banged up in jail among rapists, sodomists and other ne'er-do-wells? Doesn't bare thinking about, really.

This weekend the Wonderful One and the Fabulous BB are both celebrating their birthdays. On Friday, we took the chance to have an early celebration and were soon in full swing. With Cardiff inundated by New Zealand and French rugby fans here for there World Cup quarter final (sadly, Wales didn't get this far) it made for a good backdrop for a knees-up. And where better to go than the City Arms, where my own personal resident DJ Jase was on hand to provide us with the music.
Once again I felt it was only right that I request the loathsome ELO song Mr Blue Sky - mainly because when Withers is jigging around to it like a demented hobgoblin he actually looks cheery for about the only time of the year. After that I needed an antidote, though, and it came in the form of the Stones' Midnight Rambler and London Calling by the Clash. The only way to truly get into the swing of things was to wrap my tie tightly around my head and scare the living daylights out of those sober French and Kiwi visitors... Mr Le Debusier looked pretty stunned as well, so it happens.
On Saturday, with the hangover now fully kicking in, at least it was an interesting day. Transferring back to the Sports Desk to fill in for the holidaying Smashy, I had the pleasure of watching "Welshman" Brammy muttering words of hatred at the TV as smug Jim Rosenthal waxed lyrical about England's win over Australia.
But even that shock result was nothing compared to the sensational French victory over the All Blacks, or All Greys as they were on this occasion. There were plenty of Kiwi tears washing down St Mary's Street by 10.30pm, I can tell you.

To celebrate this splendid triumph I might as well pass on the French Cassoulet recipe that I rustled up this week. I had to make a few changes, though, on the basis that I didn't have all the necessary ingredients. Here is what I used...

Four Toulouse sausages
Three slices of smoked middle bacon, roughly chopped
1/2 pound minced beef
A tin of butter beans and a tin of black eyed beans (these can be substituted by any bean really, and the recipe recommends Haricot beans)
Two tomatoes
One carrot peeled and chopped into large chunks
One sliced carrot
One piece of celery, chopped in two
Half an onion
salt and pepper
Olive oil
two cloves chopped garlic
breadcrumbs to cover

Heat oven at gas mark 4
Rinse beans and put into a saucepan
Add roughly chopped Carrot, celery, onion, salt and pepper
Cover the beans and veggies with water, then bring to the boil
Keep water level topped up and simmer for about 10-15 minutes
Put olive oil in frying pan and heat, then add the garlic
brown the minced beef, then add the sausages and the bacon
When they are browning, too, add the carrot and mix all together
Drain the juice from the beans into a measuring jug then add to the meats and keep on medium heat for 10 minutes.
Remove veggies from beans then put a layer of beans on the bottom of a casserole dish
Put the meats on top then add another layer of beans on top, with any excess juice
Finally top with breadcrumbs and put into the oven for 45 minutes
Stir around occasionally.
Serve with mash and some roasted squash

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

cassoulet a la Rippers

IT'S the end to another sorry rugby World Cup campaign for Wales and the wringing of hands and wailing noises are preventing me getting to sleep at nights. Sometimes I don't understand these people I live amongst. They have known for around two years that their team has a snowball's chance in hell of success in the tournament, yet they still act shocked and mortified when the whole thing shudders to a halt. Ah well, at least it gives Roberts, my rugby writer, something to get his teeth into.
He's never happier than when the faeces has flown into the air conditioner and he can rant at people over the phone. "Hey, it's all turned to sh**, mate, it's a ******* shambles. What about that tw** who was in charge? What was he doing? It's a total cock up."
After he replaces the handset I venture to ask: "Who on earth were you talking to then, mate?"
"No one... only the Welsh rugby union group chief executive."
Strange thing is, they all listen to him. Which makes me wonder: Who IS at fault for the state of Welsh rugby?

It's not just rugby that Roberts has a passion for. Standing outside the side entrance smoking a ciggie today, he looks across the road at the women leaving the BT offices and declares: "I love this time of the year?"
"Why's that, mate?" ask Wathanovski and I in unison.
"It's the boots, mate... the boots!"
He's been watching the girls leave the building, but I am wondering what the real attraction is. Some of us reckon that when this extremely private man gets home he has babes in boots padlocked to the walls of his dungeon. Or, if not the babes, perhaps he just walks around in his size eight stiletto boots.

Shutts, meantime, has moved home with mum, but is still acting like a 100 per cent wus. So much so that he is now cussing his mother for not keeping the house tidy enough. "She even leaves the butter out on the counter. It's disgraceful," stormed the giant. It could be the latest case of a child divorcing their parents, by the sound of things.

Quite a quiet weekend. Wren came over and we went for a couple of beers and had a nice Sunday lunch, watched Argentina knock Ireland out of the rugby and read the papers. That was about it.
On Tuesday I went to Bristol to see a goal four minutes into injury time rob the Gas of a first home victory of the season against Southend, which put me in a pretty bleak mood. Still, watched the end of Series 3 of 24, a video well worth investing in as the brilliant Jack Bauer finally wins the day again - having shot and killed one of his colleagues and chopped the arm off another. He could have added a great deal to the Welsh pack.
As for the recipe, a tribute to France and memories of the World Cup for my French buddies, I made a cassoulet on Tuesday. But the recipe will have to wait for tomorrow as my Boozeday Tuesday membership is already in danger of being ripped up and I don't want to miss Wednesday club as well. Ta, ta for now...