Friday, November 30, 2007

Christmas cheer

IT was all quiet on the WoS front. Then the phone rang.
The wonderful Withers rushed to answer it and, in hushed tones, conducted a meaningful interview with a contact.
Serious stuff - something about the amount of suicides that had been committed over the last few years at one of the local prisons.
Without warning a huge voice boomed out. "IT'S THE MOST WONDERFUL TIME OF THE YEAR!" sang The Voice of God in his deep baritone voice. Withers looked up and almost castrated him with his glassy-eyed stare. Quite what possessed the Voice to decide at that moment to let rip with the song currently being given a good airing on the Marks & Spencers ads none of us will ever know. But it certainly left us all shook up.

The Voice, as befitting his reputation, has found a new level of oddness these past few days. On Wednesday he sidled up to me and asked: "Would you like to see my pet snake?"
I must admit the idea didn't thrill me. Not to be put off he whipped out his mobile phone and showed me a picture of a corn snake climbing up the inside of one of his jumpers. And he was wearing it at the time.
Don't be surprised if The Voice is on I'm a Celebrity next year.
At the end of last night's vocal delight it was the rest of us screaming "Get me out of here!"

Thursday, November 29, 2007

A strong punch

"Ladies and gen'lmen, in the red corner, fightin' out of Neaf, south wales, please welcome... the Genius!"
Thunderous applause.
Believe it or not our Genius, the former Wales on Sunday fluffy, nice-as-pie, wouldn't say boo to a goose, Genius, is making a name for herself ... in the boxing rings of Dubai!
The Genius has recorded her debut on her facebook site, if anyone fancies a gander. Back here in Wales we gathered around the Robot's computer screen to watch her take on some tall, blond, fit-looking Norwegian with Viking written on her trunks. A tough bout you might think, for a girl who once failed to fight her way out of her own bathroom (at least, that's what we were told when she failed to make the Fab BB's birthday party).
Well, think again. You can take the girl out of Neath, but you can't take Neath out of the girl. I understand on her last trip home she got in some vital lessons on how to beat the cr*p out of someone from Swansea's world cruiserweight champ Enzo Maccarinelli. And boy it showed.
The Genius ripped into her opponent from the off and we stared in wonderment at her punching power and sheer raw nerve. The little bowling ball, a self-proclaimed expert in the pugilistic arts, even commented: "She's keeping her defence up well. She looks good."
On the back of her trucks, the Genius boasts: "No fear". And I can see exactly what she means. So can her poor, worn out, punching bag of an opponent who flops against the ropes as the ref throws his arms out to stop the fight.
Pure Genius. Watch out, Joe Calzaghe, or any news editor who might unwittingly upset the fluffy one.

The building site at home is starting to take shape remarkably quickly. I now have a respectable looking, freshly tiled bathroom and a spacious-looking kitchen. Excellent.
My on-running saga with the company that's been chasing me over the mortgage shortfall hasn't been so good, however. I signed over a cheque for eight lousy grand today. You can't beat these bastards. Well, maybe you can, if you have the Genius clad in a balaclava waiting down a dimly-lit lane to greet the miserable debt collecting git when he finishes work.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Some class A drugs

"You lookin' at me? You lookin' at me?!"
Those immortal words from Robert de Niro in Taxi Driver came back to haunt me on Monday.
I had just enjoyed a rare More Beer Monday session with Withers in which we discussed the Wonderful One's recent press freebee to Rotterdam.
The way I understand it his brief Hiatus in Holland was spent mainly travelling from club to club drinking strong beer and holding court with members of the Doncaster Free Press and a travel website in deepest west Wales.
It finished with a four-hour session at Amsterdam airport before the journey home, so he was only reasonably with-it when we met up at the Yard.
Following a few swift pints and a final fling in the City Arms, where we had the jukebox to ourselves and revisited old music classics like Tom Robinson's 2-4-6-8 Motorway and Egyptian Reggae by Jonathan Richman and the Modern Lovers, we parted in a reasonably fit state, though to me a bus was out of the question.
Then came the nightmare journey home. Climbing into a black cab at the St Mary's Street rank I was faced with a tough-looking dude who fancied himself as a cross between Biggie Smalls and 50p (well, that's the English version of 50 cent according to the Roberts lexicon of music). Still having "a buzz on" after five pints of watery Carling, I gave him a beaming smile and told him the address. He glared.
Before I had time to fix my seatbelt we did a 180-degree turn, brakes squealing like something out of the film XXX or the Sweeney. After that it was a hair-raising ride as we joined the bus lane and sped at 70 miles per hour before screaching to a halt behind the no 45 to St Mellons.
Finally I plucked up the courage. "Do you mind slowing down a bit, please, and not overtaking on the inside?" I asked in my politest voice.
"Hey man, you a taxi driver? Didn't think so. See that sign? taxis and buses. So don't speak til you know what you're talking 'bout."
There then came another glare, and a violent scratching of the right arm. Coke? Heroin? He was certainly jumping out of his skin.
Eventually we wheel-spun to a halt outside the house. I looked through my wallet. Sh**!
"Can you change a £20 note?"
"No man. You my first fare, man. You gotta have something smaller."
I searched through my pockets. Nothing. Nada. I dropped my phone in the haste to stop this gangbanger pulling out his weapon and plugging me full of holes.
"What can I do?" I looked at him despairingly.
"I'll drive you up to de pub up the road. You can go in and get change."
I did as I was told. If he didn't get a wrap of crack soon he was gonna blow. I ran into the Crofts, not the most salubrious of local drinking haunts, and straight to the bar.
"Hey mate, I've got a nutter of a taxi driver who can't change £20. Can you help?" I pleaded.
Luckily the barman could see my growing sense of panic. "Sure mate," he said, and got me the required change.
I passed it through the window. "Thanks, mate," said the gangbanger, nice as pie. And off he screeched into the distance. If I was his first fare I'd hate to see his last after six hours without his fix.

I had the big interview today for the new Meeja Wales regime. I've applied for the job of Executive Editor, and did my homework on Saturday night, writing down a host of ideas of how I would take on the new role.
Today I went to find my notes, which I had saved in microsoft word on my desktop. There they were, intelligently named "Interview Notes".
I called them up.
Now I am not sure the Editor in Chief in Meeja Wales has got the recipe for Indian Paneer Curry, but if he wants it he just has to contact me. He will find it on a Microsoft Word document on my desktop. It is titled "Interview Notes".
Where the real notes got to is beyond me, but I think I tap danced through the interview ok. Our Human Resources guru, whose first name appears to be just a string of initials, saw the funny side. "Struggles a bit with technology," he wrote on the form in front of him. Doh!

Friday, November 23, 2007

cheese on toast with green chillis (big mistake!)

IT'S official - the little bowling ball is officially an old git! The doddery geezer in question, Brammy to his closest friends, caught the bus to work today and found that it was standing room only. Huddled under his tartan cap and wrapped against the cold in his leather jacket he swayed along, head down, on the way to Newport railway station.
There then came a tap on the shoulder. Swivelling as quickly as his old knees and rheumatic hips would allow he came face to face with a woman who was herself edging the wrong side of 50. "Hello, dear, would you like to take my seat?" inquired the kindly old dear.
The rotund Gloucester-born, Powys Liberation Front member stood there in abject shock. Then he blurted out: "It's ok, I have to get off at the next stop!" The fact he had to get off the bus two miles from his destination was beside the point. Rather that than suffer any more acute embarrassment.
Tomorrow he will no doubt wake up to an OAP bus pass, a pension book and offers of over-50s holidays in Devon from Saga.

Meanwhile, at the other end of the age scale the Vin Man has been in trouble at school. He may not have reached five yet, but he already takes after his grandad and, dare I say it, the Fat Kid.
She rang me to say: "He was caught with another boy. They were sat in the corner cutting each other's hair!"
"What on EARTH possessed him to do that?" I asked.
She had no answer, but apparently the teacher had given him quite a scolding poor dab.
Fast forward a few hours and a memory comes back to me which suddenly throws a different light on the situation. There we were, getting ready for the Evans fancy dress show, and I am proudly displaying my giant green mohican wig.
"What's that, grandad? Can I have my hair done like that? I like that hair."
Luckily the green paint was out of reach at infants school yesterday.

Having enjoyed the new burger king chilli and cheese balls at a service station on Monday, albeit a bit expensive at 4 for 99p, I thought I would adapt cheese on toast with the addition of some green chillis. It led to a rather bad night, I'm afraid.
First off I managed to sting my eyes because I didn't wash my hands enough after chopping up the little green devils. Then, to add insult to injury, I decided to wear some eye-comforting patches I bought from Boots the other day. Aaaaagh! The pain was something special. Finally at 2am I woke up with my stomach in such pain I swear that little creature from Alien was going to pop out of it in just the way it did from John Hurt in the first film of the series. I may think twice about the chilli/cheese combination in future.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

braised steak ready meal (oh dear)

POOR old Roberts. Our chief rugby writer, faced with the prospect of being hoiked kicking and screaming into the computer age, has been feeling all nostalgic of late. Well, that's the only reason I can think of for his actions in the early hours of Sunday morning.
Fearing the inevitability that this wonderful life of Wales on Sunday will be replaced by the monolithic monstrosity that is meeja wales, Roberts has obviously been delving through his loft and bringing down all his cuttings, souvenirs from WoS christmas do's and the like, so that he can reminisce about the good old days when he bestrode the Welsh rugby world like a collosus with a laptop.
Now who knows what fate awaits him or, indeed, the rest of us?
Anyway back to Sunday morning and at 12.55am, as I prepared to stumble home from the Evans shindig, my phone bleeped at me in the way it generally does when I have received a vital message from the outside world.
Staring blurrily at the screen I noted that the message was from Roberts and wondered what had kept the rugger bugger awake until this ungodly hour after a hard Saturday night's work.
"It's been an honour and a privilege working with you," it read - or some such thing. And, of course, that scared the living daylights out of me. Had I been sacked? Were the rumours spreading through Thomson Towers even as I took a rare Saturday off? You know, while the cat's away...
It was only when I met up with some of my fellow WoS-ites before the Stereos gig on Tuesday that the full story came about. The Prince admitted, "Yeh, I had a strange text, too, telling me what a great bloke I was."
And Smashy revealed the morose one had told him he had done "an excellent job" that Saturday.
Even Shutts didn't miss out on his share of the glory, having some rambling message about the "pleasure of working with you". Now, anyone who knows Shutts would immediately smell a rat.
Then Shutts revealed the full story - and all became crystal. "Apparently Roberts opened a bottle of JD on Saturday night, then set about emptying it. When he got near the bottom he felt he should share his feelings with everyone."
We're a close-knit group, us WoS-ites. There will definitely be the mother of all parties soon - and all ex members of this exclusive club will be invited.
They may take our newspaper, but they won't crush our spirit!

Last night I broke all my rules and settled down to watch England's abject defeat to Croatia at Wembley with a, wait for it, ready meal. Five minutes in the microwave and I had braised steak, carrots, mash and onion gravy. Unfortunately I was still hungry afterwards and indulged in half a bag of the peanuts left over from the secret food frenzy Wren and I had enjoyed at the flicks.
It won't happen again, honest.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

A big bag of twiglets

RUSSELL CROWE may come across as the most honest cop that ever walked the planet in his latest film American Gangster, but he is a distinct shade of grey when compared to whiter-than-white Wren.
On the way to the Cinema at Atlantic Wharf on Tuesday afternoon we had first popped into the local Tesco to buy some goodies. We loaded up with miniature pork pies, handy-sized quiches and pasties for our lunch. Then I had an idea.
"Instead of spending outrageous prices at the cinema why don't we buy our snacks here?" I suggested.
"Good idea," said Wren as we started to fill the cart with nuts, crisps, chocolate and a big bag of twiglets.
When we got to the cinema I turned to see Wren trying to stuff all the food into her dinky black handbag. She finally gave up when it came to the twiglets, returned them to their plastic bag and put the bag on the back seat.
"What are you doing?" I inquired, suspiciously.
"Well, we can hide all these, but that bag won't fit."
"And why do we have to hide them?"
"Well, we don't want to be caught taking food into the cinema," came the reply.
Gordon Bennett! Surely we could just leave all the food in the carrier bag and walk straight in, as if we had just been shopping. Wren was having none of it, so we reached a compromise. I HID the giant bag of twiglets inside my bulky raincoat and, like some naughty petty criminal, sneaked in passed the ushers.
Moments into the film Wren had a nasty surprise; some semi-blind old biddy mistook her for a chair and tried to sit on her, almost breaking her glasses. She was not best pleased, particularly when her box of Roses was also in danger.

It has to be said that Siouxsie Soux (aka Wren) and Sid Vicious (aka me) had a wonderful night at Evans' 30th fancy dress party in Southend (oops, I mean Leigh on Sea).
On Friday night Wren dyed her hair black, though after plenty of moisturising and rinsing it came out a dark brown. C'est la Vie. Then on Saturday lunchtime we set out on the four-hour drive to the chilly south East.
The journey was pretty uneventful and there was a warm welcome from the Fat Kid, Vin Man and the Big Boy, who is now walking around and talking... well, to a fashion. I do believe he said Grandad on Sunday!
After a quick bit of nosh it was time to get down to business and we disappeared to the bedroom to work on Wren's hair. The Fat Kid almost died of shock - "I could never, ever do that to my hair," she said as Wren did the best she could to back comb it and create the necessary tangle and split ends required by a punk goddess.
It was easier for me, though, with my lack of hair. On went the Mohican wig and I then ripped an old pair of black jeans to shreds before putting them back together with safety pins. I also customised black bin-liners for us both.
the Fat Kid, meantime, had found an old skirt and tie, and bought a white school blouse. Putting her hair in bunches, she was Britney.
All that was left to do was call a taxi and it was off to the party. We picked up the Fat Kid's mate, Jenna - dressed as a cowboy - on the journey.

It was great to see Evans again, resplendent in pirate's uniform (she knows the way to a Gashead's heart). Boyfriend Matt was dressed as his hero Dr Who, and among other creations were Geri and Posh from the Spice Girls.
The Fat Kid walked straight into a terrible fashion faux pas - three Britneys! And all in her school uniform faze (not sure they were all wearing the necessary underwear, mind). Among them was the Bermondsey Bird (former journo with that fine upstanding agency Wales News), who had just landed a staff job after more than two years at the Daily Star. She was keen to celebrate, too, downing what looked like three quarter pints of water but turned out to be rather large vodka and lemonades - or some such. The home made punch was also pretty effective.
Like all good parties it soon degenerated. The Fat Kid and Jen went off to town promising to return with a taxi by 1am, while others disappeared into various parts of the house. One girl, dressed as an air stewardess, made Wren immediately. "Oh my god," she declared in excitement, "You're Souixsie Soux! My sister wants to be you at a fancy dress this Christmas."
At this stage she started taking posed pictures of Wren, who was now a celebrity in her own right, while the good Doctor had collapsed on the decking outside and was oblivious to the freezing weather in his long trench coat.
The Bermondsey Bird had tweetered off to bed after fighting a losing battle with her balance, while another of the locals, who claimed to be Madonna, lost her blond wig soon enough and stropped around declaring that no one really liked her. Didn't even know her personally, but she did a good job in hiding the coats.
By 12.30 there was Evans, Wren, myself and another straggler who bore a huge resemblance to Chas from Chas and Dave and seemed to be dressed as the snooker loopy singer, too.
Finally, the Fat kid, talking far too much as usual, arrived and it was time to go home. Good fun, though, and a nice change. Oh, and my mood was helped no end when the Gas won their first home game for six months with a goal three minutes into injury time at home to Millwall.

Sunday night and the hangover had set in during the journey back down the M25 in pouring rain. Wren was suffering, too, with the onset of a heavy cold and we opted to hold up for the night in a Premier Travel Inn at Bracknell. A good eight or nine hours kip and it was back on the road again. I had to stop off at Bristol to visit my dad and collect my stepmum Jean from hospital where she had been interned since contracting a nasty chest infection.
I sent Wren on ahead as the scouting party and when I arrived back in Cardiff at around six it was to be greeted with the news that there was no heating in my flat. Never mind, we made ourselves comfy in scoobies' place, getting out his giant bean bag and settling in front of the tv.

Tuesday afternoon and American Gangster. Terrifically enjoyable film with great performances from Denzel Washington and Crowe, who plays an upstanding copper who lifts the lid on the corrupt nature of the New York Police Department. At one stage he finds £10,000 in the trunk of a car - and makes himself public enemy No 1 by handing it in. Puts my twiglets offence into perspective, I reckon.
Headed off to see the Stereophonics in the Cardiff International Arena that night. On the way we bumped into Smashy, Danny (the poipes, the poipes) and the Prince of Darkness - the hardcore members of the boozeday Tuesday crowd.
They were cosily ensconsed in the Yard, and the Prince "had a buzz on", meaning he was onto the double vodkas. A short while later we had to prize him away from a tough Slovakian lady who could not believe he was a journalist because "he doesn't know which countries border Slovakia". Didn't help that the Prince kept referring to her beloved country as Slovenia, nor the fact he was staggering forward and backwards going "I know it, lovely country, sloveenivakia."
She came up with the pretty clever reply, "I reckon he must be a designer."
Spot on.

Later saw the Stereos, but wasn't hugely impressed. The CIA is a terrible venue with queues going around the block for the bar, like a breadshop in post-war Poland or a post office on pensioner pay day.
By the time we managed to buy a £3.70 pint of watered p*ss, the band was already on stage going through some tried and tested numbers. These days people seem to spend more time taking pictures with their mobiles than actually enjoying the occasion. A bit of a damp squib, I reckon.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Skool daze

THE fabulous one must be counting the days before he exits Cardiff and heads for the relative sanity of the Peeps. An ashen-faced Baker Boy came back to work this afternoon after accompanying Mad Liz on a job out to the wilds of deepest, darkest Wales.
"Oh my God, that was painful!" said the expressive one, throwing his arms up into the air and glaring at the ceiling, as he is wont to do. "It was like a bloody school outing. We had to keep stopping all the time because Liz was feeling dizzy from the drive and kept having to be sick at the side of the road."
Only the Mad one could make such a seemingly languid jaunt into seem more like a 24-mile yomp across the roughest terrain of the Falkland Islands.
Meanwhile, there was quite a take-up for Thirsty Thursday with it a. being pay day and b. a week from the deadline when everyone will have to apply for jobs they are not even sure they want with the new all-singing, all-dancing interactive newsroom at Thomson Towers.
The Prince of Darkness was in his element, however, being surrounded as he was by the stragglers from Beaujolais Day (an infamous day of debauchery in this neck of the woods) and the 40'ish, slightly crazy females preparing to throw their pants at Enrique Iglesias, who was performing in Cardiff that night. Guess he may have mistaken the sight of red wine for blood.

Congratulations to Ballsy who, I understand, has landed a staff job with the Daily Mail in London. I found this out from her old college pal Wathanovski. Mind you, the look that crossed Shutts' face when the Russian-sounding one revealed he had been out for lunch with our former colleague was, apparently, priceless.
Shutts likes to have a monopoly on females that come and go from WoS, and any news they might have to impart has to pass through him first - a bit like a girlie spin doctor. Upstaged by Wathanovski, apparently Shutts resembled the Prime Minister's private secretary in Little Britain as he pouted and sulked in a way that only a 6ft 10ins big girl's blouse could throw a strop.

Withers, meanwhile, is finding that he still has to undergo the embarrassment of being sent to his room - even though he is 28 years old. Apparently the landlord has returned from London and is inclined to be a bit selfish when it comes to use of the front room. Apparently he just has to point upstairs for the Wonderful One to get to his feet and trudge up the wooden stairs to Bed-fordshire.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Chicken soup with Orzo

I had a bit of a Heineken moment yesterday. Not only did it refresh the parts others can't reach but it knocked some of them totally senseless. And you've guessed it - it just happened to occur on boozeday Tuesday.
The earlier scenario was fine. I swam 52 lengths of the Maindy Pool, went to the local solicitor's office to retrieve a lost baseball hat (as for my reasons for leaving it in the solicitor's, that story will follow at some stage), then wandered into town to buy some much-needed articles for the fancy dress party I am attending with Wren and the Fat Kid on Sunday. It is being held by Evans, who is about to hit the 30 mark, and should be fun. Full report will follow.
Having crammed so much into a busy morning I then found myself in Sh*tty O'Grim's where the rest of the WoS crowd have taken to drinking lately on account of the fact it is a lot cheaper.
I had built up a real thirst by then, both for alcohol and knowledge of the impending changes that are striking the fear of God into everyone at Thomson Towers including - now the reality has kicked in - me.
After one pint of Carling which didn't touch the sides it was time to get on to a drop of the H stuff. Now, I've sworn to avoid these strong lagers on the basis that they enduce total amnesia after a couple of pints. On this occasion I just wanted to drink for Britain.
People came and went, but I chugged along until at some stage managing to break out into a rather loud and out of tune Anarchy in the Western Mail (based on that song first made famous by those punk rocking roughnecks the Sex Pistols). The barmaid informed me we weren't the only people drinking in this den of degradation - there were two old deaf duffers at the other end of the bar - to which I replied, rather stupidly, with an uncooth insult. After a quick ciggy outside I finally saw the error of my ways, apologised for my actions, turned down the remaining half of my beer and hot-footed it outside to flag down a taxi.
Now the memory gets a bit hazy but I do seem to remember some road rage incident involving my driver and another car, and that I tried to leap out of my door to confront the other fellow, only for said driver to hold me back. And all this, my faithful reader, by 5pm.
By 5.30 I was in bed, by 5.31 I was asleep and no doubt snoring loudly, and at 10.30 I woke to phone Wren and engage her in a rambling, moaning conversation. Heineken is now on the banned list.

Meanwhile, the more seasoned boozeday crowd went on well into the night, taking advantage of 2 for 1 drinks in the Lava Lounge. The Prince of Darkness, rather than feasting on blood, was having to donate his own rich red stuff today on a trip to the doctors. I am unaware of any truth in the rumour that it contained 98 per cent Vodka. I'm sure we will find out when the results come back.

Spent two hours at Halford's on Sunday being entertained by their version of the Youth Opportunities Programme. Didn't want to spend two hours there, we just popped in to buy Wren a car stereo for Christmas. We saw one we liked then had to go through the whole rigmarole. First the computers were down, then the pimply youth who served us disappeared into a storeroom for half an hour only to emerge and tell us that they didn't have that model in stock. The only one they did have, shown off in all its glory, was the one on display - and we weren't allowed to buy that.
So then we had to look at some alternatives. Finally finding one, tweedle dum at the till took a good 15 minutes trying to show tweedle dee how to make the first sale null and void and replace it with the new purchase. Oh Lordy, what a tiring experience.
It was then into town for a stroll around in search of fancy dress, but because of the Halford's delay we got to the Joke Shop just as it was closing. Boo sucks.

The builder has arrived. Scooby has decided to make the whole upstairs flat - my flat - self sufficient with its own gas boiler etc. That's fine in my book but there will be a lot of disruption over the next few weeks. Dan, a mate of my pal Pete, is doing the job and seems a good sort, though, even if I feel like I am wading through a bomb site at the moment.
On Monday night I still managed to reach the cooker to do Chicken Soup and Orzo which I have adapted from my Sopranos Cookbook to make use of leftover cooked chicken.
What you need:
A pack of Orzo (Small pasta which resembles large rice, which you can get from continental delicatessens like the wonderful Whalley's in Cardiff)
Two sticks of celery (chopped)
two carrots (chopped)
Half an Onion
A bunch of flat leaf parsley
The remains of a cooked chicken (from Sunday lunch) - including bones
Six black peppercorns

What I did:
Bring a large pan of water to the boil
Add the veggies, peppercorns and parsley
Cook for around 25 minutes, then break up the chicken but add all, including bones
Bring to the boil again and scrape off any foam that rises to surface.
Cook for another 15 minutes, then remove the bones and take off any chicken from them, returning the chicken to the pan and casting aside the bones.
Add the Orzo and bring to boil again.
Simmer for about 15 minutes until the Orzo is cooked.
Leave to stand for another five minutes with the lid on so that Orzo soaks up the juice.
Serve, with salt and pepper to taste.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Fish supper Mad Liz style

SOME may be wondering why I refer to our sole photographer as Mad Liz. Well, there is a perfect reason for this and I think you will understand fully when I explain a few things.
Liz, you see, brings a whole new meaning to the phrase "chaos theory". She only has to enter a room to cause widespread mayhem among those unfortunates who are already there.
On Thursday morning there was a perfect example of this. Liz walked into the office and our reporter Catherine Mary rushed up to her. "We've got this model who's a long jumper and she is coming into the office to have her picture taken," said Cath quite reasonably.
"What, in a long jumper?" said Mad Liz.
"Um, no Liz, you don't understand. She is a long jumper," explained Cath, patiently.
"Well, she can't be," said Mad Liz.
"What do you mean she can't be? That's what she does. She competes in long jumping in athletics."
"Oh, I thought you were saying she's a long jumper - you know like a woolly garment. So you want me to take a picture of a woman modelling a long jumper?"
"No Liz, she isn't modelling a long jumper, she is modelling some other clothes. She just happens to be a long jumper."
"What, she's a garment?"
And on, and on, and on.
When Mad Liz finally gets the significance of what Cath has painstakingly explained to her, she starts laughing. And doesn't stop. And tells everyone who comes within half a mile of her. So much so that Robot, her rather fatigued boss, has to snap regularly, "ok, Liz, ok, can you stop now please and get on with your work there's lots to do."
"Yes, Rob," says Mad Liz, "But what happened was..."

Stories of Mad Liz are legendary. She regularly accompanies the Fab BB to Men dressed as Ladies night and has been known to invade the stage after a few sherbets. One time while the Fab BB was at the bar she was offered a small "drink" in a bottle. She drank it in one, realising far too late that it contained the drug most commonly known as poppers.
Her cooking stories are also highly amusing. She once complained the pizza she had cooked straight from the freezer was too crunchy - then realised she had forgotten to remove the polystirene base.
And on Friday night I understand she returned home rather tired and emotional after a few drinks, started cooking some fish and mash and promptly fell asleep. Four hours later she awoke to an awful smell - a mixture of burnt offerings and fish.
Apparently all her clothes now smell of this rather untempting concoction. Poor dab.

Friday, November 09, 2007

Oven-baked bass with cajun potato wedges

WHEN Mastermind comes back on our TV screens I am putting forward the Prince of Darkness as a contender. I don't know about his general knowledge but I believe he would walk the specialist subject round. Sadly Magnus Magnusson is no longer in the chair, but John Humphrys has stepped into the void. I imagine it would go something like this...
JH: So Prince of Darkness, your specialist subject is BBC2 and you have two minutes to answer questions on it starting now...
What did Nigella Lawson cook in her recent show Nigella Bites?
The Prince: Well it was a very nice sherry trifle, heavy on the sherry, with a crisp chocolate coating over a cream and custard topping.
JH: Correct. Now what followed Heroes on Wednesday night?
The Prince: Well, first came Dragons Eye, followed by Newsnight with Paxman, an interesting documentary about the military rule being imposed on Pakistan by General Musharaf and later again followed by the Indoor British Bowling Championships from the Billy Buntins Holiday Camp in Suffolk.
JH: Correct. What was Paxman wearing in the said programme?
The Prince: He had a silver gray Armani Suit, blue and black striped Ralf Lauren tie etc etc etc.
Why, you may ask, is the Prince such an expert on BBC2? You would imagine he might spend most of his time watching the Elligible Virgins channel or the Horror film special, or Devil Dog borstal, for instance. The trouble is that the Dark Lord has only managed to tune his television in to two channels. As the other one is the Welsh Language Channel S4C, and he has no working knowledge of his home tongue, it means he has been glued to the second Beeb channel for the last few weeks.
Every morning he comes into the office and regales us of what he watched last night. Come to think of it, perhaps the Prince should start up a blog devoted entirely to this pastime of his. He could call it something like: "What I watched on BBC2 last night."
Back to Mastermind, and it seems the Prince is already warming up, though I think he's got his eye on the questioner's chair.
When the shout goes up. "I'm buying a round, how are you doing for a drink, Prince? You seem to have almost a full glass."
"No problem," says his nocturnal eminence. "I've started so I'll finish."

Last night I cooked bass for the first time. Very nice. I found an easy to follow recipe in a cook book/dvd which was passed on to me by the wonderful Withers.
What you need:
two pieces of Bass
Rock salt
two slices of lemon
potatoes, washed and cut into wedges with the skin left on
A Schwarz packet of cajun wedge mix
A large handful of spinach
Two cloves of garlic, sliced thin
A table spoon of olive oil
A sprinkling of salt
A spoonful of sugar

Heat the oven to gas mark 6
Put the wedges in a bowl, poor over some olive oil, then add the cajun mix
Place on a baking tray and put in the oven, turn regularly and cook for 45 minutes.
Cut the bass in two, put two slices of lemon side by side between the two parts of fish, add black pepper then cover with rock salt.
Wrap with foil but don't cover. Put into the oven when the wedges have been cooking for 25 minutes.
With five minutes cooking time left, heat some oil in a frying pan, then add the sliced garlic and salt for about 15 seconds. Add the washed spinach and wait for it to wilt to about a third of the size. Add a spoonful of sugar, stir and cook for a further three minutes.
Serve the fish together with the lemon juices which ran into the foil, then add the wedges and spinach to the plate. It's a nice, easy meal and healthy, too.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Bonfire supper (and plenty of fireworks)

WE are all one big, happy family now. We are going to be called Meeja Wales and we are going to go about like smiley, happy people singing the company slogan from the top of our voices and making friends with the Interweb. What's more there is a good chance of an increased membership of the Wednesday club in the fact that the three newspaper staffs are to be amalgamated in a grand plan thought up by the rapidly rising editor of the Daily Snail.
This newspaper Utopia is a beautiful idea in theory. The only thing we don't know is how the hell it is going to work in practice. Never mind, I'm sure it will all come out in the wash.
Meanwhile, it's amusing to see journalism's great and good (and downright bad, in some cases) gathered in little corners of Thomson Towers debating exactly what is going to happen and who is next for the bullet.
In honour of this ground-breaking announcement there was a hastily arranged Boozeday Tuesday session of which, unfortunately, I was not a part. But I'm told the alcohol was flowing and there were a few bleary eyes the next day.
Danny Boy (the poipes, the poipes) made his excuses to the solicitor. "It's all hell broken out here. There's talk of redundancies etc and I think I'd better stay out to see if I can glean any useful information," he told her.
Many hours later he returned home in a rather tired and emotional state. "I'm going to sleep in the spare room," she told him as the unmistakable smell of stale hops flooded the bedroom followed by an amorous but incapable Danny.
"I'm coming too, then," slurred the Poipes, ambitiously and somewhat bravely.
Admitting defeat, the solicitor returned to the marital bedroom and, no doubt, blocked her nose with cotton wool.
Next morning as he fell out of bed and somehow managed to put his clothes on in the right order she gave him a frosty glare. "I just want you to reflect on your behaviour last night," she told him icily.
The wonderful Withers, meanwhile, was up with the lark at 7.30 but was not quite co-ordinated enough to make a healthy breakfast. Instead he looked in the cupboard for something which would take the minimum of brainpower to cook, settling in the end on a box of pringles.
The Prince of Darkness remained nailed in his coffin, taking the day off in fear that the sunlight might finish him off forever.

I myself had a quite enjoyable November 5. I am not the greatest fan of things that go wizz, bang in the night. In fact, I bear a remarkable resemblance to the Catherine Tate character who jumps out of her skin at the slightest noise, like a cork being pulled from a bottle or someone putting a piece of cutlery down loudly on a counter top.
When Wren came over for the evening I decided we should mark bonfire night with a suitable supper without leaving the safety of the house. Having bought a bargain pack of ribs, chicken wings and sausages for £2 from sainsbury's we sat in the kitchen by candlelight and watched the fireworks go off. Bliss.
Then we retired to watch a DVD of V for Vendetta, on the basis that it's based loosely around Guy Fawkes and his ill-fated assault on the Houses of Parliament. There's a theme here, you may notice.

On Tuesday morning, of course, my phone was red hot with text messages. Evans informed me that the news had already travelled as far as Essex by lunchtime. "Wow, what's going on at your place? Very dramatic," she said.
We quickly looked on Wren's laptop to find the news was all over Hold the Front Page and the BBC website. Then we looked at our own website, IC Wales. Not a mention. Seems like the new Interweb-dominated era is going to take a while to take off then.

Withers, reviving his writer-broadcaster career on Radio Wales that morning, decided to break new ground. More to the point, he actually invented a new word.
Discussing a story in that morning's paper about a tower in Germany that leans at a sharper angle than the famous one at Pisa, he lamented: "It seems like Pisa isn't the leaningest tower in the world any more."
Leaningest, Withers? I envisage a new entry in the Oxford Dictionary next year.

Saturday, November 03, 2007

A glass of red wine

IT was all hell let loose in the bustling newspaper offices of Wales on Sunday today. And it all centred around a tip off from a loyal reader. Smashy, who took the call, leapt into action - well perhaps leapt is a bit over-egging the pudding. More to the point, he wheeled himself a few inches on his chair, pivoted and announced, "Apparently Gatland (that's Warren Gatland, the man being widely tipped as the next Wales rugby coach) is down at the St David's Hotel in Cardiff Bay, meeting with some of the Union bigwigs."
Shutts turned the other way, and Wathanovski yawned. Then he realised that someone had to respond. After all, our chief rugby writer Roberts was high-tailing it to Leicester to watch a game.
Like the good team player Wathanovski is, he volunteered to go down and spy on the top-level talks. The only problem was they were taking place in a six-star hotel - and he was wearing a crusty old pair of trainers. "Anyone got a pair of shoes I can borrow?" he pondered.
It was left to Danny Boy (the poipes, the poipes) to provide him with the necessary footwear and pad the corridors of Thomson Towers in his stockinged feet. And off went Wathanovski.
But what about pictures? Our snapper Mad Liz was off to some rugger game up the valleys, and all calls to freelances proved fruitless. Monsieur De Lebussier suddenly found all eyes upon him. At least HIS mobile phone was capable of taking pictures. Wathanovski's, like most company phones, was about 10 years out of date (our video players use betamax, too).
Grab a car, the aristocratic one was told. But, as seems the norm these days, there were no company cars. Fortunately, the editor of the South Wales Echo had moved on "to pursue other career avenues" on Friday, so his company car was still out front. Keys in one hand, phone in the other, off sped De Lebussier, absolutely clueless about who he actually had to photograph.
Just as he was approaching the hotel, Wathanovski called the office. "Yeh, they were here but they have just gone. Got in the same car and drove off."
No doubt they passed De Lebussier on the way. He probably didn't notice. Without the presence of his chauffeur the young trainee is, quite frankly, lost.
Wathanovski, meanwhile, was stuck in the bar, waiting to settle up his bill having had to maintain his undercover persona by ordering an extremely reasonably priced glass of red wine for £6 from the waiter.
Now, THAT'S how it's done News of the World.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Moroccan lamb soup

NICE bloke, Jeff.
Known him for ages, but haven't really seen him since I arrived back in Cardiff four-and-a-half years ago. He used to work at one of the large car companies on the Newport Road on the way out of Cardiff. He lodged with my former landlord Cliffy, the ex-jailer at Cardiff Nick. We used to share a few pints in the old haunts of Roath.
That's why it was great to see him in The Yard the other night, sitting opposite two women. He had put on a bit of weight, but as far as I was concerned it was the same old Jeff.
"Hey Jeff," I said smiling as I retreated towards the beer "garden" to join the wonderful One and the Prince of Darkness for an after-work pint and cigarette. "What are you doing now?"
He stood up and smiled back. "Right, butt? I'm doing a bit of work for the Scarlets now, see, back down in west Wales."
The realisation suddenly dawned. This Jeff wasn't the Jeff I knew as Jeff. Holy moly.
But I didn't have the heart to end the conversation, or own up to my rapidly waning powers of recognition.
"Oh yes, very nice," I said, trying to find an excuse to back out of the door as quickly as possible and leave this embarrassing incident behind me. Not only did I not know this man, he was obviously a dyed-in-the-wool Welsh rugby follower. A former prop, to boot, if I was taking an educated guess. And a Llanelli Scarlets supporter.
Strange thing was, he seemed to recognise me so I couldn't just cut it and run.
"So what brings you to Cardiff?" I asked.
He waved a mighty mitt towards his two female companions. "Down here with the wife and mother-in-law, like. We've come up to see Englebert Humperdink."
About to close out the conversation, it suddenly dawned on me that I had picked up some news about that particular concert that might be of use to him.
"Actually, I think it's been cancelled," I told my newly acquired companion.
"You're joking."
"I'm not sure but I'll go out and check."
I left the bar and rang the Robot, who happened to have bought tickets for the concert for his mum.
"Is Englebert Humperdink off?" I asked.
"Yes, he cancelled," said the Robot. He then spent around 10 minutes trying to explain the reasons. "It says on the door he fell down stairs, but on his website it suggests he had chest pains. I tend to favour..." Typical Robot.
Yeh, thanks for the in-depth analysis but my "buddy" is waiting.
I went back into The Yard to break the news.
"Aaaaaaaaw, nooooooo!" screamed his Mrs, an obvious Englebert fan.
My new pal was grateful, though. "Awww, thanks a lot for finding that out for me, butt," he said.
And off they went to get their refund.
As for Jeff? God knows where he got to.

Regaling this tale in the office, Danny Boy (the poipes, the poipes) jumped in to tell us of a similar case of mistaken identity which had befallen him during his days out in the wild West (well, Swansea, then).
The story goes that Danny was walking along the street when he noticed a pal of his taking money out of the hole-in-the-wall. Rather than shout out to him, he decided it was an ideal chance to sneak up and whack his pal over the head with a rolled up newspaper.
Which he did. A shocked face turned to meet him... one that the Poipes had never seen before.
Somehow he survived to tell the tale.

Last night I went home early in time to watch Heroes, then saw some more of my Lost Series 3 dvd which I bought last week, having missed the series while on the Ashes tour last winter. I had a pumpkin all ready to cook for Hallowe'en night but ended up enjoying a tasty can of Morrocan lamb soup I bought in Morrisons a couple of weeks ago.