Tuesday, February 19, 2008

smelly cheese

I TOOK a step back in time on Sunday when Wren and I drove up to Swansea in the glorious February sunshine - good old global warming, eh? Arriving at the Marina I was disappointed to find that a lot of the bars along the waterfront, like the Ribcage, were now closed down. Still, it was nice to sit outside the Tug and Turbot and enjoy a coke while listening to the boats rocking gently in the harbour.
For lunch we decided to take a stroll up Wind Street and, I'm glad to say, there was still one blast from the past which has survived the invasion of chain restaurants and bars. The No Sign wine bar was exactly where it used to be when I was a sports writer on the South Wales Evening Post. It still has its unique, down-at-heel ambience although how long it will survive will depend on attracting customers through the door.
This place used to be heaving when we made it a regular haunt back in the late 80s, advertising champagne breakfast with a particular Welsh touch, lavabread, cockles and bacon being served on the morning of big rugby internationals. I particularly remember it being busy during the first rugby World Cup way back in 1987.
In those days it was part-run by the former Wales international, the now departed Clem Thomas, who used to hold court in the restaurant area while tucking into his lunch.
One day in particular springs to mind. I had an interview with Wales on Sunday a few days before Christmas and was keen to head back west because of the Evening Post Christmas party. After playing catch-up with the other hard-boozing hacks, midway through the afternoon I remembered having to call the WoS sports editor Chris Baldock to establish whether I had got the job. He told me I had and gave me a start date.
Next morning, nursing the hangover from hell, I could barely recall the conversation. I knew I had the job but had no idea when I was to start. To discover the date I had to employ all my cunning. I knew that a fellow sports hack in Swansea, Gareth Roberts, had already got a job there so I persuaded him to ring the new boss and just ask during the conversation when I might be starting. After a great deal of groaning he came up trumps: January 24, 1989, the day after my birthday. Phew! And so started a long association with Wales on Sunday which, next year, will have spanned 20 years. I hope the old paper is still going then, taking into account all the changes going on within Meeja Wales. There must be an anniversary party sometime.
Back to Sunday and after a very enjoyable carvery we took a trip back past the new Liberty Stadium, an impressive building which now houses both Swansea City and the Ospreys. It makes the old St Helen's ground and weed-strewn Vetch look like carbuncles from a bygone era. After that we took the general direction of my old house in Morriston, the one that caused me so many problems because of a mortgage shortfall after the lodger somehow managed to burn it down. It has now been replaced by a dual carriageway.
Heading for home we took a pleasant trip down the Heads of the Valleys road, cutting back through Aberdare and Pontypridd to Cardiff. An enjoyable trip down memory lane.

I'm not known to lose my temper over much. Well, ok, I lose it at the drop of a hat. And it happened on Monday morning. Having rung up Maindy Swimming Pool to inquire about the schools rota I was told none would be in until 11. Wren and I hotfooted it down there ASAP (well, we took Basil actually, but that doesn't sound so dramatic) only to find that one lane was closed off for kids and grannies and that two other youngsters were being coached in another. One lane was left, therefore, for the general paying public. Ooh, I wasn't a happy bunny.
After subjecting Wren to a tirade, even though none of this was her fault, it suddenly struck me that the new international pool had just opened in Cardiff Bay, so we set off to have a look.
What a fantastic complex! There are around 12 lanes for serious swimmers, a huge fun pool for kids with water slides, tubes and fountains all over the place, and with it being completely housed in glass you can swim along while enjoying the sun streaking through the window (mind you, it might not be such a welcoming sight on a cold, wet Wales day).
It being a 50 metre pool it actually takes some effort to swim a few lengths. I kept having to convert them into old money (ie the distance I would have swum if I'd been in Maindy) and managed 26 in all. Good effort.
In the afternoon we went to see No Country For Old Men, the new Coen Brothers film with Tommy Lee Jones, which was pretty violent, thought provoking and enjoyable, though the ending left me a bit flummoxed. Home then via the Tut for a couple of drinks and then a lazy night in front of the TV.

On Sunday night I decided to open some new cheese I had bought called Port Salut. It was very smelly, a bit like old feet, but tastes fanstastic when it is mixed into a dish like the pasta one I cooked.
First I roasted vegetables in olive oil - red onion cut into wedges, half an aubergine diced, some big red pepper chunks, four peeled cloves of garlic, four rosemary sprigs and a sliced courgette.
Meanwhile I cooked Penne pasta according to the instructions. When done I rinsed it and returned it to the saucepan, added more olive oil and then the port salut chunks. Mixed that together with some salt and pepper, then added the roasted vegetables, tossed together and served up with some halves of on-the-vine cherry tomatoes and some chopped flat leaf parsley as garnish. It was a good discovery and I'll be eating it again.
Meanwhile congrats to Scooby, who has just past the big 5-0. He went out at the weekend with some mates and it sounds like a good night was had by all.

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