Friday, March 28, 2008

Curry three days running

I LIKE to pride myself on my knowledge of Cardiff taxi drivers. I would guess I have staggered into nearly every cabbie's car in the Welsh capital over the last few years and many of them have been totally captivated by my witty repartee and conversation (well, in my own mind, they have anyway).
That was why I was somewhat surprised on Thursday night - after an evening's interlude in the wonderful City Arms in the company of my own personal DJ - to find that I did not recognise the lady who picked me up.
She, however, recognised me. "I remember you," she told me. "I gave you a lift home last Monday. You fell asleep in my cab and I had to nudge you to check where you lived."
By a strange quirk of fate Monday was the day we celebrated the Wales Grand Slam success and St Patrick's Day. And I got shown the door of O'Neills because I was having trouble maintaining my balance.
I wondered how I had managed to make it home.
All hail Cardiff taxis.

We are thinking of banning Nicey from all boozing bashes in future. The man has a nasty habit of taking his camera along to these impromptu sessions and recording anyone who appears a bit tired and emotional. Apparently he already has some video of the Fugitive and I doing some rather bad "Dad dancing".
It's got to the point where Nicey is far too nice a nickname for him. From now on he is going to be called Pap, like the intrusive Paparazzi he is becoming.

Finally, finally, I have finished the floor plan for the new WoS "hub". Not without a few headaches mind you, and far too many cooks attempting to interfere with the broth (appropriate analogy when you consider the name of this blog).
Having thought the whole plan had been signed off and subsequently drawn up a list of telephone numbers to be switched I was rather alarmed when "whispering death" - otherwise known as the Celtic and Magazines head honcho - sneaked up behind me and announced, "I've just been asked to make a few changes." AAAARGH!
Out came the tipex and the changes were duly made.
Annoying thing is I don't even remember volunteering for this job.
To celebrate we have now adopted our own version of Souxsie and the Banshees' greatest hit...
"This is... a happy hub,
We're happy here... In this happy hub."
etc etc etc
Meanwhile I have now eaten three successive curries. Not a bad effort I think you'll agree, though I pity anyone who stands too close to me.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Yucky Liver

I DON'T expect you will be too surprised to learn that the Prince of Darkness has been involved in high-level discussions about the merits of Devil Dogs. More to the point, the Prince was talking over the virtues of Rottweillers with a lesbian who, according to my sources, looked remarkably like one of the Fraggles from Fraggle Rock.
You won't be at all surprised to learn that this happened during the dying embers of boozeday Tuesday when the Prince and some of his dastardly cohorts were stalking around some of the late night drinking dens of Cardiff, waiting to prey on unsuspecting virgins (unlikely, I know, that you would find any unsuspecting Cardiff virgins in late night drinking dens on a Tuesday night).
Certainly the person he encountered didn't quite fit the description. In fact, she openly admitted that not only was she a lesbian but she had a husband who was the proud founder of a number of porn sites and "would it be possible to advertise them in your newspaper. They are very popular".
At this point I am told the Prince made his excuses and left. Even HE couldn't handle this kind of debauchery.

Talking of the Prince's antics reminded me of my own rather disappointing experience with a bit of shrivelled liver. On Monday afternoon I took up the challenge of cooking a Nigel Slater recipe of grilled liver with a red pepper and garlic sauce. It was not nice.
Added to that I attempted one of his artichoke recipes, which was equally poor. Maybe I didn't follow his instructions to the letter but all I can say is that it can be really disappointing when the final product of three hours work looks absolutely nothing like the colourful picture of said meal in the magazine you have taken the recipe from. As for artichokes... pah... don't think I'll be trying them again in a hurry.
I'd let you make your own minds up, but for all the trouble and time it took I can't be bothered to put the recipe on this blog to inflict anyone else with the same feeling of dejection that consumed me.

Right said Fred visited me on Tuesday morning. Not the band that were "too sexy for their shirts" but two men in a van who were dropping off the sofa bed that Wren has very kindly donated to my "new flat".
Having bought herself a lovely, comfortable new bed herself, my girlfriend sent the van men across the bridge to Wales to drop off my new acquisition. Just what I needed to enable the Fat Kid, the Vin Man and the Big Boy to visit me whenever they like.
I expected them to be in and out in five minutes. Big mistake.
After grunting, pushing and heaving the two rather sturdy chaps, drenched in sweat, made an announcement. "It's too big to go through the door and up the stairs... We're gonna have to take the door off."
So, as the song goes, I made them a cup of tea.
Then they started unscrewing the door, which had only been in place for a few months, removing it from its hinges so that they could have another go.
"Twist it upwards... no... put it on its side," ordered the foreman to his junior partner.
"No, it's not gonna go through. The back of the sofa is the wrong shape. We'll have to remove the door frames."
At this stage, and with my landlord Scooby likely to make an entrance any minute, I began to panic. They assured me it would be fine. "A bit of filler and you won't notice the difference," said one.
So they had another cup of tea.
Then they removed one of the door frames. It seemed to come out fairly easily.
They repositioned the sofa and started pushing and shoving. I could hear bits of chipped wood falling all over the carpet as they heaved and heaved and... gave up.
"No, sorry fella, the other door frame will have to be removed, too."
I had visions of my nice new flat crumbling down around my shoulders.
But first, another cup of tea.
Finally, at the third attempt, with my doorway now a gaping hole - just the way it was three months ago - the blessed sofa bed finally got through the gap.
All this cost me £110.
Let us never talk of it again.

Tuesday afternoon was highly enjoyable once the headache had gone away. Wren came over and we travelled down to the Captain's Wife pub in Sully, which has lovely views of the Severn Estuary and also serves fantastic food. For starters we had some melted camembert with toast, grapes and pear and apricot chutney.
Then for the main meal Wren had crispy duck with some sauteed potatoes and veg, while I gorged on a 12oz sirloin steak, chips and peppercorn sauce.
After that we needed a brisk walk to wake us up before returning to the new sofa to watch the film The Illusionist, with a starring role for my favourite actor Ed Norton. Good stuff.
Oh yeah, and the England cricket team managed to win their New Zealand tour with a resounding third test victory in Napier. Not before their No 10 batsman, a youngster by the name of Tim Southee, managed to score 77 with nine sixes. Incredible.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Bushmills poisoning

I'VE just found a benefit to the smoking ban, believe it or not. And the whole story dates back to St Patrick's Day on Monday which, purely by coincidence, Wales on Sunday chose as the day they would celebrate the Welsh rugby team's magnificent Grand Slam success.
It goes something like this...

After swimming a mile at the new pool, doing all my chores and having a bite to eat I felt I deserved a relaxing drink down the boozer. Having arranged to meet the Usual Suspects, including Keyser Withers, at O'Neill's on the Hayes the party was soon in full swing.
The Fugitive had turned up desperate and without a second thought announced that he had partaken of a Bushmills Irish whiskey to "blow the cobwebs off". Fatal mistake that, with the Prince of Darkness in earshot.
But we started off fairly predictably with Guinness all round, apart from the Prince who was already tucking into his regular brand of strong lager. Gathered around a table with the fiddly diddly Irish music playing and many decked out in green (I was wearing my red barmy army top and English cricket baseball cap in order of our win over New Zealand, just to be perverse) we were soon lapping up the atmosphere... and the booze.
Pretty soon the table was heaving with glasses, and I had switched to lager. Also in attendance were Smashy and Wathanovski, and we were soon to be joined by Nicey, party girl Lyds, Shutts, Withers' housemate Grace and her friend and... oh, by now I had lost count.
One thing was noticeable, though: the glint in the eye of the Prince of Darkness. Pretty soon, like the bon viveur he is in such company, he was doing his best impression of Withnail: "I want as much bushmills as you can muster... and I want it now."
A round of whiskeys followed with the order to down them in one. And so it continued...
By the time darkness crept in I had sunk three Guinness', quite a few lagers, a couple of bloody mary's and an entire vat of Bushmills.
Coincidentally it was about this time that my legs refused to work.
The scenario went like this: I was sitting outside the pub enjoying a quiet smoke. I put out the tab then got to my feet. But for some reason they wanted to go in the opposite direction to the one I was heading in.
By this time there was a bouncer on the door outside the pub. He took one look at me and courteously shook his head. "You're pissed... you're not coming back in."
Well, I could have raised an objection, but at that time I also found, wierdly, that my mouth was failing to work.
Instead I mumbled something about picking up my coat and was escorted into the boozer to pick up my belongings. Strange really, because normally in this situation I would have left my baseball hat behind.

Next morning I woke in a terrible state. In fact, it was 4am in the morning and I had fallen asleep on a bean bag with a full cup of tea beside me. Failing to work out the intricacies of how to turn the television on I had got half way and activated the screen, but had obviously fallen asleep before I could spark the digibox into action.
I then hauled myself off to bed and spent the next day blobbed out in front of the TV watching seven episodes of the West Wing on DVD. At one stage I felt horrendously ill and it was at that point I had my eureka moment. I've half a mind to go back and thank that bouncer for performing his duties so well. And well done the smoking ban, because my limb failure might not have been noticed if I hadn't popped outside.

Wednesday and Thursday were early starts on the Echo as part of our new caring/sharing regime. In fact, this was even earlier than I thought. Nicey, the masochist, insists on going into work at 5.45am and, as he was giving me a lift, I had to be up at 5. Aaargh! Can't see this catching on.
Nicey, by the way, is also in danger of being banned from any future pub shenanighans, like the final boozeday Tuesday, for instance. The guy has all the makings of a Papparazi. As soon as one of you is getting up to no good in the boozer there's a flash from behind you, and you turn to see Nicey with his box brownie. The next day the pictures are all over the office e-mail system.
Apparently there's a video, too, which I am not too keen to see. Apparently it features the Fugitive and yours truly dancing like a couple of dads at a wedding. How humiliating.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Poof... and he's gone!

MANY years after that brilliant film The Usual Suspects debuted on our screens, I can confirm that the arch villain of the piece, kayser soze, is alive and well and acting as political journalist/moaning minnie on the Wales on Sunday newspaper.
The strange thing is that Kayser won't even know this piece is about him on account of the fact he never watches films - or TV - or anything else connected with popular culture for that matter. He just sits in his room crying all night, or planning his latest fraud.
On Wednesday, just like the slow-witted cop in the above-mentioned film, we realised far too late that Kayser was in our midst. He was sitting there, grimacing and moaning about the crippling injury he had suffered that forced him to hobble everywhere at a snail's pace.
He even had a few words of sympathy from the rest of us, who took it easy on him as one by one we opted to go to the Bar to refurnish our gathered entourage of Usual Suspects with beers.
Then, suddenly, Kayser felt the need to visit the toilet, no doubt in order to make room for more booze. As he hobbled away everyone was too busy discussing the merits of obscure bands to monitor his movements.
I, however, just happened to look up to see his limp change gradually into a slow walk, then a faster walk, until all signs of his supposed disability had disappeared.
Then... poof, he was gone, down to the little boy's room at the bottom of the stairs.
I'd like to say never to be seen again, but unfortunately Withers (for it was he) returned soon afterwards, hobbling badly once again. Well, he still had more than half a pint left, didn't he?
Now I've revealed his true identity, I am expecting a solicitor's letter on behalf of the Wonderful One, claiming that I've smeared his character.
I fully expect it to be signed by Mr Kobayashi himself.

THE Robot has left our midst, and a hush has descended over our quiet little corner of Meeja Wales. No longer will we be blessed with his spouting of irrelevant or totally obscure facts throughout the day. No longer will he interrupt every conversation on the sports desk with his own poignant thoughts on rugby, or cricket, or indeed the biathlon.
You see, the Robot is emigrating to Finland with his young lady. I hope the cold doesn't interfere too much with his circuit boards.
I must admit, though, despite his constant bantering he will be greatly missed. He was a valued member of the team, just like R2D2 was a vital component of the Millennium Falcon and the robot on Lost In Space called, quite simply, "Robot" was an important figure in the plot, even if all he appeared to do was whiz around shouting "warning, warning".
For the last few weeks he has been stuck in a similar mode, repeating to everyone who knows him (and many who don't): "By the way, did you know I am leaving. Yes, that's right, I'm emigrating to Finland - this is my last month/week/day*)" *Delete as appropriate.
One of his colleagues Rob Norman "the conqueror" put it nicely the other day when the Robot disappeared on yet another extended lunch hour: "Bang the bell, Robot's on the bus."
Best of luck, Robot. Keep on whirring!

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Caerphilly cheesed off

REPORTS of the wonderful one's demise are sadly exaggerated, to paraphrase a saying from the great Mark Twain. Apparently there were fears on Sunday that Withers had made a second attempt to end it all - the first coming when he dramatically threw himself off a kerb on New Year's Day and tried to impale himself on his own teeth.
The latest drama came about after a frustrating weekend when half the unemployed population of south Wales descended on his house as invited guests of one of his new flatmates. They proceeded to party loudly and doss on the floor.
Of course, Withers decided to take the bull by the horns and order them to leave his home... No, of course he didn't. His actual response was to petulantly storm out of the house and go for a long walk along the Taff trail. Wearing just a pair of converse baseball boots he traipsed all the way to Caerphilly, reached the town's limits, then turned around and hobbled back, his feet now badly damaged from this foolhardy act of self-abuse. He didn't even see the sights of Caerphilly while he was there (well, they do have a castle, anyway).
Fortunately, by the time he got back to Cardiff he had received a text from the Prince of Darkness offering him the solace of a pint or six in The Yard. With nothing better to go, and fearing what awaited him at home, what else could he do but accept this generous invitation.

Meanwhile, back at chez Withers his other flatmate the gentle Grace was a mite worried. She hadn't seen The Wonderful One all day and was fearing the worst, for some reason (couldn't be his morbid demeanor surely?).
She decided to take the bull by the horns and tapped on his bedroom door. No reply. She rapped a bit harder. Nothing. My God, thought Grace, these uninvited guests have driven him to his own destruction.
Her hand moved towards his bedroom door handle. But Grace, being a woman of sound mind, suddenly realised that she couldn't abandon all common sense and go where no other member of the female sex had ventured before (at least, none of sound mind). Yet, fearing that he might be lying there rotting, what should she do?
Grace's answer was to phone her dad and ask him to go around to the house. Mr Grace entered, took a deep breath and opened the door to the Withers boudoir to find... nothing. Course not, he was still down the pub with the Prince, wasn't he?
A fine tale but it did leave me asking one question. Why on earth didn't the gentle Grace try ringing Withers first? Might have saved a whole lot of anguish.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Scotch Broth

WE may have lost 5-1 but Sunday night's FA Cup quarter-final reminded me why I am a Gashead. When my team Bristol Rovers lose at least they do it gloriously. And I am not just talking about the result.
Apart from the one stray Gashead who apparently shouted abuse at the TV people (and who wouldn't want to give those smug Beeb blokes like Lineker, Hansen and Shearer a piece of their mind), I thought the whole night was magnificent.
The Memorial Stadium was turned into one big party for the day, with people wearing fancy dress, carrying great banners and mock FA Cups, and shouting their hearts out for the lads, particularly when it came to our traditional song Goodnight Irene.
But the thing that pleased me most was that after we had succumbed to the deadly West Brom strike force despite a valiant battle, a large proportion of the crowd stayed back to applaud the victors from the pitch. It reminds me of why I took the Gas oath years ago, rather than joined the red menace on the other side of Bristol.
Shocking to admit but the first game I saw in that fair city was a game at Ashton Gate! I didn't really have a choice, being only eight at the time and having just moved to Bristol from deepest Dorset. My dad took me along and we stood on an open terrace. Being a rather exciteable youngster (guess some things never change) I shouted my heart out for the home team until some miserable old sh*thead behind me tapped my old man on the shoulder and announced: "Can you tell your son to shut up - this is supposed to be the quiet end." We left soon after that, it being a dire game. There were three goals in the last four minutes which we failed to see, and I am glad to say two of them went to Blackpool - who won 4-2. I laughed all the way home and so started a lifelong hatred.
Move forward a couple of weeks and my dad, still undecided on which Bristol team to support, took me down to Eastville, where we stood on the old terrace below the M32 motorway bridge where fans used to park up and watch the game until the police came to move them on.
It was a friendly against Southampton, and by my recollection Rovers lost 7-0 with a certain Welsh international striker called Ron Davies scoring most of the goals. It didn't matter, the banter and friendliness on the terrace won me over, as did the idea of supporting the underdog.
As the Gasheads sang with five minutes to go and with our FA Cup semi-final dream crushed: "I'm Rovers til I die".

Good old Wren accompanied me to the game, but her lucky mascot tag has now slipped. Until then she had not seen the Gas lose... and that included our Wembley Stadium outing last year. Afterwards we managed to stay cheery on the way home, enjoyed a nice tea but managed to miss the highlights of the game because they switched the Match of the Day 2 start time to 10pm. Beeb b**tards.

Last night I had an early one, on the basis that I had to come in and do an early stint on the Echo as part of my Meeja Wales initiation ceremony.
I took the opportunity to cook a recipe I found in an Observer magazine for Scotch Broth.
I adapted it slightly because I didn't have any lamb breast (I didn't know Lamb had breasts - is that why the Welsh are known to be so passionate towards them?)
Instead I used two lamb leg steaks and chopped them into thick pieces.
Two large lamb leg steaks
A carrot, peeled and chopped into smallish dice
A swede treated the same way
2 potatoes treated the same way
Some firm cabbage, chopped
1 peeled onion, stuck with five cloves
2 bay leaves
salt and lots of white pepper
50 gms pearl barley
Some chopped parsley (I used flat leaf but the recipe demanded curly)

Put the lamb in a big caserole, then covered it with water and brought it to the boil.
Scraped the scum from the top then simmered for 30 mins.
Add all the other ingredients apart from the pearl barley and parsley and bring back to a simmer.
Leave simmering for an hour, then add the pearl barley.
Cook for another 20 mins to half an hour until the barley softens.
Add the parsley.

A nice way, too, to toast the Boss's new baby daughter Annabel, who is doing very nicely, thank you. When people congratulated him on his return to work this week he thought they were talking about Celtic's 1-1 draw with an equaliser two minutes into injury time at Aberdeen.

Saturday, March 08, 2008

Honey roast parsnips

WELL, what a day of sport. At the start of it you still couldn't look past Manchester United or Chelsea for the winner of this year's FA Cup... by a little after 7pm both their chances had been extinguished. United lost 1-0 at home to Portsmouth while Chelsea were knocked out by the fighting Tykes of Barnsley. You couldn't make it up in a comic book.
Tomorrow, of course, I will be going to see my beloved Gas trying to reach Wembley for the second time in two years with their quarter final tie at home to West Brom. I must admit I am viewing it with trepidation. Not because Paul Trollope's spirited fighters might lose, you understand, just that I have managed to end up with a ticket in the family enclosure.
Most of my friends will know I am a mild-mannered chap, but there may be a tendency for me to slip into some uncharacteristic moments of bad language as the tension of the occasion gets to me. And then where will I be? Probably out on my ear, trying to gauge what is happening from listening to the Oo's and Aah's of my fellow Gasheads.
Meanwhile, the whole of Wales will now be going potty for a second Grand Slam in four years. Well done to them and particularly coach Warren Gatland, who seems to have brought some sanity to a bunch of players far too often carried along on the wave of their own publicity.
Today they beat Ireland... next week it will be France. No doubt by this time next week I will be the only person in Wales not in a pub trying to celebrate like crazy or drown my sorrows.
C'est La Vie.

The Voice of God has not been keeping his all-seeing eye on developments, it appears. Despite all the publicity, chatter, meetings and meetings about meetings that have been going on around here concerning the new Meeja Wales set up, until this week he remained blissfully unaware of proceedings. This, mark you, is despite the fact he attended many of such meetings and even asked questions at them.
The Wonderful Withers broke the news about his temporary memory loss. Apparently the wonderful One got a call in the office on Tuesday.
The deep, booming voice on the other end seemed to show a bit of concern. "I've just met someone who went to a union meeting today," he informed the Wonderful One. "Apparently we are going to have to work for not only Wales on Sunday, but for the Echo and the Western Snail as well. Can you believe it?"
Well, yes, as it happens, Withers could. As could the rest of us who have been making arrangements for three months for the switch over - now less than a month away.

To go with my wonderful roast lamb of the other day, I also did some lovely honey roast parsnips. I cut them into batons, covered them in sea salt then roasted them for 10 minutes until they were brown, tossing them in goosefat.
I then added a handful of cumin seeds and smothered them in honey, cooked them for another 10 minutes before serving.

Thursday, March 06, 2008

roast lamb in wine with 'perfect' roast potatoes

IF I were ever to find myself wandering lost in the red light area of some strange city, I am now armed with the knowledge of how to spot a wanton lady of the night who may be intent on luring me into her sordid web.
And to whom do I owe thanks for this useful piece of information? None other than my old pal the Wonderful Withers of WoS.
Now, don't ask me how the Wonderful One has actually worked it all out. I imagine it has taken painstaking hours of research armed only with the kerbcrawlers A-Z and a condom (strictly for his own protection, I may add).
But Smashy and I were the beneficiaries of his diligent undercover work at a rather poorly attended meeting of the Wednesday Club in The Yard last night.
As we sat morosely drinking our beers and trying to dream up some lively topic of conversation the wonderful one scanned the bar disinterestedly, before perking up like a police spotter dog having just sniffed out the illegal contraband of an unsuspecting drug mule.
Then, as his eyes narrowed to focus on some unsuspecting female, he declared: "She's a prostitute."
Smashy and I, suspecting that perhaps Withers had encountered said lady of the night on a recent unscheduled trip to downtown Splott, chorused: "How do you know that?"
"It's obvious," he said. "Only prostitutes wear red shoes."
Now I am not sure how Judy Garland fans might react to this news having drooled over the star's seemingly innocent performance in the Wizard of Oz, but Withers was adamant. And who were WE to argue, two innocents abroad being served up this undisputed truth in such an open and honest manner.
Like all good hacks, we made our excuses and left...

Imparting this information during a smoking break at the side lodge printer Mike, the man who has more former girlfriends than Rod Stewart and Mick Jagger rolled in to one (most of which now appear to be in various loony asylums throughout Wales) came up with another astonishing fact to equal that of Withers.
"Do you know, and I have yet to have anyone disprove this theory, that all fat girls wear great shoes?"
The Fugitive and I looked at him perplexed.
"It's true. My girlfriends are often accompanied by fat friends and they are ALWAYS wearing great shoes. I suppose it distracts from the bulge in their stomachs."
A real charmer, printer Mike.
Reminds me of Danny Boy (the poipes, the poipes) who, in the course of lending the wonderful one his vast experience in chat-up lines, said: "It's easy mate. To get chatting to a bird, all you have to do is compliment them on their shoes."
So there you go...

Back to my roast lamb recipe from the other night. I had a lamb leg joint to cook and found a useful recipe in an old copy of Observer Food Monthly. The man responsible is Simon Hodgkinson, and I did this with the perfect roast potatoes that Nigel Slater swears by.
Roast leg of lamb joint
3 garlic cloves, peeled and sliced in three lengthways
6 anchovy filets, cut in half
Some rosemary leaves
half a bottle of white wine
potatoes, peeled and cut in half (how many depends on how greedy you are)
goose fat for roasting
sea salt, pepper
plain flour
1/2 pint of chicken stock

To prepare the lamb, slice 12 deep cuts in the skin and flesh of the lamb and insert a slither of garlic, half an anchovy and some rosemary leaves.
Heat the oven to 220 degrees.
Place the lamb in a baking tray with the half bottle of white wine.
Put in the pre-heated oven.
Cover the potatoes in cold water and bring to the boil on the hob.
Boil for seven to 10 minutes then drain the water. Put back on the heat and shake the pan so the potatoes crumble around the edges.
Heat the goose fat on another baking tray, then put the potatoes on the tray and toss them in the goose fat.
After the lamb has been on high heat for 15 minutes and browned nicely, reduce the oven to 180 degrees. Cook the lamb for another hour, basting in the wine. Keep turning the potatoes to brown them, then at the end sprinkle with sea salt.
Remove lamb from oven and let it stand for 15 minutes, covered in silver foil to keep warm.
Put the lamb roasting tin and juices on the top of the hob and add a sprinkling of flour, stirring it into the juices.
Add the stock a bit at a time and continue to stir, simmering on the hob.
Serve up with roast potatoes, any veg you fancy and the lamb, then add gravy.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

hot cross buns and pork scratchings

SNIFFER retired on Friday after 38 years on the Echo. I would like to think they called him Sniffer because of his ability to sniff out a cracking good council story. More likely the name came about because he could sniff out a good expenses wheeze from a mile off. Nicey said as much in a damn fine tribute to the former Western Mail and Echo head cricket selector on Friday night.
The best story was how he once tried to claim back for damage to a pair of trousers he snagged on a desk. His letter to the then editor was a thing of beauty.
It went something like this, and should be read out in the manner of a Bobby giving evidence to a magistrates court about some misdemeanor he had managed to thwart:
"I was proceeding through the Echo newsroom at approximately 1.35pm en route to the filing cabinets when I happened to come into contact with a desk.
"To my consternation this desk had a sharp corner which somehow managed to rip a swathe through my pair of dark grey work trousers. I believe it would only be right for the company to re-imburse me for the cost of these trousers."
Now, as this went back a few years, I believe the trousers were then valued at two pounds 10 shillings and sixpence, but I can't verify that at this point in time.
And in another fine tribute to the man who made Scrooge look benevolent, Nicey also told us of a fine tale about Sniffer's antics when taking one of the new Company Cars on a job. Getting into the shiny new Vauxhall Corsa he soon realised that he had no idea how to find reverse gear. Too embarrassed to ask anyone for advice, he slipped the car into neutral, removed the handbrake, and then pushed it out of its parking spot, manoeuvring the steering wheel in such a way that he could then drive forwards out of the car park. Priceless. Mind you, having been bought up in the age when reporters took a horse and cart out on stories, it is quite understandable that the doddery old geezer had no idea how to cope with one of them new-fangled thingies.

Sniffer, by the way, was the worst sledger I have ever known on a cricket pitch. He made Aussies like Matthew Hayden and Andrew Simmonds seem positively angelic in the middle of a highly-charged Ashes battle. And at least they sledged the opposition. Sniffer took great pride in extracting the mickey out of his own teammates. A bit of a cheek really as he averaged about two runs a season and rarely took a wicket with his ultra-slow bowling. As for his fielding, he found it easier to catch a cold.

It was either a testiment to his popularity or, much more likely, the fact that people wanted to see his departure with their own eyes, and celebrate in style, that there was a huge turnout at his leaving do in Barocco's Bar (formerly Bar Izit) on Friday night. And while I slipped away early, feeling the weight of responsibility to bring out the following day's paper heaped on my shoulders, others like the Prince of Darkness, Smashy and Danny Boy (the poipes, the poipes) had no such concerns and, I am reliably informed, partied into the night. The Poipes in particular imbibed more than a few sherbets, so much so that by the end of the evening he was insisting a north Wales lass called Bethan was Polish.

SATURDAY passed pretty uneventfully and in the evening Wren came over for a few days. It gave us the opportunity on Sunday to go on a tour of the Roath area of Cardiff, involving a walk around the park - my favourite weekend pastime.
It was a beautiful day and we opted to wend our way back to my flat via a few of the local hostelries before a cooked dinner of roast lamb to finish off the day.
What actually happened was that we had a drink in one of my old haunts, the Gower in Cathays, which was just a stone's throw away from the house I used to share with my dearly departed former colleague Nick Lewis. There I was amazed to see Yvonne, the barmaid who used to pull the pints there 12 years ago, still serving as if time had stood still.
After that we walked on past one of Wren's first homes in Cardiff, before stopping off at the Royal George where I was delighted to find that a pint of Staroprammen, the strong Czech lager, and a pint of Carling cost a mere fiver - almost £2 less than the equivalent beers might cost in the centre of Cardiff. Outrageous!
Moments later Wren got very excited - her friend Nat had just proposed to her boyfriend, this being a leap year, and he had accepted. Time to celebrate with another beer.
We wandered on to the Tut in City Road and by the time we wobbled out it was 9pm. Oh dear, look how a relaxing Sunday afternoon walk can turn into something else.
As for cooking the lunch, forget it. We stopped off at the A1 for Chinese and I must say the Salt and Pepper Squid can be very highly recommended.

MONDAY morning and we paid a trip to Kempy and her new arrival, Paddy. I must admit that seeing the baby I had a double take - this was a little Coggsy, and no mistake. Even had the grumpy face, too, until we realised it was just wind. Then again, that's probably Coggsy's problem, too.
In the afternoon we settled down and I cooked the long-awaited Sunday lunch, a wonderful lamb recipe that I will impart on this blog later. In the evening we watched a DVD of The Business, a gangster film based in the Costa Del Sol and starring Danny Dyer. Wasn't bad seeing I'd bought it as part of a special offer - three dvds for a fiver.

Wren was setting off to visit her mum on holiday on Wednesday, so we decided to join Boozeday Tuesday to celebrate my last day of freedom. There was a good crowd, too.
Despite the bright, sunny day I found them hunched in a gloomy corner of Sh*tty Aw'fill's as the Prince of Darkness hid himself from the sunlight, surrounded by those other macabre ghouls Withers and the Fugitive. The Poipes also joined us.
I managed to persuade the assembled mottley crew to move on to The Yard where, very soon, the choice of drink had changed from beer and lager to gin and, in my case, bloody mary's, which were super hot thanks to a new, and quite possibly deadly, strain of tobasco. Every time I sneaked out for a quick puff, though, it seemed Wren had got the taste for booze and seemed to be returning from the bar with fresh drinks.
Funniest line of the day was when we discovered poor old Mad Liz and the return of her stress-related illness problem. The Poipes, whose blood pressure never rises above 40, announced in all honesty: "I never get stressed." Shocked wasn't the word.
As the night drew in Wren and I paid a quick visit to the City Arms, where we made use of the jukebox before stumbling off to a taxi and home.
Rather than cook, though, we took the option of heating some hot cross buns under the grill and then munching on the luxurious pork scratchings I have discovered at my local shop.
Wren, who falls to sleep regular as clockwork, was in the land of nod by 10 while I watched Arsenal overcome AC Milan out of the corner of one rather blurred eye.
When it was time to wake Wren for bed she seemed a might confused. "But how are we going to get there from Horfield?" she asked.
"Babe, we're not in Horfield, we are in the next room," I explained patiently.
Amazing what funny tricks your mind can play after a few gins and an impromptu kip.