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.