Friday, August 29, 2008

The biter bit

THE Prince of Darkness apparently bit off more than he could chew the other night. In a busy boozer, and well oiled with the required amount of vodka, he mysteriously materialised behind a young blonde and threw his arms around her, hoping his cloak of invisibility would hide his actions from the other partygoers.
Well, ok, there is a bit of spin put on this. What actually happened was that the Prince believed his intended victim was none other than The Solicitor, girlfriend of none other than Danny Boy (the Poipes, the Poipes). Knowing her fairly well he thought it quite within his remit to give her a friendly cutch (as the Welsh are prone to say).
But said cutch went rather wrong when the lady in questioned turned around and... wasn't The Solicitor at all. Now, I imagine the Prince made his rather incoherent excuses and left but this week the error of his ways was rammed home to him.
Danny Boy, never one to miss out on a tale - particularly one that he can vastly exagerate - confidently bowled over to him and informed him: "You know that girl you cuddled the other night? She only happens to be the wife of one of the tallest, toughest international rugby players in Cardiff."
Don't be surprised if the Prince remains in his mausoleum a bit more these days.

And that's it... I am off to Boston next week to see the Red Sox and have a (hopefully) relaxing break with Wren. I imagine we may have to do some sightseeing and shopping as well, but if that's the price I have to pay for a visit to Fenway (not once, but twice! much to Wren's carefully disguised anguish) then so be it.
Hopefully I can find an internet cafe from which to update you with tales of culinary delights in the States.
Ta, ta!

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Posh nosh

Posh and Becks turned up at The Yard last night to break the news. No, they aren't tying the knot as far as I am aware but Posh is moving up to join her partner in the big Smoke. They are going to live Sarf of the river and she will commute to Whitehall - yes, Whitehall! - in her new job. Best of luck, I say. No doubt the paparazzi has already been alerted to the reunion of the glamorous couple.
Meanwhile, Withers spent some time of his own in the capital at the weekend and had a rather strange experience on the platform at Victoria Station.
Before you ask: No, it didn't involve rent boys and a fiver.
What actually happened was that Withers spotted Wathanovski on the platform. At least, he was convinced it was Wathanovski. The bloke looked the spitting image but when the Wonderful One got closer he heard Wales' top soccer writer saying: "Anyway mate oi was walking down the apple n pairs and appened to glimpse me trouble n strife with..." You get the picture, broad cockney. The wonderful One was stunned.
But it got me thinking. Perhaps, just perhaps, the boy Wathanovski has been putting on his Welshness for public consumption. Maybe he's a lag escaped from Wormwood Scrubs who spends his weekends 'alf inching people's watches and loose change on various London stations.
More likely, though, is that this was Wathanovski's long lost twin and that they were both conceived within earshot of Bow Bells but someone stole Wathanovski from his carry cot outside the Royal London and spirited him away across the border.
Bare with me, the clues are there. The boy Wathanovski supports Spurs, for starters, even though he also expresses his undying love for Swansea. He's also been noticed sneaking off to eat jellied eels on his lunchbreak.
Um, well, alright, I made that bit up.
But mark my words, the truth can be stranger than fiction.

Saturday, August 23, 2008


THE infamous Morticia left our coven on Friday to try to make her way in the big smoke, so we had a farewell do in Pica Pica (or pikey pikey as the former Ego people like to call it). Everything went pretty well until the Fugitive decided it was time to go all Mexican on us and returned to me with a pint of lager and a rather scary looking Tequila-based drink called a Mojita. Of course, I had to return the compliment and... well... I don't remember anything else to be perfectly honest.

Interesting conversation in the office today with Sarah 'not guilty' Me Lud telling us about her rather strange approach to vegetarianism.
Monsieur De Le Busier let it slip that, amazingly despite his ultra-posh upbringing, he had never eaten caviar before. He then signalled to Me Lud and suggested: "I bet you have eaten caviar though, haven't you Sarah?"
"Of course not!" she replied, horrified. "I am a vegetarian."
To which our other veggie, The Wonderful Withers formerly of WoS, spluttered into his coffee and responded: "But you eat meat!"
"Only sometimes," Me Lud answered, rather perplexingly.

The Style Nazi is a crafty old fellow. After being asked politely by the Boss to change a WoS graphic for the third time he humped and grumped and looked pretty p***ed off, to be honest.
But while we were watching he managed to complete this rather time-consuming iritating job... in about five seconds! If he hadn't done all the moaning it would have been much quicker.
Note to self: Keep an eye on this one. If we had walked away and left him to it I am sure he could have stretched the job out for two hours.
He had his comeuppance again on Friday, as a matter of fact. The Style Nazi circulated an all-users E Mail ranting on about how he bought a clean tea towel in every day and that he was fed up with other people making use of it in the kitchen area, leaving it all wet and that.
This stroppy missive obviously struck a chord with some of the pranksters around us, including our photo guru stormin' Rob Norman.
When the Nazi arrived for work at 1pm the next day he found his chair, desk and monitor covered in every shade of tea towel you could imagine. Nice one!

By the way I thought I was still dreaming today. At 5pm the scores came through: Bristol Rovers 6 Hereford United 1. Now Smashy, though mainly a rugby fan, has a soft spot for the Bulls. I had to remind him that just to please him they had obviously reverted to rugby at half time, hence the number of points we put on the board!

Monday, August 18, 2008

Pick N Mix

My anonymity has been totally destroyed by this business of being the Ego letters editor (God help me). Not only am I now known in the corner shop, the laundrette and the local pub but on Thursday night I spent 40 minutes outside my house conversing with the taxi driver who had given me a lift home. He recognised my picture from the paper (thanks Orson) and wanted to tell me about the raw deal the drivers are getting from the council.
As it happens I totally agree with him over the seemingly random distribution of licences and the fact that they are finding it harder and harder to make a living. I am well acquainted with many of the old stagers, having stumbled many a time into a cab having found my legs unable to tolerate the weight of my body after a few lively evenings out on the town.
The trouble was that on this occasion I had to be up at 5.30 in the morning to edit the evening rag, sorry, paper and could have done with the extra 40 minutes to cook some supper and prepare myself for an early night.
The truth is I never volunteered to do the letters so it came as a huge surprise to me that Orson, our Head of Production, managed to find an old and, it must be said, very unflattering, picture of me in the system and next minute, hey presto, I was appearing right there at the bottom of the page. I will NEVER hear the last of it and chances of blending into the background are now slim to nil.

The Fat Kid and Big Boy came to visit me at the weekend, and Wren was over, too, to discuss bridesmaid dresses and the like. It felt like an ambush.
The weather was rubbish so despite all the talk of going to parks, we ended up having one quick whiz around Roath Park before heading into town for some shopping (outnumbered 2-1 again, I would have rather watched the footie results unfolding, but never mind).
The Big Boy has still got a huge appetite on him but having said that the two ladies in my life aren't far behind in the gnoshing stakes.
At one stage we came across a big pick'n'mix presentation in the St David's Centre and their eyes lit up at once. The next thing I knew they were filling a big yellow bag up with everything you could imagine from toffees to jelly babies, things that looked like pebbles and sugar-coated multi-coloured things.
Then I was handed the bag to give to the man on the scales. Total cost? £8.10! Pick n fix, if you ask me.

Later that afternoon we watched a good New York Cop/Russian Gangster DVD called We Own The Night with Mark Wahlberg, Joaquin Phoenix and the great Robert Duvall. Excellent.
Later I rustled up a carbonara and by the time that was done it was time for bed.

Next morning I took the Fat Kid and Big Boy over to see my Dad and Stepmum. My stepmum Jean got on famously with the Big Boy and he was soon admiring her antiques.
He reminds me a bit of the bloke in the Monty Python sketch who offers people arguments. Having picked up speaking only recently, he now knows how to disagree like an old timer.
Remember the sketch when the bloke walks in and pays to have an argument?
My afternoon went something like this:
Me: That's nice isn't it?
BB: No it isn't
Me: Yes, it is
BB: No it isn't.
I felt like saying: "This isn't an argument, you're just contradicting me."
But I know the answer would have been: "No, I'm not!"
After all that energy used up it was back to Cardiff to watch Manchester United draw their first Premiership game of the season at home to Newcastle and then rest up for the night on the couch.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

One cigarette

IT appears the Transylvannia fortune has finally run out. The Prince of Darkness admitted on Friday before his two-week break scouring the countryside for young virgins that he was on his bare bones.
"I have no money and don't get paid for a week. As I've got the week off I am going to stay in bed (for bed, read coffin) until next Friday and survive on the ten cigarettes I've got left."
Once he had survived that ordeal, the Prince revealed he would be going to the Green Man festival and making hay with hippies the following weekend.
"I suppose a Friday night drink is out of the question then?" I asked in tones conveying my deepest sympathy.
"Absolutely. Straight home to bed for me," he said, picking up his cloak and blending into the night.
A couple of hours later I went off to join the Bad Manners leaving do. She and the gang had taken up residence in the new micro-boozer, Zero Degrees. Joining a table containing Smashy, Paps and Danny Boy (the Poipes, the Poipes) I went to sit down on a chair, noticing that the dregs of a pint were left there.
"You can't sit there," Smashy informed me, "that's the Prince's seat."
Turned out the Dark Lord had bumbed £20 from the wannabe DJ so that he could inbibe. I should have guessed.
Later, standing outside having a smoke, I was joined by the Prince. "I'm off home in a minute, I'm skint again," he revealed.
"Well, at least you have your 10 fags for the week," I ventured.
"Um, no. Now I've only got one left."
It's gonna be a pretty rough week of cold turkey for the Dark one. I have visions of him lying in the crypt, sweating, while dead babies walk across his roof. Or, worst still, visions of Withers spinning his head 180 degrees wearing a nappy.

Friday was a pretty good night and though I said I would be home by 11 on the basis of taking charge of WoS on Saturday, by the time Wren and I crawled through the door it was about 1.30am. Oh well.
We moved on from the Manners farewell to the Nickers Birthday Bash in a new club called Calcutta. And it felt like going back to the days of the Raj with Mensahib Shutts holding court like some latter-day Viceroy lording it over his BBC subjects.
Shutts was full of himself (makes a change) having secured himself tickets to see the New York Yankees play one of their last-ever games at Yankee Stadium - some consolation, at least, for the fact he booked his hols in order to see Joe Calzaghe fight in the Big Apple, only for Joe to cancel the bout and put it back to a later date.

Saturday was a big day on WoS - first day of the football season - and I managed to shake off my hangover to get the paper out. Sunday, therefore, turned into a day of rest as I plonked myself in front of the TV to watch England and South Africa battle it out at the Oval.
I was up early in the morning, though, to watch Nicole Cooke's fantastic tactical ride to win Olympic gold - the first Welsh sports person to achieve the feat in 32 years. It was a stunning performance and I couldn't help jumping up and down with joy as she crossed the line.
Later, I watched the offshoot of Spooks, one of my new favourite programmes having secured the first three series on DVD. What a pile of poo! Called Spooks [Code 9], I don't think you could come across worse writing, stilted acting or dire dialogue if you searched for months. Utter tripe, made all the more disappointing because the original is possibly the only drama made in Britain over the last few years to go anywhere near matching what the Americans achieve with The Sopranos, the West Wing, Prison Break, Lost and Dexter.

Monday night I went the whole hog and made myself and Wren a full-on curry. I decided to do a few sample dishes with nan and pilau rice. The fiery lamb did what it said on the tin while the Peppers and Paneer were a little bit hotter than expected and the potato dhal also had a bit of a nip to it. When Wren turned red and started choking, steam coming out of her ears, I realised I might have overdone the chillis slightly but, being the stoic type she is, Wren battled through and finished the lot. I must get her that medal.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Carling Lager

WHEN a big story breaks there is sometimes only one person you can send to cover it... particularly if you have a staff of two men and a dog, like the Sunday Peeps.
Hence, with the other man on his summer holidays and the dog otherwise engaged sniffing around some scantily-clad celebrity, it was left to the Fab BB to make the journey to Wales to pick up the threads of the biggest story of the week.
However, en route to Cardiff Airport on Friday night he just happened to pop into The Yard to waive his expenses allowance in our faces and tell us about life in the big smoke. He was in fine form, too, it must be said.
While he regaled us of his tales of daring do, however, he was interrupted by a phone call, presumably from his boss on the Peeps newsdesk. And as he weaved an intricate tissue of fiction about why he hadn't actually reached the scene of the on-going news story yet he noticed that one of his erstwhile friends was offering him a top up.
Only hearing one side of the conversation, though, I must fall back on that cast-iron court defence of journalistic licence to tell you, my avid readers, of how I perceived this to sound from the other end of the phone.
Peeps big cheese: So, Baker boy, where do we stand with our lead story?
Fab BB: Just working on it, boss. Trouble is the plane doesn't land until about three in the morning, so I thought I would pop into town and gather some background.
PBC: Good idea, old son. So have we got anything so far?
FBB: I've spoken to a few people who seem to be in the know but it may cost us a bit to get them to talk. I will be heading down to the airport... Carling... soon."
Fortunately, I think the Peeps Big Cheese probably thought he said Darling, knowing what a vivacious and affectionate person the Fab One can be.
We, of course, know different.

Monday, August 04, 2008

(Out for a) duck

WREN, as her name suggests, loves birds. So at the weekend we drove down to the Slimbridge Wildlife Park in Gloucestershire to see what they had to offer (no Alan Partridge jokes please, Withers).
It was all good fun with plenty of swans, ducks, geese, cranes and even pink flamingoes to admire. There was even an exhibition of frogs - and grabbing particular attention was the aptly named Mr Custard, a huge yellow amphibian that we both thought was a plastic toy until we got close up. Eeew! Guess he was some kind of albino frog or something.
At the end of our little day out Wren decided to buy a fluffy toy cygnet from the gift shop. Quite a cute little thing, even if I say so myself. Then we had to come up with a name.
Well, she's already got a fluffy owl at home called Owzat! so I thought we should keep up the cricketing theme. Then it struck me... of course!
The cygnet is now called Graham after the Nottinghamshire spin bowler who has played a handful of games for England: Graham Swan.
On Saturday we met with Wren's auntie, who had come all the way from Canada, and her husband Roger and had an enjoyable, but rather pricey, meal at our future wedding venue The Avon Gorge Hotel in Bristol. It was a beautiful day - hope its the same conditions come next May. Later that day we went to the Bristol Harbourside festival but, typically, the drunks were out in style by the time we got there and the seething mass of humanity was a bit too much to bare... even for the firework display (which I don't give a monkeys for, anyway).
Winding our way home we looked for the old Bristol nightclub I used to frequent - The Dug Out - but failed to recall where it used to be. Instead we popped into the White Hart for a quick drink before going home via the curry house.

On Friday we had to say goodbye to Bad Manners. She has been a great colleague, a hard worker and forever reliable. It's a crying shame that she has to go but her contract to cover for Captain Mainwaring's maternity leave is up and that's that. Still, hopefully we will send her off in good style at a leaving do this Friday.

Have you ever been attacked by your kitchen? Happened to me the other day. Admittedly I was extremely hungover, but I just kept dropping things, or banging my head on cupboard doors and the like.
It all came to a conclusion when I reached to get something out of the cupboard, a plastic container fell out, landed on a plate that then catapulted a fork towards my stockinged feet. Jumping quickly to prevent serious injury I forgot to let go of the cupboard door and pulled it out of its socket. It took some explaining to Scooby the landlord, I can tell you!
Reminded me of that old board game Mousetrap, where a chain reaction ended up trapping a plastic rodent in an oversized washing-up basket.

Friday, August 01, 2008

Tortellini with Milanese Sauce

THE Prince of Darkness this week celebrated the 10,000th birthday since his immortal life began in Transylvania all that time ago. He did so by staying out until 3am on a school night in the favourite haunt of the undead, Six Feet Under.
Joining him on his wild night out were record-breaker Jamie and Danny Boy (the Poipes the Poipes). Fortunately I was tucked up in bed at that time on account of having to get up early to work on the Eggo.
Next morning the signs were there for all to see.
Poor old record-breaker had never been lured into the Dark Lord's company before and was certainly looking the worst for wear. "Uh, I stayed out a bit too long last night," he informed me. "Your mate doesn't half force the pace (he obviously doesn't realise that is the main benefit of being a disciple of the great Satan).
"It was only him and I and I definitely should have left much earlier."
Then the Poipes piped up.
"No it wasn't... I was there too," he said, beaming from ear to ear and looking as bright as a button.
"Come on," I chided. "Why don't you look like sh** today then? Or are you still p***ed."
"No," confided the Poipes. "I have found the secret of avoiding the morning hangover."
Now this snippet of news must be worth thousands to the boy from Newtown. I felt honoured he was prepared to share his secrets with me.
"What is it?" I asked in hushed tones.
He beckoned me in confidentially and whispered: "Two glasses of whisky before you go to bed. It works, you know. I tried it last night."
Not sure whether it will catch on, really.

There is a rumour the Prince is not too happy. He had a visitor to the mausoleum the other day and, shock of shocks, she OPENED THE WINDOWS! He looked all shook up about it when I saw him. Must have been worried a ray of natural sunlight would strike him and turn him to dust or, at least, a pool of vodka.

Other news. Smashy and the Wonderful One were knocked back to fourth place in the Brains quiz. But mutterings of illegal goings-on have been going on ever since, particularly from defending champion Smashy.
"All the Celtic lot, about nine of them, sat together. It was only supposed to be four in each team but they were swapping answers and marking their own papers."
The Wonderful One threw his ten pen'eth in. "Yeh, and guess who was at the centre of it all - Raffles, the gentleman thief. Explains it all."
What about the team that finished first, then, the one led by Son of Bono? "They had a book with them that told them everything they needed to know about Brains beer. Came in very handy in the last round, which was all about that particular tipple," said Smashy (or rather would have done if he talked in that sort of Pompous, upper-class way).
Anyway, the upshot is that I hear they are demanding drug tests, urine samples and truth serums to be administered forthwith. And maybe an anal probe for Raffles, just for the sheer hell of it.

Fresh tortellini with Spinach and Ricotta (a bargain in Morrisons)
1 chopped onion
1 chopped celery stick
1 diced red pepper
1-2 garlic cloves, crushed
2/3 cup chicken stock
Four vine tomatoes, liquidised
1 tsp tomato puree
1 tsp sugar
dried herbs
1/4 tsp dry white wine
button mushrooms
cooked roast chicken
salt and pepper
chopped parsley

Put onion, celery, pepper and garlic in saucepan
add stock and bring to the boil
Cook for five minutes
Add tomatoes, puree, sugar and herbs. Season.
Bring to boil and simmer for 30 minutes until sauce thickens.
Cook pasta in salted water
Put mushrooms in pan with wine, cook until wine is gone
Stir mushrooms and chunks of roast chicken into tomato sauce
Gently heat through
Put on pasta and add parsley as garnish