Saturday, October 18, 2008

Sound bites

PAPS has always fancied himself as a bit of a public speaker and thrives on an audience, but I don't think he ever dreamed of appearing in his own version of a Hollywood blockbuster: How To Lose Friends And Alienate People. Yet that is exactly what happened when he made a farewell speech to Katie 'the body' Bodinger last night.
The Body is off to that great job creation scheme otherwise known as the BBC. And Paps, who is rather fond of his former cub reporter, decided it was time to give her a right royal send off. Unfortunately his attempts at humour turned into a major character assassination that left people thinking that all The Body had spent her time doing on the Echo was getting legless and projectile vomiting. I understand from the lady herself that some of the stories were even made up! Now this blog has no truck with those who wish to fabricate the truth.
Anyway, having painted The Body as someone who might have been leaving because of a pre-arranged three-month incarceration at The Priory, he then managed to make things worse. Finally admitting that The Body was a good reporter he added the rider "and we haven't got many of those". Cue dark looks on the faces of his entire reporting staff.
Of course, what he meant to say was that the number of reporters in the newsroom was quickly dwindling - but by then the damage was done. I can already see Lisa "The Terminator" Jones and James "Snake" McCarthy (the Voice, to regular readers of this blog) planning all sorts of tortures for their esteemed leader.

The leaving do at the Copa (venue where Wren and I had our first date, so I view it with affection) was full of MeejaWales old and new. One of the more recent arrivals at the Hub made a particular impact.
I had never really encountered Shinpads Sian, the only female member of the sports desk, in a social atmosphere when three sheets to the wind. Normally this quiet, modest professional goes about her work calmly and efficiently with barely a squeek passing her lips.
Not last night. Shinpads, obviously well lubricated after starting the celebrations a bit earlier than the rest of us, started laying into people left, right and centre - and before long the bodies were piling up. The Fugitive took both barrels for not treating Shinpads like "one of the lads" and failing to invite her on his regular detours to The Yard. And Danny Boy (the Poipes, the Poipes) was virtually accused of stealing a Wales on Sunday job from under the nose of the feisty female.
And then it was my turn. Shinpads decided that she didn't find my red and blue England cricket baseball cap to her liking. "Girrit 'ere, Rippers, I'mgunaburnnit... Sccchnot a goolook, Rippers". I barely escaped with my life.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Roast Lamb with anchovies and garlic

YOU would think that I would be calming down in my old age. I thought that even I had been lured into that false sense of security that father time, and a steady girlfriend, brings.
But over the last week my equilibrium has been upset, the stopper has come out of the bottle and Ranting Rippers has well and truly emerged.
It started last week after a nightmare three days on the Echo, when I realised that I was grumbling, grouching and generally cussing under my breath at every given moment. On Friday night there was a bit of a firework spectacular (sorry Smashy, but the blue touchpaper had been lit by a week of 6am starts and 6pm finishes) then this week our wonderful "Turn it off and turn it on again" department sent me into overdrive.
My poor colleagues were quietly trying to snooze in the far corners of the Meeja Wales 'hub' when my computer crashed. Then, when I tried to log back on, it told me that it was permanently disabled and that I had no authority to access my own e mail, files, etc. I then tried to use the super-duper new phone system to get someone down from the "Turn it off then turn it on again" department. Unfortunately we only have a directory with individual names and no general department phone. Either that or we can ring Birmingham, or Liverpool or outer Mongolia (depending who isn't playing darts or enjoying their sandwich with their feet up) and log a call. Three hours later, if I'm lucky, someone might turn up.
Anyway, I tried about five different "Turn it on..." people and no one answered. Then when I did get through I was immediately cut off. Finally there was only one solution ... to explode. "*!**!*!*, x*!"!*!, *!¬&*!"!" Love to repeat the exact terminology but a. I can't remember it word for word, and b. It shouldn't be repeated on a family read blog (bit it ended with the c word and a verb closely associated with going to the toilet).
Anyway, after that I felt much better. And within minutes someone from the "Turn it off, turn it on" department turned up to tell me that they had moved me onto a new server without telling me (nice of them) and it shouldn't really cause me any trouble at all (which it already had).
I am still convinced the prompt response was as a result of the decibel level of the swearing which they could hear even over their afternoon cha-cha tea party in the IT lounge three floors up. Bless 'em.

Other news of the week... I nearly packed in the blog from living such an uneventful life that there was nothing to report; I tried to stay up and greet Wren on Friday night after a shedful in the Yard and opted to have a quick snooze, setting my alarm... Said alarm went off a minute after she arrived to find me prone, snoring in bed dressed only in my dressing gown... We had a country walk at a fab little park hidden in the depths of Cardiff (Cefn Ohn near Llanishen)... My cold staged an unwanted revival... I took Tuesday off as a lieue day which enabled me to join the Prince of Darkness (on hols), Withers (two days off) and Paps (day off) for an enjoyable evening's drinking in The Yard/new O'Neill's... I had a crappy hangover all day Tuesday and felt really fluey... Woke on Thursday to find the Red Sox, one defeat away from missing out on the world series, win a staggering game 8-7 over Tampa Bay at Fenway having been 7-0 down in the seventh inning (One of best post-season comebacks ever!).
Actually, I guess I have done quite a bit.

Sunday I cooked a nice roast lamb with gravy and tried out a few new tips which worked to perfection. First I cut a few deep cuts in the lamb and wound some strips of lemon peel through them. Then I added slivers of garlic and anchovies into the cuts, coated the fat with a bit of butter and put it into the oven on a fairly high setting - 220 degrees, gas mark 8. After 15 minutes I then turned it down to 160 degrees and added my veg. Towards the end of cooking I added six sliced shallots to the lamb.
When the lamb was cooked I removed it and put it on a plate, covered with file, and put the baking tray on the hob. I first mixed in about 3 tablespoons of flour with the shallots, before adding a good glug of white wine and cranking up the heat. Finally I added 3/4 pint of chicken stock and continue to stir on the hob until the veg was done.
Finally, having sliced the lamb I set everything out and strained the gravy through a sieve to remove the shallots. Very nice - and you could really taste all the flavours coming through the lamb.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

spicy szechuan scallops and noodles

YOU go more than a year without losing your phone, then you can't find it twice in three days. Mind you, I am not particularly surprised the item in question went missing on Friday night/Saturday morning.
On that fateful night I fell among thieves - well the Prince of Darkness on a mission, anyway - and after a few speedily supped pints in The Yard ended up going to the City Arms "just for one". I had a Saturday WoS shift coming up so no way was I going to misbehave on a school night, as Paps calls them.
Then Paps, the man himself, turned up with a couple of mates, and in turn the Prince turned up with a tray of Sambucas, on the basis that he had read the word Sambuca on the T-shirts of some lads out on a stag night. And, well, the next thing I know is I know nothing.
All I remember is finding myself awake on the sofa at 6.30 in the morning watching the Red Sox beating the Angels 9-7 in the last inning of their second game in the Divisional Series. I somehow crawled to bed in the faint knowledge I was supposed to text Wren but all fumbled attempts to find my phone had ended in failure.

Fast forward and I open a bleary eye to look at my clock - 10.45am! I'm normal in work by 10.30 on a Saturday so I rush, grab my things and faint memory becomes fact, my phone has gone. When I get to work Rowley Rowlands (who sounds like a character out of Grange Hill in the 70s but actually works as a MeejaWales news ed) informs me that my girlfriend has rang. Oops, I must be in trouble!
But it's actually good news. Some kind soul has phoned her to say he has found my phone and will bring it back to me at work. My faith in humanity is restored - at least for a couple of minutes, having deserted me 20 years ago. Said guy, Steve, turns up and returns it at lunchtime and I am eternally grateful (though not enough to give him any money for his trouble). Mind you, if I see him in the City Arms and recognise him in the future, I think a pint would be in order.
Meanwhile, it appears Smashy has become "Son of Paps" and has sent Wathanovski a video of me, shirt off but baseball cap still on, dancing the night away in the pub. This stripping off after a few beers habit is becoming a bit alarming. No clue how I got home...

Sunday was sport day, on the basis I couldn't move from the sofa. Watched West Ham lose to Bolton in the Premiership, then Newcastle grab a shock draw at Everton in the first-match under swearing Joe Kinnear. After that it was the Chicago White Sox against Tampa Bay and only at 9pm did I have a change of scene and watched the new series Fringe on Sky - a sort of X-Files crossed with Lost. Not bad.

Monday I went swimming and had an encounter with a world superstar. I was struggling not to drown on my 30th lap of the new Olympic Pool when I realised the bloke in the other lane was languidly doing a form of backstroke which involved no hands just a casual flicking of the legs. The fact he nearly lapped me would have been alarming until I realised it was GB Olympic silver medal star David Davies. And he doesn't look anything like as big as he does on the TV.
I was still pondering this fact when I came close to driving through a red light, slammed on the brakes and vaulted forward in my seat. My phone, resting on the chair next to me, went flying forward. Pick it up in a minute, I thought.
Reaching the launderette to collect my washing I got out of the car and went around to the passenger's side. Down on my knees, I searched everywhere for the phone but, like in Fringe, it had disappeared into thin air, swallowed by the space-time continuum no doubt.
After a while it seemed a bit ridiculous, particularly to the people walking past in the high street who must have wondered what the hell I was doing. There was a bit of swearing, too, although with no one to swear at I guess people just labelled me "nutter" and moved on.
When I went in the launderette and told my tale to be fair the man who runs it came up with the solution. "You go back to your car and I'll ring it," he said.
Moments later, back in the crouching position, I hear the familiar ring tone of Kenny Rogers "What condition my condition was in". But where's the phone? What it has actually done is slide along the carpet and up under the glove compartment, then drop into a space where some of the carpet has come away. The chances? Pretty slim, I would have thought.

Monday night I rustled up a quick meal based on a Ken Hom recipe, having bought some large scallops from Morrisons.
1 tbsp peanut or vegetable oil
1 tbsp chopped garlic
1 tbsp chopped ginger
3 chopped spring onions (I didn't have any so used a chopped shallot)
12 king scallops
1 tablespoon rice wine
2 tsp light soy
2 tablespoons dark soy
2 tablespoons chilli bean sauce (I used red thai curry sauce and 3 chopped green chillis)
2 tablespoons tomato puree
sprinkling salt and white pepper
1 tsp sugar
2 tbsp sesame oil

Heat up wok, then add oil until it smokes
Quickly mix in ginger, garlic and onion/shallot and stir fry for 10/15 secs.
Add the scallops and stir around, cooking for a minute.
Meanwhile boil salted water for the egg noodles in a saucepan.
Add all the sauce ingredients (rice wine, soy etc) - apart from sesame oil - to the scallops and cook for five minutes, stirring regularly.
When water boils for noodles put them in for 4/5 minutes until they soften.
Rinse in cold water, then add them to scallops
Mix in and add sesame oil before serving