I AM delighted to tell my avid reader(s) that rumours of the death of this blog have been greatly exaggerated. The truth is I couldn't be arsed to write anything until now having been away from the bearpit that is Meeja Wales for a whole glorious week. Sadly, I'm back and it was with a heavy heart that I dragged myself into the Hub of Welsh journalism this morning.
So let's recap. When I left the claws of this unruly beast a week ago on Friday it was straight off to the City Arms for a well-earned drink, hoping to wash away the memories of my last week of early starts on the Echo. From now on, it has been decided, the paper will print overnight and my hours will be adjusted accordingly. Apparently, the Prince and I will be working from 11.30 to 8pm from now on, which will fit in well with his desire to see as little sunlight as possible.
As Withers put it... "Rippers will have four pints, do some shouting, then go home." I think he had it about right.
On Saturday it was over to Bristol to pick up Wren and then enjoy a gloriously happy afternoon watching the Gas destroy Southend United 4-2 at the Mem with the rampaging Rickie Lambert nabbing all four goals. That didn't tell the full story either because at 4-0 up Rovers still managed to throw away two goals and leave me biting my fingernails for the last 15 minutes.
After that we visited my Dad on his birthday to present him with a card then went out on the tiles in Clifton for a few bevvies. We began in the Roo bar, a typical Aussie bar as the name might suggest, where we were immediately surrounded by about 30 loud 20-somethings on a birthday binge that involved drinking jugs of cocktails through a straw. Enough of that, we thought, knowing the evening was destined to end in tears.
So it was off to the Jersey Lilly, one of Bristol's oldest pubs, at the top of Blackboy Hill where we spent an entertaining evening watching what I believed were a group of Uni structural engineering students having one of the longest games of Jenga I have ever seen. They were all helping each other out until they had almost built an exact replica of the Sears Tower. When it collapsed it sent everyone scurrying for cover.
Sunday was a lazy day, returning to the boozer to watch Liverpool gain a shock win at Stamford Bridge (Chelsea's first home defeat in about four seasons) before lazing about on Sunday night before visiting the scene of the big day (our wedding) on the Monday morning.
It was all very useful for giving us some insight into our plans for next May.
From there it was back to Cardiff for a couple of days and on Tuesday we went shopping, managing to load up on CDs and DVDs for the roadtrip planned for later in the week.
So, a quick precise from here on in...
Tuesday night: Watched the highly entertaining film Juno.
Wednesday: Travelled to Birmingham (a late surprise for Wren) with plans to buy the wedding rings. Evening Meal in Pizza Express on a freezing cold night. Nearly managed to go flying across someone's table after retrieving the chilli flakes to spice up my dinner.
Thursday: Off to the Jewellery quarter where Wren and I struck lucky, getting a matching pair of rings from Marlowe's (the same jeweller, incidentally, that Wathanovski and the Teacher went to for their rings).
After that took a good three quarters of an hour trying to get out of the motorist hell that is our second city, before heading down the M40 to Marlowe for a freebee night in a luxury hotel, the Compleat Angler. Apparently the family tree has strong connections with the town, but I didn't manage to bump into any Rippers relatives while I was there.
We did manage to bump into the local pub conversationalist in the George and Dragon, however. As we waited to buy our drinks he regaled us of the Great Lard disaster of the previous day.
"This lorry went over and spilt its entire contents of lard all over the M40 yesterday," he told us. "Took three hours for them to clean it up."
I was waiting for the punchline, but it never came. He then set off to remove his frostbitten laundry from the washing line where he had left it in the snow for two days. I think he was then planning to return to the planet Zog.
Thursday night we had a lovely complimentary meal in the hotel and on Friday morning took some nice pictures of the Weir from our hotel balcony before the next leg of our journey.
Friday afternoon: Lunch with Wren's folks in Lavenham in Suffolk followed by a trip to Southend where we arrived with minutes to spare before the Fat kid went off to camp out for the night at the local fishery. Mad? She must be. It's all to do with a new boyfriend I gather.
Two hours later she was back. "I'm not camping in this weather it is madness!" she said.
Saturday: Spent the day cussing Christmas shoppers at the Lakeside Shopping Centre at Thurrock where we went, you've guessed it, Christmas shopping. Got the Vin Monster and Big Boy a new winter coat each and treated everyone to a Burger King in the heaving food court.
By the time we got home we were shattered which, given the fact we were off to a fancy dress party to celebrate the 31st birthday of Evans, was bad timing, really.
I had already sorted the fancy dress though. You could say it was a variation on a theme. Evans had chosen DVD covers and so it wasn't difficult to wrap a tie around my head, put a bit of smeared mascara on my cheeks, and attend as Robert De Niro in the Deerhunter.
Wren's outfit took a bit more effort - a blond wig, white dress and button badge which said: "Off the record, on the QT and very Hush, Hush".
For those who don't know films, Withers, she was Kim Bassinger in LA Confidential.
The party, once we found it, was very good. Evans was in top form as Evita and her bloke Matt had somehow managed to staple two suits together in a splendid portrayal of Two Face from the Batman movies. One of their mates, Dan, was the one who fooled everyone. Turning up in a red check jacket and knee-length skirt having walked the entire length of Leigh-on-Sea town centre (he also had a strange, old womanly bonnet on his head) he defied everyone to actually guess who he was. Miss Daisy? No. Miss Marple? Uh, uh. By the end we worked out he had just come as himself. Very entertaining it was, too.
Woke at 6am on the Fat Kid's sofa with Wren shaking me and inquiring: "Are you coming to bed?" For some reason, having returned home after a bellyful of Kronenberg I had suddenly found great interest in the results of the X Factor. As it was, I missed them all.
Sunday morning: No phone, no tobacco, no car keys and no toy gun. Typical. Managed to establish that I'd left the keys at the party and found the phone under the Fat Kid's car seat. The others were to turn up later.
Retrieved keys and drove home, dropped Wren off after a cup of tea, some food and a kip, and then headed off across the Severn Bridge.
Monday: Washing, ironing, cleaning, watched the awful Transformers movie and Fringe before an early night and anticipation of a return to the Hub.
I have a new bedfellow. He has soft fur, is about two-and-a-half foot tall and his name is Fenway. He is a teddy bear I bought for Wren and he has already settled in nicely at the flat.