Saturday, December 27, 2008

Wos Not Wos

SO the great and the good gathered together in solemn contemplation as the Xmas party took place to celebrate, or was it to commisserate, the end of Wales on Sunday as a separate entity in the new era of Meeja Wales.
Well, to be fair, there weren't too many miserable faces as past and present members of that great institution got together again to consume vast quantities of alcohol and then forget everything that went on. The London WoS contingent turned out in force - the fabulous Baker Boy, Rosey, Becks and Ballsy Ballinger were all there to sip a few sherbets with the rest of us. Also present, if I can remember, were lifetime membership WoS-ite Bram 'the little Bowling Ball' Humphries, wacky old Woody, myself, the Prince of Darkness, Shutts, Mad Liz, Danny Boy (the Poipes, the poipes), the wonderful Withers of WoS, Monsieur de La Busier and Wathanovski.
One of the biggest mistakes was to get into a round with this lot in possibly the most expensive drinking establishments in Wales. The Yard was selling the Italian Brew Peroni for an astonishing £3.85 which even had the Baker Boy exclaiming: "It's even more expensive than London!"
As the beer flowed we began to get more boisterous, well I know I did, and later we went on to Six Feet Under where things all got a bit silly. At some stage, in short order, I managed to go barmy and sack my best man and Wathanovski somehow succeeded in abusing a barman and getting himself chucked out. In sympathy, we all walked out en masse and headed for the City Arms. Horror of horrors it was shut - on a Sunday night!
There was only one place that would take us in our stumbling form after that: The Lava Lounge. And though I didn't see out the evening it appears that Rosey, the only man among us who was able to recall anything, gave a full progress report to Coggsy on the phone the day afterwards.
When Wren and I visited Coggs and his Mrs Kempy the day after we were told a string of things which I had no recollection of at all.
And there were others that were completely denied - like the fact that the Wonderful Withers locked lips with a certain member of our group, and I don't mean Ballsy or the fab BB. Not true! said Withers, although his vehement denial prompted me to suggest: "Methinks, tho doth protest too much."
I guess it all depends on who you believe - storyteller Rosey or forgetful drunk Withers.
Next instalment, Xmas dinner at the House of Paps.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Party fodder

PEOPLE vowing everlasting love to their colleagues and threatening to leave their wives and children, others snogging people they shouldn't be, people falling over in the street, others ranting and raving at their best chums... ah, my good readers, it must be Xmas party time again.
Never let it be said that the good people of Meeja Wales couldn't organise a piss-up in a brewery. In fact, judging by the Xmas work rotas and the complete confusion surrounding who is doing what, I would suggest it is about the only thing we CAN organise.
You may have noticed that it has been two weeks since I last added an entry to this much-loved real-life serial of everyday newspaper folk.
A brief explanation.
The first week I spent away from work doing my Christmas shopping and recovering from copious hangovers. If the truth were told I was barely coherent enough to get my thoughts together, and my hand shook so much I was in danger of pressing three computer keys at once.
On the second week I came back to work and was so busy sorting out the delightful pile of Eggo letters in front of me that I didn't have a chance to scream, let alone think.
In which case, I have a lot of catching up to do and shall attempt to split this blog up into different sections running on different days to give you the full feel of how we humble folk spent the festive period.

It's probably best to start on the first Wednesday night when the usual suspects - Smashy, Paps, the Fugitive, the Prince of Darkness, the Wonderful One and I met up for a few sneaky ones in old O'Neill's. It was a generally decent night, from what I recall, and even the Fugitive managed to enter into the spirit of it without foaming at the mouth too much and repeating the words "kill, kill, kill..." as his mind focussed on the head honcho at the Welsh Rugby Union (If I was he I would be bolting my doors and windows and employing former SAS men as security guards this Christmas).
In fact, it's fair to say we were all in a pretty jolly mood, even my best man the Wonderful Withers, who was looking pleasingly coy when people started asking him about his apparent tryst with some mystery beauty at the Equinox do. Did I say mystery? Well, it was certainly a mystery to him the next day when the Boss chimed up: "Aye Withers, I hear ye were snoggin' that girly Rhiannon at the Equinox dooo". Apparently, onlookers tell me a terrible expression of doubt crossed the Wonderful One's features and he was later heard muttering to a colleague. "Who did I snog last night?"
Fortunately, Stormin' Norman put him right. His memory hadn't failed him, the boss had just identified the wrong girly.
The rest of the night passed pretty pleasantly, although I must admit it took some powers of recovery to be ready for The Big Event on the Friday night.

Come the Meeja Wales do and we all packed into the upstairs cupboard that represents the Function Room of O'Neill's. In a year's time, with the rate of redundancies and departures, it will probably feel like a grand hall to us, but at the current time - with three newspaper staffs all now incorporated under the same roof - it was a tight squeeze.
The company had contributed £20 a head to the affair behind the bar and the little Bowling Ball didn't help matters by inviting his entire entourage of cronies from the Boar's Backside to join us.
We only realised this fact when I was talking with Chalkie White and Picture Editor Rob Roy and glanced over to see this unfamiliar character, resplendent in red flashing nose and reindeer headgear tucking into our sandwiches with great gusto. "Who's that?" I inquired of my colleagues. They both shook their heads in denial.
Shortly afterwards this strange creature, tucking into his free pints and free food, was joined by our friend the Bowling Ball. Ah, I thought. I raised the question with the rotund one himself.
"Oh, yeah," he said. "My friends bought me drinks over the road (in the Boars) and I decided to use my £20 behind the bar to return the favour".
"So as soon as they finish their drinks they're leaving?" I asked.
He looked at me sheepishly. "I imagine so," he said.
Only the richest man in the building could have come up with such a cheepskate idea of treating his friends to a christmas drink (I'm sure the Greek, Steve "Ned Flanders" Jones and maybe even the wonderful One will soon catch on).
Later in the night and Steffan Ap Glyndwr Rees, our token rabid nationalist, turned on his erstwhile pal, cockney cheeky chappie snapper Rob "Kneeseupmuther" Brown.
"Bye Steff," ventured Rob as he set off for home.
"Don't speak to me you English @!*!@!" ranted Kommandant Ap Rees, stamping his Swansea jack boots up and down and making strange salutes in the air.
He was a little bit on the sheepish side when he turned up for work the following Monday to be told that the English-speaking side of the office had sent him to Coventry, a place he would never dream of going of his own accord (too far from Aberystwyth).

Meanwhile, the Boss was doing his usual job of geeing up the staff with motivational Christmas one-on-ones. "Oi, ya wee wassack. Ye've not doon anythin' good for a month, ye lazy Sassenach. Yer resting on yer laurels," he said in his soothing Irish brogue to one of the hardest working reporters in the building.
Still, the reply from The Barrow Boy was priceless. "F*** off! I don't care, it's my last day next week. I'm leaving to do PR."

And, off we trotted to the City Arms. Well, I say trotted. Withers was last seen stumbling. I had to hold the poor dab up to stop him hurting himself irreparably in the teeth region once more. "Lezzgoshittyyams," he spat at me, his eyes rolling in his head, his trouser buckle for some unknown reason hanging lower than his knees.
It took me five minutes to interpret before I got him to stand reasonably straight and concentrate like a grand chess master on getting past the two bouncers on the door. Later I poured him into a taxi and dropped him off home... just to save the Heath hospital nurses the time and trouble of trying to patch up his dental work again.
Next stop, the Wos Not Wos do, and more scary revelations...

Friday, December 05, 2008

Hospital food

Hello, and welcome to another episode of casualty. Oh no, sorry, it's just my blog.
It appears, though, that overnight the Meeja Wales sports department has turned into Emergency Ward 10.
The boy Wathanovski is sporting a cut above his eye that even Roy Jones Jnr would have thrown in the towel over, and deputy sports guru Blanchy has a huge bruise and cut on his forehead, too. My first thought was that perhaps the sports desk xmas booze up turned a bit nasty last night, but I was informed that the injuries occured in seperate incidents.
Fortunately I had stumbled home from PR agency Equinox's Xmas do at around 12.30 and turned down the chance to join the dirty stop outs in a dance club just down the road.
This, I am informed, is where Wathanovski, cutting some moves on the dance floor, slipped and cut his head on the DJ booth. Meanwhile, the Blanch-ster "did a Withers", a term now so universally used that I am told it is to appear in the next edition of Thesaurus. He fell and cracked his head on the pavement, but at least his teeth remained intact.
One of the other sports boys, Tucker, due to the Tropical conditions, actually developed sleeping sickness. I am reliably informed he was seen slumped in a chair outside said nightclub snoring to his hearts content.

I've got to say the Equinox bash - which was so good last year I stripped off my shirt and wrapped my tie around my head purely out of respect - was another pretty good night.
I hear the Wonderful One actually did a karaoke duet, though I must have missed that.
The Boss was out as was the editor of the Eggo, an approachable northerner from Barnsley who I shall from now on refer to as Trublat Hill. Apparently my parting shot to the man in charge of our loveable evening paper was "I gotta tell oo (wobble, wobble) aye ate the eggo. But s'ok cos I ate the Daily Snail more! Love WoS though."
As Wren says: "It's terrible when you end up going for a drink with your boss. It's like going for a night on the town with your parents." The Fat Kid should know: She actually had to put me to bed after one infamous Independent Xmas party when I ended up surfing on our stodgy northern soccer writer's briefcase.

Today we were paging up the wonderful evening rag when someone mentioned that we were going to do a rip-roaring feature on 16 Cardiff dancers who are appearing in Pantomime at the new Theatre. My mind raced back 30 years. "Oh my god, not the Olive Guppy dancers - they are shit!" I exclaimed before I realised I had actually opened my mouth.
Of course, no one knew what I was talking about but around 30 years ago I was sent to the very same Pantomime while at journalism college and asked to write a review. At some stage these young local dancers wobbled onto the stage and then appeared to dance in the most unsynchronised, un-choreographed way imaginable. That was my abiding recollection of the Olive Guppy Dancers.
Fast forward to now and later I was talking to Gerry Holt "Who goes there?" and Katie Stormin' Norman and it turns out that my fears were greatly exaggerated. The kids in question were actually from the LORRI Guppy School of Dancing. Phew that's a relief.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Feeding the Fat Kid

Friday night, and the Essex girls were in town. The Fat Kid descended on us with her good mate Carly, and Cardiff didn't know what had hit it.
Now, as you may already know, the Fat Kid isn't actually fat. It's more that she used to call everyone else by that unusual moniker and somehow it stuck. Having said that she can certainly put the food away.
After nipping out for a quick drink with Paps, the Prince, Smashy and Withers at the new, old O'Neills (the famous scene of St Paddy's night which has since burned down and been built up anew) I legged it home in time for Wren's arrival at eight.
The Fat Kid, having left Southend at around 3pm, was expected any minute but didn't arrive until 10. Why? She got lost. How? Well, her excuse was the fog but I can imagine she and her partner in crime were gassing all the way up the M4 and missed the junction.
When they eventually turned up they were quick to tuck into the wine with Wren and by the end of the evening had managed to drink the equivalent of a bottle each. The Fat Kid had also managed to help herself to some of our Chinese, even though she said she had only eaten a couple of hours before on a motorway service station.

Anyway, the upshot is that, rather than Wren's maturity rubbing off on the Essex girls, they managed to turn her into an honorary one for the weekend.
While I was working, they went for a bottle of wine and some food in the Spanish restaurant La Tasca where, apparently, Carly got chatted up by one of the waiters who told her if she returned that night he would give her a free bottle.
By the time I met up with them in the Thai Edge on Saturday night they were well into the bevvies, Wren sporting a brand new shade of eye shadow having had coaching lessons on "how to look good" by the deadly Essex duo.
Immediately they were pleading with me to take them out on the town, even though it was full of Welsh rugby fans three sheets to the wind after their astonishing 21-18 victory over Australia. I decided to be wise for once and thought that, with the weather so cold and so many people about, I would refrain from drinking so that I could drive them home rather than wait out in the cold for a taxi for hours.
Mind you, I am not a good designated driver. In fact, I am a terrible designated driver. And seeing people in alcohol-induced euphoria just makes me incredibly grumpy. If I can't join them I just want to get as far away from them as possible.
At one stage Wren was imploring me to go down into the depths of some rank club in St Mary Street where hundreds of stumbling, rugby-shirt wearing oiks were queueing. "Come on, it will be fun!" she demanded. Like a hole in the head, I thought.
Eventually we settled on cocktails in Pikey, Pikey (as the ex-Eggo crew call it). By this time the Essex whirlwinds were well into their stride, giggling and talking away at ten to the dozen and trying to lure the barman into giving them free cocktails. Their best line was "Guess where we are from?". Bearing in mind they believe Southend to be the centre of the Universe they were greatly disappointed when people couldn't work it out. One woman even suggested Ireland. "Do you always talk in a squeaky voice, like a couple of rats?" she asked them.
Normally the Fat Kid has a bit of a temper when provoked (who knows where she gets that from?) but her senses were so slowed by the copious amounts of alcohol she had been swallowing that she didn't realise it could be construed as an insult until about an hour later in the car on the way home. A night out with these two is like an audience with French and Saunders, and I told them so.
They both looked at each other, pointed simultaneously, and shouted in a high pitched squeal: "You're French then, the fat one." Got to love the Essex Girls.

Next day, as the Fat Kid had promised her mucca, I cooked up a pretty filling fried breakfast with scrambled eggs and a giant mushroom, together with sausages, bacon, beans, tomatoes, fried potatoes and freshly baked baguettes. It went down a treat.
Scrambled egg, by the way, is pretty easy in the microwave. You just mix up as many eggs as you think you need (I used seven for four people) add a good glug of milk, mix in salt and pepper, then turn it on full power for about three minutes (for an 800 watt microwave anyway). Keep checking and stirring until it rises light and fluffy and you can dish it up. A good trick that my flatmate Scooby showed me.

Once they had set off for home at one, I breathed a sigh of relief and Wren and I recuperated for the afternoon in front of the TV. Of course, the girls will be back... for poor Wren's stag night. By the time she returns she will be chewing gum, wearing micro skirts and shouting "Guess Where I'm from" while slurping from an alcopop. Brrrrrr, doesn't bare thinking about.