Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Turkey curry

THAT'S it then, festivities over. But it was fun while it lasted. Mrs R and I spent a few days with the Fat Kid, the Vin monster and Big Boy up in good old Sarfend and I can't exactly call it relaxing. From 7am in the morning we were up and about as the two boys surveyed their Everest-style mountain of presents, some of which had been put together by the Fat Kid and myself the night before.
Now, this always drives me crazy. We had bought the Vin monster an electric scooter which weighed a ton and putting on the seat, handlebars etc wasn't as easy as it first looked. Then, of course, we had to charge it for 12 hours which meant hiding it wasn't the easiest of tasks.
The Fat Kid is a natural when it comes to fixing these things. She just looks at the parts and automatically knows where they go, whereas I study the German instructions with Lowry-like diagrams and haven't a clue what they are talking about. Still, between us we got it up and running, though the seat was another matter and we had to wait for the monster's father to turn up to fix it on properly.
Then there was the Big Boy's first ever bike, which was even more complicated with handlebars needing to be attached, pedals and stabilizers put on and the brakes fitted properly. We managed to do this, eventually, minus the brakes, which the Fat Kid didn't consider all that important, really.
And the other downside is that you are then dragged outside by the boys and have to stand around in frrezing cold tempratures watching them perform on their new methods of transport.
Of course, Xmas is the Monster's birthday and he is growing up fast. He now seems himself as th world's biggest fan of JLS, one of those boy bands who rose to fame as part of that annoying commercial money-making scam called the X-factor. He had JLS CD, JLS hoodie, JLS signed poster (a snip at £66 but, well, it was his birthday) and even JLS cake, plus 3 identical JLS calendars from assorted aunties and grannies. By the end of the day I was pretty sick of JLS.
The Fat Kid did tell a funny tale of how Vin and his mates were sat in the back of her car when she took them to the flicks as a birthday treat, singing along to the popsters in the manner of Mike Myers and Co singing Bohemian Rhapsody in Wayne's World.
Anyway, I digress. After making breakfast for everyone, opening prezzies, supervising the boys in the freezing cold and making tea for various callers, it was then on to preparing the Xmas feast and, for the first time in years, I decided we should go with traditional turkey. I was prompted to do this by the Turkey Crowns on offer in Morrisons which looked fantastic and would have no trouble fitting into the oven on the basis they were legless, which was more than I achieved over the whole Xmas period.
Anyway, I prepared the pigs in blankets, stuffing, honey-roast parsnips, roast potatoes, turkey, beef, sprouts, mashed swede and yorkshire pudding and was pretty pleased with my efforts. Less impressed, though, when all the hard work was done suddenly the two girls appear in the kitchen, inquiring "anything we can do?"
The answer was: "Yes, don't pick at the bloody food until I've dished it up and... go away!"
Unfortunately, the Fat Kid didn't have a kitchen table so the adults ate on trays and the boys had their own little table and chairs out. No matter, from the way the Vin Monster said: "You're like a chef," I think it went down pretty well.
By the evening, though, there was nothing to do but crash and watch Dr Who's Xmas Special, the Gruffalo and Gavin and Stacey. Then to bed for work in the morning, but a fine day was had by all, I think.
Oh yeah, prezzies... I had some shirts, a pair of work trousers, a Joe Strummer DVD, the Ashes 2009 DVD, In the Light and on this evening by the Editors, a Clash CD, an electric knife for cutting food and lots of other bits and bobs. I think I did pretty well...

Btw the Rippers rap went like this...
Subs don't kill stories, lawyers do,
Ask Neil Ashton he'll tell you it's true,
It's a fact that lawyers make you violent,
Particularly when your exclusive is kept silent,
You don't believe me? Here's my tale,
Ash sent a story over on his e mail,
About a ticket scam, plain and true,
But when the lawyers saw it they went "boo hoo",
You can't print this the head man said,
Or Fergie will sue us and we'll pay out a shed (full),
But Neil insisted "I didn't get it wrong,
If you ask me the whole thing pongs!"
No matter, though, it went to the Ed,
And he decided to kill it stone dead.

Puns don't kill stories, lawyers do
Sound of the police Woo Woo Woo

He's a sub and his name's Geoff Critch,
Over the last year he's been working like a bitch,
He had to step in when Dykesy was away,
And fill in for Jonesy on another golf day,
He lives up north and has to travel down,
Listening to his i-pod to relieve his frown,
And when he's here he has a little flat,
He shares it with a cockroach so it's not all that,
And then on Sunday when everyone relaxes,
He has to join the Mirror just to pay his taxes


His name is Macca and he's my boss,
Supports West Ham and he's at a f***ing loss,
They sell all their players and don't buy none,
If they're not too careful they'll be playing in league one,
The thing about Macca is he likes a rant,
If you do something wrong he'll call you a ...
He's been off the booze since going back to June,
So by 6pm he will be howling at the moon,
Well that's the lot, I've finished my rap,
I thought it was good, but no doubt it was crap...

Loads of Turkey left by the way so it's turkey curry, a la Brigitte Jones, for the next few days

Friday, December 18, 2009

Singing for your supper

FOR weeks now the old hands on the Screws, particularly boss Macca, have been harping on about a Christmas tradition. It goes like this... Any new arrivals that calendar year are required to give some kind of performance at the end of the sports desk Xmas lunch. It's called singing for your supper, though why we should have to do this when we have already paid almost £50 for the privilege is completely beyond me.
Anyway, the tale we have had drummed into us is that last year our north east correspondent Martin Hardy performed a passable version of Bladon Races, a bit of a shock really seeing he's from the Newcastle area.
Anyway, as one of five new arrivals I thought I had better prepare properly for the big event and wracked my brain to come up with something to do. At first I was thinking of a football theme, like the Anfield Rap, but then it dawned on me that as a representative of Wales perhaps I should look closer to the principality for my inspiration. Finally, after 10 minutes of hard work, I came up with my version of the old Goldie Lookin' Chain classic Guns don't kill People... the twist was that I was to sing Subs Don't Kill Stories, Lawyers Do.
It dawned on me that to carry out such a desperate task I would at least needs some props to hide behind. Well, more regular readers of this neverending story may recall that I am the proud owner of a couple of Do Rags, which were purchased a few years back during an England cricket tour of the West Indies. That would solve one problem, and a baseball hat might also come in handy to hide behind and cover my head when pelted with dangerous flying objects.
I decided the verses should, perhaps, be about characters in the office and I wanted to sing the praises of one individual in particular, the hard-working Critch.
Now Critch has a rather noticeable stubble which, when he hasn't gone near the rasor for a while, can turn into the beginnings of a beard. He is also the oldest member of our happy clan so I thought it only right that said beard should be grey.
Finding one, though, was presenting a bit of a problem.
On Monday Mrs R and I visited Cribbs Causeway, the vast shopping centre on the outskirts of Bristol. Yet despite managing to sort a fair deal of the Xmas shopping, the grey beard eluded me. Then, taking an experimental route home through Patchway, we spotted a Xmas party store and did a quick about-turn to study all the fancy dress costumes etc. Finally, my lady wife discovered a long grey beard which we decided, with a fair bit of work, could be reformed into the desired facial appendage.
That night we got out the scissors and scythed away at the tough, grey stuff until it looked vaguely acceptable. We also, during our trip, found one of those giant, echoey kids imitation microphones which I thought would only add to the theme.
Suitably equipped, I set off for London early on Tuesday morning for the Bash of the Day.

Booking into the Holiday Inn down the road from Fortress Wapping was easily enough but getting from Limehouse into the city was a mare which reminded me why I had quit the smoke in the first place. A catalogue of closed stations and tube trains breaking down meant I didn't reach the meeting place - the Bell around the corner from Canon Street Station, until half an hour later than intended.
The place was already heaving with the great and the good from the Screws and I soon linked up for a beer with Bobby Bowden, the man who takes sole responsibility for my return to London. After a couple of lubricating Fosters we started talking about the forthcoming events, and I must admit the alarm bells suddenly went off in my head when he said he recalled Martin Hardy singing "Fog on the Tyne" at the previous dinner. "I thought it was Bladon Races?" I said, watching his eyes carefully to see if the whole thing was a wind-up. He just shrugged it aside - "What's the difference? It was all in Geordie anyway."
Good answer.
Once the great and the good were all gathered together it was on to a restaurant called the Don, an Italian in the heart of the city, where we were invited into a dining room exclusively for our use. I must say the service was excellent and the food - though hardly the kind of large Xmas dinner that I will be tucking into on the day in question - was tasty and, in the case of the pudding, very rich and filling.
Then, after a speech from Macca came the obligatory raffle in which, somehow, the world's two biggest gamblers and close cohorts Lethal and Adders, managed to carry off the first two prizes. There were cries of "fix, fix" but they just laughed it off and pocketed the cash, totally oblivious to the accusations of scandal going on around them.
And then it came. Macca announced that the new boys had to sing for their supper in "time-honoured News of the World tradition". He then revealed that, in fact, the tradition had only begun this year and this would be the first time. He then took up his post as Simon Cowell on the top table and invited his secretary and one of the other girls to take up the roles as Cheryl Cole and Danni Minogue from the X-factor. To complete the line up came one of the old skool Screws writers David Harrison, as Louis Walsh.

First up was Ash, our chief soccer writer, who passed out free lighters to the 35 guests then requested the lights be turned low before launching himself into what can only be described as Robbie Williams' Angels, as sung by Bob Dylan. The high notes were certainly a test too much but he deserved top marks for bravery and at least he got the audience singing along.
Critch followed with a 20-minute speech on why he had chosen to sing a certain song which wasn't funny but made his dad laugh. It turned out to be Laurel and Hardy's Trail of the Lonesome Pine.
And following swiftly on we had young soccer writer Greg and Internet Editor Adam in a duet, complete with dreadlock wigs containing coloured beads, revisiting the back catalogue of the little known Millie Vanilli (and I probably haven't spelt that right).
Finally, after a nervous wait brought on by the fact it was decided in alphabetical order, I was on "stage" or, rather, standing alone in the corner of the room with all eyes turned on me. I quickly hid behind a corner and opened my props bag. God knows how someone like David Bowie managed 20 costume changes a performance because I was struggling to get the Do Rag on straight and nervously trying to get the baseball hat out without spilling everything else onto the floor from the bag.
The chatter going on in the room suggested they thought I might have done a runner but finally... finally... I appeared, fully dressed for the occasion, to perform the first verse of my rap.
Then another costume break. And this time I could not for the life of me find the Critch beard. Now this, you understand, was my moment of comedy gold, the thing that would make the whole show work... and it had either fallen out of my bag on the way to the pub or was still back home in Bristol.
I scrambled around for ages, I could hear the natives getting restless, my heart was beating ten to the dozen and I was breaking out in a sweat. Oh Lordy. Then, finally, I put my hands on the beard, strapped it on and rejoined my audience.
Glad to say the reception was worth waiting for as I sang my verse about the great Critch.

To end on a make or break note I opted for a verse about the boss Macca. When I say make or break I mean it was either going to make him see the funny side or he was going to break my ankles. Thankfully it was the former.
After that we all moved on to a pub called the Vintry, then ended up in a bar called Revolution by which time I was so twatted I could feel my legs giving way so made my exit, jumping into a waiting taxi to be swiftly taken back to my hotel. A very enjoyable day, though, and I will put the contents of my rap up on my next posting.
Fortunately, and wisely, I have taken the week off.

Monday, December 07, 2009

Food of the World

Word reaches me that Meeja Wales' own version of Thelma and Louis, Smashy and Paps, have decided they are going on a worldwide tour. The two brave souls have both handed in their notice - a huge loss for the newspapers they sweated blood for over the last few years - and are going to spend six months travelling around to the four corners of the earth.
I say brave because the hardest thing, surely, will be for them to handle six months of each other's company. Even when they shared a house in Cardiff they hardly ever saw each other.
And that's not the only breaking news from the hub of Welsh journalism. Ben double glazing has already left for pastures new, apparently trying his luck working for Cardiff's self-styled Sleaze Brothers freelance operation, and will soon be joined there by Catherine Mary.
Meanwhile Sandra Hoy-palloy has apparently got herself up the duff again and Cat, the incredible laughing news editor, is also with child. Like I said before, there must be something in the water.
Other departures include Katie Stormin Norman and Gavin the gig guide Allen. Wonder if anyone has actually looked into these departures and questioned whether anything might not be quite right at the centre of Welsh journalism? Unlikely, but I hear the Little Bowling Ball has already been given lessons on how to turn the lights off at the end of his 20 hours a day, seven days a week shift.

I discovered all this gossip when I had a wet-your-whistle stop visit from the Fugitive, the Wonderful One and Shutts at my Bristol hideaway yesterday.
I picked up Withers from Bristol Airport where it outrageously cost me £4.50 to park for 20 minutes. The Wonderful One, who would have had to pay £6 to get a bus to Temple Meads, was true to type though, his hand never venturing near his moth-devoured wallet.
When he got off the plane he looked remarkably well for someone who had spent the previous night at a Glasgow "Burlesque" evening and had woken up fully dressed in tuxedo.
He had even worn a top-hat for the occasion which he had bought from a mysterious hat shop that suddenly materialised in Grangetown. As Paps suggested, it sounded like something out of the much-loved kids programme Mr Benn. Actually brought a smile to the miserable one's face, so I'm told.
The Fugitive and Shutts later arrived at Chez Rippers and I was soon escorting them down the hill and around the corner to my lively local The Masons Arms where Withers immediately took a liking to the Stroudy cider while I made up for lost time quaffing back pints of Fosters. The Fugitive, though, was driving and had to refrain from the imbibing. As for Shutts, the tee-total one stuck to his diet cokes.
Interesting to see Shutts trying to meander his way around our little old cottage, though. It looked like a scene from Gulliver's Travels as the 6ft and lots Welsh giant ducked to avoid the low-beamed ceilings.

Congrats to Wathanovski and the Teacher on the birth of their first child - a daughter. Sorry, can't remember the name and deleted the message from my phone but the Welsh football correspondent is "over the moon".

Talking of celebrations, we were rewarded with a can of Carling each for work on the 16-page all-singing, all-dancing News of the World World Cup draw supplement after working an extra long Friday to put it together.
Boss Macca presented the cans with a flourish and thanked us for "all our hard work", removing them from his own personal fridge (I imagine they were gifts from the Premier League sponsors originally).
Lovely gesture nonetheless.
Next morning, though, I was feeling a bit ropey. And the reason manifested itself when I got to work and was informed that the lager we had supped at the end of the previous night's shift might not be quite contemporaneous.
"It was 14 months past its sell-by date," one of my informants revealed before making his excuses and leaving.
It was luxury, though, that because of the late-night working the company splashed out for a hotel room for the night for me. I stayed at the Holiday Inn at Limehouse - and very pleasant it was, too.

Thursday, December 03, 2009

A spoon full of sugar...

I'M beginning to think I have followed the wrong vocation. Judging by what has been going on for the last week I think I should be renamed Dr Rippers or, worse still, nurse.
While the delightful Mrs R has been feeling worse for wear following the shocking news of her pregnancy (I already feel extremely guilty for putting her through this experience) my incredible shrinking daughter is now just over eight stone and was laid low this week with a virus surprise, surprise.
You see, The Fat Kid is going to have to be renamed the extremely Skinny Kid before long.
The trouble is she tends to live off a bowl of cereal and a couple of slimming biscuits per day on the basis that she believes her nickname. I keep telling her it's rubbish but she won't listen to me. She goes to the gym three times a week but doesn't realise that she actually needs food to supply the energy to enable her to complete all these spinning classes.
Result: Her body gave in last week over sheer exhaustion.
Poor old fat, I mean Skinny, kid. You can even feel her ribs these days and where once she was just a smidgen smaller than me she now also seems to have shrunk so that she only comes up to my chin. Gonna have to fatten her up over christmas, I think.
Meanwhile, poor old Mrs R is really struggling. She can't stay up past 9pm and doesn't enjoy the fact that strange things seem to be happening to her body which are totally outside her control. I would like to help but don't know what to say - it's hormone hell, by the sound of things.
On a good note, I went to see the Gas play Exeter City at home on Tuesday. My fab football team managed to win 1-0 and move into the top six again. Never mind the fact that they were totally mullered, battered, outplayed for 89 minutes they somehow managed to hang on for their first clean sheet in 13 games.
Going up, going up, going up - lord save us.
Sadly, I missed the only goal of the game. I was standing freezing away in the Family Enclosure with my mate Haydn, whose son Liam plays for one of their junior teams and thus gets his dad free entry to the ground, when I decided that nothing was going to happen. Thirty three minutes in and the Gas had barely mustered a shot.
Sods law! As I am tinkling away an almighty roar goes up and Darryl Duffy has put the Boys in Blue ahead. Great.
I had to wait until shortly after nine the following morning to see the goal that had sent us soaring into the upper echelons of the division.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Roll out the Barrel

UP here on the Screws our sports news editor Dykesy has gone on leave for a month. The young whippersnapper has just had a baby daughter, Connie, and I am wondering whether this fertility thing is catching because he actually sits next to me.
While he is up to his armpits in nappies, however, he is being sorely missed back in Fortress Wapping, and not necessarily for his immense journalistic skills.
Popping into the local boozer, the Wilted Rose, for a quick beer before getting the Shoeburyness train back to the Fat Kid's den, I happened to overhear a conversation between two of the bar staff. It had been a busy day, apparently, and they had taken £140. Of course, it was Thursday and we just happen to enjoy a few bevvies there at lunchtime on that day.
The problem was that the beer had run out and they were at a loss what to do. "I tried to change the barrel but I couldn't," said a rather distraught serving wench.
"Oh, sh**, I don't know how to do it either," said her colleague.
Then the barmaid had a brainwave. "Don't worry, I'll get Dykesy to do it. He'll sort it out when he comes in," she said.
Unfortunately I had to spoil her plan. "Sorry, I work with Dykesy and he is off for a month," I said.
"Oh no!" she replied. "We always get him to go down to the cellar and sort it out when it needs changing. I think his folks used to run a pub or something."
Got the message, Dykesy? Come back soon!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Oats so difficult

When I was about to tie the knot no one warned me about how much screwing was involved. No, sssh, quiet at the back, what I mean is however much you insist during courtship that DIY stores are completely out of bounds eventually you find that, rather than buying ready-made furniture, you are in Ikea stocking up on some preposterously awkward flatpacks.
Obviously not only does marriage come with certain financial obligations you didn't really factor into the equation when you were down on bended knee declaring undying love, but it also seems to administer an instant brain labotomy, wiping away completely all the good, sensible principles you held dear as a single person.
I fell into this trap because Mrs R, tired of sending me subliminal messages about improving our abode which obviously weren't getting through, has taken to leaving little TO DO lists around the house, hoping that I might get the hint. You find them in strategic places, like next to your tobacco on the mantlepiece, and can't avoid having a nose to see what they say. Among the things listed on this one was: Get a dining room table.
Well, being a bit financially challenged at the moment and with Mrs R having revealed the earth-shattering news that she is up the duff, my guilt gene kicked in with remarkable force and somehow I found myself at the aforementioned warehouse from hell buying a dining table and chairs.
Putting them together involved digging out the only two small screwdrivers I could find and concentrating manically on an instruction leaftlet full of diagrams which make the whole thing look so easy. Yeh, well.
The first problem you find is that, although it seems you have everything in front of you, it pretty soon dawns on you that there is one vital bolt missing from the package. Never mind, just carry on regardless rather than ring Ikea and have to make the whole miserable trip again just to pick up the missing item.
What it ends up like is a lesson in contortionism as you vainly try to get all the parts together at the same time. Fit one bit, and another falls off... screw in one part and you find that the part is actually upside down even though it looks exactly the same whichever way you hold it.
And then, when you think you have finally cracked it, you realise you don't have the Phillips screwdriver required, just an itty bitty normal implement on which you will have to exert the kind of pressure that a WWF wrestler might attempt as he tries to get his foe to submit.
Thankfully the end result is a reasonable looking table and four decent chairs, total cost £90 and a stunning array of blisters.
But what about the satisfaction of actually finishing the job? Pah, I would rather pull out my own teeth with a pair of pliers than go through that experience again.

On Sunday we met up with old colleagues Claire and Neil, with daughter Amelia, and Natalie and her boyfriend, also called Neil, or Neil the power as I will now refer to him to avoid confusion. The power? Well, I understand he works in a power station so it will have to do.
The latter two had travelled down from Carlisle so that The Power could go through the pain and suffering of watching his beloved football team play my shambolic lot at the Memorial Ground. For a while it looked like they would inflict the sixth defeat in a row on the Gas, leading twice only to go down to a goal three minutes into injury time. I actually felt a bit sorry for the geezer after all the travelling he had done to encounter such despair.
No matter we had a very enjoyable lunch in the White Lion on Frenchay Common and later Claire, Neil and Amelia had a tour of the cottage before heading back to Cardiff.

Poor Mrs R hasn't been feeling too good since the big news. As such I have been trying to help her out the best I can. This morning I attempted to make her porridge. This, like the table and chairs, hinted that it would be a breeze. The clue was on the packet, after all. Oats so Simple.
It involved opening a sachet, putting the oats in a bowl, filling the sachet with milk and then heating in the microwave for two minutes. What could be easier?
Umm, quite a bit. What it didn't say was the flimsy sachet wasn't really built to hold milk and that the slightest movement ended up with the majority of its contents on the floor. Having mopped that up I tried again, put the porridge in the microwave and then served it up to my ravenous wife.
One look at her face told me it wasn't quite the way she liked it. I think my porridge making duties will be going exactly the same way as my DIY career.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Baby food

I went to see the doc this week. I've had a hacking cough and wasn't sure what caused it. Her first question was: "How long have you been smoking?"
Normal doctor question, I thought. No biggy. Then I roughly worked it out. "30 years," I said. Then, in my head, I worked it out properly. 36 years! Oh my god, I thought, no wonder I sound like a traction engine with rusty gears.
And, of course, there is the booze, too. I guess that only started moments after the cigarettes. I am seriously a wrecked human being.

Apart from the body, I was starting to believe my brilliant gourmet qualities were deserting me, too. The other day I did a quite enjoyable meal for myself and Mrs R and she only managed to eat half of it. "I've had quite a lot actually, I don't eat that much," she said.
"No you haven't," I argued. "You would normally eat most of that. You have barely touched it."
"I'm not that hungry really," she argued.
Hmm, I think I had better go on a cookery revision course.

The fat kid is 27. She keeps pestering me for things every five seconds. This week it was "Can I have my nails done? I am an only child and they only cost £25."
"Ask your boyfriend to pay, fat kid," I told her. "Why should your dad pay for all these things?"
"Because you're my dad," she said. Doesn't sound a very good reason to me, but obviously she thought so.

Mrs R came downstairs, shaking a small stick at me. "What do you make of this?" she said.
I looked at it. Hmm. Then I looked at the chart she was holding. Bigger hmmmm.
Then I worked it out. And maybe you have worked it out, too.
Mrs R and I are having a baby.
Bloody hell!
Before we got married we discussed children and I told her there was virtually no chance of me fathering another - I had hardly treated my body as a temple. I think Mrs R may have been quite keen though, because no sooner had the nuptials been completed than she had come off the pill.
I assured her, however, that my worn out and slightly anebriated sperm a. wouldn't have the energy to find their way to the fallopian tube and b. once there wouldn't be steady and sober enough to actual find the way in... and would probably fall asleep in the vicinity.
It appears I was wrong.
So at the age of 49, when most of us are dreaming about retirement, maybe emigrating abroad, enjoying the quiet life and settling in with slippers and pipe, I am going to be a daddy again.
It means the fat kid won't be able to call herself "an only child" as well, particularly as she has four sisters from her mother's side of the family.
To be honest the whole thing is complete madness.
And I can't wait.

ps As my own father is 85 and can't turn on a computer or read a blog I am biding my time to tell him. Anyone who reads this - please don't jump the gun, I don't want him collapsing from the shock!

Friday, November 06, 2009

Heineken poisoning

HAVING adapted to the life of the upstanding, hard-working, married citizen I found out to my cost how the whole healthy living regime can have a serious effect on you when you slip back to the old ways.
In short, I feel lucky to be alive today.
It all goes back to an official 'business' lunch with Coley on Tuesday. I took the train over to Cardiff feeling quite up to the task and looking forward to the day out. What happened after that is anyones guess and I only have a couple of eye witness accounts to piece it together.
Everything changed from the moment Coley arrived on the scene while I was finishing off a pint of Fosters in Copa before eating.
"I'll have a Heineken," said Coley to the barman.
"And I'll have a Fost... oh sod it, I'll try a Heineken, too," I said. A fatal decision.
From that moment my memory goes something like this...
a. Ate a steak with chips and pepper sauce.
b. Had another Heineken.
c. Had a brief ramble about the ills of Welsh journalism.
d. Had another Heineken.
e. Was joined in pub by the likes of the Fugitive, Kennedy, Danny Boy (the poipes) and Tea Cadden.
f. Er, that's it...

What I was told happened via text from the Fugitive...
a. I got to my feet and couldn't walk.
b. I was refused drinks.
c. I barged out of the pub knocking a table over.
d. I vanished.

What I vaguely recollect...
a. Falling over in a puddle in the street among the early Xmas shoppers.
b. Meeting a beggar and handing over all my cash.
c. Waking up on a train not knowing where the hell I was and fearing I might be three quarters of the way to Paddington while Mrs R waited in vain at Parkway Station to pick me up.
d. Surfacing next morning with the worst hangover known to man.

Then there is the inponderables which I may never solve like...
a. How I managed to get through the ticket barrier.
b. How I got onto the right platform.
c. How I got onto the right train and back off again at the right stop.

What it proves...
Mrs R really is a saint for putting up with a shambling, drunken wreck of a hubby.
I shall never drink Heineken again...

Monday, November 02, 2009

Fat Club

SINCE tying the knot with the lovely Mrs R I have found myself becoming a somewhat mellow being. These days I am prepared to take things in my stride and the number of Rippers rants has reduced dramatically. Of course, that may also be because I have escaped the misery that is Meeja Wales.
Alas, it was obviously too good to be true and I have found something today that has made my blood boil.
Having sung its praises last week I must admit I am not best pleased with my new exclusive health club. When I signed away my vast fortune for membership it was following gym salesman Tom's confident assurance that the swimming pool was barely used during week days.
And though it was pretty expensive my reluctance to part with my hard earned was counterbalanced by the fact I would rarely encounter the general public as I resumed my fitness drive.
Last week I was a little bit disappointed to find a few whippersnappers hogging the lanes but then I remembered it was half term and was prepared to let it pass.
After all, high-flying executives have kids too and must find things for them to do while on their school hols.
However, imagine my consternation when I slipped on my trunks and entered the pool area today to find it inundated with old wrinklies splashing about like salmon in a Pitlochrie Fish farm.
They were being led from the side by a super-keen fitness freak with one of those microphones strapped to her face like one of those sci-fi half-man, half-robot creatures you tend to see in films like The Terminator.
In short, the majority of the pool had been given over to a session of aqua-aerobics.
Now, fair enough if this was some council-owned £3 a session leisure centre in Little Gumption, but in my personal private money-grabbing health spa? Certainly not.
My god, why not just cut out the middle man and fill the pool with embalming fluid? And surely they could get just as much fun splashing about in their geriatric baths at home?
Some of them were even wearing socks to help their circulation, poor dears (perhaps the Western Snail should run classes to help with their poor circulation - boom boom).
So while us serious swimmers were left beating about in two thin lanes resembling a shark feeding frenzy, the wrinklies were taking up far too much of the pool for the limited use they were getting out of it. Aargh, I feel a complaint coming on and a refund of the Membership Fee.

All is not well in the Fat Kid household. Waking up at her boyfriend's the other day she discovered a fishnet stocking lying about among his fishing gear. There was a full scale inquiry followed by the mother of all rows. Said boyfriend denies any knowledge of where the stocking came from. This one could run and run.

Last night I rustled up a quick Coq au Vin from the recipe book that Mrs R's dad Andrew got me for Christmas.
Four chicken thigh joints
2 cloves of garlic, crushed
a large knob of butter and some cooking oil
three rashers of bacon, chopped up
half a dozen mushrooms, sliced
A medium sized onion (or 12 small onions, as the recipe dictates)
Half a glass of red wine
An ounce of flour
Salt and pepper
1/4 pint of stock (I used vegetable stock, then added one of those new stockpots that Marco Pierre White advertises)
A handful of parsley

rub the garlic and about half a tea spoon of salt over the chicken pieces.
Melt the butter and oil in a frying pan.
Fry the chicken until it is golden brown on both sides (particularly the skin) then put into a casserole dish.
stir the flour into the frying pan, then add the wine and stir it in.
When it boils and thickens add this to the casserole.
Fry the bacon in the remainder of the juices in the frying pan until it starts to cook
Add this to the casserole together with the stock, mushrooms, onions and salt and pepper.
Put a lid on casserole and put into the oven on gas mark 4 (180 degrees) for just over an hour.
Add the parsley near the end.
Serve with a generous portion of creamy mashed potato.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Healthy living

Shock, horror I have joined a health club. I know, it is like saying Nick Griffin is working voluntarily for the Board of Racial Equality or that Shane McGowan has goneTee total, but there you have it.
You see, I was getting a little bit fed up of a life involving slobbing about, watching videos, travelling by car to London and back and not keeping up my routine of swimming twice a week, which I had managed to carry out in Cardiff.
And I didn't fancy joining one of Bristol City Council's Sports Centres, for which you still have to be a member if you just fancy the odd dip. Then, no doubt, you have to take your chances with the regular riff-raff, general public and, God help us, schoolkids.
So looking for a suitable place to swim I went onto the net and googled Bristol and swimming - and at the top of the list came the Esporta Health Centre. I gave them a ring and after a brief chat with Tom, one of the guys employed in the membership department, he invited me down to their facility just outside the little village of Stoke Gifford, a stone's throw from Parkway Station.
Well, the tour was fine and I marvelled at the amount of gym equipment there, while never feeling the slightest bit tempted to use any of it.
The 25 metre pool, while not particularly big, did appeal, however, on the basis that there are only about three people in it at any one time during the day. I am told it is busier at night and at weekends but my job and my preference for public houses ruled out those two possibilities.
Tom threw in a free head and back massage at the health centre and eight visitors passes so that Mrs R could avail herself of the facilities when she fancied it, and then quoted me the ridiculously expensive price of £58 a month. Having said that, it is half price up until Christmas.
I must say, though, the luxury of diving into your own private swimming pool (or so it feels) is great and I shall do it as often as possible just so that it's value for money. With a very nice jacuzzi there to ease my long-lasting shoulder and neck pains, plus one of those spinning things that get all the excess water out of your trunks, I must admit I was sold on this little piece of private luxury. Can I afford it? Well, I am not drinking with the Boozeday Tuesday crowd every day of the week drowning my sorrows after another sh** day at work, so perhaps it is swings and roundabouts.

The week has been pretty quiet really, though I am sick to death of footie again. My beloved Gas, having gone on a run of impressive wins earlier in the season, now seem to be on the mother of all losing streaks. Perhaps Mrs R and I, who were present at their last great win in Southampton, have brought them bad luck in the long run. Saturday we lost 2-1 at home to Yeovil, for God's sake. Yeovil! They hadn't won an away game in about 100 years. It seems the bubble has well and truly burst.
Put me in a foul mood at work but fortunately Saturday passed ok and on Sunday I spent a lazy day in front of the box watching Manchester United get a 2-0 tonking by Liverpool. So much for the demise of Rafael Benitez.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Smell you later

My lovely wife spent most of last week worrying about an odd smell that had pervaded our little nest in Bristol. Arriving home from work she sensed that something, somewhere, was decomposing but couldn't put her finger on what it was.
The next day the smell was worse. It was upstairs and downstairs and the fear was something had sneaked into the house and gone and died in a hidden corner.
By Saturday it was becoming pretty unbearable so Mrs R decided she could leave it no longer. Preparing herself for a gruesome discovery she first emptied the contents of the fridge but, apart from some rather dated items like cheese and bacon, nothing gave off the kind of niff that she had geared herself up to expect.
Next stop was the vegetable rack on top of the freezer but though some of the spuds had ears and a lime had gone so yellow you would be forgiven for thinking it was a lemon, there was no tell-tale smell to solve the conundrum.
Finally it was a question of getting down on hands and knees and looking through the kitchen cupboards. Out came the old tins and bags of pasta, the pots and pans and the herbs and spices. The smell was stronger, but nothing looked to be so far past its sell-by date that it needed a decent burial.
Then came the ice cream cartons in which we store rice, more pasta and other pulses. She shook the first two and back came the sound of ordinary dried macaroni. The third, however, felt heavy and gloopy and there was no giveaway rattle. Lifting the lid the smell hit her in waves, stronger than any joke shop stink bomb. The offending article, some long forgotten brocoli.
Apparently Mrs R had put it into the container to be saved into the fridge. I, however, was under the mistaken impression that it was something that could be stored safely in the cupboard. My fault, as usual.
Oh well, at least it wasn't a dead rat.
There has been one negative effect to come out of the whole episode, though. Mrs R, who loves her broccoli so much that I often wonder whether she has been stalking it (gettit?), has had her passion seriously dented by the whole affair.

It's official. I'm a muppet. Dropped a clanger at work on Saturday and was officially told as much by boss Macca in front of a room full of fellow journos. Embarrassing, but a lesson learnt. Still, far better to have a new a***hole cut for making a mistake than the whole thing to be swept under the table as if it never happened, as is the case in some places. I will certainly take care not to make the same error again.

God help us, today I actually joined a gym. Rather, it is called a health centre. To be specific it's the Esporta Health Centre near Stoke Gifford on the outskirts of Bristol and has a 25m pool which I can use during the week to my heart's content without any danger of groups of snotty nosed school kids taking over the facilities and cramping my rather limited style. It's costing an arm and a leg but the satisfaction it will give me to be able to keep up some semblance of fitness each week should more than outweigh the cash disadvantages. And, since boozeday Tuesday's sad demise, I haven't been spending as much on Carling overload as in the past.

Sunday lunch was a day out with the folks. It's my dad's birthday next Sunday and I guess he must be about 150. Not really. So Mrs R and I went to pick he and Jean up and took them out to a very nice pub called the White Lion on Frenchay Common where we enjoyed a lovely roast before giving them a tour of Chez Rippers in the afternoon. Oh, and the chocolate fudge cake with cream and extra chocolate sauce was probably the catalyst for my gym decision.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

chinese spicy noodles when time is short

Mrs R has been in full Felicity Kendall mood this week having finally started work on the allotment. It started off looking like one of the more inpenetrable areas of the Amazon rain forest but by hacking away with spade and pitchfork she has made some impression. Very impressive.
And she has also met some allotment folk, part of that quirky band of people who think it's fun to spend hours on end outside huffing and puffing until they are covered in sweat and red as beetroots. Mrs R doesn't like beetroots, but she certainly looked like one after another stint on Sunday afternoon.
I think allotment people are a bit like marmite... you either love them or hate them. Our neighbour, Deadly D from now on though I hope she never finds out this is her, has been virulently anti-allotment since they dumped half a ton of manure outside her back window one time. The other day I heard her ranting on in full Bristol accent to some poor gardening-obsessed dab.
"Yew can't park thuuur!" she shouted. And when he responded she proceeded to talk over the top of him in a my-voice-is-louder-than-your-voice way. Her two dogs joined in the fun, being not impartial to the odd bark now and then.
To be honest I was quietly minding my own business in doors but was alerted to the fact that World War 3 had broken out on my doorstep. I looked out the window to see the shaken fellow picking up a box and attempting the last word. "For F***'s sake, I am only putting these inside the gate, then I'll move my car," he explained.

It's been a pretty quiet weekend, really. Mrs R and I caught up with the week-long Criminal Justice series starring the lead guy out of the original Spooks series, who I think she has a bit of a crush on, to be honest.
On Monday I got on with my household chores and was then delighted to find that my driving licence had been returned with new address and MINUS 9 of the points that had been on it originally. Woo hoo! Thought that six had expired but didn't realise it was that many.
On Tuesday Mrs R and I went to see the Ricky Gervais film "The invention of Lying" which was highly amusing in a chick flick sort of way. Interesting though... The Gervais character had nothing on my daughter the Fat Kid when it came to being economical with the truth.

Last week it was getting close to my weekly jaunt to Southend and I was keen for something to eat but didn't want to do a ready meal. Then it hit me. A quick and easy stir fry. I adapted a few Chinese noodle recipe but as long as you have the core ingredients of garlic, ginger and spring onion you should be fine. I spiced it up with some chilli flakes.
vegetable oil
Chopped garlic (2 cloves)
Chopped ginger (teaspoon)
3 chopped spring onions
Carrot cut into strips
8 tinned water chestnuts, roughly chopped
red chilli chopped and deseeded
chinese rice wine
2 tbsp light soy
1 tbsp dark soy
veg stock
peanut butter
one egg
1 red pepper sliced lengthways
ham, bacon or some such sliced meat
cooked egg noodles

Heat a saucepan of water and cook the egg noodles for as long as packet says (about 4 mins)
rinse in cold water and leave standing
heat oil in a wok
When it is hot and slightly smoking add the garlic, ginger, spring onion and chilli
Stir around for about a minute until the aromas escape
Then add the meat and vegetables and stir fry for five minutes
Add the chinese rice wine, soy sauces and a small amount of vegetable stock
bring to boil and stir, then add a table spoon of peanut butter and stir this in too
Add the noodles, heat through and bring to the boil again.
Finally add an egg to the pan and draw the spoon through the pan regularly to stop the egg completely setting.
When it is all heated through spoon into a bowl and eat away

Friday, October 09, 2009

curry virgin

SOMETIMES you hear a story that leaves you absolutely speechless. It might be about the Indiana woman who managed to give birth to Octuplets or the fact that a man kept his daughter locked up in the cellar for 20 years without anyone catching on.
In my case it came about in Wapping's finest hostelry the Wilted Rose on Thursday when our resident chief sports sub Jonesy, hardly in his formative years, suddenly revealed he had never, ever tasted a curry.
Now this was enough for the gathered hacks to spit their Carling Cold out in unison and stare at him as if he had announced he had just robbed the nearby service station. For my part this needed investigating further. "Never? But you realise this is the British national dish?" I informed him. "Surely you have been tempted to at least try it."
"No," said the unflappable Jonesy, suddenly realising that he had caused a major lunchtime incident. "It never really occurred to me. I've nibbled on a popadom once, but the attraction seems to have passed me by."
He did, however, concede he would be prepared to join us in the curry house one night to lose his curry viginity. But he admits the prospect is a bit scary. "I have no idea of the difference between these curries and I have no doubt I will be stitched up royally by you lot," he said. I suspect he may be right.
It all reminded me of my first experiences of curry with Millsy and the Winterbourne gang on Friday nights after a heavy session and a visit to one of the city's nightclubs, Romeo and Juliets or the Locarno Ballroom were two, I recall.
Our delegated driver was always Nello, on the basis that he was tee-total, and after much cajoling he found himself regularly parked outside an Indian in Gloucester Road at gone 2 in the morning. Then it was a case of bravado. We would charge in, worse for wear, and demand the hotest Vindaloo known to man.
This, of course, was red rag to a bull for the owner of said takeaway. No doubt he went into the kitchen area and told one of his willing helpers: "It's that lot back again, trying to pretend they're hard. Just chuck every chilli, hot curry powder and such available to you into the pan. We'll make them suffer."
And, true to his word, he did. It normally took about three mouthfuls before the extra heat kicked in and pretty soon the rest of a rather expensive meal was burning a hole through Millsy's mum's kitchen bin. Those were the days.

Monday, October 05, 2009

seaside donuts

THERE have been two completely contrasting birthday celebrations this week. My daughter the Fat Kid is now 27, going on 15, while the wonderful Withers of Meeja Wales has reached the 30 milestone, though some might claim he portrays the gloomy disposition of a pensioner.
Mrs R and I were able to play a part in both festivities after I took my first week's holidays from the Screws, and it was all good fun, starting with the bonus of a fantastic day out watching my footie team the Gas record a terrific 3-2 away win at Southampton with over 2,800 fellow long suffering fans.

We travelled down to Southampton in Millie, Mrs R's purple micra, on Tuesday, a pretty easy trip through Bath, Warminster and Salisbury, booking in at the Premier Inn in the centre of the city. After a quick change of clothing it was off to try and find the shops, but after walking around in circles for a bit we decided it was a lost cause and opted for the pub instead. Mrs R was in full West country mode by now and started knocking back the ciders in the London Inn on Southampton's Oxford Street in the Old Town. We were joined there by a few more travelling Gasheads and soon wandered on to the ground, stopping just outside at another local hostelry where home fans and visitors mixed without a hint of trouble and plenty of good-natured banter.
Travelling on we stopped for a hot dog and chips from one of the vans parked outside. Mrs R's initial trepidation was spot on with my hot dog encased in a rather stale bread roll, but I polished it off anyway and then it was on into the Northam Stand to settle in among the hordes of Gas followers.
Everyone was in good voice and it was pretty soon clear that the away support were making more noise than the Saints fans, probably because our start to the season has been so much better than theirs - due mainly to the 10-point deduction they had been given at the start of the season after going into administration.
The Rovers fans were in witty form, reflecting on the subdued approach of the home supporters with a chorus of "Oo arr, it's a library" and rubbing them up further with "You're not famous any more."
The game itself was flowing, end-to-end stuff with our old strike star Ricky Lambert, sold to the Saints for £1m earlier in the season, getting a good reaction from both sets of fans. He set up Southampton's opening goal but Rovers equalised before half time through the man they got to replace him - loan signing Chris Dickson.
Then, just a minute into the second half, Lambert scored for Saints and to be fair Rovers wobbled for 10 minutes and looked like they might cave in. They fought back, though, and when substitute Andy Williams came on he changed the game with his enthusiastic runs down the right flank.
Joe Kuffour equalised for the Gas and then five minutes into injury time Williams sent us delirious with a sweet curling 25-yard shot into the top corner. Magic!
Mrs R and I celebrated with another beer on the way back to the hotel and then settled in for the night in readiness for the next stage of our road trip - back to Southend to see the Fat Kid.

Now the Fat Kid has a thing about hair - well her appearance in general, but hair in particular. She wants it to trail right down her back and claims that when her locks are short she looks like a boy. I think she's fine but vanity is unfortunately one of my daughter's main characteristics.
To this extent myself and Mrs R gave her a ridiculously high amount of money so that she could get hair extensions. Why so expensive? They have got to buy the hair in, apparently.
So, basically, someone goes out to a poverty stricken third world country, gives some poor starving local wench a couple of bob, cuts off her hair, dyes it and then makes a huge mark up by selling it to people like the Fat Kid at an extortionate rate. Nice business scam if you can get it.
Still, when we arrived in Southend she was very excited about the situation.
In the evening her bessie (that's best mate to the uninitiated) Carly McFarley, as I call her, turned up and we watched the wedding dvd for the 650th time - well, I exaggerate, but not a lot - and showed off the wedding album to the two girls, who had been bridesmaids on the big day. Then next day it was time to bond with the Big Boy who, at the age of 3, still has the appetite of John Cena, the WWF wrestling star he seems to be modelling himself on.
We took him up to visit Mrs R's mum and dad in Suffolk and went out to lunch at a local pub, where the Big Boy managed to polish off chicken nuggets, chips, loads of peas, and some of my carrots, too, leaving a completely empty plate. He kept telling us he was on his "best beeay'ver" and he was as good as gold, playing on the slides and swings and showing everyone the happy side of his nature. No whinges, moans or tears, he did us proud.
When we got back to Southend I cooked a meal of Carbonara for Mrs R, the Fat Kid and her boyfriend Scott and we watched the dvd again before heading for bed.
Friday morning was spent taking the Big Boy down to Southend sea front, followed by a short walk around Hadleigh. We enjoyed some seaside donuts which the Big Boy once again pounced upon before then polishing off chips and half my burger at McDonalds, plus some McFlurries ice cream. Didn't touch the sides.
By the time we got home the Fat Kid was back, new flowing locks attached, and feeling as pleased as punch.
In the afternoon we set off back to our little cottage in Bristol after an incident packed few days.

On Saturday I met up with the great and the good in Cardiff - and Withers was already moaning. "This is going to be a disaster! No one is going to come!" he moaned, standing outside the new Old O'Neill's having a cigarette.
How he worked that out I will never know. Two of his friends from Crewe had already taken up residence, while his mate Sharpy had travelled all the way from Glasgow and we'd crossed the bridge, too. Withers, like any old curmudgeon, always finds some reason for the glass to be half empty though.
Former flatmate Grace had set up her record decks upstairs and as the night wore on people started trickling in. Smashy, the Fugitive (with fresh David Brent-style beard), the Boss, the Prince of Darkness, Posh and Becks - they were all happy to prove the miserable one wrong.
By the time the room was fairly full I realised I was a little bit merry, having cut down on my drinking considerably since leaving the Booze capital that is Cardiff.
I think I first cottoned on to my state when I realised that my shirt was off and I was dancing mentally to some Smiths song or other and before I knew it the trousers were also rolled up for my infamous Angus Young of ACDC impression. Nothing for it, it was time to go home via Caroline Street where Dirty Dot provided much needed sustenance in the form of Rissole and chips with gravy. Just right.

We were staying with Paps and the old boy certainly did us proud. In the morning he provided the mugs of tea and fry up that is so invaluable after a heavy night on the Razz. As we tried to regain some kind of state of normality by watching Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure while leafing through the Sunday papers we tried to surmise how the night had ended for the Wonderful One. Last seen he was finding it pretty difficult to stand on his two feet, and memories of his teeth-smashing past were coming into sharp focus. Still, his Crewe crew hopefully helped him stagger home.

One of these home-grown pals goes by the name of Black Rob. On many occasions we have heard the Wonderful One talking about his mate from home, even retorting to one person who criticised him about an alleged "racist" comment that "My best mate is black."
Imagine our surprise then to find that black Rob is, in fact, a caucassian male who says he has no African roots whatsoever. I must confess I did go up and inquire of him and his mate, also white, "which one of you is black?"
To which his mate, without hesitating, pointed at Rob and said: "him".
Apparently Rob's nickname came about because he enjoys a bit of Wire-style street talk. He likes nothing better, it appears, than "Cruising with his homies, looking out for honeys" around his "Yard" in the projects of Crewe.
Right on, Black Rob.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

A cocktail of drugs

STAYING with the Fat Kid I have learnt some very strange things.
1. That everyone keeps their toilet rolls downstairs, even if the bathroom is upstairs (very odd, but she insists it is true) and
2. The best cure for insomnia is an Only Fools and Horses DVD.
I spend a couple of nights a week in dear old Shoeburyness lodging on the Fat Kid's floor so that I can then get a train into That London, as my ex-newsagent in Cardiff calls it, and go about my daily working business on the News of the Screws. It has certainly been an enlightening experience.
Every evening my daughter adjourns to bed at about 10.30 on the basis that the Vin Man and Big Boy tend to wake at about 6.45 each morning and charge into her bedroom. She, in turn, tells them to go and see grandad because "he will put cartoons on for you". Just what I need first thing in the morning - two hyperactive kids interrupting my slumbers and shouting "Tom and Jerry, Tom and Jerry". However, I digress.
At some stage in the middle of the night it is quite likely that I will have to pay a visit to the toilet and it is then when I tend to notice a familiar tune coming from my daughter's room. "la, la, la... la, la, la, la, la... la, la, la... la, la, la, la, la" followed by the delicate vocal tones of Chaz and Dave informing me "Only Fools and Horses work". This, it appears, has been playing all night while my daughter slumbers sweetly in her bed. Without this familiar and, from a personal point of view, rather irritating theme tune apparently the Fat Kid can't go to sleep. Bizarre.
Then quite often in the morning, going about my daily ablutions, the serenity of the moment is quite often spoiled by the realisation there are only two small sheets of toilet paper left on the roll. A search of the bathroom does nothing to provide a solution and it is only then the Fat Kid reveals, "Oh yeah, I keep the toilet rolls under the sink downstairs. Everyone does, don't they?"
That, of course, is when she can be bothered to buy toilet roll at all. Sometimes I get a text message on my journey up to London. "Can you stop for some loo roll please?"
So where does it all go? Cleaning, it appears. My ultra tidy daughter uses sheets and sheets of the stuff to buff up the bathroom until it is shiny and new. And the kids wonder why they are quite often consigned to using wet wipes to clean their little botties. My daughter's life? Strange, to say the least.

Not only have I still got my persistent shoulder and neck problems, for which I am now taking some huge pink pills which the doctor has prescribed (Ibuprofen 600mg - I imagine they are the size and strength of horse tranquilizers) but I have been struck by a particularly virulent cold for which I have been dosing myself with honey and lemon and Beechams flu plus. What with the blood pressure and colesterol tablets as well, I am beginning to rattle when I walk. A sign of old age, if ever there was one.

Talking of old age, the wonderful Withers turns 30 next week and I am delighted to say that Mrs R and I will be attending the celebration party on Saturday week at the new old O'Neill's. Can't wait...

Friday, September 18, 2009

Three mouthfuls of a giant doner

MET up with Evans last night. The accident-prone one is now a leading light on the esteemed Ham and High Gazette weekly paper, which covers the lives of the rich and famous in haughty Hamstead.
Surrounded by stars, she has received phone calls from the classic actress Glenda Jackson, now a local MP, and watched the Christmas lights switched on by wildman Ronnie Wood. It is a far cry from Cardiff, where the nearest you come to rubbing shoulders with a famous person is to shake the hand of world-renowned tramp Shaky Hands Man, and there are health issues to be considered in doing that.
Rumour has it, by the way, that everyone's favourite street beggar has actually gone to Food Kitchen heaven, though this has not been substantiated in any way and a street-lined funeral procession has yet to be organised.
Anyway, back to Evans. We got together in a little wine bar called City Pride near Farringdon Station then travelled back to her new home in the leafy, picturesque town of Harpenden near St Albans. Very nice it seems, too.
We met up with her bloke Matt in a boozer called The George then, for some unknown reason, carried on the drinking in a less auspicious drinking den known as the Harpenden Arms. From there it was back to her gaff via the kebab house where the extended drinking sesh had bought on an attack of the Munchies.
Eyes being bigger than my belly I ordered an enormous doner kebab and chips but by the time I had stumbled up the hill to her flat my appetite had shrunk somewhat and I only managed about three bites before consigning the coronary-inducing meal to the bin.
Matt, by the way, has a secret Doctor Who room. The Time Lord's biggest fan has stocked it full of dalek figures, Cybermen models and all sorts of other sci-fi paraphenalia. Sad really. He was apparently too ashamed to give me a tour - possibly because he is a bit nervous that his newly acquired status as an editor might be brought into question by his childlike obsession - but I talked Evans into giving me the guided tour.
After that it was off to get the train into work again, feeling slightly hungover. But it was only a 20 minute journey to Farringdon, the sun was shining and I was at my desk by 10. An enjoyable night.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Kingfish baked in tomato

MRS R will soon be chewing on yorkies and investing in a CB radio, calling herself big mama or some such call sign and complaining about having a bear in the air (and I don't mean Fenway). The fair lady last week took charge of a big white van and drove to Nottingham and back without mishap - well apart from nearly crushing some poor dear who braved a zebra crossing in Frenchay.
She took on the task to help Aussie Cath move to Nottingham to start a new law course at the University having given up her journalism career. And a very good job she did in a monster truck that wouldn't have looked out of place in a night of mayhem at the Millennium Stadium.
And we got a bookcase out of it, too, though stocking it with the hundreds of books I have bought over from Cardiff took some doing, particularly as I decided to organise them by author, which I spent most of Tuesday doing. Still, it's helped to clear and awful lot of cardboard boxes.

THE fish and meat van came around last week. This was a new experience for me. A bloke knocked on the door and told me he had all sorts of frozen meats and fish and that if I subscribed he would call every three months and I could buy something off the van. Excellent.
After looking through a mouthwatering selection of products I ended up buying enough exotic fish to fill up the freezer - hence the Kingfish recipe below.

Meanwhile, it looks like I am going to get into the habit of crossing the bridge every Sunday just so I can buy the Welsh edition of the Screws and can see how my hard work has materialised.
Mrs R and I decided to combine this with a day out and visited the Huntsman country pub just outside Chepstow for Sunday lunch. Very nice it was, too.
It's a picturesque little venue and the food was very nice and reasonably priced. I enjoyed a roast pork dinner with stuffing, Yorkshire pud and a selection of seasonal veg including roast and boiled potatoes. Mrs R went for the Roast beef.
For starters I had garlic mushrooms which were very tasty, while she opted for the Broccoli and Stilton soup being a self-confessed broccoli addict.
On the way back we stopped off in Chepstow to buy a selection of the Sunday papers, then shot back across the old Severn crossing to Cribbs Causeway in time to see the Tarrantino film Inglorious Bastards. Highly amusing with a great performance from Brad Pitt.
Monday was spent hopping over the bridge again to clean out Scooby's old flat, then I popped in on photographer Andy who had completed our wedding album. It looks really classy in a black bound pages with gold trimming and reminded us both of our special day.

After all the heavy lifting, emptying box after box of books on Tuesday I needed a beer so Mrs R and I went on a little pub crawl of Stapleton, starting in the Old Tavern where Elvis was again in the building, then moving on to the Masons for a highly enjoyable evening. Strolled home rather tiddly, I must confess.
I have also managed to secure tickets for the Gas game at Southampton in two Tuesdays time which took some doing. Why clubs let there websites give the responsibility of this to outside ticket agencies I don't know, but when I tried to buy them on line I was told there was only one adult ticket left. As a last resort I called the Mem and was told there were plenty of tickets on offer, for the same price as quoted on the site.
Wednesday and Mrs R and I were feeling rather hungover. Nothing for it but to have a big lunch so I opted to try some Kingfish, a popular food in all places south of the equator like Australia, New Zealand, Sri Lanka and Jamaica. The above meal is one of the Sri Lankan recipes which I obtained off the web.
What you need:
Kingfish steaks - cut into chunks
2 big onions, sliced
4 cloves of garlic, smashed
One small piece of ginger smashed
2 tsp turmeric
3 tsp chilli powder
3 or 4 vine ripe tomatoes
10 curry leaves (if you have them, I left these out and it was fine)
Heat vegetable oil in a karahi
Add onion, ginger and garlic and when half cooked put in the chilli and turmeric powder
Mix well
Add chopped tomatoes, some tomato paste and 1/2 pint of water
Cook for about 10 minutes then put a layer of the sauce in a casserole dish, lay the kingfish on top then add more sauce
put in oven on 180 degrees or equivalent for 30 minutes.
Serve this with mash potato and some oven roasted veg like leeks, butternut squash, celery, red onion, yellow pepper and a couple of whole cloves of garlic. Delish!

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Fast food frenzy

ELVIS is alive and well - and living in Fishponds.
I know this because Mrs R and I bumped into him at a karoake night in one of our locals the other day.
He may have looked a bit wrinkly around the edges, and had put on a few pounds, but I imagine he looked exactly like you would expect him to in one of those computer generated images predicting his appearance after all this time.
And, boy, could he sing. I would go as far as to suggest he might have done it for a living at some stage - though he said his only real live action was at a couple of village fetes and fundraising nights. Hmm, fundraising in Vegas for the Mafia, I reckon.
Having a change from the Masons, this pub was the Old Taverne just up Blackberry Hill. As well as Elvis, I got talking to a lady in the smoking area (or back garden as we connoisseurs refer to it) who happened to be the mother of the new landlord. Her name was Valerie and she came from a couple of streets down from me in Frampton Cotterell originally. Robell Avenue off School Road.
She told us how her son had taken down a run down, shut boozer and given the place a refurb. It certainly seemed to be doing a good job if the Karaoke night was anything to go by. There was a good mixture of locals and students and pretty soon the lager was flowing (or Thatcher's Gold cider in Mrs R's case). At one stage a rather worse-for-wear student called Ben, if my hazy memory serves me right, tried to get Mrs R and I on stage. But after he forgot our names for about the fifth time - let alone what we had agreed to sing - we gave up and sneaked out.

I'VE always had a problem with ironing at the best of times, but having moved in with Mrs R my anxiety has reached a whole new level.
It seemed a bit churlish of me just to pick out my few shirts and a pair of trousers, give them a quick run over, then leave the rest of an overflowing basket to my other half, so last week I attempted to earn quick brownie points by rushing through some of the wife's garments, too.
Did I say rush? BIIIG mistake.
Now, I can't be a 100 per cent on this, but it does seem that fashion designers put together women's clothes like some kind of intricate jigsaw. Holding up one particular skirt my first thought was "how exactly do you get this on", let alone iron it. Not that I was considering turning into a cross-dresser, you understand, it just seemed there were so many parts to it that the only comparison I could think of was buying a pair of trousers with six legs, two of them sealed up, and one sleeve. Every way you twisted it there didn't seem to be a sensible, right way to iron it. So what seemed like a pretty swift task turned into a rather long and frustrating experience.
Of course, there is the material too, all chic and sheer and not to be left for too long under a scolding hot piece of metal. After that there are the pleats to deal with, the fluffy, flossy sleeves and all manner of other imponderables.
And, of course, women have to iron EVERYTHING. T-shirts, the quilt cover, the handkerchiefs, the curtains, facecloths - even the underwear.
Still, I did my best, and you can't say fairer than that.

Last Sunday I joined Paps, the Wonderful One and Danny Boy (the poipes, the poipes) for a farewell to Cardiff drink - well, that was our excuse though I was only moving out of Scooby's flat. And an enjoyable afternoon was had by all watching England humiliated again at one day cricket in the Tut, then moving on to a rather bizarrely named student haunt called Koko Gorrillas where we had a mini pool tournament which landed me a small fortune - if four quid can be called a small fortune.
Then we finished the night - or I did personally - with a visit to the Pen and Wig before toddling off home for a final night's stay in my sparsely furnished flat.
As for the title of this missive, well I haven't cooked for a while since trying to get the new house up and running, so it's been a diet of takeaways and it is starting to show. My grandson the Vin Man certainly noticed it this week. Prodding me in the belly he exclaimed: "You're fat!"
I couldn't argue.

Wednesday, September 02, 2009


I have been in complete agony over the last week. For some reason I have a debilitating pain which begins at the bottom of my neck and stretches right across to my left shoulder. It doesn't help when you are lugging boxes of books, cds, vinyl and all manner of crap which makes up the story of your life from my old flat in Cardiff to the new house in God's Own country.
Having tried pain killers, pain-relieving cream and all manner of other treatments - none of them having worked - there was only one thing for it. A trip to the guru.
Now I hadn't seen the guru for a few months and he has since moved to a new house in Canton, but I must say he was delighted to see me. When I explained my problem he looked at me knowledgeably and muttered something like "nerve-trap". I gather that means something like a trapped nerve but I am never really sure, partly because I rarely understand more than three words in every guru sentence. Still, the man is a genius when it comes to sorting out aches and pains.
Mind you, he does take you to the pain threshold before things get better. He proceeded to tug me, pull me, poke me, stab me and make me perform feats an Olympic gymnast might find a bit out of their league. Despite my screams he assured me it would help, and two days later I think it is starting to work.
So why the pain anyway? What is the cause? This time, unlike my last injury which was caused by doing too much Pete Townshend air guitar, I haven't really been throwing my 49-year-old body around in reckless abandonment. What I have been doing is driving a great deal, and I reckon it may be the fact that Bas - my extremely reliable but rather long-in-the-tooth Corsa - has no power steering. Just turning a corner involves a wrestling match with the steering wheel more akin to some kind of manouevre associated with John Cena (for the uninitiated, he is a WWF wrestling star whom my grandsons seem to treat like a deity).

I had a fab week on the Screws last week. Lots of pages to work on and design, loads of good stories from my correspondents and some willing helpers in the office. I was really looking forward to seeing the paper on Sunday. And that's where it all went wrong.
Over the last three weeks there have been some problems at the press and while hurtling back to God's country from the smoke on Sunday night I received a call on the mobile. It was Bobby Bowden, our deputy sports ed. "Sorry mate, but it looks like there are production problems again, and the Welsh edition may not get printed." B***ocks.
True to his word, there was no sign of a Welsh edition on Sunday, making my trip across the bridge to buy one - on the pretence I was moving more gear from the flat - a wasted journey. It is so frustrating to do a week's hard but rewarding work, only to have nothing to show at the end of it. I thought this only happened on the regionals, not at one of the biggest newspapers in the world. Oh well, let's hope the problem is soon rectified.

Meanwhile, Mrs R sent me a rather alarming text last week. "Eww! Just walked into the kitchen and there is a big brown slug on the tiled floor," she reported. Bravely, Mrs R gave the offending animal its notice, plonking it back out into the garden via a piece of paper.
The problem needed investigating. Lo and behold, last night when I went out to make a lovely cup of tea there, by the back door, was a smaller version of the offending beast. As I watched, intrigued, it turned around post haste (well, as post haste as a creature without legs can go) and slipped back under the little brushes at the bottom of the back door.
Now, I don't know about you but I don't really want slugs coming in and out of the house by their version of a cat flap (slug flag, I suppose you would call it) so a solution needs to be found pronto. I thought, briefly, about putting salt down at the back door but that would probably cause more mess than necessary and is tantamount to mass murder.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Dominos pizza - not that I remember it!

WHAT a fantastic, magical, mysterious, wonderful world we English cricket fans live in! Having travelled half way around the world to see my team get shafted 5-0 with barely a whimper, I am able to sit in the comfort of my local pub and watch Andrew Strauss's boys extract ample revenge by regaining the Ashes. And they did it with possibly the worst Ashes winning side in the history of cricket.
Don't believe me? Well, look and compare the statistics, not just with the vanquished Aussies but with any England team in the past.
Let's be honest, without Strauss leading the way and Jonathan Trott coming in as an emergency last-minute choice as batsman then no England batter would have recorded an average of above 40. Not only that, but they were the only two players to score centuries while the Aussies recorded seven in the series.
Even with the ball the results weren't particularly favourable but, obviously, team spirit and performing at the right time had an important bearing on proceedings.
Whatever. While my mind was totally Ashes focussed on Sunday morning Mrs R reminded me we had things to do - like take her all-singing, all-dancing I-phone back to the shop so that we could actually get it to make calls and visit my stepmum Jean on her birthday.
First job was managed pretty uneventfully at Carphone Warehouse in Cribbs Causeway but then we decided to look for a small present for Mrs R senior. We eventually came upon a pink cake and flower arrangement and paid for that, then had to pop in at the drive thru burger king to silence the rumbling in Mrs R's tummy. My mind, however, was elsewhere. What was happening? We had taken two wickets early on but who was in charge now? It's terrible when you feel like this and are powerless to do anything about it, like scream at the TV screen.
My mood was getting raggedy too as our day seemed to involve a number of inconvenient delays. "Can I have a fag before we go to your mums," asked Mrs R bravely.
"Have one in the car!" I snapped.
I know, I snapped at Mrs R. Terrible thing. But this is what happens as a supporter of English cricket. The Aussies need 545 to win - the highest winning total in Test cricket by a country mile - yet we fans can still see our players letting it slip. No wonder we're the barmy army.
Anyway, quick trip to my stepmums to virtually throw the cake and card in her direction, then we are setting off again through myriad traffic to reach our little house. Mrs R says she will follow me over, which is a good thing because I can speed off in the direction of Cardiff straight away.
Just passing over the bridge I'm listening to the crackling radio which is about to burst my earphones. Hussey and Ponting look immoveable. Uh oh!
Then suddenly there is more crackling, quite a bit of shouting in the commentary box and... wow! Freddie has thrown down the stumps to catch Ponting short of his ground. There is an interminable wait for the third umpire but... wait for it... he's gone!
Michael Clark follows a short while later and I dump off gear at the Cardiff flat then leg it down to the Billabong to meet Paps. It's a really good afternoon, and Mrs R joins our happy band later, followed by The Wonderful Withers. Eventually England wrap up victory and it is time to lay into more lagers and celebrate further.
We move on to the Tut and after another couple of pints I really am feeling a bit sluggish. I cannot believe we have argued with a Welshman who questions why we are supporting the 'English' cricket team. In his spare time he is a Cardiff City supporter, and that explains a lot. He is one sandwich short of a lunchbox. Hmm.
Anyway, finally we toddle off home and it is Wren's idea to book a meteor pizza from Dominos. Of course, I fancy some too and when he turns up we tuck in like nobody's business.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Black Rat

MRS R is a year older and wiser this week and to celebrate her latest milestone we visited our local village hostelry The Masons Arms. It was a very pleasant evening as we whiled away the time in the beer garden and the smoking area, getting pleasantly smashed in the ambient atmosphere. Mrs R even did a little jig of celebration when she found a button she had lost from her coat the previous week - I pointed out that this suggested the cleaners didn't turn up at our boozer very frequently.
Still, as we were about to wobble our way home we got speaking to barman Jamie and happened to notice that rather a lot of his customers were drinking an orange, murky looking brew. Inquiring what it was, he informed me it was the local scrumpy and was known as Black Rat. Well, there was nothing for it, we had to have a hair of the rat, even though we were warned it was six percent proof.
We did err on the side of caution, however, and settled for halves. It was actually quite tasty and when we finished I asked our host how much I owed him. "It's on the house for your birthday," he informed Mrs R. What a nice man. We shall be calling again soon.

Mrs R is now the owner of a rather posh all-singing, all-dancing I-Phone. It does a number of things but I have yet to find the gadget that puts on the kettle for you - I am sure it is there somewhere, though.
Still, as with all new presents, there had to be a slight hitch in proceedings. It's like a kid when you unwrap a shiny new present, desperate to try it out and then realise your parents have forgotten to get batteries.
Mrs R has now waited three days but has been unable to make a call. Today she found out that the phone hadn't been registered properly so it's back to the shop on Monday to sort it out. I, of course, was calmness personified as we realised various things weren't quite working as planned. What I mean by that was I muttered, grumbled, humphed and ranted. You would think by now I would have realised this has no effect whatsoever in repairing the faulty equipment in question. Not a bit of it.

I have now been working back in the Smoke for six weeks and last night was the first time I had actually been out. I met up with my old mate Stu and we crossed over London Bridge to visit a nice little area called Borough Market, full of welcoming hostelries.
We had a couple of pints in The Globe while discussing England's under-performing first day in The Ashes decider at the Oval. We both agreed 307-8 was nowhere near good enough and predicted the Aussies would now bat for two days solid.
On from there we went to the Market Porter, then found an ancient little backstreet boozer called The George, I think. By this time my recollections were getting pretty hazy.
We returned via Stu's local and met a typical Cockney nobhead businessman who thought he was the bees knees. he told my mate that he could predict what he did for a living, then came up with all manner of totally incorrect guesses including garage mechanic and farmer. Stu, like me, is a hack.
Still, it passed the time and we finished the night with a Baileys before heading home via the pizza shop for the house he shares with Anna near Clapham Common. A fun night.

Monday, August 17, 2009

fry up on paper plates

NEWS never stops in the busy world of the nationals and as such you are always on duty. This hit home to me with an incident at the offices on Friday.
It went like this. We were all called into the office of boss Macca for an update meeting and the subject got on to Kevin Pietersen's Ashes cricket column. After bandying some ideas about Macca picked up the mobile to explain to cricket correspondent Sam Peters exactly what he would require from England's prolific batsman.
"Sam, hi... Yeah wait a minute... just listen, can you speak to Kevin about exactly what it is like to play in a decisive test match at the Oval. You know, how to react to the atmosphere... yeh, hold on Sam... the best way to approach it and how you feel as an England... let me finish, Sam... yeh an England batsman trying to achieve the ultimate glory for your... what?... Oh, yeh forgot... Sorry Sam, don't worry." And the phone went down.
Macca then looked at his surrounding troops, surprised that their forthright leader had been cut off in full flow. "Shit, I forgot," he explained. "Sam's on a day off. He got married yesterday and I have just interrupted his wedding breakfast."
Stark contrast, you will probably agree, with Meeja Wales where you sometimes get the impression the school bell has gone, such is the stampede for the exit at the end of a "shift" for some people.

Mrs R and I are rapidly getting settled in the new house. We are surrounded by packing crates and had to do with paper plates for our fry up brekky on Sunday morning. It wasn't the best way to tackle a plate of bangers, bacon, tinned tomatoes and bread. In fact, Mrs R complained: "By the end of it there was a big hole in my plate."
Nothing new there, I suggested.

This morning we were forced to wait in for Virgin media to connect us with our new broadband, cable and telephone package. Our plan was to go out to celebrate Mrs R's birthday early (she is another year older and wiser on Wednesday) but we had to remain routed to the spot because of the annoying fact an independent courier had been enlisted to deliver said equipment and Virgin couldn't give us a clue what time it would actually turn up.
We did have a light hearted moment though when the bills arrived on the mat. The Virgin Media direct debit bill was addressed to a Mr N Rippleton. Not a particularly rare mistake, I have to admit, and a cross one has to bear when you have a name a bit out of the ordinary.
On opening the envelope and reading the contents, though, I must admit I creased up with laughter. Inside were the details of the direct debit they would be claiming from me.
The account details and the bank sort code were correct but under name it said the account belonged to a Mr Nicolas Gashead.
The person who had taken my order had somehow managed to get my name mixed up with the password I had chosen for my Virgin account. Still, I may well change my name by deed poll - it has a certain ring don't you think?
No objections from the wife, either. "I suppose I'm Mrs Gashead now, am I?" she ventured.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

ESPN meat pie

THE little bowling ball's pride and joy - his ancient Moggy - is no more. We are not talking about a household cat here, however, but his Morris Minor 1000. The old motor has survived a number of scrapes and has been patched up more times than Freddie Flintoff's wounded knee. Unfortunately it finally met its match while tootling down a country lane the other day.
To make matters worse for the Bowling Ball, who only ever reached a top speed of 20 in it, he was not driving the car at the time. Rather, he had lent it to one of his mates, 'Drew Jenkins.
Now I don't suppose 'Drew bumbles about at the same speed as Bowling Ball and would hazard a guess he was hurtling down country lanes at an absolute maximum speed of, say 32mph, when suddenly a wild horse leapt out in front of him.
Unable to avoid the rampaging object he ducked as first the horse careered into his front bumper, then did a somersault over the roof of the old jallopy, finally smashing the back window as it rolled to a stop in the road behind him.
'Drew, concerned for the animal's welfare, jumped out promptly, only to look on in amazement as the horse shook its head as if to try to rid itself of an inconvenient headache, scrambled to its feet and then hoofed it off into the distance, seemingly none the worse for its adventure.
The same couldn't be said of the Moggy. "It's a write off," admitted the little Bowling Ball glumly.

Talking of the little Bowling Ball, Wales' equivalent of Roger Whitaker, on Monday Mrs R and I finally spent the night in our new cottage and decided that, to celebrate, we would visit the local hostelry - the Mason's Arms in Stapleton, Bristol. And a very nice little boozer it turned out to be.
I was a bit wary at first when I noticed the three red nosed locals at the bar drinking something which looked rather dangerous. It was thick and murky with an orange tinge and I could only deduce that it was what we West Country folk call "Natch" - that is natural dry cider, or scrumpy, as others know it.
Mrs R was certainly enthused when she learned there were FIVE different ciders available as well as a number of real ales like old Gobshite and Monkey Scrotum. I, being the adventurous kind of chap I am, settled for a pint of Fosters.
Two pints later, on visiting the little boy's room, I noticed a framed picture on the wall with a plaque that read: Our Secret Garden. I realised it was actually referring to the Masons itself.
So, grabbing Mrs R and her scrumpy, we headed out to investigate and not only found a smoking area to put all of Cardiff and most of Wales to shame, but also a tiered beer garden in full bloom making its way down in the direction of the River Frome. A beautiful setting.
Unfortunately while sitting there we had to listen to the absurd whitterings of two former inmates of the nearby Colston's private school who, for some unknown reason, had to speak very poshly and very loudly about all their old chums like Fudgwick and Lampton and, no doubt, Blob (that last reference only relevant to those who remember the old Rowan Atkinson sketch which consisted entirely of reading out a school register).
Then we thought we had been saved from this inane posh codswallop as a group of people joined us in the smoking area, scaring off the wannabe contestants from the Twit of the Year show.
It was only afterwards that I noticed the guitar. Aaargh! We had entered the pub frequented by Bristol's version of the Little Bowling Ball, complete with his entourage of faintly strange followers.
And my mood didn't lighten up when he began to pluck away at the first song of the evening. It turned out to be the guitar version of Duelling banjos, the song made famous by the inbreds in that nightmarish Horror film deliverance. All I needed then was for one of the number to turn to me, revealing lopsided head and one twitching eye, and inquire with Wurzel accent: "You're not from around 'ere, are you?" It would have sent me running for my life, Mrs R trailing in my wake.

Back up to London on Wednesday after a few deliveries at the house, and this morning there was a pleasant surprise in the offices of the Screws. Sports Editor Macca turned up with a large green holdall, then announced: "Anyone want a meat pie? ESPN have provided them to us for free. There are loads of them." Well, in these hard times, beggars can't be choosers, can they?

Saturday, August 08, 2009

9.45 to Shoeburyness

Mrs R and I are now the proud owners of a two-bedroomed cottage in God's Own Country. The deal on our little nest went through on Friday after we spent a feverish last week making sure all the finances were sorted and forms signed.
But the move was not without alarm - literally.
As I was up in London working on the Screws, my lovely wife took possession of the keys this morning and then set off with anticipation. There was only one nagging doubt in her mind... the estate agent couldn't find the alarm code.
When she opened the door the inevitable happened - alarm went off and there was no way she could stop it. The previous owners were unavailable by phone and the next door neighbour (who might have been able to throw light on the situation) was nowhere to be seen. Mrs R pressed all manner of buttons without luck as she managed to raise the entire Stapleton population from their Saturday morning slumbers. Welcome to the neighbourhood.
Eventually, after half an hour of ear-piercing racket, the estate agent text through the alarm code and peace prevailed in the sleepy little village on the outskirts of Bristol.

Earlier in the week we had gathered exactly the amount of cash we thought we needed for the deposit, only to be told by our solicitor that we were two grand short. After feverish discussions about how on earth we could make up the difference I decided to inquire exactly how we got our sums so hopelessly wrong.
It transpired that the entire solicitor's bill had been added to the overall payment, which was fine. I explained to her that I had intended to pay that by credit card after the sale had gone through. I couldn't believe my ears when she said: "Oh we don't have any facility for credit card transactions." My God, it was like travelling back in time to the days of Dickens and Messrs Scroat, Stote and Gobshite esq.
It meant juggling about with various different accounts, but thankfully it was all sorted in the end.

So back to London for me and I had an interesting experience on Friday night.
Having opted to stay on for a couple of beers with my new colleagues at the Wilted Rose so that I didn't spend 20 minutes waiting on a deserted platform at Limehouse, I eventually turned up for my train back to the Fat Kid's house with barely time to spare.
I must say the Friday night 9.45 Fenchurch to Shoeburyness train journey is one that will be stamped on my brain for some time.
Firstly, there were far more people on the train than I expected. Secondly, they were all quite noisy. Thirdly, a large proportion of them were drunk.
As we travelled through charming places like West Ham, Barking, Upminster, West Horndon and Laindon I couldn't help but earwig a conversation between two dyed-in-the-wool Essex girls.
One of them spent a large percentage of time on the phone to her boyfriend while mouthing things to her friend. She then looked stunned, her mouth dropping open as the person on the other end of the line continued to talk.
Afterwards, she said: "Oh, my boyfriend's dad has cancer."
A little while later, when the boyfriend rang again - obviously to inquire if she would be visiting him that night - she very subtly asked: "Hmm, who is there? It won't be much fun will it and I am very hungry. No I think I'll just go home tonight."
There followed a very interesting discussion about children. "They're lovely an' all but I caan't imagine spending all that time with them."
As we approached Thorpe Bay she was on the phone ordering a taxi. Her mate said: "But ya only live round the cawnaa!"
"Yeah, but I daan't wanna get raped, do I?" came the reply.

At this stage, desperate for some relief having supped three pints an hour early, I decided to visit the convenient convenience on the train.
Big mistake. I reached the carriage and pressed the button on the toilet door but it didn't open, so I moved around to see what the problem was, promptly slipping in a large pool of purple coloured vomit and managing to splash my shoes and the trousers of my new suit. Fantastic.
I doubt I'll be catching the same train again any time soon.

Saturday, August 01, 2009

Fish, chips and curry sauce to go...

A FEW cheeky early beers followed by a couple of sambucas, falling on your face and creeping into bed at 2.30. You could say it was just a normal Friday night.
Unfortunately this wasn't MY Friday night, I am talking about Mrs Rippers here. She obviously feels that someone has got to carry the mantle now that I spend most of my Friday evenings working and the rest of it trying to get home to the godforsaken back end of beyond known as Shoeburyness, Essex.
I finally received a text from my loved one at 10.55am this morning, having tried to inquire of her well-being a few times during the previous night and this morning. The message I got was that she had gone out for her flatmate Dan's birthday and visited a number of lively hostelries in God's Own city, before taking to the dancefloor with gusto after the sambucas had taken their toll. Good girl.
Unfortunately, at some stage in the early hours she decided it was well past her bed time - that normally being 10.30 on the dot - and as she left the club she missed her footing, falling over and scraping her face on the concrete. Oh, dear. Luckily Leighton - Dan's other half - was on hand to pick her up and send her on her way without the need of a 999 call and a night in casualty, and I don't mean as an extra on the TV programme of that name which is, for the time being, filmed in Bristol.
I guess I should count myself lucky, though. So far I have seen no video footage of her wrapping her tights around her head, stripping off her top and shouting "1, 2, 3, 4, 5" at the top of her voice.

As for me, it has been a very sedate week it has to be said. I journeyed up here on Wednesday at 5am in the morning as I had secured an extra shift but didn't want to leave the day before. I parked up very conveniently at Upminster station, which meant I had only a short train ride to Limehouse, the nearest station to my office. Perfect.
On Friday I decided I would follow the same scenario, but it all went t*ts up. I had forgotten that there was a train strike in one area and that everyone who usually got those trains would adopt the same policy. So when I arrived at Upminster the station car park was full. Bugger. With no other place in the godforsaken town to park I then drove to Laindon, only to find the same result. In the event I had no option than to drive all the way in to work and, fortunately, was able to park for free in the Tobacco Dock car park. This has been a very handy facility for Screws employees over the years but I just happened to find it on the last day before it shuts its doors forever. Just my luck.
As for cooking, I did rustle up a quick carbonara for the Fat Kid and her "Bezzie" Carly on Wednesday night. Didn't matter to the Fat Kid that I had been up since five in the morning. She isn't a great cook, my daughter, and has a very persuasive manner about her. In the end it was much appreciated.
After my long drive in and out of work on Friday by the time I got home it was pushing 10pm. At least the local chip shop/chinese is pretty good in Shoeburyness so I treated myself to Fish, chips and curry sauce before crashing out. Probably about the same time Mrs R was getting into her first Sambuca, I reckon.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Turtle in the soup

The wonderful Withers of WoS has returned from his travels with a tale of animal cruelty so gross that I imagine weirdos from all over the country will be declaring war on one of his pals. The story came about during the wonderful One's rather strange decision to spend a fortnight travelling through the lesser known holiday resorts of Croatia, Montenegro and Albania, to name just a few.
Now, you would think that the mere presence of this motley crew would be a precursor to a new Balkans War and, by the sound of it, that nearly did come to pass.
The story begins with Withers and his gang climbing into a taxi in Albania and demanding to be taken to the border with Macedonia. No sooner have they done this than they find themselves shooting along potholed roads, heads bouncing against the roof with seat belts nowhere to be seen.
Hanging on for dear life to anything they can, they suddenly find themselves screeching to a halt in the middle of the road to avoid... a rather large tortoise.
The driver, who doesn't speak a word of English and has been prattling on in his mother tongue, only breaking off now and again to cackle insanely at his own Albanian joke, abruptly jumps out of the car, runs down the road and picks up the jaywalking creature. He returns to the car, smiling from ear to ear, and thrusts it into the lap of the Wonderful One's ne'er-do-well mate Sharpy.
With that off they go, their heads once again bouncing against the roof as their Albanian driver picks up speed again.
Suddenly, from Sharpy's seat, there is a loud squeal, followed by a curse. The next thing everyone knows is that the driver is ranting uncontrollably at him in a language Sharpy fails to understand... and this is a man who lives alongside the incomprehensible accents of Glasgow folk when he's at home.
What Withers and his other pal do know, however, is that their guide is a very angry man.
When the others come to their senses they look in the front seat to see Sharpy with a wet patch on his trousers... but no tortoise. It swiftly dawns on them what has happened, though Sharpy is keen to explain.
"It pissed on me so I chucked it out the window," he says rather sheepishly as Albania's version of Travis Bickle gives him a murderous stare, his bloodshot eyes protruding from their sockets.

Meanwhile, I am back at the Screws a day early this week. I set off at 5.30am this morning, unfortunately waking a bemused Scooby in the process, so that I could arrive at 10 and help out because of a shortage of staffing numbers during the holiday season.
It was a pretty uneventful weekend, really, however. Having only arrived back at 1.30 in the early hours of Sunday morning, Mrs Rippers and I spent the whole of Sunday lazing around watching the last five episodes of the Wire Second Series. And very good it was, too.
I did manage at some stage to cook Spanish chicken and roast potatoes for lunch (but I've already imparted the recipe earlier in this blog so won't be repeating it).
On Monday, after Mrs R had headed off to work, I sorted out a few necessary chores before meeting Jarhead for some beers at Las Iguanas in Mill Lane. We couldn't resist for long, though, and finished off the night in the new old O'Neill's. A good night was had by all and the head was pounding a bit next morning.