THURSDAY, June 25 - 11.15pm
WHEN the text came through from my daughter I was waiting for the punchline. "Is Michael Jackson dead?" she inquired. It must be a joke, I thought. I waited, but no follow-up punchline was forthcoming.
I then found out that she had heard rumours on BBC 24 bulletins, but as yet they were unconfirmed. I immediately texted Paps with the news. "Yeah, just got back into the office," he replied. I checked my watch. It was 11.30pm. That meant Paps, the head of news/teamaker extraordinaire, had only been out of the office for four hours - just enough time to listen to that day's edition of the Archers, I reckon. What a pro - or saddo, considering your take on things.
To me it was one of those days when, as a journo, you just want to be there. That is, unless you can't give a toss about your chosen profession, I suppose - and there are some of those about.
I lifted my aching bones from the sofa, where I had been watching a DVD, sleptwalk (if that's a word) to the car and dozily drove the mile or so back to the office I had left just three hours earlier.
On duty were the Big Boss, Rob Kneesupmutha, Orson Wells, Cath Mary, Paps, Neil Gibbo Gibson and late man Vimal. A small crew, but plenty of people to turn around the next morning's Snail and make some effort to record actual breaking news in the South Wales Egg Cup which, like most evening papers, now prints the night before.
Paps was in his element, going through the wires and piecing together the story, while also finding background info with which to reproduce the Michael Jackson story. No online people, though - funny that seeing this is the sort of story that should be appearing online first in the new Meeja Wales environment. Paps was left to upload the story, too. The Prince, from his lair, made his contribution, too, by texting the first Wacko Jacko joke of the night - "I guess his heart didn't Beat It," he helpfully suggested.
Still, by 1.15 we were out of there... job done. And, in the words of the Prince of Darkness, "I had a bit of a buzz on."
Paps may have been up-to-the-minute with his news editing on Thursday but the rest of his life seems entrenched in the 60s and 70s (and even before then). When I told him I had been watching another of my Audrey Hepburn box set that evening he chimed in with: "Was it Paris When It Sizzles"? Well, amazingly it was - a film I had never even heard of until I took it out of the box and put it on.
Paps, though, just turned 40 but with the tastes of a 75-year-old bedridden codger, had obviously watched it a thousand times. Bedridden codger? Well if you took a look around his house to establish who lived there, in the manner of Loyd Grossman on Through the Keyhole, you would be forgiven for thinking it must be Splott's answer to Jim Brennan of Eastenders fame. The videos (probably in Betamax) include box sets of the Sweeney and Porridge, together with Carry-On posters and all sorts of ancient memorabilia. He even has the Sweeney theme tune as a ring tone on his mobile (yes, he does have one of those).
As touched upon before, his evenings seem to involve sitting in his old comfy chair with his slippers and the gramaphone, which blares out the Archers to anyone who cares to listen (and there are few of those these days, I would wager). I wonder if the old boy has one of those ear trumpets, too?
Still, I suppose if it is a choice between popular culture and Paps' old-worldly ways, it is a close run thing as to which I prefer.
One thing that DI Jack Regan and DS George Carter never had to encounter, I imagine, was the Public Relations fluffy. In fact, I could imagine John Thaw's character blowing a fuse at having to deal with this scourge on modern society.
That said, this is the one element of modern culture that Paps has more than enough time for. Regularly he spends a good 10 minutes talking animatedly on the phone to one fluffy or another, saying how exciting it was that they had invited him or one of his reporters to the opening of a jar of marmite.
Some fluffies get even better treatment than others, too. Now and again Paps disappears into the privacy of the Orson Wells b***cking room - known because it is also the room where Orson takes his staff to task - so that he can conduct a private conversation on his mobile with Jocasta or Mimi from Prepubescent PR.
Now, God forbid I should draw conclusions as to what these conversations are about but they tend to end up with him announcing a couple of hours later "Think I might just nip off to such-and-such a pub to see some friends". For friends read fluffies. At least, that is the conclusion of his well-trained and alert colleagues.
On Friday we said goodbye to another five people from the IT department, which is beginning to sound extremely echoey. Two of the old guard, Arfur Blissful and Jeff Fried Egg, have been around for so long I reckon they started when the newspapers were chipped out of tablets of stone and all they had to do was to make sure the chisels were sharp.
They will both be greatly missed though as will Nas, as much for his cricketing prowess with the Snail and Egg Cup weekly slugathon team as for his technological skills.
After that we sidled off to old O'Neill's where we bumped into the legendary Welsh rugby fly half Barry John, who had spent a decent time out and about in the local hostelries and was full of stories by the time he met us. As Withers pointed out: "Bloody hell, Rippers, he repeats his anecdotes more times than you repeat yours!"
At that moment Paps piped up "I've just got to go and meet some friends in the Pen and Wig."
Smashy knew exactly what this meant, Fluffies, and intimated as much by shouting in a high-pitched, flossy voice: "Friennnnd, Speshial Friennnd," to which Paps dropped his head, raised a finger and charged off in the direction of said pub.
We joined him soon afterwards. Before we got to the pub, however, the Prince looked at me darkly and warned: "Don't spoil it for him, Rippers. Don't call them fluffies."
Red rag to a bull I am afraid. I couldn't resist it when introduced to the girls from Bathwater PR despite black looks from all around. As for Paps, having had his evening rudely interrupted I imagine he finished the night curled up in his old sagging chair, watching Carry On Camping and dreaming of a young Babs Windsor.