I'M not saying that it was a hard day on the good old Wales on Sunday at the weekend, or indeed that the Wonderful Withers of WoS is so miserable he makes Morrisey look like the perpetually smiling TV chef Ainsley Harriot in comparison, but my erstwhile colleague's sigh could be heard all over Cardiff at around 9.30 on Saturday night.
In response, The Boss turned to him and asked, "Oi, yer wee Sasenach. Wo's wrong wi' ye?"
The tormented one simply replied: "Oh, when will death come?" Quite.
It may have been that the poor sap had been working as news editor with the help of just one reporter and had to wade through a pile of MPs expenses claims which had been printed in the Daily Telegraph that day. On the other hand, it may have just been because he had been forced to prize open his moth-infested wallet to hand over two quid to Smashy for a bet they had made on the previous night in old O'Neill's.
The subject of the bet had been the Prince of Darkness and his progress with a young lady with whom he had struck up a conversation that evening. Smashy predicted things would progress little further on the basis that a. the Prince had already started sinking Sambucas, and it wasn't even 9pm.
b. He seemed to be regaling her stories of his experiences at rock festivals, which dated him back to the era before the Beatles came into existence.
and c. She actually seemed pretty intelligent.
Meanwhile, Paps was attempting to chat up the entire Northern Ireland women's basketball team who were obviously preparing for their big game the following day seriously, by sinking drink after drink and becoming decidedly merry. He, of course, needed the help of Danny Boy (the poipes, the poipes) who regularly endured knowing glares from his girlfriend the solicitor who, it must be said, has the patience of a saint.
Eventually, tired of watching the Prince in action, we retired to the City Arms which, even on a Friday night with a disco in full swing, is looking more and more like a ghost town. Wren and I ended up with the dance floor to ourselves while Smashy and the Wonderful One decided to quit while the going was good. Withers, now convinced that the Prince would have failed in his mission seeing he was barely coherent when we left him, passed over the two quid and no more was said.
This morning, though, the Wonderful One was in a much more cheery mood. Seems the Dark Lord had cracked it and Smashy reluctantly turned up at his desk to return the coins and add two more of his own.
This proved that a. the Prince can't be relied on to keep schtum about anything and
b. the Wonderful One is easily pleased.
Yesterday, Wren and I decided that rather than pay out a fortune in two seperate rents we would try to buy or, at least, rent a place together in Bristol. For me it would be easy to travel up the motorway to London on a Wednesday, then stay with the Fat Kid for a few days while working on the Screws before returning home to God's Own city. With Tuesdays off, there would also be a good chance of regular weekend visits to see the Gas.
Unfortunately, househunting is not an easy business, particularly when you have to master the Bristol traffic. We first went to a village called Stapleton just outside town and a little cottage that was idyllic, with an allotment out back and everything. The price was good, too, but Wren and I suddenly realised we hadn't sorted out a mortgage, or even had a chat with a financial advisor.
We decided that might be a good step.
Later, Wren insisted we visit Fishponds, which also sounds idyllic until you realise there isn't a fish pond in site and, if there was, the carp had probably been killed off long ago from the fumes eminating from the lorries, Kwik-fit centres and MOT stations in the vicinity. Not my idea of a relaxing home from home.
Finally, after a few more false starts, we ended up in Westbury-on-Trym, a lovely little village within a sparrow's fart of the centre and Bristol nightlife. It seems a good choice and we looked at a couple of rental properties which weren't bad.
After six hours on the road, though, my temper was beginning to fray and "grumpy grandad" came out in full mode. Wren told me as much as I cursed, crunched the gears and attempted three point turns in places where it was almost impossible to perform them (that scene out of Austin Powers, when he tries to manouevre a motorised vehicle in a tiny corridor springs to mind).
Finally, we called it a day, much to my relief, and ended up at my parents where we were delighted to show them the wedding dvd and pictures, Jean having missed our big day.
Back over the bridge then and by the time I got home it was 10pm. I had planned to make the famous meatballs and decided to do so any way, but save them for a later date. I came across a quick meal to cook while they were in the oven.
It is meant to be served in tacos or pitta bread but, having neither, I ate it with penne pasta.
What you need:
A pepper (I used a chopped yellow one)
Half an onion
Some sliced mushrooms
Tabasco, if you have any, or chilli sauce or ketchup.
What I did:
Heat the olive oil in a frying pan, then soften the chopped onion, sliced mushrooms and pepper.
Add the mince and brown.
Then add the tomato paste and stir in for two minutes.
Add the Worcester sauce, tabasco to taste or chilli sauce and ketchup.
Cook for a few minutes more, then serve with the pasta.
Quick and easy