PHEW! I've completed my first week on the News of the Screws and come out the other side, a bit mangled and dog-eaten but otherwise feeling ok.
I must admit it has been a bit of a shock to the system, not working for the most famous newspaper in Christendom but having to cope with the antiquated technology which makes Meeja Wales seem almost space age in comparison. But more of that later, I have a week to catch up on, including the TWO leaving dos I managed to fit in.
You may recall that the last time I updated you on the situation I had been forced to spend my last day editing the South Wales Egg Cup. This was because Troublat was moving into a new house, big Al (otherwise known as the big boss) was spending a day at the Test match and The Boss was in Ireland to celebrate his dad's birthday. Apparently this involved holing up in a bar in Donegal for a number of days - a kind of test of endurance. And I had evidence of this the previous night.
At about 9pm I had a text message from The Boss, hardly Richie Benaud when it comes to handing out the cricket knowledge, which read: "The Ashes is on in the background of the pub. Flintoff is batting, it's awesome. Oh, the Aussies have knocked another one out."
Not sure about the terminology but he went on to add: "Who do you think is winning?"
Of course, being the cricket font of all knowledge I gave him a very detailed and circumspect reply which basically told him that it was about even, but that we would only know after a couple more days.
Lying in bed at well past the witching hour (when only the Prince of Darkness and his hordes are abroad) I was awoken again by my phone beeping out a text alert. Struggling out of bed I picked up the offending object.
"Wa' the hell does tha' mean?" came the message from the Donegal pub. And, yes, when having partaken of some of the black stuff in the Emerald Isle I do believe The Boss even texts in a Scottish accent.
Asking him about it a few days later, he admitted: "Sorry, wee man, ah'd forgotten aboot the previous message completely. Ah was joost tryin' ta loook like I knew something aboot the game as it was taking place in Cardiff."
Leaving Do Number 1, when I finally arrived at the new old O'Neil's at gone 7 having said goodbye to the Egg Cup and planning to never speak about the experience again, I was delighted to find the great and the good already well into their sessions. Jarhead, for instance, had escaped the clutches of the sports department shortly after 5 (no change there, then) and had already partaken of a few pints of the loopy juice they sell in Zero Atmosphere (the gastro pub around the corner).
I was immediately waylayed by the little Bowling Ball and an old work colleague the Welsh Sheikh, who had just returned for a short break from the latest middle east country where he had made his home (I am a bit sketchy on the details but think he said Qatar).
All in all, I was extremely pleased with the turnout. Roger "heaven knows I'm happier now" Morrisey, who retired a short while ago, turned up unexpectedly as did others like the Fab BB, telling his London bosses he just HAD to be in South Wales to work on an important story.
In the early part of the evening I got talking to the two Katies, Stormin' Norman and 'The Body' Bodinger, who were in good form, then after a time Mrs Rippers turned up.
Soon we were enjoying the company of a rocking band called Two Tickets for the Gun Show, or some such. By this time I was well on the way and couldn't help heckling the Aussie singer.
At the end of the show he came up and asked me why I had done so. When I pointed out that we fully paid up members of the Barmy Army feel compelled to do such things he revealed: "I'm a kiwi". Prefuse apologies followed.
After that it was on to the City Arms where my own personal DJ Jase, having experienced a bit of a downturn in fortunes of late (for three weeks only around four people had attended his Sound of the Suburbs sessions on a Friday, poor dab) was delighted to see us and play all my favourite tunes. For some reason I felt in an early 70s Skinhead and Suadehead mood and acted accordingly, requesting Double Barrel by Dave and Ansell Collins followed by the Resurrection Shuffle by Ashton, Gardner and Dyke. Brilliant stuff.
As the night closed in Mrs Rippers came to see if I was ok, noticing that at some stage my shirt had somehow slipped off. I got up to speak to her or, rather, my mind did, but my body stayed exactly where it was - I guess that is what they call legless. Pouring me into a taxi, we made our way home.
It was a quiet weekend with just a full chicken, chips and curry sauce on the Saturday to accompany our 24 hour recovery plan, which involved lazing around and watching a surfeit of videos.
On Sunday, convinced England were going to lose the Test match having lost five wickets before lunch and still trailing on first innings by the small matter of 170-odd runs, Mrs R and I could bear no more. We opted to forget our woes for a few hours and go to the cinema where we watched Jonny Depp's latest movie, Public Enemies, which is about the gangster era of John Dillinger. Very enjoyable in a bang, bang, shooty, shooty way.
Coming out of the cinema I got in the car to find out how many England had lost by only to learn that Paul Collingwood was still at the crease, playing a monumental innings in a bid to save the game. We high-tailed it back home, at least I did and I was the driver (so there) and watched the rest of the action.
Amazingly, England held on to a draw when their last two batsmen, Jimmy Anderson and Monty Panesar (whose bat is normally as effective as a stick of rhubarb) lasted the last 11 overs to deny the Aussies. Magical.
On Tuesday I returned to the office for the BIG presentation. The Boss made an interesting speech where he referred to me as Rambo because of my penchant for wearing my tie wrapped around my head (I've been called Rimbo before, but not Rambo). What he doesn't realise is that the "look" is based on that great party boozing game we used to play called The Beerhunter. I had to put him straight.
I had some great gifts, thanks to a not-so-secret conflab between Mrs R and the Wonderful One, including a miniature digital radio which I can listen to while on my way to work at the Screws, and an amusing little album all about cricket by The Duckworth-Lewis Method, apparently a band dreamed up by one of the blokes from the Divine Comedy - it's a lot of fun.
On the basis that I was joining a newspaper at the centre of a famous phone-tapping scandal, I also received the third series of The Wire. Interesting. All week people think they have been the only ones to think of the joke: "I'm not giving you my mobile phone number, you'll tap it."
When my newsagent became the 50th person that week to suggest it I almost chewed his head off. "Sorry, Richard," he said, as he does, "I thought I was being original."
So to the Screws and what an interesting week it's been. I drove up to the Fat Kid's on Wednesday, slept on the sofa with a nice big quilt, then was up with the lark to get ready for the day in my new silver grey suit which Wren had bought me. I was originally planning to travel to Southend Central but the Fat Kid pointed out that Shoeburyness station was just around the corner so she gave me a lift and I boarded the 8.05.
I must say the train was very comfortable and, though it took over an hour, listening to my new radio the time flew by. I was intending to go all the way in to Fenchurch Street but was delighted to find the train stopped at Limehouse, just one Dockland Light Railway stop from Shadwell and Fortress Wapping. Sorted.
First thing I discover my old pal Rob "fancy a job" Bowden won't be there to welcome me. The Deputy Sports Editor and Millwall fanatic is actually on a champagne freebie at the first day of the Ashes test. Lucky bugger.
I am introduced, though, to Big Macca, the larger-than-life sports editor on the paper whom, I get the impression, doesn't suffer fools gladly - well, doesn't suffer them at all, really. I will have to be at my very best.
Thankfully Critch is there to help me. Critch is an old hand with over 30 years experience on the nationals, a guy they all call for when they are deep in the doodah. He has been doing the Welsh edition up until my arrival and is able to point me in the right direction most of the time.
We work here on In Design which, somehow, links into a system called Hermes. It seems a little bit longwinded for someone used to designing the page, writing the headlines, subbing the stories and even writing them sometimes on good old WoS. Still, I am sure I will get used to it in time.
Another old mate Adders, who has been on the Screws since I used to news edit Westgate, quickly enlists me in the lunchtime O'Booze club, conning me that there is actually food being served in the Mouldy Old Rose, the local pub around the corner. Here I meet a group of likely lads who would bet on which rain drop reaches the bottom of the window first. On this occasion I get dragged into betting a pound on the next person to hole a putt in the Open golf. It is sudden death knockout with no skill attached. You just put your pound in and hope that when it is your turn the Beeb are showing someone with a tap in for par rather than an 80 footer for an eagle.
Critch warns me I am in a gamblers' den.
Having been advised to mind my p's and q's at Meeja Wales it was great to hear some really powerful swearing on Friday. A late arriving advert elicited this response from one of my new colleagues. "You are f***ing joking, are you trying to f*** me cos this is totally f***ed. This is the biggest newspaper in the world and we are getting well and truly f***ed over.
"I tell you what - what size is it? 20 x 2? How much they paying for that? I tell you what I'll f***ing pay you six grand to keep it OUT of the paper. Yeah. F*** sort it."
Ok, that is not a literal translation but, yes, it made me smile a bit. I wonder if that Advertising Manager reported him to the Politically Correct police in that fun-quashing department called Human Remains. If so, I don't think it would make too much difference here, if I am quite honest.
Saturday was all go and it was great to be dedicated to one job and one project, even though as Welsh Sports Editor your plans change regularly on the basis that you have to keep a close eye on what is happening on the main edition. Still, I enjoyed the buzz and particularly the free food which is supplied every week in the Conference Room - a fantastic spread to be honest and I enjoyed the Morrocan Beef Tagine with rice. Lovely.
I had a dedicated designer, Sophie, and sub, good old kiwi Angus, who still doesn't smile much but can really shift some stuff. He did a great job for me on Saturday and helped to make sure things went fairly smoothly.
At 9.30 I got away and headed back to see Mrs Rippers in Bristol. The drive through London was pleasant, following the Embankment all the way and passing Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament. Once I hit the M4 it was a clear run and I arrived in God's Own city at just gone 12. Tiring, but perfect.