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.