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.