Monday, October 26, 2009

Healthy living

Shock, horror I have joined a health club. I know, it is like saying Nick Griffin is working voluntarily for the Board of Racial Equality or that Shane McGowan has goneTee total, but there you have it.
You see, I was getting a little bit fed up of a life involving slobbing about, watching videos, travelling by car to London and back and not keeping up my routine of swimming twice a week, which I had managed to carry out in Cardiff.
And I didn't fancy joining one of Bristol City Council's Sports Centres, for which you still have to be a member if you just fancy the odd dip. Then, no doubt, you have to take your chances with the regular riff-raff, general public and, God help us, schoolkids.
So looking for a suitable place to swim I went onto the net and googled Bristol and swimming - and at the top of the list came the Esporta Health Centre. I gave them a ring and after a brief chat with Tom, one of the guys employed in the membership department, he invited me down to their facility just outside the little village of Stoke Gifford, a stone's throw from Parkway Station.
Well, the tour was fine and I marvelled at the amount of gym equipment there, while never feeling the slightest bit tempted to use any of it.
The 25 metre pool, while not particularly big, did appeal, however, on the basis that there are only about three people in it at any one time during the day. I am told it is busier at night and at weekends but my job and my preference for public houses ruled out those two possibilities.
Tom threw in a free head and back massage at the health centre and eight visitors passes so that Mrs R could avail herself of the facilities when she fancied it, and then quoted me the ridiculously expensive price of £58 a month. Having said that, it is half price up until Christmas.
I must say, though, the luxury of diving into your own private swimming pool (or so it feels) is great and I shall do it as often as possible just so that it's value for money. With a very nice jacuzzi there to ease my long-lasting shoulder and neck pains, plus one of those spinning things that get all the excess water out of your trunks, I must admit I was sold on this little piece of private luxury. Can I afford it? Well, I am not drinking with the Boozeday Tuesday crowd every day of the week drowning my sorrows after another sh** day at work, so perhaps it is swings and roundabouts.

The week has been pretty quiet really, though I am sick to death of footie again. My beloved Gas, having gone on a run of impressive wins earlier in the season, now seem to be on the mother of all losing streaks. Perhaps Mrs R and I, who were present at their last great win in Southampton, have brought them bad luck in the long run. Saturday we lost 2-1 at home to Yeovil, for God's sake. Yeovil! They hadn't won an away game in about 100 years. It seems the bubble has well and truly burst.
Put me in a foul mood at work but fortunately Saturday passed ok and on Sunday I spent a lazy day in front of the box watching Manchester United get a 2-0 tonking by Liverpool. So much for the demise of Rafael Benitez.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Smell you later

My lovely wife spent most of last week worrying about an odd smell that had pervaded our little nest in Bristol. Arriving home from work she sensed that something, somewhere, was decomposing but couldn't put her finger on what it was.
The next day the smell was worse. It was upstairs and downstairs and the fear was something had sneaked into the house and gone and died in a hidden corner.
By Saturday it was becoming pretty unbearable so Mrs R decided she could leave it no longer. Preparing herself for a gruesome discovery she first emptied the contents of the fridge but, apart from some rather dated items like cheese and bacon, nothing gave off the kind of niff that she had geared herself up to expect.
Next stop was the vegetable rack on top of the freezer but though some of the spuds had ears and a lime had gone so yellow you would be forgiven for thinking it was a lemon, there was no tell-tale smell to solve the conundrum.
Finally it was a question of getting down on hands and knees and looking through the kitchen cupboards. Out came the old tins and bags of pasta, the pots and pans and the herbs and spices. The smell was stronger, but nothing looked to be so far past its sell-by date that it needed a decent burial.
Then came the ice cream cartons in which we store rice, more pasta and other pulses. She shook the first two and back came the sound of ordinary dried macaroni. The third, however, felt heavy and gloopy and there was no giveaway rattle. Lifting the lid the smell hit her in waves, stronger than any joke shop stink bomb. The offending article, some long forgotten brocoli.
Apparently Mrs R had put it into the container to be saved into the fridge. I, however, was under the mistaken impression that it was something that could be stored safely in the cupboard. My fault, as usual.
Oh well, at least it wasn't a dead rat.
There has been one negative effect to come out of the whole episode, though. Mrs R, who loves her broccoli so much that I often wonder whether she has been stalking it (gettit?), has had her passion seriously dented by the whole affair.

It's official. I'm a muppet. Dropped a clanger at work on Saturday and was officially told as much by boss Macca in front of a room full of fellow journos. Embarrassing, but a lesson learnt. Still, far better to have a new a***hole cut for making a mistake than the whole thing to be swept under the table as if it never happened, as is the case in some places. I will certainly take care not to make the same error again.

God help us, today I actually joined a gym. Rather, it is called a health centre. To be specific it's the Esporta Health Centre near Stoke Gifford on the outskirts of Bristol and has a 25m pool which I can use during the week to my heart's content without any danger of groups of snotty nosed school kids taking over the facilities and cramping my rather limited style. It's costing an arm and a leg but the satisfaction it will give me to be able to keep up some semblance of fitness each week should more than outweigh the cash disadvantages. And, since boozeday Tuesday's sad demise, I haven't been spending as much on Carling overload as in the past.

Sunday lunch was a day out with the folks. It's my dad's birthday next Sunday and I guess he must be about 150. Not really. So Mrs R and I went to pick he and Jean up and took them out to a very nice pub called the White Lion on Frenchay Common where we enjoyed a lovely roast before giving them a tour of Chez Rippers in the afternoon. Oh, and the chocolate fudge cake with cream and extra chocolate sauce was probably the catalyst for my gym decision.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

chinese spicy noodles when time is short

Mrs R has been in full Felicity Kendall mood this week having finally started work on the allotment. It started off looking like one of the more inpenetrable areas of the Amazon rain forest but by hacking away with spade and pitchfork she has made some impression. Very impressive.
And she has also met some allotment folk, part of that quirky band of people who think it's fun to spend hours on end outside huffing and puffing until they are covered in sweat and red as beetroots. Mrs R doesn't like beetroots, but she certainly looked like one after another stint on Sunday afternoon.
I think allotment people are a bit like marmite... you either love them or hate them. Our neighbour, Deadly D from now on though I hope she never finds out this is her, has been virulently anti-allotment since they dumped half a ton of manure outside her back window one time. The other day I heard her ranting on in full Bristol accent to some poor gardening-obsessed dab.
"Yew can't park thuuur!" she shouted. And when he responded she proceeded to talk over the top of him in a my-voice-is-louder-than-your-voice way. Her two dogs joined in the fun, being not impartial to the odd bark now and then.
To be honest I was quietly minding my own business in doors but was alerted to the fact that World War 3 had broken out on my doorstep. I looked out the window to see the shaken fellow picking up a box and attempting the last word. "For F***'s sake, I am only putting these inside the gate, then I'll move my car," he explained.

It's been a pretty quiet weekend, really. Mrs R and I caught up with the week-long Criminal Justice series starring the lead guy out of the original Spooks series, who I think she has a bit of a crush on, to be honest.
On Monday I got on with my household chores and was then delighted to find that my driving licence had been returned with new address and MINUS 9 of the points that had been on it originally. Woo hoo! Thought that six had expired but didn't realise it was that many.
On Tuesday Mrs R and I went to see the Ricky Gervais film "The invention of Lying" which was highly amusing in a chick flick sort of way. Interesting though... The Gervais character had nothing on my daughter the Fat Kid when it came to being economical with the truth.

Last week it was getting close to my weekly jaunt to Southend and I was keen for something to eat but didn't want to do a ready meal. Then it hit me. A quick and easy stir fry. I adapted a few Chinese noodle recipe but as long as you have the core ingredients of garlic, ginger and spring onion you should be fine. I spiced it up with some chilli flakes.
vegetable oil
Chopped garlic (2 cloves)
Chopped ginger (teaspoon)
3 chopped spring onions
Carrot cut into strips
8 tinned water chestnuts, roughly chopped
red chilli chopped and deseeded
chinese rice wine
2 tbsp light soy
1 tbsp dark soy
veg stock
peanut butter
one egg
1 red pepper sliced lengthways
ham, bacon or some such sliced meat
cooked egg noodles

Heat a saucepan of water and cook the egg noodles for as long as packet says (about 4 mins)
rinse in cold water and leave standing
heat oil in a wok
When it is hot and slightly smoking add the garlic, ginger, spring onion and chilli
Stir around for about a minute until the aromas escape
Then add the meat and vegetables and stir fry for five minutes
Add the chinese rice wine, soy sauces and a small amount of vegetable stock
bring to boil and stir, then add a table spoon of peanut butter and stir this in too
Add the noodles, heat through and bring to the boil again.
Finally add an egg to the pan and draw the spoon through the pan regularly to stop the egg completely setting.
When it is all heated through spoon into a bowl and eat away

Friday, October 09, 2009

curry virgin

SOMETIMES you hear a story that leaves you absolutely speechless. It might be about the Indiana woman who managed to give birth to Octuplets or the fact that a man kept his daughter locked up in the cellar for 20 years without anyone catching on.
In my case it came about in Wapping's finest hostelry the Wilted Rose on Thursday when our resident chief sports sub Jonesy, hardly in his formative years, suddenly revealed he had never, ever tasted a curry.
Now this was enough for the gathered hacks to spit their Carling Cold out in unison and stare at him as if he had announced he had just robbed the nearby service station. For my part this needed investigating further. "Never? But you realise this is the British national dish?" I informed him. "Surely you have been tempted to at least try it."
"No," said the unflappable Jonesy, suddenly realising that he had caused a major lunchtime incident. "It never really occurred to me. I've nibbled on a popadom once, but the attraction seems to have passed me by."
He did, however, concede he would be prepared to join us in the curry house one night to lose his curry viginity. But he admits the prospect is a bit scary. "I have no idea of the difference between these curries and I have no doubt I will be stitched up royally by you lot," he said. I suspect he may be right.
It all reminded me of my first experiences of curry with Millsy and the Winterbourne gang on Friday nights after a heavy session and a visit to one of the city's nightclubs, Romeo and Juliets or the Locarno Ballroom were two, I recall.
Our delegated driver was always Nello, on the basis that he was tee-total, and after much cajoling he found himself regularly parked outside an Indian in Gloucester Road at gone 2 in the morning. Then it was a case of bravado. We would charge in, worse for wear, and demand the hotest Vindaloo known to man.
This, of course, was red rag to a bull for the owner of said takeaway. No doubt he went into the kitchen area and told one of his willing helpers: "It's that lot back again, trying to pretend they're hard. Just chuck every chilli, hot curry powder and such available to you into the pan. We'll make them suffer."
And, true to his word, he did. It normally took about three mouthfuls before the extra heat kicked in and pretty soon the rest of a rather expensive meal was burning a hole through Millsy's mum's kitchen bin. Those were the days.

Monday, October 05, 2009

seaside donuts

THERE have been two completely contrasting birthday celebrations this week. My daughter the Fat Kid is now 27, going on 15, while the wonderful Withers of Meeja Wales has reached the 30 milestone, though some might claim he portrays the gloomy disposition of a pensioner.
Mrs R and I were able to play a part in both festivities after I took my first week's holidays from the Screws, and it was all good fun, starting with the bonus of a fantastic day out watching my footie team the Gas record a terrific 3-2 away win at Southampton with over 2,800 fellow long suffering fans.

We travelled down to Southampton in Millie, Mrs R's purple micra, on Tuesday, a pretty easy trip through Bath, Warminster and Salisbury, booking in at the Premier Inn in the centre of the city. After a quick change of clothing it was off to try and find the shops, but after walking around in circles for a bit we decided it was a lost cause and opted for the pub instead. Mrs R was in full West country mode by now and started knocking back the ciders in the London Inn on Southampton's Oxford Street in the Old Town. We were joined there by a few more travelling Gasheads and soon wandered on to the ground, stopping just outside at another local hostelry where home fans and visitors mixed without a hint of trouble and plenty of good-natured banter.
Travelling on we stopped for a hot dog and chips from one of the vans parked outside. Mrs R's initial trepidation was spot on with my hot dog encased in a rather stale bread roll, but I polished it off anyway and then it was on into the Northam Stand to settle in among the hordes of Gas followers.
Everyone was in good voice and it was pretty soon clear that the away support were making more noise than the Saints fans, probably because our start to the season has been so much better than theirs - due mainly to the 10-point deduction they had been given at the start of the season after going into administration.
The Rovers fans were in witty form, reflecting on the subdued approach of the home supporters with a chorus of "Oo arr, it's a library" and rubbing them up further with "You're not famous any more."
The game itself was flowing, end-to-end stuff with our old strike star Ricky Lambert, sold to the Saints for £1m earlier in the season, getting a good reaction from both sets of fans. He set up Southampton's opening goal but Rovers equalised before half time through the man they got to replace him - loan signing Chris Dickson.
Then, just a minute into the second half, Lambert scored for Saints and to be fair Rovers wobbled for 10 minutes and looked like they might cave in. They fought back, though, and when substitute Andy Williams came on he changed the game with his enthusiastic runs down the right flank.
Joe Kuffour equalised for the Gas and then five minutes into injury time Williams sent us delirious with a sweet curling 25-yard shot into the top corner. Magic!
Mrs R and I celebrated with another beer on the way back to the hotel and then settled in for the night in readiness for the next stage of our road trip - back to Southend to see the Fat Kid.

Now the Fat Kid has a thing about hair - well her appearance in general, but hair in particular. She wants it to trail right down her back and claims that when her locks are short she looks like a boy. I think she's fine but vanity is unfortunately one of my daughter's main characteristics.
To this extent myself and Mrs R gave her a ridiculously high amount of money so that she could get hair extensions. Why so expensive? They have got to buy the hair in, apparently.
So, basically, someone goes out to a poverty stricken third world country, gives some poor starving local wench a couple of bob, cuts off her hair, dyes it and then makes a huge mark up by selling it to people like the Fat Kid at an extortionate rate. Nice business scam if you can get it.
Still, when we arrived in Southend she was very excited about the situation.
In the evening her bessie (that's best mate to the uninitiated) Carly McFarley, as I call her, turned up and we watched the wedding dvd for the 650th time - well, I exaggerate, but not a lot - and showed off the wedding album to the two girls, who had been bridesmaids on the big day. Then next day it was time to bond with the Big Boy who, at the age of 3, still has the appetite of John Cena, the WWF wrestling star he seems to be modelling himself on.
We took him up to visit Mrs R's mum and dad in Suffolk and went out to lunch at a local pub, where the Big Boy managed to polish off chicken nuggets, chips, loads of peas, and some of my carrots, too, leaving a completely empty plate. He kept telling us he was on his "best beeay'ver" and he was as good as gold, playing on the slides and swings and showing everyone the happy side of his nature. No whinges, moans or tears, he did us proud.
When we got back to Southend I cooked a meal of Carbonara for Mrs R, the Fat Kid and her boyfriend Scott and we watched the dvd again before heading for bed.
Friday morning was spent taking the Big Boy down to Southend sea front, followed by a short walk around Hadleigh. We enjoyed some seaside donuts which the Big Boy once again pounced upon before then polishing off chips and half my burger at McDonalds, plus some McFlurries ice cream. Didn't touch the sides.
By the time we got home the Fat Kid was back, new flowing locks attached, and feeling as pleased as punch.
In the afternoon we set off back to our little cottage in Bristol after an incident packed few days.

On Saturday I met up with the great and the good in Cardiff - and Withers was already moaning. "This is going to be a disaster! No one is going to come!" he moaned, standing outside the new Old O'Neill's having a cigarette.
How he worked that out I will never know. Two of his friends from Crewe had already taken up residence, while his mate Sharpy had travelled all the way from Glasgow and we'd crossed the bridge, too. Withers, like any old curmudgeon, always finds some reason for the glass to be half empty though.
Former flatmate Grace had set up her record decks upstairs and as the night wore on people started trickling in. Smashy, the Fugitive (with fresh David Brent-style beard), the Boss, the Prince of Darkness, Posh and Becks - they were all happy to prove the miserable one wrong.
By the time the room was fairly full I realised I was a little bit merry, having cut down on my drinking considerably since leaving the Booze capital that is Cardiff.
I think I first cottoned on to my state when I realised that my shirt was off and I was dancing mentally to some Smiths song or other and before I knew it the trousers were also rolled up for my infamous Angus Young of ACDC impression. Nothing for it, it was time to go home via Caroline Street where Dirty Dot provided much needed sustenance in the form of Rissole and chips with gravy. Just right.

We were staying with Paps and the old boy certainly did us proud. In the morning he provided the mugs of tea and fry up that is so invaluable after a heavy night on the Razz. As we tried to regain some kind of state of normality by watching Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure while leafing through the Sunday papers we tried to surmise how the night had ended for the Wonderful One. Last seen he was finding it pretty difficult to stand on his two feet, and memories of his teeth-smashing past were coming into sharp focus. Still, his Crewe crew hopefully helped him stagger home.

One of these home-grown pals goes by the name of Black Rob. On many occasions we have heard the Wonderful One talking about his mate from home, even retorting to one person who criticised him about an alleged "racist" comment that "My best mate is black."
Imagine our surprise then to find that black Rob is, in fact, a caucassian male who says he has no African roots whatsoever. I must confess I did go up and inquire of him and his mate, also white, "which one of you is black?"
To which his mate, without hesitating, pointed at Rob and said: "him".
Apparently Rob's nickname came about because he enjoys a bit of Wire-style street talk. He likes nothing better, it appears, than "Cruising with his homies, looking out for honeys" around his "Yard" in the projects of Crewe.
Right on, Black Rob.