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.