Saturday, November 21, 2009

Roll out the Barrel

UP here on the Screws our sports news editor Dykesy has gone on leave for a month. The young whippersnapper has just had a baby daughter, Connie, and I am wondering whether this fertility thing is catching because he actually sits next to me.
While he is up to his armpits in nappies, however, he is being sorely missed back in Fortress Wapping, and not necessarily for his immense journalistic skills.
Popping into the local boozer, the Wilted Rose, for a quick beer before getting the Shoeburyness train back to the Fat Kid's den, I happened to overhear a conversation between two of the bar staff. It had been a busy day, apparently, and they had taken £140. Of course, it was Thursday and we just happen to enjoy a few bevvies there at lunchtime on that day.
The problem was that the beer had run out and they were at a loss what to do. "I tried to change the barrel but I couldn't," said a rather distraught serving wench.
"Oh, sh**, I don't know how to do it either," said her colleague.
Then the barmaid had a brainwave. "Don't worry, I'll get Dykesy to do it. He'll sort it out when he comes in," she said.
Unfortunately I had to spoil her plan. "Sorry, I work with Dykesy and he is off for a month," I said.
"Oh no!" she replied. "We always get him to go down to the cellar and sort it out when it needs changing. I think his folks used to run a pub or something."
Got the message, Dykesy? Come back soon!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Oats so difficult

When I was about to tie the knot no one warned me about how much screwing was involved. No, sssh, quiet at the back, what I mean is however much you insist during courtship that DIY stores are completely out of bounds eventually you find that, rather than buying ready-made furniture, you are in Ikea stocking up on some preposterously awkward flatpacks.
Obviously not only does marriage come with certain financial obligations you didn't really factor into the equation when you were down on bended knee declaring undying love, but it also seems to administer an instant brain labotomy, wiping away completely all the good, sensible principles you held dear as a single person.
I fell into this trap because Mrs R, tired of sending me subliminal messages about improving our abode which obviously weren't getting through, has taken to leaving little TO DO lists around the house, hoping that I might get the hint. You find them in strategic places, like next to your tobacco on the mantlepiece, and can't avoid having a nose to see what they say. Among the things listed on this one was: Get a dining room table.
Well, being a bit financially challenged at the moment and with Mrs R having revealed the earth-shattering news that she is up the duff, my guilt gene kicked in with remarkable force and somehow I found myself at the aforementioned warehouse from hell buying a dining table and chairs.
Putting them together involved digging out the only two small screwdrivers I could find and concentrating manically on an instruction leaftlet full of diagrams which make the whole thing look so easy. Yeh, well.
The first problem you find is that, although it seems you have everything in front of you, it pretty soon dawns on you that there is one vital bolt missing from the package. Never mind, just carry on regardless rather than ring Ikea and have to make the whole miserable trip again just to pick up the missing item.
What it ends up like is a lesson in contortionism as you vainly try to get all the parts together at the same time. Fit one bit, and another falls off... screw in one part and you find that the part is actually upside down even though it looks exactly the same whichever way you hold it.
And then, when you think you have finally cracked it, you realise you don't have the Phillips screwdriver required, just an itty bitty normal implement on which you will have to exert the kind of pressure that a WWF wrestler might attempt as he tries to get his foe to submit.
Thankfully the end result is a reasonable looking table and four decent chairs, total cost £90 and a stunning array of blisters.
But what about the satisfaction of actually finishing the job? Pah, I would rather pull out my own teeth with a pair of pliers than go through that experience again.

On Sunday we met up with old colleagues Claire and Neil, with daughter Amelia, and Natalie and her boyfriend, also called Neil, or Neil the power as I will now refer to him to avoid confusion. The power? Well, I understand he works in a power station so it will have to do.
The latter two had travelled down from Carlisle so that The Power could go through the pain and suffering of watching his beloved football team play my shambolic lot at the Memorial Ground. For a while it looked like they would inflict the sixth defeat in a row on the Gas, leading twice only to go down to a goal three minutes into injury time. I actually felt a bit sorry for the geezer after all the travelling he had done to encounter such despair.
No matter we had a very enjoyable lunch in the White Lion on Frenchay Common and later Claire, Neil and Amelia had a tour of the cottage before heading back to Cardiff.

Poor Mrs R hasn't been feeling too good since the big news. As such I have been trying to help her out the best I can. This morning I attempted to make her porridge. This, like the table and chairs, hinted that it would be a breeze. The clue was on the packet, after all. Oats so Simple.
It involved opening a sachet, putting the oats in a bowl, filling the sachet with milk and then heating in the microwave for two minutes. What could be easier?
Umm, quite a bit. What it didn't say was the flimsy sachet wasn't really built to hold milk and that the slightest movement ended up with the majority of its contents on the floor. Having mopped that up I tried again, put the porridge in the microwave and then served it up to my ravenous wife.
One look at her face told me it wasn't quite the way she liked it. I think my porridge making duties will be going exactly the same way as my DIY career.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Baby food

I went to see the doc this week. I've had a hacking cough and wasn't sure what caused it. Her first question was: "How long have you been smoking?"
Normal doctor question, I thought. No biggy. Then I roughly worked it out. "30 years," I said. Then, in my head, I worked it out properly. 36 years! Oh my god, I thought, no wonder I sound like a traction engine with rusty gears.
And, of course, there is the booze, too. I guess that only started moments after the cigarettes. I am seriously a wrecked human being.

Apart from the body, I was starting to believe my brilliant gourmet qualities were deserting me, too. The other day I did a quite enjoyable meal for myself and Mrs R and she only managed to eat half of it. "I've had quite a lot actually, I don't eat that much," she said.
"No you haven't," I argued. "You would normally eat most of that. You have barely touched it."
"I'm not that hungry really," she argued.
Hmm, I think I had better go on a cookery revision course.

The fat kid is 27. She keeps pestering me for things every five seconds. This week it was "Can I have my nails done? I am an only child and they only cost £25."
"Ask your boyfriend to pay, fat kid," I told her. "Why should your dad pay for all these things?"
"Because you're my dad," she said. Doesn't sound a very good reason to me, but obviously she thought so.

Mrs R came downstairs, shaking a small stick at me. "What do you make of this?" she said.
I looked at it. Hmm. Then I looked at the chart she was holding. Bigger hmmmm.
Then I worked it out. And maybe you have worked it out, too.
Mrs R and I are having a baby.
Bloody hell!
Before we got married we discussed children and I told her there was virtually no chance of me fathering another - I had hardly treated my body as a temple. I think Mrs R may have been quite keen though, because no sooner had the nuptials been completed than she had come off the pill.
I assured her, however, that my worn out and slightly anebriated sperm a. wouldn't have the energy to find their way to the fallopian tube and b. once there wouldn't be steady and sober enough to actual find the way in... and would probably fall asleep in the vicinity.
It appears I was wrong.
So at the age of 49, when most of us are dreaming about retirement, maybe emigrating abroad, enjoying the quiet life and settling in with slippers and pipe, I am going to be a daddy again.
It means the fat kid won't be able to call herself "an only child" as well, particularly as she has four sisters from her mother's side of the family.
To be honest the whole thing is complete madness.
And I can't wait.

ps As my own father is 85 and can't turn on a computer or read a blog I am biding my time to tell him. Anyone who reads this - please don't jump the gun, I don't want him collapsing from the shock!

Friday, November 06, 2009

Heineken poisoning

HAVING adapted to the life of the upstanding, hard-working, married citizen I found out to my cost how the whole healthy living regime can have a serious effect on you when you slip back to the old ways.
In short, I feel lucky to be alive today.
It all goes back to an official 'business' lunch with Coley on Tuesday. I took the train over to Cardiff feeling quite up to the task and looking forward to the day out. What happened after that is anyones guess and I only have a couple of eye witness accounts to piece it together.
Everything changed from the moment Coley arrived on the scene while I was finishing off a pint of Fosters in Copa before eating.
"I'll have a Heineken," said Coley to the barman.
"And I'll have a Fost... oh sod it, I'll try a Heineken, too," I said. A fatal decision.
From that moment my memory goes something like this...
a. Ate a steak with chips and pepper sauce.
b. Had another Heineken.
c. Had a brief ramble about the ills of Welsh journalism.
d. Had another Heineken.
e. Was joined in pub by the likes of the Fugitive, Kennedy, Danny Boy (the poipes) and Tea Cadden.
f. Er, that's it...

What I was told happened via text from the Fugitive...
a. I got to my feet and couldn't walk.
b. I was refused drinks.
c. I barged out of the pub knocking a table over.
d. I vanished.

What I vaguely recollect...
a. Falling over in a puddle in the street among the early Xmas shoppers.
b. Meeting a beggar and handing over all my cash.
c. Waking up on a train not knowing where the hell I was and fearing I might be three quarters of the way to Paddington while Mrs R waited in vain at Parkway Station to pick me up.
d. Surfacing next morning with the worst hangover known to man.

Then there is the inponderables which I may never solve like...
a. How I managed to get through the ticket barrier.
b. How I got onto the right platform.
c. How I got onto the right train and back off again at the right stop.

What it proves...
Mrs R really is a saint for putting up with a shambling, drunken wreck of a hubby.
I shall never drink Heineken again...

Monday, November 02, 2009

Fat Club

SINCE tying the knot with the lovely Mrs R I have found myself becoming a somewhat mellow being. These days I am prepared to take things in my stride and the number of Rippers rants has reduced dramatically. Of course, that may also be because I have escaped the misery that is Meeja Wales.
Alas, it was obviously too good to be true and I have found something today that has made my blood boil.
Having sung its praises last week I must admit I am not best pleased with my new exclusive health club. When I signed away my vast fortune for membership it was following gym salesman Tom's confident assurance that the swimming pool was barely used during week days.
And though it was pretty expensive my reluctance to part with my hard earned was counterbalanced by the fact I would rarely encounter the general public as I resumed my fitness drive.
Last week I was a little bit disappointed to find a few whippersnappers hogging the lanes but then I remembered it was half term and was prepared to let it pass.
After all, high-flying executives have kids too and must find things for them to do while on their school hols.
However, imagine my consternation when I slipped on my trunks and entered the pool area today to find it inundated with old wrinklies splashing about like salmon in a Pitlochrie Fish farm.
They were being led from the side by a super-keen fitness freak with one of those microphones strapped to her face like one of those sci-fi half-man, half-robot creatures you tend to see in films like The Terminator.
In short, the majority of the pool had been given over to a session of aqua-aerobics.
Now, fair enough if this was some council-owned £3 a session leisure centre in Little Gumption, but in my personal private money-grabbing health spa? Certainly not.
My god, why not just cut out the middle man and fill the pool with embalming fluid? And surely they could get just as much fun splashing about in their geriatric baths at home?
Some of them were even wearing socks to help their circulation, poor dears (perhaps the Western Snail should run classes to help with their poor circulation - boom boom).
So while us serious swimmers were left beating about in two thin lanes resembling a shark feeding frenzy, the wrinklies were taking up far too much of the pool for the limited use they were getting out of it. Aargh, I feel a complaint coming on and a refund of the Membership Fee.

All is not well in the Fat Kid household. Waking up at her boyfriend's the other day she discovered a fishnet stocking lying about among his fishing gear. There was a full scale inquiry followed by the mother of all rows. Said boyfriend denies any knowledge of where the stocking came from. This one could run and run.

Last night I rustled up a quick Coq au Vin from the recipe book that Mrs R's dad Andrew got me for Christmas.
Four chicken thigh joints
2 cloves of garlic, crushed
a large knob of butter and some cooking oil
three rashers of bacon, chopped up
half a dozen mushrooms, sliced
A medium sized onion (or 12 small onions, as the recipe dictates)
Half a glass of red wine
An ounce of flour
Salt and pepper
1/4 pint of stock (I used vegetable stock, then added one of those new stockpots that Marco Pierre White advertises)
A handful of parsley

rub the garlic and about half a tea spoon of salt over the chicken pieces.
Melt the butter and oil in a frying pan.
Fry the chicken until it is golden brown on both sides (particularly the skin) then put into a casserole dish.
stir the flour into the frying pan, then add the wine and stir it in.
When it boils and thickens add this to the casserole.
Fry the bacon in the remainder of the juices in the frying pan until it starts to cook
Add this to the casserole together with the stock, mushrooms, onions and salt and pepper.
Put a lid on casserole and put into the oven on gas mark 4 (180 degrees) for just over an hour.
Add the parsley near the end.
Serve with a generous portion of creamy mashed potato.