Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Turkey curry

THAT'S it then, festivities over. But it was fun while it lasted. Mrs R and I spent a few days with the Fat Kid, the Vin monster and Big Boy up in good old Sarfend and I can't exactly call it relaxing. From 7am in the morning we were up and about as the two boys surveyed their Everest-style mountain of presents, some of which had been put together by the Fat Kid and myself the night before.
Now, this always drives me crazy. We had bought the Vin monster an electric scooter which weighed a ton and putting on the seat, handlebars etc wasn't as easy as it first looked. Then, of course, we had to charge it for 12 hours which meant hiding it wasn't the easiest of tasks.
The Fat Kid is a natural when it comes to fixing these things. She just looks at the parts and automatically knows where they go, whereas I study the German instructions with Lowry-like diagrams and haven't a clue what they are talking about. Still, between us we got it up and running, though the seat was another matter and we had to wait for the monster's father to turn up to fix it on properly.
Then there was the Big Boy's first ever bike, which was even more complicated with handlebars needing to be attached, pedals and stabilizers put on and the brakes fitted properly. We managed to do this, eventually, minus the brakes, which the Fat Kid didn't consider all that important, really.
And the other downside is that you are then dragged outside by the boys and have to stand around in frrezing cold tempratures watching them perform on their new methods of transport.
Of course, Xmas is the Monster's birthday and he is growing up fast. He now seems himself as th world's biggest fan of JLS, one of those boy bands who rose to fame as part of that annoying commercial money-making scam called the X-factor. He had JLS CD, JLS hoodie, JLS signed poster (a snip at £66 but, well, it was his birthday) and even JLS cake, plus 3 identical JLS calendars from assorted aunties and grannies. By the end of the day I was pretty sick of JLS.
The Fat Kid did tell a funny tale of how Vin and his mates were sat in the back of her car when she took them to the flicks as a birthday treat, singing along to the popsters in the manner of Mike Myers and Co singing Bohemian Rhapsody in Wayne's World.
Anyway, I digress. After making breakfast for everyone, opening prezzies, supervising the boys in the freezing cold and making tea for various callers, it was then on to preparing the Xmas feast and, for the first time in years, I decided we should go with traditional turkey. I was prompted to do this by the Turkey Crowns on offer in Morrisons which looked fantastic and would have no trouble fitting into the oven on the basis they were legless, which was more than I achieved over the whole Xmas period.
Anyway, I prepared the pigs in blankets, stuffing, honey-roast parsnips, roast potatoes, turkey, beef, sprouts, mashed swede and yorkshire pudding and was pretty pleased with my efforts. Less impressed, though, when all the hard work was done suddenly the two girls appear in the kitchen, inquiring "anything we can do?"
The answer was: "Yes, don't pick at the bloody food until I've dished it up and... go away!"
Unfortunately, the Fat Kid didn't have a kitchen table so the adults ate on trays and the boys had their own little table and chairs out. No matter, from the way the Vin Monster said: "You're like a chef," I think it went down pretty well.
By the evening, though, there was nothing to do but crash and watch Dr Who's Xmas Special, the Gruffalo and Gavin and Stacey. Then to bed for work in the morning, but a fine day was had by all, I think.
Oh yeah, prezzies... I had some shirts, a pair of work trousers, a Joe Strummer DVD, the Ashes 2009 DVD, In the Light and on this evening by the Editors, a Clash CD, an electric knife for cutting food and lots of other bits and bobs. I think I did pretty well...

Btw the Rippers rap went like this...
Subs don't kill stories, lawyers do,
Ask Neil Ashton he'll tell you it's true,
It's a fact that lawyers make you violent,
Particularly when your exclusive is kept silent,
You don't believe me? Here's my tale,
Ash sent a story over on his e mail,
About a ticket scam, plain and true,
But when the lawyers saw it they went "boo hoo",
You can't print this the head man said,
Or Fergie will sue us and we'll pay out a shed (full),
But Neil insisted "I didn't get it wrong,
If you ask me the whole thing pongs!"
No matter, though, it went to the Ed,
And he decided to kill it stone dead.

Puns don't kill stories, lawyers do
Sound of the police Woo Woo Woo

He's a sub and his name's Geoff Critch,
Over the last year he's been working like a bitch,
He had to step in when Dykesy was away,
And fill in for Jonesy on another golf day,
He lives up north and has to travel down,
Listening to his i-pod to relieve his frown,
And when he's here he has a little flat,
He shares it with a cockroach so it's not all that,
And then on Sunday when everyone relaxes,
He has to join the Mirror just to pay his taxes


His name is Macca and he's my boss,
Supports West Ham and he's at a f***ing loss,
They sell all their players and don't buy none,
If they're not too careful they'll be playing in league one,
The thing about Macca is he likes a rant,
If you do something wrong he'll call you a ...
He's been off the booze since going back to June,
So by 6pm he will be howling at the moon,
Well that's the lot, I've finished my rap,
I thought it was good, but no doubt it was crap...

Loads of Turkey left by the way so it's turkey curry, a la Brigitte Jones, for the next few days

Friday, December 18, 2009

Singing for your supper

FOR weeks now the old hands on the Screws, particularly boss Macca, have been harping on about a Christmas tradition. It goes like this... Any new arrivals that calendar year are required to give some kind of performance at the end of the sports desk Xmas lunch. It's called singing for your supper, though why we should have to do this when we have already paid almost £50 for the privilege is completely beyond me.
Anyway, the tale we have had drummed into us is that last year our north east correspondent Martin Hardy performed a passable version of Bladon Races, a bit of a shock really seeing he's from the Newcastle area.
Anyway, as one of five new arrivals I thought I had better prepare properly for the big event and wracked my brain to come up with something to do. At first I was thinking of a football theme, like the Anfield Rap, but then it dawned on me that as a representative of Wales perhaps I should look closer to the principality for my inspiration. Finally, after 10 minutes of hard work, I came up with my version of the old Goldie Lookin' Chain classic Guns don't kill People... the twist was that I was to sing Subs Don't Kill Stories, Lawyers Do.
It dawned on me that to carry out such a desperate task I would at least needs some props to hide behind. Well, more regular readers of this neverending story may recall that I am the proud owner of a couple of Do Rags, which were purchased a few years back during an England cricket tour of the West Indies. That would solve one problem, and a baseball hat might also come in handy to hide behind and cover my head when pelted with dangerous flying objects.
I decided the verses should, perhaps, be about characters in the office and I wanted to sing the praises of one individual in particular, the hard-working Critch.
Now Critch has a rather noticeable stubble which, when he hasn't gone near the rasor for a while, can turn into the beginnings of a beard. He is also the oldest member of our happy clan so I thought it only right that said beard should be grey.
Finding one, though, was presenting a bit of a problem.
On Monday Mrs R and I visited Cribbs Causeway, the vast shopping centre on the outskirts of Bristol. Yet despite managing to sort a fair deal of the Xmas shopping, the grey beard eluded me. Then, taking an experimental route home through Patchway, we spotted a Xmas party store and did a quick about-turn to study all the fancy dress costumes etc. Finally, my lady wife discovered a long grey beard which we decided, with a fair bit of work, could be reformed into the desired facial appendage.
That night we got out the scissors and scythed away at the tough, grey stuff until it looked vaguely acceptable. We also, during our trip, found one of those giant, echoey kids imitation microphones which I thought would only add to the theme.
Suitably equipped, I set off for London early on Tuesday morning for the Bash of the Day.

Booking into the Holiday Inn down the road from Fortress Wapping was easily enough but getting from Limehouse into the city was a mare which reminded me why I had quit the smoke in the first place. A catalogue of closed stations and tube trains breaking down meant I didn't reach the meeting place - the Bell around the corner from Canon Street Station, until half an hour later than intended.
The place was already heaving with the great and the good from the Screws and I soon linked up for a beer with Bobby Bowden, the man who takes sole responsibility for my return to London. After a couple of lubricating Fosters we started talking about the forthcoming events, and I must admit the alarm bells suddenly went off in my head when he said he recalled Martin Hardy singing "Fog on the Tyne" at the previous dinner. "I thought it was Bladon Races?" I said, watching his eyes carefully to see if the whole thing was a wind-up. He just shrugged it aside - "What's the difference? It was all in Geordie anyway."
Good answer.
Once the great and the good were all gathered together it was on to a restaurant called the Don, an Italian in the heart of the city, where we were invited into a dining room exclusively for our use. I must say the service was excellent and the food - though hardly the kind of large Xmas dinner that I will be tucking into on the day in question - was tasty and, in the case of the pudding, very rich and filling.
Then, after a speech from Macca came the obligatory raffle in which, somehow, the world's two biggest gamblers and close cohorts Lethal and Adders, managed to carry off the first two prizes. There were cries of "fix, fix" but they just laughed it off and pocketed the cash, totally oblivious to the accusations of scandal going on around them.
And then it came. Macca announced that the new boys had to sing for their supper in "time-honoured News of the World tradition". He then revealed that, in fact, the tradition had only begun this year and this would be the first time. He then took up his post as Simon Cowell on the top table and invited his secretary and one of the other girls to take up the roles as Cheryl Cole and Danni Minogue from the X-factor. To complete the line up came one of the old skool Screws writers David Harrison, as Louis Walsh.

First up was Ash, our chief soccer writer, who passed out free lighters to the 35 guests then requested the lights be turned low before launching himself into what can only be described as Robbie Williams' Angels, as sung by Bob Dylan. The high notes were certainly a test too much but he deserved top marks for bravery and at least he got the audience singing along.
Critch followed with a 20-minute speech on why he had chosen to sing a certain song which wasn't funny but made his dad laugh. It turned out to be Laurel and Hardy's Trail of the Lonesome Pine.
And following swiftly on we had young soccer writer Greg and Internet Editor Adam in a duet, complete with dreadlock wigs containing coloured beads, revisiting the back catalogue of the little known Millie Vanilli (and I probably haven't spelt that right).
Finally, after a nervous wait brought on by the fact it was decided in alphabetical order, I was on "stage" or, rather, standing alone in the corner of the room with all eyes turned on me. I quickly hid behind a corner and opened my props bag. God knows how someone like David Bowie managed 20 costume changes a performance because I was struggling to get the Do Rag on straight and nervously trying to get the baseball hat out without spilling everything else onto the floor from the bag.
The chatter going on in the room suggested they thought I might have done a runner but finally... finally... I appeared, fully dressed for the occasion, to perform the first verse of my rap.
Then another costume break. And this time I could not for the life of me find the Critch beard. Now this, you understand, was my moment of comedy gold, the thing that would make the whole show work... and it had either fallen out of my bag on the way to the pub or was still back home in Bristol.
I scrambled around for ages, I could hear the natives getting restless, my heart was beating ten to the dozen and I was breaking out in a sweat. Oh Lordy. Then, finally, I put my hands on the beard, strapped it on and rejoined my audience.
Glad to say the reception was worth waiting for as I sang my verse about the great Critch.

To end on a make or break note I opted for a verse about the boss Macca. When I say make or break I mean it was either going to make him see the funny side or he was going to break my ankles. Thankfully it was the former.
After that we all moved on to a pub called the Vintry, then ended up in a bar called Revolution by which time I was so twatted I could feel my legs giving way so made my exit, jumping into a waiting taxi to be swiftly taken back to my hotel. A very enjoyable day, though, and I will put the contents of my rap up on my next posting.
Fortunately, and wisely, I have taken the week off.

Monday, December 07, 2009

Food of the World

Word reaches me that Meeja Wales' own version of Thelma and Louis, Smashy and Paps, have decided they are going on a worldwide tour. The two brave souls have both handed in their notice - a huge loss for the newspapers they sweated blood for over the last few years - and are going to spend six months travelling around to the four corners of the earth.
I say brave because the hardest thing, surely, will be for them to handle six months of each other's company. Even when they shared a house in Cardiff they hardly ever saw each other.
And that's not the only breaking news from the hub of Welsh journalism. Ben double glazing has already left for pastures new, apparently trying his luck working for Cardiff's self-styled Sleaze Brothers freelance operation, and will soon be joined there by Catherine Mary.
Meanwhile Sandra Hoy-palloy has apparently got herself up the duff again and Cat, the incredible laughing news editor, is also with child. Like I said before, there must be something in the water.
Other departures include Katie Stormin Norman and Gavin the gig guide Allen. Wonder if anyone has actually looked into these departures and questioned whether anything might not be quite right at the centre of Welsh journalism? Unlikely, but I hear the Little Bowling Ball has already been given lessons on how to turn the lights off at the end of his 20 hours a day, seven days a week shift.

I discovered all this gossip when I had a wet-your-whistle stop visit from the Fugitive, the Wonderful One and Shutts at my Bristol hideaway yesterday.
I picked up Withers from Bristol Airport where it outrageously cost me £4.50 to park for 20 minutes. The Wonderful One, who would have had to pay £6 to get a bus to Temple Meads, was true to type though, his hand never venturing near his moth-devoured wallet.
When he got off the plane he looked remarkably well for someone who had spent the previous night at a Glasgow "Burlesque" evening and had woken up fully dressed in tuxedo.
He had even worn a top-hat for the occasion which he had bought from a mysterious hat shop that suddenly materialised in Grangetown. As Paps suggested, it sounded like something out of the much-loved kids programme Mr Benn. Actually brought a smile to the miserable one's face, so I'm told.
The Fugitive and Shutts later arrived at Chez Rippers and I was soon escorting them down the hill and around the corner to my lively local The Masons Arms where Withers immediately took a liking to the Stroudy cider while I made up for lost time quaffing back pints of Fosters. The Fugitive, though, was driving and had to refrain from the imbibing. As for Shutts, the tee-total one stuck to his diet cokes.
Interesting to see Shutts trying to meander his way around our little old cottage, though. It looked like a scene from Gulliver's Travels as the 6ft and lots Welsh giant ducked to avoid the low-beamed ceilings.

Congrats to Wathanovski and the Teacher on the birth of their first child - a daughter. Sorry, can't remember the name and deleted the message from my phone but the Welsh football correspondent is "over the moon".

Talking of celebrations, we were rewarded with a can of Carling each for work on the 16-page all-singing, all-dancing News of the World World Cup draw supplement after working an extra long Friday to put it together.
Boss Macca presented the cans with a flourish and thanked us for "all our hard work", removing them from his own personal fridge (I imagine they were gifts from the Premier League sponsors originally).
Lovely gesture nonetheless.
Next morning, though, I was feeling a bit ropey. And the reason manifested itself when I got to work and was informed that the lager we had supped at the end of the previous night's shift might not be quite contemporaneous.
"It was 14 months past its sell-by date," one of my informants revealed before making his excuses and leaving.
It was luxury, though, that because of the late-night working the company splashed out for a hotel room for the night for me. I stayed at the Holiday Inn at Limehouse - and very pleasant it was, too.

Thursday, December 03, 2009

A spoon full of sugar...

I'M beginning to think I have followed the wrong vocation. Judging by what has been going on for the last week I think I should be renamed Dr Rippers or, worse still, nurse.
While the delightful Mrs R has been feeling worse for wear following the shocking news of her pregnancy (I already feel extremely guilty for putting her through this experience) my incredible shrinking daughter is now just over eight stone and was laid low this week with a virus surprise, surprise.
You see, The Fat Kid is going to have to be renamed the extremely Skinny Kid before long.
The trouble is she tends to live off a bowl of cereal and a couple of slimming biscuits per day on the basis that she believes her nickname. I keep telling her it's rubbish but she won't listen to me. She goes to the gym three times a week but doesn't realise that she actually needs food to supply the energy to enable her to complete all these spinning classes.
Result: Her body gave in last week over sheer exhaustion.
Poor old fat, I mean Skinny, kid. You can even feel her ribs these days and where once she was just a smidgen smaller than me she now also seems to have shrunk so that she only comes up to my chin. Gonna have to fatten her up over christmas, I think.
Meanwhile, poor old Mrs R is really struggling. She can't stay up past 9pm and doesn't enjoy the fact that strange things seem to be happening to her body which are totally outside her control. I would like to help but don't know what to say - it's hormone hell, by the sound of things.
On a good note, I went to see the Gas play Exeter City at home on Tuesday. My fab football team managed to win 1-0 and move into the top six again. Never mind the fact that they were totally mullered, battered, outplayed for 89 minutes they somehow managed to hang on for their first clean sheet in 13 games.
Going up, going up, going up - lord save us.
Sadly, I missed the only goal of the game. I was standing freezing away in the Family Enclosure with my mate Haydn, whose son Liam plays for one of their junior teams and thus gets his dad free entry to the ground, when I decided that nothing was going to happen. Thirty three minutes in and the Gas had barely mustered a shot.
Sods law! As I am tinkling away an almighty roar goes up and Darryl Duffy has put the Boys in Blue ahead. Great.
I had to wait until shortly after nine the following morning to see the goal that had sent us soaring into the upper echelons of the division.