Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Say cheese (yuk!)

The lovely Mrs Rippers has a week off so has disappeared off to Lavenham in darkest Suffolk to see her mum and dad. What better opportunity then to round up some of the usual suspects and spend a leisurely afternoon inbibing of a few sherbets and catching up on things.
The wonderful one and the Fugitive were right up for a Sunday afternoon sesh and agreed to come to God's Own country for a few cheeky ones. They arrived by train at Temple Meads and I met up with them in Bristol's finest oldie worldy boozer the Llandougher Trow. As the afternoon wore on we enjoyed a pretty decent sunday lunch in the aforementioned hostelry before embarking on a pub crawl.
When I say crawl it was literally that after we had to climb our way up Park Street before entering the White Harte, then returned back down the hill to the biker and heavy metal haunt The Hatchet where, already feeling hunger pangs again, The Fugitive and I ate our way through a plate of Chilli Beef Nachos. The Wonderful One couldn't believe how we could still be hungry after a two-course lunch and even I was surprised that the Fugitive still had room, seeing as he was wolfing back pints of Guinness like the chancellor's budget was about to kick in at any minute.
It all wrapped up in one of the myriad chain boozers on the harbourside - The Pitcher and Piano - which didn't seem to have any pitchers and I can't remember hearing the tinkling of any ivories either. No matter.
During this long, pleasant and relaxing Sunday the topic got on to one of journalism's success stories - the real life magazine. We all expressed immense surprise that, while the majority of newspapers seem to be suffering heavily at the hands of the on-line world we have created, these glossy offerings are attracting a huge amount of new readers. You see Take-A-Break and the like at most supermarket checkouts and the most unlikely of readers will immediately pick them up and deposit them in their trolley.
Maybe it is the headlines that have such a persuasive edge. I was reminded of this fact when I looked at one of the eye-catching stories that Closer was advertising in my local Sainsbury's today. "I make cheese out of my breast milk and give it to all my friends!" it said.
I must admit this was so astonishingly vulgar that I did feel tempted to pop it in the trolley and read more. If nothing else, it might give Mrs Rippers and I an idea to start up our own cottage (cheese) industry.
Then again, I really don't think so!

My newly acquired Clio Ramsey is driving me to distraction with his temperamental ways. For the last two days it seems he will only put the radio on when it suits him. Sometimes I can be driving around in silence for 20 minutes, only for the dulcet tones of Gabby Logan to come blaring out suddenly on radio 5 live. I can't figure it out but perhaps it is a design fault. If it is I imagine it can be quite dangerous for the mild-mannered driver who has been tootling along peacefully enjoying the silence.
Another trick Ramsey played on me happened on the M25 late last Wednesday. On this occasion, for no particular reason I can think of, he suddenly decided I might need to illuminate the inside of the car and put the interior light on. After a little fiddling it went off again, but I could do without his little quirks to be quite honest.

No doubt my regular reader is beginning to wonder what happened to the raison d'etre of this blog ie actually telling people what I cooked last night. My only real excuse for this is that this is about the 377th entry and quite honestly I tend to use the same recipes over and over again because, quite frankly, I am getting a mite lazy.
Still, just to keep up the pretence I went to Morrisons hot deli counter yesterday and saw a very nice boneless pork loin joint which I figured might be nice to put into a curry. As it was pork I thought it would be good to give it a bit of a chinese curry flavour so this is what I did.
Cooked pork joint, cut into sizeable chunks.
two cloves garlic, sliced thinly.
One green pepper and one red pepper chopped.
5 fl ozs of chicken stock.
A large desert spoonful of madras curry paste.
Two chopped green chillis
A desert spoonful of chinese rice wine
Two teaspoons of light and two teaspoons of dark soy sauce.
A large desert spoonful of chilli bean sauce.
A teaspoon of sugar.
A handful of washed basil leaves.

Heat a wok with chinese stir fry oil (which can be bought from most supermarkets)
Put in the sliced garlic, the peppers and the chillis and stir fry for 5-10 minutes.
Add the rice wine, the soy sauce the chicken stock and the light and dark soy.
Cook fairly vigorously for another 5 mins.
Add the cooked pork chunks and then the madras and chilli bean sauces and sugar.
Let cook, stirring regularly until the whole thing thickens.
Once everything is heated through and the peppers soft, stir in the basil leaves and cook for 2 mins before removing from the heat and serving with boiled rice - or whatever is your fancy - chips are quite nice with this, too.
Crackers and breast-milk cheese for afters (barf!)

Thursday, March 25, 2010


I have been called quite a few things in my time, and have fallen victim of the HR police on a few occasions, too. I was once labelled a bully who "frightened" my staff with some of my more combustible moments on good old WoS.
But the odd bin kick and muttered swearing under my breath was kids stuff in comparison to the cold, hard world of national newspapers.
In fact, I've found myself to be the target of a few pretty inventive insults from my combustible boss Macca - most of them, thankfully, in jest. Perhaps my favourite came the other week when we were discussing Saturday Survivor, the little betting game we play.
It works like this: Everyone puts a tenner in the pot and picks a team of the week who must win for you to survive to fight again the following Saturday.
As the tension rose, and various teams fell by the wayside, Macca cast his eyes around from his jewel-encrusted throne in the sports newsroom to see who was still on course to win the big prize.
When he saw my selection he immediately wrote it off with the suggestion that my football knowledge couldn't be that good because I was a "web-toed inbreed".
This, I think, referred to my West Country upbringing.
But the one thing you have to say is that he doesn't discriminate. He has a prejudice against EVERYTHING. Fat people, thin people, tall people, short people (a group to which I have a lifetime membership), northern people, Irish people, Scottish people... you name it.
Quite often my mate Critch is asked where he has left his whippet as he is a "northern monkey".
This all coming from a cockney who wears his Pearly King blazer with pride and knows more rhyming slang than Chaz and Dave.
These days, whenever an insult flies in the direction of one of the troops, the cry goes up "HR!"
Hasn't made a blind bit of difference.
Better that, though, than being part of one of the ridiculous politically correct regimes that now exist in the once thick-skinned world of journalism.
It is all a joke, folks... toughen up!

In the words of Queen: "Can anybody find meee... some buggy to love!"
Mrs R is getting a bit obsessed with the need to purchase what used to be called a pram but now seems to be referred to as a baby "travel system".
My God, it's like buying some top-of-the-range sports car these days and no doubt there is huge competition to own the latest model.
On Wednesday night I was getting to the end of my tether. "Should I buy this one - there are only 10 left and it's a bargain?" she asked with a worried frown on her face. This, bearing in mind the new arrival is still 14 weeks away.
I cast my eye over this incredible contraption designed to carry a miniscule human being in the lap of complete luxury. These things even have indicators, electric windows and fuel injection.
Then I looked at the price - £299. That, though, was without the car seat which comes at an extra £110, and something called a car seat "base", to which you can add another £100.
£500 for a baby buggy? That's the price I paid for Basil, my dearly departed little Corsa!
There was nothing for it, I had to get straight on the phone to the fat kid. I needed reinforcements to divert my lovely wife away from the route to financial ruin.
Thankfully, with much good sense (rare for the fat kid, I have to admit, but she DOES know about children) they decided to wait and look at alternative options when she comes down after Easter. Phew!

On Sunday my lovely lady and I had a delightful trip to Bourton on the Water in Gloucestershire. The last time I went to this quaint little village was when I was a child, and my abiding memory was the little model village (which we toured again) and my mum being attacked by a flock of errant geese!
It was full of tourists but a beautiful spot, and the highlight was sitting outside on a slightly chilly but lovely sunny day, eating fish and chips from the local purveyor of this singularly British delicacy.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Cereal killer

MY lovely wife is 25 weeks preggers now and I have started to take things a bit more seriously. In fact, I am even reading a baby book at the moment thanks to my pal Jayney, who bought it for me for my 50th birthday. It is called The First Year and has plenty of handy tips for parenthood.
One of them has already benefited me immensely and it concerns baby names.
I have always fancied the moniker Jack for a boy. After all the two biggest heroes on TV at the moment are Jack Bauer (from 24) and Jack Sheppard (Lost). And Jack was right up there among the top names in the imaginery list that Mrs Rippers and I were putting together. It's a real cool name.
There is a chapter in my book on baby names. It says you have to be careful to avoid saddling the poor unborn child with an embarrassing nickname to last a lifetime.
I tried out Jack.
The initials are fine, JR, who, though a bit of a character in the Texas soap Dallas a while ago, has kind of slipped off the radar and become a folk hero. No problem then.
Jack Rippington. It has a nice flow to it, a short first name to go with a long last name... exactly the requirements pointed out in my baby bible.
Nicknames? Well what are they going to call him? Jumping Jack Flash? Not bad, unless he is a flasher. Jack-in-the-box? Sounds exactly the sort of striker we need at the Gas.
And then... it struck me. Like a bolt of lightning coming through the ceiling. The awful, painful truth.
What is my nickname? Rippers. What likely nickname would he have. Rippers.
Or maybe Jack Rippers. Or, oh my lord, Jack the Rippers.
A notorious serial killer... the most famous in Britain.
A slasher of monumental reputation.
Not sure if that is the role model I would wish my son to follow.
He won't be called Jack now... that's for sure.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Bye bye Basil

TODAY was a very sad occasion in the Rippers household. My beloved Corsa, Basil, was unceremoniously hooked up to a tow truck and taken off into the wild blue yonder to be scrapped. It was a very painful experience.
Of course, I knew Bas wasn't going to get any better. He has been sitting outside, attracting the unwelcome attention of divebombing pigeons, for two months now. In fact, when I went to turn his ignition there wasn't a spark of life in him. I guess I knew it would come to this but, in car terms, it was like turning off the life support machine.
I loved that old Corsa and curse the numpty who drove too fast down Blackberry Hill when the snow was at its worst this winter, somehow failing to realise that he might lose control of his vehicle and slide off the road. He rammed into the side of poor Basil, leaving his back wheel crumpled. When the bloke came from the insurance company he was in no doubt the car was a write off - and this only a month after the MOT garage had told me that he would be good to go for another two years if I looked after him properly.
Still, I guess Mrs Rippers takes a small portion of the blame. After all, it was she who asked me if I named my cars. Until then, it hadn't even occured to me. A car was just a mechanical object to get me from A to B.
But to keep her sweet I called my first motor, the black Fiat Tipo, Boo, because that is what it said on the number plate. And when Boo became, shall we say, rather susceptible to flooding in the winter on the basis some young crook had tried to rip her door off, I moved on to Basil. He only cost me £500 and was meant to be a little runaround, but once I got the job at the Screws his value to me increased immensely. For six months he took me to London and back without a hiccup, and I was astounded at his resilience, particularly when the mileometer went through the 100,000 barrier.
Well, no use crying over spilt milk I guess. But I am sure people can relate to the way I am feeling now.
RIP Bas, you will be greatly missed.

No news is good news of Ridsdale, but I am starting to feel a bit of a fraud. We have sticky boards down behind all the units in the kitchen having established that the elusive rat was getting in through a hole in the back wall. I have to check them every 12 hours to see if the rodent has got himself into a sticky situation. But it seems the horse has bolted, or at least the furry mammal fled, before the latest action plan.
Shouldn't grumble I suppose, but somehow I think he is laughing at me from some cosy corner of the allotment.

Talking of allotments, it was always Mrs R's intention of going out back with spade and pitchfork and becoming some sort of latter day Felicity Kendall. But that was before any sign of a little Rippers. Now she has finally admitted that hauling herself down to some muddy patch of ground and planting the odd turnip seems a bit of a pipedream. So the keys have gone back and we shall sit in our little cottage and watch all the other Alan Titmarsh clones toil away on the land. Ho hum.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Chicken Alaska

NOW you may think that the above title relates to a recipe. You know, a bit like Baked Alaska or Chicken Chausseur. But, I am assured, it is actually a place. And, in about two months time, my two pals Smashy and Paps will be arriving there on a bus, wearied, unwashed and somewhat slightly dazed I imagine.
As I may have informed you before, they both bravely decided to pack in their jobs for an experience that sounds out of this world and involves transversing half the world on a number of coaches, the Trans-Siberian railway and even the Diamond Princess cruise liner which will carry them all the way from Beijing to the aforementioned Alaska and, later, to Chicken itself.
I managed to get over to Cardiff this week for what amounted to the last meeting - or was it the first reunion? - of the Boozeday Tuesday crowd. On Saturday week Smashy and Paps will be heading off from London to Bruges on the first leg of this dramatic jaunt into the unknown and I had to say goodbye in the time honoured tradition, through bleary eyes with a pint of cold Carling in my hand.
We started off in the Royal Oak which, for some years, has been Paps local, and enjoyed a couple of pints before heading into town where we met up with a few of the old crew. Danny Boy 'the poipes, the poipes', who looks remarkably well after a rather serious operation, Wathanovski, the Fugitive, the little Bowling Ball, the Wonderful Withers and Shutts all made an appearance at some time during the day/night. We began in Sh*tty O'Grim's because "it was a bit of a tradition", passing on eventually to the new old O'Neill's. And a great time was had by all, though I must admit I was already feeling the strain fairly early in the evening. Now, being a married man, I don't get enough practice, really.
It meant having to take a break for some nachos to build up my alcohol resistance and by 10.30 I must admit I was ready for the comfort of ... well, Paps' sofa.
I think the time I knew that I had probably teetered over the edge into drunksville came when a guitarist took to the stage and announced he did requests. "Play some Fred Wedlock then," I demanded.
"Umm, never heard of him," admitted the bloke, to which he was treated to a full biography and discography, no doubt littered with the odd swear word.
Anyway, back to the big trip and Paps showed me on the web exactly what he was doing and where he was travelling. Fascinating. There are visits to Bruges, Prague, the Rhine Valley, Krakow and Warsaw before the long trip across the former Soviet Union taking in such exotic places as Riga, Talinn and Vladivostok. Then from Mongolia and Beijing they travel by boat via Japan to the Americas, finishing in New York on June 20 - five days before our baby is born.
I wish them all the best and if you would like to keep up with their progress their blogs are: (paps) (Smashy)

Back to Fred Wedlock. The self-styled "oldest swinger in town" sadly died last week. He was my junior school teacher and, thus, had a big influence on my life. His sense of humour, which he carried through into his subsequent career as professional folk singer, was unique. He will be greatly missed. Thankfully, I have at home nearly every piece of vinyl he ever released so will be able to pass the word down through the generations, so certainly none of my offspring will be able to say "Whose Fred Wedlock?" A sh**head he may have been, but he couldn't help that cos his dad played for them, and England, I recall. RIP Fred.

Thursday, March 04, 2010


THE power of the blog, eh? Well, it is probably just a guess that no sooner had I criticised Rentokil over my continuing rat problem on this forum that I got a phone call.
The upshot was that on Monday two very thorough professionals of that organisation turned up at the door to pay close attention to my on-going problem.
They had a good look around and came up with another plan that I am happy with it. It is better than a guy turning up, taking away the poison, and thinking the job is done.
Worringly, while I gave them a guided tour of the house and explained what had been going on, we looked behind the bath panel. There is a massive hole around the taps and a great deal of wood chippings have been deposited. It seems Mr Ridsdale has been trying out his teeth there, too. Mind you, when we deposited some poison there he didn't touch any of it.
Which confirmed to me that, like a lion that refuses to eat meat, my rat is a rodent who doesn't like rat poison.
Anyway, thank you Rentokil. We shall move onto the next phase.
Hopefully at the end of it a little rodent body will be deposited in the wheely bin.
Wheely? Knowing the skills of Mr Ridsdale I seriously doubt it.

Imagine finding a penny, thinking you're in luck, then discovering later that you have dropped a pound coin.
That was the situation I was in today. Having won a £5 bet with Dykesy that it was Watford who beat Leeds 3-0 in the Championship playoff final a few years ago, I was feeling quite chuffed. So chuffed, in fact, that I went for my wallet - and discovered £40 was missing.
Absolutely gutted but I think I know what happened.
In the morning I went to the cashpoint and asked for a mini statement... convinced I would go overdrawn or already be in the financial doo doo.
When I quite pleasantly established I was actually in the black (or the pink if you prefer) I celebrated and requested £40. Then, from what I can gather, I stupidly left it in the machine. Doh!