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.

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