Friday, August 20, 2010

Spicy dutch cheese (uh oh!)

HAVE you ever desperately tried to avoid a football score because you wanted to see the highlights of the game later? It very rarely works, you'll find.
It happened to me during my dim and distant days working for a news agency in Stoke on Trent. All day long I had been trying to avoid the result of the England match that night. And with 30 minutes to go before Match of the Day, I realised I had run out of cigarettes.
I figured a trip to the local boozer wasn't ideal, but I could be in and out of the off licence next door before anyone registered my presence. But despite putting fingers to my ears to block out the noise, some loudmouth still managed to tell his mate within my earshot: "Good win for England wasn't it? Who got the two goals?"

The relevance of this story? Well, it was my lovely wife's 40th birthday yesterday and she decided she would like a trip to our old stomping ground of Cardiff. When she told me of her wish on Monday it got the cogs in my mind whirring.
Why not arrange a surprise dinner and invite some of her friends to turn up, giving her a pleasant surprise and providing me with brownie points until Christmas?
These days with all these passing fads - twitter, facebook, e-mail and text message - the job isn't as onerous as it might have been previously and I was able to secure a decent turnout. Then, it was just a case of making any last-minute alterations, getting someone to source the cake and getting her to the venue on time.
Simple. Or maybe not.
First I picked the wrong day. Somehow, in my enthusiasm, I organised it for Wednesday at 2.30 in a little restaurant in Cardiff Bay called Mimosa.
"Why are we going to Cardiff on Wednesday?" she inquired. "It's my birthday on Thursday and I have a doctor's appointment with the baby on the previous day."
So back onto twitter, facebook, e-mail and mobile phone to inform people of the change of plan.
Then the Wonderful Withers sends me a message. "I'm news editing the Daily Snail, could we make it earlier in the day?"
No problem.
Back on to twitter, facebook, e-mail and mobile phone to tell everyone the new arrangement.
And trying to keep my activities quiet from Mrs Rippers at the same time.
She thinks I've left her holding the crying baby while I fritter away my time on the Bristol Rovers website and my blogs.
Not quite. Though I did do a bit of that, too, I must admit.
Anyway new time accepted and it is all go. I've still got a decent response.

Thursday morning and Olivia has got us up by 7.10am. She is in a particularly contrary mood. First she wants food, then she doesn't, then she does, then she doesn't. She cries when I put her in the car seat. She cries when I put the car seat in the car. She cries when I take them both out again. She finally settles for a seat in mummy's car instead.
Then comes one of the text messages I feared. It's Wales on Sunday former news editor Kempy who has unfortunately contracted an ear problem and won't be able to make the surprise do. Neither will husband Coggsy and baby Paddy.
Poor old Kempy. Never mind, we will catch up another time.
Finally, we get the car loaded. We are already running late, but Mrs Rippers doesn't even know we are working to a deadline.
I've arranged to pop into Meeja Wales to show off the new addition to the family to former colleagues, including the Boss, so it's going to be tight to make it down to the Bay in time for lunch.
Then comes the moment when the whole plan nearly blows up in my face.
I've told her about Kempy's illness but NOT informed her that she was one of the surprise guests at my lunch.
Half way across the bridge into Wales, Mrs R looks up from her I-phone and tells me: "What a pity Kempy can't make it."
What? What does she know? How has she found out? Is the surprise blown?
"What do you mean?" I ask, with heart in mouth.
"Oh, she has just texted me telling me to have a nice time and it is a shame that she can't be there..."
Bugger.
"I was quite looking forward to seeing her in the office."
Phew. What an escape!
And what a howler from the Kempster.
I look clandestinely at the text I originally sent her.
What part of "surprise lunch" didn't she understand?

Anyway, all goes well, apart from the fact I get lost on the way to the Bay.
Even so, that works in my favour because the other guests have arrived and are sitting around the table when Mrs Rippers and I walk through the door. There is my pal Jane, Liz's close friend Claire and daughter Amelia. Paps, Smashy and the wonderful Withers have joined us, too.
We enjoy a very leisurely lunch and Claire has done the biz and managed to get me a cake, which is Mrs R's highlight of the day. She and Amelia take turns blowing the candles out.
"How did you arrange all this?" she asks.
"It's a long story," I reply.
Involving twitter, facebook, e-mail and text.

Getting home I just needed a snack, having feasted on beautiful Roast Lamb at Mimosa.
So I dive into the fridge for some new Hot Dutch cheese I've bought, which I have on crackers.
Wicked.
And very wicked this morning as my stomach turns somersaults as I make the long drive to the Smoke for work.

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