The Diary

30 August 2008: Family Ties, Hereford Spies, And Puddings And Pies. Reebok-Wise?

Coo ? it ain?t half hot, mum?. Here I am, sitting typing this after a pretty frenetic day, including a torrid mid-morning spent in our muggy-hot kitchen, creating ? if that?s the correct descriptor for my fumbling, stumbling, disaster-prone culinary efforts ? a cheese and onion flan, which completely knackered me making it. Back, left leg, all aching something rotten, they were, by the time I?d finished.

That was followed, earlier this evening, by a visit to my stepmother. All three female (nee) Harrisons were there, plus noisy sister Josephine?s daughter, my equally-raucous niece Dawn, accompanied by HER bright little madam Rhianna, recently flown back to God?s Own Country from sun-soaked Tenerife, where they currently live. (West Bromwich, Dawn?s back in town ? you have been WARNED!)

Scandalous how much it cost to fly over, mind ? over a grand for both of them, for just the OUTWARD trip, a rip-off magnified tenfold by the fact young Rhianna?s only just started ?proper? school, and is therefore very small indeed. And that?s the problem; it being the school holidays, the only time when most people with kids can travel, they?ve got you over a barrel every which way they can. Unfortunately, it being my youngest niece Lindsey?s wedding next Friday, and needing to make absolutely certain she wasn?t affected by any flight delays, that was the only time Dawn could take to the skies, really; the ultimate piece of mickey-taking was the cost of the return journey - which will be during term-time, of course - around eighty quid a throw! Not a bad bit of difference, is there? Disgraceful. As I cynically commented to my other sisters, both ?Im Indoors and this column could have gone to Oz and back for that kind of money.

The Big Event will be quite an occasion, mind. Just about everyone in our immediate family will be there, all four generations, plus loads from the ?other side?, whom I?ve yet to meet. As long as they?re not rabid Dingles (or Villa wotsits) I couldn?t give a tuppenny stuff, really. Although I do draw the line at having strange sexual perversions involving small woolly creatures. With or without the conjugal contribution of sheep, it?s all booked for an hotel fairly near Stratford On Avon (if you happen to be in the area on that Friday, avoid it like the plague; The Harrison-Garbett-Maxfield clans have enormous potential to be a pretty boisterous lot when gathered all in one place, especially where there?s licensed premises involved!), with further festivities there to follow.

Our lot have practically taken over the place for both the 24 hours or so preceding, and ditto once the Dirty Deed Has Finally Been Done, but we couldn?t join ?em; the day after the wedding, we?re off to Cardiff for the weekend (hotel deal we couldn?t possibly resist, to be perfectly honest), then up to our ?normal? holiday place for the duration of the next four days after that. In any case, I don?t think His Nibs?s liver could stand the strain, so I?ve probably saved him (not to mention his sorely-tried hepatic tissue) from a fate worse than death!

Now for the Albion stuff. Tomorrow, both The Fart and I will be heading up the M6 courtesy Baggies Travel, in the direction of The Reebok, and our scheduled Premiership encounter with Meggo And His Merry Men. ?Im Indoors, however, will be heading in the direction of Hereford United?s Edgar Street home instead. Can?t quite work out which of us has the stronger masochistic streak, but there you go. When it comes to rank stupidity that involves chasing hopeless causes, I guess we?ll both end up sharing the points.

Unsurprisingly, today?s Mirror went large upon the alleged rift between our former leader and Jeremy Peace ? too good a target to miss, I suppose, although I do suspect that enormously media-conscious Gary The Trotter didn?t exactly discourage them from angling their piece that way ? so there?s bound to be a journalistic snout or three hoping for sundry conflagrations, minor or otherwise, to erupt before and during the course of the game.

Not that they?ll get anything of that sort from Mogga, mind; as per usual, he?ll be wearing what I?ve now come to call his ?funeral director? look. Black suit, white shirt, black tie, plus suitably-cadaverous visage and tone of voice not dissimilar to that adopted by someone professionally used to inspecting the contents of coffins/and or open graves! Sorry, gaffer ? but you DO!

Once more, I suspect we?ll be on a hiding to nothing: with just three days left to the slamming shut of the transfer window until the turning of the year, we STILL haven?t signed a striker. The last time I?d penned these notes, I?d understood the arrival of Zheng Zhi to be imminent, but it now seems as though it won?t happen until the very last day ? if it happens at all.

The stumbling block?s the fee, you?ll not be too surprised to hear. Charlton want around three million, Albion are holding out for nearer two million. Don?t bother to look for moths in our Chairman?s purse ? they?ve all died of starvation, and the RSPCA definitely have his name in the frame. He?s a utility player, is Zheng, and can play up front if necessary, which was why I was so pretty dashed keen on seeing him in a Baggies shirt in the first place.

And, talking about Charlton, I was quite interested to read, in the very same internet article, that Alan Pardew, their gaffer, is currently trying to get Sunderland to part with a certain Paul McShane, once a defender of this parish, now with an unfortunate attraction to red and yellow cards almost electromagnetic in intensity. (A shame, that, because I really thought he showed promise, when with us.) When even Roy Keane thinks your disciplinary record?s beyond redemption, you certainly know you?ve got a problem!

The good news? Our defensive ranks are due to be augmented by the arrival of Johann Olson from Dutch League side NEC Nijmegen. He?s a Swedish Under 20 and Under 21international, apparently. The initial fee?s 800 grand (which might rise by another 350-grand performance-related add-ons, as and when he does something to make ?em kick in), personal terms have already been sorted, so the only thing outstanding is the medical, due to take place some time over the weekend. The Albion ?sales pitch? talks of ?a tough-tackling (left-sided) defender, good in the air?, and ? a typically-Mogga-like trait, this ? ?comfortable on the ball?.

God knows what he?ll think of our beleaguered lot when he finally gets to meet ?em, mind. Having undoubtedly heard the tale whilst dwelling in the Land Of Clogs And Tulips ? not to mention all those cafes where Strange Mood-Enhancing Substances can be purchased and smoked quite legally ? he?ll probably feel an instantaneous and insatiable urge to emulate that well-known tale of the Dutch lad faced with a similar overwhelming problem ? i.e. by seeking out a troublesome burst dyke in the ground to stick a finger right into the hole. But I?m sure he?ll fit into the happy Baggie family, given time. Scandinavian or otherwise, I wonder if he can be persuaded to loathe and detest our local rivals quite as much as we do?

As for the other bits of news of concern to our numerous followers, it?s nice to hear that Robbo has now signed an extension to his current contract, as has Robert Koren. After all those disheartening ?defections? of the past few weeks, it?s comforting (and somewhat uplifting) to know that some decided to stay with the ship after all, irrespective of how waterlogged it may become over the course of the next few months. Or was it simply down to the fact their agents couldn?t come up with anything more advantageous in terms of added shekels in the bank? Cynical? Nope ? just pragmatic, as ever.

One recent departure from our ranks to record, mind: loan keeper Michal Danek, who slipped further down the pecking-order when Scott Carson arrived, so he?s now packed his bags and returned to The Czech Republic, to resume his career there. I wonder what he?ll be telling his Viktoria Pizen colleagues about West Bromwich? If he?s ever bumped into any of my noisy family on his travels around town, I dread to think.

Team news for tomorrow? Let?s start with the home side. Some tidings that may prove fortuitous; The Trotters will be without three key players for this one, Johann Elmander and Scott Taylor absent through injury, and Gary Cahill on a three-match suspension after seeing red during their midweek game versus Northampton.

The Reebok mob will be bringing in the delightfully-named Danny Shittu (OK, you insert the pithy comments, for a change!) to replace Cahill, and a gentleman called Mustapha Riga ? all those oldies who remember ?The Dandy? and their ?Ali Ha-Ha And The Forty Thieves? comic strip, with co-star gang leader Mustapha Phag, have my full permission to giggle at the news! ? to replace the lad Elmander. Bolton also anticipate the return of Kevin Davies and Andy O?Brien, with former Blackburn favourite Kevin Nolan picking up the captain?s armband for this one.

Our lot? All the usual suspects, of course, with the welcome addition of new boy Valero to the ranks, this time round; no doubt he?ll feature, at some stage or other. The only doubt we do have, and a slight one at that, is Robert Koren. Once more, we?ll be playing 4-5-1, although, to be scrupulously fair, bar Bednar, we don?t have much in the way of alternative options going for us right now. Unless you want to count Craig Beattie. Mind you, he did have his moments last time out, versus Everton, but even so, it?s becoming clearer with every single game at this level that the Prem is not his bag.

Shergar? Again, he?s tried his best, but I strongly suspect he would have done far more good by staying at Hereford, where they absolutely loved both him and his prolific goal-scoring burst for their cider-slurping lot, last season. Not that he had the choice, sadly: it was a crisis of our own that brought him back to these here parts, otherwise he would have been a full-membered Bull by now.

And, talking of which?. Now here?s an interesting spin-off from one Albion-related item you may or may not have spotted ? Jared Hodkiss?s departure on loan to Aberdeen. Interesting, because His Nibs?s Bull-loving chums had already let him know that the Edgar Street outfit had been preparing to receive, on loan, ?a young player from a Premiership side?. Everything had been squared away, in fact, bar the actual arrival of the goods in question ? until the player concerned suddenly informed Hereford that he?d felt more inclined to accept the offer of a loan spell with ?a Scottish Premier League side? instead. Are you thinking what I?m thinking?

I can see the various attractions inherent in the deal, of course ? fiscal, as well as football-related; the chance of playing against both of the Glasgow giants must have been foremost in the lad?s mind when considering his options, for a start ? but poor old Graham Turner and sidekick Tucka Trewick must be feeling as miffed as hell about it all, right now. Their start to the current season?s been about as bad as our own, and some kind of strengthening, short-term or otherwise, would have come as much-needed good news for them both. Now they?ll just have to look elsewhere.

And a move to the verdant pastures and apple-laden orchards of Hereford would have involved far less culture-shock for Jared than one to the mean streets of the place more commonly known as ?The Windy City?. No, they don?t have an unhealthy liking for baked beans and sprouts, up there: the nickname?s all to do with the stormy weather they often have up there, apparently. Sorry. But what they do have instead are oodles of oil-rig workers whooping it up there during their leave periods. A far cry from the Black Country, whichever way you want to look at it.

THE JOYS OF COOKING ? ER, NOT! A complete and utter disaster area was the Wright household this morning, ere I tried to put together a cheese and onion flan, so if you want a good snigger, here?s all the details.

It all started when I attempted to remove a small jar of ground nutmeg (the kind that flavours food, NOT the kind of bamboozling ball played between opposition legs, the one most commonly favoured by certain players of distinctly kamikaze inclination!) from the store-cupboard above my head: not only did said jar emerge, so did a large pack of rice, which then showed great malevolence by deciding to burst open on contact with both work-surface and floor. Result? One rice-festooned kitchen, closely followed by the contents of a jug of cold water knocked over by the same bag of rice quickly rendering the floor as slippery as an ice-rink upon which loads of banana skins had been summarily dumped. No, it just was not my day.

But more was to come. Next problem? The recipe itself, which was American. Someone please tell me, pray, what is the precise definition of ?a cupful? of whatever ingredient needs to be added? Are they thinking in terms of a coffee cup, a teacup ? or, heaven forfend, a good old-fashioned British mug? And why do they still work in pounds and ounces, when we Brits are quite happy to accept grams? Guess who had to ring hubby to convert Yank into English? And what?s with their enduring reliance on Fahrenheit, rather than Centigrade, anyway? No, doing hasty temperature conversions in one?s head is not recommended. Anyway, whatever the correct answer, idiot-features got it completely wrong in every which way you can think of.

Result? Far too much filling for the pastry case, the contents then spilling out all over the show. Loads left after case-filling operations finally succeeded, which meant an evening invite for my other half to pick up yet another flan case from the supermarket tomorrow, then stuff it full of all the refrigerated surplus, plus whatever else he fancied to go in as well. With at least four eggs, a load of cream, some superb cheddar, a couple of spoonfuls of flour, not to mention a whole lot of bad temper, having gone into the initial mix, SOMEBODY had to make use of it.

By the time I?d cleaned up all the detritus of my pathetic culinary efforts, what with the heat and humidity in there, sweat gushing from every single pore, and everything, all I wanted to do after that was have a quiet sit down on our sofa. Not to mention reach for the painkillers, all washed down courtesy the good offices of a litre bottle of Coke. No wonder I fell asleep: as for my hubby, now very well-versed in gastronomic skills indeed, it has to be said ? congratulations, you?ve got the job! When do you want to start?

THE JOYS OF GENETICS?? A chip off the old sisterly block, is my great-niece, Rhianna. When invited to pick out some spending money from my upturned palm (she has a great fascination for amusement arcades, apparently, and will be visiting one very soon, hence all my proffered coppers), the little minx thought about it for a few seconds ? then proceeded to denude my hand of pound coins completely! Hang on a minute ? there?s ANOTHER person I know with similarly parsimonious, yet compulsively acquisitive, financial inclinations. Right then, Mister Miser ? where were YOU on a certain spring night, just over five years ago?

 - Glynis Wright

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