While shepherds washed their socks by night

For a seasonal flavour, the following blog features each of the 7 Deadly Sins plus breaches of most of the 10 Commandments

I made a foray into town to do the little bit of seasonal shopping I’ve not wriggled out of and can’t do online. In other words, some food, some drink and any book about “the War” for my dad that he doesn’t already have – not easy, as he possesses the complete history of WWI, the complete history of WWII, and an advance subscription for the complete history of WWIII…

I always walk into town, not being prepared to read the works of fiction that are Cardiff Bus’s digital display boards and not being capable of queueing without breaking out into prickly hives, so it was head down into the horizontal daggers of freezing rain for 15 minutes before I found refuge within the warm bosom of the Ian Allan bookshop in the Royal Arcade.  There I frittered away an hour reading about the Taff Vale Railway Roath Branch (I must buy that book one day) before leaving with nothing because I was bursting for a pee.  Having relieved myself in the Hayes Island underground blogs, I mean bogs, next it was on to the Central Market for grub.  I hovered around Ashton’s, toying with the idea of octopus (everyone could have a leg) or perhaps giraffe (goes a long way), but settled instead for paying £2.20 for a ¼kg of Bara Lawr/Laverbread before scuttling homewards, drained by the whole experience.  Never again:  I’ll dust down an old biography of Rudolf Hess (1894-1987) mouldering in the loft and give my father that.  If I stick a label over the handwritten dedication on the inside cover, he’ll never remember it was his gift to me back in 1992!

By the way, were you aware that Hess’s father’s first wife is buried in Michaelston-y-Fedw churchyard?  You were?  Well be prepared to have your world shaken to its foundations: my father has uncovered incontrovertible proof that she wasn’t Hess’s father’s wife, but Hess’s uncle’s! (Note to self: reduce the possessive apostrophes, cut down on the exclamation marks and stop adding all these bracketed asides).  When he can persuade the vicar to go through the boxes of documents that he’s spent years amassing he will expect the visitor pamphlet to be amended tout suite – which would bring the church’s days as a very minor shrine on the intinerary of obsessively completist Nazi-tourists to a shuddering halt.  I reckon the priest will eventually break it to my dad gently that, all things considered, filling the collection plate is more important than nit-picking genealogical niceties – before hoisting up his cassock, draining back the communion wine and rasping in a nicotine-saturated Yankee accent, “when the legend becomes fact, print the legend” (if only).

Rudolf the long-nosed Nazi

On the way home I was turning blue with cold under a bombardment of hailstones the size of golf balls so dived into my local pub for shelter.  “A pint of the usual,” I said, attempting a rough impression of a human being.  “What would that be then?” came the barmaid’s reply, not missing a beat.  “You’ve got a ruddy face,”  I offered to the bloke standing next to me.  “And you’ve got a bloody cheek,” he retorted in a minor key.  It’s the same here every time.  To begin with we’re all sullen, surly and silent; then the alcohol kicks in and by the end of the night we’re all matey, elated and voluble.  This process is repeated day after day ad nauseum, never picking up where it left off but having to start all over again from scratch each time as if with complete strangers.  When sufficiently anaesthetised I can usually rustle up enough “personality” to bandy strained banter with the disparate collection of regulars, most of whom, I’m sure they won’t mind me saying, exist at various staging posts on the long road to chronic alcoholism.  Wait a bit, they will mind…very much indeed.  Ok, reboot: ONE OR TWO might develop some MINOR alcohol issues in the FAR DISTANT future, let’s put it like that.  Not me of course; I have a low tolerance to alcohol so I’m pissed after 2½ pints (I’m really cheap to run), at which point I can sometimes hold my own among the gobby Cardiffian know-alls, but more often come badly unstuck with misfiring wisecracks and jarringly inappropriate remarks.  If I can’t hack it I withdraw to the pool table (the only one in Cardiff where you have to take account of a slope), there to turn the accepted etiquette of good sportsmanship on its head. Humble in victory, gracious in defeat?  Nah; with me it’s more like gloat in victory, sour grapes in defeat.  Generally perceived as depressing, boring and unable to handle my drink, I’ve never managed to fit in despite going there for more years than I care to remember.  To be honest the problem is me, with my elevated opinion of myself and my mild misanthropy.  I quite like people, but couldn’t eat two. That said, I’ll be down there again tonight, fishing for compliments from drunken elderly women.  Ahh…La Dolce Vita…

I’m not an afternoon drinker, so just had the one pint before slipping out unnoticed between the ice storms.  Caught again by another peculiar Arctic monsoon, I ducked into Broke Lads, sorry that should read Ladbrokes.  Here, I’ve frittered away many an afternoon in tolerable discomfort staring at a bank of screens and coming up with new mordant one-liners to accompany that moment when you drop-kick the losing betting slip in the direction of the bin.  The anonymity, the gallows humour, the hyper-casual ambience, the Tourettes-tolerant house rules…a bookies suits me down to the ground.  I’m forever on the look out for 33-1 shots in out-of-season Grade 5 flat races at some godforsaken polytrack in the English midlands – all because I once picked the 50-1 winner of a sprint at Southwell and reckon the fluke is repeatable.  Here I will toss in a sure-fire betting tip: bet against yourself.  Well, it’s always worked for me.

Then I called in the tattoo parlour with the next downpayment for an ongoing work of art in Celtic script with Aztec swirls and Maori twiddles that I’m getting engraved across my buttocks. Eventually, I will have a large, multi-coloured ‘W’ on each cheek, so that when I bend over it  reads ‘WOW’.  After that’s done I intend to have the Mabinogion inked onto my penis.  Yes, I do know it’s a lot of text – if we run out of space I’ll omit Llud and Llyfelys.

Darkness was falling, I just had time to pop into the library to cast a scornful glance at the Western Mail and scan the ‘local interest’ shelf.  I couldn’t help but notice that yet another book about Cardiff is out: Cardiff Day by Day, a lacklustre, predictable and unchallenging rehash of the creaking diary format. Just what the world doesn’t need as children die of malnutrition and forests burn…

I got home in the nick of time as I was beginning to manifest the early symptoms of hypothermia.  After drying out and changing my socks (there’s a hole in my daps), I poured myself a huge Vodka and Grenadine (revolting, but it was all there was in the ‘drinks cabinet’) before mixing the Bara Lawr with some oatmeal, forming it into ten croquettes, frying and eating two and putting the rest in the freezer. Winterval sorted! Have a good one.

Picture: Getty Images