Saturday, 16 December 2017

Jingle balls

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Charlotte's started piano lessons so, a few weeks ago, we invested in a "family" keyboard to enable her to practise (i.e. Vanessa wants to have a go).

This evening she sought to showcase her new found skills by indulging me in a game of Name That Christmas Tune.  This happened next.

Her: "OK, what song am I playing?"

[Tinkles on the ivories].

Me: "Jingle Bells?"

Her: "No. We'll try again."

[More tinkling].

Me: "King King Wenceslas?"

Her: "No. One last try."

[One last tinkle].

Me: "Silver Bells?"

Her: "No.  Do you want the answer?"

Me: "Yes."

Her: "24 Days in a Pear Tree."

Unfortunately I don't know the words to that one - and neither does Charlotte. 

Friday, 15 December 2017

I DO have PPI

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This is a public service announcement.

I'm sure I'm not alone in getting itchy every time that "Have I Got PPI?" advert comes on the radio or telly.  It winds the bejeezuz out of me and I want it to go away.

That said, it does get its message across.  (For me, the message is: "Don't go to ambulance chasing bloodsuckers when you can find out if you have PPI all by yourself free of charge.")

That is all very interesting if you have PPI.  But I didn't think I had and I also thought I'd missed the deadline.  And then about two weeks ago I got bored.  So I spent about five minutes of my time completing an online form on the NatWest Bank website to essentially ask if I did have PPI after all.  I didn't even fill it in very well but I was truthful and I did my best.

Then I kind of forgot about the whole thing. 

That was until yesterday when a letter arrived.

Let me share the first few lines with you:

"Dear Mr White

We are pleased to advise you that we have now finished our review into the complaint you raised about your PPI policy.

Having reviewed the information you have provided, the Bank is prepared to uphold your complaint and to offer you the following redress.

Our offer, net of any income tax, has been calculated as £382.94."

Well blow me.

The final figure was arrived at by adding the amount of PPI I paid to protect a credit card almost 19 years ago for a period of seven years. The total I shelled out was £161.50.  The rest of the amount I'm due back is the interest I would've received if that cash had stayed in my account.

I'm not telling you all of this to gloat.  It's simply to advise you to do the same as me and just check your own situation with your own bank. With Christmas bills piling up, the cash might obviously be welcome for you too.   

Wednesday, 13 December 2017

It does who it says on the tin

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I'm not entirely sure how this happened, but today I found myself re-painting our dining room yet again.  We've only lived in this house for six-and-a-half years and this is already the third occasion I've attempted the feat.  

And this time things are a little different.

The walls were the colour of red wine when we moved in.  I quite liked them.  So clearly they had to change.

"We" (Vanessa) went for a what I would describe as a mint ice cream/snot hue.   It didn't work.  

The next choice was a darker shade of green, akin to Godzilla's bum. That was my idea.  So it was never going to last long.   

This time we're going for James White. 

Let's zoom in to confirm it.

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According to manufacturers Farrow & Ball, this is their "signature chalky matt finish for interior walls and ceilings."   

Drying time? 

Get this: "Dry in two hours and can be re-coated in four hours. Then step back and admire."  (They clearly don't know that it's me at the end of the roller).

Disappointingly, they make no mention of why the colour was christened James White.  But our James White is very pleased with himself. 

Ceiling coated twice today in boring Brilliant White, I'll try to make the boy proud when I crack open his namesake in the morning and start to splatter the walls.  But I'll probably make a balls of it. 

Tuesday, 12 December 2017

Flashback fever

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I went to see Charlotte's school Christmas production yesterday afternoon, and was thrilled to do so.  She played the part of a Malawian resident and did herself proud.

Had it been a year ago yesterday, I couldn't have gone.  I was in bed with what I thought was a fever.

Move the clock on to a year ago today and, at this precise moment, my left arm was in the state you can see below as I sat for seven and a half hours in a Leeds General Infirmary waiting room.   

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This was my right hand. 

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And this was what I did with it each night for four nights when I finally got a bed.

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Thankfully my operation went well. 

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I could even smile about it afterwards.

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Having had our car stolen the previous week, last December didn't go quite as well as we'd hoped.

We intend to have a lot more fun this time around.

Monday, 4 December 2017

He's a rock 'n' roll star

My little run of musical treats came to an end last night.  But it finished on a massive high with Liam Gallagher taking to the First Direct Arena stage in Leeds.

Even better, my "date" was his biggest fan.   

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Jamie loved his big night out - and Liam didn't swear too much, which helped.

Earlier in the day, the great man even complimented Master White on his appearance. 

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This pleased Jamie greatly.  I hope Liam's 2.5 million Twitter followers enjoyed it too.

I must start planning our next trick. 

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Friday, 1 December 2017

Mind the gap

It's December today, our Christmas tree is going up and choices for Santa's Lists are about to enter the Judges' Houses stage.

What will appear at the top of Charlotte's wishlist became more likely yesterday afternoon when she lost another little friend.

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Two front teeth? Cheap at the price.

Let's hope that's all she asks for.

Tuesday, 21 November 2017

Rock 'n' Roll Star?

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I've just begun a short flurry of live music nights out which I've been looking forward to for months.  And there's just been an unexpected twist.

My little run of gigs - three different venues are involved, so let's call it a "tour" - began on Sunday evening when Vanessa and I saw The Killers at the First Direct Arena.

That's them above.......oh hold on, you can't see them.

How about this?       

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You'll hopefully spot lead singer Brandon Flowers in the middle.  Vanessa loves Brandon Flowers and would be off with him in her big suitcase given half the chance.  (I'd be away in a taxi with Katy Perry should that offer present itself so we're even). 

But I digress.

Yes, The Killers.  They were genuinely fantastic, reeling off more hits than you probably thought they possessed (although the highlight was probably their energetic cover of Leeds-favourite "I Predict A Riot" accompanied by an ex-Kaiser Chief). 

Next gig on the list happens this Friday when a group of us including two special guests from Portstewart (one's actually from Portadown but doesn't talk about it) head to Leeds University Student Union for an evening with The Undertones.

This is what the band looked like back in the day. Former frontman Feargal Sharkey is on the left.  


And here they are now.

                
At least they seem happier since Feargal left (despite his good heart).

The only downside of 40 years passing by is that Friday's gig has a 10pm curfew to enable the band (and crowd) to head off for a sleep.  

Now let's fast forward eight days and the penultimate date in my pre-Christmas singalongathon when my pal Richard and I will be twisting our melons with the Happy Mondays at the O2 Academy in Leeds. (Call the cops). 

I saw them at CarFest in the summer and loved it.  (It was a wet night so Vanessa, Jamie and Charlotte listened from our tent).  

They were fabulous and I was determined to see them again if I could.  

Shaun Ryder has really cleaned up his act (if not his vocabulary) and is now partial to an occasional bottle of spring water.


But dancer Bez is just the same.


My musical adventure will end the following night at the First Direct Arena where the fun began.  And here's the twist.

I like to think I know my kids, but then they surprise me.  Until recent months, there was little to suggest that Jamie would turn into Liam Gallagher's biggest fan.  But somehow it's happened. 

I bought my Liam tickets at the beginning of September and was very lucky to get them.  Against expectation, the gig sold out in two hours.  I was walking past the Arena three hours after that and asked for two tickets.  They didn't have any.  And then the nice lady hesitated before pulling a pair out of a drawer.  

They'd been reserved by a man who hadn't come back to pick them up.  First tier of seating, dead centre, six rows back. Perfect.  

Since my piece of kind fortune, I've played Liam and Oasis music incessantly.  And Jamie's been listening, learning the words and singing them at every opportunity.  (He first discovered the great man after watching his now famous One Love Manchester set live on TV in June).


Jamie's been complaining loudly for weeks that he's not getting to see Liam in Leeds.  And yesterday Vanessa relented - and handed him her ticket (he sure as hell wasn't getting mine).

Is the boy excited? You bet ya. But Liam doesn't smile - so neither will Jamie.

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As you were.             

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Monday, 20 November 2017

Going down the local - Guiseley style


I've said many times on here that it all happens in Guiseley and, once again, the town has led whilst the nation waits to follow.

Despite the best obstructive efforts of two NIMBYfied Tory councillors who only ever appear here at election time, a new bar called The Potting Shed is due to open in Guiseley next month.  And many of us are most excited by the prospect.

But they've just been beaten to the punch - by our local supermarket.

Yes, Morrisons - my second home - has opened a new in-store bar.  Serving a range of beers and wines, "Barista" (as it's been named) is the only supermarket in the entire United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland to offer shoppers the chance to sup.

I thought it was a joke when I first heard.  And then I read the papers.


I've not stopped smiling since because I'm sad, shallow and predictable.

I haven't had my first pint in there yet but we've some visitors coming this weekend who are famously fond of a good night out.

And when in cutting edge Guiseley....

Saturday, 18 November 2017

A chance to fly with the bogie men


Jet2holidays have launched a novel competition which has left one member of our family feeling a mix of great excitement and heartfelt disappointment.

Called the “Ultimate School Trip,” schools across the UK are being handed the chance for an entire class to visit Jet2holidays’ new Sol Katmandu Park and Resort in Majorca and participate in “fun educational workshops with celebrity hosts.” We’re talking Dick and Dom here folks.  

In total, nine classes of 9-13 year olds and their teachers will spend a long weekend next April on this “once-in-a-lifetime trip.” (Can you tell I’ve cut and pasted same of this stuff?) 

To enter, pupils are being challenged to "jet-power their imagination and produce their own promotional piece for Sol Katmandu Park & Resort, whether that be a poster, poem, song or video." 

The judges (we’re still talking Dick and also Dom) will "create a shortlist of five schools in each of Jet2holidays’ nine airport regions, which will then go to a public vote, with the final nine class winners announced on Tuesday 13th March. All 45 shortlisted schools will receive £1,000 worth of school equipment vouchers."

Right, that’s the bumpf and, to be fair, it is a very clever piece of marketing.

Jet2holidays reps have just begun a fortnight roadshows across the country to plug their initiative.  And on Wednesday they rocked up at Jamie and Charlotte’s school. 

Not only that, Jamie was chosen a one of three St Oswald’s boys to be interviewed on camera.   

But here's the disappointing bit. He was one of only one boy who had stardom snatched away just as he was set to say his piece.

See for yourself (the whole film only lasts a minute).



I’ll let you know if St Oswald's get shortlisted (and we need your votes). Surely it's the least Dick and Dom can do. 

Tuesday, 14 November 2017

Visiting the Lions' den

I'm very nervous tonight - I'm missing my boys and I'm worried about them.

"Who are your 'boys' Barry?" I hear you cry.  Very good question. 

I'm talking about the players of Guiseley AFC who I've grown very fond of.  And I'm not alone. 

Here's another fan visiting them at home.

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Yes, that's Jamie on the left eating his pie and peas in the clubhouse prior to kick-off.

And then we went outside.

That was our first visit. We've had a few trips since, including the one below to Guiseley's FA Cup 1st Round tie against Accrington Stanley.

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There was a bigger crowd that day.  And Guiseley earned a well-deserved draw.

10 days on and the replay is taking place right now. That's why I'm nervous. A win tonight followed by another against Mansfield Town and the Lions will be in the proverbial hat for Round 3 with the possibility of a crack at one of the Premier League big guns.

These are exciting times for our town.  The club went full-time professional just a few weeks ago and have since signed a bucketful of new players.  The future is looking bright for all involved.  And the least local residents like me can do is turn up, pay our money and shout our encouragement.

Loads are doing already doing it.  I see other people I know (but who I've never met at a game) every time I go.  And crucially, the kids experience is hugely positive.  

They let them in free for a start - removing any excuse parents might have for refusing an experimental visit.

Once in there, there's no shortage of sustenance. Last Saturday, Jamie topped up his pie and peas with a tray of chips and a hot chocolate (which, admittedly, he burnt his tongue on. It was a very hot chocolate).

And crucially, the atmosphere is incredibly friendly. The home fans have a laugh but swearing is essentially banned and terrace aggro barely exists.

So, people of Guiseley, Yeadon, Menston, Rawdon and all points in between, do yourself (and your young 'uns) a favour and get yourself along to Nethermoor.

In the meantime I can report that tonight's half-time score is Accrington Stanley 0 Guiseley AFC 0.

Go Lions. 

Sunday, 12 November 2017

One is to become a grandfather

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Just back from a family walk, during which Charlotte informed me that I'm set to become a grandfather. 

"I'm going to get children," she announced.

"Oh, that's nice," I replied, with a mixture of pride and alarm.  "Do you want boys or girls?"

"Well," Charlotte continued, "I think I want one of each."

"Right."

"Yes, I'll get one to begin with. And if it's not too hard, I'll get another one."

An only child it is then.

Thursday, 9 November 2017

Grappling, glamping and GAWA

Greetings all, it's been a while since we last spoke.  No particular reason, I've just been a bit lazy and lacking in inspiration.  And if I've got nothing of particular interest to say, why would you want to hear it?  You wouldn't - so I haven't.

I've been feeling a bit more sparky today and there are good reasons.

First, last night I took the kids to their - and my - first ever WWE Live wrestling experience.

Here they are.

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And this is what we watched.

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And some of this.

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We even stood back whilst seven ladies (pretended to) kick the poo out of a big bloke. That's him lying in the middle of the ring (also pretending to be) dead.

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The highlight was watching AJ Styles, the newly-crowned WWE World Heavyweight Champion, retain his title.  He's phenomenal.

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Told you.

Despite all the excitement,  I didn't sleep well afterwards.  I was too nervous.

That's because today was the day that CarFest North tickets went on sale and there are never any guarantees.  If you're a Radio 2 listener or Chris Evans fan, you'll know what I'm talking about.  If not, it's a event organised by Chris Evans on Radio 2 and tickets are really hard to get.


We've been for the last three years - this was what we got up to in 2016 -  and it's become a signpost for the start of the schools holidays.

We were in two minds about going next year - for all of two seconds.  But when we heard that Madness, The Proclaimers, Status Quo, Bananarama and  Peter Kay (DJing) were on the bill, we knew we had to got for it. 

Initially it seemed like all the tickets had gone.  That was until a weekend family camping ticket suddenly appeared - and I quickly shoved it into my virtual basket before virtually tripping up as I rushed to the virtual checkout.  But job's a good 'un and no-one is more excited than me (including Jamie who might even get to meet his hero Bear Grylls, also due to make an appearance).

However, even those levels of exhilaration are guaranteed to be surpassed tonight if Northern Ireland's footballers get a positive result in their World Cup Finals play-off first leg against Switzerland. 

I'm sorry I can't be in Belfast, but I will most certainly be there in spirit. Well, Guinness.


Let's hope it's physically possible to drink one (or maybe two...) with my fingers crossed.

Sunday, 15 October 2017

Day of the Lamps

I accept that I'm not someone who's ever been regarded as a person of good taste.  Clothes, sports teams, food, music, TV, idols - none of these are subjects on which I've ever heard a random stranger (or close friend) say, "now there's a man who knows his stuff."

So, in an attempt to win some much-needed street-cred, I turned my attention to internal lighting.

It shouldn't really have been a big task, in truth.

The floor lamp in the kids' playroom was banjaxed and needed to be replaced. 


What they had was a bit dull and a playroom is supposed to be fun so I thought, hey, let's add a bit of colour!


Well, what do you think? 

They are colourful, even my harshest critic would have to give me that. 

But there is perhaps a more obvious downside, which this photo might better illustrate.

 
That's right.  They're f***ing ginormous.  Much taller than me, in fact. They go almost right up to the ceiling (such are the perils of ordering from Amazon and not properly checking the dimensions before chucking it into your massive basket).

And there is another minor issue.  Both of the kids think they're "ugly." You may agree, you may not.  Vanessa's only smugly muttered comment was: "Well, you ordered them." 

The other problem with the Amazon aspect is that they're going to be expensive buggers to send back. Plus, I can't be arsed.

I only put them together yesterday morning and, as the day went on, I couldn't help but ponder on what our new friends reminded me of.  And last night it came to me. 

Do you remember the Triffids?

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Yes, them.  They sacred to bejeezus out of me back in the day.  Let's hope our new lamps don't eat us alive.

Sunday, 8 October 2017

Farewell to a legend

A fun but sad moment last night when we said "goodbye for now" to my old mate John McIlroy.

But not before he (and fellow dinner guest Sue) became Strictly judges for the evening.


John was the first friend I made when Vanessa and I left London for Leeds in 2003.  Like me, he worked at Yorkshire Forward.  And also like me, he was born in Belfast.

Over the years we've had some very, very good nights.  For example, this was when we celebrated the Ireland rugby team winning the Six Nations Championship.  


I remember the "morning after" headache just as well. 

One of life's truly good (and hugely entertaining) guys, John was recently offered a job in his native city and has decided that it's time to go home.  Good for him, bad for the many friends he leaves behind in Yorkshire. 

Thankfully, our first reunion is already in the diary.  Nine weeks today.  In a Belfast bar.  Always best to stick to what you know.