Friday, 12 January 2018

Name that band


Debbie Gibson, my undisputed teenage crush, wrote her first song at just six years old.  (I've always said she was special).  I even know the words.

It may have taken Jamie three extra Earth years to achieve that feat.  But last night, to make up time, he penned two.

One is called "Frosty Winter's Morning."  The other is as yet unnamed, but will in all likelihood have "bum" in the title.

The reason for this unexpected spurt of creativity is because he's decided to form a band.  Yes, really. 

I wrote HERE that he'd received his first electric guitar for Christmas.   After an initial technical malfunction (i.e. he broke it), a simple repair has since enabled him to jam away for much of the last week.   But yesterday he put his instrument down, picked his pencil up and got scribbling.  I'm genuinely impressed with his efforts.

As for the band, alongside Jamie on guitar, so far we've got Euan on drums, Francis on keyboards and vocals, Sam on vocals and percussion, Joe on percussion, and Callum and Logan on beat box.  The range of musical possibilities is clearly endless.

However, in advance of their record deal and inevitable string of number ones, they obviously need a name.

We had a bit of a White family brainstorm (aka "thought shower") on this last night.  A proud Cure fan (it's always fun to channel my inner goth), I proposed "Boyz Don't Cry."  It didn't make the cut. 

Vanessa came up with "DisGuise," highlighting the band's Guiseley roots.  I liked that.

Charlotte made a narrow range of suggestions, all including the word "poo."  Jamie told her to get off the pot.

He purposely didn't come up with anything himself, instead choosing to consult with fellow band members at school today.

And the result of those discussions?   "The Airesembles," stemming from the group's geographical heartland in the Aireborough district of Leeds. 

But no final decision has been made - which is where you come in.

Do you have any better ideas?  If so, I'll put them to Jamie who'll put them to the band - who'll probably reject them as "booooorrrring!!!"   But we can but try.

So, over to you.   

The winner - should there be one - gets to go on stage to shake Jamie's tambourine for one whole song during their first stadium gig. 

 
So get rocking with your thoughts. 

Thursday, 11 January 2018

(Re-)Introducing Vanbar Associates


It's not uncommon for people you've just met to ask you what you do for a living.  Indeed, it's a polite thing to do and, keeping with good etiquette, it's right and proper to ask them back.

What is less common is for friends you've known for years to ask you the same question. 

It's a bit like names.  There are countless people I know and speak to regularly but have absolutely no idea what to call them.  And because I've maybe interacted with them for years, it's now too rude to ask. 

It's the same with jobs. I should know what pretty much all of my friends do during working hours but I often have no clue.

So, with a new year just dawned, I thought it might be helpful to briefly explain to those who don't know - or don't care - what I do to pay the bills.  And I'll go further. I'll even tell you what Vanessa does too. 

Do you see that logo up above (skillfully designed by the great Dylan Lloyd Parry)? Well, the VAN belongs to Vanessa and the BAR belongs to me.  And when you put the two together, you end up with the name of our little company - with Associates helpfully added in to underline that we can put larger teams together should the scale or nature of the work require it.

And would kind of work would that be, Barry?

Good question, and one I am very happy to answer.

Communications is the over-arching description.  Within that you can include writing stuff, promoting things, protecting other stuff, liaising with people and organisations and helping other people and other organisations be better at saying what they want to say at the right time and in the correct order.

Got that?  Excellent.  I've never pretended it was particularly complicated.  But I'd like to think that we are quite good at all of the above, which is why we often get asked to prove it - for a reasonable fee, of course.  (That's where the need to pay the bills comes in).

We have Facebook and Twitter pages.  Heck, we even have a website.  You can check it out by clicking on HERE.   

If you think we can do for you or someone you know what we are already doing for others, feel free to let us know.  Then we'll get on with doing it. 

And if you do get in touch, perhaps you'll also be kind enough to tell me your name and what you do to pay your bills.  I might already know but, there again, I might not.  But if I don't, in no way expect me to admit it.       

Friday, 5 January 2018

For Robin


I had planned to pen some upbeat words tonight.  The idea was to talk about how much I generally despise January and to encourage us all stick together in the face of shitversity.  You know how it is.  (Thankfully I don't do Dry January.  Dry February is also unlikely.  Mainly because, like Dry January, it doesn't rhyme).   

However, tonight I received the galling news that Robin Hutchinson had passed away.

Robin was - and will always be - a hero of mine.  He gave me my first job.  I was a trainee roofer. 12 years old.  £3-a-day I was on.  Well, I say a day.  I only worked one.  I can't remember if that was only because I was too expensive or not very good at whatever it was I was trying to do. (You guess).  It was a good day though.  I still remember it well.

I've known Robin since I hatched.  His son was - and remains - my oldest and best pal.  Drew Hutchinson aka DJ Steady.


That's him above at my dad's surprise 80th birthday do in Mary Pat's.  Drew did it for free.  That's how he rolls.  Just as Robin taught him.

Neither Drew nor I will ever be rich. That's how we like it.

But there are other benefits.  Thanks to Macosquin's Big Marquee Weekend - the brainchild of Drew and the equally wonderful Robert Todd - we've got to meet Roll With It.  They've gone from relative obscurity to filling Belfast's famous (1,000+) Limelight venue two years in a row for massive post-Christmas gigs.


But they still play Macosquin when asked.
That's class.

Just like Robin.

Drew posted this picture on Facebook on New Year's Eve.


I knew Robin hadn't been well but I wasn't aware he was in hospital.  Drew went in to make him smile as 2018 approached.  And, as you can see, he obliged.

It was the first picture I saw on Facebook in the early hours of 2018.  Us Whites had been away for New Year amongst some very good friends.

Not for the first time, I was last to bed.  For the first time, I was charged with turning out the lights.  The picture appeared just as I was about to to retire.  I delayed my departure whilst I shed a tear.  I did the same again this afternoon when I heard that Robin had lost his fight.

We're heading back to Northern Ireland in February. Vanessa and I were already planning to be in Limavady to see Roll With It do their magnificent Oasis thing that weekend.  But we're now going via Macosquin for a rendezvous from where I would imagine Drew, Robert and many others will embark on a collective taxibus crusade in Robin's memory - himself a great supporter of the Big Marquee Weekend.

He will be missed by all he met.   And all he met will remember him with great fondness.

Wednesday, 27 December 2017

Raising a mug to another White Christmas

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We headed up to Ilkley Moor on Christmas Eve to walk off the excitement of what lay ahead.  (Jamie and Charlotte came too, which both Vanessa and I appreciated).

Then it was back home for our now traditional pre-Christmas meal of "Fish 'n' Chips with a Twist."  We had a whole salmon this year and it never stood a chance.   

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The set piece pic followed before scratcher time.

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Christmas morning eventually dawned and the good news was that the Big Man had indeed been in da house.

Cue the arrival of studious children.  (It's a very serious business).

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Charlotte's main present was a desk with added accessories.  (It looks more fabulous in her room, trust me).

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As for Jamie, well, hold on just a sec - at least until after Christmas breakfast. 


Yes, you might be aware that 2017 saw Master White become Liam Gallagher's biggest fan.  He even received a tweet from the great man, so we had it framed. 

Liam's influence has continued to grow and - to follow in his footsteps - Jamie is already planning his first solo album. 

However, unlike Liam, Jamie will also play his own instruments.


Christmas Dinner followed for which we were joined by TV's Geoff Druett and wife Suzi who arrived armed with an array of cakes. 

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Then anyone for Junior Monopoly?

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Everyone else was.  I instead chose to test out my new beer mug.

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I hope you and yours had a fun time too.  And please don't be downhearted.  2018 is still days away... 

Wednesday, 20 December 2017

Happy birththreedays

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It's day three of Charlotte's seventh birthday celebrations.  Her proper birthday was yesterday, but she's nothing if not a chancer.

The fun began on Monday evening with a family circle get together over pizza and the best birthday cake I've ever seen, baked by Cousin Holly. 

Great British Bake-Off standard?  You betcha.  Outside - and inside. 

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How good is that?

Yesterday morning saw her pressies being handed over, including a bike (which she didn't necessarily ask for but Mummy wants her to stay unfat).   

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Last night was the White family banquet; I warmed the starter, Vanessa cooked the main course from scratch.  What a show-off.

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And today was the main event at Hollywood Bowl.

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Against bookies' expectations, Charlotte emerged with most points.

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Despite Jamie's more muscular efforts as the only boy present. 

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But being the only boy present also had consequences.

Tickling came first.

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Followed by a chase into a corner for a good old-fashioned shoeing. 

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Charlotte's verdict at the end of her annual "Celebration of Me" festival? Well, see for yourself. 

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Seven years on, I imagine we'll see some more very big yawns before she finally goes to sleep.

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Monday, 18 December 2017

Merry Litmas

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I was looking around our house on Saturday evening and decided that we needed more Christmas lights.

The result was a visit to Argos the following morning and the purchase of five new "products."

I'll not show you all of them because I fear the excitement may be too much for you. 

However, the "window lights" pictured above will give you an idea of the sheer quality I'm talking about.   (I chose not to put them in the window as they're just so nice I was worried they might attract jealous burglars).

And you must see this.  I've never lived in a house with outdoor Christmas lights - until now that is.

As part of my haul, I purchased an 8-metre long light rope.  192 bulbs are in there and it's a thing of rare beauty.

Here, have a gander.     
  
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You'll go a long way to see a classier sight this Christmas or, indeed, any Christmas. 

It's a thing of rare beauty, I know you'll agree.  And a steal at just £1 per metre. 

In you live locally, you're more than welcome to pop over and have a look.  Bring a chair and sandwiches if you want to stay for a while to watch it flash.  

But please don't feel too bitter that I have one and you don't.      

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: "Good 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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