Tuesday, 19 September 2017

A farsighted gesture of kindness


Jamie has for some time held a fascination for birds and is now something of a self-taught expert in our feathered friends.

This is a fact that was well-known to his step-granddad Derek who sadly died back in June.  Indeed, above you can see a photo of Derek showing Jamie a mechanical bird in a cage when Master White was just 18 months old. Judging by that evidence, it seems Jamie's obsession began much earlier than I realised.

Earlier today, a parcel arrived with Jamie's name emblazoned on the front.  It also contained a note.


In case you can't make out the words, it reads as follows:

"Jamie,

I found these in Derek's wardrobe.  I am sure he would love you to have them for your birdwatching.

Enjoy,

Love Granny."

The note was accompanied by Derek's binoculars, which Jamie didn't need a second invitation to try out.


Maybe he'll lend them to Charlotte one day. But I doubt it.


Thursday, 14 September 2017

Creeping away from the nest

Something of a landmark moment on the walk to school this morning when Jamie disappeared off into the distance.

Now into his second week in Year 5, Master White has decided that he now wants to make the journey kind of on his own.

And when I say "kind of," he means 30 yards ahead.

Can you spot him?


OK, so I made it easy for you.  But you get the idea.

To be fair to the boy, he hasn't chosen to completely cut the apron string.

This morning he still turned around every few seconds to give me a thumbs up or a wave.  But there's no mistaking the fact that the long march to independence has begun.

May he tread carefully but well.

Meanwhile, Charlotte is staying right where she is.


If only for now.

Monday, 11 September 2017

I'm not bored, I'm not bored, I'm not bored...

Good evening once again from Salford where my "working away" adventure continues apace.  And out and out luxury is never far away.

To illustrate, here is tonight's view.

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Outstanding. I could be in that Vegas.

And the local dining experience is just as exciting.

After a short browse, I plumped for a Subway.

A footlong Meatball Marinara, to be precise.

"How much do I owe you?" I enquired.

"£5.50," said my robotic friend behind the counter, who added: "Do you want a drink from the fridge and a cookie?" 

"Yes, please," I replied. "How much do I owe you now?"

"£5.50."

Good man. 

Following this exhilarating moment, I was handed the opportunity to scoff my scran in three different places - all at the same time.

Let me show you.

When I looked to my right, I was in Subway.

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OK, so no great surprise there.

But here's where it gets really fun.

When I looked straight ahead, I was in Greggs.

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Such a shame that it was closed.  I really fancied a gift card.

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And when I looked to my left, I was in a Spar.

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A triple crown to remember.

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Following a chocolate stop at Tesco Express (which was even cheaper than the Spar), it was time for "home."

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That's Travelogical.

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Wednesday, 6 September 2017

I'm only writing this so I don't have to go to bed

Greetings campers. 

You join me in my uber-budget hotel in deepest Salford where I'm staying whilst doing a bit of work. 

Just so you know how glamorous my life actually is, for my £28 I also get a 1970s microwave in my room.

Using all my push button skills, I've just whipped-up a Tesco cottage pie. Later, I shall have a plastic tumbler of tea.

Breakfast tomorrow morning will consist of  two pre-buttered scones which I brought with me on the train from Guiseley in a Tupperware box. I'll wash them down with a small carton of Morrisons orange juice that will also double up as one of my one-a-day.

This surely is how life should be lived. 

I had a day off yesterday.  It began with that traditional set-piece moment for parents with kids of a certain age. The "first day back at school, aren't they cute?" photo.

This was our effort.

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Make your own mind up.

And then it was time for a proper treat that I'd really been looking forward to. A day at the cricket.

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Bugger.

Not a single ball was bowled. Not even one.

I blame this man.

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My pal John Kettley. He's a weather man. They even wrote a song about him. 

Other familiar Yorkshire company was there in the form of ex-international umpire Harold "Dickie" Bird.

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That's Dickie on the left telling stories, which were genuinely entertaining. He's flanked by Mark Arthur, the chief executive of Yorkshire County Cricket Club.

So not all bad.

Unless you're staying in my hotel.

Friday, 1 September 2017

The Lion's sh*t tonight

"Where is ze boy?"

Those were the first words we heard this morning when Jamie's new amigos rocked up at our balcony demanding his supervisory presence.

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As Basil Fawlty might correctly point out, they're from Barcelona.

Shortly after meeting Jamie, the little guy on the left made a triumphant appearance on stage during the camp's latest production, The Lion King.

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It was every bit as good as I feared it might be.

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That's Simba on the right when "he" was a cub.

And here he is all grown up.

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It's uncanny, and all without the use of special effects. Or even make-up.

The best part of the show was arguably when rain stopped play 20 minutes in. Most of the crowd simply got up and left so there was no point in going on.

Thankfully most returned when the skies calmed down.

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There is something of an end of season feel about the camp now as people begin to depart.

Our friend Philippa departed in style with her boys yesterday morning.

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But not before kindly bequeathing some spare inflatables.

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Which were soon put to good use.

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And tonight we're out for dinner with this lot, which is guaranteed to be fun for young and old(er) alike.

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Then tomorrow, it'll be time for Charlotte to say arrivederci to her adopted furry pal as we head back to Rome for one last night in this wonderful country.

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For now, though, it's time for a final trip to the pool.

Which reminds me, where is ze boy?

Thursday, 31 August 2017

Camping it up

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I never thought I'd say this but I'm sick of drink.


OK, I take that back - it was the drink talking - but, when you're confronted with sights like this, what is a boy to do?


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Mamma Mia! Yes, the show. It was a scene from that. "Live" on stage here in camp.


Although it wasn't actually live. It was the reps lip-syncing not just to the soundtrack from the movie, but the dialogue too. 


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Meryl Streep, Pierce Brosnan, Julie Walters, Colin Firth. They could all be heard. Over the crackling sounds on the cassette tape.


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It's The Lion King tonight. 


When I told Jamie, his immediate response was: "Can you imagine the costumes?" 


Charlotte: "They'll probably be wearing onesies."


At least it'll be good to hear Alan Rickman's voice again.


In other news, Charlotte is now the proud owner of a Vomy Ball.


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Yup, it's a ball that vomits.


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Here she is loading it up with pretend puke.


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Gorgeous.


I wonder what new cultural delights today might offer.

Monday, 28 August 2017

Postcard from Tuscany

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Good afternoon and welcome to a holiday camp somewhere in Tuscany. I'm not sure of its precise location because Vanessa booked it and I'm not very good at geography.

As it happens, Mrs White is not here at the moment. She's in Florence for the afternoon looking at statues.

The kids had the chance to go but Jamie didn't fancy it. Charlotte really didn't fancy it.

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It's good here, although at times more than a little surreal. I blame the foreigners.

There are folk from most European countries from what I can tell. That was the point of us coming. We wanted to expose the kids to a bit of shared pre-Brexit culture before we're ripped out of the EU club and forced to talk like Boris Johnson.

And our two are loving it thus far. A big reason is the presence of water slides. 

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Lots of water slides. 

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Each making me feel even older than the one before as I land at the bottom in a heap. I've just cut my toe on one. At least that's bought me half an hour of respite to allow the bleeding to stop. 

It's also helped me to get over the embarrassment of being told off for having an inflatable in the big pool. I mean, how was I to know? I've not heard that much whistling since David Beckham was sent off for violent conduct in the 1998 World Cup Finals. I promised not to do it again so have been allowed to stay. For now.

Him and her haven't done any kids' clubs as yet and I doubt they will for the rest of the week. It's a combination of the fun they're having in the pools and the fact they can't be arsed.

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I blame the mother for that. Everything else is my fault.

The only mild disappointment to date has been the quality the evening shows. When I say "quality" I actually mean "pure pish."  

Last night was Comedy Night, the "highlight" being one the performers pretending to be Ray Charles (who was blind) walking into things before falling in a pool. 

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I think I'd prefer an hour of Harry Hill doing stand-up. That's how bad it was. Hopefully it was a blip. Plus, we're eating out this evening so Family Games Night isn't a priority.

Anyway, that's what we're up to. I hope the Bank Holiday sun is shining back in Blighty.

I'll try to post some more drivel later in the week.

Saturday, 26 August 2017

On the railroad to somewhere

Buongiorno and welcome to a proper train presently speeding away from Rome.


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Yes, they've got real trains here. 


Such as this one which is just like ours.


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Or this one, which I presume is called something like il Doubledeckero.


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If it's not, it should be.


Anyway, our train is bound for Florence. Impressed? Don't be. Because then we have to change onto another train, wait for 90 minutes before climbing onto a bus. Final destination? A campsite. Really.


Thankfully we're not in a tent - which was the only reason I agreed to this charade. What happens next is anyone's guess - and Vanessa's liability if it's shite.


But back to our train.


You may be aware of the current debate surrounding trains in England (and Wales).


The present Government thinks that the lion's share of taxpayers' money for transport should go to the south of England where most of them came from and now reside. And they've recently put our money where there homes are by signing up to Crossrail 2 in London. Crossrail 1 will open shortly. 


Meanwhile, up North, in the Midlands and in Wales - we can all go hang. There are limited Tory votes up here, so we are hereby invited to travel slowly to Hell in our dilapidated two-carriage bone rattlers. That's the deal. 


Of course, the current premier train services in the North are the ones that go to London. It means that our ruling elite can escape more quickly back to the capital after their important meetings. Good for them.


Back here in Italy, local rulers seem to understand that everyone is entitled to travel with a bit of dignity - and at limited cost. And the quality of train is much higher than I anticipated. This partially explains why I just ballsed up.


Our train pulled up about half an hour ago and Vanessa said we were on coach 5B.


There were no signs for coach 5B but there was a sign for coach 5A. So we stood by that.


"5A must be on one end, 5B on the other," I announced confidently. Like the twat I was about to be exposed as.


We climbed on. We reached our seats. A foreign type was sitting in one of "our" seats. Vanessa politely pointed this out. He politely indicated that not only were we on the wrong carriage, we were also on the wrong train.


And here is where is gets more complicated - and impressive in equal measure.


There are two trains going to where we're heading. Each one is at least the same length as the Leeds-London train. But they are joined together. And both travel at 225mph. Our train - complete with coach 5B - was the "other" one. 


Now, the good news was that we still had 10 minutes to get off the wrong train and on to the right one. The bad news was that several grumpy American tourists with huge bags stood between me and the door - and I had two bags almost as big as their stomachs dragging behind me.


Two pints of sweat and countless awkward smiles later, I made it off and we hared up the platform to board the by now almost mystical coach 5B. 


As I hoisted our bags up onto the overhead racks, all around us smirked as the sweat dropped off my nose. But we made it.


What lies ahead, on our campsite, could seriously brighten up my day - or kill it dead. Let's see what hand fortune deals us.

Friday, 25 August 2017

When in Rome

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Welcome to Rome which, according to local legend, was built by the Romans. I don't believe a word of it.

We arrived yesterday morning and, after a quick game of paper, scissors, stone, one lucky man won the right to drive Vanessa to her city centre hotel. 

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Luckily, she allowed us to tag along too.

And before we knew it, we were off looking at some ancient stuff.

It included this.

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And also this.

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They were built by the Emperor or the Pope or one of those types. Free free to check the guide books. All very magnifico, I'm sure you'll agree.

This morning we found an Italian restaurant apparently aimed at visitors from the North of England.

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Sadly it was closed.

Then it was off to the Colosseum, which even impressed me.

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If you wanted to be hyper-critical you could argue that it has seen better days (albeit the guts of 2,000 years ago when Jesus and John the Baptist jointly cut the ribbon). But a breathtaking feat of construction nonetheless.

After that, it was pizza.

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And ice cream.

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Tonight we'll head out for pizza and ice cream. 

Tomorrow we're leaving the capital but staying in Italy for an entirely new type of adventure (for us).  It was Vanessa's idea so, in truth, it'll probably be a disaster. I'll fill you in when I can (WiFi availability permitting).

******************

Before I go, I want to briefly pay tribute to my friend Sean O'Callaghan whose tragic death was announced yesterday.

If you're familiar with the Troubles in Northern Ireland, you'll almost certainly know about the many lives he saved whilst risking his. If not, you might want to Google him.

Like so many others, I was sceptical and possibly hostile towards him when our paths first crossed - in my case, it was June 1997 in London. But I quickly grew to trust him, we became firm friends and kept in regular touch ever since. 

In fact, we spoke a number of times in recent weeks and planned to put our heads together on a couple of things after the holidays.

I received my last email from Sean exactly a month ago yesterday.

He signed it off as follows:

"Call anytime. You do a great line in Ulster Prod bullshit. Brightens up my lonely retirement. Xxxxxxxx."

I'll miss the old gobshite.

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