Tuesday, 5 June 2018

Good Sports

It was Sports Day at St Oswald's PS today and, despite claiming otherwise, Jamie was determined to defend his unbeaten record in the sprint race.

This is what happened.


And Charlotte did well too.

Afterwards its was homemade pizzas in the garden.

And a little drink for Daddy whilst he documented the historic occasion.

A bigger celebration might yet be required.  Followed by a lie down.

Wednesday, 30 May 2018

Whitsun with the Whites


The first of four camping trips planned for this year (yes two, plus another two) is done and, well, it wasn't too bad. OK, it was actually really good.  This might have something to do with the fact that we didn't have to erect (or dismantle) the structure you see above you.  It even had a heater, a fridge, a cooker and a kettle.

Oh, and a sofa. 


The Scarborough weather disappointed to begin with.


But the sun eventually came out, along with the disposable barbecue. 


The most bizarre element of the trip was a visit to the Alpamare water park, the like of which I'd not seen before. 

Below is a picture of one of its two outdoor pools. Yes, outdoors.  In Scarborough.  In North Yorkshire.  And it's open all year round.   

Vanessa sold the visit idea to me on the basis that the pools are heated.  I confess that I was not in any way a believer before sliding in with the air temperature already close to freezing.  But, for possibly the first time ever, I was wrong.  Both pools were genuinely like entering a bath.

Then it was back inside to try all four water slides on offer.  Loads of times.  I'm a sucker for that sort of thing.  Prior to the kids' arrival in our lives, I lost count of the number of small children who gave me dirty looks as I stood in front of them in a water slide queue waiting impatiently for my turn. And the Scarborough slides were as good if not better than any I'd been on before.   

Do yourself a favour and go if you can. 

And so on to Monday and a visit to Bempton Cliffs near Bridlington to allow Jamie to indulge in a spot of bird watching. 


Unfortunately because we are the Whites, the fog rolled in and sightings were limited.  


With some exceptions, such as these gannets.  


Jamie also managed to spy seven puffins, bringing the grand total of real puffins he's seen in his lifetime to, er, seven.

So that was our half-term treat.  I hope you enjoyed yours if you had one, or are having fun if still on location.

Our next trip?  Camping.  In a little tent.  Which I have to put up myself as Vanessa is arriving late.  And after that?  Oh yes, camping.  Sometimes I wonder why we even bothered to buy an actual house.  

Wednesday, 23 May 2018

Sun, son and daughter

Greeting Pop Pickers where you join me in our back garden nursing my burns (and listening to Pick of the Pops.  They're doing Harry and Meghan's birth years, driving home how much younger both of them are compared to me. That's why I've also got beer). 

I haven't "spoken" to you in a while so I thought I'd better put that right.

First, my burns. I was back on the Causeway Coast of Northern Ireland last week for the North West 200 motorbike races.  And for once we got some decent weather.

No one could believe it, least of all me who refused to don sun cream because I was cold - possibly because I wore shorts.  The result was an incinerated head and fried knees.  Still, all riders came home safe which is the important part of the story.

My trip back meant that I couldn't also justify travelling across for the Irish Cup Final earlier in the month (plus I'd already promised to decorate our living room).  But the Bannsiders lifted the trophy so at least I didn't jinx them which, again, is all that matters.

In other news, Charlotte entered the World of The Brownies after making her promise.  I'm not a Freemason myself but I suspect the respective initiation ceremonies may bear some similarities.   


Jamie rocked as Leyton in the Year 5 school play. (I thought he should've played the part in a thick Ulster accent but he chose to be English.  I can't believe he still got the girl).


Charlotte continues to enjoy the never-ending media coverage of the Royal wedding and wonders if she may be next in line.  (I've explained that it's Charles followed by William, but she doesn't really understand).


And last night Jamie met the Harlem Globetrotters after an exhibition game at the Leeds Arena. Here he is with Cheese, his favourite player.   


Young Master Cheese looked even more lacking in years up close, which made my middle-aged high-five seem all the more inappropriate.  

So that's what we've been up to and, with the Bank Holiday weekend rapidly approaching, hopefully there's a bit more fun in the sun to be had.

It might help my thick coating of calamine lotion to finally dry out.     


Sunday, 15 April 2018

A City within a city

Well, that's the Easter holidays almost done for another year.  We wrapped ours up in a less than obvious way, as it was off to Salford and an overnight stay at MediaCityUK.  What a truly magnificent place it turned out to be.


Most people will be aware that the BBC moved a load of jobs to Salford Quays a few years ago.  BBC Sport is now based there together with BBC Breakfast, 5 Live, CBeebies, CBBC and various other strands of the Corporation's output.


What's less known is that ITV has a major operation there too, alongside around 250 mostly digital businesses.

Coronation Street is now filmed there, as well as other familiar programmes such as Countdown for Channel 4.


We stayed at the on-site Premier Inn, which had a great view from the seventh floor.


(Jamie was hoping to bump into local hero Liam Gallagher).

Later we clambered onto the tram...


...and journeyed the short distance into Manchester to pig out.


It seems that not all MediaCityUK employees are local, with many BBC staff heading back to London every weekend to eat tofu.  The deserted multi-story car park - which was jammed on Friday - served as evidence of this when we left yesterday morning.


If you get a chance for a visit and a look around, take it.  The Imperial War Museum North, The Lowry and a top notch shopping outlet are there too.

We will definitely return for another nosy.


Thursday, 12 April 2018

Jen's all set to face the music

My good friend Jennifer McCracken (now Trohear) is doing something rather wonderful next weekend and would welcome your support.

From Coleraine (of course she is), the only intensive physical exercise I ever remember Jen engaging in at school was playing the cello.  That said, as an ex-violinist myself, I can confirm that string bashing can still be very tiring.  And a cello is a lot bigger. In fact, as this lifesize comparison shows, it's even bigger than Jen.

But I digress.  Yes, Jennifer has upped her game.  She's entered the London Marathon.  (All lapsed cellists end up doing the London Marathon one day).

Jen is running in memory of a little guy called Edward Dee who brought happiness to many before being cruelly taken away by Meningitis.  The cash raised will go towards raising awareness of this b*stard of a disease, as well as finding a way to destroy it.

As a parent myself, I can think of no better cause.     

Crucially, wee Jen has been putting the miles in.  This matters.  Having run the race myself 10 years ago.....honestly...

told you...there are two crucial facts you need to be aware of. 

First, it is bloody hard.  And second, the training is even harder.

I trained up to six days a week for 16 weeks and only missed one session in that period through illness.

Jen has adopted a similarly punishing schedule.  She completed her 20-mile "long run" a fortnight ago and is now in the "tapering" stage.  Before that, she ran all sorts of silly distances including her first-ever half marathon in Blackpool also exactly a year ago.

Our Jennifer has done magnificently well and will smash it in London (the course, not her cello).

You can read Jen's story and throw a few pennies into her virtual bucket by following THIS LINK

Good luck you madster.

Wednesday, 11 April 2018

Black and White


Following yesterday's little reminisce about political events in Northern Ireland a mere 20 years ago, I must share a related matter with you.

I was down in that London last month to attend a memorial service for my departed friend Sean O'Callaghan.  And whilst there I met up with my thankfully still-very-much-with-us pal Steve Donoughue.  I went to university with Steve and we've stayed in touch.

When I worked in Westminster back in the day, I also got to know Steve's dad Bernard, aka Lord Donoughue.

Bernard is a remarkable man whose life story is much too long to tell.  Career highlights include being Head of the Downing Street Policy Unit under Harold Wilson and Jim Callaghan, a source for the writers of Yes Minister and Yes Prime Minister, and a stint as Minister for Agriculture in Tony Blair's first Government.  He was in the latter role when I first met him.

Bernard's deep experience of Whitehall, something the Labour Party lacked after 18 years in Opposition, was of great value to the new Prime Minister.  So too was his knowledge of Northern Ireland, a place that was very high on Blair's agenda upon taking office.  After encountering me through Steve, Bernard quickly decided he and I should have a proper chat.  Over a period of months, this turned into a series of exchanges.

What I hadn't realised until I saw Steve three weeks ago was that some of these conversations have been chronicled in Bernard's recently published book, "Westminster Diary Volume 2 - Farewell to Office."  My copy arrived in the post on Monday.

I'll not burden you with too many details, but I will share a small selection of Bernard's more colourful observations.

Let's begin on Monday 12 January 1998.

"Son Stephen came in with his clever young friend Barry White, who is research officer to the Ulster Unionists.  Said he had heard of me as the Unionists' middle man to No.10, but was not aware how much drafting I had done.  Discussed the whole Ulster situation, where he is very knowledgeable."

I've got to be happy with that.

We'll move on to Wednesday 29 April 1998, less than three weeks after the signing of the Good Friday Agreement.

"Fascinating meeting with young Barry White, the bright political adviser to the Ulster Unionists."

Excellent, another good start.

"Told me that the Ulster Unionists are totally divided and Trimble is in real trouble."

Bugger.  All true, but mildly uncomfortable to read all these years on.
Let's try Thursday 14 May 1998.

"Barry White, Unionist adviser, came in to brief me.  He is tall, craggy, remarkably mature and with a wonderfully incomprehensible Ulster accent."

Once from Coleraine, always from Coleraine is what I say - although you might have to ask me to say it again.

Bernard's book is now available from all good book retailers - and some rubbish ones as well.

I plan to read what he's said about everyone else over a series of early nights.              

Tuesday, 10 April 2018

The Long Good Friday

The picture you can see above was taken 20 years ago today.  That's me in the top right-hand corner.  Ulster Unionist Leader David Trimble is at the microphone offering the world's media his perspective on the Good Friday Agreement which had just been signed.

He was my boss back then and, earlier that day, he and I had a brief discussion over my concerns on the early release of paramilitary prisoners which was part of the deal.  I wasn't a fan of that bit and expressed my worry that these provisions could lead to the Agreement being effectively still born.

"This is about giving the people of Northern Ireland a chance," he told me, calmly but with sincerity.

A few hours later, after taking a call from President Clinton and having received two crucial "side letters" on other contentious issues from Prime Minister Tony Blair, David addressed the Ulster Unionist team.  He told us that he was minded to run with what was on the table.

A well-known Belfast city councillor asked what would happen if he was wrong.

"We're all expendable," David replied 

And with that, the long battle began, first to "sell" the Agreement and then keep the peace process on track.

My role was London-based, looking after the interests of Ulster Unionist MPs and peers in Parliament.  The UUP had 10 MPs back then and, during the referendum campaign, six campaigned in favour of the Good Friday Agreement with the other four arguing for a "No" vote.

The people of Ireland - north and south - resoundingly supported the Agreement in that referendum.  So common sense might lead you to believe that the right thing to do was rally round and make it work, despite its weaknesses.

Unfortunately, it didn't quite play out that way and I spent the next five years tearing my hair out whilst doing my best to hold the Ulster Unionist Parliamentary Party together as a functional unit.   

Fast forward to the present day and you'll probably be aware that there is no longer even an Assembly meeting at Stormont, let alone a devolved government.  Many of the old arguments that I had to deal with continue to rage on with no obvious end in sight.

But the bottom line is that Northern Ireland is now a much better, happier and peaceful place than it was 20 years ago today. 

Let's hope that the bravery and goodwill that I was so privileged to witness at first hand on 10 April 1998 will be replicated some time soon.   

Sunday, 8 April 2018

Halfway there

Fresh from my April Fools' Day appointment as the new manager of Guiseley AFC, I headed off to London on Thursday to check out the Olympic Stadium where we will be playing our homes games next season.   


Seriously, you didn't fall for that did you?! It appears that some daddies most certainly did, at least according to a number of Jamie's schoolmates.  RE-SULT!

Anyway, London, well we Whites did go there and we did visit the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park (as it's now known).

Whilst at Stratford Underground station, we also paid homage to Coleraine's three 2012 Olympic medal-winning heroes. (I'm determined that Jamie will get to meet the great Alan Campbell, having personally witnessed him heroically capture the bronze on a very special day). 


Next, it was back into the centre and the cable cars that go over the Thames and back.

The highest car on the left contains my wife and children.  I took the picture.  Honestly, if you think I was going up there, well, you must be really stupid.   


We then clambered onto a speedy boat where sights included the Millennium Dome turned O2 Arena.  Yet another London attraction that neither Mrs White nor I could be arsed to go and see when we actually lived there. 


Following Nandos for tea, the other members of the clan once again proved their foolhardiness by risking vomiting it back up again.  Thankfully they didn't. 


The next morning, we stopped off for a quick picture at The Charlotte (can't think why).  


And then it was off to the Tower of London for a morning with a Beefeater who sounded like Al Murray.   


After lunch, we indulged in a bit of torture... 


....they've had it coming for some time...


...before bird-loving Jamie met a real raver, sorry, raven.


Yesterday we stopped off at the BBC but didn't see anyone famous.  (Hopefully somebody famous saw us).


Back in Yorkshire now, half-term is half-done - leaving another half to go.  Wish us luck.  

Sunday, 1 April 2018

The luck of the draw

It was my birthday yesterday which included a fun meal with the family and my mum who has been staying for the past few days.   


To be fair, my head was been in a spin after a bizarre turn of events on Good Friday.

My pal Rob was sponsoring Guiseley AFC's home game that afternoon so invited a few of his mates to join him in the executive portacabin for some corporate hospitality.  It was a great day's entertainment, made all the more memorable by what happened when they drew the half-time raffle.       

I hadn't even bought a ticket of my own, after one of our party generously purchased eight strips and passed them around the table.  And I won.  

But here's the thing.  I didn't walk away with a bottle of champagne or a box of chocolates. Hell no. Instead I was handed the opportunity to be Guiseley team manager for the whole of next season.  It's mad.

Sadly, the club is on the brink of relegation from the National League and will almost certainly be playing in National League North next year.  As such, the club's owner wants to try something a little different by handling responsibility for team affairs to a fan for the next 12 months.  I take up the reins after Guiseley's final game of this season on Saturday 28 April.  

It's an unpaid position, which is fair enough.  However, I get to sign players and choose my own backroom staff.  Fully aware that I might not be ideally qualified for the job, I've already asked the current caretaker manager, Sean St Ledger, to stay on as my assistant.  (Happily for him, he will get paid).  

Rob, who is a die hard Guiseley fan and knows a think or two about the game, will be first team coach.  Ironically, as the owner of an HGV licence, he has also agreed to drive the first team coach to away games.  

My third and final appointment for now is Dr Andrew Parsons (pictured above standing furthest from the camera in the yellow shirt) who will become club physician.     

To keep it in the family, Jamie will be team mascot for the first home game and no doubt Charlotte will have a go later in the season.  


My only other request is that we go to Northern Ireland for a pre-season tour in July including a game with my beloved Coleraine FC, depending on the Bannsiders' European commitments. 

I told you it was bizarre.  But hopefully I can have some fun along the way and, most importantly, the club as a whole will have a year to remember. 

Wish me luck. 

Saturday, 24 March 2018

Best to Take It Easy

I had an apicectomy this morning. 

"What's an apicectomy, Barry?"  I'm glad you asked. 

I'll hand you over to the British Dental Health Foundation, who describe it as follows:

An apicectomy is a surgical procedure to remove the top of the root of a dead tooth within the jaw bone and then seal the end with a filling. 

"So what exactly do they do, Barry?"  Again, back to the British Dental Health Foundation.

The procedure involves making a small incision in the gum above the tooth and the end of the root is cleaned and trimmed. Sometimes an additional seal (a retrograde root filling) is added to the end of the root. An apicectomy is usually carried out under a local anaesthetic, but sometimes sedation or a general anaesthetic may be required. 

I only had a local because I'm as hard as eggs, sorry, nails.

The dentist told me afterwards that I was "a bit of a bleeder."  Once she'd wiped the streams of blood from my chin, I told her she was "a bit of a b*stard" and there was no need to be so rude.

Stitches tightly in place, she then put me on antibiotics for the next five days.  Gutted.

But she added: "You'll be pleased to know that they are the ones you can have alcohol with."  Love her.

She then added more: "But not until tomorrow." Hate her again.

To be fair, it might be a blessing in disguise. Jamie and I are off to Guiseley Theatre tonight to see Eagles tribute band "Motel California."

And given the amount of wine I had when we went to see Liam Gallagher a few months ago, perhaps it's best I stay on Diet Coke.