Tuesday, 27 June 2017

Until we meet again

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A bit of landmark day yesterday when I joined my now former colleagues (from left to right) Tanya, Liz and David for drinks to say goodbye to our time working for ex-Keighley MP Kris Hopkins.

Sadly one of our number wasn't able to be present; Naz was recently enthroned as the new Mayor of Keighley and was on official business.

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Long may he reign.

It's been a rollercoaster of a ride over the last seven years, with many highs and many lows.

From a personal point of view, my favourite moment was receiving an invitation from then Prime Minister David Cameron to meet the victorious 2013 British and Irish Lions rugby squad at 10 Downing Street.  (I was mightily relieved not to drop the glass trophy).


Most of the players seemed to think I was much more important than I was (i.e. I wasn't in the least bit important) so were very kind.

That said, the great Brian O'Driscoll has a reputation for being a top man in all circumstances, so hopefully his smile was for real.


Happy memories and all good fun.

I look forward to seeing much more of my old workmates in the months and years ahead.     

Sunday, 25 June 2017

One punch Charley

At only six-and-a-half, Charlotte is rapidly becoming the mistress of the one-liner.

Whilst watching Barry Gibb's Glastonbury set just a few minutes ago, the great man did this.

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Charlotte's reaction:

"Why has he taken his hands off his guitar? Is he trying to look cool?"

Meanwhile, there was a moment a few days ago that caused me personal pain.

I was observing the fact that neither of my children look anything like me - whilst hoping for contradiction.

Charlotte's response:

"We don't look like you Daddy. None of us have grey hair."

I suspect matters will only get worse - and will never get better.

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Friday, 23 June 2017

A smile in adversity

It's been a tough few days, particularly for my mum, after her husband and my stepdad Derek passed away.

He had been bravely fighting cancer since March last year, but finally lost the battle on Saturday afternoon.

Derek was a good man whose kindness and support will be greatly missed by us all.

His funeral was yesterday morning and everything went as well as these things can.  My mum did us - and Derek - very proud.

The night before, my sister Jacquie and I accompanied her to Wade's funeral home so she could say goodbye.  Not easy.

Before flying across to Northern Ireland, I attempted to outline to Jamie and Charlotte what had happened and what I would be doing when I was there.  I included the planned trip to Wade's.

After I'd been, Charlotte had a question.

"Did you see Michael Jackson at the funeral home?"

A combination of Vanessa and me explained that there were lots of funeral homes and Michael Jackson was staying in a different one to Derek.  However, they would still meet each other in Heaven.

On that basis, Charlotte's now holding out for an autograph - and possibly a dance lesson.    

Thursday, 15 June 2017

Date for your diary (i.e. Monday)


Almost four months ago I confessed here that I'd got a little bored and sent Steve Wright my 30-strong 'Non-Stop Oldies' list.

Other than thinking back and regretting several of my choices, I left it there.

That was until just over a fortnight ago when I received an email out of the blue.  It read as follows:

Dear Barry,

Many thanks for your Non-Stop Oldies submission - I'm pleased to tell you that they have been chosen and a selection of 6-8 of your songs will be played out on the show on Monday 19th June.
  
Your "I Chose The Non-Stop Oldies" badge should be with you before the above date, please don’t hesitate to get in touch if you don’t receive it.

Thanks again for your great choices and we look forward to hearing them on air!

Best wishes,    

James Santer
BBC Radio 2    

So, there you have it - I'm on (although I haven't received my badge yet, which is something of a concern).

If you're not familiar with the item/have a life, I can inform you that it goes out at 3pm every weekday for half an hour.  To 8.1 million listeners.

It'll be 8,100,001 if you decide to tune in.  Hopefully you'll have nothing else on.

Sunday, 11 June 2017

Back to the Future


Following Thursday's General Election, it's been an "interesting" few days for our country and certainly for me.  And one thing I've learnt is that very few people I know have a clue what I do - or did - for a living.

I've always been fascinated by politics and, almost exactly 21 years ago, gained my first political job as Parliamentary assistant to the then Ulster Unionist MP for East Antrim, Roy Beggs.

At my interview, I clearly remember Roy's cautionary words: "You do realise you're getting yourself into a risk business?"

He meant this on two levels.  Firstly, the IRA was not on ceasefire at that time so posed a mortal threat to anyone working against its interests.  And second, with the 1997 General Election just a few months away, there was a real possibility of Roy losing his seat - and me losing my new job.  I said I would take my chances.

Roy comfortably retained his seat at that landmark election which propelled Tony Blair to power and ushered in the heady days of Cool Britannia.  It also led to me upping sticks and moving to London to be part of it.

During the campaign I was offered the chance to head up the Ulster Unionist Party's Westminster Office and it didn't take long for me to accept.  I spent the next six years there, the highlight being 1998 when the Good Friday Agreement was signed and my boss David Trimble was jointly awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.  Good times.

Vanessa and I moved to Leeds in 2003 to consider marriage and procreation.  For the next three years I worked at regional development agency Yorkshire Forward and then a PR agency.  But I missed really missed being involved in day-to-day politics where - against perceived wisdom - the vast majority of representatives from all political parties really do work hard to improve people's lives.    
 
As fortune would have it, a job then came up as policy officer/political adviser to the newly-appointed Leader of Bradford Council, Kris Hopkins.  So I went for it and got it. We spent the next four years at Bradford City Hall trying - and often succeeding - to do good things for the district.  That took us up to 2010 when Kris was elected as the new Member of Parliament for Keighley.

I was delighted for him but I wasn't sure I really fancied a return to Westminster politics.  But I said yes anyway, thinking that I wouldn't hang around too long.

In the end, I hung around until 4.50am on Friday morning when Kris lost his seat by 236 votes to Labour's John Grogan, an old friend of mine who I was pleased to congratulate and will do well.

Roy's words from July 1996 ran through my head once again as I got the 5.59am train back to Guiseley and pondered what happens next.

To be fair, I'm in a much better position than so many other colleagues now going through the redundancy process.

You may or not know that, in the autumn of 2014, Vanessa and I set up a little PR/communications agency called Vanbar Associates (can you see what we did there?)  We have a website and everything which you can see here.  

I went part-time with Kris back then with the intention of drifting away over time.  However, the 2015 General Election crept up followed by the EU referendum and the start of the Brexit process.  Kris was also appointed as a Northern Ireland Office Minister.  So I found it tough to walk away.  However, thanks to the kindly voters of Keighley, the choice was finally made for me just over 50 hours ago.

So the future is Vanbar and hopefully it is bright.

Vanessa and I have already have a handful of clients, which is great, but I could never commit the time to go out and find more.  I now have all the time in the world.

I'll let you know how we get on.

Thursday, 25 May 2017

Game of chicken

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A word of warning.  If you see me tramping around the streets of Guiseley over the next week looking:
  1. Knackered
  2. Confused
  3. Frustrated
  4. Lost
  5. Delirious
  6. Hungry
  7. Unkempt
  8. Sober
  9. Lots of other not very good things
then I'm here to tell you that it's with very good reason.  Because Vanessa has gone to Hong Kong.

You read that correctly.

She's off to see her fab friend Vicky, who you've met many times before.

Vicky is the one who's not Vanessa.       

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She's working out there for a few months and, when they get together, very bad things happen.

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With sadly inevitable consequences.

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Still, that's their headache.

More importantly (for all you concerned parents and nosy social workers), Vanessa has left me her trademark day-by-day Jamie and Charlotte Instruction Manual. 

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My next task (number 17 out of 1103) is to collect both from their half-term school disco, before feeding them.

However, in what I could only describe as a school mum error, Vanessa has neglected to tell me exactly what to feed them.

So it's chicken and chips all round, followed by ice cream.

MEH!

It's the little victories that make it all worthwhile.      

Wednesday, 24 May 2017

Swirl of the bagpipes fills the Aire on day to remember

I wrote here last week that my old schoolmate Dave was bringing his boys from Hillfoots RFC in Scotland down to play our lot from Aireborough at Nunroyd Park last Sunday.

And it couldn't have gone any better.


Proceedings began with a parade of the players and their national flags led by another old friend, Dr Jason Aldiss, on the bagpipes.

Next up were the anthems in front of a very large crowd on the main pitch.


Shortly afterwards, some rugby broke out with four hard-fought games from Under 10 through to Under 13 level.

Here is young Will Neild from Aireborough Under 10s showing how it's done.


Afterwards, it was time for handshakes - which is always how it should be.


A barbecue and live music in the car park.


Presentations.


A drink for Dave and me. (We had a few others)


And a chance for our respective offspring to spend some time together.


Aireborough were complimented for being great hosts, which everyone at the club very much appreciated.

But it's made easy when your guests are so decent, warm and incredibly welcome.

We look forward to seeing them again soon.


Thursday, 18 May 2017

Scotland the Dave


If you live anywhere near where we live here in sunny Guiseley and have nothing to do this Sunday morning/early afternoon, I have just the thing for you.  

My old pal Dave 'Paddy' Sherrard (above) is bringing his young rugby charges down from Hillfoots RFC in Scotland to play our boys at Aireborough. 

Here they are.



And in true Aireborough spirit, we're planning to make a bit of a fuss of them.

It's the first time Aireborough has hosted a touring junior club and everyone is rightly very excited about the whole thing.  

So here's what's going on.   

The 40-strong Hillfoots squad are due to arrive at Nunroyd Park no later than 10am.  This is the precise moment when our bagpiper and cornet player will miraculously appear.

At around 1020, Aireborough players across all age groups from the Micros (Under 6s) upwards will congregate in front of the clubhouse in one group behind the flag of St George.  The Hillfoots boys will gather up alongside them behind the flag of St Andrew. 

And led by Bagpiper Jason, they will march - accompanied by familiar tartan tunes - to the main pitch for the pre-game formalities. Namely the anthems.  Hell yeah.

Both groups will again line-up behind their respective flags.

Then Jason will play Flower of Scotland in honour of our guests, all of whom I'm assured have learnt the words.

Next up will be 12-year-old Finn McQuaid (from good Irish stock) who has kindly agreed to play God Save the Queen on his cornet for us as the host club.  I will be VERY disappointed if the collective singing of our mums, dads and players isn't heard several miles away.

The players will then break-off into their individual teams with Aireborough's Under 10s, Under 11s, Under 12s and Under 13s taking on their Hillfoots counterparts at 1030. 

But the other Aireborough boys will not be left out.

Thanks to the ingenuity of the club's junior coaching coordinator Kris Brook, other rugby-related activities have been laid on for them including rugby rounders, rugby netball, kick tennis and rugby golf.

And are we stopping there?  Don't be silly.

Instead, it will back down to the clubhouse (Jason and Finn will have gone by then but I'm happy to whistle as we process) for barbecue and live music - possibly in the car park if the weather is good.  I've even heard rumours of a raffle. 

Most importantly, we want as many people as possible to come along and enjoy the fun. You don't even have to know anything about rugby.

To illustrate, despite the fact that he's leading the Hillfoots tour and is a fully-qualified rugby union referee, I can tell you without fear of contradiction that Dave knows absolutely about the game     

Indeed, he doesn't seem to know that he's not really Scottish and actually comes from Portrush.


What he will learn on Sunday, however, is that he's buying the first round.

I hope to see you (and your family) there.

Wednesday, 17 May 2017

Celebrate (this party's not over)

Greetings, dear readers. Did you miss me? Sorry? 

Well I kind of missed you, which gives me the moral high ground.

I've been away, you see, back to my native land.  There were some sporting events on and I thought it best not to miss them.

First up was the Irish Cup Final.

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Sadly my beloved Coleraine lost 3-0. 

But, well, we made the best of it.

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Next up were the North West 200 motorbike races, which I go back for every year.

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That's Guy Martin you can see above during Tuesday's practice session. He's on the telly quite a lot drinking tea.

I got so close to the action because my mate John made me an official marshal for the day.  

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I've never felt so important. Me and the lads, like.

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You may have noticed that the weather was good that day, as it was for most of my 10 days and nine nights on the Causeway Coast.

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This demanded a celebration.

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But, come race day on Saturday, the rain came.

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Of course it did. But the racing was still great. 

Which was surely a cause for another celebration.

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I'll be back over again soon.

When I look forward to a celebration.

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I'll think of a reason nearer the time.

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And, who knows, I might even squeeze some work in.

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Monday, 1 May 2017

Vicky is a wimp

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A big day in our house yesterday when our very special friend (and Jamie and Charlotte's godmother) Vicky came round to officially switch on our new patio heater.  All three bars of it.

And how the crowds cheered. 

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The occasion was all the more significant for the fact that Vicky actually travelled all the way from Hong Kong simply to perform her civic duty.

She's been working over there since the start of the year and seems to have found her feet very swiftly.

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Well, I say that.

Since Vicky's been away, I've been a tad concerned that she might lose her legendary ability to party.

So Vanessa put her to the test.

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Nope, it's gone.

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Thursday, 27 April 2017

The cub became a lion


This was Jamie after first becoming a proud junior at Aireborough Rugby Club.

And below centre, you can see him putting in a tackle last Sunday morning - five seasons on.


The photo was taken at Heaton Moor Rugby Club in Stockport where the Aireborough Under 9s and Under 10s were on tour.

I doubt that any other touring party at any level of the game has ever looked smarter prior to their departure.


Thanks to the generosity of local businessman Chris Gaunt at Select Uniforms in Rawdon, all 27 players were sponsored personalised hoodies, polos and tee shirts, plus specially made kit bags and caps.  Us coaches were kitted out too.  What kindness from an absolutely top bloke.

After dropping by to say thanks to Chris, we all made our way to Gulliver's World theme park in Warrington for several hours of fun.  Big people too.


Well, I say that.  Under 10s coaches Matt and Dom were nervous wrecks by the end.


Dom (in sunglasses) is trying to look cool but just notice how tightly he's holding on to that rollercaster.

Next, it was back to our pristine overnight accommodation at Terra Nova School near Jodrell Bank where much pizza was consumed.


Followed by nightcaps for the babysitters.


And then it was time for the focal point of the trip with two extremely competitive games the next morning. This was the combined Under 9 squads getting together afterwards, as is rugby tradition.


But I'm afraid this tale has a somewhat sad conclusion.

Jamie adores the club and all of his teammates.  However, despite the best efforts of the proper coaches and their coach helper (i.e. me), he's decided he wants a break from the sport.

After more than half his life spending his Sunday mornings chasing a rugby ball, he wants to try some other stuff and may well come back to it.  I hope he does.

In the meantime, I'm so grateful to Aireborough for all the club has done for him.  And the wonderful men, women, boys and girls there can be assured that I'll continue to do what I can (other than coach helping) to support them long into the future.

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