Thursday, 30 October 2008

Sat on his Bum(bo)

"The Bumbo Baby Seat is a snug and cozy environment for your baby. This revolutionary infant chair is uniquely designed according to the baby’s posture. The Bumbo enables babies to sit upright all by themselves! Bumbo Baby Seats are suitable for babies from as soon as they can support their own heads unaided until they can get out of the seat on their own."

Have you ever heard of a Bumbo? I hadn't but Vanessa managed to stumble across this wondrous new invention and decided to buy one on eBay for our wee man.

As you can see, he isn't totally convinced about it as yet but hopefully he'll grow to love it whilst he can still fit in.

I say that as he was weighed again yesterday and tipped the scales at a somewhat humongous 17 pounds 11 ounces.

Anyway, Sean and Melanie arrive at our house later today for their annual weekend of Yorkshire debauchery so I might not get to write anything for a day or two.

Please stick with me until I do and I'll, well, tell you what happened - and I might even show you too.

Wednesday, 29 October 2008


Whilst I appreciate I’m probably not on the strongest of ground this week after firing off my angry man train letter, I do wish all those people jumping on the Russell Brand (pictured) and Jonathan Ross bandwagon would kindly get off and do something more useful with their existence.

The latest tag I’ve heard attached to the “scandal” is – get this – “Manuelgate.” This sort of thing does my head in.

Right, here’s how I see it.

These two individuals left three clearly inappropriate messages on Andrew Sachs’ answer machine. It was a silly idea, it was wrong and, much worse in my book, it wasn’t particularly funny.

So they get a slap and we move on? Hell no.

We now have to go through a charade where columnists, politicians, BBC managers, more politicians, BBC haters, a few more politicians, hangers-one and then even more politicians try to outdo each other in how outraged they are about the whole episode.

Meanwhile, Andrew Sachs – who does deserve some sympathy – provides a running commentary on whether or not Jonathan Ross’s flowers have arrived and his supposedly saintly grand-daughter begins her dig for gold by selling her “story” to The Sun. (Keep an eye out whilst this decision backfires on her in the days and weeks ahead).

You would obviously expect media types to have a field day with all of this and they are not disappointing us in this regard.

But you really would think that, as we enter a recession and with a couple of wars on, Gordon Brown, David Cameron and other senior political figures would have rather more important things to do than metaphorically hang and flog two celebrities who have already acknowledged their mistakes (albeit in their own inimitable ways).

Perhaps Gordon Brown should spend more of his time getting down with the stars and let someone like Kerry Katona run the country on his behalf.

Which begs the question, if he did - would anyone notice the difference?

Tuesday, 28 October 2008

Mr Floppy

I've been flicking through some pictures taken over the weekend and came across this one of Jamie with Big John Cottrell.

The Cottrells and Vanessa's family go back a long way after surviving a period living as yokels in a Norfolk village many years ago.

We all meet up a handful of times a year and John, his wife Sally and mum Sylvia were up on Saturday on Sunday to attend the wedding party I mentioned, followed by a get together the following day.

I spent a chunk of Sunday afternoon working on my sitcom script - up to seven scenes now - whilst everyone else went for a walk.

The big news of the weekend was that John and Sally are due to become parents in April and, as such, John wanted to get a bit of practice in.

Unbelievably, that's not a doll attached to John's person, it's our son who clearly felt very relaxed with his new carer.

It certainly looks like the dad-to-be will be a master of his craft.

By the way, the Yorkshire Post ran my letter today so that's three out of three. It'll still make no difference to the quality of service but at least I can now be fairly sure that someone, somewhere at Northern Rail must surely be getting it in the neck. Hopefully at least.

Monday, 27 October 2008

What a Warhol

“15 minutes of fame is an expression coined by the American artist Andy Warhol. It refers to the fleeting condition of celebrity that grabs onto an object of media attention, then passes to some new object as soon as people's attention spans are exhausted.”

So says Wikipedia and, today, I had my very own quarter of an hour after my angry man train letter was published in the Bradford Telegraph & Argus (above) and the Yorkshire Evening Post.

As I wrote here on Friday, my words are unlikely to have changed anything. Indeed, I wouldn’t be surprised if the letters pages of both newspapers weren’t placed in the bin more quickly in the Northern Rail head office today than in anywhere else in Yorkshire.

But the fact they were published must surely demonstrate that, on behalf of the thousands of Leeds-Bradford line users so long taken for granted and treated like animals by the Northern Rail big wigs who don’t care about their customers, I must have had a point.

I’ll sleep well tonight (Jamie permitting).

Sunday, 26 October 2008

Jamie Somerville

I made another pleasant discovery last night: my son likes Jimmy Somerville.

This is helpful since I happen to be a massive fan of the potato-headed squealer fae Glesga. Indeed, he provides the lead vocal on my favourite ever song, Smalltown Boy by Bronski Beat, and I've seen him in concert many times although admittedly not for ages.

So how did I stumble across this incredibly uplifting fact? Well, the Whites were driving to a wedding party last night and all seemed well - until Jamie started crying in the back.

Normally he'll complain for a minute or two and then nod off, but not last night. So Vanessa stopped the car to let me jump in alongside him. With Mrs White on the decks - well, car CD player - we tried a bit of Bananarama's Cruel Summer. Nope, wrong season, wasn't happy.

Then a bit of the Fine Young Cannibals. Still no joy. Third time lucky hopes were pinned on some other obscure 80s band whose name escapes me (I bought a new compilation set the other day, can you tell?)

But then, Mummy struck gold with The Communards' Never Can Say Goodbye - lead singer, one Jimmy Somerville. I first saw him perform this song live in Belfast 22 years ago in a concert made unforgettable because of my sister Gwen's blond mohican. Perhaps more of that another time. For now, back to the plot.

So, yes, I hadn't heard this song for a while but at one time had about six different versions of it on vinyl. And, as luck would have it, the version on my wonderful new CD set was the best of them.

I asked MC Mum to pump up the volume and began to blast out the song - word perfect I might add, indeed, scarily so - with all my might. Jamie's frown changed to bemusement, then amusement and then, I'm sorry to admit, sympathy, as I got more and more carried away. Still, at least the tears had stopped.

This morning, whilst playing with him, I noticed that wee Jamie didn't look altogether unlike wee Jimmy. Once again, feel free to make your own mind up and also to ponder the question, is there anyone my son doesn't look like? Based on the ongoing evidence I continue to skilfully unearth, I'd say not.

Before I go, I feel it only right to report a crime. You might remember me talking previously about my divvy, irritating, frankly pointless brother-in-law Dagenham Dave Gates?

Well, in addition to all his other failings - and there are an infinite number - he has now turned out to be a criminal. Below I have uploaded a photo of the Southern Saddo force-feeding his helpless little son Oliver hard liquor at last night's party. It's a disgrace but not a surprise from a man -and I hesitate to use that word - not altogether suited for life on this planet and, I suspect, not originally descended from it.

Hopefully as a result of the damning evidence I provide, the authorities will act and send him down for life. But, if not, I'm sure I or one of the many others I know find him so annoying will be able to fit him up on something else. He's horrible.

Saturday, 25 October 2008

Messy but warm

OK, so first a baby rice update (whether you want one or not).

Until last night, I hadn't actually seen our Jamie have a try of this wondrous substance although I had heard it was a bit messy.

Last night I had my chance and, as you can see, it is - and also very white.

But, working as a tag team, Vanessa and I were able to got more than half a portion down him.

First, Agent V would lull the target into a false sense of security by giving him a little milk. Then she'd quickly pull the bottle out to allow me to hit him with a spoonful of rice. And when he opened his mouth to eject it / complain, she's hit him again with a bit more milk, thereby washing it down. It was pure genius and a game we look forward to playing again in a few minutes.

Meanwhile, I don't know what the weather's doing where you are, but here in Pudsey it's cold and wet.

And what do babies need when it's cold and wet? Yes, folks - layers and lots of them.

We're hopeful that Jamie's attire will do the job intended.

Friday, 24 October 2008

Mr Angry of Pudsey

I don't particularly like busy bodies and, generally, people who have the time and inclination to write angry letters to newspapers fall into that category.

But, every so often, there comes a time when one must take up the pen in defence of one's beliefs and write a Letter to the Editor.

The attached text was fired off by me earlier today to not one but three Yorkshire newspaper editors because I've just about had enough. Clearly, my words will change the world as we know it.

Or perhaps they won't.


Tonight (24 October) will see the closure of Bradford Interchange for nine days and inevitable passenger disruption. However, judging by Northern Rail’s recent performance on the line to Leeds, I doubt regular commuters will feel any more inconvenienced than they already are.

Let me describe my personal experience of the last two days. Yesterday morning, I arrived to board the 0920 service from New Pudsey to Bradford before being greeted by an announcement that the train had been delayed by 10 minutes.

Then another announcement – it had been delayed indefinitely. Then another saying that the 0934 had been delayed. Then another, saying the 0949 had been delayed. Then the 0920 had been cancelled. The 0949 did eventually arrive, 12 minutes late but, when I tried to board, there was a sign saying that the door I was trying to get through was out of order. I moved along the platform to enter through another door, giving me enough time to hear the announcement that the 1001 had also been delayed.

Last night’s train home was delayed by only four minutes – early by Northern Rail’s standards – but this morning it was back to the old routine.

I arrived at New Pudsey for the 0901 train to Bradford. The announcement came – delayed by 11 minutes and, 13 minutes later, it turned up. We got on the train, it moved a bit and then it stopped. It moved again – then stopped. By the time we got to Bradford, the overall delay was a minute short of half an hour.

The ironic fact about each of the delays I refer to is that, according to the announcements, they were as a result of train failure which the planned works on the line will do nothing to improve.

The situation is a pantomime – sadly, without the laughs.

Yours etc.

Barry White

My protest will get me absolutely nowhere - a bit like the trains - and might not even make it onto the letters page of a single newspaper. But do you know what? Despite officially coming out as a sad man, I now feel a whole lot better - so there!

Thursday, 23 October 2008

Baby rice and Brendon

Master White managed another two spoonfuls of baby rice yesterday afternoon and their effect seems to have been fairly significant.

We've got him into a reasonably consistent night feeding pattern in recent weeks with six or seven ounce bottles at 7pm, 11pm and 4am.

However, after his small quantities of baby rice on Monday and Tuesday, he only took four ounces in his 4am feeds a few hours later.

But then, last night, he didn't wake up at 4am as normal but well over an hour later and, when he did, he only took an ounce and a half.

The point of telling you all of this - and I appreciate it could rightly be interpreted as a bit dull - is that we may be getting just that little bit closer to the moment when our Jamie decides to sleep through the night.

I mean, can you imagine? No, thought not (it's OK, I'll change the subject very shortly). But, after more than four months of no sleep whatsoever, or so it seems, our lives might be about to take a turn for the better. Here's hoping anyway (and thanks for your patience in allowing me to indulge).

Now then, before this happens (or not, as the case may be), tonight Vanessa and I are off to see foul-mouthed Australian comedian Brendon Burns (above) in his show, "Brendon Burns: F**k You I'm Brendon F**king Burns (Again) Part VI."

Well, I did warn you he was Australian.

We first saw him in London about six or seven years ago and it was one of those shows where you really felt you shouldn't laugh but it was impossible not to. In fact, at one point, I was laughing so hard I was genuinely in floods of tears.

He's actually not that crude. Well, OK, he is quite crude. But, more specifically, he's extremely rude and offensive about anything, everything and everyone and particularly about groups and subjects which are normally taboo.

If you like South Park, you'd love Brendon Burns and, whilst I know it's often dangerous to build these things up, I really can't wait 'til 8pm.

Let's just hope we don't see anyone there we know because people who enjoy this stuff should really remain anonymous (which is obviously why I'm so relieved that no-one reads this rubbish).

Wednesday, 22 October 2008

What d'you m'call it?

There are many things that unite Northern Ireland and England. Equally there are many things that divide the territories, one being how Primark is pronounced.

Growing up in the fair Province, you always knew that Christmas wasn't far away when the Primark song came on the telly.

Ulster folk will know the one, "Primark's got a whole lot of things for Christmas, got a lot for the family..." Yes, that one.

The crucial point is that, in the song, Primark was pronounced "Pree-mark."

On moving to Newcastle Upon Tyne to study, I soon learnt that the shop name on the English side of the water was pronounced, "Pr-eye-mark." (My discovery was made and confirmed by word of mouth since, sadly, they don't have the Primark - or should I say "Pree-mark" - song over here).

However, one fact that residents of both Northern Ireland and England will no doubt agree on is the fact that you do get a lot for your money at said retail outlet.

I visited the Bradford branch at lunchtime today for a bit of Jamie clothes shopping and get this:

7 short-sleeved baby body suits

5 baby sleepsuits

4 pairs of baby scratch mits

3 pairs of baby gloves

1 baby hat

1 pair of (yes) baby pyjamas

How much?


"Pree-mark" or "Pr-eye-mark?" On reflection, I call it great.

Tuesday, 21 October 2008

Small rice, big poo

I read a good line in the paper over the weekend.

One individual (I can't remember who it was) described another individual (can't remember who they were either - great story this, don't you think?) as follows: "He's as useless as a one-legged man in an arse-kicking contest."

I've never heard that line before and laughed out loud. Just thought I'd mention it.

Meanwhile, 17 weeks in, Jamie is now into his second day of eating baby rice. I haven't seen him have a try yet and so far he's only managed a total of four spoonfuls but I hear it's messy.

However, last night, he did a huge poo right into my hand (or into my right hand, whichever you prefer - both statements are accurate) so I reckon I can just about cope with anything.

Or perhaps I shouldn't have said that.

Monday, 20 October 2008

The night after two nights before

Well, I'm back online once again but still feeling more than a little under the weather.

In case you haven't heard - and I would imagine you haven't - Ulster got tanked on Saturday by 42 points (or was that pints?) to 21.

And so too did a great many of the Ulster fans I came across on my travels.

To be fair, Rodney, his girlfriend Firuza, her charming brother and me did try to end the evening sensibly by going for a cosy Tapas; unfortunately I don't remember too much about it.

Indeed, before I knew it, I was waking up at 7am yesterday morning with all my clothes on.

Still, at least it meant it didn't take long for me to get ready before heading back to the train station.

It's at times like that when I realise I'm glad I'm getting older because, like most people in their late 30s, my body is not the temple it once was.

It's great to catch up with old friends - and meet some new ones -especially now I don't get to go out as much as before. But it's also good to have a nice sleep afterwards.

PS Nope, I've no idea who the fiddler is but he was on my camera when I eventually made it home at lunchtime yesterday. I'll bet he likes a drink too.

Friday, 17 October 2008

An Ulsterman goes to that London

Big day planned for tomorrow as I head down to that London to watch the once mighty Ulster rugby team get stuffed by Harlequins at the Twickenham Stoop.

I wish I could be more positive in my outlook but, give how poorly Ulster have played this season, I'm resigned to a hammering - which is somewhat ironic as I'm likely to end up hammered myself before the day is through.

Mine host Rodney has assembled a group of 14 keen Ulster folk good and true to sit together in his group. And there will be several hundred more Red Hand supporters alongside us to swell the ranks.

And when the final whistle goes? Well, anything could happen but no doubt it will be fun.

I'm back on Sunday morning and hope to tell you the story sometime after that.

By the way, in case you're wondering and even worried, Jamie will be safe in Mummy's arms 200 miles away in Pudsey.

But NEXT time Ulster get drawn to play an English club away in the Heineken Cup...

Thursday, 16 October 2008

Hanging around

There's not a lot to do when you're just four months old.

Indeed, in some ways, the only option is to hang around and wait for the next stage of your development and the ability to turn your hands or feet to something new.

For example, very soon, you'll be able to put your hands and feet together and crawl along the floor. How exciting does that sound?!

For now, Jamie remains in the hanging around stage. And, if you've got to hang around, you might as well hang around in style.

Thanks to our friend Hannah, he now has his own hanging around apparatus which even allows him to bounce - whilst hanging around.

Don't you just love the hanging around thing's tail?

Jamie thinks it's grrrrrreat! (see what I did there?)

Wednesday, 15 October 2008


I went to the gym after work and ran into a disappointment.

As I've said previously, I hate the gym but it's a necessary evil at the moment whilst my knees seek to recover from the ritualistic abuse of recent months.

One of the benefits of Pudsey Leisure Centre membership - which Vanessa and I signed up to - is the fact that the building houses its very own bar.

I appreciate that a gym with its very own bar on site would appear to defeat the purpose. But I would argue against this view. In fact, people like me would be - and are - much more likely to turn up.

But tonight, disaster struck.

As I walked towards the men's changing room, I noticed a big sign which revealed that said bar is due to close at the end of the month for reasons unspecified.

Which begs the question, what's the point of keeping fit if you don't have a reason for keeping fit e.g. working off the effects of alcohol?

I'm gutted - and my gut might now get bigger as a result.


Tuesday, 14 October 2008

Hair today...but maybe not tomorrow

I mentioned a few weeks ago that Jamie was losing his hair.

Well, I regret to report that the end is almost nigh.

What was once a relatively thick covering of dark locks has been reduced to a few fair bits here and there.

And, if the truth be told, the little man's taking it badly.

He keeps demanding to know what other products he can try in an attempt to stop the inevitable. He's also very protective of the strands that remain.

"Let it go, son," I plead, "just let the hair go." But he just won't listen. It's all very sad.

Monday, 13 October 2008

A terrorist outrage

I thought I knew myself pretty well but, coming home from work earlier, I discovered something I wasn't yet aware of.

I appear to be a terrorist snob.

I walked into Bradford Interchange to find a long queue of people in front of me.

At its head was a mobile body scanner thingy, like the ones you see at airports but a lot, lot cheaper. Wannabe commuters were then invited to walk through, one by one.

The officer apparently in charge of the operation looked like he'd just walked off the set of Police Academy. And on the other side of the scanner were two young females who seemed to be Police Community Support Officers - "hobby bobbies" to you and me.

Finally, behind them, were half a dozen or more plain-clothed gorillas, arms crossed, chewing gum and looking stupid (or "hard" in their view).

When it came to my turn, I walked through and the machine went "beep." This was not a surprise given the fact that, in my bag, I was carrying two mobile phones, a large set of keys, an umbrella, a digital radio and an iPod.

Rather than ask to search my bag, the reaction of either Cagney or Lacey was simply to look at my crotch and announce, "it's OK, you're wearing a belt. Go through."

I did go through and, when I reached the top of the steps where the trains are, I thought to myself, "hold on, I wonder if..."

I went to the side exit /entrance, right beside the platforms, and guess what. There were no police to be seen and the good commuters of Bradford were free to go as they pleased. Oh, and so too were prospective terrorists.

Having grown up in Northern Ireland, I have a fair idea what a proper, professional security/anti-terrorist operation looks like. This particular operation didn't look like it.

Perhaps these individuals would be better refraining from putting the fear of God up local commuters and instead spend their time catching criminals who stab people and rob old ladies. Or might that be less glamourous and too much like hard work?

Meanwhile, Jamie's just got a brand new pair of Nike trainers. Cool!

Sunday, 12 October 2008

Kay is king

So, Louis made the wrong call on last night's X Factor and poor old Bad Lashes are heading home to the North East.

And as Jamie and I predicted, Diana and Eoghan were excellent. Just ten weeks to go now until we see who wins. Excellent.

Meanwhile, Vanessa and Auntie Vicky came home from their evening with The Ladyboys of Bangkok looking bemused and amused in equal measure.

Mrs White said the show was the campest thing she's ever seen.

So, rather than let some one else say it, I'll say it myself; after 11 and a bit years of putting up with me, I must conclude that these ladyboys really must be very camp indeed.

After a quick cuppa and a cornflake cake - a batch of which I've just made myself (what?) - I'm going here to return to my desk and try to knock out another scene or two of my sitcom.

It's been so hard to find the time over the last little while for fairly obvious reasons. But the prospect of Peter Kay's spoof talent show on Channel 4 later tonight has left me bursting to get back on the comedy writing horse.

I love Peter Kay and everything he's ever done. And the word is that tonight's offering could well be his best work yet.

If you haven't seen any of the trailers or read the previews in the press, he plays a transsexual called Geraldine (pictured above) who gets through to the final stages of a talent show.

The judges are all familiar faces to regular watchers of reality TV shows but none of them got to see any of the acts - played by actors - in rehearsals so their on-screen reactions are basically genuine.

The whole thing is a great idea from a great writer and comedian.

It starts at 8pm on Channel 4. Miss it at your peril.

Saturday, 11 October 2008

A possible omen as Cheryl coasts to victory

With Vanessa out having her hair resprayed in readiness for the ladyboys, Jamie and I have been continuing our preparations for tonight's X Factor by watching "Danni vs Cheryl" on VH1.

Needless to say, we agreed that Cheryl stormed it.

Indeed, in our considered and collective opinion, Cheryl's fellow Girls Aloud members Nadine Coyle, Sarah Harding and Kimberley Walsh also easily lauded it over the Aussie Botox bint.

However, it wasn't all bad news for plastic-featured Danni.

We thought she just about managed to pip the fifth and very much final Girl Aloud Nicola Roberts (above right) who sadly but predictably ended up with the doggy biscuit.

Friday, 10 October 2008


Yes folks, the weekend is finally upon us.

And making this weekend even more exciting than normal is that tomorrow night marks the beginning of The X Factor live shows. (Woo hoo!)

All three Whites are big fans but probably Jamie most of all.

He, like Daddy, loves Diana and believes strongly that Simon was right to take a gamble on wee Eoghan from Dungiven.

Mummy and Auntie Vicky are actually due to pop into Leeds for an early evening date with some Bangkok ladyboys. Really.

As a result, the Whites (plus Auntie Vickie who's staying over) will be watching The X Factor slightly later than broadcast, thanks to Sky +. But they won't be going to bed 'til it's done (and Daddy's had the chance to see Holly Willoughby on The Xtra Factor).

Daddy is not in the least bit upset about the short delay in watching the shows is as it means he can squeeze in Slovenia v Northern Ireland at 7.45pm.

Plus Mummy and Daddy's wine delivery arrived last night so, in the event of Jamie falling asleep, Daddy will still have lots and lots of good company.


Thursday, 9 October 2008

Standing out from the crowd

I've just been checking back to see what pictures we took at Mimi's Christening last weekend and stumbled across the above incredibly bizarre shot.

The two men you can see on the left are Mimi's uncles and, since Sunday, her Godfathers. Behind them, as they walk back from the font at the front of the church, is Vanessa.

Now I can't remember any artificial lighting in the church and, certainly, the light that was in there was fairly uniform.

So how come Vanessa is so illuminated?

Was it a spaceship trying to suck her up and whisk her away to another planet for experiments?

Was there a hole in the roof?

Or is what we can see actually God's Light?

Clearly, I don't have the answer.

But posing such questions is the best way I can think of to kill five minutes whilst I wait for Vanessa to finish making my tea.

(By the way, it's my turn tomorrow so I can do without your cheap accusations of chauvinism or laziness, thank you very much).

Wednesday, 8 October 2008

The only Jamie in the village?

Vanessa took Jamie swimming on Monday and, thankfully, all seemed to go well.

This was something of a contrast to three weeks ago in Buncrana when the two of us dragged him along for his inaugural public dip.

On that occasion, wearing only a swimming nappy, he wasn't best pleased.

But on Monday, back in Leeds, he didn't complain too much.

Many possible explanations could be offered for his change in attitude, the most obvious one being the fact that this time he had a proper baby swimming costume on.

Vanessa explained all of this to me on Monday night, before joking that his new outfit did remind her somewhat of a well-known Welsh television character.

What do you think? (And, yes, a bit of padding has been added to at least one of the above).

Tuesday, 7 October 2008

Are you having a laugh?

"The Mr Universe contest is a fix," texted a listener into a radio show I was listening to this morning. "Because the winner always comes from Earth."

Although probably not the greatest joke ever told, it probably beats anything Vanessa and I were forced to put up with last night at the City Varieties in Leeds.

The picture above is of Andrew Maxwell. He is the comedian who was meant to be the headline act at Edinburgh and Beyond, a show currently on tour around the country supposedly showcasing the best of what was on offer at the Edinburgh Festival a couple of months ago.

He was certainly the advertised headline act when we paid for the tickets in May.

The two of us (plus my mates Wee John and Wee Colin) saw him at last year's Festival and he was brilliant. So last night, on one of our first nights out on our own since Jamie was born, we turned up at the venue having looked forward to the show all day and talked about it for weeks.

But instead of Andrew Maxwell, we got a hairy man. The another hairy man. Then a hippie woman with lots of hair (and a guitar). An interval. And then a really hairy man (with a drug problem). And then we came home.

Laugh? If only we could. Instead it turned out to be a very bad joke (followed by another, then another...)

Still, on the bright side, we are booked to see Brendon Burns - an Aussie comedian with no hair at all - in a couple of weeks.

Hopefully he'll actually make it along.

Monday, 6 October 2008

Great Scott

I witnessed a brief but funny incident in the gym over the weekend I thought you might want to hear about.

I was walking towards the men's changing room after my "workout" (tch!) and came across a seven/eight-year-old girl standing in my way, holding the door slightly ajar.

"Scott, hurry on!" she shouted through the gap. "And stop talking to yourself!"

I walked past her and, on the other side of the door, found a little boy with shaggy hair, probably a year or so younger than the girl and presumably her brother, trying desperately to put his trainers on.

"I'm not talking to myself!" Scott bellowed back, sweat on his brow.

"Who are you talking to then?" the girl demanded to know in a big sister type way.

"My brain," replied Scott calmly.

Back of the net!

Sunday, 5 October 2008

Little Mimi's big day

"Jesus died in a cruel way at the hand of a foreign power. Christ, that sort of thing happens every day."

Those were the words of the priest who presided over the Christening of Amelia Mary Cotton in St Catherine's Church in Manchester earlier today.

And in saying what he did, not only did Father Whateveryoucalledhim - who I felt bore a striking resemblance to the druggy fake doctor in The Cannonball Run - take the Lord's name in vain, he also effectively drove a coach and horses through 2,000 years of Christan teaching. I suppose we all have our off days.

Thankfully, Father W's faux-pas did not take the spotlight way from Amelia - Mimi to her friends - of whom Vanessa is now a proud Godmother. 10-month-old Mimi is the daughter of Vanessa's lifelong friend Jane and husband Ed, who are now both good friends of ours. (Pictured blurrily above, from left to right, are Ed, Jane, Mimi, Tash - also a Godmother - and Vanessa).

Ed and I remain joined together in some people's minds (including his dad's) following an incident at his and Jane's wedding in Manchester City Hall three years ago.

The two of us had developed something of a party piece (at parties, funnily enough) where we, well, Riverdanced wildly but with very serious faces.

Jane and Ed's wedding was rather a posh do where formal attire was the order of the day. But weddings are no place for formality so, with the hour getting late and with me standing outside the door of the main banqueting hall, I heard the first few bars of Riverdance emanating from the DJ's decks. I walked in and there was Ed, standing at the front of the room, waiting to take my hand.

I offered it and off we went. For the next however many minutes (and, whatever it was, it felt much longer), we danced with all that possessed us, faces grim throughout.

And, like in the original version, we finished in a mass dance with everyone who could move in the hall joined together in one long line. (Feel free to watch Michael Flatulence and friends do it properly at

What made the whole thing all the more amusing - for us at least - was the fact that several guests were heard to make comments afterwards which suggested they thought we were for real. Yes folks, that's how good we were (or how drunk they were, take your pick).

And today was memorable too in a much more gentle way.

Vanessa, Jamie and I actually travelled over to stay with the Cottons last night where a dinner party had been lined up. Unfortunately, the evening coincided with my normally twice yearly sinusitis attack which forced me to lie in the dark away from all the fun.

On the upside, I had Jamie with me for company and it did actually ease the pain somewhat.

My mood was lifted even further this morning when the sunlight revealed that Jamie had been wearing Mimi's sleeping bag thingy after we forgot to bring his with us.

Pretty in pink, I'm sure you'll agree.

Saturday, 4 October 2008

Mandy slithers back on stage

I tried something new last night.

Instead of changing Jamie's nappy and then give him his 11 o'clock feed, I gave him his 11 o'clock feed and then attempted to change his nappy. Bad move - he peed on me. Twice. Back to normal tonight then.

Meanwhile, you may have seen in the news that Peter Mandelson has rejoined the Cabinet. For political junkies, it's like waking up and finding that Christmas and your birthday have arrived on the same day.

I was privileged to work in Westminster for the first six years of the Blair Government and had several opportunities to see the great man do his stuff at very close quarters. But one particular episode will forever stick in my mind.

It was April 2001, just three months after he had been forced to resign as Northern Ireland Secretary.

Tony Blair had intended to hold the General Election in May of that year but, after an outbreak of Foot and Mouth Disease, decided to delay the poll until June.

The Northern Ireland "peace process" was, as ever, at a sticky point and so I had arranged for Mandelson to come over to have a counselling chat with my boss, David Trimble.

My office was next to David's and, right on time for his meeting, Mandelson put his head around my door to ask if he could go in.

I shared the office with my mate Rodney who I wrote about a couple of days ago. But, when Mandelson arrived, it so happened that two other Ulster Unionist staff members were in there too and everyone was busy (from memory, Rodney and I were on the phone, Mike Kerr was using the fax machine and Tom Keown was doing something else).

Seeing all this activity, Mandelson suddenly halted in his tracks to survey the scene. We all began to stop what we were doing as an look of intrigue grew across his face.

He took a few more moments to stare and, more importantly, to ensure he had everyone's attention. And then he spoke.

"Look at you all, beavering away," he breathed. "It's wonderful - keep at it!"

He paused, for another moment or two, before opening his mouth once again.

"Use every second." (Count to five)

"Use every minute." (Count to six).

"Use every hour." (Count to seven).

There was total silence in the room, the four us frozen to the spot.

After what seemed like an eternity but was probably only another three or four seconds, I piped up.

"We're very grateful for the extra month," said me, somewhat lamely.

He turned to look me right in the eye. And paused again.

Then he blinked. Then he smiled.

"See what we do for you!" he boomed with a wild grin, before turning away and slithering out of the room.

It was a performance worthy of the stage. Simply magnificent.

Love him or loathe him, life and certainly politics are a lot more interesting when Peter Mandelson is around. The next few months will surely be fascinating.

Friday, 3 October 2008


There's been a development.

People who know me will no doubt be aware that, earlier this year, I ran the London Marathon. If not, you're very welcome to read my marathon blog at:

It was something of an ordeal getting to start line but, given the reason I was running the race and the amount of money so many people pledged for me to do it, nothing was going to stop me.

I said many times during the training that I was never going to do it again. More importantly, I also made clear to many of my sponsors that I wouldn't be coming back for more.

Anyway, two days after completing the race, I decided on a whim to throw my name back into the ballot for next year's event.

The chances of me getting in were less than 20% so I thought, "let fate decide."

Fate has today revealed that it wants me to run the race again in 2009, as confirmed by the acceptance magazine I received in the post. This was not really part of the plan, particularly given the state of my knees.

All I will say it this early stage is that, if I do have another crack it, I won't be seeking to replicate the fundraising efforts. We could never do as well again and, as I say, I gave my word that I wouldn't be coming back.

However, depending on how my training is going, I may nominate a worthy charity, get a link up on Just Giving and if anyone feels they want to give some pennies to that particular cause, well, who am I to stop them? I'm glad you agree.

As for now, I continue to be in shock. And, if the truth be told, I'm just a teeny bit excited too...(YES!)

Thursday, 2 October 2008

Taking the p*ss

I'm going to have a rant.

You may have read in papers yesterday morning about the row over the toilets in Manchester University's Student Union.

If you haven't, the story is basically that the "Men" and "Women" signs on the loo doors have been changed to read "Toilets" and "Toilets With Urinals."

The reason for the alteration is explained by Women's Officer (is that not a bit sexist?) Jennie Killip as follows:

"If you were born female, still present quite feminine, but define as a man you should be able to go into the men's toilets - if that's how you define.

"You don't necessarily have had to have gender reassignment surgery, but you could just define yourself as a man, feel very masculine in yourself, feel that in fact being a woman is not who you are."

So now you know.

I had actually missed the story but it was later pointed out to me by a gay friend I work with.

I like to think of myself as fairly open minded about most things (for an Ulsterman, at least). But the reason my mate (another Ulsterman) told me was because I was sounding off down the phone at the fact that someone else I work with had minutes earlier introduced me to a new phrase and a slight variation of one quoted above: "gender realignment."

Now, I have absolutely no problems with people having a sex change. It's their bits we're talking about and if they want to have them lopped off with a big knife then fair enough. And if they want to have other bits sewn on instead, again, none of my business - I genuinely hope it makes them happy. Why wouldn't I?

It's the patronising, politically correct phraseology that annoys me.

I've heard of people having the wheels of their cars realigned. I played rugby for many years and was always to taught to quickly realign the backline at a breakdown, ready for the next attack. Vanessa has even been known to realign the CDs in our CD rack after I've decided on a whim that I simply have to dig out my Debbie Gibson album.

But realign your gender?

I'm sorry, but they're talking balls.

Wednesday, 1 October 2008

The Little People

We went to visit Jamie's other probable nursery today i.e. the one we're likely to send him to next June when Vanessa goes back to work. And it was hilarious.

I've never actually been in a proper nursery before. True, I did deliver and collect my little niece Katie from her playgroup the other week when back home. But I only went as far as the door.

As a result, I was really quite taken aback by what I saw - not to mention extremely amused.

The Little People Nursery in Stanningley is housed in a stone built former mill owner's house a couple of hundred yards away from where we live and takes kids from three months to five years old.

We go to the door at 8.45 this morning - me in work suit, Vanessa pushing Jamie in his pram with a coat over his sleep suit since we were in a rush - for our appointment.

And, whilst waiting in reception to be met, we looked around and got a taste of what was to come.

One sign on the wall advised that the staff were happy to clean your child's teeth after lunch if a tooth brush was provided (Jamie might have some gnashers by June, so useful to know).

Another said that parents should supply a hat and gloves if you wanted your sprog to play outside. Again sensible enough - but also very cute.

Then the lady arrived to greet us and begin our tour.

"There are only two babies in today and they're sleeping at the moment," she said, in a warm tone of voice. "But, if Jamie's not starting until June, he'll go into Toddler One so I'll take you straight there," before guiding us towards a door.

On the other side were around a dozen or more real little people, two having their breakfast and the rest sitting around on the floor playing with the cheerful looking staff.

It looked like the cast of Rugrats having a break from filming.

And because I'm tall and was standing up, they were small and sitting down, I must've looked enormous to them. They gazed up in amazement. There weren't many smiles, just bewildered wonderment at the giant. I loved it.

We moved on to "Toddler Two" room to be met by a similar scene and almost identical response, albeit that these cast members generally had slightly more hair and a lot more teeth than the first gathering.

And we finished off in the "Tweenies" room where the older four to five-year-old occupants were a bit less interested in us but smiley nonetheless.

Jamie flashed a gummy grin several times along the way and the staff grinned back which is surely a good sign.

As we left, Vanessa and I gave a strong collective hint to the lady that we'd found what we were looking for.

But, before getting through the door, she added that we were very welcome to come back for another look.

Without pausing for a breath, I suggested we pop in close to Christmas and she agreed. I'm already looking forward to it.

(I wonder if they're looking for a giant Santa?)