Sunday, 30 November 2008

I'll drink to that


Vanessa and I went to Coldplay in Sheffield last night and, I have to say, it was probably the best live gig I've ever witnessed. Sometimes you'll pay a small fortune to see one of the bigger bands, they stroll on stage, entertain you adequately for an hour and a half and then walk off in a matter-of-fact type way, ready for the next one - Oasis and REM are two groups that come to mind from previous experience.

And then, on rarer occasions, you go along to see a band who give the impression that they know you've paid a load of money to see them, you've looked forward to it for ages and you've made a lot of effort to get there.

Coldplay very much fitted into the latter category last night.

They played every song you'd want to hear, the lights and special effects were fabulous and, most of all, they gave it everything. Absolutely sensational.

And the good news is, I've managed to get hold of two tickets for their big open air concert in Manchester next September - meaning Vanessa and I can do it all again!

The highlight for me was their summer hit Vida la Vida which, as luck would have it, was number one on the day Jamie was born. This is pretty "cool" in my book - and a much "cooler" song than American Pie by Don McLean which was top of the charts on the day I made my appearance (you're obviously entitled to disagree).

A close second, in the highlights stakes, was the chance to drink beer from a two-pint plastic container - which I've kept and photographed for your pleasure alongside a Guinness pint glass, so you too can enjoy its sheer enormity. Excellent.

Meanwhile, Jamie was very good at Grandma Judy and Grandad Mike's. This is positive news on several fronts, including the fact that it strengthens our hand when we want to go out again - everyone's a winner!

It's now time to put the meat on for Sunday lunch - our guests arrive in 37 minutes...

Saturday, 29 November 2008

Who's your Father (Christmas)?



As billed, we took Jamie to meet the world's worst Santa today. Or, at least, I fully expected him to be the world's worst Santa.

The venue was Rawdon where Grandad Geoff was involved in organising a gathering to raise money for the local church where he was once a warden.

It was due to start at 11.30am but, when we arrived some 15 minutes late, the hall was already packed out.

There were second-hand stalls, cake stalls, food stalls - you name it.

And, at the far end of the room as you walked in, there he was. The biggest idiot on the planet, the most irritating man alive, the only human being I know with the power and ability to give you an instant itch.

Yes, it was my brother-in-law Dagenham Dave - dressed as Father Christmas. And, boy was he in his element.

Think about it, there he was surrounded by lots of little people with the same mental age as him. His task was to talk at them in that stupid, annoying Southern accent of his for as long as he wanted. And, because they had the same mental age as him, they lapped it up.

But, you know, I'm nothing if not charitable and, being so charitable and giving (and because it will soon be Christmas), I'm going to have to admit it: he was fantastic.

Daggers sat there in his big warm suit, surrounded by (his own) hot air for well over and hour. He spoke to every kid and every parent and he showed the same level of enthusiasm to the first child as he did the last.

With the queue finally getting shorter, I joined the line and, after a short wait, fed Jamie to the lion (or handed Jamie to Santa - depends what way you look at it).

Jamie looked a bit bemused by the whole thing but contented nonetheless. And, like most babies, seemed more intrigued by Father Christmas's beard than by anything else.

And, just before Santa handed him back, my son did his daddy proud - he gave Dave's beard a big tug. Sometimes I really love that boy.

Father Christmas then continued to smile and talk rubbish to the final three or four children behind us as we prepared to take Jamie home for lunch.

As I say, fair play to old Daggers. But don't expect me to be nice to him when he comes to ours on Christmas Day. (He's bound to break something, for a start).

Friday, 28 November 2008

Preparing to give Santa the bird


I'm wrecked again.

I went to see my particularly disinterested doctor yesterday who, after I told her I thought I had sinusitis, didn't bother to examine me, signed a prescription and sent me on my way. A great credit to her profession, I'm sure you'll agree. (There again, it was quite late in the afternoon and she probably had a private patient waiting).

Anyway, I live on which is surely the main thing. And, indeed, I'm glad about that as an usually fun weekend lies ahead.

I don't intend to be mean in saying that. It's just that, since the onset of fatherhood, it's not always easy to get out at weekends, which is fair enough. I was never much of a nightclub person anyway, mainly because - being an Ulsterman - I can't dance.

However, tomorrow night, I might have to have a go as Vanessa and I are off to see Coldplay.

Then, after a night at Grandma Judy and Grandad Mike's (both of whom can actually dance) where Jamie will be parked from 7pm, we're back home to host some good friends for lunch.

But before all of that - tomorrow lunchtime - we're taking our boy to see Santa for the very first time. And not just any Santa, hell no. We're taking him to see the most annoying, irritating and, frankly, awful Santa one could ever dread to encounter.

More on all of this in the next couple of days.

Meanwhile, Jamie has developed a habit of spotting his food and opening his mouth long before it ever reaches his throat.

Does it remind you of anything?

Thursday, 27 November 2008

Is he having a laugh?

video

Another very short piece of video I hoped you might enjoy.

I was getting Jamie ready for bed on Tuesday evening and he was a little too quiet for my liking.

I therefore thought it might be fun to liven up proceedings. And, you know, boys will be boys...

Wednesday, 26 November 2008

If only he had teeth


There comes a day in the lives of most modern parents when they take their new sprog to get a nice picture taken. And, in the case of the Whites, today was that day.

As you might imagine, it was quite fun.

Jamie wasn't in the greatest of moods but, in typical showbiz style, he did what he had to do when the camera was pointing in his direction.

I'll show you some of the results in the days ahead but, in the meantime, I hope the above "behind the scenes" snap gives you a flavour of what's ahead.

Tuesday, 25 November 2008

PBR Special: Six of the best





You may have noticed that I quite enjoy my lookalikes.

So, in the wake of yesterday's controversial Pre-Budget Report, here are three pairs of identical twins themed around the event.

At the top - from left to right - we've got Chancellor of the Exchequer Alistair Darling alongside his brother, Sam the Eagle from the Muppets.

In the middle we see Bank of England Governor Mervyn King alongside his Doppelganger, Clarence, the shortsighted removal man (aka Ronnie Barker).

And, at the bottom, we have Liberal Democrat Treasury Spokesman Vince Cable with his very own spitting image, Yoda of Star Wars fame.

I really do spoil you.

Monday, 24 November 2008

What do they bang on about?


I'm sometimes accused of being a little less serious than I should be, flippant even.

Clearly, should you be a regular reader of this blog, you would regard such slights on my character as harsh and certainly unfair. My middle name is Serious (well, OK, it's not - it's Richard which can be shortened to Dick but let's not dwell on that).

But even at my most mature, I would have struggled to hold myself in check this morning when Vanessa and Jamie welcomed the local mothers and babies group to our house.

They've been going along to this for a couple of months now and, despite initial shyness on Vanessa's part, have enjoyed it.

It wasn't due to be their turn today but, after someone else backed out of hosting this week's gathering, Mrs and Master White stepped into the breach.

They were expecting maybe a dozen mothers and offspring but, in the end, 22 bodies - 10 mums and 12 sprogs - crowded into our living room to do whatever it is they do.

I say that as Vanessa will not tell me what they do, mainly because I really want to know - she's worse than a Mason. And whilst I have no doubt Jamie will tell me in time, he can't talk yet.

I have all sorts of theories, of course, ranging from them lighting joss sticks, playing guitars and banging tambourines to them showing each other fun parts of their bodies (I'm only talking about the mums here). But whatever it is they do, I'll bet it's funny - although it's probably not meant to be.

The one thing I do know is that the mothers can certainly eat chocolate biscuits, having collectively polished off an entire box full today (can't these women not accept they're no longer pregnant?!)

Anyway, whatever it is they did, it certainly left Jamie in fine form when I arrived home tonight.

And I definitely reckon there must be at least one tambourine involved in there somewhere.

Sunday, 23 November 2008

Making a fist of it





















I wrote a big long post to tell you all about what's happened to me over the last 24 hours - but then decided it's much too boring.

The long and the short of it was that I hurt my leg again last night running to the shop for sugar (told you it was dull) and then I had a 15 hour headache brought on by my recurring sinusitis.

The result was that I didn't get to run the Abbey Dash after all, which has left me feeling more than a little deflated.

On the upside, today was the day that I finally got to watch Star Wars from start to finish, a whole 31 years after my first attempt.

And Jamie proved that he could get his whole fistin my mouth, leading to the obvious and only conclusion that one could make - that my son has very small hands. (I mean, what other conclusion could you possibly draw?!)

Saturday, 22 November 2008

Running on empty


Tomorrow will see the running of the 24th Leeds Abbey Dash and, yes, I'm in it.

It'll be the fifth time I've shuffled to the start line for the annual trundle from the centre of Leeds out to Kirkstall Abbey and back and I don't think I've been so ill-prepared as I am this year. Needless to say, it's all Jamie's fault - well, almost all.

I first hurt my back playing rugby when I was 14 and have had problems with it on and off ever since. I've also had all sorts of treatment from acupuncture to heat lamps to ultra sound.

The most impressive remedy I received was three and a half years ago when I damaged a vertebrae on my stag weekend (long story, but it involved me involuntarily flying through the air in a go-kart).

I was OK for the first 36 hours but, after a good night's sleep, I woke up and couldn't get out of bed. I stayed there for a day before Vanessa shoe-horned me into our Clio and took me to a chiropractor.

Until that point in my life, I had never even heard of a chiropractor never mind know what they did. (I would perhaps now best describe them as as osteopath in a very bad temper). I went into the room and, after a bit of poking, prodding, cracking and snapping, my particular chiropractor warned that he thought there was a very real danger I would be going up the aisle ten days later in a wheelchair.

Thankfully, three treatments and £100 later, I was fine to make the journey unaided.

I've had little trouble since, well, until Jamie arrived that is. But, after a couple of months of bending, lifting and carrying, I began to feel pain in my lower back once again and, despite being ultra careful, it's still there and has now reached my leg.

This has seriously affected my normally strict training regime (!) meaning that I've only actually been running once in the last three weeks. But I've literally bought my tee shirt for tomorrow, got my number and I'm going to do it, come hail or snow (and both are forecast).

None of this bodes particularly well for my planned running of next year's London Marathon but, hey ho, we'll cross Tower Bridge when we come to it.

By the way, I hope you like the pic - not my work, but that of my good friend and sitcom co-writer Ben. (I told you he was clever).

Thursday, 20 November 2008

Separated at birth - or one and the same?












I was watching the football last night and something occurred to me.

Does England Manager Fabio Capello just look like Animal from the Muppets or is he actually him?

I've noticed their physical similarity the day Fabio was appointed but, throughout the game in Berlin, I couldn't help but think I'd never seen them together in the same place.

Anyway, something for you to think about.

Wednesday, 19 November 2008

At last - Jamie v Derek: The Rematch

video

Following a Saturday spent gnashing my teeth and swearing a lot, my technological problems now appear to have been resolved.

As a result, if you click the "play" button above, you will finally be able to see what happened when the Boy Jamie and the Teddy Derek climbed into the ring - Jamie's rubber ring - to settle their differences once and for all.

Those offended by extreme violence will have absolutely nothing to worry about - and it is very cute.

Tuesday, 18 November 2008

It's no oak (although it is)


Vanessa and I used to live exciting lives.

We met in that London, you know - where the Queen lives.

We worked in the Houses of Parliament where our nation's most important decisions are made.

We went to flash parties, mingled with celebrities and drunk champagne 'til the sun (or the champagne) came up.

We travelled to all the corners of the planet in search of adventure. And Wales.

We had big plans, big aspirations, big dreams.

But then we decided to, you know, "settle down," for want of a better phrase.

We bought a house, got married and, most recently, had a baby (you may have read about it).

And all of these things were and continue to be equally exciting in their own particular ways.

But then, the weekend before last, we went out and bought a new oak table and chairs. It was something we'd been thinking about for some time and we'd even looked at a few different options beforehand.

However, I preached caution. We couldn't just go for any table and chairs - it had to be the right table and chairs.

So, a couple of weeks ago, I went on a lunchtime recce to Harvey's in Bradford which sells, handily enough, tables and chairs (amongst other items). And there were a few reasonable deals although nothing earth shattering.

The Whites returned there en masse ten days ago, on a Saturday morning. And, when we walked in, there it was. The deal of the century (don't forget there's only been eight years so far): six shiny brown chairs for £199 and get this...A FREE TABLE! (which once retailed for £599, according to the shop assistant, although I am quite gullible).

We pretended to look at other offers on show (well, Vanessa and I did - Jamie was asleep in his mobile car seat on the floor) but, in truth, our minds were already made up.

Since then, our six shiny brown chairs and free table have been delivered (by Grandad Mike and Grandma Judy in their camper van) and we've set everything up (admittedly, Jamie slept through that bit too).

And do you know what? I'm probably as much if not more thrilled about our new table and chairs than just about anything I ever did in London.

Which begs the obvious question - how did I suddenly get so old?!

Monday, 17 November 2008

I'm A Celebrity - I feel like a beer!









I've just made a very distressing discovery; Homer Simpson is the same age as me. I love Homer Simpson but I thought he must be at least 10 years older than me. Or, to put it another way, I thought I was at least 10 years younger than him. Very depressing (although at least I've still got my hair).

One way I try forlornly to hold on to my fading memories of youth is by watching silly programmes on TV and they don't come any sillier than I'm A Celebrity Get Me Out Of Here which, you may have noticed, has just started a new three-week run on ITV.

This is, without any shadow of a doubt, my favourite television programme - partly because loads of people I know (who don't watch the show) feel some sort of snooty compulsion to slag it off.

The programme is clearly not meant to be the height of sophistication and the joke is very much on the celebrities although the great joy is that so few of them seem to understand that point, making it even funnier still.

Robert Kilroy-Silk, for example, is an arse. We all know that and, I suspect deep down, even he knows that. And for as long as he stays in the show, the producers will do everything in their power to humiliate him, degrade him and make him look a fool - magnificent (even if he is set to walk off with a big cheque afterwards).

Then there's another of this year's campmates, Carly Zucker, the "personal trainer" and girlfriend of Chelsea footballer Joe Cole. We've only seen a bit of her so far (although I suspect we'll probably see quite a bit more as she attempts to avoid being voted out). But she is also an arse. The difference with her is that she clearly has not recognised this obvious fact about herself and is unlikely to do so in the coming days. However, rest assured that the producers will do their worst to leave us in no doubt - and that kind of thing makes me laugh (tragic, I know).

There are also some nice people in there too and, whilst they might have a difficult few weeks, they will emerge with credit and love (and, OK, their own big cheques and probably contracts for panto).

Anyway, I'll try not to write too much about the show over the next three weeks, but it's going to be very difficult and I thought you better know. Just one hour and four minutes to go... (come on, watch it with me!)

Sunday, 16 November 2008

AAARRRRGGGHHH to AAAWWWWWW!!!!!

Those kind people who took the time and trouble to check out this blog yesterday will have noticed the absence of a new post. This was not because of a lack of effort on my part.

I had this great idea, see. Following the success of Jamie's memorable scrap with Derek the Teddy the other day, I decided to set up and film a rematch (I'm 36 you know).

So, I got out Jamie's rubber ring, plunked him in it, added Derek to the mix and proceeded to film almost two minutes' worth of brutal combat. Excellent, all was going well.

I then wrote the text of the post and, last but most importantly, attempted to upload the fight footage. Unfortunately, after I'm sure well over four hours and probably 30 tries, I had to give up. Very annoying to say the least.

My mood wasn't raised by the All Blacks' early evening mauling of the Irish rugby team. Jamie hadn't yet seen the boys in green strut their stuff and I reckoned this game would provide an ideal opportunity for him to see them in action (which, coincidentally, meant I could watch too).

However, as the picture above shows, he quickly decided that he'd much rather look at me than at the telly.

But later, when I came to upload the photo on to my PC, I thought it would be interesting to flip it 180 degrees to see what he looked like the other way around.

The result - below - put the smile back on my face.

Friday, 14 November 2008

Yes, he was named after Pudsey


I've just been to our local supermarket in Pudsey. And who did I see? Yes, Pudsey Bear.

Being Children in Need night, this is hardly a surprise. Indeed, I would imagine there is a more than 50% chance that you too encountered Pudsey Bear at some point on your travels today (although maybe not in Pudsey).

The reason for telling you this is, whenever I tell someone from outside the North of England where I live, they very often say, "Pudsey Bear." That's it, just "Pudsey Bear." Almost Dalek-like, there's nothing else coming, they just have to say it. "Pudsey Bear."

It's very much like the many thousands of people I've met over the course of my life who, when I tell them my name, have to say, "Can you sing?" Then they laugh. Then I say, "only when I'm drunk," or "not as well as him," or "f**k off." It generally depends what kind of mood I'm in.

Anyway, back to Pudsey Bear. Occasionally when I meet someone a second time who (1) knows I live in Pudsey and (2) has said "Pudsey Bear" when I first told them, they then ask, "was he named after Pudsey?"

Well, tonight I can reveal - unless you already know in which case my revelation won't be that revealing - he was.

Pudsey Bear was created in 1985 by Joanna Ball and named after her home town of Pudsey where her grandfather was mayor.

A reproduction of Pudsey Bear - made of vegetation - stands in Pudsey Park, near the town centre, and you can see a picture of it below (and I'll bet you didn't know about that bit).

So there we go, that's the build up done. It's now time for Jamie's bath followed by seven hours of Sir Terry. Marvellous (and don't forget to donate).

Thursday, 13 November 2008

Horrible thoughts


Like you no doubt, I watched on last night's television news and read in this morning's papers about the horrific life and death of 17-month-old Baby P.

And three things stick in my mind.

First - and this is a trivial point in comparison with the other two - I saw Prime Minister's Questions as it happened yesterday afternoon when Gordon Brown showed what a petty, small-minded, bitter and dark individual he really is.

All politicians as a rule seek to get in the headlines when they can, but I am certain that David Cameron had no intention of making this issue a party political scrap. Unfortunately Brown knows nothing else and picked a fight with the Conservative Leader. Like so many columnists in today's press, I felt sick as I watched his antics and I hope his shameful behaviour is remembered by voters when he finally decides to call a General Election.

Second, and much more importantly, the details of the suffering endured by Baby P has really touched a nerve inside me. Many parents told me prior to Jamie's birth that I would experience as yet unfelt emotions after his arrival. And I understand that better now than at any time over the last five months.

The idea of any individual or individuals abusing him fills me with unspeakable fear, rage and hatred. I'm sure I'm no different to any other ordinary parent, but the strength of my feelings has shocked - and scared - me nonetheless.

And finally, throughout my adult life, I've been opposed to capital punishment. Growing up in Northern Ireland in the early 1980s, I remember countless IRA atrocities being swiftly followed by ritual demands for hanging to be brought back. However, over the course of time, I began to believe that two wrongs didn't make a right and have pretty much settled on this view.

But as for those "people" responsible for the torture and murder of Baby P, well, my stance has altered somewhat.

In this instance, I'd happily pull the handle myself.

Wednesday, 12 November 2008

Get your gums around that

I did make it to the gym tonight (hooray!) although managed to hurt my leg in the process (boo!) But not to worry, it's nothing serious and I do feel much better for it (or maybe it's just the two thirds of a bottle of red wine I've necked).

Earlier in the day, I picked up something from Boots which I thought Jamie might find useful. It's called a Multi Soothe Teether and it's supposed to help him when he's, well, teething.

It's the "Multi" aspect of this little doofer which makes it so special (according to the packet). Or to put it another way, "the unique combination of textured cooling and chewing surfaces [which] offer double relief." Yep, pretty impressive stuff.

OK, I'll tell you the real reason I got it. According to said packet, the Multi Soothe Teether, "encourages the production of more and better saliva to protect against cavities." I mean, knowing that, could you have resisted?

From now on, should Jamie be in a room with another baby (or, indeed, any other person) who doesn't own a Multi Soothe Teether, I can say with confidence that my son will have better quality spit than them. That's what I call a proper claim to fame and maybe even his first genuine step towards greatness.

By the way, you'll see above that Jamie's Multi Soothe Teether is blue in colour. This may not surprise you given that he is indeed a boy. However, when I first stumbled across the Multi Soothe Teether shelf in Boots in central Bradford whilst on a bored lunchtime walk, the only colour I could find was pink. This did not please me, particularly as it clearly displayed on all the pink packets that blue versions were available.

I therefore spent the next 25 minutes visiting two other Boots outlets in Bradford in search of a blue one - and I appear to have snaffled the last available.

There are just so many things that Jamie will want to thank me for in years to come.

Tuesday, 11 November 2008

I shall overcome


Every so often, this parenting caper risks catching up with me and tonight is one such occasion.

I was feeling good on Saturday but, just as I went to bed, I began to feel my old sinusitis problem coming back and, sure enough, I didn't get to sleep until around 6.30am - a few minutes before Jamie decided that he'd enough down time for one night.

In the end, I got about an hour and a half before rising to write my Gordon Brown article.

The plan was then to go into Leeds to buy some clothes - I feel like a scruff at the moment - and on to the gym before finishing off my day of action with some work on my sitcom. But it was never realistic. With the wind and rain beating off the windows, I decided that Sunday papers, tracksuit bottoms, chocolate and family were much more attractive options.

And despite adopting the "do nothing" approach on Sunday, I got up on Monday morning feeling more exhausted than ever after Jamie began to yelp from just before 6.

As a result, I decided to once again bin the gym in favour of more relaxation last night. But this morning, Jamie thought fit to surface at 5am, guaranteeing no more sleep and another long day ahead pour moi. And, having had to work a bit later today followed by yet another delayed train home (have I told you how much I hate Northern Rail?) meant no gym again tonight.

So tomorrow, it's time to get back in the game!

Feeling ever so slightly at risk of being dragged down, I say now, tomorrow I shall go to the gym, I shall not lag and I shall achieve! Hopefully...

Monday, 10 November 2008

Let's get Teddy to rumble

Fully recovered from his bout of illness, Jamie is now literally fighting fit.

Vanessa bought a changing table the other day. (Never mind Baby, this is very good news for Daddy whose back is killing him after four months of bending over). And Jamie likes it. In fact, he gets very excited and flays his arms and legs about violently in all directions when he's placed there (which makes it very difficult for Daddy to actually get his nappy on and off, but that's another story).

Up until this point, Jamie hasn't taken a huge amount of interest in all the soft toys many people have been kind enough to buy him. But, a couple of nights ago after I got tired trying to wrestle him myself, I decided to give my tag team partner Derek the Teddy a go.

Derek was Jamie's very first soft toy and was sent over by Granny White all the way from Portstewart. Derek's quite a big boy. Indeed, he's almost identical in size to Jamie himself - which made me conclude it would be a fair fight.

And my prediction was right. I placed Derek on top of Jamie - lying on his changing tray - and rung the bell. Jamie immediately got Derek in a nasty arm lock. But the bold bear quickly fought back with a sharp right hook to Jamie's nose.

I left them too it for a couple of minutes to nip to the loo and, when I came back, the battle was still raging. It actually went on for another five minutes before I decided it was best to break the warriors up and resume hostilities another time.

I intend to enjoy this respite while it lasts for I fear it won't be long before Derek tags me back and it's my turn to take a share of the pain once again. Let's just hope Jamie doesn't have another growth spurt before then.

Sunday, 9 November 2008

Advising Gordon


I received a rather odd request the other day to write 300 words of advice for Gordon Brown on how to win the next General Election.

It came from a magazine called Oxygen which focuses on the "turnaround industry" and the piece is due to appear in the next issue.

Until this stage of my life, I had lived blissfully unaware of the fact there was such a thing as a turnaround industry.

However, what I had heard on far too many occasions was Bonnie Tyler's really annoying hit record Total Eclipse of the Heart in which that bloke with the high voice sings "turnaround" the whole way through it. Almost inevitably, my introduction to the turnaround industry has led to that song swimming constantly around in my head all week long. Let's just say that I used up the last of my Nurofen earlier today and will be heading off to my local shop again very shortly for some more.

Anyway, here's how I suggested Gordon might save his political skin - hopefully it will be of no use to him whatsoever:

After 12 months of almost constant misery and mishap, the positive reaction to his handling of the economic crisis coupled with Labour’s unexpected win in the Glenrothes by-election has finally given Gordon Brown some hope of turning things around – but not much.

What he needs – and fast – is a clear and simple narrative of what his Government stands for and what it intends to do.

We can all remember Tony Blair’s key pledges from 1997: “education, education, education;” “tough on crime and tough on the causes of crime,” and so on. Also, his overarching strap line – penned by Alastair Campbell – “New Labour, New Britain.”

Yes, on their own, none of these now infamous phrases actually meant anything, but they contributed very successfully to Blair’s promise of a bright new dawn for “Cool Britannia,” as the era was often referred to.

Labour is not alone in its absence of a narrative – there appears to be no sign of one from David Cameron either and this must be exposed by Brown and his Ministers.

And greater efforts should be made to project a more likable feel from the Brown Government. Just as Tony Blair didn’t “do God,” so our current Prime Minister doesn’t easily do public displays of emotion.

My old boss David Trimble was exactly the same – a warm and often very funny and self-deprecating man in private, his public image was one of coldness and anger. So too Gordon Brown but, as with Daphne Trimble in Northern Ireland, the Prime Minister has a wife who can win others’ hearts for him.

Sarah Brown did just this when she introduced her husband at this year’s Labour Party Conference, and some have credited her presence in Glenrothes as the difference between victory and defeat. I would have her hooked to Gordon’s hip.

Saturday, 8 November 2008

Meet Seanbo


It's a week today since we had our fancy dress party and, to mark the occasion, I decided to have a quick look back through some of the photos we took.

One particular picture caught my attention and gave me an idea.

Given he's now approaching 100, Sylvester Stallone has said that the recently released fifth Rambo film - the imaginatively titled John Rambo - will be his last in the role.

This clearly leaves a gap for someone else to fill and, as I believe my photo comparison clearly demonstrates, I think I have just the man for the job.

We've already had the first Irish James Bond in the form of Pierce Brosnan. Why not have the first Irish Rambo in the even more remarkable shape of my mate Detective Inspector Fitzpatrick?

I can see it now...he's big, he's mad and he hates baddies - he's Seanbo! Just a thought.

Friday, 7 November 2008

The passing of a giant


I try not to be anything other than happy and upbeat on this blog, but today I thought it wrong not to say something about the death of former RUC Chief Constable Sir John Hermon.

Jack died last night at a nursing home in Bangor, Co Down, aged 79.

For those who don’t know, Jack Hermon was the Chief Constable of the Royal Ulster Constabulary from 1980 to 1989.

His time at the top coincided with one of the most harrowing periods in Northern Ireland's history including the IRA hunger strikes in 1980 and 1981 and, in 1985, the single greatest loss of police lives in the Troubles when nine officers were murdered in an IRA mortar attack in Newry.

Almost twenty years after stepping down, he remained a target for terrorists and, last year, had to be moved from another nursing home because of a threat to his life.

Jack’s loving wife, Lady Sylvia Hermon, became an Ulster Unionist MP in 2001. I had known Sylvia a bit before she won her seat in North Down but, after her election, I spent more than two years working closely with her in the House of Commons.

In one of the classiest acts I have ever witnessed, both Jack and Sylvia – accompanied by tight but subtle Special Branch security - attended the funeral of my late stepmum Joan in Coleraine seven years ago. They didn’t say they were coming and they wanted no fuss – but they did want to be there. I’ll never forget it and neither, more importantly, will my dad.

And, that Christmas, Sylvia gave me a gift of Jack’s autobiography, Holding The Line, signed by both of them. Needless to say it is something I keep safe and will always treasure.

The phrase, “we’ll never see his like again,” is sometimes over-used.

But, in the case of Sir John Hermon OBE QPM, it is undoubtedly true.

Blue-blue blue suede shoes uh-uh-uh (and repeat)


I'm up late again tonight (well, it's morning now) to catch the result of the Glenrothes by-election. I appreciate that this admission once again confirms my status as a very sad man. Should anyone out there have a life going spare, I'd be grateful if you'd post it on to me.

But whilst I'm up, I might as well report that Jamie is now the owner of his very own blue suede shoes (uh-uh-uh).

I found them in a shop in Bradford earlier today (well, yesterday given that it's now officially tomorrow) and thought they'd look smart - handy for evening wedding receptions, that sort of thing. (To be fair, he will probably grow out of them in the next six weeks and we have no evening wedding receptions planned but you just never know).

In case you're wondering, Jamie's blue suede shoes (uh-uh-uh) are the ones on the right; the ones on the left apparently belonged to Elvis himself and are therefore bigger. And being dead, the King isn't actually wearing them. But I thought it might be interesting for you to see Elvis's blue suede shoes (uh-uh-uh) given that I managed to find a picture of them. Personally, I prefer Jamie's (although Elvis's probably retailed for more than £2.99).

I did hope our off-spring would exude a little more enthusiasm about his new blue suede shoes (uh-uh-uh) when I pulled them out of the bag. But he just fell asleep.

To my mind, that would suggest he ain't nothing but a hound dog.

Right, right, I get the message - I'm going to bed! (uh-uh-uh)

Thursday, 6 November 2008

Sick


I don’t know about you but, when I was ill as a child, my mum used to make me up a bed up on the sofa.

However, as he’s still quite small, last night we decided to allow Jamie to continue his convalescence in a DIY bed on the floor. I think he looks happy enough.

I haven’t mentioned it here yet but our little lad has been quite ill over the last seven days or so.

About this time last week we noticed he was getting yet another cold – he’s had quite a few since his arrival in Pudsey.

Then, last Friday, his breathing started to become quite heavy, his cough a little on the violent side and he was going off his food.

He seemed a lot worse on Saturday morning and, after a particularly impressive vomit all over his new red sleepsuit, Vanessa phoned NHS Direct. 90 minutes later, we had him in with the emergency doctor who diagnosed a suspected chest infection.

We loaded him up with Calpol and antibiotics for the next couple of days and, tonight, the six-day course of penicillin will come to an end.

The most important thing is that he’s now just about back to himself. He’s eating almost like he was, he’s not coughing much and he’s smiling like he’s demented.

I’m sure there will be many more bouts of kiddie illness to come in the months and years ahead but – thankfully - baby, mummy and daddy appear to have passed their first sickie test.

Wednesday, 5 November 2008

A genuine bright new dawn


Well, I predicted I'd be wrong so that makes me right in my book! An Obama landslide it clearly was.

I turned off my light at around 4.50am, just a few minutes before the new President-Elect was due to speak - I simply had to get some sleep before work today. But I've just seen his full address on playback, with Jamie propped up alongside me onboard Vanessa's knee.

An absolutely unbelievable night and one that promises to bring great change to the United States and beyond, and also hopefully raise the bar with regard to the quality of political leadership we all currently endure.

This man appears to be sheer class and if he can achieve even 10% of his stated objectives over the next four years, the world will surely be a better for us all.

As for today, stand back and watch Gordon Brown seek to clamber on to the Obama bandwagon over the next few hours.

If I was Gordon, I would keep my distance if I didn't want to look even more pointless and irrelevant than I already do.

Tuesday, 4 November 2008

A black night for America?


Like pretty much every political type I know, I am preparing to stay up late tonight to see whether Barack Obama can make history by becoming the first black President of the United States.

You can judge me tomorrow when the results are in, but I suspect the outcome might be much closer than many pundits are predicting (which probably means it will be an Obama landslide).

I remember, from my days working in Northern Ireland politics, that pre-election surveys and exit polls can be wrong. In those days Sinn Fein and Ian Paisley's DUP represented the extremes and, as such, large numbers of people didn't like to admit they were intending to vote for them or just had done. As a result, both parties tended to do much better when the real votes were counted.

Likewise, in today's US election, I fear that many voters opposed to a black President may pay lip service to the idea of supporting Obama yet vote for the white candidate once they reach the privacy of the polling booth.

But I may be wrong and, for what it's worth, I hope I am.

Eight years ago, before losing out to George W Bush as the Republican Party's nomination for President, I believe John McCain would have done an excellent job in the White House.

I remember, again during my Northern Ireland political days in the late 1990s, hearing him being talked about in glowing terms as someone who was straight, honest and (why he came to my attention) pro-British and anti-terrorist. But, with the greatest respect, his time has gone.

Barack Obama could be a disaster as the 44th US President but I don't think he will be.

For me, he comes across as a man of his time and - as he likes to think of himself - as a man of change.

The next four hours should tell us whether we will get the chance to find out over the next four years.

Monday, 3 November 2008

And it finished at 118 (or maybe a bit later)

Yes folks, as you can see, Saturday was indeed a classy evening at our house. Mrs and Detective Inspector Fitzpatrick (above) kept up their tradition of not disappointing on the big night.

Not-that-long-wed Mr and Mrs Lewis (Fran had taken some of her sexy policewoman gear off by the time this pic was taken) were as glamorous as ever.

Vicky (second from left), Mrs and Mrs Stevenson (next two along) and our new friend Tony (right) maintained the very high standard.

And His Holiness Pope Barry I and Mother Immaculate? Well, you make up your own minds.
Most importantly, it was fun. And will we do it all again next year? Absolutely!

Sunday, 2 November 2008

Contrasting images


The above picture shows my mate John checking out Jamie, already in his outfit, before last night's annual fancy dress party at our house.

The photo below shows John in his own costume a little later on.

I'll say nothing else at this point other than to add that tomorrow I'll show you more of what went on.

In the meantime, I'm off for another night's sleep doomed to ruin by pumpkin-themed nightmares.