Saturday, 28 February 2009

Combover twins

We were giving Jamie a bath last night and, as you might expect, gave his hair a good wash.

However, what was interesting was the way it sat afterwards.

To me he looked a dead ringer for a young Bobby Charlton - no doubt you can see it too.

By the way, did you know dogs can also have combovers?

Should you not believe me...

Friday, 27 February 2009

Water baby

Jamie's been swimming - or at least had a go - I think three times prior to this week.

Sadly, thanks to the antics of those nice paedophiles in our community, we've not previously been allowed to capture him on camera.

And whilst, the other day, we still weren't officially allowed, Grandma Judy and Grandad Mike are nothing if not resourceful. They therefore used an old trick (admittedly perfected by paedophiles) and smuggled a camera into a local pool.

The pictures of mother and baby having fun together in the water are the worthy result.

I'm sorry Jamie's not smiling just a little bit more but, I mean, think about it from his point of view.

Daddy wasn't there.

Thursday, 26 February 2009

A tragic loss

I've had a direct involvement in politics of one form or another for approaching 13 years now and I can't remember a time of greater shallowness and opportunism in that world than at present.

However, yesterday's scenes in the House of Commons when Gordon Brown, William Hague and Vince Cable rose to speak in response to the death of Ivan Cameron brought a huge lump to my throat.

I won't pretend to like Gordon Brown but the death of his 10-day-old daughter Jennifer seven years ago was clearly as big a tragedy for him and his wife as that suffered by David and Samantha Cameron today. The Prime Minister therefore spoke with genuine emotion and understanding and what he said was extremely powerful. Mr Hague and Dr Cable's contributions were delivered with the level of class you would expect of the two best active politicians - aside from Cameron himself - in this country at present.

Afterwards, I had two overriding thoughts in my head. First, as David Cameron has always readily acknowledged, the Cameron family are backed by wealth and were therefore able to offer much better quality care for their son than many other parents of children with similar conditions to Ivan. I do hope the Conservative Leader remembers this and does something to help those less fortunate when he gets into Number Ten. I would be very surprised if he doesn't.

Secondly, I felt the same emotion yesterday that I first wrote about some months ago when details emerged about the death of Baby P: I just wanted to come home and give our own little boy a hug. Thankfully, some hours later, I was able to do just that.

I can't begin to imagine what David and Samantha Cameron are going through at the moment but, as a parent, my heart goes out to them enormously.

Wednesday, 25 February 2009

Where's White Jnr?

One of my favourite presents at Christmas just past was a particularly entertaining little book called Where's Bin Laden?

If you haven't seen it, it is essentially a series of cartoons of scores of little people cluttered together in various well-known locations across the world - the drawing above features the Sydney Harbour Bridge.

The common thread linking each picture is that Osama Bin Laden is in there somewhere and your job is to find him. You're even provided with a mini magnifying glass to help you with the task.

I was reminded of this book earlier in the week when Vanessa showed me some photos of her mother and baby group's latest meeting in our front room.

I'm assured our Jamie is in the picture I've dropped in below.

Can you find White Jnr?

Tuesday, 24 February 2009

Pancake Day

Yes, today is Pancake Day so - surprise, surprise - Jamie had his first taste of pancake.

As a child, I used to get excited on Pancake Day - that's what kids are supposed to do. However, as an adult, I've been singularly uninspired.

But, as has often been the case since Jamie's arrival, I decided to use him as a blatant excuse to rekindle my kindergarten years.

First, I spent a few minutes at lunchtime finding a Delia recipe for lemon pancakes. Then, as soon as I was clear from work, I rushed to Asda to buy the necessary ingredients and a sieve (which Delia said was all-important).

Sadly (although not that sadly) I arrived home to discover that Vanessa had also decided to make pancakes - albeit seafood pancakes - for tea. Not wishing to risk a pancake overdose, I magnanimously volunteered to put my ingredients away for another day, likely to be exactly twelve months from now (although the eggs will have gone off by then. And the lemons. Oh, and the milk. Does flour go off?)

Luckily, we had an out-of-the-packet pancake on hand for Jamie's supper (not that much ended up in his mouth) so were able to quickly mark his latest "special day" before bundling him off to bed.

As a related aside, I can't possibly let today pass without telling you one of my favourite all-time jokes.

With apologies to anyone who's heard it, here goes:

Paddy the Englishman, Paddy the Scotsman and Paddy the Irishman haven't seen each other for a year and decide to meet for a catch-up drink.

During their conversation they discover that, over the previous twelve months, all of them have become fathers to little boys.

"My son was born on St. George's Day so we decided to call him George," explains Paddy the Englishman.

"Man, that's great," replies Paddy the Scotsman. "My son was born on St Andrew's Day and we named him Andrew."

"Isn't that incredible?" says an excited Paddy the Irishman. "We had a boy too - wee Pancake."

I thank you.

Monday, 23 February 2009

Grandma's birthday tea

Birthday teas for grandmas are very exciting when you're an eight-month-old little boy.

You've got loads of people to stare at.

You've got loads of people staring at you, including some grumpy ones.

Grandma gets excited - and you can even try to grab her cake.

Yes, birthday teas for grandmas are great.

Sunday, 22 February 2009

Jade's big day

Unless you've been living in another galaxy for the last few days, you'll be well aware that reality TV queen Jade Goody is getting married today. Tragically, of course, Jade is battling terminal cancer and is thought to have only a matter of weeks to live.

This incredibly distressing and depressing situation is in great contrast to the time, more than six and a half years ago, when she first emerged from the Big Brother house and began her crusade to claim a permanent place in the celebrity spotlight.

Back in those days, I used to write a less than serious weekly newspaper column called "Times by the Thames" in which I reported on life in London from the perspective of a Coleraine man away from home.

A self-confessed Big Brother fan - in those days at least - I therefore jumped at the opportunity to jump on the Tube and witness Jade come home to Bermondsey on board The Sun newspaper's big red bus.

I read the piece, dated 7 August 2002, once again the other day and thought it might be appropriate and topical to reproduce it here today.

This is what I wrote:

Thursday, 12.34pm - It's six days since Jade Goody was evicted from the Big Brother house. Withe the hype surrounding the locally-based dental nurse showing no sign of relenting, Barry arrives in Bermondsey, South London to witness her homecoming.

12.41pm - There are less than 20 minutes to go until Jade's scheduled arrival and the excitement is building amongst the 30-strong crowd gathered at the Blue Market on Southwark Park Road. A middle-aged man sitting on a park bench gulps down a can of Tennent's Super as his partner, standing behind him, lights another Rothman's Royal. A little girl, dressed in a white tee-shirt covered with newspaper clippings of Jade, jumps up and down beside them. The man tells her colourfully to refrain from doing so and instead pass him another can.

12.50pm - Two little boys ask Barry if he has come to see Jade. "Yes," he replies with more than a little embarrassment. "How long is she going to be?" one of the youngsters demands to know. "About 10 minutes," explains Barry before realising how sad he looks. Barry walks away to stand behind a tree.

12.52pm - The crowd has now increased to about forty. Barry listens in to a conversation between two local women who have just met in the Blue Market. "What's going on?" asks one. "Jade's coming down, in't she," replies the other. "On some bus. It was in the paper this morning."

12.53pm - Barry notices that very few of the women present have a full set of teeth.

12.54pm - Six minutes early, Jade arrives at the Blue Market aboard the red and white Sun bus. Dressed in a cream jacket, black top and blue jeans, Jade waves frantically from the upper deck before throwing the first of many personally-signed Sun bowler hats and tee-shirts to the 50-plus people gathered below. Some of the locals are heard to express pride in the fact that Jade can write.

12.57pm - As the bowler hats and tee-shirts continue to rain on the barely growing crowd, it becomes clear that many present will shortly have the option of opening a stall selling Sun merchandise.

12.58pm - As the bus moves off from the Blue Market two minutes before it is actually due to arrive, Barry listens into a conversation between a stall owner and a local newspaper journalist. "I mean, good luck to the girl," says the fruit and veg man. "But it's just the way they manipulate it. You know, yesterday, I phoned The Sun up and I told them that surely they must come round here where she lives. They never came back to me. The next thing I know was this morning when the paper said they were bringing her round here today. You see, I play in a band and we could've been here. We could've made a proper job. I wanted to try to and have a word with her, like. If you need any stories, you know where I am." The local reporter smiles and walks away. Barry remains behind the tree, hoping to get some stories.

1.03pm - The Sun bus is now parked outside a pub 50 yards away from the Blue Market. A red London bus pulls up alongside and comes to a halt. "Jade, you minger!" shout four teenage boys from the window on the top deck.

1.08pm - The Sun photographer beckons the crowd to bunch up to form a sea faces behind Jade, now wearing one of the bowler hats. The crowd is the same one photographed several minutes earlier bunching up to form a sea of faces behind Jade, then wearing one of the bowler hats.

1.15pm - A woman tries to attract the attention of Jade's mother Jackie who is accompanying her daughter on the bus. Her shouts drowned out by Emma Bunton's "What Took You So Long?" which is blaring out from the on-board PA system, the woman turns her attention to Jade's relation Michelle who is also waving to the crowd from the upper deck. Hearing the calls, Michelle tells Jackie who waves at the woman and then orders Jade to do the same. Jade waves.

1.17pm - A fully-crewed fire engine blasts its siren as it drives past the static Sun bus, attracting a cheery smile from Jade.

1.19pm - Four policeman arrive on the scene which is now beginning to resemble that from the U2 video, "Where The Streets Have No Name." Without the crowd.

1.12pm - "Thank you everyone!" shouts Jade to the remaining few. "No, I really do mean that. Thanks a lot. I'm going now."

1.26pm - Jade goes. Bound for obscurity? You decide.

With the benefit of hindsight, we now know that obscurity was the last thing Jade was bound for.

I genuinely hope she has a wonderful day.

Saturday, 21 February 2009

Talking rhubarb

You'll almost certainly have heard of the Bermuda Triangle. However, unless you come from these parts, the chances are you won't be aware of the Yorkshire Rhubarb Triangle - but it exists.

I know this to be true because, a couple of days ago, Grandma Judy, Vanessa and Jamie had the privilege of going on the official Rhubarb Triangle Tour along with almost 50 other lost souls with nothing much on. I was obviously devastated to have missed it.

As part of the tour, which centred on the E Oldroyd & Sons rhubarb farm in Leeds, patrons had the chance to see rhubarb being grown by candlelight together with the rare treat of hearing a one-hour talk on the history of rhubarb.

And much was learnt. For example, did you know that Yorkshire began to make its rhubarb name in the late 19th century? One reason was the "special sheds" (ooooo!!!) built to allow rhubarb to be grown out of season. Yorkshire soil also apparently proved perfect for "growth of the substantial root systems necessary to produced sufficient yields of high quality sticks worthy of a premium price capable of covering the high production costs associated with this crop." Oh yes.

As rhubarb’s popularity increased so did the numbers producers in this area, totalling well over 200 "at rhubarb’s height in popularity." The quality of the Yorkshire crop became renowned, and demand for it became so huge that eventually producers in other areas of Britain simply could not compete, and eventually stopped altogether - quitters.

And here's the key bit - given that the producers were centralised between Leeds, Wakefield and Bradford, the "centre for the world’s production of forced rhubarb" naturally became known across the globe as "The Rhubarb Triangle." So now you know.

A couple of other interesting rhubarb facts which you'll want to know. First, Jamie's great grandad was a rhubarb grower. I'll bet you didn't see that one coming.

And secondly, rhubarb is good for your digestion. This is a detail which I'm told no-one on Thursday's tour is ever likely to forget because, a millisecond after the tour guide revealed this shocking truth and took a pause for breath, Jamie chose to emit the largest, longest belch in his short history - promoting raucous laughter from everyone in attendance.

Who said rhubarb can't be fun?

Friday, 20 February 2009

Happy news

I had a bit of surreal experience at precisely 4am this morning (and don't worry mother, this isn't going to be rude).

As is the current norm, Jamie was creating havoc and was determined not to let either Vanessa or me get back to sleep until he was ready to do so himself. Little ****.

Anyway, I did what I do on the hour when I can't sleep - generally to Vanessa's understandable displeasure - and reached over to turn on the radio news.

"It's 4am and you're listening to Five Live on the BBC," said the graveyard slot presenter. "And now the news read by Pete Wilson." And off went Pete Wilson with the news.

However, I couldn't now tell you one story he read out because, about three seconds in, I bellowed: "That's Happy!"

Yes, the newsreader was none other than one of my oldest friends and former Coleraine Inst school chum Pete "Happy" Wilson.

We had to sit in alphabetical order in our school, which is why Geoff Walls, Stephen Warwick, Pete Wilson, Richard "The Cat" Wylie and I became good friends.

Somewhat predictably, Pete was given his "Happy" tag because he wasn't always the most animated of schoolboys although did possess cutting lines in sarcasm and self-deprecation, making him rightly very popular.

After university, he got his first news reading job in Manchester on Kiss FM. I remember this very well because, even though you couldn't normally listen to distant radio stations on the Internet in those days, I was still able to access some of his bulletins in a rather ingenious way.

I used to phone him up in the studio just before he read the hourly bulletin. He would then put me on hold - here's the clever bit - and rather than be left listening to "Greensleeves," I was able to hear the live feed from Kiss FM including Happy reading the news! I know it was a bit of sad thing to do but it was a novelty that one of our number had become a very slick newsreader and, as was proven by my excitement again this morning, it clearly still is.

Since his Manchester days, Pete went on to work for the BBC in London, Birmingham and then back to London where he is now obviously working for Five Live.

The boy done good.

Thursday, 19 February 2009

Chinese Jamie

As I mentioned a couple of nights ago, our man Jamie's been a bit unsettled in recent times. I'll give you an example of how it's been.

On Tuesday we put him down after 7pm as normal, he stirred on a few occasions, his dummy was replaced and there were no great dramas. However, at some point after 2.30am, he decided to stir on a much larger scale.

This is not entirely unusual, but normally Vanessa or I stick his dummy back in, give him some Calpol if we think he's having teething pains or pick him up for a minute or two and he generally goes back down without too much difficulty. He then tends to stir again at around 5am and is much more difficult to send back to sleep, but that's another story.

However, on Tuesday night, I went in to find him as bright as a button, which is unusual as he's normally a bit fed up and grouchy before we seek to do our stuff. I put his dummy back in but he insisted on repeatedly spitting it back out - and smiling. He clearly wasn't in pain so I didn't give him Calpol. But I did pick him up, rock him, walk about, put him back down, pick him up again etc etc. None of these "tricks" worked - this boy was not for sleeping and, by now, almost three quarters of an hour had elapsed. I then attempted to leave him on his own - only for him to express his displeasure. So Mummy joined the party, tried all of her best moves for 20-odd minutes but fared no better.

By now, whilst he was looking tired, he was more determined than ever to stay awake. Conversely, Vanessa and I were absolutely wrecked and fading fast. In the end there was nothing else for it but to bring him into our bed, defeated yet again.

He eventually went to sleep about 20 minutes after that, only to wake me shortly after 7am by hitting me full whack between my eyes with his rattle.

That was two nights ago and last night wasn't much better.

As for tonight? Goodness only knows.

But, you know what? It's still incredibly good fun (but please don't tell him if you see him).

Wednesday, 18 February 2009

Daddy cool?

Jamie is a lucky boy because tonight I feel like a bit of a "hip" dad.

Like no doubt many others, Vanessa and I have been watching the Brits and they were good although maybe not as good as I thought they'd be.

But more importantly, I knew all of the acts that performed (other than Estelle) and recognised the names of almost all of the nominees (Seasick Steve being one obvious exception).

This is a clear step forward for me because, over the last number of years, I've often felt completely out of touch with events on stage and generally switched over.

But before I get carried away, perhaps its time to reflect. Who stole the show? Yes, Duffy (pictured as gratuitously as I could find at this time of night) who - whilst young, cool and sexy - sings songs that could have easily fitted into the musical interlude of The Two Ronnies.

Who else did well? Elbow - ditto, and some of their number are well older than me.

And Coldplay - shortlisted in four categories - who, whilst all of their band members are younger than me, play music which sits very comfortably on Wake Up to Wogan.

Who else won? Iron Maiden, whose average age is about 93.

And who else performed? U2, who were getting big when I was in second year at Coleraine Inst. Take That, who all have about three kids each and wives who bake. And the Pet Shop Boys who give the impression that daytime TV plays a big part in their lives.

Let me put it this way, should these great rock stars of our age be staying in the same hotel, the maids won't have much tidying up to do in the morning.

So maybe the proper conclusion is that I haven't actually become hip - our musicians have become dull - allowing me to feel much more part of the scene (man). Yep, I think that's about right.

Before I go and in order to raise my spirits, I need to tell you this - Jamie and Vanessa are off to a rhubarb farm tomorrow. (Needless to say I've asked Mummy to pack our camera).

Tuesday, 17 February 2009

A masterly retort

I had a rare and unexpected treat this evening - Vanessa let me watch two and a half hours of live cricket on Sky Sports.

But rather than celebrate, I'll now almost certainly not sleep tonight. She clearly wants something doing. I do hope I find out what it is soon because I can't be expected to go to work every day yet not sleep for possibly weeks on end. It's all rather worrying.

Whilst I'm up, I might as well quickly mention a brief but very funny cricketing story mentioned on commentary this evening which I'd never previously heard.

It concerned the great West Indian batsman Sir Vivian Richards (pictured) who even the most passionate cricket hater has surely heard of. He was playing for his adopted English county Somerset in a game at Taunton and was, uncharacteristically for him, having some trouble getting bat on ball.

The bowler - Greg Thomas of Glamorgan - was feeling very pleased with his efforts and thought he'd try and rub it in after Richards missed again with another attempt at a shot.

Referring to the ball, Thomas shouted up the pitch to Sir Viv, "It's red, it's round and it weighs about five ounces."

Richards gave him a look but said nothing in response. Thomas smiled back, returned to his mark and ran in again to bowl the next ball - which Sir Viv savagely clubbed out of the ground and into a nearby river for six runs.

Richards stood still for a couple of seconds before sauntering slowly down the pitch towards Thomas. And without looking up, he whispered to the poor bowler, "You know what it looks like boy - go find it."


Right, well I'm off to put the kettle on as my big sister's on the telly in 20 minutes.

Monday, 16 February 2009

Bath toys

I mentioned a couple of weeks ago that Jamie was now so huge that we had to abandon his baby bath in favour of a special chair - bought for him by Granny White - in the big bath.

It's certainly proven to be a popular move. For now, as soon as he sees the towel come out, his face lights up and he can't get into the water quick enough.

Given that he has a bit more room to literally play with, the obvious next move was to fill some of it up with a few choice bath toys. And I am delighted to report that they have been an instant success.

Indeed, I never thought that a couple of tug boats and a family of rubber duckies could make one little man so happy.

And, if you don't believe me...

Sunday, 15 February 2009

Thumbs up from Nessie

I'm delighted to report that my much-hyped Valentine's Night cooking experiment seemed to go down well with t'wife. Indeed, the only person I almost killed was myself after drinking a little too much - I was nervous, alright?!

I started with mussels in white wine which was an experience. They call them "live mussels" But it was only last night that I discovered the reason for this - they are actually alive. Sometimes I'm very slow on the old uptake. Anyway, the book told me to tap the open ones and chuck any that didn't quickly close. I only had to bin two as the others, when I rapped on their walls, quickly shut up shop. It made me queasy but, hey ho, I ate them nonetheless.

The main event was Thai-spiced pork chops, oh yes. It was supposed to be Chinese-spiced pork chops but, in an inspired move, I used Thai seven-spice powder instead of the Chinese five-spice powder it said in the book but it seemed to work. I even did a bit of pak choi for Vanessa which I'd never heard of prior to Friday evening but now I know it's a Chinese vegetable.

I finished with lemon "posset" which seems to be a posh word for mousse. And again, it seemed to work although Vanessa did leave a bit saying it was "too much for a lady." It might've been but I was a little unsure why this fact would be relevant to her.

So, happy enough with my efforts. Perhaps I'll have another go when Jamie graduates or something like that.

Saturday, 14 February 2009

Doing the necessary

Thanks to my trusty new friend, the Best Ever Three & Four Ingredient Cookbook, I've got my menu sorted out for tonight and, with Jamie's assistance, I've also got the supplies.

It could've been very different though for, when I went to Asda, the centrepiece of my starter was nowhere to be seen. But a bit of polite asking led to the discovery of what I was after "out the back" and we now live to have a go at making the dish tonight.

Jamie himself was very good during my morning of baby sitting duty although, at one point, I had to "improvise" somewhat to keep our plans on track.

I'd already sorted him out with breakfast, dressed him, fed myself, written my shopping list and got the pram ready. All that was left to do was put his coat on, load him in and take off. But I suddenly realised I had forgotten to clean my teeth (not a regular occurrence I assure you). And then I thought, "while I'm in the bathroom, I might as well have a widdle."

The easiest solution would have been to put Jamie in his pram for a few minutes whilst I did the necessary, but I knew he wouldn't like that. So I took him upstairs to lay him down in his cot briefly. However, as soon as his bum hit the mattress, it all kicked off leaving me with no alternative but to take him into the bathroom with me.

Cleaning my teeth with the brush in one hand and Jamie under my other arm wasn't a major problem. But when it came to doing my number one, well, I just didn't feel comfortable with the same arrangement.

So, I stuck him in the washing basket. Whilst he looks bemused but not necessarily upset in the picture, I can assure you that the annoyance levels did increase significantly very shortly afterwards

Still, sometimes a dad's got to do what a dad's got to do - quite literally.

Friday, 13 February 2009

A journey into the unknown

Jamie and I have a bit of a problem.

Well, OK, it's actually my problem but I've decided to share it with him - even though there's absolutely nothing he can do to help. Indeed, if he decides to be restless when we're at the shops tomorrow, he's only going to make matters worse.

For some time now - I'm talking years - I've promised and promised and promised that one day I'll cook Vanessa a meal from scratch. Please don't think that I never "do" meals for I do, all the time. In fact, I "do" breakfast every morning, plus dinner most weekend nights and even the odd lunch. But putting cereal in a bowl or grilling a steak or roasting a chicken in the oven isn't proper, creative cooking. Is it? It's arguable both ways I suppose.

No, what I'm talking about is getting several ingredients - like in Ready, Steady, Cook with big Ainsley Harriott - putting them all together in some wonderful fashion and, crucially, not killing the individuals tasked to eat it. I think you've got me.

A few weeks ago I designated Valentine's night - i.e. tomorrow - as the night when I finally have a go. And with little more than 24 hours to go, I've bought nothing, haven't looked at a recipe and basically have no idea whatsoever where I'm going with this.

Vanessa's due to get her hair done tomorrow morning so Jamie and I are off to the shops to get what we decide we need. But as I say, having not yet looked at a recipe, we've no clue what that might be.

I'm due to get him ready for bed shortly before settling down this evening with a Tiger beer and a selection of cookery books. And, in the morning, I'll tell Jamie what I think we need, get his views and then we'll go seek prey like our hunter-gathering forebears. Sort of.

I'll bet they never had to choose - sorry, make - a salad.

Thursday, 12 February 2009

Jamie and his Amazing Technicolor Slumbersac

Jamie's got a new sleeping bag or, to give it its proper trade name, Slumbersac.

And it is a Slumbersac of many colours. Such a stunning Slumbersac of many colours.

How Jamie loves his Slumbersac of many colours.

It is red and yellow and green and brown and scarlet and black and ochre and peach and ruby and olive and violet and fawn and lilac and gold and chocolate and mauve and cream and crimson and silver and rose and azure and lemon and russet and grey and purple and white and pink and orange and red and yellow and green and brown and blue.

Actually, it's mostly blue if truth be told. Together with a fair bit of yellow, some green and a spot of red.

And it's got a big picture of Igglepiggle from In The Night Garden on it. Have a look for yourself.

Oh, and it should last him until he's 18 months old.

That's about it, really. Whilst you're taking all of that exciting news in - I'll be off to bed.

Wednesday, 11 February 2009

A new perspective

Well that's a relief - Ben likes my script.

Clearly there's a long way to go yet - and Ben's a friend so is hardly going to savage my efforts - but we might just but be on to something. Just might.

Back on planet Earth, the Whites have had their new windows put in (and I don't mean smashed - perhaps "installed" is a more accurate description).

And they do look good, very good in fact.

He hasn't said as much yet - principally because he still can't talk - but I can sense Jamie sees an opportunity in the wake of their arrival. I say this because I'm sure he's already worked out that his bedroom window (pictured above) will now also double up as our sole fire escape.

Now, I wouldn't suggest for one second that this excellently-so-far-reared young man would be anything other than charitable in choosing who he lets into his room should the house be on fire, but I simply fear that he may consider using his newly elevated status as a bargaining chip at some point in the future. For example, 1) when he has teeth and 2) when he knows Daddy is going out for chocolate Time will tell.

We've - well, I - have had a good night tonight watching Northern Ireland beat Brazil, sorry, San Marino 3-0 in a World Cup qualifier. It's our best result away from home in 40-odd years. (And we don't mention the fact that San Marino is officially the joint worst football team in the world, tied with Guam).

A final ditty before we all go off to bed. I'm a big fan of Chris Evans on Radio 2 and, if you're not, you should be, particularly on a Friday for his All-Request Show - 5 until 7, check it out.

As you may have read in this morning's newspapers, yesterday the Ginger One became a father to a little boy called Noah. Good for him. Towards the end of last night's show when he was talking all about it, a listener phoned in with a terrific little story which incorporated a very sound piece for advice for any new parent.

The caller - a father - was talking about the moment he and his wife were very nervously preparing to leave the hospital with their first born child.

"Don't worry too much," said the reassuring midwife to the couple in reference to their new baby. "They're very hard to break."

Seven and a half months and quite a few accidents on, I'm happy to confirm the accuracy of that wise woman's words.

Tuesday, 10 February 2009

Putting his foot in it

In recent days, Jamie has demonstrated a brand new talent - the ability to suck his own big toe.

It is clearly a gift passed down from his father as I've been putting my foot in my mouth for years, albeit metaphorically. But I'm still very proud.

On other matters, I'm a little on tenterhooks at the moment as - shock of shocks - I finally managed to finish the first draft of the script which I hope will begin the journey of my partner Ben and myself to the status of sitcom writing legends.

It was back in the summer of 2007 when, after several sit downs to map out the plot and the main characters, I went off to knock together a rough draft of what we intend to be the pilot episode. And then I didn't quite get round to finishing it off (well, I've been a bit busy!)

However, the magic moment did finally arrive last Friday morning when, stranded in the White holiday hut, I did a quick 40 minutes of tidying up (including changing some names to protect the guilty). The script has now gone across to Ben for his verdict and for him to hopefully sprinkle it with comedy dust before we meet to decide what to do next.

As I said to him, if even 20% of the draft I sent over makes it into the final version, I'll be very surprised and perhaps even a little disappointed.

But let's not be negative - we're finally underway.

Monday, 9 February 2009

Another fine mess

Being pretty much confined to a wood-enclosed space for four days, the only course of action was to make the best of it.

So, from my point of view, I made sure I did more than my fair share of Jamie duties which included giving him his tea. As his sheer physical enormity clearly demonstrates, not much misses his mouth when it comes to meal time. But there's always an exception which proves the rule. And unfortunately, I was the poor individual tasked with getting the savoury mince into his mouth on Friday evening when he simply didn't fancy it. The scene pictured above was the result.

Given this outcome, the only logical next step was to give him a bath - even though it wasn't his scheduled bath night (which is normally every other night). On the upside, it provided the opportunity to try him out in his new special bath seat which Granny White bought him some time ago. I'm delighted to say that it immediately proved to be an inspired purchase and many happy dips now lie ahead.

However, as I wrote yesterday, we were able to escape our hut on a small number of occasions and one such moment came earlier on Friday when we managed to make it round the corner to the local pub.

It was a decent enough place but something other than the Guinness made it stick in my mind - one of the best toilet signs I've seen. Magnificent.

Sunday, 8 February 2009

Back from seclusion

Vanessa, Jamie and I have just returned from our four days in a hut.

As the picture shows, it was indeed a fine hut we stayed in - one of the best. But a hut nonetheless.

In addition to simply having a bit of time "away," the primary purpose of our visit - to a field just outside Richmond in North Yorkshire - was to celebrate Vanessa's birthday. And we were able to do just that with a nice pub lunch yesterday and some posh food and champagne in our hut last night.

Vanessa even had a little cake - although Jamie seemed much more interested in the candle.

However, getting out and about yesterday was something of a luxury for, with the exception of a quick sprint to Tesco in Catterick on Thursday afternoon and a swifty in our local round the corner on Friday, we were essentially snowed in for the rest of the time. Indeed, our trip into Richmond yesterday involved a three-mile round trip buggy push along narrow country roads. But it was well worth it.

I'll tell and show you more tomorrow but, with the weekend almost at an end, it's sadly time to iron a shirt for Monday morning...BOO!

Wednesday, 4 February 2009

Hitting the hut

With apologies to those very nice people who for some reason take the time out to read this rubbish every day, the Whites are just about to disappear for another short break.

To be fair, the Northern Ireland trip felt more like a state visit than a holiday, given the amount we packed into four short days.

But between now and Sunday, the pace of our lives will hopefully be a lot slower.

It's Vanessa's birthday on Saturday so we're setting off in the next few minutes en route to a hut, sorry, "cabin" in the middle of a remote field near Richmond, North Yorkshire where we intend to do as little as we can until it's time to come back.

We have done this before and it's been great - lying about, watching DVDs, reading books and gorging ourselves. But, of course, that was in days prior to the arrival of young James Richard.

However, we'll give it a go, see what happens and then I'll tell you how it went when we get back on Sunday afternoon.

In the meantime, I'll leave you with something just a little bit different - a poem.

My mum e-mailed this to me from her computer class the other day and I thought it would be nice to share it.

I hope it makes you feel warm too.

It's called Circle of Friends.


“I am a beautiful old person -if you don’t believe me, just read this.”

Eleanor Roosevelt.

Many people will walk in and out of your life
But only true friends will leave footprints in your heart.
To handle yourself, use your head;
To handle others, use your heart.
Anger is only one letter short of danger.
If someone betrays you once it is his fault;
If someone betrays you twice, it is your fault.
Great minds discuss ideas;
Average minds discuss events;
Small minds discuss people.
He who loses money, loses much;
He who loses a friend, loses much more;
He who loses faith, loses all.
Beautiful young people are accidents of nature,
But beautiful old people are works of art.
Learn from the mistakes of others,
You can’t live long enough to make them all yourself.
Friends, you and me---
You brought another friend…
And then there were three…
We started our group…
Our circle of friends….
And like that circle….
There is no beginning or end….
Yesterday is history
Tomorrow is a gift.

Tuesday, 3 February 2009

A toothless plot

I had the misfortune at school to study the Samuel Beckett play, Waiting for Godot, which - if you haven't seen it and to save you the pain of ever having to see it - basically involves two blokes sitting on stage all night waiting for someone who never turns up.

It was part of my 'A' Level English literature syllabus and I remember one night piling into a minibus with my classmates, travelling the whole way to the Lyric Theatre in Belfast to watch it, hating Act I, getting ice cream, falling asleep at the beginning of Act II and not waking up again until the very end. That's how exhilarating this play is.

Anyway, I'm reminded of it because waiting for Jamie's first tooth to come through reminds me of some of the emotions I experienced whilst watching Waiting for Godot; I'm getting frustrated, I'm increasingly tired and I'm now not even sure that it's going to make an appearance.

Quite a few babies we know of who are much younger than Jamie have multiple gnashers and yet he still doesn't even have one.

"Ah," say some people we talk to about the situation, "but that means several are likely to come through at the same time - that's what happens, you see. You'll go to bed one night and bang, the next morning, you'll go to get him and he'll have a mouth full of them."

Every time I hear this, I can't help but conjure up an image of Dr Teeth from The Muppets (pictured) lying in Jamie's cot. (Coincidentally, Dr Teeth is actually my third favourite Muppet after Beaker and the Swedish Chef).

But, as for now, we wait, we sleep and we wait a bit more.

Oh, and whilst we are waiting, I might as well tell you a short but very relevant joke.

Question: What's the shortest play in the world?

Answer: F*** Godot.

I love that one.

Monday, 2 February 2009


In common with much of the rest of Britain, today Pudsey disappeared under a thick blanket of snow.

And if the overnight forecast is to be believed, local residents will be waking up tomorrow under several winter duvets' worth.

Whilst Jamie had seen a bit of snow in his short life so far, he hadn't previously experienced proper snow.

So, doing her motherly duty, this afternoon Vanessa put him into his giant snow suit - so called because he'll need to grow into a giant before it actually fits him - and set him in the garden.

And, from what she told me, he simply sat there for a few minutes, took it in as best he could and even flickered an odd smile.

Then he got bored, started crying and had to come back in.

Perhaps tomorrow I'll ask Vanessa to make things a bit more interesting and find out if he can ski.

Sunday, 1 February 2009

On your marks...

Until recently, Jamie has been quite a vocal young man without really making a lot of sense. Or, to put it another way, there's been plenty of sound coming out of his mouth but nothing you could really package up and describe as a "word." But that may have just changed. And the "word" I'm talking about is "dadda."

My mum first noticed this last week but she, like me, is clearly biased. He said it a lot yesterday, something I pointed out several times to Vanessa who generally responded with a roll of her eyes.

But, as I was changing his nappy shortly before 7 o'clock this morning, he looked me right in the eye, said it once and then shut up again. I'll keep you posted on this one.

Given that our son is clearly making rapid progress on the speaking side of his repertoire, I thought I would take advantage of a quiet day at home by seeing if I could teach him to crawl.

Up until now, he has rolled over and spun around but he hasn't yet made anything like definitive forward progress. And, after a couple of hours this afternoon of me demonstrating to him what to do by crawling myself, then grabbing Jamie's legs and simulating what to do, then crawling again myself and so on, all he has achieved thus far is two carpet burns to his forehead. But we'll keep at it.
I'll leave you with something completely different. Last night Vanessa and I watched the film Along Came Polly starring Ben Stiller and Jennifer Aniston. As you'll already know if you've seen it, the film is pretty terrible although Ben Stiller - who I love - still manages to raise the odd laugh along the way.

But there is a scene in it - very similar to a scene from one of my favourite-ever films, Dumb and Dumber - which made me think and even led to me having a conversation with my wife (I know).

Ben Stiller's character is on the loo with a "tummy upset" after having a violent reaction to spicy food. Without getting too coarse - and apologies if I fail in this objective - he runs out of toilet paper and has to improvise, if you know what I'm saying.

To cut a long story short, he ends up using a hand towel which he then tries to flush down the toilet, blocks the system and floods the house - I told you it wasn't exactly Oscar standard. However, I turned to Vanessa and asked what she would've done in that situation and her answer was magnificent - she would've used her own pants, before putting them into her handbag (who needs to talk about the recession when there are so many other subjects to choose from).

Sadly my answer was less impressive which, to be honest, was inexcusable given the fact that I'd spent many years thinking about what I would do after watching Dumber and Dumber: I would've washed the problem area using a running tap and, should no towel be available, resigned myself to half an hour with a wet rump. But having heard Vanessa's flash of inspiration, I now feel the need to reconsider my plan.

Anyway, as I say, something for you to ponder should fate choose to place you in such a situation at some point in the future.