Tuesday, 31 March 2009

Happy birthday to me

I turned exactly 37 in the last hour and I'm not sure how I feel about it.

That's a lie, actually. I'm not pleased, not pleased at all. Indeed, the only small comfort is that 38 is now the official middle age for a man in this country so I can still classify myself as young for another 12 months - even if no-one else agrees.

People, as ever, have been very kind to me.

My mum's come up with the most surreal gift - a hammock, which I'm very pleased about (if just a little unnerved).

As well, as clothes, Vanessa revealed that she's taking her boys for a special trip to Blackpool Pleasure Beach this weekend including an overnight stop. I LOVE Blackpool Pleasure Beach so can't wait for that.

And Jamie bought me some pants and the new Lily Allen CD. Apparently he's already heard the album the whole way through and is suitably proud of his purchase. However, goodness knows what he made of Track 8, the somewhat creatively titled "F*ck You."

Grandad Geoff is due here any moment now to look after him for the night whilst the special boy (that's me, by the way, for just a few more hours) and Mrs W head round the corner to eat curry, drink beer, talk loudly and then regret it all at around 2.10am when Jamie wakes up.

Still, that's ages away so, between now and then, here's to ME!

Monday, 30 March 2009

A taste of home

Most countries across the globe can claim culinary peculiarities of some description and Northern Ireland has two that quickly spring to mind: the Ulster Fry and Tayto Crisps (as represented opposite by Mr Tayto himself - obviously).

I'll talk about the Ulster Fry (or "heart attack on a plate," to give it its other name) another day. However, Tayto Crisps get Norn Iron folk very excited - especially those who no longer live there. And that, I think, is the key point.

After all, we always want what we cannot have and, in general, you can't get Tayto Crisps outside of Northern Ireland. The exception to this rule is Irish theme bars which often sell Tayto Cheese & Onion at extortionate prices.

However, I've never been a Tayto Cheese & Onion man myself, instead preferring the much more exciting (and I like to think discerning) option of Tayto Onion Rings.

I remember, when I was at primary school, laying my packet on the desk in front of me first thing in the morning. I then used to watch the clock and count the seconds until the bell for breaktime went and I could open my bag of Tayto Onion Rings. (That might explain why I didn't reach my academic peak in my early years. My failure in later years must've been caused by something else).

Needless to say the bags themselves were better in those days - two layers they had. A clear plastic inner bag and then a coloured outer bag on top. Magnificent.

Recent years have seen the inevitable rationalisation of the packet into just a single bag (I blame Gordon Brown), but the great taste of Tayto Onion Rings has remained. The only problem has been that I haven't been able to lay my hands on any. Until today, that is.

I was bored and was walking around a discount shop in Bradford looking for something with chocolate on it - that would brighten up my lunchtime, I thought. And there, in the distance, I saw them on a shelf. Tayto Onion Rings, loads of them.

I bought 18 packets in the end. Any more would have been just a little bit silly.

But I might go back tomorrow. Or I might just get a life.

Sunday, 29 March 2009

Jamie meets a big chicken

This morning we took Jamie for his first visit to Harewood House in Leeds.

If you're not from Yorkshire and haven't heard of Harewood House, basically it's a big stately home owned by the Queen's rather appropriately titled cousin the Earl of Harewood. As well as the house, there is also a bird garden, some penguins, an adventure playground and a cafe - so we "did" everything but the house which no doubt we'll do when the sun isn't shining so brightly.

There were two highlights for White Junior - he went on the swings and he met a big chicken.

He wasn't sure what to make of the big chicken at first and the big chicken didn't appear to know what to make of him either. So they played a game of (yes, you've guessed it) "chicken" and attempted to stare each other out. Somewhat inevitably, Jamie soon lost his concentration - and hence the contest - when he decided instead to smile at passers-by. Still, it was another new experience for the boy and also for the big chicken who hadn't met our son before either. Hopefully they'll develop a better understanding of each other on subsequent get togethers.

Going on the swings was less of a novelty as his mum and several of his in-laws have taken him on the swings many times before. But I haven't seen him on one for some time and the change was huge - he really goes for it now. More and more of his little character is beginning to develop and there's certainly an element of fearlessness in there, at times verging on him being a mini-daredevil. We might have to get him a helmet.

One minor disappointment was the rather stuck-up approach taken by the penguins. There are supposed to be quite a few penguin residents at Harewood House but, today, only four could be arsed to show themselves and even they didn't put a lot of effort in. They were probably taking it easy in preparation for the Easter weekend but I, for one, was disappointed. Jamie clearly preferred the big chicken and I could see why.

Saturday, 28 March 2009

A bit of this and a bit of that

Mohammad's just arrived to service our boiler. Nice man Mohammad, came highly recommended. He takes one sugar in his tea and doesn't like the radio being on whilst he works - puts him off, see.

I'm a bit fuzzy this morning as Vanessa and I went to see Rob Brydon (pictured) live in Bradford last night and, having made the effort, thought we'd have a drink. And then another. We've both become big fans of his after a period obsessing about Gavin & Stacy in which he plays Uncle Bryn. A top man, very funny and he only swore once the whole evening - I'm sure his mum's suitably proud.

He finished off the show with a rendition of Islands In The Stream which, coincidentally, was our first dance on our wedding day. The two of us bellowed it out with all our hearts although we appeared to be the only ones in the audience who did. Their loss.

In a busy Saturday schedule thus far, I've also been to the physio to try to finally deal with a long-standing leg injury which, sadly, means I'll have to defer my entry in this year's London Marathon by 12 months (I'm hurt, alright?!) According to Johnny the physio - I'm meeting a lot of new people today - the problem appears to be linked to the sciatic nerve although he thinks I may also need a cartilage operation. However, hopefully all is curable so I can't complain too much.

Once Mohammad's done his stuff and I place the cash in his back pocket, sorry, hand, it'll be time for lunch and maybe even a little sleep. Vanessa's taken Jamie off to see Aunties Vicky and Jenny and these opportunities must be taken. He's got his new shoes on today - all the better for stamping on my head when he comes back.

Friday, 27 March 2009

Meet Chip and Dale

The moment is finally here - Jamie has cut his first teeth.

They appear to have moved in at some point over the last 36 hours or so and, despite my expert artwork, they're still very difficult to see.

In fact, were I not so worried about offending them, I might even call them stumps. But it is 2009, they've almost certainly got rights and possibly even a legal team - so I'll refrain.

After months of waiting, gallons of Calpol and buckets of teething granules, their arrival was something of an anti-climax if I'm being honest.

Jamie's had bumps in his bottom gum for a couple of weeks but nothing appeared to be coming through. But then, a couple of days ago, Vanessa was sure she could see something although I wasn't convinced. However, last night, I stuck my finger in his mouth, Jamie clamped his jaws together and the truth was out.

They have to be brushed pretty much straight away, according to the baby book - logically enough if you think about it - and I can say for certain that Jamie will not be pleased when we have our first go.

But at least he can comfort himself with the knowledge that he has two new friends.

So whilst we wait for him to learn English, I am delighted to say on behalf of my son, Chip and Dale, you're very welcome.

Thursday, 26 March 2009

Going down

There was another minor milestone moment in Jamie World last night as I got out my tool bag and lowered the base of his cot.

As officially the world's worst handyman, it was not a task I was relishing. I'm not an individual blessed with many skills but the few I do possess include neither wit nor patience, leaving me at a definite disadvantage when something needs adjusting or, worse still, fixing.

But, to be fair, I did manage to fulfil the task before me with a relative calm and the use of only a smattering of B-list swear words.

Jamie has come on quite a bit in physical terms over the last couple of weeks. He has developed some new facial expressions, more creative punching combinations and almost the ability to sit up unaided.

It's at this point, according to the leaflet, that the mattress must be dropped and the cot effectively turned into a cage from which the baby prisoner cannot escape, although Convict White will no doubt have a go in due course.

I'll have to remember not to leave my shovel in his room in case he attempts the tunnel option.

Wednesday, 25 March 2009

I didn't see that coming

I've just had one of those horribly embarrassing moments that can scar you for life.

I was at Specsavers in Bradford for a routine contact lens appointment.

It was quite a brief affair which involved the young optometrist asking me if I had any problems with my vision, I said no, she had a look and sent me on my way.

I went to the counter to settle up and the assistant, who I had been speaking to prior to the examination, asked if there had been any changes in my prescription, to which I replied that all was well and I could see just fine.

She handed me my receipt, I said goodbye to her, her male colleague and the optometrist who had now joined them, turned around - and walked straight into a concrete post.

It could be a very long day.

Tuesday, 24 March 2009

Not quite ready to blog off

Some nights I sit here at my desk at home, tapping out this rubbish, and wondering if it's really worth the effort.

I started my first blog last year simply as a means of raising a bit of extra cash for my London Marathon crusade. If you haven't seen the site and have nothing better to do, you can still have a peak at: http://www.runningforseb.blogspot.com/

With the Marathon run and all the money handed over to the charities, I had no intention of continuing a blog. But then, with baby-to-be's due date getting ever closer, I thought it might be fun to have an outlet to talk about what I was going through. And once Jamie was born, I thought I would keep it going for a while longer to chronicle his first few weeks as a little person.

10 months, several hundred pictures and 77,000 words later, the blog has become a well-used source of information and hopefully entertainment for friends and family. And, as it stands, I think I will try to keep it up at least until his birthday in June so I'll have a record of his first full year.

Out of curiosity, I added a hidden web counter a few months ago just to find out how many people were accessing the site and discovered that I was getting around 70 hits a week. But in recent days, after setting up a feed to Facebook, that number has risen quite a bit and, this week, I'm well on course to getting over 200 hits. Not exactly earth shattering numbers, but certainly making it worth the effort from my point of view.

Anyway, on Sunday I spent a few minutes on Google trying to find out what search terms would pick up the site (yep, I was that bored) and had bit of a surreal surprise.

By entering "barry white stuff blog coleraine" (OK, so I might as well have typed in the full site address and many people who don't know me will never have heard of Coleraine but don't spoil my moment) the following link came up: http://www.videosurf.com/barry-white-16773

And when I clicked on to it and scrolled down a bit to "Blog Activity" I found a link to my site.

Sadly, when I tried again earlier this evening, the link to here had gone.

But even if it doesn't return, it helps to know, when I do sit down here at night, that there are some people out there reading this drivel - even if I'm not fat, black or dead.

Monday, 23 March 2009


Unlike my child-like other half who hates waiting for surprises and continues to insist that she be allowed to unwrap her Christmas presents on Christmas Eve (over my crumpled remains, she will), I'm very patient when I know I have something to open.

In fact, I can get quite smug with myself as I see how long I can hold on. And then, of course, when I finally do open it, it's often sh*t. (Perhaps I'm subconsciously delaying the disappointment? Gosh, this blog lark can be very therapeutic).

I've got that smug feeling tonight as my Cockney friend and sometime writing partner Ben has just sent me draft two of our sitcom pilot script. I sent him my original draft about a month ago and asked him to sprinkle it with funny dust (nothing illegal, you understand). I plan to read it before I go to bed but I can't resist waiting just a little bit longer.

Maybe one more episode of Gavin & Stacey. Perhaps I'll iron another shirt - I only have enough to do me till Wednesday. Or should I clear out that cupboard I've been promising to excavate since we moved into this house in 2004?

And whilst I'm doing one or all of the above, I can think about Ben's redrafted script.

Will it be our shared path to fame, fortune and notoriety?

Might it get me an invite to address assembly at my old school, Coleraine Inst, and Ben the chance to appear on Celebrity Weakest Link? (not that I would suggest Ben is shallow or anything).

Could those dozen or so pages lying in my bag lead to the first of our many BAFTAs or Golden Globes?

A joint appearance on Friday Night With Jonathan Ross? Maybe when Girls Aloud are on.

I quite fancy a knighthood although Ben, being something of an anarchist, might turn his down (I'd better have a word with him).

Or, like so many surprises down the years, will it just be sh*t?

Knowing Ben, I'm sure the latter won't be the case - but, like me, you'll have to wait to find out.

Sunday, 22 March 2009

Happy Mummy's Day

Today is Jamie's first Mother's Day and also Vanessa's first as a mother (as far as I'm aware).

And the little lad didn't disappoint. Sometimes I wonder how he manages to stretch his pocket money as far as he does - particularly as he doesn't actually get any.

He gave Mummy a new pair of pink slippers with "Mum" on them, together with some "I Love Mum" chocolates - very appropriate gifts in the circumstances - and a Bart Simpson card.

Sadly, he seems to have inherited his father's inability to wrap presents properly but none of us are perfect.

Daddy himself wasn't exactly feeling tip top this morning after a night celebrating the Ireland rugby team's dramatic Grand Slam victory over Wales yesterday.

Mummy said she'd never seen Daddy as nervous as he was before and during that game. But there again, Mummy didn't see Daddy on the morning of their wedding.

PS Daddy would like to say Happy Mother's Day to his mummy too and to assure her that he did send her a card on Friday. Honest.

Saturday, 21 March 2009

PC Plum likes it up the...nursery

I had no idea kids TV had become so creepy.

Jamie decided to stir around 6.15am again today and, after three quarters of an hour trying to get him back down, Vanessa mentioned that Teletubbies was on Cbeebies at 7am on weekends. This I could cope with.

I was working in Westminster when Teletubbies first hit our screens back in 1997 and I'm not ashamed to admit that, at one stage, it formed part of my daily routine. I had a telly in my office and, unless something more exciting was happening at 10am, on went BBC2. As a result, there's not a thing I don't know about Tubby Toast or Tubby Custard. Perhaps it's best we leave it at that.

Anyway, after Teletubbies finished (in case you missed the end, it was Po who spilt the Tubby Custard), the Cbeebies presenters came on our screen including a woman with only one hand - apparently the parents have been complaining.

And then it was time for Balamory - have you seen this? It centres on a Scottish nursery attended by a gathering of children from politically correct heaven and staffed by a woman with silly hair, enormous teeth and a thick Highlands accent. The latter started me off on the wrong foot - I mean, how am I going to make Jamie speak with a Norn Iron lilt if he keeps being exposed to all these other silly brogues? I'm already fed up telling Yorkshire folk to shush every time they come anywhere near him.

So, off goes silly woman with her indecipherable smiley ramblings before the door knocks and on the other side is PC Plum. If you've seen Balamory, I need say no more. But if you haven't, well, where does one begin?

Let me put it this way, I think he probably gets more out of putting on his uniform than any other part of his policeman day. Unless he has a shower back at the station. Camp as a row of fat tents. Wearing scarves. Knitted by their mums. Hopefully you've got it.

Right, so in minces PC Plum to announce plans for his new campaign - making Balamory hunkydory (with the emphasis on hunk, from his point of view). To cut a very long story short, he delighted in giving some man a finger-wagging telling off for being messy, then someone apparently nicked his bike (yea!), then it turned up (boo!) with flowers in its carrier basket (bleugh!) Then the big toothed nursery woman came back on the scene, blurted out some rubbish in Scottish before the PC parents arrived to take their shiny sprogs home.

I'm really not convinced this sort of thing is good for my development, never mind Jamie's. But, at 7.30am tomorrow, I might just check once again.

Between now and then, it's Wales v Ireland with Ireland going for the Grand Slam. The Guinness and the toilet rolls are in and everything is crossed.

Friday, 20 March 2009

Get On Your Boots - we're off to see U2!

Aw, I'm dead excited.

I heard on Monday night that U2 were due to play Sheffield on their world tour this summer and I've been fretting about getting tickets all week - they went on sale today.

And thankfully, at precisely 9.03 this morning, I had two in my possession (metaphorically, you understand). Jamie's mad keen to go but I think it's only right I take Vanessa. So long as she's good.

I have seen U2 twice before, in 1987 and 1997, both times in Belfast. And they were very good. But this time I think they're going to be excellent.

If you haven't seen the pre-publicity about the whole thing, it's called the U2 360 tour because they're performing on a monster stage you can see right round - Mrs W and I will actually be sitting "behind" it and have still been promised an excellent view.

As an added bonus, they're due to be supported by Elbow which is quite exciting for approaching middle-age types such as us.

So, should be good night for us and the 59,998 other lucky souls and certainly something to look forward to.

It's just a shame that Bono's such a ****.

Thursday, 19 March 2009

Life for shy Josef

I see that incestuous, hostage-taking, raping, child-killing Austrian Josef Fritzl - who kept his daughter in a cellar for 24 years and fathered her seven children - has been sent down for life after being found guilty on all charges.

Perhaps, with all that extra time on his hands, he'll now get round to finishing that book he's been so keen to read all week.

And whilst I'm on the subject, if I were him, I would hold it a little further away from my face.

After all, surely he doesn't want short-sightedness to be added to his list of problems.

Wednesday, 18 March 2009

Like father, like son

Something bad has happened, something that mirrors a scarily similar incident of many years ago.

Despite his array of cold-related ailments, Jamie has come on more in the last few days than at any stage since he was born. He's developing a series of new expressions, new sounds and new habits - one of which is of pulling your (well, my) hair. And his accelerated physical advancement has meant that, when he gets a hold, he's very hard to prise off.

The Whites went to Grandad Geoff's for tea tonight, together with Auntie Hannah, Cousin Oliver (above right) and Uncle Dave (boo!) It was a very pleasant evening but there was one incident that will unfortunately live long in the memory.

The grown-ups were in one room having a drink and watching Oliver and Jamie next door through a window. In the Night Garden was on the TV, making the junior guests more than happy as they sat side-by-side on the living room rug. And then it happened.

Jamie reached across, grabbed two handfuls of Cousin Oliver's hair and refused to let go. Mortified, I ran into the room and, after a few seconds, managed to disconnect him - leaving Oliver in hysterics and with two tufts of hair sticking up like Brian the Snail's feelers in The Magic Roundabout.

Immediately I thought of the incident - which my parents steadfastly refuse to let me forget- when I was very young and did exactly the same thing to a little girl by the name of McIntyre who was visiting us with her parents. (In my defence, she was sharing my playpen, I hadn't invited her in so she had it coming).

I feel bad every time I hear the tale (sort of - as I say, she wasn't my responsibility and they were my toys) and I'm feeling bad again tonight, both for her and for Cousin Oliver.

How many more of my less than endearing habits will our little boy inherit or how many regrettable incidents from my past will he attempt to recreate?

Time will inevitably tell.

Tuesday, 17 March 2009

Jamie and Paddy

I'm sitting at my desk at home, sandwich in hand, a morning of toil behind me and about to head to Bradford City Hall to complete my day's work. But I'm very tired.

Jamie's coughing, sneezing and, more particularly, wheezing was much worse last night. So much so that we had to whip him across for a short notice appointment with the doctor a couple of hours ago just to check everything is alright. Thankfully it is - other then the coughing, sneezing and wheezing.

According to the GP, he may have something called bronciolitis (work it out) but probably not. However, for the next week at least, my boy and I are going to continue to fall out as I try to get him to take his inhaler.

He absolutely hates it and, as such, the only way I can get him to breathe in the fumes is to put him in a headlock. Reassuringly, the doctor says I'm doing the right thing (in theory, not necessarily in practice as he hasn't yet seen my technique).

The result of last night's little bits of theatre was that Vanessa and I only got between four and five hours sleep - hardly ideal preparation to celebrate all things Paddy. But, you know, we're nothing if not troopers so we'll still give it a go later on.

Following Jamie's and my final grapple of the day at around 7pm which will hopefully send him off to sleep, it'll be Guinness (to be sure), mussels, Gaelic steaks (i.e. steak covered with Bushmills whiskey - pretty subtle, eh?) and chocolate things with Bailey's in them. Oh, and that special episode of The Simpsons I mentioned last night.

Alternatively, Jamie might decide not to sleep and we'll have to improvise.

We got him his own a special hat - just in case.

Monday, 16 March 2009

A special cross on the calendar

Tomorrow is St Patrick's Day.

One of the great peculiarities of this date in my experience is that it tends to be a bigger deal anywhere you are but Ireland - or certainly the parts where I lived.

Clearly there are very obvious exceptions to this rule, with big parades in Dublin, Downpatrick and other parts of the island. But, to illustrate my point, where do all the major Irish politicians - including the Taoiseach himself - go to celebrate their patron saint's big day? Yes, they hop on a flight to Washington DC and spend it at the White House. (The Independent newspaper once gave me a cheque for £50 when I pointed that out, not that I thought it was much of a secret).

Although a national holiday in the Republic of Ireland, 17th March is a normal working day for most people north of the border. Indeed, as I was growing up, it tended to be notable only for the fact that the Ulster Schools' Cup Final in rugby was held on that date and Frank Carson was generally on the telly.

But, on this side of the water as in so many other parts of the world, loads of people will be wearing green, drinking Guinness and pretending to be Michael Flatley.

Whilst Vanessa and I aren't planning to go out, we will be marking the occasion with some Irish food and drink and watching Homer Simpson visit the Giant's Causeway (seriously, Sky 1 at 7.30pm - don't miss it).

After all, it would be a shame if we didn't diddly-aye-do something.

Sunday, 15 March 2009

Back with a bump (on my head)

It was a poor game but an excellent weekend.

If you don't know, Ireland beat Scotland 22-15 at Murrayfield yesterday. But, of course, the match itself is only a small part of a traditional rugby weekend. The rest revolves around food, good company and too much alcohol.

As the picture above shows, there were five in our little group - Sean and Melanie Fitzpatrick, Wee John and Wee John's South African mate Terence who sorted out the tickets. Terence has lived in Edinburgh for a few years now and picked up a very thick Scottish brogue along the way, hence the nickname of "Jock McTavish" which I assigned to him for yesterday. All in good heart, mind.

John and I arrived on Friday for a night out before getting back to our B&B before the clock struck 12 - very civil, I'm sure you'll agree.

Then, yesterday, we were joined in a bar by Terence plus John's and my old school friend Colin to watch Liverpool stuff Manchester United (which was great because I hate United, John loves them and is also a bad loser) before Colin left and the rest of us hooked up with Sean and Melanie at the ground.

And, after the game, we were joined by another old school mate Rory and a pal of his for a curry before heading into the city for nightcaps - after I had walked into a lamp post, that is. I must stress that I wasn't drunk (not really) but coordination has never been my strength and these things happen. To me.

This morning, it was up and away.

It's only the second time since Jamie was born that I've been away for a night never mind two and it was rather odd. But it was obviously great to see him and his mummy when I got back, particularly as he seemed to like his present.

Thursday, 12 March 2009

Heading north for the battle

I'm almost packed - not that there was much to pack - and ready to make the 200-mile trip up to Edinburgh tomorrow for Scotland v Ireland in the Six Nations rugby.

It'll be the fourth time I've been to Murrayfield for this fixture and a lot has changed in my life since the first expedition back in 1991.

I had a very bad parting in those days, for example. And a rather shocking brown anorak. I was also a student so had no responsibilities but also no money in my pocket.

18 years on and whilst the overdraft is (just about) cleared, the responsibility account is now overflowing - not that I'm complaining about that. And, whilst I'll obviously miss Vanessa and Jamie between tomorrow morning and Sunday when I return, I suppose I'll just have to make the best of it (heh! heh!)

My tiny mate John and I have booked a twin room in a £35-per-night guest house in central Edinburgh called (get this) The Tankard and are due to rendezvous around teatime.

Some food and drink is then planned - sure we might as well - before, on Saturday, we meet up with friends including the infamous Sean and Melanie Fitzpatrick for the game and (guess what) some more food and drink. It all sounds very civilised but be assured it will be anything but. Marvellous.

An Irish victory on Saturday will leave the boys in green just one win over the Welshies away from a Grand Slam which, should it happen, might be worth a little celebration. But let's not tempt fate.

Have a nice couple of days, whatever you're doing, and I'll report back on Sunday - together with photographic illustrations.

PS My prediction - Scotland 9 Ireland 26

PPS I've just tempted fate, haven't I?

PPS What do you call a Scottish woman with one leg? Eileen.

Wednesday, 11 March 2009

Little puff

Our Jamie has had it hard, to be fair.

I'm sitting here, tapping out rubbish, and just a few feet away the little man is coughing away in his sleep.

Yet again, he has a heavy cold - no more, no less. But it's about his tenth cold in eight and a bit months and it's not exactly fun for him.

Vanessa took him to see his crap GP again yesterday who sent him home with an inhaler. There is genuinely no indication that he will develop asthma -apparently you can't really tell until they're two in any case - but she hasn't a clue what she's doing so she thought she'd prescribe it anyway.

I am biased against her based on personal experience: twice I've been to see her myself, twice I've suggested what I thought was wrong - aside from the obvious - and twice she's joylessly written out a prescription without as much as looking up never mind check me out. Exactly the same thing happened the one time I took Jamie to see her, although Jamie was too shy to describe his symptoms and asked me to do it for him. OK, I made that last bit up.

We keep being told - not by the crap GP who's not arsed but by others - that everything should stabilise once his teeth start to come through but, the way things are going, I reckon he'll never have teeth and will always have a mouth like Metal Mickey.

Here's hoping I'm wrong.

Tuesday, 10 March 2009

The strong will prevail

It's been another very difficult 24 hours for the people of Northern Ireland and for individuals like me who care very deeply about what happens there.

This time last night, pretty much to the minute, Constable Stephen Carroll (pictured) was murdered by dissident republican terrorists in Craigavon, Co Armagh. His death came two days after the equally barbarous killings of two British soldiers at an Army base in Antrim.

Almost 11 years ago, the Good Friday Agreement was assented to at Stormont in Belfast. I was in the building that day, as part of the Ulster Unionist delegation, to witness something most people never thought would happen - a deal being reached between Unionists, Loyalists, nationalists and republicans on a new way forward for the troubled Province.

The following years often proved very difficult for the so-called "peace process" and more people died along the way including 29 in the Omagh bombing of August 1998. But, since that year, no police officers or soldiers were killed in Northern Ireland - until the three murders of recent days.

The next few weeks and possibly months are likely to be trying and other attempted dissident terrorist attacks are certain.

However, be in no doubt. The resolve of the people of Northern Ireland and - somewhat contrary to previous form - its politicians, will ensure that the current difficulties are overcome and the evil men currently creating such fear and sorrow in the community are captured or killed.

Needless to say it is hoped that this end is reached sooner rather than later.

Monday, 9 March 2009

Sleeping problems

We appear to have spawned an insomniac.

Jamie's sleeping patterns have always erratic but at least he's slept - until the last few days that is. He simply isn't sleeping anything like as much as he should be at the moment and it's becoming quite a problem.

Last night, for example, whilst he went down OK shortly after 7.30pm, he was wide awake again by midnight and didn't get properly back to sleep until well about 5.20am.

He's had a heavy cold, his breathing's not great and his nose is often bunged up. But he's been like this before and still managed to get his head down.

He is lined up to see the doctor tomorrow afternoon but, with another night ahead, it seems like a long while away.

At times like this, you obviously have to look on the bright side because things could obviously be worse. For example, one of us could be Ashley Cole.

On an entirely different subject, I don't know if you're a fan of Gavin & Stacey and I also don't know if you saw James Corden (who plays Smithy in that series) on Friday Night With Jonathan Ross. I think Mr Corden is currently the best thing on telly at the moment and he was on to promote his new sketch show, Horne & Corden, which is due to air for the first time on BBC Three tomorrow evening (the "Horne" is Mat Horne who plays Gavin in you know what).

Jonathan Ross showed a preview clip and it made me laugh a lot when I watched last night. It's not exactly high brow humour but, for me, it's very, very funny - have a look: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6IFOz-lOu3c

Sunday, 8 March 2009

Lunch on the go

On a much lighter note, you'll probably remember that famous Jim'll Fix It clip of the boy scouts attempting to eat their lunch whilst riding a rollercoaster. If not, you can see it here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5wwPeSDCCAs

Jamie and I had a somewhat similar experience earlier today as we were driven by Vanessa for a nice Sunday lunch with our friends Emily, Mark, Kirsty and Tom in Knaresborough, North Yorkshire.

We had hosted the previous get together before Christmas - although sadly Mark was abroad with work - and today it was the turn of Emily and Mark.

Jamie's sleeping was all over the place this morning so he didn't have his lunch in him by the time we had to leave to travel up. So Vanessa had this bright idea that I got in the back of the car and fed him on the way. It was a bit of a disaster.

To cut a long story short, I had real trouble getting the food into his mouth as every time I tried to shove a spoonful in, a big corner seemed to appear in the road and I either missed his head entirely or splattered the food all over his face.

His lunch was in two courses - a mixed vegetable, well, "mush" was the main, followed by mashed banana. What I did manage to get into his mouth from the first course was quickly thrown back up. And by the time it came to his dessert, I was feeling car sick and Jamie had pretty much given the whole exercise up as a bad job and decided he wasn't playing any more. Let's just say I don't think I'll try the old "lunch-in-the-back-of-a-moving-car" trick again.

We left Emily and Mark's around 5.30pm as Jamie was tired and - unsurprisingly - rather hungry. However, we didn't depart before giving Tom a bit of practice at holding our boy.

He and Kirsty are due to become parents for the first time in July and, if the level of enthusiasm Tom is displaying in this picture is anything to go by, I reckon the two of them will do a wonderful job.

A dark day

Last night's murders of two soldiers near Antrim in Northern Ireland were a stomach-churning reminder of the past.

Once again, the Province's name is in the news for the worst of reasons and two families have been bereaved because of the actions of gangsters unwilling to accept that their time has gone.

Clearly, one has to hope that this incident is a one-off although, sadly, this is unlikely.

We've already had statements of condemnation from most of the principal political figures and organsiations in the United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland. But, as I write this, we are yet to hear from Sinn Fein.

Northern Ireland watchers will know that, earlier in the week, Martin McGuinness described the re-arrival of Army special forces in the Province as "a major threat." This despite the fact that these individuals had been requested by Northern Ireland Chief Constable Sir Hugh Orde specifically to take on those dissident republicans almost certainly behind last night's attack.

I would be very surprised if, over the course of the day, Sinn Fein does not issue some form of condemnatory statement but I hope it is unqualified and I hope it is clear.

Whilst political differences will always remain in Northern Ireland - as they do in every other democratic country on the planet - it is vital for all players to accept the rule of law in all circumstances.

That includes Sinn Fein.

Saturday, 7 March 2009

What Shall We Do With A Drunken Mummy?

You're no doubt familiar with the song, What Shall We Do With A Drunken Sailor? in which verse after verse suggests different ways of sobering up or making fun of the poor seaman who has imbibed just that little bit too much.

Jamie and I had a very similar problem early this morning when Mummy arrived home steaming from Auntie Vicky's birthday bash.

To be fair, Jamie didn't actually see her until about 8 o'clock this morning but he was very much involved in the decision-making process throughout the night. Or, to put it another way, he didn't speak up against the approach I adopted.

With Jamie tucked up in bed and with Daddy making a late night cup of tea, the door bell rang and standing on the other side was a Mummy who had clearly had a very tiring evening. So much so that her legs were now unable to move. Or her arms. Or neck.

I've had a recurrence of back trouble in recent months, directly as a result of carrying Jamie around. But late last night it was a case of needs must - so I gave Mummy a fireman's (or should that be firefighter's?) lift all the way up to bed. (This was the only point over the next few hours when I was glad she hadn't had anything at all to eat at Auntie Vicky's do, thereby making her slightly less heavy than might otherwise have been the case).

There was no way I was going to get her contact lenses out so I settled for taking off her boots and leaving her to sleep on top of the bed. 20 minutes later I climbed in under the duvet beside her. 20 minutes after that, Mummy was sick on Daddy and that bit of the duvet.

Age (and fatherhood) has made me a little more responsible than previously so, rather than just give the duvet a wipe, I rolled Mummy off it, stripped off the covers and put her back on top of the bare duvet. I then slipped back underneath, turned the light off - and at this exact moment, Jamie began to yelp from the nursery.

I spent the next two hours - I kid you not - trying to get him to go back to sleep, all to no avail. I used every move I had, even resorting at one point to lying on the floor with my foot through the bars of his cot so he knew I was there.

After my 120 minutes of torment prior to surrender, I would normally have brought him into our room. But, by this stage, Mummy was sprawled right across the bed and, well, the place whiffed a bit. So Jamie and I headed into the spare room.

It took me about another half an hour to get him down - first he was excited at being somewhere different, then he made it clear that he wanted to sleep on the right side of the bed (i.e. my side) rather than the left. But it all worked out in the end and the two of us woke shortly after 7am.

Needless to say Mummy was still sleeping soundly. Indeed, unlike the poor sailor in the song, Mummy had no intention whatsoever of rising early this particular morning.

Grandma Judy and Grandad Mike are coming over this evening to babysit whilst Mummy and Daddy head off to our friend Jo's birthday disco and karaoke.

Perhaps it'll be Daddy's turn to walk the plank tomorrow morning.

Friday, 6 March 2009

Yea, me

I tend not to be a self-satisfied type of character - principally because there's generally not a lot for me to be self-satisfied about - but tonight I feel just a tiny bit smug.

It's no big deal but, for the first time ever, I managed to feed, bath and put Jamie to bed all by myself. And, 40 minutes after I put him down, he's still hasn't stirred.

Vanessa's out celebrating her friend Vicky's birthday and is likely to roll in sometime after midnight in "hearty" mood.

My new found smugness may lead me to tut at that point but I doubt it. After all, I'm about to open something cold myself and, well, there's plenty of it in...

20:02 UPDATE - Jamie's just started crying, bringing my brief flirtation with smugness to a rather abrupt end. Probably for the best.

Thursday, 5 March 2009

Suits me, doctor

Just finishing a sandwich at my desk and I'm all pleased.

I've been searching for a new grey suit for some weeks and finally found "the one" - for £59. Crucially, it's not a shit suit (to coin a phrase) but a suit with £100 off.

The only problem I identified was that it was a bit crumpled although nothing that 10 minutes with an iron wouldn't solve. Whilst paying, I decided to celebrate my success with a rather depressed looking shop assistant who told me he was pleased to see a happy customer. So I naturally asked why.

A few days earlier, explained the shop assistant, he had introduced himself to a browser with the phrase, "Can I help you, chap?" Very friendly in my book, nothing wrong with that. But not for the browser, who immediately expressed his displeasure at the tag, announced he was a doctor (don't you know) and demanded an apology - which he promptly received.

The reason why my shop assistant friend was still upset was that he'd just been shown a formal letter of complaint against him, written by said browser. What a nice doctor he must be.

Anyway, putting the icing on the cake of my pleasurable shopping experience, shop assistant man finished off my transaction by offering to steam my new suit to remove the crumples. Needless to say I was delighted to accept and now look forward to picking it up tomorrow.

What a nice "chap."

Wednesday, 4 March 2009

Grandad Geoff on the telly

Jamie had a nice treat tonight - he got to watch Grandad Geoff on the telly.

You'll probably have heard today's news that the famous Yorkshire Television studios in Leeds are to shut and many well known locally-made programmes such as Heartbeat and The Royal are to end production.

It is terrible news for Yorkshire and effectively spells the end of a once great institution.

Geoff anchored YTV's flagship teatime news programme Calendar for more than two decades - many of them alongside his great friend Richard Whiteley - and was asked to comment on today's story for BBC Look North. And, whilst very sad at what had happened, he was as professional as ever.

But, in every cloud there is invariably a silver lining and Geoff's appearance allowed his newest grandchild the chance to see the great man do his stuff for the first time.

Jamie didn't react as the show went out live. But I taped it and, after a couple of repeat showings of Grandad Geoff's bit, Jamie began to stir.

He didn't really watch the pictures to begin with and instead stood there looking very bemused at the sound of someone he clearly recognised but couldn't see.

I then managed to get his attention on to the screen itself and, after a couple more repeats, the voice and face must suddenly have matched in his little head - causing him to get quite animated. So I played the clip a few more times.

I had to scrape him off the telly in the end and, by then, he was rather excited and hopefully more than a little proud of his grandad. Quite right too.

Tuesday, 3 March 2009

You couldn't make him up

I was complaining the other day about how shallow our current crop of political leaders are.

Chief amongst them is the Prime Minister himself who, had he had the guts to call a General Election in October 2007 as originally planned, would have partly campaigned under the slogan "Not Flash, Just Gordon."

This is the same Gordon Brown who promised that spin would disappear with Tony Blair.

And the same Gordon Brown who, after it was recently revealed that Mr Blair had spent more than £1,800 of taxpayers' money on cosmetics and make-up artists between 1999 and 2005, claimed that he himself had spent nothing on make-up.

What a blow it must therefore be tonight for the Great Leader and his court to see pictures of him on the news having full make-up applied prior to getting off the plane to meet US President Barack Obama.

They say a picture says a thousand words, so I need say no more.

Monday, 2 March 2009

Bum Face

More then eight and a half months on and after several false dawns, Jamie is still without a tooth in his head. Some days I think he looks like Peter Beardsley.

There is no great cause for concern (other than the Peter Beardsley similarity) but the absence of chompers does mean that he continues to dribble like small water fountain.

To counter the effects of this, we keep a bib on him almost all the time, change it regularly and keep him as dry as we can. But, inevitably, his face is constantly wet and occasionally a bit raw. The last day has been one such occasion.

The remedy is fairly obvious (otherwise we wouldn't have thought it). We slap bum cream on the effected areas, leaving him with the appearance of an old man who has forgotten to finish his shave.

Thankfully, he seems content to put a brave bum face on things.

Sunday, 1 March 2009

A test of allegiance

Exactly two weeks from now, I expect to be shuffling my way back to Edinburgh Waverley railway station after a long night celebrating Ireland's win over Scotland in the RBS Six Nations rugby. More on that closer to the event.

Meanwhile, you may be aware that yesterday Ireland managed to scrape a one point win over the old enemy, England. Needless to say I was in front of the telly and so was my boy.

I've wrote before about how Jamie is at risk of having something of an identity crisis - certainly in sporting terms - as he gets older; whilst he was born in England, all his vital organs do in fact come from Ulster.

I know some fathers who, in this situation, would say that it should be a matter for him to decide which international sporting teams he supports. This is not a view I share.

I love the England cricket team, for example, and hopefully so will he. I wouldn't have a problem with him shouting for England at football either - I do it myself when they're not playing Norn Iron - or in pretty much all other sports. But I draw the line at rugby union.

I'm not a fan of the England rugby team. My dislike stems back to 1991 when, as an 18-year-old, I played for the North of England Colts in an exhibition game against England Colts at Fylde near Blackpool. Lawrence Dallaglio and Mark Regan, who went on to play in the senior World Cup winning side in 2003, started for England.

I had previously played for Northumberland in the Colts County Championship and, along with another friend from Northern Ireland, was selected on merit to play in the North side. We arrived in Blackpool on the Friday evening, trained all day Saturday and played on the Sunday - and I hated almost every moment of it (and not just because England won the match handsomely).

Don't get me wrong, I was treated very well. It was just the complete lack of fun about the place, the "over-confidence" of some individuals (that's the nicest way I can put it), the condescending parents and the fact that Mark and I were the only players to have a pint in the bar afterwards - everyone else had a swift lemonade and left in daddy's big car (I'm sorry, but these things matter in my warped little mind!)

"Sir" Clive Woodward's reign as England team manager hasn't helped me warm to the men in white shirts in more recent years and current boss Martin Johnson, whilst being almost as arrogant as Woodward - quite some feat - was also one of the dirtiest players I ever witnessed on an international rugby field. You are obviously entitled to disagree.

For all these reasons - none of them do to with any dislike for England as a nation, something which is very important to stress - coupled with his Ulster body parts, I want Jamie to shout for the Ireland rugby team in years to come.

And, after his reaction yesterday, I think I have a chance.

In what I regarded as a shrewd move, I put a leprechaun hat on him before kick-off to gently ease him towards supporting the men in green. His reaction to the sight of Ireland skipper Brian O'Driscoll leading his team out was therefore very encouraging. Indeed, it was little short of hero worship.

But, crucially, his response to the pictures of England captain Steve Borthwick and his men waiting for the anthems was even more telling.

If the camera really does never lie, I think my grand mission has already been achieved.