Monday, 29 June 2009

A chance to witness history - missed

I try, where possible, to record little pieces of living history on this blog so Jamie can read all about them in years to come. Tonight, I figured, was bound to be one such occasion.

It was the fourth round of the men's singles at Wimbledon. Britain's Andy Murray was playing against some Swiss bloke whose name wasn't Roger and who wasn't therefore expected to put up much resistance. The match was on Centre Court in front of 15,000 cheering Brits. It was also going out live to the nation on BBC1.

But, most importantly, the new Centre Court roof was closed for the first time and the floodlights were on.

However, as it turned out, the even bigger piece of history I was waiting for didn't happen.

No, despite winning in five sets, old "Come On" Andy Murray, still couldn't bring himself to smile. Not even once. Seriously, what a sour faced ****.

I'm off to London first thing tomorrow for some meetings in my old stomping ground of the House of Commons. And then, in the evening, I'm due to attend a very special and almost certainly very moving event.

Come back on on Wednesday and I'll tell you all about it.

Sunday, 28 June 2009

Moose Face and Big Head

A bit of a lazy day today - arguably something of a waste - as I sought to get my life back on track after the Lions' crushing loss to the Springboks yesterday. What a game but what a terrible end.

I began the process of cheering myself up shortly after I arrived home by giving Jamie his first taste of chocolate moose. Despite what the picture might suggest, he did manage to get some in his mouth and will undoubtedly welcome a further helping at some near point in the future.

I was then planning to go to Headingley this afternoon to watch Yorkshire's final game in the Twenty20 Cup - but didn't. The rumour was that Michael Vaughan would be making his farewell appearance as a player before retirement. (After his omission from England's Ashes squad, he has - quite literally - decided to take his bat home). But at lunchtime it was announced that he wouldn't be playing after all so, if he couldn't be bothered, then neither could I.

I have mixed views about Vaughan. He was certainly one of England's greatest ever captains and deserved the adulation he received four years ago when leading his team to triumph over the Aussies. However, since then, my view of him his diminished almost as quickly as his own view of himself has seemed to increase.

Perhaps I'm being unfair - and I probably am - but the sight of him sometimes makes me think of the classic put down to that corny old David Brent-style line, "there's no 'i' in team."

Namely: "Yes, but there is a 'me.'"

Anyway, happy retirement and continued money-making to "Sir" Michael (as David Cameron will surely make him - if Gordon Brown doesn't think of it first).

Saturday, 27 June 2009

Pre-match preparations


I've never been a great one for watching live sport in pubs.

My reasoning is very simple (and a bit middle-aged). If it's a game I really want to see then, by definition, I really want to see it. But, very often when I go to a pub for the occasion, I can't get a seat or a clear view of the telly and, when one team scores, I tend to get showered in beer (which is even more irritating if it's not my team who's celebrating).

However, today, I've decided to make an exception.

It's the Second Test between South Africa and the touring British and Irish Lions and, after losing last week, it's a must win game for the men in red.

Like most Lions fans, I was gutted by what happened last Saturday and have been counting the days and now the hours until 2pm when Paul O'Connell's team can hopefully put the record straight.

But given that I don't do pub sport very often, I've had to think through my own pre-match preparations. That said, I'm confident that the right decisions have been made.

My partner for the afternoon is my good friend John McIlroy, originally from Belfast but now a resident of Horsforth. John is terrific company, likes his beer and understands his rugby. And the importance of the last point cannot be overstated.

To illustrate, I remember when living in London, going along to a pub to watch Ireland play the All Blacks. With me were Vanessa and a Kiwi couple who we were very friendly with. Now, I wouldn't normally have Vanessa with me on such occasions - not that she would normally wish to come. But my calculation was that she could speak to female Kiwi about EastEnders and blouses whilst I could talk to male Kiwi about the game. What I didn't realise until just before the first whistle was that he must've been the only New Zealand gentleman on the planet not to like rugby.

I tried to make the best of the situation but if I tell you that, with 15 minutes to go, Ireland trailing by less than a try and with a five-metre scrum on the All Black line, he turned to me and asked, "so then, how's the world of politics?" Well, he was lucky I didn't have a gun for, at the very least, I would have hit him over the head with it there and then - and possibly a lot worse. Anyway, John won't ask such questions so that's OK.

The other important choice for today was the venue but I think I've played a blinder there. We're headed to The Sports Cafe in Leeds which has a capacity of 1000, contains four bars over three floors and has more TVs and big screens than a Curry's discount warehouse.

So, I've done all I can to guarantee a successful and memorable afternoon from my end. Now all I need is the Lions to do their bit and I can begin the countdown to next Saturday and the Third and deciding Test.

Now then, where did I put my Lions shirt..?

Friday, 26 June 2009

It's the end for Jacko - as Granny flies back(o)

The picture above was taken seven years ago at the House of Commons - just seconds before I almost literally walked straight into Michael Jackson who, unless you live on the Moon or Hull, you will obviously know died yesterday.

To cut a long story short, he was touring the building with then Labour MP Paul Boateng (right), bonkers attention-seeker David Blaine (centre) and equally bonkers attention seeker Uri Geller (who I think you can see behind Boateng).

I was walking down a flight of steps to the Terrace Cafeteria to buy a coffee and couldn't decide whether I wanted either Maltesers or Minstrels to accompany it. As I studied my moving feet whilst making my decision, I was suddenly aware of someone speeding up the stairs towards me and just inches away. I immediately stopped dead in my tracks and lifted my head to apologise for not looking where I was going.

I got as far as the "sor" of "sorry" when I realised I was looking into the eyes of Michael Jackson. A split second later, he was past me with his entourage of celebs and hangers-on trotting along behind.

Clearly, news of his death is sad although I cannot help but think that this weekend's Sunday papers are likely to take a rather less rosy view of his life than the rolling news channels have been all day today.

Did he fiddle? Almost certainly and that, to my mind, cannot be forgotten despite the huge amount of talent he undoubtedly had as a performer.

Back on Planet Pudsey, Jamie's Granny White and Grandad Derek should now be close to home in Portstewart after seven days of intense spoiling of our boy - bless them. They've been great company for him and I know he's really enjoyed having them around.

Last night, whilst having dinner, my Mum gave me a print out of a poem entitled, "Children Learn What They Live." It was written in the 1950s, has since been translated into 35 different languages and contains plenty for parents to think about. Ironically, and, judging by much of what I've heard about Michael Jackson's childhood over the past few hours, perhaps there's even more truth in there than I realised when I read it for the first time last night - before news of his death was announced. Make your own mind up:

“If a child lives with criticism, he learns to condemn…
“If a child lives with hostility, he learns to fight…
“If a child lives with fear, he learns to be apprehensive…
“If a child lives with pity, he learns to feel sorry for himself…
“If a child lives with ridicule, he learns to be shy…
“If a child lives with jealousy, he learns to feel guilt.
“But…
"If a child lives with tolerance, he learns to be patient…
“If a child lives with encouragement, he learns to be confident…
“If a child lives with praise, he learns to be appreciative…
“If a child lives with acceptance, he learns to love…
“If a child lives with honesty, he learns what truth is…
“If a child lives with fairness, he learns justice…
“If a child lives with security, he learns to have faith in himself and those about him…
“If a child lives with friendliness, he learns the world is a nice place in which to live.
“With what is your child living?”

Thanks Mum - and see you in August.

Thursday, 25 June 2009

A Major honour to be there

I went along to the annual 364 Club lunch today - my fourth - and it was fantastic.

To explain, it was, as ever, held at Headingley Cricket Ground and the purpose was to celebrate the life of former Yorkshire and England batsman Sir Len Hutton, and also just to talk cricket.

Seated on my left was Freddie Trueman's former Yorkshire opening bowling partner Mike Cowan. And on my right was Steve Green, the recently retired Chief Constable of Nottinghamshire Police. They were great company and each one of their stories was considerably better than all of mine put together. Obviously.

Most notably, the guest of honour was former Prime Minister, cricket nut and all round good guy Sir John Major.

I was privileged to have met him a couple of times when I worked in Westminster and found him charming then - as most people who have ever encountered him would confirm.

Today, he was typically self-effacing but also very, very funny.

I've just got time to relay one quick anecdote from his speech before I make tea.

As Prime Minister, he was walking through the Kremlin with former Russian President Boris Yeltzen with whom he became very good friends during their collective time in office.

"Boris, can you sum up the current state of Russia in just one word?" asked Major.

"Good," replied Yeltzen swiftly, but not entirely convincingly. And Major was certainly not convinced, having been pre-briefed by British officials that Russia was, in his words, "falling apart."

"OK, Boris," Major continued, "can you sum up the state of Russia in two words?"

Yeltzen paused and thought for a moment before uttering his classic response.

"Not good."

Magnificent.

Wednesday, 24 June 2009

IN PICTURES (and a wee bit of video): Jamie's 1st Birthday

video

The video of Jamie’s birthday cake being carried out for him to “blow out” the candles (in truth, he’s not much of a blower as yet) can be accessed by clicking on to the play button above. But enjoy the sight of the beautiful cake while it lasts because, a few seconds after the filming stopped, Jamie reached out and slapped the tray out of his mummy’s hands and on to the ground - leaving this as the result.

Still, most of it remained edible and Jamie even had some too...

...before returning to centre stage.

Everyone else seemed to have fun. (OK, almost everyone else).

Godmother Vicky was one person Jamie was particularly delighted to see.

Auntie Fran hasn’t had an audience with him for a while but he was very pleased with his present from her and Uncle Matt, who arrived a little bit later.

Another notable guest was Uncle Malcolm - also known as increasingly renowned blogger billatbingley. (He has already captured the mood of the event on his own site and I would encourage you to have a look by clicking on to: http://billatbingley.blogspot.com/2009/06/bit-more-about-teeth-and-very-special.html).

You can see him below taking a picture of me taking a picture of him (if you follow).

As the youngest and oldest members of the gathering began to scatter, I treated some of our remaining friends to a demonstration of Elmo Live (not in any way confirming that the present was really for me, absolutely not, nope).

Finally, everyone departed into the darkening night and thoughts began to turn to Jamie’s second year - although Kirsty could be forgiven for keeping her focus on her own planned arrival next month.

Good luck to her and husband Tom with that.

And thanks to everyone for being so kind to our little boy on his big day.

Tuesday, 23 June 2009

Happy 1st Birthday to him!

Yes, the moment has arrived - Jamie is one year old today (or will be at 8.49pm).

So far he's had an Elmo Live from Mummy and Daddy (and, yes, it is for him and not me - despite what Mummy says).

Meanwhile Granny White and Grandad Derek bought him a pop up tunnel and tents to play in and, as an added extra from Grandad Derek, he received his first Ulster rugby shirt. Daddy's very pleased about this too.

There's a huge pile of presents and cards from other kind people downstairs for him still to open and a load of guests about to arrive for his big birthday party and barbecue.

There are a few last minute things to do before the masses land but I'm pretty sure much fun is about to be had. Needless to say, I'll tell you all tomorrow.

Happy Birthday son.

Monday, 22 June 2009

A lot can happen in a year


Do you know what you were doing at exactly this time last year? I do, but then it's a little bit easier for me.

It was a Sunday and I'd been to see Yorkshire play cricket at Headingley with a few friends. I'd then come home and, after a bit of fretting, had ordered Vanessa and I some pizza. And at this precise time, I was clearing up our pizza boxes in preparation for bed.

Moving on a few minutes, we were upstairs watching the American version of The Office when Vanessa suddenly felt a series of shudders in her tummy. But, after phoning the maternity ward of the Leeds General Infirmary, was assured that her full term baby was merely having a bout of the hiccups.

Daddy-to-be was most relieved, if truth be told. He wasn't really ready, his bag wasn't packed and, according to his terrified little mind, most first time mothers had their babies about two weeks after the due date anyway. He needed to be mentally prepared and there would be plenty of time for that. Of course there would.

About ten minutes went past. The TV was switched off. Vanessa removed her glasses, laid her head on the pillow and closed her eyes. Daddy-to-be read his book for another quarter of an hour or so and did exactly the same, before turning off the light.

And, upon a count of around a hundred, Vanessa's waters broke. It was time to for daddy-to-be to pack his bag. It was time to be brave. It was time to get ready to be very, very proud. It was time to meet our child.

Tomorrow is Jamie's first birthday. You could say we're rather looking forward to it.

Sunday, 21 June 2009

Reasons to be cheerful

Despite my optimism of just a couple days ago, sadly,the best laid plans don't always work out.

Last night was great. A typically terrific meal at East on Richardshaw Lane, Pudsey and then off to Joseph And His Lovely Big Coat which was very impressive (particularly the blonde-haired co-star - who could sing too). The picture above was taken outside the theatre.

But the highlight of today was supposed to be "Family Day" at Pontefract races.

My mum, Derek, Vanessa, Jamie and I headed off at 12.30 on the dot for the 29 minute journey (according to the AA) to the course. We got to Junction 32 of the M62 (the one for Pontefract races, coincidentally enough) within 25 minutes and had just two miles left to go. We were well on track. One hour later, we had moved precisely 400 metres more. And five minutes later, we were on our way back to Leeds - giving it up as a bad job.

We did the right thing, but it wasn't how things were meant to be. Jamie was very good and didn't complain once. But I was particularly disappointed for Derek who likes the horses and doesn't get to see them very often. He didn't complain once either but I was gutted for him.

The spare time gave me the opportunity to cause damage, and I didn't waste it. Indeed, what happened next is destined to stay with me for life. The picture on the right is what remains of our cherry blossom tree which I decided to "prune" (and I don't mind if you laugh, which is just as well).

I really am the most handless, clueless, impractical and - very often - useless human creation this side of Christendom. And, this afternoon, I proved it once again by killing our tree.

I mentioned a week or two ago that we'd had our lleyandii (I didn't know they were called that then, but I've since asked) cut back in order to 1. pacify our neighbours and 2. get more sun in our garden. However, upon further examination, we decided our cherry tree was also apparently blocking the sun out and needed to be "pruned."

Having a few spare minutes on my hands today, I decided to to do just that as a surprise for Vanessa. And, boy, did she get a surprise. What we're left with is a stump.

She's been very good about it. But I feel awful, I feel sad that I've destroyed someone else's good deed of many years hence and, what's worse, I feel a fool. And, to compound matters, when we came home from a quick trip to the pub after teatime, there was no more sun in our garden than there was before I became a tree vandal. (As I say, laughter is permitted).

It's at a time like this when you can get a little depressed. Or, you can take an alternative view and think about the positives.

And today, there was one very obvious and gleaming positive: today was my first Father's Day in my new role. I think Vanessa might've had a hand, but Jamie got me a lovely card, a "Top Dad" mug and a "Me and my Daddy" lift-the-flap fun book. And not only all of that.

He also made me card at nursery - featuring his own hand prints - and gave me a special biscuit wrapped up in plastic.

Today has been a day for perspective and, once again, my little boy has provided it.

Saturday, 20 June 2009

Gutted

Jamie spent this afternoon with Mike, Derek and me, watching the Lions come so close to beating South Africa in the First Test - yet losing.

I'm absolutely devastated, although Jamie seemed to pick up once his grannies arrived.

Earlier, his Granny White, Derek and I took him to Bradford for the annual Lord Mayor's Parade - but missed it (Jamie slept in, these things happen).

But he did get to sail in a boat with Iggle Piggle.

Something else happened to him as well - something bizarre, surreal and mildly disturbing - but I'll tell you about that another time.

As for now, it's a quick change out of my Lions replica shirt, an early bird curry with all current house occupants (including Jamie who may be restricted to bread sticks) and then off to Joseph and His Lovely Big Coat (or something like that) at the Grand Theatre in Leeds.

Still gutted about the rugby, though. Some more Guinness might help soothe the still searing pain.

Friday, 19 June 2009

The badgers are in the cage

Yes folks, my mother and Derek are safely in our house after landing - equally safely - on the tarmac at Leeds Bradford Airport.

A fun week is planned for them both and sometimes the best laid plans do indeed come together.

One slight fly in the Friday teatime ointment is that R Jamie is teething like he's never teethed before. He's putting a brave face on it but, sadly, he's not flashing his four incumbent gnashers as much as one has come to expect.

Hopefully a potent cocktail of baby drugs, to be administered very shortly, followed by a good night's sleep and the Bradford Lord Mayor's Show in the morning will set him back on track.

And failing that, a convincing win for the British & Irish Lions over the Springboks tomorrow afternoon is bound to do the trick. That would certainly raise my spirits and I'm sure my happiness is equally important to White Jnr as his own.

What?!

Thursday, 18 June 2009

Charge of the Council brigade

So then, have you had your fill of my hole or do you want some more? (Please don't answer that).

Quickly, this afternoon we finally had some stirring from the Leader's Office in Leeds Civic Hall. Well, to be fair, it was much more than that.

Cllr Carter - after an admittedly blunt e-mail from me this morning - responded to say he had actually visited the scene of the recurring crime last night, describing it as "a shambles." Top marks to him, I told you he was a fine man.

More importantly, he has ordered all manner of immediate site visits and inspections which, obviously, I'm very grateful for - as are our neighbours who I went to see tonight.

But be very clear about this - I want blood over the events of the last few days and I won't rest until it's spilt (metaphorically, of course).

Moving on, the next big item on the White house agenda is tomorrow teatime when my mum and her partner Derek arrive for a week (that's right - I said a week).

We have plenty planned for them, including lots of opportunities to babysit - they will be pleased.

But before they touch down and their vast programme of entertainment is rolled out, I've got some even more exciting news.

I've just found a Fry's Chocolate Cream in the fridge and, as soon as I know Vanessa's asleep, I'm going to scoff it in bed with a cup of tea and Question Time on the telly. Does life get any better? I would think so, yes.

Wednesday, 17 June 2009

Bits and passes

I genuinely do hate to go on about this, but the scene above is what greeted me when I headed out the front door this morning. The building on the left is our house.

I had a word with one of the two new cowboys who turned with this particularly unsubtle piece of machinery.

"Do you have the right permissions to be doing this?" asked me.

"I would imagine so," replied he, not entirely convincingly.

"And when do you expect to finish the job?" (Me again).

"Don't know, mate." (Him) "Maybe today, maybe tomorrow."

Well, I mean, what's the point in being precise when you've got the run of the place? Needless to say it wasn't today, so yet another tale of the unexpected will now unfold outside our house from daybreak.

I have passed news on the latest developments together with a demand for action to Cllr Andrew Carter who hasn't yet come back to me. He's either on the case or, well, let's just hope he is.

The big thing I mentioned in my last blog that I was doing today was my driving theory test (you almost got there Malcolm) which I'm pleased to say I passed. For the third time. So, once again, I am able to proudly proclaim that I CAN drive (in theory). Indeed, this pass is particularly ironic given that I've failed my practical test the same number of times.

To explain, the theory certificate is only valid for two years and I kind of lost momentum, heart, call it what you will at various stages after passes one and two, hence the need to do it again. But, with Jamie now amongst us, I have decided to really stick at it now and finish the job.

I'd be an awful dad if I couldn't take him to football, or rugby, or the cinema or whatever in the car and had to depend on either public transport or someone else on each and every occasion. So I'm going to do it - mark my words - and I'm going to do it for my boy! (Eventually. 10th time lucky?)

And finally, talking of his nibs, I'm told he had fun at today's teddy bears' picnic - he was certainly looking forward to it beforehand.

One surprise piece of news was that he didn't finish his teddy bear biscuit. But the chicken roast dinner complete with Yorkshire pudding, sandwiches, Weetabix, tomatoes, cucumber, yogurt and milk might have had something to do with that.

Sadly the bad weather meant that the event had to be held indoors, but hopefully there will be other opportunities at other times in our promised barbecue summer for him to dine alfresco.

As well as completing a teddy bear painting (which is currently being mounted back at the nursery), Jamie also had his first try at baking. I'm not sure what he was tasked with rustling up, but I'm informed the biggest challenge was keeping the wooden spoon out of his mouth. It just doesn't sound like him at all.

Tuesday, 16 June 2009

Cowboygate: Day 3

Yes folks, the story rumbles on.

The scene above is, believe it or not, the pavement outside our house. In fact, the wall you're looking at IS our house.

I came home last night to find a half-arsed repair job on the road and a hole - albeit small - still in the pavement. A cable was exposed so I presumed the job would be quickly finished this morning.

But when daylight came, some more cowboys rolled up, dug the crater you see before you and buggered off sometime around 11am. They haven't been seen since.

Clearly I'm not impressed and neither are our neighbours, who I've made a point of speaking to.

I've also been in contact with Cllr Andrew Carter, the Leader of Leeds City Council, who represents our ward. Andrew is a fine man - a man of Pudsey - who I know relatively well.

My question to him was, do these somewhat unfunny jokers have the necessary permissions to carry out this work? Having spoken to a friendly builder on the office block site across the road, it appears they may not but, hopefully with Andrew's help, we should be able to find out one way or the other.

I want blood now and I want it quick. But if I can't have blood, a nice prosecution will do just fine.

On an equally important note and after months of trying, I finally got Jamie to wave to the Wottingers during tonight's episode of In The Night Garden. This is normally the exclusive privilege of the teeny tiny Pontipines who double up as their stalkers, so I was dead proud.

It's a big day for our boy tomorrow because he's off to celebrate Paddington's birthday. His nursery is having a special teddy bears' picnic especially for the occasion and they're even having a raffle - which reminds me, I must remember to pack his pound as well as one of his many teddies.

And it's a big day for me too - but I'll wait until I hopefully come through it before I tell you why (it's a bit embarrassing, verging on humiliating).

Monday, 15 June 2009

Saturday night fun - and cowboy dung

As I was saying yesterday before those cowboys so spectacularly interrupted my train of thought, our friends Jane and Ed and their cutie children Charlie and Mimi came to stay on Saturday night and much fun seemed to be had - particularly by Jamie.

In fact, he may even have technically cheated on his new girlfriend Sally who he only got together with last week.

But then, is having a bath with another lady really cheating? It surely must be.

In The Night Garden, which all three kids are watching above, kept matters civil for a while.

But then Jamie began to eye up his prey.

And, as I say, 20 minutes later, they had taken the plunge (which I decided against photographing for reasons of taste and decency).

The food and wine then made an appearance and both mummies and both daddies seemed to enjoy the evening.
Sadly, this particular daddy probably enjoyed himself just a little too much and wasn't around to wave everyone off the following morning. (In my defence, I only had about four and a bit hours sleep the previous night...but still).

Before I head off for another day's graft, you'll no doubt be wanting an update on our hole.

Two cowboys arrived not that long ago - one shovel between them - and cowboy #1 rang our doorbell for a word. He was enquiring if our telly was broken (it's not as we have Sky as opposed to cable) but then he revealed that Maria - our neighbour on the other side i.e. not Barrington - also had her line cut yesterday. They really did do a top job.

I asked him how they managed to achieve the seemingly unachievable yesterday and he explained - after saying it wasn't him, it was someone else - that they had been set a very difficult task.

"But isn't that why you get paid?" I enquired, "the idea being that you do it right?" Sadly, that comment appeared to fly over his head and into the atmosphere somewhere where it remains.

Anyway, he and his mate have since been joined by another crack tradesman who seems to have particular responsibility for the team fags.

As I said last night, goodness knows what scene will greet me when I get back from work tonight.

Sunday, 14 June 2009

Cowboys ride into Pudsey

After a fun night last night - more on that tomorrow - not such a good day today.

Jamie's not so well again and we had to abort our trip to a long-planned lunch with friends in North Yorkshire, despite getting several miles down the road.

And then there's the "little local difficulty" we've been experiencing, courtesy of some cowboy contractors. The picture below is the overnight result of their efforts today. And it's right outside our house.

An office block has been built directly across the road and it appears to have been the job of these idiots to put the electrics in, including digging a hole in the middle of the road.

We were given no prior notice of this and the first we knew of their presence was early this morning when a man from the gas emergency team knocked on our door to report that the contractors had cut through the gas mains. But that was only the beginning.

Shortly afterwards, they cut through the Virgin Media cable, depriving our nice neighbour Barrington of his subscription telly. However, they left the best until last.

For their party piece, they sliced through the mains water supply, spilling goodness knows how many thousands of gallons down the road before the emergency water people arrived to join their gas colleagues in dealing with what was now a fairly major crisis.

Both the water and gas have since been restored but Jamie didn't get his bath. In short, it's not been a day any of us will want to remember.

Our cowboy friends will be back outside first thing tomorrow to try again. I hope our street is still here when I get back from work.

Saturday, 13 June 2009

Here you go...

It's hard to believe that Dagenham Dave's packet produced this gorgeous little boy - or Oliver for that matter. But apparently it's true.

Ladies and gentlemen, meet Alexander George Gates who, I can now tell you, weighed in at eight pounds nine ounces when hitting the scales on Thursday afternoon.

As the picture clearly shows, all is well.

And as the one below also illustrates, Mummy is in fine fettle too.

The only downside is, once again, her husband who was something like an hour late in picking her and Baby Alexander up from hospital in Harrogate this afternoon. At the risk of repeating myself - what an idiot.

But the new addition will no doubt fit in very well - he's terrific and, again, congratulations to them all (even Dave, grudgingly).

As a footnote, seeing the little mite alongside Jamie this afternoon reminded us just how humongous Master W has become. I reckon we'll have to keep him in the cellar soon, tied to a post.

Friday, 12 June 2009

Breakfast TV

Like most non-posh people I know, I like watching telly - and lots of it.

Equally, I am fully aware that allowing your kids to fall into the same trap is not perhaps the best thing for their personal development. But there again, to quote the words of several parents I've spoken to over the last few months, "if it shuts them up." Indeed.

As I've mentioned previously, Jamie's latest phase involves him waking up at 5am pretty much on the dot. This is clearly not ideal but it's better than it was so we're not complaining.

However, it's still 5am, Vanessa and I are working and we need to get some rest somewhere along the way. So we have a small number of ways of dealing with the situation.

Normally, one of us will take Jamie into the spare room to let the other sleep, give Jamie a cuddle and a bottle and sometimes he'll go back down. And sometimes he won't.

We tend to keep trying until about 6 but, if he's not sleeping again by then, we can forget it until mid-morning.

So what to do next? If it's a weekend morning - particularly a Sunday - I generally get up and take him out for a push, get the papers and visit the swings. But if it's a school morning, both Mummy and Daddy need just a little more of a lie down - which is where the telly comes in.

I now know the CBeebies weekday schedule like the back of my hand: Tikkabilla at 6, Teletubbies at 6.30, Tweenies at 6.55 - and so on. All good stuff, other than MR F***ING TUMBLE who I HATE!!! (Sorry, he just annoys me. A LOT!)

We started off by sticking Jamie in a travel cot beside our bed from where he could gaze over to the TV and we could try to rest. But, over the last few days, sir has demanded a vast improvement in the quality of service he receives.

The picture above is the result - right in the middle of our bed, plumped up pillows, plenty of quilt and a clear view of the telly.

All he's missing is the remote control and tea and toast on a lap tray. Perhaps that instruction will come next week.

Thursday, 11 June 2009

We have become an uncle

I have great pleasure in formally announcing the birth, at 2.20pm today, of Alexander George Gates - son of Vanessa's sister Hannah and Dagenham Dave (allegedly), brother of Oliver and cousin of Jamie, Jack and Holly.

No news yet on weight, but he came out through the sun roof with lots of dark hair (unlike his "dad"). Mum is apparently "pain free" (who said drugs are bad?) and "very happy."

The picture above, taken at Friday's Take That concert, is perhaps a bit dated now given the events of a few hours ago but I hope to bring you one or two sharper and more recent images in the coming days.

Congratulations to all involved (although, clearly, I'm not convinced Dave was involved) from the Whites.

I don't know about anyone else, but Uncle Barry will certainly be having a celebratory snifter tonight.

Wednesday, 10 June 2009

Love is in the hair


I've just watched the British Lions rugby team stuff the Natal Sharks in South Africa, the Irish cricket team be stuffed by India in the Twenty20 cricket World Cup, the England football team go three up against Andorra at half-time and, after a short break to knock out this rubbish, will shortly be going back downstairs to watch the second half. Yes folks, Vanessa isn't in tonight.

She's joined a book club and this is her first meeting (no idea why, probably should've asked, might do later). Obviously I miss her very deeply. But hopefully it's on again next Wednesday - the Lions definitely have another game and I'm sure there's more cricket on too.

The big news of the day is that Jamie has fallen in love. Maybe. Almost certainly. Well, he might've done.

I went to pick him up after work from nursery and met him coming out through the baby room door to join the toddlers. He was being carried and the reason he was going across the corridor was because Sally had just been picked up by her Grandma and he was pining a bit.

Sally is actually the little "boy" with the "snowball perched on his head" I talked about last week (clearly I didn't look properly first time around and for that I apologise - I saw her again the next day and she's very pretty).

Sally and Jamie were the only two babies in the baby room today and, according to the nice lady looking after them, they spent the whole day together eating Weetabix, playing, eating raisins, playing, eating apples, playing, eating cottage pie, playing, eating bananas, playing, eating cheesy mash and then a bit more playing before Jamie came home for supper and milk. (He also had some toast before he left this morning - fat b******).

But the fact that apparently Jamie let Sally have some of his banana and cheesy mash (confirmed by the lady) showed - to quote Suggs - it must be love.

Sally also has blond hair (hence the snowball reference) and blue eyes, so children with either dark or ginger hair and dark eyes are therefore guaranteed.

I'm obviously delighted that our son has found lifelong happiness at such an early stage of his life - it just saves so much hassle (and cash).

Tuesday, 9 June 2009

Wrestlemania

My nephew and Jamie's Godfather Sebastian is, as the picture above confirms, a huge fan of American WWE wrestling.

He watches it on television at every spare moment and talks about it in incredible detail to anyone who wants to listen. Back in the glory days of World of Sport, I was almost as big a fan of British wrestling. I even went along to see Giant Haystacks beat the face off The Fighting Ulsterman (thankfully, we don't have so many of them any more) at Coleraine Leisure Centre one Saturday night in the mid-1980s.

I tell you all this because it seems Jamie is going to be a wrestling fan himself, and not simply as a spectator. Oh no. He wants to play a full part.

Changing his nappy, drying him after his bath, getting him ready for bed and dressing him in the morning are now full on battle royals with no holds barred.

Tonight he was really up for the fight although, thankfully, his performance eventually wore him out and he's now sleeping soundly.

And this morning, whilst Vanessa put his clothes on, I had the task of putting on his shoes, socks and coat and strapping him into his pram. He was vicious. In fact, the only move he didn't try was jumping off the sink for a Big Daddy splash. Just wait until he can get up there, because I know it's coming.

And when he was successfully (from my point of view) tied to his pram, he still couldn't resist issuing a challenge for a violent rematch - just like on the telly.

If he continues along this path, I might have to admit defeat and buy him a wrestling mask for his birthday.

The bell is expected to ring again at around 5am tomorrow - if not before.

Monday, 8 June 2009

Tree cheers


Here's an exciting one for you - we've had some trees chopped back in our garden (before and after pictures above). Yup, we know how to spoil ourselves.

To cut a long story short (although not as short as the trees in question), we didn't have a sunny weekend like everyone else the weekend before last because two of our trees blocked the sun out. So action had to be taken. And not being particularly gifted in the chopping trees back department (although I did lop a few twigs off the side of our hedge yesterday afternoon), we got a (very reasonable) man in.

It's all very exciting. Needless to say we're not expecting to see the sun again this side of September (when we go on holiday).

Two other quick matters. First, today I was delighted to see the Omagh families achieve successful civil prosecutions against four of the bastards who blew up their town and many of their relatives in August 1998. I met many of these very brave people when I worked at Westminster and had the privilege of attending the press conference which launched the public appeal to fund this action several years ago. Others present that day included Bob Geldof, Barry McGuigan, Peter Mandelson and David Trimble. Also there was Mariella Frostrup whose husband was one of the lead lawyers involved in the case and remains a friend of mine. I was delighted to pass on my huge congratulations to him this afternoon. It's just a shame it's taken so long for the families to achieve some small comfort.

And ending on a lighter note, earlier today, for the first time, Jamie pooed a whole sweetcorn. Congratulations to him too.