Monday, 31 August 2009

Sand in the City

As someone who grew up on the Causeway Coast in Northern Ireland, I'm used to having silver sands and the deep blue sea close at hand.

As someone growing up in Leeds which, I'm told, is the furthest of any English town or city from the coast - 70 miles either way, apparently - Jamie is not.

So when some bright spark decides to import a beach to Leeds (albeit without the sea element which is kind of understandable), it is an offer our little man was only too willing to take up.

Located at The Light shopping centre (the one with the "award winning car park" - don't ask), the organisers promised to bring, "a real taste of summer to the city by installing a beach complete with eight tonnes of real sand, beach huts, deckchairs and a funky beach bar." And they kind of delivered.

I think "eight tonnes of sand" was a bit of an over-estimation, the sole "beach hut" wasn't up to much and I saw no sign of the "beach bar."

But, you know, beggars can't be choosers and I'm glad we went.

Maybe next year they'll arrange for some decent shops to be in the centre too.

Sunday, 30 August 2009

Running against the tide

I feel old today.

I developed sciatica in my right leg about 10 months ago and can I get rid of it? Well, no, I can't - despite several visits to the physio and more stretching exercises than Mad Lizzy got through in her entire TV-am career.

The problem forced me to withdraw from this year's London Marathon but I am entitled to run next year. After that, I'll have to put my name back into the ballot with no guarantee of getting in for another five years - by which time I'll be 43 (and if you think that sounds ancient, it's because it is).

So, what to do? Retire gracefully? Not really my style. Go and seek more physio at £30 for about half an hour with no guarantee of success? I'd rather not, thank you, although it might have to happen eventually.

So I've decided to go for option three i.e. tough it out.

There's a new 10-mile race in Bradford in October which is essentially a practice event for next year's inaugural Bradford Marathon (which I'd also quite like to enter). It's only seven weeks away which should be just about enough time for me to try to get moderately fit, certainly fit enough to get around - albeit very, very slowly.

I went for a four mile run on Thursday and again yesterday and my leg is sore although, on the positive side, still attached to my body.

Jamie didn't get to witness me running the London Marathon in 2008 as Vanessa's womb was simply too thick for him to see out of. It would therefore be nice if he could be in Bradford to watch me struggle over the line on 18 October.

So, tomorrow morning, for better or for worse, the running shoes are being laced back on. Sure life would be dull if you didn't take a chance once in a while.

Saturday, 29 August 2009

Extended agony

As arguably the world's least patient man and unquestionably the planet's worst DIY man (there really can be no argument about that one), I have been putting off installing Jamie's baby safety gates for as long as I possibly could. But this afternoon I decided to bite the bullet - and got absolutely nowhere.

Kindly bequeathed to us by Jamie's Auntie Helen and Uncle Jonathan (to whom we wish a speedy recovery after illness), the two state-of-the-art Lindam gates have been sitting in our living room for months (against the wall - not on the sofa). There was obviously no great problem with this whilst our son couldn't walk. But now he can almost run, never mind shuffle, and can even make it the whole way up the stairs on his own.

So today was to be the day when I played the very unlikely role of hero by putting up his gates. However, after a solid hour of measuring, head scratching and imaginative swearing, I had to reluctantly conclude that the gates were too narrow for our staircase. Excellent.

Fortunately, after almost two hours of t'Internet research, I can happily report that all is not lost. As they are such good gates (I'm an expert now, see), I discovered that you can buy tailor-made extensions which will easily cover the 10cm breach that currently exists between them and our wall.

My order has been placed and, at some point towards the end of next week, I should be getting a call from reception at Bradford City Hall to say my purchases have arrived.

And, once home, the fun will begin once again. (Needless to say I'm already dreading that moment).

Friday, 28 August 2009

Pie and peas? Not for me

There were many things that I didn't know about Yorkshire before moving here almost exactly six years ago; some good and some very, very bad.

One of the worst was pie and peas.

As Wikipedia explains,"pie and peas is a traditional meal in the north of England, consisting of an individual raised pork pie made with hot water crust pastry and served with mushy peas and mint sauce. Pie and pea shops and stalls used to be a common feature on Northern streets and markets but these days it is more usually sold in sandwich shops and 'Chippies.' Some people prefer meat and potato or steak pies, but this is not traditional."

Ever the traditionalist, Vanessa went for the pork pie and peas option for lunch in Temple Newsam yesterday - you can see a picture of her actual dish above. And doesn't it look appetising? No, you're right, it doesn't. Not even remotely.

Indeed, it looked so bad that I almost enjoyed the second most awful burger I've ever eaten in my life (just behind a quarter-pounder I had at Ballymena Showgrounds during the Boxing Day derby some years ago, which was burnt on one side and raw on the other. My Coleraine scarf might have had something to do with this).

But there is a second reason why even the sight of pie and peas makes me queasy. Just weeks after we moved up here, Vanessa's mum Judy and stepdad Mike invited us to a "do" in Horsforth Church Hall at which both "entertainment and refreshment" would be provided. I decided I could cope with that, particularly as Vanessa promised we could leave after an hour to go to The Black Bull.

However, on turning up, I discovered (it quickly transpired that Vanessa already knew) that the "entertainment" was line dancing - with all attendees expected to participate. As the world's worst dancer, this was not good.

I briefly protested to Judy who helpfully suggested that I take my place at the back of the room where no-one could see me. A fair compromise, I thought.

All was going swimmingly for the first three bars of the first number until the bloke with the stage microphone, wearing his biggest and best cowboy hat, boomed, "Turn around!"

And everyone did, thereby leaving me at the "front" of the room. Matters were made even worse by the fact that I appeared to be the tallest person in said room by at least a foot (age makes you shrink, you see).

At was at this point that the stage fright kicked in. Filled with panic, my mind went blank, my feet went AWOL and, within no more than a minute, I had stormed off into a corner in a girlie strop.

Vanessa comforted me briefly, full smirk upon her face, before returning to the fray for the next half hour.

And then the refreshments were wheeled out: Kaliber (i.e. that "beer with all the alcohol taken out") and...yes, you've guessed it...pie and peas.

I hate pie and peas.

Thursday, 27 August 2009

A question of fact

It's a few days now since the last of my parent-type guests departed and I've had some time to reflect. And something in particular has been playing on my mind.

Our little man Jamie can't talk yet ("quack," according to the Collins English Dictionary, is a sound rather than a word) but, when he does, I would imagine there will be a barrage of questions coming my way. But will I have the right answers for him?

And it is important that I do as there are several "facts" passed on to me by my own father which, in later life, I discovered to be less than perhaps strictly accurate.

For example, I remember watching a football match in a big field once which was surrounded by other fields. And I asked my dad why they put nets on the goalposts. His answer was that they were to stop the goalkeepers from having to go and find the ball in one of the other fields if a goal was scored. I followed up with the observation that they had nets at Wembley too but he ignored that remark and shouted at the referee instead.

He also told me never to suck a lemon as it would poison me and never to look at car headlights on full beam as I would go blind. Permanently. Oh, and I wasn't allowed to go to the North West 200 motorbike races because I would probably get killed. (I have braved the latter countless times in my adult years and, as you may have noticed, have survived to write this rubbish).

However, leaving all of the above aside - for which no offence is obviously intended towards my father - he did come up with an absolute blinding new fact when he was here for the cricket a couple of weeks ago. And, having now had a moment to check it out, I can confirm he was correct (although, ironically, I really wish he wasn't).

Did you know that if you leave a piece of fresh liver on a plate in the fridge next to a glass of milk and return a few hours later, the liver will have physically moved towards the milk? (I really shouldn't be thinking or writing about this on an empty stomach).

But it gets even more gruesome. If the liver is fresh enough and you leave it long enough, it is actually possible for the liver to wrap itself around the glass (BLLEUUGHHH!!!)

According to some info I found on Yahoo (I never like to leave you with just half a story), "the liver is really a gland rather than an organ and, without its bile ducts, it craves moisture," hence its desire to wrap itself around the glass which contains the milk.

I'm not sure I'm going to bother with breakfast now. Still, it could be worse, it could be bedtime.

PS Let me know if you decide to try the experiment yourself because I'll tell you one more fact - I sure as hell won't be.

Wednesday, 26 August 2009

Talking cocks

Both Vanessa and I have taken the rest of this week off on leave and, whilst we have no plans to go anywhere special, I have been making serious plans for what to make in the kitchen.

Armed with my trusty "Three & Four Ingredient Cookbook," tonight's main course will be Teriyaki Salmon (the salmon is currently marinading in the fridge, don't you know).

And last night I had a go at Spatchcock Poussins with Herb Butter. They were a little bit dull, if truth be told. In fact, they just tasted like slightly overdone roast chicken (just because I cook doesn't mean I'm actually any good at it).

But a couple of quick points about this particular dish.

First, as the picture above vividly demonstrates, being spatchcocked must surely be the most undignified way for any living thing to become a meal. Seriously, how ungainly do those poor former little chickens look?

And second, a bit of trivia about the origins of that quaint term "spatchcock." And I quote, straight from the pages of the "Three & Four Ingredient Cookbook" itself:

"Spatchcock is said to be a distortion of an 18th century Irish expression 'dispatch cock' for providing an unexpected guest with a quick and simple meal. A young chicken was prepared without frills or fuss by being split, flattened and fried or grilled."

For the record, my two cocks were dispatched after a thorough grilling at high heat.

And whilst we're on the subject of cocks, I see that so-called "man of peace" Senator Ted Kennedy has passed into the next dimension.

This is the same Senator Ted Kennedy who was an unashamed IRA apologist during the dark years of the Troubles when hundreds of innocent men and women were being butchered by his republican friends on the streets of Northern Ireland.

This is the same Senator Ted Kennedy who told Ulster Protestants like me to "go back to Britain" if we couldn't accept a united Ireland.

This is the same Senator Ted Kennedy who, whilst spending decades lecturing all and sundry about what was right and what was wrong about Northern Ireland, didn't actually set foot in the country until 1998, the year of the Good Friday Agreement itself.

Senator Ted Kennedy won't be missed by me or, indeed, anyone else who dislikes individuals who cosy up to terrorists for personal political gain.

Tuesday, 25 August 2009

Losing one's crown

Yes, teeth.

As I've now mentioned more than once, I broke my left front crown more than three weeks ago after getting a bit over-excited with a piece of Dairy Milk. I finally got the permanent replacement in yesterday. But on Thursday, whilst having a McDonald's prior to the U2 concert in Sheffield, my temporary crown fell out

The timing of this little mishap could not have been worse. I was about to join 51,999 other keen souls, all dolled up and smiling like children's telly presenters. And there was me, looking not unlike my hero Shane MacGowan (before he got his own new teeth) and trying desperately not to smile (at least until it got darker).

I tried to ram the temporary crown back in at one point, but it was just too wobbly and I eventually gave up after almost swallowing it during a very poor rendition of "Thunday, Bloody Thunday" (as it sounded the way I was thinging it).

I then bought some temporary tooth thement, sorry, cement at Boots on Friday lunchtime for £7 and the fix lasted exactly seven hours (yes, that's £1 an hour) before the crown fell out once again whilst we were having tea at the caravan park.

Like the night before, I was initially very self-conscious about the huge hole in my face - until I had a proper look around. And then it dawned on me. Almost every other man in the bar/restaurant had many more teeth missing than me, as did a large number of the women. A significant proportion also had loads of bad tattoos. And a minimum of three stomachs. And boy did they like their sportswear.

Yes folks, the Whites had just booked themselves into a real-life chav theme park.

My missing tooth suddenly seemed more like a badge of honour than a cause for shame, and it felt like this for the rest of our stay. (Thankfully they didn't have a tattoo parlour on site otherwise I might've got carried away by the moment and had a spider's web etched on my face).

And you didn't have to wander too far to find some complimentary attractions.

For example, Rockin' Roy was topping the bill in nearby Bridlington.

And right next to our real-life chav theme park was what appeared to be a real-life pikey park.

Anyway, my tooth's fixed now.

Monday, 24 August 2009

Back from Brid

Just returned safe and sound from our long weekend at an East Yorkshire caravan park. (I make reference to the "safe and sound" bit because I drove two thirds of the way home, meaning nothing was taken for granted).

And, yes, we had fun. The weather was much better than forecast, allowing us some unexpected time on the beach in Bridlington. (My rolled-up jeans serve as proof that I hadn't packed with any thoughts of beachwear in my mind. That, and the fact that I'd neglected to cut my toenails - gorgeous).

Some of us were able to indulge our duck fixation...

...get trolleyed...

...and enjoy chips in the street...

...before catching up on some much-needed sleep (could I be any more bleary-eyed?!)

My front crown, which dropped out on Thursday, also played a significant part in proceedings and I'm about to set off for Leeds to get it fixed properly (I hope).

So tomorrow, let's talk teeth (...and tattoos...oh, and obesity).

Friday, 21 August 2009

Magnificent U2

Credit where credit is wholly due and, I have to say, U2 were simply awe-inspiring last night.

The show was genuinely the best production I've seen on any stage (narrowly edging out some of the better Coleraine Town Hall pantomimes of the early 1980s).

As I mentioned yesterday, we were sitting "behind" the stage and were therefore afforded a fairly unique view of proceedings. This included the opportunity to see the four members of U2 plus the support acts saunter into the arena for a wave and a smile before bouncing up the steps to take their first bow.

Brilliant stuff and I already doubt whether the quality of the show could ever be topped by them or anyone else. That said, I am generally very easily impressed and have been wrong before.

Returning to more domestic matters, my mum and her friend Sarah head off later today after their week's holiday and it really has been a pleasure. Jamie, in particular, has been spoilt absolutely rotten and Vanessa and I will have our work cut out to keep him smiling as much as he has been over the last few days.

But we're nothing if not triers which is why, by teatime, the three of us will be ensconced in a static caravan near Bridlington, East Yorkshire for a long weekend of, well, who knows.

I suggested booking it a little while ago during a moment of weakness - completely forgetting that the Ashes series is drawing to its conclusion at The Oval between now and Monday.

And my attitude to caravanning is only marginally more positive than my attitude to camping (although I'm yet to write a poem about caravanning).

But Vanessa and I have also taken the whole of next week off on leave so there's really little need to be downhearted (other than the fact that my temporary front crown has just fallen out).

More on Monday.

Thursday, 20 August 2009

Going down to Sheffield - U2?

Vanessa and I are off to see U2 (and Elbow) tonight in Sheffield, and I am now quite excited.

In another sign of growing age, I've spent the last few days thinking more about the likely traffic problems and bad weather than the opportunity to witness what is said to be the band's best show yet.

I've seen U2 twice before, in 1987 and 1997, both times in Belfast. And they were memorable events for different reasons.

The '87 King's Hall gig, part of their Joshua Tree Tour, is still talked about because of a potentially serious incident at the front of the crowd which, to his credit, was diffused by Big Head Bono. In short, one group of fans was waving a Union Flag whilst another was waving an Irish Tricolour and tensions were starting to rise - and I know because I was right in the middle. Seeing the possible danger, Bono stopped the gig, asked both groups to put the flags down - adding forcibly, "we're sick of flags" - and the room swiftly came together. The night was pretty special after that.

The '97 Popmart Tour gig was nowhere near as good musically but it was certainly bizarre. U2 had no plans to come to Belfast that year but ran into problems with the local council in Dublin and shifted the whole shebang North to the Botanic Gardens as a means of sticking two fingers up at the authorities in their home city. It was all organised in a very short space of time and, before we knew it, Bono, Edge, Larry and Adam were stepping out of their spinning lemon in front of me and many of my Ulster friends.

Tonight's show comes towards the end of the UK leg of the band's 360 Tour which takes its name from the fact that fans can supposedly see the band from all angles (Bono must hate that). Vanessa and I are actually sitting "behind" the stage (if that makes sense), which cost £20 million and is more than 50 metres high.

We'll try our best to enjoy ourselves..(WOO HOO!!!)

Wednesday, 19 August 2009

Lining up his ducks

This story is a bit wet (ho ho), but Jamie has just developed a brand new bathtime trick: placing his rubber ducks in a row along the side of the bath.

Pretty impressive stuff, I hear you cry - and you're obviously spot on.

He did it for the first time on Monday evening when Fun Daddy was on bath duty.

He put the first one up very gingerly.

The second one brought a more animated reaction from our hero.

And by the third one, well, I felt I could detect a slight tinge of arrogance (leading me to push all three ducks back into the water shortly after I took this photo).

Still, well done that boy.

Maybe next time I'll get him to try some juggling.

Tuesday, 18 August 2009

Shifting sands

Bit of a panic on this morning. Regular readers may remember I had to take Jamie home early from nursery last Tuesday after he fell victim to their draconian "three shites and you're out" policy. We were therefore not informed of the two-day beach party (tee! hee!) starting today, meaning Jamie turned up with no swimmers.

"It's OK, he can take part tomorrow," said one of the nice ladies in a reassuring tone.

But it's at times like this when I realise our little boy really is getting into my bones. Within an instant, I couldn't bear the thought of him sitting on the side whilst the others had fun - so I rushed home to get his outfit. (He'd better bloody well enjoy it now).

One of the nursery ladies also mentioned a little sheepishly that they were going to try him out in "Toddler One" for part of the day.

The Little People Nursery is basically split into three groups: the Baby Room where Jamie is, Toddler One for the smaller walkers and Toddler Two for kids closer to the age of consent.

I've mentioned before that Golden Boy has been throwing his growing weight around a bit in recent times, placing his colleagues at a major disadvantage as, unlike him, they generally can't stand up to push him back.

So, almost certainly from next week, Jamie will be moving full-time to Toddler One.

And it'll be official - our little boy will no longer be a Baby.

Monday, 17 August 2009

Just a matter of lime

One of the many "challenges" faced by a (now only relatively) new daddy is how to get a drink whilst in charge of his pride and joy.

And the need to rise to this challenge is greatly heightened during the holiday period when even Mummy must concede that spending some time in the pub is not such an evil activity.

To this end, yesterday was a very good day when a very helpful discovery was made.

Following our return from the Yorkshire Wildlife Park, my mother, her friend Sarah, Vanessa, Jamie and I headed around the corner to East, quite a jazzy pub and eatery in Pudsey, which does 2-for-1 cocktails from Sundays till Thursdays. My mum's not a big drinker but she is on holiday and was quickly won round.

The problem, though, was Jamie. He had been out with us all day, had slept a bit but was still tired and therefore tetchy.

I ordered the first round of cocktails but, on my return from the bar, my huge smile was met with a huge gurn from Junior. So I smiled a bit more. He gurned a bit more. I made a funny face. He hit it from two yards with an expert hurl of his dummy.

I handed him one of my straws, dipped primarily in vodka and lime. He seemed pleased. So I re-dipped it. He seemed equally pleased. So I dipped it once more. He threw the straw away and resumed his gurn. What to do...

I then had an inspired thought and handed him a piece of my lime, soaked in the drink. He sucked like I've never seen him suck before. We were on to something. I took the old piece of lime off him, and handed him a new piece. Same result.

A minute or two later, I'd moved on to a new cocktail which majored in rum, Coke - and pieces of lime. So, I handed him a piece with its new-flavoured marinade. If anything, he liked it more.

Now please do not be alarmed, particularly if you're a serving member of Her Majesty's police force or a social worker. They weren't strong drinks and I made sure pieces two and onwards of the lime were not overly saturated in the Devil's Buttermilk.

BUT (and it's a big but - hence my use of capital letters) the lime trick worked and it will be used again when Vanessa and I take Jamie to East Yorkshire for a long weekend this Friday and to Spain in September.

And if you happen to see us in a bar during either of these trips away (or indeed ever and Jamie's with us), I'll have a lime-based cocktail or a bottle of Sol, please. Otherwise it'll be a Guinness - without lime.

Sunday, 16 August 2009

Sliding into the Yorkshire Wildlife Park

Following our disappointment at the lack of living things encountered in Rodley Nature Reserve a couple of weeks ago, today we decided to have a go at the Yorkshire Wildlife Park which, by its very name, seemed to have more promise. And it delivered.

Accompanied by Jamie's Granny White and Auntie Sarah, who both seem to have settled in well, we headed to the site near Doncaster which only opened in April. Jamie met lots of new and exciting mates.

The meercats were first...

...then a goat (which seemed more interested in him than he in it)...

...a swan (or duck? or goose?)...some bird thing anyway (it had wings and a beak and everything)...

...a mummy llama and a baby llama...

...a Bambi (or a "baby deer," be posh if you want)...
...some lemurs (so I'm told)...

...and then (as you can see above), Mummy treated him to a go on the big slide.

A good day was hopefully had by all, including Jamie's new furry friends.

If you're from Yorkshire and thinking of making the trip, I would fully recommend it.

Especially if you're a daddy.

Don't tell me you didn't think I had a go, did you?!

Followed by another (only a touch faster).

Friday, 14 August 2009


Wee John only checked-out yesterday morning, but already the White House Hotel is preparing to welcome its latest guests: my mum and her friend Sarah are due with us around 5pm today. Oh, and they're staying for a week (yup - that's seven whole days).

Whilst it'll obviously be very nice to see them, it'll also be handy to have two extra pairs of hands to help with Jamie duties. The little fella continues to struggle with his teeth and now has a cold as heavy as John Prescott.

I'm still a little bit under the weather myself after a particularly fine Wednesday afternoon and early evening trip to the pub with Wee John - followed by some more refreshment on our return home. Vanessa was "delighted" by our frivolity which, as luck would have it, was partially captured by the PR team from Leeds radio station Radio Aire.

Wee John got on especially well with the promotional girls, Chloe (left) and the other one whose name I forget, during their visit to The New Inn in Farsley.

And I had a snap taken with one of the few people I've ever beaten at pool.

His friend - a squaddie soon to be posted to Afghanistan - was definitely called John. But sadly, the name of my defeated opponent has also escaped me.

Another clear sign of a good night.

Wednesday, 12 August 2009

One for the road

Wee John's here for another day but my dad left first thing this morning, grandson Jamie accompanying him on the back seat for the journey to the airport.

However, he didn't depart before coming out with one of the best football jokes I've heard in some time - and you don't have to be a sporting buff to understand it.

Manchester City manager Mark Hughes was bringing his increasing band of high-priced players up to speed with his activity in the transfer market.

"I still intend to bring in some new faces," he announced.

Sitting at the back was Carlos Tevez (pictured right), recently signed from cross-town rivals Manchester United.

"Can I have one boss?"

Love it.

Tuesday, 11 August 2009

Crappy nappies = crappy day

When your luck's not in, your luck's not in and, at the moment in my world (yes, you've guessed it), Mr Luck remains on an extended summer break.

As promised, I did rise this morning with a brighter outlook on life and a plan to take my dad and Wee John on a guided tour of Bradford and Leeds city centres.

We pretty much "did" Bradford by 11.30 including a stop at the very impressive sand sculpture in Centenary Square, which you can see above.

My dad and I were then waiting for John to finish a chore before we all jumped on a train to Leeds for lunch and the Ashes and football exhibitions at the city museum.

But then my phone rang. It was Jamie's nursery calling to say he wasn't well and could I come and take him home immediately.

It wasn't really a surprise. He has been teething quite severely over the last 36 hours or so and didn't sleep much last night. Of course, teething isn't just about sore gums; it often includes various side effects including a heavy cold and upset tummy - both of which our little man currently has.

According to the nursery lady who called me, he had rather horrifically filled three nappies in the two and a half hours he'd been there (like you really wanted to know that) and the policy in such circumstances is to get the poorly individual out the door and away from the other kids as quickly as possible. No complaints on that.

With Vanessa working in York all day, it fell to me (still on leave for the cricket) to pick him up whilst my dad and John - at my insistence - continued on to Leeds without me.

The good news is that Jamie seems alright. I had to use all the tricks in my locker to get him to eat some lunch but he had a reasonable amount all told. He's now having a sleep and, when he wakes, I'll take him out for a push.

I've found it hard to take anything particularly positive from the disappointments of the last few days but I've found one: if the cricket had continued into its fifth and final day today, I would have ended up having to come home to do what I'm now doing anyway. And what would it have been like if England has needed 50 runs or two wickets to win the Ashes?! Indeed.

A small comfort but a comfort nonetheless.

And, most importantly of all, I think he'll survive.

UPDATE 1901: Just back from The Great Northern (it's a pub) and suddenly the world seems brighter.

Firstly, I've thought of a new headline for this post: "Three Shites and You're Out." Are you having that one?

And, in the same vein, number two (sometimes I impress myself). A funny little incident just occurred which I wanted to relay. The Great Northern is not great. In fact it's really rather poor, but my dad liked the barmaid who didn't take herself too seriously.

"Will you throw us out, please?" asked my dad about 15 minutes ago after three plus hours of drinking.

"No!" she replied with some force. "We're glad to have customers!"

I'm at one with the world again.

Monday, 10 August 2009


I try to avoid downbeat posts on this blog, which explains why I haven't written anything since Friday.

You'll more than likely be aware that England lost by an innings at Headingley yesterday in a game which was as good as over almost before it had begun.

All the pre-game excitement, the tireless work of so many and the expenses incurred by all ended in one big let down.

On a personal level, I'm particularly sorry for my father who came across from Coleraine for the game as his summer holiday.

He, John and I went to York today and will do something else in Leeds tomorrow to see out the time but all of us would rather be at the cricket.

Hopefully by tomorrow I'll be a bit more cheery and will certainly try.

So, to start things off, the picture above is a screen shot of Dagenham Dave and I watching Saturday's play. You may have seen it first on Sky Sports 1.

Friday, 7 August 2009

England set to fail Headingley Test

Day one at Headingley and it's no exaggeration to say that today England may have thrown away the Ashes. They certainly seem to have thrown away this game.

Andrew Strauss's men were bowled our for a paltry 102 and Australia closed the day 90-odd runs ahead with six first innings wickets still standing. A poor show.

John McIlroy (standing up) was our first special guest, joining Wee John (nearest the camera) and my dad (bincoculared).

Our view was great...

...but the couple in front of us seemed more interested in their novels than in one of the world's greatest team sporting events.

It takes all sorts I suppose.

We can only hope for a better England performance tomorrow, but I'd be surprised if the game now lasts beyond Sunday.

Thursday, 6 August 2009

It could all turn to Ashes

You would have to be living on the Moon (or maybe Scotland) not to know that the battle for the Ashes is now in full flight, that England cult hero Freddie Flintoff has a sore knee and Aussie captain Ricky Ponting is getting booed a lot.

You'll probably also be aware that the circus has now arrived in Leeds with the Fourth Test due to get underway at Headingley tomorrow morning (although early rain is forecast so it could be the afternoon - dull fact but it wouldn't be cricket if I didn't point it out).

This is clearly very exciting, particularly for someone like me who is lucky enough to have a ticket for all five days.

My father is flying in from Belfast this afternoon to join me, and Wee John is coming up at the same time aboard the little persons' carriage of the London to Leeds train. They too will be there for the whole match, with special guests joining us on days one, two and four.

I've been fortunate to attend quite a few Test matches at Headingley over the last number of years but this will be my first taste of the Ashes in Yorkshire.

And everyone I've spoken tells me exactly the same thing: it's carnage.

Unlike previous occasions when my dad and I and, more recently, Wee John have braved the infamous Western Terrace, this year we're in slightly posher seats on the other side of the ground. But I've been advised it will still be carnage, only with slightly nicer plastic glasses and maybe the odd napkin.

Whatever happens, it should be fun and one fact is key: if England win in Leeds, the Ashes return to the mother country.

Clear head permitting, I'll try and keep you informed on what's happening in and around my seat between now and next Tuesday when the game is due to end.

I'm confident in saying it should be "an experience."

Wednesday, 5 August 2009


I was killing time with Jamie before his bedtime tonight and my eyes fell upon his Elmo Live.

An obvious physical comparison with Elmo suddenly occurred to me: ex-Manchester United flash-boy-cum-cheater Cristiano Ronaldo.

Another Muppet.