Friday, 30 October 2009

Mozza: The Pope of Mope

Apparently refreshed and back to normal after last weekend's well-publicised collapse, Morrissey played the O2 Academy in Leeds last night and, I have to say it - he was magnificent.

Vanessa is "the Morrissey fan" in our family rather than me. But, although I had been to see him once before, I'd actually forgotten how good he was.

He is often regarded as the most depressed - and some might say depressing - man on the planet, and the vast majority of his songs include lyrics which back this up.

I had always thought that a lot of his "life is sh*t" stuff was very much tongue in cheek - until I saw him interviewed on one of the music channels earlier this year. And the interview suggested that, in reality, he really is that dark.

But leaving all of this aside, he shook the venue to its rafters last night. Playing a combination of old Smiths songs, a handful of solo hits and tracks from his newly-released album of "B" sides, he gave an energetic and vocally outstanding performance which, right from the outset, had the 2,000-plus crowd eating out of his wavy hand.

Of course, no Morrissey performance is complete without a selection of off the wall one-liners and last night was no different. My personal favourites included:
  • "Home is a question mark" and
  • "What is a song?"
I'll leave you to decide what the heck he was on about.

But, no doubt about it, a great night out and a lanky streak of misery well worth seeing if you get the chance.

Thursday, 29 October 2009

A prisoner in his own home (at last)

Finally, finally, finally, I managed to summon the patience and wherewithal to install a safety gate for Jamie. That was last night, and this morning, I am delighted to report it hasn't - as yet - fallen off its hinges.

Regular readers may remember that, many weeks ago, I made an attempt to put up a set of stair gates - only to find they were too narrow. So I did a bit of research and discovered that ready-made extensions were available for our particular make and model of stair gate - so I ordered two, costing a total of 20-odd quid.

They arrived a few days later (there was no postal strike on then) but, never one to rush into these things, I let them have a month off. But when I came to fit them, I found that, whilst they were for the same make and model as our gates, they were not for that make and model if made before 2006 (which ours were). And because I'd waited a month, it was too late to send them back. Excellent.

I put matters off for another little while before buying a different model of gate - although only one this time, because I was certain something would go wrong. And needless to say my hunch proved to be correct.

I eventually worked out that, because our house is so old and wonky, the only way to mount a gate at either the top or bottom of the stairs would be to attach one side to the banister - which is simply not strong enough and is also the wrong "shape" (I know what I mean).

So, after swearing for a couple more days, I had another brainwave: I would attach the gate to the living room door frame - the idea being that if we could keep Jamie in there, then he wouldn't be able to get to the hall and hence the stairs. Absolute genius, I'm sure you agree.

I pinpointed last Sunday morning as the moment of destiny and, after breakfast, got my tool bag out. Unfortunately, after making the necessary eight holes in the door frame in preparation for mounting the gate, it became apparent that I was about to put it up the wrong way round - forcing me to make eight new holes.

However, I'd started and was very determined to finish, come what may. And the first four screws went in without any great problem. I even began to feel a little cocky which, for me, is always the precursor to something going horribly wrong - which it promptly did when the head of screw five snapped off, leaving the remainder embedded in the wood.

But there was no way I would be defeated. So I found a single brass screw in my trusty tool bag, put it in instead and added screws six, seven and eight - and, bingo, the four brackets were firmly on the door frame. All that remained was to click the gate into place.

I managed to get the first three corners into their socket thingies easily enough. But, as you might expect, the final one was a greater challenge. So I forced it a bit - and broke the heads off the two screws holding the bracket to the wall.

Again, determined not to go to bed (it was only lunchtime at this stage) without this ****ing gate being up, I headed round to Asda to buy more screws - but they didn't have the ones I needed. So I gave up.

That was until last night when, following a quick visit to Wilko's earlier in the day, I arrived home with the right screws, fired them in and, well, the gate is up.

Jamie only had a few minutes to get used to his new impediment before it was time for his bath, so the reality hasn't yet dawned on him.

But there is one fact you can be absolutely sure of. As soon as he's worked out that this big white contraption is there to block his former right of way, he's going to turn on it. And he's going to break it.

Let's just hope, when the inevitable happens, his actions don't break me too.

Wednesday, 28 October 2009

Pile problems

It is often said that people have never been busier than they are now and no longer have time for anything.

But the question I would ask is, how have parents of a young child EVER had time for anything?

The 16 months since Jamie was born have gone like a flash for me, and sometimes it feels like I barely have a moment to visit the loo. (But please don't be alarmed - all "little accidents" in our house since last June have been exclusively Jamie's, unless Vanessa's not telling me something).

Clearly, some former hobbies have had to be sacrificed through a basic lack of time or, indeed, sheer physical exhaustion. And one of these has been the task of getting through the huge pile of books I've built up over the last few years.

Ironically, I think I've read more in recent months than at any other time of my life. The "problem" is that the books I've been wading through are Jamie's rather than my own, with him plonked on my knee (no, I don't read them on my own!)

It is in this context that last night I was delighted to finally finish a book from my pile, the first of Jeffrey Archer's three prison diaries detailing his time in the clink.

It wasn't a particularly long book and it wasn't even that good. But I was determined to get there and get there I did - FIVE MONTHS after I started reading it. (Yes, that's 20 whole weeks).

The book, a hardback, has been to Northern Ireland with me - where I read a total of zero pages - to a caravan park in East Yorkshire - where I read two - and to Spain where I read four.

The next tome to be tackled is Piers Morgan's God Bless America: Misadventures of a Big Mouth Brit. You may not like Piers Morgan, I'm not sure I like Piers Morgan, but he does write an entertaining diary and, having read his previous two, I can't wait to get on with it.

Hopefully I'll have it finished by Christmas - 2010. Or possibly 2011.

Tuesday, 27 October 2009

Jamie the fashionista

Tonight marked one of the biggest nights in the annual fashion show calendar as Jamie personally unveiled his 2009/10 winter collection.

And there were undoubtedly a few surprises for the full house (i.e. Vanessa and I were both in) to be inspired by.

Designed, as last year, in partnership with that renowned style guru Pri Mark and clearly drawing on Jamie's North of England roots, warmth is the recurring theme, incorporating lots of luxurious acrylics and polyesters at incredibly reasonable prices.

He began with the "Confident Cream" zippy jumper with assorted stripes (above) - which simply oozes class.

Next was the "Embarrassing Uncle" sweatshirt complete with built-in paunch, which he very kindly dedicated to Dagenham Dave in Guiseley.

Item number three was his "Sunday Morning Hangover" zippy thing which, coupled with the bedraggled facial expression, he said was inspired by his father.

The penultimate outfit was simply entitled "Bullet-Proof Vest" in recognition of his Northern Ireland connections.

And finally, there was the "Is This Over Yet?" pullover which he named only tonight after getting really fed up having things pulled over his head.

So this is what Jamie will be wearing for the next few months. Look out for cheap imitations in shops - one chain in particular - around about now.

Monday, 26 October 2009

Weight 'til you hear this...

The Whites were invited along to Jamie's Grandad Geoff's last night for a quite magnificent Sunday tea cooked by his wife Susie.

Also present (above right) was Geoff's sister Kate - Jamie's great aunt - who's up from her home in Surrey for a week.

Kate became a grandmother again in May when her daughter Jane, who lives in the United States, gave birth to a lovely little boy named Dylan.

The reason for telling you all of this (you will be pleased you stuck with me, I promise) is that the American healthcare system does not, apparently, offer the same level of care and attention to babies when compared to our own often unfairly criticised NHS.

To illustrate, Vanessa and I were telling Kate that Jamie had been weighed again recently and, whilst the nurses were happy with his size and so on, he did nonetheless tip the scales at something approaching 2.2 tonnes.

However, Kate pointed out that, after the initial few weeks, American babies are not weighed routinely and parents are therefore forced to improvise if they want to keep track. And young babies, of course, are not necessarily the easiest "things" to weigh.

So how has Jane kept an eye on Baby Dylan's weight? Get this - I love this.

First she gets on her bathroom scales and records her own weight.

Then someone hands her Dylan and she records the new reading on the scales - and the difference between the first reading and the second reading is Dylan's weight!

I would never, EVER have thought of that - and I'm incredibly impressed that someone else did.

Who said life is dull? (This blog, maybe, but not life - come on).

Sunday, 25 October 2009

Jamie the guide dog

Ever since coming back from his holidays last month, our Jamie has been running around like a mad thing.

This is obviously a very positive development in many different ways. For example, given the amount of food he devours during the course of an average day, he really would now be a fat b****** had he not transformed himself into a mini Forrest Gump.

But the downside is that he’s very hard to keep an eye on. We can just about manage when he’s indoors, although he still pulls off at least one spectacular and, generally, physically damaging fall each and every day.

However, he’s clearly in much greater danger when outside and a fairly dramatic step has therefore had to be taken: we’ve got him a lead.

Vanessa carried out a brief road test involving him and his new restraint yesterday afternoon and it was a big success

But how long he continues to smile happily whilst having his style well and truly cramped is still very much open to question.

Feel free to click on to the video above if you’d like to see a short clip of Jamie (and his mum) in action. No pressure.

Saturday, 24 October 2009

Balls to hoovering

I appear to have found the solution to wives badgering beleaguered husbands to do a bit of hoovering. Balls.

And when I say balls, thankfully, I don't mean standing up to these wife-folk, for that could obviously be very bad for the physical wellbeing of us husband-folk.

No, I mean get them a hoover with a big ball in it.

Vanessa found an offer (another thing wives are good for) a few days ago in which you could trade in your battered old Dyson (one of which we happened to have) in return for a discounted "Dyson Ball Vacuum Cleaner" (right).

She asked my opinion before proceeding with the deal. And, of course, I had very strong views.

Vanessa: "What do you think?"

Barry: "Yeah, whatever."

Anyway, she proceeded to arrive home with this thing and now absolutely loves it - LOVES IT.

She has long complained that our house is too big for one person to hoover and that we should consider hiring a cleaner (over my twitching corpse). But now there's simply not enough carpets for her new toy - which apparently has "great manoeuvrability" - to suck on.

So fellow men, hear my call:

Let your ladies get their balls out and, before you know it, the only whining you'll hear will be from the hoover rather than their sweet, angelic little mouths - at least for a day or two.

Friday, 23 October 2009

Friday fun with chocolate

You'll no doubt have seen and, like me, smiled at the Yorkie bar "It's Not For Girls" campaign. (I think the slogan is still carried on the side of the product - I must buy a three-pack at lunchtime just to be sure).

However, yesterday, some fine individuals from the Yorkshire Regiment were in Bradford city centre on a recruitment drive and their exhibition stand incorporated examples of typical ration packs - including one of these:

Brilliant, isn't it?!

But whilst I was searching for a picture of this online (I didn't have a camera with me yesterday), I inadvertently stumbled across another variation on the theme.

Does it win the prize?

Thursday, 22 October 2009

White woes

We haven't had the best of times since my last post.

The first unfortunate little incident happened at about a quarter past midnight this morning. I'd turned off my light shortly after 11, about an hour earlier than normal, in need of some extra rest following the excesses of Tuesday evening's rugby dinner.

However, I was woken up by Jamie coughing very loudly and repeatedly. After a couple of minutes, I thought it best to look in on him. And from a parent's point of view, if you've made the effort to get up for a look, you might as well give your charge a bit of a stroke whilst you're there. So, I reached down to put my hands on him.

He was warm and sticky. Not ideal, but not that unusual. But he was also gooey which was clearly not normal. It took a second for the penny to drop - and then it did.

Our little man had just chucked up buckets - all over himself, his sleeping bag, his sleepsuit and his cot. And he was now trying very hard to get back to sleep, face down in a puddle of boke.

I had no option but to do what every other man I know would have done - shout for the baby's mother (what?!)

I hadn't a clue what else to do and women always tell us they know best in any case. This was Vanessa's chance to do it for the sisters.

To be fair, I did more than play my part in the overall operation. We stripped him down together, then I cleaned him up whilst Vanessa dealt with the "cot situation."

And finally, somewhat heroically one might suggest, I took him into the spare room for the next five and bit hours until it was time for Vanessa to get up to go to London.

Jamie tossed and turned pretty much throughout, meaning I didn't get a heck of a lot of sleep. I was therefore very much looking forward to this evening for a bit of R&R. What I didn't expect was to come home to a power cut.

To shorten yet another of my very long, dull stories, we appeared to be the only house on our street with no electric, I couldn't get hold of Vanessa to find out who our supplier is (she's in charge of all that stuff - I'm in charge of bins, as you know) and Jamie was getting very restless as it became pitch black in our house.

All we had for light was his Thomas The Tank Engine torch (thank heavens) and some chocolate biscuits for sustenance.

About an hour and 20 minutes later, just when matters were getting a touch on the desperate side and with Vanessa's mum now on the way over to rescue her grandson, Vanessa finally returned my call - and the lights miraculously and simultaneously came back on.

Clearly, both of our mini-difficulties could have been worse - but I do still feel the need to be cheered up.

Hopefully BNP scumbag Nick Griffin will get taken apart on Question Time later tonight. That would do the trick.

2047 UPDATE: They say bad things come in threes but you still might struggle to believe this. Jamie's just produced another mega-barf all over himself and his cot. But please do not be alarmed - Vanessa's in there scrubbing as I type.

Wednesday, 21 October 2009

Lion Man

I had the rare privilege last night of meeting one of my absolute heroes - British & Irish Lions rugby legend Ian McGeechan.

For those non-rugby fans amongst you (are there any rugby fans amongst you?) Ian McGeechan was Lions head coach during their dramatic South African tour this summer, when they eventually lost the Test series 2-1 to the home side.

But previous to that, he coached the Lions to famous series wins in South Africa in 1997 and Australia in 1989.

And before that (what do you mean, you're "bored?") he played for the Lions himself on two overseas tours - including the legendary (to people like me) 1974 tour to South Africa - and also both played for and coached Scotland. (I think it's really important that you know all this).

After every every sporting success story (or "almost" sporting success story) these days, comes the obligatory autobiography (is Jenson Button's out yet?) And last night my good friend John McIlroy and I went along to Headingley to see Ian McGeechan publicise his, the aptly titled Lion Man.

But it wasn't just a bog standard book launch. Hell no. This was much more exciting (yes, for me - and John).

The format was beer, a two-course dinner for 350 people (well, men), more beer, an hour-plus Q&A session with the man himself, followed by some more beer.

And then - get this - you had the chance to meet him and leave with a "free" (once you'd paid your £35 for a bit of overdone pork and some cheese and biscuits) personally signed copy of his book. (Yes, perhaps it was a bit like visiting Santa, but there's really no need for you to be so cynical).

There have been far too many pics of me on this site in recent days, so I took a photo of the great man meeting an equally impressed John instead.

Leaving all his achievements to one side, the thing that has always left me in awe of Ian McGeechan is the sheer class which he exudes in everything he does (WAKE UP!)

Unlike, say, Alex Ferguson, he never complains if he loses, never courts controversy and never seems ruffled. But he clearly inspires everyone around him and the results of this are evidenced on his CV (and no doubt in his book - which you really should buy. And you'll definitely get it cheaper than I did).

The souvenir I stumbled into the taxi with at around 11.30 last night is something I will genuinely cherish forever. What a man.

PS Thank you for letting me have my moment, albeit begrudgingly.

Tuesday, 20 October 2009

A big weight off his mind

Given Jamie's new found status as a media darling, Vanessa and I thought the time was right to have him weighed again.

He hadn't actually been on the scales at the local clinic since June and, if you read this blog regularly you'll know, he's done a hell of a lot of eating since then.

I've faced some criticism in the past - not least from my mother - for describing our boy as "fat." But whilst, OK, he's hardly obese, he's certainly "well at himself" (as they say where I come from) which could arguably be translated into "fat."

Anyway, my name-calling had clearly got to him so, prior to visiting the clinic in Pudsey, Jamie insisted on having a practice go himself on the bathroom scales.

He began with a quick prayer.

Before climbing on.

And then, well, the result (which he refused to share with us) seemed to throw him into shock.

I thought at the time that this must mean bad news - but I was wrong.

For, later at the clinic, he weighed in at an even 30 pounds which, whilst certainly enormous for his age, is absolutely fine and comfortably within the official babybook boundaries for someone of his height.

Indeed, one of the nurses added that there wasn't "an ounce of fat on him." (A couple of pounds, maybe, but nothing in actual ounces).

So, the outcome of all of this is that I have henceforth been ordered by Vanessa to refrain from calling our son any names which might suggest he's a bit of the tubby side.

It looks like a long, hard winter for me then.

Monday, 19 October 2009

If you want something done...

I spoke too soon on Saturday when, after the sudden arrival of a refuse lorry, I suggested the Yorkshire Evening Post article about our bin plight might not appear - because it's in today, big style.

As you can see, I've dropped the picture and headline in above and the text of the piece appears below. (You can just make out the head of Jamie's wind-up Prince Charles in my right hand although, hopefully, you won't be able to spot that I'm biting my lip in a weak attempt not to laugh).

More seriously, it is now crystal clear that Leeds City Council only moved to help us once they knew the paper was on their tail, and that simply isn't right.

But the strike goes on, and so might the battle.


Leeds bin strike: Families at breaking point as rats and maggots flourish

By Suzanne McTaggart

DAD-of-one Barry White has to deal with plenty of dirty nappies – but his bins haven't been emptied since the start of the strike.

The 37-year-old, who lives with his wife Vanessa, 34, and 15-month-old son Jamie, hasn't had a bin collection for more than six weeks.

Mr White hit out at the council after hearing friends in other areas had received more than one service during the strike.

He reached breaking point when he saw a rat "standing guard" over bins near his home on Bradford Road, Stanningley.

He said: "Jamie goes through a lot of nappies. It's not particularly pleasant and the rubbish is stacked up. In five years, I have never seen a rat in this area. It's one of the main routes into Leeds and it doesn't give the best impression.

"This is not a healthy place to be at the moment and it's fairly worrying from a parent's point of view."

Mr White said his wife received a "standard response" after sending a complaint to council leader Richard Brett.

The couple put their bins out on the usual day – but private contractors failed to visit.

"I've spoken to the neighbours and we feel we've got to do something. We're law-abiding citizens and we pay council tax like everyone else. We don't want special treatment but why are we not having collections when so many other people are?

"Refusing to pay council tax is something we are definitely considering. Why should we pay for a service we're not getting?"

Pensioner Yvette Massey, 78, is registered disabled and hasn't had her rubbish collected since the strike started.

Mrs Massey, who suffers from arthritis, tried to tidy up the bags in her yard on Norman Terrace, Roundhay, only to find maggots.

She said: "There were hundreds of them and the smell was disgusting. So I just dropped the bags because I didn't like it. I've called the council six times and every time, they've just said they'll pass it on. It's not on really. It's a very serious situation."

Simon Morgan, of Norster View, Beeston, also said the bins down his street had not been emptied since the strike began. He added: "The bins yards are full of rubbish which has spilled over the bins themselves.

"The whole street is a mess. The fear is that rats will settle in feeding off the rubbish and there's maggots everywhere.

"You hear of other areas in Leeds having their bins emptied but we've just been ignored."

Jenson Button: Not powered by Gordon Brown

It will hopefully not have escaped your notice that Britain's Jenson Button, one of the most genuine men in sport from what I can ascertain, last night became Formula One World Champion.

And, with every sporting success in this country these days it would appear, comes a pre-cooked press release from a Labour Government desperate to jump on any bandwagon which may offer popular acknowledgement.

Read this from the BBC website:

The prime minister has led celebrations after Jenson Button was crowned as the new Formula One world champion.

Gordon Brown said there was much pride in the fact Button had become the 10th British driver to take the title.

The prime minister said: "I want to send my warmest congratulations to Jenson Button for clinching the Formula One drivers' championship in Brazil, on the same circuit that Lewis Hamilton won the drivers' championship last year.

Sports minister Gerry Sutcliffe praised the driver for "realising his potential and answering the critics.

"We are fortunate and privileged to have two drivers able to compete at the highest level of the sport and so many constructors continuing to make Britain their home.

"I hope this success will be a real boost for the sport in this country and make a new generation want to follow in the footsteps of Jenson and Lewis."

Business Secretary Lord Mandelson said the victory was a fitting tribute to the Brawn team "who have worked very hard to get the cars on the grid this season".

He said: "UK motorsport contributes £3.6bn to the economy as well as provide highly-skilled engineering jobs in the UK. It also has an important role to play in the development of green technology as we move to a low carbon future

Catch the sincerity / relevance of those quotes written by either civil servants or special advisers (all of whom are paid for by us).

Do you reckon Jenson Button really gives a damn what these parasites think?

I wish they would all...well...go elsewhere.

Sunday, 18 October 2009

There's a next time for everything

It was the Bradford City Run this morning, essentially a test event for next year's inaugural Bradford City Marathon.

As well as a two-mile fun run for kids, the adults had an option to tackle either five miles or ten miles. And being a man (GRRR!!!) my original plan had been to compete at the longer distance.

But then nature intervened - or, more specifically, my sciatica plus a damaged Achilles tendon - leaving me with little option but to cut my losses in terms of missed training and settle for entering the five-miler instead.

And I did OK. I'm not a natural distance runner by anyone's stretch of the imagination, but I somehow managed to stumble over the line in 17th place out of 258 finishers with a time of 35 minutes and 53 seconds.

Most importantly, I won a medal to give to Jamie - once I'd finally found him and his mother wandering around Centenary Square.

Such is the level of awe and reverence in which I am held by the two of them, that they didn't actually bother to witness my moment of athletic glory. They were too busy drinking coffee and eating cookies in Starbucks.

Maybe next time.

Saturday, 17 October 2009

You couldn't make it up - so they didn't

I've just picked up my copy of today's Yorkshire Evening Post. And guess what?

You got it first time - the "Jamie living in his own poo" story isn't in there.

There are three possible explanations for this:
  1. It was in yesterday (very doubtful)
  2. It will be in on Monday or
  3. The most likely reason - the contractors emptied our bins yesterday afternoon

Yes, can you believe it?! We finally get to the point where some much desired retribution can be meted out - and the f***ers turn up!

But don't think for a second that this is a coincidence. You don't have to be a media expert to work out that the YEP would almost certainly - and rightly - have contacted the Council's press office to offer them an opportunity to comment on our situation. And the easiest thing for the Council to have done was to quickly dispatch a refuse lorry before going back to the paper to say that the contractors had emptied our bins.

On top of this, both Vanessa and our fine neighbour Barrington (he of the bigger forearms than me) were in direct contact with the relevant Council officer yesterday to advise of their growing frustration.

Whatever the truth, the fact is that we got what we wanted and I suppose we've got to be satisfied with that.

One final piece of news. Last night, it looked like the strike itself would end this coming Monday following a vote of union members. But a further twist in the tale, only about an hour ago, means that the workers now seem set to reject the Council's offer and remain on the picket lines for, perhaps, many more weeks to come.

So maybe the story isn't over quite yet - for us, as much as for them.

Friday, 16 October 2009

Live long - by staying out of balloons

A quick early-in-the-day observation.

We all woke up this morning to continuing news coverage of that balloon boy who turned out not to floating across the skies of America after all but, rather, had been hiding in a box.

I understand his name is Falcon.

But, having now seen his picture, I think the media may have got that wrong.

Shouldn't it be Vulcan?

Thursday, 15 October 2009

No win, no matter

Job done.

The Yorkshire Evening Post photographer has just left, the words are written and the story of the 15-month-old baby boy from Pudsey, forced to live amongst his own used nappies for six weeks and counting, is set to appear in Saturday's paper.

The main problem for me whilst the pictures were being taken was trying to keep a straight face.

I had former EastEnders bully boy Trevor Morgan (above) in my head and was doing my level best to adopt a similar scowl to him. But sadly, I fear my refrain probably had much more in common with Dale Winton.

Jamie spent the entire "shoot" (get me) playing with his clockwork Prince Charles and, every time a photo was about to be taken, I had to try to cover the toy with my hand.

Goodness knows how we're going to look, how the story's going to read or whether it's going to actually change anything. Indeed, I would suspect it will make no difference whatsoever.

But we had a go (and, perhaps not that secretly, it's been a laugh!)

And the mystery virgin is...

...Ann Widdecombe!

And it wasn't just Vanessa and I having dinner with her, although you've probably already guessed that. There were about 60-odd others there to eat, DRINK! and listen to the star guest speak.

She was very entertaining too and afterwards even went to the trouble of signing copies of her best-selling novels - with all profits raised going somewhere other than her pocket. Well played that strange-shaped lady.

It was also nice for Mrs W and I to get our best bib and tucker out for the night. Sadly, Vanessa had to drive to and from the event in Bingley. (Whilst a cynic might put this forward as another good reason why I should remain in no particular hurry to get my driving test, the official line remains that I would love to have drunk water all night).

Our journey there was slightly delayed whilst I did my mooted Yorkshire Evening Post interview about our bins (tee hee!) and the photographer is coming at 6pm tonight to capture the Whites' continued misery at the hands of that nasty Leeds City Council - BOO! I've also asked our next-door neighbour Barrington to come along and look sad with us (he's got much bigger forearms than me and they'll look very impressive when folded alongside mine as we stare harmed but unbroken at the camera lens).

What's the odds that our bins do actually get emptied between now and the photographer's planned arrival in nine and a half hours' time?

FOOTNOTE: Please note that no offence is intended by my description of the Rt Hon Ann Widdecombe MP as a "virgin." I've checked this out, and she is genuinely on record as saying she would sue anyone who described her as "not a virgin" - so I'm only keeping myself right.

Wednesday, 14 October 2009

Bin banter

The latest news on our bins is that there's no news, other than the fact that the contractors still aren't able to find our street - and we're now into week seven.

But there should be developments of one sort or another within the next 24 hours.

I spoke to a friend at the Yorkshire Evening Post last night who said she understood the Leeds bin strike could come to an end later today.

And if it doesn't, I can expect to receive a call from a reporter with a view to running a story on my grievances in the paper later this week.

So, whilst we wait, I'll share a quick piece of extremely loosely related trivia with you.

We haven't heard a lot from that old warhorse Osama bin Laden in recent months - rumour has it he's been having trouble getting his hands on cassettes following the closure of Woolworths.

However - question - do you know when his name was first referred to on the Internet?

Answer - something like 15 years ago following the discovery of a bomb in Northern Ireland. Sir Patrick Mayhew, the Secretary of State at the time, was asked by the media for some more detail on what had been found, to which he replied, "a wheelie bin laden with explosives." True story - and I thank you.

Tonight, Vanessa and I are off to have dinner with a famous virgin. More on that tomorrow.

Tuesday, 13 October 2009

Just empty them, you ****s!

It's often exhilarating to jump out of bed in the morning with a sense of anticipation for what the new day will bring.

Will your expectations be fulfilled?

Will your goals be reached?

Will you come home at night feeling that something has been achieved?

These are all feelings that I have at this early hour, but I'm not exhilarated about them. And there's a very good reason.

For today I'm wondering whether Leeds City Council are finally going to empty our bins and take away the stacks of bin liners that our neighbours and ourselves have accumulated over the last six weeks (or is it seven?) since the refuse collectors last visited our street.

As I said when I first wrote about this a little while ago, I'm not necessarily angry at the striking binmen themselves (although I'm not best pleased), but I am becoming apoplectic with the Council.

They've hired contractors to fill the void left by those on the picket line and I know for certain that almost all parts of Leeds have had their bins emptied at least twice since the dispute began - but not ours.

Last Friday, Vanessa took the unusual step - for her - of writing to the (Liberal Democrat) Council Leader to essentially ask what the **** was going on. But his standard response had a similar aroma to our bins.

So, when I come home tonight, I really do hope that:
  1. my expectations have been fulfilled i.e. our bins have been emptied
  2. my goals have been reached i.e. our bins have been emptied
  3. something has been achieved i.e. our bins have been emptied

Otherwise it's going to be another week at least and drastic action will most definitely need to be considered.

Watch this space.

Monday, 12 October 2009

If only all they were all so truthful

MPs return to Parliament later today after their three-month summer break (at least they'll be well-rested) and their expenses are again dominating the headlines.

But here's one for you.

A number of MPs have obviously been accused of claiming too much in travel expenses and, since the scandal broke, the House of Commons authorities have taken it upon themselves to be much more stringent than previously. This includes a desire to clamp down on individuals who wish to fly to London from their constituencies when the train could be just as quick and much more cost-effective for the taxpayer.

But, of course, some have no choice but to fly. These include politicians from Northern Ireland and from the more northerly parts of Scotland. And you cannot find a more northerly part of Scotland than the Orkney and Shetland Isles.

Enter Alistair Carmichael, the jovial Liberal Democrat MP for Orkney and Shetland (pictured above).

A friend in the know recently told me that Mr Carmichael was filling in a travel expenses form and came to the following short and seemingly straightforward question:

What is your nearest mainline railway station?

Wanting to do the right thing, Mr Carmichael contacted the House of Commons Fees Office to explain that, as his constituency was slap bang in the middle of the North Sea, this question was not really applicable to him.

But the official was having none of it and insisted that he answered it to the best of his ability.

So, Mr Carmichael did a bit of research and filled in the blank with the name of his nearest mainline railway station.


Sunday, 11 October 2009

Leave them be

Jamie was very much a babe in arms this time last year. But 12 months on, he's up and about and ready to enjoy the delights of a British autumn.

Key to the season is, of course, lots of leaves.

And, if you know where to look, lots and lots and lots of leaves.

Like little boys, dogs also love leaves - particularly to pee on. Tasting is therefore best avoided.

It might take a bit of time for Vanessa and I to get this message across to our man.

Saturday, 10 October 2009

Mine's a double

It's not always easy writing a daily blog because, if you want people to return, you've got to at least try to come up with something remotely original/interesting seven times a week.

Clearly I fail hopelessly in this task on a regular basis and, sadly, today is to be one such occasion.

To explain, tonight marks the beginning of The X Factor live finals - one of the most keenly anticipated nights in the television year (if you're a 37-year-old father of one, living in Pudsey and saddled with a comedy name).

And I thought I was incredibly sharp in noticing some weeks ago that Dublin twins John and Edwards (above), one of the 12 acts due to appear tonight, bear a remarkable resemblance to the Double-Take Brothers from the Harry Enfield and Chums show of the 1990s.

So, this morning, I decided I would find a picture of the Double-Take Brothers, find a picture of John and Edward, put them up alongside each other and then take a bow for being dead observant and funny.

But two quite significantly developments have chucked it down on my parade.

First, I can't locate a good image of the Double-Take Brothers.

And second, a very quick piece of research on Google has revealed that several hundred if not several thousand others have also noticed the similarity between them and John and Edward.

So here is what we're going to do.

If you've never seen the Double-Take Brothers but have been watching this year's X Factor, click onto the following link and watch a short clip of the Double-Take Brothers:

Next, forget I've already told you that loads of other people have also noticed their similarity to John and Edward.

And finally, be dead impressed by my keen eye for people who look like each other and how funny I am.

However, if you:
  1. Don't watch The X Factor
  2. Don't remember the Double-Take Brothers and can't be bothered to watch the clip
  3. Have already noticed the similarity between them and John and Edward or
  4. Don't care
Then please come back tomorrow - remembering how difficult it is to write a (good) daily blog.

Friday, 9 October 2009

Self-service now available

My three nights in Manchester added up to the longest period I've been away from Jamie since his birth. And there's been a development.

Yes, Fat Boy has learnt how to use a spoon.

It's very exciting for him as he can now gorge even quicker than before, no longer having to wait for Vanessa or me or whoever to shovel his tucker in.

Fortunately, he also has a big mouth, thereby making the task of hitting the target relatively easy.

Given his blond hair and blue eyes, at least I can feel proud that he shares one physical characteristic with me.

Thursday, 8 October 2009

The best seat house

Meet my seat.

And it's from this very spot where I will shortly be watching Conservative Leader David Cameron's party conference speech, live from Manchester.

Some of you may be wondering why I'm not witnessing it from rather closer quarters i.e. inside the conference hall itself. But I have the answer.

Basically, the hall isn't that big and, because I'm not very important, I would have to queue for about an hour and a half to have a chance of getting in. And if I did eventually get a perch, would probably have to relinquish it to a pushy old person with a stick.

So, taking all of this into account, I decided to return to Pudsey with a packet of biscuits to watch yer man do his thing.

Being the last night, I stayed out a little longer yesterday evening than on Monday and Tuesday - and retained all my faculties.

Highlights included Steve Nallon - the bloke who did Margaret Thatcher's voice on Spitting Image - doing, well, his Margaret Thatcher impression. That boy's really got range.

I also had a little drinkie with two old acquaintances from Banbridge, Belinda and Joanie, in what turned into a full-on Norn Iron night. (Just for the record, Joanie is the older of the two acquaintances but, as Belinda's mother, that's not unexpected).

Right then, kettle on...

Wednesday, 7 October 2009

Now that's what I call branding

Party conferences are held for a variety of reasons.

The first and most important is the opportunity for a party to get its message across to voters by hogging the national media almost exclusively for four or five consecutive days.

The second is to raise money from exhibitors, party members and others who pay their money on the gate.

And the third is to invigorate said members, particularly close to a General Election, by reminding them why they give up so much of their own free time in an attempt to propel their chosen political party to power.

The creation of a team spirit is key to this and the task is helped by providing supporters with a memorable slogan with which to go away and campaign.

In the mid-1990s, in advance of Labour's landslide General Election victory, we had the Alastair Campbell-penned "New Labour, New Britain." (No mention of Northern Ireland there, you will note).

And the pre-2010 General Election Tories?

Well, a quick tour of the Conference venue last night quickly revealed that answer.

I think we've got the message.