Sunday, 31 January 2010

Happy Andy stays in the locker

Whilst I did want Andy Murray to win his Aussie Open Final against Roger Federer this morning, I can sense genuine relief on his part that he didn't triumph.

Because the pressure is now off.

He doesn't have to smile after all.

PS Doesn't his mother Judy look like Julie Walters?

PPS Well, I think she does - alright!

A dark moment for the Whites

Jamie went to the beach yesterday, as you can see.

Actually, that's a complete lie, he didn't; he just spent a bit of the afternoon playing in the sandpit at a local play barn (that's him on the left, below).

And all was going well - until he suddenly began hurling huge handfuls of sand at the sole black child present.

I don't think I've ever felt so embarrassed.

Saturday, 30 January 2010

Model parents

I write this blog for several reasons, one of which is to provide a record of what was going on in the world during Jamie's first few months (and now years) of life.

And today, I'm going to briefly discuss the subject of model parents.

So, Jamie, the current holder of the "Dad of the Year" title is a man called John Terry. John is the captain of the England football team and someone little boys like you are supposed to look up to.

However, everyone has just found out that John has been a very naughty boy. Because John has been caught kissing his best friend Wayne's girlfriend behind Wayne's back. Bad John!

And not only has John been a very bad best friend to Wayne, he's also been a very bad husband to Mrs Terry and a very bad daddy to his three-year-old twins.

John is a very rich man and is paid £170,000 a week. And because John has lots of money, the newspapers say that John gave some of his money to Wayne's girlfriend so she wouldn't tell anyone else they had been kissing. However, that didn't work because the newspapers found out and told everyone anyway.

Chelsea, the football team that John plays for, have said that they will support John and whatever he does is alright by them. That is because Chelsea is run by slags. And that's why John plays for Chelsea, because John is also a slag.

OK, Jamie, so that's the "Dad of the Year."

Now it's the turn of the mummies and, for a change, we'll go back to 2007 when the "Mum of the Year" was called Katie Price, although she sometimes calls herself Jordan. She is mummy to two little boys and a little girl. Katie is also a slag.

Katie will do absolutely anything to get money or get her picture in newspapers and magazines. She has kissed lots and lots of boys and then she tells the newspapers and magazines so they give her more money and take more pictures of her.

Katie's got a boyfriend and he's called Alex. A few weeks ago, Katie told Alex that she didn't want to be his girlfriend any more. However, she didn't tell Alex to his face. She announced it on TV in front of lots and lots of other people so she could get more money and get her picture in more newspapers and magazines. Bad Katie!

Then Katie found out that Alex was going to be in another TV programme that lots and lots of people also watch. So Katie became Alex's girlfriend again because she thought it might help her to get even more money and get her picture in even more newspapers and magazines.

Last night, Alex was voted as the most popular person in the TV programme and everybody cheered for him. Katie is very happy about that because for the next few weeks she's going to make lots and lots more money and get her picture in lots and lots more newspapers and magazines.

But as soon as she thinks she has made as much money and got her picture in as many magazines and newspapers as she can, Katie will tell Alex she doesn't want to be his girlfriend any more and she wants to kiss other boys instead. And then she will tell the newspapers and magazines and they will give her more money and take more pictures of her.

So, Jamie, when you eventually read this, I hope you're not too disappointed to learn that your mummy and daddy weren't model parents.

Friday, 29 January 2010

Having another dart at my new hobby

It's the weekend - hallelujah for that.

And I'm planning to spend a significant chunk of it playing darts.

You may mock, and with very good reason. But let me explain.

I bought a dartboard on New Year's Eve 2008 because I'd been watching the world championship on TV and fancied having a go myself.

However, after screwing the board to the wall and firing my first few arrows at it, I quickly discovered that it wasn't as easy as those fat blokes on the telly make it appear. In fact, at times I did well to hit the board at all.

And the problem with missing the board was that I then hit the wall - and Vanessa hit me. So I gave up.

But last Saturday I was bored and, in a flight of unplanned fancy, went on t'Internet and spent £20 on a dartboard wall protector which was delivered yesterday (it's the black thing in the picture above). And last night I had a go at trying not to hit it.

The good news is that I only missed the board three times during my 30 minutes of firing, and even achieved a highest score of 101 - which you can also see in the photo.

But, to be honest, that total is a little deceiving. I did hit a treble 20 with my first dart which was great. But the double 20 with my second was not intentional and neither, obviously enough, was the single one which I scored with dart three.

However, at least I appear to have made a little progress in the year and a bit since I bought my board. The next challenge is to continue to get better.

And after that, it's to get a life. That might be the really hard bit.

Thursday, 28 January 2010

Oh joy

Those of you who have nothing better to do than read this rubbish on a regular basis (I do appreciate it, by the way) will know that there's a peculiar but hugely popular Yorkshire team sport entitled, "Digging up Barry, Vanessa and Jamie's Road."

It's a year round activity and all participants like have a go at least once every few months.

In recent times we've had electric people, gas people, water people, phone people and Internet people. And they've all had a lot of fun.

We were warned some time ago that the employees of Leeds City Council Highways Department wanted their turn too and, as a result, we wouldn't be able to park our car outside our house either last Sunday or Sunday coming.

They came and went last Sunday as planned. And, of course, we have been eagerly anticipating their return in three days' time.

But it appears they enjoyed themselves so much last weekend that they simply couldn't wait.

Because about half an hour ago, just as Jamie was going to bed and without any warning whatsoever, they rocked up outside to begin re-digging up our road. According to the sign, they hope to be finished at around 11.30pm tonight. (Oh, and they are still coming back on Sunday).

The picture above was taken from Jamie's window. And, as you might imagine given that it takes two men to hold that big diggy thing that digs roads, it's all very noisy in his room at the present time.

As my father once memorably said to me years ago when something was irritating him, "Is it any wonder I take drink?"

Nor me, Dad, nor me.

Carpet sledging

We had a lot of snow recently - you may remember it.

And, because we had a lot of snow, a lot of people decided they wanted to do a lot of sledging - you may have seen them.

But Jamie didn't get to go sledging. And the reason was simple; he didn't have a sledge.

However, Vanessa has now put that right.

You, like me, may have mixed views on the wisdom of this purchase.

Yes, it's great Jamie now owns a sledge. I can't think of anyone (of right mind) who would argue with that. However, the question is, when might he be able to use it?

Because the one thing you can absolutely guarantee (if you're a White) is that, as soon as you buy your son a sledge, there will be absolutely no chance whatsoever of snow falling near you for at least a thousand years.

So, until that day comes, all Jamie can do is wait...

and wait...

and wait.

Wednesday, 27 January 2010

Arctic Roll? Think Arctic hole

We've seen a lot in recent years of food products, once popular in the 1970s, 80s and early 90s but which then vanished, suddenly re-appearing back in the shops.

Think Spangles, Monster Munch and, most recently, Wispas. (Apparently there are no plans to bring back Rancheros, which I regard as little short of a national scandal).

And whilst most of these blasts from the past appear to have got smaller in the intervening years (or perhaps I've just got bigger), they tend to taste as good as ever.

It was with this in mind that I excitedly picked up an Arctic Roll from Asda the other day. I haven't seen Arctic Roll for years and, no doubt, neither have you - because they've only re-started making it after a gap of well over a decade.

I've since looked into its history in some depth (the nights can be very long when you've got a kid) and did you know that, during Arctic Roll's heyday in the 1980s, makers Bird's Eye used to sell more than 25 miles of it each and every month? No? Now you do.

Anyway, so I got my chocolate Arctic Roll out of the freezer last night, sawed a slice off the end, gave it a couple of minutes to defrost and then had a bite.

And what was the verdict?

Well, I'll put it like this. Apparently you don't find penguins in the Arctic (go to the Antarctic and you're in business) but there are loads of polar bears.

My chocolate Arctic Roll tasted (and looked) like something that could well have emerged from a polar bear's "hind quarters."

Don't buy Arctic Roll.

Tuesday, 26 January 2010

W for Gordon?

You'll probably have picked up the speculation on the news this morning (or heard it confirmed, if you're reading this after 9.30 when the official announcement is due to be made) that the UK economy has finally come out of recession.

This is obviously quite a big deal, not least for Jamie who has spent his entire life so far scurrying around under the dark shadow of economic gloom - he often talks of little else.

However, some commentators are already speculating that things could get worse once again before they ultimately get better in the longer term, known in the trade as a "double dip recession."

The particularly hi-tech graphic above provides such an obvious illustration as to why it's called a "double-dip recession," that even I get it.

Obviously, all of us hope that we do not slip back into the bad times and, instead, the next few years prove to be hugely prosperous (and fun) for everyone.

But I've been thinking.

Wouldn't it be wonderfully ironic if Gordon Brown's 13 years in charge of our economy were forever recorded in history by a huge W?

That's what I would call "leaving his mark."

Monday, 25 January 2010


Vanessa, Jamie and I went up to Harrogate for a long-planned Sunday lunch yesterday with our friends (from left to right) Tim, Sarah, Tehya, Luca, Nicole and Ian and, unsurprisingly, had a very pleasant time.

In fact, here's another picture of the occasion (I do like to spoil you).

However, these photos aren't as straightforward they seem. Because a crime is being committed - a crime that Vanessa spotted upon closer examination last night, before reporting it to me.

Have a look at Jamie's right hand in the first picture. In fact, I've blown it up below to make it easier for you (I really do look after you).

Yes, the cheeky little fact, no, I'll say it - the dirty little THIEF is slyly nicking one of Sarah's chips from right under her nose.

And then, see what happens in a souped-up version of photo number two.

Yep, he's eating it.

The shame of it - seriously.

Have we brought our son up or dragged him up? To be honest, I just don't have the answer any more.

I've thought about this shocking incident all day long. In fact, I could concentrate on little else. And, after much soul-searching, I finally decided to allow him one more night of restful sleep in his cot.

But tomorrow morning, it's no more Mr Nice Daddy. Because I'm marching him down to Pudsey Police Station to turn him in. Copies of the pictures will also be making the journey, given that they have now acquired criminal evidence status, and it will be up to the courts to decide his fate.

I'm sure he will thank me in later years - if they ever release him, that is.

Sunday, 24 January 2010

Wearing his heart on his face

It's comforting to see a young man not afraid to express his emotions.

And, yesterday afternoon, Jamie travelled on something of an emotion-driven rollercoaster.

First up was Ulster's crucial Heineken Cup rugby match against Bath, which was shown live on Sky Sports. It was a game the Red Hand Province won comfortably in the end but, sadly, the victory was not quite enough to see them through to the competition's knock-out stages.

So, in an attempt to cheer Jamie up, I bought him a balloon - which he accidentally burst after no more than three minutes.

Life can sometimes be a bitch - even when you're only one-and-a-half.

Saturday, 23 January 2010

My "friend" Colin Bateman

I don't know what the highlight of your week has been thus far, but I can certainly tell you mine.

I'm now "friends" with Colin Bateman.

For those of you who don't know who Colin Bateman is - shame on you, by the way - or perhaps just need a little prod to remind you (would Jeffrey Donaldson do?), he is the man who wrote the book-turned-film Divorcing Jack and, most notably, Murphy's Law which was later adapted into the long-running BBC series featuring Coleraine's own Jimmy Nesbitt.

From Bangor, County Down, Bateman has now published almost two dozen novels.

And most importantly of all - for the purposes of this blog at least - he is by far my favourite author.

His plots, his turn of phrase and his dark "Norn Iron" wit mean that I never go on holiday without at least one of his books in my bag.

It is with all of this in mind that you can perhaps understand my initial bemusement on Tuesday when I received a Facebook notification that he wanted to be my "friend."

My first thought was that it must be "some other" Colin Bateman. But a couple of clicks soon confirmed that it was actually "him."

This included checking to see if we had any "mutual friends" and, indeed we did - 10 of them. And the majority are journalists - Bateman is an ex-newspaper reporter - and therefore very likely to know him personally.

Marvellous. My bemusement had turned to delight.

So what to do? When you are contacted by a hero, surely you should contact them back to tell them they're a hero? Shouldn't you?! Just me then.

But, sensibly, I stopped to think.

Maybe he hadn't meant to ask me to be his friend. Maybe it was a mistake. Did I want to face disappointment, nay, humiliation by finding out that he'd confused me with someone else?

And if it wasn't a mistake, did I want to kick off our new "friendship" by coming across as a sad weirdo?

Clearly, the answer to all of these questions was, well, no.

In an ideal world, Colin Bateman wanted to be my "friend" because he had stumbled across this blog, quickly realised that it wasn't very good but was at least the work of a trier, and concluded that I had earned the right to be in his Facebook gang.

But it probably wasn't what happened.

Whatever the truth, I am officially both thrilled and honoured that he clicked on my name.

And, Mr Bateman, if you ever do read these words, I want you to know that I think you're a genius (although if you haven't worked that out by now you're clearly not as sharp as I thought you were).

PS If haven't yet read a Colin Bateman novel, do yourself a favour and order one now:

Friday, 22 January 2010

Knives can be fun

Yet more evidence – not that it was needed – that Vanessa and I are continuing to live the “Yorkshire dream.”

Because, not content with our Domino’s takeaway pizzas on Tuesday, yesterday we became proud owners of our very own knife block.

With limited luggage space to take things back from our Christmas trip to Norn Iron, we asked my family not to buy us presents this year. But, needlessly although extremely generously, several of them sent us on the return journey across the Irish Sea with an armful of gift cards instead.

One of these was from my sister Jacquie who gave us a Debenhams card. And, last weekend, we used it to purchase our new pride and joy (pictured above), which was delivered to me at work yesterday afternoon.

I appreciate that all of you will undoubtedly want to know the sexy details. So, very briefly, here goes.

It’s a "Masterclass" set of five "brushed stainless steel" knifes (complete with 25-year guarantee) with not single but "DOUBLE bolstered handles" (I know!)

Alongside (literally) the chef’s, bread and carving knives which all measure 20cm in length (something of a surprise to me), we have a 12.5cm utility knife and an 8.5cm paring knife.

Each beautifully crafted piece of perfection has a "tapered ground plain cutting edge for extra precision" and an "ergonomic handle for a comfortable grip."

And last but arguably most impressive of all, the actual knife block itself which is not made of wood. Goodness me no.


I really am still pinching myself, I have to say. And the prospect of the next couple of days fills me with absolute glee.

Because it’s a long time since I’ve had an entire weekend with nothing to do but play with my chopper.

And the idea of having five to choose from? Well.

I feel like the luckiest man on Earth.

Thursday, 21 January 2010

Soft boy

Jamie displayed his sensitive side yesterday when he said goodbye to Emma (left) and Skye who have looked after him so well at nursery for the last few months.

It seems like yesterday when he first entered the "Baby Room." And then, having developed the ability to walk/fall over/bruise himself under his own steam, he was pushed across the hall to "Toddler One" where Emma and Skye were invited to do their stuff.

But now he has outgrown them too so, next week, he's off to "Toddler Two" where I would imagine he'll be doing pretty much the same as he's done in "Toddler One," but with more hair-pulling. And maybe some algebra.

Today, being Thursday, he's gone to his Grandma Judy and Grandad Mike's. And I would be lying if I didn't admit to developing concerns about his weekly trip there.

Last week, after reading on this blog about Jamie and I doing a bit of baking, Grandma Judy, to my mind, took advantage of his new found status as a metrosexual by inviting him to do her washing-up.

And I've heard a vicious rumour that she has a huge pile of ironing for him to tackle today.

Hopefully Grandad Mike, a "proper Yorkshireman" if ever there was one, will see what's going on here and instead allow Jamie to do something a bit more blokeish. (I was going to say "allow him to play with his big hammer" but I won't because that would just be wrong - and almost certainly illegal).

Wednesday, 20 January 2010

Too bored (for Tuesday)

I felt like I needed a bit of extra excitement in my life last night so, just as Vanessa was about to open the fridge to begin preparations for a full-on kitchen storm, I pounced.

"No dear, stop right there," I boomed.
"Because tonight we shall be having pizza."

I then expected her to tell me to shut up and go and take something to the bin (or such like).

But no. To my immense surprise - I still can't quite believe it now, if truth be told - she replied: "OK." Marriage really can be a roller coaster of adventure.

Still a little shocked that I was allowed to order a pizza, I decided to chance my arm just that little bit further.

"They have an offer on at Domino's at the moment, oh love of my life," said me (or something to that effect).

"It's called Two for Tuesday and you get two pizzas for the price of one. Sounds marvellous. Shall we go for that?"

"Uh.....s'pose so," replied my flower. (It was nice to see her so happy).

"And, I know, let's do something really different," said me again. "Why don't we order them online?!"

"Whatever," said my precious other half, before heading into the living room to read a newspaper and have a scratch.

So I did order them online - but the excitement didn't stop there. It just increased.

As soon as my order went through, the following appeared on the screen of my PC.

Do you see what they did there?! "Being Prepared." Our pizzas. Come on - you can't beat that!

So, naturally, I decided I'd better stay in front of my screen in case there were any hitches.

Five minutes' more staring later, and - you'll like this - there were "In [The] Oven." WOW!!! I could almost visualise the pizzas - our pizzas - in my mind. I don't think I'd previously experienced such huge anticipation. Ever.

So I stared at the screen for another ten minutes. And guess what? In fact, don't bother - I'll show you!

Yes, our pizzas were "On The Road." WOO-HOO!

This, of course, sparked a huge flurry of activity in our house (from me - Vanessa was still scratching). I had to get (non-alcoholic) drinks and kitchen roll sorted out. Would I have time, though? I would be lying if I didn't admit to a slight rising in my tension levels, but I was determined to see this job through.

In the end, I need not have worried. I was able to complete my preparations inside five minutes (good going, I think you'll agree), leaving a further ten minutes for me to stare at my screen for any developments - before the Domino's pizza man suddenly arrived at our front door.

The pizzas themselves were excellent but, again, I let the tension get to me a little. What if the status of our order changed mid-meal? What if Domino's HQ needed to get an urgent message to us whilst we were munching?

In the end, I couldn't cope and interrupted my pizza-eating twice just to check what the screen was saying.

The first time I looked, our pizzas were apparently still "On The Road" - plainly an error because, by now, most of them were inside us.

But the second time, I got the good news:

"Completed." I could enjoy my last slice in peace.

I wonder what we'll do tonight.

Tuesday, 19 January 2010

Clunk-click pigs

You may have read in recent days of the controversy surrounding the Pig family.

In case not, Daddy Pig, Mummy Pig, Peppa Pig and George Pig have been criticised by PC parents for not wearing seatbelts whilst driving around in their piggy car.

As a result, the makers of Peppa Pig (Jamie's favourite programme, for the record) have been forced to promise that the Pigs will belt up in future series.

Additionally, animators have agreed to spend the next three months adding seatbelts and car seats to old episodes of the show.

You can probably make a well-educated guess as to my views on all of this. So, instead, I'll offer the observations of two others which amused me.

First, from Phil Davies at Astley Baker Davies, the production company which makes the programme, who said with classic bluntness: “We thought, ‘This is a family of bloody pigs for God’s sake.” Indeed.

And the second, from an unnamed scribe at The Sunday Times, made me laugh out loud:

Pointing out that some concerned parents had apparently argued the addition of seatbelts would make the cartoon "more realistic," the mystery journo added dryly:

"When you see a family of pigs out for a drive, it's very rare these days to see them without seatbelts."


Monday, 18 January 2010

Silly tins

I fully appreciate that you have to make sacrifices when you're a parent and, occasionally, let your sproglet have things he or you don't necessarily need. But I think the episode I'm about to describe is just a bit mad.

Above you can see a photo of three tins which Jamie apparently spotted in some shop he was in, so Vanessa decided to buy them. OK, fair enough (as long as they weren't too expensive).

However, what to do with them?

One fairly obvious possibility was to use them to store things in - they are tins after all.

But why would you (or Vanessa, to be more accurate) choose to store our tea and sugar in them when they don't have "Tea" and "Sugar" emblazoned on them, they're identical and, crucially, we already have tins with "Tea" and "Sugar" emblazoned on them? Answer: you don't - unless you're name is Vanessa.

So what action does she then take to "rectify" the situation? She gets her biro out and scratches a "T" for tea on one, an "S" for sugar on another and a "V" for Vanessa's posh tea on the third.

It's just plain silly.

Particularly as Jamie doesn't even drink tea.

Sunday, 17 January 2010

It was all about the honey, mummy

Forget the vast array of whizzy drugs available these days, because the oldest and most basic solutions to baby ills are still the ones that work best - fact.

To explain, Jamie had the worst cold in his little history yesterday. Runny nose, sneezing etc etc (you'll no doubt be familiar). But by far the worst symptom was his cough which, without exaggeration, was the roughest I've seen in man, woman or baby.

He was literally coughing every 10 seconds all morning and afternoon, meaning he couldn't get to sleep - having already been up pretty much the whole of the previous night. Clearly, neither good nor pleasant and he was very, very down.

Vanessa and I gave him as much Calpol, Nurofen and Glycerol as we were allowed, plus as many fluids as he could drink. But all to little avail.

As we approached his bedtime and the prospect of another horrific night for everyone, I logged on to t'Internet to see if anyone in cyberworld had a bright idea. And I kept getting the same suggestion - a teaspoonful of honey.

So I went to the shop, got a pot of honey, said a prayer and forced a dollop down him (very much against his will). And within 20 minutes, his cough had all but gone.

It would be wrong not to point out that he did stir occasionally over the next few hours, but that is pretty much par for the course with our man on a normal night. And, in the end, he slept through until shortly after 6am. I call that a result.

It's bizarre but it's also true: "old-fashioned" remedies almost always do work best - and honey rocks.

A brief aside before I go, I read this morning that that pillar of virtue Ed Balls (pictured right) is planning to issue a 10-page guide to tell me and every other father in the country how to be a dad.

Well, he can **** off.

(Sorry, had to get that off my chest).

Saturday, 16 January 2010

I did it for Ulster

You'll probably not be shocked to hear this, but both Vanessa and I broke our self-imposed January alcohol bans last night - and have since been punished to distraction.

The long and the short of it from my point of view was that I was bored drinking squash and water and all that dull stuff. And if you work hard(ish) all week, well, I think you're entitled to a wee drinkie. Or a big drinkie. Plus, as I said yesterday, Ulster were playing rugby on the telly and I felt I could be more vocal in my support for them if I had a proper drink in my hand. (I think it made all the difference because, if you haven't heard, they played brilliantly and won).

And, as my friend Rob wrote on Facebook shortly before I opened one of only two cans of Guinness (before moving on to wine when Vanessa joined in):

"The no drinking is a health issue, making yourself unhappy creates stress which is a big killer."

What a wise man Mr Robert Ling truly is (for a Manchester United fan).

Cue punishment.

On the stroke of midnight and with no warning whatsoever, Jamie was sent the world's worst cold. (I thought it was a bit cheap of whoever it is who casts bad things on people to use the innocent one as a pawn). He began to cough and sneeze and his nose began to stream and, 12 hours on, he's still only been asleep for about 90 minutes in total.

Vanessa did the midnight - 4.30 shift with him and I did 4.30 - 9.30 before he finally had his little snooze. Goodness knows how he's managing to keep awake now.

But Vanessa and I are wrecked.

Thank goodness we can look forward to another drink tonight.

Friday, 15 January 2010

It's just

I appreciate you may not necessarily have a strong view on this, but I regard it as an absolute necessity to have a pint of Guinness in my hand whilst I'm watching an Ulster rugby match.

It's like having chips with fish, tonic with gin or Dec with Ant. The two simply go together.

You can therefore only imagine the torment I will be going through at 8pm tonight when my beloved Ulster kick-off against Edinburgh on Sky Sports 1 - and I am sitting in front of the telly with a cup of tea and a dunking biscuit.

This January drinking ban is seriously affecting my will to live.

A bag for him - and two for you

Don't tell Vanessa, but last night, before she got home late from work, I presented Jamie with a large bag of chocolate coins.

It wasn't an impulse buy on my part. Oh no. They were bought to right a wrong.

Because I got them to replace a similar large bag of chocolate coins that was scoffed about a week ago by our cheeky, uninvited, thieving, smelly and now very dead long-tailed visitors.

So, Jaws, Jaws II, Jaws III, Iris, Peter and Jeffrey Mouse; if you're looking down from mousey heaven and asking yourselves if pinching chocolate from an 18-month-old little boy was really the right thing to do, well, Jamie has a message for you.

See if you can spot it in the picture below.

Thursday, 14 January 2010

Simple things please tiny men

Three weeks on and Vanessa and I are still trying to work out where to put the huge number of presents Jamie received from so many kind people for Christmas (thanks again to everyone).

However, yesterday I brought something else home for him. To describe it as a "present" would be taking things a little bit to far. And to describe it as exciting would be ridiculous. But it certainly seemed to excite him.

I got him a new changing mat (to replace his old one which he took great pleasure in ripping apart).

Maybe it was because he still has five and a half months to wait for his birthday and doesn't think he'll receive many presents between now and then. Or possibly he just regards changing mats as items of great personal interest - a train spotter of the future, perhaps?

But, whatever the reason, Jamie seemed to determined to make the most of his "surprise."

He was naturally curious as soon as I carried the new accessory through the door, as you can see above.

Next, he wanted a closer inspection.

And then he wanted to go upstairs to try it out.

Thankfully, the experience didn't prove to be an anti-climax.

If only he was always this easy to please.

Wednesday, 13 January 2010

Anyone for tennis?

You might well regard the following comments as simply further evidence of my unceasing stagger towards middle age. And you would probably be right.

But I went into three well-known high street sports shops at lunchtime today in search of a pair of "proper" running shorts. Sadly I couldn't find any and will now have to look on t'Internet.

By the time I reached shop number three, I was really beginning to wonder what the heck was going on.

I mean, if sports shops don't sell running shorts then what are they there for?

And suddenly I realised the answer was before my eyes. They're there to kit out chavs.

All around me were shellsuits, caps, branded tee-shirts, hoodies and expensive trainers. But what was almost entirely absent was clothing and equipment for use in actual sport.

Is it me?

More than likely.

The wise words of Uncle Steve

If six was yesterday's number of the day (and, thankfully, the number of messy mousey ends has not reached seven overnight), then today's number is undoubtedly 10.

Because it is now 10 days since I climbed on to the "dry wagon." And I've hated almost every second of it.

There is no question that I (and Vanessa) have done the right thing by abstaining from all forms of alcoholic beverage (until at least the last weekend of the month). But that doesn't make it easy.

It's not so bad during the week (although it's still very far from good). However, last weekend was a killer.

That moment on a Friday night when sproglet is finally asleep and you can go downstairs and pull something "sharp" out of the fridge is, to my mind, what the working week is all about. The idea of not having a drink on a Saturday is just plain wrong. And even ministers of the cloth have a snifter on a Sunday to compliment their round of pan loaf.

So last weekend, my first of drinking dull stuff, was therefore a challenge.

I came home on Friday and declared to Vanessa that it was no good, I couldn't do it and I was off to get a bottle of Miller.

"OK," she responded without a flicker of emotion, "you do what you want, but I'm not having a drink."

What a low blow it was. And yes I know it was reverse psychology, but there was no way she was going to outdo me - so out came the orange squash.

But come Saturday, I was even worse.

"I don't care, this time you do what you want to - I'm having a drink," I announced before heading up to tell my Facebook friends that I was intending to pop off the wagon on a temporary basis.

But a few minutes after doing so, something extremely unexpected happened.

My old mate Steve Donoughue (below left) responded swiftly to my post and implored me not to be weak. And it stopped me dead in my tracks.

Because Steve, a gambling consultant by trade and one of the great characters I've met, is a man who seeks to "enjoy life" (it took me a little while to decide what phrase to use there).

So if Steve is telling you not to be weak, well, it registers. The only comparison I can make would be if Andy Murray phoned me on my mobile and told me to cheer up. I think you've got the idea.

And Steve's words were strengthened yet further when he revealed that he too is on the wagon. What is the world coming to?

I was therefore left with no alternative but to take the chilling bottle of white wine out of the fridge and place it back on the wine rack where it belonged. I was devastated but I knew I was doing the right thing - because Uncle Steve had said so.

I then headed back upstairs to report my actions to the wise one.

And Steve's response was one I'll long remember:

"Well done that man - did I say I've taken to sniffing glue?"

Tuesday, 12 January 2010

Playing snap with Jeffrey

Jamie peed all over my trousers about half an hour ago, which was obviously a tremendous way to start the day.

But that's not what's bothering me this fine winter morn. No - and at the risk of becoming tedious (think how I feel) - it's those effing mice again.

Last night on this blog, I expressed hope that we'd seen the last of the little buggers after mouse family member number five woke up dead yesterday morning. And then I went to make a cuppa.

Nothing unusual was occurring. Lady Grey for Vanessa, no sugars; whatever tea Asda had on offer this month for me, one and a half sugars (I know - fascinating).

But as I walked past the sink towards the bin to dispose of the tea bags (tea pots are for wimps), I heard something hit the floor and bounce - or so I thought.

"It must be one of Jamie's bowls," I pondered (I didn't say it out loud because that would make me either mad or even older than I am) and turned round to pick whatever it was up. But I could find nothing lying on the floor.

And then, of course, the penny dropped.

So, I took the wooden cover thing off the cupboard below the sink where we've been finding our friends. And there he was - Jeffrey the Mouse, mouth covered in peanut butter, and very, very dead.

What I had heard was, first, the trap being sprung, followed by Jeffrey taking a quick final flight through the air before landing as an ex-mouse.

Don't misunderstand me, I'm delighted to have weeded yet another one out - bringing the total up to six. But it was the snap that did it for me. I can still hear it now.


Hopefully Jeffrey's passing really does mark the end of the story.

And I trust you'll enjoy whatever it was you were planning to eat today.