Wednesday, 31 March 2010

Happy Birthday to me

Yes, the day has dawned, I'm now 38 years old and - having checked - nothing appears to have dropped off. Yet.

As I write, Vanessa is downstairs making my birthday breakfast. And she'd better get a move on, if you ask me.

I haven't been downstairs yet - did I mention it was my birthday?

But when I do summon the energy, I've got some nice cards and presents to open, most notably a big brown parcel from my mum which is very intriguing.

To this point, I've already been spoilt with a shower of "upstairs gifts" from Vanessa's immediate family and also from Vanessa and Jamie.

The most original offering thus far is an outdoor sheep ornament from Mrs W. That's right, I said an outdoor sheep ornament. And, you know, it's original. Plus Jamie likes it.

As for the rest of the day, all manners of activities are being considered (whether we actually pursue any of them is an entirely different question). But the undoubted highlight will be tonight when we're off to see Amy MacDonald play in Leeds.

If you haven't heard of her, do something to correct the situation immediately. She's wee, she's cute, she's Scottish and she's got a voice like a (tuneful) foghorn.

Happy Birthday to me.

Tuesday, 30 March 2010

Sunrise or sunset?

I'm not going to write very much tonight because I'm tired, and yet this should hardly come as a surprise.

Not because work's been a bit busy of late and not even because Jamie only allowed Vanessa and me to sleep for about three hours each last night.

No, it's because tomorrow I become officially middle-aged.

I discovered by chance a few months ago that 38 is that not-so-magic figure for a male in this country and that is indeed my fate when the clock strikes midnight (although strictly speaking I wasn't born until teatime).

But birthdays should be celebrations and I'll certainly be having a go - I'm even on leave now until next Tuesday and you can't be bad to that.

So it's onward, mon amigos!

PS I'm just about to order pizza - that's quite a young thing to do, isn't it? And then I might go rollerblading.

Monday, 29 March 2010

I'll name that Lewis in one

Jamie's got a sore arse (again).

Sadly for him (and for his parents' prospects of getting some sleep tonight), the Teething Devil has arrived for what must surely be his final visit.

And the result for our boy is a sorry combination of painful gums, a tickly cough, a runny nose and lots of bad nappies - hence the sore "seat" (yes, I know, that was more polite).

That said, I would still describe Lewis Hamilton as an arse. I really want to like him but I just can't and yesterday's spoilt child act - after Jenson Button, possibly my favourite current sportsman, had the cheek to win the Australian Grand Prix instead of him (let's not talk about the other four drivers who also finished higher) didn't help.

However, as it's turned out, my description of Brat Boy (don't worry, I won't say arse again) was timid compared to the tag pinned on him by the Victoria state Roads Minister (pictured above).

You may have heard that Stroppy Features (still didn't say arse) was arrested on Friday night after deciding to show off his flash Mercedes by doing wheel spins in a public street.

Responding to the news, Minister Tim Pallas commented (and I kid you not): "OK, I'll say it. He's a dickhead."

If only we had a few politicians like that in this country (although, to be fair, I'd draw the line at them actually being Australian).

Sunday, 28 March 2010

Park life

When you're living with a 21-month-old little boy with bags of energy and a limited attention span, you naturally greet very enthusiastically news of a wildlife attraction opening right on your doorstep.

It was therefore with a sense of high anticipation that the Whites entered the new Pudsey Park Visitor Centre earlier today.

And the verdict?

Well, it was alright.

Some of fish (pictured above) were quite good.

The rabbits and mice were as expected (i.e. big ears and small tails, and small ears and big tails respectively).

But I wasn't convinced the butterflies even were alive. (Maybe they were just having an understandable lie in after the clocks went forward).

Predictably enough, the swings outside - which weren't new - were by far the biggest hit of the morning with Junior.

However, beggars can't be choosers, the centre literally only opened yesterday and fair play to the Council for having a go. We'll certainly return.

One final observation.

There was also a wishing well in there where, as you might expect, you could chuck money in and hope for something exciting to happen on the way home.

There were already quite a few coins lying beneath the water, some of which I thought looked a bit strange. So I conducted a closer inspection.

And what I discovered was that the vast majority of the coins were old 1p, 2p, 5p and 10p pieces - which are no longer legal tender.

I can therefore only conclude that the age old "myth" is actually a truth - Yorkshire folk really don't throw good money away.

Saturday, 27 March 2010

Granny Skype

Jamie's just finished a Skype gurgle with his Granny White in Portstewart.

What a thoroughly modern toddler he is.

And what a hip, silver surfing granny he has.

Maybe next time he'll stretch himself into actually saying something.

And maybe next time I won't have to drag his granny out of the shower to wave at him.

Still, everyone seemed to have fun.

Friday, 26 March 2010

Lost in cyberspace

There appears to be a fair few people out there who are even less skilled at using t'Internet than I am.

Either that or, very much like me, they are extremely bored.

I say this because, last Sunday and on the advice of my Facebook friend Alex, I added a little piece of free software to this rubbish blog which allows me to find out the geographical whereabouts of you lot.

And, six days in, I am a little taken aback by what it's revealed.

Because the more 350 individual visitors to the site since then have included misguided cyber-travellers from across the United States, a load from Canada, plus smatterings from France, Germany, Norway, Sweden, Luxembourg, Portugal, Spain, Romania, Italy, Belgium, Australia (although I know who they are - g'day Hayley, Graham, Louise and Zoe), New Zealand, South Africa and even one sole trooper from Sudan.

These are in addition to the substantial number of hits from various parts of England, Scotland, Ireland and about three from Wales - some of which I hope were deliberate.

But there you are, this pile of tripe is officially global.

If you are someone who has arrived here in error, a sincere welcome to you and please do come back. With any luck, my next post will be much better than this one - although I doubt it.

Thursday, 25 March 2010

NatWest numpties

It may still be early in the day - but I'm on the warpath.

In common with most other people in this country, I don't care much for the banks.

And it's not because of those greedy bastards in London who commandeered billions of pounds of our cash to fill the void left by the fact that they're greedy bastards. No, it's because they're shit.

I'll save you the long list of "disappointments" they've inflicted on me down the years because I suspect you too will have a list every bit as long. So I'll just tell you why I'm currently annoyed.

Last Wednesday was St Patrick's Day and I was going to meet my mate Carson after work for a St Patrick's Day pint. Pints cost money, so I put my NatWest cash card into the wall - and it was promptly eaten.

So I marched straight into NatWest to report what had happened. The nice young girl apologised, said there was nothing wrong with my account, ordered me a new card and arranged for me to get some cash. Fair play to her, I thought. These things happen.

She said it would take seven to 10 working day for my new card to arrive but, only three days later, it popped through our letter box. Great, thought I, job well done.

Because I had taken out "an advance" to tide me over, I didn't have to use my new card until last night when I put it into the wall at Asda - and the wall ate it.

That was bad enough, but I've just checked my account online and discovered that £60 of "emergency cash" was withdrawn from my account on the day I originally lost my card - not by me it wasn't - and I've also been charged an extra £5 for the privilege of this happening.

Needless to say, NatWest will be my first port of call this morning.

And I will try to be nice but, somehow, I suspect I might fail in this particular endeavour.

PS Whilst searching for an appropriate picture to accompany this self-centred rant, I discovered a Facebook Group entitled "I Hate NatWest," which I've obviously joined. Their e-mail address is listed as and, whilst I appreciate this is made up, at least they've got the right idea.

Wednesday, 24 March 2010

I might take this up professionally

Well? What do you think?

Yup, I thought you'd be impressed.

Some might argue that my creation is a teeny tiny bit over the top but, of course, they would be wrong.

Indeed, I would describe it as a fine example of Ulster conservatism.

However, art is nothing if not subjective and I would therefore not wish to be accused of forcing my views on to you.

The Easter Bonnet Parade itself starts at 10.30am prompt and Jamie has been sent out with express instructions to camp it up (not that he has much option) - there are prizes at stake after all.

But, between you and me, I think there's little chance of the nice ladies at nursery even being allowed to put it on his head.

Time will tell.

Tuesday, 23 March 2010

How Cavalier should he be?

Ladies and gentlemen, we have a problem

Vanessa’s headed off to London this morning for work and isn’t due back until tomorrow.

Before Jamie moved into ours, this was a scenario I used to look forward to. Perhaps it’s just a boy's thing, but having the option to eat what you like, (drink what you like), watch what you like on telly and generally make a mess is something approaching luxury in my sad little existence.

But since Sproglet descended amongst us, the prospect no longer has the same appeal.

If I tell you he was up at 4.30 this morning and refused to go back to sleep, well, you’ll have a fair idea of what I mean.

But tonight, before I get anywhere near bed, an added complication will confront me.

A couple of weeks ago I mentioned here that Jamie had been invited to take part in an Easter Bonnet Parade at nursery with all participants being awarded a small prize.

Vanessa had a plan in place to make something for him but, about an hour ago, I discovered we’d got our dates wrong.

And instead of next Wednesday, the note on our fridge advised that the parade is actually tomorrow.

So at some point today, I’m going to have to nick out of work and buy whatever raw materials I can find.

And then tonight, I’ll make my son an Easter bonnet.

I genuinely have no idea where to start or what it’s going to look like. I didn’t even know boys were supposed to wear Easter bonnets. In fact, I’m fairly certainly they’re not.

What I can say is that I keep having images of the Gay Cavalier flashing into my head. And I’m not going to send him out looking like that.

Or am I?

I will show you what I come up with tomorrow.

Monday, 22 March 2010

New pram for SamCam

You may have heard that Samantha Cameron, wife of Tory Leader David Cameron, has announced she's expecting a baby in September.

With the polls close and the General Election only a matter of weeks away, that's what I call taking one for the team.

Poetry for a modern age

I don't know if you're a regular reader of the Daily Mail. Come to think of it, I'd rather not know. But Richard Littlejohn's column on Friday last had me in stitches.

He referred to the fact that the Government had been ordered to drop two adverts based on nursery rhymes which, in the view of the Advertising Standards Agency, had "exaggerated the risks of so-called global warming."

One of the ads, from the Department of Energy and Climate Change, went as follows:

Jack and Jill went up the hill,
To fetch a pail of water,
There was none as extreme weather due to climate change had caused a drought.

Seriously - and we, as taxpayers, footed the bill.

Sticking to the theme, Littlejohn then set about adapting several other well-known nursery rhymes to reflect "modern Britain."

Below are what I thought were the best:

The Grand old Duke of York,
He had 10,000 men.
But he told the Chilcot inquiry he would have had 20,000,
If Gordon Brown hadn't cut defence spending.

Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall,
Humpty Dumpty had a great fall.
So they took him to an NHS hospital,
Where he caught MRSA and died.

There was an old woman who lived in a shoe,
She had so many children by a number of absentee fathers,
So the council knocked two houses into one and bought her a plasma TV.

Hey diddle diddle
They're all on the fiddle,
They claimed it was within the rules.
Four of them had their collars felt for fraud,
But the rest ran away with the money.

Wee Willie Winkie runs through the town,
Upstairs and downstairs in his nightgown.
Trying escape the lynch mob who think he's a paedophile.
When they catch him they'll string him up, the dirty *******.

Jack Sprat would eat no fat,
His wife would eat no lean,
So social services took away their children and put them in a home.

Old Mother Hubbard went to the cupboard,
To get her poor doggie a bone.
When she got there,
It was groaning with oven chips, turkey twizzlers, bumper bags of crisps and lashings of fizzy drinks.
But there weren't any bones because health and safety had threatened to prosecute the butcher if he didn't stop selling them.

Hot cross buns! Hot cross buns!
Have been taken of the shelves by the diversity department,
In case they offend Muslims.

Ding dong bell,
Pussy's in the well,
Who'll pull him out?
It's no good asking one of those community support officers.
They haven't been trained for it.

Little Bo Peep has lost her sheep,
And doesn't know where to find them.
That's because the Government slaughtered them and threw their carcasses on to a bonfire during the foot and mouth panic.

Tom, Tom, the piper's son,
Stole a pig and away did run.
But he got let off with an Asbo,
And now he's doing burglary and dealing drugs.

Three blind mice, three blind mice,
See how they run, see how they run.
This ward's been crawling with mice since the NHS contracted out the cleaning.

Three men in a tub,
And who do you think they be?
They're all consenting adults and they got a grant for it from the council.

Doctor Foster went to Gloucester,
But when he got there
He found they'd already given the job to a foreign GP who can't speak English.

Georgie Porgie,
Pudding and pie,
Kissed the girls and made them cry,
Now he's on the sexual offenders' register.

Yes, very Daily Mail - but I'll bet you still laughed.

Sunday, 21 March 2010

Reeves and Relief

Thanks to the total ineptitude of Richard Branson's boys and girls at Virgin Media who denied their loyal Leeds customers television, telephone and broadband services for the second full day in eight, I wasn't able to update this drivel yesterday.

But hopefully it won't happen again between now and whenever BT arrive to plumb us into their offerings instead - bugger off Beardy and take your big teeth and your DJ hair with you. Virgin.

Thankfully I was feeling a little more charitable at bang on 9.30 this morning as I began six one-mile laps of Leeds City Centre in aid of Sport Relief.

However, Vanessa was handed a much bigger challenge in trying to keep Jamie occupied.

I had a go prior to the gun by showing him a man on stilts. But, as you can see above, he wasn't best interested.

Vanessa then pulled out the old "banana and balloon" trick. But, whilst he ate half his banana, he still wasn't that arsed.

So, last and by every means least, we collectively tried to wow him with a bit of celebrity in the form of Vic Reeves who came along to start the second wave of runners shortly after I'd crossed the line.

But Jamie wasn't impressed with Mr R (who was apparently born in Leeds) and, to be honest, who could blame him? I've always thought Bob was the funny one too.

Sincere gratitude to my mum, Derek, Sarah, Sally, Maura, David and Vanessa (who was given little option) for sponsoring me to do the run.

And, if you're not one of them and haven't yet donated to Sport Relief, you still have time...

Friday, 19 March 2010

Can two become one (night of telly)?

The older I get, the less I welcome the prospect of stressful situations.

And tonight is bound to be extremely stressful - particularly for a Friday.

Because tonight my beloved Coleraine FC are playing Portdown live on Sky Sports 3 (kick-off 7.45pm).

Meanwhile, it's Sport Relief night on BBC 1 from 7pm (for which YOU CAN STILL SPONSOR ME by clicking on to COME ON!)

The idea of Sky+ing one or other event is simply out of the question (it's a boy thing). So I have no option but to try to watch both the match and James Corden's spoof sketches at the exactly same time (although obviously only until the final whistle goes at Shamrock Park).

But it's not going to be easy and I would ask for your thoughts and prayers to be with me as I make my brave attempt.

What a trooper.

PS What do you mean "what about Vanessa?" I'll bring some chocolate home, alright?!

Thursday, 18 March 2010

Paddy and me

My St Patrick's Day began in a predictably shaky manner but picked up later.

The picture above was taken first thing from my office window in Bradford City Hall.

Traditionally on St Patrick's Day, the Council flies both the Irish Tricolour and the Flag of St Patrick from opposite sides of Centenary Square.

And equally traditionally, whoever puts them up makes a point of flying the former from the pole 20 feet from my nose.

But, as a form of personal protest, I was wearing a pair of luminous orange pants. That'll teach them.

And when the working day was done, I met up with my my sole friend called Carson - from Belfast and genuinely named after former Unionist Leader Lord Carson - for three pints of the obvious.

The evening highlight was a private viewing of Jamie's specially-commissioned St Patrick's Day work of art, provisionally entitled "Green Stuff."

I trust you were equally creative in your Paddy-themed endeavours .

Wednesday, 17 March 2010

Marks & Spencer 0 Coalisland 10

Regular readers might remember that wanting-to-be-helpful M&S man last week who persuaded me to delay purchasing a new bag and jacket because a sale was rumoured to be starting yesterday.

Well, he was correct in one aspect because the M&S sale did indeed start yesterday.

And were my two items in the M&S sale?

Of course not.

And in the seven days that have passed since last week's visit, M&S had "shifted things around a bit," meaning it took me a good 20 minutes to find what I had originally picked out.

Plus, the "navy blue" jacket I eventually bought turned out to be black when I got it home.

So, all in all, not good - a bit like the M&S sale itself which I checked out whilst I was in.

In fact it was expensive pants - quite literally.

On a separate matter, a big thank you on this St Patrick's Day to the Queen of Coalisland, Mrs Maura Campbell, for standing alone yesterday in sponsoring me for the Sport Relief (Six) Mile(s).

Maura - officially Coalisland's second most famous person after snooker legend Dennis Taylor - is an extremely talented, occasionally fearsome and extraordinarily curly ex-work colleague of mine who is also clearly very generous. I'm grateful to her.

Now then, who's next to cough up?

Tuesday, 16 March 2010

Can I relieve you of some cash?

I'm kicking off my Tuesday with a shameless plug.

Not in the least bit fresh after running the Keighley BIGK 10K on Sunday, I'm now planning to do the Sport Relief Mile on Sunday coming.

But it's, dare I say, an "Irish mile" - because I'm going to be running six.

I ran the shorter distance in London four years ago and, save for beating that guy with the dreadlocks who wheelchair dances on BBC1 before EastEnders, it was a bit of an anti-climax.

So I've decided to make an extra special effort this year, if only to justify the return train fare into Leeds.

No doubt you'll be hassled from pillar to post between now and the weekend by people asking you for money for Sport Relief.

I therefore reckon I'm offering something of a service by giving you the chance to get your donation out of the way now - by sponsoring me.

I've already started the ball rolling by fleecing myself for the princely sum of £10 which, as luck would have it, brings me right up to my self-fixed target of, er, £10.

You don't have give much - it isn't that far, after all. Indeed, you obviously don't have to give at all.

But if you want to make a donation to what is obviously an excellent cause, please click onto this link:

I promise to sweat loads.

Monday, 15 March 2010


Maybe it’s been the upturn in the Yorkshire weather over the last week or so, but the sudden change in season has led to an equally sudden development of a new habit in Jamie World – a demand to be taken outside at very short notice.

But here’s the thing.

We’ve all encountered those annoying, clever-dick dogs that bring their leads to their owners when they feel like a stroll and a dump on the pavement.

Well, Jamie seems to have modelled his “I’m A Toddler Get Me Out Of Here!” act on one of them.

Because, in order to get his message across, he’s taken to going into the kitchen, picking up his hat and coat from his pram, dragging them into the living room and dropping them at the feet of either Vanessa or me to wrap him up in.

And, whilst his new trick is undoubtedly very cute, it’s not always very timely.

For example, the picture above was taken shortly after seven o’clock this morning – and, yes, he is still wearing his pyjamas.

There is an obvious plus in what he’s learnt to do i.e. we can now be certain when he wants to go out (I told you it was obvious).

But there is another way of looking at it.

If he has actually learnt his new habit from some mangy mutt somewhere, might it not be possible that at some point he gets too much into character and attempts to drop his nappy in the street?

That would definitely be my fear.

Yes, perhaps it’s best for me to develop a new habit of my own – and carry a pooper scooper around with me. Just in case.

Sunday, 14 March 2010

Mum stuff and Dad guff

It's Mother's Day - all those people stopping their cars on ring roads to buy flowers is the giveaway - and Jamie happily did his bit.

Indeed, he made not one but two cards (thanks to Grandma Judy and the nice ladies at nursery for their assistance on this front) and also bought his mummy the Lady Gaga album, which may or may not have been an inspired choice. (Let's just say the Mummy Jury remains out).

The Mother's Day stuff actually had to wait until lunchtime as, first thing this morning, Team White went to Keighley for the BIGK 10K race - me to run it, and Vanessa and Jamie to see if I died during the attempt.

But thankfully all went smoothly and I crossed the line in just under 50 minutes to collect my souvenir finishers' water bottle (I can sense your intense jealousy even from here).

Jamie was most excited to see Keighley Cougars Rugby League mascot Freddie Cougar (do you see what they did there?) in the crowd.

In fact, he seemed so pleased that I asked Freddie if he would be kind enough to say hello to our boy.

But sadly that turned out to be a rubbish idea.


A quick and unrelated footnote for anyone who might be interested.

Believe it or not, this blog was visited almost 500 times in the last seven days, the most "unique hits" received in the space of a week since the site was set up.

Goodness knows why any of you bother, although it is reassuring to know there are some people out there with just as much time on their hands as me.

But thanks for taking an interest and I hope I can continue to command your even occasional attention for a little while yet.

Saturday, 13 March 2010

Tie, tie and tie again

Jamie and I have just finished watching the first qualifying session of the new Formula One season.

I think he enjoyed it although he kept asking where Roary the Racing car was. I suggested the Number One Star might be on the grid for the race proper tomorrow, giving me just under 24 hours to think of a reason why he's not. I might say he's ill.

On other matters, yesterday I bought some new ties - six new ties, to be precise.

You might think that six is a lot of new ties to buy in one fell swoop, particularly as there are only five days in the working week.

However, Moss Bros had a sale on and I couldn't resist: six ties, 20 pounds, job's a good 'un. And at least two of them are just about wearable.

Monday can't come soon enough (my a*se).

Friday, 12 March 2010

Paying for their children - and grandchildren

Yesterday – the day when three particularly greedy and cocky MPs appeared in court accused of nicking more than £60,000 of our money in false expense claims – I discovered more evidence that a significant number of honourable and right honourable Members still believe they don’t breathe the same air as the rest of us.

To explain, the painting above – I couldn’t find a photograph – shows the building known as One Parliament Street (I’ll leave you to work out why that might be). Inside you can find the Westminster offices of probably a hundred or so MPs, as well as a couple of restaurants and, most relevantly for the purposes of what I’m about to tell you, Bellamy’s Bar.

I have very fond memories of Bellamy’s Bar. For example, I encountered the only real person I’ve ever met called Elvis in there, he was Welsh. And I have some bad ones – it was in Bellamy’s where I watched Ryan Giggs’ extra-time wonder goal sink Arsenal in that famous 1999 FA Cup semi-final replay.

One of the principal reasons I liked Bellamy’s was, essentially, because it was the researchers’ bar. MPs themselves were rarely seen there and journalists were actually banned from going in. So it was “our place” where we could talk freely amongst ourselves without either bosses or hungry newshounds getting in the way.

I think it had become a bit rundown in recent years and, a little while ago, I read it had been refurbished at a cost of £400,000. You could very easily argue that this amount was more than a little over-the-top – it certainly sounded that way to me – but there you are.

However, what have our moralistic, whiter-than-white, not-in-the-least-bit-greedy-or-self-serving MPs now decided to do with Bellamy’s?

Get this – they plan to spend another £400,000 of our money turning it into a nursery for their children and other assorted relatives.

To quote Labour MP Joan Walley:

“The important thing is that we treat the House of Commons as the workplace of parliamentary democracy.

“After 22 years of my being here, there may be a workplace nursery for my grandchildren.”

Whatever you think dear – and dear, you and many of your friends certainly are to the rest of us.

Not to mention grasping b*stards.

Thursday, 11 March 2010

Is he in the right job?

I had another bizarre experience on my way home from work tonight.

Last Christmas, my mum very kindly gave me a gift card for a well known chain store (it's got an "M" in its title) which I deliberately refrained from using until deciding what it was I really needed.

And after 10 weeks of intensive consideration, today I finally plumped for a new bag for work - you might call it a "man bag" - given that my current off the shoulder number has seen better days in the decade it's been hanging off me.

So I called into this particular shop (there's also an "S" in there), chose a suitable bag - i.e. as close as possible to the one I have - before making my way to the pay point.

But en route, I noticed some reasonably-priced lightweight jackets which I thought might do me nicely in my quest not to die of hypothermia at Headingley during the upcoming cricket season. I tried three on, chose one and then went to settle up. All was going well.

I gave my intended purchases to the assistant and announced how satisfied I felt with what I'd found and how glad I was that I'd waited to use my gift card (sometimes I really am the dullest man on the planet).

But then things got complicated, and even a little weird.

"I shouldn't be telling you this," whispered the assistant, "but I've heard rumours that we are having a sale starting next Tuesday. I don't know whether or not these items are in the sale, but it would be terrible if you paid the full price now and then found they were cheaper next week."

He was obviously right - not to mention incredibly kind - but there were two problems:
  1. Clearly my items might not be in the sale, and

  2. It had already taken me 10 weeks to get round to walking into the shop. Would I really be bothered to go back next week on the off-chance of saving £3?

I hummed and hawed for a bit before suggesting I would just go ahead and buy my new bag and jacket while I could.

But my sales friend would hear none of it.

The eventual outcome was that my desired items have now been reserved for me until next Wednesday so that I can go back the day before and see if they did end up in the sale.

How odd and, again, fair play to my new pal.

But for his sake, I do hope he's not working on commission.

Big Head Vanessa

Eagle-eyed ITV Yorkshire viewers may have spotted Vanessa on last night's Calendar (she did her bit just before the female Elvis impersonator who was forced to retire after giving up fags and losing her husky voice).

She was making her annual appearance on the sofa beside Christine and Duncan to promote the launch of the Big Lottery Fund's "People's Millions" competition.

Vanessa has worked for the organisation for many years and has now risen to the dizzy heights of "Head of the Yorkshire and Humber Region." She even has her own desk and computer and everything.

But here's the thing.

The Big Lottery Fund has done a bit of rebranding in recent times and, where possible, has shortened its name simply to Big.

I was quite amused by this when I first heard and have since waited patiently for what I believed was about to happen to actually come to pass. And, in yesterday morning's papers, it did - to my huge delight.

Big (tee hee) had put out a press release to coincide with the People's Millions launch. And, when I picked up my copy of the Bradford Telegraph & Argus, I saw the headline:

"Do you fancy a slice of £250,000?"

The article then proceeded to outline details of the competition and finished with a quote as follows:

"Big and ITV are calling on people to come forward with their brilliant ideas to improve their communities. I would urge you to seize this opportunity to get funding for something special that you know will make a real difference to the people around you."

And who was the quote from?

"Vanessa White, Big Head of the Yorkshire and Humber Region."

You couldn't make it up.

PS A bit like the female Elvis impersonator

Wednesday, 10 March 2010

You might say it was good

"I ****ing loved it!"

That's the kind of uncouth and, quite frankly, gutter response you might expect from a scummy and unsophisticated individual after they'd been asked what they thought of their first live performance of Riverdance.

And my own verdict of last night's show in Bradford? Easy.

"I ****ing loved it!"

I reckon it was the second best show I've seen on stage - just behind The Lion King (but I'll not embarrass myself further by getting into that).

I'm not one of life's dancers, see - that fact quickly becomes stark when you see my moves. And, despite coming from Norn Iron, I know next to nothing about Irish dancing (there wasn't a great call for it in Macosquin where I spent my early years).

But I do know when I'm impressed by something and, last night, I was simply blown away. The pace, the sounds, the beauty, the effortlessness of the dancers and their obvious enjoyment as they performed was close to overwhelming.

In fact, the only downside was that our seats were so high up - the picture above was taken from my perch - that I kept hitting my head on the roof every time I tried to get involved in a standing ovation. (OK, slight exaggeration, but you get my point).

And I reckon Vanessa must have cracked her head off something during the first half of the show too, because here is word for word the very brief conversation we had during the interval.

Vanessa: "That's brilliant! I love Irish dancing! Do you fancy signing up for some classes?"

Barry: "No."

As if.

But anyway, Riverdance - wonderful, wonderful, wonderful. Please go and see it if you get a sniff of a chance.

You'll ****ing love it!

Tuesday, 9 March 2010

Finally taking the leap

Jamie's constipated (sorry, too early for you?)

I only raise this because, being Tuesday, I've just dumped him at nursery and I have slight concerns he'll not last the day.

I've written several times in the past about their controversial "three shites and you're out" policy (although, only a fortnight ago, they ejected him after a single but searing "home run" which left his jeans in a very bad way).

So conversely, one must wonder if they also adopt a stance of "no poo won't do." The next few hours will inevitably provide the answer.

Aside from all this excitement, here's a thing: Vanessa and I are off to see Riverdance tonight. Yes, get us - I'm even toying with the idea of putting on a pair of floaty trousers.

2010 marks yet another farewell tour for the show that simply refuses to die. And so it's time for me to finally accept the inevitable and go to see it.

The Bradford Alhambra is the venue and Vanessa's mum Judy and stepdad Mike make up our party of four.

Like most people, I only know the one "tune" in the entire show - yes "that one." In fact, I've even got it on CD. But hopefully I'll be humming along to some of the others before the night is out.

I'll offer my serious and considered thoughts on the production tomorrow.

Monday, 8 March 2010

How they grow

Yesterday, we Whites headed off on our first trip of the new season to Harewood House, a stately home and grounds just outside Leeds.

It's a journey we have made many times in the last couple of years, principally because Vanessa has a card which gets us in free, she's from Yorkshire, is therefore as tight as a duck's wotsit and, well, you get the picture.

But whilst there, I thought I'd pass the time by doing something I thought might be interesting - you can make up your own mind whether it is or not.

The photo above of Jamie was taken yesterday. But below you can see the same shot placed alongside one snapped exactly 51 weeks ago when we went on our first Harewood trip of the 2009 season.

Where does the time go? Goodness knows, although at least I can be certain where Jamie's food went.

As an aside, our man had something of a surprise when, at one point, he decided to go off in search of small animals.

Because he only bumped into his Uncle Wee John.

Now there's someone who, despite his advancing years, just never seems to get any bigger.

Sunday, 7 March 2010

Calling the Class of '83!

The picture above was taken circa 1989 in The White Pheasant bar in Portrush.

On the right you can see Mr Jonny Lennox, frontman of legendary schoolboy band (in my world, at least) The Fix. Just in the corner of shot is bass player, Mr Paul Beattie. And hidden from view is drummer Mr Shaun Giffin.

The rest of the picture is made up of schoolboys and girls from The Triangle area (I'm the gormless-looking one in middle holding the pint glass). There is only one individual in the photo who I can say for certain was 18 at the time.

Ladies and gentlemen, those were indeed the days.

Jonny put this picture up on Facebook only a few days ago, and his timing could not have been better. Because all three band members were in my year at Coleraine Inst. And, for the past few weeks, a handful of us had been talking about trying to put together a reunion. Sight of this picture convinced me immediately that we had to have a go and, on Wednesday, I sent out e-mails to Facebook friends from the Class of '83 to establish interest.

The response to those e-mails plus some phone calls, texts and the efforts of others - particularly hairless, clueless copper Sean Fitzpatrick - has meant that we are now going ahead and Sean has even booked the venue (owned by another ex-classmate).

The event will take place on Saturday 19 June in The Playhouse, Portrush - almost (and possibly even exactly) 20 years to the day since the last of us walked out of the school gates for the final time after finishing our 'A' Levels.

The exclusive news is that, since Wednesday, two of the three members of The Fix have agreed to reform for one night only in what will be their first performance since 1993. And Shaun - who now lives in the United States - has not ruled out making it back to complete the line-up.

As you might imagine, it should be quite a night.

(NB: If you are from the Class of '83 and haven't yet been contacted about this, please get in touch with me ASAP. It'll be a laugh, I promise).

Saturday, 6 March 2010

Surf Boy

They say "you can never start too young" and, in some of aspects of life, this is undoubtedly true.

Golf is one activity that springs to mind. And using computers is most definitely another. (In contrast, going to work, worrying about bills and trying to work out what the hell goes on in women's minds are matters best left until you absolutely have to - as I stress to Jamie every, single day).

As you can see above, Mini-White has already taken an active interest in our PC which I'm currently staring at here in our spare room.

No matter what's on the screen, he wants to have a look. And I can immediately forget about typing anything the second he appears at my hip.

But his early fascination with technology presents advantages for me in later years too.

For example, in an ideal world, I would love to be the proud owner of a Nintendo Wii and my upcoming birthday would seem to present an obvious opportunity to make this happen. But I already know I wouldn't understand how to work it.

But by next year, when Jamie's talking his progressed a bit more, he'll be able to tell me all I need to know to get started.

Yes, 2011 it is then.

Or I could be really sneaky and try to persuade him to ask Santa for one...(WHAT?!!)

Friday, 5 March 2010

Mouse in the House

I'm delighted to report that I feel much better today, although still a fair bit from being back to my normal self (and no, that's not a good thing - thanks very much).

But I am back to work and have been trying to catch up on what's been going on. Did you know that the House of Lords now has its own mouse helpline?

No? You missed it too?

My stretch based in Parliament afforded me the privilege of doing a lot of work in their Lordships' House and, by the time I left, I had developed a deep affection for the place and many of the individuals who sit there.

The reasons for this are many, but one in particular stands out - a significant number of peers are mad, pure and simple. If you don't believe me, read this genuine report which I received by e-mail this morning:

Peer admits Parliament has 'mouse helpline'

Peers called for more to be done to tackle the problem of mice on the parliamentary estate yesterday afternoon, and revealed the existence of a so called 'mouse helpline'.

During a debate in the House of Lords, Baroness Finlay of Llandaff, vice chair of the parliamentary allergy group, called for the introduction of "hypoallergenic cats" to deal with the problem of mice in the Palace of Westminster."

Miss Wilson, when she was a resident superintendent in this Palace, had a cat that apparently caught up to 60 mice a night," she told peers.

"The corpses were then swept up in the morning."

And she warned that the rodents posed a fire safety threat as they chewed through cables.

"It would be a tragedy for this beautiful Palace to burn down for lack of a cat," she said.

The cross bench peer also wanted to know how many calls there had been to the "mouse helpline" – presumably used by people to report sightings, rather than by mice experiencing emotional issues.

Speaking for the parliamentary authorities, Lord Brabazon of Tara said he was not able to give the number of calls made to the helpline.

"I suspect that it would not be a good use of resources to count them up," he said.

But he said there were a "number of reasons" why it was not a good idea to have cat.

"First, they would ingest mouse poison when eating poisoned mice, which would not be very nice for them, and there would be nothing to keep them where they are needed or stop them walking around the House on desks in offices or on tables in restaurants and bars—and maybe even in the Chamber itself.

"Therefore, we have ruled out at this stage the possibility of acquiring a cat, or cats," he said.

But he assured the Lords that he was conscious of the problem.

"I am well aware that there are still mice around," he said.

"I saw one in the Bishops' Bar only yesterday evening. I do not know whether it was the same one that I saw the day before or a different one; it is always difficult to tell the difference between the various mice that one sees."

He added: "As I speak here this afternoon, the Bishops' Bar and the Guest Room are being hoovered, so we can get rid of the food scraps from lunch. If you were a mouse, you would rather eat the crumbs of a smoked salmon sandwich than the bait. Therefore, we want to remove the crumbs as quickly as possible."

But Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean said she was not even aware there was a helpline for mice.

"I was in total ignorance that there was anything of the nature of a mouse helpline until this question time," she said.

"Can the chairman of committees [Lord Brabazon] tell us what helplines there are for members of the House on other issues that we do not know about?"

Lord Brabazon said he had tried to keep the existence of the helpline under wraps, although it had been advertised some time ago.

"I invited Members of the House to telephone when they saw mice," he said.

"The trouble is that when the person at the other end of the helpline goes to check this out, very often the mouse has gone elsewhere."

Don't you just love them?!

Thursday, 4 March 2010

Desperate times mean desperate measures

It's been a rough 24 hours.

Shortly after writing yesterday's daily dose of trash, I began to develop very painful cramps in my stomach. I obviously hoped they would go away as quickly as they arrived. But that turned out not to be the case.

What lay ahead was an evening, a full night, a morning and an early afternoon of aching pain which all manner of drugs was unable to shift. Thankfully, the last 90 minutes or so have heralded a bit of respite, although my headache - which started around lunchtime - still refuses to go away. Fun, fun, fun.

But, as ever in life, you can find a laugh if you're determined enough to keep looking. And, this morning, I uncovered a gem.

I was lying in bed, staring at my mobile phone with one eye open and trying to find an answer to the question of how to get rid of stomach cramps (desperate times and all that).

I was led to a site called wikiHow which, appropriately enough, had a whole section entitled "Cure Stomach Cramps." Excellent.

It listed all manner of suggested solutions, but one paragraph in particular caught my eye. It read as follows:

"Allow yourself to pass gas, even if you are in polite company. It may be somewhat embarrassing, but you do not want to allow yourself to become bloated or let the cramps become more serious and painful."

The words "pass gas" were linked to another section of wisdom, which I promptly clicked onto.

And here is where it took me:

"How to Pass Gas Unnoticed in the Office

This article is a brief guide for those who struggle to get relief from pent up gas without anyone noticing. Typical office cubicle layouts usually consist of four or more cubicles per cluster. You won't be able to perform this completely unnoticed, but hopefully in such a way that the finger won't point to you in person.


1 Move your chair forward as far as possible, until your stomach touches the desk.

2 Now slide down, keeping your legs straight until you're sitting right on the edge of your chair.

3 Grab the sides of your chair, and pull yourself down as hard as possible. This will eliminate the possibility of a noise, seeing as the soft seat will muffle the sound.

4 While maintaining downward pressure, relax your stomach muscles just enough to let go at an even, medium flow.

5 Bounce up and down a few times just to empty the smell which may still be caught in the seat, then return to upright position and continue your work.

6 If done correctly, the smell should rise in the middle of the cubicle cluster, making it impossible to determine who it was.


Prying your cheeks apart is also a very effective manner of avoiding the noise associated with passing gas.

Try getting out of your seat to walk to the other side of the room. If it smells and others are in the room, look around in slight disgust to pretend it wasn't you."

Well, at least it cheered me up.