Monday, 31 May 2010

Two mowers are better than one

I'd only cut our grass about three times so far this year and, on each occasion, it was dramatic.

Not because I'm a particularly flamboyant grass cutter. In fact, I would regard myself as a relatively average Flymo pusher.

No, it was because White Jnr wanted to help and strongly objected when I made clear that I didn't think he was quite ready to be placed in charge of a couple of big electric blades.

But thankfully, there was a fallback option which I took it by buying him a toy mower of his own. This afternoon was his first chance to have a go.

My fear was that he'd simply chuck his aside as soon as I started mine up but, to be fair, whilst he began the exercise effectively as my pillion passenger, he then went off to "cut" his own bit - only getting upset when the noise stopped after I turned my mower off.

The cutting is obviously the "fun" part of doing the lawn; less fun is the sweeping up afterwards. However, there's no time like the present for learning such a tough reality so, when I bought the toy mower, I also picked up a mini-brush which Jamie today took some convincing about before eventually agreeing to do his bit.

Give it a few weeks and I reckon we'll be winning awards for our grass, which I fear will be cut more times than the outfield at Lord's over the summer months.

Sadly, my trusty assistant won't be getting the reward of an ice cream every single time he does it - because his mother has just said so. Harsh.

Sunday, 30 May 2010

Howzat?!

It's been 36 hours of drama verging on crisis in the White household.

The problem first became apparent on Friday evening but we hoped, come the following morning, the issue would have been dealt with.

But no.

As Saturday wore on, there continued to be no sign of a concrete development. All we could do was wait.

And for two of us, this scenario caused little pain - other than having to watch the discomfort, the stress and the frustration levels increase for the third.

All sort of tactics were employed to try to bring the matter to a swift conclusion, but to minimal effect.

Last night, at around 6.30pm, there were real signs that we might be getting somewhere. But our hopes began to fade before being extinguished altogether.

And then this morning arrived. The crisis was now at its height, as was the pain for one of us.

The other two had all but lost hope. There appeared to be no way out of this situation. There was nothing more we could do.

And then, without warning and - surprisingly - with a minimum of drama, it was all over.

Jamie had done a poo with the size, the weight and the density of a cricket ball.

Finally, we Whites could get back on with our lives.

Saturday, 29 May 2010

The changing of the (drinking) seasons

Whilst the weather might be sh*t across the country this particular weekend, June is now almost upon us and changes in our everyday lives are having to be implemented.

I no longer have to dig out a tee shirt to wear under my suit when I go to work, for example.

I now have to cut the grass every ten days, which makes me really happy (GRRRRR!)

Vanessa has changed our duvet from something like one squillion tog to just a few dozen (or something like that).

And, most notable of all, I have changed my "usual" from Guinness to lager.

In the same way that rugby and football are winter sports and, in the summer, it's all about cricket (and, OK, football because the World Cup's on, but don't be pedantic), Guinness is clearly a cold weather drink which is just a little too heavy to consume during the summer months.

So, for the foreseeable future, it's Heineken, Carling, Carlsberg, Miller, Corona, Sol, Foster's, Cobra, San Miguel and Budweiser for me - and one for yourself.

Friday, 28 May 2010

Happy Anniversary to us


This time five years ago, I was waking up with a hangover (by then into its third day).

And then, some time after 2pm when she finally decided to make an appearance, I was standing at the front of The Grove Methodist Church in Horsforth waiting for Vanessa and her dad to "process" up the aisle.

Yes folks, its our Wooden Anniversary.

Traditionalists to the last, we have exchanged wooden gifts (I think she loved her cricket set) but aren't actually due to properly commiserate with each other until tomorrow night when we're going out in Leeds.

It should be a fun evening, and it's certainly been a fun five years.

What a lucky girl Vanessa is.

(WHAT?!)

Thursday, 27 May 2010

In memory of Ian


It was sadly ironic, in the week when I've agreed to throw myself back into the weird but wonderful world of Westminster politics once again, that I learnt that my old friend and mentor Ian Todd had been buried earlier today in Ballyclare.

Ian was the rock upon which former East Antrim MP Roy Beggs' constituency office was built, the place where I had my taste of Parliamentary "stuff" in August 1996.

I remember arriving for my first day, thinking I was the new Peter Mandelson. I was going to be great, I was going to change the world, people were going to know about me.

But in advance of all of that, Ian made very clear, I was going to clear out the cupboards. It was a stroke of genius which brought me back down to earth with a thud before I even had the chance to taxi to the runway.

And then there was the piece of advice which he gave me fairly early on and which I've passed on to countless colleagues since, particularly those in their more formative working years.

Here was how the conversation went:

"What is this, son?" asked Ian, holding up a piece of paper.

"It's a piece of paper, Ian."

"Well done son, good start. Now, what happens when I put it on your desk?" came his next poser, as he placed the blank piece of paper on my desk.

"I don't know," I replied.

"Something!" he boomed. "In fact, anything! Put it in the bin, throw it out the window or, better still, post it to some other bugger, but do something with it because it has no place on your desk!"

It was simple but it was also inspired, and I've tried to follow this rule ever since. (Thankfully, only a small percentage of said pieces of paper have been deposited out the window, but still a percentage nonetheless).

Ian, a retired policeman who could best be described as having the look of a retired policeman, wasn't so well in recent years, during which he also tragically lost his equally charming and "clued-up" wife Maureen.

But, whilst I haven't seen him for some time, I'll still miss him greatly.

And his wisdom will certainly live on because much of what he taught me will be passed on to my new colleagues in my new MP's office in the weeks, months and years ahead.

Ian, you were a true gentleman and I'll always be grateful.

Wednesday, 26 May 2010

Vanessa's Big Lunch (and wee guitar)

My wife - known to some simply as Vanessa - proudly holds the job title of Head of Yorkshire and Humber region for the Big Lottery Fund (BIG).

It is a job she enjoys and it is an organisation which does lots of excellent work and helps countless individuals and groups in all sorts of worthy ways.

BIG's latest idea is to use £1 million of its own money to promote a series of "lunch-ins" across the country "to bring millions of neighbours together." All good stuff.

Now, in order to publicise ambitious and imaginative ventures such as this and thereby encourage appropriate levels of community participation, it is both obvious and necessary to use the good old power of the media.

Vanessa went for the Yorkshire and Humber "Big Lunch" photocall earlier today in the centre of Leeds and, having just seen the result, I have to say I'm shocked.

I, for one, didn't know she could play the guitar.

Having fun at The Big Lunch in Briggate, Leeds, as they sit on a 3D artwork by American artist Kurt Wenner, are left to right, Emily Partridge of the Eden Project, Matt Tamplin, Ben Conway, Vanessa White of the Big Lottery Fund, and Tony Wright, who took part in the 2009 Big Lunch. For more information, visit www.thebiglunch.com

Tuesday, 25 May 2010

Meet The Boss

Apologies for not updating this pish yesterday (you didn't notice, did you?) but I was a little busy resigning from my job.

Yes, after three and a half years working for the Conservative Leader of Bradford Council, I've decided to move to pastures new - by working for the former Conservative Leader of Bradford Council but now Conservative Member of Parliament for Keighley and Ilkley (and yes, it is the same bloke).

His name is Kris Hopkins and, if you haven't heard of him yet, that will soon change (especially if you continue to read this blog).

I have high hopes of what he can and will achieve for his constituents in the months and years ahead, and relish the opportunity of playing a small part in helping him along the way.

You're very welcome to hop on board for the ride.

Sunday, 23 May 2010

Pool party

Living in a house with its own outdoor pool really is a privilege when the summer sun comes out.

But, despite the cooling water, it can still get a little too hot for some.

However, a bit of shade, some telly and an ice lolly will normally do the trick.

Saturday, 22 May 2010

Call that a haircut?

Although I've mentioned Jamie's "haircuts" here before, they have only really amounted to me doing my best to distract him whilst Vanessa hacked away at his locks with a blunt pair of scissors. Until yesterday, that is.

Because 24 hours ago Vanessa took yer man to the hairdressers for the very first time and, from what I'm told, most of it went very well.

He sat reasonably still and behaved himself whilst his mother fed him Milky Bar buttons. And whilst she said he never appeared to be particularly happy, he tried not to let it show.

But as he came back home to celebrate his heroics with a tipple and allowed me to have my first look at the results, one question loomed large in my mind.

Why did his hair not look any different?

Friday, 21 May 2010

The writing was on the wall

Last Thursday afternoon, shortly after arriving up on the North Coast to witness the final couple of laps of official North West 200 practice, my mum's partner Derek and I headed off for a wee pint.

We began at The York Hotel in Portstewart, before walking the short distance to The Portstewart Arms, better known to the locals as Murphy's.

And it was there that I spotted the poster above which I managed to capture on my phone.

I really hope Mickey wasn't forced to do overtime.

Thursday, 20 May 2010

A horsey laugh

One of the best and most renowned things about Ireland, North and South, is the ready access to an amusing quip. And earlier this week, I heard a corker.

My dad was walking down the main street in Coleraine and bumped into a well-known local character who, having been capped once by the Northern Ireland football team many years ago, now channels his energies into horses and the odd pint.

"Do you do a wee bet?" he asked my father, who isn't a gambler.

"I don't," replied White Snr.

"Well, I've got a tip on a great horse - born around here, trained around here - which you can pass on to anyone else you see if you want. It's a dead cert."

So, our friend gave my dad the details and the pair of them went their separate ways which, in the case of my father, was the Railway Arms pub where he told several of the regulars about the tip.

A few of them soon rushed to the bookies next door to put on a tenner and a couple stuck on £20.

The next morning, my dad picked up his newspaper and went straight to the horse racing results.

The "dead cert" had come in sixth.

He headed back up the main street shortly afterwards and, lo and beyond, bumped into our expert tipster who he stopped for a word.

"Are you trying to get me hanged?" my father demanded to know. "That horse you gave me came in sixth! I thought you said it was a great horse!"

Our friend looked at my dad and, without a hint of irony, replied:

"It was. Sure, it took five to beat it."

Wednesday, 19 May 2010

Trip to the Triangle

Despite the delayed journey back - which, in truth, only ensured we could pack a lot more in - I think Jamie had a quite wonderful time in the place I still proudly call home.

After a short 40 minute hop across the Irish Sea (on a plane little bigger than the toy one he acquired on-board), it was off for lunch with his Granny White and Grandad Derek...

...followed by pudding.

On Friday, we "did" Portrush with Granda White.

And, on Saturday afternoon, Jamie spent some quality time with his gorgeous little cousin Katie.

They got on very well.

In fact, the only real disappointment from my point of view was that, owing to the cold, a smattering of rain and a bout of tiredness, he didn't see much of the actual racing at the North West 200.

Maybe next year he'll hang around for just a teeny bit longer.

Tuesday, 18 May 2010

Woe is us (aye right)

Well? Did you miss me? (Please don't answer that).

The eagle-eyed and the bored amongst you may have noticed that I haven't updated this tripe for five days, despite Jamie and I being due back from our manly jaunt to Northern Ireland on Sunday.

The reason, as you may have guessed, is that our plans literally turned to ashes: volcanic ashes.

But we got finally back to Pudsey about half an hour ago and normal service is about to be resumed.

However, I'll wait until tomorrow - when I hope to feel a bit brighter - before I begin to bang on about what we did.

Because passing unexpected extra time on the Causeway Coast appears to have sapped my energy levels.

Thursday, 13 May 2010

Boys on tour

Jamie and I will shortly be off on a boys' long weekend.

Destination: Northern Ireland.

Purpose of the trip: the 2010 Relentless International North West 200, the biggest sporting event in Ireland and the fastest motorcycle road race in the world.

Held on public highways between Coleraine, Portrush and Portstewart, it is spectacular and it is mad.

To illustrate, during Tuesday evening's first practice session, one brave soul went through the speed trap - between hedges, telegraph poles and lamp posts - at an eye-watering 204mph. Twice. Hmmmm.

I'll try and update this drivel at some point whilst I'm over there, but the next few days should certainly be fun. Hopefully Jamie will agree.

Wednesday, 12 May 2010

Things Can Only Get Better

Until last night, Jamie only knew one Prime Minister in his short life.

So it was therefore appropriate that he had the chance to see the grumpy, bullying, tribal, narrow-minded, buffoon leave Downing Street for the last time - if only so he could confirm for me that it had actually happened.

And is that a smile sneaking across his face? I do believe it is.

Goodbye Gordo.

Tuesday, 11 May 2010

Jamie's b****** bed

Last night - over a period of almost four hours - I proved yet again that I am the world's worst handyman.

Two problems confronted me:
  1. Turn Jamie's cot into a bed and
  2. Attach a bed guard to stop him falling out.

And amazingly, I managed to complete task number one without too much difficulty (relatively speaking).

But then came the bed guard bit. I tried every which way to put this ****ing thing together and even gave blood for the cause (some of which is still plastered over said bed guard).

And after two and a half hours I actually gave up, branding myself a failure. Someone else would have to do it because I was simply incapable.

The problem, given that the cot was now a bed, was that Jamie was obviously now at risk of falling out and hurting himself during the night. So we put a quilt on the floor, just in case.

And, half an hour later, this was the scene.

There was nothing else for it; I had to have another go.

And, thanks to some calming/encouraging words from Vanessa and a bit of practical help, we kind of sorted it.

But it's bound to fall apart again tonight. Bound to.

Sunday, 9 May 2010

It's cot fair

Just days after escaping from his travel cot/play pen for the first time, early this morning Jamie managed to make his way out of his proper cot.

I slept through the big moment at around 6am but the thud of Jamie's feet on his nursery floor woke Vanessa up. And 10 seconds later, he was standing at her bedside.

I put him back in his cot again a few minutes ago to see what he would do. The picture above gives you the answer.

He soon managed to get the other leg over - before crashing to the floor. (I felt quite bad about that but, hey, I got my picture).

I can't turn the cot into a bed until tomorrow after Vanessa has bought a guard to stop him falling out during the night.

So, tonight, there will be a big, soft quilt plus assorted pillows and cushions on the floor to try to stop any nasty accidents.

But what a craft little so and so he's becoming.

Saturday, 8 May 2010

A couple of Ws


I promise not to go on about the General Election for too much longer but, as history continues to unfold before our eyes, I had an little thought as I was out for a run this morning.

As I write this, Gordon Brown remains chained to the bathroom sink in Number 10 whilst David Cameron, Nick Clegg and their folks continue to circle each other with a view to forming a new government. But the odds are that the current Prime Minister will be an ex-Prime Minister before very long.

Clearly this a outcome which will not please him or, indeed, many of his staff who will also be out of a job. And this triggered my little thought.

Back in 1998, you may remember, George W Bush took up residence the White House as the 43rd US President after a close-run and controversial victory over Democrat Al Gore who had previously served as Vice-President to Bill Clinton.

And many of Clinton's staff - who expected to keep their jobs had Gore won - were none too pleased at the outcome.

So, how to get revenge?

Well, Bush had used his middle initial - W - as a campaign tool and his supporters spent much of their time running around with three fingers in the air to symbolise this.

To "shove it up them" (as they say where I come from), the Clinton White House staff therefore removed the W from their keyboards before they left. Hundreds of keyboards.

Popping back to this side of The Pond, the question is, will Gordon Brown or his people try a similar prank if David Cameron does emerge as the new Prime Minister in the coming days and, if so, what?

Maybe deck out Downing Street in tartan curtains?

Perhaps unveil a painting of Peter Mandelson?

Or might Gordon even attempt to take the famous door of Number 10 with him as a keep sake?

Nothing would surprise me any more.

Friday, 7 May 2010

Stormin' Gordon

My General Election Night survival kit saw me through although, sadly, I didn't get a chance to touch the whiskey after Rodney lost (although did very well) and Greasy Balls squeaked through (just).

But several other friends did win and will all make very good MPs in the new House of Commons.

As I write, the nation (or maybe it's just me) is watching history being made on TV as the party leaders play footsie with each other in the quest to form the next government.

When it's over, will David Cameron become our new Prime Minister? Almost certainly, and quite right too.

But he'll have to find away to get prise Gordon Brown out of Downing Street first.

I wonder if that crack SAS team, which so dramatically stormed the Iranian Embassy back in 1980, is still in business?

Thursday, 6 May 2010

Surviving General Election Night

Tonight is General Election Night (you may have noticed) and, for political saddos like me, getting through it requires some serious preparation.

Or to be more precise, it requires an election night survival kit. Thankfully, mine has now been sorted and you can see it above.

It consists of:
  • 1 box of southern fried chicken
  • 1 bag of frozen chips
  • 1 jar of coffee (strong)
  • 1 bag of sugar
  • 1 box of French Fancies (lemon)
  • 2 packets of chocolate biscuits (1 milk 1 plain)
  • 1 family-sized tub of ice cream (vanilla)
  • 1 large bag of BBQ spare rib crackers
  • 1 box of cereal bars ("the healthy option")
  • 1 bottle of Bushmills Malt (for use in the event of Rodney winning or Ed Balls losing)

Hopefully I'll have just about enough of everything to see me through.

Aside from putting together my election night survival kit, I have already observed one other tradition which is now into its sixth year (including local and European elections) since moving to Pudsey.

I speak of my chat with a particular blonde-haired, middle-aged polling clerk.

And here is how it went earlier (in the exact same, word-for-word way it's gone since 2005).

Polling clerk: "Name?"

Me: "Barry White."

Polling clerk: "Are you the famous Barry White?"

Me: "No."

Polling clerk: "Do I ask you that every year?"

Me: "Yes."

I hope you enjoy your General Election Night 2010 as much as I hope to enjoy mine.

Escape to breakfast

One of the most "challenging" aspects of parenthood is that, just when you think you've outsmarted your little...er...darling, they find a way to stick two infant-sized digits back up at you.

For example, above you can see a picture of Jamie's travel cot which has served us extremely well up until this point. He hasn't spent many nights sleeping in it. But it has very successfully doubled up as a handy cage to keep him out of harm's way whilst Vanessa and I got on with other things.

Until the last couple of days, that is.

Because the inevitable has now happened.

Click on to the play button below to see exactly what I mean.

video

Next step - a ball and chain.

Wednesday, 5 May 2010

I won't vote Labour - but you might vote McCune


I clambered off my delayed train at New Pudsey station this evening to be greeted by the unwelcome sight of a smiling Labour candidate for Pudsey, surrounded by balloons (some rubber, others human).

Anyone who reads this dreadful blog on a regular basis will not be surprised to learn that I shall not be giving this individual my vote tomorrow for all sorts of reasons.

Like several other Labour candidates whose literature I've seen, he's tried to scare cancer patients with false claims about Conservative policy and for that alone he can take a little trip off something very high as far as I'm concerned.

Much more positively, my pal Rodney McCune - standing on the the joint Conservatives and Unionists ticket in East Antrim - has become something of media revelation back home in Norn Iron in recent days.

Above you can see a screenshot of him appearing on Thursday's BBC Ten O'Clock News in response to the third Prime Ministerial debate. A couple of days earlier he excelled in a 45-minute BBC online debate and, on Monday past, performed equally impressively during a BBC Politics Show punch-up. Just 90 minutes ago, he wiped the floor with his DUP opponent in a live piece for the BBC News Channel. (Maybe next time both ITV and Sky will give him a call too). And he shared precious airtime with David Cameron during the final Conservatives and Unionists Party Election Broadcast.

Despite having been selected as a candidate just a few short weeks ago, Rodney's had a good campaign and done himself proud.

Hopefully the good people of East Antrim will agree when they visit their local polling stations from 7am tomorrow.

Tuesday, 4 May 2010

The crowd deserved a trophy too

This is going to very short because frankly, my dears, I'm wrecked.

The reason for my fatigue is that I was one of the hardy band of poor souls still sat in the Crucible Theatre in Sheffield shortly before 1am this morning when Aussie golden boy Neil Robertson finally lifted the Betfred.com World Snooker Championship.

OK, I say "poor souls" and that's just wrong. It's always been an ambition of mine to see the famous old trophy being lifted "live" and it was therefore a privilege to be there.

However, in truth, it wasn't the most exhilarating snooker match ever played and, at times, had the feeling of a couple of boys smashing some balls up (so to speak).

Plus, getting to bed at shortly after 2.30am is not ideal preparation for the beginning of a new working week.

But it's nothing a good night's sleep tonight won't correct. And another box in my sporting dreams list has been very gratefully ticked.

I think I fancy a bit of netball next.

By the way, did you know these three were snooker fans?

Anything for a vote.

Monday, 3 May 2010

"Pot the reds then, screw back..."

The picture above captures the moment around 14 hours ago when "The Thunder From Down Under," Neil Robertson, clinched his 9-7 overnight lead over Scotland's "Pocket Dynamo," Graeme Dott, in the World Snooker Final at the Crucible Theatre in Sheffield.

Earlier, my pals Daniel (left), John and I watched (they did turn around first)...

...as Hazel Irvine did her pre-session piece to camera before bringing in former world champions Steve Davis (top right) and and John Parrott for their thoughts.

And after it was all over, the referee packed away his balls for the night.

Daniel and I are lucky enough to be heading back down again this evening for the final session of the match. I'll wave if I can.