Tuesday, 30 November 2010

What will they think of next?

We work moved into a new, permanent office in work earlier today, which was kind of exciting.

And the clear highlight for me, perhaps surprisingly, came when I went for my first wee.

Because above you can see something I've never knowingly encountered anywhere before in my almost 39 years on Earth.

Yes folks, it's what can only be described as a "splash guard." 

You may have your own opinion but, for me, life doesn't get much classier than that.

Monday, 29 November 2010

You don't need teeth to smile

We went to see Peter Kay in Sheffield last night.  That was good.   

But I can normally expect my dentist to knock the smile off my face and, this morning, she didn't disappoint.

To be fair, it wasn't her who put the abscess on my tooth (probably).  But I thought she took a degree of sadistic pleasure when telling me what the next steps would have to be now that it was there. 

Essentially, the tooth is going to yanked violently from my contorted face first thing next Thursday morning.  However, before then, I have to take five days' worth of some peculiar anti-biotic I've never seen before.  And it has side effects.

She did mention (with a hint of glee) that it would make me feel sick.  But reading the little insert on the way home, I subsequently discovered that I am also liable to shit myself. 

And there's more.

As soon as my gaping wound heals sufficiently following next week's assault involving actual bodily harm, I'll have to decide what to fill it with, as I already have a gap in that part of my mouth.

"What are the options?" I asked.

"There are two," replied Miss Dentist.  "You could have an implant."

"And how much will that set me back?"

"About two and a half thousand pounds."

"Right.  Well, that's not going to happen.  What's the other option?"

"A denture," she said.

"And can I have that on the NHS?"

"Yes," said Miss Dentist, looking a little disheartened (and much less rich).

"I'll take it!"

And that was that.

As an aside, I also have to have some other work done, including two new crowns.   

But you know, shit happens.

Talking of which, I'd better go - I think my tablets are beginning to kick in...

Sunday, 28 November 2010

Dips with everything

The term "think smart" is generally associated with huge corporate entities trying to pretend that what they do is complicated or beyond the power of the rest of us.  In my experience in any case.  

However, on Friday evening and possibly for the first time in the entirety of my parenting existence thus far, I "thought smart."

I'd just arrived in from work and Jamie wasn't eating his pasta.

Vanessa had tried everything but the little so and so had refused to give in. 

I then had a go at reasoning with him, prompting him to remove some pasta from his plate.  And throw at it me.

What to do?

Suddenly it came to me.

Jamie's gorgeous little cousin Katie, who you can see him hooking up with last weekend in the photo above, has taught him lots of things over the last two and a half years. 

But possibly his favourite is the art of dipping his chips in tomato ketchup.  He had never done it previously (mainly because Vanessa hardly ever lets him have chips), but Katie showed him the ropes and now he does it all the time (or, more accurately, about once a fortnight when Vanessa can't be arsed to make him something "healthy"). 

So, back to Friday and his pasta.

And in short, I "thought smart" and suggested that a tomato ketchup dip might serve as a perfect accompaniment to his cheese and ham tortellini (ahem).  He readily agreed and proceeded to finish almost the entire bowl.

Should you be a parent, you can have my piece of "blue sky thinking" for free.  (Or you can send me a cheque).

Saturday, 27 November 2010

Two funnies

I read two one-liners in this week's papers that really made me laugh and, being the sharing kind of guy that I am, I wanted to pass them your way.

First, in Thursday's Super Soaraway Sun, was the story of Health Minister Simon Burns (the fat bloke I told you about a few weeks ago who was once rude to me in a lift) and House of Commons Speaker John Bercow.

These two have previous form in that Mr Burns was once picked up by a microphone referring to vertically challenged Mr Bercow as "a sanctimonious, stupid dwarf."      

As fate would have it, Mr Burns recently managed to reverse into Mr Bercow's limo in the Commons car park, prompting the Speaker to march up to the Health Minister's car to announce: "I'm not happy."

To which Mr Burns replied: "Well, which one are you then?" 

I loved that.

My second laugh-out-moment came when I was reading Metro, the free paper familiar to frustrated commuters up and down the country.

And a columnist's guide  - I can't remember his name - to surviving the Ashes.

For him, the key tools to help you stay awake for the all-night television coverage was strong coffee and a banana.

"The coffee to try to keep your brain alive, and a banana to poke yourself in the eye when you think you're about to drift off."


Thursday, 25 November 2010

Dummy run

Vanessa and I have been trying for some time to persuade Jamie to give up his dummy - or "dodi," as he prefers to call it.

I had another go at explaining our reasoning on Tuesday night, prompting White Junior to scuttle out of the room.

He returned like this.

Honestly, kids have so little respect for their parents these days. 

Wednesday, 24 November 2010

My plans won't turn to Ashes

The Ashes are due to begin in just a few hours from now, and it's going to be a huge test of endurance. 

For me. 

Since Jamie was born almost two and a half years ago, I reckon Vanessa and I have had to get by on an average of six hours' sleep per night.

But over the next couple of months, my grand plan is to sleep for about four and a half hours, as follows: the cricket starts at midnight, lunch is at 2am, I hit the scratcher, and then rise again at no later than 6.30am to see the end of play.


There is one complicating factor in the tiny form of baby number two, which is due to arrive in the middle of the Third Test. 

However, this game will be the only one of the five where play begins at 3am rather than midnight. 

My already brilliantly thought through solution for then will be to heroically volunteer to do the middle-of-the-night feed - I reckon 3am might be a good time for that - and then see how long mini-he/mini-she and I last in front of the telly.

Even more genius.

And clearly, each of my carefully formulated strategies will proceed without a single hitch between now and 6 January 2011 when the series is due to end.

No, really.

Harry - with two r's

With the possible exception of seeing a banana climb onto the Portrush via Portstewart bus on Friday evening, my favourite image of last weekend was that of my dad (below right) and his old sparring partner Harry McNeill jointly putting the world to rights in the wonderful place that is The Railway Arms.    

Harry and my dad have known each other for a very long time.

Harry refereed in the local leagues during the period when my father was chairman of Macosquin Football Club. 

And whilst my dad has never liked football referees, at that time he really, really didn't like football referees (until the whistle blew when, to be fair, he usually bought them a pint).   

But Harry and my father are now good friends and, during their conversation over more drink than any of us really needed, Harry's role at the centre of my favourite ever football story came up. 

He was refereeing a Balmer Cup match in Macosquin to which he had given one of the players a lift beforehand. 

That player was called John Platt (and still is) and, in his day, was something of a firebrand once he crossed the white line.  

During the match in question, Mr Platt took it upon himself to kick an opposing player into a hedge, prompting Harry to call him over. 

"Name?"  asked referee Harry.

"Platt - with two t's," spat Mr P. 

"Right," replied Harry calmly, "off - with two f's." 

Do they really make them like that any more? 

Tuesday, 23 November 2010

Daddies like to have fun too

As if I hadn't had enough to drink over the past few days, last night I had some more.

And what a civilised affair it turned out to be.

The occasion was a long-awaited get together of Vanessa's mother and toddler group - minus the toddlers but including the daddies (which was where I came in).

Aside from two ante-natal classes  during which I finally found out where babies come from, I haven't had contact with a collective of fathers in any kind of organised setting since Jamie was a bundle of cells.

And whilst I appreciate that a curry and a few pints of Foster's might appear a little on the disorganised side of organised, it certainly did the job for me.

I genuinely found everyone there - mummies as well as daddies - fun and interesting, with the conversation balance between trivia and babies pooing their pants nigh on perfect.

Hopefully there will be more of the same soon (and we may even forget to invite the mummies).

Monday, 22 November 2010

And we're back

Boys' trip over, it's now time to prepare for fatherhood experience number two - which is set to get underway in less than a month. 

Dear god.

As for the four days just gone by, Jamie behaved himself and enjoyed himself in equal measure.  I took the photo above on Portstewart Strand yesterday morning.

I, perhaps, did not adopt the same high standards of behaviour.  Or to put it another way, I doubt that Hannibal Lecter would be interested in tasting my liver in its current state with even the most expensive bottle of Chianti.

The social highlight was my dad's 74th birthday do which was terrific entertainment.

Hopefully I'll have recovered in good time for his 75th. 

Oh no, hold on - we've another baby on the way.

The recovery will have to wait. 

Wednesday, 17 November 2010

We intend to keep things simple

It's lunchtime and, less than 24 hours from now, Jamie and I will be in Northern Ireland on a boys' trip home. 

The reason is two-fold; first, it's my dad's 74th birthday on Friday and a small celebration is planned. 

And second, the two of us thought we deserved a break before the three-piece White family becomes a four-piece on or around the 19th of next month.

Jamie's quite relaxed about that prospect at the present time; as far he's concerned, he's getting a baby for Christmas and, well, that's about as complicated as it gets (so long as he also gets some chocolate).

And for me, it's a case of getting my "I'm About To Be A Daddy Again" head on - which basically involves preparing myself not to sleep for another couple of years.

The absence of her boys will also give Vanessa - who may have quite a pivotal role to play during the birth itself - a chance to put her feet up (and hopefully do a load of cleaning.  And washing.  Sadly, she doesn't do ironing).

As ever (and whether you want me to or not), I will tell and show you what my boy and I get up to between now and Sunday evening.

But, off the top of my head, my guess is that Jamie will do a lot of this...

...whilst his daddy will drink a lot of this.


Tuesday, 16 November 2010

Do you think her father will have to pay for it?

Only one story in town today with news of Prince William's engagement to Kate Middleton.  Congratulations to them both. 

Above you can see an example of the kind of "limited edition memorabilia" we'll all be invited to snap up between now and their big day.  Classy stuff, I'm sure you'll agree.

The sight of this reminded me of the Charles and Diana silver teaspoons my fellow Macosquin Primary School pupils and I were kindly given by the then headmaster, Mr Murdock, in the summer of 1981 to mark the Royalist wedding of them all.

I wonder how much mine would go for now? 

Do I have "bugger all" from the man at the back?

Monday, 15 November 2010

Ranger Aaron McCormick

Today was a day I'll not forget after the tragic news came through that the British soldier killed yesterday in Afghanistan was from the village of Macosquin where I went to primary school and lived for the first 10 years of my life.

22-year-old Ranger Aaron McCormick, of 1st Battalion the Royal Irish Regiment, was helping to clear roadside bombs in the Nad-e Ali area of Helmand when he was caught in an explosion.

His Commanding Officer, Lt Col Colin Weir, described Aaron as "the epitome of the Irish infantry soldier - tough, selfless, good-humoured and full of compassion."

He said his death had left a gap in his ranks "no ordinary man could fill," adding, "this place is already better for Aaron having been here. We will now build on his good work with renewed determination to win." 

I can only imagine the shock amongst the people of Macosquin, many of whom I still see regularly when I travel home.

But I can certainly imagine the pride they will be feeling at the service Aaron gave to his country. 

The local Church of Ireland rector, Rev Mike Roemmele, said he had visited Aaron's family and found them understandably devastated at the news.

And it was Mike's voice, on Radio Ulster earlier today, which had the deepest impact on me.

Mike was the minister who baptised Jamie in St Mary's Church, Macosquin last year.  

I will always have an attachment to Macosquin and, thanks to Mike's generosity, so too will Jamie.

My heart goes out to Ranger McCormick's family and friends.

Pudsey Uncovered

Being Children in Need week, you'll be hearing the name Pudsey a lot over the next few days.

(So you know, the bear was created in 1985 by someone called Joanna Ball and named after Pudsey where her grandfather was once the mayor - presumably in the days before the once independent town was usurped by Leeds).

It is an OK place but, in my experience, there does appear to be evidence of the odd local feud - particularly in the business community.

For example, near our house there are two small firms with adjacent premises.  You can see them below.

On the left is a beauty parlour which goes by the name of Tranquility.  It was first on the scene.

But on the right is something called a "spiritual centre" - which also decided to name itself Tranquility.  Well, I mean, why be overly adventurous?

It used to have a sign with a big Tranquility on it, but that was ripped down - around about the same time as the following notices appeared on the front door of the beauty parlour.

If you look again, you can just see that a "To Let" board has now filled the space once occupied by the second Tranquility sign.

We then head a short distance up the road to two "fireside" shops.  Now, off the top of my head, I can't ever remember seeing one fireside shop.  Anywhere.  But in Pudsey, we have two.  Right beside each other.

And a closer look at the Classic Firesides sign on the left would seem to indicate that they're not very happy about it.

Yes folks, you're very welcome to Pudsey.        

Sunday, 14 November 2010

One night, three Jongs

The Jongs have gone, and we Whites are very sorry about that.

Above you can see the scene at breakfast after what was a surprisingly sensible evening for the adults (mainly because the kids wouldn't go to bed).

But there were some fireworks last night.

Yes, I bought them at Asda.

And earlier, Tim, Other John and I went into Leeds (get us) for our first taste of 3D rugby  - highly recommended.  

We now wish Louise, Tim and Scarlett well over the next few months as they prepare for their summer move from Australia back to the UK.  

Jamie, in particular, looks forward to meeting up with his new friend who, by then, might be even cuter.

Is that possible?     

Saturday, 13 November 2010

Oh no, it's the Scary Sheep Woman!

Some very special guests have just arrived all the way from Australia.

Louise, Tim and their beautiful one-year-old little girl Scarlett crossed our threshold about an hour ago, and they're here until tomorrow. 

Vanessa and Louise went to (the) university (bar) together, and Louise was also a bridesmaid at our wedding. 

They are living in Sydney at the moment but intend to move back to Louise's native Wales in June of next year. 

Jamie was particularly pleased to see Scarlett, but was a little more dubious at the prospect of encountering her mother who I had previously described to him as the Scary Sheep Woman, owing to the fact that, when unleashed, her hair is very wild and very woolly. And Welsh.

Thankfully it's safely tethered at the moment, although there are bound to be countless attempts at escape over the next 24 hours or so. 

But I would expect we'll have fun (especially this afternoon when Tim, Other John and I are off to try something just a little bit different...)         

Thursday, 11 November 2010

Doctors and Peelers

I'm just back from my appointment with Dr Not Shit and - here's a shock - he confirmed that his "valued" (by no-one) colleague, Dr Shit, had got it wrong in dealing with my sinusitis.  

The long and short of it is that she (twice) prescribed me a dosage of antibiotics that would barely have relieved a budgie of the sniffles.  And, as a result, I've been forced to ensure three months of headaches. 

Mercifully, the horse tranquillisers he gave me should sort things out in a few days. (I have - somewhat imaginatively - put a 20p beside them to prove to you that I'm not lying about their sheer hugeness). 

Good old Dr Not Shit, or Dr Real Doctor as I've now decided call him. 

I hope you'll quickly permit me to go off on a little tangent before I leave you to your own devices.

You'll probably have seen yesterday's scenes of students and their "supporters" smashing up Conservative HQ in Westminster, during which several police officers were injured.

Now, if my Northern Ireland upbringing has taught me anything, it's to always try to see the funny side in any difficult situation.

And a Radio 5 Live early morning interview with an anonymous member of the police riot squad did make me titter. 

Describing the angst faced by him and pals on the frontline, he came out with this classic:

"The abuse, the threats that we received, basically wishing us death.  And worse......well, there's nothing worse than death.  Obviously." 


Wednesday, 10 November 2010

A slippery moment - now banished

Jamie's old slippers have had to be stood down (so to speak).  

His old Postman Pat and Jess size sevens are still big enough for him.  But sadly they're falling to bits and their replacement was becoming ever-inevitable.

Given how much he loves them, we would have persevered for just a teeny bit longer had it not been for a particularly harrowing incident during last week's visit to the Children's A&E Ward of the Leeds General Infirmary.

You might naturally think that the worst point of our late-night trip was when the assembled doctors advised that Jamie would have to have a chest x-ray and might have to stay overnight, such was their concern for our boy.

But for me, it wasn't. 

It was that horrible, awful, gut-wrenching, terrible instant when everything seemed to stop and all I wanted was for the Whites to be swallowed up.

Yes, it was the moment - at around 11.15pm - when the big nurse (there's always a big nurse) removed one of his now decommissioned slippers and, after a short pause, announced loudly to the room full of medical types : "Oh, he's got smelly feet!"

Hopefully Jamie will now be happy - and considerably more fragrant - in his size eight Bob the Builders.   


A weekend I can barely remember

No update yesterday as my sinusitis is back yet again, for the second time in a month, and I couldn't open my eyes to look at a screen.  (Perhaps I should have just typed with the screen off. It might have been my best effort yet).         

I've just visited my local GP practice to request an appointment with Dr Not Shit; Dr Shit just keeps giving me antibiotics which are the equivalent of putting a sticking plaster on my head. I see Dr Not Shit at 4pm tomorrow, which counts as "fast-track" in these parts.

But quickly back to Wales and the rugby weekend just gone by.

Above you can see the game - Welshies v Oz.

Here's Dan (closest to the camera), Other John and Wee John at said game...

...lots of flamethrowers getting us all excited before the teams came out...

...the Max Boyce Band keeping us entertained before we got inside... 

...Wee "Welsh" John (why would he own a Welsh shirt?) watching his "beloved" Ireland play South Africa on TV in the pub afterwards (I'm going to buy him a fixed identity for Christmas)...

...and Dan, sporting his special Yorkshire "off the arse pants" whilst trying to work out how the grill worked on Sunday morning...

...before Other John arrived to tell him.  

I thought they looked a bit like Gregg and John from MasterChef.

Kind of.

So, that was our weekend in the Principality.

Now for Wednesday in Keighley - and work.    

Monday, 8 November 2010

Is that who I think it is?

I returned from Cardiff yesterday a little "fatigued" and therefore didn't update this rubbish.  And I still don't feel sufficiently energised to go and find my camera even now, never mind the lead that goes with it.  So I'll wrap up Wales next time (if I can find enough paper......come on it's late). 

However, whilst I'm here, I'll quickly share this with you.

Owing to Jamie's bout of illness last week (from which he's now thankfully well on the way to a full recovery) I worked at home on both Thursday and Friday (and, yes, I DID work - thank you very much).

And a bizarre thing happened.  It was shortly after 10am on Thursday and, as I tapped away on this very keyboard, I heard an ice cream van drive past playing the theme to Batman.  How odd, I thought.  It was early November, the kids were in school and, whilst I'm no Lord Sugar, it didn't appear to me to be the ideal selling climate for ice cream.

I then forgot about the episode, until the very same thing happened at the very same time on Friday morning.

Again, I didn't see the van itself but the Batman theme was blasting away as before. 

At this point Vanessa, who was preparing to depart for a midwife's appointment (hence the need for me to be around to look after Jamie), passed by the door.

"How much ice cream is that joker expecting to sell?" I asked in a smart arse kind of way, not expecting an answer.

"What do you mean?" replied wifey.  "Ice cream?"    

"Yes," I said.  "He was doing the same thing yesterday.  Can't you hear him?  He's playing the Batman theme.  It's an ice cream man."

"That's not an ice cream man!" Vanessa rattled back, dryly.  "That's Bapman  - he goes around the offices.  He's selling sandwiches!"

I tell you what, it's all happening in these parts.

Saturday, 6 November 2010

I came

To no-one's great surprise (least of all Vanessa's), I did travel down to Wales yesterday after Sproglet showed some signs of improvement.

Last night was a mixture of restraint and bizarreness (which apparently is a word).

Above was Dan, Wee John and Other John having a fine meal at Wee John's local Italian (I was there too but someone had to take the photo).

Earlier, we gazed in awe at Wee John's telly which is actually much bigger than he is.

And earlier still we met Big Dave in The Walkabout Bar.

Big Dave's getting married in two weeks. Good luck with that future Mrs Big Dave. 

The highlight of today was supposed to be Wales v Australia in the Millennium Stadium (at rugby, for the uninitiated).  But Dan has just been sick, meaning this afternoon's game will now have to be a cracker. 

I predicted Wales 20 Australia 37 in the sweep stake in Wee John's local last night, and I am confident that a big turkey will be accompanying me on the train home to Pudsey tomorrow afternoon as a consequence.

I'm now off to learn the words of the Welsh national anthem. Other John says he's worried he might cry when the locals sing it later, and I want to play my full part in trying to ensure he does.

Thursday, 4 November 2010

Going out to work is underrated

Another day, another career idea bites the dust.

Because I've decided not to become a house husband. And perhaps it's just as well.

Jamie is still quite poorly and, after Vanessa stayed at home yesterday to look after him, today was my turn.

You always know our boy isn't well when he isn't eating (fat ****), and he isn't really eating at the moment - which means he isn't well.  (I'm nothing if not logical).

But, in my book, he has to eat to something.  So, as you can see above, I gave him giant chocolate buttons for breakfast  - followed by a McDonald's Happy Meal for lunch.

Although, in truth, he still didn't eat very much.

Since then he's been up and down, up and down. Hopefully, tomorrow morning, he'll wake-up up and stay up.

If he does, I'll wish him and his mother a pleasant couple of days before heading off to Cardiff for a rugby weekend with Wee John, Other John and Dan.  But if he doesn't, I may have to rethink.

If you don't hear from me tomorrow, you'll know I've gone.  And if you do, then I haven't  - as I shall no doubt explain to you at greater length than you require.


Wednesday, 3 November 2010

My kind of politician

Vanessa and I met in June 1997 when both employed as House of Commons staffers, me by the Ulster Unionists and Vanessa by Labour MP Barry Sheerman (pictured).

Barry was very good not just to her, but to us both, and we continue to see him from time to time.   

I also keep a close eye on what he's up to in Parliament, and an extract from the Official Report of yesterday's proceedings I've just stumbled across illustrates why.

It was Health Questions and, well, here is what the great man asked:
Mr Barry Sheerman (Huddersfield) (Lab/Co-op): Is it appropriate for my constituents in Huddersfield to be lectured about healthy living standards by a Minister who is out of condition, overweight and a chain smoker?

What a legend.

UPDATE: Since writing this, I've subsequently discovered that the minister to whom Barry directed his insult was a certain Simon Burns who, you might be interested to know, was once extremely rude and condescending to me in a House of Commons lift.  One could therefore suggest that what goes around becomes very round - or FAT - in the end.  So I take enormous pleasure in doing so.

Tuesday, 2 November 2010

But which one was the REAL Dr Brown Bear?

We've been quite fortunate with Jamie's health thus far, but there inevitably comes a time as a parent when you have to take your sprog to casualty in something of a rush/mild panic.  And it tends to be at night.

Last night was our night.

According to Vanessa, Jamie hadn't been "himself" as yesterday afternoon wore on and, by the time I got home shortly after 6, he'd progressed from not being himself to being arguably someone else entirely.  Who was clearly quite sick.

He was burning up, he was crying out and he was beginning to smell like a blood relative of Champion the Wonder Horse (or such like - you get my point).

Being the one in our relationship who talks proper, it was Vanessa's job (she orders our takeaways for the same reason) to phone NHS Direct, who promptly told us to take our boy to the accident and emergency department of the Leeds General Infirmary.

In an attempt to make our trip sound like an adventure, I told Jamie he was off to visit Dr Brown Bear from Peppa Pig.  And it did cheer him up.

However, some six hours later - at around 2am - the novelty had long since worn off as "Dr Brown Bear" number four or number five, I'm not sure which (but he was a jolly German and he answered to the name of Claus), prodded him for the umpteenth time before finally sending him home with an inhaler, a bottle of anti-biotics and a blotchy face.

Needless to say it was a huge relief to be told that, whilst he was obviously poorly, there was nothing too much to worry about.

I know it's a cliche, but you - or I, certainly - do sometimes take the old health thing for granted, which is wrong.  And sadly, there were a few parents there last night who seemed to have a lot more to be concerned about than us.  So much so, that I felt a little guilty as we departed.  Hopefully they all went home happy in the end.

And as for the procession of Dr Brown Bears and assorted nurses, they were predictably brilliant. 

I now look forward to renewing acquaintances with their equally professional colleagues along the corridor in the maternity unit in around seven weeks from now. 

Bloody hell.

Monday, 1 November 2010

It was just like watching Jerry Springer

It all started off in a friendly enough fashion. 

It was shortly after 10 o'clock yesterday morning in the little play park across the road from Kirkstall Abbey in Leeds.  Vanessa and I had taken Jamie there to burn off some fat, sorry, energy and, as if by magic, her sister Hannah appeared together with dippy hubby Dagenham Dave and their two boys Oliver and Alexander.  That's the mummies pictured together above, with Oliver and White Junior.  All very pleasant. 

However, if you look again closely at the photo, in the bottom left hand corner, you can just see the handlebar of a scooter - Oliver's scooter. 

And here he is trying it out...

Before Jamie decided he wanted a go - cue riot...

...with mere shouting...

...quickly turning into a fully blown public order incident.

I do love a chilled-out Sunday morning.