Friday, 31 December 2010

The pitter patter of (more) tiny feet

Yesterday we received what can only be described as an expected visitor.  And he's here for a while.

Yes, it's Wee John - the smallest "First Foot" in Western Europe, on his traditional New Year visit.  (He also makes traditional visits in February, March, May, July, August and October).   

Last night he persuaded Jamie to eat his tea - before putting Charlotte off hers.    

Be assured he will be buying drink before 2010 is out, and I hope you'll be having one too. 

Whatever you're doing, have a great night and we'll regroup in 2011.

Thursday, 30 December 2010

He came from the North, bearing gifts

One obvious downside of living in Yorkshire whilst my family live in and around Coleraine is that none of them have yet had the chance to meet our little addition. 

However yesterday, as if by magic, a special envoy arrived - and very good it was to see him too. 

My old friend Paul "Merv" Gaile is a Coleraine man born and bred.  But, like me, he is now an adopted Yorkie and, indeed, has become something of a legend at the nearby Pudsey Pacers Running Club.

Paul is one of the most decent, genuine people I know.

And, most praiseworthy of all, he loves the Railways Arms bar in Coleraine almost as much as I do.

Coincidentally - and I say this with unashamed jealously - he is due there later today to kick off his New Year celebrations after getting an early afternoon flight from Leeds-Bradford.

He popped into our house yesterday with presents for Charlotte (and sweets for Jamie) which, as you can see above, she was particularly thrilled to receive.

Needless to say, Jamie also took the opportunity to share some love (and part of his new train set, which he soon demanded back). 

I don't know why I say this (ahem), but I have a hunch that my dad will be in the Railway Arms when Paul puts his head around the door, and will take great pleasure in hearing all about his new granddaughter. 

And that will make me very, very proud.

Tuesday, 28 December 2010

Do you want sky or do you want Sky?

We took Jamie out for a run around the local playground this morning, the first time he'd been able to exercise his lungs this side of Christmas.

And did we feel bad for keeping him housebound for so long? 

Not initially.  It's been cold, icy and, well, it's been Christmas. 

But then he came out with a line that killed me. 

Just as we were about to re-enter the outside world, Jamie bellowed:  "Daddy, I want to see the sky!"


Meanwhile, his sister - papossed to Mummy - wasn't even slightly enthused to be feeling the breeze on her person. 

She may not have much hair at the present time, but it was definitely being buffeted.    

Monday, 27 December 2010

A rhino that will not be saved

I had a brand new two-time daddy experience today, although one I'd better get used to pretty sharpish; I had my first go at looking after both my kids, unaided, all at the same time. 

Vanessa had gone off to check out the sale at M&S (which I did later and discovered it was crap), leaving me to give Jamie his lunch and put down for his midday nap, whilst juggling Charlotte with the other arm.

It didn't start well as Jamie got impatient whilst he waited for his food, thereby setting Charlotte off - and delaying his food still further. (That boy should think his tantrums through a little more).

Then, just as I calmed her down and set his lunch in front of him, we had an expected and very distressing development.  I stood on this.

Yes, Jamie's toy rhino.  Made of solid, hard plastic. And given I had no shoes on, it hurt like hell.

But thankfully, the situation soon turned around. He tucked into his beans on toast, two yogurts and a Santa biscuit.  Meanwhile, Charlotte got bored and drifted off to dream of pink fluffy angels.

And she stayed asleep, despite being transported upstairs to Jamie's room whilst I attempted to persuade him to get his head down.

A task which, incredibly enough, I succeeded in.

So, yes, I did end up feeling rather pleased with myself. 

But mark my words, the next time Jamie's back is turned, that rhino is going to get it.

UPDATE: Since last night, I received two comments from two very respected commentators with regard to my wish to kill the "rhino" - because it's not a rhino after all.

Malcolm - one of the wisest men I know- says it's a pterodactyl (the one with the wings).

So that'll be a no then.

But Alison insisted it was a triceraops. 

And she was right.

Alison, in my experience, is always right.

Sunday, 26 December 2010

Christmas Day 2 - still 10 to go

The most surreal Christmas in my lifetime speeds on and, I have to say, I'm savouring every moment.

After all the presents had been opened yesterday, I set about whipping up a turkey-based storm in the kitchen.  And 24 hours on, no-one appears to have fallen ill yet. 

That said, only three of us actually partook - Charlotte, dressed in her special Christmas outfit, having already decided to watch her weight (at the same time as watching us; clearly a young lady with talent).

It was then off to Vanessa's brother Jonathan and sister-in-law Helen's for some late afternoon Christmas cheer. 

As has become her wont, Charlotte was again centre of attention for the girlies. 

Although Jamie had plenty of other distractions to keep him occupied and amused. 

For me, the undoubted highlight was everyone's favourite village idiot, Dagenham Dave, trying to "do" Little Fockers during the inevitable game of charades (all the more pleasing because it was me who put the film title into the hat). 

Old Daggers did a good job of getting the "Little" (I think by pointing at the loose material on the front of his trousers). But his attempted tactic in getting "Fockers" was novel to say the least, and essentially involved him sitting on the floor, shaking his head and repeating over and over: "it's not really a word, you see."  

Silly focker.

Anyway, until tomorrow, please accept a "big up" from MC Charlie.

Saturday, 25 December 2010

Never in doubt

After all the worries that he might not turn up (principally put in Jamie's mind by Mummy and Daddy after bouts of unreasonable behaviour), Santa Claus did eventually arrive at our house last night.

But he did take his time. 

First, Jamie and I put magic stardust down for Rudolph. And we waited.

Next, we laid on a tumbler of Bushmills and a mince pie for Santa, and a carrot for (a very spoilt) Rudolph.  And still they didn't appear. 

And even shouting up the chimney had no immediate effect. 

But all's well that ends well - particularly when you get to open your baby sister's presents as well as your own.

Have a great day.

Friday, 24 December 2010

And it's Merry Christmas from them

A big moment last night when Jamie made his debut in the Little People Nursery Christmas Song Recital. 

Dressed as George Pig, he and his pals belted out three yuletide favourites: Jingle Bells, When Santa Got Stuck Up The Chimney and We Wish You a Merry Christmas.

And not only were his mum and dad very proud of him, but so too was his brand new little sis who insisted on making her first public appearance at the event.

Needless to say it's a Merry Christmas from the Whites to you.

But we can do better than that.

Because the Little People Nursery Singers themselves also want to pass on season's greetings. With apologies for the fact that you can't actually see them - me and technology, tch! -  do please turn up your speakers and click on the play button below. And have a nice night tonight.

Thursday, 23 December 2010

It's very dark in there

I'm ashamed yet honest enough to admit that I've lost many more arguments over the course of my lifetime than I've won.  Particularly with women.

Take this morning.

A few weeks ago, Vanessa sent me into the loft (I hate the loft) to bring down various bits of clothing and so on in readiness for baby-to-be.

Whilst that should have been a straightforward job, it wasn't.  In fact, I must have been up there for more than half an hour.  And, in that time, I developed quite a detailed knowledge of what was there and what wasn't.

So, first thing this morning, when Vanessa announced that she could find neither hide nor hair of the newborn baby seat and that I'd have to return to the loft to fetch it, I protested - for the simple reason that it wasn't there.

I had been in the loft and knew it wasn't there; she hadn't been in the loft and knew NOTHING!  The car seat must therefore be somewhere else.

"Where is it then?" responded Vanessa tersely.  A fair question to ask. 

Our house doesn't have much storage space, meaning I could check every possible hiding place in about five minutes flat, which I did.  No car seat.  I relayed the news to Mrs W.

"That's because it's in the loft," she declared through thin lips, nose in the air, arms crossed.

"Right! Right!  I'll go into the loft, then.  I'll get all dirty, it'll be a complete waste of time.  But anything to make you happy, my dear!" I replied lovingly.

So, off I shot, clambered down into the cellar, got the ladder, lugged it upstairs and placed it beneath the hatch thingy, before beginning my ascent.

When I got to the top, I gently opened the hatch, pushed my head through the hole, turned to the left  - and hit my head on the car seat. 

Vanessa has gone back to bed and doesn't yet know that I found it.

Would you mind telling her?

Wednesday, 22 December 2010

Charlotte goes shopping

As a young lady of the most modern generation - we've got milk in the fridge older than she is - Vanessa and I thought it might be entertaining to take Charlotte out this afternoon for a bit of retail therapy. 

And rather than go somewhere chique but predictable like Harvey Nicholls in Leeds, we chose a rather more earthy destination.

Yes, we headed for Morrisons in Bradford. 

I had then hoped to log on tonight to tell you all about our side-splittingly hilarious capers when Charlotte really came out of herself, met some new friends and, I dunno, sang Jingle Bells to the ladies on the deli counter. 

But no.

She did absolutely nothing.  At all.  Except for sleep, that is. 

I'm talking more than two hours here. 

Honestly, if she'd popped her eyes out and put them in a glass prior to departure, no-one would ever have known.  Because she didn't open them once. 

And I'm more sorry about that than you can ever know.

Because it means she's now certain to be awake all night tonight. 

But we must not get down-hearted; by the law of averages, if nothing else, she's bound to be more fun tomorrow when we take her hang gliding.

Tuesday, 21 December 2010

Talking poo

I've been accused many times before of writing total s*** on this blog. And today, I'm banged to rights

Above you can see Charlotte after "enjoying" her first ever bath (that's code for "she absolutely hated it").   Sweet, isn't she?  A proper little lady in waiting, you may think.  Perhaps. 

But, like the rest of us, she's also essentially an animal with bodily functions - all of which she has exercised in quite dramatic style twice today already.

Which brings me to the core of today's update.

Because last night I went to bed with a leaflet which was given to Vanessa at the hospital.  It's entitled, "What's in a nappy?" and it does exactly what it says on the, er, front. 

Parents and non-parents alike will be aware that a baby produces all sorts of different substances out back in its first few days of life.

But I had kind of forgotten this (despite the many hours I spent slaving over Jamie's hot nappies in the days following his birth). 

However, this leaflet brought it all back.

Without getting too much into the messy detail  - and if you believe that you'll believe anything - according to this leaflet, a baby will go through four individual nappy stages during its first week.

Briefly, in days one and two, says the leaflet, you can expect "two wees" and "one or more poos" with the latter "very dark green/brown/black and sticky." Excellent.

We then move to stage two, taking in days three and four, in which "the amount of wee increases [to] three or more per day" with the poo count coming at the "two or more per day" mark.  And I know you're dying to hear more about the texture. Well, especially for all poo fans out there, "these poos are called changing stools" with the colour now distinctly "more green."  Yes, read it again - green.

We then hurry swiftly along to days five and six when - get this - "five or more wees" can be expected, together with "at least two soft, yellow poos per day."  If yellow is your colour, then this is clearly the phase for you.

Which leaves us with the fourth and final stage, from day seven onwards.  And I have to say, this is the one I am particularly looking forward to. Admittedly, we will be up to "six or more wees per day," which isn't great.

But, and I promise you this is an exact quote, Vanessa and I can expect Charlotte to lovingly make us "at least two soft, yellow poos per day, greater than the size of a £2 coin - not just skid marks.")

Whoever managed to persuade the National Childbirth Trust (who produced the leaflet) to pay them to write this stuff, well, I'd love to shake their hand. 

But only after I'd seen them wash it.   

Monday, 20 December 2010

First important hurdle cleared

Parents of multiple children will be well aware that getting the first born "on-side" with number two is quite an important part of the game, once the new arrival has crashed through mummy's front door.

So it was with a mild degree of nervousness that, yesterday afternoon, I took Jamie to the hospital to meet his new sister for the very first time.

Vanessa and I had already decided that Charlotte would probably be best be in the cot when he rumbled up, rather than in her arms.

And his initial response, when he saw her, was relatively non-committal.

He was then persuaded to have a much closer look.

This encounter served to move his reaction on from "non-committal" to what can best be described as "quiet bemusement."

But, with mummy and sister home  - they were unexpectedly released at teatime yesterday - and having had a night to sleep on the new world, well, this morning his attitude had changed very much for the better.  

Followed by better still. 

Sunday, 19 December 2010

Good things come to those who wait

I've just got in the door and I'm supposed to be going to bed for a couple of hours.  But I'm not in the sleeping mood. 

Charlotte Frances was born in the age-old manner at 3.31 this morning - tipping the scales at a not inconsiderable 7lbs 15oz - and her mummy, daddy and brother could not be more proud.  

Jamie hasn't yet had the opportunity to say hello, but I'll be taking him into the LGI later today to do just that.

Then, he and I will have one last boys-only night together before the ladies arrive home in the morning.  

Thanks to the many wonderful people who were kind enough to send us goodwill messages via Facebook over the last few days. They certainly kept our spirits up, and I'll be printing them all off for Charlotte to read in later years.     

Right now, I feel like the luckiest man in the world - but it'll quickly wear off when, like Jamie, she inevitably gives me my first well-deserved slap in the mouth.   

Before going back to sleep.

Friday, 17 December 2010

The last supper?

OK, here's how things are looking.

We had a splashy moment at around 4am today.  But, as the Gillian McKeith lookie-likey midwife has just advised, it wasn't a "goosh" which is apparently a very different phenomenon altogether.

However, because of said splashy moment, it means we can't leave things as they are.  Hell no.

So, whilst full on labour may kick in at any moment, if nothing happens before 4am tomorrow - they're sending in a Chilean miner.

In the meantime we wait or, more precisely in Vanessa's case, scoff down a supersize cheeseburger and fries.

By the way, genuine thanks for all your good wishes (although gifts of alcohol would be preferable).

I'm now off to pace the landing.

Thursday, 16 December 2010

The clock is yet to start

Guess what?  Yep, still no baby.  Nothing, nada, bugger all. 

But you'll be relieved to know that I have been keeping myself busy.
For example, I left my watch behind when in was back in Norn Iron a few weeks ago and told my mum not to bother sending it across as it was two years old, cost £20 and had had it's day.  Plus, Vanessa was getting me a new one for Christmas. 

But, today, something occurred to me.  If I have no watch, then how do I time the contractions?

Answer: with my recently purchased digital kitchen timer from Asda, that's how! 

So now, it's perched on the mantle piece, alongside my camera and mobile phone charger, just waiting for the opportunity to step forward and play its part.

Here's hoping its battery doesn't fade before I do.  

PS For Vanessa fans out there, I have no reason to think she's anything other than tip-top.  But I still haven't had time to ask.

Wednesday, 15 December 2010

Don't worry about me

I got a lot of work done today at, well, work.  But other than that, it's been like living in suspended animation.

Armed with my weekly train ticket, I was walking to the office at around 8.45 this morning when it suddenly dawned on me that I could become a father again at any given moment.

Now, I appreciate that this reality should really have reached my inner brain at some point before then.  Yes, I've talked and written about what's about to happen, but I suppose I hadn't really thought about it that thoroughly.

However, it's now hit me right between the eyes (or similar) and I'm ready to go.

Bring him or her on (or, more accurately, out), I say.

(Sorry?  What's that?  Vanessa?  How's Vanessa?  Er, well, I don't know.  Do you want me to ask her?  OK, I'll ask her.  But I'm sure she's fine.  Must be).

Tuesday, 14 December 2010

Where's Mystic Meg when you need her?

Just five days to go now before the scheduled arrival of Number Two, and I'm the midst of huge dilemma.  In fact, they don't come much bigger.

Should I renew my weekly rail ticket tomorrow or should I just buy a daily return?

I told you it was tricky.

There are lots of reasons to simply bite the bullet, pay the £24.20 and be done with it.

First and foremost, Vanessa is showing no real sign of dispensing with her load at the present time and, as I say, there are still five days to go.

But, there again, there are only three working days left this week and, if the baby does come on time, I'll have paid for a whole two working days I'll never need.

But there again, if no-one appears by Sunday, I'm due to attend a lunch in Keighley then anyway for which I can use my weekly ticket.

But there again, the forecast is for snow from tomorrow night, meaning it's possible that I might not even be able to use the ticket on Thursday, Friday or Sunday - never mind next Monday or Tuesday, when conditions are predicted to be even worse.

But there again, when is the weather forecast ever right?

Oh, it's all very difficult.

After loitering outside the New Pudsey ticket office in a state of mild hysteria, I've eventually went for the pragmatic option i.e. to decide first thing in the morning.

And, who knows, The Bump might well go bump in the night - meaning I'll not need to buy a new train ticket at all.     

But there again, it probably won't.

UPDATE - WED 1012: I went for the weekly so the baby is bound to be with us by teatime today.

Monday, 13 December 2010

William Thompson 1939 - 2010

At the beginning of a week when, if Vanessa's midwife has got it right, we hope to usher a new life into this crazy world, I've just received some terribly sad news about an old friend who has just departed. 

William Thompson was the Ulster Unionist MP for West Tyrone from 1997 - 2001.  It wasn't a seat he was expected to win and, when he did so, he knew that he would almost certainly lose at the next election.

He was therefore determined to make the most it, and he certainly did that.

Tragically, his time in Westminster coincided with the Omagh bomb on 15 August 1998 in which 29 people lost their lives and 220 were injured.

Willie was the local MP and I still vividly recall his live interview on BBC1's Breakfast With Frost the morning after the atrocity in which he showed no bitterness but shed a lot of tears.   

He was strongly opposed to the Good Friday Agreement.  The reasons were many - chief amongst them the fact that so many convicted terrorists were released back on to the streets - but he did so on principle, not for effect.  And if you didn't agree with him, well that was your right and he wouldn't hold it against you.

Indeed, my favourite memory of Willie goes back to the spring of 2000 when Ulster Unionist Leader David Trimble was challenged unsuccessfully for his job by the then Chief Whip Martin Smith.

After the votes had been counted, David phoned me up to ask what I thought we might do to help bring the Parliamentary Party back together.  I suggested he hold a series of private one-to-one meetings with each of the other nine MPs, which he agreed to.

I allocated about 45 minutes in David's diary for each of these, with some individuals using up all of the time available, and others a little bit less.

But Willie's meeting was by far the shortest.  In fact, I don't think it lasted much more than four minutes. 

He arrived in my room, next to David's, grinning from ear. I told him to go on in, whilst I climbed under my desk to wait for the fallout.  But I should have known better.

When he appeared back at my door after his rapid fire get together, a huge smile was again plastered across his face.

"Oh dear," I said, fearing he had decided to resign or do something equally problematic. "How did it go?"

"Let me put it this way," said Willie, still beaming and without a hint of malice.

"If someone from the press phones me up, I will tell them this: 'The Party Leader and I had a frank exchange of views, after which both of us emerged with a very clear understanding of each other's position.'  Is that OK?"

"Yes, Willie - spot on," I replied, through my laughter.

And with that he was off.

A couple of minutes later, David appeared in my room, hands in pockets and sporting the exact same enormous grin as Willie before him.

"Well?"  I asked.

David didn't respond.  He just shook his head, still smiling, and returned next door.

The message? Willie was being Willie - and no-one would ever have a problem with that.

My heart goes out to his wife Violet and his immediate family for their loss.  

Sunday, 12 December 2010

Church drama as shy shepherd flocks off

Above you can see the nativity scene at The Grove Methodist Church in Horsforth earlier today. 

Do you notice anything odd about it?


Well, there's a shepherd missing.

And can you guess who that shepherd might be?

Let me give you a clue.

Prior to going AWOL (and despite point blank refusing to wear the customary tea towel on his head), Jamie initially seemed enthused at the prospect of making his debut as a thespian.

But then he managed to break his staff and, looking back, it was probably the beginning of the end.

Sadly, the end itself came only about three seconds after he'd managed to get to the front of the church - prompting the narrator to announce to the amused congregation, "Oh dear, one of the shepherds has gone 'ome!"

Perhaps, next year, they'll just put him in charge of props.