Thursday, 31 May 2012

They can rebuild me

I'm shortly to become a dental tourist - and I couldn't be more pleased.

I wrote here recently that I'd lost my front tooth and been forced to rely on a denture.  Ugh!  Actually, UUUGGHHH!!!!! 

I really can't tell you how much I hate this thing.  It looks OK, but a combination of not being able to feel the roof of my mouth and the fact that I now sound like an "amusing" Ricky Gervais creation made me very unhappy.

But things are looking up.

A couple of weeks ago, when I was back in Northern Ireland, my stepfather Derek very kindly arranged for me to go and see my old dentist. 

I say old but he's not that old - I just haven't been to see him since 1994 (according to the records). What he certainly is, though, is brilliant. 

This was confirmed within seconds of me opening my mouth and him having a peek inside.  Because despite my normal dentist in Leeds telling me that a denture was the only option, my Coleraine superdentist was able to advise that a bridge could take its place - and I could have the roof of my mouth back. 

I have to wait a little while before having the work done, to enable my mouth to heel after the tooth extraction.  But the long and the short of it is that I now have two appointments booked with the great man in August, a week apart.  And, in the seven days in between, I intend to have a lot of fun on the North Coast.

I love it when things work out.

Tuesday, 29 May 2012

Something of a theme

My family very generously sent me some tickets for Flamingo Land in North Yorkshire for my 40th birthday.  And being the kindly soul that I am, yesterday I shared them with him, her and her.  

And don't they look excited?  No?  OK, let's have another try.

Hmmm.  We'll go again.

One more time?

Yes, well there we are.  

I did get involved, on occasion.  Chauffeuring Jamie in a bumper car was one example.

But, of course, he had to outdo me.

 As for Charlotte, well, you can never really beat a good soaking.

Anyway, we'll be back again before the summer is out. And I don't care what they think.

PS You don't reckon my children are becoming divas, do you?

No, I thought not.

Sunday, 27 May 2012

Ask a silly question

I was up very early this morning to take Jamie out for a run on my bike. 

I say run but he just has to sit there.  Easy life.

We've never been out on the public roads before, principally because, until the last two weeks, I hadn't ridden a bike for ages and thought it best not to risk killing us both. 

But today, I took the plunge and all went well.

To be fair, it was Sunday morning and there were few cars around.  This enabled Jamie and I to have a number of enlightening conversations.  But he saved his best comments till last.

We initially headed out towards Leeds Bradford airport, an area with which he isn't entirely familiar, before turning for home.

Upon reaching Guiseley town centre, I thought I would test his local geography.

"Do you know where you are?" I asked.

"Yes," he replied, confidently.

"Where are you?"

"I'm right behind you, Daddy."

I've always wanted... live in a house with its own pool.

Saturday, 26 May 2012

Sunny days

Many people will be going out today to get their first dose of sunburn in 2012.  But against all the odds, I got mine this time last week on the North Coast of Northern Ireland. 

The weather forecast for the Relentless International North West 200 was far from ideal.  As it turned out, not only were the roads dry but the sun shone - as my friends and I fried in the start line grandstand.

I left Jamie and Charlotte in the kind and loving hands of their granny - also known as my mother - who kept them guarded from the sun's rays.   

I'm not sure they're quite so safe in our back garden today, but Mrs W and I will do our best.

Friday, 25 May 2012

Five rings when we get there

In exactly nine weeks from today, David Beckham (and probably John Terry) will attempt to light the flame in London's Olympic Stadium, marking the beginning of the 2012 Summer Games. 

However, hopefully Sir Steve Redgrave - who actually has a connection to the Olympics - will beat both of them to it, thereby bringing a bit of dignity and class to proceedings.  

Either way, seven days after that, Wee John, Vanessa, Jamie and I will be sitting beside a big lake at Eton Dorney waiting to cheer Coleraine rower and all-round good guy Alan Campbell to victory in the men's single sculls.  

Yes, our Olympic tickets have arrived.  

And despite my misgivings about Beckham's crude (but almost certainly successful) attempts to muscle his way into the Great Britain and Northern Ireland Olympic football team, I have nonetheless relinquished some of my principles by buying tickets for their first game at Old Trafford.    

Am I excited?  Hell yes.  

Am I over-excited?  Sadly so.  

But I do feel very privileged to have the opportunity to taste a little bit of history at first hand.  And then bore the bejesus out of countless people for many years afterwards by talking about it. 

If you happen to become one of those unfortunates, let me apologise in advance right now. 

Did I tell you I was excited?

Thursday, 24 May 2012

Oh, pants

I dress Charlotte in the morning more times than not, but I rarely choose her outfits.  There's a very good reason for this. 

I'm a man, you see, and don't have an especially strong instinct for what young ladies are/should be wearing these days (no, really).  So I leave all of that to Vanessa who tends to lay Charlotte's clothes out for me.  But this morning our "daddy proof" system went awry.

Leaving home to head for London at around 7 o'clock this morning, Mrs W mumbled something about Charlotte not needing to wear a vest today as it was too hot. Fair enough.  However, when I went upstairs to find her clothes pile, there was a vest in there - so I put it on her, together with a summer dress. And then I gave her breakfast.  All was going well. 

That was until we were just about to leave the house for nursery.  Because when she stood up, I could see Charlotte's vest and nappy.  That's how short her dress was. 

No self-respecting daddy could be having that, so I returned upstairs to try to find something to cover up her modesty.  Unfortunately all I could lay my hands on were heavy trousers which were not really suitable for a hot day. The exception was a pair of big pink pants which I thought might do the job, so I plonked her into them before beginning the buggy push to nursery.

A couple of minutes from our destination, and my phone rang.  It was Vanessa returning a panicked voice mail I had left about a quarter of an hour earlier. 

I explained that I believed all was now well, despite the fact that Charlotte's summer dress was a bit too short. 

"That's not a summer dress," she replied. "That's a top.  Did you not see the leggings I laid out for her?"

 The answer to that question was an obvious "no."

By the time I reached nursery, I had again convinced myself that everything was OK and that she looked fine after all.  That was until she climbed out of her buggy, prompting Jamie to tug on my tee shirt.

"Daddy?" he said, in a confused tone.

"Yes, son?"

"Why is Charlotte not wearing any trousers?"

Sure I'll know better next time.  

Wednesday, 23 May 2012

A job or a vocation?

I saw this poster up outside a shop in Guiseley this morning as I took Jamie and Charlotte to nursery.

Hopefully I'll never have to seek her assistance.

Tuesday, 22 May 2012

Not just any old John

Got back to Yorkshire on Sunday afternoon after what can only aptly be described as a breathless weekend in Northern Ireland.  More on that later.

But first I feel the need to share this little cameo with you.

It was yesterday morning and I was queueing up to renew my monthly train ticket between Guiseley, where I live, and Keighley, where I work.

I passed my photocard through the little tray thingy to the ticket man and told him what I wanted.

"Barry White!" he yelled after looking at my card, before turning to his mate in the next booth, and repeating - louder this time - "BARRY WHITE!"

"Yes, that's me," I said, "how much do I owe you?"

"That's very good, VERY GOOD!," he guffawed back. "Barry White! But I'll bet you don't get as much stick as I get!"

"Oh, and why is that?" I enquired.

"Look at my name!" he instructed, pointing at his name badge.  "That's right, JOHN GARNETT!"

"So it is," I replied, totally bemused.

"JOHN GARNETT!" he shouted again.  "It's just like Alf Garnett!"

"Yes, but with John instead of Alf," I said, glancing through the glass at my train pass in a subliminal attempt to get away.

"The jokes I've had to put up with over the years, especially when I was at school," the 60-odd-year-old ticket seller replied. 

"It must have been terrible for you," I said, biting my lip.

"You remember that - John Garnett, just like ALF!" he implored with a final flourish. "It's brilliant, isn't it?  Tell your friends!"

And now I have.

So, if you're ever in Guiseley and need to buy a train ticket, look out for John Garnett. Not to be confused with Alf Garnett.  Ever.   

Wednesday, 16 May 2012

Heading (to the) North West

The countdown is almost complete and, in a few hours from now, Jamie, Charlotte and I will be on our way to Ireland's largest sporting event - The Relentless International North West 200.

Since I was a little boy, I've had the privilege of going to see the world's bravest and best motorcycle road racers risk life and limb around the Triangle towns of Portstewart, Coleraine and Portrush, principally for the fun of it.

To give you an idea of how bonkers these men (and a couple of ladies) are, yesterday Yeovil's Martin Jessopp dodged hailstones to set a new speed trap record of 208mph. Yes, really.

Jamie has been to the North West a couple of times before, and this will be Charlotte's first visit.

That said, all they're likely to see this year are a few bikes during tomorrow morning's final practice session (they're not that arsed, if truth be told).  Because for the races themselves - tomorrow evening and all day on Saturday - I will be in grown up but immature company in the very seats you can see above. 

Let's just hope it is a little warmer/drier than twelve months ago.

Tuesday, 15 May 2012

Colin comes out

A brief footnote in tribute to my family of left front crowns and, in particular, to the second but last.

Let's call him Colin - you can see him on the left. 

Colin and I were together for a number of years but, a couple of months ago, my dentist informed me that Colin was bent.  So much so that he would have to leave (my mouth). 

However, despite the fact that Colin was living on borrowed time, my dentist thought it best that he came out in his own time. 

What happened next was why Colin will always be remembered with affection, at least by me. 

He had come loose and I booked an appointment to have him looked at.

But, as I walked to the train station en route to the dentist, Colin did come out.  I was on my phone at the time. 

I stopped immediately and checked the footpath, but Colin could not be found. I even checked under a couple of cars parked beside where I stood, but to no avail.  Colin had gone.  Plus, my train was waiting and I needed a wee. 

So, I arrived at the dentist - sporting a gap where Colin used to be - and explained what had happened. My dentist tutted a bit, before replacing Colin with a temporary crown and dispatching me to make another appointment to get my (horrible!) denture fitted. 

Around about 45 minutes later, I arrived home and really needed the loo again (it must've been all the excitement).

I bolted upstairs, opened my belt, dropped my undercrackers - and Colin fell out.

I took him back to visit my dentist again last week, but she graciously said I could keep him as a reminder of the days when I didn't talk like Louie Spence.

I might have Colin mounted.  I think he would like that.   

Monday, 14 May 2012

Me and my mouth

I have not had a good seven days and only now have summoned up the resolve to share my woes with you. 

This time last week, I had a front left crown.  By mid-morning on Tuesday it was gone - filled by a denture.  And I cannot tell you how much I hate it. 

I first had the tooth crowned when I was in my early teens.  Since then, I've probably had a dozen of them.

I once swallowed one whilst devouring a fish supper. 

I blew one out halfway through a school 100 metre race (which I managed to win, before going back up my lane on my hands and knees in an attempt to find it).    

I shattered one biting a crisp on a train somewhere between Atlanta and New Orleans.

One fell out in the canteen at Castle Buildings, Stormont in the early hours of 10 April 1998 as the negotiations on the Good Friday Agreement were reaching their end.  I can still hear the sound as it bounced off my plate and flew under the table to the bemusement of several members of the Ulster Unionist Talks Team.   

I broke one at a caravan park in East Yorkshire, enabling me to swiftly blend in with an array of other toothless wonders. 

And, most recently, I bent one on a chocolate rice crispie bun. 

All of these dramas collectively led to the fracturing of the root of my tooth, and that was that according to my dentist who said that extraction was the only way to go. 

I was quite relaxed about all of this for a very simple reason:  I had no idea how dreadful it would be to have a denture. 

I thought she would just bang something in there and that would be that.  But no.

The reality is that I now have this plate thing covering much of the roof of my mouth.  It moves about, it's very uncomfortable to eat, I have to wash it after every meal, it comes out at night and, worst of all, it's very difficult to talk. 

I spent much of the weekend researching what other options might be available and it seems that an implant is by far the best solution.  But sadly I don't have a spare £2,500, so that's not going to happen. 

So the only choice is to dust myself down, kick myself up the a*se (not an easy feat) and get on with things.

As luck would have it, I'm flying back home to Northern Ireland on Wednesday where an array of family and friends will have a golden opportunity to rip the dung out of me for four whole days. 

Ah yes, good old "Ulster Therapy" always puts everything in perspective.  And I could do with a laugh.

Sunday, 13 May 2012


I try never to be a victim, because I'm not. But the last few days have a been a bit pants. I'll reflect on that tomorrow.

Meanwhile, as a parent I've learnt that, when you're feeling down, look to your children.  And this weekend I have. Through the medium of bikes, since you ask (yes, I know you haven't).

I bought a back seat for my bike for Jamie when he was a scrap.  And he wasn't impressed.  

In fact, have a look.

But this weekend I rolled bike and attached seat out, and this time Jamie was a bit more upbeat.

Have a closer look.

But Charlotte was less impressed.

Again, let's zoom in.


Saturday, 12 May 2012


A morning of father and son bonding for Jamie and me today with a trip to McDonald's...

...being swiftly followed by a trip to the boy barber's. 

But then the really important part.

This time next week, I will be sitting with some very good friends in the start/finish line grandstand at the 2012 Relentless International North West 200, and I can't wait. And the fun does not end there.

Because as soon as the last bike is back in the pits safe and sound, it will be time for kick-off at Twickenham where the Ulster rugby team will take on Irish provincial rivals Leinster in the Heineken Cup Final.

The men in white will need all the support they can get, even remotely, and Jamie is determined to do his bit. 

Let's hope practice will make perfect, as he clearly still has some way to go.

Thursday, 10 May 2012

The Sash

It is a universally accepted fact in the beauty pageant circuit that, alongside the Miss World title itself, the next most sought after crown is that of Miss North West 200.

Hosted by the former "Mr Traks" himself and all-round top man, DJ Brian Moore, the competition has long been firmly established as one of the highlights of the famous week-long motorcycle road racing festival on the North Coast of Northern Ireland.

And next week's battle of the babes is sure to even more hotly contested than ever. 

For not only is the title and the associated prestige at stake, but so too is an extra special winner's sash. 

And why is this year's winner's sash extra special (I'm sure I can hear at least one person cry - surely)?

Because it's being made by the fair and skillful hands of my mother.

The feeling of pride within me borders on the indescribable. 

Indeed, only the feeling of downright amusement can compete with it.

Tuesday, 8 May 2012


I do like someone who doesn't take themselves nor, indeed, their business too seriously. 

So when I saw this shop sign near Leeds Bradford Airport yesterday, I was mightily amused.

I know where I'll be picking up my printing supplies in future.

Monday, 7 May 2012

Knight knight

Just back from a long weekend in a lodge in the heart of Sherwood Forest, a fine part of the country. 

Despite the fact that all the other little boys were badgering their parents for Robin Hood hats and archery sets, Jamie decided to buck the trend. 

Because he wanted to be a knight. 

And if he was going to be a knight, then Charlotte had to be a knight too. 

Whatever makes them happy, I suppose.

Friday, 4 May 2012

Thought for the day

It's exactly six years ago today since I stood for election to Leeds City Council. 

Becoming a politician - if only for four very long weeks - was not a path I ever wanted to tread, as I didn't think I'd be very good at it.  And, as it turned out, there were quite a lot of people who agreed with me. 

Because despite winning the support of 2,122 lost souls, my veteran Labour Party opponent attracted the votes of 2,499 wiser Pudsey residents - so I lost. 


I tell you all this because, as I write, the results of local elections in England, Scotland and Wales continue to flood in. 

And as they do so, the radio phone-in programmes and social networks appear to be chock-a-block with individuals rolling out the same old cliches: "they're all the same...they're useless...politicians don't care...I hate them all...etc etc etc." 

So I just want to say this.  As in all areas of life, there are some nice politicians and some not so nice politicians.   There are some bright politicians, and some incredibly stupid ones.  And, yes, there are some politicians who appear to care more about their own careers than the lives of those they seek to represent. 

But it takes a heck of a lot of guts to put your name on a ballot paper and then ask strangers to like/trust/respect you enough to persuade them to leave their home to put a cross alongside your name. 

I have worked directly or indirectly in politics for the majority of my adult life, and it is my sincerely held view that, regardless of the party they represent, the overwhelming number of politicians I've met decide to put themselves forward because they genuinely want to do some good. 

Perhaps the armchair critics out there might wish to bear this in mind the next time they pick up the phone or their pen to denounce those who have a go.  Either that, or have a go themselves.

Thank you for letting me get that off my chest. 

(And I still can't stand Gordon Brown).  

Wednesday, 2 May 2012

We want you, we want you, we want you as a new recruit

I had the unique experience on Monday evening of representing Mrs W and me at Jamie and Charlotte's first ever nursery parents' evening.

And I learnt some stuff. 

For example, prior to Monday, I had no idea that Charlotte had developed a jigsaw fixation (cue me going up to the loft to bring down some of Jamie's old jigsaws). 

I was also previously unaware of Jamie's passion for expressing himself through the medium of dance.  I really should pay more attention. 

What I found particularly amusing were the efforts of Jamie's key worker and her colleague to maintain professional faces whilst describing his "moves."  So I tried to make matters a little easier for them.

"Look," I said, "I'm the world's worst dancer, which is why I hate to dance. 

"The fact that Jamie enjoys dancing is therefore a step in the right direction - if you pardon the pun.    

"But let me ask you, is Jamie the world's second worst dancer?"

Initially I was greeted with silence - before both broke into what I can only describe as "guilty laughs." So I got my answer at least. 

Meanwhile, today was Jamie's "come to nursery wearing what you hope to wear when you've got a job" day (or something like that). 

So we dressed him up as a member of the Village People.

Given his new found love of original dance, it seemed an obvious choice.

Sadly Charlotte wasn't impressed.