Thursday, 28 June 2012

He's a w.........

The gentleman you can see in the foreground above is none other than Sir Garfield Sobers, generally regarded as the finest cricketer ever to play the game.

I had the great privilege of seeing him speak earlier today as guest of honour (him not me) at a special lunch at Headingley Stadium. 

I was there in the company of three friends I meet every June for the annual "364 Club" event; you can see them below.  

And yes, on left, that is John Kettley (Is A Weatherman).

John was saying that he's been having trouble with a neighbour.

"It came to a head in December," he reported, "when he leant across the fence and called me a wanker."

As if.  

Wednesday, 27 June 2012

Funny farm

Today Jamie went on a special nursery coach trip to a local farm.

Arriving home tonight, I asked him what he'd seen.

"A fox's hole."

"That'," I replied.  "Anything else."

"A bull that did a wee."

Two sights that, together, were surely worth £12 of any parent's money.

Tuesday, 26 June 2012

The Ulster Burger

My uncharacteristically sharp-minded purchase of a gazebo enabled us to have a Jamie birthday barbecue last Saturday, despite the awful weather.

Have a closer look.

I can tell you're impressed.

But now prepare to be even more blown away.  

Below you can see the first batch of burgers I subjected to the flames.  

But can you spot the one that looks like Northern Ireland?

Yes?  No?

OK, I'll zoom in again.

It's uncanny.     

Monday, 25 June 2012

That mouse is smokin'

It's the evening after the long weekend before, and both my dad and Wee John will be sleeping under their own rooves again tonight. 

The point of the weekend just gone was three-fold:
  1. Go to see England play cricket (Friday)
  2. Celebrate Jamie's fourth birthday (Saturday)
  3. Go to see the Olympic Flame in nearby Ilkley (Sunday)
The result was:
  1. It rained so much not a ball was bowled (Friday)
  2. A great day (Saturday)
  3. We couldn't get on the train (Sunday)
So, mixed then. 

But Mr Mouse certainly made a lot of little people smile at the main event...

....including the birthday boy himself.

And whilst his audience sampled a bit of junior fine dining....

...Mr Mouse saw an opportunity to have a sneaky fag - and grabbed it with both paws.

Friday, 22 June 2012

A Wee star is born

I was supposed to be at Headingley cricket ground today for England versus the West Indies but, given the weather, that's unlikely to happen.  

So the focus will instead be on preparing for tomorrow when Jamie becomes a four-year-old.

All manner of activities are planned, many of which will be under the direction of Mr Mouse*.

Let's wish him luck.

(* Actual size).

Wednesday, 20 June 2012

Oh no, it's him again

Wee John is on his way back to Yorkshire tomorrow for a long, wet weekend. 

Others are coming too, including my dad, with the three highlights supposed to be the cricket one-day international on Friday, Jamie's birthday barbecue on Saturday and the arrival of the Olympic Torch on Sunday.  

The more eagle-eyed amongst you may have spotted that all of these are outdoor events.  Given the horrific weather forecast, we'll just have to make the best. 

Vanessa was telling Jamie about Wee John's impending trip last Sunday whilst driving us Whites back from my Fathers' Day lunch in Leeds.  And, whilst at it, she built in a mini-geography quiz. 

Here's how the conversation went:

"Where have we just been?"


"Where are we now?"


"Where do we live?"


"Where does Grandma live?"


 "Where do Granny and Katie live?"

"Northern Ireland."

"Where does Uncle John live?"

"Our house." 

I can't think what gave Jamie that idea.

Tuesday, 19 June 2012

A sore point

Unless you're living under a truck, you'll no doubt be aware that the England football team need a point tonight against Ukraine to progress to the quarter-finals of Euro 2012.

This scenario prompted BBC Radio 5 Live presenter Nicky Campbell  to reminisce a little earlier about his visit to the 1990 World Cup Finals in Italy.

It was the last round of group games and his native Scotland, a little stronger then than they are now, required a draw against the mighty Brazil to secure a place in the knock-out stages. 

With 83 minutes gone, the score was 0-0 and the Tartan Army were preparing to celebrate. 

Then Brazil scored.

Cue despair from Nicky Campbell, who was watching from the stands. 

And his mood was not helped by his mate, who turned to him and uttered the killer line:

"Just what the game needed."

Scotland lost 1-0 and flew home the following day.

Let's hope England have better fortune this evening.   

Monday, 18 June 2012

We're (not) in the money

How said bankers weren't generous?  OK, I just did - but with very good reason.

Vanessa and I received a joint letter today pointing out that the bank had made a mistake.  Yes, really.  There was even an apology in there "for any confusion or inconvenience caused."  

And why, pray tell, was the bank on such bended knee?  I'll let Rob Thackray, Head of Mortgage Operations at Northern Rock Asset Management (NRAM), explain for himself: 

 "NRAM is committed is to providing our current and previous customers with a great level of service.  To ensure we maintain these levels, we have reviewed our previous Mortgage Application process and have identified that whilst your account is now redeemed, it appears that we made an administrative error when your account was set up." 

All good, Mr T.  Now let's talk compensation.  So he did:

"Therefore a cheque for £3.54 is attached to this letter to rectify this error." 

So, that's a half pint each then. 

Actually, maybe not.  Because Rob wasn't quite finished:

"Included in this amount is £0.28 representing 8% simple interest on the amount charged in error.  Interest has been paid gross and is potentially taxable, so you may need to inform Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs of this payment."  

What a banker.

Sunday, 17 June 2012

A father with a daughter with a mother of a hunger

Fathers' Day today which, despite having only two children, meant three cards pour moi - thanks to Jamie and Charlotte's nursery for their assistance with two of them.

And, of course, you have to have a Fathers' Day lunch.

I chose Nando's which, for some reason, I'd never previously been too.  And whilst I was very impressed, I was arguably out-impressed by Charlotte. 

To illustrate, chicken and chips finished, it was time for corn on the cob. 

Then ice cream - and more chips. 

This followed on from last night's tea, which she also demolished...

...and seemed to enjoy.

At this rate, that 60-stone teenager might soon have some competition for her massive throne.

Saturday, 16 June 2012

Lady problem

Despite not turning four years old for another week, Jamie is already becoming a dab hand on his mother's new gizmo. 

The only problem is, he insists on calling it a "Ladypad."

Do you want to tell him or should I?  

Friday, 15 June 2012

School notes

Rewinding back to earlier in the week and our visit to Jamie's soon-to-be new school, I have a few additional matters to report.

First, the death penalty does still exist in this country and will be visited upon any parent who dares take their child out of Guiseley Infant School during term-time to go on holiday.

Second, black cycle shorts are the preferred wear for boys during PE.  This is to guard against stray willies.

Third, the school's Parents' Group is particularly active and likes nothing better than to transform the assembly hall into a pub under the guise of a "quiz night."   

And finally, I am unlikely to win the Dads' Race at Sports Day 2013 as some of my competitors appear to be around half my age.  But that won't stop me trying.

You're up to date.

Thursday, 14 June 2012

Ask Daddy

Being asked questions I don't know the answer to is something I've had to get used to over the years. 

But, since Jamie has been able to talk,  I've discovered I know even less about "things" than I feared.     

Take this morning's gem, as I walked him and pushed Charlotte to nursery.


"Yes, Jamie?"

"What are smells made of?"

I do genuinely remember this subject being raised at school, in either biology or chemistry, and according to my recollection, the teacher didn't know either. 

"Opinions differ," was something like the answer he gave.  Since then, no-one has bothered to update me. 

However, be assured that I am now on the case and will obviously report back to you  - and Jamie - with my conclusions in due course.

Wednesday, 13 June 2012

Bike banter

Like so many other sad men (and some women) across Europe and beyond, tonight I will be tuning in to watch Germany play Holland in Euro 2012.  

The prospect reminds me of a story a good friend once told me about night he was in a bar with a Dutch pal. 

As time went past and the drink began to flow, the Dutchman became more and more tetchy.  The reason was that a group of Germans had joined proceedings and the Dutchman wasn't a big fan of Germans.

My friend asked him why, to which he replied that, during the Second World War, the Nazis had apparently seized bicycles across Holland and melted them down to make armaments. 

After providing this clarification, the Dutchman suddenly put down his drink, stormed across the bar towards the Germans and shouted: "Give us our bicycles back, you b******s!"

Let's hope it's a good game.

Tuesday, 12 June 2012

And so it begins

Not long back after a parents' evening at what, from September, will be Jamie's infant school. 

"We feel it's a privilege to look after your children, we need you to know that!" beseeched the ever so slightly manic headteacher.

She clearly hasn't met our Jamie. 

More tomorrow.  

Friday, 8 June 2012

Date for the diary

Over the next few weeks, Jamie will move into a new pre-exit phase at nursery to help prepare him for starting infant school in September. 

But, before his departure, he will (obviously) be presented with his graduation certificate.

I understand that one of these is equivalent to 10 A star GCSEs in today's money, so his education has definitely got off to a good start. 

Thursday, 7 June 2012

Heroes of the road

I booked today and tomorrow off work, principally because I'm exhausted (if I was rich and famous, I'd probably be in The Priory).

But there are other reasons.  One is that I'm trying to progress a couple of harebrained schemes which will almost certainly come to nothing.  A second is that I want to listen to tomorrow's Senior Race in the Isle of Man TT. 

Although knowing little or nothing about the actual machinery involved, I am becoming increasingly intoxicated by motorcycle road racing.  The incredible speeds the riders reach on public thoroughfares is an obvious draw. But the fascination with the boys and girls who do it is my principal fascination. 

Let me give you the most recent example. 

Above you can see Honda TT Legends rider Simon Andrews at the North West 200 just a couple of weeks ago.  It was one of his first races back following a horrific crash last summer in which he shattered his leg.  So serious was the injury that he had to sign a form giving doctors his consent to amputate should the damage prove to be beyond repair.

But, with a heavy limp, he returned to the grid earlier this year and all was going well.  Until last Saturday's Isle of Man TT Superbike Race.

Travelling along one of the fastest parts of the course, he misjudged an approaching corner - and hit a stone wall at 142mph. 

Damage?  Two ruptured eyes balls, a broken shoulder, a broken wrist, a broken ankle (same leg as before), a dislocated shoulder and a dislocated thumb. But at least he lived to tell the tale.

And, after being released from hospital earlier today, he said he hoped to be back on his bike for an event just eight weeks from now.  

Now can you understand the fascination?

Tuesday, 5 June 2012

Flags, flames and fun

Day 167 of the extended Diamond Jubilee weekend and, yesterday, we thought it was about time we joined in properly by throwing a family barbecue.


The gathering provided an ideal opportunity to introduce the kids to unashamed patriotism - I can't believe I waited so long. 

The only downside was that it clashed with the Isle of Man TT Supersport race. 

But there are always ways to keep yourself informed about such matters these days, as fellow motorbike fan Mike was only too pleased to discover.

Of course, yesterday was not just about the Jubilee festivities.  Because 4 June 2012 will also be forever remembered as the day when the Olympic Torch was carried through the streets of Coleraine (largely by people who couldn't find it on a map).  

Still, at least my little niece Katie got to have a hold. 

Rule Britannia. 

Sunday, 3 June 2012

That's your ma, that is

Jamie, Charlotte and I were up early this morning.  But we had nothing on Vanessa.

She was tasked with driving across Leeds at 5.30am to promote The Big Jubilee Lunch on BBC Breakfast. (Shame it's chucking it down outside and it'll be soggy sandwiches all round).

Her offspring were undoubtedly impressed by her appearance although, as you might imagine, concentrations spans proved to the biggest obstacle.

Charlotte babbled a bit before wandering off.

And Jamie?  Well, let me quote him.

"That was good! Can I watch Chicken Run now?"



Eagle-eyed viewers may have seen another lady being interviewed later in the programme from the same event.  Just to point out, that was not my wife.

Good old BBC.

Saturday, 2 June 2012

That's better

It became apparent earlier this week that Charlotte not only needed a wash, but also her first professional haircut. 

It's amazing what difference a damp sponge and a fiver to a hairdresser can make.