Friday, 31 August 2012

It's bye from him - and drugs for me

Something of a red letter day today as Jamie arrived at nursery for the last ever time.  For some, this would be a sad moment - but have you seen the cost of nursery fees these days?  Bugger that, I've never been more thrilled. 

But that's where the good news stops as I currently have a face like a chewed bap. 

My age-old tooth abscess problems have resurfaced and my mouth is killing me.  Following a dental visit yesterday afternoon, I'm now on anti-biotics, ibuprofen, codeine and paracetamol - with a dash of clove oil thrown in.  And some whiskey tonight.  And maybe some Guinness.  And some wine. 

It's always wise to take your medicine, especially on a Friday.

Wednesday, 29 August 2012

Funny lines come in threes

My last two posts have centred on "Jamie quips" and I beg your indulgence for just one more.

Vanessa and I are making a big effort at present to "encourage" (i.e. force) Jamie to brush up on his manners in advance of starting school next week.

He doesn't get presented with his breakfast until he says "please," and I don't let go of it until he says "thank you."   That kind of thing.  He is also "strongly encouraged" (i.e. "do it or we'll hang you upside down") to apologise when he does something wrong.  And, to be fair, he is getting there.

However, yesterday, he possibly over-stretched himself in the quest to be polite.

He and I were en route to the local playing fields for our planned rugby kickabout. A middle-aged couple were walking towards us.

Just as they got to within a couple of yards, Jamie stopped in front of them and looked up into their eyes.

They also halted and gazed down in his direction.

"Urrmmm....pardon me," said White Junior. "I've just trumped." 

My immediate reaction was to laugh out loud; the couple's response was to shuffle off blank-faced. 

Next up on Jamie's learning curve will be the concept that some things are better left unsaid.

Tuesday, 28 August 2012

I don't think he's taking this seriously

Having booked today off on leave, I took the opportunity to force Jamie to try out his new boots in advance of his Micro Rugby debut on Sunday morning.

But it was soon clear that I'll have to work even harder if his love for the sport is to reach the levels I require.

This is best illustrated by the photo I took of him sitting on his rugby ball.

"What are you doing?" I asked.

"I'm waiting for it to hatch." 

Saturday, 25 August 2012

Reservoir Pup

Jamie and Charlotte went to a party yesterday afternoon, from which they returned with a fluffy sheep each - a pink one for her, and a marginally less girlie white one for him. 

This morning I asked Jamie - a little half heartedly, I admit - why they had been given different colours.

And I could tell by the look on his face that he knew as well as I did that it was a stupid question, deserving of a stupid answer.  Which promptly arrived.

"I got a white one because my name is Jamie White," he announced, dismissively.

"Charlotte got a pink one because her name is Charlotte Pink."

No-one likes a smart arse.

Friday, 24 August 2012

It's all about me

I've long made clear on this blog that brainwashing one's children is, in my view, an entirely acceptable activity - particularly when it relates to one's personal sporting convenience.

I'm a sports addict, you see.  And if I'm going to maintain my sport watching at their current levels, I need to be ahead of the game - and selling the merits of as many games as possible to my children.

As the eldest, Jamie is first in line and a very important deadline is rapidly approaching.  Micro rugby starts a mere nine days from now and it very much suits my purposes if I can persuade him to enrol.

If he can be transformed into a rugby enthusiast, I can go to see him play for many years to come.  Plus, he'll let me watch rugby on telly whenever I want. (As things stand, I'm not confident of getting away with the All Blacks v Australia first thing tomorrow morning - especially as it clashes with some new episodes of Ben 10 on Cartoon Network).

I've been trying for weeks to get him to agree to sign up, with little success.  But today I played my trump card; I arrived home with his first pair of boots.

And the good news is that he's thrilled.

But not as thrilled as I'll be if he enrols next week - and returns to play again the week after.   And the week after that.

Needless to say he will be made to wear his Ulster Rugby shirt. 

A point of clarification

For those of you who have asked, the floppy-haired bloke featured here on Wednesday is definitely my friend Ben McKenna (left) and not comedian Michael McIntyre (right).

Whilst fellow-Londoner Ben may bear a passing resemblance to Mr McIntyre, he is not in fact him.

Thursday, 23 August 2012

The pyjama game

Above you can see Jamie and Charlotte in their pyjamas just after getting up this morning.

And here they are just before I carted them off to nursery almost two hours later - still in pyjamas (albeit clean ones).

The reason for the casual attire was that their nursery are holding a pyjama party today to raise funds for the Yorkshire Children's Heart Surgery Fund, a fine charity. 

However, you might well think it would take me less than an hour apiece to change two children out of one set of pyjamas into another.  But there were mitigating factors, including a particularly strong programme line-up on CBeebies and Charlotte's active bowel.

Thankfully, tomorrow is Vanessa's turn to take them to nursery.

Wednesday, 22 August 2012

I might have to buy a scarf

Welcome to Nethermoor Park, home of Conference North table-toppers Guiseley AFC, where I hope to spend quite a bit of time in the coming months. 

One of the things I miss most about living outside Northern Ireland is the opportunity to watch my team, Coleraine, play football on a regular basis.  But that's how it is.

However, rather than complain, I need to find a substitute. 

So last night my good friends Ben (below left), Other John and I went along to see Guiseley strut their stuff.

Ben volunteered to sample the catering at half-time, and was impressed.

John and I were equally thrilled at the bar prices - £2.80 a pint.  You can't argue with that.

The football was pretty slick too.  Below you can see Guiseley's fifth goal fly in courtesy of a penalty.

They won 7-1 in the end, following an opening day 4-1 away victory on Saturday. 

Indeed, the only problem I foresee is the fact that they're so good - I'm not used to supporting winning teams in any sport. 

But I suppose I'll just have to try and get used to it.

Where is Jamie today?

Jamie was asked to bring some pics from a recent holiday into nursery this morning for a "Show and Tell."

But can you guess where he is from the picture above?  No?  Obviously not a Beatles fan then.

What about now?

Still no idea? OK, one last clue.

You remain none the wiser?

Right, I give up too.

Monday, 20 August 2012

Corn in the gob

I came home from work tonight to find Jamie and Charlotte being presented with a corn on the cob each for tea.

But Jamie was just too slow and, like many ladies I know, no-one comes between Charlotte and her food.  Particularly when it's not her food.

Maybe he'll be swifter off the mark tomorrow. 

Sunday, 19 August 2012

Feeling blue

I'm going to get my hair cut tomorrow; not because it's particularly long, but because it's particularly blue.

You see, I'm not one of those people who spends a large part of the day looking in the mirror. So it appears I was the last to notice how grey my hair has turned recently.  Indeed, over the past few weeks, I've lost count of the number of folk who have taken such delight in pointing it out.

Initially I filed their comments in my "mistaken" folder.  However, a couple of days ago, I was flicking through some holiday snaps and made a horrible discovery.

No, my hair is not going grey, not one little bit.  It's actually going blue.

If this made me look more like Superman, I might be content. But I'm not sure this is the case.  And how bad might things get?

What if I end up resembling Katy Perry?

OK, not likely - I could never get my eyebrows to look like hers. 

Mrs Slocombe from Are You Being Served?  That could happen.

Sonic the Hedgehog?

Or, given my fondness for biscuits, maybe even the Cookie Monster?

My mum has tried to convince me to consider using some kind of "product" on my hair, but that's not really me.  So, when I visit the barber, I might just have it all off.  Although I might not.

Saturday, 18 August 2012

Spot the difference

Jamie was sent to tidy his room for the first time ever today after a friend came to play. 

A mere 10 minutes later, he bounded back downstairs all pleased with his efforts. 

I'm not entirely sure why.

Friday, 17 August 2012

A big up for the wee country

The picture of Jamie and Charlotte you can see above was not taken in Menorca, where we were a few weeks ago, but in Portrush on the North Coast of Northern Ireland last Friday morning.

Earlier that day, we woke up in nearby Portstewart to be greeted by this sight.

The night before, this was the view I had as I belted down the town's Promenade in search of my next pint.

And on Saturday, I excitedly followed the well-worn path to my favourite sporting venue bar none, the Coleraine Showgrounds, to see my beloved Bannsiders stuff the current all-Ireland cup holders, Crusaders, in the opening game of the Irish Premiership season.

If you haven't been to the North Coast of my wee country, perhaps you should get yourself over there very soon indeed.  You'll not be disappointed.

Thursday, 16 August 2012

The dental magicians

Meet Robert and Rhonda, the Paul Daniels and Debbie McGee of Northern Ireland dentistry (although they are married to other people, and neither are married to Paul Daniels or Debbie McGee).

These fine individuals began looking after my teeth when I was in my early teens.  I'm not a normal patient, you see (I like to think of myself as "special"). A blood problem diagnosed whilst I was still in the womb led to the administration of a drug which, my mother was warned, would mean dental problems in later years.  And the prophecy came true.

An avalanche of abscesses (poetic pus, if you will) led to the weakening of my gums, countless root fillings, lots of crowns and, in time, some extractions.  And Robert, ably assisted by dental nurse Rhonda, was responsible for almost all of the heavy lifting. 

Indeed, I understand that I retain the record for the most number of appointments in Robert's surgery in a single calendar year - 26.  In time I might even be worthy of a blue plaque.

After leaving university, I moved to Belfast, then London and finally Leeds and had to seek treatment at other practices.  But the quality of care was nothing close to what I had in Coleraine.  It was conveyor belt dentistry, but I put up with it, constantly reminded by others that I was lucky to have an NHS dentist at all (don't get me started).

However, just over three months ago, the game changed.  I was told by my dentist in Leeds that the root of my front left tooth had fractured and the whole lot would have to come out to be replaced by a denture.  The consequences of this were not explained in any way, and no alternatives were offered.  So, after having impressions done, I turned up, had my front tooth yanked - and the dentist presented me with this.

Lovely, isn't it? 

If you haven't seen one of these - and I hadn't - you will note the pink piece of material.  That was to sit on the roof of my mouth.  And therein lay the problem.

I am the first to acknowledge that I can sometimes be difficult to understand, particularly when I'm off on one.  And the insertion of a lump of plastic was not going to help matters. 

I left the surgery in shock and arrived home in tatters.  A mixture of sorrow, anger and panic.  The next couple of weeks did not improve my mood, nor my ability to talk.  And then I went back to Northern Ireland for the North West 200 motorbike races. 

Shortly after arriving home, my mum advised that my stepdad Derek had spoken to Rhonda - who lives across the road - and Robert would be very happy to see me the following day. A quick fire glance enabled both he and Rhonda to advise that a bridge - at a very reasonable cost - was the solution and the denture could go, although I would have to wait three months for the wound to heal. I was sent off to make two appointments in August.  

The new bridge was cemented in on Monday afternoon and, at 5pm, my former denture hosted its own farewell party in the Railway Arms.   

To say I am grateful to Robert and Rhonda is a huge understatement, but I'll say it anyway.  I also look forward to travelling back to Coleraine for more treatment in the months ahead.  

I love it when a story has a happy ending - and I'm not too embarrassed to raise a smile.      

Wednesday, 15 August 2012

Home is where the oarsmen are

We Whites returned from our trip across the water last night, but today my thoughts remained firmly focused on Coleraine.

And it wasn't just because I wanted to be back in the Railways Arms with some of the "characters" you can see above.

No, today was the day the town's three medal-winning Olympians returned home to show off their rewards.

They turned up in their thousands in the Diamond.

And how do I know?  Because it was on tonight's BBC Six O'Clock News - that's how.

You don't believe me?  Well, that's just silly.

I was particularly thrilled to see the images of Alan Campbell with his wonderful parents, Jenny and William, all looking equally proud.  But I already knew Jenny was still riding high as she was drinking champagne with my sister Jacquie in Wetherspoons just the other day. As you do.

Did I tell you I was at Eton Dorney for Alan's final?  I did? 

OK.  I'll not mention it again. For at least another week. 

Monday, 6 August 2012

Robbery at dawn

Welcome to Northern Ireland - and I'm not happy.

The blame for my disturbed state of mind can be placed squarely at the doors of two institutions: Jet2 and Leeds Bradford Airport.

I arrived at said airport at 7.30 this morning, a clear hour before my flight to Belfast was due to be delayed, sorry, take off.  I then had to pay the obligatory £2 'drop off' charge for the privilege of spending 30 seconds in the car park - thank you airport high achievers for that.

Then I went to check in.

"Have you checked in online?" asked the lady.

"No," I replied - having already paid the £12.50 'check-in fee' when I made the booking.

 "There is a charge if you haven't checked in online."

"Oh right."

"That'll be another £17.50, sir."


But it gets better.  I joined the queue to go through security, which was very, very long.

I still had 50 minutes before my flight was due to leave, giving me 20 minutes until it was time to board.

In 15 minutes I moved all of two feet.

I asked the man in front of me when his flight was due to take off - it was 40 minutes after me.  He could immediately see the worry in my eyes.  But he offered a suggestion.

"You can join the 'Fast Track' if you pay the robbing f*ckers more," he said, and I was left with little option.

Another £3 to the coffers of Leeds Bradford Airport then.


Since arriving on the North Coast, I have already checked in for my return trip next Tuesday. 

Unfortunately, the online check in facility is not available to Vanessa, who is due to come across with the kids on Thursday, 'for operational and safety reasons' (i.e. because of Charlotte).  However, the Jet2 website generously points out that there will be 'no additional charges' for printing out three pieces of paper. How nice.

After I get back, I hope I never have to use Jet2 ever again  - I'm normally a Flybe type of guy - and I have a highly unoriginal thought for highlighting Leeds Bradford Airport's latest money-making scam.  Watch this space.

Sunday, 5 August 2012

You can stick your 100m up your chuff

Tonight, around half a dozen "ordinary" members of the public will join 80,000 members of the Royal family, BBC employees, media types, celebrities, politicians, socialites and general hangers-on for the Olympic men's 100 metres final.

But I would not swap a seat in the stadium tonight for my grandstand ticket which allowed me into Eton Dorney on Thursday past.  It was, without hesitation, the best live sporting experience I have had and I expect never to top it.

If you haven't heard (and you must've heard), Alan Campbell won bronze for Team GB(&NI) in the men's single sculls, taking Coleraine to 33rd in the overall medals table after the Chambers brothers' success the previous day.

And he was magnificent.

It was clear from shortly after halfway that gold and silver were beyond him.  And, as he passed us with around 250 metres to go, Alan (closest to the camera below) was involved in a colossal battle with the Swede for bronze. 

But, as the line got closer (below, far left), he dug incredibly deep to secure his hard-earned place in Olympic history.  

And if you want to know just what it took out of him and what it meant, click here to see some remarkably raw footage of him being helped by Mr Olympics himself, Sir Steve Redgrave.

Afterwards, medal around his neck, Alan rowed back to the stands to thank the crowd for driving him over the line.

Even Jamie was impressed.

I'm heading back to Coleraine tomorrow for just over a week and I expect the success of our three medal-winning rowers to still be the talk of the town.  The good patrons of the Railway Arms, where I expect to spend a significant amount of my time, will never believe me when I tell them where I was on Thursday.  

Best take my camera with me.

Wednesday, 1 August 2012

Let's talk about Alan

The Prime Minister was in Coleraine today to learn what it takes to become a winner.

His destination was the Bann Rowing Club, where the town's three 2012 Olympic rowing finalists once learnt how to power a boat to glory. 

Tomorrow, brothers Richard and Peter Chambers will form 50% of the Team GB(&NI) men's lightweight four who are now favourites to grab gold.

And on Friday, Alan Campbell lines up in the men's single sculls with victory the only thing on his mind. And Vanessa, Wee John, Jamie and I will be there to witness his big moment.

Us three Whites set sail (in a car) for London first tomorrow morning. And, after a few hours tasting the atmosphere in the city and a little bit of sleep, we'll then head to Eton Dorney at around 5.30am on Friday for an experience none of us expect ever to forget.

Needless to say, I hope the Chambers boys can lead the way for town and country.  

As for Alan, I don't think I've ever wanted anybody to win anything more.

Please have your TV on and everything crossed for him at 12.30pm on Friday.