Thursday, 29 November 2012

A letter from Guiseley (draft)

And so, with my weekend in Northern Ireland at an end, it was time to head back to Yorkshire - with Jamie and Charlotte waiting to greet me at the airport.  Before putting their hands out to see what I'd got them.  I'm glad one of their number seemed pleased.

But, of course, what I produced could in no way compete with what Father Christmas may have in mind.

To this end - ably assisted by his Grandma Judy - Jamie has already begun penning his personal letter.

Below you can see what he's written so far.

For those of who can't yet read Jamie Scribe (what's wrong with you?!) it says:
"Jamie has been good all year."
A useful start (although I have tried to explain that it can sometimes come across as a touch arrogant to refer to yourself in the third person.  I'm not sure he fully understands).
The rest of his letter will, of course, include a list of what he might like to receive from the big man on Christmas morning. Given that we have no more posh paper, I am greatly relieved that his writing is so big.

Wednesday, 28 November 2012

There was no sign of Huggy Bear

The Railway Arms in Coleraine is no stranger to famous faces and, given the entertainment value within its walls, neither should it be.

For example, it's not that long since former Manchester United, Spurs and England striker Teddy Sheringham spent the best part of an evening in there sinking bottles of Bud.

But even someone of his global renown could not compete with the stellar presence of the original Starsky and Hutch who, whilst clearly older than the last time we saw them together on screen, were instantly recognisable as they walked into the bar last Saturday evening.

Well, it was either them, or it was my dad and his long-time sparring partner Kevin Cosgrove showing off their new funky jackets.

Tuesday, 27 November 2012

Home boy

Ah yes, my child-free weekend at home.  It couldn't have gone better in truth.  I'll be brief.
Friday was simple but fun.  A pub lunch with my dad, a couple of unexpected pints with my old friend Drew (aka DJ Steady) and a steak dinner, wine and more Guinness in the company of my mum and her husband Derek.
Then Saturday dawned, and it was off to my old school, Coleraine Inst, to watch the 1st XV stuff Royal School Dungannon.  The fine gentleman you can see below left is my former 1st XV teammate and all-round top man Richard Beggs who is now the coach.  Most surreal.      
Rugby done and handshakes over, it was time for a ball change and a visit to Coleraine FC where the mighty Bannsiders also won, beating Glentoran 1-0.  Can't be bad to that. 

Next up was the obligatory visit to what remains my favourite piece of earth on the planet, The Railway Arms, for some personal abuse and racy chat. More from there tomorrow.

The day finished with a trip to a local Coleraine restaurant to celebrate my dad's birthday.

The off-duty health and safety expert sitting beside me (answers to the name of John Gordon, in case you're wondering) wisely insisted that all 76 candles did not go on the cake.

A wonderful day, terrific fun and I'm already counting down the days 'til my next jaunt back.

Monday, 26 November 2012

Cricket in five (months)?

I'm still trying to recover from the weekend gone before (more on that tomorrow) so tonight I went for a run in the driving rain.

You don't have to be a sports obsessive to know that cricket is a very popular game in Yorkshire. But you're probably not aware that the cricket fixtures for next season have just been released. The fact that it's deepest November may have something to do with that.

However, as I trotted embarrassingly slowly past Guiseley Cricket Club a little earlier, I made a startling discovery.

That's right, Guiseley 2nd XI's first game of the 2013 season will be on 22 April against near neighbours Green Lane.

I'm not sure what time it starts, but I'll obviously find out and let you know.

Sunday, 25 November 2012

Over and stout

After two days' of solid entertainment, it's almost time for me to head back to Yorkshire. (There is one more Guinness-themed rendezvous planned in central Belfast before I present myself at the airport).

I will share some images and stories from the last 48 hours with you over the next few days if you can be bothered to check back.

In the meantime, I'm going to investigate if Northern Ireland Railways' free WiFi service will allow me to watch Swansea City v Liverpool on Sky Go. If it does, let me hereby pay tribute once again to the fine efforts of the Ulster Unionist Party who continue to deliver for the good people of this Province in government. If it doesn't, let's say no more about it.

I'll leave you with an excellent example of kerbside parking which I noticed close to a roundabout in Portstewart on Friday evening. It wasn't my mum who parked this particular vehicle, but I'd be fairly sure it was someone else's.

Friday, 23 November 2012

Home is where the Harp is

Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to Northern Ireland.

As I write, I am sitting at Great Victoria Street railway station in Belfast waiting for my Portrush-bound train to get its arse into gear. I am able to share my thoughts with you courtesy of NI Railways' free WiFi service; a shining example of the Ulster Unionist Party delivering in government. (Sorry, old habits die hard).

The essential purpose of my weekend trip is to see my family and some sport. Tomorrow afternoon I aim to skilfully combine the two by watching the mighty Coleraine FC play Glentoran whilst listening to my father say f*** a lot.

I travelled from the airport to the station by bus. At one point it looked like it may be by taxi, until the power-dressed lady beside me on the plane decided that I had no place in her chariot despite her having initially semi-offered. I hope she spills her Pinot Grigio on her big pants later in the day.

Tomorrow morning will be a huge highlight for me when I return to "The Big Sand" for the first time in 22 years to watch the Coleraine Inst rugby 1st XV take the field. The last time I was proudly wearing the jersey myself.

Before all of this, it's lunch at The Clyde Bar in Coleraine with my dad before the opening sortee of the weekend across the road to The Railway Arms, my spiritual home.

It'll probably be awful, but please don't be worrying about me.

Tuesday, 20 November 2012


I need not tell any self-respecting parent of a rowdy young boy that the new Ben 10 Omniverse series is well underway on Cartoon Network.

Inevitably, this features no shortage of new, extravagantly-named monsters (now available for purchase at silly prices in a shop near you).     

So far I've encountered Gravattack, Shocksquatch, XLR8 and Bloxx, each with their own special powers. 

But this morning, after he'd watched the latest episode, I was advised by Jamie that another monster had entered the fray.

"Oh really?" I said.  "And what's he called?"

"Firebum," replied Jamie.

"Right, and what can he do?" I asked.

"Breathe fire out of his bottom," was his dry response.

I'm not entirely sure I believe him.   In fact, I'll go further.  I don't.

Monday, 19 November 2012

Operation DIG (Daddy Is Great)

It's the evening after the weekend before, when I was home alone (with two sprogs). 

Yes, with Vanessa away for a ladies' weekend of talking guff, I was given sole charge of the household's junior residents.  Thankfully, all of us appear to have emerged relatively unscathed.

My approach was relatively traditional in format, in that I essentially threw money at it.

Tumble Town was first on the list, where a bit of soft play was indulged in.

Then it was off to McDonald's for food bribery and, after Charlotte's sleep, to Morrisons for magazines, and pizzas for tea.

On Sunday, Charlotte and I loyally cheered Jamie along at rugby...

...before a trip to the playground (see if you can spot Jamie)...

....another sleep for Charlotte, a hot chocolate and DVD for Jamie...

...and more favourite food bribery.

As yesterday rushed towards its end, Jamie announced that he was going to make me a card with "Best Daddy In The World" written on the front.  But only if I made him one emblazoned with "Best Boy In The World."  I told him I'd have to think about it. Because if I did make him a card, I'd then have to make a "Best Girl In The World" one for Charlotte.  And she can't even read.

Friday, 16 November 2012

Grinning from ear to ear - eventually

The sight of a bucket-carrying Buzz Lightyear on patrol at Guiseley railway station this morning hinted that Children in Need day is upon us once again.

Final confirmation came 15 minutes later when I disembarked in Leeds.

To be fair, I did already know as a little earlier I captured Charlotte wearing part of her fairy outfit in advance of a Children in Need fancy dress event at nursery.

However, the clear highlight of my day thus far came at Morrisons in Guiseley where, after popping in to buy newspapers, I was greeted by the sight of three long-faced, middle-aged female employees wearing Pudsey Bear ears.

"How do you manage to keep a straight face whilst wearing those?" I enquired of one of the ladies.

"We have to work very hard at it," was her deadpan response, before all three burst into raucous laughter.

I loved that.    

Thursday, 15 November 2012

Who's that girl?

I'm looking forward to tonight for two reasons. 

The first is that Vanessa's dad, Geoff, is coming for dinner with added others.  I've even promised to cook my "legendary" (in my own dinner time) paella which, as I write, is yet to kill a single soul.

The second is that I am dying to discover the identity of Jamie's mystery lady. 

To explain, I was dropping him at his breakfast club this morning in the normal way.  This involves taking off his coat, hanging it up with his bag, and giving him a hug before running off in the direction of the train station.  But today, just as his coat was about to come off, I felt a presence.  A quick glance revealed that it was a little girl with long hair and a serious face. 

I bid her good morning, but she didn't acknowledge me.  She was too busy staring at Jamie.  I finished taking his coat off, hung it up with his bag and turned back for my hug.  But I was too late.  Jamie was already being led by the arm into the next room by the little poker-faced girl.  And then he was gone. 

Tonight I intend to ask some questions - and later share the answers amidst the inevitable compliments for my paella.   

Wednesday, 14 November 2012

School night

Another landmark moment this evening when Vanessa and I attended Jamie's first parents' evening.

Above left, you can see Mrs Buckton, Jamie's teacher.  Above centre, you can see Mrs Spencer, Jamie's teaching assistant.  Above right, you can see a self-important dad who took half an hour rather than his allotted 10 minutes to bore the pros about his beloved.    

So, what did we learn?  Good question - I'm glad you asked.

Two things.  Number one, that Jamie is "a lovely boy." Well, everyone is entitled to their opinion.

And number two, that Mrs Spencer is a TV's Geoff Druett obsessive (aka Vanessa's dad) who can't believe she is playing a such a key role in the education of the great man's grandson. 

We told Jamie about all of this later.  He was more concerned about whether or not we had chocolate.

Tuesday, 13 November 2012

What a banker

I've been in complaining mode on here over the past few days, so one more gripe before I cheer up.

I called into my local branch of Santander a couple weeks ago to try to upgrade my cash ISA from which I currently get a whopping return of 0.5%.  I had thought that I would just have to fill out a form, but no.  I had to make a special appointment to see Debbie, which was arranged for 9.30am last Saturday.

I arrived bang on time, but the lovely Debbie decided it was appropriate/professional to leave me sitting until 9.55am.  This did not have a positive impact on my outlook. 

Once in there and after batting off pointless "get to know you" questions, I explained that all I wanted to do was upgrade my ISA and get on with my weekend.  Please.  But again, no.  After lots of questions, the answers to which seemed to be none of her business, she tried to get me to transfer my current account, mortgage, joint account and all the rest to Santander. 

I told her I wasn't going there, and asked if I could possibly upgrade my ISA.

She pursued the current account line.

I asked about my ISA.

She pursued the current account line.

I told her I was getting fed up.  I asked about my ISA.

She pursued the current account line.

I said it was time I was off.

She said Santander didn't have an upgraded version of my cash ISA available any more - i.e. one where you can access the money any time you want - but only had one where your cash is locked in for a year, which I don't want.

I told her so.

She pursued the current account line. 

I left.

I'm not going back, ever.  And I'm taking my piddly little ISA somewhere else.

As I say, I'll have cheered up by tomorrow.  Probably.

Reservoir nobs too

Following last week's show of strength in Keighley, the Northern Rail ticket police were out in force once more this morning, this time in Guiseley.

Needless to say my train was late again, as was my onward connection.

But aren't their jackets lovely?

Monday, 12 November 2012

Filthy mares

I don't like it when dogs poo on our doorstep.  But I get more upset when a load of horses do it.

Like these ones, for example, which passed our house yesterday morning and pooed all over our street before departing the scene for a nearby field to poo some more.

That annoyed me enough, but the hard-hatted hooligans astride their smelly steeds, with their aloof manner, irritated me even more.  And I told them so - at some volume.

Next time they appear, I'll have a bag of sugar lumps at the ready.  And a catapult.   

Friday, 9 November 2012

Bad Friday

Do you know that noisy, plastic thing that dentists use to suck water, bits of teeth and gob out of your mouth when you're getting a bit of work done?  Of course you do.

Today my dentist used one to draw pus out of my gum after I finally had my ascessed tooth removed.

Yes, gorgeous, it really was.

And for the rest of today, I'm not allowed tea, coffee, hot chocolate, hot food, Guinness, red wine, white wine, Carlsberg, San Miguel, Coors Light, Bailey's, Malibu or Welsh whiskey.  There are lots of other things I'm not allowed to have either, but I don't have them in. 

If you are going out tonight or have nice things in that you are allowed to consume, I hope you have a wonderful time.

I think I'll go to bed early. 

Thursday, 8 November 2012

Check this out

It's often said that £20 does not go far these days.  And whoever says it would be correct, in my opinion. 

But I'm struggling to think of a twenty pound note that went less far than the one I received in cashback from a self-service check-out at Morrisons first thing this morning.

Because I've just realised that I forgot to pick it up.

I'm absolutely gutted.  In fact, I'm not sure I'll ever recover.

And there was me, just minutes ago, telling Jamie and Charlotte to stop crying.

Getting out on a high

I came downstairs on Saturday morning to find this dramatic scene.  Yes, Charlotte is now big/strong/cunning enough to escape from her high chair - despite being strapped in.

This development presents an obvious danger to her physical health, and an immediate challenge to her mother and me.  After all, they're not called high chairs by accident (although their loftiness can obviously lead to one).

As an aside, another notable aspect of what you can see above is the fact that the off duty superhero lurking in the background was not in the least bit interested in swinging to her aid. 

(And yes, I do appreciate that my own choice of taking an amusing photo over rescuing my daughter might not have particularly responsible either.  But still).

Wednesday, 7 November 2012

I'll name that siren in one

Walking to school this morning, I considered it an act of responsible parenthood to try to explain the significance of President Obama's re-election to Jamie. 

But my distinctly unimpressed son was quickly distracted by the shriek of several noisy sirens in the distance.

"What are they?" he asked.

"It's the police," I said, " but there might also be an ambulance or a fire engine in there too."

"You can't tell the difference because you've got an Irish accent," replied Jamie swiftly.

Naturally, I was outraged.

Having been born in Belfast, I feel better qualified than most to know the sound of a police siren when I hear one. 

Tuesday, 6 November 2012

Reservoir nobs

This is the wall of Northern Rail ticket inspectors which regularly lies in wait for me and about three fellow passengers at Keighley train station each morning, and did so again today.

Funnily enough, they weren't there yesterday when it took me two hours to complete my supposed 30-minute, two-train journey.

Nor, indeed, was there any sign of them tonight when both of my two trains home were also late.

Perhaps that's just a coincidence.

Monday, 5 November 2012

What a Guy

Despite the fact that we did our own fireworks and sparklers routine last night, tonight is obviously the real Guy Fawkes Night. 

And as you might expect, Jamie learnt all about him at school today - most notably the punishment meted out to Mr F and his co-conspirators.

To summarise, the Lord Chief Justice Sir John Popham proclaimed them guilty of high treason. The Attorney General Sir Edward Coke told the court that each of the condemned would be drawn backwards to his death, by a horse, his head near the ground. They were to be "put to death halfway between heaven and earth as unworthy of both." Their genitals would be cut off and burnt before their eyes, and their bowels and hearts removed. They would then be decapitated, and the dismembered parts of their bodies displayed so that they might become "prey for the fowls of the air."

Actually, according to Jamie, Mrs Buckton didn't tell Red Class any of this. 

She just said that Mr Fawkes and his friends were very naughty boys for trying to blow up the building where Mummy and Daddy used to work. 

But they invented bonfires.

Saturday, 3 November 2012

Big Head Barry

I'm looking a touch deflated this Saturday morning, but this is actually a positive development.

Despite the heavy drugs I've been shoving down my pipe for the past few days, the abscess on my tooth has worsened and my face has puffed up.  I'm sure I saw a couple of kids nudge each other and laugh as I clambered on the train yesterday morning. 

Maybe they thought I was someone else, someone famous.

Humpty Dumpty perhaps?

A reincarnated Frank Sidebottom?

Peter Griffin from Family Guy?

Or Eric Pickles on a trip back home to Yorkshire?

Anyway, it's all academic now as my huge headedness now appears to be less huge.  So that's good.