Thursday, 30 May 2013

Whites Abroad: Yet another part

I've long thought of Jamie as something of a clown. And here's the proof that I was right.

Yes, another day, another new look for the boy. 

Charlotte has her club too, and today she and her tiny pals went for a walk - that's our lass on the right.

And she seemed to enjoy it, which clearly helps.

As I tap this out, Vanessa is dropping Jamie off at Mini-Archery, the first of two games sessions scheduled for this afternoon.

Then it'll be a quick bath and more of this for the kids.

And perhaps some more of this for the adults.

I hate having to make decisions.

Charlotte, meanwhile, is having her afternoon nap.

Her mummy and brother like to save their sleeping until after it gets dark.

Wednesday, 29 May 2013

Whites Abroad: Part III

This is what Holiday Village Menorca is supposed to look like, and did so briefly yesterday - hence the picture. 

Unfortunately the changeable weather is continuing and rather than bathe outside in this outfit...

...poor Charlotte has had to dig deep into her holiday wardrobe to come up with this improvised look.

Jamie, meanwhile, has transformed himself into a one-boy painting canvas. 

After his Kung Fu Panda of earlier in the holiday, we've since had Farmyard Pig...

...and Alex the Lion.

Handily for the face paint artists, the real one was here to help them along.

Meanwhile, yesterday was the eighth - or bronze - anniversary of the day Vanessa and I were married.

Ironically, there is little chance of us turning bronze between now and next Monday morning when we depart. But we'll obviously have a go.

Monday, 27 May 2013

Whites Abroad: Part II

Yes, I'm afraid it's not as tropical here as one might wish. And I think it's mean of Vanessa to leave me without a towel.

However, whilst the forecast for today and Wednesday isn't great, the outlook for the remainder of the week we have left will do for us. 

Most importantly, the kids seem to be having a whale of a time. Only three days in, and I'm convinced Charlotte has already managed to eat her entire body weight. Quite an achievement for any female - although there are several others here who are bound to have managed it too. (Oink, oink).

Jamie, meanwhile, has set himself the challenge of never sleeping ever again. Little bouts of sudden tiredness are soon followed by longer periods of hyperactivity and Forrest Gump impersonations as he zooms off into the distance, arms flapping. But his lack of downtime is having an effect on his physical appearance. Whilst previously I've thought that he could easily be the son of Boris Johnson, he now looks more like the spawn of the Chinese Detective.

As I lie here shivering, he's off learning about Horrible Histories. Charlotte, meanwhile, is at Jungle Mania. (I have absolutely no idea).

Later in the day, Jamie is due for dancing lessons with Alex the Lion before Charlotte joins him for the pantomime.

As for Vanessa and me, well, we'll probably just get hammered. Keeps the cold out.

Sunday, 26 May 2013

Whites Abroad: Part I

Good afternoon and welcome to an overcast Holiday Village, Menorca where the general consensus amongst guests is that it's not as good as last year.

To be fair and as predicted, the weather has only turned because the Whites are here. And for that, we can only apologise. And, to be equally fair, it's not the reps' fault that they're all-new for 2013 (other than the nice ladies in Charlotte's crèche who immediately recognised her from eleven months ago). But with a full eight days still to go, I have no doubt that we're all going to have a great time.

So far, Jamie and Charlotte have met Alex the Lion from the Madagascar trilogy and Jamie, with the aid of face paint, was miraculously transformed into Kung Fu Panda. As I tap this guff into my phone, he is off learning all about Spain and Charlotte is learning even more about dollies. Meanwhile, on the sun lounger to my left, Vanessa is reading (probably something mucky) on her Kindle. And on my right, some bloke is attempting to tan his prosthetic leg. I've not seen this before.

Actually, Shrek has just put in an appearance here at the pool. It's nice to see the big ogre. 

On other matters, there appears to be an over-representation of Scousers in the resort. I'm sure this has absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with the fact that Charlotte had her Minnie Mouse dingy swiped yesterday. Although it might. But we got it back in the end, so that's OK. 

There also seems to be more morbidly obese guests in comparison with last year. Let's hope one of them doesn't get put next to me on the plane home. And if some of them do get on our plane, there aren't too many so we don't crash.

And finally, I was pleased to note that the bar staff haven't changed since last year either. I was even more pleased - nay, thrilled - when one of them recognised me last night and promptly presented me with an exclusive beer mug for his "most thirsty customers." It's twice the size of a normal one.

More mañana (or maybe the mañana after that). 

NEWSFLASH: The sun has just come out! It's time to turn pink, and then crispy vanilla.

Thursday, 23 May 2013

The rain in Spain falls mainly on us

Another day, another flight - this time from Belfast back to Leeds. And I'm carrying an additional passenger in my mouth in the form of my new bridge.

Like the Jacksons, it's a five-piece outfit and hopefully just as good at what it does. (Ironically, it's almost as white as Michael was in his final days). 

The timing is particularly handy because, tomorrow, my airport tour moves into a new phase as we Whites head off on holiday to eat lots of food. I've had recent flashes in my head of the waiter asking how I wanted my steak to be served, and me answering: "Liquidised."

So, yes, we're due to drive across to Manchester at around 5am tomorrow (I know) before hopping over to Menorca for ten days in the driving rain. It's inevitable.

The fact that she is a White and that we're bound to get soaked is yet to dawn on poor Charlotte who, last weekend, spent some time trying to choose which sunglasses to take. Before deciding on them all.

But you never know, we might be lucky. Actually, that's just a silly comment.

Expect to hear from me again in the coming days from the sanctity of an Internet cafe where I'm seeking shelter.

Wednesday, 22 May 2013

Bridge across the sea

You join me once again on a speeding piece of Northern Ireland Railways rolling stock bound for Coleraine as I indulge in a spot of dental tourism.

Having visited the dentist's dentist, Robert, and his very trusty assistant Rhonda for some preparatory work last Thursday morning, tomorrow I'm due in at 9am to have a new bridge welded to my upper jaw. (Not that you'll be able to see it as it's at the back, but it will help me chew my fish fingers).

And then it's straight back on the train to return to Leeds before, on Friday, the Whites go on holiday. (More on that tomorrow if the onboard Wi-Fi works).

As I stepped off my Flybe flight at George Best Belfast City Airport, word first reached me of the gruesome terrorist attack in Woolwich.

I shared the news with my bus driver who gave what can only be described as a "Northern Ireland reaction." 

And I quote: "F****ing a***holes. I mean, over here, somebody might've tried to shoot you. But they wouldn't f***ing do that to you."


Tuesday, 21 May 2013

Splash and dash

The premature end of racing on the North Coast meant an early and prolonged bus journey from Portstewart back to Coleraine; the normal 13 minute journey stretching to an hour.

And having been in the pub for a while, this posed a particular challenge for the notoriously small-bladdered me.

I was OK for the first 30 minutes or so. But the distant sight of the University of Ulster set off something deep within me. Put more simply, I feared I was about to add a new inside puddle to the many thousands that were now outside.

But it's not what you know, it's who you know. Or, more accurately in this instance, who my dad knew.

Cue Mark the Ulsterbus driver.

As we clambered onboard the bus at Portstewart Promenade, my dad's pal Mark asked him which of three hostelries he wanted to be dropped off at - the Railway Arms, Fairley's or Patsy's. A reputation to be proud of, I'm sure you agree.

So, as my bladder began to expand beyond what any man would regard as safe, I approached our man Mark and asked if it might be possible for me to momentarily hop off to spend a brief amount of quality time with a bush. I added that I would then attempt to catch him up and, if I managed it, would like to get back on. "No problem!" Mark announced.

And with that our hero opened the doors, I jumped off, found a hedge, transacted my business and hared back up the road in pursuit of the Ulsterbus.

A couple of minutes later, Mark re-opened the doors and I re-entered in triumph to smirks from my fellow passengers. One young man towards the back even gave me a small cheer.

Customer service at its best - Northern Ireland style.

Monday, 20 May 2013

Bit of a dampner

This was the scene from the main grandstand at 11am on Saturday as the first North West 200 race of the day got underway.

Two laps and five crashes later, it was all over.

I'm afraid that's what happens when you get 44mm of rain in a single day, and rider safety must obviously come first.  Thankfully none of those who came to grief was seriously hurt.

But even black rain clouds can be silver-lined.  And so my dad and stepdad-in-law Mike headed first for some food and drink... 

...followed by some more drink.

Yes, wet stuff can have its benefits.
And sure there's always next year.

Wednesday, 15 May 2013

All roads head North West

The small band of kindly individuals who have read my ramblings for the last five years (hello Mum) will know that it includes annual staging posts. And one of these is the North West 200 motorbike races, in which mad dog riders from across the world propel themselves at speeds in excess of 200mph around the streets of Coleraine, Portrush and Portstewart. 

As I tap these words into my phone, I'm on a train travelling much more sedately towards the famous Triangle circuit.  And I'm not afraid to admit that I'm embarrassingly excited.

After the second and final practice session, which is underway now, the roads will reopen briefly to enable the school kids to get home, before the barriers come back down for three races tonight.

And then we move on to Saturday for five more high-speed showdowns featuring the biggest names in this crazy sport.

You can watch all the action live on the BBC website or, alternatively, come back here and I'll tell you who wins.

Vroom, vroom, vroom (and repeat).

Tuesday, 14 May 2013

Football? Crazy

Despite being a lifelong football fan, I have been quite unashamed in my attempts to push our Jamie towards the noble sport of rugby union.

The reasons are straightforward.

Even with the dawn of the professional era, rugby remains a game based on respect for the laws and one's opponents, good sportsmanship and camaraderie. 

Meanwhile, modern day football now increasingly centres on the intimidation of officials, playacting and personal abuse.  And I don't necessarily want my son to be adding the words ****, ****, ****** and ******* to his vocabulary just yet. Or John Terry.

But, at his insistence, Vanessa has enrolled him on a six-week football course to see if he enjoys it.  And I've bought him shin pads because that's the rule. 

I can only hope he's as good at the game as I was (if you know what I'm saying).  

Monday, 13 May 2013

Sitting on a pot in the way

Charlotte has a new hobby, as demonstrated.

Unfortunately she hasn't yet worked out that occasionally you have to, well, wait for something to happen. 

And why should a young lady be expected to wait when she could be getting on with perfecting her monkey impression?

NB:  For the eagle-eyed amongst you, yes she does have a pink potty; a Minnie Mouse one to be precise.  But why defile your own property when you have the option to sh*t on something your brother still holds dearly? 
Again, no answer is required.

Sunday, 12 May 2013

Brooks bash after the Brooks smash

Above you can see us Whites having an "indoor barbecue" (the rain clouds came in) with Kris, Kate, Euan and Lydia earlier today. 

This was a particularly special occasion because the Brooks were fortunate not to horribly mangled last night after being caught up in a serious car crash. 

They were all in A&E until the early hours of this morning, having been taken there by ambulance.  And it is feared that Gertie the Car will never ride again.

But they did make it to ours, which was excellent news for two important reasons.

Firstly because, over the past few months, all four of them have become good friends with all four of us.

And secondly, because we'd got a shed load of food in which would surely have gone to waste.

If you're reading this Mr and Mrs Brook, we're very glad that you, your children and all your working parts are still with us. 

Saturday, 11 May 2013

Jamie White's Days Off

We're taking the kids away for their main holiday during the upcoming half-term break.  And we're going for ten days. YES!

The sole downside of this scenario is that we're having to take Jamie out of school for two days.  We assumed that at least one of the dates would be a teacher training day, as tends to be the case before or after school holidays.  But it's not.

Jamie's school, like all others in Leeds, has a policy of no "unauthorised absence."  It is a stance I agree with, although there is surely some scope for common sense.

So, rather than tell fibs, Vanessa and I decided to be totally up front with the school and tell them why Jamie wouldn't be at school. 

We were told they weren't pleased.  Fair enough.  We were told to fill in a form.  Fair enough.  The school sent it back, confirming they weren't pleased.  We knew that anyway. 

Yesterday, Jamie came home with a copy of this week's school newsletter.  It included an article headed "Absences in Term Time" which I'd like to share with you:

"Our school has a below average attendance record which we, and the governing body, are working towards improving. 

"If your child is to be absent from school due to a medical appointment, please bring a copy of the appointment letter to the school office.

"If you are requesting that your child be absent during term time for a holiday, please make an appointment to see Mrs Bell before returning the form.

"We have had a few instances recently of being told children are absent for appointments but the children have told us where they are going for the weekend!"

That's why we didn't fib.        

Thursday, 9 May 2013

The Great Wee Run II

Sad folk who have read this drivel for a prolonged period (seriously, why?) might remember Wee John and me taking to our beaters in 2011 to tackle the Great North Run.

This was not a trick we intended to repeat. 

However, a set of unfortunate circumstances and a chance encounter in Jamie's school playground last Friday afternoon have convinced us to make mouths of ourselves one more time.  So, in just over four months, we will be heading back to the North-East for another go.  The reasons are powerful and the cause is incredibly worthy. 

I will tell you more in the coming weeks once the finer details are ironed out.  In the meantime, if anyone sees my hairy little pal around and about, can you ask him to give me a call?

Since he agreed to answer the call to arms, he has suddenly become very difficult to reach.  Imagine that.

He will do it, though.  Trust me.

Wednesday, 8 May 2013

My dad lollipop(man)

On the day Sir Alex Ferguson confirmed his intention to stand down as Manchester United manager, I can exclusively reveal some equally earth-shattering news on the old folks' jobs front.

In a shock move, my dad has been appointed to serve the nice children of Millburn Primary School in Coleraine as their lollipop man. 

He starts on Monday morning and will receive his big sign and luminous accessories by the weekend.

As luck would have it, I'm due to fly home for a few days next Thursday and plan to take some shots of him in action.  

You can look forward to seeing them here, accompanied by some brief, disparaging remarks. 

Tuesday, 7 May 2013

The mane man (without a mane)

It was the end of a mini-era on Sunday when the curtain came down on the Aireborough Lions 2012-13 micro rugby season. 

The group will most likely look a lot different next year when many of the older boys and girls move up to the Under 7s, and the majority of the coaches go with them. 

You can't see the medals above and, actually, you can't see them below either (e.g. Oliver on the right broke his). But every player got one, they were very impressive and a testament to a club that does things properly.

The undisputed king of the micro Lions pride is head coach Anthony. 

Yes, he really does look like that.

He came out with a select group of rugby dads (plus Wee John) later in the evening - before suddenly prowling back to his lair.

Judging by his gesture, I can only conclude it was a bald thing.

Monday, 6 May 2013

Daddy in the dark

I've been humiliated by a 4-year-old.  Again.

To explain, it's been a bright, warm, sunny day here in Yorkshire and, to make the most of such a rarity, we took the kids to Harewood House. 

As we walked through the masses, I looked at Jamie - who was swallowing an ice cream almost whole  - and thought he looked a little different.

"Your hair's getting darker," I announced.

"No it's not," snorted Junior, impertinently.

"Yes it is, it's definitely darker!" I insisted.

"Daddy?" said Jamie, in a much softer tone.

"Yes?" I replied.

"Take your sunglasses off."

I did.  Yep, still 100% blonde.      

Thursday, 2 May 2013

A touch warm and a tad bothered

This, dear readers, is Platform 5 at Shipley railway station where I catch my connection to Keighley every weekday morning. And I did just that today - at the second attempt.

First time around, I climbed aboard after being vigorously waved on by an enthusiastic lady conductor. Sadly, what I assumed was the 0849 train to Skipton turned out to be the delayed 08somethingelse to Bradford. So I was forced to get off at the next stop and walk back to Shipley. (It was quicker than waiting for the next one not to turn up).

My mood was not greatly improved when I tripped over an uneven kerbstone as the station returned to view and landed horizontally.

As luck would have it, I picked a particularly inopportune time to go pavement diving as I currently appear to have one or more nerves trapped within my person, leaving me with a shooting pains in my left shoulder, a dull ache in my right leg and a sore arse.

This morning's minor disappointments came off the back of last night's sense of mild irritation when I discovered I'd lost my cash card for the second Wednesday out of three. I hadn't mislaid one/had one nicked for several years and suspect I may have left it in the self-service section in Morrisons. Twice. I suppose these things are to be expected when you hit your forties.

Still, I hope the last 24 hours have served your personal goals better than they have mine.

Plus the sun is shining (even in Yorkshire), the beers in the fridge are cold and there's a whole bank holiday weekend packed with further frustrations yet to come.

I wouldn't have it any other way.