Sunday, 30 June 2013

What would Mags do?

I'm on a train from Leeds to Liverpool, stage two of the saddest journey I've ever had to undertake. In Liverpool, I change stations and head for Ormskirk in Lancashire where Mags' funeral will take place tomorrow. 

That's Mags on the left with some of her bestest girls who I know have also been through the mill over the past fortnight.

Funerals in Northern Ireland tend to be held two or a maximum three days after someone has passed away. In England it's obviously different and, whilst it does give you more time to collect your thoughts, that sense of dread just hangs over you. 

That said and in typical Mags style, her funeral will be different from any other I've attended. Wearing black is banned "unless it's your favourite colour." And afterwards, rather than mourn, we're all being invited to celebrate her life with a tipple. Good.

Those of us travelling from various parts of the country and arriving in the coming hours will also be getting together this evening for comradeship, reflection - and probably more drink.

On the subject of reflection, I can report that Mags' unswervingly positive outlook has already given birth to a new mantra which I fully intend to follow.

Vanessa and I were talking about Mags the other night and I was saying that I was going to stop allowing myself to be wound up by small irritations that really don't matter.

This prompted Vanessa to propose a new test. From now on, every time I feel myself getting annoyed, I have to ask the following question:

"What would Mags do?"

And do you know what? I've tried it and it works. 

In time I am absolutely certain that my new trick will make me happier.

But we'll have to get through the next 24 hours first.

Friday, 28 June 2013

Ground control to major idiot

Since receiving the devastating news of our mate Mags' death 10 days ago, my friend Hayley and I have been seeking to have a conversation.

One mild complication has been the fact that Hayley lives in Brisbane, Australia. The more significant difficulty was that the White family's home phones have been on the blink for the past two weeks. (How I've missed those cold calls).

I'm not good with technology, but I tried everything to get them to work.

I turned them on and off. I shuffled the batteries. I pressed their many buttons in every conceivable combination. I swore at them. I even bounced one off a wall. All to no avail.

Last weekend Vanessa and I came to the collective decision to buy some new ones, but didn't quite get round to it. So the plan was to do that this weekend instead. Until last night, that is.

Because, last night, I decided to have a final fiddle with the "main" phone i.e. the one that's plugged into the BT socket thingy.

And guess what?

Got it first time; it wasn't plugged into the BT socket thingy.

So Hayley, if you're reading this, I'll give you a ring first thing tomorrow morning (our time).  Make sure you have your phone plugged in.

Wednesday, 26 June 2013

No sh*t Charlotte

I'm home alone tonight.  Actually, not quite true.  Vanessa's in London, but Jamie and Charlotte are in bed resting up in preparation for keeping me up all night.  It's inevitable.

And there is one other absent "friend," so to speak. 

His name is Mr Poo. 

Yes, Charlotte is in potty training and, to be fair to the girl, the job is already almost half-done.  Only a few days in, and her wee is flowing freely.  Occasionally down her legs, but normally into her pink pot and we're very happy about that.

But Mr Poo simply does not want to put in an appearance. 

We have had one since the weekend, but not in Minnie Mouse.  In fact, I caught him in the style of Ian Botham in his slip-fielding pomp as Charlotte shuffled off elsewhere, trousers around her ankles. 

One can only hope that, with some patience, we crack Mr Poo before Mr Poo cracks us. But there can be no guarantees.    

Tuesday, 25 June 2013

Don't blame it on the weatherman

I have reached the stage in life where the years seem to be going quicker. 

And so it was that today I was back at Headingley cricket ground for the annual 364 Club Lunch with, amongst other regulars, John "John Kettley Is A Weatherman" Kettley (white shirt)

He even signed me a copy of his book (available on eBay).  

And, thanks to John, this year I have a White Stuff weather exclusive for you.   
Between the roast beef and the vanilla creme brulee, Steve (pictured left) asked John if this summer was going to be "shit."
John said no.
Don't forget folks, you read it here first.

Monday, 24 June 2013

Slugging it out

We have a bit of a slug problem, and it's beginning to upset me. 

To bring you up to speed at a pace marginally quicker than that of an average slug, over the past few weeks we've woken up to slug trails on our kitchen mat.

I responded in the manner any self-respecting Homer Simpson fan would do; I did nothing and hoped they'd go away.  But they didn't. 

Then last night, I suddenly and unexpectedly (I even surprised myself) sprang into action.  That's right, I put some salt down outside our kitchen door to show them who was boss. 

Unfortunately, this morning, I came downstairs to discover it wasn't me. 

I've even helpfully done you a map to illustrate.

If you look closely at the right hand side of the photo, you can see the beginning of a slug trail - pointed out in green. The trail actually goes the whole way to the wall, but it's difficult to see in the picture so I've highlighted the remainder in white.

Still with me?  Good, I hope you are.

It was at this point of the journey that the slug in question became a very bad slug.  Because, indicated in red, you can see where he (or she?) entered our house without permission - just beyond where my fiendishly cunning salt trap ended - and left a fresh trail all over our mat. Very bad slug!

So tonight, I have a little surprise in store for him (or her - or them).

Because if one or more naughty mollusk somehow manages to storm my now extended outdoor salt barricade during the wee small hours, they will find a brand new wall of salt lying in wait.  Har! Har! Har!

As my friend, I would respectfully ask that this stays our secret for now.  And let's hope slugs don't read this blog.

EARLY MORNING UPDATE: There is no sign of any overnight invaders. I repeat, no slugs - first time in ages. But the battle goes on...

Sunday, 23 June 2013

Five years ago - I didn't have grey hair

There can be nothing like your son's fifth birthday to cheer you up after a long and difficult week.  And, as luck would have it, it happens to be Jamie's today.

Formal proceedings actually got underway on Friday evening with his party at Aireborough rugby club. 

And yes, for a while, we were a little worried...

...before the guests duly arrived.
They even brought loads of presents, which made one spoilt little so-and-so even more spoilt. 

But surely that's what birthdays are all about.

Catch you later - I'm going in.

Wednesday, 19 June 2013

My friend Mags

This is a picture of my beautiful, lovely, charming, hilarious, loyal and incredibly kind friend Mags. 

Regular readers will remember Wee John and I teaming up two years ago to tackle the Great North Run in celebration after Mags had beaten cancer for a second time.

Unfortunately, at the beginning of last month, I received a text from Mags to say that the nasty, horrible, vile leukaemia had "made a show again" and she was going back into hospital for more treatment. 

We exchanged further texts and I offered to travel down to London to see her after I'd returned from holiday in Menorca.  I didn't hear back, but she'd already warned me that she would be "flat out" during parts of her treatment and not to be concerned if a reply wasn't swiftly forthcoming.  So I wasn't. 

But tragically, last night, I received a phone call to say that Mags had passed away yesterday morning.

I cannot describe to you how sad I feel, and I know that everyone else who knew her well will be going through the same painful ordeal. 

Mags was one of the very few people I've met who did not divide opinion - because everyone loved her.  Indeed, that probably made her unique.

Even in her most challenging moments, she was positive, upbeat and trying to make you feel good - no matter how she might have been feeling herself.

She was also Charlotte's godmother and that makes me immensely proud, as it will my daughter as she gets older and I get to tell her all about my friend.

Mags, I'm so, so sorry you that couldn't hang around for at least another 41 years.  Because you would have made a magnificently entertaining, batty old woman.

Monday, 17 June 2013


Following the incredible highs of the London Olympics, many feared that 2013 would be a year of sporting anti-climax - myself included. 

But today I was proved wrong after attending Guiseley Infants School's annual sports day.

I was there to watch Jamie make his debut.  And I am delighted to report that he, like everyone else on parade, did themselves and their parents proud. 

Why our son was the only competitor wearing his school shoes rather than his pumps (which were in his school bag), goodness only knows.

But despite this unnecessary handicap, he ran fast, jumped high...

  ...and even demonstrated his prowess in the sack.

Yes, a proud moment. 

The spectacular afternoon ended with two inevitabilities.

First, a characteristically "rousing" (scary) speech from Mrs Bell, the headteacher. 

And second, the news that Jamie's team - the Zebras - had finished in "a highly commendable fourth place" (i.e. last). 

Still, in a surprise development, he won the beanbag throwing event, an achievement certainly worthy of some chocolate cake after his tea.

Unfortunately you can't toast sporting success with chocolate cake, so I'll probably have some wine.    

Sunday, 16 June 2013

Fathers and sons

A Fathers' Day to remember for an assortment of reasons.

I woke up this morning to five cards (I only have two kids, as above), with Jamie's handcrafted doodle of him and me the ace in the pack.

I think he has me to a tee. 

And then it was off to the fun fair which has been visiting Guiseley this weekend.

Now, even on Fathers' Day, you would think that such a trip would be one for the kids.  But you would be overlooking one crucial fact.

Having grown up a mere amble from Barry's Amusements in Portrush, I - like almost everyone else from that glorious part of the world - know my amusements.  And forget Barry's Big Dipper (stop it), for me the Waltzer reigns supreme. I love it.

Really, I could spend all day on the Walzter.  Indeed, it was the one aspect of Michael Jackson's life that made me stand back in envy.  Michael Jackson had his own Walzter.  I don't think a man could be luckier than that - even with Jermaine as a brother. 

But over the past five years, I haven't had much of a chance to go Waltzing. Until last year, Jamie was too small - and then was was too scared. 

But today, for me, on Fathers' Day, he agreed to go on with me - twice.

I don't remember feeling so proud (or sad - but let's move on). 

Which takes me to my own dad, who I spoke to a little earlier to wish him a Happy Fathers' Day too.

After exchanging pleasantries, he announced a neighbour had just told him that, following a recent death, he was now the oldest resident on the street.

"Where do I go from there?" he asked.

"I wouldn't like to say," I replied.

"And a good night to you too, you c***."

That's my dad.


Saturday, 15 June 2013

Proof of the bedding is in the sleeping

Something of a little milestone today when Charlotte waved a sad goodbye to her cot, and prepared to move into her big girl bed. 

Thankfully what the Bed Fairy brought was soon a cause for celebration - and dressing up.

Now let's see if she sleeps...

Friday, 14 June 2013

Wonder Woman down

Vanessa was out on the cocktails with the girls last night and, this morning, was "feeling the effects."

Meanwhile Charlotte, who's never made a black coffee before, offered to have a go.

Perhaps tonight she'll ask her mummy if she fancies some cocoa.   

Wednesday, 12 June 2013

Dolly dilemma

Bridge successfully repaired thanks to the dental brilliance of Robert and the immense kindness of Tricia and colleagues for fitting me in, I'm now at George Best Belfast City Airport waiting to board the flight back to Yorkshire. 

But one question remains unanswered.

How the hell am I going to get that doll into that bag, thereby avoiding a Flybe surcharge?

At this moment, I have absolutely no idea.

Tuesday, 11 June 2013

Something to spout about

"Be not afraid of greatness: some are born great, some achieve greatness and some have greatness thrust upon them."  (William Shakespeare - Twelfth Night, Act II, Scene V).

It was with these words ringing in my ears that I accepted the nomination from the visibly keen and enthusiastic individuals above to become Publicity Officer at Aireborough Lions RUFC.  I was given a free run for the newly created post at last Friday evening's AGM, on the grounds that no-one else wanted it.

Where this opportunity will take me, one can only speculate - other than to The Ings pub on the last Thursday of every month for a Committee meeting. 

More importantly, where might it take the club? 

Well, nowhere strictly speaking, as they're already based in Guiseley and have no intention of going elsewhere other than for away matches. 

Still, together we'll try to do something good.

Sunday, 9 June 2013

Jamie Schumacher

Following a particularly fun 24 hours in Welsh Wales with some especially generous natives, some English folk and a small smattering East Timorese Antipodeans, this morning we headed to the Legoland Discovery Centre in Manchester. 

Amongst the characters him and her encountered there were Buzz Lightyear...

...a neckless giraffe...

...and Ronnie Corbett and Giant Haystacks.

After all this star gazing, Jamie decided it was high time he went for a relaxing drive.

The concept behind Lego City: Forest Pursuit Ride (according to the bumph) is as follows: "Children can join a driving adventure as they take to the forest pathways in their own off-road Lego vehicles on a mission to capture the robbers."
Got it?  Great. 
It's at this point that I must remind you of two critical factors:
  1. Every one of Jamie's less impressive "attributes" is inherited directly from me; and
  2. I am yet to pass my driving test, having failed three times thus far.
So this was how he got on.
Actually, to be fair - this was him a couple minutes later. 
Now that I've seen it again, he's not much better is he?   Hmmm.
Maybe him and me can train it to work together in years to come.  Or perhaps Charlotte will give us both a lift.   

Saturday, 8 June 2013

I feel like Doctor Who

Continuing the recent international flavour of this awful blog (i.e. I was in Spain last week), tonight you join me in a Premier Inn just inside the Welsh border. (Thankfully Lenny Henry appears to have the night off).

And tomorrow, life gets even more exciting when we Whites visit an entirely new jurisdiction (for us).

That's right, we're off to Legoland.

Lets hope the sights there are less scary than they are in Wales.

Friday, 7 June 2013

King of Dance and Queen of Ice Cream

Spending ten days together in foreign climes really helps you to get to know your children.  This includes the opportunity to spot any emerging similarities between them and their parents.

And what did we learn in Menorca? 

For me, two things.

First, that Jamie has inherited my (lack of) ability to dance.

And second, that Charlotte likes to savour a big ice cream almost as much as her mother - and is every bit as messy.

Thursday, 6 June 2013

Bridge back to Ulster

Two weeks ago tonight, I returned from a whistle stop trip to Northern Ireland where I'd just had a new bridge concreted into my mouth.

I chose to have the job done at home for four reasons:
  1. My dentist in Coleraine is the best in the business
  2. My dentist in Leeds is not very good
  3. My dentist in Coleraine is reasonably priced 
  4. My dentist in Leeds wants every one of the few pennies I have together with my remaining worldly possessions
So, bridge inserted, we Whites set sail (albeit on a plane) for our family holiday in Menorca. 

Where I managed to break my bridge.

Next Tuesday, I head back to Coleraine to hopefully have my bridge patched-up.    

Sure, wouldn't life be boring if it was predictable?  

Tuesday, 4 June 2013

Shoe got to be joking

Ever since returning from holiday yesterday afternoon - obviously "joyous" to be back - I've been fretting about just one thing; should I show you "the video."

Over the course of our ten days of wind, rain and snow (OK, there was no snow), Jamie totally threw himself into his Little Stars kids' club.  He spent a round 36 hours there - that's an entire day and a half for those not good with numbers - and enjoyed every minute.  Apart from one. 

I can't remember the exact title of the session in question, but I remember it had the word "splash" in it -  causing me immediate concern.  Reading the small print, I learnt that water pistols and water bombs were involved.  So I told Jamie he would be very welcome to sit this one out. 

"I want to go!" was his keen as mustard reply.  Fair enough.  So I put him into the required swimming gear, covered this with his tee shirt and shorts - as the rep suggested - and dropped him off at the club room. 

As I left, I overheard said rep telling another parent where on the resort the fun and games would be taking place.  So I made a mental note and, half an hour later, I was hiding in the bushes with my camera. 

Given that I was still a little distance away, I wasn't initially sure what was going on, before working out that it was a quiz.

The first nominated contestant was asked to name the largest dinosaur, and correctly answered T-Rex.  Good for him.

Then it was Jamie's turn.  Unfortunately for our boy, he was asked what I can only properly describe as a "b*stard question." 

And the penalty for getting it wrong was arguably a touch harsh.  But it was also, well, decide for yourself.

Please, please, please don't tell him that I showed you "the video."  Otherwise his reaction of just a few days ago is likely to be repeated.

Sunday, 2 June 2013

Whites Abroad: What A Gay (Last) Day

It's just as well we're going home tomorrow.

I appear to be running out of clothes.

See you back in Blighty.

Saturday, 1 June 2013

Whites Abroad: The End Is Nigh

There are definite signs that our holiday here in Menorca is coming towards its natural end.

This was the scene at our dinner table last night as Charlotte passed out three mouthfuls in. As you can see, Jamie was deeply sympathetic.

The most tragic aspect of Charlotte's demise was that she missed out on one final night of passion with Daniel, her first toy boy.

Daniel and his family returned to Liverpool this morning, and a little bit of Charlotte has gone with them - she dribbled on Daniel's party shirt. 

And Jamie will miss Daniel's big brother Matthew too, who became his street-dancing partner.

Thankfully, Jamie has a brand new Daniel of his own in the locker to play with for the next two nights. He's from Newcastle.

But poor Charlotte will remain in mourning.