Wednesday, 31 July 2013

Running for Mags II: The Launch

Today is pay day for most people, so I beg of you a small gesture of selfless financial indulgence.

A little while ago, I mentioned on here that Wee John and I were planning to re-tackle the Great North Run.  Regular readers will recall that he and me had our original go back in 2011 in support of Mags, who at that time was winning her fight with leukaemia, and we raised £2,000. 

But a lot has happened in the past few weeks, including Wee John pulling out of the race on grounds of diminished masculinity.

More notably, Mags has passed away

I told her of my plan to strap on the trainers once more to raise some cash for Candlelighters, a wonderful Yorkshire-based charity that supports children who have or have had cancer, and their families. And she liked that. 

The reason I chose Candlelighters was because a friend, whose little boy has been fighting his own battle with leukaemia and roundly kicking its arse, asked if I would do it with her. I was hardly going to say no.

I've paid for the place myself and will cover all other costs. In other words, any contribution you make to my fund will go directly to Candlelighters and not for me to have a nice time on Tyneside.

I've only promised the charity that I'll raise £250 but, given that Wee John and I scooped up £1,000 each last time, I've mirrored that figure in my personal target. Plus, it bloody hurts running a half-marathon and I'd like to make it worthwhile. 

Finally, I've titled my fundraising page Running for Mags II. Because Mags was Wee John's and my inspiration two years ago, and she will certainly be my motivator when I'm standing on the start line in Newcastle in six and a half weeks from now. 

This is the link to where you can sponsor me. I'd be embarrassingly grateful if you would click on it and give me what you can.

Tuesday, 30 July 2013

She would want 500 Milos

The pain and humiliation I experienced on the rugby field on Saturday was tempered significantly 24 hours later with the arrival of a very old friend.

Ironically, my pal Colin and I first met on the rugby field more than 30 years ago; Colin was the star player on Christie Memorial Primary School's crack mini-rugby team, and I wasn't the star player on Macosquin Primary's somewhat less well-drilled gather up. 

We lost that day, but my abiding memory of the game was of Colin snarling as the blood ran out of his nose. I wasn't me who hit him. 

We met again not long afterwards at Coleraine Inst where, for the next seven years, we played rugby together and went on various tours including to Japan in 1989. (It's the 25th anniversary of that trip next year and I have a plan which I hope to share with you in the coming weeks. Some of you might even like to get involved).

Colin - who is one of those weird arty types - has been based in Scotland for many years with his equally arty but thankfully not so weird better half Evie. And, 18 months ago, they were joined by Milo who, I discovered on Sunday, is possibly the smiliest little boy in Britain. 

And wasn't just me who was taken by him. No, Charlotte fell in love with him. 

Actually, it's a bit more disturbing than that. Having played with Milo and got to know him over several hours, my daughter chose to make an announcement.

"I want Milo in my bed!" 

Unsurprisingly, Milo was soon bundled into the car and driven back in the direction of Scotland at great haste. 

But the mental damage inflicted on me is done. I decided long ago that, once she reaches her teens, Charlotte will be forbidden from leaving the house. Following this alarming episode, I now see no alternative but to introduce an immediate ban on male guests.

Monday, 29 July 2013

Touch and go - to the bar

Look at us.  Fine figures of men, one and all.  We were happy, fresh-faced (kind of) and dead keen to impress our WAGs (and children who were hiding in the bushes through embarrassment).

Heck, we even did a bit of warm-up. 

And then, well, some other teams turned up and it all went downhill.

Yes, dear friends, I'm afraid "The Coaches" didn't win Aireborough rugby club's "touch and pass" tournament on Saturday afternoon - knocked out in the semi-finals by a bunch of kids wearing vests. 

And I wasn't much use to the cause by then in any case, having had to retire hurt in the very early stages of the third of our five games.  I had a sore hamstring, a sore groin, a sore knee, a sore calf, another sore hamstring and a sore thigh.  In short, I was f*****.  So, total respect to my team-mates who proved they had weathered the years much better than me. 

But I would like to think I more than held my own in the latter part of the afternoon.

Which, some might say, explains why my body is so now easily broken. 

All good fun, but I hereby announce that my rugby playing days are officially and irreversibly at an end.   

Friday, 26 July 2013

Dads' army prepares for battle

I recently bought a cheap pair of rugby boots, the first I've purchased since 1996 - the year I tore up my leg and was forced to give up the game.

I only did so to guard against falling over and landing on my face in front of a field full of 5-year-olds when my peripheral coaching role starts in September. 

But I'm now going to get to put them on a little sooner than that.

Because, for one afternoon only - and possibly only for a few minutes depending how my fellow dads and I get on - I am coming out of rugby retirement.

In a move which I would like to think more Rocky Balboa than Michael Jackson in terms of how it ends, the Aireborough Lions coaches have entered a team in tomorrow's six-a-side "Touch and Pass" tournament being held on our own pitches. 

Each game will comprise two six-minute halves, with rolling substitutions - which is why we have a ten-man squad. 

In our multi-shaped ranks (that's a few of us pictured above at our kit launch), we have Englishmen, we have Irishmen (North and South), we even have a Welshie. Better still, we have no Scots - removing any worry of someone not buying their round afterwards. 

Well, I say "afterwards." But, as it turns out, a pop up bar will be open at pitchside throughout the day. What a practical, nay, "forward-thinking" club Aireborough is.

To be strictly accurate, I have made one appearance on a rugby field in the last 17 years, almost precisely 13 years ago in London, when Wee John forced me to guest for Universal Studios' mixed touch rugby team. (I cannot stress to you enough how difficult it is to play mixed touch rugby without getting arrested, or at least a slap in the face). 

I must also admit that, on Tuesday evening whilst out for a very slow run, I took a short detour via the rugby pitches to see if I still had a bit of pace over 50 yards. I didn't. 

But, I mean, what's the worst that could happen?

Actually, don't answer that.

Words and pictures in a day or two.

Thursday, 25 July 2013

Chocolate coach

Yes, get me.  I managed to complete an online "multiple choice self-check test" - i.e. I could keep changing the answers until I got the right ones - and am now officially "aware" of a rugby coaching course.
This comes off the back of my heroic efforts last Friday evening when I "passed" the practical element of the programme which, as far as I'm aware, no-one has ever failed. 
My mum will be proud and may send chocolate.

Wednesday, 24 July 2013

Field of nightmares

You may (or may not) have noticed that I only began to update this drivel again on Monday after more than a week of inertia. 

The reasons for this were several, including that last weekend was our now traditional family camping weekend - this year in Filey, North Yorkshire.

Needless to say it was cold, grey and occasionally wet.

Even more annoying is the fact that there are now less than 52 weeks to go until the next one 

Tuesday, 23 July 2013

A school year in the life

On the left is a picture of our Jamie before he left for his first day at Guiseley Infants in September.

And on the right, is how he looked as he headed off this morning for his final day in Red Class. 

He's definitely not as fat as he was. 

For that and so much else, Mrs Buckton and Mrs Spencer, we Whites salute you.

Monday, 22 July 2013

A future son-in-law is born

This morning, just minutes after hearing the news that Kate had placed her ankles into the straps, I knew that a future king was on his way.

All day the world waited to hear if the third-in-line to the Throne was to be a boy or a girl.

But I just knew.

And I how did you know Barry, I hear you cry?  Good question. And it is a question that I shall answer.

Because our future king is to be Charlotte's destiny. 

In order to keep my children informed, I attempted to impart to both the historic significance of what was going on.  Then I asked them if they wanted a boy Royal baby or a girl Royal baby.

"A boy," murmured Jamie half-heartedly, before wandering off for a dump.

"And what do you want Charlotte, a boy or a girl?"

"A boy!" was her reply, with a significantly greater level of enthusiasm.

I thought about why she didn't go for the stock answer for a two-year-old baby lady (i.e. girl).  And then it came to me.

Because Charlotte, yes, my daughter Charlotte, is going to marry him and one day will be our Queen.

Good for her. 

It just seems such a shame that I'll be dead by then.   

Sunday, 14 July 2013

It's shut up to him & it's shut up to him

Britain is renowned for producing some of the best comedy double acts the world has ever known. 

Morecambe & Wise, the Two Ronnies, Ant & Dec, Little & Large, Cannon & Ball, Reeves & Mortimer, and Councillors Graham & Pat Latty are just some of the duos who have kept us amused over the years. 

And now we have a new partnership: Euan & Jamie.

They met in Red Class at Guiseley Infants in September and, other than when Jamie's thrown the occasional girlie strop, they've been best friends ever since. 

And they have range.  As well as their trademark slapstick routines, they are capable of taking on Ant & Dec-style talent show presenting roles.  Here they are preparing their next link as their sisters go head-to-head in a dance-off.

Their boy bond was underlined in their school reports, which came out on Friday. 

Mrs Buckton, their teacher, wrote in Jamie's:

"He has a good circle of friends and has made one special friendship."

And I understand from Euan's mum Kate that Mrs Buckton said something pretty much identical in his. 

Let's just hope that us parents can ruthlessly exploit them for our personal financial benefit in the years ahead.  

Saturday, 13 July 2013

No arm done

I came back to a bit of after work drama in Guiseley yesterday afternoon, where Vanessa was doubled up in pain with a sore arm.

She went for a short notice conflab with the local doctor, who dispatched her directly to the Leeds General Infirmary for an emergency gig with the sore arm specialist.

And his diagnosis?  Vanessa has a sore arm.

She has no idea what caused her sore arm, but no lasting damage appears to have been done.

And she's not allowed to wave for a week.

Later, in sympathy and in tribute, Charlotte performed her Mummy-has-a-sore-arm impression.

Thursday, 11 July 2013

Hands off our school!

I try to avoid doing anything akin to politics on this blog because it's supposed to be light hearted (I do hope you've noticed).  But I intend to suspend that rule tonight, as I've discovered two jokers who I thought you might appreciate hearing about.

Jamie's school - Guiseley Infants - is under a touch of misguided pressure at the moment as we near the end of a Leeds City Council consultation to expand it and nearby St Oswald's Junior school, converting them into separate primaries.

There is a growing problem with school places in Guiseley, and that problem will only worsen as more houses are built.  The obvious and most sensible long-term solution is a brand new school.

Failing that, yes, both Guiseley Infants and St Oswald's will have to consider how they might accommodate more pupils - at least in the short-term.  But so too - one might reasonably expect - should Tranmere Park, Guiseley's other school for primary age pupils.

The only problem is, Tranmere is located at the posher end of Guiseley and, when asked to take a very limited number of pupils in a recent consultation exercise, agreement could not be found.

The revised idea is therefore that Tranmere is protected from change, and Guiseley Infants loses its playing field, its quadrangle and gains 150 new young souls.  Great.

Since the enormity - not to mention the unfairness and impracticality - of this scenario became so stark over recent weeks, some very fine parents of Guiseley Infants' pupils got together to form the Guiseley Infant and Nursery (GINS) Action Group.  And the mummies and daddies have done good. 

Over 3000 leaflets have been hand-delivered to encourage concerned residents and parents to contribute to the council's consultation.  There has been coverage in the newspapers and on local TV.  And the key campaign messages has been powerfully conveyed to politicians.

Encouragingly, almost all of the politicians have indicated at least a willingness to listen.

And then there's Cllrs Graham and Pat Latty.

Entering the fray very much from stage right, they have given a masterclass of quite heroic proportions on how not to represent the interests of local people who, it would appear, seem little more than an irritation to them. 

In today's Wharfedale Observer, they jointly urged GINS group supporters to allow the consultation period (which ends tomorrow) to run its course "so that the views of as many people as possible could be assessed."  The more cynical observer might interpret this as "so we can encourage our posh supporters at the other end of town to respond saying that Guiseley Infants' playing field should indeed be concreted over, and Tranmere left alone."  But maybe that's just me (and almost everyone else). Cllr Mr Latty criticised GINS for being "vociferous."  And Cllr Mrs Latty criticised parents for "thinking of their own children - which is natural - but it is getting a bit out of hand."  I kid you not.

But Cllr Mr Latty wasn't finished there.  Hell no.

In correspondence addressed to "Concerned Parents" (i.e. GINS supporters), he said he found it  "decidedly irregular to be asked to account to a body that does not reveal the names of the people involved." OK, well now you know my name - there's a starter.  And Jamie's mum's called Vanessa.  I have little doubt that most if not all other supporters will also happily "reveal" themselves to you.  (It could be like a big Guiseley version of Blind Date).

Cllr Mr Latty added: "What I would remind you of is that there is an ongoing consultation on the proposals for Oxford Road and St Oswald's and that will take it’s (sic) course whatever we may say."  Yes folks, localism in action, Latty style i.e. "you're wasting your time and, much more importantly, you're wasting my and Cllr Mrs Latty's time."   

Concluding by saying that he and Cllr Mrs Latty would "do our best" to accommodate a meeting with some GINS members, he finished with this immortal sentence: "Please do not suggest a public meeting."

Well, I mean, he doesn't know where we've been.

Methinks Cllr Mr and Cllr Mrs Latty have made a massive Mr & Mrs political error of judgement, particularly given that Cllr Mrs Latty is up for re-election next year.  But then, what would I know about politics?

Wednesday, 10 July 2013

Bad milk's bad

I found this via Google earlier this evening:

"If you drink milk long past the expiration date, you run the risk of developing food poisoning from unhealthy bacteria that might have grown in the milk. Food poisoning can be so mild you might not even realise you have it, but it can be severe in some cases. You might develop stomach cramps, nausea, diarrhoea or a fever. It can last for hours or days, and you might start to feel the effects of the bad milk within a couple hours of drinking it."

And so it was yesterday, a couple of hours after putting milk past its expiration date in my tea, I began to feel unwell. Over the course of the afternoon and evening, I developed stomach cramps, nausea, diarrhoea (I'm nothing if not honest) and a fever.  Today has also been something of a "struggle" (if you know what I'm saying).

If only I had Googled 24 hours previously.  Or been arsed to go to the shop. 

Sunday, 7 July 2013

What a wee weekend

Andy Murray won Wimbledon today - you've probably heard - the first British man to win the singles title since my dad was born in 1936.

His incredible achievement came in the wake of the British and Irish Lions' rugby success in Australia yesterday, when they triumphed in a three-match series for the first time in 16 years.  Wonderful.

But back to Sir Andy. 

With Jamie and Vanessa at a party, Charlotte and I "chose" to share the moment together; in the exact same manner as my mum made me "choose" to watch Virginia Wade's historic victory in 1977.  And I still gratefully remember it.

Whether Charlotte will recall Andy's big moment, I sadly doubt as I was three years older than her when Ginny hoisted the trophy aloft.
But her immediate response to his win is something I shall certainly remember - and will share with her in years to come.
Yes, she did an extra large wee wee on the potty.
So congratulations to her - and big respect to our Andy.   

Thursday, 4 July 2013

Slow coach

There's nothing quite like the sight of a load of young boys and girls running around in shorts to help put a smile back on your face (STOP IT!)

And so it was last night, as the first in a summer-long series of Wednesday fun-orientated micro rugby sessions got underway at Aireborough Lions RUFC.

Under the tutelage of Coach Anthony himself, friendships were quickly reforged and ball skills swiftly regained. 

The recently-arranged activities were even more of a bonus for the fact that Anthony and many of the players will be leaving micro rugby behind come September to move up to the Under 7s. (Anthony is many more than seven years in age, but has under seven hairs on his hair - thus qualifying for the gig).

With the Lions' big recruitment drive now very much underway - most recently at Guiseley Carnival last Sunday (see below) - we're confident of filling the gaps in the playing ranks.

But how to fill the coaching void?

Easily enough, it has turned out, with four rugby daddies - each with a son remaining eligible for micro rugby next season - having already stepped forward.

There's Coach Kris (the soon-to-be-new Anthony), top Yorkshireman and still at the peak of his playing powers come a Saturday afternoon.

There's Coach Dylan, top man of Anglesey, who loves Wales, rugby, and did I mention Wales?

There's Coach Daniel, top Dubliner and sometime Shane MacGowan lookalike who, as a school teacher, will be very much at home (particularly as he can see his house from the training pitch).

And there's Coach me. 

Yes, really.

I've made clear to my teamies that I'm happy to take a back seat on this one, if only on the grounds that none of the kids will understand a word I'm attempting to utter. Including Jamie. But at their service I shall be.

The four of us have enrolled on an official Rugby Football Union coaching course being held in two Fridays' time. This is something which pleases me greatly, as I was supposed to depart for our annual camping weekend that afternoon but now won't have to leave until the Saturday morning. (I love it when a plan comes together).

I'll keep you informed on progress.

Wednesday, 3 July 2013

Kicking an old 'un when he's down

As I was travelling to work this morning, I inwardly declared that today was the day to get on with my big idea.

I was talking to Mags' charming mum Moira on Sunday evening, and mentioned that I'd been considering joining the Anthony Nolan register.

Prior to Mags getting ill three years ago, I hadn't heard of Anthony Nolan, a remarkable charity that saves the lives of people with blood cancer who need a blood stem cell or bone marrow transplant. 

But Mags told me all about it and, when she had her first bout of leukaemia, Anthony Nolan saved her life when she was matched with a donor and had a successful bone marrow transplant.  That was one of the many reasons why her death was so shocking and so cruel after her illness returned, because it wasn't supposed to be like that.

However, back to Sunday and me telling Moira of my heroic plan. 

"Well, you'd better hurry up!" she announced.

"Erm...OK. Why the rush?"

"Because when you reach 45, you're no good to them!"

"Really? Why?!"

"Because you're too old!"

How dare she.

So, as I was having my lunchtime sandwiches today, I decided to find out what I needed to do to get on with things.

The answer?  Find myself a time machine.

When I went on to Anthony Nolan's website I discovered that Moira was a touch out when she said that 45 was the cut off age for usefulness.  Or she would've been a touch out until very recently. 

To quote from the website:

"Anthony Nolan is changing the age criteria for joining its donor register from 18-40 to 16-30."


The website, under FAQs, proceeded to answer my burning question, i.e. "Why are you recruiting younger donors?" with "Due to scientific, medical and resource reasons."

It then continued to humiliate me with some detailed bullet points:

  • Lowering the average age of our register will help Anthony Nolan save more lives
  • Younger people make the most successful donors for patients with blood cancer
  • Doctors will always choose a younger donor if they are available
  • Older donors are more likely to have developed age-related conditions which may mean they cannot donate
  • The health of our donors is a priority for Anthony Nolan so we want to provide the healthiest donors for patients
  • As a charity, we must spend our resources on recruiting the people who will be the best possible donors for patients with blood cancer
  • It costs £100 to add each donor to our register so we must recruit the people most likely to be chosen as donors, who will remain on our register for the longest time."    

Or, in short and this time in my own words, because I'm knackered.

On reflection? Probably fair enough.

Monday, 1 July 2013

The saddest day

I wasn't planning to write anything about today, because I wasn't sure I'd be able to. But I'll have a go.

It was Mags' funeral, you see. And I thought that would be very sad.

It was.

There was a family service at the crematorium this morning. And this afternoon, everyone gathered at the local Methodist church in Westhead to celebrate Mags' life.

But try as we did, the tears overwhelmed the cheers.

Future events are planned, probably in London. And I look forward to those.

But for now, back in Yorkshire, I feel glad that I knew someone who made me feel good about the world.

The world felt good about her too.