Thursday, 30 January 2014

Hey piddly wee, squatting's not for me

This is our bathroom toilet.  Isn't she a beauty?  Well, not really.  

Three reasons. First, it's part of a "retro" suite which would not be out of place in an episode of George & Mildred. Second, it's a toilet. And third, it's currently topped off with a broken seat. 

How the seat ended up in its present state is open to speculation. Suffice to say that it wasn't me, meaning it was almost certainly Vanessa. But we can't be sure.

So, what to do? The obvious solution would be to fix it. And we would, but for the fact that it's what's technically referred to in the toilet trade as "f***ed." A sad end to a shitty existence, you might say.

The next best alternative would be to buy a replacement seat. However, we're hoping to get a new bathroom put in very soon - if Mark the Plumber would ever bloody well phone me back - so, leaving aside whatever else may be in there, we might as well flush our cash away. 

In the interim, the only option is therefore to "tread" carefully (if you know what I'm saying). 

It's OK for the ladies of the house, of course - or the "natural squatters" as Jamie and I like to refer to them. But for us men, well, it's much less convenient.

I've worked out that if you keep the seat down (after, crucially, remembering to lift the lid), the seat stays in place. But elevating our shattered friend to perform a stand-upper is certainly out of the question. 

And, worryingly, this delicate situation is not without its dangers.

Many years ago back in Coleraine, I remember our pet lady cat Tinker teaching our baby boy dog Roscoe how to wee like a girlie - and he never got out of the habit.

I do hope my son and I are not now at risk of falling into the same trap.

Wednesday, 29 January 2014

What a ripper

Having a ripped stomach is something I've always aspired to but never achieved. Until now, it would seem. And sadly in this case I'm not talking six pack.

In the lead-up to last year's Great North Run, I lamented on here about my poorly tummy (bless me) which, according to Dr Google, bore all the hallmarks of a "sports hernia." Still, it helped me pull in a bit more cash so the pain was worth it.

Unfortunately, several weeks later, it was no better so I went to see a real GP. Let's call him Dr Shitt. 

He had a quick poke before declaring he had absolutely no idea what it was, although adding that he didn't "think" it was serious. Then he sent me packing. Good for him.

10 weeks later, it was still no better. So I phoned the surgery seeking another appointment. The nice lady said I could see Dr Shitt again at 3pm. I politely declined and asked if I could see an alternative expert, perhaps one who was in doctor class the day they did sore stomachs. She said I could see Dr Shitt-Too the following Wednesday. I asked if Dr Goode was available instead. She said no. I said I looked forward to seeing Dr Shitt-Too the following Wednesday. 

The following Wednesday came along - last Wednesday, as it turns out. 

I arrived at the surgery. And, with minimal delay, Dr Shitt-Too emerged to lead me into his centre of excellence/room. Waiting to look at me in a rather bemused fashion, was Miss Bemused Student. I said hello. She looked back it me, a mixture of teeth braces and bemusement.

Dr Shitt-Too asked me to describe my problem. I described my problem. He asked to loosen my jeans so he could have a poke. He had a poke. Miss Bemused Student looked away. 

Safely re-packed and re-belted, I sat down eagerly awaiting the verdict. 

"I don't know what it is," said Dr Shitt-Too. 

"Right," I replied, probably looking more bemused than Miss Bemused Student although it was probably a close-run thing. 

"A sports hernia?" I suggested helpfully. "I got that from the Internet." 

"Could be," said Dr Shitt-Too, before turning to his in-house sidekick, Miss Bemused Student. 

"What do you think it is?" he asked.

She didn't know either. 

Dr Shitt-Too then ran through the options with his charge, seemingly unaware that I was still in the room.

"We could just send him away," he said.

"You've already done that," I interjected. 

"But we've already done that," he soldiered on, ignoring me. "So we could send him for a scan. What do you think?" 

"I think you should send me for a scan," I interjected again.

"I think we should send him for a scan," said Miss Bemused Student. 

They're sending for a scan. No idea when. 

Tuesday, 28 January 2014

Back in the black

I'm feeling mildly euphoric tonight.

I have a little rule, you see, by which I try not to pay more than £1 per can when buying a box of Guinness.

It's not that I'm tight (certainly in Yorkshire terms). It's just that I resent having to sometimes fork out a fiver more for 10 Guinness one day than I do on another. So when an offer's on, I leap. 

However, last weekend I was in a bit of a bind. I was down to my last two cans (I know) and there was no sign of any offers. I thought about it for a while and decided to break my rule and pay £17.99 for a box of 15. I wasn't happy, although I was very relieved to get them into the fridge.

But then, tonight, I was walking through Morrisons and thought it best to check what was happening on the Guinness aisle. There was a new offer on, and I could barely believe my eyes. 

£9 for 10 cans - plus a free glass. 

Let me say that again. That's £9 FOR 10 CANS PLUS A FREE GLASS!

You really have read that right. 

So, not only was my pound a can rule met with bells on, but I would also get a FREE GLASS!!!!! Quite magnificent. 

I bought two packs - that's 20 cans and TWO FREE GLASSES - and carried them on the 10 minute walk back home. I arrived at the back door with arms like Mr Tickle. 

But the pain was worth it. A good night's sleep tonight, and I might try to manage three packs tomorrow (including THREE FREE GLASSES).

Living the dream.

Sunday, 26 January 2014

Despicable He

I was "Jamied" again yesterday, an all too frequent occurrence.

He, Charlotte and my lowly self were watching Despicable Me on DVD and laughing heartily.

Three of the main characters - Margo, Edith and Agnes - are orphans who get taken in by Gru, the film's eventual hero.

And in one scene, they're going to bed.  Three girls, three separate beds - and they stayed there all night.

Their behaviour is in stark contrast to Jamie and Charlotte who, whilst beginning each evening in their own beds, almost always wake up the following morning in the same scratcher as Vanessa and me.

This ongoing situation is doing nothing for our sleeping patterns - and it's killing my back.

I pointed out the impeccable bedtime manners of Margo, Edith and Agnes to Jamie as we watched the film.

Without taking a breath, he simply shook his head and shot back:

"But they don't have mummies or daddies."

Another round to him.

Saturday, 25 January 2014

Thumbs up for the four-slicer

My mum was over visiting before Christmas and kindly presented us Whites a new four-slot toaster.  You can see it being modelled above, in the retro-style of The Price Is Right, by Wee John.

I'd go as far as saying that it's changed my life.

There are four Whites, you see, meaning a toast slot is simultaneously available to us all.

But there are other more subtle advantages that come with ownership of this revolutionary piece of kitchen kit.

Let me tell you about just one.

Charlotte and I often enjoy a Saturday morning bacon sandwich, as we did again today.  When you're a two-slice toaster family and two bacon sandwiches are required, one of you can have hot toast but the other is forced to have it cold if your bacon is all cooked at the same time. But those of us with access to a four-slicer have the luxury of being able to serve two bacon sandwiches at the same piping temperatures at the precise same time.

I honestly can't believe I've managed to reach this stage of my life devoid of a four-slot toaster.  For me, it's the future - my future (and occasionally Vanessa's when she can be arsed to walk to the bread bin) - and I would strongly encourage you to join me on the adventure.  It's quite literally pop-up joy for all.

FOOTNOTE: It's wet and windy outside and I'm bored.  I hope that wasn't immediately apparent as you read today's thoughts.        

Thursday, 23 January 2014

White light

I'm sure I'm not alone in having received some particularly "interesting" Christmas presents - almost a month ago now (really).

Chief amongst them was my head torch. 

To be fair, there was some method in Vanessa's (deepening) madness in buying me one.

I have to walk down an alley ("ginnel" in Yorkshire parlance) to get to our house from Guiseley train station, and it's pitch black on the way home at this time of year. As a result, I have a tendency to wade through unseen muddy puddles/dog poo, forcing me to swear loudly when I finally get back to base and find the damage inflicted on my clobber.

Vanessa thought a head torch would help me to spot the trouble spots before I covered my feet (and subsequently her carpets) in their hidden contents. 

The only thing is, it could be argued that it might make me look a bit silly. 

I road-tested it on Jamie's napper as we walked back from his swimming class the other night. 

And whilst, yes, it was surprisingly effective as a guiding light, even he admitted to feeling a tad self conscious.

I've therefore come up with a compromise.

Until winter's end and the arrival of the longer evenings, I have decided that I will indeed wear my new head torch as I traverse along said dark alley. 

But my new look will be complemented by a big pair of sunglasses, just in case there's anyone around that I know. 

I think it's a great idea. Unless, of course, I've missed something. 

Tuesday, 21 January 2014

No gas, just guts

You join me in a reasonably ropy pub in central Leeds where I await the slow train back to Guiseley after an evening of racy chat.

When I say "racy" I mean in terms of tyres and petrol.  And I'm talking risky as opposed to risqué.

Yes, it was about motorbikes.

Growing up on the edge of the famous Portstewart-Coleraine-Portrush circuit which is the Vauxhall International North West 200, I've always had motorcycle road racing in my blood. But I'm very much an enthusiast as opposed to an expert.

This is in contrast to four-time World Superbike king Carl Fogarty and ex-British Superbike Champion James Whitham who were on stage tonight as part of their "Foggy & Whit Givin' It Gas" Tour 2014.

Yes, it sounds iffy, but it really wasn't.

They spent little time talking about the machinery (which I have no clue about) and instead concentrated on the men (and occasional women) who ride them. And it was great.

Cracked ribs? Not a problem. Shattered pelvis? Be back in a few weeks. Broken collar bone? A fortnight at most.

They didn't tell me anything I didn't already know in terms of how madly brave motorbike racers are. They just confirmed it. But it still made me admire them even more. 

Terrific night. Go see them if you can.

Monday, 20 January 2014


Our house was a broadband-free zone over the weekend after something broke.  We hope to have it fixed by Thursday.

So we were forced to resort to less hi-tech activities to pass the time, separated on gender lines.

The ladies did some baking.

Meanwhile, the men (GRRRR!!!) unblocked the drain (another GRRRR!!!)

As for our loving service provider, let me share with you the content of the text I received after reporting the problem.

"Hello, BT here. Sorry about your fault.  We aim to fix it by the end of 23/01/2014. If the problem isn't with BT kit, you might need to pay £129.99.  Thanks."

Customer service as its best.  Or, like BT, perhaps I'm being insincere.

Help Wee Oliver Walk: The Movie

It's been a little while since my last update on the campaign to raise the funds to give little Oliver Dickey from Coleraine the chance to walk.

In short, we're now approaching £9,000 via JustGiving with other pots of money literally filling up by the hour, and new events being planned by the day.

Oliver's uncle, Neil Moore, has just completed a short video which tells Oliver's story much better than I could ever do.

Please have a watch via THIS LINK and give something if you can.

Friday, 17 January 2014

The man with none of the answers

I don't do politics on here, principally because politics tends not to be very funny.  But today is an exception.

The Traditional Unionist Voice (TUV) is a relatively new (and thankfully small) political entity in Northern Ireland, built around the messianic ego of its leader Jim Allister (pictured above) and the tiny brains of his three (or is it two?) disciples.

This afternoon Jim took to Twitter to invite non-believers to ask him questions using the hash tag #AskTUV.

I was tipped off by a friend about this and logged on to have a look.  Sadly, I only have the time to include (and you will no doubt only have the patience to read) a mere handful of the hundreds of posers that came Jim's regal way.

I hope you enjoy them as much as I would imagine Jim failed to:

  • How much wood would a woodchuck chuck if a woodchuck could chuck wood?

  • If a man born blind is able to distinguish between a cube and a globe and could then see, could he tell the cube and the globe apart?

  • Is Lynx Africa really made in Africa?

  • How many fingers am I holding up? 

  • Who would win in a fight between a bear and a gorilla?

  • Which came first, the dinosaur or the egg?

  • If I put my beef casserole into the slow cooker on low at 9am, will it be cooked enough for dinner at 5pm? 

  • Why should we build castles in the sky?

  • Have you ever seen 21 mosquitoes flying in formation? If so, what was the first thought that went through your head? 

  • Have you ever sneezed so hard your big toe grew an inch? 

  • How soon after washing a kitchen floor is it safe to walk on it? 

  • How does the man who drives the snow plough get to work? 

  • If a train leaves Newry travelling at 40mph and another one leaves Antrim travelling at 60mph, why does everyone hate you so much? 

  • When you choke a Smurf, what colour does it turn? 

  • Are there Klingons on the starboard bow Jim? 

  • What happens when you put bark in the microwave? 

  • How do zombies work? 

  • Downy hair is appearing on my body and my voice is going up and down. Any ideas?  

  • Jim, should I get carpet or a nice wood effect lino for my living room? Style vs practicality

  • How many ping pong balls would fit in Belfast Lough? 

  • Did you ever mistakenly put your arm through the neck part of your vest? I have. 

  • Will there ever be a boy born who can swim faster than a shark? 

  • What do sheep count when they can't get to sleep? 

  • Which would you rather have: a hand made of ham, or an armpit that dispenses sun cream? 

  • Have you ever eaten a chicken omelette where the chicken and the eggs were related?

  • What do people in China call their good plates? 

  • If you were travelling in a spaceship at the speed of light and you turned your lights on, would they do anything? 

  • What is a male ladybird called?

  • What is the airspeed velocity of an unladen swallow?

  • If only two of each animal were allowed on the Ark, what did the carnivores eat on the trip? 

  • Are there greyhounds in Co. Louth that bark with an English accent?  

  • Jim, with the snooker being on at the minute, would you go for the tight brown or easy pink?

  • If you push your belly button, does your bum fall off? 

  • If a Siamese twin commits a murder and the other isn't involved, would you jail both or neither? 

  • What's the best way to get rid of all the slime on my bathroom tiles? I've tried everything.  

  • Hey, did you happen to see the most beautiful girl in the world? And if you did was she crying? 

  • Do you think it was right for Ross to cheat on Rachel even if they were on a break?

  • And finally:

  • Jim, will you ever do this again?

  • That really is the question.

    Thursday, 16 January 2014

    Girlie gripes

    I wouldn't want to accuse Charlotte of being unreasonable, but she's just refused to eat the rest of her spaghetti because it's too short.

    This comes off the back of last week's row when I attempted to take a picture of her brother for his school "Star of the Week" diary.

    This was the photo I wanted, and eventually got.

    This was the one she felt was better.

    In her three years on this Earth, she has merely added her name to the ever-lengthening list of females I've met and failed to understand.

    In other words, all of them.

    Wednesday, 15 January 2014

    Rude health

    I've been a tad tired in recent weeks so, when I received a letter from the local doctors' surgery offering me a free NHS Health Check, I was pleased.

    I've only had one proper MOT in my adult life - quite a thorough affair, I recall - after which the lady doctor signed a form to say that, on balance and in her view, I appeared to be alive. Good news, certainly.

    Yesterday's letter advised me that my check was "to assess [my] risk of developing heart disease, stroke, kidney disease or diabetes."  No mention of my liver, you'll notice.  Handy.  It added: "If there are any warning signs, then together we can do something about it."  Excellent, certainly up for that.      

    The letter ended: "Take a look at the enclosed leaflet for more information about the NHS Health Check and how it could benefit you."

    So I did, quickly noticing the word "dementia" appear twice on the front. OK.

    I skim-read through the first three pages and found nothing that caused offence.

    The back page was headed, "Questions you may have."  And it was the last one which raised my alarm: "Will everyone have this check?"

    The answer: "This check is part of a national scheme to help prevent the onset of these health problems.  Everyone between the ages of 40 and 74 who has not been diagnosed with the conditions mentioned will be invited for a check once every five years."

    But! But! Oh bugger, I'm 41.

    I'm absolutely gutted.  But I will go.  If I last that long.   

    Tuesday, 14 January 2014

    Oliver Dickey's Blue and White Army

    Coleraine Football Club have needed a bit of luck over recent weeks and tonight it came when Wee Oliver Dickey arrived before the game to meet Bannsiders manager Oran Kearney and pick up his signed shirt.

    The match has since finished with a final score of Coleraine 3 Warrenpoint Town 0.

    Oliver's personal excitement of this evening wasn't quite matched when I turned up at Dickey Towers on Sunday afternoon to say hello to our little hero, his mum Charlene, dad Neil and little brother Max.

    There again, Despicable Me 2 was on TV and, if I was him, I know what would bring me more amusement.

    More seriously, it was an absolute privilege to see them all and I am delighted to report that progress continues very much in the forward direction.

    Almost £8,400 has now been raised, celebrity retweets continue to come in with motorcycle racing stars Michael Rutter and James Whitham rowing in behind the campaign in just the last hour.  Items for auction and raffle are arriving from all directions.  And new fundraising events are being planned by the day.

    Our hope is that we're across the £10,000 line by the weekend when the next publicity drive is due to kick-off.  The centrepiece of this will be a video which, having seen a rough cut, is an awe-inspiring piece of work.

    Please give if you can - here's the LINK.  

    Friday, 10 January 2014

    Home to help

    Welcome to rainy Belfast where, as I touched down around an hour ago (I was in a plane, you see) the running total to Help Wee Oliver Walk had smashed through the £7,000 barrier.

    Overnight, Lord Sugar and - get this - Joan Collins added their names to the ever-growing list of big name stars to Tweet in support of our little hero who needs to raise £60,000 to have his life-changing operation. 

    Since I last updated you on all matters Master Dickey, Isle of Man TT legend John McGuinness, England Test cricketer Boyd Rankin, Match of the Day commentator Guy Mowbray and Young Apprentice maverick James McCullagh have also publicly backed our man.

    And very impressive items for auction have been generously donated by boxers James DeGale and Martin Rogan, and the Belfast Giants ice hockey team - to name just the latest.

    As I tap this out in a station cafe accompanied by an over-priced mug of tea, Oliver's mum Charlene and friends are hosting a fundraising coffee morning in Danske Bank in Coleraine. At least we can be assured there's plenty of money in there.

    And the supportive media coverage continues to pile up with the Daily Mirror (above) and Belfast Telegraph joining Ulster Television, the Belfast Newsletter, the Coleraine Chronicle and the Coleraine Times in promoting this most worthy of causes. 

    I'm due to meet up with Charlene, Neil, Oliver and Max Dickey on Sunday afternoon. But before then, I have a few other interesting little encounters lined-up. That's how we roll in Northern Ireland.

    First pint at 12.45pm. It's good to be home.

    Thursday, 9 January 2014

    Now, that's magic!

    I've never been a huge fan of magicians, principally because my dad once once told me that magic wasn't real.

    But tonight that myth was blown away when Jamie performed his first ever magic trick.  He intends to repeat it in school tomorrow at "Show and Tell."

    Before you watch the very short piece of video below, I must emphasise that no mirrors nor acts of camera wizardly were used during the performance. 

    How did he do it? Sadly magicians of his calibre never tell.

    He has since disappeared off to bed.  Just like that.

    Tuesday, 7 January 2014

    Oliver's Army Needs YOU

    You, loyal readers, already know that little Oliver Dickey is a superhero; this picture only serves to prove it.

    But tonight a lot more people have been made aware of this reality after he, little brother Max, mum Charlene and dad Neil appeared on UTV Live, Northern Ireland's nightly ITV news programme.

    Please have a watch by clicking on HERE. Trust me, it's worth it.

    A lot more money has since been added to the fundraising pot, which is now galloping towards £4,000.

    This is an excellent effort, just a handful of days in, but we still have a long way to go if we're to reach the magic £60k.

    If you have already given, thank you sincerely.  If you haven't, that would be very nice - here's the LINK.

    But that's not my primary ask this evening.  Because what we now need are big ideas.

    The Twitter campaign is ongoing - you can check it out at @helpweeoliver or via the hashtag #helpweeoliverwalk.   The latest celebrities to join the crusade include comedian Jimmy Cricket, footballer Mark Bosnich and Grand Prix motorcycling star turned commentator Steve Parrish.    

    The media campaign also continues to be rolled out, and needs to be upped.

    However, we need items to auction/raffle.  Can you help?

    We could also do more more well-known and/or influential figures to get involved in one way or another.  Can you assist on this front?

    Or is there something we are missing?

    If you have any ideas, thoughts, offers - you name it - please email them to me at I will share them with Charlene and Neil and come back to you.

    The title of tonight's UTV film was Oliver's Army, and I need you to join up.

    (Needless to say I have already tweeted Elvis Costello asking for his support).

    Monday, 6 January 2014

    It's Balls out for Wee Oliver

    It's been another successful 24 hours for the Help Wee Oliver Walk campaign, with the total now having surpassed £2,500.  It is genuinely a wonderful effort from a heck of a lot of people, although there is still a very long way to go.

    The appeal has also had its first piece of media coverage, courtesy of the Belfast Newsletter with much more upcoming in the days ahead.

    And the celebrity retweets have continued to flood in.  The latest well-known names to have shown their support include Olympic medal-winning rower and all-round Coleraine man Alan Campbell, British and Irish Lions rugby star George North alongside the world's leading referee Nigel Owens, Aussie-based Portstewart funnyman Jimeoin, Hollyoaks actress Carley Stenson, motorcycle road racing's "Wee Wizard" Alastair Seeley and chick lit author Louise Bagshawe turned Sun on Sunday columnist (and ex-MP) Louise Mensch.

    But the retweet which has most tickled my fancy thus far came this afternoon.  Vanessa and I belatedly watched the Not Going Out Christmas Special last night in which Bobby Ball featured as Lee Mack's dad.

    Now, I like Bobby Ball.  Back in the day, I had a pair of "Rock on Tommy" branded red braces (really) and I just find him funny.  His recent roles in Not Going Out, Sky 1's Mount Pleasant and one or two other one-off shows have brought him back to public attention.  Plus, I've seen him interviewed and he seems like a genuinely nice bloke - that'll do for me, cocker.

    However, key to my thinking as I lay in bed last night was that his surname is Ball.  So I asked him for a retweet, which he generously delivered.

    Because, in the wake of namesake Zoe's kindness over the weekend, we can now categorically state that the Balls have come out for Wee Oliver.

    (Just to see how far I can take this, I have since tweeted warbler/sometime DJ Michael Ball to ask for his support - but apparently he doesn't do replies).      

    Sunday, 5 January 2014

    Fool fingered in fateful fall

    It's been a mad three days since the launch of the campaign to Help Wee Oliver Walk.

    More than £2,000 is now in the bank, with that figure growing by the hour.  And more supportive celebrity retweets have come from the likes of Peter Andre, Zoe Ball, and British and Irish Lions rugby captain Sam Warburton, amongst others.

    I've spent a large chunk of today teeing up what I hope will be a big push in the media to secure the remaining almost £58,000 still required.  But I am only one of many volunteers doing our little bit to ensure Oliver can have his operation and literally start moving forward.

    I will keep a link to his Just Giving page at the top of this blog in case you're feeling generous.  And I'll obviously keep you informed.

    Now to more trivial matters in the tiny form of Wee John, who left yesterday after a fleeting visit to see his godchildren. They even bought him a little elf because of the obvious physical similarities.

    That said, one part of His Weeness was slightly less wee than normal after an undignified New Year tumble in the street.

    (John claims that no alcohol was involved.  There again, he also claims to be 5'6'').  

    Whilst two fingers were strapped together, only one was actually dislocated.

    And, of course, it has to be THAT one (albeit on the other hand).

    And the same to you, sir.  

    Thursday, 2 January 2014

    Help Wee Oliver Walk

    This blog is no stranger to wee people, but I've got a particularly special little person to tell you about tonight.

    Meet Wee Oliver Dickey, he's five years old and, like me, he's fortunate enough to hail from Coleraine.

    But the wee man has a wee problem.  Let me hand you over to his adoring mum Charlene, who tells Oliver's story much better than I ever could:

    "Oliver was born 6 weeks premature on 16 August 2008, weighing 5lb 6oz. He spent two weeks in the neo-natal unit in Antrim Area Hospital before the doctors decided that he was healthy enough and ready to come home with us to Coleraine. We were over the moon.

    "The months flew in and our beautiful little baby grew bigger every day! He developed his own wee personality, had us wrapped around his wee finger!

    "But as Oliver approached his 1st birthday we knew something wasn't right.  He wasn't reaching the same milestones as other babies his age! He couldn't balance well, he couldn't sit or crawl.

    "We contacted our doctor who arranged for Oliver to start some physiotherapy sessions. But we still couldn't see any improvement, so we had him referred to a peadetrician. After meeting with Oliver she arranged for him to have an MRI scan to see if they could find out what was wrong.

    "On 9th April 2010 we got a phone call to go to the hospital.

    "The MRI result showed that our beautiful wee baby had cerebral palsy. We were devastated!!

    "The doctor told us that Oliver had a type of cerebral palsy called spastic diplegia, which means that his legs are very tight and he can be in a lot of pain at times.

    "She told us that this meant that he might not be able not walk, but this was something that couldn't be confirmed until he got older.  It was basically a waiting game!! All we could do was start more physio and give Oliver as much help as we could to get him stronger and hope and pray for the best!

    "I was 4 months pregnant with our second son, Max, who came along on 20 September that year.  As time passed Oliver did begin to improve. He started crawling properly and began to pull up on furniture around the house.

    "But as Max got older, it became more obvious to us just how bad Oliver's cerebral palsy was. Max began walking at 10 months. Oliver just sat and watched. One day he said to us 'look, Max is walking.'

    "We were broken!! We pushed harder with more physio and hydrotherapy. We bought equipment for the house to help us with his daily physio routine.

    "He became more determined once Max started walking and began trying to use a Kaye walker. When he started nursery he went in every day in his wheelchair but tried at least once every day to walk a wee bit in his frame across the classroom. But he knew he was different. He would say that the boys and girls could run but he can't!

    "Oliver started primary school in September 2013, and I have never seen him so happy. He just loves it. The kids in his class are brilliant with him, they push him around in his chair, they draw him pictures to take home, they never leave him out!

    "But once again, Oliver knows he's different. He came home one day and said 'Mummy, the boys and girls can jump in the puddles but I can't.'

    "We knew we had to do something.  We looked into a surgery called Selective Dorsal Rhizotomy (SDR). The surgery in simple terms cuts the dead nerve endings away from the spine and allows the ones that do work to perform properly!

    "We got all of Oliver's medical information together and applied to St. Louis Children's Hospital in America.

    "Just before Christmas, we got the email from Dr Park to say that he thinks Oliver is an excellent candidate for the surgery. He expects that after surgery Oliver will walk independently at least in a protected environment.

    "This was huge news!!! The thought that one day he could do something simple like walk to the toilet. Or pick up a toy that he's dropped on the floor!

    "So now we need your help!! We need to raise at least £60,000 to pay for Oliver to get to America for his SDR surgery, 12 months of intensive physiotherapy and any equipment he'll need after it! This will be life changing for Oliver. And for us as a family!

    "Please help us if you can, no matter how small a donation. It all adds up! Please Help Wee Oliver Walk!!!

    "Should we exceed the target amount (or if we do not raise enough funds, or if they cannot be used for any other reason) the funds raised will go to the general funds of Tree of Hope to assist other sick children."

    Last night the Help Wee Oliver Walk campaign kicked off with the launch of his JustGiving page, which you can access by clicking onto THIS LINK.

    This is being backed up on Twitter via @HelpWeeOliver and the hashtag #helpweeoliverwalk

    Overnight, Britain's two greatest ever Paralympians, David Weir and Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson, generously the efforts with retweets.  And the greatest living Irishman (in my view), Barry McGuigan, followed suit.  As I write, Olympic medal-winning gymnast Beth Tweddle has just joined the chorus of Twitter noise and I expect many other high-profile individuals to do the same before this is done.

    And done it must be.

    Lots of people have to face very difficult situations in this world with no hope of ever finding a solution.  But one does exist for Oliver and I'm sure everyone would agree that the wee man has to be given the opportunity to benefit from it.

    I know the whole family circle would be incredibly grateful if you could back the campaign by throwing some pennies in the pot.  But, given the amount of cash that is required, we also need to spread the word as far and wide as we can.  Your help with this would be equally welcome.

    It looks like £1,000 may be raised in the first 24 hours.  Another 59 days like this will do the job.

    I say again, let's get it done.    

    Wednesday, 1 January 2014

    So that was Christmas

    Greetings, dear reader, and let me wish you and yours an especially Happy New Year.

    I begin 2014 with a double apology to my mother.  Firstly, for not phoning at midnight to wish her what I've just wished you.  (I have since wished her what I've just wished you, so now we're all even). 

    And secondly, I apologise for not updating this blog, which I regret to inform you will not be any better in the coming year. 

    My principal reason for not doing so was because I couldn't be arsed (to update the blog, not phone my mother. Honest).  However, as much I felt I needed a bit of a break from writing it, I also felt that you deserved a rest from having to read it.  Plus, you were probably a tad busy too. 

    Anyway, we're back and you may even have noticed that I've chosen to start 2014 with a new look.  The colours are those of my beloved Coleraine Football Club who are currently enduring their worst run of form since Fred Flintstone and Barney Rubble were the strike partnership.  They have lost the last eight games in a row and, given that they are 2-0 down to league champions Cliftonville as I write, it looks like becoming nine.  But still, I'm doing my bit.

    Now then, Christmas.  Needless to say I hope you had a good one and the big man who comes but once a year brought you a little splash of personal pleasure.

    Against all expectations, he did pay a swift visit to the White household.

    And even left a note.
    I'm also very relieved to report that Barry Turkey came up trumps, although his brown bum did suggest that it had been a bit of an ordeal for him.
    Ah yes, the onesies. As well as the kids, I got one, Vanessa got one and my mother got one.
    A mumsie, if you will. 
    (That'll teach her for giving me a hard time). The similarity to her granddaughter's version is entirely deliberate.
    We also had a number of very welcome visitors over the Christmas period. 
    These included my fellow Aireborough Lions Micros rugby coaches (I use that term about myself guardedly) and their wives.
    Oh, and sprogs. 
    We even had a surprise virtual guest in the tiny form of Wee John, who joined us via the magic of FaceTime. 
    (Actual size).
    Also visiting on their way back to Scotland was my old schoolmate Wee Colin Andrews, together with Evie and their ever-smiling little boy Milo (although, ironically, not in this picture). 

    We look forward to seeing them all again in June when the Tour de France sets off from Yorkshire.  They'll be camping in our garden. (They're quirky like that.  Plus, Colin's an artist and sleeping in a conventional bed does nothing for his reputation).

    Which brings us on to last night, when Jamie unexpected joined us for the fireworks at midnight.

    Before leaving us again.  (He's asleep, you see.  Have a look.  Yes?  Good work).

    So we move on, bravely, determinedly and with a hint of a smirk to see what 2014 has to offer. 

    But not until the drink runs out (which could be a little while yet).

    Chin up - and bottoms up for as long as you can get away with it.