Friday, 28 February 2014

Thumbs up for a job well done

Less than two months ago, I introduced you to Wee Oliver Dickey.  

5-year-old Oliver from Coleraine (of course he is) was diagnosed with the spastic diplegia form of cerebral palsy when he was 18 months old and is confined to a wheelchair.  However, Selective Dorsal Rhizotomy (SDR) spinal surgery at St Louis Children’s Hospital in the United States should enable him to take his first steps.

But these things cost pounds.  Lots of pounds.  At least sixty thousand pounds, to be precise.  So Oliver's mum Charlene and dad Neil launched an appeal to raise the cash.  They had no idea how or if they could do it, or how long it would take.  But like the good parents they are - and supported by a strong family and many wonderful friends - they chose to have a go.

They raised a remarkable £1,000 in the first 24 hours.  And, in my post of 2 January, I wrote: "Another 59 days like this will do the job."

Well, guess what?  They've done the job.  

Earlier this week and with Oliver edging ever-closer to his target, Paralympic legend Tanni Grey-Thompson (pictured below) - who was one of the very first high profile public figures to support the Help Wee Oliver Walk campaign on Twitter - issued a personal rallying call for the remaining funds to be raised.

Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson
Baroness Grey-Thompson, who won 11 Paralympic gold medals before being elevated to the House of Lords in 2010, said: “I am so impressed with what has been already achieved in Oliver’s name. And with a number of further events planned, I have little doubt that the people of Coleraine and across Northern Ireland will keep giving until the job is done.”  

The six-time London Marathon winner continued:  “I understand that Oliver has managed to create his own army, complete with matching tee shirts and buckets, which isn’t bad going for a 5-year-old.  £60,000 is a very big target, particularly in these difficult economic times.  But to get so close in such a short space of time is remarkable. I wish Oliver and his family every possible success with the rest of the campaign and, of course, in America." 

She added: “Like everyone else, I would be thrilled to see little Oliver walk.”              

And so say all of us.  

A cabaret evening at The Bull's Eye in Coleraine last night seems to have brought Oliver over the line.  Any remaining doubt will be removed by the time landlady extraordinaire Clare Johnston closes the doors of The Railway Arms following tonight's table quiz.  

A random Oliver Dickey fan
More long-planned fundraising events will rightly proceed in the coming days and weeks, which will greatly assist with Oliver's aftercare.  And any remaining monies will be passed on via the Tree of Hope charity to other kids requiring similar specialist treatment.  

Makes you proud, eh?

Well done and thanks to everyone who helped in any way.  

Sunday, 23 February 2014

What a bummer

Last month I travelled home to attend my mum's "special birthday" meal.

And tonight, we Whites were there for Vanessa's mum's equivalent.

Being ladies, it would be wrong of me to divulge how old they are. (They were born in the same year).  But it rhymes with "beventy."  

And after cake and ice cream tonight, Charlotte still couldn't believe it.

But here's the thing.

The evening began with the customary exchange of gifts.  Before Vanessa and her mum had a conversation, during which Judy revealed that she'd bought herself a particularly personal present to "mark" this momentous occasion.

A tattoo.  On her bum.  That's right folks.  A tattoo.  On her bum. (There were even pictures floating around, but this is a family blog).

Between then and now, I don't mind admitting, I've had a few wines.

And I think it's time I had a few more.  Or I might not sleep.

Thursday, 20 February 2014

No half-measures at half-term

Back yesterday afternoon after five nights in Northern Ireland.  And with the England v Ireland Six Nations rugby match now just hours away, I took the opportunity offered by one of the exhibits at Titanic Belfast to remind my children who they are supposed to be cheering on come Saturday at 4pm. More on that later.

First, we were delighted, on both Saturday and Sunday, to spend time with the Dickeys as Wee Oliver's fundraising total races towards its £60,000 target.  With just seven weeks gone - remarkably - it's now just £8,000 away.    

Jamie, Charlotte and cousin Katie even had the chance to eat cake in the little man's honour and pose for the Coleraine Chronicle - proving that fundraising can most definitely be fun.

Other pleasures included a visit to Portstewart Strand...

 ...which always looks that good, even when it's dark.

And Burger King where Granny felt compelled to restrict herself to a Kid's Meal.  

 As if.

Other forays included a number of visits by me to the Railway Arms, whose regular patrons include Starsky and Hutch.

Actually, the one of the left does look a bit like my dad.

And our half-term holiday finally came to an end at the £97 million Titanic Belfast centre, just across the road from where the ship itself was built (and left in perfect condition).

Look at the "Tit" below and you will hopefully spot Jamie.      

Yes, that was deliberate.

The prize for his pose was being allowed to go inside.

Such was his enthusiasm for the Titanic (which he is currently learning about in school) that later he even recreated its dramatic demise in the soft play area at Belfast City Airport with Mr Tayto playing the part of "Iceberg."  

Now I think we all need a rest.

Thursday, 13 February 2014

Fun bags

We're all packed up and, crucially, we do have somewhere to go. Yes, it's almost time for the annual White family February half-term trip to the Causeway Coast of Northern Ireland.

This little jaunt always compares very favourably with, for example, our annual Yorkshire camping weekend every July in some random field. 

This is for two reasons:

(1)  It doesn't involve a field, and 

(2)  It doesn't involve camping.

Over the next few days, fun and games are lined up for the kids with cousin Katie fiercely in charge of operations. And for Vanessa and me, well, we may even have time for the odd snifter in The Railway Arms. And The Anchor. And The Ramore. And The York. And, well, you get the idea.

We will also grab the chance to do our little bit to support the Help Wee Oliver Walk campaign. 

Shorts and trainers are packed. If you can bring yours to the East Strand car park in Portrush before 9.30 on Saturday morning, together with a minimum £5 entry fee, you'll find out why. We can even have a coffee together afterwards.

But for now, it's sleeptime. We ride at dawn.

Wednesday, 12 February 2014

My mate Mike

A difficult day lies ahead tomorrow when I attend the funeral of my friend Councillor Michael Kelly.  He'd been ill for some time and very sadly passed away last week.

But I'll forever remember Mike with a smile on his face - and a glass in his hand.

A huge rugby union fan - thereby always giving us lots to talk about - Mike was very proud of his Irish heritage, and liked to drink to it whenever the chance presented itself.

I first got to know him in 2008 when I was working at Bradford Council and he became Executive Member for Children's Services and Education.

I hadn't encountered him much before then but, as his first big speech to full Council approached, we had a chat. Mike had asked the senior education officers to pull some background information together and send it on to me.  My job was to sort the useful bits from the less than useful bits and it on to him.  He then left to attend a meeting and I said I would see him the following day.

Shortly afterwards, the information come through to me, and I had a bit of a play.  And I kept playing, and playing, and playing and, maybe 90 minutes later, I had written a speech - which I emailed to Mike.

The next morning, he walked into my office looking a touch under the weather - but with a big smile on his face.

"Are you alright?" I asked.

"Bit of a sore head, but otherwise wonderful!" he barked.

"Was the speech OK?" I continued.

"Absolutely," said Mike, "that's why I've got a sore head!"

"Oh?  Do tell."

And he did.

"I was bit worried about my speech," he said, "and when I got home from my meeting, I poured myself a three-finger whiskey to give me the little boost I thought I would need to write it."

Mike had very big hands so, when he talked about a three-finger whiskey, I can assure you that it would've had a kick.

"Then I turned on my computer and discovered that you'd written me a whole speech," he continued. "So I poured another three-finger whiskey to enjoy as I was reading it.

"And when I'd read it, I didn't want to change a word.  So I poured myself another three-finger whiskey to celebrate!"

That was why Mike had a sore head.  And it was one of the many reasons why I loved him.

He'll be greatly missed.

Monday, 10 February 2014

Big step in Wee Oliver's quest to walk

The crusade to help little Oliver Dickey walk has taken a dramatic leap forward after a charitable trust in dear old Coleraine chucked a cheque for £15,000 into his bucket.  You read that right.

The breathtaking donation has taken the total amount collected by the Wee Oliver Walk Fund to almost £50,000 with money from a rolling programme of events keeping the total racing towards its £60,000 target. You read that right too.  

In case you've been in hiding since New Year's Day when 5-year-old Oliver's fundraising campaign was launched, the wee man was diagnosed with spastic diplegia, a form of cerebral palsy, when he was just 18 months old and is confined to a wheelchair. But a surgical procedure available at St Louis Children's Hospital in Missouri should offer him the chance to take his first ever steps - followed by many more.  

In a statement issued this morning, the trust said:  “The fundraising campaign has been a shining beacon of hope for Oliver and as a cross-denominational trust we felt compelled to support the family with this significant donation.

“Everyone in the community has been touched by Oliver’s story. We have been impressed by the humility of Oliver’s parents, Charlene and Neil, and their inspirational campaign. We hope our donation will encourage the community to support the family in their fundraising efforts and pray that Oliver’s surgery in America will be successful and allow him to walk and play like his classmates.”

Speaking on behalf of the Dickey family, mum Charlene paid tribute to the trustees for signing-off such a big cheque for their little man. “For the first time, we are starting to believe that Oliver will get access to the treatment he needs and have the chance to walk," she said.

“We still have some way to go before we reach our target, but no one will stop working until we get there. Thank you again to everyone who has donated so far and please keep giving what you can.”

You can do just that by clicking onto THIS LINK.     

Who said Mondays were depressing?

Charlene and Oliver Dickey

Sunday, 9 February 2014

Weekend summary: Ireland 1 Wales didn't

Only me.

Sorry for not updating for a few days but I've had a lot on.  (So have you, no doubt, so let's call it quits).

We celebrated Vanessa's umpteenth birthday.

Rather you p-p-p-pick her up than me.

And yesterday we had Ireland's romping win over Wales in the Six Nations rugby.  Prompting this (not my doing).

Which my proud Welsh friend Dylan graciously insisted we re-enact.


Charlotte was equally pleased by the result.

And some other very good stuff has happened too, which I will tell you about but can't yet.

(Sorry if I'm coming across all Simon Cowell but, unlike him, in all cases I don't get the cash).  

Stick with me. Go on. 

Wednesday, 5 February 2014

My new book

I wasn't intending to update this rubbish tonight but I've changed my mind.

You join me in bed where, only a few short minutes ago, I started reading my new book. 

Bought for me by my "big" (although she is in reality very small) sister Jacquie as part of my Christmas present, it's called "Stuff Irish People Love." 

On the back cover, it summarises its 175 pages as: "A treasure trove of the loves, idiosyncrasies, quirky traditions and the peculiar passions of the Irish." 

I've only reached page 12 so far, but I already feel compelled to share one very brief extract with you. 

It appears under the headline, "Inserting swear words into the middle of other words." 

And I quote:

"Irish people swear a lot. If you're Irish, you're probably responding to that statement by saying something like 'So bleedin' wha'?' On the other hand, visitors to these shores are often taken aback at the casual way we use swear words in the most innocuous situations. Here's a simple example:

'Would you like a coffee, Fiona?'

'Thanks Mick. Are there any fuckin' digestives?'"

That has really tickled me, I must concede, so expect to hear more of this book again.


Monday, 3 February 2014

Tartan turncoat

There can be few greater pleasures in this world than watching Six Nations rugby in the pub.  And it is all the more enjoyable when a range of nationalities are represented.  Above you can see a Kiwi, two Irishmen, an Englishman, a Welshie and a Scot.  

In fact, here's Gareth the Scot close up.  Doesn't he look happy?

The thing is, despite being born in Scotland, Gareth grew up in Belfast and so, at heart, is really an Irishman.

And as Ireland piled the points on his native land yesterday afternoon, he could hold the dam back no longer.  

Gareth, welcome to the ranks.