Monday, 28 April 2014

Cubs become Lions

It was arguably the biggest date in the Guiseley social calendar yesterday. Yes, it was Aireborough Lions RUFC presentation day.

And didn't the guys (and gals) look smart?

I'd say very much so.

Lined up at the front in the picture below are not some random street urchins auditioning for parts in a junior production of An Officer and a Gentleman.  No, they are representatives of the Micros (Under 6s) section who, alongside a number of much more competent dads, I've had the (often hungover) pleasure of "coaching" each Sunday morning since September.  

The principal reason I kind of got away with it was because I always made sure to stand close to Head Coach Kris who, appropriately, won a special club award of his own for being incredibly committed and sickening good at what he does.

And after all the prizes had been given out, Coach Dublin Dan treated Coach Welsh Dylan to a man massage in the bar.

Nope, I have no idea either but, as you can see, it was certainly working for the boyo.

In short, it's been a season to remember, and both fun and a privilege to be involved.

Next year the Under 7s (as those old enough to move up will become) will play competitive games against other clubs across Yorkshire.  I suspect we ain't seen nothing yet.

Thursday, 24 April 2014


Despite the dark skies outside my window and the promise of rain tomorrow, it's the time of year when that age old question presents itself: are gas-fired barbecues really worth the effort?

I say this as the joint owner of a gas-fired barbecue - Wee John bought Mrs W and me one for our Guiseley house-warming gift.  (House-warming? Barbecue? Do you you see what he did there? Yes, very good).

But it takes some effing cleaning.  And it really takes some effing cleaning when, like me, you chose simply to shove it back in the garage after the final meat feast of the previous summer without even as much as a wipe.

Yes, really.

Closer look?

Bad daddy.

But, you know, the situation wasn't irreparable and, after an hour's Easter Monday soaking, scraping, scrubbing and swearing, it came up like this.

Good daddy.

However, the problem then was that the sun came out - and so inevitably did the chicken, ribs and burgers. (And white legs).

Our gas-fired barbecue has since been wheeled back into its corner of the garage, all minging and unloved.

Let's hope the sun stays away for another little while yet, because I really can't be arsed.  

Tuesday, 22 April 2014

Remembering Oliver

I've been working on a cunning plan for the past few months (I have others) and am delighted to now be able to tell you about it.

25 years ago this very month, I was one of 21 especially fortunate teenagers chosen to tour Japan with the Coleraine Inst 1st XV rugby squad.  We were the first Irish school, North or South, to play in the Far East.  Whilst there, I celebrated my 17th birthday and the British Embassy in Tokyo paid for my cake which was wheeled in on a trolley.  Rule Britannia.  

I had the idea some time ago to attempt to get the squad back together to mark the anniversary and, since the turn of the year, I've renewed contact with all but two of our number. One I've failed to reach is our former prop forward, Graeme Houston. And if you happen to know where he is - genuinely - please ask him to email me on 

The other missing name is Oliver Turkington. 'Turkey' (pictured above left on my Kodak Instamatic with Ian 'Frankie' Coulter during a taxi ride in Hiroshima) was 18 years old when we took off from London Heathrow and, on our return, was widely acknowledged as the stand-out player on our four-game trip. 

But to the great distress of everyone who knew and loved him, Oliver was diagnosed with cancer in 2000 and, despite a characteristically brave battle, he passed away in 2007 at the age of just 35.  

With the agreement of his brother Bruce, our dinner will therefore he held be in his memory with the proceeds being split equally between Cancer Research UK and rugby development at Coleraine Inst where we all learnt the game together.  

It will take place at the school itself (now 154 years old) on the evening of Saturday 13 September and is open to anyone and everyone who wants to buy a ticket and come along.  

Because Oliver was a scruffy bugger, black ties and ball gowns have been ruled out.  The official dress code will instead be 'lounge suit, top button open.' 

And the principal speaker will be none other than the greatest rugby man of them all, former British and Irish Lions skipper Willie John McBride MBE (below).  

“My son Paul was a boarder at Coleraine Inst and was the tour captain in Japan so, when asked, I could hardly say no!” said Willie John in comments I hope you'll read in your newspapers in the coming days.   

“More seriously, Oliver Turkington was a close friend of Paul’s and I got to know him very well personally over many years.  He was a fine young man and he fought cancer with incredible bravery and remarkable good humour. 

“Oliver’s death was a desperately sad event for everyone, and I think it is a wonderful credit to him that his old teammates are reuniting to celebrate his life, share tales and raise some money for good causes in so doing.  I’m sure it will be a tremendous evening.” 

And Willie John is never wrong.

Lots of other reasons to be present are currently being worked on to hopefully make it a night like no other.  And, needless to say, I'll tell you about them as soon as I'm confident they're going to happen.  

Ticket details for the Oliver Turkington Memorial Dinner will be announced here and elsewhere next month.  

You'll be very welcome should you be willing and able to support what we're trying to do.  I may even buy you a drink.

Sunday, 20 April 2014

Detective Daddy

Happy Easter to you and yours. I hope you woke up to a big one.

I wasn't long awake yesterday morning when I had my first laugh of the day.

Jamie and Charlotte were downstairs having breakfast, or at least they were until Charlotte appeared at our bedside to reported an alleged crime.

"Jamie said poo," she announced, before toddling off for a new attack on her Cheerios.

A couple of minutes later, her sheepish-looking brother had taken her place.

"Did you say a bad word?" I enquired in a father-like tone.

"," he mumbled back more like a lamb than a sheep (if you get me).  


"Uhmm, yes."

"So you did say a bad word?"


"Did you say a bad word?"


"Did you say a bad word?"


"Did you say a bad word?"


"What bad word did you not say?"



Saturday, 19 April 2014


One of the indignities Vanessa has to endure whilst waiting impatiently for her flaps to heal is wearing eye shields in bed.

On account that her eyes are still bloodshot and risk putting you off your brunch, here they are modelled by Jamie.

The question is, who does this funky look remind you of?  I racked my brain for several minutes before it came to me.

That's right, Spider-Man or, when Vanessa has them on, Spider-Van.

What do you think?

I think I've nailed it.

And yes, Spider-Girl did shout "cheese" when I was taking her picture.

Friday, 18 April 2014

David McClarty: Mr Coleraine

It was with immense sadness that, this morning, I learnt of the death of my friend David McClarty.

David had been fighting lymphoma for some time but, as recently as February when I last saw him and his family at a coffee morning for Wee Oliver, the outlook looked relatively positive.  That was what made today's news all the more more distressing.

David was a true man of Coleraine.  He was first elected to the local council 25 years ago and, following the signing of the Good Friday Agreement in 1998, became an Ulster Unionist member of the Northern Ireland Assembly.    

I was working for the Ulster Unionist Party in Westminster at the time and, as a result, he and I got to work together on several occasions.  One of a number of particular highlights was when he, his wonderful wife Norma and I had tea together in the House of Lords.  Another was during the 2001 General Election campaign when I travelled up to Coleraine in a police car with the then Northern Ireland First Minister David Trimble for a walkabout in the town centre.  As I climbed out, David was there to greet me with an outstretched hand, a wink and a knowing grin.  We Coleraine folk never get above ourselves.

But David had very good reason to feel proud of his achievements.  He rose to become Ulster Unionist Chief Whip in the Assembly before, in 2007, being elected Deputy Speaker - a position he held for four years. But then, for reasons I'll not go into and through no fault of his, he was not reselected by his local Ulster Unionist Association to defend his seat at the 2011 Assembly elections.  After several weeks of soul searching, he bravely chose to stand as an independent candidate and romped home with support from all shades of political opinion.  And through it all, he kept his dignity; not just because he was a thoroughly good and decent man, but also out of respect for the people who backed him in a time of genuine adversity.

Outside elected politics, David's interests were wide and varied and almost always community-related.  A governor at DH Christie Memorial Primary School and Coleraine Inst, he was an active member of Killowen Parish Church - singing in the choir since the age of 10 - and also a regular (and talented) performer in local amateur dramatic productions.

And he loved his football.  For many years he was the announcer at Coleraine FC  matches and remained a committed follower of the club.  In fact, I vividly remember he and I slipping away from a particularly boring Ulster Unionist annual conference in Londonderry in the early 2000s to watch the mighty Bannsiders play at nearby Institute. We then caught the ferry across for a quick celebratory pint in Donegal before heading home. (More negatively, he was a hardcore Manchester United supporter but we won't talk about that).  

When he came over to shake my hand before leaving the coffee morning a few weeks ago, David patted me on the back and said that I never forget my Coleraine roots.  This was a particularly humbling comment coming from him of all people and, given today's news, it is a compliment I shall forever hold dear.

My deepest condolences go to Norma, and to David's sons Alan and Colin, who remain as proud of him as he was of them.

Thursday, 17 April 2014

Flappy Bird

You'll no doubt remember that famous episode of Fawlty Towers when Polly is lying in bed wearing dark glasses pretending to be Sybil.

In fact, here she is.

Well that's pretty much exactly what Vanessa looks like tonight.  She's awake in bed now but this was her having tea a little earlier.

The reason for the Posh Spice-meets-Stevie Wonder look is that she's had her flaps done.

I assume it's an age thing, but at 3pm today she went for a long-planned slice and a tuck.

Jamie and I arrived a little later just in time to catch the end of the action.

Who would have thought the optician's could be so exciting?

Yes, Mrs W has had laser eye surgery (what did you think I meant?) and, like an old witch or a mangy owl or a smelly bat, has been advised to avoid daylight until her flaps heal.  

On the downside, she is in some pain.  More positively, I am able to watch the Premier League Darts on TV almost free from interruption.  (The exception is when she shouts downstairs to demand more chocolate, although I have made clear that the tuck shop is only open during advert breaks).

In a couple of days, armed with her new peepers, she'll finally get to see what I really look like.  Just one reason why I doubt I'll ever get mine done.          

Wednesday, 16 April 2014

A cracking tale

There's an Easter egg competition at nursery today, and here is Charlotte proudly showing off her entry.

Unfortunately, what she doesn't yet know - and one fears is about to find out - is that Mummy forgot about said competition until just moments before this picture was taken.

The result is that Charlotte's egg was cooked for a significantly shorter period than the recommended norm to achieve hard-boiled status.

You can guess the rest.  But, as a responsible parent, I fail to see the yoke (OH COME ON!!!)


Yes friends, the nursery egg-off is over for another year and, when I went in to pick her up, no-one told me that Charlotte had won.

This might explain why.

What do you mean you can't spot Charlotte's exhibit in amongst the farmyard scene, Peppa Pig on a slide and Jesus being born as an egg?

Hold on, I'll zoom in.....................look, there it is.

I think Charlotte's can only properly be described as the reverse of a stand-out entry.  But at least it's in tact.

(Were I not such a nice daddy, I might gently enquire as to what - if any - distractions some of the other parents have in their lives if they have the time to build such dreamy scenes.  But I am.  So I won't.  Not that I'm bitter.  F*****s).

Sunday, 13 April 2014


We were in Belfast recently (we're always in Belfast recently) and took Jamie (and Charlotte) to see Titanic Belfast (Belfast three times in one sentence, whoops, that's four). (And four sets of brackets, inclusive).

Titanic Belfast is a wonderful place, highly recommended, please go.

However, the fact is - and one you may have noticed - the Titanic sank.

This brings me on to tonight and the kids' bath.  For some reason (and one I had no wish to argue with), Jamie asked for some fiddly-dee music.

So I put on A Bang on the Ear by The Waterboys. Went down a storm.  Next up, Galway Girl by Steve Earle and Sharon Shannon.  Ditto.

With the skin beginning to crinkle, I played one final song.

The Irish Rover by The Pogues and The Dubliners.  Does it get any better?  I'd say no.

Rather than some bath dancing/splashing, Jamie chose to listen attentively before hitting me with questions.


"Yes, son?"

"You know the Titanic?"

"Yes, son."

"It sank, didn't it?"

"It did, yes."

"Well, the Irish Rover.  Didn't it sink too?"

"Ronnie Drew said it did, so that's good enough for me son."

"So, do all Irish boats sink?"

Hmmm, good point.  They don't, do they?!    

Saturday, 12 April 2014

Old fat, furry cat piss

I found The Complete Bagpuss DVD in a second-hand shop the other day and snapped it up for the princely sum of £1.50.

Bagpuss was one of my absolute favourite childhood programmes.  And I was sure Jamie and Charlotte would delight in sharing my joy over 13 episodes.

You remember Bagpuss, dear Bagpuss. Old fat, furry cat-puss. Wake-up and look at this thing that I bring. Wake up, be bright, be golden and light. Bagpuss, oh hear what I sing.  Yes, that one.

Anyway, the kids hated it.    

Friday, 11 April 2014

High summer arrives in Yorkshire

"It's a scorcher!" came the cry from our back garden earlier today as Charlotte's spidey senses detected a rise in the outside temperature to approximately 10 degrees.

The fact that her daughter knew the word "scorcher" was a big enough surprise for Vanessa. But what came next trumped this several times over.

"I want to get the paddling pool out!" was Charlotte's next line.

Experience tells us that, in such situations, it's best to simply let her get on with it. 

I feel another cold coming on. And, for once, it's not mine.

Thursday, 10 April 2014

Perhaps it was the glasses

Jamie was away on a sleepover last night (thanks Kris and Kate) and Vanessa was out doing some womanly bendy stuff, leaving me to spend some "personal time" with Charlotte. And it was fun. 

Thankfully it was also a little less "personal" than the last occasion we were in sole proximity to each other, on Saturday morning. 

We'd been to see Rio 2 3D at the cinema and were about to head in the direction of McDonald's.

Jamie was there too and decided he needed a toilet stop. We headed into the gents and Master White grabbed a cubicle. Never one wishing to feel left out, Miss White decided that she too wanted to have a try so trundled into the adjacent shitbox which was also free, accompanied by me.

She couldn't "go" in the end. But she took so long that I then needed a number one of my own.  So I, you know, readied, aimed and prepared to fire. 

But just as the trigger was about to be pulled there was a shout. 

"Why are you doing that?!" 

It was Charlotte who remained locked in the cubicle with me.

I turned my back on her and prepared for my big moment once again.

"Daddy! What is that? Why is that? What is why is that?! Daddy!"

There was nothing else for it but to uncock my weapon, reholster and leave - really quickly towards McDonald's. 

Nothing further was said. 

Last night's bedtime story was, thankfully, much less traumatic.

Friday, 4 April 2014

Furry expensive bear

"Hello, my name is Ben and I was made in 1948. My eyes are made from glass and I have a beautiful blue ribbon.  

"I was bought for a little girl's birthday. We used to live in a very big house.  She took good care of me.

"I remember my favourite game was playing tea parties on the lawn.  We had real china cups too."

So said Ben the Bear (without the aid of notes) at Guiseley Infants yellow class assembly first thing this morning.

Ben was played by Jamie White, aged five.

His watching daddy was very proud.

And, with the school Easter holidays now officially underway, it's likely to cost him a fortune.

Thursday, 3 April 2014

Help Wee Oliver Walk: A Message

Recently I wrote here that the crusade to raise £60,000 to Help Wee Oliver Walk had reached its target less than two months into the campaign.  Since then, the total has surpassed £75,000 with cash still pouring in.

Tonight Oliver's remarkable parents, Charlene and Neil, posted an update on the campaign's Facebook page.

If you haven't already seen it, this is what they wrote:
"There are still some events left to run that have been planned for Oliver since long before his target was reached. We will continue to run with these events and we thank those involved in organising them for their help and continued support.

"We as a family will not be organising any further events in the meantime and hope that people will not be offended if we turn down any offers of help and support.

"The last three months have been extremely busy and tiring for all of our family. Now we need time to focus on getting Oliver ready for his surgery, both physically and emotionally. We have a hard few months ahead of us but we know we have a huge network of support behind us.

"All money raised from planned events will continue to be transferred to Tree of Hope in Oliver's name, and once Oliver's treatment and rehab is complete, the funds will be made available by the charity to help other kids and their families in situations like Oliver's with surgery costs, medical treatment, equipment etc.

"We can't thank people enough for helping us get to this point... We never imagined in our wildest dreams that it would happen so soon..
"Thank you to everyone who has donated, organised or attended an event, sent messages of support, prayers or helped us with the appeal in any way. We really are grateful.

"We are awaiting the email within the next 3/4 weeks from Dr Park and the St. Louis team confirming Oliver's surgery date, which all being well will be in July.

"Thank you all once again for all the support that you have shown our wee star. None of this would have been possible without you all.

"We'll keep you all posted. 

"#oliversarmy #helpweeoliverwalk

"Charlene and Neil xx"

Pure class (as we say in Coleraine). 

Tuesday, 1 April 2014

April Fool?

Dear readers, I'm afraid I owe you an apology. 

This morning I announced here that Vanessa I were booked to appear on a brand new series of Mr & Mrs

With deep regret and a heavy heart, I must now advise you that this was not true.

My behaviour was unbecoming of someone with my peerless standing in the community and knowledge of the world (I've even been to Wales). 

It has also brought personal shame on me and reflected embarrassment on my blonde family, to whom I also say sorry.

In truth, I thought none of you would fall for my immature April Fools' Day prank.

It would, of course, be wrong of me to name names given the humiliation that this would heap on those involved. So I will.

I was especially surprised to see that Rachel Phillips of all people was first to fall for my shallow wheeze. Especially as it's a mere five years since her entire family circle believed me when I wrote that Jamie was lined up to be the next Milky Bar kid. Rachel was soon followed by Lesley Hunter, Jen Trohear, Layla Painter and Vicky Galbraith.  The parade of thrilled ladies just kept getting longer.

Enter the Humphreys family.  Gareth was the first man to go under (with Kris Brook closely on his tail). And Gareth's a very bad man.  This morning he told Mrs Humphreys - Maria to you and me - that there was a message for her to call Mr Lyons.  She did so.  A man from the Yorkshire Wildlife Park answered. He advised that no one by the name of Mr Lyons worked at the Yorkshire Wildlife Park. Although they do have lions. Shortly afterwards, Maria read my blog and took to Facebook to convey her excitement at our impending appearance on national television. (I should add that Maria has her own blog - Girlrepurposed - which I would strongly encourage you to read.  It's much better than this shite.)

So that's been my day.

Before I go, it would be remiss of me not to pass on warmest congratulations to my Celtic cousin Dylan Lloyd Parry on his good fortune at winning the National Lottery, which he revealed on Facebook. You couldn't make it up.


Mr & Mrs (White)

My birthday yesterday will be remembered for a number of reasons. But whilst the family stuff, presents and all-round kindness were terrific, one particular envelope stood out amongst all others.

No-one gets as many cards these days as they used to - or perhaps it's just me - but I was fortunate to find a few on our doormat. However, the envelope I'm talking about didn't have a card in it.  Instead, it contained a letter, the consequence of which both Vanessa and I are still trying to take in.

So, I'll get straight to the point. We're going on Mr & Mrs.      

It is a programme I grew up with and, as a youngster, declared that I would appear on.  But two obstacles stood in my way. The first was that I didn't have a wife.  This has since been rectified.  Then, when I was sorting that bit out, they went and cancelled the show.

Yes, whilst All Star Mr & Mrs continues to appear on our screens, the eagle-eyed amongst you may have noticed that the original version - featuring mere commoners such as us Whites - has long-since disappeared. In fact, the last show went out in 1999, six years before I crawled up the aisle (I knew popping into the hotel bar that morning was a bad idea).

But ITV has finally had a rethink and, this September, it will reappear for a six-week run.  If ratings are good, a longer series will probably be commissioned.

There has been next to no publicity about this.  Even the identity of the presenter or presenters is yet to be confirmed, although Phillip Schofield - who hosts the All Star show - is thought likely to do it.  But the pre-production stage is very much under way, part of which includes the recruitment of contestants.

Apparently there have been adverts in magazines somewhere, all of which passed me by.  But a friend of mine who works for ITV Yorkshire and who was aware of my long-held ambition to appear on the show tipped me off and sent me the forms in October last year.  We filled them in and, just after Christmas, we were called to Manchester for a screen test.  We weren't allowed to tell anyone then - otherwise I might have mentioned it (ahem) - and we heard nothing since.

Until yesterday morning, that is.  We've now been asked to return to Manchester for two days in July when all six episodes will be filmed back to back.  I still can't quite believe it but, sure, you only live once.

Now I'd better go and ask Vanessa all those questions I've been meaning to pose for years.  These include "what's your favourite colour, what's your middle name and what are you doing with me anyway?"