Thursday, 29 May 2014

It's time to play the jokers

I've been really poor at updating this rubbish in recent times, principally because I've been doing lots of stuff which would probably be of little interest to you. (Not that it's stopped me before, I appreciate).

However, an exception to this has been the work I've been doing on the Oliver Turkington Memorial Dinner. 

If you missed my original post, the event is being organised to mark 25 years since my old school - Coleraine "Inst" - became the first from Ireland to play rugby in Japan, and to celebrate the life of Oliver Turkington, our much-missed teammate who sadly died in 2007. 

British and Irish Lions legend Willie John McBride will be principal speaker at the gathering which will take place on Saturday 13 September at the school itself.  Proceeds will be divided equally between Cancer Research UK and rugby development at Coleraine Inst. 

Now, I'm about to issue a press release to tell the media what I'm about to tell you but, in a White Stuff exclusive (!) - get this.

I can announce first here that the event will be co-hosted by none other than Ireland's leading comedy duo, Grimes and McKee (pictured above).  And I am VERY excited about it!

Alan McKee is an Old Boy of the school and played for the 1st XV in the 1988 Ulster Schools' Cup Final. Which makes him kind of perfect for the gig in my book. And having seen Conor Grimes do his stuff with Alan both on stage and TV, he is the equally perfect foil for yer man on the night.

As you'll hopefully read online and in newspapers in the coming days, Alan was very gracious in accepting my invitation.

“Running out at Ravenhill on St Patrick’s Day to represent my school was one of the proudest moments of my life,” he said. 

“I was therefore honoured to be asked to play a part in this very special event and had no hesitation in saying yes.  Conor wasn’t allowed to have an opinion but, if he had one, he would have said yes too.

“Several members of the Japan tour squad were team mates of mine in 1988 and it will be terrific to see them again.  I know that a number of others from my year will also be making the effort to come along to support two great causes and remember Oliver, who will forever be held in very high regard by all who knew him.  I can guarantee a night to remember for everyone, including Conor if he doesn’t get lost on the way. Sadly, he’s not from Coleraine but secretly wishes he was. Probably.”

So, yes, I'm thrilled as another very important piece is added to what looks like being an incredibly fun jigsaw of an evening. 

Less fun, of course, is the fact that we will have to charge people. And in case you're wondering, I shall indeed be paying for my own ticket.

Which brings me to the all-important details which I promised to announce by the end of this month - and, amazingly, have hit the deadline.

Here goes. Tickets will go on sale at 9am tomorrow morning priced £45 and are available in person from the school office, by calling Diane Armstrong on Tel: 028 7034 4331 or emailing  

So no excuses, get booking before they all go. Because, trust me, they will. 

Thursday, 22 May 2014

He won't be happy

We're having a new toilet installed tomorrow morning.

In fact, here he is; all shiny white and clearly very happy. 

I've decided to call him Pharrell.

Meanwhile, at around lunchtime, Vanessa will reach the end of what I can only describe as an "iron woman" detox. It involves forcing specially made-up juice mixtures down you (well, down her) six times a day for three days. 

Nothing else can enter her body (shut up). And the end result will be a clear-out on Armageddon levels.

It seems that poor, smiley Pharrell is in for a one hell of a baptism.

Monday, 19 May 2014

Simon Andrews

I came home tonight with the intention of showing you pictures and telling you about my fun weekend, in the company of terrific people, at the North West 200.  But, within the last half hour, I've learnt that Saturday's racing has claimed the life of one of my favourite riders, Simon Andrews.

Only 31 years old and from Evesham in Worcestershire, he was involved in a horrific crash near Metropole corner in Portrush.  Racing was held up for some time whilst he was airlifted to hospital.  But, after initially being put on a life support machine, he was able to breathe on his own and the signs were good.  Sadly he lost his battle earlier today.

I've written about him here before. He had several dices with death in the past, but always came back.  More importantly, he was widely known as a very nice guy with time for everyone.  Above you can see him signing autographs in Coleraine town centre in Friday afternoon, just 24 hours before his accident.

He is a huge loss to his sport and to the many people who enjoyed seeing him race.

Wednesday, 14 May 2014

North West remains best

It's that time of year when tens of thousands of us head to the Causeway Coast to get the heads beaten off us in the wind, rain and North Atlantic foam whilst waiting desperately in hope of seeing an occasional mad bloke whizz past on a two-wheeled rocket ship.

Yes friends, it's time for The Vauxhall International North West 200 2014.

To be fair, the forecast this year is better than last year. Yes, we will almost certainly get pneumonia on Saturday. That's almost a given these days. But the weather for final practice tomorrow morning and the first three races tomorrow evening is much more positive. Someone told me it could be as warm as 8 degrees before the sun goes down but I suspect that statement was merely drink-fuelled wishful thinking.

As in previous years, my motorcycle mad stepdad Mike will be there. In fact, I'm meeting him and my dad for our very own preview show (starring only us) in my spiritual home, the Railway Arms, at precisely 1942 this evening. (Clare, could you stick one on for me? Thanks). 

And joining us tomorrow for the first time is Sandy from Edinburgh (latterly of London).

Here he is with another great man, Keith Lemon.

Sandy is a mechanic by trade and, when we met in tragic circumstances last summer, he pledged that we should get together for a cheerier time at the North West. He's proven to be as good as his word, which does not surprise me in the least.

As ever, you can follow all the live action over the coming days on the BBC Sport website. That is unless we are in a local hostelry, in which case you can't. And neither would I want you to.

However, before I go, I ask you to do me - and yourself - a favour.

As I say, the weather has been the Achilles heel of the North West 200 in recent years, not that it will thankfully ever stop people from coming. But it still can be frustrating.

At yesterday's opening practice session, eccentric Austrian racer Horst Saiger decided to lay his frustrations bare in a live BBC TV interview.

The excerpt I have for you isn't very long. Please watch it. And don't be drinking hot tea when you do.

Here's the link:

Monday, 12 May 2014

Dicks and Druetts

No, what you see above is not a scene from the set of Anchorman 3.  It's Yorkshire TV's Calendar on-screen team from the programme's 1980s golden era.

Amongst those in picture are current BBC News Special Correspondent Robert Hall (back row, left), legendary Countdown presenter Richard 'Twice Nightly' Whiteley (front centre - naturally) and the Big Dick himself, Richard Madeley (directly behind).

However, from our family's viewpoint, the main man is sitting on the left. It's Vanessa's dad Geoff Druett whose 70th birthday we gathered to celebrate yesterday afternoon.

The photo was one of many pulled together to form a decade by decade photographic record of his life in booklet form. Voila.

The entertainment was mighty fine, compliments of Otley Ukulele Orchestra (who were superb).

Prompting interpretive dancing from young...

...and a little older.

Grandson Jack delivered the speech of the day.

Before the cake was cut by the man of the moment.

It was a great privilege to be part of it.

Sunday, 11 May 2014

Party preparations

We're off to Vanessa's dad's 70th birthday party shortly, which should be something to behold.  More on this later although, given that there's a free bar, it may be tomorrow.

However, Geoff's grandkids will be the only children present which risks causing some minor inconvenience issues for Vanessa and myself.

We could try to keep ours entertained.  But that seems like a lot of effort when there's serious drinking to be done.  This leaves physical restraint as the much more attractive and, yes, lazier option for us.

I have checked and it appears the village hall we're going to does not have it's own dungeon.  This is as shocking as it is personally disappointing, particularly as our children have found this to be a pleasing form of captivity in the past.  

So once again, we'll have to pack Jamie's personal stocks.

Charlotte, meanwhile, will simply be chained to the nearest wall and fed buns.

The taxi's booked for noon.

Thursday, 8 May 2014

And for the next trick

Now that the guest list has been settled, I can now exclusively announce the headline (OK, only) act at Jamie's sixth birthday party next month.

Yes folks, it's the wizards' wizard himself.

It's Cosmo the Cosmic Magician.

Hailing from "a family of top children's entertainers in Leeds," Cosmo has been making things disappear - before then making them reappear so he can reuse them - since 1995.  (According to his website, he also has an up-to-date police check and public liability insurance, so it's all good).

Vanessa spoke to "Janey the Magical Assistant" earlier today, and the deal has been done.  She says she now knows what Glastonbury organiser Michael Eavis must feel like when he hooks a big one.

As for any parents reading this, I can also reveal that the bar at Aireborough Rugby Club - where the party is taking place - will be open during the show.  And I for one intend to find out how much Foster's I can make vanish into thin air until it closes.

Wednesday, 7 May 2014

Choc doc

"I was kicked in the cosy corner!"

These were not the words I expected to greet me as I walked through the door this evening.

They came from Charlotte, from whom I sought urgent clarification.

"XXXXXX XXXXX kicked me in the cosy corner at nursery!" (The name has been omitted to protect the almost certainly innocent.)

Not being a  lady, I have no idea what it's like to be kicked in the cosy corner. But I do know that ladies like chocolate. So I gave Charlotte some.

And surprise, surprise - the smile was soon back on her face.

I suspect any male doctor would have prescribed the same medicine.

Monday, 5 May 2014

Calamity Charlotte

Watched by Gary, Robbie, Howard, Jason and Mark, I cut the grass earlier today. 

Actually, Jamie was watching too. It wouldn't be like him to put himself out too much unless absolutely necessary.

Charlotte, meanwhile, was more than willing to lend a hand.

But look closely at her and, in particular, the blue object poking out of her dress. 

Yes, it's a toy gun.

Charlotte never plays with toy guns and certainly has never been seen with one stashed away on her person.

The only conceivable explanation is that she's seen a lot of Gerry Adams on the TV news in recent days and he's got through to her subliminally. 

So it's Sky News off, CBeebies back on until her mind returns to normal. 

Needless to say her weapon has now been decommissioned. 

Sunday, 4 May 2014

If your name's not down, go away

The selection panel has just met to finalise the guest list for Jamie's birthday party next month.

Invitations will go out shortly.

If your name has been omitted, it's entirely deliberate. 

Thursday, 1 May 2014

Not three bad

They say bad things come in threes, and the evidence is that "they" are right.  Bros, Bananarama and Five Star after two of them left in a huff (see above) are but 80s musical examples of this sad reality.

As it happens, three irritating developments in the breakdown category have plagued me this week. First, our boiler has gone wonky leaving with us with temperamental hot water. Second, I detonated our fuse box and Vanessa had to get a real man in. And third, our not-very-old kitchen telly appears to be on the way out, leaving me with few remaining options but to hit it with a big hammer - before chucking it in the bin.  

However, my expletive-laden frustrations have been tempered greatly by the fact that interest in and enthusiasm for the Oliver Turkington Memorial Dinner is now beginning to motor.

If you haven't read my original post, Oliver was a teammate of mine and 19 other lucky souls when we made up the Coleraine Inst 1st XV rugby tour squad to Japan precisely a quarter of a century ago this year.  Very sadly, Oliver lost his long-running disagreement with cancer in 2007. So, we're all getting back together on Saturday 13 September at the school itself for dinner, some reminiscing, an occasional tear and a lengthening list of entertaining features including an address from Lions colossus Willie John McBride. And crucially, you're all very welcome - for the price of a ticket, obviously. Details of how to get your mitts on one (or ideally more than one) of these will be announced later this month.

I've set up an event page on Facebook which is open to all to view and contribute to.  So please do.  The local papers back in Coleraine have been very helpful in helping us to promote what we're doing.  The numbers of people from outside Northern Ireland who have already booked their flights is growing.  And I have some exciting news about hosting arrangements for the event, but I can't tell you about these yet (yes, I know you'll not sleep but life can be cruel).

Anyway, I hope you're OK and the good is outweighing the bad in your world.  Onwards to the Bank Holiday weekend.