Saturday, 30 August 2014

Holidays over - and already in need of another

Only me, and apologies if you spotted that I haven't updated this guff for a while.

We returned on Thursday from our little hop across the Irish Sea after a predictably fun but also incredibly busy six days.

The kids - wonderfully marshalled by big cousin Katie - kept out of trouble and in the sun.

Apart from when they went indoors.

Then back outdoors (when it wasn't sunny).

Before seeking shelter once again.

I suggest there are worst places to go to visit in-laws.

Meanwhile, there was time for the grown-ups to have some fun too.

Well, I mean, we were there anyway.  And, of course, it was especially nice to catch-up with Mr & Mrs F after our recent dalliance in Tenerife.

It also gave my old Japan tour teammate Sean and me an opportunity to compare notes on final preparations for the Oliver Turkington Memorial Dinner which is now a mere two weeks away.

It would not be an exaggeration to say that the event, around 18 months in the planning, has taken over my life in recent times.  But I suspect it will prove to be worth the effort.  Some tickets remain available from the school office at Coleraine Inst or by calling the madster who is Diane Armstrong on Tel: 028 7034 4331.

And there's also the Great North Run, next Sunday (7th). I kept my word and completed a 12-mile shuffle along the North Coast last weekend - and have felt the effects ever since.  Six miles are planned for tomorrow morning and a handful more on Tuesday or Wednesday, and that will be that for the training.   Whatever energy I have left will be used for fundraising which, thanks to the generosity of a growing number of kindly souls, has taken my "running total" (boom boom) to almost two thirds of the self-set target amount.  Feel free to click on HERE if you'd like to help me inch a little closer.  

Which brings me on to the biggest news of all - which I can't tell you about yet.

I'm not a natural risk-taker if truth be told.  But, after seemingly endless consideration, I've finally decided to do something which even I concede is bold and, one way or the other, life-changing.

I invite you to wander back here on Monday to decide for yourself.  

Friday, 22 August 2014

Cash for insults

There are a number of events each and every summertime that negate the need to look at the calendar to remind you what season we're in. 

Wimbledon, for example.  Glastonbury.  Recreational rioting.  Exam results.  The imminent X Factor auditions.  And the White family extended excursion to the Causeway Coast.  

The latter begins tomorrow and I cannot wait.  Well, I say that, but there's one bit I'm absolutely dreading.  

It's exactly a fortnight on Sunday until the Great North Run meaning that, this Sunday morning, I'll be forced to head out for my last but furthest "long run."  We're talking something between 11 and 12 miles.  So quite a bit then.

I ran 10 miles last Sunday. It was incredibly painful at the time, and I've genuinely been hurting all week.  In fact, a two-and-a-bit mile hobble last night was as much as I've been able to do since.

However, as soon as dawn's crack presents itself on Sunday coming, I'll have to be up and at it.

The good news is that many kindly folk continue to be very generous in donating to my fundraising pot for Leukaemia & Lymphoma Research. 

So much so that, last night, I passed through the halfway mark in my quest to raise £1,000 in memory of David McClarty and Mags Maciver, so we're well on track.  But I'll only get there if more nice people come forward to support me.

Returning to Sunday morning, my plan is to run from my mum's in Portstewart, along the Prom, out the Coast Road to Portrush and then to the Whites Rocks before heading back.  And I'll be wearing my chosen charity's garish yellow tee shirt.

Ah yes, the very one. 

Together with these running shoes.

Ah yes, the very two.

So you won't fail to spot me.

And I'll level with you.  Whilst I might say I intend to be up and away early, I also plan to spend at least part of tomorrow afternoon in my beloved Railway Arms (have you voted for Clare yet?) before heading out elsewhere later.  In other words, come Sunday morning, I'll probably be in need of a lie in - and most likely won't be up and at it early at all. 

If you are cruising along the North Coast and see me crawl into view, feel free to wind down your window and hurl abuse. I'll take it as a form of encouragement.  But the deal is that you then have to give me some cash when you get home via this link.

I can't say fairer than that.  And you can say whatever you think appropriate.  The shorter words, the more you pay.

Now then, time to pack.

Tuesday, 19 August 2014

Vote for Clare. Then get someone else to vote for Clare.

Ladies and gentlemen, I need your help.  Or rather, the proud patrons of the Railway Arms, Coleraine do.

Above is a picture of Clare Johnston, landlady of said premises licensed to sell intoxicating liquor.  She is also unofficially the Best Bar Person in Northern Ireland.  Our job is to ensure that what is presently unofficial becomes official.    

Clare deserves the crown for a number of very good reasons.

Firstly, the Railways Arms is also unofficially the Best Bar in Northern Ireland (another anomaly we must seek to correct, but more on that in the coming weeks).  And the fact that Clare runs it is very directly related.

There is never any trouble.

The welcome offered to visitors from all parts by the regulars is second to none.  (I could tell stories).

The beer - particularly the Guinness - is without equal anywhere.

And the support offered to local charities and community groups is nothing short of remarkable.  It's not just a matter of putting on events and shaking collecting tins at others.  Hell no.  Clare, fond of a pint of the black stuff herself, fronts up.  For example, this year Clare abstained from alcohol for six months to raise money for The Boom Foundation, a charity set up in memory of Philip Wilson who lost his battle with sarcoma.  Now, I'm not sure I could give up alcohol for six months.  But to be in the Railways Arms every day and still avoid it, for me, would literally be impossible.

Here is Clare celebrating her achievement with partner Susan back in June.

It really is her, I promise.

So, if you've been to the Railway Arms, intend to visit the Railway Arms or simply want to make sure that the crown of Northern Ireland Bar Person of the Year 2014 goes to its rightful recipient, then you must let the organisers know.

And this can be done by sending a short email to telling them why you think Clare must win.  Feel free to repeat any or all of the above.  Or, if you want more reasons to include in your submission, email me at and I will happily provide them.  

Barry White Snr doesn't do emails, but this campaign has his full approval and I'll ask him to write a letter.

Monday, 18 August 2014

Spot the deliberate error

With less than four weeks to go now until the Oliver Turkington Memorial Dinner, a committed little gaggle continues to work away to put on an event worthy of the name we have given it.

And the Belfast Telegraph came through for us today with an excellent feature by Steph Bell which will hopefully lead to people queuing up in big numbers to buy their tickets before it's too late. Follow the link HERE if you want to have a read.

I was asked to send through a load of pics to go with the piece, including one of us Whites.  

Jamie and Charlotte are very pleased with the result.  

And "Valerie"?  Not so much.

Wednesday, 13 August 2014

Wombles & Co

Cleaning is an ancient, honest and very necessary profession - if not always glamorous.  But it can be, and I speak from experience. 

I remain immensely proud of my six summers serving as a Womble with Coleraine Borough Council.  From 1989 - as a 16-year-old schoolboy - until 1994 - as a postgraduate - I did my share of cleaning up after local residents and chip-paper-throwing Belfast tourists.  

Not every day was memorable for a good reason.  Strapping a chemical pack to my back and mask over my mouth before spraying flies on Macosquin dump was one particular low.  So too was the Friday afternoon spent trying to fish a decaying sheep out of a stream in Garvagh and load it onto a truck without its innards exploding over me and fellow Womble Warriors. 

But, yes, it could be glamorous in its own way.  No one can tell me that poncing about on the West Strand beach in Portrush in shorts at the height of summer (picking up used nappies, I grant you) isn't that far away from being a dream occupation.  And my final assignment as a senior member of the Womble Special Operations Division (Bog Squad) even provided the opportunity to work with girlies. 

But even these glitzy memories can't compete with the experiences of the cleaner I encountered in Loro Parque, Tenerife last week.  And here he is.

Now that is glamorous.  And, if pressed, I might even feel compelled to concede that his cleaning skills would surpass even mine. 

Plus, I suspect I would have made the tank even messier the moment that stingray came towards me with its big poker out.

Anyway, that's the holiday stories done with.

And this will be the final picture.

For now. 

Tuesday, 12 August 2014

Daddies' dancing competition

It's Tuesday, the holiday remains over (just checked) and I'm seeking reasons to be cheerful.

Thankfully I have one.

This is the first Tuesday in three that I won't be forced on stage to take part in the daddies' dancing competition in what was our Tenerife hotel.

In week one, I was poor.

In week two, I was, well, you can make your own mind up.

We're trying to follow the moves of the fun lovin' criminal wearing the crown.  Natch.

And if you can't spot which one is me, then that's your gain.

There is only so much a daddy can give, and I gave my all.  But it was not enough.  Such a shame.  The winner's orange tee shirt would have gone ever so well with my too short shorts.

Monday, 11 August 2014

Flipper Duo

Right, so we're now back in Guiseley and obviously absolutely thrilled about it.  Over the moon.  Never better.  (Boo hoo).

So let's briefly reflect back to last Friday when, somewhat by chance rather than design, we ended up on the Flipper Uno pirate ship.  This involved three hours of searching for dolphins (there were loads, against my expectations), swimming in the sea and hanging out with pirates.

Whilst I decided to dress for the task.

Vanessa chose to drink to it.

Which leads me on to the swimming element.  I don't have any pictures of us swimming off the boat.

The reasons for this are twofold:

  1. My camera can't swim, and
  2. You would see us in our skimpies and Vanessa would hit me with an object of high density.
But the key point is that all four of us did it at the same time - Jamie and Charlotte wearing "shark-proof" armbands (that's what I told them anyway).  

And when they arrived back on board following their act of collective heroism, we told them how brave we thought they'd been.   This prompted Jamie to demand a certificate of proof.  Charlotte immediately followed suit.  Vanessa put a word in when we got back to our hotel.  And this little piece of video shows you the result.

I'm all for statements of humility.  But I can't help but think that this wasn't the best time.         

Saturday, 9 August 2014

Thieving Herr

Just one night left of our holiday, and I think that's just about timely.

I went back to our sunbeds earlier to find that some German (almost inevitably) had made off with our parasol; the very same parasol that I had to rise at 6.20 this morning to secure.  I shall resist any references to Great Wars but feel free to use your imagination. 

This act of theft comes in the wake of last night's entertainment featuring Fat Federico Mercury from Venezuela as the pretend lead singer of Queen.  Champions they were not.

This was very much down a step from the previous evening's turn when we had Fat Pablo McCartney from Espana fronting the pretend Beatles with Thin Juan Lennon from Argentina.  They were genuinely really good.

Tonight we have a drag act, which I have my doubts about at best.

Plus, Jamie is still complaining about having black sand up his bum after a visit to the beach earlier.  So it really is time to go. 

To be fair, we have had a great last few days including trips which we - and, more importantly, the kids - will long remember.  Plus, both Jamie and Charlotte were awarded bravery certificates last night, which was quite a laugh.  I have some video footage which I'll share with you next week if you're interested. 

Until then, it's adios from Tenerife.  And time for one last assault on the self-service beer machines.  Unless I bump into a smug German walking about with our parasol. 

Thursday, 7 August 2014

A month till the mayhem

It's exactly one month today until the Great North Run, which I fully expect to be my last.

Training this time has been much tougher than before, principally because the years are catching up with me (together with many over-sized fellow competitors).

The abdominal injury I picked up preparing for last year's race has never fully healed and gets very painful as soon as I run any sort of distance.

It has been joined by two new friends, Mr Sore-Groin and Mr Calf-Strain.  No-one likes uninvited guests and these two have bunked up and refused to leave my temple.  Still, the show must continue.

This includes out here in Tenerife where our holiday is now drawing to an end.  It's been much too hot for a pink-faced Coleraine man to be running outside, so I've taken to the hotel gym and endured the tuts of other guests as I go over the 20-minute treadmill limit.  How very dare me. 

As many of you may know, my somewhat ragged effort has been launched to raise money in memory of Mags Maciver, who died last year from leukaemia, and David McClarty who we lost to lymphoma on Good Friday.  Logically enough, my nominated charity is Leukaemia & Lymphoma Research.  

For the record, I obtained the place through the public ballot, paid the entrance fee myself and have set my own target amount.  Every penny you may choose to donate will go straight to the charity, not pay for me to have a day out or new trainers.

Please give if you can by clicking onto:


Wednesday, 6 August 2014

Robbed again

Last night I failed to reach the final of the daddies' dancing competition for the second successive Tuesday.  This despite the compere recognising me from my previous effort and insisting that I cut my shapes from the front of the stage. You can interpret that any way you will. 

I can't say I'm not disappointed, even a little crushed.  But I'm nothing if not resilient and this holiday must go on.  Plus I have video evidence which I'll share with you when we get back and you can tell me how great I was.  

If the judges' failure to recognise my dance floor talents was the lowlight of last night's proceedings, their were two clear highlights.

The first was when Vanessa stood up during the children's TV quiz show game - the method by which to indicate you knew a correct answer - only to then advise the packed audience by roving microphone that she was on her way to the toilet.

The second was Jamie and Charlotte having their picture taken with London Mayor Boris Johnson.

Yes, Muppets everywhere you look.

Tuesday, 5 August 2014

Beer aid

In the wake of my criticisms of foreign types in my last post (don't even get me started on Spanish flies), I return to the now diminished smattering of Northern Ireland residents in our gaff. And to those self-service beer machines.

There is only one gripe about the self-service beer machines, and it is merely a complaint by association.  But still.  It is that the glasses they leave out alongside the machines - to be self-served into - are a touch on the snug side.  

In some locations the "beer glasses" are essentially wine glasses, meaning you get about a third of a pint in there at best.  But in others, they are simply disposable plastic cups - just like this one modelled by Jamie. 

In other words, not much good to an Ulsterman.  I mean, we're talking a quarter of a pint here.  Total waste of time.

This disappointing state of affairs was quickly picked up on by my old mate and fellow Ulsterman Sean when he and Melanie stayed the other night.  So we improvised by getting several in at a time. But this is clearly a labour-intensive solution at best. 

We then met another Ulsterman at the beer machine who seemed to be taking longer filling up than anyone else.

I had noticed him on our bus from the airport when we arrived.  He's a ginger gentlemen and, when I saw him again earlier today, his tan was as I'd feared.  It was what I would describe as "neopolitan ice cream without the chocolate" i.e. white to pink and back to pink without a hint of brown in there.  (I do have a photo of him but, given how small Northern Ireland is, it's likely that someone I know will have slept with him, his sister or his mother.  So you're not seeing it).

Anyway, back to him at the beer machine.  When he finally finished filling up, he turned to walk away - with a pint glass in his hand.  (It might even have been one in each hand, but it was getting late.  And it was dark.  And you know what I'm saying).

At this point, Sean and I felt naturally obligated to get into a brief conversation with our hero to convey our mutual respect and admiration for his tactical approach.  And to ask where he acquired his pint pots.

"Jasus boys, I've been on these holidays afore and have seen the size of the glesses they give you," he explained.  "Balls to that.  So I brought five or six of these big wans with me in me beg.  Sure, I'll throw you round a couple the morra if ye'd lick."  

These was a indeed kindly offer from an outstanding fellow countryman, I'm sure you will agree.  Although, for the record, he's yet to deliver on his pledge in the almost 72 hours which have elapsed since then.  But that's by the by.  They are his glesses.

No, he thought ahead, he came here with a plan and he is a man who will never go thirsty.  Ever. 

Makes you proud, so it does boy.

Five bad shirts, hanging in the wardrobe..

Just five nights left now and doesn't my wardrobe look divergent?  OK, don't answer that.

We have had and are having a great time.  Most importantly, the kids are "larging it up" (that's "language of the street," if you know what I'm saying) and hopefully will leave with memories to last them until October at least.  But, come Sunday, I do think we (her and me certainly) will be ready to return to Blighty.  

First, I for one am getting bored with Johnny Foreigner.  We have a saying in Coleraine about anti-social types: "He wouldn't even speak to ye, the b*stard."  Well, there are a lot of such types in our hotel. The Brits are in the minority here, and you can tell.  My "alright, how are you doing?" (which doesn't always gain great traction in Yorkshire, if truth be told) goes even less distance here when directed at Pablo, Luigi, Jerzy, Klaus, Ruud and their compratiots.  A look of confusion would do - again, common in Guiseley - but a blank stare leaves me cold.

There is also the "towel on the sunbed" issue.  Many better people than me have written about this blight with much greater authority and skill than I ever could.  But it does my effing head in.  Do you know how early I got up on Saturday morning to ensure that Sean and Melanie plus Vanessa and I had sunbeds?  2.30am.  There was just me and the crickets making noise - and half of the beds had gone even then.  I rose at the more civil hour of 4.20am on Sunday to get two more.  And when I went to check them on the way to breakfast, I found that some **** had moved them three down to make way for his/hers. 

Yesterday, my built-up frustrations were unleashed.  We were at Siam Water Park.  Vanessa was watching Charlotte in one play area.  I was keeping an eye on Jamie in another a little further along.  Incredibly, a deck chair became available.  I could hardly believe it.  There were 100 deck chairs in that part of the park.  20 people on them.  And 80 towels.  GRRRR!  

Then, even more incredibly, the chair next to me was freed up. STOP THE PRESS!  So Vanessa ran back and grabbed that too, Charlotte fully in sight.

We sat for five whole minutes until I elected to nip over to Jamie, a whole 10 metres away, to advise that we'd have to leave shortly to catch our bus.  I returned, no more than 30 seconds later, to find a towel on my chair - which Vanessa hadn't noticed.  A quick bit of detective work told me that what we had was a mother and daughter sitting beside Vanessa.  And a father sitting directly behind - now with an eye on her chair.  A few minutes later, Vanessa rose to leave with me and the mini-Whites.  The father got up to claim his prize.  But he was left disappointed.  Because I took the chair with me with a snarl and dropped it off with another desperate patron at the other end of the row.  Germany 0 Northern Ireland 1. 

Leaving you on a "positive" (as a modern-day sportsperson might say), there appears to a Dutch lady in our hotel who answers to the name of Minge.  Yes, despite it's occasional frustrations, travel does certainly broaden the mind.

Sunday, 3 August 2014

They came, they saw, they left (me with a hangover)

Yes, our old mates and part-time Tenerife residents Sean and Melanie were as good as their word and arrived here on Friday to spend the night in the apartment next to us.  We'll see them next precisely three weeks today for an evening on Portstewart Prom.

Giving Melanie dog's abuse is one of my favourite past times.  But I love her really and she was magnicently entertaining.

So too was Mr F, particularly when doing "the bum thing" with Jamie.  However, before he becomes the latest high profile figure to come under investigation by Scotland Yard, perhaps I'd better explain. 

"The bum thing" involves Sean getting under water in the pool, grabbing Jamie by the hips and hurling him as high into the air as he can.  And that is quite high. And then do it again.  And again.  And, well, you get the idea.   It is legal, has full parental consent and Sean asked me to make that clear.

After almost three hours in the pool, some liquid refreshment and dinner, it was time to watch a parrot riding a bicycle.  This was a first for me, but not for Sean who met yet another Portstewart person in the main hotel bar and missed the bird's special moment. (The parrot's, not Melanie's.  Hopefully she had one later).  I suspect he'll never get over his disappointment. 

I also fear I'll never get over my hangover which has now been raging for a day and a half.  But it's been worth it.

Later, bunnies.

Friday, 1 August 2014

Spinning and stuff

Greetings once again from Tenerife, the land of Pope cigarettes.

Other than a couple of minor frustrations caused by incompetent/can't be arsed reps, all is well.  (My mother reads this so best to set her mind at rest).

Aside from a failed attempt to beat the world wine-drinking record, my personal highlight of yesterday was attending a ladies' spin class.  Yes, just me and four other big girls.  Oh, and Alex, our Lycra-clad instructor.

I'd only previous spun (probably not the right term) just the once.  It was a charity event, I was dressed as Robin with Wee John in full Batman attire.  It hurt a lot.  And yesterday, coincidentally, it hurt a lot.  
To be fair, all present seemed to be enjoying an equal level of pain - including Alex.  Maybe it was only his second time too. 

I was particularly pleased to see the lady who proudly claimed to attend three spinning classes per week in some difficulty.  She wasn't a smiler.  

But, despite losing half my body weight in sweat - a real positive, in my book - I got through it.   Indeed, I might even sign up to a class when I get back home as I suspect my running days are almost over.   
Looking ahead to what's left of today and continuing the Portstewart theme, we are expecting some visitors to join us.   Yes, my old Japan tour team mate Sean and his domineering wife Melanie have booked the apartment next door to us for the evening.  Really.

Mr and Mrs Potatohead own their own place over here - which they very kindly let us stay in some years ago - and are popping over for 24 hours.  The chat will be racy and the drink shall flow.  I suspect Sean will also be very busy as Melanie is famously lazy.  A sanitised report and pictures of Melanie being lazy will follow.

In the meantime, here's a photo of Charlotte giving Whatsit the Widget a high five.