Thursday, 30 October 2014

When there were three

Charlotte had a friend come to visit the other day and was showing her around our house.  

They arrived at this photo on display in our hall.

It features Vanessa, me and a chubby Jamie who was then just a few months old.  

The fact that Charlotte doesn't appear has irked her for some time.  And, with her pal standing alongside her, Miss White offered an explanation.

"I'm not in that picture," she said, "because I was dead."  

 It never gets any easier.

Tuesday, 28 October 2014

Poundland London

Good evening from that London where I'm down doing stuff.

They say our nation's capital is a place of great diversity, which it most certainly is.  And this includes on pricing.

Despite suggestions to the contrary, it is possible to get a bargain here - although not always straight away.

To illustrate, earlier I arranged to meet a friend but was early.  So I bought a pint of weak lager to pass the time.


Not a great start then.

Later, I passed through Victoria Station and felt the need to bequeath my pint back to London.  So I nipped into the pay-as-you-wee facility.


Probably par for the course these days, although I stand to be corrected.

But I ended on a high.  On the way back to my crap hotel, I fancied a bit of choccy to compliment my tea bag and bath water.

So I visited Sainsbury's Local. 

136g of Terry's Chocolate Orange Minis?


And you really can't be bad to that.

If only they came by the pint.

Sunday, 26 October 2014

Capital confusion

With half-term on the horizon, it was International Week at Guiseley Infants with Jamie going all Italiano.

In previous years, he was a member of the United Arab Emirates and Spanish delegations respectively.  

This year, other nations represented included Germany...


...and Ireland.

Ah yes. Ireland.

I had a close look at the Irish exhibition. 

Some "facts about Ireland" I already knew. These included leprechauns being "Irish fairies." I'm on first name terms with all of them. 

However, another "fact" startled me somewhat.  Stated by several classmates, it was that both Dublin and Belfast are "Ireland's capital city."


Methinks Guiseley Infants should consider having a Northern Ireland stall next year.  And if they choose not to, I'll set up my own in the playground. 

You never know who might turn up.

Thursday, 23 October 2014

Handover and out

A special moment for everyone involved yesterday afternoon, when the cash raised as a happy consequence of last month's Oliver Turkington Memorial Dinner was handed over to good causes. 

On the left, Paul McBride - CAI 1st XV skipper in Japan 25 years ago - presents a cheque for £6,923 to Mark McMahon of Cancer Research UK.  

And on the right, CAI 1st XV Head Coach Richard Beggs - himself a player on the groundbreaking 1989 tour - dispenses an identical amount for rugby development at the school to Coleraine Inst Headmaster Dr David Carruthers.

A quick bit of mental arithmetic will tell you that a grand total of £13,846 was therefore the product of our collective endeavours, which isn't bad for a night's work. 

And that, my friends, is closure. 

Wednesday, 22 October 2014

It's OK to jump and pump

On Sunday I told you about the Baildon Mini-Rugby Festival including Jamie's first competitive try, which I was pleased to celebrate in some style.

Well, Aireborough Lions have since received an email from a very nice gentleman from New Zealand called Hamish Pratt.  It reads as follows:

"I am the Rugby Development Officer for West Yorkshire and am writing more as a parent/supporter of rugby.

On Sunday my son Jacob (Keighley Under 7’s) played at Baildon Festival and I watched him play your team (names on jerseys, great idea!) in a 4 a side match.

The rugby was great, but what was even better was your coaches & parents support. I have never seen a coach celebrate a try from one of your players in all my years, the crowd was going crazy and the 'fist pump' from the coach on the goal line was one of the best things I have seen in many years, as he celebrated I believe, a player that seemed new to our game.

Please take back to your Under 7’s what a great model of support you have in place and a real 'team effort' on show.

Great stuff.


I was that fist-pumping coach tasked with standing on the Aireborough goal line so our boys knew which direction to run in.

And my back is still killing me.

Sunday, 19 October 2014

A Festival of Fun

Well that it was fun.

The last time I attended a mini-rugby festival was in 1982, proudly wearing the colours of Macosquin Primary School.

We hadn't done a lot of training and we didn't do very well.  But I met some boys that day who, whilst opponents back then, became team mates when we all moved to "big school" the following year and, more than three decades later, we remain close friends.

That is why I want Jamie to play rugby, you see.

He doesn't have to be good.  He just has to try his best, play the game in the correct spirit and savour the camaraderie which remains the core principle of the sport.

That said, his first score of the morning - against Keighley - did make me jump a little higher in the air than is really sensible at my age.

Aireborough Lions were the only club to enter two teams in the Under 7s section.  And each four-man team was chosen from two separate squads of eight players - meaning lots of substitutions so everyone got their chance.  

The highlight of the event for our contingent was therefore when "Aireborough X" and "Aireborough Y" met in the last game.

Jamie's team - the "Ys" - wore bibs to avoid confusion.

And they won 9-7, with Jamie bagging two.

Yes, whilst winning is not the most important thing - it's certainly very welcome.

LATE PIC: (Courtesy of Louise Rix)

Saturday, 18 October 2014

The Mancunian Way

I really like Manchester, just one of many reasons why I look forward to the White family's annual trip over the Pennines to stay with the Cottons.

I met Jane and Vanessa on the self-same night in 1997.  In a bar, as it happens.  Both remain fond of a snifter.

And yes, last Saturday proved to be another fine evening.

Eventually morning came.  And another treat lay in store, this time for Jamie.

At the kind invitation of Cotton kids Charlie and Mimi, Jamie went to Heaton Moor Rugby Club for a training session with the local Under 7s.

He loved every moment.

But my personal highlight was the fashionably late arrival of Coach Nigel, (in blue carrying black coffee).  He'd been out the night before.

Yes folks, this is what all rugby coaches in Manchester look like.


I really do like Manchester. 

Thursday, 16 October 2014

Taking care and business

It's been quite a day.

Indeed, so much so that, when presented with an emergency cord, I felt inclined to pull it - but held myself back.

Nice gown, though, I'm sure you'll agree.  (I was having a chest X-ray and, surprisingly, they managed to find one).  

But I digress.  

Yes, today the VANBAR associates website finally saw the light of day (as did I, having left the pub just a few minutes ago).

Thank you to all of you nice people who have already had a look and responded kindly on Facebook.  Much appreciated.  If you haven't yet seen it and can be arsed at this time of night, is the address you're after or click on THIS LINK.

Also, thanks to those equally kindly folk who have followed us on Twitter via @tweetvanbar  We'll obviously follow you back.

And finally, back to the pub (I wish).  

I was there to meet my pal Dylan who, as I mentioned last week, designed our logo.  It was only fair to buy him a pint.  

And not only that.  Hell no.

I was also able to formally present him with the first ever, delivered-only-this-morning VANBAR associates business card. 

And here it/he is.

VANBAR associates wallpaper is already on its way.  Quite possibly. 

Wednesday, 15 October 2014

Arthur's fouler

Good evening campers, I hope I find you well.  And, not for the first time, let me apologise for my brief period of absence from, er, here.

In truth, I've hardly left my seat.  Literally.

I used to quite like working from home, if only because I tend to get a lot done.  But then it's quite nice to go somewhere else afterwards.

However, over the past seven days, I've been stuck to my laptop in my quest to build the VANBAR associates website.  And when I say "stuck," I kind of mean it.  Washing has not been a huge priority as I've sought to hit my self-imposed deadline of having the website as-near-as-dammit ready for public view by first thing tomorrow morning.

And I can't say I wasn't warned about the dangers of getting grimy.

A couple of weeks ago I had a pint with my mate Gareth, who has also just made the momentous decision to go self-employed.   In a previous life Gareth used to work at home a lot too.  And his experiences led him to offer me a kindly caution.

"Have a shower and get shaved before you sit down to do any work," he said.  "Otherwise you'll end up like Arthur Fowler."  EastEnders fans - I was one of their number back in Arthur's day - will know exactly what Gareth meant.

Sadly, over the past week, I occasionally neglected to heed his sage guidance and ended up both whiffy and feeling on the precipice of madness.

But I'm still just about there now and in a few hours' time the long trek towards global corporate domination gets under way for real as our website, blog, Twitter account and Facebook page all go live.

Needless to say I'll be putting full details up here and will be very keen to know what you think.   I promise I'll be nice and clean by then.

Thursday, 9 October 2014

The face of a criminal

"I was in a police van!"

These were the words which greeted me as I walked through our back door this evening.

They came from the lips of the mouth you can see above.

I'd like to say I was surprised, but sadly I wasn't.  Consistent with the DNA of a trainee woman, Charlotte has recently been showing increasing signs of madness, irrationality, unreasonableness, stubbornness and a desire to bully men (i.e. me).  So much so that, for some time, I've felt that a visit from Mr Plod followed by a long period of imprisonment in a lady jail were becoming inevitable.

But no.

It turned out that a Police Community Support Officer had merely popped into her nursery to talk about the dangers of crossing the road.  And whilst there, he'd let Charlotte sit in the front seat of his van.

A lucky escape for Miss White, I say, albeit a short-term one.  A real policeman is bound to be along soon.      

Wednesday, 8 October 2014

Eager Beaver

Jamie followed in the footsteps of his Great Granddad Jack this evening when he was formally invested into the World Scout Movement at the rank of Beaver.

Jack - my grandfather - was a long-serving Scout Leader back in Coleraine and would have been very proud.  (I only made it into the Church Lads Brigade back in the 1970s which, somewhat surprisingly given its name and the era, wasn't a paramilitary organisation).

A real bonus of Jamie's investiture ceremony, which he went through jointly with his cousin Oliver, was the physical similarly between Scout Leader Steve and HRH The Duke of Kent.

Yes, with that and the central role played by the Union flag, it felt like a right Royal occasion.

And afterwards big cousin Jack - who has already reached the lofty heights of Chief Scout - posed for a pic too.

A big night then.  Let's hope Jamie now keeps his solemn promise to Do His Best (or I'll be telling The Duke).  

Tuesday, 7 October 2014

White Stuff meets Kiddiecal

I love people with a bit of get-up-and-go about them.  Who doesn't?  And I never tire of encountering a new one.

Enter Anna Macauley from Portstewart and the brains (and all else besides) of Kiddiecal, a gem of an idea in website form which she runs from her kitchen.

A loving mum, Anna became a tad frustrated at missing registration dates for swimming lessons for her son.  So, as is the wont of get-up-and-go folk, she decided to do something about it.

Anna took it upon herself to "gather, beg and forage" for all the useful information she could lay her mitts on concerning activities for local children living on or near the North Coast of Northern Ireland,  before sharing what she'd learnt on Kiddiecal.

In its relatively short existence, the website has swiftly become a treasure trove of nuggets for parents, guardians and grandparents in Coleraine, Portrush and Portstewart - to the benefit of countless numbers of local children.

Anna has also included a blog on the site.  And, unsurprisingly, it is excellent.  So much so that that, as a means of highlighting how much more useful her musings are in comparison to, for example, the sh*te I write (hey, that rhymes), she kindly invited me to provide a few words as a guest contributor.  You never say no to a Portstewart woman, so I immediately agreed.

You can read my waffle by clicking onto THIS LINK.

And when you've finished, please have a look around the rest of the site.  Prepare to be impressed (and envious if you're a parent not living within sight of the North Atlantic). 

Ice Queen

Don't know about you, but I was cold in bed last night.

So much so that, this morning - after a quick 10 minutes in the microwave set to defrost - I declared that it was time for the winter duvet. 

I didn't regard this as a particularly controversial comment, (an icicle falling from my nose onto my shivering feet as I forced the words out through chattering teeth).

But Vanessa saw things differently.

"We can't put the winter duvet on yet!" she spat (her spit freezing in mid-air before bouncing off the kitchen window)

"Why not?" I replied, genuinely baffled.

"Because if we put it on now, we'll not feel the benefit in January."

Seriously, sometimes I wonder what that woman sprinkles on her porridge. 

If I have many more nights like last night I suspect I'll not be here in January.  Plus, they say snow is already on its way (well, Chris Evans said and he knows people).

So tonight I'm climbing up that drop-down ladder, I'm going into that loft and I shall re-emerge clutching our winter duvet. And then I'm sleeping under it.

Vanessa Frost can snuggle down under a cigarette paper for all I care, because I'm not sharing.

Monday, 6 October 2014

Livin' la Vida Logo

Well, what do you think?

Any new business worth its salt obviously needs a logo.  And thanks to Welsh wizard Dylan, Vanbar Associates now has one of its own.

The V and B are easy to spot.  And the links represent our "associates," whose identities we'll be announcing in the months to come.

Next week will see the launch of our website, blog, Facebook page and Twitter account.

Sure, life would be a dull if you didn't try something a little different.

Stay tuned dear friends.

Sunday, 5 October 2014

Lion cubs play ball

A landmark day today as Jamie made his competitive tag rugby debut for Aireborough Lions Under 7s against local rivals, Bingley Bees.

And didn't the boys look smart?

Less smart was Aireborough's choice of players to fill a gap in our opponents' numbers.  Because whilst Lions scored almost all of the tries, more of them were playing for Bingley than Aireborough - meaning Bingley won.

But these things matter not.

Jamie and his pals on both teams enjoyed themselves.

Coach Daddy was proud of him.

And so was his sister.


Let's hope he's still smiling when it rains.

Friday, 3 October 2014

Fall from a great height

There can be few less pleasurable experiences these days than being shot down by an American.  And I've just been blown out of the sky.  

I'm in the final stages of building what, for a little while anyway, will pass for the Vanbar Associates website.  (I'll then let one or two people who actually know what they're doing loose on it and a transformation is guaranteed).   What I now need is the domain name but, to get that, I need to pay for the site to go live and the domain name comes with it.  If you follow me.  I'd understand if not.   

Anyway, I was in the process of entering my credit card details when my heart sank (again.  It's been an up and down week). 

I wanted to pay for a year up front (the minimum period to get a free domain name) and all was going well.  The price came up, I entered my extra 10% discount code (been doing my homework) and was all set to hit the magic "pay" button.  (Magic in the sense that you press it and your money suddenly vanishes).  

But then I noticed a message which ended with "your next bill date will be 10/03/15."

What?!  March?  What happened to my 12 months up front, nothing more to worry about?  I knew thing were progressing too smoothly (apart from the current state of the "webshite" itself, obviously).   

So I got onto to them, emailing the Customer Service desk in New York.  I mean, how dare they?  The cheek of it.  Con merchants the lot of them.  I signed off my rant with: "Not impressed."  That would show them.    

Barely half an hour later, I received the following reply from "Antonia H."  And I think it only fair that you be allowed to read it in full:  

"Hey Barry,

Happy to help!

10/03/2015 is the American way of writing dates, sorry about that. You know they do everything a bit... improper ;)

In real English it means you will be billed again on the 3rd of October 2015, which is in exactly one year from today.

Hope that helps!

Please get back in touch if you have any other questions, we're here for you 24/7! :)" 

I would love to say I've never felt so humiliated but, sadly, I have - many, many times.  But at least I wasn't being diddled.


As I was primed to put this up, Vanessa tapped me on the shoulder to ask why I'd emptied the grass cuttings into the recycling bin as opposed to the garden waste bin.  My answer?  I didn't realise I had. 

This working from home lark is all well and good but, next week, I really need to get out more.

Wednesday, 1 October 2014

Nine months - then yeah baby!

As the nights draw in, the temperature drops and my cabin fever increases as I attempt to reinvent Virgin in the form of Vanbar Associates, it's nice to have something to look forward to.  

And today it arrived.

Yes friends, they've announced the line-up for next summer's Let's Rock Leeds. And it's really rather good.

For the uninitiated, Let's Rock Leeds is an 80s music festival in a day.  And guess what?  It's held in Leeds.

The inaugural event was in June and, as someone who loves a lump of cheese, I thought it was awfully good/goodly awful.  (You know what I mean).

I wrote about it at the time, and was proud to report on the swayings and wailings of Bananarama, Howard Jones, ABC, Nick Heyward and others so memorable I can't remember who they were.

And next year's offering - taking place on Saturday 20 June - promises even more.

Granted, the "headline" act of the bloke from the Thompson Twins (Tom Bailey anyone?) left me a touch underwhelmed.  But the "support" acts lifted me up.  (Do you see what I did there Thompson Twins fans?)

I'm talking Rick Astley.  Go West.  Midge Ure.  Heaven 17 (bit shit, let's keep going).  Five Star (only three remain).  T'Pau (YES!)  Betty Boo (BOO!)  Bucks Fizz (these days we're talking Bobby Gee with some close family members).  The Beat (they sang Can't Get Used to Losing You - I looked it up).  Odyessy (No idea).  Sonia (UGH!)  Sam Fox (now a proud resident of Lesbania).  And Jive Bunny (come on!  Another little joke there if you're interested).

As I prepare to begin the quest for well-paid PR gigs, this is an account I'd be incredibly prepared to do something silly to secure.

But for now, I'm reduced to paying £42.90 for an Early Bird ticket (inc. Booking Fee).

Here's the exclusive "existing customers" link if you're interested in going along - prices go up on 1 November.  (Don't say I never do anything for you).

As last year, you'll find me somewhere near the front drinking pints of wine.