Thursday, 22 January 2015


I walked up and down Guiseley's main street several times earlier today, before visiting Morrisons to process through the aisles and sign autographs for children.

No one spoke to me or even looked at me.  Maybe it was because Vanessa wasn't there and people couldn't put one and one together.

Actually, thinking about it, I'm not sure I'd recognise Mr Krankie if Wee Jimmy Krankie wasn't there too.

Anyhow, VANBAR associates made the papers today and we're pleased about that.

Available for hire, get in while you can.    

Friday, 16 January 2015

Eating is good for your worries

The kids came home to presents tonight, courtesy of Christmas vouchers kindly gifted by their Auntie Gwen.

And what are they, I hear you cry? (I've got very good hearing).  Well I'm glad you asked.

They're "Worry Eaters" and were new to me until Jamie started going on about them last weekend.

Still none the wiser?

OK, let's go with the product description:

"Children have fears and troubles and woes and don't always tell their parents about them. Psychologists and teachers recommend Worry Eaters as a waste bin for problems. The children can write or draw their troubles and feed them into the zip mouth of the Worry Eater. Not that this solves all the problems straight away, but the first step has been taken and you can be sure it will provide an immediate feeling of relief. And when the Worry Eater tells the parents about the problems, they can talk to their children about them. What's more, Worry Eaters are nice and cuddly in both good times and bad and not just for children." 

A good idea or just clever marketing?  Probably a bit of both, but I look forward to finding out how Jamie and Charlotte fare with "Ed" and "Polli" respectively in the coming weeks.  

Needless to say the Daily Mail hates them (making me wanting to love them even more).  

"The Worry Eater toy shows that we've raised a generation of anxious children," someone called Bel Mooney wrote back in August.  I'm feeling ashamed, aren't you?

She continued: "Both parents must be there for their children — to talk to them at meal-times and on the sofa (without the TV on), and to read a story at night. For it’s not a worry doll that will really take away a child’s anxiety — it’s a balanced, stable and secure home life."

There you go folks, simple as that.  I'm just relieved that we're all so blessed in both emerging from and living in such well-rounded, Waltonesque families.    

No worries.

Wednesday, 14 January 2015

Introducing the 4-7-8 technique

Good morning, dear reader, I hope you slept well last night.  But if you didn't, I believe I can help.

To explain, I stumbled across some odd link on Facebook or Twitter on Monday and clicked onto it because I was bored.  (If you're reading this post after doing the same, no offence is taken and please come back).

The link took me to a page offering advice on how to get to sleep.  So I read it, tutted disapprovingly and moved on.

However, after climbing into the scratcher a few hours later and not feeling especially tired, I decided to try out what I'd "learnt," as follows:

  1. Close your eyes (always a good idea when sleep is what you're after);
  2. Breath in slowly whilst (inwardly) counting to four;
  3. Hold your breath to a count of seven; 
  4. Breathe out whilst counting to eight;
  5. Snore or repeat.
I don't recall reaching the end of my second attempt.

Same again last night.

Have a go to see what you think. And if it doesn't work, try wine.  

Monday, 12 January 2015

The whole one yard

A bitter blow to my personal credibility and self-respect today when an emergency man was called to deal with my first car accident.

Let me explain.  

Those who know me well will be aware that I am yet to pass my driving test.  Long story, failed the test three times in three months back in 2006 and then didn't get round to it again.  I will, but not before next week.  At the earliest.  

That said, I will overcome one day, if only to get back at those lovely folks who have been ripping the dung out of me for all these years.  (I'm only 42 after all).

Anyhow, back to my car accident.

Last night I went to put the bin out, before encountering a problem in the form of our neighbour's car which was parked in the adjacent driveway alongside ours without leaving enough room for our bin to get through.

No problem, thought I.  I'll simply reverse our car back a bit to create a gap.  So I climbed in, fired her up, clunked the gear into reverse and dropped the car down our drive no more than a yard.  I then turned the engine off, locked the car, wheeled out the bin and returned inside.  Job done.

That was until this morning when Vanessa returned to the car to take Jamie to school.  She turned the key.  Nothing happened.  She tried again.  Nothing happened.  She swore under her breath.  Nothing.  She swore more loudly whilst turning the key.  No luck.

It was time for Plan B.  Walk Jamie to school (again, swearing under her breath).  They made it on time.

On her return, she phoned the emergency man to come and have a look.  15 minutes after his arrival, the emergency man - car now fired up - enquired as to when the car had last been started.  Vanessa told him.

No one told me that one yard journeys were bad for cars and had a tendency to flood the engine.  The proof of the emergency man's statement was evidenced by the fact that I had flooded the engine.  He left smiling.

An hour later, another emergency man arrived.  He didn't leave smiling after being informed that original emergency man had sorted the problem and so he wouldn't be getting a call-out fee.

In the meantime, Vanessa had taken the car out for a spin to nurse the engine back to health.

She can take the bin out next week too.

Friday, 9 January 2015

Simply Northern Ireland

My native Northern Ireland and its people are known for many things, some good, some not quite so good.

In the negative column is our dietary habits, which often veer towards the unhealthy (I still maintain the diet of a dog despite spending 20 of the last 24 years living "across the water").

More positively is our sense of humour (i.e. those of us who don't get offended by, I dunno, gay wedding cakes).

It is with the above in mind that I direct your attention to The Ulster Fry, a very recently launched parody website named in honour of our national dish (also known as the Heart Attack on a Plate).

A few days ago, The Ulster Fry produced a most excellent (spoof) piece about the imminent arrival of a Belfast restaurant which was seeking to give "a trendy new makeover to that staple of the Northern Irish dinner table - the humble crisp sandwich."

Going by the name of "Simply Crispy," the alternative eatery would invite diners to choose from a  menu of "gourmet crisp sandwiches" or create their own "from an exciting range of breads, crisps and spreads."

The article continued: "Whether it be the staple Tayto Cheese and Onion on Sunblest sliced pan with Flora, or the more exotic Thai Sweet Chilli on Italian Granary with a splash of balsamic vinegar – the choice is almost limitless."

Owner 'Gavin Spleen' told The Ulster Fry: “Simply Crispy will cater for all tastes, and all pockets.  Hungry carnivores will love our Beef Mini Chips on Medium Ormo, a bargain at £3.50 (crusts off 50p extra), while veggies might like to try Pickled Onion Space Raiders in a Belfast Bap with a Wotsit side-salad for a mere £5.95. Our piece de resistance is the ‘Inner Ring’ – a slice of Nutty Krust lovingly rolled into a thin sausage then inserted delicately through a series of Tayto Onion Rings, garnished with parsley and crushed Pringles.”

All good fun.

But you'll never guess what happened next.

Actually, I'll let The Ulster Fry tell you themselves from a post which appeared on the website earlier today:

"Yep, you guessed it – someone is now opening a cafe selling crisp sandwiches.

"Simply Crispy, the REAL one, is opening next week, in Belfast! A nice young man who owns a cafe in Belfast city centre loved the idea so much, he wanted to partner with us to convert his premises into Simply Crispy, and bring the idea to life. And so, The Ulster Fry, exactly 27 days after we launched our parody news website, have accidentally got involved with a cafe, selling crisps, inside bread. Which is a perfectly sensible sentence really. Rest assured we won’t be involved in making crisp sandwiches – but we will be eating them!

"Simply Crispy is opening on 8 Bedford Street, Belfast on Monday 12th January. They will be serving a selection of crisp sandwich meals with a selection of filling sides, and the prices won’t be as ridiculous as the ones we made up – crusts off will be free if you want it. We’ll need your help to make it a success, so get sharing, get tweeting (#simplycrispy) and, more importantly, get down there and get eating."

Only in Northern Ireland.

Tuesday, 6 January 2015

In a spin

Despite my best intentions, I didn't make it to yesterday's 7am spin class.

It wasn't a lack of commitment that did for me.  Well, not really.  I decided against setting an alarm to avoid waking everyone else, and the result was that I barely slept myself.  By the time 6am came, I was too weak to get out of bed.  And it looked cold outside.  I'll have another try in the summer.

However, I did go tonight and that was an experience in itself.

I've only been an LA Fitness member for a few months, but I've never known the gym to be so busy.  The car park was like Morrisons or Asda on Christmas Eve.  People were queued out the door to swipe their membership cards.  And inside, more lines formed as sweaty folk waited to break a machine.

I was therefore most relieved to enter the relative tranquillity of the spin room which - surprise, surprise - was packed.  Indeed, one poor man on the stand-by list had to vacate his saddle when a pink-faced lady turned up carrying a towel and a cream bun.

And then off we went.

In truth, I'm not totally unfit at the present time but, in common with most others, I ritually abused myself over the festive period and am feeling the effects.  As such, the last thing I needed was a wee woman with no eyes shouting "Eat, Sleep, Rave, REPEAT!" in my face for half an hour.  (Raving was never my thing).  But I got through it.

Tomorrow is Wednesday, troops.

Keep going.

Sunday, 4 January 2015

2015: A year to swear by

A very Happy New Year to you - I hope it's got off to a good start.

Mine hasn't.  Have a look at our garden shed.

Yes, its roof has been defelted (probably not a real word) by the storms and I have a job on my hands.  And it is a job I have neither the appetite, the skills nor the patience to tackle with any degree of confidence.  But I'll have to have a go.  Feel free to light a candle or say a quick prayer for me if you get the chance.

On other matters, I'm sure I'm not alone in entering 2015 with big ideas and plans on my mind.

Making VANBAR associates the PR agency of choice is at the top of my list, and there will be movement on this in the days ahead.

Getting fit in ways other than pounding the roads is also there and, to this end, I've booked onto a 7am spin class tomorrow morning.  Really.  The mind boggles at the thought of who else might be there, but we'll see (if I can get my eyes open at that time).

From tomorrow, I'm off the drink for three weeks.  Really (again).  It would actually be longer, but Vanessa has the first of several events planned to mark her 50th (I think it's her 50th) birthday and I can't drink water at any of those.  I would have started my period of abstinence before now, but the World Darts Championship has been on - it's the Final tonight and you can't watch that with a cuppa.

What else.......oh yes, the final season of Breaking Bad has to be tackled, I need to get to bed earlier and read more books (I know everyone says that).  And to counter balance all my new found worthiness, I plan to swear more.

Let's get it ****ing on!