Wednesday, 25 February 2015

White fright

Jamie has just returned from Beavers where tonight was Ghost Hunting Night.

And where was this held?

That's right, a graveyard.

Really.  A living (actually, probably not), breathing (hmmm, unlikely too) graveyard.  But still.

And was it scary, I asked, nervously?

"YES!" Jamie reported. "And there were loads of people running around shouting WOO!"


"Did you find any ghosts?" I gently enquired, looking behind me.

"YES, 15!!!" (Gulp). "And some Mini Eggs!" (No idea).

He'll be off to bed soon.

I might stay up for a while.

Monday, 23 February 2015

Summer roses

Despite the forecasters variously predicting snow and icy rain in the coming days, I am steadfastly sticking to the idea that summer is on its way.

So much so that, on Saturday, I painted the garden shed.  Just in time for the rain to arrive within seconds of the final brush stroke, meaning I'll have to have another go this weekend.  Still, I bought too much paint anyway so it could be worse.

But anyway, the nights are definitely getting shorter, Jamie tells me he hears the alarm clocks of hibernating animals going off all the time and, earlier, I'm almost certain I saw Vanessa walk around the house in less than six jumpers.

There are many things I am looking forward to this summer, and I'll not list them all now.  But let me briefly share a nerdy one with you.

I love cricket and floodlit cricket is a particular treat.  (It's a bit like going to the IMAX, but with added beer and balls).  However, despite Yorkshire being the current English county cricket champions, Headingley - their principal home ground in Leeds - does not have permanent lights.

Until the coming season that is.

Because the process of installing four 56-metre high pylons is now under way and, from the middle of May, the White Rose county will be playing home floodlit matches pretty much every other Friday evening until late July.

And the "White Rose" tag is key.  Just take a look at this baby.

Yup, they've ordered lights in the shape of a rose.

I can tell you're excited.

To be fair they do still look like this.

But, when they're finished, we can be sure they'll look great.

So much so that I plan to adopt the persona of a pop star by wearing sun glasses when it's dark, just so I can stare at the lights if the cricket's crap.

Sunday, 22 February 2015

A big drink and a Giant experience

I'll start where I left off last time, and am delighted to report that Coleraine Inst 1st XV had an impressive 22-9 win over Omagh Academy yesterday and now look forward to Ulster Schools' Cup semi-final against Belfast Inst on Tuesday 3 March.  

A positive outcome will see me - and countless other former CAI pupils - jet back for the final and an inevitable skin full afterwards. 

Which reminds me, my liver continues to recover from almost a week of "hydration" during the annual White family February half-term trip to Norn Iron.

What you can see above is the men's toilet door at Tides restaurant in Portrush where Vanessa and I enjoyed a fine meal on Tuesday evening.

And on Wednesday, we visited my spiritual home, the Railways Arms in Coleraine, where the regulars of "Arsehole Corner" (their name for it, not mine) were joined by a number of irregulars including my nephew Nathan (wearing the hat).  That's my dad in the blue jacket. 

However, lest you think bad of me, we did allow the kids to sample some of the local cultural delights too. And chief amongst them was the Giant's Causeway.

It's a little while since I've been but, given that it's thought to be around 60 million years old, very little had changed.    

That's Jamie and Charlotte's cousin Katie in the pictures with them, who looks after them so well when we visit.

That's the Giant's Boot they're sitting on above. Obviously.

They even had a chance to look in through the roof of the new visitor centre.

In case you're confused, it's built into a hillside and is predominantly covered with grass. (I can tell you're impressed and now want to take your family there at your earliest convenience.  And if not, why not?)  We did take our brood inside too, by the way.

Then, on Thursday, we left.

Charlotte was very sad.  So was I, but my liver was looking forward to starting his own short break.

Friday, 20 February 2015

Maroon blood, Coleraine hearts

The White family annual February half-term trip to Northern Ireland is sadly at an end.

Actually, we came back yesterday but for some reason I didn't quite feel strong enough to open my laptop.

That's Richard above, my old Coleraine Inst XV rugby teammate and now Head Coach of the team. We got together in Portrush and, gents that we are, even allowed our wives to come along (but not interrupt, obviously).

Tomorrow Richard's boys run out at "The Big Sand" on the banks of the Bann for the Quarter-Final of the Ulster Schools' Cup, the world's second oldest rugby competition.  

With CAI set to merge with the girls' High School to become Coleraine Grammer in September, it'll be the last time the famous maroon jerseys grace a home Schools' Cup tie. 

It's precisely 25 years since Richard and I played together on the same pitch at the same stage of the same competition. And I'm gutted not to be there tomorrow. But I've pledged to travel across to Belfast next month for the traditional St Patrick's Day Final should the good guys make it through.

Let's hope fate deals Richard and his boys the hand that the school's proud sporting history so richly deserves.

Wednesday, 11 February 2015

Kennel fever

When I was growing up back in Coleraine, we had a dog, a chihuahua which went by the name of Roscoe.

He was a fun little fella, although was often beaten up by our cat called Tinker.

Upon release from his kennel, his party trick was to run wildly and aimlessly around the house until he could run no more, before collapsing into a tiny heap.  Then, following a brief period of rest and recuperation, he'd be off again.  A one trick doggy you might say.

Sadly, time catches up with all of us.  And in his latter years, Roscoe's mad dashes became fewer in number and slower in speed.   By the end, when I opened his kennel door, he would simply shake his head and invite me to **** off.

I tell you this because I'm beginning to feel a bit like Roscoe.  Whilst we speak to potential new VANBAR associates clients and before we taking the leap of getting our own premises, Vanessa and I continue to work from our dining room table.  And cabin fever is beginning to set in.

Don't get me wrong, I've become quite fond of our dining room wall - I've lovingly stripped it once painted it twice in recent years.  But the novelty is beginning to wear off and a change of scenario is forever welcome.  So much so that, when I get out of my version of Roscoe's kennel, I get an urge to run around manically with my tongue around my ankles.  If only this wasn't so undignified - and my legs weren't now beginning to go, just like his did.

That said, help is thankfully at hand in the shapely form of February.  After a dull January (I'm sure I wasn't alone), this month has already delivered one fun adventure with the promise of more to come.

The first was Vanessa's birthday weekend in Newcastle which, I must say, was much fun despite my periodic realisation that I'm now married to a 40-year-old.  

It is a situation that will take some getting used to, I willingly concede.  But I'm stuck with it, sorry, her.

To be fair, the old girl stuck the pace pretty well over our three days away.  She even stayed awake once after midnight, albeit briefly.  However, I can now expect to see little of her for the rest of the month as she catches up on sleep.

That's why I have other plans to get me out of the kennel.

Friday, 6 February 2015

40 + 40 = 80

The passage of time has moved on and the young chick is about to become an old hen.

That's right, Vanessa turns 40 tomorrow. 

As I tap this out, we're onboard a train destined for Newcastle; the place where we both studied (the same course), three years apart. 

Now, don't be thinking that this is in some way a kind, thoughtful gesture on my part. Certainly not.  I am an Ulsterman after all.

No, Vanessa's booked it all. My only job is to make up the numbers (just me and her) and settle the bill come Sunday.

Conversation might be on the menu at some point.  But not just yet, on the grounds that she's having her afternoon nap.

Heaven knows how she's going to stay up till 10pm tonight when TV coverage off the Wales v England Six Nations rugby match is due to end.

I'm less concerned about her movements at 2.30 tomorrow when Ireland kick off in Rome. There are loads of shops in Newcastle. 

And I'll be clear by 4.15 if she fancies joining me in O'Neill's just opposite the station.  (My Ireland shirt is ironed and carefully packed).  

We can then look forward to a brief conversation about what a great birthday she's having; just as long as it's finished by 5pm when France and Scotland lock horns.

I might even treat her to a takeaway later in the evening (assuming Ireland win). Then it'll be home on Sunday morning.

For now, I'm off to the buffet car to see what cans they have.  I would get the middle-aged woman of the moment one too, but alcohol can be very expensive on trains.

Happy birthday wife.

Tuesday, 3 February 2015

White shed dread

I began this year with a short list of limited personal objectives which I thought it only proper to briefly report back on.

Top of the list was to get VANBAR associates firing and progress continues to be made.  More on that another time.

I pledged to get fit through the medium of spin class which, surprisingly, I have stuck to.  However, I was due to go to one tonight - until I hurt my calf muscle walking to Charlotte's swimming lesson.  Really.  Age is such a terrible thing.  I might do some sit-ups before bedtime instead (although I fear I'll put my back out).

I pledged to stay off drink until 24 January.  I missed my target by a mere 15 days.   I got bored.  Plus, I find it really hard to cook anything remotely interesting without a little glass of wine to fuel my effort.  And I was hungry.  That said, school night snifters have been pretty much off the (drinks) menu and will generally remain so.  (Unless I get hungry again.  Or thirsty).

I promised to swear more, and that hadn't been going well until this afternoon when I caught a strange woman chucking bags of rubbish over a fence near our house and shared my observations.   Good for the soul.

But I'll leave you on a real high: our garden shed roof (do you see what I did there?).  I declared that repairing our garden shed roof was a top priority, although I had no expectation of actually being able to pull it off.

Actually, I'll rephrase that.  A storm pulled it off (the roofing felt, that is).  My job was to buy some more and stick/nail it back on.

After finally running out of excuses (I was proud of many of them), on Sunday I was forced to have a go aided by my trusty assistant .

And look.

I know.  Pretty darn sexy, isn't it?!

Vanessa says I have to paint it next