Sunday, 29 March 2015
The General Election campaign gets formally under way tomorrow. And with so many different parties to chose from these days, the sight of politicians - both in the flesh and in the media - is something I'm afraid you're going to have to get used to between now and Thursday 7 May.
I mention the media because competing for journalistic attention will be a key element of the each of the parties' overall strategies. But in an era of decreasing budgets and shrinking staff numbers, it's not always easy for news outlets to cope with demand at election time.
So sometimes you have to innovate.
I was thinking about all of this yesterday (you wouldn't want to be in my head, not even for a second) when I was reminded of the Bradford Conservatives local election campaign launch in 2007, fronted by former party leader William Hague.
As one of the most high profile Yorkshiremen still breathing air, you might think that getting the Yorkshire Post to cover his appearance at the event would be relatively straightforward. But when I spoke to the paper, I was told that they wouldn't be able to have a photographer present.
"If I send you a picture, will it get in?" I asked.
"It depends if it's good enough," replied the man from the Yorkshire Post.
I do like a challenge.
So, a little later when Mr Hague arrived, I outlined the situation to him and explained I'd had a little idea.
"Would you be up for it?" I asked..
"Of course," he enthused back, "no problem."
This is the photo I took.
It got in.
Saturday, 28 March 2015
With Charlotte at a party and Vanessa accompanying her for health and safety/free lunch reasons, the boy and I are home alone.
We should be doing something outside, of course. But the sky looks a bit grey and this chair is very comfy. So I've told him he can play on his Wii. (It's exercise, isn't it?)
To be fair to Jamie and, more importantly, me, he did do a quiz earlier. The photo even confirms it (in case his mother asks).
Those of you with that rare ability to read sideways will note that it's entitled "Transport Teaser." And you'll obviously want to know more.
In short, you have to put yourself into the mindset of a Jedi knight. And with that head on, you've got to answer some questions to enable the Jedi Order to decide what mode of transport should be assigned to you. Got that? Good, I am glad.
So Jamie answered his six multiple choice questions and, in five out of six, he chose 'A.' The transport prescription for knights answering in that way was a "Republic cruiser." I'll defer to his Star Wars Activity Annual to explain why:
This starship was built for the purpose of carrying ambassadors on diplomatic missions. It has no weapons, and it is the perfect vehicle for a Jedi who favours peace and diplomacy above battles and danger. You are wise and kind, and your gentleness is very valuable.
A lover not a fighter, good man.
But I still wanted to know why he answered one question with a 'B' rather than an 'A.' So I had a read of the relevant teaser, as follows:
Q: You are playing football in the park when someone takes your football, what is your response?
A: You try to reason with them and persuade them to return the ball.
B: You attack them and force them to return the ball.
As someone who tries to be a responsible father, I did point out that violence is bad and he should really have gone for 'A.'
Then I slipped outside and punched the air.
Friday, 20 March 2015
So, how did the eclipse go for you?
16 years ago, when the last eclipse was alleged to have taken place here, I was living in London. And I watched the "once in the lifetime" event (clearly untrue 'cos I'm still here) via the medium of a puddle on the roof of the House of Commons.
I don't recall seeing anything of interest in there. Maybe it was a dirty puddle.
Fast forward to this morning and, yes, I can report to having had a solar experience.
In fact, have a look at precisely what my peepers feasted on from platform 2 of Guiseley train station.
You may note that not much of the Sun is in view.
The bloke standing beside me said that this was because the Moon was in the way.
The things you learn.
Thursday, 19 March 2015
The list of "good things" achieved by this blog are limited to say the least.
But something I am proud of is having had the opportunity to bring the plight faced by Wee Oliver Dickey to many people's attention.
And most of the words which appeared in that post published on 2 January 2014 weren't even mine.
Instead, they were the words of Charlene, Oliver's mum, who told his very harrowing tale.
Confined to a wheelchair with a form of celebral palsy and told by doctors he'd have to stay there, Charlene and hubby Neil decided to act. They were aware of specialist surgery available in the United States which, with a bit of good fortune, might give 5-year-old Oliver the gift of limited movement. The ability to take himself to the toilet or pick up a toy, that's all that was expected. But something was better than nothing, so it was worth a try.
The major stumbling block was the £60,000 price tag which came with the procedure.
Cue the people of Coleraine and far beyond, who put their hands in their pockets in kindly donations or to sponsor good folk to do often mad things for a peerless cause.
I would suggest that this video, put together by Neil Moore, didn't do any harm.
The fundraising target was hit within two months and was eventually achieved twice over, enabling Oliver to access the aftercare which is so essential for him to reach his ultimate physical potential.
But here's the thing. Whilst Dr Park - the genius who operated on Oliver - worked his magic to perfection, it was left to Oliver, supported by his family, to do the really hard work.
He'd not used his legs before, so what lay ahead was a physio and fitness regime that even Rocky Balboa would've baulked at.
And has it all been worth it?
Well, click onto this link to see for yourself.
Just as I required Charlene's words to describe her son's predicament more than 15 months ago, the determination, grit and belief that he now demonstrates day after day is also far beyond my descriptive abilities.
Oliver has long since made the journey to becoming an inspiration, but I would argue that we should make it official.
This brings me neatly on to the Spirit of Northern Ireland Awards, for which public nominations have now opened.
There are three categories: recognising unsung heroes, those who have overcome adversity, and special achievements by young people. And at the end of the evening, someone will be named the overall Spirit of Northern Ireland winner.
The nomination process is very straightforward and involves putting together 50-100 words on why you believe someone is worthy of recognition.
My nomination is already in and it is for Oliver Dickey.
Should you wish to do the same, you can click here and follow the simple instructions.
Let's help Wee Oliver WIN.
Sunday, 15 March 2015
Have a gander at our freshly-painted garage door. Racing Green, I think you'll find. Much more exciting in theory than Battered Black, which it was until this time last week.
Sadly, it only looks OK from a distance. When I slapped the first coat on seven days ago, it seemed alrightish the following morning but obviously required a second layer.
The problem was that the paint takes 16 hours to dry and rain was forecast for the next few days. So I eventually went for it on Thursday evening when it was supposed to be dry outside. It then rained and made the paint all lumpy.
I tried to smooth things out yesterday but failed dismally. Our garage door now looks like someone has wallpapered it with Racing Green bubble wrap. And worse, this morning when coat number three was still drying, I forgot and it's now got my hand print on it. I would attempt yet another patch-up job later but more rain is forecast. Thank you God (for inventing swear words).
In other developments, Jamie and Charlotte have had their eyes tested.
After a joint interview with Mr Specsavers Man, during which no health problems were reported, Jamie was first into the big chair.
And disastrously for him, he has 20:20 vision - so he can't get glasses. Life is full of disappointments.
Charlotte was next up and, because her letter vocabulary only currently extends to c, h, a, r, l, o, t and e, she instead had a game of Name That Picture.
And she won - meaning no glasses for her either.
She remains devastated.
Her brother's mood picked up a little later when he lost his first tooth. Ker-ching.
Charlotte is now going at hers with a mallet. She's not bothered about the cash, but has long-wanted a real fairy to see her room.
Thursday, 5 March 2015
OK gang, I need you to do something.
Regular readers of this increasingly irregular blog may have read here that this year's Ulster Schools' Cup would see Coleraine Inst 1st XV grace the world's second oldest rugby competition for the last time. After 155 years, CAI is due to merge with the girls' High School in September to become Coleraine Grammar.
Those of us fortunate enough to have attended the school and worn the famous maroon jersey on the rugby field have found this to be an emotional experience. And, when on Tuesday the 1st XV controversially lost their Schools' Cup semi-final to a disputed Belfast Inst try, it was tough to take.
But one man who kept his head when all around were losing theirs was CAI Head Coach Richard Beggs.
Have a look at this tweet referring to comments have gave to the Belfast Telegraph immediately after the heat of battle.
Given his role, most reasonable people would probably have forgiven Richard for showing a touch less grace. Not only was it his boys who had just had their dreams snatched away, after a year of ceaseless preparation. He too had his own dream shattered on the very same Ravenhill pitch when a losing member of CAI Schools Cup Final team of 1991. But most significantly of all, he knew that the name of Coleraine Academical Institution would never again appear on the famous old trophy.
So let me make a little suggestion in an attempt to cheer us all up and, in so doing, provide Richard with some recognition for his efforts.
When I played with Richard in the 1990 Schools' Cup (we were stuffed by Methody in the quarter-finals), CAI was a school of around 1,200 boys. Rugby was compulsory in junior school and the coaches had the pick of the large numbers of players on show.
Fast forward to 2015, and pupil numbers have fallen by a third and the choice of sports at the school has widened to include football.
But, despite these handicaps, Richard has managed to guide his boys to three semi-final appearances in the last five years. Quite an achievement by anyone's reckoning.
Earlier today, I took a few minutes out to nominate Richard as Coach of the Year in the Youth/School/Mini-Rugby category of the Ulster Rugby Coaching Awards 2014-15.
I humbly invite you to do the same by clicking HERE - then spread the word.
Ah, go on. Nominations close next Tuesday (10 March).