Thursday, 28 May 2015

Thumbs up for 10 years

This is what's happening just a few feet away from me as Jamie (hiding behind his piece of paper) and Charlotte join other kiddiewinks in making Vinnie the Fox figures on our last full day here in deepest Northumberland.

Things are a lot different now than 10 years ago.

Because this time precisely a decade ago, I was under a little bit of pressure, struggling to eat my breakfast.

It was our wedding day, you see.  And I was a touch on the nervous side.  This was not helped by best man Wee John and groomsman Rodney doing all they could to wind me up further.  (Some of their language even made me blush).

Over subsequent hours, a drop or two of whiskey was taken in our hotel.  Then we bagged a taxi across to another pub closer to the scene where the crime was about to be committed i.e. the church.  And so it went on.

As for today, once the Vinnies are completed, we Whites will heading off to a little seaside village to, I dunno, loiter.  But there will be champagne later and perhaps quizzical thoughts of where 10 years have really gone.

Hopefully there will be a few more of the same still to come.


Wednesday, 27 May 2015

Don't tell my ma

Some are born great, some have greatness thrust upon them and others just go out and grab it when the opportunity presents itself, if only to amuse their children.

I fell into the latter category last night when I took the Best Party Dancer Award (Sad Parents Section) on night two of our short caravan holiday here in Northumberland.  (Our hosts thought it would be funny to call me "Keith," Barry White not being amusing enough).

In truth, there was great pressure on me to perform as a means of restoring family honour.

Charlotte had earlier been eliminated from her quest to retain her crown from Monday evening.

Then Jamie lost an arm-wrestling contest to a girlie.

The shame of it.  So it was all down to me.

To be fair, the organisers did seek to give me an advantage by choosing "I'll Tell My Ma" as the all-important party tune.  However, whilst I clearly remember learning to sing that particular Irish classic as a pupil at Macosquin Primary School, Mrs Thompson refrained from teaching us any accompanying moves.

It was therefore improvisation all the way.

And I nailed it.

Hopefully it will be Vanessa's turn this evening.

Tuesday, 26 May 2015

Foxy lady

Last month we Whites packed up the car and headed north for a few nights in a caravan in Northumberland.  It was great and we vowed to return.

And lo and behold, we have returned.  Already.

It wasn't really the plan - we should really be too busy to justify coming back quite so quickly - but they offered Vanessa a "whopping" 10% discount if she agreed to book before thinking through the practical consequences.

So I'm now sitting here in shorts and tee shirt writing this guff and trying to build up the fortitude to go outside and pretend it's warm.

A brief conversation with Vanessa earlier informed me that Holy Island is the star attraction on today's agenda, although I confess it remains unclear to me whether said Holy Island is actually an island at all.

I'll let you know.

Last night, our trip got off to a worthy start at Vinnie the Fox's disco where Charlotte was crowned "Best Action Party Dancer," winning a certificate and a free Mini-Vinnie.

Jamie's promised to outdo her this evening.  Or it might be down to me.

Tuesday, 19 May 2015

Puff Daddy

I hurt my back carrying Charlotte around Ilkley a couple of weeks ago and have been unable to do any meaningful exercise since.

I was complaining about this at teatime yesterday, expressing fears that my forced period of inactivity was adversely affecting my svelte features.

"Hmmm," pondered Jamie.  "How do fat people puff themselves down?"

I've invited him to join me at the gym in the coming days to find out.

Sunday, 17 May 2015

North West 200 races? THEY'RE GREEEEEAAAAAAT!

I'm just back from the annual North West 200 motorbike races, held in my native Triangle of Coleraine, Portrush and Portstewart.  And, as has become an annoying habit in recent years, the weather was "changeable" but somehow I still ended up with a burnt and stripey face.  Honestly, I look like a cross between a Swan Vesta and Tony the Tiger.  This is not an image I crave.

The highlight for me was a second and third place for someone who should be Guiseley's most celebrated resident - if only you'd heard of him.

I'm referring to eight-time Isle of Man TT winner Ian Hutchinson (pictured leading a race yesterday) who, in 2010, shattered his leg in a particularly horrific racing accident.  He has since undergone more than 30 operations to fix it and yesterday got his reward with two North West podium finishes.  

Below, arm in the air, you can see him acknowledging the well-deserved big cheers.

He was on the same Leeds-bound flight as me after last year's races, when he didn't do very well.  So I left him alone.

This year I was all set to make a fool of myself by telling him how great he was and that I lived in Guiseley too and that he should probably come over for tea and maybe play football with me in the back garden afterwards.  But he wasn't on my flight so none of that happened.  Maybe I'll see him in Morrisons.

Away from the racing, there was a vibrant North Coast social scene to take advantage of, including firewater on tap.

Personally, I prefer to drink it rather than spit it out and was fortunate to spend a fair bit of time with others of like mind.

This included my Scottish pal Sandy who flew over from London especially for the occasion.

And after a few on Friday evening, he even got his jugs out.

I hope we'll all be back for more in 2016.        

Wednesday, 13 May 2015

A toast to the coast

Welcome to Leeds Bradford International Airport.

See, I wouldn't lie to you. 

Well, I say that. I'm actually on the plane now but a plane is a plane. And I could take a picture on a plane on any plane. Anywhere. So I didn't bother.

Moving on (as I eventually hope to do, just as soon as the big air hostess closes the doors) it's time for the annual pilgrimage to the North West 200 motorbike races.

If you're not aware, the event involves a group of mad people in helmets careering round the (closed) public roads of Portstewart, Portrush and Coleraine at speeds in excess of 200mph.

And when they're having a rest, everyone goes to the pub.

What's not to like?

My very Scottish pal Sandy is meeting me in Belfast later after flying over from London. We're rendezvousing in the pub. 

Before then I'm meeting my old university comrade Paul, who I haven't seen for ages, in the same pub (TBA). 

Then Sandy and I shall head north to The Shrine, otherwise known as The Railway Arms in Coleraine where we'll hook up with my biking stepdad-in-law Mike who's ridden (and ferried) over from Yorkshire this morning.

I haven't had a long weekend of such high brow culture since this time last year.

I hear I enjoyed it.

Sunday, 10 May 2015

Ode to the fallen

So, how did the General Election go for you?

I don't do party politics on here and am not about to start. Suffice to say that Thursday was a very long night.

In fact, it was around 8 o'clockish on Friday morning when my man Kris Hopkins was returned to Parliament as the MP for Keighley and Ilkley.  The screen shot you can see above - taken from the BBC pictures - confirms that I'm yet to master the art of "cool."   But I was very pleased and hope I can be forgiven, particularly as I hadn't been to bed for more than 26 hours at that point.

The problem with supposedly being at the centre of the "action" on these occasions is that, in truth, you're really not.  We only knew for sure that Kris had won a few minutes before the result was announced.  And, with no Wifi and no TV, it was difficult to know what the picture was elsewhere in the country.

I watched a lot of the coverage back yesterday (I didn't have much else on, alright?!) and it left me feeling rather downbeat

Before the polls closed on Thursday, I wrote on the VANBAR associates website that standing for election, whatever your policy platform, is often a particularly thankless task.  And the sense of devastation felt by those who lose can often be very deep indeed.

A number of long-time friends of mine -  from Northern Ireland, England, Scotland and Wales, and from across the major political parties - got their hides soundly spanked and will have woken up yesterday not quite knowing what to do with themselves.  A number are now unemployed.

After almost 20 years of political involvement of one form or another, I remain in real admiration of the vast majority of people who put themselves forward (George Galloway being a dishonourable exception).

Many like to call them nasty names and think they know better, but few have the courage to put their own names on a ballot paper.   Thank goodness some do.

Monday, 4 May 2015

Have you heard the one about the two Charlottes?

Well, I mean, I did say.

Yes, the speculation was right and Princess Charlotte (Elizabeth Diana) it is.

I thought our Charlotte would be more pleased.

Perhaps she's feeling overwhelmed.

The exciting news flashed up on my phone as I was waiting to pay in Morrisons (I go there a lot).  I had to tell someone, so manically waved the words at my checkout lady.   She then leant over to tell the checkout lady behind her, who told the checkout lady behind her and so on.  And each one of them cooed as they found out.

As I left, my checkout lady told me I'd always be remembered in Guiseley Morrisons as the man who broke the news.

I liked that.  Unfortunately my new status didn't come with any discount coupons, which was certainly a disappointment.

Earlier, the Whites had a family trip to the Ilkley Carnival where the local town crier stopped and invited Jamie to try on his outfit.

He then drove off in a golden car.

It's been a very odd few days.

Sunday, 3 May 2015

Making a fool of my selfie

Another terrific weekend to live in God's Own County as the inaugural Tour de Yorkshire sped along streets both close and familiar to most of us.  

After being dragged along to last year's spectacularly successful Tour de France, which spent three days here, today Jamie and Charlotte wheeled along to the new event; Jamie pedalling himself, Charlotte perched on a "lady chair" on the back of my bike.

And thankfully, enthusiasm did kick in when we got to our vantage point only a mile or so from our house.  

The reason?  We told them that a famous, real-life knight was riding in the race.

Cue Wiggo.

Yup, father-of-two Sir Bradley was debuting for his very own Team Wiggins, which really is quite cool. 

Meanwhile, Charlotte's dad continues to struggle in the cool stakes.

I tried to take a selfie of our shared cycling adventure for posterity.

And I missed.

I've promised to try again tomorrow

Saturday, 2 May 2015

It's a BABY!!!

Unless you've been hiding under a stone since sunrise (and, to be fair, I have woken up under a stone on an occasional Saturday morning), you'll know that a new princess is now amongst us.

And I can't tell you how pleased I am that it shot out so quickly.

I like a bit of living history as much as the next sad man, but there's only so much Nicholas 'Bloody' Witchell and Kay 'Look At Me' Burley I can take - preferably none at all.

All us mere subjects know so far is that it's a girl and it's something pounds and so many ounces.  Good work Kate.

Now all we need is the name and we can get back to the washing-up.

Needless to say I was hoping for a Prince Barry.  We've never had a Prince Barry before and, in this age of equality and speaking on behalf of Barrys everywhere, I felt it was our turn.

Failing that, Alan.  Prince Alan, anyone?  No?  Maybe next time.

But it's a girl so it's girls' names we have to think about.  And here's the thing.

When I last looked, the current bookies' favourite was Princess Charlotte at 2/1, surging ahead of long-time front-runner Alice at 5/2.  Elizabeth is next at 6-1, with Victoria further back at 10/1.

Unless Prince Harry got pissed again and told a mate (something we can't rule out), the reason for Charlotte being the popular choice is that it's apparently "a feminine form of Charles."  Hmmm.  (I still remember someone once telling me that the name Jack was "short for John" so I'd believe anything).

I can obviously think of another Princess Charlotte who'd be thrilled if this rumour became a truth.

But given that she's just asked if the new Royal arrival can come to our house for tea tonight, I daren't risk another disappointment.