Thursday, 30 July 2015

Feast of Fests: Part I

As the excitement surrounding the Big Marquee Weekend continues to surge (tickets going very fast), we Whites are preparing to cross the Pennines for another three-day music festival to get us in the mood.

It's CarFest North which, after two-and-a-half hours of trying back in November, I managed to bag family tickets for.

Fans of Chris Evans' Radio 2 breakfast show will know immediately what I'm talking about.

And if you're not a Chris Evans lover, you'll be relieved you're not going as it's being hosted by Chris Evans.

Taking place at Oulton Park racing circuit in deepest, leafy Cheshire, the event features cars (not that arsed), lots of things for kiddies (our kids are arsed) and a pretty impressive live music line-up across two stages.

The Boomtown Rats will be there to sing all two of their hits, plus Paul Heaton and Jacqui Abbott, The Proclaimers, Primal Scream, Level 42, Sophie Ellis-Bextor, Midge Ure and Texas, amongst others. For example, when the going gets tough after we're forced to listen to Will Young, Billy Ocean is due to be wheeled on.  Suddenly.    

Crucially, given how much I generally hate camping, our tent is already pitched and comes complete with blow-up mattresses (hopefully already blown up).

But none of this starts until tomorrow.  Before then, we're due to spend tonight in the abode of my old school chum Peter 'Happy' Wilson (pictured), his wife Michaela and charmer of a son Dylan.   Pete kindly phoned me the other day to ask if I still liked a Guinness.  I said I did, along with regular
intakes of oxygen and an occasional wash.  

My thoughts on CarFest North will most likely appear here on Monday together with accompanying photographs. I'm not sure what of yet, but expect Sophie Ellis Bextor to feature in addition to Bob Geldof and a shoe-horned reference to me not liking Mondays.  I'll not tell you why.

Tuesday, 28 July 2015

He's been 'Seen on TV' - now you can see him in Macosquin

Last spring I set up a spoof Twitter account, just for a bit of fun.  But it all ended in tears - along with those of many thousands of others.  

My Twitter handle was @GarthBrooksHorse.  And, as luck would have it, I was pretending to be Garth Brooks' horse.  With the US country music big cheese due to play in front of more than 400,000 loopy fans over summer five nights in Dublin's Croke Park, I thought it might be a laugh to get involved.  And I did my research.  He most certainly did have a horse and I wanted to give it a voice as the hype surrounding his boss's Irish trip built to unfathomable heights.

And then Garth Brooks went and cancelled all his gigs.

To be fair, it wasn't entirely his fault.  He was originally booked for three, his promoters added two more, local nimbies complained, the council wouldn't extend his licence to cover five shows, and he huffed in his barn and wouldn't come out to play.  Literally.  He may still be there.  

Understandably, this left a lot of Garth fans feeling bereft.  Given that the entire population of Ireland is six million and around 400,000 of them had a concert ticket, well, go figure.

But a year after their crushing disappointment, there is finally something for Brooks devotees to look forward to.

Because on Sunday 23 August in the glorious village of Macosquin, Jason Hughes - Ireland’s best-loved Garth Brooks tribute act - will join other big names in the local country music scene to bring the curtain down on the inaugural Big Marquee Weekend.  

Pretty impressive, eh?

In case you've been living under a stone, the three-day music festival will take place in a professionally-erected marquee in the car park of Mary Pat’s Bar less than four miles from Coleraine.

It all kicks off on Friday 21 August with a clubland DJ night headlined by Ultra Beat and Micky Modelle.   

Bon Jovi tribute act Con Jovi and Oasis dead ringers Roll With are the star attractions on Saturday in a Rock v Britpop head-to-head, with Cellar Door and Adam Buick providing top notch support. 

And then on Sunday, mega-popular two-piece band JD County and the brilliant Ritchie Remo – whose version of 'Hit the Diff' has now attracted more than half a million views on YouTube – will join Jason in providing an all-day feast of country music.

My pal Drew Hutchinson, who is organising the event with Robert Todd and the bar’s proprietor Hughie Hamilton, told me he's been taken aback by the level of interest the Big Marquee Weekend has generated since being announced.

“What started off as quite a modest event when we first came up with the idea has really taken off,” said Drew, aka DJ Steady, who will also be spinning discs throughout the weekend.  

“Kerry McLean has talked about it on her BBC Radio Ulster afternoon show and it’s been getting lots of mentions on social media.

“We’re now getting ticket enquiries from all over Northern Ireland, from across the border and from England.

“The quality and variety of the acts over the three days has been the key and no one will leave disappointed – unless, of course, we sell out before they’ve managed to get their hands on a ticket.

“Jason's appearance has excited a lot of people, particularly after Garth Brooks decided not to bring his big hat to Dublin last year. 

“Disappointed Garth fans have had refund money burning a hole in their pockets for a whole year now.  And at just £12 for a full day of country music, they will still have plenty left after buying a ticket.  I know some of them are still hurting after Garth’s snub, but I think a few drinks from the marquee’s fully-kitted bar will help to ease the pain.”

Day tickets for the Big Marquee Weekend are priced at £10 for Friday and £12 on Saturday and Sunday.   A two-ticket is also available priced at £20.

Tickets can be purchased from Mary Pat’s Bar, Romaya Hair Sanctuary in Coleraine or by calling Tel: 028 7034 4659.

If you are a Garth fan and you did have a ticket to see him in Dublin, just remember how you felt when you heard he wasn't coming.

Do you want to feel like that again?  Well?  Do you?  Not nice, was it?  No, it wasn't.

Please don't go back to that dark place.  Get your Big Marquee Weekend tickets while they still remain - and I'll make sure Jason turns up. 

I wonder if he has a horse... 

Thursday, 23 July 2015

No blow for youngster who leaves court on high

I apologise if you've already heard this story on the news but, as we enter the "silly season," it's too good not to tell.

It relates to a 16-year-old boy in Northern Ireland who has just been handed down what can only be described as a "novel" sentence after failing a police drugs test yesterday.  He admitted he'd taken cannabis before being arrested.

Perched on the Bench at Londonderry Magistrates' Court, District Judge Barney McIlhome decided to show the accused some leniency based on the latter's apparent love of art.      

"You must bring with you a sketch pad and a pencil and you can draw me and the solicitors for two hours each day," Judge McIlhome told the no doubt bemused but relieved youngster.  "Only me and the solicitors, and I will review the matter on Wednesday."

The judge added: "If you look stoned you will be arrested."

Let's hope he's not dopey (HA!)

Wednesday, 22 July 2015

A wee theory

I heard something this morning which I'd not heard before, meaning I must share it with you.

It relates to a philosophy known as "nudge" or "nudge theory" which, for someone with my tiny mind, demands a very simple explanation.

This is opposed to the less simple Wikipedia description of nudge as "a concept in behavioural science, political theory and economics which argues that positive reinforcement and indirect suggestions to try to achieve non-forced compliance can influence the motives, incentives and decision making of groups and individuals, at least as effectively – if not more effectively – than direct instruction, legislation, or enforcement."  

Got that?  Thought not.

Right, let's go with the BBC website which explains nudge theory as "using psychology to change our behaviour for the better."

Any clearer?  Don't worry, an illustrative example will help.  And for that, again I turn to the BBC where I first heard this story this morning whilst chewing a bacon sandwich.

"Perhaps the most famous example of a nudge is at Schiphol Airport in Holland. Managers were fed up with the state of the gents. Men were none too accurate in their aim. Warnings and signs did no good so designers tried a nudge."

Here comes the good bit.

"A black fly was etched into the porcelain of each urinal - something to aim at. Spillages were reduced by 80%."

Isn't that fun?!

But not as fun as this.

I love being a boy.

Tuesday, 21 July 2015

Marquee Weekend in Macosquin - and it's Big

Prior to moving to the metropolis that is Coleraine, I spent the first 10 years of my life living in the historic village of Macosquin.  (I say historic because those who claim to know about these things say it originated as a 6th-century monastic settlement, which is loads of years ago). 

And I look forward to going back there next month to see some of Northern Ireland's top live music acts take to the stage at the inaugural Big Marquee Weekend.

The three-day festival, which runs from 21-23 August, will take place in a professionally-erected marquee - complete with its own fully-equipped bar – sited in the car park of Mary Pat’s Bar.

In brief summary, the entertainment kicks off on the Friday with a clubland night headlined with DJ sets from Ultra Beat and Micky Modelle, plus local support.

Saturday’s highlight will be a Rock v Britpop battle with Bon Jovi tribute act Con Jovi taking on Oasis look and sound-alikes, Roll With It (pictured below).  Coleraine band Cellar Door are also on the bill with DJs Steady and Trigger playing rock and Britpop tunes to keep the party going.

And the weekend is sure to end on a high on Sunday with a country music spectacular starring singer-songwriter Ritchie Remo, popular two-piece JD Country and – in a real coup for the promoters - Ireland’s best known Garth Brooks tribute act, Jason Hughes.  A country DJ will also be there to entertain the crowd between the live performances. 

As it happens, one of the driving forces behind the event  - alongside Robert Todd and Hughie Hamilton - is my oldest friend Drew Hutchinson (aka DJ Steady).  

“The sight of customers swaying in Mary Pat’s is not unusual on an average weekend evening,” he told me. 

“But the image of many hundreds of people in the car park gyrating to the beat of high quality live music will be a new one. 

“More seriously, I am thrilled at the line-up we have managed to put together over the three days of the festival.  There really is something in there for all musical tastes and, having spoken to all of the artists, I know that they are looking forward to putting on a great show.

“I am not aware of an event like this being staged in the Triangle area before.  Tickets are selling very well with enquiries coming from both sides of the border and also from across the water after we posted the details on social media.

“With only a few weeks to go, I would encourage anyone interested in coming along to buy their tickets now because I am confident we will sell out.”

Day tickets are priced at £10 for Friday and £12 for Saturday and Sunday.   A two-ticket is also available priced at £20.

Tickets can be purchased from Mary Pat’s Bar, Romaya Hair Sanctuary in Coleraine or by calling Tel: 028 7034 4659.

Let me know if you're coming so we can clink glasses.   

Sunday, 19 July 2015

We knew he'd grow into it

It was Jamie's "moving on assembly" at Guiseley Infant and Nursery School on Friday morning.  And it was a toughie.  

Our boy has changed a lot over the past three years, as the pictures below prove. 

On Friday, we deliberately squeezed him into the tee shirt he wore on his very first day which, in September 2012, looked like a sweatshirt.  And despite having grown a few inches over that period, be assured that he is actually wearing shorts in photo number two.

But the physical changes are only part of the story.

So many of the positive aspects of his developing character - not to mention everything he learnt in the classroom, obviously - are down to the fine folk of a very fine school.

St Oswald's Primary School has a lot to live up to when he and Charlotte rock up there in September.

Thursday, 16 July 2015

Have a bite with Barry

With schools in Leeds having already broken up or preparing to break up in the coming days, the sense of dread amongst local parents is already palpable.

What oh what to do with our dearly beloveds?

But don't despair mums and dads, because I believe I've found a piece to start you off with that two-month jigsaw.  Oh yes.

Because between noon and 1pm  next Wednesday and, indeed, every Wednesday until the end of August, you can have your lunch with Barry.

And not just any Barry, hell no.  I'm talking about Barry the Friendly Dragon.

Thanks to the foresightedness of the good folk at Leeds City Council, the beautiful surrounds of Kirkstall Abbey are being made available for family picnics - with Barry as your host.

However, rightly conscious of health and safety concerns, the Council's open invitation does come with a health warning:

"Just make sure he doesn't eat your sandwiches!"

Consider yourself duly advised.

Wednesday, 15 July 2015

A great night despite the Big No Show

Prior to yesterday, Jamie's sole big-time sporting experience was having the privilege of sitting in the grandstand at the London Olympics as Coleraine rowing great Alan Campbell grabbed bronze for Team GB (&NI) in the men's single sculls. The memory of it still gives me goosebumps even now.

Three years and I thought it was high time he continued his live sports education.   Actually, the credit isn't mine but belongs to my old pal Paul "Merv" Gaile who came up with some free tickets the day before (a favour beckons)

The result was a visit to Headingley Cricket Ground to witness the Yorkshire Vikings take on Worcestershire Rapids in the NatWest T20 Blast.

And why Yorkshire "Vikings"? 

I dunno.  Maybe the mascot suit was going cheap.

Unlike the mascot miniatures.

Or the pies.

But the outlay was worth it on what was a terrific evening's fun - save for two disappointments.

Number one was was a defeat for the Vikings, their first since the last time they played.

Number two was a golden (first ball) duck for Yorkshire's star overseas player Glenn Maxwell, known as "The Big Show" and renowned as one of the world's greatest one-day batsmen.  I'd talked about him a lot on our bus journey to the ground, and his instant demise was a source of visible disappointment for both Jamie and me.    

And here's the proof as the catch which sent him on his way is taken in front of us.

I'm sure that this time last week Australians were good at cricket. 

Monday, 13 July 2015

The young female of the species is often a cheeky bitch

With Vanessa away on a sun-kissed girlie weekend...

....(I get to go to the North West 200 motorbike races every year to get soaked), for the past four days I was in sole charge of Jamie and Charlotte's personal development.

So, taking my responsibilities most seriously, I invited them to treat me to the Minions movie before returning the favour with a spin on the tea cups.

But I have to say, Mummy was missed - especially by Charlotte.

Miss White isn't really a fan of moving in general and walking in particular. And, because of circumstance - i.e. I still haven't passed my driving test (SHUT....UP!!!) - there was quite a bit of walking involved.

Charlotte was generally frustrated by this.  And, as we waited for our third massively delayed bus of the day on Saturday afternoon, her brewing ire bubbled over.  

"Daddy!" she spat.

"Yes, Charlotte."

"I wish you were away and Mummy was here because then she could drive us around!"

There's nothing worse than kicking a man when he's unlicensed.

But there was more hurt to come.

Other than being bad at steering a car around corners, another of my many weaknesses as a dad is an inability to do anything constructive with my daughter's hair.

Believe me I've tried.  I can brush it, yes.  (I once had a dog).  But putting clips, bobbles and similar restraining implements into Charlotte's hair and making them "stick" is very much beyond my talents.

So much so that, by day three, Charlotte told me not to bother with any accessories and she'd manage without seeing where she was going.

As Mummy's return from hols drew closer yesterday afternoon, I suggested that Charlotte put on a pretty dress. She was happy with that.  But then I pushed my luck.

"And do you want to have your hair done too?"

"Yes," she said.  "But not by you."

It is often said that God loves a trier.  I can only hope that 4-year-old trainee princesses do too.

Monday, 6 July 2015

Fat Hand from Ulster

It's bad day when you no longer know the back of your own hand.  But that's what has become of me.

48 hours on, and memories of Jane's party continue to raise a smile.  However, at some point along the way, something bit me.  I don't think it was a fellow guest but it was dark so I can't be sure.

Whatever the truth, my left wrist was itchy on the journey back from Manchester and, as yesterday went on, it got itchier.  When darkness fell, it was starting to ache. And by the time I climbed out of my pit this morning to face another week, I was swollen up from the tip of my fingers to halfway up my forearm. 


The nice lady in the local chemist kindly gave me some tablets and a tube of cream in return for eight British pounds.  They've made little difference thus far although time is apparently a great healer.

For now, I'm left with the back of a hand that I cannot recognise.  It's bloated and also appears to have shortened in length.  From my angle, I've become a chubby little fat man.  And it's messing with my brain.

All day I've had images of fellow chubby little fat men wobbling through my mind. 

Late darting legend Jocky Wilson has been in there.  John Prescott too.  The Baldy Man from the spoof Hamlet adverts (below).    

Ricky Gervais.  Norm from Cheers.  Winston Churchill.  Reg Holdsworth from Coronation Street.  Wayne Slobb.  Phil "The Power" Taylor.  Peter Kay.  And Johnny bloody Vegas. 

If my real left hand hasn't returned to action by tomorrow, I'm going to wear a glove.  I wasn't a huge Michael Jackson but being him for the day has got to be better than this.

Sunday, 5 July 2015

Jane is 40 - fancy that

A quite magnificent night last night when Mrs W and I headed over the Pennines to attend her old school friend Jane's 40th birthday bash.  Jane introduced me to Vanessa in a House of Commons bar 18 years ago, almost to the second. So all her fault then.

The instruction was to arrive in fancy dress with Dallas and Dynasty the theme.

Most imaginative costume?  I'd say below.

"DAL" on his back.  And his ass is very much on show.  Magnificent.

The birthday girl herself (below, right) came as Dynasty super-bitch Alexis Carrington, famously played by Joan Collins.

And that's Vanessa on the left as Kristin Shepard, JR Ewing's crap shot almost killer.

There was even a bucking bronco.  Here's Vanessa beating my time.

"Devastated" is the cleanest word I can use to describe how much that continues to hurt.

Later we had cake.

That's Ed - Jane's husband - in the towel, aka Bobby Ewing (Dallas aficionados will immediately "get" the ingenuity behind the look).

And then the party started.

Jane and Vanessa started it off.

And others willingly joined in.

I'd taken my costume off by that point.

Well, I mean, Jock Ewing was never really known as a dancer.    

Thursday, 2 July 2015

Bright White

I'm a sucker for a good new-fashioned online discount voucher.    

So, when I got a magazine through from a well-known online sports shop containing my very own discount code, I got excited.

I needed to buy a new pair of running shoes, you see.  And because I run in a "particular way" (all down to the war wounds), I always get the same ones - although I do try to buy a different colour each time for the sheer thrill of it.

Which brings me to my point.

I wanted a navy pair this time, but they only had size 13.5 and I'm an 11.  I was therefore stuck with the other colour available.  And they were, well, a little "different."  But still, they were in the sale and I had my discount voucher so what the heck.

I added them to my cart and went to pay.  Bugger, I was £8 short of the limit for free delivery - which cost £5.99.  So I added three pairs of running socks - which were the same colour as my new "different" trainers - and went to pay.  Clever me.

Before putting in my payment details, I added my discount code.  Double bugger.  My 15% off took me back under the free delivery line - a bit tight that, I'd say - so I had to buy something else.  I quickly chose a running tee shirt, again in the same "different" colour.  And I paid.

My "free" delivery arrived on Tuesday and I'm looking forward to trying everything out.  But tonight I let Charlotte have first go.

I think I'll look great and not in the least like a 6'2" luminous streak of, er, banana.