Friday, 27 November 2015

Roll up for the Rodneython

I haven't asked for your help on here for a little while.  But that's about to change.

Anyone who has read this guff down the years will know all about my friend Rodney McCune.  He's a very talented young man.  A barrister by trade, I covered his first trial in the Old Bailey exclusively for the Coleraine Times.  He's stood for Parliament a few times and will, in time, get a seat.  He's been on The Richard and Judy Show after making a citizen's arrest, also getting him in the Daily Mail.  And he was groomsman on my wedding day.  Did a very good job too.

Rodney married a very nice lady from Uzbekistan called Firuza, which brings me on to the reason for this post.

Their wedding took place five years ago in Firuza's native land.  Their youngest guest was a little girl named Samira.  She had her whole life ahead of her and, by all accounts, enjoyed her day.  

Speaking to Claire McNeilly at the Belfast Telegraph earlier this week, Rodney took up the story.   

"Samira was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukaemia in May 2014," he said. "I was devastated when I recently became aware of how ill she is.

"Uzbekistan is not the wealthiest country in the world, but Samira's family and friends managed to scrape together £50,000 to pay for the treatment in Moscow over the last 12 months.

"Now, though, they are struggling to raise more money and that's why I wanted to do something to help."

He added: "There is no National Health Service there. Samira and her mother are completely on their own."

Rodney and Firuza now live in Belfast, and are mum and dad to Charlie who has a cheeky smile.    

"When you're the parent of a young child it obviously makes anything like this more personal," Rodney continued.

"Moscow is a five-hour flight from Uzbekistan and it makes it much harder being treated so far from home. But the good news is that doctors are fairly confident that when she finishes her treatment she'll make a full recovery."

Another £25,000 is required for Samira to get better.  And Rodney is determined to raise it.

"I know there are many worthy causes out there - in Northern Ireland and beyond," he told Claire.

"But for me it's very sad to see any child's life reduced to a financial element, and that's why I wanted to see what we could do.

"This only comes down to money. She is already two-thirds of the way through her treatment. Not every child who's ill can be saved but, with financial support, Samira can be.

"That's what's so significant about it. It's simply down to paying for expensive treatment."

He added: "My wife always says that people in Northern Ireland are very public spirited and charitable when it comes to fundraising and that's why I wanted to raise the profile of this."

If you want to do your little bit to help Samira, you can by logging onto (And you don't have to come from where I come from).
I know Rodney and Firuza would be very grateful to you.

Monday, 23 November 2015

A cooling beer brings cheer at this time of year (hear hear)

This time of the year is laden with key events.

The last grass cut, the clocks going back, Halloween, fireworks night, cut price Quality Street at Morrisons, I'm A Celebrity, the Christmas tree going up (too early yet) and the big fridge packing in.

OK, so maybe it's just our big fridge that packs in, but bear with me.

Our big fridge is in the garage, you see, and when it gets cold out there - which has been since Saturday - it goes into hibernation.  Happens every year.  And for a period of months we have to wing it with a smaller fridge in the kitchen and an ice box.  This is an inconvenience, certainly, but it also represents an opportunity.  For me.

Because our big fridge then becomes my beer fridge.  This makes me very pleased indeed.

As any man fortunate enough to experience this will confirm, having your very own beer fridge is just a little bit special.  Yes, in my case, the fridge obviously isn't on, making it more of a beer cold store.  But still.  I get to spoil myself by sourcing a "range" of beverages which I can gaze at adoringly prior to sampling.

I've now got Corona in there, Carlsberg, lots of lovely Guinness and - an an experiment - some Carling Zest. (Think lager and lime, my original first love. I used to arrive at parties with six cans of Tennants and a bottle of lime.  I would then ask a friend to drink the first half-inch of my can, which I would replace with some lime.  An excellent system I felt, although sometimes people would hide my lime just for a laugh.  Ha bloody ha).  This year I've even generously permitted Vanessa to stash three very small bottles of tonic and a bottle of white vino (which I'll certainly demand that she shares. Call it rent).    

Living the dream, dear friends, living the dream.

Sunday, 15 November 2015

Madness in her eyes

Friday night's terrorist attacks in Paris have shocked the world and, initially, were covered with relative calm and dignity by British broadcasters.

And then someone put Kay Burley on a Eurostar.

I don't know if you're a Sky News viewer or, indeed, a Kay Burley fan.  But I just can't watch that woman.  No matter how delicate the subject matter, nothing will stop Ms Burley from crudely trying to get a scoop or thrusting her own shallow musings on an unfortunate audience.

Right, sermon over - let's have some fun at her expense.

Desperate for attention presumably during an ad break, our self-styled journalistic heroine posted this on Twitter.

Nope, I'm not making it up.  She really, truly, honestly did.

And after a few minutes to allow this to sink in, the Twitterati got to work.

Good one.  What about this?

Or this?

And this.

Here's another.

An amusing potato anyone?

Fluffy bear?

Or perhaps a scary shark.

And finally, something more surreal.

Sure we all need a laugh, particularly at times of adversity.

And you can always trust the good old British public to deliver it.


The gift that keeps on giving.

Friday, 13 November 2015

Take a Wookie at this

Back in my day, we used to turn up to school in bad jumpers and good trousers on Children In Need day in return for a small donation to an excellent cause.

But the stakes have been greatly upped since then.  "No uniform day" it seems is so 1987.  In 2015 our own kids are instead challenged to "Be A Hero" for the day, dressed in appropriate attire.

Now, I don't have a problem with this.  Yes, us parents are all busy ya-de-ya-de-yadda.  But it offers the sprogs a fun experience so, for me, we've got to do our bit.

That's the theory.  Or at least it was until Wednesday evening when Jamie declared that he wanted to be transformed into the Eleventh Doctor (Who) - think Matt Smith - and we quickly realised we didn't have any of the right garb.

A trip to six shops yesterday afternoon brought zero returns.  So I was left with no option but to wing it, picking up the best costume I could find in the challenging circumstances in which I was by then mired.

Charlotte had already decided that she was going as Merida who, I am advised, shoots witches with her bow and arrows.  Definitely a hero(ine) then.  And we already had the costume.

Job done.

So, back to Jamie.  There were two key questions:

  1. Could the character I had chosen for him be legitimately classed as a hero? 
  2. Did Jamie like the character enough to want to dress up as him?
A quick straw poll on Facebook and a bit of added Googling told me that, yes, our mystery character had most certainly earned his hero spurs - even once turning down a medal for good deeds.

And was Jamie a fan?  Taking, her life in her hands, Vanessa put the question to him last night and, lo and behold, he was very much an admirer.

So all that remained was for Jamie to get into the costume and "the zone."

Ladies and gentlemen, Chewbacca and Merida White.

Enjoy Children in Need night.

And May the Force be with you.

Wednesday, 11 November 2015

She hasn't even mentioned the skirting boards

It's been a stressful couple of days in our house as we prepared for the carpet men to arrive.

It's taken me more than four years to decorate our house from top to bottom; not that it's a particularly big house, but because I'm lazy.

However, in that time, we'd not bought a new carpet.  So today we had four delivered and laid.

Getting the rooms cleared and the old carpets lifted was always going to be a test (for a man of my patience).  But then on Monday, I lifted the landing carpet to have a gander underneath - and noticed how naff the skirting boards looked.

And the thing is, it's never easier to paint skirting boards then when the carpets are up - a chance that doesn't come along too often.

I had a five-minute think before concluding that I couldn't be arsed.

Then I felt guilty.

And 24 hours later, several miles of skirting boards (OK, maybe just one mile or perhaps a bit less), five door frames, four doors, one banister and several wooden railings had received two grumpy coats each.

Then the furniture moving began, finishing just a few minutes before our men arrived this morning.  What a hero. (Vanessa did move some stuff too, but she's much better at cleaning up afterwards).

And was it all worth it?  Well, Charlotte certainly thinks so.

Little Missy has been stuck with some pretty awful carpet since we moved in here and, when we went to the warehouse, was determined to make up for lost time.

Cue an order in sparkly pink.

Prior to our visit, I wasn't aware that you could get sparkly carpet.  But I learnt something and, crucially, it wasn't even expensive.

And, well, she's rather pleased with the result.

So much so that Mummy thought her dollies might like to share the treat, by way of an off-cut.

Methinks there will be sweet dreams in two houses tonight.

Sunday, 8 November 2015

Big-hearted Lions stand proud to remember

Remembrance Sunday is a day few people might naturally "look forward to." It's very sad, after all.

But, since being a bit part junior coach at Aireborough Rugby Club, I've been touched by the absolute respect afforded to the two minutes silence by our wonderful group of boys and girls.

This was our Under 8s standing together today alongside their mini-opponents from nearby Yarnbury RFC.

A proud moment.

And they didn't do so bad on the field either.

It was a horrible day here with the pitches wet and hard to run on.

But the Aireborough Lions fronted up, Jamie included, and gave as good as they got.

Afterwards, weekly awards were given out.

And today they included a brand new trinket adjudicated upon by the players themselves.

It was for Coach of the Week.  And I didn't win.

This was hardly a surprise as I'm a crap coach and, on the few occasions when I try to impart my limited "wisdom", very few baby Yorkies have the first clue what I'm talking about.

This only makes me admire them even more.    

Friday, 6 November 2015

Not A Beautiful Noise

Happy Friday one and all, and not before time.  I hope you've had a good week.

For us, it's been an expensive one.  Yesterday I booked tickets for us to return to CarFest North in July.  It wasn't the plan right up until the exact moment when tickets went on sale.  And then I cracked.  Still, bugger it - all for a good cause etc etc.  More on that another time.   

But we also booked our summer holiday.

For the past four years we've gone to a Holiday Village; Menorca twice, then Tenerife, then Turkey just a couple of months ago.  And each trip has been terrific.

But next year we're set for a change.

As before, it'll be kiddie-orientated with kids clubs, junior discos and all the rest.  Plus, we're going all-inclusive once again which means we'll not be hungry (or thirsty...MEH!!!!)

However, there is just the one minor problem.   Our destination is Albufeira in Portugal. And the last time Vanessa and I were there, we left one particular establishment in the back of a police car.

There were no kids around at that stage - we weren't even married - and were having a night on the tiles.   Which was ironic, because I ended up flat on my back on some very cold tiles, surrounded by glass.

We'd stopped off at a Neil Diamond tribute show and, as a self-confessed Neil Diamond fan, I was having a rather good time.  And yes, I'd had a few drinks but nothing too mad.  But my bladder was bursting.  So, during a bit of an instrumental break, I shot off to the gents to empty it.

Unfortunately, as I set foot on the wet floor destined for the urinal, I flew across the room straight into a huge wall mirror which shattered into a million pieces.

You could've heard the crash in Belfast.

The next thing I knew and ignoring my bleeding arm, two burly bouncers arrived to apprehend me.  The police were called and, shortly afterwards, an unamused Vanessa and I were led through a crowd of cheering Brits - who'd gathered outside - put into the back seat of a police car, and driven away.

To cut a long story short, our passport details were taken and we were eventually released back into the wild, pending further enquiries.  We were also warned to stay away from the scene of the "crime" for the remaining eight days of our trip whilst the bar owner decided if he would press charges.

We never saw him or the police officers again.  Thank ****.

Still, the opportunity to pop back in next summer to introduce the kids might prove too difficult to resist.  Actually, bugger it, we're doing it.

My seven years of bad luck must surely be behind me.                    

Monday, 2 November 2015

I'm a disco diva, get me out of here

There's been thick fog in various parts of the country today, leading to the delay or cancellation of lots of flights and the frustration of many passengers.

Such annoyance can often bring out the worst in people, including delusions of personal grandeur.

I mention this because, listening to Radio 5 Live this morning, I heard a very nice lady call in from departures at Amsterdam airport to tell listeners what was going on there.

The long and short was that chaos ensued but, hey ho, worse things happen so let's not get too upset.

Presenter Nicky Campbell asked if any fellow passengers were displaying a less-kindly attitude than herself.

"Oh yes," she said.  "One man marched up to the desk and announced, "I'M A VERY IMPORTANT PERSON!'"

Amused by this, Nicky Campbell relayed a similarly-themed airport story involving US pop queen Diana Ross.

Her flight had also been delayed and she wasn't pleased.

So she flounced up to the check-in desk with a cringeworthy announcement/question of her own: "DO YOU KNOW WHO I AM?!"

But the object of her outburst was unbowed.

And, turning to the person staffing the next door desk and speaking loud enough for everyone else to hear, she purred: "There's a person here who doesn't know who she is."

That knock-out line has kept me amused all day.

And from here on in, every time I hear Diana Ross sing her hit song "Do You Know," I'll laugh.  At her.  Very loudly.

Sunday, 1 November 2015

Zo bad, Zo old

Sunday evening is not a typical time for a good old laugh.  But tonight was an exception.

Vanessa and I were in one room trying to sort out summer holiday plans.  Meanwhile, the kids were next door watching the Strictly Come Come Dancing results show.  (They're big fans).

As Strictly aficionados will be be very well aware, other than the results themselves, not a lot happens in the Strictly Come Come Dancing results show.  It lasts about 45 minutes but the results last about five.  The rest is what can best be described as "padding."

Cue Zoe Ball.

Our Zoe presents a BBC2 Strictly spin-off programme five nights a week.  And it needs to be promoted.  So, as the votes were being counted tonight, she popped up to tell us all about her gig and why we needed to watch tomorrow.

As it happens, Zoe Ball and us Whites have a history.

I met her at a House of Commons reception in 1998.


And later that night, I saw her again in the next door bar which also contained my recently-acquired girlfriend by the name of Vanessa.

It had previously been said by some that Vanessa and Zoe looked very similar.  So, with a drink or two in the tank, I made it my business to introduce them to each other.  I then asked Ms Ball if she thought she bore any resemblance to the modern day Mrs White.

"No," she replied.  "People say I look like Martin Clunes, so that would be an insult."

A good line.

Let's fast forward until tonight and Zoe Ball's appearance on the Strictly results show.

I paused it on Sky+ and asked Jamie if she reminded him of anyone.

"Yes!" he barked.  "A younger version of Mummy!"

Almost five years her junior, Vanessa is less than pleased.