Wednesday, 23 December 2015

No snow - but still set for a White Christmas

Greetings from a speeding train now well on its way to Coleraine where Christmas can get going for real.

As I pointed out in a post a few days ago, it'll be our first family Christmas on this side of "the water."  We did attempt the journey in 2009 when Jamie was 18 months old.  But sadly the snow ploughs at Leeds Bradford Airport weren't up to the task.  

However, without wishing to tempt fate, all is going almost swimmingly well this time.  Our bags had enough room for our Christmas booty, our plane was on time and so is this train. The only slight blip was when the driver almost put our airport bus into a wall. But he missed, serving as a symbolic reminder of just how safe Belfast is these days. 

We're heading to my mum's in Portstewart first to get the kids settled.  And then, well, who knows?  I've always found that travelling makes me thirsty.  As does not travelling.  And Christmas.  So perhaps we'll see if we can do something about that.

Then tomorrow - in common with everyone else - it's final preparations (think lots of wrapping) and some further thirst-quenching in advance of the big day.

I know I haven't been updating this guff as often as I used to, although I am hoping to do better come 2016.  

But thank you for continuing to check in on the sporadic occasions when I have been arsed.

More importantly, I hope you have a wonderful and entertaining few days with the people who make you happiest. 

Merry Christmas from the Whites! 

Wednesday, 16 December 2015

"Thank you Guiseley, you've been awesome.."

Yes, dear friends, our Charlotte kind of rocked it as Mary in this afternoon's St Oswald's Primary School nativity.

Above you can see Miss White delivering her line (in a photo taken by the school and put on their blog).

And, in a sight I fear we'll see again, here's a group of strange menfolk bowing down to Her Ladyship and giving her presents.  

If you're feeling all Christmassy or simply want to see a load of cute kids dressed up even cuter, feel free to have a gander at the school's excellent selection of pics HERE.

Rates for Charlotte's autograph are negotiable, and all proceeds will go towards Mummy and Daddy's Christmas Wine Fund.  

Tuesday, 15 December 2015

It's Cwistmas time, and thewe's no need to be afwaid

There's a feeling of feverish anticipation in our house tonight.

It's the St Oswald's Primary School Carol Service tomorrow afternoon featuring a nativity performed by Reception.

And, well, of course our Charlotte has been cast as Mary.

It's a bit embarrassing really, as she filled the same role last year whilst still at nursery.  And this time she even has a line.

As you'll be aware, Mary traditionally wears something "dowdy" on account of not having had a lot of manna on her at the time (never mind being forced to sleep in a stable).  But Charlotte doesn't do dowdy so will instead be be kitted out in a spangly number Vanessa Magdalene found on eBay.

I've no idea how it's going to go, but hopefully God will provide.

Sadly, He did let me down on the two occasions I got to perform up front at the Macosquin Primary School Christmas production.

In my final year I was handed the role of "Old Winter" when it was the task of "Spring" (aka Mark Logan) to "knock me out" with boxing gloves.  Unfortunately for yours truly, Wee Logie got carried away, hit me for real and dislodged my lovingly-made cardboard beard which went flying across the stage.

But that was as nothing when compared to the year before when I was in the P6 choir and chosen to perform a solo.

The carol was "The Holly Tree" and I had two lines to sing on my own:

"But my sweetheart loves to rest
"Beneath the shining holly."

Doesn't seem too hard does it?  Well, it wouldn't be if you happen to be a 9-year-old who can actually say/sing his Ls and Rs.  Sadly at that time I wasn't in that particular category.

So I managed:

"But my sweethaat woves to west
"Beneath the shining hawwy."

Honestly, I can still feel the sweat running down my back as I belted it out.  

Hopefully Charlotte will leave with happier recollections tomorrow.

Sunday, 13 December 2015

Preparing to get lamped

Twelve months go quickly and, lo and behold, it's time for the first pantomime of the season.  (We're going to two this year.  Get us).

Today's - at The Carriageworks in Leeds - is always special as it doubles up as the Aireborough Lions RUFC Christmas outing.  And it's a very clever arrangement.

The theatre is located right beside the German market in the city centre where they serve beer.  We traditionally congregate there two hours before the performance to enable the adults to wet their whistles whilst the kids complain.  Then we all file in, the parents feeling much more enthused about going to a pantomime than when they arrived.  Genius.  

That's this year's cast you can see pictured above and the lamp tells you that they're appearing in Aladdin.  The title role is filled by Lee Brennan who used to be in boy band 911.  Oh yes, we get all the big names here in Yorkshire.

But he'll have to be good to come close to matching the talents of my all-time favourite panto king.  His name was Billy Bones and, for many years, he was the star turn in Coleraine's pantomime in the Town Hall.

One of my earliest clear childhood memories was speaking to the great man just a couple of hours before curtain up one year.  He was standing in our living room.  And he was standing in our living room because he was our insurance man and my mum was his last customer of the day.

Happy days.          

Friday, 11 December 2015

Once, twice, three times a Wonka

It is often said that life begins at 40.  But my rebirth happened a little later as I was 42 before Morrisons £5 'Match & More' vouchers were invented.

Honestly, they're what I live for - especially on weekdays.  

And whilst obviously very welcome, it's not even the fiver that thrills me most.  That barely buys you a pint in some establishments these days.  (An honourable exception is Johnstons Bar, 53 Railway Road, Coleraine.  Ask for Clare, Seamus or Stewartie).

No, it's more the fact that I've won a little battle with a supermarket chain that is notoriously reluctant to give you 'owt for nowt' (as they say in these parts).

So imagine my excitement this morning when, after filling my basket with a load of shite I didn't need, the £5 'Match & More' voucher you can see above appeared from the self-service machine.

Honestly, I felt like I'd died and gone to Heaven.  

But wait!  Something else was coming out!

It couldn't be!  It really couldn't be!  OMG, IT WAS!!!!!!!

ANOTHER £5 'Match & More' voucher!            

And here it is - check the serial number.  It's different.  Yup, two genuine, spendable £5 'Match & More' vouchers. 

But my life-changing moment was set to get even better.  Because the machine kept whirring.  And you'll never guess what appeared next!

Well, you won't.  What came out was so unlikely that it would be impossible for you to even have a stab at.

So here we go folks.  Sit tight, stand tall, get ready to blow your mind.

It was only a THIRD Morrisons £5 'Match & More' voucher!   I KNOW!!!!

So that's 1-2-3.  Making three in total,  THREE!

And here they are together just to prove it.   

I mean, just look at them.  They're quite beautiful.

Can you even imagine how many £1 packets of chocolate biscuits I can buy with them?  Or £5 bottles of wine?  I can't.  It's bound to be loads.

As the enormity of what's happened begins to sink in, I kind of feel the hand of Charlie Bucket upon my shoulder when he found out he was going to Willy Wonka's chocolate factory.

But there's a big difference between us.

Little Charlie had to make do with a single golden ticket.  I've got three.

Maybe one day they'll write a book or make a film about me too. Or they might not.

Thursday, 10 December 2015

The only way is down

Even at the distressing age of almost 43¾, I'm still prone to the odd short notice burst of overwhelming excitement.   And I've just had one after opening my copy of the Yorkshire Evening Post.  

In fact, my jets are yet to be calmed.  But this is probably a good thing as I'm likely to need them in the coming weeks.  

I'll get straight to the point.

Leeds is about to get its very own TRAMPOLINE PARK!!!!    
Yes, you read that correctly. Leeds is about to get its very own TRAMPOLINE PARK!!!!!!!!   

Honestly, I'm not even making it up.  And it's opening in less than THREE WEEKS!!!   

Located at Kirkstall close to the city centre, the 20,000sq ft. arena will house more than 80 trampolines.  You can also play dodge ball, jump in a foam pit or tackle a "Ninja Warrior-style obstacle course."  Really. Honestly. I'm not making this up. 

And you've not even heard the best bit yet.  

According to the general manager, "You can bounce from one trampoline to the other but we also have angled trampolines so you can literally bounce off the walls.”

And there was you wondering why I was excited.

Due to throw open its doors on Monday 28 December, everyone above the age of five (including 43¾-year-olds) is invited to make a mouth of themselves.

As luck would have it, Charlotte turns five next week so hopefully I'll have not one but two willing volunteers to "drag" me along. 

But if they want sweets, I'm definitely having first go. 

Wednesday, 9 December 2015

Mine's a Christmas Guinness

Greetings campers, I trust I find you well.

And Merry Christmas while I'm at it.

Yes, the festive season is upon us - or upon me at the very least.  In fact, it's currently jumping up and down on my head and stomach and I'm beginning to feel a bit queasy.  But sure that's all part of the fun.

Our Christmas is set to be a little different this year as, for the first time as a foursome, the Whites are due to spend it in Northern Ireland.

We did try this before, six years ago, whilst still a three-piece outfit.  But sadly it snowed heavily in Leeds and our plane spent Christmas in Yorkshire with the rest of us.  

This time we are a touch more optimistic about completing the journey, helped by the fact that we've chosen to set off the day before Christmas Eve rather than Christmas Eve itself.
There has been one other rather important logistical challenge to be overcome too.  We're staying at my mum's and there's been no great difficulty with asking Santa Claus to deliver Jamie and Charlotte's presents there instead (should they have been good enough).  But getting them back will be a little less easy.  So we've reached a compromise: Santa's going to do two drop-offs.

A handful of easily transported gifts will make their way down my mum's chimney in Portstewart.  And the big man will then deposit the remainder at our house in Guiseley (he has his own key) ready for "Christmas to continue" (as Jamie puts it) when we return a few days later.

All good.  Just as long as our plane takes off.  And Father Christmas doesn't forget the arrangement.

And I don't get too carried away in Johnstons Bar on Christmas Eve.  I'll maybe see you in there.