Thursday, 22 December 2016

Feeling blue? We can Fix that

As Boxing Day draws to a close, there's neither time nor reason to get the post-Christmas blues.

Because in just 48 hours from now - that's Wednesday 28 December - the gig of the year will be getting underway at the magnificent Kiwi's Brew Bar in Portrush.

The Fix are reforming after 25 years. And it's all in the name of charity with Alzheimer's Research UK the chosen beneficiary

For so many of us who grew up on the Causeway Coast 
in the late 1980s and early 1990s, The Fix will be forever remembered with great affection for their live performances in the White Pheasant, Deerstalker and Barn sections of the legendary Kelly's Portrush.

That's me slap bang in the middle of shot - taken circa 1989 - with my mouth hanging open.  What a stunner. 

And now a shared desire to raise much-needed funding to tackle dementia has persuaded original frontman Jonny Lennox and bassist Paul Beattie to come back together after 25 years to play on Wednesday night.  They will be joined by new boy Peter Jamison on drums and percussion.

See. Age can sometimes be kind.  I hate them.

Entry is free but everyone will be asked to place a donation to 
Alzheimer's Research UK into a guitar case at the front of the stage.

And the show itself is just part of the band’s efforts to raise cash for a cause close to many people’s hearts.

Raffle tickets priced at £5 are already on sale with a range of exciting prizes donated by local businesses up for grabs.

These include a:

rand new 5/3 wetsuit from Troggs, Portrush
Voucher for Causeway Coast Foodie Tours
Voucher for the Causeway Coasteering
Voucher for lessons with Portrush Surf School
Framed picture of the Dark Hedges from Northern Shore Photography
Framed Hugh Adams Northern Ireland-inspired print
Framed picture from A Broader Picture, Portstewart
Gift voucher for Truva Chargrill, Coleraine

Raffle tickets can be bought in person at Kiwi’s Brew Bar and Troggs.

Alternatively, you can log on to and, for every £5 donated, a raffle ticket number will be allocated. 

Jonny Lennox, lead vocalist and guitarist with the Fix, said: 
"We’re delighted by the response since the gig was announced. More than £1,500 has already been raised from the raffle and we’re very grateful to the businesses who have been so kind in providing prizes.  We have set ourselves a target of £2,500 and I’m very hopeful that we’re get there.

"Thanks also to Kris Charteris at Kiwi’s Brew Bar, 
which recently won the Urban category at the 2016 Northern Ireland Pub of the Year Awards, for providing the venue and helping us to promote the event.

"The pressure is now on us old boys to put on a show worthy of 
Alzheimer's Research UK, the excellent cause we want to help.  We’re deep into rehearsals and aim to recreate some of the old magic from a time when we had a lot more hair and a lot less to worry about!  I hope local people and visitors to the North Coast will get behind us.  It promises to be a great night."    

Kris Charteris, owner of Kiwi’s Brew Bar, said: 
"Jonny has always been a great supporter of mine and it is a pleasure to do my bit to help The Fix raise what I hope will be a heap of cash for Alzheimer's Research UK. Portrush is where the band made its name and it’s appropriate that they will be rekindling the old magic right in the heart of the town."

One of Alzheimer’s Research UK’s most prominent supporters is award-winning Coleraine actor James Nesbitt whose mother passed away with Alzheimer’s disease in 2012 after what he calls ‘the longest goodbye’. The Cold Feet star spoke at the Alzheimer’s Research UK 2013 Network Conference where he made a powerful call for greater investment in dementia research.

Hannah Reynolds, Community and Sporting Officer at Alzheimer’s Research UK, said: "We are delighted that The Fix will be reuniting after 25 years especially for a Christmas gig in support of Alzheimer’s Research UK. It is fantastic news that £1,500 has already been raised before the event has taken place. Supporters like The Fix help us in our quest to find effective treatments and preventions for dementia, a condition which more than 20,000 people are living with in Northern Ireland."

Please come along if you can. I've seen the setlist and, trust me, it's going to be fantastic.  

The boys are due on stage at 10pm with a late bar to follow.  I'll be somewhere near the front trying desperately not to get too nostalgic.  And failing dismally.  I hope to see you there.

Sunday, 18 December 2016

Three Whites and I'm out


It was late afternoon on Friday when I was finally given the go-ahead to leave the Leeds General Infirmary, having been there since Monday morning.

I suspect - in fact, I know - many of you will have many worse tales to tell than I have. But, 48 hours on, I have no shame in admitting that the whole hospital experience rocked me to the core.

After my arm had a fairly negative reaction to Wednesday's operation, it looked odds-on that I wouldn't be released until after the weekend.

I spoke to one of the nurses about it on Thursday and explained that it was Charlotte's 6th birthday party on Saturday and I had to be there.

The nurse came back to me a little later to say that she could arrange for me to travel. But as things stood, I would have to return to hospital immediately afterwards. A very kind and generous idea. However, presented with it, I think I would've chosen to stay where I was. Saying goodbye would've been too tough.

Whatever happened in the subsequent 12 hours is beyond be. But the swelling and pain in my arm did somehow reduce enough for me to convince the consultant on Friday to sign my papers for release later in the day.

And I got to Charlotte's party.


I hope Miss White enjoyed it as much as her doting daddy. (The only downside was discovering shortly beforehand that our friendly neighbourhood burglars from two weeks ago  - remember them? - had also stolen my camera).


As to what happens next, I'm actually due back at the LGI first thing tomorrow morning to check that all things hand and arm are heading in the right direction.

I'm still on heavy antibiotics but the swelling is definitely on the wane, which is great. As long as that continues, the only remaining challenge is the wound on my hand from the operation. It's horrific. Seriously. It looks like Piers Morgan. They're hoping it will heal itself. Otherwise there's the possibility of having to go through a skin graft, which would really put the icing on my Christmas cake. But we'll cross that crocodile-infested ditch if we're forced to.

For now, I want to thank anyone and everyone who's been so kind to me (and Vanessa, which is even more appreciated) over the last week. It made a real difference, especially when the outlook wasn't so hot.

I was really taken aback this afternoon when my top man friend Dylan turned up with his superstar son Sion to hand over an amazing card from the Aireborough Lions U9s. Dylan had designed it himself and a load of the boys and their parents had signed it.

Neither Jamie nor I have been at rugby for three weeks; first because of the break-in and then because of my illness. Jamie was just as flattered by the thought behind the card as I was. We promise that we'll be the first in line for training come January.


Thursday, 15 December 2016

Poisoned elbow to the chops

And so the story moves on although, sadly, I'm staying where I am for a bit longer yet.

After a surprisingly good night's sleep on Tuesday and waking up on Wednesday with a right arm that seemed to have reduced in swelling, events took a disappointing turn.

The consultant wasn't happy with the way the wound on my hand was looking at him, and added my name to the afternoon surgery list.

I returned on a wheelchair a few hours later with my arm looking like this.


The arrow - painted on specially to inform one of Yorkshire's brightest surgical minds exactly where my hand is - also marks roughly where my current problem now lies.

The hand itself is still pretty big after the operation but seems to be recovering OK. But the rest of my arm - particularly around my elbow - is being less helpful and, if anything, is more of a problem now than before its mandatory trip to the theatre.

The LGI brains trust has just met and, after considering changing my antibiotics drips, have kept them as they are. Four times a day, pretty much max strength. 

And we just have to keep on going.

I've had two drips today already, there's another due around 8pm and my last sometime after midnight.

Then we start again around 6.30am.

By that time, hopefully the arm will be doing the opposite of bigging itself up and, when the consultant comes to see me at 8am-ish, he'll say that I'm close to release. But it's impossible to tell and I'd be lying if I said that confidence is high. 

Be assured though that I intend to remain optimistic.

Tuesday, 13 December 2016

Red Hand of Ulster

Like most kids large and small, I normally love December. But this month is proving to be a dishonourable exception.

I've already bleated on here about our little house break-in where our visitors didn't take much but chose to transport what they had in our car. Still no sign of that.

Well, there's been another development.

I was in the bathroom on Friday morning and turned around to walk out the door. But because I'm a clumsy so and so, I managed to catch my hand on the corner of the wall.

It left a mark of probably around an inch, with the skin being broken by only about a quarter of that. And only superficially. No big deal. I seem to have a minor accident at least once a week these days. We move on.

It was little bit stingy for the rest of the day, but I barely thought any more about it.

And when I woke on Saturday, the mark was still there but there was no pain at all.

However, as I was about to get up, I suddenly felt all sickie-bokey. And within a few minutes, I'd barfed up twice. Just great.

The nausea kicked in after that and I was forced to spend the entire weekend in bed. And the longer I lay, the sorer my hand and then arm became.

This was how my hand looked on Monday  morning.


The photo was taken at Leeds General Infirmary.

This is me have my having my first go on the intravenous drip shortly afterwards. (They connected me by my 'good'/broken arm).


And this was how I slept on the ward last night.


Big up, aiiiii.

Things have since taken a turn for the better, starting this morning with the consultant ruling out any immediate need for plastic surgery. (I did ask if I could throw my chin and nose into the mix, but he said no). And the swelling in my hand and arm has definitely gone down.

I'm being kept in for at least another night and there could be more to follow. But hey ho, it's not Charlotte's birthday party until Saturday and I'd be very unlucky to miss out on that.

Then let the Christmas frivolities begin.

Unless there's a lightning storm, because I'm toast. 

Friday, 9 December 2016

Man of the froth


I discovered to my horror last night that I'd run out of Guinness. And with a long weekend ahead, needed to do something about it.

So, after depositing the kids at school this morning, I headed straight for Morrisons.

I was stopped on the way in by the local vicar who just wanted to say hello.  He's a good man - not always a given with church people in my experience - and it's nice to have his approval.

I made for the beer aisle, grabbed two 10-packs of Guinness (on offer for £16) and set sail for the self-service tills. 

I was just a few feet away when, lo and behold, I found that my best vicar friend was already in the queue.

But what to do?

I appreciate that God sees everything and His opinion of me is probably well set.  But I'd prefer the vicar not to know about my love for the Devil's Buttermilk, just in case he goes off me.

Thinking quickly, I chose to take the less than Holy step of bolting off and hunkering down behind the Quality Street display until he'd left.

Thankfully only God and the CCTV man at Morrisons were any the wiser.  I'd be grateful if you'd help me keep it that way. 

Wednesday, 7 December 2016

Who's that gymnast?

I attended my first ever junior gymnastics display this afternoon. 

Charlotte was the main attraction - for Vanessa, Jamie and me at least - and the little lady did very well.


Elegance is not something I've ever been accused of possessing.

And neither is balance.


I could jump a bit in my day.


But not nearly as dramatically as Charlotte.


I've no idea where's she's got her talents from.


Vanessa claims to have been a bit of a gymnast in her day.

But, naturally, I refuse to believe her.

Tuesday, 6 December 2016

Oh my, God

In common with Theresa May and Brexit, I don't plan to provide a running commentary on all things post-burglary.  Because that would be almost as boring.

However, there will be the odd exception such as this.

I was brought up to respect members of the clergy and what they had to say.  That was until I was old enough to work out what the Reverend Ian Paisley was saying.  And there was also a local Church of Ireland minister who used to drown kittens in a sack. 

But moving on, MOST of the men and ladies of the cloth I've ever met are fine people who like to tell it as it is.

I had a chat with one such preacher - a total gent - over the weekend, during which the subject of our (still) missing VW Golf came up.

"They took your car?!" he enquired, seeking confirmation of what I'd just told him.

"They did, yes," I said.  "Please don't pray for them."

But he ignored my weak attempt at humour, and instead fired back a one-word response.



Saturday, 3 December 2016

An Ode to Friends

Heartfelt thanks to everyone who's been in touch since yesterday when I told you about our little misfortune.

There's still no sign of our car. 

But the insurance company has arranged for us to borrow a mobile sardine tin.


And we're all very grateful for that.

However, these things are minor details.

It's onwards for us all.

Particularly Charlotte whose turn it was to put the fairy on our Christmas tree.


Thanks again.

Friday, 2 December 2016

Fizzing on a Friday


We woke up this morning to discover that some bastard (or collective of bastards) had nicked our car.

I rose just after 7 as usual and came downstairs to give Jamie and Charlotte their breakfast.  And I noticed nothing unusual, before returning upstairs. (I'm often not the sharpest of tools).

It was around 20 minutes later that Vanessa looked out of the front window and spotted that our wheels were no longer with us.

A quick bit of amateur detective work soon revealed that our uninvited house guests had broken the lock on our patio door before entering the dining room. They then helped themselves to the car keys, Vanessa's purse, the watch my mum bought me for my 40th birthday, cash from my wallet and a few other bits before making their escape.  (A police camera detected a licence plate match in Bradford early this morning, but there's been no news since).

They chucked Jamie and Charlotte's booster seats out of the window on the way.  They were returned to us by our friend and local policeman James after being found by a kindly neighbour.  

James is a top bloke and the fact that he just happened to be the duty officer was a huge help at a testing time.  

The forensics boys were next on the scene and, again, two fine men they were.

And last in the supportive queue was Miles from MJR Security and Glazing in nearby Rawdon to repair and change our locks. Another real pro and good guy.

I don't know if you've ever had the misfortune to be burgled, I do hope not, but this is my third such experience. And on each occasion, the boys and girls in uniform have been fantastic.  They often have a tough time of it, but they'll always have my full support.

This is in stark contrast to the pond life who broke into our home, took our things and stole our car.  I can't help but wonder what makes them tick.  I could say that I feel sorry for them, but I don't because they don't feel sorry for people like you and me who play by the rules.

Thankfully there's a lot more of us than there are of them.  And that's the important bit.

Thursday, 1 December 2016

Drink? A slice of Christmas Roll With It?

Christmas is now speeding towards us and I come bearing the gift of good news (if you happen to be within striking distance of Northern Ireland's Causeway Coast on Friday 30 December).

Over the last couple of years I've been privileged to help promote Big Marquee Weekends I and II at Mary Pat's Bar in Macosquin.

Both have been magnificent for all sorts of reasons.  Extremely well-organised, affordable including normal bar prices, top notch facilities and a warm, friendly atmosphere.

But, in the end, it's the quality of the acts that make such events sink or succeed.  And only the best have been invited to perform on the Big Marquee stage.

Which brings me to my piece of early Christmas cheer.

Roll With It are Ireland's biggest and best Oasis tribute band.  And, yes, they are MADFERIT.

THIS was them at Big Marquee Weekend I last year.

They were back for the second coming in May and, if anything, were even better.

And they are going places.  So much so that, on the 28th of this month, they are well on-course to fill the 900-capacity Limelight 1 in Belfast, an iconic venue that will forever hold a special place in the heart of Noel Gallagher himself - as you can read HERE.

Which brings me to an equally special gig planned for two nights later.

As a favour to Robert Todd and the team behind Big Marquee Weekend, the Belfast boys have agreed to play an intimate show in the lounge of Marypat's.

Supported by excellent local singer/songwriter Adam Buick, just 120 tickets have been made available priced at just £6.  And less than 30 are left.

To get yours, call into the bar or give them a ring on Tel: 028703 44659.   And you'd better do it soon. Because you're not getting mine.


A Cure for middle age

This is a picture of Robert Smith, principal songwriter and frontman of The Cure and sometimes described as the Godfather of Goth.

It was taken back in the 1980s when the band were at their record-selling peak.

And here he is on stage at the Manchester Arena on Tuesday night.

Yes, we've all aged a bit in the last 30 years but at least the great man still appears to have all his hair. Plus some extra for the winter.

What hasn't changed is his voice.  Just wonderfully, eerily, magnificently. hauntingly, brilliant - together with the band itself.

Have a listen to their performance of my all-time favourite Cure song "Pictures of You" by clicking HERE.

As you've probably guessed, Vanessa and I were fortunate to be there, together with a small assortment of friends.

The sell-out crowd was treated to a two-hour set with the parade of classic tunes from our youth predictably attracting the biggest cheers, mixed with an occasional sob.

In common with the Jean-Michel Jarre gig that I dragged Jamie along to a few weeks ago, the warm and friendly atmosphere was a key element of the night that I'll not forget.

Despite something of a stewarding mess-up which meant that some paying patrons didn't get to their seats or into the mosh pit until well after the gig had started, no-one complained, the bar queues were good-natured  - and most people even washed their hands after having a wee.

Middle age is not for everyone.  But a semi-sophisticated evening with The Cure is a definite plus which, three decades ago, I for one would never have foreseen.

Monday, 28 November 2016

Jamie's special day of fun

With Vanessa and Charlotte in County Durham for a mums and daughters adventure weekend, Jamie and I chose to have some fun of our own.  Being cavemen.


Go-karting was our first indulgence. 

I hadn't driven a go-kart in years. And I'd be lying if I said I didn't enjoy destroying him and everyone else in my racing line (the oldest of which was 12, according to his grandmother). 

What a hero.

And then it was lunchtime with a heavy chicken flavour.

First at KFC (my favourite).

Before I invited Jamie to be assaulted in full public view by Billy the Bantam, the official mascot of Bradford City FC. 

And the fun was still only halfway through.

Next, it was off to the IMAX at the National Media Museum for Fantastic Beasts And Where To Find Them. Well worth a watch if you have 133 minutes to spare (plus ads and trailers).

Back in Guiseley, we ended our day with traditional man fayre of steak and chips (my other favourite) the sofa and rugby on the telly.  Ireland were playing Australia. And the good guys won, making my day complete.

Let's hope Jamie enjoyed his day too.

Thursday, 24 November 2016

Stupid is as hard man does

Earlier this month I told the world (well, you and the other two strangers who read this rubbish) that I'd fractured my arm.  Back in July.  The brains of people more clever than me would have detected the pain much earlier than I did, but I am what I'm left with.

I wrote that I was due back with my doctor in a couple of weeks to learn my fate. But I didn't have to wait that long for news.

I was in bed, as it turned out, just a few hours after I'd written the post.  I'd decided to go for a nap before getting up to see Donald Trump get his arse kicked in the US Presidential Election. (That went well).  

And then around 9pm the phone rang - she's a very hard-working doctor.  Scottish.  Let's hope we keep her if they leave.

She'd seen my x-rays and confirmed the fracture.  She said she'd already contacted the break man (aka the consultant surgeon in the Orthopaedic Department at the Leeds General Infirmary) to ask him to sort me out.        

I saw him on Tuesday.  I said "hello."  He said "hello" back.  Nice man. He's English so definitely staying put.  

He put my x-ray on the display thingy. It clearly showed two cracks in the bone at the top of my arm.

"You did this in September?" he said, raising his voice at the end of the sentence like posh people do.

"July," I replied proudly, like hard people from Northern Ireland do.

"Wow," he said, visibly impressed.

However, he then proceeded to explain that he wasn't going to operate on me just yet.

"There's not much we can do about the fractures as they will heal," he said.  (Plus I'm hard as nails).

"But I will send you for physio as the area around the break is badly inflamed and there may be ligament damage. " (I'm even harder than I thought).

"If there's still pain in two months, we can consider keyhole surgery."

Sounds fair enough to me, but there is a problem.

Given how hard I clearly am, how will I know if there is any pain or not?

Maybe I'll worry about that when the two months are nearly up.  

Monday, 21 November 2016

A Senior moment to remember

Well, that WAS a weekend.  And more.

My dad turned 80 on Saturday, so we arranged a party for him at Mary Pat's Bar in his - and my - native Macosquin, just outside Coleraine.  To add to the surprise, it took place on Friday evening 

That's Lizzie, the lady of the manor, carrying his cake.  And what an incredible job she did. 

Friends and family came in droves. 

Here's grandson Nathan and granddaughter Katie.

And my oldest friend, Drew Hutchinson (aka DJ Steady), held the whole thing together brilliantly between tunes.  And beers.

After staying up to 4.30am to see in his birthday, my dad and I headed off to The Showgrounds on Saturday to see the in-form Bannsiders' latest footballing triumph.  

And then it was off to the Railway Arms for drinks - word spread fast and the birthday boy barely put his hand in his pocket.

We also had the chance to wish the staff well as they headed off for another Pub of the Year awards ceremony.  Needless to say, Team Clare won again.

But, as much as he sought to avoid being the centre of attention, the weekend was all about Barry White Senior.

It was very good to be part of it.

Sunday, 13 November 2016

Bird brain

Jamie's developed something of a love for and expertise in birds of prey.  So, yesterday, we all traipsed off to the York Bird of Prey Centre so he could continue his education.

That's a big owl you can see him holding above.  (You can't fool me).

Here he is with a Harris Hawk.

The next bird even bowed down to him.

Unfortunately this one didn't.

Bit that didn't put Charlotte off, who had to have a go too.

Here she is with Oliver.

You can see Vanessa looking jealous behind.

So she got involved as well.

What a strange-looking bird.  And here she is holding one.

And of course I had a go.  His name's Shadow.  He's a golden eagle.  I think he was showing off.  

Sadly we weren't allowed to hold the one that looked like Cyndi Lauper.

But we'll be back.  Time after time.      

Tuesday, 8 November 2016

Them's the breaks

Just over three months ago, I wrote here about our mid-summer trip to CarFest North, including my ill-advised plummet into a pool of foam.

I thought it was a deep pool.  But it wasn't.  It only had a "depth" of three inches.  So I bounced on landing.  Hard.

In the picture above, taken immediately afterwards, you can see me holding my left arm a little awkwardly.  I was in a lot of pain but thought a shake and a rub would do the trick.  After a few weeks of little change, it dawned on me that these remedies might not be enough.

So I went to see the doctor.  She thought I'd probably damaged a tendon so booked me in for a scan.

I had that today and it didn't take long to confirm that there was indeed tendon damage.

What came as more of a shock was the discovery that the arm is also fractured.

Oh joy.

I was sent for a series of x-rays and am due back with my doctor in two weeks to learn my fate. Surgery seems to be the only option.      

But after trying to sleep with a broken arm for the past 14 and a bit weeks, I'm hoping to remain as hard as nails for just a little while longer..............SOB!!!!!