Sunday, 31 January 2016

News you think you'll never hear

I know I'm not alone in wanting to see the back of January.  I feel like that pretty much every year, again, in common with most other people.  But I can't remember another month in my lifetime when so many much-loved public figures have been taken from us.

Lemmy will be missed.  So too Alan Rickman.  And David Bowe's death was a particular low point for his legions of devotees.

I wrote here less than three weeks ago about my personal upset at the passing of Ed "Stewpot" Stewart.  Since then, we've lost Eagles founding member Glenn Frey.  Vanessa and I were hugely fortunate to see the Eagles play live in Leeds 18 months ago.  I've loved the band for years, with Don Henley right up there amongst my favourite ever singers.  But until that night at the First Direct Arena, I didn't fully appreciate just how good Glenn Frey was.  It's now a memory I'll cherish forever.

However, with the greatest possible respect to all of the above, this morning's passing of Sir Terry Wogan has floored me.  I was lucky to once meet and talk to the great man, and recalled it here some years ago.

As so many other people of my generation have said on social media today, Terry's been an ever present and the fact he's gone will take some getting used to.

But, for me, the biggest shock's been the realisation that he was just like the rest of us.  Terry Wogan dying?  Nah!  It'll never happen.  But sadly it has.  And we're all the poorer for it.  

Thursday, 28 January 2016

Going the distance

One of the best parts of being a 43-year-old dad to a 7-and-a-half-year-old son is "involving" him in regular metaphoric trips back to your own childhood.  Whether he wants to go there or not.

I say this because, on Saturday morning, Jamie and I are off to the cinema to see Creed.  My idea.

If you don't know, Creed  is the seventh and latest Rocky film.  This time our hero -  finally retired at the age of 81 - returns to boxing to train the son of former heavyweight champ Apollo Creed, who appeared in the first four films before being battered by a big Russian.   And the reviews have been very good, which is an added bonus.

The only thing is, I haven't taken Jamie to a "live action" movie before and I wanted to minimise the risk of him spoiling my day out.  So I made him do his homework.

Rocky fans will know that the original was a bit more adult-orientated than the others.  Plus Rocky loses, which is disappointing - particularly for Yo Adrian.  I therefore didn't force Jamie to sit through that one.

Instead, I started him off last week with the fight scenes at the end of Rocky II when the Italian Stallion first wins the title.  And Jamie took an interest.  Excellent.  Cue Rocky III. 

A much bigger HIT!

Indeed, so much so that Jamie insisted on recreating the training routines.

Genuinely his idea.

Rocky IV  was next (you can't fool me), with Jamie claiming this as his favourite thus far.

We're not going to bother watching Rocky V, mainly because it's crap.  Even Sylvester Stallone has admitted that.

So, with Vanessa and Charlotte out tomorrow night, we have Rocky Balboa (aka Rocky VI) lined up to pass our boys' time together, leaving us fully prepped for Creed the following morning.  

And when Saturday comes, Jamie had better be prepared to sit through all 133 minutes of it.

Because as Rocky himself would readily confirm, "it ain't over till it's over."

Saturday, 16 January 2016

Mind the gap

Jamie lost his front tooth overnight.  He thought he'd swallowed it but Vanessa found it somewhere near his pillow.

Both developments are certainly positive from Master White's point of view.

First, the tooth's recovery now means the Tooth Fairy has an invoice for whatever she chooses to leave this evening.

And second, the tooth itself was chipped and made him look like Jimmy Tarbuck.

Jamie damaged it quite a while ago when he was propelled off a roundabout.

Walking to the Post Office this morning, I told him that he'd been really unfortunate by what had happened.

"But you're also lucky because kids get a second set of teeth," I patronised.  "If you were a grown-up, you'd have to get it fixed."

He pondered this pearl of wisdom for a couple of seconds, before responding: "But an adult would never fall off a roundabout."

Oh I don't know...

Tuesday, 12 January 2016

Bye, bye Stewpot

The death of David Bowie is not only dominating news across the world, it is also the talk of outer space with Brit astronaut Tim Peake tweeting about it.

I was never a big fan of Bowie's music, in truth, but he did seem like a good guy and it's sad that he's no longer with us.

I was a lot more upset on Saturday evening when word broke that DJ Ed "Stewpot" Stewart had passed away.

I found out when I checked my phone during the interval of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang at the West Yorkshire Playhouse and it dominated my mind throughout the second half.

Most people my age will best remember Stewpot as the presenter of Crackerjack in the late 1970s.

I still occasionally think about it at five to five on a Friday.  (Fans of the show will know what I mean).

However, it will be Christmas mornings when I'll miss him most.

Readers of a certain age will hopefully recall Ed Stewart's "Family Favourites" afternoon show which went out on Radio 2 in the early 1980s.  I remember listening to it most days after coming home from primary school.

It was resurrected as Junior Choice on Christmas Eve 2007, returning the following year on Christmas morning from 10am-noon. It stayed in that slot for the next seven years with Stewpot broadcasting his final show less than three weeks ago.

And it became a staple of our Christmas.  In fact, in 2014, he even played a request for us Whites after I described the show in an email as my favourite two hours of the year.  "You're a sad man," he told listeners.  How right he was.

But when I tell you that regular tunes he played included Puff the Magic Dragon, A Windmill in Old Amsterdam, Captain Beaky and His Band, Champion the Wonder Horse and - best of all -  Morningtown Ride, you'll hopefully accept that I'm a sad man with fine nostalgic taste.

Poor old Stewpot, Christmas mornings will never be the same.    

Thursday, 7 January 2016

Phil Spencer doesn't do irony

I'm writing this because the new series of Location, Location, Location is on the telly and this week it's from Leeds, meaning Vanessa wants to watch it.

I used to be an avid fan but Phil Spencer put me off.

First, his trait of talking like he's got a full Jaffa Cake wedged in his mouth began to get to me.

Then second, I met him.  He and Kirsty (who's much less enormous in real life) were doing a book signing in Leeds.  Vanessa and I were just about to buy our first house and I thought it would be fun to buy their book and get it signed for Mrs W.  What a nice Mr W I am.

So I got in the queue, reached Kirsty who was very charming, before moving on to the next part of the table piloted by her co-presenter.

I was second in line and decided to listen into the conversation Phil was having with the lady in front.  The crux of it was that Phil and his wife had just bought a new house that morning.  What a coincidence, him being a house expert and all that.

Suddenly I was "on" and handed him my book.

"Who is it for?" Phil mumbled, spraying me with pieces of Jaffa Cake.

"My wife, Vanessa.  Please."


"Errmmm," I piped up, "I heard you say that you'd bought a new house today."

"Yes, that's right," he said, sounding bored.

"Congratulations," I continued, unabated.  Before going in for the killer line.

"Do you take anyone's advice before buying it?!"

"Er, no, I just took my own," he replied, handing me my book.

I took it and headed back to the office for a coffee and a Jaffa Cake  

Tuesday, 5 January 2016

Gym'll Fix It

It was back to the gym today after two weeks - save for one morning run on Portstewart Strand - of gorging and glugging.  And needless to say I wasn't alone. 

Yes, the great post-Christmas waddle to health and fitness clubs across the country has begun.
For most it started yesterday.  But sadly my local gym had to close early after a particularly large lady got her arse jammed in the main doors.  (OK, I made that bit up).

It was a spin class for me, alongside Maria who hosted us so fabulously (daaahling) on New Year's Day.  Vanessa was actually in the building, but went for facial instead.  Probably to have the remnants of sticky sweets and chocolate sandblasted off.   

But back in Studio 1, my spinning buddies and I sweated and harrumphed until we could do so no more.  Mainly, because another class needed the room.

It was the only time in my almost 18 months of gym membership that a spinning class I'd signed up for was full.  It was the only time that a register was taken in case non-bookers had attempted to sneak in.  (Honestly, a register).  And it was the only time that every one of the windows and the all-important (for some - you know who you are) wall mirrors turned fuzzy because of condensation.  

Michelle was the trainer in charge.  I like Michelle.  She's smiley and fun and goes like a steam piston.  On her bike.  She's also around about my age, I think, which is reassuring in an "if she can do it, I can do it" kind of way.   (It makes sense to me, which is all that matters).   

The only problem is that she's really small and, when you're at the back of the class (as I tend to be), she's hard to see and therefore follow.  When she's standing up on her pedals, I'm often down,  And when I stand up to see if she's down, she does go down and immediately disappears.  Still, it breaks the tedium.

But we all got through it, Maria and me on our bikes and Vanessa in her face machine.  We're all due to return on Thursday when I suspect the gym will already be less busy.  

Monday, 4 January 2016

Fun and games for us and the weans

What that was fun.

Yes, Christmas and New Year are sadly at an end and it's time for reality to bite once again.  But what a laugh.

Briefly and as I mentioned last time, we went to Coleraine/Portrush/Portstewart for the Christmas bit.
And within an hour of arriving, Vanessa and I were already spending some quality time with this lady.

And of course Clare, the world's greatest living bar person, looked after us.

In fact, we were back the next day too - Christmas Eve - where we were joined by other familiar faces.

But there were other pressing matters that day too, including getting two young 'uns off to their Yuletide scratchers.

After leaving refreshments, obviously.

And despite being at Granny's as opposed to ours, Santa did find them in time for Christmas morning.
We then headed off to my sisters for the big day where I received one of my favourite ever presents (from my mum).

Boxing Day brought the only meaningful football derby.  Mercifully the good guys triumphed 2-1.

Sad goodbyes followed, particularly to Katie who, as ever, excelled in her big cousin duties.

And then we were back in Guiseley where the pace was expected to drop.  But not a bit of it.  

This was us on New Year's Eve.

Sometime after midnight. Ish.

And we spent New Year's Day with friends old and new, where the adults played this.

Some things are better left unsaid, so go and check it out for yourself.

Suffice to say that it provided the catalyst for one of the funniest days with some of the best people I've met.

And then Saturday came when Charlotte had her fifth birthday party.


But it became very noisy too.

 Still, all good entertainment and a fitting way to end a particularly memorable two weeks.

Thumbs up all round.