Sunday, 28 February 2016

Night of The Jackal

I'd not been to a big world championship boxing match before but, after last night, I can now say  "done that, bought the tee shirt."

And here it is.

Only a fiver from a street spiv.  I'll probably wear it in bed.

As it accurately points out, the main event was Belfast's Carl Frampton against Bury's Scott Quigg for two versions of the World Super-Bantamweight Championship.

But not all of the action was in ring.  Indeed, far from it.

Spot the Northern Ireland theme, which was hardly a surprise given that 90% of the 20,000-strong crowd seemed to be from the wee country.

There was even Ulster Royalty in attendance in the familiar form of His Excellency Liam Beckett, Emperor of Ballymoney.

A fine man.

My equally-esteemed company for the evening were my old school pals, Pete (below left) and Tommy.

We called it a draw at 4am, leaving enough time for four hours' sleep before breakfast and going our separate ways.

But an outstanding night.

And big congratulations to Carl "The Jackal" Frampton MBE, double champion of the world.

Thursday, 25 February 2016


There's a headline in the online edition of our local paper here in Leeds which reads: "Thefts reported after 40-50 teenagers gatecrash party."  

The story goes on: "A party attended by teenagers at a house in the Hall Park area of Horsforth on Saturday ended with reports of several thefts after it was gatecrashed by between 40 to 50 uninvited guests, police tweeted today."

And these words brought back some, well, memories.

Above you can see a picture of some Coleraine High School Girls taken in the late 1980s.

That's Karen McLeod on the left and Rhonda-Jayne Bailey second from the right.

And between them - giving what's known in Coleraine as the "reverse f*** off" sign - is Lydia Davidson (now Kerr).

Back in the day, Lydia also threw a party.  She had a free house for the weekend and generously decided to invite a few people over.  I can't remember whether I was one of them, in truth.  But Lydia and I were (and remain) friends, word spread that something was going down at hers and a few of my kin turned up carrying blue offy bags filled with cheap booze.

The only problem was, we weren't alone.  I'd not been to Lydia's house before and feared I might have trouble finding it.  But that proved not to be a problem.

Let me put it this way.  I've not been on a pilgrimage to Mecca.  But it was kind of like that.

In fact, the only obvious differences between the scene you can see above and the night in question was that it was dark in Coleraine, and there were a few more people trying to find Lydia's house.

My mates and I thought we'd arrived reasonably early.  But many others had beaten us to it.  So much so that they'd had sufficient time to punch holes in the ceiling, smash the toilet and "hide" Lydia's pet cat in the freezer.

We didn't stay for long, mainly because rumours were already abound that the police were on their way.  Indeed, we left so quickly that I forgot to lift my bottle of lime cordial and was forced to drink my four cans of Tennent's "straight" when we got to wee Colin Andrews' house shortly afterwards.

26 or 27 years have gone by since that fateful night and, since then, the legends surrounding Lydia's party have only continued to grow.

So, in order to assist social historians piece events together and educate generations to come, I have two simple questions for you.

First, were you at Lydia's party?

And second, what do you remember about it?

Do please get in touch with any information you have and I will pass it on to our hostess, to whom so many of us continue to owe so much.

Let's call it Lydiaid.

In the meantime, here's another treat for all you gentlemen in the audience.

Twit twoo.

Thursday, 18 February 2016

Ain't No Stopping Them - OW!

Vanessa and I headed off to our normal Thursday morning spin class today.

And please be assured that it's not as sad as it sounds; we always get bikes as far away from each other as possible and personal interaction is never on the cards.

As such, it's likely that few fellow spinners are aware that we even know each other.

I tell you this because, at last week's class, there was a rather surreal little episode.

Our gym has changed hands quite recently and the new owners have a different way of doing things.  One such change includes completing a register of attendees upon arrival.

As I came in, I went up to the instructor, told him my name was Barry White and three ladies standing close by burst into fits of giggles.  I've got used to this down the years and thought no more of it.

That was until the end when I walked towards the exit and some other ladies began to laugh.

It was only on the way home that Vanessa - who'd been on a spin bike next to them all - relayed the back story.

The 'other ladies' had joined the original three before the class began.  And the late-comers had been advised that I bore the name of a famous black American singer and they had to guess which one.

By the end of the class, as well as Barry White, the list included Michael Jackson, Sammy Davis Jnr and - get this - Luther Vandross.

I mean, really.  Do look like a Luther?  And - whilst I stand ready to be corrected - is it really likely that Coleraine is likely to have spawned a family tree of Vandrosses?

Still, at least some fun was had.  And I'm always happy to be the brunt of it.  

Tuesday, 16 February 2016

Picture exclusive: Yellow fireball spotted over Edinburgh

Well that was fun.

I'm writing this as our train pulls out of Edinburgh Waverley station - and the rain begins to fall.

I don't think I've ever been on a rain-free trip to Scotland; until this one, that is.

To illustrate, here was Edinburgh Castle yesterday morning.

Just like a postcard (with me on it).  Perfect (minus me - I'll save you the trouble).

A particular highlight of our three-day excursion was meeting up on Sunday evening with my old schoolmates (from left to right) Dave, Colin and Rory, together with their families.

With work and school for everyone bar us on Monday morning, we had to get by on just the three gallons of red wine. But it was great fun.

One issue of note was just how much the boys resemble their fathers.

Here's Dave and Huw.

And here's Colin and Milo (adorned with face stickers).

Lucky old Jamie, who continues to look nothing like me.

I haven't been in dear old Edinburgh for far too long and it's good to see that very little has changed.

There's still a bagpiper on every corner.

Most menus still retain a local flavour.

And the fascination with death and illness remains almost on a par with Northern Ireland's.

Of course, it's always important to bring souvenirs back from such family trips.

But Vanessa quickly ruled out my personal favourite.

So instead it was off to the Build-A-Bear Workshop to purchase new outfits for Elsa and Thomas respectively.

Charlotte went for the bling ballerina look.

Whereas Jamie chose the path of radicalisation, transforming poor Thomas into Jihadi John (deceased),

So that was February half-term 2016 in Edinburgh.

Haste us back.

Saturday, 13 February 2016

In the name of Gove

Jamie's been having class tests at school and isn't impressed.

What is always helpful on such occasions is to have scapegoat.  So, the other evening, he asked Mummy who was to blame.

"Michael Gove," replied Vanessa, coldly.

"Why?" enquired Jamie.

"He invented exams," she continued.  "Kids used to mainly do coursework.  And then Michael Gove came along and spoilt it all."

Conversation over.

Fast forward to yesterday morning when I was working at home, and found a picture on the dining table drawn by Jamie.

And here it is.

It didn't me long to work it what was going on.

The figure in the middle with glasses is the former Education Secretary, Mr Gove.

In the left speech bubble, he's saying: "I made exams." And in the other, he's declaring: "I am nasty pants."

I'll leave you to work out the nature of the random threats that surround him.

I blame the parents.  Well, parent.        

Monday, 8 February 2016

An ice day birthday treat

One good thing about getting older is increased self-awareness.

That said, before yesterday, I was already fully aware of my inability to ice skate.

What I didn't know was the both Jamie and Charlotte appear to have inherited my balance genes.

It was Vanessa's birthday and, to celebrate, we went on a family trip to the temporary outdoor ice rink in Leeds.

Charlotte started off well, thanks to her supportive penguin.

But after giving up that crutch, she had to commandeer another.

Before Jamie borrowed it, I mean, her.

Still, at least, still had a good day.    

And before you ask, no there aren't any pictures of me on the ice.  I made sure of that.