Thursday, 28 April 2016

Almost built - and they are coming

In just 24 hours the crowds will descend on the grounds of Mary Pat's Bar in Macosquin for Big Marquee Weekend II.

And I can't wait.

Tomorrow is dance night - not my natural genre, as anyone who knows me will be painfully aware - headlined by Scotland's top-ranked DJ Mallorca Lee (he seems nice), with support sets from Craig Dalzell, Tizer and Booshanty.  Sick. 

The village will be transformed into Madchester on Saturday, and it's the moment I've been looking forward to ever since the line-up was announced.  Because after live wire Coleraine band Cellar Door get the crowd properly madferit, Belfast Oasis dead ringers Roll With It (who hate the sunshiiiiine) will return to the stage they owned at last year's inaugural event.  

Seriously, they were magnificent, as their video shot in the Big Marquee simply proves. (See if you can spot Vanessa doing her Bez impression).   

And that won't be the end of the Saturday night fun, hell no.  As all the way from Glasgow, it'll be time for the original Stone Roses tribute act, Resurrection, to bring the night to a massive end. 


The weekend will conclude with the now traditional foot-tapping Sunday afternoon and evening of Irish country music, headlined by Lee Matthews whose self-penned number one hit ‘The Irish Way’ was named Best Original Single at last week’s Hot Country Awards.  

(He used to be in a boy band, you know).

There will even be the chance to a ride on a mechanical rodeo bull.  I'll have to see how my back is. 

I fly over with Jamie and Charlotte straight after the school pick-up tomorrow (they'll be granny-sat whilst I'm having my fun)

And luckily there are still a few tickets left if you call into Mary Pat’s, Card Land in Coleraine, Lou’s Boutique in Ballymoney, Jingles of Portrush or telephone 028 7034 4659 and pay by card.  Day tickets are £10 on Friday, and £15 on Saturday and Sunday.   You can also buy a two-day ticket for £25. Cheap if you ask me, and it's normal bar prices.

I look forward to seeing you there.  (Guinness if it's early, Tennent's if it's late).

Sunday, 24 April 2016

Jacket on or pack it in?

It was junior presentation night at Aireborough Lions RUFC on Friday when the boys and girls got to take a bow for their collective heroism throughout the year.

Here are the Under 8s with the coaches behind, led by Kris who's holding the microphone.

I've been involved on the coaching side for three years now, and it's always been a privilege.

The only problem is that I'm not very good at it.

Jamie was the first to point out my basic uselessness when he labelled me a "coach helper" rather than a coach.  Then, a few months ago, one of my coaching colleagues described me as a "social coach," a job title I've admittedly rather warmed to.

However, after some reflection,  I recently told Kris that I'd quite like to hand back my coach's jacket and just stand with the other parents next season.

But that was before Friday evening when he presented me with a brand new jacket, complete with my initials.

I tried it on when I got home and asked Jamie what he thought.

"Oh Daddy, it suits you" he said. "Now you can't really turn back into a parent."

Perhaps I need to reflect just a little bit more.

Saturday, 23 April 2016

Blazing a (trim) trail

It was all action at Jamie and Charlotte's school this morning when the parents were called in to put the finishing touches to the new trim trail.

Not being the owner of a wheel barrow, I was reduced to the very technical job of shovelling muck from one place to another.

Thankfully I had excellent company in the form of Tash, who is much stronger than I am and set the bar high.  (In fact, you can see it just behind her).  

Jamie, meanwhile, learnt to use a rake which is always a good skill to have.

This is especially true when you're small and can reach places big people can't.

His efforts were then duly rewarded with joint first go on the spider's web climbing frame.

Thankfully, there were rewards for us grown-ups too - tea, coffee and bacon sandwiches - lovingly prepared by Emma.

And through it all, we were quite rightly kept in check by Mr Madeley, St Oswald's dynamo of a headteacher who neither parent not pupil would ever dare let down.

That said, with all the work seemingly done, I thought his decision to launch an impromptu adult litter patrol was slightly taking the piss.

But still, a productive morning most certainly was had by all.  If only I could've had just one go.

Thursday, 21 April 2016

Happy birthday, Ma'am

On this day many decades ago, a very special lady entered the world knowing nothing about the exciting and somewhat bizarre life she had ahead.

No one chooses their family.  And had this babe-in-arms been able to do so, it is questionable whether she would have chosen hers.  But she got on with it and enjoyed a happy childhood.

However, those heady days of youth must now seem like dim and distant memories, mainly because were so awfully long ago.

Over lots and lots of years, her commitment to the service of others has become the stuff of legend.

In public, her game face has always remained in tact.  She is a professional after all.

But in private, she has been known to down a little glass of something, often followed by another.  And she's partial to an occasional smoke, one of the reasons why she is so small.

But what she lacks in physical stature, she continues to make up for with a presence which becomes particularly evident - mainly through direct eye contact - when not amused.

I have been at the sharp end (ouch!) of those looks many times in the past, and have even suffered flesh wounds after colliding with her vicious teacher tongue.

But she is my big sister, it is her big day and I'm too scared to do anything other than be nice.  So Happy Birthday, Jacquie.

Of course, it is not appropriate for a gentleman to discuss a lady's age.

Actually, talking of numbers, you'll never guess what Charlotte can count up to these days?

I know!  

But back to the plot, Jamie, Charlotte and I are due in Northern Ireland next weekend when we plan to celebrate properly with Jacquie.

Hopefully by then all the understandable fuss and kerfuffle over the Queen's 90th birthday will have eased a bit.

That said, if you are a fan on my work Your Majesty - which I suspect you are - I hope you're having a fun day too.    

PS Our Charlotte would like to invite Princess Charlotte round to ours for tea.  Let me know.

Monday, 18 April 2016

Date morning

A grumpy-faced Vanessa is not an entirely unfamiliar sight.  But the image of Mrs W clinging to a speeding missile, helmet perched at a jaunty angle atop her head, might be a new one for some.

And also this.

Yes, as expected, Vanessa destroyed me in the swimming section of yesterday's Skipton Triathlon - in which we had to share a lane - but I eventually hunted her down in the battle of the shop bikes. 

Then we took to our beaters for the run to the line, some of us squeezing out every ounce of energy we had left.

Whilst other more camera-aware competitors concentrated their efforts on striking that all-important pose.

But most importantly, the challenge was completed.

Does the fact that my timing chip failed - meaning I didn't register an official time - inevitably lead to us having another go next year?

Oh I don't know.  Although I have a fair idea.

Thursday, 14 April 2016

Dignity on the line

What do you think of my 'triathlon suit'?  Very appropriate for a man of 44, I'm sure you agree.  Even the wrinkles match my own.

Yes, dear friends, there are just three sleeps to go until I take on my ultimate (and most likely final) physical challenge, the Skipton Triathlon.  And to matters even more surreal, Vanessa and I have been drawn to set off at the same time.

As I stated here last month, none of this was my idea.  But the £50 entry fee leaving my bank account had something to do with my decision to take part.

I had my third and final swimming session early yesterday morning and it was thoroughly depressing.  I'd gone a bit later for my two previous dips and neither went particularly well.  But at least I completed the race distance of 16 lengths and wasn't overtaken by too many of my elderly fellow splashers.

However, yesterday I discovered that the 7am early bird crew were much more youthful than those who ease themselves in an hour later.  Indeed, some of yesterday's participants were probably still in their early 70s.  The result was that I became something equivalent to a watery roadblock with some even tutting as they sped past.

Anyway, the swimming 'training' is done, I haven't been on a long bike ride since 2005 and I can't run at the moment because I've got a groin strain.  All in all, I couldn't be any more physically ready for Sunday.  Now I just need to sort the nuts and bolts.              

And talking of nuts, I'm likely to freeze mine off in my 'triathlon suit.'  Those of you who know about these things will appreciate that a real triathlon suit has a top half.  But given that I shall be retiring from triathlons immediately after I cross the finish line  - if I cross the finish line - I didn't see it as a wise long-term investment.

My plan is therefore to wear the micro pants you can see above for the swimming bit, before covering them/me up with a pair of black baggy shorts (so my bum doesn't look wet) and a tee shirt as soon as I reach my antique bicycle.  The only slight blip is that apparently I have to wobble 200 metres across a public car park in bare feet and said micro pants before reaching my rattler.   Oh, and I also have to wear a swimming hat with a big number on it.

I know you expect to lose some dignity as you get older but I didn't think it would happen this soon.

Sunday, 10 April 2016

Pride of the Lions

It was a day of dreams for Aireborough Lions Under 7s and Under 8s rugby players who got to walk on to the field with the teams at Headingley Carnegie Stadium before this afternoon's British and Irish Cup Final.

Before lining up for a shared bow in front of a packed main stand.

And not only that, they then got to show off their own skills on the hallowed turf at half-time.

Grabbing the ball...

...Jamie even scored a spectacular try for the Under 8s... a victory over Cleckheaton by four tries to two.

A proud performance by all of them...

...and the even smaller Lion cubs in the Under 7s, who also starred to a little man.

Given that many of our boys accompanied London Welsh players onto the field, the away team's well-deserved success was not begrudged by anyone at Aireborough.

But Jamie and team mate Sion still felt compelled to commiserate with Carnegie's star man Kevin Sinfield in the bar afterwards.

Truly a day to remember.    

Saturday, 9 April 2016

Murder on the dance floor

We're back from four nights in a Northumberland caravan park and 'well-rested' is not how I'm best described.

Don't get me wrong, the sight-seeing bit went well.

It's Northumberland after all, in my view England's best keep secret.

There were jokers everywhere you looked.

Activities aplenty.

And no shortage of Northern birds to admire.

No, it was the evenings where the problems arose.  Or, more precisely, the kiddies' disco.

I've always understood that a kiddies' disco was for kiddies, not mummies and daddies.  But they do things a little differently in the North-East.

By a process of elimination, Vanessa reached the on-stage party dance final on Monday night.

But didn't manage to win glory for the family.

It was my turn the following night. However, unlike Vanessa, I didn't have to take part in an on-stage dance-off. Oh no. 

I had to take part in FIVE on-stage dance-offs. Really. I was up there for more than 20 minutes.

And when the compere finally got bored and awarded a lady in tracksuit bottoms and me joint first place, I was ordered to give my hard-earned prize (a snorkel set) to a random child without the name White in their name. Outrageous.

Fast forward to the next night and Vanessa and I were both invited up to do our thang.

Look how excited she is. Such a shame she was first out. 

Thankfully I was kicked off two dance-offs later.  But it was still better than her, which was all that mattered.

Neither of us could be arsed on the last night, instead choosing to concentrate on the bingo - Jamie won an egg kit, which thankfully he was allowed to keep. 

So that's what we've been up to. We hope you missed us. 

Friday, 1 April 2016

Old and bold

After all the excitement of my 44th birthday yesterday (yikes!) it was back down to earth with a splash first thing this morning.

Yes, it was time to return to the pool as my frantic water-based panic preparations for the Skipton Triathlon reach a panicked conclusion.  And, like my first effort on Tuesday morning, things didn't go at all swimmingly.

The manic forward splashing bit went as expected.  Badly.  But it was what happened at the end that hurt most.

I managed 36 lengths in total - 4 fewer than on Tuesday - before running out of time.  However, it was when I attempted to get out of the pool that my true downfall occurred.  Because I couldn't actually manage it.

I was in the middle lane again, meaning no access to the pool steps without going into one of the other lanes.  So I tried to pull myself up onto the side.  The problem was, my arms were so tired that it proved to be impossible.

And making matters considerably worse, several of my well-seasoned fellow swimmers quickly noticed and began to point and snigger and then laugh amongst their ancient selves.  By the time I gave up and ducked under the rope into the fast lane to wade towards the steps, I was getting loud ironic cheers.

I had no option but to laugh along and give a little wave and a bow before traipsing up the steps towards the changing room.  But inside I was dying.

Old people these days clearly have no respect for us middle-agers.  Bullies.