Tuesday, 26 July 2016

Two trimmers in the hand are worth more than a bush

I've not had a good night. And it's all because of this.

Yes, it's our big hedge.

I had a go at cutting it last year but things did not end well.

In fact, they ended just as soon as I cut through the power lead of my electric trimmer.

Making matters worse, I thought I managed to blow something in our electrics and had to get a man out.  He charged me a tenner for turning the trip switch back to "on."

That was last April and I stubbornly chose not to trim the hedge again, until tonight that is.

Our neighbour came round the other day to ask what plans I had for it this year.  I proudly informed her that - on a whim - I'd just invested in a new trimmer and was happy to cut her side too.  She went away seeming satisfied.

After tea, I went into her garden to begin my man work.

Ten minutes later, this happened.

Yup, sliced right through the cable of my brand new weapon. Again.

Honestly.  You couldn't f***ing make it up.

At least I knew what to do with the trip switch - I was connected to our electric supply via an extension lead - after returning home with my tail between my legs.  

I think I'll just go to bed now.  

Monday, 25 July 2016

HRH Prince Barcroft

One of the things I love about Facebook is that, every once a while, someone or something from the past unexpectedly appears.

It happened to me a few days ago when this photo was posted.  I'd not seen it before.

The picture was taken in Macosquin on 12 July 1965 and the man on the left is my dad, Barry Snr, aged 29.  

Here he is close up.

I showed the photo to Jamie and Charlotte earlier tonight and asked if they knew who it was.

Without taking a breath, Jamie said: "Is it the Duke of Edinburgh?"

So, so close. 

Sunday, 24 July 2016

First runner-up

It's that time of the year when teachers clear out their classrooms by sending the kids home with their workbooks.

And there are often gems hidden inside.

My favourite relates to Charlotte's heroic second place in the school fun run last month.

This is how her teacher, Mrs Smith, recorded the historic achievement.

Charlotte has brought a medal in from home.

She was part of a children's fun run at Nunroyd Park at the weekend.

When I asked her about it she said:

"I runned really hard and I came behind the first person."

"So you came second?"


Friday, 22 July 2016

Even the grass has grown

It's the last day of term - in fact, they've just been released back into the wild - meaning it's time for the traditional comparative pictures.

The jumpered-up shot was taken back in September when they were about to walk to St Oswald's CofE Primary for their first ever day.  Jamie was going into Year 3, and Charlotte was making her proper school debut in Reception.

I made them pose for the "summer wear" photo first thing this morning.

And haven't they grown? (Be assured that Jamie is wearing shorts, so hasn't actually doubled in size).

Charlotte's face has got cheekier over the last 10 months, which I'm quite relaxed about.

Meanwhile, Jamie - in my view - does look more "mature."  And to be fair, he tends to behave that way too - possibly something to do with the badge on his shirt which says, "School Council."

But they've had a good first year at St Oswald's, which makes us feel rightly grateful, particularly to their teachers.

Now for six weeks of solid misadventure....        

Friday, 15 July 2016

My friend Kate

Meet Kate.  She's my friend.

Kate works at the self-service tills in Morrisons where she spends a lot of her time doing that swipey thing to confirm I'm old enough to buy alcohol,

Kate is from Scotland and is also a committed fan of King William III, aka the Prince of Orange.

King Billy, as he's affectionately known by his followers, duffed up King James to win the Battle of the Boyne in 1690.  This is proudly celebrated by a significant proportion of the Protestant people of Northern Ireland on 12 July each year at Orange Order parades.  If you live outside the fair Province, you'll probably have seen them on the telly.

Indeed, you may also have encountered them in other parts of the world.  There are Orange marches in parts of  Africa, for example, as well as in Australia, New Zealand and Canada.  There are lots and lots of Orange marches in Scotland, as Katie will testify.  And there are occasional parades in England.

Without knowing anything about my religious or political views, and not caring in the nicest possible way, a few weeks ago Katie insisted that I accompany her and family to Tuesday's Twelfth parades in Southport, Lancashire .

I told her it was unlikely I could go as I probably had to work.  And I did have to work, as I told her last week. She replied: "Not a problem, your loss, I'll get you some King Billy rock."

I happened to nip into Morrisons on Wednesday, the morning after the parades the day before.

And this is a close-up of what Kaite had for me inside her jacket and you can see her holding above.

Jamie and Charlotte were thrilled at the outcome when I handed them one each, courtesy of Kate.

I like Kate.  She's my friend.

Wednesday, 13 July 2016

Living history lessons

In common with many parents, I like to shove the kids in front of the TV when something historic is happening. 

This is principally so I can bore them in later years when I'm old and doddery, and also embarrass them in front of their friends. 

To illustrate, this was Jamie back in May 2010 when David Cameron arrived in Downing Street to take over from Gordon Brown.

So it was therefore only logical to force him to watch this evening's goings on as Theresa May ascended to the prime ministerial throne.

He's a bit bigger now.

For what it's worth, I once spent a brief time in Theresa May's company as we were going through security at a conference in Blackpool. That was quite a few years ago and she was very charming.

I suspect she would get through much quicker now than she did back then.

Meanwhile, I've become even more insignificant.

Tuesday, 12 July 2016

Bugger me

Following yesterday's lament about being attacked by large-fanged insects, today help was suddenly at hand when I received this Tweet.

Yes, someone at Direct Line (with a fine taste in blogs) has kindly devised me a "directfix" (do you see what they did there?) "for pesky summer bugs."  Clearly I'm flattered.

If you can't read the graphic, I know you will be desperate not to miss out on such insect wisdom.  So here goes.

It turns out there are three - yes THREE - secrets to a bug-free summer.


And how, pray tell?

"Wasps, bees and flies hate the smell of peppermint oil."

Right, didn't know that.  But I don't have any peppermint oil in.

"Buy from Holland & Barrett."

Oh right.  To be fair, I've not seen peppermint oil in Poundland.


Go on.

"Place sticky jam jars away from the table to distract the bugs."

I'm not really a jam fan, but hopefully you'll get bitten less by knowing that.

And number 3?


With what?

"Use After Bite Xtra Gel to soothe stings." 

OK.  I've not spotted After Bite Xtra Gel in Poundland either although they do have vinegar.

Anyway, consider yourself fully briefed.  On behalf of my new friends at Direct Line and myself, I would like to wish you a bug free remainder of the summer.  Be safe my friends.

Monday, 11 July 2016

Super fly guy

24 hours on from the camping weekend and there's been a problem.  Well, problems.  Insect bites, loads and loads of insect bites.

To be fair, both Vanessa and I were aware of this yesterday morning when we woke up covered in lumps.  But others seem to have appeared since.  How does that even happen?  Anyway, it has and now I'm thinking of investing in "Him & Hers" bells.

But at least I have got one kick - OK, swipe - out of this itchy situation.

As we were unpacking the car yesterday afternoon, three flies managed to make their way in through our back door.  And with new bites being discovered seemingly by the minute, I wasn't in the mood for pushy, insect visitors.  

I managed to deal with two fairly swiftly. But the third managed to outmanoeuvre me several times, making me very angry.

After more than an hour and on the verge of a mental breakdown, I took Jamie into the bathroom for his shower and closed the door.  And, magically, there were three of us present; Jamie, me and Mr Fly.

I quickly shut the window and told Mr Fly that whilst I had plenty of time, he didn't.

Which brings me to my - and Mr Fly's - conclusion.

Rather than thrash about wildly, I took my time, hand towel in, er, hand.  Before I struck. And here's the best bit.

I caught him at head height (mine not his), sending him spinning ground wards. But he didn't hit the ground.  Nope, he landed in the toilet with a little fly splash.

Snarling like a crazy person, I then gave him a little wave, said goodbye and presser the flusher - to Jamie's cheers.

Yes, I might be covered in bites but a win is still a win.

Sunday, 10 July 2016

Carry on camping

So another annual camping weekend comes to an end.  And of course it rained.

And rained.

Jamie minded least of all, being an increasing fan of the water.

On top as well as in.

Charlotte, meanwhile, preferred being undercover for some racy chat.

To be fair, there were dry moments - even enabling a fire to be lit last night in time for pudding.

Fish and chips came first.

From the local chippy, of course.  Saves on washing up - and charcoal.

And then it was time for bed.

(I'm hoping that Charlotte's hand gesture was nothing more than an unfortunate accident).

Then before we knew it, Sunday morning arrived and our tent was back in the car.

Dreams or nightmares?

It's very difficult to tell.

Tuesday, 5 July 2016

Ready, steady, reminisce

A memorable occasion today when we Whites attended the first ever St Oswald's Primary School Sports Day; Jamie and Charlotte as competitors, Vanessa and I as proud parents.

With headteacher Mr Madeley commanding proceedings in the guise of Axl Rose...

..our two just went for it.

Charlotte was prolific in the sack.

(Stop it!)

Whilst Jamie flew over the hurdles like a big heron.

And there was an unexpected twist at the end when Master White lined-up for the Year 3 boys' sprint final, having recently battled his way through the heats (something we were unaware of).

Pictured third from the left below, he got off to a reasonable start before picking his knees up.

And you'll never guess what?

Yup, he only bloody won.

I was thrilled for him, of course.  Just as I was when Charlotte made herself a paper medal back at home.

But, selfishly, I was more pleased for myself.  Because it reminded me of sports days gone by when I used to do alright.

Indeed, if you'll forgive me, today's events have driven me to self-indulgence.

This photo was taken at the Coleraine Inst Sports Day almost 30 years ago.

That's me in the middle.  Ah, the way we were!

I'm already looking forward to next year.