Sunday, 13 August 2017

Wheelie good fun

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Yorkshire has long been famous for many things and, in recent years, there has been a new addition to the list.  Cycling.

This was never more evident than in 2014 when the Tour de France visited the county and millions of people lined the streets over an unforgettable three days.

But it could be argued that the initial trigger for a two-wheeled revolution was two years earlier when the Brownlee brothers came to wider public attention.

I love the Brownlee brothers.  They are the ultimate role models, they do things right and they are the greatest ambassadors the city of Leeds could ever wish for.

As a result of their efforts and the foresight of others who channelled the goodwill generated for wider positive gain, Yorkshire is not only the spiritual home of British cycling but Leeds has become the literal home of British triathlon.

And here is the proof.      

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This is where all of this country's top triathletes - and many others - train, including the Brownlees themselves.  

And, a few weeks ago, the powers that be decided that the public could have a go at the cycling aspect of the event thanks to the facility's one-mile purpose built track.  

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There was a fine turnout today and a wonderful, happy and healthy experience for all who were there.

The principal reason for this was the fantastically upbeat attitude of the unpaid volunteers who gladly provided assistance wherever it was required.  Nothing was too much trouble.  An A+ for everyone involved.  

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Back on the track, our big girl struggled on the first couple of laps but, by the end, was whizzing around with the best of them.  


Well done to Charlotte for helping Mummy along and giving her the confidence to keep going.  I suspect that many other ladies - some even older than 42½ - might well have given up.

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We shall return.

Wednesday, 9 August 2017

Cowboy down - but not forgotten

In common with so many others, I was gutted to hear last night that Glen Campbell had passed away.

Like most people my age growing up in a Terry Wogan-listening household, Rhinestone Cowboy formed a large part of my early childhood soundtrack.

After a long gap, Glen Campbell returned to my world in 2011 after revealing that he'd been diagnosed with Alzheimer's.

He released what was intended to be his farewell studio album, Ghost on the Canvas, shortly afterwards and I listened to it constantly.   It was - and remains -  both poignant and brilliant.


Then, in 2013, my friend Mags passed away.  And, for whatever reason, I began listening to lots of Glen Campbell songs once more.

That was when I rediscovered such classics as Galveston, and also Wichita Lineman which featured on my Non-Stop Oldies a few weeks ago.

Fans of the great man will know that the release of Ghost on the Canvas also coincided with the announcement of his final tour.  What happened next is captured magnificently - and starkly - in the documentary movie, Glen Campbell: I'll Be Me, which is often shown on Sky Arts, is available On Demand and is a must watch.  Be warned, you may need something strong in a glass and a box of tissues to last the distance.


Two songs in that film stick out.

The first is I'm Not Gonna Miss You, dedicated to his wife, which refers to the fact that he wouldn't miss her when the end was near as his memory would've gone by then.  Logical when you think about it.

The other was Gentle on My Mind which is heard throughout the movie as the song he began each gig with on that tour.

You might not think you know it, but you will.


What a loss.  What a performer.

Monday, 7 August 2017

Summer and stuff

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So, how's your summer going? Hopefully, it's sunnier than ours thus far.

Above you can see Jamie and Charlotte making the best of some "challenging" weather at CarFest North which we returned from this time last week.  

The rain did eventually stop although, as you can see from the black cloud behind Pudsey, it soon started again.

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But then it stopped again - just in time for the Happy Mondays to come on stage.  I think Bez enjoyed himself almost as much as I did.  

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That was Friday evening.  Top of the bill on Saturday was none other than Sir Rick Astley.

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For his encore he sang AC/DC's Highway to Hell whilst playing the drums.  It was one of the most surreal moments of my life.  And, against all odds, it worked.    

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On to Sunday and we met the Flintstones. Yes, the Flintstones.  They're a modern stone age family.  From the town of Bedrock.  (Etc etc).  

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So that was CarFest.  I suspect we shall return. 

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And we were back over the Pennines again yesterday to see our pal Louise in that Wales.

Louise and Vanessa went to uni together and then shared a flat in London when Vanessa and I were stepping out together. Ah, those were the days.  Louise was also one of Mrs White's bridesmaids.

Unfortunately for us and so many others, she now lives in Sydney.  More positively, she has a wonderful hubby, Tim, and two fantastic kids. 

They're visiting at the moment and we were invited across to say hello.  The hosts were Louise's mum and dad, Brian and Linda, who are officially the world's most generous people.  We had a stupendously fun afternoon and evening and then returned this morning for breakfast.

And then it was time to say goodbye for now.  Let's hope it won't be another four years until we see everyone again.      

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Saturday, 22 July 2017

Words and pictures

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It's a drab day in Leeds, so we've been putting our shared time under cover to positive use.

The kids finished school for the summer yesterday, and we've trawled through the reams of paper they brought home which showcases their work throughout the year.

Jamie's been reading us his stories and, to give credit to the boy, his use of language without the benefit of swear words is on a level I could never f***ing reach.  

Meanwhile, some of Charlotte's pictures will keep me awake at night.  Here she is deep sea diving.

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However, it was her explanation of "why firefighters are superheroes" that tickled me most.  And I quote:

"They help you when you are stuck in a fire, and help me when my head is stuck in a chair."

Let's hope that never happens again.  

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Wednesday, 19 July 2017

The Road to Guiseley 2032

A proud moment for all of us today when Jamie retained his sprint champion title at school sports day.


That's him streaking away in yellow.  (Thanks to Emma for the pic).

And to cap a memorable day almost in the sun, Charlotte also made the Year 1 final.

However, by today's showing, it would appear that she's more of a hurdler than a full-on sprinter.

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Hopefully they'll both be in the Team GB (& NI) squad when Guiseley hosts the Olympics in 2032.

Remember, you read it here first.  

Tuesday, 4 July 2017

Zippity doo doo

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Vanessa made me go camping again last weekend, and we even had a new extra-small tent which you can see above.

To be fair, the kids loved every second of it.
  
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Including the cuisine.

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And do you know what?  So did I (apart from the tent bits, obviously).

That was entirely down to the fine company we had. 

And the opportunity to have a few well away from the campsite.

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But back to our new tent.

One the reasons why I wasn't falling over myself to lie in a field inside a big canvas bag was because the British and Irish Lions were playing the All Blacks on Saturday morning and I didn't want to miss it.

However, as rain was forecast on Friday evening, we waited until first thing on Saturday before travelling to said field - enabling me to listen to the game on the way.

But we arrived before it ended, and there was no way I was missing the dramatic final moments.  So fellow camp mates were kind enough to put the tent up on my behalf.  That's Jane below.  What a gal.
   
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However, once the job was done, a problem quickly presented itself when Charlotte somehow managed to break a zip on our new "pride and joy."

I tried to fix it but that was never going to happen and we were forced to muddle through.

Once we got home, Vanessa carted the tent back to the shop.

And the shop woman was very accommodating, offering a choice of a full refund or an exchange.

"Feel free to have a look around, we have some very good offers," said the shop woman.

Vanessa's response - which she only confessed to me this morning - was, well, make your own mind up.

"Oh," she said, "I wouldn't want to choose another tent without my husband being here.  He's the camping enthusiast in our family."  

Divorce papers will be on their way to Mrs White very shortly.

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Friday, 30 June 2017

Flushed with success


Meet Flossy and Freddie.  (That's Flossy at the top, where females tend to be these days - and not before time).

They're "toilet flush lever things."  I know this because I found them on eBay after Googling "toilet flush lever thing."  I did fear that my description would be too technical and therefore reap no results.  Thankfully I was wrong.

I needed my new friends after I flushed our toilet on Tuesday and broke the handle - or so I thought.  A quick nervous inspection soon revealed that it was not the handle but, yes, the toilet flush lever thing that needed to be replaced.

And whilst I was thrilled to find Flossy and Freddie so quickly, I was less positive about my ability to install one of them.  Indeed, they aren't related by blood and don't even come in twin packs.  I only bought two because I was certain I'd break at least one whilst trying to ram it in.

But me of little faith.

Just look at Flossy go (handily circled).


As it turned out, skewering her on a spike was much easier and quicker than I could ever have dreamt. If that were not the case, I clearly wouldn't have managed it.

With some extra time on my hands, I sat down and made a quick list of all the things I've successfully repaired in my entire adult life.

And what was on my list?

Sadly just this.

But still, yay me.  After so many years of trying, I'm officially a fully-fledged man of the house.

As I conclude my remarks on this momentous day, I think it only appropriate to direct my final words to Flossy.

Welcome to your new home, m'lady.  I hope you'll be very happy.

Tuesday, 27 June 2017

Until we meet again

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A bit of landmark day yesterday when I joined my now former colleagues (from left to right) Tanya, Liz and David for drinks to say goodbye to our time working for ex-Keighley MP Kris Hopkins.

Sadly one of our number wasn't able to be present; Naz was recently enthroned as the new Mayor of Keighley and was on official business.

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Long may he reign.

It's been a rollercoaster of a ride over the last seven years, with many highs and many lows.

From a personal point of view, my favourite moment was receiving an invitation from then Prime Minister David Cameron to meet the victorious 2013 British and Irish Lions rugby squad at 10 Downing Street.  (I was mightily relieved not to drop the glass trophy).


Most of the players seemed to think I was much more important than I was (i.e. I wasn't in the least bit important) so were very kind.

That said, the great Brian O'Driscoll has a reputation for being a top man in all circumstances, so hopefully his smile was for real.


Happy memories and all good fun.

I look forward to seeing much more of my old workmates in the months and years ahead.     

Sunday, 25 June 2017

One punch Charley

At only six-and-a-half, Charlotte is rapidly becoming the mistress of the one-liner.

Whilst watching Barry Gibb's Glastonbury set just a few minutes ago, the great man did this.

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Charlotte's reaction:

"Why has he taken his hands off his guitar? Is he trying to look cool?"

Meanwhile, there was a moment a few days ago that caused me personal pain.

I was observing the fact that neither of my children look anything like me - whilst hoping for contradiction.

Charlotte's response:

"We don't look like you Daddy. None of us have grey hair."

I suspect matters will only get worse - and will never get better.

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Friday, 23 June 2017

A smile in adversity

It's been a tough few days, particularly for my mum, after her husband and my stepdad Derek passed away.

He had been bravely fighting cancer since March last year, but finally lost the battle on Saturday afternoon.

Derek was a good man whose kindness and support will be greatly missed by us all.

His funeral was yesterday morning and everything went as well as these things can.  My mum did us - and Derek - very proud.

The night before, my sister Jacquie and I accompanied her to Wade's funeral home so she could say goodbye.  Not easy.

Before flying across to Northern Ireland, I attempted to outline to Jamie and Charlotte what had happened and what I would be doing when I was there.  I included the planned trip to Wade's.

After I'd been, Charlotte had a question.

"Did you see Michael Jackson at the funeral home?"

A combination of Vanessa and me explained that there were lots of funeral homes and Michael Jackson was staying in a different one to Derek.  However, they would still meet each other in Heaven.

On that basis, Charlotte's now holding out for an autograph - and possibly a dance lesson.    

Thursday, 15 June 2017

Date for your diary (i.e. Monday)


Almost four months ago I confessed here that I'd got a little bored and sent Steve Wright my 30-strong 'Non-Stop Oldies' list.

Other than thinking back and regretting several of my choices, I left it there.

That was until just over a fortnight ago when I received an email out of the blue.  It read as follows:

Dear Barry,

Many thanks for your Non-Stop Oldies submission - I'm pleased to tell you that they have been chosen and a selection of 6-8 of your songs will be played out on the show on Monday 19th June.
  
Your "I Chose The Non-Stop Oldies" badge should be with you before the above date, please don’t hesitate to get in touch if you don’t receive it.

Thanks again for your great choices and we look forward to hearing them on air!

Best wishes,    

James Santer
BBC Radio 2    

So, there you have it - I'm on (although I haven't received my badge yet, which is something of a concern).

If you're not familiar with the item/have a life, I can inform you that it goes out at 3pm every weekday for half an hour.  To 8.1 million listeners.

It'll be 8,100,001 if you decide to tune in.  Hopefully you'll have nothing else on.

Sunday, 11 June 2017

Back to the Future


Following Thursday's General Election, it's been an "interesting" few days for our country and certainly for me.  And one thing I've learnt is that very few people I know have a clue what I do - or did - for a living.

I've always been fascinated by politics and, almost exactly 21 years ago, gained my first political job as Parliamentary assistant to the then Ulster Unionist MP for East Antrim, Roy Beggs.

At my interview, I clearly remember Roy's cautionary words: "You do realise you're getting yourself into a risk business?"

He meant this on two levels.  Firstly, the IRA was not on ceasefire at that time so posed a mortal threat to anyone working against its interests.  And second, with the 1997 General Election just a few months away, there was a real possibility of Roy losing his seat - and me losing my new job.  I said I would take my chances.

Roy comfortably retained his seat at that landmark election which propelled Tony Blair to power and ushered in the heady days of Cool Britannia.  It also led to me upping sticks and moving to London to be part of it.

During the campaign I was offered the chance to head up the Ulster Unionist Party's Westminster Office and it didn't take long for me to accept.  I spent the next six years there, the highlight being 1998 when the Good Friday Agreement was signed and my boss David Trimble was jointly awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.  Good times.

Vanessa and I moved to Leeds in 2003 to consider marriage and procreation.  For the next three years I worked at regional development agency Yorkshire Forward and then a PR agency.  But I missed really missed being involved in day-to-day politics where - against perceived wisdom - the vast majority of representatives from all political parties really do work hard to improve people's lives.    
 
As fortune would have it, a job then came up as policy officer/political adviser to the newly-appointed Leader of Bradford Council, Kris Hopkins.  So I went for it and got it. We spent the next four years at Bradford City Hall trying - and often succeeding - to do good things for the district.  That took us up to 2010 when Kris was elected as the new Member of Parliament for Keighley.

I was delighted for him but I wasn't sure I really fancied a return to Westminster politics.  But I said yes anyway, thinking that I wouldn't hang around too long.

In the end, I hung around until 4.50am on Friday morning when Kris lost his seat by 236 votes to Labour's John Grogan, an old friend of mine who I was pleased to congratulate and will do well.

Roy's words from July 1996 ran through my head once again as I got the 5.59am train back to Guiseley and pondered what happens next.

To be fair, I'm in a much better position than so many other colleagues now going through the redundancy process.

You may or not know that, in the autumn of 2014, Vanessa and I set up a little PR/communications agency called Vanbar Associates (can you see what we did there?)  We have a website and everything which you can see here.  

I went part-time with Kris back then with the intention of drifting away over time.  However, the 2015 General Election crept up followed by the EU referendum and the start of the Brexit process.  Kris was also appointed as a Northern Ireland Office Minister.  So I found it tough to walk away.  However, thanks to the kindly voters of Keighley, the choice was finally made for me just over 50 hours ago.

So the future is Vanbar and hopefully it is bright.

Vanessa and I have already have a handful of clients, which is great, but I could never commit the time to go out and find more.  I now have all the time in the world.

I'll let you know how we get on.

Thursday, 25 May 2017

Game of chicken

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A word of warning.  If you see me tramping around the streets of Guiseley over the next week looking:
  1. Knackered
  2. Confused
  3. Frustrated
  4. Lost
  5. Delirious
  6. Hungry
  7. Unkempt
  8. Sober
  9. Lots of other not very good things
then I'm here to tell you that it's with very good reason.  Because Vanessa has gone to Hong Kong.

You read that correctly.

She's off to see her fab friend Vicky, who you've met many times before.

Vicky is the one who's not Vanessa.       

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She's working out there for a few months and, when they get together, very bad things happen.

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With sadly inevitable consequences.

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Still, that's their headache.

More importantly (for all you concerned parents and nosy social workers), Vanessa has left me her trademark day-by-day Jamie and Charlotte Instruction Manual. 

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My next task (number 17 out of 1103) is to collect both from their half-term school disco, before feeding them.

However, in what I could only describe as a school mum error, Vanessa has neglected to tell me exactly what to feed them.

So it's chicken and chips all round, followed by ice cream.

MEH!

It's the little victories that make it all worthwhile.      

Wednesday, 24 May 2017

Swirl of the bagpipes fills the Aire on day to remember

I wrote here last week that my old schoolmate Dave was bringing his boys from Hillfoots RFC in Scotland down to play our lot from Aireborough at Nunroyd Park last Sunday.

And it couldn't have gone any better.


Proceedings began with a parade of the players and their national flags led by another old friend, Dr Jason Aldiss, on the bagpipes.

Next up were the anthems in front of a very large crowd on the main pitch.


Shortly afterwards, some rugby broke out with four hard-fought games from Under 10 through to Under 13 level.

Here is young Will Neild from Aireborough Under 10s showing how it's done.


Afterwards, it was time for handshakes - which is always how it should be.


A barbecue and live music in the car park.


Presentations.


A drink for Dave and me. (We had a few others)


And a chance for our respective offspring to spend some time together.


Aireborough were complimented for being great hosts, which everyone at the club very much appreciated.

But it's made easy when your guests are so decent, warm and incredibly welcome.

We look forward to seeing them again soon.