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


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.


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.


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.


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.