Thursday, 31 August 2017

Camping it up


I never thought I'd say this but I'm sick of drink.

OK, I take that back - it was the drink talking - but, when you're confronted with sights like this, what is a boy to do?


Mamma Mia! Yes, the show. It was a scene from that. "Live" on stage here in camp.

Although it wasn't actually live. It was the reps lip-syncing not just to the soundtrack from the movie, but the dialogue too. 


Meryl Streep, Pierce Brosnan, Julie Walters, Colin Firth. They could all be heard. Over the crackling sounds on the cassette tape.


It's The Lion King tonight. 

When I told Jamie, his immediate response was: "Can you imagine the costumes?" 

Charlotte: "They'll probably be wearing onesies."

At least it'll be good to hear Alan Rickman's voice again.

In other news, Charlotte is now the proud owner of a Vomy Ball.


Yup, it's a ball that vomits.


Here she is loading it up with pretend puke.



I wonder what new cultural delights today might offer.

Monday, 28 August 2017

Postcard from Tuscany


Good afternoon and welcome to a holiday camp somewhere in Tuscany. I'm not sure of its precise location because Vanessa booked it and I'm not very good at geography.

As it happens, Mrs White is not here at the moment. She's in Florence for the afternoon looking at statues.

The kids had the chance to go but Jamie didn't fancy it. Charlotte really didn't fancy it.


It's good here, although at times more than a little surreal. I blame the foreigners.

There are folk from most European countries from what I can tell. That was the point of us coming. We wanted to expose the kids to a bit of shared pre-Brexit culture before we're ripped out of the EU club and forced to talk like Boris Johnson.

And our two are loving it thus far. A big reason is the presence of water slides. 


Lots of water slides. 


Each making me feel even older than the one before as I land at the bottom in a heap. I've just cut my toe on one. At least that's bought me half an hour of respite to allow the bleeding to stop. 

It's also helped me to get over the embarrassment of being told off for having an inflatable in the big pool. I mean, how was I to know? I've not heard that much whistling since David Beckham was sent off for violent conduct in the 1998 World Cup Finals. I promised not to do it again so have been allowed to stay. For now.

Him and her haven't done any kids' clubs as yet and I doubt they will for the rest of the week. It's a combination of the fun they're having in the pools and the fact they can't be arsed.


I blame the mother for that. Everything else is my fault.

The only mild disappointment to date has been the quality the evening shows. When I say "quality" I actually mean "pure pish."  

Last night was Comedy Night, the "highlight" being one the performers pretending to be Ray Charles (who was blind) walking into things before falling in a pool. 


I think I'd prefer an hour of Harry Hill doing stand-up. That's how bad it was. Hopefully it was a blip. Plus, we're eating out this evening so Family Games Night isn't a priority.

Anyway, that's what we're up to. I hope the Bank Holiday sun is shining back in Blighty.

I'll try to post some more drivel later in the week.

Saturday, 26 August 2017

On the railroad to somewhere

Buongiorno and welcome to a proper train presently speeding away from Rome.


Yes, they've got real trains here. 

Such as this one which is just like ours.


Or this one, which I presume is called something like il Doubledeckero.


If it's not, it should be.

Anyway, our train is bound for Florence. Impressed? Don't be. Because then we have to change onto another train, wait for 90 minutes before climbing onto a bus. Final destination? A campsite. Really.

Thankfully we're not in a tent - which was the only reason I agreed to this charade. What happens next is anyone's guess - and Vanessa's liability if it's shite.

But back to our train.

You may be aware of the current debate surrounding trains in England (and Wales).

The present Government thinks that the lion's share of taxpayers' money for transport should go to the south of England where most of them came from and now reside. And they've recently put our money where there homes are by signing up to Crossrail 2 in London. Crossrail 1 will open shortly. 

Meanwhile, up North, in the Midlands and in Wales - we can all go hang. There are limited Tory votes up here, so we are hereby invited to travel slowly to Hell in our dilapidated two-carriage bone rattlers. That's the deal. 

Of course, the current premier train services in the North are the ones that go to London. It means that our ruling elite can escape more quickly back to the capital after their important meetings. Good for them.

Back here in Italy, local rulers seem to understand that everyone is entitled to travel with a bit of dignity - and at limited cost. And the quality of train is much higher than I anticipated. This partially explains why I just ballsed up.

Our train pulled up about half an hour ago and Vanessa said we were on coach 5B.

There were no signs for coach 5B but there was a sign for coach 5A. So we stood by that.

"5A must be on one end, 5B on the other," I announced confidently. Like the twat I was about to be exposed as.

We climbed on. We reached our seats. A foreign type was sitting in one of "our" seats. Vanessa politely pointed this out. He politely indicated that not only were we on the wrong carriage, we were also on the wrong train.

And here is where is gets more complicated - and impressive in equal measure.

There are two trains going to where we're heading. Each one is at least the same length as the Leeds-London train. But they are joined together. And both travel at 225mph. Our train - complete with coach 5B - was the "other" one. 

Now, the good news was that we still had 10 minutes to get off the wrong train and on to the right one. The bad news was that several grumpy American tourists with huge bags stood between me and the door - and I had two bags almost as big as their stomachs dragging behind me.

Two pints of sweat and countless awkward smiles later, I made it off and we hared up the platform to board the by now almost mystical coach 5B. 

As I hoisted our bags up onto the overhead racks, all around us smirked as the sweat dropped off my nose. But we made it.

What lies ahead, on our campsite, could seriously brighten up my day - or kill it dead. Let's see what hand fortune deals us.

Friday, 25 August 2017

When in Rome


Welcome to Rome which, according to local legend, was built by the Romans. I don't believe a word of it.

We arrived yesterday morning and, after a quick game of paper, scissors, stone, one lucky man won the right to drive Vanessa to her city centre hotel. 


Luckily, she allowed us to tag along too.

And before we knew it, we were off looking at some ancient stuff.

It included this.


And also this.


They were built by the Emperor or the Pope or one of those types. Free free to check the guide books. All very magnifico, I'm sure you'll agree.

This morning we found an Italian restaurant apparently aimed at visitors from the North of England.


Sadly it was closed.

Then it was off to the Colosseum, which even impressed me.


If you wanted to be hyper-critical you could argue that it has seen better days (albeit the guts of 2,000 years ago when Jesus and John the Baptist jointly cut the ribbon). But a breathtaking feat of construction nonetheless.

After that, it was pizza.


And ice cream.


Tonight we'll head out for pizza and ice cream. 

Tomorrow we're leaving the capital but staying in Italy for an entirely new type of adventure (for us).  It was Vanessa's idea so, in truth, it'll probably be a disaster. I'll fill you in when I can (WiFi availability permitting).


Before I go, I want to briefly pay tribute to my friend Sean O'Callaghan whose tragic death was announced yesterday.

If you're familiar with the Troubles in Northern Ireland, you'll almost certainly know about the many lives he saved whilst risking his. If not, you might want to Google him.

Like so many others, I was sceptical and possibly hostile towards him when our paths first crossed - in my case, it was June 1997 in London. But I quickly grew to trust him, we became firm friends and kept in regular touch ever since. 

In fact, we spoke a number of times in recent weeks and planned to put our heads together on a couple of things after the holidays.

I received my last email from Sean exactly a month ago yesterday.

He signed it off as follows:

"Call anytime. You do a great line in Ulster Prod bullshit. Brightens up my lonely retirement. Xxxxxxxx."

I'll miss the old gobshite.


Sunday, 13 August 2017

Wheelie good fun


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.      


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.  


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.  


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.


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


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.


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.


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.    


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).  


So that was CarFest.  I suspect we shall return. 


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.