Wednesday, 26 December 2018

Bucket pissed

Season's greetings!  (It may be Boxing Day but I'm a firm believer in the 12 Day of Christmas mantra so we're only getting started).

We had a great day yesterday (thanks for asking).  The kids seemed happy with their lot, which is always pleasing. 

Jamie and I shared one present.  Yes, we're off to see The Eagles in concert next summer.  Jamie's been a big fan since I took him to see a tribute band earlier this year. Eagles tunes have also encouraged him to push on with his guitar practice.  Money well spent, I say.

Charlotte was just as excited to learn that she and her mummy will be going to see Little Mix in November.  I'm not so keen for Miss White to follow in their scantily-attired stiletto steps, but still.

In the early evening, I did my big family phone call back home.  Everyone was gathered at my eldest sister's.  Jacquie has had a time of it in 2018.  She returned from holiday in the early part of the year to discover that her house had flooded.  Completely.  Ceilings, carpets, furniture all destroyed.  She's had to reside with family and friends ever since whilst the inside of her home was essentially reconstructed.  The kitchen and bathroom were only finished last weekend, finally enabling Jacquie to move back in.

However, my father phoned me in a grump on Christmas Eve to report a problem.  Jacquie's toilet wasn't working and everyone was going to have to use a kindly neighbour's loo for all of Christmas Day. But my dad wasn't having any of that.  Not a chance.

So when he arrived at Jacquie's for his Christmas lunch, his hands were full.  One was carrying his presents.  The other was clutching a "portaloo," otherwise known as a bucket.

It was only when he went to "try it out" that the rest of the family revealed the toilet was indeed working and always had been.  It was all a wind-up and everyone else was in on the joke - including the kindly neighbour. 

The Whites can be so cruel.     

Sunday, 23 December 2018

Murder on the living room floor

We went to church today for a bit of a singsong. A carolokee, if you will.

Vanessa’s dad was reading a lesson and delivered it like the pro he is.

We then came home for tea. Vanessa said she wasn’t hungry. Fine. But not a morsel of curry or lemon chicken remained shortly after I served up. Jamie, Charlotte and I managed to grab little a bit each when she wasn’t fully concentrating.

But here’s the thing. I got annoyed. Charlotte was wearing a big white fluffy coat thingy that Auntie Jacquie bought for her birthday on Wednesday. And, somehow, Charlotte managed to dip it into her curry. Yes, I forgot to get naan bread, but that’s not a proper excuse.

I hurtled out to the kitchen to apply wet wipes and Vanish before Charlotte’s cherished attire hit the washing machine. I followed-up with a swift lecture on not being so bloody careless. 

It was just as I was catching my breath that Jamie’s curry flew off his lap tray and landed upside down on the living room carpet. And then I kicked over my glass of wine. And then, as Vanessa was cleaning up Jamie’s mess, she dipped her dressing gown into the lemon chicken.

We truly are a family made for each other and not for laptray teas (which are rightly a rarity).

Have a wonderful Christmas Eve.

Thursday, 13 December 2018

I didn't see that coming

I've worn contact lenses since I was 18 years old.  I got them so I could catch the ball better when playing rugby, but quickly realised that my butter fingers were more responsible for me dropping it than my eyes.

I've had glasses since then too but rarely wear them because I look every bit as silly as you think I might.  I don't do hats for the same reason.  Nor sunglasses (not that there's a great need for sunglasses when you live in Leeds).

I've now entered that tragic "needs must" stage of middle age.  All sorts of bits are falling off and the few powers I once had are beginning to wane. That includes the ability to read without screwing my eyes up.

I never understood why people wearing reading glasses often looked over them when talking to me.  Maybe, unlike me, they thought they looked cool and regarded their specs as a fashion accessory.  But over the last few months the reason became more clear (unlike sentences on a page).

I first noticed my diminishing up-close vision when I was trying to decipher the cooking instructions on the side of an SFC bargain bucket.  (The "FC" stands for "fried chicken" but it comes from Morrisons so the "S" doesn't stand for "succulent").  The bucket had white writing on a red background (just like in Kentucky, so not a coincidence) and I couldn't make it out.  Over subsequent weeks, I continued to struggle with reading non-black letters on non-white backgrounds. One particularly embarrassing moment came when I misread how many units were in a bottle of wine, drank half a glass too many and fell over.  (Always drink responsibly, kids).

After careful consideration and a further period of denial, I decided it was time to head to Specsavers to book an appointment.  On the way, I called into the local Sue Ryder charity shop to buy Charlotte a set of cat ears (pretend ones) after she left hers behind at a music lesson.   And I noticed one of those spinny stand thingys displaying a selection of "readers."  They ranged in strength from -0.5 to, well, it was very difficult to read.  But I found a pair that made a positive difference after testing them out on a children's book (which Charlotte got instead as they didn't sell cat ears.  "Never have done," declared the assistant, arms folded ).

And how much, pray tell?  £2.  Brand new.  £2.  (So I bought some more stuff because I felt bad).

I suspect they make me look like this.

But I've not looked in the mirror with them on as yet.  I've been far too busy going through our wine rack and marvelling at how much each bottle differs in strength.  That, and sorting out the kids' chicken suppers.

But my new reading glasses have definitely made my life just that little bit easier.

This weekend, I plan to return to the Sue Ryder shop to check out their man wig collection.

Sunday, 11 November 2018

Alive, Alive Oh!

The kids have just done their bit as Guiseley joined the rest of the country in marking the centenary of Armistice Day.

As I was delivering them to their respective meeting points, we talked about their granda who I am delighted to report is not dead.

I say this because it appears that half of Coleraine thought he was.   He doesn't know how the rumour started but it certainly spread quickly.

So much so that, as he walked through the town centre yesterday morning, he was met by many startled faces who thought they'd seen a ghost. Literally.

At one point he bumped into my cousin who was both shocked and delighted to see him.  Then her phone beeped.  It was a text from a friend expressing their condolences at my father's "passing."

So, just to make clear, James Edmund Barcroft White Snr is alive and well and will hopefully be walking through  the streets of Coleraine for many more years to come.

Cheers Dad. 

Tuesday, 6 November 2018

Learning to fly

Is it a bird?  Is it a plane? No it's me - and yes I am flying.

I always knew we were a family blessed with superpowers.

And it turns out that we all have them.

Here's Vanessa, looking even scarier than usual.

This is Charlotte, being particularly brave.

And here's Jamie doing a midair tango with Brain, our very patient instructor.

If you're still confused, indoor skydiving was our game.  None of us knew what to expect and we didn't leave disappointed. In fact, I think we're still in giddy shock. 

The best bit was what they call the "hi-fly" where our man Brian took us up to space and back again.

You'll understand it better when you see Jamie in action in the video below.  They're performing the "hi-fly" when they momentarily disappear from view. 

It's quite an experience if you're ever near the Trafford Centre in Manchester and fancy ticking something off your bucket list - or adding it to the end.

If only our superhero costumes were just a little


Monday, 22 October 2018

Signs of the times

I don't do politics on here and have no plans to start now.

But I was amused by some of the lighthearted placards on display at the "People's Vote" march in London over the weekend. (I wasn't there but do follow these things because I'm sad).

For example, I don't know where Rick Astley stands on the United Kingdom's impending departure from the European Union but I'm sure he would raise a smile at this effort. 

In contrast, I'm not convinced that Ginger Spice would feel quite so enamoured by "her" sign.

Blackadder fans certainly would enjoy this one.

And dog-loving brave Leavers might raise a whimper in defiance of this mutt - before wisely running off.

Definitely an angry Remainer.

So what was the best placard on show?  Well, by common consent, there were two.


Monday, 15 October 2018

This is how it feels to be Tommy

We had a little trip back in time on Friday evening with a visit to Manchester for a surreal gig.

Do you remember the Inspiral Carpets? Of course you do.

If not, this might prick your memory.  (I've censored the naughty word that rhymes with duck). 

They were huge in the late 80s and early 90s when their lead singer, Tom Hingley, looked like this.   

And this was him on stage on Friday night.

He now plays under the banner of "Tom Hingley & The Kar-Pets."  And he's still brilliant.  Indeed, he and his band gave it their all for an hour and a quarter and didn't miss a note.

Afterwards, Vanessa got to meet her hero, now dressed in a "Tommy Hingley" tee shirt (can you see what he did there?)  And he signed a copy of his life story (what he can remember of it), the aptly entitled "Carpet Burns."

Vanessa and school-mate/bridesmaid/all-round-fab-gal Jane (who introduced me to the future Mrs White) attended their first ever gig together at the age of 16.  It was at the G-Mex, also in Manchester.     

And the headline act was the Inspiral Carpets.

Where did those 27 years ago? 

Saturday, 6 October 2018

Do you know this squirrel?

I’m on my own tonight, which means I get to watch exactly what I want on the telly i.e. not Strictly Come Dancing.

Vanessa has gone camping with Jamie and assorted others, and I was expected to be there.  However, as luck would have it, Charlotte has just left on an overnight Brownie trip and needs someone to be here to collect her in the morning.  Re-sult!!!

I must say, I don't envy what she's doing.  Around 100 of them have gone to The Deep in Hull to sleep under the shark tank.        

Can you imagine? 

To be fair, Charlotte will have to imagine as she has a theory that what she can't see can't hurt her.

So she's packed a specially-purchased eye mask.

I think the sharks will be more scared than her.

In other news, the culprit behind a recent spate of thefts in our back garden has been caught in the act.

Jamie likes to do a bit of bird watching and made me buy some big tubs of suet cake to attract more of his feathered friends to our house.

He got very excited the other morning when he woke up to find that one of the tubs had gone.  It had been half full and was therefore quite heavy. 

"Maybe it was an owl or even an eagle that swooped and carried it away!" he speculated.    

Unfortunately, after school yesterday, I had to break some bad news. It wasn't an owl or an eagle that stole the suet.

No, it was this character who I captured scarpering off with another one for his lunch. 

Cheeky b*st*rd.  I will, of course, be passing the evidence to the local constabulary and trust he will be swiftly apprehended. 

Tuesday, 2 October 2018

For those about to rock

Earlier this year, I asked readers to suggest names for the band Jamie had formed with his school mates.   

They eventually settled on The Aire Heads in acknowledgement of the district - Aireborough - in which Guiseley is located.  Plus it's fun, which is even more important.

They have been putting some serious time in ever since and are now edging towards their first public performance.  But where to play?

Elland Road and the First Direct Arena are probably a bit too big.  Our dining room is certainly a tad too small. And they're too young to book a pub.  So, the assembly hall in St Oswald's Primary School seems like a good option. 

Having secured the secured the agreement of rest of the band, this morning he scooted off to school clutching a letter for the headteacher.

It read as follows:

Dear Mr Sheppard,

I would like to do a Friday performance with my friends: me (Jamie), Euan, Francis and Sam.

We are in a band called The Aire Heads and will perform a song I learnt in guitar lessons, but slightly different, with lyrics I wrote myself.

We won't need a backing track but would like to use the school drum kit if possible.

Finally, I would like to say thank you for his amazing opportunity.

Yours sincerely,         

Jamie White (on behalf of The Aire Heads)

He's at his grandma's for tea tonight so I don't know what response he received.  But hopefully he'll arrive home with a new reason to practise really hard.

Tuesday, 18 September 2018

Stuck in the middle not loo

I'm feeling all battered and bruised.

"And why is that Barry?"

It was very kind of you to ask.

We spent the weekend at an activity centre close to Barnard Castle in County Durham. There were more than 30 in all, a gaggle of parents and just as many kids.

A similar group of us had been there for New Year but the weather precluded any outdoor adventures, other than walking to the pub (which was every bit as fun).

This time was different.

On Saturday, Vanessa, Charlotte and others indulged in a spot of crate stacking.

Whilst Jamie, me and most of the rest rubbered up for a gorge walk before jumping off a mile high cliff (or so it seemed).

Then on Sunday, Vanessa and Charlotte clambered up ropes.

That's a grimace, not a smile.

As Jamie, yours truly and other rafters built one before paddling it away.

But none of the above posed the greatest challenge of all.  No, it was the triple-decker bed that caused me most problems - not to mention physical harm.

To cut to the chase, I attempted to lower myself down from the top bunk for an early morning wee.  And my leg got wedged.  I'm not sure how, but it did.  And I could not extricate myself.  So I dangled.  And dangled.  Then I dangled a bit more.

I was eventually rescued by a fellow daddy who was woken from his slumber "after sensing that there was a distressed animal in the room."   I'll be forever grateful.

Unfortunately I'll not be allowed to forget what happened for a little while yet.  That's because both of my legs and one of my arms are black with bruising.

Next time I plan to sleep on the floor. And perhaps not drink quite so much red wine.

Wednesday, 12 September 2018

Look back in anger

Yesterday was the 17th anniversary of 9/11, and I saw lots of people posting on social media about what they were up to on the god awful day.

As I wrote last week, it is my my new plan to make more of an effort to document what I thought or did in times gone by.

Which brings me to 11 September 2001.

Vanessa and I were in Thailand. We’d been to Bangkok.  We’d been to Chiangmai. Later we went Ko Samet. (No, not Ko Samui. Great place Ko Samet, it’s a grower).

But when the bad stuff happened, we were in Pattaya. Awful place. Full of rich, sweaty, American men drooling over young Thai girls who they’d paid to be their “friends.” Don’t go there.

But we were there and couldn’t wait to get away. We went for a walk to kill tine as we pondered where to park ourselves for a long lunch. And I heard a familiar tune. The Sash. Really. And even better, it was coming from an Irish pub. O’Shaunessy’s if I recall, although I stand to be corrected by the local ladyboys.  (For those not in the know, The Sash is not normally on the playlist of an average Irish bar).

So we went in for one pint, just so I could write about it on my blog 17 years and one day later. 

As we took our seats, we noticed that there were a lot of uniformed American sailors amongst us. They were on shore leave. Many of them were looking very serious.

A bar man appeared behind us and pulled down a big screen. The BBC World channel was projected onto it. A plane had flown into one of the Twin Towers in New York.

Halfway through my first pint, a second plane hit the second Tower.

I turned to Vanessa and said: “Osama bin Laden.”

I don’t know much about this crazy world but, back then at least, I knew my terrorists.

We stayed for quite a while as the shock sank in. We even had tea. I went for the burger.

Then we walked back to our hotel and I cranked into “mode.” 

I texted my boss, David Trimble, then First Minister of Northern Ireland. I suggested that he fax (it was 2001) President George W. Bush and tell him that our people stood with his people in defiance of the terrorists. That’s what he did. And then we went to sleep. 

The White House said a public thank you the following day. And then we went to Ko Samet to resume our holiday.

I’ve still not heard The Sash in another Irish pub.

Tuesday, 11 September 2018

"Ask not what your classmates can do for you..."

Three years ago, I was proud to announce that Jamie had been elected to School Council.  I was worried how he might deal with rejection in the event of an unsuccessful bid but, in the end, the boy stormed home.

And guess what?  We appear to have another budding politician in the family.

Yes, meet Councillor Charlotte White.

Unlike Jamie, Vanessa and I had no advance warning of her lofty ambitions.  She just put her name forward, made a speech and won the secret ballot of her classmates.  She expects to receive the seals of office (i.e. a pin on badge) next week.  (Unfortunately she won't get squash and biscuits, which Jamie enjoyed, because of austerity).

Jamie turned up at his first meeting armed with a big idea.  He had heard about the Daily Mile - whereby pupils get out of the classroom for fifteen minutes to walk or jog at their own pace and keep fit - and thought that St Oswald's Primary School should adopt this.  So he proposed this at School Council, backed by paperwork.  Sadly the then head teacher didn't take it on board.  Maybe the new one might.

But Charlotte is already confident of how to avoid such crushing disappointment.  That's right, she doesn't have an ideas. To use a phrase modern politicians are fond of, she is entering her new role with "an open mind."  Although, as a backstop, she has said that "maybe Mummy will have some ideas." 

I'm sure you, like me, wish her well in her representative endeavours.

Sunday, 9 September 2018

Not dreaming of a White Christmas

I received a Facebook notification earlier which flagged up enticing deals on Christmas jumpers.

I do have one - I got mine the year after they were funny - but fancy another. Plus, a wardrobe is there to be refreshed and Christmas can never come too soon.

There are four in our family and everyone must be properly clothed.

So, bursting with enthusiasm, I asked Vanessa: “Does Jamie’s Christmas jumper still fit him?!”

Not bothering to glance in my direction, she replied flatly: “Dunno. He hasn’t had it on for a while.”

I have no idea why I even bother.

Wednesday, 5 September 2018

There was nothing bland about Rachael

I'm certainly not alone today in feeling cut-up at the news that someone I never met has died.

BBC Radio 5 Live presenter Rachael Bland was taken away by cancer early this morning, aged just 40. 

As an avid 5 Live devotee, I'd listened to her for years.  She was diagnosed with cancer in 2016 and, in May of this year, was told that it was terminal.

Last month, she said was writing a memoir for her two-year-son Freddie as "a love letter to my beautiful little boy."

I heard her talk about this on her podcast, "You, Me and the Big C," which she presented with two other heroic and inspirational cancer sufferers.  And this got me thinking.

In common with countless others, I'd exchanged tweets with Rachael in the past to encourage her in her fight, and she always responded.  Her words about documenting her life for Freddie to read when she was gone really got to me.     

I decided to start this blog more than a decade ago as a means of recording Jamie's early times and Vanessa's and my attempts to be parents.  I wrote something almost every day for the first few years, during which we were joined by Charlotte, but then my updates began to tail off in terms of frequency.

Just over a fortnight ago, I tweeted Rachael to tell her that I was going to change my ways and follow her lead by making a greater effort.

And, again, she tweeted back.

I read her final tweet on Monday afternoon, just after landing at Leeds Bradford Airport.

Rachael Bland became a role model for many people, particularly - and most importantly - those dealing with cancer.  She won't be forgotten.

Tuesday, 4 September 2018

Last of the first

It was back to porridge for these two this morning as I took the last obligatory "first day of term" photo before Jamie goes to big school next September.

And this was them on their first day at Guiseley Primary in 2015. 

Whilst Jamie has grown a lot since then, its worth pointing out that he is not wearing the same trousers.   

I hope both of them, their classmates and their teachers have a great year.

Monday, 3 September 2018

Back in time for tea

You join me 32,000 feet in the air as we fly from Barcelona back to Leeds after 10 days of fun and adventure. But we almost messed it up, right at the very end.

You would hardly think it possible to get lost between the departure gate and the plane, yet somehow we managed it. The result was that we found ourselves back at passport control and couldn’t get to where we were supposed to be. It genuinely looked like we were going to miss our flight, even after they presumably delayed it to take our luggage off. So there was only one thing for it. Yes, get the police involved. We begged, grovelled and squirmed in front of a bemused young officer until he kindly agreed to use his special pass to guide us through a succession of glass doors and onto the plane. Needless to say we’re very grateful, and more than a little embarrassed. But it was 15 minutes I would not want to relive.

Other than that little piece of drama, our 48 hours in Barcelona turned out great. 

We visited La Boqueria (big scary market)...

...we stood and gazed at La Sagrada Familia (big scary church that’s still not built)...

...we went to Park Guell (home to a big scary lizard)...

...Jamie had his caricature done on Las Rambla...

...and so did Charlotte...

...and, two nights in a row, I had a paella that looked like Wayne Rooney...

...served by a very nice man. (Yes, there are hundreds possibly thousands of restaurants in Barcelona and we went to the same one twice).

And that, my friends, is that. Happily, none of us seem to have that depressed feeling you often get at the end of a holiday as we did everything we wanted to do and we’re all in need of a proper sleep. Plus, Coleraine are playing football live on Sky Sports tonight and I wasn’t confident that many bars in Barcelona were planning to show it. C’mon the Bannsiders!

Saturday, 1 September 2018

Merci bien et au revoir

Bonjour one last time from French France - Perpignan to be precise. From here we go back to Barcelona for two more nights before arriving in Leeds on Monday. (The kids aren’t due in school until Tuesday so no tutting please).

This my first extended stay in France and, although we only saw a small part, I’ve been mightily impressed. The locals have so much style and poise that I feel inadequate. I imagine that’s exactly how they like it.

A lot was packed into our last few days.

We hired bikes...

...we raced go-karts...

...I still can’t believe the chubby kid beat me (his father even pointed and laughed as I left the scene of the crime)...

...I got to sing some Irish pub songs and Jamie was invited to hold a mandolin...

...we attended a foam party..,

...I tried Aquaspin (which was a lot less sweaty)...

...we saw a lion talk in fluent French during a production of “Simba”...

...did a bit of outdoor cooking...

...and last night we joined in with what was possibly the best tribute act I’ve ever heard in “Feel Collins.”

My only gripe was that he came on stage wearing a jacket when all Phil Collins fans know that one is not required.

But he did take it off before saying bonjour to the kids afterwards.

Looking out of the window, I’ve just noticed that we’ve re-entered Spain and our trip to France must now be consigned to the memories box.

I’m already looking forward to our inevitable return, but we’ll deal with Barcelona first