Friday, 20 July 2018

Strange truths

The "before and after" school year photos aren't as as dramatic as the kids get older.  In fact, our two looked older (and taller) in the picture on the left back in September than they did this morning. 

Last night we celebrated the eve-of-end-of-term with a parade of prizes. Jamie gained his blue belt in taekwondo about half an hour earlier.  A few hours before that, Charlotte won the year 2 "creativity award" at school prize day.  The evening before that, she earned her level 5 British Gymnastics proficiency award.     

However, this blog is not about lavishing praise on our kids. No, it's about having some fun wherever possible - and ideally at our own expense.

Jamie's class delivered that this afternoon.  His teacher, Miss Gill, is leaving the school to start a new job.  Today she brought in personalised gifts for all of the kids, which were humbling in the extreme.   Each was given their very own "word portrait" made up up words and phrases which best describe the individual in question.  The words and phrases were provided in secret by their classmates and Miss Gill herself.

Jamie's includes some kind words - "friendly," "funny," "chatty" - and some accurate descriptions of the boy - "Oasis lover," "bird lover," "give it a go attitude."

However, my favourite is an absolute barnstormer: "Strange in a good way."    

That's our son.

Framed and ready for his bedroom wall, Miss Gill even took the trouble to sign the back of the picture.

She wrote: "Follow your dreams Jamie!  Don't stop being positive!  Miss Gill J"

What a fabulous human being and credit to her profession she is.  All of us our incredibly grateful for everything she's done. 

Wednesday, 11 July 2018

Farewell to the High Heid Yin

I was very sad to wake up this morning to learn that my old mate John Laird had passed away.

John established Northern Ireland's longest established public relations agency 42 years ago, and it's still going strong. 

I first got to know him after he was elevated to the House of Lords as Baron Laird of Artigarvan in the County of Tyrone in July 1999.   It was not a surprise as it had been my task to deliver nomination papers, signed by David Trimble, to the Government Chief Whip's office several months before.

John was proud crusader for the Ulster-Scots language and culture and, after the Good Friday Agreement, a tireless Chair (aka High Heid Yin) of the newly-created Ulster-Scots Agency.

What I'll remember most fondly about John was his playfulness and wicked sense of humour. I recall one occasion when a fellow Ulster Unionist peer had a cold sore and bought some ointment to deal with the affliction.  The problem was that John's noble friend kept missing the important area of his face when trying to apply the cure.  So John volunteered to guide his colleague's forefinger toward his face to ensure he hit the target.

I was in a room with them when this process was being gone through for about the third time that day, and John was milking the moment for all he was worth.

He winked at me and said to his patent: "I hope you never need a suppository!"

John presented me with a House of Lords claret decanter when I left my job in Westminster in 2003 and I've cherished it ever since

It is often said when someone passes on that "we'll never see his like again."  In John Laird's case, it is unquestionably true.