Father of the Bride (#2) Speech

Loren's Wedding

A few weeks ago, Loren asked if I would make a speech at her wedding. I said I would only do it if I were allowed to have a little fun at her expense. Josh then said he wouldn’t have it any other way…. So here goes.

It’s fair to say that over the years, Angela and Martin have taken responsibility for many of the important decisions in Loren’s life: education, her love of horses, career choices and more recently the house that she lives in with Josh and the kids. As “Dad #2”, I’ve been able to enjoy many of the fun moments in bringing up a child with plenty of character. Josh, you are about to find out some things about your new wife, and yes, it is too late to change your mind.

I used to update a diary when Craig, Loren and Bethany were children so that I’d have something to look back on in my old age. I’m now in my old age, and it’s been great fun this last week reading through some of those entries. Out of the hundreds of references to Loren, I have picked out a handful of short stories to give you an insight into the background of this lovely young woman.

 

1996

There’s a statue in Denholme Park of a man in military uniform with his head bowed, holding a rifle.  Loren asked if he got upset when they put cement over him.

Loren was eating a sweet at school, and her teacher caught her, she told her it was a cough sweet – it wasn’t!

Loren sat on my knee while we watched TV; she patted my stomach and asked if I am going to have a baby.

1997

When packing the grass into bags, I found a caterpillar that Loren adopted.  She called it “Emma” and took it to school in a small mustard jar with a bit of grass inside. It died.

At a kids party, Loren beat Craig to a pulp with someone’s handbag.

While at the airport queueing to check in, Loren loudly asked: “Has that man got a bomb in his suitcase?”

Loren had loads of M & S chicken tikka bites (heavy on the garlic) then sneakily made every effort to breathe all over her Grandad from behind his back.

Loren has a new motto, “If at first you don’t succeed, give up!”

For the last two months, Loren has been calling me “Stewie Old Boy.”

I cooked Loren an omelette for her dinner, and she was told that she must finish it if she wanted any sweets afterwards.  She took it on a tray into the conservatory, and we watched her from inside the kitchen where she couldn’t see us and found her feeding it to our dog, Curly.

Loren was making a noise in her sleep at about 11pm, so Angela went up to her to find her “sleep-driving”.

Loren and I went to the Nawaab to pick up a takeaway curry.  When we got back to the car, Loren insisted on holding the brown paper bag on her knee so that it didn’t fall over on the way home.  I told her that the curry smell would be on her legs for a whole week.  She said that the smell would be in my mouth for a whole week as well.  The bag had leaked dupiaza sauce onto her dress; Angela was not-best pleased.

1998

Linda came over one Saturday night for some wine and curry with Angela, did I mention the wine? She stayed overnight and slept in Loren’s bedroom. She had a pounding headache on Sunday morning, but that may have been more down to Craig and Loren slamming every door in the house on a constant basis.  It turned out that Loren had done it deliberately so that Linda would wake up and get up and then she could enter her bedroom for her roller blades.

 

2002

Loren has an awful cold sore between her nose and her top lip.  One boy at her school tried to poke fun at her, but she replied, “Just you wait until your hormones start taking action and you get big boils on your face, let’s see who’ll be laughing then”.  The boy apologised.

Loren had to see her headmistress Mrs Bleasdale today after being grassed up by a boy who she pushed into a wall.  Mrs Bleasdale told her to “act like a young lady” in future.

2004

Loren came first in the school sports day 1500m race………. then took the following day off sick!

2005

Loren had some ‘New Look’ vouchers to spend.  Just before we set off to Halifax, Angela asked her, “How much have you got?” to which Loren replied, “All of them”!

 

 

Let me tell you about Loren’s bedroom. As a young teenager – and probably beyond – she had little inclination in keeping it tidy. In fact, you couldn’t tell what colour the carpet was because of the stains and all the rubbish thrown in all parts. Angela and I thought she was old enough to take responsibility and “if she wants to live in a pigsty, she can live in a pigsty”. I did find out a few years later that it wasn’t that bad, it was a sterile surgical theatre in comparison to her sister Bethany’s. If Loren was the Princess of untidy bedrooms, Bethany was undoubtedly the Queen. But I digress…

I took some photos of her bedroom to show her how bad it looked. I focused in on what looked like the remains of a snake which had shed its skin; it turned out to be a months-old rotting piece of pineapple peel. Things came to a head. She was told to get it sorted out and, to be fair, she rolled her sleeves up and got stuck in. I offered to help by taking out an overflowing paper bin. I walked down the stairs and noticed she had thrown away the pages of a diary she used to keep as a young child. She doesn’t know it, but I kept those pieces of paper and stored them away for a rainy day. It’s not raining today, but here they are for your amusement.

Tweety Pie and Sylvester

Look at them, look how cute they are, what a sweet thing that she used to keep a diary. They’ve even got love hearts and Sylvester and Tweety Pie on there. Let’s have a little read of some of the entries.

“My boyfriend’s name is David. I met him at my brother’s football party. We played tig, and I never went for anybody else but him. I had a great time, I don’t think David did.”

“My worst thing on telly that I could watch is football. My brother loves it. I think he would marry it if he was allowed. He never stops thinking about football. I hate it.” <To be fair, she’s got a point!>

“I was supposed to be tidying my room. Stewart was in a bad mood, and we didn’t do anything wrong. I said ‘I haven’t done anything’ and he said “EXACTLY!” So I went into the living room and sat down and watched TV.”

“I hate Scott and Daniel. I hate Scott because he annoys you and he’s really geeky. He throws stones across the table. If he keeps doing it, I will kick his head in”

“I hate James and Philip at my school. I feel like I want to hit them on the head with a hammer.”

I think we ought to stop there before Josh tries to make his escape.

I feel like I’m running out of time, but if anyone would like to hear the World War II gas mask story or even the one about the Twin Towers that I’ve bottled telling you, please come and see me afterwards.

Josh, good luck mate! Seriously, I started this speech inferring that I’d give you a scary insight into the woman of your dreams. In truth, all these little stories have contributed to making her the strong, fantastic wife and mother she is today; we are all immensely proud of her, and I know you are too. The best advice I can give you is to write down all that fun stuff that your kids get up to because one day Josh, you will be making this speech at Beau’s wedding.

I’m certainly not going to bring this celebration down in any way, but I’d like to reiterate what Martin said about Loren’s grandma Alicia who of course is no longer with us. There was an extraordinary bond between them, and I know for a fact that she would have been so excited today and proud of how Loren turned out. I also can’t forget about everybody’s favourite Uncle – Uncle George – and Lyn (David’s wife and John’s Mum) who both loved Loren very much but sadly passed away over the last couple of years. They would have both been in their elements today.

 

So, because there are two dads making speeches, you get to have an extra toast. To our wonderful daughter, her fine young husband and let’s not forget the grandkids. You are a fantastic family.

 

<Applause (hopefully)>

 

And finally, here is the twin towers story which I bottled out of telling….

“Loren has always been a compassionate girl. I remember that terrible day when the twin towers were brought crashing down. Loren was utterly devastated and upset for days afterwards. Oh, it wasn’t for the tragic loss of life but more because it took all the attention away from her 10th birthday.”

 

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Fun at the Optician’s

While taking my parents for their annual eye test appointments at the local optician, I found myself hanging around in the waiting room for around 45 minutes. A lady brought her elderly mother for a similar eye test; the old dear sat in the chair next to me, I can only describe her as a funnier and chattier version of Catherine Tate’s “Nan”. After she inflicted her personality on the receptionist, she turned her attention to me; at the time, I was surfing the Internet on my iPhone just for something to do. The conversation went like this:

Nan: “What are you doing?”

Me: “Just browsing on my phone.”

Nan: “What are you watching on that thing?”

Me: “Some dog videos.”

Nan: “I love dogs, will you show me one?”

Me: “OK, would you like to see a sausage dog puppy having its first bath?”

Nan: “That’s brilliant. Is that your dog?”

Me: “No, I do have dogs, but that’s not mine. Look, here’s another video, it’s a dog on a surfboard.”

Nan: “Oh, I love that, is that your dog?”

Me: “No, that’s not my dog. Would you like to see 10 Labrador puppies rushing to their feeding bowls?”

Nan: “Sure.”

.. at this point, she took my phone from me, and I showed her a video of a ranch in America where 10 golden Labrador puppies ran inside, all skidded and fell on the vinyl floor before arriving at their feeding stations and munching their food at a breakneck pace.

Nan: “That’s fantastic. Are they your dogs?”

Me: <out of devilment> “Yes they are!”

Nan: “Really?”

Me: “Oh yes, they live in my holiday home in Nebraska.”

Nan: “That’s amazing; do you really have a home in Nebraska?”

Me: “No.”

… She laughed really loudly and gave me a thump on my shoulder. Her daughter and the receptionist were in hysterics.

Nan: “Will you show me a picture of your dogs?”

… I found a photo of my beautiful 3 black Labradors with my equally, perhaps even more, beautiful wife, Angela, in the middle of the picture. Before handing the phone back to her, I zoomed in on the Labradors so the top part of Angela was not visible. This is the picture in full.

Angela and the Boys

Nan: “They are gorgeous. Ooh, will you show me a picture of your wife, I might know her? Is she from Clayton?”

Me: “No, we don’t live in the village, but a few years ago she did work for a while at the Wool Board just down the road.”

Nan: “Well I’m bound to know her then?”

Me: “How’s that? Did you know people at the Wool Board?”

Nan: “No, but I often popped into the butchers on the other side of the road.”

She cackled hysterically, so did her daughter, so did the receptionist; she was messing with me, if this were a football match it would have been one goal each. We kept each other entertained for the next 30 minutes; I reckon it ended in a 3-3 draw!

My parents returned from the examination room. My Dad’s eyesight had neither improved nor worsened, so the glasses he had were still OK. For some obscure reason, my Mum’s vision had slightly improved, and she needed new lenses; she decided to buy some new frames at the same time, so she accompanied the receptionist to choose some, and my Dad sat beside me. I had planned to take them shopping straight after the trip to the optician. Dad said to me “we might get to Tesco’s fairly soon if your Mum frames herself”. As Mum was choosing the frames at the time, I thought this was really quite a high-quality pun joke until I realised my Dad was having a grumble, and there was no joke intended whatsoever. I laughed, Nan’s daughter laughed, the receptionist laughed. Dad remained stony-faced in the chair.

Poltergeist

No jokes, no twist in the tale, this is the true story of the freakiest thing that has ever happened in my life.

In the early-1990’s, I rented a small terraced house for 6 months in the beautiful small town of Haworth in West Yorkshire. I won’t tell you the name of the street because I know what you are about to read, however, here is a picture. I lived about half way up on the right-hand side.

Sand Street Haworth

When I first moved in, the landlady gave me a little tour of the old house. It was very small with a tiny entrance behind the front door and a living-room with a micro-cooking area at the back. There was a double bedroom on the first floor and another smaller spare bedroom in the attic. From the kitchen area, there was a door leading to stone steps down to a dark, musty cellar. It stored some old brooms, some essential tools and spider-web covered wine bottles. It was the first of only two occasions I ever went down there.

Every house has its own sounds, and I eventually became used to what was normal. As the months went by, I became increasingly aware of other strange sounds. Floorboards would creak in the middle of the night, the door leading to the attic would slam at unexpected times and every time I checked, it was closed solid. I would occasionally feel a temporary breeze flow through my bedroom, and yet all windows and doors would be closed, there were no vents in the walls. These events were more frequent when my 3-year-old son stayed with me. I have no idea why but that was an undeniable fact.

Those who know me will understand there is a logical scientist inside, trying to get out. I have little time for UFO enthusiasts, ghost-hunters and anyone attempting to convince me about religious creation theories. It is for this reason that what I’m about to tell you cannot be dismissed as the ramblings of someone who wants to believe in the unbelievable.

Towards the end of my six-month tenancy, the strange unexplainable happenings had escalated to daily occurrences. I admit I always thought it was an odd house but at no point was I ever worried or scared. My son was not with me on this one particular night. I was awoken at around 4 am with a loud bang in the kitchen right beneath me. I genuinely thought there was a burglar downstairs, so I hurled myself out of bed, out of the bedroom, launched myself down the stairs in the darkness and burst into the living room/kitchen. High on adrenaline, I turned the light on ready for a confrontation, but there was no-one there. I scanned the room, even looked behind the settee in case someone was hiding, but I was on my own.

I checked the front door, the only way into the house – it was locked – then returned to the living room. Somewhat puzzled I walked into the kitchen, and my heart literally skipped a beat; that’s when I noticed the weirdest thing I’ve ever witnessed. On the draining part of the kitchen sink was a wooden chopping board. Slammed into the board was my super-sharp bread knife, recreated in the picture below. It was swaying from side-to-side.

Chopping board and knife

I had not used that knife in the days leading up to that night, nor had I ever kept the wooden chopping board on the sink. I looked to my right and saw that the door to the cellar was ajar by about three inches; it had been shut since the day I moved in.

Now I admit that at this point I was starting to worry. Using more force than I thought I would have to, I extracted the bread knife from the chopping board pushed open the cellar door and turned the light on before descending, holding the knife in front of me. It was only a small area, and all I could see was the broom, the tools and the spider-webbed wine bottles. There was no other way in or out.

I cannot explain the events of that night. I promise you there was no alcohol involved that might have clouded my judgement and there’s absolutely no exaggeration for story-telling effect. A few days later, I handed the keys back to the landlady. Of course, I recounted these events to her but she just smiled in puzzlement and said that she’d never experienced anything like it while living there herself, her previous tenants had never mentioned anything either. She probably thought I was a nutter!

 

Claudine

It was September 1980; we had just finished our A-levels and were about to embark on our university education. Along with 4 other friends, I took the opportunity to go camping in the South of France for two weeks. We stayed in a small resort called Sanary-sur-Mer not far from Toulon, more precisely at Portissol Beach. This is what the beach looks like today, but back in 1980 there was a lot less going on, and instead of holiday chalets next to the beach, there was a huge campsite.

Sanary-sur-mer Portissol

On a warm evening during the first week, I joined two of my mates for a few beers in a local bar (or it could have been some very cheap white wine, I can’t quite remember!). We strolled back to the campsite in the moonlight and noticed some French boys messing about with a football on the beach, so we popped down to introduce ourselves and hopefully have a kick-around. It became apparent that it was not an organised event and that they were all basically trying to impress a girl who was watching them while sat up against the wall.

The boys were probably around 16 years old, the girl with them was 18 as I found out later; one of the boys was her younger brother. They viewed us with some trepidation as we approached and they quickly closed ranks. The girl shouted “Hello” to us, so we went to join her. She was called Claudine and was the proud owner of a pair of beautiful big brown eyes, long and curly jet-black hair, and an infectious smile. Although a little on the short side, there was definitely something about her that made us quickly realise why those younger boys were out to impress, but making themselves look like immature idiots in the process.

We were able to have a laugh thanks to a mix of Claudine’s broken English and mutual sign language. If this chance encounter was a race for her affections, then it’s fair to say I was leading the race. The reason was not due to my good looks or my intelligence, of course. One of my mates was much better looking, and the other was far more intelligent. Now I’m definitely not saying that the brainy one was not attractive, nor am I saying that the handsome one was thick as mince, but if you swapped over those traits to create two separate people, they would both be dangerous. No, the reason why I was leading the race was that I was the only one who had a GCE ‘O’ level in French and I could manage simple communication when spoken slowly.

My friends decided to join the French boys in a game of football leaving me to chat to the lovely Claudine. Things were progressing nicely, in fact, she had raised the subject of skinny-dipping, but then things took a seriously bad turn. Two policemen arrived on the beach, and it was evident they weren’t messing about. They spoke no English, and their French was so fast I could not understand what they were saying. Claudine did her best to translate; it transpired that we were breaking the law by being on the beach after dark. The cops didn’t seem too concerned with Claudine and the French boys, they were more focused on the three English holidaymakers.

Claudine said, “let me talk to them”, and she walked about 20 paces away with the two policemen. After chatting to them for two or three minutes, she returned with an explanation. With the two cops leaning against a railing a short distance away, Claudine said that they would allow our French friends to go home if they went straight away, but we were given an ultimatum. If we agreed to meet them at the local bar near the top of the hill the following evening when they were off-duty, then they would not arrest us; if we did not agree, then they would take us down to the local station and charge us.

At this point, we looked across at the ‘gendarmes’ in an entirely different light. What did they look like? Take a look at this picture of the Village People.

The-Original-Village-Peop-001

Now try to imagine the guy on the right, wearing the uniform of the guy on the left. I hope you now understand the position between a rock and a hard place that we found ourselves in. We obviously didn’t want to get arrested, so we agreed to meet them in the bar the following evening. Claudine went across to tell them, and without a word of a lie, the more senior cop blew a kiss at us. Holy crap! Claudine came over to me, planted a kiss on my cheek and said goodbye. I never saw her again.

Did we go to the bar the following evening? We most certainly did not.

Did we return to the beach on any of the remaining evenings of our holiday? Not on your Nellie!

Looking back at this incident almost 40 years later, I’m now starting to think they may have been joking with us but I would not bet my mortgage on it.

20 Degrees of Separation

I recently had a ‘light bulb moment’, not about light bulbs, but about toilet paper. [Now there’s a sentence that I’m willing to bet has never been written before!]

Before I explain my idea, it is important to clearly state one major assumption that this blog post relies entirely upon. When toilet paper is used, two sheets are stripped from the roll and folded across the perforations in the centre. This has already ruled out any interest from one of my daughters who, after wondering why my toilet paper expenses were so high, I discovered wiped herself by taking about 12 sheets and wrapping it around her entire fist for fear of having to touch any of her own undesirable matter.

This is a diagram, to scale, of two sheets of toilet paper, the black line down the middle indicating where the perforations are.

Paper 0 degrees

When folded evenly, I can tell you that the length is 12.3 cm and the width is 10.2 cm, resulting in a total surface area of 125.46 square cm. It occurred to me that it is not necessary that the whole of that surface area needs to be a double-sheet thickness, but you still need that security of the bulk of the area being thicker. Can you tell I’m desperately trying not to be crude in my descriptions here?

Here is my idea. Instead of creating those perforations perpendicular to the paper edge, why not cut them at an angle? 20 degrees from that perpendicular seems perfect to me, as per the diagram below, again drawn to scale. The cutting process should alternate between a 90-degree perpendicular cut and a 20-degree cut (this is actually 70 degrees from the paper edge).

Paper 20 degrees

This is what the shape looks like then the paper is folded using the angled perforations.

Paper 20 degrees folded

The dark blue area is double thickness, and the pale blue sections represent single sheet thickness. If you hold the paper by the folded edge, then the single sheet parts are situated on the outer edges of the “action areas”. I have calculated using the formula for determining the area of a triangle (0.5 x base length x height) that this configuration of the end shape increases the surface area by 39 square centimetres. That’s a whopping 31.09% extra surface area, created by simply cutting perforations at a 20-degree angle!

Now, if you were Mr Andrex and you were presented with this idea, would you:

  1. Market it as a gimmick,
  2. Market it as an innovation that provides over 30% more efficiency,
  3. Cut the volume of paper used per sheet and therefore reduce raw material costs while still providing the same useful surface area?

I suspect I know the answer.

Unsung Hero

My daughter, Bethany, told me a story about something good she did at work, but circumstances dictated that she was unable to claim any credit for it. It reminded me of a rugby league story which I’ve since recounted a few times.

I used to play rugby for Sunderland in the mid-1980s. We played a friendly match against Clayton ARLFC in Bradford and afterwards, 5 Sunderland players were asked if we would like to join the Clayton team on a short tour to the South of France to play two matches in Toulouse. We were not really part of the Clayton team but we were welcomed anyway, and made lots of friends. At this point, I could tell you stories of some of the events of that memorable trip, including:

  • a drunken visit to the Pernod factory,
  • indescribable mass seasickness on the Portsmouth to St Malo ferry,
  • the time I fell asleep in a French café/bar and awoke with my right arm completely clean-shaven,
  • trout fishing,
  • getting lost in Auterive and having to blag a lift back to our base using translation skills gained from my French language O-level,
  • an England v France size contest (I’ll leave it to your imagination to determine what was being measured, suffice to say the little French scrum-half won after the English prop-forward quickly admitted defeat before having to remove his trouser belt).

Clayton ARLFC

This particular story is about one of the best moments I’ve ever had on a rugby pitch. In a tough game played in blistering heat, the score was 20-20 with less than a minute to play. Our French opponents were in possession, virtually on their own line, but in a final display of Gallic flair they whizzed the ball out to their left-winger who cut through our defence and went flying down the touchline. I was the only Clayton player who made an effort to chase. With every stride I was slowly gaining ground and, after a 90m run, we arrived at our try-line together. He glanced across at me and put in a full scale dramatic dive into the corner to claim the match-winning try. I did the same thing, smashed him in mid-air with every ounce of energy I had left and managed to dislodge the ball and prevent him scoring. The final whistle blew immediately afterwards.

The French winger and I gathered our breaths back – or as the Australians call it, “sucked in the big ones” – we shook hands, helped each other off the ground and joined our teammates at the other end of the pitch in an act of cross-channel, end-of-match camaraderie.

Back in the changing rooms, all the players were buzzing; no one had expected us to even get close to the French team, let alone leave the match with a draw. I’ll never forget the moment that our captain was talking to all the senior players in the team and said “What a fantastic match, but who made that crunching tackle at the end to stop them scoring?” No one said anything; inside my head, my brain was screaming “Tell them, tell them it was you”, but I didn’t. I thought in that moment that I would come across as a needy little nerd in a team of relatively tough rugby players, so I opted to sit there in silence.

Did I do the right thing? I’m not sure, even to this day.

Potato Snackage

There seems to be a growing trend towards leaving the potato peel on the vegetable as part of cooking. Chips/fries can be cooked with the skin left on, and obviously, potato wedges and jacket potatoes retain the outer covering. Potato peelings contain lots of flavour and nutrients, so for those dishes where the peel is not required, why throw away all that goodness?

Thanks to the BBC Good Food magazine, I was inspired by a recent article to produce what I call “Potato Snackage”; it is straightforward to do, gives a wonderfully tasty alternative to the potato crisp and a fantastic accompaniment to a nice bottle of beer (or four).

Ingredients

  • Potato Peelings
  • Rapeseed Oil

For the Spice Blend

  • Paprika
  • Onion Powder
  • Tomato Powder
  • Citric Acid
  • Cayenne Pepper
  • Rock Salt
  • Pinch of Granulated White Sugar

 

Method

  1. This recipe works best if large potato peelings are used; I guess that small ones would taste just as good but would be fiddly to work with. Wash the strips in cold water and pat dry on some kitchen roll.Potato Snackage (4)

2.  Prepare the spice blend using all the ingredients and grind with a mortar and pestle. The mix of ingredients listed above is fantastic, but you could use anything you like, really. Even simple salt-and-pepper works well.

Potato Snackage (2)

3.  Spread the peelings over a baking tray trying not to overlap them. I find that an excellent New Zealand pale ale assists in this process.

Potato Snackage (6)

4.  Brush the strips with the rapeseed oil and sprinkle the spice blend over the top. Turn them all over and repeat. A Camden Town lager is the preferred beverage at this point.

Potato Snackage (5)

5.  Bake in the oven for around 20 minutes at a medium/high heat setting until some of the peelings start to bubble, and they crisp up. By the time they come out of the oven, you will be ready for a continental white beer.

Potato Snackage (3)

6.  Serve in a small bowl with a Guinness! Enjoy.

Potato Snackage (1)

 

Potato Snackage is so tasty that it is tempting to peel a potato just to obtain the strips of peel and throw away the rest of the vegetable.