Tag Archives: Grumpy Old Gran

One year after: The Buddy miracle who won’t stop smiling

21 Dec

buddy new pic 2IT’S exactly one year since my sixth grandchild came into this world – and went perilously close to leaving it at the same time.

Buddy John Harry Holmes was born by Caesarian section, three months early and just 28 weeks into my daughter Hayley’s pregnancy.

He had no heartbeat, wasn’t breathing and weighed less than one kilo.

For the next few days, it was touch and go whether our Buddy would survive.

We all hoped and prayed he’d make it and that the lack of oxygen in those first few minutes had not caused any permanent damage.

For the answer, look at the picture above, taken at his first birthday party in Burscough, Lanc-buddy new picashire. Apart from his model looks (I would say that, wouldn’t I?), our Buddy is as good as gold. He rarely cries, sleeps virtually to order – and always has a beaming smile.

Hardly the frail, emaciated, under-weight specimen you’d expect of a pitiful child who was born half-dead. No, my Buddy miracle is just Buddy gorgeous!

How Peter Andre opened a door to happiness for sick Daisy

14 Dec

Daisy in hospital recently

Daisy in hospital recently

THE last four months have been a living hell for my granddaughter Daisy.

She’s spent roughly half that time in hospital, has lost two stone in weight and her once-rosy cheeks have been replaced by a ghostly white complexion.

She is currently on a medical regime which involves taking 32 pills a day…plus a fortnightly injection she describes as ‘’like a really bad wasp sting’’.

Even when Daisy is not in hospital, she’s bent double in agony much of the time and cannot go to school. Such is life for a 12 year-old with a particularly aggressive type of Crohn’s Disease.
At what should be the most exciting time of her life, she’ll become a teenager next month not knowing what the future holds. If she is lucky, the ulceration of her bowel will respond to treatment and the digestive spasms that crease her up will ease – just as they did for her older sister Rosie, 21. She has the same incurable illness as Daisy, but has been in remission for four years.

If she’s unlucky, Daisy will require major surgery. It all seems so unfair for a youngster whose dad suffered a massive brain haemorrhage when she was three years old and has been in hospital, paralysed and blind, ever since.

Last Friday Daisy was discharged from her latest hospital stay, even though she was far from well. The lives of her medical team would have been at risk had they refused to let her go. Her mother Hayley  had booked tickets to see Peter Andre ‘Up Close and Personal’  at Manchester’s Apollo Theatre and this was one event she was NOT going to miss.

Two years ago, Daisy was photographed with singing heartthrob Andre at a CD signing at a local ASDA store in Manchester – and prayed for the day she could see her idol in concert. Now it was actually going to happen…with family friend Louisa, a qualified nurse, joining Hayley’s entourage at the Apollo in case Daisy’s pains became intolerable during the evening.

We’d been racking our brains for a way to contact Peter Andre in the hope he might just find time to say hello to her. We knew it was a forlorn hope…and with 3,500 fans yelling for his attention at the Apollo, that forlorn hope quickly deteriorated to ‘no chance’. Their seats were four rows from the back…just about as far from the stage as it was possible to get.

Frail Daisy was dwarfed by adults vying for the best viewing points and as everyone leapt to their feet to welcome their hero, she was left staring at people’s backs. In desperation, she stood on her seat to get a better view and was immediately ordered down by the fans behind her.

In tears, she resigned herself to the worst. At least she could hear her idol, she reasoned. That was better than nothing.

Then fate took a hand in the most dramatic way. Someone pointed out a free seat in the very back row; here was a chair Daisy could stand on without fear of being ordered to sit down and where she could get an uninterrupted, if distant, view of her beloved Peter.
The six-stone waif was about to enter dreamland.
In the distance, Andre left the stage as his dancing entourage began a routine to the tune of John Lennon’s Imagine.

Then the hand of fate took over. ‘Suddenly Peter emerged from a door just to Daisy’s right, singing – and started walking along the aisle behind us,’’ says Hayley.

“Daisy turned round and he saw her straight away. She was crying hysterically and Peter came straight over to her and started singing to her. He touched her face and she grabbed his arm…and then he moved away.

“Daisy somehow found the energy to jump over the seat and run after him but was held back by one of his minders.

daisy with peter andre

HAPPY DAY: Peter signs a CD for Daisy in 2010

“But it was an amazing experience for her and a fantastic pick-me-up that none of us could have dreamed of.’’

Daisy is still overcome by the experience: ‘’I can’t believe what happened. I and lots of my friends had been tweeting him for two weeks hoping he might just agree to say hi to me but it was more in hope than expectation. Then it just happened all by chance. I actually felt the muscles in his arm and I can tell you he smelt wonderful!’’

A great perfumance, you might say – and one that brought a rare smile from a child whose happy personality has been knocked sideways by her health problems.

We all know that pain and happiness just don’t mix. But for those few wonderful seconds at the back of the Apollo, agony turned to ecstasy for a sick child…and the hand of fate showed its gentle side.

Thanks, Peter.

Published in The Courier (www.thecourier.es) December 7, 2012

Candle with care: I’m sick of the tick of the birthday clock

22 Oct

I USED to love birthdays. Particularly those big ones with a zero on the end. The ones when your boss would send you home early to have a quiet family celebration…only for all hell to let loose when you opened the front door.

One moment, silence and slight concern that nobody was in. Then, as you peered into the deserted hall, an explosion of noise as doors flew open, laughing faces appeared from nowhere, the kids rushed into your arms  –  and 100 voices burst into a chorus of you know what.
The party would go on forever as you ate, drank (too much) and caught up with the lives of surprise visitors from out of town and friends you’d all but lost touch with. Your boss and the colleagues who had masterminded the show would turn up after work and the party would go on through the night.
Yes, life was fun at 40…and blowing the candles out was a piece of cake.
How times change. Birthdays used to take forever to come round, yet I swear I’ve had four of them this year.
And the only good thing about the damned things is that if they keep coming, you know you are still alive.
I’d better amend that, because I don’t want my friends and to think I didn’t enjoy our little celebration at the weekend. Nineteen of us took our zimmer frames, hearing aids and skin tucks for a bit of a bash in Guardamar. It wasn’t a night at the Ritz, some would say more like the Pits. But, like so many local expats, my crowd love the bustle and boom of Vicente Jaen’s chaotic restaurant, where plates of freebie food fly at you from all angles before you even give your order – and then you are submerged by enough food to fill a herd of starving elephants.
There’s no written bill and the only till is the wad of notes tucked away in Vicente’s pocket. It’s all a bit of a shambles, really…but as irresistible as the march of time.

In the chaos, my plan for a table for 20 was redrawn as a 12 and an eight and I spent the evening  sitting with my back to most of my guests. The experience confirmed my mathematical theory that the volume of noise generated by a boozing Brit is directly proportional to the amount of alcohol consumed. The longer we celebrated, the louder some of us got (not me, of course)  – and the more disgusted looks headed like daggers in our direction.
It was all good fun and great to have so much support in the absence of my family, who are all in the UK. Thanks for the good wishes, cards and presents, guys, but you’ll have to remind me who gave what because everything got mixed up in the chaos of the evening.
One thing I did notice in the haze of alcohol (two gin and tonics – I can’t even get drunk these days) was that there were no candles on the cake.
Perhaps Restaurant Jaen is a no-blow zone, I thought. Because I could definitely have seen off all those little sticks of flaming wax. Well, three or four anyway – I can only eat a few in one sitting.
Anyway, in two years I’m due to hit another BIG birthday. I want whoever provides the cake to make sure it displays one candle for every year of my strife (pun intended).
I promise faithfully that when it comes to blows, every one of those candles will be extinguished in a couple of seconds.
And maybe the grandkids will let me help…
Published in The Courier (www.thecourier.es), October 19, 2012

How my artful lodger put paid to the computer rip-off sharks

25 Jan

If, like me, you know precious little about the internal workings of a computer, then I guess you’ll have been ripped off by a computer repair ‘expert’ at least once.

Unless, that is, you have a trusted friend who understands all the technical stuff and can bail you out when your laptop or desktop is sinking under a sea of problems.

When my Dell desktop computer suddenly refused to connect to the internet recently, I tried everything I knew to solve the problem. Like swearing at it – and rebooting. Well, that’s about all I can do when something goes wrong.

Someone once told me that rebooting solves everything. And he was a computer expert – or professed to be. Pillock!

Anyway, computer matters being all Geek to me, I decided to ask around at a couple of the local specialist shops in the Manchester suburb where my UK home is. There was no way I was going to lug the machine to their place, so I made a couple of notes and also armed myself with the message that kept appearing on the screen.

The proxy server is refusing connections.

Firefox is configured to use a proxy server that is refusing connections.

• Check the proxy settings to make sure that they are correct.

• Contact your network administrator to make sure the proxy server is working.

At the first computer shop I went to – a relatively new, well-fitted establishment – I showed the screen message to a smartly-dressed Asian gentleman and asked him if he knew what it meant and how much it would cost to get me back on line.

‘’Your computer has a virus,’’ he assured me. ‘’We will need to remove it, which will involve cleaning the files off your computer so it will be more or less as it was when you bought it. This will cost you £40.

‘’If you would like the files restoring as they are now, this will be an additional £15. We will need to have the computer for about 24 hours.’’

I mentally dubbed him Vikram Virus and told him I would return with the computer. Intending to obtain at least one more estimate before committing myself, I headed for another, smaller computer repair shop in a less salubrious area.

‘’There’s a problem with the settings. I can fix it for £20,’’ asserted the manager.

‘’No virus?’’ I queried.

‘’No, it’s the settings and I can sort it out in about half an hour if you bring me the computer tower.’’

No virus, no need to remove and replace files – and £20 compared to £55  to get me back on line. That will do for me, I thought – and headed home  to collect the computer tower vowing never to go near Vikram Virus’s place again.

When I arrived, my young lodger Anthony had just come home from work. Remembering that he worked in IT, I thought I’d sound him out in the hope he might know what was causing the problem.

Anthony, for some reason I can’t get on the internet,’’ I confided, producing the proxy message from my handbag and plonking it in front of his face.  ‘Do you have any idea what this means?’’

I expected a furrowed brow and a vacant  ‘’Sorry, I don’t know’’ but got the opposite.

‘’Don’t worry, it’s nothing major,’’ he insisted. I can sort it out – it’s a minor thing with the settings.’’

With that he sat down at the computer, called up something or other, tapped a few keys – and bingo, we were back online.

The whole job took little more than 60 seconds – and he refused point blank to take any payment.

From £55, to £20 to a freebie. And they used to say you couldn’t trust car repair shops!

OK, so I should have asked Anthony in the first place – but he wasn’t around at the time I lost my internet connection and I am not the most patient of people.

The big question the whole experience throws up for computer-illiterate people like me  is, ‘When something goes wrong and you consult one of these  ‘experts’, how can you be sure you are given the correct  diagnosis? And then charged an amount in keeping with the work that is done? The answer is, you can’t. You just have to trust your intuition.

Unknown to him, I’ve now got Anthony earmarked to service my car, though I have no idea whether he knows anything about motor mechanics.

But he’s honest and he’s cheap – and that’s  more than can be said for the likes of Vikram Virus.

From Liverpool to Leeds: Ten hilarious football tales

3 Jan

During my 30-plus  years working for national newspapers in the UK, I heard more 0ffbeat tales about sports celebrities than I care to remember – many of them first-hand from colleagues who were there at the time. You’ll find links to a whole series of anecdotes on the Home Page of  this website – but here are a few tasters to get your laughter buds baying for more. And yes, I do suspect one or two of the stories may be apocryphal. But who cares as long as they make people smile…

LATE NIGHT EXTRA: Legendary Liverpool manager Bill Shankly was fuming on the night several of his superstars arrived back at their Belgian hotel 45 minutes later than the boss. ”Where do you lot think you’ve been?’’ blazed Shanks as international quartet Ron Yeats, Ian St John, Roger Hunt and Ian Callaghan returned from a drinking session well after the boss’s midnight curfew. ”That’s it!’’ he ranted at Yeats, St John and Hunt. ”You’ll never play for Liverpool again – and you can forget about international football as well. You’re finished!.’’ Then, turning to his blue-eyed boy Callaghan, he added: ”And I’m going to tell your missus about you.”

DON’T CRY FOR LEE: Manager Gordon Lee wanted a word with his Newcastle chairman Stan Seymour. He marched into the club chief’s office, only to be told by a secretary: ‘’Mr Seymour is not available. He’s gone to see Evita.’’ Lee retorted: ‘’I don’t think so. He wouldn’t go and watch a foreign player without telling me first.’’ When Lee moved on to manage Everton, the Merseyside media soon discovered his geographical knowledge matched his familiarity with Andrew Lloyd Webber musicals. After a dismal showing in a home Cup Winners’ Cup leg against Standard Liege, defiant Gordon looked ahead to the return in Belgium and rapped: ‘’Just wait until we get them in Standard!’’

EMMY AWARD: Hard-man Tommy Smith had two pet hates in football – Leeds United’s Allan Clarke and his own skipper at Liverpool, Emlyn Hughes. And not necessarily in that order. When Hughes clashed with Clarke in a goalmouth melee and old squeaky voice Emlyn found himself on the deck with blood pouring from his nose, Smithy showed himself in his true colours. ”Maybe that Clarke’s not such a bad bloke after all,” muttered Tom the compassionate.

With manager Jock Stein in hospital, Celtic No.2 Sean Fallon was dealing with press enquiries at Parkhead. When one reporter phoned to enquire about an injury to Scotland full-back Danny McGrain, Irishman Fallon admitted: ‘’I don’t think he’ll make Saturday’s game. He’s suffering from a Grain stroin.’’

GENTLE-MAN JIM: It threatened to be a bloody battle. Spurs and Burnley had fought out a particularly vicious FA Cup stalemate – and the replay promised to be even more physical. The teams were kicking in before the game when Jimmy Greaves, who was never noted for his ball-winning ability, approached his equally timid-tackling opposite number Jimmy McIlroy. ‘’Hey Jim, why don’t we mark each other?,’’ said goal-king Greavsie. ‘’Then neither of us will get hurt.’’

TOM AND JURY: Tommy Docherty was always the first person to poke fun at himself – as with his version of the

Tommy Docherty: Success as a failure

infamous court case in which he was accused of perjury – and acquitted. ‘’I admitted to the judge I’d lied on oath, but he didn’t believe me,’’  is one of the one-time Manchester United boss’s classic quips. Tongue-in-cheek Tom is also particularly proud of his dubious achievement as manager of Rotherham United. ‘‘I promised the chairman I’d get them out of the Second Division (now the Championship) and I did,’’ he recalls. ‘’I took them into the Third.’’

EIRE RAID WARNING: League of Ireland champions Shamrock Rovers were convinced they had the answer to mighty Honved of Hungary in the European Cup, The lads from Dublin trailed 2-0 from the away leg, but on the eve of the return manager Jim McLaughlin unveiled a unique plan for beating the magnificent Magyars. ‘’We’ll be concentrating on all-out attack…mixed with caution,’’ he insisted. No prizes for guessing who won the tie 5-1 on aggregate.

BETTER BY CALF: England legend Nat Lofthouse reckons he was frightened of his own Bolton teammates in his playing days. Well, two of them anyway. Full-backs Roy Hartle and Tommy Banks had such a fearsome reputation that striker Lofthouse maintained: ‘’When they were playing behind me I used to put shin guards on the back of my calves.’’

THE BALD TRUTH: Rival Midlands bosses Ron Atkinson and Jim Smith decided to travel together to a dinner they were both attending. Their teams had been having mixed fortunes, with Atkinson’s West Brom near the top of the old First Division (the Premier League’s predecessor) and Smith’s Birmingham seemingly heading for relegation. They pulled their vehicle into a multi-storey car park near the function venue, left it on the top deck, and got into the lift. Big Ron turned to the Bald Eagle and quipped: ‘’You’d better press the button because it’s you who’s going down.’’

NO WAY TO TREAT A LADY: Peter Withe’s whip-round was apparently for the driver taking the Aston Villa players to their pre-season friendly in Dusseldorf. But the man behind the steering wheel didn’t get a pfennig. Withe invested the money in an inflatable rubber sex doll, which was duly named Doris and went on to become part of Villa folklore. The obliging lady was adorned with the number 12 on her back – and the name of newlywed Colin Gibson’s wife across her torso. She was then left in a suitably compromising position in Gibson’s room at the team hotel. Gibbo was not amused – and poor Doris proved no match for him or the pair of scissors with which he cut her to shreds.


Defiant Spanish smokers facing 100,000 euro penalty

3 Jan

D-Day has come and gone – but how much better off is Spain now that bars and restaurants will no longer be polluted by smoke? Assuming that Spanish tobacco addicts choose to honour the new legislation, that is.

I’m in the UK at present, but I gather from friends and Spanish internet forums that the general public seem to be accepting the changes reasonably amicably.

Breaching the new law will initially cost smokers a 30-euro fine, but bar owners face a 600-euro penalty for a first offence, soaring to a potential 100,000 euros if they repeatedly ignore the legislation.

Smokers caught several times could also face a six-figure fine. But if  my good friend Graham Lilley’s Day One experience counts for anything, few expats will risk  the wrath of the enforcement boys.

Graham, who runs the popular Ricardo’s bar in El Raso, near Guardamar, told me: ”I didn’t need to remind my customers. They all came in telling me smoking is no longer legal and insisting they sit outside!”

Graham, an asthmatic, reluctantly decided against a smoking ban inside Ricardo’s last year because he feared he would lose more customers than they gained. Now he says: ”I’m happy the decision has been taken out of my hands but I hope it’s not the thin end of the wedge. No flambe dishes, no smoked salmon – and what about the mosquito candles?!”

Graham Lilley - happy with ban

Meanwhile, some Spanish bar proprietors seemed to be testing the water to see if the government really mean business. A friend in the Costa Del Sol reported hours after the new legislation took effect: ” I just went past our local bar in Benalmadena and only two men were sitting in there. One was smoking, as was the barman/owner with him!’’

That’s 630 euros the government missed out on for starters – unless the police walked in afterwards and chose not to join the fumadores.

A Javier-based member of one expat forum reported: ‘’ Not an ashtray in sight in our local. Lots of smokers enjoying the sun outside, though. I guess the real test will come when it rains…’’

Another revealed: ”Driving back from Torremolinos this morning my wife and I popped into a bar/cafe in Velez Malaga. Signs everywhere – Prohibido Fumar. A young guy came in and lit up. The staff told him to go outside!’’

And from the colder northern climes of Bilbao came the revelation: ‘”The major bars on the street where I live have put a table outside with an ashtray. People seem to be respecting the law up here, which I’m thankful for.

‘’There’s a LOT of anger – we were giving the smokers in the family a hard time yesterday at the family dinner and an uncle was saying he’ll no longer go to the bar. However, I doubt this because the daily coffee is a good excuse to leave the house.

‘’People will stay home more? This week, sure, people are going to be stubborn. Next week too. Week three? People will miss their coffee. Week four… we’ll see.’’

Personally, I’m beginning to wonder whether there will in fact be ANY real change. Unlike Britain, the winter weather in Spain does not freeze everyone virtually to death so it won’t involve any great hardship for smokers to indulge their unsociable habit outside on a partly-covered terrace.

And once the temperature warms up, it will be back to the old routine. Everyone will make for the terrace, the smokers will light up – and sanctimonious battle-axes like me, too hot to go inside and avoid the fumes, will carry on moaning.

PS. I’ve been pleasantly surprised at the cool reaction of smokers to the flak I’ve been flinging at them this past couple of days. I fully expected an angry backlash over all the mickey-taking, particularly my recommendation that they try the balcony option (click here). All I can think is that perhaps the new anti-smoking laws in Spain fitted in nicely with everyone’s New Year’s Resolution.