100 Days Later (part 11)

Hello! I hope you’ve all had an enjoyable week. I’ve decided this week to lighten the mood a little in regards to my isolation blog. As the weather has taken a turn for the worse, I thought as I’d have a bit more thinking time! As I mentioned in my last blog, I’ve been partaking in Zoom calls with my mates on a weekly basis and the last couple of weeks we’d used football as the topic of our discussion. We all choose our favourite moments from the beautiful game and discuss in great detail. We discussed overrated and underrated players of any era, George Best and Gazza fell into the overrated category for two of my mates (Feel free to discuss in the comments). My long time friend from High School, who also goes by the name of Kieron (what a great name!) sent over a WhatsApp message this week with the list of all lists that just couldn’t be ignored! So here goes…

I believe the children are our future…

Who is your favourite cartoon character and why?

It has to be He-Man and the Masters of the Universe! “By the power of Grayskull – I have the power!” was the immortal line uttered by Prince Adam as he transformed into He-Man every time he held the Power Sword. Together with his close allies, Battle Cat (or cowardly pet tiger, Cringer) and Orko. He-Man used his powers to defend Eternia from the evil forces of Skeletor! Easily the most powerful man in the universe!

Millennium Falcon spaceship

What was your favourite game/toy and why?

Star Wars without doubt. I remember going to Woolies (Woolworths) with my family when I was a kid on Saturday mornings and looking at all the Star Wars figures that I wished were in my collection. I think back then they retailed about £1.99! What a bargain! Then either Christmas 1983 or 1984, I got the Millennium Falcon spaceship, I was literally over the moon. It came with several of the elements associated with the vehicle in the film: a gaming table, gunner’s chair, training ball, even the smuggling compartment inside of which our heroes hide from the Imperials on the Death Star. It also featured a battery-operated “battle alert” sound!

Who was your first famous crush and why were they so special?

Kylie Minogue. I think she hit the UK screens in the soap opera Neighbours in 1986. I would’ve been 11 years old at the time and by the time her character, Charlene had developed away from a being tomboy so had my affection for her. I wasn’t much into her music but I certainly made sure I watched her pop videos! In my opinion, she’s still one of the most beautiful women in the world today.

What’s your favourite kids TV show and why?

Jonny Briggs. A few mentions for Grange Hill, Murphy’s Mob, Seaview, Jossy’s Giants but my favourite was Jonny Briggs. It was a BBC kitchen sink drama that revolved around the exploits of a young boy, his pet dog, Razzle, and his eccentric family members: Mam and Dad, older sister ‘Our’ Rita and older brothers Albert and Humph. It was a real Northern working class programme. I think it was filmed in Bradford. The theme tune was brilliant as well!

You’re History, no good to me…..

If you could have witnessed any event of any era, what would it be and why?

Bobby Moore with the Jules Rimet trophy

England v West Germany 1966 World Cup Final. Yes I know you’re going to think WHY have you a football match over other major historical events but I’m a massive football fan and one day I wish to see my home nation win a major trophy. Unfortunately so far in my lifetime we’ve only got to the semi-finals but can you just imagine what it must’ve felt like being a part of the euphoria of the whole country uniting on that day in July to see England lift the most prestigious trophy in world football. Imagine the celebrations afterwards too in the swinging sixties!

What do you wish you’d have invented and why?

Instant Gene Editing Technology. An instant technology that would facilitate gene editing from birth. Our son Alfie and all the families affected by Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy would have all the pain and heartache taken away from them. I don’t really need to say anymore.

Which historical figure is the greatest and why?

John Winston Lennon. I’m not saying he’s THE greatest in history. We could really do with a leader like Sir Winston Churchill at this very moment in time. During my research for this I discovered that in a poll of 100 Great Britons in 2002, TV, film and theatre actor, Michael Crawford came 17th on the list! He has to be one of the most famous, successful, influential, covered and admired pop artists of all time. It’s my personal choice as I love music, art and have a new found love for writing so he ticks all the boxes for me! To think that his life was so tragically ended when he was just 40 years old.

That’s Entertainment…

Partners in crime, Vincent Vega and Jules Winnfield

Favourite film and why?

Pulp Fiction It was made in 1994, I was 19 and for me it was a groundbreaking in every way. A film like this had never ever been seen before. A brilliantly written and incomprehensibly cool film that has to be the most quotable crime movie of all time. The performances from Uma Thurman, Samuel L. Jackson and John Travolta were just amazing. The soundtrack was also brilliant. What more could you ask for?

Favourite TV Theme?

Dennis Waterman – I Could Be So Good For You The theme tune to 1980’s TV show Minder, a British comedy-drama series about the London criminal underworld. It starred the late great George Cole as less-than-honest businessman, Arthur Daley and Dennis Waterman as his bodyguard, former boxer Terry McCann. I remember it used to air on Monday night’s at 9pm and we were allowed to stay up and watch it!

Favourite Comedian and why?

Frank Skinner. Mainly for his quick wit and dry sense of humour. He remind’s me a bit of myself! I read his autobiography in 2002 whilst on holiday. He was expelled from school at 16 and had a serious drink problem from the age of 14, but managed to go teetotal in 1987. He really turned his life around and went onto create Fantasy Football League in the 90s. His comedy back then was a groundbreaking mix of laddish and philosophical humour. The Frank Skinner Show also brought a famous moment of him dancing in dodgy white Y-Fronts to Venga Boys which still makes me laugh to this day!

A film of your life is made, who plays you and why?

Christian Slater. The reason being is that back in my younger days, I used to get told all the time that I looked like him. I think it was the eyes more than anything, I never saw the resemblance myself so for that reason he’s taking the lead role! I also used to get Tony Mortimer from East 17 a lot too! Alright, Alright, everything’s gonna be alright!

If you could go to a concert and stand at the side of the stage of any artist, who is it and why?

The Beatles at Empire Theatre, Liverpool, December 7th, 1963 Aside from standing at the side of the stage at the likes of a Robbie Williams, Craig David, James Blunt gig and telling them not to bother, I think it would have to be The Beatles. Ideally it would be at The Cavern but I don’t think there would be room at the side of the stage! I’d have loved to have experienced the height of Beatlemania and just the 60’s in general. The music and the fashion suit me down to the ground. I think the Swinging Sixties were very similar to the Nineties in some respects. I’m very gracious that I was around during the 90s Britpop era and saw Oasis countless times in the process including at Maine Road and Knebworth in 1996. The latter event almost two and a half million applied for tickets!

Most famous person you have shook hands with and how did it come about?

During my retail days I used to work at the Levi’s store at the Trafford Centre. It was the late 1990s so the selfie didn’t really exist as we were in the days of the then groundbreaking Nokia 3210 mobile phones. I remember Victoria Beckham ringing up the store to say that they’d be visiting the store in the afternoon and could we put aside some jeans for her try on. A few hours later in walked the Beckham’s and their entourage. No handshake but a worthy mention as we did exchange nods! We used to get quite a few celebs in the store, mainly footballers, musicians and soap stars. I have shook hands with Ian Wright, I asked him if he fancied playing for our Levi stores 5-a-side team that evening. He politely declined. I also met Paul Arthurs aka Bonehead from Oasis. He’d not long left the band and I enjoyed a good chat with him whilst trying to find him a decent pair of bootcuts! The one other that springs to mind is when I worked at Schuch in Manchester, Anne Kirkbride who played Deidre Barlow in Coronation Street came in to the store. The staff were mainly students and the girl who was serving her came over to me and said “Can you believe Deidre Barlow is trying on white stilettos!”. Still makes me laugh to this day!

Have you ever been on TV, Radio or Stage and what did you do?

Yes I have been on TV and Radio and they both came during this lockdown period. For those of you who are new to my Duch Dad blog, myself and my family were on our local regional news programme, Granada Reports. As Alfie’s 6th birthday party was cancelled due to us self isolating, I did a social media Duchenne Awareness campaign to get celebrities to wish Alfie a happy birthday. We had the likes of James Corden, Ant & Dec, Jodie Whittaker, Sir Chris Hoy, David Tennant, Catherine Tate and Matthew McNulty to name but a few! A few weeks later I then appeared on BBC Radio Manchester to discuss lockdown and shielding. Check out part 4 and part 5 of my blog to read the whole story!

Two for Tea

1) You are on death row, what’s your last meal and why?

StarterMinestrone Soup. When we were on our honeymoon in Florida in 2012, we went to the Olive Garden Restaurant on International Drive. I had the best bowl of Minestrone Soup I’ve ever tasted. Fresh vegetables, beans and pasta in a light tomato broth.

Main CourseSlow Cooked Lamb Shanks on a bed of Mashed Potato, Green Beans and Red Wine gravy. I think I’m just going for hearty comfort food. You can’t beat slow cooked succulent lamb just falling off the bone. I can’t say anymore as it’s making me hungry thinking about it!

DessertChocolate Sponge with Custard. The ultimate comfort food dessert. I always remember this being a favourite of mine at primary school and still to this day it’s my favourite. As I’m on death row I’m going to ask for unlimited custard!!

Dinner party inviting 3 famous guests (dead or alive), who are they and why?

Nigella Lawson – Not only would she host the ultimate dinner party, she’s also the undisputed queen of the food-based double entendre! It wouldn’t just be the food that was spicy and saucy! The dulcet tone of her voice makes her very engaging.

Frank Skinner – Working class background, quick witted, loves football, plays the ukulele and boy would he lap up Nigella’s double entendres! I imagine he’d ask some great questions too which would lead to some great discussions. He could also host a Dinner Party version of Room 101! (Maybe the theme of my next blog?)

Amy Winehouse – Immediately distinctive, both in terms of music and style, with her winged eyeliner, beehive hair and collection of tattoos and that voice. Imagine her just getting up to sing a few numbers after dinner. “She could bring songs to life like no other,” wrote an English journalist after her death. “But she was unable to live her own life.”

You may also note that all of the above have had addiction issues in the past. That is not my reasoning of choice, it’s purely coincidence! Maybe Frank could shed some light on how to tackle their addiction and help the two damsels in distress? If it’s not working then Nigella and Amy could pop off to the ladies whilst Frank and myself talk footy!!

So that’s it! I’d say that was the most challenging blog I’ve written for a while as I’ve had to delve deep into the my memory bank! Please feel free to devise and share your own selections in the comments. Remember there is no right or wrong answer as they are your own personal choices.

Stay Safe!

Kieron

#duchDad

84 Days Later (part 5)

Well what a week that was! If you’d have said to me at the beginning of 2020 that by mid-March we’d in full Coronavirus lockdown and unable to go past the front gate I’d have brushed it off. If someone then said four weeks into that lockdown you and your family would be on Granada Reports (twice in one week including once ‘LIVE’ from your dining room!!) and receiving birthday messages to Alfie from Ant & Dec, James Corden, Hugh Jackman and Stephen Mulhern etc then I’d have laughed in your face! Well it did actually happen and this is how it all came together…

Here’s what I wrote in part 2 of my 84 Days Later blog!

Alfie’s 6th Birthday

Well! If you read the transcript above from the second of my Isolation blogs, you’ll know that’s when it all began but it started very slowly. In my last blog, Be Like Bambo, came my Bruce Lee moment (as it’s now known!). I bent with the wind and boy did it work! My sister, Janine had also been emailing many celebrities such as Joe Wicks, Paul Hollywood etc but she’d also contacted our regional news programme, Granada Reports.

Breakthrough

Victoria Grimes, a TV reporter from Granada Reports (or Grandad Reports as Mila-Rose and Alfie call it!) contacted her to discuss the email she’d sent and she said it’s the kind of story that would bring a smile to peoples faces during these dark times. We had our first conversation with Victoria on Wednesday 15th April to see which celebrities Alfie (and Mila-Rose) liked. Ant & Dec were mentioned as well as Stephen Mulhern, Mr Poppy from Nativity. James Corden was also but mentioned but as he was in L.A. it probably was a bridge too far. At that point though we had more chance of getting a message from Archie the Donkey from Nativity!

Mr Poppy (right) with Nativity 2 co star, David Tennant

w/c Monday 20th April

On Monday, we discussed with Victoria the details of the Skype interview that was planned for Wednesday. I took a few shots of Mila-Rose and Alfie in their Toy Story outfits that would be used in the report. These were sent to Victoria to use in the edit in the hope that maybe a few regional celebs would see this and maybe do a message. At that point she’d been in touch with the ITV press office who contacted the likes of Ant & Dec, Stephen Mulhern, members of the Nativity cast etc. They were still a long shot.

By Tuesday, Victoria had unbelievably secured messages from Stephen Mulhern (which she said was very special) and Catherine Tate. Everything seemed to be coming together. She’d also managed to get through to Ant & Dec’s agent but she pointed out that it wasn’t a given. As things were moving along, it was still in the back of my mind in regards to James Corden. Alfie was watching him more and more that week on YouTube, I’m not quite sure he fully understands his pranks but he just laughs and laughs at him! That day we also received an amazing message from all the players and coaching staff at Leigh Centurions, it was arranged by our good friend and Alfie’s mate, Gregg McNally or Greggles as Mila-Rose and Alfie refer him as! I honestly couldn’t get the grit out of my eye after watching that video!

Wednesday came and by lunchtime we’d done our Skype interview with Victoria. It was very funny, as we now knew she’d secured Stephen Mulhern’s message she was trying to prompt Alfie into talking about him and his show, In for a Penny. Firstly, by asking him what his favourite TV show was, Ant & Dec he replied! Same again having secured Catherine Tate, she asked what his favourite film was aside from Toy Story – he replied with PlayMobil – The Movie! You couldn’t make it up! During the Skype interview, I received an email notification from Marc Wootton’s agent. We now had a message from Mr Poppy from Nativity!

By Thursday morning I was on the phone to Fulwell73, the agency of James Corden. I was now confident we could get something (I think Victoria also had the same feeling as she said she’d sent an email to Hugh Jackman’s agent!). I had also sent a tweet to James Corden but I wasn’t that confident of him seeing that as he has well over 10 million followers on Twitter! I messaged Matthew McNulty to let him know I’d contacted Fulwell73. He replied to say that he’d text one of his mates who was in Gavin and Stacey, an actor by the name of Andy Knott. We were now as Matthew said “attacking him from all sides”. Then at 5.07pm came the message of all messages! I pressed play on the WhatsApp video message. the sound of a male voice singing Happy Birthday and the camera panning round to reveal… JAMES CORDEN!!!!! WTF!!! I couldn’t stop smiling, inside and out. A sense of just pure joy! I immediately ran upstairs to show Louise, we both looked at each other in shock but the feeling was just amazing! I just wanted to show Mila-Rose and Alfie there and then to see their reaction but that would just spoil the whole surprise. That evening everything just snowballed, we started to get messages from footballers Emile Heskey, Jermaine Jenas, Robbie Savage, Robbie Fowler, Jason McAteer, Adam Lallana, Leon Osman and Chris Kirkland. All but one of these were courtesy of our good friend, Gail Ashton, she had kindly fundraised for Alfie in the past. Her brother-in-laws brother is ex-Liverpool player, Stephen Warnock. He had brilliantly rallied the troops to get pull all these messages together. We have amazing friends who are just so kind and will always go out of their way to help. That evening we also had a call from Victoria, we would be on Granada Reports on Friday – LIVE!

The moment we received James Corden’s message!

Friday came and the nerves were jangling! We were going to be on live TV, God knows what Alfie would come out with! At lunchtime the line up was fully complete, Victoria had got the messages from Ant & Dec! We now had the Birthday Dream Team! Just 4 weeks ago, we were worrying how we were going to tell Alfie his Toy Story birthday party was not only cancelled but he also wouldn’t be able to celebrate it with all his family and friends. Now he would be on live TV having celebrities wishing him a Happy 6th Birthday! We went live and Alfie received messages from James Corden, Ant & Dec, Mr Poppy, Catherine Tate, Laura Tobin, Charlotte Hawkins, Ben Shephard, a personal message from Hugh Jackman and Stephen Mulhern. In his message, Stephen took it to another level and invited Mila-Rose and Alfie to have a FaceTime call to play the Stopwatch game! So so surreal. Everything was wrapped up and after the show had finished Victoria suggested we watched it back. There was a 10 second delay on us watching it so we had to mute the TV so we could switch back to face the camera. Also, Mila-Rose and Alfie were so ecstatic we didn’t really hear any of the messages due to their screams of joy and excitement! We watched it back and I could feel the emotion getting to me, by the time the James Corden message was on the screen I’d left the room as I was in bits. A mixture of joy, relief, emotion and pleasure had hit me all at once. 4 weeks of putting this together and I’d exceeded all my expectations and more. I looked across at Victoria and she just said I want to give you a great big hug but as she and Simon, the cameraman were outside on the patio they were unable to enter the house. I just about managed to pulled myself together to make sure Mila-Rose and Alfie didn’t see me trying to get the grit out of my eye once again!

Alfie’s actual birthday!

This was almost as surreal as the previous few days! We were up at 5am as Mila-Rose and Alfie were so excited! Presents were opened, lots of food/sweets were consumed and we even had a little street party thanks to a visit from Louby Lou! Alfie then had a virtual party with our family and friends, he absolutely loved it! During the party I had a phone call from a number I didn’t recognise, I rang it back later it was only Stephen Mulhern! What a lovely guy and true to his word! I explained that Alfie had been up since 5am and had a lot of excitement the last few days and he just said I’ll FaceTime you whenever is best for you. He didn’t have to do that but he did and we played the Stopwatch game on Sunday morning. He was just amazing with Mila-Rose and Alfie! A real down to earth guy who just wanted to do something special for our family.

Mila-Rose’s winning moment during the Stopwatch game!

I’m so proud of what I’ve achieved and I’ve given our family and friends a memory that will definitely last forever. From the moment of Alfie’s diagnosis, my/our aim has been to try and make the worst case scenario into a positive. My main target for this project was to first and foremost make Alfie’s 6th birthday as special as possible and with the help of our fantastic family and friends we’ve achieved that. I also wanted to raise awareness of his condition, Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy and given one phone I’ve had already this week it looks like that could well be achieved in the coming days. I’m not a medical expert, I won’t ever personally ever be able to find a cure. My aim when I started Action4Alfie was to make sure people knew about DMD and that no parent went through what we went through at the time of diagnosis. If just one of these high profile celebs can stick with us and maybe help in anyway then I’m sure someone of great importance may just stand up and take note. So that’s about it really, I know I’ve gone on a bit but this blog is now documented for both Mila-Rose and Alfie to look back on in years to come and if someone asks them what did you they do during the Coronavirus lockdown of 2020. They’ll say “Well, let me tell you a little story…”

Stay Home. Stay Safe and try to create something memorable this week!

Kieron

#DuchDad

84 Days Later (part 4)

Notice that the stiffest tree is most easily cracked, while the bamboo or willow survives by bending with the wind.” Bruce Lee

This quote from Bruce Lee has been my inspiration this week. It came up on my CALM app during one of my meditation sessions. We are all guilty of thinking too much. Scared of failure that we spend our lives trying to approach a problem from just the right angle. Bruce Lee obviously believed in just cracking on. Not by being reckless, but coming out of your comfort zone and trying to make the best of a situation at hand.

Bamboo is quite incredible. It grows very fast particularly during the rainy season with much of the growth occurring underground. It may not look as impressive as the thick oak tree, yet it can withstand the harsh extremes of cold and hot. Most notably, it remains firmly rooted in the ground as it sways gently in the wind. Even if it seems to be bent over under the weight of bad weather, it usually pops back upright. So, be like bamboo. In your professional and personal life, choose your battles wisely. Compromise when it doesn’t go against your core beliefs. Allow for the growth to happen under the surface. If there is a lot of pressure, pause in order to not break. Whether it seems like a breeze or a storm, flow with situations as they change. Constantly assess new information as it comes in. Stay grounded in your values while understanding that flexibility is a sign of strength. I did a little research into the quote and found the above transcript on http://www.power-living.com

#HappyBirthdayAlfie

My Bruce Lee approach to our Action4Alfie social media #DuchenneAwareness campaign now seems to bearing fruit. Although, I have to say it’s been a tough old slog so far and the amount of tweets/DM’s I’ve sent has probably put me into the stalker category! For those of you that may not be aware of the campaign, here’s a brief explanation… It’s Alfie’s 6th birthday next week, as we’re in self isolation we’re unable to host a party for him with our family and his friends. Your children’s birthdays are important whatever your situation but since Alfie’s diagnosis we try to make them extra special and create the most amazing family memories. In the past for either Mila-Rose or Alfie’s birthday we’ve either been away on holiday or we’ve had memorable parties for them. This year although the circumstances are unprecedented it wasn’t going to stop us. It’s all about turning a negative into a positive so we’re hosting a virtual Toy Story party with our family and friends. We’ve ordered lots of Toy Story party decorations which Alfie is very pleased about and all his friends will be dressing up! This was then followed by my lightbulb moment! Whilst sitting at the end of Alfie’s bed after bedtime stories with him and Mila-Rose, the idea of a social media campaign for Alfie’s 6th birthday, Duchenne awareness and Stay at Home message (originally it was Wash your Hands). It was destined to work!

Alfie’s Virtual Party invitation

For those of you on Twitter, you’ll know that the #HappyBirthdayAlfie #DuchenneAwareness #StayHomeSaveLives campaign is well underway. I’ve tried everyone, tweeting the likes of Tom Hanks, Tim Allen, Prince William, Piers Morgan, James Corden (as Alfie loves watching his pranks on YouTube!). Basically A listers to Z listers and back again. Most to no avail and the frustration started to grow. Then came the Bruce Lee moment and like the bamboo, I paused in order not to break. I reevaluated and decided to use the resources I had access to, why I didn’t do this in the first place I’ll never know. Actor, Matthew McNulty (Deadwater Fell, Versailles, The Musketeers) had helped us out on quite a few occasions with our fundraising events, he very kindly read a story to the children in the audience at our screening of Toy Story. I messaged him to ask if he could help out and the next day his video message was in my WhatsApp inbox closely followed by videos from Ben Batt (Our Girl) and his wife, Rebecca Atkinson (Shameless) and Andrew Gower (Outlander, Carnival Row,Miss Scarlet and the Duke). Matthew will also appear in an upcoming episode of Doctor Who and we’ve also received a message from the Doctor herself, Jodie Whittaker! How amazing is that???

6 is the magic number

Louise (my wife), previously worked with (Lady) Sarra Hoy, the wife of six time Olympic champion Sir Chris Hoy. Sarra has been very supportive of our work to raise Duchenne awareness and has kept in touch via Twitter. She is also an ambassador of the charity Bliss: For babies born premature or sick. I got in touch with Sarra in regards to what we were doing and she and Chris sent their message over this week. Six definitely is the magic number! Check out the videos and share the hell out of them on our @Action4Alfie pages. Links at the bottom of this blog.

I’ll continue this week in my pursuit of getting more messages. My aim is to simply just make people aware of Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy. I do believe we could be just one retweet away from it reaching that all important person who could work with one of the Duchenne charities to guarantee access to the right care, to improve research and maybe even one day find that all important cure.

This is not just for Alfie, it’s for the whole Duchenne community.

Remember Be like bamboo.

Stay Home. Stay Safe. Social Distance.

Kieron #DuchDad

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