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Monday, March 31, 2008

The most important news of the day (and possibly the year so far) is that one of my work colleagues is genuinely shocked to discover that I'm 34, and thinks I look more like a 25-year-old. Clearly my clean-living regime of healthy eating and fitness (punctuated with regular trips to the McDonalds drive-thru) has paid off. Either that, or the shipment of eye drops I unpacked this morning was for her.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Over the past few hours I've been flooded with visitors to this blog (which is quite unusual, obviously), all of whom have arrived after searching for one of the following:

'alan jackson 28th anniversary card to wife'
'what did alan jackson write on his 28th anniversary card'
'alan jackson wife anniversary card'
'alan jackson 28th anniversary card written inside'

... and, breaking new ground,...
'alan jackson wrote on inside of card to wife anniversary'

I also had a hit for "Who the hell is Alan Jackson, and why should I care what he wrote in his wife's anniversary card?", but to be honest, that one was me.

But still, out of half a million websites, I'm ranked number 2 on Google for the question 'What did Alan Jackson write on his 28th anniversary card?', which is quite an achievement for someone who's (a) never heard of him, and (b) never mentioned him. Until now, that is. After this post I'll be the web's number one resource for Alan Jackson anniversary information. Let's hope he doesn't get divorced.

But wedding celebrations aside... look! It's the 2008 Brighton & Hove Taxi Driver of the Year Competition!

I'm not going south of the river at this time of night.
The fire extinguisher's for all the burning rubber. Or possibly for when all your hopes and dreams go up in smoke. I went last year, and suffice it to say it hasn't improved.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

I'd like to introduce you to someone...

The image of his father.
This little chap (or chapess - it's too early to tell) is currently living inside Lisa. Yes, it's true, we're having a baby.

As of today, Lisa's 13 weeks pregnant, and may I say it's been killing me not to mention it on this blog. So in the absence of an official Baby page on my website (and don't think that's not in the pipeline), here's the pregnancy timeline:

December 25th: Lisa and I get engaged.
December 26th: We decide to give up the notion of contraception on the grounds that Lisa was born in the 1960s, and under those circumstances, medical science states that conception is likely to take the rest of this decade to achieve. We both agree that by that time, someone's bound to have offered me a job.
January 8th: Someone offers me a job... interview.
January 12th: I brush past Lisa on my way to the fridge.
January 24th: I get the job.
February 2nd: I take this photo...

It's a result.
So that's my life sorted. Fiancée, job and baby, all in the space of a month. I just need to buy a house now.

Anyhoo, the important date (apart from October 5th, which is when Junior's supposed to be putting in an appearance) was Wednesday of this week, when Lisa made her way up to London to meet Kypros Nicolaides at the Harris Birthright Research Centre for Foetal Medicine (they need to work on a snappier title), where she had a Nuchal Scan. It's a test for Downs Syndrome, designed for elderly mothers like Lisa.

Well, having kept all twenty of our fingers crossed on Wednesday morning (which made unpacking drugs difficult), the results were announced, and our baby was given the all-clear. It's officially alive, kicking (literally), and the spitting image of its father (bald with a big head). I can go out now and punch a police officer.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Anyhoo, Wednesday evening was spent in this building...

Because you're Worthing it.
Or rather standing outside it in the rain. Worthing's Pavilion Theatre seems to operate differently from every other theatre I've visited, in that they keep everyone queueing along the seafront (admiring the piles of wood on the beach) until a few seconds before the performance is due to start, then expect you all to recreate the Hillsborough disaster by running in at the last moment. We were still being rained on in a queue of a hundred people when the woman on the tannoy announced it was one minute to curtain up. The people behind us were convinced it was one of Derren Brown's mind games.

But we eventually made it inside, and may I say we were not disappointed. Well Lisa wasn't disappointed. Personally I thought it was a complete let-down. Not the show, but the theatre. It's basically a barn with some folding chairs. I've been to village halls with better facilities. The seats aren't tiered and the stage is low, meaning that even from row N, I struggled to see more than the odd glimpse of Derren. Which is frustrating when you're trying to spot any sleight of hand. Frankly someone could have handed him a banner with the name of my card on it, and I wouldn't have noticed.

But that aside, the show was very good. Particularly the bits with gorillas. Derren did some genuinely astounding magic, while Lisa did her usual trick of dropping to the floor and hiding under her seat every time a frisbee came within ten yards of her. Something tells me she didn't want to go up on stage. Personally I did go up on stage. Unfortunately it was during the interval and Derren was in his dressing room, but it was quite exciting nonetheless. I (and another 119 members of the audience) had to write a question on a card, seal it in an envelope, and leave it onstage for Derren to attempt to answer in the second half. Sadly I didn't get to hear my card read out. Unlike the man who simply wrote the word "cock". I knew it was a mistake to be polite.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

I've just unpacked a load of freeze-dried wasp venom. I'm sure there's a big demand for it on a wet Thursday afternoon in March. Unfortunately it arrived in a plain cardboard box, which shows a distinct lack of imagination if you ask me. I'm tempted to call the manufacturers and ask them to send it in picnic hampers from now on.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

On Friday, after my first day in the new job, I said that "if the doorbell doesn't go, I'm allowed to surf the internet". Unfortunately that statement presupposes that at some point the doorbell stops ringing. That hasn't been the case since. I've never taken so many drugs. Taken delivery I mean. Obviously.

Derren DoLisa and I are supposed to be celebrating Valentine's Day with Derren Brown tonight. The tickets were booked on January 21st - two days before I landed this job, and two weeks before Lisa was told she had to go to London for the day. Suffice it to say it's not the best day to be driving over to Worthing for the evening. You don't need to be a mindreader to sense how knackered I am right now.

But I've coped this morning by drinking lots of tea out of a mug advertising a bone cancer drug (it's good to be reminded of death every time you take a sip), and I've been buoyed by the weekly staff e-mail, which contains this fantastic piece of news:

"NHS Discount

'Trickswop Workshop' invites you to learn circus skills using your NHS discount. Classes take place every Friday from 28 March and are from 5.30 - 7pm at the Dance Hall, Brighton Youth Centre, Edward Street, Brighton.

The workshops include - acrobalance, acrobatics, capoiera, character, contact, ball, club and ring juggling, dance, Diablo, devilstick, flag, hacki-sack, hula-hoop, performance, poi, spinning plates, staff, stilts, tightrope and unicycle."

I'm not sure about devilsticks, but I can see how the ability to juggle things, walk a tightrope, and keep a dozen plates spinning at the same time might come in handy in my job.

Monday, March 24, 2008

What a nightmare. I thought Good Friday was the day we commemorate pain and suffering, not Easter Monday.

Needless to say, the egg rolling didn't go well.

I should have learnt my lesson from Halloween really. Back then, I turned up at the Devil's Dyke to find the car park so full of the undead that I only just managed to park. But for some reason I thought Easter would be different. It was. It was even worse. By the time I got there (20 minutes late, admittedly, but that wasn't my fault) the place was so full of high rollers that I couldn't get within twenty yards of a parking space. I had to drive back down the road and park in the nearest scenic layby instead.

Unfortunately, what seemed like a short drive in the car turned out to be a ten-minute trek through the mud. Which might have been ok had it not started snowing the moment I left the car.

But still, I made it back to the Dyke with only light frostbite and mud up to my knees, and it has to be said that two hundred hand-decorated eggs rolling down the hillside in front of you is a truly spectacular sight.

Unfortunately I missed that. I got there just in time to see two hundred people looking for their eggs at the bottom of the valley.

Eggheads will roll.
It's not quite so spectacular.

But hey, I still had the walk back to the car to look forward to. And frankly that was a joy compared with the drive back into Brighton. The problem is that by late morning on a bank holiday, the world and his wife are attempting to drive down to the coast (through the snow) for a nice afternoon by the seaside. Which meant I was stuck in a traffic jam for half an hour trying to get back to my flat.

So to cheer myself up, I took a small detour to the bank holiday market at the race course. Lisa had already advised me against it on the grounds that she used to go as a child and hated it, but I rarely listen to a word she says, so I thought I'd give it a try. Needless to say, I regretted it within two minutes of arrival. I'm not saying it was full of chavs, but I was the classiest person there. It was like walking through the Whitehawk estate on a Saturday night, only slightly more dangerous. Frankly I was lucky to get out alive. I know it's Easter, but half of them looked like they'd crucify you for a chocolate egg.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

It's Easter! Lisa's given me an organic chocolate lamb from Marks & Spencer, I've given her a kiss from the bottom of my heart, but the prize for best Easter gift goes to Lorraine (she of the delinquent cats and love of boats). After more than fifty hours of induction (which is pretty much what I've had this week), she received a 7lb baby girl last night. I think it's the second coming. Lorraine's a big Star Wars fan, so had it been a boy, she was planning to name it Harrison after Harrison Ford. As it's a girl, she's now considering Leia after Princess Leia. I suppose we should be grateful she hasn't plumped for Chewbacca.

But while we're waiting for confirmation that we can go and visit (we don't really have an excuse - the maternity ward's about 200 yards from my flat), I've spent the afternoon discovering the true meaning of Easter by decorating some eggs.

Green Eggs and HamThat egg's got my name on it.
I was planning to do my tribute to Dr Seuss with some green eggs and ham, but having soaked an egg in food colouring, I realised I'd eaten all the ham in the fridge. So I made a pink one instead. It's supposed to look like a pig. As for the one on the right, I wrote my name with an old birthday candle, then soaked it in E133. Not only is it easily identified as my property, but it can also cause hyperactivity in children.

And then there's this one...

It's meant to be Lisa, but I'm not sure I've captured her best side.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

It's Julie Reinger in a bikini!

I've always wanted to see her dropped from a great height. And if she gets stuck, you can drag her around with the mouse. It's like domestic violence, only legal.

But annoying weathergirls aside, yesterday was Friday, so Lisa and I decided to be good by dropping in on her aunt and uncle to wish them a Happy Easter. It's always worth visiting people on public holidays because they're more likely to give you presents. And sure enough, I received two chocolate eclairs and a pyrex dish. I'm not entirely sure why.

As it turned out, Lisa's aunt and uncle celebrated their 59th wedding anniversary on March 12th. We had no idea. Though we should have done, because I mentioned it on my blog two years ago. I felt quite guilty. Especially as I'd already eaten the eclairs by then. Worse still was that Lisa's uncle informed me that on March 11th he'd had a fall whilst crossing the road, and hurt his hands so badly that he couldn't write his wife's anniversary card. I almost burst into tears. With a heart-rending story like that, he should go on X-Factor.

But anyhoo, I spent yesterday catching up on the household chores (I think I need a cleaner now I've started work), leaving me free to follow my true vocation: chucking an egg at a dyke. I'm planning to buy half a dozen eggs from Asda this afternoon, paint them tomorrow (possibly with portraits of my family), and roll them down a hill on Monday.

Having read the event details, Lisa's in two minds about whether to come (she's put off by the word '10:45am'), but she's entirely single-minded about the egg decorating. She's definitely not doing that. But even without her help, I think I can win. I'm already considering whether a free range quail will roll better than a Smart Price battery. Though if the weather forecasts are to be believed, my success hinges less on the aerodynamics of the egg, and more on its ability to plough through snow.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Four days on, four days off. It's like shift work, but with chocolate eggs.

Anyhoo, I've now completed my first full day in the new job, and in a shock of gargantuan proportions, I actually like it. But ask me again in a week's time and I'll probably have handed in my notice. I'm fickle like that.

Despite being officially based at the Royal Sussex County Hospital, I'm actually working in this building until May...

Phil's Pharmacy
I took that photo myself. I'm taller than I look.

Bad RobotAnyway, that's the pharmacy store at the Brighton General, which was supposed to be relocating to the RSCH in January, but hasn't. Apparently the new robot they've installed is behaving more like a grabbing machine in an amusement arcade, and they're not ready for us yet.

So for the time being I'm working next to the race course (that's going to be a distraction), at the top of a big hill. Which renders my tsunami training largely irrelevant. Needless to say they know talent when they see it, and have basically given me my own department from day one. My job involves answering the door next to the illegally parked red car in the photo (that wouldn't happen on my watch), taking delivery of the drugs from any pushers who turn up, unpacking them, checking them, sorting them, signing them off, filing the paperwork and logging it all onto the computer. After which I get to play with the little lift system to transport them all upstairs, where someone else puts them on the shelf.

It's actually a lot more fun than it sounds. I've always loved opening parcels. And if the doorbell doesn't go, I'm allowed to surf the internet. Not that I did, obviously. I actually spent my time productively by becoming the first person ever to fully explore the NHS intranet and read the weekly staff e-mail from the Chief Executive. Both were enjoyable (I admire anyone who includes a photo of themself in their weekly e-mail), but the intranet proved particularly profitable because I discovered that as an NHS employee, I'm entitled to a free copy of Microsoft Office 2007, which is worth over three hundred quid.

In addition to that, I've met a number of very nice people, one of whom used to be a tree surgeon, and worked with this man. I dread to think how long Monday's health & safety lecture would have been if we worked with chainsaws.

Anyhoo, my levels of job satisfaction are currently high, and my supervisor has such confidence in me that he's decided to go on holiday next week. Which is a bit of a problem as I'll have forgotten how to do everything by Tuesday.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

There's nothing like a seven-hour Conflict Resolution Course to get you in the mood for a fight. I'll deck the next person who mentions 'congruent communication'.

But anyhoo, the good news is that I'm now fully inducted (or should that be induced?), and permitted to start work in the morning. The bad news is that my NHS photo ID makes me look like some kind of grinning loon from the psychiatric ward. Frankly I wouldn't open the door if someone showed me that. I blame the chap in the 'ID Suite' (which consists of one computer and a chair) who told me to smile for the camera.

But that aside, today's entertainment came courtesy of a nice bloke called Alan, a former policeman who'd come all the way from Warwickshire to teach us how to avoid fist fights. Apparently 25% of policemen will be physically assaulted during their working life, compared with 33% of nurses, which makes you wonder why nurses aren't given truncheons. Alan asked us why we thought the figure for nurses might be higher, so I put up my hand and suggested it's because policemen all retire at forty-five on fat pensions. Well ok, I didn't. But I thought about it.

Anyway, the day wasn't too bad. I've learnt how to tell if someone's lying (they look to the bottom left), remembering (they look to the top right) or getting angry (they beat you about the head with an intravenous drip stand), and apparently if someone's about to punch you, their face goes white and their lips go purple because the blood drains to their fists. So from now on I'm avoiding clowns, mimes and Michael Jackson.

I've also bonded with a number of people. There's the dietician from Hove who sought me out for a lengthy chat at lunchtime (I think she had some kind of clinical interest in me), a girl with a WWJD wristband who pretended she was bleeding to death so that I could empathise with her in a congruent way, and the nice lady from Endoscopy (or as she puts it, "things up the bum") who told me about the time she was hit by a tidal wave in St Lucia. She was my favourite person on the course because we both made the same face every time the word 'roleplay' was mentioned. I now know that's called Non-Verbal Communication. To make it congruent, you have to complete your roll of the eyes by saying how much you hate roleplay at the next coffee break.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

I found this leaflet on the doorstep when I got home today...

Is it really a good idea to teach your 3-year-old how to kick his friends at nursery?

Actually, I should be able to answer that question, because I've been learning about risk assessments today. In the words of my instructor, "If I suggested we all go and climb an electricity pylon, would that be dangerous?". I'm not sure if that's a rhetorical question or a homework assignment.

Anyhoo, day two of my induction course featured ninety minutes of Manual Handling Theory, an hour on Fire Safety, half an hour on how to wash your hands, and twenty minutes on the Protection of Vulnerable Children. Though if you teach them all Kung Fu, that would solve that problem.

The highlight (and I realise that might not be saying much) was the manual handling session with a former nurse called Sarah, who proved she had backbone by turning up with a genuine human spine. I bet she's got a few skeletons in the closet. She also told us the story of how she tested the maternity ward's emergency procedure by getting into her swimming costume and pretending to faint in the birthing pool. You've got to admire her dedication. The lady was very entertaining anyway, which makes her a rare species on this course, and one which should be protected. It's not everyone who can make you laugh whilst explaining the procedure for discovering a hanging.

Sarah wasn't actually my favourite lecturer of the day though. That honour goes to the lady who was due to talk to us about 'Awareness of Blood Safety'. She failed to turn up and we got to go home an hour early. If only they were all like that.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Locked in a room for seven hours with twenty-five nurses... it's not everyone's idea of a hard first day at work.

But anyhoo, I'm back, I'm alive (though not entirely awake) and I've learnt a lot of valuable lessons. I've also met Duncan Selbie, the Chief Executive, who told us that if you can't say anything nice, don't say anything at all. If I followed advice like that, I wouldn't have a blog.

It's my bus!Anyhoo, my journey to Haywards Heath on the free NHS bus was a constant joy. Lisa walked me to the bus stop to make sure I didn't lose my sandwiches, and I tried to sit next to someone who looked more like Milhouse than Nelson Muntz. Frankly I was lucky I got a seat at all. But having travelled through the Sussex countryside at high speed on a bus which was clearly exceeding the safety limits on standing passengers, we arrived at the Princess Royal Hospital (ten minutes late - I'd complain if it wasn't free), and I found my way to the seminar room to pick up my name badge and welcome folder.

Or I would have done if (a) they'd managed to find me on the list, and (b) they hadn't run out of folders. It was all sorted by lunchtime though, and I have to say that wearing a badge with a star where your name should be is definitely a conversation starter at coffee break. I told everyone I was Employee of the Month at McDonalds.

There were about thirty of us there, of which four were men and most were nurses. In fact we were given the startling statistic (which I'm inclined to disbelieve) that of the 5,500 people who work for the Brighton & Sussex University Hospitals Trust, 71% are women are 74% are part-time. So if I want to fit in, I'll either have to work less or have a sex change.

To be honest though, I seemed to fit in quite well. I sat at the back with the old fogies (we were all over thirty), and we spent the day moaning to each other about the heating, the coffee, and the fact that none of us could see the screen without our glasses. We also came bottom of the 'fun' (I'm putting that word in inverted commas) quiz because we thought that Philip Larkin wrote 'The Darling Buds of May'. I'm taking no responsibility for that one.

Anyway, if you think seven hours of lectures about core values, information governance, diversity, occupational health, complaints awareness and library records sounds a little on the dull side, then you'd be... um... mostly right, but on the bright side, the day also featured twenty-five minutes of information on the hospital's 'Major Incident Plan'. So I now know what to do if we're hit by a tsunami. Apparently you close your eyes and swim for it.

Anyhoo, I was home before six, so now I just need to fill in my course appraisal form, make tomorrow's sandwiches, pack my bag and set the alarm for 6:30am, and I can go to bed. Am I really supposed to do this every day until I retire?

Sunday, March 16, 2008

It's Sally Gunnell running a mile for Sport Relief!

And the crowd go wild!
If you're wondering why she looks so knackered, it's because she usually only does 400m (and a couple of hurdles). At the halfway point, she forced the kid to swap places and push her.

Well ok, she didn't. In fact I can personally confirm that Sally completed the full 1600m course along Madeira Drive this afternoon with no outside help whatsoever. Unless you count the presence of local football mascot Gully the Seagull coming up behind her. That would certainly have made me run faster. Anyhoo, the selfless physical exertion proved to be well worth it. Just look at the rapturous reception she received from the capacity crowd in the background.

To be honest I only went down there to meet Theo Paphitis from Dragon's Den and ask him to lend me a fiver, but by the time I arrived he'd scarpered with all his money and left me with the likes of Sally Gunnell, Fatboy Slim and the Mayor, who'd swapped her gold cheongsam for a t-shirt, and was busy telling the crowd that you don't feel quite so cold once you're out there, whilst smiling weakly and looking for her coat. I bet she can't wait for the end of her term of office.

I'm glad to have done my bit anyway. I didn't run the mile or give any money, but I've mentioned it on my blog. It was the least I could do.

In other news, I think I might be on the verge of being arrested for shoplifting. I went to Lidl last night for some cat food (which frankly is so cheap it's not worth stealing), and having made it through my 60-second trolley dash without being mugged by someone from the Whitehawk estate, I paid for my quality products and was about to leave when the man on the till mumbled "Would you like some free bread?" and pointed to a large crate of loaves nearby.

I said "Is the Pope Catholic?" (well ok, I said "Oooh, thanks!"), helped myself to three loaves of Kingsmill, and walked out the door. I assumed the bread was already so far out of date that they couldn't even charge 5p a loaf without scraping off the mould first. To be honest I never had any intention of eating it, I'm just incapable of turning down anything free.

It wasn't until I got home that I looked at my haul and found that it's actually two days within date and perfectly fresh. So I'm now beginning to think he said "Would you like some lovely bread?" in a polite, friendly 'Do you want fries with that?' kind of a way, and as we speak, they're examining CCTV footage of my getaway. It's just as well I'm leaving town in the morning.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

There's no getting away from it: I'm a man and I have needs. And sometimes Lisa just can't fulfill those needs. So I've spent the afternoon at a massage parlour.

Sadly no one took their clothes off, but you can't have everything. I actually went to a new place called Pummel, which has just opened around the corner from me...

Massage Parlour
It used to be a hairdresser's called Scissorhands, which was obviously about as much use to me as a salad shop, but a few weeks ago Scissorhands moved to bigger premises around the corner, and were promptly replaced by a couple of people who'll beat you into the ground for eight quid. It's a definite improvement.

Frankly I needed a massage. Having made arrangements to leave my front door open for six hours yesterday, the professional painters & decorators from CPS decided to sod off for the afternoon and never return. So my door still hasn't been painted.

As if that wasn't enough, the hospital's HR department informed me on Thursday that they'd be sending me further details on my induction course, including (fairly crucially) what time it starts on Monday. Nothing materialised in yesterday's post, and as for today, well it's 6:30pm and I'm still waiting for the postman to arrive. Something tells me he's taken the day off. Either that or every flat in the entire block has coincidentally been sent no post on the same day. It's always possible.

Jayne from PummelSo by 4:15 this afternoon I was ready to hand over £17 to the woman on the right for a top-of-the-range half-hour pummelling designed to leave me "calm, refreshed and invigorated". And I have to say it worked. The chair you sit on makes you look a bit like you're riding a horse, and I was slightly concerned that anyone waiting would have to sit and look at my backside for thirty minutes, but my worries soon faded once Jayne got to work. It's hard to think about anything else when someone's kneading you to within an inch of your life.

Anyhoo, it was very good. Not only did she do my back and shoulders, but she went on to my head, arms and hands, and even went down my legs. Frankly the only thing she didn't massage was my ego.

Actually that's not strictly true. When I arrived, I'd mentioned by way of making conversation that I was due to start a new job on Monday. Jayne asked where, and naturally I told her. Well it turned out to be the best bit of small talk I've ever made, because at the end of the massage, Jayne told me that they give a discount to NHS workers, and promptly knocked two quid off the bill. The new job's paying off already.

Friday, March 14, 2008

This note was shoved under my front door yesterday...

A case to answer.
It seems my door's being painted by the Crown Prosecution Service. Still, it's better than them banging it down to arrest me.

Naturally I won't be around on Monday. I'll be in Haywards Heath, attending "a manual handling session with the manual handling team". No, really. This time next week I'll know exactly how to hold an instruction booklet.

So I've had a chat with the CPS this morning during one of their regular fag breaks, and they've agreed to paint my door this afternoon. Lisa's currently out having two hours of pampering at a health spa, so we'll see just how relaxed she is when she turns up later and gets paint all over her coat.

On the job front, I rang my future line manager this morning to ask what I should wear for my first day on Thursday. She started by saying 'smart/casual', changed it to 'casual', and finished by saying "definitely don't wear good trousers or a nice shirt". It's almost as though she's seen my wardrobe.

So buoyed by the news that I can continue shopping in charity shops, I headed down to the Jobcentre this morning to sign off, say good riddance to bad rubbish, and ask for a claim form for Working Tax Credit. Not necessarily in that order. According to the HM Revenue & Customs website, "you can pick up a claim pack from your nearest HMRC Enquiry Centre or Jobcentre Plus Office", so I walked all the way down there on the grounds that it would be quicker than phoning to request one. Whereupon they told me they don't stock them, and I'd have to phone and request one.

So I did. There's obviously some kind of paper shortage at the HMRC, because they refuse to send out a claim form until you've answered a long list of questions designed to ascertain whether you might actually be entitled to Working Tax Credit. Only people who pass that test are allowed to get their hands on a claim form.

So I spent what felt like half the morning on the phone to Jill from Newcastle, who sounded like she was auditioning for a part in 'Auf Wiedersehen Pet', answering numerous pointless questions, after each of which Jill would say "Would you like me to continue?", and remind me that anything she tells me is liable not to be true. It was all quite taxing (which I suppose is appropriate), not least when Jill asked me for my Health Number. I assumed she meant NHS number, and told her I didn't have it to hand. She in turn acted like I was some kind of idiot, and after much discussion in a Geordie accent, I finally realised she was saying house number. There just aren't enough call centres in Mumbai these days.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Brighton General isn't a twenty minute walk up a hill. It's a twenty-five minute mountain climb. I tried it this morning. The only way you can do it in twenty minutes is if you come back down wearing rollerskates.

But that's nothing. As of 1pm this afternoon, I've been told where my three-day induction course is taking place next week. It's in Haywards Heath. Which is slightly more than a twenty-minute walk.

The Cradle of CivilisationBut while I'm contemplating spending two hours a day on the free employee bus (smile - your taxes are paying for that), the good news is that my route up the south face of the Race Hill this morning took me past the house where Lisa grew up. You can tell it's on top of a mountain because the satellite dish is less than two feet off the ground. The air's too thin to put it any higher.

As for yesterday, Lisa and I spent an enjoyable afternoon entertaining her friend M, who I first met almost three years ago whilst surrounded by blood and vomit. This is the third time I've cooked for her, so having previously cemented our friendship over a couple of frozen pizzas, I decided (well, Lisa decided) to branch out into nouvelle cuisine this time around by preparing 'Italian Beef Casserole'. It was a three-way effort between me, Lisa and Gary Rhodes. He provided the recipe, she chopped the onions, and I dropped the carrots on the floor. It turned out surprisingly well.

So having successfully ruined M's diet, we spent a fun couple of hours on the sofa discussing my love of Lidl, M's admiration for Aldi, and Lisa's loathing of both, before M revealed her addiction to the smell of hot water bottles. That was a slightly surreal moment. But she went on to wax lyrical about the realisation of her long-held dream to build a hut in the garden (possibly to get away from her children, I'm not sure), which was very interesting. Personally the only hut I'd want in my garden is a Pizza Hut, but each to their own.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

I learnt three things yesterday (two of them by phone, so obviously no one reads my blog). The most important thing is that when a bottle of dark brown hair dye says it'll easily wash out of your towels, it ain't necessarily so. Having allowed Lisa to turn my bathroom into a hair salon on Monday, I confidently threw everything into the washing machine yesterday and relaxed, safe in the knowledge that any dark splodges would soon be gone. Suffice it to say the results weren't quite up to the manufacturer's claims. My white cotton floor mat now permanently resembles a dalmatian skin rug. I've got a friend coming round in an hour and I look like Cruella de Vil.

The second bit of news was a text message from Lorraine (which I eventually managed to read) to say that her baby's being induced next Thursday, due to her being diabetic and it being Easter. So I think it's something to do with chocolate.

And finally, thanks to a phone call at 4:15pm, I can now reveal that I'm finally starting work on Monday. Kind of. Apparently I have to undergo three 'Trust Induction Days', which is presumably to induce a bit of trust in the HR department after all that's happened. But once I've been fully induced, I can start work properly on Thursday. So my first job will be to deliver the epidural drugs to Lorraine.

Anyhoo, here's a seagull's eye view of the area...

Who would live in a place like this?
The white boxy thing in the bottom left hand corner (and I don't mean the van) is my flat. The big white building at the top is the hospital. It couldn't be more convenient.

Unfortunately they want me to start work in the pharmacy stores at the old Brighton General. It's a twenty minute walk up a hill.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Lisa's off work this week for the Cheltenham Festival (or maybe that's just coincidence), and with me due to start work sometime this year, we're keen to make the most of our free time, so we had a packed programme of events planned for yesterday. My plan for the morning was to wait in for a new mobile phone which was being delivered sometime between 8am and noon. My previous one was bought for me by Lisa in July 2005, so in mobile phone years it's almost prehistoric, and doesn't have either bluetooth or the facility to record your happy-slapping in HD, which is obviously a major inconvenience. As is the fact that it stopped working a week ago.

BrickSo I ordered a new one. To me it's very modern. To your average teenager it's an abomination and should be in a museum. But with the loyalty discount I've accumulated by spending... oooh, about £4 a month on texts, I was able to get it for the reduced price of £25, which included a voucher for £30 of free texts. Even with my maths ability that seemed like a good deal.

Anyway, when the doorbell went at 9am I naturally assumed it was my phone ringing. It wasn't. It was actually a team of painters and decorators who seemed to think I'd be expecting them. I wasn't. I e-mailed my brother. He said:

"Oops – sorry – did get another letter from PS&B [the building's maintenance company] last week saying they wanted to start this week and that doors would need to be left ajar to allow the paint to dry."

Excellent. Lisa and I were planning to be out all afternoon, and the thought of leaving my front door open and my flat at the mercy of a team of monkeys in overalls (although to be fair, one of them looked more like a gorilla) didn't really appeal.

Fortunately the weather came to our rescue. It transpired that Lisa's mother was trapped in her flat on the hill by a force 11 gale, with no TV reception, and no means of getting to the newsagent to buy a copy of The Sun. Under those circumstances, she seemed like just the sort of person who'd be willing to sit on her own in my flat for five hours, guarding my computer and trying not to let my cat escape. Naturally she agreed.

Unfortunately I couldn't go and pick her up until I'd had a shower, and I couldn't have a shower until my phone arrived, because by this time Lisa was sitting in the bedroom in a bin-liner, dying her hair, and seemed reluctant to answer the door. Needless to say, the courier didn't turn up until 11:40am, I answered the door, got paint on my hands, jumped into the shower, from there into the car, and drove up the hill in a storm to pick up my future mother-in-law.

Having got her to the car without being sucked into a tornado, she asked if we could stop at the newsagent, so we did, I walked across three feet of grass, got covered in mud, cleared the shop of tabloids, and drove back down the hill. I was naturally careful to take off my muddy trainers at the front door, to avoid soiling my lovely cream carpets which I'd only shampooed on Friday, so imagine my delight when I walked into my living room in my socks, only to discover that the bottom of my jeans were covered in mud and I'd left a 12-foot trail of filth down my hallway.

Sadly there was no time to clean it up, as Lisa and I were already ten minutes late, and I needed to show her Mum where I keep the tea bags. But if you're going to have a morning like that, I suppose the best place to go is an AA meeting in Hove to hear a man talk about tolerance.

From there it was on to a bakery for a medicinal pie to calm my nerves, before heading over to Portslade to visit Lorraine. Her baby's due in twelve days time, and she still doesn't know what sex it is. Though Lisa can tell it's a boy from the way she's bulging, and the fact that the baby arrives in the room two minutes before Lorraine does.

So we spent two and a half hours on Lorraine's sofa, hearing about Braxton Hicks (I think that's the father) and learning how to avoid damaging your milk ducts with an ill-fitting bra, before returning home via the rush hour traffic to rescue Lisa's Mum and reward her with fish & chips. Whereupon Lisa went to have a lie down, and I chatted to her mother about the state of the country for two hours.

On the downside, the decorators are back today, and have already banged on my door asking for a bucket of water (I hope they haven't set something on fire), but on the plus side, my new mobile is very nice. Don't phone me though, because I have no idea how to use it.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Welcome Aboard Toxic AirlinesIt's official: I'm three months ahead of the news. Back in December I wrote this article for The Kemptown Rag about Tristan Loraine, the former airline pilot who had to retire after breathing contaminated air in the cockpit of a Boeing 757, and has since made a film ('Welcome Aboard Toxic Airlines') about the alleged cover-up.

Well just yesterday, The Argus published this article. They're claiming that the film "will be premiered this week", so I obviously dreamt that I saw it on December 2nd. That aside, Ben Parsons' article isn't bad, but he doesn't mention Tristan's relationship with Wallace & Gromit, so I think it's one-nil to me.

Anyhoo, incurable romantics like myself will no doubt remember that for Valentine's Day last year, Lisa and I went to One Paston Place and spent an enjoyable couple of hours wondering which fork to use with saddle of rabbit. Well, someone somewhere must have read my review of the gnocchi, because a few months later, the chef was headhunted by a Mayfair restaurant and the place promptly closed. I like to think I had a hand in that.

Sam DifferenceBut the good news is that having found a new owner, it reopened in January as the all-new Sam's of Brighton, serving a "refreshingly unpretentious" menu in a "less formal setting". So what's the first main course listed? Yes, that's right, guinea fowl breast stuffed with boudin noir (or "nior" as the menu puts it), served with polenta. If it was any less pretentious, it would be KFC. I feel so refreshed.

Anyway, Sam's opens at 10am on Sundays for breakfast, so being too lazy to open a packet of Cornflakes, Lisa and I trudged around the corner yesterday morning to sample the delights of their ten quid fry-up. I have to say I much prefer the new decor. It now looks more like a restaurant and less like your grandmother's front room. Which for me is a definite plus. My grandmother's been dead for twenty years, so I dread to think what her front room looks like.

The one thing which hasn't changed, however, is the clientele. We were the only ones there. Again. We thought another customer had turned up at one point, but it turned out to be the owner's wife bringing their two children over to add the ambience of a crying baby to our dining experience.

Anyhoo, I'm still not sure how they can get away with charging a tenner for two sausages, two rashers of bacon, half a tomato, some scrambled eggs, a bit of toast and a cup of tea, but to be fair to them, we did refuse the black pudding, which was probably the most expensive part of the meal. It was all very nice though, and I felt less like Kate Middleton's Mum at a royal garden party this time, so I can't complain.

Sunday, March 09, 2008

PlahhstoWell, we're back from Plaistow. Which is quite surprising because apparently they've had four shootings recently, and half the people we met looked like they'd kill you for the loose change in your pocket. But apart from that it was lovely. If you like rubbish in your front garden.

We were actually there to visit Lisa's friend 'C' for the day. This is only the fourth time I've met her, but having already snogged her on the concourse at Embankment tube station, I feel I can consider her a friend of mine too. And I think she likes me better without the moustache. Anyhoo, C is a lovely young lady who lives in a lovely little house in a lovely little street. Unfortunately the street's in Plaistow, but you can't have everything. The good news is that she didn't tell us about the recent muggings in broad daylight until after we'd walked there from the tube station.

So having arrived half an hour late, but thankfully alive, C went to prepare our lunch, while Lisa and I got to know 12-year-old Jasmine. I have to say I loved Jasmine. Lisa did too. To be honest, we'd like one of our own. I thought at first she'd be too old to bounce on my knee, but I gave it a go and she seemed to like it. After which she asked me to share my lunch and then started sticking her bottom in my face. Did I mention that Jasmine's a cat?

Anyhoo, after lunch I vacated the premises so that Lisa and C could have a girlie chat (possibly about me, I'm not sure), and deciding it wasn't safe to stay in Plaistow, I decided to make the most of my Travelcard by heading east to Upminster. My Mum used to work in the animal trade two miles down the road from there, so I know the area well. It's my old charity shop stomping ground, and it was nice to be back. Most of them shut at four on a Saturday though, which was a problem as I didn't get there until ten past.
But I like Upminster. It's the only place I know which has a Bang & Olufsen showroom next door to a branch of Smokers Paradise. They also have a Christian bookshop called Fools, which is just inviting insults if you ask me. They might as well call themselves 'Deluded' and have done with it.

Anyhoo, having spent an enjoyable hour in Essex, I jumped back on the tube, travelled four stops in peaceful solitude, and arrived at Dagenham. Where two hundred Peterborough fans boarded the train, having just watched their team beat Dagenham & Redbridge 3-2 to go top of League Two. I have to say, you haven't really lived until you've been trapped in a moving metal box underground for fifteen minutes with a horde of drunken football fans chanting "WE ARE TOP O' THE LEAGUE!", and singing 'When The Posh Go Steaming In' at a decibel level that would have made a deaf man reach for the ear plugs. Frankly I was praying for the safety of Plaistow.

But the good news is that having survived that, I was able to exude enough confidence to walk back to C's house at dusk without being knifed. Whereupon I collected Lisa and got the hell out of Dodge.

Saturday, March 08, 2008

Mmm... frozen hare legs.

Hare today, gone tomorrow. Unless it doesn't sell.
Nothing says Easter like a joint of rodent in your deep freeze. My local Lidl is so proud of this offer, they've put it in the window. But don't all rush at once - the March madness doesn't begin til the 10th, so you'll have to wait until Monday to start tearing your hare out.

Anyhoo, Lisa and I are off to Plaistow for the afternoon. I admit it's not everyone's idea of a day out, but Lisa's a big West Ham fan. Well ok, she's not. But we're going anyway. To be honest, I meant to book tickets for the west end, but I had the map upside down.

So we're off shortly, but before we go I've had a text message from Big Sis in Australia. She says:

"I am missing you... but found out one of my friends from college is the sister of the girl who was the Malta entry for Eurovision in 2002."

We're so alike. When I'm missing her, Maltesers always make me feel better too.

Friday, March 07, 2008

I took this photo yesterday morning outside a café in North Laine...

Keeping it Wheel
That sums up Brighton perfectly. You want to pop out for elevenses, you don't want to walk, there's nowhere to park, so what do you do? Obvious - you take the unicycle and leave it chained up outside.

But anyhoo, when I'm not wandering the bohemian part of town, trying to remember my way to the Alzheimers Society shop, I'm visiting JobCentrePlus (all one word) (apparently) to sign on for the last time. Obviously I've now signed on for the last time about three times, but I'm still waiting for the hospital HR department to confirm that I'm not a terrorist, and it's all taking rather longer than expected. Frankly if I was a terrorist I'd have blown myself up by now.

Anyway, yesterday's visit was, naturally, a delight. Having walked through the door, I handed my booklet to the man at the desk, he looked at it, glanced at his watch, looked at my booklet again and said "Oh. You're a bit early. It says ten thirty here". At which point he refused to do anything and told me to take a seat instead. I panicked, assumed I'd misread the clock, and felt intensely embarrassed for having arrived at completely the wrong time. Whereupon I looked at my watch and found it was 10:29 and 45 seconds.

But the good news is, having made me wait until I was five minutes late for my appointment, I was eventually allowed to see the signing-on lady. She's very nice. I particularly remember how friendly she was last time when she told me she didn't have time to check my jobsearch record because she was "rushed off her feet". An excuse which would have held more water if I hadn't been the only person there.

This time she welcomed me with a smile and told me she's been in trouble for not getting through her appointments quickly enough. She felt it was an unreasonable complaint, so I sympathised and decided not to mention that I'd sat there six weeks ago while she chatted to a bloke about her new kitchen for five minutes. She then said she wouldn't be checking anyone's jobsearch today either, because she has to give everyone a letter, and there wouldn't be time to do both.

I looked around, wondered whether to mention that there was no one else waiting (again), decided to keep quiet, and took receipt of my letter. It was an 'IMPORTANT NOTICE' reminding me of my responsibilities, advising me to arrive ten minutes early for all my appointments, and warning me that I must complete my jobsearch diary because they'll be checking it every time. I was so disgusted I nearly fell off my unicycle.

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Anyone with an eye on the property market (or more money than sense) will remember that last spring, local estate agents gave the population of Britain a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to live above me for the paltry sum of just £180,000. Which they soon reduced to £178,000 when no one was interested. A year later I still don't think it's sold.

The problem, I feel, is that a lot of people are naturally keen to live next door to me, but they don't all like heights. Some people just prefer a hole in the ground. Well if that's you, I have fantastic news. Yes, it's true, the master craftsmen who woke me up in December have finished their incessant hammering, and this is the result...

You now have the opportunity (once-in-a-lifetime, obviously) to live underneath me. Now, I know what you're thinking. You're thinking "That sounds fantastic. But how much will it cost me? I'd expect to pay an absolute fortune for a privilege like that". And you'd be right. Which is why it comes as such a pleasant surprise to see that it's on the market for only £199,950. What a lovely turnaround. It seems like only yesterday that the police were banging on that door in the middle of the night, trying to evict the madman who lived there.

Of course, when you take into account the fact that I live on the ground floor, you might be tempted to think that a flat below me would be a basement flat. But you'd be wrong. It's actually a "double bedroom patio level flat". That's because if you're eight foot tall and you walk out of the front door (sorry, I mean the "entrance foyer"), your head is level with the patio.

Anyhoo, the property features a "faux fireplace with wood effect surround" and "oak effect" flooring, so if you're allergic to plastic, it might not be the flat for you, but if you've got two hundred grand in your pocket and you're looking for a one-bedroom undergound shoebox, this could be the home of your dreams. Especially if you're a hobbit.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

So anyway, having been hounded out of Hove and eaten chocolate splat with a nine-year-old, Lisa and I headed home on Sunday via a major traffic jam on the seafront, which left me with a full forty-five minutes to eat my tea, look at photos of Afghans, realise I didn't know where I was going that evening, panic, drive over to Hove, fail to park, and run through the streets like a madman. I may have arrived two minutes early, but I think it took twenty years off my life.

The evening's event was 'Bricks, Barley & Boatmen', the second guided walk of the year from Geoff Mead, who does for history what David Blaine does for magic. Only without being a twat. The starting point for this one was Norfolk Square, a pretty little square in West Brighton which is popular amongst alcoholics and street drinkers. As Lisa once said during one of her stand-up comedy routines at AA, "I'm more Churchill Square than Norfolk Square". Churchill Square is Brighton's shopping centre.

That whole area used to be known as the 'Blacklands', which is apparently nothing to do with immigration, and everything to do with 19th century brick-making. The attractive-sounding Golden Lane was in fact home to one of the blackest, dirtiest brickworks in Brighton. In those days, roads were named as inappropriately as possible, in order to mask the nightmarish reality of life on the street, hence Mount Pleasant is always a city's biggest dive, and Sun Street the darkest, most depressing place on earth. So if someone tries to sell you a house in Lovely Road, just say no.

Crossing the boundary into Hove, we walked around the back of the The Old Market, which was the Churchill Square of the 1820s, but now sells nothing more than cheap tickets to see Dave Gorman on April 4th. I've bought two. The Conqueror pub next door apparently used to advertise itself as "the cheapest pub in Brighton", which doesn't exactly inspire confidence in it being a classy joint, so we ducked down an alleyway instead, and headed towards Embassy Court on the seafront.

Been there, bought the t-shirt.I like Embassy Court. You've got to admire any block of flats which has its own website. Though I draw the line at a 'Friends of Embassy Court' t-shirt for fifteen quid. I don't like the sound of that acronym.

Anyhoo, past residents include Laurence Olivier, Rex Harrison, Diana Dors and Graham Greene, but by the 1990s it was apparently home to the largest Sudanese community outside of the Sudan. No wonder they called it the Blacklands.

Deciding not to walk along the seafront, which Geoff described as "mostly Victorian tat", we headed inland through Norfolk Mews, which not so long ago was one of the most densely populated areas in the country. Passing 'Olde Norfolk Cottage', complete with new TV aerial, we encountered a sunken alleyway which Geoff said he always imagines should be home to a gangster wielding a sock full of wet sand. It makes you wonder why he took us there.

Next stop was Oriental Place, which sounds like a Chinese takeaway, but is in fact a street of Grade II listed buildings intended as an approach to a new exotic garden which was planned in the 1820s. Sadly the project had to be abandoned due to lack of money, and the fact that Charlie Dimmock hadn't been born yet.

Making our way through Regency Square, we encountered number 1, Queensbury Mews, a former garage which was featured in 'The West Pier', a novel by Patrick Hamilton, who'd previously given Hitchcock enough Rope to hang himself. That wasn't the only cinematic connection, as the nearby twitten at the side of the Regency Tavern appears in the opening scene of Brighton Rock. That was before they built Sussex Heights behind it and ruined the chance of a remake.

Heading into Preston Street, the street of a thousand restaurants (though Geoff said it's closer to seventy-five), we passed The Royal Sovereign pub, which was once home to James Lillywhite, the first ever captain of the England cricket team. I wasn't bowled over by that fact, but I was impressed, whilst standing outside Shoefayre, to learn that JJB Sports and Sainsburys Local are housed in the biggest old building in Brighton, Mitre House. I mitre known that, but I didn't.

I can't believe I'm ending on that line...

Monday, March 03, 2008

It's me with the Afghans!

Hounded out of town.
If only Prince Harry could say the same.

If I look slightly startled, it's because we'd been standing there for ages, looking to the left for signs of dog hair flapping in the breeze, with Lisa poised to take my photo the moment anything more hairy than me hoved into view, only to realise at the last moment that the Afghans were approaching from the right, and were, in fact, right behind us. The way they creep up on you, it's no wonder Harry wasn't safe.

Anyhoo, the 2008 Mother's Day Afghan Trophy was a total triumph. Here they are flashing past me at speeds of up to 3mph...

Hair of the dog.
That's Dougal from The Magic Roundabout overtaking Spit the Dog at the first bend. They'd both lost their jockeys at that point.

Well ok, it's actually four-year-old Morse leading the eventual winner, India. But enough about them. Here's what the race card said about hound number 1:

I want my money back.
Ok, I'll give you three guesses what happened to Zak. Yes, that's right, he lost interest halfway round, hopped over the fence, and started frolicking about on the grass in the middle of the track, waiting for someone to throw him a stick. Not quite the model of consistency we were led to believe. Personally I blame Lisa. Three seconds earlier she'd said "He's so far behind, he might as well give up", so he obviously heard her and threw in the towel.

You have to admire his tactics though. Having sat out the contest on the other side of the stadium, acting like he was down the park on a Sunday afternoon, the race eventually finished and the rabbit came back around to where Zak was standing. At which point he jumped on it. I see that as a moral victory. The judges saw it as more of a disqualification. It's all a matter of opinion.

Anyhoo, yesterday wasn't just Mother's Day, it was also the ninth birthday of Lisa's eldest nephew, so with the prospect of some free cake on offer, we naturally dropped in on the birthday boy for an hour. He seemed quite pleased with our gift of Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Games, though having seen the cake his mother had made for him, anything would have seemed like a step up. I'm not saying it tasted bad, but when the only two cake tins you own are of differing sizes, it's hard to make a Victoria Sandwich that doesn't look like a hat. Imagine a cross between a Jaffa Cake and a cow pat. Add to that the fact that her husband was suffering from food poisoning, and it's no wonder I was alone in accepting a slice.

Sunday, March 02, 2008

It's Mother's Day! So I'd like to take this opportunity to send my love and appreciation to my Mum. Over the past year she has, in many ways, been like a mother to me. And a full-time carer. To be honest, I'm bordering on special needs. So thanks, Mum. Oh, and can I have my books back please?

Anyhoo, to celebrate this special day, Lisa and I are heading over to Hove greyhound track for a bit of Afghan racing. My Mum's not coming, but she lives in Essex, so in a sense she's already gone to the dogs. My intention is to write about hairy hounds for The Argus, before heading west again tonight to cover a bit of local history for The Kemptown Rag. So it would help if I'd actually had some sleep last night, instead of watching trash TV with Lisa until the early hours.

As it happens, the latest edition of the Rag arrived yesterday. I didn't write anything for this issue, so sales are probably up, but on the downside it means I can't take any credit for the front page scoop: an article about "the Royal East Sussex Hospital". Which is in Hastings. They actually mean the Royal Sussex County Hospital. And to think people call my articles ill-informed. But I can forgive them that because the Ragamuffins on the news desk have made my day by beginning their report with a bit of editorial gold. Yes, emblazoned across the front page in bold print is possibly the most fantastic sentence ever constructed...

Bought to an end.
I love that. It's got more sub-clauses than a Father Christmas convention. And they even misspell the punchline. Marvellous.

Saturday, March 01, 2008

Fat CowI took Lisa to McDonalds last night for our anniversary. They're doing the Beef Deluxe With Bacon now, so it's a lot like a proper restaurant. On the downside, the Brighton Marina branch appears to be trying to recreate an episode of the 70s sitcom 'Mind Your Language' by employing a lot of comedy characters who don't speak English.

When we arrived, an irate woman at the counter was busy demanding free food on the grounds that the young girl from Eastern Europe had got her order wrong, and was telling the manager not to employ such untrained idiots. I felt she was over-reacting, but decided to join the other queue just in case. Lisa, meanwhile, was less easily put off, and confidently stood behind Miss Disgruntled. I think it was some kind of sisterhood thing.

If you're wondering why we don't order our food together, it's because Lisa likes to recreate the full restaurant experience by ordering a burger without mayonnaise, thus ensuring that it takes a full fifteen minutes to arrive. I can be fed, watered and halfway home by the time she gets her hands on a Happy Meal.

So nimbly avoiding the untrained crew member to my left, I went instead for the alternative: Miro from Poland. I asked Miro for the simplest of orders: a Beef Deluxe With Bacon. No fries, no drink, just a Beef Deluxe With Bacon. He said something incomprehensible in another language, so I repeated my order, adding that I wanted it on its own to take away. He replied "Do you want beef or chicken?". I pretended it was a reasonable question and said "Beef". He charged me £3.19, put it in a bag, and I went away happy.

An eternity later, and with the likelihood of Lisa ever receiving her food looking somewhat remote, I got bored with waiting by the door like some kind of McBouncer, and went back to the car. Whereupon I finally opened my bag and found a double quarterpounder with cheese. Not quite what I ordered, but close. Well, it's meat in a bun. I considered whether I could be bothered to go back and complain, and decided to check that I still had my receipt. I did. It was a receipt for a cheeseburger and fries. I think a staff training day might be in order.