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Monday, June 30, 2008

My Mum popped down to Brighton yesterday (I think she wanted to try Windows Vista), and we took the opportunity to swap cars for a few days, so that she can get mine examined by a car surgeon in Suffolk. My Mum's car is the same as mine, but in red instead of blue, and with embarrassing yellow signs in the windows advertising some kind of cabaret act. I drove it to work this morning, and arrived in the car park at the same time as my manager. By the time I'd walked through the pharmacy door, he was busy saying this:

"When I find a t-shirt that I really like, I buy it in three different colours. Phil must be like that with Skodas."

But in other transport news, I'm pleased to announce that Lisa and I have finally got our hands on a baby buggy. And frankly it's more complicated than my computer. We also can't fit it in my flat. Or my car. But I'm sure we'll find a way around that by October. Possibly by investing in lottery tickets.

This particular 'child transport system' (as the manufacturer delightfully puts it) comes courtesy of the lovely Lorraine, who bought it last year, before deciding she didn't really need it for Timmy, and would buy a new one for her baby. Interestingly, in searching for a convenient Timmy link for that last sentence, I've just read this post from January, in which I not only mention the fat cat himself, but also buggies and my car, before coming dangerously close to predicting Lisa's pregnancy a good two weeks before we found out she was expecting. I'm the best fate-tempter in the business. But I digress...

In return for a free pushchair, Lisa and I had to spend half an hour with Lorraine's parents, chatting about camels and Hugh Heffner, before they agreed to let us into their shed to pick it up. It was a small price to pay. Although any longer and I'd have given up and gone to Mothercare.

Having waved goodbye, we then wheeled the contraption and its two sackloads of accessories down the road to my car, where we spent five minutes trying to work out how to fold it down, before giving up, removing the back seats of the car, and shoving the whole lot in. Lisa won't have it in the flat (which is handy, as it won't fit through the front door) because, as everybody knows, it's bad luck to have a buggy in the house without a baby. Mainly because it means you've left the baby down the shops. So instead, I dropped it off at her Mum's. She has a lot more room. Or she did until I dropped off the buggy. Frankly, having seen how much space it takes up, I think the baby's going to be walking everywhere.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

I know what I want for my birthday...

Is that Frank Bough?
"Before, during and after a meal". So that would be all the time then. And is it my imagination, or is that bloke's head too big for his body? Personally I think they're just trying to shift a load of unsold pedestal mats.

Anyhoo, that advert comes from the 'UK Bright Life' catalogue, which I found inside my copy of What's On TV yesterday afternoon. Frankly it's the most entertaining thing in there. It's like a cross between Private Eye and Mad Magazine. They sell Invisible Sheath Urinals and Professional Callous Removers next to 65 Piece 3D Model Battleships and Miniature Samurai Letter Opening Sets. Then there's the 60 Piece Paintbrush Set (because 59 paintbrushes is never enough), and the 8" Lion Knife. Personally I'd want more than an 8" knife before I take on a lion, but each to their own.

Anyway, when I'm not handing over my credit card details for some of life's essentials, I'm busy mixing with Brighton's educational elite. Lisa and I attended the birthday party of her friend 'L' last night. He's the drug-taking, street-drinking gay primary school teacher who stole my jacket. But I've grown to love him. Unfortunately the 'party' mainly involved sitting on the arm of a sofa in a cramped living room for two hours with a load of people who wanted to talk about Key Stage 1 whilst slowly getting drunk. I was tempted to try one of the cannabis cakes just for a bit of escapism, but I didn't want to get hooked on drugs three months before my first child is born. So we left at 10pm and went to McDonalds instead. I'd rather be a porker than a junkie.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

PC Gone MadWhen I said I'd need a new computer to blog over the weekend, I didn't consider that buying one would mean I wouldn't have time. I'd just like to state for the record that going from a computer running Windows XP, complete with all your favourite software, set up just the way you like it, to one with Windows Vista and not a lot else, is a complete nightmare. And why is it that virtually none of the programs I've been using for the past few years are compatible with Vista? Microsoft seem to expect me to go out and buy a brand new version of just about everything I own. It's PC gone mad.

Anyhoo, the good news is that I'm now in a position to confirm that all PC World employees are indeed cretins. I'd particularly like to thank the member of staff who spent five minutes explaining to me that if I buy a PC and a monitor, then the price I'll pay is the price of the monitor added to the price of the PC. I spent a similar amount of time trying to explain to him that that's not what I call a 'deal', and there is in fact no incentive for me to buy a monitor if I have to pay full price. He looked blank. And then told me that I could choose any monitor. For full price. With no discount. After which he repeated that to work out the price of the 'package deal' I simply had to add the full cost of the monitor to the full cost of the PC. I told him I'd think about it.

Two minutes later I decided not to buy a monitor, and instead approached two members of staff who were chatting by the webcams, to ask if they'd like to help me buy a PC. They told me I'd have to wait "five or ten minutes". The words 'customer service' clearly meant nothing to them. So I went and helped myself.

Anyhoo, having spent a month's wages on one of the finest computers money can buy, I got home to find that the drivers for my broadband modem aren't compatible with Windows Vista. I knew I could download updated drivers from the internet, but funnily enough it's hard to download stuff from the web when you don't have a working modem.

It took two hours to work out a solution to that one, after which I was free to stride forth into the brave new world of computing, on a voyage of discovery which basically involved trying all my favourite programs one by one and finding they don't work with Vista. I've had better evenings.

It hasn't all been bad though. By lunchtime today I was so sick of trying to set up my new computer that I walked out in a strop, wandered down the road, and met Michelle Collins at the bottom of North Street. She was trying on shoes in Kurt Geiger. I was on my way to the pound shop. We have so much in common.

Friday, June 27, 2008

I think it could be an expensive weekend. No, Lisa's not going shopping for maternity clothes again (although we might be getting a buggy), it's actually my computer which needs a bit of TLC. Well, it needs to be chucked in a skip. But I'll do it tenderly.

Sadly, my PC is as old as the hills (Damon and Graham) and I've spent the past year trying to ignore the fact that I need to get a new one, whilst quietly moving anything of importance (clips of me singing, photos of my cat) over to an external hard drive in preparation for the day when it finally gives up the ghost and goes kaput. Unfortunately I think that day has come. It's been playing up for the past three days, and I spent most of yesterday evening carrying out open heart surgery on my hard drive, but all to no avail. In fact I think I made it worse. As of this morning, it won't even boot up. It was awful - I had nothing to do before work. I actually had to talk to Lisa.

So with my antique computer in silicon heaven, I think I'll have to head straight over to PC World tonight and buy something which wasn't personally built by Charles Babbage. Otherwise I won't be able to blog over the weekend, which would obviously be a disaster for the English-speaking world. They won't be able to send me hate-mail. Your taxes have paid for an NHS computer to keep me sane at work, but I'm not sure they'll let me take it home.

Fortunately, my brother's always told me that when buying a new computer, you should spend as much as you possibly can. So I know he won't mind if I use this month's rent money. On the downside, my stereo's knackered too. It keeps refusing to play my Take That CDs. Although that could just be some kind of quality control feature.

Either way though, I think I need to splash out on some kind of hi-fi as well. Music's the food of love, and I don't want Lisa to go off me. As it happens though, spending my entire month's wages in one day could be handy - I've just been sent a Working Tax Credit renewal form, and let's face it, it'll be easier to claim poverty once I've cleared out my bank account.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Fantastic news...

Back to Normal
Somebody call Pete Doherty.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

The big news from outer space is that flying to the moon ain't as popular as it used to be. According to press reports (so by definition it's probably rubbish), ESA were expecting 50,000 people to apply to be Europe's first lunartic. As it turns out, only 8,413 completed the application form. The other forty thousand are still trying to work out what an astronaut's main tasks are.

Interestingly, only 822 people from the UK want to head into space (the others want to be reality TV stars), of which 167 are female. That means that approximately 0.6% of all the Brit-chicks who applied are related to me. That's quite a claim to fame. I might write to the Guardian. They could do a feature on me.

According to ESA's press release, "Those who make it through this first selection can soon expect to receive a letter inviting them to participate in the next stage - the psychological testing". So I'm bracing myself for a flurry of visitors searching for 'How to pass the Rorschach Inkblot Test'.

Anyhoo, back here on Earth, it's been an emotionally charged day. Lisa had a routine midwife appointment at 2pm, and at 3pm, just as I was tucking into a mango ice cream from the pharmacy freezer, she phoned to say she was being rushed to an emergency hospital appointment ninety minutes later. Apparently they'd detected protein in her urine, and struggled to find a heartbeat. From the baby, that is. Lisa's was pounding through her chest.

Fortunately I work with a brilliant bunch of people. My supervisor immediately said I could leave, the Pharmacy Manager told me to leave, and when I burst into tears, they gave me a hug and pushed me out the door. I barely had time to finish my ice cream.

To be honest, I was more emotional about it all than Lisa, but then she's always been as hard as nails. Frankly she was holding my hand on the way to the hospital. But the good news is that everything's fine. Lisa spent half an hour hooked up to a machine which proved far better than the midwife at finding a heartbeat. In fact, having monitored the baby's movements for twenty minutes, they said it appeared to be shuffling around quite normally. They think the placenta's at the front, which is why Lisa hasn't felt it move. The baby's kicking that rather than her.

As for the protein, we'll know more on Monday when the tests are back from the lab, but Lisa's blood pressure is normal (which, considering how worked up she gets watching Big Brother, is a miracle), so pre-eclampsia seems unlikely.

So that's all good news. But not as good as the final result of our 90-minute hospital visit. On our way out, I popped into the toilets in the prenatal department and found a tub of dipsticks with instructions on testing your urine. Naturally I couldn't resist. I'm pleased to report that I'm 100% fine, and in perfect condition for birth.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Fortunately not all my mail is hate related. I've now received the official results of last Friday's van-ity project, and I have to say, it contains very few death threats. In fact, having marked me on twenty-five aspects of driving, including 'lane discipline' and 'vehicle sympathy' (both of which are fetishes), Graham the assessor says this:

Emphasis on the serious.
It's like he's never met me. The Pharmacy Manager was very impressed, and is happy for me to start those tasks immediately. So I told her I'd be popping down the shops for some milk.

As it turns out though, I may not be working for the NHS much longer. I was listening to the radio this afternoon, and they played an interview with John Williams, the chairman of Blackburn Rovers. Interestingly, when asked why he chose Paul Ince as the club's new manager, ahead of all the other candidates for the post, John said this:

"He is a very hungry man, he is clearly driven"

Let's face it, with my appetite and driving credentials, I'm halfway to the England job.

Monday, June 23, 2008

If there's one thing which keeps me going through the dark nights and long winters of my life, it's the heartwarming knowledge that plenty of people out there want me dead. And most of them like to e-mail me.

This one sets a new record though. I received this anonymous e-mail via my website shortly after 11pm last night:

"You are a TWAT!!!!!!!!!!!
Eat shit and die!!!!!!
Nobody gives a shit about what u think u freakazoid!!!!!"

It's not the eighteen words (if you include 'u' and 'freakazoid') or twenty-two exclamation marks which are unusual. Let's face it, I'm no stranger to death threats, and most of the people who want to kill me have no grasp of grammar.

Over the past few years I've received a lot of quality feedback from parents, weather fans, regression therapists, music lovers and, of course, slappers. And that doesn't include all the people who just write to say "you suck". They're obviously mistaking me for James Dyson.

No, what sets this correspondent apart from my usual run-of-the-mill hate-mailers is the sheer speed with which I've managed to turn them against me. Having examined my website statistics, I can tell that this particular visitor arrived from Google after searching for 'paragallo meaning in italian'. That took them to the May 2005 archive of this blog, where I mentioned someone called Paragallo, and said that Lisa had made me Italian Beef Casserole.

TWO MINUTES LATER they clicked on 'E-mail Me' and composed the above.

At 11pm they'd never heard of me. By 11:02 they wanted me dead. That's not bad going, even for me.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

I was intrigued to discover during my weekly trolley dash around Asda last night, that you can now buy bamboo socks. Yes, bamboo socks. And they're not as stiff as you might think. I very nearly bought some, but their main selling point appears to be that they're naturally antibacterial and will stop your feet smelling. I didn't want the girl on the checkout thinking I had an odour problem, so I decided to leave well alone. And besides, they probably make you more prone to panda attacks.

It's the Femail!It's a shame though, because I've just worn out a perfectly good pair of socks by stalking a horse racing pundit through Hove all afternoon. Lisa and I took her mother to the dog track today for a bit of R&R, and who should we bump into but top Channel 4 totty, Tanya Stevenson. She was hanging about near the fast food counter (and obviously I wasn't far from that), waiting to see her dog Cushie San run in the tenth race. I was tempted to head straight over and start chatting, but she had a bloke with her who looked like he might not take too kindly to someone muscling in on his girlfriend, so I decided a better option might be to quietly stalk her from the chip seller to the grandstand via the tote counter, whilst snapping her surreptitiously with my mobile phone. The fact that I'm illustrating this post with a stock photo from the web tells you how successful I was.

But unlike Tanya's dog, which did about as well as the UK at Eurovision, I did see a few victories during the course of the afternoon. Having already made £14 with a £2 bet, I actually went on to record the most significant win I've ever had at Hove dog track. At approximately 1:40pm, I went to the chocolate vending machine, put in 50p, and it accidentally gave me two bars instead of one. I'm still on a high now.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

I took this photo walking through Hanover (the area of Brighton, not the German city) this afternoon...

Amazing. That's exactly what I thought when I saw it.
With the imagination they've put into decorating that van, I bet they throw one heck of a party.

Friday, June 20, 2008

I'd have dunked them the other way around.There's always something happening in Kemp Town. Lisa walked out of work yesterday afternoon, turned right, and almost tripped over Lembit Opik trying to cure Motor Neurone Disease by dunking the Cheeky Girls into a cup of tea. Personally I think they'd raise more money by sponsoring the girls not to sing, but what would I know.

In other local news, just seven months after writing an article about them for The Kemptown Rag, Floors and Walls have made it onto primetime national TV. Well, I say primetime. They were on Channel 4 at five past midnight. For about five minutes. And if you don't believe me, you can watch it here. Having recorded the show and watched it half asleep at 6:30am on Thursday morning, I must admit I was slightly outraged. They can't go describing their music as "chav rock" after I've gone into print declaring myself to be a fan. What will people think? I already shop at Lidl. No one's going to believe I'm middle class now.

But on the bright side, I recently discovered that the far more classy Ben Poole has followed The Rylics' fine example by quoting me on both his MySpace site and his main website. I bet The Argus regret not giving me a job now. Ben's got some new songs up on MySpace, and I have to say, there isn't a better way to spend seven minutes of your life than by listening to 'I'm Losin' You' (one title, four apostrophes). And if you didn't believe me when I said he's the best guitarist I've ever seen, try 'Liquid Wonderment'.

But enough about Ben, here's the news you've my Mum's been waiting for...


Yes, I'm officially a white van man. My class credentials really have gone up in smoke. But after spending the afternoon pootling around Brighton and Woodingdean in a clapped-out old van with no central locking and the handbrake on the right (I grasped thin air at every traffic light), Graham, a qualified driving instructor with many years experience, officially declared me "alright", and fit to deliver Elton John's drugs. Though he thinks I should check my mirrors more often. The nerve of that man.

He did, however, praise me for keeping a safe distance between myself and the vehicle in front whilst on the 60mph road to Falmer. I thanked him, and decided not to mention that I wasn't getting any acceleration out of the old crate we were in, could barely get above forty, and couldn't catch the bloke in front without a steep downhill stretch and a following wind.

Anyway, I passed. But not only that, I'm now in possession of some exciting documents. I thought I was learning to drive an NHS van, but oh no...

For Queen and Country
It's official: I'm working for the Queen. From Monday morning I'll be on Her Majesty's business. And as for the section entitled...

I'll need this information.
... it says this:

Get out of my way, commoners.
Apparently I can also drive through red lights and eat swans.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Nicky Keig-Shevlin R.I.P.I'm pleased to say that the Argus have published a lovely tribute to the soon-departed Nicky Keig-Shevlin. It's an uplifting piece. But personally I'd advise you to skip straight past that, and read all the comments below. At the time of writing, a total of eighty-two dedicated fans have left their opinions of the woman, about three of which are positive. And I haven't even added mine yet. She must be slashing her wrists as we speak.

I'm also slightly hurt that judging by the photo which accompanies the article, she'll clearly put her arm around anyone. But in the lady's defence, I have to repeat what I said after meeting her last year, which is that she's very nice, and far less annoying in person.

Anyhoo, never mind Keig-Shevlin, it's Yazoo!

Mmm... Sweet Thing.
The song they're performing is called 'Sweet Thing', which is why they're standing in front of two video screens showing sweets. The visual effects designer obviously went on a long mental journey before coming up with that one.

Anyway, it's twenty-five years since Yazoo split up, which is something well worth celebrating commemorating. So they're doing a one-off reunion tour, with tickets for Sunday's concert priced at just £45 each. I bought two, making a grand total of... yes, you've guessed it, £100. They do love a good 'service charge' at the Brighton Centre.

I'm not saying it wasn't worth it, but let's face it, there's only two of them, and Vince Clarke basically just stood there for ninety minutes looking at a laptop. If I want that kind of entertainment, I'll visit my brother. The songs were good though, and Alison Moyet can definitely belt out a tune. I liked her hair too, although Lisa felt her clothes made her look like a cast member from Prisoner Cell Block H, which is not the kind of thing I'd ever say. For the most part though, we were both impressed.

As was Andy Bell of Erasure, who was sitting a few rows in front of us. Frankly he was more animated than Vince Clarke (although let's face it, Lisa was more animated than Vince Clarke, and she can barely stand). Andy spent the whole concert on his feet, swaying about like he had vertigo, even when everyone else had sat down. You couldn't miss him. Unless you're Lisa. She was quite annoyed afterwards that I hadn't pointed him out.

Being a celebrity, Andy arrived fashionably late and missed the support act. To be honest I ended up wishing Big Sis had delayed me a bit longer, so we could have missed it too. It turned out to be a guy named Merz, although I only found that out afterwards. I genuinely thought he said "I'm nuts". And after hearing his songs, I tended to agree. The man plays electronic folk. Yes, electronic folk. It was all technically very impressive, and the guy's clearly a decent musician, but I couldn't shake the feeling that I was in some kind of acid-induced hippy trip with a bloke from Bristol. It was a bit like waching The Minotaur all over again.

I'm obviously in the minority though. Both the Independent and The Sunday Times made his new record their Album of the Week, and apparently Chris Martin's a big fan. Odd how Rachel Waddilove never mentioned it. Anyway, the good news is that Merz is playing the Brighton Komedia next Tuesday, so if I want to experience it all over again in much harder seats, the opportunity's there.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Well today's the day. The final countdown has begun, and any aspiring moon monkeys out there need to blast their applications off to ESA in the next few hours. They've had weeks to apply, so you wouldn't think anyone would still be entering questions into Google on the last day. Obviously you'd be wrong...

Out of this world.
About a third of my visitors are coming from outer space. In addition to the six countries mentioned on Friday, I've now had interplanetary explorers from the UK, Ireland, USA, Spain, Belgium and Norway. With this kind of support I could probably win the Eurovision Song Contest.

Nicky Keig-Shevlin's proving more popular than ever, but that's because she's just announced that she's leaving Southern FM. Possibly to become an astronaut. I may have to start a book of condolence.

As for Big Sis, she'd set herself a final deadline of 3pm yesterday, UK time, by which to submit her application. So naturally she was still working on it at six-thirty. I don't know what time that was in Australia, but she sounded pretty tired in the five e-mails, three text messages and four phone calls I received from her yesterday afternoon.

Anyhoo, the good news is that after a bit of debate and a quick visit to, Sis has officially become the first European ever to use the word 'iterative' on a job application form. Which is not bad for someone who can't spell 'sentence'. And at 7pm last night I received a text message confirming that she'd finally passed the point of no return, clicked 'Submit', and was within touching distance of a rocketship ride to Mars. Personally I was on a bus at the time, on my way to the Brighton Centre, but not everyone can live with the kind of excitement I do.

Anyway, good luck Sis. I didn't realise what a star you are until I read your application. If anyone deserves to be over the moon come results day, it's you.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

The good news is that Lisa's fat foot is a lot better this morning. She was advised by the doctor to keep it moving, and as luck would have it, she was up and down all night with excruciating heartburn. It's worked a treat on her swollen ankles.

In other news, anyone who's waiting with baited breath for the result of yesterday's ambulance chasing event will have to wait a little longer I'm afraid. My driving assessment was cancelled due to the ill health of the examiner's wife (I didn't realise she was coming along too). But assuming she makes a full recovery, I'll be hitting the streets of Brighton in the NHS drugsmobile next Friday instead.

In the meantime, Lisa's just been given a new photo of her nephews. When I say 'given', I mean she stole it out of an envelope addressed to someone else. And when I say 'new', I mean three months old. I think there was some kind of delay getting it back from Truprint. But the good news is that Lisa's sister has officially given me permission to publish it here, "as long as you're nice". Well I suppose there's a first time for everything.

So without further ado, I give you Nephews Number One, Two and Three...

That's his 'funny face' apparently.
Or Handsome, Cute and Screwy, as I like to call them. The pale one with the orange nose isn't part of the family.

Friday, June 13, 2008

There are a lot of desperate people out there. With the deadline for astronaut applications fast approaching, Monday's post appears to have had quite an impact on the population of Europe. Here are some of the phrases people entered into Google to arrive at my blog yesterday...

Yeah, but seriously, what ARE the main tasks that should be performed by an astronaut?
Obviously the most desperate people are those searching for Nicky Keig-Shevlin. And as for Loli Fedun, don't even go there. But look at the web addresses on the left. I've had space cadets from Finland, France, Germany, Italy and Greece, all itching to know what astronauts get up to in their working day. This morning I had one from Chile, which isn't even in Europe. Though it's nearer than Australia, so Big Sis can't complain.

It's satisfying to know that, as we speak, would-be astronauts from all over the world are busy following my advice and typing 'FIGHTING ALIENS' onto their application forms. Intriguingly though, the exact question they're answering is this:

"In your opinion, what are the main tasks that should be performed by an astronaut?"

It's amazing how many people are searching the internet for their own opinion.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

I'm tempted to abandon my plans to write about Monday, because after five months of pregnancy without so much as a sniff of a swollen ankle, Lisa's left foot has suddenly ballooned more than Richard Branson, and there could be a major photo opportunity on the cards. Imagine five cocktail sausages attached to a rugby ball, and you're halfway there. I've told her it's quite normal in pregnancy, but just between you and me, I think we may have to amputate.

Anyhoo, returning to the matter in hand... Monday. Lisa and I went to see the Britain's Got Talent live tour at the Brighton Centre, and as unlikely as it may sound, I thoroughly enjoyed it. Admittedly it might seem like lunacy to spend £65 on two tickets to see a bunch of people who, until a fortnight ago, were basically just members of the public, but where else are you going to see sights like this...

Stiff GinIt's Kate and Gin! (Kate's the one on the right). And I have to say, their act's even better in real life than it was on the telly. Gin's a real tonic. I haven't laughed so much in years. I'd have clapped too, but applause was outlawed in case it spooked her and she savaged half the front row. I'm talking about Gin there.

The other big highlight for me was Signature, who forged their way to second place on the TV show, and opened the live show on Monday. It's not until you see Suleman (wasn't he in Lord of the Rings?) dance right in front of you that you realise just how phenomenally good he is. Frankly he's even better than Gin.

The most talented performer though was probably Faryl Smith. If you like that sort of thing. Personally I'd rather see the Cheeky Monkeys again (you can't clap along to Ave Maria). But if Faryl Smith isn't singing for the Pope by the end of the year, I'll eat my hat. She makes Charlotte Church sound like a pub singer.

I particularly liked the way the producers combined some of the acts, so that in addition to doing their own routines, Faryl sang a duet with Andrew Johnston (and wiped the floor with him, it has to be said), while Signature, Nemisis (no, I haven't spelt that wrong) and George Sampson danced a joint routine. I know I have low standards, but I thought it was fantastic. And so did everyone else. At one point the entire audience rose to their feet to give a standing ovation. Well, I say the entire audience. There was one person who remained seated. I can't name names, but her excuse was she's pregnant.

As for overall winner, George, the Daily Telegraph reported the following morning that he's been given SAS protection to keep his female fans at bay. And frankly he needs it. I haven't seen women so hysterical since I announced I was no longer single. Within moments of him taking to the stage, half the audience were screaming so loudly I thought someone had set off an air raid siren. We left the Brighton Centre after the show just as George's tour bus was trying to make a quick getaway through a crowd of emotionally charged girls. It was like something out of Speed, only far more terrifying.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Well it's taken five days, a few lunch hours, and a couple of dodgy moments when my boss almost caught me writing about scuba diving, but as of twenty minutes ago, I think I've finally finished editing Big Sis's astronaut application. Appropriately, we've had a lot of arguments about space, specifically whether or not a 750 character limit includes them, but at the end of the day I think we've produced something worthy of the first human on Mars. I certainly ate enough of them to get me through it.

Anyhoo, I'm officially knackered (I feel like I've been to the moon and back), and if I ever have to read about another scientific expedition to the US, I may go clinically insane. I also haven't had time to write about Monday night, which turned out to be the best night of the year so far (with the possible exception of January 12th). It's surprising how much fun you can have with a dog, a drag queen and a couple of nine-year-old kids...

Monday, June 09, 2008

WaspishIn the end, we didn't make it as far as the South Downs for our picnic yesterday afternoon. Big Sis wanted me to help her answer the question "In your opinion, what are the main tasks that should be performed by an astronaut?" using less than a hundred words, and by the time I'd written "FIGHTING ALIENS" fifty times in big letters, we'd run out of time.

So I laid out the rug in the living room instead, and we sat on the floor for half an hour eating sausage rolls and scotch eggs. It was surprisingly nice.

Having stuffed ourselves with finger food, we then strolled (slowly, for obvious reasons) along the seafront to the Brighton Centre for this year's Brighton Baby Expo. Sally Gunnell had run off by the time we got there, but we did get to meet a number of interesting people, most of whom wanted to sell us something. We ended up spending a good two and a half hours browsing the stalls, chatting to experts and eating free chocolate brownies, and I have to say it was all very good. Especially the brownies. We'd have stayed even longer, but by 4:30pm I'd picked up so many leaflets that I could no longer move.

We made a total of four major purchases: a box of maternity knickers (they're mostly for Lisa), a place for both of us on a Baby First Aid Course in August (we spent so long talking to the nurse who runs it that she had to give us a discount just to get rid of us), and... my personal favourite... a Bump Casting Kit! Yes, you heard me right the first time, a Bump Casting Kit! I'm going to mould Lisa's midriff in plaster, paint it in silver, and hang it on the wall. Or possibly use it as a wok. I can't wait.

But almost as exciting as Lisa getting plastered is this...

Rachel Waddiloves us.
We've met Gwyneth Paltrow's nanny! Yes indeed, Rachel Waddilove is the woman who spent a year making sure that Apple didn't crumble under the pressure of having a movie star Mum and a rock star Dad. And now she's advising me and Lisa. I asked her what one piece of advice she'd give us as new parents and she told us to accept all the help we can, and get as much sleep as possible. I plan to start immediately.

Sunday, June 08, 2008

Well my bet on the Derby won me fifty pounds, so according to my calculations, that should buy me two nights in the flat below. I'm beginning to see why that couple moved into a Travelodge.

As for today, I have a baby show to attend, a picnic to prepare and an astronaut application to rewrite, so I won't have time to post a lengthy review of 'The Minotaur', Harrison Birtwistle's new opera which was on BBC2 last night. Which is a shame, because having stumbled across it during an ad break in Big Brother, I find I have quite a lot to say. Most of it beginning with the words "What the bloody hell was that all about???"

So here's a photo instead. These words have appeared in big metal letters on a wall in Madeira Drive...

I have great desire My desire is great
I have great desire My desire is great. I think vandals must have removed the full-stop in the middle. According to this link it's part of someone's degree in sculpture. In 1504 Michelangelo created the Statue of David. Five hundred years later, people are sticking phrases on walls. Personally I call that progress. I wasn't sure what it meant at first, but having heard Gore Vidal talk about Tennessee Williams a couple of weeks ago, I realise it's someone boasting about their streetcar.

Saturday, June 07, 2008

Estate agents and the homeless will no doubt remember that back in March, the flat below me was put up for sale. Faux fireplaces with wood effect surrounds obviously don't come cheap, so the asking price was a very reasonable £200,000. Of course that was two weeks before I started my job, and I was in all the time, boosting property prices with my very presence. Things have changed a lot since then, so naturally the place hasn't sold.

But undeterred, the owners have changed tack, not by reducing the asking price (that would be ridiculous), but by entering the rental market instead. Yes indeed, you can now spend thirty days under my floorboards in return for just £750. Yes, £750. Fortunately I earn more than that every month, which is how I can afford to live here.

Interestingly, they don't mention that it's a basement flat, and don't mention that the courtyard's communal. But hey, if you're not going to mention that the courtyard's actually a wheelie bin area, I suppose anything goes.

The important thing though, is that I've identified the local feature which has sent rental prices through the roof. And here it is...

I believe in the resurrection.
Despite being snapped in two back in April, the tree outside my flat has miraculously come back to life! It's like Lazarus, but with documentary evidence. And as you can see, I park right next to the thing, so I'm personally claiming all the credit. It obviously sucked all the nutrients out of the dirt on my car.

Anyhoo, today's Derby day, and I've backed New Approach to win at 13/2 and Doctor Fremantle (10/1) and Kandahar Run (18/1) each-way, so by 4:15 this afternoon I'll either have the money to move downstairs, or I'll be evicted for non-payment of rent.

Friday, June 06, 2008

Fans of wanton violence against dumb animals will no doubt remember that back in December, Big Sis chose to celebrate Christmas by splatting an innocent kangeroo in her American deathmobile. Well the good news is that less than six months on, her insurance company have finally agreed to pay for the damage to her vehicle (we can only hope the kangaroo's life insurance provider paid out as promptly), the garage have got hold of the parts, and this morning Sis took delivery of her newly repaired car.

At which point she drove off to college, entered the car park and ploughed into a post. But apparently for the fifteen minutes it was intact, the craftsmanship on that brand new bumper was a sight to behold.

As it turns out though, Sis isn't the only one driving around the bend on the road to hell. At 10am this morning my pharmacy manager came up to me with a distinct lack of cakes in her possession, and asked if I'd be willing to take the test to become a qualified NHS Transport Driver. It would mean me being able to respond to a medical emergency by abandoning my post, leaping into the pharmacy van and driving off with a load of drugs. All without getting arrested. So if Elton John needs some Viagra at short notice, I'm your man.*

As an enthusiastic employee, I considered the request for a moment, realised I could do with something to put on my CV, and said "Um... ok". Within half an hour, the Chief Pharmacist had agreed to pay for my test, and an hour after that, my manager returned and asked me if I'm superstitious. I said I'm not, touch wood. So she told me my test is next Friday the 13th. I'll probably drive under a ladder, break my wing mirrors and run over a wallaby.

* That's the Elton John Medical Centre, obviously.

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Oooh! Look what's on at the Brighton Centre on Sunday!

It's no picnic.
It's the Brighton Baby Expo 2008! Or a once-in-a-lifetime chance to spend my entire year's overtime pay in one afternoon. I only found out about it half an hour ago, but I'm already more excited than a kid at Christmas. There's a Dads Zone, a Gymboree, a celebrity Nanny (or tethered goat) and a chance to meet both Pushy Mothers and Mumtrepreneurs. They're even doing "4D Ultrasound scans on the day at special rates" (though how special remains to be seen). Not to mention the "Free natural food for little ones at the Little Dish Cafe", which I will be sampling, on the grounds that I'm quite short.

And it's free to get in!

And Sally Gunnell's going to be there!!

Or possibly she'll just be running past with a buggy. Either way it's something I can't afford to miss. Although I've already promised Lisa I'll take her out for a picnic on the South Downs on Sunday afternoon, so it might need a bit of rescheduling.

Mind you, she's currently refusing to come and watch badgers at a secret location with me tomorrow night on the grounds that they're vicious beasts and she might get savaged, so if I cancel the pork pie fest, we'll be even.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

I'm pleased to report that I was up on time this morning. Lisa was so determined to get me out of bed before the clock struck seven that she practically dislocated my foot trying to wake me up. Of course, by the time I'd rubbed my ankle better, hobbled slowly to and from the shower, listened to my answerphone messages, and e-mailed everyone who'd rung to wake me up, I was late for work.

But in better news, I didn't eat any of those fattening bananas today. The pharmacy manager did her bit for staff morale by popping into the bakers on her way to work, so I had a Belgian Bun this morning and an Apple Danish this afternoon. I'm planning to eat my way across Europe via the patisseries of Brighton. It'll be Swiss Roll tomorrow and French Fancies on Friday. My weight might suffer, but on the plus side (or should that be plus size?), Lisa's exact words to me on Monday were "You should replace your bananas with apples", so she's one person who can't complain.

Mind you, there is someone who's trying to stop me eating. This was the scene at the dinner table when I got home...

Dinner's in the cat.
I think it's a lie-down protest. With skills like that, she should get herself down to Starbucks.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

The good thing about oversleeping is that you learn from your mistakes and it never happens again. In theory. After yesterday's debacle, I assured Lisa that I have no plans to change my 8:30am start time at the hospital, and unless I provide her with written instructions to the contrary, countersigned by God himself, then under no circumstances is she to allow me to sleep past 7am.

So imagine my surprise when I slowly came to this morning, groggily opened my eyes, and saw Lisa applying her make-up. I thought "Hmmm... that's odd. I'm usually up and about by the time she does that." So I looked at the clock. It was ten past seven. I enquired (calmly, of course) (although it's hard to remain calm while you're flinging the duvet across the room and fending off a panic attack) why she hadn't woken me up, and she replied:

"I'm meant to wake you at quarter past, aren't I..?

[Two-second pause]

Oh no!"

Either she's trying to take over from Jeremy Beadle, or the baby's affecting her mind. I think I'll put the clocks forward fifteen minutes tonight.

Monday, June 02, 2008

Just one week after posting my latest masterwork on YouTube, the reviews are already starting to pour in. Well, trickle in. Well ok, I've had one comment. But what a comment. It comes courtesy of 1smrtmuffin (or 'One Smart Muffin' if you're no good at texting), a 17-year-old American, who gets straight to the point with these carefully chosen words:

"this is stupid"

It's not clear whether she's referring to Lisa or Augusten Burroughs, but either way it's hard to argue.

In other news, I spent forty-five minutes this morning talking babies with a senior pharmacy technician from the Sussex Eye Hospital. As a result, the ocularly sick of Brighton were late getting their drugs, but I now know where to buy Lisa's maternity clothes.

Apparently the best place to find high quality straight-off-the-catwalk pregnancy haute couture is... Peacocks. Admittedly Lisa once said she wouldn't be seen dead shopping there (though she still prefers it to Lidl), but I have it on good authority that some of their maternity tops are so cheap you can throw them away at the end of the day. With the money I'll save on laundry bills, the clothes are practically free. I just wish I'd known this before I handed over a five-figure sum to Yummy Mummy. (Five figures including the pence, but even so).

To be honest, I was lucky to be present at work for that chat, after oversleeping by more than fifteen minutes this morning. Lisa and I have a highly sophisticated early-morning alarm system which basically involves her listening to Nicky Keig-Shevlin until she feels too tense to sleep, at which point she shakes me awake by the ankles and I leave the room in a huff.

Unfortunately our unborn baby has spent the past couple of weeks forcing acid up Lisa's throat, and the heartburn was so severe last night that Lisa spent the early hours of the morning rolling about in agony and waking me up every five minutes for a bit of sympathy. By 7am I'd become so accustomed to the situation that I interpreted her attempts to wake me as just another bout of indigestion, pointed at the Gaviscon and went back to sleep.

Anyhoo, having eventually opened my eyes long enough to glance at the clock, have a panic attack, and wonder if my boss would notice if I didn't have a shower, I sought Lisa's advice on my recent weight gain, which has been bothering me slightly. She told me to take something healthy into work, I told her I take a banana every day, and she replied with this intriguing pearl of wisdom:

"Bananas are the most fattening fruit".

Isn't that a bit like saying eclairs are the most slimming cream cake?