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Thursday, July 31, 2008

I popped around the corner at lunchtime today with a fiver from the pharmacy tea fund. I'd been officially granted a ten-minute extension to my lunch hour if I agreed to buy us some milk. Drug-dependent patients can wait a few minutes, but frankly if we don't get our tea, the whole NHS could grind to a halt. So I visited the Co-op near my flat. Unfortunately they've recently introduced an admirable scheme to save the planet by refusing to give anyone carrier bags. Which is not the news you want to hear when you're standing at the checkout with twelve pints of semi-skimmed.

As luck would have it however, the chap on the till immediately saw my predicament, and told me that I could have a carrier bag. In exchange for 6p. I thought about it, mentally called him a name, and agreed.

As it turned out though, my 6p didn't just buy me a carrier bag. Oh no. It bought me 'The Co-operative Bag: Designed to Compost Completely in the Garden'. According to the info printed on the side, "This bag turns into compost - just like potato peelings".

Frankly it might as well have been made from potato peelings. If you're wondering how it's possible to make a serviceable carrier bag from materials you can compost in the garden, the answer is it's not. I paid 6p for something which makes a Smart Price food bag look like it's made from industrial strength rubber. It's a bit like the bags you put your apples in at the supermarket, only not as strong. I made it as far as the door of the shop before the handles broke and my milk went all over the floor. It's a good job it's biodegradable, because it's currently lying in shreds on the ground outside the Co-op.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Well, I'm thirty-five, and I have a lot of people to thank.

Something FishyThere's the person who thought a photo of a plastic fish would do instead of a present, the person who sent me a piece of fudge three weeks past its sell-by date, and the person who gave me a bottle of wine ten days after I told them I don't drink.

But there have also been lows. Most notably the fact that both my aunts have stopped sending me money now that I've got a job. Frankly that's no excuse.

On the plus side, I did receive a total of twelve cards, which is not bad going when you consider that I only know about ten people. And eight of them signed the same card. In addition to the wine, my work colleagues gave me a box of chocolates and a £15 George voucher, so they've clearly noticed that I'm fat and I need some new clothes.

Lisa and I celebrated the arrival of middle age (if I live to be three-score years and ten) by eating copious amounts of pizza on the sofa, and I continued the celebrations by having it again today for lunch. And dinner. I knew we shouldn't have ordered so much. I struggled to eat the flapjacks at work.

But on the subject of work, I've now met a total of eleven candidates for the new job, ranging in age from 18 to 57. Which is what happens when you're not allowed to discriminate against children or old people. Two of the expected seventeen cancelled, three didn't turn up, and one phoned six hours after his appointment to say that he had been there on time, but he couldn't find the right building and didn't have enough credit on his mobile to give us a call. We politely refused to see him.

Having been locked in secret talks with my boss for half an hour this afternoon, I actually know which one we're going for, but sadly I'm sworn to secrecy. Mainly because after meeting us all, they'll probably turn us down, and we'll have to phone back the one who got lost.

Monday, July 28, 2008

I dropped a bottle of morphine at work today. Obviously if I'd hurt myself by dropping it on my foot, I could have licked it up and killed two birds with one stone, but unfortunately I missed and it landed on the floor. On the plus side, they only cost 89p, so I still have a job. Frankly I'd have been in bigger financial trouble if I'd knocked over the pharmacy flapjacks. But as I mopped it all up with paper towels and considered sending an e-mail to the government instructing them to raise taxes to pay for the damage, I couldn't help being struck by just how nice it smells. No wonder the stuff's addictive. I haven't been so attracted to an aroma since I started sniffing the pharmacy marker pens.

I'm not sure if it was a result of the ensuing hallucinations, but I turned on the NHS intranet shortly afterwards, and saw this announcement...

New Staff For Sale
Unfortunately, being high on morphine fumes, I read the words "New Staff For Sale" and spent a good five minutes thinking they'd brought back slavery. And as for the Wanted Notice Board, that just sounded like something out of the Wild West.

Anyhoo, tomorrow's my birthday, and to celebrate, my employers are hiring someone new to work for with me. Interest in the role has naturally been overwhelming, and a total of eighteen candidates have been short-listed for interview. One of whom has already pulled out. I expect he Googled the job title and arrived at my blog.

But flash floods permitting, the other seventeen will be paraded before me at half hour intervals over the next two days. I'll be telling them about the job, marking them out of ten and choosing my favourite. I haven't been asked to, but I'm sure no one will mind. The successful candidate will be informed on Thursday, then it's just down to the HR department to sort out the paperwork, put them on the payroll, and give them a starting date. So I'll expect them around October.

In the meantime, I've just finished creating a web-page about Cary Grant. There's a sentence I never thought I'd write.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Who needs a big family to have a good time...

The vertical stripes would be quite slimming if those buttons weren't about to pop.
I don't know if she's doing a crocodile impression or just trying to slap my Mum, but either way I think we've got a Shirley Temple tribute act on our hands. Somebody get my agent on the phone.

Anyhoo, numbers might have been down this year, but my birthday meal was still a roaring success. If you ignore the dead fly in the garlic bread and the £70 parking ticket. The important thing though, is that I had a good time. I also had cake...

I CAN have my cake and eat it.That's my Mum ironically pointing out that I haven't phoned her since I got a job.

As for presents, I got some CDs, a pack of three sleep-suits which are clearly too small for me, and a memory card for my camera. So I can take a lot more photos of Lisa now. It'll be her stretch marks next. Amongst the CDs, I was most pleased with the album 'Lemon Parade' by Tonic, featuring (as I'm sure anyone reading this will remember), Jeff Russo. Unfortunately, despite buying the album for me, my Mum claimed she'd never heard of him. The evidence would suggest otherwise.

So having opened my presents and explained to everyone who Jeff Russo is, we headed down to Prezzo at the marina for my birthday meal. It started well when my niece found a dead fly in the cheese on top of her garlic bread, but fortunately they didn't make us pay extra. They didn't knock anything off the bill either, but they did agree to give us another one, minus the insect accompaniment, all at no extra cost. Fortunately the rest of the meal was very nice, although we did have to keep stopping to answer the three waitresses who insisted on asking us if everything was ok about once a minute. They obviously knew something we didn't, and were just waiting for us to find the dead rat in the pasta.

Anyhoo, it was a thoroughly enjoyable occasion. By the end of it, Lisa had excruciating backache from sitting in one place for an hour and a half, and my niece had managed to lose the stylus from her Nintendo DS, but my Mum and I were both happy. Until we got back to my flat and discovered that she'd forgotten to display a visitor's permit in her car. But still, amongst the agonising pain, lost property, and seventy pound parking fine, I had quite a good day. Roll on thirty-six.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

I think the most worrying symptom of Lisa's pregnancy so far is that her belly button now looks like an angry monkey...

Going Ape
I think it's Dr. Zaius from Planet of the Apes. And I don't like the way he's looking at me. It reminds me of the face on Mars...

Mars Bar
Which is ironic because Lisa's stomach is now the size of a planet.

Sadly however, it looks like I could be the only member of my family poking Martian craters with my finger on a daily basis, because the results are in from the European Space Agency and, inexplicably, Big Sis hasn't made it through to the next round of selection. Obviously having a personal letter of recommendation from the Pentagon, and a USAF Colonel willing to testify on her behalf, counts for nothing these days. If only she was German.

As for me, it's been a busy few days at work and I'm as tired as a sloth with M.E., but the good news is IT'S MY BIRTHDAY WEEKEND! I'll only be 34 for another three days, so to celebrate the fact that I'll be hitting forty before my child starts school, my entire family are coming down to Brighton for the day to take me out for a meal. Well I say my entire family. My Dad's busy entertaining Essex with a magic show, so he can't make it. But my brother's coming down with his wife and daughter. Or he was until an hour ago. Unfortunately he's now doubled up in pain with some hideous infection, and can't leave the house. Which is a shame, because I haven't seen him for seven months. Frankly I meet up with Big Sis more often, and she lives in Australia.

My sister-in-law's refusing to leave her husband's side, so as things stand right now, it's down to my Mum and niece. They're still trying to think of an excuse. I just need Lisa to come down with a bit of morning sickness, and I'll have the restaurant to myself.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

It's always good to put a face to a name. So if you've ever struggled to picture the street-drinking, jacket-stealing, quiz-night-cheating gay primary school teacher who wears a dressing gown cord instead of a belt and bakes cannabis cakes for his colleagues, then struggle no more. He was in yesterday's Argus...

And he's not the one with the beak.
He's the one in the football shirt.

In reality he hates football, but he's obviously prepared to put aside his principles for a chance to get in the local paper. In fact, this is the second time he's appeared in the Argus. The first was when they decided to illustrate Gay Pride with a front-page picture of his face. Sadly I don't have a copy of that.

Anyhoo, to answer all the people (well, person) clamouring for news on Lisa's health, I can exclusively reveal that she's still alive. After two days on sick-leave, during which she self-medicated by forcing her mother to fetch her sausage rolls from the bakers around the corner, she found herself in tip-top condition and was able to return to work this morning. Meaning she now has excruciating backache from sitting at her desk.

But the good news is she won't have to put up with these symptoms for as long as we thought. She went for her monthly check-up with the midwife today, and after taking all sorts of measurements, they've moved Lisa's due-date forward to September 29th. Apparently no baby this size could cling on until October without snapping Lisa's pelvis like a wishbone.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Hair & NowI knew I could do it. Just ten months after raising £156.21 for prostate cancer research by walking around in public looking like this, the Journal of Clinical Oncology has finally announced the big news: I've successfully cured cancer. Apparently it's "the most significant advance in the field for 70 years", which is pretty much what people said about my moustache. Naturally I can't take all the credit, but I like to think that without my hundred and fifty quid to fund a bit of overtime, those scientists wouldn't have been able to stay late at the lab and make that crucial breakthrough.

I'd like to take part in Tacheback again this September, but sadly Lisa won't let me. One month of living with the lovechild of Saddam Hussein and a Mexican bandit was enough to last her a lifetime, and she's worried the baby might come early and be traumatised by the sight of me. So today's news is perfect timing. They can clearly do without me this year.

But in other groundbreaking medical news, here's the latest announcement from the All Staff Info-Mail at work:

Television Show

Cheetah Television are making a new primetime discussion series for Channel 4. If you fancy joining the debate on the ins and outs of modern sexual issues then you could be part of the discussion audience. Filming will take place during the day on 19, 20 and 21 August, at a central London location to be confirmed.

I'm not sure 'ins and outs' is the best phrase to have used.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Ok, I was wrong. Having watched Lisa throw up into a bucket for most of yesterday evening, I think maybe she does feel more queasy than I do. We're not sure if it's pregnancy-related or just some kind of stomach bug, but according to the weekly Mothercare e-mail I signed up to, Lisa should now be spending as much time as possible on all fours. It's supposed to encourage the baby out of a breech position and into the perfect posture for birth. So the fact that Lisa's currently bent over the toilet on her hands and knees is actually a good thing.

On the downside, I'm naturally concerned that if Lisa can't keep down her regular diet of Frazzles, Wotsits and Starburst, then the baby might not be getting her full complement of E-numbers, and could be born with some kind of deficiency. So in an effort to help, I spent half an hour last night leafing through the 'What to Expect When You're Expecting' book, looking for advice on vomit. Unfortunately I'm easily distracted, so having flicked past the bit on morning sickness, I ended up reading the chapter entitled 'Making Love During Pregnancy'.

Apparently there are a number of problems one might expect to face, of which this is just one:

Womb With a View
I'm sorry, but if you're convinced the foetus can see what you're up to, and worried he might bring it up at the dinner table in later life, you really shouldn't be allowed to have children. And besides, everyone knows the only real danger of sex in the third trimester is getting bitten by the baby.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Sometimes I wish I worked in a charity shop. You get to meet so many interesting people. I was in the Mind shop in St James's Street about half an hour ago, and the bloke behind the counter was having the most fascinating conversation with one of his customers. Well I say conversation. It was more of a one-way thing. But when someone's this interesting, you don't want to get a word in edgeways. I ended up pretending to look at the ladies clothes, just so I could keep listening.

Anyway, I probably ought to be keeping this confidential, but it turns out that this particular customer, who shall remain nameless, but who looked a bit like Christopher Lloyd in 'Back to the Future', used to work as a nuclear scientist at Sellafield. Apparently, and he saw this with his own eyes, there was a fire there a few years ago in one of the nuclear reactors (don't get it confused with the Windscale Fire - this one was all hushed up), as a result of which a toxic cloud wafted over Cumbria, settled on the ground, and infected all the grass.

The local sheep then ate that grass, and the result was the 2001 foot-and-mouth crisis. The reason the government opted for mass slaughter instead of vaccination was apparently to wipe out all the evidence. I'm not sure what the scientific basis is for foot-and-mouth being caused by radioactive gases, but frankly I don't care - to me it all makes sense.

But it doesn't stop there. As luck would have it, our whistle-blower isn't just a nuclear scientist. Oh no. He's also a distant cousin of the Queen. Apparently he can trace his ancestors back to the House of Lancaster, and is practically royalty. So eighteen months ago he wrote the Queen a letter, detailing his blood line, announcing that he's family, and telling the woman that Her Majesty's government is guilty of a major cover-up, and is poisoning the population with plutonium.

A year and a half later, she still hasn't replied. Which apparently can mean only one thing:

She's in on it too.

I'd have found out more, but I needed to pop into Somerfield for some tomatoes, so I left at that point. But the good news is that the chap said he's planning to publish a website with more details, publicly naming the Queen as ring-leader of the radioactive foot-and-mouth plot. Which is no way to treat family. I just hope I haven't stolen his thunder.

Anyhoo, having bought Lisa's veg, I headed back up St James's Street, and who should I bump into outside The Bulldog (it's a gay pub - I wasn't stopping), but musical legends Right Said Fred! I've always considered Deeply Dippy to be a criminally underrated piece of art, so I was naturally quite excited. And having seen them up close, I can confirm that Richard Fairbrass really is too sexy for his shirt. If you like that sort of thing.

Ordinarily I'd have chucked my camera at Lisa and headed straight in for a photo (I didn't think twice last week with Robin Cousins), but sadly I was alone this time. And I wouldn't trust a stranger not to run off with my camera. The baby's been kicking Lisa around like a football for the past twenty-four hours, so she's currently attached to a bucket in the bedroom (Lisa, not the baby) and unable to leave the flat. I've tried to be sympathetic, but every time Lisa pulls up her top, she looks like John Hurt in 'Alien', and frankly I feel more queasy than she does.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

The Argus have revamped their website over the past three days. The aim, according to this report, was to provide readers with "clearer navigation and loads more content", although the main difference I've noticed is that they've deleted all my articles. Or maybe I just can't find them. It's a bit of an outrage - if blogs were scrapped just for being dormant, I wouldn't have any links in my sidebar. And what about all the people searching Google for RSPCA Open Day Simon Cowell? They won't be able to read me slagging off Nicky Keig-Shevlin.

So far the Argus have had sixty comments on the new layout, about fifty of which are demanding the return of my writing. Well, they're demanding the return of the old website, but it amounts to the same thing. As one reader puts it, "It's worse than a night out in Portslade". Speaking as someone who's spent a night out in Portslade, I think that's a bit harsh.

Anyhoo, I don't have those thirty masterpieces on my own website, but the good news is I do have them saved on my computer. The bad news is it's the computer which broke down three weeks ago, and they're all on a slow boat to a Chinese landfill site. As luck would have it, I did back them up on CD, but as laziness would have it, I didn't get around to doing the last five. Fortunately I have them printed out though, so it's just a matter of typing out a few thousand words and creating thirty new pages on my website. It shouldn't take long.

On the subject of spare time, and the lack thereof, I've agreed to go into work this morning. Which explains why I'm blogging at dawn. It seemed like the least I could do, because frankly I did no work at all yesterday afternoon. Although I did manage to eat a Crunchie, a Flake, and two Cadbury's Caramels. The pharmacy manager really needs to stop going down the shops. We'll all be too fat to move.

I actually spent the afternoon driving around the Sussex countryside in the pharmacy van, chatting to my manager about Lisa, and telling him the story of how we met. I stalled the van twice, and nearly mowed someone down on a zebra crossing, but I don't think he noticed. We visited the Royal Sussex County Hospital, the Sussex Eye Hospital, Hove Polyclinic, the Princess Royal in Haywards Heath, and the Sussex Beacon. Thank God I wasn't paying for the petrol. I'm not saying we took the scenic route, but I can confirm that the view across the South Downs from the top of Ditchling Beacon is quite spectacular.

Anyhoo, I need to leave for work. I might not have a lot of free time this weekend, but fortunately I get a lot of help with the housework...

Ironing out a few problems.
It gives a whole new meaning to the phrase 'flat out'.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Lisa's bought me a new super-duper camera for my birthday. I wanted it mainly to take pictures of the baby, but knowing what I'm like with photos, Lisa's already expressed concern that our child may grow up with permanent retinal damage from having a flash go off in her eyes a hundred times a day. So she's given it to me early, in the hope that I might find some other subjects to occupy me.

And I have. I took this photo at lunchtime today. It's of Hereford Court, a block of flats just along the road from me...

Hereford Court
Note the composition, the contrast between foreground and background, the focus of... oh, hang on... what's that white thing on the thirteenth floor...?

Beware All Women
Hmm... is that what I think it is..?

Fortunately I'm at the cutting edge of technology here. My new camera's got a 5x optical zoom...

I'm not sure what the hyphen's for.
...yes! It's a pervert warning on a bedsheet! I never saw that kind of thing in Shotley Gate. But then I didn't have a decent camera in those days. Still, it shows the advantage of living in a tower block - you can spot degenerates over a wide area. That's why the Nazis built watchtowers.

Anyway, one pervert in the neighbourhood could be considered unlucky, but to have two in one street is just plain greedy. And Warwick Mount is so small, most Brighton maps don't even show it. But if you want to know where to take your flaming torches and vats of tar, it's off Montague Street. You won't need any feathers - there are plenty of seagulls around.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Breaking news from today's All Staff Info-Mail...

Go Stir Crazy at Wokmania!
Staff Discounts

Wokmania, West Street, Brighton is offering a 25% discount on food and drink to staff with their ID Badge from Sunday - Thursday.

Up the Apples and Pears.

10% discount to all BSUH staff for weight loss and fitness retreat weeks in Dorset.

See Apples and Pears Retreat for further details.

Mmm... five days in a Chinese restaurant followed by a week at fat camp. That's my summer sorted. I wonder if Apples & Pears have wheelchair access..?

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

I went back to the dentist today to have my old filling redone. When I was there last week, he gave me the impression that it was only a small job, so I confidently booked it for first thing this morning, and told my colleagues I'd be a little late for work.

I'm not saying I was misled, but frankly Time Team have done smaller excavations. At one point he had half a Meccano set in my mouth, and I thought the drill was about to come out of my ear. It was like Journey to the Centre of the Earth, but with more danger.

I don't know how much anaesthetic he gave me, but it didn't wear off until 4pm. I spent the entire morning looking like a stroke victim, and talking like the less coherent brother of John Merrick. I had to ask my supervisor to phone one of the drug companies for me in case they couldn't understand a word I said. And as for trying to drink a cup of tea, it was a choice between using a straw or lapping it like a dog. Worst of all, I couldn't even attempt a freshly baked flapjack until three-thirty. It was a complete nightmare.

But in other, less painful, news, Big Sis has e-mailed to let me know that she's being featured on national TV in Australia. Or rather her flat is. Having tired of wiping out the local kangaroo population, Sis is now planning to avenge the death of Steve Irwin by inflicting her presence on the Great Barrier Reef. So by the end of the week she'll either be lost at sea, or have accidentally shot something with a harpoon. But in the meantime she's been busy studying for her final exams. Or at least she was, until this lot turned up outside her apartment...

It could be you...
Apparently three giant movie-set trucks arrived the other night, complete with lights, cameras, film crew and, most importantly, caterers, to film a promo for the Australian lottery. Bearing in mind that Sis lives next door to the kind of people who'll happily evict you for having a birthday, it's a miracle there wasn't some kind of riot. As Sis said herself, "I'm surprised my neighbours aren't all out there fighting them away with sticks".

Anyway, Sis claims the point of the advert is to show people where they could be living if they hit the jackpot.

Either that or the slums they could be leaving behind.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Never mind Simon Cowell, it's me with Robin Cousins!

Kissing Cousins
I thought I was skating on thin ice by asking him for a photo, but he didn't seem to mind. I regret not bothering to shave though.

As bizarre as it may sound, Robin Cousins wasn't actually an official part of yesterday's RSPCA Open Day - we just happened to see him looking around the stalls. He obviously has a lot of time on his hands since the last series of Dancing on Ice finished. To be honest it was Lisa who recognised him. I just took her word for it and went straight in for a photo. He seemed like a nice guy anyway, and even shook my hand. Mainly because I refused to let him leave until he did.

To be honest though, it was all downhill from there in the celebrity-spotting stakes. Simon Cowell failed to show, and Nicky Keig-Shevlin (who can pass for a celebrity if you're desperate) didn't seem to be there either. We did bump into Lisa's sister though. Here she is in the sunglasses, with her three lovely children and an elderly relative wrapped in a travel rug...

Red is definitely IN this season.
Hang on a moment... that's no decrepit old lady in a blanket... that's Lisa!

Yes indeed, last year we suffered from sunburn, dehydration and heatstroke; this year it was so cold that Lisa insisted on walking about with my picnic blanket wrapped around her shoulders. She looked like a pensioner with Alzheimers. I only took the thing with us to sit on - I didn't realise she was planning to extend her wardrobe with my lunch accessories. And before you ask, yes, she was wearing it when she took my photo with Robin Cousins. I didn't know where to look. I had to tell him I was her carer. And as for the maternity top she's wearing, that cost me fifty-five quid from Yummy Mummy. It's a shame you can't see it.

Anyhoo, I'm sad to report that the organisers didn't heed my advice from last year, and still felt that people would happily enter a raffle to win a bottle of Head & Shoulders. Admittedly I didn't see anyone trying to flog out-of-date TV guides this year, but we didn't get there until lunchtime, so they might have all been sold.

But amidst the endless bric-a-crap, I did find one charity worth investing in. I was approached by a cute ten-year-old girl with the gift of the gab and the confidence of a reality TV star, who gave me the hard sell and managed to convince me to hand over a pound to enter her tombola. And who was she raising money for? The National Autistic Society. I thought blimey, if those are the kind of the results they get, I'm buying two raffle tickets.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

I walked around the corner to the local charity shop yesterday afternoon, and passed this letterbox in College Place...

Dear Lazy Gits, Love Silly Little Man. xxx
This must be the Kemp Town community spirit I keep reading about. I presume the first note is from the Lazy Gits, and the second from the Silly Little Man, but I could be wrong. Still, it's nice to know they're working through their problems. Communication is so important.

And talking of communication, I took the ESA English Test yesterday afternoon, and I done good...

100% good.
Yes, I can officially speak the language well enough to chat to aliens. Lisa only managed 96.9%, but that's because she thinks doves are members of the falcon family. Bird knowledge is a basic requirement of space travel, so frankly Lisa's going nowhere. As for the memory test, she claims she'd have done a lot better if my cat hadn't repeatedly dawdled past the computer screen while she was trying to enter her answers. Personally I have my doubts. Two hours after getting her results, she said to me "What did I get in the memory test? I can't remember". I don't even think she was joking.

Anyhoo, it's only twelve weeks until Lisa's waters break, so I decided to spend yesterday trying to fit our Rock-a-Tot car seat into the back of my Skoda. It was given to us (the car seat, not the Skoda) by Lisa's sister, who assured us that it hadn't been in a crash, and that with a bit of luck the vomit stains would probably wash out. She was right. So having put the cover through the washing machine, and the rest of it through a shower in the bath, I was ready to strap it into the car.

Unfortunately, being a baby product, it was naturally so complex that even an ESA astronaut would struggle to work it out. Which is where the internet proves so handy. I was able to download the 17-page manual from the manufacturer's website. Whereupon I found that you have to adjust it all to fit your baby before you can fit it into your car. So that's another job for my October to-do list.

StereophonicsIn the meantime I decided to head off to Argos to buy a new stereo. I attempted to fix mine on Friday night, as a result of which it now doesn't work at all. Putting a complicated piece of electrical equipment back together isn't as easy as you might think. Especially when you lose half the screws. So having already spent eight hundred quid on a new computer, I handed over another £120 for the item on the right. We then popped next door to Asda, where we bought a pack of six babygros for £4, two bibs for £2 and two luxury sleepsuits featuring giraffes and zebras (I wish they did them in my size) for just £4. Frankly the baby's a lot cheaper to run than I am.

But the credit crunch aside, today's an exciting day, because Lisa and I are off to mix with some of the biggest names in showbusiness. And that can mean only one thing: it's the RSPCA Open Day at Patcham.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

I know what you're thinking. You're thinking "Hey Phil, shouldn't you be putting on your stab-proof vest and heading off to Mouslecoomb right about now?". If you're not thinking that, then you probably don't remember this post from February.

Anyhoo, the good news is that we don't have to spend the evening in a rough neighbourhood, watching drunken punch-ups in a run-down leisure centre, because the wedding's off. Apparently the happy couple have "a lot of things to discuss". As Lisa's aunt said to us last night from her hospital bed, "thank God I hadn't bought them a present".

Our sick-visiting yesterday evening went ok. If you like that sort of thing. I think Lisa's exact description was "soul-destroying". Her aunt seems to be on the mend, but spending half an hour in a geriatric ward isn't the most life-affirming experience you can have on a Friday night. Even Lisa's aunt, who's in her late seventies, complained about being stuck with all the old people. As for Lisa, one brief experience of a hospital ward was quite enough - she's now insisting we pay £100 a night for a private birthing room in October.

In other news, Big Sis has just sent me a link to the European Space Agency's Psychological Tests. Well, a sample of them anyway. I think they're one of the main tasks that should be performed by an astronaut. But that's just my opinion. Anyway, I've just had a go at the memory one, so I thought I'd post my results here before I forget them...

... which I think is good enough for an A-Star at GCSE. I missed two, but that'll teach me not to carry out advanced psychological tests while I'm watching the repeat of Big Brother.

Friday, July 11, 2008

And the winner is...I'd like to thank my Mum, my Dad, my accountant, my publicist and, of course, Lisa. To stand before you now as Britain's leading drugs kingpin is both a thrill and an honour.

Well ok, I haven't actually won anything, but I have been sent an entry form. The closing date is 31st January 2009, so I'm just six months away from getting my hands on an engraved glass decanter. I can't wait. I need something to catch the drips from my leaky boiler.

Anyhoo, it's been a busy three days at work. I've been given a pet Slovakian to train up into a successful Mini-Me, and frankly I'm knackered. But give it another week and I'll have my feet up on the desk while he does all the work. So far I've just taught him the essentials - where the kitchen is, and how I like my tea. I'll be moving on to cake-slicing on Monday.

As it happens though, I have no time for work chat now. Lisa's elderly aunt was taken into hospital yesterday with some kind of infection, so we're off to visit her. She's in Egremont Ward, which is a bit of a concern. I packed their drugs for them this week, so if she's run out of medicine, it'll all be my fault.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

I'm the best conflict-resolver in the business...

Don't argue with me on this one.
... and I'll deck anyone who says otherwise.

It's almost four months since I spent seven hours in Haywards Heath learning how to avoid being knifed, and I'm pleased to say that as of 3pm this afternoon I've finally got my certificate. Who says the NHS moves slowly.

18 WeeksIt's actually quite appropriate, because the Chief Executive's always banging on about 18 weeks.

On the downside, my certificate's dated five days before I took the course, which is not ideal. I rang Alan Pearson to complain, but the conversation quickly degenerated into an argument, and having traded insults and threatened each other with violence, I ended up slamming the phone down.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

I went to the dentist yesterday for a check-up. He told me that one of my old fillings needs redoing, and there's a possibility that I may have to have another wisdom tooth removed. He relieved me of one last June, after which I walked down the road in a stupor and bought a banjolele. I'm still not entirely sure why. Anyway, this next extraction will apparently be "exactly the same" (so I'll have to get another guitar stand), but with the added option of him doing it without anaesthetic.

Apparently the government have written to my dentist and suggested that to save the NHS money, he should give everyone the option of having their teeth removed without anaesthetic. That's what I call patient choice. Unfortunately, since offering the agony option, he hasn't yet found a single person willing to try it. And I wasn't about to be the first. It's no wonder the NHS is strapped for cash.

Personally though, I feel the magazines in the waiting room are a good substitute. They certainly dulled my senses.

I wonder why she called him Bluey..?I ended up reading the March issue of Pick Me Up, which brought me down, thanks to their 'Photo Psychic' section, in which Mystic Mary claims to be able to sense your destiny just by looking at your photo. My favourite letter was the one on the left.

It's reassuring to know that we live in a world populated by people who are willing to write in to a magazine in the hope of getting in touch with a dead budgie. And yes, you read that right: the budgie sends his love.

Anyhoo, psychic teeth aside, yesterday was an interesting day. In addition to baby supplies, I needed to get some more visitor parking permits from the council. They're a pound each, and allow a non-resident to park outside my flat for one day. The council will sell you a maximum of fifty per year, so you can only have one visitor a week. It's like being in prison.

Unfortunately, it turned out that for reasons unknown, the council parking office in Brighton isn't selling them at the moment, so I had to drive over to Hove Town Hall, where I queued up, handed the man my proof of residency, filled in a form, and... was told I'd bought fifty on July 10th last year, and can't have any more until Thursday. If only I'd read my own blog. It's down there in black and white.

But on the plus side, when I got home I looked on the council website to see if you can order them by post, and it turns out you can. Unfortunately I also discovered that as of April 1st this year (so it's probably some kind of joke), the price has doubled, and they now cost £2 each. Frankly my visitors can pay & display from now on.

Baby Not IncludedBut amidst all of that, Lisa and I have ordered one of these. I'm not sure if the baby comes with it. It's a special towel which not only dries her after bathtime, but also allows you to tie her up so she can't escape. I'm thinking of getting one for Lisa.

As it turned out, our trip to Mothercare yesterday afternoon was a complete waste of time. The Brighton branch is half the size of the Crawley one, and all the items we'd seen on Saturday and subsequently decided to buy, were nowhere to be seen. After ten minutes of fruitless searching we decided to go home and order everything from the website instead. And when I say everything, I mean everything. If you hear a mighty rumble coming from the south coast this week, it's the juggernaut delivering our baby stuff.

Monday, July 07, 2008

You've heard the heartbeat, you've seen the photos, now watch the video. She starts by sticking her tongue out, but try to ignore that...

I apologise for the poor contrast levels, but frankly it's a miracle I've got the clip at all. It turns out that the version of Windows Movie Maker which came with my version of Windows Vista, doesn't work with Windows Vista. I was surprised at first, but then I thought "Hey, nothing else works with Vista, so why should this?". I felt better after that.

Anyway, it turned out to be something to do with codecs. Which I think is a headache tablet. The good news is that after an hour of frustration (during which I could have done with a couple of codec tablets), I finally found the solution. And here it is. Judging by the dozens of grateful comments on that post, I wasn't exactly alone in the problem. So anyone with a green bar in their published videos should follow that link.

Anyhoo, I'm off work today and tomorrow to give me a bit of time to look through the baby names book. Lisa's already gone through it and narrowed the choice down to thirty. I'll be crossing most of those out later. Then we're off to Mothercare to buy a new buggy. Yes, I know, we've already got one, but after a lot of thought, we've decided it might be better to get one that we can actually fit in the house, and which Lisa can push without the aid of a Charles Atlas body-building course. We can put Lorraine's one on Ebay.

As for yesterday, I had a very productive day. I made a list of Important Tasks, and by 7pm last night I'd transformed the entire flat. Lisa said it was like the Changing Rooms team had been round. We now have room for a Moses basket, cot, buggy, nappies, clothes and rock-a-tot car seat. An actual baby might be a squeeze, but you can't have everything. I even managed to complete the important task which Lisa added on to my list: "Install Taipei". Yes indeed, my PC has a 4GB memory and the latest 3D video card, but all Lisa wants to play is a free Mahjong game from 2003. And what's more it works with Windows Vista. There's no justice in this world.

Sunday, July 06, 2008


Don't tell anyone, but... it's a girl!

Blowing her own trumpet.And she's already learning to play the flute like her Auntie.

Lisa was 27 weeks pregnant yesterday (to be honest, she still is today) and with this week being the 60th birthday of the NHS, what better way to celebrate than by going private for a 4D baby scan. It's like a regular scan, but in four dimensions. The fourth being money.

We chose Peekaboo in Crawley because their prices seemed slightly less exhorbitant than most, and having seen the people who operate Brighton's only 4D scanner at last month's Baby Expo, we decided we didn't want to pay more than two hundred pounds to be scanned by a girl who spends all her time yawning, pouting and checking her nails.

So we went to Crawley instead. And it turned out to be an excellent decision. Crawley is nowhere near as creepy as you might think,Wind-up Marchant and Paul Marchant, the guy behind Peekaboo, spent eighteen years working for the same NHS trust as me, so we're practically colleagues. Though he wouldn't give me a discount. He did seem to know exactly what he was doing though, and he even made us a cup of tea.

Joining us for this jaunt into the fourth dimension was my mother. We needed to exchange cars again, and meeting in Crawley seemed a better option than her driving into Brighton on a summer Saturday, so we invited her along. She delivered my car back to me fully serviced and cleaned, with a brand new windscreen and a full tank of petrol. I handed her car back vandalised. I'd walked out of my flat yesterday morning to find that someone had ripped off one of the wing mirrors and left it dangling by the kerbside. You've got to admire strength like that.

Anyhoo (sorry Kristy), having parked in different car parks so that my Mum wouldn't spot the damage, we successfully rendezvoused outside McDonalds in Crawley town centre, and made our way to Peekaboo. The scan lasted about forty-five minutes and was completely marvellous. Frankly it's the best £150 (plus VAT) I've ever spent. We got photos, a CD of still images, and a DVD of the whole scan, plus a photo frame, and the best news of all: "it's 100% girl".

It's a girl!
Lisa was very keen to have a girl, and I've always felt that if you're going to raise a child to be a millionaire sports star who can make you rich within twenty years, then women's tennis is the field to go for. It's so much less competitive than the men's game.

So we left Peekaboo happy, and headed straight to Mothercare to look at Moses baskets. We then waved goodbye to my mother... only to wave hello again twenty minutes later when she found I'd left my glasses in her car. After lunch, during which Lisa prepared me for having a baby by spilling chocolate ice cream all down her front, we headed straight back to Brighton to spread the good news.

First stop was Lisa's sister, who not only had to see the photos, but was also forced to sit through the DVD. As Nephew Number Two said, "This is so boring". Mind you, he also said our daughter looked like a piggy, so frankly he was lucky not to have been sent out of the room. The news that we're having a girl was greeted with much excitement by Lisa's sister, and a huge sigh of disappointment from her three nephews, all of whom were rooting for a boy. I'm hoping for a better reaction from my niece.

We left Portslade with a car seat and a cot (I do love a good freebie), and drove over to Lisa's aunt and uncle, who were having an afternoon nap and refused to get out of bed, despite Lisa ringing the doorbell twice. So instead we had to make do with her mother. Only twenty-four hours earlier, Lisa's Mum had told her that it's definitely a boy, and "I can't see you with a girl at all", so she was pleased. She even liked the background music on the DVD.

As for my family, they got the news by text message and e-mail. My brother hasn't responded (he always takes a good week to mull over a text message), but Big Sis got straight back to me with these words:

"Excellent! I have someone else I can be a role model for".

So give it a few years and we'll have a daughter who hides from bears, kills kangeroos, and wants to fly to Mars.

Thursday, July 03, 2008

We had a delivery at work yesterday of two pallets, holding ninety-six boxes, each containing ten one-litre bottles of potassium chloride solution. That's enough to keep America's death row in business for the next decade. Although I think they use a slightly higher strength than we do.

Having watched the two blokes in the massive truck unload them with a little forklift thingy and wheel them to the far end of the fluid store, I waved goodbye to the men and went to check the delivery. At which point I discovered that although it was addressed to us, it was actually for the hospital down the road.

A quick phone call later, and you'd think the men in the articulated lorry would have been straight back, picking up their bottles, and driving them down the road. But no. Instead, the manufacturers decided it would make far more sense to send a bloke round this morning. In a transit van. With no tailgate. Or forklift. They also decided not to tell him what he was picking up. Probably because he'd have refused to come.

So at 10am this morning, I found myself standing in front of 960 bottles of liquid, with a man who thought he'd come to pick up a cardboard box. Unfortunately his employers refused his plea for help via mobile phone, and told him to get on with it. Officially I wasn't supposed to help, on the grounds that it was their mistake and I have my own work to get on with, but on a human level, it's hard to ignore a man who's about to make nintey-six trips up and down a small flight of stairs and to the far end of a warehouse and back.

So we did 480 bottles each. It was like a full body workout with cardiovascular endurance training. Honestly, if it wasn't for the home-made cakes, cookies, brownies and flapjacks that people bring in for me on a daily basis, this job would be making me thin.

As it turned out though, it was all quite enjoyable (in a Good Samaritan kind of way) because I got to hear about some of the chap's other deliveries. Apparently he once had to collect what his work schedule described as a 'live animal' and take it to a pet shop. He was expecting a hamster. It turned out to be a boa constrictor in a sack.

Interestingly he also mentioned that he'd once transported a box of live bees. Which could explain this story from Monday...

Leave it bee.
Personally I want to know who counted them all.

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Breaking news from this morning's 'All Staff Info-Mail'...

"Prize For New Name of Ward
The ward formerly known as Peel and Stewart will soon be totally refurbished in order for it to be used as a decant facility to allow us to undertake much needed maintenance on many wards across the site. These two wards will have new identities as part of this work and the Emergency Division are running a competition to rename the wards. A prize of £100 will be awarded to the member of staff with the best suggestion."

With a hundred pounds of public money up for grabs, I owe it to the British tax-payer to put some serious thought into this.

I might go for Blood and Guts. Or Death and Glory. Although if they want to name the wards after legendary healthcare professionals, they really ought to go for Dale and Jacques.

Anyhoo, I've got four weeks to come up with a winning idea, so any suggestions will be gratefully received. You won't get a share of the prize money, or indeed any credit whatsoever, but the knowledge that Brighton's sick people are lying there worrying about MRSA in a ward that you named, should be reward enough. Although personally I want my picture in the Argus too.

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

I have some interesting conversations at work. The Head of Purchasing came up to me this morning, smiled in a friendly fashion, and said "Do you have a wee?". I wasn't quite sure how to respond to that, so I took the easy way out and said "Pardon?". Sadly he wasn't put off. This time he expanded the issue by adding "Do you have a wee at home?".

I felt slightly uneasy, but decided he must be doing some kind of risk assessment on employees' toilet habits, and wanted to know how often I might be using the facilities. At the same time though, I wasn't sure I wanted to get into a conversation about the strength of my bladder and the amount of tea I drink. So I smiled politely and said "Um...".

He immediately moved a little closer, smiled conspiratorially, and said "A wee. Do you have one?". Naturally I panicked, thought he was about to invite me into the gents for something improper, and considered handing in my notice.

Fortunately, before I could run screaming towards the tranquiliser aisle, he started telling me about a golf game he'd been playing all weekend. At which point I realised he was talking about the Nintendo Wii. They really need to change the name of that console. I was on the verge of reporting him for indecent behaviour.

But in other news, today is the two-year anniversary of my move to Brighton. Which is odd, as I look at least ten years older. It's been an interesting twenty-four months, with more than a few surprises. I've celebrated the occasion by spending the evening trying to sort out a problem with my PC's soundcard, caused by installing an update for Windows Vista. I didn't see that coming two years ago.