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Sunday, November 30, 2008

You know you're having a bad day when you dress up in a leopard outfit, complete with ears and tail, and you're still not the most convincing cat in the picture...

I'm never far from a kitchen.
Let's face it though, their baby might have more realistic fur, but ours can roar louder.

Anyhoo, when my colleague (he's the one on the left) gave me directions to his flat earlier in the week, he uttered the immortal words "You can't miss it". That was the moment I knew we'd never find the place. But the good thing about standing outside the wrong flat, ringing the wrong doorbell for five minutes and getting no response, is that you start to think there's a very real chance that Jeremy Beadle's back from the dead. Which is enough to lift anyone's spirits.

As it transpired, I'd got the right number flat in the right number building. I just happened to be in the wrong road. Fortunately my friends had the good sense to be looking out for someone wandering aimlessly in the wrong direction, and using an advanced navigation system which basically involved shouting, they managed to direct me to their flat.

And I'm glad they did, because it was actually very nice. They'd kitted out the place in leopard print, twinkly lights and brightly coloured knick-knacks just for Amelie. Or maybe it's always like that. Either way, she matched the sofa so well that she all but disappeared, and we almost went home with a cushion.

Have my cake and eat it.Personally I knew I was going to have a good afternoon the moment I walked through the door and detected the smell of home baking. I've already experienced the joys of Hungarian strudel, but yesterday I branched out into the world of Hungarian apple cake. Frankly I don't know why the country's called Hungary. They must be stuffing themselves 24/7. Being too polite to say no, I helped myself to three slices, and sent telepathic messages ordering them to wrap the rest in foil and let me take it home. Fortunately those messages were received, so I was up to five slices by the end of the day.

Anyhoo, we spent an enjoyable three hours chatting about life, art, culture, and cats that steal underwear. We also discovered that Amelie doesn't like Nat King Cole, and having listened to her trying to sing a duet for five minutes, Lisa had to take her into the bedroom for a feed. She seemed to be gone for ages, but let's face it, it takes a long time to rifle through someone's drawers, unearth all their valuables, and stuff them into your bag. I'm surprised she was back as soon as she was. Maybe they had nothing worth stealing.

In Lisa's absence, our hosts mentioned that they'd read my blog post about my colleague's first day at work, which is not the kind of news you want to hear when you can't remember what you wrote. I thought they were going to beat me up while Lisa was out of the room, but fortunately they appreciated the humour, and swore they hadn't put poison in my tea. I still think they were trying to kill me though. Five slices of cake is enough to give anyone a heart attack.

But by the end of the afternoon we'd discovered that we all have a lot in common. For a start, we share an interest in Augusten Burroughs: they like to read his books, while we prefer to harrass him in public. Then there's our mutual love of photography. My colleague's partner has had work displayed in French art galleries, while I like to stick photos of myself on the web. The similarities are uncanny.

Anyhoo, a good time was had by all (unless they were just being polite), and I left with the feeling that we've now put the emphasis firmly on the second syllable of workmate. I thought I might take the last of the apple cake into work tomorrow for the rest of my colleagues to share, but the way it's disappearing, I have to say the chances are looking slim. Which is more than I can say for myself.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Breaking news from the front page of the NHS staff intranet...

New this week: agony.I think it's a warning that the Chief Executive's sending out another of his entertaining e-mails about targets. It couldn't have come at a worse time - we've just had a manufacturer's recall on morphine.

But anyhoo, Lisa, Amelie and I are off out for the afternoon. One of my colleagues and his partner have invited us round for a cup of tea (and possibly a slice of cake, though I don't want to get my hopes up). They're the people responsible for Amelie's leopardskin booties, so we're all going dressed as big cats.

Amelie's been practicing her scary leopard face and big claw hands...

... and I've been curled up asleep on the sofa.

Friday, November 28, 2008

I had a text message at 3am this morning from Big Sis in Australia. It reads:

"I have started flying multi-engine aircraft this week. Just landed and hit a bird with one of the propellers. The Australian wildlife must hate me."

Well not all of them. The sharks still seem to like her. And I'm sure the family of the dead kangaroo have learnt to live with their grief. Watching a woman wash the blood of your murdered relative off the front bumper of her car must bring a real sense of closure.

Anyway, Sis might be a big galah, but frankly the ex parrot had it coming. Everyone knows that when Big Sis takes to the skies, it's safer to walk. Personally I think it's another feather in her cap. Albeit one caked with the blood of an innocent victim. She'll be moving up to bigger planes soon, so she can start gunning for the emus.

Blimey, is that the time? I'm due at work in twelve minutes...

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Wherrrrrre did you get that hat, where did you get that hat..?

There's a touch of Ena Sharples about her.
She got it from Lisa's cousin if you must know.

Amelie spent yesterday visiting her Great Aunt & Uncle on the other side of town. They haven't seen her since October 10th, when they gave us forty quid to buy her something nice, and we blew it all on a load of furry insects. So I expect they wanted to find out how well Amelie's been getting on with her Garden Friends. Thank God she can't talk.

But whilst there, Amelie bumped into her First Cousin Once Removed, who presented her with the hand-knitted extravaganza above. Speaking as someone who once knitted a six-inch square blanket for a guinea pig (I think I was studying for my A-levels at the time), I have to say it's an impressive piece of work. Frankly there's no way she got her skills from Lisa's side of the family.

As for today, well the breaking news from work is that the Chief Pharmacist, head of the entire Brighton and Sussex University Hospitals NHS Trust Pharmacy Department, thinks Amelie looks like me, and is very cute. So she must be wrong on one count.

But perhaps the best news of the day is this...

She's going to spend her way out of recession.
It's official: Amelie's now richer than her parents.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

It was Lisa's soap night last night (not to be confused with her bath night, which is far less frequent). So as soon as I heard the wailing caterwaul of the Coronation Street theme tune, I hit 'publish' on my blog, and fled to Lidl for some kitchen rolls. Amelie wanted to escape with me, but I didn't think a shop which sells chainsaws and mincers to people from the Whitehawk Estate would be a safe environment for a child. To you and me it might be kitchen and garden equipment, but to them it's modus operandi and evidence disposal.

So I went on my own. There might be safety in numbers, but it's easier to watch one back than two. As usual, I completed my shopping trip by picking up a copy of the always-entertaining Lidl catalogue for the week ahead, and needless to say I wasn't disappointed. This edition features a satellite navigation system for only £89.99. Or £88.19 if you get it after the VAT decrease.

Admittedly you can buy them slightly cheaper elsewhere, but this one has a very special feature...

Take me to the nearest restraurant.
Leaving aside the fact that 'restaurants' is clearly a hard word to spell, how fantastic is that? It's a SatNav which directs you straight to the nearest Lidl! Although obviously you wouldn't want to take it there, because it'll only get nicked in the car park.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Is it me, or is it cold out there?

Michelin Girl
I think I need a suit made out of a duvet.

Hello KittyBut the weather aside, I had GMTV on this morning (it encourages me to leave for work), and I saw an interview with the lady on the right. She's the government's pensions minister. And her name's Kitty. I think that's possibly the most brilliant thing Gordon Brown's ever done. What better way to appeal to the elderly than to appoint a pensions minister called Kitty? The Tories have got someone called Maude, but frankly they're not going to beat Kitty unless they find themselves an Ethel. It's like having Van Morrison as Minister for Transport.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Today marks another milestone...

1,500 posts. Half a million words. What a tragic waste of a life.No, that's not the number of death threats I've received (though it's not far off). This is actually my 1,500th blog post. According to Bill Gates and his ability to count, I've written 521,577 words here since 2003. And about half of those are 'anyhoo'. I should probably get out more.

As it happens though, that's not the only milestone I've been celebrating this weekend. And the other one features big numbers too...

It took us ages to give him the bumps.
Yep, my Dad's done his three score years and ten. Well, almost. It's not actually his 70th birthday until tomorrow, but we celebrated it yesterday in case he doesn't live that long.

As luck would have it, my parents happened to be offloading some more junk at their retirement bungalow in Sussex, so Lisa, Amelie and I took the opportunity to pop over there for a few hours. Obviously we'd drive to the ends of the earth to visit my Dad on his birthday, but let's face it, St Leonards is a lot nearer than Chelmsford.

The good news is that my Dad's fixed the broken doorbell since we first visited. On the downside, it now plays a tune so annoying that you feel like smashing it in with a hammer. So it might not last long. But that aside, I'm pleased to report that six weeks after taking ownership of the property, my parents have finally worked out how to use the bath plug. Apparently it was more complicated than it looked.

Anyhoo, as the cake above states, it was party time in St Leonards yesterday, and let's face it, nobody parties like my Dad. He spent most of the time asleep in a garden chair in the living room. Which was a shame because he missed Amelie crying all afternoon. I think he liked my gift of a bottle of soy sauce though. Admittedly he insisted I take it back home with me at the end of the day, but I think that just shows the generosity of the man.

As for the birthday meal, we gave my Dad the choice of any eating establishment within a five mile radius. He chose the local chippy. You have no idea how hard it is to get candles into a haddock.

But the best thing about a family birthday is being reunited with your loved ones...

Friends Reunited
It's the first time I've seen Chloe in over two months. It was also her first visit to St Leonards, and apparently she'd been up all night crying. She and Amelie have so much in common.

I took the opportunity to give Chloe a quick haircut while I was there, which frankly was no mean feat. I'm not saying she's put on weight since she moved in with my Mum, but it was like shearing a bowling ball. Apparently her strict diet of cat biscuits and tuna has been supplemented with porridge, gravy, and basically anything she can get her paws on. It's like the opposite of fat camp at my parents' house. I'd take her to the vet for a gastric bypass, but I don't think she'd fit in her cat box.

Anyhoo, we left St Leonards at 9pm last night and stopped off at Tescos on the way home, shortly after which we were pulled over by the police in Bexhill. Apparently the place is a hotbed of crime and delinquency, populated exclusively by chavs, nutters and people in care homes, so the police were doing random drink-driving checks by the roadside to make sure none of them escaped.

I was asked if I'd had any alcohol that evening, so I said no, and the policeman replied "What, none at all??". He looked incredulous, but fortunately the only bottle he found in my car was the soy sauce, so he had to let me go. It was a lucky escape: Lisa was sitting in the back surrounded by toffee cookies and chocolate muffins. Thank god it wasn't the diet police.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Amelie turned seven weeks on Thursday, and a lot's changed since she was six days old...

Six DaysSeven Weeks
She seems to have lost the hair on her temples, but gained a lot of cats on her sleepsuit. I also think her head's changed shape. It now looks less like a turnip and more like a melon, which can only be a good thing. Unless it means she's got water on the brain.

I wheeled Amelie into town yesterday afternoon to meet Lisa, who'd escaped for a couple of hours against her daughter's will. We managed to track her down near the Royal Pavilion, where she introduced us to a friend of hers. The friend admired Amelie for a couple of minutes, before saying "I wonder if she'll have her mother's sense of humour?". We can only hope so. Frankly she'll need it if she's going to survive the next eighteen years.

Reaping no reward whatsoever.But that aside, the good thing about having two days off work is that it gives you time to watch rubbish DVDs you bought on the cheap, in the mistaken belief that anything starring Hilary Swank ought to be ok, and not a steaming pile of hokum that feels like it was written by a dyslexic twelve-year-old goth. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you The Reaping. You might have seen it in HMV for a fiver. Don't be tempted. Trust me, five items from the pound shop would contain more quality.

Apparently the filming of the movie was halted for a week when Hurricane Katrina hit the production mid-shoot. I think it was God's version of a subtle hint. But having spent ninety-five minutes wishing that the devil really was after Hilary Swank, I have to say that the film did contain one entertaining moment. It was the bit where the main character explains away the Ten Plagues of Egypt, as featured in the Book of Exodus, the sequel to Genesis, which was the first book God ever wrote.

For those who didn't go to Sunday School, the Ten Plagues of Egypt were: rivers of blood, frogs, lice, flies, dead cows, bad skin, inclement weather, locusts, darkness and death of the first born.

So here's what Hilary Swank had to say about it all:

"In 1400 B.C. a group of nervous Egyptians saw the Nile turn red. But what they thought was blood was actually an algae bloom, which killed the fish, which prior to that had been living off the eggs of frogs.

Those uneaten eggs turned into record numbers of baby frogs who subsequently fled to the land and died.

Their little rotting frog bodies attracted lice and flies.

The lice carried the bluetongue virus, which killed 70% of Egypt's livestock.

The flies carried glanders, a bacterial infection which, in humans, causes boils.

Soon afterwards, the Nile River Valley was hit with a three-day sandstorm, otherwise known as the plague of darkness.

During the sandstorm, intense heat can combine with an approaching cold front to create not only hail, but also electrical storms which would have looked to the ancient Egyptians like fire from the sky.

The subsequent wind would have blown the Ethiopian locust population off course and right into downtown Cairo.

Hail is wet; locusts leave droppings. Spread both on grain, and you have got mycotoxins. Dinnertime in ancient Egypt meant the first-born child got the biggest portion, which in this case meant he ate the most toxins, so he died.

Ten plagues. Ten scientific explanations."

Next they'll be claiming The Da Vinci Code isn't real.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Never mind David Van Day, it's Roddy Frame!

My skills as a bootlegger are definitely improving. It actually sounds like music this time.

Anyhoo, don't tell me what happened on 'I'm a Celebrity' last night - I haven't watched it yet. Though I'm sure David's gone down a storm with his campmates. Have they all voted to kill him yet?

You'd never guess she's pushing forty.Tragically, Lisa and I didn't live to see the Day last night. We were too busy putting on our glad rags (mine weren't as glad as Lisa's, which is why I'm not in the photo) and hitting the town for the musical event of the season - Roddy Frame's first visit to Brighton in more than three years. The last time we saw him we had to travel all the way to Southampton, which was obviously lovely, but given the choice I'd rather not have to spend the night dodging bullets in a crime-ridden ghetto. I get enough of that at home.

It being a momentous occasion, I took both yesterday and today as annual leave, thereby giving me the chance to spend a few hours looking after Amelie, and leave myself more knackered than if I'd been at work. But after downing a few cups of strong tea, we handed our daughter to her Grandma, and headed off to the Brighton Komedia. I've mentioned here on about three previous occasions that whilst being a nice venue, the Komedia also happens to be equipped with the kind of seats that can cut off the circulation to your buttocks and give you gangrene. Frankly they make Vinnie Jones look soft, and are just as likely to cause you physical pain on a night out.

So I took a cushion. Again. The fact that I'd stood through an entire It Bites gig with one in my hand, didn't put me off. I offered one to Lisa, but she said she didn't remember the seats being that hard. She obviously doesn't read my blog.

Anyhoo, I think it was towards the end of the support act that Lisa started complaining that she couldn't feel her legs and needed some paracetamol to cope with the pain in her lower back. Being both a gentleman and someone who likes to say 'I told you so', I offered her my cushion, but she declined on the grounds that she'd probably never hear the last of it. She ended up folding her coat into a ball and sitting on that instead.

As for that support act, it turned out to be Emily Maguire, a young singer-songwriter who was actually very good. She looked a bit like Big Sis, only ten years younger and not as musically talented. She mentioned that she swapped her luxury home in Britain for a tin shack in the Australian outback, so that's another thing they have in common.

Anyway, Emily was very impressive, and I would have bought her CD, but rather than joining the queue at the merchandise stall, I chose to spend the interval stealing a Roddy Frame poster from the foyer. I still think it was the right decision.

As for the man himself, here he is again...

I was pleased to see he's had his hair cut since we last saw him. He now looks less like Ed Byrne, and more like Lee Harvey Oswald. Which personally I think is a good thing.

I filmed a total of four songs, the others being On the Avenue and Hymn to Grace. They may not have been the biggest hits of their day, but the 320-strong audience all seemed to know them. The gig was a sell-out, so it's now official: Roddy Frame is more popular than Andy Abraham, the singing binman. That's something to put on your CV.

Anyhoo, needless to say, Roddy was superb, and made me wish I'd carried on playing the guitar, instead of getting a job and working for a living. Lisa insisted we hang about in the bar afterwards in the hope that he might put in an appearance, and agree to sign her CD. We waited for a good twenty minutes, but sadly the only Frame we saw was the empty one where I'd stolen the poster. It's probably just as well though. Lisa still maintains that Roddy Frame is the only other man she'd be willing to have children with. So given her fertility levels, a close encounter in a bar could have been a recipe for disaster. She'd have fallen pregnant just posing for a photo.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Well the good news is I've checked the BNP Membership List, and Lisa's not on there. I'd also like to state for the record than none of those eleven Gardners are related to me. And that includes the one with the same name as my Dad. Unless he's using a false address in Birmingham, which is always possible.

But never mind the good news, here's the fantastic news...

Is he standing in a hole?It's the return of a national icon. And I don't mean the one on the right.

Oh yes indeed. I've stalked him through Asda...

... embarrassed him in the local press...

... received letters about him from the BBC...

... I've even discussed him with friends of the Prime Minister...

... likened him to a Slush Puppie...

... and danced by the light of his luminous suit.

And now, a mere eighteen months after he knocked on my door in a big rosette, local hero David Van Day has swapped Brighton for the jungle, and made it onto 'I'm a Celebrity, Get Me Out of Here'.

Obviously his presence stretches the word 'celebrity' to its very limits, but even so, I can't wait for tomorrow night's episode. Apparently they have to decide whether to give up some of their rations in order to let him join the camp. So I don't expect he'll be on the show after Thursday.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

We've all had a busy evening...

Sleeping Beauty
That's Lisa in the background, getting chocolate out of the fridge in her dressing gown.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Amelie had a bad night last night, and just wouldn't fall asleep. It's surprising, because I elbowed her in the head before she went to bed, so you'd expect her to have been out cold for a good six hours. Obviously I didn't mean to (and I think Lisa believes that). I was just reaching behind me to pick up her fluffy pink bear coat, complete with furry ears, which I'd used that afternoon when I selflessly took Amelie for a walk so that Lisa could stay in and peel some potatoes. Unfortunately Amelie must have run up behind me at the wrong moment, because as I turned back, my elbow collided with the side of her head.

Fortunately Lisa's not one for recriminations, and doesn't like to point the finger unfairly. I think her exact words were "Now she knows how Baby P felt". After which she attempted to calm and reassure Amelie by saying "Just wait til you've got teeth and Daddy starts knocking them down your throat". She then started looking up the time of her next health visitor appointment, and digging out the leaflet on domestic violence.

She did drop the subject eventually though, and went strangely quiet. When I asked her what she was thinking, she said "I'm just trying to work out how I can mention this on your blog". I thought I'd save her the trouble.

Anyhoo, it's not surprising I was distracted, because shortly before my vicious assault on Amelie, the new series of 'I'm a Celebrity, Get Me Out of Here' started on ITV. One of the household names in this year's line-up is none other than Carly Zucker (try not to say "Who?"), the girlfriend of England footballer Joe Cole.

This information prompted Lisa to pose the following question: "I presume Joe Cole is the brother of Ashley Cole, is he?"

Well I'm no football expert, but let's take a look at the evidence...

Ashley ColeJoe Cole
I'd say the jury's still out on that one.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Being a father definitely has its advantages. I took Amelie to Taj the Grocer yesterday for a some ethnic foodstuffs. They're still refusing to stock Skyr on the grounds that I'm the only person in Brighton who eats it, but I like to pop in from time to time for some guanabana juice and a bit of quinoa. Unfortunately Lisa's about as keen to visit Taj as she is to walk through the doors of Lidl, so I tend to go alone.

Yesterday however, I insisted on taking Amelie with me. She spends a lot of time with her mother, so I wanted to prove to her that not all foods are made by Walkers and Cadbury. And what better place to go than a shop which sells goat yoghurt, soya cheese and giant jars of pickled peppers. It was like Diversity Training at work, but with less food.

Hello Panda. Goodbye weightloss.So anyway, there we were, standing in the queue next to a water butt filled with olives, when what should I spy across a crowded concourse, but a shelf full of Hello Panda. I'm surprised Amelie didn't see them - she's meant to able to spot a monochrome bear from twenty paces. Obviously I had no idea what Hello Panda was, but I didn't need to know. I was quite happy to pay 79p just for the name.

The problem was that I had a queue of hippies and Arabs behind me, all of whom were just itching to move forward the moment I left for the panda aisle. Which is where fatherhood comes in handy. I simply parked Amelie in the queue, and wandered off to say hello to the pandas, safe in the knowledge that no one would dare move her for fear of being branded a child abductor.

Within seconds (well, minutes - I couldn't decide which flavour to get), I was back in the queue with my daughter, having taught her some valuable life-lessons, not only about food diversity, but also independence.

Hello Panda turned out to be "Fun Filled Biscuits Treats" (I'm not sure all those esses are strictly necessary) from Japan, the home of the giant panda (I think). According to their Wikipedia entry (because obviously they have one), "Printed on the biscuits are cartoon style depictions of giant pandas; presumably this is where the product derives its name".

I'm not sure you can make such wild assumptions. Personally I think it's because they taste of bamboo, and you can't find them anywhere. I've eaten the whole box already, so they're not so much endangered as extinct.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Show me the money!It's Children in Need!

Mainly in need of a nappy change, but even so.

Speaking as part of the government's statistics on child poverty, Amelie (or 'Baby A' as I'm now calling her), urges you all to give generously.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

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

Macerator Service Check
Vernatech will be carrying out a macerator service check on the 13 and 14 November throughout all clinical areas in the Royal Sussex County Hospital. If you have any questions, please contact the estates helpdesk.

Yeah, just the one question. What the heck's a macerator?

Anyhoo, while I was at work today eating mini Daim bars and looking up the number of the estates helpdesk, Amelie received her first ever item of post. She's now the proud owner of an NHS medical card. Mind you, she almost didn't get it. It was picked up off the mat by Lisa's Mum, who didn't recognise the name on the envelope and tried to chuck it in the bin. As she said to me an hour ago, "I thought 'Amelie Gardner? Who's that?'". It's not surprising. She's been calling her Emily for the past six weeks.

But the good news is that the NHS card's been saved from the dustman and is now safely stored in my Box of Important Things, along with her birth certificate and two tickets for Roddy Frame. On the downside, it's now recorded in black and white that we've registered Amelie with Lisa's doctor, which is not something to boast about. She's a bit like a tribal medicine woman, only less conventional. Interestingly, we discovered yesterday that our health visitor knows her, which is nice. She described her as "a law unto herself". I could think of better words, but I don't want to sound like a duck.

Anyhoo, the feedback's now in from yesterday's blog post, and the consensus (amongst the one work colleague who offered an opinion) is that Amelie's very cute. Oddly, the feedback on Lisa's new top has been less forthcoming, so I've asked her to pose for another photo on the bonnet of my car...

Those £9 hair extensions have worked a treat.
You're right, she has lost weight.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

The opposite of no-frills.

Fig. (a)

Lisa relaxing by the Moses basket in her expensive new top from Next. I think it's part of their Austin Powers collection. Frankly I haven't seen frills like that since Spandau Ballet were in the charts.

The Moses basket is, of course, empty, due to the fact that Amelie refuses to sleep in it.

Little Miss Sunshine

Fig. (b)

Amelie feeling pleased with herself after welcoming Mummy home last night and immediately throwing up all over her top.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Lisa's been out for a couple of hours tonight, giving me the chance to spend an evening alone with Amelie for the first time. Lisa prepared me thoroughly before she left with dire warnings about the relentless crying, constant feeding and inability to settle, before telling me not to get too stressed, and to try not to let the screaming get to me...

Sofa, so good.
It's been tough. Or at least, that's what I'm telling Lisa.

Monday, November 10, 2008

It's Amelie with her Garden Friends!

She loves those Garden Friends. Just look at the kicking she's giving that dragonfly. Give her a few months and she'll be pulling the legs off spiders.

Talking of garden friends, I had a hit the other day for this phrase:

"Can hedgehog concept be applied to QVC??".

I'm ranked number three on Google for that, so obviously I can answer with ease. Let's face it, there are officially only two people in the world who know more about it than I do, and by the time I publish this post I should outrank them both.

So having done my research and studied the venn diagram...

Concept Art
... I'd say the answer's yes. The hedgehog concept can be applied to QVC. After all, you only need to watch for half an hour and you find yourself wishing the presenters would curl up and die under the wheels of a truck.

In other news, it was Remembrance Sunday yesterday. Unfortunately I forgot. I think it's because it was so close to bonfire night - I always forget the fifth of November too. Lisa was in the bedroom all morning listening to Southern FM, so she had no trouble empathising with the pain and suffering of millions. She successfully observed the two minutes silence at eleven, which I'm sure was the highlight of the mid-morning show, but sadly she failed to remind me to pay my own respects in the living room.

When I asked her why, she said "It was two minutes silence. I couldn't say anything". You can't really argue with that. I think I'll set an alarm for 11 o'clock tomorrow.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

You know the credit crunch is beginning to bite when the local pound shops start raising their prices...

Nine Pound Baby
Well ok, it's actually a new hair salon in Western Road. It's an intriguing pricing policy they have though. Lisa's going to walk in tomorrow, ask for some natural hair extensions, and expect change from a tenner.

But barberism aside, I had an e-mail yesterday from someone who claims to be working on an all-new Poddington Peas blog in conjunction with the creators of the original TV series. One of whom used to discuss storylines with me in a small office in Essex. I like to think it was my ideas which led directly to the production company going bust.

Anyhoo, needless to say they weren't e-mailing to ask if I'd like to work on the screenplay for a new vegetable-based feature film, they were actually wondering if they could link to my Poddington Peas quiz. Unfortunately, upon visiting my site, they'd found that the quiz doesn't work.

All of which was news to me. I'm very fond of that quiz, mainly because I wrote it exactly one week after meeting Lisa (which explains the potato waffle question), but as surprising as it may sound, I hadn't clicked on the link for a good couple of years, and had no idea it didn't work.

It was obviously just me though. This page about the Peas, written in August 2008, states that "unfortunately the 'Which Poddington Pea are you?' quiz has been taken down". Nice that the only person who didn't know that was me.

Anyhoo, it turns out that in July of this year, Quizilla revamped their website and changed the address of my quiz. I've updated the link, but sadly that's the least of my troubles. The newly formatted site no longer accepts detailed in-depth psychological analysis about Maltesers, and has cruelly cut off the second half of all my questions, rendering the quiz even more meaningless than it was to start with. Which, as you can imagine, is quite an achievement.

But it gets worse. Quizilla keeps a record of how many people have taken each quiz, and I'm proud to say that over the past four and a half years, more than ten thousand people have successfully discovered which Poddington Pea they are by dilligently answering questions about death, obesity and pot-holing. I used to put that fact on my CV when I applied for writing jobs. Which probably explains why I didn't get them. Unfortunately, as part of the website redesign, that number was automatically reset, and the total now reads 63. Mind you, considering the link doesn't work and you can't read the questions, sixty-three's not bad.

Anyhoo, all I can say is thank heavens for the Internet Archive Wayback Machine. I managed to find this page from the 2004 version of Quizilla, and copy the text onto a new page on my website, never to be lost again. It's good to know that in-depth questions about pushing your friends onto railway lines and blowing up fat people with dynamite have been preserved for future generations.

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Lisa had a delivery from the Next catalogue yesterday. I think the fact that she can fit into normal clothes again has gone to her head. Unfortunately, despite the fact that she's now back to the weight she was in the heady days before I impregnated her, she's not getting quite as much use out of her clothes as she'd like. It's surprisingly difficult to get dressed when you're permanently attached to a baby, and a virtual prisoner in your own home. Well I say your own home. It's actually my flat, so technically she's out and about.

So when the tailor knocked on the door yesterday morning, Lisa found herself in a state of semi-undress, and decided to answer it in her dressing gown. Obviously Next only employ the most professional couriers with the highest moral standards, so it goes without saying that the man's first words to Lisa were:

"Oooh, have I caught you at it?"

I always like to greet women I've never met by asking them if they're having sex. It's a good ice-breaker. Mind you, if I had been home from work, treating Lisa to some mid-morning lovey-doveyness (which is pretty unlikely, as she'd be watching Jeremy Kyle), I'd have been quite insulted if she'd got up to answer the door.

Anyhoo, as luck would have it, Lisa's mind was on other things (possibly the baby she'd left crying in the bedroom) and the man's question didn't really register in her consciousness. So without thinking, she said:


It wasn't until the courier replied with...

"Oooh, naughty naughty!"

... that Lisa realised what he'd said. Apparently the new edition of the Oxford English Dictionary is going to illustrate the word 'mortified' with a picture of Lisa's face. She still hasn't got over it now. Admittedly, by the end of the day it was probably all over Brighton that there's a nymphomaniac living in Eastern Road, but you can't worry about these things. Frankly we should just be grateful he didn't invite himself in for a threesome.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Amelie's started smiling properly in the last twenty-four hours. Unfortunately it's like trying to capture a UFO on film, and so far the documentary evidence is eluding me. But having spent the evening viewing her through a camera lens, I've finally realised who she reminds me of...

Frankly HowerdTitter Ye Not
Get me the number of the nearest lookalikes agency.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

One of my work colleagues commented today that "once Phil starts eating, he can't stop". Obviously it was an outrageous accusation, and one I wanted to refute immediately, but unfortunately I had my mouth full of Turkish Delight at the time, so I couldn't speak. But I put the rumour to bed later, over an all-butter biscuit from the Champagne region of France. Frankly it's not me that needs to stop eating, it's my workmates who need to stop going abroad and bringing back food.

In other news, I've discovered that Lisa and I aren't as original as we thought. I've had an e-mail out of the blue from a man called Gardner (no relation) who writes to inform me that he named his daughter Amelie in 2004. He found me by entering 'Amelie Gardner' into YouTube and wondering why he didn't recognise his own child. Anyhoo, the man might have had a four-year headstart, but fortunately he's not as web-savvy as I am, so he's missed his chance to register the dotcom address. He'll be livid in twenty years time when his daughter's famous and I sell it back to him for a six figure sum.

Teenage BreakoutBut in other other news, I walked past a car yesterday afternoon which had this sticker in the window. It's an advert for Education Otherwise, "a membership based organisation that provides support and information for families whose children are being educated outside school", and which aims to "encourage learning outside the school system". They're basically trying to persuade parents that schools are rubbish, and their kids will get better results at home.

I wouldn't mind, but the car was parked directly opposite Brighton College. Frankly they'd lost the argument before they'd even put on the handbrake.

Monday, November 03, 2008

Is that a wig?Lisa may not have made it out of her pyjamas today, but she has found time to dye her hair. And Amelie can't keep her eyes off it. Personally I'm more distracted by the dark brown stains in the bathroom sink, but I'm sure they'll come off eventually.

Anyhoo, I'm a bit short of time here, due to the fact that I have to go to Asda tonight. I was sadly unable to do the weekly shop on Saturday due to an urgent appointment at KFC which took up most of my evening. I intended to go on Sunday instead, but the population of Bexhill (God love 'em) were out in force, conspiring to stop me parking at Tescos, and generally clogging up the roads in an attempt to force me back indoors.

But the good news is that having spent another weekend slumming it in St Leonards, I've discovered that my parents' retirement bungalow is within walking distance of nine (count them) charity shops. On the downside, they all seem to be staffed by people who've come straight from the Jeremy Kyle show, but you can't have everything. I did manage to buy five shirts and get change out of a tenner, so the fact that the people I gave the money to looked like they'd probably spend it on drugs and kebabs, is neither here nor there.

The other big news, however, is that my financial future is now officially sorted. I discovered on Saturday that my brother's raising a cash cow. Apparently my nine-year-old niece has just joined a band. There are four of them - one doing the songwriting, one on vocals, one on the recorder, and my niece on keyboards. So imagine Howard Jones crossed with James Galway and you're halfway there. I've not heard them play yet, but apparently there's a vacancy for a Svengali-type manager. My brother's put himself forward, but as my niece said to me on Saturday night, "I wouldn't trust him".

We're still at the negotiation stage at the moment, but give me til the end of the week, and I'll have them all on cast iron contracts. Let's face it, if Simon Fuller can make the Spice Girls a success, it can't be that hard.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Amelie's one month old today. Only another two-hundred-and-twenty-seven to go until she leaves for university. Unless she wins a place at Brighton, in which case we'll never get rid of her.

To celebrate, the three of us have spent the weekend dodging bullets in the ghetto badlands of East Sussex, where the internet is just a distant dream. But enough about St Leonards. The more pressing tale to tell is of the one-legged man I met on Friday. No, seriously. I was at work in the afternoon, wondering whether I could take the last pain au chocolat without anyone noticing, when the doorbell went. Naturally I answered it (I've got a performance appraisal coming up), and who should I find standing there (well, not so much standing as hopping), but a man with one leg. It was like a low budget version of The Fugitive.

But he wasn't just a one-legged man, he was a one-legged delivery man. With twice as many boxes as legs. I have to say, when a bloke with one leg asks you to fetch a load of drugs from his van because he can't hop up a flight of steps with his arms full, you do start to wonder if Beadle's back from the dead.

Anyway, having carried two hundred packets of co-codamol into the building, followed by a one-legged man on crutches with a clipboard in his mouth, I decided I wasn't going to act like this was an everyday occurrence, and started to gently probe him on his circumstances. So I asked him what the bloody hell he was doing trying to deliver parcels on crutches with a leg missing.

It turned out to be an interesting story. Apparently he'd had Crohn's disease, which somehow led to his leg turning black, and whilst in hospital, the doctors had explained his options to him. Unfortunately he was so out of it on painkillers that he didn't know what the heck he was saying, and accidentally agreed to amputation. Apparently his family was livid. And he wasn't best pleased either. But he'd signed the consent forms, so frankly he didn't have a leg to stand on.

He was quite philosophical about it though, and said that when you find yourself a leg down, you can either sit about watching your life go by, or you can get back to your old job with DHL. He'd chosen the latter. I'm not sure I'd have done the same. I commented that he seemed remarkably positive about the whole thing, and he said there's a good reason for that. He might have lost a leg, but he'd gained a wife. Apparently he fell in love with the nurse who tended to his stump, and they've been together ever since. So every time he looks at his missing leg, he tells himself that he swapped it for the love of his life.

It's a heartwarming story. And I'm going to make a fortune selling it to Bella magazine.