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Thursday, December 31, 2009

It's ok, I'm not dead. And Amelie's still breathing too. Lisa will probably have snuffed it by the time you read this, but two out of three ain't bad.

As things stand right now, we've left the bleak midwinter of Wiltshire behind us and returned to Brighton. We were planning to stay on in Big Sis's plague house until 2010 (or 'tomorrow' as some people like to call it), but in the end we decided to cut short our trip and come home on Tuesday, after realising that we didn't have travel insurance and I was unlikely to make my fortune if Lisa died away from home.

We rounded off our stay in appropriate fashion by choosing to return home in the worst weather of the entire week, thus ensuring that the journey back was a three hour nightmare of torrential rain and fog, complete with coughing, sneezing and high-pitched screaming. And that was just me.

The three of us have spent the last forty-eight hours competing to see who can cough the loudest, as a result of which Lisa and I have both developed splitting headaches. The only relief I get from the noise is when my sinuses become so congested that I lose my sense of hearing. Fortunately that happens regularly. I could barely hear the assistant in Boots yesterday when he said he couldn't sell me both Day Nurse and Sudafed in case I used it to make crystal meth.

But fortunately the slow, painful death of my entire family hasn't stopped me from creating another piece of movie magic in my spare time. I did it this afternoon while Amelie coughed herself to sleep in the bedroom, and Lisa slipped into a painkiller-induced coma on the sofa. It's my Boxing Day tribute to Charlie's Angels, when I successfully filmed Big Sis putting on an evening dress and trainers, picking up a neighbour's cat from outside her house, and taking it along the road and up three flights of stairs to the flat of somebody who doesn't own it and didn't want it. The fact that she persuaded Lisa and my sister-in-law to join her in this endeavour is a testament to the power and influence of the mad.

But you've got to admire her uncanny ability to predict the future.

Monday, December 28, 2009

I'll open THAT one.Well we've opened all our presents, blown our noses on the wrapping paper, sobbed into our mince pies and thrown up into bins, beds, buckets and bathrooms, and now, as I sit here listening to the sound of my teeth gently rotting and the beta cells in my pancreas dying from exhaustion, I think Christmas might be over. If only I could say the same for the hideous illness which has struck us down for the entire festive period.

I'm not saying this has been my worst Christmas ever... but I would do if I hadn't lost my voice. Frankly it's been a nightmare from start to finish. As things stand right now, I'm on the verge of suing the makers of Pandemrix, because quite honestly, if this isn't swine flu, someone needs to get on to the World Health Organisation and tell them we've found something worse.

Having thrown up on Christmas Eve night and begun Christmas morning with a splitting headache, a sore throat and no obvious means of breathing, Lisa and I were pretty sure that no one was more sick than we were. That was until Amelie arrived. I've had to photograph her with her back to the camera, because her ill little face has the ability to simultaneously break hearts and turn stomachs. She's barely eaten for four days. Which is actually quite handy, because we haven't got the energy to clean her teeth. If the family that cries together, stays together, then the three of us will never be apart.

But despite looking like two plague victims and a street urchin, and with no end to the suffering currently in sight, the festive period hasn't been without its highlights. For a start, I've managed to recreate Charlie's Angels using Lisa, my sister-in-law and Big Sis...

Phil's Angels
Although things started to go wrong when I sent them out on their first mission...

Hell's Angels
It's not so much Phil's Angels as Hell's Angels. The irony is that despite carrying a black cat through a car park on Boxing Day morning in an evening dress, coat and white trainers, Big Sis is the only one not considered to be ill.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Merry Christmas everyone!

National Elf Service
That's the only one of my top secret festive elf photos that Lisa hasn't leaked onto Facebook two weeks early. She doesn't like it because she thinks Amelie's hair looks like a mullet. Personally it's my favourite. She's got the self-satisfied look of a young Steven Seagal.

Mullet WhineI think the double chin helps.

Anyhoo, if you've ever doubted just how much Amelie's grown in the past year, take a look at last year's Christmas photo. That's the same tree. We're using it instead of a height chart. Of course, that was back in the days when you could put her down for a few minutes, pop to the toilet, and come back safe in the knowledge that she wouldn't have climbed over the back of the sofa and be standing on the table with the phone in one hand, surfing the internet, eating a pen and pouring your tea all over the floor. Those were happy days.

It's odd though. Amelie's turned not only my life, but my entire flat and all my belongings upside down, and things would be a thousand times simpler without her. And yet, despite sitting here in a beautiful house on a peaceful, sunny Christmas morning with a cup of tea in my hand and nothing to do but relax... I can't wait for the girl to arrive.

That should last until about 3pm. At which point I'll start counting the minutes till bedtime.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

It's Christmas Eve!

We Three Kings
And what's more, we've made it to Wiltshire. We even played Snow Chicken by going via Basingstoke. But not even a massive pile-up on the A303 (I obviously attract them) could stop us getting to Big Sis's house on time. Well, an hour late. Which is on time for us.

You might notice that someone's missing from the photo above, but there's a good reason for that. We didn't have room to bring Amelie. By the time we'd loaded up the car with a travel cot, mattress, buggy, nappies and enough baby food to last her a week (or a normal child a fortnight), there was no space left. So we decided to put Lisa's suitcase in Amelie's car seat and leave her behind.

Fortunately (or unfortunately, depending on your point of view), my parents are bringing her down tomorrow morning. That's if they've got enough room. It's likely to be a choice between her and the turkey. I've told them to bring the turkey. The alternative is to make her wing-walk on the roof rack.

Anyhoo, this is the first time that Lisa and I have visited Big Sis's new house, and we're very impressed. It's a keep-fit fanatic's dream. The place is on three floors, with forty steps (one more than John Buchan's house) between the kitchen and the bedroom. So not only do you get a full cardiovascular workout every time you go to bed, but you're so knackered when you get there, you can't be bothered to go downstairs for any food. Personally I've solved the problem by spending the evening in the kitchen with the mince pies. It was either that or starve.

Anyway, my parents will be arriving with the elf at lunchtime tomorrow, so I'll be taking photos of Big Sis's house in the morning. The building's a converted army barracks, and the whole house looks quite stunning. But by 2pm, Amelie will have converted it back into a bombsite.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

It's my last working day of the year today. Christmas officially starts at 5pm. Or midnight, if you include the time it'll take me to drive home from Crawley through the snow, ice and freezing fog. I'm currently looking out of a window on the fourth floor of Crawley Hospital, wondering how they've managed to have twice as much snow as we've had in Brighton. It looks like Lapland out there. Or it would do if there wasn't a block of council flats and a branch of Asda on the horizon.

Anyway, half the main roads around Brighton seemed to be closed this morning due to accidents on the ice. I had a text message from a colleague at 7:45am who said her route from Seaford to Horsham Hospital was closed, and I passed a serious crash on the A23 southbound carriageway as I was heading north to Crawley at about 8:15am. It must have happened only minutes before I got there, because the first police car was only just arriving, and there was no traffic jam. By the time I got to Crawley they were reporting that the A23 was closed and traffic was tailing back for miles.

But if you think that means I'll have no patients today, think again. My first appointment turned up forty minutes early, and my second was twenty minutes ahead of schedule. As the receptionist said to me, "They must be putting something in the tea around here this morning". Mind you, she's currently wearing a pair of flashing Santa earrings, so I'm not sure she's the voice of sanity.

To be honest, I'm hoping no one turns up this afternoon. Lisa's been kind enough to give me a cold for Christmas, and right now I'm so close to losing my voice, I'll soon be forced to call my patients by sign language. Actually, that would probably be a good thing. I've already wished two Hindus a Merry Christmas this morning, so it might stop me putting my foot in it.

As if that wasn't enough to contend with, I'm also feeling slightly rough after going on a mini pub crawl last night. Admittedly I drank nothing but Diet Cokes all evening, but the caffeine withdrawal is hitting me hard. One of my colleagues is emigrating to Sweden on January 3rd (was it something I said?) so I went straight from the hospital to the nearest pub last night for a farewell get-together, before jumping in the car and heading off for Christmas drinks with my old pharmacy colleagues. Somehow we managed to choose the only pub in Brighton that was holding a quiz night, so every time I got into a meaningful conversation, I was interrupted by a man with a microphone asking us to name the capital of Bolivia. By the end of the night I was more hoarse than Dobbin.

But undeterred, Lisa, Amelie and I are heading off to Wiltshire in the morning to spend Christmas with Big Sis. The roads might be treacherous, but on the plus side, the boot of my car is so full of gifts that if we crash, people are going to think Santa's sleigh has come down on the M4. We could end up bringing festive cheer to half of Berkshire.

Monday, December 21, 2009

My Mum asked me yesterday whether I have to drive through the snow to any clinics today. I replied that no, I’ll be safe and warm in the office all day, eating mince pies and working out how I can get a photo of Amelie dressed as an elf into the departmental newsletter. I then turned to Lisa and said “Unless, of course, one of my colleagues phones in sick and I have to go to Lewes or something!”. At which point we both laughed.

That’s what you call ‘tempting fate’. I had a phone call from work at 8:30am this morning. You can guess what they said.

So I’m typing this at Lewes Hospital, where I’m holed up for the day with no packed lunch and a forecast of snow. But am I sorry to be here? Yes. No. Because if I’d spent the day in a warm office, surrounded by festive nibbles, I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to screen an inmate from the local prison. After all, it’s not every day you get the chance to photograph someone in handcuffs. Well, not with the kind of sex life I have.

The irony is that despite being chained up and escorted by not one, but two prison officers, he was actually my nicest patient of the day. I’d grant him parole immediately. He had a very honest face. Although I did check to see if I still had my wallet when he left.

To add to the slightly surreal atmosphere, the consulting room just along the corridor from mine was occupied this morning by the consultant urologist I’ve been seeing in Brighton for my prostatitis. We kept bumping into each other when we went to call our next patients, which was slightly awkward. It’s not easy making eye contact with a man who can picture you naked. I didn’t know whether to ignore him, chat about the weather, or strip off and demand to know why I’m still getting pain.

Anyhoo, it’s currently 2pm, the weather’s turning, and so are my patients. Back home, that is. The waiting room’s as empty as the box of mince pies I bought on Saturday. But the good news is I’ve got something to play with. I skated into town at lunchtime and bought a giant moose rug for Amelie from the nearest charity shop. Not only does it have antlers, hooves and a tail, but it’s machine washable and you can tumble dry it on low. It looks like a cross between Rudolph and roadkill. She’ll love it.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

I took Amelie out in the snow yesterday. We went on a father-daughter team-building exercise to my doctor's surgery to get a repeat prescription for Tamsulosin. It's memories like that which will be so precious to her in later life. Anyhoo, I'm not saying it was a bad decision, but we spent most of the journey recreating the scene from King Kong where they glide across the frozen lake and almost die. At one point I was sliding to the right, Amelie's buggy to the left, and a car with its brakes full-on was coming straight towards us.

For safety's sake, I decided that we ought to have more weight for the return journey, to make both me and the buggy more stable, so we loaded up with Finest Deep Filled Mince Pies at Tesco. They've got walnuts and almonds in them, and are not only nice to eat, but also a useful medical tool. By the end of the afternoon we'd conclusively proved that Amelie doesn't have a nut allergy.

Having been out in the snow for half the day though, she has developed a taste for ice...

Her eyes might be bigger than her stomach, but her mouth's a lot larger than both.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

It's taken more than fourteen months, but I've finally worked out how I can make my fortune from Amelie. And I'm not talking about the secret elf photos which Lisa has leaked illegally onto Facebook. No, I can exclusively reveal here today that Amelie's going to be a world-renowned fakir.

Every evening at 7 o'clock (which is our favourite time of the day), we put Amelie to bed in her cot, where she sleeps (hopefully) until we go to bed ourselves. At which point we transfer her to a foldable cot in the living room for the rest of the night. Tragically, however, my prostate's been inflamed again since Thursday evening, which resulted in me feeling like a zombie on Valium all day yesterday. I ended up falling asleep on the sofa at 8:30pm, waking up an hour later to the sight of Heston Blumenthal eating a dormouse on Channel 4, and putting up the cot in a bit of a daze, before staggering straight off to bed. Lisa then carried Amelie into the living room in complete darkness, and the three of us slept through the night.

All of which seemed fine until 8 o'clock this morning, when I crawled out of bed, went to get Amelie up, and discovered that I'd managed to set up the cot last night without using the hard base, the soft mattress, or the jersey sheet. All of which were sitting unused on the floor at the other end of the room. Amelie had spent ten hours lying on four metal bars. And she'd had the best night's sleep of her life. I'm tempted to try her with a bed of nails tonight. By this time next week, we'll have her sleeping upright on a spike.

Anyhoo, I don't know if anyone's noticed, but we had a bit of snow yesterday. Personally I quite enjoyed it. Mainly because my boss bought us all a Pecan Danish as a reward for wading into work. Despite that incentive, however, most of my colleagues didn't make it in, so I agreed to cover a clinic at the hospital, where I saw a total of... (brace yourself)... two patients all morning. And one of those wasn't mine. The consultant next door had to share hers with me because there weren't enough to go round.

So I had one of the quietest days of my working life. Which makes it ironic that last night was the first time I've ever fallen asleep on the sofa.

Anyway, in other news, you'll notice a slight change to my blog comments. After five years using Haloscan, I received an e-mail out of the blue yesterday telling me that the free service is being discontinued, and I've got two weeks to stump up $10 for a new service called Echo (which sounds like a local paper), otherwise every comment I've ever received will be lost. I like to think of it as an early Christmas present. Albeit one I didn't want. Fortunately I'm made of money, so I've paid up, but I'm not happy about it.

And talking of Christmas presents I'm unhappy with, you might remember that Amazon failed to deliver our gifts on Monday because we were out. Well the good news is we arranged to have them redelivered on Friday. The bad news is it snowed and they didn't come. At this rate I'll be wrapping up boxes of eye drops.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

When I checked the address of one of my patients today, I found that she lived in a house called 'Qurna'. So being a very thorough healthcare professional (and a lifelong nosey parker), I naturally asked her why. She told me that she and her husband had first met in Iraq, many years ago, "back when it was still nice" (which is an outrageous slur on modern day Iraq, which I'm sure is delightful). They'd fallen in love on the banks of the River Tigris, where it meets the Euphrates, in one of the most oil-rich regions on Earth (and she should know - she probably owns most of it), which is thought by some to be the location of the Garden of Eden. So having moved back to this country and bought their own piece of paradise, they decided to celebrate their union by naming it 'Qurna' after the town where their romance began.

My parents have done a similar thing. They've both put the word 'Reading' on their glasses cases.

Anyhoo, on the subject of my parents, today is my Mum's birthday, so Happy Birthday to her. Unfortunately I haven't been able to send her any birthday wishes because I've been stuck all day in a hospital so remote that I can't get a mobile signal. I've been forced to chat instead to a gentleman who usually goes to Harley Street, a bloke who owns five hundred cows, and a small child who looked into my consulting room and announced to everyone outside that "the man's playing on his computer". I can't get away with anything these days.

I did, however, have the assistance of a hospital volunteer, who spent the day greeting people at the entrance, showing them to the waiting room, and telling them to "wait here until the optometrist calls you". Frankly they'll have a long wait. I can't believe she's been calling me an optometrist. Most people think I'm a doctor.

But on the subject of mad people who need doctors, Lisa had another nasty tumble last night. She's so unsteady on her pins, I'm thinking of getting her a CareLink button to wear around her neck. This time she went flying as she came out of the kitchen, took Amelie's safety gate with her, and hit her head on the side of the sofa, before landing face down on the floor. Well, on the safety gate. Which, by then, was lying on the floor. I'm gutted I didn't get it on film. By the time I'd picked up my camera, she was crawling across the carpet in tears, and I felt it would have been insensitive to press 'record'.

So having comforted Lisa on the sofa, and established that it wasn't quite as bad as the time she fell down a cliff, I spent twenty minutes on my knees with a spanner in my hand, reinstalling the child safety gate. At which point Lisa got up, went to get a biscuit, and did exactly the same thing again. Even Amelie learns a lesson faster than that.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Lisa visited our friend Lorraine yesterday, and came back with not one, but three Christmas gifts for Amelie. So in an act of festive kindness (and extreme impatience on Lisa's part), we decided to let her open one this morning...

It's another heart-warming moment in the Gardner household.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Just as the weather turns to snow and ice, I've had to return to the winding country roads of Crawley Down today. In the words of the patient pictured opposite my consulting room, "No..."

Why have one sun when you can have two.
Mind you, he's having a red hot poker inserted into his ear, so it's a miracle his language isn't even stronger.

But on the subject of small children who create beautiful pictures, the good news is that Amelie's now learnt to take photos with Lisa's mobile phone. Obviously she's not allowed to, but frankly that's never going to stop her. She's actually learnt a total of three new skills in the past few days: she's taken a photo of her skirt, sent a blank text message to my Mum, and then on Saturday, surfed the internet. We found her sitting under the living room table with Lisa's mobile, trying to enter something into Yahoo search. I wanted to see what she was looking for, but sadly she ran out of credit before we could find out.

So with Lisa needing to raise some cash to top up her mobile, we decided to head over to Hove dog track on Sunday with Lisa's mother. She's surviving on a state pension, whereas I'm living the life of Riley, so I kindly gave her twenty pounds spending money. A decision I regretted when I lost my shirt on the first race and she won £28.50 from a £2 bet. I thought that was jammy until four races later when she bet the same amount again and won fifty-five quid. At which point I asked her to lend me some money.

Fortunately I managed to string together a few minor wins of my own before the end of the afternoon, and we left Hove considerably richer than when we arrived. Or we would have done if we hadn't stopped at Burger King on the way home.

As for yesterday, I took the day off work to go Christmas shopping with Lisa. Her Mum was kind enough to have Amelie (although with her money, she could have hired a nanny), so we made straight for Toys R Us, where we loaded up on seasonal essentials like a plastic Noah's Ark and a musical aeroplane. By the time we left, it was past Amelie's teatime, so Lisa phoned her Mum (on my mobile, for obvious reasons) to check that Amelie wasn't starving. Fortunately she wasn't. She'd been eating chocolate cake all afternoon.

We arrived home at 6:30pm, safe in the knowledge that we'd finally finished our Christmas shopping. At which point we found a card on the doormat telling us that Amazon had tried to deliver the rest of our gifts, found we were out, and taken them all back to the depot. It looks like I might have to give the ark to my brother.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Some people say that friends are there to share the good times and help you through the bad times. Personally I just want them to provide me with blog posts. Which is why I value the friendship of my good chum Andrew. Over the past year, I've witnessed his bowling technique, watched him set light to an exploding flower, photographed him with a cat in a wedding dress, and seen him constantly surrounded by beautiful women...

                           Cheeky                                                       Cheekier

I've even handled his sperm, which is not something I want to do again. But now, just when I thought it was safe to put down the camera... ANDREW'S GONE GOSPEL!!!

If it wasn't for women in specs, he'd have been in the front row.

Anyhoo, having seen Paranormal Activity last weekend, Lisa and I decided to opt for more of the same last night by heading over to Hove Town Hall to witness the unlikely sight of Andrew singing in a community gospel choir. We had to take Stefan with us too, because frankly he refused to believe it either unless he saw it with his own eyes.

It was actually the annual Christmas concert of Brighton Goes Gospel, "a non-religious (all religions and none) community gospel choir run by volunteers". You don't have to audition to get in, which probably explains a lot.

As it turned out, the concert was actually very good. Here's Andrew holding sway with the best of them...

It's hard to believe he's only been doing that for fourteen weeks. As recently as September, he could barely move from side to side. And don't make the mistake of thinking that's easy. You only need to look at the bloke on the right to realise how tough it is to sway in time to the music. Andrew has nailed that in less than three months.

Anyhoo, the star of the evening was obvious, but there were other people performing. The lady with the belting voice is Susan Harriott (no relation to Ainsley), an amazing singer who, according to the programme, has worked with artists such as Corinne Bailey Rae and Westlife. The first video above features rare footage of her beaded belt, which snapped as she sat down after the first song, sending beads all over the floor. I personally picked up three of them, whereupon I realised they weren't genuine pearls, and decided to give them back.

That wasn't the only rare sight of the evening though. If you'd been there at about 9:30pm, you'd have seen me, Lisa and Stefan standing in a line, clapping, and doing the actions to an up-tempo worship song. That's not something you see every day. Admittedly not all of us managed to clap in the right places, and at least one of us had trouble with the hand rolls, but we got into the (holy) spirit of the thing, and I'm confident we managed to get onto the DVD they were shooting of the evening. Lisa in particular had a starring role, when she decided to beat the queue for the toilets by walking out before the interval, right past Karen Gibson, the choir director, who was being filmed at the time. I can't wait to see that on the big screen.

Other highlights included the look of fear on Lisa's face when a member of the choir walked into the audience with a microphone during 'Let It Be' and tried to get people to sing... and the fact that Susan Harriott didn't know the words to 'All I Want for Christmas is You', and had to stick them to the seat right in front of me. It looked like she was singing the entire song just to me. I've never seen such a heartfelt performance. Fortunately her husband had left at that point to get changed into a Santa suit and hand out chocolate to young people like myself. That was the other highlight of the evening. I haven't had a finger of fudge in years.

Anyway, a good night was had by all, and having held a debriefing session in the corner of The Tin Drum pub shortly afterwards, we're now on the verge of starting our own choir. At the moment it's just me, Andrew, Stefan and Lisa, and two of us are refusing to sing, but between the four of us we've got two guitars, some leather trousers and a cowboy hat, and frankly that's all you need.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

ABC. Easy as 123.I don't know how concerned I should be by the fact that there's a copy of this book lying on the side in Theatre 1 at the Sussex Eye Hospital. It made me wonder if the surgeon's flicking through 'Vitrectomies for Dummies' in between patients.

But anyhoo, my morning with the ophthalmologists yesterday was an eye-opening experience. And not just because I caught sight of my reflection walking into theatre. To be honest, I don't really think I have the figure for scrubs. I looked like the hippo from the Silent Night adverts. And I'm not sure plum is my colour. The only good thing was that by the time I'd got the hat and mask on, you could barely tell it was me. Especially as I'd left my ID badge back in the changing room.

But that aside, I have to say it was all quite awe-inspiring. I know it's fun to slag off the NHS, but when you witness the sheer skill of the eye surgeons, and the multi-million pound equipment they use, you realise just how little the British public have to moan about. Although I'm not sure the second patient of the day would have agreed with me when they started injecting anaesthetic into his eyeball. Let's just say he wasn't a happy bunny.

I actually sat in on a total of three vitrectomies, some laser treatment and a cataract removal. The first of those was a 55-year-old man with diabetes. They gave me his medical notes to flick through as I sat at the bottom of the bed waiting for the anaesthetic to work, and I have to say, it makes you realise just how seriously people need to take this disease. The man had never managed to control his diabetes, and his notes were a catalogue of eye treatment dating back to 2003 when he was first referred by my current boss from the retinal screening programme. He's now virtually blind in both eyes, and yesterday's operation was a last ditch attempt to save the tiny amount of sight he has left. I see patients every week who laugh and joke about the fact that their sugar levels are always high and they can't stop eating Chocolate Hob-Nobs. It's not until you see one of them on the operating table with a scalpel in his eye, that you realise it's no laughing matter.

I watched most of the operations on a video screen at one end of the theatre, but the surgeon invited me to come and sit next to him for part of the first procedure, and I was allowed to view it through the microscope he was using, which had two sets of eye holes at right angles to each other. I don't have a photo of the Sussex Eye Hospital theatre, but here's the same equipment at Eastbourne...

It was like we were co-pilots of the same submarine. I spent most of the time terrified that I was going to knock the thing with my head and cause him to slice the patient's eye in two, but despite never really relaxing, I thoroughly enjoyed it. It was like looking into another world, with the surgeon explaining what he was doing, and me feeling shocked that I understood it all.

I must admit, the first fifteen minutes of the day were a little difficult, but it's amazing how quickly you adjust to the sight of knives puncturing eyes, conjunctiva being peeled back, blood being sucked away, and stitches going in and out. You kind of forget what you're looking at after a while. There was also a sense of completeness to it all: this time last year I was at the pharmacy stores, packing the eye theatre's pharmacy box with Balanced Salt Solution and Hyaluronic Acid. Twelve months later I was seeing it being used. It was satisfying to know that most of the boxes on the shelf of the operating theatre had been personally supplied by my pal Stefan. I must remember to thank him. In approximately one hour's time.

Anyhoo, it was all rather fab, and made me proud to be a taxpayer. I'd write even more, but I'm due out shortly at a non-religious gospel concert. No, really. We're all praying there'll be no mention of God.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

I had a terrible experience last night. I'd just driven back from Lewes Hospital in my Mum's clapped-out old crate of a car (the one she's been forced to use since she sold me her decent one) because my own car was being MOT'd for the first time. Coaxing a rattling, clanking old rustbucket of a Skoda over the hills of Woodingdean in the pouring rain, thick fog and pitch blackness was bad enough, especially as I nearly crashed at every corner when I forgot I didn't have power-steering, but having finally come to rest in a parking space outside my flat, I emerged from the heap of decrepit useless junk, and was standing in the road, locking the thing (as if anyone would try to steal it) when a passing car honked its horn at me.

I nearly jumped out of my skin. Quite frankly, when you've spent all afternoon screening weirdos in wheelchairs, and then driven a car which is sicker than all of them, your nerves are in no fit state to cope with irresponsible road hogs honking their horns from a distance of three feet. But still, whilst clutching my chest and trying to fend off a major heart attack, I was at least able to console myself with the knowledge that A & E was no more than a five minute crawl away.

As the culprits drove off down the road, they even had the nerve to gesticulate to me out of their car window. I felt like making a few hand gestures of my own, I can tell you.

Anyway, it's difficult to say who would carry out such a heinous act of wanton road rage, but I'd guess it's the kind of bracelet-obsessed individual who loves leopard print, country music and gospel singing, and spends his spare time hanging out with The Cheeky Girls.

They're not as cheeky as Amelie.
Although I doubt such a person exists.

Anyway, the good news is that I survived, and managed to stagger indoors safely. Where I found a bill for £457 for my car's service and MOT. At which point I finally fainted.

But it's all good practice for tomorrow. I'm sitting in on a morning of eye surgery at the Sussex Eye Hospital. I have to be at the operating theatre at 8:15am to change into my scrubs and use the alcohol hand gel. Possibly in front of a poster of Amelie. The surgery starts at eight-thirty. And by 8:45 I should be coming round on a stretcher.

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

I asked an 86-year-old patient today if she wears glasses. She replied "Only for driving", and then told me about her farm. That's pretty much been the story of my week. I feel like I'm living in an episode of Peak Practice.

Every year, for about three weeks, we hold clinics in Crawley Down, a small village halfway between Crawley and East Grinstead, which is populated by people too classy to live in either. Much like Handcross, which has a brand new two-storey health centre to serve the twenty-or-so people who live there, Crawley Down is home to a stunning state-of-the-art clinic where the GPs outnumber the patients by a ratio of about three to one. Or maybe it just seems that way.

Ironically, despite being the kind of place most healthcare professionals would love to work in, none of my colleagues want to go there because it's in the middle of nowhere, and an hour's drive away down winding country roads which flood at the slightest drop of rain. And which you have to negotiate in the dark on the way home.

So having done the first clinic of the year in Crawley Down last week, I agreed to go back there yesterday, and then again today. They're thinking of putting me on the permanent staff list. As it happens, it's a nice place to work. There's nothing to do at lunch time (unless you like sitting on a village green in December), but the GP in the room opposite makes me cups of tea, and the one down the corridor asked me to photograph his eyes. The receptionist even phones me if my patients turn up late. And as for the patients, you can tell they're classy because they all live at addresses without numbers.

The journey's quite interesting too. My route takes me past Worth Abbey, where they filmed the BBC Two series 'The Monastery', and through the village of Turners Hill which, according to Wikipedia (so believe it at your peril), is home to an expert from Antiques Roadshow and a member of Led Zeppelin. The main road also features an official tourist sign directing people to 'World of Water', which had me dreaming of a major theme park featuring log flumes, jet-skis and water slides. It turned out to be a pond shop. Frankly I'd only be interested if it had a 'u' in the middle of 'pond'.

Anyhoo, Crawley Down's all very civilised and genteel. But if you can't picture it, don't worry. They've lined the walls of the clinic's main corridor with pictures of the place, as drawn by the children of the local primary school. I particularly like this one, which hangs right outside my consulting room...

Somebody call a chiropractor.
It's a fine line between health centre and torture chamber.

Monday, December 07, 2009

Well I may not have written a single word of my City & Guilds coursework, but I have put up the Christmas lights...

She's got a glowing reputation.
I've got eighteen months to do that diploma, so it seemed like the more pressing task. And besides, Amelie wouldn't help me with my essay. Admittedly, when I tried to pull everything down from a high shelf, and got hit on the top of the head by a falling Christmas tree stand, I did start to wonder if I'd be safer back at the computer with a stack of diabetes books, but to be honest, they can make my head hurt too.

Anyhoo, I'm not sure we'll make it to twelfth night without Amelie chewing through the fairy lights and electrocuting herself, but if you can see past the deathtrap and fire hazard issues, the place looks quite festive.

That aside, I managed to get quite a lot done this weekend whilst avoiding my City & Guilds. Nothing spurs you on to great achievement like knowing you should be doing something else. So the good news is that the flat is spotless, and my family now know exactly what to get me for Christmas. Obviously if I hadn't spent three hours on Amazon choosing what I'd like, I might have managed to write an essay, but that's just something my parents will have to live with.

Mind you, they weren't the only ones distracting me from my work. Having dropped Lisa at her Mum's on Friday, I had to revisit twice over the weekend, firstly with a cot mattress for Amelie who wasn't sleeping well, and then with some make-up for Lisa who wasn't looking well. It was during that second visit that Lisa persuaded me to return for a third time later that afternoon and take her to the cinema. I don't know what it is about these weekends apart, but frankly I've never seen so much of her.

So we headed down to Cineworld yesterday for the 2:40 showing of 'Paranormal Activity'. It's a horror film, and the most profitable independent movie ever made, having raked in more than a hundred million dollars on a budget of only fifteen thousand. So it has a lot in common with The Blair Witch Project. Namely that nothing happens in either of them.

To be fair, it was pretty spooky throughout, and the tension built quite well, but ultimately if you expect to see anything at all on a budget of fifteen grand, you're going to be disappointed. Having spent ninety minutes watching the interior of the director's bedroom, the scariest part seemed to be his taste in decor. The only time I jumped was when someone slammed the cinema door coming back from the toilets.

Friday, December 04, 2009

I had my six month review at work on Monday. Having put up with me for half a year now, they've decided to let me stay, which means I'm no longer on probation and they'll find it pretty difficult to get rid of me unless I'm caught stealing cameras. Which is unlikely to happen. Because I'm very stealthy and have a big coat.

One of the things which came up during the review is that my boss wants someone to produce a departmental newsletter on a regular basis, featuring news, views, horoscopes and recipes (those last two are negotiable), and with my extensive background as a professional writer and journalist (obviously I lied through my teeth at the interview), he thinks I'm just the man to do it. I had all-day clinics on Tuesday and Wednesday, so I was looking forward to Thursday, when I had a rare day in the office. I planned to spend it browsing Word templates on the Microsoft site, composing witty headlines, and trying to crowbar tabloid-style puns into every sentence.

Unfortunately things never work out the way I plan. It's the same for mice, apparently. Within five minutes of walking through the door yesterday morning, I'd been asked to go to Horsham Hospital with a computer hard drive which had been left behind by one of my colleagues. Fortunately I didn't need to go until late morning, but I decided to pop straight into the admin office to pick it up. Where the senior administrator immediately told me how desperate she was for help, and begged me to help her book appointments for a couple of hours.

Being the kind of bloke who can't say no, I said "oh alright then", and spent the rest of the morning summoning patients to Crawley Hospital. By which time my boss had found something else he wanted me to do at Horsham. I eventually left at 11:30am with a hard drive, a firewire lead, a CD-rom, and a list of jobs involving a desktop PC, a laptop and a retinal screening camera. I didn't get back until four-thirty.

But the good news is that Lisa and Amelie have gone to stay with her Mum for the weekend (I think it was something I said), so by this time on Sunday, I plan to have the newsletter designed, my Christmas shopping done, and a big chunk of my City & Guilds completed. Unless I decide to watch X Factor. But as for tonight, it's my work's Christmas meal down at the marina. Give me a few hours, and I should have the material for a gossip column.

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

I was doing a clinic on the other side of town today, and they were training a young student nurse in the consulting room opposite. She kept leaving the door open (which prompted a short lecture on patient confidentiality), but at least it gave me the chance to witness her bedside manner, which was very entertaining. It's not every day you see an elderly white man being asked if he's related to Beyoncé. When he looked blank, she added "Her surname's Knowles too, did you know that?". He didn't. I also sensed he'd never heard of Beyoncé, but hey, at least she was was making conversation.

On the subject of the sick and confused, when I said that Lisa and Amelie aren't causing their usual mayhem, I was only half right...

To be fair, it is 2009, and I should probably be moving on to Blu-ray discs. They're a lot lighter, and do less damage when she drops them on Chloe's head. It's interesting, however, to note the effect that my firm "No" had on Amelie about twenty seconds into the video. I even followed Supernanny's advice and used a low-toned voice. Possibly so low that she couldn't hear it. She certainly didn't take a blind bit of notice. We've tried introducing a naughty step too, but she just uses it to climb onto the table.

The three of us were actually due to pop over to Lorraine's for an hour or two this evening, but Lisa's decided to cancel, partly due to ill health, but mainly because the vase that Amelie broke last time she visited was part of a matching pair, and we don't want to be charged for the second one.

In the meantime, I've shown Amelie the video above, in an attempt to point out the error of her ways, and allow the girl to learn from her own mistakes...

That's not really the lesson I was trying to teach, but it's important to be able to laugh at yourself.

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

I think we need to buy Amelie a laser pointer...

It's not really ideal to have to stand on a stool and use a hairbrush every time you want to point out where you are in the photo.

Anyhoo, as the picture above demonstrates, there are definite advantages to working just along the corridor from the hospital's senior graphic designer and her giant poster printer. Admittedly, the NHS budget for 2009 probably wasn't intended to cover freebies for me and Lisa, but let's face it, if I hadn't been given a copy, I'd only have stolen one from the children's hospital. So they'd have paid for it one way or another. In fact I've saved the NHS money, because this particular edition was printed without the expensive new super-coating they now give to all hospital posters to bring out the contrast and produce vibrant colours. And that's where your taxes are really going.

Ironically, within hours of receiving our very own infection control poster, Lisa, Amelie and I seem to have gone down with a mystery illness. To be honest, mine's no mystery. I've been developing the symptoms of a cold since I walked through the rain with a frozen lasagne on Saturday. Having been vaccinated against seasonal flu, swine flu and hepatitis B in the past fortnight, a cold's just about the only thing I can still get. But as for Lisa and Amelie, they haven't been quite right for the past twenty-four hours. Lisa's been failing faint (possibly because she's living on eighteen Weight Watchers points a day) and Amelie was up half the night, howling at the moon. Neither of them seem to be causing their usual mayhem...

I had to crop Lisa's face out of that photo for legal reasons, but trust me, she's looking pale.

Monday, November 30, 2009

It's the Famous Five in 'Five Go Eating Again'...

Five a Day
The actress playing Timmy the dog was slightly distracted by a cat to our left, and failed to look at the camera. I won't be casting her in the sequel.

Anyhoo, just because we're living amongst toddler-induced carnage, and sitting on a sofa covered in baby food, vomit and burn marks, doesn't mean that we can't have friends around for Sunday lunch. So yesterday we invited Stefan and Andrew to tread the tea stained carpet and join us for a home cooked meal of the finest Lasagne Verde. Thank God they do four-person servings at Cook.

Admittedly, as I walked back from the Cook shop on Saturday afternoon through a torrential downpour, and felt the rain slowly soaking through my coat and into my shirt, I did wonder if it might not have just been easier to make the lasagne myself. But as I said to Amelie, who was tucked up safe and warm in her cosytoes underneath a plastic rain cover, it might take us a good forty-five minutes to trudge home along the seafront through the darkness of a late November monsoon, but if the lasagne's as cold as I am, it definitely won't defrost.

Fortunately it turned out to be worth it. Amelie and I might have both developed coughs, and I'm still not sure my coat's completely dry, but that was a damn fine lasagne verde. I just wish it had taken the four of us longer than two minutes to eat it all.

Obviously the main reason for having Stefan and Andrew over here as often as possible is because they always bring us gifts. And yesterday was no exception. We're now the proud owners of a red poinsettia and a wheat-filled elephant...

Getting a closer look.
The elephant's microwaveable and scented with lavender, so it should simultaneously send Amelie to sleep and save on our heating bills. Obviously when I say it's microwaveable, I don't mean the whole elephant. That would be ridiculous. You actually just remove the wheat-filled bag from inside, and heat that. To be honest, I probably should have read the instructions before trying it out, but I don't think Amelie was too disturbed by the sight of her cuddly toy being cooked in the oven.

Anyhoo, we spent an enjoyable afternoon discussing the latest developments in the worlds of pharmacy, retinal screening and sexual health, whilst wishing Amelie could talk so that she could explain to us how her toy train works. We also gave Stefan and Andrew a sneak preview of Amelie's Christmas costume. There hasn't been so much secrecy surrounding an outfit since Lady Diana got married. I was tempted to get them to sign some kind of confidentiality agreement before I got it out of the wardrobe. But the good news is they both liked it. Or maybe they were just being polite. Either way, if you think she looked cute last year, you ain't seen nothing yet.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Three weeks after she went to Dubai and contracted swine flu, we've finally received a postcard from Big Sis...

Who's the bloke in the tea towel?
I'm so glad she took the trouble to write.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

You see a lot of rubbish in the average hospital café...

But fortunately visitors to the Royal Alexandra Children's Hospital in Brighton are now able to experience Amelie's larger-than-life presence as they shove their leftover NHS sandwiches into the bin. As of this week, the new infection control posters are up, and Amelie's taken up residence in the café by the hospital entrance. You can feel her eyes burning into your back as you tuck into another doughnut whilst waiting to see the dietician.

Due to a combination of annual leave and all-day clinics across Sussex, I hadn't actually been into my department for a week and a half, but when I strolled in yesterday morning, the Trust's senior graphic designer popped straight out of her office and told me the good news that my daughter had finally been admitted to hospital. Her primary role is to turn heads (and stomachs) in the coffee shop, but she's apparently dotted around other prime locations too.

I could cope with Amelie if she was permanently behind glass.Naturally I was keen to go and have a look, and as luck would have it, they were holding a swine flu vaccination session for staff on one of the wards. So I informed my supervisor that my immediate immunisation against the perils of a pork pandemic was possibly the most pressing priority of my working day, and I was heading straight over there.

Unfortunately she said she'd come with me. As did one of my colleagues.

So the three of us headed over to the main hospital site, them to get an important vaccination, me to look for giant posters of my daughter. Fortunately I managed to steer our little field trip towards the children's hospital, and immediately spotted Amelie through the window from twenty yards away. She was stopping traffic opposite the entrance to the main car park. Before I knew it, my two colleagues were heading straight through the automatic doors, and encouraging me to take photos. We spent the next ten minutes touring the Royal Alex, playing a game of I Spy Amelie. It was so exciting, I forgot to use the alcohol hand gel.

Anyhoo, there are now so many infection control posters up in the hospital that you have to question the Trust's policy on paper use. But they're not all six feet tall. There's a very dinky little one of Amelie on the door of a ward downstairs. There are probably others too, but you soon reach the point where you start to feel slightly uncomfortable walking around a children's hospital with a camera, so we decided to leave before someone called security.

Two minutes later I was discussing my bedroom habits with a nurse. Apparently there are only two questions you need to answer before getting the swine flu vaccination. One is whether you're allergic to eggs (because they go so well with bacon), and the other is which side you sleep on. I was told that having had the injection, I may not be able to lie on that arm for a couple of nights, and might need painkillers by the evening.

To be honest, I thought she was telling porkies about swine flu. All three of us left there with no ill effects and were fine for the rest of the day. Until about 8pm, that is. Lisa was out for the evening, so whilst sitting in the darkness next to a cot, trying to soothe a screaming poster-child, I suddenly realised that my arm was hurting. Within half an hour it had got a lot worse, and at 8:40pm I received the following text message from my boss:

"Phil, does your arm hurt? Mine does!"

I don't know what they're putting in that swine flu vaccine, but my arm feels like it's been savaged by a pig. I think that's where they get the phrase 'ham-fisted'. And I only went over there to see posters of Amelie.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

In the past twenty-four hours, my Taylor Swift videos have attracted more than 2,500 views and fifty comments on YouTube. Over the same period of time, my Snuggle Puppy film has received a total of ten views and one comment. The views came mostly from Amelie, but the comment came in person from Lisa's sister. Apparently she thinks I look "menacing" when I sing. Yes, menacing. This from a woman who's killed two gerbils and tried to poison a sparrow. I only murdered a song. Anyway, I'm not one to hold a grudge, but I'm crossing her straight off my Christmas card list and planning a carolling trip to her street.

Incidentally, if you take a look at the address bar near the top of your browser, you might find that you're currently visiting a website you've never heard of. After seven years and 650,000 words, I've finally decided to register a domain name for this blog. So from this day forth, it'll be Because was already taken. I know, I couldn't believe it either. You should automatically be redirected to the new address, though it might take a day or two before it happens.

In the meantime, a friend of ours has bought Amelie a cape, so that she can play at being a superhero...

Get Cape. Wear Cape. Fly.
She's currently being Couch Potato Girl, with the power to change both lives and TV channels.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

It's surprising how close you can get to America's biggest selling music artist when you're hiding behind a bunch of twelve-year-old girls...

We blended in seamlessly last night. I think it helped that Lisa has a brace. She couldn't look more like a teenager if she tried.

But if you think I got close to a celebrity in that video, you should have seen me with Louis Theroux a couple of hours earlier. We were practically holding hands.

Anyhoo, our trip to Wembley to see Taylor Swift yesterday was a complete success. It started well when I managed to beat Lisa at her favourite Nintendo DS game on the train to Victoria, but things got even better when we arrived in London and I gave her 30p for the toilet. She immediately got it stuck in the machine (obviously), but whilst banging it in frustration, she found a pound coin in the change chute. I spent it on some paracetamol to treat the eye strain I'd got from playing the DS.

From there we headed straight to Euston to meet this young lady...

I've shaved since Sunday.
I'm obviously a lot happier to be in that photo than she is. That's our friend 'C'. She lives in Plaistow, but as if that wasn't bad enough, she works for Camden Council. So we persuaded her to finish early and walk down the road to the Prezzo restaurant near Euston station. And I'm glad we did, because you'll never guess who we met crossing Euston Road on a green light...

Louis Theroux! No, really. I pointed him out to both Lisa and 'C', but Lisa failed to spot him. Mainly because she was looking for Louis Walsh. She's easily confused like that. I was going to ask Louis to pose for a photo, but we were standing in the middle of a busy road at the time, and I decided he wasn't worth dying for. It's probably just as well - Lisa would have embarrassed me by asking him about X Factor.

Hello Wembley!Having stuffed ourselves with Italian food, and discussed the merits of speed-dating, we bid farewell to 'C' and jumped on the tube to Wembley Arena. The last time we were there, Lisa was four months pregnant and I had to buy her an ice cream just to persuade her to walk from the tube station. A lot's changed since then. They're no longer selling ice creams. Which was ironic, as it soon became apparent that most of Taylor Swift's fans are children. I knew something was up when I realised I was the only member of the audience who needed glasses to see the stage.

Our seats were pretty central, which meant we missed out on the chance to take part in a Mexican wave before the show started...

... but let's face it, I have trouble persuading Lisa to stand up at the best of times. The wave would have hit the rocks the moment it got to our section.

The support act for the evening was Justin Bieber. Yes, Justin Bieber. No, I've never heard of him either. But the teenage girls sitting in the row in front of us knew the words to all his songs, so it's clearly some kind of generational thing. According to Wikipedia, he's a 15-year-old Canadian who was discovered on YouTube, and immediately signed to Usher's record label. Which makes me glad I posted my Snuggle Puppy video. I should be cutting my first album by the end of the week.

Bieber was a definite grower, and by the end of his set, I genuinely liked the boy. Although at his age, I could probably be arrested for saying that. I'd wish him luck, but he already broke a leg last night.

The lady we'd really come to see, however, was that little tinker, Taylor...

Tinker Taylor soldiers on.
Bearing in mind how far we were from the stage, I'm quite pleased with that photo. That's the advantage of being amongst a crowd of teenage girls. No one's over five feet tall, and most of them are anorexic, so I got a good view of the show.

Swift ChangeAnd what a show it was. I have to say, I was very impressed. Taylor Swift lived up to her name by performing more quick costume changes than Lisa in the Next fitting rooms. The stage went through just as many transformations, turning from a library to a garden to a medieval castle, complete with band dressed as Elizabethans.

But the best bit was when Taylor disappeared for a few minutes (don't quote me on that bit), only to reappear amongst the crowd at the back of the arena. Which is the kind of thing you can do when your audience are no more dangerous than a fourteen-year-old girl with PMT. She then made her way into a small enclosure in the centre of the hall, and played three songs on a rotating platform, which just happened to be next to where we were sitting. I tried to convince Lisa that I'd deliberately chosen those seats for that reason, but I'm not sure she believed me. She was too busy feeling self conscious about the fact that the small boy sitting next to her had exactly the same brace as she did. The only thing separating them was a glow stick and a pair of flashing bunny ears.

I shot two videos of Taylor playing right in front of us, but the second one's a bit shaky. You have no idea how tiring it is to hold a camera above your head for more than ten minutes. On the plus side, I'm sure Taylor Swift looked directly into my eyes on several occasions. She seemed to be thinking "Aren't you a bit old to be at this concert?".

Taylor's band were great too, although they came dangerously close to line-dancing at one point...

I think the drummer's got swine flu. The rest of the band wouldn't go near him.

The other highlight for me was the finale, which featured Taylor singing an encore under a torrent of falling water. It probably says a lot about me that I was less interested in the sight of a 19-year-old blonde doing a shower scene, and more transfixed by the rain machine which was capable of spelling out words in the flow of water...

Unfortunately, by the time I turned on the camera, the machine had started to malfunction slightly, and the shapes were getting a bit crooked. But I thought that was brilliantly clever. By stopping the flow of water for a split second at certain points in the shower head, you can actually speak under water. It's what you might call 'write as rain'. Taylor's obviously been paying attention in science class.

In the end, she played for the best part of two hours, so Taylor wasn't as swift as her name suggests, but the girl was good value for every one of those 120 minutes. Admittedly we didn't get home until 1:30am, and I now have permanent hearing damage from the sound of ten thousand adolescents screaming in my ears, but I'd do it all again in heartbeat. And when Amelie turns twelve, I'll probably have to.

Monday, November 23, 2009

This is my 1,800th blog post, so I'm celebrating with a song...

I think that's what you call a tough audience. It started well when she turned up with a backing band (well, a rubber band), but from that point onwards, things went downhill faster than Franz Klammer with a tailwind. I had to physically stop her from leaving at one point, and by the end she was resorting to sabotage. Frankly Simon Cowell would have been less critical.

But on the subject of outstanding vocal performances, Lisa and I are going to see Taylor Swift at Wembley Arena tonight. That's if they'll let us in after I asked Ticketmaster to cancel our tickets. We've arranged to meet a friend for dinner at Euston station (which is in the Michelin guide under 'Tyre Fitters'), so that when we're turned away from Wembley, we won't feel we've had a completely wasted journey.

Needless to say, Amelie would love a trip to London to meet the Queen (of country), but after careful consideration, we've decided to leave her in St Leonards with her grandparents. Having seen the way she reacts to a decent bit of singing, we don't want to end up with another Kanye West situation on our hands.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

If you set up a camera in my parents' living room, hide yourself behind the sofa, and remain absolutely still and quiet, you may just be able to catch a glimpse of the normally shy and elusive Mobile Hairdresser of St Leonards...

I think she's looking for Chloe.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Lying in bed last night, during one of the regular intellectual and deeply philosophical conversations we have when we're half asleep and not thinking straight, I said to Lisa "Do you think you could wake me from a coma?". Fortunately she replied "Yes". Which is good to know, because she makes me sit through a lot of soaps, and I regularly come close to losing consciousness.

So feeling encouraged by this news, I immediately asked "How would you do it?". Lisa thought for a moment, then replied "Slap you across the face". Frankly that's her answer to everything. So when I wake up in a hospital bed to the sight of Lisa physically assaulting me, I must remember to thank her.

But violence aside, the good news is that after twenty-four hours away from our daughter, we've finally been reunited with Amelie...

And as that video shows, Lisa can put up with her for about thirty seconds before she's had enough.

We drove over to my parents' bungalow late last night, and arrived more than two and a half hours after Amelie's bedtime. So we only got to see her for ten minutes before she went to bed. I'm not saying her grandparents are spoiling her, but frankly the girl stays up later than I do.

Slushy PuppyA good night's sleep (and a lie-in while Grandma took charge of the childcare), and we were up and out again. Without Amelie. We actually spent the afternoon in Hastings, Lisa shopping for baby clothes, me scouring the charity shops for board books. I came back with a copy of 'Snuggle Puppy', "a little love song" in book form, which is quite possibly the finest thing I've ever read. I've studied the original song on YouTube, and after literally minutes of ceaseless practice, I'm now able to sing the entire book from start to finish. I just need to convince Amelie to stay in the room while I do it.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Oooh look, it's The Specials!

PC Brigade
If you're not familiar with their work, you're probably young like me. Or old like my parents. But if you're middle-aged like Lisa, you'll be very excited by that photo.

Lisa's been a big fan of Terry Hall (he's the third bloke from the left) since 1981, and she gave me a copy of his greatest hits album for my birthday five years ago. Before taking it back six months later when she realised I didn't like it. But despite my lack of enthusiasm for the man's work, I'm always happy to accompany my fiancée to a live concert. Especially when she pays for the tickets. Admittedly, the money came out of Amelie's child benefit, but the girl's away for a couple of days, so she's costing us nothing.

To be honest, I didn't think The Specials would be much cop, but as it turned out, they gave an arresting performance last night. None of their songs lasted more than three minutes, so every time I started thinking "I've had enough of this one now", it finished. Which was great. On the downside, I felt that every song sounded the same, and they would have benefited from putting a slow ballad in there somewhere just to clear the palate and give the drummer a rest.

But I was clearly alone in that view. The entire Brighton Centre (apart from me and Lisa) spent the full ninety minutes jogging on the spot in porkpie hats, and throwing plastic glasses of beer at each other. It was actually very entertaining. The Specials also seemed to have a remarkable amount of energy for a group of men in their fifties. All that clean living has clearly paid off.

Ultimately I enjoyed the concert a lot more than I thought I would. My only disappointment was that the ten pounds I offered Lisa to stand up, point at the stage, and shout "RUDE BOYS!" in her loudest voice, went unclaimed. She's no fun any more. Frankly I'd have done it for a fiver.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

When I said I was going to veg out on the sofa, I didn't expect Amelie to be climbing over the back of it and onto the table...

Seconds out, round one.
This was the scene here half an hour ago. Unfortunately I wasn't able to take photos and free Chloe from a wrestling hold, so I don't have pictures of what happened next.

But the good news is that my Mum's just arrived to collect Amelie and take her back to St Leonards for a couple of nights. I've never seen Lisa pack a bag of baby clothes so quickly.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

I don't know about you, but when I fancy a little something between meals, there's only one thing I do...

Which explains why I've spent the day eating chocolate gateau and Quality Street with a load of diabetes experts. There were cream cakes too, but you have to draw the line somewhere.

I think it's a cow playing football.Needless to say, if you're going to overdose on sugar, the one place you want to do it is at the national headquarters of the world's leading manufacturer of insulin. And as luck would have it, I've spent the day at Novo Nordisk in Crawley. They make Actrapid, Novorapid, Insulatard, Mixtard and Glucagen, so having spent 2008 picking those five products off the shelves of a walk-in pharmacy fridge, I felt fully justified in accepting their cake.

Puppy FatThe event was our NHS Trust's annual 'Diabetes Away Day', a chance for everyone involved in diabetes care from Brighton to Haywards Heath to get together, discuss important issues, and get answers to pertinent questions. Questions like "Where did they find the bloke on the left?".

Lectures came with such titles as 'Monogenic Diabetes - A Progress Report', 'Diabetes & Cancer', and my particular favourite, 'THINK GLUCOSE'. I did very little else all day. By the time I'd finished lunch, I needed twenty units of insulin.

In 2008, Novo Nordisk were awarded fifth place in the 'Best Workplace in the UK' competition, and having seen their catering facilities, I can't say I'm surprised. Although I'm not sure I'd get much work done with all the free croissants on offer. Their HQ is the kind of plush, impressive building which makes you wish you'd got into the pharmaceuticals industry instead of the NHS. Frankly it was more luxurious than most of the hotels I've stayed in. Which probably isn't saying much. On the downside, they keep security so tight that you need an escort with an ID badge just to go to the toilet. The chances of a crazed hyperglycaemic making it out of there with a stolen NovoPen are minimal.

Anyhoo, despite wearing shoes with big heels, a lot of the information went straight over my head. But I still enjoyed the day. Whenever I spend time with consultants and specialist nurses, I realise firstly how little I know, secondly how much I've learnt, and thirdly how lucky I am to be there. I sat next to the hospital's senior endocrinologist, which I'm sure can't be right for someone who was turned down by the SeaLife Centre.

But all good things must come to an end. For a week at least. I've got four days annual leave, so having filled my brain with knowledge and stuffed my blood with sugar, I'll be vegging out on the sofa until Wednesday.