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Friday, February 27, 2009

It was such a nice day today, I decided to walk back to work after lunch, instead of taking the car. I've spent February struggling to get the thing started on cold damp mornings, so now the sun's finally come out for a day, I thought it was bound to overheat going up the hill, just to spite me.

Fur SaleSo I chose to ride shanks's pony up to the race course. And I'm glad I did, because they were having a Fur Sale on the council estate at the top of the Queensway. I wanted to buy Chloe a new coat, but they didn't have one which was waterproof.

And talking of Chloe, word has reached me today via the husband of one of my colleagues, that local Citroën car dealership, Tates of Brighton, are displaying one of Chloe's press photos in their garage. With a bit of luck, this could be the start of a celebrity endorsement deal. I might offer to drive Chloe through their carwash in return for a free Citroën. After all, they must be pretty keen - they've got a showroom full of Picassos, but they've put Chloe up on the wall.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Four days short of her five month birthday, and Amelie's learning to crawl!

Hey, I didn't say she'd finished learning. It's more like a first driving lesson where you can't get out of neutral, and then end up with your face in the airbag.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

I had a phone call at work today from a Senior Pharmacy Technician at the hospital down the road. She told me that a colleague of hers had asked her who I am. So she'd responded by singing the Poddington Peas theme song and talking about my cat. I suppose that pretty much sums up my life.

Anyhoo, I'm a sleepy sheep tonight, possibly because my bestest workmate has gone to build snowmen in Slovakia for two weeks, leaving me to cope alone with the drug-dependent of Sussex. Well, alone apart from the six other people I work with. But on the bright side, there's less work to do at home now that we've taught Amelie to get her own meals...

She can definitely hold her drink.
I just need to show her the washing up, and we'll be laughing.

Monday, February 23, 2009

The problem with internet hoaxes is that they're just not as reliable a source of betting information as you might think. The Daily Telegraph reported on Friday that £40,000 had been wagered on Amy Adams winning the Oscar for Best Supporting Actress after the results were supposedly leaked online. Suffice it to say that without my input, that headline would have read £39,996. Bang goes Amelie's college fund. Not that she'd have got far on four quid.

But who needs money when you've got friends...

Friends Reunited
The hoodie with the ASBO is Amelie, and the girl she's assaulting is the lovely Leia. Back in September, Leia lent Amelie her Moses basket, on condition that we return it if her Mummy ever falls pregnant again. That was six months ago. So we went around there yesterday to hand back the basket and look at Lorraine's bump.

Baby number two is due in May, so Lorraine's obviously grown a lot since I last saw her, but her ballooning abdomen pales into insignificance next to that of her cat. I haven't seen that loveable rogue Timmy for more than a year, but on 17th January 2008 I tactfully described him as being the size of a space hopper, and like a beach ball with fur. Suffice it to say that things have changed a lot since then. He now looks like a hippo wrapped in a rug.

Here's the Timster three and a half years ago, back in those carefree cat-sitting days when my biggest worry in life was how to stop him eating my bagels, jumping into the washing machine, and throwing up on the table...

Trim Tim
And here he is yesterday, too ashamed to look at the camera...

Fat Cat
The irony is that (a) he actually looks a lot fatter in real life, and (b) Lorraine says he's lost weight recently. Presumably because his feet no longer touched the floor and he couldn't walk to the kitchen.

Anyhoo, I expect Timmy's on a diet. Although you wouldn't have thought so by the way he tucked into Lisa's carrot cake the moment she turned her back. But Tubby Tim aside, we spent an enjoyable couple of hours getting a glimpse of our future as we watched Leia crawling around the living room at high speed, and doing her best to grab DVDs, cameras, laptops, and anything worth more than a hundred quid. Frankly the only items she didn't want to play with were her toys.

In return we allowed Lorraine and her fiancé to see into their future, by generously filling the house with the sound of a second crying baby. I'm not sure which of us felt more depressed. It's no wonder Timmy turned to food.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

If there's one thing people have always said about me, it's that I bear an uncanny resemblence to Carol Smillie. Not so much in the looks department, but more in my ability to walk into other people's houses with a smile on my face, and throw out most of their stuff without permission.

Lisa's Mum is currently away for the weekend, so Lisa and I decided to take the opportunity to escape Amelie for a few hours by inviting my Mum to come over and spend Friday night with our daughter while we occupied the vacant flat up the road. Fortunately she agreed. You've never seen two people pack an overnight bag so quickly.

Anyhoo, we had a nice rest, although I must admit it felt odd going to sleep without heavy-duty earplugs and a pillow over my head. But in the morning, as I stole my future mother-in-law's Weetabix, and rummaged around in her biscuit tin for another Kit-Kat, I started to think about what I could do for her. The most obvious thing would have been to go shopping and replace all the food I'd eaten, but I decided she'd be far happier with a new bath mat and shower curtain.

So while Lisa relieved my Mum of babycare duties, I headed off to Lidl (I'm not proud), bought up half their cleaning supplies, and spent the afternoon giving Lisa's Mum's bathroom a makeover. Three hours, a lot of scrubbing and a whole bottle of Cillit Bang later, the place looked like a Dolphin showroom, and I'd managed to break my mother-in-law's kettle. Obviously it wasn't my fault. It's actually not that easy to descale a kettle without ending up with smoke coming out of the on/off switch. It's a well known fact.

So a quick trip to Asda in the evening, and Lisa's Mum now has a shiny new kettle. I won't tell her about the old one. I'll just let her think of it as a generous gift. Frankly it's the least I can do. It's not so much that I'm incredibly selfless, it's more that I'm hoping she'll remember me in her will. Obviously she'd need to win the lottery before there'd be any point her even making a will, but with the amount of money she spends on scratchcards, it's only a matter of time.

But makeovers aside, tonight is, of course, Oscar night. And I'm not talking about my dead cat. Back in 2004 I successfully published my predictions for the main awards, before repeating the trick in 2005, and again in 2006, and astonishingly I've got them all right every year (don't bother clicking on those links). So I took a break in 2007 and 2008, partly to give other forecasters a chance, but mainly because I forgot the Oscars were on.

But after a two year sabbatical, I think it's about time I got back on the horse. So for the first time since 2006...

And the winner is...And the winner is...


It's amazing what you find when you go through people's bins.
I feel strangely confident this year.

Friday, February 20, 2009

At the age of four-and-a-half months, Amelie has suddenly developed the ability to roll onto her side and turn ninety degrees in the cot, so that her head's against the wall and her feet are sticking out through the bars...

Photo © Lisa
She's obviously read the Feng Shui book about sleeping with your head to the north.

But while Amelie's likely to wake up in the morning with a bruised head and cold feet, the good news is that we don't have to worry about her wetting the bed. At work yesterday we received a delivery of amitriptyline syrup which had leaked all over the inside of the box and covered it in fragrant stickiness. Amitriptyline's an anti-depressant, but the syrup's used to treat bedwetting in children, so I suppose a leak of stinking yellow fluid is quite appropriate. We spent yesterday cleaning it all up, and I was examining the salvaged bottles and sticky boxes before I left work tonight. I then returned home without washing my hands and immediately picked up Amelie. At which point she started sucking my thumb. Frankly I don't think I'll need to change her nappy before Sunday.

And as a bonus, now that she can move about on her own, it's only a matter of time before I can make a video like this...

I think I'll film it in the livving room.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Amelie's realised that the only way to get famous is to look like Chloe...

Turn on the shower!
She's got the fur about right, but to be honest, Chloe never looks that happy.

Personally I've chosen to take an altogether different route to fame. I've decided that the best way to eclipse Chloe in the notoriety stakes would be to mow down a celebrity in my car. It gives whole new meaning to the phrase 'hitting the headlines'. So imagine my delight when I drove back to work after lunch this afternoon, turned left into Cuthbert Road, and came face to face with the star of Grange Hill, Coronation Street and (for one show, before he got voted off) Strictly Come Dancing.

Death of BrianYes indeed, it was none other than TV's leading serial killer, Brian Capron! I recognised him immediately as he ran across the road in front of me and did his best to end up under the wheels of my car. Mind you, he had a mystery woman with him, so it could have just been another murder attempt.

Anyhoo, the only thing which stopped me ending the life of Brian was the fact that my car accelerates like a snail on valium, and despite putting my foot to the floor, he'd made it safely to the other side by the time I chugged past at 10mph. He moves pretty fast for a man with two left feet. But let's face it, even if I had been responsible for the death of a much-loved actor, I still wouldn't be famous. I can see the headline now:


Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Chloe's been a celebrity for almost a week now, so I suppose it was only a matter of time before she became embroiled in a national scandal. Frankly she's up to her soggy neck in it. Forget Jonathan Ross and Carol Thatcher. If you really want to cause offence, just mention Chloe on the national news...

This appeared in yesterday's Sun...

Viewers have complained, the top brass have got involved, and a rising star has been disciplined. And all because of Chloe.

I wonder what odds I'd have got ten days ago if I'd walked into Ladbrokes and asked to place a bet that my cat would be implicated in the next BBC controversy? Let's face it, it's not every day you read a tabloid news article which begins with "Furious BBC bosses", ends with "Sachsgate", and mentions your pet cat by name.

It's not bad going for someone who never leaves the house, drops tuna all over the carpet, and spends most of her life asleep on the sofa. If it carries on like this, she'll be dating Russell Brand by the weekend.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

I took this photo on Sunday afternoon while stopped at traffic lights on the seafront...

A typical Brighton scene.
It's not the most exciting shot in the world (unless you really like box junctions), but if you zoom in a bit...

Use the force!
It's Darth Vader and the Stormtroopers! Since the Death Star was destroyed, they've been living in a bedsit off Western Road. That's Luke Skywalker running in with the woolly hat and rucksack bomb.

But if all that seems a bit hard to believe, you should try checking my e-mails on a daily basis. Yesterday I had an independent TV production company wanting to shoot a video of Chloe next week, but today the ante has been well and truly upped. A well known French TV show wants to send cameras across the channel in March, just to film her in the shower. As they said in their e-mail this afternoon, "This story about your cat is just uncredible". They've hit the nail on the head there. It's completely un-credible. I need to start pointing out to these people that most of what the national press reported wasn't true, and their chances of filming Chloe sprinting towards the bathroom at the first sound of running water, are approximately zero.

But in the meantime, Chloe's march around the world continues unabated. She's particularly big in Eastern Europe. Seventeen thousand people watched her video on YouTube yesterday, of which fifteen thousand were from Lithuania. I didn't even know there were that many people living there. We get a good write-up in this organ of the Lithuanian press, where I go by the name Philas Gardneras, but it's this article which has really caught the imagination of the average Lithuanian in the street. So far, it's attracted 266 comments. Which is about 265 more than I normally get.

On her way to the Baltic states, Chloe stopped in France, visited Hungary, and then moved on to the Czech Republic, where she posed for a photo which really doesn't look like her.

From there it was on to Turkey, before crossing into Asia and visiting Pakistan, then China and a weird place in Japan. A quick jaunt across the Pacific, and she turned up in Brazil, before arriving today in California, USA. The columnist at News Blaze begins her article with Barack Obama, and ends it with Chloe. It seems like a natural progression.

But just when you think the fuss has died down in the British press, and Chloe can fade back into obscurity, there she is slap-bang in the middle of a public scandal. I've only just seen today's Sun...

Monday, February 16, 2009

I had to rush over to Eastbourne General Hospital this afternoon to pick up a box of emergency paediatric morphine injections for some children in agony. My mobile rang as I walked out of the pharmacy door, so I answered it in case it was a small person in pain. It wasn't. It was Meridian TV phoning for the third time. I spoke to them twice on Friday, and told two different producers that I didn't want to be on TV, but apparently they thought that having had the weekend to think about it, I was bound to have changed my mind.

I said I hadn't. He seemed surprised, and refused to take no for an answer, adding that they wouldn't keep me long, and that filming would "only" (his word, not mine) take an hour and a half. I told him that's exactly the same amount of time I have to get from Brighton to Eastbourne and back to save the life of a child. Well ok, I didn't. But I wish I had. It doesn't seem to occur to them that I might have something better to do with my time than rush straight home to the bathroom and pose for the cameras. If I end up with my head in my hands, it won't be a shower head.

I suppose the interest is understandable though. This was the front page of the Mail On Sunday website yesterday...

Amazing is the word.
Chloe's officially one of "the most amazing stories from around the globe". Whatever next? Amelie becoming Queen??

Fetch me a golliwog from the Sandringham gift shop.True, she's got the look of regal disdain required to be royal, but I'm not sure she's racist enough.

Anyhoo, celebrities aside, yesterday's lunch date with the cream of Brighton society went very well. I'd cooked a meal for our friends S & A back in January, so having had a month for their stomachs to settle, they kindly invited us back to their place for Sunday lunch. And may I say I wasn't disappointed. It's not every day you get non-alcoholic cocktails personally mixed for you by a Canadian with a shaker and a swizzle stick. We even had pre-lunch entertainment in the form of giant metal puzzles. I don't know about you, but by the time I've spent half an hour being driven clinically insane by my failed attempts to separate two bits of steel, I'm just about ready for dinner.

Fortunately we were treated to a lovely roast lunch of chicken and potatoes, seasoned with the breasts of a beautiful woman. No, really. Frankly you haven't lived until you've plucked a nipple from a pink ceramic lady, and shaken her breasts all over your food. I've never seen salt & pepper pots like them.

Little MonkeyBut the best thing about S & A is that they always give us gifts. And when you work in sexual health, you get some interesting freebies. So while Lisa and Amelie relaxed on the leopardskin sofa with Monkey from the PG Tips advert, I sat at the table rifling through an NHS goodie-bag usually given to teenagers who agree to take a chlamydia test. I'm now the proud owner of a sperm keyring, some STI lip gloss, and a stress ball featuring the number of the chlamydia helpline.

I could have had some underwear emblazoned with the words "What's In Your Pants?", but I've never been a fan of rhetorical questions. And besides, when it comes to spreading the word about chlamydia, the new NHS website What's In Your will probably reach more people than my buttocks.

So having eaten plum pudding and seen A's photos of himself with Anita Roddick and Katie Price (two women who are rarely mentioned in the same sentence), we eventually left at 4:30pm, Amelie clutching a battery-operated magic wand which had proved so magical in stopping her crying, that they agreed to let us have it. It's a powerful tool, but if we really wanted to keep our daughter happy, we'd have taken S home with us too. Amelie only needs to look at him and she starts smiling. If we had a spare room, I'd be insisting he move in immediately.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

It's about time Amelie featured on this blog again...

Slightly less than two.
She's holding up one finger for every hour of sleep she let us have last night.

She prefers Winnie the Pooh.But anyhoo, when I'm not busy wondering who Amelie reminds me of, I'm taking the coast road to St Leonards for a bit of R&R with my family. We were slightly held up on the way over there yesterday afternoon by a minor traffic jam caused by two old dears in a Nissan Micra, who'd hit a fox and were standing in the road trying to wrap it in a blanket. As I said to Lisa at the time, if a wild fox is happily letting you give it a comfort blanket, it's probably not going to make it through the night, and you'd be kinder finishing it off with a Homer Simpson ice scraper to the back of the head before it gives you rabies. But that didn't stop me slowing down like everyone else to have a good look.

We eventually made it to my parents' bungalow before sundown, and were given the guided tour. We've been there a few times before, but not since they officially moved in. It was quite a novelty to sit on a sofa instead of a garden chair. I was also able to begin a sentence with the words "Have you got...", without getting the reply "No, it's in Chelmsford".

After twenty minutes, my brother and his family arrived. It's half-term next week, so my sister-in-law and niece are staying at my parents' for a few days. They were quite keen to know about the surrounding area, though I was slightly taken aback when my sister-in-law looked at me with a concerned expression on her face and asked if St Leonards has a big Asian population. I told her I hadn't seen many ethnic minorities when I visited the charity shops in November. At which point she informed me that she'd said 'ageing'. So she's not racist after all. She just hates old people.

Anyhoo, we spent an enjoyable few hours handing Amelie to anyone who'd take her, before going one stage further and abandoning her completely while we toured the newly opened Hastings branch of Tesco. It turned out to be very nice. It's a bit like an aircraft hangar filled with food. I won't tell you how much we spent, but suffice it to say that Chloe needs to sign another magazine deal ASAP.

We eventually made it home at 11:30pm. Amelie slept all the way home, so naturally she was up most of the night talking about her gums, and what she's going to wear today. We've been invited to have Sunday lunch with friends. Amelie's settled on her red party dress with matching cardigan and spotty tights, while I'm wearing jeans and a t-shirt. The difference is that no one's going to want to hold me and pose for photos. Unless they get very drunk.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Technically it's bestiality.It's Valentine's Day! And after the week I've just had, I suppose this card's quite appropriate. I bought it in Asda for a pound. Unfortunately it contains these words:

Unforgettable Pussy

... so I'm not sure I'd ever want to send it to anyone.

As for the card I bought Lisa, that was far more expensive. Mainly because it contained a Next voucher. I also bought her 'Sight Training' for the Nintendo DS, so she can see what she looks like in her new clothes. After which I made her scrambled eggs on toast for breakfast.

In return she gave me a card she'd written five minutes earlier, and then used the last of the milk so that I had to walk down the road and queue for ten minutes in the Co-op just so that I could have a cup of tea. Lisa suggested I use infant formula instead, but I couldn't get my mug in the steriliser.

Anyhoo, having been sucked dry by the nation's media this week, I feel as tired as a tabloid cliché. So in a decision of the most impulsive kind, we're heading over to St Leonards for a few hours this afternoon to let my parents look after Amelie while we sit in a darkened room and contemplate getting a dog. But I'm leaving the burglar alarm on in case anyone tries to steal my little cash cow, Chloe. She's the main breadwinner in this family now.

In the meantime, here's a bit of primetime TV from yesterday evening...

Friday, February 13, 2009

It's Friday the 13th today, which is quite appropriate because I've broken the Mirror...

You've Got Mail
Well ok, that's actually page 3 of the Daily Mail. I couldn't see myself in the Mirror this morning. Which is what happens when Amelie keeps you awake all night with her sore gums.

But there's always page 37 of the Daily Express...

Runaway Express
Opinion is divided on the correct spelling of 'moggy'. Which is why The Sun went with 'Daft Puss'...

My Favourite SunThe super soaraway Sun gets my vote for best media coverage of the day, because in addition to putting Chloe on page 29 of today's edition, they've also stuck my photo on their website next to a picture of the 13-year-old boy who's become a father, thereby making me look both fat and old.

But the interesting thing about all the articles which have appeared in the national press today, is the following quote attributed directly to me:

"In fact her ears prick up every time I put the shower on. I have to keep the door locked when I go in to stop her jumping in with me."

It's not so much "in fact" as in fantasy. Not only did I never say it, but it's not remotely true. Although by the time I read it in the Daily Telegraph, I was starting to believe it myself.

Anyhoo, today has been quite possibly the most surreal day of my life so far. I've signed a magazine deal, spoken to both the BBC and ITV, and received e-mails from Channel Five, two national magazines, an international press agency, and half the population of Hong Kong. I was also recognised by a porter at the Royal Sussex County Hospital, who announced my arrival with the words "It's the celebrity!", and told me he'd seen me in the Metro on the bus.

I had to drive up to the Princess Royal Hospital this morning, and frankly my phone didn't stop ringing the whole way. My agent (oh yes) even phoned at one point to say she'd had a call from a commissioning editor wanting to know if I'd be willing to dress Chloe in a shower cap.

By lunchtime, both the BBC and ITV wanted me on tonight's evening news, and were willing to send camera crews straight round, so having taken a total of four phone calls on the subject, discussed the proposals thoroughly, and thought about it carefully over a cheese and ham bagel...

... I finally said no. The rollercoaster's going too fast and I want to get off.

But that didn't stop the BBC going ahead anyway. They put Chloe's YouTube video on tonight's 'South East Today'. I wouldn't mind, but the presenter accused her of having "a bit of a matted old coat". Anyone would think I own Bagpuss.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

I'm a celebrity, get me out of here...

Page 3 StunnerWhatever happened to airbrushing, that's what I'd like to know? Aren't they supposed to make me look like a size zero? If they're not careful, people will start to think I'm overweight. Obviously it's a well-known fact that the camera adds ten pounds, but I didn't expect it all to be under my chin.

Anyhoo, my fat face aside, the article in today's Argus is a total triumph. Richard Gurner is clearly a man after my own heart. I like to think I can crowbar a good six or seven puns into one paragraph, but Rich goes the extra mile to ensure that everyone's groaning by the end of sentence two. Frankly it's purrfect.

And as if that wasn't enough, Chloe's also starring on the Argus website, where she appears to have sparked a heated debate about censorship. I'll have Shami Chakrabarti on the phone next.

But if this all seems slightly bizarre, try walking past your local supermarket and seeing a dozen copies of your cat peering out from the news-stand by the door. Oh yes indeed, Chloe made the front page...

That's my hand!
They're running with 'Hospital Shut After Rat Infestation', and then providing the answer in the form of my cat.

But while I was chatting with my manager this afternoon about the possibility of the pharmacy being fire-bombed by animal rights extremists hell-bent on the liberation of Chloe, things took a slightly unexpected turn. I can't reveal too much for legal reasons, but suffice it to say I've had two news agencies on the phone, one offering coverage in the national press, the other a magazine deal. Frankly Chloe's going global. I'm holding another photo-shoot in tomorrow's lunch hour.

But in the meantime, she's big on American internet TV. No, seriously. Fast-forward to 1:35...

The awesome waterproof supercat wins every time. By next week we'll be in Hollywood.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

It's Keane at the Brighton Centre!

Very Keane
Either they're employing an experimental new form of stagecraft which involves performing for most of the night with your back to the audience, or Lisa and I had the worst seats in the house. I'm sensing it was the latter. Frankly if we'd been any further to the right, we'd have needed backstage passes. But on the plus side, I can now recognise every member of the band by their left ears alone.

Here they are lighting up the room with 'Sunshine'...

I shot that video mainly to prove my long-held belief that Tim Rice-Oxley looks and moves like a Jim Carrey impersonator. I haven't seen head-bobbing like that since Ace Ventura.

If he'd been hooked on cocaine, he'd be Charlie Chaplin.As for Tom Chaplin, he's looking a lot thinner since he came out of rehab. You just don't realise how many calories there are in booze.

Anyhoo, I have to say that Keane were excellent. Back in 2005 I used to listen to their album constantly as I drove through the night back to Suffolk, after visiting Lisa in Brighton for the weekend. Four years on and we can't go to see them without a babysitter. How times have changed.

But if there's one band worth abandoning Amelie for, it's Keane. And unlike Sharleen Spiteri, they actually bothered to turn up, which is always a bonus. Lisa bought the tickets as a Valentine's gift to us both, and needless to say I was not disappointed. The music was consistently brilliant from start to finish, and I loved every minute. Frankly it's the best night I've had at the Brighton Centre since the Britain's Got Talent live tour. And that had a dancing dog.

As for The Argus, I took 40p out of Chloe's college fund to buy a copy of today's paper, but sadly the two of us failed to put in an appearance. Either they're still trying to fit my double-chin onto a single page, or a bigger story came along to push us off the news agenda. Somewhere in Brighton there must be a cat stuck up a tree.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

This intriguing piece of graffiti is currently on display just along Eastern Road from me...

For the want of destroying something beautiful, I am guilty.
I believe it's a quote from 'Fight Club', but to be honest, when Edward Norton said it, I don't think he was referring to garden fences. Presumably the author couldn't get near the Royal Pavilion with a can of paint. Mind you, I took that photo a couple of days ago, so with the amount of rain we had yesterday, I doubt it's there any more. The paint might be waterproof, but the fence has probably been washed away in the flood.

Yesterday afternoon was one of those times you really want to be tucked up in bed with a couple of sandbags and a water-pump. Unfortunately I spent it driving up to the Princess Royal in Haywards Heath to collect some emergency drugs for a patient at the Royal Sussex. I took the pharmacy van, but in reality I could have done with a boat and a snorkel. Ditchling Beacon was like a log flume ride, and I'm sure I was technically underwater at the foot of Burgess Hill.

Anyway, it took me almost two hours, and I rarely got above 30 knots, but I made it in the end. I'm tempted to ask the NHS to supply us with a pharmacy speedboat, but after seeing Big Sis's bruise, I think a pedalo might be safer.

But on the subject of February showers, it's been an interesting day for my little catfish Chloe. Barely twenty-four hours after making her YouTube debut with an explicit shower scene, she received an e-mail yesterday from a reporter at The Argus, asking if they can feature her in the local paper. Apparently the web-editor's a big fan. Of her, not me.

I only read that e-mail at 8pm last night, but by lunchtime today I was standing in the bathroom, spraying Chloe with water while a photographer with a long lens took her photo. Which is not where I expected to be this time yesterday. An hour after that, I was on the phone, conducting a press conference as Chloe's official spokesman. I'm not saying it's a slow news day, but there's talk of a full-page article on page 3 of tomorrow's edition. Just imagine if I'd managed to film her having a shower in the middle of last week's snow. I'd have made the front page of every paper in the country.

Monday, February 09, 2009

Amelie's gone to the dogs!

She looks as tired as I feel.
She might look like she's falling asleep, but she's actually going into a deep clairvoyant trance to enable her to pick the winner of the next race. In the end she went for number 5. Just as it was walking past. No wonder it lost.

But fortunately for Amelie, her Daddy knows a thing or two about high-stakes gambling. And when he says he's going to win big on the dogs and buy her a soundproof room with 24-hour dental care and all the Bonjela she can eat, he means it. Kind of. Feast your eyes on this winning ticket...

Golden Ticket
Yes, I know I only bet a pound, but with property prices falling faster than Lisa in high heels, I thought it might be enough for a two-bedroom flat. And I wasn't far wrong.

Bearing in mind that this trip to Hove Greyhound Stadium involved not only me, but also Lisa, her mother and Amelie, it will come as no surprise to learn that we got there late and missed the first race. But as luck would have it, we arrived just in time for race 2, which happened to be the first leg of the 'Straight 4 Jackpot', which challenges fools to part with their money by trying to predict the winners of four consecutive races.

With only five minutes to find four dogs and a pound coin, I went for Ashby's Hawk in the first, followed by Comeonthehawk (can you see a pattern developing here?), Smoking John in the third, and finally Naty Jon (who's given up the fags and dropped the H). Lisa had wandered off to the Co-op by this point, so I was forced to go up to the counter with Amelie in my arms. The lady on the desk asked how old she was, and I admitted that she's under 18, but despite that, the Tote agreed to take our money.

I was so confident that Ashby's Hawk would swoop to victory, I put an extra couple of quid on him to win, so within ten minutes of walking through the door, I was already six pounds up. And Lisa wasn't even back from the Co-op. Dogs two and three duly (and miraculously) obliged, which meant it was all down to Naty Jon in leg four.

Unfortunately Jon was up against Cushie San, owned by Channel 4 Racing presenter and TV sports pundit extraordinaire, Tanya Stevenson. I wheeled Amelie outside to watch the race, and spotted Tanya sitting in the grandstand, so I considered going over to her, pleading poverty, and asking her to nobble her own dog for the sake of my baby's teeth. Or failing that, to give me an autograph I can sell on Ebay. But unfortunately she was at the top of the steps, and I couldn't get up there with the buggy.

Every dog has its day.As it transpired, however, I didn't need her help. Naty Jon took the lead at the final corner and romped to a famous victory. The bloke on the P.A. announced that there were four winning ticket-holders, each of whom would take home a quarter of the Straight 4 Jackpot, but until I approached the counter I had no idea how much I'd won. So when the lady on the Tote desk told me she might not have enough money in her till to pay me out, I nearly fainted. It turned out to be...


That's more than the winning dog got. Frankly it's the best quid I've ever spent. With the possible exception of the time I bought a pregnancy test from the pound shop. I got a baby out of that one.

Sunday, February 08, 2009

Who says that cats don't like water..?

After all, when someone cuts off all your fur just five days after the heaviest snowfall in twenty years, what better way to warm up than by standing under a hot shower for ten minutes.

But the fact that Chloe's now out in the cold and suffering from major hair loss isn't actually my fault. It's the fault of Lisa's friend, H. We were due to meet her for lunch yesterday, but in an outrageous and callous act worthy of Sharleen Spiteri, she cancelled on us. Apparently there's been a murder in Brighton and she's helping police with their enquiries. Mainly because that's her job. She's the Miss Marple of Sussex Police. Or maybe they just needed her to get the donuts in. Whatever the case, the only way she'd have turned up yesterday is if we'd phoned 999.

It's particularly annoying because I turned down another lunch invitation earlier in the week in order to keep this date with H. The way I keep skipping meals, it's a miracle I'm not thin.

So with nowhere to go and nothing to do, I took the only available option and shaved my cat. It seemed like a good idea at the time. Possibly because I was suffering from sleep deprivation and couldn't think clearly. Yes, I'm afraid Amelie's still teething...

Teething Problems
She looks like Bonjela wouldn't melt in her mouth.

We've now had two consecutive nights of pain and tears. And that's just me and Lisa. Amelie keeps waking us up to tell us how much her gums hurt, and asking me to fetch the Calpol. I had to take her on a two-hour walk to Hove and back yesterday afternoon just so that Lisa could get some sleep. Come to think of it, the only one who didn't sleep for those two hours was me.

But the solution's just around the corner. We're going on a family outing to the dog track this morning, so give me a couple of hours and I'll have the money for a two-bedroom flat.

Saturday, February 07, 2009

It's Big Sis with a koala!

If she was a kangaroo, she'd be dead now.
Now, I know what you're thinking. You're thinking "Phil, the pink Australian bear is very cute (if a little pale compared to her Auntie), but why has Big Sis got a tea bag stuck to her forehead?".

Well I'll let her explain it herself...

She didn't do art at school.
As the picture above clearly illustrates, Big Sis went for a ride in a speedboat last weekend. That's her coming out of the hole in the front, being flung four feet into the air, landing on her head, and being knocked unconscious. As she said to me yesterday, "Everyone thought I was dead". But sadly for the wildlife of Australia, she wasn't. As she proved by having her limp, lifeless body launched into the air a second time, crashing back down to earth (well, boat), and being revived by the impact.

And here's the result...

Thigh of ReliefAnyone would think she'd been kicked by a donkey. Her head's in quite a state too. That's the head of the flying school, whose boat is now covered in blood.

Anyhoo, the good news is that despite spending her last night in Australia at a Perth hospital, and trying to pack her suitcase with concussion (which is probably what put her over the weight limit), Big Sis made it back to the UK in one piece, and successfully battled her way down to Brighton. It's the first time I've seen her since January 2nd last year, and to be honest, I had no idea it had been that long. I've been telling everyone I saw her last summer, but I'm probably thinking of the time I met my Cousins.

Sis was naturally delighted to meet Amelie for the first time, and handled her with the laid back confidence of someone who's never held a baby in her life, and doesn't realise they're breakable. Not that Amelie seemed to mind. In fact she found her Auntie strangely fascinating. After four months living through a British winter with her pale-faced parents, this is the closest she's come to mixing with ethnic minorities. She's never seen a skin tone like it. All we needed was a piano and we could have filmed the video for 'Ebony and Ivory'.

Anyhoo, Sis spent the morning sorting out car insurance on the internet, and debating whether she should admit to kangaroo-related claims, after which I took her into town for some hair dye and straighteners. She's going to grow her fringe to cover the scar on her forehead. She's already attempted to hide the bruise on her thigh with fake tan, which is ironic when she's covered in the real thing.

We eventually waved goodbye to Big Sis at 3pm, when she took Mum's Taxi Service to St Leonards to pick up a second-hand deathtrap she's bought from a dodgy car salesman. From there she's going straight to Beds, where she's spending a few weeks polishing her flying skills at Cranfield University, before trying to persuade someone to give her a job. So if you're thinking of booking a foreign holiday, I'd do it now. She's unlikely to be piloting any jumbos before the summer.

Friday, February 06, 2009

It's Amelie doing her Tigger impression!

She's got bouncebackability. Which is just as well, because she had her third round of vaccinations on Wednesday, and she's been as grumpy as her mother was when she found out about the concert cancellation. She's also teething (Amelie, not Lisa) and wants to tell us all about it at a high volume. I'm not sure if there are any side effects to mixing Calpol and Bonjela, but I think we're about to find out.

I successfully cheered up Lisa by letting her have one of her Valentine's Day gifts early (Mahjongg for the Nintendo DS), although it almost backfired when she played it so much she gave herself eye strain and had to go to bed early last night with a headache. So having bought myself out of trouble once, I decided to do it again for my daughter, and wheeled her down to the Baby & Toddler Event at Asda yesterday afternoon, where I picked up a baby bouncer for fifteen quid.

We'd debated whether to buy one last week, but rather than giving an age guideline, the packaging says it's "suitable for a child that can support its head unaided", and we weren't sure if we should wait until she's a bit older. But having discussed the subject again yesterday, we agreed that if her head flopped forward on the first bounce and snapped her neck like a twig, we'd put it down to experience and promise not to blame each other. So we went for it.

And it turned out to be the right decision. She tried it for the first time at 4:30pm yesterday afternoon, and liked it so much, I think she might be living in it from now on. The box says this:

600,000 down, 400,000 to go.
But the way she's going, she'll have used them all up by next week.

Anyhoo, bouncing aside, today's a big news day. Well, a Big Sis day. Yes, it's official: my wayward sister is back in the country and heading for Brighton. It was only a matter of time before they chucked her out of Australia. She was supposed to be here at 9am, but I received word at eight-fifteen that the taxi driver couldn't find her at the airport. She fell out of a speedboat on Sunday and broke her head open, so she's probably wandering around Heathrow with concussion. Either that or she's been arrested at customs for trying to smuggle kangaroo fur into the country on the front bumper of her car. Anyway, it's now 9:50am and there's still no sign of her. At this rate we've got more chance of seeing Sharleen Spiteri.

Thursday, February 05, 2009

Someone arrived at my blog last night after entering this into Google:

"i work for the nhs and i was told today that because i could not come to work on monday due to no transport and really bad weather i would have to take it as annual leave is this right"

I'm surprised they managed to fit it all into the search box. But still, it's reassuring to know that the highly trained healthcare professionals responsible for the wellbeing of the entire nation, seriously think they can type all that into a search engine and get a yes or no answer. It's no wonder they couldn't figure out how to get into work on Monday.

But anyhoo, the good thing about having the day off work and no concert to go to, is that it gives you the time to do all sorts of important and productive things with your life. I've started by making my own optical illusion and putting it on YouTube...

I've noticed that the most successful illusionists on the web call their videos 'Best Optical Illusion in the World' or 'Best Optical Illusion Ever', so I've named mine 'The Best Optical Illusion in the Entire Universe Ever, Bar None'. I'm expecting a million hits by the end of the week.

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Back on October 4th last year, forty-eight hours after Amelie was born, and with Lisa fast asleep in the bedroom on her first morning home from the hospital, I went online and bought her two tickets for Sharleen Spiteri at the Brighton Dome on February 5th, as a well-done-on-making-it-through-the-horror-of-labour present.

Only £27.50. How DO they make a profit?
Two weeks later I used the last of my annual leave to book tomorrow and Friday off work, so that I could have a lie-in both before and after the concert, and Lisa went out and bought Sharleen's new album.

Four months after that, having raised a baby to the sound of Sharleen's melodious voice (which is probably why she won't shut up at 6am), I finished work at five-thirty this evening, popped into Asda, and returned home to wallow in the joy of a four-day weekend.

At 7:20pm I received this e-mail:

"Due to unforeseen circumstances the Sharleen Spiteri concert at Brighton Dome on Thu 5 Feb has been cancelled. At present there is no rescheduled date, full refunds will be issued shortly. For more info call 01273 709709 from 10am - 6pm. We apologise for any inconvenience caused."

Inconvenience??? Only the inconvenience of using up all my paid holiday, booking a babysitter, and looking forward to this night for four months. Well, I say looking forward. The last time we saw Sharleen Spiteri, I described her as "slightly podgy in black leggings and a pair of wellies", and added that she'd "clearly let herself go". But that's beside the point. The woman's grown on me since then, and Lisa's been excited about this concert for ages. Frankly it's an outrage, and I've a good mind to complain. But not before 11am. I've had this lie-in booked since October, and no overweight has-been in wellies is going to make me miss it.

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Come back Julie Reinger, all is forgiven.I don't know how Simon Parkin had the nerve to show his smug ginger-topped face on the Meridian weather report again tonight. This time yesterday he stood in front of a map of Sussex and informed us that "tomorrow could be even worse than today", before implying that everyone in Brighton was likely to find themselves buried under a ten-foot snowdrift by the end of the morning. So I set out for work with a spare pair of trainers, a thicker pair of gloves, and a magazine in case I got snowed in. And what happened? The sun shone all day, the ice melted, and the only flakes I've seen are Lisa's chocolate bars in the fridge. Frankly the huskies would have died of heatstroke.

So tragically I've had to work a full day at the hospital. Which is unfortunate as I'm suffering from major exhaustion and a bad headache. It could be some kind of virus, but to be honest I'm more inclined to blame my daughter and my workmate. One of them woke me up at 6am with endless chatter about nothing, while the other lent me a book of optical illusions which promptly gave me eye strain.

So I'm gagging Amelie and going to bed early without a good book. But here's my favourite picture of the day...

The yellow square in the centre at the front is exactly the same colour as the brown square in the centre on the top. No, seriously.

But whilst looking up the explanation for that image, I came across something even more weird. Never mind optical illusions, here's an auditory illusion. It's...

The Endless Octave!

Every note sounds higher than the one before, yet it goes on forever. It's Escher's staircase for the blind.

Monday, February 02, 2009

Amelie's four months old today!

Happy Family
She's a little distracted because she's never seen snow before. Well, not all over the living room. I knew I should have taken my coat off at the door.

Anyhoo, there are definite drawbacks to working for the NHS. If I was in any other industry (except perhaps the gritting business), I could have phoned up this morning, told them we're iced in, and spent the day building snowmen. But it's hard to enjoy yourself when you know patients are dying due to your unwillingness to wear earmuffs.

So instead of turning up the central heating and settling down to watch Jeremy Kyle with Lisa, I did the decent thing and headed out into the blizzard to start sweeping ten inches of snow off my car. I considered walking the mile uphill to work, but it's a major bus route, so I knew the road would be reasonably clear.

Or it would have been if the buses were running. By the time I found out they weren't, I was already at the foot of a snowy peak, with my wheels spinning twice as fast as I was travelling, and no way to turn around. How I made it to the top of the Race Hill, I have no idea. But having got there, I promptly stopped before I slid down the other side, and trudged the rest of the way through the snow.

To my surprise, all bar one of my colleagues had made it in too, a couple of them walking all the way from Woodingdean, which is a bit like doing a Nordic Skiing event without the skis. So after all that effort, it was slightly annoying when we arrived to find we had no power and all the lights were out. Fortunately that was fixed within twenty minutes. Unlike the computer system, which took half the morning to get up and running. But on the bright side, we had very little work to do because the pharmacy department at the Royal Sussex were thirty staff down, so there was no one to order any drugs.

Fortunately they did start to ask for stuff eventually. Which was a problem, as the transport department had sent their only available four-wheel drive vehicle to the Princess Royal in Hayward's Heath, and we had no way to get the drugs down the hill to the hospital, more than a mile away. Which is where I stepped in. With the weather closing in, and my colleagues heading back to Woodingdean while the route was still walkable, I ate an emergency baguette from the NHS canteen, and agreed to deliver the most urgent supplies on foot.

A decision I regretted by the time I'd gone a hundred yards. Twenty bottles of human albumin weighs more than you think. My job application said I'd go the extra mile, but not through thick snow with a heavy box. So I made it as far as my car and decided to chance it. The good news is that having skied down the hill on four wheels with my foot on the brake and my heart in my mouth, the hospital got their drugs, and I avoided becoming a patient. Tomorrow I'm taking the huskies.

Sunday, February 01, 2009

Sometimes I worry about the kind of people we associate with...

And he's not even growing that moustache for charity.
I'm also worried about the bloke in the background, who's managed to appear in two different mirrors, facing in opposite directions at the same time. There's something very weird going on.

Which came first, the tattoo or the hair?But at least Amelie seems happy. She's always liked brightly coloured birds.

(I'm talking about the phoenix there, obviously).

Anyhoo, it's the first of February today, and that can mean only one thing: the 2009 Brighton Tattoo Convention. Or to put it another way, our annual meeting with our old Ipswich chums, Crash n Donna. We last saw them on January 26th last year, two days after I heard I'd got a job, and one week before we found out Lisa was pregnant. So they wanted to meet up again to hear tales of my worklife. Or possibly to see Amelie.

Our last meeting was at Bella Italia in the Lanes, and we decided to go there again, partly because we had such a nice time last year, but mainly because they still accept Tesco Clubcard vouchers. We opted for an eleven o'clock appointment in the hope of catching them sober, but Donna mentioned that she'd had beer for breakfast the day before, so it doesn't always work.

Anyway, a lot's changed in the last twelve months. Crash now looks like Lenin (which is appropriate as he's become a union firebrand and calls everyone comrade), while Donna's finished her phoenix and is now considering a portrait of Billy Butlin on her other arm. I think she's a big fan of Hi-de-Hi. As for Crash, he's added a cabbage to his tattoo of an angry carrot and murderous sprout. Don't ask.

Wot No CrossbonesThe good news is that Amelie's ability to extract gifts from people continues unabated. Crash and Donna presented her with not one, but two pirate babygros from Piracy Boutique. So she can now start hijacking ships off the coast of Somalia.

Anyway, we spent an enjoyable hour or two eating, chatting, and trying to ignore all the people offended by Amelie's crying, before deciding she might be quiet if we froze her solid, and starting the walk back home. We parted company at the taxi rank, with Lisa and I promising to drop in if we ever have cause to visit Suffolk. Crash said he'd let me know when they erect a blue plaque outside my old flat, so I'm sure it's only a matter of time before we see them again.