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Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Lisa was walking across the living room last night singing 'I'm Still Standing' by Elton John, when she tripped over Amelie's play mat and almost hit the deck. It's like our lives are being scripted by a sit-com writer. Except that this one makes me laugh.

But improvised comedy aside, I took this photo on Sunday morning whilst strolling along the seafront with Amelie...

I can see clearly now the rain has gone.
The sea was still, the sun was shining, and the view stretched all the way to Worthing. But if you think the calmest sea we've had in months would leave surfers up the creek without a paddle, you'd be wrong...

Board StupidSome of them have brought their own. This one's waved goodbye to the surf and started sticking his oar in. I expect he swapped his gondola for a surfboard en route from Venice.

And talking of making waves in Brighton, I have some exciting news from the staff info-mail at work...

BSUH's Next Top Models Wanted!
We will soon be renewing the posters and signs around the hospitals reminding people about the importance of hand hygiene and to use the alcohol gel provided (the Clean Hands Save Lives campaign). At this stage we are looking for volunteers to be one of our new faces of infection control. We are looking for a broad cross section of representatives of as many roles, services and sites as possible.

How fantastic is that?! I could be the new face of infection control! Let's face it, I have the kind of look which screams 'infected'. I might offer them this photo on condition that I can be on the posters warning people not to drink the alcohol hand gel.

Monday, March 30, 2009

It's Lisa in church!

The Second ComingI think there's a man falling over behind her, but don't let that put you off. He's probably been slain in the spirit.

Admittedly Lisa and I aren't often seen in church on a Sunday (unless there's a half decent jumble sale), but we do like a good christening. Unfortunately this wasn't it. I'm not saying the service was dull and overlong, but at one point I thought we'd all died and ended up in purgatory. Frankly, hell would have been a blessed relief.

But anyhoo, yesterday was the baptism of the lovely Leia (pictured here being attacked by a heathen), so with our vast experience as godparents (we recently celebrated two months of spiritual guidance to Lisa's nephews), Lisa and I were naturally the first names down on the guest list. Unfortunately, while Lisa was invited to be Leia's Fairy Godmother, I was officially banned from being a spirit guide by the Church of England, who insisted that I must have been christened myself. Which I haven't. It's my parents' fault for not raising me as a Christian. No wonder I've gone off the rails.

Fortunately Lisa's religious heritage is well documented, and dates back to the age of four, when she was bribed with a Tiny Tears doll in return for stepping up to the font and having her head dunked. As a result she was readily accepted as a godparent. I can't help thinking the selection process is fundamentally flawed, but I didn't like to say anything.

Anyhoo, I don't actually have any photos of Lisa performing her godly duties. It was a bit of a scrum in front of the font, and I couldn't get past this lot...

Is the girl on the left breastfeeding?
Frankly I've seen quieter mosh pits. So I sat in the corner with Amelie, who was taking a leaf out of Jonah's book by having a whale of a time in church. She'd quickly realised that anything she said would be echoed throughout the hall, so she spent the service shrieking at the top of her voice and then laughing. As I said to her at the time, "You're the only one excited to be here".

Anyhoo, during the course of our visit, I learnt a couple of interesting things. The first is that The Komedia doesn't have the hardest seats in Brighton after all. And the second is that the church is 850 years old. Which is roughly how I felt by the time we left. If I hadn't been promised pizza and christening cake, I'm not sure I'd have got through it.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

I think Chloe's putting on weight...

The Wicker Cat
You only have to stick her in front of a 360 degree mirror like the one Trinny and Susannah used to use, and she looks like the bottom half of a snowman. It's a miracle the wicker basket hasn't collapsed. If she were any more of a fat cat, she'd have to go and live with Sir Fred Goodwin. I might have to trim her fur again. It's the only way to make her look slimmer.

But obesity aside, the breaking news is that I've had a brush with success, and I didn't even know it. Back in mid September, when Lisa was the size of a hippo, and Amelie lived in eternal darkness, The Daily Telegraph launched a competition which challenged people to write an online novel and publish it in the form of a blog on the Telegraph site.

Being on the verge of parenthood, that naturally sounded far too much like hard work, so instead I started copying and pasting chapters from the novel I wrote four years ago. I thought I might end up writing some new chapters when I'd posted all of that. As it transpired, I didn't even get around to posting everying I'd written, so it ends kind of abruptly in the middle of a cheese shop in the village Peepel. I like to think of it as a twist ending. The twist being that it's not remotely finished.

The closing date was February 13th, and I've heard nothing since, but frankly I never expected to. My heart wasn't really in it, I didn't want the prize, and I couldn't be bothered to visit the Telegraph site for news. Even the people who commented on my first few chapters soon gave up when they realised I wasn't going to comment on theirs. And let's face it, I didn't even complete my entry.

So, in a twist worthy of someone else's novel, guess what I've just found out? They announced the finalists on March 1st and I made the shortlist. I had no idea. They asked the six finalists to e-mail the Telegraph with their addresses before they decided on a winner, and sure enough five of them did. One of them didn't. So needless to say I didn't win. I've missed out on lunch with Alexander McCall Smith, and a signed copy of his new book. If I'd ever heard of the man, I'd be gutted.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

I think Amelie's taken to the baby rice...

Throwing a paddy field.
She looks like she's been bobbing for apples in a vat of Ambrosia. Half of it's on her face, some of it's on the bib, and she's holding the rest in her cheeks like a hamster, but once she gets the hang of actually swallowing the stuff, we'll be laughing.

Unfortunately if she doesn't like the rice, there's very little else. She did have a Milkybar Easter Egg given to her by her Great Aunt (who forgot how old she was and thought she could have chocolate), but I was left home alone last night while Lisa spent some quality time with her Mum, so naturally I ate it. I had something to celebrate, and I can't be left unsupervised with chocolate. Frankly it was like taking candy from a baby.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Look into my eyes...
... you are feeling sleepy.
No, that's not a photo of Jupiter, although I am over the moon. It's actually a human retina. Which is one in the eye for people who said digital photography would never work.

Anyhoo, I took the day off work today, and may I say it's been the most profitable holiday I've ever had. And that includes a fortnight ago when I filled my suitcase with free boxes of Frosties and mini pots of jam. As unlikely as it may sound, I've actually been offered a new job.

A process which started two months ago on January 23rd, culminated this morning in a one-hour rendezvous at a secret location, where I met a total of five healthcare professionals, one photographer and a patient. Four hours later I picked up the phone and said yes to an offer I couldn't refuse. It won't be official until I have it in writing, but as of 4pm this afternoon I'm all set to join the National Diabetic Retinopathy Screening Programme. It's a dream come true. Particularly if you eat cheese late at night.

Lisa's claiming all the credit, as she's the one who bought me the Perfect Interview book and gave me advice on ties, but personally I think it's all down to having a daughter who spurs you on to greatness by going through eight nappies a day, and making you realise just how much you need a pay rise.

I'm not saying it's a lot more money, but I might need to open a bank account in Switzerland and put Amelie down for Roedean. I'm planning to work my way up until I replace Alan Johnson as Health Secretary. At this rate I'll be there by Christmas.

Anyway, I'd better not say any more until I've told my managers that I'm leaving. I should probably take some cakes in on Monday to soften the blow. Or to fill up their mouths so they can't shout at me. To be honest though, they'll barely miss me at all. The way the pharmacy department gets through biscuits, they'll all be at my diabetes clinic come June.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

I spent part of this evening digging out some stuff to take with me tomorrow when I go to meet my maker. Well, the person who could make my career. Amongst it all, I found this important document...

It looks like I saved that certificate from drowning.
The particulars given on the back thereof state that more than a quarter of a century ago, I successfully swam a distance of 33 metres without the aid of water wings, flippers or an oxygen tank.

As luck would have it, the place I'm going tomorrow morning is about forty yards from my flat, so even if we're hit by a tsunami overnight, I should be able to make it.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

I've been a bit tired today. Amelie was lying in her cot at 6am this morning trying to sound like a velociraptor from Jurassic Park. She's not really a massive fan of dinosaurs, but her favourite animals are rabbits and pandas, and an impression of either of those would require her to be silent, which is not something she does well.

So I was up early, stomping around like a T-Rex with a headache, while she beamed at me, and told me how much fun it was being dinosaurs at dawn.

But the good news is that I went to Asda last night and bought her a box of baby rice, four plastic pots and six weaning spoons. We plan to stuff her so full of risotto that she won't wake up until she hears the Jeremy Kyle theme music.

To be honest, I could do with a couple of good nights' sleep. After four weeks of secret preparation, I've got an appointment with destiny on Friday morning, and I don't want to turn up with bloodshot eyes. They'll clash terribly with the tie I'm planning to wear. Mind you, I'm meeting the Head of Retinal Screening, so he's probably seen worse.

Monday, March 23, 2009

The big news of the day, at least for people who drive Skodas, is that the world's cheapest car has just been launched in India. It's called the Tata Nano, which is what Big Sis says every time she loses an iPod, and will apparently cost just £1,366.

For the benefit of anyone who can't get their head around that figure, the BBC have published an informative article posing the question "What makes the Tata Nano so cheap?". And here's the answer...

The nodding dog's extra.
No air conditioning, no power steering, and windows which wind down by hand. I can't believe such a vehicle exists. Next they'll be telling me it doesn't have central locking and a CD player.

Anyway, I'm thinking of upgrading my car, so I might get one. I'm used to "plastic and adhesive" because my wing mirror's stuck on with gaffer tape. And I rarely get above 43mph. Usually because it won't start.

It's particularly important that I have reliable transport at the moment, because Lisa's hurt her back today, and I might need to take her to the doctor. She's been struggling to get up off the sofa all afternoon (no change there then), and is currently hobbling about the flat, clutching her spine in pain. All of which sounds quite serious, until you hear that she sustained the injury whilst swinging Amelie through the air in an attempt to make her laugh. She may not have succeeded with Amelie, but it's certainly worked on me.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

I popped into Taj the Grocer today for some wholemeal macaroni (it doesn't exist apparently), and I saw this...

Shelled ShockedI looked for some fluorescent lamps and a copy of 'Dr Gillian McKeith's Guide to Cultivating Class B Drugs at Home', but they didn't have either, so I bought a bag of chocolate porridge instead. It should give me more of a high.

Anyhoo, today is Lisa's first ever Mother's Day as a mother. Fortunately Amelie is well aware of the occasion, and showered her with thoughtful and expensive gifts this morning. Frankly I've no idea where she got the money. I had to help her chop off a lock of her own hair to go inside a silver locket she'd bought, mainly because she's not allowed to use scissors unsupervised, but the rest was all her own work. She managed to suck the corner of the card with no help at all.

Wolf in Sheep's ClothingLisa seemed quite pleased anyway. I only hope Amelie's as generous on Father's Day.

On the subject of Mothering Sunday, I walked past a restaurant in St James's Street this afternoon, which had this message scrawled on a chalkboard outside:

with 4 paid main courses

So I started wondering how much they normally charge for a seat, and whether one free seat for your mother is really such a good deal. I was a hundred yards down the road before I realised what they meant.

But whilst my brain might not be working properly, the good news is that I'm feeling a lot better now, thanks for asking. A few paracetamol, some decongestants and a bit of bed rest seems to have sorted me out. So it probably wasn't a brain tumour after all. I should be fit enough to get back to work in the morning and start handing out the painkillers to those less fortunate than myself.

Friday, March 20, 2009

I haven't felt at all well today. I'm not entirely sure what it is. Lisa calls it neuralgia. I call it a pain in the neck. Well, the whole side of my head. Basically my left eye, forehead, face and neck all hurt and I feel kinda dizzy. Anyone would think I'd been skiing.

So while I crawl back into bed and try to work out how to get my hands on some morphine without going into work, here's a photo of Amelie in big trousers...

It's Hammertime.
MC Hammer eat your heart out.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

It's Baby Boogie!

Don't blame it on the sunshine.
Who says that Brighton & Hove City Council wastes taxpayers' money? Personally I can't think of a better use of public funds than free music and rhyme sessions for Amelie. Lisa took her along today, and apparently the girl displayed a prodigious musical talent. You only have to give her a triangle with bells on, and she immediately starts to play. Well, she puts it in her mouth and bounces. It amounts to the same thing.

On the downside, you do have to question a council scheme which encourages young children to make a racket in public libraries. We'll end up raising a generation of kids who asscociate bookshelves with noise. They won't be able to go into Waterstones without a set of bongos and a trumpet.

But judging by the way Amelie took to it, these sessions are here to stay. So next time you're in a Brighton library and the peace is shattered by loud music, just blame it on the boogie.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

It's exactly one year ago today that I began my quest to heal the sick, help the lame, and allow the blind to see (via the prudent use of eye drops), by joining the NHS. It was March 17th last year when Lisa waved me off on a bus to Haywards Heath with a packet of crisps and a carton of orange juice. She says the sight of my little face peering through that bus window brought a tear to her eye. It was probably the exhaust fumes.

Naturally I turned up at work today expecting presents, cake and possibly the afternoon off, so when no one had mentioned the occasion by 10am, I was forced to say "Do you know what today is?". My colleagues' faces immediately lit up, and they all replied in unison: "St Patrick's Day!". It's not easy being one of the lesser known saints.

I can still perform miracles though. Believe it or not, whilst up in the air on Saturday afternoon, I managed to spot my old house!

Village of the Damned
That's the village of Burwell in Cambridgeshire, where I lived from 1993 until 1998. Or 'the nightmare years', as I like to call them. Sis was no help as a tour guide (possibly because she was blindfolded), but I successfully managed to recognise the place, partly due to my advanced skills of navigation, but mainly because I saw Newmarket racecourse, and knew it wasn't far away.

I snapped the photo above, and if you zoom in, you can just about see the house I called home...

Bingo! I mean HOUSE!
I can't quite make out the blue plaque on the door, but I've no doubt it's there.

Monday, March 16, 2009

After writing yesterday's blog post, I was informed by Big Sis that the plane we hired for the afternoon didn't cost £302 an hour. Apparently it's a lot more expensive than that. I should have known that price list was out of date. Only five quid a minute? People would be biting your hand off for that kind of deal.

But money aside, here we all are at the The Stableyard yesterday afternoon...

Five Go Horsing Around
That picture was taken with my camera on the windowsill of our apartment, which gives you an idea of just how at-one with nature we were during our stay. Frankly I've never slept so close to manure.

Apparently he's only a puppy.Not only were we surrounded by horses, but the dogs were the size of ponies. That's not drool dripping from his mouth, it's the remains of the last person he ate.

But anyhoo, if you're wondering who the fifth member of our party is, it's not Big Sis's flying instructor (or Roy Orbison), it's actually my Aunt. She lives in St Ives, a forty-five minute drive (or ten minute flight) from the horse box we called home, so she popped over to join us for Sunday lunch.

Lisa, Amelie and I had been into central Milton Keynes with Big Sis on Saturday night, where we chose to stick our necks out and eat at a place called Giraffe. The food was nice, but judging by the speed of the service, it should have been called Sloth.

So on Sunday we decided to stay closer to home and try The Cock Inn. No, seriously...

The Cock Inn
It might sound like a tavern from a Carry On film, but it's actually a pub in Wootton. At first I assumed its name was just a quirk of centuries-old tradition, but having met the owner, I'm not so sure. He made Graham Norton look like Jim Davidson. Frankly I think he named it himself.

So we walked in, asked for the lunch menu, and were told we could have a roast dinner with beef, or... a roast dinner with lamb. The vegetarian option was a roast dinner with neither. But this is where personal service comes into play. Despite having a menu you could write on a post-it note, the owner discussed the problem with us, admonished Big Sis for being a veggie, and then rustled up two very nice meals for the awkward members of our party, served with a side order of camp comedy. Personally I loved it. It was like eating at Alan Carr's house.

Anyhoo, having been in negotiations with Big Sis for most of yesterday afternoon, the good news is that I now have permission to move on from photos to video. So if you've ever wondered how hard it is to hold a camera still whilst landing in a small plane, then wonder no more...

The way the instructor keeps slumping forward, I wasn't sure if he was adopting the crash position or having a heart attack. Either way, I decided to keep filming.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

It's Big Sis in a small plane!

Flying tonight.
And as her epaulettes show, she's a member of the Wide Awake Aviation Club. Her instructor's Timmy Mallett. I don't know what all those dials do, but it's reassuring to see that the joystick has a fire button. We were heading over Milton Keynes at the time, which is why her thumb's poised.

And here I am shortly after landing...

Totally grounded.
Compare and contrast with yesterday's photo. Happier, but much paler.

Anyhoo, I'm writing this from the middle of a farmyard in Wootton Green, holding Amelie with one hand, while a horse looks at me through the window, and Lisa sleeps off the effects of a bad night with Am's teeth. We discoverd last night that we have free broadband via a long lead behind the TV, so it's a good job I've got my laptop with me. I only brought it so that Lisa could play Mah-jongg.

As the photos above show, I not only went up in a plane with Big Sis yesterday, but also survived to tell the tale. There were a couple of mildly concerning moments, such as the flight over Cambridge, when Sis uttered the immortal words "Ooops, I nearly killed us all", but other than that, it was all good.

The plane we hired at a cost of just £302 an hour (bargain), was this one...

The jacket's bright. The jacket's orange.
It's a PA44 Seminole with two engines. Which explains why it costs twice as much as the other planes.

It's a well known fact that an aircraft's black box is bright orange to enable air acccident investigators to find it amongst the smouldering wreckage. So it doesn't exactly fill you with confidence when Sis hands you a day-glo jacket and tells you to put it on. But fortunately my sister's experienced instructor, who came along with us, put my mind at rest by asking if she'd shown me how to open the emergency exit. She said no, she'd just told me to follow him out of the door. To which he replied "But what if I'm dead?".

Anyhoo, the instructor's intention had been to send us to Coventry, but in a last minute change of plan, we decided to head for Cambridge instead. This was one of Sis's last lessons before her final exam, and she can do it all with her eyes closed these days. So the instructor decided to test that theory by putting screens up in front of her. They call it 'instrument flying'. I call it asking for trouble.

What do you mean we're losing altitude?But despite not being able to see where we're going, and relying solely on a bank of dials which could malfunction at any time, Sis not only managed to get us up into the sky, but succeeded in keeping us there for an hour and a half. I have to say I was very impressed. I struggle to operate a digital microwave, and from the look of it, this was even more complicated.

Having made it to Cambridge, we practised a 'missed approach', did a few 'holds' (it's a lot like wrestling) and cut power to one of the engines to see how she'd cope in a crisis. Surprisingly, I was fine with all that. In fact 99% of the flight was brilliant, amazing, cool, and something I'd definitely do again. The other 1% was a living nightmare.

It was all down to something called 'unusual attitudes'. I've known Lisa for almost five years now, so I'm used to some pretty unusual attitudes, but trust me, you've never experienced anything like this. The exercise essentially involves the instructor putting the plane into a position that planes have no right to be in, then asking my sister to save our lives. We did three of them. If we'd done a fourth, I'd have thrown up all over the back seat. It was like being upside down on a rollercoaster at 4,000 feet. I glanced out of the side window at one point, and found myself facing the ground. Suffice it to say, it was the longest two minutes of my life. Sis may have skillfully recovered in seconds. Personally it took me five hours.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

It's me in mid-air!

I'm not sure the microphone's meant to be up there. No wonder they couldn't hear my screams.
That's not panic on my face, it's just the natural expression I wear when I'm 4,000 feet above Milton Keynes with my sister at the controls. The luminous orange jacket is to help the emergency services find me in the wreckage.

I'll write more when the nausea's passed...

Friday, March 13, 2009

I was asked to take some photos of Chloe this week for Full House magazine, a respected organ of the press which has offered me good money to feature her in a future issue. They wanted a picture of me, Chloe and Lisa "looking cuddly" together, but sadly Lisa declined to take part. Possibly because hell hasn't frozen over.

They seemed quite pleased with the two I e-mailed them yesterday, but this third one had to be rejected...

Exits are located here, here and here.
... on the grounds that they're not doing an article on demonic possession. Even if it is Friday the 13th. And besides, she's dangerously close to a Nazi salute, which is unlikely to go down well with readers of Full House. I'll save it for the Daily Mail.

But hellcats aside, I've packed my flight bag, and when Amelie's finished her cocktail of milk and Calpol, we're hitting the M1. I've prepared for my two-and-a-half hour drive up the motorway by spending the afternoon behind the wheel of the pharmacy van, attempting to get from Brighton General to the Royal Sussex, then up to the Princess Royal, back to the Sussex and home to the General, all in under two hours. Needless to say I failed. But at least we all got something out of it. The Princess Royal got their prescription pads, the Royal Sussex got their controlled drugs, and I got... well, I got home half an hour late.

As for the flight plan, Big Sis phoned last night to do a risk assessment on my cold, and aside from the fact that my blocked sinuses could cause my head to explode as we descend from nine thousand feet, the main problem appears to be that if Sis catches my germs a few days before her final flight test, it could essentially ruin her entire life. I've told her that's a risk I'm prepared to take.

Mind you, my cold could be the least of our worries. Sis texted me this morning to say that she's got a sore throat. Frankly it could be a major problem. If she loses her voice, she won't be able to scream to people to get out of the way as we plummet towards Coventry at 200mph.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

I took a phone call at work today from a drug company rep who sounded young enough to be my daughter, and had about as much sense of direction. To be honest it was a miracle I could answer the phone at all, as I'm currently suffering from a cold-cum-SARS outbreak, which left me with virtually no voice this morning. I was tempted to phone in sick (as tempted as you can be when you can't speak) but when you work for the NHS you have to be prepared to go the extra mile. Especially when it rains overnight and your car won't start. The extra mile happened to be uphill and on foot.

But anyhoo, having answered the phone to the child labour wing of the pharmaceutical industry, the girl told me that she'd just driven into the hospital (not literally) and couldn't find the pharmacy, so I attempted to direct her to our doorstep using nothing but my verbal skills and inbuilt sense of navigation. Two minutes later, I gave up and told her I'd come and find her.

So I asked what her car looked like. She said "It's a silver Mercedes". Sometimes I think I've entered the wrong side of the profession.

But the good news is that her employer's profits hadn't all gone on the top-of-the-range executive limo. They also stretched to two bags of bagels, biscuits and buns, designed to bribe the NHS into buying her wares. If only all drug dealers did the same. As it turned out, she was trying to flog an injection to treat nausea during chemotherapy. A groundbreaking new drug which her company are advertising by means of this picture...

Man From Atlantis
If anyone can tell me what the link is between CINV and a half-man-half-whale creature, I'd be very grateful.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Lisa and I are going away for the weekend on Friday, and what's more, we're taking Amelie with us. We tried booking a babysitter, but they couldn't hear us over the sound of her screaming. Technically it's our first ever family holiday, so naturally I've chosen somewhere special. Yes, that's right, we're going to Milton Keynes.

There was no room at the Holiday Inn so we're sleeping in The Stable. They've even promised us a manger for Amelie. It's self-catering, but it says they supply breakfast cereals, so I'm planning to live on mini boxes of Coco-Pops for two days.

The reason for our visit (because let's face it, you'd need a good reason to visit Milton Keynes) is to do some blue sky thinking and allow my dreams to take flight. Or, to put it another way, to go up in a plane with my sister. We're due to take off on Saturday afternoon, which could be a problem because they're forecasting gusts of 41mph. As Sis said to me last night "It will be like the Wizard of Oz". By which I think she means we'll be sucked into a tornado, not that we'll land on a witch. And besides, Lisa's staying back at the apartment.

Stable InfluenceAccording to Sis, The Stableyard is aptly named. Frankly it's one of the few hotels which could close due to an outbreak of foot & mouth. Before booking our room, she even had to ask if we're ok with horses. I told her I get a bit annoyed when they don't win, but otherwise I'm fine. Although if Amelie comes back wanting a pony, I won't be happy.

Anyhoo, as things stand right now, the weekend's all booked, the plane's been reserved, and unless I jump out of the flying plan and into the mire, then when Saturday comes I'll be cruising at 9,000 feet with my sister at the controls. My stomach's looping the loop just thinking about it.

Monday, March 09, 2009

I walked along past Black Rock yesterday afternoon (I can't believe a patch of waste ground has its own Wikipedia entry), only to discover that the car park down there has been taken over by a group of travellers and their thirty caravans...

Where's Margaret Beckett?
It's often reported that travellers are disliked by the general public, but I don't think that's true at all. It's when they stop travelling that people don't like them.

Personally though, I'm all in favour. It's the first time that car park's been full since last summer, and it makes the place look like a Haven Holiday Park, which is just about the only thing Brighton lacks. The X Factor finalists were at the Brighton Centre on Saturday, so we need some sort of holiday camp for them to appear at next time they visit.

Of course, if it really was a Haven Holiday Park, it would come complete with satellite TV in the gold standard caravans.

Oh, hang on, it does...

Sky's the limit.
It's nice to know the local gypsies have a better quality of life than I do.

Sunday, March 08, 2009

The trouble with Brighton beach at the weekend is that it's crawling with hoodies...

Is that Obi-Wan Kenobi on the right?
They're roaming around in gangs of two, trying to steal cups of tea. The one disguised as a sheep is particularly menacing.

But anyhoo, my old chum Marie was back in Brighton yesterday for another hen weekend. Frankly if all her friends were spinsters, I'd never see her at all. We were supposed to be meeting up today, but in a last minute change of plan, Marie moved it to yesterday because her house has a leaky roof and she wanted to get home this afternoon before it becomes an indoor swimming pool.

As it turned out, the arrangement worked out well for me. Lisa decided to spend her Saturday afternoon sitting on a bus to Shoreham, so I was in sole charge of Amelie for a few hours. And having already experienced Marie's stellar babysitting skills back in January, I naturally jumped at the chance of outsourcing my childcare responsibilities and having a nap on the seafront.

Anyway, having wandered back and forth between the two piers for half an hour, we eventually found each other, and settled down to a cup of tea at a nearby beach bar. The waiter was obviously trying to tell us something by bringing us Canderel instead of sugar, but despite that, it was all very nice. Marie brought along her friend 'C', who could remember meeting me years ago (I have the kind of face it's hard to forget), and we spent an enjoyable forty-five minutes looking for Amelie's socks, while I attempted to explain how she got the bruise on her forehead, and why her jeans were on back to front. I don't think they'll phone social services, but I'm ignoring the doorbell just in case.

Saturday, March 07, 2009

I did my weekly shopping via the internet this week, partly because walking to work had left me too tired to go to Asda, but mainly because spending three hours on the Tesco website looking for washing-up gloves is significantly less stressful than trying to get my car started on a cold evening.

It was an interesting experience, most notably the five minutes I spent at the front door trying to hand back a bag full of Easter Eggs I hadn't ordered, only to go inside and find that Lisa had added them to the list without telling me. But having waved goodbye to the delivery driver, and mouthed my apologies to the huge traffic jam he'd caused by parking in the middle of the road, I inspected my purchases, cursed my personal shopper for substituting everything with products which cost twice as much, and stayed up until 10:30pm putting it all away.

Fortunately, one of the pleasures of internet shopping is the impulse buys you had no intention of getting. I'm now the proud owner of some ridiculously expensive grape juice, which I purchased purely because it was buy-one-get-one-free. And here it is...

Turning water into wine.
It doesn't look that interesting until you read the last line. I think I've unwittingly bought two bottles of communion wine. It even says on the side that it was produced "under the supervision of the Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America". I only wanted it to make ice lollies. I might have to say 'Body of Christ' every time I take a bite.

But in other news, I received an e-mail this morning from a student at an American college, letting me know that their English professor is teaching them my micro fiction, and making them all guess the last line to Summer Loving. Bearing in mind that the first time that story was set as an English assignment, it caused an ever-so-slight misunderstanding, I think that's asking for trouble. But my correspondent assured me that not only did they understand the ending, but he even guessed it was about sheep. And people say university students aren't as bright as they used to be.

Anyhoo, talking of very short stories, the breaking news is that I've finally moved into the 21st century (nine years after it started) and joined Twitter. If it's good enough for Stephen Fry, it's good enough for me. Although on that basis, I'd be trying homosexuality too. Which I'm not. So from now on, anyone desperate to know what I'm up to (that's essentially you, Mum) can find out by looking at the column on the right. I'll keep texting in those updates until the bailiffs come round for my phone.

Thursday, March 05, 2009

Vote Earth!I received some important environmental news at work today. Apparently my fabulous employers, the Brighton & Sussex University Hospitals NHS Trust (frequently referred to as 'BUSH' by people who can't spell), have signed up for this year's Earth Hour, an international global-cooling event which involves saving the planet by turning off your lights for an hour on March 28th.

So presumably come the end of the month, Saturday night in A&E will be like a scene from the life of Florence Nightingale. It'll be all oil lamps, candles and moans of pain drifting out of the darkness.

Personally I'm as green as the next man (unless I'm standing next to a Martian), so I'm fully backing my bosses in this fine endeavour. I've always felt that light is overrated as a concept. And frankly I could do my job with my eyes closed, so it doesn't make much difference to me. Not that I'll be at work that night. I'll be at home, fending off all the burglars who see the place in darkness and assume we're out.

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

I've been walking to and from work this week, partly in an effort to get more exercise and lose some weight, but mainly because a twenty-minute hike up a steep hill in the pouring rain is significantly less stressful than trying to get my car started on a cold morning.

So at lunchtime today, instead of jumping into my car, I jumped to the conclusion that the shops in Lewes Road were probably only a five minute walk away, and set off down the hill from Brighton General with a bagel in my hand and a song in my heart. Well, my MP3 player. Unfortunately geography never was my strong point. Frankly it would have been quicker to walk home and back. By the time I'd stood in a branch of Spar for five minutes trying to find a picture of Chloe in a copy of Full House magazine, it was time to head back up the hill to work.

But despite having burnt off my bagel before I was halfway up Elm Grove, and worked up an appetite just as my lunch hour was over, I don't regret making the trip. After all, if I hadn't walked along Lewes Road, I'd never have seen this sign stuck to a phone box...

Dog Gone
In Brighton we don't have lost dogs, we have lost paintings of dogs.

At first I thought it was a brilliant piece of satirical humour, poking fun at the trend of 'lost pet' posters, but apparently not. Having entered the immortal phrase 'lost 2 paintings' into Google, I arrived at this page. It seems those doggone pictures are the work of Anton Cataldo, professional pet portraitist and absent-minded motorist. Apparently he left them on the roof of his car, then drove around The Level until they fell off. He's claiming it was an accident, but frankly if he'd filmed the act, he could enter it for the Turner Prize as a piece of performance art.

Anyway, the irony is that on Sunday, the very day in question, I was walking around The Level, recovering from my descent down Muesli Mountain, and wondering how many potatoes I could fit into Amelie's buggy. I did see a couple of dogs, but sadly neither of them were flying towards me on canvas from the roof of a moving vehicle. Which is a real shame. I could have swapped the hundred pound reward for a painting of Chloe. And he might have thrown in a packet of picture hooks.

Monday, March 02, 2009

Fame is a fickle food upon a shifting plate. Especially when someone keeps kicking your bowl of tuna across the kitchen floor. One week you're being featured in every tabloid in the country, appearing on the BBC at primetime, and on the verge of becoming the biggest celebrity in Lithuania. The next, you can't even get a seat to yourself in your own home...

Mmm... fickle food.
Mind you, it could be worse. I had to stand for most of the evening.

But fortunately for Chloe, there is one person willing to make huge personal sacrifices to remember her fifteen minutes of fame. I walked across town yesterday afternoon on a quest to buy some picture frames for her newspaper clippings. I was planning to go to the pound shop, but then I thought no, Chloe's worth more than that. So I went upmarket and walked to the cheap shop in London Road, where they sell clip frames at two-for-£2.59. Which makes them 30% better quality than the ones from the 99p Store in North Street. My cat deserves the best.

Unfortunately, my route to London Road involved a trek up (and consequently down) Hanover's Muesli Mountain, a walk I've done many times before, but never with Amelie in a buggy. I have to say, you haven't lived until you've scrambled down a 1 in 4 hill with a five-month-old on wheels. It was literally a white knuckle ride. And whilst one of us may have slept through it, the other needed oxygen and a counselling session by the time he got to the bottom.

But the good news is I successfully bought six glass clip-frames for less than a tenner, before popping into Somerfield for milk, potatoes, and basically anything that weighed more than a kilo. Which is probably not a great idea when you've got to climb a mountain to get home. By the time I'd finished, the buggy weighed more than my car, and my journey back was like the trial of Sisyphus. I'm not saying it was slow, but I was overtaken by a snail at one point.

Anyhoo, having made it home minus a litre of sweat and about three pounds of fat, I carefully cut out all of Chloe's articles and arranged them in frames, with the intention of creating a walk of fame along the hallway.

At which point I realised I didn't have any picture hooks...

The Height of Fame
But still, at least they're the right height for Chloe.

Sunday, March 01, 2009

Big Sis is back!

Off the shoulder is apparently IN this season.
Well, she was for an hour and a half yesterday. It's what I call a flying visit. Mainly because she was on her way to an airfield.

But just look at that little face. Have you ever seen such excitement? No one's ever been that pleased to see me and Lisa. She's having the time of her life. That's the advantage of short visits - if she'd stayed with us for more than a couple of hours, she'd have ended up looking like Amelie. Mind you, the two of them have a lot in common. For a start they're both incapable of standing up straight in a photo.

Anyhoo, Big Sis popped in yesterday afternoon en route from my parents' to Hemel Hempstead, where she had a date with the heir to the Pooley fortune. No, I've never heard of them either. But apparently Mr Pooley Snr is to aviation what Donald Trump is to toupés, and anyone wanting to fly high in the world of piloting needs to get in with his nephew. I wonder if this is him..?

Anyway, Sis's visits are always entertaining. She arrives like the Tasmanian Devil in a whirlwind of dust, unleashes a torrent of stories about her latest adventures (most of which I can't repeat here for legal reasons), then puts on her make-up and leaves before you have time to reply. But I thought she looked well. She's discarded the head bandage she was sporting last time I saw her, so she now looks less like The Mummy, and more like Scarface. Either way she has the looks of a film star.

Plane StupidThere's a chance I could be seeing Sis again in a couple of weeks, because she's invited me to take to the skies with her in the vehicle on the right. It's a twin-engine aircraft, so when one engine fails at 9,000 feet, we'd still have a fighting chance of making it home alive. At least that's what she claims. I've said a cautious yes, on the grounds that if you're going to die young, you might as well do it at high speed, holding hands with your sister.

Anyway, she claims it'll all be plane sailing. So I think she's planning to land in the Hudson River. I'm taking my swimming trunks.