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Thursday, April 30, 2009

The colleague of a friend of mine went to New York recently, and took this photo near the City Hall...

People With AIDS Plaza
I think I'll suggest that Eastern Road is renamed 'People With Swine Flu Street'. I could open a Mexican restaurant.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

I know what you're thinking. You're thinking "Phil, pictures of cake and prejudice against Mexicans is all very well, but what's happened to Big Sis since she came back down to earth with a bump six weeks ago?". Well firstly, thanks for asking. And secondly, I'll tell you...

As it happens, Big Sis actually paid us a visit last Wednesday evening. I didn't mention it at the time due to the fog of a family funeral, and the fact that she only really turned up here to use my printer and borrow some money. But having stood by while she hogged my computer for three hours, I lent her thirty-five quid for some travel insurance, gave her directions inland to the nearest petrol station, and waved her goodbye. Shortly after which, she phoned to say she was heading past the pier in the wrong direction.

Fortunately you can get further than you think on an empty tank of petrol, and sure enough, twenty-four hours later, Big Sis was in Egypt. No, seriously. She still hasn't acclimatised back to English temperatures, so last week, having finally passed her final, final flying exam (at least until the next one), she booked a quick jaunt to the sun. I know that, because I not only watched her book the hotel from my living room, but I also received a text message shortly after touchdown in Cairo. It read "I haven't been so scared since the time I built my own road up the side of a mountain!" That's what I call confirmation of arrival.

And if you're wondering about that road-building adventure, you can view the evidence here.

As it transpired, Sis hadn't so much got a taxi from Cairo airport, as jumped into the car of a mad Egyptian pretending to be a cabbie, and found herself locked in a moving vehicle with a man demanding money. But all's well that ends well. Ten minutes later she was standing on a motorway bridge, pretending she had a gun. Sometimes it's the only way to talk to these foreigners. Thank God he wasn't Mexican.

Fortunately Bis Sis's threats of extreme violence quickly paid off, and she was soon rescued by an Arab in shining armour who took her to the hotel, where she e-mailed me with all the details before going straight to bed, ready to soak up the warmth and sunshine the following morning. She texted me at 9am on Friday to say "I don't believe it! It is freezing cold and cloudy!"

Anyhoo, it takes more than an armed robbery and a bit of cloud to knock Sis off her stride. I received word a couple of hours later that she'd chartered her own boat on the River Nile for seven pounds. Who says you can't get something seaworthy for under a tenner? I heard nothing over the weekend, so naturally I assumed she'd drowned, but fortunately Big Sis resurfaced on Monday with this final update:

"Just been to see the pyramids and my impression was the same as that of the Sydney Opera House: smaller than expected and could do with a good power wash. I somehow got conned into going on a camel for an hour around the pyramids which was almost as scary as the fake taxi driver. I escape tomorrow."

She's having the holiday of a lifetime.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Well the good news is that since 4pm this afternoon, I've been in possession of a copy of the Brighton & Sussex University Hospitals NHS Trust 'Pandemic Flu Major Outbreak Plan'. The bad news is it's 198 pages long, and by the time I've read it, we'll all be dead. But I've skimmed through a few paragraphs and it basically involves using a handkerchief, avoiding bacon, and looking out for men with big moustaches.

Coincidentally, I was reading a report on the BBC news website today about the recuperative effects of live music in hospitals. Which is all very well as long as it's not a Mariachi band.

But while I'm waiting for the WHO doctor to travel through time and space and upgrade the alert to phase 5, I've spent the day on the phone to the Human Resources and Occupational Health departments, and having enjoyed illuminating conversations with both, I've decided to throw caution to the wind and start writing my letter of resignation. Having a fab new job to go to is good, but the real icing on the cake is handing in your notice...

Let them read cake.
That's a bloke called Neil. He lives in San Francisco, wears a pink shirt, and likes to bake. I wonder what his wife's called..?

Monday, April 27, 2009

I think I'll save this video for when Amelie's fourteen and her friends come round...

That's about as intelligent as the conversation gets around here.

Anyhoo, I realise I haven't blogged since Friday, but before anyone panics, no, I haven't been to Mexico for the weekend. I did spend a day there in 2006 though, and frankly if you're mad enough to visit the place, swine flu is the least of your problems. It's the iguanas you need to worry about.

In reality, my absence has been due to my involvement in a horrific crash which took place yesterday afternoon and left me without most of my faculties. Yes, that's right, my computer stopped working. It was carnage. And particularly annoying because it meant I couldn't blog about the spring cleaning I did on Saturday. But the good news is that having carried out open heart surgery on my hard drive for a few hours, and considered phoning Gary Glitter for the number of a PC repair shop, I eventually got the thing up and running at about 10pm last night, just in time for Lisa to check all her bids on Ebay. She's never been so grateful.

As for today, well I spent my lunch hour with the third person on this list. He's "involved with trials of pupil size", so I expect he carries out a lot of eye queue tests, but the reason for our meeting today was for him to impart unto me his knowledge of diabetic retinopathy. I haven't actually started my new job yet, due to the fact that Occupational Health want to have me vaccinated against a range of hideous diseases before they'll let me meet the public, but my future boss thought I might like to attend a meeting of diabetes experts to see what I'm letting myself in for.

So I sat in an examination room for an hour with eight nurses and a consultant, keeping an eye on some retinal photographs. It was all quite interesting, and we were allowed to eat our lunch as we listened, but when the diabetes expert next to you denounces the concept of sugar in tea, you do kind of wish you hadn't taken jam sandwiches.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Hold onto your hats, it's Ultravox!

I might put this photo on Wikipedia.
I know, I thought they were dead too. In fact at one point I was convinced we were watching a personal appearance by the cast of 'Last of the Summer Wine'. But in reality, Ultravox are alive and well, and playing the Brighton Dome on a Thursday night in April. Sometimes I wonder if there's an 80s act Lisa won't buy tickets for.

Ure getting old.Admittedly Midge Ure is looking like a cross between Phil Collins and Dr Evil these days, and appears to have fed not just the world but himself, but don't let that put you off. The man can still belt out a tune and play the guitar with the best of them.

To be honest, I'm too young to remember Ultravox (although I can sing 'Shaddap You Face' by Joe Dolce), but as luck would have it, Lisa's considerably older than me and permanently living in the past. So she booked the tickets without telling me. And what better way to pick myself up after a family funeral, than dancing with tears in my eyes to a live rendition of 'Vienna'. Thank God the babysitter was willing to work two days in a row.

Lisa and I saw Midge Ure play live four and a half years ago, and his ex-wife lives about two hundred yards from our flat, so we're practically family. I enjoyed his performance in 2004, despite knowing virtually none of his songs (I didn't say we were close family), so I was looking forward to last night's reunion. And I wasn't disappointed...

Old Romantics
Well, not until the second song. To be honest, I loved their opening number, an instrumental piece which left me hungry for more and with high hopes for the rest of the night. Hopes which gradually faded as the evening went on. I don't think I liked any of the subsequent songs as much. I couldn't help feeling that about half of them would have benefitted from a tune. They finished on a high though, with 'Vienna', 'Dancing With Tears in My Eyes', and a third one which Lisa claimed I really should have known. I keep telling her, this was the early eighties. I was too busy buying records by The Smurfs and Orville the Duck.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

HoundedI took the day off work yesterday for the funeral of Lisa's Aunt. That's her on the left, being savaged by a dog. Needless to say it was a sad occasion, but a day when you get to meet so many nice people can't be considered all bad. I had no idea Lisa came from such a good family.

Obviously Lisa and I could easily be late for our own funeral, but by some miracle we managed to be on time for somebody else's. Possibly because we left Amelie at home. Having joined the funeral procession at the family bungalow, we wound our way through Brighton at low speed (no change there then), and arrived at Woodvale Crematorium at lunchtime. I only work a headstone's throw from there and have driven past the place many times, but this was my first venture through the pearly gates. And I have to say I was impressed.

Brighton & Hove City Council have published a video tour of the place on their website, from which I've shamelessly stolen this picture...

Woodvale Crematorium
That's the North Chapel, where the service took place. I stood at the lectern on the right to deliver a eulogy on behalf of Lisa's mother. She gave me permission to reword her tribute if necessary, so I took the liberty of changing the opening line. She'd begun by listing a few of her sister's favourite TV shows, and I was a bit concerned that if I got to my feet and announced "Cash in the Attic", I might start some kind of stampede. So I went with 'Deal Or No Deal' instead.

After a touching service and a chorus of 'All Things Bright & Beautiful', we made our way outside to admire the bouquets of flowers in the sunshine, before heading home to pick up Amelie. From there the three of us drove over to Lisa's cousin's house in Cooksbridge, an apt location as Lisa's Aunt used to be head chef at St Mark's C of E school in Brighton. And I'm pleased to say she passed on her skills to her daughter and grandchildren. Yesterday's buffet was heavenly. As was the lady we were gathering to remember. Her death might have deprived us of a dear friend, but it introduced me to some new ones in the form of Lisa's cousins, all of whom were as lovely as her Aunt. I'm definitely marrying into the right family.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

The feeding's still going well...

Facial Awareness
She might have come dangerously close to being blinded by baby food, but on the plus side, the rice milk's doing wonders for her hair.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Roger Bannister eat your heart out...

If there's one thing that film proves (apart from the fact that I'll go a long way in search of a toilet) it's that we need to start looking for a buggy with better suspension. And a spirit level. Or maybe it's Amelie's fault for not holding the camera still. I think she was too busy stuffing her socks into her mouth to worry about framing the shot.

But anyhoo, as the shaky footage above demonstrates, I don't just spend quality time with my cat, I also push Amelie at high speed along the seafront on a Sunday afternoon. She puts in an appearance at 2:43 if you're wondering. Blink and you'll miss it.

We started our four minute mile at Duke's Mound (with our backs to the naturist beach), walked down to Madeira Drive, stifled a few yawns at the 55th UK Coach Rally, and ended up on the pier, where we resisted the temptation to buy doughnuts, passed the music venue where I performed to a sell-out crowd in 2005, then nobly bypassed the ice cream kiosk and headed into the Gents. I stopped filming at that point.

As for today, well I abandoned my usual Brighton General stomping ground, and instead spent the afternoon working in the pharmacy at the Royal Sussex. It was like a cultural exchange programme, but with very little culture and no one going back the other way. I considered doing some secret filming while I was there, but to be honest, the biggest scandal I could find was the lack of clean mugs in the break room, and I wasn't sure Panorama would be interested. Although they do like a storm in a teacup. So I kept my head down and tried to look like I knew what I was doing. It seemed to work. They've asked me to go back again tomorrow.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

The good thing about Amelie going for a mid-morning nap on a Sunday is that I get to spend some quality time with Chloe...

It's amazing the way the eyes follow you around the room. And the dragon's not bad either.

Anyhoo, ignore the sound of Lisa pureeing baby food in the background, the most productive thing to take place in the Gardner household this morning was the craft project undertaken by me and Chloe. Who says I don't get important things done at the weekend? In the time it took Amelie to fall asleep to the sound of a Winnie the Pooh mobile, Chloe and I successfully downloaded a dragon, cut it out, stuck it together, and had the whole thing up on YouTube before Amelie could say "wahhhhhhh".

The really spooky thing is not that the dragon bears my name, it's that it has Chloe's ears. And it doesn't matter how much Amelie tries to look like a tortoise, she can't compete with that.


Saturday, April 18, 2009

If there's one thing I like to do on a Friday afternoon when I should be working, it's to read the 'Free to Collector' section in the Brighton edition of Friday Ad. One man's rubbish is another man's car boot sale treasure, and let's face it, half the stuff in my flat has been thrown out by somebody else. And I include Chloe in that. Admittedly I've never actually found anything in Friday Ad that I could be bothered to drive across town to collect, but that doesn't stop me looking. And yesterday I finally hit Free Junk Nirvana...

Can I borrow a ladder?
By this time tomorrow, Lisa and I could be sitting out the back by the wheelie bins, sipping champagne in our very own hot tub! I just need someone who's willing to come over to Hove with me and stand at ground level with their arms out, waiting for me to say "Now!". I promise I'll empty the water out first.

But on the subject of bargains, I've just bought some new underwear. Some people swear by Marks & Spencer's or Calvin Klein, but I always say that for sheer quality and comfort, you can't beat Lidl. So having popped in for a sack of cat litter and some kitchen rolls, I came out with a pack of 'Men's Seamless Boxers'. At least that's what I thought. My receipt actually says this...

2p or not 2p
I know what you're thinking. You're thinking "Blimey Phil, they really were a bargain". Unfortunately that's not the price. It just means they were a two-piece set.

Admittedly I was slightly put off by the new title, but I tried them on anyway. They turned out to be a little snug, but I felt they showed off my figure quite well. So I said to Lisa "Why do you think they call them Retro Pants?". She replied "Because they would have fit you five years ago".

I hope the underwear gives me more support than she does.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Sussex Police have released a CCTV image today in the hope of identifying a man who robbed a betting shop in Worthing. And here it is...

Let's face it...
I like to think I never forget a face, but frankly that could be Lisa and I'd be none the wiser. I think we need a new law banning robbers from wearing balaclavas. If Ladbrokes want to make back the money they've lost, they should start taking bets on the man being recognised.

But crime-fighting aside, I had to go into hospital this morning. Well ok, I have to go into hospital every morning, but today I went to a department with fewer cakes. I actually had an appointment with a consultant. Yes, two years after first being diagnosed with bacterial prostatitis (apologies if you're eating your dinner), my GP has finally got bored with it (and me) coming back every few months, and referred me to a urologist.

So I spent an enjoyable half hour this morning sitting in a waiting room full of middle-aged men. I didn't know whether to be pleased that I was the youngest person there, or alarmed that my prostate's packed up twenty years early. I went to the toilet at one point, only to find a huge sign on the door asking urology patients not to urinate in case the consultant wants to check your rate of flow. It makes you wonder why they don't just lock the door. Or vandalise the urinals.

As it turned out, I wasn't subjected to a speed trial of my urine. I did, however, undergo a physical examination which involved a pair of gloves, a finger, and a lot of lubricating jelly, after which he posed the question "Is it ok if I check your testicles?". Fortunately I had the balls to say yes, and as a result, he now knows me better than Lisa. At least she has the decency to turn off the lights.

Anyhoo, the upshot is that he's given me a three-for-one deal on pharmaceuticals, by prescribing me an antibiotic, an anti-inflammatory, and a drug to treat the side effects of both. If that one gives me side effects, I'm in trouble. I then let a nurse take the piss out of me, before heading to OPD for a blood test. I've got to go back in July, but the good news is that by then I'll be working directly above the urology department. On the downside, I'll be passing people on the stairs who can picture me naked.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Ah, the joys of living in a basement flat in Brighton...

My neighbours in Kemptown have quite a way with words. It's not everyone who can write a sign which includes the words 'please', 'thank you' and 'pissing'.

But talking of unlikely signs, here's Amelie at a Fiery Food Festival...

Spice up your life.
Butter wouldn't melt in her mouth. But a chilli pepper might.

To be honest, neither Amelie nor I are big fans of spicy food (although I've been told I'm hot stuff), but that didn't stop us walking all the way to Hove for the festival on Sunday. Of course, in an ideal world, the Fiery Food website would have made it clear that they'd be charging a £2.50 entry fee before we trekked two miles along the seafront, but you can't have everything in life. I considered trying to get in without a ticket, but you don't really want to go breaking and entering into an enclosure full of people armed with pepper spray. So we peered through the fence, sniffed the air, and then walked home empty-handed. Frankly I can do without fire in my belly.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

When I came out of work at lunchtime today, I spotted a lost-looking woman wandering aimlessly in the hospital grounds. To be honest, she wasn't hard to spot. I'm not saying she was fat, but if I'd wanted to talk about her behind her back, I'd have needed a full tank of petrol for the journey.

She called me over and asked for directions to a department I'd never heard of, so I helpfully pointed her towards one with a very similar name. She assured me that no, that wasn't the one she wanted, and that she was there to attend a clinic to give her advice on exercise.

Frankly I was none the wiser, so I suggested she walk back down to the main reception in A-block, about a hundred yards down the hill, and ask for directions there. She looked indignant and said "I've just walked all the way up here. I'm not going to walk all the way back down there."

You can't write comedy like that. I was tempted to give her some of my own advice on exercise, but I wasn't sure she'd appreciate it. Personally I don't think the clinic exists. I think it was just her doctor's way of getting her off the sofa.

But in news even more ground-shaking than a fat woman walking down a hill, Lisa's mother has stumbled upon documentary evidence which could disprove the widely held (and often mentioned) opinion that Amelie looks like her Dad. As unlikely as it may sound, it's just possible she could look like her Mum too. Following close examination of a photo that even Tony Robinson and Time Team would have struggled to unearth, I hereby present Exhibit A: Lisa in 1971...

Colour photography hadn't been invented back then.
Lisa 1971Amelie 2009
The defence rests.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Lisa's Aunt passed away at about five-thirty yesterday afternoon. She was one of the loveliest people I've ever met, so it's obviously very sad, but she and her husband celebrated their 60th wedding anniversary last month, and she lived to see Lisa start a family, which was always one of her dreams, so there's a lot to be thankful for. I've eaten a lot of her cakes and biscuits over the years, and she paid for Amelie's play mat, but personally I'll remember her for all the times she made me laugh, most notably when she rewrote the front page of the Argus.

We'll all miss you.
Amelie may not remember her Great Aunt, but she'll grow up hearing a lot about her.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

It's Easter! And the good news is that Christ isn't the only one who's risen. Amelie's been up half the night too. Fortunately I was allowed to sleep from 7am until 10am on the grounds that listening to Lisa getting up and down all night had made me quite sleepy, but having crawled out of bed mid-morning and opened a box of Lindt Lindor, I've been forced to take charge of the Easter chick while Lisa sleeps for a few hours. We're planning a hospital visit later, and judging by the way Lisa looked this morning, I think she might stay there. If only Chloe could sing lullabies.

But anyhoo, if you're wondering how to shift those extra pounds after Easter, the answer's simple: fifty press-ups every morning...

Feel the Burn
It's done wonders for Amelie's bingo wings. Although the only six-pack she's got is of Pampers baby wipes.

So with the family's exercise regime in place, Lisa, Amelie and I went out for a slap-up meal at Strada yesterday...

See the C
Now, I know what you're thinking. You're thinking Phil, the long hair suits you, and you've clearly lost some weight, but at the end of the day, haven't you just copied Lisa's fringe? Well as it happens, that's not me. It's actually our friend 'C'. You know, the one who lives in a ghetto. Yes, four months after posting a photo of the back of her head, you can finally see what she looks like.

Anyhoo, C came down to see the sea yesterday, so we took her out for lunch at the marina. I've never been to Strada before, but it was very nice. Well, I say very nice. To be honest, I wouldn't go there again if you paid me, but Lisa seemed to like it. Maybe I just ordered the wrong dishes. Frankly our starter of "hand-stretched pizza bread" had been stretched to breaking point and came out like a giant cream cracker. I could be wrong, but I don't think you should be able to snap a pizza. As for my main course, I put on my best Italian accent and ordered the 'Orecchiette Salsiccia e Broccoli'. It turned out to be ear-shaped pasta with no sauce. Even the dessert was disappointing. And the tragedy is, McDonalds was only a hundred yards further on.

Something to get your teeth into.It was well worth going though, because C gave us a box of chocolate seashells which are very nice indeed (I can say that because I've eaten most of them already), before presenting Amelie with a multi-coloured twisty rattly teething thingy. The manufacturers claim that it "Teaches baby cause and effect", which seems a little unnecessary to me. She already knows that if she cries, we come running. And on that subject, I've really gotta go...

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Sometimes the things you really want in life seem just out of reach...

But at the end of the day, you can always suck your thumb.

Friday, April 10, 2009

If there's one thing I like to do on a bank holiday weekend, it's to visit a ruined castle...

I think it's the inflatable version of the West Pier. And frankly, with attractions like that on our doorstep, anyone who chooses to go all the way to Bodiam this Easter must be mad.

Pole DancerCrow RoadAnyhoo, I snapped that photo this afternoon when I took Amelie for a long walk along the seafront. Well, I say walk. We kind of half walked and half swam. I'm not saying it rained a lot, but I spent most of the journey trying to remember my tsunami training from the NHS induction course.

The good news is that Amelie's buggy came complete with a PVC rain cover. The bad news is I didn't take it with us. By the time we were halfway to Hove, her cosytoes was more soggy than cosy, and I could have kept a goldfish alive in the puddle on her lap. I had to stop every hundred yards just to wring the water out of her bunny ears.

Anyway, let's just say it was grim. Frankly, whoever called this Good Friday should be crucified. People were so desperate for shelter, they were actually queuing at the Sealife Centre. That's how bad it got.

Against all the odds, however, Amelie and I eventually made it to Western Road, where we took cover in the Shelter charity shop and wondered if we were the only people who could see the joke, before buying some tomatoes in Sainsburys and starting the long paddle home. We eventually squelched our way through the front door at four-thirty, cold, water-logged, and with every chance of starting a flu pandemic in Brighton. Forget global warming, from now on I'm driving everywhere.

Thursday, April 09, 2009

I think bunny ears are the new black...

Putting the 'ear' back into 'bear'.They seem to suit anyone. Frankly if they came in my size I'd be wearing them to work.

As it happens, that aural extravaganza was given to me outside the pharmacy stores last night by the Backswing Boy from Monday's post. He bought them in the Eastbourne Arndale Centre when he should have been working. To be honest, I think he only gave them to Amelie because he couldn't get them on himself. I'm just surprised he didn't keep them for his cat.

But Easter gifts aside, my employers are currently planning for a 'Flu Pandemic or Major Incident'. Which is reassuring. They hand-delivered a questionnaire to my flat yesterday afternoon, so they've obviously twigged that I live just across the road from the hospital, and see me as being ideally placed to respond to a nuclear attack by walking to work in a fallout suit.

Aside from asking if I can still make it in for 9am if the country runs out of petrol, the questionnaire also asks if I have any 'unqualified skills' which could be put to good use in an emergency. As it happens, I'm unqualified in all sorts of areas, so I was tempted to tick most of the boxes, especially the one about "unqualified midwifery". I survived a tsunami in the birthing pool when Amelie was born, so I think I could deliver a baby with flu.

To be honest though, I'd rather the UK's fuel supplies didn't dry up in the near future, because I've just bought myself a new car. I know, first the vacuum cleaner and now this. Anyone would think I've got a new job. I actually went to the same dealer who supplied my previous car. They treat me like a son there, and make sure I get a good deal. Possibly because they're my parents.

Yes, just twelve weeks after taking ownership of my Mum's car, I've had enough, and insisted on buying my Dad's. If this one's no good, I'll be on to my brother. Anyway, it's only two years old instead of ten, so bearing in mind that it took me three days to ruin the old one, I reckon I can knacker this car in a fortnight.

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Amelie's ready for Easter...

Lend me your ears.
It's no wonder she won't stop rabbiting on in the middle of the night.

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

I took the afternoon off work today to look after Amelie while Lisa went to visit her aunt in hospital. It gave me the chance to do a hospital visit of my own, by dropping into the HR department on the top floor of the Sussex Eye Hospital, where I handed in my Criminal Records Bureau disclosure form and asked them to let me photograph children. Well, the retinas of diabetics over 12. They accepted my request, asked to see my passport, and said they'd get back to me. To be honest, it was all pretty much the same as my visit on February 11th last year, except that I'm more tired these days and can't make it sound as funny.

So with promotion imminent, Amelie and I headed across town to Argos, where we picked up a new vacuum cleaner for eighty quid. Frankly my old one sucks, but not in the way it's meant to, and I need something to pick up all the pureed food that Amelie spits onto the carpet. She's still unconvinced of the tastiness of pear and potato, but the good news is that she tried some organic apple yesterday and loved it. At least that's what Lisa told me.

So at half past eight this morning, with Amelie strapped into the feeding hot-seat, Lisa called me over with the words "Come and see how much Amelie loves apple!". Which is the very definition of tempting fate.

What really gets me is the look of desperation in her eyes which says "Help me, Daddy"...

I should add that Lisa only gave me permission to publish that video on condition that I remove the embarassing audio of her making ridiculous noises. So if you could turn the volume down on your speakers, I'd be grateful.

Monday, April 06, 2009

As any kingpin will tell you, there are basically three elements to the perfect bowling technique...

        The Backswing                         The Hold                             The Release

Ideally the ball should rarely go as high as your head, you should try to avoid standing like a hunchback with sciatica, and above all, don't look like you're wearing clown shoes.

But if you can put it all together successfully, you'll end up with this...

Note the swish of the left hand five seconds after releasing the ball, an optimistic technique designed to persuade the ball to veer back on course after a dodgy delivery. Opinion is divided as to whether it works. Lisa says it does, the rest of the world disagrees.

Anyhoo, as the documentary evidence above shows, Lisa and I went bowling yesterday afternoon with our pals, S & A. And I can prove they're our pals...

Bowling with Pals
The scoreboard says so. Although if I'd entered our initials the other way around, it would have said SLAP.

I've been bowling a few times before (including the time I bowled Lisa over), and Lisa likes eating Skittles, so together we made a pretty formidable team. Especially when you factor in the cheerleading efforts of Amelie. I was going to make her a 'Go Daddy!' banner to hold, but I knew she'd only eat it, and I didn't want the sound of her choking to put me off my stride.

As for our opponents, they were an international outfit comprising a Canadian with bowling in his blood, and a Slovakian starved of skittles by the iron fist of communism. To be honest, they both claimed to know nothing about bowling, a fact which may have influenced Lisa slightly when she offered to bet me a pound that she wouldn't come last. I'm still deciding how to spend my winnings.

Anyway, if there's one thing I learnt from Saturday's Grand National, it's not to underestimate an outsider. You might think that someone who's never picked up a bowling ball in his life, and had no idea you have to wear special shoes, could never beat a couple of seasoned pros (and Lisa) in his first ever game. Needless to say, you'd be wrong.

Unfortunately I don't have a photo of that. But feast your eyes instead on the scores above, which came from our second game, a mighty contest in which I powered to (joint) victory, crushing my opponents like a bowling behemoth, with a near-faultless display of pin-pushing. How I only scored 91 out of 300, I'll never know. I think it's some kind of computer error.

So with the sweet smell of victory (and the odour of hired shoes) filling my nostrils, I took Lisa to McDonalds to toast my success with a Creme Egg McFlurry. Whereupon I peeled off the Monopoly sticker from the side of my cup, and promptly won a free apple pie. I thought I must be leading a charmed life. Until I burnt my mouth on the filling, and had to stagger home in pain.

Sunday, April 05, 2009

The trouble with forcing Amelie to eat potato against her will is that she's liable to take revenge by making us listen to modern jazz all night. On the plus side, I think she's got a definite talent for scat singing which we may be able to exploit for financial gain, but on the downside, it's hard to plan your daughter's career when you can't keep your eyes open.

So I got up early this morning in the hope that Lisa could get some sleep while Am and I had fun in the sun. And what fun we had. For a start, I learnt the useful fact that Amelie loves the sound of my carpet cleaner spray. I only have to squeeze the trigger and she starts laughing, which is good to know. Admittedly I would have preferred to find that out without going through the trauma of seeing her projectile pooing across the living room floor, but you can't have everything. At least she was happy for the half hour it took me to clean it up.

So with the carpet gently drying in the April sunshine, Amelie and I hit the streets and went for an early morning stroll along the seafront. It was pretty uneventful. Apart from the UFO encounter and alien abduction. Looking down over the crazy golf course by the pier, the sea suddenly came alive with weird flashing lights...

I couldn't decide if it signalled the rise of an alien creature from the depths of the sea, or the landing of some kind of spacecraft, but either way I thought I had the new Cloverfield on my hands, so I kept filming. The authorities sent in a dog handler to investigate, but as the hound was sucked out of the sight by the UFO's tractor beam, the man lost the use of his legs, and the whole operation went tits-up. So we went to the corner shop for some porridge instead.

It was quite exciting while it lasted though. And it gave me an excuse to do my E.T. impression for Amelie. To be honest, she didn't seem that impressed, but let's face it, the words "Phone home" aren't going to mean much when your Mummy never turns on her mobile. I should have gone with "Ouch" instead.

Of course, I suppose it could have been the sun reflecting off the mirrorball on the roof of the pier...

On reflection...
... but I think aliens is more likely.

Saturday, April 04, 2009

Well ok, that didn't go quite according to plan. I think my main problem was the length of the race and the fact that they had to jump fences. Take those two things out of the equation and I'd have been laughing. I'm H.A.P.P.Y.Frankly it's all a conspiracy to make me look like I don't know what I'm talking about. But still, it could have been worse. Lisa's horse was dead by four-thirty.

Anyhoo, if there's one thing guaranteed to take your mind off the national disgrace of another grand travesty, it's the happy smiling face of a baby.

Yes, that look of neverending joy and contentment can mean only one thing: Amelie's moved on from pear to potato...

Bring back the potato famine.
We're going to save a fortune on chips.

Friday, April 03, 2009

Sadly, telling someone to get well soon, and sending them the most positive of thoughts, doesn't always work. It seems that Lisa's Aunt won't be getting her wish to see Amelie grow up after all. So the mood around these parts is a little sombre, and we all feel like making the kind of face Amelie makes when she tastes pear puree.

But the good news is that I know the winner of tomorrow's Grand National, and I plan to spend every penny of my winnings on a bunch of flowers so large that they won't let me through the doors of Vallance Ward without six boxes of chlorphenamine.

So without further ado, the first four past Red Rum's headstone tomorrow afternoon will be...

Offshore Account1st. Offshore Account at 33-1
He's done nothing for two years. Which is why he's going to win tomorrow. He's gone completely under the radar, and everyone's forgotten how good he was as a baby. I'll be saying the same about Amelie in a couple of years time.

Cornish Sett2nd. Cornish Sett at 40-1
More than four years ago, I exclusively revealed the secret of jump racing success. Suffice it to say it applies to this horse. He might have only finished 12th last year, but he's been under the surgeon's knife since then, and you couldn't keep him out of the first four with a crowbar.

Himalayan Trail3rd Himalayan Trail at 33-1
This has all the signs of an Irish plot. Great last year, rubbish this year. I smell a rat...

Darkness4th. Darkness at 20-1
Owned by Andrew Lloyd Webber, and he'll come a lot closer to winning this than Eurovision.

I should add that joint favourite Butler's Cabin doesn't stand a chance, and couldn't win this race in a horsebox.

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

I may have eaten Amelie's one and only Easter egg at the weekend, but the good news is she's been given another one...

She only has to see a cute chick and she gets all excited. She's so like her father. The egg's not actually edible, but needless to say she won't let that stop her shoving it into her mouth. Lisa's been force-feeding her pear puree for the past two days and she needs something to take the taste away.

Anyhoo, I'd like to thank our friends S & A for the furry egg. They've already provided Amelie with a singing cat, a cuddly cow and a magic wand, so they're saving me a fortune in toys. But this one's the most educational yet, because as everyone knows, baby chicks can do maths.

As for today, I spent the morning eating lemon tart and carrot cake with the Chief Pharmacist. Well, I say the Chief Pharmacist. She actually retired yesterday, so technically I was just chatting to a pensioner. She said "I can't believe you're leaving", I said "You're a fine one to talk", then she showed me a photo of herself dressed as Maggie Simpson. I'll miss the woman. Well, I'll miss her cakes.

And on the subject of little old ladies in hospital, Lisa and I visited her Aunt in the Royal Sussex last night. She's been in there since Friday, and she's more poorly than we realised. As a septuagenarian with no computer, the chances of her reading this are slim, but she's one of the loveliest people you could ever wish to meet, and she's desperate to see Amelie grow up, so I'd just like to tell her to get well soon.