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Sunday, May 31, 2009

It's Chloe in a cocktail dress!

What not to wear.
You can tell she likes it by the way she's sticking out her tongue at the camera. And that vibrant red should make it a lot easier for Amelie to charge at her.

But anyhoo, the good news is that having spent twenty-four hours taking antihistamines and applying eye ointment, I now look less like the Elephant Man and more like Paddy Ashdown. By this afternoon I should be the spit of Stephen Fry, and when I walk into work tomorrow morning I'll be back to my old self and able to look diabetics in the eye without feeling like a hypocrite. Needless to say, that's the last time I borrow Amelie's sun cream.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

It's always nice, when you're forty-eight hours away from starting a new job, and your one and only chance to make a good first impression is looming, to wake up with a major allergic reaction in both eyes. Frankly I look like Sylvester Stallone at the end of Rocky. At least I think I do. To be honest, I can barely see the mirror.

But here I am in happier times...

It's the only way.That was yesterday afternoon in St Leonards. If you're wondering why my head's so shiny, it's because I plastered myself in Amelie's sun cream. Hence the allergic reaction. The irony is that the reason I smeared it all over my face (and into my eyes) is because I didn't want to turn up for my first day at work looking like a lobster. But frankly, with eyes like a chameleon, I don't need sunburn to feel red-faced.

Anyhoo, Lisa went out and bought me some chlorphenamine tablets this morning (if only I hadn't left that job - we had hundreds on the shelf), and having taken one a couple of hours ago, the swelling has eased enough for me to see a computer screen and write a blog post. Although every time I catch sight of my reflection in the monitor, I think I've got an Elephant Man screensaver.

But medical disasters aside, we had a very nice time at my parents' yesterday. Not that we spent much time there. We basically just took advantage of the free babysitting service, and went out for the day. But before you start thinking that yesterday's photo was taken in some exotic botanical garden, I should point out that it's actually my parents' backyard. As the saying goes, all rhododendrons lead to home. Fortunately I've got the hayfever tablets now, so I can go back there any time I like.

As luck would have it, we didn't just get the chance to abandon my parents. We were also able to ignore my aunt. She's the Roy Orbison impersonator in this photo, and she'd spent three and a half hours driving down to St Leonards on Friday morning. So she must have been thrilled when Lisa and I promptly went out for the afternoon. But hey, she got to spend time with Amelie. What more does the woman want?

Bird on a wire.So with the carefree and joyful attitude of two people who've dumped their baby on the relatives, Lisa and I headed off to celebrate our anniversary with a romantic walk along the seafront to Hastings. I think we'd gone about fifty yards before we stopped for ice cream. But having recreated my childhood holidays by kicking a stone along Broken Bottle Alley, we arrived in the town centre, where I was conned into paying five quid for the bent coat hanger on the right.

According to the Chinese man who made it for me on a street corner, I could have the name of my choice bent out of wire for just £2. Obviously with a name like Lisa, I wasn't really getting value for money, but I agreed to it anyway, and having written it down on a piece of paper for him (naturally he didn't speak English, and had never encountered anyone with such an exotic name), the man made it out of wire in about twenty seconds flat. At which point he held up a plastic flower and wire heart, said "Yes?", and before I had a chance to shake my head, he'd added it to the name and charged me a fiver. Admittedly you can't put a price on love, but I thought that was a bit steep.

Anyhoo, it was a good five hours before my eyes started swelling up, so we were able to enjoy a full afternoon in 1066 country, and having battled our way through Hastings, bought sunglasses in TopShop and eaten an anniversary sandwich in Subway, we eventually looked at our watches, realised it was an hour past Amelie's tea time, and started the long walk back home.

On the way, we passed this place...

Pasta Pasta Pasta Pasta Pasta Pasta Pasta Pasta Pasta Pasta Pasta Pasta Pasta Pasta Pasta Pasta Pasta Pasta
As Lisa said to me at the time, "I dare you to go in and ask for fish and chips".

Friday, May 29, 2009

Today is mine and Lisa's five year anniversary...

Happy Anniversary
I think I've bought her too many flowers this year.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

I took Amelie to Lidl this morning for some kitchen rolls. Obviously once I start my new job, we'll be getting them from Marks & Spencer, and they'll be fairtrade and organic, but for now it's Lidl all the way. We only popped in for the one item, so having got outside and loaded the two bulging carrier bags full of impulse buys onto the handles of the buggy, I set off slowly for home along Eastern Road. Whereupon I crossed a side street and came face to face with an AAH van.

AAH are the UK's leading pharmaceutical wholesaler, and I've spent the past fourteen months answering the door to them twice a day. So to see the chap again was quite poignant. And if he'd run me over and I'd needed life-saving drugs, it would have meant even more.

On the subject of work, I rang my new boss this morning to ask what time he wants me to start on Monday. I got through to his receptionist, who asked who I was, so I gave her my name, and was just about to launch into an explanation of who I am, when she said "Oh, Phil! Hello!". I haven't even started yet, and they all know who I am. I feel like Susan Boyle.

Anyhoo, I've got the rest of the week off, so Lisa, Amelie and I are going to my parents' for a night. We're leaving Chloe home alone, but I'm confident she won't starve. She's far more likely to die of heatstroke. In the meantime, here's a photo of Am from last Sunday...

Britain's Next Top Model
We need to get onto the modelling agencies quick before she stops looking like her father.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Well, it's official: I'm no longer a drug dealer...

Who put the 'i' in Phil?
I think someone must have removed the bit of paper saying "You'll need it".

But I've said my goodbyes, washed up my mug, taken down my laminated Conflict Resolution certificate (and the post-it note saying "Come and have a go if you think you're hard enough"), and as of five-thirty this afternoon I've finally bid farewell to the world of pharmacy. Like anyone withdrawing from a daily drug habit, I've found it difficult and a little bit sad, but I've eaten a lot of chocolate to get me through it.

Fortunately my colleagues know me very well, so they bought my leaving present in Thorntons. And then gave me a George voucher so I can buy some bigger clothes. I also received a card which has travelled from Brighton General down to the Royal Sussex, then all the way up to the Princess Royal in Haywards Heath. I had no idea so many people wanted to see the back of me.

I must admit, when Lisa waved me off on the bus in March of last year, I didn't expect to be moving on again fourteen months later, especially when I found out how much I like drugs and the people who use them, but sometimes you have to take the opportunities that life (and the NHS) presents you with. Especially when your daughter goes through clothes like... well, like her mother.

But it's sad to think that I'll never again kick back in front of a pharmacy box on a quiet afternoon, shooting the breeze with my work buddy for... oooh, about three hours straight.

Mine's a double (chin).That's not a cigar.
Those photos were taken by the stores supervisor. I think she's preparing some kind of official report.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Ever wondered how your cat would look at you if you dressed her in a wedding gown..?

Bride & Groom
Obviously, to find out, you first need to lift up her veil. But I'd say it's a cross between surprise and utter contempt.

Here comes the bride.You have to admit though, the white really brings out the sadness in her eyes. I think it suits her.

Anyhoo, as if I hadn't done enough already this bank holiday weekend, we went to visit our friend Linda yesterday. That's her on the left. As a bonus, we got to meet not one, but four human beings, two of which had travelled thousands of miles just to see me. Well, to see Amelie. And their brother.

A, of S & A fame, is currently playing host to his brother and sister from Canada, so we invited ourselves round in the hope of getting some free maple syrup. We were last there in February, and a lot's changed since then. Linda's got her paws on some new outfits, and her owner's bought a life-size cowboy for the hallway. Apparently it was the one thing they really needed. Although I think they're also out of bread.

But one thing which hasn't changed is the hospitality. We were treated to another home-made cake to die for (probably from obesity-related heart disease), while Amelie had her own personal entertainer from across the pond. So while I relaxed on the sofa and played with a stress-relieving squeezy liver designed to raise awareness about hepatitis C, Amelie was bounced, tickled, sung to, and kept in a heightened state of amusement for a good two and a half hours by A's sister. I'd say she's a natural, but frankly no one could be that good with children by accident. I think she must have sold her soul to the devil.

In addition, we learnt a lot about life back in Canada. A's sister told us about Marvel the Mustang and the Easy Bake Oven, while A's brother talked about the Canoe Museum in Peterborough. Apparently it's not as dull as it sounds. But personally I'd rather have my kayak and eat in it, by baking a cake with a 60-watt lightbulb (not included)...

It's the most beautiful oven she's ever seen. And that kid's seen some ovens.

Anyhoo, having spent a couple of hours stuffing our faces with cake while someone else looked after our daughter, we eventually left, taking with us a box of maple shortbread and a party dress for Chloe. I've so far failed to get it on her, but trust me, I'm not giving up. I just need to break her spirit somehow.

As for today, well it's been my penultimate day at work before I start my new job on Monday. I've taken the end of the week off to give me a chance to withdraw from sugar overload before I meet the diabetics. One of my colleagues brought in a home-made banoffee pie today to celebrate commemorate the fact that I'm leaving, and it was possibly the nicest thing I've ever tasted. Although I had to have seconds to be sure. If this is what you get when you leave, everyone's going to be handing in their notice first thing tomorrow morning.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Who needs Disney World when you've got Brighton Marina..?

There's an 'F' painted on the ground, but I cropped it out of the photo.
If I can just convince Amelie that's Mickey Mouse, we can save ourselves a fortune in air fares.

Anyhoo, yesterday was another day of unbridled fun in the sun for the Gardner family. Unfortunately, due to baby-related exhaustion and possible cinnamon bun overload, Lisa was too tired to leave the flat, so I had to ship in a substitute Mummy from Croydon. I chose my good friend Marie, due to her ability to hypnotise Amelie using nothing but a finger...

You are feeling sleepy...
Marie's visit was actually arranged a week ago, so I kindly texted her on Wednesday to say that I'd cook her a meal for Sunday lunch. At which point she promptly cancelled. But sure enough, at 10pm on Saturday night, just as Asda was closing, and with no possible way for me to buy ingredients, she suddenly changed her mind and said she'd come. I'm telling myself that's just coincidence.

Anyhoo, Marie's on a no-carb diet, so I fed her cinnamon buns, then announced that we'd be paying a visit to the magic kingdom where dreams come true, and took her to Brighton Marina. Yesterday was the 'Big Splash', the closing event of the Brighton Festival, which featured "FREE family entertainment and fun... themed around the lovable quirks of the British". They put the first word in capitals to attract people like me.

And what could be more British than The Beatles..?

That's Pete Best in the ponytail.

Admittedly, I don't remember George Harrison playing the sousaphone, but let's face it, I wasn't even born at the time. I'll ask Lisa.

Hang on a moment... sousaphone... banjo... ridiculous suits... that's no Beatles tribute act! That's THE IRON BOOT SCRAPERS ON STILTS!! I have to say, Ringo Starr looks a lot better without the bandages. But anyone who does a John Lennon impression like that should be shot.

As it turns out, the fab four above are actually known as 'Poles Apart'. Presumably because they're all from Warsaw. Or possibly due to the stilts. It's hard to say.

Silky SkillsBut they weren't the only ones performing from a great height. Take this pair of headless women hanging from a set of drapes. Some people would use ropes, but it's curtains for this act. As Marie said to me as they shimmied up the chiffon and started doing the splits, "I hope they've waxed their bikini lines". Fortunately, I'm pleased to report that the only hairy moment was when they hung upside down by their ankles, twenty feet above concrete.

Amongst the other entertainment (and I use the word loosely), we encountered 'Mr Wippy and the Conettes' (cabaret in an ice cream van) and the particularly baffling 'Tone Float', which was a milk float loaded up with computers, keyboards and electronics, all designed with the sole aim of blowing air at milk bottles to produce a tune. It certainly produced something, but I'm not sure I'd call it music.

So having toured the Mermaid Market, met some more people on stilts, and heard a brass band play the hits of Abba, Marie and I headed back along the seafront, bought ice creams by an illegal travellers site, and took Amelie home before we all got skin cancer.

It was a satisfying, if confusing, day. As we got into bed last night, Lisa turned to me and said "I keep thinking today's Sunday".

I didn't know what to say to that. And the worrying thing is I can't even blame it on sunstroke.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

It's Am with a small horse!

The Silence of the Foals
That fringe could do with a trim.And judging by that muzzle, it's the Hannibal Lecter of the pony club. Any nearer and he'd have your face off.

But dangerous animals aside, Lisa, Amelie and I have spent the afternoon horsing around at the St Ann's Well Gardens Spring Festival. Personally I hadn't heard of St Ann's Well Gardens until about 6pm last night, but fortunately Lisa had. Although she didn't know where they were. Frankly it was a miracle we got there at all. But thanks to a combination of luck and Lisa's map-reading skills (neither of which you'd want to rely on), we made it across the border into Hove, and arrived at the festival.

Well, I say festival. To be honest it was more of a fête in a park. But a very nice fête in an even nicer park. Here we are opposite the Squirrel Market in the Kids Fun Zone...

No photos please.
I can't help thinking she looks like Liam Gallagher in that hat.

That's a map in her hand.And talking of nutters you wouldn't want to meet down a dark alley, it's almost eighteen months now since I was chased past some cheese by a close friend of the Prime Minister, so it's about time I was recognised in the street again. And sure enough, there I was this afternoon, wheeling Amelie past the bowling greens and trying to avoid the accordian player by the toilets, when out of the blue, a member of the public started shouting "Mulled Whines!" at me.

Unfortunately I had my mind on other things at the time (namely the ice cream in my hand), so it wasn't until Lisa physically turned me around that I noticed. But before anyone makes the mistake of thinking that I have two fans, I should point out that it was the same lady who accosted me in Asda. One more meeting and I can report her as a stalker.

Anyhoo, we had a very nice little chat, during which she told us that Amelie's the most famous baby in East Brighton, before announcing that she could be about to enter public life herself, by taking high office in the west of the city. She's campaigning on Facebook, so it's only a matter of time before Lisa's sending her a friend request. Personally I'm holding out for an audience at Number 10. Or possibly a duck house.

So having waved goodbye to my political allies, and realised I'd forgotten to ask for Derek Draper's e-mail address, we headed off through the woods to the Kid's Rave...

Rave Reviews
The apostrophe implies the singular, and sure enough, there was only one person there. But that didn't stop Am getting funky...

Raving Mad
She's always been raving mad.

For me though, the highlight of the afternoon was on the main stage, where girl band The Half Sisters performed some killer tunes on that classic combination of drums, ukulele and flute. Pay particular attention to the last line of the song, and then watch as the audience rise to their feet...

It's amazing what the offer of sweets does for your popularity.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Most people get flowers when they leave a job, but with three working days left before I depart the world of pharmacy, one of my colleagues has given me these...

Pepper Pots
No, they're not cannabis plants, although having spent fourteen months working with drugs, that would be appropriate. They're actually Slovakian peppers, cultivated from seed by the Mr Big of European vegetable smuggling, who imported them into this country back in March via the green channel at Gatwick. When swine flu passes, and a deadly strain of capsicum flu hits the UK, he's going to have a lot of questions to answer.

But naturally that didn't stop me accepting a few. To be honest, it was an act of mercy. This year's crop is currently being ravaged by a voracious predator named Linda (who looks like this, and writes like this), and is in danger of being wiped out completely. So the four plants above have been evacuated for their own safety, and sent to live with me to ensure the survival of the species. Fortunately Chloe's far too fussy to touch anything which isn't made by Iams or out of a tin marked tuna, so they should be alright. Frankly the biggest danger is Amelie.

But in other news, Brighton & Hove City Council have been out there again today, doing some more Gully/Mechanical Street Cleansing. As a result, my stretch of Eastern Road is now home to two communal bins, one parked on double yellow lines, the other in the parking space right outside my flat. So from now on I'll have further to walk with my shopping when I get home from Asda, but at least I'll be able to take the rubbish out when I go to my car. That's if I can park within walking distance of my flat.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

With less than two weeks to go until I begin my new job as a Retinal Screener, the Argus have published this report on page 2 of today's paper...

The blind screening the blind.
It features this bit of information...

Go figure.
So the team I'll be joining on the 1st of June have achieved a 100% record of success for the year leading up to my appointment. Let's face it, there's only going to be one person to blame for next year's figures.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

At precisely 7:41pm last night, I said to Lisa "I can't be bothered to write any more. Come and read my blog post and tell me if you think anyone will notice that I've cut it off before the end".

To which Lisa replied, "No, I'm doing the washing up".

It's that kind of selfless devotion to housework which is stopping me winning a Pulitzer. That and the fact that I'm British. Suffice it to say that this blog will improve beyond recognition once we get Amelie doing the household chores.

But anyhoo, for the benefit of those awaiting the next episode of Casualty, my doctor informed me yesterday that whilst I may be unusual and could probably get work as a circus freak, I'm not entirely unique, and she has seen patients before who don't respond to Ciprofloxacin. Although apparently they're all dead now.

Well ok, they're not. She also added that the top scientists who have been attempting to breed sea monkeys in my urine for the past two years (or 'culturing a bug', as she prefers to put it) have so far been unsuccessful, and therefore we don't know exactly what we're treating. So under those circumstances we go back to the first drug that worked. Albeit temporarily.

So I left the surgery with a prescription for 4 weeks supply of Trimethoprim, a drug which costs marginally less than 20p a packet. If only it worked on swine flu.

But whilst I might be in the vice-like grip of bacterial prostatitis, I can sleep easy in my bed when the measles epidemic strikes. I've just heard from Occupational Health...

I'm fine, thanks for asking.I do like a letter which gets straight to the point and doesn't waste time on pleasantries. Frankly I've had longer text messages.

But the good news is I'm fully immune to all known diseases (apart from the ones not mentioned on the left), which is one in the eye for all the people who've told me that the measles vaccine hadn't been invented when I was a child. I might look old and unwell, but I'm young enough to have been immunised.

In other news, Lisa and I watched the film Paris, Je T'Aime on Sunday night. We borrowed the DVD from our friends S & A in February, so it's taken us three months to get around to watching it, which is probably longer than the film took to make. But it was worth the wait. It's actually a collection of about twenty short films, and is mostly in French, but fortunately Lisa and I both speak French like natives. Natives of the UK, that is. To be honest we struggled to translate the title.

But having got to grip with the subtitles, we both thought it was excellent. Ironically for a French film, my favourite segments were the ones by German director, Tom Tykwer, and American, Alexander Payne. But to be honest, they were all good. In fact the only disappointment was that the DVD cover said this...

Lisa presents...
... and yet Lisa had nothing to do with it.

Monday, May 18, 2009

It's been a rough couple of days for Oscar the Grouch...

Bin Laden
And that's not the only close shave to have taken place in Brighton over the weekend. The sun almost came out on Saturday, so I pruned Chloe...

Short back and sides.
Look at that straight edge. That’s craftsmanship, that is. You could use her as a ruler.

Anyway, I can't be certain there wasn't a paparazzo outside with a long lens trained on my bathroom, but on balance, I don't expect this haircut to attract the same level of press attention as the last one. There are only so many slow news days in one year, and frankly the only fame I'm interested in is the one with Erica Gimpel.

But fame and beauty aside, you've got to have your health. So I went to see my GP this morning. It's a month now since a stranger in an underground room fondled my privates and gave me a cocktail of drugs, so I thought I should let my doctor know that it's done absolutely nothing for me. Ciprofloxacin might be good at treating urinary tract infections, but it's piss poor for my prostatitis. So having completed the last week of a four week course of frequent pain, I went straight back to my GP to demand some answers. Or failing that, Trimethoprim.

A lot's changed since I was last at the surgery. For a start, they've cleared the waiting room of newspapers and magazines to prevent the spread of swine flu (or possibly just to stop you reading about it), meaning you've got nothing to look at but the back of a box of tissues. And frankly I'd finished that two minutes after I arrived. But to compensate for the lack of entertainment, they've rigged up a speaker system which was pumping out the hits of Whitney Houston, as performed on the Bontempi organ. I've never heard anything like it. I can only assume it's a new form of anaesthetic. It was certainly mind-numbing.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Whilst hitting Amelie over the head with a rolled up envelope from the HR Department yesterday afternoon (not in such a way as to cause permanent damage, you understand), I discovered an amazing fact. She loves the word 'Donk'. At first I thought it was the action of beating her with my terms and conditions of employment which she found amusing, but no. You can stand motionless in front of her, say the word "Donk", and she bursts out laughing. Admittedly, Lisa's favourite traditional hymn is 'Little Donkey', but other than that, I can't explain it.

Am and I were left to our own devices yesterday, while Lisa took some annual leave and went out for the afternoon. She was taking a chance going out alone, as the mean streets of Eastern Road are well known as Brighton's capital of gun crime. Only two days ago, our good friend Mrs Bruno turned up here looking like the girl in the Timotei ad, after becoming the innocent victim of a drive-by shooting, courtesy of some youths in a chavmobile with a high-powered water pistol. I think that was the mechanical street cleansing the council were talking about.

So having waved goodbye to Lisa, said 'Donk' a few times, and tidied up my DVDs, I checked for the presence of prostitutes, and took Amelie to the Brighton Festival. We ended up at the Sky Mirror outside the Royal Pavilion...

The sky's the limit.
Although to be honest, it's more of a cloud mirror at the moment.

The Guest Artistic Director of this year's festival is world-renowned sculptor and Turner Prize winning artist, Anish Kapoor, creator of Chicago's famous Cloud Gate, and the ten-storey high Marsyas at Tate Modern. Although three weeks ago I'd never heard of him.

According to the Sky Mirror's entry on Wikipedia (because obviously it has one), the original sculpture in Nottingham is six metres wide. The one now installed in New York is more than ten metres wide. Brighton's is two metres. And it's only there for another week. But at least Amelie can say she's seen it.

Personally I preferred the view from the back...

The police are closing in.
He should turn it around and call it Earth Mirror.

A green balloon would have been better.So having enjoyed a bit of art for art's sake, Amelie and I headed through the Pavilion Gardens, looked at a couple of Fringe City events in New Road, passed a 'Mobile Champagne Bar' which was basically a burger van with bubbly, and ended up at a foodie event in North Laine where we got rained on for twenty minutes.

Food festivals are all very well of course, but top chef Phil Vickery assures me that Aldi has some of the best chocolate he's ever tasted. So we went there instead. Am was quite happy in Aldi, but the moment I started browsing the menswear in Oxfam, she started crying. Fortunately I had my secret weapon. I simply looked down at her in the buggy and said "Donk". She instantly stopped crying and gave a big laugh.

When I got home, I broke the news to Lisa and warned her not to abuse the power of the Donk. Use it sparingly, I said, treat it with respect, and above all, be sure to use its powers for good. Naturally she ignored me and started saying "Donk" every three seconds until bedtime. Amelie may have laughed constantly for a good two hours, but the reserves of Donk magic have been well and truly drained. Today it barely raises a smile. I'll be going through the dictionary with her later.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

I think I've found out who's been moving my Will & Grace DVDs...

With hindsight, I probably shouldn't have accused Lisa.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Brighton Council are such liars...

It's improved the view out of those windows.
They didn't want to cleanse our streets at all. They wanted to install giant communal bins across Kemptown. Our gullies are no more spotless than they were yesterday.

As it happens, I've been against the idea of communal bins since the plan was announced last year. Not because it means I'll have to walk a hundred yards down the road with Amelie's nappies; not because the sound of the bins being slammed keeps everyone awake at night; and not because they get full up and people leave their rubbish in the street. I'm actually opposed to them because each one takes up an all-too-precious parking space.

So I was particularly pleased to arrive home from work this afternoon (on foot, obviously) to find that the ones dumped closest to my flat have all been parked on double yellow lines. That's what I call responding to residents' concerns.

In other local news, I received an e-mail today from the organisers of the Brighton Festival. I've been on their mailing list since I took a pregnant Lisa to see Augusten Burroughs a year ago, and it's nice to be updated on events. So here's what their latest advertising e-mail says:

Last Chance Saloon
The final week of Brighton Festival is just around the corner. Tickets still available for many events. It ain't over until the last DJ set, the last jazz quintet, the last soprano sings or the last prostitute packs up and heads for a new patch.

Fortunately there are still plenty of prostitutes in Brighton, so I might take Amelie to see something tomorrow.

And on the subject of our talkative daughter, the breaking news is that Amelie has moved on from shouting 'Dada' yesterday, and has spent today saying 'Mama' whenever she sees Lisa. It's quite a sight to behold. I just can't be bothered to film it.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

About twenty of these signs have gone up this week in the streets around my flat...

Gully Gosh
I've no idea what 'Gully / Mechanical Street Cleansing' is (although if it's seagully, I approve), but what I want to know is why Brighton & Hove City Council decided to do them all on the same day? The parking spaces outside my flat aren't included, but the five adjacent streets are, meaning that everyone who lives within two hundred yards of my flat (and this is Brighton, so there's about a million of them) will be trying to park in the dozen or so spaces right outside tomorrow. I'll have to walk to work, because my chances of parking when I get home are zero. I wouldn't mind, but they're not even cleansing my gully.

Anyhoo, on the subject of work, it's a well known fact that the NHS is a lot like professional football. Not so much in terms of the wages, but more in the way that I only work productively for about ninety minutes a week. So with that in mind, my manager pulled me off the bench on Monday and sent me out on loan to play for a struggling team down the road. As a result, I've spent my afternoons this week working at another hospital. I'm not saying it's been dull, but I have nothing whatsoever to say about it. Well, nothing I could publish.

But as luck would have it, someone else has plenty to say...

She's finally worked out who I am.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

It's Big Sis's birthday today, so happy birthday to her! She's celebrated the occasion by going back to work this week while she saves enough money to get a jumbo jet off the ground, so I texted her last night to ask how her first day went. She replied to say that two of the people she's started working with have already handed in their notice. So she's making an impression.

But I'm sure Sis will be buoyed by the arrival of the birthday card I bought her on Sunday. It says 'Superstar Sister' on the front, and comes complete with an 'I ♥ High School Musical' badge and a picture of Zac Efron. I can't be certain that she'll like it - after all, she's never expressed any interest whatsoever in High School Musical - but the way I look at it, twenty million teenagers can't be wrong.

And on the subject of fabulous gifts, it's now less than three weeks until mine and Lisa's five-year anniversary, so I've started laying the groundwork for a romantic meal out. Yes, that's right, I've bought two cartons of fruit juice...

No expense spared.Tropicana are currently offering customers the chance to enjoy a meal at "over 800 quality restaurants participating throughout the UK" in return for just £10 and two promotional codes from overpriced smoothies. So I handed over my cash, drank some disappointing blends of fruit juice, and entered the codes on the website to claim my prize. At which point it told me how many of those eight hundred restaurants are in Brighton.

Answer: none. There are in fact only two participating restaurants within twenty miles of my flat, so God knows where the other 798 are. But undeterred, I examined the closest option. It turned out to be The Parsonage, a small eatery half an hour's drive away which apparently has a "reputation for the finest cuisine in Worthing". Which is what I call damning with faint praise.

My Tropicana voucher entitles me to a two-course meal on Tuesdays, Wednesdays or Thursdays, for just £10 per person. So I checked out their menu. It says this:

"2 Course Dinner ~ £10.00 per person"

Four quid spent on fruit juice and I save precisely nothing. It's looking like the McDonalds drive-thru again this year.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Anally RetentiveAh, Movicol Oral Powder. Effective relief from constipation in one handy sachet. Unfortunately, speaking as someone who's just spent the afternoon standing in the middle of a hospital, sealing one hundred boxes of the stuff with two hundred stickers, and loading them all onto twenty-five shelves of a pharmacy robot whilst doing his back in, I wouldn't want to see another sachet of Movicol if I'd been bunged up for a fortnight.

But whilst I've had a fairly dull afternoon at work, things are far more entertaining at home. I've been trying to recreate the Christians versus the lions at the Colosseum by putting Chloe into Amelie's playpen. Unfortunately there hasn't been much of a fight so far, as Amelie's rarely in there. She prefers to roam free across the living room floor, and we've decided that watching her chomp on live electrical cables is significantly less stressful than putting up with her crying through the bars of a cage. So we're using it to hang washing on instead.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

If there's one thing I've always said, it's that there aren't enough banjo-and-sousaphone-based bands featuring drummers dressed as mummies.

Scraping the bottom of the boot.
Although to be honest, when you've seen one, you've seen them all.

The trio above go by the name of Iron Boot Scrapers (the clue was in the sousaphone), and were standing in New Road this afternoon playing 'I Will Survive' by Gloria Gaynor. Although they also do 'Love Machine' by Girls Aloud. I didn't stop long, as I was on my way to buy a birthday card for Big Sis and I was nearly in sight of the pound shop, but having got home I looked them up on MySpace, and guess what I found...

(No, go on, guess)...

Ian Patrick Harris, the bloke on the left with the banjo, played the musical saw on Keane's latest album. No, seriously. The proof is here. He's the one at the front with the carpentry equipment. And there was me thinking he was just a bloke with the horn who wants his mummy.

Saturday, May 09, 2009

A week might be a long time in politics, but a month is a lifetime in the world of child-rearing. Just four weeks ago Amelie was rooted to the spot like Lisa in front of an episode of Loose Women. Now she's sprinting across the floor and grabbing a packet of Marmite Breadsticks faster than you can say 'buy me a playpen'...

Not even dressing the girl in MC Hammer's trousers was enough to slow her down. Lisa's cry of "Clever girl!" turned to a look of horror within about thirty seconds. You can break family heirlooms all day long, but you touch Lisa's crisps at your peril.

Personally I was quite happy to sit back and film the snack-stealing, but when Amelie crawled the entire length of the living room and started attacking my computer, I knew something had to be done. So while Lisa took a well-earned break this afternoon, Amelie and I headed across town to Babies R Us with a song in our hearts and a lot of money in our pockets. And here's the result...

Caged Animal
On the plus side, Amelie can no longer get from one end of the living room to the other. On the down side, neither can we.

Friday, May 08, 2009

Oh, and I've got mints too...

Mint Condition
I think they're laced with azithromycin.

But if you really want to educate young people on sexual health matters, I've always said that you can't go far wrong with a stress-busting sperm...

Squeezy Sperm
You can squeeze it to relieve anxiety, but if you pull the thing too hard, its tail will snap off. So it teaches kids about cat care too.

The packet says this:

Four-year-olds will love it.
Yes, and the fact that it's sperm-shaped and mentions Chlamydia. Those are two conversations you don't want to have with a toddler.

Anyhoo, on the subject of disease prevention, I had a Hepatitis B vaccination on Wednesday. The Occupational Health Department thought it might be wise to dose me up with antibodies before I start meeting the general public as part of my new job. Admittedly you can only catch Hep B from bodily fluids, but some people can be quite friendly on a first meeting.

With hepatitis and swine flu on the rampage, I'm avoiding liver and bacon in the hospital canteen, but having had the injection on Wednesday, I'm probably safe to try paté. Unfortunately, within twenty-four hours of immunity I took a turn for the worse, and spent most of yesterday feeling pretty exhausted and vaguely unwell. I'd have squeezed my sperm to make me feel better, but I wasn't given that till this morning. So I opened a bottle of coke and had a mint. Neither did me much good, and I was forced to turn to my vaccination leaflet instead.

Amongst the known side effects, it lists these...

Under the weather.
I didn't know 'vague illness' was a recognised complaint. Frankly I'm a chronic sufferer. I'm just surprised 'feeling a bit peeky' isn't there. As for the fever, that hasn't materialised yet, but I'm expecting it on Saturday night.

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

As of lunchtime today, I'm the proud owner of the NHS's latest weapon in the fight against teenage sexually transmitted infections...

Surely all bottle openers are chlamydia free..?
It's the perfect combination of beer opener and chlamydia helpline number. Although if you lose your bottle, you can't use either.

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Not content with a woodworm infestation in their loft, my parents have started attracting vermin to their garden...

Warning: May Contain NutsHanging Around
Squirrels aren't traditionally known for their love of yoghurt, but I expect they've all developed peanut allergies. And judging by the nipples on that one, a plague is just around the corner.

Anyhoo, as of 8pm last night, Lisa, Amelie and I are back in Brighton. So the riots were nothing to do with us. Personally I think Smash EDO sounds like a new brand of instant potato. Our decision to flee to St Leonards was a late one, and based primarily on the belief that we'd enjoy our bank holiday a lot more if we had someone else to do the cooking and childcare.

SkwerlSo having arrived in time for a roast dinner on Sunday, we spent a relaxing evening discussing Big Sis's love life, before sleeping the sleep of the righteous, and getting up bright and early on Monday afternoon. At which point we left Amelie to watch the squirrels lick the lid of life, and went to Tescos.

I have to say, it's a measure of just how sad our lives have become since October, that we actually got quite excited about a child-free trip to a supermarket. Despite having walked through the doors needing precisely nothing, we eventually emerged almost two hours later, more than a hundred pounds lighter, two pounds heavier, and a great deal happier. Whereupon we went back to my parents' house for another home-cooked meal. Their spare room's not much smaller than our flat, so we're thinking of moving in.

Monday, May 04, 2009

Remember my parent's attic, where I trod the boards last October, soaked up the (slightly damp) atmosphere, and started making plans for a loft conversion? Well it's been condemned as a major health hazard...

Loft Conversion
And I thought it was only the ladder that was dangerous. As it turns out, you couldn't fit asylum seekers in there after all. The place is too full of woodworm.

From Genesis to RevelationBut I like the way they've modelled the warning sign on a picture of Phil Collins. Although it's less like a man from Genesis and more like a plague from Exodus. And on the bright side, my Dad's done a good job of repairing the spot where he put his foot through the living room ceiling. Thank God he doesn't have a wooden leg.

But before visiting my worm-infested parents yesterday afternoon, I spent Saturday night walking around the local park with a load of drunks. It was actually a Brighton Festival event entitled 'Fire, Smoke and Mirrors', although the words which attracted me were just underneath the title, and read 'free entry'. Here's how it was described in the brochure...

"The park opens under the cover of darkness and your journey unfolds in a twilight meander across an enchanting landscape of fire and water, light and shadow. Light floods dark places. Sound finds secret spaces. Mirrors distort and reflect. Floating flames defy physical laws as water burns bright. For the architects and artisans of this intimate outdoor installation the process is the performance. As they forge their work - molten glass blown into strange forms; sheet metal cut into flaming trees and towers - Queen's Park becomes a living, shimmering artwork itself."

You're Fired
I got there at 9:30pm to find the place packed full of people wandering around in the dark, drinking cans of beer and bottles of vodka, and trying not to fall into the duck pond. It was like Glastonbury, but with more drugs. Frankly the only sound finding secret spaces was the noise of people throwing up in the bushes. I'd have left sooner, but it was too dark to find the exit.

Saturday, May 02, 2009

It's the 2009 Brighton Festival Children's Parade! The one day of the year when you can disguise your buggy as a tractor, dress your husband as a corn cob, and walk down the road with a woman holding a giant carrot, all without fear of being sectioned...

Ex Tractor Fan
Although the main question on everybody's lips was "What the bloody hell is that?"...

You could make a few sausages out of those eyebrows.
It looks like a cross between Gollum and a pig with swine flu enjoying a bath with a snake. And the worrying thing is that you know the people carrying it are qualified teachers.

Anyhoo, last year Lisa and I missed the Children's Parade because we were buying maternity clothes in Hove. This year Lisa missed it because she'd had a sleepless night with a baby. No one could have seen that one coming. But the good news is that while Lisa went back to bed for a couple of hours, Amelie and I headed down to the seafront to watch this year's event. I wanted to pick up a few tips for when we're taking part ourselves.

Tap DancerI think the main thing I learnt is that if you agree to let your daughter take a giant tap made of cardboard, you can bet your life you'll end up carrying the thing.

To be honest, that bloke wasn't the only tap dancing along the seafront this morning. The theme of this year's parade was 'The Elements', so we had a lot of earthworms, windmills and fireflies, plus a few people with hosepipe banners.

But for me, the most entertaining chap there was Pat Power, "percussionist, educator and composer - and simply one of the most respected innovators on the UK samba scene", at least if you believe this website. He stood on a stepladder in the middle of the road, wearing a white suit and waving his arms about, while the Barulho samba band (none of whom were children, or dressed as taps) proved that there's more to South America than pork-related viruses.

He's either signing for the deaf, or doing tic-tac for Ladbrokes.