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Monday, June 29, 2009

It's me and Lisa with child!

Friends Reunited
In hindsight, I regret wearing the same clothes two days running. People are going to think I have a limited wardrobe. Or that I smell. In reality only one of those is true. You can see the result of that chicken ravioli too. I look about two stone heavier than Saturday.

But anyhoo, Lisa and I were successfully reunited with our long lost daughter yesterday afternoon. To be honest I don't think she missed us at all. Let's face it, when you're presented with an entirely new home to wreck, and only twenty-four hours to do it, you don't really have time to think of your parents.

Arriving in St Leonards half an hour late meant that we missed the chance to see Amelie pulling the kitchen bin on top of herself, and the pot of pens that she'd spread along the length of the hall had all been picked up, but she kindly recreated for us the moment she succeeded in removing all of Grandad's books from the shelves. She was steering clear of the garden after being attacked by greenfly the day before.

So having eaten virtually the entire contents of my parents' fridge and freezer (they probably haven't noticed yet), I fitted Amelie into her brand new car seat, and we headed home. By the time we got there, she'd thrown up all over the straps, so I don't think Argos will accept it back now. She's stuck with it until secondary school whether she likes it or not.

As for today, I headed thirty miles north to screen the diabetics of East Grinstead in the middle of a heatwave. On the plus side, air conditioning is a wonderful invention. On the downside, the clinic didn't have it. But the good thing about slowly sweating through your limited wardrobe in a small room for seven hours is that patients don't hang around to chat. Frankly I've never been home so early.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

It's me and Lisa child-free!

Living the high life.
I admit there are more romantic places to pose for a photo than a multi-storey car park, but when you've managed to escape the clutches of your daughter for a few hours, you can't afford to be fussy. I told Lisa I'd show her the high life, so there we are on level 7.

As it happens, Amelie spent last night in St Leonards. At least that's where she said she was going. I knew the time would come when she insisted on staying out all night, I just didn't expect it to be before she reached nine months old. But my Mum kindly offered to take her off our hands for twenty-four hours as a practice run for the end of August when I plan to whisk Lisa away for her birthday. Don't tell her though, obviously.

Are you sitting comfortably?Ironically, despite being childless for a day, with the opportunity to do anything we please, we seem to have spent most of the time doing things for Amelie. Lisa's cooked all her food for the next few days, I bought her the car seat on the right, then we went to Asda to stock up on weaning spoons.

But we did manage to fit in one romantic occasion: a trip to Prezzo, my favourite Italian restaurant down at the marina. We last went there eleven months ago, when Lisa was pregnant and I was fat (well, fatter). In fact we also ate there on the day of Amelie's ultrasound scan, so she's actually been there twice. Although she's never set eyes on the place. This time I ended up with one of the nicest meals I've ever eaten (and I've eaten a few), so if you're unsure what to order, I can highly recommend the Ravioli di Pollo. It's worth every one of the million calories it contains.

Anyhoo, all good things must come to an end, so we're off along the coast now to pick up our daughter. I told the babysitters we'd be there at 12:30pm, so we should be in the car by now. In reality, Lisa's in the shower and I'm in my pyjamas. Anyone would think we're reluctant to have her back.

Friday, June 26, 2009

If you've spent the day in mourning, thinking that no good can possibly come from the death of Michael Jackson, then think again. In the twenty-four hours since the King of Pop moonwalked off this mortal coil, hits to my Telly Critic blog have increased tenfold. Frankly I've never been so popular. Four years since I wrote the thing, it seems I'm still the world's leading resource for information on Jacko's love of duck butter, and now the man's dead, everyone wants to know more. With this kind of profile amongst Jackson fans, I could probably claim custody of his kids.

I can't read it without glasses.But wackos aside, it's been a manic few days in the world of retinal screening. Me and my copy of the book on the left have been travelling the length and breadth of the Sussex countryside, bringing joy (and flash photography) to the lives of unsuspecting diabetics.

I spent Wednesday in Haywards Heath, being waited on by the receptionists at a small clinic, who gave me a guided tour of the staff kitchen, brought me a supply of coffee pots for my own personal use, and then came and told me every time one of my patients arrived. All of which I assumed was normal, until I mentioned it to one of the other screeners, and was told that in all the years they've been going there, no one's ever let them near the kitchen. Apparently they've been taking their own kettle since 2005. So there are definite advantages to being the one and only man in a screening team of nine: receptionists obviously think I'm the boss. Next time I'll ask them for cake.

Thursday was spent in Horsham, an upwardly mobile area (and not just because I was based on the first floor of the hospital), where you'd be forgiven for thinking that most of the patients are diabetic because they've got too much money for food and drive everywhere in four-by-fours. As it turned out, they didn't seem that different to anywhere else, which was a bit of a disappointment. I wanted to meet a few millionaires.

I did, however, get to visit Horsham Park in my lunch break, which is famous (in Horsham at least) for being the location of the world's biggest custard pie fight. No wonder their sugar levels are so high.

Today I was back in Brighton, where I had a clinic this morning, followed by a meeting this afternoon with a consultant from the Sussex Eye Hospital. I have to say, it's only when you spend an hour in the company of an experienced ophthalmologist that you realise just how thick you really are. I decided not to mention my GCSE in Biology. I sensed he wouldn't be that impressed.

So to regain my feeling of mental superiority, I returned home to spend a few hours with Amelie while Lisa went out for the evening. It gave me the chance to feed her Daddy's Bumper Organic Macaroni Cheese With Spinach, which I spent hours preparing for her last night. Needless to say, she lapped it up. But frankly she'd eat gruel if you put it in a pink bowl and warmed it in the microwave. Fussy isn't going to be one of her first words.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

It's not easy living in a gated community...

I'm sure her head shouldn't really be at that angle. She's going to cost me a fortune in chiropractor's fees.

Monday, June 22, 2009

I knew if I kept this blog going for long enough, I'd eventually come up with something worth reading. And after a mere 1,674 posts (not all of them about Amelie), that day has finally arrived. Ladies and gentlemen, I'm about to rewrite the laws of physics. Which is probably why I only got grade C in my GCSE.

Fortunately I'm not alone in this endeavour...

1840. That's about twenty to seven.
Think of me as Richard Allen's agent. He does the science, I take ten percent of the royalties and go on Parky. Oh, and before you ask, no, that wasn't written 26 years before the Battle of Hastings. That's meant to be an eight. It's not easy writing clearly in an opium war.

Anyhoo, Lisa's Mum went up to Woodvale Crematorium yesterday morning to scatter the ashes of her sister. We went over to see her afterwards, and she gave me a tin of old keepsakes to look through. Well frankly she needs to change her name to Pandora, because within five minutes of opening it, I'd unleashed all manner of mysterious powers. The only difference is I plan to use them for good.

Most of the papers inside belonged to Lisa's grandfather and great-grandparents, and included a programme from the Brighton Gaiety Theatre, dated Monday, January 15th, 1894, and a Birmingham Rifle Corps menu from 1876.

The Book RepositoryBut by far the most interesting item is a 59-page book, entirely handwritten on the 27th August 1840 by Richard Allen, and entitled 'The Repository of Arts and Sciences'. I've no idea what 'Plea. Expr.' stands for, nor where the first five volumes have gone, but this little booklet in my hand contains details of thirty-eight experiments, ranging from how to take spots of grease out of books and how to sign for the deaf, to methods for starting fire under water, and even designs for an early photocopier. Kind of. To be honest I didn't really understand that one.

I've absolutely no idea where the book came from. Most of the tin's contents date from the two world wars, and we've spent the past twenty-four hours assuming this thing was compiled by a bored soldier in 1940. It was only tonight, when I looked at the handwritten numbering on the pages, that I realised the nine is clearly an eight, and it's 169 years old. If I'd known, I wouldn't have been idly flicking through it over my dinner.

But I'm glad I did. Because the book contains the earth-shattering secret for which science has been searching for centuries. Unless you believe in the laws of thermodynamics, in which case you'd probably rather not hear it. But for everyone else, I can exclusively reveal...


Put very small fillings of iron into aquafortis and let them remain until the aquafortis is completely saturated with the iron, which will happen about two hours, pour off the solution and...
... put it into a phial an inch wide, with a large mouth, with a lump of lapis calaminaris; then stop it close, and the calamine stone will keep in perpetual motion.
I'm off to search Ebay for a lump of lapis calaminaris and a phial of aqua fortis.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

It's my first Father's Day!

For My Daddy. Although Mummy ate some too.
That photo was taken a few hours ago, so needless to say the chocolates are long gone now. But I'll always have the rolls of fat to remind me how nice they were.

Fortunately I've brought Amelie up to be like her Daddy, so she's generous to a fault (and loves her food). In addition to the chocolates, she presented me with a Gary Go CD this morning, plus the 30th anniversary edition of Jeff Wayne's War of the Worlds. But more special than either of those was Amelie's very first drawing...

Art for art's sake.
You might be tempted to think that Lisa helped her with that, but trust me, I've seen Lisa's attempts at art, and she's not capable of anything that good. It's clearly a picture of Daddy sliding down a hill with his arms and legs in the air. The girl's a prodigy.

To celebrate Father's Day, the council organised an event at the library yesterday entitled 'Men Behaving Dadly'. Frankly it's puns like that which make paying your council tax worthwhile. It featured the chance to meet Sid from CBeebies, which would have been quite exciting if we'd ever heard of him. Unfortunately Am and I arrived there after he'd left, so we headed off to Sainsburys instead to buy Lisa some sausages. It seemed like the Dadly thing to do.

As for today, well Amelie and I have spent some quality time together fitting a gate to the kitchen so that she can't eat Chloe's biscuits. It's had an immediate effect. Lisa's already tripped over it three times. I'll come home from work tomorrow and find her unconscious on the floor, Chloe wedged in the bars, and Amelie with a mouth full of cat food.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

I spent all day yesterday at the East Grinstead Health Centre...

Smoking GunNow, I hate to harp on about this - it's already attracted the attention of the local press - but someone needs to track down the architects who are designing the medical centres of Sussex to look like guns. I'd fire the lot of them. And then sack the architects.

But if you're going to take shots of people's retinas all day, I suppose it makes sense to do it in a building shaped like a revolver. The main entrance is through the trigger, although if, like me, you know the code to the staff entrance, you can have the pleasure of walking down the barrel of the gun. I was based in the butt, which is also where they do rectal examinations. Probably. They certainly do sexually transmitted disease clinics there anyway. Every time I opened the door to call another patient, I came face to face with a poster about genital warts.

Anyhoo, I'm sure it shouldn't really take an hour and a quarter to drive thirty miles on a Friday morning, but that's commuting for you. Obviously it would have helped if I hadn't taken two wrong turns on the East Grinstead one-way system (the one way being the wrong way), but I still got there five minutes before the first patient, and having spent the day shooting people between the eyes (I really should learn how to point that camera in the right direction), I emptied the chamber, left the gun behind, and returned to Brighton via a different route. Which is what happens when you don't read the road signs.

But if East Grinstead seems a long way to go as part of my job, I ain't seen nothing yet. I'm off to Newcastle in a few months time. The big boss is keen for us all to attend the annual conference of the British Association of Retinal Screeners, which this year is being held in Geordieland. I've said I'll go, but it was a tough decision. I'm keen to further my career by fraternising with fellow eye people for two days, but BARS have scheduled the conference for the one date in autumn when I'd rather be at home. Amelie's going to have to celebrate her first birthday without her Daddy.

Fortunately she has no idea what day of the week it is (much like her mother), so I plan to lie to her for the next eighteen years and claim I was there. And if that doesn't work, I'll pay her off with all the extra money I've earned as a result of my two days of networking.

In the meantime, here's Lisa testing Amelie for signs of hayfever by taunting her with a curly flower...

My role was to titillate foot fetishists by getting my toe in the bottom of the frame.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Never mind a fat naked man on a bike, here's a thin man on the recorder...

WhiteyThat's Jarvis Cocker playing 'Caucasian Blues' at the Brighton Dome last night. He said that when setting out to write a blues song for caucasians, he tried to think of the whitest possible instrument, and came up with the descant recorder. Personally I'd have gone for the triangle too. They're the only two instruments Lisa can play.

Anyhoo, last night was the second evening that Lisa and I have spent in the company of Mr Cocker, but the first in which he played more than three songs. I'm not sure if that makes it better or worse. Having greatly enjoyed his lecture at the Brighton Festival last year, I'd have been quite happy for him not to sing this time around. I find him hugely entertaining as a person, but I'm not sure music's his forte. Naturally Lisa disagrees.

On the plus side, the man more than makes up for his lack of a singing voice with sheer likeability, stage presence, sense of humour and the ability to thrash his arms and legs around like a madman for ninety minutes straight. Unfortunately that does mean that most of my photos look like a scene out of Ghostbusters...

Pulp Friction
I'm sure that's ectoplasm coming out of his armpits.

Anyhoo, I'm not saying Lisa and I are old, but we did manage to get through a whole packet of Werther's Originals during the concert last night. That was one of the highlights for me. As was the woman sitting directly in front of us, who sent a series of highly intriguing text messages in full view of me and anyone else who was leaning over her shoulder straining to read them. The first said "Thanks for dying my stuff. I'm wearing it now", but my personal favourite was "Thanks for sorting me out today. Hope your tootsies don't hurt too much". I'm still trying to form a mental image of that one.

After a late night last night, I had to drive up to Crowborough this morning, where I met all manner of interesting people, including the tennis correspondent of a national newspaper. He'd just returned from a fortnight in Paris watching the French Open, and was on his way down to Eastbourne before heading for Wimbledon next week. But if you think a life spent travelling the world and being paid to sip complimentary red wine in the press box at professional tennis tournaments sounds pretty good, you'd be wrong. Apparently when you have the best seats in the house every day, the dust from those clay courts really sticks in your throat.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Give me a ring.With hindsight, I think we should have had the nose ring fitted a little higher up.

And on the subject of extreme body-piercing, I spent this morning at the Sussex Eye Hospital, sitting in on a few fluorescein angiographs. There was a sign on the wall saying that it proves fatal approximately once every 220,000 times, so I left after half a dozen patients before my luck ran out.

It was all very interesting, but not as jaw-dropping as the patient I met who was preparing for a bit of Osteo-Odonto-Keratoprosthesis. No, really. Having had the procedure explained to me, I had to check the calendar to make sure it wasn't April the 1st.

If you want to try this at home, you'll need a blind man, a pair of pliers and a drill, but to be honest, it's probably best left to the professionals. Apparently they (by which I mean the handful of people who perform this miracle, one of whom does it about two hundred yards from my flat) removes a tooth from the patient, hollows it out a bit, then implants it into their cheek. I know, I didn't believe it either. The patient then walks around with a molar in their face for a few months (like that mouse with an ear on its back), until the tooth grows its own blood supply. It's like The Terminator, only more gruesome.

That done, the bloody tooth is then removed from the cheek and inserted into the patient's eye. No, seriously. The blind man looks through the hollowed out tooth, and their vision is restored. As the meerkats would say, "Simples!". So if anyone says they'd give their eye teeth to be able to see again, they can do it on the NHS in Brighton.

Monday, June 15, 2009

There are some things you just don't expect to see when you're out with Amelie on a Sunday afternoon...

Hairy Biker
I admire anyone who decides to wear gloves but no pants. I expect the panniers are packed full of donuts.

Anyhoo, the sweet smell of chafing can mean only one thing: it's that time of the year again. The time when rational people attempt to fight climate change and influence government policy by cycling through Brighton with their privates out. Rule number one, though, is don't forget the sun cream...

Red Raw
That's a nasty bit of sunburn. But spare a thought for the small girl riding shotgun between the scarlet woman's thighs. She's had an afternoon to remember.

As it happens, Amelie and I didn't go out with the intention of seeing the Naked Bike Ride yesterday afternoon. To be honest, we didn't even know it was on (otherwise we would have gone out with the intention of seeing it). The first we knew of the nudity was when we strolled out of Jamie Oliver's and saw two hundred genitals coming towards us.

Lisa had major reconstructive surgery on Thursday (well, she went to the dentist), which has left her a bit down in the mouth, so I took Amelie into town to buy her an up-cheering gift. Preferably something she can eat without breaking her dental work. Jamie Oliver's just opened a shop called Recipease in Western Road, so I popped in and bought the world's most expensive lasagne. It looks nice, but it only serves one, so I'll get Lisa to tell you what it tastes like.

Obviously an overpriced ready meal needs a suitable dessert, so from there I took Amelie to Waitrose and bought a bar of Rococo chocolate. I can't reveal how much it cost for legal reasons, but I had to remortgage my flat just to get me through the checkout. As it turns out, Rococo were the people behind The Apprentice final, so I thought I'd save a square for Big Sis's research. Unfortunately Lisa had finished the bar within ten minutes of me getting home. She doesn't know what it cost, but she says it was worth it.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

We've decided to return Amelie to the wild...

She's currently being raised by cows somewhere in the Sussex countryside. It's like Born Free, but with more milk.

Anyhoo, Lisa and I received word on Thursday that Big Sis was due to visit St Leonards at the weekend, and needed help with her application for the next series of The Apprentice, so naturally we dropped everything and headed over there yesterday.

We couldn't arrive too early because Sis was down at the police station pleading not guilty to a charge of using her mobile phone whilst driving, but fortunately by the time we got there she'd jumped bail and returned to my parents' house, where she was basting herself in a bottle of Maui Babe.

Mutual Admiration
Now, I know what you're thinking. You're thinking "Blimey Phil, that Australian sun has aged Big Sis terribly. She looks about... um... fifty". Well as it happens, that's my Mum. On the left. Big Sis wouldn't let me take her photo looking the way she did.

Out to pasture.Anyhoo, we had a very enjoyable time in St Leonards yesterday, although having spent the afternoon eating shoots and leaves, pushing daisies, and charging across the lawn at high speed, Amelie's demanding to know why we don't have a garden. She'll be putting herself up for adoption next.

As for Big Sis, she regaled us with tales of her close friendship with global R&B sensation Haynzy, showed us the cue cards she used in North London last weekend as the official compère of a major charity event (ie. school fête), and told us that she's only ever watched two episodes of The Apprentice, but has seen enough to know it's for her. She then asked me who Alan Sugar is.

So having caught up on news of all the millionaires Sis has dated in the last six weeks, we settled down to fill in her application form, while my Mum voiced the opinion that working for Amstrad would be a career step backwards. My Dad suggested she send the BBC her letter of recommendation from the Pentagon, but unfortunately she's lost it. Which undermined my line about her being organised and reliable. To be honest, I knew I was skating on thin ice there.

The one stumbling block in Big Sis's business plan is that she can only get six weeks off work to film the series, but as she said herself, "the chances of me getting to week six of The Apprentice are zero". I've told her to put 'perceptive' down on her list of main qualities.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Can I just say that it's quite hard to write a blog post when Amelie's clambering over your feet under the desk, and trying to become a marionette by wrapping herself in computer wires. She looks like Pinocchio, only less honest.

But problem children aside, I was here yesterday...

Hasta la Vista, Baby.
If Mile Oak is a pistol, Crowborough's definitely more of an Uzi. But frankly the gun designers at Haywards Heath want shooting...

Bang goes the design award.
Admittedly it's got a nicely designed trigger, but where's the style, where's the finesse? It looks more like a child's toy than a weapon of mass destruction, and quite honestly I expect more from my health centres.

BlockyAs for Horsham Hospital, the less said about that, the better. They've gone for a Sherman tank and ended up with an elephant.

Anyhoo, I spent most of yesterday travelling around Sussex with a map in my hand, trying to find various hospitals. I felt like Nerys Hughes in The District Nurse, but without the affliction of being Welsh.

First stop was the Crowborough War Memorial Hospital (making them look like guns is fair enough, but putting 'war' in the title is verging on overkill if you ask me). I liked Crowborough, but I'm not sure I could live there without a pay rise. Some of the houses looked bigger than the hospital.

From there it was on to the Haywards Heath Health Centre, passing a few signs to the River Uck, which had all been defaced by someone with a can of spray paint and a very small vocabulary. Having done my best to get lost in a clinic the size of a shoebox, I then stepped up my game and headed for this place...

Creepy Crawley
That's Crawley Hospital. I was on the fourth floor of that building yesterday afternoon. Literally. I was down on my hands and knees under a desk, trying to disconnect a lead from the back of a retinal screening camera. I like to think I put the crawl back into Crawley.

I ended my little road trip at Horsham Hospital, where I wandered around aimlessly for a while, looking for the screening room and trying to work out how to use the lift, before picking up a hitchhiker with a computer under her arm, and giving her a lift back to Brighton. After a day like that, only a fool would leave the house today. So I'm thinking of going to Hastings.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Trigger HappyPatient confidentiality is such a frustrating thing. I screened my first minor celebrity today and I can't tell anyone who it was.

I've actually spent today back at Mile Oak (which is like a yardstick, only bigger) seeing patients in the building on the left. If you view the clinic as a pistol, I was based in the gunsight. Most people are happy to walk in through the trigger.

As luck would have it, three of my first five appointments this morning failed to turn up, but the first one who did had a very familiar name. It wasn't until I stared into the back of his eye, however, that I finally worked out who he was. I still wasn't sure though - after all, I've only ever seen him on stage with a guitar in his hand. He looked remarkably different sat on the other side of a retinal camera.

So I took the man's photo, asked about his diabetic control, checked his eye history, and then nonchalantly asked if he played the guitar. Five seconds later, I'd accused him of being in a certain band. At which point my supervisor shrieked and said she'd seen them play in Slough. (I did say he was a minor celebrity). Anyhoo, the three of us reminisced for a while about the nineties, and the fact that we've all said goodbye to our youth, then I told him he'd get his results within six weeks, and let the man go.

Twenty-five patients later, I left Mile Oak behind me, drove back across Brighton, and decided to drop in on my old pharmacy workmates. Only to find that half of them weren't there. Someone must have told them I was coming.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

I knew I was tempting fate with yesterday's blog post. Today has been more like an episode of Kingdom Hospital. The way things were going this afternoon, I kept expecting a talking anteater to show up. I'm drained physically, emotionally and perspirationally. It was hot in that consulting room.

But in an effort to cheer me up (I presume), Lisa's just decided to challenge a friend of hers to a game of Scrabble on Facebook. Here's her first move...

She's thinking of David Van Day again.
With hindsight, I probably could have explained the rules better.

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

It's a well known fact that a week is a long time in retinal screening. Last Tuesday evening I was sitting here feeling tense about administering eye drops, nervous of taking patient histories, and wondering how anyone can operate the screening camera without a degree in electrical engineering. A week later, and with upwards of fifty patients under my belt (which explains the muffin top over my trousers), I was actually disappointed that I didn't have a clinic scheduled for today.

But fortunately I don't let a trivial thing like my official timetable stop me from having fun. So despite this afternoon being a designated study period back at base, my supervisor agreed to let me go and bother the screener at the local hospital for an hour. Well, I say an hour. And so did she. I was actually there for two and a half. Frankly I'd taken over the clinic by the time the third patient walked through the doors. I even counselled a patient who'd just moved into a new flat with a no-pets policy and been forced to give up his cats. Frankly a working knowledge of cat care seems to be more important than understanding diabetes in this line of work.

As for tomorrow, I have my first all-day clinic, and a list of twenty-nine patients to see. And here's where I'll be seeing them...

We used to supply that clinic from the pharmacy stores, and due to a problem distinguishing an 'a' from an 'o' on their pharmacy bag, my colleague and I called it The Pork Centre. I think they deal with swine flu. Anyhoo, I've been told I won't be able to park within five minutes walk of the place, which is clearly rubbish. I just need to get there at the same time as that photographer.

Monday, June 08, 2009

Having thought about it all day, I've decided not to post the photo I took this morning of Amelie with a hairdryer in her mouth. It's probably best not to attract the attention of social services just one week into my new job. So instead, here's a far more innocuous one I took this afternoon...

I put the stool there to cover up the coffee stain.
Supergluing her hands to that stool really stops her getting up to mischief.

Sunday, June 07, 2009

It's alright, I'm not dead. I'm just dead tired. If only the eyes of glaucoma sufferers were as well drained as I am.*

To be honest, I haven't really done much this weekend apart from shampoo the carpet for a fourth time. The coffee stain's now looking less like espresso and more like a latte, but I think we might have to pass off the carrot as an avant garde design feature.

I did spend a bit of time this morning reading up on eye conditions and diabetes, so that the next time a patient turns to me in the middle of a visual acuity test and says "My recent HbA1c was 7.8, do you think that's ok?" I can do more than go "Um...". Either I need to increase my knowledge fast, or start pretending I don't speak English. Which could prove difficult when I've just been talking about the patient's cat for five minutes. I have to say, it's surprising just how much some of the patients want to chat, and how little of it revolves around diabetes and the eye. I got the full lowdown on one man's kickboxing career last week, and the fact that he likes to go windsurfing at the weekends. I only asked him if he'd had eye drops before.

Anyhoo, it's been a tiring week, but a pretty good one. Mile Oak on Friday turned out to be very nice. I particularly liked the biscuits in the medical centre staff room, and the GP magazines with entertaining articles about earwax. I also learnt how to fold up the foot rests on an electric wheelchair so that you can get the occupant within touching distance of the retinal screening camera. Although just fitting it with a zoom lens would have been easier. I'm back there on Thursday for an all-day clinic with a list of about thirty patients. I'll be taking plenty of loose change, as they charge 30p a cup for anyone not in the surgery tea fund.

But when I'm not eyeing up members of the public, I've been walking through an enchanted forest...

In an ideal world, you'd have fewer pots and more branches, but at least there's a stream nearby. A steady stream of traffic, that is. This is actually the Victoria Gardens in central Brighton, which for one week only has been transformed into The Forest of Valley Gardens, a 700-tree temporary forest designed by a Brighton University student. I wandered through it this afternoon, and it's all very nice, but by the time you've gone about twenty yards, you do start to feel less like you're strolling through a woodland glade, and more like you're walking round a garden centre.

* Trust me, that line would go down a storm at an optometrists conference. I should be doing corporate hospitality for Dolland & Aitchison.

Thursday, June 04, 2009

Lisa prepared a home-made organic chicken and vegetable casserole last night. My mouth started watering immediately...

Meat & Two Veg
... and stopped the moment she served it straight from the casserole dish and into the blender. I'm sure Amelie's eating better than I am. I wouldn't mind, but she can't even keep the stuff in her mouth...

Stains Massive
That's the current state of the living room floor after three applications of carpet shampoo. The orange splodges are carrot and sweet potato, the brown cloud is a cold cup of coffee (not belonging to Amelie, but entirely her responsibility), and as for the vague yellow patch on the left, I don't like to ask. But the girl's thrown up a lot more than just questions in the past few days. The irony is that we're buying organic to spare her from chemicals, yet she's spending most of her time crawling in carpet cleaner.

As it happens, I've gone from one extreme to the other today. Having cleared up after a baby this morning, I drove over to Lewes and treated a patient in her nineties. Frankly she was more spry than I was. If she carries on like that, she'll be getting her annual screening appointment with a telegram from the Queen.

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

It's the Manic Street Preachers at the Brighton Dome!

Manic Depression
I know what you're thinking. You're thinking "Blimey Phil, call yourself a medical photographer?". Well firstly, no I don't. And secondly, you should see the other forty-five I took. Trust me, blurry and dark with one of the band facing the wrong way is a comparitive triumph. Most of the time I couldn't tell if I was looking at the Manic Street Preachers or the Three Degrees. I blame the lighting. Either it was supposed to be moody, or the power to the spotlights had failed.

But despite sitting in the third row of the circle for two hours looking at three silhouettes in the dark, we actually had a good time last night. I was particularly pleased because shortly before leaving for the Dome, I checked the Manics' latest album sleeve, and discovered that the chorus which I've been singing along to for the past fortnight isn't in fact "Only got Ken Bruce". It's actually "Only God can bruise". I was convinced it was about Radio 2.

So having sung along with complete confidence, Lisa and I eventually got home at 11:30pm last night, woke up the babysitter, and got to bed after midnight. It might not have been the best preparation for my third day at work, but having spent the afternoon administering eye drops, carrying out sight tests, and taking photos of patients (who says you can't practice on members of the public?), I don't think it's stopped me working.

I've also received my schedule for the next six weeks, which contains the revelation of terror that I'll be performing my first entirely solo clinic on July 13th. Which is unlucky for some. Mainly the patients I'll be seeing. It's a sigh of relief for Lisa's Mum though. She's booked in for the end of June, and I'll still be supervised at that point. She's promised not to embarrass me in front of my manager on condition that I keep quiet about the number of Kit-Kats she eats.

Anyhoo, I've got to be in Lewes with a bag of tropicamide and a long list of patients at 8:45 tomorrow morning. I'll be back in Brighton for the afternoon, then out to Mile Oak first thing on Friday. I knew I'd regret telling them that I like to keep busy.

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Mmm... minims.Ah, that familiar red and white box can mean only one thing. Raspberry Ripple. Tropicamide eye drops. I may have spent fourteen months putting them on pharmacy shelves, taking them off again, and sending them out to wards, but I didn't expect to be sticking them into the eyes of a pensioner on day two of my new job. This learning curve is dangerously close to vertical.

SteepAdmittedly I only had to do the one patient, which was an eye drop in the ocean compared to the number my supervisor did, but having spent all afternoon in the diabetes clinic, dealing with patients aged from 20 to 83, I feel like I've seen more photography than a paparazzo. I've also learnt to carry out visual acuity tests on people who don't speak English, and had a chance to brush up my touch-typing skills by inputting results in the dark.

Naturally I can't practice everything on members of the public though (well, not without getting arrested), so when it came to taking photos, I was given the chance to snap a few shots of one of my colleagues. Operating the retinal screening camera is a bit like using the grabbing machine in an amusement arcade, only slightly more difficult, and with less chance of success. But having waggled the joystick, twiddled the knobs and pressed a few buttons, I eventually got the hang of it, and produced a set of photos to be proud of.

It was shortly after that that I found myself squirting tropicamide into the face of an old lady. Which is not something I thought I'd be doing when I got up this morning. At this rate I'll be carrying out surgery by the end of the week.

But anyhoo, having faced my fears and looked complete strangers in the eye all day, it's time for a bit of a break. So four days after our five year anniversary, Lisa's finally getting her gift. We're off to see the Manic Street Preachers at the Brighton Dome. Their new album's called 'Journal for Plague Lovers', which is appropriate as I've spent most of the day rubbing in alcohol hand gel to prevent the spread of infection.

Monday, June 01, 2009

That's Amelie on the left and Chloe on the right.One day down, a few thousand to go. I'd just like to thank all the people who sent me good luck cards for today, two thirds of which chose the card on the right. It's obviously a popular choice down at the pound shop.

Anyhoo, as luck would have it, I've actually had a very good first day. I've visited Peacehaven, Lewes, Burgess Hill and East Grinstead, met people from Ireland, Spain and Borneo (I expect that last one's a newly discovered species), and been told that 111 people applied for this job. Which means there are 110 people in Sussex with even less to offer than me. It's like I've won X Factor. By this time next year I could be as successful as Leon Jackson.

My task for this morning was to sit in the passenger seat of a car while the head of the Clinical Media Department drove me through the Sussex countryside on a mission to move two retinal screening cameras from one location to another. The clinic at Peacehaven might have been little more than a portacabin in a car park, but the Burgess Hill Medical Centre looks like this...

The view from the Hill.I received the startling news that I should be capable of running my own screening clinics within six weeks, so by August that could be my office.

We also visited the Victoria Hospital in Lewes, and walked past the wards I've been supplying with drugs for the past fourteen months. It was nice to be back there. The last time I visited, I took my own pillow and lay on the floor. This time I walked in with an eye chart and a laptop. The consulting room had a bed, but I didn't like to try it out before I'm qualified.

A quick trip around the East Grinstead one-way system, and we arrived back in Brighton just in time for lunch. That's if you have lunch at 2:15pm. Which I did today. My afternoon (what was left of it) was spent in the company of three retinal screeners, who talked me through some photos and offered me cups of tea and chocolate digestives, before telling me about all the celebrities they've screened. Naturally I can't breach patient confidentiality, but having heard who was screened this afternoon, I'll be taking a few of my scripts to every clinic.