Subscribe: Subscribe to me on YouTube

Monday, August 31, 2009

To be honest, the reason we bought Amelie a plastic toy box was so that her stuff wouldn't end up all over the floor...

Toys out of the pram.
She hasn't grasped the concept quite as well as she's grasped the crate and tipped everything out.

I need to get things tidied up pretty quickly though. The Argus are advertising a street party round at my place this afternoon...

Care in the Community
Music, dancing, activities and food. Frankly that's every day in the Gardner household.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Two weeks ago today, Lisa, Amelie and I drove across town to stroke a few dogs. Well as it turns out, they followed us home...

It's a new charity shop dedicated to that deeply deprived and often neglected social group, greyhounds! They're putting the dog back into do-gooders. I think it's based on the principle that Pudsey Bear doesn't do enough for canines. Possibly because he lost his eye after being savaged by a pitbull. Every purchase helps the loser of a race at Hove dog track. And if you spend fifty pounds or more, you get a signed photo of Ballyregan Bob.

Personally I'm all in favour. Frankly if a charity shop wants to open just around the corner from my flat, I don't care if it's raising money to help millionaire bankers through the credit crunch, I'll still buy my clothes there. And it fits right in. It's next door to Barber Blacksheep, the local hairdressers, so not only do we have a parade of fantastically named shops, but we've got a ready made sheepdog theme. And the hanging baskets either side are like a 'before' and 'after' advert for Miracle-Gro.

But that's not the only change to the neighbourhood since we went on holiday a week ago. A depressed graffiti artist painted this statement in blue (appropriately enough) on a nearby wall about a month ago...

Any Dream Will Do
And now he's finally had a reply...

Oscar Wilde, eat your heart out.

Friday, August 28, 2009

It's Friday night, we're home, and Lisa's changed her mind...

What the puck.
Despite appearances, she wasn't actually kneeling on the air hockey table. If she had been, she might not have let in seven goals.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

It's me and Amelie at the Hastings Fishermen's Museum!

Fishing for compliments.
To be honest, the closest Amelie's come to a Hastings Fisherman is pulling a picture of Captain Birdseye out of my Mum's recycling bin, but sadly my original companion in that photo banned me from using it, on the grounds that the wind had blown her hair out of place and she looked like Russell Brand. So I was forced to replace her with someone who doesn't care what her hair looks like.

Interestingly, the top I'm wearing was bought about ten minutes earlier for £2.50 in a local charity shop, after I realised that the gentle summer breeze wafting across the beach in late August was likely to give me frostbite. Thank God I'd grown my own balaclava.

Anyhoo, Lisa, Amelie and I have been on holiday in St Leonards since Monday. I've spent most of that time eating, which is why I haven't blogged much. It's not easy getting near a keyboard when your stomach's this big. But having spent a lot of the last two days in clothes shops, buying Amelie's winter wardrobe, Lisa and I ventured out this afternoon to do our bit for local tourism by exploring Hastings' Old Town. Here's Lisa outside the East Hill Lift, where I spent many an uplifting moment as a child...

Going Downhill
Sadly the East Hill Lift has gone downhill in more ways than one, and is now closed. Which is a shame, because it makes it harder to get up to the clifftop and admire the view of the pier. Which is also now closed. I'm not saying Hastings has hit the skids since I stopped visiting in 1983, but frankly we were the classiest people there today. If the welfare state didn't exist, the place would have been deserted.

Still, at least the seafront was exploding...

Da Bomb
But despite the bombs buried on the beach, we had a nice afternoon. I managed to convince Lisa that a restaurant called Webbe's was run by a former member of the boyband Blue, and we found an ice cream parlour which, for an extra 30p, would dunk your entire Mr Whippy in melted chocolate. That was money well spent. As was the £1.75 we invested in a chocolate meringue the size of my head from a small organic bakery.

Fortunately we worked off most of those calories looking for a decent fish & chip shop. Lisa's nothing if not fussy, and she dragged me around at least five establishments before she found one she'd be willing to eat in. Unfortunately it was closed. Or as the customer standing outside put it, "The f**king chippy's f**king shut". At least I think he said shut. I expect the same was true of the jobcentre.

We never did get any chips, but we consoled ourselves with a game of air hockey in the local amusement arcade. I won 7-5, with at least four of Lisa's goals being scored while I was taking her photo. A photo which, strangely, I'm not allowed to publish. Who'd have thought a simple video of someone swilling chip-filled water around her mouth could have such far-reaching effects.

Anyhoo, the good news is that after toasting my victory in the indoor sports, I put 40p in the two-penny falls and promptly won 34p, a small ceramic bear, and a fridge magnet which says 'I ♥ London'. They don't make them with Hastings on for obvious reasons. We took the bear home for Amelie, and frankly she's never loved a toy so much. For the next two hours she took it everywhere she went (which admittedly wasn't far) and nothing would persuade her to release her grip. Nothing except the discovery that the paint was flaking off in her mouth, and she'd been swallowing Chinese lead since teatime. Who'd have thought a 2p prize from an amusement arcade would have turned out so shoddy.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

It's Lisa enjoying her 40th birthday in Hastings town centre!

I think the mid-life crisis has begun already.

And before you ask, the "oh no" at the beginning is partly because I thought I'd pressed the wrong button on the camera, but mainly because she said our relationship is over if I publish the video.

Happy birthday my darling. Love you lots. xxx

Monday, August 24, 2009

I always said I'd do something special for Lisa's 40th...

Putting on the Ritz.And sure enough, whilst making her walk half way across London with a big suitcase to save on tube fares, I stopped and forced her to pose with a binman outside The Ritz. It's those little touches of glamour which make a two-mile hike worthwhile. Although I moved her on quickly before she asked to sit down.

Anyhoo, Lisa and I have spent the weekend in our nation's great capital. I rejected The Ritz for being too clichéd, and instead booked a room at The Westbury, just off Bond Street. It's the closest I've come to a Mayfair hotel since I last played Monopoly.

Our walking tour from Victoria station took us past a number of landmarks. Frankly the only thing we didn't pass was Go, which was a shame as I could have done with the money. There was The Ritz of course...

... Buckingham Palace...

Buck House
... Canada Gate...

Pass the maple syrup.
... and the local pound shop...

I'll get De Beers in.
... so called because they need a pound of flesh before they'll let you through the door. That's Lisa showing off her new ring. Or possibly doing 'I'm a Little Teapot'.

Hotel BabylonBut we eventually made it to our five-star hotel for a nice sit down. When I stopped outside the front entrance and said "We're here!", Lisa genuinely thought I was joking. I think her exact words were "I was expecting a Travelodge". That's five years of experience talking. It's annoying though - I could have saved myself a fortune with no risk of disappointment.

Once inside, the reception staff took one look at us, realised we'd never fit into a Queen size bed, and promptly upgraded us to a King size room at no extra charge. I haven't had so much space since I was single. Frankly we could have had a row and slept apart without the need for a second bed.

But anyhoo, having got changed, looked at the breakfast menu, and wondered how they can charge twenty-two quid for a bowl of cornflakes and a coffee, we pressed a few buttons on the plasma TV, hoped it wouldn't show up on our bill, and then popped around the corner to Hamleys...

Frankly the forty-five minutes we spent in the pre-school section of Britain's busiest toy shop on a crowded Saturday afternoon in August is proof of just how much we love Amelie. As was the bill at the end of it.

Having dumped our purchases back at the hotel, we headed off down Regent Street, realised it was too packed to get anywhere fast, and ducked into Brewer Street, where we soon came across Aldo Zilli's Fish Restaurant. As a regular viewer of daytime cookery shows, and someone for whom the term 'chef' means nothing if it's not preceded by the word 'celebrity', Lisa was naturally keen to give it a try. So we took the table by the window...

Seafood and eat it.
I spent most of the time trying to resist the urge to order a bowl of Optivita, but despite that, it turned out to be one of the best meals we've ever had. Being in one of London's finest fish restaurants, with freshly prepared dishes direct from Billingsgate Market, Lisa naturally chose a main course which included no fish whatsoever. A decision she regretted the moment she tasted my trout starter and sea bream main course. It was food to die for. Just ask the fish. But the good thing about being out on your 40th birthday treat is that you can steal your partner's food without starting an argument. And Lisa took full advantage of that.

Our main destination, however, was further down Shaftesbury Avenue...

What a drag.
Yes, what better way to spend a Saturday night than watching a musical about drag queens, starring a man who once sued a magazine for claiming he was gay. I have to say, Priscilla, Queen of the Desert, starring Jason Donovan and a bloke who once wrote for 'Home & Away', was fantastic. Really. Admittedly, the audience was full of middle-aged women with feather boas who insisted on clapping along like they were at a Chippendales show (which is something Lisa would know all about), but despite that, I loved every minute. It was the most visually spectacular thing I've ever seen. And the music was foot-stompingly good. It even had one genuinely heart-stopping moment. It was the bit during the interval when I walked up to the ice cream seller, asked for two thimble-fulls of chocolate, and heard her say "£6.40 please". Lisa won't be seeing treats like that again till she's fifty.

Anyhoo, having experienced the best meal, show and hotel of our life together, we rose late on Sunday morning, checked out of paradise, and hit the west end shops. Lisa spent most of the next two hours in the changing rooms of Oxford Street, while I sat in McDonalds with the suitcase. I think we both enjoyed ourselves. Having reached the limits of our respective purse and stomach, we then headed off towards New Bond Street, walked past Graff jewellers (their window looked strangely empty) and eventually arrived in Picadilly, before journeying back across Green Park and taking a Where's Wally shot of the Victoria Memorial...

She's the gold one at the top.
Trust me, Lisa's in there somewhere.

We rounded off our weekend with a meal at Bella Italia near Victoria Station, where I ordered the spaghetti carbonara. Thirty seconds later, the waitress returned with a concerned look on her face, and said "Do you realise it has bacon in it?". So it's official: I look Jewish. Thank God Amelie wasn't there with her Hitler haircut.

Anyhoo, we got the 5pm train back to Brighton, and arrived home on Sunday evening to be greeted by an excited Chloe. And the basket of clean washing she'd been sleeping in all weekend. Lisa now has a fur coat for the first time in her life.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

We're back from our weekend away!

The colour's drained from my cheeks.
Is it my imagination, or do we look a lot more relaxed without Amelie..?

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Five weeks is a long time in the life of a naughty child. On July 11th, the most Amelie could do with a plastic stool was to crawl up to it, lean on it and laugh at her mother. Now she can climb onto the thing and stand up to get a better view of the TV...

It'll be stepladders next.
She also uses it to get within grabbing distance of Chloe on the back of the sofa, which is quite enterprising if you ask me. Admittedly, there's every chance she could fall and break her neck the moment you turn your back for more than five seconds, but the way I look at it, at least she's not rummaging around under my computer desk and pulling the leads out of my monitor.

Heeeeere's Amelie!
Anyhoo, the big news of the day is that I'm now officially on holiday for a week and a half. We're currently living in the last days of Lisa's thirties, so I've taken some annual leave to help her through the inevitable midlife crisis. It's the first break I've had since starting my new job, so today felt like like the last day of term. I should have taken in board games. Possibly a box of 'Snakes & Bladders'.

I've actually spent the day at Horsham Hospital, which is one of my favourite places to work. Especially since the council's tourism department got to work on the beautiful park next door...

Don't mention the rats!
Mmm... nothing brings those visitors flocking in like a few signs mentioning rats. I sat next to one while I ate my lunch. A sign that is, not a rat. I've mentioned here before that Horsham Park was the scene of the world's biggest custard pie fight back in June. Frankly they should have hired the custard pied piper instead.

But taking a leaf out of Hamelin's book, tomorrow we're driving Amelie out of town and dumping her with her grandparents for the weekend. Then first thing on Saturday we're off on a magical mystery tour to celebrate Lisa's birthday. I booked it for this weekend, because by Tuesday she'll be too old to enjoy it.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Fantastic news from today's All-Staff Info-Mail...

Tucker's Luck
Never mind the free lunch, it's a board game about catheter infections! Sometimes the best ideas are the most obvious. I can't believe no one's thought of that before. Personally I'm still working on my quiz about the layers of the eye, which I'm calling Uveal Pursuit, but there's probably no point now that Paula's beaten me to the prize. I suppose it was bound to happen though. When you work with catheters on a daily basis, you have to be good at taking the piss.

The real tragedy though is that I didn't get to enjoy the free lunch. The Pebbles Restaurant (so called because you put on a few stones if you eat there) is next to the Royal Alexandra Children's Hospital (so it'll be plastered with posters of Amelie in a month's time), which in turn is just over the road from the Diabetes Centre, where I was sitting in on meetings with the dietician all morning. So I was perfectly placed to dash across the pelican crossing for an all-you-can-eat binge-fest the moment I'd finished listening to patients getting advice on healthy diets.

Unfortunately fate stepped in shortly before midday, in the form of a broken computer in Haywards Heath. Someone had to drive up there at short notice to collect our sick PC from the health centre and take it into hospital. And as the only person with a car (and a home) within walking distance of the Royal Sussex, that person had to be me. To be honest, I think that's the other reason they hired me.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

It's taken almost three months, but I've finally found out why I was given this job. It turns out that we have a patient on our books with serious anger management issues, who has been barred from four different GP's surgeries, and who phones us up every year and demands an appointment with a man. Presumably because they give him more of a challenge in a fist fight. Unfortunately, that's never been possible. Mainly because all the screeners are women, and most refuse to wear a false beard in the line of duty. It's no wonder he's so angry. According to our senior administrator this afternoon, one of my female colleagues "came to blows" with the man last year. I hope she was talking figuratively.

But the good news is that having fought for his rights (quite literally) since 2006, the chap will finally get his wish this year. The rotas for October have been drawn up today, and with much excitement and relief on the part of my workmates, a plan hatched on the day of my interview has finally been put into practice, and he's been assigned to one of my clinics. I wouldn't mind, but I already have to deal with murderous colleagues. I don't know where I'm more at risk: the consulting room or the staff room.

But fortunately the ability to tame wild animals is in the Gardner blood...

Roar Emotion
Lisa says that Amelie really looks like me in that photo. I think it's the fearless expression. That and the double chin.

Monday, August 17, 2009

I've spent today at Crawley Hospital. I had to get there particularly early this morning, because two months after first requesting a permit for the staff car park, the powers-that-be finally agreed to take my photo and give me an ID card. I had an appointment at the Estates Office at 9am, so at eight-thirty I started asking people where it was. Six members of staff and one phone call later, I eventually found the place. Frankly if the hospital want to store Tamiflu securely, they should stick it in the Estates department. By the time any panic-ridden thieves manage to locate it, they'll have died of swine flu.

But the good news is that I'm now in possession of a West Sussex Primary Care Trust ID card, which frankly looks better than my Brighton one. I should move to Crawley just so I can use it more often. Especially as it's such a multicultural place. I walked past these fine establishments at lunchtime...

American Nail Polish Food
They could open a shop in the middle selling nail polish, and they wouldn't even need a new sign.

Anyhoo, I may have had an early start this morning (just ask the bags under Lisa's eyes), but the day couldn't have ended better. My last patient cancelled, the penultimate one arrived half an hour early, and the one before that didn't need any eye drops. Frankly I've never got away so early. If every day was like that, I could get a second job and buy Amelie a pony.

I returned home to find Lisa and Amelie out, and this desperately scrawled note lying on the coffee table...

Frankly if she's going to keep stealing my work pens, she's got to expect me to hide her Nintendo DS games. We all have things we can't live without.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

It's me, Lisa and Amelie at the dog track!

Gone...... to the...
I'm not sure how Am's identical twin got into my arms, but I don't like her manners. I think she's seen too many panting dogs.

... dogs.Anyhoo, I told Amelie that I'd buy her a puppy one day, so we headed over to Hove Greyhound Stadium this morning to put a down payment on a couple of favourites. The last time we were there, I came home with £158.50. This time I made slightly less. About a hundred and sixty quid less. Even the 20p I invested in the chocolate vending machine only returned five Minstrels.

But despite losing more money than a high street bank, a good time was had by all. Lisa's Mum spent a few hours risking half her pension on dogs picked by Amelie, while Lisa and I attempted to play cupid by persuading an old friend to go on a date with one of these people. I'm not sure either was hugely successful.

But personally I'm still trying to get over the moment when Lisa's Mum looked up from her race card, studied Amelie for a few seconds, and then said "She looks like Hitler with that haircut". I wouldn't mind, but she's the second person to say it in twenty-four hours.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

It's important to get the housework done at the weekend...

Amelie sucks.
If I can just teach her to stand on a stool, she can do the washing up too.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Is it legal to marry your own daughter..?

Child Bride
You're right, I should probably wait until she's sixteen.

But child brides aside, I did a late clinic on Tuesday of this week, so I was allowed to leave work an hour early today. And what better way to spend that hour than by taking Lisa and Amelie down to the pier for some fresh air and fruit machines. To be honest, after my short afternoon at work, I felt like taking a long walk out to sea. Suffice it to say that anyone who saw this blog post last week and thought "Thank God no one reads Full House magazine..." needs to think again. I now know at least ten people who do, and I work with them all.

I spent this morning in Horsham, blissfully unaware that back here in Brighton, a hospital porter who I've only met about three times, was sitting on the toilet (which frankly is a detail I didn't need to know) reading a copy of last week's Full House magazine, and somehow managing to recognise me. Within hours, the article had been passed to my colleagues, and I returned to the department after lunch to be confronted by a dozen people, all of whom thought I'd written it. I spent most of the afternoon trying to convince them that I hadn't.

But still, after an experience like that, nothing you do seems embarrassing any more...

Complete Burkha
The hat suits suits her, but frankly I look like a bloke in a burkha.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

I've spent all day today at the Mile Oak Medical Centre. It's one of my favourite places to work, mainly because the consulting room I use has an en-suite kitchen with my own private kettle. I don't ask for much in life, so the ability to make tea between patients just about does it for me. Although to be honest, I don't always need a kettle to reach boiling point at work.

Anyhoo, I was wandering around behind reception this afternoon, checking my appointment list and wondering why all my patients seemed to be hiding in the toilet, when a little old lady turned up and said she'd brought in a load of magazines for the waiting room. The receptionist told her how kind she was. Before adding that they can't accept any of them due to swine flu. I presume they don't want to spread panic via sensationalist tabloid articles. Of course it's just possible that they see magazines as an infection risk, but frankly if glossy literature spreads swine flu, the government shouldn't be sending everyone a leaflet.

But on the subject of odd policies, I popped into the West Hove branch of Sainsbury's at lunchtime, where the bloke on the checkout kindly informed me of their new rules on carrier bags. Apparently if you ask for them, you can have as many as you like, but if you don't ask, they're not not allowed to offer. Which results in the situation I witnessed at the checkout, where a bemused pensioner with no bags stared helplessly at his shopping hurtling towards him down the conveyor belt, and wondered why the young man on the till was doing nothing to help. As the boy eventually explained to us both, "If you don't mention bags, we're not allowed to". I'm like that with my patients' eye sockets.

As for tomorrow, I'm back at Horsham Hospital. And after last time, I'm taking my autograph book.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Well I'm back from my Transrectal Prostate Ultrasound Scan, and to be honest, it wasn't quite the barrel of laughs I was anticipating. The only rib-tickling aspect was when he stuck the probe in deeper than he meant to. At the time, I thought the forty-five minute wait was the worst part. There's something slightly unsettling about watching balding middle-aged men in gowns come and go through a set of double doors, until you're eventually left alone in the waiting room with all their wives.

But as it turned out, sitting on a hard chair for three quarters of an hour was the most comfortable part. Before I knew it, I was curled up on a hospital bed, stripped from the waist down (apart from my socks, which I naturally chose to keep on), while a doctor violated me with an electric cattle prod attached to a TV. Frankly if you're going to have a lie-down in a darkened room, there are definitely more relaxing ways to do it.

But still, no pain, no gain. And if someone's going to make you feel physically sick, you might as well be in a hospital at the time. So after some of the longest few minutes of my life, the radiologist looked me straight in the buttocks, and informed me that no, I don't have an abscess. So we're none the wiser about why the prostatitis keeps coming back. I probably just broke a mirror a couple of years ago.

But in other news, I've just visited this place...

Ousing with style.
That's the Ouse Valley Medical Practice. It's nowhere near the Ouse and isn't in a valley, but apart from that, it does exactly what it says on the tin.

I wasn't actually intending to go there, but sometimes in life you find yourself sitting in the Diabetes Centre at 9am, looking at your appointment list, and about to call your first patient, when one of your colleagues comes rushing in and asks you to drop the eye drops and immediately drive twenty miles to Handcross. Our computer there had lost the will to live, and as the only screener with a nearby car, I had to make a mercy dash up the A23 with a replacement laptop before all the patients revolted.

I got there forty minutes later expecting pitchforks and burning torches. What I found was possibly the nicest surgery I've ever been to. I don't know what's going on in mid-Sussex, but while Brighton suffers with pokey practices and shoebox surgeries, Handcross, a village with a population of less than a thousand, has the kind of newly-built computerised palace that could house them all. I haven't seen anything like it since... well, since I visited the tiny village of Hurstpierpoint.

But what sets Ouse Valley apart from the competition is their fantastic naming of the building above. Never mind the Bird in Eye Surgery in Uckfield, Handcross have the Dumbledore Primary Care Centre. I expect the senior partner's Dr Potter.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

I'd recognise that toothy grin anywhere...

Poster Child
And I know the baby on the bed too. We dressed her to look like the bottle of hand gel on the wall.

Anyhoo, as the picture above demonstrates, my threats of violence against the hospital's senior graphic designer have proved successful, and she's agreed to submit two photos of Amelie to the communications team for their upcoming poster campaign. The fact that you can't see the 'C' of 'Clean' against the hair of the stunt-mum is apparently a problem, and the 'Y' of 'You' looks like a fag hanging out of her mouth, but we're hoping they'll ignore all of that and focus on Amelie's smile. I've never seen anyone so happy to be in hospital.

If that one's no good, they'll be going with this...

You'll definitely need to clean your hands AFTER treating her. She's usually filthy.
Which is lovely if you're related to the person on the left. As I said this time last week, it's a nice enough shot, but it's never going to rival the Tennis Girl.

Anyhoo, as the text in the bottom left corner proves, those aren't final versions of the posters, so anything can still change. I'm told the majority will be A3 in size, but a select two or three are to be blown up (not literally) to larger than life proportions for display in prominent places. So my next job is to lean on the Comms Team. I won't rest until Amelie's the size of Godzilla and stopping traffic in Eastern Road.

Monday, August 10, 2009

I've got my Transrectal Prostate Ultrasound Scan on Wednesday. That's a blog post to look forward to. Apparently it can take four weeks for the results of that scan to reach my consultant (which is odd, as the x-ray department's only fifty yards away), so I was given an appointment to return to the urologist at 11:30am on September 17th to hear my fate. Unfortunately I received a letter from them on Saturday which said this:

"We are sorry to inform you that due to changes in clinic arrangements, it has been necessary to change your outpatient appointment."

Naturally I know all about changes in clinic arrangements. I had to make a few just to be free for that appointment. So having already altered the work rotas for August 12th and September 17th, I was slightly less than delighted to get a new appointment for September 3rd. When I'm due to be in Crawley all day.

So having squirted eye drops into my first patient this morning, I called the urology department and, at the second time of asking, they answered the phone. At which point the lady told me their computers had gone down, and she'd have to phone me back. I told her I was sitting in a consulting room in an unfamiliar clinic on an unfamiliar phone and had no idea of the number. So she put me on hold.

Three minutes and a lot of bad music later, she accessed the computer system and told me that September 3rd is probably too soon to get my results, so there's no point me having that appointment. I said I know that. So she put me on hold again while she went off to find out why they'd brought it forward by two weeks.

Five more verses of Greensleeves, and she was back to tell me that there appeared to be no good reason why they'd moved my original appointment. So she said she'd make me a new one. She looked at the computer and said "Would you like September 17th?". Unsurprisingly, I said yes. So she added "Let me see what times I can offer you..."

I waited with baited breath. She paused, then said "Is eleven-thirty any good?"

I suppose if anyone's going to take the piss, it might as well be the urology department.

Sunday, August 09, 2009

If you've ever wondered how Amelie manages to look so young, here's your answer...

The rest of it's in her mouth.
That's some of the finest anti-ageing cream money can buy. L'Oreal might think she's worth it, but frankly they should start using childproof caps.

Anyhoo, as the photo above proves, Amelie has reached the fourth shelf from the floor, and Lisa and I have reached the point of no return. Since our pride and joy was born last October, we've been gradually moving things skywards, and after ten months of rescuing our belongings from her clammy clutches, we've finally hit a ceiling. Literally. Every shelf at a height of three feet or more is full to the rafters.

But as luck would have it, my parents' loft, which looked like this last October, before being declared a toxic waste dump back in May, has now been passed as fit for human habitation. Although it's hotter than a sauna and you could cook a fried egg on the floor. So having toyed with the idea of sending Amelie to live amongst the lagging, we eventually settled on Plan B, and spent yesterday morning packing an entire car's worth of books and videos into bags and boxes, and evacuating them to the countryside.

It was a lot of hard work, but it was worth the journey just to see my Dad wearing this t-shirt...

Don't label me.
That's him in the hat. The yellow spiral's plotting the course of his career.

As it happens, he and his hareshirt had a booking yesterday afternoon to entertain the guests at a private function for which the hosts had employed a professional toastmaster. So it wasn't just the balloon animals which had an inflated sense of their own importance. My Dad e-mailed me afterwards with this link. As if 'Toastmaster of the Year' wasn't a ridiculous enough name.

Friday, August 07, 2009

The big news of the day is that the latest issue of Full House magazine has hit the streets, and what's more, it only costs 50p. Which is living proof that you get what you pay for. But for anyone unwilling to part with that kind of money, here's what you're missing...

I've reproduced it there at the perfect size for viewing (ie. too small to read). I must admit, I never imagined that an article which begins with the sentence "Lathering up in the shower, I sang to myself loudly. 'Rub a dub, dub...'" would end with the words "Phil Gardner, 35, Brighton, East Sussex". Especially as I turned 36 last week.

I'd just like to state for the record that I wrote precisely none of those words. And I've never 'cooed' in my life. The only writing I did was to sign my name on the contract promising me money. But personally I like it. As I said to Lisa this afternoon, it goes so far past bad that it comes right back around to good. Although I think my Mum summed up the situation nicely when she texted me in the middle of a clinic at Mile Oak this morning with these words of wisdom: "You and Chloe are in the magazine - rubbish story but 2 good pictures. Have you had the cheque?".

Thursday, August 06, 2009

I had to go to Horsham today to do an all-day clinic at short notice, after one of my colleagues went sick. Possibly at the thought of going to Horsham. Personally I didn't mind. I love Horsham. It's like Crawley for rich people. And sure enough, I've met a number of interesting folk today.

First there was the 94-year-old lady with 20-20 vision who told me she walks a mile every day, and has just moved to Sussex from Cheshire to be nearer her son... who's a pensioner and needs her support. Then there was the man who lost an eye in the Second World War when a doodlebug blew out his Mum's kitchen windows. And finally there was the septuagenarian whose parting words to me were "It makes such a difference to see someone nice". I agreed, and said I hope it happens for her one day.

But top of the list was my 2 o'clock appointment, who turned out to be a BAFTA nominated actor who's starred in Hollywood films alongside the likes of Anthony Hopkins, Hugh Grant and Daniel Day-Lewis. He's also appeared on TV with Christopher Biggins, but he probably doesn't mention that much. I must admit, despite the fact that he was in one of my favourite ever films and one of my favourite ever sitcoms, and I was looking into the man's eyes for a good ten minutes, I still couldn't place his face until the next patient walked in and said "Do you know who that was?!!". I told him I couldn't say due to patient confidentiality. So he told me instead.

But major celebrities aside, the highlight of my trip to Horsham was the sterling work being done by the hospital's sign writers...

Do you really need the word 'national' in front of the word 'pandemic'?
I like the way they have one sign to direct you to another. That's not an antiviral collection point on the left, but if you move two inches to the right, you're there.

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

The Argus reported yesterday that Brighton & Hove City Council are pushing ahead with plans to introduce residents-only parking in Preston Park Avenue. That might sound like the kind of news to have you instantly turning the page, but as it happens, it makes quite a difference to me. I personally put the park into Preston Park Avenue every time I do a clinic at the nearby Medical Centre. Which means that from September I'll have to go off-road and start battling for one of the two (yes, two) (count them) staff parking spaces which have generously been allocated to people working on the ground floor. My only hope is if all the doctors get swine flu.

Coincidentally I was doing an all-day clinic there today, so with the prospect of parking being taken away from me within weeks, I decided to try walking the five mile round trip. To be honest, it would have been easier without a box of eye drops, a computer drive and a tub of alcohol wipes, but I made it on time with only a slight calf strain and a sweat-drenched shirt. It was more humid out there than it looked.

On the plus side, my route along London Road took me within touching distance of another world...

One small step for an alcoholic.
I like the look of Planet Booze. The alcohol disc cleaning sounds particularly good. After all, nothing cleans a CD like a drop of methylated spirits. But what really interests me is the confectionery trade-in. I can finally get rid of the blackcurrant Opal Fruits that Lisa always leaves in the bottom of the bag.

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

I was called into the hospital's graphic design department today. When I say 'called in', I mean they shouted "Phil!" as I was walking past the door. It happens when you're based in the next office. As it turned out, they wanted to show me the photos of Amelie that were taken last Friday, and mock-ups of how they might look as posters. I have to say, it's not every day you see a picture of your daughter with the word 'INFECTION' emblazoned across her chest, but somehow it worked.

Unfortunately there's a small technical hitch. The photo they'd like to use is one of Amelie charging across a hospital bed towards the camera with a huge smile on her face. It's the kind of picture which has the power to melt hearts and heal the sick with a single viewing, and would, in all probability, save the NHS a fortune in treatment costs. Tragically, however, the stunt-Mum employed to supervise Amelie has snuck into the edge of the photo, and the text at the top of the poster would have to go across the side of her face.

To me, that's not a problem. I don't mind the props being obscured by writing. But according to the senior graphic designer, it's not the done thing. The medical photographer who took the pictures argued that the lady could be cropped out of the photo, but apparently they've tried that, and it doesn't leave enough room for the words. So reluctantly they've been forced to settle for a far less cute photo of Amelie gurning at the camera in the arms of her stunt-mother. It's a nice shot, but it doesn't quite have the Athena poster quality of the first choice pic.

Fortunately I hold a bit of sway in the graphic design department. So I've asked for both to be printed. That first one will be up on our wall by the kitchen soap dispenser, if nowhere else.

Monday, August 03, 2009

Do you know, there are some people out there who claim that golf is a difficult game. Those people have no idea what they're talking about...

I think the key to a decent tee shot is to forget that you're being filmed the moment you strike the ball, panic that you've broken your brother's expensive driver, and then camp it up like something out of Saturday's Pride parade. Oh, and if you can look like a fat tramp, that helps too.

But the PGA aside (that's the Phil Gardner Academy of Golf), I had a very nice evening on Friday. It was the night before Pride, or as one of my friends put it, Gay Christmas Eve. That was shortly before he told me about his plans to become a Country & Western superstar and sing about cowgirls with Hep C. It was a strange kind of night. But we spent an enjoyable few hours in a bar on the seafront, discussing pharmacy related issues and watching pre-Pride revellers queue around the block for the nightclubs opposite. I should do it more often. But preferably not when I've got to be up early the next morning.

As luck would have it, we were due in St Leonards for the weekend to celebrate my birthday (three days late) by eating large amounts of pizza and cake with my brother and his family. So having staggered home at midnight through crowds of men in hotpants and body paint, I was up at dawn on Saturday to drive my appetite along the coast for a couple of days.

Within seconds of walking through the door of my parents' bungalow, I could tell that Amelie was expected. My Dad had nailed sheets of hardboard to the front of all his bookcases. What I didn't expect was to be challenged to a round of golf within half an hour of arrival. If I had, I might have dressed slightly differently. The Sedlescombe Golf Club near Battle in Sussex enforces a strict dress code of collared shirt, trousers and appropriate footwear. I had a t-shirt, jeans and trainers. And I hadn't even shaved. Or had much sleep. Frankly I looked like a down and out. But my brother said he'd sneak me in anyway.

Fortunately the 9-hole par 3 course was deserted. And it soon became apparent why: everyone else had seen the weather forecast. But the good thing about standing under a tree halfway down the third fairway in the middle of a torrential downpour, is that you finally realise why golfers carry those massive umbrellas. And I'm pleased to say that my brother had one. Locked away in the boot of his car.

Anyhoo, we didn't let the rain dampen our spirits. Although it saturated our clothes. Here I am tasting success with my tongue hanging out...

... while my brother managed to snap this shot of me missing a long putt by the tiniest of margins...

Putting Me Off
Obviously if he'd pressed the button three seconds later, you'd have seen the ball sailing straight past the hole, off the green and into the bunker, but sport is all about timing, and he got that one spot-on.

Anyway, I can't say who won the match for legal reasons, but considering I lacked the clothes, the equipment, the training, and the basic talent required to play the game, I think I did pretty well.

As for the rest of the weekend, that was mostly spent eating, interspersed with moments of indigestion, but I did manage to pause long enough to work out how to use my new video camera. I shot a very nice scene on Sunday morning of Amelie and my niece playing together in the living room. It went on for about ten minutes, included lots of arty zooming and panning, and I spent the whole time thinking how lovely it would look on my widescreen TV. After which I attempted to change the camera settings without reading the instructions, and promptly deleted it. But hey, I've still got my memories. And plenty of room on my memory card.