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Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Amelie's just taken her first steps. At about 6:20pm this evening she successfully walked three paces from the sofa to the crockery cupboard, where she wrestled with the child lock for a few seconds and tried to break a few mugs, before spotting my NHS ID card across the room, turning in the opposite direction, falling flat on her face and hurting her nose. She won't be trying that again in a hurry.

But on the subject of suffering, this time last year, I was on the verge of a sleepless night, as Amelie started fidgeting her way out of Lisa with her hands up. Twelve months on, I'm set for a short night again. Having been out all day in East Grinstead, I'm packing my bags tonight for Newcastle, where I'm due to spend twenty-four hours (you wouldn't want any longer) at the British Association of Retinal Screeners' annual conference.

It's taking place over two days at the Marriott Hotel in Gosforth Park, but we're not staying there. Oh no. We're staying in the pub next door. Apparently it's a lot cheaper. My boss, who arranged the accommodation, described it to us as "the adjacent hotel", but frankly when an establishment sends you a booking confirmation which states "Please check-in at the bar", you have to wonder if it's quite five star.

The owner's called Peregrine.So assuming I can get up before the sun, I'll be at Brighton station at 7am tomorrow morning, on my way to The Falcon's Nest (which I think was an 80s soap opera). We're the only people heading away from Brighton for a conference this week. It's a shame, because news has reached me from this chap that the Prime Minister and his wife like to eat out in Preston Street. As do a lot of people with strong stomachs and no taste. My pals S & A were sampling some Lebanese cuisine there last night (Preston Street's a lot like Beirut), and they bumped into Gordon and Sarah outside the tattoo parlour. They were probably out buying a copy of The Sun.

But whilst it would be nice to stay in Brighton and stalk the Prime Minister for the rest of the week, it's time to say Auf Wiedersehn, Pet, and head for Newcastle. Unfortunately, anyone hoping for a pictorial review of my trip at the weekend will be sadly disappointed. Lisa's insisting I leave the camera at home so that she can take photos of a birthday party she's throwing on Friday. It's some kind of family do. I won't be going myself.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

I had a patient today who told me that every morning when he takes his dog for a walk, he passes a fuchsia plant which appears red when he views it through his spectacles, and blue when he looks at it without. I was tempted to ask if he's been wearing a pair of 3D glasses from the local cinema, but instead I told the man I had no idea why that might be. So he proceeded to give me the name of the exact variety of fuchsia, in case that made any difference. I told him I haven't yet covered that genus in my training. He seemed a bit disappointed.

But that wasn't the only puzzle I tackled at Horsham Hospital today. In thirty-six hours I'll be on my way to Newcastle-upon-Tyne for the British Association of Retinal Screeners' 9th Annual Conference (feel free to peruse our agenda here), so I decided to invest in a puzzle magazine for the journey. Six hours on a train with seven female colleagues might not be as entertaining as it sounds.

Hey NonnyI ended up in the Horsham branch of WHSmiths at lunchtime today, buying a book of Nonograms. Although the book in question calls them 'Hanjie'. I've no idea why. To be honest, I'd never even heard of them before today, but I tend to judge a book by its cover, and I liked the picture on the front.

Anyhoo, having spent the afternoon tackling the first puzzle in between patients, I think I'm hooked. Admittedly, having been at it for a good three hours, I feel I probably should have completed more than about ten percent of the least challenging puzzle on page one, but you don't have to be good at something to enjoy it. After all, Lisa loves cooking. And at the rate I'm going, it's the best value book I've ever bought. I know I'm a slow reader, but I'll still be on this one when I'm eighty.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Browned OffThe thing about Gordon Brown is that he's never in the right place at the right time. Amelie and I needed to go to Aldi yesterday morning for some Oatbran Flakes (half the price of Optivita, and twice as nice. Phil Vickery swears by them. I expect), but after Gordon's outrageous treatment at the hands of Barack Obama, we decided he'd appreciate the chance to meet someone who wanted to talk to him, and headed down to the Brighton Centre instead. I planned to ask him about his medication while he posed for a photo with Amelie.

Admittedly we did meet some very nice people on the seafront. Amelie tried to grab the tail of a police horse, and I spoke to the organisers of the Geoff Hyde is Innocent campaign. Two minutes of talking to me and they pretty much accepted that he's guilty. I can be quite persuasive. We also watched the leaders of the trade union protest march getting their placards ready, and tried to work out what they were protesting about. I think it was the fact that they hadn't been invited to the conference.

But despite meeting a few members of the Socialist Workers Party who didn't have jobs (which should mean automatic expulsion if you ask me), the one person we failed to spot was Gordon. At the time I assumed he was down at the chemist picking up his latest prescription, but apparently not. We arrived home two hours later to find this report on The Argus website. It turns out he was at church. But not just any church. Gloucester Place Baptist Church. A church we walk right past on our way to Aldi (although I don't think they mention that on their website). If we'd headed straight for the oatbran as planned, we'd have got to the chapel on time and bumped into Brown with the Baptists. As it was, we didn't stroll past until 12:45pm, by which time Gordon had downed the communion wine and gone to lunch. I need to keep a closer eye on his wife's Twitter account.

Anyhoo, I may have failed to flash Gordon with my camera, but I did take this photo of the Earth & Stars pub in Windsor Street...

Seeing Stars
The writing's on the wall for their signwriter...

Board Stupid
I think he's been sniffing a lot more than pollen.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

I spent yesterday looking after Amelie while Lisa went out for the afternoon. All in all, I think it went pretty well. The highlight was when I put her down for her lunchtime nap, spent an hour clearing up the mess she'd made in the living room, and then went back to find her asleep with a pair of hair straighteners in her cot. It's no wonder she has hair like Hitler. She'd also eaten half a sheet of A4 paper, so I'm now wondering if she's a spy. She was obviously destroying some kind of secret instructions. Possibly orders to wreck my DVD collection.

But in other news, we've got this picture on a mousemat at work, and after some tireless searching on Google this morning, I've finally located it online...

Look into my eyes.
The spots on the butterfly are pupils, but the rest of the picture is made up entirely of diseased retinas. No, really. Never has a serious haemorrhage looked so pretty. It was created by Lewis Smith of the Royal Hallamshire Hospital in Sheffield, and won a prize at the Ophthalmic Imaging Association Conference a few years ago. I presume this is why I have to ask my patients if they consent to their photos being used for research purposes. I usually say they'll be shown to medical students. I might have to change that to art students.

But on the subject of retinal detachments, I'm about to take Amelie on an ophthalmic field trip. We're off into town to look for Gordon Brown. So if you see any live TV news reports from Brighton seafront in the next couple of hours, that'll be us in the background. Being arrested for stalking the Prime Minister.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Back in June 2008, when Lisa had the feet of a clown and the belly of Buddha, I published this photo of her nephews...

Fit to Burst
Well, fifteen months on, we've just taken delivery of a new one...

Funny Bones
Is it my imagination, or are they raising some kind of comedy character there? It's no wonder Amelie loves him.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

I've spent today in Peacehaven, doing a clinic at the beautifully named Meridian Surgery. Or "the portacabin in the Co-op car park" as locals affectionately refer to it. Personally I'll work anywhere with a kettle and a power point, so I thought it was quite nice. Some of my colleagues object to having to set up our computer on a plastic picnic table, but it didn't really bother me. It helped me enjoy my sandwiches.

On the downside, there's not a lot of entertainment to be had in Peacehaven on the average Thursday lunchtime, and by the time I'd been around the Co-op and looked in the town's only charity shop, there wasn't a great deal to keep me occupied. But I did walk past a fine establishment in the shopping arcade which provides that oh-so-familiar combination of key-cutting and needlework supplies. They were advertising this in their window...

Natty King Cole
I expect it's for making Natty clothes.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Comet. They live electricals. Unfortunately they don't deliver them on time. Having paid an extra TWENTY-FIVE QUID (read it and weep) to guarantee delivery between 10am and 2pm today, Ian and Alan from Comet eventually turned up with my fridge freezer at 4:30pm. By that time, most of our food was as hot as my temper, but the good news is that it now has a nice new home. It's all in the bin.

But having somehow managed to cope all day with the hall furniture in the living room and no baby gate on the kitchen, Lisa successfully persuaded Comet Customer Services to agree to a refund of the delivery charge. Although I'm not sure they'll replace her fish fingers. Personally I was stuck thirty-three miles away in East Grinstead all day with a list of twenty-eight patients. Twenty-seven of whom turned up. You never get a cancellation when you need one.

I may not have been able to do much to help (although I'm sure it won't be long before the NHS launch an enquiry into the number of phone calls being made from consulting room 35 between 2pm and 4pm), but I did get to visit this place in my (very short) lunch break...

Mount Noddy. If you dare.
That's the Mount Noddy Recreation Ground. No, seriously. I think it's a gay cruising site for people with Big Ears.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

It's ten o'clock, and I've just finished packing away the contents of my fridge...

Cool For Cats
That's what's known as a cool cat. And she refuses to be parted from her tuna.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Fridges leave me cold.There comes a point in life when you realise that the only way you're ever going to be cool again is to buy a new fridge freezer. So I've just parted with a week's wages and bought the one on the left. It's being delivered on Wednesday.

Admittedly, since Lisa turned into the Galloping Gourmet five months ago and started cooking all of Amelie's meals from scratch, we've needed more space in the freezer, but I think what finally made me decide to take the plunge and order something bigger was the moment I opened the door of our current model at 7pm last night and realised that everything had been gently defrosting for hours. It was a chilling discovery. But not for our food.

Some furious tinkering and fervent praying to St Bejam, the patron saint of frozen food, and the thing miraculously started working again at about eight-thirty. Though quite how, I've no idea. It was certainly nothing I did. By that time, I'd already ordered a new one from Comet (the ice man), which is probably just as well. I've opened the door of the freezer so many times today to check it's still working, that it's barely staying cold at all.

Tomorrow will be spent working out just how much I can eat before they come to collect the old one on Wednesday, moving all our belongings so they can get the new one down the hallway, and evacuating Amelie's home-made ready meals to Lisa's Mum's kitchen. That's in addition to seeing twenty-eight patients in Crawley and going to Asda. I'll need a cold drink by the evening, so let's hope the fridge is still working.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Away we went.I'm not saying yesterday's movie was disappointing, but about thirty seconds into the film, I felt like saying 'Away We Go' to Lisa and walking out of the cinema. I've never disliked the opening scene of a movie quite as much as I did this one. It gave new meaning to the word 'distasteful', and proved that I'm clearly not as broad-minded as I thought I was. I felt like heading straight for 'District 9' on the next screen. At least aliens don't perform oral sex within seconds of being introduced.

Anyhoo, as the ticket on the left demonstrates, we arrived for the 1 o'clock showing of 'Away We Go' at precisely 1:03pm, which proves it's not always Amelie's fault that we're late for everything. If it wasn't for adverts and trailers, we might have missed that opening scene, and I wouldn't have viewed the rest of the film from a position of deep-seated hatred, but even then, I'm not sure it would have won me over. I tend to agree with this review, which calls it "an exercise in self-righteous, progressive banality", although The Times describes it pretty accurately too.

Unfortunately we didn't read those reviews before we went. We tended to believe the trailer instead, which presented a slightly different view, namely that it's the best film of the year so far. Which is probably true if you haven't seen any other films.

To be fair though, our viewing experience wasn't exactly helped by the company we kept at the Brighton Odeon. There were only five other people in the cinema (so obviously some people had read the reviews), which made it seem all the more unlucky that we found ourselves sat in front of an adult with learning difficulties, who'd been brought along by his carer. To be honest though, his habit of shouting "Where's Burt?" at the top of his voice, and reading aloud any text which appeared on the screen, was just about the most entertaining part of the film. It also provided a distraction from the girl in the back row who kept talking on her mobile phone.

I also feel I'd have enjoyed the whole thing more if I'd realised that the main character was supposed to be black. I thought she just had a bit of a tan...

Black & White
I did wonder why there was a supposedly awkward moment early on in the film when the bloke's mother asked what colour the baby would be. I thought maybe she had dementia. I only twigged about an hour later that the girl was African American. I probably missed all sorts of racial tension that I had no idea was there. They need to make these things more obvious. Possibly by adding 'Ebony & Ivory' to the soundtrack.

But anyhoo, having lost £12.40 and ninety-eight minutes of our lives, we spent the rest of the afternoon shopping for Amelie's birthday presents. We eventually called it a day when we'd picked up so much stuff in Toys R Us that we could no longer walk to the exit. Come October 2nd, she'll officially own more stuff than I do. And we may have to get rid of the sofa to make room for it.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

It had to happen sooner or later, and that inevitable day has finally arrived: we've placed Amelie into care. I think the final straw was this:

To Amelie that's a love bite. To everyone else it's a dog bite. It looks like Lisa's been savaged by a pitbull.

So we've sent our daughter to live with her grandparents. Permanently. Well, until Sunday. She's not allowed back without a muzzle.

If nothing else, it'll give us a chance to clean the stains out of the carpet, fix all the things she's broken, and get some counselling for Chloe. But this afternoon, we're heading to the cinema. It's the first time we've been to see a film since Amelie was born, and it's a rare opportunity for complete and utter escapism. So Lisa's insisting we go to see a film about a couple having a baby. Apparently the science fiction movie I wanted to see is "boring".

So we're leaving in half an hour to catch the 1pm showing of Away We Go. It was written by a husband and wife team after she'd given birth to their first baby and he'd produced A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius. So we should be able to identify with the authors.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

I know what you're thinking. You're thinking "Phil, we've heard about the cancer tests, the anthrax pills, the indecent assaults, the suicide drugs and the cattle prod, but what's happened recently with your prostatitis?"

Well it's funny you should ask. As it happens, I actually took a break from circumnavigating Sussex today, and headed back to the urologist this morning. To be honest it was bad timing, because I had to attend a 'Mental Health Act Awareness Training' lecture at work this afternoon, and frankly forty-five minutes of that would anaesthetise you for virtually any procedure. I was almost catatonic by the end. But that wasn't until 3pm this afternoon. When I walked into the urology department at 11:30 this morning, I was fully awake and capable of feeling pain.

Since I first received an appointment letter in March, my consultant has been named as Mr Larner, and I've seen the same chap every time. Which is fantastic continuity of care. Or it would be if I'd actually been seeing the right man. I discovered this morning that the bloke I've been calling Mr Larner for the past six months is actually an underling whose name I can't pronounce. Mainly because I wasn't listening when they told me what it was.

Today, I finally got to meet the top man. And I know he's the top man because he took one look at my notes, shook his head, and told me I've been on completely the wrong treatment all this time. Apparently the four different antibiotics I've tried over the past two years will never eradicate the type of infection I've got (I'd explain why, but I didn't understand it myself), and I should have been given a different drug months ago.

So I'm now on Tamsulosin. For up to six months. Or I will be when I can get it from the chemist. Mr Larner's confident that within a few weeks I'll be pain-free for the first time since 2006. Unfortunately he also warned me that I have a 1-in-16 chance of experiencing this side effect. That's a blog post to look forward to.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

I've been all over the place this week. In more ways than one. Having crept to Crawley on Monday, I was stuck in Uckfield all day yesterday, and then up in Crowborough today, seeing people from as far afield as Tunbridge Wells. As one of my patients said to me in Horsham last week, "You're like a concert pianist. You turn up at a different venue each day, perform on the equipment provided, and then go home again". That says a lot about the calibre of people I see in Horsham. If it had been Brighton, he'd have said gigolo.

I had the outpatients department to myself at Crowborough Hospital today, so rather than waste a receptionist on me, they'd stuck this sign on the unmanned desk...

Are the bits of blu-tac meant to look like eyes?
I've never been called a retinal technician before. It made me feel I should be wearing a white coat and looking at test tubes. I was tempted to cross it out and put 'doctor', but to be honest, most of my patients assume I'm one anyway. One lady I saw today told me that she's just recovering from swine flu and hasn't been out of the house in a week, which is not the kind of news you want to hear as you're bending over someone's face with an eye dropper in your hand. I was just praying she wouldn't sneeze.

But the prize for Patient of the Week goes to a chap I met yesterday, who happens to be the world's leading authority on Donald Campbell's Bluebird K7 hydroplane. He came in wearing a t-shirt plugging his new book on the subject. And a copy of it in his bag, in case I was interested. I have to say, when I got up yesterday morning, I didn't expect to find myself standing in Uckfield Hospital having an in-depth conversation with a grown man about a bear called Mr Whoppit, but that's the NHS for you. I should have asked him for a lift home. I bet his car's a lot faster than mine.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Oooh look, it's a Glitzy Witch!

Which is Witch
She just needs a pointy hat, a broomstick and a box of black hair dye for Chloe. Some darker underwear wouldn't go amiss either. Frankly even Liz Hurley would think twice about a dress like that.

When I said to Lisa late last night "Remind me to try on Amelie's witch outfit when I get home from Uckfield tomorrow", she immediately replied "But it'll never fit you". That's the sense of humour I fell in love with. I think.

As it happens, I'm not the only one unlikely to squeeze into that dress by the end of October. Having wrestled the girl to the floor in an attempt to get it over her head, Amelie's going to have to cast some serious spells if it's going to fit her for Halloween. Maybe her grandparents were right after all.

But for now, she's a scary, cackling, wicked old witch...

Method acting never was her strong point.

Monday, September 14, 2009

It's Amelie with an Arab!

Strapping Arab
You can tell from the way her eyes are shifting nervously to the side that she thinks she's being held by a terrorist, but we're aiming to knock that kind of racial stereotyping out of her head by the time she starts nursery school. Oh, and before you ask, the red thing she's eating is a squeezy liver used by the NHS to educate people about Hepatitis. It's obvious when you know. She performed a biopsy on it shortly afterwards by biting a lump out of the side, but spat the thing out when I told her we had no bacon to go with it.

Anyhoo, as the picture above demonstrates (kind of), we spent yesterday afternoon with our friends S & A. It's the first time we've been over to their flat since Amelie learnt to wreck a home in less than thirty seconds. And having spent three hours there, I'd say it's the last time we'll be invited too. Unless they decide they like living with the contents of their coffee table all over the floor. Frankly the only thing she didn't destroy was their copy of Full House magazine with the article about Chloe. Which would have been my first choice for the bin.

Aside from all the things Amelie helped herself to, she also received a gift from our hosts, and is now the proud owner of a 'Glitzy Witch Outfit', which according to the label is "Wickedly Fabulous!". Yes indeed, it may only be mid-September, but it seems the Pound Shop have got their Halloween range in. Apparently it's right across the aisle from their Christmas stuff.

In return, Amelie gave them a picture of herself, and received an assurance that it would go straight down the toilet. Or above the toilet. I forget which. Either way, it probably explains why Lisa locked herself in the bathroom for ten minutes. Fortunately I've known Lisa for six years now, so when she disappeared for longer than expected and we heard a distant knocking, I immediately knew she was trapped in another room. I was just surprised she hadn't taken the wrong turning, walked out of the front door, and fallen down the steps. That would have been more her style.

With Lisa rescued, and a very nice lunch eaten, there was just time for us to examine an interactive health education tool from the makers of Viagra, which gave new meaning to the term 'hands-on', and left me feeling slightly stunned. But if they can get hold of another one, I want it for my mantelpiece. That done, we left before they noticed Amelie's fingerprints on their record collection, and began the short drive home...

... at which point we started getting messages from Big Sis. It turns out that S & A are living in some kind of mobile phone black hole, and for the previous half hour, Sis had been texting and calling to say she was outside my flat. We arrived home ten minutes later to find her complaining that she was freezing cold. So I took her inside and immediately opened the window. Here she is warming up on the sofa...

To be honest, I think Amelie looked happier with the terrorist.

Anyhoo, Big Sis could only stay for an hour, but that was long enough for her to tell us what the rest of the family are saying about Amelie's thighs. Apparently the words "chunky" and "chubby" are being bandied about, the moment Lisa and I leave the room. And for once they're not being used to describe me. Fortunately we took some comfort from the news that it's nothing compared to the way Big Sis's old work colleagues are talking about her.

But despite the insults, the lack of time, and the fact that Chloe kept sneaking into the back of every photo like Alfred Hitchcock with hair, we still managed to have a fun evening...

No Tights
Amelie's lost her tights and Big Sis has removed her sunglasses, but these things happen in a game of strip poker.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

I don't know what kind of quality mailing list I've managed to join, but yesterday I received this...

That's me on the right.
It's an invitation to take part in the 2009 Brighton Bikini Contest. Apparently entry usually costs £30, but they're willing to let me take part for free. It's a dream come true. According to their website, "Personality and sex appeal will be analysed to its limits", so it sounds like my kind of competition. There are two rounds: Daywear and Swimwear, which sounds fine until you discover that their definition of Daywear is "SkimpyBeach t-shirts & Hot Pants". For me, that's not so much daywear as cold-day-in-hell-wear.

But nothing ventured, nothing gained, so I might give it a whirl. That's if I can fit it into my busy schedule. I'll need to be on stage in my hot pants by 7pm, which could be a problem. We're out this afternoon for lunch at this place, and then rushing back to play host to Big Sis, who's popping in for a flying visit this evening. I wonder if it's too late to tell her to bring a bikini..?

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Some people say that children copy their parents...

Couch Potato
I don't think that's true at all. I usually sit at the other end of the sofa.

To be honest though, I could do with a nice sit-down after yesterday. Having been out and about across Sussex for most of the week, Friday was supposed to be my day of rest. And it would have been, if I hadn't taken it upon myself to go above and beyond the call of duty in an effort to solve everyone's problems, stayed an hour later than I should have done, and ended up ruining everything.

It all started with a sick computer. The laptops we take out to clinics are all encrypted, so that when we leave them on buses, the Daily Mail can't find out which celebrities in Horsham have diabetes. Unfortunately one of those laptops won't accept my password, or that of one of my colleagues, and we both have to pose as someone else every time we use it. Apparently it's all down to a corrupted data file. I've been on the phone to the IT helpdesk numerous times trying to rid the NHS of corruption, and having failed to solve the problem, they asked me to take the laptop to the hospital's datacentre for treatment.

Unfortunately, the computer and I are rarely in Brighton at the same time. Frankly that laptop's seen more of Sussex than I have. But whilst in the office yesterday morning, I discovered that our paths had finally crossed, and after weeks of waiting, I had the chance to tackle corruption head on. Although I had to wait until my colleague had finished using it. By which time I only had a few minutes until lunch. It was a tough call.

But being a dedicated NHS employee, I risked losing my lunch break by heading along the road to the hospital's datacentre, which is conveniently situated up some stairs in a dingy back alley behind the main building. Frankly it's impossible to find without a working knowledge of sat-nav. Anyway, I'm not saying that everyone who works with computers is a nerdy techno-geek with no social skills, but having walked through the door of their office, it looked less like the IT crowd, and more like a support group for Asbergers. You have no idea how uncomfortable it feels to stand there for a good thirty seconds, introducing yourself and waiting for a response, while twenty people stare back at you in complete silence. For a while there, I genuinely wondered if they spoke English.

But I eventually found the person I'd spoken to on the phone, explained why I was there, handed over the laptop, and went off to do my afternoon clinic over the road. Three hours later, the chap e-mailed me to say it was fixed.

I was due to finish work at 4pm yesterday, and having packed up my clinic at 3:50pm, I was fully entitled to go home. But instead of starting my weekend early, I went the extra mile (which was about two hundred yards) and headed back to the Nerdology Department, where I picked up the restored laptop and took it back to our office. At which point I thought "Shall I go straight home, or shall I check that it works..?". Nobly, and some would say foolishly, I decided to stay.

Anyhoo, the good news is that the computer now accepts my password. The bad news is that it no longer boots up.

Fifteen panic-stricken minutes later, I bundled the laptop back into its case and ran (literally) straight up the road to the hospital before the IT office closed for the weekend. I got there to find about three people left, none of whom were the person responsible for buggering up my computer. Fortunately, one of them was willing to help. Unfortunately the computer said no. After twenty minutes of trying, he gave up and said that they'd need to have the laptop in all day on Monday. I told him it's needed for a clinic in Crowborough at 9am. He shrugged his shoulders.

So I took it back to our office. By which time the only person still around was the head of my department. He tried. I tried. We both failed. And more than an hour after I should have gone home, we finally gave up and left a note for the admin staff, asking them to start cancelling Monday's patients first thing in the morning. That's twenty-eight people who would have been seen if only I'd gone to lunch early. I knew it was a mistake to put myself out.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Having driven more than a hundred miles and seen more than fifty patients in two days, I'm as tired as... well, as tired as someone who's been to East Grinstead and Horsham. And I'm too busy chatting to Hitler in my dreams to get a good night's sleep. It's only the giant Belgian Bun I bought at lunchtime today which is keeping me going.

To make matters worse, my usual route across Horsham Park to the nearest charity shops was blocked today by Zippo's Circus, which has set up camp by the lake. It's where I took this photo, so there are more animals in that Big Top than people realise. But whilst taking a circuitous route around the circus, I came across a pen of playful performers...

There were four horses in that enclosure today. The others had probably used their circus skills to form an equine pyramid and escape. But I approve of the concept. It's like a playpen for ponies. Amelie's got something similar, but hers has seen a lot more horseplay.

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

I realise there's nothing more dull than other people's dreams, but last night I dreamt I met Hitler. That's the dull bit. The interesting bit is that having chatted to him for ten minutes over a cup of tea, I successfully managed to convince him that everything he'd ever done was wrong. I don't know if that makes me more megalomaniacal than he was, but he did say that no one had ever explained things to him the way I had. If only I'd been around in 1939.

To be honest, I probably wouldn't dream of Adolf quite so much if my daughter didn't have the hair of Hitler and the outlook of a dictator. Frankly the only thing stopping her invading Poland is her inability to walk. But as it turns out, she may be on the verge of the kind of world domination Hitler could only dream of.

A medical photographer rushed into my office this afternoon brandishing a piece of paper. I thought it was peace for our time, but it turned out to be a consent form. Apparently the NHS want to use Amelie's photos for purposes other than posters. So as of 3pm this afternoon, I've officially given permission for her face to appear on leaflets, websites, coasters and possibly t-shirts for the Chief Executive to wear. By this time next year, she could be bigger than swine flu.

Monday, September 07, 2009

Just when you think infection control couldn't get any more appealing...

If anyone can convince the public to slap on a bit of alcohol hand gel, it's Amelie. She's even showing a bit of flesh to win over the lads.

Is there a cat on the floor?Anyhoo, four weeks after getting my hands on the hospital's first two posters of Amelie, I staged a sit-in at the medical photography department this afternoon, and refused to leave until I had her entire portfolio. I'm now in possession of the twenty-eight photos they won't be using.

These two were rejected for various technical reasons such as focus, lighting, positioning, and the fact that anything that cute is likely to distract doctors from their work.

But that's not the big news. Oh no. The big news is that there's already one poster of Amelie up in the hospital. And it's not in a sluice room. A medical photographer with friends in high places has informed me today that the Chief Executive of our NHS Trust, who is second only to God in East Sussex, has a poster of Amelie in his office. I've always said that man has impeccable judgement. And when I'm hauled into that office on a major disciplinary, I'll be able to see it. The poster and the judgement.

Sunday, September 06, 2009

I took Amelie out for a walk this morning. She'd become bored with demonstrating how easily she can remove the child lock from the new cupboards I bought yesterday, and was looking for a fresh challenge. We ended up outside Brighton Museum in the Pavilion Gardens, where I paused for a few moments and wondered if I could get Amelie around their new Egypt exhibition without her upsetting a mummy for the second time this weekend.

I decided I couldn't. So I wheeled her over to look at a squirrel instead. At which point she started whining. Well, I say 'started'. To be honest, she's barely stopped for the past week. It's like Moaner & Lisa around here. The way Amelie keeps complaining, it's only a matter of time before she starts writing letters to the council. So I did the only thing guaranteed to keep her quiet for five minutes: I got out a rice cake and shoved it in her mouth.

Surprisingly, however, Amelie wasn't the only one transfixed by a bit of tasteless old rice. No sooner did she have her cake and eat it, than two squirrels came trotting straight up to the buggy, eyes trained on Am's snack. Which gave me a bit of a moral dilemma. I was on the verge of the perfect photo for my blog: Amelie sitting in her buggy, eating a rice cake with two squirrels on her lap. But in order to get that photo, I had to risk my daughter being savaged by wild vermin. It was a tough decision. And I only had a couple of seconds to make it.

In the end, I shooed the squirrels away. I felt that returning home three hours late because I'd had to take Amelie to hospital to have her fingers surgically reattached, and book her in for a course of tetanus injections, probably wouldn't get me into Lisa's good books. Although the cute photo would have softened the blow. And I quite liked the idea of strolling into A & E with the new face of infection control.

To be honest, Amelie with no fingers is a fairly appealing prospect at the moment. Her arms seem to have put on a growth spurt in the past few days, and she can now reach things she could only admire from afar this time last week. She had most of my CDs, books and cassettes out yesterday. Hence the new cupboard. In fact, within five minutes of bringing the thing home, Chloe had climbed inside. It's the only safe place in the whole flat. Or it was until Amelie worked out how to unlock it.

I wouldn't mind, but she's now less than four weeks away from her first birthday, and according to Rachel Waddilove, this is what we should be expecting...

Done & Dusted
I went to Asda yesterday, and frankly she didn't lift a finger to help. She's probably too busy running it along the mantelpiece to check for dust.

Friday, September 04, 2009

Cuts & BruisesWhen I was interviewed for my current job back in March, I remember saying that if required to do so, I'd be willing to go above and beyond the call of duty to serve the NHS in its hour of need. Well, six months later, I've finally had the chance to prove it.

I was doing a clinic this morning (I won't say where, for legal reasons) and was about to administer eye drops to a burly bloke with tattoos, when he suddenly looked to the side and said "Is he with you?". Naturally I assumed the man was seeing double, and was about to ask him when he last saw one of his two opticians, when I suddenly noticed a spider in the sink next to me. Well I say spider. To be honest I've seen smaller dogs. It's the first living creature I've come across with fatter legs than Amelie. I didn't know whether to squash the thing or muzzle it.

My patient didn't seem particularly bothered that I'd just sat him next to an extra from 'Alien'. In fact he even commented that "It's funny just how terrified people are of those things, isn't it?". I smiled and agreed. Although I'm not sure he heard me, as I was backing away across the room at that point, and praying that the thing couldn't jump more than six feet.

Having despatched the man back to the waiting room, I was then faced with a quandary. The spider was positioned at eye level, immediately next to the chair in which I seat patients to do the sight test, and if only one of those people glanced to the right, I could have a major incident on my hands, with a high probability of fainting and/or mass hysteria. And that's just me.

So I looked around for something large enough to trap the thing. Maybe a wheelie bin, a water butt or just a very large bucket. I found none of those things. But in the end, I decided that contrary to first impressions, and despite the huge size of the beast in question, my tea mug was probably wide enough. I have to say, you've no idea of the bravery it takes to approach something that fearsome armed with nothing more than a teacup and a laminated infection control leaflet. I'd rather get up close and personal with a swine flu patient.

But I managed it. And by some miracle, I found myself standing alone in a consulting room with an eight-legged monster in a mug. At which point I remembered that the windows in most clinics don't open very wide, in case patients try to throw themselves out after hearing their results. The only route to the outside world was via a packed waiting room full of people with anxiety disorders. And I couldn't kill something that size without everyone being alerted by the sound of breaking bones. So I took the only course of action available to me. I sealed it in a clinical waste bin. Admittedly that's not what they were designed for, but for all I knew, the spider had MRSA. It could have been an infection control issue.

Anyhoo, it was possibly the most selfless, heroic and traumatic episode I've ever lived through. But it could have been worse. Apparently they had a mouse in reception on Wednesday.

Thursday, September 03, 2009

After consecutive days in Uckfield, Hurstpierpoint and now Crawley, I'm almost too tired to string a sentence together. Frankly if McKinsey & Co want me to increase productivity, they might need to give me more than twenty-four hours in a day. But having got home feeling like I need a holiday, it reminded me that I forgot to mention the photo I took from our hotel window in London the weekend before last.

Either Anneka Rice has become a cricket fan, or deodorant manufacturers are finding new ways to make a stink...

Flying High
Sure. It won't let you down. At least until the helicopter lands. Clearly the sky's the limit for their new advertising campaign. Unfortunately we were five floors high, and we still couldn't make out a word of that banner without a 10x optical zoom.

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

I've spent all day today in Hurstpierpoint. It's a small village north of Brighton with about as many residents as letters in its name. And it only has one charity shop. Frankly my lunch hour felt like a lifetime. But on the plus side, the shiny new health centre is so stonkingly big that I was given my own floor. Mine was the only clinic running today on the lower ground level, so in addition to swanning around like I owned the place, I was able to re-enact most of the first scene from 28 Days Later.

According to Wikipedia (so by definition it's probably rubbish), legendary football pundit Jimmy Hill lives in Hurstpierpoint. In fact he not only lives there, he's also "generous of his time for local events, clubs and societies". So I'm sensing he wrote it himself. At the age of 81, he fits right into my demographic, so I fully expected to see him at some (Hurstpier) point, but sadly he wasn't on my patient list. I expect he was talking balls somewhere else today.

Anyhoo, with the exception of my lunch break, the day went very well. In fact one of my patients this morning told me how nice I am, before trying to set me up with her daughter, and then adding "I hope I get you again next year". I put on a menacing voice and said "Not if I get you first".

Well ok, I didn't. It's not a good idea to threaten a woman in her 80s. She'll never write you into her will.

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

I went back to work today after eleven days of fun in the (occasional) sun. I timed it to coincide with the schools going back, so that I could get up this morning safe in the knowledge that there were ten million people out there less happy to be doing the same. And as it turns out, I've probably had a better day than all of them.

One of the things I love about my job is that every time I think I have a dull day ahead of me in the office, fate steps in and sends me out across the Sussex countryside. I barely manage to keep a chair warm in that place. And sure enough, within five minutes of walking through the door this morning, I received the news that my eight hours of admin had been cancelled, and they wanted me to run a clinic in Uckfield. I said for Uck's sake, I'd do it.

So I've spent most of the day here...

At least the car park's free.
That's the Uckfield Community Hospital. The white line represents the route I took trying to find a parking space. My giant book of directions is in the top left hand corner.

Anyhoo, I was based in the Outpatients Department (because I rarely keep my patients waiting all night), but directly across the corridor from me was (fanfare please)... the Bird in Eye Surgery! Yes, just five weeks after first hearing of the place, I've spent the day bird-watching with my very own eyes. I could almost sense the recuperative powers of Dr Heal. Or Captain Bird-in-Eye, as I like to call her. I expect her equipment's battered.

As it turned out, however, a full clinic of patients wasn't my biggest challenge today. That came in the form of a moral dilemma at lunchtime. Whilst in the St Peter and St James Hospice charity shop (which is big news in Uckfield), I discovered a pair of immaculate men's shoes in my size, made in Paris by Kenzo Homme. Which I think is that Chinese chef with the wok. Bizarrely, they were priced at just £2.50, which for a pair of French designer footwear is a bit of a steal.

But that's not the dilemma. Frankly if the old dears on the till don't want to follow London Fashion Week, that's up to them. I'm happy to keep my mouth shut and donate £2.50 to charity for something worth much more. I call it bargain hunting. No, the real dilemma came as the lady keyed 'two-five-zero' into the cash register, and I noticed a sign on the counter which read "Today Only: All Shoes 75% Off Marked Price".

I could have had them for 63p. And frankly I was tempted. But in the end I said nothing. That extra £1.87 is my ticket into heaven.