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Monday, November 30, 2009

It's the Famous Five in 'Five Go Eating Again'...

Five a Day
The actress playing Timmy the dog was slightly distracted by a cat to our left, and failed to look at the camera. I won't be casting her in the sequel.

Anyhoo, just because we're living amongst toddler-induced carnage, and sitting on a sofa covered in baby food, vomit and burn marks, doesn't mean that we can't have friends around for Sunday lunch. So yesterday we invited Stefan and Andrew to tread the tea stained carpet and join us for a home cooked meal of the finest Lasagne Verde. Thank God they do four-person servings at Cook.

Admittedly, as I walked back from the Cook shop on Saturday afternoon through a torrential downpour, and felt the rain slowly soaking through my coat and into my shirt, I did wonder if it might not have just been easier to make the lasagne myself. But as I said to Amelie, who was tucked up safe and warm in her cosytoes underneath a plastic rain cover, it might take us a good forty-five minutes to trudge home along the seafront through the darkness of a late November monsoon, but if the lasagne's as cold as I am, it definitely won't defrost.

Fortunately it turned out to be worth it. Amelie and I might have both developed coughs, and I'm still not sure my coat's completely dry, but that was a damn fine lasagne verde. I just wish it had taken the four of us longer than two minutes to eat it all.

Obviously the main reason for having Stefan and Andrew over here as often as possible is because they always bring us gifts. And yesterday was no exception. We're now the proud owners of a red poinsettia and a wheat-filled elephant...

Getting a closer look.
The elephant's microwaveable and scented with lavender, so it should simultaneously send Amelie to sleep and save on our heating bills. Obviously when I say it's microwaveable, I don't mean the whole elephant. That would be ridiculous. You actually just remove the wheat-filled bag from inside, and heat that. To be honest, I probably should have read the instructions before trying it out, but I don't think Amelie was too disturbed by the sight of her cuddly toy being cooked in the oven.

Anyhoo, we spent an enjoyable afternoon discussing the latest developments in the worlds of pharmacy, retinal screening and sexual health, whilst wishing Amelie could talk so that she could explain to us how her toy train works. We also gave Stefan and Andrew a sneak preview of Amelie's Christmas costume. There hasn't been so much secrecy surrounding an outfit since Lady Diana got married. I was tempted to get them to sign some kind of confidentiality agreement before I got it out of the wardrobe. But the good news is they both liked it. Or maybe they were just being polite. Either way, if you think she looked cute last year, you ain't seen nothing yet.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Three weeks after she went to Dubai and contracted swine flu, we've finally received a postcard from Big Sis...

Who's the bloke in the tea towel?
I'm so glad she took the trouble to write.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

You see a lot of rubbish in the average hospital café...

But fortunately visitors to the Royal Alexandra Children's Hospital in Brighton are now able to experience Amelie's larger-than-life presence as they shove their leftover NHS sandwiches into the bin. As of this week, the new infection control posters are up, and Amelie's taken up residence in the café by the hospital entrance. You can feel her eyes burning into your back as you tuck into another doughnut whilst waiting to see the dietician.

Due to a combination of annual leave and all-day clinics across Sussex, I hadn't actually been into my department for a week and a half, but when I strolled in yesterday morning, the Trust's senior graphic designer popped straight out of her office and told me the good news that my daughter had finally been admitted to hospital. Her primary role is to turn heads (and stomachs) in the coffee shop, but she's apparently dotted around other prime locations too.

I could cope with Amelie if she was permanently behind glass.Naturally I was keen to go and have a look, and as luck would have it, they were holding a swine flu vaccination session for staff on one of the wards. So I informed my supervisor that my immediate immunisation against the perils of a pork pandemic was possibly the most pressing priority of my working day, and I was heading straight over there.

Unfortunately she said she'd come with me. As did one of my colleagues.

So the three of us headed over to the main hospital site, them to get an important vaccination, me to look for giant posters of my daughter. Fortunately I managed to steer our little field trip towards the children's hospital, and immediately spotted Amelie through the window from twenty yards away. She was stopping traffic opposite the entrance to the main car park. Before I knew it, my two colleagues were heading straight through the automatic doors, and encouraging me to take photos. We spent the next ten minutes touring the Royal Alex, playing a game of I Spy Amelie. It was so exciting, I forgot to use the alcohol hand gel.

Anyhoo, there are now so many infection control posters up in the hospital that you have to question the Trust's policy on paper use. But they're not all six feet tall. There's a very dinky little one of Amelie on the door of a ward downstairs. There are probably others too, but you soon reach the point where you start to feel slightly uncomfortable walking around a children's hospital with a camera, so we decided to leave before someone called security.

Two minutes later I was discussing my bedroom habits with a nurse. Apparently there are only two questions you need to answer before getting the swine flu vaccination. One is whether you're allergic to eggs (because they go so well with bacon), and the other is which side you sleep on. I was told that having had the injection, I may not be able to lie on that arm for a couple of nights, and might need painkillers by the evening.

To be honest, I thought she was telling porkies about swine flu. All three of us left there with no ill effects and were fine for the rest of the day. Until about 8pm, that is. Lisa was out for the evening, so whilst sitting in the darkness next to a cot, trying to soothe a screaming poster-child, I suddenly realised that my arm was hurting. Within half an hour it had got a lot worse, and at 8:40pm I received the following text message from my boss:

"Phil, does your arm hurt? Mine does!"

I don't know what they're putting in that swine flu vaccine, but my arm feels like it's been savaged by a pig. I think that's where they get the phrase 'ham-fisted'. And I only went over there to see posters of Amelie.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

In the past twenty-four hours, my Taylor Swift videos have attracted more than 2,500 views and fifty comments on YouTube. Over the same period of time, my Snuggle Puppy film has received a total of ten views and one comment. The views came mostly from Amelie, but the comment came in person from Lisa's sister. Apparently she thinks I look "menacing" when I sing. Yes, menacing. This from a woman who's killed two gerbils and tried to poison a sparrow. I only murdered a song. Anyway, I'm not one to hold a grudge, but I'm crossing her straight off my Christmas card list and planning a carolling trip to her street.

Incidentally, if you take a look at the address bar near the top of your browser, you might find that you're currently visiting a website you've never heard of. After seven years and 650,000 words, I've finally decided to register a domain name for this blog. So from this day forth, it'll be Because was already taken. I know, I couldn't believe it either. You should automatically be redirected to the new address, though it might take a day or two before it happens.

In the meantime, a friend of ours has bought Amelie a cape, so that she can play at being a superhero...

Get Cape. Wear Cape. Fly.
She's currently being Couch Potato Girl, with the power to change both lives and TV channels.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

It's surprising how close you can get to America's biggest selling music artist when you're hiding behind a bunch of twelve-year-old girls...

We blended in seamlessly last night. I think it helped that Lisa has a brace. She couldn't look more like a teenager if she tried.

But if you think I got close to a celebrity in that video, you should have seen me with Louis Theroux a couple of hours earlier. We were practically holding hands.

Anyhoo, our trip to Wembley to see Taylor Swift yesterday was a complete success. It started well when I managed to beat Lisa at her favourite Nintendo DS game on the train to Victoria, but things got even better when we arrived in London and I gave her 30p for the toilet. She immediately got it stuck in the machine (obviously), but whilst banging it in frustration, she found a pound coin in the change chute. I spent it on some paracetamol to treat the eye strain I'd got from playing the DS.

From there we headed straight to Euston to meet this young lady...

I've shaved since Sunday.
I'm obviously a lot happier to be in that photo than she is. That's our friend 'C'. She lives in Plaistow, but as if that wasn't bad enough, she works for Camden Council. So we persuaded her to finish early and walk down the road to the Prezzo restaurant near Euston station. And I'm glad we did, because you'll never guess who we met crossing Euston Road on a green light...

Louis Theroux! No, really. I pointed him out to both Lisa and 'C', but Lisa failed to spot him. Mainly because she was looking for Louis Walsh. She's easily confused like that. I was going to ask Louis to pose for a photo, but we were standing in the middle of a busy road at the time, and I decided he wasn't worth dying for. It's probably just as well - Lisa would have embarrassed me by asking him about X Factor.

Hello Wembley!Having stuffed ourselves with Italian food, and discussed the merits of speed-dating, we bid farewell to 'C' and jumped on the tube to Wembley Arena. The last time we were there, Lisa was four months pregnant and I had to buy her an ice cream just to persuade her to walk from the tube station. A lot's changed since then. They're no longer selling ice creams. Which was ironic, as it soon became apparent that most of Taylor Swift's fans are children. I knew something was up when I realised I was the only member of the audience who needed glasses to see the stage.

Our seats were pretty central, which meant we missed out on the chance to take part in a Mexican wave before the show started...

... but let's face it, I have trouble persuading Lisa to stand up at the best of times. The wave would have hit the rocks the moment it got to our section.

The support act for the evening was Justin Bieber. Yes, Justin Bieber. No, I've never heard of him either. But the teenage girls sitting in the row in front of us knew the words to all his songs, so it's clearly some kind of generational thing. According to Wikipedia, he's a 15-year-old Canadian who was discovered on YouTube, and immediately signed to Usher's record label. Which makes me glad I posted my Snuggle Puppy video. I should be cutting my first album by the end of the week.

Bieber was a definite grower, and by the end of his set, I genuinely liked the boy. Although at his age, I could probably be arrested for saying that. I'd wish him luck, but he already broke a leg last night.

The lady we'd really come to see, however, was that little tinker, Taylor...

Tinker Taylor soldiers on.
Bearing in mind how far we were from the stage, I'm quite pleased with that photo. That's the advantage of being amongst a crowd of teenage girls. No one's over five feet tall, and most of them are anorexic, so I got a good view of the show.

Swift ChangeAnd what a show it was. I have to say, I was very impressed. Taylor Swift lived up to her name by performing more quick costume changes than Lisa in the Next fitting rooms. The stage went through just as many transformations, turning from a library to a garden to a medieval castle, complete with band dressed as Elizabethans.

But the best bit was when Taylor disappeared for a few minutes (don't quote me on that bit), only to reappear amongst the crowd at the back of the arena. Which is the kind of thing you can do when your audience are no more dangerous than a fourteen-year-old girl with PMT. She then made her way into a small enclosure in the centre of the hall, and played three songs on a rotating platform, which just happened to be next to where we were sitting. I tried to convince Lisa that I'd deliberately chosen those seats for that reason, but I'm not sure she believed me. She was too busy feeling self conscious about the fact that the small boy sitting next to her had exactly the same brace as she did. The only thing separating them was a glow stick and a pair of flashing bunny ears.

I shot two videos of Taylor playing right in front of us, but the second one's a bit shaky. You have no idea how tiring it is to hold a camera above your head for more than ten minutes. On the plus side, I'm sure Taylor Swift looked directly into my eyes on several occasions. She seemed to be thinking "Aren't you a bit old to be at this concert?".

Taylor's band were great too, although they came dangerously close to line-dancing at one point...

I think the drummer's got swine flu. The rest of the band wouldn't go near him.

The other highlight for me was the finale, which featured Taylor singing an encore under a torrent of falling water. It probably says a lot about me that I was less interested in the sight of a 19-year-old blonde doing a shower scene, and more transfixed by the rain machine which was capable of spelling out words in the flow of water...

Unfortunately, by the time I turned on the camera, the machine had started to malfunction slightly, and the shapes were getting a bit crooked. But I thought that was brilliantly clever. By stopping the flow of water for a split second at certain points in the shower head, you can actually speak under water. It's what you might call 'write as rain'. Taylor's obviously been paying attention in science class.

In the end, she played for the best part of two hours, so Taylor wasn't as swift as her name suggests, but the girl was good value for every one of those 120 minutes. Admittedly we didn't get home until 1:30am, and I now have permanent hearing damage from the sound of ten thousand adolescents screaming in my ears, but I'd do it all again in heartbeat. And when Amelie turns twelve, I'll probably have to.

Monday, November 23, 2009

This is my 1,800th blog post, so I'm celebrating with a song...

I think that's what you call a tough audience. It started well when she turned up with a backing band (well, a rubber band), but from that point onwards, things went downhill faster than Franz Klammer with a tailwind. I had to physically stop her from leaving at one point, and by the end she was resorting to sabotage. Frankly Simon Cowell would have been less critical.

But on the subject of outstanding vocal performances, Lisa and I are going to see Taylor Swift at Wembley Arena tonight. That's if they'll let us in after I asked Ticketmaster to cancel our tickets. We've arranged to meet a friend for dinner at Euston station (which is in the Michelin guide under 'Tyre Fitters'), so that when we're turned away from Wembley, we won't feel we've had a completely wasted journey.

Needless to say, Amelie would love a trip to London to meet the Queen (of country), but after careful consideration, we've decided to leave her in St Leonards with her grandparents. Having seen the way she reacts to a decent bit of singing, we don't want to end up with another Kanye West situation on our hands.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

If you set up a camera in my parents' living room, hide yourself behind the sofa, and remain absolutely still and quiet, you may just be able to catch a glimpse of the normally shy and elusive Mobile Hairdresser of St Leonards...

I think she's looking for Chloe.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Lying in bed last night, during one of the regular intellectual and deeply philosophical conversations we have when we're half asleep and not thinking straight, I said to Lisa "Do you think you could wake me from a coma?". Fortunately she replied "Yes". Which is good to know, because she makes me sit through a lot of soaps, and I regularly come close to losing consciousness.

So feeling encouraged by this news, I immediately asked "How would you do it?". Lisa thought for a moment, then replied "Slap you across the face". Frankly that's her answer to everything. So when I wake up in a hospital bed to the sight of Lisa physically assaulting me, I must remember to thank her.

But violence aside, the good news is that after twenty-four hours away from our daughter, we've finally been reunited with Amelie...

And as that video shows, Lisa can put up with her for about thirty seconds before she's had enough.

We drove over to my parents' bungalow late last night, and arrived more than two and a half hours after Amelie's bedtime. So we only got to see her for ten minutes before she went to bed. I'm not saying her grandparents are spoiling her, but frankly the girl stays up later than I do.

Slushy PuppyA good night's sleep (and a lie-in while Grandma took charge of the childcare), and we were up and out again. Without Amelie. We actually spent the afternoon in Hastings, Lisa shopping for baby clothes, me scouring the charity shops for board books. I came back with a copy of 'Snuggle Puppy', "a little love song" in book form, which is quite possibly the finest thing I've ever read. I've studied the original song on YouTube, and after literally minutes of ceaseless practice, I'm now able to sing the entire book from start to finish. I just need to convince Amelie to stay in the room while I do it.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Oooh look, it's The Specials!

PC Brigade
If you're not familiar with their work, you're probably young like me. Or old like my parents. But if you're middle-aged like Lisa, you'll be very excited by that photo.

Lisa's been a big fan of Terry Hall (he's the third bloke from the left) since 1981, and she gave me a copy of his greatest hits album for my birthday five years ago. Before taking it back six months later when she realised I didn't like it. But despite my lack of enthusiasm for the man's work, I'm always happy to accompany my fiancée to a live concert. Especially when she pays for the tickets. Admittedly, the money came out of Amelie's child benefit, but the girl's away for a couple of days, so she's costing us nothing.

To be honest, I didn't think The Specials would be much cop, but as it turned out, they gave an arresting performance last night. None of their songs lasted more than three minutes, so every time I started thinking "I've had enough of this one now", it finished. Which was great. On the downside, I felt that every song sounded the same, and they would have benefited from putting a slow ballad in there somewhere just to clear the palate and give the drummer a rest.

But I was clearly alone in that view. The entire Brighton Centre (apart from me and Lisa) spent the full ninety minutes jogging on the spot in porkpie hats, and throwing plastic glasses of beer at each other. It was actually very entertaining. The Specials also seemed to have a remarkable amount of energy for a group of men in their fifties. All that clean living has clearly paid off.

Ultimately I enjoyed the concert a lot more than I thought I would. My only disappointment was that the ten pounds I offered Lisa to stand up, point at the stage, and shout "RUDE BOYS!" in her loudest voice, went unclaimed. She's no fun any more. Frankly I'd have done it for a fiver.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

When I said I was going to veg out on the sofa, I didn't expect Amelie to be climbing over the back of it and onto the table...

Seconds out, round one.
This was the scene here half an hour ago. Unfortunately I wasn't able to take photos and free Chloe from a wrestling hold, so I don't have pictures of what happened next.

But the good news is that my Mum's just arrived to collect Amelie and take her back to St Leonards for a couple of nights. I've never seen Lisa pack a bag of baby clothes so quickly.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

I don't know about you, but when I fancy a little something between meals, there's only one thing I do...

Which explains why I've spent the day eating chocolate gateau and Quality Street with a load of diabetes experts. There were cream cakes too, but you have to draw the line somewhere.

I think it's a cow playing football.Needless to say, if you're going to overdose on sugar, the one place you want to do it is at the national headquarters of the world's leading manufacturer of insulin. And as luck would have it, I've spent the day at Novo Nordisk in Crawley. They make Actrapid, Novorapid, Insulatard, Mixtard and Glucagen, so having spent 2008 picking those five products off the shelves of a walk-in pharmacy fridge, I felt fully justified in accepting their cake.

Puppy FatThe event was our NHS Trust's annual 'Diabetes Away Day', a chance for everyone involved in diabetes care from Brighton to Haywards Heath to get together, discuss important issues, and get answers to pertinent questions. Questions like "Where did they find the bloke on the left?".

Lectures came with such titles as 'Monogenic Diabetes - A Progress Report', 'Diabetes & Cancer', and my particular favourite, 'THINK GLUCOSE'. I did very little else all day. By the time I'd finished lunch, I needed twenty units of insulin.

In 2008, Novo Nordisk were awarded fifth place in the 'Best Workplace in the UK' competition, and having seen their catering facilities, I can't say I'm surprised. Although I'm not sure I'd get much work done with all the free croissants on offer. Their HQ is the kind of plush, impressive building which makes you wish you'd got into the pharmaceuticals industry instead of the NHS. Frankly it was more luxurious than most of the hotels I've stayed in. Which probably isn't saying much. On the downside, they keep security so tight that you need an escort with an ID badge just to go to the toilet. The chances of a crazed hyperglycaemic making it out of there with a stolen NovoPen are minimal.

Anyhoo, despite wearing shoes with big heels, a lot of the information went straight over my head. But I still enjoyed the day. Whenever I spend time with consultants and specialist nurses, I realise firstly how little I know, secondly how much I've learnt, and thirdly how lucky I am to be there. I sat next to the hospital's senior endocrinologist, which I'm sure can't be right for someone who was turned down by the SeaLife Centre.

But all good things must come to an end. For a week at least. I've got four days annual leave, so having filled my brain with knowledge and stuffed my blood with sugar, I'll be vegging out on the sofa until Wednesday.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

I spent all day yesterday in Crawley, where I met a man who told me that twenty years ago, he personally raised £15,000 to buy Crawley Hospital's first fundus camera (fundus is the back of the eye, and also a brand of crispy pancake). I jokingly asked him if he could raise a bit of money for me, and he looked at me seriously and told me to apply to the League of Friends for anything I want. I might ask for my own tea urn.

Frankly I could have done with a strong cuppa this afternoon. Having seen almost as many patients this morning as I saw all day yesterday, I decided (for reasons which still escape me) to volunteer for a free flu jab which was being offered to all staff members. I'd joined the hospital library at about 3pm, and by 4pm I'd taken out so many books on diabetes that I could barely move, but the vaccination session was only just over the road, and was on until 4:30pm, so I decided to drop in on my way back to the office.

To be honest, I started to feel slightly unwell the moment the nurse began to read me the list of possible side-effects. And I hadn't even seen the needle at that point. But my biggest mistake was to tell her that I have a long-standing appointment to have my third and final Hepatitis B vaccination on Friday. I only mentioned it in case it was a problem to have two vaccinations in three days. It wasn't. In fact, it was so far from being a problem, that she said she'd give them both to me today. By the time I left, I had a puncture wound in each arm, two lists of side-effects, and a patch of blood on my shirt. I could barely lift my sack of library books.

But on the subject of powerful jabs, Lisa took Amelie to see Lorraine's new house today. It gave Amelie the chance to play with little Leia and baby Harrison all day. A chance she took with both hands. Well, one fist.


Dummy Blonde

May the force be with you.
What Am wants, Am gets. And that's one heck of a left hook. Now I know what Lorraine meant when she said Lisa's responsible for all the bad times in her life.

But fortunately it'll never happen again. Amelie broke a vase before she left, so she won't be invited back.

Monday, November 16, 2009

The blind leading the blindThe thing about roller blinds is that they’re so easy to install that even a woman in a t-shirt can do it without breaking into a sweat or losing her smile. Frankly I could have done with her help yesterday afternoon.

Now that it’s officially Christmas, I’ve been trying to think what to get Lisa’s Mum this year. It’s tough, because obviously she already has everything she could ever want. And she has me as a son-in-law. The woman is truly blessed. But then I thought, hang on a moment, despite living in the lap of luxury, she’s currently using an old towel on a couple of rusty nails as her kitchen curtain. What she really needs is a roller blind. And a man to fit it. Unfortunately I could only afford the former.

So at 2:45pm yesterday afternoon, Lisa and I turned up at her Mum’s unannounced and forced her to look after Amelie (you don’t get something for nothing) while we headed off to B&Q to look for the cheapest nicest roller blind available. We got back at 3:45pm and I told Lisa that with a bit of blind luck, we’d be home for Amelie’s tea at five.

As it transpired, she was up until way past her bedtime. I don’t know what it is about Brighton council flats, but they seem to be hewn from reinforced granite coated in mushy plaster of Paris. One moment the wall was crumbling away in front of me, the next it was refusing to be dented by a power drill on full blast. It’s never taken so long to get four rawlplugs into a kitchen wall.

But having done that (by which time Amelie’s tea was cold), I still had to cut the roller blind tube to size, something the instructions informed me could easily be done with just a simple hacksaw. Well maybe if you’re a blonde in a pink t-shirt, it can. Personally my hacksaw wouldn’t even dent the thing. I was slicing away for half an hour with a heavy duty wood saw just to get a small nick in it. By the time I’d got all the way through, I had repetitive strain injury, blisters, and a sore shoulder.

With that little job done, I just had to cut the blind itself without going wonky or letting the edges fray. I achieved neither. But I don’t think anyone noticed. The good news is that by 7pm, Lisa’s Mum had a working roller blind, I had a headache, and Lisa had a tired baby who should have been home hours ago. I always knew Christmas was stressful.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

I realise there's nothing more dull than other people's baby videos, but here's an exclusive piece of footage I shot within moments of Amelie getting up this morning. Other people take a good hour or two to get going on a Sunday. Amelie's up and at it within seconds. She doesn't even stop to drink her milk.

Anyhoo, it's just four walking, guzzling, mischief-making minutes out of a typical day in the life of Am. But I do like the ending...

I'll be presenting her future husband with a DVD of all these videos on their wedding day.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

I've never seen three people so transfixed by a pre-season friendly between Brighton and Nottingham Forest...

Nail-biters & Ankle-biters
I wouldn't mind, but it wasn't even real. I bought a copy of 'Football Manager 2009' for £1.70 from an Uckfield charity shop on Thursday, and this was the result. Amelie got so excited, her furry bunny ears fell off.

Anyhoo, if you're thinking that I've lost weight and Lisa gets younger every day, thanks, but that's my brother and his daughter. He, she and my sister-in-law came to visit for a few hours this afternoon, en route from Hastings to their home in Essex. They'd heard that we urgently need reinforcements to keep up with Amelie's reading.

BookwormsSo while my daughter got through about twenty-seven books with her cousin and aunt, I got on with the important business of ordering takeaway pizza with my brother's credit card. I'm actually on a strict diet at the moment, but when I broke that news to my brother, he studied me up and down, looked shocked and said "Are you???!". So it obviously isn't showing. I decided a sausage & bacon pizza wouldn't make any difference.

I ended up eating mine standing up, partly because we don't have enough seats, but mainly because I was constantly back and forth to the coffee table, removing a baby with a wagging finger to the sound of 'no, no, no'.

Mind you, I wasn't the only person on my feet all afternoon...

She's made great strides in the past two weeks. On 30th October, we were giving a standing ovation to this little effort. Now we ignore her when she walks the length of the living room. We're such fickle parents.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Well the big comedy news of the week is that Big Sis has come back from Dubai with swine flu. She's the only person in the known universe who can visit a Muslim country with no pork and catch a pig infection. I wouldn't mind, but she's a vegetarian as well. She won't go near a plate that's served meat without marinading it overnight in Fairy Liquid.

As things stand right now, her symptoms include headache, sore throat and sickness, although the one that's upsetting her the most is the apparent loss of her suntan. Fortunately, as of this afternoon, she's got her hands on some Tamiflu. Although she hasn't taken any yet. She's worried she'll have an adverse reaction and grow a third arm. I'm not sure that's a recognised side-effect, but after the suntan debacle, she's taking no chances. Personally I've advised her to self-medicate by eating plenty of chicken soup. I'm hoping it'll give her bird flu.

As it happens though, I met someone today who was suffering even more than Big Sis. And I don't mean my old pharmacy colleague who I bumped into in a hospital corridor this afternoon. I'm sure she enjoyed seeing me again. It was actually half an hour later, by which time I was sitting in a boardroom with five retinal screeners and a consultant from the Sussex Eye Hospital. We were in the middle of discussing the possibility of getting Toxoplasmosis from a steak tartare, when we heard a loud clatter from outside the room.

Six of us assumed it was a porter knocking over a trolley, and decided to ignore it. The seventh chose to investigate. And it's a good job she did. It turned out that a young office worker had fallen down the big spiral staircase outside the boardroom and broken her foot. Our meeting had to be halted for ten minutes while she received first aid from an ophthalmologist and a retinal screener with a background in nursing. It's not the ideal end to your working week, but if you're going to break a bone, you might as well do it in a building full of doctors. She was soon packed off to A & E for an x-ray and some major pain relief. And to think some people don't believe in this Friday the 13th nonsense.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

I've spent today with the old dears of Uckfield, whilst doing my best to avoid the old deer on the roads. I like the diabetics of Uckfield. They all live on farms, milk their own cows and sit in the waiting room reading Country Life. One of them even showed me the scars on his legs where he fell into the combine harvester (or something. To be honest, I didn't really follow the story). I did have to change the address of one patient though. She told me that now she's a week away from her 84th birthday, she's decided to give up the farm and just live in the farmhouse.

I also met a gentleman who told me that the lady he saw last year was "a right grump" and asked me who it was. I told him it could be any one of my colleagues, and he'd have to be more specific.

Well ok, I didn't. And it's just as well, as it turned out he had us confused with a different appointment. I did, however, spend the day swanning around Uckfield Hospital like I own the place, and letting everyone think I'm a consultant. Which would have worked if I hadn't walked into town at lunchtime and met two of my patients whilst rummaging through the second-hand clothes in a charity shop. I had to pretend I was a victim of NHS cuts.

But talking of people with delusions of grandeur, I'm pleased to report that after weeks of trying to train Amelie not to climb on the coffee table by wagging a finger and saying "No!", she's finally learnt a valuable lesson.

She's learnt how to wag her finger and say no.

I'm just surprised there isn't a book in her hand.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

I may not have finished a book since 1996 (apart from the 'Perfect Interview' manual which landed me my current job), but I always knew that eventually someone would encourage me back into reading. Of course, when I say 'encourage', I mean 'nag'. And when I say 'someone', I mean Amelie.

I don’t know what’s happened to the girl in the last few weeks, but since turning one, she’s become the world’s biggest devourer of books. In some cases I mean that quite literally (she’s taken entire chunks out of Messy Baby's spine) but when she’s not gnawing on a hardback, she’s constantly shoving a book in your face and moaning. The rest of her toys barely get a look in. Although somehow she still finds time to climb on the coffee table.

But that aside, she spends her days fetching books from the shelf, the toybox, and the floor where she left them, then holding them up to anyone within walking distance, and threatening to cry unless you read them to her. Repeatedly. She's getting through more books than a speed-reader on speed.

KnackeredSo I now spend my lunch breaks dashing out of clinics across Sussex, heading for the nearest charity shops, and clearing them out of baby books. I bought a second volume of Messy Baby's adventures in Crawley yesterday, as well as 'Surprise for Horse', an intriguing tale of mystery, the moral of which appears to be that horses get old and useless, and tractors are much better. I've read it three times now and I still don't get it.

But all this literature has inspired me on to great things. I spent all afternoon today in a library. No, really. More than five months after starting life as a retinal screener, I've finally received my portfolio for the City & Guilds Level 3 Diploma in Diabetic Retinopathy Screening (that link's for people with a high boredom threshold). I've been given two years to complete it, although ideally they'd like me to do it in eighteen months. By which time Amelie should be reading to herself. So with no clinics today, I decided to go and investigate the hospital library after lunch.

And boy, am I glad I did. Frankly I'm never going back to the office again. That library has everything I need: silence, a copy of 'Diabetes for Dummies', and thirty computers connected to the internet. I was in hog heaven. On top of that, it's open until 8pm and is a sixty second walk from my flat. I can write my blog posts in peace, and return home after Amelie's gone to bed. It'll be like being single again.

Which is obviously a bad thing. I was actually home at five, and reading stories by ten past.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

I don't know who's teaching English at the adult education centres of Crawley, but they're using some interesting phrases. I had a patient today at Crawley Hospital who was a lovely chap, but barely spoke a word of English. Well, not until I asked him who his GP was. We'd been communicating mostly via sign language and facial expressions (so it's a good job I haven't had botox), until I reached the point where I had to check the name of his doctor. He successfully gave me the answer I required, before pausing for dramatic effect, and then adding "He's a sexy beast".

Naturally I assumed I'd misheard him. This was a man who'd looked at me blankly when I asked if he wore glasses, so it seemed a bit unlikely that he'd know the phrase 'sexy beast'. As a result, I chose to let it lie and reply with a non-committal "Right..." as I clicked through to the next screen on the computer.

Unfortunately he said it again: "He's a sexy beast". To be honest, it was the longest sentence he'd managed to cobble together since walking through the door, so I'm not surprised he wanted to use it more than once. I decided to venture an enquiring "Really..?"

And I'm glad I did. Using a combination of pidgin English and camp hand gestures, the man went on to tell me that his GP apparently has ten children and "another one cooking". I didn't know quite what to say to that. But it gives a whole new meaning to the phrase 'out-of-hours service'. It also explains where all the Viagra prescriptions are going. In the end I just made a lame joke about his doctor practising for many years, the man looked at me blankly, and we moved on to the photos. There's only so much English you can learn in one day.

Sunday, November 08, 2009

Today's startling fact of the day, which I read on the Guardian website (so I'm sure it's not a typo), is that on 1st January 1994, there were only 623 websites in existence. And none of them were porn.

But even more surprising than that, is this...

What a load of rubbish.
Yep, the Brighton binmen are on strike again. The stroll that Amelie and I took through Kemp Town this afternoon was like a walk down memory lane. Not that I'm old enough to remember the Winter of Discontent, but Lisa's told me all about it. At various points during our journey I had to wheel Am's buggy into the road because the bags, bin liners and bird-bitten black sacks were piled three high across the pavement at every communal bin site we passed. I wouldn't mind, but according to the Argus, the binmen aren't meant to be starting their strike until tomorrow. I assume they're all on annual leave at the moment.

Anyhoo, bearing in mind that industrial action is due to last for another week, the communal bin outside our flat is already full to overflowing, and we barely have enough room indoors to store a carrier bag, never mind a black sack, it'll be interesting to see where we'll be in a few days' time. Probably driving over to my parents' house with a boot full of rubbish.

Coincidentally, that's where we spent yesterday. Lisa, Amelie and I had a free weekend for a change, so we decided to head over to St Leonards and eat someone else's food for a day. Amelie took full advantage of the open space in my parents' living room by doing so much walking, I'm surprised she didn't end up with blisters on her feet. I attempted to make it more challenging for her by covering the floor in Mega Blocks and building a giant cat, but even that didn't put her off.

To be honest, I wish I'd let Amelie walk home. We didn't leave St Leonards until 10:30pm, by which time the heavens had opened and the rain was on the heavy side of torrential for most of our journey home. It was like driving through the trailer for 2012. Only slightly more scary. And the worst part was I'd only cleaned my car that afternoon.

But the good news is that my parents have recently gone greener than Lisa on a cruise ship, and have now started recycling rainwater. So after last night's downpour, they won't be paying to flush their toilet until spring.

Friday, November 06, 2009

Something around here smells fishy...

Fish or Rabbit?
I think it's my cod pieces. They're stinking out the flat.

Anyhoo, Lisa's been out all evening, enjoying a well-earned break with her sister and a friend. They're having a meal at Harry's, a restaurant in Hove which is popular with Frank Bruno (I expect). I went there four and a half years ago, and I haven't been back since, which says about all you need to know about the place.

As we speak, it's approaching half past ten, and Lisa's not back yet. Which doesn't surprise me. Her departure from here was essentially a game of Bus Chicken, a popular pastime (with Lisa) which involves looking up the movements of buses in real time on the Brighton Buses website, waiting until one's about a hundred yards away, and then running out of the front door just in time to catch it from the stop outside. Feel free to try it here. Although it doesn't really work unless you live in my flat.

Obviously with hit-and-miss travel plans like that, I'm not expecting her back any time soon, so facing an evening on our own, Amelie and I decided to spend it creating a culinary masterpiece of our own. Although she let me down by going to bed at 7pm, just as the washing up was reaching the cupboard above the draining board.

Anyhoo, we've successfully made 'Mini Fish Pies' from Lorraine Kelly's Baby & Toddler Eating Plan. Unfortunately I only had three ramekins, so two of them aren't so much mini as extra large. But the way Amelie eats, she could polish one off and still expect dessert. I picked her up from her Grandmother's after work today, and Lisa's sister was there, feeding her a whole tomato. She was eating it like an apple, and making a disgusted face at every mouthful, but despite clearly loathing the taste with every fibre of her being, she still carried on eating it. As an adult, that could be considered politeness, but at her age it's just gluttony. I don't know who she gets it from.

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

If there's one thing I wasn't expecting to see today, it's the sight of my daughter lying on a guillotine in the middle of the hospital. I've heard of NHS cuts, but this is going too far.

As it happens, I was walking past the open door of the graphic design department this morning (on my way to the toilet), when my eye was caught by a familiar face looking back at me from the paper cutter just inside their office. At first I thought it was Lisa's Mum without her hair on, but it turned out to be Amelie. Naturally I wanted to know why my daughter was being given the chop by senior management, so I walked straight in (without knocking) and asked what was going on.

As it turns out, the communications team (who've been strangely silent for the past couple of months) have finally decided on the locations for the hospital's new range of infection control posters, and in the words of our senior graphic designer, "Amelie's going everywhere". In particular, her beaming face will be adorning the entrance of the Royal Alexandra Children's Hospital, reminding everyone who walks through those doors to wash their hands. Which is ironic, because hers are usually filthy.

She'll also be facing the canteen, presumably in an effort to take people's minds off the food, and "on the wall under the stairs". Which doesn't sound like what you'd call a prime location, but is apparently home to an important hand gel dispenser.

I don't yet have a date for when the flyposting will take place, but Lisa's already standing by the front door with her shoes on. The hospital's only over the road, so I think she'll be checking on a daily basis. Obviously we're likely to be arrested when we're spotted loitering near sick children with a camera, but fortunately I can prove I'm related to the poster child on looks alone. Lisa's the only one who'll be locked up.

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

If there's one thing I've always said, it's that Lisa's Mum looks like a witch...

Which is Witch?

Well ok, I've never said that. But Lisa's sister has.

The word on the street (in Hove at least) is that the moment Amelie puts on a cheap wig and scary face, she instantly morphs into the spitting (well, dribbling) image of her grandmother. In the words of Lisa's sister, "She's got the Greening eyes". And the greening hair, obviously. It's only a matter of time before she has glaucoma and is failing to recognise her own children in Safeway.

But in other news, Lisa was mocking me last night for the fact that I have a dictionary with pictures. She's just jealous because she has no idea what a solenoid looks like. Personally I've been using the Illustrated Oxford Dictionary for more than ten years now. It's useful to be able to look up a word like elasmobranch, see a photo of a Great White bearing down on you, and not waste any time reading the definition. But Lisa just thinks I'm backward.

So to get my revenge, I told her that in addition to having pictures on every page, my dictionary is also unusual for the fact that it doesn't list the word 'gullible'. Obviously no one's fallen for that joke since I was about eight years old, but I thought it was worth a try. And if I hadn't burst out laughing at the wrong moment, I'd have got a photo of her looking it up.

Monday, November 02, 2009

If you're going to ditch the buggy and start walking, you need a decent pair of shoes...

Foot & Mouth
And if they taste good, that's a bonus.

Just over three weeks ago, with the ker-ching of Amelie's birthday money still ringing in our bank accounts, Lisa went out and bought her a pair of shoes. They were made for children aged 12-18 months. And they didn't fit her. Amelie has a couple of lion paws on the ends of her legs, and frankly they'd have been more comfy in the shoebox. Unfortunately, by the time we discovered that, Lisa had cut off the tags and thrown away the receipt. We spent a week forcing her fat feet into thin shoes, before the sound of throbbing and the sight of Smurf toes persuaded us to stop.

So she's needed some new shoes for a while. And what better way to get hold of a pair than by inviting Marie down for the afternoon, and telling her to buy some. She's very pliable like that. Unfortunately she's not quite pliable enough to persuade her to eat the Tuna Pasta Bake I'd so lovingly got out of a jar for her at lunchtime, but you can't have everything. Apparently after seven years of friendship, I should know that she doesn't eat fish. Although I'm sure she's had crabs.

Anyhoo, having ditched the tuna, we spent an enjoyable afternoon gossiping about other people, and feeling generally superior. Or maybe that was just me. Unfortunately I forgot to take any photos, so here are a few to be going on with. None of us have changed. Apart from Amelie. I did get a request to mention that reprobate James on this blog, but frankly he's had enough namechecks as it is, and I still haven't forgiven him for cheating at Mike Read's Pop Quiz five years ago. I'll say one thing for the man though - I don't think his singing's as dreadful as Marie makes out.

With the breeze well and truly shot, Marie and I headed into town to look for baby shoes. We ended up searching the entire ranges of Primark, BHS, M & S, H & M, B & Q, Barratts and Next, which amounted to a grand total of... oooh, about three pairs. I don't know if there's some kind of anti-Amelie conspiracy going on (although it wouldn't surprise me), but the choice of size 4 girls shoes which didn't feature a picture of Peppa Pig or the words 'High School Musical' was meagre beyond belief. I would have given up, were it not for the odd looks we kept getting as we wheeled a barefoot one-year-old around Brighton city centre in the gathering gloom of November.

Fortunately, just as the frostbite was taking hold of Amelie's toes, we found the perfect pair in Next, and like the Fairy Godmother and Prince Charming combined, Marie waved her magic wand, produced a credit card, and slipped the shoes onto Cinderella's feet. Not only are they the perfect fit, but Amelie loves them, and they should last her for about six months. So I'll be inviting Marie back in April.

Sunday, November 01, 2009

We never did go trick or treating in the end. Amelie tricked me by going to bed at 7pm, so I treated myself to an Asda shopping trip instead. I have to say, it's a slightly unsettling experience doing your weekly shop on the evening of Halloween. The place was full of people on their way to parties, which would be fine if they weren't all dressed as vampires and zombies. I almost ran my trolley over Dracula's cape in the baked bean aisle. I also saw a couple dressed in bin liners with blood all over their faces, picking up painkillers in the medicine aisle. Either they were heading for a Halloween party, or they have a lot of faith in the power of paracetamol.

Asda had a fantastic display of Halloween products, complete with mood lighting and an audio track of appropriately spooky sounds. Unfortunately it was at the back of the greetings card aisle, and I needed to buy a birthday card. You've no idea how difficult it is to choose something cheerful whilst listening to violent screams and moans of pain. I kept being drawn towards the get well soon cards.

But I managed to get my shopping and drive home through the hordes of tiny ghosts and pirates who seemed to be roaming the length of Eastern Road at way past their bedtime. Lisa and I barricaded ourselves in for the rest of the evening, but as this night-vision CCTV footage shows, the witches were out after midnight...

Amelie Witch Project
Fortunately Supernanny is on her way. Amelie's Auntie Marie will be here in two hours time. And she lives in Croydon, so she's used to dealing with youth crime.