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Sunday, January 31, 2010

It's Amelie at Hove dog track!

Careful, he'll have your hand off.
Obviously she's paying no attention whatsoever to the real dogs, but that's because she's worked out that greyhounds that size are ten a penny, whereas the one with the three foot nose is clearly something special, and worthy of feeding with the Minstrels she's stolen off Daddy.

As it happens, we've been out for most of the day today. Lisa's Mum celebrated the latest of her numerous birthdays on Thursday, so as a special gift from all three of us, we picked her up this morning, filled her pockets full of change, and let her go to the dogs. By the time we got home seven hours later, Lisa's Mum was a rich woman, Amelie was dripping blood, and I was praying there weren't any social workers watching from the grandstand.

It all started well enough. Amelie went trotting along trackside...

She checked the dividend from her Daddy's last bet...

Paying DividendsAnd then she fell flat on her face and cut her lip open. Although, to be fair, that didn't bother her as much as the mouthful of gravel she picked up at the same time. I think she's still chewing on grit as we speak.

Now, admittedly that all happened on my watch, and I was essentially too busy taking photos to bother strapping on her baby reins, but I still don't think it was my fault. If she manages to find the only two-foot patch of gravel in the whole stadium, and immediately dive headlong into it, that's her lookout. She's got me to thank for wiping the sand off her tongue. Which is no easy task when you're struggling to see past the blood.

Anyhoo, by the time Lisa came back from the toilets, Amelie had been cleaned up and cheered up, and I would have got away with it all... if only her top lip hadn't swelled up.

LippyPersonally I think it suits her. She looks like she's had collagen implants. And all for the price of admission. Which on a Sunday is free.

I took Amelie back outside twenty minutes later, so Lisa said to me "See if you can bring her back with a black eye this time". I felt that was a bit harsh. Especially when you consider what happened on Lisa's watch a couple of hours later...

We went straight from the greyhound stadium to drink tea and eat cake with the ex-wife of Lisa's cousin, and her daughter, who is Lisa's first cousin once removed and Amelie's... um... distant relative. They have a cat called Millie. Millie has claws. And Amelie now has a claw-shaped wound on her hand. I'm not saying Lisa neglected her, but Amelie and I spent the whole afternoon surrounded by dogs, and she didn't get so much as a bite.

Friday, January 29, 2010

I took this photo a couple of hours ago whilst strolling along the seafront with Amelie...

Shepherd's Delight
Unfortunately we were heading the other way towards Asda, where the sky was distinctly dull. And by the time we came back, it was dark. But it was worth turning around for. All those people who say 'never look back' don't know what they're talking about.

As it happens, I'm not the only person in this family who spends a lot of time pushing a buggy. Over the past couple of days, Amelie's become obsessed with a doll's buggy she got for Christmas, which had previously lain untouched and gathering dust for more than four weeks. It's particularly spooky, because at work this morning, our senior administrator asked me if Amelie would like a Winnie the Pooh doll's buggy which used to belong to her daughter. She's been looking for a good home for it since her daughter stopped playing with it. Which is quite touching, because her daughter's eighteen. Either they're choosy about who they give it to, or the girl needs to grow up a bit.

Anyway, I've graciously accepted, and we'll be receiving it next week. But in the meantime, Amelie's getting her money's worth out of the old one. This is her unwinding before bedtime, shortly after we got back from Asda this evening...

I like the way she says "Back up, back up" as she reverses across the living room. She'll make a good HGV driver one day. She'll also be a lot of help if we ever have a second child. We just need to make sure the baby's wearing a crash helmet at all times.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

I had a patient at Crawley Hospital today with a surname so odd that I actually asked him if we'd spelt it wrong. It turned out that we hadn't, so I told him I'd never met anyone with that name before. He said "I'm not surprised, there are only thirteen of us in the world". I was slightly taken aback by that, and asked how he knew. He replied that he'd researched the name thoroughly and found that most of them were living in his house.

In addition to that chap, I also met a young Indian man whose Christian name (well, Hindu name) had fifteen letters and seven syllables. But frankly that's nothing unusual in Crawley. The two receptionists spent all day daring me to call him by his first name, but I told them it's important to maintain a decent level of respect for your patients. So I called him 'Sir' throughout.

The work rota changes next week, so from now on I'll only be in Crawley for one week every seven. I broke the news gently to the ladies on reception, and they said they're not sure how they'll get through seven weeks without seeing me. Mind you, they also told me they "like a giggle", so they could have been joking. As I left, one of them added that they're planning to report me for being too nice to the patients. Apparently "when you're here, they all come out of the room chuckling". I should probably stop using laughing gas instead of eye drops.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

It's Big Sis in the world's eighth largest mosque!

Muslim Square
That's a Muslim square. Which is also what Lisa uses to clean up after Amelie.

Anyhoo, Big Sis has been in Abu Dhabi this week selling sand to the Arabs. Details are a little sketchy at the moment (I can't get Al Jazeera on Freeview), but apparently the hotel was so empty that she was surrounded at all times by fifteen staff members with flannels offering her dates. Which makes a change because it's usually her dates giving her flannel.

As you can see from the picture above, she's taken to Islam like a duck to holy water, so it's only a matter of time before she's down at Finsbury Park with Captain Hook. But despite that, Sis hasn't completely turned her back on her Christian roots. According to the exclusive e-mail I received this morning, "a guy from Jerusalem gave me a lift one day and told me he is linked to the royal family in Jordan". That's what I call being raised up by the King of Kings. Either that, or it was Peter Andre. Mind you, if it really had been Jesus, he wouldn't have given her a lift, he'd have told her to pick up her bed and walk.

Anyway, the good news is she's home now. Before leaving for St Lucia on Friday. She's just got time to get the headscarf in the wash and pack a couple of thongs.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Amelie's back, and she's been reunited with her teddy bear...

She wasn't that keen on it when she left, but after three days in St Leonards with a moth-eaten old horse, she's seeing that bear in a whole new light.

On the downside, her attempts to ride it across the living room floor like a Shetland Pony have met with only limited success...

I'm sure she'll have better luck with Chloe.

As for me, I had a slightly better day at work today. I spent the morning alone in a room with a young nurse who introduced herself, shook my hand, and said "Please do anything you want with me". So I showed her how to screen diabetics for retinopathy.

She was actually a practice nurse from one of the local surgeries, and having spent the past year sending patients to us for screening, she decided she ought to sit in on a clinic and find out what we do with them. So she was given to me for the morning. She was like Barbara Windsor to my Jim Dale. Although the only lovely pairs on display were eyes. It was all very enjoyable though. And as a bonus, I got to drink tea and gossip about Lisa's doctor with someone else who's always thought she was a bit odd. It doesn't get any better than that.

Monday, January 25, 2010

It's been a day of endless trials at Lewes Hospital. And not just because it's next door to the prison. I've had one of those days where every little thing that can go wrong, did go wrong. Although last time I was there, the roof leaked and the room flooded, so I suppose it could have been worse. Anyhoo, I won't go into details, but suffice it to say I didn't get out to the charity shops at lunchtime. That's how bad it got.

So I need to relax and unwind a bit this evening. And as luck would have it, I have an instructional video to follow. I shot this on Saturday evening whilst Amelie was unwinding to the soothing sounds of The Bedtime Hour on CBeebies. You can just see her calming down and relaxing...

... as she runs off with the contents of my parents' mantelpiece.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

This little rosy-cheeked cherub of cuteness is me, hanging out with the pigeons in Cornwallis Gardens, near the centre of Hastings, in 1976...

Those pigeons are dead now.
I think my Mum used to bleach my hair in those days. She's responsible for my clothes too.

But thirty-four years and a few fashion trends later, here's Amelie in the same spot this morning...

Girlz n the Hood
She's perfected the trademark Gardner pleased-with-yourself expression, and taken it to new heights with the use of both hands.

Anyhoo, Lisa was keen to spend some time alone with Facebook this morning, so while my parents were at church, I took Amelie out for a walk down memory lane. We left St Leonards behind us (because frankly I don't remember that at all) and headed along the seafront to the White Rock Gardens in Hastings. As a small boy, and borderline sporting prodigy, I regularly played tennis there during the holidays I spent at the home of my Auntie Jean. Who wasn't my real Auntie, but could hit a tennis ball with the best of them.

The place looked much as I remember it (apart from the massive gym they've built next to the bowling green), so I decided to take the old shortcut through the private hospital over the road, and give Amelie a look at Auntie Jean's old flat in Clifton Court. The hospital turned out to be a housing estate, but Clifton Court hasn't changed a bit. Although it looks about half the size it did when I was six. Probably because I'm twice as big.

From there it was over to Cornwallis Gardens, where I fed the pigeons about three times a year until I was ten...

That 70s Show
They all seem to have flown the nest now. The only birds we saw were the chav women walking their pitbulls past the homeless alcoholics.

Clifton Suspension
That's Clifton Court in the top left. I tried to position Amelie's buggy to hide the empty gin bottle lying on the ground, but sadly it's still visible. To be honest, the area's gone downhill since I spent my happy childhood holidays there. Amelie seemed to like it, but let's face it, she's used to spending time in the hood. Although hers is fur-lined, so it's not surprising.

We made our way back via Bohemia, which is not as unconventional as it sounds, and arrived back at my parents' bungalow in time for lunch. After which Lisa and I made a swift getaway. So swift, in fact, that we accidentally drove off with Amelie's clothes. So it's a good job she likes that coat. She'll be wearing it to bed tomorrow night.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

I think we've tamed the wild beast.

City Slicker
And the horse looks a lot calmer too.

(Joke © Phil's Mum)

Friday, January 22, 2010

We're off to St Leonards tonight to see my parents. It's a trip which has been on the cards since about 1pm on Monday when I handed four pound coins to an old dear in a charity shop and walked out with a moth-eaten old horse. As things stand right now, Shergar is in the boot of my car with a bin liner over his head. I wasn't going to let Amelie see him yet, in case she got over-excited by the awesome magnificence of the thing, and refused to go to bed until we let her ride it for an hour. But unfortunately she caught a glimpse of him standing in the hallway on Wednesday night. I say unfortunately, because she took one look at him, thought it was some kind of dangerous dog, and ran screaming in the other direction. We've been forced to hide him under a blanket ever since, just so she can sleep at night. So it's either St Leonards or a skip. And Amelie got outvoted.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

So like I say, today's weather forecast for Sussex was "heavy rain".

So here's my view from the window of Consulting Room 5 in the Outpatients Department of Crowborough Hospital at 10am this morning...

This was the scene an hour later...

And by lunchtime it looked like this...

So they got the 'heavy' bit right. I spent most of the day looking at the examination couch in the corner of the room, and wondering if I'd be spending the night there.

I'm obviously some kind of wimp though, because most of my patients still turned up. I had a steady stream of diabetics in their eighties trudging in and telling me it wasn't that bad out there. Mind you, most of them live on farms or in stately homes, so either they got a lift in a tractor, or they had their butler dig the Rolls out of the snow for them.

Bizarrely however, the bad weather seemed to be restricted to Crowborough and virtually nowhere else. Having swept three inches of snow off my car at the end of the day, and edged gingerly out of the hospital car park, I drove two miles down the road and saw nothing but green fields and rain for the rest of the way home. Either I've got my own personal storm cloud, or God's got it in for Crowborough.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Having finally shaken the swine of a cold which dogged me over the festive period, I think I've been well for about a week now. So guess what? I've caught another cold. Frankly even Victor Meldrew would find this more believable than I do. I've spent the entire day at work with a sore throat and a stuffy nose. I wouldn't mind, but if I buy any more Sudafed from the local chemist, they're going to report me for being a pusher.

On top of that, it's a week now since the snow drifted over Sussex and I had to cancel an all-day clinic in Crowborough. So guess what? I'm due to go there again tomorrow, and they're forecasting more snow. Although the latest weather report has downgraded it to "heavy rain". So if I don't get snowed in, I'll be washed away in a flood.

But on the bright side, I've attacked my horse with upholstery cleaner, gone off my rocker with wood restorer, and groomed it with a clothes brush. Or maybe that should be a clothes horse brush.

I'm quite pleased with the results in the mane. Especially as a lot of the work was done on the hoof. Amelie hasn't seen it yet though. I can't fit both her and the horse in the living room at the same time. I may have to pray to St Leonard for an answer.

Monday, January 18, 2010

I have to say, the one thing I can do without at 8:15 on a Monday morning when I'm on the way to a far-flung clinic, is a sign saying 'Road Closed'. Unfortunately that's what I got today. I was heading to Haywards Heath for an all-day screen-fest, and the route I usually take is the one over Ditchling Beacon. It's the best way of avoiding traffic. Particularly when the road's completely shut. Apparently the snow turned it into a bobsleigh run, and they still haven't reopened it to traffic. Although it's probably passable with huskies.

So after looking at my watch and experiencing a moment of panic, I ditched the beacon and headed for the A23. Straight into a major traffic jam. Well, I say major. It seemed quite big at the time, but that was before I got to the outskirts of Haywards Heath and experienced the one they had there.

On the plus side, the good thing about sitting in your car and not moving, is that it gives you plenty of time to phone the office and ask them to let the clinic know you'll be late. I eventually arrived 35 minutes later than planned, and five minutes after my first patient. I wouldn't mind, but the consulting room I was using is the one with the two-way mirror, so it's hard to sneak in late without anyone noticing.

It wasn't all bad though. The journey might have been a 'mare, but I bought a horse at lunchtime. I went into the nearest charity shop at 1pm and found an old wooden rocking horse for four quid. So after my Mum's comment yesterday, I felt I had to buy it for Amelie. To be honest, it's seen better days, and is closer to the knacker's yard than the stud farm. It also doesn't have a tail. But I bet it could tell a few. It's actually a beautifully crafted bit of childhood memorabilia. At least that's what I'll be telling the Antiques Roadshow when it comes to Brighton.

On the down side, we don't have room for it in the flat, so it might have to live in the boot of my car, but when I've hosed the thing down and treated it for mange, it's going to be gorgeous.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

I took this photo yesterday afternoon as I was walking down to Asda with Amelie...

Horsing About at Brighton Marina
It's just a typical everyday scene of urban normality, featuring a bus, some cars, a multi-storey car park, the back of a cinema and a bit of grafitti.

Oh, and a horse heading for Brighton Marina.

I think sugar lumps are buy-one-get-one-free at Asda.

He actually belongs to the little tinkers who have set up a caravan park at Black Rock over the festive period. When I walked down to the marina for my work's Christmas meal on December 4th, he was tied to a lamp post on Duke's Mound, along with another horse. But every time I've walked past since, he's been alone on the grass. So it's obvious what the gypsies ate for Christmas dinner.

When Am and I ambled past yesterday however, he was taking a leaf out of his owners' book and doing some new-age travelling of his own. Straight towards Pizza Hut. You can't blame him really. For eight weeks he's been forced to graze on bushes next to the gay cruising capital of Brighton. He's probably off to buy some blinkers.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

I do love a bit of intrigue and mystery. Lisa received a letter from her GP this morning. It reads:

"Dear Patient,

I regret to advise you that Dr Linda Allenby has now left Regency Surgery due to unforeseen personal circumstances. She will not be returning to the practice for the foreseeable future. Please do not try to contact the Doctor by telephone, letter, fax or e-mail. We would appreciate it if you did not question the reception staff as they are bound by confidentiality."

I've no idea what that's all about, but if they're warning you not to ask any questions, it's bound to be good. The obvious explanation is that she's been removed for being a fruit loop, but let's face it, that would hardly be "unforeseen". The lady's been slightly screwy for years. It's why her patients love her. After all, this is the woman who removed Amelie's belly button with a pocket sewing kit. Personally I think she's been abducted by aliens.

But the good news is, I've met a potential replacement. I was doing a clinic at the hospital yesterday morning and they gave me a third-year medical student to look after. I spent an hour and a half showing her the delights of retinal screening, and chatting to her about the life of a trainee doctor. I know we end up paying them pretty well, but having heard about the three penniless years she's spent juggling a life of study and step-children, and the two punishing years she still has to go, I think they deserve every penny. She's on a train from Eastbourne at 6:30 every morning, gets home to the kids at the same time that evening, and still has an essay to write before bed. And then she has to work with me for a morning. It's no wonder they end up going loopy and appealing to aliens.

But in other news, I've been attempting to introduce some culture into Amelie's life by playing her opera. Well, to be honest, I just sat her on the sofa in front of the repeat of 'Popstar to Opera Star' on ITV1 this morning. But it amounts to the same thing. Apparently classical music boosts their intelligence and calms their mood, allowing them to enjoy more cerebral activities like childcare and reading...

I probably should have stopped filming before she ran amok over the back of the sofa. And I'm hoping no one will notice that she had the book upside down. But other than that, it was a complete success.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

This message was sent out today in the hospital's All-Staff Info Mail...

Reminiscence (Rummage) Boxes

We would like to create a stock of reminiscence boxes (also known as rummage boxes) for older patients to aid memory or act as talking points and to bring comfort by seeing the familiar. We would propose that the Barry Building would have two or three and then the other divisions one each. Patients with disorientation often find these boxes interesting and previously unsettled patients can take great interest in the contents.

We are looking for items to fill the boxes such as playing cards, photos from the 20th century which we will scan and laminate, board games especially dominoes, and items that might prompt discussion such as old fashioned pegs, dolls in good condition (research has proven that many disorientated people find holding a doll comforting) or anything that would remind someone of the past. We would welcome any suggestions and loads of donations!

How sweet is that. Instead of pumping distressed pensioners full of tranquilisers, we're going to let them rummage through a box of old knick-knacks. I honestly think that's brilliant. Just the fact that we're trying to come up with new ways to comfort elderly patients is really quite lovely. It's what you might call thinking outside the rummage box.

Sadly I don't have any old-fashioned pegs, and the only dominoes I've got are old pizza boxes, but I do have a lot of photos from the 20th century. I might donate some shots of my 21st birthday party. I love the idea anyway. When I'm old and confused (well, older and even more confused), there's nothing I'd like more than to rummage through a box of iPhones and Wiis to remind me of the good old days.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Ok, a joke's a joke, and we've all had a good laugh, but I'm starting to get bored with this snow now. I'm so busy trying to save the young, the old and the diabetic from the ravages of a British winter that it's leaving me no time to blog. On Monday I rescued my frozen chip off the old block of ice from an igloo in St Leonards. On Tuesday I stayed late at the hospital to screen a patient who'd been delayed by a snow-induced power cut which had left his entire street without electricity for most of the day. And tonight, after another avalanche in the early hours of this morning, I've been back up to the snowy peaks of the Bristol Estate to deliver emergency rations to Lisa's Mum. I'm not sure she's been out since Christmas. She'd probably have cabin fever if she wasn't already a bit loopy.

I've had to leave Lisa and Amelie up there too. Lisa has an appointment tomorrow morning to have her brace tightened at the local torture chamber, and her Mum's supposed to be babysitting. Which would be fine if the lady hadn't been snowed in for a fortnight. So with little prospect of either Lisa or her Mum managing to get to each other unaided in the morning, I took it upon myself to deliver them a day early. So if we get any more snow tonight, they'll all be stuck there.

On top of all that, I've had a draining day on the phone, cancelling clinics across Sussex. I did speak to a man in his eighties who still had every intention of walking to his appointment this morning, but him aside, most people were only too pleased to wait until global warming's kicked in a bit more.

Having cancelled most of today's clinics, the decision was made to cancel the one I was due to take in Crowborough tomorrow. People from there kept phoning up like prophets of doom, telling us how bad the conditions are and trying to warn us off. So I started to call the patients on my list to tell them I wouldn't be coming. I got through to the wife of a man I was due to see first thing in the morning, so I asked if I could speak to him in person. She said "I'm afraid not, he's in Wales at the moment".

I was tempted to say "What's his name - Jonah?", but I didn't. I chose instead to say "Oh, so he's not coming to the appointment then?". She replied "Yes he is, he's driving back tonight".

You've got to admire commitment like that. The country's in the grip of snow, and he's driving all the way from Wales to Crowborough just to see me for a retinal screening appointment. He's not going to be happy when he gets there and finds I've cancelled it.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Amelie's back! Hurrah!

She's slightly blurrier than she was a week ago, and if you could see that clock on the DVD player, you'd know she was up way past her bedtime. She also seems to have her Hitler hair back. But the important thing is she's home. It takes more than a bit of snow and ice to keep me from my daughter. Although, with hindsight, if I'm going to drive all the way to St Leonards after work, I probably should have offered to take my parents some shopping, rather than just turning up, digging Amelie out of the snow, and coming home.

Especially as I ate most of their food while I was there.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

It's me and Lisa relaxing in a luxury double room with seaview at the Hilton Brighton Metropole!

Metropole Dancers
We had to take that photo quickly and get out of there before the owner came back. We could never afford a room like that.

We actually spent yesterday at the 2010 Brighton AA Convention. It's becoming an annual event for us - we went last year and also the year before. So you'd think Lisa would know her way around by now, and not head into a cupboard when she's looking for the toilets. Sadly that wasn't the case. To be honest, I could have done with Amelie's baby reins.

At previous conventions, our £7 entry fee has entitled us to free pens, notepads and hug coupons (or firm handshakes for non-members). This year we got a linen bag...

Just William
I had no idea Wordsworth was an alcoholic.

Anyhoo, having wandered lonely as a snow cloud through the icy streets of Brighton, we made it to the Metropole in time for the main meeting yesterday afternoon. And very good it was too. The organisers seemed to have learned from last year and booked people who not only had something to say, but could say it in English, and with a microphone that actually worked. This time it was the message which resonated, and not the feedback from the PA system.

With the meeting over, Lisa caught up with a couple of old friends, while I bumped into an old TV presenter I used to love in the early nineties. It's surprising how many of my favourite people in this world seem to be recovering alcoholics. It doesn't bode well for Amelie.

But anyhoo, that done, we headed into town through a major blizzard, only to be apprehended by a policeman outside Churchill Square. I thought for a moment he'd discovered that I sometimes put Pink Lady apples through the self-service checkout at Asda as Golden Delicious, but it turned out that he'd seen Lisa drop her Bill bag in the snow, and was just returning it to us. Frankly it was impossible to get rid of that thing.

With the weather a little inclement, we decided to return home at teatime for something warming. Like a radiator. It turned out to be a bad decision. By the time we headed back out again, the buses had stopped running due to icy conditions. Not that we knew that. Although by the time we'd stood at the bus stop in freezing conditions for twenty-five minutes, we had a pretty good idea.

So with little alternative, we jumped in the car and drove (well, slid) back to the hotel. The car park costs more than three quid an hour, but it's still cheaper than a taxi. And besides, I didn't want to be stuck in a snowdrift with the meter running. Once there, we rendezvoused with a friend who was staying the weekend at the hotel, stole her key, and went up to her room to change for the disco. And take photos. Ten minutes later we were on the dancefloor, jiving the night away to the sobering sounds of Michael Jackson and other assorted drug users. An hour after that, we were failing to win the raffle. And by 11:15pm we were moonwalking upstairs with sore feet to collect our belongings.

It was just as Lisa finished pulling up her tights and putting her shoes on, that the door opened and our friend's room-mate walked in. I wouldn't mind, but no one told us she was sharing a room. Two minutes earlier, she'd have seen us undressed. Five minutes later, we'd have found her in bed. We timed that getaway to perfection.

Saturday, January 09, 2010

It's surprising how little time you have for blogging when you're busy helping the old and infirm to survive the winter. And I'm not talking about Lisa. Although I did trudge down to the Co-op on Thursday night to buy her some chocolate.

Having finished work yesterday afternoon, and returned home with no intention of going out again, I looked at the weather forecast and decided that maybe this was as good as it was going to get, and we should head down to Asda before the next ice age strikes. Although judging by the icicle outside our living room window, it already has...

Ice, Ice, Baby
I'm planning to use it to stab someone. It's the perfect murder weapon - you can commit the crime and then let the evidence melt.

But anyhoo, Amelie is currently snowed in at St Leonards, and at this rate we won't get her back until February, but at least it gave Lisa a chance to join me on a shopping trip without fear of any tantrums at the checkout. Apart from the one I throw when I see how much money she's spent. So we phoned Lisa's Mum to get a shopping list from her too. She asked for some frozen food. I told her it would all be like that by the time we got it up the hill.

And I wasn't far wrong. I hadn't used my car since Tuesday, and it was so covered in frozen snow that I could have done with a hammer, a chisel and a blowtorch just to get it into a drivable state. The roads were worse than I expected too. But we got to Asda safely. Just as the first blizzard of the weekend started.

Fortunately we had a smashing time at Asda. Quite literally. Lisa dropped a jar of baby food in the toiletries aisle. It gave a whole new meaning to the phrase 'Supermarket Sweep'. Although we didn't hang around to watch them clear it up.

Anyhoo, our journey up the steep hill to deliver food to Lisa's Mum was one of the more nail-biting things I've done in recent weeks. The road's a bus route, but no buses have been up there since Tuesday, and it hadn't even been gritted. We eventually had to abandon the car at the top of her cul-de-sac, and walk the rest of the way there. By the time we got to her flat, the bananas were like ice lollies and you could have used the lentil soup as a doorstop. I spent the whole trip thinking we were mad to be doing it, but we've had even more snow overnight, so I'm pretty glad we did.

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

It's been another day of snow-induced chaos in the NHS. Personally I've spent it sitting in an office with a packet of throat lozenges and a box of clinical tissues, trying to keep my voice going long enough to phone a lengthy list of patients and cancel their appointments for today and tomorrow. Half of them seemed to be engaged. Mostly, it transpired, because they were trying to phone us for exactly the same reason.

We did speak to one chap who was very angry that we were refusing to send a screener from Brighton to Crowborough tomorrow. The roads might be impassable, and the cottage hospital virtually cut off from the outside world, but as he put it to us on the phone, "it's only snow". It's hard to argue with logic like that. I expect the man breeds huskies for a living.

But amidst the snow flakiness, I did receive one of the most startling work-related e-mails I've ever had. It came courtesy of one of the health centres where we hold screening clinics every week, and it requested that we no longer leave our camera by the wall at the side of the consulting room, and instead store it in the opposite corner. That's not the startling bit. The startling bit is the reason why they want us to move it. Apparently their mental health team want to start using the room's two-way mirror, and we're blocking their view.


I dread to think how many people have watched me pluck my nose hairs between patients. No wonder I heard a response when I asked who was the fairest screener of them all.

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

One of my patients today told me that the current spell of weather we're experiencing is "the coldest it's been for a hundred years". She didn't say which hundred years, but I presume she can't mean the last lot. Although she was old enough to have seen most of them.

At the time, I was sitting in a warm consulting room on the fourth floor of Crawley Hospital, so I laughed in the face of her global cooling conspiracy theories. But it's now 9:30pm and it's been snowing for the past three hours. I know that, because Lisa's Mum has phoned us twice this evening - once to tell us it's snowing, and then an hour later to say it's settling. She'll be phoning back shortly to say it's drifting. It's a handy service, because it saves me going to the window.

But despite the sub-zero temperatures, the good news is that my frozen heart has now melted. Lisa returned home this afternoon, shortly after texting me at work to say that she wouldn't be back until tomorrow. She thought it would be a lovely surprise. And it was a surprise. When I got home, I thought we had burglars.

But fortunately Lisa's not the only one who enjoys jokes. I snuck out to the front door an hour ago, scooped up a big snowball, and crept back inside with it. Tragically, however, Lisa refused my request to stand in the bath so that I could throw it at her, and I was reluctant to soak the living room carpet, so we ended up in a Mexican standoff and I was forced to chuck it down the sink. As practical jokes go, it wasn't what you'd call successful. But it's nice to have her back. To be honest, I'm lost without her. And I'll need someone to help me shovel snow in the morning.

Monday, January 04, 2010

A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away (we're talking Crawley here), I said that I was struggling to call my patients because I'd almost lost my voice. That was December 23rd. Well I've had twelve days of Christmas since then, and frankly I still haven't found it. I spent this morning croaking people's names from the door of a hospital consulting room and praying they wouldn't ask me any questions once I got them inside. I'm sure I've taken a turn for the worse since Lisa left me.

But I've been buoyed by the news that I'm not alone in my suffering. Having attempted to discuss retinopathy with a patient who had even less voice than I did this morning (we ended up whispering in each other's ears), and then been faced with a lady who sneezed on the lens of my camera, I returned to the office at lunchtime to discover that my boss and his wife have had exactly the same affliction over Christmas. I sound like I'm doing a permanent impression of them both. Which is the kind of mocking behaviour that could get me fired.

But talking of people with dodgy careers (and cold noses), I've found a fantastic new way to keep in touch with my old school mates. Never mind Friends Reunited and Facebook, I just read The Daily Mail...

Snow Joke
That's Trevor, who was my best (and some would say only) friend when I was 16. He's now guarding snowmen in Lancashire for a living.

But not all my old chums have moved so far from Essex. Allan, a good friend with whom I played in a band for two years, and who spent most of his life in a black leather jacket, inviting me to parties round at his place, has now been selected as a Labour Party candidate for the upcoming general election. It's odd how people's lives turn out. I used to sit next to him in English lessons and wonder what possible career would suit someone with such bad handwriting. And then you see him in photos like this...

... and suddenly it all makes sense.

Obviously both Trev & Al are now media darlings, but if you want to know who was responsible for getting their names into print for the very first time, then look no further than the credits of this twenty-year-old classic of English literature. I know star quality when I see it.

Sunday, January 03, 2010

It's me and Am in front of Hastings Pier!

Pier Pressure
Ignoring the fact that I look like a hamster with a beard, you'll probably notice that one of us looks a lot happier to be there than the other. That's because one of us had gloves. The other had hands so cold she didn't even know she was holding a biscuit.

Anyhoo, I took that photo at 11:30am this morning, during Amelie's daily constitutional near her convalescent home by the seaside. I'm due back at work tomorrow, and with Lisa currently on day 16 of the Swine Cold, it was decided that she shouldn't be left alone with Amelie. Mainly because she's liable to throw up on the carpet. Shortly after falling over on it.

So with Lisa's Mum refusing to step foot over our threshold in case she catches something hideous (and I don't mean sight of me first thing in the morning), I was left with no option but to place Lisa and Amelie into the hands of two people who are already too ill to care. So I drove them over to my parents' makeshift infirmary yesterday afternoon. They'll remain there until they're well or they outstay their welcome, whichever comes sooner. I don't think it'll be long before I see them again.

In return, I've agreed to take back Chloe. She went back to St Leonards with my Mum after Christmas (I think she was packed in the wrong suitcase), so rather than come home alone this afternoon, I took Chloe off my parents' hands and brought her back to Brighton. It's a bit like swapping your cow for some magic beans (I'm talking metaphorically there), but with a bit of luck we'll have a fairytale ending, and by the middle of the week Lisa will have stopped knocking on death's door and be back to falling over the kitchen baby-gate. In the meantime though, I'll miss my little family.

Friday, January 01, 2010

It's 2010! Hurrah!

Pencil PusherAmelie started the new year at 9am this morning by stealing some coloured pencils from a drawer in the living room and writing all over her face. I stopped her just as she was turning herself into Gene Simmons from Kiss. That picture doesn't show it very well, but she actually has a very fetching pencil moustache. Ginger has never looked so attractive.

Anyhoo, the good news is that Amelie's a lot better this year than she was at the end of last year. The bad news is that her parents still don't feel up to looking after her. As the marginally less ill partner in this relationship, I spent yesterday as Amelie's primary carer. The result of which is that I've spent today feeling... well, spent. My body's completely drained. If only I could say the same for my sinuses.

But despite our ongoing near-death experience, we have now managed to try Lisa's main Christmas present. I bought her a Wii with 'Wii Fit Plus', an overpriced piece of plastic which she's convinced will be the answer to her lifelong weight issues. Personally I think a psychiatrist and a pair of glasses would do it, but the Wii Fit's a lot cheaper.

So having set up her 'Mii' - a lifelike visual representation of her actual appearance (and may I say, the likeness is uncanny), Lisa embarked on the 'Basic Balance Test', a simple procedure designed to assess her natural equilibrium. Here's the result...

I have to say, I had no idea the software was so advanced. It's like the thing's known her for years.

So having discovered just how unstable Lisa really is, we tried a couple of the fitness routines, after which Lisa declared the whole thing to be "very good". A judgement which might have carried more weight if she hadn't been buttering a fruit scone at the time.