Subscribe: Subscribe to me on YouTube

Sunday, February 28, 2010

It's another perfect picture for the Gardner family album...

Who invited Fungus the Bogeyman?
Goodness knows what's going on with my ears. I look like Charles Clarke after a stomach stapling. And those horizontal stripes are doing me no favours. People are going to think I'm wearing a rubber ring. But other than that, it's a lovely photo. I might frame it for Mother's Day.

Where's Noddy?Anyhoo, when I'm not modelling myself on Fungus the Bogeyman (left), I've been visiting various relatives in the far east. That's the far east of Sussex. Pictured above are Lisa (no relation), Big Sis and Niece M. Absent are Amelie and her two primary carers, my Mum and Dad. They were busy congregating around a nappy in another room, so we left them to it and got on with the photos.

We were all gathered in St Leonards yesterday to celebrate the fact that Big Sis has been spared jail yet again. At least that's what it felt like. As it happens, Sis has just been on a half-day 'Speed Awareness' course, after being caught doing 36mph in a 30mph limit. Which in Brown's broken Britain is as close as you can get to a hanging offence. She was offered the choice of either three points on her licence and a public flogging, or the chance to eat sandwiches all morning at a Hilton hotel with a bunch of fellow road-hogs. She chose the latter.

Anyway, I'm not saying Sis has come back a changed person - let's face it, if the road to Damascus has a speed limit, she'd probably break it - but she did seem quite evangelical about the whole thing. Frankly she could talk about nothing else all day. By teatime I felt like I'd done the course twice myself. In fact, she kept us talking for so long that I had to drive home at 80mph just to get back in time for All Star Mr & Mrs.

When I say that Sis could talk about nothing but Speed Awareness all day, I am of course joking. She also spent a lot of time raving about Glee. I even had to sit through a rendition of the show's latest single which Sis had downloaded onto her iPhone. Frankly I got more adult conversation from my ten-year-old niece. Or I would have done if she wasn't a massive Glee fan too. I ended up talking to Amelie.

But the best thing about family reunions is that they give you the chance to bond with your nearest and dearest. And sure enough, nothing brings a family closer together than taking a few photos in the bedroom, suggesting a quick game of volleyball, and then watching your sister smash a light bulb with an inflatable beach ball and short out half the lights in your parents' bungalow. As I said to Sis as we stumbled about in the dark, trying to pick up fragments of broken glass before the red-hot filament burnt a hole in the carpet: speed awareness or no speed awareness, we both need to make a quick getaway.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Lisa asked me to take a photo of her fat face last night. That was her description, not mine. When I did, she told me to put it on my blog...

Either she's trying to motivate herself to lose weight, or she's about to have plastic surgery and wants a 'before' photo. The other possibility is that she's leaving me and needs a profile picture for

But whilst I ponder that mystery (Nik Kershaw would call it a riddle), we're heading over to St Leonards to pick up a talented animal impressionist. I spoke to Amelie on the phone yesterday morning, and it was like having a direct line to Old McDonald's Farm. All she said was miaow, quack and baa. I could barely get a woof in edgeways.

But the good news is that Big Sis has arrived at my parents' for the weekend. Which means Amelie is now communicating with us via iPhone and Facebook. The last we heard, her auntie was trying to teach her to be a kangeroo. So by the time we get there, Big Sis will have run her over.

Friday, February 26, 2010

It's 80's legend, Nik Kershaw!

Wot No Mullet?
But enough about him, let's talk about Martin Newnham. I must admit, when it comes to seeing support acts, Lisa and I don't have a great track record. By the time we've said miaow to Amelie, instructed the babysitter on how to use the remote control, and waited twenty minutes for a bus, we tend to arrive just in time to hear the words 'Thank you and goodnight'. But fortunately yesterday's gig was at Concorde 2, which is only about 300 metres away as the seagull flies. Although when Lisa saw the rain, she still asked if we could get a bus.

But with Amelie doing her animal impressions out of earshot in St Leonards, we took off early, made it to Concorde 2 in supersonic time, and checked-in at the perfect moment: just too late to get a seat, but so early that we had to stand around in an empty room for forty-five minutes before anything happened.

Martin Newnham - City FolkIt was worth waiting for though. Mr Newnham turned out to be a worthy support act for the mulleted midget. You'd expect someone called Martin to do house music, but he actually performed some passionate folk on the acoustic guitar and harmonica. I thought he was very good, particularly the songs 'Whispers' and 'Bring You Sunshine' (which I expect was a tribute to the short fat hairy legs of Nik Kershaw), so as someone who's prepared to put his money where his mouth is, I got my wallet out from between my clenched teeth and paid eight quid for his album 'City Folk'.

It was Martin Newnham himself who served me on the merchandise stand during the interval, but tragically I didn't get his autograph or insist on posing for a cheesy photo, because Lisa somehow managed to convince me that it wasn't him. Despite repeatedly telling her that the chap selling CDs was the man we'd watched on stage half an hour earlier, she kept insisting that "he wasn't that ginger". Unfortunately for both me and him, he was. But I didn't discover that until I'd treated him like a simple shopkeeper, walked away, and looked at his picture on the CD cover. That'll teach him to be so unassuming.

As for the main event, here's Nik Kershaw performing his 1985 hit, 'Don Quixote'...

I bought that on 7" single when I was eleven. We've both lost a lot of hair since then.

But fortunately Nik hasn't lost his talent. You need to have a certain amount of ability to perform synth-pop hits from the 1980s on an acoustic guitar. I'd like to see Rick Astley try that. Compare and contrast that version of Don Quixote with the one Nik Kershaw performed in front of a worldwide audience of 400 million at Live Aid...

Personally I prefer the one I filmed.

Anyhoo, last night's audience was approximately 81,900 smaller than the one at Wembley Stadium in 1985, but it was no less appreciative. Nik played most of his 80s hits, plus a lot of his 90s misses, and they were all equally good. 'Billy' from his 1999 album '15 Minutes' (a reference to the time it would take to count how many copies it sold) was particularly good. And I greatly enjoyed Nik's sing-along version of the Chesney Hawkes classic, The One and Only. But here's another song that got me through my eleven-plus...

If you prefer it with big hair, the Live Aid version is here.

When I was bopping along to those songs in a Basildon bedroom in 1985, I had no idea that a quarter of a century later, I'd be using them to wish my fiancée a Happy Valentine's Day, whilst texting my Mum to ask how our daughter is. Unfortunately we're twenty-five years older now, and less able to stand for three hours without getting a bad back and sore feet, so instead of hanging around for an autograph, we staggered straight home for a nice cup of cocoa and a lie down. I think we've both aged more than the music.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

We've had a postcard from Big Sis in Saint Lucia!

Greetings from St Lucia!
I've sent her one of Bognor with similar sentiments.

The last time we heard from Big Sis, she was converting to Islam in Abu Dhabi. Since then, she's spent a week in St Lucia, but according to Facebook, she's now working in an Indian restaurant in Oxford. I have no idea why. But if my Christmas experience is anything to go by, she'll currently be standing in front of a family of eight, telling them she's run out of cutlery, and asking if they'd be willing to eat their desserts with a spatula. I'm not sure she'll get many tips.

Anyhoo, I said yesterday that my annual leave means I can take Amelie out every day. And sure enough, I took her out again yesterday afternoon. Out to my Mum's car. Where I waved goodbye to her for three days. Woo-hoo! I mean boo-hoo.

Lisa and I are heading out tonight to finally take delivery of Lisa's Valentine's gift. I've bought her Nik Kershaw. Though I still haven't wrapped him. I booked my Mum's babysitting services for tonight back in November (which is how organised I am), but being the naive fool trooper she is, she offered to have Amelie for an extra night either side, to give us a chance to go out somewhere else. Or to get some sleep.

Hangleton Manor, not Lorraine & Andy's house.So having weighed up our options (and had a nap), we went to Hangleton Manor last night with Lorraine and Andy. I haven't seen them since their wedding in October, so I wanted to find out what they bought with the vouchers we gave them. It turns out they've bought a new house. So I think a few other people must have given them vouchers too.

Anyway, I'm not saying they've done well for themselves, but frankly you could fit my entire flat in their kitchen and still have room to open the dishwasher. I didn't ask how much a five-bedroom detached house in Hove costs these days, but I think it's probably more than the average NHS salary. I might have to start investing in lottery tickets.

So having done my Loyd Grossman impression around their stunning dream home, we downsized a bit by going to Hangleton Manor for a slap-up meal without the kids. And very nice it was too. I always say that the hallmark of a good meal is when you eat so much that you have to open the car window on the way home and stick your head out like a labrador, just to avoid throwing up on the seat. Just ask Lisa. I still don't know how she hung onto that dessert.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

I'm on annual leave all this week, which means I can take Amelie out every day...

I've never seen anyone so pleased to be wheeled down to Asda on a Wednesday morning. That girl's having the time of her life.

Simples!She was pretty happy yesterday afternoon too, when I took her along Western Road and we discovered that you can buy cuddly meerkats for less than a tenner. With the exception of Chloe, they're probably her favourite animal, and she spends many a happy minute watching their regular broadcasts on ITV. I've been trying to teach her what the meerkat says (the answer being 'Simples!') but so far, she's struggling to move on from miaow.

Interestingly, however, in the past week or so, the meerkats have been replaced at the top of Amelie's tree by a new advert, which she seems to like even more. As befits an experienced NHS poster girl, she's now become obsessed with the government's new anti-smoking campaign.

The moment this little film comes on, she rushes up to the TV with a mouth wider than Macauley Culkin in Home Alone, and laughs along to the song for a full thirty seconds...

I think it's because 'Quit Kit' sounds like 'quack cat', and they're two of her most frequently used words.

As the video above demonstrates, I discovered last night that the advert is on YouTube, so shortly before leaving for Asda this morning, I played it for her on the computer, in the hope of capturing her excitement as she laughed at the futility of the pro-smoking Forest chumps...

She didn't quite reach the peak of delirium that I was expecting, but I do like the way her face drops when it finishes. I was still sitting there ten minutes later, pressing 'Replay' for the twentieth time.

Monday, February 22, 2010

It's me, Lisa and Amelie in Sheffield!

I can't believe I forgot to take my camera. Let's face it, I take the thing with me when I go to Asda, so how I managed to leave it behind on a trip halfway up the country, I have no idea. I packed the batteries for my camera, and the charger for my batteries, but the camera itself spent a relaxing weekend on a shelf in Brighton. We might be living in a world of CCTV surveillance, but I don't have a single picture of me steeling myself in Sheffield.

But despite that, we had a nice weekend. Our journey up to Chesterfield took almost five hours, which included the hour Amelie spent toddling around Toddington services on the M1. I'm proud to say that her walking skills are now so advanced that she prompted not one, but two announcements over the public address system to remind us that children are not allowed into the gambling arcade. Baby reins are all very well, but by the time I could drag her away, she'd had three of her five-a-day on those fruit machines.

Having jaywalked across the car park and discovered the high Costa coffee, we soon hit the road again, and eventually arrived at the Premier Inn in Chesterfield shortly before dusk. Admittedly the closest I normally get to five star is looking at my old 7" of System Addict, but I actually thought the place was very nice. On the downside, they forgot to put a cot in our room, and we had to wait for them to bring one up, but on the plus side, there was no sign of Lenny Henry.

Our room was spacious, with a spare bed for Amelie to bounce on, and a long corridor outside for her to run down. It was during her first escape attempt, as she disappeared into the distance towards room 28, that I realised I didn't have my camera. As a result, I have no footage of her trying to set off the fire extinguishers and head out through the emergency exit. That's the emergency exit with the loud alarm. You'll have to use your imagination.

Anyhoo, having toyed with the idea of buying a cheap camera from the neighbouring Tescos, we eventually went to bed, got a good night's sleep, and woke up to... six inches of snow, and no way of leaving. I'd show you a photo, but the weather was so bad, I couldn't make it the two hundred yards to Tesco to buy a camera. So here's an artist's impression...

Thank god I don't have a sunroof.

We'd arranged to visit Lisa's father in Sheffield at 2pm yesterday, so I'd been planning to spend the morning exploring Chesterfield. And I did. Sat in the hotel bar with my arm down the back of a sofa. Fortunately the staff were happy for Amelie for toddle around the restaurant for most of the morning while they apologised that the cleaners couldn't get in due to the snow, and attempted to work out how to use the vacuum cleaner.

By mid-afternoon the snow had cleared enough for us to get out of the car park, so a little later than planned, we gingerly made our way north to the outskirts of Sheffield, and the home of Lisa's father. It was quite a momentous occasion. As Lisa herself said, "it's the first time I've been to Sheffield sober". Which is a sobering thought in itself.

In the end we spent three hours with Lisa's father and his wife, and it was all very pleasant. Amelie spent most of the time playing with their cat, Buttons, before giving some thought to what a cat of that name would eat, and trying to feed her chocolate. Lisa spent most of the time talking. And I spent most of the time trying to wipe Amelie's hands before she ruined another piece of furniture. We eventually left shortly after she'd pulled a bulb out of a plant pot and spilt her drink on the carpet.

I was proud of Lisa. In the nine or ten times she's met her father since the age of four, it was the first time she's done so without a drink or a box of tissues. Although we needed a few for Amelie. So to celebrate, I treated my two girls to a family meal back at the hotel restaurant. Frankly I've never seen anyone eat so many chips. And Lisa had quite a few too.

After a relaxing evening (mainly because we shut Amelie's cot in the bathroom), we arose early this morning, and I finally got to see Chesterfield. I wheeled Amelie into town in the buggy while Lisa attempted to make our room look less like the Premier Inn in Haiti. Chesterfield turned out to be very nice. They've got a shopping area similar to Brighton's Lanes, but they call it 'The Shambles', which is one of the most honest descriptions I've ever read.

So we spent an interesting hour roaming around the marketplace, looking in shops, and enjoying the fact that everyone in that part of the world calls you 'darling' and 'sweetheart'. I was convinced the woman in Subway was in love with me until the next bloke came in and got exactly the same treatment. The woman in Greggs was no different. And as for the girl in KFC, frankly not even Lisa's that friendly to me. Oh, and if you're wondering, no, I haven't been sticking to my diet this weekend.

Having finally persuaded Amelie to put back the Gideon's Bible, we drove home this afternoon through another snow storm while she ran through her repertoire of animal noises in the back of the car. Her woof is coming along nicely, but the miaow starts to wear a little thin when you've heard it every three seconds for more than a hundred miles. Fortunately we arrived home at 4pm to a bit of peace and tranquility. Whereupon Amelie tagged her partner-in-crime. And let me tell you, having been left on her own for two days with nothing but a bowl of cat biscuits, Chloe had something to say.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Anyone who's been ploughing through this stuff for more than half a decade, will remember with great fondness the time I first met Lisa's father. It was five years ago today. I remember it as if it was yesterday. And I always said I'd go back there tomorrow.

Well the good news is that just 260 weeks (and about fifteen hundred blog posts) later, that day has finally arrived. We're driving up to Sheffield this morning to do it all again. Obviously we've expanded as a family since then (I'm referring to Amelie, not our waistlines), so there are three of us making the trip this time around. For that reason (and about a thousand others), we've decided not to inflict ourselves on Lisa's father and his wife, and have booked our own accommodation.

Everything's premier but the price. And the location.We're staying at the Premier Inn in Chesterfield. So I presume the room will have a sofa. According to the website, it's "Ideally located within easy reach of the M1. Local attractions include the Peak District". I've never heard the Peak District referred to as a 'local attraction' before. They make it sound like Disneyworld. Amelie's going to be very disappointed.

We're only staying for two nights, so we might not have time to peek at the local district, but it should give us ample opportunity to spend some quality time with Lisa's distant relatives. And let's face it, you don't get much more distant than Sheffield. No wonder we never hear from them.

We'll be back on Monday. If you hear miaowing, it'll be Chloe asking why nobody's fed her.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Never mind the Batphone, it's Amelie on the Mouse Phone! She's calling her tailor to ask for those trousers to be taken up. She's also becoming slightly obsessed with Makka Pakka, but I think that's only because she can't say Tombliboos...

I love that sigh at the end. She gets that from her Daddy.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

She's had it for less than a day, and I'm already worried about her computer use...

PC Whirled
I knew it was a mistake to install World of Warcraft.

But computer nerds aside, yesterday was February 17th, so naturally Lisa and I decided to celebrate Valentine's Day. We'd been planning to spice up our love life with a romantic pizza on Sunday night, but by 6pm we'd eaten the entire contents of Stefan & Andrew's kitchen, and couldn't face another carb crash. So we decided to put the deep pan on ice for a few days. But by last night, I was ready for something hot, saucy and tempting, so naturally I turned to Lisa. And asked her to order me a pizza.

We've been wanting to try a new place which has just opened around the corner from here, and which seems to cater for discerning, upwardly mobile young foodies like myself. It's called PizzaFace. And they do wild boar as a topping. It's just an invitation to pig out.

PizzaFace might only be down the road, but for people too inherently lazy to put on a pair of shoes, the good news is that they'll come to you. As they say on their website, "We do now offer delivery though, which is really taking off, especially amongst those that live within a minute's walk". Fortunately they're not talking about us there. I've timed it, and it takes a good ninety seconds. So I felt fully justified in ordering by phone.

Anyhoo, the swine flew around the corner in less than half an hour, and I was soon pigging out on boar and pancetta. And very nice it was too. In addition to going wild about boar, we also went the whole hog and ordered dessert. Which turned out not to be quite what we expected. We actually went for Booja Booja Stuff in a Tub, which is hard to order over the phone without sounding like you're taking the mickey.

We assumed it was ice cream, but it turned out to be a non-dairy, soya-free frozen dessert made from water, cactus juice and cashew nuts. It's a lot nicer than it sounds. We selected the one with a fourth ingredient: fresh root ginger. Lisa wasn't keen - she prefers something with a stronger taste of cholesterol, and likes to feel her arteries clogging with every mouthful, but personally I loved it. It simultaneously burns your mouth and freezes your tongue. So as someone who likes to blow hot and cold, I'll definitely be ordering it again.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Burgess Hill is all very well, but if you really want to have a good day, you need to head for Crowborough. I turned up there this morning with a couple of boxes of eye drops, and came home this afternoon with a laptop for Amelie...

Fat Girl Slim PadAnd what's more, I didn't steal it from the hospital. I was actually browsing through the bargains at the Hospice in the Weald charity shop at lunchtime, when I came across a Vtech Slim Pad. It might sound like some kind of modern fitness aid, but it's actually a laptop for children. Amazon sell them for £89.97, which is loose change to the average resident of Crowborough, but fortunately for me, the retail magnates at the hospice shop had priced it slightly lower. Their sticker read "Unchecked: £4".

I took 'unchecked' to mean 'broken', but bearing in mind that Amelie spends half her life typing nonsense on my computer keyboard and running off with my mouse, I decided it was worth spending a few quid on a dummy laptop just to distract her. So I Weald and dealed in the Hospice, and carried it off for £4.

Having walked back to work, I then got considerably further than the ladies in the charity shop, by locating the 'on' button and pressing it. Not only does the laptop contain batteries, but it works perfectly. I haven't shown it to Amelie yet. I've been playing with it myself all evening. Frankly it's too good for her. I might sell it on Ebay and buy her something from the pound shop.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

I've spent today in Burgess Hill, working at the Park View Health Centre. It's aptly named, because my room looks out onto the car park. It's the first time I've ever been there, and having seen how many charity shops they have in the town centre, I'm hoping it won't be the last. In addition to building a high street according to my needs, I was also welcomed to the health centre by two receptionists who showed me the water cooler, the fire exit and the staff kitchen, before telling me to “help yourself to tea, coffee and anything you want”. So I made off with the microwave and a couple of plates.

I'm actually on tour this week, playing gigs in Crawley, Burgess Hill, Crowborough, Brighton and Mile Oak, after which I'll be taking it easy by driving up to Sheffield on Saturday. But the good news is, in addition to making sweet music with a fundus camera, I now have documentary evidence of my ability to dance...

That's me and Lisa on the official DVD of the Brighton Goes Gospel concert last December. The fact that a middle-aged woman in glasses is showing a better sense of rhythm than I am is no reflection on my ability to get funky. She's probably a trained dancer. And clapping your hands in time to the music is a lot harder than it looks. Just ask Lisa.

But if you're thinking that clip is the highlight of the DVD, you'd be wrong. Keep your eye on the left side of the screen...

That's Lisa putting the 'goes' back into Brighton Goes Gospel. Talk about a tough audience.

Monday, February 15, 2010

It's Amelie meeting her Valentine's date in a secret jungle location...

And what's more, they appear to be drinking. I'll have something to say when she gets home.

But dodgy suitors aside, Lisa and I celebrated Valentine's Day yesterday by going double-dating with our good friends Stefan and Andrew. Amelie played the gooseberry. As it happens, yesterday wasn't just Valentine's Day, it was also the 17th birthday of Brighton's best dressed cat, Linda. She's getting a bit old for wedding dresses now, so here she is in her birthday suit...

That's Amelie trying to give her the bumps.

We took Linda a cat toy and card, but by the time we got there, we'd already been upstaged by Andrew's sister. She'd sent flowers by Interflora.

Anyhoo, the trouble with Amelie is that she's very shy and reserved, and when faced with an unfamiliar environment, she can take hours to relax and be herself. Oh, who am I kidding. She had her feet up and a crisp in her hand within five minutes of walking through the door...

Make yourself at home.
Frankly she took the phrase 'all you can eat' to a whole new level yesterday afternoon. If she'd consumed any more salt, she could have been mistaken for Lot's wife. I felt like checking her blood pressure before we had dessert.

But the good news is that Amelie survived her three bowlfuls of crisps, two stuffed peppers and an artichoke, and successfully moved on to a main meal of chicken fajitas and cat biscuits (the latter wasn't officially on the menu). Between courses, she had time to try on a variety of interesting headgear...

Bright Eyes... including a Russian army hat made of genuine rabbit fur. It's a lot like wearing her bunny ears, but it brings out her bright eyes a lot more.

For dessert we were treated to a fruit loaf made in Stefan's new breadmaker. I'm not saying they've gone bread-crazy in recent weeks, but there's so much yeast in that flat, you'd need a crate of Canesten to clear it up. Their kitchen's like Kryptonite to Dr Atkins. But the good news is, by the time we left, we'd successfully proved that Amelie's not gluten-intolerant. Frankly she downed enough carbs to keep a marathon runner going for a week.

Hat TrickBut just when I thought the food couldn't be beaten (and I should know - I ate enough of it), Stefan and Andrew played their trump card and presented us with two of the nicest gifts we've had since... well, since the last time they presented us with gifts. Lisa and I received the official DVD of the gospel concert we attended in December, along with an assurance that it contains exclusive footage of us dancing, while Amelie received a very special piece of jewellery in a presentation box.

If you click on the first photo above, and examine the jungle with a magnifying glass, you'll see that Amelie has a pretty silver bangle on her right wrist. You'll also see that if she collects one bangle every year, she'll have as many as her Uncle Andrew by the time she retires. It was a very generous gift. And it made me regret buying Linda's present in the pound shop.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Happy Valentine's Day, Lisa!

Love is in the air.
You constantly light up our lives, so we're doing the same for you with a couple of AA batteries and some plastic tat from the pound shop. I just can't believe I forgot to put on Am's little devil horns. That was a pound down the drain. Lots of love, Phil & Amelie. xxx

Saturday, February 13, 2010

It's Amelie Quakering in her boots!

Life's Rich Tapestry
When I say boots, I mean hot pink leather shoes. Unfortunately they got cropped out of the photo.

Anyhoo, now that Amelie's learnt to say quack, I decided to expand her vocabulary by approximately two letters, by taking her to meet the Quakers this morning. We actually went to visit The Quaker Tapestry, a 77-panel embroidery depicting more than 350 years of Quaker insights and experiences via the medium of cotton. It's usually displayed in mint condition in Kendal, but as luck would have it, 39 of those panels are currently on tour, and hanging around in Brighton for a month.

Entry to the exhibition in Cumbria costs £6.50, which is a bargain when you consider that it won The National Vegetarian Society 'Best Provision for Vegetarians at a Visitor Attraction 2007' award (no, really) but the Brighton version is even better value for money. It's free. Which is much more my kind of price. And frankly I can do without the vegeburgers.

So with Lisa keen to get us out of the house for a couple of hours while she got ready to meet a friend, Amelie and I did a similar thing and headed for the Friends Meeting House in Ship Street. Tragically, we got there to discover that photography is forbidden inside the exhibition, so I have no pictures of Amelie trying to stroke an embroidered horse, and leaving bits of rusk on the floor. But despite that, it was all very interesting.

We watched a five minute film about the tapestry, which informed us that one of the Quaker stitchers researched her panel depicting George Fox preaching, by studying men's bottoms. We then spent a further five minutes looking at the panel about William Penn and Pennsylvania, and wondering if 'Friends' was meant to be spelt 'Freinds', or if someone had dropped a stitch somewhere. We also liked the panel about The Underground Railroad, which looked like an early tube map, and the one about the ramifications of conscientious objection in the First World War. Let's face it, no one does porridge like Quakers.

So having had our Quaker oats, and lost the thread of the tapestry when we realised it was getting close to lunchtime, Amelie and I headed home for a quick bite of non-vegetarian food. We then drove Lisa over to Shoreham where she was meeting a friend for the afternoon. Sadly we weren't invited, but that didn't stop us having a whale of a time on the banks of the River Adur...

Cold Front
I think the warmth of Amelie's smile has been cooled somewhat by an afternoon outdoors in Shoreham on one of the coldest days of the year. If it wasn't for the central heating in the Cancer Research shop, we might never have felt our fingers again.

Friday, February 12, 2010

The thing about film franchises is that there are never as many laughs by the time you get to the third installment. Just look at Police Academy 3. Or the final act of King Lear. Fortunately Amelie hasn't read the script...

Something tells me she's not taking me entirely seriously. I'd give up, but some days it's the only intelligent conversation I get.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

The thing about sequels is that they're never quite as good as the original, but they feature all your favourite characters from the first film...

I realised afterwards that Amelie was trying to say 'buck'. She can say 'doe' too, but oddly, only when we put Channel 4 on at 6 o'clock.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Johnny Morris, eat your heart out...

She can also baa like a sheep, but I got flustered in front of the camera and forgot to ask her. Tomorrow I'll be teaching her to stay silent like a rabbit. I don't fancy my chances.

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

I was emptying Chloe's litter tray onto a copy of last Friday's Daily Mirror this morning (which had been generously donated to the cause of feline welfare by Lisa's mother), when I came across this advert in the motoring section...

Cheap as Chips
It's the kind of multi-layered advertising campaign that just screams 'classy'. To the casual observer, the girl on the right is cleverly positioned to illustrate the pun about hammering down prices. But to a marketing guru like myself, she's actually there to go with the word 'cheap'. It works on so many levels.

On the subject of girls looking cheap, I bought Amelie's Valentine's Day outfit today. I was going to browse the designer labels of John Lewis and Debenhams for something suitable, but in the end I settled for the Crawley branch of Poundland. They had a better selection. In fact it's surprising just how much tat it's possible to pick up in one shop. I could barely carry it all back to the hospital after lunch.

The three of us are meeting a couple of eligible young bachelors for a romantic meal on Sunday, so I'm counting it as Amelie's first Valentine's date. And trust me, once I've dressed her up in heart-shaped nonsense from the pound shop, she's guaranteed to pull. Pull the wires out of my love-heart lights, that is.

In the meantime, I should probably be stockpiling food and investing in snowshoes. I'm working in Crawley for three days this week, and judging by the latest weather forecast, I might not make it back there on Thursday without a team of huskies and bags of true grit. I'd have booked into a B&B for the week, but frankly I spent all my money in Poundland.

Monday, February 08, 2010

I made some biscuits this evening using a packet of WeightWatchers Chocolate Chip Cookie Mix. They're only half a point each, which is obviously marvellous news. On the downside, the recipe assumes you can get sixteen cookies out of one packet, which to be honest would only be possible if you were making them for The Borrowers or someone from Lilliput. For any normal person, the mix makes approximately two cookies. But I showed willing, and formed the dough into nine biscuits, which Lisa and I decided to count as one point each. I then baked them for twelve minutes, cooled them for two, and we ate half each in about thirty seconds flat. We might as well have shared a bar of chocolate.

Having binged on diet food, I then attempted to take my mind off eating by browsing through some old photos on the computer while Lisa fell into a chocolate-induced coma in front of Coronation Street. That was when I came across this photo which I took three weeks ago in Hove...

Where's the snow?
Obviously I was intending to photograph the sunset, but it's only now I look at the picture that I realise I've actually captured a man about to attack an old lady with a fat rat...

He's got a guinea pig on his head too.
That's how the Great Plague started in 1665. Frankly swine flu is the least of our worries. I'm checking myself for buboes.

Sunday, February 07, 2010

You see some interesting signs when you're strolling through Kemp Town with your daughter on a Sunday afternoon...

Hello Sailor
I know, I couldn't believe it either. A vintage black wool and faux astrakhan coat of Barb•ra Streisand. Oh, and the street girls sign is quite shocking too. Although personally I was more taken aback by the fact that having written a faux spelling of 'Barbra', the owner of the shop decided he'd rather just cross out the extra 'a', than get a second bit of card and spend thirty seconds scribbling a new sign. The coat still piqued my interest though. I was going to "come inside to see it", but I had Amelie with me, and I didn't want them thinking I was a sailor.

As it happens, that wasn't the only surprising thing we encountered during our afternoon walk. We also went into Morrisons for a couple of WeightWatchers ready meals, which prompted an interesting conversation with the lady on the checkout. To cut a long chat short, she almost refused to sell them to me on the grounds that I clearly don't need to lose weight. No, really. She spent the best part of two minutes saying "look at you", asking me what I was thinking, and telling me to put them back on the shelf. Frankly if she'd buttered me up any more, my cholesterol levels would have hit the roof. I can only assume their profit margins are higher on cream cakes and pies.

Saturday, February 06, 2010

It's Lisa and Amelie competing for the title of Happiest Member of the Family!

Happy Families
Obviously they both lost, because it's me. I just hide it well.

Anyhoo, if you're wondering what Amelie's wearing in that photo, it's a hooded dress.

Little Red Riding HoodYes, a hooded dress. They're available in all good hooded dress shops. I think they're primarily aimed at the young, fashion conscious girlie girl who wants to look chic and attractive whilst out happy-slapping. Let's face it, you don't want to appear dowdy when you're picking up your first ASBO.

This particular number was sourced by an old friend of Lisa's, who asked if she could pop around with a mystery gift for Amelie, and turned up with the mugging outfit on the left. It even has pockets for storing the purses of elderly victims. I'm not sure which branch of the criminal underworld she got it from, but I've always known she has connections to organised crime. She's married to an estate agent.

Anyhoo, as we speak, Lisa's out for the day with another friend. Possibly in the hope of receiving more gifts. We've barely had to clothe Amelie since the day she was born. If we could get people to give us food as well, we wouldn't have to spend more than a fiver a year on the girl.

So I'm in full charge of the little whirlwind for the rest of the day. At the moment, she's having her early afternoon nap, but I've promised Lisa that the moment I hear her crying, I'll get her up and take her out for the afternoon. So I'm sitting here with the living room door closed, the bedroom door closed, and a CD on continuous play at full volume. I should be safe until teatime.

Thursday, February 04, 2010

Back in December, our good friend Marie gave Amelie a £20 Clarks voucher for Christmas. To be honest, we were lucky to get anything out of her at all, as she decided not to send cards last year due to concerns about the environmental impact of paper production. And the fact that she couldn't be bothered. But fortunately Marie has taken on the role of official guardian of Amelie’s feet, and having heard that the sandals she bought her in November were likely to be bursting at the seams come January, she stepped into the shoes of the Fairy Godmother and sent a donation to help pay for her next pair.

So having watched Amelie tottering around the dog track (and falling flat on her face) like a Chinese girl with bound feet on Sunday, Lisa decided to take her and the voucher into town yesterday for her first proper shoe fitting. Two hours later, they came back with this...

Big Brother’s Watching You
Apparently Clarks don’t just sell you shoes, they whip out a camera and take a photo of you looking shocked at the price. It’s the next generation of store surveillance. They obviously took one look at Amelie and thought they’d better get a mugshot for the security files. Mind you, the way she’s staggering about like a white-faced zombie, they’re hardly likely to forget her.

In addition to taking your mind off the price of the shoes with a mini photo-shoot, they also give you this...

The Elephant Girl
So at the age of 16 months, Amelie’s shoe size is 5H. If she was a pencil, she’d be well hard. The H refers to the width of the shoe, which is interesting because according to Wikipedia, they only go up to G. My daughter has the wide round feet of an elephant. She'll make some man a gorgeous umbrella stand one day.

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Anyone who’s read my Lisa page (and even some who haven’t) will know that I basically have two people to blame thank for my current romantic situation. Music is obviously the food of love (which is why Reggae Reggae Sauce was invented), so it’s not surprising that Lisa and I were brought together by the melodious sounds of The Senators, possibly the most cruelly neglected band ever to sign to a major record label. The Senators comprised Mick & Jim Kitson, two brothers who were a bit like Jedward, but with talent and sensible hair. I’ve been stalking them on and off for almost nine years now, but last week, Jim Kitson turned the tables on me and sent me a parcel...

He’s released a new album! It’s called ‘My Darlings’, so I think it was inspired by me and Lisa. As befits a man who was denied the success he deserved by a musically ignorant public, Jim rejected Abbey Road in favour of recording it in his shed at the bottom of the garden. I’m sure you can hear him falling over the lawnmower at one point.

Now, I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking “Phil, that’s not from Jim Kitson. It’s from a bloke called Frank”. But trust me, it’s got Jim’s fingerprints all over it. Literally. I’m not sure why he’s now calling himself Frank Finighan, but I suspect it stems from a great love for Richard & Judy.

Anyhoo, I’ve been playing the album for a week now, and very good it is too. In fact, you should probably head over to Jim’s MySpace page and add him as a friend before he becomes too famous. But the really interesting thing is Amelie’s reaction to the album. Obviously if you were going to attempt to breed a master race of Senators fans, you’d start with an unholy union between me and Lisa. And sure enough, Amelie seems genetically programmed to like Jim’s music.

We only have to put on the new album, and she starts swaying with her arms in the air like a Bay City Rollers fan. She also seems to have invented a new dance craze which basically involves staggering about like a zombie and then spinning around with her arms out behind her like wings. I’m calling it The Aeroplane Dance. Look out for it in the clubs of Ibiza this summer.

But the startling bit is how she reacts when the song finishes. Not only does she applaud instantaneously (we’ve brought her up to be polite), but she then tells us off for stopping the music...

I love the way she gets straight back into the groove when the next song starts though.

Monday, February 01, 2010

Reining in cats and dogs, and rubbing in Savlon weren’t the only things we did over the weekend. We also booked a holiday. Oh yes indeed. And not just any holiday. Some people settle for the Seychelles or the south of France. We’ve plumped for four nights in a caravan off the M5. Apparently it’s Britain’s nicest motorway.

We’re actually heading for the sunny Somerset town of Burnham-on-Sea. It’s a popular resort. That’s ‘resort’ as in ‘last’. But the good news is we’re not suffering it alone. We’re taking Lisa’s mother with us. As Lisa said to me only the other day, “she loves a bit of hardship”, so frankly this place should be right up her street.

For a while now (and when I say ‘while’, I mean about five years) Lisa’s been saying that she’d like us to take her Mum on a little holiday. Well, what she actually said was “I wish someone would take my mother away for a few days”, but I think that’s what she meant. Unfortunately my future mother-in-law is not a woman well suited to luxury. Or holidays. Or anything which involves other people spending money on her. So we’ve never got around to organising anything. But now we’re in a position where we could really use a live-in babysitter, the timing seems perfect.

So having considered our options, we’ve rejected a holiday haven in favour of a Haven Holiday, and booked a week in May at the Burnham-on-Sea Holiday Village. They've got a Little Cubs Club for Amelie and a water slide for Lisa's Mum. So Lisa and I should be able to spend a bit of quality time on our own, sampling the region's Cheddar and drinking non-alcoholic scrumpy. In addition to the on-site attractions, Burnham-on-Sea is also home to the shortest pier in Britain. So there's somewhere for Lisa's Mum to take a long walk. Personally I can't wait. Although I probably should have booked the time off work before I paid for the holiday.

Oh, and if anyone's concerned about the state of Amelie's face, I'm pleased to report that she now looks less like Leslie Ash and more like Angelina Jolie. It's a definite improvement.