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Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Lisa and I have been invited to attend a birthday tea on Saturday. With it being both Easter and a tea party, you'd expect it to be thrown by a Mad Hatter and attended by a lot of white rabbits, but as it turns out, the only bunny girl in question is my ten-year-old niece, who turns eleven next week, and the person organising the event is my Mum. Who's not as mad as she looks.

We received the official gift list yesterday, which features a total of eight items, three of which had already been taken by the time we opened the e-mail. My parents have cornered the Pokemon market, while Big Sis is sourcing all the Glee memorabilia. Mainly because she already owns most of it.

So being keen to get in there before the only gift left is the BHS voucher (which I suspect might have been put on the list by her mother), I headed into Crawley town centre during my lunch break today to buy a bit of Miley Cyrus and Cheryl Cole. I felt like wearing a bag over my head so that no one would recognise me, but frankly that look has been done to death by Amelie.

My niece wanted a Miley Cyrus album and a Cheryl Cole poster. I found a Billy Ray Cyrus album and an Ashley Cole poster. I wasn't sure either would do. The Crawley branch of HMV had completely sold out of the album in question, but they did offer me this poster...

Hot Cole
Call me old-fashioned, but I decided that wasn't really suitable for an eleven-year-old girl. It's not so much a role-model as a roll-in-the-hay model.

So I drew a complete blank. But fortunately Amelie's a lot easier to buy for than her cousin. Five minutes in Poundland and I'd got her a furry sheep mask and an Easter bonnet. That's one person ready for the weekend.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Having re-read the last paragraph of yesterday's blog post, I think I may have inadvertently given the impression that Stefan & Andrew work on the pizza counter at Asda. So I'd just like to state for the record that they don't. If they did, I'd be the size of a house, instead of the small bungalow I currently resemble, and Lisa would fail the cholesterol test she's taking tomorrow. Let's face it, do these really look like the kind of people who serve pizza...?

Say cheese (and tomato pizza).
Eat pizza, maybe. Especially the little one on the left. But serve pizza, no. They'd need at least three promotions before they'd be allowed to do anything that responsible.

Anyhoo, the thing about meeting people in Asda is that it always leaves you wanting more. So not content with a quick chat by the fast food on Friday, we decided to get together again yesterday afternoon for some serious conversation. This scene is typical of the educational, studious and above all, cerebral atmosphere of the two or three hours we spent relaxing in Andrew's library...

Well Read
Oh, who am I trying to kid. This is what actually went on all afternoon...

Amelie's cleverly positioned her hand in that photo so that you can't see the chocolate around her mouth. Which is where video evidence comes into play...

The first person to mention Hitler gets a slap.

Anyhoo, it's a well known fact that if you spend long enough reading books, eating brain food, and discussing the speech patterns of various animals, you'll end up feeling so intelligent that you'll need to wear glasses...

Should've Gone to Specsavers
She still just says miaow and quack, but with the glasses on, she looks like she knows what she's talking about.

Anyhoo, the specs were the first of many (undeserved) gifts Amelie received yesterday afternoon. Since we last saw them on Valentine's Day, Stefan's been home to Slovakia and Andrew's been back to Canada, so we were showered with souvenirs from Eastern Europe and North America. Although I think the glow-in-the-dark sperm keyrings came from East Sussex.

Andrew's sister was kind enough to send a furry green Easter bag all the way across the Atlantic (thanks, N!), which is not only useful for transporting chocolate, but also makes a very fetching hat. Those handles were clearly designed to be ear flaps.

Inside the bag, we found a duck that says quack almost as frequently as Amelie, and an Easter bunny that goes boing at the touch of a button. As if that wasn't enough, Amelie now has a furry beaver (don't go there), wearing a Canadian hoodie emblazoned with the words 'Right to Play'. Which is something she believes in whole-heartedly.

But perhaps the finest gift (apart from the packet of Slovakian biscuits that Amelie polished off single-handedly) (and with all due respect to the beaver) was the hardback edition of 'One Winter Night' by Jennifer Lloyd, a beautiful book full of mice, skunks, bears and Canadian rabbits with hockey sticks. It's like an I-Spy Canuck Book. And it's personally inscribed to Amelie from her Uncle Andrew. If only she could read his handwriting.

Brain of BritainNeedless to say, the moment she puts on her reading glasses and sticks a green bag on her head, Amelie instantly transforms into some kind of bookish Brain of Britain, but surprisingly the congratulations card in the background isn't for her. That's actually from us to Andrew. I was buying it in Asda when I bumped into them on Friday night.

I won't let the cat out of the bag here (unless Amelie's trapped Linda in a sack again), but Andrew's just succeeded in the kind of worthwhile endeavour that makes Sir Edmund Hillary's trek up Everest look like a piece of cake. Although if it was a piece of cake, Amelie would have eaten it by now.

This has been three years in the making, it's high time it happened, and it'll benefit the health of an entire nation. It's a lot like Barack Obama's healthcare reforms, only less likely to result in racist death threats. I expect. Actually I wouldn't count on it.

Anyway, you've done brilliantly, mate, and Amelie's proud of you. But make sure you stock up on squeezy sperms before you go.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

How much are these?I bought a box of these yesterday. I didn't intend to, but they had them by the checkouts in the 99p Store, and I was queuing for ten minutes with an Iggle Piggle Easter Egg while a succession of people asked "How much is this?", so I had plenty of time to examine them.

I've never thought of my nose as being particularly clogged, but by the time I reached the till, I'd become fixated by the woman on the front who seems to be having a whale of a time trying to attach a Hitler moustache. I spent a good five minutes wondering how she broke the news to her family that her first professional modelling job was to strip to her underwear, stick a plaster on her face, and point at her nose whilst smiling and looking at the camera.

I was also intrigued by the claim that the strips produce "Deep Magnetic Cleansing". Surely that would only work if you had a lump of metal in your nose? Unless that's what she's pointing at. Maybe she's got a stubborn piercing she's trying to remove.

Anyhoo, that wasn't actually the reason I was in London Road yesterday. I was actually on my way to Maplins to buy the gubbins I need to connect my computer to the TV. Lisa wants to be able to browse Facebook from the sofa, and watch quality ITV2 shows on the internet without having to sit at a desk. So Amelie and I headed out on a mercy mission yesterday morning to buy the cable we need.

Having walked the mile and a half to London Road, we were naturally distracted, not only by deeply absorbent nose strips, but by the fact that the 99p Store is selling the exact same Makka Pakka Easter Egg that I'd already bought for £3 from Asda. (But don't ask how much they're selling it for, or I might have to shoot you). Frankly it's an outrage. Asda are meant to be saving me money every day, not charging me three times too much for a bit of CBeebies tat.

But having consoled ourselves by investing in a bit of Iggle Piggle and Upsy Daisy (I realise this will mean nothing to anyone who isn't best friends with a two-year-old), we moved on to Maplins where we spent twenty quid on a computer lead. If only they sold those in the 99p Store.

A quick mile and a half jaunt home, and we were soon relaxing in front of the TV with a mouse and keyboard. And wishing we'd bought the right cable. A blank TV screen is all very well, but it's not really worth spending £20 on. Fortunately, Amelie and I lead the kind of lives which mean we rarely have anything better to do than embark on another three-mile walk to London Road and back. In the pouring rain. With Amelie's feet sticking out of the buggy.

By the time we got there, we were so wet, the staff at Maplins took pity on us and agreed to let us swap the cable for the one we actually needed. And they gave us a pound change. Which paid for the Hitler nose plasters. By the time we were halfway home, the rain had stopped, so I let Amelie walk the rest of the way. Admittedly her socks squelched with every step, but she seemed to enjoy it. She must have paddled about half a mile.

Anyhoo, the good news is that my £18.99 investment in cutting-edge computer technology has paid off. I went to Asda last night (I'd already been on Friday, but I was too busy chatting to Stefan & Andrew at the pizza counter to actually buy anything we needed), and I left Lisa on the sofa with a wireless mouse, a cordless keyboard, and a whole world of high quality television to access. By the time I got back, she'd watched 'What Katie Did Next' and 'Snog Marry Avoid?'. That was money well spent.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Back at the beginning of March, I mentioned that "I'm only getting excruciating, crippling pain about once a month now". Which is obviously marvellous news. Except that I wrote it almost four weeks ago. So with timing you could set your clock by, I found myself in agony again last night. It was so bad, I almost had to wake Lisa up just to show her the extent to which men suffer. So as it turns out, it wasn't an adventurous spirit wearing me down all week, it was an inflamed prostate. No wonder I didn't have the courage to wake her up.

Naturally I felt a bit like death warmed up this morning, but like the fool trooper I am, I dragged myself out of bed and down the road. Partly because I had a list of seventeen patients to see before lunch, but mainly because I wanted to buy Lisa's Christmas present. There are less than nine months to go now, so I can't afford to hang around.

Tickets went on sale this morning for a concert which is due to take place in December. I can't reveal any details here for legal reasons (and because I want to wind Lisa up for the rest of the year), but suffice it to say it's the perfect Christmas gift: it's overpriced, won't last long, and is probably not what she wanted. I also need to make sure I don't get her pregnant this month, or we might not be able to go.

Now that I've finished my Christmas shopping, I've got a bit more time to spend socialising on the computer, and I have to say I'm constantly amazed by the people who are on Facebook these days...

The Face of FacebookI found this little character beaming back at me from the computer screen the other evening. At first I thought Lisa had raised a Cheshire Cat on Farmville, but it turned out to be Amelie. She's currently chuckling into cyberspace from her Aunt's Facebook page. I have no idea when the photo was taken, but frankly she never looks that happy when I'm around.

To be honest though, the girl does have a lot to smile about. For a start, we've just discovered she's a genius. No, really. Lisa was reading The Contented Toddler Years (which is an oxymoron if ever I've heard one) on Wednesday evening, and it said that by the age of eighteen months, the average child should have a vocabulary of between twenty and forty words.

Amelie turns 18 months on Good Friday, so I spent yesterday jotting down every word she says, and here's the result:

Words of Wisdom
That's forty-four. And I taught her to say 'donkey' this morning. Admittedly I'm not sure 'DS' is a word, but she can also say 'Wii'. Usually when going downhill in her buggy. In addition, she often shouts "Gone!" when she finishes a meal, but I forgot to put that on the list. So all in all, she's pushing fifty. I might have to teach her to say 'prodigy'.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

According to today's papers, the latest scientific research suggests that 'man flu' does exist, and men aren't just making it up to get sympathy. Not that I ever thought we were. As the Daily Telegraph puts it, "men suffer more because they invest in their spirit of adventure at the expense of their immune system". Which explains why I was feeling so tired yesterday. It's my adventurous spirit.

But now that Lisa's contractually obliged to feel sorry for me as a man, I feel a lot better. So getting back to those cars, seagulls and cats who wear clothes...

Google Street View finally went live in Brighton last week, which is obviously fantastic news for nosey people like me. I've spent a lot of the past few days trying to peer through the windows of people I know. And now I can do it online as well. But the most shocking aspect of it all is that they've managed to photograph my car looking clean...

Car Wash
Although I don't like the way that mystery blonde is touching it up.

Needless to say, by succeeding in sending their cameras around on a day when I'd just washed my car, Google have beaten some quite astronomical odds, but surprisingly that's not the picture which has made headlines. That honour goes to this photo...

Gully Gosh
That's Brighton Police Station in John Street, just down the road from here, with the law courts covered in scaffolding next door. And in front of them both there's a daring heist taking place as a seagull makes off with a chip. Or possibly a fish finger. Personally I think it's a deep-fried Twix in batter, but I seem to be alone in that view.

Anyhoo, as the Daily Mail reported last Friday, "It is a sight that will be familiar if you live in Brighton". And they're not wrong. Lisa worked in that building for more than ten years, so I'm no stranger to the view from that wall under the gull's wing. If I hadn't sat there on numerous occasions, waiting for the cops to let her out, I wouldn't have come up with blog posts like this. I can't believe that was written almost six years ago. Where has my life gone?

But before I sit down with my head in my hands and ponder my lost youth, I can exclusively reveal that the seagull above isn't the only creature to pose for Google's cameras in Brighton. Anyone who's flicked through this nonsense over the past couple of years will be familiar with Brighton's best-dressed cat, the lovely Linda...

That's her aged 16 in her wedding dress. She turned 17 last month, so I expect a divorce is just around the corner.

But what's around the corner on Google Street View is this photo of Stefan & Andrew's flat...

How much is that pussy in the window?
I just can't believe she's naked.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

I was going to write a startling exposé tonight about cars, seagulls and cats who wear clothes, but unfortunately I'm as tired as Stephen Byers after a long day's cabbying. So instead, here's a previously unpublished (and long-forgotten) photo of Amelie taken in April last year...

The card in the background saying 'Top New Job' is quite appropriate, as I think that's why I'm so tired. That and the little strength-sapper in the middle.

Monday, March 22, 2010

It's me, Lisa and Amelie running the Sport Relief Mile!

Well ok, it's not. I like to think I could fight my way out of a paper bag, but a blue lycra sack might be asking too much. I do, however, have close links to Sport Relief. I buy my Hula Hoops in Sainsbury's.

Anyhoo, after the debacle of our Family Fun Day on Saturday, Lisa refused to leave the house yesterday, so it was left to me and Amelie to do our bit for the needy by heading down to the seafront yesterday morning to cheer on the charity runners. To be honest, by the time Amelie had toddled the length of Madeira Drive and back, I think we'd pretty much completed the course, so we should have registered at the start and raised some sponsorship. With my gritty determination, and Am's ability to run towards a packet of crisps, we could have doubled what we made for Worthing's cats.

In addition to the sport, we also enjoyed the entertainment from this fine group of musicians...

TLA Steel Band
But for the life of me, I can't remember their name.

I have to say though, if you've never heard Rihanna's 'Don't Stop the Music' played on a steel drum, you don't know what you're missing. The Last Eel Band, or whatever they were called, were excellent, and wiped the floor with the adults in orange who were shaking their maracas along the road. The only drums they successfully banged were Amelie's eardrums. We preferred the TLC of the TLA.

Among the celebrities hanging about at the finish line were the former Chelsea, Tottenham & Uruguay international footballer, Gus Poyet, and the Deputy Mayor of Brighton, Garry Peltzer-Dunn. Guess which one I took a photo of..?

Knight Mayor
When you take a look at the dress code, you have to wonder if he regretted turning up in a suit. Mind you, this is a man who's happy to be filmed playing Nintendo Wii with a bunch of pensioners. He clearly has a high embarrassment threshold.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

LET THE GOOD TIMES ROLL!!! It's the Gardners (and Lisa) out on a Family Fun Day!

I think I'm winning the 'Putting a Brave Face On It' competition. Lisa's wetter than Christine Bleakley after her cross-channel water ski, and Amelie's hoarse from all the moaning. We're clearly having the time of our lives in that multi-storey car park.

But if you think we look miserable there, you should have seen us five minutes earlier. It's not easy walking half a mile through a monsoon with no umbrella. Particularly when your coats aren't waterproof and Amelie won't keep her rain cover on. Frankly we cheered up considerably when we got back to that concrete carbuncle.

Anyhoo, what with my busy working life, Lisa's appalling medical problems and Amelie's outdated stand-up routines, it's been a tough week in the Gardner household. So when we got up yesterday morning, Lisa suggested that we leave our troubles behind us and go out for a Family Fun Day. Yes, that's right, it was all her idea.

The whole of Brighton was our oyster, but sadly we don't like shellfish, so we headed for Worthing instead. It has everything Brighton doesn't: good shops, a seafront, a pier... no, hang on a moment. Well, for whatever reason, we decided to go there. I last visited Worthing in September 2007, and a lot's changed since then...

Personally I think the situation on the right is more hairy.

The photo on the left was taken less than four months before Amelie was conceived, and looking like that, it's a miracle it ever happened. If I hadn't single-handedly cured cancer with that moustache, I don't think Lisa would have gone near me.

Anyhoo, our journey to Worthing yesterday afternoon took an hour and a half. Which is what happens when you're too terrified to stop in case Amelie wakes up. The plan was to take the scenic route across Sussex while Amelie had her lunchtime nap in the back of the car. And sure enough, our drive through the countryside resulted in peaceful sleep within five minutes of leaving home. Unfortunately that was just Lisa. It took Amelie half an hour to drop off.

So I criss-crossed the South Downs with Lisa asleep next to me, and Amelie looking out of the window, wondering just how much this fun day was costing me in petrol. Fortunately, by the time we reached Steyning, both my travel companions were asleep, so I was able to enjoy the scenery in peace, and drive around in circles without anyone knowing I was lost.

Once awake and in Worthing, we parked near Morrisons, strapped on the baby reins, and let Amelie toddle into town. It's a bit like taking an untrained dog for a walk. Albeit one which knows exactly where she's going. Here she is making an unscheduled flight into Wilkinsons for no apparent reason...

If you're wondering what she's holding (and throwing on the floor at the end), it's an Easter bunny that she won in the Worthing Cat Welfare Trust tombola. According to the charity's website, they raised £308 yesterday. I'm proud to say that without Amelie's participation, that would have been a mere £307. I'm taking that quid out of her trust fund.

Anyhoo, our intention was to look around the shops, take a stroll along the seafront, and then enjoy a family meal at a restaurant. Obviously that was before it started raining. Well, I say raining. It was more of a vertical river. Although I was surprised it fell as rain. It felt cold enough to snow. We stuck it out for two long, miserable hours, by which time we'd witnessed enough water that we felt we'd not only seen the sea but been in it too. Whereupon we decided that much as we love our food, we'd rather head home to a warm, dry flat, than sit in our cold, wet clothes and attempt to order a meal over the sound of Amelie crying. I knew it was a mistake to pay & display until 8pm.

Friday, March 19, 2010

I picked up Amelie from Lisa's Mum's after work today, where she'd spent some time hanging out with her grandmother while Lisa went to see a doctor about her failing health. By the time I got the girl home, she'd learnt a new word, so I decided to spend the evening working it into our latest comedy routine...

Britain's Got Talent, here we come.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

If there's one thing which bothers me about the mephedrone craze which is currently sweeping the nation (apart from the fact that nobody's ever offered me any), it's the fact that Amelie's constantly saying miaow. Up until now, I've always assumed she was imitating Chloe, but now I'm wondering if she has a serious drug problem. Fortunately for us, she'll have a hard time trying to score in this flat. The most potent plant food I've ever bought is a bottle of Baby Bio. But I'm still wondering if I should cut back on the Calpol. On top of that, she's just started saying "yo-yo", so I'm worried she's developing an eating disorder.

But on the subject of family members going off the rails, word has reached me from the mean streets of Wiltshire that Big Sis has been hauled in by the fuzz again. It's less than three weeks since I sat in my parents' living room hearing the sermon of speed awareness from a newly converted Sister. I've never met anyone so passionate about braking. So in true Big Sis comedy style, I'm pleased to report that she's just been caught speeding again. One thing she learnt on her road-hog away-day in February, is that there are only ten speed cameras in Wiltshire. So she had to drive to Cambridgeshire for this one.

Naturally she's mortified, partly because she was only doing 45 in a 40mph limit, partly because she can't do another speed awareness course for the next three years, but mainly because she insists that for the past month she's been driving around like a snail, looking for street lights wherever she goes, so that she knows precisely what the speed limit is. As I said to her on the phone last night, if she spent less time looking at street lights, and more time with her eye on the speedometer, it might not have happened. I don't think that was much comfort.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Walking back from Asda on Monday evening with a bolshie baby, a box of raisins, and no bowl to put them in, I decided to stop along the seafront and film the sunset. I don't know what time the sun officially sets in mid-March, but the fact that we were there to witness it probably proves that I was keeping Amelie out far too late on a weekday. Not that it was my fault. She was the one who asked for a pik-CHAA.

I've set it to music, partly to add ambience, but mainly because the original audio track features Amelie talking to the seagulls and begging for a biscuit, plus a woman on a bike stopping to ask me the time. She was perfectly polite, but I felt she detracted from the atmospheric seascape I was trying to create. Although she did have a voice like a foghorn.

Obviously the most natural choice of music to accompany the film would have been Nik Kershaw's 'I Won't Let the Sun Go Down On Me', but after careful consideration I went with a far more subtle selection: 'Superstar' by Nina Gordon. Because I don't have a website about Nik Kershaw.

The result is a soothing and relaxing vignette designed to calm even the most stressed out viewer...

Although when I tried to upload it to YouTube, they told me the music was copyrighted, and promptly banned it from the site. Frankly it made my blood boil.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

An eighty-year-old patient said to me this morning, "You seem very happy in your work". I thanked him for the compliment. Or I would have done if he hadn't said it just as I was photographing his retina, thus jogging the camera and forcing me to take the photo again. I wasn't quite so happy after that.

To be honest, I think I'm giving out some kind of false impression. I met Lisa's Mum walking along the road at 9am yesterday, and she told me that she couldn't believe how cheerful I was first thing on a Monday morning. I told her it's all a charade and deep down inside I'm weeping tears of hopelessness. She seemed to accept that quite readily.

But let's face it, sometimes it's just nice to be out of the house. You wouldn't want to spend all day with people who constantly feel blue...

I think she's getting her make-up tips from Lisa.

Amelie's only had her coloured pencils since Saturday, but she's really taken to them. Mostly she's taken them internally, but she's also produced a few colourful drawings. Some on paper, some on the coffee table. But most impressive of all is that she's learnt to say the word 'picture'. Unfortunately she pronounces it 'pik-CHAAA'. She sounds like Len Goodman shouting "Seven!" on Strictly Come Dancing. It's slightly unsettling.

Linguistically she's taken a big step forward this week, as she's also formed her first sentence. Well, phrase. Verbs are still beyond her. She can now say "In a bowl". It's a phrase which should take her a long way in life. Michael Winner gets by on a lot less.

Unfortunately she's learnt those words as a result of Lisa repeatedly giving her raisins in a bowl. Which is a problem if you're in a supermarket with her, as I was after work last night, and you give her a small box of raisins. I found myself wheeling the buggy down the frozen fish aisle as Amelie looked at me sternly and shouted "In a bowl!". I almost had to buy a dinner service just to placate her.

Monday, March 15, 2010

I knew there was something I kept forgetting yesterday. I remembered Lisa's card, cuddly flower, special artwork, secret gift and gourmet meal (Goat's Cheese & Red Pepper Girasole, if you're wondering), but something else completely slipped my mind. Apparently I've got a mother too. With hindsight, I probably should have spent some time on her. Oh well, there's always next year. If she lives that long.

In the meantime, here's an idyllic domestic scene from yesterday afternoon. It features Lisa admiring her silver photo frame on the sofa, while Amelie sits quietly in the background eating the gift-wrap...

Mother's Day Meal
And here's the scene thirty seconds later, when Lisa was forced to stop admiring her photo frame, and start removing paper from Amelie's throat...

That's a Wrap
Sometimes I think it would be easier to do without the child and just have a picture.

So with that very much in mind, I decided to give Lisa the ultimate Mother's Day gift yesterday afternoon: a couple of hours without Amelie. I'm obviously something of an animal lover, and Amelie speaks their language, so the two of us headed down to the Wild Planet exhibition on the seafront. It's an outdoor display organised by the Natural History Museum which showcases eighty photos from past Wildlife Photographer of the Year competitions. It opened on March 12th and runs until September 26th, but we thought we'd get in early in case it gets vandalised.

And I have to say, it's well worth a visit. Amelie said 'miaow' to the leopard, 'woof' to the fox, 'quack' to the penguins and 'bear' to the baby gorilla (which did look a bit like a teddy), but personally my favourite was the elephant...

... but only because it explains this photo of the Loch Ness Monster...

Nessie the Elephant
I like to think of it as Nessie the Elephant.

The whole exhibition was remarkably impressive though. They've erected a temporary shop on the seafront to sell Wild Planet souvenirs, which is a very canny move. The photos are so stunningly gorgeous, I'd have spent my entire month's wages on the spot if I could have squeezed through the crowds with a buggy. Not that I need to buy the pictures. The exhibition's on for six months within walking distance of my flat, so I can take Amelie down there every weekend and pretend I'm in my living room.

Sunday, March 14, 2010


You've Been Framed
It's surprising what you can do with a bit of sticky-backed plastic and a couple of loo rolls. The thing almost looks shop-bought.

It's actually a silver photo frame filled with smiling pictures of Am (and one looking slightly grumpy in her bunny ears) documenting a year in the life of Britain's cheekiest child. You wouldn't believe how long it took me to print out all those photos the right size for the little holes. Unless you've been reading this blog, in which case you've probably got a fair idea.

If you look closely at the reflection in the photo frame above, you'll see that Lisa celebrated Mother's Day by wearing an outfit based on the Sainsbury's staff uniform. Which is appropriate because I'm about to do my Jamie Oliver impression in the kitchen. I spent so long on the secret gift, we had to postpone our Mother's Day meal until this evening. That dessert's been defrosting for six hours longer than it's meant to.

But I don't regret a thing. After all, if I hadn't finished working on the picture frame, Amelie couldn't have posed for this photo with the empty packaging...

I'll be framing that for Lisa's birthday.
Say it with flowers.Lisa's in the shower, so we're all dressed up and lying in wait with a card and a flower.

The secret gift isn't finished yet. We were too busy walking down to Asda yesterday afternoon to buy coloured pencils for our special Mother's Day art presentation. Unfortunately, that plan had to be abandoned at the eleventh hour after Amelie discovered that she liked the taste of pencil lead. I didn't want my photos of the day being ruined by her blue tongue (and poisoned stomach), so we decided to stick with the flower arrangement instead.

We'll have to finish the secret gift later while Lisa's sleeping off the effects of the gourmet Mother's Day meal we'll be lovingly preparing for her from scratch in a couple of hours time.

Which reminds me, I must take the dessert out of the freezer and check the microwave instructions on the main course...
It's Mother's Day! Amelie and I are trying to draw a picture for Mummy before breakfast...

Picture Perfect
It's not going well.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Little did I know when I shot that video yesterday evening, that it would be the last footage ever recorded of Amelie's buggy. Within minutes of putting the girl to bed and uploading the film to YouTube, Lisa had tripped over Iggle Piggle, gone flying over Makka Pakka, and broken both her fall and the buggy with a crash landing on Amelie's baby.

Having examined the wreckage, I decided it was beyond help. And the buggy couldn't be fixed either. So I picked up Lisa, looked at both her and the buggy, and decided to throw one of them in the communal bin outside. A lot of huffing and puffing later, I admitted defeat and settled for the buggy.

The good news is that our senior administrator at work gave Amelie another buggy just a few weeks ago. The bad news is it's currently thirty-five miles away at my parents' house where she has more room to push it around. Bearing in mind that Amelie's favourite toy is her baby, and she spends half her life dragging it across the floor in a buggy, there was naturally a slight panic in the Gardner household at the prospect of another piercing scream when she got up this morning and found it was gone.

So while Lisa distracted her with breakfast, I got my shoes on and my wallet out, before driving the girl across town to Toys R Us. She toddled around the store until she'd eventually picked up so much stuff she could no longer move. At which point we dumped it all, I grabbed the cheapest buggy they had, and we made a swift exit.

Amelie's spent the rest of the day saying "Buggy!" with a big smile on her face, as she staggers around the flat like a gymslip Mum on a council estate. It's actually quite heart-warming. But even better than that, after months of grabbing the handset, she's finally worked out who our phone company is...

Yes, that's right, we're with Pipex.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Obviously when it comes to Amelie's wardrobe, I like to spare no expense. That girl's dressed in some of the finest clothes money can buy...

...for under two quid from a charity shop. If I feel like splashing out on something more expensive, I'll occasionally go to Primark, but as a general rule it's hospice shops all the way.

So whilst in Uckfield this week, I generously donated £1.65 to the dying of East Sussex in return for another purple dress. It's a bit like the one pictured on Wednesday, but without the vomit stains and revealing hemline. Lisa dressed her in it today, so when I got home from work this afternoon I decided to film Amelie modelling her expensive new outfit.

She was staggering across the living room at the time with my work bag around her neck and a buggy in both hands, trying to take her baby for a walk around the sofa. At which point she revealed a remarkable new talent...

With a bit of horror movie voiceover work under her belt, we'll soon be waving goodbye to Primark and buying her clothes from Asda.

Talking of which, I need to go shopping. Home-cooked Mother's Day meals don't just make themselves, you know. Unless you buy them frozen from a supermarket. I need to get down there before they sell out of ready meals.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

As it transpires, it doesn't take that long to pop down to Asda for some chocolate and a pizza. No wonder they call it fast food. Lisa was back here last night before I'd even got the top off the glitter. I might have to change my plans and buy her a Next voucher out of Amelie's trust fund.

But despite failing to finish my Mother's Day gift, I decided I had time to get out and about today, so I headed to Uckfield for a bit of hospital bed rest. Whenever I'm there, I like to walk into town at lunchtime, and my route takes me past this shop...

Uckfield Meats Kevin Page. And they lived happily ever after.
I don't know if it's just me, but every time I have a butcher's at that sign, I find myself reading it as a film title. It's like 'Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man'. Although in Uckfield, it really ought to be Piltdown Man. Either way, I can't walk past the place without thinking it's a cinema. I spent the whole journey back to work this afternoon pondering a musical where Sally Field meets Elaine Paige over a bacon sandwich. I might write it at the weekend.

But anyway, if you're going to be a purveyor of finest quality meats, with the ability to heal fish, there's no better place to open a shop than Uckfield. The last four letters of the place spell 'Deli'. It's just a shame you can't use the first four.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

It's a well known fact that if your toddler reins get a bit tangled at the park, the best course of action is to dress yourself entirely in purple, put on your bunny ears, and sit on the sofa until you've sorted them out...

I think the celebratory "Yeah!" at the end was a bit premature. She rabbited on there for a good twenty minutes after that, and I don't think the reins were any less tangled by the time she went to bed. I had to stop filming in the end because my leg went to sleep and I started getting cramp.

Interestingly, we dressed Amelie in that purple outfit when we went up to Sheffield the other week. The moment we walked through the doors of the Premier Inn, she disappeared, and all we could see was a disembodied head floating through the air as she ran off towards the lift.

But anyhoo, I've got no time to blog tonight. Amelie's planning a secret surprise for Mother's Day, and she's roped me in to help. Mainly because she's too busy working on the toddler reins. Lisa's just popped out to Asda for some high-calorie food, which means I have a golden opportunity to spend half an hour on Amelie's home-made gift. People worry about child labour, but frankly I've put more work into this than she has.

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Breaking news from the sofa in front of me: Lisa has just described the latest footage of the Elk City tornado in Oklahoma as "a bit of old cloud". She followed that up by reaching for the remote control and adding "If I want to see grainy footage, I'll put on Channel Five". She's now watching a recording of 'House Guest in the Sun', which is a lot like a natural disaster, only more tragic.

And on the subject of tragedies, the first thing I saw when I left for work just after 8am this morning was an ambulance parked twenty yards from my front door, and a smashed up motorbike lying in the junction between Eastern Road and College Place. I don't know if the rider was in a similar condition or not, but let's hope the Yamaha was the only organ he damaged. Either way, it made me glad that I never leave for work on time. Five minutes earlier and I could have had Evel Knievel bouncing off my bonnet.

Ironically, having driven past the final scene from Easy Rider, I found myself following a white commercial van with a sign on the back which featured a bicycle in a red triangle, and the words "Warning: this vehicle turns left". I was tempted to bemoan the state of modern Britain, where it's apparently necessary to avoid litigation by warning cyclists that you might occasionally go round a corner, but having just seen a two-wheeled pile of wreckage at the junction of a left turn, it actually seemed quite sensible.

In other news, I was listening to the war stories of an elderly lady today (and I don't mean Lisa), and having told me about the time her husband was sunk by a U-boat, she happened to mention that she used to live in the Norfolk town of Sheringham. I told her that I have an internet stalker good friend who used to live there too, so she asked me his name.

Despite having just heard that careless talk costs lives, I immediately gave her the information she requested, and lo and behold, she said she knows him. "Not personally", she was quick to point out, but she was familiar with his work. Apparently he takes a good funeral. So I said I'd pass on her comments and try to get her a freebie.

Sunday, March 07, 2010

I was in the kitchen yesterday when Amelie walked past with this label sticking out of her mouth...

We're all doomed.
I have absolutely no idea where she got it, but the fact that the makers feel the need to warn you against its removal in five different languages, two of them in capital letters, tends to indicate that she's done a bad thing. I expect it's like the pin on a hand grenade, and we're all about to go up in smoke.

But while I'm waiting for the big bang to occur, I've spent a lot of the weekend cleaning the flat. In fact I've done such a good job that I've successfully managed to remove all traces of Lisa and Amelie. They've fled to Lisa's Mum's for the day so that they don't get sprayed in the face with Mr Muscle.

Go back to where you came from.As a reward for all my hard work, I treated myself to the DVD of District 9 whilst doing the weekly shop at Asda on Friday evening. Which showed amazing foresight as I hadn't actually done any hard work whatsoever at that point. Asda are currently selling it for only £7, which I see as a thinly veiled attempt to convince me that DVDs are history and I should buy a Blu-Ray player.

I wanted to go and see District 9 at the cinema last September, but Lisa insisted that anything featuring aliens is, by definition, rubbish, and despite my protestations that her unfounded extra-terrestrial prejudices are the whole point of the film, and that's precisely why we should go and see it, she persuaded me that our time would be much better spent watching 'Away We Go'. And we all remember what a roaring success that was.

Six months later, District 9 is up for four Oscars tonight, including Best Picture, which shows what Lisa knows about cinema. 'Away We Go' is strangely lacking in nominations, but I'm sure that's due to some kind of administrative error. So having cleaned the kitchen and walked into town yesterday afternoon to buy a Mother's Day gift, I tried to persuade Lisa to sit down with me last night and watch District 9. She refused, claiming that not only does the sight of aliens make her feel ill, but she doesn't like the sound they make either. Not that she's prejudiced. Some of her best friends are on another planet.

So while I sat on the sofa and spent the evening watching what turned out to be a very good film, Lisa took up residence on the computer and started slagging it off on Facebook. As she put it at 8:35pm, "There's only so much alien snorting you can take before a film becomes really tedious". Which is pretty much what I said about 'Away We Go'. The thing she particularly disliked was the guttural vocalisations of the prawns, which is interesting because the DVD extras include an interview with the sound effects guy, in which he says that he created that noise by running his fingernail down a butternut squash. And Lisa's never liked the sound of those either.

Saturday, March 06, 2010

I was on the internet yesterday, ignoring my family while I read this news story on the BBC website. Apparently a couple in South Korea were so busy raising a virtual daughter in an online game, that they forgot to feed their real baby and she starved to death. It's not as unlikely as it might sound. If it wasn't for the fact that Amelie can point at the biscuit tin and shout "Bic-Bic" ad infinitum at the top of her voice, we'd never get Lisa off Facebook. But as it is, the only living things around here that are shrivelling up and dying are Lisa's crops in Farmville.

In other news, I was sitting here last night with my hand in my peripherals, having a good rummage around, when I came across a song I recorded more than three years ago. It dates back to 3rd March 2007, and had been missing in action, presumed dead, since my computer blew up a couple of years ago. I hadn't put it on CD because... well, because frankly I didn't think it was much cop, but it turns out there was a copy saved on an external hard drive in the corner of the living room, which Amelie enjoys pulling out from under the table and sticking in her mouth. It's a bit like discovering a lost track by The Beatles. Albeit one that was recorded by Ringo Starr. On an off-day. With low budget equipment.

Anyhoo, it's a Rob Thomas song called 'Ever the Same' and I recorded it two days after being turned down for a job as a fish feeder, which was something of a low point in my career. Lisa had also hit a couple of pot holes in life's road, which is all the more surprising as she can't drive. So it wasn't exactly what Dickens would have called the best of times.

But having rediscovered the recording, I've decided it wasn't quite as rubbish as I'd first thought back in the dark days of 2007, so I've brought it out into the light and set it to some previously unseen footage of Amelie pigletting around on the coffee table last month...

Three years after recording the song, the visuals prove that actually things aren't ever the same.

Friday, March 05, 2010

I'm not saying that I didn't appreciate meeting a Nobel Prize winner at the weekend, but if I'm honest, my real intention was to introduce Amelie to a future Prime Minister. Or failing that, David Cameron. At the time I thought I'd been unsuccessful in my mission, but as it transpires, Dave the Conservative had already met Amelie a full twenty-four hours before we headed down to the seafront on Sunday.

I received an e-mail at work this afternoon from the Chief Executive. To be honest, he sent it to everyone, but I'm probably the only one who read it. It turns out that whilst in Brighton for the weekend, David Cameron visited the hospital on Saturday afternoon and was given a guided tour. Obviously I already knew that, because I'm a regular reader of Gulf News. But what the biggest selling broadsheet in the United Arab Emirates failed to report is this key piece of information from today's e-mail:

"Mr Cameron made it very plain how impressed he was by what he had seen and heard. As he walked through the hospital he also particularly commented on the visual impact of our 'in the zone' hand hygiene posters and banners".

I think we all know which one he's talking about there. Let's face it, it's only a matter of time before Amelie starts playing a key role in the upcoming election campaign. I was always a big fan of Jennifer's Ear, so give it a few weeks and a bit of spin, and the biggest political hot potato in Britain will be Amelie's Smile.

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

I've just picked up my latest prescription for Tamsulosin, the wonder drug which is supposed to be keeping my prostate free of any unpleasantness. I've been taking it since September, and it does seem to be working. I'm only getting excruciating, crippling pain about once a month now. Or twice a month, if you include Lisa's PMT.

This is the fourth prescription I've had for the stuff, and I've been given a different brand every time. Mainly because I keep going to different pharmacies in the hope of avoiding conversations along the lines of "Hello Mr Gardner! Back again for your Tamsulosin? Prostate still the size of a lemon?". So I've enjoyed the same medication under a variety of names, such as Contiflo and Pamsvax (which sounds like my aunt's hoover).

But the latest incarnation is undoubtedly the best. I've just taken delivery of two boxes of 'Petyme'. Bearing in mind that the primary use of Tamsulosin is to enable men to urinate (which is not, I hasten to add, why I take it), what better name could there be for the drug than Pee-Time.

With a bit of luck I'll get haemorrhoids now, so I can ask for a tube of Anusol next time I'm picking up my Pee-Time, and really enjoy my trips to the chemist.

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

We've had nothing but good weather since March began, and frankly I'm beginning to get bored with it. We could do with a bit of snow around here to liven things up. It's at least a fortnight since we had any.

But in the meantime, the relentless sunshine has given me and Lisa the chance to take Amelie to the Queen's Park playground to soak up a few rays. Obviously by the time I left work at 5 o'clock, picked up my family and walked down the road, the sun wasn't so much shining as setting, and Amelie was less of a sunbeam and more of a dusky maiden, but that didn't stop us having fun.

In addition to attempting to ride the see-saw with two boys who were clearly far too old for her, Amelie proved her powers of observation by successfully managing to spot me hiding behind a small camera. But after that she went downhill very quickly...

To be honest, I don't think she'd have gone down if I hadn't pushed her.

Monday, March 01, 2010

If there's one thing people have always said about me, it's that I attract Nobel prize winners like a magnet. No, really. And yesterday was no exception. Over the weekend, Brighton played host to two of the most significant and newsworthy events of the year so far: the Conservative Party's Spring Forum and the X Factor Live Tour. And as luck would have it, they were held within a hundred yards of each other. So with Amelie keen to meet David Cameron, and me a big fan of Jedward, the two of us headed along the seafront yesterday morning to rub shoulders with the great and the good.

Well, we didn't head straight along the seafront. We actually went to Aldi first. If you're going to meet the Tories, you need to check the price of eggs first. Unfortunately all they had were chocolate ones, and I'd never throw one of those, so instead I took Amelie to the nearest sex shop. Sorry, I mean Cex shop. We often pop in to see what they've got on the top shelf. It's where they keep the PC games.

By the time we'd finished faffing about in town and started heading for the Hilton, it was gone twelve-thirty, but fortunately there's nothing politicians like more than a free lunch, and if there's one thing guaranteed to winkle them out of a conference, it's a plate of hot food. So we cunningly made our way to the seafront along Preston Street, the road of a thousand restaurants. We then cut through Regency Square, rounded the corner, and came face to face with...

The Blue Baron... David Trimble! Yes, David Trimble! That's him on the left, pictured with the sentence he deserves for joining the Conservatives. Having signed the Good Friday Agreement and won the Nobel Peace Prize, there's obviously nowhere to go with your career but down, so he duly became a Tory peer in 2007. He's now known as Baron Trimble, just to prove that politics really is a pantomime.

Anyhoo, the only problem with finding yourself alone on a deserted stretch of pavement with the former leader of the Ulster Unionists, is that it makes it very difficult to pull out a camera without it looking like an assassination attempt by the Real IRA. I didn't want to startle the man and get myself arrested. I did want to say hello and ask him to pose for a photo with Amelie, but despite recognising him instantly, I couldn't for the life of me remember his name. And I was worried I'd get flustered and call him Ian Paisley.

So in the end I just smiled, Amelie miaowed, Trimble trembled, and we let him walk on by to the nearest tapas bar. But I like to think those two seconds of eye contact were the highlight of his day. He just had the kind of face that didn't show it.

Anyhoo, I know the press are reporting that it was a bad weekend for the Conservatives, but personally I disagree. Trimble might have scarpered like a greyhound out of the traps the moment the conference broke for lunch, but Cameron should be buoyed by the fact that the entire left wing protest outside the Hilton Metropole seemed to consist of one grey-haired old man with a placard...

The Right to Protest
... and when I got closer, it just read 'Jedward To Win X Factor'.