Subscribe: Subscribe to me on YouTube

Friday, April 30, 2010

The thing about writing a public journal is that life isn't always an endless stream of fun, laughter and bic-bics, and not everything can be illustrated with footage of Amelie telling knock-knock jokes. We've actually had a difficult couple of days. And I haven't even taken any photos.

I could illustrate this post with a tear-jerking video, but I don't really have any sad footage, and I'm not sure that filming The Loneliness of the Long Distance Toddler in black & white really does it...

To be honest, the only sad thing about that video is that I don't think I can sing like that any more.

Not everything that happens in my life gets mentioned on this blog (although it sometimes feels like it), and the most recent event to go under the blogging radar has been the news that Lisa was pregnant with our second child. The important word there being 'was'. Obviously the reason you don't tell anyone for the first twelve weeks is in case anything goes wrong. But when it does, people start to wonder why you haven't blogged for three days. So you end up mentioning it anyway.

The time we spent on cloud nine was brief, but wonderful, full of excited hugs and secret text messages that we'd waited almost a year to be able to send. The trip to the doctor on Tuesday evening was less good. And the resulting referral to the hospital's Early Pregnancy Unit yesterday morning was crushing. By then, I think we knew what the news would be, but it made it no less difficult to take.

Fortunately I work with the kind of lovely people who will let me take three days off with no notice whatsoever, and happily cover my clinics. So at least Lisa and I faced it together. And Amelie smiled through it all. But given the choice, I'd rather be taking the clinics than attending them.

The irony is that we're back in the same position we were in a few weeks ago. And we were very happy then. So we shouldn't feel as sad as we do. But it's surprising how much a few dashed expectations can change the way you feel. On the plus side, our coping mechanism for the past forty-eight hours has been food, which means we're well stocked up on chocolate, cookies and muffins. Frankly Amelie's never been so happy.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Sometimes the only way to make the sun shine is to get down on the ground, turn your face skywards, and exalt the benevolent gods of weather...

Although I still don't like the look of those storm clouds.

Fortunately Amelie's life's a beach (when I can be bothered to take her there), but someone for whom weather is more of a matter of life and death is Big Sis, who's currently dodging tornados in the southern states of America. Last I heard, she was playing twister in Texas, having driven there from Louisiana with a following wind.

She made it to the wedding she was attending on Saturday, but she said the disasters she had to endure to get there would have filled about five blog posts. So I told her to write one for me. To which she replied that she couldn't, because her laptop had broken. I think that was one of the disasters. I expect some volcanic ash got into it during the flight.

But the good news is that having helped a couple tie the knot in the Bible Belt (which is going to be difficult to undo) Sis has found time to continue her worldwide humanitarian work with animals. She's already killed a kanagroo and butchered a bird, and her attempts to run over bears and wrestle sharks have been well documented. But I had this text message from Big Sis yesterday:

"Hit an armadillo the night before last".

That's another one to tick off the list.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Search MeIf you watched my grand 'Slam Poetry' video yesterday, you'll have noticed that I stopped filming the moment the words 'Shakespeare' and 'young people' were mentioned. It's a natural reflex that I can't do anything about. But it's a shame, because what followed was actually quite impressive.

It turned out to be a 'Shakespeare Soliloquy Slam' for teenagers, which pitted Cardinal Newman Catholic School against Portslade Community College. Which is a bit like Eton playing the Bash Street Kids. Pictured right is Ben Judd from Cardinal Newman, who's my personal tip-top tip for the top. I took his photo because he's bound to be famous one day. In fact, having seen him do one of Iago's speeches from Othello, I'd happily cast him in my next play. If I had a next play.

The girl from Portslade who followed him was very good too, but sadly Amelie got over-excited at that point and started shouting louder than she was, so I decided we ought to make a swift exit.

Which is how we ended up on the other side of Jubilee Square, watching someone having his portrait painted (for free, with a black marker pen) as a famous literary character...

Mr Foster and the Baron Gilvan
To be honest, I only stopped to watch because I took one look at the subject on the right and assumed the whole thing was a piece of street theatre. It turns out I was wrong. The blokes doing the drawing are Foster and Gilvan, a musical art performance duo, but the chap on the right's just a typical Brighton resident.

It was all very entertaining, but the thing about watching great art is that it makes you crave a few nibbles...

She only said 'bic-bic' because she knew I was out of popcorn.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

The queue for the police toilets is getting longer by the minute...

Pee See
They literally have nothing to go on.

I'm joking of course. The police have far more important things to do than queue for the toilet. They're on the lookout for racists. And not the institutional ones in their own midst.

Yes, just two days after St George's Day, Brighton - possibly the most liberal, tolerant and Bohemian city in the country - played host to the March for England this morning. And it had nothing to do with the World Cup. It was actually a demonstration by people who are "ENGLISH AND PROUD - PROUD NOT RACIST", and who "WELCOME everyone to March For England, Regardless of Colour, Culture or Religion". So some of their best friends are black. And probably Muslim too.

I was out with Amelie at the time, and had no idea the march was taking place, but I decided to film them. Mainly because Amelie likes horses...

The penned people on the grass are United Against Fascism. I don't think they believed the marchers' claims to be family-friendly and non-racist. Or maybe it was just coincidence that they were there.

Anyway, I can't pretend to know the true motives of those who took part, but I'm not a big fan of nationalism, so I tend to agree with the horse who defecated right in front of them.

But the good news is that you don't have to live on a council estate to stand proudly in front of a flag of St George...

AttersThis is the real reason Amelie and I went out today. Kind of. That's Atters on the left. He hosted the World Beard & Moustache Championships in 2007, which still ranks as one of the best days I've ever spent in Brighton. But today he was taking part in 'The Book & the Rose', a dual celebration marking both St George's Day and Shakespeare's birthday. It took place all day outside the library in Jubilee Square, which is where Amelie and I were heading when we bumped into the xenophobes.

The event was basically a mixture of the good, the bard and the ugly. Jubilee Square was filled with stalls selling books and handing out flowers, and the place was populated by actors, writers and musicians. One of whom was playing the musical saw. Amelie and I felt right at home. And not just because my Dad plays the hosepipe. We particularly liked the on-stage entertainment, the highlight of which was this chap...

Conrad Vingoe
That's Conrad Vingoe, a folk singer who was described in the programme as "melancholic and uplifting". So he's probably bi-polar. Personally I thought he was excellent. In fact I was so impressed, I might withdraw some money from Amelie's trust fund and order his CD. But in the meantime, here's a very badly shot video...

Amelie kept jogging the camera by bouncing up and down in her buggy, and then my batteries ran out. It was a nightmare from start to finish.

But fortunately I had some spare batteries in my pocket, so I was able to film the Hammer & Tongue 'Slam Poetry' slot. Never have such low expectations ended with such enthusiastic applause. Don't let the word 'poetry' put you off, this was actually the most brilliant sixty seconds of verse I've ever seen...

Amelie actually stopped eating her rusk for the duration of that poem. That's how entertaining it was. I need to chuck out her picture books and buy her some sonnets.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Lisa and Amelie are both out this afternoon. Lisa's meeting a friend down at the marina, but frankly I've no idea where Amelie is. She never tells me anything. So I've been taking the opportunity to get on with a few things at home. The kitchen's now clean, the carpets are hoovered, and Amelie's toys are all neatly tidied away. All of which will last until about two minutes after she gets home.

But whilst in the mood for pointless housekeeping, I was suddenly possessed by the urge to check my Telly Critic e-mails. I wrote that website in 2005 and I haven't added anything to it for more than four years, so I must admit I don't quite manage to check those e-mails every day. I think the last time was in 2008.

It's a shame, because I've had some interesting communications over the years. I've heard from drunk reality TV stars, I've been asked to produce some Media Studies coursework, and even write an opinion piece on gorillas for Sky News. But after being kicked off national radio by Take That's singing teacher, I started checking my e-mails less frequently.

You know, it's only when I click on those four links that I realise what an odd life I've been leading for the past few years. It's a miracle I'm not in therapy. But I digress...

The good news is that having checked my Telly Critic e-mails this afternoon, I can confirm that the students of Britain still have nothing better to do than ask me to write their theses for them. Take this one for example...

"I am a student at Northampton University, currently doing a presentation where we have to compare and contrast any one national television programme with any one international programme from the same genre. We have chosen to do 'The Hills' and 'Living on the Edge' and we would very much appreciate your expert opinion on this subject as to help us with our work. One of the areas that we are looking at is the idea of quality TV versus trash TV within the shows and would like your opinion on this matter. Any insight and information that you can give would be much appreciated".

Personally I've never heard of 'The Hills' or 'Living on the Edge', but I presume they're fly-on-the-wall documentaries about the respective home lives of Faith Hill and U2. She did say they're in the same genre. I'm tempted to reply and ask if anyone at university does maths or physics any more, but sadly there's no time because my fame has now spread to America, and I'm starting to get e-mails from New Jersey...

"I am Journalism major at Rowan University in NJ. I have a project I have to do for one of my Journalism classes where I have to interview people for a trend feature I am doing and was wondering whether you could help me out.

My feature is on how people are finding new ways of viewing their favorite television shows (YouYube, Hulu, iTunes, TIVO, etc..) and how the idea of appointment television may be dead.

I was wondering whether you would be interested in answering a few short questions by email on this subject. I came across your website,, and I thought you may have some good things to say. Please get back to me if you are interested, it would be very helpful."

I bet it would be. You might get away with doing no work whatsoever.

Anyhoo, I hate to crunch his Hulu hopes, but I don't really have time to reply. I'm a busy man, and Britain's Got Talent is on at exactly 8pm tonight. I am, however, tempted to suggest that he calls his feature 'No Appointment Necessary'.

But as if the UK and USA aren't enough, I've also had one from Australia. This comes courtesy of Renegade Films, a film and TV production company based in Melbourne...

"I'm hoping to find out whether there have been any programs done concerning transforming a persons exterior that you know of?? Eg, along the lines of 'Skin Deep', the Anita Roddick one.

Any help/leads would be much appreciated."

Frankly a programme transforming the exterior of Anita Roddick is going to have its work cut out. The woman's been dead for more than two years. They really would need a Body Shop to get that one off the ground.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Q. What do you call a Scottish dwarf with epilepsy?

A. Wee Fit

That was told to me today by a patient. I think I need to stop talking to them.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Who says that an 18-month-old can't form proper sentences? We've got subject, verb and biscuit working in perfect harmony here...

At least we didn't give one to the Tombliboo.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

I'd just like to point out the wispy curls on the side of Amelie's head...

Pointing out the obvious.


Road markings can be so useful.

But that aside, the good news is that at this very moment, Big Sis is on a plane over the Atlantic, en route to the US of A. That's assuming she hasn't been hit by a lump of lava or something. Quite how she's managed to muscle her way onto a flight when the rest of the country are reduced to catching warships, I've no idea, but happily it looks like she'll now make it there in time be a bridesmaid in the Deep South on Saturday. On the downside, the only flight she could get lands in Houston, and frankly if you're going to have a problem, that's where you'd be heading. I expect the oxygen tanks are exploding as we speak.

Colour CatcherBut moving on to far more important matters, I bought a box of Colour Catcher this week. I know, I must have money to burn. It was actually Lisa who requested it, because unlike myself, she finds it difficult to resist washing black jeans with white pillowcases, and has finally reached the point where the world looks grey to her, and she can't take it any more.

Fortunately she watches a lot of daytime TV, so she's no stranger to the Colour Catcher advert, which basically seems to promise that you can confidently wash your red riding hood with your snow white sheets without fear of ending up in the pink.

So I bought a box. And took it home. At which point I read the box. It says this:

"Carefully selected well-washed colourfast garments can be washed with whites, saving time and energy."

Eh? I already knew that. I've been doing that for years. I want to wash randomly selected unwashed colour-running clothes like on the advert. That's why I bought the product. But it continues...

"New coloured garments should be washed separately for at least the first 5 or 6 washes. Certain large dark coloured items such as jeans and towels should always be washed separately. Effectiveness cannot be guaranteed where large quantities of dye run from non-colourfast garments. Reasonable care should be taken if mixing colours with whites."

IF mixing colours with whites??? Isn't that the whole point of the product?

So basically if you've got a completely colourfast item which isn't a pair of jeans, a bath towel, or anything large, and it's been washed separately at least 5 or 6 times, then as long as you take reasonable care, you can put it in with your whites and Colour Catcher will stop it running. Unless it leaks large quantities of dye.

£2.34 well spent then.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

If there's one thing I've always said about Amelie, it's that she bears a striking resemblence to Dappy from N-Dubz...

                    Dappy                                                  Dippy

Admittedly she's a lot more articulate than he is, but they get into similar amounts of trouble for sending text messages. I don't think my Mum has any credit left after the last time she baby-sat.

Anyhoo, since returning to work yesterday, I've been busier than a cross-channel ferry service. Partly because I spent so long at the marathon on Sunday that I didn't go shopping. Or get petrol. Or do any of the things that I should have done before returning to work. So I had to cram most of it into yesterday evening. But the good news is, I've still found time for the really important things. Like going to the park.

So while I press on with some stuff I really should have done in my week off, here's a photo of a couple of swingers...

The ark in the background has since left to pick up some people from Spain.

Monday, April 19, 2010

It's Amelie at the halfway point of the Brighton Marathon!

Limbering Up
It's important to stop after thirteen miles to do a few stretches. And just look at the load-bearing capabilities of that right arm. There'll be no child protection cases in this family, thank you very much.

Any self-respecting marathon runner also needs to support a charity...

St Leonards
Amelie's delighted to be associated with Leonard Cheshire Disability. Well, she likes their balloons. It amounts to the same thing.

Anyhoo, my daughter and I spent most of yesterday morning, and part of the afternoon, down at the marathon. At 11am, the dual carriageway on the seafront was awash with runners, some of whom were dressed as toilets (they were raising money for Water Aid), but by 1pm this afternoon, the road looked like this...

28 Days Later
It was like something out of '28 Days Later'. That's a zombie hoving into view on the right. Well, she probably felt like one. And she wasn't even half way round at that point.

I must admit, I was a little disappointed by the low number of people in ridiculous costumes. Aside from the running toilets, we only really saw a Sponge Bob Squarepants and a couple of fairies. Everyone else seemed to have come dressed as a marathon runner. But just as we were about to give up, we met a superhero...

Rosie Swale-Pope
Those legs have run right around the world. It's no wonder they need a sit down.

Amelie and I were making our way home along the seafront at about 1:15pm when a yellow submarine on wheels came beetling along the road, and a lady cried Help! Not one to ignore a woman in a harness, I made my way over to the kerb, where she immediately said "Hello Baby". Unfortunately she was talking to Amelie. She then explained that she needed a shoulder to lean on. Quite literally. She wanted to hold on to someone while she stretched her calf muscles.

I was tempted to offer her Amelie, but I didn't want to end up in A & E again, so instead I took the responsibility onto my own shoulders.

However, as she freed herself from her shackles, another man came along and said he'd seen her on TV the night before. Which made me think I should read the side of her wagon. It turned out that the lady I was about to man-handle was none other than Rosie Swale-Pope, author, adventurer, and the first woman to sail single-handed across the Atlantic in a small boat. She's also ridden 3,000 miles across Chile on a horse, but that's probably just because she didn't know the Spanish word for "Woah!".

Unfortunately, being the clueless ones standing next to a super-fan, Amelie and I were immediately rejected, and Rosie took the arm of the bloke who actually knew who she was. At the time I was annoyed, but thirty seconds later, she'd asked him to go to Superdrug for some supplies and meet her further down the course. Frankly it was a lucky escape. Another minute, and we'd have been running the marathon with her.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Nobody Move!It's the Brighton Marathon today, and frankly no one's getting out of here. I feel the same about my flat. I was hoping to take Amelie down to New Road this morning to see our good friend Andrew reminding the runners that Sunday should be a day of rest, by singing them a few God songs as part of the 'Brighton Goes Gospel' choir. He was due to take to the stage as part of the official entertainment shortly after 9am, which is when the marathon was due to kick off, but as we speak, Amelie's still in her high chair, putting porridge in her hair.

I did go down to the seafront yesterday afternoon though, to see how the preparations were coming along. They appear to have built an aircraft hangar in Madeira Drive, which could come in useful with the number of grounded planes we've got at the moment...

Tent City
And the seafront is crawling with international athletes and their trainers. Here's a Polish coach checking out the finish line...

Polish coach.
But the thing I really want to check out this morning is this...

Chips with everything.
I think it's some kind of takeaway service.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

The problem with wandering the streets, taking photos of everything I see, is that I tend to forget what I've snapped. I've only just remembered this delightful picture I took in Crawley nine days ago...

Fabulous 99
That's the window of a 99p shop in Crawley town centre, which has been taken over by new management, and turned into a cheap shop, rather than a pound shop. Unfortunately they can't be bothered to get a new sign, so they've just scrubbed out the 'p', and are calling themselves 'Fabulous 99'. I went there thinking they sold ice cream.

Sadly they don't. But they do stock an enviable range of plastic battery-operated birds. No, really. Among the quality items on offer in the window are a 'Spread Peacock's Tail' and a 'Heartful Bird'. I've known a few hateful birds in my time, and most of them were cheap and plastic, but never a heartful one.

I particularly like the ParRot...

It's the latest technology to adopt advanced technology, simulating a true style, and is completely new to come in to the market. But I'm probably stating the obvious there.

The ParRot's clearly lovely, but personally I prefer the "HIGH QUALITY WORKMANSHIP" that went into this Singing Bird...

It's not every day you see a red, white & blue sparrow saying "Chirm" to what appears to be Shrek hiding in a tree trunk. I regret not buying one now.

Friday, April 16, 2010

I took this photo an hour ago as I strolled through Kemptown at 9 o'clock on a Friday night...

Heavenly Bodies
That's the moon and Venus rising over Warwick Mount. And we all know who lives there. Clearly Jesus isn't the only one with a star over his crib.
I'm pleased to report that as of this morning, Amelie is able to suck her right thumb again. It's the first time she's managed to stick her favourite digit in her mouth since I took her to Lidl on Wednesday, which personally I think is the real reason she cried so much. The notion that she was in some kind of physical pain was just an idea dreamt up by Lisa to make me feel guilty. And to cover up her own guilt that she's never taken Amelie out to buy chocolate seashells for me.

It sucks.But with our daughter in rehab at her Grandma's house yesterday (which was arranged before we knew she wasn't going to have the use of all her limbs), it gave me the chance to try our new hoover. I bought the one on the left on Monday, but I hadn't had a chance to test it out because Amelie doesn't like the sound of vacuum cleaners. She gets that from her mother. Our old one had always been too heavy for Lisa to lift, and despite my protestations that a month's gym membership to build up her muscles would be cheaper than buying a new one, I was eventually persuaded to invest in another model.

And I'm very glad I did. Our new Bissell Powerforce sucks big time. But in a good way. Judging by the amount of dust it picked up yesterday morning, I don't think our old vacuum cleaner was doing anything apart from making a lot of noise and giving me a cardiovascular workout. Our carpet looks brand new. Apart from the orange baby food stains.

So whilst in the mood for replacing faulty equipment, we drove over to Halfords yesterday afternoon to get a new headlight bulb for my car. My parents noticed that it wasn't working when we left there on Wednesday night, which isn't the kind of news you want at 11pm when you've spent half the day in A & E. Damn that black cat keyring.

Our one mile journey to Halfords felt a bit like taking part in the Wacky Races. EDF Energy were carrying out some "investment" (their word, not mine) in Kemptown yesterday. As a result, we had a total of three power cuts, and a lot of houses nearby had no electricity for six hours. But most entertaining of all was that the traffic lights were out at the bottom of Edward Street. We arrived there to find that we somehow had to fight our way onto the Old Steine as one of six lanes of traffic heading in four different directions, each refusing to give way to the other five. It made driving around the Arc de Triomphe look like a jaunt around an industrial estate on a Sunday afternoon. Needless to say, we went home a different way.

On the subject of travel chaos, Big Sis was supposed to be flying out to America this morning, but she's been thwarted by the volcanic cloud from Iceland. Personally I blame Kerry Katona. Sis is due to be a bridesmaid at the wedding of the century in Louisiana next week, so she's not a happy bunny. Frankly she's more ashen than the cloud. Although if she really wants to know suffering, she should try setting the time on all her electric clocks three times in one day. That's what I call soul-destroying.

And talking of soul-destroying activities, I spent part of this morning in the hospital library trying to make some progress on my City & Guilds Diploma in Retinal Screening. It's a bit like wading through treacle, only slower and less sweet. Admittedly I'm on annual leave at the moment, and shouldn't really be thinking about it, but I've resigned myself to the fact that I'll never get it done if I stick to my allocated study periods. We're given two half-days a month, totalling 7½ hours, but each of the eight units I have to complete has a guideline number of hours I should spend on it. And they add up to 310 hours. Or about three and a half years. Roll on 2014.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

If there's one thing I've always said, it's that lucky black cat keyrings are an invaluable and vital possession, and nobody should ever leave home without one. I also think that childhood accidents are something you should never ignore.

Poster GirlBut that aside, the good thing about spending a Wednesday evening in A & E is that you get to see all the posters of Amelie. This is the first one you'll see, near the main entrance, just to the left of the reception desk. It's heartwarming to think of all the people who have stood in that queue, dripping with blood, waiting to be booked in for treatment on their hideous chainsaw injuries, who have been soothed by the sight of my daughter smiling at them from a hand gel dispenser. Although if they'd been there yesterday, they could have seen her in the (bruised) flesh.

It all started with a trip to Lidl. Which is ironic, because that's the best place to buy a chainsaw. And an industrial bacon slicer. To be honest, it's a miracle anyone makes it out of there alive. The place is like something out of the film 'Hostel'. But I digress. I've spent my week off showing Amelie the supermarkets of Brighton, so having toddled to Morrisons and back on Monday, then made her walk all the way home from Asda at the marina on Tuesday, the two of us set out on foot for Lidl yesterday morning. Without the lucky black cat keyring.

It was as we were walking past the electric lawnmowers that Amelie started playing the 'hilarious' (her word, my inverted commas) game which involves her suddenly sitting down, laughing hysterically, and wanting me to pull her up by the arm. Having done so for the third time, I decided enough was enough, and reached into my bag for the baby reins. But as I did so, she burst into tears. Possibly at the memory of those baking tins we bought last time we were there. So I placated her with a rice cake as I trussed her up like a chicken, and all was well with the world.

Until we paid for Lisa's chocolate seashells, and got outside. As soon as we started walking home, she burst into tears again, and this time wouldn't stop unless I held her. Which is not good news when you're half a mile from home with a toddler who weighs more than a hippo. But using a combination of superhuman strength and copious biscuits, we made it back to the flat, by which time both Amelie and I claimed to have severely aching arms. Although only one of us was crying about it.

To cut a long, painful, scream-filled story short, Amelie spent the afternoon walking around like a bird with an injured wing, accusing me of having done permanent damage to her right arm when I pulled her to her feet in Lidl. Although for a long time, we thought she was just teething. It's not easy interpreting the cries of a tearful child who just sits there with three fingers in her mouth, saying miaow.

Eventually, however, we realised that she would only pull Chloe's tail with her left hand, which is not like her at all. So Lisa phoned the doctor. Half an hour later, we were sitting in the surgery waiting room while Amelie ran up and down laughing, picking up stones from the ornamental plant pots, and shouting "Makka Pakka!". Which was annoying as we only went down there because she wouldn't stop crying.

We saw a lovely young locum (here's why) who was excellent, and felt that the problem was Amelie's shoulder. He didn't think it was serious, but wanted it x-rayed just in case. Which is how we found ourselves in A & E at 6pm last night, looking at posters of Amelie. There's one of her by the entrance, and another in the waiting room, both of which feature her name, but despite that, the nurse still called her Amelia. I think it just proves they don't use the alcohol hand gel.

Having waited for an hour and drunk some free Calpol, Amelie was examined by a nice young doctor who I met last July during a Grand Round at the Sussex Eye Hospital. Those are the kind of learned (and ever decreasing) circles I move in. He waved a teddy bear at her, manhandled her arm, and confirmed that it wasn't broken or dislocated, but merely sprained. I was a bit concerned that I might be reported to the child protection unit, so I made no mention of Lidl, and told him it had happened in the food court at Marks & Spencer. That seemed to get me off the hook.

So at 7:15pm we finally made it home, where Lisa cheerfully informed me that if we ever split up, she'll be using the incident to get custody of Amelie. I reminded her that usually she can't wait to palm off our daughter on the in-laws, so with that in mind, we drove over to my parents and dumped the flightless bird on them for the night. I spent the rest of the evening being reminded of just how much pain the girl had been in, and what a sad day of suffering she'd had, purely because I'd taken her to Lidl. From now on, I'm only going to Waitrose.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

We've just discovered that when Lisa's Mum was here last Thursday, she dropped the lucky black cat keyring that she carries with her at all times to bring constant good fortune and stop her being hit by a bus. Amelie found it under the sofa. Which was quite lucky. She only went under there to eat Lisa's shoes.

It means that for the past five days, Lisa's Mum has been walking around completely unaided by the gods of good fortune. No wonder she didn't pick the winner of the Grand National. As things stand right now, serendipity is just another word she can't spell. But the point is, she has no idea. She's blissfully unaware of the state of fateful misfortune in which she's currently living her life. And let's face it, if the thing worked, she wouldn't have lost it. So I'm tempted not to tell her. It hasn't done her any harm so far, and it means her handbag will be a bit lighter from now on. On the downside, when we pop over to see her at the weekend and find her lying at the bottom of a lift shaft with a massive safe on her head, I might feel a bit guilty.

Anyhoo, I'm on annual leave this week, which is why I'm busy retrieving Amelie from under the sofa, instead of picking up pensioners' walking sticks from the side of a retinal screening camera. Lisa's making the most of a live-in babysitter by doing all the things she can't normally get done without breaking the laws on child neglect. She's currently at the hairdresser, and has booked herself a dentist's appointment for Wednesday. So it's hair today, crown tomorrow.

I've spent a lot of the past two days trying to get my money's worth out of Amelie's shoes by taking her for so many walks that they might actually be worn out before I have to buy her a new pair. But with the new series of Britain's Got Talent due to start on Saturday, we've also invested a lot of time in trying to find a way to incorporate Chloe into our stand-up comedy act. It was yesterday morning, during a rehearsal in her new pyjamas (£4 from George at Asda, if you're wondering), that Amelie finally found a way...

We're like Siegfried & Roy on a budget.

Monday, April 12, 2010

The thing about major childhood accidents is that you can't let them bother you. Just witness Marie's carefree and casual look of disdain as Amelie heads face-first towards the tarmac...

Fall Girl
Mind you, you should have seen her two seconds earlier with her foot sticking out, trying to trip Amelie up.

Obviously I didn't help the girl either, but I was busy compiling the documentary evidence with my camera for the impending child protection case.

To be honest, I should have known something wasn't right when Amelie turned to Marie yesterday afternoon and called her a cow. At the time I thought she was just naming farm animals, but I realise now that it was actually a perceptive recognition of the woman's true character.

I thought something smelt fishy when I took the photo on the left, but I decided it was just the turtle's nose in the background. I should have known it was actually the stench of corruption in the once peaceful land of childcare. Marie's clearly trying to get Amelie to look at the camera so that she can give her a sharp slap around the back of the head.

But child abuse aside, we had a very nice afternoon with Auntie Melee yesterday. She arrived at lunchtime in her yellow Panda (which confused Amelie no end after all I've taught her about animals), and I immediately served her the world's biggest lasagne accompanied by some undercooked garlic bread. She couldn't finish either. I tried not to take it personally. Frankly even Amelie refused to eat the garlic bread.

But with the food eaten (and the Gaviscon drunk), Amelie demonstrated to Marie her technique with a toy buggy. The girl's learnt a lot from all the times I've taken her out, and made her way around the flat, banging the buggy against walls, doors and bookcases until she'd shaken it up and down and from side to side so much that her baby fell out. That's pretty much how I do it when I take her to Asda.

So with Amelie keen to break out, and Lisa close to a break down, Marie and I took the toddler out for a run along the seafront. We followed the route of next Sunday's Brighton Marathon by heading along Madeira Drive to the Sea Life Centre where the finish line will be. Frankly it's the best plaice for it. Marie's actually done a marathon in the past, and I've eaten a few Snickers in my time, but the one who really took to the course was Amelie...

I only managed a few seconds of footage, because at the age of eighteen months, she can already toddle faster than I can run backwards. I think someone should be marketing rusks as a high energy food.

Anyhoo, our attempts to wear Amelie out failed spectacularly, and the moment we got home, she continued with her trouble-making. But the good news is that by the time Marie left, she'd taught Amelie to say "mischief". The bad news is it doesn't actually stop her doing it. But at least she now tells us what she's up to.

Amelie and I walked Marie down the road to her car at teatime and waved her goodbye. I think she wanted to leave before I served dinner. We'd only gone ten yards when I realised I'd put Amelie's shoes on the wrong feet. I wouldn't mind, but when I met Marie on Brighton beach a year ago, she noticed that I'd put Amelie's jeans on back to front. If Social Services had a clothes abuse squad, I'd be in prison by now.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Over the past three years, the bear by my head might have moved roughly as much as the basket by Lisa's, but not everything has stayed the same.

This was Marie's visit in November 2007...

Anorexics Anonymous
This was December 2008...

Fat Club
And now here we all are today...

I want to know who's been feeding that baby steroids. By the time we take next year's photo, she'll be the one holding me.
Our good friend Marie is coming down to visit us today, so Amelie's just had a bath...

Because she's worth it.
It means that by the time her Auntie Melee gets here, Am will only have her lunch in her hair, and not her lunch and breakfast.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

I didn't sleep very well last night, so I'm in a bit of a daze at the moment, but the good news is that I'll soon be able to afford all the black market sleeping pills money can buy, because it's the Grand National today. I've been predicting the winners here with uncanny accuracy since 2004, and whilst I can't remember exactly how many I've got spot on, I know it's roughly about six. Give or take five or so.

So before I pop into town for some industrial strength Nytol, here are the four horses guaranteed to be romping up the home straight at four-thirty this afternoon. Possibly with their jockeys still on board. And not all of them in a horse ambulance...

Ballyfitz1st. Ballyfitz at 66-1. Opinion is divided on this horse. Some people say he couldn't jump a fence to save his life, and wouldn't make it around Aintree without a jet-pack. Others say he's actually a talented animal. Unfortunately, all the people who know about racing are in the first camp. I'm in the second. And I've got two quid on him at odds of 90-1. He's going to win. Trust me.

Eric's Charm2nd. Eric's Charm at 50-1. As someone said on TV this morning, "he's old enough to smoke". He's also older than my niece. And probably less sporty. But there's life in the old horse yet. And I'll collect a hundred quid if he wins.

Character Building3rd. Character Building at 22-1. No woman has ever won the Grand National. It tends to be horses. But this year, Nina Carberry could become the first female jockey ever to triumph in the race. Except she won't. She'll be third.

Maljimar4th. Maljimar at 40-1. He hasn't won a race for more than two years. And he won't win today either. But he will land me a bit of place money.

Right, that's your lot. I'm off into town to spend my winnings.

Friday, April 09, 2010

If there’s one thing I've always said about Lisa, it's that she loves a bit of tragedy. Her mother's the same. They're never happier than when they're knee-deep in a dark, depressing drama of damnation and disaster. So given the choice between a light-hearted screwball comedy and a bitter tragedy about heartbreak, devastation and death, they'll go for the latter every time. It's why they both watch Jeremy Kyle.

So imagine my delight when I arrived home from Crawley Hospital yesterday afternoon to find Lisa brandishing the DVD of ‘Days of Wine and Roses’. Actually I was quite delighted, as I had no idea what it was about. It sounded like a romantic comedy.

I prefer Roses to Quality Street.Admittedly, when I saw the DVD cover, I was mildly concerned, but I love a Jack Lemmon comedy, and the movie's tagline - "This, in its own terrifying way, is a love story" - didn't bother me either. After all, Lee Remick's best known as the mother of the Antichrist, so you've got to expect a bit of terror amongst the romance. I did say to Lisa "This isn't going to make us cry, is it?", but she assured me we'd be as dry-eyed as a couple of xerophthalmics by the end of the night.

Anyhoo, I'm not saying she was wrong, but I'm having to go shopping tonight. We're completely out of tissues, and I need some fabric cleaner to get the tear stains out of the scatter cushions.

Thursday, April 08, 2010

Amelie might have refused to wear her sheep mask at the weekend, but when it comes to looking like a spring lamb for Easter, there's one member of this family who doesn't get a choice...

I gave Chloe a haircut on Easter Monday to make her look more seasonal. I was hoping to attach a pair of bunny ears too, but even she draws the line somewhere.

Kiss Me QuickAs I can personally testify, an aggressive home hair-clipping will always attract the ladies, so it's no surprise that Chloe's spent the past three days being constantly kissed by Amelie. Mostly against her will, it has to be said. To be honest, if Chloe wasn't such a wuss, and knew how to stand up to bullies, we'd be down at A&E by now with a major claw-related trauma.

Admittedly, for a few months now, Amelie's been no stranger to kissing Chloe (it's when she starts doing it to frogs in fifteen years time that we need to start worrying), but since my cat went from a woolly sheep to a shorn lamb on Monday, the girl's become slightly obsessed. If Amelie wore lipstick, Chloe would be red all over.

When I did all of this a year ago, it made most of the national papers, but frankly it feels like Chloe's had more attention this time around. Amelie won't leave her alone. She's like a paparazzi stalker with no restraining order. But on the plus side, I don't expect this little video to make the six o'clock news...

If it does, I'll be sued for breach of copyright by the makers of Tom and Jerry...

Personally I prefer Ben & Jerry
If you didn't see the mouse, it's on the computer desk above Amelie's head.

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

It takes a certain amount of panache to pose in front of an NHS poster promoting cleanliness, whilst wearing the contents of your breakfast bowl...

Bowl Over
Mind you, there was a mashed banana in that bowl, so at least she's getting the principle of five-a-day into her head. Quite literally in fact.

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

Back in November, I shot this footage of Amelie seeking out customers for her mobile hairdressing business at my parents' house in St Leonards...

Well the good news is that as of Easter Sunday, she's moved on to carpentry and is already taking telephone bookings...

If she combined the two, she could go at it hammer and tongs.

But like an electioneering politician (or cowboy builder), when she's not conducting important business on the phone, she's out there gauging public opinion on the street. And the result, according to one passer-by yesterday, is that she's "very cute".

She and I might have spent the whole weekend eating, but we made up for it yesterday with some serious walking in the Bank Holiday sunshine. I let her toddle along the seafront to Asda in the morning, but the real superhuman effort came yesterday afternoon when she walked the entire route below, holding my hand, and waving at strangers...

Brighton Marathon
I've marked all the points where she stopped to ask for a biscuit.

According to Google Maps, that's a distance of 1.7 miles. Which, when added to the 0.7 miles she covered in the morning, makes a toddling total of 2.4 miles. For someone with a stride of six inches, that's not far off a marathon. So let's examine the evidence: she's consistently funny, likes dressing in girls' clothes, and can run marathons on a daily basis. I might have to ask Eddie Izzard for a DNA test.

Monday, April 05, 2010

The problem with letting Amelie spend all weekend with people who love rubbish like this...

... is that she starts to pick up bad habits...

Mind you, it could be worse. She could be into High School Musical.

But putting aside the fact that my daughter's been gleefully led astray by her aunt and cousin, it's actually been a very nice Easter weekend. And I'm not just saying that because Lisa wasn't there for half of it. I've eaten enough chocolate to keep a small South American child exploited for at least another year, and consumed so much cake that not only do I never want to speak of it again (or scrape it off the bottom of my oven), but I'm not sure I can face the thought of eating another piece either. Which is probably good news if I'm ever going to lose the stone I've undoubtedly put on in the past three days.

Anyhoo, this time last year (give or take a couple of weeks), I was filming videos like this...

That's Big Sis coming back down to earth with a bump last March. Her career's taken off since then, but she manages to keep her feet on the ground. Although she still prefers a left-hand drive vehicle. So if you've ever wondered what it feels like to ride shotgun with a kangaroo-killing veteran of Wiltshire Constabulary's finest 'Speed Awareness' course, then wonder no more...

This time the role of instructor is played by my niece, but I'm not sure I'm in any less danger. I checked behind me after about a minute, to make sure we weren't being tailed by the police. I also honked out the real names of those involved, in an effort to preserve anonymity. Let's face it, Big Sis gets arrested often enough, without me revealing her identity on this blog.

I shot that video on Saturday afternoon during the short drive between my parents' house and St Leonards' finest purveyor of second-hand junk. Since speeding into town on Wednesday night, Big Sis had been keeping her eye on an objet d'art in the window of a nearly-new furniture shop on the seafront. It's some kind of abstract sculpture (until you work out what it is) and every time she passed it on her early morning run, it remained there, unsold and calling to her. To be honest, it's not surprising the shop couldn't sell it. The only type of artistic sculpture which is popular in St Leonards is a candlestick you could use as a murder weapon.

So when we arrived on Saturday afternoon, Big Sis asked me if I'd accompany her to the junk yard and act as her art investment advisor. And heavy lifter. Fortunately, spending other people's money comes quite naturally to me, so I agreed, and with our niece in tow, we headed straight down there.

An hour later, we returned with two candle holders, a picture, a birthday card, some Japanese mats and a plaster cast of a nose (Sis picked it herself). I told her to haggle on the price of the nose, but she blew it, and paid an amount not to be sniffed at. Most importantly of all though, we bought the sculpture. Which you probably knew if you read yesterday's blog post. They don't tend to let you pose for photos with the merchandise in the back of your car unless you've bought it.

Sis thought it was a pregnant lady; so did my Dad; whilst my niece just described it as "really bad". But as the only true art connoisseur in the family, it was left to me to identify what the sculpture was really meant to be...

Junk in Your Tree Trunk
It's someone with fat thighs and a small head doing the yoga 'Tree Pose'. And to the left of that is the sculpture.

Sunday, April 04, 2010

It's Amelie high-fiving her cousin...

As high as Lisa's hemline.
... and escaping her aunt...

She's finished that Magnum.
... but the question is, what am I doing in the back seat of a convertible with my arm around an objet d'art..?

But is it art?
Sadly I can't explain at the moment, partly because I've eaten so much I can barely reach the keyboard, but mainly because I had such a good time at my parents' house yesterday, that I'm driving back over there again today. Amelie's coming with me, but Lisa's staying behind to scrub the kitchen floor.

Saturday, April 03, 2010

Sometimes in life you just have to face facts: if you dress up your daughter in an Easter bonnet and try to force her to wear a sheep mask, you're only going to make her cry...

Baa Humbug
Mainly because it suits Makka Pakka much better...

But once you've dressed Makka Pakka for springtime, and picked up your DS (which is actually an iPhone I bought in Poundland), you're all set for an Easter comedy moment...

Who needs a sheep mask to look sheepish.

Friday, April 02, 2010

Stupid leaking Lidl baking tins...

Next time I'm going to Aldi.
I've spent the evening scraping sponge off the bottom of the oven, and trying to salvage a sheep with no ears that looks like it's been burnt by French farmers.

Let's never speak of these Easter cakes again.