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Tuesday, August 31, 2010

I believe that children are our future. Teach them well and let them lead the way. Show them all the beauty they possess inside. Give them a sense of pride to make it easier. But above all, spend the August bank holiday teaching them to do a sucky face...

You Suck!
That was Amelie yesterday morning, shortly after she and I had finished watching 'I Can Cook' on CBeebies. Lisa was still in bed at the time, so I thought the two of us could surprise her by making a Honey Tea Loaf for elevenses. The recipe's here if you're interested.

Unfortunately, halfway through the programme, presenter Katy Ashworth told us that the dried fruit had sucked up all the tea, and asked the audience if we could do a sucky face. At which point Amelie and I abandoned all our baking plans, and spent the rest of the morning pulling faces. Not only did it make for a better photo, but it's less fattening too.

Not that we spent all day on the sofa. We also went for a walk to the nearest charity shop. Which is not quite so near now that we've moved. It was worth the journey though, because we found a cat for a quid (which is better than a dog for a pound). Amelie told me it had a tail like Chloe...

Pull the other one.
I told her to pull the other one.
Big Sis in a Small World
Well, the road trip started fairly uneventfully...

... albeit with two hours sleep and leaving an hour late, but P1 and I managed to meet P2 at Dover docks to exchange some goods before boarding the ferry to Calais.

I have to say, France ferries have gone up in the world since I last sailed on one 22 years ago. It reminded me of a downmarket cruise ship, and I had some serious flashbacks to the successful trip I took with Phil and Lisa a few years back (see this link). I even got accosted by some people who were far too keen to talk to me for my liking (a little like Table 39).

Anyway, a drive down the French freeway and we made it to Paris by 6pm. Two hours later, several near crashes and some very frayed nerves, and we made it to our hotel in Paris.

P1 had warned me of Parisian driving, which I promptly ignored, saying that people had said similar things about driving in London, LA and New York and I had yet to be fazed. However, Paris is a different matter. With five lanes merging into two, no lane markings on the road and a crossroads with no traffic lights (or at least, no one obeying the traffic lights), combined with a cluster of very dented cars, caused me to wonder whether the Chrysler's roadtripping life was soon to end.

But we survived. Only to realise that the petrol gauge was reading '0'. Fortunately, a gentle slope downwards to the hotel and only a small number of red lights meant we made it to our destination. Obviously, a trip to the Eiffel Tower was required to celebrate...

... which resulted in a torrential downpour and a broken camera (courtesy of P1). So we drowned our sorrows in an Italian dinner and some Californian wine.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Well, the good news from around here is that I'm now officially living in a crime-ridden ghetto. No, really. Having informed Elephant Insurance that I've moved 500m down the trunk road to a new jumbo-sized flat, they've finally got back to me to say that they've looked up my new address on a map of Brighton's no-go areas, and decided to charge me an extra £100 for my car insurance.

You'd think that all the car-jackers who live around here would be just as capable of walking 500m down the hill to commit grand theft auto at my old address, but apparently not. Despite being so close to my old parking space that I can virtually see it from my new bedroom window, the Elephant in the room feels that my chances of waking up to find the burnt out shell of my Skoda smouldering at the roadside are significantly higher now. So it'll cost me an extra hundred quid a year to live here. It's essentially danger money.

To be honest though, they're probably right about the risks. I've lived here for less than a month and I'm already thinking like a criminal. I was walking down the street the other day, when I saw a little dog like this...

Pardon?Well, it wasn't much like that. It was actually a Golden Retriever. But it did have an identical red coat. I thought at first it worked at Butlins, but upon closer inspection I discovered it was a Hearing Dog for Deaf People.

What piqued my criminal-minded interest, however, was that the dog was sitting at its owner's feet while he withdrew a load of money from a cashpoint. I'm all for publicising a worthy cause, but the pooch might as well have been wearing a sign saying "My owner can't hear you creeping up on him". If it wasn't for the fact that I can no longer afford to run a getaway car, I'd have robbed the man myself. Either they need to do away with the red coats, or they need to start training rottweilers.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Is it my imagination, or has someone been in here..? Anyhoo, going back to last Wednesday (I'll have this finished by Christmas)...

One thing you soon realise when you've been in London for a few hours is that there are a lot of down-and-outs sleeping rough on the underground...

Beggars Belief
That's Amelie on the platform of North Greenwich tube station. I let her stay there until we'd collected enough money for her train fare home. You might notice that she's wearing different trousers to the ones she wore to pose with a Haahoo. There's a reason for that.

But going back to the show...

Yes, my name is Igglepiggle.Here's Igglepiggle and Upsy Daisy treading the boards of the Night Garden stage. You'll recognise Upsy Daisy from Amelie's t-shirt. That's the power of merchandising.

I don't want to spoil the plot for anyone who hasn't seen it yet, but it basically revolved around the search for Igglepiggle's missing blanket. Think of it as a whodunnit. Or, to be more precise, a who-cares-whodunnit. To be honest, the plot didn't really grab me. I prefer something with slightly more depth. Like The Flumps or Bagpuss.

Amelie, on the other hand, thought it was marvellous. She spent the entire hour waving to the characters, blowing them kisses, and saying "Good". I expect they'll put that review on a poster. Whether it was worth fifteen quid a ticket (even for babies), I'm not sure - I was slightly disappointed that the Tombliboos were just puppets controlled by four jobbing actors who probably thought they'd be in Hollywood by now - but to be honest, I'd have been willing to pay twice as much just to get this video of Amelie...

That's Amelie doing the Gazebo Dance at the end of the show. It's a miracle she didn't take out the woman in front with a backhand to the side of the head. I fully expected us to be charged with GBH before the end of the day, but I didn't want to stop filming.

When my Mum saw that video, she said "Did they tell the children to dance?". The answer's no. Amelie just took it upon herself to join in. She doesn't wait to be asked.

Needless to say, all that strenuous movement doesn't come without consequences. As we exited the show dome and headed back through the O2, we discovered that we'd left something rather important in the Night Garden: the button to Amelie's jeans. Our journey back to the tube station quickly turned into an episode of The Benny Hill Show, as Amelie ran through the O2 at high speed with her trousers round her ankles, chased by her Mummy, her Daddy and a bloke from the indecent exposure squad.

Fortunately, Lisa had brought a change of clothes with us. Mainly because she expected Amelie to throw up on the boat and cover us all in vomit. So after a quick change near a hotdog stand, and a short nap on a tube station platform, we made it it back to Victoria in a fit state to pose for the most important photo of the day...

The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face
That's the exact spot where Lisa and I first met: outside the Victoria Station branch of WHSmiths on 23rd March 2004. And judging by the photo, Amelie's about as happy to be there as Lisa was six-and-a-half years ago.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Lock up your sons, she's back...
Big Sis in a Small World
Well, having taken my Chrysler Sebring convertible to every state in the USA and then allowing it to visit nearly every state in Australia, I thought it was about time it had a trip to EUROPE. Yes, that's right... Big Sis in a Small World has returned - well, for 3 weeks anyway.

Tomorrow, I set off on a trip involving a detailed 1-week examination of France followed by viewing approximately 12 countries in 2 weeks. As an American, my car would have it no other way. However, the trip has nearly been cancelled on several occasions due to weddings, illness, house moving... everything has got in the way of allowing the Chrysler to continue what he enjoys doing best: breaking down, flat tyres, and getting stuck up mountains.

This road trip was originally planned for April this year with S, a Texan friend, but she suddenly decided she would rather get married instead and requested my presence at her wedding in Louisiana. September has been the planned date for a while, however 6 weeks ago, my car failed its MoT. Just an emissions problem initially (I'm sure the Swiss would turn a blind eye as I drove through their country). However, after parts being shipped from the USA, another failed MoT, parts being shipped from Germany (I could have picked them up en route) and the emissions being declared 'safe', someone noticed that the suspension wasn't in best shape and advised me to not retest until that was fixed.

More parts were shipped from the USA and Germany and as of one week ago, my car was declared fit to go!! Until my older Bro visited last weekend and happened to notice that my tax had expired. How am I supposed to know such things have to be renewed in the UK on an annual basis? No other country I have lived in have such silly and expensive systems.

A quick renewal online soon sorted that out, until I realised the Chrysler was still registered at another address 40 miles away. Finally, yesterday, after breaking and entering (well, getting a key from the estate agent) I got said tax disc. NOTHING CAN STOP ME NOW.

So I have now started packing. For obvious reasons, the first thing I packed was a first aid kit. Unlike the American venture, I only have two accomplices on this road trip. Everyone else bailed for some reason - somthing about 'wanting assurance that the holiday would definitely go ahead'. Usefully, both accomplices have the same name - it begins with P. In fact one introduced me to the other. P1 will be travelling through France with me. And I'll have a rendezvous with P2 in Salzburg. I'll be flying solo on the rest of the trip - and unfortunately, this time I won't even be able to find any bears or great white sharks to keep me company. Anyway, I need to get to the Poles to get my car valeted for a photo shoot - my Chrysler might not look quite the same in three weeks.

Friday, August 27, 2010

A quick sprint through the O2 on a wet Wednesday afternoon, and you end up with this...

Fat & Spotty
Just look at that smiling, rubber-faced character, full of hot air, with big bulging eyes. You wouldn't think she's 41.

Anyhoo, for the benefit of anyone who isn't best friends with a two-year-old, that yellow thing behind Lisa is a Haahoo. Or 'Haaboo' as Amelie calls them for no particular reason. She's probably dyslexic. The Haahoos float around the Night Garden on Cbeebies doing nothing in particular until it's time for bed. I'm the same at the weekend.

As it happens, the Haahoos weren't the only inflated part of Night Garden Live. The prices were too. Not to mention the theatre. The entire event took place in a pumped-up show dome just outside the O2, with room for 500 thumb-suckers and their buggies. Inside the dome it looked like this...

Garden Centre
... with a grassy stage, wooden trees (aren't they all) and moving images projected onto the rubber roof. It felt like an acid trip in a garden centre. Unfortunately, much as I'd love to take you through the intricate storyline of the show in detail, I've had one day in London followed by two in East Grinstead, and I'm as tired as a cat that's been trying to get out of a wheelie bin for fifteen hours. So I'll be back for part three tomorrow...

Thursday, August 26, 2010

It's me and Amelie in the Night Garden!

Night Gardner
It's not every day you get goosed by the left hand of Igglepiggle. No wonder I've got a smile on my face.

Anyhoo, apart from the missed trains, missed boats, malfunctioning trousers and minor tantrums (I can only apologise), our day out in London yesterday went without a hitch. Anyone who has even a passing acquaintance with our lives won't be surprised to learn that we failed to catch the 10:17 train to Victoria, but this time it wasn't our fault. Unless you blame me for choosing the one ticket machine which decided to break down just as I got to the front of the queue. By the time I'd got to the front of a second queue, our train was departing, and I was closer to a breakdown than the ticket machine.

But despite getting to London half an hour later than planned, we still managed to pack a lot in. It was a day of new experiences for Amelie - first time on a train, first time on a boat, first time running through the O2 with her trousers round her ankles - but she coped with it all remarkably well. Mostly by comfort-eating from the moment we left Brighton. Here she is asking for more sandwich before we'd even pulled out of the station...

That pretty much continued all the way to Clapham Junction. At which point she stopped eating long enough to tell us that she'd had enough of the train and wanted to get off. Possibly to buy more food. Fortunately we persuaded her to stay on just long enough to get to Victoria, where we hopped on a tube train to Embankment.

They do say that the streets of London are paved with gold, so once in the heart of our capital city, Amelie took it upon herself to find out...

Panning for Gold
It's ironic that she was so content to lie on the ground, because ten minutes earlier she'd told an entire tube carriage how unhappy she was at not getting a seat.

Anyhoo, we'd planned to catch the 12:07 river bus along the Thames to North Greenwich, and despite our late start, we made it to Embankment Pier with five minutes to spare. Which was handy as the queue for tickets was fifteen minutes long. I think there was some kind of hold-up while they taught the girl in the booth to speak English.

Naturally we missed the boat (that's the story of my life), but it was well worth waiting for the next one. I've not been on a Thames Clipper before, but it's basically a floating branch of Costa Coffee. The muffins were particularly good. And the views were spectacular. Here's Amelie cracking open the juice as we left Embankment...

Cruising for a bruising.
... starting on sandwiches at the London Eye...

Eye Saw
... pausing for reflection outside Tate Modern...

But is it art?
... tucking into an apple at HMS Belfast...

... choking outside Shakespeare's Globe...

Lack of Intelligence
... and doing her suckling pig face in front of MI6...

At least I thought it was MI6. It turned out to be just an office block. That's what you might call a lack of intelligence.

Anyhoo, after an enjoyable 45 minute cruise, we arrived at North Greenwich pier, and ran through the rain to the O2. There seemed to be a complete absence of signs to the Night Garden Live event, so we just entered the dome and started walking. Fortunately, having passed about fifty restaurants, one cinema and a rollerskating rink, eagle-eyed Am spotted Haahoos on the horizon, and made off at high speed...

I think that's what ruined her trousers...

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

It's Lisa's birthday! Amelie's decorating her card with stickers...

... and I'm packing a rucksack with food. We're catching the 10:17 Ninky Nonk to London, then hopping on Igglepiggle's boat along the Thames, before riding Makka Pakka's Og-Pog from North Greenwich pier to the O2. By the time we get there, we'll need a lie down in Upsy Daisy's bed.

This is the seventh of Lisa's many birthdays that I've been lucky enough to celebrate with her, and in the past I've bought her a TV, shoved her into a hot air balloon, and showed her The Ritz en route to see a drag queen. I bet she never dreamt she'd be spending her 41st in an inflatable theatre with five hundred screaming toddlers. The woman's truly blessed.

Anyhoo, I've only been with Lisa for six and a half years, so it's hard to say what life was like for her before. But I imagine it was something like this...

I think she's just realised she's lost her shoulder pads.


Tuesday, August 24, 2010

The advantage of living on top of a hill near the sea is that you get good views. The disadvantage is that you can barely stand upright in the wind to look at them. But here's a video I shot this evening from our bedroom window, of the waves crashing over the sea wall at Brighton Marina. The song is for Lisa...

Although obviously her face has changed a lot since I met her. She got her teeth into me, and I paid towards having them fixed.

Monday, August 23, 2010

It's me stalking Julian Clary!

Can you add some kisses?
I was going to say 'dogging Julian Clary', but I don't want to get the wrong kind of search engine hits. Anyway, I may have been keen, but as you can see, he had his number one fan on the left, and I was blown away by the competition.

Anyhoo, it's Lisa's birthday on Wednesday. I can't tell you how old she'll be, but suffice it to say, she's been entitled to free glaucoma checks for a year now. Although she refuses to go. She's like one of my patients. But I digress...

I've booked the outing of a lifetime for her on Wednesday, when we're going to see Igglepiggle live in concert at the O2 in London, but she seems to think I've arranged that more for Amelie than for her. So in an effort to make her feel special, and to show off her new teeth, I bought us front row tickets for ‘An Audience With Julian Clary’ at the Theatre Royal in Brighton yesterday afternoon.

Here's Julian on stage...

Julian Clary's Cock
That's his big cock on the left. And on the right, doing an impression of the woman out of ‘Ring’, is former Crossroads actress, JoAnne Good. The capital 'A' was her idea.

You Devil!Julian's got a new novel out, which in the good old days would have meant a free book-signing at Waterstones plus a few photos with the great unwashed. These days it means flogging tickets to the great unwashed for the chance to watch you being interviewed on stage for an hour. It's like The South Bank Show live. But with dogs and double entendres.

Lisa's long been a fan of Julian Clary, and as we tucked into our interval ice cream a full twenty minutes before the show had even started, she told me that she felt sure she could turn him straight. Sure enough, within half an hour, she'd come dangerously close to getting her tongue around his canines.

Julian actually brought two dogs on stage with him. Sitting as we were in the front row, Lisa and I naturally spent most of the first ten minutes having our hands licked. And the dogs were very friendly too. Albert was the more sociable, while Julian likened his other dog Valerie to Claire Sweeney – pretty to look at, but with nothing behind the eyes.

What followed was an enjoyable hour-long chat between Ju and Jo, which covered topics such as writing, performing, doing panto in Northampton and the drinking habits of Craig Revel Horwood. He also described his experiences of living in Noël Coward's house, and finding underwear buried in the garden. It was all interspersed with readings from his novel, and was followed by questions from the floor, the most interesting of which was from a woman who wanted to know who'd stolen her mother's hardback from the disabled toilet. Oddly, Julian couldn't answer that one.

When it was all over, Lisa flatly refused to queue up for an autograph, so it was left to me to do the honours, while she waved to Julian from the stalls and documented the event on camera. I told him she was a paparazzo.

From there we headed along the road to take advantage of the babysitter by having a meal at Strada...

Oral AOral B
With teeth like that, it's worth making her smile.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

You know what it's like. You're on the dining table in your raincoat with a tub of Vaseline, when you suddenly catch sight of your mother eating chocolate...

We've brought her up so well. She always says please when she's demanding junk food.

And on the subject of tooth decay, since I created yesterday's moving wallpaper, Lisa has received the official orthodontic photos from her dentist. Most of them look like something out of Saw III and couldn't be published without an 18 certificate, but here's a little animation I've produced from Lisa's 'before' and 'after' smile...

More Bite
To be honest, that sets my teeth on edge.

Friday, August 20, 2010

It's the biggest news in dentistry since Jeremy's toothache. After fourteen months spent living with half of Network Rail in her mouth, Lisa's just had her brace removed...

Tooth Fairy
And when she gets used to speaking without a lump of metal behind her lips, she'll be able to tell me what she thinks.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

I discovered last night that the Fabrica art gallery in Brighton have got me listed under 'Further Reading' on their website. Apparently you shouldn't even think about seeing an exhibition until you've heard what I've got to say about it. Unfortunately, having correctly stated that I wrote something relevant on 2nd December 2007, they then link to my entire December archive, meaning that anyone who clicks on the link is immediately presented with a picture of my sister's knee and a description of marsupial murder. Although let's face it, for people who visit Fabrica, that probably constitutes art.

Anyhoo, I'm planning to persuade Big Sis to pickle a kangaroo for money, but in the meantime I've been back at Pooh Corner today. After two days in the forest, I returned to civilisation yesterday to send a few e-mails, before heading back into the woods first thing this morning. I'm like Raoul Moat, but without the friendship of Gazza.

I've been struck this week by the remarkable longevity of the Forest Row locals. They're all like extras from the set of 'Cocoon'. So this morning, when faced with yet another nonagenarian who looked about sixty and walked better than I did, I asked her for the secret of eternal youth. Her daughter immediately jumped in and said "It's living in the forest that does it". Although I've also been told that Ben Elton has a house there, so it obviously doesn't work for everyone.

Anyhoo, despite the fact that she made her mother sound like a cross between Grizzly Adams and Bigfoot, I've decided to take her advice on board. I'm going to buy a few pot plants for the flat.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

It's me playing Poohsticks in the Hundred Acre Wood!

Don't worry, I'm not as ill as I look. In most respects anyway. Obviously my decision to play Poohsticks in my lunch break isn't what you'd call the sign of a healthy mind, but physically I've felt a lot better today. It must be all the honey I've eaten. Or the piglet in my sandwiches.

On the downside, I'd lost sight of my stick within two seconds of it hitting the water...

Frankly I couldn't see the wood for the trees.

Monday, August 16, 2010

After one day in bed and two on the sofa, I returned to work today. I felt I should get my nose back to the grindstone before I blew it. And frankly I've been doing a lot of that over the past couple of days.

To be honest, I've spent most of the day regretting the decision. My cough kept me awake for half the night, and when I did finally fall asleep, my prostate woke me up with a sharp poke to say it was inflamed again and needed some antibiotics. But against all the odds, I lived through the night and dragged myself out of my death bed this morning to go and do a clinic in Winnie the Pooh country.

I've spent the day at the Ashdown Forest Health Centre in the heart of the Hundred Acre Wood, looking for heffalumps and trying not to turn the surgery into Eeyore's Gloomy Place. Although when I started to lose my voice this afternoon I wasn't happy. By the end of the day I felt like a pooh-stick drowning in a flood on a blustery day.

I'm due back at Pooh Corner tomorrow morning to rabbit with a few wise owls (sore throat permitting), and the good news is that despite having visited the place for the first time today, they've already got my name above the door...

On your bike.
I think Evatt drives the BMW and Gardner's on his bike.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

After 15 months in my current job, I phoned in sick for the first time yesterday. Having worked through chronic prostatitis, suspected arthritis and unconfirmed swine flu, I was finally floored by the common cold. On Friday the 13th. Which is enough to make me superstitious.

I caught it from Amelie, who'd picked it up from her 4-year-old cousin on Tuesday. He appears to be the fount of all known disease, and frankly she needs to steer clear of the boy and stop trying to snog him on the sofa. I had a sore throat on Thursday morning, but I assumed I was just hoarse from answering the phone. By mid-afternoon though, I was struggling to speak, and by the time I drove home from Crowborough in the Thursday afternoon rush hour, my nose was more congested than the traffic. I woke up yesterday morning with a splitting headache, and when I stepped out of the shower, I decided to throw in the towel.

I think that top's getting a bit small. And Amelie's isn't very roomy either.Obviously the last thing you want when you're at death's door is a toddler banging on it incessantly. So we offloaded Amelie onto my parents for a couple of days. That's my Dad on the left. You'll recognise him from Amelie's drawing. I only received that photo last night, so I haven't had a chance to speak to them yet about the bottle of white spirit on the garage floor. When I do, I'll tell them to buy a few more. It's the only thing that gets paint off Amelie's hands.

Anyhoo, I need to go and get some paracetamol, but the good news is that as I type this, we now have a lovely new cooker. The chap who turned up on his day off to install it told me that the fingerless fitter had plastic surgery yesterday. I expect he thought a nose job would distract the eye from from his hands.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

When Alexander Graham Bell invented the telephone, I wonder if he envisaged that 134 years later, I'd be using it to speak to a gas fitter with no fingers? I suspect he did. The man was a visionary.

We were actually due to have a new gas cooker delivered and fitted today. I'd ordered it from Dixons on the understanding that they'd contact me the day before to confirm what time on Thursday they'd be arriving.

Sure enough, we got a phone call from Dixons at 7pm last night to say that the man would be round to fix our TV first thing in the morning. Lisa told him he'd got the wrong number, and put the phone down. Ten minutes later, he called back to say he'd meant cooker not TV, and install not fix. He then added that they'd be here between 7am and 11am. Which is practically night time if you ask me.

So I dragged myself out of bed at 7am this morning and loitered around in my dressing gown until eight, when the gas fitter phoned to say he'd be there within the hour. At that point he still had fingers. As far as I know.

At five-past-eight I went to have a shower. Which is when my mobile phone started ringing. It was one of my colleagues asking if I could drop everything and get to Crowborough within the hour to see 26 patients with 51 eyes. I bet Alexander predicted that one too. Despite the fact that I was naked at the time (I'd dropped everything including my towel), I agreed, and twenty minutes later I was speeding through the Sussex countryside, attempting to get to Crowborough Hospital in record time. It looked a lot like this, only quicker.

Having arrived two minutes before the first patient, I began frantically setting up as the waiting room began filling up. At which point my mobile phone rang again. Annoyed that I was being delayed even further, I answered it. It was the gas fitter. He told me he was speaking to me from hospital. I said "Likewise". He then told me that he wouldn't be coming today after all.

It turned out that he'd arrived at the depot, loaded our gas cooker onto the van, and then promptly severed his fingers in the tail-lift. He was phoning me from A & E. Although I don't know how he dialled the number. To make matters worse, they couldn't get the oven off the van because the tail-lift was stuck in the down position. Presumably jammed with fingernails and a wedding ring.

By the time I'd finished listening to the story, I had patients queuing up and the prospect of no gas oven for the rest of the week. It's a shame they couldn't deliver the thing. I was ready to stick my head in it by mid-morning.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

I was chatting to a patient this afternoon about the possibility that eating a kiwi fruit every day could significantly improve your eyesight within a fortnight (he maintained that it could; I sat on the fence), when my mobile phone bleeped and this picture arrived...

They're Grrrrreat!
If you compare that to the the photo I received on June 3rd, you can see how much Lisa's cat-nephew has grown. Possibly by eating Amelie. When it comes to kittenhood, Tiger's not out of the woods yet, but if Lisa keeps holding him like that, he should be walking on two legs by Christmas.

In other news, Lisa and I went to Homebase last night for a dish drainer. We came out twenty minutes later with a stainless steel spoon rest and a glass work surface protector featuring a picture of a Parisienne café. So it's official: we're dangerously close to being middle class. We just need a pestle & mortar, and a jar for our sundried tomatoes.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

By pure coincidence, I bumped into Andrew today. He didn't mention the singing bird. And I thought if he doesn't mention it, I'm not mentioning it. Of course, if he thinks that by pretending the chirming tit doesn't exist, he can avoid me giving it to him, he's sadly mistaken. We'll be inviting him and Stefan round to see our new flat in a week or two, and trust me, gifts will be changing hands. I'm certainly not keeping it.

It was my day for bumping into people unexpectedly. As I walked into work this morning, I met a chap who I last saw in March 2008 on my Trust induction course. We were both starting on the first rung of the NHS ladder, him as a healthcare assistant, me as a drug dealer. Two and a half years later, he's now training to be a nurse, and I'm an ophthalmologist. At least that's what I told him. It was quite a touching reunion though. We couldn't have started any lower in terms of band or salary, but in only a couple of years we've both moved on to bigger and better things. I'd have suggested we stay in touch, but the way the new government's going, we'll be seeing each other in the dole queue by Christmas.

As it happens, I wasn't in the best condition for meeting old acquaintances. When we moved on Friday, we left certain things at the old flat, on the grounds that it's likely to take my brother a few weeks to sell it, and the sight of my Homer Simpson poster above the toilet can only enhance its appeal to prospective buyers. Unfortunately, one of the things we decided to leave was our coat rack. Complete with coats.

So imagine my delight when I opened the curtains this morning to witness the kind of weather rarely seen outside Pakistan. With the wardrobe full of light shirts and beachwear, Lisa helpfully suggested that I walk to work with a binliner over my head. I told her that was a ridiculous idea. To which she replied "You could cut holes in it for your arms and legs". Obviously that made all the difference. It's just a shame the binliners are at the old flat too.

Sunday, August 08, 2010

When you've just moved house, and you have a million and one things to do, it's important to prioritise. We didn't find the remote control for the TV until 7 o'clock last night, but I'd unpacked this by lunchtime...

ChirmIt's a Singing Bird! Four months ago, whilst working in Crawley, I took a photo of the high quality workmanship displayed in that plastic bird as it said chirm to Shrek in a tree trunk. It prompted a number of comments (the number being three), which included this statement from my good friend Andrew:

"I WANT the singing bird!!! How much was it?".

Well I'll tell you how much:

Too much.

For reasons known only to the NHS edition of RosterPro, I haven't done a clinic in Crawley since the beginning of April. But all that changed on Tuesday of this week, so with the sound of Andrew's love of birds ringing in my ears, I headed into Crawley town centre at lunchtime to buy him some junk. He and Stefan have bought us enough high quality gifts over the years, so it's about time we repaid the compliment by getting them a cheap plastic bird. It's what you might call tit for tat.

Unfortunately I failed in my mission. The shop still had its range of singing birds, but I was too embarrassed to buy one. The owner of the 'Fabulous' shop (they've dropped the '99' bit since I was last there) obviously prizes his plastic menagerie so highly that he keeps them all in the window behind the till, meaning that you can't just pick one off the shelf and quietly pay for it without making eye contact. You actually have to admit that you want one. And I couldn't bring myself to do that. Frankly I'd have been less embarrassed buying porn.

But after three days spent plucking up my courage, I was back in Crawley on Friday, and this time there was no stopping me. Mainly because I'd had time to grow a beard as a disguise. So I walked into the shop, pointed out the particular tat I was interested in, and asked the bloke in the turban how much it was. He said "Five pounds".

I almost choked on my sandwiches. I had to physically restrain myself from going "Five quid??? This thing would be overpriced in a pound shop!!!". But I thought of all the sperm keyrings and chlamydia breath mints Andrew has given me over the years, and simply said "I'll take one".

LightOf course, once you're holding the tit in your hands, you can see where your money's gone. I thought the thing just said 'Chirm', but in fact "The small bird can sway and send out birds' twitter". Which is quite impressive. It's probably on Facebook too.

I'm also now in a position to reveal that the green thing in the tree isn't Shrek. It's a squirrel. Obviously. Frankly the whole thing's nuts. But the good news is that "The squirrel can sway and give out light". So you could probably use it as a bedside lamp. Or a burglar deterrent.

Needless to say, for only five quid, the Singing Bird doesn't come with batteries, but I've bought some separately, so if you're wondering what the high quality workmanship of a swaying singing bird and light-emitting green squirrel looks like in action, then wonder no more...

If you close your eyes, you could be playing Space Invaders. Andrew's gonna love it.

Saturday, August 07, 2010

I'm typing this in the new flat where, after an evening of beavering, stress, and a small amount of vomiting from Lisa, we're now fully moved in. Apart from all the stuff we've left behind. As I write this, Lisa's still asleep, and Amelie's chatting to herself in her new cotbed. I can hear her saying "Toys! Toys!", so she's obviously noticed all the stuff my Mum unpacked last night. The good news is she's got her own room, so despite knowing she's awake, I can legitimately ignore her until lunchtime.

I discovered at 11:15pm last night that I didn't have a toothbrush, but the good news is it didn't matter because we had no toothpaste either. I also couldn't find where my Mum had put the toilet rolls. But apart from that, it's like a home from home.

Anyhoo, I need to pop down the road for the sake of my oral health, but in the meantime, here's the third instalment in my series of high-speed road movies. I'd call it a trilogy, but there's every chance I'll ignore popular opinion and make more. This was my journey to Horsham Hospital on Thursday morning. It would be a lot shorter if I wasn't stuck behind a lorry for half of it...

If you're wondering (and I know you're not), the music's by Ruth. I'll just pause for a moment while the world says "Who?". That first song's called 'Where is the One?', and to answer its own question, for the past seven years there's only been one website in the known universe where you can find the music for it. It's this one. And if I didn't have arthritis in my little fingers, I'd play it for you. Be grateful for small mercies.

Thursday, August 05, 2010

There's an old saying (at least as old as Lucille Ball), which goes "If you want something done, ask a busy person to do it". I don't have much time for sayings like that. I'm far too busy. But someone who clearly lives by those words is Lisa's uncle, who phoned up yesterday afternoon to say that his TV had broken down, and that having spent all morning trying to think of someone capable of fixing it, he'd finally given up and called me.

Obviously I was in the middle of emptying a chest of drawers at the time (Amelie's not easy to remove), but having done so, I agreed to drop everything and head across town to see what I could do. Ordinarily I'd have said I'm too busy, but the man's 83 and doesn't get out much, so if his telly's on the blink, it's a bit like his best friend has collapsed.

Anyway, what I don't know about televisions... um... is pretty much everything. So I asked him if it had had a knock of any kind, and when he said no, I gave it one. It didn't help. Having turned it on and off about six times and checked he hadn't had a power cut, I admitted defeat, sucked my breath in through my teeth and told him it was knackered. He thanked me, and gave me a tenner. Which explains why plumbers are so rich.

Before anyone accuses me of extorting money from vulnerable pensioners, I should add that I did argue, quite vociferously, but there was no telling the man. Despite pointing out that I had, in fact, done nothing, he insisted that it was worth ten quid of anybody's money, and forced me to take it. So I thanked him. And told him to call me the moment anything else breaks down. I can provide the same level of service over the phone for no extra cost.

As it happens, he turns 84 next week, so he'll be getting it back in a birthday card. Along with a gift voucher from Dixons.

Wednesday, August 04, 2010

If you're struggling to get a heavy piece of furniture down the hallway, the obvious solution is to take the drawers out. There's just one possible problem...

Amelie showing her chest.
I suppose it's appropriate though. I bought that chest of drawers on 19th February 2008, two and a half weeks after finding out that Lisa was pregnant, and deciding we were going to need more storage space. I just didn't expect us to end up storing the baby there.

Tuesday, August 03, 2010

Things may be frantically busy around here, but at least someone's finding the time to curl up with a good book...

Reading in bed.
It's easy for her to smile. She's not the one who spent half of yesterday evening putting that cotbed together.

Anyhoo, the list of things to do seems to be getting longer by the day, and we won't be spending the night at the new flat until the last of the (delayed) carpets goes down tomorrow, but at least Amelie's sleeping arrangements have been finalised. I've upgraded her from a second-hand cot to a brand new cotbed. And having made her bed, she has to bounce in it...

That mattress cost me a hundred quid. It's now worth about a fiver. Frankly it would have been cheaper to buy a trampoline.

Of course, they do say that it can take small children a week or two to get used to a new bed. But having bounced for twenty minutes and read a couple of books, this was Amelie less than half an hour after setting eyes on the thing...

Sleeping Beauty
That koala turned 36 last Thursday. I was given it for my first birthday, and I passed it on to Amelie this evening. It's unlikely to see 37.

Sunday, August 01, 2010

I'd just like to point out for the record that I'm not dead. I'm just busy. The internet was one of the first things unpacked at the new flat, but despite having the ability to publish blog posts wirelessly from any room in the flat (and probably next door too), I haven't had time to sit down for more than five minutes. Apart from the ten minutes I spent scrolling through all the channels on our new Virgin Media HD box, and wondering why I still couldn't find anything worth watching.

Cheeky MonkeyI also turned 37 on Thursday, although my birthday has been officially postponed until such a time as I'm not up to my ears in dust and junk. Which means I may never celebrate one again. The good news is that having given me the card on the left, Amelie can now say "Cheeky Monkey!" at will. It's like she's announcing her arrival everywhere she goes.

Anyhoo, I'm typing this at the old flat amongst a sea of dismantled furniture and half-packed boxes, whilst looking at the damp patch on the wall and wondering if I should put the bookcase back in front of it before the estate agent comes round tomorrow. The chances of us having everything out of here by nightfall on Monday are slightly less than zero, but you have to show willing...