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Saturday, December 31, 2011

The good thing about having no social life is that you can spend New Year's Eve on the sofa with a laptop, redesigning your blog, without fear of being invited out to a party. Suffice it to say, it's been a productive evening.

In fact, the whole day's been quite fruitful. My parents have a pole with a hook (which reminds me of Lech Walesa in the shipyards) which they use to open the living room curtains. They don't have high ceilings, they just can't get within six feet of the window without a fork lift truck and a hand from Kim & Aggie. So having dragged myself out of bed this morning, I handed the pole to Amelie, told her to draw the curtains, and successfully photographed her being a shepherd...

Shepherd SpyShe's even got the Bo Peep ringlets.

Coincidentally, that photo pretty much sums up my life at my parents' house: remote control, laptop, bass guitar, Pringles, and a pin cushion with a picture of Amelie. It's the acceptable face of voodoo.

As it happens, Lisa had a bad night last night. She kept being woken up by Amelie singing. So she's spent a lot of today catching up on sleep while I mind our three-year-old vocalist. And I minded her quite a lot, if I'm honest. My Mum and I took her to the park this afternoon, where she successfully intimidated a small boy off the swings just by humphing and stamping her feet, after which she informed me that she's the most special girl in the world. I agreed with her just to avoid an argument.

Back home, she and I spent a good three hours (it felt more like six) playing games together on my laptop, the highlight of which was our discovery of Bus Driver Gold, a public transport simulation from the Czech Republic. No, really. As this fantastically written entry on Wikipedia states, "Despite being a Czech game, many of the bus stop names are named after insignificant places in Greater London, England, such as Debden, Collier Row, Feltham, Potters Bar and the terminus Westminster". You can't get more insignificant than Westminster. It's where a lot of great journeys come to an end.

Now, admittedly I'm not living my life at the cutting edge of modern video gaming, and to me, 'Call of Duty' is just the task of taking Amelie to the toilet, but I have to say that I love Bus Driver Gold. You can download a time-limited free trial from the internet, after which you either have to pay through the nose for the full version, or do a thirty-second search on Google and download it illegally for free. I'm not saying which of those I did, but it was Amelie who talked me into it.

She and I spent an hour and a half playing it this evening, and we haven't laughed so much in ages. Basically you get points for driving safely, signalling correctly and arriving at your destination on time, while you lose points for speeding the wrong way down a dual carriageway, making your passengers scream in terror, and smashing into cars, lamp-posts and bus shelters. We finished one game with a score of minus 4,850. I had to abandon another after Amelie dragged a telegraph pole across country and grounded our bus on a mountain.

But despite that, it's enormous fun. In fact, if I dared to leave my co-driver for more than a minute, this is the treatment I got...

She's like Blakey from 'On the Buses'.

Friday, December 30, 2011

Amelie turned to me yesterday afternoon and said "Daddy, why are we living at Grandma & Grandad's house?". It's a fair question. Personally I'm not leaving until the food runs out. I'm eating a tube of Pringles a day, and there are still three left, so we're looking at a departure date of Sunday. I need to make sure I get my washing done before we go too. In fact, if we could move in with my parents for a week every month, I could probably pay all my bills. Although I'd need bariatric surgery within a year.

Anyhoo, the lack of a blog post yesterday wasn't so much a result of all the important things I had to do, it was more down to the fact that I've discovered Monopoly on the iPad. I bought it for 69p at the end of September, but it's taken me three months to get the iPad off Amelie. It's only now she's distracted by Christmas presents that I've had a chance to try it.

Unfortunately I've become slightly obsessed since Boxing Day. You could almost say it's monopolising my time. I've spent the past four days wiping the floor with a range of highly skilled opponents (and Lisa) on my way to the top of the property tree. Admittedly, some of the computer-controlled players have the artificial intelligence of a Speak & Spell, and will happily offer you the Old Kent Road in return for Park Lane, but that aside, it's a very good game. And it cost less than a cuddly antelope in a dress, which is always a sign of good value.

In addition to being a ruthless real estate magnate, I also walked into St Leonards yesterday, where I discovered a shop called iKandi which sold glasses. That was enough to make my day.

It's also a year now since I revamped my main website, so I spent some time yesterday intending to do the same with my blog. I've had this design since 30th May 2010, and I'm getting a bit bored, so I'm tempted to rearrange the furniture for the new year. Unfortunately, having spent two hours last night tinkering behind the scenes, I decided I didn't like the results, and scrapped all the changes. But I wouldn't rule out the possibility of a transformation in the next couple of days. I need something to do while I'm eating the Pringles.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Role ModelSadly, Big Sis had to return to Wiltshire yesterday to watch some grass grow and dream of living within fifty miles of an Asda. She left a lasting impression on Amelie though. Or she would have done if the wind had changed.

My brother and his family stayed another night, but they too departed this morning, leaving Lisa, Amelie and me as the only house guests still outstaying our welcome. Fortunately, however, we managed a family game of charades before everyone fled, the highlight of which was when my Dad attempted to convey a two-word film by simply pointing at Lisa. I immediately shouted "Desperate Housewives!", only to be told it was 'Pretty Woman'. I don't think I came out of that very well.

But the good news is that since leaving us yesterday afternoon, Big Sis has had a change of heart, and decided that I can post the video of her dancing. Even though she looks fat. (Those are her words, not mine). Unfortunately for her, I've had a change of heart too, and I don't really want to. I can be awkward like that. But for the sake of family unity, I've decided to compromise, and publish a short excerpt which makes both her and Amelie look good. Amelie, because it showcases her finest dance step, and Sis, because she's not really in it.

This was actually filmed during an encore performance on Boxing Day, and features my niece just out of shot on the left. She also threatened me with violence if I publish the whole thing, so I'm treading a fine line here. Much like Amelie on the dance floor...

It gives a whole new meaning to the phrase 'foot-tapping music'. I'd also like to congratulate my parents on doing their bit for healthy eating by disguising the seven tubes of Pringles with a fruit bowl.

As it happens, I'm going to need Amelie's talents as a dancer to start paying the bills pretty soon. My car had its annual service and MOT today, and needed £600 worth of work done. At least, that's what they told me. To be honest, it felt exactly the same when I drove it home as when I drove it there, so I think they just parked it outside for six hours and topped up my screenwash. Admittedly, with the cost of printer ink these days, that MOT certificate can't have come cheap, but I do wonder if my daughter's not the only one leading me a merry dance.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

The day after Boxing Day, and half of us are on the floor...

Happy Families
To be honest, it's a miracle we're still speaking to each other. We had our annual Christmas Quiz last night, a family bonding ritual which is now in its third glorious year. It started in 2009, when my then-10-year-old niece spent the week leading up to Christmas preparing five pages of questions for us all to answer, little knowing that by Boxing Day we'd all be at death's door, and barely able to answer the phone to a doctor, never mind a question on the history of Manga.

Despite that, it proved to be the highlight of the festive season (narrowly beating the moment that Lisa threw up in a bin), so we repeated it under slightly better circumstances last year. It's now on the verge of becoming a family tradition, and the main reason we all meet up at Christmas.

Last night's quiz featured five rounds, for which we were divided into two equally-matched teams (we gave them Amelie in return for a tin of biscuits), and the whole thing was scored out of 64. Now, you might think that questions set by a 12-year-old would be simple. And they were. But not as simple as the contestants. My parents' team scored 36. Which I thought was pretty poor. Until we scored 29.

I think the lowlight for me was when my sister-in-law suggested that Kilimanjaro was the highest mountain in the world. And was promptly believed by my sister. I had to point out to them that it's been climbed by Chris Moyles and Denise Van Outen. And even then, they weren't convinced. Fortunately things picked up when I spectacularly named the singer who wrote 'Party in the USA' by Miley Cyrus, after which we attempted some sophisticated sabotage by sending Amelie into the opposing camp with instructions to tell them that Cheryl Cole's aged fifty.

I saw red when my niece asked us to "Name the band in the picture below"...

... but our biggest failing was in the round which appears every year without fail: an entire section of questions about my niece. To ensure fairness, my team included her mother, while the opposition had her father. The round was scored out of 17, and featured questions about her likes, dislikes, friends and hobbies. Naturally, with insider information from her Mum, I was expecting maximum points for our team.

We ended up with 8. They got 4. And she's not even adopted. Admittedly, no one could have guessed that her favourite food is something she hasn't eaten for two months, but when it came to naming her first high school, I think we could have done better. My sister-in-law walked her to the gates, and she still got it wrong.

Monday, December 26, 2011

It's Amelie on Christmas Day!

Those beautiful wooden letters were given to her by Lisa's friend, Dot. They're useful because they allow me to label her when she's having a tantrum.

Not that you should label children, obviously. Unless you're sending them through the post.

Anyhoo, that was Amelie having the time of her life yesterday. To be honest, when you've started your day with a cuddly antelope in a dress, things can only go downhill. And sure enough, Christmas Day at Gardner Towers didn't quite go according to plan. Big Sis had arrived for the festive season on Friday, with Lisa, Amelie and myself getting here on Saturday. That just left the Essex wing of the family, who were due to arrive at 1pm yesterday in time for Christmas dinner.

Unfortunately, my brother phoned at twelve-thirty to say they hadn't left yet. Apparently my sister-in-law had been out for an Asian meal on Christmas Eve, and her stomach was Thai'd up in knots. Having pulled everything out of the oven, and become the first people ever to extend the concept of par-baking to turkey, we anxiously awaited news, and were delighted to receive a text message at 3pm to say they were leaving.

And slightly less delighted to get another one at 3:45 to say they'd turned back. Needless to say, some people couldn't wait any longer for their lunch...

The Last Supper
That's Amelie saying grace, and praying that her Aunt & Uncle will arrive safely with presents. She's the only person in Britain who eats salad cream with her Christmas dinner. Apart from Lisa's Mum.

The most tragic part of this tale is that my brother and sister-in-law were bringing the desserts. I'm not saying I don't value their company on Christmas Day, but when they're in possession of a Crème Brûlée Cheesecake and a Raspberry & Mascarpone Roulade, I do feel the loss more keenly.

Sadly, however, we had no choice but to soldier on without them. Big Sis and Amelie did their best to lift our spirits by performing a dance routine to 'Reach' by S Club 7. I have the whole thing on video, but sadly I've been threatened with violence if I publish it on the web. Which is bizarre for someone who's happy for the world to see this.

In addition, Amelie dipped into her wide repertoire of jokes, including her current favourite "Where do fish keep their money? In a cave." and "What's white and goes up? A dead snowball.", before moving on to her famous range of impressions...

When it came to presents, Amelie was particularly pleased with Buckaroo, plus a pair of puppies called Max and Mitzi which come with their own stethoscope. She spent most of the day telling us how ill they were. Big Sis, meanwhile, did her bit for the sisterhood by giving her niece a vacuum cleaner.

As for me, there was only one thing I wanted, and that was a new camera. My parents, brother and sister had all agreed to club together, pool their resources and contribute as much as they could afford. So I was expecting a Kodak Fun Flash. As it transpired, however, I received the one I wanted, and spent the evening having a ball with my Canon. The photos on this blog should improve from tomorrow.

The even better news is that my brother's family finally arrived at six-thirty looking like a scene from a Christmas carol. Well, his wife looked like Jacob Marley's ghost. We just had time to wish her a Merry Christmas before she retired to her sick bed with a festive bucket. We had to swap the After Eight mints for Bisodol. But still, things could be worse. This could be Christmas 2009.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

In the true spirit of Christmas, Lisa and I travelled back to the town of my birth yesterday to spend the festive season surrounded by wise men and angels. We didn't make the journey on a donkey, but I was sitting on my ass. We even had Shepherds Pie on arrival. Frankly it couldn't have been more like the nativity unless Lisa had given birth in the shed. Which she refused to do for health & safety reasons.

The good news, however, is that despite doing a runner across Sussex, Father Christmas successfully tracked us down overnight, and delivered a sockful of gifts for Amelie this morning. We own the only child in Britain who slept right through the night and had to be physically woken up at nine-thirty this morning, but having forced her reluctantly out of bed and insisted that she join in the festive fun, she received the kind of gift that most kids can only dream of...

75p from a charity shop. Santa is such a thrifty shopper.

Anyhoo, despite Amelie's assertion that it's a goat, the horned beast above is actually an Arabian Oryx. In a flowery dress. It's the closest she'll get to Dubai until she's eighteen and marries a footballer.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

It was my last working day of the year yesterday, so now I'm on holiday for the festive season, I've got plenty of time to watch some of those classic old black & white films they always show at Christmas...

Christmas is obviously a time to spend with the ones you love, so whilst packing Lisa's bags last night, I turned to Amelie, who was bouncing on the bed at the time, and asked her which member of the family she thinks I love the most. She pondered the question for a moment, and then said "Chloe!".

Obviously she was right first time, but Lisa was in the room, so for appearance's sake, I asked her to guess again. Whereupon she pointed at me and said "You!".

Yep, I love Chloe and myself. She's pretty much got me bang to rights there.

Friday, December 23, 2011

I mentioned two weeks ago that Lisa's mother was riding a wave of good fortune all the way to an offshore account in Millionaire's Row. And I wasn't wrong. It's just a shame I've knocked her off before she got there.

As it happens, my mother-in-law matched four numbers on the lottery on Wednesday night, netting her £85. Which is £75 more than I've ever won. So buoyed by her success, convinced of her lucky streak, and with some considerable cash to flash, she phoned us up at noon yesterday on the offchance that I might have popped home for lunch. I hadn't. If I had, she'd have asked me to invest some of her winnings on a horse.

The horse she wanted to back was Sycho Fred, running in the 1:20 race at Sedgefield. She was attracted to the name because she'd just been to visit Lisa's uncle. I was in Mile Oak at the time, with an NHS computer that doesn't allow access to betting sites. Lisa was at home, but with no idea how to operate my Betfair account. And Amelie's too young to gamble. So Lisa told her we couldn't help.

As a result, she didn't put the bet on. And the wave of good fortune came crashing down around her. Sycho Fred won at odds of 40-1. I could have got 50-1 on the internet. Frankly I'd have made more money if I'd taken a day's unpaid leave and gone down the bookies.

But on a brighter note, I popped around there after work this afternoon to commiserate with my mother-in-law, offer my apologies, and ask to borrow a fiver, and she gave me a copy of yesterday's Argus. It featured a review of the Numberjacks show we saw on Sunday. I'm not sure what took them so long - I published mine on Monday and I'm not even being paid. But it's nice to see they agree with me...

I said "a cross between a ninja and a serial killer". They said the Milk Tray man in a gimp mask. It amounts to the same thing.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Before I went to bed last night, I noticed that Amelie's wooden sheep stool, which normally resides next to the sofa in the living room, had somehow found its way out to the hallway. I asked Lisa who had moved it, and she told me that Amelie had left it there that morning.

Naturally I asked her why, and the explanation came with a roll of the eyes:

"I put the Mingles on a higher shelf."

You have to admire the girl's ingenuity. I'd send her to the naughty step, but she'd probably just use it to reach chocolates.

As it happens, I was standing next to that sheep stool in the hallway at 7:30 this morning, packing my work bag with bananas, when someone started banging on the front door. We do actually have a doorbell, so I took it as a sign of aggression and assumed it was someone coming to accuse us of industrial drilling at midnight. As a result, I almost didn't open it. But in the spirit of Christmas and goodwill to all men, I decided to bite the bullet, load it into my shotgun, and meet the visitor head on.

And I'm glad I did. It turned out to be a swarthy looking temp from Royal Mail, with a festive special delivery. Having scribbled on his machine with the kind of signature that makes Amelie's pictures look legible, he handed me a box containing this:

Cheshire Cheese
Yes, it's another bespoke Christmas card from the man who brought us 'Chlo-Chlo On Your Head', the artist formally known as Mr Cheshire. He's moved on from Fidel Castro to Heston Blumenthal, and produced another turkey.

But not only did the box contain my favourite Christmas card so far (with apologies to everyone else who's sent me one), it also featured a photo of Mick Kitson with all his own teeth, a bag of chocolate Christmas trees for Amelie (I'll put them on the shelf and let her help herself), and the following CD album...

Cary Grant Live!
Not everyone's aware that Cary Grant played Aspley Guise Village Hall in December 1990. In fact, some people think he was dead. But for connoisseurs like myself, the music lives on, and now I can listen to it any time I like, thanks to this rediscovered and digitally remastered live recording.

Unfortunately I'm writing this during my lunch break at the Mile Oak Medical Centre, where the only sound system belongs to the audiology department, so I haven't actually heard it yet. But I just know it's gonna be good. The word on the street is that it's the best thing Cary Grant did, post 1986.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

It's the annual Burning of the Clocks in Brighton tonight, which is the only time of the year when you can see faces light up on the seafront without the use of ice cream. I last went three years ago, in the days when I still had the energy to walk out of the door after 7pm on a work night. A lot's changed since then. Suffice it to say that if you plot the graph of my lethargy against Amelie's age, you get a 45 degree line.

So I'm not going tonight either. Frankly I can barely make it to the sofa. But as it happens, this year's festival has proved entertaining without me even leaving the flat. The Argus are reporting today that the organisers, Same Sky, have been contacted by the Sussex Wildlife Trust, to warn them about the dangers of releasing sky lanterns during the procession. It's resulted in this immortal headline:


And the following informative article:

"People are being warned about using sky lanterns after a barn owl was burnt and killed.

Sussex Wildlife Trust (SWT) sent out an e-newsletter warning people that the lanterns are a danger to wildlife following the injuries to the owl.

It's not clear how the lantern injured the owl."

When it comes to night-flying, nothing can hold a candle to a barn owl. Apart from a sky lantern.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

I wrapped up all of Amelie's Christmas presents last night, and I'll say one thing for charity shop gifts - you'd never know they were cheap once you've covered them in Smart Price paper. They look gorgeous. She'll never guess that most of them cost less than a pound.

To be honest though, she doesn't deserve any presents. Lisa's got a festive box of Mingles, which are basically After Eights for the working classes, and she's keeping them on a shelf in the hall. About an hour ago, I was sitting at the computer in the living room, and I noticed the door being gently pulled shut. I assumed it was Lisa trying to save on the heating bills, but when I got up two minutes later, I found the doors to both bedrooms closed, Lisa napping on the bed, and Amelie nowhere to be found.

Obviously I could have investigated further by opening Amelie's bedroom door, but frankly if there's one thing I've learnt from three years of fatherhood, it's that if Amelie offers you five minutes of peace and quiet, take it. So I ignored her and went back in the living room.

Five minutes later, I heard her bedroom door open, and Amelie walked in with chocolate around her mouth. I asked her where she'd been, and she said "In my bedroom". So I asked her what she'd been doing. She said "Just playing". Before adding "That's all".

Needless to say, the other thing I've learnt from three years of fatherhood is not to believe a word she says, so I got up, walked into her bedroom, and found a pile of Mingles wrappers on the floor. It was basically Ocean's 3½. And if we'd taught her to wipe her own mouth and use a bin, she'd have gotten away with it.

It's hard to be cross with her though, when she's capable of expressing such heartfelt love through the medium of art. She drew this picture of Lisa yesterday...

Not only has she accurately captured her mother's slinky hips, twinkling eyes and charismatic smile, but she looks a bit unsteady on her pins. It's Lisa to a tee.

Monday, December 19, 2011

The problem with giving Lisa a break by taking Amelie off her hands for twenty-four hours, is that she liked it so much, she now wants a divorce so that I'll have the girl every weekend. The only thing keeping us together is the fact that she can't put the ironing board up on her own.

But while we argue over who gets custody of Chloe, the good news is that we managed to spend one last Sunday as a family, by treating Amelie to an afternoon of culture at the Brighton Theatre Royal yesterday. The show we took her to see was 'Numberjacks', so to be honest there was probably more culture in the bacteria on her fingers, but having enjoyed ninety minutes of maths-based fun, she can now count those fingers with ease.

For anyone not familiar with the Cbeebies Numberjacks show, it's just your average, everyday tale of a group of googly-eyed numbers who live in a sofa and solve problems using their magical Brain Gain, whilst battling a Problem Blob and a Spooky Spoon. We’ve heard it all a thousand times before. The live stage show promised "all the fun, comedy, music and excitement from the TV, and lots lots more!". And it didn’t disappoint. Assuming your expectations were pretty low to start with.

Tickets for this theatrical extravaganza started at £12.50, but fortunately I'm on the mailing list for the Theatre Royal, meaning I was entitled to a special discounted price of just ten pounds a ticket. It meant we were able to purchase three £10 seats for a total of – yes, you've guessed it – forty pounds. I'm not saying they rip you off, but by the time you've paid the booking fee, service charge and 'restoration levy', you feel like calling Trading Standards.

But still, at least they gave Amelie a free booster cushion to sit on...

It's just a shame they charged us £2.50 for that ice cream.

Anyhoo, the show itself featured four enthusiastic young actors who'd probably spent three years at RADA and dreamt of doing Chekhov at the National, only to end up singing songs about numbers to a bunch of four-year-olds. I couldn't fault their performances, but I felt the material they'd been given was a bit thin. As was the production budget. The white stone castle on the right looked good...

... but sadly that was the scenery for Spamalot, which was on in the evening. The Numberjacks set was just stuck in front of it for the afternoon.

The performers gave it their all, and I'm sure the audience enjoyed it, but the production values left something to be desired. In the TV show, Spooky Spoon floats eerily around in the air. In the stage version, someone walks on looking like a cross between a ninja and a serial killer, and waves a pink spoon on a broom handle. It scared the life out of Amelie, who started shouting "Who's that??!" in a terrified voice. When I told her it was Spooky Spoon, she said "No, the scary man in black!".

Anyway, all credit to the actors for doing stirling work with limited resources, but frankly I knew they were in trouble half way through Act II, when Amelie turned to me with a glum expression and said "Daddy, this isn't very good". When three-year-olds start picking holes in the script, you know you've got problems.

All was not lost though. At the end of the show, the actors went offstage, only to return a few moments later wearing Santa hats for a performance of The Twelve Days of Christmas. The sight of the Numbertaker in festive headgear was the highlight of the show for Amelie, and proved that even in pitch darkness, it's always worth pointing a camera at her, on the offchance of comedy gold...

She's like Statler and Waldorf from The Muppets. And before you ask, no, the show wasn't a sell-out.

Having ended the performance on a high, we made our way outside to suffer the considerable low of a sleet downpour and a fifteen minute wait for the bus home. It gave Amelie just enough time to persuade me to spend five quid on a Mickey Mouse balloon from a street trader, after which she began a series of mini-tantrums at everything from our choice of bus seats to our audacity at daring to touch her balloon string. By the time we got home, I was soaked, Lisa was frozen, and Amelie had dissolved into tears. I thought things couldn't get any worse until I got up this morning and found that the £5 balloon had deflated overnight. I had to play the video above at full volume, just to give voice to my despair.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

With the death of Christopher Hitchens, there's clearly a gap in the market for someone who can explain the evolution of animals after the big bang in a simple, visual style...

The big girly scream from an unseen source was actually God quaking in his boots.

But enough about my heavenly father, the real star of this Christmas is my holy mother, whose birth we celebrated yesterday...

I'm not sure the Alvin Stardust impression is really working, but other than that, she looks good. For her age. Although if there's one thing she's missing, it's a balloon hat and a badge saying '3 Today'...

As it happens, Amelie was three yesterday. And is again today. As she will be, right up until October 2nd next year. She's getting her money's worth out of that badge.

Anyhoo, our day with the birthday girl yesterday was actually very nice. I'm not saying that Lisa brings out the worst in her daughter, but Amelie couldn't have been better behaved. Having warned my parents that she's going through a challenging phase and can be a bit of a nightmare, she was nothing but a little dream all day. Apart from the mini-tantrum she threw when she realised we'd forgotten the iPad.

Admittedly, she gave the game away by handing a carefully wrapped present to my Mum with the words "This is a jigsaw puzzle", but other than that, she behaved beautifully. Our second present is visible at the end of the video above. It's not the piano, it's the set of coasters featuring a picture of us at Blackpool Tower. They're only four inches square, but each coaster has room for three ugly mugs.

With the gifts presented, we asked the birthday girl what she wanted to do on her special day. And then ignored it, and went to the park instead...

Amelie's so like her mother.

On the way to the playground, my Mum told me the sad news that her next door neighbour had died, which produced a shocked response from Amelie, who mis-heard the information and wanted to know why her Grandma's daughter was dead. I think she was worried it might affect her haul of Christmas presents.

Having established the truth of the situation, Amelie was able to relax and enjoy an hour or so at the park, mingling with the natives of St Leonards. All of whom appeared to be from Eastern Europe, and unable to speak English. It's a shame we couldn't stay longer, as I was on the verge of getting us back into the EU treaty, but unfortunately Amelie's services were required back at my parents' bungalow...

Not only is she a veteran Christmas tree decorator, but she's also getting pretty damn good at climbing onto rickety chairs and over-reaching with a glass bauble in each hand and nothing but a few electrical cables to hold on to. It's a skill you can't teach. Well, not legally.

Having berated my parents for not having a star at the top of their tree (if that's not rectified by next week, there'll be trouble), Amelie selflessly agreed to share my Mum's birthday tea, and successfully polished off a Happy Meal followed by two bowls of fruit salad and ice cream. She then grabbed her party bag, filled it with a collection of stones, twigs and acorns, and the two of us headed home wearing big smiles. And balloon hats. The inflatable Chloe was a bonus.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Lisa and I are on a break at the moment. Well, Lisa's on a break. From Amelie. For a day. It's been a tough week for Lisa. Not only has she been tirelessly spreading her germs around, but her mother refused to see her on Tuesday on the grounds that it was too windy. In addition to that, Amelie's dictionary is currently missing the word 'reasonable', and she'd test the patience of a Saint Bernard. Frankly, even I wouldn't rescue her from the snow.

So I've decided to give Lisa a break by taking Amelie off her hands for twenty-four hours. Obviously when you're on a break, you're allowed to see other people, so I'm taking her to visit her grandparents. It's actually my Mum's birthday. As of today, she's passed the Bible's official projection of longevity, so every day's a bonus, and she's lucky to be alive. Although she might not think so once Amelie starts playing up.

We're currently wrapping her present (I'm typing this while I wait for Am to come back with the sellotape), and in addition to the one we spent good money on, Amelie has just informed me that she'd like to wrap up one of her toys to give to her Grandma. She's chosen a small cuddly doll I bought her from a charity shop. It might seem like a selfless act of love, but in reality she's never liked it.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

I received two early Christmas presents today. The first was a bespoke, hand-decorated festive box which Amelie made for me at her playgroup Christmas party...

Christmas Box
And the second was a stinking cold, given to me by Lisa. That's not holly on the box, it's snot.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Amelie asked me yesterday what bears like to eat and drink. At the time, I said fresh fish and water, but that was before I saw this video...

Judging by the way that one's camping it up, I'd say it's probably sushi and a pina colada.

But gay bears aside, I signed up for an NHSmail account today, which is a high security, encrypted e-mail system which allows healthcare professionals to gossip about patients without it ending up in the tabloids. I don't actually have anything exciting to say about it (except that it allows me to send free text messages, which is going to be hard to resist), but having been accepted onto the system, it presented me with this picture...

I love that logo almost as much as I love the camp waving bear. If anyone deserves a better pension, it's the graphic designer who produced it.

But in the meantime, my favourite patient of the day was a foreign chap who I screened exactly twelve months ago. I only know that from the computer records, but he knew it from memory alone. He walked into the room with the words "Me again!", and within five minutes was asking me if I thought his English had improved in the year since we last met. I didn't like to tell him that I can barely recall a patient's face ten minutes after giving them the eye drops, never mind judging the progress of their language skills over a twelve month period. So rather than risk hurting the man's feelings by admitting that I didn't know him from Adam, I simply smiled, shrugged, and pretended I couldn't understand a bloody word he said.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Having taken advantage of my mother-in-law's free baby-sitting service on Saturday, I returned the favour last night by taking her on a luxury shopping trip to Asda. She needed a few things for Christmas, and I needed to keep on the right side of Lisa, so the deal suited us both. Unfortunately, having driven her to the nuts and crackers, and watched her go off her trolley for an hour, I feel strangely tired today. It's slightly exhausting trying to persuade a 77-year-old on a state pension that she doesn't really need to spend thirteen quid on a bottle of vodka for the lady who cleans her sheltered housing block.

That was an argument I lost. So in the absence of anything more energetic to say, here's a photo I took first thing in the morning from the window of our living room...

Living Room with a View
It was actually last Wednesday. This morning I couldn't stand upright for the wind.

Monday, December 12, 2011

The X Factor Final last night was eye-opening for a number of different reasons. Louis Walsh's hair being just one. For a start it proved that Lisa's ability to predict the winners of TV reality shows is about as concrete as Amelie's hopes of space travel. Having bet me a pound that Aaron wouldn't win Big Brother, she wagered another ten quid that Dougie would lose I'm a Celebrity, and yet was still willing to make a bet with me last night that Marcus would be crowned the X Factor champion. It was like taking candy from a baby. Obviously I didn't think Little Mix would win, but the moment Lisa declared them the losers, I knew I had it in the bag.

The more startling news, however, was the revelation that the winners' first single will be the song ‘Cannonball’ by Damien Rice. Startling, because it's the song we had playing at the hospital when Lisa gave birth to Amelie. It was particularly appropriate, because as Damien sang the line "it's not hard to fall when you float like a cannonball", Lisa was sinking below the surface of the birthing pool.

We served up another portion of Rice on our wedding day, by walking into the registry office to the sound of ‘The Blower's Daughter’, so that album's been with us at every important milestone in our relationship. I plan to put it on in the background when Amelie tells us she's pregnant at 15. So it was something of a shock to hear one of 'our songs' being belted out at Wembley Arena (complete with electronic drums and obligatory key change) by the latest X Factor starlets. I feel slightly soiled.

But on the subject of being soiled by starlets, the breaking news from our living room is that the carpet around our Christmas tree is now littered with fallen stars. I was in the kitchen yesterday afternoon when Amelie walked in and told me that she needed her snippy scissors because her puppies wanted her to make balloons for them. I forget my exact response, but it was something along the lines of ‘Yeah, whatever’.

She's owned a pair of scissors for a few months now, mainly to give her something to hold as she goes running down the hallway. She uses them to cut sheets of paper (mostly shopping lists and work rotas) into small pieces to make pictures for her grandparents. To my knowledge, she's never used them to make balloons for small dogs, but I tend to accept anything she says due to a combination of exhaustion and apathy, so I did as I was told, fetched her scissors from the high shelf, and went back to making a cup of tea. Five minutes later, I walked into the living room to find her cutting all the stars off the Christmas tinsel, whilst saying “Snippy snip snip! There you go, puppies!”. They were slightly more pleased than I was.

So while Lisa got out the dustpan and brush, I punished Amelie by taking her to Lidl for half an hour. Unfortunately it wasn't quite the journey of drudgery I was expecting. On the way back, we met Nora, Harry and Finnegan, and quicker than you could say “There you go, puppies!”, Amelie was heading up the path with a dog on a lead...

Up the Gardner Path
I think I'll hire her out as a dog-walker, and buy myself a new mobile with a better camera.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

By the time I picked up Amelie from my mother-in-law's yesterday afternoon, the moon was already riding high in the sky (much like Amelie on my shoulders), so as we walked from the car to our block of flats, she began telling me of her long term ambitions to join the European Space Programme. Well, what she actually said was "When I'm older, I want to fly through the sky to the moon - wheeeeeeee!", but it amounts to the same thing. It's pretty much what Big Sis wrote on her application form.

As we walked through the main door and into the swanky lobby of our apartment block, Amelie was expanding on her goals in life by telling me that having landed on the lunar surface, she wants to sit on the seashore and build castles out of moon sand. At which point we were followed into the lift by the chap mentioned in this headline.

Now, I'll generally chat to anyone, but it's not easy breaking the ice when you're trapped in a lift with a bloke you've only read about on the BBC news website. Fortunately I needn't have worried. As the lift doors closed, Amelie wondered aloud if there really is a seashore on the moon, to which our neighbour from the fifth floor immediately responded by telling her that there is, that it's called the Sea of Tranquility, but that you can't paddle in it.

It just goes to show that you shouldn't judge a book by its cover. Especially when the person in question looks as though they've never read one. It was probably him who threw out the book stack coffee table. By the time we reached the second floor, the three of us were firm friends, and I'd be willing to testify in court for him any day of the week. I already like him more than any of our other neighbours. Not that that's saying much.

On the subject of outward appearances, Amelie was playing Girl Story on the iPad this morning. It's an intellectually stimulating game where you have to dress your character in a variety of slutty outfits and then hang around in bars trying to pick up men. I don't think Lisa read the full description before downloading it. Anyway, Amelie was busy pressing the 'Flirt' button and getting nowhere fast with a bloke from I.T., so I advised her to go back to the wardrobe screen and choose something more revealing. At which point she suddenly shouted "Oh! She looks like Mummy!"

For anyone not familar with my wife, here's the screen in question...

Girl Story
Lisa's never been so chuffed.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

It was my works Christmas do last night...

I've cropped that photo, mainly so I won't get fired. Suffice it to say that no one parties like a retinal screener. Let's face it, if you spend all year saving people's sight, you're entitled to get blind drunk. Not that I did, obviously. I was too busy taking notes for the departmental newsletter. I'll be starting the blackmailing on Monday morning.

Anyhoo, Lisa's out this afternoon meeting a friend, and her Mum has kindly offered to mind Amelie for a couple of hours so that I can get on with a few important jobs. Like writing this blog post. She's in a good mood at the moment because she's had a couple of winners on the horses, so she's convinced she'd riding a wave of good fortune and is destined to scoop the triple rollover on the lottery tonight. I'm accepting any generous offers of childcare while I can, because by the time the draw takes place, she'll either be crushed by disappointment, or on the next plane to the Bahamas.

So having driven Lisa to Shoreham this afternoon, I headed straight to the nearest non-charitable emporium of high quality Christmas merchandise, and bought Amelie a new duvet set...

Peppa Pig Bed Set
It cost more than all her charity shop presents combined, but her bedroom's like a pig sty, so it seemed quite appropriate.

Friday, December 09, 2011

I took the morning off work yesterday to go Christmas shopping. Unfortunately, with the weather the way it was, my money wasn't the only thing in danger of being blown to kingdom come. There was also every chance I'd end up in Oz with a house on my head. So I decided against a whirlwind of Christmas shopping, and instead took Amelie to playgroup.

To be honest, I didn't really need to buy any gifts anyway. I got most of Amelie's presents during my lunch break in Haywards Heath on Wednesday. In just one sweep of the high street, I bought:

  • A Next skirt
  • A cuddly elephant
  • A cuddly antelope in a dress (no, really)
  • A furry Christmas stocking with built-in reindeer
  • The Very Hungry Caterpillar Giant Floor Puzzle
  • Buckaroo

I'm particularly excited about that last one. Amelie won't get a look in on Christmas Day.

Anyhoo, the six items above cost me a grand total of £6.45. That's about a quarter to heaven. You've gotta love charity shops. When you add to that the big cuddly Garfield I bought for a quid a couple of weeks ago, I've basically got Amelie's Christmas sorted for well under a tenner.

Or I would have done if Lisa would let me. Despite having saved us a fortune by picking up some genuine bargains (some of which don't even need cleaning), Lisa's insisting that it would be morally wrong for me to spend so little on my daughter at Christmas. I think it's because her Mum's given us twenty quid to get Amelie something nice, and she's worried we'll end up in profit.

So I may be forced to head back to the shops for something more expensive. And having spent yesterday morning with Amelie at playgroup, I think she might want a few dressing-up outfits...

Dr Amelie MD
That's Dr Amelie flouting the NHS infection control rules by wearing a long-sleeved jacket. The blur in the background is Snow White running for the alcohol hand gel. Oh, and I admit it - I gave her the 99p elephant three weeks early.

Having practised a few of her old knock-knock jokes, we then moved on from doctors to princesses...

My Little Princess
That's one for the royal wedding commemorative plate. But my favourite was the cat costume...

I'm not sure what's going on with her front paw. Either she's lost a claw in a cat-fight, or she's hoping to join the Masons.

Thursday, December 08, 2011

We received our first Christmas card of 2011 yesterday (apart from the ones we got in January, obviously). Now, I'm not saying that Royal Mail has problems, employs illiterates, and provides marginally worse service than an overloaded donkey with arthritis. I'm really not saying that. But when our daily delivery arrived promptly at lunchtime yesterday, this was amongst it:

Emergency Ward
Our name isn't Ward, we don't live in Chatburn Close, I've not heard of Great Harwood, and we've never been to Blackburn. But apart from that, there's every chance it could be us.

Interestingly, it was posted in Lancashire, which - and correct me if I'm wrong here - is where Blackburn is situated. And yet, when confronted with an envelope without a postcode, the staff down the road at the South Lakes sorting office thought it more likely to be destined for Brighton. A simple mistake, which could possibly have been avoided by handing it to someone who can read. Presumably no such person was available. They probably saw the name 'Ward', thought of 'hospital', and forwarded it straight to me.

Fortunately I've taken on a bit of unpaid voluntary work this Christmas, done Royal Mail's job for them, and entered the address into Google. The postcode should be BB6 7TL, and the house in question looks like this:

11 Chatburn Close
They've even left the front door open. I expect they're looking out for the postman.

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

It's a well known fact that Amelie comes from a long and distinguished line of master magicians, stretching all the way back to her grandfather. So it was only a matter of time before I filmed her getting up to her old tricks...

She's like Paul Daniels and Debbie McGee rolled into one. Only taller, lovelier, and with all her own hair.

Monday, December 05, 2011

The block of flats where we live has a communal rubbish area downstairs. It's a council block, so to be honest, it has quite a few rubbish areas, most notably the inside of the lift, which frequently radiates with the kind of smell you don't really wish to know the origin of. But its one official rubbish area is the bin room downstairs.

When Lisa's mother used to live here, she was fond of telling me that you could furnish an entire flat from the items you find discarded down there, and having been here for a year and a half, I'm inclined to agree. The portable TV with built in DVD player which resides in Amelie's bedroom and pumps out Pingu for six hours a day was discovered lying on the floor down there, complete with remote control, about a year ago, and is still going strong today. There's currently a nice Moses basket sitting down there too (baby not included) if you want one. But yesterday afternoon I found this...

Book Stack
When I saw it standing in the corner, I genuinely thought it was a stack of old books. But when I went to open the top one, I found this...

Coffee Table Books
It's actually a coffee table, with a storage compartment in the top. Sadly I don't drink coffee, and I don't read much either, but I do like getting stuff for free, so I salvaged it from the rubbish dump, cleaned it up a bit, and hey presto, I've got Big Sis's Christmas present.

I'm joking of course. It's far too good for Big Sis. I'll be keeping it for myself.

Sunday, December 04, 2011

When you've just put your heart and soul (and a large amount of glitter) into the creation of a hand-painted Christmas tree decoration, you obviously need somewhere to hang it. So having spent the morning playing fayre at the nursery, Amelie and I settled down in the afternoon to prepare the flat for the festive season.

I'd already laid the groundwork by visiting Poundland for a load of tinsel, but you can't scrimp when it comes to baubles, so we'd gone upmarket and sourced those from Asda. After lunch, I visited the storage cupboard downstairs and retrieved our authentically pink tree (which simultaneously reminds us of Christmas time and breast cancer), and having put it together, Santa and his little helper began the job of decorating...

The first item to go on the tree was Amelie's hand-made decoration, which she declared to be "the most beautiful bauble in the world". Modesty never was her strong point. But having completed the lower branches of the family tree, it was time to throw the health & safety rulebook out the window, and get a bit more upwardly mobile...

Friends in High Places
It wasn't long before I realised that I had the potential to pay for Christmas 2011 with a £250 cheque from 'You've Been Framed', so I switched to video, in the hope of seeing Amelie fall off the chair and follow the route of the health & safety rulebook by taking the tree through the balcony window...

Sadly it didn't happen, so it's back to the credit card for another year.

With the Christmas tree done and dusted, Amelie moved on to the mirror...

The Fairest of Them All
She was already there, admiring her tiger face, so it didn't take much effort.

As the sun went down, the curtains were drawn and the lights came on, allowing us to admire the fruits of our labour...

Tree Fruits
What it lacks in symmetry at the bottom, it more than makes up for with cheap tinsel and plastic baubles. It's a triumph of Poundland style over upmarket substance.

It was a productive afternoon, and naturally with such an outstanding display of teamwork taking place, a bit of father-daughter bonding was inevitable. So with the living room successfully transformed into the Lidl Santa's grotto, the two of us sank onto the sofa, where Amelie spent the evening gazing lovingly into my eyes...

Stare Eyes
I feel like I'm being stared out by Bluebeard the Pirate.

Saturday, December 03, 2011

Amelie woke up in the middle of last night, calling for her Mummy. Which was handy, as her Daddy didn't want to get out of bed. So I shoved Lisa out from under the duvet, and she duly headed off into Am's room to find out what all the fuss was about. When she got there, Amelie sat up in bed and said "Mummy, I need to talk to you about something".

Concerned that our daughter might be sick with worry about an important and troubling issue which was keeping her awake at 3am, Lisa asked what was on her mind. To which Amelie replied "Tigers. I don't know what they eat and drink".

Personally I'd have said "Toddlers who won't go to sleep", but as it transpired, there was no need to enter into detailed discussions in the middle of the night, because just eight hours later, she was solving the mystery for herself...

They're Grrrrrreat!
The answer's cake. And lots of it.

Amelie's due to start at the hospital nursery in January (three afternoons a week - we're not made of money), and they were holding a Christmas Fayre this morning, so with a month to go until her settling-in sessions, we decided to give the girl a head start by paying them a visit and having a nose around. It turned out to be well worth the trip. Amelie painted her own plaster of Paris Christmas tree decoration, had her face painted, acquired a temporary tattoo and won a prize in the tombola, while Lisa and I spoke to the staff, and checked out the facilities.

We were both very impressed, so frankly we can't wait for them to take Amelie off our hands next year. She feels much the same way. And I'm sure that excitement will continue... right up until she gets there in January and realises that the giant table full of cupcakes isn't a permanent fixture.

Friday, December 02, 2011

It's a little known fact that as a young boy, I was a kind of Billy Elliot figure around the council estates of Basildon. I was no good at dancing, but I was quite into Spandau Ballet. As a result, I never really warmed to those wild boys from Duran Duran. Although, as I confessed to Lisa on Wednesday night, I did once buy 'The Reflex' on 7" single and record it onto cassette for a ten-year-old girl I had my eye on. It was 1984, so I could do that without appearing on the sex offenders register.

Lisa, on the other hand, spent her formative years eschewing school work in favour of sitting at the back of the class, compiling height charts to compare the stature of Simon Le Bon with Nick Rhodes. And as Simon is pointing out here, Nick is only this tall...

Miliband on the Left
He's also being stalked by a dodgy looking bloke who appears to be creeping up behind him as he plays the keyboards. I think it's Ed Miliband.

So since accepting Lisa warts and all (I had that written into our wedding vows), I've been forced to embrace the music of Duran Duran, and I have to say that as of Wednesday night, I think they've finally won me over. We did go and see them in Birmingham in 2005, but to be honest, I was more taken by Daniel Bedingfield than Simon Le Bon, so they didn't leave a big impression.

Wednesday in Brighton, however, was a different kettle of fish. The support act was called Cocknbullkid, so I was half expecting to see Bedingfield again, but it turned out to be a young black girl named Anita. She was very good, but the main improvement was in the headline act. It might feel like there are precious few jobs out there for young people nowadays, but Duran Duran have clearly been taking on new staff. They were only three short of a football team on Wednesday...

With an extra percussionist, saxophonist and backing singer, plus a new guitarist who could knock Andy Taylor into a cocked hat, they sounded a lot better. I was genuinely impressed.

On the downside, they were encouraging people to tweet during the evening, and displaying the messages on a big screen behind the stage, which seemed slightly pointless, and merely enabled the younger members of the audience to share their inanity with the rest of us. I could have done without hearing the views of the girls with the flashing bunny ears.

The same goes for Simon Le Bon's thoughts on the global financial crisis. When we saw Duran Duran six years ago, Simon paused between songs to adopt an expression of meek humility and declare that he was responsible for ending the war in Iraq. This time he introduced the song 'Ordinary World' by reflecting on the day's public sector strikes, and telling us that these are tough financial times, and we're all in it together. Which might have gone down better, had we not just paid him fifty quid each for our tickets.

I didn't think much of his Movember efforts either...

Simon Le Bon
Beards are strictly against the rules. The man can definitely sing though. He just needs to stick to that, and not talk.

Thursday, December 01, 2011

It's the first of December, which can mean only two things: Amelie's opened the first door on her advent calendar...

The Spirit of Christmas
... and I no longer have a moustache...

The only hairs on my top lip now are the ones coming out of my nose.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Down at the Brighton registry office, another happy couple from Kemptown are enjoying their civil ceremony...

Mo Bros
That was well worth crossing the picket line for. It gives new meaning to the phrase 'one out, all out'.

Anyhoo, I've spent today striking a pose, being a scab (and resisting the urge to picket), whilst camping it up around the hospital in a big moustache. I might end up with very little pension, but at least I've got some photos to comfort me in my old age.

By this time tomorrow, the facial hair will be gone, but the good news is that I have one last chance to show it off in public. And I don't mean my dentist's appointment tomorrow morning. It's exactly six months since Simon Le Bon phoned in sick and refused to sing for our anniversary at the Brighton Centre, but having given himself half a year to recover, the laryngitis he had in May has finally cleared up, his voice is back to normal, and Duran Duran will be taking to the stage tonight. So Lisa and I are off to celebrate seven years as a couple - quick, before we've been together eight.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Sponsor Me!I had my seasonal flu jab from the occupational health nurse this morning in an attempt to protect me from all the virally infected patients marauding like zombies across Sussex this winter. I read the list of possible side-effects, which made me feel quite ill, so I spent ten minutes having a nice sit-down in the department before returning to work. When I eventually did, I started experiencing occasional sharp pains in the top of my arm, and was beginning to think that she'd given me less of a jab and more of an uppercut. Until ten minutes later, when I realised she'd just trapped a few hairs under the plaster.

On the subject of hair-related traumas, tomorrow's the last day of Movember, so before we wave ta-ta to the taches, my boss has organised a photo shoot for me and him with one of the medical photographers. It'll be the first time they've documented insanity. And might make them wish they'd gone on strike. But as it happens, it won't be as unusual as the photo shoot I had this afternoon...

I was about to take the retinal photographs of a young woman today, when her baby, which was lying in a buggy at the side, started crying. Personally I have the God-given ability to happily ignore a crying child for a good half hour, and was about to say "Don't worry, this will only take a minute..." when she surprised me by picking up the baby, pulling up her top, and telling me to carry on while she did a bit of breast-feeding. Before I knew it, I was taking the photos of a topless woman while her child helped himself to a drink. I didn't know whether to grade the photos as R2 or Page 3.

But I successfully focused on her eyes and nothing else, and having completed the screening with no screaming, she asked me if I could give her any kind of result. So I said yes: judging by the way he was grabbing the camera while I was taking the pictures, the baby's motor skills are developing nicely.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

If there's one thing I've learnt from more than nine years of blogging, it's that Mulled Whines wouldn't be half the blog it is without regular updates from my sister. In the past four years alone, she's...
I could have chosen any number of links for that last one.

But I think this time she's surpassed even her own highly comic standards. She texted me last weekend to say that she was busy shooting a film with the bloke from Harry Potter. I said "Daniel Radcliffe?", she said "Who?", and we left it at that.

It transpired, however, that a friend of hers had been charged (possibly in a criminal sense) with producing a series of training videos for a chain of care homes, and was looking for talented young actors to play the roles of the residents. When he failed to find any, he called Big Sis, and having offered her sixty quid to go mental, she was straight down the M4 towards London to put a bit of method into madness by acting the part of a patient.

Her co-star turned out to be an experienced actor who'd done the walk-throughs for three Harry Potter films. If you're not sure what a walk-through is, it's like a walk-on, but with less screen time. Think 'Extras' but without the fame. As Sis said to me at the time, via a message from the movie set, "My role is a self-harming, agitated patient in a care home". I told her that sounded well within her capabilities.

Principal photography took only four hours, but for a method actor like Sis, the resulting pain can last a lifetime. She texted me on the Friday night with these hauntingly evocative words:

"My finger has teeth marks in it and hurts after today's episodes!"

It was the same for Leonardo DiCaprio in 'What's Eating Gilbert Grape'. Except he didn't have to spend his entire fee on petrol to get home.

Anyway, having heard the glowing reviews from the film set, I've naturally been anxious (but not as anxious as Big Sis's character) to see the resulting footage. So it was with great excitement that we returned home from Shoreham yesterday afternoon to find an e-mail from Sis with a link to the first clip of her burgeoning movie career. And here it is. You might want to put your hand over your face before clicking on 'play'...

It's a focused and powerful performance. Not from Sis, obviously, but from the bloke at the front. Let's face it, it can't be easy ignoring what's going on behind him. I'd have been wetting myself laughing.

Within an hour of receiving that clip, we'd watched it a dozen times (mostly through our fingers), and managed to compose ourselves sufficiently to regain the power of speech. At which point Lisa said "I'm glad my sister's never done anything like that". I've told Sis they can put that on the film poster.

With our levels of hysteria down to a manageable level, Lisa then went out for the evening, leaving Amelie and I alone to create our own powerful version of a modern movie classic...

It may not have the biting impact of the original, but it was recorded in one take and with no rehearsals. So they probably have that in common.

After watching her all-encompassing performance, you might think that there's nowhere left to go with that character, but according to Sis, there are three more episodes to come. We can only imagine what they might contain. Having seen the way she captured the subtle nuances of mental illness, I've told Sis I won't be happy unless she blacks up and comes rolling on in a wheelchair.