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Monday, January 31, 2011

The good thing about tattooing, body art and probably extreme piercing too, is that it brings people together. If it wasn't for the annual Brighton Tattoo Convention, I'd never see some of my friends. Not that I'm a big mutilator myself. Personally, the closest I've ever come to a tattoo was a trip to Edinburgh in my teens. But I'm not averse to hanging out with the overtly decorated, so yesterday we went out for breakfast with our old friends Crash & Donna...

Brighton Ink
I don't know what it is about that photo, but Lisa, Amelie and I look like three small children out with their parents. Crash is clearly twice the man I am. And he has more hair on his top lip than I've got on my head. We planned things well though: both Lisa and I chose our tops to match our friends' hair.

Anyhoo, since I moved to Brighton, we only ever see Crash & Donna in late January when they fly south for the winter Tattoo Convention at Brighton Racecourse. For some reason we missed last year, so it was actually 2009 when we last saw them. Amelie was only four months old at the time, with the kind of laid-back attitude that meant she was quite happy to be cuddled by someone with pink hair and a massive phoenix on her arm, but we thought we ought to prepare her this time around, so I showed her the photos from our last meeting, and told her who the people were. As a result, she spent Sunday morning calling them Chris & Donald. I was going to correct her, but it was funnier not to.

We'd arranged to meet at the Ha Ha Bar at 10am, but we arrived to find the place temporarily closed for business. Donna asked a member of staff when they open, and the woman replied "February the 4th", so we decided not to wait. Plan B was to head around the corner to Bella Italia, who also wouldn't let us in (we've been there before), but having tried a few places nearby, we eventually found an establishment willing to serve us at such an ungodly hour (10am on a Sunday, when most people are at church), and ended up at the Post & Telegraph, which sounds like a couple of broadsheets, but is actually a Wetherspoons in North Street.

Crash & Donna had picked up a trio of stalkers at the convention, so there were actually eight of us at breakfast. Lisa, Amelie and I were the only ones without body art, but Lisa's as pretty as a picture, and Amelie had felt-tip on her face, so we blended in quite well. And it was nice to catch up. Crash told us about his plans to become the next Andy Millman by branching out into the world of film and TV extras, while Amelie passed the time by naming all the insects he has tattooed on his arm. Both Lisa and I were quite impressed by the standard of art on display, but having heard how much they paid for it, we'll be sticking to washable transfers from the pound shop.

Anyway, a good time (and a lot of breakfast) was had by all, and Amelie definitely warmed to her colourful new friends. As we waved goodbye at the door of the Post & Telegraph, and made our way back towards the bus stop, Amelie turned to me, smiled and said "I like Chris and Donald". You can't get higher praise than that.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

It's so important in life to have a family member you can look up to, who can set a good example, act as a role-model, a guide, a teacher, an educator and, above all, a wise mentor who can offer sound and sage advice throughout life's journey, and allow you to fulfil your potential and become an intelligent, responsible and fully rounded human being...

Unfortunately Amelie's got Big Sis. And a cousin who knows the word 'poo'. I'm tempted to stop paying into her university fund now.

Sis was in Sussex this weekend, making enquiries about doing a bit of charity work for Aborigines who can't fly, so she popped around for a couple of hours yesterday to catch up on our news and teach our daughter the sign language of the stupid. It was basically Mr Tumble meets Cheryl Cole for half an hour on the sofa.

When asked where she got that routine, Sis replied "I learnt it when I was sixteen", which gives you a bit of an insight into her teenage years. And makes you wonder how she passed her GCSEs. But still, at least she's not experimenting on guinea pigs.

Anyhoo, Big Sis is now safely back in the care of our parents, with limited access to small children. But our hectic social life continues apace. It might be Sunday morning when the sensible are in bed, and the less sensible at church, but in a decision of unprecedented enthusiasm (mostly for food), we're about to go out for breakfast.

And not just because we've run out of milk.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

I'm beginning to have slight concerns about our decision to let Amelie start dating her cousin in April. She spent the afternoon with him yesterday, and he taught her the word 'poo-poo'. Within half an hour of getting home, her delightful and folksy renditions of 'Lord of the Dance' had gone well and truly punk...

I think we know who'll be first in the mosh pit at the Chris & Pui Roadshow.

Friday, January 28, 2011

One of the things I love about Lisa is her unfailing resilience, never-say-die attitude and determination to battle on through any adversity life throws at her. It doesn't matter how many disasters she has in the kitchen, she just won't give up cooking.

Take last night for example. Within minutes of me getting home from work, Lisa decided to head into the kitchen to make some hot chocolate. Having considered her Options and reviewed her Highlights, however, she inexplicably decided to reject the instant variety and make her own from scratch. Within minutes she was attacking a bar of chocolate with a cheese grater, flinging Lindt filings all over the floor, and getting nowhere very fast.

So she turned to plan B: the food processor. Five furious minutes, two different attachments and one smell of burning from the electric motor, and she eventually managed to get the chocolate chopped. At which point she added it to a saucepan of milk and started heating.

I'd witnessed the final stage of grating after being attracted to the kitchen by the smell of industrial burning, and walking straight through a layer of chocolate debris on the floor, but I wasn't aware the heating had begun until a few minutes later when I heard a shriek from Lisa at the stove, and returned to see boiling chocolate milk all over the hob.

At the time I felt sorry for her, losing half her drink over the top of the oven, but as it turned out it didn't matter, because when she finally tasted her super-duper home-made hot chocolate creation...

... she didn't like it and had to throw the rest away.

Now, for most people, that would be enough to send them straight back to convenience foods and takeaways. But not Lisa. Ten minutes later, she announced she was going to make shortbread. Which, as a decision, just about takes the biscuit.

For Amelie and me, that was our cue to leave. And not just because the kitchen was covered in burnt milk, grated chocolate and mountains of washing up. We very kindly offered to pop to Lidl for the ingredients, and I'm glad we did too, because it turned out to be a learning experience for us both. Amelie learnt how to hold a shopping list and put things carefully into the trolley, and I learnt that she's clearly been spending too much time making cakes with her Grandma.

On our way to Lidl, I idly asked Amelie what she thought Mummy would need to make biscuits. She thought for a moment, and replied "Butter!". Which took me by surprise because I was expecting her to say "Um...". So I asked her what else, and she said "Eggs". She then looked thoughtful for a moment before adding "Flour". By the time we got to Lidl, she was telling me that we need to buy a spoon to mix the eggs, and to be careful with the oven. Clearly there's only one person in this family who knows how to cook, and it's not me or Lisa.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

I discovered yesterday that the man who holds the scientifically documented record for the longest period of time a human being has intentionally gone without sleep, not using stimulants of any kind, is called...

... Randy Gardner.

Which is interesting, because if I was randy, I don't think I'd want to sleep either.

Unfortunately I'm more inclined to feel tired all the time, so with that in mind, I went to the doctor's this morning for the result of a blood test I had last week. On 16th July last year, my GP asked me to go back in three months time to check if my blood cells are all white. I think she was working on the principle that if I lived that long, they probably are. So as I wrote here at the time, "if someone could remind me in October, I'd be grateful".

Obviously no one did. But on the bright side, the good thing about being three months late for an NHS appointment is that by the time you arrive, the doctor's just about ready to see you. And the news was worth waiting for. Apparently my white blood cell count is now approaching normal levels, and Lisa can stop thinking I've got leukaemia.

In addition, my doctor carried out an annual 'medicine review' of my ongoing prescription for Wee-Wee Time. It basically consisted of two questions: 'Does it seem to be working?' and 'Do you want some more?'. I answered yes to both, which appeared to be the right answer, as she instantly gave me another three months supply. I think the 'Just Say No' campaign had a point.

She then took my blood pressure and carried out a thorough examination of my heartbeat from both front and back (I don't think she knew where it was) before declaring that I'm the picture of health and unlikely to die in the near future. Although I don't think that's legally binding. To be honest, with the arthritis, prostatitis, aching feet and dodgy knees, if this is healthy, I'd hate to be ill.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Sometimes, just sometimes, a cover version is even better than the original...

Not always though.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Just look at that little monkey on the floor...

Secret Seven
The cheeky grin; the cute outfit; the way the eyes follow you around the room - it could only be Andrew's sister.

Yes, just six weeks after we threw crisps at them from the balcony of the Brighton Dome, Lisa and I decided to let Stefan and Andrew carry on the food fight by popping around to their flat yesterday afternoon and allowing them to serve us cake. As the photo above demonstrates, however, there were a couple of extra dishes on the menu this time around. They had Andrew's sister and niece visiting. We were like the Secret Seven, but the only mystery was how we all managed to fit into that kitchen.

We've met Andrew's sister once before, back in May 2009, and we hit it off so well that within months of meeting, she'd decided to emigrate from Canada to the UK, just to be closer to us. And further from Canada. She arrived just before Christmas, and as of Saturday, she's living two hundred yards from our flat. She initially struggled to find somewhere suitable, but fortunately a property became vacant in the new year. Possibly after someone fell out of the window.

Obviously it's a concern when highly qualified foreigners come over here and take our jobs, but in the case of Andrew's sister, we don't need to worry. Having inspected all her Canadian teaching qualifications, the UK authorities have decided that they carry about as much weight as a GCSE in Media Studies, so she'll be lucky to get a job as a dinner lady. Which is handy as it leaves her free to do a lot of babysitting. The government might not realise how good she is with kids, but fortunately we do...

Amelie rarely smiles that much without a mouth full of food. I'm tempted to forget the Catholic school and hire Andrew's sister as her personal tutor. Let's face it, she's officially unqualified, so she must be pretty cheap.

But all that aside, the main reason we visit Stefan and Andrew is for the cake and the gifts. And as usual, they did not disappoint. Frankly with their talent for cake-making and present-buying, it's a miracle they're not obese and impoverished. Although they do buy a lot of stuff in Poundland. This time we came away with an outfit for Amelie, some NHS freebies, a bag full of cat treats and a book called 'Waddle!'. Which was appropriate after we'd eaten all their cake.

'Waddle!' is actually the latest in a series of 'Scanimation' books for children, and is as close to magic as you're ever likely to get outside of a Hogwarts classroom. I've read the book from cover to cover, I've watched this video...

... and I still don't understand how it works. Amelie's the same. She must have read it twenty times already, and she still can't explain it to me.

Anyhoo, as always, a good time was had by all. All three of the Gardners, that is. I can't speak for our hosts. We basically spent three hours eating their food, drinking their tea and playing with their Lenin matryoshkas, minature cows, fluffy chicks, magnetic dogs and talking dolls, before making off with half their belongings. I can't think of a better way to spend a Sunday afternoon.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

As it turned out, Thursday's purchase of tickets for a night out in Burgess Hill was just the beginning of a three day spending binge. Yesterday I bought a new computer and a pair of shoes (which cost me the shirt off my back), but sandwiched in between, on what I now like to call 'Frivolous Friday', I finally booked our honeymoon.

After the last wedding we attended, the happy couple jetted off to Africa for a once-in-a-lifetime two-week safari, which is the kind of holiday I had in mind. Unfortunately, Lisa's not big on snakes, spiders, insects, heat or pygmies. So I've booked us three nights in Eastbourne. There's less chance of being mauled by a gorilla while you sleep. Although she will have to share a room with me.

We're actually staying at this place for three nights...

York House Hotel
Although we're going in early March, so it's unlikely to look like that. We'll be lucky to see the place through the drizzle.

The babysitters can only take delivery of Amelie after 6pm, so we were limited as to how far we can stay from St Leonards. It was either this or the Hastings Travelodge, and I was worried the UHT milk would have gone off by now. So I opted for the York House Hotel, a seafront establishment in Eastbourne, which I chose partly because it has good reviews, partly because of the prime location, partly because I could get three nights for the price of two, but mainly because they have free wi-fi, and Lisa can't go three days without playing Farmville.

It should be the short break of a lifetime. And the perfect way to relax for a few days before I'm declared bankrupt in April.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Our computer suffered a fatal breakdown last night, so we've had to make our own entertainment today...

But with busking like that, we'll soon have the money for a new one.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

I've spent today in Burgess Hill, home of the pencil fence...

A case of pencils.
Pencil Pusher
I think that's where we get the phrase 'penned in'.

They've also got a Roman road, but having stood at the corner of the park for five minutes at lunchtime today, studying the tourist information sign, I realised it's been tarmacked over.

It was worth visiting the place though, because I saw this poster in the town centre...

Chris and PuiLock up your toddlers, it's the Chris and Pui Roadshow 2011! The West End and Broadway must be busy this year, because they're playing the Martlets Hall in Burgess Hill. It's like the Palladium, only closer to a branch of Lidl.

For anyone not familiar with Chris and Pui, they're the only two characters from 'Show Me Show Me' that you can't get knitted on eBay. They're also "CBeebies' favourite double act", which is crushing news for Nuzzle and Scratch, the health & safety alpacas. If you watch Amelie's Christmas video, you'll see her open Miss Mouse, and promptly ask for Momo. She'd also like Stuffy, Tom and Teddington. But what she's not expecting to get her hands on are the two presenters. At least, not legally.

But all that changed at lunchtime today, when I found out that Chris and Pui are performing live in Burgess Hill on the 9th of April. I booked our seats tonight. It was cheaper to get a family ticket, so as well as taking Amelie, we're adopting Lisa's nephew for the day. You know, the mad one. What could possibly go wrong?

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Couch PotatoWell, I didn't get a message from my dead cat. I think Oscar was too busy sitting on God's sofa with his flab hanging out to bother getting in touch.

To be honest, my mention of him on Monday was a carefully laid trap for Psychic Sally. I wanted to see if she Googles for people attending her shows, in the hope of picking up info and wowing them on the night. But having watched her for two hours at the Theatre Royal last night, I'm pleased to report that Sally Morgan clearly doesn't cheat. If she had done, she might have been a bit more accurate.

We were basically treated to an evening of cold-reading, and not very good cold-reading at that, as a succession of desperate and tearful people struggled to make tenuous connections with anything Sally said. I found it all quite depressing. The whole act essentially hinges on people's desperation to have some kind of contact with a dead loved one, and as long as that desperation exists, Sally can pretty much say anything she likes. It's basically a guessing game with no wrong answers.

For example, Sally was chatting with the long-dead father of an audience member's ex-husband (it was tenuous from the word go), and having established that she definitely had the right person by the fact that they had the same (common) Christian name, Sally said this:

"I'm getting the name Corinne. Yes, Corinne. Or possibly Florin. F-L-O-R-I-N. Florin?"

To which the lady replied:

"My mother-in-law was called Joyce".

I think that says all you need to know about how desperate people are to get a message. Mind you, sometimes they're not desperate enough. At one point Sally said this:

"Who's Keith? Keith? Kevin? Kee... a name beginning with K? Or an address?"

That pretty much covered half the population of the country, but still managed to draw a blank. I don't think it was her lucky night. Mind you, she wasn't fussy with her hits. At one stage she said she had a spirit called "Daniel, or possibly Danielle", whereupon someone put up their hand and said they'd lost a Darren. Sally thought that was close enough. Personally I'd expect a bit more from someone who's claiming to be psychic. At least when we saw Colin Fry in 2005, he had the decency to liven things up by bursting into tears as he thanked his hairdresser. Sally Morgan didn't even reach that level of entertainment. Although she did manage to channel a cat. Just not my cat.

Obviously I don't want to give the impression that most of the audience were loons, but a lady stood up in the second half and said she'd been dreaming that her dead tabby had come back as a black & white cat. Sally responded by asking if such a monochrome beast had ever lived in her house. The woman said no, but there'd been one nearby. Sally asked "In spirit?". The woman replied "No, in my garden". After which Sally told her that her cat loves her, and promptly moved on.

That pretty much summed up the evening: Sally never had a decent message for anyone. She spent the whole show telling people "you've had an incredible message there", but most of the time, the dead people on stage could barely string a coherent sentence together, and never had anything constructive to say. Sally would just toss out a few names until one of them stuck, then she'd tell you they love you and move swiftly on.

All of which seemed to be enough for the blubbering bereaved. Personally I thought it was slightly immoral to be making money from the false hopes of the tearful. But what do I know. The Brighton Theatre Royal holds almost a thousand people, and was sold out last night, with tickets costing £23.50 each. That's more than twenty grand for a show with no production costs. And most of the audience went home happy. Frankly I need to get into the guessing game myself.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Usually we just get people falling from the fourth floor around here, but not always...

Bush Satellite Dish
That's the latest Bush satellite dish. And it's a miracle I'm here to show it to you. I've been stuck in a lift since ten to six.

Usually I'm welcomed home by an array of dodgy council estate types accusing me of everything from drilling at night to smoking on the stairs, but not today. Today I just found myself trapped between floors for twenty minutes in a small, metal, coffin-shaped box with no mobile signal. If the emergency telephone hadn't worked, I'd still be there now.

But hey, it's not every day you get to have a conversation at shouting volume with three burly firemen who are trying to prise open a lift door and drag you through a hole near the floor. I wonder if Sally Morgan saw that one coming.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Amelie's currently on a fact-finding mission to St Leonards, where she's attempting to find out just how much food she can persuade her grandparents to give her in forty-eight hours. As a result, Lisa and I have a couple of evenings to ourselves. Which means tonight is officially date night in the Gardner household.

Unfortunately Lisa always was a bit reluctant to go on any dates with me, and nothing's changed since we got married, so I've failed to persuade her that this is how we should be spending the evening...

A bit tied up at the moment.
But it's not just that she doesn't like bondage, she's also refusing to go and see Gulliver's Travels in 3D at the cinema. She's worried she won't be able to concentrate and follow the plot. Which suggests she's never seen a Jack Black movie before. Personally I think she's just prejudiced against midgets.

Anyhoo, she did say I could go on my own, but having thought through the situation and considered my options, I've decided to stay in and make her feel guilty instead.

Tomorrow, however, she won't be getting a choice. We're off to the Brighton Theatre Royal to see Psychic Sally Morgan, Britain's biggest clairvoyant. Although she's not as big since she had a gastric band fitted. I'm hoping to get a message from my dear friend Oscar, who was sadly and unexpectedly taken from us a few years ago at the tender age of nine.

He died in 2004, just two months before I met Lisa (which shows the lengths to which some people will go to avoid her), but I've spoken about him many times, and to this day, I know how much Chloe misses him. I do too, actually. It's also a shame that Amelie never got to meet him, as he shared her appetite for sausages, fish fingers, and basically anything edible. If anyone could have eaten that girl under the table, it was Oscar.

Admittedly I'm a skeptic when it comes to psychics and mediums (especially those who used to be extra large), but if Sally manages to pick up some of Oscar's words from beyond the grave, or a vision of his ginger hair, I'll be willing to reconsider.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

I think I'll have to find a new title for my autobiography...

Look For Lisa!
That one's been taken. It was actually given to us last week by Lisa's sister, who found it in a charity shop and felt it would make the perfect gift for someone whose wife has no sense of direction and keeps getting lost. It's a lot like 'Where's Wally?', but in this case the wally's Lisa.

It's produced an interesting effect in Amelie. After two years of hearing Lisa's Mum call her 'Lis' (to sound like 'lease'), reading the 'Look For Lisa' book has prompted her to put two and two together, and realise what her Mummy's name is. As a result, she's been calling her Lis since Friday. It's like living with a tiny estate agent. Everywhere she goes, it's Lis-this and Lis-that. Lisa went out for the afternoon yesterday, and Amelie started walking around the flat saying "I'm looking for Lis!". It's like watching the stage version of the book.

And on the subject of leasing, anyone who's seen our block of flats in an Argus crime scene report will know that not only are people dying to come here, but we have a bit of a damp problem too. And it finally reached a head on Saturday. I was under the bed at lunchtime, replacing one of my juggling clubs which Amelie had removed, and was using as a baseball bat in the living room, when I noticed that as parents, we're not so much breaking the mould, as allowing it to grow down the back of our headboard.

The wall behind our bed, which we'd so diligently and painstakingly watched my Dad decorate back in July, was well on its way to becoming a mushroom farm. I was tempted to bring in a pig to search for truffles. But instead, I waved Lisa off to Shoreham for the afternoon, and spent a couple of hours on my hands and knees with a bottle of mould cleaner. I ended up bleaching my socks and getting a sore throat, but by three-thirty the wall was green again. And not with mildew.

Un-muggySo having driven Amelie into West Sussex to pick up her Mum, the three of us went to B&Q and spent eighty quid on this dehumidifier. Which was quite an achievement. Having looked on the website, I couldn't find the one I wanted instore, so I asked a member of staff, who kindly attempted to look it up on the computer. She'd got as far as pressing two buttons when she turned to me and said "How do you spell dehumidifier? D...I..?"

Frankly it was a miracle we got it at all.

Friday, January 14, 2011

One of my patients yesterday was a 40-year-old woman, about six months younger than Lisa, who came into the consulting room with a little girl about the same age as Amelie. It was just like being at home. Only less tiring.

When I gave the lady some eye drops, the little girl expressed concern that I might be causing her pain, so I calmly reassured the child by bending down, smiling, and saying "Don't worry, your Mummy will be fine."

At which point the girl looked confused, and the woman said "It's Nanny. My daughter's twenty-three."

It makes you wonder what Lisa and I have been playing at all these years. We really should be posing for Amelie's graduation photos by now, not trying to get her potty trained. It's no wonder I'm knackered all the time. I should be putting my feet up with the grandchildren while Am does our shopping.

But still, we might be mature parents with arthritis, aching feet and low energy levels (and that's just me), but we're successfully bringing up Amelie in the modern age. Not only does she know the word 'e-mail', but as of this week, she's started using the word 'blog'. Only last night, she walked up to the computer, pointed at the screen, and shouted "Mummy's blog!"

She was looking at Facebook. And she was basically right.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Sometimes in life, unexpected gifts suddenly appear... just like that.

We've just received a Tommy Cooper postcard from someone on FezBook.

It's actually come all the way from the west country, and was sent to us by the mysterious cider-drinking, combine-harvester-owning (I'm making assumptions there, but I'm sure they're correct), blog-commenting powerhouse that is BS6. I think he got our address from a police report.

Postcards are obviously lovely, particularly the smokin' one shown above, but anyone who saw Amelie on Christmas Day will know that presents are where it's at. So I'm pleased to report that the card was accompanied by not one, but two gift boxes.

The first was a beautiful presentation box from the Luigi Bormioli range of crystal glasses, featuring this impressive description:

"Italian Heritage is evidenced in flawlessly designed crystal. Clarity and inherent quality enhance its beauty. A classic in its own time... only from Luigi Bormioli."

BS6 couldn't have picked a nicer box to repackage a cheap mug and a bag of sweets. To be honest, it's a good job it didn't contain crystal glasses, as Lisa ripped it open like a pitbull with a baby, and almost dropped the contents on the floor. But what we eventually found inside was a card congratulating us on our Insta-Wedding in September and a charming present to match. He'd even ensured that I didn't get my hopes up, by writing 'No Donuts Enclosed' on the box.

The mug features the words 'Dig For Victory', which I took to be a clever play on the word 'gardener', and a brilliantly witty way of congratulating the newlywed Gardners on their victorious marriage.

Until I opened the second box and found that he'd sent it to us by mistake. He actually meant to give us the 'Keep Calm and Carry On' one. Which is probably more appropriate. The neighbours downstairs hate us enough as it is, without us digging through their ceiling.

Anyhoo, I'd just like to extend our warm gratitude to BS6 for his generous gifts. We're keeping both the mugs, but the sweets are already long gone...

I should point out that the red mark on the side of Amelie's head isn't due to domestic violence. She actually hit her head on a chair. The only mugging is taking place on her lap.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Flicking through our Christmas photos today, I came across one I'd forgotten about...

Red Nose Day
I was aiming for Mr Tumble and Little Miss Sunshine. It ended up as Evil Clown meets Damsel in Distress.

Monday, January 10, 2011

I knew it was a good idea to write a blog post praising Google yesterday. Within hours of me hitting 'Publish', Google updated their listings, and I was snowed under with ice skating fans. As of last night, if you go to Google Image Search and enter the words 'Robin Cousins', you'll see a photo of me ranked 4th out of 800,000.

Obviously it's not just me. It's a picture of Robin Cousins too. But I like to think I draw the eye more than he does. And I fill up more of the frame.

Despite being highly ranked, I must admit I was puzzled at first as to why 73 people in four hours would choose to click on my photo, rather than some of the more professional shots on offer. Let's face it, mine was taken by Lisa. Or the Digital Decapitator, as I like to call her. Frankly she couldn't get a decent headshot if she was on the sixth floor of the Texas Book Depository. But I digress...

It seemed odd that faced with an array of decent photos, people were clicking on mine. Until I thought about it for five seconds. Based on the evidence of my own blog post yesterday, most internet searches are basically just attempts to find out something pointless and frivolous. Wikipedia would go out of business without Lisa looking up celebrities to see if they're married and when they last had an affair. So let's be honest, 90% of people searching for Robin Cousins just want to know if he's gay or not.

Which explains why they click on the photo of him with his arm around a shaven-headed young man in a tank-top. I'm being mistaken for Robin Cousins' boyfriend.

Sunday, January 09, 2011

Sometimes I think the only thing preserving my sanity (or what's left of it) is my ability to access Google. Obviously it helped me find out who my sister was having lunch with on Thursday, but yesterday it went one stage further and managed to stop me thinking I was going mental.

I was doing the shopping in Asda on Friday night, when a young couple came walking towards me down the ready meals aisle. Just as our paths crossed, the man turned to the woman and quite clearly said the following words:

"I want to get a horse ridden by a frog saying 'Ahoy Butternuts!'"

It's the kind of sentence which makes you do an instant double-take and then wonder if you need a hearing test. Or a psychological assessment. I was so taken aback that I stood there by the WeightWatchers meals and tapped the words into my mobile phone in an attempt to document the beginning of my mental breakdown. After all, I knew the man couldn't really have said that he wanted a horse ridden by a frog saying 'Ahoy Butternuts!', so the fact that my brain interpreted his words thus, surely indicated some kind of major psychosis. By the time I reached the checkouts, I was convinced I must be in downward spiral of loopiness.

But as it transpires, I'm not as mad as I thought I was. Well, not in this instance. Having entered the words into Google yesterday morning, I discovered that the bloke was talking about an episode of LA Ink in which Ronnie Radke of 'Escape the Fate' fame (and I use that term very loosely) goes into a tattoo parlour and asks for... well, you can probably guess. That was shortly before he did time for narcotics offences. I don't think the two are entirely unrelated.

It makes you wonder what we'd do without Google. I'd never find out anything important. But I'd probably get a lot more done.

On a different subject, I took Amelie for a walk along the seafront at dusk last night, and succeeded in capturing the matching bookend to Wednesday's sunrise photo...

It wasn't easy. Amelie had just seen a jogger, and was shouting "Run, Daddy, run!" at the time.

Saturday, January 08, 2011

While Lisa was having her collar felt by the long arm of the law on Thursday, I was having my own close encounter with the criminal underworld in Horsham. Yes, it's true, I saw Grouty from Porridge in Waitrose. And he was wearing shorts. Clearly crime doesn't pay, or he'd have been able to afford trousers.

As it turned out though, I was pipped to the post in the celebrity stakes by Big Sis, who phoned me on Thursday night to say she'd spent the afternoon at Maurie Fa'asavalu's house. Yes, Maurie Fa'asavalu. No, I've never heard of him either. And Big Sis spent most of the conversation calling him Mario. But fortunately we both have access to Google, so between us we were able to establish that the man's a professional rugby player who's played in the World Cup for both Samoa and England. I've no idea how that's possible.

Due to having friends in high places, Sis naturally found herself being invited around to his place for lunch on Thursday, and succeeded in getting through most of the meal without having a clue who he was. And wondering why he kept telling stories about being mobbed by fans in St Helens. Let's face it, before Thursday, Sis thought Samoa was an Indian pastry.

But the good news is that having eventually worked out her host's identity, there's now every chance of her teaming up with him again. After chatting to me for an hour on her way home, Sis received a text message to say she'd left her security pass at Maurie's house, and would have to drive all the way back. Obviously it's not the first time Fa'asavalu's held onto a valuable pass, but this time his chances of scoring are slim. Not only is he a married man, but Sis can't pronounce his name.

Friday, January 07, 2011

A detective, a policeman and a forensic expert walk into a bar. A breakfast bar. Well, a kitchen worktop. No, it’s not the beginning of a joke, it was the scene yesterday afternoon at our flat.

Personally I was at Horsham Hospital all day, healing the sick and helping the blind to see, using nothing more than a Bisodol tablet and a pair of glasses. But while I was improving the health of the nation, Lisa was at home, helping the police with their enquiries. Having visited all the residents at the weekend, they obviously realised that we’re the classiest people in the block, and the most likely to give them a cup of tea, and saw a window of opportunity. Which happened to be located in our kitchen.

It appears that Flats Plunge Man made his exit via the draining board upstairs, so the police spent some time examining our kitchen windows with a glazed expression, and looking through the evidence. Obviously I wasn’t there to watch the kitchen sink drama unfold, but fortunately I have eye-witness evidence from someone who was. And what’s more, I’ve transcribed it accurately for the court records:

Me: “What happened when the police came round?”

Amelie: “I played my drum.”

Me: “And what did the policeman say?”

Amelie: “Wonderful.”

I hope she doesn’t lie like that under oath.

Wednesday, January 05, 2011

Sadly, all good things must come to an end, and sure enough, after more than two and a half weeks off work, and a total of nine nights in St Leonards (which I'm trying to convince Lisa should count as a honeymoon), I went back to work today. Quite a long way back to work. Crawley, to be precise. I was only expecting to travel two hundred yards down the road, but working for the NHS is a lot like starring in Tales of the Unexpected, so I found myself heading up the A23 instead.

But hey, if I hadn't been forced to get up an hour earlier than anticipated, I wouldn't have seen this sunrise from our balcony...

Let's face it, if you're going to leap out of the kitchen window headfirst, there are worse things to look at on your way down. I reckon Flats Plunge Man was just leaning out to get a better view.

Anyhoo, that might be the most gorgeous sunrise of the year so far, but it's not the prettiest picture on my blog today.

Always the bridesmaid...This is.

When I got the call from Roald Dahl yesterday afternoon, we were actually visiting Lisa's elderly uncle on the other side of town. He'd spent the morning reminiscing with a box of old photos, and he gave us this one of Lisa, aged three, dressed as a bridesmaid at her cousin's wedding.

I think it proves conclusively who has the dominant genes in this marriage. Frankly I'd recognise that look anywhere. It's Amelie standing in the kitchen, looking at the food cupboard, and saying "What does Ammy want...?"

Tuesday, January 04, 2011

It's January 2011, which means it's now more than eight years since I created my main website, the dynamic shrine of self-absorption and wishful Philment that is And for every one of those years, it's looked pretty much like this...

Old Gardner
Actually, I think it looks better in miniature. Possibly because you can't read the words.

The post-it note was added in 2008, as was Amelie, but the rest of it has barely changed in eight years. Lisa once told me that when she first visited the site in 2003, nine months before we met, and saw the photo of me with my head in my heads, she instantly knew I was her type of person. It's not everyone that can carry off that sexy, alluring look of despair, but I clearly had it bang on.

Anyhoo, it's a design which served a purpose (and attracted a wife), but let's face it, I created that website as a single man in my twenties. I'm now married with a daughter, and barreling towards forty with grey hair up my nose. It's about time I ditched the cartoon sheep and went leather-bound...

New Gardner
If this was 'Show & Tell', then that would be 'What I Did On My Holidays'. I've spent Christmas revamping my website to reflect my newfound status as an upwardly-mobile, middle-class family man. Who just happens to live on a council estate where people murder each other.

Visitors with slow computers and embarrassingly low screen resolutions (I'm looking at you here, Mum) will no doubt be annoyed that having waited five minutes for the page to load, they have to keep scrolling to the right to click on any links, but hey, I've got a 24" widescreen, and from where I'm sitting, it looks pretty good. My parents can just click on the picture above.

Monday, January 03, 2011

Lock up your daughters, there's a new superhero in town...

Flats Plunge Man!
Is it a bird? Is it a plane? No, it's Flats Plunge Man! Able to leap tall buildings in a single bound! But only in one direction: down.

We made the front page of The Argus today. Although I'm not sure their photo of our flat does us any favours...

People are going to think we live on some kind of council estate. Oh, hang on, we do. But I'm sure it's not as bad as it looks in that picture. The damp patch around our living room air vent definitely isn't that noticeable in real life. I think they must have used some kind of grime filter on the camera to make the place look more grubby. And then subtitled the photo with the word PLUNGE to indicate what the story's doing to property prices. No one's going to come to our next function now.

Sunday, January 02, 2011

The problem with living inside a police blockade is that it makes you a day late with your new year wishes...

Amelie recorded that a few hours before the attempted murder outside her bedroom window, but I told her I didn't have time to upload it before the Detective Inspector came round.

Having been doorstepped by an Argus reporter yesterday afternoon, and then had a D.I. on my sofa for ten minutes, I'm now at liberty to reveal that the "major incident" which welcomed in the new year around these parts was a tragic fall from a fourth-floor window. The kind of entirely accidental fall which results in five people being arrested for serious assault.

Sussex Police have named it 'Operation Winton', presumably because it involves being shoved through a hole in the wall, and have been camping it up outside the block for most of the weekend. Yesterday we had the forensic team taking photos of the building, which is handy, because it might encourage the council to fix the holes in the pebble-dash, while today brought the Scientific Support Unit, who had a chat outside our bathroom window about how it might have happened. Sadly, I couldn't hear their conclusions over Lisa's electric toothbrush.

My favourite element of the story so far, however, is the brief Argus report on the incident, which states that the injured man was "believed to have been at a function in the building". I know Lisa likes to call our entrance hall 'the lobby', but that aside, they clearly don't know the place at all. Calling anything around here a 'function' is like describing the Ford Prison riot as a cocktail soirée.

Saturday, January 01, 2011

I've always said that the best way to start a new year is to get up, open the curtains, and find that your flat has been cordoned off by the police...

Actually, it's not just our flat. The whole block is currently behind police lines...

Fortunately, I'm a naturally inquisitive person with a thirst for knowledge, so rather than just accepting our newfound residential status as crime scene occupants, and heading off to make a cup of tea, I leaned over the balcony and sweet-talked the two policewomen standing guard below.

Apparently there's been a "major incident" overnight, and they'll be around later to ask us what we heard. I'd better wish everyone a Happy New Year now, because by this time tomorrow, we could be in the witness protection scheme.