Subscribe: Subscribe to me on YouTube

Monday, February 28, 2011

You know the one about the English girl, the Canadians and the Slovakian..?

No, me neither, but it makes everyone laugh...

The Fantastic Four
That was the scene here yesterday afternoon when we staged another meeting of the United Nations by inviting around Stefan, Andrew and Nora. They obviously make an attractive photo, but not as attractive as this one...

18 Carrot GoldThat's the carrot cake they brought with them. Stefan said he made it because they had too many carrots. Which is a bit like making custard just to use up the nutmeg. In the past, he's made us Hungarian apple cake which is golden, delicious and makes me feel Hungary, plus a raspberry strudel and a plum pudding. It's why I never buy fruit & vegetables. They're far too fattening.

For her part, Lisa spent the first half of the week making biscuits. And the second half eating them. So in the absence of any home-made goodies, we were forced to buy three bags of cookies at Tesco. Sadly they didn't overcharge us.

So having taken the biscuits and let them eat cake, we spent an enjoyable afternoon looking like we'd set up a couple of sofas in Greggs, while stuffing ourselves silly, and catching up on each other's news. Well, Stefan, Lisa and I caught up on news. Andrew and Nora just played with Amelie's toys. Which is only fair - they bought most of them. At one point, Amelie brought out her wheat-filled elephant, only for Stefan and Andrew to deny all knowledge of the thing. I had to show them the blog post where they gave it to her, before they'd admit liability. I expect they're trying to avoid a law suit.

To be honest, it's no surprise they don't remember every gift they've bought us. It'd be like playing the conveyor belt round on the Generation Game. But with more cuddly toys. This time they gave Amelie a set of playing cards, while Nora presented her with a scarf. So she's all set for a game of strip poker.

Here she is challenging our Canadian card sharks to a bit of Texas hold'em. The title refers to the effect it had on their brother-sister bond...

At least two of them are taking it seriously. The third is trying to prove that she can beat them standing on her head. And wearing a scarf around her waist.

To be honest, I think Andrew's becoming my muse. He told me he's been recognised by new members of the Brighton Goes Gospel choir, because I'm the main producer of BGG videos on YouTube, and I centre them all on him. People think he's the star of the show. Which, obviously, he is. He's not taking part this year though. He wants to spend more time playing cards.

Anyhoo, having eaten cake and played pat-a-cake, we decided to wave goodbye to Stefan, Andrew and Nora while we could still move without the aid of a gastric band. At which point Amelie grabbed my camera and insisted on taking their photo...

Stefan might be half the man he used to be, but I think they all look pretty good. I might let Amelie take all my photos in future.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

There's no better way to spend a weekend than reclining in your toybox with a balloon and a copy of The Gruffalo...

Box Clever
That was yesterday morning, shortly before we decided to drop everything and head over to St Leonards for some free babysitting. Not that childminding is the only reason we visit my parents. We also like to spend time in their company. And I told them so. Shortly before we headed out for three hours without our daughter.

It meant that Lisa and I were able to enjoy a relaxing Saturday afternoon, her asleep in the spare room, me writing a blog post on my parents' sofa (not literally - it would be a nightmare to wash out), while Amelie shouted "Get up Grandad!" and "Now dance!".

Having taken it easy for a few hours, we then sprang into action by pointing Amelie in the direction of her Grandma, and slipping out the back door to Tescos. Frankly Tesco could build a new store in the time it takes us to look around one, but it was worth walking Lisa down the aisles, because we found a cute t-shirt for Amelie featuring one of her favourite cartoon characters. Her name's Lola. She's a showgirl. And the show's on CBeebies.

We bought three tops for Amelie, on the grounds that they were 3 for the price of 2, but having examined our receipt, we found that they hadn't knocked off the whopping £3 we were owed. Some people might choose to ignore that, but to me, it's a free trolley dash at the pound shop, so I headed straight to the customer service desk. Having examined our receipt and checked our purchases, the bloke there informed us that if found to have overcharged a customer, they have a policy of refunding twice the amount. At which point he handed me six quid.

You've gotta love Tesco. They might be bankrupting farmers, but they're making me rich.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

As a newlywed husband, I feel it's important to make my wife feel like a princess. So having returned home from my trip to London yesterday, I ran Lisa a nice hot bath. And sure enough, as she stepped into it, I heard her shout from the bathroom: "I feel like Princess Margaret!". That's what I call a job well done.

But when I wasn't running baths yesterday, I was running up and down these stairs...

Photo by Steve Cadman
Which is what happens when they put the free food on the first floor. Doctors talk about taking steps to a healthier lifestyle. I just went upstairs for the Danish pastries.

Anyhoo, my day at the Royal College of Physicians yesterday was a complete success. From the outside it may look like a petrol station forecourt, but inside it's a lot more GP than BP, and has the feel of a five star hotel or exclusive members club. Personally I'm more used to Travelodges than Masonic lodges, so just being there was a real treat. As were the desserts.

London itself wasn't as anonymous and unfriendly as people make out either. Having wedged myself onto a tube train at Victoria, I looked up and realised that the sardine standing next to me was the husband of our good friend Lorraine. I did well to recognise him, as the last time we met, he was dressed as Dracula and had blood pouring down his face. Fortunately, he hasn't changed a bit.

I chatted to him all the way to Oxford Circus, then made my way to Regents Park, where another familiar face greeted me with the words "Hi Phil, how's the iPad?". It turned out to be this man. He then congratulated me on getting married, before revealing that he's read the departmental newsletter I produce. Which led to a tense thirty seconds while I tried to remember what jokes I'd written about him.

As for the seminar, well the Royal College of Ophthalmologists couldn't have picked a nicer venue. Obviously you'd expect a group of eye doctors to choose a visually stunning location, and the RCP didn't disappoint. It was all marbles, paintings and big busts. So it was a lot like being at home with Lisa and Amelie. This was the entrance to the lecture theatre...

Photo by Steve Cadman
The spiral staircase leads straight down to the toilets, the cloakroom and the private garden. Although I didn't discover that until we'd spent all day walking the long way round. It's no wonder I got so hungry.

But when I wasn't upstairs eating pastries, biscuits, curry, rice, bread, tarts and meringues, I was here, in the Wolfson Theatre, with a couple of hundred ophthalmologists...

Photo by Steve Cadman
You obviously need good eyesight to spot them.

The day's lectures were variable, but for the most part very interesting. The prize for the most poignant PowerPoint slide of the day went to one entitled 'Tell Mummy When the Bus Comes', referring to a twentysomething woman with two toddlers, who has lost her sight due to diabetes. Which is kinda why we do what we do. As another speaker put it, "We don't mind if people die, as long as they die with good vision".

By the end of the day I was tired, pleasantly full, and oddly craving sweets. I had to stop on the way home for a snack break. There's nothing like a seminar on diabetic retinopathy to put you in the mood for some chocolate.

Friday, February 25, 2011

I'll say one thing for the Royal College of Physicians: they have fantastic toilets...

That Sinking Feeling
Although it's easy to get the urinals mixed up with the sinks.

I won't be making that mistake again.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

I was doing a clinic at Horsham Hospital today, where I heard a receptionist literally shout at a patient:


To which the man standing three feet in front of her replied:


She took that as a yes.

But that aside, the big news around here is that Lisa's Mum isn't the only one about to be summoned to London for a royal engagement. I'm off to this place tomorrow...

Royal College of Physicians
That's the Royal College of Physicians near Regents Park. Although it looks like an upside down wedding cake. It's one of only a handful of modern buildings to be Grade I listed, and was designed by Sir Denys Lasdun, who did the Royal National Theatre. Or the "nuclear power station" as Prince Charles once described it.

Tomorrow, however, it'll be a site for sore eyes, as it's playing host to a Diabetic Retinopathy Seminar organised by the Royal College of Ophthalmologists. And what's more, I'm invited. As is anyone who pays the forty quid registration fee and knows the secret handshake.

I'll be getting up at 5:30am, so I hope the eye doctors supply matchsticks.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

We had a phone call from Lisa's Mum on Monday night. She said she was calling to ask if Lisa would be free sometime in the next few weeks to go clothes shopping with her. Bearing in mind that this is a woman who would usually rather stick her head in a gas oven than a changing room, and thinks George at Asda is the special needs bloke who collects the baskets, it seemed an unusual request.

But she went on to explain, quite seriously, that she needs to buy a special outfit, and in addition to requiring her daughter's help to choose it, she was wondering if it could go on Lisa's credit card, as she's on a state pension and doesn't have the money for fancy clothes at the moment.

Lisa was naturally concerned by the tone of gravity in her Mum's voice, and the suspicion that she might be planning her own funeral, so she reassured her by confirming that of course she'd take her shopping soon, and that we'd happily pay for the outfit. Before asking what she needed it for.

At which point Lisa's Mum paused. And then said that she'd heard the royal wedding invitations had gone out, and was fully expecting to get one.

Either that's proof of where Lisa gets her sense of humour, or we need to start looking at homes.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

When Neil Sedaka and Elton John get together, it's a laugh-a-minute riot...

Tiny Dancer
It's like Rocket Man meets Calendar Girl. In pyjamas.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Kissable FrogHaving demonstrated a bit of anty capitalism by purchasing a stuffed insect on Saturday, I forgot to mention that I also bought a frog. It didn't stick in my throat as much as the ant.

It's actually a wooden height chart for children, although it would work just as well with midgets, and it was 50p in the same charity shop. So even as firewood, it represented good value for money. It felt like a half-price sale at the pound shop.

When I examined it yesterday, however, I noticed the printed signature of 'Bartolucci' on the back, and the words 'Made in Italy'. Which was a surprise, as it reminded me more of the French.

A quick search on the internet revealed that far from being the kind of mass-produced Chinese import I usually buy for Amelie, it was, in fact, hand-made in The Marches of central Italy by these swarthy looking master-craftspeople...

It's like the Mafia have branched out into woodwork.

The Bartolucci website describes their carpentry skills thus:

"Starting from the wood, natural element present from so long time in the human life and from the carvers tradition of this region, the company Bartolucci is born with the intention to propose in modern and creative key wood creations."

Which is the kind of creative use of language you'd expect from artisans. It also means that if I kiss my frog and put it on eBay, I could buy a handsome Prince album.

But unfortunately Amelie likes it, so my money-making ambitions have gone to the wall. Quite literally. I was forced to put it up yesterday. It's now in pride of place in Amelie's bedroom, and having persuaded her to stand still long enough to let me measure her, I can exclusively reveal that she's exactly 97cm tall. Which technically makes her a freak.

I've looked up the World Health Organisation Child Growth Standards, and apparently a girl her age (2 years and 4 months) should be about 89cm. She's virtually off the scale, and in the top 2% of all toddlers.

Admittedly, both Lisa and I are the tallest members of our respective families, but to be honest we both grew up amongst pygmies, so it's a bit like being the best singer in the Spice Girls. Which makes me wonder where Amelie's got such lofty ambitions. If I find out our milkman plays basketball, there'll be trouble.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Lisa went out with a friend yesterday evening, so with no one else here to tuck me in, I had to ask Amelie to read me a bedtime story...

I'm with her on the final sentiment. Books are all very well, but you can't beat the terrorvision. Especially for horror stories. I showed her that video this morning, and she immediately said "No! Not the end!". She thought the scrolling words were the closing credits.

Admittedly, Amelie's ability to read complex sentences is probably about as genuine as Clever Hans' arithmetic skills, but for someone who was living inside Lisa just a couple of years ago, she's not doing badly. If I could quote books that accurately, I might not have flunked my English Lit exams.

On the subject of terrorvision, if you've ever wondered what Ant & Dec get up to when they're not on our screens, here's your answer...

Ant & DecIt's basically just endless pyjama days and nail-biting moments wondering if Saturday Night Takeaway's going to be recommissioned.

Well ok, I tell a lie. That's actually Amelie watching TV with a giant stuffed insect. It's been a common sight around here since yesterday.

It all started halfway through the morning when Lisa decided to make golden syrup biscuits. As anyone familiar with her cooking skills will know, that seemed likely to lead to a sticky situation, so as Amelie's not keen on the smoke alarm, she and I opted to go out. We ended up at an ant establishment rally in Peacehaven. Or the Sussex Lantern charity shop, as it's also known. They had a variety of cute cuddly toys, from sweet little bears and fluffy yellow chicks, to floppy bunnies holding flowers. Amelie chose the massive creepy-crawly. I can think of better ways to donate a pound to charity.

The cats pyjamas, however, are the bee's knees. We bought them in the Co-op for five quid. Although we almost got them free. Having put them in our trolley alongside Lisa's biscuit-making supplies, we were told at the checkout that clothing items have to be paid for in the clothing department. The girl had already scanned the rest of our shopping by then, so she gave me the pyjamas to put back in my trolley, and told me to walk all the way along to the exit, then re-enter the store, make my way to the clothing section, and pay for them there.

So I headed for the exit with a load of shopping I'd paid for, and a pair of pyjamas I hadn't. They were hidden at the bottom of the trolley. Frankly only a fool would have gone back in to pay for them.

Unfortunately I am such a fool. Sometimes I annoy myself with my own honesty.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Having worked at the Royal Sussex County Hospital for three years now, I can honestly say that what sets our staff apart from other NHS Trusts is our ability to pull together and keep moving forward with a smile on our faces.

But only if we've got the right backing track...

That's our Chief Executive at the beginning. I'm not sure he was hired for his dance moves.

Friday, February 18, 2011

A passport to fame and fortune wasn't the only thing I tried to buy yesterday. I also got my hands on an owl. Although the celebrity was more of a hoot.

I was in a charity shop at lunchtime, looking for ways to spend my share of the NHS budget, and I found a small cuddly owl for 50p. Obviously there are limits to how much I'm prepared to spend on Amelie - three weeks ago, she saw a flannel fish in Lidl for £3.99, which I refused to buy her on the grounds that it was overpriced. And from Lidl. Unfortunately she hasn't let me forget it. She's spent the past few weeks telling anyone who'll listen that she "Saw a fish in the shop. It was three ninety-nine. Can't buy it."

To make matters worse, she's now embellished the story and started telling people it was only two ninety-nine. Frankly I'm beginning to look like a cheapskate. Which is what Amelie's claiming the fish was.

Anyway, the owl might have only been 50p, but it was quality, so I bought it, along with a penguin rucksack which I p-p-p-picked up for a pound. It turned out to be the best one-fifty I've ever spent. Although I've got a ticket for the Euro-Millions tonight, so that could all change. Since giving Amelie the bird last night (which is illegal in some US states), she's been inseparable from her feathered friends. This was the scene at 7:30 this morning, five minutes after she woke up...

An owl saw the mouse...
She's watching The Gruffalo there. Very closely. Which perhaps explains her reaction when I got home from work yesterday. I handed her the owl, and told her it was like the owl from The Gruffalo. To which Amelie responded:

"An owl saw the mouse and the mouse looked good.
Where are you going to, little brown mouse?
Come and have tea in my treetop house."

She's only two, and she's memorised half of page six. I don't know whether to put her down for Mensa or RADA.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

I say, I say, I say... what does a Jewish Princess make for dinner?


That joke was told to me this afternoon by my favourite patient of the week (if not the job) so far. Sadly, patient confidentiality rules preclude me from saying who it was, although she's already mentioned the appointment on her showbiz blog, so frankly the cat's pretty much out of the bag. Which in this case would be the postbag on a popular TV show.

Having spent a couple of minutes talking to this anonymous star of stage and retinal screen, she attempted to perform some kind of Psychic Sally mind-meld on me by looking into my eyes (which frankly should have been my job) and saying "You're a singer aren't you?" - an intuitive suggestion which she instantly changed to 'musician' when I looked slightly doubtful. Thereby making her even more like Psychic Sally. I was tempted to tell her about my problems playing a Cm7 guitar chord with an arthritic little finger, but in the end I just said I was more of a writer.

Within five minutes, we'd both plugged our blogs, she'd asked for my card, I'd given her eye drops, and she was straight on the phone to her producer. She then told me she liked the title 'Mulled Whines', before adding that as a general rule, she hates puns. She'll be visiting here later. And presumably not staying very long.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Overheard yesterday in a hospital waiting room:

"They reckon that one in five people will be knocked out by a dog in their lifetime."

I don't know who 'they' are. Cats, possibly. And surely the odds increase if it's a boxer. But either way, those words were uttered outside my consulting room yesterday by a lady who's recently been flattened by a Labrador. Which is what you call being dogged by bad luck. Or just barking mad.

You don't only hear odd things in hospitals though, you see them too. This was stuck on the back of the toilet door in outpatients on Monday...

It's my favourite hospital poster since this one.

Monday, February 14, 2011

I spend half my life telling Amelie not to touch the radiator in case it's hot, and then Lisa goes and does this...

Hot Stuff
She's hot stuff in more ways than one. But ignoring the health & safety implications of that pose, and the fact that she's already lost both an arm and a leg in some kind of industrial accident, that's Lisa wearing her Valentine's gift. The top and the cardigan are actually a cunningly designed one-piece, made for people who can't afford both. It means that if she wants to take off the cardigan, she'll have to go topless. Which in turn would afford everyone a view of her other Valentine's gift. And it's not a tattoo. Or a boob job.

In addition to the sexy clothing, I also gave Lisa a romantic DVD. Having considered 'Love Story', 'Gone With the Wind' and 'Casablanca', I eventually settled on 'The Wrestler' with Mickey Rourke. Lisa wanted to marry him when she was eighteen, so I thought I'd show her what she'd have ended up with.

Mmm... peanuts.For her part, Lisa gave me a bag of Lindt Lindor and the book on the left. After nearly seven years together, she knows I don't read, but it's only got about six words on each page, so I might have it finished by Christmas.

As for our romantic feast, that was a roaring success. If you like morbid obesity. It's no wonder Cupid's so chubby. By the end of the evening, we'd eaten so many calories I could barely pick up the WeightWatchers calculator. Music might have been the food of love in Shakespeare's time, but in our house it's chocolate.
It's my first ever Valentine's Day as a married man, and I've got the card to prove it...

Trumped CardLisa gave me that this morning. Obviously it's lovely, but it's only half the size of the one I gave her. Which means I love her twice as much. Mine was also hand-decorated by Amelie, who told me she wanted to write something for Mummy, and then scribbled all over it in crayon. She used the red one though, so it blended in quite well. I told Lisa it was part of the design.

Having successfully trumped her card, I'm also cooking Lisa a gourmet Valentine's feast tonight. I haven't announced the menu yet, but I can exclusively reveal here that we're having beef & chianti lasagne with petits pois, pancetta and freshly baked cheese & onion bread, followed by melt-in-the-middle chocolate puddings. I've already begun the lengthy preparations by piercing the film lids and reading the microwave instructions. It should be ready shortly.

But the real excitement will come afterwards, when I present Lisa with her gifts. Tradition dictates that the gentleman buys his lady a certain sexy item of clothing for Valentine's Day, so as Lisa’s now my wife, I've done so for the first time. I'll take a photo of her wearing it before we go to bed, and publish it here tomorrow. I'm sure she won't mind.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

I'm currently looking after Amelie while Lisa's at church, praying for our souls. Obviously, under those circumstances, a lot of men would like to have a pretty girl running about the place in a fur coat and no knickers, but in my case it's a potty training two-year-old who won't put her underwear on and is insisting on wearing her coat. Possibly because I haven't turned the heating on.

I've just emptied her potty, which contained a small amount of wee-wee and a handful of Rice Krispies. I'm viewing that as a slight improvement. Usually she dips her toes in it and tries to give her dolphin a drink.

The inevitable crisis moment of the morning, however, came about half an hour ago. I was in the kitchen, making some hot sweet tea to calm my nerves, when I heard a blood-curdling cry of pain from the next room, where Amelie was searching down the side of her cot for a guitar, so that she could sing 'Old MacDonald Had a Farm'.

I rushed in there to find Amelie getting to her feet in tears, so I picked her up, gave her a hug, and said "Where did you hurt yourself?"

She sobbed on my shoulder for a few seconds, then lifted her head, and through the tears wailed: "IN... MY... BEDROOM!!!"

I wasn't quite sure how to kiss that better.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

I've been searching all my life for a restaurant that serves chips by the bucketload...

Bucket List
But frankly that bucket's beyond the pail. To be honest, I've seen bigger thimbles. I do, however, approve of the slab of dead meat staked through the heart with a crucifix. That was very tasty.

With Valentine's Day just around the corner, I had the pleasure of going out for a meal last night with five female colleagues. And there were certainly a lot of baps on display. Mainly because we all had burgers.

Rock & RollerWe actually went to Rock & Roller, a new establishment in Western Road which features that oh-so-familiar pairing of gourmet burger restaurant and pool hall. It's like McDonalds with snooker. Only classier. And with fewer clowns.

We did, however, have a happy meal. They serve burgers made of everything from beef, lamb and chicken, to pork, fish and soya (mmm... soya), all with a choice of cheese and a bucket list of side dishes. And they give you your own wooden slab to dissect it. Personally I went with the spicy smoked sausage. Followed by a big glass of water.

The happiness, however, was provided by the company. And I don't mean the company I work for. I mean the people who work for our company. There might only have been six of us, but together we had enough fun for... oooh, at least seven people, and what's more, we had the balls to play pool. Mainly because we paid ten quid to get hold of them.

If I'm honest, the level of skill on display wasn't quite what you'd call professional standard, but the good thing about not being able to pot a ball to save your life, is that a game lasts for ages. The match was perfectly balanced too - we were all equally rubbish. At one stage we had to bend international pool rules ever-so-slightly and start moving balls with our hands, just to give ourselves a fighting chance.

By the end though, I was halfway to becoming Tom Cruise in 'The Colour of Money'. I'd successfully convinced everyone I was useless. I just need to work on the second part now.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Thanks to the wonders of the internet, and an unusually good week for Royal Mail, you can get printer cartridges delivered pretty quickly sometimes...

I think it's turned out pretty well. In fact I'm tempted to take Lisa's Valentine's Day gift back to the shop, and wrap that up instead. But I'm not sure they do refunds at Poundland.

In other, marginally less important news, I should probably mention that I'm still alive. Mainly because I wasn't in Brighton today. Shortly after Lisa and Amelie rode past on a bus home from playgroup, a wanted man was caught between a Rock (and a hard) Place, and lost his life in a police sting. Possibly for anaphylactic reasons.

Between a Rock and a hard Place
I don't know what's more criminal: the dead man's record or the use of that apostrophe.

Wednesday, February 09, 2011

For someone who was born and bred on the coast, Amelie seems to have remarkable difficulty identifying sea creatures. Which is odd, as she can recognise lions, elephants and dinosaurs from a mile away, and there are no more than a handful of those in Brighton. Not only does she insist that the cuddly manatee we bought from Dallas Aquarium is a dolphin, but she claims the fish on the left is a goose.

Mind you, it could just be her eyesight. Let's face it, she once saw Louie Spence from Pineapple Dance Studios and shouted "Daddy!". Which is worrying on so many levels.

But the green gosling above is currently her favourite creature, because every time she sees its smiling waterfowl face, she knows she's going to play a game with her father. Or farmer. But probably me.

Over the past couple of months, she and I have become big fans of Big Fish Games, a website which allows you to play dozens of casual games free of charge for one hour. Which suits us just fine because she's got a short attention span and I've got no money. Our favourites are 'Hidden Object Games' - computer versions of I-Spy, which eschew the latest groundbreaking 3D graphics technology in favour of a simple picture where you basically just have to find stuff. We can spend hours (one on each game - I'm not paying for this kind of junk) on the sofa with a laptop, trying to spot cows, guitars and standard lamps in an average seaside beach scene.

See if you can find the butterfly here...

Hidden Object Crosswords
... but if you spot it first, you have to let Amelie click on it, otherwise she gets stroppy and starts chucking Ribena around.

Anyhoo, until today, this activity hadn't cost me a penny, but all that changed about an hour ago, because having tried numerous such games over the past few weeks, we finally found one worth paying for. It's called 'Hidden Object Crosswords', and adds a whole new level of depth to an admittedly shallow genre, by making you solve crossword clues before finding the answer in a picture. It's the perfect father-daughter educational tool. I solve the clues, Amelie finds the objects, then I spell out the letters and we both fill in the crossword.

Having spent an hour playing it together on the sofa last night, Amelie's already learnt the letters 'I' and 'P'. Mainly because she's self-obsessed and currently potty-training. So the $4.99 I've just forked out for the full version should be money well spent. Give me a week and I'll have her reciting the whole alphabet. Or at least the rest of the word 'Ipswich'.

Tuesday, February 08, 2011

Lisa took Amelie to see the local Catholic priest this afternoon. I'm not sure if her intention was confession or exorcism, but either way the man had his work cut out. Apparently when Lisa was heading out of the door, she said to Amelie "Come on, little one". To which Amelie replied "Come on, big one". It's cheek like that which needs to be beaten out of her with religion.

Obviously I can't reveal the priest's identity here, in case Lisa's subtle befriending techniques fail, and she ends up having to blackmail him to get Amelie into the school around the corner, but having been told his name this morning, Amelie's spent the day calling him Farmer Cosy. She hasn't liked anyone so much since she met Chris and Donald.

I asked her about the meeting this evening and she informed me that not only is Farmer Cosy "nice", but he told her a story too. I was expecting the Nativity, the Good Samaritan or the one about Jonah & the Whale, but apparently not. She got the parable of the Three Little Pigs. I expect it was the the holy spirit that brought down those houses, not the Big Bad Wolf.

Monday, February 07, 2011

Lisa and I celebrated our four-month wedding anniversary last weekend. By 'celebrated' I mean 'completely forgot'. Frankly we were too busy touching tattoos in a pub. But having woken up on Saturday and realised (with a certain sense of foreboding joy) just how long we've been married, I decided it was about time we put up some of our wedding photos. And not just on the internet.

So while Amelie was hunting for sea shells in Homebase on Saturday, I was in the picture frame aisle, looking for something suitable to house our most precious of photos. And by 'suitable' I mean 'cheap'. Fortunately, I found it. This was reduced from forty quid to twenty...

Picture Perfect
Before you ask, those aren't our wedding photos. Ours are more colourful, less professional, and feature fewer shots of the Pyramids.

So in addition to putting up another four (count them) (but don't check if they're level) shelves this weekend, I also spent half of Sunday going through the 252 photos we took on September 30th, and deciding which sixteen deserve to live forever on the living room wall. The other half of Sunday was spent arguing with Lisa about my choices.

But by yesterday evening we'd come to a consensus. I agreed to cut out the one of me with Big Sis, in favour of one of Lisa on her own, and in return she agreed not to hit me. So with the decisions made and the measurements taken, I sat down and started printing. Whereupon my printer promptly ran out of ink. I think I'll wait for our five month anniversary.

Saturday, February 05, 2011

I forgot to mention that fish nibbles aren't the only fast food option available in the vicinity of Crawley Hospital during the average lunch break. This was on display inside the main entrance of the outpatients department...

I'm lovin' it.
By 'support', I presume they mean 'supply with patients'. Or maybe they misread 'friends' as 'fries'. Either way, I'm not complaining. We have a hard time getting some of our overweight diabetics to turn up for appointments. Sticking the golden arches on the front door might just do it.

Anyhoo, on the subject of fat people who do their own thing, I took Amelie to Homebase this morning as a special treat for using her potty without being asked. She spent the whole time walking around the shop, saying she was looking for sea shells, asking me "Where are the sea shells?", and shouting "Look! There's a sea shell!". All of which I found slightly confusing until I realised I'd told her on the way in that we'd "see if they've got some shelves". I think I need to speak more clearly.

We followed that up with a quick trip to Sainsbury's, where Amelie forced me against my will to buy a Valentine's cat for Lisa...

Not that Lisa can get near it. We're praying the batteries run out before our patience.

Friday, February 04, 2011

If something around here smells fishy, it's probably my feet...

Doctor Fish
After spending a morning at Crawley Hospital, chatting to people with neuropathy, what better way to spend your lunch break than by dipping your toes into shark-infested waters and being attacked by a shoal of piranhas...

Putting my foot in it.
I like to think of them as the soles of my feet.

But before anyone accuses me of getting my kicks by stamping on sticklebacks, I should point out that this is actually the brave new world of fish-based pedicures. And it's not as cruel as it looks. At least, not for the fish. Frankly, they're loving it. There's a steady stream of them flooding over here from Eastern Europe in search of a foot in the British job market and a leg up to a better life. And if that means sucking my toes for ten quid, then so be it.

I must admit, when I arrived at Crawley Hospital first thing yesterday morning, I didn't expect to be gnawed by a fish within four hours, but that's what happens when you get chatting to a receptionist who pulls out her iPhone and shows you nude photos of her legs. Within five minutes of walking through the door, she'd convinced me that my life wouldn't be complete until I'd had my feet chewed by Crawley's answer to Jaws.

Dr SpaFishSo having waved goodbye to my last patient of the morning, I headed down the road to Dr SpaFish, a walk-in pedicure therapy centre in the nearby shopping mall. I was expecting the plaice to be stuffed to the gills with old trouts or men with mullets, but as it turned out, I was the sole person there. It costs £10 for 15 minutes of minnow-munching, which I thought was pretty good. Let's face it, there must be some sharks in the industry, so it's nice to know that the good Dr SpaFish isn't one of them. Before letting you near the tanks, they also make you sign a declaration stating that you're not HIV positive. Because you deafinitely don't want to give the herring AIDS.


Anyway, those of a nervous disposition who don't like the idea of killer fish swarming towards my gnarly old feet like flies to a corpse, should look away now...

The little ankle-biters really get under your feet. They're actually called Garra Rufa, and according to the leaflet I picked up at the door, the fish "stimulate acupuncture points" and "help to regulate the nervous system". Which is what you might call 'cod science'. Or a load of pollocks.

What they really do is eat away your dead skin, and it's a surprisingly pleasant experience. If you can get over the psychological terror of being eaten alive. It gives you the kind of tingling, pins & needles sensation that will be familiar to anyone with bad circulation or a vibrating bed. And it's actually very soothing. I wanted to put my rough old hands in, but sadly it's strictly feet only. Apparently the fish don't like battered fingers.

Thursday, February 03, 2011

Amelie returned home yesterday after two days at her Grandma & Grandad's house...

Just look at those colourful characters with their unnatural skin tones, piggy eyes and gormless, inane grins. Thank God things like that skip a generation.

Wednesday, February 02, 2011

The thing about us Gardners is that we're good with our hands. Amelie can make orange horses out of plasticine...

Britain's Next Top Modeller
... and I can put up shelves that are almost level...

On the Shelf
Unfortunately, we're not so good with our memories. Despite being interviewed by the police for half an hour on Monday night (which is why my DIY plans had to be shelved until yesterday), I forgot to mention that I witnessed a robbery on Sunday. And not just when Lisa stole my thunder by telling Amelie about my Winnie the Pooh biscuit-cutters.

I took Amelie down to the marina on Sunday afternoon for a bit of retail therapy at the discount bookshop. On the way, we popped into Asda, where I decided to help her towards the title of Britain's Next Top Modeller by getting her some plasticine. It was only a pound, which I thought was pretty cheap, until we walked on through the marina and found a way of getting quality goods for free.

We were crossing the road near Subway (mainly because there isn't one), when I looked up to see a man sprinting towards us from the direction of the Calvin Klein store. For a moment I panicked, thinking there must be a car coming, but having realised there wasn't, and then clocked the two members of staff running after him, and the bundle of clothes in his arms, I deduced that there might be some kind of crime afoot.

I'd have given chase, but I had Amelie on my shoulders at the time, which is equivalent to the weight of the world, and I struggle to get up kerbs, never mind chase thieves, so instead I stood and watched him reap the rewards of his efforts by sprinting off past the Harvester. I did feel a bit sorry for the hapless shop assistants, but let's face it, if you've seen the prices in the Calvin Klein store, you'll know they're used to daylight robbery.

Tuesday, February 01, 2011

A few weeks ago, I mentioned my worldwide fame as Robin Cousins' boyfriend. Well the good news is that my international status as a gay love interest is continuing to grow. This graph shows the number of people visiting this blog over the past couple of weeks...

First, Second & Third Cousins
You'll notice a spike on each of the last three Sundays. That's when 'Dancing on Ice' comes on TV. No, seriously. At about six-thirty every Sunday, people start flocking here in search of kissing Cousins, Robin's birds and other indications of the man's sexuality. I estimate that more than a thousand people have confirmed me as a gay icon since the beginning of January. I'd also like to lay claim to reducing the nation's caffeine intake, as TV viewers are clearly spending their commercial breaks here instead of putting the kettle on.

As it turns out though, bi-curious ice skating fans weren't the only unexpected visitors we had on Sunday evening. The police came round too. There was a knock on the door at 8pm, and I answered it to find two detectives on the doorstep. Lisa was making biscuits at the time, so I assumed they'd come to investigate the smell of burning, but in fact they were here to take a statement about the New Year's Eve function upstairs.

Obviously I like to make a statement with everything from my clothes to my bank account, but I've never given one to the police before. I soon got the hang of it though. Frankly I sang like a canary, and within five minutes they'd realised it was going to take longer than expected. At which point they gave up and asked me and Lisa to go to the police station instead. So at 7pm last night, that's where we were: down the cop shop, helping the police with their enquiries.

We were interviewed separately, so at the time I assumed they said the same things to both of us. But apparently not. They did ask us both if we consider ourselves "vulnerable witnesses", so I told them I was worried about having dog poo shoved through my letterbox, and enquired about getting a new identity. They said it wasn't necessary in this case, so apparently I'm stuck with who I am. Which is probably just as well, as I've bought the website address.

In other ways, however, the information differed. Particularly in one key area. They told Lisa that she's highly unlikely to be called as a witness. And asked me what dates I can attend court. So it's not looking good. I could be on the stand come the summer. I feel like Naomi Campbell, but without the diamonds.