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Sunday, July 31, 2011

It's a poignant symbol of multicultural Britain...

Ebony & Ivory
Yes, Amelie's getting to know Mrs Gupta from the corner shop.

Or possibly Big Sis has come to visit. It's hard to say which. But either way, it's like a promo shot from the 'Ebony & Ivory' video. I don't know whether to start marketing my own fake tanning products, or put my sister forward for a MOBO Award.

As the old saying goes, 'If Mohammed won't come to the mountain, the mountain must come to Mohammed', so when Lisa and I told her that we wouldn't be coming to stay this weekend, there was only one thing Big Sis could do: adopt the skin tone of a muslim, and came straight to us. Not only am I a man-mountain, but I'm now officially over the hill.

So to our slight surprise, Sis phoned us up late on my birthday to say that she'd be driving from Wiltshire to Sussex on Saturday to spend 24 hours in our company, before working on location in Kent the next day. Possibly as a fruit picker. She arrived yesterday afternoon, and is officially the colour of a Malteser, having spent seven days with Ira Losco in the Med.

Amelie's made the most of her auntie's visit, by repeatedly saying "Can I go and watch her?", and then proceeding to stare at Big Sis like she's some kind of circus freak. But to be honest, we all do that. The main advantage of her visit, however, is that she's come bearing gifts. I got a birthday card and a £30 voucher for The Well at Bulkington (it's what I like to call a 'Get to The Well Soon' card), while Lisa got a sympathy card of a different kind, plus a gift from a service station. Sis said she saw it and thought of Lisa.

It's a Mr Bump book.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

On the surface, it might appear that no good has come out of Lisa's hideous accident. I mean, sure, she's been through a lot of pain, long-term disfigurement, physical and mental trauma, and ruined four thousand pounds worth of dental treatment that she spent years saving up for. But that's only part of the story. On the plus side, I picked up a pretty good recipe in the dentist's waiting room last Friday.

It was in the BBC's Good Food Magazine, and it was for Chicken & Ham Sandwich Pies. I made them on Thursday afternoon...

The Value of Pie
According to the recipe, "These bread-based pies are really portable", thereby instantly setting them apart from all the world's other pies, which are pretty much housebound and immovable. So having got them out of the oven, I tested their portability by taking them to St Leonards for my birthday picnic...

Who ate all the pies?
That's Amelie and me out in the wilds of Sussex with a home-made pie and a jam sandwich. I'm now officially pushing forty, so the rug really should be on my head.

Obviously, when I say 'the wilds of Sussex', I'm referring to my parents' garden. We discussed various possible locations for my birthday lunch, before deciding on the patch of grass ten yards from the back door. It meant we could drink tea without taking a flask, and Amelie could pop home for the toilet.

Here she is demonstrating the BSL sign for 'More Cake Please'...

... after which she picked up my camera and took a photo of her Daddy...

... or possibly my Mum's greenhouse. It's hard to say which she was aiming for.

Having picnicked until the sun went down (about 3pm BST), we then had a break from the eating to rest, relax and start reading the pizza delivery menu. I was keen to experience the Domino's effect, but we also had to cater for those members of the family too awkward or toothless to eat pizza, by agreeing to get fish & chips as well. So while I placed the pizza order online, my Mum took Amelie on a fishing trip to the local chippy.

Or she would have done if Amelie hadn't scraped her hand getting into the car, and been forced to return home for some Savlon. As she said to us at the time, "I've had an accident like Mummy". A fact I disputed by pointing out that I wasn't on my hands and knees, cleaning up blood and broken glass from the carpet, whilst on the phone to an emergency dentist.

A combination of Amelie's injury time delay and a lightning fast delivery from Domino's, meant that fifteen minutes later, I was sitting here with my birthday tea, while the rest of the family went hungry. Or as hungry as you can go when you've been eating pies all afternoon. Naturally I could have started without them, but I felt there was more mileage in making them feel guilty by waiting for the fish & chips to arrive, and then reheating my pizza in the microwave. Whilst reminding them that I really should have been at The Well at Bulkington.

It wasn't long before I was tucking into some sympathy desserts, and my Mum was bringing out the birthday cake...

Have my cake and eat it.
Judging by the cake my Dad got for his 70th birthday, I think there's only one bakery in St Leonards. And they haven't moved on much in three years. The candles were supposed to be in two rows - one of three and one of eight, to indicate my age of 38. Unfortunately Amelie insisted on adding a fourth to the top line. That girl's putting years on me.

Friday, July 29, 2011

It's my 38th birthday!

Lisa's present has been postponed until she can leave the house without a bag over her head, but Amelie's given me this card...

Birthday Boy
... as well as the grey hair, wrinkles and bags under my eyes. It's no wonder I was comfort-eating chocolate within half an hour of getting up.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Amongst the pain, anguish and trauma of the past couple of weeks, there's one victim who's barely had a mention. Our glass-fronted sideboard may never be the same again. Once Lisa got her teeth into him, smashed his face and broke his glasses, he never looked likely to recover.

But as a true victim of violence, that sideboard's been getting its own back ever since. Every time Lisa walks past it down the hallway, she's reminded of the trip she took on the eleventh, and it's a trip down memory lane that she'd rather not take. Our glass-fronted sideboard has come to stand for everything that's gone wrong in Lisa's life over the past three weeks, and it's doing her no good at all to keep seeing it. She was brought down once when she failed to walk past it, but now just walking past it is enough to bring her down.

So Amelie and I decided to make a humanitarian visit to some second-hand furniture shops this morning to look for a replacement. I've got two days off work for my birthday, and we're due at my parents' this evening, but this morning we headed over to Hove to browse for an untainted sideboard at the Martlet's Furniture Warehouse. On the way, we popped into work so that Amelie could test the strength of our new flooring by jumping up and down in the office, while I did a deal with the devil (which is no way to describe my boss) to ensure that I can make it to my appointment next Thursday. I've been granted two days sick leave in return for doing an extra clinic on Tuesday. So by Thursday, I'll need a couple of days off.

The deal was struck over a chocolate biscuit (for Amelie, not me) and we were soon on our way to Hove for some furniture shopping. The usually reliable Martlet's proved disappointing for what we were looking for. I wanted something cheap, well-built and about four foot wide, but with the exception of the moment I caught sight of myself in a mirror, I failed to spot anything which fitted that description.

Fortunately, the Emmaus Second-hand Superstore in Portslade proved more productive. We decided to look at dressers and free-standing wall units, in an effort to banish the memory of the old sideboard, so Amelie got out her tape measure and assessed a few possibilities...

That's the kind of furniture I pine for. Solid wood, well made, and only sixty-five quid. But sadly it was three inches too deep. Lisa would be cracking her elbow on the corner every time she comes out of the bathroom.

This one was the same price and the perfect size...

... but if you're allergic to MDF, this one's a killer. I've never seen anything so cheaply made. Well not since I got my clothes out of the wardrobe this morning. It looks nice in the photo, but it was tatty, flimsy, and more likely to fall into Lisa than vice versa.

The third option was this...

It was the right size, and the cheapest of the three at only £45. Amelie and I spent ages agonising over whether to buy it. Although she hid her agony well by running up and down the shop, shouting "LET'S MEASURE THIS ONE!" in a loud voice. In the end, I decided against it. To quote Roy Walker, it was good, but it wasn't right. For a start, it isn't soft and made of rubber, so in Lisa's world, it's a death-trap. I think I'll keep on looking...

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Amelie woke up crying at 7am this morning, so I went into her bedroom, calmed her down, and asked her what was wrong. She told me she was scared because a big monster with big claws and big teeth had seen her asleep in her bed and tried to cuddle her in the night.

So I think Lisa's been sleep-walking again. And the good news is that in a couple of weeks' time, I could finally be in a fit state to join her. I received an appointment today to be stabbed by a sonographer next Thursday at the hospital in Brighton. Unfortunately I'm due to be at a health centre in East Grinstead. I think I've got some rearranging to do...

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

If there's one thing I've always said about my sister, it's that she makes you appreciate the precious nature of divorce. She only visited Malta a week ago, and they've already changed the law to legalise marriage break-ups. It's as though they took one look at Big Sis, and realised that you can't expect men to stick around forever.

Of course, the alternative explanation is that every man she met there now wants to divorce his wife. Which probably makes more sense. I have it on good authority that 'There's Something About Mary' was based on my sister's life.

On the subject of Big Sis, it's my birthday on Friday, so we were planning to drive down to Wiltshire tomorrow evening to celebrate in style by spending the weekend in Devizes. It's the clubbing and party capital of the UK. That's the Rotary Club and Conservative Party, obviously. Sis had promised to push the boat out and treat us to some milk from the late-night garage.

Unfortunately, following the events of the past fortnight, we've sadly taken the decision to postpone the trip. One of our main motivations for going was to eat out every night at The Well at Bulkington, but with Lisa still reluctant to open her mouth in public, there seems little point in a gastronomic tour of Wiltshire. She could suck some soup through a straw, but the strawberry shortcake's likely to prove difficult. Not least because she'd have to order it from behind a napkin.

So we've changed our plans, and will be heading back to St Leonards instead. We can't eat out there either, but my Mum knows the number of a good pizza delivery firm.

Monday, July 25, 2011

I was strapping Amelie into her car seat yesterday afternoon to bring her back home from St Leonards, when, completely out of the blue, she turned to me and said in a perfectly calm, clear voice:

"Don't ever hurt me again, Daddy."

That's one to stop you in your tracks. It was like a scene from the exorcist, but with less vomit. Frankly, if a passer-by had overheard it, I'd now be in a police cell, being questioned by social services. As it is, I think my Mum and Lisa have their suspicions. So I'd just like to state for the record that with the exception of the time I elbowed her in the head, and the day I dislocated her arm in Lidl, I've never laid a finger on that girl. Although obviously I've been tempted.

Besides, I'd be a fool to start battering my daughter now. She's just beginning to show the kind of talent that could make me a fortune. Just look at this fancy footwork...

She's like a young George Best. Only more articulate.

That's her running rings around a talented opposition line-up which included a septuagenarian with varicose veins, and a woman with no teeth.

Here she is perfecting the famous Chris Waddle step-over...

And here she is attempting a cheeky back-heel...

To be honest, there comes a point when you start to wonder if that's a genuine display of silky soccer skills, or just an inability to kick the ball. But either way, she should be good enough for England.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Somewhere between Norway and Amy Winehouse, you do start to think that things could be a lot worse in the Gardner household. We might have a gap in Lisa's teeth, my wallet and our family tree, but at least we're not dead. Although I'm probably tempting fate there.

We drove over to my parents' again on Friday evening for another weekend of supported living. It's like sheltered housing for the tearful, but with meals all-inclusive, and baby-sitting thrown in. Amelie managed to eat an entire punnet of blueberries during the journey, which equates to about six of her five-a-day, and meant that by the time we got to St Leonards, she was so full of superfood, she looked like Violet Beauregarde. She'd also had a little accident in her car seat. Which I suppose is an appropriate place to have one.

Lisa spent most of yesterday in bed, while I made it one stage further by vegging out on the sofa, but in the evening I successfully persuaded my wife to come to Tescos. Lisa's only been out four times in the past fortnight, and they were all trips to the dentist, so it was a step forward for her to mingle with the great British public. Especially the type you get in the Hastings branch of Tesco.

Her facial bruises have completely vanished now, so if she knows what's good for her, she'll keep her mouth shut, and no one will ever know the state of her broken teeth and heart. Unfortunately, it's not easy living your life without talking. Especially if you're Lisa. It meant that we walked around Tescos like some kind of ventriloquist act - me making conversation, her replying without moving her lips. If she had more than a sentence to say, she'd put her hand over her mouth like she was telling me a secret. I'm sure the other shoppers thought we were gossiping about them. Which wasn't always the case.

Lisa saved her best move for last though. We were at the checkout, and the woman was trying to scan the small pack of chocolate truffles that we'd bought for purely medicinal purposes. When they wouldn't go through, she asked me how much they were. Naturally, as someone with no interest in chocolate, I didn't know, so we both turned to Lisa, who was loading the conveyor belt at the other end of the checkout, and said "How much were these?".

She'd just retrieved from the trolley a twin-pack of t-shirts for Amelie, so she reacted instinctively with the reflexes of a jungle cat, held the hanger to her forehead, covered her face with with fabric, and said "A pound!" through the armpit of the veil. I don't think the woman suspected a thing.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

In my efforts to find a silver lining yesterday, I overlooked the obvious cloud. When Lisa was pregnant, she was entitled to free NHS dental care. Now that she isn't, she's not. A week ago, Lisa's dentist asked us to pin our hopes on a free NHS denture. This time she just asked for my PIN.

But despite handing over £550 of my hard-earned cash, it was Lisa who walked out of the practice in tears. The denture was supposed to be a short-term measure while we looked into the possibility of more permanent implants, but having examined her yesterday, the dentist said it would be at least a year before she could even tell us if implants would be possible. Apparently Lisa's facial bone and remaining front tooth need time to heal after the accident, and doing major work now would not only be unsuccessful, but could cause more damage. Her other front tooth, although visibly fine, was knocked in the fall, and it could be a year before we know if it's recovered.

So the 'short-term denture' will actually have to last for "a year or two". The dentist broke the news, and the news broke Lisa's heart. On the plus side, however, the dentist was pleased with how well Lisa's gums have healed in the past week, and was far more confident that a denture would fit comfortably. An NHS appliance for a non-pregnant Lisa would have cost us £204. The smaller, softer and more comfortable private version was £550. For something she might end up wearing for two years, it seemed like a no-brainer. We go back in two weeks for a fitting.

Having deposited a tearful Lisa back to her Mum's, I then returned to work for an hour at the end of the afternoon. It seemed like a slightly pointless exercise, as by the time I'd logged on to a computer, settled myself down, and started work, it was almost time to go home. But with ten minutes of the working week left, I clicked onto a random patient from Wednesday, examined their photos, and found a person who'd gone from background changes last year to sight-threatening proliferative retinopathy this year. Ten minutes later, I'd set up an urgent referral to the eye hospital. I might not be able to fix Lisa's teeth in a fortnight, but I can save a stranger's sight in ten minutes.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Big Sis got back from Malta on Wednesday, and at 10:43pm last night I received this text message from her:

"I am currently eating birthday cake made by the woman who made the recent royal wedding cake and went to the royal wedding!"

Speaking as someone who only goes to Greggs on a special occasion, I'm quite envious of Sis's new life as a globe-trotting, celeb-spotting party girl. She's like Tara Palmer-Tomkinson, but with cake instead of crack. I might set her up as my fudge mule and start a supply line of doggy bags across Europe.

Back here in the real world, however, we're making a return visit to Lisa's dentist this afternoon. When we went a week ago, they were slightly hamstrung by Lisa's pregnancy, and were unable to take x-rays or give her the strong dose of antibiotics they would have preferred. This time at least there'll be no restrictions to the treatment she can receive. As silver linings go, it's more stainless steel than precious metal, but I suppose it's something.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

They say it never rains, but it pours. Especially in Britain in July. But I must admit, this is shaping up to be our unluckiest month for quite some time.

The one thing which has kept me and Lisa going through the past nine days of blood, bruising, torment and toothache - the one shining light on the horizon, which has convinced us that things aren't so bad, and that there's plenty for Lisa's battered and broken face to smile about - is the fact that we found out a fortnight ago that she's pregnant.

Unfortunately, as of 5 o'clock this morning, that's no longer the case. I don't know how many mirrors she's broken to deserve that, but it doesn't seem fair.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

I received a text message from Big Sis at seven-thirty this morning. It said this:

"I was having birthday cake and tea with Ira Losco in her kitchen at midnight last night!"

I read it out to Lisa, who spoke on behalf of an entire nation by replying:


That's an entire nation apart from me. Naturally I have my finger on the Euro-pop pulse (and I have access to Google), so I happen to know that Ira Losco is a Maltese cross between Kylie Minogue and Adele, who came second in the Eurovision Song Contest. And besides, Sis told me about her two weeks ago.

To be honest, I can't remember the exact connection between my sister and the lovely Miss Losco. I think Sis is claiming to be a friend of Ira's sister. Although from the text message, it sounds more like the relationship between Michael Fagan and the Queen. Either way, Sis is currently in Europe, hob-nobbing with a bubbly Malteser and eating her cake. Which I expect is the lighter way to enjoy chocolate.

Ira LoscoFans of Miss Losco claim she's 'the bomb', which is appropriate for someone named IRA, but in addition to being huge in the Med, Wikipedia states that in 2008 she was "awarded a national medal for making Malta proud in the Inetrnational music scene". Although I'd be less proud of that spelling of 'international'. It's basically what The Cheeky Girls have done for Transylvania, but on a more global scale, and without involving Lembit Opik. All of which makes it a miracle we've never heard of her.

Monday, July 18, 2011

I'm not saying Lisa worries about things unnecessarily, but she turned to me in bed last night and asked if I thought Amelie had been traumatised by the events of the past week. My response was to look incredulous (not that she could see me in the dark) and ask if she'd watched yesterday's video. Frankly the girl's as happy as Larry. We're talking Larry Hagman when they told him they were bringing back Dallas. If she's not, then we have a child acting superstar on our hands. In which case, she can make millions, and spend it all on therapy.

As for Little Miss Sunshine's mother, Lisa finished her course of antibiotics this morning, and as far as we can tell, the infection's cleared up nicely. Her gums are becoming less sore, and her bruises are gradually fading. Her face looks less swollen too, although that could just be the weight loss from living on soup for a week. The mental scars will take a little longer, but I think they've begun the slow healing process too.

After a relaxing weekend at my parents', Lisa and I returned home last night, and I went back to work today. We've left Amelie at the dance studio in St Leonards for some extra training on her arm movements, so Lisa's managing to get some rest in front of Loose Women. The TV show, not her relatives.

Perhaps the best sign of recovery is that Lisa actually answered the front door this morning. It was only the electricity meter-reading man, and she admits that she spoke to him as though her jaws had been wired shut by a sadistic ventriloquist, but for someone who, only a few days ago, was convinced that we'd need to have the doorbell disconnected until she could lay her hands on a burka, it's a major step forward. It's also the first time in a week that she's spoken to a tradesman without blood pouring out of her mouth, and that, ladies and gentlemen, is progress.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

At least one person is managing to smile through all of this...

She's testing the 'lucky' part of 'happy-go-lucky' by doing a dance on a wet stool. One slip and she'll look just like her mother.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

If there's one thing I've always said, it's that you know your teeth are bad when your dentist starts crying. Yes, in another Gardner family first, Lisa reduced her dentist to tears yesterday.

We returned to her usual dental practice yesterday lunchtime, and this time saw her 'own' dentist - a lady that Lisa's only actually seen once before. She'd been fully briefed by Mr O'Keefe, and was prepared for the full horror of Lisa's mouth, but what she didn't know was the back story. She was aware that Lisa had previously worn a brace, but assumed it was done as a teenager on the NHS. When we told her that it was only fitted in 2009 at a cost of thousands, and she then saw the current damage, she was so heartbroken, she actually shed a tear.

Lisa was already crying at this point, and the dental nurse looked a bit misty-eyed. Frankly I was the only one holding it together, which is not like me at all. The upshot of it all was that, sadly, Lisa's two damaged teeth have had to be removed as well. One definitely wasn't salavageable, while the other had a slim chance of survival, but would have required months of orthodontic work with no guarantee of success. Under the circumstances, extraction was the best option. And as it transpired, it was the right decision. When the dentist came to remove it, she pulled out the tooth with her thumb and forefinger. Apparently that shouldn't be possible with a tooth that size, so she was right to take it out.

So Lisa's now three teeth down, with a slight chance that a fourth front tooth will have to come out in the future. She's had stitches to her gum, is still on antibiotics, and has to go back in a week to have an impression taken for a denture. We've been advised to go with an NHS appliance in the short term because, unfortunately, due to the state of Lisa's mouth, no denture will fit perfectly, and a privately made one would be a waste of our money. Once the falsies are fitted and Lisa's mouth has healed up, we can look for a better long-term solution.

It's not easy finding positives at the moment, but I have to say that her facial bruises are looking a lot better this morning. She looks less like a car crash victim, and more like she's been careless with her Ribena. A couple more days, and she'll be able to leave the house without people thinking I've beaten her up. It's something for me to look forward to, anyway.

Friday, July 15, 2011

With Lisa feeling so down in the mouth and disinclined to be chatty, bedtime stories have been at a premium this week. It's not easy saying "They all lived happily ever after" when there's blood and pus coming out of your mouth. But fortunately the lack of an experienced storyteller hasn't really mattered. When Lisa's not available to tell her What the Ladybird Heard, Amelie just reads it to herself...

She's had that book for less than a month, so she's not doing badly. It took her six weeks to learn to read The Gruffalo. That was back in February though, so she's a lot older and more mature now. Let's face it, she's two and three-quarters. Of course she can learn a book in a month. Although the Book Trust says she should be three before she even shows an interest.

Anyway, must dash. We're due back at the dentist in twenty minutes for the next phase of Operation Lisa, after which we're retreating to St Leonards for the weekend for some rest and relaxation. It's Lisa's convalescent home, and my fast food joint.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Here at the Gardner Foot & Mouth Clinic, I was the first patient to see a specialist yesterday. And the good news is that I've now hopped a little further down the road to recovery. I left my Mum in charge of my wife and daughter for an hour yesterday morning, and headed up to Brighton General to tell the podiatrist that his steroid injection had failed to put a spring in my step.

He responded by telling me that in that case, he'll book me in for a guided steroid injection, which is basically the same thing, but done in conjunction with an ultrasound scan, so that they can pinpoint the exact location of the problem, and needle me with precision. Apparently it has a much higher success rate. Which makes you wonder why they didn't do that in the first place.

Actually, it doesn't make you wonder at all. The answer's money. The initial injection is quick, easy, relatively cheap, and works for most people. The guided version is more expensive, time-consuming, and can't be done at the normal foot clinic. I have to go to the main hospital instead. They'll be sending me an appointment in a couple of weeks time. It's annoying to have to wait even longer, but hey, it's a step forward. Albeit a painful, limping one.

As for Lisa, she visited her usual dental practice yesterday, but saw a dentist she's never seen before - a Mr Josef O'Keefe. I wouldn't normally name (and shame) a healthcare provider on this blog, but I'm making an exception in this case, because he was actually fantastic. We only met the man for ten minutes, but he made such an impression (that's a dental impression) that Lisa's already prepared to follow him to the ends of the earth for a couple of fillings. Frankly he could set up a practice on Mars, and she'd be robbing a bank to buy rocket fuel for a six-monthly check-up. I've never seen anyone understand Lisa's feelings and fears so instantly, and act so appropriately. In five minutes he did more to improve her state of mind than I'd managed in two days.

On the downside, he found that one of Lisa's wounded tooth sockets is badly infected, and he's limited in what he can do until the infection clears up. So he gave her some antibiotics, a strong mouthwash and an appointment for Friday. He said he couldn't promise that he could save her two damaged teeth, but he's going to try.

I've been off work since Tuesday, and was hoping to make my comeback in Crawley today, so having dropped Lisa back home from the dentist, I asked her how she felt about me returning to work. Ten minutes later, I was dabbing the tear stains off my shoulder and driving into work to plead for another two days leave.

On 30th April last year, I wrote that "I work with the kind of lovely people who will let me take three days off with no notice whatsoever, and happily cover my clinics". And fortunately that's still the case. They gave me the rest of the week off, some words of support, and the names of a few good dentists. You can't ask for much more than that.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Ok, first the good news: I've lost 2lb in 36 hours through not eating, general worry, and possible water loss from crying. And I'm not the one living on mashed bananas and soup. I can definitely recommend the Lisa Accident Plan for fast, dramatic weight loss. But it probably won't make you happy.

On another positive note, I've so far managed to avoid arrest for domestic abuse. By the time we left the emergency dentist on Monday night, I'm convinced he was on the verge of phoning the police. Let's face it, he had a woman who looked like she'd been punched in the mouth, was too scared to speak, and who was accompanied by her husband, who did all the talking and related a far-fetched story about falling into a glass sideboard. It's a miracle I didn't leave in handcuffs.

On the downside, Lisa's still traumatised by the whole experience, and suffering badly. Her face has come out in purple and yellow bruises, and whilst her cut lip is already healing nicely, her gums are still bloody and bruised. In addition to losing one complete tooth, another two have been knocked badly, and she's very shaken up. Frankly she's been through such a trauma, the News of the World are probably hacking her phone as we speak.

With bizarre timing, I'm due back at the podiatrist this morning, but this afternoon we'll be at the dentist to begin the recovery process. Her appointment's at tooth-hurty. You couldn't make it up.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Monday was a bad day. And not just because I mis-heard the morning news and spent most of it thinking Posh & Becks had named their daughter 'Half Past Seven'. It was actually far, far worse than that.

I was driving back from a clinic in Haywards Heath last night, when I received a distraught phone call from Lisa, saying that she'd had "a horrible accident". I arrived home fifteen minutes later to find broken glass all over the hallway, and Lisa clutching a handful of blood-soaked tissues to her tear-stained face.

My foot had been too painful to go shopping at the weekend, so we ordered the groceries online, and I stupidly booked them for a time when I knew I might not be there. They arrived at 4:30pm yesterday, and in her struggle to get all the bags in alone, Lisa had tripped over in the hallway and flown headlong into our glass-fronted sideboard. The glass door had smashed, Lisa's lip was cut open, and her front tooth was knocked clean out.

Yesterday evening was spent at the Brighton & Hove Emergency Dentist, where we were told that due to the length of the root (or lack thereof) the tooth couldn't be reattached. We have an appointment with Lisa's regular dentist on Wednesday afternoon to see what other options might be available.

Never mind the paralysing shock, the agonising pain, and the blood stains on the carpet, when you consider that Lisa spent fourteen months living with an uncomfortable brace in her mouth, just to get those two front teeth looking beautiful, the loss of one of them in a matter of seconds is far more unbearable. She's currently inconsolable.

To Lisa, it feels like the worst luck imaginable, but having cleared up innumerable shards of razor sharp glass from the hallway floor (and cut myself in the process), I'm telling you now, she's actually lucky to be alive. She could so easily be blinded or worse.

It's now 3am, and I don't think either of us have slept yet. Amelie woke up at 2am and said to Lisa "Is your face better now, Mummy?". It will be. No matter how much it costs us. But right now, it feels pretty bad.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Having proved herself as the Bouncing Queen last weekend, it seemed only right that I should provide Amelie with a home fit for royalty. So I bought her this on Tuesday...

Princess PalaceIt's not so much a bouncy castle as a flimsy palace, but it'll do for my little Princess. It's actually a 'Press Out and Play Princess Palace', and it was left in the office at work by the Prince Charming of the local book scene, who dumped a few samples on us, in the hope of finding a Cinderella figure who'd happily foot the bill for some cut-price publications.

Fortunately he landed on his glass-slippered feet where I'm concerned. I'm such an impulse buyer, it's a miracle I'm not regularly given flowers by a man I've never met before. Within five minutes of laying eyes on the world of pink cardboard above, I was slapping down a fiver and ordering a copy.

After which it occurred to me that Amelie might like it too.

So despite picking it up on Tuesday, I decided to save it for the fifth rainy day of the week, and make the thing on Saturday. Lisa was out last night, living the dry life with some AA members, so when she walked out of the door at 5pm, Amelie and I settled down at the living room table to knock up a cardboard castle...

Now, I admit that I've never been what you'd call a DIY expert, but frankly even Handy Andy would have struggled with this one. I've had less trouble putting together an MFI flat-pack. It was such a fiddle, you'd think I'd claimed the thing on expenses. After forty-five minutes of constructive hard work, we basically had this...

The Two Towers
Two towers that make Pisa look upright. And they're not even finished. This was meant to be a rainy day project. At this rate we're going to need a monsoon.

Saturday, July 09, 2011

I've just booked tickets for me and Lisa to see Erasure at the Brighton Dome in November. They were thirty quid each, and I bought two, so naturally I paid a total of... £67.15. Is it my imagination, or do they just pluck these figures randomly out of the air? Despite ordering the tickets online using a fully automated system which requires no staff whatsoever, they've added a £3 booking charge, plus a mysteriously named "Internet Recorded Delivery Fee" of £4.15. Which is odd, as they say the tickets will be sent by standard post. Frankly they could book a taxi to drive them here and it still wouldn't cost that much.

Anyhoo, I'm sure it's money well spent. Assuming we don't forget to go this time. It's on the 4th of November, which is a bit of a shame. If it was a day later, we'd definitely remember.

To be honest, we deserve a treat. It's been a hard-working morning in the Gardner household. Amelie and I have been out there on the balcony since dawn, harvesting a bumper crop of tomatoes...

The Tomato Source
It might look like there are only three of them, but frankly that's only half the story. Well ok, it's three-quarters of the story. There were actually four. To be honest though, we've done well to get any at all. Our sunflowers currently look like this...

Winnie the Pooh and the Blustery DayThat's Amelie pointing out the main areas of damage. If you follow her finger, you'll see that she's also wrecked the Winnie the Pooh sun visor in the back window of my car, but I'm less bothered about that. I only invested money in that visor. I put my heart and soul into those sunflowers.

If the experience has taught us one thing, it's that our balcony might look like the perfect plant-growing sun-trap, but it's also the ideal location for an industrial sized wind turbine. Frankly if we had a three foot windmill, we could power the entire block. Every time we have a few calm days of sunshine, the sunflowers flourish, only to be ripped to shreds by the next strong breeze. Anyone would think we lived two floors up, on the top of a big hill, facing the sea. Oh, hang on, we do.

Fortunately, the peppers we planted last month are growing well on the living room windowsill, so having inspected the death and destruction outside, Amelie and I decided to give them a bit of light by cleaning the windows...

See Their Light
It was a decision we soon regretted when Lisa saw what we were doing, and asked us to do the bedroom windows too.

Playing KetchupBut the good thing about being a soft touch when it comes to hard work, is that your efforts are always rewarded. Although in this case I'd have preferred the fruits of our labour to be a little less literal.

So having watered down the tomato source by sprinkling our plants on the balcony, Amelie and I enjoyed the fruit of the righteous, pretended our dead sunflower was a tree of life, and pulled up a chair for a well-earned rest on the balcony...

She's getting her hair cut on Wednesday.
I think she's going through a purple patch.

Thursday, July 07, 2011

Lisa and I watched 'Jo Frost: Extreme Parental Guidance' on Channel 4 last night. It's the follow-up to 'Jack Frost: Extreme Peripheral Gangrene' (I think), and follows this woman (I forget her name) as she travels across Britain, dispensing childcare advice to parents in need.

Obviously the only advice Lisa and I require is how to get orange face-paint out of Amelie's pillow, and if we ever need a Supernanny, we'll call Zenaida Fernandez-Gonzalez, but nevertheless, it was interesting to hear the problems that fellow parents face. In a stroke of genius, Jo had identified the one place where parents go to shout at their children, and duly naughty-stepped into the nearest shopping centre to answer their childcare queries.

We were then shown a line of people queuing outside a branch of Debenhams to ask questions of Supernanny, at which point the programme's voiceover artist said this:

"The first problem is one that's all too common for many parents..."

Naturally Lisa and I leaned forward on the sofa to catch the solution to this age-old problem. Whereupon the woman at the front of the queue asked this:

"How can I stop my two-year-old from swearing?"

Personally I just tell her to shut the f**k up. Well ok, I don't. To be honest, the question left us both open-mouthed. So I could see that Lisa hadn't been flossing. I'm not saying Amelie's a little angel - trust me, not even Casey Anthony could lie that convincingly - but of all the many thousands of phrases in her vocabulary, I don't think she knows a single swear word. She did once say "Oh my god", but I think that was some kind of vision.

It does make you wonder what some parents are up to though, if swearing toddlers are an "all too common" problem for "many parents". It makes me glad that Amelie doesn't go to nursery. She'd be swearing like a trooper, and turning the air as blue as Igglepiggle with her x-rated curse-words. As it is, the only potty-mouth phase she's ever been through was when she started licking the toilet.

Wednesday, July 06, 2011

It's nice to know that despite 99% of Americans being convinced that Casey Anthony dunnit, the jury have seen sense and come around to my way of thinking. Sensationally, the woman was found not guilty last night. So it was probably Ryan Giggs after all.

Lisa's reacted to the verdict with all the calm and collection of a TV professional, while I'm just reassured that justice has been done. Casey almost certainly did it. Which means there was reasonable doubt.

But death and suffering aside, the good thing about the recent warm weather is that it gives you a chance to get out there on the lawns of your estate, relax in the sunshine and soak up a few rays. All you need is a blanket, three cans of Fosters, and... um...

Beer 'n' Bottle
... a baby's bottle. It's parenting for the 21st century. The child's just out of shot, rolling down the hill towards the road. Which is probably what happened to Caylee Anthony.

Continuing the theme of desperate parenting, Lisa and I are still testing the temperature of the pregnancy waters by using the DuoFertility monitor every day, but having spent five hundred quid on the thing, it seems there might have been a cheaper alternative. According to the BBC, we could have just spent 99p on some dental floss.

Tuesday, July 05, 2011

Grrrreat!As it transpired, it was a weekend of new beginnings for Amelie. Not only did she get her first taste of face-painting (quite literally - she'd licked off those whiskers within ten minutes) and an historic first trip to a castle, but on Sunday she finally waved goodbye to her cot. And then waved goodbye to her bedroom, when she realised she could get up on her own and head off down the hallway at will.

We've resisted the move to a bed for a while now, due to the fear that when Amelie's no longer caged in by the bars of a cot, she's likely to spend her nights in the living room, watching CBeebies on Virgin Catch-up, and helping herself to biscuits. But when I got her up on Saturday morning, she kindly demonstrated to me how she could get her foot over the top of the cot-rail and take a theoretical death plunge onto Mish, Moosh & Mogo. Thereby wiping out not only her own life, but three of the last surviving (and most expensive) pandas on the planet.

So having decided that action was required sooner rather than later, I wasted no time in looking for the instruction manual to Amelie's cotbed. Well, I say I wasted no time. I actually wasted an hour. When we bought the thing a year ago, I remember putting the instructions in a safe place for future reference, but frankly the place was so safe, I couldn't crack it without a combination of good luck and a better memory. Neither of which I had.

Fortunately the internet came to the rescue, and having located the manual on the Mothercare site, I was soon on my hands and knees with an allen key, working on the world's biggest transformer. An hour later, I'd successfully created a bed from the ruins of a cot, and transformed Amelie from a baby behind bars to a grown-up sleeping beauty...

Sleeping Beauty
Although whether she'll get any sleep if I let her take the iPad to bed, I'm not sure.

Monday, July 04, 2011

Despite Amelie's outrageous accusation that I look like a fat criminal with piggy eyes and a tache, I still agreed to take her out on Saturday afternoon. I just didn't agree to bring her back. So while Lisa mopped the kitchen floor and sat in the cinders of her latest cooking experiment, Amelie and I headed out to the Queens Park Fun Day.

Obviously there's only so much fun you can have in one day, which explains why it only lasted for four hours, but as free events go, it wasn't bad. It was actually organised by the Church on the Rock, a local Christian group founded five years ago by a bunch of Canadians. I presume they dropped the 'ies' from the end of the word 'Rock' when they moved to this country.

Admittedly, 'Church on the Rock' sounds more like the progression of Charlotte's singing career, but they're an aptly named group, because their idea of fun is playing Christian rock music on a purpose built stage in the middle of the park on a Saturday afternoon. It was like Glastonbury, only free, and with fewer MPs dying in the toilets.

The live band were surprisingly good, and the entertainment reasonable, although I was disappointed that they weren't selling 'Church on the Rock' cakes, but one of the most useful aspects of the afternoon was the opportunity it gave me to check the progress of Amelie's bouncing skills. Back in 2009, she was capable of only entry-level Tigger skills. By 2010, she'd moved on to the more accomplished Bouncing Stage 2. But as of this weekend, she's now officially Queen of the Castle...

In an ideal world, she'd adopt a more hands-free approach, but we can work on that when she's three.

These days, of course, people talk a lot about the cost of inflation, but at the Queens Park Fun Day that didn't apply. They blew up the bouncy castle for free, and didn't charge us a penny to use it. But if that seems like good value for money, just wait until you see the COTR make-up department...

That's Amelie getting catty with a Canadian Christian. If only she'd been that cooperative with the dentist.

Five minutes of free face-painting, and this was the result...

Tiger Feat
It's basically 'Tiger' meets 'Bearded Folk Singer'. Which, I suppose, makes her Cat Stevens.

Sunday, July 03, 2011

As it happens, Lisa and I aren't the only ones who discuss detailed criminal cases just before going to bed. Amelie's favourite book at the moment is 'What the Ladybird Heard', a complex crime thriller for the under-fives, in which a couple of cat burglars attempt to diversify their business by stealing a cow. It's basically Ocean's Eleven on a farm. And if you haven't read it to Amelie at least twice by 7pm, she refuses to go to bed.

So there I was on the sofa last night, wondering how Hefty Hugh and Lanky Len might give me an insight into the Casey Anthony case, and I reached the point in the story when the fat red hen starts baa-ing like a sheep in the middle of the night. Whereupon Amelie pointed at the bad man on the right in this picture...

What the Ladybird Heard
... and asked me who it was. Naturally, as a literary expert with my finger on the crime fiction pulse, I told her it was Lanky Len. So she pointed at the chap on the left and said "That one looks like you."

I said "Hugh?"

She said "No, YOU, Daddy."

And they say kids don't respect their elders any more. Still, I was right about it giving me an insight into the Casey Anthony case. I'm beginning to know how she felt.

Saturday, July 02, 2011

If there's one thing I like to do to relax and unwind at the start of the weekend, it's to kick back on the sofa with my wife and my laptop, reach for a mug of hot chocolate, and discuss the finer points of a child murder case. Lisa and I were up until midnight last night debating the evidence in the Casey Anthony trial. It was like Twelve Angry Men, but with one angry woman and me.

The Casey Anthony murder case is currently gripping America with the kind of vice-like stranglehold you really only see when Amelie picks up Chloe from the sofa, but quite honestly, if it wasn't for the fact that Lisa knows a lot of Yanks on Facebook, I'd never have heard of it. The British media seem to be ignoring the case to such an extent, you'd think the murderer was Ryan Giggs.

Fortunately, however, we live in an age when your access to information is limited only by your ability to type words into Google, so having stumbled across the case on Facebook, we spent two minutes on a search engine, and were soon enjoying this documentary online. We followed that up with a few YouTube films, and before you knew it, we were attempting to solve the case without leaving the sofa.

Well, I say 'we'. To be honest, Lisa's so convinced the woman's guilty, she'd charge up the electric chair herself, but personally I fancy myself as a bit of a Henry Fonda, so I spent a couple of hours last night calmly presenting the opposing view, and picking holes in the prosecution's evidence. Which isn't easy when the accused is a proven liar, thief and general fruit loop. Frankly, the way she behaves, you'd think Casey was short for Nutcasey.

But with the impartiality of an X Factor judge, I managed to wade through the evidence, see both sides, and oppose Lisa's arguments with intelligent and plausible counter-theories which could cast genuine doubt on Casey's guilt. Although by half past eleven last night, I was suggesting that her parents could be devil-worshipping serial killers making chloroform out of bamboo and secretly pimping their daughter as a prostitute. Which was when Lisa came close to committing a murder of her own. I've never seen anyone so wound up by a bit of legal debate.

Friday, July 01, 2011

As committed culture vultures with a penchant for the intellectual, Lisa and I don't just go to see Britain's Got Talent and watch Cbeebies all day. We also put on Pingu DVDs and watch a lot of BBC Four. But only if there's nothing on Sky Living.

So it will come as no surprise to anyone that having flicked through all the channels earlier this week, and rejected a re-run of Psychic Sally, we ended up watching a thought-provoking documentary on the BBC's fourth most popular channel (not including CBBC and the Asian Network). It was called Rob Brydon's Identity Crisis, and followed this bloke (I forget his name) as he travelled around Wales, examining the national psyche of the Welsh, and his own identity as a born and bred taffy (that's a technical term).

Obviously I love the Welsh (but not as much as they love themselves) and when I'm caught short in the kitchen, I'm always happy to take a leek over a Yorkshire Pudding, so naturally I enjoyed the programme very much. But the undoubted highlight for me was this moment...

It can't be easy to smile when you've just been introduced with the words "Gloom Death Suffering". Especially with teeth like that. But if there's one lady who can put a brave face on the job of being Welsh, it's the racist blonde in the clip above.

I know what you're thinking. You're thinking "Carolyn Hitt? That name rings a bell. Or possibly strikes a chord. Is her middle initial 'S'?". Well, no, it's not. As far as I'm aware. But her punchy surname should be familiar to some of the older readers of this blog. And virtually no one else.

Yes, Carolyn Hitt might sound like a Christmas number one, but she's actually... my Number One Fan!!!

It's a small world. Especially if you live in Wales.