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Friday, September 30, 2011

I might stay out late, chatting to women in the foyers of cheap hotels, but even when I'm surrounded by retinal screeners, I've only got eyes for one girl...

Lisa & Phil's 1st Wedding Anniversary
It was a year ago today that I made an honest woman of Lisa. Usually that level of honesty requires illegal torture techniques, but in this case, all I had to do was deprive her of sleep and put her in the stress position. Which in Lisa's case is standing up at the front of a registry office.

It's been a year of both highs and lows. We've had a lot of laughs and lost a lot of teeth. But at the end of it all, the knot we tied last year is as strong as ever.

Happy Anniversary, sweetheart. Love you lots. xxx

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Day one of the conference, and the freebies are already rolling in...

Carry On Screening
It's not so much an Apple iPad as a Typhoo 1-Cup, but I haven't entered any competitions yet. By this time tomorrow, I'll need a van to get my prizes home.

Last year's BARS conference was held in Manchester, and the year before we went to Newcastle. Next year it's in Liverpool. But this year the conference is being held in Brighton. Wherever that is. So instead of a five-hour pilgrimage up north, it was a five minute bus ride up town. Which makes me wonder why I'm as tired as I am. It's probably heat stroke.

Today's agenda included lectures with titles such as 'Where Are We At?' and 'What Happens Next?'. I kept expecting there to be one called 'Why Are We Here?', but there wasn't. It's probably on tomorrow. I did, however, learn that we collectively screened 1,789,701 people in England last year, so it's no wonder I'm knackered.

This afternoon featured the association's AGM, which was the point that BARS lived up to its name by refusing me entry. Despite paying my annual membership fee in April (and having the receipt to prove it), my name didn't appear on their list of paid-up members, and I was forced to spend five minutes outside the door with my face pressed up against the glass (which in this case was a plastic cup), while a couple of nice young ladies took down my particulars and eyed up my credentials.

It was worth the wait though. Having eventually decided that I was a member after all, I was granted access and duly allowed to vote in the annual council elections. Surprisingly, this man didn't get in, but to my huge delight, a good online mate of mine did. And having chatted in the hotel foyer until 6pm, I like to think we're now real life mates too. I've officially got friends in high places. Not least because she's staying on the fourth floor of the Holiday Inn.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

For someone who spent all his money on the towering pleasures of Blackpool, I seem to have bought a lot of stuff since we got back from holiday. Our new bookcase arrived on Monday, and is currently sitting in the hall, waiting for Lisa to fall into it...

It's not technically any softer than the sideboard, but I can use it to store sponges, towels and pillows. It'll give Lisa a fighting chance.

On the subject of soft wares, I also made the most of a message from the depths of Burgess Hill about an iPad games sale at the weekend. I'm now the proud owner of the HD versions of SimCity, Scrabble, Monopoly and Risk, which I bought for the bargain price of just 69p each. Obviously I haven't played them yet because I can't get the iPad off Amelie, but they've already gone back up to £4.99 each, so it was money well spent. Thanks mate.

My biggest feat of spending, however, was on the smallest feet of the family. As of this afternoon, Amelie's got a new pair of bovver boots...

Bovver Boots
They were professionally fitted by Clarks, so I'm pleased to report that just four days before her third birthday, she's now officially a size ten. She's pretty much that in clothes too. The boots are called 'Gypsy Glam', so it's a shame she didn't have them a fortnight ago when we were living in a caravan.

Anyhoo, I might be leaking money like a sieve, but the good news is that I should have something valuable to sell by the weekend. Tomorrow's the annual conference of the British Association of Retinal Screeners. And we all remember what happened last year...

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

I had a patient today who was 92 years old, came on her own, strolled into the room without a walking stick, didn't need a hearing aid, told me she could run a mile every day until she was ninety, and...

... absolutely reeked of cigarette smoke. I need to tell Forest that I've found them a poster girl.

I bet she eats here too...

Brewery Shades Stack 'Em Burgers
That's the Brewery Shades pub in Crawley where, as that sign (of the times) shows, they're giving new meaning to the phrase 'supersize me' by serving a 16oz burger. So if you feel the world owes you a living, that's where you can get your pound of flesh.

Monday, September 26, 2011

After two weeks of fun, frolics and frostbite, it was eyes down for a return to work today. Fortunately I was eased gently back into the world of retinal screening. Of the twenty-nine patients who were booked in to see me today, only seventeen turned up. I expect the others were worried they'd be forced to see my holiday snaps. In reality, the only snap on offer was the sound of my trouser button pinging across the room as my waistband gave way under the pressure of too many holiday ice creams.

Obviously I'd rather have been back on annual leave, but as it turns out, I'm not the only one whose mind is still on vacation. Driving home from St Leonards yesterday afternoon, we were just passing David Dimbleby's house, when Amelie began an episode of Question Time by asking me where we were. I told her we were in Polegate, at which point she instantly looked excited and said "Blackpoolgate?".

Having accepted that we weren't, in fact, back in Lancashire (for a start, it was far too warm), she then fell asleep, only to wake up half an hour later as I was parking the car outside our flat. As she opened her eyes, she took one look at the view from the car window, and with no prompting whatsoever, the first words out of her mouth were:

"Thank you for driving me home, Daddy."

I don't know where she gets such language. We've certainly never taught her to speak like that. I blame the grandparents.

So as a reward for being the politest little girl this side of a Swiss finishing school, I popped to the nearest charity shop at lunchtime today and bought her a Next dress for £2. I'm not sure it's the right size, but the good news is that if it needs any adjustment, I've found the perfect place to take it...

Belles & Whistles
It's that traditional blend of bespoke tailoring and mobile phone unlocking. I think I'll give them a call on my stolen mobile.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

The line-up for the new series of 'Strictly Barn Dancing' has just been announced...

Strictly Barn Dancing
We're all doing our best to ignore the sudden death of Brucie, but let's face it, when the lights go out and the sequins come off, someone's going to have to clear away that body.

Anyhoo, having been milked for money at the Hastings branch of Shakeaway yesterday afternoon, Lisa, Amelie and I accepted the offer of some free tickets to the Battle Baptist Church Barn Dance in the evening. It was being held to mark the traditional Christian festival of Harvest, when we ask God to bless the farmers as they gather out-of-date tins of soup for the local care home. Lisa and I are veterans of the hokey-cokey, and Amelie likes to lead us a merry dance, so it seemed like the perfect Saturday night out.

And so it proved. After all, if there's one girl who knows how to make an entrance, steal the show, and then fall asleep in the entrance hall, it's Amelie...

She had the time of her life last night. Never has anyone combined the two qualities of enthusiasm and ineptitude so completely. Not only was she the keenest dancer there, but she was also the least concerned about getting it wrong. Which is fortunate as she did so on an almost constant basis.

We all had to learn the dances by copying the bloke at the front, so it was essentially a case of monkey see, monkey do-si-do. Some were more complicated than others, so I like to think that Lisa and I only joined in on the really difficult ones. Our steps weren't so much Dirty Dancing as mucked up. But it's not easy promenading as a couple when you've got a toddler in a balloon hat and fairy wings running in between you.

Ultimately though, we all had a good time. Amelie did a good impression of Lydia Grant from 'Fame' by throwing a major tantrum every time we tried to sit out a dance, but other than that, it went well. In fact the harvest was so bumper that Lisa and I both helped ourselves to a second dessert. I'll leave the last dance to my Dad though, who tripped the light fantastic and set the dance floor on fire with this hot shoe shuffle towards the end of the evening.

We'd all had a lot of practice by this point, which I think is evident in the fancy footwork and intricate steps on display. If you're not sure which one my Dad is, he's the one in the middle giving Ann Widdecombe a run for her money. Well, I say run. It's more of a slow leg in the air...

I think that's what Luther Vandross had in mind when he wrote 'Dance With My Father'. The orange glow in the background is our hopes and dreams going up in smoke.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

It's Amelie with the world's most valuable milkshake!

Shaken, not stirred.
It's so expensive, you have to drink it within sight of a bank. There's an armed guard just out of shot, handcuffed to the bottom of the cup.

To the uneducated and ill-informed, the idea of spending £5.15 on a large milkshake with caramel shortcake, Rolos, whipped cream and extra ice cream might seem like an extravagant waste of money, but fortunately it contains enough calories to feed a family of four for a week. Or in our case, a family of three for an hour. And having tasted it, it was money well spent. So I have no regrets. And besides, my Dad gave me twenty quid today to buy Amelie a new pair of shoes, so frankly there's another three where that came from.

We'll be burning it all off this evening anyway. We're about to head out to a barn dance at my parents' church. Amelie's putting on her dancing shoes as we speak. Or she would be if we hadn't spent the money on a milkshake.

Friday, September 23, 2011

If there's one thing I've always said, it's that time flies when you have no teeth. I realised this week that it's almost two months since Amelie and I tried to measure up to Lisa's expectations of a new sideboard, and eight weeks later, we still haven't got one. We returned from Blackpool on Monday, but I'd already booked the rest of this week off work in case I needed time to get over my holiday sunburn, so despite nursing some frostbite in my fingers, it meant I had the chance this week to remedy that situation.

So on Wednesday afternoon, Amelie and I headed back to the secondhand furniture shops of Hove. Amelie got a little confused, and kept telling me that we were looking for "a wardrobe that Mummy won't trip over", but despite that, it was a productive outing. Ideally, we wanted a sideboard exactly four feet wide, not too deep, and with no glass whatsoever. We ended up with a bookcase.

Admittedly, it wasn't what I'd intended (I'm not much of a reader), but having failed to find anything remotely suitable, we came across a well-made pine bookcase with exactly the right dimensions. We also found a 'Honey Bee Tree' for 99p which really should be the subject of some kind of court injunction by the makers of Kerplunk...

Honey Bee Tree
But that aside, I decided the bookcase would fulfill our requirements for additional storage space without the risk of death, so I bit the bullet, fired up the credit card, and bang went another week's wages.

We're due to visit my parents today for a couple of nights, and the bookcase is being delivered on Monday, so I basically had Wednesday evening and yesterday to empty the old sideboard and dispose of it in a (fairly) legal fashion. It also meant finding a home for everything it contained. Which involved reorganising half the flat. By the end of yesterday, I'd made so many trips to the tip, I felt like Stig of the Dump. But the good news is that after thirty-six hours of ceaseless work, I've created so much extra storage space, we now have nothing to put in the new bookcase. So that was money well spent.

Fortunately, however, my days of having to complete hard manual labour on my own may by coming to an end. I accompanied Amelie to her weekly free playgroup at the local Methodist church yesterday, and met a number of children the same age as her. Not only is she twice the size of most of them, but while others are communicating through single words and hand gestures, Amelie was telling complicated jokes, inventing intricate games and telling people how she can "download other fun games from the internet". So give it a few years and she'll either be doing the heavy lifting herself, or earning me enough money for a handyman.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

I hate to keep milking this holiday...

Milked for all its worth.
... but I promised Amelie I'd publish some of the photos she took in Blackpool. So here's one she captured of me at the Houndshill Shopping Centre (which is the dog's hillocks of indoor malls)...

I like that one. She's employed a clever use of angles to obscure my double chin. Unfortunately it's a different matter when I don't know she's shooting...

Menace to Society
That's me looking for my shoes in the caravan. Lisa likes it, because she says it's the only photo which reveals my true nature. I think the word she used was 'menacing'. Apparently "it's all in the eyes", and makes her realise that she wouldn't want to meet me on a dark night. Unless I was offering to babysit.

Mind you, Lisa doesn't fare much better...

It's Curtains for Lisa
It's only the junk on the table which stops you seeing the menacing snarl on her face. We had to keep the curtains closed to stop her intimidating passers-by.

Moving back to the Houndshill (which is more K9 than K1), here's an arty shot of an indoor palm from Amelie's point of view...

Cross my Palm
She managed to cross that palm with silver by dropping the 10p I was letting her hold for the car park, but having retrieved it from the floor, she went on to take this fine portrait of womanhood...

I know what you're thinking. You're thinking "Blimey, Lisa really should have spent those Next vouchers on herself", but fear not, that def leopard isn't her. It's a complete stranger that Amelie marched up to and photographed without asking. There's a fine line between paparazzo and ASBO, and I think she might have crossed it.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Down at the Dale Farm travellers' site, the gypsies are looking pretty pleased about their latest injunction...

Caravan Club
That's Amelie organising a sit-down protest of her own on the steps of our caravan before we left Blackpool on Monday morning. She's not technically a gypsy, but she does have a couple of slaves, one of whom was taking the photo. So the similarities are striking. Although obviously with me staying there, it wasn't so much Dale Farm as Chippendale Farm.

Anyhoo, my favourite of all our holiday photos is this one...

You wouldn't believe how hard it was to get back to that girder before the self-timer went off.

I'm joking, of course. I climbed out onto the girder first, and then got someone else to take the photo. Anyway, that was us at the top of Blackpool Tower last Wednesday. Anyone who read the accompanying blog post won't be surprised to learn that they charged us extra for that photo, but I felt it was worth the money as a souvenir. Particularly as I failed to get a photo of Lisa on a donkey. In addition to purchasing that picture in a presentation cardboard frame for the mantelpiece, I also wanted a copy to put somewhere that I'd see it numerous times a day. So I bought it as a fridge magnet.

But as mentioned last Friday, that wasn't the only souvenir photo I bought. We also came home with a beautiful group portrait of us all on the Rugrats Lost River ride at Nickelodeon Land, where we shared a touching moment of family love as we plummeted downhill at high speed in a plastic log...

I think Lisa was on her way to a court appearance.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

After a week of fun, frolics and freezing temperatures, we've finally left Blackpool behind us...

Walking Back to Happiness
We drove home yesterday. And it feels a lot warmer in Brighton. Although that might just be the warm, reassuring glow of discovering that we haven't killed Stefan & Andrew with a plate of dodgy pasta. Yes, just ten days after force-feeding them pesto, I tuned into BBC Sussex this morning to find that Andrew's still alive...

I don't know what 'coming oot' is, and I think he still had a pine nut stuck in his throat at the beginning, but other than that, he sounds fit and well.

So to catch up on the weekend...

Saturday was the day it really rained. Yes, I know it looked wet at the zoo, but that was like a gentle shower compared with the deluge that followed. Saturday's pilgrimage from our caravan to the holiday park's free wi-fi hotspot where I published my blog every day, felt like a tribute to Kevin Costner in Waterworld. I didn't think I'd make it back without gills.

We'd planned to visit the Blackpool Model Village that afternoon, but most of the exhibits are less than three-feet tall, which frankly was below the waterline, so rather than look at a lake all day, we decided to head indoors to Arnie Aardvark's Children's Playbarn, a self-contained attraction next to Blackpool Zoo. Sadly, due to the ever present threat of paedophiles, cameras are not permitted in the playbarn, so I only have my photographic memory to rely on, and to be honest, that's never really developed. But I do remember Amelie having a good time for a couple of hours, until she was assaulted by a boy with a taste for random violence, and was carried out of the building in tears.

By Sunday though, she was well rested...

Snake in the Grass
So for our final day in Blackpool, we headed for the South Shore, and the delights of the South Pier. They had the kind of facilities we knew would come in handy...

Lost Child Centre
And as if to prove that point, here's a photo of us all together...

Family Portrait
In the ten seconds it took for the self-timer to go off, Amelie had sprinted off into the distance, Lisa had turned to give chase, and I was left to put a brave face on it all for the camera. At least one of us is a professional.

We spent not only the afternoon, but also the rest of our money, on the South Pier, watching Amelie ride, eat, bowl, and generally have fun. One of the problems with the free wi-fi access provided by the Haven Holiday Park is that certain sites are blocked, to prevent people from hogging all the bandwidth, so I was unable to upload any videos to YouTube for the duration of our stay. But now we're home, I have free rein once again to inflict pointless family films on the world. So here's a little montage of Amelie's week in Blackpool...

She might not know what a gun is, but as you'll see after about four minutes, she's come a long way since our holiday in May 2010. She can tamper with the rides quite effectively now.

Monday, September 19, 2011

The trouble with living the high life at Blackpool Tower, pushing the boat out at Nickelodeon Land, feeding the fat cats at the Zoo and seeing the bright lights of the Illuminations, is that by the end of the week, you’ve run out of money. It’s Monday morning and we’re down to our last slice of watermelon...

Tesco Value Added Tax
I had to get the Tesco Value Colouring Book on the credit card. I think it’s time to go home...

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Theme parks are all very well, but for sheer white-knuckle, edge-of-your-seat excitement, you can’t beat an open-top bus tour of the Blackpool Illuminations...

Edge of Your Seat
That’s Amelie having another nightmare about rollercoasters. I think the white knuckles were due to frostbite.

We’d always intended to visit the illuminations at some point this week, but we discovered on Wednesday that there’s an open-top bus tour of the lights which leaves the holiday camp every weekday evening at 7:30pm. Friday was our last chance to do it, so despite being soaked to the bone at Blackpool Zoo, we decided to throw caution to the biting north wind, stick our coats on the radiator for an hour, and head straight back out for the magical mystery tour.

According to the leaflet, the route would “take in the scenic parts of suburban Blackpool”, which was surprising, as all we’d seen up to that point were run-down council estates and shops called ‘Booze Booze Booze’. The most scenic part was the landscaping outside the Salvation Army hostel. But we left the caravan park with high hopes...

Blackpool or Bussed
... and were soon speeding through the classier parts of town towards Fleetwood. By the time we hit the seafront at the uppermost tip of Blackpool, I felt like we were on an episode of 71 Degrees North.

Amelie and I were wearing two coats each, Lisa had her hood up, but after five minutes in the Lancashire sea air, we were in danger of losing more fingers than Ranulph Fiennes. I haven’t been so cold since I worked in the walk-in fridge at the pharmacy stores.

Not that it wasn’t worth it. Amelie spent the first half hour with a smile on her face, saying “Look! Look! Look!” every fifteen seconds, and acting as an impromptu tour guide by pointing out everything we passed.

Bright Lights, Big City
Unfortunately, it wasn’t long before we were being passed ourselves. By pedestrians. It transpires that on a Friday night in September, the world and his wife are in Blackpool. The seafront was gridlocked with cars, coaches and people wearing flashing bunny ears. Within minutes of arriving at the illuminations, we were going nowhere fast. It should have been a case of lights, camera, action, but instead we were frozen stiff in a traffic jam.

When I first suggested taking the tour, Lisa asked me how long it would take. Bearing in mind that we’re only two miles from the seafront, and the bus wasn’t due to make any stops, I estimated it at no more than an hour.

It turned out to be three. By 10pm we were still crawling along the Golden Mile at less than walking pace in what felt like sub-zero temperatures. The only thing hitting 40mph was the wind. We braved it all for an hour and a half, before the sight of a heated tram finally broke our spirit...

Between the Lines
... and we headed downstairs while we could still feel our legs.

Amelie promptly fell asleep, and we spent the rest of the tour at the back end of a night-bus on the frozen road to nowhere...

Back End of a Bus
The only light at the end of the tunnel was the end of the illuminations.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

It’s a well known fact that elephants never forget. Although in Amelie’s case, they might want to make an exception...

On a Roll
Frankly the less they remember the better. Amelie might have been on a roll, but in this case it was all the way to the fire exit.

Obviously, as a caring and responsible parent, it’s not ideal to have your child doing a beetle impression on the floor of an elephant house, but firstly she doesn’t listen to a word I say, and secondly, I was past caring at that point. When you’ve just watched her wading through a flood with her sandals on, you don’t get too stressed by a bit of dung.

Quite honestly, if you thought Amelie got a bit wet at Nickelodeon Land, you should have seen her at Blackpool Zoo yesterday...

Which way to the ark?
Not even David Walliams has seen that much water in a day. I kept expecting Noah to sail past and start loading up the animals.

Things started well enough. We arrived at the zoo at lunchtime, convinced them that Amelie was under three, and before we knew it, she was cheerfully strangling a flamingo in front of its friends...

In the Pink
But as we moved from the pink flamingos to the red panda, the colour of the clouds started darkening too. By the time we entered the wallaby enclosure, we were having to put a brave face on the weather...

Hopping Mad
To be honest, from the moment we arrived at the zoo, I did start to wonder why we seemed to be the only people there. The entire ticket office was empty, and we barely met a soul as we wandered around the enclosures. It was as though everyone knew something we didn’t. Namely, the weather forecast.

But as we posed on the back of a hippo...

Hungry Hippos
... the penny, and the rain, dropped. It was as if the zoo had spent a fortune to make their Amazon Rainforest display more realistic.

Fortunately, we were only a stone’s throw (which in this case was a skim across the floodwaters) from the Children’s Farm, so we headed straight into the nearest barn...

Milky Way
That’s Amelie helping herself to a drink from the milk bar. She claimed it was a real cow, so I told her to pull the udder one. To be honest, despite seeing some of the most endangered, elusive and unusual animals anywhere on the planet, Amelie’s favourite attraction at Blackpool Zoo was that plastic cow. At one point, I genuinely thought we weren’t going to get her away from there before closing time. She milked enough to keep Dairycrest a float. We had to tell her to leave so many times that I ended up feeling a little hoarse. Well, stroking a donkey. It was the only way to de-stress.

With the deluge continuing, Lisa barricaded herself into the nearest cafe, while Amelie insisted I escort her to the penguin enclosure...

Which is fine if you have an umbrella. Needless to say, I didn’t. So while Lisa sipped a latte in the coffee shop, I followed Amelie through the worsening monsoon, as her splashing in puddles became wading through lakes, and her shoes turned the colour of mud.

It was worth it though. As the only visitors foolish enough to be outdoors, we eventually found ourselves alone in the ape house, allowing us to creep silently right up to the gorillas...

Going Ape
That’s the male silverback with his new little baby. And it was truly an awesome sight. Having seen a fully-grown gorilla close-up, I now have a new respect for David Attenborough. The man’s clearly a mental case. Frankly anyone who goes within a country mile of the creatures without six inches of toughened glass and a shotgun is a fool to himself. But from the safety of a well-designed enclosure, they were a joy to behold. I haven’t seen anything so intimidating and powerful since I first met Lisa’s mother.

We watched the gorillas both indoors and outdoors, without another human being in sight, and they genuinely made my day. Lisa’s been monkey-phobic all her life, and wouldn’t even let me describe them to her afterwards without oxygen on standby, but one thing I did tell her as we waded out towards the meerkats, is how pleased I was that the gorillas at the zoo were breeding successfully. As I said to her at the time, it’s a generally accepted fact that caged animals won’t breed unless they’re happy.

She turned to me in her rain-soaked hood, as Amelie jumped into another lake, and responded with just six little words: “Maybe that’s where we’re going wrong.”

Friday, September 16, 2011

Once you’ve decided to get on a rollercoaster, there’s no looking back...

On the Right Track
Well, maybe a small amount of looking back. But only to check that Daddy hasn’t hopped off at the last moment and headed for the donut stall.

In the world of amateur child therapy, it’s important to make your subject face their fears and work through their issues by confronting their demons in public. And if the Daily Mail is to be believed, those demons don’t come much bigger than SpongeBob SquarePants. So just three days after Amelie developed abandonment issues about rollercoasters, we decided to adopt a kill-or-cure approach by taking her here...

Nickelodeon Land!
If Lisa looks slightly distracted in that photo, it’s because two coachloads of college students had just disembarked over to the left, and were marching across the car park towards us, chanting “Here we go, here we go, here we go!” in a slightly intimidating fashion. It’s not easy saying “Get a move on!” in a panicked voice whilst smiling and not moving your lips, but I think Lisa pulled it off.

Anyhoo, we spent yesterday in Nickelodeon Land, a child-friendly section of Blackpool Pleasure Beach. We could have paid £32 each for entry to the entire theme park, but Amelie’s too small to go on most of the big rides, and her Daddy’s too scared, so we opted for a price of £18 for unlimited rides in Nickelodeon Land. Tragically, you start paying at the age of 2, and there’s no discount for children, so that was fifty-four quid for an afternoon’s entertainment. Plus £6 for parking.

It turned out to be the best sixty quid I’ve ever spent. Amelie took to theme parks like a duck to water. Quite literally. This was her when we arrived at the Pleasure Beach...

And here she is after her first ride...

I’ve seen her less wet in the bath. And I look like I’ve been wading through a swimming pool. But the ‘Rugrats Lost River’ set the tone for the afternoon. As I plunged downhill in a plastic log, holding onto Amelie for dear life and trying not to scream, we hit splashdown like this...

Front Page Splash
... and I opened my eyes, expecting to see Amelie bursting into tears and screaming to get out. Instead I saw her erupt into laughter and shout “Again, Daddy, again!”. She might have been soaked, but she loved every moment.

Lisa had opted out of that first ride, on the grounds that she was drinking her coffee, but she joined us on Spongebob’s Splash Bash...

Wet & Happy
... Dora’s World Voyage...

Setting Sail
... The Fairy World Taxi Spin...

In a Spin
... and Diego’s Rainforest Rescue...

Ballooned Out
We didn’t actually know who any of these characters were, because Amelie’s not allowed to watch commercial TV in case she sees the adverts and starts asking for stuff. But she enjoyed them all the same.

On the downside, we’ve discovered that we’re going to have a hard time convincing her of the existence of Santa Claus. Nickelodeon Land featured various cartoon characters wandering around and hugging the children, in the same way that you can meet Mickey Mouse at Disneyland. But whilst other children reacted with excitement at their chance to meet the real-life Boots from Dora the Explorer, Amelie just pointed and said “Look! There’s someone dressed up as a monkey!”. She then spotted Dora, and said “And there’s another person dressed up as something!”. She’s not even three, and she’s already shattered her own illusions.

Having been on all the rides once, and seen Amelie enjoy every one, we began to make the most of our wristbands by revisiting our favourites. Which meant a return trip to the Lost River...

Hooded ClawThat’s Lisa preparing for splashdown. But if you think that’s funny, you should see the souvenir photo they took as we plummeted down the slope. That was seven pounds very well spent. I’m tempted to go and buy a scanner, just so that I can publish it today. But in the meantime, if you picture a manic child abductor being chased downhill by the Emperor from Star Wars, you’re halfway there.

The advantage of visiting a theme park during term time is that the only children there were pre-schoolers and truants, which meant that we barely had to queue for anything. We went straight onto any ride we fancied. Which is handy when you have a toddler who doesn’t like to wait. We spent four hours riding, coasting, bouncing and spinning, accompanied by constant laughter, and the sound of Amelie saying “It makes my tummy go funny!”. Which is what her Daddy said after the all-you-can-eat pizza buffet.

Most of the rides were aimed at small children, although maybe not as small as the chap chasing Amelie in the pirate ship...

Captain Pugwash
... but there was one ride in Nickelodeon Land that she wasn’t tall enough to try. The Nickelodeon Streak was a wooden rollercoaster which required riders to be at least four feet tall. It meant that Lisa and I scraped through the entry requirements and took it in turns to ride. Here I am coasting along on the crest of a wave...

And here’s Lisa with her death row face...

I don’t know what she was more scared of: the rollercoaster ride ahead of her, or the single blokes behind.