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Wednesday, November 30, 2011

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

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

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

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

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

Sunday, November 27, 2011

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, November 26, 2011

The trouble with young people today is that they're all getting their hair cut like Justin Bieber...

I found out today that I'm three years older than Justin Bieber's mother. It's the kind of news that makes you feel like sinking into a wingback chair with a bag of Werther's Originals. And then slashing your wrists.

But that aside, I've been looking after Amelie this evening while Lisa goes out to meet a friend. So I barely have the strength left to write this. Naturally I wanted to do my best to entertain the girl and stimulate her mind with some creative father-daughter bonding activites, so the moment Lisa left, I cleared the dining table, laid out an array of craft materials, and set about showing her how to make her own Christmas decorations. At which point she turned to me and said "I'm bored without Mummy". I wouldn't mind, but she'd only been gone about ten minutes.

Up until that point, however, she'd had a good day. We took Amelie over to Portslade at lunchtime to visit the all-new Outshine Hair & Beauty salon. It's recently been opened by Shelly, who, after sixteen years of being stalked by Lisa across the hair salons of Brighton, has finally got her own place. It was well worth the trip too, because in addition to being good with Amelie, she gives Lisa free lattes, and doesn't laugh at my moustache. Which must be hard for a haircare professional.

From Portslade, we moved on to Shoreham, and the Holmbush shopping centre, where Amelie found herself in the same boat as Igglepiggle...

They both have peculiar smiles. But only one of them looks like the Nike swoosh.

She enjoyed the 50p boat ride, but it was really just her way of softening me up for the £1.50 I had to fork out for her to climb the stairway to heaven...

Steps to Success
... and spend ten minutes on top of the world...

Just look at that big Goofy face. Still, at least her hair looks good.

Anyhoo, if there's one thing that Isaac Newton proved about giant inflatable slides, it's that what goes up, must come down...

I'm not saying she was fast, but I think my £1.50 for ten minutes worked out at a cost of 5p per slide. The irony is that Lisa spent the whole time in Marks & Spencer's. Bored without Mummy, my foot.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Sponsor Me!After twenty-five days of hair-raising charity work, I've finally been asked by a patient if I'm growing this moustache for Movember. Up to now, it's been debatable whether or not I'm raising money for a good cause or simply attempting a bit of seventies retro chic, but clearly after three and a half weeks, there's no longer any doubt. No one would choose to look like this.

He was very polite though, and insisted that the moustache suits me. Which I think was his way of avoiding having to give me any sponsorship money.

On the subject of facial disfigurement, the good news is that Amelie's disease-ridden features are clearing up fast. Since being diagnosed on Wednesday, she's been sleeping much better, so it was clearly the worry of not knowing what was wrong with her that was keeping her awake. She's had two good nights now, and as of this morning, her spots are fading fast.

She must be feeling better too, because she appears to have retaken her position as head of this household. Lisa was using the computer yesterday and Amelie asked her to stop and do something else. When Lisa didn't immediately drop everything and let go of the mouse, Amelie walked up to her and said in a calm, yet deeply authoritative voice, "Don't touch that again or I'll throw water over you". She's also started using the phrase "For goodness sake", and regularly tells me off for deleting her iPad games to free up a bit of space. Only last night, she put her hands on her hips, tutted loudly, and said "Daddy! You deleted this game! You thought I wouldn't notice!" with a withering look on her face. I'm getting to the point where I'm terrified to cross her.

So in an attempt to earn some forgiveness for my transgressions, I took her out last night to Lidl. She's obsessed at the moment with the idea of 'going out in the dark', so I'm forced to take her out for a moonlit ride on my shoulders on an almost daily basis. Yesterday's walk took us to Lidl, and turned out to be a journey of discovery, because we found that they're selling these...

Lidl Moose Leg SteaksYes, I kid you not, Lidl are selling frozen moose legs for £9.99. The moment I saw them, I thought bloody elk, that's deer. I mean, let's face it, I'm willing to pay a fiver for their ostrich steaks and octopus, but a tenner for a leg of moose seems a bit excessive. They should have done a promotional tie-in with The Rocky & Bullwinkle Show to boost sales and bring down the price. I'm sure they're not averse to selling squirrel steaks too.

In the end, we decided against the frozen moose, but the good news is that I have now started my Christmas shopping. It was my Dad's birthday yesterday (I can't believe he's still alive), and in addition to buying him a high quality second-hand gift from a charity shop, I've also sourced a remarkably fine present for my Mum. It's a 1,000 piece jigsaw puzzle (she asked for one, I swear) and it features this delightful piece of information on the bottom of the box:

Call 999
So it's not a toy. And it's not a 1,000 piece jigsaw. But it was cheap.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Sponsor Me!It's typical. Just when I'm successfully attracting sympathy with an achy breaky prostate and a splitting headache, Amelie steals all my limelight by going down with the plague.

We noticed a couple of days ago that she was developing spots in various places (mostly in her bedroom), but by yesterday morning they were appearing on her hands and feet, and looking like tiny blisters, which seemed a bit odd. So Lisa took her to the doctor today for a spot check. And the result is...

She has 'Hand, Foot and Mouth Disease'. It's a viral infection, and should clear up within ten days. But if not, we have to burn her in a field on a bonfire of cows.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Sponsor Me!Yesterday's blog post was actually written on Sunday evening, which is just as well, because by Monday morning, we'd had the night of the living dead and I felt like calling it a day. Not only did Amelie wake us up numerous times with big cries in the small hours, but I was struck down at 4am with a recurrence of my chronic prostatitis. I struggled into work (late, and with an overgrown moustache), but by mid morning I was suffering with a splitting headache, and feeling inclined to throw up over a retinal photograph.

So I came home early, in the hope of being well enough to rush myself into hospital this morning. Horsham Hospital, to be exact. I still feel a bit rough, but I did indeed make it up the A23 today, and carry out a clinic without being carried out on a stretcher. I soaked my moustache in soluble aspirin, so I could get a hit just by licking my lips. It seemed to get me through the day.

The good news, however, is that I'm now in a position to self-medicate with super-fruit. Having spent Saturday afternoon at Raystede, mingling with some dodgy looking animals from broken homes, I decided to spend the evening hanging out at Asda. It's basically the same, but with less chance of being rescued. So I was vegetating in the fruit aisle, when I noticed that they were selling boxes of four pomegranates for three quid, with one of these thrown in for free...

Arils Removal Tool
That's an Arils Removal Tool, and you wouldn't guess it from the photo, but it was the winner of the Fruit Logistica Innovation Award 2010. No, really. I must admit, I assumed 'Arils' was the brand name until I looked it up in the dictionary.

Anyhoo, it's a well known fact that I'm the biggest pomegranate fan since Persephone, but tragically I'm forced to buy the seeds in plastic sealed cartons due to an inbuilt inability to get them out of the fruit. Trust me, I've tried. But as the juice stains on my shirts will testify, I've met with limited success. So every week I buy the pre-packed trays at great expense and even greater personal risk. They have a habit of fermenting within five days, swelling up the carton, and exploding all over the fridge. Although some of my most intense moments of clarity have come after eating them.

So what I've been wanting all these years is a foolproof method of getting the arils out of the husk. And now, at last, Asda have given me one for free...

Looks great, doesn't it? Unfortunately the reality bears very little resemblence to the video. I was there for half an hour last night playing some kind of crazed game of Whack-a-Mole with a pomegranate. Either you tap it politely and get nothing, or you beat the living daylights out of the fruit and end up taking the pith. I think I'll save it for Red Nose Day and stick it on the front of my car.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Lisa discovered a 'Height Predictor' tool on the internet at the weekend, which uses the scientifically proven Khamis-Roche Method to accurately reveal how tall your children will be as adults. So we entered my height (5'7") and Lisa's height (5'5"), plus Amelie's height (3'6"), weight (42lb) and age (3), and having analysed all the data, it told us she'll be 5'9" by the age of 13. We've only got ten years before she'll be looking down on us. Although in many ways, I think she already is.

So while we're still able to look her in the eye without the use of a stepladder, we decided to take her out for some fun in the sun on Saturday. We'd had a slightly stressful morning, after I had a flash of inspiration and decided on the spur of the moment that what Amelie would enjoy more than anything on a bright November morning, was for me to get out my old PS2 dance mat from under the bed, and for the two of us to boogie on down in the living room for a couple of hours.

It seemed like a good idea at the time. The time being 10am. By ten-fifteen I'd realised that the dance mat wasn't where I thought it would be, and by ten-thirty I was turning the flat upside down looking for it. I eventually found it at eleven. And that wasn't all I found. I also discovered that if your Playstation's done nothing but gather dust on a shelf for two years, you might struggle to get it working.

But two hours, numerous tears and a lot of regrets later, we were finally up and dancing. At which point Amelie took one look at the game, told me she didn't like it, and ran out of the room crying. To say it was a disappointing end to all my hard work would be like saying that Burlesconi was only slightly corrupt.

But what really gets my goat is this...

That's Amelie having a lot more fun with a lot less effort from me.

We decided to take her out on Saturday afternoon to the Raystede Centre for Animal Welfare near Ringmer. We took her there in June, when we pretended it was Drusillas Zoo Park, but we decided to come clean this time and admit that it's an animal rescue centre. Unfortunately she associates the word 'rescue' with me retrieving her cuddly toys from behind the sofa, so she spent most of the time asking why the animals were stuck, and how we could pull them out.

But despite the confusion, a good time was had by all. Not only did we manage to cross the wooden bridge to Goose Island with no more than two or three tantrums...

Burning her bridges.
... but we also saw a variety of interesting animals. Here's a hot bunny girl having a bad hair day...

Sorry, wrong photo. That's my wife with no make-up in the cafe. Here's a hot bunny girl having a bad hair day...

Mad March HairOr possibly a bad hare day. Surprisingly, however, that wasn't the oddest small mammal we saw on Saturday. Raystede has become so overrun with rodents since we last visited, that they're on the verge of being sponsored by Rentokil. But in addition to rehoming rats, hamsters, gerbils, chinchillas and spiny mice, they also had two destitute degus. Although they looked more like obese gerbils.

Not only is the degu an ideal pet, but you can have a lot of fun with them in the lab. According to Wikipedia (so it's bound to be true), "Degus entered the research spotlight due to their unique relationship with sugar and diabetes, but are also studied for a wide variety of other reasons. Neuroscientists at the Riken Institute in Tokyo, Japan, used degus for research into tool use in animals with good eye-and-paw coordination, in which they spontaneously learned to use a tiny rake to retrieve out-of-reach seeds. Degus have also been found to spontaneously stack objects in order of decreasing size. In both cases it is the first time these behaviours have been recorded in animals other than apes and birds."

They're naturally diabetic, can use gardening tools, and appear to have OCD. Lisa had to physically restrain me from adopting one. I'd have it cuddling my patients, sorting out my window box, and alphabetising my CDs within hours.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

I don't know how I'm going to find the time to write a blog post if I spend all weekend doing stuff with Amelie, but I'll cross that bridge when I come to it...

I'm not alone in that photo. Amelie's behind me, playing Poohsticks. On a lake.

Friday, November 18, 2011

I think three years spent listening to her decrepit old parents moaning about their minor ailments has finally had an effect on Amelie. She walked into the kitchen this morning and said this:

"Mummy, my knees are a bit achey. Can I have a cuddle?"

Mind you, she needs a lot of reassurance at the moment, because as of two days ago, she's officially ugly. I forgot to say that The Argus announced the winners of the Cute Kids Contest on Wednesday, and sadly, Amelie didn't quite make the grade. Her category was won by a little girl called Cheska, but according to the report, the most votes were polled by the winner in the 1-2 years category, a girl called Summer (she sounds like a seasoned professional), who racked up 334 texts.

Apparently there were 14,100 votes cast in total, and 1,100 children who entered, so ignoring the Summer loving which happened so fast, I make that an average of only 12 votes per child. Frankly if we hadn't lost touch with Lisa's father's side of the family, we could have won this thing.

But on the subject of things I've forgotten to say, I went for a little walk in Crawley at lunchtime yesterday, and discovered a new Indian Takeaway called Argy Bhaji. It's shop names like that which make my life worth living. I wanted to take a photo, but tragically, it's positioned right next door to a sex shop (that wasn't why I was in the area, I swear), and I was terrified that a customer would emerge just as I pressed the shutter release button, and I'd end up being accused of trying to take pictures of porn purchasers. So I didn't dare get out my camera.

But fortunately, I've found a photo online...

Argy Bhaji
That's Xes Desire on the right. It's for people who are a bit backwards about sex. At least in terms of the spelling.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Sponsor Me!I was listening to the radio news on my way up to Crawley this morning, and they were talking about the fact that gourmet sea salt is apparently no better for you than bog standard table salt. The only difference you get with the expensive brands is that you'll end up with less money to spend on your blood pressure pills.

So I was pondering this news as I drove up the A23, only to exit at the Crawley turn-off and find myself driving up the slip road directly behind a car with this registration plate:


Is it just me, or is that slightly spooky? It was as though fate wanted me to see salt as well as hear about it.

Anyhoo, I don't want to give the impression that I spend all my time tirelessly raising money for charity, but in addition to the hours I've spent cultivating an impressive moustache (hair doesn't just grow itself, you know), I also raised a substantial sum for Children in Need today. The receptionists at Crawley Hospital were holding a home-made cake sale, which involved the clever use of a yellow sharps bin as a charity collecting bucket. I presume they wanted to prick people's conscience and make a worthwhile point. So I spent the day diligently raising money... out of my left trouser pocket, and handing it over in return for numerous baked goodies.

Obviously I'm on a strict diet, but they'd placed the cake table directly between my room and the waiting room, meaning that I had to spend the day trekking past sugar loaf mountain with a stream of diabetics. Under the circumstances, I felt the most selfless thing I could do was to help my patients avoid temptation by eating the evidence myself.

It was a rocky road. After which I had a chocolate brownie and some carrot cake. By the time I was eating the clotted cream sponge, I felt like I'd done my bit for a good cause. I'll be booking myself in for a diabetes test next week.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Sponsor Me!I'm a bit busy this evening eating toast sandwiches, checking my salad for dead birds, and pondering what hamsters can teach us about adolescent sex. So I don't have much time to write a blog post.

But the good news is that Big Sis has e-mailed me the photos she took at Amelie's Christening the Sunday before last. So here's Lisa nailed to the cross...

Nailed to the Cross
And here are my brother and sister in Christ...

Brothers & Sister
I know half my family are now Catholic, but that photo alone makes a pretty powerful argument for the use of contraception.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Sponsor Me!Today is the halfway point in Movember, which means that in theory, my moustache will be twice as long as this by the end of the month. I find that slightly scary. Give it another fortnight and I might not be able to breathe.

But on the subject of charitable exploits, I was back in Burgess Hill today, so following on from the closely-guarded secrets revealed to me by the illuminati of the hospice world last Thursday, here's a round-up of the latest breaking news from the town's charity shops:

  • The teenager who works in the St Catherine's Hospice Shop is currently paying £275 for his car insurance. Which would be fine if that wasn't per month. It's costing him more than three thousand pounds a year. Which makes it all the more admirable that he's giving up his time for a charity. If it was me, I'd be out there robbing a bank. Let's face it, he's already got the getaway car.

  • On December 1st, the 'Safe Haven for Donkeys in the Holy Land' shop (which was presumably set up because Mary and Joseph nicked the stable) will be holding a late-night shopping evening featuring a personal appearance from none other than David Barby of 'Bargain Hunt' fame. I swear I'm not making this up.

  • The DebRA UK shop is closing down on Saturday because it's not making enough money. The manager only found out yesterday, and the bloke on the till is devastated because after fourteen years of volunteering at the shop, it means he might have to spend his days watching David Barby on Bargain Hunt. To be honest, I don't know if that's why he's devastated, but I do know why the shop isn't making a profit. It's the only charity shop in Burgess Hill which closes for an hour at lunchtime, meaning it's frequently shut when I walk past. I've kept the others afloat for the past three years, but if this one refuses to fit in with my working hours, there's not a lot I can do.

That's obviously a slightly depressing note to end on, but fortunately I have a far more positive piece of charity news up my sleeve. My Dad informs me that The Daily Telegraph has published a follow-up to last week's rib-tickling Movember-based cartoon strip. And here it is...

Who says that sequels are never as good as the original? That's at least as funny as the first one.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Sponsor Me!I attended an infection control training session this morning which featured the key phrases "hacking your guts up" and "squitting through the eye of a needle". I felt like suggesting we all wash our mouths out afterwards, but fortunately the lecturer moved on to the subject of drinking alcohol hand gel, so it didn't seem necessary.

Having wiped down a few surfaces, I then followed that up with a health & safety lecture in which we were told, with no irony whatsoever, that the Trust is very hot on fire prevention. There was also a section on 'Safe Working at Height', which included this real-life scenario:

George Formby
Here's the uncropped version:

The Height of Bad Practice
When asked for a show of hands, I voted that to be bad practice, which I think qualifies me as competent to work for the NHS for another year.

On the subject of health & safety signs, I took this photo at the Clambers play centre yesterday afternoon...

You've Been Reframed
I think I'll reframe that and put it on the wall.

Sadly, that was the only picture I took yesterday, as photography is banned within the confines of the play centre due to the ever present threat of paedophiles and child pornographers. They did, however, have comfy sofas and free wi-fi, so the two hours we spent there were not only relaxing, but quite productive. I spent the first hour on my laptop, completing various useful tasks, and the second on my hands and knees, climbing to the top of an assault course in my socks, while my daughter berated me from above.

There was a tense moment when Amelie swung to the other side of a cargo net on a giant plastic ball, only to fall off and ask me to rescue her. Something I found difficult to accomplish without admitting to her that I'm too scared of heights, and couldn't cross that net without a blindfold and three sessions of hypnotherapy. But ultimately a good time was had by all. I conquered my completely rational fear of bumpy slides, and despite being touched inappropriately by a two-year-old, Amelie seemed to enjoy herself.

From there, we dropped off our daughter at my parents, before driving home to begin our forty-eight hour date-night. Lisa's currently preparing a romantic home-cooked meal for me in the kitchen. She hasn't said what it is yet, but I'm guessing it's a Loyd Grossman Korma.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Sponsor Me!I sat down last night and read all twenty-three pages of the Grand Jury indictment of Jerry Sandusky. I don't think the story's really making the news in the UK (although I can't be sure, because our TV's on CBeebies all day), but it's basically OJ Simpson for the new millennium. Wikipedia has a decent page on the subject if you need a bit of background.

Having read those twenty-three pages, I'm not sure what I find more shocking: the alleged child abuse, or the number of people who appear to have known about it for the past ten years. Probably the latter. I'd also like to know if there's anyone in the history of the entire universe who has ever set up "a charity to help troubled young boys" without having some kind of ulterior motive.

Touched. Possibly inappropriately.It seems that the only way American football legends can make a name for themselves outside the US is to be accused of a heinous crime. I'd never heard of OJ Simpson until he stabbed someone in the back (mostly the fans who looked up to him), and two days ago, I didn't know of Jerry Sandusky. Although I appear to be in the minority. A lot of people not only knew him, but knew what he was up to. He even named his 2001 autobiography 'Touched: The Jerry Sandusky Story', which as hints go, is not what you'd call subtle. They could have used the same title for the indictment.

Anyhoo, amidst all of that, the good news is that Lisa's Mum is feeling a bit better today and has now returned home. She won the TV turf war yesterday afternoon, so I think she wanted to quit while she was ahead. Amelie's due to go and stay with her other grandparents tonight, so Lisa and I are heading over to Hastings this afternoon, where we plan to sample the delights of the Clambers Play Centre, before dropping her off at my Mum's. We might have cancelled Friday night, but we'll be dating for the next two days.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Sponsor Me!It's a well known fact that the best way to spice up a relationship is to invite another woman into your bed. So having identified the cracks in our marriage on Wednesday, Lisa and I applied the Polyfilla of love last night by having a threesome with the lady from the flats down the road.

About ten minutes after publishing yesterday's blog post and settling down for a date night with my wife, Lisa had a phone call from her mother. The woman hasn't been well for a week, which is how she managed to get out of coming to Amelie's christening. I've never been so jealous. We think it's probably just a heavy cold, but yesterday she was sick a couple of times, and by the evening she'd gone from Greta Garbo to Mae West, and felt less inclined to be alone.

So at 7:20pm, I cancelled our date and went up to see her. Five minutes later, I was bringing my mother-in-law back here with an overnight bag. It's not the most romantic way to spend an evening, but it seemed like the right thing to do. We made her sit through the Big Brother final, then she joined Lisa in the double bed while I slept in the living room. So it won't be me picking up her germs.

She'll probably be here all day, which means there'll shortly be a pitched battle in the living room between the rival fans of CBeebies and Channel 4 Racing, but in the meantime, I've retreated to the bedroom, from where I witnessed an exciting helicopter rescue of a body in the sea near Brighton Marina this morning...

Although you'll have to take my word for it, because frankly the video's rubbish.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Sponsor Me!Lisa and I are planning another date night tonight, which is remarkable, firstly because she answered 'd' to one of the Relate questions, and secondly because I have the kind of moustache which makes the chances of female company unlikely.

But the good news is that I've stepped up the fundraising efforts today with the acquisition of a stylish charity collecting box. I requested it free from the Movember website last week, and it arrived in the post at lunchtime today, so I've stuck it in the department's kitchen at work.

Gimme Gimme GimmeYou can't miss it, because not only is it twice the size I was expecting (my moustache is the same), but it features a brooding moustachioed model looking like a cross between Brad Pitt and Nick Cave, attempting to prove that facial hair can be sexy by luring would-be sponsors to the box with his smouldering good looks. Meaning that people are unlikely to associate it with me.

But I've countered that problem by taking a leaf out of the busker's book and cunningly putting all my loose change into the box (nothing bigger than a 10p, obviously) so that anyone giving it a casual shake will believe the donations are rolling in, and feel more inclined to follow suit. It was a plan with no drawbacks. Until I picked up the box, and the foldable bottom collapsed. My colleague had to patch it up with sellotape.

But despite those teething problems, I fully expect to be filling the fundraising hole left by Sir Jimmy Saville within a matter of days. On the downside, the colleague who said I looked French on Tuesday, now thinks I look like Mr Pastry...

Mmm... pastry.
I know facial hair makes you look older, but this is getting ridiculous.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Sponsor Me!I think the days of charity shops being pokey little jumble sales staffed by clueless old ladies who don't know their Prada from their Primark, are long gone. I'm a regular disciple of the St Peter & St James Hospice shops ("... not just any charity shops!"), which are conveniently situated in four of the towns where I do clinics. They've been supplying Amelie with cheap cuddly toys for the past two years. Which is why there's no longer any space in her bedroom. Frankly I've donated so much money to that hospice, I think I'm single-handedly responsible for the rise in the pensioner population.

So I was in the Burgess Hill branch at lunchtime today, buying a new work shirt, and I witnessed a conversation between the shop manager and a bloke who'd popped in for advice from another charity shop nearby. Never mind clueless old codgers who can't work a till - this was like the final of The Apprentice crossed with an episode of Dragons Den. I haven't heard so much ingenious financial advice since Lisa told me to start buying Smart Price bin bags.

Obviously I'll take most of the secrets I heard to my grave (or my hospice at the very least), but I'll reveal one golden nugget of insider information here. Apparently the secret to raising substantial quantities of cash for a good cause is a website called China Search. It might sound like a communist version of Google, but it's actually a site where you can buy odd pieces of discontinued china plates, bowls and cups.

Apparently it's a common occurrence for people to donate incomplete dinner services or tea sets to charity shops. The high quality ones would be worth a fortune if complete, but the value takes a severe denting if not, or if one of the pieces is damaged. So rather than selling the incomplete set for, say, forty pounds, the charity goes straight onto China Search, buys the missing piece for a tenner, and then sells the complete set for a hundred and twenty. It's a genius idea, and I take my hat off to them. Or I would do if I wore one. I'm sticking to a balaclava until my moustache is gone.

On the subject of investing money in a worthwhile cause, tomorrow is the last day that you can vote for Amelie in the Argus Cute Kids competition. She's managed to avoid being booted out of the contest like Frankie Cocozza on the X Factor (although her behaviour's generally worse than his), so if you want to register your support for Brighton's other talent show wannabe with bad hair, the voting details are here.

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

Sponsor Me!I was working in Haywards Heath today, which is always a bit difficult as it brings back memories of Black Monday, and gives me a panic attack every time my phone rings. To add to it all, there was an emergency dental clinic taking place down the corridor, so every time I managed to get teeth out of my head for five minutes, I bumped into someone who'd suffered that fate for real.

The room we occupy at the health centre is also used at times by Relate counsellors. It has a two-way mirror, which is handy if they want to move on from marriage guidance to dogging. There was no evidence of that when I arrived this morning, but I did find this new poster on the wall...

Heart to Heart Health Check
Naturally I took that as a direct order, and within minutes I was online and taking Relate's Heart to Heart health check. It's basically seven questions followed by the number of a good divorce lawyer. I answered them all truthfully and honestly, and duly received this result:

Congratulations - your relationship is looking very healthy indeed. Either you're still in the first throes of love or perhaps like many, you've discovered that relationships take time, commitment and open communication and you're reaping the rewards. The fact that you've done this quiz also demonstrates that you don't take your relationship for granted and you want to keep learning. If you want to make your relationship even better, have a look back through the questions to any where you didn't tick 'a' and consider what changes you and your partner might want to make.

I actually ticked 'a' to five of the seven questions, and 'b' to the other two. The answers marked 'd' feature statements such as "I don't feel very close to my partner and we rarely talk, except about essentials". So if you choose more than a couple of those, you might as well jack it all in and live the single life. Frankly I don't think I'd have ticked more than one 'd' if I'd been answering questions about my postman.

So feeling reassured that I have the perfect marriage, I e-mailed the link to Lisa and told her (in a non-controlling kind of way) to take the test. She replied an hour later to say that she'd ticked four 'a's, one 'b', one 'c' and - read it and weep - a 'd'. Frankly we haven't stopped arguing about it since. From the moment Relate congratulated us on our healthy relationship, we've been pretty much on the rocks.

Tuesday, November 08, 2011

One of my colleagues told me today that my moustache makes me look French. I said "What, sexy and sophisticated?". She said "No, a bit dodgy".

So that's one less Christmas card to buy. Or two if you count Benjamin Netanyahu.

But just when I thought the only Movember-based comic strip was the amusing line of hair drawn across my face, this has appeared in The Daily Telegraph...

It's like a sketch from Comic Relief: not funny, but highlighting a good cause.

Monday, November 07, 2011

Sponsor Me!I've now reached that difficult stage with my moustache where it's too long for people to think I've just missed a bit shaving, but not long enough for me to pass as Hans Moretti. It's gone beyond the point where anyone can think it's accidental, meaning that everyone knows I've made a conscious decision to look like this. I've spent today in clinic, fighting the urge to begin every patient encounter with the words "In case you're wondering, I don't think this is a good look."

But I shouldn't be embarrassed, because the good news is that I've just acquired a powerful new sponsor. I'm now being backed by God. After three years of downhill travel on the heathen road to hell, we had Amelie baptised yesterday at the local Catholic church. They had a two-for-one offer on, so we got Lisa confirmed as well. I'm now the only member of the family still allowed to use condoms.

To be honest, I'm not much of a God-botherer. I prefer to annoy Lisa. But I'm always happy to go along with her madcap schemes, and she was keen for at least two thirds of the family to get into heaven, so I agreed to do my bit by attending the service yesterday morning. We didn't manage to get any photos of the actual event, but here's Amelie recreating the crucial moment of baptism with a bowl of melted ice cream...

Baptism of Ice
That's Lisa in the background, practicing her Catholic guilt.

The chance to see Amelie drowned in a font was obviously quite a big draw, so we were joined at the church yesterday by most of my family, half of Lisa's, and a couple of good friends. By the end of the service, there wasn't a dry eye in the house. Lisa's five-year-old nephew had been reduced to tears by the boredom, and frankly I was right there with him.

I got through the critical mass though, and despite being in a permanent state of bewilderment and confusion, I think I stood in all the right places, sung most of the right hymns, and managed to hold Amelie over the font without breaking her neck. I was expecting her to cry when the priest tipped water over her head, but instead she started laughing. She always did love baths. I'm just surprised she didn't ask for bubbles.

To be honest, I felt like a fish out of holy water for most of the morning, but the good news is, it didn't show. There were two priests present for the service, and Big Sis got chatting to one of them afterwards. He was asking about our family background, and when Sis said we weren't Catholic, he looked very surprised and said "Well, Phil certainly looks like a Catholic". I'm not sure if it's the moustache or the guilty expression, but either way, I've clearly got them fooled. I'll let you be the judge...

Catholic Look
I think it's my look of easy virtue.

Anyhoo, you can't wet the baby's head without going for a celebratory meal afterwards, so having eaten a bit of cake in the church hall, we headed down to the Marina to share five loaves and two fishes with my family. We went for the authentic Roman Catholic experience by opting for an Italian restaurant, and then joined together to say 'Our Father'. But only when the waitress asked us who was paying the bill.

By the end of it all, I was ready to confess to the sin of gluttony, and had learnt a lot about brotherly love...

Brothers & Sisters in Christ
I think the church has a stranglehold on me already.

Sunday, November 06, 2011

You know those lazy Sunday mornings where you lounge about in your tatty old pyjamas? Well I think Amelie went to the wrong drawer...

But it doesn't need to stop you relaxing on the sofa with your iPad...