Subscribe: Subscribe to me on YouTube

Thursday, May 31, 2012

If you can keep your head when all about you are losing theirs...

... then your name's probably Shimmy. As for the kittens, you know what it's like: you're trying to please your mother, but you really want to play with your siblings, and in the end you just fall between two stools.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

One of my patients this morning was extolling the virtues of Zumba, and telling me that having previously failed with aerobics, she's now lost a stone by attending dance classes three times a week. I congratulated her on a job well done, at which point she fixed me in the eye (which was technically my job) and said "You should try it". I wasn't quite sure how to take that.

But on the subject of mild insults, I was watching the Mr Men on Channel 5 with Amelie at 7:20 this morning, which was an unexpected pleasure, as I'm usually watching Postman Pat on CBeebies. I've not seen this version before; in fact I've not seen the Mr Men at all since Captain Mainwaring was involved, but within two minutes I was on the verge of writing a letter to The Guardian.

It transpires that one of the characters they've introduced since Roger Hargreaves died is called Mr Rude. Shakespeare may have wondered what's in a name, but when it comes to the Mr Men, the answer's quite a lot. Mr Rude spends his time offending the ears with his ill-mannered outbursts, and the nose with his constant flatulence. All of which is perfectly reasonable. Except that they've given him a French accent.

Now, it's a well known fact that I read Equality Bulletins like other people read tabloids, and I'm more politically correct than Baroness Warsi's expense claims, so I'm clearly a sensitive soul when it comes to racial stereotyping, and more likely to be offended than your average working class child of the seventies who grew up watching 'Mind Your Language' and 'Love Thy Neighbour'. I'm thinking mainly of Lisa there. But are we really allowed to call the French rude and smelly? In public? On a kids' TV show?

Clearly we are. It turns out that The Daily Telegraph covered the story four years ago, and apparently Mr Rude's accent is "light-hearted and tongue-in-cheek", and intended to cause no offence whatsoever to the impolite, garlic-eating stink bombs on the other side of the channel. I'm paraphrasing them there. I look forward to hearing Mr Lazy speaking in Spanish.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

It was exactly eight years ago today that I finally wore Lisa down into a state of apathetic submission, and she reluctantly agreed to become my girlfriend. She hasn't looked back since. Which is just as well, as she might spot the queue of other men she could have had instead.

So rather than write a lengthy blog post about kids or kittens, I'd just like to say Happy (non-wedding, relationship-only) Anniversary to my wife, I love you very much, and here's hoping you can eat the romantic tub of ice cream I've bought, without heaving into a bucket. xxx

Monday, May 28, 2012

At family mealtimes, there's always one child asking Mum if they can be excused before they've finished...

There'll be no pudding for that kitten. Although in Shimmy's case, she's not so much fed up with her children, as well-fed on their dinner. I only just managed to snap that photo before she dived in and helped herself.

But on the subject of eating, the good news is that Lisa's made it through the night, and is definitely on the mend. I braved Asda at 11am yesterday morning (as did everyone else in Brighton, from the look of it), and having battled my way through the crowds to the pharmacy department, I found they'd sold out of Dioralyte. I did manage to buy two cartons of Oralyte, but having studied the packaging, I'm still not sure whether I've bought a pharmaceutical healthcare product, or just an overpriced blackcurrant drink for kids.

Either way, Lisa couldn't keep it down. I'd made a mental decision to call the doctor at 3pm if she was still being sick, but as luck would have it, she stopped around two-thirty. From that point onwards, she was able to keep down small amounts of liquid, and within a couple of hours she was devouring an ice lolly. We'd spent the afternoon watching 'Me and You and Everyone We Know' on DVD, while I stroked her back and rubbed her feet. A combination which proved a lot more effective than the Oralyte. Shortly afterwards she fell asleep for the first time since 2am, and by the time she woke up, was feeling a bit better.

As of this morning, she's begun eating again, and like her daughter before her, Lisa can now open her mouth without sickness coming out. Which is handy, as I'm still struggling to get Amelie's vomit stains out of the carpet.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Lisa turned to me at 5 o'clock this morning and said this:

"It's a good job we're not at Z's house, sharing a bathroom with people we barely know."

She'd been throwing up since two. It's now ten-thirty, and she still hasn't stopped. Cancelling that trip to Suffolk was the best thing we ever did.

Suffice it to say that the week of surprises is still going strong. We had four (yes, four) fire engines turn up outside yesterday afternoon, and spent an enjoyable half hour watching burly firemen with breathing apparatus climbing the stairs past our flat to put out a blaze on another floor. It was like The Towering Inferno on a budget, and I was Robert Wagner, reassuring Lisa by lying through my teeth. In reality, I wasn't sure what was more likely to kill us: the smoke coming in through our open windows, or the heatstroke we'd get if we closed them.

Fortunately we managed to survive that bit of excitement, but after the night we've had, I'm not sure Lisa's long for this world. She's been vomiting for eight hours, and can't keep anything down. I've phoned the midwife at the hospital, and she's advised me to give Lisa a teaspoon of water every ten minutes, and get some Dioralyte from the chemist. She said to phone them back if any contractions start. I told her not to go there.

If Lisa can't keep down those teaspoons, we're supposed to phone the doctor this afternoon. In the meantime, I'm off to the chemist...

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Sometimes, the kindest thing to do with sick animals is to shoot them...

And it seems to have worked a treat. She's perked right up since Thursday. Here's the proof:

Yes, she can open her mouth without vomiting. It's like some kind of medical miracle.

So in an effort to kill or cure, we did indeed take her to Monkey Bizness yesterday. And here's the receipt to prove it...

I'm in the process of e-mailing that document to some of the world's leading cryptographers in an effort to decipher those calculations. The entry fees at Monkey Bizness are £5 for a three-year-old and £1.25 for each adult, making a grand total of £7.50. At which point they gave us an unexplained discount of £2.50, added 75p VAT, and charged us a total of £4.50. I've read that receipt about a dozen times, and I still don't get it.

But I'm not complaining. Amelie had an afternoon of fun, and I got change out of a fiver. Although we spent another twenty on food, drink and ice cream. I've not been to Monkey Bizness before, but I was actually very impressed. It's housed in a big unit on an industrial estate in Lewes, which is not the most welcoming of venues, but once inside they've got loads of stuff to play on, and acres of space for the parents to relax with comfy sofas and free wi-fi.

On the downside, they've got a kind of rainforest/jungle theme going on, and the climate to match. Frankly it was cooler outside in the midday sun. We were reaching for menus within five minutes of arrival - not to order food, but to use as fans. Despite the heat though, we had a lovely couple of hours: me and Lisa chatting, relaxing and nibbling, and Amelie swinging...

... climbing...

... sliding...

... and hammering...

Although I lost her at one point in the ball pool...

It was remarkably quiet too. In fact by 2:30pm, we were the only ones there. Amelie had driven the others away.

We eventually left Monkey Bizness, and went on to my parents' house. They'd kindly offered to have Amelie at short notice to give Lisa a break, and allow her to boost her iron levels over the weekend. Hopefully by pressing my work shirts. It's also given me the chance to take stock of our finances, manage our investments, and work out how we can afford a new baby. So I've put the rent money on Jedward to win Eurovision tonight.

Friday, May 25, 2012

If there's one thing I've always said, it's that life throws up some unexpected surprises. As does Amelie, in a more literal sense. To be honest, everything about this week has been a shock. Not only the jury summons, but also the recurrence of my prostate pain which woke me up at 4am on Wednesday night and stopped my brain working yesterday. Then there was the letter from the bus company exonerating their driver completely, and the card from my aunt to say that she reads my blog every day on her iPhone. She's almost 78. By the time you add in the wave of vomit which swept down the hallway last night, and the fact that I'm at home on a Friday morning, you have quite an unexpected week.

The letter from the bus company arrived on Wednesday, and came straight from the managing director. He informed Lisa that he's "now had an opportunity to fully investigate the journey you had on one of our buses", before casually describing the 28th of April as "that rainy day", in the way you do when you're trying not to accept blame for someone slipping over. He then tells Lisa that he's examined the CCTV footage, and noticed that "you were able to recover yourself quite quickly and take your seat and our driver was not aware of what had happened as at that time he was looking in the offside mirror to pull away from the bus stop and continue the journey".

As it happens, Lisa also cried out in a loud voice, so he must have been deaf too. It's a shame Lisa wasn't, as she could have been spared his swearing later on. Anyway, Roger French, Managing Director of the Brighton and Hove Bus Company, very much regrets that Lisa had this experience. But not enough to give her a free bus ticket or any compensation whatsoever. I think I preferred the letter from my aunt.

Anyway, the reason I'm not currently wrestling diabetics on a Friday morning is because I've taken two days annual leave in order to attend a party in Suffolk. This party to be exact. It's been planned (and looked forward to) for months, but sadly - very sadly - we've taken the decision not to go. The reasons are many and various, and we're blaming it quite a lot on the kittens, but Lisa's also been diagnosed with anaemia, and is feeling as rough as... well, as rough as an anaemic woman who's seven months pregnant in a heatwave. She's struggling to reach the kitchen, never mind East Anglia. So two nights away, and a six hour round trip, just seems too much to bear, and we've been forced to reconsider.

Ironically, however, the events of last night mean that we might not have gone anyway. I picked up Amelie from nursery at 5pm yesterday, and arrived to find her in the garden, in tears. It transpired that she'd just fallen over whilst sprinting across the yard at speed, and had badly grazed her knee and elbow. It took a few minutes to calm her down (and fill in the nursery's accident form), but even as I led her outside to the car, she said to me "Daddy, I just can't stop crying".

So I took her to Asda for some strawberries. They're like therapy for post traumatic stress disorder. Especially if you have five accidents a day. We got home shortly afterwards, I rubbed Savlon into Amelie's wounds, and she seemed fine for the next hour or so. Until five-to-seven, when Lisa led her into the bedroom to choose a story. At which point the projectile vomiting began.

It was a bit like the moment Shimmy gave birth: shocking and slightly distasteful. With no warning whatsoever, Amelie threw up three times in her bedroom and the hallway. She hadn't complained of feeling sick, and yet there we were, standing in a vast lake of vomit. And judging by the quantity, she has a stomach like the tardis. I've never seen anything like it.

Our current view is that it was some kind of heatstroke. She was adamant she hadn't bumped her head, but she had been outside all afternoon in the sun, running about at speed and getting hot. Within an hour she was fine, and she seems back to normal today. In fact, she's consulted a doctor this morning...

... and the only danger to her health appears to be her tendency to block her airways with cellophane. But having spent an hour clearing up vomit last night, I'm not sure I'd want to pack her into the car today for a three hour drive to north Suffolk.

So we're taking her to Monkey Bizness instead. That'll really make her sick.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

I'm reaching the point now where the simple act of walking across the living room makes me feel like Indiana Jones in the Well of Souls...

But with cats, rather than snakes, obviously. At this rate, I'll have to use that stool like a lion-tamer just to reach the hallway.

But the good news is that Chloe's not the only one eating the kitten food...

We're now seeing regular threesomes around the tea set saucer. And with the benefit of natural light, I've shot a slightly better video...

That's Amelie slagging off her friends in the background. I'm hoping the laws of slander don't apply to three-year-olds.

Anyhoo, I'd love to write more, but sadly I've just spent the past hour on my hands and knees, trying to get vast quantities of vomit out of the carpet. So my evening's a little behind schedule. I'll be back tomorrow to reveal the source of the sickness. And whether they're human or feline.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Just to prove that it never rains but it pours, I arrived home from work yesterday to find a jury summons waiting for me on the doormat. In my (almost) thirty-nine years on the planet, I've never been called up for jury service, and now they want me to do it the week before Lisa gives birth.

I like to judge people whenever possible, so naturally I'm keen to take part, but sadly, if they want me to do it in late July, there's every chance that instead of delivering the verdict of twelve angry men, I'll be delivering the baby of one angry woman. There could be more contractions than convictions, and the only ward of court will be maternity. So rather than hold up a murder trial by dashing off to the hospital in the middle of the closing arguments, I've filled in the form asking for my jury service to be deferred. It might be the most important civic duty one can perform, but it still comes second to our baby.

It does mean, however, that I'll be called up at some point in the next twelve months. And this time it can't be deferred. So that's something to look forward to. It'll be the quietest week ever on my blog.

In the meantime though, I've got a lot on my plate...

That's Big Kitten moving on from finger food to massive plates of meat. Having written yesterday that we'll be employing the use of a saucer, I realised that we don't actually own any. So I stole that one from Amelie's plastic tea set.

Miraculously, we managed to get all three of them eating from the saucer last night. In fact, with the progress we've made since Sunday, the only thing now standing between us and fully weaned kittens, is their mother's tendency to steal food from under their noses...

The soundtrack to that video is a TV programme about child poverty in Wales. It's the kind of thing I like to watch when I've spent my last penny on cat food for the starving kittens.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Apparently, while I was busy doing a clinic at the hospital yesterday morning, Amelie was at a bus stop down the road with my mother-in-law, entertaining the crowds with this unscripted comedy routine:

Lisa's Mum: Has your Daddy gone to work today?

Amelie: Yes.

Lisa's Mum: He’s always going to work. Is he trying to avoid you?

Amelie: No, he goes to work to earn money to buy me toys.

I'm told that brought the house down. Well, the bus shelter. To be honest, if she's that entertaining, she can do a bit of stand-up and buy her own toys.

On the subject of major financial burdens, the kittens are now four-and-a-half weeks old, so in addition to partying all weekend, we've been attempting to start the weaning process. I assumed that involved waiting until they're four weeks old, and then putting down a bowl of food, but unfortunately there's a lot more to it than that. So since Sunday morning, we've been following these instructions, and getting down and dirty (quite literally) with some cat food.

Shimmy's still feeding the kittens milk...

... but she's also now letting them out to play three or four times a day, which is a sight that ranks about eleven on the 1-10 cuteness scale. Sadly I don't have any footage of it, as every time they're out romping around on the floor, my hands are covered in mashed kitten food. Which makes me reluctant to pick up a camera.

Amelie, however, has found them tempting to the extreme. She had her first kitten-related time-out yesterday, after Lisa found her at the living room door with her hands around a kitten's neck. We've told her that if she touches them, they'll die, which is slightly unkind, but probably has an element of truth to it. Unfortunately, with three to choose from, I think she feels she can afford to kill a couple.

The weaning, however, is going well. Every time the kittens come out to play, Lisa and I dip our fingers in baby cat mousse, and offer it up to them. It's what toddlers call finger food. All three have now got the hang of licking it off, although Shimmy's quite happy to steal food from the mouths of her starving children, and has no qualms about butting them out of the way just to get at it. My Mum was the same with rusks.

Unfortunately the kittens clearly haven't heard the idiom about biting the hand that feeds you. Every weaning attempt quickly develops into a game of cat chicken, where you have to hold your finger there just long enough for the food to be licked off, but not long enough to get bitten. Big Kitten in particular has the bite of a great white shark, and will happily try to take your hand off the moment the food's gone.

We're supposed to be moving on to a saucer in the next day or two, and frankly it can't come soon enough. I want to have enough fingers left to pick it up.

Monday, May 21, 2012

For a long time now, Lisa and I have had a reputation as 24 hour party people, living the hedonistic lifestyle, and appearing at all the top functions on a regular basis. Lisa's like Paris Hilton on a budget, and Amelie's her little princess...

So it will come as no surprise to anyone that we followed up Saturday's big birthday bash by attending another exclusive party yesterday afternoon. This time it was the third birthday of Lorraine's youngest child, Harrison. He was the key witness to this random act of violence. And he's now in a position to talk.

But instead of fleeing social services with our wayward child, we took her to Hove yesterday for Harry's fancy dress party. Amelie went as a medieval princess, so naturally she wanted me to dress up as a wizard. In the end I put on my driving glasses and told her I was Harry Potter. I also did my horrible laugh from page 3 of 'The Princess and the Wizard', which always goes down well. And brings her to the verge of tears. As for Lisa, Amelie wanted her to go as a brave knight, presumably because she's rarely out of her knightwear, and spends most of the day in pyjamas. She eventually settled on her dress from TK Maxx.

So with the three of us suited and booted, we headed for Lorraine's house and took up a handy position by the buffet. Lisa and I remained there for most of the afternoon, while Amelie ran around the garden like a nutter, and attempted to fly head-first down the slide without losing her crown. She came in at one point and asked me if I'd seen her new friend, Ruby. I was eating a cherry bakewell at the time, but when I'd finished, I asked her what Ruby looked like. To which Amelie responded "She has green wings". As distinguishing features go, it's a good one. I eventually spotted her flying past the window. She was actually dressed all in green, so her name really should have been Jade.

Anyhoo, the last time Amelie attended a party at Lorraine's house, she was forcibly bound, gagged, and had her head shoved against a wall, but this time it was a much more genteel occasion. Her only physical injury was when she tripped over the hem of her red velvet gown and scraped her arm on the edge of her jewels.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

The trouble with family photos is that by the time you've had eight attempts at getting the composition right...

... everyone throws in the towel.

But still, at least the sun was out for photo number nine. We'd been there so long, it had changed seasons.

Anyhoo, Big Sis is now forty years old and one week, and is currently rocketing towards fifty like a runaway train with no brakes, so having enjoyed a delicate hors d'oeuvre of a party last Saturday, it was time for the all-you-can-eat blow-out yesterday. And if you think Devizes is the town that never sleeps, you should try St Leonards. It's a miracle Ibiza ever gets a look in.

We all met at my parents' house yesterday lunchtime. Well, I say 'all'. At the allotted meeting time, my brother and his family were stuck behind a tow-truck on the road to Eastbourne. They hadn't broken down (although family relationships were close), but they had missed their turning off the M25 and ended up in a traffic jam they should never have encountered. Fortunately, however, the queue wasn't permanent, and they were soon on the move again. Slowly, behind a vehicle on tow.

So while the rest of us were ordering food, they were ordering coffee at Sainsburys in Tunbridge Wells, just so they could use the toilets. They eventually arrived three hours late, shortly before they were due to leave.

Fortunately, all was not lost (although they had been for a couple of hours), and they were here in plenty of time to see Big Sis trying to set her hair on fire...

As you can see, we had everything a good party needs: takeaway food, condiments, strawberries, cake and a big tube of UHU. It's the glue that holds this family together.

Having eaten enough food to end world hunger, and danced the afternoon away to the sound of S Club 7 (that was mainly Amelie, to be fair), we all hit the town for a trip to TK Maxx. Lisa bought herself a party dress (which seemed a bit late in the day to me), Amelie got some goggles, and I bought a big tub of catnip. My brother asked if he could have some for their three-legged moggy, so I decanted a few spoonfuls into a small plastic bag, and tied it up for him before they left.

I then waved them off at the door, and wished them a much better journey home, with the small bundle of dried herbs in their glove box. Let's hope they weren't stopped by the police.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

It's Big Sis with Bad Eye!

Good Walker had wandered off. But clearly one kitten was enough to give Sis the over-excited look of a lottery winner. Although she wouldn't be so pleased if she knew it was weeing on her work trousers.

As it happens, I think a visit from Big Sis has brought out the best in those kittens. Within minutes of her leaving last night, they were emerging from the sofa of their own accord, and venturing out to play...

Or maybe they were just checking she was gone.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Word has just reached us from the M23 that Big Sis is on her way here, and should be arriving in the next half hour. Which is a surprise, as we weren't even sure she was in the country. Apparently yesterday's photos have proved even more irresistible than I realised, and she's currently driving across the south of England just to cuddle kittens.

So time is of the essence, and I probably should be clearing a space on the sofa, but just to update everyone on some other travel news...

Lisa heard from the bus company this week. It was back on April 29th that she e-mailed the Brighton & Hove Bus Company about her little trip the day before, and they promised to reply within three working days. So when she still hadn't heard anything two weeks later, she wrote a letter (the old-fashioned papery kind) to the managing director. I posted it for her on Monday. So with ironic timing, they e-mailed her later that day.

The e-mail spoke of their great concern, and the "inconvenience" caused to Lisa, before stating that "We take pride in the fact that our drivers maintain the highest standards and therefore anything that affects the safety and comfort of our passengers is of particular concern to the company. I have arranged for the driver to be seen by his manager."

And that was basically it. Not so much as a free bus ticket. Fortunately, however, it pays to go to the top. Wednesday's post brought a letter personally signed by the managing director, which apologised for the original delay in replying, stating that Lisa's e-mail "unfortunately got misfiled from our inbox". Presumably into the trash can. He then apologises again, before adding "rest assured that this is the subject of a full investigation including reviewing the CCTV images that we have, so that we can pursue it with the driver concerned."

So that's obviously fantastic news. Not the bit about the full investigation, but the fact that they have the incident on film. Lisa might not receive any compensation, but she could still get £250 from You've Been Framed.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

It was amateur sex night in the Gardner household yesterday. I admit I'm no expert, but I've watched a lot of videos online, looked at a few photos (some of them explicit), and having read a lot of gynaecological information in recent weeks, I felt it was about time I had a go.

So I'm going to stick my neck out, and say that we've got two girl kittens and a boy. I think this one's a girl...

We've given each kitten a Native American style name, based on its key characteristic. So that one's Bad Eye. Her left eye repeatedly got stuck shut around the age of three weeks, but with regular treatment from an experienced eye care professional (that's me), she appears to be fine now. So we might have to change her name to Good Eye.

This little lady is Big Kitten...

While the other two spend their time sleeping and playing, Big Kitten's constantly stuffing her face with milk. As a result, she's always been the largest. She's also slightly lighter in colour than the others, so I think she takes after her Mum. Interestingly, despite being the biggest in size, she's also the least likely to explore the outside world. If you plonk her down in the middle of the living room, she makes a bee-line for the back of the sofa. At first I thought she was shy and insecure, but in reality I think she's just looking for another feed.

So those are the pussycat dolls, and this is the boy of the band...

That's Good Walker. So called because when the other two were still wobbling around like newborn deer, he was striding confidently across the living room floor like a lion. In the past couple of days, however, Big Kitten has improved in leaps and bounds, and is giving him a run for his money. So if he suddenly puts on a growth spurt, we might have to swap their names. It's ironic, because if there's one kitten you'd expect to be running constantly, it's Bad Eye.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

I was reading my employers' latest 'Equality Bulletin' yesterday, in an effort to become less racist, sexist and homophobic, and to my delight, it featured a fantastic article under the heading 'Case Law Update'. Admittedly, it doesn't sound like the kind of headline that makes you want to read on, but it was well worth the effort. It turned out to be a brief report on an employment tribunal entitled 'Stone v Ramsay Health Care UK Operations Ltd', in which the claimant was awarded £18,000 in compensation after suffering discrimination at work.

Being a public legal document, the full judgement is available online, and if you're ever at a loose end on a wet Wednesday afternoon, I can thoroughly recommend browsing through that PDF. It's like reading a script from 'The Office'. Only funnier and more cringe-worthy. Not even Rumpole of the Bailey made law so entertaining.

The case involves a lady called Michelle Stone (the claimant), who was a General Manager at the Winfield Hospital in Tewkesbury, when she fell pregnant and subsequently went off on maternity leave. She was replaced by an interim manager called Tania Terblanche. Which is where the problems started. Now, I'm sure Tania's a lovely lady and is kind to animals, children and the sick, but when it comes to the sisterhood, her opinions leave something to be desired. According to the tribunal, once she was in position, "Ms Terblanche expressed her view that it was ridiculous for a woman to take 12 months' maternity leave". And I, for one, agree with her. They should get five years at least. But unfortunately for Tania, Michelle opted to take her full entitlement.

You'd think that Tania would be pleased to get the manager's job for a year, but apparently not. Michelle worked right up until Friday 5th February 2010, and on Monday the 8th she gave birth via caesarean section. Two days later, on Wednesday the 10th, she received an e-mail from Tania which read:

"Hi Michelle. I think you should give me your views on the email below. Do you have any suggestions? Your feedback would be much appreciated. Regards Tania."

I'm sure Michelle would have loved to do a bit of work for her interim replacement, but sadly she was in hospital at the time, drugged up to the eyeballs with painkillers, with a newborn baby by her side. So the e-mail went unanswered. Fortunately Tania's a patient woman, so she gave Michelle another two days, before instructing her PA to phone the woman on Friday the 10th, and tell her to respond to the e-mail.

Personally I would have responded. Ideally with a few swear words. But instead, Michelle calmly explained to the PA that the reason she's on maternity leave is because SHE'S JUST HAD A BLOODY BABY, and that having only just arrived home from hospital with some prescription drugs and a four-day old child, it's probably not the best time to be hassling her for some unpaid work.

You'd think that might have been the end of it. But oh no. The tribunal report states that "Thereafter, through March, Ms Terblanche continued emailing the claimant on a number of occasions asking her questions and seeking information and advice". After all, it was "ridiculous" for her to be taking maternity leave just because she's had a baby, so why shouldn't she keep responding to work e-mails? She's getting maternity pay; surely it's the least she could do?

Michelle disagreed, and stopped responding. So what did Tania do? She wrote a formal letter of complaint to their manager, raising a grievance against Michelle, and stating that "she had felt unsupported by the claimant when the claimant was away on maternity leave".

I love that. But not as much as I love this direct quote from the employment tribunal's published report:

"Ms Terblanche thought the claimant was unprofessional and that it was all down to her hormones."

Marvellous. Michelle Stone was awarded £18,000 in compensation for the injury to her feelings, but frankly I think it was worth a lot more. You'd have to pay a fortune for a comedy script that good. I might turn it into a movie.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

It's less than forty-eight hours since Shimmy dropped her kittens down the back of the armchair, and The Argus have already got hold of the story...

Apparently it's all to do with a double-dip recession. So there's every chance she'll drop them down there again.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Q. What do you get if you cross this...

... with this..?

The answer is a mini crisis on a Sunday night. They say that when the cat's away, the mice play, but in our case, it's the cats who play up when Amelie's out of town.

As the first photo above demonstrates, Amelie's spent the weekend dressing up as her Grandad in my parents' kitchen. We needed her out of the way so that we could raise a toast to the happy couple without being asked for more peanut butter. It also gave me the chance to write my article for the American ophthalmology journal. Which was a chance I miraculously took yesterday afternoon, after procrastinating since Friday.

You would think that Amelie's absence would make the kittens' lives easier, but as it turned out, she managed to put the cat back into panic attack without even being here. Mainly because she left her bedroom unattended. I was in the bath at 9 o'clock last night when I suddenly heard Shimmy miaowing at the top of her voice. I naturally assumed that Lisa was terrorising the kittens by cuddling them against their mother's will, so I shouted at her to leave them alone, but she called back to say she hadn't touched them.

When the miaowing continued, my first thought was that Shimmy was going into labour again, so I began to wonder if I should save my bath water to drown a new litter. At which point Lisa broke the silence by shouting "The kittens have gone!" in a slightly panicked voice.

Two minutes later, I was out of the bath and searching the flat in a towel. There were no kittens behind the TV, or anywhere in sight, but Shimmy was clearly trying to tell us something. Namely that she was in a parenting pickle. It transpired that whilst I was in the bath, Lisa was in the kitchen and Amelie was in St Leonards, Shimmy had decided to move the kittens into Am's bedroom. Which is like entering the lion's den for a small cat, and something she'd never have done if the beast was in residence.

Unfortunately, in her efforts to move house, Shimmy had managed to drop all three kittens behind Am's big armchair, before realising that she couldn't get down there herself. Which is when she'd turned to us for assistance. So while Shimmy shouted her encouragement, I proceeded to move Amelie's bed, a CD rack, my big guitar case, two toy boxes and an armchair, before squeezing into the corner of the bedroom and retrieving three small kittens. We then shut her out of there before she did it again.

Ironically, despite having come close to losing her offspring in a freak armchair-related accident, Shimmy refused to move the kittens back to the safety of the princess tent. And she wouldn't leave them in the cat bed under the table either. So they're now behind the sofa in the living room. It's their third home in as many weeks. They're like a trio of big fat gypsies.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

If, like me, you've ever wondered what it would look like if Miranda Hart and Taylor Swift met Buster Bloodvessel at a wedding, here's your answer...

It's not easy getting the composition right when you're holding the camera in one outstretched hand. I was actually trying to photograph the buffet. Let's face it, it was my main reason for being there.

But despite looking like Jonathan Antoine with alopecia, I had a nice time at the wedding yesterday. Although at £6.50 for a glass of wine, I was glad that Lisa's tee-total. I bought her a Coke for £1.80 and we left it at that. The nuptials were held at Newick Park, which might sound like a band (with swings) who should be playing at the Dome, but is actually a country house hotel in the middle of nowhere. It's a Grade II listed Georgian building set in 255 acres of private parkland. Which makes it a challenge trying to find your car when you leave at 11pm and realise there are no lights outside.

The blonde bombshell in the photo above isn't the bride, it's our good friend H (named after the gay one in Steps). We've already been to her wedding. Admittedly I probably should have been photographing the happy couple, but there were plenty of other people doing that, and I felt that what this occasion really needed was more photos of us. Sadly, H's husband couldn't be in that particular portrait as he was unconscious at the time. £6.50 wasn't enough to put him off.

But marriages aside, the other happy event to take place yesterday was Chloe's first visit to the vet in more than three months. When she was last there in January, they waved her off with a £400 bill, and the advice that if she didn't pick up within three days, I should take her back to be put down. But like a feline Rasputin, she refuses to die, and in the last three months has staged the kind of recovery rarely seen since Lazarus. Lisa thinks it's the arrival of Shimmy which is keeping her young, and I tend to agree. Amelie's been bothering Shimmy so much, she's no longer sending Chloe to an early grave.

Chloe's been living on the tablets of the dead since February, but they're on the verge of running out, so I was forced back to the vet yesterday to beg for some more. It turned out to be a far more pleasant experience than last time. I saw yet another different vet, who was actually a lot nicer, and by the time I left, she'd convinced me that I'm the owner of a miracle cat.

It transpires that since the end of January, Chloe has gained 15% in body weight, which is not only wonderful, but unheard of. The vet said that in cases like hers, the best they usually hope for is for the cat to maintain its weight at the same level. Most actually go downhill. Chloe's the first cat she's come across to have fattened back up to a healthy size. She also said that a lot of cats become anaemic, but that Chloe has the bright pink gums of a red-blooded lion.

So I'm clearly doing something right. I just wish I knew what.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

It's my sister's 40th birthday today, which is the perfect excuse to publish this photo...

We were both on a horse at the time. I've got a whip in my hand, and Sis is wearing Jodhpurs. It's such a shame they had to crop the photo.

She'll be celebrating in style later on today with a night out in the party capital of the south: Devizes. The guest list includes the director of this masterpiece, so there's every chance of tonight's events forming the basis of a new ITV2 series called 'The Only Way is Wiltshire'.

Tragically, however, despite receiving invitations via Facebook, Lisa and I are unable to attend, due to having something better to do. An old friend of Lisa's is getting married today, and having weighed up the pros and cons of both invitations, we've decided that whilst Big Sis has a birthday pretty much every year, Lisa's friend is unlikely to get married more than two or three times. So we're going to the wedding. The free food looked better too.

We have, however, cancelled one of Amelie's swimming lessons so that we can see Big Sis next Saturday. So if Am drowns in the bath the week after, we'll know who to blame. In the meantime, I'd like to wish Sis a VERY HAPPY 40TH BIRTHDAY from the three of us. I just know you'll get everything you want. As long as you still want towels.

But while I'm here, there's one other person I'd like to say hello to, and that's author and illustrator extraordinaire, Lydia Monks. Or 'The Lady Who Puts Glitter on Every Page', as Amelie calls her. Having written about her here last Sunday, I was naturally quite excited to find that Lydia herself had read my blog and left a comment. Although Lisa's reaction when I told her was to look panicked and say "Oh my god, you called her foxy!". She always sees the negatives, that woman.

Fortunately Lydia's a lot more easygoing in nature. Not only has she put my video on her blog, but she's also tweeted about me...

... and most touching of all, she's offered to send Amelie a little something in the post. It's probably a cease and desist order, but even so, we're thrilled.

Friday, May 11, 2012

The thing about writing a public blog is that there's always someone lurking in the shadows behind you and looking over your shoulder...

I'm particularly worried about the small one on the left with her tongue out. But as it happens, there are other, even more articulate, stalkers in my life. Like the bloke on the right with the top that appears to say ASBO.

Back in 2005, when King Nicholas was riding high in the best-seller lists and making personal appearances on the Richard & Judy Show, he appointed me 'Blogger Laureate of the Copeman Empire', and stuck a link to this place on his website. I must have had, oooh... at least two or three visitors via that link. Here's one. And the other's in the photo above.

The chap with the copycat hairstyle is actually BS6 (a name which has more to do with his postcode, and less to do with the amount of rubbish he talks), and he's been reading this blog for the past seven years. I've told him he needs to get out more, and he's clearly taken my advice by driving all the way to Brighton. When he's not escaping from the home, he lives in Bristol, which is unfortunate as I refuse to travel west of Devizes without a combine harvester and a cattle prod, so despite knowing of each other's existence since 2005, we've actually never met. Although I'd be happy for him to marry my sister.

The young lady doing her best to make me look like Zaphod Beeblebrox is his good friend from the west country. She lives in Taunton, so I'll call her TA1. It's like we're all secret agents. We could probably lock each other in holdalls if we wanted to. Anyhoo, in addition to being head and shoulders above me, TA1 can also stand on her own two feet...

That photo was taken by the waitress at 'La Gigo Gi', an Italian café in New Road which was also responsible for singing 'Ooh Aah Just a Little Bit' at the 1996 Eurovision Song Contest. I think. We chose it as a suitable meeting place because it's just a stone's throw from the Brighton Dome. Which explains the broken windows. Much as I'd like to think that our two friends drove all the way from Somerset just to meet me, they also had tickets to see Maximo Park. Who are a band, not a tourist attraction. So don't make the same mistake as Amelie, and ask if they have swings.

Anyhoo, having swapped mobile numbers on Facebook and hacked each other's voicemail, we successfully arranged to meet after work last night for a coffee and a cake. And very nice it was too. Within seconds of meeting, we discovered how much we have in common: they'd booked into 'The Pussy Room' at the Hotel Pelirocco, and I'd spent the night sleeping in the lounge with the kittens.

La Gigo Gi closes at 6:30pm on a weekday, but fortunately, if you've travelled 200 miles to be there, and have a lot to talk about, they'll let you stay until seven. We were there for a good hour, chatting about the old days when my blog wasn't just about Amelie, and I could play the guitar without painkillers. BS6 plays in a band with a name so memorable, he'd forgotten it. Apparently it's something to do with fish, but isn't Marillion. I think it might have been Codplay. He's coveted my Bloody Nightmare guitar for the past five years, so with my arthritis the way it is, I'm tempted to let him have it. These days, the only bloody nightmare I can play with is Amelie.

BS6 also tried to explain what he does for a living, but not even TA1 understood it, and she's met him before, so I didn't really stand much chance. It's a shame he's not a publisher, otherwise I'd have a book deal by now. He was also quite impressed with Amelie's photography, so I think she's on the verge of getting an agent. He particularly liked this shot...

... although she followed that up with this one...

... which was a bit of a waist.

All in all, it was a very happy hour with some exceptional company. Although it almost went wrong when the awning above us decided to shed its entire load of rainwater over the table next door. For one heart-stopping moment, I thought I'd been lured into a professional hit.

But we managed to make it out of there alive and unwashed, clutching a handful of quality gifts. Not only did we receive some gourmet confection from Hotel Chocolat (which is somewhere I'd like to stay), but Amelie was given a Peppa Pig magazine and a 'Learn to Draw a Cat' art kit. The back of the box says "This pack contains everything you need to have great fun capturing your pets on paper". Although judging by the way she tried to wrap Chloe last Christmas, she's pretty much there already.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

I've been out this evening, meeting one of my long-term stalkers for the first time. So I feel I should post something just to reassure people that I haven't been hacked to death by an axe murderer over a cup of hot chocolate. Unfortunately I'm too tired to write anything. So instead, here's a photo of Amelie programming the laptop while CBeebies broadcasts a picture of the female reproductive system...

I'll write about tonight when she's finished Photoshopping the pictures she took.

Wednesday, May 09, 2012

Sometimes in life, you're hit by a coincidence so happy, so unlikely, and so perfectly timed, that it makes you think Richard Dawkins could be wrong after all.

I discovered this morning that back in the early nineties, twenty years before our fat stray cat squatted down at the side of the sofa, wiggled her pelvis, and squeezed out a few babies, a band called The Kaisers accurately prophesied the event with a song called 'Hip Shake Shimmy Kitten'. Which is handy, as I needed a backing track for this video...

I'll be honest: my heart stopped at 1:15 when Shimmy grabbed that kitten by the jugular and went into a death roll. But apparently it's normal behaviour. I'm tempted to try it with Amelie. She might be more inclined to do what I say if she thinks I'm genuinely trying to kill her.

What I like about that video is that it encapsulates the whole experience of parenthood in less than four minutes. You've got two kids stuffing their faces, one who just wants a cuddle, and a mother who starts off contented and relaxed, reaches the point where she could happily kill 'em all, and then realises she needs some time on her own before she goes mental.

Anyhoo, if you're wondering why the kittens were lounging on the living room floor instead of camping out behind the TV in a princess tent, it's because I was performing major eye surgery on them last night. I spoke to Lisa's Mum about her cataract op at the weekend, so it gave me the confidence to try out a few techniques. Although I'm not sure how accurate her information was. When I asked her who performed the operation, she told me she didn't know, because she had a bag over her head. Which is a technique I thought they only used on budgies.

But that aside, we noticed on Monday that one of the kittens still had one eye closed. At the time I assumed it was winking at us knowingly, but when Lisa examined them yesterday morning, she found that one of its litter-mates, who had previously been bright-eyed and bushy tailed, now had one eye stuck shut. She did a bit of research on the internet, and discovered that it's quite a common problem, so having verified that there wasn't a nasty infection present, I headed to Boots after work yesterday for some sterile cotton gauze.

A bit of gentle dabbing later, and the vision of cuteness was soon restored...

Percy Shaw would be proud of me.

Tuesday, May 08, 2012

Amelie's behaviour might be more suited to the St Trinians pre-school, but her capacity to learn knows no bounds. We get half an hour of sunshine, and she's already memorised the words to The Spring Song from CBeebies...

She's got a lot of friends in the music business too. There's a cameo from Slash at the end. He's appearing on her forearm.

Monday, May 07, 2012

Sadly, I've failed to find much time to write a blog post today, due to being busy arguing with Amelie since about eight-thirty this morning. It would have been earlier, but Lisa kindly covered the previous two hours for me.

I don't know what's got into the girl today, but she appears to be doing a bit of bank holiday DIY on the starting of World War III. Argumentative three-year-olds might not be anything new, but we've reached the stage now where even if you agree with her, she'll scream at you for stealing her opinion. Not only is it impossible to win, but she'll barely let you play the game.

So Lisa's currently looking up boarding schools on the internet and checking whether we can cash-in her trust fund. We've already attempted to drown her, but sadly the swimming school supplied her with armbands this afternoon. Interestingly, despite playing us up all morning and all evening, the two hours Amelie spent at the swimming pool this afternoon were filled with obedience, respect and cheerful compliance. She wouldn't dream of answering back to a lifeguard, but the moment we ask her to do anything, she starts re-enacting The Exorcist.

So it's been a horror story of a day. And the girl's been a bit of a killer. But the good news is we've got reinforcements on the way. Give it a couple of months and we can set her baby brother on her.

Sunday, May 06, 2012

Just look at that fish-featured old woman with the ridiculous blonde hair, showing way too much flesh in a shapeless blue dress...

Well, holding her is Julia Donaldson! I haven't been so excited since Lisa met Augusten Burroughs.

For anyone over four-foot tall who prefers books without pictures and has no idea who I'm talking about, Julia Donaldson is the current Children's Laureate, and author of 'The Gruffalo', 'Sharing a Shell', 'What the Ladybird Heard' and numerous other tales that Amelie can recite off by heart. She's been this family's favourite author since Lisa put down the childcare manuals and started reading to her daughter. Which was about three-and-a-half years ago.

At the last count, Amelie had twelve Julia Donaldson books, and having read them all about a hundred times, I can tell you they're a darn sight better than pretty much any other children's literature currently on offer. Admittedly I'm still a 'Some Dogs Do' man at heart, but if Amelie refuses to let me read that one, I'll insist on Julia every time. She's like a modern day Shakespeare in a world of Dan Browns. And she's not averse to dressing like a sheep...

The rabbit on the left is her husband Malcolm. He's a qualified doctor. So not only is the NHS on its knees, but it's wearing bunny ears too.

Julia and Malcolm were appearing the Brighton Dome today as part of the Brighton Festival, alongside illustrator Lydia Monks, who is perhaps best known for drawing a picture of me with a tache. But if you think they were the only people on stage this morning, you'd be wrong. Here they are with Amelie!

Not our Amelie, obviously. She's been through a lot of difficult stages, but has yet to tackle the one at the Brighton Dome. Instead, the line-up above features Lydia Monks on the left (who's as foxy as a character from The Gruffalo), plus Julia Donaldson's great-nieces Lola and Amelie. The pensioners on the right, who look like they've won a competition to be there, are actually old friends of the Donaldsons, who assisted with the reading and performing.

As an ensemble cast, they were flawless. Malcolm played the guitar, Lola and Amelie acted, and Julia sang her heart out whilst dressed as an alien. They even got some kids up from the audience to take part in the show...

Just out of shot were another five hundred children with their hands up and an overwhelming sense of disappointment. Our daughter was one of them. But despite not making it into the line-up, there was a lot for Am to enjoy. Lydia did some live illustration with audience participation...

And there was a performance of my favourite Julia Donaldson book, 'What the Ladybird Heard'...

Amelie's been performing it since last summer of course, but she lacks the full range of hats. She did, however, tell me that she could do a much better goose than the girl on stage. She was also bitterly disappointed that I didn't get to be the farmer.

To be honest though, that wasn't her only disappointment. Having thoroughly enjoyed the show, Amelie was keen to get her copy of 'The Princess and the Wizard' signed by the authors, but despite leaving the auditorium as promptly as possible, we arrived in the foyer to find the kind of queue rarely seen since the South African election of '94. We joined it for about five minutes, but when the usher informed us that it was likely to take an hour to reach the front, common sense prevailed, and we abandoned our mission, leaving Amelie outside in the cold, peering longingly through the window at her all-time favourite author...

The reflection in that window which looks like Ranulph Fiennes on a polar expedition is actually Lisa on the south coast in May. She read yesterday's blog post, and decided to go prepared.

The good news, however, is that there's one sure-fire way of curing a three-year-old's disappointment...

And that's with the world's tallest burger. We rounded off our circular trip to the Dome by setting sail for the Marina, where we had lunch at the West Quay. By the time we left, we'd not only eaten some wonderful food, but devoured some great literature too. Amelie insisted on us reading 'The Princess and the Wizard' at the table. It made a change from the menu. And was cheaper than a main course too.

Saturday, May 05, 2012

As a flag-waving member of the cultural elite, Amelie can often be seen supporting high profile arts festivals, and hob-nobbing with fellow culture-vultures, showbiz luvvies, and movers and shakers...

Although she'll ignore Patsy Palmer at every opportunity...

I think it's a class thing. She'll blank an EastEnders actress from Tower Hamlets, but the moment a political leader with a PhD walks past, her head turns...

That's Caroline Lucas in the background. Not the lady with the sack of apples, but the woman in black walking past her.

So clearly Amelie's more Green than Bethnal Green, but if you really want to catch her attention, you need a veteran actress from a showbusiness dynasty...

Or failing that, an old woman in a headscarf. Even the addition of a red thunderbolt doesn't really make her stand out.

So you'll have to take my word for it: that's Vanessa Redgrave. Acting isn't all about glamour, you know. Sometimes you have to trudge through the streets of Brighton on a freezing cold day in May, just to put food on the table. She's probably wishing she was back at Dale Farm.

Anyhoo, today was the start of the 2012 Brighton Festival, and needless to say, I'm not one to miss out on a free event, so I took Amelie into town this morning to watch the traditional festival curtain-raiser: the Children's Parade. Although the age limit was clearly raised this year to allow Vanessa to take part.

The theme of the 2012 parade was 'The Story of Stories', a clear and narrow definition, which basically allowed the kids to dress up as anything they wanted. We had hippos, dragons, Shakespeare, Hansel & Gretel, a few Egyptians, a Samba band, a horse with wings, Alice in Wonderland, and this...

I didn't quite get the full story with that one. I think it's about throwing the baby out with the bathwater.

In addition, there was a retelling of The Three Little Pigs, featuring a straw house, a Big Bad Wolf, and a load of children with placards. I thought it was a demonstration about local policing. In the end, I went off in a huff before they brought the house down.

All in all, it was a decent parade, but one which was let down by a few important elements. In a very literal sense. The weather was freezing. Quite honestly, I haven't been so cold since we rode the Frostbite Express last September. By the time the 45th school paraded past, Amelie looked like a Smurf, and I could no longer feel my fingers. We had to leave early while we still had circulation to our feet. Another five minutes and I'd have stolen Vanessa Redgrave's headscarf just to wrap around my face.

We're heading back to the festival tomorrow, but this time things should be a lot warmer. Not only is our next event indoors, but we've got the hottest ticket in town...

It's like Shakespeare for the under-nines. And I couldn't be more excited. Although the tickets say 'ADULTS UNACCOMPANIED BY A CHILD WILL NOT BE ADMITTED', so if Amelie refuses to go, I'm in trouble.

Friday, May 04, 2012

I was walking past the hospital this morning, and there was a car parked outside the oncology department with the registration number S18 TRV. A large white screw had been positioned quite deliberately on the number plate at the bottom of the 8, so that it looked like an 'R'. Now, I'm not one to start a rumour, but has Sir Trevor McDonald got cancer? Or was it just Brooking opening another facility? Either way, I'm phoning Heat magazine.

On the subject of hospital care, I've yet to speak to the victim of yesterday's eye-popping operation, but apparently she made it through the night, and has been visited by Lisa and Amelie this morning. They're keeping an eye on her. Lisa prepared Amelie for the visit by telling her that Nanny would be wearing an eye patch. Which prompted Amelie to ask "Is she pretending to be a pirate?"

As for Lisa, she's still suffering from shock, as she only discovered yesterday that cataract surgery involves a scalpel. She thought it was all done with lasers. Frankly with that level of knowledge, she'd get on well with my patients. Having learnt the truth, she's now unable to discuss the operation for fear of fainting, and is requesting that I shoot her the moment her vision drops below 6/12. I've said I'll be happy to oblige.

In the meantime, she's still waiting to hear back from the Brighton Bus Company. I'm tempted to write and complain that they haven't responded within the three working days they promise, but they'd probably never reply. I can only assume they're scrutinising the CCTV footage and interviewing the driver. He's probably swearing at them as we speak.

In other news, I've found a way into the princess tent, and can finally check on the kittens...

I thought they were well hidden behind the TV, and safe from prying eyes under a layer of pink canvas, but someone's given them a toy mouse and two balls.

Thursday, May 03, 2012

People often say to me, "Doctor, can you check my cataracts for me?", which is a difficult question on so many levels. I generally tell them I can't do it without my stethoscope, and leave it at that. But the fact remains that I spend a lot of my working life indulging in protracted cataract chat with people of a certain age.

As the knowledgeable and experienced ophthalmic surgeon I'm often mistaken for, I'm regularly asked about the intricate details of pseudophakia (which is someone who pretends to sleep on a bed of nails), and whilst I have a working knowledge of cataract surgery, it's only really working part-time on the minimum wage. And it phones in sick a lot.

So what I really need is someone with first-hand experience of being at the sharp end of the surgeon's knife, who can fill in the gaps in my knowledge, and provide me with the insider information I need. Someone prepared to go undercover into the very heart of the operating theatre, and report back on what they find. Assuming they come through the anaesthetic without permanent brain damage.

And the good news is that I've found someone. I've successfully persuaded Lisa's Mum to take one for the team by having one of her cataracts removed this morning, just to help with my research. Admittedly it might improve her vision too, but primarily I just want to hear all the gory details, and have a look at her stitches.

She was booked in for 9:30 this morning, and word has reached me from the Sussex Eye Hospital that the operation was completed successfully. They're hoping to tag and release her this afternoon. She was originally planning to recuperate by spending the night at our flat and letting me debrief her on the sofa, but the last I heard, she was insisting on going back home. Either she's heard about Amelie's night-time conversations, or she's worried she'll get a kitten in the face.

Wednesday, May 02, 2012

Lisa's Mum, who not only buys The Argus every day, but is occasionally in it, often passes her old copies onto us, partly for our journalistic enjoyment, but mainly to line our cat litter tray. Before passing them on, she has a habit of highlighting any relevant or interesting stories in each issue by scribbling notes on the front in biro, which I think is why they agreed to publish my articles - I told them my mother-in-law's writing often appears on the front page.

So I was emptying the litter tray last night, when I found this...

I've never turned the page so fast. Which is surprising, as I was simultaneously phoning a divorce lawyer with my other hand.

As it transpired, however, Lisa wasn't topless in the local paper. It was just an article of interest to her. But I'm hoping her coverage might increase (as I would be if she had been topless) when The Argus run their 'Local Woman Wins Massive Compensation Payout from Brighton Bus Company' story. Unfortunately, we're still waiting to hear on that score. Lisa e-mailed Brighton Buses with a letter of complaint on Sunday afternoon, and their website states that they aim to reply within three working days, but so far they're remaining tight-lipped. Which is probably just as well, as the last employee who spoke to Lisa said 'F**k it'.

A couple of people have suggested to us that Lisa hire a no-win-no-fee accident lawyer, but it appears that in order to claim, you have to be injured, and sadly (for our bank balance at least), the only things hurt were her pride and her feelings. And they're financially worthless. So I don't think it's a goer.

In the meantime, the family health situation continues to go downhill. Amelie's passed on her sore throat to me, so I've spent the day sucking lozenges and talking to patients with the gravelly tones of the bloke who does the film trailer voiceovers. As for the kittens, they're still in Amelie's tent behind the TV, but I'm considering moving them, as I feel their current location has serious quality of life issues. Not for the kittens, obviously, but for Lisa, who's missing them terribly and is liable to sink into prenatal depression if she can't coo over them at least six times a day.

So to be honest, none of us are feeling great at the moment. I spent another night glamping it up on the living room floor, which left Lisa with the dubious pleasure of sharing a bed with Amelie. And even at 3am with a sore throat, the girl doesn't shut up. So having been the victim of incessant chatting for most of the night, Lisa's feeling pretty rough too.

The good news, however, is that despite being ill in the middle of the night, Amelie can still spare a thought for her old man. She woke Lisa up in the small hours of this morning to say this:



"I love Daddy, and I don't want him to be eaten by a monster".

Her and me both.