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Thursday, August 29, 2013

As it transpired, Lisa and I both had important phone calls to make first thing this morning. After crossing my fingers as I dialed, I managed to get through to the surgery, and arranged to see my doctor at 9:40am, while Lisa got through to her sister and arranged a trip on the Brighton Wheel...

It's like three Roy Orbisons and a handful of munchkins. And that's not a cheetah on Amelie's back.

The rest of my family spent the day running around the Brighton Pavilion maze (after Amelie had asked if a maze is a type of corn), before having lunch at Harry Ramsden's, and then riding the wheel on the seafront. Meanwhile, I was at the doctor's, being given a four-week course of high-strength antibiotics. Amelie might think she had a feelgood day to remember, but it's nothing compared to the month I'm about to have.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

The steely gaze, the clenched fists and the well-built body of a wrestler...

Yes, that's my mother. And kneeling beside her is my son. Although he's dressed in camouflage gear, so you might not be able to see him in front of that tree.

The tragedy of my family is that due to extreme poverty, we're forced to share a pair of trousers, which means that I can never appear in a photo with my Mum. I can, however, pose with my children...

Although if I want a photo of my daughter with my brother, I have to pass on the family slacks...

He's taken the shirt off my back too. Although I wear it inside out, so that people won't know I'm a Rush fan.

Anyhoo, the best thing about birthdays is getting your family to visit with presents. So having celebrated Lisa's advanced years on Sunday, we welcomed my brother and his family to St Leonards in the afternoon. Obviously we didn't welcome them quite enough to give them a bed, but it didn't matter, as they were spending the night in Buenos Aires, so they couldn't really stay.

By some miracle, they made it back from there by late morning on Monday, and by lunchtime we were all soaking up the sun in Gensing Gardens. My brother and his wife have recently returned from Southwold, where they had the sheer good fortune to witness the Cirque Du Hilarious (that's twelve quid and an evening they'll never get back), so having enjoyed (and I use that word loosely) the skills of Dangerous Alan, my brother was keen to risk his life - and that of my daughter - with some daredevil open-air stunts...

I think the main danger is to the frame of that Peppa Pig bike, but despite being ridden at speed by a man old enough to know better, it somehow remained intact.

Which is more than I can say for myself. I mentioned nine days ago that my chronic prostatitis had flared up, as it has a habit of doing every two or three months. I've been on a selective alpha blocker for the past four years, which I'm supposed to be on for life, and which limits the pain to about five episodes a year. Much like a Ben Elton sitcom.

Unfortunately, having experienced this season's collection of suffering the weekend before last, it returned on Bank Holiday Monday for another go, and this time refuses to leave. I've felt as rough as a Syrian for the past forty-eight hours, and for the first time in four years, am in need of some antibiotics.

Unfortunately it's currently easier to see Nessie than any of the GPs at my surgery. Despite phoning up first thing this morning, they're refusing to pre-book ANY appointments with ANY doctor for either Thursday or Friday (the only two days I can make it), and are insisting that I phone up on the day. Which is not very helpful when you work for a living, and would like to let your manager know if you'll be in or not. I've basically had to take a leaf out of the IRA's book and give him a coded warning that I could go off at any time. I'd be cursing the NHS if I didn't work for it.

So while I curl up in a corner and slowly die whilst pressing the redial button, here's a photo of a masked member of the Village People doing the YMCA on one leg...

She's having a ball.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

It's Lisa's birthday!

And I've bought her a piano. We needed something to put all her cards on.

I'm joking of course. She only got six. Frankly we could have fit them all on a spice rack. Oh, and I didn't buy her a piano either. I did, however, arrange for Nana Mouskouri to pop round and perform an open air concert in celebration of her birthday...

It's no wonder the Greek economy is in trouble.

Anyhoo, Nana Mouskouri's love of motoring aside, the reason for Lisa's apparent unpopularity is that we left home on Friday, before the inevitable weekend deluge of birthday cards, and are currently at my parents' house in St Leonards. As we speak, the postman's probably back there in Brighton, trying to shove the five hundredth gift through our letterbox, and charging Royal Mail a fortune in overtime.

I was intending to finish work at 4pm on Friday, so that we could drive over here before sundown, but as it transpired I was asked to pop up to East Grinstead at short notice to screen the former Prime Minister of a commonwealth country. Which is not what I was expecting when I got up that morning. So by the time I'd staked my claim to a mention in the new year's honours list, and battled my way back through the bank holiday traffic, it was 6pm and I hadn't even packed. As a result, when 9pm came, and I should have been relaxing on my parents' sofa in St Leonards, telling anecdotes about major world leaders, I was actually queuing with my family at the drive-thru McDonalds in Polegate.

As it happens, Friday had been a momentous day in other respects too. It marked the end of Amelie's intensive week of swimming lessons, which had seen her go from drifting with armbands, to swimming entire widths unaided in both front crawl and backstroke. So as a reward, Lisa e-mailed Channel 5 and asked for someone to give her a thumbs-up live on air. We were hoping for Rylan on Big Brother's Bit on the Side, but to our surprise, Amelie got a mention on Friday morning's Milkshake, just after Fifi & the Flowertots. The presenter congratulated our daughter on her swimming success, and gave her two thumbs up. It was a memorable moment. Which is just as well, as we didn't record it.

Our reasons for spending another weekend with my parents were to take advantage of their babysitting services, so that I could take Lisa out for a meal. We duly did that yesterday afternoon, enjoying a couple of hours of fine dining at one of Hastings' swankiest restaurants. Namely, Pizza Express. Amelie and I also walked to the nearest bakery for a selection of cakes for Lisa. And then ate them on the way home.

The food which shows the most love, however, is the food you make yourself. So I arranged Lisa's toast in the shape of a heart this morning...

To be honest, it was more of a pile than a heart, but it's the thought that counts. That photo was taken at 8:30am, by which time Amelie had already had a time-out, and Lisa was threatening to walk out. Or she would have been if she'd had the energy. Amelie seems to find the concept of other people's birthdays quite difficult, so she's not been an easy child today. Lisa and I are planning to be really grumpy on her birthday, just to see how she likes it.

But in the meantime, we're trying to keep smiling. So thank you to the people who sent the cards pictured above, and Happy Birthday, Lisa. You might have more fours to your name than an England cricketer, but I love you very much. xxx

Thursday, August 22, 2013

With the advent of the internet, and helpful sources of child-friendly information like, you might think that kids are no longer looking up stuff in books. Well, I'm pleased to say, that's not the case. Amelie has somehow got her hands on a free parenting booklet from the NSPCC, entitled 'Encouraging Better Behaviour', so she's currently flicking through it on the sofa and telling us where we're going wrong. In a slightly rude manner.

But in addition to that, this week marked a major milestone in her development, as she managed to independently answer her own question by researching the answer in a book. I was genuinely proud of her. And that's without reading the positive parenting book. It all stemmed from a gift I bought her on Monday. Lisa had texted me at work to say how well Amelie had done at her swimming lesson, so I decided to pop out at lunchtime and buy her a reward.

Naturally, no amount of money is too much when it comes to your own children, so I chose to push the boat out and spend 99p in a charity shop. That pound (plus change) bought me a cuddly cat backpack, which serves the dual purpose of looking very cute and giving her somewhere to put the filthy old junk she picks up off the street.

The cat in question was a spotty one of the big and wild variety, and when I gave it to her on Monday evening, she asked me if it was a cheetah or a leopard. I told her it was a backpack. She's been slightly obsessed with cheetahs since we saw one at Paignton Zoo, and she hears the word a lot on Jeremy Kyle, so after her father had failed to answer her question in the definitive way she'd hoped for, she decided it was a cheetah and went off backpacking across the living room.

It was about half an hour later that she came rushing up to me with a look of excitement, and told me that her backpack was actually a leopard, not a cheetah. I asked her how she knew, and she produced her evidence in the form of a book. It's a book called 'Predators', which was bought for her a few months ago by my parents in an effort to stop her sleeping at night. It contains all kinds of useful information about death, pain and suffering in the animal kingdom, and (to my slight surprise) Amelie loves it. I'm regularly forced to read her graphic accounts of the ways in which animals kill each other. Frankly she can't get enough of it.

So when I'd failed to identify her backpack, she'd gone straight to her book and looked up both the leopard and the cheetah, discovering that whilst cheetahs have black spots, leopards have brown and black rosettes. As does her backpack. I didn't complicate matters by pointing out that jaguars do too. The point is that she'd managed to answer her own question by doing some independent research in a book. And she's not even five. Obviously in a couple of years time, she'll be doing that on a smartphone at the back of the classroom, but for now it's quite impressive.

She's not, however, the only one accomplishing great feats of awesomeness on an almost daily basis. I put up a new towel rail in the bathroom last night. No, really. Amelie broke the last one by attempting to swing like a monkey from the door to the toilet, so I decided to treat my family to a bit of luxury by purchasing a new one for five quid from Wilkinsons. It's a touch of quality, and as Lisa said to me last night, it smartens up the whole flat. Which gives you an idea of the squalor we live in.

I fitted it yesterday evening after Amelie went to bed, and when she got up this morning, she came running out of the bathroom full of bouncy enthusiasm, and said "Daddy! I've just seen the new towel rail! And I love it!"

No doubt she'll have broken it by the weekend, but at the moment it's nice to be appreciated. It's just a good job I didn't spend six quid. She'd have exploded with excitement.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Amelie might have finished at nursery, but the good news is that she's found other sources of worldly knowledge and learned wisdom to tide her over until she starts school. I was agonising yesterday over what to buy Lisa for her birthday (which is this Sunday if you want to hang out some bunting), and having wondered aloud what to get the woman who has everything (and more), I eventually came to the conclusion that I had no idea what to buy.

At which point Amelie said "Daddy, I know what you should do!". She then came over to me and whispered in my ear that I should let Mummy buy her own present, and then tell her to give it to me to wrap up. That way she'd get something she likes, without relying on me to make any effort. She then added "I saw that on The Simpsons. It's what Homer does".

Now, I'm not saying that I should base all my spousal decisions on examples set by Homer Simpson, but I actually think that's quite a good idea. And I could see myself with a wristband saying WWHD. So I've told Lisa to choose a pair of shoes and I'll give her the money. She can buy her own card as well.

In other news, we've grown tired of Amelie's attempts to become the Gardner family stylist...

Lisa's teeth are gritted, and Toby's got his head in his hands. I'm the only one who comes out of it looking cool. So in an attempt to keep the girl occupied, Lisa's booked her in for swimming lessons every day this week. She's in the 'Advanced Toddlers' group, which is aimed at youngsters who can take off an armband without drowning, and she gets half an hour's tuition every morning.

Her first session was yesterday, and to everyone's surprise, she not only took off an armband, but took off two armbands and swam a couple of widths. As Lisa wrote on Facebook, "Amelie did something unusual at her swimming lesson today. She swam. Unaided. I wasn't expecting that". In just eighteen months, she's gone from floating like a lilo to the girl from Atlantis. She'll be pearl diving next. At least she will if I get any say. She owes us for all those lessons.

Monday, August 19, 2013

I'm not saying that Toby's a little bit camp like his father, but ta-daaaaa..!

He's definitely got a touch of the Louie Spence about him. Albeit with legs that don't work. He can do the splits, but it's usually unintentional.

Anyhoo, my reasons for not blogging since Wednesday are less about death, and more about death warmed up. In fact, my excuses are many and various, and come down to a combination of working too hard, playing too hard, and finding it too hard to summon the strength. My chronic prostatitis flared up on Saturday which left me feeling half-dead all weekend, but even without that slowing me down, I'd have struggled to find the time.

As it happens, Thursday was a major milestone in the life of my daughter. It was Amelie's last day at nursery. She doesn't start school for another fortnight, but the government funding ended last week, and we're too cheap to pay the full fees. It means that we've now got her at home full-time until September, so I've stocked up on painkillers and ear-plugs, and I'm having Lisa tagged to stop her leaving the country.

To be honest, I don't think Amelie quite grasped the significance of her last day. She was more interested in whether or not she'd get a cake to take home. But after eighteen months of fun, happiness and learning, the thought of Amelie saying goodbye to her nursery and moving up to big school was enough to reduce Lisa to tears. That, and the thought of having her at home for a fortnight.

Mind you, that led to a bit of a misunderstanding. When I got home from work on Friday, I asked Amelie if she'd like to walk down to Lidl with me. She responded "I would like to walk to Lidl, Daddy, but Mummy said I can't go out for two weeks". Fortunately, Lisa cleared up that confusion by shoving her out the door.

So my Thursday was East Grinstead Health Centre followed by a farewell to Am's nursery. My Friday was Crawley Hospital followed by a walk down to Lidl. And my Saturday was a hastily arranged trip to St Leonards. My parents have just invested in a new computer, on the grounds that Microsoft no longer support steam-powered versions of Windows, and their arthritis is making it hard to wind up the clockwork mechanism on their five-hundred-year-old PC. So I offered to go over there and set it up for them.

To be honest, we had other reasons too. Entertaining Amelie is generally a four-man job, and my attempts to distract her with creative activities were already falling short. She marched into the bedroom on Friday and said "Daddy, I've just realised that this SpongeBob sticker book is actually very, very boring". So we decided we could do with some help. And childcare in return for I.T. support seemed like a reasonable deal.

Of course, I didn't realise at that point that my prostate was flame-grilled and throbbing. I thought I was just tired after a couple of busy days, and would pick up after a strong cup of tea. As it transpired, I found myself getting to grips with Windows 8 while my brain slowly left the building and was replaced by a pain in my pelvis.

Fortunately I managed to battle through, and by 11am on Sunday morning, I had a fully functioning PC, installed with my Dad's favourite software, plus a set of written instructions. Which started with how to turn it on. So with my work done, I headed out to Gensing Gardens for some fun in the sun with my children. Here's Amelie looking confused...

A look she soon passed to her brother...

But if you want to get them both smiling, you have to ask one to tickle the other's feet...

Or haul him around the park by his armpits...

... until Amelie's ready for her close-up...

They might be trouble with a capital T, but they provide a lot of pleasure to go with the pain.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

It's a well known fact that a picture paints a thousand words, and Amelie has a lot to say. So it comes as no surprise that she spends a lot of her time drawing. Only yesterday, she created this striking family portrait of us all...

She's clearly captured our idiosyncrasies, and defined the qualities which mark us each out as unique. We're like Bucks Fizz doing Gangnam Style. The impressive thing is that she's drawn Lisa with her eyes closed, thereby making it photo-realistic art.

Lisa was particularly pleased with that picture, as she was telling me that children express their true innermost feelings via their artwork, and claimed that the fact that Amelie had drawn us all with smiles indicates that she's a genuinely happy child who's contented with family life.

Unfortunately she's also fickle. I was playing a game with her last night, which basically involved me sitting on the floor with a couple of plastic cats and a dolls house, and acting out scenes of burglary. Amelie, who was wearing a dinosaur mask at the time for no apparent reason, took on the role of a cat called Neeka (I've no idea if I'm spelling that correctly) who was both a home-owner and a victim of crime, and my responsibility was to repeatedly send Bow-Cat and Black Spider (who's also a cat) (don't ask) over to Neeka's house to steal her belongings. I presume Amelie's heard the phrase 'cat-burglar' and filled in the gaps herself.

Obviously this was the most fun I've had since I last went to the dentist, so when bedtime finally came, and Amelie was dragged off by her mother, she instructed me to carry on playing while she slept. At which point she took off her hairband, placed it around Neeka, and added "Pretend she's doing some hula-hooping". I lied through my teeth and said I would, before tidying it all away.

When she got up this morning, Amelie asked me if I'd been playing with her cats through the night, so I confidently told her I had, at which point she asked me to play with them again. Unfortunately I had a clinic to get to, and wasn't sure that feline hula-hooping would be a valid excuse for lateness, so I told Amelie I couldn't. And besides, I'd been up all night playing that game, and you can have too much of a good thing.

Sadly, 'reasonable' isn't a word in Amelie's vocabulary. Although she knows 'magnifique' and 'rhinoplasty'. Despite me explaining to her that my patients wouldn't wait while I burgled a dolls house with a couple of plastic kittens, she burst into tears, stomped her feet and slammed her bedroom door.

Five minutes later, she emerged and handed me this...

A week ago, I was great. Now she no longer loves me.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Back in March, whilst living it up in Bristol with a couple of gorgeous young models and a horny old stag, I took this photo at the dockside...

I think the lady in grey was holding up a placard saying 'Eat Something!'. But if you're wondering how that photo might have looked if I'd been standing with my legs apart in a pair of leather trousers, here's your answer...

That's a page from The Bristol Magazine, a publication which sounds like it ought to be on the top shelf, but is actually given away for free in the west country. But only to rich people. According to their website, "The Bristol Magazine is professionally delivered to properties valued above £275,000", providing "comprehensive coverage" of "affluent residential areas". So it's officially scum-free and aimed at successful young professionals like myself. Although I'm currently living in a council flat and struggling to pay the bills.

Obviously I'm no stranger to receiving dodgy magazines through the post, usually in plain packaging, but yesterday evening I returned home from work to find a parcel containing eight pages of fashion, plus three (count them) birthday presents from a mystery admirer. Although it wasn't a mystery once I'd read the note inside.

They actually came from my old pal, BS6, with whom I watched that fashion shoot in the spring. It transpires that far from being the Primark special I'd taken it for, the outfit being worn by that model is a Vivienne Westwood Anglomania Amarylis dress, which retails for £485. The heart-shaped bag is £220. Which makes the £85 shoes seem like a bargain.

I'm particularly pleased with that gift, because I now know what to get Lisa for her birthday. I'll buy her a magazine.

But as for me, I've been truly humbled. I'm not sure if BS6 has come into some money, but he's exceeded all previous levels of generosity by buying me this...

It's a Lotus Evora 08 in metallic green, and it's the sports car of my dreams. Unfortunately it's only three inches long. But having previously thought I couldn't afford to have a mid-life crisis, I can now celebrate my 40th by driving Lisa around the bend with a die-cast Matchbox car.

In addition to that, I received a pack of Peppa Pig tissues, just in case I want to regress back to childhood (or wipe my face after some birthday cake), plus a genuine, bona fide, hand crafted, collectible plectrum used by the axe-wielding guitar gods of Trivium, an American thrash metal band who list among their influences the likes of Hellhammer, Cannibal Corpse, Obituary and Death. All of which make the name 'Trivium' sound upbeat.

There's no telling how BS6 came by such an item (although there's a lot of pick-pocketing in Bristol), and until someone invents a chocolate bar that cures arthritis, my chances of using it are slim, but nevertheless I'll treasure that plectrum. It goes nicely with my Bloody Nightmare guitar. Which I'm now too crippled to play.

But despite my dodgy fingers and advancing years, I'm actually pretty lucky. I might be too knackered to leave the flat, but I have artists in Milton Keynes and musicians in Bristol willing to send me stuff in the post. I even had a text message tonight from two Alan Partridge fans, offering to meet me at the marina to discuss life, love and the fracking hell of Balcombe. Unfortunately I was being jumped on by a girl in a dinosaur mask at the time. I must tell Lisa to stop that.

Anyhoo, I'd just like to say a big thank you to BS6 for his thoughtfulness. The man's an inspiration, and if I lived a hundred miles closer to Bristol, I'd take him out for a beer. Not that I drink beer, or go out. But the intention's definitely there.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

The thing about having a wife with mastitis is that you soon realise how much worse things could be...

I think that's where they get the phrase 'life sucks'. But while Lisa took to her bed on Friday, the Caped Crusader and Boy Wonder were swinging into action...

Although I think the real superhero was me. Let's face it, it's not every man who can get down to the funny farm on time with a bat costume and a birthday card, and then sneak his mother through the gate without paying. Not that I intended the latter. Unfortunately, Washbrooks Family Farm seem to have disguised their turnstile as a café, and before you know it, you've walked passed the cake counter and are fondling piglets for free.

The reason we were there was to celebrate the 4th birthday of one of Amelie's nursery friends. Here he is on the left, courtesy of a photo I found on Facebook...

Amelie has to bend down, as she's a foot taller than all her peers. The two of them will be in the same class come September, so I'm worried people will think she's been kept down a year. Or is being pumped full of steroids by her parents.

Anyhoo, that was Amelie on Friday afternoon, wearing her normal, everyday farm overalls. But it you really want people to look up to you, you need to dress as a superhero...

... and then stand there, blocking the play equipment. We last went to Washbrooks two and a half years ago, and it's changed hugely since then. Not only is there an all-new covered animal area (complete with piglets, llamas and ponies), but they've expanded their playground significantly. It now features this huge bouncy cushion...

... which is a bit like jumping on a giant inflatable airbed. Or so I'm told. Personally I was staying close to the party food with my Mum and Toby, so I never got the chance to try it.

As it transpired, my Mum was a lifesaver. Whilst it's true that Amelie was happy to run off and play without so much as a backward glance, and probably wouldn't have noticed if I'd driven home for a couple of hours, it was useful having an extra pair of hands, an extra pair of eyes, and another person to pass me the sandwiches. I couldn't have done it without her. And I'd probably be a lot thinner.

The party itself was a roaring success...

... thanks in no small part to the big chap in red, who's the older brother of the birthday boy. He spent the day making tea for the adults, entertainment for the kids, and a success of the whole event. I think Am's got a bit of a crush on him.

Even Toby had a nice time...

It's a measure of just how empty and deprived his life is, that you only have to park him in the corner of a wooden hut with a stick of cucumber, and he starts beaming from ear to ear.

Anyhoo, one of the useful things about sending Amelie to the hospital nursery is that at events like this, you're not only chatting to Mums, you're chatting to doctors. So whilst our children were getting carried away...

... I got some free advice on mastitis from an NHS pathologist. And then bought a cabbage on the way home. The result is that Lisa's now feeling a lot better, and as of today, is capable of full-time childcare again. Which is just as well, as I'm knackered.

Friday, August 09, 2013

Lisa's first words to me when I opened my eyes at ten past six yesterday morning, were "Have you got any sick cover for today?". I was slightly concerned that if I said yes, she might kneecap me for not doing the washing up, but fortunately the answer was no. I was due at Horsham Hospital, and this being holiday season, there was no designated understudy.

Unfortunately, the way Lisa looked, she could have been due at hospital herself. The mastitis had worsened overnight, the knife attack was more frenzied, and the accompanying flu-like symptoms meant that she couldn't get out of bed. Which limited her childcare skills somewhat. So it was a straight choice between my patients and my family.

And I chose the patients. I told Lisa that under the circumstances, I really couldn't afford to take a day off work to look after her and the kids, and then went to have a shower. She accepted that decision, in the way that people do when they're too ill to argue, but within half an hour she was crying with extreme pain, and having weighed up the situation, I came to the conclusion that she was likely to shed more tears than either my patients or my boss. So I stayed at home.

It meant a more exhausting day than one spent at work, as I wrangled two kids and a sick wife, but somehow I managed to get Amelie to nursery on time. Although I forgot to brush her hair. Toby didn't have his vitamins either. To be honest, they both looked like street urchins by the end of the day, but I successfully kept them alive, which was my main aim at the start of it all.

We spent a lot of the morning at the marina, buying Belgian buns and Monster Munch to cheer up the invalid, and browsing the children's books in The Works. I bought Amelie some 19th century literature in the form of two books by Edward Lear, so she's now reciting the The Quangle Wangle's Hat from memory. She generally talks a lot of nonsense, so it comes quite naturally to her.

As for today, I'd already taken a day's annual leave in order to escort my family to Washbrooks Family Farm in Hurstpierpoint. One of Amelie's nursery friends is having a party there for his 4th birthday, so we'd planned it as a Gardner family fun day. Unfortunately, Lisa's no longer going. But unlike work, I have a designated understudy standing in the wings. Having spent yesterday preparing myself mentally for the prospect of taking the kids on my own, my Mum has kindly offered to come. We're leaving in half an hour, and I still haven't wrapped the boy's present, written his card, or dressed the two kids. But my Mum can do that when she gets here.

Wednesday, August 07, 2013

I'm not saying that Lisa's bad with accents, but we had a visit last night from the Irish priest of the local Catholic church, and when Lisa heard his voice on the intercom, she thought it was Stefan. Who's thirty years younger and comes from Slovakia. Mind you, she generally thinks Scousers are from Glasgow and most Geordies are Welsh, so it's probably not that surprising. It's a good job I speak the Queen's English.

Anyhoo, the priest wasn't here for an exorcism, he was actually dropping off Toby's baptism certificate. Which, coincidentally, features Stefan's name in the list of godparents. So now we've got it in writing, with the official stamp of the Catholic church, we can start asking for babysitting favours. As it happens, I was working at the Sussex Eye Hospital with Stefan this afternoon, and a nurse asked if we were brothers. It transpired that she'd seen us at Toby's baptism, and thought we looked alike. She probably thinks we're both Irish as well.

Obviously it was a ridiculous suggestion. Not only does Stefan have more hair than I do (so clearly people think I'm the elder brother), but in all the years we've worked together, we've never even stood in the same way...

Apart from that one day in 2009. Oh, and this day in 2008. Other than that though, we're poles apart. Which is the other nationality he's mistaken for.

Anyhoo, Lisa's currently in bed with an acute case of mastitis, which she describes as being like a bout of flu combined with a knife attack, but the good news is that if she doesn't pull through, I should be able to rely on Amelie for a bit of financial security. At 6:45pm last night, less than an hour before bedtime, she asked me if we could go outside and set up a lemonade stand. When I pointed out that it was time to get ready for bed, she assured me that it wouldn't take long to sell lemonade to all our neighbours. So I told her we don't have any lemonade. To which she replied "We could sell them water instead". It's that kind of entrepreneurial spirit which is going to keep me in my old age.

In the end though, we stayed in and watched YouTube...

That's just a cat in a shark outfit chasing a duck on a vacuum cleaner. We've seen it all before.

Tuesday, August 06, 2013

Amelie's nursery photos have arrived!

Here she is being a pane...

With the colour draining from her face...

And adopting her usual position on the fence...

They've taken eight weeks to arrive, which suggests the photographer's still sending her films off to Truprint, but I think it was worth the wait.

Monday, August 05, 2013

I'm not sure if we can sue, but within two minutes of leaving the salon on Saturday, Amelie's hare was falling out...

I think the stylist must have been rabbiting on too much.

Anyhoo, bad jokes aside (for the time being), I think it's finally dawned on Amelie that her behaviour might have consequences. Having taken Pride in her moaning on Saturday morning, and then had her hair cut off in the afternoon, we were pushing her and Toby around Sainsbury's in the evening when she suddenly turned to Lisa and said "When I'm a grown up, will you chuck me out of the house?". She was overheard by another shopper, who laughed and answered yes on our behalf. Before adding that she'll be out on her ear at ten. It's almost as if she knew us.

So in an effort to postpone the inevitable, Amelie's clearly decided to take action. She drew this for me at the weekend...

For anyone without a master's degree in pre-school handwriting, that says "Daddy, you're great", followed by my age. Or possibly a speed limit sign. She's added glitter to simulate the last of my hair falling out, and then emphasised the letters 'EAT'. It's like a Jon Cheshire original, done by a four-year-old. And I love it.

She's still leaving home at sixteen though.

Sunday, August 04, 2013

It's a well known fact that gay men like posing in tank tops...

It makes it easier for them to show off their guns. And their helmets.

Anyhoo, yesterday was the annual Brighton Pride parade, a celebration of equality and diversity which began in 1973 and marked its 40th birthday this week. Much like myself. So given my world-renowned status as Robin Cousins' boyfriend, I felt it only right that I should be there. Along with a hundred thousand other people.

Unfortunately I had to take the kids...

I tried to do Amelie's hair like Ace Ventura, but even so, she was cramping my style. To be honest, she didn't really want to be there. She likes deeply heterosexual men like Mr Tumble and SpongeBob, so she was like a fish out of water. But Lisa had been up half the night with a coughing one-year-old, so I did the decent thing and took Amelie and Toby out for the morning while she got some rest. And did my ironing.

And it was well worth the effort. Let's face it, it's not every day you see people with breasts on their backs...

Unless you're watching 'Botched Up Bodies' on Channel 5. Those three are actually from the CoppaFeel charity, which aims to get women touching themselves in a healthy way.

And they weren't the only tits on display...

I'm joking, of course. They're not so much tits as bosom buddies. The bald bloke with the flag is married to the woman who used to chase me through Asda. If you enter his name into Google, you get this...

Which shows how much he's let himself go since the the second photo from the right was taken.

Anyhoo, Labour's slogan yesterday was "Never Kissed a Tory (Never Will)" which didn't seem very inclusive to me. Especially as a lot of them are gay. But hey, at least they turned up...

I'm not sure if that was a subtle statement about the difficulty of teachers coming out of the closet, or if they'd just disappeared on another long holiday, but either way there was no one there.

To be fair though, the parade hadn't actually started at that point. Amelie, Toby and I walked along the road above Madeira Drive and looked at the floats preparing to leave, but by the time we got down to the pier and the parade was underway, Amelie had had enough and was asking to leave. At least I think she was. I couldn't actually hear her voice over the loud music and whistles, but from the look on her face, she wasn't happy.

So while the rest of the city was heading into town for a fun-filled, colourful carnival, I was trudging back home to the sound of Amelie moaning. We did witness the first arrest of this year's Pride...

... but I didn't see much of the parade. Still, there's always next year.

Saturday, August 03, 2013

Amelie's got a new haircut...

She told the stylist that she wanted to look like her Mummy. So they sent her outside and told her to come in twenty minutes late, through the wrong door, whilst tripping over the mat.