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Wednesday, October 30, 2013

It's school half-term this week, so Amelie's been holidaying along the coast for a couple of days, unwinding from the stresses of modern life by winding up my old-fashioned parents. The good news (for my Mum and Dad at least) is that she returned home yesterday afternoon, so I arrived back from work to find her well-rested and rejuvenated, and bouncing around the flat like a hyperactive maniac on Red Bull.

Fortunately she knows how to relax. Having allowed me to sit next to her on the sofa, she announced that the first person to put their hand up could have the honour of rubbing her feet. I hadn't seen her since Saturday, and was slightly giddy with the overwhelming emotion of our reunion, so she caught me unawares and I found myself sticking my arm in the air. At which point she turned to my Mum and said "Ok then, you can rub my head".

The good news is that Amelie's not the only one feeling good from top to toe. Toby's health is improving too. He's still a bit quieter than usual (which is no bad thing), but he hasn't been sick since Sunday, and he's started eating normally again. Well, normally for a fifteen-month-old. He's still a bit picky by his own rapacious standards. Lisa thinks he looks a bit pale, but he spent the summer with his bare legs sticking out of the buggy, and we kept forgetting to apply sunscreen, so I think it's just that his deep mahogany tan's begun to fade.

Anyhoo, Amelie's spent today posing with friends in the manner of an FA Cup-winning captain...

... while I spent my lunch break in the 99p Store, buying up their supplies of high quality Halloween goods. The spooky torch I bought for Amelie was an undoubted bargain, as were the bat stickers she's used to cover our front door, but sadly the Scream mask I bought for myself has had a limited life span. Having walked in on Lisa whilst wearing it, she demonstrated why they call it a Scream mask, claimed she was having a heart attack, then threatened me with divorce and shoved it straight in the bin.

Monday, October 28, 2013

As a general rule, the person I'm most likely to find face-down on the living room floor in a dressing gown, is Lisa. She has all the spatial awareness of a daddy longlegs, and can hit the deck at any time, day or night. She's even been known to fall over whilst singing 'I'm Still Standing' by Elton John, and having known her for ten years, I could give the author of 'How to Pick Up Girls' a run for his money. Although I know nothing about dating.

As of today, however, there's a new kid in town...

That's Toby, flaked out on the floor by mid-morning. Which is how I feel, most days.

Sadly, the boy's not well. When Lisa went into the children's bedroom yesterday morning, she found Toby's cot under a thin layer of vomit, and Toby on top of that. We assumed he'd gone down with the same sickness bug that Amelie had last Wednesday, but whereas she was fine within twenty-four hours, Toby's still a bit under the weather. Which in this case is windy and unsettled.

He was off his food all weekend, which is not like him at all, but for the most part, he seemed ok. I took him to the nearest CeX store yesterday afternoon (which I refer to as 'the sex shop', in an attempt to shock Lisa) as I wanted to buy some cheap Wii games to entertain Amelie and her friend after school. I ended up buying De Blob for two quid, but having played it for ten minutes last night, I've decided it's too good for her, and plan to keep it for myself. She can stick with Raving Rabbids. Which, apparently, cures dyslexia.

Anyhoo, Toby was quite happy to nibble on a cereal bar in a second-hand games shop, but having already refused his lunch, he then refused his tea, and went to bed on a few grapes and a bottle of milk. Which he then threw up in his cot. Lisa moved him to the travel cot in our bedroom halfway through the dark and stormy night, but by morning he'd been sick in there too.

So we're doing quite a lot of laundry, and keeping a close eye on him. While he keeps a close eye on the carpet. He's prone to falling asleep mid-crawl, so it's only a matter of time before Lisa trips over him, and I'm nursing two members of the family.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

It's been a very busy week, the possible highlight of which was the moment I was offered the chance to buy a stolen TV by a bloke in a service station car park. That's never happened to me before. You always hear about people buying hot goods in pubs (and I don't mean lasagne) but as a general rule, the only things I'm ever offered in car parks are dirty looks and clamping fines.

Clearly, however, now that I look too old to be a policeman, the criminals are homing in on me as a potential customer. I encountered a chap on Thursday who leant out of the window of his white van to tell me that he had a load of TVs in the back which were surplus stock from a market stall (wink, wink) and he wondered if I'd be interested.

As it happens, I was interested. But only in knowing what it was that made him think I had the look of a fence about me. Possibly my wooden expression. Either way, I politely declined, and decided to take my sat-nav with me to the toilets. Apparently there are a lot of thieves about.

Having been dogged by a brief encounter in a car park, I followed that up twenty-four hours later with a far more bizarre incident on the roads. I was driving home from East Grinstead yesterday, and was just passing Lewes Hospital and approaching the prison crossroads, when I noticed a car trying to pull out of a residential street on the right. I slowed down, and waved him on, and he duly pulled out, stopping just in front of me at the traffic lights.

It was a foreign car, left-hand drive, and the moment it stopped, the driver turned on his hazard lights, got out, and started walking towards the door of my car, waving to get my attention. Naturally I assumed I was either about to be car-jacked or involved in some kind of insurance scam, but then my optimistic side took over, and I decided he probably wanted to give me fifty quid to say thank you for letting him out of the turning.

So I wound down my window. And in broken English, with an African accent and a slight sense of urgency, the man said this:

"Can you help me please? Tell me the way to Dover."

I responded (helpfully) with the word "Dover???". To which he responded "Yes, I need to get to Dover".

Now, there are two things to bear in mind here. The first is that Lewes to Dover is about eighty miles and it's not easy to plan the best route off the top of your head when you have about ten seconds until the traffic lights change. And the second is that when you're sitting twenty metres from the imposing stone walls of Lewes Prison, and you have a man in front of you who's just come from that direction, doesn't know where he is, and says he needs to get to the nearest major port, you do start to panic slightly.

But thinking on my feet (which were hovering over the accelerator pedal at the time), I told him to turn right at the traffic lights and head towards the A27. He said "Turn right?", so I said yes, and motioned with my hand in the direction of the prison. At which point he thanked me, ran back to his car just as the traffic lights changed... and promptly turned left.

So if anyone's looking for him, he'll be in Lewes town centre. Trying to catch a boat out of the country.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013


The boy's as camp as Christmas. And he's willing to stand on electrical items to prove it. Items he's previously pulled down from shelves and wrapped securely around his neck whilst still plugged in.

Unfortunately he's the only child standing at the moment. Amelie woke us up at 11:30pm last night to say that she felt sick. And then proved it by throwing up all over the floor. A trick she repeated in the small hours.

So she's been off school today. Which is just as well, because they've informed us there's been an outbreak of head lice. I'm not sure what motivates people to have children, but it's probably not days like today.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Amelie's teacher put this note on her reading record yesterday...

Personally I think that says less about her literacy skills, and more about the fact that we have a chronically ill cat. She's not reading, she's reciting from personal experience.

To be honest though, she's been able to read since she was two...

Although she struggles with the word 'heard'. Mainly because she never listens.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

I don't know whether the powers-that-be are reading this blog, but the boy I mentioned on Thursday was sent home yesterday for violent behaviour. I had no idea I wielded such influence. So while I'm here, can I just say how much I'd like Amelie to win another Silver Award. And preferably a Gold Award too. Ideally, before Christmas. Thanks.

Anyhoo, Lisa posted this status update on Facebook last night:

"Phil has surprised me with a weekend away. Unfortunately it's without him and with the kids."

But as I said to my wife, as I drove her and the kids at high speed away from Brighton for the duration of the weekend, "this is going to hurt me more than it hurts you". I'll have no one to iron my shirts.

In reality, I have a lot to do this weekend, and I feel I'd get on better without Toby turning off the computer and Amelie drawing on my paperwork, so I've shipped them all off to St Leonards. I'm sure my parents have nothing better to do. And besides, Amelie is now the face of child services in the town, so it's only right that she puts in an appearance.

Interestingly, when I showed Amelie that Facebook profile, she looked excited and said "Oooh! There's a page about me on the internet!". Which not only suggests self-obsessive tendencies, but makes me think she's never noticed this blog. She'll be thrilled when I show it to her at the age of fifteen.

Anyhoo, the things I have to do don't actually include this blog post, so I'd better get on. The good news is that whilst my family might not be around, Amelie has left me with a parting gift...

I find that picture slightly terrifying. Not the image itself (which is clearly lovely, particularly the bit in the yellow frame), but what it represents. Without any help whatsoever, Amelie managed to open an internet browser, navigate to the Cbeebies website, click on Make a Picture with Lily, then browse through the files on my computer and upload a photo of me, before turning on the printer and printing it out. She's only just turned five. In a few more years, we'll be living out the plot line of 'WarGames'.

But still, as the artwork says, I'd better hop to it...

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Amelie's had the day off school today for a bit of teacher training. They're being trained how to make placards and march through Brighton instead of teaching my daughter phonics. Obviously I completely respect their right to strike, but as a general rule, I'd prefer them to have the right to strike the boy who keeps hitting Amelie in the lunch queue. Not that I'm right-wing or anything. He just deserves a good thrashing.

As it happens, I've been supporting the teachers by marching through Brighton myself today. Last night's weather forecast said that today would be sunny and dry, so in a moment of unbounded optimism and possible foolishness, I decided to walk the two-and-a-half miles to my clinic this morning. And sure enough, at 8:45am we had clear blue skies and sunshine. Unfortunately, I left home at 8am and walked for thirty-five minutes in the rain.

Crossing Queens Park at that time of day was quite pleasant...

But by the time I'd scaled the peak of Muesli Mountain, the weather was closing in...

Unfortunately, the rain wasn't the only thing that came crashing down around me. As I walked past The Level, I heard a huge bang behind me (which was surprising, as I had earphones in, and the volume up) and I turned around to see that two vans had ploughed into each other at the junction in front of the Phoenix Gallery. The front of one was completely smashed in, and the two vehicles were sitting there in the middle of the road, surrounded by debris.

It was an odd moment, because I was less than twenty yards away, and the closest 'witness' to a road traffic accident, but my back was turned and I had no idea what had happened. One of them must have gone through a red light, but I didn't know which, and from the direction they were facing after the smash, it was impossible to tell who'd come from where. And let's face it, they were both white vans, so they were probably both in the wrong.

I stood there frozen for about ten seconds, not knowing if I should phone 999 or rush to give first aid, but in the end I did nothing. Much like myself, the world seemed to stand still for a few seconds, then one van began to move slowly towards the kerb, and I could see the driver of the other one looking around, apparently unharmed. So as queues of traffic started backing up from the junction, I turned, and continued walking.

It was odd though. There was nothing for me to do, and I had no information to give, but I still felt slightly guilty about walking away. Maybe I should have gone over and given both drivers a hug. Ultimately though, I had patients waiting elsewhere. And the first one of those turned out to be a striking teacher, who was thrilled about the industrial action because it meant she could get her eyes screened. Her teenage class might have escaped lessons today, but she's still spent a few hours with big pupils.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

It's always a bit worrying when your mother starts dressing you in pink...

Especially when you spend a lot of time playing with a dolls house...

Hmmm... elasticated trousers... pink stripy jumper... he's beginning to look a bit like my Mum. Although the only time she goes barefoot is at the chiropody clinic. She does spend a lot of time rummaging around in the loft though, so they have that in common.

Anyhoo, Lisa informs me that there's absolutely nothing wrong with dressing your son in pink, regardless of whether or not he's at an impressionable age, and that Toby is entirely secure in his own gender identity. And besides, that jumper was half price in a sale. Possibly a sale of girl's clothes.

Personally I'm hoping he spills spaghetti bolognese down it sooner rather than later, and it ends up stained beyond recognition and fit only for use as a car-cleaning rag. Not that I'd be seen dead cleaning my car with it. I already look a bit like Huffty from The Word, so pink is probably best avoided. Along with dungarees.

As it happens, Toby's not the only one in the pink today. As of this morning, Amelie's been offered an exclusive modelling contract with a major organisation. No, not Prada, Chanel or Dior. It's actually East Sussex County Council. I had an e-mail this morning from their head of fashion (or something) asking if they can use a photo of Amelie from this blog to promote the St Leonards Children's Centre.

You can't put a price on publicity like that, which is why they're not offering to pay me, but in an effort to put the Phil back into philanthropy, I've said a resounding yes. There's every chance it could lead on to other things, and by this time next year, Lisa could be the face of refuse collection. The picture they're interested in is this one from August 2011, which shows Amelie fleeing the (possibly sub-standard) child services of Hastings, and running towards a brighter, more supported, future at the excellent facilities of the St Leonards Children's Centre.

Fortunately, in addition to early years education, childcare advice and parenting support, East Sussex County Council also provide services for the elderly and infirm of St Leonards. So if it's seafront photos they're after, I'm hoping to interest them in this one.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

The older Amelie gets, the more convinced I become that one day, her artwork will be studied by learned scholars, possibly in a courtroom setting, in an attempt to understand and explain her future actions. And then form them into a documentary for the ID channel.

I spent yesterday doing a lot of vital chores, such as washing, hoovering, shopping and making cheese scones for Lisa, but amidst all the hard work, Amelie presented me with this:

Amelie's writing tends to be a bit like the Countdown Conundrum. She has all the right letters, but at first glance, they might not appear in the right order. The word cloud on the left actually reads 'Chloe Cat' and 'Toby', while the word at the top is 'Gardner'. She has a habit of drawing 'R's like wingnuts.

Interestingly, she's named every member of the family, including herself and the cat, and written 'I Love You' in the red heart, but has somehow omitted my name. Unless she's calling me Gardner. Which is the sort of disrespectful thing she might do. Silver Award, my arse.

Lisa suggested that the reason I'm not mentioned is because the picture was for me, and that therefore I'm the overall focus, but personally I feel that's a bit like giving me a Father's Day card which states how much she likes her mother. So I'm not happy.

And that unhappiness has been confirmed by this morning's pictorial communications. Amelie was keen to start her Sunday with sweets for breakfast, which led to an early morning discussion in the bedroom, during which Lisa and I pointed out that a diet of neat sugar is not recommended by the World Health Organisation, and is likely to lead to an appointment to have her eyes photographed by her father. That was followed by a frank exchange of views, during which we were accused of always being unreasonable, unhappy and unkind, and before we knew it, Lisa and I were being presented with this:

Apparently the figure on the left represents us, which is why it has a tick next to it (albeit facing the wrong way), while the happy-go-lucky person on the right, who looks like the kind of naive fool who would cheerfully give in to every demand of their five-year-old daughter, is accompanied by a cross, indicating that we've failed to achieve those high standards of childcare.

Under normal circumstances, of course, having your parenting skills marked by someone who's only just started school and should have a learnt a bit more respect, would be considered unacceptable and result in a telling off, but frankly we were too busy laughing. Although we tried not to show it.

The good news is that having reflected on her behaviour (and asked for a lolly instead), Amelie saw the error of her ways and apologised for her actions twenty minutes later by means of this picture:

We're all a lot happier, and wearing very fetching trousers. But she still hasn't addressed it to me.

Friday, October 11, 2013

I was getting ready for work this morning, when Amelie came striding into the bedroom and exclaimed "Hi, everybody!" in the style of Nick Riviera from The Simpsons. It was slightly unsettling. I found myself instinctively replying "Hi, Dr Nick!", and then checking that I still had two kidneys.

Ordinarily, of course, Amelie's more of a Doc McStuffins kind of gal, and spends most of her time sticking a stethoscope up a sheep, but according to Mr Robert Patterson, a general surgeon from Leamington, Ontario, and Dr. Charles Weijer, Assistant Professor and Bioethicist at Dalhousie University, Halifax, who have studied the issue for the Canadian Medical Association, Dr Nick is a much better role model.

Oddly, however, in the process of finding that link for Doc McStuffins, I read this on the girl's Wikipedia page:

"The series received positive reviews and criticisms after its release. Kia Morgan Smith of said that "It truly warmed my heart and almost brought tears to my eyes when my 8-year-old, Mikaela, saw ‘Doc McStuffins’ for the first time and said, 'Wow, mommy — she’s brown,'". Myiesha Taylor of said that "This program featuring a little African-American girl and her family is crucial to changing the future of this nation." Taylor also applauded the concept of its portrayal of a young black girl who wishes to follow in the footsteps of her mother as a doctor as the lead character, that inspired her to collect pictures of 131 doctors — all black, all women — and publish a collage online under the heading, 'We Are Doc McStuffins.'"

Which is interesting, as it genuinely never occurred to me that she was black. I don't know if that's an indication of my open-minded, colour-blind acceptance of racial minorities, or just a sign that Amelie's toys are generally filthy, but either way I didn't notice. Although now that I have, I agree that she'll change the future of this nation. I think.

Anyhoo, in other childcare news, Lisa took Toby to playgroup yesterday, where he spent some time interacting with a suspiciously spotty child, so we're now on the lookout for chicken pox. Or possibly Clearasil. Obviously when it comes to the pox, you shouldn't count your chickens before they're scratched, but in a lot of ways it would be good for him to catch it now, before he learns to talk and can start moaning to us about it.

As it happens, however, that wasn't the only thing he picked up. He also crawled out with this leaflet...

I think the phrase 'Brave Steps' refers to the outfit at the bottom, which must have taken some nerve to wear. And they've clearly missed an opportunity by not calling themselves Squid Inc. But other than that, my main query is why the event only lasts for 45 minutes, when anyone with an under-2 knows that it's impossible to arrive less than an hour late for anything. The only mummies there will be in the Ancient Egypt Gallery.

Wednesday, October 09, 2013

One day he's complimenting me on the shape of my scones, the next he's chatting about the colour of Waitrose's roof with a woman who thinks people are mad to write about their lives online...

I think he was slightly upstaged by Iris from Hove, who's surely only one misunderstanding away from getting her own show, but other than that, it was a tour de force performance which will surely go down in broadcasting history. After all, it's not everyone who has the nerve to talk over Elvis. I just can't believe he didn't plug this blog.

Monday, October 07, 2013

In an ideal world, when your guests are just leaving and you've managed to impress them with the quality of your home-made scones, you don't really want them noticing your industrial-sized sack of scone mix on the shelf by the front door. There's something about the words 'Just Add Water' which suggests you might not be the expert baker they took you for.

To be honest, I'm more Phil Pinewood than Paul Hollywood, and my pinewood is mostly MDF, but I do like to think that I demonstrated a lot of skill with that cookie cutter. And I got them out of the oven on time. I also showed a lot of dedication by eating four of them myself. Or possibly it was five. So all in all, I think I fully deserve this week's Star Baker award.

Anyhoo, despite our guests seeing behind the wizard's curtain as they departed from Oz, yesterday's afternoon tea was a roaring success. Stefan's looking particularly well at the moment...

Although I think he's had some work done. Possibly by Desperate Dan.

On the down side, my family are causing me to see stars...

That's not Lisa in the purple, it's a pillow. I keep it handy in case I want to smother someone.

As usual, Stefan and Andrew arrived bearing gifts, which on this occasion included a tin box for Amelie, containing miniature pens, paints, scissors, and a hand-held battery-operated disco light, which is the kind of essential household item that every home needs. Amelie certainly loves hers, and has been partying with it constantly since yesterday afternoon. Which is annoying, as I really want to have a go myself.

As for Toby, he responded to our visitors with all the welcoming enthusiasm of a Dalmatian meeting Cruella de Vil. Stefan and Andrew might be his godfathers, but he was more like an informant meeting the mob boss. He burst into tears the moment he saw them, and spent the afternoon eyeing them suspiciously from a safe distance. Andrew attempted to placate him with the gift of a plastic lion, but I think the boy took it as a death threat.

Ironically, however, the biggest revelation of the afternoon wasn't the gifts we received, or the manes we were sporting...

... it was the gift we already had. I mentioned last Thursday that we gave Amelie a Vtech Kidizoom Twist Plus digital camera for her birthday. What I didn't mention is that I hadn't read the instructions. And to be honest, I still haven't. Amelie's been using it for the past five days, and I told her last week that I'd sit down with her at some point and go through the manual, so that we could learn how to use all the features. But with school, work, parties, shopping and liturgical commitments, I never got around to it.

Fortunately, where I've failed as a father, Stefan and Andrew have succeeded as godparents. Amelie showed them her camera yesterday afternoon, and within half an hour, they'd discovered everything it can do, and worked out how to use it. Here's Stefan waving...

That's the camera's macular degeneration setting. I was quite impressed with the built-in effects and the quality of the pictures, but I was a lot more impressed with Amelie. It was only after our guests had departed that I connected the camera to the computer for the first time, and discovered that Amelie has been quietly experimenting with all the features since Wednesday of last week. We might not have looked at the manual or shown her how to use it, but by Saturday, she'd already taken dozens of photos, using numerous different effects, including masterpieces such as this one...

... and freakish photos such as this...

But if you think that picture's slightly unsettling, try this one on for size...

That genuinely gives me the willies. I think I've spawned some kind of devil child. But a devil child with brains. Which I suppose is an evil genius. With no tuition whatsoever, Amelie has single-handedly worked out how to use her camera's special effects, and been snapping away for days without us even knowing. She's even taken this one of Toby...

It's no wonder she's so keen on that disco light.

Sunday, October 06, 2013

It's a well known fact that the secret of a successful relationship is good communication. Lisa and I live under the same roof, rarely spend much time apart, speak at length every day, and share a lot of what we're doing on this blog. But at times we barely have a clue what the other one's up to. It's like we're Siamese twins who are joined back to back.

Lisa decided on Friday that as Amelie had swept the board at this season's most prestigious awards ceremony, she would reward the girl with that most cherished of prizes: a Get Out of Church Free card. Ordinarily, the two of them would sit through a critical mass on Sunday morning, but Lisa told me a couple of days ago that she'd decided to take Amelie to the Kids' Club at the Duke of York's Cinema instead. To hell with church, she thought, my girl needs a reward, for heaven's sake. Or words to that effect.

She told me they were going to see 'Monsters University', which I thought was a slightly surprising choice, as I took her to see it on my birthday, but Amelie can generally watch a DVD about seventy-eight times before getting fed up, so I assumed she'd asked to see it again, and thought no more of it.

Until we were in bed last night, and I mentioned in passing that Amelie had seen the film before. Which prompted Lisa to react with stunned surprise. Despite having waved me off on my birthday, and then read about it on my blog, Lisa had no idea that I'd taken Amelie to see 'Monsters University'. So having got over the shock, she immediately cancelled her plans for this morning, and took her to church instead. I felt quite guilty. Which is a good Catholic trait.

As for this afternoon, we're having Stefan and Andrew over for afternoon tea...

Assuming there's anything left by the time they get here.

I was stuffing myself with one of Stefan's strudels at work on Friday afternoon, and he mentioned that Andrew had dreamt the night before that I'd gone round to their flat and eaten all their food. As I said to him at the time, that's not a dream, it's a premonition, so in order to delay it coming true, we decided that they should come over here for a change.

Amelie made White Chocolate & Raspberry Cupcakes before she left for church this morning, then Toby and I made Wholemeal Fruit Scones while she was gone. The word 'wholemeal' is to ensure that Lisa won't eat them, and leave all the more for me.

And with perfect timing, there goes the door bell...

Friday, October 04, 2013

Something tells me she's a very different child at school...

I'm not quite sure why the depiction of a 'nice little person' is a blonde in a hard hat and tabard, holding a wrench. Unless that's the school spanner. But it's a Catholic school, which possibly explains why she's dressed like the IRA from the waist down.

Anyhoo, in a remarkable twist of fate (which was no doubt made easier with that wrench), Amelie received not one, but two awards this morning. The second of which was this one...

That one's more manners than spanners, but it's no less impressive. The fact is that (possibly more by luck than judgement) we've somehow managed to produce a model pupil. Lisa attended the school assembly this morning to discover that Amelie was the only child in the school to be up for two awards, and that for a kid in her year to earn a Silver Award is apparently quite rare. She's like the Daniel Day-Lewis of reception.

On top of that, she was today's designated 'Line Leader', which is a bit like a loss leader, only cheaper, and as a reward for her immaculate lunchtime behaviour, she was allowed to choose a friend to enjoy a special meal at a private table with napkins, place mats and flowers. Which is pretty much how Lisa and I celebrated our anniversary. But with flowers.

In addition to presenting Amelie with her awards, the headmistress read out her teacher's comments, which referred to our daughter as "a very special little person" (the Irish love their leprechauns), and commented that she was certainly making a name for herself at her first Friday assembly.

By this point, Lisa was almost in tears, and had to be helped out of the hall by a dinner lady with smelling salts. Or something. I think it was acute medical shock that the nightmare we live with is actually a dream come true in public. I'm not sure how we've done it, but if we can keep it up for another thirteen years without people realising what she's really like, we should be home and hosed.

Incidentally, I had this conversation with her first thing this morning...

Amelie: Daddy, when I was at school yesterday, I had a headache.

Me: Was that because you were working so hard?

Amelie: No, I think it was because I bumped my head.

That hard hat's going to come in very handy.

Thursday, October 03, 2013

Now that Amelie's five, she's not only holding court, she's employing a court artist...

That was the scene here yesterday afternoon, as we were all sentenced to a long stretch of hard partying at her majesty's pleasure. And her majesty certainly had a lot of that. Frankly, most people would require illegal drugs to achieve the kind of high that Amelie experienced on her birthday.

Of course, if you prefer a more photo-realistic view of proceedings, there's always this one...

We had a couple of gate-crashers, obviously, but that aside, Amelie's artwork is remarkably accurate. I spent three hours yesterday hanging up bunting, balloons and banners, before arranging all her presents and putting out the party food. But if you're wondering what the multi-coloured lines in the drawing are, here's your answer...

I've never known one girl to set off so many party poppers. By the end of the day, the flat looked like we'd had some kind of ticker tape parade, the whole place smelt of fireworks, and the neighbours thought we'd bought a machine gun on eBay.

Anyhoo, as late summer babies, neither Lisa nor I ever went to school on our birthdays, and until Michael Gove gets to grips with term times, Toby's in the clear too. Which means that Amelie's now officially the first member of our family to learn something on her birthday since the day I learnt never to get my hopes up and expect a trip to Disney World.

To be honest though, she was quite happy about it. She informed us that as it was her birthday, she was allowed to choose some friends to go and play in the atrium, which was a surprise to us, as we didn't know the school had one, and barely knew what it meant. I thought it was a part of the heart. In addition, she was allowed to bring a man home...

Toby might look a bit disapproving, but the girl's growing up now, so he needs to learn to accept it. She's not four any more.

Anyhoo, a party wouldn't be a party without guests, so we invited a few unemployed people from the local Jobcentre. Big Sis, who's currently 'resting' between projects and has nothing better to do, made the trip down to Brighton, and was soon having her photo taken by the birthday girl...

My parents also turned up, and were quickly joined by Lisa's sister and three nephews. All of which made Toby quite happy...

Unlike the food, which made him sad...

But only because he couldn't reach it.

As for presents, Amelie received a Vtech Kidizoom Twist Plus camera, a Dive & Swim Mermaid Dora (don't ask), a laughing Fufris monkey (please don't ask) and a talking Doc McStuffins, which speaks, sings, diagnoses disease, and comes complete with an otoscope, stethoscope, thermometer and that most crucial of medical paraphernalia... a comb. It's important to look your best on the wards. You don't want the patients to know you've been up for thirty-six hours.

We added to that with a separate doctor's outfit and medical bag. We're aiming for her to reach Harley Street by the age of thirty, so she can pay off all our debts and buy us a house. Although she's insisting on buying a pony first.

Of course, if the medical career doesn't pan out, she can always dress up as vermin...

That fox outfit (there's a tail out of sight) came courtesy of Toby's Fairy Godmother, Marie, who's clearly looking after her godson's best interests by distracting his sister just long enough for him to grab another slice of quiche. The outfit was accompanied by a copy of 'Fantastic Mr Fox', which I haven't read yet, but I assume is some kind of pest control guide.

Anyhoo, by the time we'd chopped up SpongeBob SquarePants...

... and allowed Toby to join in a game of Pass-the-Parcel...

... we were all fit to drop. I think it was the pressure of making sure Amelie won. Frankly, that one game of Pass-the-Parcel made the Zimbabwean elections look fair and above board. If you think Robert Mugabe's dangerous when he loses, you should try Amelie on her birthday. By the time we reached the ninth layer, we were all living in fear, and praying we hadn't mis-counted.

But all's well that ends well. Amelie won a snow globe, we all breathed a huge sigh of relief, followed by a massive yawn of exhaustion, and the girl went to bed saying it had been her best birthday ever. Admittedly, she's only had five, and she can't remember the first two, but even so, we were pleased.

Wednesday, October 02, 2013

It's Amelie's 5th birthday!

And after five years of mayhem and one day of partying, I'm absolutely shattered. I can't believe I've only got 365 days until the next one. I'll never recover in time.

Tuesday, October 01, 2013

I don't want to tempt fate, but Amelie's school days seem to be going remarkably well...

Although I'm slightly concerned it could be one of those stings where they lure you in with the promise of prizes, and then arrest you for crimes against humanity. So I'm sending Lisa in my place. At worst, she'll get twenty years, and be out in ten with good behaviour.

If it's genuine, however, then she'll never compete with the good behaviour of our daughter. According to Amelie, who's generally about as reliable as a Wikipedia entry, Silver Awards are presented for outstanding adherence to the school's six Golden Rules. So why they're not called Gold Awards, I have no idea.

Anyhoo, the school's Golden Rules are as follows:

We respect each other.
We listen to each other.
We are honest.
We are kind and gentle.
We say sorry and we forgive.
We take care of our environment.

Which is interesting because at home she talks back, doesn't listen to a word we say, lies through her teeth, shoves Toby around, doesn't apologise, holds grudges, and leaves the place looking like a tip. But clearly at school she's an absolute angel. Which is a pretty good argument for 24-hour boarding.

According to the school newsletter, only 26 children across the entire school won a Silver Award in September, which puts Amelie amongst the top 12% for behaviour, and should ensure that she's endlessly bullied for being a swot. Which is probably why they want us there on Friday - to break up any fights. Fortunately music soothes the savage beast, and as her last award proved, she can sing. So that should be enough to keep the thugs at bay. Let's face it, football fans are always singing, and you never get any punch-ups on the terraces.