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Thursday, January 30, 2014

The general consensus amongst people in the know (and my sister), is that to fix a mobile phone that's been dropped in the toilet, you need to cover it in rice for a day. Unfortunately, in Lisa's case, you'd probably need to bury it in a paddy field under a vat of risotto and a statue of Uncle Ben. Twenty-four hours in a bag of brown rice has done nothing other than ruin my plans for paella. I'm wondering if we should have used Coco Pops.

But where staple grains have failed, I'm pleased to say that yours truly has succeeded. I took the phone apart this evening, dried all the bits with tissues, removed rice from the charger socket, and hey presto, it works! The screen couldn't be any steamier if Lisa had tried sexting, but other than that, it seems fine.

Unfortunately, despite saving my wife from another disaster, she's clearly learnt nothing from her mistakes. While her phone was doing the boil-in-the bag rice thing, Toby was busy dumping Lisa's keys in her wellies. Which might have been fine if we'd had snow today. Unfortunately, when Lisa left for Amelie's school this morning, we had nothing worse than mild flooding, and the keys were nowhere to be found.

I was in the ophthalmology department at Horsham Hospital at the time, so Lisa had no choice but to leave the front door unlocked while she did the school run. Which was a major risk, as someone could have stolen my rhino horn. Fortunately, however, it's a well known fact that we've got nothing worth nicking. Especially as Lisa's phone wasn't working. Although if Churchill find out, we'll never get that £91 insurance deal again.

Anyhoo, Lisa eventually found the keys in her footwear, and having checked the flat for hidden axe murderers, I'm confident that no harm has been done. Mainly because Lisa didn't wear her wellies. If she had, she'd have been doing the school run on crutches after a trip to A&E.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

As Amelie is fond of saying, usually after committing some wanton act of destruction, I've got good news and bad news...

The good news is that Lisa got her phone back from Funplex on Monday.

The bad news is that I was sitting at the optical coherence tomography machine at the Sussex Eye Hospital this afternoon, when I received this e-mail from my wife:

"Toby dropped my mobile down the toilet and now it's not working. xxxxxx"

The Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away. Although in this case, it was mostly down to Toby. In his Father's house are many mansions. And from now on we'll be keeping the bathroom door closed.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

The problem with doing a lot is that it doesn't leave you any time to write about it. Personally I prefer to do nothing, and write about that instead. It's kept me going for eleven years. Unfortunately, with two kids, a job and Virgin Catch-Up, I'm currently languishing in extreme time-poverty, with my blogging interest rates at an all time low.

But without further ado, I'd just like to wish my mother-in-law a very happy 80th birthday for today. Obviously you're not supposed to reveal a lady's age in public, but apparently that all changes once you're old and can start boasting about your unexpected survival. So with Lisa's Mum successfully dodging the Grim Reaper's scythe for an 80th consecutive year, I'd like to wish her many happy returns. Have a can of Diet Coke on me.

To celebrate those four-score years, my Mum came over on Sunday to babysit the nippers while Lisa and I took the birthday girl out for a few hours. Even at the age of eighty, there's life in the old dog yet, so we decided to take her to Hove greyhound track. We did the same for her birthday four years ago, which was an event marked by a lot of blood, sweat and tears as I showed true grit by grinding Amelie's face into some gravel.

Fortunately the only grit on display this time was our determination to win big, which was an attitude that paid dividends in the second race when I placed a bet of £1.80 and won £26.84. Unfortunately that was my only win of the day, and by the end, I'd given most of it back to the tote, but it was good while it lasted. And it lasted long enough to buy two portions of chips. Lisa's Mum managed to win thirty quid from a two pound bet, which left Lisa as the only luckless loser of the day. Fortunately she's used to it.

As it happens, Lisa was a loser in more ways than one on Sunday. The last race at Hove dog track was at 2pm, and Amelie had been invited to a party back at Funplex from 2:30pm to 5:30pm, so having torn up our last betting slips in despair, we made a mad dash across town to pick up our little party animal and head straight back out.

We got to Funplex just before three... only to be told that the party wasn't until four. Needless to say we didn't have the invitation with us, so I felt like one of my patients who turns up at the wrong time without their appointment letter, yet swears blind that they're right. We'd been hoping to drop Amelie and run, but with an hour to go until supervised party-time, Lisa reluctantly agreed to stay, while I drove home to help out with Toby.

Having returned home, I found this...

... so I drove back to Funplex with a certain sense of injustice, collected Lisa, and brought her back home. An hour later we received a call from a fellow parent, kindly offering to bring Amelie home in her car, which was a lovely gesture, and would have been ideal were it not for the fact that we'd brought Amelie's shoes and coat home with us.

Fortunately our parenting is generally effortless, and in our attempts to do as little as possible, we rarely let sub-zero temperatures and large puddles stand in our way. So we told our friend to bring Amelie home barefoot and half-dressed. Which she duly did. Apparently she carried our daughter across the car park, which is admirable to say the least. Personally I'd have backed the car into the foyer.

Anyhoo, all's well that ends well. Unless you're Lisa, in which case you realise at about 5:45pm that you can't find your phone, proceed to ring it so that you can identify where in the flat it's hiding, and find yourself talking to a member of staff at Funplex. Apparently she dropped it in her haste to get away. Frankly it was a miracle she had her shoes on.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Everyone needs a light bulb moment from time to time...

Although as light bulb moments go, I'm not sure that putting a lampshade on your head is a particularly good idea.

Fortunately, however, that blue lampshade is now surplus to requirements, as the council were kind enough to send over a couple of workmen this week to replace our energy-saving bathroom light with one so powerful that we now need to wear sunglasses to brush our teeth. Where we once basked in the warm orange glow of low-wattage light bulb, we're now taking showers in the blinding white light of a Death Star tractor beam.

Worse still is that it took them all morning to fit, and they only gave us 24 hours notice. Lisa and Toby were held prisoner in the living room on Thursday while two council contractors spent five hours in the bathroom. Which is usually Lisa's job. But on the plus side, they've also fitted a brand new extractor fan. So it's not only bright in there, it's freezing.

The good news, however, is that our upgraded bathroom is now fully protected from water damage for another year, thanks to the sterling service offered by Churchill Insurance. We've previously paid them around a hundred pounds a year for our home contents insurance, but after The Great Flood of 2013, we weren't entirely happy with the service we received (although they paid up in the end), so when they wrote to me a couple of weeks ago to say they were putting up our annual premium to £145, I decided not to renew.

The insurance was due to run out on Thursday, so on Tuesday of this week, Lisa phoned them to cancel the automatic renewal. They asked her why, so she lied and said we'd had a better offer elsewhere. At which point they put her on hold, came back two minutes later, and said they could reduce the price to £86.

Now, I'm very grateful for that offer, obviously, but isn't that a bit like admitting that they were trying to con us with the £145 figure? If they can afford to offer us exactly the same policy for sixty pounds less, why did they pitch it at the higher price in the first place? Purely to fleece us, I'd suggest.

As an alternative, they offered us a price of £91 for an improved policy with half the excess, so we've gone for that. I still think they're conmen, but I'm not going to look a gift horse in the mouth.

Anyhoo, I'm looking a lot happier now that we're insured...

I think that's Nick Hewer in the background. He's pretending not to look, but I'm convinced he's following me around and reporting back to Lord Sugar.

That photo was taken this morning at Funplex, an indoor play centre in Brighton, which was our first stop on a whirlwind weekend of fun, laughter and crushing exhaustion. Lisa and I might be social lepers, but fortunately Amelie's flying the flag for friendship by getting herself invited to just about every event going. This morning's soiree was a nursery reunion at Funplex, which gave her the chance to get together with all her old pre-school friends. Although the moment she thought there might be food on offer, she was quite happy to sit with her family...

Well, I say happy. She actually looks a bit grumpy. Anyhoo, that's Lisa trying to do a shadow puppet of a dog. And here's Amelie shoving her brother over a wall...

I had to lock her up for that...

Is it me, or do they both look like they've got moustaches..?

Anyhoo, the beauty of these indoor play centres is that you can allow your children to enjoy a bit of mixed martial arts cage-fighting, no-holds-barred wrestling, and bare-knuckle boxing in a colourful padded arena which minimises the chances of catastrophic spinal injury and multiple fractures...

Although it doesn't eliminate the risk entirely. In the end though, it was Lisa and I who were beaten into submission. After two and a quarter hours of swinging, running, jumping and getting stuck at the top of the climbing frame (that was me), we called it a day and went home for lunch. Before heading straight back out for Amelie's musical theatre class. I'll be picking her up shortly, taking her to McDonalds, and then going shopping. I wouldn't mind, but we've got even more planned for tomorrow...

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

My favourite headline of the year so far, courtesy of the BBC News website...

The word of God is all very well, but if you really want to end the abuse and suffering of the innocent, you need to hear the almighty voice of a Chuckle Brother.

On the subject of powerful voices, I took Lisa a cup of tea in bed this morning, and as she opened her eyes and heaved a toddler off her chest, she said this:

"I dreamt that I shoved an ice cream into your sister's face, but I can't remember why".

As I said to her at the time, you don't always need a reason. She's just got one of those faces. Although I'm not sure I'd waste a good ice cream.

Lisa clearly doesn't sleep the sleep of the righteous, but to be honest, Big Sis probably deserves a frozen pudding in the face. It's what you might call getting your just desserts. I lent her our old Nintendo DS at Christmas, because she was about to head off to Australia and wanted to play 'Brain Training' while she was there to give her an edge over the Aborigines. Although I think they're all playing 'Animal Crossing'. Unfortunately, whilst Sis made it safely to Oz, our DS got as far as the seat pocket of a plane between Singapore and Brisbane, and has never been heard of again.

The good news is that Big Sis has bought us a new one (well, a second-hand new one). The bad news is that the old one contained all our Brain Training records which proved that I'm cleverer than Lisa, and that her victories at Candy Crush must be more down to luck than judgement. So I can no longer use it to settle arguments about where Amelie got her brains from. I think the BBC needs to stop writing about the Chuckle Brothers and start putting on more of those 'Test the Nation' quizzes.

Monday, January 20, 2014

In another everyday scene of domestic bliss, Toby chucks a bowl of pasta down his jeans and onto the floor while Amelie does handstands on the sofa...

I wish I could say that was unusual.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

I'm beginning to wonder if Lisa's been slipping Grove's Tasteless Chill Tonic into my tea for the past ten years...

After all, it's tasteless. And the picture looks like Toby. I've never developed malaria either.

But that aside, I could certainly do with some kind of tonic at the moment (possibly with gin), as these children are draining me faster than the batteries in Amelie's Innotab. I'm forty now, so I'm legally too old to party, but unfortunately I'm being dragged into the hedonistic lifestyle by my daughter, who's being invited to all the exclusive events on the socialite's calendar and is turning into a five-year-old wild child with a chauffeur. And that chauffeur is me. Although I'm the one being driven around the bend.

I'm currently looking after Toby (I think he's in the bedroom turning on Lisa's hair straighteners) while Amelie dances the afternoon away at a friend's birthday party down the road. Lisa's hanging about in the hope of getting some free sausage rolls and a slice of cake, but I'm keeping my distance until I can get my hands on some Pink Pills for Pale People...

I had enough of the blood draining from my face yesterday afternoon when I was forced to attend another five-year-old's birthday party at an indoor play centre. The location was Westows in Hove, a delightful indoor play facility which would be a whole lot nicer if it was empty. Unfortunately, it tends to be full of children, particularly on a Saturday, with the kind of noise level which makes it difficult for Lisa to hear me asking if I can leave.

We weren't actually obliged to stay for the party, but having been given free entry on the back of Amelie's invitation, we thought it would be nice for Toby to have a clamber about for a couple of hours. It was a decision we regretted within about five minutes. And after twenty, we'd had enough of the mania, claustrophia and wild screaming (mostly from me), and decided that whilst Toby might be enjoying the indoor play centre, he'd probably be even happier sitting in a quiet coffee shop, watching his parents sip lattes.

So while Amelie scaled the heights of the play equipment, the rest of us decamped to George Street, and a branch of Caffè Nero. Unfortunately it took us a long time to get there. Now that Toby's found his feet, he insists on walking everywhere, generally at a speed which makes a tortoise look rushed, and by the time you get anywhere, it's time to come back. Any attempts to carry him result in struggling and screaming (partly from me again), so it's usually better just to let him get on with it.

Yesterday he was particularly pleased with himself, and started waving to people in restaurant windows as he toddled past. He even banged on the glass if they ignored him. By the time we got to Caffè Nero, we basically had to down our coffees like shots, and head back out to Westows.

Having collected our daughter and driven back home, I was then forced at gunpoint to play SpongeBob on the Playstation for an hour (I'm surprised Lisa likes it that much), before taking Amelie down to Asda to do the weekly shop. Which on this occasion featured a bracelet, Hello Kitty chocolates, and about six other things my daughter sneaked into the trolley.

As things stand right now, I still have a dozen household chores to do, two dozen work-related jobs to complete, and three dozen e-mails to write. And Toby's just woken up from his nap. To be honest, I probably shouldn't be writing this blog post...

Saturday, January 18, 2014

When you've been away from your family for four days, it's always nice to come home to a handwritten love letter...

I've no idea who Phil Garnr is, but from what Amelie tells me, he's one hell of a guy. She's even drawn a picture of him...

It just goes to show that even a cool, successful guy like Phil Garnr has his problems in life. He's clearly suffering from some kind of spinal abnormality which has led to chronic torticollis. Possibly as a result of all the crosses he has to bear.

But much like Mr Garnr, I arrived home to a family who were pleased to see me. Mainly because I had presents. As it happens though, I almost missed my train home from Birmingham due to an entirely different gift. One of our friends turned 45 on Thursday, which is the kind of hideous age that no self-respecting person would want to reach, so as a token of our sympathy, Lisa asked me to pick up a present for her before I left Brum.

During my aimless wanderings around the city centre on Wednesday evening, I'd happened across the biggest branch of TK Maxx known to man (well, known to this man), so despite being just around the corner from Poundland, I decided to go the extra mile and live life to the Maxx by stopping off at TK's on the way to the station. Lisa identified a very nice Jane Shilton purse on the TK Maxx website, so I wrote down the details, packed up my belongings, and at 10am on Thursday I checked out of the Moor Street Travelodge and wheeled my suitcase towards the Birmingham Bullring.

Unfortunately, I think they call it the Bullring because you keep going around in circles and end up with a major beef. Despite having seen TK Maxx on Wednesday evening, the whole place looked very different in daylight, and having walked with supreme confidence in entirely the wrong direction, I changed course about six times, and ended up where I'd started. After twenty minutes I was convinced that the Birmingham branch of TK Maxx was a bit like Brigadoon.

But having clocked up about five miles on my suitcase wheels, I eventually stumbled (in a very literal sense) on the shop I'd been looking for, about two minutes walk from the Travelodge. And it only took me half an hour. Although that half hour seemed like nothing compared to the frantic twenty minutes I spent trying to find that damn purse in the world's largest branch of TK Maxx.

Anyhoo, the good news is that I bought the purse, sprinted down New Street, and made it to the station in time for my train. I even made it home in time to pick Amelie up from school. And to be given the cold shoulder by Toby. He refused to accept his giraffe, immediately turned his back on me, and punished me for leaving him by ignoring me all evening. He's like every cat I've ever known.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

I'm not sure if this is the right forum to say it, but my idea of paradise is a branch of Greggs next door to McDonalds...

Although ideally I'd need a Pizza Hut too, for variety.

Anyhoo, today was the third and final day of my training course, but in an effort to get another night away from the kids, I informed Lisa that it would be foolhardy for me to travel back to Brighton this evening. So I've paid for an extra night at the Travelodge out of my own vast personal fortune, and will be travelling home tomorrow.

It's just as well too, as I'm knackered. I could barely find the energy to walk down to Poundland to buy a gift for Amelie and Toby. But in an attempt to broaden my horizons just as the sun was sinking over them, I headed straight out after today's studies to experience Birmingham's outstanding architecture.

Here's a bridge which looks like Blakey from 'On the Buses'...

And here's the Floozie in the Jacuzzi in front of a typical Birmingham council house...

The kids in the foreground are called 'Youth'. I think they're eyeing up a chocolate fountain while they wait for their child benefit to come through.

Anyhoo, here's the Town Hall from in front of the Paradise Forum...

... which proves I'd managed to turn my back on Greggs. I also managed to stagger into Poundland and buy Toby a plastic giraffe. So with the course completed, the presents bought and the sights seen, I just need an early night and a good journey home. It's been a productive few days in Brummagem, but I'd rather be knackered at home with my family.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Five years ago, when I first started my current job, I bought the seminal textbook on diabetic retinopathy screening from Amazon. Today, the professor who wrote that book approached me over coffee and told me how well I present on the subject. So as half-decades go, it hasn't been entirely wasted.

Obviously when I began the day, the only thing I planned to present was a claim form for expenses, but that's what happens when you sit at the front of the room on a national training course. Everyone else takes one step backwards, and you end up being elected as spokesman.

To be honest, I was glad to be standing up and speaking at the front, as it diverted attention away from my bag, which was giving off a radioactive green glow at the time. I'd popped out at lunchtime and bought Amelie a set of four plastic frogs which are supposed to light up in water, but I must have spilt my drink on them as I walked back, because by the time I entered the lecture theatre, I was flashing like a sex offender. Every time they lowered the lights to examine a slide, I looked like I was having my own private disco. In the end I was forced to smother my bag with my coat and hope nobody noticed the glow.

But despite that, it's been a good day, which I rounded off with a stroll through the grounds of Birmingham Cathedral...

I was standing outside Louis Vuitton when I took that, next door to Austin Reed. Which demonstrates my main problem with Birmingham city centre: not enough charity shops.

Monday, January 13, 2014

It’s me at the Heartlands Hospital!

I’m the one reflected in the window. It’s an unwitting selfie. Or a self-unawarie.

Anyhoo, the good news is that I arrived safely in Birmingham yesterday afternoon. The bad news is that the bodies are clearly piling up in Oxford now that Inspector Morse has popped his clogs. My train between Guildford and Birmingham ended up being delayed outside Oxford for half an hour due to what the announcer described as "a fatality on the line". I’ve never seen so many people try to subtly look out of the window without appearing voyeuristic.

Fortunately, in a remarkable act of resurrection, the driver then updated that diagnosis five minutes later, to "flooding on the line". So at worst it was a case of drowning.

Either way, we made it through, and by 5:30pm, I was here...

That’s my room in the Moor Street Travelodge. I had to take the photo on arrival, as it hasn’t been that tidy since.

I have to say, I’m quite impressed with what you can get for £21 a night. Like the Travelodge I stayed at in Liverpool, this one has a built-in Tesco Express, and it’s right in the city centre, which in addition to being handy for the shops, has one major, and unexpected bonus...

I can pick up Marks & Spencer’s free wifi. My room is right at the front at the hotel, directly opposite M&S, and they clearly have their customer wifi turned on 24 hours a day, regardless of whether or not the shop’s open. The signal’s good, even from across the street, so I’ve been making use of that since I arrived. After all, this is not just wifi, it’s M&S free wifi.

Just as handy is that the bus stop for the hospital is virtually right outside, and they run every few minutes, so I can fall out of bed, roll onto a bus, and get delivered straight to my training course. And it’s going well so far. I’ve drunk a lot of free coffee, had some discussions with a trainee diabetologist, looked an ophthalmologist in the eye, and learned a lot from a professor.

But the highlight of my day was the discovery that in Birmingham they have a medical unit for hypochondriacs who like to badger their GP...

It's next to the orthopaedic/fracture clinic in case the doctors get bent out of shape and pushed to breaking point.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Early indications from the catwalks of Milan are that this season's dominant trend is for baggy coats with long sleeves...

I think the idea is to hide your skeletal figure. It makes shoplifting easier too.

Obviously when you’re raising kids, it’s important to teach them that you can’t always rely on your supermodel good looks to make it in life. Just look at me. They’ve clearly got me nowhere. So it’s vital that you have something to fall back on, and the good news is that in addition to her advanced modelling skills, Amelie’s now set to take the world of musical theatre by storm. After all, there’s always plenty of acting work available, so she’ll never be unemployed.

Using Lisa’s vast network of benefactors, we’ve managed to do a deal with The Little Smarties theatre school, whereby they offer us half-price rates for a term, on the grounds that we’re poor, underprivileged, and have suffered enough by having to live with Amelie. Their sessions last for three hours, so it’s clearly money well spent, as it gives me and Lisa our Saturday afternoons back. It’s just a shame they won’t take Toby.

Yesterday was Amelie’s first class, and details are currently sketchy, as all she’s prepared to tell us is that she did a bit of clapping and sang a few songs, but I’m sure it’s only a matter of time before she’s scouted by a top talent agent and is funding our next holiday with the lead role in a Ready Brek commercial.

Unfortunately, there could be some tears before then. And not just when she learns to cry convincingly for her next acting role. It’s a well known fact that Amelie’s only happy when I’m around. No, seriously. She’s put it down in black and white, and she’s not the kind of girl to lie...

That says "Amelie is not happy . Only when Dad is around". I’ve added some punctuation, otherwise it could be interpreted differently.

Tragically, on the evidence of that note, Amelie’s going to be sad until Thursday, because I’m actually writing this at Gatwick Airport. Yes, I’m getting the hell out of Dodge. And going somewhere far more dodgy. I’m actually on my way to Birmingham, and whilst I could get a flight to Alabama from here, I’m actually catching a train to Guildford. And then another one to Brum.

I’ll be at the Heartlands Hospital until Thursday, taking part in an Advanced Grading Masterclass by day, and catching up on sleep at night. It’s the first time I’ve been away since September, when I went to a conference in Newcastle, and when Lisa told Amelie about my trip yesterday, she responded by recollecting this treasured little memory:

"The last time Daddy went away, he ate five doughnuts because he missed us so much".

Now, the sad thing is, that’s true. But I’d forgotten all about it. So it’s reassuring to know that my five-year-old daughter remembers these important life events. I actually Skyped Amelie from the Travelodge in Newcastle, where I was having to binge on doughnuts as some kind of separation anxiety coping mechanism.

There’ll be none of that this time though, as I’m on a diet. So I’ll have to turn to drugs instead. And having watched Benefits Street last Monday, I know exactly where to get them. I’ve also been helped by Amelie, who’s given me a lock of her hair to remember her by. It’s actually this hairband, but it amounts to the same thing, and I was forced to pack it in my suitcase. She also posed for this photo with Toby...

They might be trouble with a capital T, but I’ll miss them nonetheless. And I include Lisa in that too.

Friday, January 10, 2014

The good news is that ten days into the new year, I've already lost my Christmas baby weight. The baby being Jesus, and the weight being a bouncing nine pounds. The twelve days of Christmas turned into a fortnight of feasting, and the sage stuffing was more like unwise gluttony. But fortunately, having given myself a good talking to on New Year's Eve, I began 2014 on a regime of personal hardship and starvation which is likely to result in gallstones, muscle wastage and death. Although I'll look great in an open coffin.

On the downside, it's left me too weak to blog. And it's coincided with a particularly demanding period from my children, whose new year's resolution appears to be to spend more time with their father. For the past week, Toby's been defining the phrase 'running before you can walk' in a very literal sense, by sprinting down the hallway every time I get home from work, and then insisting that I hold him until bedtime. I'm considering having his DNA tested to see if he's part albatross.

In addition to that, Amelie's now so obsessed with video games, that she's begging me to punch fish with SpongeBob and hit rats with golf clubs the moment I walk through the door. She barely gives me time to take my coat off. Although I generally can't take my coat off as I'm holding Toby.

In an attempt to feed her habit, I bought her a copy of 'Destroy All Humans!' for £1 from a charity shop this week. It wasn't until I got home that I noticed it had a '15' rating, and by the time I'd learnt which button to press for an anal probe, I'd decided it wasn't age-appropriate. So I was forced to buy her a ballet game instead. Which she said wasn't as good as the alien one, because you can't suck the brains out of cows.

As it happens, however, I have unearthed some more valuable bargains from charity shops this week. On Tuesday I bought the complete 'Friends' box set of DVDs, consisting of all ten series on forty discs, for the bargain price of £4.99. Which is a fraction of its true worth, and about a hundred times less than you'd have to pay me to watch it. Suffice it to say, I'm not a massive 'Friends' fan, and would be more inclined to use the discs as frisbees, but as luck would have it, Big Sis doesn't share my sophisticated sense of humour, and is quite happy to laugh at idiots, so she'll be getting the set for her birthday.

But DVD box sets aren't my only method of winning Friends and influencing people. I've also bought a new suit. I don't actually need a new suit, but Lisa bought me two ties for Christmas, so I thought I'd get something to go with them. I was in Haywards Heath on Wednesday, and I found a brand new Racing Green silk & linen suit for £24.99. And what's more, it was in my size. Well, the size I'll be when I've lost a bit more weight.

It was in Age UK, so I expect the owner had dementia and didn't know what it was worth. The cheapest silk & linen jacket I can find is this one for £165, so with the trousers, we're looking at two hundred and forty quid. Obviously you could buy a lot of polyester for that kind of money, but it's about time I had a touch of quality, so I splashed out in the name of fashion (and charity), and forked out a pony for a whistle. It's the year of the horse, and I had some money to blow.

Monday, January 06, 2014

Over the course of a single weekend with her father, Amelie asked a number of insightful and pertinent questions, chief amongst them being:

Why does Mummy go out every weekend?

Why does she always stay out until midnight?


Why do I have to do all the work?

Which essentially proves that she's living in a fantasy world. Especially as I was doing the washing up when she asked the last one.

But despite Amelie's protestations, the kids and I survived a weekend without Lisa. Mainly because she was home from the convention at five-thirty on Saturday, and at 2 o'clock on Sunday. Frankly she spends longer in the bathroom.

To be honest, I was glad she wasn't gone the whole weekend, as I still felt pretty rough yesterday, and Amelie was working too hard to pass me the sick bucket. I was also slightly concerned that any insect bite which still looks like this after three days...

... is likely to result in amputation. I struggled to look after the children as I was forced to spend a lot of time googling 'false widow bites' on the internet. I was tempted to e-mail the Hospital for Tropical Diseases in London, but the furthest I've travelled recently is Hastings, and whilst I'm sure you can pick up a few nasty infections in that town, I think the worst I'm likely to have caught is a cold from David Quantick.

So in the end I consoled myself with the thought that whilst I might not have any hair on my head, I'm still cultivating it like alfalfa on my forearms, and even if I lose one due to a septic spider bite, some people would give their right arm for flexor muscles like those, and I'm lucky enough to still have mine.

Anyhoo, the good news is that in response to my nausea and wheal of misfortune, Lisa got a doctor round this morning. The bad news is that she's the mother of one of Amelie's friends, and reacted by taking them to Monkey Bizness. So my next thing will be SV40.

Saturday, January 04, 2014

I'm not saying my children are camp, but...

It's as though Rylan Clark is taking Duncan Norvelle for a walk. And if the bloke in the background was willing to black up, I'd have a pretty good photo of N-Dubz.

Anyhoo, the good news is that Lisa and I felt a lot better this morning. The bad news is that I felt a lot worse this afternoon. But by that time, Lisa had long since departed for her drafty weekend in a Brighton hotel, leaving me to fend for myself with the kids. So I've spent the day proving that parenting is a piece of cake by eating lots of yule log, and throwing up more than just my hands in despair.

Fortunately, I've fed the kids a bit more healthily. In fact, if you think you can't face breakfast first thing in the morning, try this...

That's what I served up to Amelie this morning. I was going to add Marmite, but I didn't want it looking racist.

Lisa left at 10am with the look of a woman who couldn't wait to get away from the kids, so having got them both dressed (that only took about half an hour) I decided to head down to the marina to see who could get swept out to sea first.

When I said I'd got them both dressed, I didn't say I'd dressed them sensibly. But as hats go, those aren't as embarrassing as the double-bobble number that Lisa's just bought for herself.

Anyhoo, the difference between my parenting philosophy and Lisa's is that I paid for Toby's shoes, so I'm bloody well going to make him walk in them. I refused to take the buggy for purely financial reasons, and it proved to be a good decision. By the time we got home, I felt I'd got my money's worth out of that footwear...

Amelie was so good with him that I see no reason why I can't let them go out on their own. I just need to teach her how to tell the time so that she'll be back before bedtime.

We spent an hour wandering around the marina until the gale force winds and pouring rain forced us into Asda for a new duvet, and ultimately back home for lunch. It was at that point that I took a turn for the worse, and went down with more sickness and a splitting headache, but Amelie was quite understanding and only forced me to play SpongeBob on the PS2 for about two hours straight. Somehow I managed to change the bedding and do the washing, whilst retrieving a pebble from Toby's mouth, and by the time Lisa returned at 5:30pm, I'd managed to keep both the kids and myself alive.

And if there's one thing which makes it all worthwhile - aside from the M&S cheesecake Lisa brought home with her - it's this handwritten note from Amelie...

It says 'You are my best Dad'. Obviously the competition's not that fierce, and I had to pay her to write it, but it's touching nonetheless.

Friday, January 03, 2014

Today has been what Stephen Fry would call quite interesting. And not just because it's included a round of general ignorance. In fact, I've been experiencing minor mysteriousness since yesterday, and today has just continued in that vein.

I like to think it all started yesterday lunchtime, when I bought a SpongeBob SquarePants Playstation game for £1 from a Burgess Hill charity shop. We haven't actually used our Playstation 2 since Toby was born, on the grounds that 'Manhunt' and 'Hitman: Blood Money' might have a negative effect on him. We're worried he'll start asking us for a Xbox One. So I'm not sure what possessed me yesterday, other than an overwhelming desire to treat my daughter and spend no more than a pound.

As it happens, I also wanted to light up Lisa's life. So I stopped off at the Hollingbury Asda on the way home to buy her a bedside lamp. Whilst at my parents' last weekend, I bought a very nice touch lamp from the Hastings branch of Asda which was reduced from £12 to £8 in their post-Christmas sale. Since getting it home, Lisa's been coveting it from the other side of the bed, and has become so desperate to have one of her own that I would have happily driven all the way back to Hastings just to stop her whining.

Unfortunately, I'd bought the last one in the shop. And there was no way I was giving her mine. So I thought I'd check out the local branches instead. And sure enough, they had some. For only £3. Now, I'm not sure if this is some kind of mistake, but Lisa's spent the past week saying how lovely my lamp is, and that it was a complete bargain for only eight quid, but at Hollingbury last night, they had about a dozen of them for £3 each. So I bought two. Frankly I was tempted to buy five, but I thought they might be a fire hazard.

Naturally Lisa was pleased. But not as pleased as Amelie, who wiped the thick layer of dust off the Playstation, and promptly fell in love with SpongeBob. Not only did she play that game until she went to bed last night, but I was there at 7:30am this morning, making myself late for work by helping her to drive a giant Krabby Patty through Shell City before the time ran out.

So that was odd. But not as odd as the giant insect bite which appeared on my arm last night. I was under the impression that Britain's flying carnivores had all gone south for the winter, but some kind of hardy mosquito appears to have eaten me alive during the evening.

The resulting itching was quite annoying, but I consoled myself with the knowledge that a slight itch would seem like nothing once the malaria kicked in. And sure enough, we appear to have been struck down with something hideous this evening.

I popped home at lunchtime today, and as I left to return to work, our friend Lorraine arrived with her two children. Naturally I wished her a happy new year by kissing her tenderly on the cheek, which would have been fine, had she not just walked through a brief downpour, which was playing havoc with her skin products. I ended up with a mouthful of moisturiser, and spent the journey back to work wiping my lips with my sleeve just to get rid of the taste.

My afternoon was weird, as most of my patients failed to turn up, and I ended up seeing three instead of the usual seventy-eight (give or take), but within half an hour of getting home, things took a turn for the weirder. Out of the blue, Amelie suddenly had an upset stomach, and within fifteen minutes, I started feeling sick myself.

Lisa, who's nothing if not brutally unsympathetic, told me I was imagining it, used the word 'psychosomatic', and asked me to tidy the flat. Twenty minutes later, she was throwing up in a bucket.

So it's all a bit strange. I've never known three people to suddenly go down with the same illness within half an hour of each other, but somehow we've managed it. Toby appears to be fine, but apparently he ate some of Lorraine's rum-soaked fruit cake without anyone realising, so he's probably too drunk to care.

The tragedy is that I'd planned to treat Lisa to something unconventional this weekend. I'd agreed to look after the children while she spends two days at the Hilton Metropole. Unfortunately she's been in bed with a bucket since 6pm. And she hasn't touched a drop. The best laid plans of mice and men...

Wednesday, January 01, 2014

It's 2014! And it's the year of the horse, so my new year's resolution is to spend more time in the bookies.

But now that I'm home, with 24-hour access to a scanner, I can show you the label which was attached to Toby's favourite Christmas present...

It's part of the new 'Mr Men & Little Misandry' range at Bitter Feminists R Us. On first impressions, it might look like an attractive, cuddly puppy, but after 12 months, he'll start lying, cheating and breaking your heart.

Unfortunately my son's illiterate, so in lieu of a thank you letter, I'd just like to pass on Toby's gratitude to my parents for their thoughtful gift. Next year he'd like the Snake in the Grass and the Sexist Pig. Thanks.

Anyhoo, you can't stay anywhere for five days without leaving something behind. And sure enough, we arrived home yesterday to find that we'd forgotten to pack Amelie. This must be what my parents meant when they wished us a peaceful new year. Unfortunately she's returning this afternoon, which means I have approximately six hours to chuck out all her toys before she arrives home with a load of new ones. It's a good job Toby can't talk, otherwise he might tell her about the bin bag I'm currently filling in the bedroom.