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Monday, March 31, 2014

Forrest Gump, eat your heart out...

It may not look like it, but that was my Mother's Day present to Lisa - the kids on a bench, a long way away from her. I held them hostage at the park while she had an afternoon nap. And that's not E.T. in the background, it's Amelie's scooter. Although she often says "Ouch!" when she rides it.

Anyhoo, to be honest, this past week and a half has been a bit like one long Mother's Day, as we've spent a good ten or eleven days doing little things for Lisa's Mum. Mostly telling her to sit down, and shoving frozen peas in her face. But as of this weekend, our work as professional carers has come to an end, and the mother-in-law has gone home.

She returned to the Eye Hospital on Friday for her post-op check-up, and by the time she left, she was no longer in stitches. Although she was laughing a lot more. The doctor told her that further nose bleeds are unlikely, which is the kind of statement I wouldn't want to make without clamping both hands to the nearest bit of wood, and she left with a clean bill of health.

So on Saturday I did a bit of dawn-breaking overtime, then returned home and took Amelie down to Asda for some groceries to fill her Nanny's vastly depleted fridge. After lunch, I drove my mother-in-law home with some shopping and a new electric blanket, which I then fitted (with great difficulty, as it transpired) before driving Amelie over to Hove for her Musical Theatre Class. Or Colouring-In Session, as I like to call it. This week they made kites. Last time it was masks. If they spent as much time singing and dancing as they do on craft projects, she'd be in the West End by Christmas.

Anyhoo, I returned home for a bit of housework, then collected Amelie, stopped off at McDonalds, came back for more hoovering, and finally made it into bed, before realising that if I'd gone into work at midnight, I could have claimed for an extra hour's overtime when the clocks went forward.

Sadly I didn't think of that, so I got up early on Sunday with the kids, and spent a couple of hours preparing Lisa's Mother's Day gifts, which included framed photos of them both, a heart-shaped crumpet and some Belgian Marc de Champagne Truffles. I'm not sure who Marc is, and why he's getting his Champagne from Belgium, but Lisa seemed to like them. Although Amelie tried one, and said it was so horrible it made her ear hurt.

No, me neither.

With Mother's Day well and truly celebrated, I headed back into work for some more overtime (these kids are going to have a holiday if it kills me) (and if it does, the flights will be cheaper), before returning after lunch and taking the children out to the park, where Amelie followed up on her purple dinosaur incident by acting like a headless chicken on a fowl-looking see-saw...

It's a fine line between role model and bad influence, and it's hard for Toby to look up to her if she's always flat on her face. But judging by the dancing at the end, that Musical Theatre Class isn't entirely in vain.

Friday, March 28, 2014

If, like me, you've often wondered what it would be like to clean up a crime scene after a violent and brutal attack, in the hope of covering your tracks, leaving no trace of your actions, and getting away with murder, then the good news is that I'm now in a position to tell you.

It's actually quite hard work. And you'll need a lot of kitchen roll.

Lisa and I went over to her Mum's flat last night to clean up the aftermath of her nose bleed. She left in a hurry (and an ambulance) on Sunday night, and didn't manage to wipe down any surfaces with Flash as she staggered about the place, leaking blood like a garden sprinkler. She's been staying with us ever since, and hasn't been back home, so naturally the place needed a bit of attention.

To be honest, it was a bit like episode ten of The Killing. The Bates Motel had less blood in the bathroom, and if you didn't know better, you'd assume there'd been some kind of frenzied slaying in the hallway. I know my mother-in-law had a nose bleed, but from the blood spatters all over the wall and floor, it looked like she'd been doing a bit of high-energy Zumba while she waited for the ambulance.

Fortunately, like all would-be murderers, Lisa and I had gone prepared with disposable rubber gloves and a myriad of cleaning products, and having spent an hour on the floor with cloths, chemicals and a steam cleaner, we were confident we'd got most of it up. At which point we locked up the flat, and noticed the blood on the front door. That's community spirit for you. The woman's been gone for five days, and there are bloody handprints on her letterbox, and yet nobody's phoned the police.

Anyhoo, in addition to carrying out crime scene investigations last night, Lisa and I also held an inquiry into Amelie's behaviour by attending a parents' evening at her school. And I'm pleased to say that the report was entirely positive. She might spend her time at home watching SpongeBob on the iPad with the hair of an 80s rocker and a boy who takes off his own trousers...

... but at school she's a model pupil. In fact she's a role-model pupil. They told us that the other children all look up to her. And not just because she's the tallest.

At the risk of blowing Amelie's trumpet (which would no doubt make her scream, shout, and tell me to get my own trumpet, as she snatches it back and storms off into her bedroom), we were told that our daughter's at the top of her game (which is the same as playing up) and despite being only halfway through the year, she's already at the stage where she could leave Reception class and move up. So possibly they just want to get rid of her.

She won't actually be going anywhere just yet, but they are attempting to come up with new challenges for her, as she's completed every one going, and the average class activity is beneath her. She's begun filling her spare time by examining the other children for nits and reporting back to the teacher, but they'd rather she does something more academic.

One thing they did request was that we take in any writing she does at home, as they're so impressed by her literacy, they want to incorporate it into her 'learning journey' at school. So I'm going to take in this note from Wednesday...

It's about the dangers of sitting on a mat close to shark-infested waters. I think the dog had the right idea.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Lisa turned to me last night and said "Why is everything going wrong for us at the moment?". I’d just knocked over a glass of water at the time, but to be honest, I don’t think that was the only disaster she was referring to. Obviously the bleeding mother-in-law is my main concern at the moment, but as it happens, she’s not the only one losing face in a literal fashion. Whilst eating my lunch on Monday, some of my teeth fell out. Well, one of my teeth fell out. Partially.

To be honest, it was the first time I’d had a chip in my mouth since I started my latest diet, so naturally I swallowed it without thinking. In fact I didn’t realise what had happened until I swept my tongue around my mouth to clear out the remnants of chocolate salad, and nearly speared it on the jagged remains of a tooth. The corner had chipped off one of my premolars, leaving me with the kind of fang rarely seen outside of an episode of Twilight.

At the time, I thought I’d lost a filling (and not just the one in my sandwich), so I phoned my dentist and managed to get an appointment for yesterday, but as it transpired, it was just a bit of my tooth. The dentist took advantage of modern technology by sticking a pen-cam into my mouth, taking a photo, and displaying it on the TV screen in front of me, so that I could see what he was talking about. Unfortunately I had a foggy eye-shield on at the time, so it was all a bit hazy in more ways than one.

The upshot of it all was that the dentist decided to do nothing. He said that to fill the gap would require the drilling away of healthy tooth, and with no decay there, it would be unethical. And besides, I’m now far better equipped to tear antelopes to pieces with my teeth, which can only be a good thing.

With my mouth passed fit for purpose, I returned home from work yesterday to the news that Toby had walked off with one of our cordless phones, dialled a number, and then hidden the handset. Lisa had already checked the toilet, the bin and her boots, but the phone was nowhere to be found, and she was slightly concerned that he'd called Australia. Which would have been ironic, as they're all out searching for stuff themselves.

I disconnected the phone line, in an attempt to terminate the call, and began to join in the hunt. At which point Lisa's Mum decided to do her bit by bending down to search under the sofa cushions, and promptly started another nose bleed.

Now, I'm not saying that Lisa doesn't like the sight of blood, but at one point she was attempting to assist her mother by standing in another room and shouting messages of support through the wall. Fortunately, we managed to get our joint act together somehow, and whilst I fetched the kitchen roll, tissues and bucket, Lisa rummaged around in the freezer for a cold compress. The hospital had recommended frozen peas, but we're quite middle class, so we went with roasted Mediterranean vegetables.

Within twenty minutes, the bleeding had stopped, and the only permanent damage was psychological. Lisa's Mum took it easy with a glass of water while I scrubbed the carpet and handed out unqualified medical advice with an unjustified air of authority. An hour later, we'd calmed down a bit. At which point I knocked over the glass of water and ruined a magazine. It's not that everything's going wrong, it's just that nothing's going right.

Monday, March 24, 2014

The good thing about burning the candle at both ends is that it gives you the chance to see your plans go up in smoke at both 5am and midnight. Frankly the last Sunday in October couldn't have been a longer day than yesterday.

I'd already planned to get up early yesterday morning and head into work for some more overtime, but as it turned out, Lisa and I had the pleasure of being woken up at 4:45am by someone ringing the loud buzzer on our external intercom. I'm not sure if they were drunk, mental or just dangerous, but my money was on all three, so we refused to let them in. At which point they rang everyone else in the block.

By 5:15am I'd realised I wasn't going to get back to sleep, so I decided to make hay before the sun came up, and head into work. I was at my desk just after six, and worked until half past nine, at which point I returned home to look after Toby while Lisa and Am went to church. Having already earned some money that morning, I decided to continue in that vein by selling a leather jacket of mine on eBay, which meant attempting to take some classy-looking photos while Toby attacked me with a coat hanger.

Lisa and Amelie returned home at 12:20pm, which gave us half an hour to have lunch before Am and I headed down to the swimming pool for a ninety minute lesson. We were back home at three, at which point I started the hoovering and housework. By 8pm, the kids were in bed, I was in my pyjamas, and the only thing on my mind was an early night.

At which point the phone rang.

It was Lisa's Mum, informing us that she was standing in a pool of blood, and an ambulance was on its way. Which was surprising, as it's not April the 1st for another week.

When she had her eye operation last Wednesday, they warned her that some bleeding was to be expected (which explains why we had to throw out one of our pillows), but told her that if blood suddenly started pouring out of her nose uncontrollably, she should go straight to A&E. Which is what I like to call the bleeding obvious.

Sure enough, at about 8 o'clock yesterday evening, she bent down to get an ice cream out of the freezer, and blood started gushing from her face. Thus proving that Cornettos are bad for you. Fortunately we live about a hundred yards from A&E, so despite having called us second, I was fully dressed and standing at the reception desk a full fifteen minutes before the ambulance arrived and my blood-soaked mother-in-law was wheeled into the hospital.

I said last Friday that she looked like Sylvester Stallone at the end of 'Rocky'. Well yesterday evening she looked more like The Evil Dead. But with more blood. The bleeding itself had stopped by the time she got to hospital, but that's possibly because she had seven pints on her dress. The paramedics (who were lovely, I must say) had strapped a wad of gauze to her face, and she reminded me of Terry Butcher in a World Cup qualifier.

Fortunately, despite looking like the most seriously injured person in casualty, my mother-in-law was surprisingly perky, and started asking me how *I* was. Unfortunately, just as I was about to fill her in on the challenges of doing overtime at 6am, my window of opportunity was closed by Lisa's sister, who turned up at A&E, saw her Mum, and promptly burst into tears. I ended up having to give her my chair. Before my mother-in-law did.

Anyhoo, to cut a long story short, I stayed until Lisa's Mum was seen by a nurse and moved into a cubicle, but when someone turned up to undress her, I decided it was time to leave, and handed responsibility to my sister-in-law and her husband. Which meant I'd gone by the time the bleeding started again, and she vomited blood. I'm not sure what time I got home. It felt like midnight, but wasn't.

Lisa's Mum stayed in hospital overnight, but was discharged at lunchtime today, and has come back to our flat. We have nothing worth eating in the bottom of our freezer, so she should be quite safe. She's due back at the Eye Hospital on Friday, so we might insist she stays until then, otherwise she'll be on the first bus into town in the morning, and having nose bleeds in Marks & Spencers. I'll be strapping her to the sofa shortly and heading over to the sheltered housing to pick up her clothes. Her current outfit is technically clinical waste, and needs prompt incineration.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

I've always dreamt of having a daughter who looks like Lembit Opik...

It's ironic, because she's generally more of a cheeky girl. But that's Amelie pictured shortly after leaving her friend's party yesterday afternoon. She's wearing a tiara to distract people from the greasiness of the nit lotion. We applied it quite liberally, which is why she reminds me of Lembit. If we'd applied it conservatively, she'd look more like David Cameron. Although her fringe isn't far off Hitler.

The last time Amelie went out on a Saturday afternoon, she told us she was forced to play 'Duck Duck Goose' against her will, which is typical of the modern oppression faced by 21st century girls, and is likely to lead to another suffragette movement, but this time there were no such hardships. Although apparently she didn't get a party bag.

To be honest, although Lisa and I found yesterday difficult, the kids seemed to cope just fine. We stopped off to buy a new iPad charger on our way home from the party, and by teatime, they were happily playing on a building site...

Yes, other people have flowerbeds and fountains outside their property. We have trenches, gas fitters and earth movers. The only water feature we can see is exposed pipe work.

But despite being surrounded by scaffolders, bricklayers and labourers, you can always rely on Toby to lighten the atmosphere and defuse the testosterone with a limp-wristed "Coo-eee!"...

Although that's actually his dinosaur impression. It's not always easy to tell the difference.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

It's a well known fact that the best laid plans of mice and men gang aft agley. Or something. I had a meticulously planned schedule for today, based around two key pieces of information: firstly, that Toby has now dropped my laptop on the floor once too often and broken the screen, and secondly, that I've been offered the chance to do some overtime. Combining those two things, and adding in the fact that we can barely afford to eat (at decent restaurants), I thought I'd factor-in three trips to work today.

So I got up at 6am, and at seven-twenty this morning, I was sitting at my desk at the hospital. By 10 o'clock I'd graded 50-odd patients (some more odd than others), at which point I headed back up the hill, where my intention was to take the kids out for a couple of hours, return to work for an hour or so while Toby napped at lunchtime, then take Amelie to a friend's birthday party, do another hour's overtime, and then take her home for tea.

It was a plan which couldn't fail. Until 10am, when it did. I returned home, expecting to find the kids with their shoes on, ready for some weekend father-fun, and instead found Amelie in a dressing gown, having her hair groomed for insects. Within two minutes of walking through the door, I'd been shown a wriggling louse on a nit comb, and informed that it was the fourth animal-encounter of the morning.

I did the washing up while Lisa did the washing down, at which point we noticed Toby scratching. I'll spare you the gruesome details, but frankly he was more infested than his sister. I blame that school assembly. He clearly did more than just rub shoulders with the children. He was probably running his fingers through their hair. So rather than taking my kids out for a pleasant stroll in the sunshine, we spent the morning combing, rinsing, screaming, moaning and delousing. After which I still had to do a bit of shopping.

Not only was there no time to return to work before the party, but we were so desperate to ensure that Amelie arrived there with no parasites, that we were 20 minutes late leaving. And we then had to go to Asda for more nit lotion. We got home at 3:40pm. And we've got to leave at four-fifteen to pick her up. To add to the broken laptop, we can't use the iPad either, as Toby got hold of the charger, and sucked it until the connection went rusty.

But whilst my plans for newfound wealth have gone right up the Swanee, there has been one bright spot in this most disastrous and frustrating of days. I was listening to my favourite podcast at work this morning, and it posed this interesting question:

There are 30 foxes, and 20 ate chickens. How many didn't?

The interesting bit is that anyone who reads that, can answer it. But most people who hear it, can't. In fact, they won't even understand the question. You've gotta love the English language.

Friday, March 21, 2014

I'm not saying that modern ophthalmic surgery isn't a wonderful thing, but having spent Wednesday at the Eye Hospital, Lisa's Mum now looks a bit like Sylvester Stallone at the end of 'Rocky'. I think she must have had a punch-up with the consultant. Wednesday night was spent mopping up her blood with kitchen roll, so that we could have a proper butcher's at her bruises. She looks like she's been slapped in the face with a fish. Specifically a Great White Shark.

As a result, she's feeling about as drained as her tear ducts, and stayed on with us for a second night to recuperate. The good news, however, is that our sleeping arrangements have provided fuel for the primary school rumour mill, as we discovered yesterday evening that Amelie was under the impression that her Nanny was sharing a bed with me. We're not sure who she's told about this, but for some reason she assumed that Lisa's Mum had spent the night cuddling up to her son-in-law instead of sharing a bed with her daughter. I think she's been watching too much Jeremy Kyle.

From initial reports, however, Amelie's school assembly went very well yesterday. She remembered all her lines, stage-fright was non-existent, and - in the best news of all - our fairy tale shoe box was featured on some kind of video screen. I'm not sure if it was a Jumbotron or a laptop, and Lisa very nearly missed it (so frankly it could have been the Jumbotron), but a potential audience of hundreds has now had the chance to witness my skills with a toilet roll. It's a proud moment for the whole family.

At the time though, I was blissfully unaware of my fame, and busy strolling down Baker Street, humming a bit of Bob Holness...

Obviously that chap's more bobby than Bob, but with acting skills like those, I bet he's featured in a few blockbusters.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Tomorrow morning, Amelie will be taking part in her class's first ever school assembly, an audio-visual extravaganza of music, poetry, gangsta rap and gingerbread, featuring farm animals, porridge, and at least one mention of Jesus. Parents are actively encouraged to attend, and with Amelie landing a key speaking role (they've clearly failed to shut her up), I wouldn't miss it for the world.

Unfortunately I'll be on a train up to London at the time, on my way to the Royal College of Ophthalmologists. They're expecting me - I'm not burgling the place. So whilst I wouldn't miss that assembly for the world, I'll willingly give it a miss for the chance to hobnob with a few doctors. And doctor a few Hobnobs. They always have decent biscuits.

The good news is that whilst I won't be at the school in person, I've already seen the assembly. Amelie's currently touring a one-woman show around the living rooms of Brighton, performing the whole thing herself...

In reality, she only has the one line to herself, but as luck would have it, she's such a megalomaniac, she's learnt everyone else's too. It's where we get the phrase 'stealing the show'. There's every chance she'll lock all her classmates in the stationery cupboard, and take to the stage alone.

In other news, I know it's generally a bad idea to take your work home with you, but I spent this afternoon doing a clinic at the Sussex Eye Hospital, and ended up bringing one of the patients back to our flat. She's currently in my bed. Fortunately I've met her before, and I'll still respect her in the morning, as it happens to be Lisa's Mum. She had an operation on a blocked tear duct this afternoon, so I've given up my bed tonight for reasons of clinical observation. She's currently wearing an eye patch, so Toby thinks she's a pirate and keeps saying "Ha-harrrrrr!".

She's been told she mustn't sneeze for nine days, or eat any hot food, so it's cold cuts and no pepper for a week. We have to watch her for the next twenty-four hours too, just in case she tries to blow her nose without permission. I'll see how she is in the morning, and if necessary I can ask the Royal Ophthalmologists to give her call in their lunch break.

Monday, March 17, 2014

It's not easy being right all the time...

Admittedly, if I was any kind of parent, I probably wouldn't have let her climb up there in the first place, but I'm a great believer in the principle of natural consequences, which basically states that once your children have lost all their limbs, they'll never pick up a chainsaw again. Or anything else, for that matter.

The important thing is that despite my hands-off approach to parenting, Amelie's managed to survive long enough to learn from her mistakes, so I'm confident she'll never, ever, do anything dangerous again. Although she did stand on a swing with a skipping rope about two minutes later.

Anyhoo, as the video above shows, I took the kids to Jurassic Park yesterday. That's not the wind you can hear, it's the breath of a triceratops. With the weather unexpectedly clement, I decided to let Toby walk there, so I dug out Amelie's old toddler reins. She's been untangling them for the past four years...

As the responsible older sibling, I let Amelie hold the reins as we walked along the pavement, which gave her the chance to test her theory that as long as she stayed on the path, it was ok for Toby to wander into the road. Naturally I put her straight on that one, and she responded by letting go of the reins altogether, and telling Toby to take his chances with the traffic. Frankly it was a miracle either of them made it home alive.

But survive they did, and with Toby successfully heading for his afternoon nap (and Lisa not far behind him), I took Amelie swimming for a couple of hours. Her regular Friday evening swimming lesson had been cancelled with just over an hour's notice and no explanation, but things appeared to be back to normal yesterday, so I took advantage of the poolside free wi-fi, and inspiration from Amelie's water-based escapades, and completed my shark presentation for work.

And the good news is that we've now had this e-mail from the swimming school:

"Firstly apologies regarding the cancelled lesson on Friday – unfortunately a child was sick in the pool and this resulted in the pool having to be closed for 4 hours to allow the water to be chlorinated to kill any bacteria."

Apparently the chlorination only took one hour. The other three were spent fishing out the bits of carrot with a sieve.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

I found this unsigned note in the living room on Friday...

For anyone not trained in the dark arts of cryptography, that reads "To Toby, you're the best baby in the whole world. We love you". Although 'whole world' took a bit of analysis. My first thought was that Lisa's handwriting is getting slightly worse, but it transpired that it was written by Amelie, who's already displaying the fine motor skills required to be a doctor, plus a caring bedside manner...

Although I'm not sure you should sit the patients on your lap.

Anyhoo, I know they say that if you want something done, you should ask a busy person, but between Friday and Saturday evening, I would have told you to sod off. I was so preoccupied, I barely had time to read the latest conspiracy theories about flight MH370 (it's either aliens or elves, obviously). On Friday evening we had our shopping delivered from Asda, but in addition to the usual salad, fruit and vegetables (no, really) it came with a side order of something slightly less healthy, in the form of Bis Sis and her boyfriend, who paid us a flying visit en route to my parents'.

It meant we were able to spend an enjoyable evening chatting about life, work, and whether Sis had brought down any planes recently, whilst eating pizza and slagging off phone salesmen. Lisa and I didn't get to bed until after midnight, but I was woken at 6am by Toby kicking me repeatedly in the back, so I got up, put the previous night's shopping away (fortunately there was nothing frozen) and took Amelie to the Saturday morning film at the cinema. Which turned out to be slightly colder than our groceries.

We actually went to see 'Frozen', a chilling tale about a girl with the power to freeze anything. It's based on the old Iceland adverts with Kerry Katona. Tickets were only a pound each, which explains why the cinema was packed to the rafters with children, but personally I found the bigger stress to be caused by the parents who queue up for popcorn, spend an eternity deciding if they want sweet or salted, and then elect to pay by credit card for something which costs less than a fiver, before letting their friends jump the queue ahead of you, and proceed to do exactly the same. By the time we got into the auditorium, I felt a more appropriate film would have been 'Scream'.

But having taken a few deep breaths and a couple of good seats, Amelie and I settled down to watch some delightful little musical numbers such as 'Love is an Open Door'...

Although personally I prefer this version...

They're so like me and Lisa. I don't keep my eyes on the road either.

Anyhoo, at the Oscars the weekend before last, the Academy Award for Best Original Song went to 'Let It Go', which is sung by Elsa about 35 minutes into the film. It was the highlight of the first half of the movie, and came about two minutes before Amelie told me she was bored and wanted to leave. You can't argue with a headstrong five-year-old, so having asked her if she was sure, we abandoned 'Frozen' after 37 minutes, and headed outside to defrost in the sunshine. Whereupon Amelie admitted that she'd actually found the film a bit scary. I was the same with Pete's Dragon.

From there, we headed home, had an early lunch, and went straight back out to Hove, where we dropped Amelie at a friend's house, before heading to Halfords for a headlight bulb. I'd noticed on Tuesday that one of my car's headlights had stopped working, and I only had the sidelight on the right, so I thought I'd get the experts to fit a new one. Having parked outside the store, I double-checked that only the sidelight was working, then went inside to request a new headlight.

It was a young lady who came out to fit it, but fortunately I'm quite secure in my masculinity, so the fact that a 20-year-old girl knows more about cars than I do, didn't bother me. I probably know more about cupcakes than she does. She fitted the new bulb, and I turned on the lights to check it, at which point she said "Oh, the sidelight isn't working". I replied that it had been two minutes ago, and she said "Yes, I thought it was too...", before suddenly getting all defensive and claiming that it can't be anything to do with her, as she hadn't touched that bulb at all.

Now, I admit I know nothing about cars, but when a bulb suddenly stops working within seconds of someone changing the bulb six inches to the side, isn't that slightly suspicious? Either way, I had no proof of anything, and no choice but to fork out even more for a new sidelight bulb. Which only come in packs of two. Meaning I'd bought three bulbs instead of one. By the time we left, I'd spent twenty quid and lost all faith in Halfords.

On the bright side, however, Amelie was out at her musical theatre class all afternoon, and Toby went to sleep for a while, which meant I was able to spend a solid two hours creating a presentation for our next team meeting at work. It's about a clinical trial involving sharks. Although I'm not sure they're willing participants. With that (partially) done, we headed back over to Hove to pick up Amelie, then down to the marina for petrol and a Happy Meal (the latter wasn't for me), before getting home, putting the kids to bed, and having an early night ourselves. I'm not sure if I should give up my car, my kids or my job, but I'm definitely far too busy.

Friday, March 14, 2014

I've always said that breast is best...

... particularly with regard to chicken, but having spent all day yesterday in London with a well established breast man and a few gorgeous looking birds, I'm feeling that sentiment more strongly than ever.

The birds in question were mostly ducks on the Regent's Canal, which was situated about two feet from my chair...

I had to sit with my back to the window so as not to be distracted by the view, the sunshine, and the narrow boats gliding gently past our table. The room itself looked like this...

That one's a publicity photo. In reality, it was decorated more for nipples than nuptials, but I did spend all day by that pillar. It's nice to have something to lean on. Especially when you've eaten too many sandwiches from the buffet.

Anyhoo, yesterday was actually a very good day. It didn't start particularly well, but I'm learning to accept that although I only use trains about four times a year, at least three of those trips will include breakdowns, cancellations or five-hour delays. So having come to terms with that fact, yesterday doesn't seem so bad.

The 8:13am train from Brighton arrived on time, departed on time, and made it to within two miles of Crawley with no problems whatsoever. Unfortunately, at that point the driver announced that due to unforeseen difficulties, it would be terminating at Gatwick - and promptly chucked us all off. I expect he had a plane to catch.

Fortunately the next train to London arrived within ten minutes. Unfortunately it was so full, I couldn't get on it. But having finally squeezed onto the third train to grace us with its presence, I made it up to London a mere half an hour later than planned, which, in comparison with previous records, is pretty much on time. A quick dash up the Northern Line, a sprint past Camden Market, and I made it to the Holiday Inn by the Regent's Canal in time to register my arrival and grab a coffee before the training day began.

And an excellent training day it was too. I spent seven hours learning at the feet of this man, whilst picking the brains of a former eye screening programme manager, and chatting to sonographers, newborn hearing screeners and AAA practitioners. Who have excellent credit ratings. I learnt how to interview, produce reports, and be a 'critical friend' (I was halfway there already), whilst being taught about 'Door Handle Questions' and the 'Calgary Cambridge Model', which states that angry people will rant for no more than three minutes. Unless you interrupt them.

By the end of the day I'd made some very useful contacts, learnt some invaluable stuff, and met a lot of very lovely people. Some of whom seemed to like me. I was very impressed with the whole thing. And I'm not just saying that because it was free. It was excellent from start to finish, and despite the complete lack of breasts, I'd do it all again in a heartbeat. Although next time I might not go by train.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

It's a well known and entirely indisputable fact that I deserve an all-expenses-paid holiday. Preferably without my family. So after three full days in clinic, a one-legged wife and two children who drive me to distraction, I'm heading straight to this place in the morning...

That's the Holiday Inn at Camden Lock, "a pure 4* stylish gem in the heart of vibrant Camden Town, right along Regent's canal", which boasts stunning views such as this one...

My little break in the sunshine (I've checked the weather forecast) is being paid for in its entirety by Public Health England. They've even booked my train tickets for me. And frankly I feel better already. Unfortunately I'm only going for the day, and I'm expected to work while I'm there, which is dampening my holiday mood very slightly, but a change is as good as a rest, and I can sleep on the train up to London.

My reasons for going (apart from the free food) are explained by this advert...

Apparently they want people who are fastidious, which is obviously me to a T. They probably want other things too, but I didn't really read the rest of the details.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

The highlight of today was when I walked out of my room at a mid-Sussex health centre to call my first patient, only for the receptionist to shout to me that I had something on my leg. I panicked, thinking she meant a spider, but it transpired that Amelie had stuck self-adhesive letters to the back of my trousers. Fortunately they didn't spell anything, but the first letter was F so it could have been a lot worse.

To be honest, it was the second trouser-related disaster I'd encountered that morning, after Toby demonstrated why toddlers shouldn't be given access to pens...

Not only has he attempted some highly advanced tattooing, but he appears to have given himself jaundice. In one foot only.

As it happens, Toby's not the only one with strange purple markings on his instep. I came home from work yesterday afternoon to both good news and bad news. The good news is that Lisa's got some more nearly-new shoes that I might be able to sell on eBay, on the grounds that she no longer has any use for them. The bad news is that it's because she can't walk.

It's a well known fact that Lisa's about as stable as a vertigo sufferer in clown shoes, so she regularly takes tumbles down stairs, over stools, and across open spaces with no obstacles whatsoever. She's actually been overdue for another trip of a lifetime, and yesterday she had a spring in her step (as opposed to Megablocks in her boots), so it came as no surprise to hear that like Jack and Jill before her, she'd headed up the hill to fetch our pale daughter, only to fall down, break her gown, and see Am come tumbling after.

Or, to put it another way, she sprained her ankle walking Amelie home from school, and nearly landed them both in the road. Amelie informed me that she was the one more badly injured, and couldn't understand why no one was giving her any sympathy, particularly as the whole thing was Mummy's fault, but I think it was because Lisa was the one who ended up in the gutter, unable to move.

Anyhoo, the upshot of it all is that Lisa's now sporting a purple, swollen foot that she can't put a lot of weight on. And despite what the council might think, she doesn't actually own a mobility scooter. Which meant she couldn't take Amelie to school this morning. I had to head into mid-Sussex with an F-word on my backside, so I couldn't take her either. And our nearest friend has hurt her back, and was struggling to get her own child to school, never mind ours as well.

But as luck would have it, my Mum was already due to come over today, so we suggested that she might like to experience the drive at a far more ungodly hour, get here two hours earlier than planned, and drag our daughter up the hill before five-to-nine. And, foolishly, she agreed. She even stayed around long enough to pick Amelie up this afternoon.

Lisa attempted to book Amelie into the school's Breakfast Club for tomorrow morning, which would enable me to drop her off before heading to another clinic, but they were fully booked, presumably with kids who look like Molly Ringwald and like dancing on tables to 80s music. So as things stand right now, we're looking at either a miraculous bit of healing, or a taxi. And my money's on the latter. Quite literally.

Sunday, March 09, 2014

As I write this, Toby is crawling past at high speed with a dummy clip attached to the back of his pyjamas, the other end of which is being held by Amelie, who is running him through the flat, throwing a glow stick in front of him, and shouting "Fetch!". She's just told him he's a good dog. I think this is how people end up with psychological problems in later life. It's certainly driving me a bit mad.

I've already had one crushing blow to my confidence this morning. I made Amelie a three-dimensional toast & marmite house for her breakfast, and when I presented it to her on a plate, she looked disdainful and said "I wanted it to have a moat". Presumably to drown peasants in. She'll be asking for a duck house next.

But when she's not unleashing the hounds of hell on those she considers unworthy, she actually looks like an angel...

That was her yesterday afternoon, shortly before leaving for a party on the Whitehawk estate. She's wearing a stab-proof vest under that dress. Fortunately, ten minutes before I was due to drive her over there, Lisa had a text message from one of the other parents, offering to give Amelie a lift, so I didn't have to go there myself.

Judging by the debrief we received afterwards, the party was a great success. The birthday boy, who we've long suspected has a bit of a crush on our daughter, asked Amelie to dance, but apparently she was too busy eating at the time. So she's clearly following her father's example by showing more interest in food than the opposite sex. She did inform us that she did some plate-spinning (having cleared them, presumably), but apparently one of the best bits of the party was when she and a few friends created Ant City on the steps of the community hall. She told us she was in charge of the swimming pool. So I suspect she's now drowning insects in her spare time.

As for today, we're treating Amelie to a trip to the cinema to see 'Tinker Bell and the Pirate Fairy'. Of all the many varieties of fairy, I think pirate ones are my favourite, but I've opted to stay at home and look after Toby instead. He might be a toddling whirlwind of chaos who wrecks everything within a ten metre radius, whilst punching me in the face, biting my legs, and putting everything I own down the toilet, but even when he's permanently screaming in my ear and tipping food on the floor, it's preferable to spending ninety minutes watching Tinker Bell with a hall full of five-year-old girls.

Friday, March 07, 2014

"To Mummy, this is our happy family"...

It’s happy, primarily because Toby’s not there, chucking our stuff down the toilet. It’s also nice to see that whilst in real life I’ve had no use whatsoever out of the ties Lisa bought me for Christmas, in Amelie’s imagination I’m wearing them constantly. Along with two black eyes and no ears.

Anyhoo, the truth is that in reality Amelie does have a lot to be happy about. I bought her some Peppa Pig pancake mix this week...

Obviously I didn’t buy it on Shrove Tuesday. I bought it on Ash Wednesday. I think it was some kind of fire sale. Asda battered down the prices of their pancake mixes on the first day of Lent, so I borrowed 50p from Lisa and bought a bottle of pig-themed strawberry flour.

Amelie’s pictured above on the edge of wild excitement and anticipation with a load of nit lotion in her hair, dressed in raspberry scrubs stained with insecticide. Which is typical for a midweek evening. Five minutes later, after I’d flipped the first pancake and she’d actually tasted the finished product, her level of interest waned substantially. Suffice it to say that the pancakes were endorsed by Peppa, mainly because you’d only feed them to a pig.

On the bright side, however, that photo also showcases our newly positioned kitchen cupboard, which was reinstalled last week by the council, after they informed us at short notice that they needed to fit a new vent in our kitchen wall. The men turned up while I was at work, and informed Lisa that to make enough room, they’d be moving our wall cupboard down six inches. Which sounds fine, until you realise that it’s now only eight inches above the top of our dish drainer and we can’t dry any plates. So we basically have two options: either put them all in the tumble dryer, or start eating our meals off saucers.

Wednesday, March 05, 2014

I'm a bit concerned that if I don't write anything today, people will think I've given up blogging for lent, so I feel I should get down to the nitty gritty and write an update on our louse situation. It's just over a week now since we discovered that our daughter was infested with insects, so in the past seven days, my home life has become a bit like a remake of 'The Bay'. Only more terrifying. I think the low point for me was when I found Lisa using my favourite pasta dish as a louse-drowning pool, but to be honest, none of it's been a barrel of laughs. Although I do quite like Amelie's daily updates on which of her classmates are scratching.

Fortunately Lisa's taken on the role of Nit Nurse, as my lack of experience with hair precludes me from playing a part. At least that's what I told her. I did suggest that we use the bath as a sheep dip, but in the end, Lisa has made do with daily washing, combing and treating of Amelie's locks with various lotions, potions and insecticides. For the most part, Amelie's been a very patient patient, although the phrase "Am I done yet???" has become a familiar cry of despair over the past few days, as Lisa combs the area for nits.

As a reward for Amelie's endurance in the face of extreme hairdressing, I bought her a cuddly Hello Kitty from an Uckfield charity shop yesterday - an experience which taught me that if you decide to chat to an old lady about your daughter’s love of Japanese felines, there's every chance you'll end up being pressured into unplanned purchases. Within five minutes, I'd been shown the hospice shop's entire range of Hello Kitty merchandise, and persuaded to part with four quid for a pink raincoat. It wasn't so much Hello Kitty as goodbye money and an empty kitty. Although if I can ease the suffering of a terminally ill patient, whilst cheering up my daughter, it's probably cash well spent.

On the subject of patients, the good news is that my skills as a retinal photographer are now intimidating the customers so much that would-be challengers are heading for the hills. One of my patients yesterday was so taken aback by the speed with which I moved the fixating light and snapped images of his eyes (it was almost lunchtime, so I was in a bit of a hurry), that as he got up to leave, he stopped, turned to me, and said "I'll tell you one thing before I go..."

Naturally my heart sank, in case it was a story about the war, but he continued: "I wouldn't want to play you at Laser Quest".

I said "How about Kerplunk..?" and in the end we settled on Twister. My arthritis should make it an even contest.

Saturday, March 01, 2014

Amelie drew this picture of me and Lisa yesterday...

Putting aside the fact that I've got four legs and a look of hopeless resignation, it's touching to know that she's recognised the everlasting bond of love that exists between her parents. We can barely muster a smile between us, but we're still quite fond of each other.