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David's diary: December 1996

I will apologise this time, however, since I haven't posted a substantial entry for a couple of weeks now. Of course my excuses are watertight... well probably.

Last week was spent on a C++ training course in Stony Stratford, a few miles up the V4 from here. It was most worthwhile, and despite frequently suffering information overload, I'm sure I learned a lot about this highly influential programming language. More than anything, having a better understanding of the concepts is importent to me; I never managed to memorise C's syntax, and C++ makes it still worse, but at least I now understand to a certain degree what's going on, and know what terms like multiple inheritance and polymorphism, well to some extent anyway! For some bizarre reason, the university had requested a 50:50 split between Windows 3.1 and 95 installations on the machines supplied - this meant that the practical exercises were complicated somewhat, with different versions of the compilers running. At least it was Borland C++ throughout, rather than some mixture, but the different versions of these implement differing amounts of the C++ meta-standards, such that some exercises would not work on v4.0, but would on v4.5. Why they insisted on using v4.0 on Windows 3.1 though I don't know, since I know for a fact - because I have it installed here - that v4.5 runs fine under Windows 3.1. Oh well, mine is not to ask the reason why. By the end of the four-day course, all of us - the lecturer included - were utterly knackered, but still had enough energy to drag ourselves to the Vaults bar in the town, to drink our sorrows away...

The week was slightly spoilt, however, by finding my car had been broken into sometime during Sunday night. Nothing had been taken as far as I could tell, and the repair bill was not horrendous, but it was certainly hassle I didn't need at that time on a Monday morning, just as I was due to leave for the training course. I drove up to Stony Stratford anyway, no doubt leaving a trail of broken glass all the way up the V4, but my colleagues urged to go get it fixed immediately, so I drove straight down to Autoglass and was back at the training centre by 10am. I can't help but notice that the two occasions I have been the victim of car crime have been at very personally important times - namely whilst en-route to my interview here, and when leaving for the first proper training course I have ever been on. Both times I managed to grin and bear it, and largely get on with what I needed to do, regardless. Powers of evil seem strong influences on my life; I strive to offer them no sanctuary, but they lurk close by, looking for my weak points, and try - albeit unsuccessfully - to screw things up at times that are important for me. It makes me feel all the more that I have some greater purpose in being here in Milton Keynes, though it is yet to be truly revealed, but I suspect it is musically related, since that is where I do believe my general vocation lies.

At the weekend, I did my usual weekendy type things, like getting up obscenely late, shopping, and going to Celebration at Wolverton. Celebration is held monthly and is when all four local branches of the MKCF meet up for a big praise/worship/prayer/teaching bash. The school hall at Wolverton is about the only venue we have available that is big enough to hold everyone - Celebration normally attracts hundreds of people.

Then Sunday afternoon I left for London for an extended visit to the Res Rocket Surfer studios, getting back here Tuesday afternoon. It didn't get off to a good start though, waiting an hour and a half on the train at Milton Keynes Central while police tried to coax down some unfortunate who had decided he'd had enough of life and was going to jump from a railway gantry onto the electrified wires. We got ever so slightly fed up with hearing the same repeated announcements for well over an hour, and the 15:49 to London Euston finally departed at 17:20. Thankfully the very nice young lady I got chatting to had a mobile phone so I was able to warn my hosts that I was going to be rather later than intended.

I got to the studios just after 7pm, and met up with U4ia (aka Jim) and Ancipital (aka Pete) who I had only previously spoken to on talkers. Jim is an incredible musician, though he'll never admit it; his speciality is remix work, but he does write his own stuff too, and it is all truly phenomenal - he's even got me appreciating jungle, and that's a major achievement! Pete is a graphics whizz, and spent much of his time fiddling with Photoshop doing all kinds of imge mangling, much of which is, again, stunning. We spent Sunday night mainly jamming with people from all over the world, as usual, though Jim rather controlled the show with his 160bpm beats which most other participants struggled in vain to keep up with. Monday was a bit more relaxed, with us grabbing sleep intermittently and doing more laid back composing. Later in the day we took part in a CUSeeMe video-conference that was being relayed onto Norwegian TV, so all dressed up in the most ridiculous outfits we could find in the props suitcase, with Pete in a magician's hat and blond wig, Jim looking like some kind of Valkyrie, and me doing a particularly convincing impression of Garth, or so I'm told... Monday night I slept kind of patchily and disturbedly, with thumping jungle beats my sweet lullabies, and a surprise visit from Webwolf (aka Kay) who caught me completely confused and wittering complete crap, though she remembers even less than I do of what I actually said.

Thankfully - as I type this on Wednesday afternoon, listening to some nice mellow early Fairport Convention - I took off more days from work than I really needed, because I am still pretty exhausted. You may recall that the first time I went to the studios, I arrived back in Milton Keynes at 7am Monday morning bright and ready for work at 9am. Not a brilliant idea, so I was a bit more sensible this time...

Ooh yes, I've had some good post over the last couple of days: namely my new credit card and a 300 quid tax refund. I seem to get tax refunds remarkably frequently, getting overcharged most years, I think - makes you wonder why they can't get it right first time really. I would have thought in these days of computerisation, the P45 and P60 are rather redundant, but it seems not, and emergency tax gets paid a lot more than it should be. As for the credit card, well time will tell if it was a good idea or not, but it's not going to cost me a penny if I decide never to use it, so there's little to lose so long as I'm sensible.

A weird dream last night that I think there may be more to......

I dreamt this woman who lived in my street (in my dream only, I think!) was burgled by her estranged husband. Only later, upon being taunted by her husband, did she find he had actually abducted her baby, and I was rather involved with trying to track him down.

Some details: The husband lived at Number 8 in whatever street it was, it was next door to a relatively new development, possibly a nursing home. He drove a dark blue special edition Sierra with one or other of the number plates broken. His name was Keith. He was a craftsman of some description, possibly doing public demonstrations of his skills. The woman I can remember little about, but she was probably in her thirties, had dark hair, and was quite obviously distraught.

Again this was not my usual run-of-the-mill kind of dream, and one of which I can remember a surprising large amount of detail. Makes me think it might be significant, though obviously given the plot to the dream I would hope not.

Ooh, what a day. Well the day was typically unproductive and all that, though I had a useful meeting about the language audit project, which I am helping on, and is developing nicely. But this morning... yes well.

I woke up as usual at half past seven, listened to the 5-Live news and sport and had one of my occasional showers. A quarter of an hour later, mid-shower, there was a series of very loud thuds and some commotion from the flat downstairs, but I thought little more, until my flatmates pointed out all the cars parked outside and that there had been a series of smart looking blokes with briefcases and stuff filing in through the front door of our block of flats. Emma here meanwhile was visibly trembling. About half an hour later, people emerged once again, with TV crew present, one guy under arrest and officers carrying black bags of some recovered materials.

Julian took the dog out for a walk mid-crisis, and upon returning, one of the junior officers presumed Dylan to be the police sniffer-dog they had requested and was about to escort him up to the flat to do his stuff. Of course Dylan is a sniffer dog; he can sniff out other dogs' bottoms at 100 yards... We of course had to leave for work, though as we were doing so, they were giving the flat in question probably the best dusting it had ever had, and were rifling through the garage.

Then on the local TV news in the evening, all was revealed. Apparently the raid was part of an organised pre-Christmas clampdown, one of twelve taking place across the city, with eight people arrested. Apparently stolen goods, drugs and weapons were seized in the operation, organised by Thames Valley Police. ITV covered a raid in Fishermead, the next neighbourhood down the road, but the BBC's Look East did the honest thing and showed blow-by-blow (literally) coverage of our very own raid, including footage of the inside of our block, our cars, garden path and everything else! It included them smashing the door in with a sledgehammer and yelling "Police! Get down on the floor", the main commotion we heard at breakfast-time, interiors of the guy's flat itself, plus the guy in question being led away. The worst thing though is that Julian and Emma both missed the early-evening TV news and the BBC spoilt their brief good reputation by dropping the story from their later news bulletin. Oh well, you can't have everything, I suppose. At least Top Gear was good. But oh what fun?!

Spare a thought though for the girlfriend and very young baby, who were quite obviously distraught by the whole affair. I know for a fact that she had taken a fair bit of abuse in the past, and was probably a relatively innocent party. He's back at home tonight though, if the effing and blinding is anything to go by, so I presume he's out on bail or something. I'll give him a week to break his bail conditions and get locked up. He always seemed a nice enough guy whenever I spoke to him, though I gather he was a changed animal with alcohol inside him, and it was clear he was up to no good. We suspect it was drugs, possibly cocaine, judging by what it appeared the police took away and the aromas frequently emanating from the flat, though the BBC footage implied they also recovered a bayonet knife.

It is with great sadness that I announce the death last night of my last remaining grandparent, Dot Gosnell, from bronchial pneumonia. She was admitted into hospital in Welwyn Garden City last week, but seemed to be making quite a recovery, and was likely to have been discharged within the next few days. However, things clearly took a sudden turn for the worse.

Time moves on, generations come and go. Relentlessly so. We are all mortals; there's nothing we can do about it. All we can do is make the most of this life - and my grandmother surely did - and hope for better things to come.

Thank you Granny for many happy times, your lovely Sunday roasts, your eternal smile, even your opinions with which we so often differed, but most of all, just being there when it mattered. God bless you, and may you rest in peace.

The year draws to a close. My last day at work is now to be this Thursday, since my grandmother's funeral has been arranged for Friday and I've taken the day off. The funeral is to be at Garston, near Watford, though I've decided to drive home Thursday evening and join the family in the main procession rather than drive straight down to the crematorium Friday morning in who knows what frame of mind.

My sister is also travelling down from Wales, which caused my mother some concern with the uncertainties of the weather etc, though I am sure Alison would not have been able to come to terms with herself if she didn't make the trip. It will be good to see her, even given the circumstances, and it will also give me a good opportunity to load her up with the Christmas gifts I will have hopefully got for all her family by then.

Yes, so Christmas approaches rapidly, and I'm still not at all certain what my moves are going to be. It may even be that I return to Milton Keynes after the funeral, to sort stuff out here, though if I can load the car up Thursday evening, that would be far preferable. I certainly aim to be away from here for the bulk of the period. If my sister is willing, I might go and spend a few days with her between Christmas and the New Year, though with her five children things can get somewhat hectic and she might feel she wouldn't be able to cope with an additional big kid into the bargain.

I managed to do some Christmas shopping this evening, though the main present I was after - a rather beautiful Ernest Sheppard picture at half-price - I couldn't get since the only shop selling it happened to be one of the only ones closed on what was otherwise a late-night shopping evening. I'm going to come in late to work tomorrow and go to the shop when it opens in the morning, because I gather these pictures are selling unsurprisingly fast and I have set my heart on getting one for my sister and her family. I also need still to get presents for my immediate family, who are always the hardest to buy for; if I aim to be in the shopping centre by 9am, I should be able to be in work by 10am and make up the time at lunch or after hours, and have done all my remaining shopping in the meantime, while the shops will hopefully be very quiet.

Anyway better go; I'm very tired for the third evening on the trot - ooh, I should say, I went up to Leeds last weekend for a party at Aslan's house. It was great to meet loads of people I had only previously spoken to on Mono and other talkers etc, although I was thoroughly shattered by the end, hence this cumulative tiredness I'm suffering now. I didn't drink too much, smoked nothing at all - unusually for such events - and generally took it quite easy, though we still didn't turn in till at least 3am, after having had one of the most wonderful curries I can remember. It was good to get away for the weekend anyway, given the sad events of Friday night, otherwise I would just have spent the weekend brooding about stuff which would have done no good at all. My father was insistent that I should still go ahead with the trip regardless, and I certainly didn't regret it. Good night, my friends.

Well goodbye readers! I'm off home for a couple of weeks this evening. I hope you all have a smashing Christmas and New Year, and I'll see you all again soon. Try and remember what it's really all about, though, won't you? Here's a clue: Santa Claus, mince pies, Christmas trees, beer, etc etc, are not the correct answer. I'm not saying you shouldn't have those things for a moment, but just try and remember why Christmas is called what it is.

Best wishes, and farewell 1996!

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