David's diary: November 1997
Once again, an enforced and prolonged absence from writing these pages, with Mono having a continuation of its earlier disk-corruption problems. Things appear to be up and working properly again now, and I have happily donated a few quid to the equipment fund - remember, this is a free service, run entirely on the goodwill of its staff and users and that of City University, London, and it's all too easy to take it for granted; there's nothing like a little crisis to get people digging in their pockets, however, and I'm pleased also to see the auction scheme has started up again, with people selling off various equipment and services - computer and otherwise - giving the proceeds direct to Mono.
Work's going reasonably well. I am now concentrating on this quantum physics package for a little while, all about electron energy levels in various atoms. It's all beginning to come together now, though I'm not out of the wood yet! My deputy-boss handed me a long list of problems he had with the chemical equilibrium software, but qualified it by saying he thought it was actually fine as it was, really, and that he thought it had the potential to be enhanced considerably - a far cry from the days earlier in the summer, before I took it on, when there was described as being "no product". I was glad though, today, that the previous designer on the project popped in today to have a look at what I'd done, because it allowed some misconceptions to be cleared up once and for all, and we ended up in broad agreement about the status of the project.
The flat's OK, and the car's happier for being garaged at night. The plumber/electrician guy - always seems a dangerous combination! - called in a few mornings ago and surveyed what needed to be done in order to come up with a cost estimate. I haven't yet heard back from him about booking a convenient time to do the work, but he seemed very efficient, and I am sure it will only be a short time before these problems can be sorted out once and for all. It seems the problem with the water tank is not as serious as the first guy had thought, which is quite a relief - not that the money involved would worry me, since that would be paid by the landlord, but from the point of view of the sheer disruption, seeing as these Milton Keynes flats were apparently never designed to be maintainable, with everything stuffed into one small cupboard.
Church is going well. Our joint ventures with the other city churches are continuing and indeed going from strength to strength. Since last writing, we have had combined prayer and worship meetings at St Mary's in Woughton-on-the-Green and at the Salvation Army in Conniburrow. Both were very different, needless to say, though at the end of the day, everyone wants the same thing, and it's just different - and equally valid - ways of expressing that. When we get so engrossed in denominational differences that we effectively lose touch with Jesus, that is tragically sad, and it is wonderful to see that with this new initiative, we can respect each others' methods, whilst keeping focused on the most important thing of all. Each meeting has been bigger than the last, and I am sure it will continue to grow and its influence spread in ways we cannot conceive.
Musically, things are still rather barren. I've recently got started on a rather mellow new track, which I think could well develop into something worthwhile, but it's a slow process, which does not inspire a huge amount of confidence - the best tracks I have ever done have been conceived in an evening. Good tracks are almost invariably spontaneous, not crafted over many days or weeks. Sure, it can take a few days to polish things satisfactorily, but the basic idea should be there within hours, from my experience. I'm hopefully going to be going to the National Music Show at the end of the month, which will no doubt give me loads more things to start saving the pennies for, though I mainly like to go to such things to keep in touch with what's new and interesting, rather than as any kind of big spending exercise.
Well, I think that's about it for the moment - though as ever, I'll probably think of loads more things I should have written about, so be prepared for an addendum at some point shortly...
A couple of weekends ago I went back home for one of my regular chocolate cake stocking-up and nourishment opportunities, but got back to Milton Keynes in time to go to the city fireworks display in Campbell Park, and well worth the bother it was too! The Horizon FM roadshow beforehand was less spectacular, but the fireworks - and it was just fireworks, no bonfire - really were something else, and all completely free apart from a charity bucket or three. They claimed it was the biggest free show in the country, though I suspect there are others who lay equal claim to that honour... We marked a two-minute silence for remembrance beforehand, but then the music started - Star Wars, Thunderbirds, War of the Worlds, etc - and the sky lit up for a full half-hour.
After a lull, the flat is still being a little problematic, with a postcard dropped though the door by the district council, complaining about the leakage from one of the overflows. It should all be in hand now - I have informed the letting agents, who should now be on the case - but this is particularly annoying because I had already had a plumber in to look at it, who could find nothing untoward! The council claim it is "damaging the flat downstairs", though I expect they mean the algal stain down the exterior wall rather than anything more serious, since I would no doubt have heard before otherwise! I've also got a guy from the letting agency coming round for one of their "regular" inspections next week; he was last supposed to have come while I was in Slovenia, and had keys as far as I know, but I have no evidence that he did.
The last couple of days have seen a performance of Handel's Messiah here at work, involving the Open University Choir, and a motley handful of instrumental musicians of varying calibres. There was an edict that anyone wanting to attend should be allowed to, despite it encroaching on office hours, and it was certainly worth going. There can't be very many employers laying on this kind of thing, and indeed actively encouraging it; this is yet another positive aspect of the university, which seems to strive - perhaps in the face of an otherwise possibly less-than-inviting city - to provide a rich variety of activities not directly related to work, but that certainly do a great deal for morale, discounting the assertion made by some that it is at an all-time low.
Just got back from a weekend at home - rather unfortunate that at least two people had rung me asking me to come round for Sunday lunch, which I have obviously had to defer until another weekend... Things seem to be looking up for me, but all around, the world seems to be falling apart with various people very close to me running into apparently insurmountable difficulties relationship-wise. These seem to have come at a very bad time for me, since I feel more ready than ever to get myself into some kind of relationship, yet am receiving all the wrong warning signals - though of course my main concerns are with those involved, and trying to be as supportive as possible. I do basically believe in the bindingness of marriage vows, and all that, but my judgment becomes severely clouded when it is people about who I care so much who are involved and I can see their lives being destroyed.
Well that was a fun diversion for the evening - going with the men from the church to Bletchley Leisure-centre to partake in a game of that most sedate sport of all: bowling. Or not so sedate, as the case may be. It was the first time I had played this variant of the game - I had played the Angevin variant called boules-de-fort before, but not good old English bowls. And I did quite well, with an early winning streak, though sadly soon overtaken with a late run of wins from Pete, one of the elders. All good fun, and well worth a try - though they are rather fussy about footwear on the green, so bring a pair of slippers if you do...
Saturday I'm going down to London for a long day; in the morning I'm going to be meeting up with Silly and maybe a few others, to go to the National Music Show at Wembley, where we can catch up on all the latest music equipment tempting our wallets, and enjoy some hopefully interesting new live talent and star performances. Then in the evening, it's down to Hammersmith to meet some other old friends of mine who spend at least the weekends in London, who I haven't seen since the summer, so that'll be an all-round good day, hopefully!
Oh yes, and this evening saw the first flat-inspection by my letting agents. The guy was supposed to have visited during August, but since I was on holiday and he didn't have keys, he was unable to. We chatted a bit about music-making - it turns out that he used to be very much into this lark too, still owning a limited-edition red SH-101 and also a TB-303, bought for the princely sum of 80 quid. It was good to talk to him face-to-face, because we finally seemed to agree some action on getting the maintenance problems sorted out; there had been some staff changes and a bit of a breakdown in communication, but everything seems to be in hand now, and will be sorted out quickly I am sure.
Well, just got back from London, and whilst still kind of buzzing, thought I might as well add this quick diary entry and pick up any new e-mails etc. The music show was a lot of fun, as expected. I met up with Silly at Kings Cross as planned, though didn't manage to bump into any of the others that I had been hoping I might, but never mind. We got pretty lost on the simple and signposted walk from Wembley Park tube to the conference centre, but found it eventually and didn't have to queue long for our tickets. Since the show is now a general interest musical instrument show, guitars and amplification were in the majority, with really quite a small amount of electronic music stuff - mainly represented by Yamaha, Korg and Roland, all of whom had some pretty nice new gear on show. My attempt at winning a Spirit mixer on the Future Music demo-tape review session - a.k.a. "In The Bin" - was utterly unsuccessful, since none of the panel had any liking for the happy hardcore they deemed my effort to be, leaving me wishing I'd taken Silly's advice and entered the other track I had recorded. But never mind, it was all good fun. I bumped into Tim Bran from Res Rocket Surfer, who was there to demo their internet jamming software to a thrilled audience of about half a dozen, most of them wearing exhibitor passes...
Then when that was all over, it was back onto the tube, down to Hammersmith, to meet up with my friend Steve who had a weekend pad there. True to form, I got utterly lost leaving the station, but rectified it before I had wandered too far in exactly the wrong direction. After I arrived at Steve's quite a few more people turned up, several of whom I knew well, and a most pleasant evening was had by all, consuming far too much pizza and beer. Unfortunately, with another long day ahead tomorrow, and a bit of uncertainty about return train-times, I had to leave them a bit earlier than I'd have liked, but all in all today was a great day - just a pity London is such an expensive place to travel to and spend a day out these days, though it's not often I go, so there's no point in worrying about it too much.