David's diary: August 1998
Another month passed, and another weekend over with, and one which ended up surprisingly busy once again. Back in work on Monday morning, things are almost deathly quiet, with only a couple of people around at my end of the corridor. I expect the whole of August will be pretty similar, though so long as I have enough to do - which I think I will - it should be a good opportunity to get on with things in relative peace and quiet.
Friday evening I headed off home to my parents, to pick up my camping stuff and a few other oddments my well-meaning mother had decided I ought to take to Cropredy. Oh, and a chocolate coffee-cake, which is always worth the bother. I was up stupendously early on Saturday morning in order to see my mum off on a week's holiday in glorious Beverley, on Humberside. Well, it was nine o'clock by the time I got down for breakfast, which is unheard of for me on a Saturday. It meant the day dragged out somewhat, though, but it gave me time to see my neighbours properly for the first time in an age which was all very pleasant.
I got back to Springfield early Saturday evening, just in time to find Mark opening a bottle of what turned out to be a very nice Burgundy indeed, and I offered him half a pizza and accompaniments in exchange. Except that just as the pizza was going in the oven, Daniel rolled up, and the pizza ended up being split three ways instead. Well actually, it was Mark's half that got split a further two ways, but they used the excuse that they'd both eaten already - a fine excuse, except that so had I... Oh simple joys of wine and pizza sharing.
But anyway, one of the reasons Daniel came over was to talk to Mark about what he was planning to do for the music Sunday morning, since he was to be leading. And so it was, that after a pleasant quantity of wine, I agreed that I would play too. I was a little worried that it was going to be a Celebration, as the first in the month, but thankfully - given that it was my first stab at playing electronic sax truly live - it wasn't, though there were still well over a hundred people there to pick holes in my performance. Which they duly didn't.
So it was actually quite successful, and with Gareth somewhat unexpectedly being there playing Latin percussion, it means he's heard me too now, and he was quite complimentary afterwards. Gareth's in charge of worship for Centre Church, so to make a good impression with him bodes well for further involvement. I hit a few bum notes, certainly, but it's probably more prominent with a melodic lead instrument than with something more accompaniment based like a guitar, though no-one really noticed, and there were some really nice comments from all kinds of people, some of them quite unexpected.
Joel begged his parents that I should join them for lunch for the first time in ages, to which they eventually caved in. For a change though, they were off to McDonalds, giving me an opportunity to try out the Kingston branch for the first time ever, as well as do my weekly shop at the Tesco's there - though I couldn't find half the things I wanted and stuff ended up spending twice as much as I do at Waitrose; so much for it being cheaper there. Lunch was fairly chaotic, but fun nevertheless, with much ice-cream and ketchup going everywhere.
While at McDonalds, David and Alison invited me to join them and some other friends later at Willen Lake, which I duly did, and got my first bit of sailing for a couple of years - in fact it's ten years since I've sailed as anything much more than a passenger. Graham and Carole own a Mirror dinghy, which they were airing for the first time this year in advance of a family holiday on the Broads later this summer, and it was certainly a beautiful day on which to join them, although the wind was lacking which made things not quite as exciting as they could have been.
Having loaded up the boat onto Graham's car, I headed off to the tail-end of the weekly Sunday picnic at the Kings Centre, but with numbers - especially amongst the leaders - somewhat depleted thanks to Days of Destiny, it ended a bit earlier than usual, only really leaving Jeanne and family to talk to, who are staying in their caravan there for a few weeks until they can get their house back - they have been away for almost a year, but let their house out for the full year, leaving a slight overlap...
Then it was finally back home, and with Mark now finally left for his three weeks of driving with Oak Hall, it really was quiet. A few phone-calls proved that no-one else really was around, though I had a nice chat with my ex-flatmate Julian for the first time in a while. So instead I thought I would take advantage of the quiet evening and finally watch the Shawshank Redemption video that had been sitting on the shelf for the last two months - not a bad film by any accounts and well worth watching, but not as exceptional as many people seem to consider.
So yes, another busy weekend, if in a somewhat different way to previous ones of late. Once again, I don't feel particularly refreshed, considering it's a Monday, with the whole week ahead of me. But I am far happier being exhausted after a weekend that I've actually done something, than it to be any other way. I guess it comes down to values and specifically what I find most important in life, and my nine-to-five-thirty existence is certainly not the be-all and end-all for me.
Everywhere is just too quiet. I don't think you realise just how busy a place it until it's not any more. Whilst it's nice to choose peace and quiet once in a while, a nice walk in the country or whatever, imposed quietness does nothing for sanity. Stupid thoughts circulate the mind and taunt your better judgment, thoughts of malice, thoughts of envy, thoughts of resentment, thoughts of all kinds of things which normally won't get a look-in but seize such rare opportunities and gnaw away at you from the inside, making up for lost time.
After a few satisfying days working on the multiplexing animations, it's back to a low point at work, feeling unmotivated to get going with the next phase of the project, tightening up the specification of and getting on with implementing a lengthy series of animations introducing SDL, a formal design methodology for finite state machines. Some of it has been done already, but it's a bit of a mess, and I'll have to make some tough decisions on what is worth keeping and adjusting, or just binning.
To make matters worse - or better, depending on my outlook - I have holiday to take too, which does not seem to enter into anyone's equations apart from mine, but they'll just have to face it. I've not yet got anything much planned this summer going-away wise, but it looks like I'll be taking more or less the whole of September off whatever happens, and just using it as best I can - maybe going up to the Lakes, visiting my sister in Wales, Something Completely Different, or some combination thereof.
My summer weekends are taking shape slowly though. This coming Sunday afternoon, I'm finally going to be baptised in the river behind the Kings Centre. I've had to think long and hard about this, but think that regardless of my indeterminate feelings about this total-immersion baptism versus the Anglican sprinkling that I also received as a free-willed adult, this is an opportunity for a fresh start in faith, and a significant part of the unfolding of God's plan for me that seems finally to be coming to fruition this summer in many diverse ways.
Then the following weekend it's the Cropredy Festival near Banbury, and my tickets finally came through the other day, which was a bit of a relief. There's not many household names appearing this year - compared perhaps with last year's anniversary bash - but it still promises to be a great event, and it now looks like several friends will be going too. Although I'm finding this current heatwave rather draining, I will be hoping it remains not too different to this for Cropredy, knowing what these festivals can get like if the weather is dodgy, especially camping as I will be - even with the back seat of the car as back-up.
I think the weekend after that is currently looking relatively free - with the 1998 Garden Olympics postponed - then August bank holiday weekend it will be the long-awaited Kids Club holiday up in Northamptonshire, which will be an experience at the very least. The Olympics will instead be the first weekend in September, once again at the beautiful venue of Steve's parents' house at Heckfield in Hampshire. While down that way, I would also hope to see John, Anne and family, who should be back from their year away in San Diego, which would be a real treat.
So all in all, although things are really quite quiet at the moment, I do have a fairly busy summer in store, and one which I will almost undoubtedly remember for a long time to come. I'm sure too that there's a lot more in store that I don't know about yet - but quite what that will be will just remain to be seen...
Bored last night, I phoned Andy and Rosie, and was promptly invited round there. Actually they had meant to invite me round earlier for dinner - and had a spare chicken quarter to prove it - but never mind; I'd eaten at lunch anyway. Instead we went for a sunset stroll in the woods at Brickhill with Chris, Darren, Vanessa and Shannon, which was all very pleasant though it was pretty dark by the time we got back. But not too late to have a few beers and stuff, though we were all pretty tired by the end, so we didn't finish too late.
It's just too hot this evening; suffering from mild Season Affective Disorder as I do, I try to be positive about the summer weather if and when we get it, but there are limits to my tolerance, and this weekend really does not bode too well. The worst time to be over-hot is at night, I find, and as I think about turning in, the hope of a nice cool kip seems all too distant. I don't want rain or anything; no, I just wish that God would turn down the climatic thermostat a little for the sake of my - and no doubt many others' - sanity.
The weekend has just at least tripled in its projected busyness, having agreed not only to help Dave with the chairs and creche toys on Sunday morning - with his usual rota colleague Graham being away on holiday - but now also to play in the band for the second week on the trot, with arguably better choices unavailable for one reason or another. It really is a Celebration meeting this weekend, which will put a little more pressure on than I'd like, but I'm sure after last weekend's positive experience, everything will be fine.
Had a panic earlier though, getting an alarming number of "Illegal data" error messages on the wind module. It was almost as if power to the controller - supplied via a custom MIDI lead - was getting momentarily disconnected, though I couldn't be certain. Anyway, powering down the module seemed to fix it, so I guess it was just some power-up quirk that wasn't going to go away until I had done its equivalent of the three-fingered salute. As these things get more and more computerised, I suppose we shouldn't be surprised at the odd funny.
A busy Sunday ends, and with it the weekend. This morning, I played again, and whilst the worship perhaps didn't somehow come together as well as last week's, I think my contribution was a bit more solid. Gareth apparently commented to Jon last week that his only complaint with my playing was that I tended to take the melody rather more than he'd like, so I'm going to have to work on fancy fills, twiddly bits, and things. Though having said that, each leader has a different style, and my playing suited Daniel - who led at both the last two meetings - fine, since he is perhaps a little more of a traditionalist in performance terms, and was somewhat lacking in other lead instruments on both occasions anyway. I had a listen to the tapes afterwards, which are always a bit of a cause for embarrassment, and there certainly were a few chuckleworthy episodes, but all in all it wasn't bad, though I think in retrospect I would tend to fall down on Gareth's side of the fence about what I should be doing.
Then this afternoon, after a KFC lunch with Jon and Paul - I would heartily recommend the KFC Tower burgers, by the way - I died. But not thanks to the burger, I hasten to add! No, this afternoon was the long-awaited baptism, and this was baptism in the true biblical sense, that is to say, by total immersion in the river. With this symbolic act of cleansing and rebirth, I kick out - and bury - the old, and welcome the new. The Greek word "baptizo" apparently means to dye, in the sense of recolouring cloth. So through baptism, I am changed, and not just on the surface, but all the way through. It doesn't mean I necessarily get an easy ride from now on, and it'll probably be quite the opposite, but this was something that simply had to be done, to finally lay to rest things from my past and make a fresh start. As I testified before entering the water, I felt that for many years I had been walking somewhere near to Jesus, but only through this symbolic reaffirmation of my commitment could I truly walk with him, and I know that through him there will now be as many blessings as there are trials.
I'm just having a proper listen through the tapes from yesterday morning, thoroughly analysing what went right and wrong from my point of view. It's perhaps not as bad as I'd initially thought, but I still think I would sound better in a complementary rather than lead role, melody-wise, not least because if anything, it sounds a little thin when I play high, as the melody often somewhat dictates. But all in all, it's actually quite reasonable, and I'm probably considerably more exposed on the recording than I was live, since the drums weren't miked up so didn't get to tape as anything more than bleed through the vocal channels.
Today once again was incredibly hot, and for the first time in memory I went to work in little more than a skimpy t-shirt and shorts - and still felt too hot half the time. I had to feel so sorry for Jon - who I popped round to tonight to pick up the tapes, and ended up watching Voyager there, having lost all track of time thanks to leaving work quite late - who has to work in a suit and tie come what may, and has to seek special permission just to loosen his collar, by the sounds of it. Of more concern to me is that it seems like it's going to be yet another very hot and humid night, which I could seriously do without at the moment.
Over the weekend, my staff privileges on Mono were at long last invoked - I suppose it was inevitable that ultimately I should get a section at least to assist with, though all this eventually came around quite suddenly. Quaestor is relinquishing responsibility for the Religion and Faith section, having been forced to leave it somewhat mothballed for several months. When it gets going, it can be one of the liveliest - to choose one of the better possible adjectives - on Mono, and it simply took more time to moderate than Ben had at hand. I'm still waiting for the files to be handed over, but I'm ready when they are...
With staff privileges come a few other perks, including useful extra functionality in Mono itself, plus the shell account, e-mail, and web space. I've already got my main home-page on my Demon web space, recently increased to a whopping 15Mb, with streamed RealAudio channels and so on. So I thought my Mono home-page should be an opportunity to be a bit different and experimental, as well as support the content of the Religion and Faith section - and in particular the Wayfarers part, for obvious personal reasons. I spent a little while this evening getting some ideas together, though it'll be a few days until it's complete.
It's Sunday evening, and now safely back from the 1998 Cropredy Festival, and what a great weekend it's been, without any major hitches and all-round fantastic music and company. I had taken Thursday and Friday off work, leaving plenty of time to get sorted with provisions and so on - though I could quite easily have survived, albeit a little expensively, on the generally wholesome fare of the myriad food and drink stalls there, but it was nice not to have to rush things and be able to leave for Cropredy when I wanted.
Thursday evening, having pitched the tent and exchanged cordial greetings with my neighbours for the weekend - and what wonderful neighbours they were, making me feel utterly at home - I spent trying to find Beardy and his companions, somewhat in vain. Actually, it turns out I did spot them arriving, but I wasn't sure enough to go and make a fool of myself, so it wasn't until Friday morning that we met up, after I spied the very obvious clue of their enormous kites being flown from a field on the hill behind the main site.
Perhaps even more frustratingly, they did actually find me on the Thursday evening, but I'd gone to bed, and like me, they weren't sure enough to try waking me up. And worst of all, it turned out they were camped only about twenty pitches away from mine and in the same row. But that was all water under the bridge, and I seemed to get on well enough with everyone, so we stuck together for most of the weekend in the end, although there were plenty of other people to occupy my time chatting with, aside from the music...
Anyway, Friday's programme kicked off at lunchtime with the solo singer-songwriter Anna Ryder - always tough opening a festival, and she pulled it off just fine - but things didn't really get going until the ever-wonderful Vikki Clayton stepped on stage. Vikki is quite probably one of the best female vocalists around at the moment, and has never failed to excel in my experience, helped immensely by her exceptional ability at reviving the work of the late, great, Sandy Denny, rightly considered by many as the best ever.
However, the biggest hit of the evening had to be Edward II, a band I'd not even heard of before, but quite rightly somewhat successful. Fusing deep reggae beats and basslines with admittedly quite cheesy folk riffs on melodeon and fiddle, they really got the crowd going like no-one else on Friday, and probably came the closest to getting me to patronise the CD stand. Headlining for the night was Roy Wood's Army, technically very accomplished, but somehow just a little too clinical for most people's liking.
The downside of Friday was the temperamental weather, however. The odd light shower during the day had kept people on their toes - and missing half the Vikki Clayton set whilst fetching waterproofs, there not being much use of mind-altering substances to make the crowd oblivious to such distractions - but the latter half of Roy Woods' set really was miserable and cold, with only his tacky encore - and biggest hit - "I wish it could be Christmas every day" to keep the punters cheerful, and a damp night ensued.
Saturday morning was squelchy, but the sun barely stopped shining all day, so things soon dried out, and a relaxed afternoon in the arena was enjoyed by all. Hank Wangford's set offered a good opportunity to go and get changed and have a cheap bite to eat, country and western not being our favourite infused tipple, but then it was non-stop until gone midnight in the company of Loudon Wainwright - who was better than I'd remembered him from his regular spot on Jasper Carrott's show - and of course Fairport Convention.
Fairport were as utterly brilliant as ever, and indeed arguably better as they avoided most of the more boring songs they often seem to pad their shows out with, and kicked off with the ever-fabulous "The lark in the morning" instrumental medley, which always bodes well. Special guests were in abundance, with the highlights probably being Loudon Wainwright again, David Hughes and Maartin Alcock - though it has to be said that althugh Maart is a great musician who I respect immensely, he should avoid singing at all cost.
Sunday morning I was up in good time, wanting to make a fairly early getaway, which I basically managed, although the tent was soaking from dew - amazingly it was worse than it had been after Friday night's rain - but it soon dried out hung up on my washing line back at home. The journey back home was straightforward but slow, not helped by the signposting unhelpfully leading through-traffic right through Buckingham town centre, and then generally pedestrian queues of traffic between Buckingham and Milton Keynes.
Although finding Beardy and companions turned out to be fairly painless, I never did meet up with Simon and Ruf who were supposed to have been there on Saturday - though with 30,000 people, versus the village's usual 600, it was going to be tough finding them - but I did bump into Guy from work, there with friends from London, which was a complete surprise. The Franciscan contingent there were very friendly and welcoming, and I spent a fair bit of time in their company, breaking bread with them on Saturday morning.
So all in all, yes, a fantastic weekend away, and I was back in time - once I'd had a bath and gone shopping - to go to the afternoon picnic down at the Kings Centre, the perfect end to a wonderful weekend. I suspect it will be quite depressing having to go back to work tomorrow morning, and face miserable projects which only I had been able to forget for a couple of days, but the memories of the weekend will stay with me for a long time, and I genuinely suspect that it will be but the first of many Cropredies for me.
Looking back on the weekend, I have a few more random reflections. It certainly did seem to live up to its billing as a friendly festival, with the most serious incident I observed being a guy throwing strawberries into the crowd, and some humourless train-spotter guy complaining that someone was going to get hurt.
Even the loos were civilised, with fine art on the wall. Only really beaten by the ones at the Superscape fun day a couple of years back that even had piped music. Even the paper didn't run out until almost the last, and even then, people were happy enough to share what they had - not quite literally, I hasten to add.
It wasn't too noisy at night, and what noise there was tended to be fairly bearable. Even the drunken rendition of Matty Groves with added X-rated verses comparing Matty's and Lord Darnell's endowment and sexual prowess. I was a bit uncomfortable sleeping, but then it was the first time I'd camped in about five years!
The average age of attendees seemed markedly lower than that of those going to most of the folk gigs I've ever been to, but I guess that's a combination of the kind of people who are prepared to camp out for three days in unpredictable weather, and probably a contingent of young people who just "do" every festival.
Next year, I think a GPS locator and a mobile phone could be very useful accessories in the quest for efficiently meeting people, though perhaps just a pre-arranged meeting point would be cheaper. Having said that, flying massive kites from the top of a hill was a fairly distinctive way of getting friends' attention.
Not all the acts were particularly to my liking, but - and this is what made it different to any other festival I've been to - the atmosphere was altogether just so perfectly relaxed, a fine opportunity just to picnic in the sun with a pint of beer, with music that at the very least was inoffensive and at best wonderful.
I'm sure there were some more things I thought of earlier; they'll get added in due course if I can remember them...
A good example of that being ... recollections of the priest who led Saturday morning's eucharist. I'd bumped into him Friday evening along with the Franciscans who were off to the ceilidh in the village - as monks do - and he struck me as the most unlikely priest ever. In fact he bore more than a passing resemblance to the nutter car mechanic who lived just up the road from where I used to, with a big bushy beard, short-cropped - almost skinhead - hair and stuff, although he wasn't, needless to say. But anyway, he was a real flesh and blood priest, and able to officiate at the eucharist. He eventually dug out a white robe from somewhere, but for a few agonising minutes it appeared he was going to do the honours in his Father Ted t-shirt...
Not too much going on at the moment, really; August is a pretty quiet time altogether, leaving lots of time to do long-overdue things. Monochrome's Religion and Faith section restructuring is progressing excellently, and it should be ready to be reopened within the next couple of days. Taliesin is going to be looking after a few of the areas within it - in particular those relating to paganism and oriental religions - which is great, since it will allow me to concentrate on those that I hold more dear. The Islam area was probably the hardest for me to work with; perhaps it is coincidental, but it somehow came as no surprise that it presented me with the most difficulties, weird system bugs - two UNIX directories with exactly the same name, anyone? - and many other things that promised to scupper my plans. But anyway, my bits are done, and Taliesin seems similarly happy with his, so it just requires some fine-toothed combing before we cut the ceremonial tape.
This evening I officially re-released my WaveCraft synthesiser software to the world for free; I had been planning this for the last couple of months but had not got around to doing the deed, but tonight the web site is open to the public, it's been announced, and I hope to attract a lot of interest. The software originally retailed for about a hundred pounds and was very popular when it was launched over two years ago, but times have moved on and there are lots more competitors. There have been negligible sales for about the last year, so there seemed to be no harm in changing the whole philosophy of its distribution, and hopefully put the wind up the producers of its more modern-looking but - according to many people - ultimately inferior commercial pretenders. My only concern is that the interest in downloading the software might overload the bandwidth I am allowed on my web site, but I have some contingency plans if the worst comes to ther worst.
Feedback from the WaveCraft relaunch is trickling in slowly, and most of it has been at least moderately enthusiastic, and some of it positively ecstatic. Hits on the web site are high, and I may run into bandwidth quota problems, although I have been offered alternative space for the larger files if that becomes an issue; I can trial-run the existing site with virtual impunity for three days anyway, even if I substantially blow my quota every day. Thanks to the feedback, the site is getting a mention in Electronic Musician, the most respected magazine in its field in the USA, and I also have a press release ready to send to the big three music technology magazines here in the UK.
The revamped Religion and Faith section is now ready to open, with the final tweaks put into place earlier this evening by myself and Taliesin. The relevant admin have been informed of this situation, and hopefully the new files will be linked into the public menu structure either tonight or tomorrow. The section really has been down for far too long, and the intensity of religion-related discussion in less appropriate parts of Monochrome - particularly the news and general discussion areas - is testament to the need to get it re-opened as soon as possible. Despite some early political and technical hiccups, the whole process ended up very rapid and smooth, boding well for the future.
I phoned home a little while ago, and was a little surprised to find my sister on the other end of the line. I knew she was visiting, so shouldn't have been too alarmed, but it was a rare and much appreciated opportunity to talk in peace. It's likely therefore that I will be heading home tomorrow evening, to catch her and the rest of her family at least briefly before they disappear off to Spain for a fortnight in a few days time. I've also provisionally agreed to go up to North Wales to visit them all later in September, once they're back, which will - amongst other benefits - be great driving experience for me, being not only the longest journey I'll have ever done but a challenging one too!
An annoying Sunday morning before it's even started, having driven back here at the dead of night last night in order to keep my side of the doing-the-chairs deal I'd agreed having temporarily forgotten I was aiming go home this weekend. Needless to say, I got to the school - only a couple of minutes' walk, thankfully - and all the chairs are out already. Get back to the house, phone Graham, who I was supposed to have been sharing the job with and it turns out he knew about the situation, and had tried to contact me this morning, but used my old phone number. So anyway, the late-night trip back here was - thus far - utterly wasted, and I miss out on the best part of a day with my sister and her family who I'd not seen properly for the best part of a year probably.
But what's done is done, things about spilt milk and all that, how was the rest of the weekend? It turned out that my sister Alison had brought all the children with her in the end; originally, it was only going to be the youngest three, but it was good to see them all anyway. Martin had arrived earlier Friday, for their friend Caroline's wedding in Oxford, and they took the oldest two with them for that on Saturday. This left my mum and myself with the younger three - oh, and the dog - to our own devices, going to the Goat Centre near Stoke Mandeville, which is always a hit with the youngsters, and for a stroll at Whiteleaf, enjoying incredible views to the west over Otmoor and beyond. I finally got away from Prestwood at about midnight, back here soon before one.
Oh well. No apologies or anything forthcoming, with my wild goose chase laughed off as if it were just one of those things. Which I suppose in a way it was, but many Christians do themselves and the faith no favours by showing that kind of attitude, especially between each other, as if a nudge and wink will do. We may ultimately have better things to worry about, but we are also all too human, have human weaknesses, human annoyances and rely on human trust. Being taken for granted hurts whenever it happens and at whoever's hands it may be. What we are called not to do is harbour bitterness, that is to say, long-term hatred and anger for something that was probably an honest mistake long since passed - and I would hope that what I am showing is not bitterness but immediate anger at a lack of consideration, which will be forgiven by the next time we meet. But it would surely help in fulfilling that goal if those who make mistakes at least took the trouble to acknowledge and be sorry about them - to do otherwise is to claim perfection, something only foolish mortals do. Call me selfish or whatever you like, but I am merely human, and do not appreciate being dragged fifty miles out of my way in the middle of the night in search of the elusive wild goose, dragging me away from loved ones I have not seen for months without even a chance for proper goodbyes. And thanks to all this, my attitude this morning was less than charitable, somewhat snapping at people for whom I have a great deal of love and respect - yet I know I was wrong to do so, and as soon as I am cooled down, I intend to make amends for that. It's only fair, after all.
The day was slightly saved by a few odd things though, thankfully, so it was at least partially worth my while having come back when I did. Right at the last minute this morning I got roped into doing the OHP acetates; hardly the most interesting job in the world, but at least it gave me a reason for being there rather than at home with my family where I should have been. Of course I screwed up right at the start; I had been advised to check the focus, orientation and everything beforehand to avoid embarrassment, but not a lot can be done to prevent the opening song getting changed without any warning... Then a nice surprise was to get a card from Phil, which turned out to be made up of a number of digital photographs taken at the baptism a fortnight ago; at my request he's going to give me copies of the images on a floppy disk, so they'll probably appear on my web site in due course. And finally - so far, anything could happen yet, I suppose, miracles permitting - I bumped into Gareth and Natasha in Waitrose, like me, sneaking in a bit of surrepticious Sunday shopping while no-one was looking, and had a rare opportunity for a chat with them, particularly Gareth, about my involvement in the music group. Gareth seems very keen to get me in properly, but wants to sit down and discuss things with me in a bit more detail, which is fair enough especially since I know he has a few concerns as I have already related here.
Back on Monochrome, the Religion and Faith section is now expected to re-open early in the week. Rik identified a few issues which I think I have adequately addressed, or will do, and when that has been proved to be the case, he'll be happy to open it up fully. One of his main concerns remained the sheer size of the section, and the volume of discussion files in certain parts of it, but I've pruned it drastically as it is. But I'll keep an eye on things, and, nothing being sacred, will not hesitate to get the secateurs out again and again, until the section is as kicking as it has been in the past. Another concern was with the way I had restructured the Grill a Christian file; Rik rightly observed that this was one of the liveliest discussion files on Mono and he was understandably wary about changing a proven formula. However, lively it might have been, but it was also very destructive and went off on enormous uncontrolled tangents, and it was generally agreed that something needed to be done. I've only transformed the Grill a Christian file, not the Atheism one or the Paganism one - under the partial control of Taliesin anyway - so we can see what happens, and adopt the formula that seems to work best, although it may even be that a different approach is better for each, especially given that the majority of destructive arguments seemed to come from the non-Christian side of the fence during past debates.
It's very tempting, with an otherwise somewhat wasted day like this, to finally rustle up the enthusiasm to move into the newly-vacated room here. I've been using it as a bit of a store-room over the last couple of weeks, so there are a few odds and ends lying around, but it's essentially empty. It's lacking a mattress and curtains, which may yet prove to be a slight problem, but the desk there is looking very empty and welcoming; with that and the table of mine this stuff is currently occupying, there should be plenty of space for all my computer and music equipment and still have space for other occasional work - something I dramatically lack at the moment, with barely a square inch going spare. Mark's away doing his coach-driving until about this coming Wednesday, I think, so it would certainly be a good thing if I could do at least the bulk of the transfer between now and then while it's quiet and we won't get in the way of each other. It'll be a bit noisier at the front of the house, probably, being closer to the road, and I'll miss the view over the back garden and the parkland beyond, but overall I think it will be worth it. Just the thought of having over twice as much floor space is as much of a persuading factor as anything... My monthly rent will go up slightly as a result, but it will still be appreciably less than I paid when I had the small room at the old flat, and even that never struck me as too bad value.
Sunday comes to a close, and I'm now more or less moved into the new room - at least enough to live and sleep, even if most of my clothes and miscellaneous bits and bobs still need to be transferred across. It'll be a bit annoying not having curtains for the time being, though at least I shouldn't get the full glare of the morning sun as I tended to in the old room, which I always found most disconcerting when trying to grab those few extra winks of sleep.
The sound and music stuff is bizarrely, but much more ergonomically, arranged. On the desk is just my computer screen, keyboard, mouse and speakers, leaving plenty of room to do other things. All the MIDI stuff is either on the table from the old room or racked up on the floor, and for the first time ever, I've been able to arrange more or less everything so that I can get easy access to the back panels for rewiring purposes, troubleshooting and so on.
I've already got the vestiges of a new song going, with very mellow piano chords and a moody sax line. The days of upbeat dancy creations is certainly not over, and I played around with an old one of those for a bit too, but I can certainly see myself branching out a bit now, and I expect the guitar to see some action soon too. My lack of a proper mixing desk remains a slight pain, though the current set-up is fine for experimenting with ideas at the very least.
Monday, and back at work, but probably not for much longer - this evening I finally got round to at least trying to book the time off that I need to take in September if I'm not to lose out on my entitlement. I'd been procrastinating too long, and I felt a bit awkward asking with only two weeks' notice about taking the best part of a month off. But if I didn't try, I wouldn't get the holiday at all, so nothing ventured, nothing gained and all that. I think most of the people I collaborate with knew I was likely to be off anyway, and that's the main thing, so I really don't foresee any objection from Ian so long as I can concentrate on my efforts between now and then.
Lucy popped round earlier this evening for a cup of tea and a chat. I hadn't seen her to talk with properly for several weeks; indeed the last time I think was at Alan and Helen's wedding, from which she stormed off in a huff anyway. She seems to be keeping well, recounting great events at the recent Days of Destiny week - in particular the talks by John-Paul Jackson which by all accounts were accompanied by some pretty miraculous happenings - and may soon be moving into voluntary work. Alan and Helen also dropped in later to pick up a last few bits and pieces and check for any post that had arrived for them, and they seem to be settling in to married life very happily.
Mark got back yesterday morning after his three weeks working for Oak Hall. Seems like he had a great time of it, covering something like 4000 miles during the week he was actually on the road. Practically as soon as I got in last night though, he was off out to YPF, where I believe Matt was talking after his return from missionary work in Brazil. Matt lost about three stone while out there, and it sounds like the trip was well worth it in many other ways too.
The Religion and Faith section here is opening imminently - just as soon as Tjfas logs on to adjust the permissions - now that Rik is happy I've made the slight adjustments he required, and I'm prepared to keep an open mind on his more ongoing concerns. It will remain to be seen just how lively the section can get again, but I have high hopes, especially with the considerable current debate elsewhere on Mono on issues like Creation, evolution, free-will and so on.
Bank-holiday Monday evening, and a successful weekend finally comes to close. Going back to work tomorrow morning can't possibly even be a tenth as fun... The Kids' Club holiday pulled itself off very smoothly, and on balance, I think a great time was had by all. Quite a few people - leaders included - were flagging by the end, but I think we can all look back on it as a great success. I was certainly very grateful that today was a day off, so I could recover, though there are murmurings that next year we might go from Friday evening until Monday, at a more relaxed pace, which may or may not work - I think this year's length was quite long enough and I think a good many of the kids would probably agree, though I guess it might be different if the pace were a little slower with more "quiet" activities in the programme to recuperate.
I took a half-day off on Friday to do all kinds of essentials like stocking up on odd stationery bits and pieces, and getting my mop chopped. The trip up to the Frontier Centre at Irthlingborough was fairly straightforward thanks to Briony and Hazel's mainly accurate navigation - not that you can go far wrong driving straight up the A509 - getting up there just before five, by which time I think most of our charges had arrived and the last of the parents were disappearing. Tea was a light buffet at their newly-built Harry Whittaker facility, where we also managed to wangle an unscheduled session on the assault course - complete with water jumps and everything, which almost everyone managed to negotiate successfully - after a short introductory teaching session from Dave E, and before the night-walk - where a few of our number showed a distinct lack of ability for "doing nights".
After a very late night for more or less everyone, Saturday seemed to start alarmingly early - it never ceases to amaze me how kids can confound all logic and survive on two or three hours sleep, but they do, even if the leaders aren't so good at it. But despite any residual tiredness, everyone enjoyed lengthy sessions at climbing and abseiling - with yours truly finally plucking up the courage to do the vertical descent, marines style - and also at open canoeing, which was as new to me as it was to most of the youngsters, requiring a very different set of skills to the more familiar - to me at least, with rather amusing results - kayaking. Several people managed to fall in - a few quite spectacularly - with some of them not too impressed at the experience, but weather conditions were nice and warm, and I think everyone eventually came out smiling despite a few initial tears.
Saturday night there were ball-games, a reasonable camp-fire, and then the long-awaited - and seemingly compulsory on such trips - midnight feasts, though these were brought forward to about eleven o'clock because everyone was so utterly shattered - though still wrapping up at getting on for one in the morning by the time the traditional late-night dares and stunts had been done. Everyone slept exceptionally, though, and Sunday morning was decidedly more muted than Saturday. Main activities for the day were rafting - once the vehicles had been fabricated from pioneering poles and barrels - and "search and rescue", a kind of map-reading challenge, though some of the kids in my group were practically keeling over by that point, and once a certain leader's shoulders had given up the ghost, sitting down by the river and watching the rafters getting soaked seemed a far more pleasurable pursuit.
As mentioned earlier, the outdoor activities were liberally interspersed with teaching sessions ably run by Dave E, focusing mainly on Jesus through the eyes of Simon Peter, but accompanied by lots of loosely associated worksheets with puzzles and things to do. This all worked very well, perhaps better than I had expected, so perhaps it should be no surprise that Mark is considering extending that aspect of the holiday next year - though I fear it could be too easy to tip the balance too far; such quiet sessions are extremely valuable on such weekends, but should not be allowed to take priority just because it's cheaper to take the DIY approach than do activities requiring trained instructors. But I'm sure we will think long and hard about this before making any final decision, and that it will work out great again whatever.
The other common theme running through the whole weekend was the team competition, which I was responsible for administrating. Originally, everyone was going to do activities together, but numbers and instructor availability were such that in the end it was possible to split into two groups, providing a natural division for the competition. Our leaders were all assigned to a particular team, myself included which might have been a back-door for a bit of bias, but if there was any bias it wasn't that way, with the other team eventually winning by a slender margin - mainly thanks to having more nutters in their number and most of the points going for silly things in the end, like best monkey impressions and falling in the river most, rather than boring things like cabin inspections and remembering Bibles and folders.
There wasn't a formal close as such, which was a pity, because I think a lot of the kids had hit off very well with the instructors - I even saw the odd address changing hands... - and there wasn't really any chance to formally thank them and say goodbye. Whether thanks to my driving or the lure of going with Daniel instead, my companions on the way up decided not to join me for the return journey - and I promptly got lost, so maybe their navigation did count for something after all. But I quickly found myself again, and apart from - ironically - getting stuck behind a dragster returning from Santa Pod, it was straightforward, and I beat Mark back to the house, if only because he had to drop off the kids he'd given lifts to. I had to drop off some stuff that one of the kids had inadvertantly left at the centre, but then it was time for a chicken kebab and the three B's - beer, bath and bed - and so ended the day.
So today was spent fairly lazily, finally emerging properly at about lunchtime, to wander into town to get a couple of grocery essentials - yes, I know I could have got a pint of milk at the corner-shop here, but the walk did me good, and besides, I bumped into Rachael, who I hadn't seen since ... um ... at least yesterday evening. Waitrose was shut - tending to be over-sensitive to bank holidays and suchlike - so I had to risk trying Sainsbury's instead, and was pleasantly surprised both that it wasn't as huge and bewildering as I'd thought, and that they also now use the same milk colour-coding as Waitrose - who were obviously right all along.
Whilst in town, I had a look in at Chappells, where they'd got some interesting new stuff on show for once. Trying out the EX series synthesisers will have to wait until another time, but this time I had a good play with the new Yamaha DJX keyboard, which was a lot of fun, but possibly a little restrictive, although I think it's more programmable than it initially appears, and has more for the money than any other keyboard I've ever seen, with an arpeggiator, loads of dance sounds and riffs, sequencer, filter-control knobs and so on - oh, and a reasonably useful sampler and decent built-in speakers - all for well under 300 quid.
I also had a quick play with the Yamaha WX5 wind controller, which recently replaced the WX11 model which I have, and which they are now pushing hard as a companion to the VL70-m. I suspect there are settings that need to be adjusted to suit the player in a way I couldn't really in the showroom, but to be honest, I didn't get on with it, finding it overly heavy and bulky, with many of the controls badly-positioned or responding poorly. I'll be sticking with my trusty WX11; it may not be as full featured, but I've got on with it well right from the start - simple is good, in my book - and I would consider its successor to be just too much of a gamble.