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David's diary: February 1998

That was a pleasant day out, all told. This morning saw our monthly celebration service, when all the Milton Keynes Covenant Fellowship congregations gather under one - very large, I am pleased to say - roof; we try to stick closely to the biblical teaching regarding church structure, with small community-based cell or house-groups, larger area congregations, and periodic celebrations such as today's. The preacher today was one of the elders from our parent church in Basingstoke, and he gave an excellent talk on the doctrine of hope, which he had hastily revised in the light of the recent death of Vera. It was the kind of talk that I would have liked anyone - Christian or not - to hear, it was so positive and removed any doubt as to the promises of what is in store for us all, if we are willing to receive.

Then it was on to Andy and Rosie's for lunch, and happily to say there was barely a mention of Bosnia all afternoon, so although that doesn't mean it's forgotten about, at least I can put it to the back of my mind for a bit. One of Andy's old school friends, Ian, was staying there for a few days, and Mark, Angela and Phil from the church also rolled up, and a wonderful roast meal was enjoyed by all, finished off with butterscotch and chocolate orange mousse. Apart from Mark, who wasn't feeling too terrific and took a nap instead, we then all drove up to Wolverton and had a stroll by the canal and then went to see the concrete cows - for the first time in my and Angela's case, amazingly. After a few games and so on, most of the others left, and Andy's sister Rachel and her husband Paul turned up, and I soon said my farewells, and called it a day, it getting rather late to barge in on the evening service.

A pretty broken-up, and not very productive day today really. I got very little done that I had been hoping, and most of the afternoon was taken up by one of our infrequent CES seminars - this time with Peter and Karen reporting back on the software they'd been developing for a third-level economics course. Other than that, really precious little to report back. I feel amazingly tired, almost nodding off at one point during the seminar - not through boredom I hasten to add, despite the subject matter - and a seriously early night beckons if I have anything to do with it!

Nice post and nasty post this morning. Nice post was the notification from Future Publishing that my subscription to Future Music is almost up for renewal - good news because I have no intention of renewing it at present, such is the way the magazine has gone downhill over the last couple of years. I'll probably subscribe to Sound On Sound instead, a no-gimmicks magazine that treats its readers as broad-minded and capable of thinking for themselves, rather than assuming they are just into "bedroom techno" and need force-feeding with their suspect advice on what to buy, frequently apparently culled from marketing literature and a quick play in the showroom rather than proper in-depth reviewing.

Nasty post was notification from BT Cable that they're coming round in a week's time to disconnect my television, for not paying up - despite the fact that I have a valid contract, a till receipt and a supporting bank statement right in front of me. I eventually got through to their customer support desk, and the girl there was very nice about it, but they still can't find any record of my payment, and at first didn't even believe that this morning's disconnection letter had been sent out! They say they'll get back to me... It's bad enough that BT Cable have the monopoly on television provision in Milton Keynes, without them being incompetent too.

Once again, plans for a relatively early night spectacularly destroyed. Last night was our house group night - sorry, must remember it's now called "neighbourhood group" - which lived up to its name by being about half spent with people talking about houses they did or didn't want to move to. The main activity was a "get to know Oldbrook" treasure-hunt thing, involving driving round the neighbourhood collecting various trivial facts. The other team got back well before us, having answered a lot of the questions from memory, but we won anyway perhaps more by luck than judgment. Good fun though, and although it didn't really show me anything I didn't know about Oldbrook, it was deliberately intended to visit all four corners, so we certainly visited streets that were new to me.

Then as I was about to put my coat on and go, there was a phone call from Mark, so myself, Mark and Andy went off to find a pub which turned out to be closed for refurbishment - seems all too common in Milton Keynes at the moment, and the pubs in question usually suffer for it, becoming more "fake" than "real". So we went out a bit further to Whaddon and found a very nice pub there which was open, quiet, and sold good beer. We talked some more about various things, Bosnia included; it seems that idea is still alive and kicking. Then it was back to the kebab van at the end of my street and thence to my flat for a little while - well a little while for the other two anyway - and thus ended the day.

I found it very sad earlier when I popped into my local corner-shop to buy a loaf of bread, to see two young teenage girls there, being really rude to the Asian assistant there. They seemed to be finding more or less every opportunity to be argumentative, difficult and indecisive, and you could tell the staff there were getting exasperated, even when they were speaking in their own tongue. When the girl finally paid, she threw the coins across the counter, as if to quite deliberately avoid contact with differently-coloured skin. I'm sure I'd seen other children behave similarly there in the past - this was no isolated incident - and it's a crying shame that there is still apparently such prejudice.

Still no word back from BT Cable yet, by the way - though I was in a meeting for most of yesterday afternoon, so I guess they might have tried to contact me during that time - and I've never got around to setting up my voice-mail system here. The girl assured me yesterday that I would not be cut off, though - even though I have my suspicions she doesn't even know my address in order to instruct the snipper-wielding engineers otherwise - so I suppose it's just a matter of waiting now. I watch television so little as it is, that in a way it would probably be better for me to let them cut it off if their communications remain as bad as they've been so far, then let them squirm when I demand compensation.

Back at my parents' house, typing this lying in bed on a beautiful and crisp Saturday morning, but one on which I nevertheless feel little inclination to get up properly. I seemed to spend half the night coughing and spluttering, and combined with going to bed late in the first place, I feel quite exhausted.

I took a half-day off work yesterday but still didn't manage to physically get away until after about 3 o'clock - thanks mainly to the second part of a Toolbook programming workshop. The late-afternoon journey back to Prestwood was fairly slow but I kept moving all the way, so it still took little more than an hour.

In the evening, we went to Wycombe to see Fairport Convention play live. I'd seen them twice before I think, and they were as good as ever - in recent years anyway - but gaining immensely from their talented new signing, Chris Leslie, a stunningly good young fiddle, mandolin and guitar player, and a great vocalist too.

Although Chris is currently playing a supporting role to the established lead duo of Simon Nicol on guitars and vocals, and Ric Sanders on violin, I think his role deserves to be raised, and he could help revive the sound and spirit of the early years which - good as the band remains - has been largely lost more recently.

The other band members should not be forgotten though, with Simon and Ric as good as ever - though I do find Simon's vocals rather boomy and expressionless. Dave Pegg still effortlessly spins out the basslines on his 5-string, and Dave Mattacks reliably holds the act together with drums and occasional keyboards.

Supporting act for this winter tour is my near-namesake David Hughes, with his distinctive and comic style of solo acoustic folk. His latest CD apparently got a 4-star review in Q Magazine, but although he came over excellently live, I think a lot of that appeal would be lost in a more sterile studio recording.

All told, as expected, a good evening out, and no doubt not the last time I'll go and see them, with a visit to their annual reunion festival at Cropredy looking quite a tempting proposition for later this year, maybe.

Now Saturday evening, and not a bad day really in the end. This morning, after I finally dragged myself out of the bath, I went up into the loft to get down a graphics tablet I'm giving to a friend - can't really charge him for it since I am sure it's going to be a pain to find Windows 95 drivers for something so old. While doing that we got a visit from my aunt Audrey, who had her grandson with her - though he pretty much immediately decided not to take a shine to me. This afternoon I went for a short walk, driving out to near Princes Risborough and enjoying what was left of a sunny but rather cold day. Nice to get out though, but I certainly found the hills more tough-going than I'd expected - probably this cough or whatever it is has taken more out of me than I'd realised.

Once again back in Milton Keynes and my weekly shopping done. Not a lot more to say, really; the journey back was slow in places, but trouble-free. I have a couple of hours to relax before I go to church for the second of our new-look Sunday evening services; the first, you will recall, was a great success, and apparently three people were that night healed on the spot of various afflictions. The week ahead is looking very busy, having made the - perhaps foolhardy - assurance that my "Electrons in atoms" software is going to be finished by Friday. Yes, it's a tall order, but I had to be proactive with the schedules running late as they are. It may well be that parts of it have to be dropped, but that's preferable to not getting anything out at all.

Got a fair bit done today, I suppose, but I've been somewhat preoccupied with this annoying cough I'm suffering from at the moment. I've got some cough mixture and stuff, but I'm not at all sure how this cough should be classified, i.e. tickly, chesty, scratchy, dry, or any of the other adjectives the experts seem to apply to these things. The Veno's was all very nice, but if anything I feel worse now than before - which might be par for the course with an expectorant, specifically designed to clear your lungs, but this stuff is supposed to soothe. I'm hoping a pint of Murphys might help a little too, now. My main concern though is that I should get a good night sleep; something of which I have not had the pleasure for several days, resulting in a vicious cycle of me getting weaker and still more susceptible to the infection which brought this on in the first place.

Work-wise, yes, today was fairly productive, finding a reasonably elegant solution to the problem of Delphi's refusal to handle strings of longer than 255 characters - namely using kind of linked lists of strings - and also working with Fiona to finally get some semblance of decent bitmaps for the electron cloud states. The trouble with the latter is that by the time you get up to high energy states like 6s or 7p, the all-important "rings" in the cloud are getting so faint that MathCAD really has considerable difficulty resolving them at all, and whereas at low energies, MathCAD can produce beautiful probability gradients, considerable effort - which we don't have time for - is needed to get similar results across the board. But I am still fairly pleased, and I'll wait until one of the academics complains before doing anything to rectify what is almost entirely a cosmetic problem.

Back at the flat after a reasonable day. Thanks to the combination of the Veno's, the Murphys and a little supplication - not sure which was the most effective, but together they did the trick! - I managed to get a reasonable night's sleep last night, and I'm hoping to be able to repeat the performance tonight. So it was a remarkably bright and cheerful Dave who managed to arrive at work at a reasonable time this morning, and get a fair bit done. Nothing particularly noteworthy - just stuff that needed doing, so still quite satisfying. Whether I will get it all done by Friday is a somewhat moot point, but I'll still aim for that, because I do try to keep to any dates I specifically agree.

At lunchtime I did a very rare - nay, unprecedented - thing, and went to a lunchtime lecture by Steven Rose, one of our better-known academics and a popular science author. He is a sworn opponent to Richard Dawkins, rubbishing his claims that living things are merely vehicles for the survival of genetic material - Dawkins' so-called "selfish genes" - and nothing more. Considering he was a biologist lecturing to an audience probably made up entirely of biologists apart from our CES threesome, he came across very well, and even the odd long word didn't detract from his being extremely understandable and interesting to all. I think I will have to check out his book "Lifelines", which goes into a lot more depth on the subject.

I got written confirmation from BT Cable this morning that my television connection is officially still active, though I'm still half expecting to come home from work tomorrow to find it cut off - at which point merry hell is likely to break out - such is my confidence in this monopoly, which, as Pandroid kindly pointed out to me, is inherently incompetent through statutory lack of any need for improvement.

Got some more done of the quantum thing, though it's still going to be fun meeting my deadline of Friday to finish the thing. It was nice, in any case, to be able to tick off most of the items on the most recent list of bugs and other problems - though those that remain are likely to be time-consuming in the extreme. The one thing I am really procrastinating over, probably recklessly, is how to get superscript text to appear in a Delphi TMemo; it'll be easy enough to do with overlaid labels or something, but it will be tedious. Oh for the 32-bit Delphi 2 with its rich-text support, but we are sadly locked into 16-bit software compatible with Windows 3.1 - for the next eight years, I believe!

Today was the day BT Cable were supposed to be cutting off my television connection, and it's not happened - assuming their engineers don't work into the evening doing their jobsworth stuff. Readers will recall that this was all a big mistake, caused simply by my starting a new contract with them just before the previous tenents' one had expired; when theirs ran out a few days later, BT assumed I wanted to cancel mine too. The net result is that I have officially not had a connection for most of the last year, but a large credit balance instead - not that they told me about it... Hopefully this is the end of the saga, now that I have both a confirmatory letter and a working connection.

What a day, and what a week? I didn't get the quantum physics thing out of the way as I'd hoped and somewhat promised, though I guess I made quite good - if frustrated - progress on it today. What remains is basically 100% tedious hard graft, as far as I can see, but it really shouldn't take too much longer. Then it will be the return of the chemical equilibrium thing to haunt me, with the unenthusiastic developmental testing reports peering ominously and menacingly at me from my Windows 95 desktop.

But almost everything about today has made me up-tight and irritable, and there are perhaps things I did that I will come to regret in the weeks ahead. Perhaps most particularly, I finally made my feelings known about Last Unicorn and my WaveCraft software - in the light of a recent rave review for its most direct competitor - and I was probably over-forthright in the expression of what I thought was the best thing to do now. Other things to incur my wrath unfortunately included the word games here on Mono.

Weather-wise though, today has been amazing - even if it does mean I'm sitting here somewhat roasting at present. Mild wasn't the word, with people out on the Mulberry Lawn at work as if it were high summer. With a balmy kind of evening, and Friday's early finish, today hopefully marked the resumption of my regular after-work walks, with a peaceful stroll round the Willen south lake. It was almost dark by the time I returned to the car, but the evenings are only going to get lighter from now on.

On Wednesday, I got a polite, but assertive, e-mail from a guy taking me to task over my "misunderstanding" of Hallowe'en. I have never claimed to be an expert, and nor would I want to be, frankly, so can't confirm whether he was right or not. But in any case - in the light of more teaching on spiritual warfare - it doesn't matter to me whether Hallowe'en or Samhain originated with the occult, paganism, or any other non-Christian religion; however innocently they may be followed, I consider them all part of Satan's deception.

In a way, I can begin to understand the Aylesbury street-corner preacher who so infuriated me a good many years back, condemning all other religions as mere evil superstitions. I am not saying that I now agree with him, because to say that would be to condemn the millions who follow those other religions as equally evil - which is plainly not true. But I now believe those who do follow those religions - or none at all - to be victims of an evil deception by Satan, though not beyond the reach of salvation.

But now the weekend lies ahead, and without anything specific planned. Tomorrow is Valentine's day, with nothing much to hope for - though I never know, I guess. I want more than some cheapskate web-greeting though, if anyone's going to bother with me at all. But a quiet weekend would probably suit me quite well, still very tired, and nursing myself back to fitness after this cough. I just know that next week is likely to be extremely busy at work, and I'll need all the energy I can muster.

Oh well, here we are - yet another uneventful Valentine's day. Or so far, anyway; just more council propaganda and a telephone directory on the doormat this morning. Been out and done the shopping, and now seem to have enough lightbulbs to last me a lifetime - why it was that I thought I needed another pair is quite beyond me, although having said that, if I was to fully replace all the blown bulbs I would use them all, and whenever I move out - not that I have any immediate plans to do so - it would only be right that the new occupants had a full set!

Again, it's an amazingly hot day, with lots of people lounging out in the central open-air bit of the shopping centre, though the fountain pool is still drained; otherwise it really could have been sometime in early summer. I suppose I really ought to go out somewhere this afternoon and make the most of it while it lasts, although the chances are that anywhere too nice is likely to be pretty seething. Oh for a nice garden where I could just lie down and drift away into another world for the afternoon.

Hostilities in the Gulf once again are looking increasingly likely, and I suppose more than ever before, I am a bit afraid of what the implications of any action will be. Although I cannot help but feel that Saddam would be getting everything he asked for if he was attacked, I do fear the additional effects of what would be likely to be less than unanimously supported action. Specifically, it now appears that the Russians, who appeared previously just to be anti-interventionist, have actually been supplying Iraq's defiant military.

So yes, I do think there is a reasonable chance of any action escalating, in a manner not seen in the previous conflict, and I do feel personally at risk. But although I fear the immediate consequences, I do not fear death itself. Physical death is an inevitability, and getting too hung up about its timing is to miss the point, in my opinion. The people I fear death most for, though - apart from those who might have to pick up the pieces after a loved one's untimely demise - are those for whom it is the end, rather than a new beginning.

This afternoon I spent exploring a few more of Milton Keynes' many lakes, walking round no less than four new ones - though they were all quite small! First up was Lodge Lake in Great Holm, which I recalled having got a good mention in the university newspaper, and it lived up to expectations, as a very naturalised lake with a nice peninsula with ponies on it and so on. Sounds a bit tacky, I know, but it was really quite unlike any of the other lakes I had previously walked around, which are largely featureless in comparison.

But, finding that my travelling time to and from there was longer than the quarter of an hour or so it took me to circumnavigate it, I decided I'd better find somewhere else to go, so quickly checked the street atlas and moved on to the Teardrop Lakes in Knowlhill. These I must admit I didn't have very high hopes of, but were actually modestly pleasant, and well off the beaten track, so very quiet. They are a chain of four tear-drop shaped - oddly enough - pools, but the main path only goes round three of them.

That added another half-hour to my afternoon out, and by the time I got back here, the sun was more or less down, so I would consider that quite a well-spent afternoon, and I'm glad I went out, with the weather being as unseasonally beautiful and warm as it is. I'm sure Willen and Campbell Park would both have been very busy, so it was a good opportunity to explore some new parts of the city. There are a few more lakes to go, but I think I've done most of the easily-accessible ones, and to do the whole lot might border on obsession.

That was a nice Sunday out, all-go for about eleven hours. Church in the morning - now with coffee and biscuits, apparently not a one-off thing - was followed by my first visit to David and Alison's in quite a while, for a pleasant light lunch and a spot of gardening, as well as the usual duties of entertaining their two daughters with jigsaws, my human-climbing-frame speciality and so on. Then it was on to Richard and Thelma's for tea, enjoying one of Richard's superb Thai stir-fries interspersed with his forthright opinions and theology, some improvisational music, some lethal homebrew and a fair bit of science-fiction on the television. Now I'm back at the flat, and will at least try and aim towards an early night, with a busy week at work to come, I don't doubt.

Another good day at work, happily to say; I have firmly agreed to essentially finish this quantum physics thing by the end of this week, confident that this time I can do so. Just before we finished this evening, Phil asked if I felt I'd chipped off a fifth of what I needed to do, and I believe I had done at least that with the nitty-gritty progress made today.

Today saw the start of the first debate in Monochrome's relaunched Three Chambers, all about the rights and wrongs of military intervention in the current situation in Iraq. I have been selected as a judge in this debate, which will be an interesting experience, with the likelihood that any military action decided upon would begin before the debate is up.

It seems I am now on the home leg with respect to getting the electrics, kitchen sink and so on sorted out in the flat, with contact being made today by the plumbing company, though they stopped short of actually proposing a date for the work. I have another flat inspection next week, which should hurry things along if they've not otherwise been sorted by that time.

Not quite as productive a day as yesterday, but not bad all the same, and I am confident that I am keeping on-target for finishing the software to the extent I agreed by the end of the week. Elaine popped in today - unusually, early enough not to encroach on my lunch break - to hit me with the prospect of a load more stuff from her people, which was not too welcome news when I'm busy enough as it is.

Specifically, it now seems that the virtual spectroscopy software I thought was on hold at the moment, while the academic in charge is on maternity leave, is in fact only a small part of a much larger suite of software - and guess who they think is doing the whole lot? I could draw parallels with the grim days of my dealing with the modern languages department, but that might be to overly tempt fate.

I now have a firm date and time at which the plumber guy is coming in to fix the various things needing doing in the flat. It is the same day as the letting agents' next inspection, so if the job overruns or is not done properly for any reason, things could get somewhat interesting. But again, let's not tempt fate by suggesting such things, because I have been very impressed by the work done by this guy in the past.

After a few weeks sitting on their renewal notice, I finally got round to cancelling my subscription to Future Music magazine, although I have yet to hear back from the publishers with confirmation of my instruction. The magazine has just gone so downhill over the last year or so that there's no way I want to make any commitment to buying it month by month, even if occasional issues might still appeal.

A day of two halves, with the lousier half this afternoon, saved at the last by some timely input from fellow Mono-spod Cemerson. This morning I painstakingly went through every screen of my software determining where I needed things in superscript - a slow, sometimes frustrating, but ultimately successful process. But this afternoon I started getting some nasty and not entirely predictable crashes that nobody at work seemed able to explain, even stranger when it was code I'd used many times before with no problems.

Grumbling about it in Mono's "Sheer annoyance" file however attracted the attention of Cemerson, and although he had no direct experience of Delphi, his comments on the problem inspired me to try a few things that I had not done previously, and, amazingly, it all worked! I am still surprised at the success, since it revolved around declaring the strings I was using with a fixed length, when Delphi has implicitely fixed-lengh strings anyway - but who am I to argue when it made the day's work worthwhile anyway.

Mono's Three Chambers debate on the Iraq situation is developing nicely, and leaving me as undecided as ever, with both sides putting forward very good arguments. Back in the real and uncertain world, I am glad to see that the United Nations is now sending their secretary-general to Baghdad to try and defuse the current crisis, though I fear it will only be a time-buying exercise, merely giving the Iraqis more opportunity to hide anything worth hiding and to group their armies.

Various people have commented that this is almost the same sequence of events as took place before the last conflict. It is somewhat worrying to see the US so enthusiastically promoting a war as an opportunity to show off their new hardware, and to see our own foreign secretary advocating a nuclear attack under certain circumstances - this too is exactly the same as last time, certainly, but that time, the UN support for action was more or less unanimous, with dissenters quietly abstaining on the whole.

Now well on course for finishing the quantum physics software tomorrow to the extent agreed, with just a few font size issues to clear up, and I'm pretty sure of what the solution will be. It will be a real relief to get this out of the way as a job well done, though the thought of the return of the chemical equilibrium software later tomorrow and next week does not fill me with such pleasure.

House group - or neighbourhood group as it is now supposed to be called - went fairly well tonight, with some well-orchestrated prayer for friends in need. When I say "well-orchestrated", I don't mean in a kind of contrived stage-managed sense, but rather in an organised and unified manner, which has been proven many times to yield success.

Last night's neighbourhood group meeting was very good, as I said, but there was one point where something I said really went down like a lead balloon, and I'm not sure that even after explanation some people knew quite what I was driving at. The glare and almost snapped retort from the pastor's wife said it all, really, and I nearly felt like making a hasty exit.

It was during the first part of the meeting, when we happened to be discussing the power of prayer, and things had got on to the subject, basically, of how and why prayer worked. The more you try to analyse this, the more holes become apparent - why, for example, is prayer necessary at all when God is omnipotent? Why do we have to pray repeatedly so often?

So I shared my genuine feelings that trying to understand the mechanics of prayer is a futile exercise, and that all that mattered was that it worked. Trying to comprehend and rationalise the infinite is a process ultimately doomed to failure. To argue with that is - although I didn't say so - to arrogantly claim to understand and be able to measure infinity.

The way I look at it is that prayer does work, and as a Christian, I should partake of it. Mine is not to try and reason why that should be, but to accept it as truth borne out by experience. By experience, we come to discover what kind of prayer is the most effective - though I refer more to the manner in which it is delivered than what we actually pray for.

An omnipotent God can do anything, and prayer is the channel by which we let him know. That is why, if we pray the right way, we can get anything to happen, and we shouldn't avoid praying for things that sound impossible. It is our inherent lack of faith - manifesting itself as a belief that some things are too hard for God - that causes failure of prayer.

I am perhaps very short on faith, viewing everything too rationally for my own good. I sometimes wonder whether God really is a part of my life, or if I just go through the motions a lot of the time. It can be quite hard in a charismatic church when I stand in stony silence as all around me people are apparently under the influence of the Holy Spirit.

But yet I will persevere, and perhaps stop trying to understand and rationalise things - yes, exactly what I think others often seem to do, even within faith - and just accept the infinite truth. I know that Jesus died for me, and I have seen adequate proof that there is something beyond our often pathetic mortal existence, but I still feel I have a long way to go.

I was particularly disturbed by a relative of one of those present being quoted as saying that they had "really hoped that this would be the year they would find God". This seemed rather strange, because I would have thought that was a fairly easy wish to fulfil, once you realise it is what's for the best, which rather made me wonder whether I had found him at all.

Perhaps I am really still at that hoping stage, and just waiting for something spectacular to happen before I can really claim salvation. After all, many people in our church have wonderful testimonies of how they came to God, and frankly mine is depressingly boring and literally down-to-earth. Sure, I have proclaimed Jesus as my saviour, but did God hear me?

Work went well, successfully handing over the Electrons in atoms software as agreed for testing, although as soon as I had done so, I got a whole list of amendments that should be made before too many people get their hands on it... Thankfully most of these were just tweaking the odd word here and there, though there's also a couple of crash bugs needing fixing, so although I tackled about three-quarters of the issues, the rest I am sure will haunt me for a little longer yet.

A busy Saturday, and one that's not over yet by any means, hopefully. This morning I went to do my weekly shop, and also got my hair cut - for once, I don't think it was too long since I last had it done, but my hair very quickly gets out of control, so it's never too soon, really.

This afternoon I paid a visit to Bletchley Park, for the first time - rather sad, when I've been here almost a year and a half now. Bletchley Park was the venue for the allied forces' code-breaking efforts during the second world war, and its activities only recently passed into the more public domain under the rules controlling state secrets. It's not a very attractive place - though the original mansion is rather grand - but the exhibits of wartime, communication and computer memorabilia were very interesting, and its history is astonishing.

The centrepiece exhibit is their functional reconstruction of Colossus, arguably the world's first electronic computer, which was used, at Bletchley Park, to crack the German Enigma and Lorenz codes during the war. It is considered that by breaking the codes, the war was shortened by up to two years and avoided the need for an atomic attack on Berlin, so it seems a shocking state of affairs that Bletchley Park remains under a dark cloud of redevelopment threats, a complete lack of public funding, and two failed bids for lottery money.

Alan Turing himself worked at Bletchley, apparently cycling to work on a reliably unreliable bike - the chain predictably came off every eight revolutions - and wearing a gas-mask on account of his asthma, and some of his code analysis and deciphering machines have still to be surpassed by today's supposedly efficient Intel-based computers. A prime example was his Turing Bombe machine, which generally took about twenty minutes to perform calculations modern desktop computers still take several hours to complete.

Tonight I am hopefully going to the first gig by Jacob's Dream, a band set up by Robbie and his sizeable family, which is going on tour in Bosnia later this year. This is certainly somewhat of a leap of faith when the band apparently only first played together earlier today - and consequently they are not charging for the gig, just in case it is completely grim, though they will of course be taking donations for Novimost and Bosnia Relief.

Jacob's Dream were every bit as good as had been expected, with about two hours' worth of competent if somewhat unpolished material - not bad for ten hours together. They presented a strong mixture of Christian and secular music, including fine renditions of various Oasis, REM and - showing their mainly Irish roots - U2 and Van Morrison, numbers. They will certainly go down well on their forthcoming tour of Bosnia, including dates in both East and West Mostar and in Sarajevo, and Dublin sometime before that. Apparently they will be leading worship at the Wolverton church tomorrow morning, which will no doubt be an interesting experience.

I went round to see Danny my pastor tonight, as somewhat of an emergency after some personal faith problems that came to a head at last night's service, and I think we cleared them up to a large extent. It meant having to face up to things from my past that I find it painful to discuss, and I'll admit that I skirted round the worst of the issues, though I still believe that it was a releasing experience. I reaffirmed my commitment to my faith, and also agreed that I would at some point in the near future be properly baptised in the biblical sense.

Last night I had been on the point of practically demanding a moonlight visit to the nearest river, but I was glad I wasn't so hasty, because - as various people have said since - I need to clear things up in my body, heart and mind before finally cleansing myself of my past and being reborn in Christ. To emphasise the point of that defining moment of rebirth through baptism, Danny related the story of how when at school some friends of his had consulted a ouija board to find when a teacher of theirs was to die, and sure enough the board replied with a date. But to their surprise the date was one in the past, and under some pretence they asked the teacher if the date meant anything to him, and he recalled it as the very day on which he had been baptised and was reborn in Christ.

After last night's entry I should perhaps clarify things a little with regard to baptism. The fact of the matter is that early in 1994 I was baptised and confirmed under the Anglican tradition, and this certainly was a significant turning point for me, I feel. Anglican adult baptism usually means standing by the font, reciting a prayer with the vicar or whoever, and having the mark of the cross made on ones forehead with blessed water from the font. However in the Bible, baptism is always by total physical immersion, and usually in a river or similar unblessed water. The word "baptism" apparently comes from the Greek and is synonymous with the word "dyeing", the process of colouring cloth, which involves the complete immersion of the cloth in the liquid that it might be physically changed throughout. Important though it might be for many people - myself included, in fairness - the Anglican baptism does not appear to satisfy that requirement. Obviously, baptism by immersion is therefore somewhat symbolic, but then so are communion and various other Christian ceremonies, but it doesn't mean they are pointless, because they are outward and physical expressions of something far deeper and more spiritual that we cannot hope to directly touch as mortals. So I don't wish to condemn my Anglican baptism - I still think it was a very important thing, and I would still defend it - but nevertheless for me, and for whatever reason, I feel it is time to go further. I can't explain that reason in totality; I just have a gut feeling that I am right to move ahead in this way.

I want to collectively thank the various people who have offered their valuable support and advice during this time of some spiritual hardship. You have all been encouraging in your own way, and made me realise that I am essentially doing what seems to be right. I'm perhaps a little surprised that none of the more casual readers of this diary have commented on my mentioning ouija boards without even a breath of scepticism. This is because I do believe in the power of these things, even though it does not appear to be a power for good. Indeed it is a necessity to believe in their power in order to hold my own positive faith, just as it is conversely necessary to believe in - yet despise - the loving power of God to be a true follower of those openly negative occult beliefs culminating in satanism itself.

Today was not too great at work, being somewhat stuck in between project phases. The quantum physics thing is now - hopefully - being looked at by various people, to generate comments on its content and approach before I can really start polishing it, which means its development is essentially on hold. I am supposed to be starting to look again at the chemical equilibrium software this week, but for one reason or another, the first meeting with respect to it does not take place until tomorrow afternoon, so although there have been a few odd bits and pieces I can be getting on with in the meantime, it's all rather disjoint for my liking.

Shortly before I left work today, I got a visit from Geoff, who has asked me to provide a soundtrack for an animation that is going on a departmental demo CD-ROM. It is a minute-long selection of snippets of various animation work Geoff and others have done in connection with Open University courses, in the form of a currently-silent AVI file. It should be quite fun being able to write something of substantial length for a change; so much of what I get asked to do is limited to literally only a few seconds, whereas in even a minute there is a chance to be creative in a less restrained way - though Geoff doesn't want it so wonderful that it steals the show from the on-screen images, of course!

I've been giving the flat a quick brush-up tonight, since tomorrow sees Darren the plumber/electrician coming in the morning to deal with the broken kitchen sink, main bedroom electrics and the toilet seat, and in the evening, Mark from the estate agents is coming to do one of the regular inspections he is required to carry out as part of their deal with the owner. The latter is not as bad as it sounds; he basically has to make sure the place is still essentially intact, and it is as much an opportunity to discuss any problems as anything. The last time he came, we spent most of the time talking about music stuff, and I think he briefly opened the doors to all the rooms, but that was about it.

In all this diary-writing, how on earth could I have forgotten about yesterday, pancake day or Shrove Tuesday to give it its correct name. As the feast before Lent, it really was a good one. At lunchtime, I had a turkey roast for my main course, but pancakes with syrup, orange sauce, mincemeat and cream for pudding. In the evening, a load of us gathered round at Andy and Rosie's house, for yet more pancakes, this time opting for raspberry ripple ice-cream and chocolate sauce as the taste-sensation accompaniment. Sheer pancake indulgence on both occasions, though the evening's delicacies were also accompanied by the best part of a litre of wine, which made the subsequent late-night game of Scrabble somewhat interesting.

Well that was a busyish day... The plumber guy arrived more or less on-time in the morning, though he first turned up in his BMW, so I gave him the spare door-keys and he left again to fetch the van as I went for work. Getting back this evening, he's been and gone, and seems to have done a great job, with the sink dazzlingly white and putting just about everything else in the kitchen to shame, the toilet seat no longer in danger of causing mortal injury or drowning to anyone with a less than steady backside, and the main bedroom properly illuminated for the first time I can remember for sure.

I had a good meeting this afternoon at work about the chemical equilibrium software. I think more or less everyone significant has looked at it now, so now my task is to collate the various requests and suggestions into some kind of cohesive list, from which I can tick off the items as I implement them. The problem is of course that different people have very different priorities, and opinions will inevitably differ on certain issues, though I think this afternoon's meeting ended with us all in surprisingly broad agreement, and that nothing that was decided seemed too complicated from the software development side, which is vitally important with time running out more than ever before.

Mark, my letting agent, turned up in his BMW - though a rather more fancy one than the plumber's it had to be said - more or less on-time for this evening's flat inspection. He was as pleased as I was with the work the plumber had done in the morning, and with no other issues of any great importance, he was in and out in about five minutes at the most. Not that he said anything, and I don't think he'd be too worried anyway given that it's only cosmetic, but I must make a mental note to myself: cobwebs and spiders...

So ends another week at work, with a reasonable bit done, I guess. Not a huge amount of programming, but productive in other ways. It's also month-end, so it's time for another one of the dreaded monthly reports, usually a carefully-crafted blend of bitter fact and wishful thinking. Today I was working through the various comments from people about the chemical equilibrium software, in order to make a definitive checklist of things I could reasonably do during the time remaining.

I also briefly had to prepare a few disks and talk through some software and screen-dumps to a guy from the BBC centre. This was somewhat annoying as it's software that officially I have nothing to do with, and only helped out to get someone out of a fix - and was asked because I knew about Delphi - but for some reason various people now seem to think I actually have something to do with it on an ongoing basis, which would be fine except for the fact that the software is a complete heap.

As I got to the car-park, I bumped into Denise from IET, and she had some good news from the testing of the quantum physics software, with the first person testing it - with hardly any prior physics knowledge - getting on really well with it and learning a lot. This is in stark contrast to the disappointing results from the corresponding part of the chemical equilibrium testing, so cheered me no end - though it's still early days and I'm sure some of the test subjects will find difficulties.

This evening I did my weekly shop at Waitrose; I normally do it on the Saturday, but tomorrow is going to be a busy day for various reasons, so it seemed a good idea to do it while I know I have the time. Still lamenting the fact that I didn't talk a little longer with the lovely Christian girl at the Toybox kiosk, though I'm probably reading far too much into her asking my name and smiling so much - well I guess if anything more was supposed to have happened, fate will still have its way, so I needn't kick myself too much.

Tomorrow is indeed going to be busy. Most of the daytime will be taken up with a MKCF Men's Day, a series of seminars on the subject of work, subtitled "Prison or Place of Destiny". Sounds a bit boring, though I gather that previous such events have been well attended and a lot of fun. I will have to bow out slightly early from that to go on to Tesco to help run a collection for Bosnia Relief; the collection entails standing outside the main entrance and passively persuading people to add a few specific relief items to their shopping lists, which they then donate. Then in the evening, we have a curry night round at Di's house, about which I have very few details, but which should nevertheless be fun.

It's now early Saturday evening, and it's time for a little breathing space on this busy day. Dave Oliver's seminar on work was an absolute blinder, and I felt really quite deprived having to leave early for the Bosnia collection, though I've got his e-mail address, so I might see if he can mail me some of his word-processed notes next week. He tackled some quite thorny issues, many of which seemed to be speaking fairly directly at me; Dave is one speaker who has never failed to impress, managing to lay the heart bare whilst simultaneously pouring on hope in abundance.

I left a bit earlier than I needed to in the end, though, since it was Eric's son's birthday, and I was going to give him and Eric a lift somewhere else in Kingston to do some shopping before meeting the others at Tesco, but things didn't quite work out as planned, so I was at Tesco myself in good time. Braving the wintry conditions - sleet and extremely bitter winds - I handed out Bosnia leaflets for a couple of hours, encouraging shoppers to add basic things like flour, tinned vegetables, toilet paper etc on to their own shopping lists and donating them afterwards. We got loads of stuff donated; people really seemed to appreciate a practical way of charitable giving with no administrational overheads.

Needless to say, I got utterly lost leaving Tesco, having never been there before. I got further disoriented by calling in at the petrol station - and disappointingly finding the prices there are identical to those at the main petrol stations across the city, 69.9p a litre for four-star - and eventually chose a road that happened to be in completely the wrong direction and had absolutely no opportunity to turn round for about five miles. I live and learn... But anyway, I'm back here in the warm now, and have checked the address where I'm going for the curry evening tonight, so I really can now take a breather - but try not to forget the bottles of Indian beer in the fridge!

This busy Saturday's finally drawing to a close. The curry evening was most pleasant, with exceedingly good company, and poppadoms, dips, bombay mix, salad and various tandoori and balti main dishes to satisfy a winter day's appetite. Oh, and plenty of beer too, happily to say. Not much more to say really, but a good time was had by all, I think, and I doubt it will be the last evening of its kind. I feel really quite exhausted after today, being up and active since unaccustomedly early for a Saturday, but it's been a great day, and in some ways I only wish I could have fitted more of everything in.

From what Andy and Alan were saying this evening, it now seems that Bosnia Relief are sorted for drivers for the time being, with two bigger trucks - with HGV licences required - going down in May rather than a greater number of small ones. This is somewhat of a relief - no pun intended - since I really was somewhat apprehensive about even the slightest possibility of taking part myself, and that now seems to have blown over, at least for the time being. I'm still very happy to support the charity in other ways, like I was earlier today, and no doubt will do in the future, though, and would still never rule anything out completely.

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