David's diary: July 1998
To follow a growing trend - not that I normally pay attention to such things - I will avoid any mention of details of last night's football match, except to comment that it was a lot of fun watching a match on TV with friends for the first time, with copious food, drink, and large red and yellow cards to hand.
It's that annual car insurance renewal time, and I've decided to go with Kwik-fit again, having been - apart from that exorbitant service charge for changing my address - perfectly happy with them. I gave Direct Line a call, as they had invited me to, and their quote was considerably better than Kwik-fit's, but Kwik-fit knocked a full hundred quid off theirs to match them - including no-claims protection and a very low damage excess, neither of which I suspect were included in Direct Line's package.
It still wasn't as low as I had perhaps hoped, having been aiming for something less than three hundred pounds, but as I have quickly come to realise, cars are inherently expensive beasts to run, and worrying about shaving the odd quid off insurance premiums is a fairly low priority for me. The first time I bought car insurance, I shopped around a bit, but since then, I really haven't been bothered to do so again, certainly now I have found companies who seem to be competitive enough, anyway.
Neighbourhood group last night was a bit different, meeting up at Rosie's, then driving up to the canal at Stoke Bruerne for a walk and a drink. I'd been up there twice before that I could remember, and not for a year or so anyway. It was also much quieter than when I last visited, thanks to being a cool weekday evening rather than a hot summer bank-holiday weekend, and the whole place had a beautiful air of tranquillity.
I got a job description through from the company in Leighton Buzzard, and it certainly looks interesting, as everyone who has read it agrees. A lot of this was of course explained at the interview, but it's nice to have it all in writing. Specific duties listed include:-
- Working with the MD in the creation and project control of new products;
- Testing and bug reporting of all company products using, where necessary, external teams;
- Demonstrating products to customers, both in-house and at exhibitions, some of which could involve significant international travel;
- Supervision or writing of demonstration songs, either in MIDI or audio formats;
- Processing of sound samples for the musical instrument design side of the company;
- To work with the MD to refine and improve the company's product plan.
... and a lot more besides. It would certainly be a busy and challenging position, but one which I think I could get into in a big way, especially with the prospect of travel both in Europe and further afield, a reasonable rise in take-home pay and a health-care scheme for the first time in ages.
But it's probably best for me now to wait until I have heard anything more from them before going on any further about how wonderful this job might be. There were another couple of applicants, apparently, so nothing is at all certain - although I do get a distinct feeling that God's hand is playing a part in this, due to a number of unlikely coincidences, so I am ever hopeful.
Yet another fairly busy weekend, and once again, Monday morning is not the refreshed time that it should be. Friday evening was Kids Club again, this time getting a bit more actively involved in running the evening, but leaving promptly when it had finished to drive home for the first time in a couple of months.
I normally go home for the whole weekend when I do, but I had a few things I'd previously agreed to do on Sunday, so I came back Saturday night instead, loaded up with much-missed home-baked chocolate cake and pair of walking trousers my mum had altered for me on account of my not having legs like a stilt-walker.
But when I got back, Seamus and Gill had phoned, postponing our Sunday lunch arrangements, though I had to put the chairs out Sunday morning anyway, so it wasn't a completely wasted early return from home. In the end, for lunch about a dozen of us descended on the Westcroft Pizza Hut, which made a pleasant change.
It now looks fairly likely I will be going on the Kids Club holiday on August bank holiday weekend. The activity centre has managed to rearrange things a bit, increasing our capacity by about half again. We are covered for leaders, but there is a spare space in the male leaders' cabin, and Mark's asked me anyway.
Anyway, it's Monday and now back at work, still on the Ellingham diagrams. There was an e-mail waiting for me this morning from the company in Leighton Buzzard; I'm apparently down to the last two for the job I was interviewed for last Monday, and the guy is now asking for a firm date on which I could be available.
Unfortunately, I can't determine a date of availability without effectively giving my notice here, which puts me in a slightly awkward situation. From the way the guy framed his message, it seemed like my acceptance could hinge on my guaranteed early availability, so I'll either have to be brave, or pass it up.
Going home means I have access to a pair of bathroom scales; yes I know Lidl's are currently selling digital scales for less than a fiver, but it's too much inconvenience to go there during their somewhat limited opening hours. But anyway, I am pleased to say that I've lost getting on for half a stone since I started taking more care with my eating after that trip to register with the doctor. I feel I can do better still, and I'm not too sure that I'm underneath my recommended maximum yet, so I'll keep on going, especially since I'm actually enjoying things like bran-flakes and fresh fruit, and making a pizza or something at the weekend a special event that I needn't feel too guilty about if I've eaten more frugally during the week.
It really struck me, as I went out for a stroll yesterday evening, just how beautiful a city Milton Keynes can be. Now yes, it has more than its fair share of brick, concrete and glass - and some of the newer housing developments leave a lot to be desired - but its parks really are something quite else and have to be experienced to be believed, especially for people used to more conventional town and city life. Taking a walk up the Grand Union canal, only the asphalt under my feet and the ever-present hum of traffic on the grid-roads - easily drowned out by the birdsong and the chugging of the occasional narrow-boat, however - gave away the fact that I wasn't in rolling rural countryside. How many other cities of the size of Milton Keynes can boast that, and so close to areas of dense population?
It is a city you can pass through by train and barely notice, and even in the bustling Central Milton Keynes, such care has been taken with the environment that it still makes visitors gasp. It might not yet have the soul of an older city, but it is still very early days. I can't remember off-hand just how much of the city is given over to recreation, but it's almost certainly one of the highest percentages in the world, and I understand Campbell Park to be the biggest urban park in the world, wiping the floor with some of the world's more well known city shrubberies. Milton Keynes may well have its problems, and I fear that some of them are more than just teething problems, but for those who can last here, they can enjoy a city which offers so much more for generations to come to inherit and savour.
Yesterday evening saw a number of "firsts" for me, and hopefully - in most of the cases - the first of many. Mark invited me along to the worship band practice, initially to play keyboards, though I successfully convinced him I would bring absolutely nothing of value to the proceedings. But I volunteered to play wind synth, which I think was a new experience for all of them, and went down really well. It wasn't actually the first time I had played with other people, but it was the first time in a proper band, and I was as delighted as any of them were as to how well I managed to fit in. Not so long ago, I would have vehemently resisted any efforts to get me up on stage or anything, but now I'm itching to play for real at a proper meeting, and it's likely I'll get some chances to do so this summer.
Although I stuck to a conventional tenor sax sound for most of the evening - though one which sounds very rich when played a little out of range and therefore makes a great alto too - I also experimented with some of the more unusual settings, creating some nice atmospherics for intros and so on; try doing that with a real sax. I was worried about the keys that the songs were going to be played in, and initially had to shudder at the number of sharps and flats I was having to play, but it soon became clear that a two-semitone transpose upwards was going to make things a whole lot easier. That is certainly one of the beauties of using a wind synth rather than a real sax, being able to transpose freely, avoiding the awkward fixed keys that the real instruments are so often over-constrained by.
After the practice, Mark and I agreed we'd go to the pub, choosing the Olde Swan at Woughton, though just as we got there, Angela phoned - we'd tried to contact her earlier, and her mobile's currently doing sterling service in Bosnia - and we hit the road down to Woburn Sands. But for even more of change, it was with me at the wheel, for the first time driving a large car, both in terms of physical size and engine, and it was also an automatic, another first for me. Even with the slight sedateness generally associated with automatics, three litres of fuel-injected Granada certainly shifts, and it took a little getting used to, especially with the engine noise so deceptively subdued compared to the Metro. I don't think I'd want one, but it was certainly fun for that little while.
A fairly uneventful last couple of days really. I had a useful chat with my boss Joel yesterday morning, formally raising the issue of the length of my notice. Ross had warned me that he would be cooperative but annoyed, but it turned out that only the former was the case. We agreed that two months notice would be an appropriate starting point, and if my prospective employer wants me enough, he'll try and haggle that downwards a bit.
Ironically, I spent the rest of the day talking to interviewees for some new posts. It wasn't a formal part of the proceedings, and I didn't have specific questions or objectives, but Joel - as usual - asked for any overwhelming opinions I might have had regarding any of the candidates. All seemed pretty good to me, coming from a wide range of experiences and backgrounds, and Joel is confident he can offer positions to at least a couple of them.
In the evening, we had a short-notice meeting about the forthcoming Kids Club holiday, which it now looks very likely I'll be helping out on at the end of August. It was basically an opportunity for Mark to outline the programme, show some photographs of previous years' events, and discuss the teaching approach we plan to follow. I've agreed to look after the ongoing points competition, which should be a great opportunity to get to know everyone.
Then it was a case of watching the closing minutes of the football - and lamenting Croatia's exit from the competition - having a few beers, watching an old Voyager episode, and hitting the sack. Tonight, with Andy still in Bosnia and nothing else planned, there's no neighbourhood group meeting, but I think a few of us are planning on watching a video round at Alan and Helen's new place - on their nice big new TV - and I'll probably join them.
Well last night's film round at Alan and Helen's was pretty grim, with the only saving grace being watching it on a nice big television. Despite a big-name cast - including Sylvester Stallone, Harvey Keitel and Robert De Niro - Copland really was a terrible film. So much potential, but next to nothing happened, and even with as little going on as there was, it was still difficult to follow - though that might have been due to nodding off, such was the tedium of it all. But never mind, it was better than sitting at home all evening - just.
Back at work after a weekend of mixed fortunes, and having dodged my way through bits of tree from the earlier gales. Saturday evening was supposed to have been a big barbecue in the park, but with the weather somewhat inclement, no-one - apart from me, of course - seemed to bother turning up. A bit annoying, for sure, as someone who's had to cook meals in driving rain or starve to death before, but not worth losing sleep over.
Sunday was better, with Celebration in the morning, and the rest of the day at Seamus and Gill's, and helping this guy get rid of some furniture and stuff before he goes to China for a few years. Then back to the house, where Mark had got the video projector set up from having watched the football earlier, so sat down with a beer or two to watch Leon - very weird and sometimes pretty sick and violent film, but well worth a look anyway.
Well I am almost definitely going on the Kids Club holiday now, having paid for it this morning - if anything important comes up, we should be able to find someone to take my place, but I don't think that's likely, with the speed that anything else seems to be developing. I ought to think about getting a proper holiday sometime though, but it's hard to make any decision there until I know exactly where I stand with regards to my job application, which I've heard nothing back from for getting on for a week.
Despite having a few favourites, I avoid watching too much television, finding that indiscriminate viewing definitely addles the brain. NBC's replacement with Cartoon Network - even if it's only for a month - I am sure will see the loss of several billion brain-cells from the population of Milton Keynes and beyond. Even five minutes in front of the trash they are showing is enough for me to sense my grey matter simply evaporating; I shudder to imagine the effect on kids for whom the television becomes a trusted child-minder.
But there are still a few programmes that do catch the attention without being regular favourites, and there's been several in the last couple of days. Perhaps by conicidence - or perhaps not - there have been a number of programmes highlighting the risks of the lack of control over weapons in the former Soviet Union, particularly with reference to biological agents, including genetically engineered ones, and portable nuclear devices. Scary stuff indeed, and if you work on the basis that the West is probably being equally less than entirely honest about its claims to have stopped development of many of these things, the risks now are at least as great as they ever were before. At least in the Cold War, everything was very tightly controlled and diplomatically regulated; now there are no such guarantees.
It's all too easy to think, in recent years, that the world has become so much of a safer place. In the UK, we see the departure of the cruise missiles from Greenham Common and think it's all over, but it's not. Long-range ballistic missiles may well no longer be targeted on the opposition's cities, but that is a token gesture when the desired target is merely a parameter of a computer program. Within the last few years there have been a number of incidents where superpower governments had to make split-second decisions on whether to start armageddon. And that's not even considering the issue of the uncontrolled weapons, many of which have gone missing since the break-up of the Soviet Union.
Certainly the risks are now different, and I think we can probably sleep safe in the knowledge we're not going to get a wake-up call from an SS-20, but the risks have not gone away. At least in the past we knew our enemy, and we knew that no matter how opposed they might be to us, they were essentially sane, and knew the implications of any action.
Lunchtime today, Malcolm did a re-run of his talk on his Bosnian relief work. The first talk was a couple of months ago, but most people - including myself - forgot it was on at the time. It was very interesting seeing his photographs of a war-torn country putting itself back together again, as well as gaining more of an insight into the organisation with which he is involved. They're still looking for free or low-cost storage facilities in Milton Keynes though, since they lost the use of the mosque hall they'd had for a while, due to the need for essential repairs, so their future is somewhat uncertain. But they still seem to have bags of enthusiasm, and I'm sure they'll carry on somehow, and - although it's hardly the most cost-effective way of helping the needy overseas - such activities are very important for many reasons, and I certainly hope they will persevere.
Not the best way to start the day, under the bonnet of my car, getting my hands grubby. For not the first time in the last few months - indeed, the third, actually - I blew a headlamp last night. Whether this is just random misfortune or something more significant I don't know, but it's probably yet another sign that I should be getting rid of the car altogether.
Last night in general was most pleasant though, in the delightful company of Angela and Josie, first at the Swan, then on to the Westcroft McDonalds for a midnight - well just about - feast. Yesterday probably has to go down as a Bad Day for my diet though; I'll just have to try and make sure I don't make a habit of such obvious lack of self-control.
That self-control is unlikely to manifest itself today, though, having provisionally agreed to join the semi-regular family clan gathering at lunchtime today. My parents and two sets of aunts and uncles are meeting for a meal at a pub in Stewkley, just down the road from here, so it seemed more than sensible to go too, since I don't get to see my relatives much.
Well lunch at the Carpenters Arms in Stewkley was most pleasant, though a little rushed for me, on account of not wishing to abuse my nominal hour's break too excessively. Indeed, it was about two hours by the time I got back to the office, but it was good to see my family - especially those less frequently seen aunts and uncles - and the food and drink at the pub were simply superb, with modest prices and very friendly service. So I left Valerie, Barry, Colin, Brenda and my parents there, to talk about whatever boring things they normally end up talking about at these gatherings - finances and health, normally - nicely filled up and raring to go for the afternoon - maybe. I have a post-appraisal meeting with Joel in a little while this afternoon, actually, which shouldn't be too much of a big deal, though it's bound to be tempered slightly by his knowledge that I'm passively looking for other work so I'm not exactly sure what to expect.
Not the best of mornings, with fine drizzle, more headlamp problems - not the best morning for that... - and an excruciatingly painful stiff neck. The headlamp bulb I fitted yesterday morning had blown by the evening, but rather suspiciously, instead of having gone black, it had gone creamy white inside. I suspect it might be an oxide of tungsten, which would rather imply the bulb wasn't sealed properly; I would try submerging it in water and watching for the bubbles, but I doubt Halfords would be too impressed when I take it back tomorrow. I hope it was a duff bulb, because otherwise that means there's a problem with the car electrics, though the other headlamp has been fine. Interestingly, of the three bulbs I have had to fit while I've had the car, the two that have subsequently blown have both been Halfords own-brand ones, though I would doubt they are anything more than rebadged Lucas ones, so I'm not sure that's significant.
As for my stiff neck, well I do remember waking up during the night with it being somewhat painful, and it's at least as bad this morning. I've had similar experiences before, so unless it goes on for more than a couple of days I won't worry myself too much. It probably looks worse than it feels, since I can almost completely eliminate the pain by slumping my head to the right and dropping my left shoulder. What would have brought it on is anyone's guess; from my experience, perhaps well over half of non-serious injuries aren't easily attributable to anything obvious. It can be quite alarming the number of aches, pains, cuts and so on that are picked up in normal, non-risk-taking, day to day life, but the human body is remarkably resilient, and it takes a lot to do serious harm.
I have just been kindly reminded that my office here is a fated one for back, neck and other spinal problems. Almost all the people who have been through here have suffered from something or other of that nature, the most serious being Jon's back trouble which saw him get six months extended sick-leave. But it's also proved to be a bit of a waiting room for people successfully trying to get other jobs, so I suppose there could be a positive side to all this. Not that I believe in that kind of stuff much anyway, and it's only as true as people are prepared to believe; curses and jinxes are only as real as the mugs who let themselves get affected believe them to be, breeding and thriving only on human weakness and vulnerability.
As far as I know, I have a relatively quiet weekend coming up. There is no Kids Club tonight, thanks to a clash with a disco and barbecue at the school, and apart from the start of our summer picnic season at the Kings Centre on Sunday afternoon, there's nothing really to distinguish this one from any other weekend. Having said that, I'm sure something more interesting will develop, worthy of reporting back about on Monday - but as for quite what, your guess is as good as mine...
Sadly - or happily, depending on ones standpoint, I suppose - this evening's cancelled Kids Club meeting was going to be the last one for the term, with just over a month off before the holiday weekend away, and then the September restart. Mark has now produced the leaders' manual - complete with photographs from yours truly - he'd been planning for a while, and has listed me as one of the leaders, so I suppose I am now more or less officially on board as from next term.
Yet another weekend passed, another week chipped off my lease on this cubic metre of space. Not a bad weekend by any means, though, getting everything done that I'd intended, and more. Friday evening, with no Kids Club, I took a walk down to and around the lakes, which was exceedingly pleasant. It's probably about a four-mile round trip from Springfield, so a nice distance to get some exercise passing a couple of hours, and enjoying some of Milton Keynes's more beautiful surroundings.
Saturday was pretty uneventful, apart from successfully managing to persuade Halfords to exchange my dud headlamp bulbs despite being able to offer little or no proof of purchase - they admitted the one that had gone white was defective, and were really very good about it all - and then going to watch Godzilla in the evening with Alan and his brother Steve. The film was considerably better than I had perhaps been led to believe, with a pretty impeccable combination of story and effects, and my current favourite actor, Jean Reno.
Sunday morning was a tad annoying, arriving at church bright and early to help set out the chairs, and finding Richard there even brighter and earlier and having done them already - but it gave a chance to sit in on the band practising a bit and have a brief chat with Gareth about joining them at some point. Andy's talk was, as ever, very good; he always manages to captivate his audience, and also used hand-outs, which I tend to find helps focus me on what's being said, especially if there are gaps to be filled and so on, since it makes listening an active rather than simply passive - and forgettable - process.
There was no evening meeting - they've stopped for the summer now - but instead there was a most enjoyable afternoon picnic at the Kings Centre, one of those rare but immensely valuable opportunities to chat with others in a less formal setting, as well as play football, volleyball and boules. I also had a snack lunch at Seamus and Gill's again, and joined Richard for a couple of beers in the evening - I hadn't had a good opportunity to talk with him for a long while - making the most of the lovely weather while it lasted.
My neck is much better this morning, thanks to a combination of the warmer weather, a little prayer, and some self-inflicted physiotherapy. It was frustrating not being able to look over my left shoulder properly when reversing the car, and people found it a little amusing that I would turn my whole body to talk to them when they were standing just behind me. But by yesterday afternoon, I had a lot more movement in my neck, which was just as well since the orientation of the parking spaces at the Kings Centre is such that it's pretty awkward reversing at the best of times!
Just when I thought things couldn't really get a lot worse with the situation here at work, they have. It's not that the project I blindly accepted getting involved in is probably that taxing, but it's almost certainly blown any chance I had of using my holiday entitlement by the end of this leave-year. As such, I stand to effectively lose the equivalent of about a thousand pounds, and I am not a happy bunny. The only thing that would save the day now is to get an offer for that job in Leighton Buzzard, but the hopes of that are slipping out of the window faster than any morale I might have had at the start of the day.
Feeling a little less stressed this morning, though probably mainly because I haven't woken up to the ongoing situation yet. Last night was pleasantly uneventful, the calm before the possible storm of tonight, with Alan's stag party. Knowing Alan, it probably won't be the rowdiest evening ever to have taken place, but I'm sure it will be a lot of fun anyway. I need to pop back home at some point today to get my cheque-book though, otherwise I'll have no cash to spend tonight; two canteen lunches, a good meal out and a few pints before I would next get a chance to go to the bank won't be so fun on barely a tenner.
I must get myself organised and order tickets for the Cropredy Festival in mid-August. It's one I've meant to go to for a good many years, and this year is the closest I've got. Things still remain just a little bit in the air regarding jobs, holidays, and so on, which makes me a little cautious to go ahead and book, but I'm sure everything would work out all right and I'd have a great time. I would plan on meeting up with Beardy - and anyone else from here who decided it looked worth going to - which would make it just about constitute a Mono-meet of sorts, though with thousands of people there, it could be difficult.
Well my order for the Cropredy tickets is on its way and the necessary time off work provisionally booked, so that's one headache out of the way, and a guaranteed few days away this summer. Of course, there's also the Kids Club holiday at bank-holiday weekend, but that's unlikely to use much of my outstanding holiday entitlement, and probably won't offer a great deal of opportunity for relaxation. I see I can actually carry over up to thirty days holiday if my head of unit decrees that I didn't have the opportunity to take them, but otherwise the limit is ten days, and I'd better think pessimistically.
A busy and fun evening last night, pretty much entirely dedicated to Alan and Helen's forthcoming wedding. Straight after work, I decided it might be a nice idea to get them a wedding present after all - well I was always going to, but hadn't got myself organised enough to get anywhere near any of the shops they had wedding lists at, and had been somewhat resigned to just getting them a nice bottle of wine or something - though I'll probably do that too.
Then on returning home from Argos, I had the pleasant surprise of being invited to their private reception on Saturday afternoon; I felt a little awkward about this because I had originally been invited only to the ceremony and the evening party, and there was a certain air of "we need someone to fill a space", but I accepted anyway when they insisted that they really wanted me to come, though it will make Saturday a little more hectic for me than I'd perhaps planned.
The evening was Alan's stag party, which was a fairly restrained - but entirely pleasant - affair, meeting at the Suffolk Punch in Heelands for a meal, drink and a few games of pool, then going on to Nigel's for a few laps of Gran Turismo on his Playstation. Thankfully only a couple of us were driving - in real-life, not Gran Turismo, terms! - so the rest of us had a good chance to get fairly merry, though Alan certainly went down as the cheapest night out, staggering aimlessly after a single pint of strong cider.
Saturday was the day of the long-awaited wedding of Alan and Helen, and what a wonderful day it turned out to be. The ceremony itself at Cornerstone had just the right balance of informality and propriety, and was made extra-special by the fact that the church is currently hosting the One World Quilt exhibition, lending some wonderful colour to the surroundings. The only pity was that the PA and sound recording went a bit awry thanks to some loose connections on the radio mike, but apart from Danny slipping up on announcing Alan and Helen's names right at the start, it otherwise went very smoothly indeed.
The reception and subsequent party at the Kingfisher Country Club, next to a golf-course and beautiful lake out near Deanshanger, was similarly great, with superb food, music and everything. The highlight of the proceedings was probably Alan being persuaded to unicycle from the head table to the other end of the marquee and back, which he did most impressively, though his trumpet-playing later was pretty good too. It would be fair to say that it was all somewhat more modest than the last weddings I went to, and relatively uneventful, but in its own way, it will certainly be one to remember for a long time to come.
So now they're off on honeymoon in Cyprus for a couple of weeks, and we lose a housemate - or two, actually, since Helen was there too most evenings. Alas I can't actually move into Alan's old room quite yet, since it's still full of his stuff, augmented by a whole stack of wedding presents; it seemed wiser to leave them there than in their new house, for security reasons. It will be strange not having them around, and I think just as much as Mark and myself will appreciate the extra space, reduced washing-up and so on, we will miss them too, since they certainly brought something quite special to the household.
Not a whole lot has been going on lately, but I guess there's enough to justify an entry in here for the first time in a few days. Work's going fairly well, for a change, getting quite absorbed in picking up a project that Darryl left when he moved to the Abbey National; I've been programming animations in a software system that he developed, in this case to demonstrate the principles of multiplexing in communications systems. I've still not heard back anything after the interview last month, but I'm still keeping my hopes alive, and whatever the eventual outcome is, some good will have come out of the process.
The return leg of the Springfield and Oldbrook joint neighbourhood groups sports evening last night was a wash-out, with only a small handful of people turning up, to watch the rain coming down in stair-rods - unlike last week's lively and successful rounders match. Instead a few of us met at Andy and Rosie's, eventually hitting the road to the Olde Swan for a pint or two, where we also rendezvoused with Andy and Rosie's neighbours Darren, Vanessa and their beautiful two-month old baby Shannon. Then it was back to Darren and Vanessa's for a chat over chicken drumsticks and coffee, and thence back home and to bed.
I have a quiet three weeks coming up, with Mark coach-driving around Europe for Oak Hall - a Christian holiday company - and of course Alan out of the picture now, though he'll be back briefly in a couple of weeks to pick up his remaining stuff which is currently stopping me moving rooms. I'm not sure what I'm going to do to make the most of the time, but I'm not going to let myself just get bored, that's for sure. I have the Cropredy weekend coming up mid-August, which will be a break whatever, and with that in mind, I'll be popping back home to Prestwood to pick up my tent and a little gas stove my mum's kindly lending me.