goznet ...

David's diary: April 2000

It's Saturday morning, and all told, I should probably be asleep at the moment, but I'm not, so I might as well take the opportunity to catch up with a brief diary entry. Once again, yesterday evening made the day worth it, once I'd finished printing off the fruits of a little web research I'd done on behalf of Sarah and given her a quick phone-call, driving up to Andy and Rosie's for the first time in quite a while.

Mark had already got there having left a little before me, and Darren arrived soon after, though neither Alan and Helen nor Phil and Angela made it in the end. There were enough of us to make a game of Risk worth it, however, though I lost horribly and my defeat was quite instrumental in wrapping up the game within the next couple of moves, so we didn't finish too late. Or at least we wouldn't have done had we not then gone on to the Bradwell kebab van for a late-night snack, me being quite good and just going for a portion of chips, having had a chicken kebab on Thursday night as you may recall. With that eaten, it was just about time to go home, which I duly did - followed a little later by Mark - and gave Zoe a phone-call to catch up on various things, having not spoken with her for a couple of days.

Anyway, before I get up and go and have my traditional Saturday morning long hot bath, I'm just going to drop off a quick e-mail to Andy's brother Peter, to sort out this ongoing SIMM business once and for all. He apparently was the one who actually bought it, so he needs to be the one to take it back for refund or exchange as appropriate. With that in mind I now have the till receipt, which I will post back to him with the SIMM just as soon as I have confirmation of his postcode and have heard from Micro Direct as to what the exact options at my disposal are in terms of the alternative models they carry.

As for the rest of the day and weekend, who knows...

It's been a fairly mundane kind of day, really, and I'd be quite happy for it to stay that way after quite a few late nights recently. I hardly rushed to get up properly this morning, eventually making it into town for a late lunch at Burger King and doing a little window-shopping before returning home via Waitrose. Highlight was almost certainly having a demo of a rather nifty new synthesiser from a British company called Red Sound. A shade under four hundred pounds - and perhaps cheaper somewhere other than Chappells - would get me a Dark Star, an eight-voice polyphonic and five-part multitimbral analogue-modelling tone module with an incredibly big sound for something with absolutely no on-board effects. I have to say, I'm sorely tempted, though I'm not sure I can really justify it...

I can't remember much about Saturday evening, but I'm pretty sure that's because there wasn't really much to remember. Sunday was of course a big improvement, even if Zoe did arrive a little late due to an unscheduled lie-in, but she was still up here by very soon after half past ten, so no real problem. Lunch we had at Pizza Hut, where - amazingly - we'd not been for at least two or three weeks, then went for a stroll round the north lake at Caldecotte, dropping off a few bits and pieces at Sarah's on the way. We timed the walk just right with the weather beginning to close in as we got back to the car, but it was good to get some fresh air while we could, even if we had to dodge athletes doing some kind of triathlon thing, many of them with canoes on their shoulders.

With no evening meeting and at a bit of a loose end, we pondered what to do for the rest of the day, eventually deciding firstly to go and see Toy Story 2 and then driving in convoy down to give my parents a bit of a surprise visit. The film was as excellent as I had been led to expect, somewhat more action-packed and funnier than the first, definitely well worth a watch. My parents were pleased to see us both for the first time in a while - Zoe for the first time in absolutely ages, I think, possibly even pushing on a year - and we spent a good couple of hours chatting and munching crumpets and currant buns before heading our separate ways - me back to Milton Keynes, Zoe to Iver, and Mum and Dad upstairs to bed - into the increasingly wet murk. Another altogether good, if very different, kind of day, and looking forward to next weekend already...

What on earth will it take to motivate me? This week's starting off no better than the last couple, and although I'm by no means as depressed about it all as I have been at times in the past - which may or may not be a good thing, depending on how much of that is due to apathy - it's still not at all good. As the first Monday of April, it's time I was pulling together my monthly progress report for March - an interesting exercise, it would have to be said. I need a change of scene, big time, but I'm simply not motivated enough to do anything about it... I blame no-one but myself.

If people will build their livelihoods on flood-plains, they really only have themselves to blame when it all goes pear-shaped, as it so often does on an annual basis. No, I'm not talking about Bangladesh or Mozambique - even if the landscape did look reminiscent of the latter as I drove into work this morning - but instead about the Open University here in Milton Keynes. Thankfully, most of the campus is on slightly higher ground than the surrounding flood-plains, but a day of continuous - albeit light - rain was still enough to burst the banks of the river and block the university ring-road, making parking this morning quite chaotic even well before nine o'clock. Still, worse things have happened - without even looking abroad to far more seriously affected regions - but you do begin to doubt the reasoning behind it all sometimes. Sometimes reasoning with the best of intentions, but ill-considered, an example of that here being that a few years back, "they" apparently altered the course of the river, built flood defences and so on, and then were surprised when instead of improving things, they got worse. Ultimately, nature has a very neat way of doing things best, and humanity seems to think it can do better - but can't.

Oh, I should point out that it is by no means a year since my parents last saw Zoe - though I'm sure I remember them claiming that not so long ago, and they are normally reliable! - since, as Zoe reminded me yesterday evening, it was actually only Christmas that we were last all together, when we gathered up at my sister's house in Wales.

Last night was fairly uneventful, having a long, hot - at least to start with - bath, then braving the wintry weather to wander round to Chris's to watch the last ever episode of Deep Space Nine, then heading to bed not long after, really. Deep Space Nine wasn't too bad, but even with Chris's lengthy explanation of the events leading up to this final episode - I've not watched it regularly for a long time - I really struggled to follow what was going on.

Right, that's another day almost done with, though its Astronomy Club night tonight, so once I've nipped out for a burger or something, I'll be back again. After the success of holding last month's AGM there, thankfully this month we've booked the Systems Seminar Room again, a far more pleasant venue than the fusty old observatory, especially during this wintry reprise, and the talk by Barrie Jones could well be quite a crowd-puller anyway. I turned down the opportunity to go and see the Blues Brothers at Milton Keynes Theatre this evening, so it'd better be good... Meanwhile, the highlight of today was a short remote demonstration of our conferencing software to some folks from Open University Worldwide. Nothing particularly special in itself, though a little accident with Sam's keyboard resulted in him expressing a certain four-letter profanity on an unknowingly open microphone, causing much mirth all round. Or at least at this end of the link, hopefully at the other end too...

Well Barrie Jones's talk at the Astronomy Club meeting last night was actually very good. Although I probably should be more interested, I have to say that announcements of discoveries of planets orbiting distant stars bore me only marginally less than Microsoft's legal battles, but Barrie managed to keep my interest somehow. It was probably because he managed to keep it relevant to humanity, by talking about research into the feasibility of the Earth itself surviving in such planetary systems, both in terms of habitability and physical existence. Barrie's talk overran a little - not that it dragged by any means - but things didn't finish too late, thankfully, so there was plenty of time to phone Zoe once I was back home and get a moderately early night, even if getting up this morning was again a struggle.

I was planning on having a nice quiet evening in yesterday, but shortly after getting home there was a phone-call from Maureen reminding me we had another meeting of the MKCF publicity planning group, and advising me that it was at Giles and Jeanne's rather than the Kings Centre as previously agreed. That went well enough, with Giles taking the opportunity to show us all some designs he'd been playing around with, and quite a lot of other stuff discussed. When I got home, the skies had cleared, and since it wasn't too late, I got my telescope out for the first time in a fair while - not through lack of interest as much as just sheer lack of good conditions at the right time - and tried following through some of the notes from Tuesday evening's Astronomy Club meeting. However I can't claim it was much of a success; to have much hope of seeing the objects listed I really will need to go to a much darker location. It's OK observing very bright objects like the planets and the Moon, and even many of the more interesting stars, but any but the brightest galaxies and nebulae really are just too faint when there's the amount of light pollution that central Milton Keynes belches out. There's a few clear nights forecast soon, though, so maybe I'll take a trip out into the dark-skied wastelands of North Bucks in the next few days and see if I can have a little more joy there instead.

Right, Thursday's coming to a close, at least as far as the working day is concerned, and that means there isn't even much left of the week now - hooray. This evening should be quite busy and fun, first of all planning on popping into the city centre to do a little shopping - regular and attentive readers might well guess what for - then later going to neighbourhood group for a cheese and wine party, a good excuse to get rid of the Californian red I acquired the other week.

It's Friday, it's a short day - well by half an hour, anyway - and then it's the weekend, and about time too. Yesterday evening was good, going into the city centre as planned, and then on to neighbourhood group. My shopping trip was fruitful and good value, my main purchase of course being a Dark Star analogue-modelling tone module - as raved about here and elsewhere previously - but also getting about forty pounds worth of accessories, mostly for Mark, thrown in for a mere tenner. All's not entirely well with the module though, since it's suffering from an occasionally sticky power switch - not a major problem, but still something I'd like sorted, so I'll probably go back to Chappells tonight to try and swap it. I had the chance for a bit of a play with it before going to the cheese and wine evening, but I will experiment further tomorrow and have promised to make a few MP3 files for demonstration purposes. Neighbourhood group was predictably fun, not doing anything of great consequence other than eating lots of cheese and biscuits, and drinking lots of wine, though we had a few non-Christian guests along who seemed quite chatty and sociable. I didn't stay as late as I often do, feeling pretty shattered, but I still didn't get to bed until gone midnight, having had a nice phone chat with Zoe - or at least on the third attempt anyway, with technical faults conspiring against us the first couple of times...

Decidedly miffed that last night I missed what was reportedly one of the best displays of the aurora borealis - or "northern lights" - in living memory, unusually visible throughout the country rather than just inconvenient places like the Shetlands. I just hope that with the eleven-year solar maximum happening around about now - and indications that the sun really is very active indeed at the moment - it might only have been the first of a number of such events to come over the coming days and weeks.

Quite a busy - and a late - night yesterday, pretty much all go from the moment I got home from work until I finally hit the sack.

First of all, having packed up my Dark Star module - with the dodgy power switch, remember - I drove up into the city centre, and had it swapped for another one without any questions asked really. Then, getting it back home, I found it was decidedly lacking in manuals, warranty card and so on, so decided I'd do the healthy thing and walk back up to Chappells this time. Just as I got there, a little before seven, they were on the point of packing the documentation into an envelope to post to me - having of course got it out to check the replacement Dark Star, but forgotten to put it back in the box! - so I timed that just right... While I was there, though, I took the opportunity to order a couple of reeds for my WX11 - been meaning to for ages, having been using a cracked one for ages - and then went for my favourite Rodeo meal with bacon at Burger King.

Having got back home and successfully tested the replacement module, it was then just about time to go and see Mark's new band playing one of their first gigs, at the Peartree Bridge Inn, and give them a hand with the latter stages of setting up and sound-checking - and later snapping the inevitable photographs to go on their web site or whatever. Mark was in the end rather disappointed with the performance, but I thought it went fine on most of the songs, and it seemed to go down well enough with the punters. Still, I suppose it's always good to aim for improvement no matter how good you are. Making the most of periodic opportunities to get out of the smoky atmosphere of the pub I kept an eye open for any repeat performances of the previous night's aurora, but there was nothing to be seen either then, or when I went for a bit of a drive north afterwards in search of less light-polluted skies.

So, yes, it was indeed a busy evening, but it was generally rewarding if sometimes a little frustrating, and I'm awake surprisingly early this morning really. Now going to have one of those long hot Saturday morning baths I keep promising myself, but that normally get compromised in terms of length or sheer relaxation factor for whatever reason...

I can't honestly say I'm feeling that great today, even as Mondays go. I'm tired, run down, perhaps beginning to suffer from nature's cruellest joke - hayfever - and generally just wishing the world would go away and leave me in peace for a while. That said, yesterday wasn't bad at all, enjoying a very yummy Chinese buffet lunch at the Kam Tong Garden, a couple of walks - including one up near Wolverton with quite a throng of friends - and good meetings both morning and particularly in the evening. All wrapped up with a light supper at KFC and a fairly early night once I'd collapsed into the bath for half an hour.

OK, so maybe I'm exaggerating a little in describing hayfever as nature's cruellest joke, but it's certainly one of the worst things it can throw at us, for me at least. As someone who fairly certainly suffers from Seasonal Affective Disorder - a.k.a. "SAD" - it comes as a major kick in the teeth when just as I perk up with the lengthening days and all that, my eyes, nose and head start their annual cycle of misery. All told, I perhaps get about five or six months of the year when I generally feel good, though I'm not a big fan of hot summers any more than cold damp and miserable winters, and the last two autumns have been unusually marred by colds and flu. And yet, overall, I would still describe myself as blessed with quite good health...

Strange day. Kind of happy. Kind of sad. Kind of relieved. Kind of frustrated. Kind of awake. Kind of tired. Yes, a strange day.

Tomorrow is another day. I live for it.

But today is a strange day.

Early to bed, late to rise - and then delayed still further by having to sort out my Minidisc recorder and accessories for Gareth before I could leave for work. Missed breakfast again, obviously. I should buy shares in Ritter Sport, I know. Still, just lightened my office drawer to the tune of about half a ton thanks to Jane having kindly volunteered to take over the cursed Ellingham Diagrams project - though I have a storyboard of sorts somewhere that's rather important, and I have no idea where. Anyway, still a big relief, even if it doesn't make the projects I am keeping any more interesting than before. But hey - probably won't be here much longer if I can help it...

Right, the Ellingham Diagrams stuff is off my hands now, and hopefully will never again rear its ugly head in my face, whether I stay here or not. Other than doing that, and trying - and failing - to sort out a problem with some audio stuff I did a while ago but somehow missed an important e-mail about, it's been a typically dull day, and one in which - as usual - I got very little done of what I was really intending to and far too much of what I wasn't. Anyway, it's more or less time to go home now, so I can at least pack up all my work-related troubles for a few hours...

Well, it's just turned midnight, so it's the 13th now really, but it still feels like the 12th... It's been a reasonable evening, not doing a great deal other than grabbing a bite to eat at McDonalds - having had only a salad for lunch - playing a few computer games, including the frankly rather fun "Lego Racers", and phoning Zoe back after she phoned me while I was having a bath. Oh, and then Susie phoned just after I'd finished talking with Zoe, so we had a bit of a natter about this and that before I passed her over to Mark. And now I'm just waiting for the phone line again so I can upload back to the distributed.net servers the 1000 or so RC5 work-units my home machine has been crunching over the last week or so to justify the 550MHz I rarely use to its full capacity. Then I'll be off to bed, and about time too... Oh, now the phone line's busy with data rather than voice, so perhaps I'll go and read for a bit and try again in a few minutes - I could do with some inspiration on a number of matters, and I know a good book for that kind of stuff, which I read all too infrequently, I have to admit.

Right, it's been an unusually worthwhile and productive day here at work, and let's just hope it can continue that way into the evening - first of all meeting for a burger and a bit of a bloke chat with Dave, then going on to neighbourhood group. Yes, I know I only had a burger last night, but I quite seriously need to talk to someone a little bit impartial about stuff, so I'm not grumbling - and I didn't have a great deal for lunch, once again. Yes indeed, today's been reasonably good, getting a lot done towards this HTML-based CD-ROM I've been given the job of getting working in a cross-browser compatible manner. The deadline's tomorrow, and the CD-ROM is still not complete - the structure's there, but the content needs a lot of tidying - so tomorrow's looking like it'll be fairly busy too. Some great news from last night was that not only did Gareth get the Minidisc recording done without too many problems, but there was also a prayer-chain message from Elaine to say that a little boy who we'd all been praying for quite earnestly over the last week was making an astonishing recovery from his near-fatal double pneumonia. Not the first time - nor probably the last - that doctors have had to show incredulity at the extent of prayer-assisted recovery from serious illnesses and so on, but that's great news even if we have been exhorted to continue in prayer for a continued and full restoration of health to the little lad. Anyway, I'd better be packing up for the day now, needing a shave before I can do anything much else this evening, so signing off for the moment at least...

It's lunchtime now, but I'm trying to avoid too much thought of food, and will no doubt go through the same routine at tea-time. You see, I'm fasting for the day - and if I can bear it, tomorrow too - at the advice of certain friends, really needing some divine inspiration on a number of matters. However, even the mere mention of things like lunch and tea make me crave, so I'll stop talking about that - and woe betide anyone who tries to psychologically torture me by bringing up the subject before I'm done...

Last night was good, first of all meeting Dave at McDonalds - although then toddling across to Burger King - for what turned out to be a useful and burger-enhanced chat about all kinds of stuff, before going on to neighbourhood group for the rest of the evening. We weren't doing anything particularly special at the latter, but it was a good time together as always, and well worth going to.

Today's being an uppy-downy kind of day so far with this CD-ROM thing, hitting some enormous compatibility problems that were not an issue before I upgraded to the latest version of Microsoft Media Player. Basically, support for playing video files in Netscape appears to have completely broken as a result, although since most people who will have made the upgrade will also have an up-to-date version of Internet Explorer, it's hopefully something we can just mention in the readme.txt file as a known bug with a workaround. Other aspects of it are going much better, though, so apart from a few little "look and feel" things that need sorting out, I think it's basically there now.

Well this fasting thing's holding out so far, about half way through my waking hours, though I'm not yet sure how much closer I am to attaining the inspiration I need. I presume it's OK to drink water, though, and perhaps even Diet Coke, because I've had both. Oh, something else a little cool further increased my faith in Chappells last night, when I popped in on the way to McDonalds in order to collect the WX11 reeds they'd phoned yesterday to say had arrived. OK, so the manager took several minutes to find them, but then it turned out there was no price attached to them, and he had no idea what to charge, so we agreed two quid and were done with it. Then they let me pay for them - and a few mouthpiece protectors - with Switch, which they shouldn't do for transactions under ten pounds it seems, but the bloke "really couldn't be bothered". I doubt they made hardly anything out of me...

Oh yes, mustn't forget to go and pick up Claire in about an hour's time. It's her last day at the Christian Centre nursery - as staff, not an inmate! - and she's apparently been given a rather large picture as a leaving present. Somewhat too large to carry home by foot, it seems, so Chris phoned earlier this afternoon asking if I could possibly give her a lift home since he wouldn't be around until later. No problem, and I'd better get used to giving Claire lifts, because I think she's hoping I'll be able to help her out a fair bit with getting to her new workplace on Kents Hill as from next week.

A bit of a damp and dismal Saturday, but I was up unusually early this morning, taking full advantage by driving into the city centre - including getting my unruly hair brutalised - before it got too busy. This afternoon I've spent looking at hi-fi stuff - especially speakers - with Mark, and then going on to Darren's for a bit before they headed off into town for a bite to eat. My fasting is continuing for the time being, and is getting increasingly unbearable - especially when I've had more offers to go out for burgers and so on in the last couple of days than for ages - but I am determined to get results, and it'll have a good effect on my waistline anyway!

Monday morning, tired and altogether quite mixed up, but better than I could have been, I guess. I very nearly drove to work in my pyjama top even, but thankfully spotted Wallace and Gromit just as I was putting my jacket on...

It's been a hard weekend in many ways, so I shouldn't be at all surprised, and I can't really complain seeing as it was largely my decision that it ended up as it did - even if I felt I had little choice when it came to it. In short, after a largely happy year and a half together - albeit for just one day a week on average - Zoe and I have agreed to take a bit of a break from things, something that will come as a shock to many. I drove down to see her on Saturday evening, after quite a long period of thinking, and, more latterly, prayer and fasting. It was probably the hardest and most painful thing I've ever had to do, not only to face some home truths myself, but also to be able to convey them to Zoe. Where we go next, we have no idea; one day at a time for both of us, I think, and nothing ruled out. Needless to say, Saturday night I didn't get the best quality sleep ever, perhaps scraping together about three or four hours if I was lucky, but I'm sure I wasn't the only one.

Sunday I have to say I felt quite lost and decidedly fragile. Although a part of me was quite glad that only a couple of people at church asked of Zoe's whereabouts, it might have been better from an opening-up point of view if a few more had. All who asked seemed understanding enough, though, and if I was having a hard time, it was purely from inside - and I'd have been decidedly worried if that hadn't been the case, to be honest. With nothing at all planned for the rest of the day, I walked with some friends back to their house and ended up staying there until gone eleven - a good chance to try and concentrate on other things for a little while, even if this is ultimately something I've got to come to terms with myself - eventually hurrying back home in the pouring rain and getting a somewhat better night's sleep.

Still a far from settled night though - and I'm not sure I'd expect otherwise - but at least I have a little bit of energy for this week, and it's a short week of course with Easter weekend fast approaching. Oh, and by the way, for those readers who may not have appreciated the spiritual side of fasting but were still curious about what other effects it may have had, by all accounts I lost something like getting on for half a stone. Anyway, better get on...

Well today's plodding by, though with only an hour and a half to go, I should survive. I had a short but useful meeting with Phil, our acting head of unit, this morning to discuss what I'd be moving on to next, project-wise. This comes particularly in the wake of Jane courageously agreeing to take over the Ellingham Diagrams project, and Ruth shortly relieving me of my duties in regard to supporting and documenting Lyceum. We didn't come to any firm decisions, but that suited Phil fine; he quite appreciates having at least one designer who can be flexible, when everyone else is tied up for months, and I've felt "in between projects" for a while anyway, so I don't mind that going on a little longer if it helps with planning. Besides, I still have this sampler CD-ROM to concentrate on for a couple of weeks yet, which should keep me fairly busy. After lunch I did an unprecedented thing for me, and that was to go to the OU Christian Forum's short Easter service at the church; various people had been nagging at me for ages - indeed since I first moved up here - to make contact with the group, and this seemed as good an opportunity as any, and my colleague Will was going anyway so it worked out quite well. No-one made any particular effort to find out who I was or anything, though, which is good in a way because I feel under no obligation to return in the future, though I wouldn't want to rule it out for a moment. Anyway, best get on with work - again! - especially since I'd like to be away this evening in time to pop into Smiths to do a little bit of shopping I'd promised to get for someone, namely a Scrabble set and a good dictionary.

Well my shopping trip yesterday evening was a success; Smiths may not sell many games these days - or what I would call games, anyway, being a bit of a traditionalist in such respects - but thankfully Scrabble was amongst the ones they did have. I was a little dismayed to find that it's now just another Mattel product and the board design has changed slightly - though only cosmetically, not functionally - but it looked quite a nice set, with such extras as a cloth bag for the tiles, something I've never had the pleasure of using... I also bought the latest Concise Oxford Dictionary and a ream of A4 paper, dropping all the stuff off at their grateful recipients on the way home - well I'd walked up to town, and it was only a slight detour - and being plied with copious amounts of spaghetti bolognaise and salad for tea in the process, then watching much of "Hook" on video. It was as well that I did that last night, though, because I'm not sure what other opportunities I would be likely to get over the next couple of weeks, what with Stu's leaving party tonight - at the Olde Swan for a drink and a meal, should be nice - and I suspect a few late evenings in the office blitzing this CD-ROM thing I'm working on, seeing as I've tentatively promised to get it done in a fortnight, a fortnight with a few other distractions...

Last night was fairly fun, I suppose, and a good send-off for Stu - even if he's not really finishing here until tomorrow, and yesterday was just a convenient opportunity for such a gathering. He'd given a short seminar in the afternoon about the project he'd been working on over the last year or so, and we didn't hang around much longer after that had finished.

We all - a couple of dozen of us eventually - met down at the Cellar Bar, most of us later adjourning to the Olde Swan to eat. Stu, Matt, Rob and Greg opportunely took advantage of my waiting vehicle - even if it was a bit of a squeeze! - so we arrived a little before the others who walked or cycled. The pub was packed out, however, though eventually we found a table just about large enough to accommodate us - especially once we decided to eat in shifts rather than all at once - and I stayed for a couple of hours I guess. I had the smoked chicken and blue cheese salad - decidedly delicious - and shared some profiteroles for dessert.

Probably the funniest thing while I was there was when through the window I noticed Angela walking into the pub, and I assumed Phil was with her. "Housemate alert!" I warned Stu and others, then it turned out she was actually with Josie, not Phil. Having let them, and in particular Stu, get a bit jealous - "You live with her?!" - I did explain my mistake, and that Angela and Phil were happily engaged and so on...

Anyway, I didn't stay too late, being quite tired, and when I arrived back home - where Phil was busy typing away at something or other while Angela was out enjoying herself - it turned out my mum had phoned a little while previously, so I gave her a ring back. She's off on holiday for a few days later today, so it was good to have a chat with her before she left, especially since she wasn't aware of the big changes that had happened since Saturday night. Thankfully - not that I'd have expected anything else, really - she was very understanding and supportive, recalling her own not entirely dissimilar experiences when she was about my age.

Twelve years ago, I was just about to take my A-levels, which were to get me a place at Southampton University doing Electronic Engineering. Eleven years ago, it all went decidedly pear-shaped, and ten years ago I finally conceded defeat and rejoined Real Life for a few years. Everyone was very supportive at every stage, but a surprising number of people said afterwards that they thought I'd been making a big mistake from the start but hadn't had the guts - my words, not theirs - to tell me so. This kind of thing has happened again and again since, sometimes with the best of intention, sometimes not. Am I really that difficult to talk to about sensitive issues? I know the truth often hurts, but sometimes I really do need to be told it; if I know in my heart it's only one version of the truth, I can defend myself and my actions, but if the reality check brings me to my senses before it's all too late, I'm sure that ultimately I would be grateful. But no, people seem to be too kind, tactful or scared to raise issues of concern with me until it's too late to do anything much constructive about them, and yet more people end up getting unnecessarily hurt.

Hmm, I was kind of planning on working a bit late this evening, although it turns out that the mid-May soft deadline for the CD-ROM is actually mid-June - some conference or other it would be nice to have it ready by if possible - so the pressure's off a little. Though having had not that brilliant a day - all round preoccupations, really - I was vaguely looking forward to put in at least a couple of extra hours in peace and quiet. But now I'm feeling decidedly unwell - my stomach feels strange, and my head not a great deal better - and suspect it mightn't be such a good idea after all, especially since I've almost passed out a couple of times since Monday evening and I feel a little bit like that again. So I think I'll get away in good time, probably risk it with a burger at McDonalds or KFC - I only had a smallish salad at lunch, possibly part of the problem - and aim for a relatively early night. Hopefully I'll feel markedly better tomorrow morning and might even get in early, especially if I can manage a good night's sleep tonight.

Eleven hours sleep, give or take. And feeling modestly better today perhaps, but hardly on top of the world; my head's still decidedly swimmy and my stomach somewhat unsettled. I think I'll make it through to the end, though I doubt I'll stay late, and I wasn't in early this morning after all. I risked a KFC on the way home yesterday - and managed to keep it down, thankfully - then had a bath, did a bit of e-mailing and so on, made a quick phone-call - that ended up a surprisingly long one - and went to bed.

Can I go home please? I feel grim and fragile, I'm not getting much work done, and I'd quite like to make the most of this four-day weekend! Pretty please?

I feel much better now, happily to say, and it was a good evening at neighbourhood group, starting with a bit of prayer-walking round Springfield while we waited for Seamus to get back from work, then discussing a number of issues relating to Sunday evenings. We also chatted about a good many other things as ever - from relationships to Microsoft - and finally got away a bit before eleven. I'm not sure exactly - at all, actually - what I'm doing tomorrow, though nothing would surprise me, but things take a little more shape thereafter. Saturday evening I'm supposedly going to a party at Di's house - such things normally being quite a laugh, Di being Di - and Sunday afternoon I've been asked to pick up Roger and Daniel from Heathrow. Hopefully the latter will actually happen this time, unlike the last time I was asked to do something similar. It's not that I relish the prospect, but it's nice to know for sure, one way or the other...

Good Friday. I'm not sure quite why it was ever called that, given that the truly good news of Jesus's resurrection isn't celebrated until Sunday. But anyway, that's today, and the main thing that's been good about it so far is that I've managed a much-needed lie-in. Oh, and my copy of Air's new "The Virgin Suicides" CD arrived in the post this morning - I ordered it on-line the other day via 101CD.COM once it finally featured on their budget list - though I have to say it's not a patch on their previous albums. I'm listening to it again to see if it might grow on me, but it just somehow seems too bitty; some of the tracks aren't too bad, but none of them ever quite reach the pinnacles of perfection heard on "Moon Safari" in particular.

We also had a doorstep visit from the Jehovah's Witnesses this morning. Two broad-grinned middle-class white gentlemen with a small fair-haired boy - quite different from those I was more used to seeing back at home, but still trying to push their copies of the "Watchtower" as much as ever. Interesting that they should choose the holiest day in the calendar of the faith they probably denounce the most to make their first visit that I can recall; I'm sure it wasn't entirely coincidental. I hope they saw the fish in the back window of my car as they left, and I hope maybe the next household of born-again Christians they visit had a bit more guts than I did - just out of the bath and still in my dressing gown - to tell them the truth.

It's Saturday afternoon, once again, a week on from probably one of the most difficult weekends of my life. I've just got back from a fairly typical shopping trip at the city centre, buying a few magazines, cards and things, as well as stocking up on grocery essentials. Bumped into a few people I knew, including Phil and Angela finalising their wedding list, and Alan and Chris out doing a little window shopping like I was mainly. But otherwise a pretty mundane time, really, though I'm looking forward to this evening and have bought a nice bottle of wine to take along.

Easter Sunday, St George's Day, or at least the evening thereof, and finally a chance to sit down and truly relax for the first time in a day or more. Yesterday evening's party round at Di's was quite fun, with plenty of wine and chilli con carne consumed, and "My Best Friend's Wedding" - a somewhat ironic choice under the circumstances, but not bad I guess, as chick-flicks go - watched before we called it a night a little before midnight. I walked back with Eric, who we were hoping might have got in touch today about an alternative evening meeting, since we're taking a short break from them in MKCF due to holidays and so on, but he didn't, so I'm just having a quiet evening in instead.

This is just as well, seeing as I've just within the last half hour got back from my trip to Heathrow to pick up Roger and Daniel. Thankfully the internet forewarned me, but their flight in from Beijing was a little delayed - thanks to strong headwinds, apparently - so it was pushing five o'clock, rather than four, by the time we got away, and the homeward-bound weather was foul. I stopped for a bit of tea at John and Margaret's in Bletchley, who are putting Roger and Daniel up while they're back, then arrived home to find a message on the answerphone from Gareth, wanting to borrow my Minidisc player to check the labelling on some discs before their Belgian gig tomorrow. It turned out that it was easier just for Gareth to pop round and me do the necessary button-pushing and so on, so he's been and gone already.

Tomorrow afternoon I'm off with Sarah and co to watch "The Miracle Maker" at the Point, having bought the tickets during my travels this afternoon. I've heard good things about the film, which recounts the life of Jesus, and is a logical follow-on from "Prince of Egypt" which I have oddly yet to see.

Oh, and I played at church this morning for the first time in ages, though I don't plan on making a habit of it again quite yet; Dan had phoned me yesterday pleading with me, and I was quite happy to oblige at least for this once. It went quite well, our band providing most of the music for what was deliberately quite a short family service to suit Easter, with plenty of audience participation and so on.

Anyway, my eyes are now rapidly glazing over and tiredness setting in, so I think I'll go run myself a bath and call it a day before too long. Day of rest - pah!

Needless to say, my nice quiet evening in didn't last, suddenly remembering - what with being out for much of the day tomorrow, probably - that I needed to go and see Andy and Rosie while Andy's brother Peter was there, in order finally to give him the SIMM to take back to Micro Direct. With some extra visitors to meet, I stayed a little longer than I'd anticipated, and now I'm back home, Gareth's just phoned again asking me to make a couple of important updates to the Shine web site, so that bath and early night have again been deferred - but they will happen, honest!

"Antz" and "A Bug's Life" may have done a lot in the last couple of years to heighten human affection for the little critters, but ants in the house are still decidedly unwelcome round these parts. OK, so black ants don't bite and ultimately can do little more harm than tickle, but they still don't make good household pets. So once again, we've had to take the hard-line approach with them this morning.

It was finding them not just on the fridge, but inside the fridge - making the acquaintance of my apples, no less - that really deepened our resolve, and it took only a five minute trip to the garden centre to seal their fate in a haze of insecticidal spray and powder. No stay of execution here, just a swift and merciless termination that should hopefully serve as a lesson to any more that might try and pull the same stunt. Though I doubt it; it's the same year after year, and to be honest, we learn as little as they do. Every year, we see the odd ant crawling around on a recce mission, and put it down to having come in on someone's clothes, the family pet, or whatever, and quietly ignore it. Then it goes and tells its friends that the coast is clear, and they sneak in en masse, by which time it's too late.

I truly hate killing anything. Much as I dislike such things, I would far rather let a wasp fly free or a wolf spider scuttle away unbothered, but ants... I'm not sure what it is about them. This morning I would almost say it was a phobia thing. Every which way I looked, they were there. Along the skirting boards, under the cooker, on the worktops. In the fridge. That was the clincher. Ants in the garden are one thing, and I tend to let them be unless they are showing signs of grouping for invasion - although my nephew had a nasty experience with some red ones when camping in my parents' garden not so long ago - but ants in the house - especially around food - is just too much, God's creations or not. I hope he understands.

Tuesday, back at work, and I'm feeling even worse today than I did towards the end of last week. I think it's this "boom and bust" lifestyle I seem to be following at the moment, combined with a bit of a grim realisation as to what the root of my "problem" is - but no obvious indication of how to resolve it. Basically, in a nutshell, I'm hopelessly insecure and that manifests itself in many ways, some endearing, some perhaps not so - and frequently misinterpreted. One of the main things is that it makes me very clingy - both physically and psychologically - when I am with close friends, because they bring me a security - no matter how temporary - that I am terrified of losing, and it can make me loyal to the point of an unhealthy obsession. As you may guess, all too often, that can turn against me, depending on how much people can understand what's happening to me, and that terror can become all too real. At least now I can see it for myself, I can explain a little more where I'm coming from before it's too late, and perhaps be guided away from situations where it's likely to be the most of a problem. The fact that I'm even able to talk about it a little here must be a good thing, after all.

So yes, yesterday was the "boom", going to the cinema with Sarah and family - some of the few people with whom I feel secure since I parted company with Zoe - and today's the "bust", back at work with no-one and nothing much to provide me with security and safety. Yesterday was a good day, enjoyed by all, I think, but I was extremely conscious of what I've been talking about here, and I do feel I may be placing them under undue pressure - even if they don't know it. In a way, it might put them under more pressure to know it, but I think to understand my psychology a little more would probably help on balance, for Sarah at least to know why it is that I behave as I do - though I have a hunch she kind of knows anyway. They are just friends, even if very good ones, but they have been immensely supportive in my hour of need and are amongst a small handful of people I truly trust - and I would like to keep them in that handful. They would probably deny that they have helped me - other than just being there to listen or whatever - but that's the whole point of this security thing; in my state, "just being there" is not a passive thing, but actually one of the most active things they could possibly do.

I talk about "my hour of need", but I should always keep in mind that it was essentially my decision that things ended with Zoe - for the moment at least - even if I felt I had little choice in the matter. Part of this was overcoming my security fears, I now realise. In Zoe I enjoyed the utmost security; she was reliable, caring and everything else I could possibly want or need. I had security in knowing she would want to come and visit of a Sunday, security in knowing she's never say no to a visit to Pizza Hut for lunch, security in knowing that a walk round Willen Lake or wherever would always be an acceptable afternoon activity, security in knowing... Need I go on? You get the picture, though I'm not sure I did for a long time, and it's only really in the last week or so that it's become at all clear to me, even if I might have had vague inklings of it before. With Zoe, I had to overcome that fear of the insecurity that being alone would bring me, and I wonder if a good part - though not all, I don't think, or I certainly hope not - of the pain I felt in doing what I felt I had to do the other weekend was in seeing that slip between my fingers, even if it was my choice ultimately.

I don't want to devalue my relationship with Zoe, rationalising it purely to a security thing - because that wasn't the case, at least for a long time - but I feel that by the end of this chapter just closed, that was my biggest personal obstacle. At least now I know it, I can enter into any new - or renewed - relationship knowing a bit more about who I am, and with better underlying values. I'm not sure if I mentioned it before, but I feel I was under immense pressure - both from within and outside - to make things work out with Zoe, and that took its toll in the end. Certainly a very large part of that pressure from within I now know to have been this security complex, and it didn't help one iota, I don't think. It was only because Zoe was so laudably flexible, accommodating and tolerant of me and my many quirks, that I think things worked out at all, because it was out of my insecurity that my impatient "need" to settle down and so on emerged, that Zoe could so easily have objected to - but didn't, for better or for worse - as over-pushiness, just one facet of that unhealthy obsession I referred to earlier, an obsession that manifests in many and various ways, depending on who I'm with.

Anyway, that will do for now. It's not been easy sharing this - and I know some of you may not find it easy reading either - but getting my tangled thoughts into words has been a useful exercise, and if it helps people understand me and where I'm coming from a bit more, that's no bad thing. But for now, let's see how much energy I can muster up for work - so little time, so much to do.

Well it's coming to the end of the working day, it's been a lousy day and I feel physically nauseous. Home beckons, but promises little, to be honest.

Well it's time to be decisive, I've decided - and that's quite a decisive thing for me to decide... Really. Many things I have toyed with the idea of doing, but now I am going to make them reality. First port of call is going to be Dave Church, to explain what's happened, what's happening, my hopes and fears, and anything else I feel able to share. We will discuss the possibility of my going overseas for a bit, as well as - in the shorter term, if that can't happen soon enough - having a retreat somewhere well away from everything and everyone. Of course, I've not spoken to him yet, so am making presumptions that this is what we're going to talk about. But I'm being decisive - right?

Right, nothing's been arranged yet per se, but I'm to phone Dave again this evening, by which time he says he'll have sorted out a hour or so that we can meet up at some point tomorrow, though it will probably mean me ducking out of work for a little while. It's a pity he can't spare any longer, because there are other things I need to talk about too - specifically web-site related stuff - but my current state of mind is by far the most pressing thing at the moment, and nothing much else is going to happen until that's sorted, so I'm happy for it to take priority if need be.

So far, suggestions of places to go, both in the shorter and longer terms, include Albania, Orkney and Shetland - the latter including Bressay and the curiously-named and somewhat spoonerisable Muckle Flugga. I am of course open to further ideas, and I'm hoping Dave may have some of his own too, what with our existing strong connections with such far-flung and various places as Brazil, India, Corsica and Bosnia. But let's not jump to conclusions yet; I may well be barking up completely the wrong tree here and be missing something altogether more obvious and closer to home.

But I really do feel I need a change of scene in many ways, and I suspect that any major change of scene would fairly quickly precipitate a change of job and perhaps other things. I have realised that this security complex of mine extends to my work too, that although I don't enjoy working at the OU as much as I could and don't always put the effort into it that I could, I feel safe and secure here... OK, so if and when I have a family to feed and a mortgage to pay, that kind of security would be paramount, but right now it's just me worrying about my fear of the unknown.

Sometimes we just have to be brave and step out in faith; I think talking to Roger on the way back from Heathrow on Sunday evening was more inspirational to me than perhaps I realised at the time. After his wife died from cancer, he went with his son to live and work out in China for two years, and is still journeying really, his final vocation and settling-place still largely unknown. But he's trusting in God to keep him and Daniel safe, feeling it's a refining process; it's been far from easy and the future is unknown, but he wouldn't give it up for a moment... I'm not sure I have the faith to do anything like that - or not yet anyway - but it's a truly inspirational attitude, and one I'd be silly not to heed and allow to rub off on me a little. Coming at the critical time it did, it was almost as if Roger knew that too.

Right, my meeting with Dave's sorted out, having agreed to meet him a bit before four tomorrow afternoon, to have a chat and then give him a lift to the garage to collect his car from being serviced. That's good, because it needn't eat into my working day too much, and I think the informal nature of it all will be easier for me. This evening I've been to the Shine prayer meeting - Gareth phoned earlier and I agreed I may as well join them since I wasn't going to be doing much else - which was a typically positive time, and I have a couple of things to work on for the web site as a result too. Anyway, that's about that; I'm going to head to bed just about as soon as I've posted this diary entry up - it's been far too long a day.

I wouldn't exactly say it was a brilliant day at work, but it's been better than many lately, so I didn't have to feel guilty about ducking out early to meet up with Dave. When I arrived, he was just having the tail end of a conversation with Andy, and Shaaron's later arrival with their family provided enough distractions to our own conversations to prevent things from getting too heavy going. We didn't decide anything as such, but we both now have a clearer picture of how things are at the moment, where things may have gone wrong, and how things might be done better in future. Dave's also on the look-out for places for me to go for a little while, with the possibility of helping renovate a chapel in Mostar or maybe joining Roger on one of his many trips abroad. Nothing's at all definite yet, but Dave agrees that something like that would help "put some gunpowder behind me" to adapt a slightly more crude expression. Anyway, as I dropped Dave off in Bletchley to collect his car from servicing, we agreed we'd meet up again in a couple of weeks once he's back from a short trip to Bosnia himself, and maybe by then we can be in a position to start sketching out a real action plan for getting me out of the rut that we agreed I was definitely stuck in at the moment.

Neighbourhood group last night wasn't too bad, listening to a tape of some American preacher - going by the bizarre name of Dutch Sheets - talking in exuberant fashion about praying for the unsaved, with a bit of appropriate follow-up and discussion of our own. We didn't finish too late, thankfully, so I was home in time to give my mum a quick phone-call to tentatively agree that I'll be visiting tonight - buying a new back-up battery for her word-processor on the way - probably returning late tomorrow just in case I'm "required" on Sunday morning. Other than that, there's nothing too specific planned for the weekend, and quite a lot of my friends are away one place or another, so I'll just be taking things as they come - and probably just as well given that I really need some rest. There's distinct murmurings of an informal Scrabble evening on bank-holiday Monday, though, which would be quite fun, but we'll see how we go... For now, though, it's on with today's drudgery; I was supposed to have had this CD-ROM thing finished by about now - not that it's critical, just desirable - but things just haven't quite gone as planned over the last couple of weeks for one reason or another.

Hmm, who was it who told me that "The Miracle Maker" was a Dreamworks production? Actually, I think a few people did, so I won't point fingers - but it's not, instead apparently being a Russian/Welsh co-production. That said, it was still very well done indeed, with a clever combination of hand-drawn, computer and stop-motion animation. It recounts - approximately - the gospel according to Luke, and features quite a few notable actors, including Ralph Fiennes, William Hurt and Richard E Grant. Definitely well worth a look if it's likely to interest at all, but take my advice and avoid going with children who tax your Bible knowledge with difficult questions every ten seconds...

Rather unfortunate that my Sunday has to start with a splitting headache - for no apparent reason, not even lack of sleep - and a paracetamol, but so be it, and at least today's not going to be exceptionally busy I don't think. I will be playing at church this morning, as part of a very small band being led by Mark, with just Sim to join us, but apart from that I have nothing much planned for today and hope to take things fairly easy. Things generally should be very quiet anyway, with quite a large number of people apparently away on the church holiday up in the Peak District. I had originally planned on going - Zoe too - but quite a while back we'd decided it maybe wasn't for us, and indeed many people had been told it had been cancelled and had made alternative arrangements for the weekend...

It was good to get home to see my parents for a while, with an event-free journey both ways. Nothing of tremendous note happened, but I don't see them a great deal these days, and we had quite a lot to catch up on, one way or another. I got in a little bit of practice for our hoped-for Scrabble evening by playing mum last night, and somewhat demoralised her by using all my letters twice in the first four moves, a hundred-point deficit she never quite recovered from. We also went for a bit of an afternoon walk in Wendover Woods, which was all very pleasant, and not at all how I'd remembered it - seeming more like parts of the Lake District than the Chilterns - and I popped round to see Jill and Rebecca next door for a little while before I loaded the car back up and headed back to Milton Keynes.

Sunday afternoon, and not much to do, to be quite honest. This morning was busier than expected, with the decision to move the meeting into a smaller room only just a practical one, with just about every spare bit of space in use. I took a late lunch at Pizza Hut, enjoying a very nice - and decidedly ample, size-wise - individual Italian Super Supreme pizza with garlic bread and unlimited Diet Pepsi. I remember having had an individual pizza many years ago and being quite disappointed with the size, but things seem to have improved now, and there was no way I could have managed a dessert. I justified a little of it with a short walk round Lodge Lake, unexpectedly bumping into Anne and Kathryn, Kathryn astride Trudy, a pony a friend of theirs is getting accustomed to being ridden. Anyway, back at home now, and thanks to it being quite muggy out, I think I'm going to freshen up with a bath shortly, then see what else the day might bring me.

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