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David's diary: August 2000

Today is the start of a new month, and is consequently the dreaded monthly report time at work. Not a good month just gone, in that respect, to be perfectly honest. I had a useful meeting with Adam yesterday afternoon; he's our new head of unit, in the aftermath of the recent restructuring here at the Open University - and a good choice in most people's opinions. We didn't tackle anything too irksome - it was just an opportunity for him to get to know some of us relatively recent recruits a bit better - but I still found it a useful opportunity to talk through some of the stuff I'm currently involved in.

Last night's regular Pizza Hut buffet outing went ahead as usual, though with various people away for one reason or another, it was just me and Darren this time. I get this evening in, probably, but then out again tomorrow evening for Phil's stag night, for which about a dozen of us are going bowling then for a meal. Once back at home last night, I then did some scanning and stuff for a presentation to be shown at Phil and Angela's reception. The one at Daniel and Jodie's went down so well, everyone wants one now... It took a little longer than I'd hoped, but I think the end result should make it worth the effort.

A fairly uneventful evening yesterday, not rushing home from work, and cooking myself up some pesto pasta for tea. That's probably my favourite vegetarian dish at the moment, even if my mum - who introduced it to me! - likens pesto sauce to pureed caterpillars, but that's just her for you. Then it was time for a nice unhurried bath, to sort out a not-too-tricky virus problem on Phil's PC, to give Sarah a quick phone call - cut short as often is the case by her having to deal with troublesome daughters - and update my diary archives on the web, before getting a fairly early night. Tonight is Phil's stag do, in advance of his wedding on Saturday; I believe we have some lanes booked at the bowling alley in the new Xscape centre, which we'll be following with a nice meal at a late-opening pub/restaurant there. Should be good fun, with about a dozen of us committed to going along.

Last night's stag party for Phil was pretty good, I'd say, just about going to plan. Mark arrived late, having just got back from driving coaches in Europe for a week or so, but joined us at the bowling alley to make our numbers complete. The bowling was good fun even if I did even more poorly than usual, losing both games, the second somewhat substantially. It's a brand new alley, so has all the latest technology from AMF - there, let's see if that rings alarm bells on anyone's Mono scan! - including fancy glow-bowling lighting and so on.

We were a bit late getting our lanes, so it was gone ten by the time we made it to Elements - for some reason we had a last minute change of venue - for our meal, about half an hour later than we'd booked. However, this was to work in our favour, because they gave us quite a hefty discount on account of the fact that we'd have to eat a bit quicker and that they wouldn't be replenishing the buffet for much longer. We still got everything we wanted, and ended up paying about ten pounds a head plus drinks, which was truly excellent.

Then it was back to ours to watch the Matrix, though some of us had to get up in the morning so didn't last all the way though; I'll have to finish it off another time before Phil moves out, seeing as it was his tape. But overall, yes, a truly excellent evening; lively and fun without getting out of hand, enjoyed by all, and a good reminder for Phil that he has only two days of unmarried freedom to go!

All these weddings... Ken and Sarah, Daniel and Jodie, Phil and Angela, Ben and Sarah - and that's just this summer's lot, not that I'll have been to every last one of them. Indeed it seems to be destined that just about everyone I house-share with ends up getting married; not including my own family - though they're all married now too, for better or for worse - there's been Graham and Trudy, Gavin and Lucy, Julian and Emma, Alan and Helen, now Phil and Angela, and perhaps others I am unaware of.

Of course I'm genuinely happy for all these people, but I'd be lying if I denied that it's all a little depressing when my own life in this respect seems to go two steps forward and three steps back so often. In a way, though, the idea of marriage scares me witless - perhaps through seeing some of the more disastrous ones around me - but it's still something I want to happen, and before it's too late to fulfil my dreams of having my own family and so on. I just hope - somewhat forlornly - that when I do meet the right person, all my inhibitions and apprehensions will go out of the window.

Yes, I do worry that maybe past relationships have ended more through fear of the unknown than anything else, but I hope it is really just that they weren't meant to be anything more than experience to bring me to a place from where I can truly move forward into the next big stage of my life. It's a good thing that I don't now believe much in fatalism, part of which is the common attitude that there is one and only one right person set aside for all of us - what would we do if we rejected that "one", or never found them at all?

Decisions, decisions... Do I go and watch an unspecified video round at Andy's, or go to an unofficial neighbourhood group meeting that will probably just end up with me and Seamus going out for a jar or two? The trouble with the former is that - with all respect to my friends - I'm half "expected to go" by virtue of living where I do, the film will be watched crowded round a computer monitor rather than anything bigger, and I could do without too late a night out after yesterday's. The trouble with the latter is that... er, maybe there's not a problem with that, after all. I think I've just made my decision, haven't I? Well, if I find Seamus and Gill are out for any unexpected reason, at least I have a back-up plan!

I stuck to my plan last night, and was glad I did. I wasn't the only one turning up, with Chris and Claire following shortly after I arrived. Claire and Gill went off to have a work-out at the new Xscape gym, leaving Seamus, Chris and myself to have a good chat about life, the universe, San Francisco, junk e-mails and everything. Pete - one of our more occasional members - turned up later, and before we knew it, it was about time to head home and get a much-needed fairly early night.

A few people have recently been sharing childhood memories and so on in their diaries, and it does form a very important part of what brings us to where we are in life - physically, intellectually and emotionally. It's very easy to blame shortcomings of our upbringing for our troubles later in life, but to do so is to shirk a degree of responsibility for our actions. Apart from a few events, I can't really say I remember a great deal about my early years, but I think it was a largely happy time.

I'm the youngest of three, with my brother and sister being nine and seven years older than me respectively, which had both advantages and disadvantages, I guess. It did mean that I didn't always have too many children of around my own age to relate to - though my long-term neighbours were and still are very close friends, in an "always there" kind of way - but I guess I was always made a bit of a fuss of as the baby of the family, didn't normally have to go to bed too ridiculously early, and didn't often get myself into too much trouble - though I was hardly an angel all the time, I'm quite certain, and some things don't change...

As such, I can recall a few face-down visits to my parents' knees and spells sat under the dinner-table, but I think I generally fared quite well, and the number of "counts to ten" that ended at nine-and-three-quarters were undoubtedly testament to some degree of probably undeserved mercy... I think my main problem was that I would get myself into a temper, and end up needing to cool down; I think that's something that's still the case to an extent, and then as now, I often realised it myself and just withdrew myself from whatever situation was giving me stress - assuming I wasn't first sent to my room to do the same anyway. I think my parents realised this, and I don't generally recall the consequences being too dire when I'd stomped off and locked myself in the bathroom for ten minutes or whatever, even if half the reason I would stay so long would be out of largely irrational fear of my parents' response.

They say that our own experiences as children shape the way we treat our own as far as discipline is concerned - either because we thought it reasonable, right and proper, or because we thought it grossly unfair and something we could never inflict on our own. I undoubtedly come into the first camp, looking back on these things objectively, though I may feel differently when it's for real rather than just hypothetical, and my eventual partner might have a very different viewpoint on it all anyway.

Looking around me at my friends with children today, I see many different philosophies being applied, but so long as they are underpinned with doing their best for their children in the longer term, I don't think any of them are necessarily wrong. Being a child is part of growing up, and it is only really once that process is complete - if it ever really is - that it's possible to really gauge the effectiveness of it all. I know I for one now value having been on the receiving end of fair - and I emphasise fair - discipline. It is surely far better to learn rights and wrongs as a child when the most that's at stake is an early night or whatever, than to enter adulthood with a distorted sense of values and often subsequently facing far more serious consequences - and that can happen both as a result of excessive and insufficient discipline; fairness - backed up with unconditional love, of course - really is the key.

Some other of the memorable aspects of my upbringing I think were equally well-meant, but ultimately not necessarily as helpful, and ones I would try not to apply to my own children when the time comes. I particularly recall weekend and holiday activities, which largely revolved around walking and particularly cycling, to the exclusion of pretty much anything else - I remember one of my teachers once showing some concern about the lack of variety in my weekend news I would write about each Monday. We did go on a couple of seaside type holidays when I was very little, but aside from our trips to see my grandparents in Essex, going to anything vaguely resembling a beach was an extreme rarity. That said, I have to admit that "traditional" seaside holidays still don't really excite me per se, but a little more variety in my other childhood holidays and weekend activities might have been beneficial.

Having said that, staying pretty much strictly on mainland Britain for holidays did mean they were cheap, so we did get away a lot more than many of my friends, who might get one big summer holiday and end up twiddling their thumbs the rest of the year, especially at half terms and so on. No, we were never short of things to do during school holidays, though it really would have been nice to go on a holiday or two that didn't involve walking boots or bicycles - even if I'm not exactly sure what I would have chosen, in retrospect. I now understand that the main reason we never went abroad was because of concerns about how I'd cope with my aforementioned hot temper; it's a pity we never threw a little bit of caution to the wind, but hindsight's great, isn't it?

But anyway, that's what's got me to where I am now, wherever that is. I'm not always entirely sure myself, to be honest... But the main thing is that even where experiences weren't so good, to be able to identify positive aspects for application to life, to learn from mistakes both I and others may have made, and to remember that it is impossible to turn back the clock. Yes, even where the experiences themselves weren't so positive, to make them valuable, because ultimately the past is dead and gone, and the future is there and waiting for us to make the most of.

Anyway, the weekend's almost here - and with it, Phil and Angela's wedding and reception tomorrow afternoon, and the start of the summer campaign of Sunday afternoon picnics down at the Kings Centre. So long as the weather holds out like it is at the moment, it should be a weekend to remember!

I hate volleyball. Always have done - and always will do, I'm sure. I hate squash too, but it's not so often I get forced to play that.

What of the rest of the weekend, though?

Saturday was truly pretty reasonable, I'd say. The church in Woburn took a little finding on Saturday afternoon, but I got there in the end, and everything was delayed anyway thanks to some VIP guests being stuck on the M1. The wedding service was traditional but lovely, very different to any that I've been to for a good long while, and it was good to bring together so many varied Christian communities, serving as a timely reminder of how few our differences ultimately really are.

Once photographs and so on had been taken, the reception at Woburn Safari Park was similarly very good, with a fair few people unsurprisingly taking a slight detour through the park; I went more directly, but still got to see a lot of giraffes, zebra, camels and so on at close quarters... The photos I had prepared for projection seemed to go down well, and I got a formal thank-you during Phil's after-meal speech, which was a nice surprise. The meal was excellent; top quality food in sensible quantities - no zebra steak though - but I still felt decidedly stuffed to bursting point by the end.

Neither Phil nor Angela were keen to have a late-running party, so things had just about come to a close by nine or so, when those of us left saw them off on their honeymoon in France. That wasn't before Andy, Alan and myself had given the nearby adventure playground a quick try and almost doing ourselves a number of mortal injuries on the death-slide and giant aerial see-saw thing...

And that was about that for the day; we lose a housemate, which will seem quite strange after almost two years of having Phil about the place, the last of which has also unsurprisingly seen Angela becoming an increasing part of household life. Whether we'll get anyone else in quite yet will remain to be seen; I know there are a few potential lodgers, but we could probably also do with the space at least for a little while.

As you could probably tell from the tone of my last entry, the Sunday afternoon picnic wasn't so great, and if truth be told I would quite possibly rather not have been there. It hadn't been announced properly in the morning, so it ended up being even more of a Wolverton-biased event than normal - which meant that the aforementioned volleyball took more of a significant role than ever... Whether I'll get to go next Sunday I'm really not sure, since I'm a little busy that weekend, but hopefully if I do there will be a few more people I feel able to relate to. In truth it was simply depressing yesterday, and the volleyball merely served to rub salt into the wound, though I suppose at least it kept me occupied...

Oh, and I watched a couple of films on video over the weekend too, specifically the concluding half of "The Matrix" on my own yesterday afternoon, and "The Mummy" - for the second time too - late Saturday night with Mark and Briony. I don't think my opinion on either has changed much with a second viewing, still considering the latter to be a great blend of humour, horror and good old fashioned story-telling, whilst the former remains impressive and utterly enjoyable but ultimately over-hyped twaddle.

One way or another, it's looking like August's going to be quite a lonely month for me. Guess it just means I'll have to make double the effort to avoid that.

Last night's Pizza Hut buffet outing was typically good, though it'll be nice to get back into our proper routine next week when Dave's back from Beach Mission - even if it will be my turn to pay... Today's my last day at work for a few days, so I'm hurriedly trying to write my monthly report for July - and not doing too well. I'm off to Cropredy on Thursday - hopefully meeting up with some people this time, unlike last year's miserable failure - but have taken tomorrow off to do any necessary shopping and so on so I'm not in too much of a hurry Thursday morning. Sarah's also asked me round tomorrow evening to have another look at her computer; she's been sent a load of bits to soup it up, and doesn't really know what's what. I somehow doubt much of it will be a great deal of use with an old 486 still running Windows 3.1, but I'll give it my best shot anyway. I also desperately need to tidy my room again, and now there's a bit more free space in the house, it's actually a practical proposition to get it done properly for a change, so I expect that's what I'll be doing for most of this evening...

What's happening to me? Answers on a postcard or back of a sealed envelope.

Well my room is a little tidier, and the bins a little fuller. Still some way to go, but at least I can get to the wardrobe to extract my camping stuff now.

I don't know how much I'm going to get done today after all; I slept through - with only small interludes - until nigh on one o'clock... Boy, I needed that!

Right, I've got most of my camping stuff ready, I've got my food for the weekend, I had a semi-successful mission fitting a CD-ROM drive to Sarah's PC, and now I'm going to bed because I need to be up in good time tomorrow. I need to be away from here at one o'clock, not crawl out of bed at that time like I did today...

Right, my packing's done, the boot's loaded, and I'm just finishing off a few odds and ends before I hit the road via KFC or somesuch. It's a little grey and damp this morning, but hopefully it will only have been enough at Cropredy to soften the ground - not waterlog it - this time... Anyway, have a good weekend, all of those I am not planning to meet up with shortly, and have a safe journey, those that I am - assuming you're not already on the road!

Mono may be down again at the time of writing, but I'm back from Cropredy, and with so much buzzing around in my head, I need to get my thoughts together before they are lost forever. I won't give a blow-by-blow account, because that would be tedious and quite probably repetitive, but instead will try and concentrate on the highlights and lowlights as appropriate.

Absolute lowlight had to be getting home and unloading the car, reverting my room to even worse than the mess it was before I tidied it last week. So if that's the worst, then the weekend must have been pretty good - and it was. Quite unlike last year, the weather was utterly glorious - even enough to see a few Perseid meteors on Friday night - though we couldn't claim an entirely dry weekend, thanks to a few quite welcome spots of rain last night. Sunburn and heatstroke seemed to be the main problems amongst the crowd, unsurprisingly, but plenty of sun-cream and water saw off the worst of it for most people I think.

The two biggest draws on the new formal Thursday night programme - introduced by request of the graciously-suffering villagers of Cropredy and Williamscot, unable to cope with the less formal events normally happening on the Thursday night - were the Incredible String Band and the reformed All About Eve. However, the former gained a few alternative names due to their decided mediocrity, though thankfully the latter were all that anyone had hoped, and the opening set from the euphemism-laden Spank the Monkey turned out to be top stuff too with their storming blues. All in all, having a formal programme seemed a popular idea, and it meant the Red Lion was nice and quiet for a mid evening pint...

Friday opened surprisingly well with a set from compere Keith Donnelly, bolsterd with some surprise special guests, including Anna Ryder as a rather impressive lonely goatherd and made utterly per-er-er-er-er-er-fect with Eddi Reader doing what she does best... Little Johnny England were a worthy follow-up, not entirely unlike the Levellers, with Stony boy Guy Fletcher on the fiddle. The Albion Band were predictably good if more my dad's cup of tea than my own, but to be honest nothing else really caught my attention, and I was quite happy to listen to Robert Plant's Priory of Brion from the comfort of my sleeping bag - with ear-plugs.

Saturday was impressive pretty much from start to finish, with the Unprofessionals apparently anything but, with their slick set of funk anthems opening proceedings. Bob Fox had some predictably smashing choruses, and Stackridge - who opened the first ever Glastonbury many moons ago - were a lot of fun. The Hamsters provided a good opportunity for me to go and get changed for the evening; competent they may have been, but I prefer my pub rock in the pub... I'd heard a lot about Show of Hands, and they didn't disappoint - being amongst my haul of signed CDs - and of course Fairport themselves were as good as ever with a veritable flow of special guests including Roger Hodgson from Supertramp for some bizarre reason.

Just as important as the music at Cropredy I find is the variety of people to meet and talk to. Aside from successfully rendezvousing with most of the Mono folks I had hoped to - including Herring and Paws, and Cabbage and non-spod wife Karen - I also bumped into an old school friend I'd not seen for many a year, and had a good chat with the official festival masseur, of all people. The latter was nothing at all to do with the semi-frozen bottle of water he'd just been given as payment in kind for massaging one of the stall-holders, honest... Getting CDs signed was always a good chance to talk to people, especially since folkies tend not to be too hurried, so I also got brief chats with Dave Swarbrick - signing his obituaries too - and both Phil and Steve from Show of Hands.

Anyway, I was away from the site in good time this morning, avoiding the worst of the rush and still managing to say goodbye to everyone I needed to - even if more by luck than judgement. Straight into the bath on getting home, so no church this morning, though I'll be dragging myself along to the picnic in a little while, along with whatever food I can track down!

Oh well, back at work, back to the mundane. So long, summer.

Ooh, new game of Duplicate Scrabble just started up, and spotted a hitherto unseen bug in my board-rendering script, mainly because we had never had reason to see the centre square before! I came second in the game just finished, which was quite satisfying, and a moral victory for reasons I won't go into for reasons of not wanting to whinge too much...

Meanwhile, pizza tonight. Or maybe not. But something along those lines anyway, having forgotten about a worship group meeting called for later this evening. A bit silly having these things during the summer holidays, it has to be said - the meeting that is, not the eating out, I should emphasise!

Pizza indeed it wasn't last night, deciding instead to give Fatty Arbuckles a try before it closes down as I am led to believe it will shortly. A little pricey compared to our usual Pizza Hut fiver plus drinks, but top notch food anyway, and I'm sure we'll be back sometime before it's too late. Since we were served quite quickly and Mark was out when we got back - he had suggested we could all watch a video or something - I decided I would go and catch the tail end of the worship group meeting at Paul and Carol's. Needless to say I'd missed the most important bits, but it was still good to have a chat with various people and partake in a little cheese and wine.

Starving hungry again now, having skipped lunch again for some reason - yesterday I had a good excuse; not so sure today. I might just have to go and eat out again to counteract this. Hmm, pizza withdrawal symptoms..?

I can confirm that lack of pizza was the problem yesterday, or at least that treating it as the problem and remedying it accordingly proved to be a worthwhile activity. Otherwise, the sole notable thing from last night was an incident at the bus-stop over the road, which I've been spending a short while this morning writing an e-mail to Milton Keynes police about, raising some concerns with their handling of it. In short, a teenage girl had collapsed with a seizure after apparently taking a cocktail of alcohol and drugs, but when the police rather than an ambulance arrived, she substantially changed her story and the police believed her, not listening to anyone else for whatever reason, and cancelling the ambulance. As such, they were going to drop her and her friends off at the city bus station - despite that probably being even worse than the bus-stop they were at - rather than going five minutes out of their way to take her home, or still better to casualty. I truly hope, without wishing any harm on the girl, that she took at least a mild turn for the worse whilst being taken to the bus station, so that the police finally woke up to the potential seriousness of the incident rather than trying to wash their hands of it. It's sad that the girl didn't feel able to be as honest to the police as she was to the other people who assisted. I'm not sure there's an easy solution to that when the police are seen by so many young people in particular as being against them rather than there to help, but I did identify that as the root of the problem in my e-mail this morning as well as pointing out a number of other operational deficiencies that were evident. Whether my e-mail will have any effect I'm not sure, but what basically bothers me is that the girl could have had another seizure or worse at any time, and the police could for all I know be having to explain their lax and dismissive procedures to some bereaved parents this morning.

Time I was going home, I suppose.

And then it was time I was going out to get something to eat, still not having been food-shopping properly since last weekend - festivals really are money-burners, aren't they? It was going to be KFC, but then Mark suggested going for a pub meal somewhere and inviting Darren along. This we duly did, though sadly the new Moon Under Water isn't open for another week, it turned out, so we ended up eating at the Toad - also at the ski centre - the pub we were originally going to go to for Phil's stag night. Nice enough atmosphere and waitress service, but the food was unexceptional - both Mark and Darren's meals were served cold - and the live music, courtesy of a Canadian folk group - bizarrely described as "Irish rock" - was even less incredible than the Decidedly Mediocre String Band last weekend, which said something... Still nice to get out for the evening, but I really can't sustain this eating-out lifestyle every day of the week as it's been so far!

I'm not one for quoting song lyrics here, but nonetheless:

They say time will
Make all this go away
But it's time that has taken my tomorrows
And turned them into yesterdays

"Walk Away" - Ben Harper / Eliza Carthy

Happy to say the last couple of evenings have been decidedly more event-free than that fateful one earlier this week, though I've not heard anything back from the police - either because they're not interested or because there is no real need if the matter is in hand. Last night I spent remastering a CD I'd bought a couple of copies of - one for me, one for my parents - at Cropredy at the weekend. It was a very limited edition Swarbrick and Carthy disc, but whoever had mastered it obviously had little clue and had omitted to maximise the volume. As such, most of the tracks were only half as loud as they should have been, and one was only a quarter! My poor little stereo had to have the volume on full whack for me to hear much at all from any room other than my own... Thankfully with a CD ripper, a good sound editor and my CD writer I was able to put things right, and now everything's more or less as it should be.

It's absolutely chucking it down outside, as it has been for quite a while. Thunder and lightning too! I'm glad this is now, not a week ago, believe me...

Well this is being an interesting weekend so far, if only made particularly so by a rather bizarre conversation this evening - but a little more on that in a moment, maybe. I drove to my parents' house last night after work - back just in time for tea - mainly to give them a load of CDs, books and things I'd bought for them over the last few weeks, all much appreciated and much played and read already... I went for a short stroll with my mum this afternoon - oddly I seemed to know the way better than her, which was somewhat worrying! - and then called round to see my neighbours after tea this evening, which turned out to be most intriguing in a "small world" kind of way. I oughtn't go into too many details right now, since it very much involves a couple of people here on Mono in a fairly sensitive manner, and I'm almost certain they don't have the foggiest clue. Let's just say for now that it started with a conversation about York and English - there, that's nice and cryptic.

Sunday comes to a close, and with it, not too bad a day. A little bit of an unsettled night last night, so I was in no rush to get up this morning, but still was conscious in time for church even if I skipped breakfast.

Went for lunch at the new ski-centre KFC with Darren and Matt, then did my first bit of food shopping for about a fortnight at Waitrose. Fortuitously I then bumped into Matt once again, and got a lift home, saving my hands from scraping the ground with my bags full of groceries. The afternoon picnic wasn't too bad, though a lot of my friends seem to be away at the moment, so it wasn't what it could have been.

This evening I thought I'd go out storm-chasing, but after a few spectacular lightning strikes just before I left, the weather took a most disappointing turn for the better, though it was good to get some fresh air anyway even if I got rained on quite a bit. Oh, and I'm almost certain I saw an otter at Willen, as well as hundreds of snails, slugs and tiny frogs - the former jumping into the lake and swimming off when it saw me coming, and the latter being decidedly hazardous on the paths...

Anyway, going to get an early night shortly, I think; I have a hunch this might be a bit of a busy week coming up, and I'd like to give it my best shot.

Well this morning I was finally able to break the news to Herring and Paws cryptically alluded to a couple of diary entries above this one, so I can more openly say now what it was. Basically, as a result of a chance comment made by one of their friends at Cropredy, I have now by some convoluted route discovered that Herring in fact used to go out with my lifelong dear friend and next-door-neighbour Rebecca. Thankfully all are on good terms still, so I'm not going to be putting my foot in it by mentioning this - but it really is a very small world, isn't it? Meanwhile, the only other thing of note really is that Phil and Angela are back from their honeymoon, and popped in briefly late last night to collect a few bits and pieces. Seemed they had an excellent time in Paris and the Loire Valley, and were very thankful for the - quite expensive! - bread knife I gave them, if only to help them in their task of opening all their wedding presents, rather than cutting bread!

Pizza Hut's largely undocumented evening buffet with Darren and Dave went as well as ever, though for some reason it was packed out tonight - so just as well we were not relying on the waitress service too much! It was a lovely warm evening, so finding ourselves going a slightly odd way home, we decided we'd take a further detour and go for a short stroll round Furzton Lake. Then on getting home and seeing Darren and Dave on their respective ways, I found a twelfth flash on the answering machine, and now seem to have had my services booked to go and fetch my friend Sarah's mum and eldest daughter from Luton airport tomorrow night. That's fine, and I'm being offered petrol money anyway - though I'm not flavour of the millennium with her daughter, but I've been given full permission to threaten to leave her at the airport if she kicks up a fuss...

An uninteresting day so far, I have to say. I guess sometime I ought to tell someone I'm taking next month off.

Even more fun in the offing for this evening, with Sarah having just phoned to explain that her mum's had a bit of an accident at Aberdeen. She's on the flight, but likely to need some extra help at this end, and I've been asked to go a little bit earlier than originally planned because of that. We don't know any details of what happened, but I really, really, really hope Sarah's daughter is in a cooperative mood tonight, because that would be one extra complication I could truly do without now... Anyway, I'm now dressed after my bath, so I guess I'd better start getting ready to go out.

Last night went OK, in the end. The plane was a few minutes early into Luton, Sarah's mum was nowhere near as injured as I'd feared - I had checked on wheelchair availability and so on, just in case! - and her granddaughter was simply untalkative in the extreme. The only hitch was finding that the parking payment machine I'd planned to use was out of order, so had a bit of an extra walk while the others were waiting in the car. Otherwise, it all went pretty smoothly, with no delays on the motorway or anything, though by the time I'd had a cup of tea back at Sarah's I was still fit to drop.

I got paid well over the odds for the trip, though, even if it was in Scottish banknotes - perfectly legal tender, so long as I can find someone who'll believe me. I reckoned on a fiver for the petrol plus another three quid for the parking, but Sarah's mum insisted on paying almost twice that. I've told her she gets a free ride next time...

Leaving ceremonies here seem to get ever more extravagent. They always used to be a five minute gathering with a few thank-yous, a presentation of a card and gift voucher, and a swift return to work. One later this afternoon has been billed as including cake, wine and a DIY balloon orchestra, with a request to bring along any musical instruments we might just happen to have in our offices. Now if I'd known that yesterday...

I am advised that consumption of phenylalanine leads indirectly to the production of noradrenaline, which apparently "promotes mental alertness, memory, elevates mood and suppresses the appetite very effectively". Someone, somewhere, is lying through their teeth, considering the amount of Diet Coke I get through.

And if you needed proof that my memory was so dire, I was just wondering why I had an empty Coke can in front of me at this time in the afternoon, bearing in mind that I was reading its label only ten minutes ago.

In case anyone was wondering - which I'm absolutely certain isn't the case - there were no secret musical instruments lurking in anyone's office, and the DIY balloon orchestra was strangely bizarre in a completely irrelevant kind of way. But from past experience with Karen, we needn't have been surprised.

Another night, another blaze - this time a car parked over the road becoming a roaring fireball. I have a nasty hunch it mightn't be the last we see of the fire brigade this evening, based on past experience. I'm not sure if the Almighty's trying to send me messages, but I sure as heck want to get out of here now.

Thankfully the fire brigade didn't seem to need to give our estate any more of their attention last night, or at least not while I was awake. I thought I heard the bleeping of a police radio for a while, but in retrospect I'm pretty sure it was just sound effects from a game Steve next door was playing.

Last night was reasonable, with Mark back from another of his trips and suffering KFC withdrawal symptoms, and then going on to a neighbourhood group social up at Andy and Rosie's - not that I'm a member of their group, but hey... So no, nothing spectacular, but a most pleasant evening in good company, and a bit of croquet never goes amiss. Oh, and no further visits from the emergency services, happily to say.

And now it's more or less the weekend, and a bank-holiday one at that. Quite what I'm going to spend it doing, I'm not too sure, but it's going to start with a somewhat delayed going-home this evening, since there's stuff I promised I would do this week.

Well I'm back at home finally. I did what I needed to research at work, to some small degree of satisfaction, so I should have something to write about on Monday on the not-terribly-interesting subject of QuickTime movie data rates. I took a break for tea at Kingston McDonalds, and it was horrendously busy; I don't think I'll be going back there in a hurry and it will be still worse when their newly-enlarged activity centre thing opens in a few days. Oh, and I've all but deleted my account from Planetarion; I still think it's a game with great potential - and I won't rule out returning sometime when they've sorted out some problems - but it was just giving me too much stress for something so inconsequential. Oh, and someone complimented me on my stunningly good looks; it's just a pity she lives over 4000 miles away in Keyna...

There is a well known saying that there is no such thing as a free lunch. Every rule of course has its exception, as Darren and myself found out today while checking out the new Wetherspoons pub which opened last Wednesday. To cut a long story short, they ran out of steaks, couldn't then cook the right replacement meal for Darren, and were half an hour late serving it - and my chilli - anyway. It however only took the briefest of chats with the duty manageress to get the whole lot - including the beers - for free, a good twelve pounds worth. I think we'll be back... That was probably the highlight of the weekend so far, though it was quite entertaining watching the lightning for a while yesterday evening. It wasn't very close by - probably about five to ten miles away in the main - but there were some massive strikes wherever it was!

Not a bad Sunday as they go, with a not too long morning meeting, pesto pasta with cheese and salad for lunch, and a surprisingly - nay, miraculously - dry Kings Centre picnic in the late afternoon, with mercifully little volleyball going on. Numbers were dramatically down at the latter, probably a combination of the threatening-looking weather and it being the bank-holiday weekend. Speaking of which, that means tomorrow's a day off work - hooray! - a fact I seemed to have overlooked in my happiness at finally getting home on Friday evening...

Well the long bank-holiday weekend has truly been quite a treat, even if I've not got to do anything earth-shatteringly exciting, and the weather's been kind when it's mattered. Today I've been for a brisk walk, taking in both Campbell Park and Willen Lake, and treated myself to pizza for a late lunch - or was it an early tea? Either way I'm not at all hungry now, and don't expect that to change much this side of tomorrow... I guess I could phone around to see if there's anything "happening" this evening, though I think most people are away at the moment, one way or another. Back to work tomorrow, anyway, though only for another four days, then - assuming it hasn't been vetoed from on high - I'll be having a real break for a while. I just hope I can make it more productive than last year's equivalent break, though I still have some pre-paid lane-swimming sessions to use, if all else fails, and I could do with losing a bit of weight once again...

Hmm, back at work today, and Sam's back too after his month off - certainly a little less depressing having some company for a change, even if we've had to turn the fan off because it was making too much noise for the stuff he's doing this afternoon. Tonight I've been promised spaghetti bolognaise round at Sarah's, which is always most welcome, though considering how I struggled to get through my modest lunch today, I have no idea how hungry I'll be feeling by six... Must remember to call in at the Esso station on the way, though, to use my money-off voucher before it expires at midnight tonight!

My on-line diary archives are obviously home to a wealth of useful information, and are rapidly becoming first port of call for researchers of any number of obscure subjects. The April 1998 archive, for example, has just provided the answer to that age-old question of the chemical composition of Marmite - or at least according to Google's search engine...

Last night was pleasant enough, and I had no trouble getting through the spaghetti bolognaise - plus some garlic bread I'd brought along to supplement it. Those of us with suitable inclination - all but one of us, needless to say - then drove down to Willen Lake and had a stroll round there as the sun set. A cup of tea later, and it was time to head home and into the bath - but not before remembering to give them a couple of important bits and pieces I'd promised.

If that seemed a very matter-of-fact entry, well it was. Of course there was more to it than that; a lot more, indeed. But it's all far too complicated to go into here, and in many ways it upsets me to think too much about it anyway.

No, I can't come back after I've had my bath; I need to sleep too. And no, I can't come back tomorrow either... Unspecified reasons, but the main practical one I could have used was that we've got a celebration band practice tonight - the first in ages, and especially significant since it's Tim's first since he's got significantly better from his long term illness. I can't say I feel much like going, with a splitting headache - perhaps not entirely unlinked to yesterday evening - and still feeling very tired, but I ought to really since it's been so long in the offing! Anyway, with that in mind, I need to be getting ready to head up to Wolverton shortly, so I guess I'd better get this posted up.

Band practice was OK, but I've known better. I don't know; perhaps I was in the wrong frame of mind - in fact I'm pretty sure I was - but it just somehow didn't seem to click, and it seemed like a chore. It's not always like that, and I wasn't aware of anything specifically different this time... Still, at least it was fun ending with the Bare Necessities, just to be completely silly.

A couple of non-consecutive lines from the above:

Forget about your worries and your strife
The bare necessities of life will come to you

If only it were that simple...

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