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David's diary: October 2000

Another month down, and back to work tomorrow - assuming I can find my way there! Yesterday afternoon and evening were quite fun, going to the new Cineworld to watch "Space Cowboys" - not the best film ever, but a happy time-passer - then cooking up a Chinese banquet Darren and I had bought at Tescos, before adjourning to Andy and Rosie's for the rest of the evening. Today's a celebration Sunday, and I played this morning and will do so again this evening. Not sure what I'll be doing this afternoon, but if the weather stays like this I suspect a walk might be involved at some point.

No walk yesterday afternoon in the end, and the weather turned grotty anyway. The evening went well enough, and now I'm back at work. Only two hundred odd e-mail messages to plough through - or to cursorily glance at and decide not to be worth reading... New office-mate - in the shape of a guy called Tim, fresh from completing a PhD at Cambridge - so things are a little more crowded round here. Otherwise, nothing much seems to have changed really; doesn't seem that anyone's moved on or anything, and the state of my desk is of course exactly as I left it.

Which needless to say was - and still is - a complete mess, with CD-ROMs, plastic cups, empty Coke cans and so on in abundance. Even more so with the addition of a couple of new staff newspapers, two payslips - one not mine, but I didn't realise my pigeonhole is now shared! - and, at last, a letter from Thames Valley Police explaining their actions previously reported in this diary. The latter was not entirely satisfactory, but I kind of accept they did all they could under the difficult circumstances, and I have acknowledged receipt of it with qualified thanks. Anyway, it's a little over an hour until I can head home, and I intentionally didn't have much for lunch with our regular Pizza Hut buffet night coming up later, so I'm feeling pretty ravenous.

Oh, and I've just been invited to join our new colleague - and some others - at the Jaipur on Wednesday night. It's only the best Indian restaurant in the UK outside London, nothing too fancy... Certainly beats sorting out a friend's computer, as was going to be my Wednesday night activity until this came up.

And now I've been invited for a meal on Thursday night. What with pizza last night - good as ever - Ye Olde Swan tonight, probably, and the Jaipur tomorrow, that leaves only Friday to worry about...

Excellent - my holiday photos are back already, despite the lady at the shop saying they'd had a few delays lately. I envisage a busy night scanning the best of them very shortly, before I add a page to the long-neglected holidays section of my web site, no doubt.

Astronomy Club last night was quite interesting, with the lion's share of the evening given over to a talk by Andrew on the timely matter of the Sun, solar flares, aurorae and so on. Before that, I did indeed go to the Olde Swan for my customary spicy sausage and cheese hot hob, followed less customarily by a delicious chocolate fudge brownie which was not at all what I was anticipating. Tonight's curry trip is still on, as far as I know, which means I won't be able to make a band practice that I believe it would clash with, but I only found out about that this morning, so it's tough really. No chance yet to catalogue or scan my holiday photographs yet, but I'm hoping I might be able to at least start doing that later this evening.

Busy, busy, busy evening yesterday - and another one coming up tonight, all in the best possible way.

While I was out of the office for a while yesterday afternoon helping Will, I missed a phone-call from my friend Sarah, so I phoned her back and agreed I would pop round there after work and before going for the curry. It was only intended to be a flying visit to drop something off - I'm there again this evening anyway as previously arranged - but a cup of tea and a chat later it really was time to be getting a move on.

Then after a quick freshen-up it was on to Tim's flat in the city centre, where I met up with him and his sister Rachel to walk to the Jaipur. This we duly did, and had a splendid meal to mark Rachel's imminent departure to Australia. The Jaipur really did live up to expectations and its reputation as one of the best Indian restaurants in the country, and although it was hardly cheap, nor was it extortionate - a good venue for special occasions! We dropped Rachel off at the station then wandered back to Tim's flat, had a chat about this and that - especially the game of Go - then I drove home.

Back at home I got to work cataloguing my photographs from my holiday - seems terribly and unhealthily efficient, but I visited so many places that I could easily forget where about half of them were... As it was, there were still a couple I couldn't quite place - they were somewhere round the north-west corner of Scotland - but that wasn't bad going. None of them scanned yet, but that wil be the next step.

Finally Mark and I together tackled reading some database files off a floppy disk Martin had been having trouble with; we were successful in that, and one quite exhausted Dave hit the sack very shortly afterwards...

Yes, so tonight I'll be making another prompt getaway from work; I had said I'd be at Sarah's at about six, but we agreed to make it a bit earlier for the sake of hungry stomachs all round, though I'll need to leave there by about eight anyway to go on to neighbourhood group, so that gives a bit more time anyway. Apart from last night's supposedly flying visit I've not been round there for well over a month, so we've got quite a lot to catch up on once way or another.

Yesterday wasn't too bad a day, really, all told - though I'm glad it will be the weekend in only a few more hours, even if this week has whizzed past somewhat.

I had a productive meeting yesterday afternoon with my new boss - my old office-mate Jon - where we agreed a practical path ahead for me over the next few weeks at least. It's not stunningly interesting work, but it's stuff I can get my teeth into and hopefully make a good job of - namely building two NT servers, and making some hopefully minor modifications to a numeracy package.

As planned I got away from work in good time, making it to Sarah's a little after half past five, and we had a very nice chicken roast - even if we all agreed the potatoes could have done with a little longer... Went through my holiday photos as threatened, and then it was time for some people to go to bed and for others - such as me - to go on to neighbourhood group.

Not before I had sorted out a few bits and pieces I'd promised for Gareth, however; Shine have a gig in Kent tonight and were lacking a Minidisc player, a rather vital part of their set-up, and I was able to oblige in that respect. It was as well I found Mark in, however, because otherwise they would have been left without a suitable audio lead and would still have had to sing a-cappella.

Neighbourhood group was fairly quiet, though thankfully other-Sarah turned up too, so I wasn't the only visitor at Seamus and Gill's. We went out prayer-walking round Springfield in two groups; Seamus and myself went out first, and while the others were out later, I dropped off the Minidisc stuff with Gareth.

By the time I was home I was absolutely shattered - actually, I was shattered by the time neighbourhood group had started, let alone finished! - so didn't last much longer before hitting the sack.

Wednesday night's curry was supposed to have been a departmental outing, but only I was sociable enough to agree to join Tim and his sister, and I had to explain to them how in the past such an opportunity would have found anything up to a dozen of us saying "what the heck". However, whether coincidentally or otherwise, today we had a lunchtime mass-exodus to the pub, possibly the start of a brave new sociable world in our department. There's hope anyway...

What of my weekend, then? I guess the highlight was one of our irregular and infrequent "celebrations" up in Hanslope. Numbers were down on the last couple of times, but there were still enough people there to make it worthwhile, and we had a good time even if we decided to dispense with the PA at the last minute. Most of us adjourned back to Alan and Louise's for a bite of supper, which made a most welcome end to the evening. I might then have headed home for the weekend, but I needed to be around Sunday morning to help set out the chairs and so on - not too arduous a task when there's a few people on the case. This morning I was up bright and early - like before seven o'clock! - to drive up to Wolverton to collect my friend, colleague, and Shine team-mate Simon, and then go down to Leon School in Bletchley to help set up for Shine's week there. We stayed around for the first lesson there, both a little curious as to what went on in such things, and left somewhat more enlightened at about eleven in the end. No-one really clock-watches round here, but I'm skipping lunch anyway as a result of that - and besides, I'd like to be suitably hungry by tonight's regular meal out, especially since I have a suspicion I might be plied with at least a bit of food earlier in the evening.

It's been raining pretty much continuously for the last twenty-four hours. Odds on that Newport Pagnell will be flooded again by tomorrow and that the university ring-road will be closed...

No food yet this evening after all - I wasn't expecting any, but there was always a chance! - so having had nothing since breakfast at seven and a few bits to nibble since, I'm suitably starving. Roll on, that pizza buffet!

Pizza buffet was as good as ever, and not too busy - but thankfully they seemed to have overestimated on the cooking front, so plenty of yummy pizzas on offer. Once again didn't sleep too well last night - I'm getting to sleep quickly enough, but it's unsettled sleep. I keep waking up in a semi-panic about things I can rarely recall later, and it takes what seems like a few minutes to convince myself that I really am in my own bed, in my own room, and that whatever it is that is worrying me really doesn't matter. Whether it's seconds or minutes that are involved I guess is irrelevant; it's the fact that my sleep has been interrupted... As a result, I'm struggling to stay awake during the day, and I'm not entirely convinced an early night will do much to help - it apparently being a quality, rather than a quantity, issue. Still, I think I'll try not to get too late a night tonight; I really must blitz my room this evening, but then I'll probably call it a day.

Hmm, yes, I suppose I really ought to write that monthly report for August sometime. At least Jon acknowledges that one for September wouldn't be that interesting, given my decided absence from work.

Room duly blitzed last night. Still some way to go before I can really claim it's tidy, but at least I can now stagger from my bed to the bathroom without tripping over half a dozen assorted pieces of debris en route, and I can also now get to my wardrobes - a Catch 22 situation resolved... Got a fairly early night, slept a little better than usual - but still shattered already this morning, even after ignoring my eight o'clock alarm. Hey ho.

Somewhat frustrating in the staff canteen today - cut myself a slice of their yummy chocolate gateau from the cold cabinet, then spotted it was a "chocolate pudding with chocolate icing and chocolate sauce" day at the main counter. Oh well, there was only one thing for it... Naughty, aren't I?

Last night was fun, spent round at Andy and Rosie's, with Matt, Alan, Phil and Angela turning up at various points during the evening. After briefly perusing my holiday pictures, those of us there moderately early - i.e. not Phil and Angela - had a nice game of Risk. Not my favourite pastime, as you know, but this was a better game than average, and I came painfully close to winning - one more turn and I could have done it, I think, but Andy wiped me out instead... Bang went my early night, anyway, though I went pretty much straight to bed when I got home, so it was only about midnight in the end - but I still didn't get up until nine this morning what with my disturbed sleep patterns at present.

Why is nothing ever as simple as it seems? I get asked if I can fairly mechanically run through a series of C++ programs to remove any course-specific references. Nice and straightforward, if a little on the tedious side.

First step - better make sure I can rebuild the C++ projects before changing anything. I find that the first one I build has a bug, and a complete show-stopper at that - it's a program to test the user's understanding of power notation, and it won't let the user enter powers... I check an old version, compiled some time ago, and that fails too! How the heck did this stuff get past QA? Ah, it was summer school software, which has a tendency to side-step the usual quality assurance procedures - great stuff.

Then, while I was trying to see what might have been changed - the program used to work, years ago - Jon comes in clutching a screen-dump from another part of the software. "23.25 x 3" it asks, with a box for the user to type in the answer. Jon had typed "69.75", which was duly greeted with a cheerful green tick. "Now round this answer to three significant figures" it proceeds. The answer Jon had ignorantly typed was "69.8". Its response? A red cross followed by "Wrong, it's 69.8". My own testing of the software in question proved even more disastrous.

Quality educational software at its very best. I can tell I'm going to enjoy this already.

Last night was busy and fairly productive - and once again I didn't get to bed too early... Housegroup wasn't the best ever, though certainly offered some food for thought. As I've said before, I don't fare too well in busy settings, and we were combined with another group last night, and a group on a quite different wavelength to ours at that. It got better, though, and I was in no great hurry to leave afterwards. I also got some high-quality scanning done; I'd promised I'd send my great aunt Grace some of the pictures from when I visited, but since her eyesight is beginning to fail her I thought I'd scan them and blow them up to A4 size. I printed them off here at work this morning, and although the print quality is a little grainy, they've got to be better for her than the original prints - and of course I get to keep the originals too, so everyone's a winner. Tonight is the end-of-week Shine concert at Leon School in Bletchley; should be good, given the impressive inroads Shine have managed to make into what is known as the toughest school in the city, and we've booked a curry afterwards so whatever happens the evening should end on a high note.

Ah well, less than an hour until the weekend now, and I need to head home promptly because I've got some stuff for Angela she asked if I could print off for her, and I said she could collect it up early this evening. Hmm, she might not have picked up my e-mail message yet, so I suppose I ought to dig out Phil and Angela's number and give them a quick phone call just in case.

A mad weekend, and I was almost too shattered this morning to make it into work; I was very close to phoning in sick, but it would have been a bit degenerate when it was mainly so self-inflicted. Others may do things like that, but I try not to...

As I said before, Friday night was Shine's end-of-week concert at Leon School, which went all very smoothly after an equally smooth week. One of the definite highlights was the after-concert curry in Fenny Stratford. Sadly no repeat of the last time - which I missed - when the meal for thirteen ended up "on the house", but it was still one of the best curries we'd had, and not the slightest cause for complaint.

However the most notable event was shortly before the concert, just as I arrived at the school, when I overheard Shine crew-member Andrew on the phone. It turned out he was talking to Rebecca St James, who he idolises about as much as it is safe for a Christian to do... Needless to say, he was over the moon about this, but then started pestering just about anyone who moved to give him a lift on Saturday night to see her in concert in Wolverhampton. And muggins here agreed.

So Saturday night we drove up to Wolverhampton, Andrew paying for the tickets while I covered the petrol costs. Yes, the evening was somewhat eventful, with Andrew being more than a little bit embarrassing at times, but it was worth it for him - and I enjoyed the gig anyway. Without going into too much detail, he managed to get a name-check from Rebecca on-stage, and met her afterwards for a quick chat and a hug. Suffice to say that if Friday's phone-call had made that "the best day of his life", Saturday surpassed that, and although I had to cringe quite a few times, if it made him that happy, I'm not too bothered.

We weren't away from Wolverhampton too late and had an unusually clear run home, despite it being a bit wet. Andrew had been invited to come back to see Mark, and I'd agreed to take him home afterwards, so I didn't get to bed until about two in the end, which after an evening like that left me somewhat drained for the rest of the weekend.

I was playing Sunday morning though, so I couldn't afford even the briefest lie-in, but thankfully I was able to take the day fairly easily after that. Claire - suffering from the tail-end of tonsillitis - begged me to give her a lift home, so having agreed that with her mum, did just that, and was then invited to stay for lunch anyway. None of us feeling too energetic, but in need of a little fresh air, most of us then went for a short stroll round Lodge Lake, then it was time for me to be on my way to have some tea and get ready for the evening.

So much for my proposed early night last night, though, but it was better than Saturday night I suppose...

Right - it's time to go home and get ready for pizza!

Pizza was good, even if Pizza Hut seemed to have a pepperoni shortage - and they certainly had a soft drinks shortage, with the pumps all broken. Mark joined us too, for a change, and a fine evening was duly had by all. Intriguingly, Dave started recounting a rather bizarre night he'd had on Saturday, one involving a certain Rebecca St James gig he'd been to in Wolverhampton - enough said, I suspect... Speaking of which, Andrew phoned last night to thank me for the little web page I'd made celebrating - not quite the expression I'd have used - his antics that night. Shortly after which, I proceeded to monopolise the phone for the next hour and a half - don't often get to do that these days! - chatting to a nice young lady in Bristol. Then finished the final chapter of "The Last Battle", concluding that particular series of books, and hit the sack. Did I manage to get up at eight this morning? Did I heck - though I was still the first in here, even going via the post-office to send those photographs off to my great aunt.

Time to go home, once again. Yet another unproductive, unmotivated day.

But a decidedly better evening, it has to be said. Soon after I got home, Darren phoned, at a loose end, and we agreed we'd go to the cinema - Tuesday being a cheap night - eventually picking "Hollow Man" to watch. I'm not sure if it was quite what I was expecting, with more than its fair share of gore and so on, but it was nevertheless a visually stunning film with a reasonable plot. As with most of the films I end up enjoying, it wasn't too cerebrally taxing - at the end of a long day I ask for nothing more nor less, really. After a swift drink at the Moon Under Water it was time to head home, and it wasn't long before I took advantage of an unusually early night for me, and was actually up at eight this morning without too much of a struggle!

There's a worship band practice tonight, up in Wolverton - or at least there had better be. I missed the first one after the summer, since no-one told me where it was even though I asked. I missed the second one, because it was publicised at the first. I'll be more than a little bit cross if there've been any changes of plan this time... I'm also a little miffed that because I only specified two Sundays I wasn't available to play, I've been scheduled to play at all the others - and one of the dates I've been excused is wrong anyway... I know I wanted to play a little more than I had of late, but this has swung too far the other way. All just teething troubles I hope, but it might be worth me having a word with someone.

And so endeth another day at work. I don't really have to tell you what it was like, do I?

One visit to Pizza Hut, one band practice, one long phone-call to Bristol, and one fairly good night's sleep later, here I am once again. Yes, a pretty worthwhile evening, all in all. And higher than average determination to make today worth it too, which I suspect is a Good Thing.

Oh, annoyingly, Westcroft Pizza Hut still had no carbonated soft drinks on tap last night. They didn't when we went for the buffet on Monday, though they had some bottled Pepsi and so on as an emergency measure - but last night, nothing fizzy at all. They eventually conceded that I could have a refillable orange squash instead at no extra cost; I just pretended it was flat Fanta, not too much of a stretch of the imagination, actually.

Did I mention Budgetphone before? I'm not sure I did. It's just that a while back I "won" a "competition" run by them to win a WAP mobile phone. That's "won" and "competition" in the loosest sense of the words. It turned out that everyone who entered "won", which is of course quids-in for Budgetphone who get a nice hefty commission from Orange for every phone they connect, far outweighing any handset costs. Did I mention the "prize" was only the handset, with the "winner" taking responsibility for contracts and all that stuff? Well as a further twist in the tale - both amusing, embarrassing and annoying - Budgetphone recently offered an additional "prize" of some money-off vouchers, after it turned out the phone they were offering is now available for free anyway. Trouble is, the message they sent included the e-mail addresses of all 500-odd "winners" - the perfect way for 500-odd miffed people to let each other know, at some length and with little restraint, what they thought of Budgetphone and their dubious "competitions" and privacy policy. Anyway, having done a bit of research, it turns out that Budgetphone would seem to be plain and simple con-artists, and have probably never sold a legitimate phone in their history. So just now I thought I would add weight to the complaints against them with my feelings on the matter, also copied to Orange and Ananova with whom the "competition" was run. It'll be interesting to see what happens, assuming anything happens at all and their customer service turns out to be of the same exemplary quality as their public relations. But you never know...

Just got what looks like a pre-prepared e-mail letter from Ananova's business development manager. I guess they've had a few complaints already!

And now, once again, it's time to go home. The prospect of a cheese and wine evening at neighbourhood group is rather tempting though, and I even remembered to chill the wine I'm taking. What can possibly go wrong?!

Oooh, just got another message from Ann at Ananova, this time an individual reply. Seems like she really wants to kick some Budgetphone bottom, and is asking for further information on their apparently dismal track record. I can feel a little research coming on... I doubt I'll be able to find anything that is much more than anecdotal, but I'm sure they'll appreciate even that.

Research done, and e-mail sent off. I doubt it's enough to cause Ananova and Orange to break off diplomatic relations with Budgetphone, but if it can at least cause a bit of a policy review there, it will have been worth it. Last night's neighbourhood group meeting was good - or at least once it got started anyway! For ages, it was just Seamus, Gill and myself, and we seriously doubted whether anyone else was going to turn up and help us get through the vast quantities of food and drink. Thankfully, however, Ken, Lesley, Chris and Claire later arrived, and a good time was had by all, and the last of us didn't leave until pushing midnight...

And so the weekend once again approaches. Today we have said our farewells to two members of the department - although Geoff is technically only taking a sabbatical, even if we don't really expect him to return. Ruth however really is going, after a bit of a false alarm a few months ago when she "left" but only to work for other people from the same office. Anyway, tonight there's a leaving do for Ruth, taking in various of Milton Keynes's city centre eateries and drinkeries, and I'll be going along for at least some of that. First venue is Bar Citrus, where there is the option of eating, and I'm pretty ravenous...

A long weekend, and I'm not terribly refreshed for the week ahead; indeed I nearly didn't make it in to work today, but with our pizza outing and so on this evening, I felt morally obliged...

Friday night's leaving revelries for Ruth were quite fun, but all except Bar Citrus were packed to the rafters, so having had my steak and chips there and then struggled for air at the Moon Under Water, I decided I'd say my farewells, brave the increasingly inclement weather, and walk home.

Saturday was the best day of the weekend really, driving home to see my parents once I'd done my usual shopping bits. I'd not been home for a couple of months I don't think, so it was good to see them and catch up with things in general. I also popped round to see my neighbour Becca, not least to offer her a lift to Alex and Catherine's wedding next month - though she pre-empted that by asking me first! - and ended up having quite a long chat round there before heading back to Milton Keynes for the night.

Sunday really was not a good day at all, feeling decidedly under the weather for some reason, and a bit psychologically low with it. I thought a stroll in the afternoon would remedy things, but I felt still worse for that, so ended up watching a video instead. Then Darren popped round to get a file off Mark's computer, and we had a bit of a chat, before it was time to head off to the evening meeting where I was playing. That was better than the morning one, but I was really too zonked to appreciate much of it, but somehow I kept enough energy to have another nice long phone-chat with Miranda afterwards before getting to bed a bit before midnight.

But yes, pizza tonight! Then round to Seamus's to sink a couple of beers! That's enough to pull me out of the deepest depressive trough...

I seem to be much in demand - or at least I was last night, anyway. The phone barely stopped ringing while I was at home, with invitations here there and everywhere. However, my evening was already fully booked, so I had to politely decline them all, though Ken eventually joined Seamus and myself after I'd been for pizza with Darren and Dave. So an altogether good evening, but a very long one, not getting away from Seamus's until well after midnight and then going for a freshening-up stroll by the canal with Ken. No idea what's happening for the rest of the week though - I hope last night's popularity wasn't just a flash in the pan, though I could do with catching up on some sleep sometime.

Hey, I just did a web search for myself - as one does, occasionally - and amongst all the other more predictable links, many to other people sharing my name needless to say, there was one at Duke University. This referred to a page on my site documenting my holiday in Slovenia in 1997, and was from a site all about Slovenia and other eastern European countries. Sadly the link was out of date, referencing my old Demon Internet web address, but it's kind of nice to be linked like that anyway, and I've e-mailed them the new address.

Got a seriously early night last night, still feeling physically very drained, and still was unable to muster the energy to get up before nine this morning. That was ten hours' sleep, and indeed I'd been semi-dozing for a couple of hours more than that, though keeping an ear open in case of phone calls - I was vaguely expecting a couple, and got one... Still struggling to stay awake now, half way through Wednesday morning.

Some nice post this morning, namely a letter dictated by my great-aunt Grace and a covering letter from her keyworker, thanking me for my recent visit and for sending on copies of the photographs we had taken while I was there. Turns out that Grace hasn't been too well, once again, but seems to be on the mend now and has been able to get out for "walks" on her Scoota when the weather's been fine. Once again they have asked that I can persuade my mum to send up some more family photographs and things. As it happens, I brought back a load with me for that specific purpose when I visited my parents last weekend, so I'll get those copied as soon as possible now.

Miranda's history, or so it would seem. Ever hopeful, me... But this time it just wasn't to be, anyway. Once again I think I have a new friend out of it, though, so it's not all doom and gloom.

And indeed I have just finished a near two-hour phone chat with an "old flame" of sorts. Life's like a revolving door sometimes, just one from which one frequently cannot escape, it would seem.

And suggestions this morning that "perhaps we should try again". What a dilemma of which to find oneself on the horns.

Just a matter of time, possibly? Anyway, it's Friday and the weekend is almost upon us once again. Today's provided a short diversion, testing out a RealAudio live streaming server on behalf of our Modern Languages department. I'm no longer officially assigned to them, but I still seem to be high on their list of people to ask about things like that, and it was a welcome distraction from ploughing through this numeracy software I'm currently concentrating on.

Saturday morning - more or less - cold and damp outside, and shopping needing to be done. I need something to break me out of this tedious mundanity and frustration at my living and working environments. Please, Lord?

Well I applied for a new job today, if that counts. I'm probably somewhat over-qualified even if the work would be right up my street in practice, but we'll see how we go, I guess. Also watched "A Clockwork Orange" tonight, now it's out on video finally after its ban was lifted; a very odd film indeed, but strangely compelling and watchable.

The extra hour last night with the clocks changing didn't make a lot of difference for me; I'm still shattered, just in time for the busy week ahead... Today's been busy too, even without an evening meeting to further complicate things. I played at this morning's meeting, which went quite well overall, being a dedication service and somewhat shorter than average. For the second week running, my friend's daughter Claire surprisingly begged me to give her a lift home, which I duly did, along with one of her sisters and her best friend. Remarkable, because generally she has no time for me for one reason or another, but has actually been very civilised towards me lately. Perhaps it's just because she wants something from me and knows she won't succeed if she is the "little madam" she has somewhat justifiably earned herself the reputation of. Whatever the reason, though, I'm not going to stand in her way if it's going to have such a positive effect and make life easier for everyone concerned. I know it isn't right to let kids get their own way all the time, and I hope I don't get a reputation as a soft touch - been there before - but if they will make a special effort to be polite in their approach and don't make a habit of it, then credit where credit is due, surely.

It's the end of October, and with it comes Hallowe'en once again. I'll refrain from my customary rant on the topic; I've said enough in the past and my stance hasn't changed. The floods have hit Milton Keynes again, after the violent storms the other evening. Many city roads were closed last night, presumably due to fallen trees, and the university once more finds itself surrounded by beautiful sheets of water. The university ring-road is of course closed, as it so often is under such conditions, after someone thought it a clever idea to re-route the nearby river. Nature has a habit of choosing paths of least resistance, and presuming that we know better invariably proves disastrous.

I seem to be making some progress in encouraging my neo-luddite parents to embrace new technology and the internet. My mum has for some years edited a club magazine, but refuses to use the somewhat old laptop computer provided for anything else, and certainly has always been disinclined to get a "proper" computer for more general use. However, my dad has now made the clearest indications so far that he would like a computer for doing photographic work on, specifically saying that when Mum finishes editing the magazine - a year's time, but she's been saying that for years - he will buy one and use the "office space" Mum currently occupies. This is not music to my mum's ears, however, because Dad can be a bit possessive about these things, and she would probably want to use it for word processing and especially the internet. Mum is increasingly realising she needs to get "on the net", with many of her friends now most easily contactable via e-mail and appreciating the wealth of information on the web, particularly stuff related to health and so on which she often finds herself calling on me to research for her.

So I am tentatively reviving my plans to buy them a half-decent computer system, that would emphatically be for both of them to use. My dad's interest comes as a bit of a surprise - though it's not the first time he's mentioned it, at least in passing - and does admittedly complicate things a little. If it had just been for my mum, I could have got away with something pretty basic, but Dad's needs would be more demanding, requiring things like a half-decent scanner - with transparency compatibility - as well as more hard-disk space, processing power, screen size and so on. He would also presumably want something like Photoshop for image editing, which doesn't come cheap; perhaps I could persuade him to buy the specific extras he would need... But whatever agreement we might arrive at, it's a triumph enough to have got this far and it would be great to keep the ball rolling!

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