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David's diary: February 2001

Celebration band practice last night was good, very flowing and with no cause for annoyance - unlike certain other practices I've been to lately... At the end we had a demo of the digital overhead projection system we're hoping soon to adopt, using some cunning software one of our computer professionals has conjured up over the last few weeks, and we'll hopefully be trying that out for real on Sunday. I also managed finally to get rid of my old MIDI keyboard to Tim, after many failed attempts due to him being ill and so on, though it's only on a trial basis and he may yet decide it's not for him. Otherwise, not a great deal's happening in any respect, but with the beginning of another month not only is it time for another diary archive but also a monthly progress report for work - not that I've done a great deal more than slowly trying to get to grips with Java programming.

Monthly progress report duly submitted, and about seventeen days of it was accounted for by "skills development", of which Java took the lion's share. Found out that the version of the Java development system I'm using is actually free, so I think I'll be installing that at home for my own purposes, just in case I can muster the enthusiasm to do any more hobby programming.

Last night's neighbourhood group meeting was surprisingly good, considering my low expectations, discussing many and varied topics in advance of another larger gathering next week. Sadly I'm not likely to be there next week thanks to my skiing lessons, but I'd like to think that some of the contributions I brought last night might not be completely dismissed as the ignorant ramblings of a clueless youngster. Speaking of which ... OK, I won't, I've had enough of the bees resident in my bonnet lately.

Before I went out last night I watched "The Princess Bride" - an oft-mentioned film I'd never got around to seeing - on a imported DVD Sam lent me. That was quite entertaining, and I think I might well watch it again over the weekend, especially now we've worked out how to region-unlock Mark's DVD player so as to be able to watch it on something somewhat better than a 17" monitor screen!

It's been a so-so weekend, with definite and quite violent ups and downs. When it was good, it was very very good - but when it was bad it was horrid. I won't dwell too much on the lowlights, but the highlights included a reasonably fun cheese and wine evening at Jane's on Saturday, both the morning and evening Celebration meetings yesterday and tea round at Giles and Jeanne's yesterday afternoon. Other than that, it was really quite ordinary, and indeed a little depressingly so at times. Anyway, should be making a prompt getaway from work this evening in order to go to the first of our week of skiing lessons - should be fun, though I hope I don't end up in traction too early in the week, because I'm not at all sure they do refunds!

One lesson down, four to go. In truth, if I'd not pre-paid for the rest of the week I'm not entirely certain I'd be carrying on, but I may as well make the most of it now, and the instructor insisted that the first lesson is always the hardest. I had two main problems - even if they weren't as logged on the somewhat fictional record card - which were getting off the travelator, and standing up after my all-too-frequent falls, the latter being particularly demoralising. The actual going-down-the-hill bit wasn't too bad, and I seemed to do better than some of the others in that regard, even if I made full use of the safety netting at the bottom! The main thing for tonight is to wear less; the original advice was to wrap up warm, but in practice the hired jacket and salopettes are almost as much as you'd want to wear, and the first thing I did when I got home last night was to have a bath as a matter of considerable urgency...

Mark and Darren had other things they had to go to immediately afterwards - so were no doubt somewhat aromatic! - but once I'd had my bath I gave my friend Ken a ring, and we walked down to the Barge for a couple of pints, which wrapped up the evening quite nicely. I'm supposedly busy later every evening this week, with astronomy club tonight, worship school tomorrow and neighbourhood group Thursday, all of which I'd like to get along to if I can, but on the basis of last night I'll probably not be ready to go out again in time to really be worth it in most cases. Thankfully this morning my legs are nowhere near as stiff as I'd feared - they were aching a lot immediately after the lesson, and it was a bit touch and go for walking to the pub, but all seems fine now.

I'm getting promiscuous - but only with my choice of internet service provider, fear not! Many months ago I cancelled my contract with Demon, because their quality of service had gone through the floor and I was not happy paying them any more. I moved to Freeserve, who did well for a long while, then their web access started failing more often than not which made them of somewhat limited use. With no sign of improvement, or even acknowledgement of what was a major problem, I moved to UKOnline, who impressed immediately with the speed of access and so on, but the honeymoon was swiftly over with a whole string of e-mail faults over the last few days. I concede that these things are sometimes unavoidable, but when it's so easy to switch to a different ISP, I really had no reason to stick with them, especially when it started looking like mail had gone missing and I certainly couldn't rely on it for same-day communication any more. So as of today, I'm a Clara user, and they seem pretty good so far; quick and easy to set up and lightning fast - I just wonder how long it can last... At least since the only e-mail address I publicise is my domain one, all I have to do is adjust the forwarding and no-one need ever know - a far cry from some people I know who still have to maintain half a dozen different ISP accounts because they've given out addresses for all of them at some time or other! OK, a domain normally costs a few pounds to set up, but it's well worth it in this age of service providers going up and down like yo-yos, cheap access deals and so on, just to keep things simple for everyone!

Second evening of skiing completed, and I'm definitely improving, especially in the area of confidence, and when the sport - at least at the recreational level - is about 10% skill and 90% confidence, that's no bad thing. In fact, as a result of that confidence, I only fell over once during last night's session and that was just manoeuvring my way to the travelator, even if I did come close to breaking my legs in the process. Thankfully my agonised screams drew the attention of Mark and the instructor to help me up before any damage was done! So apart from that very early mishap the session went really well, and I'd definitely say I enjoyed last night immensely more than Monday, and despite a slight language barrier our Bulgarian instructor was better at one-to-one tuition which was a real help. As was the case after Monday's session, my legs really don't ache much at all, but my arms are killing me somewhat for reasons unknown, but I'm far from the only one in the group to complain of such symptoms so I guess it's normal!

Third night down, and still no bones broken even despite a fair few impressive wipe-outs. My piece-de-resistance was actually the least painful, with me somewhat humorously ending up back on the travelator after an otherwise textbook left turn, much to the amusement of just about everyone present. I've been advised to try shorter skis tonight, which should make maintaining the snowplough position a bit easier for someone with legs like mine. I did have a couple of really good runs, though, which did no end of good for my confidence, even if I wiped out right at the end of one of them. Still enjoying it a lot, anyway, and although my ankles were very painful last night and I couldn't help but limp my way back to the car, I can't wait for tonight!

Oh, changing the subject completely, I forgot to mention that I got a reply back from Power Internet about the technical authoring job I applied for there a couple of weeks ago. As you can probably guess from the lack of urgency with which I got round to reporting it, it was a rejection letter, but - as always - they say they'll keep me on file and all that. Another door pushed, another door closed. One day, one day...

Still fully intact, which is I fear more than could be said for one of the gentlemen on the nursery slope last night who I think might have had to be carted off on a stretcher. They reckon they normally get about one serious accident a week, though I'd imagine that's skewed by the number of people doing crazy things with snowboards and so on. Anyway, the shorter 150cm skis proved to be a great success, and I managed some really good runs amongst the less successful ones, finally getting the hang of speed control and turning with only the occasional mishap.

We also tried the Poma draglift for the first time, which was much nicer - and faster - to use than the conveyor-belt travelator we'd been getting up the slopes on previously. That however was the cause of my most embarrassing incident of the night when somehow I managed to fall off the thing, my second-most embarrassing one being when me and another guy forgot to get off it and ended up at the top of one of the main slopes without a great deal of inclination to hurl ourselves down to certain oblivion!

We get a night off tonight, Friday being the snowboarding evening, but will be back tomorrow evening and have agreed to meet up beforehand with some of the other guys for a final social opportunity. It's been great like that throughout the week, making some good friends from all walks of life, a definite advantage of staying in the same small group throughout. I just hope that by the end of it all, I can get that vital tick at the top-right of my progress record card, though it's been excellent fun regardless!

Oh yes, after skiing last night we thought we would try out the Wetherspoons "curry club" at the Moon Under Water in the snowdome. Curry, rice, naan breads, poppadoms, mango chutney and a pint - or a bottle of Kingfisher - all for a fiver really wasn't bad at all. Hardly the best curry I'd ever had - I went for the chicken tikka masala option, which was a bit too creamy for my liking - but for the money it was hard to complain. Less satisfactory was my tikka being stone cold at the bottom of the dish, but that was nothing that couldn't be rectified by a brief nuking in their microwave.

My right arm is absolutely killing me right now; good thing it's the last lesson tonight, or it would probably be falling off before long!

Well it's later Saturday now, and I'm back from the ski-centre, with that vital box on my record card duly ticked. Tonight's session was excellent, with everything coming together for the final push towards the necessary competence to use the slopes unsupervised. We even tried one of the main slopes for our very last run, which was the first time in the evening I'd fallen mid-run, and a vast improvement on the previous few nights' experience. Anyway, it's all over now, and I'm itching to get back - a far cry from my feelings after Monday's first lesson when I could easily have given up there and then had I not had the lessons pre-booked. They run cheap three-hour sessions on Monday and Friday mornings, which Darren is certainly interested in, so I expect we'll be back very very soon...

I want to ski! I'm sure it's something they put in the snow that fuels a craving. Trouble is, Mark can't really make it to the best value sessions, and Darren's still awaiting word on whether they're going to buy in some hire boots that'll fit him properly, and I don't really know anyone else who'd go with me - or I probably don't, anyway... Hmm, I wonder.

Went out for a pizza at Ask last night with Darren, and addiction got the better of us afterwards, drawing us towards the cafe at the ski-centre with its views up the main slopes. I remember first visiting a couple of months back and being utterly petrified by the mere thought of hurling myself down the snowy slopes - I have to say I did have to be talked into the idea of having the lessons last week; it was by no means a no-brainer. But last night everything seemed so much less daunting, and we could relate to what even some of the best skiers there were doing. Darren's making a bit of progress about the ill-fitting boots, with the centre's operations manager and Salomon both on the case, and the opportunity for a couple of free one-to-one lessons to make up for lost time once they've got everything sorted out. Oh, and as for the pizza at Ask earlier in the evening? Well it's not the kind of place to go if ravenously hungry, but if taste's your thing, then it's well worth a visit and about as authentic Italian style as I've seen outside the Mediterranean. We did have to educate our waiter about security with old-fashioned carbon-copy credit card slips, but were gratified to see him passing on our advice to the rest of the staff as we left the restaurant.

Well the good news today is that I got a nice little package in the post at work, namely a CompactFlash and SmartMedia compatible USB dual card-drive for my home PC. The bad news is that although it installed easily and seems to work well, I have somehow rendered my sole 4Mb SmartMedia card utterly incompatible with my keyboard from whence it came and only formattable to 2Mb on my PC.

The keyboard refuses to acknowledge the card to be formatted at all, and any attempt to format it from the keyboard causes it to complain that it is a "bad card" and go no further. Needless to say, whatever the truth in that final judgement, this is disturbing, and somewhat defeating the object of my having bought the card-drive.

Of course it is feasibly possible that with careless handling I really have damaged the card - SmartMedia seems a very vulnerable medium compared with CompactFlash - but it seems odd that it will continue to format and work on the PC, albeit to a lower capacity, just not the keyboard. It could also be a bug in the keyboard, but it's strange that the PC picks up the wrong size, and sadly all firmware updates on the keyboard are done via SmartMedia so if there's a problem there I could be truly stuffed!

Darren's supposed to be popping round sometime soon to offload the Revive pictures from the 8Mb SmartMedia card which survived him treading on his camera, and I'm more than a little afraid that his card might go the same way... Maybe this is what they really meant by "plug and pray"?

Well I've just got back from Darren's, and once we'd installed the card-drive on his Windows 2000 machine all was fine for getting the pictures off his 8Mb SmartMedia card. Windows ME wouldn't play ball at all, but never mind - just another hiccup to bear in mind for the future. Darren also somehow managed to persuade my quirky card to reformat to its full 4Mb, but my keyboard still doesn't like it for some reason. Thankfully his 8Mb card seems to work fine all round, and since it's now useless to him since he broke his camera, he'll sell it to me for a few quid which will suit me to the ground. I've tried copying a WAV file from my PC onto the card and loading it into the keyboard, and that worked without any hitches at all. So what's up with the 4Mb one remains a mystery, but I might see if anyone wants to try it in their digital camera, and if it works they can keep it.

Hmm, I can feel a Napster rant coming on...

So I suppose I'd better write one, hadn't I?

Napster is a popular system that lets millions of people worldwide search and exchange MP3 audio files via the internet. There's nothing wrong in that per se, except for the fact that the overwhelming use of the system is for the unauthorised distribution of copyright material. Now there is a vociferous minority of people who will defend this by pointing out that they use it as a "try before you buy" facility, or to obtain long-deleted material unavailable by any other means. I have some sympathy for these people, but the fact remains that most of Napster's users are nothing more than thieving cheapskates along for the free ride.

Napster's protagonists bay to the record industry "adapt! adapt!" but without actually suggesting any viable alternatives. Per-track charging, DIY compilation CD kiosks and various other ideas have been devised, but they are all wasted effort in the presence of the majority of thieving cheapskates. Given the choice between a full-price CD, a lower-price "something else" or "everything you want for free", for anyone without a great deal of moral scruples - which seems to be most of Napster's users - it's a no-brainer decision. Those who want to pay will, those who don't won't - there's precious little middle ground worth pursuing.

So the only "adaptation" the record industry can implement is to shut up shop and forget it altogether. Some seem to consider that a perfect solution, the end of the evil money-grabbing corporations and their pitiful artist royalty payments. But let's look at the downside - no more easily available recordings for anyone not lucky enough to be on the 'net, no more publicity for bands, no more advances for them to get started in the first place, no more youngsters being inspired to enter the field. Basically, the entire music scene we know and love would fall apart at the seams, and just because of the selfish demands of our thieving cheapskates.

Sure, shut down Napster or begin charging for its use, and the problem goes elsewhere to somewhere even less accountable - and there are many such systems waiting in the wings should Napster by taken off-line - so maybe something's got to give somewhere, and certainly the record companies do have a case to answer. But just because a wanted criminal jumps the country, changes his name and wears a false moustache, doesn't make him no longer a wanted criminal; just because the Napster alternatives are even less accountable than Napster itself doesn't suddenly make them all right - except in the eyes of our thieving cheapskates of course.

Then there is Napster's ludicrous protestation that they're not doing anything illegal anyway! All they say they are doing is enabling users to swap MP3 files, and it's the users' responsibility to make sure they are acting within the law. Sounds fair enough, until you consider what the attitude might be had it been kiddie porn or whatever that the system had been specifically set up to traffic in - "oh, but it's our users' choice". The main reason for these protestations is of course that Napster is getting huge financial support from venture capitalist backers, and it wouldn't be good press for them actually to admit that they are mainly subsidising thieving cheapskates rather than supporting "the future of the music industry".

This is perhaps why the record industry is pursuing Napster with so much more vengeance than any of the other services of its ilk - it's commercial piracy by the back-door, no more, no less. Just because the end-users aren't paying for the pirate copies doesn't make it not commercial, any more than say Internet Explorer or Netscape are not commercial web browsers for example. Basically, Napster should be treated with at least the same contempt as market stalls selling pirate CDs. Why? Because at the end of the day the only differences are that someone else is paying for it and that it's at a global scale.

And all the while, the artists are losing out. "Make your money playing live!" the protagonists protest. However, they conveniently forget that gigging and so on are loss-leading activities to promote sales of artists' recordings; the typical pub band barely makes a minimum wage per member on a gig. Take away the bread and butter of the CD sales and there is simply no future. It may be true that signed artists don't see much of the revenue from their recordings, but a little is better than nothing - nothing being all the thieving cheapskates want their "favourite bands" to get before they have to fold for lack of revenue.

Is that really what we want the future of our music industry to look like, a silent and desolate wasteland inhabited only by lamenting cheapskate "music lovers" nursing the gunshot wounds to their feet?

Interesting to note that Word's spell-checker corrects "Napster" to "Nastier".

No Valentine greetings to speak of yesterday, but I did have an interesting relationship-related chat with Jeanne in the evening. She and her husband Giles are training up to become leaders in the fellowship, and as part of the process, Jeanne needed to interview some single people to find out their perceptions and opinions. I was encouraged to be as open and frank as possible, and it would all be recorded anonymously, but I think I was overwhelmingly positive about my experience, which came as a surprise to me, to be quite honest! Where there were negative things, I was generally able to offer constructive suggestions for how things might be improved. How much of this will be treated purely as academic exercise for the purposes of Giles and Jeanne's training I'm not sure, but I guess if at some point they do become leaders for real, then there is a chance for change - though I dearly hope by then I will not be single any more...

Housegroup was OK last night, I suppose, but I can't say I'm over-enthusiastic about it at present. I appreciate there probably was a need for change, what with the exodus from Springfield of late, but although I'm not jumping ship quite yet, I have to say I'm keeping my options open in that regard as much as anything else in life right now.

Hey, the week's almost up - that's reason enough to be positive! Tomorrow morning I should be going up to Leamington with Darren, in order to check out ski-boots at a rather good specialist shop there; they supply the British Olympic team and are not extortionate, which sounds a good combination, and have already talked to Darren about his somewhat special requirements. Other than that, I've not got a huge amount planned for the weekend. I am on the chair rota for Sunday morning's meeting, which means I can't take off for the weekend or anything fun like that, but it's only a few minutes of my time and a good excuse for a rare morning off from playing in the worship band, so I'm not really complaining.

Oh well, we didn't go to Leamington in the end, because Darren unexpectedly found a perfectly good pair of boots at the ski-shop in the snow-dome, and at a seriously knock-down price for somewhere with a reputation of being so expensive. So to make my wander up to the city centre worthwhile, we went for a look round the shopping centre instead, including taking in the wonderful delicacies of the newly-opened Cinnabon cafe. Apart from that, I've not done a huge amount today, just enjoying the peace and quiet and messing around a bit more with my keyboard, Logic and the card-writer.

A quiet Sunday. Can't decide whether or not it's a good thing.

And an uneventful Monday, too. With no evening meeting due to half-term, ended up going out for pizza last night with Darren and another Mark. We were thinking of trying Pizza Hut's takeaway deal, but the lure of the waitress service was just too great and we ended up eating in instead. Other than that, not a great deal to report on, though looking forward to this evening when I should be taking a stroll down to the Barge with Ken and Seamus, to make a change from the usual Monday evening eating-out routine.

Last night's walk down to the Barge was fun enough, and I had the chance for a play with Ken's new guitar while we waited for Seamus to get out of the shower. I had good news to relay too, in that one of the homeless guys we know in the city centre has almost definitely landed himself with a decently-paid job and a roof over his head, hopefully starting in a fortnight's time. Today's been decidedly typically boring, with the only real diversion being e-mailed an MP3 file from Shine's forthcoming second album to cut on to a CD for them to rehearse to, which I duly dropped off at their office at lunchtime. That meant negotiating the annoying roadworks between Walton Hall and Simpson for the second time today - this time with the traffic lights going hazardously mad in their sequencing - but thankfully they'd been removed by the time I came back, even if the works are supposed to be continuing for another three weeks, alas.

I arrived home yesterday evening to find a message on the answering machine from Sarah, asking if there was any chance of me popping round sometime to help set up and sort out their newly-delivered computer. When I finally managed to get through - and spoke at first to a somewhat impatient Claire - we agreed I'd visit at about eight by which time Sarah would hopefully have got Rachael off to bed. No such luck though, with all attempts to sneak in relatively unnoticed failing dismally and Rachael not too easily convinced that there wasn't going to be anything interesting to see. Somehow we succeeded though, Rachael settled down, and we got the computer set up quickly and easily. Thankfully it all powered on fine, and Windows ME largely seemed to look after configuring itself in a fairly painless fashion. Once the novelty of Word 2000's infuriating "office assistants" had worn off a little, we moved on to setting up dial-up internet access. The supplied Dell connection turned out just to be BT Click in disguise so was not really suitable for e-mail, but it was good enough to get us to the sign-up page for a "proper" ISP, and now all Sarah's family have an e-mail address of their own and there was a flurry of messages from them in my own in-box when I got to work this morning. There are probably a few more odd little things I probably need to adjust and show them how to do, but we're basically there, and not before time!

ASK take-away pizza for four quid, and booked up some more skiing for Darren and myself at the snowdome - it's been a decidedly reasonable evening!

I am slowly realising something very very bad about me and my life. More later when I understand it a bit better, maybe.

Or maybe not. In the middle of writing something more about it all, I got a phone-call that cheered me immensely, but I'm sure by this time tomorrow I'll be back to square one and will finish it off... But I hope not, and thanks as ever for all the words of support and comfort - much appreciated, really.

OK, the concise version is that I care too much about other people to the detriment of myself, and I'm not even sure half the time what the motivation of my care for others actually is - it's even got me in trouble once or twice. Being selfless - so long as it's for the right reasons, which I can't say I'm totally certain of - is all very well and laudable, until it gets to the point where I no long feel any motivation for self-betterment. Having realised it, now to rectify it. That's all I have to say on the matter, for now at least.

Well contrary to all expectations, I still feel on a modest high, but that might be just because I've provisionally arranged something for later this afternoon that keeps the ball rolling a little.

Yesterday evening was a lot of fun, and a little different to the norm, taking advantage of having the house to myself this week in order to invite Sarah, Laura and Rachael round for a rare meal. Chicken nuggets and chips went down predictably well with the youngsters, and I cooked up a somewhat experimental variation on my favourite cheese and pesto pasta dish for the rest of us. Finely sliced chicken breast fried with paprika and onion seasoning added a bit of meat to what's normally a vegetarian dish for me, and we both agreed it was decidedly yummy, especially washed down with a nice bottle of Sardinian white and followed by a somewhat indulgent chocolate gateau.

We played a few games around eating - it made a change to play something other than Monopoly or Cluedo! - and then it was about time to head back to Sarah's to get a certain little one off to bed and for me to install some educational games on their computer and help Laura try them out. Oh, and also to install some mathematics tutorial software for Sarah, which she tells me she was up until three o'clock this morning trying with varying degrees of success!

Anyway, I was up in good time today because I was going to go and watch Rachael on the new city-centre climbing wall this morning, but that's been put off until this afternoon probably, so I can take things a little bit more easily now! I need to pop up to the shops before then anyway, but there's no big hurry now, and I might even go and have a bit of a lie down for a little while seeing as I really was up unhealthily early today!

Well, having friends round on Friday evening meant the weekend was considerably more fulfilling than often is the case, and certainly made it seem considerably longer - yesterday felt like it should have been today! However, it was by no means a relaxing weekend - and not enough opportunities to lie in, once again - so I'm just as tired as usual for a Monday, if not more so.

Rachael's climb on Saturday afternoon went fairly well, but unsurprisingly it was somewhat busier than her first visit, apparently, so she didn't get as much individual help - and being quite small for her age, she needed it quite often really. The other two soon decided they wanted a go too, so we stayed around for another session, before going back to Sarah's for tea - I had my car, since I'd collected them all from the railway station earlier. Winter had revisited by the time I left, and I had to clear a load of snow off my car before I could drive home, and Mark arrived back from his skiing holiday - in one piece, thankfully! - soon after.

Sunday ended up a somewhat strange day, including playing in the band at church in the morning, a buffet curry with Darren at the Jaipur for lunch, almost shoplifting a bottle of Lilt - quite accidental, and no offence taken, thankfully! - and a pancake party at Alan's followed by a game of Scrabble at Andy and Rosie's. Somehow I won quite substantially at Scrabble, though clearing out my rack on a triple-word score early in the game helped somewhat, and I did get the pick of the high-scoring letters at useful times. Received a rather strange and slightly disturbing e-mail when I got home, and hoped it wasn't too late to give the sender a phone-call - thankfully it wasn't, and my call was appreciated, though all my plans for an early night went straight out of the window...

Last night didn't quite work out as planned, with Dave otherwise unavailable and Darren running very late getting home from work. We'd intended to go for a curry at the new Chillies buffet, to make use of my newly acquired discount card, then the plan changed to get a Chinese take-away. However the take-away was closed - we forgot it shuts quite early on weekdays - so we went for a buy-one-get-one-free offer at the pizza place next door. And very pleasant that was too.

It's neighbourhood-group pancake night tonight, though, and that will certainly be going ahead as planned! I managed to persuade them to move it from Thursday, so as not to appear too "religious" to any non-Christian visitors - and also of course so as not to break Lent, strictly speaking... There was also the hidden agenda that someone I'm hoping to bring along tonight - lured by the mere mention of ice-cream and chocolate sauce - might not have been able to make it on Thursday, so everyone's a winner really!

Mmm, pancakes Sunday, pancakes for lunch, and pancakes this evening... it's not possible to overdose, is it?

Unlike some people I could mention, I did at least moderate on my pancake intake. I think I had one with sugar and freshly-squeezed lemon, and two with raspberry ripple ice-cream and chocolate sauce. I daresay I would have had more had others been similarly inclined, but I would have felt a bit self-conscious, and besides, I seemed to be in charge of cooking so didn't really have a lot of time! My friend Sharon came down from Northampton by train as planned, and after I'd completed my mission to locate the only raspberry ripple ice-cream in town, dropped it off back at home and freshened myself up, I collected her from the station. Sharon seemed to get on well with my fellow neighbourhood group members, though it was a shame we didn't have any other friends or neighbours along as we'd hoped. We'd been planning to give Darren a visit before the evening was done since Sharon knows him too, but he paged me to say he wasn't feeling good and was going to get an early night, so we hit the road back to Northampton a bit sooner than we might - Sharon didn't much fancy standing around railway stations late at night - though it was still pushing one o'clock by the time I got to bed. And no, I wasn't in work on time this morning I'm afraid.

Hmm, feeling quite rough today. I think I'm going down with something.

I left work early in the end, showing some degree of respect for my colleagues' well-being. Despite twice saying I'm not well and likely to be taking tomorrow off, people are still repeatedly trying to persuade me to come out tonight, but it's really not going to happen. Can people not take an unsubtle hint?!

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