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David's diary: March 2001

And lo, I am at home, feeling no better. Bed beckons once again.

Been having a quiet and relaxing day, sleeping quite a bit, reading a little, and absolutely staying indoors - especially given the snow flurries from time to time, and more forecast for tonight quite possibly. Thankfully my appetite's not been hit too hard, and I feel a bit better for having had an almost certainly more balanced diet than I usually manage! Whether I'll be fit to return to work tomorrow, we shall see this time tomorrow morning, but then it'll be the weekend anyway.

Back at work today, but for how long will remain to be seen.

Time for another hit from the Vicks, methinks.

Forget "cash for questions". I'd better be well by this time tomorrow, because I'm committed to taking part in a "meal for maths" scandalous scheme. I think I'll be OK by then, though hardly on top form I doubt.

Still a bit congested and sniffy, but I now also have a decent supply of 1000mg vitamin C, and it's beginning to kick in. I think I'll be all right now...

Oh well, I wasn't all right really, but - for better or for worse - I fought on regardless, and am rather paying the price today. If I'd not been in the band for Celebration, I'd probably have given it a miss altogether this morning, but for one reason or another I'm glad I went. Going to go get some rest now, and see how I feel for the evening meeting.

Well I made it along for the evening too, and again glad I went, and apart from my throat being a bit too sore to give it my all for more than the first few minutes, I survived OK. Went for a drink with Darren afterwards - I was just going to go straight home to bed, so I must have recovered quite a bit! - to catch up on life in general, and now I'm back at work, feeling so-so...

Darren, Dave and myself thought we'd try out the new Chillies Indian buffet in the theatre district last night. Just for a change, like, and in no way biased by the fact that I have a half-price discount card, oh no. Not the best curry we've ever had, but very acceptable for the reduced price, and I'm sure we'll be back in due course! Oh, and the mixture of pistachio, coconut and mango kulfi - sprinkled with weird stuff that looked like grated carrot but wasn't - was decidedly delicious for the included dessert. Next time we'll make sure we've got a bit more appetite, though!

So much for any plans for a modestly early night yesterday, ending up on the phone for an hour and a half, long after I'd intended to be well off to the land of nod. It was a good evening, though, earlier being the AGM for the Astronomy Club - not the most exciting event on the club's calendar one might think, but the formalities were over in about fifteen minutes, with the bulk of the evening given over to our guest speaker Colin Pillinger, talking about the background to the Beagle 2 Mars mission he's heading up. Work's quite busy at the moment, hence my intentions to get a bit more sleep than usual, though I did manage to get into the office about half an hour earlier than usual this morning which was quite an achievement for me! I'm quite getting into this Java programming I'm doing at the moment, though it's very mechanical stuff using pre-written libraries, so it's not giving me the general background to the language I could do with, even if it is making me feel quite comfortable with the development environment. I'm behind schedule a bit, though, which is why things have hotted up somewhat over the last few days, but it's by no means as hard work as I was perhaps fearing, and there's no reason why this particular software package shouldn't end up quite polished.

It's been another quite productive day at work; I seem to perform quite well when there's a bit of pressure on, even if it does leave me somewhat mentally exhausted. I have yet another evening out tonight, with Tim's worship school session up in Wolverton; I'd better go, since I missed last month's due to my skiing, though I have to admit I'd rather get an early night. Thankfully it doesn't tend to finish exceptionally late, so as long as I don't get too sidetracked I should be all right.

I had a bit of a panic yesterday morning, when Phil wanted to see the software up and running, and it was decidedly unstable and I'd perhaps been more than a little optimistic about the current state of play. However, when I went to show him mid-afternoon, the Java wouldn't run over the network at all and he said I should go and sort that out before doing anything else - and now he's busy until Friday, so it's bought me some extra time - which I've been making full use of today! - to get things looking a bit more polished and functional. There's still a fair way to go, but at least the reality now more or less matches my claims, so if I can keep the ball rolling for a few more days I should be well on top of the development schedule.

OK, so that was a development schedule that originally had predicted the whole thing would have been finished by the end of last month, but hey...

So much for Tim's worship school not finishing late, because it did somewhat, though it was worth going to on balance - especially with the doughnuts, which I'd clean forgotten about from previous sessions. Had a chat on the net with Jo when I got back home, and it sounds like I'll be going down to Cornwall to visit again sometime in the next few weeks - she'd like me to visit before she moves house, but I'm not sure whether that's going to be possible. Oh, and then I saw my housemate Mark for the first time in a week - he's been around, but our paths simply hadn't crossed - who had some mixed-blessing news to share about possible future domestic arrangements. Well, he seemed happy enough about it, but I'm not sure he knows quite what he might be letting us both in for if he goes ahead. Nothing's decided yet, though, but this could be the spur I need to get me into a place of my own and really start sorting my life out.

Three hours of skiing this morning, wahay! Better get up and dressed, I guess.

Survived in one piece, despite some spectacular fairly high-speed crashes, and had an altogether great time. Three hours was a really quite comfortable time to ski for, though I did take a ten-minute breather half way through. Used poles for the first time, and I think they were aiding my balance a bit, though the first couple of runs with them they were more of an encumbrance than anything! Now I'm back at work and feeling quite shattered - not literally, thankfully - but it's Friday afternoon and I can go home in a couple of hours anyway, and then it's the weekend...

It's being a tiring weekend, to be honest - but not tiresome by any means. Lots of food for thought too, realisation of truths - some happy, some not so, but all valuable. This weekend - like life itself - is an adventurous journey through a varied landscape, and in some ways it's only just begun...

And now it's over and I'm back at work. Or is it over? Oh, goodness knows.

Though I get an evening off tonight, of sorts, with neither Dave nor Darren keen to go for our regular Monday meal out. However, I've been e-mailed a short essay I've agreed to look over for someone, both to proof-read it and see where it might be improved - I'm a little concerned it might not be answering the question, to be blunt - so I'm sure I'll be kept plenty busy enough!

That did indeed keep me quite busy enough, along with answering a couple of "help!" phone-calls while I was trying to eat my tea... Also seems we have a new housemate, though I only know that from what I've overheard.

Too hot today - Spring must be here, even if it's not officially due until 1.30pm on 20 March or something! I guess I shouldn't complain really, given how winter depresses me, but it just seems impossible to anticipate a thing. Today's not being quite such a good day at work anyway, after a modestly productive past week, but a few things nagging on my mind aren't helping in the slightest.

It's my sister's birthday today, so happy birthday Ali, in the phenomenally unlikely event you're reading this!

Last night was OK, I suppose. I came home via Ask, buying a take-away spicy chicken pizza and garlic bread - most delicious, perhaps even better than the four seasons one I normally have! - and then going out to a Centre band practice in Wolverton. No big surprises there, and nothing to specifically infuriate me this time, but it was all just rather workmanlike. I thought worship was supposed to fire up and enthuse, but there wasn't much evidence of that there last night and I know I wasn't the only one feeling that way.

Anyway, on with work today, joy of joys. Java, Java, Java...

More "meal for maths" scandal tonight, this time working on trigonometry rather than medians, interquartile ranges and probability trees. I think it's likely to be pretty straightforward stuff, and that's just as well seeing as I have a few other things to do this evening - not least taking my colleague Tim up to Crownhill to collect his car from servicing, and neighbourhood group later.

Yesterday evening was very long, and full of decidedly mixed fortunes. Dropping Tim off at Crownhill was straightforward enough, although rush-hour traffic is something I normally somehow manage to avoid but impressively failed yesterday, though I still managed to keep just about on schedule for my evening's activities! Trigonometry was no problem, just basic application of the SOH-CAH-TOA rules - I'm glad these were the same as I was taught at school way back when! - to find either unknown side lengths or angles on triangles, with bangers and mash the welcome payment in kind.

Neighbourhood group in the conventional sense didn't take place in the end, with an emergency "family evening" in Wolverton being called instead, with Roger ringing round the entire church yesterday to let us know. Sarah, whose maths I had been helping with, also wanted to go and had been able to arrange a babysitter, so that worked out quite conveniently given her lack of transport. To cut a long story very short - not that I know much detail, and wouldn't relate it here even if I did - Paul and Carol, enthusiastic pastors of Centre Church for the last year or so, have resigned their position, and seem to have left an atmosphere of bewilderment and great unhappiness at the handling of what was evidently a long-brewing situation. Already, a number of key members of Centre have announced their intention to leave the fellowship - with more to follow, undoubtedly - and that I feel is the saddest thing about the whole sorry episode. I won't say any more now, though, because I don't want to go jumping to conclusions or forming any kind of public opinion on the matter until the dust has settled a little.

Thankfully I didn't have to go to bed pondering too many what-ifs and so on, since what was intended to be a quick e-mail check and an early night ended up carrying on until gone one o'clock chatting on-line to people who were able to offer both support and an escape from the evening's troubles. Of course, it meant I struggled to get up in time for work this morning, but it's nearly the weekend...

Saturday lunch booked already! I really am going to have to maintain a better diary before I end up letting someone down...

Not just Saturday lunch, but Saturday tea, Sunday lunch - albeit at McDonalds - and Sunday tea in the end, actually. Yes, an altogether decidedly good weekend; I don't really have to say it - though I will anyway - but my friends here are truly wonderful, and I don't know what I'd do without them. Sure, there are moments when I really wonder what on earth I'm doing - normally when I'm being screamed at, jumped on or otherwise terrorised from multiple directions simultaneously - but it all makes sense in the end, honest!

Sunday morning was surprisingly good too, though I guess we shouldn't have been too surprised really given the amount of prayer that surely led up to it. After Thursday night's events, it seemed likely that there would be hardly anyone there, but it ended up a reasonably packed house for a third Sunday of the month - no children in the main meeting, you see - and the Jesus-centred message sung and preached was spot on, and hopefully served as a blunt reminder to anyone who was there for anything other than the right reason.

But now it's time to get on with another week at work - a decided anticlimax, it has to be said.

I know this is a few days late, but I had a very odd dream the other night. Normally, dreams either seem significant to me, or are complete and utter rubbish, the source inspiration for which is fairly obvious. But this one was just weird, and seemed totally real at the time. In my dream, I was an adult helping at some kind of school dramatic production, a key part of which was to be a trombone solo played by a girl aged no more than seven or eight. However, it rapidly became clear that her playing skill was atrocious, and it just so happened that I had my own trombone - not an instrument I have ever even tried to play in real life - with me so I thought I would do her a favour by masking her mistakes a bit, even though I was not brilliant myself. Needless to say, she was mortified and left the stage in tears, and I was most definitely the villain of the piece. In a fit of conscience I later felt obliged to go and apologise to her, and someone helped me find her at a croquet game or some kind of garden party. She was decidedly hostile and took some convincing I really had no malice in my earlier actions and that I'd only been trying to help, but we got there in the end, I think. Bizarre stuff, but vivid...

This morning was an annoyance-and-a-half, though. When I arrived home last night there was a message on the answerphone from Gareth asking if I could help load and unload the Shine van for their week at Denbigh School starting this morning. Fine, no problem, even if it meant getting a slightly earlier night than I'd planned in order to have a hope of being up in time this morning. All went to plan until the actual journey to Denbigh School, mainly because I had somewhat foolishly assumed that it was in the district of Milton Keynes called Denbigh. In fact, it was almost as far from Denbigh as was possible, a fact I only discovered having gone most of the way to Bletchley in heavy rush-hour traffic. By the time I arrived at Denbigh School, I was running late, there was nowhere to park, and I was pretty fuming about the traffic I somehow normally manage to avoid, so with a shrug to Gareth I decided I'd forget it and head to work - and just as well, because I had an early meeting I'd forgotten!

Today, however, I paid the price for my early and hectic morning yesterday. I would get an alarm clock with a snooze button, but I like the one I've got - which was a present - and this happens so rarely anyway... Suffice to say I overslept somewhat, and then despite skipping breakfast was delayed still further by playing "hunt the parking space" for about a quarter of an hour once I got here. Eventually I found an overflow car-park I never even knew existed, though of course that means I have the challenge of finding my way back there after work today. I need to leave in good time this evening, too, having promised to go check Sarah's computer over this evening in return for a bite to eat. Last night I had an anxious phone-call from her, when she found it would barely power on at all; she later e-mailed me to say it had started working again, but she still wants me to have a look at it just in case.

I finally got invoiced today by Nominet for my own domain, goznet.co.uk as you should all be well aware, especially if you are reading this from my diary archives a couple of months from now! This was another domain registered by those naughty people at Thename, who weren't passing on the registration fees to Nominet, hence the latter being forced to contact customers directly to recover the debts. Regular readers may recall Shine being sent a similar invoice towards the end of last year, which I'd contacted Nominet about a while back but had been sitting on somewhat for the last few months. Thename have now been rescued from their subsequent liquidation, but the new company specifically advised me a couple of weeks ago that they are sadly unable to settle the old debts. Having received my own bill today, it therefore seemed the ideal opportunity to sort it all out for both Shine's and my own domain. Ten pounds plus VAT for the whole lot really wasn't much to pay, and Nominet have been beyond reproach in all this, apart from taking over three months not to return my phone-call - they said in December they would phone me back when their sales desk was less busy! - so I have no complaints. Both sites are still hosted through Thename, and service seems to have improved lately - CGI-scripted pages of mine that had been faulty for ages due to their mistakes have suddenly sprung back into life - but I doubt we will be staying with them much longer, simply because their packages are no longer particularly cost-effective. Shine in particular have grand plans for mp3 and video downloads, and 10Mb of server space really doesn't go that far! I'd also like to put more disk-hungry pictures and so on onto my own site, and these diary pages of mine take a surprising amount of space too, you know...

At 1.30pm today, spring officially started. Three hours later, it's snowing, with "blizzards and atrocious conditions" forecast for tonight...

The first full day of spring, and it's really quite a winter wonderland outside. Thankfully the bulk of the snow came down in the small hours of the morning, so I didn't have too difficult driving conditions as I came home from Sarah's late last night - though this morning was a different matter, with Milton Keynes's incompetent council having once again spectacularly failed in their basic duty to grit the roads. There wasn't anything obvious wrong with the computer in the end, and we now strongly suspect "operator error" to have been the most likely explanation; when I was a lad, computers had a proper power switch, but now they've all got these new-fangled electronic ones, and it's not always entirely clear how to use them... We set ScanDisk running for a good part of the evening once the children had gone to bed, and it found nothing untoward before it restarted for the nth time as is its wont, so I was able to cautiously give the machine a clean bill of health before heading home for some much needed sleep.

Wore my boots to work today; not the best footwear for driving, admittedly, especially in conditions when it's best not to be too lead-footed, but given that all my other shoes are somewhat lacking in the sole integrity department, it seemed a sensible decision with the amount of slush around!

As I'd hoped, I managed for once to get a nice quiet evening in yesterday, doing nothing of consequence, having a bath that was almost cold by the time I dragged myself out of it, and getting to bed the better side of midnight into the bargain. Had a phone call from Sarah, though, saying she'd reserved tickets for a concert near Luton Saturday evening that we'd both shown an interest in having seen the flyer the other day. Is this a sign of getting old, that it's an evening of baroque music, featuring pieces by Vivaldi, Purcell, Bach and Handel amongst others? Well we're both looking forward to it anyway, so there!

It is with happiness that I really can finally acknowledge that an important chapter of my life is well and truly closed. Well, I've known it for almost a year, really, but discovering that Zoe is now engaged - with her wedding in just over a year - lets me draw a clear line under what has happened. It's not that I ever really thought there was much chance of us getting back together again, but until there is such an irreversible event, I guess there are always lingering doubts as to whether the right decision was made and so on. Now there is no doubt at all, because Zoe has moved on quite confidently, and my own life - although not quite as certain as hers, it would appear! - seems to be taking steps in the right direction too.

Hmm, no idea what's happening with my neighbour Gil and his fiancee Julie's wedding in a couple of weekends' time. I mean, I'm sure the most important formal parts of the day are going ahead as planned, but regular readers will recall that a rather distinctive feature of this particular wedding was to be a short afternoon walk across the moors from Wensleydale. Needless to say, with the foot-and-mouth crisis apparently deepening, I would imagine this part of the proceedings is looking somewhat doubtful, but I guess there's always a chance things might have improved by then and that at least some footpaths there may be passable. Somewhat unlikely though, but it's still worth the trip, I'm quite sure...

Heh, just been invited out for tea. It wasn't exactly what I meant when I said I'd "be around all this evening if need be for any reason", but hey, I'm not complaining, and it's better than sitting at home twiddling my thumbs.

OK, so tea was "only" fish fingers, chips and salad, but it did me just fine, and it was good to have some company for the evening, even if things were a bit different to normal for one reason or another. Didn't get away too late this time for once, but other important matters conspired to prevent me getting that earlyish night I might have hoped for - but hey, the weekend is only a few hours away so it really doesn't matter! Not yet quite sure what my plans are for the weekend, with only the baroque concert tomorrow night and playing in the band Sunday morning being pretty much definite, though I'm sure more will transpire in due course...

For once I managed to get both an earlyish night and a Saturday lie-in - yes, it makes a pleasant change to take things at least a little bit easy! Off out for lunch with Darren in a short while, though, then need to do my shopping and dig out whatever I'm going to wear for this concert in Luton tonight.

A mad mad weekend, and paying the price this morning - though I'm pretty sure I'd feel as grim as I do, regardless, given the clocks changing and all that... It's odd how advancing them by an hour - and therefore the time really being an hour earlier than it appears - so rapidly turns itself around, with me almost nodding off by eight o'clock yesterday evening, it feeling more like ten or later! I swear it's all just a wicked plot to show those of us who don't fly to America much what jet-lag feels like. But yes, apart from that, a really good weekend from start to finish, from pizza with Darren at Saturday lunchtime to my sleepy goodbyes as I left Sarah's yesterday evening. But in between..?

Well first there was the baroque concert at Luton, which it was Sarah's suggestion we went to; it was really good and made a most pleasant change from the norm - especially with no children in tow for once - and featured a very listenable mixture of "old friends" from the likes of Handel, Vivaldi, Bach, Pahelbel and Purcell, and some less well-known pieces. It was a murky evening outside, but thankfully we weren't back too late, and I thought I got to bed at a sensible time to avoid too many problems from the changing clocks!

Sunday morning was an "extra" celebration meeting at Wolverton, to wrap up a week of bible teaching from Tony Gray that I had not otherwise been involved with. If I'd not been in the worship band, I might have given it a miss, but it was bearable in the end and it was good to catch up with a few folk I feared might have fallen by the wayside in the current crisis the fellowship is walking through. Also heard confirmation that others have alas left our number, leaving some unanswered questions about things like neighbourhood groups and so on.

Then it was off round to Sarah's to take them all out for lunch in return for her paying for Saturday night's concert tickets, but that was a bit of a disaster really, spending half and hour or more driving around trying to find somewhere at least a little bit nice to eat for a change - McDonalds was deemed too boring - but after finding everywhere packed out due to Mother's Day we eventually ended up at Bletchley Burger King. This was not a popular choice for some of our number, but in the end it was fine, even if the mini-doughnuts did leave certain people a bit hyper for the rest of the day.

Too cold and murky outside to go for a walk or anything afterwards - roll on summer - and time was getting on by then anyway, so we headed straight back for the rest of the afternoon and evening, mainly "playing computers", just for a change, like - not that I mind at all, it all being in a good cause. As I said earlier, though, my tiredness soon caught up with me, and half way through the evening I was almost fit to drop - at which point Claire suddenly declared she still needed to do her homework, and their printer was playing up... We didn't count pulling a few articles and photos off their newly-installed Encarta 2001 as "writing a 500 word essay", but at that point I thought it might be a good idea to get home before I totally keeled over, and I called it a day.

It was good to get some real opportunities to catch up with Sarah properly, anyway, whether it was driving to and from Luton, or while the girls were busy eating lunch and tea. Although I seem to spend a lot of time with them all, it's not always particularly high quality time, and Sarah somewhat inevitably gets about the rawest deal of all in many ways. There were a few things needing discussing anyway, so it was good timing; amongst other things we seem to have made some headway on arranging a little excursion at the end of May - more details on that as and when, or more likely after the event, given the likelihood of it going at all to plan...

Must ... stay ... awake ...

Ah, just been advised that Claire didn't really have to do her homework last night after all. I believe "importunate" is a word that might apply here?

Curry tonight! And not even too late, now that Darren's based in Milton Keynes rather than Docklands, after his company just relocated! My Chillies buffet 50% discount card will come in handy once again, I suspect...

And lo, it did, and a good meal was had by all yesterday evening - even with no coconut kulfi on offer, horror of horrors. Then things started to go a bit downhill, though, with me somewhat miserably failing to speak, chat, or communicate in just about any way with someone I desperately needed to, and any intentions of an early night coming to nought. In the end, by midnight, all I'd managed to do was leave a voice mail message, and to make sure I was still utterly shattered this morning, staying awake right now only thanks to the synergy of caffeine, sugar and chocolate. I really must get that mobile phone I've been promising myself; it's just such a minefield, though...

Oooh, just been phoned here at work! Maybe last night's patience wasn't such a waste of time after all...

Still fighting on, with an hour to go before I can head home really - though I guess I could sneak out early since I'm hardly being productive in my current state. As Arnie said, "I need a vacation" - though the chances of one in the immediate future are somewhat doubtful, even if plans are afoot for one a little further off. That won't be soon enough, though, I fear...

I think as the week is progressing, my morning consciousness is becoming more and more natural. I would be lying if I said I feel great, but I've been worse. Of course, I'd have been feeling a lot better if I'd got that early night I'd planned yesterday, but it simply wasn't to be - and I believe it was right and significant that it wasn't to be. It was simply one of those "one things after another" types of evening, but mainly pretty positive.

It started when I popped down to Dave's to drop off the order for the PC I'm buying for my parents, Dave being the son of our recently-resigned pastor, and I got that sorted out - Dave will be placing the order today, hopefully - and had a short chat with his mum Carol about deeper things. I thought then I might drop in on Seamus and Gill, having not made contact with them since the resignation was announced, and fearing the worst for various reasons. However on the way, I bumped into Claire, walking up into the city centre to do some shopping; I ended up giving her a lift up to Waitrose, and grabbing an Ask take-away pizza myself. On the way to my car, though, we bumped into Ken, just going out for a run, but that was more of an aside.

After eating - by this time it was about half past seven - I decided I'd go down and see Seamus and Gill anyway, and thankfully they were all in and pleased to see me, although Gill was about to take the children and Abi's exchange student friend up to the snowdome, so I ended up having a good chat with Seamus about everything that was going on, before Ken phoned, suggesting we all went out for a drink... Gill and the others arrived back shortly before it was time for us to go out, so I had a chance for a good chat with Gill, who was really quite understandably emotional about current happenings, and then Ken arrived and we walked up to the Wetherspoons pub for a couple of pints.

That was about that, apart from going on to the net "briefly" when I got home, and spending a little while longer than planned chatting to certain folks, but I was still in bed the healthy side of midnight and got probably the most settled night's sleep in a week!

I really must now be over the worst of my tiredness - my morning can of caffeine-laden Coke somehow sat unopened on my desk for two whole hours!

And then I potentially blew it all with an unaccustomedly early start today, and not quite as early a night as I'd planned yesterday. Nothing like a bit of pressure at work to get me behaving must unusually, though it can't have been quite as much of a crisis as I'd thought when Phil took all us science bods to a nearby hotel for coffee and cake - his fiftieth birthday being the real excuse. Still all go at the moment, though, and I may well be in from eight again tomorrow - or work late today; we'll see, depending on what, if anything, I hear about plans for neighbourhood group or anything else for that matter...

As for yesterday, well it wasn't as productive as I'd hoped, and I had to make an early getaway having agreed to give Sarah a lift to the hospital medical centre for a routine appointment, and still arriving a few seconds late, much to the annoyance of the receptionist - who was going by a clock that was several minutes fast anyway! My patience in looking after Rachael while she was in there was rewarded with tea afterwards, but everyone was pretty much zonked out by not much after eight o'clock, so I headed home and fell into a hot bath for a while.

Then made an "important phone call", again just getting the mystery recipient's voice-mail, but she - OK, yes, it's a she - phoned back a few minutes later before we both decided bed was a better idea than a lengthy chat. Still took me a couple of hours to get to sleep, mind, but at least I'd already revised my plan to get up at six o'clock, with seven seeming a much more feasible proposition.

Still all go at work with this Java programming, just out of another short progress meeting with Phil, with yet another scheduled for first thing Monday morning! This may seem excessive - some might even find it oppressive - but it's actually very helpful to me, since Phil is setting daily objectives that are both tangible and realistic. Once again, I was in work bright and early this morning, and managed to get a couple of hours' development in before the meeting, but so long as I can knuckle down this afternoon I should be able to revert to a more conventional pattern next week. I certainly hope so, anyway! The week after, there's a four-day Java course anyway - finally I might actually have a chance of really understanding what it is I've been struggling with for the last few weeks!

Last night's neighbourhood group meeting was quite interesting and offered a lot more food for thought about the current church crisis situation, although my position remains unchanged despite some quite serious reservations. The meeting eventually took place at Martin and Maureen's - the message to tell me having got somewhat lost - with Andy and Phil both present and open to questions. My friend Sarah also decided at the last minute that she'd like to come along, especially since her group is now leaderless too - even if last night's meeting was really intended for Springfield members only - and I think she might make it a more permanent move in due course. The future still looks quite shaky, I think, and some blunt questions were skirted around a bit, so all we can really do is wait and see, though I still have confidence that things will work out for the best in the end.

I received confirmation today that the order for the PC I'm buying my parents has gone through, so it's now just a matter of waiting for Dave or one of his colleagues at Evesham to phone to say it's ready for collection. I suspect that will be painfully close to next weekend, if their estimated lead times are at all accurate. Next weekend is of course when I am going with my mum up to Yorkshire for Gil and Julie's wedding, so if I collected it before then, we might rearrange our plans for who drives where and when, so that I can not only clear what's likely to be quite a big heap of boxes, but also help set it up back at their house.

I went for quite a well specified mid-range Pentium III system in the end, an 866MHz tower unit with a few enhancements - specifically a faster hard disk, individual DVD and CD-RW drives, and a lovely Iiyama 17" screen which won me over with its flatness and ridiculously high refresh rates. Although my mum will only probably use the computer for e-mailing, surfing the web and editing her magazine, my dad's got grander plans for image manipulation and so on, so cutting corners on the display quality and data storage seemed somewhat false economy.

Sometime between now and then I also need to pop into Maplins to buy the cabling they will need to run from the telephone point downstairs to wherever they're putting the computer. My dad has measured it up as requiring 13 metres of cable - zig-zagging up the stairs and so on - but I'll get a little bit over so that there's a bit of slack and margin for error! It may actually end up just as cheap to get a standard 15m extension cable - costing a tenner - and cut off the plug end, but I'll investigate tomorrow or whenever I get round to going to Maplins.

It's good to have got it mainly sorted out though; my dad was getting surprisingly impatient, considering he originally wasn't planning on getting a computer at all for several months yet!

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