goznet ...

David's diary: April 2002

Just had the best Easter ever - and since it's gone midday, that's no joke!

More when I'm a bit more awake, I dare say...

Long gone midday ... I'm cream-crackered!

Yes, what a weekend... In the last exciting proper episode I was trying in vain to contact Sarah to sort out the lunch we'd agreed, and eventually I managed to get through and it went ahead as planned - even if the late lunch ended up more of an early tea, with a not very energetic stroll and ride on the train at Willen beforehand to make the most of the rather lovely weather. Off to Burnham I went in the evening, though, and as hoped, Claire and I enjoyed a most pleasant and relaxed evening in - though Claire did have to pop out for a few minutes once Jess was safely tucked up in bed, to feed a friend's cats and stock up on liquid refreshment for the long weekend ahead. So that was Saturday, and once we'd remembered we were "losing" an hour overnight, decided we'd better call it a day, though thankfully there was no huge rush to get up Sunday morning, with no Young Church since it's the holidays of course.

Church itself on Sunday was decidedly fine - if a little depleted in numbers - and I'm definitely getting re-accustomed to the Anglican way of doing things, albeit from a slightly different perspective to six or seven years ago when I was last a "regular". The weather was somewhat less glorious, so we didn't do such as much on Sunday afternoon as we'd perhaps hoped, but all time spent together is valuable and I certainly wasn't going to complain! Sunday night would normally be CDC night at The Bee, but most people were away for the weekend and Claire had no babysitter easily to hand anyway so that simply wasn't going to happen. A couple of Claire's friends were down for the weekend though, so they came over for a drink and a yummy Chinese takeaway - and before we knew it, the evening had gone, but it was definitely a good one!

Bank-holiday Monday was considerably more active, especially for the earlier risers, with Claire happily letting me take Jess out for a little walk while she pondered getting up - and Jess unusually asking me to help dress her, though whether that was part of a ploy to drag me out to the shop or real progress in acceptance of me I'll reserve judgement for the moment! Though judging by the complete lack of stroppiness when it turned out I wasn't going to buy her anything more than a bar of chocolate, and her happy acceptance of my suggestion of a short walk and run-around in the park, perhaps the latter. It's probably also significant that Jess is gradually learning that she can't always have her own way, and that she can still have fun and treats and so on even if she's not in control. Of course there may be times to come when not getting her own way may not be quite so fun, but such bridges can be crossed in good time.

We all drove into Slough at lunchtime, hoping to get tickets to see "Return to Never Land" after lunch at McDonalds, which thankfully we did - and it wasn't bad at all, even for grown-ups, albeit accompanied ones like us... As Disney productions go, it wasn't too sickly-sweet, even if ultimately a little predictable - well, it wasn't going to end in mass carnage, was it? - and the characters were easy to relate to and somewhat "familiar" in many cases! It was Jess's first time at the cinema and we weren't at all sure how she would react, but apart from spending about half the time with her hands over her ears - the sound really was too loud for small children in our opinion, especially during the adverts and trailers - she seemed to enjoy it almost as much as we did and certainly said she'd like to go again sometime!

We were going to go straight home then, but the sun decided to come out at that point so we took a short detour via the playground for Jess to expend a little more of her considerable energy on the swings and slides, and then a rather more dramatic detour via Windsor. I'd not been to Windsor much before so really didn't know quite what to expect, but according to Claire, the crowds there were surprisingly unexceptional given the weekend's sad events with the passing of the Queen Mother. It really was time to head back to base after that, though, and after a bite of tea and a bit more drawing and video-watching with Jess and Claire it was time for me to be on the road myself back to Milton Keynes, arriving back here at about eight after a trouble-free journey.

So there you go; I hope I've not forgotten anything we did - at least anything I can write about in here without inducing nausea in my loyal readers - but it was indeed an utterly fabby weekend. I love Claire more than ever and after a rather icky week, feel the weekend really cemented our relationship and may well prove to have been a true foundation as we press ahead and develop things both practically and emotionally. For Jess too, I would say it was her best weekend yet that I've been around for, and apart from her initial "why's David here?" questioning on Saturday night and occasional grumps as is her wont, she was a delight, and - along with Claire of course! - we certainly felt like a secure family in the making.

I'm realising I'm becoming a royalist - and it's not a conscious decision, more a natural manifestation of what I would hope is at least a shred of common decency and humanity. As with some other "beliefs", there are shades and degrees, and I would describe myself as a passive defender of the royal family rather than an active promoter of it. I have no particularly great fondness for the monarchy as an institution, but - as with the recent death of Princess Margaret - I find myself livid at the attacks that have come from some quarters after Saturday's events, and at complaints about the predictably blanket media coverage that ensued. Yes, perhaps the latter is excessive, but who am I to judge, with regard to someone who obviously actively meant so much to so very many, especially during times most of the whingers will hopefully never have to appreciate at first hand?

Since the debate on whether Monochrome is going down the pan - and what to do about it if it is - seems to be spreading to every corner of the system, one more place can't do any harm can it? Personally, I believe it is unfortunately true, but sadly I don't feel the obvious solution is positive or constructive enough to be warmly welcomed.

Basically, without going into too much complex analysis, the problem goes all the way up to the top level of administration of the system - and there are too many people in the middle who are scared to say boo to the right people and get anything done about it. In the past, the ordinary users have always grumbled, but there was unity in the staff ranks and at the end of the day everything worked out and many words were eaten for tea. But now all too many of the staff are hacked off, and even some of the "lesser" admin are showing considerable disquiet at the impossibility of their task and the void of communication - and since it's all voluntary, it's hardly surprising some of the significant departures that have happened recently and no doubt will continue to unless there's major change.

Yes, it's voluntary for the system administrators too, and we all appreciate that they have pressures from their jobs and so on like they never had when they were students or whatever. But that being the case, then perhaps it's time to gracefully hand over the operational reins to someone else - or perhaps a team - who have actually got at least a few minutes a week to visibly put into supporting the system and its development or even its replacement if need be. But is that ever really likely to happen? I shall leave the answering of that as an exercise for the reader, but I'm off to seek horned beasts again - and there's quite a hunting party gathering, I understand...

Hurrah! All being well I see Claire and Jess again on Thursday! And maybe even at the weekend again too - along with my sister and a few of her offspring as well as my mum and dad - depending on a few currently uncertain things.

OK, so maybe not the latter bit, but I suspected that would be the case - though there's still an outside chance we can work something out, depending on exactly when my sister's planning on travelling and so on. Tomorrow's plans with Claire and Jess seem to be taking shape, though perhaps not quite as originally hoped - but the stars of the show will be there, and that's the main thing! This evening I'm supposed to be entertaining Sarah and the girls, postponed from last week, but I'm not terribly confident they're going to make it this time either, so I'm playing things by ear a little - and if they don't, that'll just mean all the more pizza for Claire and Jess if they stay for tea tomorrow. As for today, well so far I have mainly spent it troubleshooting my PC here at work, and have only currently persuaded it to start up at all by removing some rather important items from the system configuration, so probably ought to spend a little more time seeing if I can narrow down the problem a little more. Little as I might have been expecting its imminent delivery, this would perhaps be a really good day to get the rest of that new computer...

Well I've not changed anything knowingly, but the computer seems to be behaving a little better now. Actually, I changed quite a lot - including disabling virus protection, hence my earlier concern - but bit by bit I changed it all back again, and it seems quite a lot healthier for having done so. Maybe it's starting things up in a slightly different order now or something, and hence avoiding some deadlock scenario more reliably. Anyway, a couple more hours at work and then I'll be heading home a bit early to tidy the place a little in advance of Sarah and the girls' arrival, since I've now managed to confirm this evening's plans. Should be fun - having them round, that is, not the tidying up - but tomorrow's going to be even better of course!

Off home I go, then! Half an hour should be long enough...

Running out of sleeping ability for the moment this morning, so I may as well take the opportunity to make an early addition to this diary while I have the chance! Last night worked out reasonably well with Sarah, Laura and Rachael, though Rachael was determined not to enjoy "Antz" - even if she did really, although wasn't going to admit it - and played up throughout the evening, to everyone's exasperation. I ran them home afterwards and stayed for a cuppa, but I needed to return home in good time to finalise details of today with Claire, so having read Rachael a story and said our goodnights, was on my way. So anyway, I have a few hours yet this morning until Claire and Jess arrive, but I need to give the downstairs a bit of a once-over as well as make unhurried use of the bathroom, so perhaps it's as well I'd appear to be getting up earlier rather than later today. Jess is apparently very excited about today, and didn't really take any persuading to be so - which I have to say happily surprised me a little - so hopefully I can now deliver on those expectations, and a fun day can duly be enjoyed by all!

Hoovering, washing up and a bit of cleaning done - and Claire just texted me to say she and Jess are on their way! Must go to the shop over the road to get some fresh milk though, or I could have two most unhappy girlies on my hands...

I feel utterly drained - mainly physically, but emotionally too, though it's no bad reflection on the day just passed, and if anything a positive one because it was so good. It wasn't too rushed really, but we were out in the heat for much of the day, and Jess can undeniably sometimes be quite hard work!

As planned, in the morning we went to watch "Monsters Inc", which I'd seen before but Claire and Jess hadn't, and I think both enjoyed it as much I did even second time round. We lunched at KFC before walking to the other end of the shopping centre and to the Bear Factory for Jess to make her long-awaited birthday present. Somewhat unsurprisingly she chose a dalmatian dog to stuff and name, but a little more surprisingly declined to give Dotty any clothes or accessories - all the better for my Switch card, but I've said Jess can change her mind any time...

We'd hoped to meet Sarah and the girls at Willen Lake, but it turned out the girls had been invited out elsewhere, and then at the last minute Sarah said she was too shattered anyway, so it was just the three of us in the end, but Jess had a good run-around and I dare say didn't stay awake all the way home once she and Claire had had a bit of tea and watched a bit of a video.

But now they've gone, I feel empty, almost like it never even happened - and coupled with continued uncertainty over precisely what's happening at the weekend, and not being able to get in touch with Claire this evening, the reality of our geographical separation is hitting me emotionally once again. I only just made it through Open House this evening, which wasn't too good since I was heading up one of the discussion groups as we talked about "The Matrix", but I guess at least it took my mind off things for a little while even if I was still somewhat obviously the worse for wear throughout.

Managed to track Claire down - that's much better!

It's Friday, thank goodness, and the week's almost done - though just like yesterday didn't quite feel like a Thursday, today feels a bit of an indeterminate day too. Claire and I are a little closer to a plan for the weekend, and specifically Sunday, with that aforementioned "outside chance" looking like it might actually materialise after all. Nothing too certain yet, but it's looking quite possible that we'll be seeing my parents, sister and a few of my nieces and nephews, for a little while at least - and maybe doing a few other things besides. Should know for sure tomorrow, anyway - or we'd better do, otherwise it's all going to be a little bit unhelpfully last-minute!

The afternoon's dragging now, though. Weary-making as it may have been yesterday, I'd much rather be out enjoying this glorious sunshine before the pollen really starts getting to me as it surely shortly will...

Half an hour to go, half an hour to go. Ooh, more like twenty-five minutes now - that's altogether more bearable! Oh, and it's now a mere 372 days until Claire and I get married, whilst in the mood for countdown type things...

And now - over an hour later - I've still not left work, and only just shut down Excel and StarOffice for the day. I'm weird, me...

What am I doing up at nine on a lazy Saturday morning? Especially after an evening out at the pub, and not too settled a night's sleep... Glad I decided not to go comet-hunting in the small hours of the morning in the end, though - close run thing, but I fear I might have fallen asleep inopportunely! Besides, the comet gets brighter as the month progresses, I believe, and is only particularly interesting at the moment because of its visual proximity to the Andromeda Galaxy - two fuzzy blobs apparently "near" each other in the sky.

Plans for Sunday taking further shape, happily to say! Just need my stars of the show to be equally happy with those plans, and we're away!

And they're proving a touch elusive right now, though they've not long been in after another jaunt, so I expect need a bit of a rest before letting themselves get talked into anything much more! This afternoon's been fairly quiet, doing a little more work on Gareth's website, and going for a walk while it was bright and sunny - though getting waylaid at Seamus and Gill's en-route, so not actually going very far after all in the end!

Well it all happened - and pretty much as intended... Claire, Jess and I had lunch at our favourite Beefeater in Beaconsfield, before driving over to my parents where my sister and younger half of her family were visiting for the weekend. Top marks to my mum for suggesting we went to the Home of Rest for Horses at Speen for the afternoon, with Jess, Saffron and Fern fully in their element and hard eventually to drag away... An altogether lovely afternoon!

And despite fairly typical going-home grumpiness, Jess enjoyed herself today just as much as Claire and I did - and apparently took most of the journey home to decide she wasn't a horse herself after all... Bless her - and bless them both, in fact! I'm not quite sure where I'd be right now without them!

Time for bed and sleep now though; some of us have work tomorrow, alas.

Though it's a close call as to whether I'd rather be stuck here in this oven of an office, dreaming of my next southbound escape - or perhaps the permanent one to come - or queueing for hours in central London to catch a glimpse of the Queen Mum's coffin. That being where - for better or for worse - Claire's gone today with Jess, Jenny, Jo and Emma. OK, given the company, the latter option would just about be preferable, though I surely hope the queues are down at least a little bit on what they apparently were over the weekend. Hmm, if they time it right - as if they have a great deal of choice but to "go with the flow" - and get to Westminster Hall this afternoon, they might meet some princes! Just hope they took plenty of water as advised, because otherwise, if the weather's anything like it is here - and London's invariably more stifling - they're going to roast...

Oooh, I've just been texted to say they've found the end of the queue and are currently all in good spirits. Apparently they are fairly near the London Eye, so if my London geography serves me at all correctly, that shouldn't mean too horrendous a wait in store for them - though still no idea when they're likely to be back home, so maybe it's as well I'm out this evening anyway!

And now someone's gone off to McDonalds to buy lunch. I guess if there was any likelihood of difficulty getting back in the queue having done so, they would just need to buy a burger and fries for everyone behind them. Pretty simple.

About an hour and a quarter to wait now, I am reliably informed. Could be a lot, lot worse! Probably been longer queues for Santa's grotto at Christmas...

And finally, about an hour and a half later - pretty much on schedule - they're out again! Sorry to anyone bored by this blow-by-blow commentary of something that doesn't concern or bother them in the least, but since it involved my nearests and dearests, that's reason enough for me to be interested. OK?

They're all long since safely back home now, and can I just say - in case it wasn't at least a little bit clear to all - that I love Claire very very much! Oh, OK, very very very very much. And I've still not let go - and won't!

No, in case it wasn't obvious - or you're not reading her on-line diary too - it wasn't too easy an evening for Claire, after a long and difficult day that had left her both emotionally and physically drained. I can well relate to the state she described being in, and we all have slightly different ways to escape it, and slightly different reactions to circumstances when we're teetering on the very brink of what we can cope with at that moment. But one of the key things for me about Claire is that she's prepared to face up to these things and admit the difficulties they often cause; others will just withdraw and deny, but that's not Claire. I just wanted to be there with her last night, to hold her and to reassure her in person, and if I'd not already been busy I quite likely would have been - though Claire equally needed some time to herself by all accounts, so goodness knows what would have been the right thing to do had the opportunity arisen. But anyway, perhaps the "reality" of Jess's return to school today and watching the funeral with Jenny this morning will help pick Claire up again now - well I surely hope so because I hate seeing her feeling this low, especially when I feel so helpless all these miles away.

And I've still not let go - 'cos I'm not going to. Ever...

As for me, well I was round at Sarah's for the evening, strimming the lawn - amazing how much it had grown in a fortnight - and enjoying fish-fingers and chips for tea. I was pretty drained too, to be frank, though hadn't had the extra pressures of a long and emotional day in London, so it didn't really compare - but I could perhaps just about begin to appreciate. Perhaps in part it was because these Easter holidays - not that I've had much additional time off - have been just so productive in a hectic kind of way; it's odd how closely fulfilment and being drained are related - it's often seems just a different way of looking at the same thing! Anyway, I'm out again this evening I'm afraid, with Matt and Jill finally managing to work out a date for a meeting with Paul and me to try and plan ahead with our Open House group - not that I particularly feel I ought to commit to much more given the last few weeks' performance in that regard, but I expect I'll get talked into it anyway.

Back to the spreadsheet grind today, though. Fun fun fun, all the way from cell A1 to BK63. Forget everything else, the path to true happiness in life is via StarOffice. Really. Well, maybe not. Only if you're a real sick puppy.

Having felt more than a few pressures over the last few days and weeks - and lots more in store, one way or another, I am sure - I did indeed last night express my wish - no, my need - to step down from many of my duties at the Vineyard. Timing was impeccably bad for other reasons beyond my control that I'll not go into, so I stopped short of a full resignation, but I feel happy that the compromise reached will release me to spend considerably more time investing in my future with Claire and Jess. Basically I'd felt that I really hadn't had the opportunity to look into employment opportunities and so on as much as I certainly should, but that the church stuff I was committed to doing was being neglected anyway; I'd been "spreading myself too thin", and something needed to give. Thankfully Matt, Jill and Paul quite understood that my future with Claire and Jess was absolutely the most important thing to me at this particularly critical point in time, so although I've not stepped down completely - and in a way didn't want to anyway, because I thrive on practical involvement - I've taken on a more administrational role in the Open House group which should involve a considerably less pressured workload.

But for now, talking of the w-word, back to those cursed spreadsheets.

Well, actually, some different spreadsheets today. But still spreadsheets. Though my task is primarily to cut a CD-R with them on. Hmm, this time last year I took a trip up to Knowlhill to hand over the disc to Mikki; I wonder if I can wangle anything similar this year, just to get out of this place.

I feel like Agent Smith interrogating Morpheus, sometimes...

But not always.

Off home now, anyway, and apart from needing to buy a cake for tomorrow's house group - I can cope with that kind of responsibility! - I've got an evening off!

Well my hoped-for quiet evening in was at least semi-successful, and apart from that quick trip to Sainsburys to buy the cake for this evening, it was entirely recreational anyway. Two main highlights - first and foremost, having a good chat with Claire, initially on the phone and later continued on MSN while it behaved itself for once, but also finally going out to spot Comet Ikeya-Zhang. I drove up to Campbell Park after sunset, and walked to the beacon as the last glimmers of daylight - and any kind of bearable temperature - slowly faded away. The comet was supposed to be "near" the constellation of Cassiopeia, but it took a good while even to see that well-known "W" of stars too easily, and much longer indeed to see the comet - and then only with the help of binoculars. It really was just a faint fuzzy smudge in the disgusting smoggy murk near the northern horizon, with no chance of seeing anything of its allegedly beautiful tail, so with it becoming bitterly cold I didn't linger. But at least I can say I've seen it, even if it was most disappointing compared with the spectacularly unmissable Comet Hale-Bopp of a few years ago. Talking to Claire on the phone as I walked back to the car - and sat in it for a good while before returning home - she said she preferred shooting stars, so I'm pleased to say I saw a lovely one of those too, slowly fizzling out as it streaked across the twilight sky. Otherwise, after a difficult first half of the week it was mighty good to talk with Claire properly and to arrange a few things, not least the up-coming weekend - and she and Jess are stars I'll not long have to struggle to see, or that will fade out in the blink of an eye...

Almost feels like the run-in to the weekend now, and tomorrow's a special day of sorts - anyone going to hazard a guess why? "[E][Space]" if uncertain...

So, here we are, wedding day minus exactly one year - and did I really need to glance at my watch to know today's date?! Happy minus-oneth anniversary, anyway, Claire darling; I'm afraid we won't be celebrating an anniversary as such next year, though we do get to do something a whole lot more special instead which I hope will meet with your approval!

Open House wasn't at all bad last night, perhaps helped for me in part by having lifted the burden of organisation off my shoulders earlier in the week, so I could simply enjoy it a bit more. As I'd somewhat anticipated under the circumstances, Gareth and Tash didn't make it along, so Tash's birthday cake languished unconsumed, but Claire's got a good use lined up for it so it needn't go to waste!

But it's Friday morning, and the weekend is nigh once again, happily to say - and it looks like I'll be making my exodus to Burnham tomorrow afternoon at some point. There's a quiz in the evening, which promises to be reasonably fun, though Claire and I will find ourselves on different teams, I gather, which will make things a little interesting I am quite sure...

Hmm, I seem to have talked myself back into a bit of work I thought I'd managed to shake off - but it's only going to take two or three days, and that's final. Mainly because if it looks likely to take longer, it's not going to be worth doing for the use it's going to get - and so said the head of department! He's also assured me that my new PC is now on the premises, and I'll be getting it as an incentive/reward of sorts...

Anyway, it's lunchtime, so bye for now!

Why is the grass always greener on the other side of the office window?

It's three o'clock, so exactly a year to the minute!

Saturday morning and I'm up a lot earlier than I really needed. But hey, I have a reasonably busy day and weekend ahead of me, so maybe it's no bad thing... And the best bit about it? I get to have a nice short haircut for the warmer weather! Ooops, sorry, that's not the best bit - though I'm sure my betrothed will like it too; she's the real highlight of course!

I think my hair's still just about long enough for Claire to run her fingers through, as requested... Oh, and I bought a new wallet on the market this morning - what a truly exciting time I had in town today!

And now it's time to hit the road for the second, and much more interesting and fun, part of this weekend! Tara for now!

If only...

Trying to convince myself it's only a temporary setback - albeit one needing urgent addressing - to one weekend amongst dozens more extremely happy ones.

True love never was easy, was it?

Still shivering, despite wearing two thick fleeces and the heating on full.

Needless to say, I didn't sleep significantly last night, and am consequently all the worse for wear this morning - with a splitting headache and a raging temperature, almost flu-like symptoms - so am giving work a miss today and re-making the acquaintance of my bed now I've sent off the email to the office to say so.

Quite the most bizarre thing I can ever remember happened just a little while ago. I was lying on my bed talking to a friend on the phone when suddenly the bedroom light went out. First of all I thought it was a power cut, but the computer was still happily whirring away. It didn't interfere with the phone call so I gave it no further thought at that point. But afterwards I tested the light on the landing and that was fine, so the lighting ring obviously hadn't tripped or anything. I thought I'd just test to see if I had a sporadically faulty bulb - Mark having had one recently - by turning it off and on again, and to my surprise, on flicking the switch the first time, the bulb came on without any problem. Now as far as I am aware I was reasonably "with it" since I'd been happily chatting for a while, so wasn't imagining things, but I can't really say I have any earthly explanation for what happened!

But anyway, having had my phone chat with a particularly wise woman, I feel clearer in my mind about other things going on at the moment and have strengthened my resolve to sort things out rather than let them fester and die unnecessarily. Whether that resolve is a shared thing remains to be seen, but I'm continuing to give things my very best shot and will not rest easy knowing I've done anything less for the sake of those I truly love.

Thankfully it is, but bed beckons for now. Remains to be seen whether I'll make it into work tomorrow; I oughtn't push things really, and I'd say I still have a bit of a temperature even if my mind is a lot more stable now!

And for the record, I love you Claire - and Jess - and although the last day has been like hell on earth, I feel it's now been strengthened no end.

Though I need some supper now really, having realised that I've not eaten anything more than a couple of bits of bread and Marmite today! Quite tempted by the idea of some pizza, actually, degenerate though that might be at 11.30!

Yes, it's now the wee small hours of the morning... Evidently my appetite still hasn't really returned because I struggled to get through the pizza and usual accompaniments - but I'm sure it did me good trying! Night night now, though - and this time I really am right ready for sleep!

Right, I'll pretty much definitely be back at work tomorrow, Wednesday - especially since Sam emailed me earlier to say my new PC had finally arrived, even if it is an RM, sadly. I woke this morning - after a better, but not brilliant, night's sleep - with a bit of a cold, to add to everything else, but that seems to have subsided and the idea of going out and enjoying a bit of the afternoon sunshine is surprisingly appealing. Oh, and I just won my first ever game of Spider Solitaire with all four suits - took me 265 attempts, but at least I now know it's possible - so there can't be a lot wrong with me still. As for Claire, well she's been in Oxford today, starting a relatively short course aimed at people getting back into studying after a break, and by all accounts having a good time even if it's hard work. By the way, I must publicly say thank you on behalf of both of us to all those well-wishers over the last couple of days; I won't name names, but you know exactly who you are, and your prayers, thoughts and kind concern for us have been much appreciated!

Well the extent of my going out and enjoying the sun was a walk up to - and back from, of course - the ski-centre KFC for a bite of tea. I can't remember much about breakfast or lunch - I think I had one or the other, probably the former - but, shock horror, I was defeated by a mere Mexican Twister meal! Just glad I didn't take up the offer of "going large", or I might not even have kept it all down - but let's not go into that realm of speculation! Mind you, this appetite-less episode can surely only being doing my waistline some much-needed good? Was still good to get out for a little while in any case, but tempted as I was to stay and watch "A Beautiful Mind" which was about to start at the adjoining cinema, I was probably sensible not to go overboard, especially since it wouldn't be likely to be quite so therapeutically warm and sunny almost three hours later. Claire's out at Jenny's "private" fortieth birthday party this evening and looks set to have a whale of a time, especially since she's not driving... Jenny feels this hasn't been her year so far, for various reasons - and wasn't entirely enthralled at the idea of turning forty - but hopefully tonight's events can help turn things around for her a bit!

Back at work this morning as intended, and not feeling too bad thankfully. Had a bit of a strange spell at about two o'clock this morning, but I think it was my appetite finally catching up with me and the rest of my body adjusting somewhat - but I won't go into details of the latter! I skipped breakfast at home, mainly because getting up this morning wasn't quite the joy I'd hoped it might be, but it may have been for the best because it meant I could buy a few bits and pieces at the shop here and eat them as quickly or as leisurely as my stomach could bear. As it was, little problem, but it wasn't really worth the risk!

Yes, my new PC is indeed here at work but I have yet to contemplate setting it up, massive beast that it is, and limited desk-space that I have! I'm still not entirely sure what it is, but the consensus in our office is that it's a 2GHz Pentium 4 system with 512Mb of memory and both DVD and CD writer drives. If it had been anything other than a Research Machines PC, I'd probably have been over the moon and getting it all plugged together as quickly as possible, but as it is, I have to be cynical about its likelihood of getting through its first month without at least part of it dying spectacularly and leaving me in the lurch.

You see, in the good old days, Purchasing used to accept that with our department probably being the most technical in the university, our requirements were quite specific, so allowed us to sidestep the usual procedures of sourcing the cheapest bit of junk that someone without a clue thought would do the job. But all that's gradually changed over the last couple of years, and we're now at their total mercy, with the only concession being that we are at least still allowed to choose the monitors we want, hence why I received the 22-inch Iiyama monster the other week, rather than some standard issue 15-inch goldfish bowl.

Well while all three of us were in, to allow plenty of man-power for heaving monitors around and so on, I set up the new PC at least temporarily, and all seems to be well for now. Not networked it yet though, but I gather we do now have a spare UTP point in the office if I can track down a suitable cable...

My Windows XP desktop background shall not however be complete until I have added the Imperial invasion force appearing ominously over the brow of the otherwise all too Teletubby-land-like hill...

My new PC - now happily networked, by the way - features something excitingly described as "the ultimate input device". A retinal tracking mouse? A neural probe? A voice recognition system that doesn't format my hard disk when I ask it to check email? No, a bog-standard keyboard - and an RM-badged version of the one I paid about a tenner for at PC World a few months ago after Sarah's coffee-spillage incident. Not even any useless extra keys or buttons...

Not impressed that one of Windows' most annoying bugs still hasn't been fixed, after so many years. I was transferring about ten gigabytes of files from my old machine to the new one, and Sophos detected a "joke virus" infection in one of the files, about a third of the way through, and refused to copy it. Does Windows XP politely pop up a message warning me so and inviting me to "abort, retry or ignore", like even MS-DOS used to? No, it cancels the whole flipping transfer - thankfully without deleting what it had successfully copied, but I'm sure that was just due to an oversight by Microsoft's programmers - and leaves me to pick up the pieces and work out what still needs doing. Great!

Friday morning and the week's almost done with, thank goodness. Even having been in the office only three days, it's been quite enough thank you very much. Last night's Open House social at the Proud Perch went well; it got off to a slow start, but about ten people made it in the end, including a couple of newcomers, and a good time was undoubtedly had by all! I almost managed to get an earlyish night, but just as I was pondering bed after chatting with Claire for a bit, I got waylaid for another half hour by a late-night phone call and didn't make it to my duvet before midnight in the end. Oh, and we'd had some problems brewing with the heating system in the flat, and the whole lot packed up a couple of days ago leaving us with neither heating nor hot water. The former I could deal with, but no hot water really was an impossibility. But thankfully our heating engineer friend Seamus was able to come out and fix it at short notice yesterday, so we didn't have to go long without such basic necessities. Needless to say I had a celebratory bath yesterday evening!

Almost time to go home. Words cannot quite express the relief that brings - even if I'm still not entirely sure what delights the weekend ahead holds.

Half way through, and a fab Saturday evening just finished... Exhausted!

And now back in Milton Keynes after a productive morning of computer tinkering and whatnot at my parents' house, where I slept last night. Got an hour or so before I need to go out again, so going to go and have a nice unhurried bath to hopefully recuperate a little before the next stage!

Which was reasonably OK, a light tea and a few games and things round at Sarah's, followed by going for a rare drink - and a McDonalds afterwards - with Mark and Andy. All a bit overshadowed though by an email picked up when I got back home which really quite knocked me for six and spoiled what was an otherwise really good weekend. And a couple more unconnected church-related emails this morning that don't make me feel a whole lot better really and indeed make me begin to wonder what my place in this world is at all.

But booby prize of the evening had to go to the Barge Inn, a Vintage Inns pub, part of the Six Continents Retail group - for the benefit of the web search engine spiders in a few days' time. No longer a pub at which one can request "two pints of lager and a packet of crisps please" - because they can't sell you a humble packet of crisps. Nor a bag of peanuts if that's what you prefer. Such frivolities are not in keeping with their new image of being "more of a restaurant now", even at 9.30 in the evening after they've stopped serving food anyway. And it's not only the Barge, but seems to be corporate policy, bearing in mind a trip a couple of months back to the Proud Perch - formerly the Black Horse, for several hundred years - also owned by Vintage Inns and Six Continents Retail, who refused to serve Ally with a plate of chips. Well, at least until we convinced them that Vintage Inns' and Six Continents Retail's policy was stupid, and persuaded them to add the chips to one of our open bar tabs. Why, for crying out loud?! If these places are no longer pubs, they could at least be honest about it; they should stop calling themselves pubs, take down their signs and dismantle their bars. And just in case it wasn't quite clear enough, that's Vintage Inns and Six Continents Retail.

Happy St George's Day, everyone; I'm not afraid to celebrate it either, and I'm no neo-nazi jingoistic football hooligan skin-head thug. Just English, OK?

Had a quiet evening in and an early night last night, unusually for a Monday, and despite the best intentions of others to drag me out to a prayer meeting. Almost certainly the right thing to do, anyway, and I feel a bit better today.

What does it mean to be English anyway? To me, the most important thing is that I was born in the bit of the United Kingdom that isn't Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland. Nothing against those countries for a moment, I just wasn't born there. Being English needn't - and doesn't - exclude me from being British, or European, or a citizen of Planet Earth, come to that. I also feel an attachment to Buckinghamshire, but that doesn't mean I must show animosity to those from Hertfordshire or Oxfordshire just because they don't. Sure, sometimes I see what my countrymen get up to in the name of England and am less than impressed, but why should that take away from who I am, my history and my family? I have nothing to be ashamed of, Englishman that I am.

I know deep down that Claire's the one for me too - as much as anyone ever can be "The One". We wouldn't have got this far if she hadn't been, and that's not just an observational thing. It's just such a struggle, and I only feel I have a limited amount of energy for it at the moment. Jess will sometimes say, almost in tears, that she hasn't got any more hugs in her; I never quite used to understand, but I feel like that right now, although, like Jess, it's not for want of trying. Last night I felt the spark had truly been extinguished, and all my favourite photographs came down. But they went up again this morning, and remain up now. Right now they serve just as reminders of what only might be; I want them to be my favourites again. Believe me.

Today I am having a better day at work than I can remember for months. But it's mainly because I'm fairly successfully shutting everything else out. Otherwise my head's a mess, but I just don't want to dwell on that right now.

And church matters really are continuing not to help. They contributed towards bringing all this on in the first place, and hints - even unsubtle ones - seem to be hard for them to take. Bad impressions of Smithers do not amuse, by the way; they merely increase the tension levels and this diary is not x-rated so I will not go into further detail about what I think at this time.

But right now I'm getting steadily hacked off by work - though it's mainly political rather than technical, and the plot is progressively thickening. Basically, I'm currently working on fixing a small bug in a Delphi program a long-since-departed colleague "wrote". I use hefty quotes around "wrote", given that I was today advised that the program was in fact shamelessly ripped off wholesale from an example that came with the unregistered version of the shareware component suite that it uses. Indeed the only reason that component suite was used at all was because of that particular example, and we supposedly shelled out $399 for the full registered version to save us the effort of recreating it ourselves. Cheap at half the price really, and morally questionable. But now it seems that we never actually coughed up the money anyway, but did somehow at one point obtain the registered version in expectation of our payment, though can I find it now? Can I heck. Not that I feel I ought to anyway, being an upstanding kind of person! So anyway, that all means that the issue of having ripped off the example program for a bit of software we're effectively selling pales into insignificance against the fact we're almost certainly using the whole thing illegally anyway. But that wouldn't be the first time anything like that had happened here...

Finally got it working - but I can't help feeling it was an over-complicated process for a very good reason... Or, rather, a very bad one.

Oh, despite that little rant, it's still been a good day at work. Just a minor annoyance during an otherwise surprisingly good few hours. And I got a nice email from my boss - copied to sundry others of varying importance - publicly thanking me for the effort put into getting the software updated so quickly.

What do you want me to say?

"I hate you"? - 'cos I don't
"I'll dump you"? - 'cos I won't

This chapter may seem finished, but the book's only just started, and this is one I'm certainly not going to put down in a hurry.

Today, everything seems calm. An uneasy and unnatural calm, certainly, but undeniably calm. I guess it's a calm that comes through knowing I'm doing what little I can in my puny human power, and trusting God to exercise his will in his thankfully infinite might. Nevertheless, I won't be going to Open House tonight, and that's with Matt and Jill's full blessing, because it's just a complication I could do without right now and which has stressed me way too much over the last month. It's enough at this point to know that they are looking out for me and praying for me, while I focus my efforts in that area entirely elsewhere as is all I feel I can do much of the time. Looking further ahead than this evening, well I'm not even really looking as far as this evening except in saying what I'll not be doing, but that applies to quite a lot of things to be honest. Trying hard to keep open-minded and positive, though, hard as it may be.

Trying, trying, trying. Sometimes succeeding, sometimes failing. But trying.

Always trying. And that includes trying hard to be enthusiastic even when niggling little voices try and convince me I'm wasting my time. Always trying.

"Felicity, Felicity, you fill me with electricity!"
-- The Young Ones

Last night I watched "Billy Elliot" on DVD, the disc having been sat on my chest of drawers unopened for a few weeks since I'd made the most of Woolworths' spring sale. I'd watched it in the cinema with Sarah soon after it was first released, but it was good to see it again - and not miss the first quarter of an hour thanks to The Point's misinformative newspaper advertising. It's just such an inspirational film, showing how ambition and potential can be realised given the right determination, despite any and all adversity being thrown in the way. That if there's something in life you want enough, you will go against what may seem your better instinct or the easy cop-out path, no matter what others may initially say, think or do to try and stifle it. At the end of his audition, Billy says that when he dances, it's like electricity running through his body - far from the first time I've heard the expression, and I don't just mean the Young Ones' quote above! Surely anything that does that for you - at the very least - is worth fighting for?

This weather today is brilliant! Much as the recent warm and sunny spell has finally helped lift me out of my seasonal trough, a bit of rain and some cool winds really are most welcome! Did mean we missed our lunchtime walk though.

Now it's gloriously sunny again! Didn't Crowded House sing a song about this?

Right, the week's done; I'm off home. Have a good weekend, y'all - though I expect I'll catch up with you at some point nonetheless...

Well that was a sort-of nice evening, getting a phone call from Sarah and agreeing to meet her half way between here and her house to swap a couple of books. Then ending up deciding to risk going to the somewhat notorious but conveniently nearby Springfield for a swift half and a natter, finding time had flown by and realising if Sarah was to collect Rachael and Laura from their childminder at a sensible hour I'd better do the driving since my car was substantially closer! Stopped for a little while at Gillian's, but agreed to drop Sarah and the girls back off at their house after without stopping further, which was probably just as well for various reasons though I'm sure we'll catch up again at some point during the weekend...

Well today's been a fairly lazy day so far, on the face of it. Well, not really, because I've spent about half of it so far engrossed in reading, and that took a somewhat higher priority than outwardly active things like getting up, bathed, dressed and breakfasted - though the latter ended up more like afternoon tea, courtesy of Colonel Sanders and his special seasoning. Spent the last couple of hours up in town, anyway, risking all with Central MK's paramilitary parking inspectors by undoubtedly overrunning my free parking allowance - but that was only because I had a last-minute flash of modest inspiration with regard to Claire's fast-approaching birthday that waylaid me by a fair few minutes.

Not sure whether baseball or superstition are going to win out tonight - I'm hoping on the latter though, really. And if you don't know what the heck I'm on about, don't worry...

Neither baseball nor superstition won out in the end, but forthright honesty.

Thank you to everyone for your love, support, prayer, thoughts or whatever over the last few weeks, it's all been genuinely appreciated; it just sometimes happens that what's right is not always exactly what we think we want.

Up and about before six on a Sunday morning? Something's not right...

Going back to bed in a moment though!

Not that I could get back to sleep, and there's now getting-up activity elsewhere in the house so I don't think there's a hope now and may as well grit my teeth and get up soon myself. Had an altogether patchy night's sleep, which was actually somewhat unexpected; I felt surprisingly relaxed when I finally turned in, well into the small hours of the morning, but I guess deep down my mind was still chewing over the events of the evening.

As for today, well depending on how I feel in a couple of hours' time I may venture to church at the City Discovery Centre, especially since it's quite an informal thing planned for this morning - though I'm not sure how well I'll be able to face the inevitable cheery well-wishing and subsequent grilling. Been invited out for lunch and a quite possibly wet and windy walk later, though, and there's little doubt I'll participate in those!

Monday morning, back at work, and struggled to get out of bed. Typical Monday, really. Just any old typical post-weekend Monday - and most of them are...

Yesterday ended up a really good day, although my lack of quality sleep was taking its toll by the evening and I was quite ready to come home when I eventually did. Lunch out was indeed had - at KFC, not particularly surprisingly - as was the subsequent walk round Willen Lake, and although the rain was minimal, the wind made it bracing to say the least! All well worth it though, and followed by toasted bacon rolls with lashings of HP sauce for tea - what more could one ask for?

Yes, today was supposed to have been a bit more than just "any old Monday", but it wasn't to be, and that's just the way things go sometimes - and for the best, in this case, I strongly suspect. Happy birthday though, Claire - since I know you will read this - and... Umm... Well yes, happy birthday.

At least I remembered - or rather was reminded - what else was special about today. Well, not really special, but enough to make me wary of booking any meetings or anything - and with about five minutes to spare. Somehow, a couple of months ago, I got talked into joining a team to look into implementing coding standards here, and their first meeting was this afternoon. Hopefully it'll be the last, too...

Now just got the hassle of this evening, which was going to be a nice simple pizza out with Darren, as is traditional on a Monday night, but now with the added complication of Nic wanting to borrow my keyboard for a band practice which was scheduled at the last minute for this evening. I'm sure we'll be able to work something out, but ultimately I'm afraid pizza wins out over sitting around at home waiting!

Pizza was good - and plenty of it, for us two hungry lads - and the keyboard loan to Nic worked out fine in the end, thanks to Matt. Had good phone chats with Mum and with Sarah, but now I've had my lavender and chamomile enriched bath, it's pretty much bed time...

Tuesday, and all is calm. Hopefully going to meet up with SBJ (another Dave) at some point this afternoon since he's back here for an interview, so I'll probably make lunch a brief one! Otherwise, just a pretty typical Tuesday...

Met up with Dave as planned, once he'd had his interview, and we went to the refectory for a bit to catch up on stuff. Seems like the interview went very well - even if in an odd kind of way - and that he's going to be back in Milton Keynes very soon, which'll be good! Time flew by a little, and we decided it was too late to phone for a taxi to get Dave back to the station in time for his train home, so I drove him over there, and now I'm back in the office and whiling away the last hour or so here before calling it a day.

What a flippin' evening - but with good company so not grumbling really, though too tired to elaborate further at this point!

I suppose I really ought to be going to bed, logically speaking. Let me just finish this glass of wine - and accompanying pint of water - and I will, OK?

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