goznet ...

David's diary: August 2002

Well that was a somewhat shattering day, undoubtedly harder work than being at the office! Amongst other things, I got both my wardrobes cleared out - even if most of their contents are still all over my bedroom floor - and I really feel I've made a substantial dent in what needs to be done before I move in just over a fortnight, all being well.

But then, having done that, there was more of the same to be done at Sarah's - though I really didn't have the energy to do all I'd have liked, but the moral support was appreciated anyway, as was the lift into town earlier and the walk round Willen Lake to wrap up the day.

Now though it's high time I was negotiating my way to my bed, with another early start heralding another busy day no doubt!

I thought I was going to sleep like a log last night, but I didn't, so I hope I don't have to have too mad a day today in order to be ready for Newquay tomorrow morning and to return my room to some semblance of organisation. Not that I've really got started yet, though, having agreed to give Jam and co a lift to Sarah's to continue with helping the moving preparations there. So I guess that means I ought to press on now; whether I'll get a chance to post many more entries here before I leave tomorrow will just remain to be seen!

Having reclaimed my floor - generating another three black sacks of rubbish in the process - I'm taking a short breather before I press on with packing my rucksack for tomorrow morning's journey. I successfully transported Jam, Emma and Austin to Sarah's this morning to do some decorating, but my planned solid day of tidying, binning and packing was interrupted by a mercy mission to buy another big tin of magnolia paint from B&Q in Bletchley, followed by lunch with the crew. However it now seems likely that Jam and co won't be needing my offered lift home, so I am not quite as pushed for time as I might have been, seeing as I will need to pop into the shops too at some point while they're still likely to have some nice rolls and things in.

Well I'm as packed as I'm going to get tonight, though I'll be up in good time to make the final touches and hopefully decide on a load of things I don't really need to take... I was trying to remember whether I took my rucksack, my sports bag or a suitcase last year, but Sarah reminded me it was definitely the rucksack - useful not only for its capacity, but its leaving two hands free for keeping hold of youngsters and so on. Anyway, I am pretty unbelievably tired after that not too brilliant night's sleep last night, and a few worries - I think now allayed - about whether I was going to be fit to go at all, so I'm going to head for bed very shortly and hope I'm relatively bounding with energy come eight o'clock tomorrow morning. Still got to decide exactly how I'm going to get to the station - as indeed have Sarah and the girls, in fact - but that's one of the reasons for being up nice and early tomorrow, though I'll be keeping my phone handy overnight just in case of any unusually efficient arrangements being made.

Second day into my "holiday" in Newquay. Safe and fairly trouble-free journey down, though a slight crisis today with Laura cutting her heel rather badly at the beach, but just about surviving... Heading for bed now though!

Third day down, no serious crises today...

Not a lot more to say, really!

Day four, and the rot's distinctly setting in, but I've got a pre-agreed "day off" tomorrow which will hopefully help me - and the others - survive 'til the end of our week away. It's as much me as anyone; I've seen it all before, more than once, and no doubt will see it again. Perhaps one day I will truly be able to exorcise this unwanted and painful aspect of myself, but I'm not holding my breath. But for now, I've been plied with ample wine and scotch, and a relatively early night beckons - and no need for an early rise tomorrow, thank goodness. 'Night all.

P.S. If you're from Monochrome and actually reading this, please can you let me know? Thank you!

Went to the Eden Project today, just; it was a close-run thing. That much of the day was good, anyway. Now cannot wait to get home though, but it's a couple more days until I can do so, really.

Oh, and I had my "day off" yesterday, for all the good it did in the greater scheme of things. Had a nice - if expensive - Mexican meal out in the evening, though, which was nice, and walked a good few miles too.

It's Friday afternoon, and I was supposed to be going out for a walk or something with Sarah and Rachael, but they disappeared off while I was on the phone and I was distinctly disinclined to spend too much time looking for them. My unexpected freedom gave me an opportunity to pop into Threshers to buy my customary thank-you gifts for Charles and Sylvia, which I might not otherwise have too easily had, so never mind, and now I have the chance to relax a little and gather my reflections.

That will most likely be the last such thank-you, however, because I intend never to visit here again under this particular arrangement. Last year wasn't easy, but even with regular escapes plotted - and managed - this year really has sadly taken the biscuit, and come painfully close to destroying some of my most important friendships. Only the continual support from Charles and Sylvia has kept me going, otherwise I'd have been long since home, and probably insane.

I could go into a lot more detail, but it would be neither right nor proper in a forum such as this, especially given the exact detail of the underlying problem. Just suffice to say that there is entirely calculated and vindictive malice in the air, encouraged by someone who has the full ability to wrap others around their finger and drag them down too. Thankfully those others are beginning to realise it, but it's probably too late to salvage anything much for this week.

But this time tomorrow we should all be just about back home, and the others will then shortly be heading off to Scotland for a few days prior to their house move, during which time I too should be moving. Perhaps that will help calm things down and clear the air a little, but things certainly couldn't really get a lot worse than they were yesterday morning when even my last and best hope had succumbed to the manipulation - as tearfully admitted in detail at lunch today.

For now though, the fresh air blasting in through the skylight in the attic bedroom here is seriously tempting me to brave the great outdoors again, as it did this morning, even though it was blowing quite a gale. Not sure where I'll go this time, but it does me good to some degree, even though there are aspects I find far from easy.

Life's too short.

No chance of going to the beach this afternoon, with really quite treacherous conditions remaining all day, but I popped into the aquariums for a little while before returning to the flat for a nap, quickly interrupted by my summons for tea. That was a disaster as expected, and I feigned a complete lack of appetite and need to go shopping once I'd done the washing up, before heading off for a sausage and chips supper with more civilised company in town. Sad, but it was the only way, I'm afraid. I'll have to survive eight hours of the so-and-sos on the train tomorrow, which I utterly dread, but then frankly wouldn't give a hoot if I never saw at least some of them again in my life. I don't hope for that, but it's the reality of things at the moment, and I would challenge anyone who's been through the hell I have this week to feel in the least bit differently.

It's Saturday afternoon and I am back at home, thank goodness. In the end, the journey was simple and reasonably painless apart from a few snide remarks, but that was mainly because I was actively encouraged to keep myself to myself. A nice empty Silverlink train from Birmingham New Street to Milton Keynes helped immensely with that, and I was mighty glad we didn't wait a further half hour for the busier Virgin service we had reservations for. At this early point I am frankly not sure if much friendship can be salvaged from the wreck of this week, though I know that if it can, it's going to be neither easy nor quick. I must remember that it is almost certain that the problems were rooted in one person and one person only, though the damage wrought was rather wider-reaching. There's not really much more to be said at the moment, except to reiterate that I am mighty glad to be home, with probably the worst week of my recent life over and done with at last.

And now it's Sunday morning, and life can return to some version of normality! I'll need to go food shopping at some point, and have also said I'll be up for a beer or two with Darren at some point, but other than that, a nice relaxing day is anticipated - and will be fought for if at all possible...

A quiet day, as hoped for. Back to work tomorrow, that should help a lot!

Maybe Monochrome does still have its uses; thanks to Fade on there, I've updated the scripts that help perform this diary updating lark to be a lot more secure and flexible than before. Previously, hackers could determine the supposedly "secret" password from my browser history or the httpd logs, but no longer. A useful side-effect is that it should also be possible to submit much longer entries than before, though I'm not sure if all my readers would agree on the merits of that!

Oh, and stone the crows, Monochrome's finally got a new version of its underlying software - only took about six or seven years, but hey! The best things come to those who wait, after all...

After a not entirely brilliant night's sleep, I'm back at work today as planned, and nothing's really changed. It's quiet with Sam's month off continuing, but Tim's around so sanity can be maintained in this office, and it will be lunchtime in a few minutes anyway.

For the record, upon my arrival this morning, my main email inbox had about fifty messages. Half of these were spam, and half of the remainder were automatic messages complaining that my mailbox was over its size limit - mainly due to the spam and previous size-limit reminders, of course...

Today's dragged a little, and I've not felt particularly brilliant to be quite honest. Sarah phoned just before lunch to check up on me before she headed off to Scotland - assuming no problems collecting her tickets at Luton - and was a little surprised I'd made it into work at all considering my state when we parted on Saturday. It's about an hour until I can make my escape for the day, and hopefully relax a little this evening; I have a hunch it will seem longer than that, though it's still good for me to be back at work I'm pretty sure.

Just had my supposedly weekly progress meeting regarding the microprocessor simulation I am developing in Java, but since I've barely been here since the last meeting a fortnight ago there wasn't really a lot to discuss with Jon. But we still managed to chat for about half an hour about the finer details of the new time-logging system coming into force this month, and about last night's Perseid meteor shower. If I'd remembered in time, I'd have got to bed a little earlier and dragged myself up to Campbell Park in the small hours of the morning, but I didn't, so only managed a glimpse of half a dozen of the shooting stars at around about midnight. Mind you, I was busy all evening anyway, having decided earlier to do the updates for Gareth's website that had been waiting since before I went on holiday, and when I had a few things to query with him, Gareth came round anyway and we managed to make quite a few decisions about the site and so on. All that fun and games, plus being a little under the weather anyway, meant I very nearly didn't make it into work this morning, but I thought I'd better make the effort for the sake of that progress meeting - even if it didn't really end up quite as intended!

Finally I seem to be stepping closer to getting my new flat. There are of course a few little hitches - like no-one being around to provide an employment reference, and needing to scrape together the best part of a grand in cleared funds by Friday - but I'm confident it can all be resolved in time.

Then there will be little things like negotiating the veritable minefield of signing up with British Telecom, with it seeming not so many years ago that they tried to screw me for a hundred pounds more than they should have, and the options on offer this time around more complicated than ever!

But perhaps in a week's time it will all be beginning to fall into place.



Hmm - no word back from our departmental secretaries regarding my request for proof of my employment to be somewhat urgently sent to my letting egents. I don't want to nag them, because it has been less than a day, but it's also less than three days until I'm due to get the keys. Anyway, it's time to head home today after a reasonably unproductive day; I'm sure I'll feel much more settled once my move is complete and I've physically recovered a little from my break!

Right, I've just had an email from Marion to say the fax has been sent and the paper copy put in the post, so the letting agency should now have satisfactory proof that I am an upstanding and hard-working professional and not a house-trashing layabout benefits scrounger *. They will apparently phone me back this afternoon to confirm that everything really is in order, but I doubt there will be any problem now. All that means I have left to do is to sort out the cleared funds for the deposit and first month's rent, and I was assured at the bank yesterday there would be no problem with doing that Friday morning, so all being well, the wheels have now been emphatically set into motion.

* Not a view I subscribe to, but it appears to be implicit in the way most of these letting agencies seem to select their tenants.

The letting agency got back to me this afternoon as promised and everything's fine with the employment reference. They are also quite happy to accept the cleared funds in whatever form is most convenient for me - though implied that the Japanese tenant who paid them a £3000 deposit in five pound notes might not have had quite the best idea. So, midday on Friday I am to hand over the deposit and so on, sign the contract and inventory, and duly take possession of the flat. The tenancy officially runs from Saturday, but I think it worked out easier for them too to allow me to potentially move in a day earlier. Thankfully I don't have to move everything across in a single militarily precise manoeuvre, but I'd quite like essentially to be based there by the end of the weekend even if I still have a few bits and bobs to transfer next week. In practice, the deadline for being out of my current place will be the weekend after, when the new tenants are supposedly moving in.

Anyway, it all seems finally to be taking shape, and I'd almost say I'm looking forward to it now!

Actually managed a moderately relaxing evening yesterday - and not too late a night either, for once. I spent a good part of it on the phone to my mum, catching up on various family matters. Consequently it was almost nine o'clock by the time I was eating my dinner! Not much more than that to say, really. Life otherwise goes on, though Mum did say I sounded a lot more cheerful than the last time we'd spoken, earlier in the week. I can think of more reasons than one why that may be, but it'll probably take a little more explanation than I really have time or inclination to provide at this point.

I already seem to have become one of the Walnut Tree in-crowd, thanks to being invited to the semi-regular drinking session at the Tawny Owl on Tuesday. Prior to announcing my move, I wasn't even aware of this tradition, so I learn something new every day... Seems it's got quite a few participants, though it's languished a little of late, and I think they hope I might help revive it a bit - perhaps with a little assistance from my friends! We can but hope, anyway.

Blimey, all that work just to get a couple of dotted lines to appear in one of my Java applets. OK, needless to say there was a little more to it than just drawing two lines, but that is the main visible result of my efforts over the last few days! Looks good though, and hopefully the academic concerned will agree when he gets to review it tomorrow.

On which upbeat note, I think I shall call it a day and toddle off home - for one of the very last times to that particular place called "home", anyway... Yes, it will be odd to move after over four years in my current place, but it will help lay some skeletons to rest. Apart from the hassles involved in actually moving - and fitting everything in - I'm really quite looking forward to the change of scene!

Well today's the day, and in about two hours I should be the proud owner - OK, tenant - of my new little flat, and I can start deciding how exactly I'm going to move all my stuff across. Yesterday evening, Mark fitted a lock on my walk-in wardrobe, since he plans on using it for long-term storage while he's away. Because he wants to transfer some stuff into there on Monday, I've said I'll prioritise clearing that out - though he also said he wants to move furniture around, so I might well end up doing rather more! We also had a visit from Alan, Helen, Phil and Angela yesterday evening, which was a pleasant surprise, since I've not seen any of them any more than in passing for over a year now. Of course, unless I make special efforts now, it will probably be even longer before I see them again, but maybe that's just the passage of time and so on for you. This flat-move is but one stage in starting a new life, and sometimes it is time to grit one's teeth and move on, even when the memories are fond. That applies in other areas than this, of course, but one has to be realistic at the end of the day.

Right, I am now officially the tenant of my new flat, with everything happening perfectly smoothly. I even got to meet my new neighbours, who had just moved in themselves, though it's highlighted the need to find out exactly what the parking arrangements officially are. I am assured that there is a space allocated to me, but it's not yet entirely clear which one it is of the several immediately outside the flat and across the road. Carrying the best part of a thousand pounds in cash as the deposit and first month's rent wasn't as hairy as I was expecting it to be, though I was glad for it not to be in my possession for any longer than strictly necessary! Back at work this afternoon, I've quickly rattled through a good number of the various organisations I needed to contact to inform of my new address, with the only major one still to finish sorting out being British Telecom for my landline. Never thought in a million years that it could be this painless!

It's about eleven o'clock and I'm half moved in - and the half that means it's realistic for me to stay the night here rather than back at the house. With the help of Mark I've moved all the major - i.e. large - stuff, and there's about another car-load of smaller junk to shift as and when. I'll be popping back to the house at some point tomorrow anyway to join in with Mark's all-day leaving do, and I'll probably bring back a load more stuff then. It's still a week until I have to be totally out, so I'm well ahead of schedule anyway!

First morning in my new flat, after a slightly iffy night's sleep. I think it will be better once I've got some proper bedding, possibly later today if I can get my act in order. Consequently I was up really quite early, so have already had a good opportunity to sort through all the stuff I brought over yesterday. Of course, all that really means is all the more space for the clobber I still need to bring here, but at least I now know I've got a fighting chance of more or less everything fitting in neatly. Anyway, having worked up quite a bit of a sweat from doing that, I'm off to try out the bath, with its Economy 7 water. Hmm, did you really want to know that?

It's just about the small hours of Sunday morning, after a mightily busy Saturday. I never did make it to the shops as I'd intended, but the time was filled completely anyway by further moving of stuff - leaving only a couple of bits that can wait until things have quietened down a little - and attending what I could of Mark's "leaving day". I missed the mass fry-up in the morning, but joined in with the lunchtime walk around Willen Lake and the evening party, which was a most pleasant but quite low-key event. Now though, I realise I do not have room to lower the fold-away bed tonight, but I think I'm exhausted enough I'll cope just fine with my camping mat - and it'll be good practice for Greenbelt anyway!

Oh, and lots of Really Good Things are happening this weekend.

Not including Andy's bike chain breaking yesterday evening, of course, even though that gave me a rare and welcome opportunity to see them all, on my own, when I drove him home.

But truly Really Good Things have happened, including restoring better-than-diplomatic relations with Claire, getting more or less everything moved in here - even if there is no floor space, as you know - and BT phoning me while I was out on today's walk, to sort out my landline here, only a day after I filled out their web form.

And we're only half way through the weekend so far!

Oh, and of course getting this diary back on to Monochrome - of sorts, anyway... Believe it or not, completely unconnected to Claire-related stuff, just sheer coincidence. There have been a few teething problems, as more loyal Monochrome-based readers can't have escaped noticing, and it's still not perfect, but it's getting there! And there should be no difference whatsoever for anyone following this on the web!

Needless to say, that wasn't my most comfortable night ever, but this morning I've cleared enough space for the bed to be lowered next time. I really do plan on going shopping today for some proper bedding, plus a few kitchen bits and pieces I need, as well as my usual food requisites. One thing is quite certain; this flat is going to look truly "lived in" by the time I've got everything sorted, but I am still confident I can get most stuff stowed away. Anyway, having done my bit of physical exertion for the morning, I'm going to go and have a shower - ought to make sure it works, after all - and then see just how good the huge Tesco nearby is when it comes to home-making...

"That'll be the Daewoo!"

Well, in my case, the Daewoo microwave oven, Tesco's cheapest at a penny under forty pounds and perfectly fine for my use. Despite being dripping hot already, I had a yummy chicken jalfrezi ready meal to celebrate and am consequently now positively melting. Oh, the shower worked fine this morning too, and I may well make its acquaintance again by the end of the day at this rate. I'm not normally a shower fan, but that's mainly because of the pathetic dribbly things I've often had to put up with over the years, and the one here is decidedly reasonable.

I also managed to get the bedding I wanted, and indeed spent a little more at Rosebys than I did at Tesco on the microwave, food and odds and ends. It was amazing how everything added up, actually, by the time I'd bought a feather duvet, duvet cover, pillowcases and a couple of sheets - with another cover to follow soon! I did try in Tesco, but although they had a reasonable range of such things, they didn't have exactly what I was after and Rosebys - just round the corner at the Kingston centre - were pretty much perfect and very comparable for price.

For now, though, time to relax a little, methinks!

Having today done my first Saturday shop at Tesco for quite a while - if not ever - I realise there are good and bad sides to the store. It is apparently one of the biggest in Europe, having recently doubled in size, although much of the new development was for electrical goods, clothing, entertainment stuff and so on, rather than ever more food and household basics. Nevertheless, as British supermarkets go, it is a monster, and I spied a few of the roller-blade equipped shop assistants I had understood to be there. I am accustomed to Waitrose in Central Milton Keynes, a medium-sized supermarket, and about half the size of the fairly large Sainsburys it neighbours.

So finding my way around Tesco when shopping "in anger" was a bit of a nightmare, though it does seem to be reasonably sensibly laid out once into the "conventional" bit of the store. That's to say, there's fruit and veg, then chilled stuff, then frozen, then more regular food requisites - with the bakery off to one side - and finally the off-licence section. All the household stuff is completely separate from the food and drink, and reasonably logically organised. Some of the aisle labelling is a little misleading, but on the whole I managed to find what I wanted, and roughly where I would have expected - though thank goodness for Sun Maid's garish packaging for helping me find the own-brand raisins.

In terms of what they actually sell, I am quite impressed - well, apart from their complete lack of semi-skimmed milk, but I guess that was Sunday-itis and served me right for breaking the Sabbath. Not only do they have much more availability of own-brand alternatives than Waitrose, and many of them with rock-bottom priced "economy" options, but there's surprising choice even within some of those ranges. For example, I wanted some olive-oil spread, and would normally have to buy Olivio. But needless to say, Tesco - unlike Waitrose - do their own brand one, although in this case, Olivio was on special and exactly the same price. So I was going to stick with what I knew, until I spotted that Tesco also did an own-brand low-fat version, so that was the one that ended up in my trolley alongside the microwave oven.

So, on balance, am I a convert? I still think it's over large, and that much of what they sell could be better left to other retailers, but it's hard to argue against the convenience of it all - especially given how close it is to me compared with Waitrose now - and the value for money if buying own-brand things in particular. Best of all, though, is that I have my clubcard, and having spent over seventy pounds there this afternoon, my opening balance was really quite tasty!

Ooh, welcome back, not-so-new diary reader!

I think our department is going to have to increase the weekly order of bottles for the water cooler, having already downed two pints this morning, barely touching the sides of my throat. Yes, I walked in as planned, even though it's a slightly damp morning, and it took me almost exactly a quarter of an hour. That's a bit longer than it used to take me to drive in from Springfield, but the health benefits I am sure will be substantial, and it's a short enough walk that if it's raining by evening I needn't worry too much. I think I will invest in a small umbrella sometime though, just in case!

Last night I slept reasonably well, with my newly acquired bedding, though it's going to be a little starchy for my liking until it gets its first wash, whereupon I am assured that it will be fine. People generally seemed to think I wouldn't bother with folding the bed away when it's not in use, but I have so far, and not just because there's a bit of a space crisis at the moment. Generally I enjoy having room to swing the proverbial feline, and when it takes only seconds to roll up the duvet and fold the bed away, well why not?

My BT landline was working perfectly this morning as promised, which means that once I've cleared the floor of the remaining clobber, I'll look into connecting up the modem and ordering a flat-rate internet package. I can use the internet in the meantime, via my mobile, as I've mainly done for the last year anyway, but now I have my own proper phone line, I might as well make the most of it, and with even a mere hour's use a day a flat-rate deal should pay for itself quite quickly.

Monochrome's down again, but thanks to the miracles of modern technology I can add things to my web diary whenever I want, and update the copy on Monochrome later just by running a simple script that fetches the web page and converts it into a form Monochrome can neatly display. The system still isn't perfect, and I intend to completely rewrite it soon, but it will do for the moment!

Lunch was a bit of a disaster today, with the fire alarm sounding minutes after we'd sat down in the canteen, and it was only once we'd given up hope and were most of the way back to the office that it stopped - though not before the fire brigade had attended, not that there was much evidence of anything too serious having happened. Probably just burnt toast somewhere or something...

Hopefully the system for updating the Monochrome version of this diary from the web version is now automatic. I'm not entirely convinced, but Monochrome is very wobbly this afternoon anyway so it's hard to be certain where the problem lies. But anyway, in theory at least, the Monochrome version will be updated on an hourly basis, if - and only if - the web version has changed. Sadly there's not a lot I can do about the fact that the Monochrome client software can crash with a segmentation fault if you happen to be reading that version of the diary when an update is carried out. I suspect that's a bug in Monochrome, and I'm not holding my breath for it to be fixed, with all the other more serious problems being experienced with the latest software release.

Had a bit more of a play with this diary automation, having spotted a few mistakes on my part. Hopefully it will work better from now on, though there will probably be very little that's noticeable to users, rather than me.

I had a rather unsettled night with a few panic attacks and whatnot, but was still up in good time this morning, and indeed arrived at work five minutes earlier than yesterday. Later this morning I have that deferred progress meeting with Jon, but I don't think there will be much to report even a week later, unless I can perform a miracle or two over the next hour or so! Yesterday evening was modestly hectic, sorting out the kitchen here - so there's actually room to prepare food, drain the washing-up, and so on - and collecting my little black and white television and my bike from Springfield. While there, I also gave my old room a good hoovering; it was most odd to see it so empty, not that it will remain that way for long, I'm quite certain! There's still a mountain of stuff to sort out in the main room of my flat, but I am sure it can all be stowed; I just need to decide what requires short, medium and long term storage, in terms of relative accessibility, and that's not going to be an entirely quick process.

I was most resourceful this morning, upon being unable to flush my lavatory and almost emptying the cistern trying. It appears that in order to reliably flush, there needs to be a reasonable head of water in the cistern to build up sufficient pressure in the flushing mechanism. However, the ball-valve had been set such that the cistern under-filled by about an inch, which seemed to be just enough to render flushing uncertain at best. Thankfully though, I could see how to adjust the level at which the ball-valve cut off the water flow, although the mechanism was corroded solid, so I had to remove the ball in order to have a better go at it with my pair of pliers. Of course, whilst adjusting the valve, the tank filled up again and wasn't going to stop without intervention - and silly me almost forgot that a quick and easy way to empty it again would be to flush it! I slightly over-adjusted the valve in the other direction though, but that was easily remedied, and hopefully all will be fine from now on. Why is it though that the times when the loo won't flush are when it's most direly necessary..?

Why does Paint Shop Pro have to be such a steaming crock of ... er ... steaming stuff? Did JASC sign some secret pact with Adobe, that if their software came even remotely close to Photoshop in its functionality, the interface would be made more diabolical to compensate?

First of all, my apologies to all those who have been unable to read this diary on Monochrome over the last few hours. It seems a subtle bug had crept in with the new version of Monochrome, that meant that turning on the long-awaited "reviews" feature had rendered the diary inaccessible to anyone but me. I've turned that off again now - there's no point being able to review a diary you can't read, anyway! - and all seems to be fine once again.

Last night was quite fun, joining up with Rob, Matthew, Jeremy and Dave for a pint or three at the Tawny Owl, my local. The pub has a bit of a bad reputation, but was perfectly fine and quite quiet on a weekday evening. A good time was had by all, and the intention agreed to do such things more often. I feel a little ill this morning - but that was probably as much to do with how little I had to eat yesterday evening as the quantity I drank!

Anyway, it's my last day at work this week, with tomorrow booked off in order to prepare for the Greenbelt festival at the bank-holiday weekend. I did manage to get a little more of this microprocessor simulation done before yesterday morning's meeting with Jon, and did a considerable amount more in the afternoon. A bit more of the same today, and I should have something worth showing for my efforts before I disappear off for the best part of a week.

That was a pleasant enough evening, going for a yummy Ask pizza with Sarah - back from Scotland and enjoying being without the children for a few days as she prepares to move - and a twilight stroll round Willen Lake to justify our gastronomy. Also, via Sarah, got given an antiquated Compaq laptop, which is something I've wanted for a long time to play with Linux on, but I have a suspicion it's a bit of a heap and I've not yet got the charger for it so don't even know whether it works!

Seems that just as I started getting things into some kind of order in the flat here, it has descended back into chaos again as I prepare to go to the Greenbelt festival tomorrow morning. I'm trying to keep things reasonably simple, especially as - unlike Cropredy - it's not permitted to bring cars on the campsite for anything more than unloading and loading. But it still seems like quite a stack of stuff I have to take, even if a lot of it - by weight at least - is bottled water and so on. Mind you, the weather forecast for Cheltenham over the next few days isn't looking too brilliant, so I'm really not at all sure how all kinds of thing will pan out. So long as it's a little less atrocious weather than Cropredy was a couple of years back, it should be bearable though! I doubt I'll finish packing this evening, but I don't have to be away terribly early tomorrow morning, with the campsite opening at ten, and preferring to avoid the rush-hour if I possibly can anyway. So as long as I'm up in reasonable time, I should be fine putting the finishing touches to things in the morning! But in the meantime, the flat's more of a tip than ever - well, almost...

Also while out shopping for provisions and getting my hair cut - I'd let that slip a little, and quite a bit came off! - I bought some bathroom scales and a new extension lead for my modem. I'd hoped that the main reason I got such poor connection speeds was due to the tangled mess of the way-too-long extension lead I was using before, but the new one seems to have made no difference at all. Not sure whether it's the modem that's at fault, or whether BT need to turn up the gain on the phone line, though it's better having a short lead anyway so I'm not grumbling too much. As for the bathroom scales, well they are registering me at just over thirteen stone, which is a little depressing, and given how much other scales have said I weigh, I can only assume that the ones at my old house were designed to flatter. Mind you, I do have to be careful to make sure I use them on a firm floor; the thick pile in the bathroom oddly adds about half a stone to my weight. I know the instructions always say to put the scales somewhere with a hard floor, but I didn't realise it mattered quite that much, and I'm rather surprised at the fact it over-reads rather than the opposite.

Right, I'd better get up, dressed, packed and away!

See you all soon...

Just this moment got home from Greenbelt and unloaded the car. It's been a mixed time, but positive on the whole. More, I expect, once I've collapsed into the bath for a while!

Bath duly collapsed into, but not for too long, still buzzing too much after the weekend and the drive home. I expect I'll keel over later when it all catches up with me - and I've been provisionally invited round to Sarah's this evening - though I actually managed reasonably decent amounts of sleep each night. The latter was thanks as much as anything to the immaculate condition of the Cheltenham racecourse camp-site, with no lumps or other unevenness to speak of, and Greenbelt being one of the more civilised festivals when it comes to late-night rowdiness - though I still took and used my earplugs, thanks Zoe!

Anyway, I was about twenty minutes away from Cheltenham when Emily texted me to ask how big a space I would need for my tent. I had been a bit negative about it all in the run-up, but that cheered me immensely, to realise I was going to be with friends right from the start. Emily met me at the entrance to "our" field and guided me in, and I was soon pitched up and had parked my car in the distant car park. It was a little damp as I arrived, but the afternoon turned out glorious, though reverted just in time for the opening ceremony, which was consequently a somewhat muted affair. That was also my first glimpse of the main area of the festival, which made heavy use of both the buildings and open spaces at the racecourse - in some ways great, in other ways not so, particularly the lack of any single really decent sized venue.

Throughout the weekend, I dipped into and out of things quite a bit, which was the only way to do things really, given how much was going on at any one time. Pick of the bunch on Friday night though were Steve Lawson, a rather good bassist, who - like Ed Alleyne Johnson with his purple electric violin - makes heavy and imaginative use of sampling and looping to build up his pieces from nothing as he goes along, and Steve Apirana with his often quite funny Maori blues. Also on Friday I managed to meet up with Steve, Jenny and co from Burnham, who I'd not seen since before sadder events earlier in the year. It was good to see them all, and I spent a reasonable amount of time with them during the first half of the weekend, though it all got a bit too much for me, and in a way it was a bit of a relief when I found they'd made an early exit on Monday so there was no chance for any potentially painful goodbyes.

There were a few sharp showers on Saturday, but that was the last of the bad weather for the whole weekend, and although it was overcast for much of the time, I still needed the sun-block so as not to turn completely lobster-coloured! Saturday was a bit of a naff day really, at least musically speaking, though I went along to interesting talks by John Smith - speaking about "the great spiritual confidence trick" perpetrated by many well-known churches - and Lionel Fanthorpe, of motorbiking Fortean vicar fame - speaking on his pet topic of unsolved mysteries. I felt really quite low by the end of the day, but realised it was as much because of the dullness of the programme - apart from the above mentioned items, of course - as anything, and that things were bound to perk up for the rest of the weekend.

And indeed they did, with an excellent if somewhat ramshackle communion service for about 12000 on Sunday morning - including Archbishop Rowan Williams' infamous jig - which will hopefully feature on Songs of Praise's coverage of the festival for broadcast in September. Apart from dutifully going along to watch Thebandwithnoname - for whom I produce a promotional webpage on Gareth's site - it was largely a Martyn Joseph themed day, however. Martyn's "The Rising" song-writing session at lunchtime ended up featuring the whole of his Faith, Folk and Anarchy trio. OK, so Show of Hands don't include him, but only just, and Faith, Folk and Anarchy ended up bringing Phil Beer on to stage anyway... Both the latter were of course excellent and amongst the true highlights of the whole weekend.

By Monday, it really felt like the end was drawing near, which was quite a relief in a way, but there was another good line-up of music and other things before things could really draw to a close! Martyn Joseph's lunchtime session included Martin Smith from Delirious and the aforementioned Steve Apirana, and of course Delirious brilliantly headlined in the evening, along with All Star United, who I didn't really think so much of to be honest. I also went along to an interesting seminar entitled "Christians in cyberspace: the good, the bad and the indescribably boring", where some quite useful opinions and advice were shared, a lot of which would be relevant to all web-pages, but with a Christian slant to it all.

Unlike Emily and the others, I didn't loiter too long after Delirious had finished, got a good night's sleep and was pretty much ready to get up by six this morning, with minimal packing to be done. However I wanted to say goodbye to Emily and the others who were a long way from being up and about themselves, so read for a little before taking a leisurely breakfast and putting the finishing touches to packing. Not really wishing to queue to bring my car back on to the camp-site, I managed to condense all my stuff down to what I could easily carry to the car park, and I consequently got away at about half past eight I think, and was home about two hours later.

A few observations, which probably apply to most festivals:

  • If you leave enough space between tents to keep to fire regulations, some muppet will pitch their tent in the gap
  • If you expect a band to be on late, they'll be on early
  • If you expect a band to be on early, no prizes for guessing what happens
  • The longer you queue for the loo, the less likelihood there is of there being paper
  • If you go digging in your stuff for the loo roll, you'll find the rare occasion on which the loos have been cleaned out and re-stocked with paper
  • "Modestly priced wholesome food" is rarely anything but - especially when you've bought two meals to make up for their lack of size
  • There is always stomach room - and wallet resources - for a bag of doughnuts

"Will I go again?" people were asking me. I really don't know. Although with friends for so much of the time, I felt a deep loneliness for other reasons, and I don't think I would go back unless I had some company really and truly of my own. I've found this before with festivals, but perhaps due to a combination of the nature of the festival and the preceding circumstances, I felt it more than ever this weekend. I'd still reach out a huge thank you to all those who tried so hard to make me happy, and you managed for much of the time, but whether I'd do it all over again in a year's time - well, at least I have a year to think about it...

Was nice to be back in my own soft comfy bed last night, especially after having bought some new pillows while I was out shopping yesterday afternoon. I generally took yesterday in a pretty relaxed fashion, not making it to Sarah's in the end - stress I really didn't need after the weekend - but instead going out for a meal and a pint at the Tawny Owl with Darren. I can confirm what Dawn said in her diary about the food there - served up on 17-inch oval dishes without much room to spare! I had the 10oz surf'n'turf, and I really couldn't imagine tackling their 20oz steak! Top stuff, though, and I confidently predict a return visit in the not too distant future...

Oh, and I think the dents in my left shin have now just about disappeared. For some readers there may be few prizes for guessing who might have inflicted those upon me at the weekend - and that I don't necessarily take it as an entirely bad thing!

A bit of a mad day in the end, getting an "emergency" phone call from Sarah just after lunch, needing the lawn mowed and a few other bits and bobs done before she needed to finally return the key for her old house to the letting agents. So I took the afternoon off and helped her with all that - including heaving her defunct washing machine back out, the very washing machine that put my back out a year or so ago. Then with no other plans for tea, I suggested I brought them over here to see my new place and I'd cook up some pizza and accompaniments, which all went down very well indeed, with the help of my new Aardman Classics DVD to entertain the youngsters in particular.

And now, with peace at last, I'm trying out an external modem I've borrowed from work, and am enjoying a rock-solid connection at 44kbps, unheard of for ages! Last night was the worst night ever with my internal modem, with a megabyte file taking over ten minutes to download with a combination of the slow speed and constant pauses for protocol renegotiation. But this external one hasn't even sneezed. Unless I can miraculously find wonderful new drivers to fix my internal one's lethargy, I think I'll be going shopping very soon!

I suppose I ought to have some water before I go to bed, to counter the mother of a hangover I'll otherwise be suffering from come the morning. Hmm, it's nowhere near as late as I thought, though; I made sure Sarah and the girls went off home in good time, since Laura and Rachael were both due for early bedtimes for various reasons and the visit here offered a bit of a reprieve, and I'd forgotten that! Still, at least things this evening proved that my doubts over how quickly the disaster of our week in Newquay could be overcome were a little pessimistic, which was quite a relief. The fact that Laura was begging to stay here with me next weekend while her mum's away said it all really, though needless to say her pleadings fell upon deaf ears - some things simply not being right and proper!

Perhaps I might actually manage a whole day at work today, for the first time in a week?! It's been good going so far, pressing on with the microprocessor simulation, and in particular with the I/O and interrupts implementation - even though we have not yet received any confirmation from the course team that they want that. It just means that we can show them how cool it could be, and the bulk of the work would already have been done. I've only programmed some pretty simple things, like switches, gauges, LED displays and so on, but it will hopefully be enough to whet their appetite. Other than that, today's been a pleasantly sociable one, so to speak, bumping into my colleague Jeremy as I walked in to work, and going for lunch at the pavilion with David - SBJ to Monochrome folk - followed by a river-side stroll on which we also caught up with Sam and Tim.

Just had Sam round, with his USB external modem to try out on my PC, and managed a reliable connection at over 45kbps!

I think I'll be placing my order rather promptly...

Though in the meantime, I've ordered "free" internet access. OK, yes, it's unmetered really - or sort of. Actually, it's not, strictly - instead I get 200 inclusive hours each month for a £10/month subscription. Considering there's only 700 or so hours in a month anyway and I spend almost two thirds of them either at work or asleep, that strikes me as really quite good value. I only need to use the net for half an hour a day - if that - for it to be worth my while doing, and this deal will work at any time of day, peak or off-peak. Just waiting for the order confirmation and dial-up details, and I'll be away!

Oooh, I mowed the lawn this evening! Sarah lent me the strimmer yesterday, in return for doing the lawn at her old house, and I duly attacked my own lawn this evening. It really was a jungle, and will probably do with another go within the next few days. Funny how I inherited this house with the lawn as it was - not that it bothered me, I don't mind lawn-mowing within reason - yet Sarah's letting agents were really quite picky about how she left hers. I guess all the agents have slightly different rules and so on, and hers was some evil nationwide chain whereas mine is a small independent company - presumably with everything to gain by establishing themselves as reasonable and pleasant people to do business with.

Not exactly the day I'd planned it to be, spending a good deal of this morning worrying about ordering my new modem - and eventually doing so, once I'd partaken of Tim's birthday delicacies - and then getting a phone-call from Gareth at lunchtime that once again put paid to my plans for productivity at work this week.

Consequently, I spent the afternoon trying in vain to sort out some long-running but rapidly-worsening email and internet problems on Gareth's laptop. Well, I managed to get the emails he urgently needed to send off on their way, but it's still not at all happy. It seems that somehow - and it's by no means clear why - Onetel's SMTP server jams if trying to relay a message to a dud domain, and whatever then happens at the client end can cause all kinds of weird stuff to happen in Internet Explorer.

So what I was hoping would be a quick half-hour "ah right" job, ended up taking over three hours and still wasn't properly completed, and now I've been spending this evening faffing around preparing some graphics to print off for an event Gareth's involved with tomorrow. And I still have a whole stack of stuff to do for him, accumulated over the last otherwise-busy month or so. Just got to decide whether I again give him the 25% discount he got on his last invoice, especially since an alarming amount of this work is not even remotely related to the website.

And finally, I've just received an email from Dabs - but not yet one from my new internet providers, alas - to say my modem has been dispatched today and should arrive tomorrow. Hooray - except that I assumed it wouldn't arrive until Monday, so nominated my work address for delivery. Hey ho, well at least I still have this borrowed US Robotics modem that seems to work just fine; just would be nice to be connecting to the net for free by now, Fast24...

Well I successfully completed some of that "whole stack of stuff" for Gareth, but the updates for thebandwithnoname's promotional webpage will have to wait until next week, after I found that the files I'd been invited to incorporate from Alliance's FTP server totalled almost 40 megabytes before reduction for the web! Hmm, maybe I should have gone for broadband after all... Oh, I almost forgot, better news is that I finally have my Top Dog Promotions t-shirt - actually, I'd quite forgotten I'd been promised it - and very nice it is too. I shall be the envy of many I am quite sure!

What am I doing up so early on a Saturday I should really be having the mother of all lie-ins? Don't even bother putting answers on a postcard; there is no justification whatsoever.

This has ended up a bit of a mad Saturday, actually. Lunchtime I decided to go and do my weekly shop, and in so doing, check out the on-foot route to Kingston Tesco. I barely had enough I needed to stock up on to make it worth it, but I did want to find how to get there so I stuck to my original plan. Twenty minutes it took, only slightly longer than the walk into work, but along some of the most soul-destroying redways in Milton Keynes - and still worse on the way back. There is apparently a more pleasant way through Kents Hill, however, which I will endeavour to try out next time.

Half way to Tesco though, I suddenly remembered I'd promised to buy Laura a chess set for her birthday present, and that I had really intended to go into Central Milton Keynes where there's a better array of likely shops for such things. As it turned out, Tesco sold only a magnetic travel chess set, so I did indeed have to drive into town later to sort that out, and I was quite surprised that John Lewis had nothing to offer. When I was about Laura's age I remember getting a nice wooden chess set from my parents which they'd bought at Smiths, so I thought they would be worth a try, and lo and behold they came up with the goods today too.

While in Tesco, I noticed that they had a Photo-me booth, and recalled that I really did rather urgently need to send off for my new driving licence, which requires a photograph since I last moved. Yes, I could have asked Dad to print off a couple of pictures to the required specification, but the booth was there, ready and waiting... It was one of these new-fangled digital ones with no flash, so I eagerly anticipated getting back one of my best sets of photographs ever, but of course to make up for all the positive benefits, they clearly have incorporated automatic deflatterising filters in their software to ensure that passport-photo death-warmed-up look is maintained. Still, by the time it's on my licence they'll have mangled it so much anyway that it will barely matter.

Oh, somewhere along the way - well when I popped in to see him on the way back from Tesco, to be precise - I picked up my friend, colleague and fellow Mono-ite David, and he joined me on my trip into the centre since there were a few bits and bobs he needed to get too, and after listening to a few CDs and whatnot once we were back, drove up to the Proud Perch for a meal and a pint with Darren which was all very pleasant. But now I'm back at home, on my own, and quite shattered, so will be renewing the acquaintance of my lovely fold-down bed very shortly indeed.

So, there you go, one busy Saturday, and with it, the end of the month of August - and now I'll need to tweak a few things on my website and on Monochrome to get September documentable in this customary fashion! Night night for now though, readers...

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