goznet ...

David's diary: February 2002

Pinch, punch, first of the month - and no returns!

Open House went well last night, even if my job was mainly to keep an eye on the time and say the right things as and when. It went too well, actually, because Ally and I have been asked to run it again next week - though our roles will be reversed, so I'll need to devise a short moral and biblical discussion around a controversial newspaper article of some description. Jill also asked whether I wanted to play a significant role in the organisation of Open House in the future, and although I said I would like to in principle, I also felt I had to break the news about the general uncertainty of how long I'd even still be in Milton Keynes, let alone part of the Vineyard. I think it came as a bit of a shock - even though I'd hinted to Matt and others previously that things were hanging in the balance - but she was very happy about it!

Claire was very tired last night, and indeed had gone to bed before I was home from Open House, but at her request I phoned her earlier in the evening and we had a good natter while my tea was in the oven. Our plans for the weekend have changed a little, but it should still be a good fun time - though probably not a lot of opportunity to be on our own. There was to be a quiz night at Jess's school, and I was going to be an honorary member of the St Peter's team, but the headmistress somewhat crossly had to announce yesterday that it was cancelled due to lack of support from pretty much anyone outside the PTA. I'm still going to visit, though; we may go out to watch a film or something, and I still plan on stopping over - especially since Claire has been excused from her Sunday School duties so she can keep me company in church!

Cubase VST worked fine at home too, by the way, and the v3.7 upgrade really is quite a major functional improvement upon v3.5, I'm happy to add! For once, we seem to have a company who don't believe that changing the colour scheme is a modification worthy of a new major version number - indeed quite the opposite!

Oooh, apparently we are to go to the theatre tomorrow! No idea what we're actually going to be seeing, but it's years since I've been to the theatre at all - to see a play, anyway - so it will be a cultcheral experience whatever!

Come on Friday, finish, for flip's sake!

Ah, we are to see "A woman of no importance", by Oscar Wilde, at the Theatre Royal in Windsor. Along with six others in our party, so a romantic night out it almost certainly won't be - but it should be a lot of fun anyway!

Friday did finish eventually, of course, and now it's early Saturday - indeed way too early, but the phone's been ringing on and off since 7.30 or so, and once I'm awake there's not always a lot I can do about it. Besides, I do actually need to be up and out in reasonably good time today anyway, since I aim to be at Claire's by about four this afternoon, so perhaps it's as well... At least the wind seems to have dropped a little now, so maybe the journey won't be as hazardous - and hence prolonged - as it might have been!

Before Friday could finish, though, I'd agreed to have a meeting with Gareth to discuss some stuff for a website he wants put together, and when he found himself running a little earlier than expected he offered to cook up some "boy food" - to use Tash's expression - as well, which worked out mightily well. So we discussed website matters and listened to demo tapes and so on to the accompaniment of meatballs, chips, peas and gravy; if only all my meetings could be like that! What should have been about an hour's meeting of course consequently ended up nearer two or three, but there was still ample time to have a hefty chat on the phone with Claire after Gareth had kindly dropped me home - having decided earlier it was safer to walk than drive down with the weather as it was.

Anyway, I suppose I'd better be getting on now, if I'm to go up into town - again, probably walking for both safety and health's sake - and get ready to leave for Burnham by sometime before three... Bye for now, then!

Blimey what a weekend - and the morning after, I really don't know whether to laugh, cry or just smile at least semi-knowingly. Well I've done all three since, anyway, and today the emptiness of my day-to-day existence consumes me. May I assure concerned readers that I am still very much in love with Claire, but that this weekend has witnessed things moving on to a subtly different level - and it's a level which frankly scares me at this point. Perhaps it's because I'm in too deep a little too suddenly, though half of it is probably coming to terms with my own unaccustomed and unpractised emotions, feelings and urges - all too human as they may be. Indeed, definitely so, because although there may have been times I felt uncomfortable, nor did I want to let go of the best that I presently have. Oh, way too much to go into in here, and I can't presume that you'll all know exactly what I mean, but please keep us all - that's Claire, Jess and me - in your thoughts and prayers. Thank you.

Well I had my "annual" - although the first for two years in practice - appraisal a little while ago, and it was probably more or less worthwhile. I'd already made it pretty clear I don't intend still to be here by the time the next one comes up, so it was all rather pointless setting objectives and so on, but Andy and I had a good chat about the last couple of years and he had some constructive suggestions to make. Particularly he seemed keen that I should try and learn what I can about commercially-relevant Java skills, that being one of the key areas in which I feel I am currently somewhat lacking.

Things might be happening rather sooner than anticipated, actually, with the realisation from this weekend just gone that delaying things much further mightn't be a good idea. Part of what made the weekend more difficult than it might have been was the wrench of having to leave Claire and Jess for the week, and even if marriage may still be a little way off, being physically closer to them would help a lot. Even if I wasn't with them for every possible waking hour - and I wouldn't necessarily want to be, initially at least - I'm pretty sure it would be emotionally easier for all of us in different ways.

At the back of my mind I also have to think of my parents, and I am increasingly having to recognise their fragility. Living slap bang between Claire and me means I'm seeing more of them than for a while, but I still feel conscious of the distance sometimes, and they've both been unwell recently sufficiently to concern. Dad fell off his bike a few weeks ago and - typically enough - brushed himself down and "got on with it", but it turns out he has fractured his wrist, and Mum's been fainting rather a lot lately, which may not be dangerous in itself, but there are obvious associated worries about that.

Anyway, Claire's got Girls' Brigade until fairly late tonight, and I'm going out for pizza with Darren and Dave for the first time in a while - certainly for all our regular group to do so - but we've agreed we'll talk it over later this evening. I doubt any major decisions will be made, although there may come a point where we have to take a leap of faith and hope everything comes together again quickly. Moving house and finding a new job simultaneously realistically isn't going to be feasible - and I'll need to decide whether I'd prefer to commute or be unemployed for however long it'll take!

Pizza out was good, even if Pizza Hut were unusually slow in serving us - though we did get the full apologies of the shift manager, and the food was perfectly fine when it eventually arrived! I got back home at about eight, so with a couple of hours to spare I thought I would finally upload "January" to my diary web archives, update some key software on my PC - particularly the ZoneAlarm firewall - and have a bit of a play with VST instruments in Cubase.

One of the improvements in Cubase VST 3.7 over previous versions was the inclusion of support for such software gadgets, and having the other day installed ASIO2 drivers for my sound card that reduced Cubase's latency from 750ms to a far more acceptable 93ms, I thought it would be worth trying out some free VSTi offerings. So tonight I've been playing with a funky little TB-303 emulator I found on the web called Tau, which was quite a lot of fun and produced some pretty convincing results, especially routed through its accompanying M-Drive overdrive plug-in. It would be a little premature to say I could now safely do away with all the exotic hardware I've accumulated over the years, but it's certainly handy having the flexibility to add such functionality so easily and cheaply.

Meanwhile, enough of such blatant and unashamed geekiness; it's time to await Claire's text to say she's home and had her supper, then I'll get the phone line properly burning!

Which duly happened, of course, though nothing too hard and fast has been decided quite yet. But we're agreed that firm targets to aspire to are helpful for us both, and with that in mind it's reasonably likely we'll be making some big decisions pretty soon so that the wheels can be set in motion. So watch this space!

This morning, I was up before eight - and washed, dressed, breakfasted and in the office before nine. Oh, and loaded the washing machine and took out the rubbish in the meantime. I just knew it was a bad idea. Zzzzzzzz now...

Got Astronomy Club later, though, so probably oughtn't succumb quite yet.

Since I had a chilli beef taco at lunch, I really wasn't planning on having a lot for tea. But the lure of the Olde Swan with its Hot Hobs and chocolate fudge brownies was just too great... Anyway, the club meeting starts in about a quarter of an hour, so I might as well be slowly toddling along to the somewhat aptly - if entirely coincidentally - named Observation Room... Bye!

That was certainly a somewhat different kind of club meeting last night, with the main "event" being watching a live webcast of the launch of the HESSI - High Energy Solar Spectroscopic Imager - satellite. I think there was a bit more of a talk planned about the spacecraft, which is to investigate solar flares - it's a shame delays meant it's probably too late for the solar maximum now - but NASA had to abort the first launch attempt when they lost radio contact with the plane its Pegasus booster rocket was attached to, so it was another half an hour before it was safely on its way into orbit. Still, all very interesting, even if the Pegasus was only really visible for a few seconds after launch, replaced by computer graphics showing the various stage separations and so on.

Today's dragging, indeed the week is dragging. Though we're more than half way through now, which I suppose is a small mercy.

Damn, I've said I'll probably write some choons tonight. Suppose I'd better do so, or I shall be considered not to be a man of my word.

Well, for all my noble musical plans, I've not done anything much yet. Well, other than smash a wine glass and deposit its contents all over my computer keyboard, monitor, mixer, printer, system unit, the carpet and bedroom wall. The keyboard got it worst, though I thought it too had survived until I started typing very strange things especially with the QWERTY row. All seems to be well now, though, after stripping it down and giving the membrane a gentle wipe - remembering well how Sarah had written off a keyboard recently by scrubbing off the conductive strips! The red wine stains are still a little disconcerting, but they can wait until another day, and are purely cosmetic - and I have no plans to try and remove them with white wine! Picking up the shards of glass from my velcro-like carpet was another matter altogether...

I messed around musically for a little while longer yesterday evening, mainly to confirm there were no serious MIDI/audio synchronisation issues in Cubase - as I gather can blight some installations - but then Mark called upstairs to ask if I wanted to watch Mission Impossible 2 on DVD. Yes, I'd seen it before at the cinema, and remembered it as a fairly uncomplicated and brain-dead film, but that was pretty much perfect for an evening like that... I thought it was going to be interrupted by a call from Claire, once she was back from her worship team meeting, but it seemed that must have dragged, because it was gone eleven I think before we coincidentally texted each other wondering what had happened to each other, and a half hour phone call ensued! Trouble was, by then, I felt wide awake - despite spending half the day yawning and nodding off - so fitted in a couple of typically unsuccessful games of Spider Solitaire before deciding I ought to try and sleep, which actually happened quite quickly in the end, I think. Oh, and this morning received a text message reminding me it's now "the day after tomorrow" that I get to see Claire next, which is always a nice feeling. What won't be so nice is the knowledge that when that Saturday comes, "the day after tomorrow" I'll be back at work again and missing Claire and Jess like crazy for another week. But I'm trying not to think too hard about that, needless to say; the longer-term future may be good, but in the short term it's often downright depressing.

Today's being an eminently typical day - but it's the run-in to the weekend now so I care little. It's Open House again tonight, though, and I'm feeling a bit more enthusiastic about it now than I was when I was talking with Claire last night, mainly because I've now done the preparation I need. As was the case last week, I'm running the show as a joint act with Ally, but we've switched roles this week, so it's meant I've had to dig out a news article as a topic for moral discussion. I've chosen an excerpt from the BBC News website today, talking about single-faith schooling, which should hopefully provoke some interesting opinions from amongst our number. Oh, and I've bought a birthday card for my niece Holly, which might not sound terribly exciting in itself, but it's symptomatic of the positive influence Claire is having upon my life, in that she's encouraging me to remember such important dates!

And, talking of birthdays, I've been invited to Sarah's for tea today - in particular, to sort out a problem with their dial-up networking, but it was Rachael's birthday earlier this week and I hadn't yet had a chance to get her anything. So another quick visit to the shop was in order this afternoon, although I get zero points for imagination present-wise, having just slipped a tenner into the card for her hopefully to spend on something worthwhile...

Hooray - with her PC now discharged from hospital, Claire's back on line!

And believe me, what a blessed relief that was - even if Claire did eventually admit fibbing to me slightly when she'd claimed her dad was on the phone, and she was really downloading MSN Messenger I believe... But I don't believe in bearing grudges - least of all about such things as that, meant as pleasant surprises! Last night was altogether pretty good, actually, with Open House running smoothly enough - and the discussion on single-faith schooling going down quite well I think, even if Jill was the main contributor. Tea round at Sarah's was a little stressful, but better than it's been of late - and it only took a few stern words at key points to remind certain people which side their bread is buttered.

Anyway, it's Friday today, and tomorrow is Saturday at last! I'm still not certain of the exact details of the weekend coming up, though I'm sure it will be great - even if it will inevitably have its moments. The basic plan is that tomorrow night Claire and I are babysitting Jo and Emma, and we'll be staying over, then going to the breakfast service at St Peter's on Sunday morning. I've requested that we go out for a meal with Jess at some point, but Claire needs to negotiate that with her parents since they may well be expecting me for Sunday lunch, knowing them! So anyway, there's a little yet to be decided, but I'm looking forward to it in any case - especially since we're hoping to do some, errm, planning!

Oooh, Diary of the Hour again - what a pleasant surprise, and even a few readers for a change!

Well, OK, one actually - even if he did visit twice. It must have been good.

Meanwhile, just got back from a lunchtime visit to the Olde Swan, to celebrate our colleague Greg's impending marriage. No matter how cynical Sam might be about such institutions, I couldn't help but thoroughly approve, oddly enough!

Oh blow it, I'm out of here. Not likely to do anything useful in the next quarter of an hour, so may as well not pretend otherwise.

Blimey, I didn't realise it was eleven o'clock already - though I'll be getting properly up "as and when" because I'm still really quite tired, and there's no big rush today since I've agreed to get down to Burnham at about six this evening. It's Jessica's half-term this week coming up, and because of the way school holidays fall, she won't be seeing as much of Claire as would be hoped, so they're making up for things a bit today - or at least that was the plan! I need to go and do a bit of shopping at some point - and fit in a quick bath sometime - but so long as I am finally out of the house and heading for the motorway by about five, it really doesn't matter when I'm in a fit state to do so.

I have given in to temptation, I am afraid. I am having my first Cadbury's Creme Egg of 2002. It is a slippery slope from now on I am quite certain.

Forget Princess Margaret, it seems all the diary talk at the moment is of "Pop Idol" - whether in a positive or negative manner. It's all over now, of course - though not the controversy surrounding the phone-voting and so on. As if even the runners up haven't got a pretty rosy commercial future assured - if they want it - I'd imagine... I did actually watch most of the final - although only because I had some friends amongst the backing singers, even if I couldn't quite pick them out. But my most abiding memory of it all will be of a certain nameless father of a somewhat ill little girl being babysat, who sent an urgent text message at just gone ten on Saturday night. A touching show of parental concern from a loving dad? Er, no... "Who won Pop Idol?"

As for the rest of the weekend, well... No, it was good, very very good - most of the time, anyway, and those times it wasn't will pretty quickly be forgotten. Plenty of opportunity to spend quality time with all concerned, and I came away feeling an awful lot happier about it all than this time last week. I'm sure getting through this week will still be hard work, but I think we're both feeling at least a little more focused than before, even if our discussions on Saturday night - once all the girls were finally safely packed off upstairs - didn't reach any firm conclusions. Oh and Claire, Jess and I had a lovely walk - OK, run around, hide-and-seek etc - in the Beeches, followed by Sunday lunch at the Beefeater in Beaconsfield, which wrapped up the "formalities" of the weekend very nicely indeed.

I wasn't exactly sure when I would get away from Burnham on Sunday afternoon, so had already accepted the offer of an "evening off" from playing at church. Just as well, because Jess was keen for me to stay a little longer than perhaps intended, to help with colouring, playing with Lego and so on, but I eventually left a little before five - and on much happier terms than a week previously. That meant that although I'd miss the start of the service, it was worth going to church, though to be honest it didn't do a great deal for me - not least because I was so shattered by then! I ran Sarah and the girls back to their house afterwards - they'd been hoping I would turn up eventually! - and we had a bit of a chat about stuff, but there were no late nights for anyone and I was back home soon after nine.

Oh, the main annoyance of the weekend was that Claire's car is playing up again. It had been a bit iffy starting for a while, especially after short journeys, and Claire had had it looked at and "fixed" last week, at some considerable expense - particularly because she'd burnt out the starter motor in the process. All seemed well this weekend - until it was time to go out for our walk and lunch after church on Sunday, when it decided to go back to being exactly how it was before, so we piled into my car instead. Thankfully Claire's car started first time later, but back to the mechanic it will surely now have to go...

Predictably enough, one of Monochrome's most notoriously self-righteous twaddle-spouters has described the Royal Family as a "parasitic and illegitimate institution", that Princess Margaret exercised her duty towards it only for her own personal gain, and that we should be glad she's dead. Now I'm no royalist, as you know - and would not particularly lament their demise as an institution - but stuff like that intensely angers me. No one chooses to be a Royal, at least by blood, and by all accounts Margaret did the very best she could in the unfortunate and unenviable role she found herself - and surely a damn sight more for anyone in the world than the above-quoted idiot. Yes, the Royal Family do drain a lot of money, even with the rejigging of the Civil List, though is 40 million pounds a year really anything more than a drop in the ocean in any greater scheme of things? But they do a heck of a lot to promote our country and bring money in to the economy - I'm pretty certain we make a net profit from having them - and with very few drawbacks indeed, given their lack of executive power. Frankly, for people like the above to knock them so viciously stinks of nothing else than rather ironically money-oriented sour grapes. And as for being glad she's dead - well, I don't think that even warrants comment from anyone who shares the slightest trace of humanity.

B&B in the New Forest all successfully booked up for the middle of next week; I hope Claire approves of my choice! Oh, did I not mention this before? I shall let your mind gently boggle a little while longer I think...

No less than three people have now asked that we come and visit them while we're down that way. We'd love to, I'm sure, but I really have no idea how much spare time we're going to have - especially since we're only there for one evening, and fully intend to spend as much of that as possible in the cosiest pub we can find doing food in Lyndhurst. Anyway, the basic deal is that on Wednesday we're taking Jenny's daughter Jo down to visit her grandmother in Swanage - the rest of the family will be following at the weekend - and, at Jenny's suggestion, taking our time somewhat in coming back home! I'm providing savoury food for Open House on Thursday evening, so as long as I'm back in Milton Keynes in time for that, it really doesn't matter. Anyway, the B&B is now booked, and I'm going to print off a map and so on today, so it's all happily in hand, and we're both looking forward to it immensely!

Well, that was a frustrating lunch break, sacrificing my usual hour with my colleagues, trying and failing to sort something a little bit special out for later this week. And it meant I didn't have time to do the other things I'd planned to do while the office was quiet and I wouldn't be distracted. Hey ho.

I really don't know why I bother, sometimes. Well I do, actually, but staring at a blank white screen in the sure knowledge nothing useful is going to happen is hardly the most constructive use of my time at the moment...

Waaaaaaaaaaaaah.

I just want to go home and cry. And x-rate this diary. But I can't and won't.

Good news - Claire's happy to "forget earlier"

Bad news - how the hell can I?

This whole stupid thing is making me feel physically sick.

I might have a solution, just waiting for some e-mailed confirmation since I'm just a little doubtful about it. I have a fall-back plan in case it doesn't work out, though it's nowhere near as good and may involve further hassle if my experience earlier is anything to go by. Oh, and there's something else I've decided to do too if I possibly can, but that's not quite as urgent so long as I can sort it out sometime this week. Anyway, I'm feeling a good deal happier about this all now, but I must now catch the post before it goes in a quarter of an hour's time, or I might still be in a little trouble after all!

That "something else" has been started, and so far so good. And I've also had the e-mail confirmation I was after, so maybe today wasn't so bad after all... Just need Claire to return from her pancake party now - I decided not to feel sorry for myself and had a curry instead - and my day will be happily complete!

OK, yesterday - daytime at least - has been officially forgotten about. You know, it's almost like it never even happened... Like what never even happened? Pfffft. Gone!

Anyway, almost half way through the week, and a reasonably productive morning so far, to follow up that productive evening yesterday - and I didn't have to wait too long for Claire to get home from her pancake party after all. Well, actually, she'd been home a while, but Sally and Tom were staying overnight before they flew out to Canada early this morning, and Claire had a certain and quite proper duty to be sociable with them of course. We were both quite shattered, though, so half an hour was about all we got, but it was reassuring to hear each others' voices, and know more than ever - as if there had ever been any serious doubt - that everything really is going to be OK.

Cool, one phone-call received to relieve me of my debit card details, and I am a mildly even happier bunny. Even if a little bit poorer, but some things are just worth it, aren't they? I feared earlier that even if I did manage to sort this out rather than give up - as I was sorely tempted, pathetic as it would have been - I would still feel negative and "second best" about it all, but thankfully no feelings of the sort! Permission to bounce happily please?

Eek, I've just realised I've spent 51 weeks and 6 days logged on here. That's, well, pretty much a year of my life, isn't it? And for what? I'm certainly not going to be doing much to celebrate my first "online birthday", anyway.

Of course, a day as good as today - at least in relative terms - couldn't possibly last. Jess is - unusually for her - ill, Claire's PC is again playing silly-devils, and of course her car is still broken and needing attention.

Why's it always sodding raining when it's time to go home?

So, it's shameless cynical cash-in day, when the faceless corporations of Hallmark and Carlton try and persuade the masses of the vital importance of expressing the affection for their loved ones and significant others, in the name of a quite probably fictional saint who had nothing particularly provable to do with the outdated concept of romance in the first place and who would undoubtedly be as shocked and appalled as the rest of us at this hijacking of his name for sheer commercial gain.

No, actually, I don't believe that - though I know there are diarists round here who will say such things, undoubtedly at greater length, mark my words...

Yes, it is a bit of a cash-in, but one I'm very happy to fall hook line and sinker for, under the circumstances. Just a shame the postman didn't realise this might actually be a good day to do his delivery before I left for work!

Still, Claire's got at least part of her stuff for today - though she's not mentioned whether she's received any special deliveries at work yet... Good thing she made it to work, though, cos Jess is apparently still not well, and Claire was taking her temperature when I texted her this morning at breakfast.

Anyway, it's lunchtime now, and Claire's will be shortly too, I assume - and maybe just maybe she might find a little something waiting for her in the staff room, depending upon how these things work. They kindly said they would aim to deliver earlier rather than later, at my request, in any case.

And whaddyaknow... Her face was so red I could almost feel it through the telephone when Claire called me on my mobile a few minutes ago! Seems the florist kindly omitted the balloon I'd ordered, which doesn't entirely impress me - but I guess total perfection would have been a lot to ask for. Almost seems unromantic to request a partial refund, but I've done so anyway - and Claire can rest assured I won't just be pocketing it! But otherwise, yes, it seems today's maybe turning out to be quite a good day after all...

Tsk, Daisy's bouquet from Tris came with its "I love you" balloon. Not fair!

Still, she had to wait longer for it to arrive at all than Claire did, so maybe there's justice after all.

And in any case, Interflora wanted twenty quid for a single rose in a vase, with delivery on top. Now much as Claire might be touched if she found I'd spent over a hundred quid on half a dozen of them - albeit with only one vase, though it did come with a cute little teddy, whereas Daisy only got a common cormorant - I can assure you and her that wasn't the case. Secret Garden florists, of Burnham, you might have forgotten about the balloon, but you rock!

Well my confidence in the Royal Mail is perhaps recovering a little, having duly received my very special card yesterday - with something else to follow Saturday evening, I am assured, subject to Jess being better by then which is currently looking somewhat doubtful, poor little poppet. As expected, I didn't make it to Open House in the end last night; I wasn't sure anything was happening anyway, but I felt really quite drained after the week up until yesterday, and decided instead to make best use of the evening to finish that "something else" I mentioned a few days ago. So much for aiming for an earlyish night, though, eventually turning in at about midnight, and with my mind buzzing for some time after that. Still, it's Friday today, and no matter what the weekend brings, I'm glad this week - despite its good moments, and they have been very good, believe me - is all but over.

And it is now. Bye!

I have Claire on her Girls' Brigade honour that she'll be here this evening - she's pretty sure Jess is on the mend, finally - and that she'll try and avoid having too much lunch, to save space for our Chinese buffet... Hurrah!

Except Jess has alas taken a turn for the worse today, and it's all looking doubtful again. I just feel so helplessly isolated up here - that's the annoyance in all this. It's no-one's fault, just sheer frustration...

Though as rapidly as she took that turn for the worse, Jess now seems to be picking up and has even requested tea - chicken nuggets and chips, no less! Just hope she can keep them down, because she surely needs to eat something once in a while, poor thing. So after some deliberation, Claire's decided she will wend her way up here in a couple of hours' time. Claire knows I'll be very cross if I find she's neglecting Jess by so doing, but has assured me to the contrary, though in fairness, Jess has been better in the evenings than the mornings for the last few days anyway.

Claire did indeed make it up this evening, although a little late due to a clingy daughter - but I was assured this was nothing out of the ordinary, so no reason to be cross at Claire for neglecting her maternal duties or anything. After a cuppa and exchanging gifts - this also being our first anniversary of meeting, of sorts - we decided to be brave and healthy, and walk up to Elements in the theatre district, rather than drive. And just as well, because there was no room to park there, and it also gave us a chance to pop into the ski-slope cafe and have a quick look at everyone practising for their holidays no doubt. It was busy at Elements - my favourite oriental restaurant in the city, and one Claire certainly liked too, thankfully - but as usual the food was top-notch, and we managed a fairly healthy but not ridiculous amount each, topped off with fresh fruit for dessert. Mark was just home from a week skiing in Italy when we arrived back at the house, so we had a bit of a natter before it was time to wave Claire on her way into the foggy murk and back home, but it was an altogether splendid evening, we all agreed - and only three days til we see each other again, hurrah!

Had some very sweet text messages and e-mails late last night and early today!

Times like this dispel any doubt there ever was...

Just a pity my cough and cold have returned - but having clean forgotten to RSVP to the dinner invite I had for today, I hope to take it somewhat easy.

Or maybe not, having been persuaded to go out for lunch after all. Going to dive in the bath for a bit now, though, so bye for now.

Well lunch out at Matt and Jill's was good in the end, and a chance to see their new house. I think quite a few of us were a little under the weather, so I certainly wasn't the exception to the rule... People generally didn't seem to be lingering too long, though, so once I'd read Rachel a story - at her insistence - the last of the stragglers left, and I came home to dose up on Vitamin C and Lemsip. Not sure whether I'll make it into work or not tomorrow at this rate; I shall see how I feel come the morning, but at least I've had an entirely worthwhile weekend! Especially thanks to my lovely new Ronan Keating CD I was given yesterday - no, really, I like it, lots. Claire rather appreciated her CD too, funnily enough, but that was a little different...

I have may have felt more like death warmed up before, on getting up in the morning, but today's still pretty bad as they go. In the interests of hopefully being markedly better by tomorrow, I've just e-mailed my apologies to work and am now going back to bed. Bye for now, then...

Plenty of appetite, happily to say, but now I've demolished a ham and pineapple pizza with all the appropriate accompaniments, I think I'm going to make the acquaintance of my bed once again. It's just not worth the risk of still being unwell by tomorrow evening, for the first leg of my midweek jaunt southwards!

I didn't manage any more sleep to speak of, thanks to the drilling going on next door - fair enough, being daytime - but I've had a pleasantly restful afternoon anyway, thank you, guest25, for asking. I feel much better than I did earlier, and am quietly confident I'll be more than fit to travel by tomorrow evening or whenever. Not going to have too late a night tonight, though - some things would be just plain silly under the circumstances!

Hmm, I felt fairly reasonable when I woke up this morning, but seem to have taken a slight turn for the worse since deciding I would try coming into work, so everything hangs in the air a little once again. All being well, though, I will be driving down to Burnham mid to late afternoon, but if I need a few more hours to sufficiently recuperate, that needn't be a problem. Anyway, whatever happens I'll be taking things moderately easily this morning; although I felt a certain moral obligation to come to work, there's no point being a martyr if it screws up the next few days for us all.

And feeling somewhat better now, so if I head off home imminently - it being more or less lunchtime - and get an hour or so's rest before packing what little I need to take, I expect I'll be just fine...

Back now - but just a fleeting visit since I'm off out again in a few minutes!

Well yes, what a splendid couple of days that was, and I am pleased to say my health improved dramatically as time went on. Tuesday night I was really pretty grim - I'd been fine for the journey to Burnham in the afternoon but went downhill after that - and very nearly didn't last much longer than Jess. But I kept going for a couple more pathetically listless hours before calling it a day and getting a reasonable night's sleep in the annexe, helped a little perhaps by opting for the "proper" bed for a change rather than the larger sofa-bed. Still, at least I got to watch my first bits of the Winter Olympics, even if I have precious little recollection of it!

It wasn't my best night's sleep by a long way though, but I was reasonably raring to go on Wednesday morning and was up in time to watch television with Jess for a little while before breakfast, and then it was time for Claire and me to take her to school and collect Jo for our trip south. Except that Claire needed to go via the building society and the card shop, and Burnham shops seem to be somewhat laid back when it comes to opening promptly, so we had a somewhat anxious call from someone who thought we'd left without them! As if... I guess we eventually got away at about ten, certainly once we'd made a detour to collect the road atlas we'd forgotten!

The journey to Swanage was straightforward enough, if a little slow in places, especially thanks to a very nasty looking accident on the M3 at one point with an upside down van wedged under the back of a lorry in the "fast lane". We took a much-needed refreshment stop at the brand spanking new Winchester services - which are somewhat closer to Southampton than Fleet, aren't they, Tris? - with our next breather being on the short ferry ride across Poole Harbour. It was cold and windy out on the deck, though - especially for Jo - so after grabbing a couple of minutes of fresh air we quickly returned to the car, and it was almost time to drive off again anyway...

From the ferry, it wasn't too much further to Jenny's mum's house to drop off Jo and partake of most welcome bacon and brown sauce butties, before having a quick walk along the sea-front in Swanage and retracing a fair number of our last few miles - including the ferry, of course - and then striking off into the New Forest and swiftly to Lyndhurst. When we arrived at our guesthouse - which we found without any problem at all, thankfully - the proprietors had left a note to say they were out for a little while, so we took a brisk stroll up the road and had a look at the ponies and so on before returning to successfully check in, get shown around the place and so on.

It was all very friendly, clean and comfortable at the Whitemoor House Hotel, and the English breakfast on Thursday morning was top notch stuff too - hitting the spot, even, some might well agree! We could have asked for an evening meal there too, but opted instead to walk into the town centre, and eventually found a most pleasant curry house where we passed most of the evening before returning to watch the curling and skeleton bob on television. As earlier in the day, it was quite cold, but the promised atrociously bad weather failed to materialise, and indeed it was a somewhat beautifully starlit night as we walked out and back from the "Passage to India".

We wanted to be back in Burnham in good time on Thursday for Claire to collect Jess from school, so rather than doing anything too adventurous, we got permission to leave the car at the guesthouse for a couple of hours and walked into town again to do a little window shopping - though we did buy a couple of assorted gifts and postcards for important people, needless to say - and then into the "forest" on the outskirts near where we were staying. The weather was chilly but glorious, and it was lovely just to spend a leisurely hour or so meeting the ponies, sitting in the sun and generally enjoying being there and with each other without too many cares in the world!

The journey home to Burnham was simple and fairly quick, stopping for a spot-hitting lunch at a Little Chef near Basingstoke, and taking a couple of detours to show me places of interest! I think it was about three o'clock when we finally made it back, which gave us a little while for a welcome cuppa before Claire needed to go and collect Jess and I needed to hit the road back here. I'm glad Claire encouraged me to leave with plenty of time to spare, because the M25 and M1 journey was very tedious indeed, even before rush-hour, taking at least half an hour longer than usual; I gave up timing it in the end, and it may well have been nearer an hour longer.

So that was that, for our splendid little jaunt - though as you already know, I didn't have much time to sit back and relax, since I wanted a bath before I went on to Open House for which I'd previously agreed to provide some of the food. That was quite good, and we had some useful discussions about where things go next with the group or groups - given that it was the last week in our temporary venue of the City Discovery Centre - but by the time I was home I was absolutely shattered, and really not much fun to talk to as Claire will probably vouch. I slept like a log, thankfully - but am very grateful today's Friday, even if tonight promises to be hectic...

"Uncle David" - yes, it does have a rather nice ring to it, doesn't it? Even if I'm a real one six times over already. You almost had me in tears, Jo!

Just woke up wondering if it was midday yet. Looked at my alarm clock - both hands exactly on the 12... Spooky!

As well as downright degenerate, of course.

Yuck, I need to go and do my shopping, but have a distinct feeling from the inky blackness of the sky outside that further somewhat inclement weather is not far off... Suspect this could be a "car day", alas.

It may be beautiful and sunny now, but as expected, the weather certainly did take a turn for the worse earlier, with blizzards of both snow and frozen rain, so I was quite glad not to have been caught out in it on foot! It was very busy in town, and I only managed a parking space on the roof level of the multi-storey, and then the lifts were playing up - but all was well in the end. Still pondering whether to pop down to my parents' at some point during the rest of the weekend - whether this evening or tomorrow - since my brother and his lady-friend are visiting, though I believe they'd been hoping they might meet Claire too, which I don't think would be too practical this time.

As for last night, well it was pretty hectic as I'd expected and predicted here, but with everyone pretty tired, it thankfully didn't go on too late. Sarah had actually clean forgotten she had invited me round for tea, and indeed had only a little while earlier been thinking perhaps she should have done so, but with the miracle of microwaved ready meals, no-one went hungry! The girls were hard work as usual, but I managed to get a short break away from it all to again fiddle with their computer for a bit, this time undoing the effect of some rather over-zealous use of Windows ME's System Restore function which had reverted the beneficial adjustments I had made last time I was round...

The rest of the weekend has ultimately been somewhat mundane, but that's not been too unwelcome to be honest given how busy and exhausting the few days leading up had been. Highlights have been church this evening - which was dedicated to fleshing out some recent announcements regarding the future direction of Milton Keynes Vineyard - and finally getting a chance to work some more on the website I'm putting together for Gareth. Oh, and some top secret discussions about which my lips must remain sealed.

Now the attentive will remember that one of the reasons I left MKCF last year was because they announced quite major changes, but this is somewhat different since the motivation is much more sound and they are at least prepared to discuss them. There are still a few issues of concern, and I may well raise them in due course, but generally it looks like a healthy set of changes being proposed and changes that should bring the church closer to the people rather than disappearing in a puff of self-importance.

As for the website, well there's still a lot more information, sound clips and pictures I need from Gareth before we'll be remotely ready to go live with it, but I at least feel I have fulfilled my commitments towards it for the moment and the ball is firmly back in Gareth's court. It's not looking that great yet - and no, you can't have a look quite yet, unless you're very very special indeed - but I'm entirely concentrating on content for the moment, which is quite enough of a struggle in its own right!

Monday morning, and back at work - and for a full week this time, all being well. Mind you, I very nearly gave it a miss today; I don't know what it is about Mondays, but they seem to be my number one days for the manifestation of sniffles, sore throats and general malaise. Nothing much of note has happened yet, though, to convince me of the worth of my having bravely ventured in.

Just call me Mr Web. Or so it would seem. Not only have I got Gareth hassling me for more, but now my cousin Katie's boyfriend Andrew is asking me to help fix something he urgently needs to get finished this week. Using Dreamweaver - a package of which I have zero experience or access to. Still, at least he is based locally enough that if push comes to shove I can pay him a flying visit sometime and see if it's something obvious that's not quite working right.

Andrew eventually e-mailed me his work so far on his website - thankfully it was just straight HTML and images, maybe Dreamweaver isn't so evil after all - and although it was a little visually inconsistent, it all seemed to work, so I'm still not exactly sure what the problem was supposed to be. It still needs a lot of tidying up though, so I've offered what help I can in doing so, though I've not got much free time myself this week - what with being out or busy quite possibly every night apart from Friday, which will probably then be too late anyway! I'm sure it'll get there, though, and I'm not sure how critical it is that it's all perfect.

Last night was quite interesting, being a planning meeting for the forthcoming expansion of the children's work at MKV. It was quite a bit longer than I'd expected, but definitely one of the better two-hour meetings I've ever been to! Shona had invited me both because of my likely involvement in helping musically at the new monthly gatherings, and because of the perception I might now have a little more of a vested interest anyway having recently been filled in on the momentous happenings in my life! Of course, our future plans don't primarily lie in Milton Keynes, but it's certainly much appreciated to be kept informed and involved in this way.

This week I have mostly been writing emails that people clearly don't read, but respond to anyway - with a moan. And people I care about enough that I can't too easily reply with a request to "just answer the flipping question, OK"...

Other than that, life is mostly good.

Last night I went to the cinema with Tim and Sam to watch "Monsters, Inc.", which was a decidedly splendid way of spending an evening out - and of course a good chance to catch up with the very latest computer animation techniques, even if we couldn't persuade work to pay for us! Thankfully I'd agreed to go early to buy tickets, and it was as well that I did because minutes later the queues had tripled in size and we may well not have got our tickets in time... The film was great, anyway - even for an unashamed Disney-hater like Sam - and what better way to wrap up an evening like that than with a good chat with Claire when I got home?

Today got off to a shaky start, but got better. Tim's car was going in for a service today, and he was going to drop it off early so the garage would give him a lift into work. But he forgot, so instead needed a lift back from the garage - which meant we needed to fight for one of the few remaining parking spaces upon our return. We managed, though, but I also need to take him back to the garage again whenever is necessary this afternoon, though it will probably be later rather than sooner - and I need to remember Gareth's supposed to be popping round to finalise a few things with regard to his new website I'm working on.

Oh and I also had my post-appraisal meeting with Adam this morning, which, understandably enough, focused mainly on the likelihood of my imminent departure from the Open University - which is now reasonably common knowledge amongst senior staff here - but we found plenty to talk about for an hour and a half anyway. Adam is very keen to paint as positive a picture as possible - both because of the current departmental restructuring going on, in order to make it clear just how important everyone is, and of course to give me the very best opportunity as I move forward wherever life may take me over the next few months and beyond.

But now it's got worse, and I'm really not sure I can be bothered any more.

Well after all that, no sign of Gareth - though I decided I would make best use of the time I had set aside for him, in order to do a couple more bits that he'd emailed me about a day or two ago, but even they're done now. Safely dropped Tim off at the garage earlier to collect his car from servicing, and was reminded once again how blessed I am with a relatively traffic-free regular journey to and from work compared with so many city commuters!

Hey, I get Claire all to myself - and vice versa, needless to say - a week Saturday! Makes up for her being away this weekend just coming up, but I guess I can't have everything. Mind you, we still have an excuse to sort out for why we're not planning on being sociable with anyone much else that day, but that's a relatively minor issue and I'm sure we'll think of something...

Oh, and it's a "happy birthday dear Fern" day today - seeing as I am getting on exceptionally well with my unofficial resolution to remember all my nieces' and nephews' birthdays. And since they are all thanks to my sister's productivity, it means that once I've started, I can't really give up half way, can I?

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