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David's diary: January 2002

Happy new year, I think...

Or not, as the case may be, but trying hard to keep the positive perspective.

Very consciously typed "2002" then, and it still came out as "2001" - as it did last night, too. Very odd... Anyway, yes, a happy new year to all readers, and it was a very good New Year's Eve indeed - though marred by some very bad news this morning that's trying hard to overshadow it all.

Monday night there wasn't a party at Jenny and Steve's, oh no. Well, not officially, but a few of us still gathered there for plenty of fun and games - yes, really, with Pictionary at two in the morning - of a generally News-Year's-Eve kind of nature, with plenty of food and drink for all. Thankfully Claire and I didn't have to brave the cold to return home, with Jenny kindly giving us a lift - and considering it was still six below even quite late the following morning proper, I shudder to think how cold it must have been out!

I slept over in the annexe at Claire's parents' house, enjoying our own little celebratory drink before Claire disappeared off for the night. Or what was left of it, seeing as Claire had to be up not much after seven and I couldn't have much of a lie-in either. The reason being the traditional New Year's Day breakfast at the church, which Claire was helping prepare and I was helping demolish - and it very much hit the spot, so much so that I don't think anyone even mentioned lunch as such!

The rest of the day was spent exploring the social circuits of Burnham, it seemed, and I think Claire was a little conscious of "dragging me from pillar to post" somewhat, though I didn't mind too much - or was too tired to care! Final port of call was Jenny and Steve's again, supposedly to help tidy up after the night before, though it was decreed that Jo's jigsaw was in the way and needed help completing, so given that I needed to leave fairly soon, that was what I ended up doing.

Straight back up the motorways after that, though, popping back at home as quickly as I could to freshen up and pick up some wine glasses, before going on to Sarah for our pre-arranged tea. I was a little later than I'd planned, but that was no problem, and her "quick and easy" spaghetti bolognaise hit the spot almost as well as breakfast earlier! No late nights for anyone, but still a little time to start tackling the three-dimensional grandfather clock jigsaw Laura had been given for Christmas - never tried anything like that before, taking a quite different strategy to normal!

As for this morning, well I'd have loved a proper lie-in this time, but I had work to go to, alas. Though I got up slightly earlier than normal, to try and implement my first "immediate effect" resolution - that being to try and get back into the routine of having a proper breakfast. Not the wonderful greasy fry-up Claire and co prepared yesterday, but something a little more than just a couple of bits of bread and Marmite and some vitamins. I'd forgotten just how yummy bran flakes with raisins and fresh apple were! That, and having to scrape probably the hardest frost yet this winter from my car, still conspired to make me about a quarter of an hour late for work, so I'll have to adjust accordingly tomorrow. I'm sure the health benefits from a balanced and nutritious breakfast will far outweigh a quarter of an hour of lost sleep!

But then a text message came through from Claire, saying that Jenny and Steve had been burgled last night, losing computer equipment, digital cameras - laden with Christmas and New Year's Eve photographs, needless to say - and the like. Some people are plain sick. It doesn't change how happy the last few days have been in the least, but it does make it somewhat harder to be so enthusiastic in retrospect. You really do have to wonder sometimes.

Struggling to stay awake now, though the morning whizzed by much quicker than expected - perhaps I nodded off without realising it? I knew I should have done the sane and sensible thing, and booked the rest of this week off. It's probably not too late to do so, come to think - hmm, now there's an idea...

I figured in the end that no matter when I next went into work, I would still be exhausted, so I might as well stick to the original plan. Hey, it's the weekend again pretty soon anyway, and nothing much planned - at least that's carved in anything like stone - and I might appreciate it even more now! So here I am again, and despite getting up a quarter of an hour earlier than yesterday - and not doing my washing up, thanks to someone kindly blocking the sink last night - I was still a quarter of an hour late for work.

Oh, for reference, these are my new year resolutions. These are my only new year resolutions, and they are here for all to see:

  • Get back into a healthy eating regime, including proper breakfast daily
  • Get back down to 11 stone without doing anything "silly" to attain it
  • Not to be so hard on myself, and to be more positive - by special request

Yes, there are other things I aim to do, like digging in the wardrobe to find my rowing machine, and get into using that regularly, as well as starting a bit of running again. I just know that - like the effect a good hair-cut can have - if I can feel good in body, it helps lift me in spirit too, and that's got to be a good thing, especially with regard to the third resolution above!

I have decided I loathe computer technology, and with a vengeance - or is it "avengeance", never been quite sure, though it doesn't cloud my meaning I am sure? It might have saved my skin a few times, and sometimes be a necessary evil - and of course, without it I might never have met Claire - but most of the time it's simply more trouble than it's worth. Struggling to think of anything else that's good about it. Nope, failed. It's the number one cause of my misery at the moment, I'm pretty sure - whether it's Windows woes, the all-or-nothing nature of instant messaging, my depressing job, or quite what. Hate the lot of it.

Oh, and especially Monochrome. But I'm addicted. Burn, servers, burn.

And just to prove it, here I am, mobile phone switched off - which only normally happens in concerts and the like - MSN Messenger signed out, and only occasionally even checking e-mails. But still on Monochrome. Hey ho...

But no longer. I'm off home. Bye.

It's not really been a very auspicious start to the new year, but amongst all the frustration I don't think there's a hint of defeatism, more a grim determination to see things through. The current problems primarily lie, perhaps needless to say, with Claire and Jess, and specifically their apparently diametrically differing perceptions of me.

To put things into context, I've been in contact with Claire for about ten months now, and the last two or three have seen our relationship develop to the point where we feel we have a real future together. Jess, on the other hand, has only even known of my existence for about a month, during which time we've met only four or five times, and spent quality time together only a couple.

It was quite right that I was only introduced to Jess once Claire was reasonably straight in her own mind about what was happening, but the downside is, of course, that now I'm seen as a bit of a mummy-stealing interloper, and although Jess is quite fond of me as a person, it's what I represent that is the problem. Jess and I hit off quite well a month ago, but our relationship seems to have deteriorated almost exactly as surely as my relationship with Claire has strengthened.

We hope this is just a temporary blip, and that together - and with the help of others - we can prove to Jess that she will actually win from this, not lose out, but it's going to be a struggle that may well make or break things between Claire and myself. I can't pretend to know what the outcome will be, but I know that right now I have no wish to lose either of them, and that they are the two most important people in my life, even if one of them is unable to quite understand that for the moment.

There are some other complicating issues, but they are largely out of my hands, and all I can really do is offer support when needed and simply be sensitive to both Jess's and Claire's needs through this somewhat dark chapter. What more can I do, really?

Oh, I had a grim night's sleep last night, perhaps due to my mind still being in overload mode, or perhaps due to wild goings on downstairs. Either way, despite turning in not long after nine, it was gone midnight before I was asleep properly, and kept waking up all through the small hours of the morning, not managing more than as hour or so's sleep at a stretch. Needless to say, I felt rotten this morning, with a decided sniffle, a sore throat and a headache - unhelped by not being able to find my paracetamol last night - and very nearly gave work a miss. But I didn't, though I very nearly went home at lunchtime instead - and am still quite tempted early this afternoon with another four hours to last otherwise.

Though if I'd gone home at lunchtime, I wouldn't have been around for a completely unexpected visit from my colleague Jenny, her husband Phil, and month-old baby Alexander Michael! There aren't many people around at the moment, but Jenny obviously thought it worth breaking her maternity leave to poke her head around those few open office doors they could find! It was well timed, actually, having just received a very encouraging e-mail from Claire's best friend Jenny; half an hour earlier and their visit might have been more than I could bear, to be honest.

And I still hate technology, by the way - just learning to tolerate it, slowly.

Claire's pretty sure things "have come a long way" in the last twenty four hours. I tend to agree. This is a decidedly Good Thing, believe me.

That was a much better night's sleep last night - and I hope it might not be over yet, since I really was hoping for a lie-in now I've got the chance for once, it being a Saturday with nothing much yet planned. But I was still awake at eight, and just hope a little activity of a not-exactly-getting-up nature now might encourage me to slumber a little longer shortly.

It's mildly annoying that there's no frost to speak of this morning. Not that I'm complaining as such, but the whole week has been bitterly cold and I've had to tediously scrape the ice off the car two or three times a day - but now the one morning I don't need to go anywhere, not a sausage.

Eek, Claire has discovered my diary archives on the web. Thankfully I'm pretty sure the tears shed over December 2001 were ones of reflective happiness! Made me have a good read through them again, though!

Oh, and I've successfully installed Windows ME on to this machine at home. I had decided to reinstall Windows anyway, since things were getting a bit flaky as you know, and thought I may as well go with ME since it's the best version of Windows that's still compatible with my somewhat exotic sound card. So far, so good, anyway - and I'm only going to be cluttering up the system on a strict need-to-clutter basis, so hopefully it will run much more happily from now on!

Phew, what a weekend, altogether - even if it did only really get into gear on Sunday after my pretty lazy Saturday, other than installing Windows ME. I was apparently missed by a fair few at Claire's Epiphany party Saturday evening, but thankfully she who missed me the most was able to make up for it to a fair degree afterwards - and we even prayed on-line, which was an interesting experience to say the least, though entirely worthwhile!

Sunday was a crazy day, having agreed to run Sarah up to Peterborough to collect the girls from their dad - then our plans extending ever earlier in the day. So I was up in good time to help Sarah finish off the paper-round she was graciously standing in to do, though it turned out she'd only just started when I found her at about ten, so it was getting on for noon by the time we'd finally knocked that on the head. Neither of us was particularly hungry, though, so once we'd rearranged Sarah's computer and installed a scanner I'd been donated for her, we set off through the fog to Peterborough.

We stopped in Peterborough for a cuppa, shoehorned the girls into the car - at least my car was bigger than the one we would have taken had Sarah been driving! - and headed back into the murk and home. Everyone was a bit peckish, so we stopped for a little while at a conveniently-placed McDonalds by the A1, and finally arrived home about four. We'd pondered taking at least some of the girls for a short walk, but no-one was terribly keen by the time we were home, though I did go for a quick stroll round the block with Sarah - and later, up to the Co-op to get some nibbles - to get some fresh air.

We also heaved a fair bit of furniture around, since they'd been donated a sideboard that made a rather good television and video unit, and it was a good opportunity to rearrange things in general in the lounge. While the girls were sorting out the video tapes into their new improved home, I took a short break to make a little "promise certificate" to slip into Jessica's birthday card for later this week, which was also a good opportunity to test the scanner in earnest - it's not brilliant, but reasonable for the price of absolutely nothing...

Unusually, the part-completed 3D grandfather clock jigsaw lay untouched on the lounge coffee-table, and I think everyone had a fairly chilled evening - and all the girls headed bed-wards at reasonably appropriate times without any great struggle for once. Ducked out on to the balcony - good for both reception and privacy! - for a few minutes at one point to give Claire a quick phone-call before she put Jess to bed, which was evidently also a timely opportunity for Sarah to mention to Laura and Rachael in particular of Claire's existence.

Rachael quickly opened the balcony window, wanting to know Claire's name and then to talk to her, but I managed to persuade her otherwise on the latter - all in good time, and I really couldn't imagine what Rachael might have said, if anything much really. Laura was a little inquisitive later and I was able to have a little chat with her, to answer the obvious factual questions like how long had we known each other and how long had I known Jess - and to skirt a little around her questions about Jess's dad, which is a bit of a sensitive matter in general right now.

At one time I would have been a bit worried about the younger girls' reaction to finding out about Claire's existence, but I think they know they're not about to lose me as a friend or anything, so are quite happy really - though perhaps I can start to appreciate more clearly some of the worries Claire's goddaughter Emma is struggling with a little. If and when I move south, it will be more of a wrench for everyone I suspect, but we'll cross that bridge when we come to it, and it's not really so far anyway in this day and age!

Anyway, I finally got back home properly at about eleven, and thought I'd missed Claire for the night - other than our earlier phone-call - since she'd sent an e-mail three quarters of an hour previously saying she was basically done for the day, but lo and behold there she was, sitting on-line, loyally waiting for me... Technology again fought to disrupt, so we moved from MSN Messenger to text messaging and finally to me phoning Claire for a "quick night-night chat", which obviously span out somewhat longer! But both of us had work to go to today - it's Claire's first day back - so by the time midnight was a bit of a distant memory, we decided we really perhaps ought to call it a night!

First day back at work in earnest then, and pretty much more of the same, really. Most of this morning was spent in a monthly Technology team meeting - and with nothing much software-wise to talk about, it mainly ended up being a discussion about film adaptations of fantasy fiction... And now this afternoon's going to be punctuated by a leaving do for Tina, who's on her way to pastures new after more years here than most of us can remember. Oh and then I'll probably be heading off home vaguely early since I've agreed to help Sarah work through a tax return form she's bizarrely been given to complete. And sometime, in the midst of all that, I need to cut a CD-R of all the drivers and things I've downloaded over our nice fast connection here, to hopefully complete my home PC system reinstallation. Oh, and write Jessica's birthday card and sign her certificate, of course, in time for this evening's campus collection - to allow the Royal Mail plenty of time to do their usual trick of being useless.

And now my first unscheduled day of the year off work, heading back to bed imminently now I've had a Lemsip.

By the way, anonymous guest user connecting via BT Internet, I know you're avidly reading, so fess up! Though I have a teensy hunch who you might be!

Feeling marginally better now, but no idea yet whether I'll be fit to go to Astronomy Club later this evening. I'd like to go - even if it would be a bit naughty having taken today off work - and we're not likely to be outside with it as overcast as it is, but I'll really just have to see in an hour's time.

Well I did go to Astronomy Club in the end, and didn't feel too worse the wear for doing so. Having gone out last night, I couldn't really have morally justified taking today off work, much as I may have felt like it at eight o'clock this morning, so here I am... Astronomy Club was quite interesting, with the main feature being a light-hearted talk by Andy about how we might all fry to a crisp if Eta Carinae decides to go supernova - needless to say, based on some rather questionable research out of Israel and CERN, so not being taken too seriously. Thankfully it was a shorter meeting than some, and I was back home in time for a good chat with Claire before not too late a night for either of us. I think yesterday might well have been another definite turning point - or at least a milestone - in our relationship, with some real progress charted with Jess, and our most open mutual declaration yet of what we believe the future to hold for us!

Aforementioned guest reader related teensy hunch proven to be the case. Please everyone welcome Claire to the ranks of my diary readers! Will have to be doubly careful what I write from now on, won't I? Only joking... Triply so!

Ooh, the nasty vindictive thoughts some of you people have. You should be ashamed of yourselves!

Without further ado... Altogether now - one, two, three...

Happy birthday to you
Happy birthday to you
Happy birthday dear Jessica
Happy birthday to you

Though she's obviously not yet got this birthday thing sussed, 'cos she was apparently almost impossible to wake this morning!

I'm sure she's in full swing by now, though, with Jenny's girls round for tea! Never was much of a chance of my being there this evening, and I've got a band practice later anyway now - but hey, that just means she'll have to celebrate her birthday spread over even more days, which I doubt will be cause for a great deal of distress on her part...

Well not quite, evidently, since I just got paged on MSN by Claire, and she'd still to decorate Jess's cake, but she's gone off to do that now! Jess is apparently quite excited about her promised all-expenses-paid trip to the Bear Factory; I don't know when it'll happen, but soon enough I'm sure, and her mum's quite keen on the idea too funnily enough... Anyway, I doubt I'm going to get a great deal more done today, so I might as well wrap things up for the day now. Apart from anything else, there's a demo of a new MIDI/audio sequencer program I'd quite like to try out on my PC - since Logic Audio has been getting on my nerves lately - and a couple of free hours before I need to go to band practice would be ideal!

Not that that was what I did yesterday evening in the end, especially since I didn't really want to cut yet another CD-R at work in the afternoon. Instead, once I'd had tea I decided it would be a good opportunity to make sure my document back-up CD-RW was up to date, so I could remove a few bits and pieces that were clogging up my hard disk far more than they were worth. By the time that had finished - and I now know I wasn't the only person to do such things yesterday evening, oddly enough - it was time to get ready to go to the band practice at Rich's. The practice went well enough, though I still felt a little off colour and very tired, and my mind kept wandering to other things every time I took a breather, so I wasn't too disappointed when we finished earlier than expected and I was able to go home and monopolise the phone line - talking to You Know Exactly Who - for the next hour before turning in, utterly exhausted, for the night.

Aaargh! Trying to investigate a problem in printing out from a program I've been lumbered with to maintain, and trust it to be the day when the main network printer is jammed solid for no apparent reason, and the alternative printer conveniently in the open-access user room across the corridor is steadfastly anonymous so I can't use that instead. Still, it's almost the weekend, and I really am completely and utterly beyond caring about anything in the least bit to do with this job.

OK, I found another printer I could use, and I confirmed there is a problem with the software's printing. It's because the writers have, in their wisdom, decided to use tab characters to lay out a printed table into columns, and unless the text in each cell is limited to six characters maximum, that layout will get completely stuffed. Of course, there is a correct way to print out a table - and this is not it. Colin has asked me to come up with an estimate of how long it will take to learn that correct way, and to implement it - in the openly declared hope it will be absolutely ages, and the academic will forget the idea for the sake of only a few students using what is an optional part of their course in the first place... Still, almost time to go home!

Late Saturday morning, and having a bit of a relapse I think. Dosing myself up on vitamin C and Halls Mentho-lyptus, but all in all I can't say I'm too sorry to be anticipating a less-than-active weekend - and not to be infecting my nearest and dearest no matter how helplessly I may be missing them right now. Whether I'll be well enough by tomorrow evening to play in the band at church will remain to be seen, but Rich is quite aware I'm not 100% right now, so it shouldn't be too much of a surprise if I err on the side of caution and give things a miss.

Oh, goodness knows - and that applies to many things... Though at least there are a few important things of which I am totally certain, happily to say!

It's an old adage, but things have to get worse before they can get better, right? But they do get better, right? Right? RIGHT?

I think things are indeed getting better, or at least the manner in which we're coping with them, anyway! More when I'm next faintly awake, perhaps - but huge thanks in the meantime to all those praying for us and whatnot!

Without going into too much detail, it's just that everything seems to be happening at once and it's a bit too much for me in particular - but I suspect not only me - to cope with. Most of what's happening is good and positive in every way really - even if it's hard to see, sometimes - but it is nevertheless loaded with considerable apprehension. Such things often seem fine when they're a long way off and all very hypothetical, but when reality suddenly hits, it can take its toll. Anyway, that's enough for now, since I've offered to pop into town for Sarah to get some painkillers for her daughter Claire who's gone down with shingles, so I'd better be getting a move on, I suppose!

The weekend did little to help clear my present ailments, so work can play second fiddle to convalescence for another day, methinks. Back to bed I go.

And woke up again a full three and a half hours later. I suspect I needed every bit of that. Probably need more still, so I'm going to go have a bath enriched with lavender oil, and see if bed calls me once again after that...

It didn't, but it was probably just a little early in the day. I'm going to try again in a short while, though - any excuse for a nice relaxing bath! Claire's not sure when she'll be in this evening, and I am under strict instructions not to wait up specially, so if the lavender oil works, I won't get into trouble. If I do get into trouble, I shall sue Radox.

After a reasonably night's sleep, and not feeling quite so grim when I woke up this morning, I decided I would give work a try today - and so far, so good, though I will review the situation at lunchtime. Perhaps I over-did things a little at the weekend, but on the other hand life goes on, and I'm sure I felt psychologically better for being out and about to some small extent rather than moping indoors for a full forty-eight hours. As for last night, well Claire got home just as I'd finished my bath and was brewing myself a mug of camomile tea - yummy, with the addition of a little honey - so we did indeed have a short chat on-line before my computer crashed and refused to get going again properly, so reverted to tried and tested telephone technology. So much for my early night, in the end, finally turning in at about eleven, though at least I wasn't too seriously in trouble!

Survived to lunchtime, and I think I can last the afternoon now - though I might well slope off a little early, if only to avoid the traffic, officially at least... Should have a relatively quiet evening, with Claire off to Oxford Brookes for a pre-interview informal briefing of some kind - she's got her actual interview on Friday - and not likely to be home until at least ten, but I think I am to expect a phone call, so I'd better not go to bed too early!

Right, I've got bored trying to fill out my pre-appraisal questionnaire - all somewhat academic when I intend to be out of here as soon as possible, and I may not be afraid to say as much - so am indeed going to head home now. Seeya!

Bath enjoyed, camomile tea imbibed, Claire talked to on the phone for the second time this evening - and bed now cheerily beckons. 'Night all.

It was a bit of a struggle leaving the cosy confines of my bed - with newly puffed duvet - this morning, but I just about managed to get into work on time after maintaining my resolution regarding breakfast into the third week of the new year. Of course, I would rather be elsewhere - and my mind is already, so I might as well go the whole hog - but that really does go without saying these days. I had a look on the main jobs websites yesterday for anything vaguely interesting-looking down Slough way, but I really do fear that my intellectual atrophy has become irreversible. I'm sure there is something interesting, somewhere in that area, that I can do, but finding it is going to be a challenge and a half, I can tell. But find it I will, because I am deadly serious this time. Meanwhile, on with that pre-appraisal questionnaire, for its limited worth...

Ooh, just got myself a job - OK, not a self-supporting kind of thing, at least not yet! - to design and maintain an entertainments booking agency website.

From this infernal pre-appraisal questionnaire that's wasting my time today...

4. Which parts of your current job do you:-
        
   (a) most enjoy?
   (b) least enjoy?

I really have neither an opinion nor a care in the world, but it doesn't seem to offer those as options. Someone asked me recently why do I do my job - and I couldn't even pretend it was for the money, cos there would be far more lucrative places I could sell my soul if that was my objective. As with that Question 4 above, I frankly didn't have an answer - at least a polite one.

Claire kindly provided me not only with suggestions for answers to some of the trickier appraisal questions, but also with a completely separate appraisal. I might actually use some of the former - well, at least as inspiration and motivation - but the latter I think I shall quietly melt reading and keep to my very very self.

I find it faintly amusing that over four months after Milton Keynes Covenant Fellowship - my previous church - amalgamated into one congregation, and several more months since the sweeping changes were announced, their website still talks about there being four congregations, in Springfield, Wolverton, Bletchley and Two Mile Ash. OK, yes, I made the website in question, but it's obviously nothing to do with me now, though I've impartially advised them at least twice that they need to do something about it rather urgently. But there seems to be no great panic there that they may be losing potential members or denying people the opportunity of salvation; they've even stopped advertising in the local newspaper, as far as I can tell. Full marks for their obvious faith in miracles though, cos they reckon they're going to be ten-thousand strong within a few years. Perhaps by then they might actually have sorted out the house-groups like they promised ages ago, but that's another matter for another rant. As would be their recent decree that children in the church are not to watch Harry Potter because it's evil... It was pretty obvious all this kind of stuff was going to happen, and all the more confirmation I was right to get out when I did.

In fact, far from becoming ten-thousand strong, I confidently predict that in a lesser timescale MKCF will quietly fade into even greater obscurity than at present and subsequently collapse, and that those few then remaining will be far too engrossed making acquaintance with their colons to actually notice.

Of course, I genuinely hope that what I've just described doesn't happen, but those hopes really aren't too high I'm afraid.

It's almost a fortnight since I've said it, so it needs to be said again...

I HATE TECHNOLOGY!

Well, so far so good with Claire's interview, by the sounds of it. She's done her presentation, even if she says she changed her mind early this morning about what exactly to talk about, but it went OK anyway. The interview itself is this afternoon at some point, and then I guess all she can do is wait and hope - though I have every confidence Claire will do fine. Sure, in a way it might make life easier if she wasn't likely to be a part-time student for the next four years, but her heart's set on becoming a teacher and I'll be behind her all the way.

Last night was our first "Open House" back after Christmas, though for a few weeks, we're meeting at the City Discovery Centre, two groups under one roof. It's mainly because a few key people are away at the moment, though it's a fine opportunity to take stock of the situation and reorganise if necessary. I can't say I was totally enthused, but hardly having a voice and being pretty tired too didn't help much - and I was quite glad to make a reasonably early getaway to get back home in time for a phone call from Claire and to get a reasonably early night for once.

Tomorrow, Saturday, is going to be an interesting day I suspect. Claire's out pretty much all the daytime, but I'm going down for the evening to have a curry I suspect we'll both need by that point! However, we've agreed I'll actually go down a little earlier, essentially to see Jess, who'll be being looked after by Jenny. Jess might well be as disinterested as ever, but it's definitely worth a try, and I suspect my bringing her some belated birthday presents may just make the difference. We'll get there in the end; it may just take a little more time...

Under two hours to go, and this miserable week at work will be done with. Can't happen soon enough, in truth - and thankfully it's just been shortened by a whole ten minutes thanks to a surprise phone-call from Claire, finally about to wend her way back home from Oxford. She's not at all sure how today went, but I'd say the things she told me about sounded positive enough...

Right - it's Saturday morning, I can't sleep any more, Claire's off down south for most of the day shortly, and I have shopping and stuff to do. I'll be leaving for Burnham sometime after two, to allow plenty of time for traffic hold-ups, getting lost, and so on... I'll be stopping over at my parents' on the way back, which will be doubly good because my brother Pete and his lady-friend are staying for the weekend. It would have been nice to persuade Claire to pop over, but she's likely to be so shattered after a busy week and today that it's simply not going to happen. There will be plenty more chances, needless to say!

Just truncated the "live" version of this diary. You know, that means there's no longer any direct reference to how much I love Claire? Well I do, and Jess too in her own way - and nothing's going to change that!

Feeling a little low and decidedly knackered - the two I think are related - but this has been a good weekend, honestly! For now, though, a little snooze is called for, methinks...

Nope, couldn't snooze, so I've popped my tea in the oven. Hopefully a nice pepperoni ciabatta pizza can be second best to a good hugging at this point.

It wasn't.

Hmm... I think yesterday was a day ultimately best forgotten.

My own insensitivity astonishes me sometimes. Perhaps one day I shall learn.

But amor would seem to vincit omnia, thankfully. Just have to keep reminding myself that this was always going to be a struggle - albeit a worthwhile one.

Qui audet vincit.

I love you Claire!

Opinion appears split regarding entries like that one above. Ranging from "Oh good grief!" to "I wish my 'significant other' could read mine", with little intermediate ground. Needless to say, I'm going to carry on regardless!

So there!

So much more to say, but I oughtn't really. But as I said, the weekend was basically good, though just overshadowed with a little too much for anyone to feel truly relaxed and happy about it all. However, we've now agreed to erase Sunday from our memories, so there will be no further mention of that. Probably the most positive bit of the whole weekend was Saturday afternoon, when I drove down early in order to spend some time with Jess at Jenny's. As I'd expected, Jess wasn't immediately too receptive, but Jenny got us playing Ludo with Jo and Emma and the ice was soon broken. Claire knows that Jess can behave very differently when she's not around, and that was proven somewhat, with both she and Emma being really quite sociable, attention-seeking and affectionate whereas both of them had been increasingly antipathetic towards me in the past. I'm pretty sure it wasn't just a one-off, though I doubt the struggle is over with quite yet, and there are many bridges yet to cross.

Eek, what a time to be Diary of the Hour!

But no matter how many bridges there may be to cross, ladies and gentlemen, we have a timescale! OK, so it's not carved in stone or anything, no binding vows or rings have been exchanged or anything, but we have something to aim for, to focus on, to dream realistically about... Some might say we're getting a bit carried away, but I think we both felt at this point it was useful; these aren't terribly easy times for reasons I won't go into, but to have something we can both set our sights on like that is immensely valuable, believe me! It gives a real peace during times like this not only to be able to see the wood for the trees, but the bright sunlight beyond it.

Oh round dangly things, our famed guest reader's computer has died. This is not good. Well, apart from for Orange who will undoubtedly be making lots more money out of me over the next few days or whatever.

Though one such Orange-revenue-boosting exercise has revealed that Claire has got her reply back from Brookes. And the envelope was a thick one! Hooray!

Though of course that will mean four years of studenthood - albeit part-time - for Claire, four years of being buried in books for many of her non-working waking hours, and so on. But I knew that was a likelihood ages ago, pretty much from the start, indeed. And she will be supported all the way, believe you me. I know you do, and Claire does too. It's going to be all right, I know. I love her way too much for anything else to be the case!

Claire's computer is now in hospital, and the doctor reckons it's suffering from a loose memory card. Hopefully they will be able to operate soon and it will be allowed to convalesce at home.

Bored bored bored bored bored bored bored bored bored bored bored bored...

                       ____                     _ _
                      |  _ \                   | | |
                      | |_) | ___  _ __ ___  __| | |
                      |  _ < / _ \| '__/ _ \/ _` | |
                      | |_) | (_) | | |  __/ (_| |_|
                      |____/ \___/|_|  \___|\__,_(_)

And it's around about now I might normally hope to be paged by my beloved on MSN, but that's clearly not going to happen while her PC's in hospital.

Hmm, having another look on the jobs websites to see if there's anything I can even faintly do in the Slough area, and there fairly patently isn't. Do you reckon I could actually sue the Open University for stunting my career? Well otherwise I might as well pretend I've not got my degree - because I've pretty much forgotten it all now, and it's out of date anyway - and try and find some plausible excuse why I've frittered away the last five years of my life doing a job that got me precisely nowhere. Yes, from time to time I have been tempted to try doing something completely different, and that temptation is indeed stronger than ever, but perhaps not the cleverest idea right now. Hmm...

Why is it that the smell of freshly brewed cafetiere coffee is only wonderful when you're having some yourself - and so vomitous at all other times? I cannot think of any other food or drink with the same polarised properties.

Open House was reasonably good last night - better than last week's anyway, but that was probably as much to do with my state of mind then; if one is determined not to enjoy something, it's normally pretty easy to get everyone and everything to oblige... I'd volunteered to get some of the food in, and while I was stocking up on such things at the shop over the road, Becca phoned wanting a lift, which threw my schedule a little but never mind. Oh and then Sarah's Claire phoned apologising for having given Becca my mobile number - and I had to convince her it really was OK and not to worry about it!

"My" Claire managed to fit in a quick phone call before I got ready to go out, which was all very welcome as ever, and just as well since she had gone to bed by the time I was home and was only able to manage a couple of text messages before insisting upon her right to sleep! Oh, apparently Jessica was asking about people's middle names yesterday, and the matter of mine cropped up; I suppose I should take that as a good sign! "David's got lots of middle names. His first one's a tank engine" ... "Thomas" ... "And his second one's another engine" ... "Percy!" Hmmm! The record was set straight anyway. Bless her.

Anyway, it's Friday, and the weekend isn't far away! And guess who's coming up to visit?! Well, arrangement of suitable babysitter permitting, that is - otherwise I might just have to make the journey myself.

So, which of Thomas's friends are you? Answers, if you can be bothered, in a message or e-mail. I'll collate any responses, but I don't expect any.

Worm says he's another Edward. That's cool; I'm in distinguised company.

Mayday would like to be Duncan: "Means well but will rock 'n' roll when the mood takes him. He tends to have a mind of his own which makes him obstinate and rude on occasions."

No-one else bothered.

It's still just about Sunday morning, but I really ought to be getting up properly, having a bath, perhaps tidying this hovel of a room of mine a little, and gently preparing myself for church later this afternoon. What a stark contrast to yesterday, needless to say - but probably a much needed rest after such a hectic day. I had lunch out at Woolworths with Sarah and the girls and an earlyish tea back at their house, but the highlight of the day was, of course, Claire's visit in the evening. After a swift cuppa we decided to adjourn to the Barge, and had a most pleasant chat about the future and other things of varying consequence, and made sure our diaries were in step with each other! Mark and Andy unexpectedly - well, at least to us - appeared later, and we had a good old natter with them before driving back here and deciding it really was time, alas, for Claire to be on her way home. No, Claire didn't really much want to go, and the feeling was decidedly mutual, but life goes on I guess - for a little while longer at least! Anyhow, for now, on with that bath, I think...

Church was really good - especially considering it was the first time I'd been for quite a few weeks due to various things both within and beyond my control. Had to run Sarah and girls home afterwards, but I've been "released" to phone Claire, though I think she must currently be busy getting Jessica to bed or something.

I realised earlier the downside of having church in the evening. When the main meeting is on a Sunday morning, you've still got the bulk of the day - and indeed almost half the weekend - ahead of you. But when it's in the evening, you spend half the day preparing for it, and when it's over, that's the weekend pretty much gone.

Claire did reply to my text eventually, having been busy first tidying Jessica's play-room then talking with Jenny on the phone, but it was almost time for her lift to the pub, so we didn't have time for quite the chat we'd been hoping for. I am under the strictest instructions not to wait up specially for Claire's return, but having just said what I did about the weekend having seemingly gone by the time church was over and done with, I feel I shouldn't really be dashing off to bed. And as I said to Claire, there are far worse things I could wait up for, than to phone my nearest and dearest!

My left nostril is leaking, and I feel complete urrrrgghh. Just thought you'd appreciate me sharing that with you all.

I surely hope my prolonged evening yesterday didn't contribute to my current state - though I have my fears, if not my cares. No, I don't care, because I can think of no finer excuse to have done so.

Well I've survived the day, much to my surprise, but helped quite substantially by a reasonably interesting seminar this afternoon about a multimedia database framework created by Steve and Jon - if that made the least bit of sense? Oh, and helped even more substantially by a flurry of text messages with You Know Who, even if it did inadvertently somewhat rub it in about certain remaining obstacles of a sixty mile variety. We'll get there in the end, though, and hopefully rather sooner than that timescale for "other things" we were faintly discussing the other day...

Yeah, yeah, I know... But you would too, under the same circumstances, now wouldn't you? Today's not being the easiest day, but I can - and will - cope.

Though now I'm not even sure what's happening this evening. I was supposed to be going out for tea, but I think it's been forgotten about, because I've not heard anything about it since Saturday and I'm too shy to ask... So I'll probably end up lonely and self-pitying as usual, with only the hopes and dreams of a brighter future to keep me going. And Claire's computer is still in hospital, the doctor's diagnosis being that a faulty power supply has fried most of the innards, and it's surprising it even started to boot up. It's hoped that the necessary organ transplants will happen in the next day or two, but it may be the end of the week or longer until it is discharged.

Not too happy a bunny this morning, I'm afraid, but I'll get over it, I'm sure. The main problem is that a second-hand Cubase VST package I bought, that arrived in the post this morning, is minus the original install CD-ROM - and although there's a perfectly legal update to a later version on a CD-R, that won't work without the original disc. The guy I bought it off has seemed entirely decent throughout, so I'm pretty certain it was a simple honest mistake and he'll just post it on as soon as he can find it, but it's just a slightly awkward moment nonetheless, and he doesn't tend to read his e-mails until the afternoon... Oh, other than that, just the usual stuff about missing Claire - and her missing me - and generally wanting not to be here any more.

As for yesterday evening, well I did go out for tea in the end as originally planned - and not forgotten about after all - which was marginally better than staying in and being miserable, I guess, though it wasn't my happiest evening out ever to be blunt. Sarah phoned while I was lingering a little late at work, wondering when exactly I was going to arrive, so I quickly packed up for the day and made my way over. All three girls were being impossible difficult in their own ways, and both Sarah and I were only really fit to collapse on the sofa and watch television, so it was a pretty unconstructive time for all. Though thankfully all was made better by making a not-too-quick phone-call once I got home, even if we were unusually lost for words by the end of it.

Oh, and I finally submitted my pre-appraisal questionnaire yesterday, and it was pretty forthright - even if I did eventually decide to remove Claire's suggested response to one of the key questions. Basically I said that by the time my next appraisal would come up, I would fully expect to be living and working elsewhere, so it was all a bit of irrelevance - and referred back to that answer in my responses to several other key questions. So I suppose that makes it semi-official that I'm on my way out - scary in a way, but a blessed relief overall, believe me.

I've been told in a text message to "think of something nice to brighten up my day". Trouble is, "something nice" is about sixty miles away and thinking of it - well, her - makes that all the more painful right now.

My Cubase seller is cursing himself, apologising profusely, and promising to pop the missing installer CD-ROM - and indeed another one he realised he'd forgotten, some kind of product showcase thing - into the post this afternoon. I'm a bit happier now, needless to say!

Indeed probably the same Steinberg product showcase CD-ROM as I already have, since it was from such a CD-ROM - which came bundled with my sound card - that I tried the demo version of Cubase VST 3.5 which got me interested in the first place. Hopefully he won't spend too much time trying to find it!

No-one seems to know - or wants to admit knowing - but who, exactly, first invented the concept of "panpipe moods", and where, exactly, do they live? By "panpipe moods", I don't necessarily mean the brain-rotting CDs of that particular title, but the whole, equally brain-rotting, genre of classic songs set to the tone of undoubtedly synthesised South American wind instruments. The very same instruments that in their non-synthetic form genuinely invigorated us with "Flight of the condor" and others, but are now relegated to the dustbin of musical taste, and buy-one-get-one-free staffroom CD sales. Yes, only today I was drawn to such a sale by the promise of DVDs from a fiver, and spent a whole ten minutes rifling through a couple of hundred film titles I'd never heard of, trying valiantly to contain the contents of my stomach as my poor little ears were tortured by the strains of "Candle in the wind" cack-handedly performed on General MIDI patch 76. I actually wonder whether such sales make any money at all, or whether it's all just an evil plot to mind-numb and brain-wash us into conformist zombie-like servitude. Well I'm not going to give in! Give me whale-song any day, but please God, not singing a cetaceous cover-version of "A whiter shade of pale"...

It's the last day of what's been simultaneously one of the worst, yet best, months of my life to date. I'm sure I don't really need to go into detail as to why; it's just been a rollercoaster of the highest order. But now it's almost done with, and so is this week - with the promise of a fun weekend down Slough way to perk me up no end. Before that, though, there's Open House tonight, which I am running along with Ally, though to be honest Ally's done most of the hard work - not that there was a great deal to do anyway - and I've just confirmed with various people that they will be doing their usual bits, and so on. Roll on the weekend, though - I can't wait!

After a little worry and uncertainty, the "other half" of Cubase VST arrived in the post today - specifically the installer CD-ROM and the product catalogue thing. The main program and the update installed and ran fine on my PC here at work, so I predict no problems at home either. So, another package to learn, but hopefully Cubase VST will be a lot more rewarding than my nice-looking and feature-rich - but hopelessly flakily unreliable - Logic Audio which I now intend to gracefully retire and quietly forget about.

Since I've already had to reassure one concerned avid reader, may I just take a brief moment to confirm that - despite any confused messages from my first entry today - Claire and I are very much still together, or as "together" as we can be with an hour's drive between us. Indeed, even more so than ever, but I shall not elaborate further on that at this point! Cruel, aren't I? It's just been a month when dark emotions and pressures beyond our control have conspired to tear us apart at every opportunity they are given - and those who believe in forces of evil could have a field-day interpreting it all I'm sure. I cannot, and will not, go into any more detail about those emotions and pressures, but in our determination to resist them, our commitment to each other has become even stronger. All prayers, thoughts, and words of encouragement are welcomed as always - we're not out of the woods yet - but the future is looking very bright indeed, and our perseverance will be amply rewarded I am quite certain!

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