goznet ...

David's diary: March 2002

Nothing new to say, 'cos I've not been around. Much.

It's Saturday morning, and Claire's busy toxi... toxo... toxoph... doing archery, with climbing and abseiling on the activity menu for later. I, however, am busy restraining myself from returning to my cosy warm bed for another couple of hours.

Well I was good and got up fairly soon after writing that, though it was gone lunchtime by the time I was through the bathroom and everything. Had Sarah, Laura and Rachael round for tea today, which was good for all concerned I think, after quite a difficult week - and it made my weekend all the more bearable as I await hopefully driving down to Burnham for the evening tomorrow. Claire actually phoned from her Girls' Brigade weekend away in Swanage just as I was serving up tea, and it was nice to give her an opportunity - well she asked to, actually - to have a proper natter with Sarah for a few minutes! All's quiet again now, though, with two tired girls and their mum packed off home, and me probably not too far away from bed either, come to mention it...

Sunday morning, and again I need to motivate myself to get up and dressed, since I'm really not too likely to get back to sleep now. Didn't get too late a night yesterday, thankfully, though it was about half an hour later than it might have been, thanks to a "quick call" to Claire's mobile - so my next landline bill probably won't be too small, but I don't care. Or rather, do care. But don't care... Oh, you know what I mean. Private joke!

Sunday afternoon, and still I need to motivate myself to get up and dressed...

Have had a pizza for lunch though - mainly because I cooked and forgot about some garlic bread last night, and it needed eating, in a "waste not want not" manner of speaking. I believe Claire's having pizza for lunch too, so it should work out quite well given that we're planning on having a curry tonight!

We did indeed - and very nice it was too, though a little too much even for pretty peckish people like ourselves! I was a little late getting down to Burnham, mainly because of grotty traffic on the southbound M1, but was there just in time to take a quick stroll to the takeaway to collect our dinner! Quite where the rest of the evening then went, I'm not quite sure, but it was midnight by the time I got away - but I'm not complaining for a moment, having enjoyed almost twice as much time together as we'd remotely hoped! Having got to bed at one o'clock, I felt like death this morning, and could very easily - in fact, I may have done so, briefly - have rolled over and back to sleep after my alarm went off. It's a good thing I love Claire, or I really would have been calling my lifestyle into question - though it was amazing what a warmed up sausage and bacon sandwich could do, courtesy of the shop here!

All I want is to be healthy. Well, right now, anyway.

Yes, I do feel a bit better now, thank you guest4 for your loving concern.

Not sure what good the evening out did me, at the Astronomy Club AGM; I felt better beforehand than afterwards, that's all... But the therapeutic values of chatting to ones girlfriend on MSN must not be underestimated, that being precisely what I am doing now - OK, not right now, admittedly, since Claire will, I am assured, "BRB in 5". And I know she will, 'cos she's lovely!

Claire did of course return, and we were able to discuss a fair few up-coming practicalities before agreeing we really should both have called it a day about an hour previously. Today I feel marginally better than I did yesterday, and was probably right to venture in to work, though I hardly feel on top of the world. Well, not health-wise, anyway... Otherwise, just maybe!

Oh, my Monochrome account was created seven years ago to the day! Now, can any of my readers remember exactly how many of those seven years have actually been spent on-line here? Kind of sobering, in a "there in the background" way...

Finally managed to pin Gareth down and he popped round for a couple of hours this evening to discuss websites and more. It looks like we've got enough information, pictures and so on to go live with his new site by next Wednesday, which is a somewhat critical day since he wants to launch his company then, though some stuff we could certainly do with is still "in the post". Quite when I'm going to fit in time to do all that is needed is another matter altogether, but Gareth knows that so won't be expecting miracles. He's also putting me in touch with a few other useful people in various places and for various reasons, which might help alleviate some current headaches as well as provide more useful exposure and possible high-profile openings.

When setting up a website for someone, one of the crucial stages is getting the relevant domain(s) registered and suitable webspace configured. Thankfully, that seems to have successfully happened overnight, so all I need to do now is tidy up the HTML stuff I've done so far and wait for the last few contributions from Gareth and the artists. At the moment it's all static HTML, but I'm quite tempted to script it all, as I tend to do for most of my sites these days. It takes a little more - but not necessarily too much - up-front work, but definitely reaps rewards in the longer term with regard to ease of maintenance, content management, layout consistency and so on.

Hello, Chick. Enjoying my diary, are you?

Not really a terribly good day, on balance. Work was vaguely all right, but a bit disjoint - though I didn't make it through the afternoon, feeling quite dizzy and having hot flushes, and decided there was no point being a martyr especially with a busy weekend coming up, so called it a day there and then. I wonder if there's something a bit more fundamentally the matter with me, because I've really not been totally well for months now, so Claire took the words out of my mouth by insisting I should get myself a doctor's appointment, which is to be next Wednesday morning.

Had both good and bad news this evening on financial matters, since I had a courtesy phone-call from a Natwest customer care representative and we got talking about mortgages and so on. Although my borrowing power is a fair bit more than I'd perhaps feared - and with a fair deposit on top of that, I might hope to be able to afford somewhere at least half decent - if I both move house and change jobs at the same time, it might well jeopardise my chances of getting a penny for a fair while to come. But I guess that's just one of those things, and people do manage somehow...

Felt a bit better this morning, so I braved my way in to work. A typically pretty quite day, but I can't say I'm complaining - and it's Friday, so I can live with it... This evening, all being well, I'm out for a meal with Charles and Sylvia, but Claire's busy babysitting anyway, so I'm not neglecting my beloved. And furthermore, Claire's coming up here tomorrow for pretty much the whole day, which promises to be a lot of fun and more besides!

Indeed today was a lot of fun, as indeed was the "more besides" bit too, in case there might be any doubt! And I got to cook lunch, which, I am told, means I've actually cooked for us both more times than Claire has - not that that bothers me in the least, needless to say! But Claire's home now, so I've got what will probably be a quiet but happily reflective evening ahead of me - or maybe I'll watch one of the DVDs I bought at Woolies this morning...

Sunday was an altogether quieter and less hectic day, though productive enough in its own way. Particularly, I was able to spend a fair while working on the website for Gareth, being one of the last chances I'll get before it's due to launch on Wednesday. I didn't script it in the end - though I may still "turn it inside out", as I describe the process, at a later date - though I've done a few other things to make it easier to maintain in the interim. I think it looks reasonably smart, and not entirely like anything I've produced previously, which is good both for my experience and making sure that each site has its own distinct identity! Needless to say, there's still a lot of stuff I'm waiting for before it can really be described as ready, some of which relates directly to the launch itself, but I'm modestly confident we'll get there in time.

With that done, and after my second MSN chat of the day with Claire, it was time to ready myself for church. Having not been so well during the preceding week - and still not feeling entirely on top of the world, in some respects at least - I'd agreed to give playing in the band a miss, and I think I was wise to do so. It was a fairly good meeting, though, and Matt's talk about listening to God was worthwhile, and well-structured with a few minutes in discussion groups before feeding back and wrapping things up. Sarah and the girls unusually didn't need a lift home, but there were a few things I wanted to talk about with Sarah anyway so ended up back at their house for a little while in any case. Not too late a night for me, though, Claire having specifically instructed me not to wait up specially for her return from the pub, so I duly didn't!

But overall, yes, quite a splendid weekend. And roll on the next one, which is going to be very different again, I do suspect!

Gosh - decisions, decisions, decisions... But nice ones! And no need to rush!

Hey, I don't often do things like this, but seems unstrangely appropriate...

I thought love was only true in fairy tales
Meant for someone else but not for me.
Love was out to get me
That's the way it seemed.
Disappointment haunted all my dreams.
Then I saw her face, now I'm a believer
Not a trace of doubt in my mind.
I'm in love, I'm a believer!
I couldn't leave her if I tried.
I thought love was more or less a given thing,
Seems the more I gave the less I got.
What's the use in tryin'?
All you get is pain.
When I needed sunshine I got rain.
Then I saw her face, now I'm a believer
Not a trace of doubt in my mind.
I'm in love, I'm a believer!
I couldn't leave her if I tried.

(by Neil Diamond, most famously performed by The Monkees of course)

Sorry if that made anyone cry - even if they weren't exactly tears of sadness in at least one case... Oh well, it's Tuesday now, and the weekend seems strangely not too far away again - but perhaps that's because I get to see Claire on Friday, unusually? Oh, and Saturday, and Sunday! As for last night, well I wasn't sure if I had a church planning meeting to go to, but I asked to be contacted if there was anything happening, and I wasn't, so I didn't - and besides, I really couldn't have faced being out too late anyway. Instead I did what will hopefully be amongst the final pre-launch touches to Gareth's website - so there is now sufficient information about each of the launch acts - watched some of "Antz" which I'd bought on Saturday, and was whisked away by the power of text messaging to spend the rest of the evening on-line chatting with my dearest. As for tonight, well Gareth's supposed to be popping round to truly finalise the website, and also transfer it - and the Apache httpd too, since it's not straight HTML - on to his laptop for use at the launch on Wednesday. That's the theory, anyway, which I will believe upon seeing, based on past experience. Oh, and please feel free to remind me that I have my doctor's appointment tomorrow morning - wouldn't be too clever to forget that!

Today has slowed down now, though, and the weekend seems an age away again...

Last night was a later night than I'd anticipated, with Gareth round for several hours in the end, and only finally getting to chat with Claire at pushing eleven. Could have been half the time had Gareth not decided it was a good time to create some business cards, and had the lame content filter on his laptop's web browser not decided that "localhost" was potentially dodgy. But anyway, we got there in the end, and sort of managed to get the site working on his laptop too - so the live site will go public at about midday today, in advance of this evening's launch of Thebandwithnoname in Manchester.

Slept reasonably well, but was awake on and off from about five o'clock onwards, though at least it meant I had little difficulty getting up almost an hour earlier than usual to go to my doctor's appointment. Needless to say, even before nine o'clock, they were running well behind schedule, but thankfully my appointment was over pretty quickly, though I need to go back on Monday to have some blood tests. I'll probably take Monday morning off, because although the appointment should be quite quick, it's slap bang in the middle of the morning and I really wouldn't rate my chances of finding a parking space here afterwards! Besides, I'll have just had a very busy weekend, so in my current state could probably do with taking things a little more easily anyway!

Grrr - waiting for a phone call, and not going to rest easily until I get it!

No phone call, and their phone seemed to be permanently engaged - or off the hook altogether - this afternoon and early evening. So I thought I'd take a trip into town to go visit in person, but they'd already shut up shop by six. So much for the shopping centre proudly announcing it's now open 'til eight or whatever every day, when there's only about half a dozen shops participating! One of which was of course Burger King, where I decided to have my tea to make the trip worthwhile, though they have a back door on to the street anyway so like most of the restaurants in there they always have been open later hours than most. What a con!

All's well that seems to end well, however. I finally got through to the shop in question this morning, and it turned out they'd cocked up the order - seems to be just my luck lately. But thankfully now they've ascertained they can un-cock it up, though there's going to be a substantial delay - but we wouldn't leave empty handed in the meantime. I just need to confirm that's acceptable with everyone involved, and I'll be setting the wheels back in motion.

Nothing's ever quite as simple and straightforward as it seems though, is it..?

All sorted, to everyone's satisfaction! And now I mustn't forget to buy a birthday card for my sister - now that can't possibly go wrong, can it?!

Indeed not, and safely posted. Though I realise I'm going to have to start buying my cards from somewhere else soon, given that this new endeavour of mine to remember birthdays seems to end up with me browsing the selection just about every fortnight, and I'm fast running out of suitable designs!

Just got back from the town centre again, to happily complete stage one of rectifying the earlier problem - now to patiently wait a couple of weeks for the final conclusion - and to buy a new pair of trousers! I guess it's what they call "middle age spread", but the trousers they replace really won't fit any more and always were a touch short in the leg anyway. It's because we're going to a concert on Saturday night and it's a semi-formal kind of thing, so I thought it would be nice to get that particular outfit back into wearable order - and for fifteen quid, reduced from thirty-five, courtesy of Mr Byrite, I really couldn't complain...

It has been pointed out to me that unless the same person has a birthday every fortnight, there really is no immediate crisis with choosing birthday cards. What they failed to remember, however, is that the main people affected are my sister and her family - and she's got a household of eight... Then there's Claire and her family, close friends and their families to add into the equation - and it's almost a similar "problem" with them too. Nice "problem", though, don't get me wrong!

But anyway, it's Friday today - and not just any old common or garden Friday. And the Friday before what will not be any old common or garden weekend either.

And, on that note, I think I'm going to slowly head home, cook myself a bite to eat, get my stuff together for the weekend - remembering to pack a small plastic reindeer amongst other important things - and dive into the bathroom for a little while, before hitting the road to Prestwood.

Whether I'll be posting anything else here before Sunday will just remain to be seen - but I wouldn't go making assumptions either way, if I were you!

I didn't, because it's Monday now. Though the small hours of Monday morning, admittedly. But - even though I'm not at work tomorrow morning - I really ought to be heading for the land of nod, so I'm afraid I'm not going to say anything more for the moment except that Claire and I got engaged on Saturday afternoon and we're both utterly over the moon!

My word, what a lot of emails and messages I'm going to have to forward to my fiancee now - I've tried to thank you all individually, but I'll do so again publicly now because it means so much to us both to have everyone's support in the way you're showing! Needless to say, I too had been bursting to talk openly about what was coming up at the weekend, but it just had to stay under wraps until now, I'm afraid - though perhaps a few things cryptically alluded to have fallen into place now, if they hadn't already prompted a few accurate guesses from the more speculative or perceptive..!

Anyway, in short, Friday night we visited my parents to break the forthcoming news to them, and stayed overnight before driving down to Burnham on Saturday morning. We had lunch with Claire's parents, plus her brother Michael and Jess of course, before having a chat with them once we'd finally managed to get the right four people in the same room at once without any extras! Jess had a birthday party in Eton to go to, so as we drove there it was a good opportunity to have a brief chat with her about it - and confirmed as we'd suspected that there's going to be some considerable adjustment needed there. Mind you, Jess's main immediate expressed concerns were that all her toys and her bunk bed were going to be at Nanny and Granddad's, so - with the assured help and support of others in whom she confides - maybe it's not going to be quite as tricky as it initially sounded, though we have no delusions it's going to be simple. But anyway, we took a stroll over the bridge into Windsor and along the riverside for a little way, and having found a convenient park bench with a reasonable view - and with plenty of ducks, swans and geese as our witnesses - we did the happy deed!

We had a concert to go to in the evening, part of Claire's church's 800th anniversary celebrations, and needless to say, that was a mighty good opportunity to let a good few people know - though we had dropped in on Jenny earlier, who was over the moon despite being "in on it" for longer than anyone else, though it was a very happy surprise for Jo and Emma, who have already just about booked their places as bridesmaids. The post-concert curry at the Akash turned into a modest celebration, and we also got "announced" and prayed for in church on Sunday morning, which was a bit embarrassing but entirely worth it - and of course the next time we walk up that aisle together with everyone looking at us will be even more special I know! I managed to speak to my brother on Saturday afternoon, and he was really pleased despite going through the late stages of his divorce, and I finally spoke to my elusive sister this morning, and somewhat made her day too!

Claire's mum and dad were out for lunch on Sunday, helping their friend Doreen collect a puppy, so it was just Claire, Jess and me there at lunchtime - perhaps a taste of the future, and it certainly wasn't an unhappy time! I stayed for the afternoon - including meeting Doreen's puppy, who also went down rather well with Jess, unsurprisingly - but Claire really did want to spend a little time on her own with Jess. I was sort-of-expected at the pub in Burnham later, though, so I suggested that I went and visited my parents for the early evening to give Claire and Jess a break, and that ended up working out quite well, and also gave me a chance to drop in on my neighbours and let them know the happy news! I eventually arrived back in Milton Keynes at about midnight, so it was just as well I didn't have too early a start today!

And I still can't stop grinning! Even having had a nasty needle stuck in my arm this morning for a blood test!

Got to wait a week for the results of this morning's blood test, though. Some of the tests they expect back this week, but the thyroid one can apparently take a little longer. Thankfully they can give me summary results over the phone, so there won't be any need to make a further appointment unless something's amiss. In a way I'm worried about what they might find, but in other ways not - though ultimately, if there is something wrong I'd obviously like to know, although I'd prefer the all-clear really even if it did leave me continuing to wonder why I've been as low as I have been this winter.

Quiet day - though I've been in work since quite early since I had a 9.30 meeting I needed a little preparation time for - but still smiling!

STOP PRESS! Still smiling!

Woo, successfully troubleshooted - or is the word "troubleshot"? - my home PC tonight! For a few days it had been reliably crashing upon system shutdown - though not restart, bizarrely - and I was at a loss as to why. But this evening, thanks to a methodical if tedious binary-tree process of elimination of which I was proud - with more than a little assistance from the little known but dead useful msconfig.exe - I managed to isolate the problem down to what turned out to be the driver for my HP scanner. Now why this should have suddenly decided to break after months of happy service I really can't quite be sure, but it seems the solution is simple enough - namely to update the scanner driver. Well that's hardly rocket science, but all the knowledge-base information rather assumed I knew that was the issue all along, so wasn't exactly helpful during the troubleshooting process. I would have truly pitied anyone with even a little less computer know-how than me! The only downside at the end of the day, though, is that the drivers are a 54Mb download, so I don't think I'll set that going here at home this evening...

Last night I also finally managed to do an analysis run on the access logs for Gareth's new website. It turned out that his provider had very subtly changed the format of the raw logs, which was spectacularly breaking the Analog software I use for such tasks. All was well in the end, however, although Gareth may or may not be particularly pleased by the results. It's early days, though, and most of the people who will be aware of the site's existence will be people he's personally told, so he needn't take the results as too indicative. For example, almost no-one has bothered listening to the mp3 files, the only media clip to have been downloaded by any significant number of people was a video of a graffiti artist at work, and the much-vaunted Thebandwithnoname is languishing in the lower reaches of the league table of featured artists attracting interest. But I'm confident that as a wider audience of people become aware of the site's existence that will all change, and I'll be keeping a very close eye on such things initially at least.

How does it make me feel? Quite a lot of people have asked that over the last couple of days, needless to say. Well...

Apart from my continued delight, my overwhelming sensation is one of peace, a deeper peace than I think I've ever before experienced. It's a secure peace that comes from knowing that I need search no more, that the future is now plotted out ahead of us so we know pretty much exactly where we're going even if we're not entirely sure yet how we're going to get there, that there really is no stopping the happily inevitable now. The universally enthusiastic reactions from everyone talked to aren't helping it sink in really, but they are making the enormity of our decision plain to see and fill me with ever more awe about what lies ahead for us in both the short and long terms. I'm sure it will start to sink in soon - though in a way I don't want it to entirely - and we'll both realise what a crazy amount of stuff needs to be done over the next year or whatever, but in the meantime I'm really quite happy up here on Cloud Nine, and I don't think there's much anyone can do to hasten my descent.

Woo, that was quick service! Just had a phone-call from the Jewellery Store, to say that Claire's replacement engagement ring - the subject of the cock-up described in these pages last week - is ready and waiting, about a fortnight ahead of schedule. In summary, they'd advertised the ring as 18ct gold but it turned out to be a mislabelled 9ct one, but they contacted the supplier to check availability and agreed to order Claire the exact same design in 18ct at no extra cost. They'd estimated it would take two to three weeks to come through, but in the end it's been less than a week! The only pity is that we'll not be able to swap it for a few days yet, but I think they hold on to customer orders for about three months so there won't really be any problem.

Though I'm currently hatching a plan that might see a somewhat swifter resolution, which I am sure will please Claire no end, and I can't see any flaws in it... I dare say I shall further investigate when I'm in town on Saturday morning as I must at least briefly be, in advance of driving down to Burnham for another wonderful weekend in the company of my gorgeous fiancee. It's Thursday today, however, and this week really has whizzed past incredibly quickly. Open House is restarting this evening after a short break, and tonight we're watching "The Matrix" in advance of discussing its implications and so on over the next couple of weeks. Well, what better excuse, even if the film is a little overrated in my opinion? I'm round at Sarah's for tea, though, and will most likely be going straight to Open House from there - so it's just as well I've already done the shopping for the few foody bits I'd agreed to bring to the latter. Claire's having a girlie night round at Jenny's this evening, so I think we're both going to be back home reasonably late, but should both have a lot of fun in the process!

Is it my imagination, or has someone hard-wired Monochrome to make it advertise <CWD> to me on the main menu infolines rather more than I would expect?

Last night was fairly good - well, at least until Claire phoned. Then it got decidedly better, happily to say! As I'd perhaps expected, we didn't watch the whole of "The Matrix" at Open House last night, being just a little bit long to watch in a two hour gathering that wasn't likely to start promptly, and to leave enough time for socialising and any necessary ministry and so on. So, unsurprisingly, we got through about half of it and will watch the remainder next week, before analysing it for a couple of Thursday evenings after that. Sarah seemed on unusually good form when I popped round for tea earlier in the evening, probably due to a combination of her perhaps sensing there is now some glimmer of a way out of her current situation and - maybe more to the point and practically - being one daughter down for the night. Anyway, yes, then after Open House I'd been instructed to text Claire at her girlie night - which turned out to be just her and Jenny - and she promptly phoned back, or rather Jenny did for a little amusement value, though she swiftly handed over to my fiancee and all hope of an early night was frittered away in a blissful half hour... Oh, and apparently they'd got through the whole evening at that point without mention of me or marriage - and what's more, in my half asleep state, I believed them! No, in fact, they'd talked of precious little else.

"Claire and Dave, sitting in a tree, K.I.S.S.I.N.G."

Thank you, Ally, for those words of truly insightful wisdom.

And to 1st Burnham Girls' Brigade Juniors for exactly the same, I am reliably informed. Whatever happened to youthful innocence?

Mission accomplished with the replacement engagement ring, with the Jewellery Store continuing to impress me with their extreme professionalism given the simple and honest mistake made, so Claire's left ring finger can be properly adorned tomorrow in full 18ct glory! I was also up in town just in time to catch the Post Office before it closed, so I was able to sort my car tax out for the next year too. While I was up there, I thought I might as well pop into Waitrose and do my weekly shop, and, lo and behold, that means I've now done everything I might have had to do in a hurry tomorrow morning. I need to agree with Claire whether that means I come down to Burnham earlier tomorrow, or just take things a little less rushed; I suspect the latter, to be honest, but I'm sure I will speak with her at some point this evening and it really doesn't worry me too much either way.

Indeed that is the plan, more or less. OK, I'll be leaving a little earlier than I might have, but only really to allow time for the unpredictable Saturday morning traffic. That means I have about an hour and a half before I'd like to be on my way - and I need to have a bath, have breakfast and pack my bag before I do so. Shouldn't be in too much of a hurry really!

Zzzzzzzzz... More tomorrow. Or, rather, later today, once again.

Jolly fine weekend though!

Well well well. Three hundred and eighty-three days, and counting, if my shaky mental arithmetic serves me correctly. That's right - amongst this wonderful fabby weekend's most significant activities was a little Sunday afternoon meeting with Claire's vicar Olivia, at which we provisionally set a wedding date for 12 April 2003. Yes, that seems an age ahead, but there's plenty to do - what with work, sorting out a house and everything, and that's even before issues of the wedding itself come to the fore - so it's probably pretty realistic.

But that was only part of a splendid weekend, which once again only came to a close in the small hours of this morning as you know - and I'm sadly realising something may have to give a little with regard to the latter. Saturday morning saw my car getting beautifully cleaned by Claire and miscellaneous Girls' Brigade members, though I am assured it was both the first and last time - and I have to say I am generally quite happy with petrol station car-washes! The rest of Saturday daytime all seems a bit of a distant memory, but I think it was mainly spent making things and watching videos with Jess - and Claire, in between odd jobs needing doing.

Then for the evening we had a Girls' Brigade officers' and partners' meal out at a Chinese buffet in central Slough - bringing back memories of Queensmere and its airport architecture! - which was most pleasant indeed, even if there weren't quite as many of us out as had been hoped, for various reasons. We'd half promised to pop in to an engagement party of one of Claire's colleagues on the way back from Slough, and we duly did, though it was stupidly noisy, so once we'd said hello to everyone who'd been desperate to meet me - and I'd managed to detach Cynthia from me - we decided to call it a day, and did not excessively prolong our goodnights once home.

As for Sunday, well I should have remembered it was Palm Sunday, and what that normally entails in the more traditional church circles, but I didn't complain for a moment because it was an absolutely glorious morning to walk from Taplow back to Burnham, increasing in our numbers as we did so. There was a short more conventional service afterwards, with Claire and Jenny being dropped in it at the last moment to lead the song after Communion. Back to Claire's house on foot then - via the park, for Jess to have a bit of a run-around - for a lovely chicken roast courtesy of her mum and dad, and soon after that, peace descended. Claire's sister Sally had very recently somehow sliced her achilles tendon and was to be incapacitated for a couple of weeks, so Claire's mum and dad had agreed to go and help her for a few days, and took Jess with them.

Quite what then happened to the rest of the afternoon I can't exactly remember - well, apart from together tackling the mountain of greasy washing up, definitely a downside of the traditional Sunday roast, and perhaps the clinching issue in our aspiration to own a dishwasher when we're married - but the next major bit was our much-anticipated visit to Olivia, to talk about various matters wedding-related, and of course to agree that date... A half hour chat rapidly extended to an hour, but it was all very useful and we came away with plenty of stuff to read and even more food for thought - and a date next year for everyone to circle in their diaries!

After tea, and before going to the pub, Claire needed to do some preparation for a church event on Good Friday, and - unsurprisingly - I needed to phone a few people to let them know what we'd decided with Olivia! The evening generally whizzed past though, and it was soon time for our customary visit to The Bee. As I said earlier, though, I need to be more self-disciplined about that, because after a busy weekend - as any involving Claire and especially Jess inevitably end up being, happily - two hours at the pub followed by an hour on the road really does take its toll. So in future I've decided - and Claire's agreed - that I should never feel obliged to attend, and not to feel I have to stay the whole two hours if I do!

So that was that - for the weekend, at least! I'm not sure who was up first in the end this morning; I've been waking earlier lately anyway - perhaps some kind of subconscious adjustment to what I have in store - but had set my alarm for about as late as I could get away with and still get to work on time. With no Jess to get ready for school or anything, Claire too was looking forward to a similarly leisurely start, though I get the feeling we were both probably up at about eight in the end, and briefly crossed paths on MSN before getting our respective moves on.

And now, here at work, completely out of the blue I've just had a new 22" monitor delivered, in advance of receipt of a new base unit to be expected in the next few days. Goodness knows why, when they know my days here are now numbered, but I'm not really complaining!

Claire's pretty busy until quite late tonight with Girls' Brigade matters, but I can't really complain after a whole weekend with her - and besides, I need to get used to Mondays being of this nature. It should be fine, actually, because we've both been pretty fiercely independent in our own ways for the last few years, and allowing scheduled time for our own interests, hobbies and so on will be an important part of acclimatising to life together I suspect. Besides, Monday night is pizza night up here in Milton Keynes - historically because it was when Westcroft Pizza Hut used to do an evening buffet, though the tradition has long outlived the availability! - and that's precisely what I'm going to be participating in myself in about an hour's time!

Well, that, and then driving into the town - Milton Keynes is a town really, despite tenuous claims to the contrary - to do a touch of shopping. Mainly because I'm entertaining Sarah and a couple of the girls here on Wednesday evening, and I'd not otherwise got anything much in for them to eat - and I'm round at their house tomorrow night anyway to mow the lawn so wouldn't have a chance to do any necessary shopping then!

Ooh, the loudspeakers for my new PC have arrived. Still no sign of the PC, but I've told them there's no hurry... The irony is that the monitor supplied yesterday has built in speakers anyway. Our centralised IT purchasing system is held in very low regard for such things - and was the reason why before the big shake-up here we insisted on an independent computer equipment budget.

As requested, I just phoned the Central MK Medical Centre to get my blood test results from last Monday, and they're not back yet. Well, the thyroid test one is, and that's the one that usually takes the longest and why I was encouraged to wait until now before phoning! I'm in the clear on that one apparently - but I could still be technically dead on the basis of the others, I suppose...

Still no firm news on my blood test results, but it seems they are now all back - even if the usual comments are missing on all but the aforementioned thyroid one, and the receptionist wasn't entirely sure what all the numbers meant to interpret them herself. So I've been asked to phone again in a little while and hopefully speak to the doctor who should be able to explain what, if anything, is untoward. I'm pretty hopeful there won't be anything up now, and although I still have a slight lingering sore throat, this spring weather definitely finally seems to be doing me some measure of good in the perkiness stakes!

Yesterday really wasn't too brilliant a day for me in the end to be honest, with the main positive thing - apart from getting Sarah's lawn vaguely mown - being Claire successfully booking our wedding for the date we'd hoped. The latter certainly lifted the day for me, though I was generally feeling a bit low - I think reality is beginning to sink in, with all that entails - and Claire was busy essay-writing until well into the small hours of the morning so there was little respite. I guess that's yet another thing I've just got to get used to, with Claire starting her studies in earnest in not too many months' time.

Tonight I was going to be entertaining Sarah, Laura and Rachael at teatime, but they double-booked themselves and are going to a party at Rich and Shona's. Sarah said I'd probably be most welcome to come along myself, but it was the first I'd heard about the party, I'm not one to make assumptions like that, and besides, I could do with a quietish evening in anyway because yesterday was a little stressful and tiring. Not least to give an opportunity hopefully to catch up with Claire properly, with our paths really not having crossed as much as I'd have liked over the last couple of days for one reason or another.

Oh, I now have my blood test results. I spoke to the doctor, and it turned out he'd not yet seen them himself, hence the lack of comments, though he phoned me back later once he'd got hold of them. They're pretty much in order, though there's one that was a little out of the nominal range, the lengthy name of which escapes me right now. He'd like me to come back soon to discuss that one, and ascertain whether it was anything significant. But other than that, it seems like I'm pretty much healthy - and although I'm not quite out of the woods yet, I'm increasingly feeling like that's the case too! Hurrah!

Well last night didn't quite work out as planned - even the revised plan, after Sarah's double-booking - but it was OK, and perhaps for the best. Claire was out at someone's leaving do until pretty late, so we didn't get quite as much chance to catch up with each other as I'd hoped, but we still had a few opportunities earlier in the evening of which we took full advantage! It hadn't been an easy last couple of days for either of us, as you may have gathered, but we're mutually reassured to know we're both feeling much the same pressures and are agreed in our determination to overcome them. With that in mind, I'd hoped to update my CV last night and perhaps even put it on-line - especially since it would allow easy reference to web work and so on - but time and energy somewhat ran out on me by the time I'd carried out a couple of promised updates to Gareth's site and spoken to my mum on the phone for a bit.

There's another busy evening coming up today, of course, with the second half of "The Matrix" at Open House. Mind you, I don't have to do quite so much this week since I'm not in charge of food this time and have already been briefed on roughly where we go from here with this particular themed series of gatherings. But, like last Thursday, it's still likely to be quite a long evening, and one when I may or may not get much opportunity to talk with Claire, especially as I'll quite probably be going into town after work to take back the 9ct engagement ring now Claire has the 18ct one safely on her finger! Then Claire's busy all day tomorrow with the Good Friday workshop she's organised at her church, and then it's the weekend, which we've really barely had a chance to discuss at all yet! We'll get there, though, and there's also the small matter of Claire and Jess hopefully visiting next week to plan...

... I really really hope, as I sit here on the verge of tears. I really never knew a week this short could be so hard. But I must keep my chin up, I must fight on, and not let these emotions get the better of me for a moment longer.

Still, I have the delights of the wonderful StarOffice to keep me "happy" and remind me there are worse things. Shades of Geoff Capes, who was reputed to kick himself in the shins to divert his pain attention away from how much his muscles were hurting. I now know why we traditionally pay for software, and that Microsoft's market dominance is to do with neither technical brilliance nor monopolistic business practices, but because everything else is pants!

Please be sure, though, I love Claire dearly - it's just that this is one of those weeks when we've both been feeling the geographical distance much more than usual. I want nothing more at the present time than to be with her, and - frankly - anything else is a painfully unsatisfactory second best right now.

So much for my planned Good Friday lie-in - perhaps it's an empathic thing with Claire, who's undoubtedly also long been up and about, finalising things for this morning's workshop thing at her church.

I really wasn't much in the mood for Open House last night, and if I'd not been nominally running the show and been giving Becca a lift to and from there, I'd almost certainly have given it a miss. As it was, I intentionally only stayed for the conclusion of the video and not much longer, and that was only really to refresh my mind as to exactly how many bullets Neo could stop in mid-air or whatever. For the next couple of weeks we'll be moving on to the bible study based around the film, using some pretty good notes produced by Scripture Union, but I need to look at those in more depth over the next week - if I can find a chance! I really do wish people could take a hint sometimes...

At least leaving early finally gave a good opportunity to catch up with Claire, and further confirm that our experiences and emotions at the present time aren't so very different or unusual, as well as come to an agreement on how this Easter weekend is going to at least start to take shape as from Saturday evening. If rejection is my biggest groundless fear - and it really is groundless - then uncertainty is quite possibly my biggest practical bugbear and it's the perfect breeding ground for the former to try and take hold of me with its ultimate emptiness. With the physical distance between us as it is for most of the week, and with total reliance upon phone-calls, emails and so on to bridge that gap - all of which are very much all-or-nothing means - it's no surprise really that such feelings do start to rear their ugly heads. So I'm by no means unhappy that we've decided to have a relatively quiet evening in tomorrow and spend some quality time together, not at the mercy of Orange, Vodafone or the internet - and hopefully without too many distractions of any kind!

As for today, well I'm going to be taking it fairly easily I think, and I do need to update that CV as I said I would the other evening and miserably failed. I think tomorrow will be a better day to do any necessary shopping to get through the weekend and the next week, and I'd also like to take the 9ct ring back to the jeweller at some point, not having had the opportunity yesterday evening in the end after all. But for now, another unrushed bath is in order, and then just see how I go I guess!

A long time ago, in a galaxy far far away - oh, OK, not quite, but still many years ago, long before the real internet revolution, right-way-round email addresses, Freeserve and all that, I used to play MUDs. Sad eh? I really can't see the point now, with their extremely limited gameplay - kill monsters, collect loot, sell loot, buy more equipment, end of story really - and only the most fleeting apology for player interaction. They were surprisingly fun - despite the frequent "lag", which was the most frequent topic of inter-player communication - at least until the system administrators would conveniently trash the database and everyone would have to start all over again.

But therein lied the problem, that for something that could so easily devour every waking hour - and destroyed many a promising student's chances of a good degree, myself thankfully not included - they were ultimately so utterly futile. OK, so you can fritter the hours playing other computer games, but no other type of game takes over players' lives to such an extent that the fictional virtual world becomes real and the real world a distant memory. I think it's because unlike most multi-player games where the world only "exists" while playing, MUDs had worlds that carried on even in the player's absence, and that was the real allure, I suspect. Am I talking like a reformed smoker here? Well it's all history for me now anyway, and I generally laugh at those who still see such time-consumingly futile activities as a way of life.

Or is it? Alas no, because I have just been introduced to "Progress Quest" - but it's a game which happily fixes just about everything that was wrong with the MUD genre up until now. It offers exactly the same immense satisfaction of progressing through the levels of slaying fearsome beasts with ever more lethal weapons and collecting interesting treasures from intrepid quests, but with none of the tedious stuff and without eating into every living moment of the player's life. Even while I've been typing this, I've just slain an Imaginary Demogorgon with my +16 Vicious Polished Bandyclef - earning the Gleaming Bandolier of Solitude as my spoils - and I have to say it's just as much fun as it was six or more years ago. If not more so, because I can get on with real life at the same time!

And real life means things like enjoying the real sunshine while it really lasts, and to that end I went on a real-life walk this afternoon, to - and round - a real lake and back, using real energy and working up a real appetite for the real pizza I plan to cook myself real soon!


What on earth am I doing up and about so early on a bank-holiday-weekend Saturday? Indeed it's a couple of hours since I was first up, and it's not even half past eight yet! I'm not exactly full of energy and raring to go, but there's definitely something changing within me that's inspiring me, because this is by no means the first time in recent days. Whether it's the longer days and warmer brighter weather, or early signs of some kind of paternal instinct, I really don't know though. But I'm not really complaining, even if it means lie-ins are becoming increasingly hard to enjoy on the odd days that I really get the chance...

But I do have quite a busy day ahead of me, needing to go shopping - and not just for entirely mundane things - in reasonably good time this morning, before going for a late lunch at Sarah's and then down to Burnham in the evening. And fitting a bath in sometime during all that! Yes, the weekend with Claire is finally taking shape, as are our plans for later in the week; it's amazing what an hour or so on the phone can do for getting such things sorted!

Hmm, Sarah and co are being elusive... Must remember to try and sort out her non-functional mobile sometime, cos it's not easy finalising lunch arrangements with people you can't get in touch with!

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