goznet ...

David's diary: May 2002

Yeah, last night... Really just quite a bizarre evening, starting at about 5.28pm, with a phone call from Sarah. "Are you in your car?" Well no, because I don't answer the phone when driving, but I swiftly made my way to the car-park for the inevitable mercy mission, Sarah having nodded off and forgotten she needed to collect Rachael from her after-school club at 5.45pm and not enough time to make her own way there. Simple enough thus far, and we were only a minute or so late at the Christian Centre.

But then Sarah asked if I'd mind running them over to Cranfield to help collect a car they were being loaned for a few days. It was still rush-hour, but we knew of a quieter back route, so that was no problem. Except that half way there, we both discovered that the other didn't know where we were going in Cranfield - I'd not been there at all, and Sarah had only previously had a lift at night-time! Easy - we'll phone the people, because they're always in by six or so. Except for last night of course, and their mobile number wasn't responding either! So we drove around Cranfield for getting on for an hour, exploring every likely looking cul-de-sac looking for the car in question, but with no joy and two increasingly fractious children in the back.

Finally, just about to make the executive decision to give up and go home - quite possibly via Cranfield's chip-shop - we thought we'd try phoning one last time, and managed to get through and were safely navigated to our destination, down just about the only road we'd thought not worth trying... Well we got there in the end, and our frustrations were quickly forgotten with a nice sit down and a cup of tea, though by the time we'd driven the two cars back to Milton Keynes - via a well deserved supper stop at the Kingston McDonalds - it was getting on for nine, and thankfully the girls were too exhausted to argue about it being their bedtime. Not that my own was long after that, but not before I'd written those last couple of short diary entries! What an evening, though...

Didn't sleep at all well though, with those normally high-quality last few hours before dawn being particularly useless in my quest for recuperation. Still, should have a quiet evening in today, all being well - or at least not doing anything too hectic - so I'm sure I'll survive...

Hey, I've just had my first ever useful bit of communication from the Friends Reunited website. Yes, I've had the odd message through before, but it's always been things like "Hey, I'm just writing to say hello because you have the same surname as me" and other such inconsequential rubbish. No, this time it was Julian, one of my best friends when I was at Aylesbury Grammar - and, like most people on the site, sounding like he's doing pretty well for himself... Anyway, that was that, but it lifted this afternoon a tiny little bit above the utterly tediously mundane.

Darn it, I never knew I could write so prolifically! I just wish I was creative enough to write stories rather than merely factual stuff.

Mmm, if I could write stories as easily as I can evidently eat pizza!

Or drink wine.

Or want to go to bed...

Now, like.

Zzzzzzzz...

(Goodnight)

Thursday, it's polling day in our local elections, and I did my bit for democracy before leaving for work this morning. The polling cards which had been on top of our fridge for the last month had of course gone AWOL, but thankfully our archaic voting system only required me to tell the officials my name and address, which I would have had to have done anyway, I think! Anyway, I'm sure the Liberal Democrats will get back in as usual, and they seem to do a pretty good job of mending the paving slabs, so no prizes for guessing who got my vote. There's quite a good chance they'll end up with the most seats of any party on the council too - Labour currently holding that honour, I believe - though I don't think they'll be close to an actual majority.

I shed a tear last night. Only a small one, but I distinctly felt it running down my cheek. Not something that often happens, I have to say.

Ten o'clock. Early night tonight. And I've not even been naughty. Much.

Well blow me, the Liberal Democrats do now control the council after all, by the looks of things. 27 seats, versus 16 and 8 for Labour and the Tories respectively. I can't swear blind that they didn't previously control it, and the reporting on the Milton Keynes council website is pathetic, but hey, worse things could certainly happen. Could live in Burnley, for starters.

The BBC website was better, confirming that the council make-up changed from no overall control - with Labour just in the lead - to a sweeping victory, and of course control, for the Liberal Democrats, almost entirely at Labour's expense.

Still glad I don't live in Burnley this morning, though.

Anyway, I can't promise I'll never talk about politics ever again, but that'll do for the time being, certainly!

Lunchtime!

And now, lunch happily consumed - some kind of tofu stir-fry concoction - I'm reinstalling Windows on my old office machine, prior to whoever's going to inherit it taking it away from me. Windows just accumulates so much junk that it was simply impossible to return it to its virgin state without such a wipe.

It's immensely satisfying, in any case - but oh so slow...

But done now - though not without a few headaches on the way... All neat and tidy now anyway - well, apart from the mysterious disabled stray "other device" that appears to be the network card having an identity crisis, but hey.

Hmm, today's starting to drag now. Still another couple of hours until it's pretty much the weekend and I can "celebrate" my first week of singularity.

Singularity sucks. Weekends rock, though.

Emily says I'm "indescribable beyond description" - who'm I to argue?

Even earlier night tonight, and I've been even less naughty than last night!

Wouldn't it be great if life would just give us an occasional good hiding and let us get on with it in the meantime?

Happy Star Wars day!

I'm going back to bed though - not the best night's sleep last night, not typing straight, and the plans I'd had for today have been postponed so I can take things a little more gently anyway. Just would be nice to get to Waitrose before they run out of salad though...

Bah, my sister's now had two relevant-looking responses from her Friends Reunited listing, and she's only been on there a few weeks. I've only had one - even if it was from a one-time best friend. What a sad loser I must have been; question is, has anything changed? No, don't answer that one.

The flowers on the window-sill are wilting, the chocolates remain untouched, three diamonds scintillate with the blackness they reflect, and the ghosts of the hopes of our parents are meeting for a pub lunch somewhere, chewing over what might have been. A week on, how do I feel? How am I supposed to feel? To tell the truth, as seems to be fashionable - though as Pilate famously asked, "What is truth?" - I really don't know the answer to either question.

If the circumstances had been different, perhaps I might be feeling something more clearly, but instead I am just bemused. Indeed it's almost like the last year never happened, like it was all just a dream - which to some extent was true I suppose - and a pinch brought back reality with a bump. Those I thought I might be tearful at the prospect of never seeing again seem distant memories already. I just thank God that those distant memories are overwhelmingly happy ones; perhaps it was right that things ended as they did, without the chance for proper goodbyes.

Hate isn't a word in my lexicon, at least not directed towards people, but nevertheless neither am I sure I could truly love again. At least not now, but time I hope can heal those wounds, no matter how unintentionally inflicted, and open the latch once again - but to whom, and for what reason? We live, and we learn. And we move on. With a watchful eye over our shoulder, just in case.

On the other side of things, I do of course feel a lot of sorrow for those affected by this ridiculous farce. To all those friends of us both who thought we'd got it made, and are perhaps now wondering what they'd said or done wrong. To our families, who showed such love and support all along, and thought that finally perhaps the time had come. To our respective church leaders and congregations, for their prayers which may have been as misguided as our own. To Jenny and Steve for ultimately riding Ronan's fallacious rollercoaster as naively as any of us. To Joanna, Emma and Charlotte for being the best bridesmaids we were never to have. To Jessica, for your dashed hopes, no matter how much confusion they may have brought - and for yelling at you when it wasn't your fault. To Claire, for the hell you've been through and that I was too blind to see. And to God, for not listening.

Mad manic day today - even if it wouldn't be most people's idea of fun, but it was, in a strange kind of way - and more of the same scheduled for tomorrow. It's called forgetting my own woes and immersing myself in others', but putting an emphatically positive spin on it all. Oh, and I got a nice - and oddly not entirely unexpected, neither receiving it at all nor its tone - e-mail this evening, which I shall have to carefully decide quite how I answer. But for now, seeing as tomorrow's fun and games start at ten in the morning as today's did, it's time I was finishing this nightcap and heading for bed!

Right, well barring any last-minute phone calls, here we go again...

And ... rest. Well over twelve hours later, that is.

An altogether unorthodoxly excellent bank-holiday weekend, though.

Got a headache, mind you.

And now it's Monday - no, Tuesday - and I'm back at work and bored with my unfulfilling life once again. It was a good extended weekend, though, even if a good deal of it was spent on my hands and knees, tidying other people's rubbish... Got a couple of nice walks out of it, though, in the woods at Bow Brickhill Sunday afternoon and at Willen yesterday - oh, and some yummy food!

Hmm, independently of Sunday evening's e-mail - which I have still yet to decide how to respond to - I got another most interesting message and phone-call just now. But they might just possibly have a bearing upon each other, so perhaps it's as well I held off on replying to the former for the moment, until I've had the chance to ponder things further. All intriguing...

Mmm, it's a faintly sunny evening after a frankly murky last couple of days. Hopefully this weather will last out until this time tomorrow when I need to do some lawn-mowing - was going to yesterday but it was way too damp. Tonight, though, it's astronomy club time, so all I need to do is decide which of the local eateries I shall grace with my custom as is traditional on such nights. Not been to the Olde Swan for a good while; perhaps I shall treat myself!

Oops, what happened to my early night then?

Wednesday, no sign of the promised sunshine yet, but it's not raining either so let's not be too unthankful. More interesting messages to respond to, but decisions, decisions, decisions looming on the distant - well, distant at least for the moment - horizon. But I'm not going to rush - or be rushed - into anything; too many times in recent years I have waited for God to say "no", and taken the lack of such an utterance to be divine approval, and I'm not going to do that again. At least in theory, in a famous-last-words kind of way! Yes, it might mean I'm waiting a while, but if that's what it takes to get things right with regard to a number of aspects of my life, that's what it takes.

Oooh, sunny now!

Finally finished installing my new work PC; that's to say, removing the old one and setting the new one up in its permanent location. Incredibly, the speakers provided with it include a feature I've never seen before - not only a built-in headphone socket, which is not particularly noteworthy, but a microphone one too. OK, so that means there are two cables running from the PC rather than the usual single one, but it's dead handy for voice conferencing and so on, since I can plug both plugs on my microphone headset into the speakers and away I go, rather than grubbing round the back of the PC every time I want to change between speakers and the headset. Small innovation, major convenience boost!

That really wasn't very interesting, was it?

Sun stayed shining. Lawn mowed. Reciprocal tea consumed. Chats had. Children reprimanded. Possible futures explained. SATS revision helped with. Goodnights said. Home returned to. Wine consumed. Bed beckoning.

Can this week finish, please? A.S.A.P., like?

If not sooner.

Suppose I might as well go home.

Well that's one possibility I have been wisely advised to politely decline.

Of course, whether I do so successfully is quite another matter.

More potential baggage than a Boeing 747's cargo hold, and would make certain others I could mention look like they weren't even staying overnight.

Well I did the gentle "put down" bit late last night, and I've not yet heard anything back. Part of me wanted to reach out and help, but the wiser and more battle-worn bit of me agreed with the advice that I shouldn't touch her with a bargepole. A shame, yes, but I could well do without history repeating itself and on a scale a hundred times worse. Keep moving forward, ever forward...

Incredibly, my old PC has now been taken away. OK, in fact Sam, Tim and I had to do the taking away, but it's found its new home on Jenny's desk, pending her return from extended maternity leave in a couple of months. We wondered what pile of junk she must have had before to justify a 500MHz machine being seen as an upgrade, and it turns out her old PC was actually an 800MHz one. But it obviously was deemed to have a more productive home than the desk of someone on long-term leave, and had long since vanished to someone else's office, so in fact 500MHz was simply a "better than nothing" option. And with its nice clean Windows 98 installation, I bet it'll run perfectly fine!

The other day, I noticed something a little odd with my new Iiyama monitor. With its Diamondtron screen - Mitsubishi's version of Trinitron technology, I believe - I had expected to see a couple of fine horizontal lines, the shadows of the damper wires that all aperture grille screens need. However, I also noticed the same phenomenon vertically - albeit a little fainter - and had never seen that before. I thought little of it until I happened to be looking at the manual this morning, and found reference to the problem: "If a black vertical line appears on the screen, apply a light shock to the side of the monitor with your hand", it advises. Amazing, a manual that actually says that if the product goes wrong, hit it and hopefully it'll fix it. What honesty!

Oh, and it did work, by the way.

Obviously their English language manual-writer hails from Birmingham.

It's midnight, I was shattered two hours ago, perhaps I ought to be heading in a vaguely bed-wards direction? Catch up with y'all tomorrow most likely...

Hello!

Must be getting on, though. Things To Do.

Spodding from Sarah's, while she's at the cinema, and I'm waiting for the drivers for her printer to download as part of the Windows reinstall I'm doing.

Surprisingly trouble-free so far, actually, considering the proliferation of the usually-problematic obscure Intel hardware in this machine.

And now finally back at home, at about midnight. People will start talking.

Unjustifiably, I hasten to add!

Utterly shattered, and quite glad just to drop Sarah and the girls off outside their house rather than stay for the customary apres-church cuppa. It's been a fairly good weekend though, even if my inevitable return to work tomorrow frankly does not appeal.

Yesterday, once I'd done my shopping and so on, was - as I'd already hinted - mainly spent tidying up Sarah's PC. She's just been given another one for the girls to use so she was keen to reinstall Windows on her own, and in so doing, get rid of all the accumulated clobber of the last year or however long it's been. It took a bit longer than I'd hoped, though was not particularly fraught, even if my heart missed a few beats when I thought the quirky modem wasn't going to work - I mean, what kind of silly question was it to ask me whether a PCI internal modem was plugged into COM1 or LPT1?! Sarah was out for the evening, so I took advantage of the cool of the day and the peace to get the job pretty much finished. I still need to transfer some of the girls' stuff on to the new PC, but I've ascertained that the USB CD rewriter I'm currently looking after works fine, so that should present little problem.

Today was a slightly more relaxed day, though, and just as well after the late night I got last night in the end! After getting up decidedly later than yesterday I went out for lunch with Darren and his mum who was visiting for the weekend. We pondered a few eateries, but ended up trying out the acclaimed Jaipur now they've moved to their rather impressive new premises. It wasn't quite such a grand building inside, but still decidedly good surroundings and the selection of dishes for their Sunday buffet, whilst a little limited and unusual, really was top notch and I don't think any of us could remember a curry quite like it!

As you may have gathered, I actually made it to church this evening. I can't remember the last time I went to a Sunday meeting, with the way everything has conspired for the last few weeks and months. Matt and Jill were taking the evening off, after Jill's dad died a few days ago, but a team from Northampton stepped in at short notice and did a sterling job of preaching and prophesying. The latter in particular was incredible, with one encouraging word in particular striking home in a way I don't think anyone could quite believe. "Did that mean anything to you?" was probably the dumbest question asked during the whole evening... God really does do some amazing things!

But now I'm back home, pondering an early night myself. Top idea, methinks.

For a hopeful moment in the small hours of this morning, I had a sore throat and felt really quite unwell. Wasn't to last though...

Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear - leading the readers' poll for choosing a new name for Thebandwithnoname, the latest Pennells/Porter music-by-numbers venture, is none other than the somewhat predictable "Thebandwithnoname", with over 50% of the votes cast. Not that it was much better than any of the other shortlisted names, of course, but it might have been a good idea not to include it as an option, especially since they share the name with a fair number of other bands - some of them sounding quite dodgy - if one performs a brief web trawl. But then half the other options were even more generic; one wonders just how much these people actually know about the way the music world works. Or perhaps they know too much, anticipating major success at the expense of all others.

At least I enjoy an early get-away this evening, since our regular Monday night pizza outing has been brought forward a little bit to allow Darren to be in a fit state to go to the gym at eight. So I'll be out of here by five, hooray!

Milton Keynes rush-hour traffic fought through, pizza eaten, back home, sat in the car for a few minutes waiting for the rain to ease off - bringing back memories of just over a fortnight ago - checked my emails and stuff, and now pondering a bath and an early night.

Bath enjoyed, another Klez in my inbox - the people who propagate these things should be banned from the net just as mercilessly as those who create them in the first place - and bed sounds an unsurprisingly attractive proposition now.

Strange dreams, strange dreams. Wishful, prophetic, or just casting out the detritus of the day before? Who knows, though I must admit I was more than a little sad to find they weren't true. But I must not worry about it all, and must not try and do anything in my own power, for it will surely fail.

Well that wasn't half as tedious an afternoon as I'd feared it was going to be; it was a production meeting for one of the technology courses I am involved with, and indeed was the first such meeting I'd ever been to during my five or more years here at the Open University. I knew the software aspects were only going to represent a small part of the proceedings, so was fully expecting to spend the rest of the meeting nodding off. But in fact it all turned out to be reasonably interesting, and a useful insight into just how disorganised the typical OU course team is. And it didn't drag on too long either, having been scheduled to last two hours but finishing after barely half that, though I did stay a little later to have a chat with the academic who'd done much of the prior work on the spreadsheets I'm currently tearing my hair out over. But anyway, that's that for another couple of months, and now I'm going to prepare for another early getaway from work, since I'm having tea round at Sarah's in a little while, and she needs some moral support at the moment for various reasons as well as a bit more tinkering with her computer to get it just right!

Well that was an OK evening. Tea was at the hockey stadium McDonalds in the end, courtesy of my wallet, but I need people to splurge on now and Sarah and family are happy enough splurgees, at least once in a while. Got a few things sorted on the revamped PC, including setting up virus protection and so on, and also a couple of things on the inherited older system for the girls to use. Not too late a finish, though, even if I did have to go back to collect my coat which I forgot. The circumstances may be a little unusual, but Sarah is a true best friend. Someone who takes and accepts me as I am, seems to understand me better than I do half the time, and - most of all - consequently isn't afraid to tell me if I'm a fool. And I frequently am... Hooray for all best friends, but most of all for best friends who don't just say things to please!

Everyone seems to be doing it, so... Well my IQ, according to the BBC's somewhat haphazard online test, is a rather mundane 129. That equates to me correctly answering between 62 and 64 of the 70 posed questions, and assumes that all the questions were of equal difficulty, which was of course plainly not the case. But then all IQ tests should just be treated as a bit of harmless fun, and just slightly more pretentious versions of those personality tests people waste countless hours of their time doing too, just to prove that if they were a dog they would be a bichon frise or whatever.

OK, I promised an edit about this, and I am a man of my word, as far as reasonably possible! A once significant other - don't you just hate that term? - has as her Monochrome nameline, "ThoseWhoCan,Teach.ThoseWhoCan't,StillDo!"

Now it just so happens that I'm pondering a slightly relevant career change, and I surely hope I fit into the former category. Now admittedly I'm talking a slightly different sphere of teaching, namely further/higher education, rather than primary, but my experience is that the adage can be even truer at that level. Certainly I noticed about 14 years ago that "Those who can't, end up lecturing in the Electronics & Computing department at Southampton University".

Anyway, still to decide whether to pursue this particular avenue, but I'd be a fool not to, since to be paid to do what I love would be a dream come true. I personally question my teaching ability, but others who know me better than I probably do myself think I'm capable, so I might as well give it a go. The worst that can happen is that they say no, and I try pushing on other doors...

In other news, I've been seeing red a little today, and I don't like that happening. Please try and avoid wearing red when I'm around; it's not helpful.

Ah, therapy at last, courtesy of Moby's heavier material and my guitar. I tell you, whoever invented the electric guitar - and especially distortion - surely deserves a Nobel prize for psychological medicine, were there such a thing. And Moby would be a worthy runner-up with his "Animal Rights" album if I had any say in the matter.

I've partially unsubscribed from one of my "fave" diaries. You probably know who you are by now! It's nothing in the least bit personal, I'm just finding some of the content a bit upsetting at the moment and I can do without that. My problem alone. But just so you know, if I've vanished off your diary logs, and you're wondering quite why. I'm sure I'll be back soon enough, but maybe in slightly more controlled doses, so to speak.

Scary stuff! Was it really fourteen years ago I left school and started my doomed spell at Southampton?! I guess so, but that's almost half my life ago!

Happy another-year-nearer-the-grave-day to me.

Except I've decided I'd probably rather be cremated. Assuming I get that far, of course, but it's pretty likely. Anyway, that last entry was posted well into the small hours of the morning after a very late night out yesterday, proof-reading and generally helping put the final touches to Sarah's latest college assignment. Just to be clear, it's all her own work and all her own style, but she just wasn't quite confident enough to get it to the point where she could say it was polished and ready to submit without a gentle push. Today I'm at work, of course, but came via Kingston Tesco to bring a few cakes and doughnuts as tradition dictates - and much-appreciated they've been so far!

Most of the way through the morning, and the doughnuts have all gone - all fifteen of them - and about a third of the sticky chocolate cake. I'm not entirely convinced that everyone who has partaken will have been on my email recipient list, but hey, I wondered if I'd over-catered. Celebrate!

And yes, of course I have carried out ISO9000-compliant batch quality testing on the goods on offer. Anything else would have been negligent.

Tonight was pretty forgettable, really. It was fine as far as it went, but it wasn't what it was supposed to have been, not that I'm going lose any sleep over it. Yes, there's still time, perhaps, to have a better birthday evening, but frankly I'm beyond caring too much.

And today's pretty poor so far, but for somewhat different reasons.

Bah, all the shops in town with the Harry Potter DVD at a sensible price are, of course, sold out. I knew I should have bought it when I saw it in Tesco the other day, but I just wanted to be sure it was cheaper than Play, which it was.

Hey ho.

Melting in the heat here, so no great point in rushing off to bed quite yet. Still, melting as I may be, at least I'm not going to burn in hell for watching an evil DVD this evening. That'll probably have to wait 'til next weekend.

Oh, and I've fired off that lecturing job application I mentioned a few days ago. I still really don't know whether I'm in the "can teach" or "can't teach" camp of competence, but there's certainly no harm trying, is there?

Sunday (the day after the day after my birthday). A merit mark for anyone who can identify that mangled reference. There's "Cafe Church" this morning at the ski-centre bar; will be the first time I've made it along, for various reasons!

The threatened rain didn't even come close to materialising, with glorious wall-to-wall sunshine instead, and me braving myself to don shorts for the first time this year I think - though I was obviously more concerned for those upon whom I would be inflicting my legs at this morning's Cafe Church thing.

I walked up to the ski-centre for that, needless to say - it being simply too lovely weather to miss - and was glad I went along, with plenty of people to talk with in an entirely informal setting. I still don't quite feel back in the swing of things yet, but events like this morning's will help ease me back into church life, to remind me there are people who care about me just because I am me and - for all my flaws - God's own handiwork.

When that had all finished and I'd helped clear up, I popped into Chappells in the shopping centre to buy my promised set of Rotosound strings for my guitar. Back home, after a bit of a fiddle - no pun intended - I got them fitted and the guitar sounds a lot better now than it did at the worship jam a couple of weeks ago. I went for the yellow set - 10 to 46 gauge - in the end, and it seems to give quite a satisfying sound, but strings are cheap enough I that can afford to experiment a little.

Having had a phone-call from my mum yesterday asking about pay-as-you-go mobile phones, her cousin being interested in getting one but not spending too much, I also popped into the Orange Shop and picked up their latest catalogue. Although most PAYG phones are now very expensive - since they realised that people were only buying them for emergency use, as suggested! - there are a few bargains still to be had though it seems they're selling out fast.

Anyway, now back at home of course, and I've had a bit of a jam on the re-strung guitar - if one can really call it a jam when the only other participant is a drum machine - and now I'm feeling quite exhausted and like I could probably do with a lie down for a bit. And if I suspect that to be the case, I guess it's probably worth a try...

But then the phone rang, thwarting that particular plan. Nothing terribly exciting, just one of my many women...

Overall though, despite a few undeniably good moments, this has been an overwhelmingly bad weekend psychologically. The prospect of returning to work tomorrow is even worse. I think those ephemeral better moments I've had have been little more than escapism from bitter reality. I try hard to think of my glass as being half full rather than half empty, but frankly I've tipped this one upside down and given it a good shake, but only a few drops came out and even they've evaporated now. I hope and pray for a breakthrough, but I can't really even begin to imagine where it's going to come from. The light at the end of the tunnel was a figment of my ever hopeful imagination - or at least it was ever hopeful. I'm increasingly realising now though that if there's one thing I've learnt from all this, it is to trust no-one, at least at their face value. And that's pretty sad. But it's the bitter reality of the situation, as far as I am concerned, and my glass is bone dry.

The weekend did end on a faintly higher note, though, going to watch Episode 2 of Star Wars with Mark as a spur-of-the-moment decision. I had to ponder the suggestion for a moment, having already promised to see it with my office mates, but I figured that if it was any good I'd be happy to go and watch it again. I have to say I was a little underwhelmed, but then I've never been the world's biggest Star Wars fan anyway, and for all the glorious effects it was little more than enjoyably time-passing hocum. It somehow seemed just a little incomplete, and didn't quite stand as a story in its own right in the way that the underrated Episode 1 did, but I certainly didn't feel my time had been wasted. Oh, and there was enough I didn't quite follow or whatever, to justify that return trip next week, so my colleagues haven't disowned me after all...

Can today just end, please? It's not serving any useful purpose whatsoever.

"Tidy room, tidy life" - I have been reminded by Emily in her diary. Well my room has a clear path from the door to the bed, possibly via the computer. I do hope the metaphor breaks down at some point before that, or I'm dead.

I hate computer viruses - especially when they're on other people's PCs and I'm the one who has to sort them out. To my knowledge, my own computer has, in fact, never been infected. Ever. At all. Get the idea? I wonder why that could be, as I reiterate my sentiments of exactly a week ago..?

And, just like a week ago - and having had a lovely bath - bed sounds great.

Night night sweet world.

And it was, but now it's Tuesday, and it all starts all over again.

Damn, bang goes one of my better summer holiday plans. Hey ho, there we go.

And demonstrates just how screwed up I am right now, though it would be as much for the protection and welfare of others as of myself. But the plot thickens. I will become an outcast, spurned by even more of those who once cared. Last night I tried to tidy my room, but really couldn't be bothered. Mmmmetaphors.

Top marks to top people Tristan and Ninn. Brought a rare smile and chuckle to this little face of mine. I will cheer up, eventually, believe me.

Anyway, almost time to head off home for the day. Going to mow Sarah's lawn in return for a bite of tea. Should be a pleasant enough evening. Bye for now.

It takes a sudden shock to bring things into perspective sometimes, doesn't it? Just got home this evening to find my mum had been anxiously trying to speak to me this evening, because my uncle Tim had a heart attack this afternoon and died. He leaves a young wife and a four-year-old daughter, as well as older children from his previous marriage. Still, he couldn't be accused of not having lived his relatively short life to the full, and I am glad that apparently a lot of wrongs were put to right in more recent years, but it's such a tragedy nonetheless.

Other than that, not too bad an evening, just about managing to beat the rain to mow the lawn. Time for bed now, though.

It's pretty much exactly a month now since the illusion of my engagement to Claire was shattered, and the week before the inevitable "shock announcement" started - although there were clear warning signs a week previously that I was too confused to recognise for what they were at the time. After an initially pragmatic start, it's been an up and down kind of month, and I'd be lying through my teeth if I claimed that all my thoughts had been charitable.

My feelings are still fundamentally ones of sadness and pity that things could have got as bad as they did for Claire without her feeling able to confront them honestly and openly before they could destroy the dreams of so many. I remain cross that there were episodes where those problems were turned around to be mine rather than hers, but I recognise that being in denial can make us do some pretty mean things - wittingly or otherwise - to avoid the truth.

I am now more or less resigned to the fact that Claire has chosen to walk away and isn't going to have second thoughts, and sad though I am, I cannot resent that when I realise how little she's actually walking away from, now the smoke has blown away and the mirrors have cracked. Can friendship be restored? Initial signs really aren't too good, so I'm not even pinning hope on that much happening. Some things simply weren't and aren't meant to be.

Meanwhile, I just continue to hope and pray she can pull herself out of this mess, and grasp the bull by its horns rather than superficially muddle on by - building up to the next disaster - as appears to be the case at the moment, sad to say. I hope for that as much for poor Jess as anyone - who's caught the brunt of this and past events worse than anyone really - though it is difficult because Claire must appear strong for her daughter and I would imagine has not been able to be remotely honest with her about why things had to end this time.

But at the end of the day, I really haven't a clue what's true and what's not. I was aware of being lied to a few times, but how many more times were there? When you live your life as a lie, where does the truth come into it at all?

In happier news, my Harry Potter DVD arrived in the post today. The postman - sadly not an owl, as I had been misled to believe would be the case - was most apologetic for waking me at seven o'clock, but it was far preferable to the alternative of a trek over to the Brinklow sorting office because none of his colleagues seem to understand the futility of delivering parcels during the daytime. Anyway, that means my passage to hell is almost complete, and it looks like there's no more fun way of getting there. And the ticket cost me only a pound more than John Lewis or Sainsburys were quoting, had they actually had any seats left on the Hogwarts Express, which they plainly hadn't.

I hate Star Office even more than ever. In the land of the blind, the one-eyed office suite is king, and that accolade undoubtedly belongs to Microsoft.

All I want the stupid thing to do is use the first column of the data area I have selected in my spreadsheet as the axis labels, as an option in the dialogue invites me to request. But it plainly does not work if the rest of the columns do not immediately follow said label column.

That's to say, if I want to chart C and D against A, but do B on a separate chart, I can whistle for it, because Sun don't consider that reasonable since columns C and D don't come immediately after A. The values here are arbitrary.


  A       B       C       D

  1       3       2       3
  2       2       5       7
  3       6       9       1
  4       5       10      4
  5       4       6       5

It's small wonder Microsoft have gained the market dominance they have, faced with this kind of quality of competition.

And if you thought Microsoft weren't too hot on documentation, you ain't seen nothing yet. There's sod all on the web, either. I really and truly hope that once Sun start actually charging for this rubbish, it'll be the death of it. I didn't use to think that way, believing competition to be healthy, but the competition has to have at least some shred of merit for that to be the case - like the eternal PC vs Mac battle - but that's plainly not true here.

Free software: "Free for those whose time is worthless"

Oh, and Star Office also wins the coveted prize of Office Assistant Even More Infuriating And Less Avoidable Than That Flipping Paper Clip. But enough of such hideous and work-related monstrosities, let's return to relatively nice fluffy things like the state of my life right now...

Anyway, almost time to go home now. If it wasn't for all the above documented problems, today might actually have been faintly productive!

The Harry Potter DVD was fabulous. I shall now spend an eternity in damnation.

But not before I have supper. Mmmm, pizza.

Pizza consumed. If this is hell, it's not such a bad place. But bed I think would be better, so I think I'll go investigate that in a moment.

I slept fairly well last night, I think. Not perfectly so, but I was unusually woken by my alarm at 8.25 and felt reasonably raring to go - though still wasn't in work quite on time because I thought I'd better check email and send an important text message before I did so. Had an interesting discussion this morning with my line manager Jon, in the light of my recent changes of plan coupled with ongoing intentions, but I probably oughtn't yet say much more about it other than the fact it could involve a rather tasty amount of money.

No more yet heard about arrangements after the death of my uncle the other day. I can't pretend I knew him that well in recent years; he used to live locally so we saw quite a lot of him, but when he remarried he largely started a new life up in Nottingham. But I guess this still hits quite hard because, with all my grandparents now gone, he's the first of my parents' generation, and - having had rather distressing thoughts about such things at the weekend, before this happened - I now have to wonder at least a little who's going to be next.

Hmm, Mum's just texted me to say Tim's funeral is next Wednesday in Mansfield. I was thinking a card to Jo and Hannah would have been most appropriate, but apparently both she and Dad are going, as are both my brother and my sister. I know no offence will be taken if I stick to my original plan, but... I dunno.

I've decided to go, and Mum and Dad are going to pick me up en route.

Mind duly put at rest now. Just need to book the time off work now, but I really don't imagine there'll be any problem with that.

Went to Open House this evening for the first time in weeks - and glad I did, definitely worth being a little brave and getting back into the swing of things. Plenty of new faces too, which was all very healthy.

Time I was heading for bed, though - it was quite a late finish!

Prolific emailer number one's computer has died. Prolific emailer number two is away from home at the moment. Prolific emailer number three isn't any more anyway really. Consequently, just a bit of spam in my inbox this morning.

Target of today's software development frustration is Delphi. Lovely fluffy wonderful Delphi. Most particularly its incapability of coping gracefully with having a component library updated to a more current version.

Sorted now, though. It was Delphi's insistence on keeping a reference to the old version of the component library even after I'd supposedly surgically removed all trace of it, and consequently getting into a knot. All's lovely now, and I've been able to make the modifications requested, at least to an acceptable degree for the sake of the half dozen or so affected students...

Anyway, it's just turned five o'clock, so it's not only time to go home, but it's the weekend too. I really don't know what I'm going to do this weekend to be frank. At one point my sister was going to be visiting my parents and I was going to further add to the inevitable mayhem, but that's not happening now, even though I am still welcome to go down to Prestwood regardless. But I'm really not at all sure, especially since I'll get to see the whole family on Wednesday anyway, even if the circumstances won't be exactly wonderful. In some ways I desperately want to get away from here, but in other ways I just want to curl up and let the world get on with itself without my interference. Yes, maybe I should have taken up Alexis's suggestion, and really got away from it all for the weekend, but I just didn't have time to sort such a thing out. Instead I shall probably just mope, and wonder what might have been.

Oh well, I did go to see my parents in the end, and that's where I am now.

Nice just to be somewhere that's not Milton Keynes, if only for variety.

Now back from my parents, after a most pleasant day or so, and faintly - if unjustifiably - depressed thanks to a couple of not terribly surprising revelations since doing so. "Stop the world, I want to get off" seems quite a common saying round these parts, but I think I have got off - the world, that is, nothing more exciting. Consequently it now feels like the world is whizzing past and I'm left standing and bewildered. I want to get back on, but it's not going to stop again and everyone's waving cheerily, like they don't know how the tears are welling in my eyes as I wish I could have what I simply can't. I think I shall knock back another glass of wine, send a text message to my last and best hope, and call it a night as I cry myself to sleep.

Open message to someone else - and I am sure you know who you are. You are understandably worried about the reaction, afraid it's going to be a positive one. But just remember why you have agreed to this; it's not for you, but for one you care about and who has a deeper need than you can perhaps appreciate, never having lacked in that department. Much as it may pain you, if the reaction today is positive, then that is truly great - at least for the moment until the novelty wears off, and if the novelty doesn't wear off then that's even better. If you care as much as you say you do, you will be genuinely happy for their sake. But your worry is still understandable, and you will all remain in my prayers for an outcome that is God's will for everyone concerned.

Perhaps I don't know what it's like. No, of course I don't. But I am experiencing a taste of it in a different situation, having to feel ever so happy for someone who I'll probably lose to an extent if everything works out for the best in their life. And no, I'm not coping too well with that, so I'm not preaching from any moral high ground of perfection. Just sharing my experience, and hoping you can fare somewhat better than I have so far.

"Keep an eye on the staircases; they like to change..."

(from Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone)

A most accurate reflection on life for many right now, it would seem!

Mmm, got to go shopping. On a Sunday. I hate Sunday shopping.

Small hours of Monday morning. Some of us have work to go to later today...

Just spent the evening fixing Martin's PC - Klez and Kak virus infestation ahoy - but actually a really nice time, not having had the chance to catch up with Martin properly for a year or more I don't think. Then - just when I thought I was safely home and about ready to go to bed - bumped into Mark, on his way out for a late-night burger with Darren, and who on earth would I have been to turn down such an opportunity?

Really is bed-time now, though, for reasons already stated. Goodnight all!

And now it's Monday afternoon, and the day's gently drawing to a close - as if it ever really started, in fairness. I was going to go and have a bite of tea with Darren - though not a full-on Pizza Hut assault, for a change - but I've just had a mercy-mission request from elsewhere which must take priority.

Hmm, it's Tuesday afternoon already. Before I know it, the week - and with it, the month - is going to be gone, especially since I am off work tomorrow in order to go to my uncle's funeral near Nottingham.

Last night worked out reasonably fun in the end, quickly completing the aforementioned mercy mission, but then - having equally swiftly and easily sorted out what was supposedly a dire problem with their computer - took Sarah, Laura and Rachael out for tea at KFC in advance of Laura leaving for her school trip to France this morning.

Taking advantage of the lovely warm evening I then went for a decent sunset walk around Willen Lake, trying not to get too covered in procreating insects, winding up at the pub there just about as Darren emerged from the gym after his work-out session. Almost missed Darren, but thankfully he spotted my car... That was about it, but it was a most pleasant evening, all in all.

Tonight I'm off to the cinema with Tim and Sam to watch the new Star Wars film again - not because I considered it so brilliant I just had to watch it again, but because I'd promised ages ago I would, it wasn't totally atrocious, Tuesday is cheap night at Cineworld, and it's a just plain sociable thing to do!

But I can't have too late a night, since Mum and Dad are driving up here pretty early tomorrow morning, and we hope to be on our way to Nottingham as soon as we can manage after they do so. I've volunteered to do the driving from here to Nottingham and back, which suits me just fine; I'm not the best passenger these days really! We'll probably go out for a meal somewhere in the evening which should be nice, especially after a day which will have been somewhat emotionally overwhelming, particularly for my mum.

It's been a month... Any progress, in any direction, some will be wondering? Not really, but - in spite of a few emotionally difficult episodes - I seem to be largely keeping my head above the water, and there are possible seeds of future happiness being sown. I still feel like I've been spun round and am not exactly sure which direction is which, but I feel at a degree of peace despite really being totally unsure of where I'm going to be, or anything, in say a couple of months' time. But such bridges can be crossed once arrived at.

In fact, I forgot that yesterday, the business of it being exactly a month. I was quietly sat outside the pub by Willen Lake, watching the ducks and geese as the sun went down, praying for Claire, for Jess, and for others, both connected and unconnected to what had happened. It was probably a month almost to the minute. How very very apt. The last time I had sat and prayed on a bench for so long was outside the British Telecom depot in Burnham, wondering what the heck was going on and just why. Comforting in a strange kind of way, though; I guess a kind of confirmation that God really was and remains in control, and it brings a peace to me that could otherwise have been so completely different.

Oh, and to celebrate my first month of not sending anything up to a dozen text messages a day and sitting online for hours each evening using GSM data, my Orange bill arrived today. Should have been anything up to half off what I've been accustomed to for the last few months. Instead it was triple. Eh?!

About half an hour later, it was resolved, thanks to the most helpful Cathy at Orange Customer Services. She was as baffled as I was as to why my data calls had suddenly started being charged at 8p/minute rather than 1p/minute, outside of my inclusive airtime, but eventually recalled reading a memo explaining they'd screwed up loads of bills and that the errors would be rectified by credit next month. Just have to wait and see, I guess...

What a day, what an emotional rollercoaster... But I'm glad I went; I'm not sure I'd have been able to live with myself if I'd not, in retrospect at least. Everything went smoothly enough, getting up to Hucknall a little bit earlier than we probably needed to, though Mum had contributed some much-needed crockery, so it was perhaps just as well.

A good many of us congregated at Jo and Tim's house, moving on to Mansfield Crematorium, a few miles up the road, soon after eleven. The service was beautifully done and a most personal affair. Jo's Catholic priest officiated, but it was a sensitive blend of Christian and more humanist elements, with plenty of anecdotal interludes - including one provided by my mum, recounting their childhood. It was after the formalities of the service, as we were invited - if we wished - to sprinkle blessed water over Tim's coffin, that the enormity of the day really got the better of me, and I was very glad to have my sister Ali and my brother's girlfriend Kim close at hand.

In the pouring rain we returned to Hucknall for the reception, a fine opportunity to catch up with and get to know lots of people it would have been nicer to meet under happier circumstances, but it was not an overwhelmingly sad time by any means, and there were plenty of smiles and laughter. Part way through the afternoon I agreed to run my mum's cousins Catherine and Richard to the railway station, but we didn't stay an awful lot longer than that, with a good two hours on the road ahead of us, just to get back to Milton Keynes.

As tentatively planned, Mum, Dad and I took a short walk to the Barge in Woolstone this evening for tea, which brought the day to a natural and most pleasant close - well, for me at least, as I waved Mum and Dad off for the last part of their journey home, so they had another hour to go.

But if there was one bit of the day that will stick most in the memories of those who were aware of it happening, it was when the hearse pulled up outside the crematorium. Little Hannah innocently asked, "Who's in there?" Jo replied, "That's your daddy." "And," added Hannah, pointing to her much older half-brothers and sister Roger, Catherine and Timothy, "their daddy too."

Life is so precious, and we are ultimately so fragile.

Oh, by the way, "Attack of the Clones" seemed much better on second viewing. It was probably because with the plot as contrived as it was, therefore not particularly naturally flowing, it was easier to follow this time so I could enjoy the film better in general. Anyway, back at work today, hey ho...

Feels like a Monday. But it's not. It's a Thursday. But you knew that.

Wish it were a Friday, though.

Decided to give Open House a miss this evening. Not really a terribly good thing to do, but I feel just so drained after yesterday in particular and could just do with a nice quiet evening in, a little time to myself, and an unhurried hot bath. Paul pointed out, when I told him, that there's a four-day weekend coming up. Yes, and I need that too. Really. There are a few other things I've heard that have upset me a little too, even though they do not directly affect me or our group, and although they alone wouldn't have been enough to make me want to take the evening off, they may well have contributed somewhat.

If I needed convincing that the falling apart of my world recently was but a trivial blip compared with others' lives, that's been seriously proven over the last couple of weeks, hasn't it? What on earth's going to happen next?!

My mobile phone had me worried a few minutes ago, with its refusal to connect as a modem. Or, rather, something, somewhere between my PC and the phone - even after resetting both, and fiddling with the data cable. I had to completely disconnect and reconnect the cable at the PC end to get it to play ball again, and it's been fine since. I have, therefore, come to the conclusion that it's possible for the data cable to crash. I know the DLR-3 cable specification does include some active electronics, so I guess it's feasible, if somewhat unlikely. It's the only logical explanation though - otherwise I can only conclude, after that thumping great data bill the other day, that someone, somewhere, is trying to tell me something...

Emily is a bad influence on me. I just had an iced sticky bun with a cherry on the top. See, it works both ways - just you didn't give in to the temptation!

Right, I want to get this Star Office spreadsheet rubbish finished today, once and for all. Well, barring more change requests and so on. It's just been dragging on way too long, and depressing me still more with every passing day.

Long live Microsoft, the real "stars" of the office suite world. Bar none.

Except it's unlikely I'm going to now, and this hideous project will drag on into yet another month. Star Office's spreadsheet module really is the most ill-conceived, half-baked bit of productivity software with which I've ever had the misfortune to acquaint myself. Yes, there are less powerful alternatives, but at least they don't pretend to be the answer to all the world's problems. Sun really have bitten off so much more than they can chew - it's far better to implement a limited funtionality subset properly, than try to be all singing and all dancing whilst botching the lot. And people like me have to suffer.

Weren't Jubilees historically when the slaves were set free?

Ironically, the spreadsheet I am currently slaving over is called "Landfill".

Undoubtedly the best place for it.

I thought I was on the home straight. Then I realised that the last couple of graphs I needed to tweak have dual y-axes for their multiple data series. Star Office, can you do that, with your claimed Excel compatibility? Er, no.

I've probably suggested it before, but I'm sure it would have been cheaper to have bought a job lot of Excel packages to send out to the students. And they would undoubtedly say thank you rather than sue us for the damage to their own hair, foreheads and brick walls - with which I can certainly relate.

But sadly the academic who's the driving force behind this is a big spreadsheet fan - the software would have been better as bespoke applications in the first place - and an ardent Microsoft hater. What's more important, his idealistic delusion, or my and however many students' collective sanity?

And, unsurprisingly, the open-source Open Office is even worse. It doesn't even import Excel's basic row and column data properly. Eloquently written tirades against Microsoft's FUD are all very well, if the evidence on the ground doesn't bear out the sentiments expressed. Heaven help Peru if their trumpeted open-source software strategy includes things like Open Office, that's all I can say. No wonder Paddington Bear emigrated.

A fairly pleasant evening so far, and probably not a huge amount left of it judging by my accumulated tiredness at this point. I went for tea at Sarah's, as agreed before I managed to fix her computer a bit more easily than I had expected the other day, but it turned out to be a picnic at Willen Lake in the end. Claire, home for the weekend, decided she was too tired to go out, and Laura wasn't due back from her trip to France until later, so it was just Sarah, a somewhat hyper Rachael and me in the end, but it was all very civilised and the perfect evening to eat al-fresco and go to the park. Claire was a bit emotional so needed some time alone with Sarah, and Laura's imminent arrival home was likely to throw things into chaos anyway probably, so I just dropped them off afterwards, and now here I am, wondering exactly how much longer I'm going to stay awake! At this rate, not many minutes at all...

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