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David's diary: October 2002

Ooh, first day of October today, so a clean sheet for this diary - but you know by now where to find the archives, don't you, Monochrome users? Also the day I found - since it is of a mechanical nature - that my watch is a little unhappy, with the crown not pulling out properly in order that I could persuade it that there are not 31 days in September as it seemed to think. I managed it in the end, but more by force than precision, so I expect I'll end up having a better look at it at the beginning of December, or March, or May...

This morning's weekly progress meeting with Jon was postponed until this afternoon, but it was productive and encouraging once it happened. All that is left for me to do this afternoon is slice up a 129-page document into about sixty individual documents. Since it's a pretty much entirely mechanical process, I've been spending the last little while trying to write a Word macro to do it, but Word simply won't play ball, complaining there is no document open to process, when it's there for all to see. So unless I have any sudden waves of inspiration, I'll give up on the automated approach and just do it manually. And just hope that the editor doesn't come up with any more last-minute global changes, as seems to be her wont.

This evening is our monthly astronomy club gathering, and I've yet to decide whether I'm going to go home for tea or stock up on junk food at the shop before it closes. How I get on with this document slicing could just possibly have a little bearing on that, I daresay!

Mum said to me on the phone last night that she'd given up reading this diary because it's a bit depressing. Well when I've nothing much more to write about than tearing my hair out over substandard application software - be it StarOffice, Microsoft Office, or whatever - what can anyone really expect? Suffice to say, I can't even do the document slicing manually; no wonder the macro was having trouble. This isn't going to get done tonight. I'm off home.

Been in from astronomy club a little while now - but about a minute less than I might have been, had I not "engaged autopilot" on leaving the OU by car for the first time in weeks and started driving to my old house! Was good tonight though, with Paul Roche always an excellent speaker, this time talking about the various educational projects he's involved with, particularly telescope-sharing schemes specifically targeting schools and amateurs. Still a few stumbling blocks to be overcome, but sounds really exciting stuff!

Not only do I bear the responsibility of inflicting StarOffice spreadsheets on a number of our students, but I've now also been asked to put together the CD-ROM said students will be installing StarOffice itself from. Oh how great the temptation is to include an "Are you really sure?" dialogue. One thing is for sure, if they want me to put my name on the CD-ROM like Sophie foolishly did with the Online Applications one, I'll be demanding danger money.

Meanwhile, planning for my flat-warming the weekend after next is taking shape nicely, with a fair number of replies - mostly positive hopeful - already, though still quite a few to be chased up over the next week if possible. I wasn't reckoning on a huge uptake, not least because I don't really have room - or parking space - for everyone invited if they all turned up, even spread over a few hours as it is. I'd be delighted if about twenty people visited over the course of the day, and that's looking reasonably likely.

However, first of all I must get through today's inspection by the letting agency, though I really don't anticipate any problems at all, from past experience! I gave the flat a good clean and hoovering on Monday night, and last night I wandered round the flat formally noting those few things I consider to be wrong and that were so before I moved in, as the agents had previously suggested I do. Nothing's that major really, but I would just like these things to go on record for whenever I'm needing my deposit back!

Needless to say, the inspection went fine, and indeed Paul had gone before he was due to arrive - so it was a good thing I got there a little earlier than I strictly needed to! Of course, I forgot to give him a bunch of post for the previous tenant, but I'm sure there's nothing terribly urgent there... This inspection was only a month and a half after I moved in, but the main reason was so that he could give me back a copy of the contract, meter readings and so on; regular inspections will be every three months, which sounds OK to me.

I am a teensy little bit cross. I had my flat-warming carefully scheduled so that it didn't clash with anything else that the majority of invitees would be doing, but it turns out I was given dud information, and there's a church service slap bang in the middle of it. Needless to say, the party is going ahead regardless; church can survive without me in the band for yet another month. First come, first served - always a good motto! Still annoying though.

Still, at least Open House was good this evening, watching a Christian film that we thought might well be truly dreadful - past experience really didn't promise much at all - but was actually really quite funny. All about a bloke trying to win the favour of his prospective father-in-law against all the odds - and with some scenes almost as coffee-spewingly funny as Ben Stiller's finest, but with just a little added cheese and slightly less gross. Just.

I'm no longer cross about the party clash. A couple of people have already contacted me to change the time they reckon they'll be calling by, and that's absolutely fine. I am cross, however, that communication within the church continues to be utterly abysmal, despite slightly patronising assurance from the leadership that everything is under control. The guy in charge of the website does a great job, but is passed next to no current information to keep it up to date, particularly frustrating given the imminent major reshuffle of meetings and so on. Announcements in general are made in a completely ad hoc manner, rarely obvious whether anything is officially-sanctioned or not, and clearly there is little or no quality control or review on what information is distributed. Yes, whoever originally distributed the wrong dates for the October meetings should have been more careful, but as soon as they were given out, someone with authority should have noticed and issued a correction. Instead, much hassle and confusion for many. About a year ago, I was asked if I could oversee communications within the church, and I think I agreed, but nothing has ever come of that, and things have alas lurched from bad to worse ever since. Rant over; needed to get that off my chest. Now, action.

Well at least my plans for this weekend can't be messed around with, can they? Surely hope not, anyway!

Just need to decide what lengths I go to this evening in trying to locate my walking boots, bearing in mind the weather forecast for tomorrow isn't that brilliant apparently. By a process of elimination, I have determined that both pairs are buried at the bottom of a rather inaccessible wardrobe that is stacked high with other stuff. I guess if I can find them in ten minutes this evening and sort through a bit of that other stuff in the process, it will be time well spent, even if it does pour with rain all day tomorrow as I fear...

As for today, well I am semi-eagerly awaiting the delivery of the Hawley report into something to do with engineering, due to arrive on my desk - or rather, in my email in-box - at or soon after lunchtime today. Not really a terribly exciting document in its own right I am quite sure, but its arrival will mean that I finally have all the source material for the CD-ROM I had hoped to have completed ages ago but that was being held back by lack of vital submissions. Whether I will get it today or not remains to be seen, but we've told the academics that the disc will go to QA on Monday with or without it!

I am now advised the report should be with us by the end of Monday. Yes, all I have to do is "drop" the PDF file into its placeholder in the CD image, but I'll still then have to cut and test the CD-R before I can call it a day, so I'm not predicting too early a getaway. Needless to say, this should have been with us weeks if not months ago. I bet the students won't even read it - especially when it apparently runs to almost a hundred utterly gripping pages.

Well that's been a good weekend - though much as I'd like to say it's not over yet, it probably is now! For various reasons I decided I wanted to go and see my parents, and that I duly did. I can't actually remember offhand last time it was that I went, though I'm sure some diary fan with a good memory will remind me! So the weekend was a nice mixture of general chit-chat, sorting out things on their computer, and going for a good walk near Whiteleaf Cross with my mum yesterday afternoon - the latter of course being why I wanted to find my walking boots, which I thankfully managed without too much difficulty on Friday evening before I left! Anyway, I'm back in Milton Keynes now and have done my weekend food-and-stuff shopping, so can now hopefully relax just a little!

In some ways, a happy weekend away from here did me the world of good, but not far beneath my cheerful exterior there's a lot of unhappiness welling up; the weekend provided only a partial distraction, and for whatever reason I had plenty of reminders of the recent past. I realise just how fragile I still am, and again I now want to shut myself away from humanity and all the troubles it brings me, to curl up and cry. In my little flat I can indeed withdraw to some extent, and submerge myself in alternate realities via music, the net or whatever, but I know too that that does no good really in anything but the very shortest term. To add further to my misery, next weekend's party is looking on even shakier ground than it was towards the end of last week. I've only had eight replies from the two dozen emails I sent out, of which only four have been affirmative - and there are some possible further complications now so I'm really not banking on getting any more acceptances to speak of. I'm tempted to call it off altogether, but that would send out the wrong message, and admit one defeat too many - and besides, I will be genuinely happy to see anyone who does make it along, even unannounced! Anyway, I'm not going to write anything more tonight, it's too depressing even for me. I'm going to bed...

"Accessibility" - now there's a word that strikes fear into many a software developer, and we had a pretty boring departmental presentation about it this afternoon. Even our boss, who was sat next to me, admitted he'd almost nodded off, such was the level of excitement. But allowing disabled students to be able to use our software effectively is an issue, an important issue, and one that is now backed up by law. So it was great when the very first slide of the presentation featured substantial amounts of yellow and cyan text on a white background. And all this happening the same say that the Hawley Report PDF file I'd been awaiting for the last few days arrived, with all 96 pages - which no student, visually impaired or not, is surely going to read?! - in bitmap form with no text representation. We clearly have a long way to go.

A slightly better evening than yesterday - not that that was too hard really, eh? Perhaps I was a little cynical last night with regard to anyone else replying to my party invitation - Rob from work is now down as a definite maybe, and has kindly offered the use of a decent sized barbecue if need be...

Off to bed I go again now, though. Tiredness wins the day as usual!

All that rushing yesterday evening to get the CD-R mastered for QA was wasted effort, since we can't actually ascertain who's going to be looking at it in order to hand it over! The guy who I think was assigned to the project has apparently left at somewhat short notice, and no-one seems to have much of a clue what's going on. Today though I have mostly spent trying to update the diagnostic quizzes I was working on last year, since a couple of accessibility issues have reared their heads, and they also hang when running under Java 1.4. I had hoped it would be a simple case of dropping in new versions of the classes known to be troublesome, but it seems more work will be involved, and it's not likely to be very quick. Add to that the fact that I no longer officially work for the Science faculty, and it spells general trouble in store for getting this stuff updated and fully functional - though that's obviously not going to be my personal problem. Yeah, right...

Today I have mostly been getting to the point of such bemusedness and frankly not caring about anything any more, that I can do little more than stare blankly at the screen hoping it will magically go away, and not return phone calls that I am sure will only be making further demands on time I simply have no wish to share with anyone or anything - work or otherwise - right now thank you very much. Oh and - thanks to my detachedness and general apathy - quietly succumbing to demands here at work that will no doubt see the end of any chance of my taking any holiday whatsoever for the foreseeable future.

This, friends, is what we call a "low". Someone throw me down a rope, please?

I'm really not at all well this evening. Off to bed early I consequently go.

No Open House for me tonight, that's for sure! Apologies made, of course.

Even though it took me three or four hours to get to sleep last night, going to bed early still seemed to do me good, and I feel markedly better today. Still not exactly brilliant, but way chirpier than I was this time yesterday. So, contrary to expectations, I did make it into work today, and it's not been too bad. The only thing to have gone wrong so far really was when I handed over the updated S205 diagnostic quiz to Greg, and it turned out that the main change that he was interested in I had accidentally backtracked on when I cocked something else up later and started all over again! Thankfully I spotted it just in time, but it was a decidedly worrying moment...

Hooray, I've had another party acceptance! OK, it was actually someone who had already accepted, accepting again because they didn't realise they'd accepted before - buy hey, it's better than nothing. Tonight I've sent out a smaller second wave of invitations to people living further afield, which strangely might well get a better response, as well as reminders to those who've not yet bothered to RSVP at all. So I'm still confident of having a reasonably good time even if it won't be exactly what I had in mind when I originally conceived the idea pretty much as soon as I moved here...

Tonight, I have mostly been enjoying copious quantities of Safeway's generic "vin blanc", and very pleasant it is too. These are small glasses, though, as I continually have to remind myself, albeit poor justification.

Five more possible party acceptances today! Nope, none of them are entirely definite, but they're all of the highly probably variety rather than wishy washy vague speculative maybes. There's hope yet of saving the day!

Cool, another four semi-definites for the list! If everyone who's said they at least may come along does so, I'll be squeezing almost thirty in during the course of the day! More likely to be about half that, but hey, that's not too bad, considering what a disaster this was looking not so long ago.

It's Saturday morning, and I've got a reasonably busy day ahead of me - if everything that's supposed to happen does happen - so I'm up in fairly good time - and a little before I'd have liked to have been, perhaps. Finally I remembered to have a look at the BBC's weather forecast for tomorrow, and south-east Milton Keynes gets a cheerful little white cloud icon. That'll do nicely, considering that today and Monday have drippy black clouds...

Right, I've been and done my shopping at Tesco, including stuff for tomorrow. The bill came to almost £60 - and I'm officially primarily hosting, rather than catering! - so I sincerely hope some people turn up... I did actually concede in the end and get a reasonable number of burgers, sausages and so on as well as the salad, pasta and whatnot I had mainly intended to concentrate on, and of course a fair load of alcoholic and non-alcoholic drink. But at the same time I've been pretty careful not to spend huge amounts of money on perishables, and it's mainly stuff I'd get through in time anyway, so if I've over-judged it shouldn't be too much of a disaster.

Next, though, I'm supposed to be off round to Sarah's for tea and to give some advice on her latest college assignment - and a stroll perhaps? So I suppose I'd better be giving her a quick phone-call to see what time she's expecting me round, assuming all is going ahead as arranged earlier in the week.

Phone-call duly made, and will be going round there in a couple of hours. Oh, and I've also got three more people coming along tomorrow, into the bargain!

That was a reasonably productive afternoon and evening, starting off with a most pleasant stroll round Campbell Park since Sarah was in dire need of a break at the point that I arrived. Anyone any idea what's happened to the famous beacon, though? Not even a hole where the post used to be, just a patch of earth. I do hope it's coming back! Then on to KFC in the Snowdome for tea, and thence back to Sarah's to get down to some serious assignment brainstorming. I have to say it's an assignment I would hate to have been given and I didn't really know what to advise, but I managed to provide a few useful hints nonetheless, and Sarah should have plenty to fill the ten minute presentation she's got to give. I didn't stay much longer, though, not really wanting a late night before tomorrow, so once I'd sorted out a problem with Laura's computer - just a wobbly monitor lead, a common occurrence it would seem! - I headed back home and am now rapidly contemplating heading for bed!

Not that rapidly, evidently.

Though I have another five - yes, count 'em! - possibles for tomorrow! Thank you, Richard, Shona and family, to add to Sarah and the girls from earlier.

I think, after all my expressed cynicism and despondency, that I've heard from almost everyone I invited. That most of the positive responses have come in the last couple of days says something, though: Don't plan ahead. Live for tomorrow! 'Cos that's what everyone else seems to be doing...

Eek, forecast is now for light rain! And I really thought God was on my side here... I'm sure He is, though, and it's just the Met Office who're wrong, as usual. It's all going ahead tomorrow, anyway, regardless - if anyone coming is reading this - even if I have to try out the fan grill for the first time!

Hmm, fireworks outside. By my estimation, that's almost a month too early.

Today's the day, and it's bright and sunny out at the moment - though there's another five hours before things start properly. Actually, they've adjusted the wording of the BBC forecast now, suggesting any rain won't be until quite late in the day, by which time it will probably be too cold and dark to be outside much in any case! Lots to do round the flat, though, so not only is it just as well I'm up and about this early, but probably equally just as well that Monochrome appears to have broken overnight, so less distractions!

Monochrome's back up, sort of, but the diaries aren't. However, I can still add to mine, which is kind of cool! Meanwhile, the flat's vaguely tidied and I'm as ready for this afternoon and evening as I'll ever be, so I'm going to have a quick shower and prepare for the first arrivals! Seeya later...

It's just turned 11pm as I write this, and the last of the stragglers have left, after a truly excellent day from start to finish. By my calculations, no less than 29 people passed through my doors today, way more than I ever really expected! The maddest time was lunchtime, when there were almost twenty, and there really was barely any room to move - especially since the weather turned on us half way through and although the barbecue went ahead, it did mean the patio was largely off-limits. Amazingly, we were pretty much spot on with the amount of food and drink, and if I resign myself to eating sausages and burgers for tea tomorrow there should be hardly any waste at all - and no-one went short. I was a little worried too that the "evening shift" might not work out well, but David returned having escorted Dawn to the railway station, and with the help of my colleagues Tim and Sam, then Darren and finally Emily, it all went just fine! The whole day worked very well having such a mixed bunch of folk from the Vineyard church, a few from my old church, some random friends and a handful of my colleagues, and running it on a very informal basis so people could easily come and go as they pleased without missing out. Despite the sterling help from many people, I'm not sure I'd organise anything quite as extensive again for a while yet though - perhaps next time I move, eh?

It's now the morning after the night before, so to speak, having accomplished a reasonably good night's sleep. I was up in good enough time this morning to do the hoovering I really couldn't bring myself to do last night - not that there was a terrible mess by any means, but it was just a chore too far then when all I really wanted to do was relax and sleep. There's still a fair bit of washing up and so on to be done, even having used mainly disposable cups and plates, and managing to avoid the use of cutlery almost entirely, but it won't take long this evening I don't think. But now it is time to return to mundanity, to attempt to cheerfully face the glorious week ahead at work...

Oh today really is being tedious. Indeed so tedious that I really would rather be back at home, scrubbing greasy grill-pans and barbecues, and tackling the modest hillock of general washing-up. No, really, honestly!

Still, half an hour to go, and I can go and do just that. By which time I'm sure I won't feel like doing so, but I haven't really got a lot of choice...

I've just noticed that the twenty-pack of Ferrero Rocher - thanks, Chris and Claire, by the way! - is laid out in exactly the same pattern as the letters board in the Blockbusters TV quiz! And the chocs are wrapped in gold foil! I am sure there's some mileage in this... Do I win an exotic holiday?

Oh yes, I did the washing up. Well, most of it! No more left than normal now!

I gather there's officially been a drought this summer. Not that there's much sign of it today, as the rain comes down by the veritable bucket-load! Thank goodness it wasn't quite this damp on Sunday - the events of which have, by the way, been described by one Monochrome diarist as "calm and civilised", though they weren't there earlier when the party was alternatively described as having "children generating enough energy to heat several flats". Hmm, I do hope this rain stops fairly soon though, even if I did bring my coat...

About a year ago I was somewhat despairing of the likelihood of an over-hasty and ill-conceived war in Afghanistan, in the light of the World Trade Center and Pentagon attacks. Now, a year on, we're facing the same spectre with regard to Iraq and their alleged continued non-compliance with United Nations resolutions. And again, I despair. That Saddam is a very bad man indeed is beyond much reasonable doubt, and few would truly lament his demise, but at what cost? That the United States administration has imperialist aims in all this is pretty much beyond question. There are publicly available documents that spell it all out in pretty much everything but the precise detail of implementation. First - at least in this round of events - Afghanistan, based on evidence that is still to be made even faintly public. Now Iraq, just because Dubya's daddy got his nose bloodied by Saddam and didn't share his son's seeming addiction to war. And where does it seem even the threat of that has got us? Hundreds of "westerners" killed by a car bomb in Bali, which was almost certainly linked to Islamic hatred of the West and its fundamentally corrupt administrations. The investigation there seems as corrupt as those for previous terrorist attacks, including those of September last year themselves. One of the suspects currently having a confession extracted reportedly dropped his identity card at the scene. Does that sound somewhat familiar? Yes, one of the alleged WTC hijackers carelessly allowed his passport to be found in the rubble within hours of the attack, along with the Arabic "How to fly a jumbo jet" manual conveniently left in a New York taxi. What kind of gullible fools do these investigators take us for, as they fabricate the evidence for the next war and imperialist advance, the next tragic and despicable retaliation, the next war, the next retaliation..? When will it end, if at all? It wouldn't surprise me if the named hijackers were all fictitious, unable to plead their innocence, through prior non-existence. Certainly if they did exist and were alive to stand trial, none would be convicted by a fair court, and there would be no real dossier of evidence to support the military actions of the last year - which is no doubt the real reason why we've not been told why this is all happening. Why was it that when the Allied forces went into Afghanistan, they met with practically no resistance from these ruthless Taliban and al-Qaeda terrorists, and probably killed more innocent wedding-goers? Pure air superiority, or a fictional enemy? It wouldn't be the first time, either, recalling Saddam's elite revolutionary guard from the Gulf War in 1991, which turned out basically not to exist. A couple of days ago I was rather amused by a Muslim cleric in Indonesia, supposedly linked with Islamist terrorism, when he claimed that the Bali bomb was orchestrated by the US military, as an excuse to get an imperialist toe-hold in the region under the bogus cover of their "war against terrorism". I'm somewhat less sure he was bonkers now. I wouldn't like to say that the CIA or whoever actually planted the bomb, but we can be pretty sure that the US administration will not have been in the least bit surprised it happened, and will be rubbing their hands at the future prospects. That so many had to die will be a small price to pay for world domination.

Some will call me a conspiracy nut, but what's happened so far really doesn't add up to anything much else. Please book me a ticket on the next flight off this crazy planet, because I really don't think there's any other way out.

There, I bet that will prick up the ears of my mystery reader from HMGCC.

Will have to keep an eye out for darkened-windowed Range Rovers again, I guess.

Meanwhile, for various reasons, tonight's plans to go out fell through - and just as well perhaps, because I was of course utterly drenched when I got home from work and took a good while to dry out and warm up again properly! Shame it was at least partly because of others being unwell, but that's just the way it goes sometimes, I guess. Anyway, guess what's for tea - again? Sausages!

I was going to get a much needed early night, but then I started reading http://serendipity.magnet.ch/wtc.html and the time just slipped past. It's rather an interesting read, if you have the time; it's a long document, and includes a lot of links worth pursuing. It's scarily believable in the main, with extensive evidence to back up the majority of its otherwise rather crazy-sounding assertions, and is pretty honest about when it's being purely speculative. Where's my ticket got to?

Almost two hours later - and into the small hours of Wednesday morning - still reading, though I really should go and find my bed now! Even the crazy bit about the atomic explosions seems strangely credible, on further reading.

Of course, it may all be rubbish, but it's a heck of a lot more convincing evidence of what really happened - whichever version of the truth you believe - than anyone else has put forward either way in the last thirteen months.

Not too bad a night's sleep - considering - but pretty tired today nonetheless. But I've promised to go to Open House this evening, so I'm going to have to last, even if I end up a bit of a zombie! Hardly majorly busy though...

It was good to get along to Open House last night, especially having missed last week's gathering due to being completely zonked out as you know. As I'd hoped, it didn't finish too late, especially as I needed to run Sarah home which made for a bit of a detour. Numbers were pretty low for one reason or another, but we had a good discussion on materialism and the alternatives, and to be honest I sometimes prefer it not to be too busy anyway, especially when I'm not at my best, which certainly was the case last night.

Today I could probably really do with not being here at work. It's not that I'm actively ill or anything, but I am just really too drained to be useful. Still, it's not far from the end of the week, and I don't have too crazy a weekend in store at this point, so perhaps I'll get the chance to recover a little! All being well I should be able to take at least a couple of days off next week, not least because my parents hope to visit for the day, probably on Thursday, which will provide a welcome diversion from the humdrum!

Oh joy, I have just read that the railway bridge at the bottom of the hill up to my parents' village is to be completely closed for ten months from March next year. Why? So that they can repair it in order to allow hulking great juggernauts to terrorise the village. I just hope that as part of their plans they're finally also going to do something about the road itself, or it's simply going to fall apart as soon as the next 35-tonner sets wheel on it, it's so appallingly bad. When I drive to see my parents, I would know when I'm close to my destination even if I unwisely had my eyes shut, because I can hear the entire car rattling in sympathy with a road surface even a rally driver would object to. But yes, the bridge. It's been closed to vehicles of over 25 tons for the last couple of years anyway, and that doesn't seem to have done any harm to local business or anything. Needless to say, the locals are up in arms about it all. I just hope common sense can prevail.

But of course the really sad news today is that Monochrome's forthcoming demise has been announced - or at least in the form we have grown to know and love it. It is currently being run from the offices of a certain unofficial motor-racing website, but after a little deal with Bernie Ecclestone to avoid a protracted legal wrangle, it seems like they're shutting shop and giving marching orders to our beloved system administrators. Monochrome has "moved companies" before, but it would seem from what's being said that this is the end of the line this time, and unless a suitable saviour steps in, Monochrome will have to be scaled down and run as a bedroom enterprise, a single server hanging off an ADSL connection. I truly have to doubt whether that will really be sustainable either, so let's just hope it doesn't come to that, OK?

Small hours of Friday morning, and I've not long got in from an evening of card making, of all things. Christmas cards, no less - I guess it's only two months away now - though I also made a nice engagement one for my brother Pete and his fiancée while I was at it! When I arrived at Rich and Shona's with Jam and Si, all the blokes had made a hasty exit to the pub, but I was glad Si and I decided to stick with it and be artists of a better kind, 'cos it was really good fun! Late finish though, in the end, and I ought to be locating my bed pretty soon, having had a drink or two at Rich's adamant suggestion...

Well all in all this has been a pretty dismal week at work, suffering from a complete lack of direction in just about everything I've been doing. But it's now just about over, and I'm sloping off early this evening to run Laura and Rachael down to Jam and Si's for the night and to hopefully help Sarah finally bring her college presentation for tomorrow to some kind of conclusion. This weekend should be a stark contrast to the last one, with nothing much planned, but after all the fun of last weekend and the intervening late nights, perhaps that's exactly what the doctor ordered?

Three burgers consumed in the form of a BK triple bacon cheese, two girls safely delivered at Jam and Si's, one Powerpoint presentation polished and popped on to a floppy disk - plus a CD-R for safety - and zero energy left for anything else but bed-going now I'm home. Which is precisely what I'm about to do... Goodnight all; will catch up with you tomorrow at some point I'm sure!

Hello!

There you go...

Nothing more to say right now, except that I've had a much-needed lie-in!

Shopping done - and on foot for once, the weather being good and not having too much to carry - and now relaxing for a short while before I tidy the flat a little in advance of some visitors hopefully coming round later on. Yes, I know I announced I was planning on having a quiet and peaceful weekend, but some things just have to be done, and it motivates me anyway, which is good!

Phew, what an evening! I thought my visitors weren't going to show up, but they did - or rather, they phoned and I collected them, but a good time was had by all thanks to my popular concoction of seasoned chicken with pasta and a few other appropriate trimmings, with the added bonus of free internet access of course. Then, while I was in Springfield dropping them off home again afterwards, I decided I'd call on my friend Martin who had been having a bit of virus trouble on his PC, and fairly quickly sorted that out. It wasn't as bad as he had given the impression via his emails earlier in the day, but all is clear now, and we had the chance for a right good natter and a beer or two.

Just got in from Café Church - the meeting that was "supposed" to have happened immediately before my party a week ago - and am now going to have an entirely relaxed afternoon, if everything goes to plan, and I think it will!

So far, so good, though just had a phone-call warning me that the bug that's been at large for the last few days has just hit some of my closest friends. Amazing what even talk of things like that does for one's constitution. Every little stomach rumble seems ten times more ominous, though I've only actually been sick twice in recent years - once due to dodgy water on Dartmoor, and once due to dodgy beer at a pub here in Milton Keynes - so I'll probably be OK!

I wanted to book a bit of leave for later this week, what with my parents hopefully coming to visit and all. New and overly-bureaucratic procedures for booking leave have however just come into force. My line manager, who must now approve my leave, is away all this week himself. Aarrgghh! Anyway, I re-read the new procedure, and at no point whatsoever did it mention that the approval process has to be completed before the leave is taken - no doubt an oversight, soon to be corrected - so I filled out the leave card and popped it in my line manager's pigeon hole, for approval upon his return by which time it will of course be too late to object. I then thought maybe I should drop him a courtesy email, since he has sometimes been known to read his email while on leave. Anyway, his out-of-office auto-reply kicked in with the following gem:

"I am probably on leave, possibly back 28th October"

Shows just how committed we all are to this new scheme, eh?

Otherwise, today's been pretty dull, with only a few people hacking me off to provide distraction from a generally rather tedious time at work.

I don't know why exactly, but this tipped my emotional balance just now...

Take, take till there's nothing, nothing to turn to. Nothing when you get through. Won't you break, scatter pieces of all I've been. Bowing to all I've been running to. I, I got a question, I got a question - where are you? Did you leave me unbreakable? Leave me frozen? I've never felt so cold. I thought you were silent. I thought you left me for the wreckage and the waste. On an empty beach of faith. Was it true? Scream, deeper I wanna scream. I want you to hear me, I want you to find me. I want to believe but all I pray is wrong and all I claim is gone. I, I got a question, I got a question - where are you? Where are you?

Silence // Jars of Clay // ©2002 Essential Records

Is today any better? Well, no real annoyances to speak of, so it must be a slight improvement on yesterday, but I am generally thoroughly underwhelmed.

My biggest achievement today has been managing to resist going down to the shop for my customary afternoon munchies. Sam went without saying, and I was torn between jealousy and virtuosity, with the former eventually winning the day. But half way through the office door my conscience had an unusual fit of ... umm ... conscience, and I decided I could resist. I really could. And the shop's shut now, so I not only could, but did. I am hungry. But virtuous!

Yay!

This evening, I have mostly been playing TetriNET, on http://www.tetrinet.org, with Andy and Tom. Top game, thoroughly recommendable!

Where's a long one when you need it, eh? Eh??

Ooh, and now Dawn's joined in the fun!

Nice relaxed start to today, because I've taken the day off work. Not that I managed much of a lie-in, given the amount of junkmail clattering through my letter-box - including a packet of syrup flavoured oats, bizarrely - but hey. I don't have a huge number of things to do in advance of my parents' visit tomorrow, but I do need to tidy up a little, do a bit of shopping - and possible some reconnaissance - and hopefully get my hair cut too. So all pretty unexciting really, but things that need doing anyway - and it's not as if I don't have the holiday entitlement to use, so I might as well go for it!

Today I have discovered possibly the most useless sign ever displayed in a shop window, in this case the hairdresser's here in Walnut Tree:

"Appointments not always necessary"

I mean, what is the point, exactly? How wonderful to have a hairdresser's they actively encourage you to go to on the off-chance that they might be able to fit you in - and have to wait about a quarter of an hour to be told they can't actually, despite the place being about as dead as a defunct morgue on a bank holiday. Oh well, so much for supporting small local businesses - I walked back home, hopped into the car and drove in to the main shopping centre and went to Just Gents there instead.

Anyway, I fairly swiftly managed to get what I needed in the shops in Central Milton Keynes, with the only real delay being in Waitrose. The gentleman in front of me in the checkout queue seemed to be buying just about every type of fruit and veg under the sun, but clearly felt it below himself to use the self-service scales which barcode and price the goods in advance. Consequently, what should have been scanned in under a minute ended up taking well over five, not helped by the cashier being new there. Then, to cap it all, along with his cheque he handed over his JLP card - yes, this self-righteous time-waster was an employee, and got a staff discount for his troubles! Oh, and then he refused to hand over his cheque guarantee card, as is indeed his right as a Partner, and kicked up a mild fuss about that, when surely anyone with an ounce of common-sense - and seeing the tutting queue building up behind him - would have made a gracious exception or explained the system to the cashier, rather than just standing his ground and generally being, albeit politely, rather obstinate about the whole thing.

But that was nothing really compared with the obnoxious woman who was getting abusive with the Big Issue seller outside Waitrose a little earlier. She was accusing the poor guy of not being homeless at all, because - she wrongly claimed - he needed a home address to get his stack of magazines delivered to each week. Excuse me! As explained at length in this week's edition no less, Big Issue sellers have to travel at their own expense to their "local" office - which in this guy's case is twenty miles away in Northampton - and buy the magazines up front, gambling that they will be able to sell enough of them to make any money at all. And it really is a gamble, with small-minded and downright uninformed idiots like that trying to dissuade people from buying. No, the Big Issue isn't perfect by any means, but it represents a genuine and constructive way that the homeless can earn money and gain skills, to get back on their feet and reintegrate into the mainstream of society.

Open House was really good this evening, the last part of a series of studies inspired by an interview Bono from U2 gave to Q magazine a couple of years ago, tonight concentrating on what grace is. At first it looked like hardly anyone was going to turn up - especially annoying since I'd prepared lots of healthy, and not so healthy, savoury snacks - but in the end we had a fair houseful, including Nicky who I'd not seen for a good while, and, completely out of the blue, Phil and Angela who've now also parted company from MKCF.

Oh, and Nicky had her not-so-little-any-more baby boy with her - awww! Needless to say he was quite a centre of attention until he finally fell asleep!

Right, it's 8.40, my parents are leaving home at about nine, and will - given the frosty conditions and the slightly unfamiliar destination - take somewhat over an hour to get here. That definitely translates to "there's time for a nice relaxing bath and breakfast before they arrive"!

A little under ten hours after their arrival, my parents have just hit the road home, after a pretty productive day of shopping and more. It ended up being rather a whistlestop tour of this flat, Rosebys, Tesco, Brunches, John Lewis, BHS, Argos, Jessops, Richer Sounds, Willen Lake and the Barge Inn, but we got everything done that we'd planned and more - and now I'm exhausted!

Still, just one day at work, then it's the weekend - should do this more often!

And that day has now almost gone. It feels like I've been here a week.

What was going to be a nice quiet evening in, ended up being quite a fun night out, catching up with Darren for the first time in a fortnight. We started out at Ask for a pizza, and ended up at the cinema to watch xXx - possibly the least web-searchable film ever released - and most splendid were both. But I may well have a busy day coming up tomorrow, so I'm going to make bed my destination very shortly - or at least that's the plan!

Actually, I stand corrected. If one searches for "xxx" with Google - one will need to disable their filtering in order even to use that as a search term - the top non-sponsored link is for some science website, and the second link is for the film in question. The sponsored links are somewhat more dubious of course - but it's quite funny they have to pay to appear in the search results!

A busy day it did indeed end up, spending most of the morning helping tear down ivy from Sarah's walls and mowing the lawns, then most of the afternoon playing chess with Laura and Rachael. I'm almost thinking I could get into the game as a more general thing - can anyone recommend me a good free version for Windows, which will play at a wide range of ability levels? Anyway, I did ponder going out this evening too - there being a screening of The Matrix at Simon and Jam's, but I'm pretty much fit to drop so I think I will take it easy instead and make the most of the extra hour with an earlyish night!

I've had enough. I am just so fragile, so temperamental; I swing in a manner that even Peter Snow would find it hard to find sufficient superlatives for. I had a great day today, really, but now I have nothing, and that seems to be a repeating pattern throughout this completely pitiful life of mine - on whatever timescale. Tonight I seem to have mislaid under a pound's-worth of handwash, and that's pushed me over the limit of composure. How flippin' ridiculous and insignificant on any scale of things, I have to admit. Yet it means the world to me for some reason. Last night I prayed to God that I shouldn't wake up this morning, but He clearly begged to differ, because I did - but, despite a mainly good day today, I really don't know why, because no matter how good a time I have, it always ends in tears. Or should do, but with a few exceptions - the last time being the death of my uncle Tim - I can barely even cry these days. So much is bottled up, with no means of release - and all the while, people get the impression I'm somehow fine and sorted. How utterly and totally wrong they are. Utterly, totally and completely.

If you read this and it upsets you, then, sorry, but it needed saying. I'm not much good at being open about my deeper emotions; this is a rare insight.

I've no idea how much longer my poor garden fence is going to last, nor whose responsibility it will be to fix or replace it when it goes - as I'm pretty sure it will at some point this morning. Yes, the customary October storms are here - as seem to have become an annual occurrence since the mid-1980s. It's not even eight o'clock yet, and the weather forecast on the radio says that it's going to get worse, before hopefully passing by about midday. But what trail of destruction will be left is anyone's guess!

Plans for going out this morning have thankfully been cancelled, with conditions outside becoming increasingly treacherous. I've moved my bike indoors, having found it had been deposited in an ungracious heap last night even before the storms started doing their worst. It's hardly the best bike in the world, but I'd rather it stayed in one piece a little longer! If it has calmed down a little by this afternoon I may well go out for a stroll from here later, but for the moment, it's a case of battening the hatches and riding out the storm - now confirmed as the most violent since the big one in 1987.

The wind seems to have dropped a bit, now it's mid-afternoon, but the storm could hardly be described as having completely passed. A friend just phoned to say they'd lost three fence sections so far - panels, posts and all - with a fourth teetering on the brink, so I've really been pretty lucky here so far, though there's still a lot of ominous creaking from outside so I'm not counting my chickens! I was a bit concerned about the big heap of discarded furniture stacked next to my car, but the only things I've seen fall off are a couple of cushions, and I think the wind is blowing away from it anyway.

Anyway, now the sun's out for a bit, I'm going to go for that hoped-for walk!

I got in from my walk a few minutes ago, deciding to go the whole hog and walk round both parts of Caldecotte Lake. Conditions out weren't too bad, but I could see bits of the shore-line where there was definite surf breaking over the path, so I was kind of glad I'd taken the route I did. It only spotted with rain a tiny bit at one point, but now I'm back at home it's raining quite hard - which it decided to do just after I started mowing the lawn upon my return. But it was dark within minutes anyway, and I'd never have seen to finish it; perhaps it was God's way of telling me to call it a day!

Another pretty naff day, and it finished an hour later than my body-clock said it should have, needless to say. Eagerly awaiting the break that's going to really turn things around in my life, but I've no idea where it's going to come from or when - and I've run out of ideas for hurrying it up, as if I could...

Just got back from Darren's, coming away with some small loudspeakers for my dad to try out in the kitchen at home, and shortly off out to the Tawny Owl for one of our occasional work outings - and I've not eaten yet, so as long as they are still doing food, I think I may well partake of a steak and chips!

They were indeed still doing food, and I did indeed have a steak and chips - £4.99 for a 10oz rump steak with not only chips, but peas, sweetcorn and mushrooms really was rather good value! And with the Abbot Ale at only £1.50 a pint, there really was no reason for complaint whatsoever - though I did feel a little grim this morning I must admit. Perhaps I will take Rob's advice and stick to the less hangover-inducing John Smith's in future, even relatively lacking in flavour as it may well be. I'm fine now, though, and I've seen both Rob and Jeremy this morning, so know that at least most of our party made it into work without any problem - and I'm sure Matt did too!

Decided to stay in tonight, because I really don't feel too great. Should probably sort myself out some tea sometime though!

Feeling quite a bit better today, but glad the weekend isn't too far away - even though I have little idea how I'm going to spend it as yet, given a fair few unknowns between now and then. Last night I also finally removed my old modem from my home PC, having replaced it with the USB one a couple of months ago now. I'm pretty sure the reason the old one was playing up was simply due to my machine being a bit on the slow side by today's standards, so I've lent it to my colleague Jon to try out in his whizzy new machine, since the modem he bought refuses to be detected at all. If it works, he can keep it!

I've had enough, again. Why does everything I have anything to do with turn brown, sticky and smelly? And why does that make me feel so totally dejected, helpless and downright useless? This time it's Richer Sounds messing me around, but in doing so, messing my dad around too, doubling the trouble. I accept that they may have difficulty getting all the parts of a system in at the same time, but why the hell can't they hold the early arrivals in my name until the last bits come? Instead, they can only hold stuff until the weekend, so by the time the last bits arrive, the first bits may have been sold to someone else. I knew there was a good reason why I do almost all my shopping over the web these days - such companies actually have a clue. But this kind of thing just makes me utterly utterly sick to the teeth, and I really can do without it. Going to have to phone Dad to explain, now.

But two hours on, I've not yet done so, because I simply don't know what to say to him - and he's bound to want to know my gut feelings about it all, and I frankly haven't got a clue in my current mental state. I just really can't believe how completely hopeless a company can be on the customer service side of things. Just because they "stack 'em high and sell 'em cheap" doesn't mean they have the right to treat their customers like dirt. It would seem, from talking to others, that Richer Sounds' customer orders are basically a sham, and that they simply get random stock in on a weekly basis, earmarking items when they have record of a customer wanting them - and given that I had to recite the entire list of parts to the chap I spoke to, I presume that record is frequently lacking. OK, on the whole that's a reasonable business model for a shamelessly low-cost retailer, but why not be up front and admit at the time that one's "order" is more of a request than an order in the conventional sense of the word? It's a real shame, because the bloke we dealt with last week was helpful, patient, knowledgeable and reassuring - but now let down, possibly irretrievably, by the incomplete information he gave on the ordering procedure and by the sheer inconsiderate bureaucracy of his paymasters.

I'm sorry, but no-one here has much of a clue how it is I feel right now. I'm on the edge of tears - but will never quite succumb - and feel quite bemused and detached from the world around me. I could just sit and stare at this monitor until I keeled over with hunger, and it probably wouldn't bother me. Yes, I've been on my own six months now, a half-year that passed by a few days ago practically unnoticed, and six months over which frankly almost nothing has really changed. I still hate almost everything about myself, trust almost nobody and am dejected about the dire and inescapable state of the world around me and beyond. And the worst thing is, I can't really remember any better times now, this current state has so completely consumed me. If it wasn't for my faith in God and a belief that he has got something worthwhile in store for me, I'm not sure I'd even have got this far. But even that belief increasingly feels more like a forlorn hope, as I sink lower and lower.

The tears well like the clouds round a desert, but still I cannot cry.

But I don't blame people for hurting me if they are genuinely unaware of just how fragile I am - which is true enough in most cases I am sure. And this has been going on a lot, lot longer than six months, believe me. Some episodes have seen temporary escape - but they are just that, sheer escapism, with a crash back to reality as sure as what goes up must come down. Sometimes the episodes are brief and I know that the next day all will be as before - so I just make sure I enjoy them while I can - whilst other times they are much longer, but I know deep down that they cannot and will not last forever. I can try everything I can to futilely prolong and set things in stone, but there is a certain inevitability to it all that I ultimately have neither the strength nor conviction to stand up and fight. I just wish more people would realise this, and not - however innocently - expect the impossible of me, and it is perhaps with this in mind that I am sharing about all this right now.

On a happier note, I have just demolished half a loaf of bread from the shop at work - and very nice locally-baked bread it is too, always a treat!

Though, talking of "treats", it's that night again, when I quietly ignore the constantly ringing doorbell and hope the little oiks will go elsewhere. I did find it ironic as I arrived home from work though, to see one small party of neighbourhood terrorists accompanied by an adult, who had their child on one of those wrist-lead things - and hardly a toddler either. For goodness sake, if you're scared your kid's going to get abducted or something while out trick-or-treating, take it as a subtle hint to keep them in for the evening!

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