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David's diary: February 2003

New month, new diary - but I'm quite sure you know where to find the old stuff, wherever it is you happen to be reading this. Despite being - or at least so I thought - both mentally and physically exhausted when I went to bed so early last night, I still didn't sleep too well at least to start with, but things improved as the night went on so I'm up in fair time today nevertheless. The plan was that I should go to Tesco before the rush, but I don't think that's going to happen, however. It's one thing getting out of bed and going through the motions of not being completely degenerate, but quite another for it to be entirely true. Especially with it being so cold, damp and murky outside.

In the computer adventure game of The Hitch Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy, there was an object called, with decidedly interesting grammar, "the thing your aunt gave you that you don't know what it is". It had an insatiable appetite for being filled with utter rubbish, but it was almost impossible to get rid of. If you didn't have the strength to pick up some object crucial to that point in the game but couldn't afford to lose anything else, you would stuff other objects into the aforementioned "thing", and drop it, in the sure knowledge that a few moves later it would rematerialise in your possession, complete with contents. It's a long time since I played the game though, so I can't remember the exact details, but I do remember there was one circumstance in which the "thing" wouldn't return. However, sometimes it seems like my life is living out the game, with my very own "thing" full of detritus from the past, that no matter how hard I try to consign it to history, to get rid of it, to throw it into a pit from whence it can surely never return, it is forever coming back to haunt me, full of even more rubbish than ever before it often seems. I don't want it in the very least, so it can only be that it wants me, and seeks me. Of course, just as Arthur Dent had no idea what his "thing" was, nor can I can I be too sure what mine is either - although I'm pretty certain of its origin.

Now, how to get rid of it?

For good, that is!

Right, I've now been and done the Tesco bit, though had to gulp rather at the total bill. I guess with the combination of another two boxes of wine, some food and drink for tonight, a big pot of Marmite for me, and a birthday present for Rachael finally, it was simply never going to be a cheap trip. Oh, and I suppose I should include a full tank of unleaded petrol in that retrospective shopping list too... At least I got a handful of Tesco "computers for schools" vouchers as well as my clubcard points - though missed out on the opportunity for another couple from the petrol since I thought I'd try out the "pay at the pump" facility since it was actually working for once. Still, the scheme runs for a few months yet, so I'm sure I'll get plenty more in due course.

Anyway, I can now relax for the afternoon, and quite probably at least try and make another phone call. I've also got those DVDs I bought at HMV the other day - namely The Matrix Collector's Edition and Apocalypse Now Redux - to watch sometime, but there's no big hurry apart from Tim wanting to borrow the latter when I'm done with it. Yes, I know I said I was going to spend my tokens on CDs, not DVDs, but frankly none of the stuff in the CD sale appealed, and I'm blowed if I'm paying full retail prices when I can get most things so easily and cheaply via on-line stores like play.com. This evening, though, there's a karaoke night at Jam and Simon's. I've never been to such an event before, and the idea doesn't really appeal, but I'll go along anyway, and if nothing else give Jam some moral support as I believe she's not overly keen either!

So much for my restful afternoon, deciding that since I'd driven out to Tesco earlier rather than walked as I'd initially planned - and just as well since I had quite a load of stuff to bring back - I'd go for a stroll round Willen Lake instead. And all very pleasant it was too, with the sun even making a surprise appearance for a large amount of my brisk circuit. Furthermore, thanks to the wonders of my hands-free phone kit, it was even more special! Though since I don't need to go out to Jam and Si's until almost eight o'clock this evening, there still might be time to watch a film if I start doing so soon.

Watched The Matrix in the end. Seen it a few times before, of course, and at the end of the day it's just a martial arts film with some mumbo jumbo subplot, but it was as fun as ever. I fear the two sequels due out over the next year or so may well not capitalise upon what was good with it, however. Anyway, it's now just about time I was getting ready to go out, so bye for now!

Hmm, karaoke... I'm still not sure. The overall concept isn't too bad a one - especially with a bit of alcohol to loosen the tongue - but it really does rely on having songs that everyone knows. And that rather obviously wasn't the case last night, though there were enough people there who did know all the songs that it managed to keep flowing quite healthily. Thankfully there were a fair number of us in the same boat, but even Margaret agreed to sing Que sera sera, which I was most impressed by, and spurred me to at least have a go - namely to sing Angels and Mambo No.5, both of which had definite high and low points.

Despite deliberately leaving Jam and Simon's in good time - I was feeling fine for the first time in quite a few days, and wanted to stay that way - it was still gone midnight by the time I was home, but not too late to do a quick email check and pick up a very nice message before I went to bed! I really should "pen" a reply, shouldn't I? As for what's happening for the rest of today, well I really have no idea, but for the moment I'm taking things gently!

This afternoon I've been watching Apocalypse Now, all three hours and more of this Redux director's cut. An altogether pretty strange film, really, and I couldn't remember much of it from when we watched at least some of it at school many years ago. Still not quite sure what its overall message is supposed to be, other than that war - especially against an unseen enemy - is bad and does your head in even if you survive, but we knew that already, surely? Though on the other hand, it seems to have happened again and again since, hasn't it?

Well that ended up a splendid evening! First of all, round at David's flat for a good while listening to each other's latest glorious musical acquisitions, whilst happily demolishing biscuits and brandy liqueur chocolates. Then, back here having a nice phone chat with my mum, not entirely about problems she was having sending emails. Followed by another phone chat with someone whose name I am not yet going to mention, but about whom you might well be reading rather more over the weeks to come. The latter being done while cooking up some yummy pasta, duly enriched with sliced olives and sun-dried tomatoes, which I closed the evening's activity by gobbling down most enthusiastically. Well, obviously apart from writing these last few words of the day, but you guessed that!

This time, about seven years ago, I'll almost certainly have been seated at my office desk, probably writing yet another fax begging for a proper distributor for the music software we had finally just released. We never did manage to secure the distribution channels we wanted; it may sound corny, but the world really wasn't yet ready for what we were offering, and simply didn't understand just how "virtual" sound synthesis was going to totally transform music making. So six months later my contract was about to come to an end, and I was soon to agree to terminate the royalty agreement on those few sales the company still managed to make, in return for sole rights to the software. I've been sitting on it ever since, and it's sadly probably too late to de-mothball it and bring it up to date and capitalise on the market we helped invent in the first place.

All that's by the by though, merely setting a bit of a scene. I'm pretty sure that at the time my office was in a former flat of sorts, above a stable. We were glad to move out into another building later in the year, it not being much fun trying to get one's head round tricky programming problems while the horses downstairs were kicking at their stable doors and generally making a racket. It was a lovely environment in general, but had its downsides - and I never have been the biggest fan of horses anyway. The complex was just outside the Hampshire village of Odiham, just across the fields from the RAF helicopter base, seeing lots of action at the time as Chinooks and Pumas would fly out to the Bosnian conflict in particular. I liked the area down there and quickly established a lot of friends, in particular from the church in Hartley Wintney.

But then when my contract came to a close in the summer of 1996, I obviously needed to seek alternative work, and my mum sent me details of what remains my current job at the Open University. As long-time or more avid readers of this diary will already know, I was almost thwarted in my attempts to get this job, when my car was stolen from outside my parents' house while I stopped off there overnight en route to Milton Keynes. Such things simply weren't supposed to happen in my parents' quiet village street, and least of all to me, at such a personally important time! I refused to be defeated, though; Dad kindly drove me up here for the interview, and Mum pushed ahead with replacing her car, selling me her Metro, which I ended up keeping much longer than planned!

After all that, I felt sure that I was in Milton Keynes for a reason, and I don't just mean because that's where I happened to be employed! The theft of my car I saw as a clear-cut spiritual attack, trying to stop me from serving out God's purposes for me at the time. Yet for the last six or more years, I've still been seeking. Seeking, seeking, seeking. Although I've largely been happy up here, and have made some of the best friends I could ever hope for, that special something has never quite clicked, to really made me feel that this is the place where I'm really going to work out God's will. I've shared before in here I believe, that I sometimes wonder if I've been thinking too geographically, in assuming that God brought me to Milton Keynes because of what he wanted me to do here, and now I'm beginning to wonder it again, that maybe I'm here more to test and suss me out than anything else. That's not to say it's a penance, as some might joke, ignorant of what kind of place Milton Keynes really is, but maybe it's been to throw me into a different and somewhat alien situation for a season and see what it is that I really value, and what really motivates and inspires me in various aspects of life.

Perhaps it's just coincidence, but I do find it somewhat ironic that almost all the people I've felt anything more than a platonic attraction or attachment to while I've been living up here, have very much not been from this area. Not only that, though - they've all hailed from an area no more than twenty miles or so across, and within a stone's throw of Odiham, where I lived and worked all those years ago now. I didn't know any of these people when I lived down that way, so it's not just "old connections" getting kindled into flame. Nor have I actively been seeking people from that area, I should add! I would far rather find someone closer to home if I really could, but that's simply proved to be impossible - though I should emphasise I'm not bothered in the least, especially if what I said above with regards to Milton Keynes and my "destiny" is indeed the case! No, I'm not moving south just yet, and I'm sure there are more surprises and revelations in store for me while I am up here, that might even completely change things around again, but it's definite food for thought!

The "worst nightmare" scenario though is that maybe God never wanted me to come to Milton Keynes at all. I assumed at the time that the business with my car was a spiritual attack, whereas it might have been God trying to ram it home to someone too thick-skulled to realise by any other means what he was trying to tell me. I came up here in my own power, maybe, even, not trusting in him to provide if it was the right thing for me to do - and I spent a couple of months in the wilderness rather after I did so. But on the other hand, I was not aware of any opportunities down that way after my contract finished, and surely if God had wanted me to stay there he would have shown me some? Ultimately, I just don't know, and I cannot dwell on water that has passed under the bridge so long ago. I just thank God that whether I did or didn't do the right thing all those years ago, he still loves me, still has a purpose for me, and is someone with whom I've been able to grow closer as time has passed. Perhaps we are still at that relationship-forming stage, building a solid friendship, and it will be only when that is done, or as done as it ever can be, that he will really start showing me his plans for me - but I do get the feeling he's dropping some pretty unsubtle hints at the moment that I simply cannot ignore!

Just got in from a worship band practice and discussion - and a really good and worthwhile evening it was too. As I had been previously tipped off, I've been assigned to Gareth and Phil's team, so it's going to be a bit like old times...

Must get to bed now though!

Struggling to stay awake today, and I have a fairly long evening ahead of me, most probably, with it being our monthly astronomy club night. Only got just over an hour to survive at work, though, so it could be worse, I guess!

Oh, and we had some real snow at last - though it only lasted for a few minutes and didn't come anywhere near settling, which was a decided pity. Especially since that consequently means the ground is probably now absolutely sodden.

Yes, I did get that faintly early night, and consequently I was up before eight o'clock this morning, a time of day I am generally unfamiliar with. I'm not quite so wide awake now, but I suspect that's just "warm cosy office syndrome", and the chilly walk to lunch in a few minutes will put that right very quickly!

Turned out to be a very long evening indeed last night, and I will not go into details as to exactly what time I rolled into work this morning, apart from to say that I still made it to both meetings I was scheduled to attend.

Rachael's birthday tea went well enough, with Margaret there too, and we ended up going on to Open House together since she really didn't fancy driving any more than she needed to. Rachael certainly appreciated her present from me, a pair of reasonable quality pocket binoculars and case. I really had been at a loss as to what to get her, but I saw them in Tesco the other day and knowing how useful mine have been as a bribe from time to time, they seemed perfect! Time flew by, and it was soon time to adjourn to Richard and Shona's, but we promised to drop back in later if Sarah was still up and about, which she was, and we had a good chat about various things without the earlier distractions.

Open House at Richard and Shona's was good, as I'd expected, given that we were to watch Billy Elliot, one of my favourite films - and indeed it was my DVD we used. Attendance was excellent, with about a half-and-half mixture of regulars and guests, and I think everyone enjoyed the film lots! It's the second film we're going to be studying as part of the Connect series of bible studies - we tackled The Matrix recently, as well as U2's last album. I'm not exactly sure what issues will be raised from Billy Elliot, but I would anticipate there being topics on things like homosexuality, authority, destiny and so on. From past experience of these studies, it should certainly be interesting, anyway.

Now that was an interesting evening, not only starting to plot the possible tentative beginnings of the rest of my life, but also agreeing to give all due consideration to the possibility of taking on the church's financial account keeping. I'm not sure about the latter - but I certainly feel honoured to at least be approached - and as for the former, well who knows, but in a week or so I should have a somewhat better idea, and I'm enjoying the ride so far!

Two hours on the phone altogether this evening makes for a stiff neck, however!

Thankfully I'll be heading for bed very soon though, after last night...

Well that was a rather better night's sleep. Still don't feel much like going to work today, but it's almost the weekend - not that this one promises a lot of opportunities to put my feet up, it has to be said. Better get dressed now!

The day, and with it the week, is almost done at last. It's been a reasonably productive day, at least if I measure that in terms of how many times I've had to have serious conversations with others, even if not the actual amount of software or documentation produced. Encountered some interesting issues in the process, including some complete insanity in the way Borland C++ used to parse command lines, with Chris on the case with that particular one, thankfully. It has held up a CD-ROM slightly, but on the other hand it gave the main academic involved an unexpected opportunity to request the addition of some third-party software at the eleventh hour. Was good at least to get some input from him, for the first time in weeks - and to confirm that all my executive decisions taken in his absence met with his approval - so I wasn't really complaining!

Meanwhile, I'd bizarrely forgotten that we finished at five o'clock on Fridays, so I was half way through writing the above paragraph when Sam reminded me it was time to go home. So that's where I am now, hurriedly finishing this off while some pasta boils, intending to repeat my recent and highly successful experiment with sun-dried tomatoes and sliced olives. It's a pity I have only plain pasta, and not tricolore, but I'll live I'm sure - and I'll make certain I get some when I go to Tesco later tonight, so I'll be prepared next time!

Given sufficient quantities of both sun-dried tomatoes and olives, even such shortcomings may be safely masked. That's to say, boy that was delicious!

Like so many, I am getting increasingly troubled by the apparently inevitable march towards war in Iraq. It would have been kind of reassuring if the much trumpeted evidence of Iraq's alleged weapons programmes and links with Al Qaeda recently presented had actually been of a convincing nature. However, like so many similar announcements before them, the latest were nothing of the kind, and it seems miraculous in a most sinister way that so many seemed to find them compelling. We have indistinct satellite and spy-plane photos with fanciful labels that even Richard Hoagland would have thought unjustifiable in his most wishful thinking about pyramids and sphinxes on Mars. We have a dossier of "hot" evidence presented by our own government that has just been proved beyond doubt to have been significantly plagiarised from a student essay about events from over twelve years ago! And we have transcripts of phone-calls that are tamer than many I have made, I am sure, and I am no terrorist, needless to say. Tony Blair acknowledges, as he cannot avoid under the circumstances, that he's going to have an uphill struggle winning broad support for his and Bush's unilateral war, but the sheer presumptive and fatalistic arrogance shown throughout probably means he doesn't give a damn about that at the end of the day. Anyone with a shred of common sense can see the impossible situation Saddam and Iraq have been drawn into and the sheer hypocrisy of the actions of Bush and Blair in the face of criticism from almost the entire world. Against that backdrop, all these comforting words about war not being inevitable, that it's not too late for Saddam to produce the weapons he probably doesn't have, etc, fall empty. Completely empty. George Bush senior's war twelve years ago was justified on no better nor more truthful foundations, it has since been revealed - an unjust war which never truly ended, resulting in the continued presence of hostile western forces in the region, held to be the root cause of the post 9/11 mess we're in now. As "the enemy" becomes ever less tangible each time things go full circle, what hope is there for an end to it? Do Blair and Bush even want an end? When we have influential groups like the Institute of Directors cheerfully proclaiming that a war would be good for the economy - despite the real possibility of thousands of innocent deaths on both sides - what hope is there? Bush and Blair's war will be delivered; there is simply no way they can get away with saying the things they have if they don't intend it to happen at any cost. All the signs are that Bush will use the nuclear option early on, preemptively - that's to say, even if allied forces don't come under attack from Iraq's probably non-existent weapons of mass destruction. If the war is swift, it will only be because our forces were fighting against an enemy whose military capabilities had been lied about - as they've been insisting all along. The whole thing seems little different to a mediaeval witch burning.

Oh, I finally got the order confirmation for my sister's PC and my swanky new monitor in the post today. Not sure what happened to the first one that was supposedly sent out, but they sent another which was on my doormat when I got home this evening. The PC and monitor are scheduled for collection in exactly a week's time, and then I will have to make arrangements to go and visit my sister to get the former set up and give them a crash course in using it! The latter of course very much stays with me - I just hope it does all I expect, and I'm looking forward to the increased desk space as well as screen size!

I also very nearly ended up with three large pizzas this evening. The address on the boxes was certainly mine, but the phone number wasn't, so I had to send the poor delivery man on his way again. I'm sure I'd have had to pay though - and after that enormous plate of pasta I really wasn't in the least bit hungry!

Probably ought to contemplate going to Tesco now though, I guess - before they run out of milk or bread, which is the only downside of late-night shopping!

Phew, I've been and done my shopping at Tesco, and amazingly got everything I wanted. Even some tricolore pasta! And garlic-stuffed olives! And carrots! Yes, carrots! I need to eat more fruit and vegetables, and raw carrots are something I've always quite enjoyed - and the ones in stock this evening looked very appetising indeed. Oh, and also some 85% cocoa Lindt chocolate, just to see what it's like, seeing as I'd heard rather good things about it. I'm not entirely sure myself, but it certainly goes very nicely alongside a glass of Merlot, so I'm not complaining by any means! I don't think I'll finish the whole packet in one go though, since it's very rich and I'm not at all sure it's the most healthy thing for me to be eating just for the sake of it!

Guess I'd better go to bed now, while it's still Friday night.

For a couple more minutes, at least.

Oops!

Taking my Saturday morning typically easy, not rushing to do anything too much! Though today would be a really good day to tackle the slight mess this flat is in at the moment. Being unwell the week before last meant things started to slip, and of course once they've done so it can be very hard to find the time or inclination to catch up. But at least until this evening, I have all the time in the world, so little excuse even if still little inclination either!

Oh, my very own copy of Memento arrived in the post early this morning, or, rather, was dumped on the doorstep with a ring of the doorbell. Good thing I was in, really, wasn't it? Unlike the ex-rental DVD I borrowed from Simon and Jam, this one's got all the extras and everything, including the facility to watch the film in chronological order! I've seen it quite enough recently anyway, so I'm not too concerned about watching it again right now, though!

Right, at one o'clock, that's the washing-up mountain successfully tackled and the kitchen cleaned. Now to do the lounge/bedroom and hoover the whole place!

Done - or as done as it's ever going to be this side of eternity! Ooh, just spotted a fleck of something I forgot to hoover up - that's the attention to detail we're talking about here! Anyway, time to relax a little now!

And now it's time to go out for the evening, for an extremely belated birthday meal for Margaret - indeed, so belated it was only a couple of days ago that I remembered the exact reason it was that we were going out at all!

And indeed Margaret had forgotten the reason too! But a decidedly good evening it was too, and it made a most pleasant change indeed for us to be completely child-free for once. The pasta special for Margaret and for Sarah, and my usual variety of pizza and garlic bread for me - and all most yummy indeed by all accounts. I got pampered by Laura upon our return from Ask, being treated to a face-pack I'd vaguely agreed to earlier, but she seemed to have got it into her paranoid near-teenage head that I didn't appreciate it, so went off in a huff that merely demonstrated exactly why it was so nice not to have had any children in tow when we were out earlier on! Kids eh, who'd have 'em..?

Oh, and a nice glass of Merlot and an even nicer phone-call to wrap up the day with - so an altogether pretty reasonable evening I'd say. Just a pity I need to be up so early tomorrow to help with the church set-up, but never mind eh?

Is the weekend really almost over? Do you ever have those dreams where once you realise it's a dream you just don't want to wake up, but you know you must and that it cannot go on indefinitely? Well it's a bit like that, I guess, knowing I've got to go back to work tomorrow. Of course, next weekend will hopefully be still better, but this one's been really good - with the only downside being having to be up so early this morning to help with the setting up at church. That was OK in the end though, and no-one minded too much that I was dragged away a little earlier than I might have been afterwards - least of all me, I have to admit! I brought Sarah and the girls back here for a light lunch - pâté, French bread and Pringles - because we'd planned to have a more substantial tea later, but Sarah was so exhausted we decided to defer the latter until tomorrow evening, all being well. At least it gave Sarah a chance to put her feet up for a little while and let someone else prepare lunch, and having driven them home, I then took Rachael out to Willen Lake for a fair while to test-drive her new binoculars. Amazingly she was as good as gold, and was the one who persuaded me to go the longer route round, rather than it having to be someone else persuading her, for a welcome change! So we were out much longer than expected, but Sarah certainly enjoyed the peace and quiet, since Laura was engrossed in her homework most of the time. Anyway, now I am back at my flat and probably aiming for a quiet evening in, despite an open invitation to go elsewhere if I would like to. Must cook some tea now though!

Temptation got the better of me in the end, and once I'd had a chicken jalfrezi and a glass or two of Banrock Station Shiraz Mataro - thank you Andy for a fine recommendation, both of tipple and culinary combination - I toddled round to David's abode for a short while of musical enjoyment of a mainly rap variety for a change. No late nights tonight though, so I got back well before eleven and will be heading for bed just as soon as I've finished writing this!

Been quite a long day so far, and although it's not been particularly bad in any way, I could do with some cheering up nevertheless. Should hopefully have that provided in a couple of regards this evening, and I can head home in under an hour now, thankfully. Question is, do I have a comfort food break first?

Within seconds of writing that, one of those "regards" bit the dust. Could probably do with a quiet evening in anyway, but not too quiet, hopefully.

Thankfully everything else went as hoped last night, though! For the record, the most important phone call lasted one hour and forty-one minutes. Also had a good natter with my mum, as the computer for my sister hopefully approaches completion and readiness for collection. Oh, and just for originality's sake, had tricolore pasta with sun-dried tomatoes and olives - and a freshly pressed clove of garlic - for tea, so it was an altogether very good evening, wrapped up with a most relaxing bath and a reasonably early night for once. Life's not perfect, but it's looking better than it has for a very long time, believe me!

Phew, a seminar this afternoon turned out to be nowhere near as dull - nor as long - as feared. Indeed it was actually reasonably interesting, about some of the issues - both technical and political - surrounding the use of computer based summative assessments to be marked automatically over the internet. It was also billed as being the last ever Educational Software seminar, since the department in question now no longer officially exists, and it's by no means clear if anything of a similar nature will continue under the new structure. Some seminars have definitely been better than others, and today's certainly rated above average, but it will be sad if the departmental restructuring means the end of this kind of knowledge sharing opportunity on a formal basis.

In other news today, I have at long last got round to ordering a new printer for myself. My first proper printer, one of Canon's earliest inkjets - which I originally bought for my Amiga - died quite a few years ago now. For a while I made do with a somewhat decrepit Epson inkjet printer donated by my old pastor, but that succumbed not very long after I was given it, and I have consequently been without a working printer at all for a year or more. So today I've ordered a fairly respectable Epson inkjet that should be good for both general duties and photographic printing, one of the main criteria if I was to get a colour inkjet rather than a budget laser printer. Now it's just a race between Dabs and Evesham, to see whether the printer or my monitor arrives first!

This evening I decided I would invest in the future a little, and stop pouring money down the drain. No, I haven't bought a house, but I have bought a set of rechargeable hair clippers, which should pay for itself in well under a year. Especially since I managed to use my last few Premier Points towards it, and a nice shaving mirror so I can see to do the back of my head! No points at all for Argos's waste of time of a telephone helpline though, which refused to tell me the store opening hours despite promising it would, but I went anyway and now usefully know they're open until eight o'clock every weekday evening.

Also while there I happened to spot a Hewlett Packard 3325 printer on display. Now this was one which as part of a printer and scanner bundle I'd eyed up as a good one for my sister, but had been persuaded to upgrade to the next model up at some expense because I was led to understand by one of David's colleagues that it annoyingly wouldn't take both black and colour ink cartridges at once. However, on inspection at Argos this evening, it very clearly has two places in which to insert the ink cartridges, so I've texted David to see what he can do about amending the order at this late stage. Can but try, anyway!

If there isn't an old proverb that says:

If you find yourself getting to work late, get up earlier - and if that means going to bed earlier the night before then so be it!

then there probably should be one, self-evident though it may be. Not that I've been getting in late by Open University standards, but I do have a certain amount of self-discipline I'd like to uphold. So I went to bed at a reasonable time last night, got up about half an hour earlier this morning, made it in on the stroke of nine o'clock - and felt no worse for having done so. Oh, and I managed both a decent breakfast and to check my emails before leaving for work.

Other colleagues might have declared themselves to be working from home this morning under the circumstances though, given that I got an email from Dabs last night to say my printer should be delivered this morning. However, I am really not at all set up for doing so in any regard, I get used to driving out to delivery depots to collect stuff, and Parcelforce will attempt to redeliver the following day in any case. So anyway, here I am, raring to go...

Well at least that's the theory, anyway!

While at Open House this evening I got a text message back from David, and he's pretty sure he can get my order amended with regard to the printer mentioned a couple of diary entries ago, even now he believes the order to be basically complete. What a star! I'll find out for sure on Friday hopefully, but I am confident this will all end happily. Oh, and I received word from Parcelforce that my own printer has arrived, so one way or another I'll get that tomorrow I guess - whether it's delivered before I go to work, or I have to collect it!

Open House this evening was good. It was a "second Wednesday" so not too heavy going, mainly spending the time watching a very interesting video about an investigator who believes he's found the real Mount Sinai, in north west Saudi Arabia, rather than on the Sinai peninsula. All the biblical evidence seems to support it being the location - and things like blackened burnt rocks, altars, remains of stone pillars, and even a split rock with signs that water flooded out of it, would tend to confirm not only his assertions, but that the bible stories of Moses on Mount Sinai were factual. Pretty incredible stuff!

Woo, I finally have a new printer! However, I no longer have space for most of my CDs, if I actually want it set up. A reorganisation is clearly called for. Has to be said though, ten years on from when I bought my first printer, is the nature of progress really such that my new one has to be over double the size?

Still, it does do lovely colour - not that I've tried it on anything more than the Windows logo on the test page - and it's much faster than my old printer, so I guess that's worth stashing over half my CDs away for. Hopefully my new monitor might arrive tomorrow - along with my sister's PC of course - and my happiness can be complete. However, I seem to have committed to taking Laura and Rachael to Bletchley in the evening which might confuse things somewhat. I really must keep a better diary, but that would have taken priority anyway.

Actually, that's pretty sad if a printer and monitor can conspire to bring me ultimate happiness, and actually - I'll tell you a secret - they can't. But although they certainly can help, what really might tip the balance in the pursuit of eternal bliss will be Saturday. No, I'm not going on the anti-war demonstration in London, tempted as I might have been. There was a suggestion of going to London for the day anyway, but really it's a weekend to steer well clear of the place for just about every possible other reason, it has to be said! More I cannot and shall not yet say, but you'll find out soon enough...

That is, of course, if there's anything to be said! But with this new improved optimistic and forward-looking 2003 "me", let's be positive and hopeful, OK?!

So, today is St Valentine's Day, or St Hallmark's Day as some like to dub it, cynically but insightfully. I really don't "do" the valentine stuff as a rule - or at least not to go to town with it anyway. Last year was a bit of an exception, but that was a special time for its own impending reasons, even if they came to nothing. But anyway, this time round I have the perfect excuse to shun it all and laugh at those being taken in by the shameless post-Christmas marketing, because I'm single. OK, so that state may not last forever, indeed there's a hope it might end even before the weekend's up, but for now - for today - I can relax in smug bliss. I did get a very sweet verse in my email this morning though, even if its writer was probably correct that it needed a little extra work in places... It was the thought that counted, though!

Tonight's going to be busy, though, having got a text message to say that my sister's computer system - and hopefully the printer, scanner and my monitor - is now in the store and ready for me to collect. Since I'm not likely to get another opportunity before next Wednesday, I've really got to do that this evening. But I've also agreed to take Laura and Rachael to Bletchley, as you already know, and I also would like to fit in at least a brief phone-call before about 7.30, so it's going to be all go for at least the first couple of hours after I get home! Must remember to leave work promptly, though I need to cut a CD-R of useful free stuff too large to download easily on a modem, to install on my sister's computer. Useful things like OpenOffice, the latest Internet Explorer service pack and essential web plug-ins like Java and so on.

Right, it's high time I was heading for bed this Friday night, as I have a busy morning in particular ahead of me. Alas I didn't get a chance to do everything I'd planned this evening, most notably missing my phone-call, but all should be put to rights in a little over twelve hours anyway. But I have collected - and now paid for - my sister's computer, printer and scanner, and am typing this in on my huge new screen which I'm quite delighted with so far! I dropped Rachael and Laura off at their respective destinations as intended, though because of a slight confusion beyond anyone's control, that all took place an hour later than intended, which was what threw my plans for the rest of this evening!

But anyway, as I said, bed...

To all who are travelling tomorrow - and I know a fair few are, for one reason or another, even me - travel safely, won't you? My prayers are with you!

I'm up way too early for a Saturday, even a busy one like today. Especially given what time I eventually made it to bed last night! I guess it means I can be a little more leisurely about getting bathed, breakfasted and so on, though, so it might be a blessing in disguise. But that possible fringe benefit is not being served by sitting here surfing the net and writing diary entries, is it?

So, what of today? Well I promised I would write nothing at all. That is, if I decided not to write anything complimentary about today's experiences. And as you can see, I am writing something, which kind of bodes well, doesn't it? I'd agreed to meet Katy at Dakota's in Fleet, one of my preferred restaurants down her way. However, it was the source of a fair degree of confusion to discover that it is now the Heron on the Lake, part of the faceless Chef and Brewer chain. Never mind, at least theirs is a menu I know quite well, and we both went for the lemon chicken with stir-fried vegetables and wild rice.

Mind you, it was touch and go for getting down there in time, and I was a little late in the end. While on the M25, I saw several warning signs that there were problems at Junction 4A on the M3, the junction where I was to leave the motorway. There were no signs about it on the M3 though, and nothing on the traffic news on the radio, but I thought it would be safest to come off at Junction 4 instead, even though it meant following my nose somewhat around the urban sprawl and complex road systems of Farnborough. That I managed quite successfully, but then realised I'd been too clever for my own good. Evidently the problems on the M3 were just after Junction 4A, and all the motorway traffic was being diverted via Fleet, on the route I'd originally intended to use! Consequently despite all my best efforts I still ended up in an extremely tedious queue of traffic and was a quarter of an hour late arriving - a total journey time of over two hours, thankfully halved on the return leg! Katy kindly warned me, when I phoned her to say I was delayed, that Dakota's had changed hands, so I wasn't too alarmed upon my eventual tardy arrival!

But anyway, yes, lunch was decidedly lovely, even if I did blow any hint of healthiness with my first course by following it up with tiramisu with lashings of chocolate sauce! It was about half way round Fleet Pond - more of a lake, really, as I may have shared here after a previous visit a couple of years back - that we agreed I'd probably worked off my dessert and could feel virtuous again! It was chilly out and damp underfoot, but we donned our boots, wrapped up warm and kept moving, so survived. Fleet Pond is a wildfowl refuge of sorts, but was mainly inhabited by pairs of mallards and by seagulls, though we spotted a couple of green woodpeckers, which was a bit of an unexpected treat.

You want gory details though, don't you? I've been skirting around the issue, talking about journeys, food, walks round lakes and so on. You want to know about Katy, I can tell! Well, as we had anticipated after our often lengthy emails and always even lengthier telephone conversations, we got on very well today I got the impression, finding it very easy to talk on a level and with a fairly similar outlook on many things. Who knows what the future holds for us, but we definitely ended today's events with our friendship reinforced, and agreeing to meet up again before too long, which all sounds like a pretty good starting point if you ask me. I didn't know what to expect from today, and went with no specific agenda other than to be myself, but I certainly came out of it smiling, and feeling the future is now at least a little more graspable!

This evening I had the opportunity to go to a party at Jam and Simon's, but after over three hours on the road today, I really felt like a quiet evening in, so instead got going on checking and setting up my sister's PC. Everything is OK so far apart from the surge-protecting mains block I bought, which sadly won't accept the weird shaped Hewlett Packard power adapters. So I'm going to try and return that tomorrow after church, even though I never got a proper receipt because the computer system was down. For now though, it's bedtime!

And now of course - all too soon - it's time to get up again and prepare to go out for the morning. Thankfully it's milder outside today, so I won't need to allow extra time to defrost the car, and I shouldn't get any last minute phone calls needing urgent attention this time either. Better get on though!

Café church was really good this morning, with a pretty packed house at the Snozone upstairs bar. Had lots of opportunities to chat with various people I don't always get the chance to, and after further discussion with Matt I have decided that I would in principle like to give that treasurer job a try. It will only be for a six-month stint in the first instance, so I'm not signing away my life, and it would also be really good experience for me I am sure. I'll still need to have a chat with Chris, our current treasurer, if only to arrange the hand-over of the software, paper records and so on, and go through procedures of course, but that should all be a formality now.

While up in the town centre I took that mains block back to Evesham, though realising I would have to pay to park outside their store I decided to do the healthy thing and walk from where I'd parked, even though it was a fair old stroll. They had no problem with my returning the block, but still better, they just happened to have Belkin's newest model of the same basic unit, and swapped it on the spot at no extra cost. The new one is quite cunning, and obviously designed in response to problems like I had been experiencing. Two of the sockets are rotatable, which is hard to describe exactly, but allows a lot more flexibility in the shapes of adapters it will accept.

I also had a quick chat with them about a problem I have with this otherwise lovely new monitor, and they suggested that I drop Samsung a line about it. Basically, it seems that the LCD panel itself is a little out of alignment within the case - otherwise known as wonky - such that the gaps around the edge of the display are inconsistent. There's only a millimetre or so in it, from top to bottom, or from left to right, and I could learn to ignore it, I guess - and Samsung may declare it to be within manufacturing tolerances anyway - but the guys at Evesham have encouraged me to at least enquire about it.

Ooh, I'm posting this diary entry via my sister's PC! Of course, it's not actually at my sister's house at the moment, so that's not quite as exciting as it sounds, but at least it means I've got the computer working nicely and on-line in a secure manner - albeit using my own dial-up ISP account for the moment! Not going to make a habit of this though, given that I'm having to kneel on the kitchen floor to type this! I've successfully got OpenOffice and a few other bits and pieces set up now, so I can head for bed shortly in the knowledge I've got quite a bit done today - as well as having been for pizza with Darren and of course had a good hour's natter on the phone with Katy!

Overall verdict on what might have been quite a tough weekend to get through?

Definitely a good one!

There is one line in the email I have just received from my new line manager, that would surely instill fear into the heart of any reasonable human being: "The Monday morning meeting". Need I really say a word more?

Glad I wasn't the only one to have a really good weekend - no, I mean that!

Shame for all those who didn't though, and there was enough of them, alas. And knowing some of the details really doesn't help in the least, believe you me.

Need sleep now though - it's far too late, with a busy day coming up at work! It's the 18th now really, not the 17th, but don't tell anyone, OK? Shhh...

Somehow still managed to be up before eight without too much hardship, and a nice cup of Earl Grey seems to have helped wake me up a little. Must head to work in a couple of minutes though, if I am to maintain my punctuality record!

Today's been a day of meetings and CD-writing, but generally not too onerous, so being way too tired most of the time wasn't such a hardship in the end.

My regular Tuesday meeting with Jon this morning didn't really happen, but we had a bit of a natter anyway, in between inevitable interruptions from his daughter Philippa who was in the office today, it being half-term week and with nowhere much else to go. Quite fun though, including educating an incredulous seven-year-old about those dim and distant days when we used to have to load computer games from tapes, with a five-minute wait and no guarantee of success!

Then this afternoon there was a meeting that really did happen as intended, with Lara, my new project manager. I didn't know quite what to expect, but it was pretty informal and just a good opportunity to get to know each other and for her in particular to get an understanding not only of the projects I'm working on, but of general issues as they affect software designers, since it's all rather new to her. She's definitely on our side, anyway, happily to say.

As for the CD-writing, well that meant I got a couple of CD-ROMs out of the door today. One hopefully for good. Well, both really, but one realistically won't be, given an email that arrived half way through my running off a few copies of said disc, begging for extra time, which seems to have been granted, much to the despair of pretty much everyone - notably including Lara.

Anyway, it's more or less time to head home, and this evening I think I'd better catch up on all the stuff I was going to do towards Gareth's website over the weekend but never quite got the chance for various reasons. Katy's not in until later anyway, so it should all work out quite well, though I suspect that by the time we get to chat I'll be practically keeling over!

Gareth's website is duly updated, at least as far as was possible with the limited information I have at the moment. There will be a few more bits to be done when he's managed to get me some scanned photos and so on, but I'm as up to date as I can be right now. Just received an email from the current church treasurer Chris with an "instruction manual" of sorts for doing the accounts, so methinks I have my bedtime reading for tonight pretty much sorted...

Meanwhile I'm going to go and jump into the bath for a bit, and then it should just about be time for a couple of phone-calls to arrive!

Little as I may particularly feel like it, I'd better be getting ready to go to work. I don't know... Although yesterday afternoon's meeting was relaxed and cheerful enough, some of the changes coming down from higher management sounded a bit depressing if they get enforced. New rules about booking leave, where we have traditionally been flexible within reason, and about sickness - not that there has been any problem with the existing schemes, but I guess it's the kind of thing management consultants love to recommend changes to. This came to a head late last night somewhat I suppose, after I'd chatted with my sister about going to visit her to drop off the computer and give her and the children - if they need it! - a crash course in its use. I doubt there will be any problem doing so in practice, but officially it's all become a lot more complicated, as I would probably now have to give a fortnight's notice. Sure, others will probably get their violins out at this point, but changes like this being sprung without any warning aren't too welcome. Still worse, I have sixty six days' leave that it has been requested that I make a good attempt to use before October. That's three months off, in practice, with seven months left to use it. Given that I am now supposed to give two days' notice per day of leave, I can't technically take that time off if I adhere to the new rules.

Anyway, enough grumbling; this isn't doing anything to get me to work this morning, and they've just made it doubly difficult to phone in sick - not that I would without very good reason, I hasten to add - given that they're now talking of "interviews" upon return from even a single day's sickness!

Yes, sixty six days does sound good - but a fat lot of use if it's because I've found it hard to take time off in the past, and it's just become doubly harder! Anyway, I'm now at work, and although I was a little later than I'd intended, I still made it in first from our office, so my pride can remain intact, even if not my self-discipline. I was slightly delayed on the way in though, spotting a really quite tame and decidedly tubby goldcrest, and having to explain my peering - careful typing there - into the bush to a couple of curious passers by, quite intrigued to briefly observe what is Europe's smallest bird.

Anyway, I'd better get on with work now, with today's delightful activities including getting my timesheet up to date, and trying to work out what's going wrong with a couple of old spreadsheets that crash modern versions of Excel!

I think I've managed to get done all that I wanted to today. Now got to decide whether I go to the pub tonight for our Open House half-term informal social, or have a much needed quiet evening in. I can ponder that dilemma on my walk home though, which I can embark upon in about five minutes, happily to say!

Went for the evening out in the end - and glad I did, having a jolly good time! It was lovely to get the rare opportunity to catch up with people in a totally relaxed setting, with fine beers on tap... Back home now though, and about to hit the sack as soon as I've finished this glass of brandy - and I even got a chance to chat with Katy earlier, which was unexpected but most welcome. Only the briefest of calls this time though, a mere half hour just for a change!

Today's being comfortably busy at work, but with annoying things. It's almost over though, and I've provisionally booked some leave in order to go and visit my sister, so I don't care too much. I've spent most of the day fighting with these spreadsheets I mentioned that crash Excel XP. I thought I'd cracked the problem, but it turns out that was far from the case, unhelped substantially by their author deciding to re-invent checkboxes for no obviously justifiable reason. I'm stumped as to how to fix the problem! Otherwise, a CD-ROM I hoped I'd totally finished earlier this week turned out to need some unexpected final adjustments - but most annoyingly of all they were changes I could not morally accept. Sam in QA - who was about to master the disc literally as the email arrived - agreed, and we eventually decided on a course of action that allowed us to do what we could without actually lying to anyone, using the last-minute nature of the change request as an excuse for an "incomplete" solution.

But anyway, as I said, the day is almost done with, and I'll be glad to get home and hopefully manage a vaguely early night. Katy's not well, has sensibly taken today off work, and probably won't be going out this evening if she can help it, so we should have a chance to catch up with each other at a reasonable time and not be too rushed. I've also said to Gareth I might have a stab at a final redesign of the Shine website for him this evening - we randomly bumped into each other at the pub last night and briefly discussed a revised plan to keep the site running but with a minimal amount of content. The band finally folded a year ago, and apart from a well-hidden news announcement, the site has remained exactly the same. But they are still getting about a hundred pounds' worth of CD and merchandise orders per month so reckon it's worth keeping it ticking over, but it really is time to pull the plug on the bulk of the site now all the girls have gone their separate ways in the pop world and beyond.

Well I got done almost all that I intended last night. I managed to complete about half - at a wild guess - of the final Shine website, at least in terms of quantity of content if not expended effort. I said I could commit about an evening of work to it, though not necessarily all in one go, and I'm confident it won't turn out to take any longer than that altogether. It's not going to be a sophisticated design - just a page with information about the history of the band, linked to a slightly trimmed down on-line shopping page. But I hope it can be as stylish and professional-looking as the website ever has been, though I've yet to finally decide whether to give it a new look and feel or just trim down the existing layout - though it might look a bit silly with only a couple of options on the main menu! The main thing for the moment to get the text written and the images prepared, though - the rest is just gloss really!

So other than having a bath and a reasonably early night, what else did I do yesterday evening? Nope, no prizes for guessing at all, and although I forgot to look at the time, I can't really believe we spent much less than two hours on the phone - and worth every minute of it, of course! I've said it before, and I dare say I'll say it again, but who knows where this is going, so to speak - but we seem to have found in each other a new friend who we find very easy to talk with about just about anything. Sure, part of me anxiously asks "what happens next and when?", but I have to remind myself that it's still very early days, and for the moment we can hopefully just build up that new-found friendship and simply see where it takes us over the coming weeks. Under the surface I'm still quite mixed up after what happened last year, and I swing between polarised extremes of dedication to the cause, but I know deep down what is right, and that now is the time for gentle perseverance. Many years ago a word was brought to me in church to "walk, not run", and I believe that applies more than I realise sometimes - and all too often I've not heeded it, for whatever reason. At the same time though, I mustn't give up hope and stand still, that being all too easy a reaction given multiple past disappointments.

I could very nearly cry at this point. With apologies to Anne Robinson, why oh why oh why oh why is it that our technology academics not only believe they are capable of - and the best people at - writing software, but choose also to do all said programming in spreadsheet macros, of all the languages they could choose. I have pretty much worked out what is happening with the spreadsheets I am fixing at the moment - namely that the type of checkbox being used simply does not work in Excel XP for reasons unknown. Consequently I would like to change said checkboxes to more sensible ones, but I have just discovered the extent of the working going on behind the scenes in even the simpler of the two spreadsheets. There are literally dozens of hidden pages and associated macros, and there is no way to determine where the offending checkbox controls are being referenced. This is why us "real programmers" use real programming languages rather than lame bolt-on accessories, but trying to convince the technology academics of this is rather like relieving oneself into the wind.

Oh yes, I might be able to search for references to the checkboxes - although only in macros, not hidden worksheet pages - if it wasn't for the fact that even Excel 97 crashes if you look at it the wrong way. Even StarOffice seems to make a better job of it than Excel, but still falls just tantalisingly short of actually providing me with the information I need. I am beginning slowly to despair, with only the promise of the weekend not far ahead to cheer me up.

Well I'm currently waiting for my proposed "final" update to the Shine website to upload, and thanks to BT's and NTL's collusion in preventing most of Milton Keynes from getting high speed internet access, it's probably just as well if I spend my time doing something not otherwise making heavy use of my connection. I'm quite pleased with what I've managed to throw together over the last couple of nights - it's using a bit of a blend of old and new, and has kept things as simple as possible whilst still being fairly stylish. I'm certain Gareth will want some changes, but knowing him they are likely to be fairly minor - wisely or not, he generally trusts my professional judgement in such matters!

Katy's phone-call earlier this evening was fairly brief, but that was quite all right by me. Not because I didn't want to talk with her, but because all being well - and she sounded decidedly perkier than she did yesterday - she'll be on her way up here in about twelve hours' time to spend the day with me! As was the case last Saturday, we're just going to take the day as it comes, but I've pretty much decided where we're going to go for lunch, and Katy tells me the weather forecast is good, so I'm sure we'll find plenty to do out and about!

But I need to get to bed in reasonable time tonight since I'd like to be up fairly early tomorrow to spruce up the flat a little. Katy has already made it clear she's not going to expect it to be spotless, but that's not the point... By the looks of my FTP client, there's probably only about ten minutes to go with the web upload, so methinks I'll call that my cue to prepare for bed, and hope it's just about finished by the time I'm ready to shut myself down too!

It's Saturday morning, it's gone nine, and I'm not going to be able to sleep any more even if I wanted to, so I guess I might as well be getting up!

Washing up is more or less done, sofa is now available for its designed purpose once more, and the various boxes of sister's computer bits have been tidied as far as possible for the moment. Just a few glasses to rinse, surfaces to wipe down and carpets to hoover, and I'll be there! Well, apart from sorting out myself, but that's relatively easy to do - at least superficially, anyway.

At just gone nine this evening I've been hit by a wave of tiredness, so having been and done my weekly Tesco bit - Saturday evenings aren't bad either - I'm going to go and collapse into the bath and get an early night so that getting up bright and early to play in the worship band tomorrow morning won't be too painful an experience. That was rather a long sentence, I know, and reflects quite a long - but most enjoyable, I should add - day in the company of the lovely Katy, thankfully pretty much over her recent unwellness. Katy arrived right on schedule and in time for a cuppa before we hit the Jaipur, probably Milton Keynes' finest Indian restaurant, where I'd not been for a very long time except for their Sunday buffet, especially with female company! Uncannily that's two Saturdays out of two that we ended up choosing the same main course - namely garlic chicken bhuna, today - but let's not read too much into that yet... Then off to see the concrete cows, just so Katy could say she'd been to see Milton Keynes' arguably most famous assets, with the photographs to prove it. Finally, to Caldecotte Lake for a healthy stroll to justify our earlier curry, with a coffee at the pub there when we'd finished. Well that completed the active part of the day - apart from for those who still had an hour and a half on the road ahead of them, of course - but there was plenty of nattering to be done back at the flat before it was time to wave Katy off into the cold night back down the M1. A broken down lorry was blocking half the motorway soon after she joined it, so her journey wasn't as quick as it might have been, but Katy's just emailed and phoned to say she's home safely, so all is well!

So, that's two Saturdays down, and two Saturdays most emphatically enjoyed - and a definite intent that they shall not be the last. Of course it's early days yet, but we both seem to be very happy with how things are going so far!

My mind was too active last night, though, and I didn't get to sleep properly until some unearthly hour. I must have dozed earlier though because I'm sure I couldn't possibly have stayed fully awake as long as it seemed. So it is being a bit of a struggle getting up this morning after all, but I'm taking it gently and sipping on a big mug of earl grey. I don't technically need to leave for another half hour, but I think once I've finished my tea I'll get dressed, load up the car and head for Denbigh anyway. Bye for now, in that case!

Church was OK this morning, although it seemed a little lacking in direction at times. I was back in the worship team for the first time in a fair while, with Gareth at the helm, rather like old times! That went well enough, and we ended up playing for about two thirds of the meeting at a guess, and it was nice to get favourable feedback from various people - other things may ultimately be more important, but having one's confidence boosted never goes amiss, does it?

But I physically struggled through the morning, feeling close to passing out at times, so I was quite glad to still be quite full from yesterday's curry and to be able to politely decline a few opportunities for lunch out. I'll probably go for a meal somewhere with Darren later, but in the meantime I'm going to go and have a lie down and even if I can't sleep, at least get some much needed rest. Thankfully it seems that collecting Sarah from the airport and Laura and Rachael from Bletchley is all in hand courtesy of Martin - I'd received an email from Margaret that implied my services were required for at least part of the evening - so I should be able to continue to take things easy afterwards!

Went to Ask with Darren in the end, since neither of us were ravenously hungry - their modest-sized but extremely tasty pizzas hit the spot just fine! It was the first I'd had to eat - other than the odd slice of toast - since Saturday lunchtime's curry with Katy, definitely a lack of appetite to make the most of while it lasted! It was of course a good opportunity to keep Darren up to date on the latest happenings in my life, as well as earlier to help him sort out some stuff in the garden - though not terribly successfully, as it happened.

These are exciting times - and I'm not scared or ashamed to admit it - but as was the case last week, Sunday has been quite difficult to get through in many ways, with far too many confused thoughts rushing through my head and generally trying to gnaw away at my renewed but still somewhat nascent confidence. It's almost like I'm not allowed to be happy or to move ahead, that I almost have a kind of guilty duty to just plod on through the same old rut, the perpetual victim of an involuntary past that won't stop at least trying to haunt and to taunt me, whether intentionally or not. But at the same time I want to be certain that I'm doing what I am because it is actually the right thing - not just to score a point, to smugly stick up two fingers back at a world that seems to have done no better to me all too many times over the years.

If I am doing the right thing, then please reassure me, before this tears me apart and ruins possibly my best hopes yet. If I'm not, please warn me before anyone else's life gets wasted. But I suspect there are few who truly know.

But I've just had a jolly nice chat with Katy, which has happily dispelled such negative thoughts for the time being, though I will be most fortunate indeed never to experience them again, things being as they are. At least it meant we could end the day and weekend on a good note though, and having been able to be as open and honest as we could with each other, even if I was talking complete nonsense half the time given this extreme state of tiredness I'm currently in!

Hopefully heading for bed in a few minutes can address the latter, however... Just hope I can sleep better than last night, though as I said to Katy, I can't possibly sleep any worse, because it would mean I wouldn't sleep at all!

Thankfully I slept just fine! I woke a couple of times, but as far as I can remember managed to get straight back to sleep on both occasions, consequently getting about nine hours' sleep. That's twice as much as on Saturday night!

Thank goodness my real friends understand me at times like yesterday evening - there is truly hope for me yet... Maybe I do sometimes over-analyse, and not just go with gut feelings, but then sometimes in the past I've been criticised for over-analysing when if anything I didn't analyse enough, and wouldn't have got into the mess I did if I'd been encouraged to stop and think. But everyone had their individual motivations - which whether knowingly or not may not have been entirely honourable - and hindsight is a wonderful thing, isn't it?

Well that was certainly a somewhat hectic evening, trying to troubleshoot a bit of a problem with my computer's USB ports, phoning and being phoned by almost everyone under the sun - or rather more specifically, Mum, Katy and Sarah - and somewhere in the midst of all that, grabbing a few minutes for a bath! I might still make it to be bed before eleven, but I have to say I'm not counting on it! Tomorrow evening doesn't look like it's going to be any more relaxed to be honest, having agreed to go round to Sarah's for tea - with the promise of a good grilling on the events of the last two Saturdays, needless to say! Not that I find that prospect too daunting, I have to say, but I do sometimes have to stop certain persons from getting too carried away; I shall name no names, and it may not be who you think. Anyway, oops, it's gone eleven now, so my earlier intention came to nothing, and my glass seems to be refilled - that's my literal glass, nothing more metaphoric, though it may still be symbolic!

Without it having been a terrible night's sleep, and without having been aware of lying awake for any length of time particularly, that was in no great way a refreshing or recuperative night's sleep either. Consequently - and that seems to be a word I use a lot; I guess it's Newtonian physics in action in my life - the idea of leaving for work in twenty minutes isn't too appealing, but leave I most certainly must. And it would be a good idea if I was dressed in more than my pyjamas when I do, so I suppose I'd better be getting on with getting up!

And I've just had an emailed reminder of sorts to confirm that that's what I ought to be doing right now, funnily enough. So I guess it really is true...

It may not happen too frequently, thankfully, but I hate being bounced around. In this case it's by Evesham and Samsung, though I'm reasonably confident of a satisfactory outcome. When I popped into the Evesham store a couple of Sundays ago and discussed the panel alignment problem of the monitor with them, they told me it was basically my responsibility to contact Samsung and arrange a warranty swap-out. Now Samsung have finally got back to me and tell me that because it's less than 28 days since I bought it, I should simply return the monitor to the retailer for refund or replacement. Well that was kind of what I was hoping for in the first place, though it does mean I won't necessarily get a straight swap-out, because I very much doubt whether Evesham carry such goods at their stores, and I might not even get a loan monitor for any period of time between my returning the faulty screen and getting a replacement. All I can really do now is wait and hope; I've emailed Evesham to ask their advice on the matter now the ball has bounced back into their court, and I just hope I can set the wheels in motion before I have to leave to visit my sister!

Excel's still not playing fair. I hate spreadsheets more with every new one that comes winging my way to be sorted out. This seems to be the model here, with academics believing that with the help of Excel's paperclip they too can be programmers - but of course leave us guys to sort out the mess when it all too inevitably goes horribly wrong, and expect us to work miracles needless to say. It was hardly surprising then that at this morning's production meeting I made a somewhat sarcastic comment about yet another previously unannounced and more than likely steaming pile of a spreadsheet coming my way in the next few weeks. There was a murmur of sympathy, but an ultimate resignation that that's just the way these academics like to work. I'll be polite and stop now, OK?

I'd actually have to say I'm pretty comprehensively fed up today. I'm totally shattered, nothing seems to be going at all smoothly in any regard, and there's still three quarters of an hour to go before I can morally make a run for it.

Excel's still there, alas. My sanity very nearly isn't any more though.

Just generally feeling I'm in to over my head now, resigned to drowning.

Oh blow it, the day's nearly done with - thank goodness - so let's take a few minutes out to write a proper diary entry. Still fighting with spreadsheets, as if that wasn't entirely obvious already, and no great brainwaves from anyone on what to try next. I'm just very glad I didn't make any bold promises as to how long this was going to take me - and apologies if I've said that already, my brain really is melting and begging that I switch it off for a while. At least Wednesday afternoon means we're over the hump of the week, so to speak!

Anyway, last night round at Sarah's was pretty much fine, and I think Sarah values my friendship too much to risk asking too many probing questions about current developments on the possible love-life front. I was too shattered to really make much conversation on any topic though, just about mustering enough energy for a game of table football with Rachael and to read her bedtime story. Sarah seemed glad of the company though, which was pretty easy to provide, and with what she's going through right now, my listening was much appreciated.

I've already more or less decided to give Open House a miss this evening, alas. Despite sleeping well since Sunday night I'm finding myself short of energy once again and will need every bit I can get for next week I suspect. However, Chris our outgoing treasurer left a message last night asking if we could sit down this evening to sort out the church accounts hand-over, so I've said I should be able to find the energy to do that if nothing else. Hopefully that will take place at my flat, given that software will need installing and so on.

Of course an added bonus if I am basically at home this evening will be that I can hopefully have a proper telephone chat with Katy for the first time since the weekend. Evenings out for both of us have conspired to prevent anything but the briefest conversations, and I certainly find that quite frustrating! We find it very easy to talk with each other, and neither of us have the most inherently "open" personalities, so it's something we really ought to make the most of when we get the opportunities if we're to give this our best shot!

Grrr, it's annoying not knowing whether an email has been sent successfully. I tend to include my own address in the "Bcc" field so that I'll have a permanent record for my home mailbox, but then of course I get worried if I don't receive my copy or if it is significantly delayed. Ah, the copy of the specific one I was worried about has finally just arrived, so I can rest a little easier now! I suspect it's just our outgoing mail-server here at work being a bit rubbish.

As anticipated last night I didn't make it to Open House, but Chris was able to pop round as hoped so it was by no means a wasted evening. It took about two hours to go through everything and I'm not too sure I took it all in, but I got the impression a lot of it was "things I ought to be aware of" rather than "things I will actually have to do". Although Chris is moving away from the area, he's still willing to help as much as he can, which is most reassuring!

Annoyingly, just after Chris arrived, my flat was plunged into total darkness. Thankfully it was just the lighting circuit that had tripped and not a power cut, so we were able to reset the switch and carry on. However, the culprit was the long-life low-energy light bulb in the kitchen, blown after a mere six months rather than the advertised six years. I've no idea whether Tesco will exchange it without a receipt, but I'm certainly inclined to give them a try!

Much less annoyingly - although our first phone-call was cut short by Chris's slightly-earlier-than-expected arrival - I did at least get some half decent opportunities to chat with Katy yesterday evening. Once early in the evening, and again just before bed, for a total of about an hour in all! We'll not be seeing each other this weekend, but hopefully will keep up with tradition next weekend, perhaps even being radical and meeting on the Sunday for a change!

I'm not well again. I am going to bed.

Twelve hours later I dragged myself out of bed, not really very much better for a disturbed night's sleep. I did try and get up at eight o'clock as usual, but that really wasn't to be. I didn't really expect to make it through the whole day, but after mustering enough appetite for a snack lunch I feel a bit better now and may well be able to avoid what earlier seemed somewhat inevitable. As for this evening, well I was supposed to be going out, but that may well have been forgotten about anyway, so perhaps it's as well I really don't feel up for it now. Furthermore, it sounds like it might work out better for my sister if I don't travel to Hereford until a little later next week, which might just give me a better chance of recovering a little. I certainly wouldn't be able to face a journey such as that one in my current state, and going to see my sister and family without full energy reserves can present problems!

Phew, I've just had a phone-call cancelling tonight's arrangements anyway, before they'd read my email suggesting much the same, for the same reasons. Still feeling decidedly off-colour, but perhaps a good night's sleep tonight can turn that around, especially since I think my appetite has now returned.

My appetite had better have returned, 'cos my microwave has just dinged to announce the timely readiness of a chicken jalfrezi. Mmmm - I hope!

Mmmm, it most definitely was - and I'm dripping buckets to prove it... Was a little delayed by Katy phoning, but she quite understood and I'm going to call her back later once she's had a chance to eat too. I remain shattered, and mighty glad not to have gone out tonight as originally planned, but I think I can stay awake until a reasonable bedtime - and have a decent lie-in tomorrow!

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